Have I ever mentioned that I’m a little superstitious? Well, I am, at least about things that seem to be too good to be true. That’s why I’ve waited until now to tell you about something I first learned back in early April.
I’ve been invited to be one of the featured authors at this year’s National Book Festival. This event is a Big Deal. It’s organized by the Library of Congress and features a hundred or so of (in their own words) “the nation’s best authors, poets and illustrators.”
Making it nicer for me, the National Book Festival is held in my hometown, Washington, D.C. You can learn more details here.
So, that’s the first announcement… The second is that S.M. Stirling has asked me to pass on the word that the anthology The Change: Tales of Downfall and Rebirth, which features stories set in his immensely popular “Changeverse,” will be hitting stores and Amazon on the first of June! Among the stories featured is my own “The Hermit and the Jackalopes.”
A launch for The Change will be held on June 15th, at the Jean Cocteau Theater in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Many of the authors plan to attend, so this is a great way to get your copy signed by all. A second event will be held on June 27th at Page One Books in Albuquerque.
Speaking of the Jean Cocteau Theater, I was there Sunday for an event in honor of Roger Zelazny, hosted by George R.R. Martin, and organized by Trent Zelazny. As many of you know, Roger was very dear to me. We lived together the last year of his life and losing him was the hardest thing that ever happened to me.
I won’t pretend that the event was easy. When I got up to make my presentation, for the first time ever in my life, my mouth went completely dry. Up to that point, I’d thought that was a metaphor. It isn’t. I could barely talk and was too overwhelmed to ask someone to get me some water. However, though some miracle, I managed to say a few words, then read Roger’s poem, “When Pussywillows Last in the Catyard Bloomed.” You can bet that I made sure I had water available when, later on, I read another of Roger’s poems, “To Spin is Miracle Cat.”
Presentations and readings, wise, witty, and wonderful were given by Parris Martin, Walter Jon Williams, Melinda Snodgrass, Shannon Zelazny, John Jos. Miller, Steve Gould, and Trent Zelazny. Joe and Gay Haldeman and Steven Brust weighed in via Skype, and Neil Gaiman sent a videotaped reading from London.
Trent had made a slideshow mingling art inspired by Roger’s work with some photos of Roger. We watched the Twilight Zone episode George had adapted from Roger’s story, “The Last Defender of Camelot,” followed by George talking about how Roger had befriended him when George first moved to Santa Fe, then some behind-the-scenes details of how the story was adapted to the script.
Later in the evening, there was a dramatic presentation centered around Roger’s play, “Godson,” based on the short story of the same name (which in turn was inspired by the fairytale “Godfather Death.”) I was familiar with the play already. I think I was probably the first person to read it. I’d even heard Roger read it aloud one memorable night at George’s. However, I had no idea how it would actually work out when performed.
I’m happy to report that it was a delightful presentation. Andy Primm wrote (and I believe performed) music for guitar to go with Roger’s lyrics. The small cast did a brilliant job with the handkerchief stage. Since there was no room for sets, a newly created character, “The Raven,” read Roger’s lovely stage directions to set the scene. I was very impressed!
And while we’re talking about events… Over Memorial Day weekend, Jim and I went up to Salt Lake City, Utah, where I was Guest of Honor at Conduit. We drove up from Albuquerque, stopping overnight in Moab, Utah, so we could visit Arches National Monument. For Jim, this provided an opportunity to take photos. For me, it was a great opportunity to immerse myself in a strange, almost alien landscape, not unlike portions of the planet Gryphon on which I’ll be setting my next Honorverse story. The immersion must have worked, because I started the story soon after we got home!
On Friday, Jim and I completed the drive to Salt Lake. (Aside: The distance between Albuquerque and Salt Lake takes about twelve hours to drive, longer if you want to stop along the way.) We checked into the convention hotel and, by 4:00 p.m., I was on my first panel, chatting about the Honorverse with the HMS Jonas Adock crew (aka, the local David Weber fan club). I had fun telling tales on my good buddy and giving away prizes.
This panel was followed immediately by one on YA fiction. Then we dined with our good friends, Julie and Nora Bartel, before going off to the Ice Cream Social. Here some of the Jonas Adock crewmembers made sure we didn’t feel left out. Soon, other people drifted over to chat.
Eventually, we staggered off to bed. We rose early the next morning to meet the Bartels (now a full set, rounded out by Ken, Julie’s husband and Nora’s dad). We went to breakfast at the Little America hotel, where I ate the best French toast I’ve ever had. After breakfast, we went across the street to tour the astonishing five-star splendor of the Grand America Hotel, which was built as part of bringing the Olympics to Salt Lake City. Now I know precisely how to describe a palace, should the need ever arise. Even the individual stalls in the lady’s room were lined in marble!
Then it was back to Conduit for an amazingly busy day. I started with back-to-back panels on “The Unpayable Debt” (influences from other writers or mentors) and on Dune on the 25th anniversary of its publication. Both were lots of fun.
I had an hour break, so we dashed up to my room to grab a few things before the next round. We came down to meet with Julie for a quick review before our joint panel on “Judging a Book by Its Cover.” We’d also hoped to find coffee but, in an act of Cosmic Mystery, the hotel coffee shop had closed at 11:00 a.m. Happily for us, the hotel restaurant made us gifts of two “to-go” cups, so Julie and I were recharged for our event.
After “Judging a Book by Its Cover” (in which we were joined by Eddy Roberts and which included a lot of audience participation), I had time to breathe for a few minutes before bustling off to my reading. Because I knew Julie wanted to hear it, I read my short story “The Button Witch,” an odd bit of old-style urban fantasy about a strange woman who grants wishes, but only “button wishes.”
When I finished, one of the audience members exclaimed: “My mother collects buttons!” which just goes to show: there is magic in the universe.
After my reading, I galloped off to do a signing. I’d brought copies of Wanderings on Writing and was pleased how many people bought one. Icing on the cake, the artist Guest of Honor complimented Tori Hansen’s cover art.
For the final event of the day, I’d asked local Utah author, talented interviewer, and friend Paul Genesse (that’s pronounced “Gen-ess,” like “finesse”) to interview me. He’d really done his homework and the hour sped by. Afterwards, we grabbed jackets and went out to dinner with Paul, and two of his friends, Don and Pat. The evening ended with an unintentional dungeon crawl through the single most confusing parking garage I’ve even been in. As if commenting on our plight, we passed a car whose license plate read: “Mwahaha,” in the best evil villain fashion.
Sunday, I only had two panels – one on using non-classical mythology, the other on writing in collaboration. Both were lots of fun. Jim ended our day by giving a well-attended talk on archeology. Nora Bartel, age six and a half, had the courage to ask the question everyone really wants to ask, but is too shy to venture: “What do you do when you find a skeleton?”
We explored Salt Lake City with the Bartels that evening. (The older areas are very lovely.) We ended with dinner at a Himalayan place. We’d never had Himalayan cuisine before and liked it a lot.
Monday morning, we were back on the road. This time our destination was Dolores, Colorado, which features the Anasazi Heritage Center. We got there an hour before closing, but a kind ranger gave us permission to hike the trails, as long as we closed the gates after us.
Tuesday was home again, home again… I don’t know how people who travel a lot manage!