Wednesday, May 31, 2023

We're back, and the online store is now open

Our trip overseas was long, exciting, and very, very busy.  We are "mostly" recuperated, but Robin needs some physical activity since she's been sitting, unmoving, inputting gamma changes for Esrahaddon.

Just before leaving, our kids restored the warehouse to its pre-Cradle Kickstarter state and so we can start shipping again.  So, we are opening up the store after many months of having it shut down.  If you want signed copies of any of my books (or ebooks for any of my self-published works), you can start shopping now! Just click here or use the store tab.

Tuesday, May 2, 2023

Jumping across the pond

 In 2018, my Italian publisher wrote requesting that I come to Florence to do a week of signings at the Lucca Convention. The publisher and convention organizers together would foot the bill for both our transportation and lodgings for the entire time we were there. Robin approached me about this most apprehensively. You see, she wanted to go. I could see that in her eyes, but she also knew there was little chance of it. 

Why? Mostly, it's because I don’t care for travel—air travel, to be exact. Not that I’m afraid of flying, mind you. I simply hate the experience provided by airlines today. Once upon a time, the journey itself was seen as one of the pleasures of travel. In It’s A Wonderful Life, George Bailey remarked, 

“Do you know what the three most exciting sounds in the world are? Anchor chains, plane motors and train whistles.” 

That, however, was back in a time when they served steaks grilled seat-side on airplanes. 

These days, travel is a necessary torture to be endured to get where you wish to be. I do still enjoy train trips, as it is an anachronistic throwback to a more civilized era. The seats are spacious; you can get up and wander around to stretch your legs; find a table to work or play cards; there are affordable private rooms, dining cars, beds, and the "AutoTrain" even brings your car along and has it waiting for you when you step off. I would easily trade hours for days if the travel portion was fun rather than a close equivalent to suffering a root canal. 

Alas, trains don’t cross oceans. The idea of suffering security checkpoints followed by being squeezed and then imprisoned in a tiny seat amidst a sea of equally trapped people for hours is more than ample reason for me to pass. I mean, it’s not like I need to escape religious persecution or something. 

Also, conventions are not my thing. Mostly, this is due to the years I spent working in dealer rooms as an unknown author. Days spent standing trade-show-style on a hard tile floor and forcing myself to beg passersby to look at my books was more than humiliating; it was demoralizing and left a bad taste. 

As a result of all this, I've passed on other similar offers. Several were gigs to go and speak, and doing so would result in a sizable payment for my time. When I started out, I did whatever Robin asked. Despite no experience in public speaking, I gave a talk at the Library of Congress and pretended to be an expert on Fantasy Literature. I also addressed a crowd of no more than four people at an event at the Georgetown Barnes and Noble where two of that group didn’t speak English, one was the bookstore event organizer, and the fourth was a homeless man who just came in to get warm. Back in the day, I did everything possible to be noticed. I don’t need to do that anymore. Instead, people come here to our little corner of the Shenandoah Valley. Writers, readers, and even people wanting interviews visit me. We’ve hosted folks from as far away as China, Sweden, France, and Saudi Arabia. And I’m good with that. 

Robin knew all this, and that’s why she looked so concerned when she asked if we would go. 

The thing is, I would do anything for Robin. She knows this about me, which is why she wouldn’t ask—not for something that she wanted for herself. But of course, I know that about her as well. She didn’t have to ask. I saw it in her eyes. 

Of course there’s also the fact that when someone offers you an all-expense paid trip to Florence, Italy…you say yes. 

As it turned out, the trip was legendary and easily the high point of my career. I had a man who brought an entourage of people armed with cameras and boom mics to interview me, proclaiming passionately to his people that I was one of—if not the greatest—writer in the world. Then we met the artist John Lockwood and had an incredible two-wine-bottle lunch with him and his wife. That evening I spoke to a packed crowd in the Lucca opera house, and later that night, we had dinner with Robin Hobb and her daughter in Napoleon Bonaparte’s sister’s palace. All this for the son of a steel mill worker in Detroit who, after my father's death, grew up on welfare and veterans benefits. 

So okay, taking a commercial airline and spending eight hours of pretending to be one of the Mercury Astronauts was worth it, given the trip took me over the moon. 

What’s the point of all this? We’re taking another trip across the pond. In this case, to Ireland, England, and Scotland, but this one is not business related. 

My name is Sullivan, and most of my grandparents on both sides came from Ireland. I still have family there, but I’ve never been. The Irish probably can’t understand it, but even (and perhaps especially) second and third-generation Americans from Irish immigrants tend to possess a weird inherited nostalgia, often for something that never existed except in stories. We Americans of Irish descent have bizarre notions of our kin across the sea, most of which we created here in America over the last hundred years from stereotypes, both good and bad. Either way, I’ve always wanted to go, and so we are. 

My wife, daughter, and I will be heading to the old world in a couple weeks. At this point, our intent is to fly into Dublin, rent a car, and head west to Galway, then travel up and down the coast. After that, it’s off to London and then the English countryside as we go north to Scotland. 

I’m telling you all this because my wife thinks some of you might like to meet us for a pint should we be in your neighborhood. If so, go here and tell us where you are, and we’ll see if we can link up. 

We'll leave the US on May 9th and return on the 25th. As you might imagine, don't expect a lot of email response during that time.