New Jersey is in my blood. I was born in Bayonne in 1948, and hardly set foot outside the city until I finally went off to college in 1966, way way off to Northwestern in scenic Evanston, Illinois. Most of my family still lives in the Garden State, and I like to get back to see them whenever I can… which has not been very often since the pandemic hit two years ago. I need an occasional Jersey bar pie too, the best pizza in the world, and Judickes’ sprinkle donuts from old Bayonne.
Kevin Smith is a Jersey boy too, and a hard core nerd and fanboy. He has had his own comic book shop in Red Bank for years; they even had their own TV show. More recently, Kevin bought an old 1920s movie theatre, refurbushed it, rechristened it the Smodcastle, and reopened it. I was delighted when he invited me down for a night of conversation.
It was a ton of fun.
And turnabout is fair play, so watch this space. Kevin will be headed down to the Land of Enchantment next year, to speak at my own mini movie palace, the Jean Cocteau Cinema.
My appearance with Stephen Colbert was another highlight of my trip back east.
You may have seen the episode as aired, but that one was cut for time. The full version appeared only on line.
This was the second time I’ve appeared on the Colbert show. It is always a lot of fun. Stephen is a big a fanboy (did someone say nerd?) as I am, a fan of science fiction, fantasy, comic books, and all the other stuff I love. He knows Niven, he knows Zelazny, he knows Arthur C. Clarke…
… and don’t ever try to out-Tolkien him. After the show wrapped, we hung out in the green room for a couple of hours, talking TV shows and movies and books and Roger Z (a dear friend and mentor to me, and one of Stephen’s favorites), and in the course of time the subject of Gil-Galad came up (as it will). I immediately said…
Gil-Galad was an elven king
of him the harpers sadly sing
the last whose realm was fair and free
between the mountains and the sea
Which is, alas, the only part I have memorized
Stephen stepped in at once, and recited the rest of the poem.
I am back in the Land of Enchantment, as of the day before yesterday. I’ve been away for three weeks or thereabouts, in New York City, New Jersey, and finally Chicago. I don’t lug a laptop around with me when I travel; on the road, I am only reachable by phone or text. Which helps keep me sane, but it did mean that I had 2,000 emails waiting for me when I got home. I am still digging out.
The trip… three weeks, I said, but at times it felt more like three months. My latest book, the illustrated Targaryen history RISE OF THE DRAGON, was released on October 25, so I had a lot of promotion to do. My sisters and their children and grandchildren and spouses still live in New Jersey, so I needed to see them too. The last time I got back east was in 2019, before the pandemic started. I had meetings with my publishers and agents and editors, and some meals with old friends.
I am not one for writing long trip reports… and this one would need to be VERY long. It was that kind of trip. Joy and sadness, tragedy, love, a lot of work. Highs and lows, and so much to do, it really took it out of me. I will tell you about much of that, but not right now, and not all at once. I think I will make a series of small blog posts, rather than doing one enormous one. The things that happened… well, it would not feel right to mush them all together.
Let me start with the original reason for the trip: the release of RISE OF THE DRAGON.
Rather than a traditional book tour, which could have taken months I did not have, we launched RISE with a virtual event at the Random House offices in New York City. I was thrilled to have David Anthony Durham interviewing me. David is one of my Wild Cards writers, and much much more. He’s written epic fantasy, historical fiction, westerns, YA books, and he has beenpart of the team on every one of prequels we have been developing for HBO for the last year and a half. Good guy, terrific writer.
If you missed our talk, no problem — it is online now.
I am pleased to report that RISE OF THE DRAGON is doing very very well, hitting numerous bestseller lists here and abroad.
(I will post more about my events in New York and New Jersey and Chicago in the days to come, once I’ve caught up on some of those damned emails).