Thursday, August 28, 2008
DragonCon

In less than ten hours I'll be leaving for DragonCon. I'm trying to look forward to it, but honestly, right now it's hard for me to see the convention as anything other than a pain in the ass.

Part of the problem is that I over-scheduled myself this month. Four conventions and a family vacation in August means that I've spent 9 days at home this month, everything else has been travel.

Don't get me wrong, I've had some good times, (more stories will be forthcoming) but it's easy to have too much of a good thing.

Adding to my lack of enthusiasm about the con is the fact that I'm not going to be on any of the programming. One of the main reasons I go to conventions is so I can sit on panels and discuss writing, worldbuilding, and stuff like that. At Worldcon I did 6 or 7 hours of panels, autographings etc. At Gencon, I did 11 hours, not counting a reading and signing at the nearby Indianapolis library.

Dragoncon? 1 hour. I have a reading at 1:00 on Saturday and that's it. (So if you're looking to catch me at the con to get your book signed, that would be the easiest place to do it.)

And now, looking at the Dragoncon page, I see that for some reason I've actually been removed from the list of official guest authors. Oh totem spirits of the con, what have I done to anger you? Let us not quarrel amongst ourselves, and instead use our combined powers to usher in an age of peace, enlightenment, and fluffy bunnies.

That said, angry spirits, if you chose to stand against me, be aware that I have terrible powers at my disposal. Should conflict arise, I will destroy you as easily as Optimus Prime would tear the stuffing from a one-armed Muppet with a learning disability.





Humorous hyperbole aside, I am looking forward to the con. This will be my first Dragoncon, and I hear it's a hoot. It will be nice to just be able to stroll around and look at things, as opposed to rushing from one panel to another.

Plus, I'm thinking of wearing a kilt. That might be tricky, if I was doing a lot of panels. Panelists tend to sit up in front of the audience, and I'm not used to keeping my knees together....

For those of you who are going to be in the neighborhood, but don't want to brave the convention crowd. I'm going to be making a stop at the Decatur book festival while I'm in town. I'll be on a panel about Fantasy with Peter S. Beagle from 12:00 - 1:00 at the Decatur Library Stage, wherever that is.

Yeah. That's going to be cool. I'm also hoping to hang around a bit with Peter at bit at the convention. Now that we've already met once, hopefully I can be a little more relaxed.

If you happen to see me at the con, feel free to come up and say howdy and ask me to sign a book if you have one with you. I'm down with that.

That's all for now folks. Wish me luck,


pat


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Wednesday, August 27, 2008
How David Anthony Durham Saved My Life

A year or so ago, I made the online acquaintance of fellow fantasy author David Anthony Durham.

Normally, I don't associate with people who have three names. It's just intimidating. Plus, on a practical level, it's hard to deal with. Does he go by the full "David Anthony?" Is he a "David" a "Dave" or an "Anthony." Hell, he could even be a "Tony." I have a real problem remembering names. Even the simple first names of my friends. That means someone with three to seven different potential names is going to give me a lot of trouble.

I can't remember how we first got in touch. But I do know that our first contact was over e-mail. And, to tell the truth, I was more than slightly intimidated by him.

Part of this was due to the fact that before his most recent novel (an epic fantasy called Acacia) he wrote literary fiction. While I'm not one to engage in genre snobbery. The fact remains that to Lit Fic has a certain amount of cultural cache. A certain gravitas.

Another intimidating thing was the fact that he had a tenure-track job teaching creative writing, which means he's got some hefty edumication under his belt.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, this picture was the the first I ever saw of him:






Not only was he thinner and more attractive than myself. But to me this picture says: "I'm going kick a man's ass, then go read some Coleridge. You have a problem with that? No. I didn't think so. Move along."

I know, I know. It's wrong to judge a book by its cover. It's doubly wrong to judge an author by his jacket photo. If you were to do that with me, you would be forced to assume that I was some sort of rogue Muppet, eremite priest, or Russian dictator.

When I finally met him at a convention. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that most of what I'd assumed about him was off-base. He wasn't pompous, or stiff, or academic. He was relaxed and friendly, with an easy laugh.

At the last convention we hit together, Wiscon, we sat at the bar for an hour or two and had a lovely argument about Heinlein, and a different argument about C.S. Lewis, and a discussion about purpose of literature and the ethical responsibility of the author. We disagreed a lot.

It was lovely. I love few things more than a conversation with an intelligent person who is passionate in their beliefs and willing to disagree with me.

In short. He turned out to be my favorite sort of person. The sort of person that I wished lived closer to me so that he could come over to my house, watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and get his ass solidly handed to him at Settlers of Catan.

Because, as I've said before, I cannot be beaten at Catan.

Lastly, though not leastly, David may prove instrumental in insuring that y'all get to see books two and three.

Let me explain. At World Fantasy convention last year his hotel was hell and gone from the convention center, and I had rented a car. So one night when things were winding down, I offered to give him a ride.

We wandered out of the hotel to the parking lot. After we had climbed into the car, he looked at me and said, "You're not wearing your seatbelt?"

It wasn't the sentence itself, it was the way he said it. He wasn't chiding, or disapproving. He was honestly shocked. More than that. He was aghast. It was the same tone I use when I say, "You smoke?"

When I say this, usually the unspoken part of my comment is clear, "What are you, a fucking idiot?"

When he looked at me and said, "You're not wearing your seat belt?" I thought to myself, "Of course. I should wear my seat belt. I'd be an idiot not to."

And ever since then, I've worn my seat belt. This means that I'm much more likely to live long enough to get you day two and three of the trilogy, and many more after that.

Despite all of his coolness, it took me a long time to get around to reading David's book. I did mention his book, right?





It's epic fantasy. A nice mix of big empire-level stuff and character centered story. He's a great worldbuilder, which is where my heart lies, and his cultures are varied and well-developed. He leans more toward description, where I tend to do more dialogue. But we're playing a similar game in many ways. Odds are if you dig on Tolkien, Acacia will be right up your alley. Check it out.

That's all for now,

pat

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Friday, August 22, 2008
What should I do #9: Precipice
Odds are if you like computer games, you either know about Penny Arcade, or you live under a heavy, heavy rock.

What some folks don't realize is that Penny Arcade recently put out their own video game titled On the Rain-Swept Precipice of Darkness. * I played it a while back and enjoyed it to a surprising degree. The interface is solid, the steampunk-ish world is appealing, and the game itself is pleasantly challenging in places, though by no means Nintendo hard.

As you can tell by the title, it's rather tongue-in-cheek. The tone isn't like anything else I've run into before. It's like H. P. Lovecraft and Terry Pratchett had some sort of oddly charismatic love child with Tourette's.

For me, the main selling point was the wit, the good use of language, and the irreverent humor. I'm a big fan of that sort of thing, if you hadn't already guessed.

Best of all, if you're like me and fear leaving the house during the summer for fear that the sun might touch you. You can download the whole game directly via the intertubes.

If you're curious, there's a demo available. If you like that, then I strongly urge you to buy the game and support them in their future endeavors.

That's all for now folks,

pat


*** Edit: An attentive reader has pointed out that the title is actually "On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness." I stand corrected. My bad.

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Convention stories


It seems like every time I'm at a convention, a thousand small, cool things happen. There's usually a dozen or so that catch at me, and I think, "I'll write about that in the blog when I get home."

But then I actually get home, and I'm tired. Then the next day I need to do laundry, and answer about 800 e-mails, and make lusty snugglebunnies with my girlfriend.

And sometimes I write, too. I don't know if y'all have heard, but there is a book that I'm supposed to be working on.

Typically, by the time I'm caught back up with my life, the memory of those cool little moments has faded somewhat. And so most of them just gently evaporate without ever being written down. Which is a shame, really.

So, instead of trying to weave all of these things into any sort of consistent narrative, I'm just going to bang a few of them out there. If you're one of those literary folks, you can think of these as vignettes. If not, you can just pretend you're reading a Vonnegut novel.


*****


I hate it when you're at a crowded convention, and people stop in the middle of the hallway to talk to their four friends.

I know that one of the great joys of the convention is running into people and having a nice chat. I myself have been known to stop and talk with friends I haven't seen in a long while. However, the center of the hallway is not the place for this conversation. A coffee shop? Yes. Over dinner at the Italian place? Certainly. How about over in the lounge there, on the couches? Why that sounds lovely too....

The hallway? No. That is not the right place for your reunion.

You see, the purpose of a hallway is to allow people to move from one place to another. That is its primary function. That is key to the platonic form of the hallway. If you stop in the hallway to talk, you are acting contrary to the fundamental nature of the hallway. This angers god and all clear-thinking individuals. Including me. Yes me, the person standing behind you. Yes me, the person standing motionless behind you in the hallway. Yes the person who looks as if he is thinking about howling with rage, punching you in the neck, then stepping over your doughy, twitching body.

In the interest of politeness and civilization, I resist my urges. However, I am tempted to do something. Like make buttons that read: "Hallways? Ask me how!" or a pamphlet entitled: "Hallways: a user's guide for getting the fuck out of my way."


*****


Bad - My cell phone went off during a panel.

Worse - I was one of the panelists.

Worst - I was the moderator.

P.S. Then it went off again.


*****

When did clocks become unfashionable? Am I the only one who remembers when you could go into a store and there would be a clock on the wall? You know, for the telling of time? Who decided that wasn't cool anymore?

Yes I know most people have cell phones these days. But that shouldn't make any difference. People used to have watches. You know what's easier than digging around in your backpack, pulling out your phone, then opening it? Looking up on the fucking wall and seeing a clock there. That's what.


*****


Fans are cool. My fans are cool to an exponentially higher degree. At gencon, after my first panel, a lovely young lady came up and handed me this....





This isn't a terribly good reproduction of the watercolour, as I just snapped it with my digital camera. But the picture is obviously a likeness of me from when I dressed up like a gnome at gencon last year.

Did I ever post up a picture of that? I can't remember. Here it is, just in case:





I never remember to take pictures of myself at these things, so I owe this picture to the fan who sent it along to me. When e-mailed it, she told me the story of how her daughter laughed when she saw it.

Her mom though that she was laughing at the obvious thing: a man dressed like a gnome. But apparently that wasn't it at all. The little girl reached out, brushed at my face in the picture, and said, "I like his fur."

Score another point for the beard.


*****


Though I've done a bunch of traveling lately, I've never flown on Southwest Airlines before. They don't have assigned seating. Every ticket has a number, you board the plane in that order, then you pick whatever seat looks best to you, depending on what's left. It was a little weird. Not bad, just unfamiliar.

Also, Southwest apparently has the only funny flight attendants in the whole business. I've tuned out the standard safety procedures for over a year now. You know what I'm talking about: that little pre-flight spiel where they explain how the seat belt works and lie to you about your seat cushion being able to float.

But on Southwest, the woman said, "Please listen closely while my ex-boyfriend and fiance demonstrate the safety procedures." And I did pay attention, especially when she started to make fun of one of the guys who couldn't get his life jacket on quickly enough for her taste. Later, when she was walking down the isle, one of the guys got on the intercom and made a boom-bada boom-bada noise in time with her walk. It was good fun.

Lastly, on Southwest, they don't cheap you on the snacks. They go around with a big box of different goodies, and if you say, "I want one of each." Then they just give you one of each. They didn't act like the CEO was going to count the packets of peanut butter crackers at the end and beat them if one is missing. Plus you got a whole can of soda and not just a cupful, which I appreciate.

These may not sound like much, but life, like writing, is built from small details. If I'm going to pay 400 bucks for a plane ticket, then I want a whole can of soda and an extra packet of peanuts. Does it make me feel better? Yes. Yes it does. It's like being given the choice between sodomy and sodomy with a little lube. You're going to have the sodomy either way, so you come to appreciate whatever small pieces of consideration the airline overlords grant you.

*****

That's all for now. More later. Off to bed.

pat

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Thursday, August 14, 2008
Titillation
So today I had a phone conversation with some people. It was a conversation with cool implications for the future. It's a long way from anything certain, and I can't tell you what it was about, but I can tell you my girlfriend's reaction....

When I finished with said conversation, I called Sarah and told her about it.

Then she said, "That's so exciting that I'm going to puke."

As you can see, I'm not the only wordsmith in our relationship.

In lieu of cool news. (That's a fun sentence, by the way. You should say it out loud. Do it.)

Here's a photo someone sent me of the Italian version of the book, on its home turf. Note the awesome castle in the background.




Later all,

pat (From a crappy hotel computer in Indianapolis.)

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Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Conventions, Forwards, and Jetlag.
So right now I'm in LA. I'm in the eye of the storm, schedule-wise. I was at Worldcon last weekend, and I'll be at GenCon in a couple of days. Right now I'm helping out a little bit with the Writers of the Future workshop.

And when I say, "a bit" I mean just that. The workshop is run by Tim Powers, who (whom?) I've mentioned before on the blog, albeit briefly. He's one of my favorite authors. And not only does he have an amazing grip on the craft of writing, but he's a great teacher to boot. That means, for the most part, I feel my best contribution to the workshop is to nod and occasionally chime in with an emphatic "hell yes."

Worldcon was cool. I sat on some panels talked about writing, and generally avoided making too much of an ass of myself. That's about as much as I can hope for, overally.

I got about 30 people for my reading, which was nice. I read some poetry, a couple humor columns, including one of my old favorites about guinea pigs, and a tiny piece of book two. Not even hardly a taste, just a tease.

I also had my first experience of randomly seeing someone reading my book in public. Unfortunately, it was at a convention, so it only counts for half points, but it was still pretty cool.

I think I freaked out the woman who was reading it though. I walked up to her and said, "That's my book!" She looked up at me with mingled surprise and horror. Understandable really, that's how I'd feel if I looked up and saw some freakish hobo-muppet crossbreed grinning down at me.


Next weekend I'll be at Gencon, doing all manner of panels, readings, and signings. I'll also be making appearance at the local library, accompanied by the awesome costumers who won the photo contest. A good time will be had by all.

And in related news, I've written my first-ever introduction. It's for the new Order of the Stick collection.

Gech. Stupid hotel computer. I can't make it display the cover of the book. You'll just have to follow the link, I guess.

If the comic sounds familiar, it should. Rich Burlew was the cartoonist who did the lovely tribute to Gary Gygax that I linked to a while back.

It was fun writing the forward for the book, as I really love the comic. Plus Rich drew a comic version of me which is pretty dead on. If you're interested, the book will be available for sale at Gencon, and can be ordered off Rich's website.


That's all for now folks,

Pat

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Wednesday, August 6, 2008
Interview - Fantasy Literature
I can't remember if I mentioned this before, but a little while back, FantasyLiterature.net picked my book as the Best Book of 2007.

Now we've done an interview too, because we looove each other....

Enjoy,

pat

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Saturday, August 2, 2008
Video Interview Part 2


Here's part two of the video interview that I posted a while back. For those of you who are into that sort of thing....




Share and Enjoy,

pat

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