I’ve been incredibly silent this last week. I haven’t written here, nor anywhere else. I haven’t read ‘Vessels’ again, as I’d planned. I haven’t done anything.
Except read ‘Words of Radiance’.
The whopping 1,088 page hardback beast of a book has absorbed my every waking moment since Friday night. I’ve lived in Roshar these past few days, my moments away from the book blurry. Almost a haze. I can’t remember driving to work, my shifts are just a thin memory, lifeless. All my living has been in fiction for the past six days.
And last night I finished the book.
As I consider it now, I’m sad. I wasn’t ready to leave. I need to know more about Kaladin and The Kholins. These characters that have come to mean so much to me. And this world. This magnificent creation that is so completely alive. A real place. Sanderson’s words have me wanting to curse by the Almighty and his Storms.
But, I’m waking up. Slowly but surely a functioning member of my life again.
I want to talk a moment about the book signing Friday night. Apparently Portland always treats Brandon well. There were nearly 200 people at this book signing, a new record.
Let me start by saying that Brandon himself was everything I could have hoped for. Even though I knew he would be, my insecure side had bubbled up all sorts of doubts. What if he’d had a bad day? If he was tired? What if his lectures are more scripted, will he barely talk?
You have to remember that this is my writing GOD. The man that inspired me, not to write, but to write what I wanted to read. Sanderson helped me realize, in the midst of my college education, that writing Sci-Fi/Fantasy doesn’t have to be “slumming it”. This is the man that I have been reading with an intense fervor for over five years. I’ve been studying his work, and doing my best to imitate it.
By the time I stood in line my stomach was in knots and my palms were sweating.
But, let’s go back to the start.
I hadn’t bought my copy of Words of Radiance yet, so I only brought two books with me; my hardback copy of ‘Alloy of Law’, and the book that started it all, my paperback copy of ‘Mistborn’.
Now, my copy of ‘Mistborn’ has been read by me twice, and lent out to a few of my most trusted friends, and their moms. I have toted that book with me everywhere, tucked under my arm, stuffed in a backpack, tossed on the front seat of the car. EVERYWHERE.
And it shows.
Somewhere along the years, the book lost its crisp Barnes & Noble fragrance, leaving that wonderful, musty-sweet smell of pages well worn. It is one of the most revered books I own.
So, I picked up a copy of ‘Words of Radiance’, as well as a copy of Brandon’s novella ‘The Emperor’s Soul’, which I’m starting today.
And then we waited. We sat, Trevor reading a Game Informer, my self people watching and flipping through ‘Words of Radiance’ intermittently. I want to say that the kinds of people, at least in the Portland area, that show up to Sanderson signings, are a little weird. Now, I’m a self-professed nerd, and proud of it, but these people… Well, they take it to a whole different level. Guys with great big bushy beards, and flowing ponytails, with pewter Dragons pinned to the lapel of their black dickies work shirts. Or the more straight-laced know it all, with shaggy hair and cargo shorts.
For a solid two hours I watched Dragon Pin and Straight-Lace argue over the poetic prose of Patrick Rothfuss, among other facets of fantasy fandom. They were consistently trying to out-nerd the other. At one point Trevor leaned over and asked if I knew what they were talking about, but I’ve never read Rothfuss, so, I didn’t.
But, when one of them couldn’t remember Jim Butcher’s other series, the one that wasn’t the Dresden Files, and I mumbled, “The Furies of Calderon”, Trevor turned to me with wide eyes. “You ARE one of them,” he accused.
And we laughed.
Anyway, Brandon finally appeared, and the huge crowd clapped and cheered. Brandon spoke about a story he wrote when he was 15, about Dalinar Kholin and his battle to decide not to steal the throne from his newly crowned nephew. It was one of the first stories Brandon ever wrote. That was 1990. In 2003 ‘The Way of Kings’ was published. He refers to ‘The Stormlight Archive’, the ten book series including ‘The Way of Kings’ and ‘Words of Radiance’ as the story of his heart.
And as he spoke, I couldn’t keep the smile from my face. This was him. This was the man that I’d come to know from watching hours of lectures. He was energetic, earnest, genuine, and so incredibly passionate about his characters and his world. They are as alive to him as Val and Whit are to me, and probably even more so.
After his talk about The Stormlight Archive, he read a short story to us. It had absolutely nothing to do with ‘Words of Radiance’, and it was a rough draft. It was good, but even as he read I could tell where cleaning up needed to happen. As he spoke I could hear the lines, and I could imagine how they would actually sound once the piece was published.
And this gave me such incredible hope. Brandon’s rough drafts are like mine. Not bad, by any means, but normal. The brilliance, the clear descriptions and powerful moments, they’re all there, but they need fleshed out, and made stronger through editing.
And, sitting there, surrounded by nerds to the nth degree, Trevor’s comforting hand on my thigh, it hit me.
I can do this. I can write, and I can write well.
Since that night, though I’d been taken hostage by Sanderson’s fiction, I’ve felt a craving. A gnawing in my gut, that demands that I edit ‘Vessels’, a command to keep writing chapters.
It’s as close to breathing Stormlight as I can imagine. As Brandon spoke I inhaled deep the wisdom and inspiration, and I felt alive. A coursing energy has been rushing through me, building. Waiting. For the first time ever, I really want to write full time. This event made me realize that this is what I want to do. I want to write fiction for a living.
Not on the side. Not when I have the time. I want to devote my life to writing stories.
But, I still have to work a normal day job. I can’t afford to truly write full time.
As we approached Sanderson’s signing table, I was nearly shaking. My blood hummed along my veins, and sweat clammed up my hands. My books were set on his table, and he looked at me.
“Hi,” I said with a small wave. And stepped sheepishly forward. He chuckled. HE CHUCKLED! My overwhelming anxiety made him laugh! I should have felt a little indignation, but all I felt was a glowing pride; I amused him! Trevor spoke up from behind me, mentioning the lectures, and how he’d enjoyed overhearing them.
“Oh,” Sanderson said, looking to me. “Awesome.”
Trevor is brilliant, and had very subtly just told my idol that I am a writer. I’m not sure if I was breathing, and I’m sure my face was a deep maroon.
“Do you have any questions for me?” He asked. Dear lord, I’m supposed to have a question ready?
“No,” I said. I went on to stammer some nonsense about how I loved everything he wrote, and would be patient for whatever came next. He looked at me, amusement dancing just behind his glasses, handed me my books, and thanked me for coming.
And then we walked away.
My knees shook. My blood pounded in my ears, and I was starting to hyperventilate. As soon as we were out of earshot I turned to Trevor. “I did it!” I crowed. “I talked to him, and didn’t make a complete fool of myself!” Trevor laughed, his hand on my hip, as I looked to the cover page of ‘Mistborn’. It was the only book I’d requested my name in, and I wanted to see his horrible handwriting there.
I stopped dead at the doorway out of the bookstore.
I didn’t ask him to write that. Just my name. For those who don’t know, “I am hope” are the last words of one of the main characters of ‘Mistborn’. The last words of my favorite character.
Now, I know he probably does that to everyone’s copy of Mistborn. But, I’m going to let myself imagine that he did that to mine because he could tell that my battered, tattered copy had been treated with reverence and adoration for five years. That it would really mean something to me.
And, in case you manage to find this, it really did. It meant so very much.
Now, I have a lot to think about. I’ve been trying to get promoted at work, but now I’m not so sure it’s what I want. My priorities have shifted. I think. I want to spend some time really thinking it over, and deciding what would be best. Where I want to spend the most energy. I love my job the way it is, and it allows me to spend a good amount of time writing.
Things to consider.
Also, next time I go to a signing, I have a question ready. “Before you could write full time, what was your writing schedule like?”
The goal is to get there. I want to sign books to avid fans. To create shining moments in people’s lives, both with my fiction, and by acknowledging their fandom.
Plus, I still have that life goal of mine; to be on the New York Times Bestseller list.
Yes… A lot of things to consider.
I’ll be around blogland.