I had a booksigning last night … and it was wonderful and unforgettable.
I’ve signed books before — for Writers of the Future there was a rather large signing event, and I’ve signed things here and there since then — but an official booksigning for my novel (my own, my precious) was something quite different and extraordinary.
Every booksigning is special, of course, and I’ve no doubt that the first booksigning for a first book is always doubly so. But this … this was, in a word, impossible.
Let me tell you a story.
Twenty-five years ago I rode my bike to a bookstore in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I had allowance money to spend, and that meant I had books to buy — books that I could stuff into my backpack and dream about as I pedaled across town.
Instead of buying books that day, I bought just one book: the newly released Eye of the World, by Robert Jordan — a book and an author I’d never heard of. I devoured it. And thus I became a fan of The Wheel of Time, which from that first novel turned out to be one of the most significant fantasy series in history.
The Wheel turns, as readers of Jordan know. And somehow that turning of time brought me to The Citadel, the alma mater of the man behind those books. I exchanged some emails with him, managing to establish a campus creative writing award in his honor. I had the extraordinary privilege of meeting him once, though he was already ill.
And then, in 2007, he was gone. James Rigney, the man the world knew by his pseudonym, Robert Jordan, died after a courageous battle with cardiac amyloidosis.
The Wheel turns.
Jim had been elected to join the South Carolina Academy of Authors before his untimely death, and somehow — because I was a professor at his alma mater, because I was known to be a fan — I was selected to give a key speech establishing his literary legacy at the posthumous induction ceremony. With his wife, Harriet, sitting in the front row before me, surrounded by his many family and friends, the speech I gave that night remains the most difficult I’ve ever delivered.
Harriet embraced me afterward. She invited me to give another talk about his legacy, this time alongside Brandon Sanderson, the up-and-coming (now long-since-arrived!) writer who’d been chosen to finish the Wheel of Time series.
Because of all that, I was asked to give a speech at the Charleston Library Society, talking more about Jim’s impact. Because of that, I gave a speech at a special event organized by the good people of Tar Valon, a fan organization dedicated to the Wheel of Time. Then came a performance at JordanCon. Then another. And another.
The Wheel turns.
Somewhere along the way, I sold The Shards of Heaven series. Brandon Sanderson — along with Harriet and the amazing Team Jordan, as Jim’s assistants Alan Romanczuk and Maria Simons came to be known — completed the main books of The Wheel of Time series. Then Team Jordan set out to publish the coda of Jim’s extraordinarily imaginative enterprise: The Wheel of Time Companion, a stunning encyclopedia of his invented world.
Before the booksigning last night — by the grace of whatever power has guided these strange steps in ways I cannot comprehend but for which I will be forever grateful — I was invited to join Harriet, Alan, Maria, their close circle of friends and family, and my fellow debut author, Jason Denzel, who is the founder of the massive Wheel of Time fan site Dragonmount. We talked. We laughed. We drank a bit, and we had some wonderful food.
The Wheel turns.
We drove to the bookstore, and as I stepped inside I saw not only the complete Wheel of Time Companion and Jason’s Mystic, but The Shards of Heaven, my own first novel. Truly there. Truly and unmistakably real.
And some minutes later, somehow — a quarter-century after I had picked up that first edition copy of the first book in the Wheel of Time — I found myself standing with Harriet, Jason, Alan, Maria — and by God Jim was there, too — reading a few pages from Shards.
All of which is to say that the experience was impossible and unforgettable and perfect. And that Jim was right. The line that made me fall in love with his world in that bookstore all those years ago is as true as ever:
The Wheel of Time turns.
Order-Boost-Review: The Shards of Heaven. Tor Books. November 2015.