Over the last couple years I’ve learned that whenever I do a signing, I will inevitably screw up the inscription in at least one book.
This trend started with my very first signing, the day The Name of the Wind hit the shelves. I actually wrote about that in one of my earliest blogs. I still have that book inscribed “To Hell” on a shelf.
A lot of times my screw up is a minor thing. It’s not uncommon for me to misspell a word. This is embarrassing, but it’s easy to laugh it off. I usually correct my mistake with proofreaders marks, and say something like, “That’s what editors are for.”
Occasionally I misquote a piece of my own book. That’s not so bad either. Understandable, as I’ve known the book it for 15 years in several hundred different revisionary versions.
Sometimes it’s just my handwriting itself that’s embarrassing.
But nothing is worse than screwing up someone’s name. This is why, when I do a signing, I usually ask people to spell it out for me. I write it down on a separate piece of paper, point to it, and ask, “is this right?”
Most people don’t bat an eye at this. They’re not Nicky, they’re Nikki. It’s not Sandy, it’s “Big S, little A, little N, Big D, little E, Big E. With a star at the end!”
I ask everyone. If you get to the front of the line and say, “Can you sign this to Joe?” I write down J O E in my childlike scrawl, point to it, and ask, “like this?”
The reason I’m so careful is because I can fuck up any name. Once a guy got to the front of the line and said, “John. With an ‘h.’”
So I write, “To Jhon.”
Then I sat there, staring at it, thinking: “I am a fucking idiot.”
The thing is, not only do I tend to screw up one book at every signing. I typically screw up the worst possible book. If someone drove four hours to get there and brought the first edition hardcover their mom gave them… that’s the book I’m going to make a mistake in.
Or, if someone cool shows up to the signing, someone I’d like to not look like an idiot in front of, I’ll cock up that book instead. That’s what happened when Felicia Day showed up when I was doing a signing in LA. I made a real mess of the book I was signing for her brother.
Are we sufficiently backgrounded for the story? I think so.
So let’s jump back to last year when I went to San Diego Comic Con. While I was out there, I did a few signings. One in the main autographing room, one at at Mysterious Galaxy’s booth, and one in the nearby Borders.
The Borders gig sounded pretty cool. First we were going to have a panel where a bunch of authors would discuss urban fantasy vs epic fantasy, then we would do a signing.
I was really looking forward to it. Partly because I love discussing books with other authors, and partly because I love doing signings and meeting fans. But mostly because one of the other authors on the panel was Amber Benson.
I was excited all weekend, telling everyone I met about the panel/signing. But when I mentioned Amber Benson’s name, they mostly looked at me blankly. “I don’t think I’ve read her stuff,” they’d say.
“She hasn’t been doing books that long,” I said. “She does comics. Screenplays. Directs stuff. She’s an actress too. You probably know her as Tara from Buffy. Willow’s girlfriend.”
It was only when I mentioned the last bit that I would see the light of recognition go on in people’s eyes. So eventually I just started skipping straight to that, saying, “She played Tara in Buffy.”
I had one signing earlier that day, and despite the fact that a ton of people showed up, I managed to make it through the whole thing without screwing up anyone’s book.
Maybe that’s it, I thought to myself. Maybe my streak is broken.
Later on in the evening I went to Borders and had a great time. I managed to say a few clever things during the discussion which is nice, because, well, Amber Benson was there, and I wanted to look cool.
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After the panel everyone signed books. I had a nice line of people, which gave me another iota’s worth of cool. More impressively, I didn’t screw any of them up, not even a little. My streak finally seemed to be broken.
After all the fans had their books signed, the authors hung out and chatted. Amber came over from her end of the table and said something along the lines of, “I don’t normally do epic fantasy, but after what you said, I’ll admit I’m curious about yours….”
“I’d love to give you a copy,” I said. “So long as you’ll sign my copy of Death’s Daughter.”
She agreed and signed my book. I was all aglow with geeky joy. I’d met someone cool, made a good impression, and even had a little bit of banter. I was awesome….
So I grabbed one of my books and opened it to the title page. Then, so I didn’t screw up her book, I looked up and asked, “Do you spell it T-A-R-A?”
She looked at me, slightly confused, as if she didn’t understand what I meant.
I looked back at her, slightly confused, not understanding why she wasn’t following me.
Then, at the same moment, we both realized what I’d done. At the same moment, we both realized that I wasn’t awesome at all. I was, in fact, a fucking idiot.
The other authors standing around overheard this. They realized it too.
Amber was very gracious and laughed it off. But I was still covered in shame. Even now it makes me cringe to remember it.
So there you go. Welcome to me.
For those of you who don’t know, Tara Amber has written and directed a couple movies. In fact, her most recent one, Drones, is being shown in a few select locations right now.
In fact, it’s being shown tonight, (Tuesday the 13th) in LA, with all the proceeds going to charity. If you live nearby and you aren’t going, you might want to seriously reconsider your priorities. In fact, you might want to reconsider what you’re doing with your entire life.
I’d be there in a heartbeat if it wasn’t 2000 miles away. Right now I’m kinda pissed at you cool kids who live in your big cities with your film festivals and fancy hats. Yes. I’m looking at you Orlando, Boston, and LA.
If nothing else, you should really check out the trailer. I was curious about the movie before I watched this. Now I’m filled with a terrible longing like unto hunger. I love Jonathan Woodward.
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