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Last weekend’s author-signing event went surprisingly well, but it was not devoid of lessons to be learned.

I say “surprisingly well” only because of my standard introvert’s dis-ease when facing the public, plus the fact that this was my first signing event in nearly a decade. The fact that I sold any books (and to strangers, no less) was also a surprise. Admittedly, we spent that revenue on books from other authors/artists at the event, but let’s be honest: I don’t do this for the money.

Another entry in the “went well” side of the ledger was using Square for accepting payments. When you consider the fact that a week before the event I had no way to accept credit card payments, Square was an excellent choice. Fast, easy, with a top-notch app and high-confidence from customers, I was able to set up an account, enter my inventory, and get a card reader with a few days to spare. I was also prepared to use Venmo and PayPal, but they weren’t needed, as every customer was very comfortable with using Square.

Aside from these plusses, though, there were a few negatives.

First, I need a “pitch” statement. The author at the next table, J.P. Barnett, was able to sum up his books in a single sentence. (“Two college roommates chase monsters instead of going to class!”) While I’m sure this oversimplified his work, the pitch gave potential customers a quick way to know if his books were something they might enjoy. To be fair, all of J.P.’s books were from the same series, so he only needed One Pitch to Rule them All, whereas my books vary in content, style, and genre. That’s just an excuse, though; hearing J.P.’s pitch and watching his customers’ immediate comprehension of what lay before them showed me the value of a pithy catch-phrase.

I also learned that even though we all say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, we all most definitely do. To that point, I had to admit that the second edition covers for my Fallen Cloud Saga were not doing the job (even though minimalism was all the rage a handful of years ago). By far, the busier, more eye-catching covers on my table got the most attention.

The third lesson was that, if you have a series, bring more copies of Books One and Two. I foolishly brought an equal number of all titles, thinking (wrongly) that people would want to buy the whole series. With one exception, what they did buy was just the first in the series. In retrospect, this makes perfect sense; I’m an unknown quantity, and who wants to lay down cash for a series that they might not want to finish. Luckily, I didn’t run out of “first in a series” books, but it was a near thing.

Each February, Page Turner Books puts on a big signing event, which draws about six hundred sf/f readers, all eager to browse and find new authors. That’s about five times the traffic we saw on Saturday, and I’m seriously considering taking a table. There’s a lot of work I need to do, though, based on what I learned.

As I said, my motivation to participate is not financial. I want more readers rather than more bucks, so as long as I cover my costs, I’m happy. Watching people evaluate my titles, noting their reaction to my (admittedly) long-winded descriptions, and then seeing them walk out with one of my books under their arm, well, that’s the point, for me.

Onward.

k

Voices

the ether screams
headlines blare
so many voices
shout

warning taunting
upscale vaunting
always wanting
me

to fear to hear
to see to go
to buy to know
as if

my happiness
my meaning
my purpose divine
needs

their secret their special
their proven hack
their inside track
when

what I really want to do is

stop

lean back, feet up
feel the cat’s rumbling purr
taste the wine’s memory of summer
smell the coming rain
hear my lover’s laugh

k

Kurt R.A. Giambastiani

Signing Event: 24Sep22

Between work, weddings, and assembling IKEA furniture, it’s been a busy week, but somewhere in there I also managed to wrangle an invitation to an “author appreciation” festival put on by a local independent bookstore (details below).

Kent is a town south of Seattle, and Page Turner Books is a used/new bookseller in the downtown area. PTB takes pride in being a “by the nerds, for the nerds” business, specializing in speculative fiction of all stripes, plus gaming, collectibles, and comics. They often have author and convention-like events, and next weekend they’re putting on their Fall Festi-Con Fair, with (so far) about a dozen authors and artists hanging out to sign books and chat with readers.

Now, anyone who knows anything about me knows that I heartily dislike public appearances and speechifying. Back when I did attend conventions, I went through a lot of preliminary psychological prep, and a ton of after-action recovery. Signings were even worse, in that I wasn’t sharing the stage with other writers; it was all me, and the (usually) empty ranks of chairs were a reflection of that.

Not that I haven’t done the occasional event in the years since then. I even got invited to a panel on writing historical fiction (also in Kent, if I remember correctly . . . hmm) that was a good day, but in general, no.

In short, as an author, I don’t get out much.

But sharing the venue with a dozen creative artists is definitely something I can manage, and so, if you’re interested (and in the PacNW), here are the details:

Fall Festi-Con Fair
presented by Page Turner Books
Saturday, 24 Sep 2022, from 2-7pm
314 West Meeker Street, Kent, WA 98032

Event Page on Facebook
(includes list of authors and artists, plus details)
Event Page at City of Kent
(details, map, etc.)

Bring your books or pick up a new one (I’ll have some from my stash), or just drop in to say Hey.

k

An Unfather’s Pride

I do not have children.

This was by design.

I helped raise my brothers, eight years my junior. I experienced the trials of their infancy, the stress of their youthful mistakes, at least as much as an elder brother can.

I was not completely averse to the concept of procreation. Luckily, though, the woman I bonded with for life had opinions similar to mine, and so we have been happily childless for nigh on forty years.

And yet, there are children in our lives. The progeny of relations. The nieces and nephews of friends. The kids and grandkids of those in our closest circle.

This weekend I will have the honor of joining in marriage two young people who have been a part of our lives for several years. In June, I did the same for another couple from our innermost circles. In both cases, of both couples, I can’t help but feel a sense of pride when thinking of who these young people are.

But this is unjustified, undeserved, for I did nothing to raise these wonderful young people. I did nothing to mold their morals, their beliefs, their trueness to self, their admirable ethic, their compassion, their cleverness, their devotion to others, their loving spirits. That was the work of their parents, grandparents, aunties and uncles, elder cousins. That is their pride to take, not mine.

And yet, I feel pride.

Reflecting on this, it is probably more accurate to say that what I am feeling is a bit switched around. What feels like pride in them is actually pride in knowing them. I am proud that these remarkable young people want me in their lives. I am proud that they esteem me enough to want me to officiate their wedding. I am proud to know them, to call them friends, and to love them.

It is as close as I will ever come to feeling a father’s pride, but it is more than I ever expected, and I am grateful for it.

k

 

The Touch of Fire

Most of all, he enjoyed pruning the Japanese maples.

They stood beneath the canopy of evergreens–spruce, pine, fir, cedar, cypress–the giants of his garden. The tall conifers took the brunt of the weather, snarling into the winds, sacrificing muscular branches heavy with sap and resined scent to protect the more delicate growth at their feet. There was little to prune on these living towers; mostly he just carted away what the ocean-birthed storms snapped off, trimming back broken stubs, fulfilling his custodial chores while they, aloof and inscrutable, heads in the louring clouds, faced the southwesterly winds, ready for the next gale.

The other maples, the vine maples, were not his favorites, being a bit too boisterous, sending up trunk after slender trunk, reaching outward with multiplicative hands, begging for alms of sunlight. Pruning these, even the eldest of them, was like wrangling twelve-year-olds on a class trip. Just retrieve the one and you find that two others have ranged away from the pack. He loved them for their fall displays, though; their sudden, explosive shift from simple summer green to riotous fires of autumn could happen during a single night’s slumber. He was especially fond of the precocious one in the back, tucked under the pendant drapery of the grandmother spruce, because that maple was always first to change clothes, eager for colorful sweaters and winter’s onset.

But most of all, he enjoyed pruning the Japanese maples. Not the winter’s pruning, but in summer.

In winter, when they slept naked beneath the grey blankets of somnolent skies, he would trim them for shape, for strength, for optimal overlap and layering, and with an eye toward the tripartite growth that would come in spring. This, though, this was straightening the curled hand of a sleeping child, tucking them in beneath the covers. It was the trees, and it was him; two species, separate, unattached, isolate.

In contrast, the summer pruning–he could think of no other metaphor–was making love. The leaves of the Bloodgood–deep magenta, finely serrated, with thin, questing tips–rustled as his hands moved through the branches. The Autumn Moon’s leaves–pale green, delicate, so sensitive to light that a week’s sun would make them blush and August’s searing gaze could shrivel whole branches–bent to his ministrations, be it to rub out the dried tip or snip off a sere frond.

The two of them, though they were as old as others he’d planted, were barely half as tall. Theirs was a patient habit, a measured expansion, with each branch testing the world in three directions: one twig right, one left, one forward and upward. As his fingertips moved down each limb, each branch, each twig, he could divine their logic. They knew their limits and worked within them: send out scouts, read the reports, proceed only if conditions are favorable. He loved their caution to the point of emulating their unhurried approach in his own life. Knowing that his eyes could sense things they could not, knowing where the dappled sunlight would be best, he would pinch here, pluck there, and encourage them toward the unseen goal. Of their failures, his gentle caress revealed the abandoned twigs, stiff and pale where successes remained supple and green, and he would thumb them off. The snips were a last resort, for each leaf was a gem in the rough.

For when Summer packed its bags and Autumn came home to do its laundry, the evergreens remained dark and disinterested columns and the vine maples played frat-boy pranks on one another. But between the constancy and the chaos was the slow flood of color of his Japanese maples. The Bloodgood’s leaves crept from maroon to red to rust to scarlet to a crimson so sharp it could cut, while the Autumn Moon caught fire, dropping green for chartreuse, adding dry-brushed pinks, until October’s cold hearth brought the touch of orange hearthfire to each leaf.

He was aging, now, knees creaking, back growing stiff, while for these trees their youth was barely begun. He wondered–frankly, he worried–about what would happen to them once he’d passed. “Scatter my ashes on my trees,” he’d often say, though he only dreamed he would die while still near them. For as long as he could, he would remain there, caring for them at the same tempo they lived.

Because, most of all, he enjoyed pruning the Japanese maples.

k

The Climb

From waterfront to high market
the climb wends upward through the city’s memories,
from old brick painted with faded names
to new concrete laid at the feet of giants.

Gulls cry below, scudding along the shore’s hungry limit,
wings suspended on the taste of salt and kelp,
while above, the rumble of metal and power
and the chatter of caffeinated urbanites.

My breath rasps with each tread
as I climb the twisting caverns,
Orpheus returning to the light
through tunnels rank with piss and sorrow.

From beyond the turning, a note sounds,
pulled, tightened, anxious, lonely,
until another twangs in, rising too,
birthing tentative harmony.

The notes repeat, nearer as I climb,
others come to shimmering life,
intervals congealing out of tortured dissonance
as sympathetic strings pull into focus.

At stairs’ end, a cavern of poured stone;
a sunbeam paints harsh shadows of two men,
one seated, one who steps close,
beckoning, wide-eyed, his smile broad.

The seated man shifts,
and his guitar catches the light,
its varnish a Renaissance craquelure,
its strings twelve lines of fire.

I draw closer to the player, unsure;
his companion encourages me
and with beatific confidence instructs,
“Listen, and believe.”

When the chord is struck,
the world retreats, sirens stop,
pistons grow still, the machined ostinato
becomes a heartbeat bass.

We three form a tableau,
the creator, the disciple, and the skeptic,
as the divine is released by dirty fingers
and earthen hearts are lifted.

 

 

 

Stuck

just put up a poem

she said

when I complained

of having no ideas

as if it was

the easiest thing

to do

and so

I did

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