Greetings, All: Where to begin? We just returned home after 4,500 miles on the motorcycle. The purpose of the trip was primarily to attend the Books-A-Million managers’ meeting in Brimingham. While there we gave away 375 advanced reading copies for the upcoming February release of COMING OF THE STORM, out in hardback from Pocket Books. The reading copy is gorgeous with a picture of Pearl Hand and her dogs marching out of a Florida evening, her captured crossbow at hand. The reception by Books-A-Million was wonderful with a great deal of excitement among the managers. BAM has supported our work for years, and this one is right up their ally. Anyone who lives in the South has heard of de Soto, but few have any understanding of the impact he had on the great Indian nations that filled the Southeast upon his arrival. Telling the tale from the native perspective has been a sobering delight. Those of you who regularly read out blog know that Black Shell isn’t one to take travails lightly. He even sneaked into the blog for an entry! He’s got his hands full in COMING OF THE STORM. And, while Books-A-Million will have plenty of copies, so, too, will Barnes & Noble, Borders, Hastings and all the usual booksellers. You can preorder your copy now. Black Shell and Pearl Hand need all the help they can get. The evil Hernando de Soto has most of the advantages, so please, ally yourself with the good guys and at least provide moral support. Other news is that PEOPLE OF THE FOREST, the sequel to next summer’s PEOPLE OF THE LONGHOUSE is a completed manuscript which, after polish, will be delivered to Tor/Forge at the end of October. In the second book, vile of Gannajero is still doing nasty things. She’s one of the better villains we’ve ever written. The second book in Pocket Books’ CONTACT:BATTLE FOR AMERICA series will also be delivered at the end of the month. Black Shell and Pearl Hand are back, and this time their task is to chase de Soto across the Southeast to a fogotten town called Mabila. And, as to what happens there… Well, you’ll just have to wait. Which brings us to the second half of our trip. We rode up the Coosa River valley from Birmingham following de Soto’s trail. While we’d been there before, we really wanted to update ourselves on the geology and topography around the capital of the Coosa Nation de Soto encountered. They governed an area from eastern Alabama to the high mikko’s city near Rome, Georgia, then north to the Tennessee River, up the valley, clear to the headwaters of the French Broad River in North Carolina. A considerable chunk of territory in anyone’s book. For Kathleen, the trip was of particular importance. We rode into Ellijay, Georgia, founded by her ancestors in 1820, and saw the building where her great grandfather had a pharmacy. We walked the same streets her Hinson, Aaron, Walkingstick, Buckner, and Peeples ancestors walked. Heading north we took the Cherohala Skyway over to Cherokee, North Carolina, and toured the museum. Here, her Cherokee ancestors lived, many being born in Birdtown. The Walkingstick name is still seen prominently. Heading home, we bent some corners on the famous “Dragon’s Tail” over Deal’s Gap on Highway 129, waved to a lot of motorcycles, and headed back to Wyoming. We were good, honest, we swear. But the weather gods were waiting for us in Wyoming, and they were in a veangeful mood. So, let it be known. All those people who wondered who the two fools were on that BMW RT should be aware it was us. Thirty-mile-an-hour crosswinds plastered the bike and us with a crusting of ice, and froze Mike’s beard. Fortunately the road was wet, not icy, and we made it home with half-inch thick chunks of ice dropping off the fairing. Hey! The weather guessers on Weather Channel said it was only going to be light rain! Finally, an update on our new puppy, Jake. He’s doing fine. We’ve sent an occasional report back to Al Harris, in Roswell. His Worthington’s Shetland sheepdogs are some of the finest in the country. Jake is a great little guy, smarter than we are, and he’s wiggled firmly into our hearts. He even helped write part of the THE FIRES OF MABILA, but his typing was so atrocious that all of his composition has been edited out. So, until next time, we wish you all health, prosperity, and good will. Best, Mike, Kathy, Shannon, and Jake.