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POSTCARDS FROM A BOOK TOUR
--By Scott Nicholson

I was the lucky winner of the Hubbard Gold Award in 1999, the top prize in the Writers of the Future contest. My story "The Vampire Shortstop" appeared in Volume XV of the contest anthology. I did a series of book signings for the anthology in the spring of 2000. Far too much of what follows is true.

Dear Mom:

This is the first date of my world book-signing tour. I'm in a mall bookstore. I've got a table and a pen and a big stack of these Writers of the Future books. Everybody needs one of these books, and they're only $6.99 plus tax. I can't figure out why so many people go in the store across the aisle and pay $30 for a T-shirt that basically promotes the T-shirt line, yet I can't sell a cheap book.

Funny, the bookstore seems to have forgotten I was coming. They didn't have any posters up, and the local newspaper had nothing, even though I sent a nice picture and my Mr. Real Person press release. I'm sure those were just oversights, though, and I don't think it will happen again. Got to go. Here comes a potential customer, and I have to catch her eye before she reaches the Harry Potter books. Love, Your Son Scott

Dear Mom:

Today I am at one of the big chain bookstores, I think it's a WaldenBorders, or maybe a Barnes-A-Million. Anyway, they sure have a lot of books here. Why, right up front are at least a dozen different titles, each in its own special cardboard display rack. You would know the names of the authors if I wrote them down. For the most part, it's the same twelve authors that were occupying the same spaces twenty years ago.

If you look deeper into the store, you will see literally a hundred books. When you get up close, you see that the authors' names are the same as those up front, only the titles of the books are different. Anyway, I promised you I would be a real good writer and make you famous. That's why I'm here signing my book today.

Actually, it's not my book. It's an anthology, and I just have a story in it. But I want to do this, even though I'm not making any money on it, because one way to get famous is to pretend that you are already famous. Only minutes ago, somebody asked me if I was L. Ron Hubbard. L. Ron Hubbard's name is on the book because he founded the anthology contest and...well, it's a long story, longer than a postcard. As you know, I am most certainly not L. Ron Hubbard because he died fifteen years ago, and I look pretty terrible, but not that decayed. Love, Your Optimistic Son

Dear Mom:

Today I actually sold a book. I personally inscribed it to a woman who wanted it for her son's birthday present. Yes, he is into that "Star Trek" kind of stuff, she said, and she'd like to get him interested in reading. I did not tell her that I am a suspense and horror writer. I did not want to make her scared of me, like what happened when I did that weird thing in school...but that was a long time ago and I'm sure you've forgotten it.

This time I dressed up like a writer. I wore a vest and a rumpled white shirt, and I did one of those Edgar Allan Poe things with my hair. Maybe that's why the woman bought my book. Good thing, because I was getting so desperate to sell one that I almost bought one myself. That would have made a funny inscription: "To Scott, best wishes, Scott." Love, Your Tired Son

Dear Mom:

I am getting famouser and famouser. Today the local paper actually ran the article I sent in. There I am, on page 49, below a story about a laundry operator who has an "odd sock" collection. In the picture I look exactly like myself, only younger. Being on a book tour really brings out the gray hair.

Somebody brought in the article and asked me if I was that award-winning author. I said I was. He asked me how he could become an award-winning author like me. I told him to buy the book and find out. He said that he didn't want to read anything, he was a writer, for gosh-sakes, and Colonel Sanders never ate chicken, don't you know, and Tolstoy never read a word of English, but Tolstoy was certainly an award-winner in his day, and on and on.

Finally he left and I was lonely for him in less than three minutes. Because book signings make you lonely. Sitting at a book signing makes you just as lonely as writing at a keyboard does. But now I sound like I'm starting to feel sorry for myself, and I want to make you proud. I will try harder. If I sell another 999,999 books, then I can officially be a real writer. Love, Your Sullen Son

Dear Mom:

The lady who works at this bookstore read my story and says I am a real good writer. She said she wants to read my story collection when it comes out. She wouldn't buy the book, though, because bookstore employees make even less money than writers. She says she has so much spare time at the store, she can read the books in between customers. I wish she had used some of that spare time putting up the posters I mailed to the store.

The store sold five books while I was there. No, not five of mine. I mean, five total. In two whole hours. And they say people don't read anymore. Love, Your Soon-To-Be-Illiterate Son

Dear Mom:

I am sorry I am not making us famous any faster. I thought if I kept coming to these stores and sitting amid piles of books, people would instantly recognize my genius and give me lots of money. You know how those big-time publishers are so eager for new talent that they drive around looking for anybody wearing glasses? Maybe I have been going to the wrong stores.

Today I was stuck between the NASCAR section and the wrestling books. Definitely not my target audience. Did you know there is a book called "NASCAR For Dummies"? Is such a book necessary? Or I am just jealous because I wasn't the one who wrote it? Love, Your Starving Artist

Dear Mom:

Today three people asked me if I was L. Ron Hubbard. That's okay, because they each stayed at my table for several minutes as I explained that Hubbard died and, no, I am not a Scientologist, and that the writing contest is sponsored by Hubbard's estate and you can read all the great stories in this book even though the stories are science fiction and fantasy and I know that's not your "kind of stuff." None of them bought the book, but one told me about the time he saw William Shatner in a hotel lobby.

Before I leave each signing, I autograph all of the books and write little personal messages to people I will never meet. Even though I know most of the books will be stripped and pulped (no, Mom, I am not turning into one of those naughty-book writers, those are just the terms for destroying books that nobody wants). But on the chance that someone buys the book off the shelf later, I want them to at least wonder who this "Scott Nicholson" guy is and why he wrote in this nice, clean book. Love, Your Cynical Son

Dear Mom:

Finally, at last, I am world famous. And it only took me twelve book signings! No, I did not get a three-book contract to ghost write my own autobiography, and I've yet to hear back on my proposal for Chicken Soup for the Trekkie's Soul.
Here's what happened:

Today a woman came up to me and asked if I was L. Ron Hubbard. I answered, "Yes, I am."

She bought the book! Gee, I never knew it would be so easy. To be famous, all you have to do is be somebody else. Now that that's settled, I guess there will be no more signings and no more postcards. But I hope I have made you proud, and I had a lot of fun writing these messages to you. It kept me busy during all these signings when I had absolutely nothing else to do. Love, Your Famous Son Ron

--copyright 1999 by Scott Nicholson. Originally published in Speculations. Contact for reprint permission.

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