BookBub featured Mindguard as their daily deal for science fiction on June 3, the day before Ioana and I were set to leave for a two-week vacation to the place we cherish more than any other in the world. We have a great love for Italy and have traveled there extensively over the last two years. Everything about this country appeals to us, from its rich history, to the fascinating diversity of its regions and cities, the beautiful, melodic language of its people and, of course, its delicious food and wine.
We’ve visited Rome, Venice, Florence and Bologna and have loved every one of those places. But there is a certain connection we have with Sicily, and especially its crown jewel, the city of Taormina, that transcends mere travel excitement. From the day we left, Taormina has been on our minds constantly. We couldn't wait to go back again this year. We booked the trip in January and for months we’ve done nothing but count the days. It was always going to be a special vacation, but the fact that Mindguard was scheduled for a Bookbub promotion on the last day before our vacation made the entire experience absolutely surreal.
As we traveled across the island to places like Syracuse, Noto, the Valley of Temples in Agrigento, the picturesque villages of Savoca and Forza D’Agro, (famous as filming locations for The Godfather), or to the Aeolian islands nearby, my books were doing their own bit of traveling - to reading devices all over the world.
One of my favorite things about being an author is this incredible connection I feel I share with my readers, people from all over the world. I’ve had readers from Iceland to New Zealand and everywhere in between. In a way, we are all bound by a subtle thread represented by this story, or at least I like to think we are.
I often like to envision my readers immersed in the story, to imagine where they might find themselves reading Mindguard or The Vintages, perhaps in places I will never get to see in life. Maybe some of you are reading the books on the subway, on your daily commute from Brooklyn to Manhattan. Maybe you’re reading them on the porch of your farm house in rural Norway or in a quaint little square somewhere in Italy. Wherever you are, this story now unites us through that evanescent space it occupies in our imagination.
I think back to all the days I’ve spent working on the manuscript in my office, staring at a big map of the world for inspiration and courage, and I’m stunned by how far the story has traveled, farther than I ever will. Like Sheldon, I also have a passion for “Old Earth” and all the wonderful places on it. Whenever I feel the walls of my office closing in on me after a long day of work, I stare at the map and just think of the beautiful vastness of this planet, and it frees my mind. I find it very relaxing.
For a long part of my life I didn’t travel, at least not outside of my own country. When Ioana and I went to Crete for our honeymoon, I discovered how much I enjoyed being in a new place, learning about a different culture. I resolved to see as much of the world as possible in my lifetime. Fortunately, I have the greatest travel companion anyone could hope for and, together, Ioana and I have visited many amazing places over the last five years. We’ve loved all of them, but Taormina remains our favorite.
In this gorgeous town on the Eastern coast of the island, I feel happy in a way that I don’t anywhere else. When we first went there in 2015, I was going through a particularly difficult phase of my life. I was plagued by anxiety regarding my future as an author and that was taking a great toll on my creativity. I fell in love with the surreal beauty of this place, with its awe-inspiring views and the variegated energy of its people, mostly visitors from all over the world. When we left, I promised myself not only that I would return, but that I would do so as a successful author. To me, that meant having an audience and a clear creative direction.
In the weeks before returning to Sicily, I thought a lot about this. I was so happy to be going back, but it was also bittersweet, because I felt I wasn't where I'd wanted to be a year ago. Then, the good people of BookBub let me know that my book had been selected for a featured deal (which is extremely hard to get - I had already been turned down over fifteen times) and that it was going to run exactly one day before our vacation. I knew it was going to change the course of my career.
This absolutely serendipitous timing enhanced and enriched our trip in ways I couldn't even have hoped for. Most importantly, it inspired me to look to the future with optimism instead of fear. In football terms: it was the “Hail Mary” of my career, allowing me to keep the promise I'd made to myself after all.
And it has been a career-changing promo. Mindguard soared up the Amazon charts, making the top 100 in its categories as well as the top 100 on the other stores. Just look at this beautiful picture:
This post is about traveling and the ways in which it not only enriches one’s life, but one’s creativity as well. There is another reason why Taormina holds a special place in my heart: it's where I came up with the ending to The Mind Malignancy series.
I mentioned before that I was on a creative low point, and I was having trouble deciding where I should take the story after The Vintages, or if I should even attempt to continue it. The answer came to me in the most quintessentially science fiction way: I was gazing at the stars above the Naxos Bay, from the promontory on Piazza IX Aprile. That was where all the events of the last three books fell into place, as well as the ending, of which I am particularly fond.
So, today I thought I’d share with you some pictures from our trip. Some of you may know that I am a hobby photographer, and Sicily is a photographer’s dream, so I jumped at the chance to take as many pictures as possible. Here are some of my favorites, most taken by myself, some by Ioana. I hope you’ll enjoy them and I’m looking forward to posting some more updates on the Ayers release soon.
Until then, have a wonderful weekend!