Gratitude for Vault

The last 18 months have been some of the most exciting of my creative career. Vault was my first mini-series at a publisher and I have been a hive of anxiety and nerves from the day I was told it would be released into the wild with Storm King Productions. This is a big deal to me. The opportunity to tell Vault has been near perfect and there are a lot of people to thank. That’s what this is, a thank you to the people who have made this such a fulfilling experience. With all of the negative shit in the world (in particular all the drama in comics) it seems apt to throw out some positive vibes.

I’m going to get long-winded here. There’s some serious butt-kissing coming. Sorry, not sorry.

Readers
You’re the goal, right? You, the folks who took a chance on a book, are the one of the primary reasons these stories are created. I think it’s every writer’s hope that someone will read the story they write and get it, enjoy it, and maybe even love it. That’s not to say everyone who read Vault thought it was great, but I’ve received more than a few responses through social media, email, and even face-to-face conversations from people who seem to truly enjoy the book. It means the world to me that you’ve had a good time with Vault. Every kind comment validates the work we creative types do, and those types of caring, thankful messages are not the majority of responses one typically sees/hears (more often than not it is the disgruntled who are the loudest). Thank you.

Sharers
Not everyone who supported the book read it. I know of a couple people who are waiting on the trade paperback (no judgment), but have consistently shared news of the book through social media, encouraging others to buy it and give it a try. And then there are those who read the book and shouted about it in support whenever possible. To all of you who helped spread the good Vault word, thank you.

Reviewers
Surprisingly, the majority of the reviews Vault have received have been positive. I say “surprisingly” because, like many writers, I expect everyone to hate everything I write. Not everyone who reviewed it loved it, but everyone who reviewed took the time to review it – that, in and of itself, is a reason to be thankful. To the people who did read it and enjoyed it: thank you. Thank you for taking the time out of your schedule to review our indie title when the truth is that reviewing bigger books from bigger publishers with bigger names is what probably pays your bills. Hell, even if you spent the time you could have been writing about the latest Marvel or DC event to write about how much you hate Vault, thank you. I respect that time and I am ever grateful for yours.

Creators
This is not my book – it belongs to all of those who worked on it.

Andres Esparza, my friend, you’re amazing. I’m very thankful I got the chance to work with you before one of the big two snatched you up and made you unaffordable. Your art is incredible. Your attention to detail is unmatched. You, sir, are a master of your craft and your work speaks for itself. I am so glad we got to make Vault together.

Sergio Martinez, “lighting director” extraordinaire. Nothing Andres or I do would be worth the paper it’s printed on without your keen eye and talent. You took my writing and Andres’s art and fleshed out a world more realized than I could have imagined. Thank you, sir.

Janice fucking Chiang. Your resume is among the most intimidating I have ever seen in the comics world. You’ve done it all and I’m not sure the script I worked on deserved your level of talent, but I’m so very grateful we got you. Letterers are among the most under-appreciated talents in the industry and your work only emphasizes that argument. You’re a goddamn genius.

Special shouts out to Nick Percival, Cat Staggs, and Tim Bradstreet for blessing this book with their covers. And Shannon Forrey on the book design. Gorgeous work, all.

Sandy, of course, is a phenomenal editor, but I’ve got more to say about her…

John & Sandy
Sandy King and John Carpenter. I mean, holy shit, you guys.

I’ve done more than a few interviews and gushed every time about how cool it is to work with you two, but I’m not sure I’ve ever said thank you. I’m not sure I can thank either of you enough. Not only did I get to work with two people who have shaped the fiber of my storytelling being, but I was able to learn from them, spend time with them, and am now blessed to call them friends. My respect for you both has only deepened and I beyond grateful for the time we’ve spent together. I know both of you have heard this before from your innumerable fans, but let me add my voice to the chorus: Y’all are the best.

My thanks here extend to everyone at the Storm King Productions family who has helped guide me through production, shows, and signings, and allowed me to tap into their wisdom (I’m looking at you, Sean, Ross, and Lys).

That’s it. I’m done kissing ass and praising the people who have made Vault such a richly rewarding experience.

Here’s to many more stories enjoyed together.

Cheers.

Fatherhood Friday: Maui’s a Pottymouth

I know I said I wasn’t going to write these anymore, but I’m a liar so here we are.

Parents deal with their children’s chicanery daily. My situation is not particularly special. I am not the best father in the world, though I’d like to think I’m at least in the 90th percentile. Maybe 85th. Anyway, earlier this week I dealt with a situation that made me feel… “Confounded” is the wrong word.

I got off of work, picked up the girls (the boy stays with his sitter until Kyleen gets out of work), and brought them home. Our routine is the same every day: the girls unpack their belongings while I take the dogs out. Usually, I return from a brief urine-inspired outing to find the girls ready for their shower, finishing their homework, or putting on their pajamas.

This was not a usual night.

For the unfamiliar, I have two daughters. Since some of you are strangers we’ll avoid names and call the six-year-old Yellow and the seven-year-old Brown. Back to it.

I returned from my outing with dogs to find Yellow locked in her closet, crying with an unusual fervor. Brown was standing outside of the closet, with a gaze of general bewilderment.

“What’s going on?”

Brown, careful not to indict herself, gave me half of the story. “[Yellow] kicked me and called me a bad word.”

“Are you okay?”

“Yeah. It didn’t hurt at all. But she called me a bad word.”

“So I hear. Go get ready for your shower. I’ll deal with this.”

I opened the door to find Yellow on the ground, her knees to her chest, and with tears running down her cheeks. This could mean one of two things: (1) Yellow’s side of the story would involve some grievous injury perpetrated by Brown, or (2) Yellow was feeling some severe regret and knew she was in trouble.

She looked guilty as sin. She also looked terrified. I lowered my hand, smiled, and said, “Wanna go talk in my room?”

She nodded, took my hand, and followed me. She sat on my bed and gathered her composure. I shut the door, sat on the floor, and smiled again. “What happened?”

“[Brown] shut the door to the bathroom and wouldn’t let me in even though I was crying.”

“Okay.”

“Then she opened the door because I was crying.”

“Right.”

“So I kicked her in the vagina.”

“Ok—Wait, what?”

“And called her a bad word.”

“Which bad word?”

She looked at me cautiously. I reassured her. “You can say it this time, you won’t be in trouble for repeating it.”

“I called her a bitch.”

I was shocked but tried not to show it. “You kicked your sister in the vagina and called her a bitch?”

She nodded. It got weirder.

“Where’d you learn that word?”

“Moana.”

“Huh?”

“There’s a part where Maui says bitch and I heard it but [Brown] doesn’t hear it but I know it’s there.”

“Okay,” I tried to keep it together, “I don’t think the movie Moana has that word at all, sweetie. But you know what? It doesn’t matter. Do you know why you shouldn’t say it?”

“It’s a bad word.”

“Yes. But it’s one of the worst bad words you can call a girl. It’s very mean.”

“Okay.”

“Do you know what else you did that was mean?”

She thought for a moment, “Kicking people in the vagina?”

“That’s correct. Kicking people in the vagina is mean.”

“Okay.” Around here is where she started crying a bit once more.

“So, you did two pretty mean things to [Brown]. I’m sure she wasn’t being too nice to you, but do you think she deserved the things you did?”

She shook her head.

“What should we do?”

“Apologize.”

“Okay, should I call her in here?”

She nodded and wiped her eyes.

I did. Once Brown was in the room, Yellow looked her in the eyes. “I’m sorry I kicked you in the vagina and called you a bitch.”

At the word “bitch” [Brown]’s eyes got huge and she looked at me, waiting for a reaction. When she didn’t get one she replied, “I forgive you.”

They hugged. They were about to head to the shower when I stopped them, “Hey girls? Do you think maybe we could not kick people in the vaginas and call each other bad words?”

“Okay, Dad.”

“And [Yellow]? Don’t say that word anymore, okay? Next time I may have to give you slap on the mouth.”

They went off to take a shower. For the rest of the evening, you’d never know anything had happened at all. To the two of them, this incident was no different than any other number of daily spats they have as sisters.

My wife and I, however, were equal parts awed, disgusted, embarrassed, and tickled. We’d laugh and then feel terrible for laughing and chat for a while about where Yellow may have learned the word bitch. I don’t call Kyleen bitch, nor do I kick her in the vagina. And Kyleen does not call me bitch, nor kick me in the vagina (at least, not in front of the kids).

So, why write about it? It’s embarrassing. There’s a small part of Kyleen and I that is mortified by the experience. Our kids would never do something like this – not our sweet, beautiful, angel-like little girls.

Except they did.

I asked a couple parent-pals about this and they confided a few stories of their own. It made me feel better. And that made me think that maybe some of you are worried as well. It happens. Kids do stupid stuff and it embarrasses the hell out of parents. We do the best we can, rectify the situation as best we can, and move on.

My wife and I aren’t perfect (though she’s certainly closer to it than I am). My kids aren’t perfect. Our situation isn’t perfect. And that’s great. We’re all going to be just fine.

I think.

Hopefully.

Parents, the next time your kids do something that makes you feel like maybe you’re a terrible parent, well… You might be.

But probably not.

Salty and Sweet

My grandfather, Jim Adamo, died one week ago today. I knew it was coming, everyone in my family did. He had recently fallen ill and we had a few weeks to make to peace with what we knew was going to happen.

I don’t grieve well. I still haven’t cried since my grandmother passed. It’s not that I don’t mourn her, I just don’t manifest my emotions well. I’m a writer. I tell stories. I put thoughts into words and sentences and structured little moments – it’s my process.

There are a lot of stories out there about my grandfather. Here are a few of mine.

 

In a Name
I was born not long after the passing of my great-grandfather. According to those who were there, this death put my grandfather, Jim, into a depression. Some months later I arrived, his first grandchild. He had four daughters: my mother, Michele, and my aunts, Mary, Cathy, and Christine, but I was the first boy in his line.

I was to be named Michael James Ninness. Michael, after my father’s best friend, Mickey, who died when he was a boy, and James, after my grandfather. Not long after I was born my grandfather came to visit. While holding me he proclaimed, “I don’t care what they want to name you. I’m calling you James.”

It stuck.

 

Choo Choo
When I was two or three years old, and still the only grandchild, my grandfather built a train for me in his backyard. It was amazing. The tracks ran all around the backyard, allowing me to traverse a large section of property by myself, sitting in the locomotive with a few cars behind me. The tracks were long enough that I would lose sight of my grandfather for a bit. I actually remember that. I recall a growing sense of concern as I moved away from him, but I always came back. The track came around and I would see my grandfather standing there, smiling and waving at me. No matter how many times I went away, he always waited for me to return.

 

Perfect Student
In high school, during the middle of my senior year, I finally went to far. I had a bit of a record as a mischievous fellow and in my latest tomfoolery I told one of my teachers that he was an asshole in front of the whole class. He didn’t like that. The private school didn’t like that. I was to be expelled, which was fine with me. Many of my friends went to a public school near my home, so getting expelled meant that I’d move from one group of friends to another. No big deal.

Well, in the meeting between the school administration and my parents to review the expulsion paperwork, my grandfather showed up. He wasn’t having any of it.

Jim Adamo walked into the room, uninvited. He pulled up a seat next to me, “So what’s going on?”

They told him what I did and that I was to be expelled. “No, my grandfather said. “Here’s what’s going to happen: James’s parents and I are going to take him home and whip some sense into him. You’re not going to expel him. You’ll put him on probation or something. But he’s going to promise you right now, in this room, that he’ll be a perfect student until graduation.”

The principal started to protest but my grandfather looked right at me, and nodded expectantly. I didn’t fight it. “I will be a perfect student until graduation.”

“There,” said my grandfather, “it’s settled.” And before the administration could argue, we left, my grandfather holding me under my arm to continue the conversation in private outside.

I graduated from that school with no further shenanigans.

 

Screwed Up
My parents are one of the happiest couples I know, but it wasn’t always that way. They used to argue often and sometimes it could get heated. During one such episode while we were living in El Cajon (which makes me younger than six or seven), my grandfather came over to assist. I’m not sure what was going on, or why he decided to come and get me to leave my parents alone, but he did. On the way out, despite my parents’ protests, he told them that he and I were going for a drive. The door shut behind us as he called over his shoulder, “I’m not going to let you screw up my grandson.”

We left, got ice cream or something, and came home when things calmed down.

Fast-forward several years: I’m a college dropout, living in Tucson, Arizona, and working at Starbucks.

I left San Diego because my hometown and I weren’t getting along. I was in a weird place with friends. Selling drugs was lucrative and using them was fun. Depression had set in comfortably. There was a good deal of fighting. I was scared, confused, and without any sort of direction. I figured I’d leave town and try to get my shit together. It didn’t really work that way, but Tucson is a story for another time.

Through the grapevine it had come to my attention that my grandfather was confused at my departure. He didn’t know what I had been up to, so the sudden exodus to Arizona made little sense. Feeling a bit bad, I decide to write him and my grandmother a letter explaining everything: the depression, the drugs, and the fighting – all of it.

I expected to hear back from them, either through another letter or a phone call, but didn’t. After about a month, I decided to call them to see if they had received my letter.

“Hello?” It was my grandmother.
“Hey, Nana. It’s James.”
“Hi, James Michael!” She almost always used my first and middle names together. “How are you?”
“I’m okay.” I wasn’t. My heart was pounding. “I was, uh, calling to see if you and Papa got the letter I sent a while back…”
“Oh,” she paused. “Yes, we got it.”
“Okay.”
Neither of us knew what to say. I pushed. “Well, is Papa there?”
“Yes, he is. Let me get him.”
At this point she put the phone on the counter and shuffled off to get my grandfather’s attention. I heard bits and pieces of their brief conversation. There was “It’s James Michael,” “I can’t,” and “I’ll tell him,” all scattered amongst a few other indecipherable utterances. Eventually, Nana picked up the phone.
“He can’t talk to you right now, sweetie.”
“Should I call back?”
She stammered a bit, “No, James Michael. He’ll call you.”
“Gotcha.”
“We love you.”
I hung up.

My grandfather never called me back. We didn’t discuss the letter. We pretended for the rest of his life that it never happened, sort of. Things were different between us after Tucson. There was a distance, a gap that never closed.

 

Part of the Family
Family gatherings in the Adamo family were for one group: family. I tried and failed many times to invite girlfriends to various events. I had two serious relationships before my wife, and neither was invited to occasions celebrated by our family. Of course they were invited to my immediate family gatherings, and if they happened to bump into extended family there, so be it, but if my grandparents were having everyone over for family dinner? Forget it.

It’s possible that I may have been able to sneak Kyleen or my previous girlfriends to one or two of those get-togethers, but even if they managed to get through the door my grandfather wasn’t going out of his way to make anyone feel special. Kyleen told me that the first time she met my grandfather he scared the crap out of her. He was tall, intimidatingly confident, and greeted her only with, “Hello,” before moving about his business and speaking to her again only when it was a manner of decorum.

To my grandparents, there was a big difference between a girlfriend and a wife: one is committed for life while the other, well, isn’t.

Eventually, I did marry one of those girls. Kyleen and I got hitched almost ten years ago. Like every wedding that has ever been, there was a fair amount of stress. Stuff went right. Stuff went wrong. We have a lot of fond memories of that day, surrounded by friends and family, but one stands out…

At the reception, after Kyleen and I had entered the hall and gone through the normal wedding hoopla, we made our way around the room to greet the guests. Among the first to greet us were my grandparents. They both offered warm smiles to Kyleen and I before embracing and kissing her in congratulations. My grandfather held the sides of Kyleen’s head, looked right into her eyes, smiled, and said, “Welcome to the family!”

From that day on Kyleen was his granddaughter. He introduced her as such and treated her as though she had been in the family from her birth. Like it or not, she was in.

 

Small Talk
This last story is much more recent. It’s less of a story than a scene, but if you’ve been paying attention, it may read like a climax.

Just a few weeks ago my family and I visited my grandfather when it became apparent that the end was near. I was able to have a several minutes with him – just the two of us. We spent the first half of that time catching up, pretending that nothing was wrong. How’s my writing going? Are the girls doing well in school? It was your standard small talk.

Then he said something that threw me off. “James, you’re a good dad. You’re a really great dad. You have the best kids and you and Kyleen are raising them right. Be proud of that, guy. You’re doing great. I’m proud of you.”

This was the nicest thing my grandfather had said to me since the Tucson letter.

My aunt walked in just after that and I exited the room. The rest of the day he was in and out of naps as more people came by to say goodbye. I spent the majority of the time working remotely from his kitchen table. When it got late, we said our goodbyes as well.

After Kyleen and the kids said farewell I leaned over him, kissed him on the cheek, and said, “I’ll see you later.” He shrugged as if to say, “Maybe.”

We left. A few days later, he did too.

 

My grandmother, Barbara Ann Adamo, was born on June 20, 1934. She died on Friday, September 25, 2015. My grandfather was born on July 19, 1934, and died on June 20, 2017.

When I got the call I that he had passed it was just after 9 pm. Instead of being overwrought with grief, a scene played out in my mind that made me chuckle.

I pictured my grandfather walking up to the gates of heaven and my grandmother waiting for him. After two years of being apart, I imagined the both of them smiling wide and hugging each other for a long time. When they pull apart he keeps his hands on her shoulder, and she hers on his hips.

My grandmother, excited to see him, says, “Jim, I’ve missed you. I’m so glad you made it to my birthday party! We’re going to have ice cream.”

He’s still grinning. He can’t stop. He looks back at his Barbara and says, “Is dinner ready?”

 

Tell Nana I said Hi, Papa.

Inside Vault

Vault is a really big deal for me. This is the first mini-series I’ve put out that will be available through Diamond. I’m excited. Vault is a story I love and a book I’m proud of, so I can’t wait for folks to read it.

I’m also terrified. I crafted this tale. I wrote this story. A lot of people have put serious amounts of time and energy into something I wrote: artists, editors, marketing folk, PR people… It’s an awesome, scary, wonderful thing.

So, what the hell is Vault?

It’s a three issue mini-series that follows the moon-bound crew of the Gaia, as they intercept a large, seemingly abandoned alien vessel headed for Earth. The ship is full of varied, well-rotted corpses covered in a strange fungus, seemingly devoid of life. It’s a horror comic, so things go poorly.

It’s also a love letter to science fiction horror, a genre I’ve been in love with for a very long time. Alien, The Thing, Event Horizon, Sunshine — these stories and ones like them are my drug of choice. If you read Vault you’ll notice nods to each of these and more scattered about. That’s not an accident.

There is no follow-up to Vault. It is three issues and then it is done. Issues begin coming to your local comic book shops in July, with the trade (hopefully) coming by the end of the year.

As with any comic, the writing is only as good as the art and colors and letters. Each of these elements is equally important in crafting a good book. To that end, I wanted to take a moment to introduce a few folks to you.

Andres Esparza is a Mexican comic book and concept artist born, raised and working in Monterrey, México. He has more than ten years working as an illustrator with different advertisement agencies, newspapers, and video-game developers. Andres recently worked on a few comic books with Heavy Metal magazine, 1Firstcomics, Zenescope, Doubletake, and Storm King Productions. (Bio provided by Andres.)

Sergio Martínez is an illustrator, comic artist, concept artist, and whatever other opportunities visual arts affords him. He has around seven years working as a concept artist for video games and animation, a comic colorist, and a bit of line illustration (and even a tiny bit of artsy stuff in galleries). Publishers include Storm King Productions, IDW, Stone Arch Books, Bee Cave Games, Bioware, and Activision among others. (Bio provided by Sergio.)

Janice Chiang is a professional comic letterer with four decades in the industry. She has a body of published work from Marvel, DC Comics, First Comics, Tundra, DarkHorse, Archie Comics, Harvey Comics, TokyoPop, Del Rey, CMX/Wildstorm, Papercutz, Pow!Entertainment, and Storm King Productions for all genres and readership. Janice has hand-lettered on original art pages and is a digital letter artist on more recent projects. She enjoys working with mature talent as well as newly discovered creators. (Bio provided by Janice.)

And, of course, my editor and the person who gave me a shot with Vault in the first place: Sandy King Carpenter.

Born Sandra Ann King in Los Angeles, California. Attended the Westlake School, graduating in 1969. She attended UCLA College of Fine Arts, majoring in pictorial arts, and graduating in 1973. That same year, she worked on the Academy Award-winning animated film, Anti-Matter. Her first feature film as a script supervisor was John Cassavetes’s The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1976). (Bio from by IMDB.)

You guys, my boss worked on They Live, Ghosts of Mars, and Big Trouble in Little China — how cool is that?

To give you a sneak peek at the book and what the team actually does to bring it life, here are the progressions for the first three pages of Vault, from script to finished letters (scroll through using the arrows). The eagle-eyed among you will note a few changes from script to finished page — those are the places where my team and I collaborated on improvements (which means they told me something that would work better and I agreed because they’re smarter than me).

  • Page 1 script, fourth draft, by me.
  • Page 1 layouts by Andres.
  • Page 1 inks by Andres.
  • Page 1 Flats by Sergio.
  • Page 1 colors by Sergio.
  • Page 1 letters by Janice.
  • Page 2 script, fourth draft, by me.
  • Page 2 layouts by Andres.
  • Page 2 inks by Andres.
  • Page 2 flats by Sergio.
  • Page 2 colors by Sergio.
  • Page 2 letters by Janice.
  • Page 3 script, fourth draft, by me.
  • Page 3 layouts by Andres.
  • Page 3 inks by Andres.
  • Page 3 flats by Sergio.
  • Page 3 colors by Sergio.
  • Page 3 letters by Janice.

 

Even though the book doesn’t come out until July, we’ve gotten a couple early reviews in. Here’s what people are saying:

“The Alien franchise can make a spot for the Vault because they’ve now got company where an outer space alien inhabited thriller is on the horizon and it’s worthy.” –Reading With a Flight Ring

“If you are a fan of the sci-fi horror genre, this is an absolute must read.” –Don’t Feed the Gamers

“…I really enjoy and the fact Ninness and the team have balanced what feels like a horror story in a sci-fi setting so well is impressive and has me excited to see what’s next.” –Graphic Policy

“I found myself reading, and re-reading this book as it kicked my imagination into overdrive. …I WANT #2!” –Outright Geekery

So, have I sold you on Vault? Ready to check it out? You can support us now by pre-ordering the book at your local comic book shop. Walk in and tell them that you want Vault and give them this pre-order code: MAY171800. The last day for shops to pre-order our book is this Thursday, May 25, so don’t wait! If you miss the pre-order cutoff date and still want to pick up the book, just tell your retailer. They’ll be able to get it for you.

Another thing you can do if you really want to help: share this blog. We’ve got to get the word out and you are kind of the only way that happens. No pressure. I love you regardless.

If you’re still not sold or want to know a bit more about the book, here’s a list of some of the press we’ve done for Vault in the last couple months:

Thanks for taking a minute to read this. Whatever you’re doing today, have a good one. I’ll just be over here; nervously twitching until the books begin rolling out in July.

Release Date

I think about my own death too much.

Like most smokers I know, I convince myself that I’ve got every possible lung and throat disease at the slightest tickle in my neck. It doesn’t help that I write for a living and have trained my brain to plan for every worst-case scenario.

I used to not be bothered by death. Then I had kids. Those jerks made me more sensitive to my temporal nature.

Why am I telling you this? Ever since leaving C2E2 I’ve been choking back sporadic spurts of tears. I met someone who threw a wrench in my perspective and I’m thankful for it. I’d like to take a moment to tell you about her.

I was at the Storm King booth with Sandy King Carpenter and Ross Sauriol. We were chatting up passersby and pitching our various wares to any and all that would listen. A pair of women came by while Sandy and Ross were busy. The first, shorter than the other, was black, wore short-cropped hair, and did not make eye contact with me. I do not remember what the second woman looked like. What took place so moved me that only the first woman is branded on my mind.

Like all conversations that day, I opened with a greeting, “Hey, there!”

They responded in kind and seemed to notice our books, so I continued, “How’s the show going?”

The smile on the first woman was enormous. “We’re having a great time. And you?”

“Oh,” I wound up the same canned response I always use, “I’m living the dream.”

She laughed, as do most. But it was here, during the laugh, that I noticed she did not make eye contact. She looked in my voice’s direction, but not at me.

Like a good salesman, I led her to the work. “Are you a big fan of science fiction? Horror?”

“Oh, yes!”

“Did you ever see Alien? Event Horizon? Maybe Danny Boyle’s Sunshine?” At this point the second woman began trickling down the outside of the booth, flipping through the comics we had stacked there, leaving the first woman and me to chat.

“Of course!” Her smile got bigger. It was remarkable. She was delighted to talk about this stuff. “Event Horizon is my jam. It’s messed up, but I love it.”

And so we chatted. We chatted for several minutes. I pitched her on my new book, Vault. She told me how much she loved the premise and I thanked her. She told me how she got into science fiction at a young age when she escaped a terrible situation with her family through the genre. We spoke about our different upbringings; things that we had in common and things that we did not.

After more than a 10-15 minutes (which is longer than the average booth chat), her friend came back over and patiently waited for us to finish. We spoke a few minutes longer. Her telling me why Aliens is better than Alien, and me suggesting she catch Krull as soon as possible.

As though sensing her friend’s readiness to move on, this marvelous young woman closed the conversation asking me about the release of Vault #1: Where could she get it? When would it be available? Did I have anything to give her so she could get her friends to bring it to her?

That last one struck me: bring it to her?

We had flyers so I grabbed one and reached out to give it to her. I extended my hand and she made no move to grab it. Her friend did, taking it from me and pushing it into the first woman’s palm. The first woman put the flyer a centimeter or two from her face and began dragging her nose across each line of text. She continued talking the entire time, explaining her situation to me as though she could see my confusion (for which, of course, I immediately checked myself to ensure that neither my face nor posture would do anything to indicate such confusion as I had no interest in embarrassing her nor being embarrassed myself).

Her situation was this: She had four brain tumors. She was almost entirely blind. She was born with perfect vision but her sight began worsening at an early age. She tried to ask for help but her parents and teachers thought she was faking to get out of exams and tests. By the time they realized that there was something wrong the tumors in her head had grown too large and were, for reasons I do not pretend to understand, inoperable. It was likely that soon she would be entirely blind, or worse.

When all I muttered was a dumbfounded, “I’m so sorry,” she continued.

She told me that near the end of June she was scheduled for an experimental brain surgery to remove the tumors. “The doctors are hopeful,” she said, “that they can help my vision and save my life.”

I swallowed my pity — she was not telling me her story for pity.

“In June?”

“Yes,” she replied, her smile as big as ever.

“I’ll tell you what then,” I snatched back the flyer I handed her and wrote my personal email and phone number on it. “When you’re out and recovered you let me know. I will make sure that we get Vault to you.”

She giggled and promised she would. “Thank you so much for talking to me.”

“Are you kidding me? Thank you. If you nice folk like you don’t chat with me I sit here bored all day.”

She laughed again. “Vault sounds awesome. Hopefully, I’ll be reading it without any help in a few months.”

“I have no doubt about it,” I replied.

And she was gone down the aisle with her friend.

I do not know her name, but that young woman’s smile, courage, and fortitude have brought me to almost-tears several days since we met. I don’t cry because I feel sorry for the young woman, but because I envy her. Her strength could fill ten of me.

With any luck, she’ll reach out to me in a few months and I’ll be able to share Vault with her. I promise to keep y’all in the loop when it happens. Until then, do me a favor? Pray for the girl with the big smile that I met at C2E2? And if, by chance, you were at the show and know of whom I am speaking, please send me a message (don’t make it public to respect her privacy).

I’ve never wanted someone to read something I’ve written this badly before.