Tuesday, 20 December 2011

A Signature Dilemma

I thought I was prepared to be an author.

I've done the research, I have prepared witty answers to all the popular questions (Where do you get your ideas from? When is your next book coming out? Is this character based on me? Where do you get your ideas from? How does the book end? Will there be sequels? Where do you get your ideas from? and so on) I've steeled myself for the slings and arrows of cruel reviewers (so far, not so cruel!) And I've practiced my signature and limbered up my signing hand. I am so ready. Fame and fortune, here I come!

Or so I thought. There are pitfalls that I was not expecting. Pitfall number one? The personalized inscription. How hard could that be, you ask? Good question, Dear Reader, good question. I was unprepared for the pressure that little space on the first page of my novel could bring. Friends, customers, family, all grinning madly at me as they slide my own book towards me. 'Write something clever,' they say. Or 'write something witty, I know how good you are at this.' Or my personal favorite, 'Just write something I'll love!' Something clever, witty, and good that they'll love. And personalized, of course. And different from whatever clever, witty, good and personalized thing I wrote in the last book a few minutes ago. The pressure gets to me after the first fifty or sixty inscriptions. I'm running out of clever and I'm running out fast.

Please don't misunderstand; I'm incredibly flattered and pleased that people enjoy my writing and that they expect me to be clever, witty, and so forth! It's all good, and I really love signing and inscribing my books for people. I just wish I were better at it! Now whenever anyone comes at me with one of my books, panic sets in. What if this inscription isn't as good as the last one? What if I start to repeat myself? What if everyone I've signed a book for gets together and compares notes? Inevitably, my brain seizes up and I totally blank out. So I'm holding a pen in my hand and I'm staring at that first page and it's tiny little space for inscriptions. Someone who likes me and/or my book is standing right there, smiling at me, waiting and I'm drawing a complete blank.

'To whom shall I make this out?' I ask to stall for time.

'I'm your mother; make it out to me,' replies my mother.

That stall didn't work so well.

The line of smiling people stretches out endlessly behind my mother, all of them holding copies of my book, all of them expecting something original and funny and warm and personal. Or so it goes in my nightmare anyway. I am not ready for this.

There are worse problems to have.

Meanwhile my life continues to amuse and distract me. If all goes well, tonight will see the first session of a new role playing game campaign. We're trying a Cthulhu thing this time around, so I have failure, insanity, and death to look forward to. No really, it's going to be a good time. Trust me, I'm an author.

I've been playing a board game called Stronghold lately. It's a great fantasy board game where one player controls an enormous invasion force of orcs, goblins, and trolls trying to overwhelm a walled city full of good and noble human soldiers. Stronghold has a sort of a tower defense vibe with the human player desperately trying to decide where to spend limited resources as the hordes of bad guys hurl themselves at the walls. The defender has to choose which walls to shore up, whether to invest in boiling oil, better trained soldiers, or a host of other options including praying for some truly impressive miracles. The attacker has a slightly randomized selection of options and the difficult choice of throwing bodies at a single wall section or spreading it around in hopes of overwhelming the defender. So far I'm slightly better at defending than assaulting, which is kind of a shame because my heart will always be with any side that can field trolls.

On the book front, I'm enjoying the heck out of Stephen Hunt's 'The Court of the Air.' Hunt has crafted a complicated political intrigue adventure in a fantastical steam punk universe that doesn't forget to offer up plenty of punk alongside the steam.

In the world of comics, I'm liking the new Action Comics, Justice League Dark, Secret Avengers, and Dungeons & Dragons. I'm also re-reading the classic (and all too short) run of Chase and the recent run of post-Annihilation Nova. I've loved the human rocket ever since his first appearance back in 1976. So yeah, I'm a fanboy.

And now it's time for me to read some classic pulp science fiction to get excited for my next interactive novel. It isn't always easy being me, but it sure is fun! Happy Merry Chrismahannakwanziyulikka everybody!

December 20, 2011
Chelmsford, MA

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