Driving cross country across the U.S. with my parents (my first visit home in 5 years, and since they needed to make the trip, I figured what better than to experience it with them? It also let me see my siblings and extended family), I noticed that I wasn't going to be that far from Santa Fe. So ... long story short, details were sorted out. Very cool.
The drive to Santa Fe was remarkably beautiful. I hadn't realized how high up the city is -- elevation over 7,000 feet! Parts of it reminded me rather a lot of Monterey, California, which also has its roots as a Spanish colonial town. It's a lovely place, and I can see why GRRM and Parris live there. On arriving at GRRMs homes (yes, homes -- one across from the other; each day he takes his "morning commute" over to the house that serves as his office), GRRM came out to say hello. While my parents took off to dinner, GRRM and I went into the office, where I immediately noticed several things:
Miniatures on display. Foreign editions of ASoIaF. All kinds of books, actually, some which looked like references. And the computer on which all the magic happens. I later noticed that he had a lot of the art from the Fantasy Flight Games CCG hung up on the walls around the work area. Wow! As we went to his den (after he called Parris to let her know I had arrived), I commented that I knew people who'd pay to get a look at his place. He casually gestured to a box on a desk and said with a smile that that's what people would really pay for. "That" being -- you guessed it -- the latest partial manuscript of AFfC, ready to be shipped off to his editors for their perusal. I should have touched it, or something.
We chatted for a bit, then Parris arrived. I didn't know it was possible for someone to be so friendly, but Parris managed it. ;) She was tremendously kind, and generous with her praise of the work Linda and I had done with Westeros.org, as well as how great all the Brotherhood are (with particular regards sent Lodengarl's way)!
From there, we went into the older part of Santa Fe, to have dinner at a place called The Bullring. Wonderful food, suffice it to say, and at a great location. Following are some brief snippets amounting to my recollections:
Comic books were discussed somewhat, and Wild Cards as well. This connects to ASoIaF because GRRM's response regarding how popular Dorne and the Red Viper were among readers was how it was rather the "Boba Fett" effect. He himself had witnessed this in the WC books, when an extremely minor "red shirt" (in this case, a character specifically introduced early in the series to be killed off later on) was killed, only to have a fan club for that character send him an upset letter to him. The character only had one line in all of his appearances!
GRRM's quite pleased with reports of people spending a great deal of time arguing about characters, rather than just plot details (though that, too, is great). Yes, this came out when I was trying to lure him into discussing Stannis and/or Jaime, but he wouldn't indulge me that far. ;)
There are wyverns in the setting, and we'll learn something about them in AFfC. This came out during a discussion of heraldry.
Long ago, someone (LindaElane?) learned from GRRM that his visit to New Zealand and Rotorura park (full of geysers, natural hot springs, bubbling mud, and the smell of sulfur) had inspired a location that would appear in the books. That location hasn't appeared yet, but it will in time. Linda and I are guessing Valyria, or possibly Asshai.
Parris and GRRM were both enthused with how beautifully the Lord of the Rings films came out. We all shared a particular like for the introduction to the second film, with its gorgeous vista of New Zealand's Southern Alps and then its entering through the window to the scene at the Bridge of Khazad-dum. ("Yeah. Gandalf should have stayed dead." -- GRRM) In connection to LOTR, GRRM recalled how popular it was in his college days, and that an expression of that love was the popularity of maps of Middle-earth. You were likelier to see a map than a drawing of a character or a scene. This, he says, shows how Middle-earth was practically a character in its own right in the book. I think he hopes that Westeros is as alive for readers as Middle-earth is, with its castles, ruins, wonders, and history.
GRRM said he wanted to have the series be done at six books -- then noted that Parris said it'd be seven. She grinned rather impishly, nodding her head.
Daemon Blackfyre rebelled so many years after Aegon the Unworthy's death for several reasons. One was his growing resentment at having the status of a bastard, and what it meant. Another was that he gained councillors who urged him to it. Among them was Fireball, a knight of House Ball in the Reach, who had been master-at-arms at the Red Keep during Aegon's days. Aegon promised him a place in the Kingsguard, when an opening made itself apparent, but he died before that could happen. When a spot finally opened up under Daeron, Fireball reminded him of his father's promise ... and was not given a place in the Sworn Brotherhood. GRRM said that Fireball was loosely inspired by Hotspur Percy, hence the name (referring to his fiery temper).
There was no discussion about when AFfC would be finished -- it'd be done when it was done. But as already noted, he is sending manuscripts to his publishers, so it's certainly progressing.
Once dinner was done, we went back to his office, where more cool stuff was shown off. I saw his miniatures displayed, including the Brian Rodden figures that the fans bought for him as presents (he noted that the blue serpent of the Dukes of Milan was his inspiration for making Prince Oberyn the Red Viper), having pride of place with the Robert figure that Parris had commisioned for him. I also saw his Prime Collection, as he called it, which was a copy of every single thing he had ever been published in, in their first editions.
Then it was time to go. It was one of the best meals I've eaten in a very long time, but the company was better. :)