This is a log of the third week of Brian and Kevin's
Machine Crusade book signing tour: 9/28/03 - 10/4/03.
For additional entries, see:

Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4

Click on the photos in this blog to view larger images.
For additional photos from the tour, please see the MC Tour Scrapbook.

We drive from Cleveland to our next stop, Columbus, heading south through the state of Ohio. Our driver, Denis, is Irish, and wears a claddagh ring and a matching pin on his lapel. The claddagh, he explains, is a symbol of love and friendship. Kevin reads us an e-mail from Jason Mayer, a good friend, who congratulates us on another bestseller.

Through the dunenovels.com website we also received an e-mail from our "biggest fan in South New Jersey," who gave us permission to quote him: "I was very sorry that I did not get to Barnes and Noble in time to meet you. I was going to come to the signing in West Chester PA, but that was the day after the big storm, and they told me they had no lights so they were having it the next day, but I had to work. The next day I would be able to get to a book signing was 9-24. I got up early 7:00 am and left South New Jersey and started out, got stuck in New York (I'm sure you know what I mean). Well, to make a long story short, I missed you by 5 minutes in Warwick RI -- the manager said you had just left. I was really disappointed because I was looking forward to meeting you both. It is because of you that I have started to write again. However, I did manage to get a signed copy of your book, so I guess the trip was not a total loss, and I was at least in the same state as both of you."

On the two-hour drive to Columbus, Kevin and Brian both work on their laptops, writing the day's weblog by passing the computer back and forth over the seat back, then Kevin answers questions for two lengthy interviews (one about GRUMPY OLD MONSTERS, one from Finland about STAR WARS), and Brian writes a chapter in his mainstream novel. At a gas station outside of Columbus, we stop to switch drivers, like an illicit deal! Denis hands us off to Cathy, and we jam our luggage into the trunk with a shoehorn. We're getting good at this. After a few moments of angst, wondering if we will all fit in the car, we're off again.

We arrive in Columbus in time for lunch and a brief stop at a Target store where Kevin can pick up a new toothbrush, razor blades, and some deodorant, and Jan gets allergy medicine; this afternoon in the hotel room we have time to rinse our socks and underwear in the sink -- ah, the glamorous life of best-selling authors on the road!

Our signing at Barnes & Noble is huge, with twice as many audience members as chairs. The store's community relations coordinator Missie is full of energy and enthusiastic; she's done banners and posters, and the people of Columbus turn out in droves. Brian and Kevin have been taking Advil and other forms of ibuprofen for sore signing arms. At the signing, the authors try to shake hands with everyone, but Brian gets a throb in his elbow after shaking hands with a strong young fan. Unfortunately, Brian will need to shake with his left hand for awhile now.

Afterward, we meet with Sally from Larry Smith Bookseller, a book dealer Kevin has often seen around science fiction conventions. She has arrived with her van full of our books, and Brian and Kevin do their first "tailgate signing" out in the parking lot.

After checking into the hotel, which is right on the capitol square, by now Kevin is getting "peopled-out" and wants a little time alone to decompress. In the hotel room, he finishes all the revisions to the STAR-JAMMERS script and e-mails it to the Marvel editor, then he goes outside. Back home in Colorado, he would have gone out on a long hike, but in Columbus he walks around the capitol and for several miles through the downtown, very quiet late on a Sunday night. Several years ago, he was in Columbus with Rebecca for Mid-Ohio Comic Con, and he remembers dictating several chapters of the YOUNG JEDI KNIGHTS novel, TROUBLE ON CLOUD CITY here -- including one of the most dramatic scenes in the entire 14-book series. After an hour of wandering, lo and behold, he stumbles upon a microbrewery, where he sits for a while and maps out 25 pages of a new graphic novel, THE ORC'S TREASURE, which will be published next spring -- a great way to end the evening!

While Kevin is immersed in a smorgasbord of remembered and current science fiction projects, Brian and Jan go the nearby German Village and enjoy the finest meal of the entire tour at Lindey's, a European-style restaurant. The waiting staff, including Becca and Jesse, are enthusiastic and very attentive, even before they learn that Brian and Jan are on a book tour. When they both say that they are Dune fans, Brian gives them signed memorabilia on DUNE: THE MACHINE CRUSADE and DREAMER OF DUNE, and suggests that they watch the continuing saga of the book tour on our website.

As we write this the following morning, we feel the euphoria of our Advil overdoses kicking in.

Sunday, September 28, 2003



Monday, September 29, 2003



In the morning, Kevin is what Frank Herbert would have called “bright eyed and bushy tailed.” Kevin is in a fine mood, and very energetic. He tracks down a Starbucks on the Ohio State Capitol square and (to Brian and Jan’s delight) does a room service routine, showing up at their door with fresh, hot coffee.

That morning we meet up with our new driver Kathy, who proclaims herself to be our “road nanny” to take care of us. She even volunteers to do laundry (Kevin happily takes her up on the offer -- it’s been a long time since any of us has seen a coin-operated washing machine in the hotel).

We go to the Base Exchange at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base outside of Dayton where we meet up with Jerry and Linda Sandlin, good friends of Brian and Jan. Our road nanny has arranged for Jerry and Linda to get passes in to the base, and we all sit together in the BX, meeting a steady stream of servicemen, signing books, and talking. Jerry, who is Brian’s closest friend going back to their teenage years, even signs one of the books for a fan who requests it. Another fan, an Air Force major, is wearing an interesting medal, which Brian admires. Apparently, a replacement medal is easily obtained, because the officer cheerily removes it and gives it to Brian as a gift. Afterward, Brian and Jan go with the Sandlins, while Kevin checks into the hotel to relax and spend a few hours writing.

That night’s book signing at Books & Co. in Dayton draws a very large crowd and the store staff (especially Sharon and David) is incredibly supportive and enthusiastic. The latter, who writes under the name C. David Bowman, has prepared an excellent introduction for us, which he signs and gives to Brian, and allows us to put on the weblog: “‘Tonight we have what can only be called a science fiction 'dream team.’ Two writers, well known and ably gifted in their own right, have come together in an unprecedented narrative exploration. Their target is no less than the single most important epic of its kind. DUNE. History, combined with internal myth and its cast of larger-than-life figures, forms the critical territory of their journey. For those who, like myself, have always wondered how Paul Atreides’ terrible purpose might have emerged from the Earth we know, the new DUNE cycles offer some exciting answers. Omnius battling the League to the death! With every possible avenue of philosophy, passion, and humanity elegantly explored. What better legacy to the literary universe born forty years ago, indeed?”

At the signing, Kevin meets with Matt Sidor, a friend who used to live nearby in Colorado, and then with Geoffrey Girard, one of the students at this year’s Writers of the Future workshop, which Kevin and Rebecca taught in LA. (Both Kevin and Brian are judges for the WOTF contests). Kevin and Geoffrey go out to a late dinner afterward to talk about the writing business, while Brian and Jan dine at an excellent French restaurant (L’Auberge) and then spend the night in the guest room at their friends’ house -- their first respite from hotel rooms in many days.

In the morning, Brian is interviewed by telephone by Daniel Robert Epstein of the UGO.com website in New York city. This interview is expected to be posted in the next few days, and will be linked to our own dunenovels.com website.

Brian and Kevin spend much of the day apart, and then rejoin for dinner at the Watson Brothers Brewery in Cincinnati. They are joined by their “road nanny,” along with Jan, the Sandlins, and noted science fiction author Mike Resnick. Over beer samplers and porterhouse steaks, Jerry and Brian discuss old times, and enjoy hearing Mike’s stories of his adventures in Africa. Mike has written a book about his travels, which will be published soon, and he promises to send signed copies to Brian and Kevin.

In the evening, the “Dunamic Duo” appear at Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Cincinnati. The speaking area is cozy, with a fireplace and deep cushion chairs. There are not enough chairs for the large audience, so the authors carry their own out into the crowd. Brian quips that both of them have been waiters in the past, and that they will also be serving food. At this signing, and others, there is much good conversation and laughter, which is usually the case when the authors get anywhere near eight hours of sleep.

One interesting man named Ernie waits in line for his book to be signed. He has a great short version of a Reggae haircut, and as he hands us a copy of DUNE: THE MACHINE CRUSADE, he explains that this is for his grandson or granddaughter -- a child who has not been born yet, and has not even been conceived. His daughter is only sixteen, and not married yet, but Ernie is planning for the future. This is the first time that we have ever personalized a book for a person who has not yet been born, and we are delighted.

A number of people thank us for continuing the Dune series, and we thank them for their continuing, enthusiastic support.

After the signing, Jerry drives all of us (not including the fans) south to Louisville, Kentucky. It is a rainy night, and we arrive at shortly after 11:00 PM. After feeling ebullient, the authors are suddenly very tired, so we make bee-lines for our rooms. It is one of those situations where we arrive relatively late, and have to get up early for a television appearance the following morning. Our heads are no sooner on the pillows, it seems, when the wake-up alarms go off.

Tuesday, September 30, 2003



Wednesday, October 1, 2003


At 5:45 AM the alarm goes off and we have to get ready for an early morning TV interview on "Good Morning Kentuckiana." Our driver Marilyn winds us through the dark and silent streets of predawn Louisville to reach the station. As we drive around barricades, chain-link fences, sally ports, and access doors, the security reminds Kevin of his old days of working for the government research facility at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. The station is almost empty at that hour, with only a camera guy, the two anchors, and a weather person. The anchors are enthusiastic and friendly (and, later that night at our book signing, several of the attendees say they saw us, and Jan at her hotel room watched us. After crawling out of bed so early, it's good to know people are out there.) Back at the hotel, Kevin takes a brief nap while Brian goes to his room to finish the day's weblog entry.

We all meet with Jerry and Linda for a big Kentucky-style breakfast: Kevin has cheesy grits, chicken-fried steak with sausage gravy, and eggs; Brian has an omelet with so many ingredients that the waiter almost needs a helper to carry it. Afterward, Brian and Jan go with their friends to the world-famous Kentucky Horse Park near Lexington. Jan has always loved horses, so it is a memorable experience for her, in an incredibly beautiful setting.

Kevin is happy for most of a day off. Even though we've both been able to sneak in a little editing and writing here and there, this is the first time Kevin's had several solid hours to work on the laptop. After doing e-mail, he manages to complete 70 pages of the final polish of HORIZON STORMS. Then, later in the afternoon, he gets a map from the hotel and goes for a several-mile walk down to the Ohio River, where he looks at the myriad bridges and the old-fashioned paddlewheel riverboats cruising up and down the water. Then he goes to see the big old Louisville Slugger Stadium (not because Kevin's a baseball fan, but because the stadium has a small microbrewery just outside!).

While Kevin is out on his walk to the stadium, the cell phone rings and Heather lets us know we have hit the New York Times list again, this time at #9, so THE MACHINE CRUSADE is still going strong -- it's an adrenaline jolt we need after doing this exhausting publicity routine for over two weeks. We've also hit bestseller lists for the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, San Francisco Chronicle, and many others.

That evening, we do a signing at the Hawley-Cooke Borders store in Louisville. The audience overflows the sitting area, so that people stand within listening range, next to book shelves. One young woman named Erin says that she has so many Dune books that she is afraid to bring all of them in for our signatures. She shows us a snazzy Dune bookmark that she made for her personal use. Another fan, Gerald, proudly shows us a collection of miniature science fiction book covers that he made into clever folding origami puzzles, which he keeps in a large binder filled with plastic pages, like those used by baseball card collectors. Again, he only did this for his own use, which is perfectly fine with us. (On our website, we have in the past cautioned fans that they cannot do such projects for commercial purposes). Yet another fan, a woman with a pile of our books, says that she started reading Brian's DREAMER OF DUNE in the library, and then quickly realized that she needed her own copy, so that she could keep it at home and read it in more detail. This is a welcome compliment for an author, since we put so much work into our books.

Returning to the hotel that evening, all of us are so tired from cumulative sleep deprivation that we almost fall asleep in the elevator waiting for it to get to our floor . . . .

(Not that we're counting down, but it's less than a week until we can head home.)


The handoff from Louisville to Lexington. Kevin gets up early enough to edit one HORIZON STORMS chapter before meeting Brian and Jan in the lobby of the Old Seelbach Hotel for checkout. (The Seelbach has one of the "top 50" bars in the country, a dim and cozy place with leather chairs and jazz players; we enjoyed a bit of relaxation there the night before.) Our driver Marilyn takes us to a halfway point between the two cities, driving through the rolling Kentucky Hills, where we are intercepted in an Applebees parking lot by Barb Ellis, today's "road nanny."

Barb is a whirlwind, who has checked and double-checked every aspect of our hotel, our route, our book signing. We want to adopt her. We do a noontime TV interview at a station housed in a beautiful plantation building across from a famous Kentucky horse farm; Brian and Kevin both make good-natured flubs (on live TV, naturally), but at least it doesn't sound like a canned speech.

After a nice lunch of fresh sandwiches and soup at the Atlanta Bread Company, we go to the Lexington Airport where Kevin goes to fill out the forms for their rental car while Brian says goodbye to Jan. The airport is not very large, which leads Kevin to tell Jan that she is going to have to help screw the propellers onto the plane. On this roadshow, Kevin is turning into our funny man (or trying, at least).

Soon Kevin is behind the wheel again for the first time in weeks, while Brian remains alert in the passenger seat, wondering when we will reach warp speed. At a civilized pace we follow Barb's "pilot car" through incredibly beautiful, pastoral country roads around Lexington. On the way, we brainstorm Dune 7, with Brian typing notes into his laptop computer. The plot ideas are still embryonic, but will hatch soon. Since this story will have 12 Dune novels preceding it, with a huge universe, and Frank Herbert's outline for the story, we intend to break it into two novels. Tentatively, our working titles (based upon Frank Herbert's notes) are HUNTERS OF DUNE for volume one, and SANDWORMS OF DUNE for volume two.

Next we drive up to a small independent bookstore in Georgetown, called Bohannons'. The exuberance of Kay Vincent, the store's co-owner, is outmatched only by a young man, Charlie, who has skipped school (with his mom's permission) to wait for us to show up at the drive-by signing, since he's such a DUNE fan. While we are talking to Charlie and answering his questions, two college students, Chris and Jordan, race into the store, hoping they haven't missed us. They also ply us with questions for about half an hour, until we convince them to come to our formal talk and signing in the evening.

We get to the hotel with a whopping hour and a half to spare before the evening event. No time for dinner. Brian heads off to the gym, while Kevin manages to edit one more chapter. He tries to call Rebecca on her cell phone, but catches her in the middle of an appointment. Later he tries back and helps to iron out an unexpected problem: the editor of the GRUMPY OLD MONSTERS comic series never received the revisions to script #4, sent off before the start of this book-signing tour; Kevin walks Rebecca through the labyrinth of finding the file on his computer, and she takes care of the emergency from there.

Then it's time to change clothes and walk to the Joseph-Beth bookstore, a huge new store with fine wood furnishings. At the evening signing, one woman tells us she has just bought a house and needs to restrict her budget to paperbacks, so we give her an additional signed bookplate for when CRUSADE comes out in paperback.

Our friends from earlier in the afternoon, Chris and Jordan, are there sitting in the audience, finally getting the rest of their questions answered en masse. Most fans pick up copies of THE MACHINE CRUSADE; others have piles of our backlist titles, in the Dune series and our solo books. Many fans purchase Frank Herbert titles, sometimes hefting the entire six book Dune series that he wrote. Occasionally, a proud collector brings in a signed first edition of DUNE to show to us.

At this and other signings, we notice that there are fans who also want to write their own stories. Whenever we mention that DREAMER OF DUNE includes writing tips from Frank Herbert, people in the audience rush to get their own copies of the biography, sometimes leaving their seats while we are still talking.

During each of our signings, we always make sure to autograph every book in the store, old books, paperbacks, anything they have. Some store owners are surprised at this, because apparently many authors will only sign their new hardcovers and don't "waste their time" with paperbacks. Brian and Kevin both believe that the fans should be able to get a signed book, even if they can only afford a less-expensive edition. We appreciate the support of readers, whether they have picked up Kevin's old STAR WARS books or Brian's paperbacks or the original Frank Herbert titles.

At the stores where we've appeared, we are leaving thousands of signed books in our wake; if any of you have missed our formal autographings, you should still be able to get a signed book on the shelves of the stores. We also try to shake the hands of the people who come to the events, even though by now our hands are getting a little sore. (How do politicians do it?)

Afterward, Barb recommends (actually, she insists) that we go to a local steak house for dinner, Malone's. She even tells us what to order (the center cut bone-in filet and bottomless salad), in no uncertain terms, and then makes sure we call her after the meal to let her know what we think. Barb has never steered us wrong. In fact, the steaks are excellent, and it's a good conclusion to the day. At the restaurant, we also meet a touring professional golfer, Randy Jewell, and his wife, Brittany. As we part we wish each other well on our respective tours.

We return to our hotel, plan our trip for the next day, when we have to drive six hours from Lexington, Kentucky up to Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Thursday, October 2, 2003



Friday, October 3, 2003


It's a bright and sunny day as we leave Lexington driving north, stopping in Cincinnati for coffee, then up through Dayton and beyond. North of Dayton we stumble upon the Neil Armstrong Air and Space Museum at Wapakoneta, Ohio. For two science fiction authors, this is a mandatory stop. We take a break for about half an hour to tour the exhibits and see all the space memorabilia.

With about six hours in the car, we have ample opportunity to brainstorm more plot threads of HUNTERS OF DUNE and SANDWORMS OF DUNE, with many notes keyed into the laptops. Kevin also takes a stint to type part of the weblog, then writes 20 pages in the graphic novel script for THE ORC'S TREASURE. When it's Brian's turn, he finishes up the web log, then later works on his mainstream novel and tells Kevin what it is about.

We drive up to Detroit and check into our hotel as it gets even colder and starts to rain. When we started this tour it was warm summer (with the exception of Hurricane Isabel); now the temperature is dropping, the leaves are many colors as we pass through the countryside. According to the news, Cleveland just got a record snowfall, only a week after we were there. Our media escort meets us at the hotel to take us to a few drive-by signings on the way to the evening's event at Ann Arbor. Because of the rain, and the Friday night traffic, it takes forever to get where we're going and so we have time for only two quick drop-ins before we have to go to the formal signing.

The Borders in Ann Arbor is the flagship store for the company, and we meet Meagen, Laura, and Jason, bookstore employees who are very helpful setting up the signing and preparing the books. Brian and Kevin address a large crowd, then sign books. At the end of the long line, two fans -- Scott and Corby -- try to outdo each other with the sheer numbers of books they have brought: Star Wars books, comics, DUNE books, Brian's solo novels, even some pseudonym novels Kevin wrote.

In thinking about this travel journal, Brian has memories of the journal he kept on his parents for years, which formed the basis of his biography of Frank Herbert. Brian also remembers that his mother Beverly liked to critique restaurants and had plans of writing reviews on them -- this is one of the reasons that he and Kevin have been making comments about good restaurants on this book tour. Frank Herbert's best friend, Howie Hansen, said it best when he told an audience in Seattle earlier in the year, "There would have been no Frank Herbert as we know him if not for the influence of Beverly Herbert."

At every book signing, Brian tells the story of his parents. They were a remarkable couple, and a writing team. She gave up her creative writing career early in their marriage so that her husband could write. Frequently, Brian also tells the story of Sterling Lanier, the far-sighted editor at Chilton who accepted DUNE in book form after more than 20 publishers had turned it down. As Dune fans, all of us are grateful not only to Frank Herbert, but to Beverly Herbert and Sterling Lanier as well.

Dan Wallace, Kevin's coauthor on THE ESSENTIAL STAR WARS CHRONOLOGY, joins us at the signing; it's the first time Kevin and Dan have met in person. As we are wrapping up and signing the remaining books on the table, Meagen and the staff are very enthusiastic about a well-known local deli, Zingermans. Since we had a very disappointing "fast food experience" on the Interstate during the drive today, we arrange for some deli sandwiches to take with us on tomorrow's drive to Indianapolis. Meagen calls in our to-go order, and the workers at the deli are excited to hear from her that the "Dune authors" are coming to pick up sandwiches. We take a stack of postcards, posters, and "Whipping Mek" booklets and hand them to the deli staff, which causes such a flurry they almost forget to charge us for the food. (Erik and Teo are particularly exuberant -- Teo secures his share of the memorabilia and says "Rock on, Dune!" and "Sweet!")

After getting the to-go sack, we meet up with Dan Wallace for dinner at the Grizzly Peak Brewing Company. One of our waitresses is named Jayna (similar to "Jaina," a STAR WARS character from Kevin and Rebecca's YOUNG JEDI KNIGHTS series). Kevin points this out to Dan, and we are all surprised that the waitress knows about the character. When we tell her that Kevin and Dan are both STAR WARS writers, Jayna insists that this is "the coolest thing that ever happened to her."

We were scheduled to have a TV interview in Detroit early the following morning, but that was cancelled at the last minute. No longer any need to set the alarm for the crack of dawn.

Before starting this entry, we had to look up the actual date. After three weeks on the road, with one different city following another, it's easy to lose track of where you are and what day of the week it is.

But this is Saturday, and we have to drive from Detroit to Indianapolis. Since our early-morning interview was cancelled, we have a few hours to ourselves, used for editing HORIZON STORMS (Kevin) and health club (Brian). Before setting out, we eat the Zingerman's deli sandwiches in Kevin's room, splitting a Diet Coke from the minibar, and then we drive off under gloomy skies west from Detroit to Ann Arbor, then south to Fort Wayne, Indiana, on our way to Indianapolis.

This time, after making cell phone calls to check in with Jan and Rebecca, we brainstorm the six DUNE graphic novels we are planning to write for a major comics company, plotting out the course of a story that will take place in the six decades between THE MACHINE CRUSADE and THE BATTLE OF CORRIN. When it's not his turn to drive, Kevin also writes another five pages of the comic script for THE ORC'S TREASURE. When Brian is in the passenger seat, he organizes promotional literature for distribution to our fans at upcoming bookstores and also finds time to write a page of his mainstream novel -- a dramatic story that he's wanted to tell for a long time, and he hopes to complete it by the end of the year. As we continue through the Indiana countryside, the clouds break up and it gets sunny after all.

As we arrive in Indianapolis, heading to our hotel, we pass a large Barnes & Noble. Since it's time to stretch our legs anyway, we both decide to stop for a quick surprise drive-by signing. Inside the store, Kevin goes up to the information desk to introduce himself, while Brian rounds up the first stack of THE MACHINE CRUSADE to autograph. The woman at the information desk is somewhat flustered, which is odd because most of the time bookstores are happy to have authors drop in to autograph books. The answer isn't long in coming, though, as Brian hurries up to the counter and exclaims, "Kevin, this is the store where we're signing tomorrow!" He points out a poster advertising our appearance in the window. No wonder the staff was surprised. Embarrassed, we meet the store manager and some of the employees, then promise to come back at the correct date and time. Not far down the road, we find a Borders (which is NOT expecting us), so we drop in and are happy to sign many stacks of books there. While we are going through the piles of books, several fans come up, and a line forms of people who have decided that they have to take advantage of the situation and purchase birthday gifts, Christmas gifts, and even books for themselves.

Though our map doesn't show any time-zone line, for some reason all the clocks in Indianapolis have shifted by an hour -- which is fine with us, since we now have an extra hour to work on our laptops, after we have dinner in a nice Italian restaurant called Sangiovese. Arriving back to the hotel, the inevitable finally happens. Kevin gets off the elevator, holds the unmarked room key card in his hand, and can't remember the room number. Last night his was 703, and Brian's was 302. The day before in Lexington, we had different rooms. For security purposes, there's no indication on the card. Walking up and down the hall, Kevin finally finds a door that looks familiar (of course, they all look the same!), and the key works.

Yes, we've been on the road for too many days straight.

Saturday, October 4, 2003



Continue With Week 4

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