My First Book Signing: Road Kill at Burrowing Owl Books

Here’s a thing to add to my future autobiography: I’ve signed books for people who bought them. 

Here’s a thing to add to my future autobiography: I’ve signed books for people who bought them.

22859982_10210200326660378_8243940718473482649_o
Summer Baker (left) and Keith West (right) at Burrowing Owl Books. Photo credit Russell Parker of photographybyrussell.com

I had my first book signing event for Road Kill: Texas Horror by Texas Writers Vol. 2 at Burrowing Owl Books in Canyon, TX, alongside Keith West, a fellow contributor who wrote “Cemetery Games.” It was just before Halloween, and, as you can see, I dressed the spooky part.

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 Kill on 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. 

 

Road Kill Available on Amazon

As of this morning, Road Kill: Texas Horror by Texas Writers, Vol 2, featuring my short-story “Thirsty Ground,” is now available for purchase on Amazon!

This Halloween season, embrace the creeping dread of Texas living with a copy of Road Kill for your very own. For those of you who can’t make it to any of the book signing events in October, you now have the option to purchase Road Kill online. Check out the chilling synopsis below:

RK2_FRONT_COVER

Road Kill: Texas Horror by Texas Writers, Vol 2 edited by E.R. Bills & Bret McCormick

 

A hanging tree takes the law into its own limbs in “The Tree Servant.” A mother’s love is tested by the walking, crawling and thumb-sucking dead in “Mama’s Babies.” A famous author lays his process bare in “A Writer’s Lot.” Not for the faint of heart, this terrifying batch of Texas horror fiction delivers a host of literary demons who will be hard to shake once they get comfortable.

The second volume of the critically acclaimed Road Kill Series from Eakin Press, featuring seventeen Texas writers. Some of the writers are established and have been published in a variety of mediums, while others are upcoming writers who bring a wealth of talent and imagination. Edited by E.R. Bills and Bret McCormick, this collection of horror stories is sure to bring chills and make the imagination run wild. Writers include Jacklyn Baker, Andrew Kozma, Ralph Robert Moore, Jeremy Hepler, R. J. Joseph, James H. Longmore, Mario E. Martinez, E. R. Bills, Summer Baker, Dennis Pitts, Keith West, S. Kay Nash, Bryce Wilson, Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam, Stephen Patrick, Crystal Brinkerhoff and Hayden Gilbert.

(Via Amazon)

Available in paperback for $19.95 at amazon.com.

Road Kill Update: Release Date

An update on the Roadkill anthology publication

I talked in a previous post about how my short-story submission was accepted to be published later this year in Volume 2 of the Road Kill: Texas Horror by Texas Writers anthology. Last night, as I was falling asleep, dreaming big dreams about the trip to the San Japan convention today, I got an email from E. R. Bills with two things:

The cover image for Road Kill: Texas Horror by Texas Writers Vol. 2

RK2_FRONT_COVER
Road Kill: Texas Horror by Texas Writers Vol. 2, edited by E. R. Bills and Bret McCormick

(P.S. I love it.)

The release date: October 21 

There’ll be a launch party at Fleur Fine Books in Port Neches on Oct. 21, featuring the editors E. R. Bills and Bret McCormick as well as many of the as-of-yet unannounced contributors to the anthology. Since Port Neches is over 600 miles from the Texas Panhandle, I likely won’t be attending myself. Still, if you can make it, you should.

Flier for the Road Kill launch event at Fleur Fine Books in Port Neches, TX

(P.S. The picture with the ground cracks refers to my story “Thirsty Ground.”)

If you miss this one or if it’s too far away, there’s a second confirmed signing event at Book People on Oct. 29 in Austin, TX.

Flier for the Road Kill signing event at Book People in Austin, TX

I still won’t make it to this one either. But if you want to see me — and pick up a copy of Road Kill featuring my short-story “Thirsty Ground” — there may be an event in Amarillo soon. To be announced.

I’ll also update when I have more information on where to purchase the book after its release.

Writing Update: I’m Getting Published

Here’s a thing to add to my future autobiography: last weekend I was on a trip with some friends in Tulsa and early on Sunday morning, after a night of precious little sleep, I drowsily checked my phone. There I found an email from one of the editors of Road Kill: Texas Horror by Texas Writers, which is an anthology of regional horror. I’d sent a submission to them a couple months before after hearing about Road Kill from Madison and Mattie because I’d just written a regional horror story myself.

The email was this:

We like your story, but it needs work. Please call.

I wasn’t sleeping anymore after that.

I waited until we came back from Tulsa and until I got home from work on Monday to call. Which is to say, I freaked out about it for two days straight. But I didn’t have a chance to call any sooner. On the phone, E. R. Bills told me that we needed to do some revisions, but that they were going to include my story in the anthology.

I’m getting published.

In many interviews, I’ve read about famous writers getting asked some variation of the question, “What did you do when you heard the news?” Their answers always involve celebrating, usually with a fancy dinner or with drinks or whatever. They have to, because success in this difficult craft deserves reward. For my part, after the call ended, I paced back and forth across my apartment a couple of times, then I called my parents, who took me out to eat at Furr’s. Such an innocuous restaurant choice as that is also going straight into my autobiography.

Here’s a funny for you. Mr. Bills asked me to send an author bio to include with my story. Even though I doubt they’ll accept it, I sent this to them today:

In those ‘describe me in one word’ social media posts, Summer Baker always gets the word weird. She grew up in Texas panhandle country just outside of Amarillo and, as an adult, still lives there with her ancient toothless dog because the city won’t let them leave. It’s gained sentience and no one can escape. Send help.

While she and the Wonder Dog cower in her apartment, Summer spends her final days writing fantasy and horror, playing videogames, reading, and playing tabletop RPGs with her friends.

Let me tell you, though, this whole thing is hard to process. I’ve gotten so used to no that I’m not sure how to react to yes. I did spend all of this morning tweaking the revisions they sent to me, so it feels like I’m back to doing the work I always do. Just with more people involved. I keep plugging along and in the time since I first submitted ‘Thirsty Ground,’ I’ve trashed one story and completed another. After this post, I’ll move on to drafting the next one. Business as usual.

Still. Kind of screaming inside.

P.S. I’ll update with more details on Road Kill Vol. 2’s release date and where you can snag a copy in a future post. With or without my story’s inclusion, I have a feeling it’s going to be a deliciously thrilling read.

The Character Description Project

I hosted something of a creative community project on Facebook the week before last, mostly by accident. By ‘accident,’ I mean that I didn’t expect it to explode into the huge deal it became (for me at least.) Here’s how it went down:

Writing About Writing (And Occasionally Some Writing) author Chris Brecheen (a fabulous human whose website you should check out) shares amusing writing-related memes, encouragement, and puns all day every day, in addition to churning out solid word-slinging advice. One of these was an older Tumblr post asking the reader to describe the original poster ‘the way an author would in a book.’ I didn’t like sharing something so me-centered, so I reposted it with a little twist.

 

Capture
Tumblr post: “describe me the way an author would in a book” – if you do this i might cry Additional commentary: ‘Comment and I’ll do one of these for you.’

By now, two weeks later, I’ve written thirty of these character descriptions. Thirty. With one still in the pipeline, because that one’s on the back burner for now. That’s a little over a quarter of my friends list. The cool part, though, is that I wasn’t the only one writing these–several other people joined in, writing lovely character descriptions of their own. There was even one who wrote a description of another commenter, without involving me at all. Two others shared the original post from Writing About Writing with the same offer to their friends.

It. was. awesome.

Also… frightening.

The day I posted it, I started the first response with silliness and flippancy. Not even trying. But as my finger hovered over the post button, something within railed at the artificiality. I just couldn’t make anything less than real, so I scrapped it and wrote a new piece from the heart. Not stopping there, I kept doing the same with the rest. I pulled together impressions, musings, and memories, drawing out the essence of my subjects, holding up a mirror so they might see their reflections the way I see them.

As a result, I discovered that the trouble with writing authentically about people you know is twofold:

  • First, it reveals a lot about you–the way you’ve noticed others, what you’ve noted, how many secrets you must know. Folks could be more on guard around me now.
  • Second, it reveals a lot about them–writers are observant by nature and so, I think, we often know things not meant to be known, without realizing. Things inefficiently hidden away. It wasn’t until I was halfway through–when some people came forward to tell me they were too scared for me to write their character descriptions–that I recognized I might be showing too much.

It’s sort of like fortune telling, where you, the seer, are peering into someone’s past rather than into their future.

The good outweighs the bad, though. There are 150 comments on the post right now. Obviously, thirty of those are my descriptions, but the rest (not counting descriptions written by others) are happy reactions to them. Each glowing a little stronger. There’s nothing so freeing as telling your friends how awesome and beautiful you’ve noticed they are, especially through your own art.

What happens when you angle a mirror toward a shining light? It brightens the entire room. That’s what I hope to have accomplished from thirty-odd hours of writing work: a brighter world.

(P.S. I will be posting one of these character descriptions every Thursday for almost the rest of this year. Stay tuned!)

Fourth 2017 Writing Goal Complete

In which I blather about reaching writing goals surprisingly early.

Capture

Wait, another one? Didn’t we just do one of these like two weeks ago?

Yeah. I got through this 25,000 word chunk with a lot of help from some writing I did on this story last year. I had no idea that roughly 15,000-ish words comprised just five chapters. By the time I added them in (because I’d finally reached them in the plot), I was at 99,000 words. That’s what that random spike is in the chart. It was just a matter of writing that last 1,000 to already be done for this month.

Of course, that’s not the way of writing. I’ve got to keep up the momentum so the narrative doesn’t go stale in my mind. But with the sudden complete jump to the next arc, I find myself flailing a bit. I know what’s going to happen next, but not quite how it will. I didn’t have time to think about it, to spool out the events and dialogue and gunfights in my imagination. It’s taken me three days of thought to just now start working it out. I’m still turning possibilities over even as I write this.

I’ve somehow gotten it in my head that I’m about halfway done at chapter 45. That had me feeling a little defeated, imagining another 100,000 words before I can take a break from this story. It’s been a fun adventure but also a harrowing struggle, being my first true efforts at overcoming writer’s block again and again and again. Fortunately, I’ve come to the realization that I just have this one arc and some small chapters to tie in a few subplots before I’ll be writing the final climactic arc.

It will be nice to put this down for a while and spend time on some short stories. I’ve written two while working on this larger piece, but it stresses me out when I take time away from one to do the other. Soon, maybe after one more progress update (sooner, if I didn’t have to wander around the block just to get down the street when I write first drafts), I’ll set this aside for a couple months. Stephen King said in On Writing that when you come back to your draft, “you’ll find reading your book over after a six-week layoff to be a strange, often exhilarating experience.” I’m ready for that break. But more than that, I’m looking forward to coming back and beginning to revise.

I’m close enough to see the end. Now I have only to reach out and touch the finish line.

Third 2017 Writing Goal Complete

In which I celebrate writing more on a project than I ever have.

Capture
A graphic depiction of many slain words

Yeah, this might be starting to seem kind of silly. Why am I posting updates about my writing progress every 25,000 words, at a rate of about once a month?

Because this is the only reward I’m getting for writing this many freaking words for the first time in my life. It’s a gold star to myself. I’m type A and I need those gold stars. Thrive on them. If I don’t give myself some recognition for my tiny accomplishments, who will?

Also, I bought myself a couple of these, one for work and one for my desk at home:

Capture
A Fidget Cube from AliExpress

So I made it to 75,000 words. It took me three days past my intended deadline this time, but I still made it once again. I’ve never written this much on any single piece.

Contrary to what NaNoWriMo would have me believe about how 50,000 words is a complete novel, this sucker is probably only halfway done. Granted, it’s a sprawling, crawling mess right now because I don’t always know where it is I’m going. I just know I have to write to get there. It’s a lot more than I need for the plot that I’ve got and Stephen King and probably Dan Harmon would be ashamed of me. A lot of this precious word count will be cut out in the end and I’ve already started daydreaming about where I can trim and tighten up, streamline it a bit.

But not yet. Not yet.


 

This progress tracker is from mywriteclub.com, which is a neat and simple tool for keeping up with your writing progress. It doesn’t just track your words, but also scenes, chapters, pages, lines, etc. If you, like me, get a high from watching that progress bar go up, check it out. And if you, like me, would care to have a writing buddy/cheerleader, look me up here.