I had a nightmare last night.
In the dream, someone had brought me a copy of my first book, in pristine collectible condition with plastic protecting the dust jacket. And then they did a horrible thing: They asked me to autograph it.
When your work is published in a collection, and someone is collecting the signatures of everyone in that collection, life is easy . . . you sign your name next to your part. They tell you if they want the index or the actual pieces. But when the book is all yours?
Well, it's hard not to want to inscribe it with something clever, especially if it's a close friend or family member. But you know how you can never seem to say that clever thing at just the right time in conversation? Well, it's pretty much the same with inscribing books.
And therein came my nightmare. In the dream, I kept flubbing up simply signing this person's expensively-bought collectible book. Not only the inscription, but my signature as well, which got three attempts and the final try was a John Hancock-sized monstrosity. It was awful.
Over the years, I've had a lot of people sign books, and the ones that seemed to have it figured out were the ones with a stock line that fit their title. The notorious Jack Tracy would sign his Subcutaneously, My Dear Watson with "In celebration of our singular addiction." Others do well keeping it simple and moment-based, as Liese Sherwood-Fabre did with "Great to see you at 221B Con" in a copy of her The Life and Times of Sherlock Holmes.
I suppose the folks who sign the most books have it practiced and down. But when you have a very limited-run Sherlockian tome that pops up for signing on random and unexpected moments -- well, you can get caught with your pen down pretty easily. And "Goddamit it, why did I publish this book?" is hardly an appropriate inscription.
It was weird to have that moment come back as an actual nightmare, following a night where my stress-nightmares involved natural disasters like tornados and flash floods. But there it was, apparently one of my secret terrors.
So if you find that you just can't seem to finish that obscure work on Sherlock Holmes's tea set that you've been working on, enjoy your signing-free life. Every dark cloud has a silver, and sometimes nightmare-free, lining.