Monday, December 29, 2008
Home for the Holidays

While I live in the cozy little town of Stevens Point, I grew up near Madison. That's where my family is. It's home, in the biggest sense of the word. That's where I go when the family-type holidays roll around, and that's where I went this Christmas.

A couple months ago, I went down to Madison to attend Wiscon. It's nice to go to a convention that doesn't involve spending all day on a plane, and this one is practically in my backyard.

While I was there, I ended up hooking up with Tobias Buckell and David Anthony Durham. And by "hooking up" I mean that we were going to hang out at the coffee shop and chat. Not that they aren't attractive men and all... But... well. Yeah.

Anyway, before I go into the coffee shop, I hit the Jamba Juice next door. Because I love Jamba Juice. Specifically, I love the Orange Dream Machine smoothie. If there was a Jamba Juice here in Stevens Point, that is all I would eat. Ever.

So I get a smoothie and head across the street to the coffee shop. There, I order a mocha and politely ask if it's okay for me to bring in my smoothie. The hipster behind the counter is cool about it, and I tip him generously.

So Toby, David, and I are waiting for our drinks when a policeman shows up. Not mall security. This is a real cop, blue suit, badge, gun and everything.

This makes me edgy. Back in high-school my friends and I used to be hooligans. Our main hobby was toilet-papering houses. In a small town like Deforest (which is where I went to school) that means that you have to get pretty good at dodging the cops, because most of their job was keeping us from doing stuff like that. It was like an elaborate game of tag.

My friends and I were pretty good at it, and we were never caught. We developed highly sensitive cop radar that let us know when to run or hide.

The unfortunate result is that these days, whenever I see a cop, I feel like I've done something wrong. This isn't helped by the fact that at any given moment that I might be returning from, going to, carrying around, or at least thinking about something illegal.

So when I see the cop, I immediately feel shifty. I do a mental inventory of my pockets and backpack, wondering what I have on me that might get me in trouble. This is also a holdover from highschool. Back then, innocent things riding around in your car with you can get you in trouble. Things like fireworks, silly string, shaving cream, and, of course, the case of toilet paper in the trunk.

But I don't have anything on me. Lockpicks might raise an eyebrow, but they're legal to carry here in Wisconsin. I have a bottle of caffeine in my backpack. And while it looks suspicious, it's not illegal either. I'm clean.

Still, I can't help but feel like this cop is giving me the eye. I get my mocha and wander over to the condiment stand to add my requisite four or five sugars. I'm sure of it: he's looking me over. Is it because I have terrorist beard? That might single me out in line at the airport, but in a coffeeshop in downtown Madison? Not likely. There are hippies here aplenty.

I head over to the table Toby and David have picked out, and he's still watching me. What is it? Am I wearing my t-shirt that says, "You say tomato, I say fuck you." No. Is it my black leather trench coat? Am I just radiating latent guilt? What? What?

He comes over to the table where I've just taken off my coat. His expression is serious, he's frowning a little. Then it occurs to me - the Jamba Juice. He knows that I shouldn't have it here in the coffee shop. Is it illegal to have a carry-in?

He then he says. "Did you write The Name of the Wind?"

And I'm floored. He's read my book. We chatted for a bit, and I got to look popular in front of my fellow writers.

However, I knew that for what it was, a fluke. There had been a story about me in the paper a couple days before. A "Local Boy Does Good" sort of thing. They used a picture of me, and I have to admit I do have a bit of a distinctive look.

Jump forward to last week. Sarah and I are walking out to my car in the Borders parking lot. Heading toward the bookstore is a stranger, making more than the usual amount of eye-contact. As he had some respectable chin growth, I figured he was just expressing beard solidarity.

But then, as he comes closer he nods and says, "I like your work."

I say, "You're kidding me. You know who I am?"

He does, apparently. Still, I can pass this off as a fluke too. It did happen in the parking lot of a bookstore, after all.

But then, two days later, I'm at the post office mailing the check out to Heifer. When I hand the guy the envelope, he looks down at it, then says, "Are you the writer Pat Rothfuss?"

So... yeah. It was weird. Cool, but weird. It's nice that these last two things happened when Sarah was around, so she thinks I'm cooler than I really am. This is important because she's much prettier and nicer than me. I need to have something to balance the scales out.


In unrelated news, I'm going to be making an appearance at a bookstore in Pasadena on January 17th. I can't lay my hands on the details right now, but I'll post them up as soon as I can find the appropriate piece of paper.


Hope everyone is having a good time,

pat

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Monday, December 22, 2008
Reaping the Whirlwind

First, I'd like everyone to take a moment and appreciate the clever title of this post. I'm unreasonably proud of it.

We good? Okay.

After a long week, Sarah and I have finally managed to tie up about 99% of the loose ends on the fundraiser. We've drawn numbers, sorted prizes, sent e-mails, and packaged nearly everything up.

And when I saw "we," I mean "Sarah." I did a lot of the sifting, number juggling, and e-mailing, but Sarah was the package queen.





Awww.... She loves those packages. Those hundreds and hundreds of packages.

Also, as you can see in the lower lefthand corner, the holy light these prizes exude can shine through cardboard, tape, and two layers of bubble wrap. It's powerful stuff.

I'd also like to note that these packages do not include the Subterranean Press books. Because not only was Subterranean Press cool enough to donate a great pile of stuff, they were nice enough to handle all the shipping for those books too. Which is why I am filled with love for them.

And speaking of love....





Here Sarah is modeling the catgirl hat many of you have seen before. I wanted to prove that I actually did buy it for her, and wasn't secretly keeping it for myself.

Simply said, the fundraiser would have been impossible without Sarah. She spent dozens of hours bundling up books, running errands, and generally getting everything done. Hell, the trip to the post office alone took two full hours, and that was with a friend with a van helping.

Everyone say, "Thank you Sarah."

And now, answers to some final questions.

  • Things went really crazy right at the end of the fundraiser. What happened?
Things did go a little crazy. On December 9th, I mentioned on the blog that I thought we had a decent chance of breaking $40,000. Then, we raised over $16,000 in the next two days, tearing past $50,000 and leaving me worried that I was going to have to take out a loan so I could cover my half.

A big piece of this was brought about by folks spreading the word on their blogs. Most notably, Neil Gaiman.

I'd heard through the grapevine that Gaiman was a bit of a Heifer supporter, so I sent him a little e-mail, asking if he'd be interested in mentioning it on his blog.

I should have realized that asking for something like this would be like sticking my tongue into.... well... into anything, really. In my experience, whenever you stick your tongue into something, the outcome is going to be either very exciting, very dangerous, or both.

This was one of those "both" situations. After his blog, Gaiman's readers flooded over to participate in the festivities. Felicia Day mentioned it on her blog too. Plus, I know a lot of folks were finishing their own personal fundraisers and/or waiting until the very end to make their donations. Hence the crazy.

Rest assured, everyone who got their donations in by the 11th was entered into the lottery.

And yes, I'm all twitterpated that Gaiman referred to me as a "good author." Though I hope at least some of that was referring to my storytelling as opposed to my ethics.

  • The donations hit nearly $55,000. How much are you matching?
The other day I asked Sarah, "What do you want for Christmas?"

"Nothing you can afford to get me," she said huffily.

And we laugh. This has become the running joke in our house.

I've decided to match all the donations. I could have stopped at forty thousand, but I said I'd keep matching until the 11th, and I like to keep my promises.

  • What was the final total?

If you've read the blog that started it all, you know I offered two options to people who wanted to donate. There was the Sure Thing option, and the Lottery option.

A surprising number of people chose the Sure Thing, which meant they mailed me a check and I mailed them something back, usually a book or a map signed however they wanted it.




(Click to Embiggen)

A *lot* of people chose this option. So many that I ran out of first edition books. The total amount raised from the Sure Thing option was over six thousand dollars.

That, plus my matching donation from the lottery, minus the cost of postage and packaging materials, brings us to $58,493.14





I'm showing you the check not as proof that I'm mailing it, but because it took me ten friggin minutes to write this thing out. I screwed up five checks before I managed to get it right. I misspelled "ninty," wrote the wrong amount, wrote the wrong year, and failed more than once to get the total to fit on the line.

I keep pretending that I'm a grown-up, but I'm not.

Anyway, this money, plus the donations that were made directly to the Heifer page, makes a grand total of $113,466.28.

I don't have words enough to express how happy this makes me. I firmly believe that deep down, people are fundamentally good. But it's nice to have some data that backs that sentiment up every once in a while.

I'd like to thank all the authors who donated books, all the people who mentioned the fundraiser on their blogs, and all the people who donated money to the cause. Yay us.

  • Are you planning on doing this again next year?
Yes. But I'm planning on doing some things differently.

More stuff. A lot of people wanted to contribute books or other goodies to this year's auction, but they didn't hear about the fundraiser until it was nearly finished. I've already got stuff piling up for next year's fundraiser.

Streamlined lottery. Next year, when you make your donation you'll be able to mark what prizes you're interested in. That way if you win something, it will be something you're sure to like.

Auctions. Some prizes are really cool, but only to a very select group of people. So next year we're going to auction those items off separately. These might be things like manuscripts. Or they might be services, like an author agreeing to insert your name into an upcoming book, a lawyer offering legal consultation, or feedback on a manuscript from a literary agent.

  • I want to be a part of next year's fundraiser. How can I help?
Donate. Want to chip in a signed book or two? Lovely. Have a cool collectible or unique skill you think would be a worthwhile addition? Wonderful. I'm already collecting prizes for next year. Send them along.

Or maybe you'd like to be an even bigger part of the fundraiser? I'm going to be looking for official sponsors to help me match donations for next year. I'd like to be able to do all of it on my own again, but I just can't afford it.

If you'd like to help out, drop me a line on my contact form or send an e-mail to Paperback.contest (squiggly at thinger) gmail.com.

Spread the word. Not everyone has signed books to donate or money to throw around. But you can help a lot by letting people know about the fundraiser. A lot of the prizes I received came from authors who contacted me, saying, "A fan sent me an e-mail about your fundraiser and I'd love to be a part of it." So if you know someone that might be interested in helping, donating a prize, or potentially being a sponsor, talk to them about it. It's a big help.

Help me come up with a name.
We *really* need a name, folks. We can't keep calling it "The Heifer Fundraiser." It lacks panache. Names are important things, you know. And they can tell you a lot about a fundraiser.

Right now, the best I've been able to come up with is "Worldbuilders." But we need something catchier than that. I know that a lot of you are word-clever, as shown by your constant, witty definitions of the word verification giberish. Funnel the churning magma of your creativity toward this problem and I'm sure we can come up with something good.

In fact, let's try to get the ball rolling in the comments below. Serious suggestions only please. Believe me, I've come up with enough sarcastic-sounding ones on my own.... (Geeks for Goats being the least lame of these.)


Thanks again everyone,

pat

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Thursday, December 18, 2008
Various and Sundry things.

A couple days after watching Prince Caspian and going all frothy about it, I watched Wall-E.

Pixar never fails to amaze me. I can't help but wonder how, as a team, they manage continuous brilliance. Well... to be fair, Cars was merely great. But other than that, everything they do is just a different flavor of incredible. Constantly manufacturing a good creative product is hard enough. But constant excellence produced by a changing team. That's nigh-impossible.

Frankly, I expect some manner of pact with dark powers.

Or, more likely, Pixar has something like cull-the-heard Wednesdays. Where once a week someone quietly wanders through the office and has a close look at everyone. Susan is doodling a palindromic sestina on her napkin at lunch - Check. Terry is spontaneously reciting pi to a song of her own creation while using the Xerox machine - Check. Dave is humming the theme song from "Land of the Lost" while sending out zombie invitations on Facebook....

On Thursday, when the other workers ask why Dave's desk is empty, management explains that they transferred him to a nice animation studio out in the country where he'll have plenty of room to run and play.

So... yeah. Suffice to say that if Pixar wanted the rights to make a movie of the book, they wouldn't have to fight very hard.

Sarah and I have almost managed to put the fundraiser to bed. Tomorrow should be our last busy day. After it's all done, I'll post up some pictures, give the final donations totals, and talk about our plans for the future.

I won't be posting up a list of winners and their prizes because that would involve me putting folks' personal information up on the web without their permission, and that isn't cool.

Also, I didn't e-mail everyone who won, because it would have taken WAY too long. So you might have won something even if you haven't heard from me. But don't e-mail me and ask about it. Seriously.

In other news, I'm on Goodreads now. I'm not planning on spending a huge amount of time there, but you can add me as a friend if you're into that sort of thing.

And lastly, could some tech-savvy person out there do me a bit of a favor? Namely, could you change my Wikipedia picture, preferably to one that makes me look slightly less like a serial killer?

I appreciate that someone went through the trouble of uploading a photo. And I don't deny that it's a fairly accurate depiction of how I look most of the time. But still, if there is going to be a picture of me, I'd rather it not look like something that was pulled from a pamphlet titled "How to Spot a Sociopath."


Later all,

pat

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Monday, December 15, 2008
The settling dust....

Well, the fundraiser is over, and most of my weekend has been spent dealing with the fallout.

I'll post up a more detailed blog about the aftermath in a couple of days. I'll talk details, show some pictures, give the final totals, and discuss the plans for the future.

But for now, my priority is sending out the books to everyone who won prizes. That means I'm too busy packaging things up with Sarah to write up a new blog right now. And no, that's not a euphemism.



(Click to embiggen)

Check out all the swag, and this isn't even including Subterranean Press's books.

The more observant of you might note that my book is glowing with some sort of holy light. That's right folks, not only is it a cracking good read, but The Name of the Wind will actually help you cut energy costs by illuminating your house. Plus, basking naked in its warm glow will help your body generate much-needed vitamin D.

This is why they don't let me write ad copy.

In other news, if you're looking for a way to pass the time, I did an online author panel thinger with a few other folks over at bookgeeks, talking about the classic science/magic issue.

So if you're interested in what we had to say, or if you're just looking to kill time at work, feel free to wander over there and check it out.

Later all,

pat

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Thursday, December 11, 2008
The Perils of Translation: Babelfish.

Alright folks, while I'm dealing with the aftermath of the fundraiser, here's a question from the mailbag.

Pat,

You've mentioned your translators on your blog before, generally in glowing terms. I don't really see what the big deal is. You wrote something great. You made something out of nothing. But they're not doing that. They're not really making anything, they're just.... copying it.

Plus, don't you think that what they do is rapidly becoming obsolete? They already have programs that can translate languages. One wonders why they bother having people translators at all.

Your fan,

Steve

At first, Steve, I thought you might be pulling my leg with this e-mail. "Nobody could really think translation was easy," I thought to myself. "He has to be putting me on."

Then I realized that I've been having a crash course in the perils of translation over the last year and a half. And I remembered that most Americans are pointedly, painfully monolingual. And I remembered one of my friends saying as a joke, "How hard can it be to learn French? French babies do it all the time...."

So I'm going to take this question at face value, Steve. The truth is, translation has got to be one of the hardest jobs there is. Period.

First off, you have to be fluent in two languages. Not just kind of fluent, but *really* fluent. You need to understand the culture of the language you're translating from, and the idiomatic speech.

Like what I said up there in my first paragraph. "Pulling my leg" is an idiom. It doesn't mean what it actually says. If you're pulling my leg, it mean you're playing a joke on me, teasing me.

There are a thousand little things like that stand in the way of true fluency, and you can't just copy them over into the new language and have them make any sense. For example, if I said, "You have a bird," in Germany, I'm not actually saying anything about a bird. What I'm actually saying is that you're crazy.

Secondly, you have to decide if a translation is going to be true to the letter of the work, or true to the spirit of the work.

What do I mean by this? Well... I'm reminded of what one of my favorite professors said when I asked him which version of the Odyssey I should read. I was looking for the best translation, and I trusted him, because he had a good old-fashioned classical education and could actually read Latin and Greek.

"It's not really an issue of the best translation," he said. "My old classics professor used to say, 'a translation is like a woman. It can be beautiful, or it can be faithful, but it can't be both....'"

Sexism aside, I think this strikes to the heart of the issue. A word-by-word translation is going to be clunky and awkward. But a beautiful one isn't going to actually say the exact same thing as the original. A translator needs to walk that fine line between. Or rather, they have to dance madly back and forth over that line.

And as for translators being replaced by computer programs? I give a hearty laugh. Translation is not a science, it is an art. And as such, it belongs solely in the realm of humans.

Most everyone knows about Babelfish. Let me show you what something looks like when I use that program to translate something from English to German and back again. If this were as simple as plugging numbers into an equation, we should end up with the same thing we started with, right?

Here's a paragraph most of you probably recognise:
I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trebon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in. I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during day. I have talked to Gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep.
You may have heard of me.
After Babelfish.
I stole princesses back of sleeping truck kings. I burned down the city of Trebon. I spent and with my reason and my life left the night with Felurian. I was away-driven of the university at a recent age, than most people are inside permitted. I step ways by moonlight, which others are afraid, in order to speak during from the day to. I spoke loved women and written Lieden, who let the Minnesänger cry with Gods.

They can have heard of me.
And that's using German, a language so closely related to English that if they were people, it would be illegal for them to get married.

Look what happens when you do the same think with a language that's *really* different, like Japanese:
I stole the king woman from wheelbarrow king of sleep. I burnt under the town of Trebon. I passed the night of Felurian, my sanity and went away with my life both. I was discharged rather than being able to allot most people from the university of a younger age. I the other people between day step on the road with the moonlight which is feared in order to speak concerning. I God, to the song by the document which makes the woman and the wandering minstrel cry who are loved spoke.
It can inquire about me.
Yeah. I think the translators' jobs are safe for another year or two.

pat

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Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Some of the Best for Last - More Delicious Swag

Did I mention that Heifer International called my house? Yeah. They're the coolest folks. Apparently some of them have been watching our fundraiser with more than passing interest. They confirmed something I had started to suspect. Namely, that y'all are cool as hell.

This is the last treasure post, and we have some lovely stuff. Detailed below, we have another original manuscript, signed books and ARC's, and some cool swag from Queen of the Geeks, Felicia Day.

I've raised the donation bar a couple times just in the last week, and right now it looks like we stand a good chance of actually raising more that 40,000 dollars. Which is awe-inspiring, really.

For the last month, the first thing I've done in the morning is check the Heifer donation page. It's been a great way to start my day. But I'll be honest with you, there have been a few times in the last week that I've woken up, looked at the total, and thought. "This is it. I really shouldn't match any more. I said I'd keep going until Dec 11th, but I'm sure folks will understand if I stop matching donations a couple days early...."

When I get that feeling, I go look at Heifer's website. Then I learn things like the fact that half the chickens in Korea are descended from eggs that Heifer supplied after the Korean War.

Or I read about a young man in Uganda who had to quit school to take care of his five younger siblings because his parents died. He got a Heifer, greatly improving the family's nutrition. And the money they get from selling the surplus milk is helping to pay for school.





And then I think, "I can order Chinese food any time I want, and they bring it to my house. I have a car in reasonably good repair. I have a house that stays warm through the Wisconsin winters. I have a house full of books to read, and all of Buffy the Vampire Slayer on DVD. I am living the best possible life."

Then I relax, and I realize that nothing makes me happier than raising the donation bar again. And again after that if need be.

Okay, enough touchy-feely. Let's talk about free stuff.

  • A set of the first three books in Daniel Abraham's Long Price Quartet: A Shadow in Summer, A Betrayal in Winter, and An Autumn War. Hardcover. Signed by the author.




While I haven't mentioned these books on my blog, I've read them and they're really good. In fact, these were the first books I ever decided to give an official blurb to.

I'd almost forgotten about it. But when Daniel's books showed up today, I saw that my blurb was actually there, right on the cover. First book: quote from GRRM. Second book: quote from GRRM. Third book? Quote from me. That's right baby. Me.

So obviously I thought these were great books. But don't take my word for it. Instead, why not trust bestselling author Patrick Rothfuss when he says, "There is much to love in the Long Price Quartet. It is epic in scope, but character-centered. The setting is unique yet utterly believable. The storytelling is smooth, careful, and--best of all--unpredictable."

  • An advance reading copy of Jeri Smith-Ready's The Reawakened, conclusion to the Aspect of Crow trilogy. Signed by the author.




Another one of those cool ARC's for those of you who are interested in getting a peek at the book before it hits the shelves. Publisher's Weekly says, "Myth blends with passion in this colorful conclusion to the Aspect of Crow trilogy."





Award winning author Stephen Baxter calls Mirrored Heavens, "A crackling cyberthriller. This is Tom Clancy interfacing Bruce Sterling. David Williams has hacked into the future.”

  • A copy of Questions for a Soldier, by John Scalzi. Limited edition.




Questions for a Soldier is a limited edition Subterranean Press book set in the world of Scalzi's first novel, Old Man's War. Scalzi himself says, "for those of you looking for rare and unusual Scalzi-related curiosities, this is it, baby."

Paul Di Filippo, writing for The Washington Post Book World says, "Scalzi's imagined interstellar arena is coherently and compellingly delineated....His speculative elements are top-notch. His combat scenes are blood-roiling. His dialogue is suitably snappy and profane."

  • A set of S.C. Bulter's Reiffen's Choice and Queen Ferris, books one and two of The Stoneways Trilogy. Signed by the author.




Children's Literature says, "Fantasy fans of all ages will be drawn into the world that Butler has created…. If one wanders away from the main characters they will not fall out of the story but will find another story somewhere in the Stoneways or Valing, and that is the mark of a truly great fantasy."





This husband and wife team just sent me some of their stuff out of the blue. And I'll admit that when this graphic novel showed up, I invoked my sovereign right of... um... book-lookingness. Anyway, I read it. And it was pretty cool....

According to Publishers Weekly, "The tale's unfamiliar setting and the uncanny events work together intriguingly."





In a starred review, Kirkus says, "Featuring both an uncommonly well-conceived setting and buckets of high-energy action, Taylor's debut tale of a thumb-sized devil hunter who comes this close to meeting her match belongs at the top of everyone's fantasy must-read list."

  • A copy of Dead to Me, the debut novel of Anton Strout. Signed by the author.




Anton Strout is, among other things, my mortal enemy. However, I'm willing to set aside any personal rancor I feel toward the man in order to accept his generous gift on behalf of Heifer International.

Bestselling author Charlaine Harris gives this review: "Following Simon's adventures is like being the pinball in an especially antic game, but it's well worth the wear and tear."

  • An ARC of Fenzig's Fortune by Jean Rabe. Signed by the Author.




Jean has donated both a signed ARC, and a signed hardcover to the cause. Publisher's Weekly says that, "Readers of all ages will find simple pleasures in this traditional hobbit-inspired fantasy."

  • A manuscript of Steven Savile's new Stargate novel, Shadows, book one of The Iblis Trilogy. Signed by the author.




I can't say enough good about Steven. When he heard about the fundraiser, he immediately went out and started beating the bushes for donations. He brought in the folks from Bad Moon Books. He tipped off Kevin Anderson and many others. Finally, he's donated this lovely manuscript.

Here's what Steven says:

"Shadows is the first book in the Iblis Trilogy, an SG-1 novel featuring the original team. What makes this manuscript unique is it includes all of the mistakes and material that MGM won't approve - so there are a good 10,000 words different between it as a first draft and the finished book which is coming out at the end of January. The story itself pits the team against the Goa'uld, Iblis, and features the Mujina, an archetypal monster who can be all things to everyone, the hero and villain their heart most desperately desires."



(That's not my thumb this time, folks.
Judging by the grace and poise, I think it might be Felicia's.)


When I heard from Felicia a couple days ago, I hurried downstairs to tell Sarah.

Me: Felicia Day just sent me an e-mail! She says she'd like to donate a signed copy of The Guild DVD and a Dr. Horrible poster signed by the cast.

Sarah: Well that must make you excited enough to pee.

Which, in fact, sums up my reaction quite nicely.

I made a blog post about The Guild a while back, singing its praises. Later, Felicia and I interviewed each other, each in our respective blogs.

What I'm getting at is that I thought she was cool even *before* Dr. Horrible came out and she worked a deal with X-box to sponsor season two of The Guild.

The Los Angeles Times praised The Guild as "perhaps the smartest (and definitely the funniest) webisodic series of the year." This year, they're putting out a new season that's way more budgety.




If you haven't heard about Dr. Horrible, then you obviously haven't been reading my blog for very long. Maybe you have been living under a heavy, heavy rock. Or perhaps you hate everything that is lovely and good in the world.

How much do I love Dr. Horrible? I'll let this picture from my Halloween party tell the story:





Yeah. The ladies were totally into my Dr. Horrible costume.

So... yeah.
Dr. Horrible was bigger than Lennon, and the poster is pretty cool too. Signed by Felicia Day, Neil Patrick Harris, and Nathan Fillion. This prize is guaranteed to make you excited enough to pee.

That's all she wrote, folks. Remember you have until the end of December 11th to get in on the action. Tell your friends....



Want to know how to win these and other fabulous prizes while making the world a better place? Check OVER HERE for the blog that describes it all.





Rock on, team geek.

pat

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Sunday, December 7, 2008
On Hollywood, Narnia, and the Nature of Stories

So the other night, I rented Prince Caspian.

The Chronicles of Narnia were my first chapter books when I was a kid. I can actually remember when my mom bought them for me. I was outside the Waldenbooks at East Town Mall. She came out of the store and she handed them to me. It was a big deal. I seem to remember her saying, "I think you're ready for these." But I don't know if that is a true memory or not.

I do know that my mom was desperate to get me into reading chapter books. I just wasn't interested. I liked picture books. When we went to the library, I would check out as many as they would let me, then I would take them home and read them all inside a day. Then I would pester her to make another trip to the library....

My mom chose well. I loved the Narnia books. It's safe to say that they have a special place in my heart. It's also safe to say that I might be overly sensitive when it comes to changes made in the story in the process of turning it into a movie.

That said, I liked the movie version of The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. Sure, I had some quibbles, and a few things irritated me. But as a whole, I enjoyed it.

But Prince Caspian? Sucked. Sucked to a degree that made me angry. Sucked to the degree that I actually stopped watching the movie.

This never happens. I'm a narratovore. Once I start a story, I finish it. I can count the number of books I've stopped halfway through on one hand. And I can only think of one other movie that I actually stopped watching partway through.

I gave it a fair shake. I watched 40 minutes. Then, exasperated, I pushed the button on the DVD remote that tells me how much more time is left in the movie. The readout said that I had another hour and a half to go. Too much. I was done.

Now I'm well aware that you can't just take a book and use it as a screenplay for a movie. The change in medium necessitates changes in the way the story is told. You can do things in print that you can't do on the screen, and visa versa.

But here's the thing. The rules of storytelling don't change between mediums. Story is story. It doesn't matter if you're singing it around a fire or painting it on a cave wall.

That means that no matter how you're telling it, you need your story to possess certain qualities. You need tension. You need conflict. You need your audience to be emotionally involved. You need good characters and good interaction between those characters. You need verisimilitude, drama, humor....

Okay, you don't need ALL of those. But you should have most of them. And some are absolutely essential.

You know what isn't essential? Scenery. Pretty actors. CGI.

Don't get me wrong. Those things can be great additions to a movie. But they are not the story itself. Nor are they a functional story-substitute. They are the fancy icing roses on the corners of the cake. They only work because the cake is there, underneath. You can't sit down and eat a whole plateful of frosting roses. Well, you can if you're four years old or mentally deficient. But twenty minutes and a pound of frosting later you're vomiting pink foam all over the couch.

Why? Because story is story, and icing is icing. Why doesn't Hollywood realize this?

Now don't get me wrong, I understand how hard it is to tell a good story. There are a thousand things that can go wrong. I learned most of them firsthand by screwing up my own book for years and years until I finally got it right. I imagine it's even harder to do when you're part of a team. Editors, writers, directors, and producers all have their fingers in the pie. I imagine it's a classic case of too many cooks in the kitchen.

But when you're making a movie that costs a hundred million dollars, you think they would take care to get the story right despite all that. The story is the foundation of the movie. It's the cornerstone. It's the key.

Hold on. Two hundred million? They spent TWO HUNDRED MILLION DOLLARS on that?

I know where the money went, too. Icing. CGI. Scenery. They shot the movie in New Zealand, Slovenia, Poland, and the Czech Republic.

And the scenery was beautiful. The CGI was flawless. Fine. I understand wanting to have those things. But why isn't story given the same attention to detail?

Let's say they needed a centaur for the movie, and the CGI people worked for a couple of weeks and then came back with something that looked like it was made from binder twine, turds, and paper mache.

Would everyone just shrug and move on with the movie? No. Someone would say, "This sucks. You fail at your job. Go back and bring me a real-looking centaur."

And so the CGI is great. The scenery is gorgeous. The actors are pretty. And the story is a mess. How does story so consistently slip through the cracks? How can they not understand how important it is?

It's not like they were making it from whole cloth, either. They had the book as a roadmap. A story that worked well. A story with good tension, character interaction, and a layered series of smoothly functioning story arcs. Why did they make a point of changing things that worked?

Feh.

What really drove all of this home for me was what happened the very next night.

Sarah said, "I've got a movie that I want you to watch."

Me: What is it?

Sarah: Harvey.

Me: [Sigh] The one where the guy has the imaginary friend that's a rabbit? All sorts of people have tried to get me to watch that. It sounds dumb.

Sarah: It's really good.





Obviously I'm not interested, but I can see that Sarah is excited. And she's cute when she's excited. er. Cuter. When she's like that, saying no to her is like kicking a fluffy puppy.

Besides, as a whole, she has good taste in movies. She's the one that got me to watch Fight Club and American Beauty.

So I watch it. This movie is more than fifty years old. Black and white. Probably shot on a sound stage. The sum total of their special effects probably amounted to a piece of string tied to a doorknob. On top of all that, it was fullscreen. Which I hate. HAAAATE.

And you know what? It was brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. I laughed. I cried. I want to watch it again. The best movie that I've seen in... in a long while.

If they made that movie nowadays, they would get ILM to make a ten million dollar CGI rabbit. Keanu Reaves would play Elwood P. Dowd. There would be a car chase. It would be filmed on location in Vancouver, Prague, and Akron. And it would suck suck suck. It would suck to the tune of two hundred million dollars because none of those things is in service to the story.

That's all. Hope everyone is having a lovely weekend. And the next time you're looking for a movie, you should check out Harvey.

Yes you, Hollywood. I'm talking to you.


pat

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Wednesday, December 3, 2008
The Awesomeness of Subterranean Press

Okay folks. I know you've seen a lot of blogs full of donations for the Heifer Fundraiser lately. Don't get jaded on me. This one is something new. Something ginchy.

I've known the folks at Subterranean Press for a long while. They were the first publisher to ask if I'd like to contribute a story to an anthology. Bill Schafer actually contacted me two weeks after TNOTW hit the shelves. It was one of the first clues I had that I might have done something right in the book.

What's more, I'm currently working with an illustrator on a not-for-children children's book that will be published through through them. (Details on that will be forthcoming.)

Subterranean Press publishes gorgeous books. Beautiful paper. Beautiful bindings. Stuff by great authors. Stuff that's out of print. Stuff by Neil Gaiman, Tim Powers, Robert Heinlein, Ray Bradbury....

The last time I bought stuff off their website, I looked at my shopping cart and found myself thinking, "Next time I sell them a story, I should just negotiate my contract in store credit and cut out the middle man."

So when Bill contacted me, saying he was willing to donate some books to my Heifer Fundraiser, I was understandably delighted. Thrilled, in fact.

Then he sent me the list. I was stunned. 120 books. Beautiful hardcovers. Many of them limited editions. Many of them sold out. Most of them signed.

All told, over 8,000 dollars worth of books.

Yeah. They're awesome.

Subterranean Press has Donated
10 copies of each of the following.








Last Call was the book that really convinced me Tim Powers was brilliant, and the two sequels are just as good. These are matched, limited-edition, numbered sets, signed by Tim Powers himself.

I have it on good authority that owning these books will give you the strength of ten men, cure any illness afflicting you, and grant you eternal youth.

If you don't believe me, then how about trusting the Los Angeles Daily News when they say Last Call is "Riveting...lyrical and brutal...a thrilling tale of gambling, fate and fantastic adventure."





This is a book of revived, never produced (except for a pilot to the series the book was to have become) teleplays by Robert A. Heinlein, mainly adapted from his stories. Paul Di Filippo, for SciFi Weekly says, "All these narratives are gripping and full of hooks and typically engaging Heinlein characters [....] The stories have proved themselves in print for half a century, and their virtues survive the transition to a different medium."





Ursula K. Le Guin tells us, "Keep your eye on Kage Baker! You never know where she's heading next, but its always worth going there. She's an edgy, funny, complex, ambitious writer with the mysterious, true gift of story-telling."





According to author Charles de Lint, "Blaylock allows us to see the mundane world through new eyes, to perceive the familiar as strange, and therefore exciting."





An anthology of stories by Bruce Sterling, who, according to
Strange Horizons, "has done perhaps as much as the work of any other single author to define cyberpunk, steampunk, post-cyberpunk and indeed, the broader course of the genre's development in the last three decades."




Years ago, I was at a party at Worldcon, desperately trying to and prove that I fit in with all these other writer types. After a while, I ended up in a conversation that included a bunch of aspiring writers (myself included) and Larry Niven. We were talking about all sorts of things. Writing, the portrayal of magic... general geeky writing talk. Good stuff.

I mentioned Bridge of Birds by Barry Hugart as being a gorgeous book. Nobody else in the group had read it... except Larry Niven, who agreed enthusiastically. Needless to say, I felt pretty cool....

Hugart's books have been out-of-print for a long while. But they're back, collected here. So now you can read them and feel cool too.

In a starred review, Publisher's Weekly says, "Reading Hughart's endearing historical fantasy trilogy, first published almost 20 years ago, is much like 'wandering blindfolded through a myth devised by a maniac,' in the words of Master Li, the greatest and most frequently intoxicated wise man in a colorful seventh century 'China that never was.' Their rollicking adventures pit them against everyone from murderers and thieves to emperors and gods. Numerous Chinese legends, filtered through Ox's simple perspective, blend seamlessly into both lighthearted and heartrending."






Publisher's Weekly says, "With six-guns blazing and tentacles flailing, this nifty all-original anthology delivers impressively on the "pure storytelling" promise Lansdale (Flaming London) makes in his intro. The dozen authors manage to address serious issues while remaining true to their roots and the book's theme."





Here's what Publisher's Weekly said in a starred review: "Lansdale's The Nightrunners (1987), the centerpiece of this chilling collection, set new standards of graphic violence and is probably the best novel of its type between Psycho and The Silence of the Lambs... This upsetting look at the human capacity for evil breaks with crime novel conventions when a supernatural element enters the story in the form of the grotesque deity known as the God of All Things Sharp. Twenty years later, The Nightrunners retains its ability to awe and to horrify. Six short stories that grew out of the novel, one previously unpublished, round out the volume."





This book should look familiar to some of you, as it's similiar to the one I posted up myself in the original blog when I started the fundraiser. However, these books are much cooler, as they're signed by ALL the authors.

Booklist said this about the anthology, "All the contributors share a gift for sharp-edged prose that keeps the reader pleasantly perturbed for hours."





Joe Hill's first novel won a lot of awards, including the Locus Award for best debut fantasy of 2007. Good on him.

His book was described by the Herald Tribune as "a wild, mesmerizing, perversely witty tale of horror [....] In a book much too smart to sound like the work of a neophyte, he builds character invitingly and plants an otherworldly surprise around every corner."


Want to know how to win these books and other fabulous prizes while making the world a better place? Check OVER HERE for the blog that describes it all.




Lastly,
some people have been asking me if I plan on continuing to match all the donations made. Some people have expressed concerns that I will end up homeless on the street, eating tuna out of a can with my fingers and talking to invisible people.

First, let me reassure you that I will be continuting to match donations until December 11th. I can afford it for now, and honestly, if I'm going to be irrisponsible with my money, this is the way I want to go. This is my preferred flavor of stupidity. And besides, if I don't do something like this, I'd just end up blowing it on something cool but stupid.

Second, don't overestimate my current lifestyle. Anyone who has met me in person knows I pretty much look like a hobo anyway. I only own one pair of shoes, and when you come right down to it, there's nothing wrong with eating tuna out of the can with your fingers. It saves you the trouble of washing a fork afterwards.

And I already talk to invisible people. I'm a writer. That's pretty much my job.

So yeah. I'm still matching donations. Bring it on. I'd love to hit $40,000. Let's show them what happens when high-minded geeks set their minds on making the world a better place.





Hugs and kisses,

pat

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Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Peter S. Beagle's donations.

Peter S. Beagle is one of my favorite authors. I read The Last Unicorn about once a year, and every time it just breaks my heart. It's the sort of story that I know I'll never be able to write.

Peter and his friends at Conlan Press have donated some cool stuff to the fundraiser.

Check it out:





This 72 page chapbook contains three new stories by Peter S. Beagle, inspired by the singular artwork of Lisa Snellings. According to Neil Gaiman, "Lisa's sculptures are frozen stories."

The Green Man Review gives us a bit of background and praises Peter's work: "All three stories were begun by Mr. Beagle in the space of a single hour, while sitting on the steps of his late parents' house, as his business manager held a stopwatch to his head. It's a genesis as unique as the stories themselves, with the sly humor, humanity, and awe of beauty that are characteristic of Mr. Beagle's writing. "

  • A 6X8 photo of Pat and Peter. Signed by Peter and soon to be signed by Pat.




Here's a picture of Peter and me both wearing our Serious Writer Expressions.

Undoubtedly, one of the major perks of being a published writer is getting to meet people I've admired for a long time. Earlier this year, I got to meet Peter and talk with him a bit. Terri at Conlan Press managed to perform a miracle and take a picture of me that actually looks halfway decent. Believe me, this is a true a rarity.

  • A full set of Last Unicorn prints by Rebekah M. Cox. Signed by the artist.




We'll be giving each of these out as separate prizes. So you have twelve chances to win.

I really can't say enough about these prints. Words fail me. When I saw them for the first time down at DragonCon, I was stunned. Absolutely stunned. They're gorgeous.

About Moon Unicorn, Peter S. Beagle says, "This is, for me, the most stunningly lovely vision in Rebekah's portfolio. It is at once the picture I always held to, laboring endlessly over the book; and yet it is something more, as well - something that I don't think I could have articulated in words then, and never may. All I know to say now is, yes, that's what I had in mind, yes, though I never expected I would ever see it outside the boundaries of my own imagination."

If you want to browse them more closely, and hear what Peter has to say about them, you should really take a look OVER HERE. If you'd like to buy your own copies, or any of Peter's other works, you can do that HERE.


Want to know how to win these and other fabulous prizes while making the world a better place? Check OVER HERE for the blog that describes it all.





Later all,

pat

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Donations from Bad Moon Books

The lovely folks at Bad Moon Books were kind enough to donate a bunch of signed books for the Heifer Fundraiser.





Peter Straub gives kudos to this one, saying: "In Miranda, John R. Little uses crisp writing and a masterly sense of pace to structure a brilliant short novel filled with invention, courage, and baffled love."



  • A copy of Wings of the Butterfly by John Urbancik with an introduction by Weston Ochse. Signed by John Urbancik and Weston Ochse.




Author Tim Lebbon calls this story "one of the most intense reading experiences of the year," and Weston Ochse, who introduces the book, says it's "destined to become the heart's blood of were-fiction."





Illustrated and signed by former Disney animator John Pierro.




The back of this book describes it as "a cautionary tale of the careful balances that exist between nature, magic, and technology... and the forces that bring them together."





According to award-winning author Gary A. Braunbeck, "In both the setting of the Wormwood Scrubs prison and its colorful, even tragic, inmates, Simon Janus has created a terse, tense, and powerful novella that closes in on the reader like the worst case of claustrophobia you've ever had. An excellent achievement, and a real milestone in Janus' career."





Kealan Patrick Burke is praised by Publishers Weekly as "a newcomer worth watching," and Booklist calls him "one of the most clever and original talents in contemporary horror."

  • A copy of The Confessions of St. Zach by Gene O'Neill. Signed by the author.




The editor of SF Weekly & Sci-Fi Channel Magazine says that Gene O'Neill's "words bristle with a muscular intensity that strengthens any book or magazine lucky to contain him."





How can you not want a copy of a book called Bitchfight? Author Jeff Strand says, "It's a Mike Arnzen story, which by definition means that it is a) utterly demented, and b) utterly brilliant."






According to author Brian Keene, "Vampire Outlaw of the Milky Way is what would happen if Ray Bradbury and Lin Carter got together to write a space opera. Only Weston Ochse could write something like this. In lesser hands, it would fall apart."






Award winning author Owl Goingback says, "Steve Vernon is one of the finest new talents of horror and dark fiction."

  • A copy of Johnny Gruesome by Gregory Lamberson. Signed by the author. Signed by cover artist Zach McCain. Introduced and signed by Jeff Strand.





Dark Scribe Magazine says: "With its fast cars, leather jackets, and wholesome small town vibe, Johnny Gruesome feels like the drive-in movie you never saw. Lamberson saturates the grisly ordeal with an ever- present sense of fun and melodrama - meant here in the best possible way."

  • A copy of The Not Quite Right Reverend Cletus J. Diggs and the Currently Accepted Habits of Nature by David Niall Wilson. Signed by the author. Introduced and signed by Elizabeth Massie.





Publisher's Weekly tells us, "Wilson's prose is smooth and powerful, carrying its allegorical weight with grace."


Want to know how to win these and other fabulous books? Check OVER HERE for the blog that describes it all.





More prizes will be forthcoming soon. A LOT more prizes. You have no idea. Seriously.

Stay tuned.

pat



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