The Hopeful Wanderer 47 – Name Calling

On a clear desert night, the crush of shifting sand from just outside my tent woke me. I lay on my bedroll in the dark, listening to the unmistakable sound of footsteps approaching. The gait of my visitor… lurched. Or hopped. When it stopped next to my tent, the shadow of a lengthy, humanoid shape limned against the distant, star strewn sky. Antlers protruded from between long, drooping ears.

It whuffed an animal breath.

My eyes found the tent zipper, expecting any second to see it begin to inch open. Against the canopy between me and the creature lay my bag. I could think of nothing within that would help me.

From the other side of that insubstantial nylon wall, a voice called with a high, thin quality that echoed away into the dunes. “Wanderer,” the creature crooned. Only the word it spoke did not sound like any word for wanderer.

Yet, somehow, that strange word meant me.

It was my name.

Instantly, though, whatever I had heard slid sideways in my mind. Gone, with only the lingering sense of rightness left behind.

I yanked the zipper down and snatched the tent flap open. As I ducked out, I glimpsed the flash of a glowing pair of wideset eyes. “What did you just sa-” I began.

But outside, no tall creature stood. The sands all around were empty but for a set of rabbit tracks leading away from my tent into the night. No second set showed the creature’s approach.

Hope sliced neatly from my chest. Along the graceful crest of a dune, the glint of starlight was a cruel, knowing grin.

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The Hopeful Wanderer 4 – A Silent Eclipse

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Photo by Johannes Plenio from Pexels

When the moon drew too close, we retreated indoors and barred the windows shut. Mystified, I helped with the task of preparing for a siege, but once the work was done, I tried to be on my way. The townsfolk would have none of it.

“It’s just a lunar eclipse,” I argued. I was standing in the night dark dining room, satchel over my shoulder.

Shh!” my host hissed at me. She held a trapdoor open while her children filed into the basement beneath her kitchen, ladder steps creaking under their feet. One of them, a dark, curly-haired child, glanced at me with alarm written across his face before he vanished below. “You’ll bring them on us,” she continued in a harsh whisper.

Outside, a low rasp echoed from the driveway. Every one of us froze, listening. To me it sounded like a plastic bag of wet aquarium marbles rolling across concrete. Rattling. Squishy. Through the dining room window, I spied twin beams of moonlight, roving independently of each other like small, pale spotlights. The creature crossed into the yard and then back to the driveway, around and around the cars parked there. Its slow, insidious motions had a questing, hunting nature.

The moonbeams cut across the window and I dropped to the floor, holding my breath. Glancing to see whether the creature had spotted my host, I found that she had already scuttled downstairs in the wake of her children. She had the door cracked just enough to see me, her eyes wide in the gloom. I crawled to join her on quiet hands and knees.

As I descended into the dusty basement, lowering the trapdoor behind me, I murmured, “Maybe you’ve got a point.” They shuffled to give me space and I let the door fall closed.


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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.

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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.