Most all forces of the light were present to welcome Brandon Sanderson, Harriet McDougal and Jason Denzel to the Sacramento area signing at Barnes and Noble in Citrus Heights, CA. Represented were Aes Sedai, the Red Band, Whitecloaks and the Traveling People among others. Birgitte, Aviendha, Mat and Thom even decided to join in as Memory Keepers on this stop. Mat, the group's "first among equals", had a three hour drive and was first on scene to start answering questions and handing out wrist bands. 50 wrist bands had already been handed out by noon, a sign of things to come - by the end of the night nearly 400 would be given out.
As the majority of the Memory Keepers filtered in around 4 the store was already filling with fans. After setting up "green screen” backdrops for Wheel of Time commemorative photos and lining the path with Wheel of Time themed signs (Bela is a darkfriend, I Killed Asmodean, etc) we hung a poster on the front of the signing table in memoriam of a family member of one of the Memory Keepers who was also a fan of the series and was killed in August of 2012. Brandon and Harriet both signed the poster and it will be presented to the family member's parents (Memoriam picture at the end of this post).
Next we set up for trivia. Unfortunately the store hadn't received one of the boxes containing the Way of Kings paperbacks, so we ended up winging it a little on the giveaways. This consisted of WOT trivia and quotes, with winners being given the choice between the AMoL messenger bag or the iPhone case, with a few front of the line passes thrown in for harder questions. To pass the time a WOT word search and a WOT crossword were handed out (thanks to the Seattle Memory Keepers for sharing their crossword with us).
At this point there were only two customers in costume, both beautiful Aes Sedai of the Green Ajah. One even made her own teardrop Aes Sedai hand bags (Brandon later signed these for her). Both were given prizes for their costumes. The crowd then chose to hold their own best costume contest for the Memory Keepers. By crowd noise they chose Mat, to which Thom said, “Bloody Ta’veren.” Birgette agreed with the decision though she thought his face too pretty and Aviendha just shook her head at wetlander ways.
We were lucky enough to have Dragonmount.com founder and webmaster Jason Denzel join us for this stop and he was the first to arrive and check in with us. Even after all the events he's been to, he seemed just as glad to be there as we did. When it was time to greet Brandon and Harriet, Mat, Birgette and Thom headed outside. After 10 minutes or so talking with the 20 or 30 fans waiting outside the store, Brandon arrived. Mat and Birgette escorted him in while Thom stayed behind to play some songs for the crowd and keep a lookout for Harriet.
Harriet arrived shortly and Thom got the distinct honor of offering his arm to escort her inside. Once inside, he quickly got lost and Harriet was kind enough to point out the way to go ("that door, the one that says 'Employee's only?'"). She was still kinder to make a point to mention that she'd been inside many book stores in her time.
Once in the back she joined Brandon signing some book stock and the memory keepers were called in to spend some time, ask questions and get signatures. They were both very gracious with the little amount of time they had and we were joined by Jason and his writing group, so many were able to get Jason's signature on Towers of Midnight and A Memory of Light. There were a couple of those present who hadn't read the book, so we kept it spoiler-free. Brandon mentioned during this time that the pacing of the final book was the most difficult part to get right and was behind most of the revision work. He said he wrote the POVs separately for the first part of the book but as the pacing picked up he had to abandon that approach. Harriet was asked about the movie/series with NBC Universal and said it is a movie that's in development, not a series, but she hasn't been involved. They retain the right to consult with her, which means they could ask her out to consult and subsequently ignore whatever she says (paraphrased). Brandon was also asked if he knew how Stormlight would end, which he said he did, that he hadn't written it yet but he knew how it would end. When asked he said he had about a page outline for each of the books after four, that he adds and modifies them as events in the first books get fleshed out.
From the start of the actual signing it was obvious Brandon knew what he was doing. He had specific jobs for a few of us, while telling the crowd there wouldn't be a Q/A due to space limitations, but that he'd be glad to answer any questions anyone had while he signed their books. Several of the less common questions are included at the end of this writing, including a link to some spoiler questions that were asked. First though, some impressions we Memory Keepers were left with of the evening.
The crowd was impressive in both size and passion. There were many more costumes that came through, the first of which was a family of four dressed as Lan, Nynaeve and their two kids - a wolf sister and blade master. Brandon was very impressed and immediately jumped up to give them the cardboard poster of Way of Kings.
Some other costumes seen:
White Cloak/Aes Sedai/Red Band
Three Aes Sedai:
Beyond the costumes there were fathers and sons, entire families, brothers and friends as well as many military personnel. Brandon and Harriet did signings only for everybody else their first time through, though they wrote "thank you for your service" in more than one service member's book. As Harriet explained her father was in the Navy and she has a special place in her heart for the military.
It can't be said enough how great these fans are. There was a pile of gifts for Brandon and Harriet by the end of the night and one fan - a leather worker whose name wasn't given - actually gave Memory Keeper Mat an extra dice cup he'd made (since Mat was without one). It was very cool for us Memory Keepers to talk to so many people who were just as excited as we were to stand for hours on a Friday night and share in the experience of books, Wheel of Time and otherwise. Also amazing was how many people approached Brandon and said they hated reading until they'd picked up one of his books. In the age of cinema and TV, it's a blessing to see such electricity generated in a book store.
Harriet was an absolute gem. She is a very sweet lady and she smiled nearly the whole night long. She just seemed genuinely proud of the work her husband and her were able to accomplish and graciously answered all questions, and even checked on our Memory Keeper Aviendha several times to see if she needed anything (since she was stuck between Brandon and Harriet the whole night). Harriet also thanked more than one employee for working with books and was glad to sign any books she worked on which included Ender's Game and the Way of Kings (guest editor). Even though she started to look a little tired she still smiled and stayed until each of those nearly 400 people got through to get their books signed before leaving (probably 10:00 PM).
One more note on Harriet. When the Aes Sedai in the below picture came through Harriet noticed her nail polish. She said she loved the color, leaned back and proceeded to kick her shoe off then lifted a toenail painted with a similar color and said, "the color's called 'Rage'" with a mischievous grin.
Brandon was the embodiment of humility. For each thank you he got for finishing the series, he gave a thank you in return to the fan for reading - and it was genuine thanks. He told several people they were his boss, so if they didn't buy his books he wouldn't be able to write them. He fist bumped one long time WOT fan saying that he was right there with him as a long-time fan himself. He has an avid fan base outside the Wheel of Time series, many had gotten into those books because of Brandon's other works. There were also several writers given encouraging words (including at least one Memory Keeper) - he really does support those trying to learn the craft.
Beyond that, he's just about as close as you can get to being a rock star and still play Magic the Gathering. He signed at least one deck box, one homemade Magic card and one of the Memory Keepers Fireball cards, making it a Bale-fireball. Memory Keeper Mat gave him a framed and signed “Hyrdroblast” #40 of 500 art print by the artist Kaja Foglio from the Magic the Gathering card game. Brandon was very excited that he knew artist but hadn't seen that specific piece.
When Brandon left it felt to us Memory Keepers like saying goodbye to someone we'd known for some time, not a well-known author we'd just met a few hours before.
Jason had lines of people waiting to talk to him as well, just people grateful for everything he's done for the fan community. He still managed to get out and mingle with the crowd and us Memory Keepers and jumped in to help wherever he thought it needed. He also got into a commemorative Wheel of Time photo. At the end of the night he mentioned to Brandon that, of all the tours they have done for books 12, 13 and 14, the Sacramento Memory Keepers were the first ones to think of something like that. Brandon got excited and wanted to do one, but we'd already taken the backdrops down and the store was closing so weren't able to get one in. It just speaks volumes for the man that at the end of such a long day of taking in so many interactions he was ready to hang out later to take part in the full experience.
If you were present at the signing and got a commemorative picture taken, head on over to the full gallery to download a copy.
Please note: If you do not see your photo please check back in a few days. Some of the green screen photos are being touched up to fix a few small issues with the backgrounds.
And for the rest of you who came out, thank you so much for making it such a memorable occasion. It is because of fans like each of you that events like this are possible. From all seven Memory Keepers - Deanna Butler (Aviendha), Jim Firanzi, Julie Kuhn (Birgette), Adam Matthews, Jason Rapp, DJ Stipe (Thom) and Jeff Wakefield (Mat and our first among equals) - a sincere thanks to each of you who attended or watched the live stream for making this stop one to remember.
WOT Questions (paraphrased from notes while also taking fan pictures):
When asked how hard the pacing was to get right on AMoL he said that was the most difficult part of the book and that's where most of the revision came in. Follow-up question was asked if he'd written each perspective individually like he had other books and he said that he started out doing that, but as the perspectives began to switch more frequently he stopped.
The Dark One seems to be conscious and aware of the events in the world. Is the creator also conscious of world events? Brandon said that's left up to the reader. He then said that many people think the voice in all caps in the Eye of the World is the creator, which might indicate the creator was, but stated it really wasn't know even in-world.
Brandon was asked one question he’d never been asked before. What would he ask the Aelfinn? He didn't know, but said he'd think about it and tweet it...so watch his twitter feed (@BrandSanderson) for that.
Asked what their favorite animal was, Harriet said an Elephant, Brandon a Dragon (he then revised to say the family dog).
Someone asked if Brandon intended to write anymore science fiction books. He indicated first that the upcoming Steelheart (available September 2013) is a sci-fi, though it's superhero sci-fi. He then said the third trilogy in the Mistborn series would be science fiction. He explained that built into allomancy is the ability for faster-than-light-speed travel and that the final trilogy would involve space travel.
Since many asked this, Stormlight 2 will be out in Christmas 2013 if lucky, otherwise Spring 2014.
A couple people asked about the Patrick Rothfuss blog and Goodreads review that mention adding Brandon to a short list of "authors [Patrick wishes] to kill so that [he] might eat their livers and thereby gain their power." Brandon said he wished he could get some of Patrick's powers, that his prose is absolutely beautiful. (Check out Patrick's work here: http://www.patrickrothfuss.com/)
When asked if he ever thought about working a magic card game into one of his book he admitted that he'd toyed with the idea and might like to.
An entire writer's group (besides Jason Denzel's group, who were also there) came through the line and talked to Brandon together. When he found out they were an unpublished writing group he told the story about how, shortly after having books published, he was at a friend of a friend's house and was introduced as a writer to the host. The host responded, "So you're unemployed." Brandon was excited to be able to tell him "No, I actually get paid for it now." He is very supportive of aspiring writers (if you don't know about it, check out his weekly writing podcast here: www.writingexcuses.com).
At the end of the night, a store employee was brought over and told a touching story through tears. Her Mother had had some health issues and her younger brother and sister both had a low-performing form of Autism. She said that her brother was inspired by Brandon to become a writer and she thanked him for bringing that to her family - it was very touching.
If you have read the book there are more questions that involve spoilers we posted over here.
Our photo in memorium: