Aaron Dembski-Bowden

Don't worry. None of this blood is mine.

I don’t travel well.

I don’t travel well.

I travel even less well when it’s just me tracking my scuffed trainers through various airports in a sans Katie situation, which is what we’re dealing with here and now.

It’s 3:52am, and my too-fucking-hot hotel room is filled with the sounds of my tippy-typing fingers, and the tidal whispers of  a dual carriageway in the grey, bleak heart of London. The double-glazed windows render me mostly immune to the never-ending traffic, but before the last few years I lived in cities anyway, and nighttime traffic is as relaxing to me as the ocean is to deep people. I’m at Heathrow. I was born very near here. Close enough to walk in half an hour, or drive in a few minutes. I find that slightly uncomfortable, though I’m not sure why. A life left behind.

Part of the reason I don’t travel well is because I don’t like travelling. I lack that sweet and sexy gene all Cool People have, where they sit on long haul flights and talk to strangers about “The time in Rio when I was backpacking and this hot girl with a machete taught me how to drink alcoholised yak piss and fuck at the same time.” I hate too-hot hotel rooms that give me puffy eyes and never cool down no matter how low you set the AC. I don’t, in general, like travelling at all – unless it’s in my car, with my friends, and my music, and my sweets. The latter must be raspberry bonbons, without fail.

And part of the reason I lack that Go Get ‘Em attitude is because I travelled a lot as a kid. I don’t use it as the whole reason – I’m perfectly willing to admit that by most people’s standards, I’m probably just antisocial and boring. But when you stood in the shadow of the Sphinx at age 8, licking your cracked lips, and watched jackal-shapes flicker between the ruins of Luxor at night, it can breed a sense of the blasé about, well, this, that and the other. My reaction to travel is often “I did that already,” or “I’ve already done something just like that.”

But let’s not be arrogant about the whole thing. A lot of it is that I’m just an uncomfortable, hostile sort of person. I don’t take any solace or special snowflake-ness in my social anxieties, and rather than share them with the world, I tend to lock them away where no one can use them to colour their brief views of me. I like it that way. But in real terms, travelling involves a lot of things I can’t control, which is the #1 way to make me pop my neck frills and spit blinding venom, before scampering away into the undergrowth.

Also, I’m always late with novel deadlines, which translates to always being under pressure at work, which in turn melts into the reality that I’m always sort of at work because my bed is literally 20 feet from my office. I don’t have downtime. I have vague discomfort that what I’m doing at X point in time probably isn’t helping this year’s massively late novel. All of this means I’m almost always secretly, slowly panicking behind my eyes, which in turn means I react badly to being away from my desk – suffering a delicious cocktail of guilt, terror, and irritation.

So, no. I’m not a graceful traveller. I’d have been a fucking appalling astronaut, which is painful to admit as I’d been harbouring hopes that would eventually be my destiny until embarrassingly recently.

You might think this sounds ungrateful and shitty to say, especially given that I’m in the privileged position of getting sent to other countries for free, purely to sit around and have people who like my work come up to me and tell me that I’m great. You might think – and you’d be right to think this – that I have the best job in the world.

Mostly, I say Yes to conventions and signings because of Katie. She’s owed at least some tangible recompense for putting up with a shut-in who works 12 hours a day and acts like a tortured artiste prick the rest of the time. I like getting the chance to take her places, and turn her loose with my credit card in New York, for example. I like spending time in weird places with her. I like the fact she can see people queuing to see me, because it refreshes both of us: it shows there’s a real impact, an endgame, beyond the cold dryness of sales figures on printouts. When you live in the middle of nowhere and your job involves sealing yourself inside a room alone for countless hours a day, you can very easily become distanced from the fact there’s anything past the process of staring at a screen and sending in a novel once or twice a year over email, before going for a long walk, listening to Razed in Black, then sitting back down to do it all over again. It’s worse for her, because I’m extremely public and accessible on several forums, and Twitter, and Facebook, and emails. I ‘see’ a lot of my feedback without leaving the house. She doesn’t. There’s an element of vacuum about the whole thing, sometimes.

But I’m still not a great traveller, and you can see why it’s worse when she’s not here.

This isn’t to say I don’t enjoy conventions and book signings. I really don’t, as it happens, but it’s probably not for the reasons most people might think. It’s not a matter of ingratitude, or inconvenience, or not giving a fuck about the people that read what I write. Nuh-uh. I should note, and may regret it, that I give away all my author copies every time, to people who write to me with romantic/heartbreaking requests. Your husband takes great care of you, loves my work, and you want to get him a signed copy or two? With a shivery lip, I send whatever I have. Your boyfriend’s going to Afghanistan in a few months and you’re doing Christmas early for him because he won’t be here? Oh, God. Here, take these. You were the first person to email me and discuss baby stuff out of the blue? (Hi, Amy). Here, take all this, and I’ll add your beautiful baby girl to the dedication.

(I should mention, I have no copies of anything left right now. You’ve been warned.)

I love the fact anyone takes the time to read my work, let alone post a message or whatever to comment on it. For all my squillion thrilling flaws, ingratitude is really not one of them.

It almost always comes down to the fragile headjunk simmering inside my skull, which keeps up an internal monologue of deadline guilt, panic at saying something stupid that’ll get me in trouble with my overlords (there’s always something), and general discomfort around people in situations where I’m miles from my comfort zone. A lot of people with public gigs say the same thing: that when their fans (or equivalent demographic) come up to them and say nice things, they can’t help feeling a bit like frauds. I remember very exact moment when I saw someone was literally, actually nervous about coming up to speak to me. I’ve never felt so weird in my life. I just wanted say grab him by the shoulders and say “You don’t understand. I shouldn’t be here. I’m just a guy that has a level 85 Rogue and reads fantasy books all the time.”

Mind you, I look at Alexander – who’s now almost 6 months old – and think similar things. “You don’t understand. I shouldn’t be here. I’m not a Dad, I’m just me. I trip over clothes that I can’t be bothered to put away, and think stupid shit like how people probably saw in black and white before I was born.”

I’ve been writing this for about an hour, with many deletions, and I should probably start making tracks to the airport terminal. if you’re at Chicago Games Day, I may just see you on Saturday. If you are, please be nice. I miss Katie and Alex like crazy, I’ll be jetlagged to Hell and back, and I’m so late with this deadline that I’m considering having my editors assassinated, so I can vanish into the jungle.

For anyone who follows my Facebook messages: No, I didn’t put one of Katie’s thongs on my head and pretend to be Bane on the plane. I was, however, immensely tempted.

July 27, 2012 - Posted by | Uncategorized


  1. I hope to see you there. I promise to be nice who knows we might even get a beer in

    Comment by Michael Byrne | July 27, 2012 | Reply

  2. Totally got ya. I pray for old age when my witt will slow and I can either totally concentrate on either whats in my head or have the sweet kiss of age make me forget.

    Comment by Keith Bruce | July 27, 2012 | Reply

  3. Your a sad sick man stay safe and we’ll see you when you get back x

    Comment by Maureen Greer Knox | July 27, 2012 | Reply

  4. Don’t forget to speak to your bosses about getting some downtime from the 25th of September! Everything will be better when your rogue hits 90 🙂

    Hope the convention goes well.

    Comment by mike raven | July 27, 2012 | Reply

  5. That came across very Chuck Palahniuk *thumbs up*. I know precisely what you mean about the whole gig thing. When I used to DJ out that there was this big hidden fear that they’ll soon discover i’m an absolute muppett. Good luck with the convention and get that bloody Betrayer finished 😛

    Comment by tim clowes | July 27, 2012 | Reply

  6. It’s a truism that coming home is the best bit about being away.

    I remember the first time I was away from Jamie for any length of time when he was a baby and it was incredibly hard. But they’ll both be there waiting for you when you get back.

    Travel well, travel safely and have a good time.


    Comment by Sarah Cawkwell | July 27, 2012 | Reply

  7. Something strangely soothing in a tortured, missing loved ones and pouring a tiny fraction of my heart out way to read, especially seen as I’ve just finished a nightshift and I’m missing my loved one a large amount too atm. It’s nice to see the human side of the people we hold up and have a huge amount of respect for.
    Incidentally I won’t be at Games Day, I do however look forward to seeing you at the weekender in Nov and will more than likely, nervously shuffling my way towards you to speak either too fast to understand or just stare at you as I hand you my books to sign, it’s true I stood there for what felt like eternity when I met Graham McNeil this year before I realised I blurted a cliche question at him and he was answering me, if I any of that feel free to shake me and tell me to get my act together.
    Anyway, I hope the rest of your travels go well.

    Comment by Gareth | July 27, 2012 | Reply

  8. The obvious question of why you have one of Katies thongs with you is in the forefront of my mind dude.

    Why not distract yourself by asking each nervous signee for gift ideas to take back to them both? Single malt?

    I can sympathise with the sleeping thing. I’m the polar opposite when it comes to the night-time sounds, fox cries don’t freak me out as much as they should, nor does the cuckoo, hedgehog humping, or a Chinook avoiding the cities. Now in the big city (a la Debbie) a Citroen Saxo going past makes my eyes snap open like I’ve just heard breathing from under the bed.

    FYI keep the airline earplugs, they offer them for a very good reason!

    Comment by Mark Grudgings | July 27, 2012 | Reply

  9. Raspberry bonbons? Dude, srsly? That’s just wrong…

    Comment by shavenwookiee | July 27, 2012 | Reply

    • Partial to the strawberry ones myself. Eat them until they do that weird thing to the inside of my cheeks which makes them slightly painful to eat, then wait until I forget I got to that point and eat more.

      Bonbons are fucking amazing

      Comment by sycopat | July 27, 2012 | Reply

      • OMG, I’m surrounded by weirdos… If you’re gonna have a travel sweet, it has to be original werthers! Lol

        Comment by shavenwookiee | July 27, 2012

  10. Just checked out Razed in Black as a result of this. Pretty neat. Especially this http://spoti.fi/LUaQOt.

    Thanks for the tip (I’m not talking about the song, mind. Bane thong. Awesome).

    Comment by Nazaradine | July 27, 2012 | Reply

  11. You just touched on the one thing that worries me the most about ever being published with a major corp and being forced to promote yourself. I, much like you, was forced to follow my parents around to not only visit every freaking country in Europe before I was 9 (and loads of other places too), but also to take up residence in some of said awful places. I remember feeling dislocated and weird no matter where we went. In Ireland I was the weird redheaded kid with a pagan mother who had to practice piano for 4 hours a day, in Denmark I was the weird kid who spoke the language perfectly but would go into fits of speaking Irish and writing Gaelic. And now we are both here, travelled out. I no longer find joy in travelling without my trusty sidekick but most of all I am afraid that I too in time will turn into my parents and drag my child all over the world because being a globetrotter is supposed to bring meaning to every child’s life (I shit you not, that was my dads motto)
    So hang in there dude and when it all seems completely hopeless and bleak, and a nervous nerd edges nearer with a shiver, remember that you are doing it for Katie, for Alex and for all of your fans who cling to your every word and who will gladly help you chase down editors and business men to ensure you get a bit of a rest after this one 😉

    Comment by Cassandra Benedicte Rabbich | July 27, 2012 | Reply

  12. You sound just like my husband Bill from the Gamers lounge! Your just like us, we like living in our bubble! Wish Katie and Alex were with you, it is always nicer to share your discomfort seeing a bit of home with you.

    Comment by Julie Anderson | July 27, 2012 | Reply

  13. Well, it’s just as awkward sometimes to come up and say hello. 🙂 The first time I got to meet someone I admired was at GenCon back in 87 (ish). Michael Wheelan was there, and I actually made a friend of mine go up to him to get something signed for me. Then back in the late 90’s at some point, a bookstore near me had a signing and reading by Bruce Campbell for his book, “If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor.” I’m standing at the front of the line as the person in front of me walks away… and he looks up and says, “What’s up Old Navy?” I’m speechless and baffled, so much so that I’m sure I had that “deer in the headlights” look on my face. So he points at my shirt, which had a large Old Navy emblem in giant letters on the front. Perhaps he was impressed that I was not wearing one of the hundreds of “Ash” t-shirts being sported by the legions of fans there waiting to have “Ash” dolls and paraphenalia signed. Not sure. But then I asked him to do something I’m pretty sure nobody has – to draw a picture of himself for my autograph. Being an actor, of course he only radiated “mild bemusement”, but, I got my sketch, with his trademark, “Stay Groovy!”, I thanked him, and off I went. Wow, that just reminded me, that I was wearing the same Old Navy shirt when I met Billy Dee Williams at GenCon (again, late 90’s). Oy, if I still had that shirt, I think I’d wear it tomorrow when I queue up in line to get my books autographed. In any case, I look forward to seeing you at Games Day Chicago.

    Comment by Shannon Tracy | July 27, 2012 | Reply

  14. “before the last few years I lived in cities anyway, and nighttime traffic is as relaxing to me as the ocean is to deep people.”

    Yes! As someone who lived in London for a decade, this is absolutely what it’s like.

    Comment by markclapham | July 27, 2012 | Reply

  15. I need to try this alcoholic yak piss.

    Comment by The Troubled Scribe | July 27, 2012 | Reply

  16. If I had any drawing ability I would have to take a crack at drawing you with the hissing face and neck frill. The mental image is priceless.

    Comment by Lysander45 | July 27, 2012 | Reply

  17. Hahahaha. That was an awesome piece of writing and it made my day. Guess it’s why you’re a pro. Good luck with the vanishing into the jungle.

    Comment by Seng | July 28, 2012 | Reply

  18. Shame you didn’t pretend to be Bane, perhaps on the return flight you can wear some of Katie’s makeup and pretend to be The Joker. 😀

    Comment by Lord of the Night | July 28, 2012 | Reply

  19. I just wanted to take a moment and thank you for visiting us at Gamesday Chicago. You were very kind when you signed my copy of The Emperor’s Gift and even commented to me on how polite Americans can be. Thank you again, it was great meeting you!

    Comment by Doug Ireland | July 29, 2012 | Reply

  20. This was a completely fantastic read, even though it didn’t have any 40k in it 😉 Thank you very much!

    Comment by krautscientist | July 29, 2012 | Reply

  21. I’ve just gotten into reading your novels. I’m in the midst of finishing The First Heretic and I love your writing style and storytelling. I became an instant fan. I’m following you on Facebook and this. It’s really refreshing to see someone so down to earth and hating travel as much as I do. I completely understand your feelings on being a dad and husband. Same thing for me. My youngest is 16 months and I still haven’t come to terms with the fact I made her. I love my wife more than anything and spoil her any chance I get. Just wanted to say keep doing what you’re doing, I am a huge fan already and I’ve only read some of your book. Haha.

    Comment by theryanfactor | July 30, 2012 | Reply

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