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Having had a burst of book signings over the past week — and with more on the horizon — I’ve come to one major conclusion (more on this in a minute) and some assorted other thoughts (ditto).

First, the conclusion: Signings are not, in and of themselves, my favorite thing in the world. While people like Sarah Palin enjoy teeming crowds with twitterpating hearts, your average schlub author — and I’m nothing if not a schlub* — mostly sits and smiles for a couple of slow-moving hours. Now, let me be clear: It’s not the adulation I crave. It’s the human contact. In the paragraphs to come, I’ll propose some ways that you and I can do better by each other.

But first, a disclaimer

It would be the height of dishonesty to say that the exercise isn’t about selling you a book. It is. As much as it might entertain both of us to chat happily about this or that or compare favorite movies, in the end, I want you to take the book. That said, I’m a big boy, and I learned a long time ago that I don’t always get what I want. I can take it if you’re just not interested. OK? OK.

Onward …

What you need to know

1. I’m not going to attack you: I’ve grown so amused by the customers who enter the store, see me sitting front and center, avert their eyes and take the most circuitous route possible to whatever part of the store they want to visit that I finally printed out a sign that graces the signing table: “Author will not bite unless you ask him to.” At the very least, it’s a conversation piece. It’s also a guarantee.

2. If you have the time, I’d love to chat: About anything, really. Whether you take a book or not, I’m going to have to sit there. Hearing what folks are reading or doing helps the time go by and helps me be more aware of the world around me.

A few weeks ago, at a Borders signing, a woman and her teenage son stopped by the table. While she ended up buying a book (thank you!), most of the conversation centered on what the young man held in his hands: The Grapes of Wrath. It was a blast to be able to chat with him about it and to tell him not to dismiss the turtle chapter, that it would all become clear once he was done. I’m thankful they stopped by.

3. Laughter is the opposite of soul-crushing: There’s a caged-animal-on-display aspect of signings that a lot of authors find distasteful. We have a lot of reasons for being there — promoting our work, supporting the stores that stock our titles, maintaining the court-mandated 150 yards from all schools — but I haven’t met an author yet who doesn’t appreciate the folks who come by, crack a joke and let some oxygen back into the room. So to those who do us this valuable service, I say thanks.

What I need to do

1. Have a good answer for this question: “What’s your book about?” All I can say is that I’m honing it.

2. Get up from the damned table: At my first signing, I never left my seat, and I sold about three books in two hours. Subsequent efforts have involved more movement and, not surprisingly, more sales. Just as important, they’ve led to more satisfying interactions with my favorite kind of people: the kind who love books.

3. Bring candy: No lie. It makes the table more inviting. I’ve been heavy on the chocolate of late. If you’d like something different — particularly if you’re going to be at the Billings Hastings this Saturday — let me know in the comments section.

* — Lest you think that I’m being falsely humble here, I point you to this excellent essay in the Indie Reader magazine on the death of the book tour. In it, Charles Stillwagon of the Tattered Cover bookstore in Denver says of midlist and debut (that’s me) authors:

“Why would they think that anyone would want to come out to meet them?”

Why, indeed. Let’s take the over-inflated bastards out back and kick the bejeezus out of them.

Now that 600 Hours of Edward is available — really, it isseriously — I’m hitting the virtual road to chat about the book, writing, vintage TV, big-hair bands, alchemy, snipe hunting, whatever.

Behold, my schedule:

Day 1 of the blog book tour is in the bag. I was a guest at The Blood-Red Pencil on Wednesday to chat about National Novel Writing Month and 600 Hours‘ genesis in that event last year. (By the way, I’m doing the NaNoWriMo madness again this year. You should, too.)

Today, I’m back at The Blood-Red Pencil, this time talking about my experience initially releasing my novel through CreateSpace. Drop by and mix it up with us in the comments section. Here’s a bonus: A signed copy of 600 Hours will be given away.

Finally, on Friday, I’ll make one last appearance at The Blood Red Pencil to talk about landing a publishing contract with Riverbend Publishing, which gave my novel a new title, a new cover and a new life. And, yes, another signed copy of 600 Hours will be up for grabs.

Also Friday, I’ll appear on Stacey Cochran’s Book Chatter program on USTREAM. The show begins at 9 p.m. Mountain time. We’ll be talking about 600 Hours, publishing at large, writing and anything online viewers steer us toward. To call in, dial up the show at (914) 803-4571 or use the chat box online.

Monday brings the beginning of a new batch of guest blog posts. Join me at the following stops:

Monday, Nov. 2: Kimberly Parker’s For the Sake of Joy blog, where I’ll talk about Edward Stanton, the obsessive-compulsive Aspergian at the center of my novel. Bookmark the blog now and join in the comments and take your shot at winning a signed copy of the book.

Tuesday, Nov. 3: Jim Thomsen will host a Q&A with me at his blog. It will be an extensive look at the book, the writing life and the weird compulsions that go into it. We’ll give away a signed book there, too. (Are you sensing a theme?)

Wednesday, Nov. 4: Author Heidi Thomas (Cowgirl Dreams) is letting me hang around her corral and talk about using the West (or any other setting) as a character in a novel. (Signed book giveaway still in effect.)

Thursday, Nov. 5: The tour wraps up at the blog of author Carol Buchanan (God’s Thunderbolt: The Vigilantes of Montana). Carol gave 600 Hours a favorable review back in its independently published days, and she did so despite general misgivings about first-person, present-tense point of view and main characters suffering from mental illness. Since I won her over, she’s going to let me explain why I made the storytelling choices I did and how I went about putting them into play. It will be a good discussion for anyone who struggles with point of view and character development. (Also, I’m made to understand that we’ll be giving away a signed book. I’m just sayin’.)

And for those of you in the Billings area, a few signings are on the schedule:

On Saturday, Nov. 7, I’ll be at Borders at 2833 King Ave. West from 2 to 4 p.m. to sign copies of the novel.

On Friday, Dec. 4, I’ll be in front of Thomas Books, 209 29th St. North, from 7 to 9 p.m. during the annual Billings Holiday Parade. Hope to see you there.

And on Saturday, Jan. 2, I’ll be at Barnes and Noble, 530 24th St. West, from 2 to 4 p.m. to help you make good use of those holiday gift cards.

Keep an eye on the events page at my Web site for more appearances and signings as they get lined up.

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