‘Long hair and glasses?’ Pfft. That description could fit anyone. Try phoenix hair and plum lipstick, metal in her lip, ink on her skin. Confident swagger; cold, challenging gaze. War paint and armor.
In nature, bright colors signify danger. Poison. She’s just as hard to miss and her aim’s deadly and true. If you cut yourself on her sharp tongue, you have no one to blame but yourself. She did warn you.
With her, you’ll find yourself on uneven ground. Unbalanced, untethered… unresistant to her charming laughter and playful banter. Watch yourself, for if you linger, you won’t leave. Won’t mind, either, because when she counts you as a friend, you have no better place to be.
There’s a difference between her and autumn sunsets, though. Sunsets vanish and autumn dies, unremembered. But she… she is unforgettable.
His was a higher calling, the unrelenting drive to solve the crossword puzzle of reality. He was characterized by disillusionment, a clear-eyed inspection and dismissal of the aspects of life that ultimately didn’t matter. A smelting of excess dross down to a heart of the purest precious metal. He had an uncompromising prioritization of himself that didn’t exclude others. Be you, for he will be him. He demanded distinction, greatness, exceptionality. In many cases, he got it, because he not only convinced you that you could be more, achieve more, touch the very stars themselves, but that you would. Prepare yourself for a sharpening of the mind, for if he’s thought you through and discovered your essence, he will not leave you alone to rust.
His heart was made for the open road, a testament to a time when brave folks crossed vast wildernesses with no promise of refuge on the other side. I often passed him on some forgotten highway or other, the black tarmac stretching toward the horizon in either direction. Empty countryside all around. He’d be cruising along on his steel horse, throwing a wave my way with dark exhaust marking his progress against the open sky. Or he’d be parked up on the shoulder a ways from the road, campfire blazing beneath a night full of stars, companions all around. Like one of those cowboys back in the day, he was prepared to go great distances pursuing the journey of knowing himself and God’s purpose for him. Well-traveled and the wiser for the wandering.
You could say she was the glue that held things together, because she had a way of seeing which folks belonged where and setting them in their rightful places. Which was to say, connecting them to each other and keeping them that way. But glue can dissolve and hers was a more permanent effect than that. She had the deft finesse of a needle and thread, stitching along the jagged edges of torn up bits of fabric. When she was done piecing the disparate qualities of her friends together, I could see her vision in the whole—a smooth, harmonious quilt, ragged sides lined up with their uneven matches. The only distraction was the stitches, gone every which way in the quest to sew up the most wayward of tears. But this resulted in a marvelous, complex design, unique in its lack of repeating patterns. That essence, her creativity and her commitment, was what made the entire cloth beautiful.
Just as a skeleton supports the human frame, she was the scaffolding upon which her life was built. All steel and all bone. If she could believe in nothing else, she could put faith in herself, for she was made with the strength to withstand the northern sea. An island, upon which she grew a family and a community, an economy of ambition and love. Storms crashed over her, but she stood fast. Waves broke upon her shores, to no avail. She sheltered her loved ones behind her indestructible ribcage, in the place where her heart beat. Under her protection, they could come to no harm.
The wonder of such a thing hasn’t yet worn off. Keith said it best as he took his seat next to me: “Nice to finally be on this side of the table.”
Which was to say, on the signer side. How right he was. At the time, I was too nervous about how the event would go to really appreciate the reality that I was signing books, not just getting one signed. But looking back, I’m a little awed at past Summer. That was really me. There’s even photographic evidence to prove it wasn’t a dream.
The signing itself was two hours long and that first hour passed like a blur, with several of my friends and family turning out to snag a copy of the book for themselves. With a bit of gimmicky brilliance, both Dallas and I had the idea to bring candy (since Halloween was soon) and I brought colored sharpies in a spooky box for fans to select for our signatures. Those are probably the most psychedelic copies of Road Kill out there. Though I tried my absolute best, I still messed up on one signature as I tried to write out his nickname instead of his real name. We sold most of the box, all but ten books — far more than I expected for a first signing — and signed some stock for Dallas afterward.
Keith West is the first of the other anthology contributors I’ve met in person. He turned out to be courteous and willing to talk writing shop with me, which we did for the last part of the signing when things slowed down. We were both riding in the first-signing boat and I was impressed with his enthusiasm for the craft. You can visit his blog at Adventures Fantastic.
Burrowing Owl Books itself is a cozy bookstore on the square in Canyon, filled with a comfortable array of new and used books. Its shelves are close enough to be cozy, but its open floor plan and high ceilings ward off any sense of claustrophobia. Dallas Bell, the owner, was incredibly helpful and cheerful as she guided us both through our first signing. Overall, it’s one of my favorite places in Canyon to visit.
If you missed the signing, you can still purchase a paperback copy of Road Killon Amazon.com for $19.95.
I did a lot of research beforehand over what to expect at a book signing. The Tricked Out Toolbox was a huge help with preparation guidance and I would recommend taking a look at their tips for your own signing.
She was a song I had heard long ago, one to which I remembered the tune, but not the words. A hazy recollection of sharp afternoon sunlight slanting across the stage where she sat cross-legged, body wrapped around an acoustic guitar. Fingers strumming the strings, gaze directed inward. We the audience might have been watching her, but she attended to the music the way she did everything: fiercely. She had a way of carving out space for herself, not waiting for permission, demanding the right to exist freely. Sometimes, when I felt hollow and uncertain myself, I hummed that tune and the notes would tether me to reality again. I think that song must have been a spell and she a bard, imparting a bit of her magic to her listeners.