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Storm Leader report: Charleston Release Party

Guest Kathana


This is the second of our Storm Leader reports that we'll be posting throughout the U.S. book tour for THE GATHERING STORM. At each tour location, Dragonmount and Tor Books recruited a select group of volunteer fans to help run the event, hand out promotional materials, and represent us to the fans. In return, they were given the opportunity to meet with Brandon Sanderson and (if present for their event) Robert Jordan's wife Harriet. We will have a full report with photos and possibly video for each one of the tour stops. Prior Storm Leader reports can be found here.



By Storm Leader Evan Diebold:


My friends and fellow Travelers, I have been given a remarkable task – to share the events of the Charleston book signing and release party for The Gathering Storm. Where to begin?? Well, at the beginning of course (although we all know that there are neither beginnings nor endings in the weaving of the Wheel of Time!). I’ll try to keep this report as factual as possible, but I also intend to try to capture some of the magic and feel of that evening…so please bear with me.


We’ll start with the facts: the Charleston book signing was held on October 27th at the Barnes & Noble located at 7260 Rivers Ave, Charleston, SC 29406 from 7 – 10 pm (we ran a little over…but more on that shortly). In attendance: Brandon Sanderson, Harriet McDougal, Alan Romanczuk, Maria Simons, and your faithful Storm Leaders. Brief recap for new fans – Harriet is the wife of Robert Jordan, Brandon is the author that Harriet selected to continue Jordan’s legacy and finish the series after his death from amyloidosis, and Alan and Maria (Go Team Jordan!) were Jordan’s assistants and are helping Brandon complete the work.



Harriet was gracious enough to invite the Storm Leaders to come visit and tour the house and study where Mr. Jordan wrote the books we have all come to love. My primary assignment was/is to convey how it felt to walk through the rooms, see the sights, and meet the people, but my initial reaction was exactly what I told Harriet upon meeting her: “I have no words†(but I will still give an earnest effort to describe everything to the best of my meager writing ability).


After meeting at the bookstore, where 12 fans were already in line (at 4 o’clock) and reading voraciously while waiting for the event to begin, the other Storm Leaders and I met to carpool to Harriet’s house. In an effect to protect the privacy of Harriet and her family, I will not divulge any information regarding the house’s location. However, I will say that it is located in a beautifully historic section of Charleston. The house itself is a wonder – built in the late 1700s, full of Southern charm with a long veranda, brilliant pastel colored walls (complete with a stunning portrait of Harriet), and Mr. Jordan’s study/office (converted at some point from a carriage house).




Upon our arrival, we were greeted by Alan and Maria. Alan and Maria, both warm and kindhearted people as well as gifted storytellers in their own rights, provided a tour of Mr. Jordan’s office. Maria was naturally wearing her brown-fringed shawl, looking every part the Aes Sedai (although much more welcoming and affable). My first observation was the sheer number of books it contained – row after row, floor to ceiling, stacked everywhere (including the closets!). Alan later told me the office alone held over 15,000 books! Mr. Jordan’s personal library included every conceivable subject: languages, history (and military history), philosophy, fiction and non-fiction works, etc. When asked how one man could read (and write!) so much, Alan told us how Tor (the publisher of the WOT books) would send boxes of new books over daily – and that they continue to send books to Harriet even to this day. Mr. Jordan would not always read the new additions from cover to cover (his collection includes a vintage Encyclopedia Britannica), he would often read a few chapters or section from each book. Even so, the sheer magnitude and history held in such a small area was astonishing. And the artifacts! Even now, the office holds memorabilia of all shapes and sizes: weapons and armor, figurines, sculptures, paintings and pictures, and numerous others. Not to mention a collection of vintage pin-up girls!


This lead to one of the single most surreal moments I have ever experienced - sitting in Robert Jordan’s chair, behind the desk where he worked! If you are reading this, you are most likely a fan of the series and understand how truly amazing it felt to sit behind that desk.






After touring the office, Alan and Maria led us to the house itself, where Harriet was holding a small gathering of family, friends, and loved ones (and the Storm Leaders). Harriet exemplifies what you would expect of a graceful Southern lady – she was polite, charitable, and very interesting! She shared a story with me about a time she and Mr. Jordan were having “what the marriage counselors would call a ‘creative disagreement’ only to find a fan that had somehow discovered their house standing on the front porch!†I found myself at a loss for words upon meeting her – but I had no doubt that she truly understood and appreciated how much our inclusion in the event meant to all of the Storm Leaders. Another delight was spending time listening to Wilson, Jordan’s brother/cousin/fishing partner, who shared a number of stories about Mr. Jordan which were often hilarious and always entertaining. I later heard Wilson describe himself as a “writer of fables … [he] work in marketing†– and a more apt description I could not possibly pen. Wilson gave us a tour of the house and grounds, including the coy pond where Mr. Jordan would walk, smoking his pipe, trying to come up with new ideas to further the story. On a small stone on the walkway towards the pond, there was a painting of the Green Man (Wilson confirmed it to be so!). Rachel (one of my fellow Storm Leaders) was kind enough to show me a corner of the sitting room holding shelves filled with countless translations of the WOT books.




Following the tour and party, Team Jordan and the Storm Leaders returned to the bookstore, to find a line of fans weaving in and out of over 7 long rows of books, each eagerly awaiting the arrival of Brandon and Team Jordan. The fans were not kept waiting long, and Brandon arrived right on schedule and signings began promptly at 7 pm. Jennifer Liang (fellow Storm Leader, Director of Wheel of Time programming for DragonCon, Chair of JordanCon and Special Projects Manager for Dragonmount.com) introduced everyone and the event started!





It bears mentioning that at this point, Brandon was working on 1 hour of sleep – however, throughout the entire event he somehow mustered the energy to not only greet every fan, but also to truly listen to them and make connections. His efforts were nothing short of heroic. I overheard Brandon discussing the virtues/vices of a degree in Creative Writing, encouraging a young aspiring writer, asking to see WOT tattoos, and generally enjoying the company of numerous fans. I was in awe – he was clearly exhausted, but pressed on with a cheerful attitude that illustrated that he was honored to be signing. Brandon, Harriet, Alan, and Maria signed over 250 copies, and Brandon signed countless copies of Elantris, Warbreaker, and the Mistborn series. As the first few hours passed, the line moved at a good pace, but the continuing addition of new fans kept the line the same length and often extending it.




Throughout the event, Storm Leaders moved throughout the crowd interviewing fans, taking photos and videos, asking about the many WOT theories, favorite characters and moments, and where everyone was from. Heidi, the first person in line (there since 9 am!) had already made it over halfway through the book; when I asked what she thought so far, her response was a beaming smile and that “It’s seamless!†Many of the fans (who ranged all ages) were local, from Summerville, Goose Creek, Spartanburg, and other nearby South Carolina cities. However, we also found fans from , Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Galveston, TX. The very last person to arrive was a fan that came all the way from Toronto, ON (Canada)! In fact, Brandon, Harriet and the rest of the team actually stayed longer than scheduled to wait so that the Canadian WOT fan (whose flight was delayed) wouldn’t miss getting their signatures. Everyone was eager to discuss the WOT books, but the vast majority of fans struggled to name a single particular favorite character or moment (a testament to the series). As one fan put it, “They are just all written so well! I couldn’t possibly pick one!†At one point, Wilson, also attending the event, removed his Dragon lapel pin to present it to a young man serving in the Navy, thanking him for his service and explaining that servicemen were extremely important both to him and Mr. Jordan. There was even a fan dressed in full Asha’man garb (although Brandon pointed out that without the Dragon and Sword pins he was really just a Soldier)! The event was indisputably a smashing success!








A large number of pictures and videos from the event are available here. My friends, the Wheel weaves on, and we march to Tarmon Gai’don. Onward!



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