Saturday, June 11, 2005

Book signing mayhem

I had a book signing last night at the San Marcos Hastings. Were I one to take stock in omens, I'd have skipped it, as in the process of driving across town from the university to the store, I ran over a nail (or maybe a railroad spike--the freaking hole it left was huge) and abruptly developed a flat tire. So, neither here nor there, I had to change the tire. My PT Cruiser is a fairly new vehicle to me, remember, and I'd never changed a tire on it before. I think Chrysler takes delight in all the bizarre ways to arrange things on their autos. This one--if you can believe it--has plastic lug nuts bolting the hubcap to the wheel's lug nuts. It's a truly freakish design, one that forces the hapless tire-changer to do twice the work before the tire can be removed. That's the second-longest it's ever taken me to change a tire. We won't speak of the longest.

But I persevere, and arrive at Hastings sweaty and panting right at 6 p.m., as my signing is scheduled to begin. The staff takes no notice of me. The table and books are in position, as they should be, so I quickly set out my reading list flyers, business cards and stand-up of my book cover. Then I duck into the restroom to clean myself up and change shirts. I get back to the table and Nick, president-elect of SFFS is waiting there, ready to take about Star Wars, Babylon 5 and, of course, my book. We jaw for a while, and he buys a book. Smart kid, that Nick. My boss, Mark, shows up a little later with his wife, Diana. With the Spurs in the NBA Finals, Diana made a bunch of voodoo religious icon candles for the folks in my office, and I congratulated her on the success of said candles in the Spurs' game 1 victory. We trade insults for a while, then they buy a book. Smart boss, that Mark. More people come by, some interested in the book, some not. I pass out more reading lists. One girl, probably age 12 or so, asks if I know a particular motivational speaker who has a book out. I admit that I don't, so this young girl explains the guy's entire spiel--how he survived drug abuse, sexual abuse, physical abuse, tickle torture, nails raking across chalkboards... I was growing more than a little uncomfortable at this kid's increasingly gruesome descriptions of the subject matter, and would have shooed her away had she not been so gosh-darn earnest about the whole thing. She hoepfully asked once more if I might know him after all, and after I again confirmed my ignorance, she thanked me kindly and skipped along to the music section.

At this point I look at my watch. I've been here an hour and a half, and still nobody from the store has spoken to me, or, as far as I can tell, even glanced my direction.

A woman buying a copy of the latest Raymond Feist fantasy for her son asks what I'm doing. I explain the whole signing scenario, and she happily buys a copy for her son (obviously a big genre fan). I happily sign it. A little later she returns with the teen in tow. We have a nice talk, and they take reading lists with them. Another woman shows up and takes a great interest in my book and reading list. She's read a bunch of the folks on my reading list, and we have a long talk about Samuel Delany that veers across Gene Wolfe and Jack Chalker. She's shocked when I tell her Chalker died of heart failure a few months back. She's doubly shocked when I repeat the sad news for Andre Norton. She's intrigued when I tell her about Armadillocon, so I give her contact information and the dates for the con. I suspect she'll have a blast if she goes.

I sell a few more books, pass out more reading lists. Nine o'clock hits, and I gather up a handful of the remaining stock and shelve it in the science fiction section (Hastings has been putting my books in the "local authors" kiosk, which is a worse ghetto than the genre shelves). I break down my display, gather my things and leave the store--all without a single employee approaching me or saying a single word to me the entire time I was there. Weird. But despite the oddities and setbacks of the signing, it is easily the most successful one I've had to date. Go figure.

Now Playing: The Kinks The Kink Kronikles

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