art by Tim Stewart
by Steve Stanton
Destiny drove him forward like a taskmaster from the bus, up the grand entranceway into the ballroom at the Civic Centre, past the sign-in table where he received his laminates and loot bag, onward to his publisher's booth in a back corner. There it was: the fabled anthology, bright with colour but creepy enough to grab his attention. He picked up a copy to examine it closely, saw his name on the cover, third from the top, felt a surge of satisfaction. His first sale as an author.
"Do you like science fiction?"
He looked to the young girl behind the desk, a frail creature with bright eyes and long dark hair. "Sure do," he said and held up the book. "I'm Nigel Harris." He tapped the front with a finger. "I'm on the cover."
"Nigel!" she exclaimed as she rose from her chair. She stepped around the table and hugged him with fierce intensity. "I am so happy to meet you." She pulled back and stared at him with delight on her face. "I'm Stefany Rose, the publisher."
"Oh." He nodded. "Great." She looked younger than he had imagined from her email. And why the aggressive body contact?
"I have your check," she said.
He smiled. "Cool."
"Upstairs." She pointed. "We'll get it later."
"No problem." He waved a polite palm.
Stefany led him around the table to the business side. "Take my seat for a minute. You've come a long way. Can I get you a mocha latte?"
"Sure." He sat and looked around. "What if someone wants to buy one?"
"There's a card reader in the box." She tapped it with her toe. "Just stall till I get back. Ask them if they want your signature, 'kay?"
His signature? Holy cow. He nodded after her with numb abandon and turned to see a gaggle of teens shuffle with hesitance toward the table, an ambient mass of haute couture. A young girl picked up a copy of the anthology. "What's it about?" She had a crystal stud in the left side of her nose and a small tattoo at her temple.
"It's a theme anthology called Lost Tribes."
She turned it over. "Did you write it?"
"I have one of the stories, 'Gathering Glory.' There are ten stories in all. It's good value for your money." Now that sounded lame. Was that the best he could do for book promotion?
The girl smiled and tilted a tousled head of curls. "What's your story about?"