So tired... Robert Jordan release party of DOOOOOM!

Posted by Unrepentant Escapist

October 27, 2009 -- 5:51 p.m.

Here's
my write-up of the Wheel of Time release party last night: if you were one of those people crazy enough to tune into the live broadcast, you got to watch me sing Dance with Jak o' the Shadows. The video will probably float to the surface to embarrass me long after I have granchildren.

Anyway, here it is. I hope it's all accurate--I was very tired last night and some of the notes I took are completely illegible.

Diary of a Stormleader (By Jennifer McBride)—unrepentantescapist.blogspot.com (a.k.a Vegetathalas)

Want a sneak peek into the glorious, glamorous life of a Storm Leader? Here’s a glimpse into the excitement of during the midnight bookstore release at BYU. (For those of you watching the livecast, I was the really annoying blond girl that hopefully nobody noticed because they were so busy goggling at Brandon. This was my first chance to be at a Wheel of Time release party, so I might have been a touch…overexcited.)

12:00 p.m.: TWELVE HOURS BEFORE THE RELEASE

The Stormleaders have been meeting by email for a couple of weeks, but it’s finally time to meet in person. People from all over the valley (and one from Idaho) converge on Springville, Utah to put the final touches on the event. We range from fans who have followed the series almost since its inception to one person who only joined up at the Knife of Dreams. Most of the meeting we spend talking about our favorite books and examining the swag from Tor, which includes comic books, bumper stickers and bookmarks. As I run my fingers down the slick comic book covers, murmurs of “my precious” are heard. THANKS TOR!

Matt Hatch, our “First Among Servants,” already has the book and stayed up all night reading it despite a trip from Las Vegas which left him short of sleep. He lets us look at it. A quick-flip through doesn’t reveal any new chapter symbols, though I could have missed some. The book weighs in at a hefty 783 pages with a skinny glossary. Oddly, the symbol above Brandon Sanderson’s biography is Faile’s golden waistband from Sevanna. An oblique commentary on Brandon being ‘chained’ to his work? I’m glad they changed the last line of Robert Jordan’s biography. Every time I read the “until they nail shot his coffin” part, I feel like I’ve lost him all over again.

We also learn that a storm is literally gathering in Provo, but the rain won’t break until after the party, hopefully. At least the live feed works, even if there’s a delay.

The host’s two-year-old daughter tells us gleeful that the Stormleaders are coming. She seems disappointed to find out the “Stormleaders” are us.

3:00 p.m.: NINE HOURS BEFORE THE RELEASE

We break to visit fans, who are already in line at the BYU bookstore. I rush around town buying necessities—chocolate to keep me awake all night (thank God for Halloween!) and enough copies of the trivia quiz/word find/crossword puzzle to keep some 300 people entertained – our rough estimate of how many are going to show up.

On my way to the bookstore, I’m thinking about Semirhaag when I see a dead hand dangling out of the car trunk in front of me. Seeing it helps me reach new heights of vulgarity until I realize that the hand is plastic, which makes me remember…oh yeah. Halloween.

I run these errands wearing my Stormleader t-shirt to show my general awesomeness. Unfortunately, the rest of the world seems oblivious to said awesomeness. The clerks at Albertsons seem more concerned with the sale on camouflage Snuggies.

6:00 p.m. SIX HOURS BEFORE THE RELEASE

After struggling with a possessed copy machine, I head over to the Red Rooster Dumpling Bar in downtown Provo. Matt’s there and he’s put together a poll in which fans try to guess what will happen by the series’ end.

I get kicked out of my seat by Brandon’ s assistant (Peter, who is wearing a shirt with the word “incalculable,” because that’s what Brandon calls him in one of his book dedications). And I realize with horror that BRANDON SANDERSON is going to be sitting across from me. Watching me eat. What if I get broccoli stuck in my teeth? The HORROR!!!

Brandon arrives fresh off his trip to Denver’s MileHighCon with a nasty cold that will, through the night, put him on the edge of losing his voice. We all feel sorry for him, especially because he’s going to get a maximum of three hours sleep tonight before he’s off on the plane to his next signing.

The dinner goes well, with good conversation. There’s a certain surreal aspect to it, as we’re all clustered around a table treating Brandon like a celebrity and/or minor god and NO ONE ELSE IN THE RESTAURANT KNOWS WHO HE IS. There’s even another Brandon at another table, and the author looks up when he hears his name, grinning sheepishly. His wife, Emily, a former English teacher, is nice, beautiful and pregnant.

Some things we talk about at dinner: (I didn’t take proper notes but I believe the 4th Age Podcaster of our group was recording it so you can probably hear an edited version there)

· Brandon refuses to confirm or deny that the One Power was used to kill Asmodean. He also mentions a Slayer scene deleted from the Shadow Rising which would have shown more about Slayer’s powers.

· If he could pick a nationality from the Wheel of Time world, he’d belong to Malkier because he loves the lost kingdom story. He thinks all the Borderlands are cool, but would definitely NOT be a Saldaean.

· He says he’d have to consult the notes to make sure, but he believes women can become “wolf-sisters.” We just haven’t seen any.

· His favorite chapters to write from TGS were the concluding chapter and also chapter 22.

He also repeated things that he’s said elsewhere, like that Robert Jordan left extensive notes, though he does have the power from Harriet to override them for the interests of the story. Robert Jordan especially left a lot of specific notes as to who lived and who died in Tarmon Gaidin, and he wasn’t going to change any of that. So is there going to be a lot of deaths?

The answer, of course, is RAFO.

I don’t remember if he said this during dinner or during the signings or both, but he was considering doing the outrigger and prequel novels, but that the decision was ultimately Harriet’s. Jordan left notes for that as well, especially the other prequels. If Brandon writes the other books, it will be after a pause at the end of the series. He definitely doesn’t want it to become ‘the McWheel of Time.’

He also said that the series’ ending puts certain threads in perspective. For example, Morgase, my least favorite character, apparently turns out to be less annoying than she appears. Also, fans will better be able to understand the importance of some of the lesser-liked books, like Crossroads of Twilight.

After Tor picks up the check (THANKS TOR! AGAIN!), Brandon heads over to the bookstore to begin signing books. He goes into the back to sign and number everything, and will wait to personalize the books of those willing to stick around and wait in another line. At this point, there’s about 120 people waiting out in the cold at the bookstore. The sun went down almost four hours ago, and I’d guess the temperature is around 46 degrees.

10 p.m. TWO HOURS BEFORE THE RELEASE

The gates are opened and people flock in. While I’m off making copies, a 150 more people get in line with more to come. The line, which once wound around the block, now winds around the bookstore. We hand out trivia quizs and start grading them. The winners will get their pick of the Wheel of Time comic books, which are both beautifully illustrated. I love the lacy gateway Ishamael weaves in the prequel, as well as Lews Therin’s destruction scene. Awesome. To my chagrin, the other fans know the series better than I do. The key has some answers wrong, which I realize after I’ve thought about it. Oops. Only two people managed to get a perfect score, both brothers, so congratulations to the Briggs!

When Brandon gets finished signing in the back, he works the line, signing copies of Mistborn, Elantris, the Alcatraz series, and his latest: Warbreaker.

12 a.m.: MIDNIGHT!

After a fifteen second countdown, the boxes are opened and the books are released. Brandon begins signing, and signing, and signing. Sometimes he takes questions from the live feed. I only heard a couple, but one of them was “which Ajah would he be if he could pick an Ajah” and he answered: Brown. Given his love of the Borderlands, I was expecting Green.

The signing went smoothly and well. The bookstore did a wonderful job hosting us and gave out their own door prizes, including free books. It struck me how sincerely grateful Brandon was for his fans, thanking them and trying to remember their names—impossible given however many hundred were stuffed into line. He also stuck up for the Stormleaders and made sure we got our numbers (in the 90s), which was kind of him. He had a cheat card with some phrases of the Old Tongue written down to help with the spelling in personalizing books. Some of his favorite things to write included: “May you always find water and shade” and “it’s time to toss the dice.”

Fans requested other things, like “Tai’shar Robert Jordan” and sayings from Siuan Sanche along with personal jokes. Brandon refused to sign stuff he hadn’t worked on, like the comics. One person brought his old Magic the Gathering Cards and gave them to Brandon, earning his eternal gratitude.

There were a surprising number of fans who waited the several hours in line even though they’d never read a Robert Jordan book. One person waited hours to thank Brandon for his books even though he had nothing to sign. Even Brandon’s sisters joined the line, and Brandon signed a book to “the Goober,” his mother. One of the two people who had come to Brandon’s first book signing back when Elantris was released (and Brandon sat in the bookstore, all alone—very different than today) came to get his book signed. He can legitimately call himself Brandon’s “#1 fan.” There were also people who’d never read Brandon’s works before, including some truly dedicated. Among the rubber band balls, axes and corsets, there was also a man with a heron marked sword. Epic fantasy lovers and t.v. cameras mingled between shelves stacked high with books.

Brian Lickey was the lucky fan who ended up with book #1 of TGS. He waited in line 41 hours, waking up at 4:30 a.m. on Saturday and deciding to go wait in the bookstore line because he had “nothing better to do.” Brian may be a relative latecomer to the series, (he started reading in 2002), but that didn’t dampen his enthusiasm. He said he’d been resisting reading Robert Jordan for years until he fled Utah to get away from Olympic Fever and caught Wheel of Time fever instead. His favorite male character is Mat and his favorite female character is Min.

APPROX. 2:45 a.m.

The last fan has made it through the bleary-eyed yet enthusiastic line. Brandon’s voice is shot. Everyone is tired after a long day. It’s rumored the bookstore sold 400-500 books. The Storm Leaders are the last to get their books personalized from Brandon’s hands, still writing legibly despite the weariness. For some reason, more than a hundred crazy souls have stuck with us through the livefeed and Brandon dances for them. Let’s just say I don’t think MTV will be calling anytime soon. The Stormleaders join in, and we all chant “To Dance with Jak O’ the Shadows.”

Brandon called it his “biggest book signing ever” and hurries home to upload Towers of Midnight onto his portable computer so he could work on it during the tour. Hopefully he managed to get some sleep in the three hours before his flight to Carolina.

The Stormleaders trudge away. I’m too tired even to read the book I spent the last who knows how many years waiting for. I stare at the stack of some 200-300 email addresses I need to put together for the Utah Wheel of Time mailing list we’re developing and sigh before turning into bed.

The Storm may be over, but the work is just beginning. Especially for Brandon, who is probably about to endure the most exhausting book tour of his life.

---

For anyone wondering what I asked Brandon to write in my book (#96) -- "For Jennifer. May you become the writer you dream of becoming."

2 comments:

  1. skwidly said...

    Just FYI, that's not supposed to be Faile's Chain belt, it's a Blacksmith's Puzzle (which may be hard to recognize if you've never seen an actual Blacksmith's Puzzle before, I guess!). Also, I believe the spider webs icon is a new one.

    Anyway, thanks for the account!

  2. Unrepentant Escapist said...

    Ah, I see. I have seen blacksmith's puzzles before, but I didn't see the connection.

    Yeah, I noticed the new spiderwebs when I started reading. I didn't see them when I first flipped through, though.

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