Wednesday, February 3, 2010
Interesting times....

I really don't go in for talking about current events on the blog. The main reason for this is the fact that I am profoundly out of touch with the outside world. I don't have cable and I don't watch the news. On the rare occasion I miss the news and feel the need to absorb some fearmongering bullshit, I just drop a tab of acid and read a Lovecraft story. There's less pretense that way.

I generally assume that if something really interesting happens, one of my friends will tell me, or it will show up in some of the webcomics I read. In a pinch, I assume I'll simply absorb the knowledge through the aether, have it beamed into my mind with alien space rays, or apprehend it directly through examination of my Socratic soul using the dialectic.

I'm well aware that this isn't the most efficient or comprehensive way to aggregate information. But it still beats the hell out of watching Fox News.

The other reason I don't talk much about the issues on here is that when things are big enough to be interesting, they also tend to be so big that it's hard for me to form easily encapsulated opinions about them.

For example, when there was the big kerfuffle about Google digitizing a shitload of books and thereby egregiously violating international copyright law, I was interested. Anything dealing with intellectual property rights effects me personally and professionally. So I read a bunch of stuff about it, thought some thoughts, and had a few really good conversations with a few of my librarian friends.

The upshot of my research? It's a really complicated issue, and I have mixed feelings about it. Is Google being a bit of a dick and doing morally questionable stuff? Absolutely. But.... Well.... It's more complicated than that.

See? Any blog I wrote on the issue would be nothing more than a long-winded shrug. Not terribly fun to write, and not particularly entertaining to read.

That's my recent take on the current Amazon dealio.

For those of you who haven't heard. Amazon (the bookseller) recently got into a bit of an argument with Macmillan (a book publisher) about e-book pricing. As a result, Amazon pulled all of Macmillan's books off their website. Not just the e-books. All the books.

I've done some research and talked to some people and my conclusion is that.

1. This is a big deal.

2. Amazon is being a bit of a dick, and attempting to bully folks in order to get more of the publishing pie than is really fair.

This feels weird for me to say, because honestly, Amazon has been good to me over the years. They gave me good reviews and really helped promote my book early on. It was really nice.

But it really doesn't matter how good they've been to me in the past. If you're nice to me, then beat up my neighbor for his lunch money, you're still a bully. I'm afraid there's just no way around it.

3. This whole thing is pretty complicated, and I'm not well informed enough make any real intelligent assessment of the overall situation or what it might mean for publishing, DRM, or the future of e-books.

If you're interested in that sort of thing, you might want to check out this blog written by the lovely and talented Charles Stross. He understands the landscape of publishing WAY better than me and does a great job of summing things up.

Amazon, Macmillan: an outsider's guide to the fight.

Here's also a blog from Tobias Buckell that has more technical details. He does some of the math for you and explains what all this really means in a delightfully low-bullshit way.

Link to Buckell's blog.

Here's the public statement from Macmillan too.

I'm bringing this to your attention because if you're like me, you sometimes miss things like this unless someone points them out. Also, I'm guessing most of you kinda like books.

I like books too, and while two companies having a corporate slapfight might seem far removed from the book you pick up, read, and enjoy, the truth is that these corporate manoeuvrings have very real effects on which books get published in the future, their quality, and how well authors get treated in the process.

If anyone else has relevant links they'd like to post in the comments below, please feel free to do so. I'm way too tired to dig up more stuff right now. I've got to go to bed.

We're living in interesting times, folks....

pat

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posted by Pat at 52 Comments



Monday, May 5, 2008
Interviewing Felicia


Over the last year, I've given a lot of interviews. I haven't counted, but I'm guessing there have been somewhere between thirty and forty.

Generally speaking, I enjoy them. I have a strong oracular element in my personality, which means that when people ask me questions, I feel moved, compelled even, to answer them.

But that's only half the story. I'm also a big asker of questions. I have a vast curiosity about all manner of things.

Combine this with my profound geekery, and you can understand why, when I got the opportunity to interview the fabulous and talented Felicia Day, I jumped at the chance.

Behold the result....

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So tell us a little bit about yourself....

I'm a professional actor (meaning I pay the bills solely with acting work, cross fingers) and I've lived in Los Angeles for almost 8 years now. I moved here after going to the University of Texas at Austin and getting Mathematics and Violin degrees. Natural progression to acting, don't you think?

I consider myself a "Jennifer of all trades" meaning I do a LOT of things PRETTY well. It's not a good long-term plan, but it's my personality.


Okay, I'll take the bait. If you started as a mathematician and violinist, what prompted you to make the transition into acting?

I got a bad tendentious in my left pinky during college which caused me a lot of pain when I played. I had to get cortisone shots in the joint to keep playing. (It actually hurts when I play too much Guitar Hero now, LOL). That, combined with the narrow reality of a professional classical musician's career choices, made me decide to focus on the other thing that brought me joy after college: Acting!

I also feel obliged to mention for all my fellow geeks out there, that one of your acting gigs was in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Felicia here played Vi in season seven.

So what have you been up to lately?

Recently my focus has been on creating web content. I'm the creator of the web series called "The Guild," which is about a group of online gamers.


It's awesome on toast, and I'm not the only one who thinks so, as it recently won a bunch of fabulous awards, too. How did you get involved in working on that?


I created the show as a half-hour television pilot after I shook a two year addiction to World of Warcraft. People read the script, thought it was funny, but thought it was too "niche" for TV because it's about a group of online gamers. My friend and producing partner Kim Evey had just had fabulous success with her own YouTube videos, so after reading my script, she suggested we do it for the internet. We shot the first two episodes with our producer, Jane Selle Morgan, on our own dime, and after that we've been wholly supported by viewer donations through Paypal! It's pretty cool. Like PBS for online web series.


Hold on. You actually quit WOW? You don't play at all anymore?


Well, up until a month or so I did. I actually re-upped my account to see if I could play a normal amount of time (and to do some "research" for the show, haha). I had to quit cold turkey in the beginning though, it was consuming my life. I would move any WOW related tasks to the front of the queue, over career and family even. It got bad. Thankfully, my experience playing now is much more casual. I've only logged on a few times in a the whole month and it was easy to log off again after a few hours, keeping it short and sweet and playing with friends. Cross fingers I can sustain that!


In addition to playing the female lead in The Guild (Codex) you also write the script. Is this your first experience with screenwriting? Is it something that you're interested in pursuing more of in the future?

I have 4 or 5 scripts written... halfway. The Guild was the first one I actually finished and rewrote and polished. It took an amazing amount of sheer will to get it on the page because I haven't been writing since I was a kid like most accomplished writers. I absolutely admire writers more because of the whole process. I can't believe YOU got through so many HUNDRED pages with your book! Phenomenal!!


Well... I didn't write the whole book straight through, you know. I stopped around page 450 to get a sandwich and use the bathroom.

How do you go about your own writing?

The key for me was letting myself write badly at first in order to have something to rewrite and make better later on. I constantly have to beat down a perfectionist voice in my head. It holds me back in a lot of areas. Thankfully, the success (and fun) of writing the Guild has encouraged me to start writing other things and pursuing writing more seriously. I have several projects in the works now for TV and film. Getting them done is my main goal this summer!


Ooooh. I'm all tantalized. Can you tell us anything about your other projects?


They're still in the development stages, but one is a half-hour comedy, and the other is my ATTEMPT to add more fantasy into the hour-long genre. We'll see if it works!


One of the hardest parts of being a writer is actually trying to sell the book. A lot of authors spend years racking up rejections. Is the auditioning process similar to that?

Ooooh yes. It's even worse (well, from my perspective!) After you send in your book and get rejected, at least you get your book back and can take it other places. As an actor, you go in and do your interpretation of a role, and when you're rejected, they give it to someone else. It's not a judgment that you're necessarily bad, you just aren't what they're looking for, but it's hard not to take it personally. The mechanics of the actor's audition process is grueling, and I never ever will get to the point where I'm not anxious and nervous when I go in to read for a part.


Though it fills me with shame, I constantly check my Amazon Sales rank to see how well my book is selling. Most authors admit to doing the same thing. Is there anything similar that actors do?

Of course! Ratings are a #1 topic of conversation with anyone in the industry! Personally, I check my hits on YouTube a lot, especially the first few days after we post a video. The immediate feedback of the internet is pretty gratifying (and horrific depending on the comments : ) ) I have Google Alerts set up on my name and the show name and other phrases to constantly update me on what the web is saying about me/the show. After a while you get a much thicker skin, haha.


What sorts of things have people said over the years? Can you give us an example of something that's really gotten under your skin?

I really hate the racist comments against my cast members, I remove all those comments immediately. It's surprising how many they actually are, especially after we get featured on the front page of YouTube.

I also am irritated when people make fun of us for only putting out an episode a month, implying we're lazy or something. It touches on the part of me that is frustrated we don't have the budget or means to do them any quicker, but also shows that a lot of people don't understand what it takes to make a 5 minute short that looks much better than the average video. We don't just have one guy holding the camera, we have a real crew, who are all professionals, and who are working for free or near free. Hopefully for the next season that will not be an issue, as we're talking with several people who are interested in financing the show.


What's the weirdest fan moment you've ever had?

Well, I actually interact with fans on an everyday basis because I'm so wedded to the internet, so fan communication is actually a two way street with me and I generally ask fans for more stuff than they do of me! But the best experience I've had recently is when I visited Austin, and my brother and Dad and I went to Bed Bath and Beyond together to get a bath mat of all things, and a guy who worked there came up and asked me if I was Codex. Right in front of my Dad, which was so cool because not only did I create that character myself from scratch, my Dad got to see the reality that what I'm doing is "known". It was a great feeling.


You recently got to work with Joss Whedon on "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog." What can you tell us about that?


I can tell you that it's going to be make a lot of people want to sing after hearing the music. Joss and his brothers Zack and Jed and Jed's fiance Maurissa wrote the show together to go on the internet in three parts. Joss had seen The Guild and had been percolating the idea of an internet musical for a while, and he said that watching the Guild was a part of the inspiration to get it done; that and the strike.


Hold on. You inspired Joss Whedon?


He said it was a PART of what spurred the work on Dr. Horrible. Don't make it seem like I'm claiming too much credit for it!! I worked with him on Buffy a few years ago and was crazy lucky enough for him to hire me for the part of Penny. I can't tell you what a fabulous experience it was working on it, the script and songs are fantastic! For someone in Joss' position to do something this experimental is great because not only is it going to be a huge success, it's going to make people look at internet content in a new way. I can't wait for it to be released!


Do you have a date for that?


I believe he said it will be released on the internet before Comicon.


Okay. I have to ask. Is Joss Whedon as cool as I think he is?


Yes, he's worthy of every kind of crush you could develop, I hate to say it. He's one of the most creative people I've ever met and he has a good and true heart. A real gentleman and a pleasure to be around.


Oh good. I have such a crush. I'm one tiny step away from setting up a little shrine in my house. It's only through a supreme effort of will that I've kept myself from doing something extreme to get him a copy of my book. I don't want to be that guy....


Let's say the impossible happens and The Name of the Wind gets made into a movie. We both agree it would be dreamy if Joss Whedon wrote or directed it, but what would your ideal cast be if you got your pick?

OMG that's hard, I'd have to read it again to refresh (the paperback is by my bed just for that purpose actually, haha!!)

Kvothe = Damien Lewis or a young version of him. (Life cop show, Band of Brothers) Jesse Tyler Ferguson also came to mind? (The Class)

Bast = the guy from American Beauty, Wes Bentley (What happened to him?)

Denna = Kiera Knightly or Natalie Portman definitely. Or the girl from Serenity: Morena Baccarin?


Oooh. Good picks. I hadn't ever thought of Morena Baccarin as Denna....

Would you have any interest in playing a part yourself?


My dream role would be Auri. I like playing damaged goods, haha.


So you live in LA, where everyone is beautiful. What happens when you take a trip to somewhere like Wisconsin. Is it traumatic looking at us regular folks?

That's funny! It is true that LA is filled with freakily beautiful people. I feel a lot prettier when I go out of town because the bar is set SOO high here! In LA I'm considered for the "plain" or "homely" characters mostly, I get called in for every one of those roles. They end up being more fun to play in the end, so I definitely don't mind. But going back to Austin and dressing up and getting head turns, that's pretty fun too, haha!


What's the worst part of the whole actor gig?

Auditioning. It's the most important part of the career, but you don't know that going into it. You have to consider auditioning the sole (unpaid) function of an acting career. When you actually get hired, that's the exception. And it's the thing that keeps you going, of course: Those moments when you're on set and working. There's nothing like it!


Any advice for aspiring actors and actresses out there?


Don't expect someone to pick you up off the street and make you a star: That's like winning the lottery. Make your own work. It will fill your hours with fulfillment and also lead to things you'd never expect.


Like with The Guild?


Yes! Like me with "The Guild"!


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In a gesture of inspiring largess, Felicia has said that she's willing to give away 10 autographed photos to folks out there that would like one. Well, eleven pictures, if you're counting mine....

If you'd like to be part of the random drawing for one of those pictures, why don't you send me an e-mail at paperback.contest {swirly at symbol} gmail.com with your mailing address. We'll leave the drawing open until... say... May 12th.

Lastly, today marks the end of the paperback photo contest. I have to say that the response has been beyond anything I could have reasonably expected. There have been so many submissions that it's going to take me at least a week just to sort them out, judge the best of them, and award some prizes.

That means if you spaced out and forgot to send your entry in, you can probably sneak it in tomorrow and I'll pretend to be too busy sorting to notice....

Later all,

pat

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posted by Pat at 16 Comments



Thursday, April 3, 2008
"While I'm alone and blue as can be..."

I don't dream often. I've never had the "show up naked at work" dream. Or the "I didn't study for the test" dream. I've never had sex dreams, not even when I was teenage and sloshy with hormones.

My ha'penny theory is that I don't dream much because I don't have many inhibitions, so my brain doesn't need to let off much steam when it's on vacation. Another theory is that I don't have much separation between my conscious and my subconscious minds.

Either way, last night was the exception to the rule, because last night I had a dream.

I was in a classroom, similar to the room where I used to take physics in high school. The room was full, two people sitting at each of the large, black worktables, and there was someone teachery up at the front.

It wasn't high-school, or college, but it was definitely a class of some kind, and I was definitely one of the students.

The teacher never said anything, not through the whole dream. He/she was just a faceless presence at the front of the room. Everyone knew what was expected. We were going to be reading our stories aloud to the rest of the class.

I wasn't anxious. If anything, I was a little smug because I was going to read from The Name of the Wind. And, all Midwestern modesty aside, I think the book is pretty awesome. This was my chance to be cool in front of the other students.

I'm first. I don't go up to the front of the room, it's not that formal. I just and turn so I can face most of the class and pull out the hardcover. I'm excited with that slight sweaty-palm feeling I always get before a performance.

I start to read, but some of the words are hard to see because they're caught in the middle of the book where the pages come together in the binding. I lose my place once or twice, make a mistake, and start to sweat as people start to move around in their seats, bored and embarrassed on my behalf.

Then the lights start to get dim so I can't see the text on the page. But I know I can't stop reading. I only get this one chance. Either nobody else notices the lights dimming, or they consider it part of the reading. Either way I know that it's no excuse to stop. By now I can't see any of the words. I'm having to fake it and things are a real mess.

At this point, I have some sort of seizure. I literally fall down on the ground and foam at the mouth. From the strange semi-detached perspective of the dream, it's actually something of a relief, because now I don't have to keep doing my sucky reading.

I'm not clear whether it was a real seizure. It's not that I don't remember what happened in the dream. It's that the dream itself it was ambiguous. Was it real? Did I fake it so that I didn't have to keep reading? Was it real but I hammed it up so that people would feel sorry for me? I really didn't know.

The paramedics come and take care of me, and everyone admits that it wasn't really my fault that I had to stop reading. Understandably, I'm glad it's all over.

Then everyone starts writing out their evaluations and passing them to the front of the class. And somehow I can see what everyone is writing. Most people are giving me A's, but some people are giving me B's or C's. Then, I see the worst thing.... someone has given me.... a C-.

I'm laughing now as I write about it. That was the big reveal. My book got a C-. But you know how it is in dreams. At that moment, I was profoundly ensaddened and hurty inside. It was like every teenage angst of my life distilled down into one powerful, emblematic event.

And then I realize that I'm not wearing any pants.

Seriously. I'm not making any of this up. I don't know if I've been missing my pants this whole time, or if perhaps the paramedics have taken them off as part of some innovative attempt to revive me. All I know is that I'm still wearing my t-shirt, but I'm totally nude below the waist. It's not a very long t-shirt either, just barely halfway covering all of my dangerous man-stuff.

Worst of all, nobody has noticed, and I know that if I could just somehow get out of the room, I'd be safe. But I'm in the middle of the classroom and there doesn't seem to be any way to leave without drawing attention to myself....

And that's the end of the dream. I didn't wake up in a cold sweat or anything. I actually forgot about everything until I was in the shower.

So... yeah. Welcome to the inside of my head.

Personally, I think the whole thing was brought about by the fact that yesterday, despite my better judgement, I read the pair of two-star reviews that showed up recently on amazon. I know that I should be over that sort of thing by now, but... well... apparently I'm not.

Plus, all I had for dinner yesterday was a bunch of bowling-alley nachos and a huge chocolate chip cookie. I will admit to actually dipping the cookie in the cheese at one point. I'm guessing that's what caused it. That sort of behavior is bound to anger the gods.

Later folks,

pat

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posted by Pat at 38 Comments



Saturday, November 10, 2007
Confessions of an Amazon addict

Ok, I have a confession to make. My name is Patrick Rothfuss, and I am addicted to Amazon.com.

Not for the reason you might think, while I do use Amazon to occasionally pick up cheap DVD sets and hard to find out-of-print stuff, I actually do most of my book buying from the local independent bookstore. It's hard walking away from Amazon's sexy, cheap books, but I feel better about shopping locally. I know the money is staying in the community.

No, I'm addicted to Amazon for another reason entirely: the Amazon Sales Rank.

For those of you who don't know about it. The sales rank is how well your book is selling on Amazon compared to all the other books. As I write this, I can see my rank is at #1224 among all books. A very respectable ranking, especially considering that I'm a new author.

What you might not realize is that authors don't have any way of finding out how well their books are selling. We can read reviews and take guesses, but for the most part, we don't have access to any real factual information about how well are books are selling. Every six months we get a royalty statement and that's about it.

What we do have is the Amazon sales rank. You want to know the maddening thing? It updates, like, every 15 minutes or so. That means that I am fucking compelled to keep a Firefox instance open to my book's Amazon page ALL THE TIME. Then, no matter what I'm doing, I can hop over and click refresh. Again, and again, and again. Just to see if it's changed.

Ooh. Now I'm at 1028! Someone must have bought a book! Maybe two! I am a tiny god!

Because I'm constantly refreshing on Amazon, I've also developed a secondary addiction to the Amazon reviews.

Generally speaking, the reviews have been good. People like the book, and they have been generous with their praise. Every time I saw another 5-star review I got a warm fuzzy, and for several months, I was powerfully proud of my unbroken 5-star average. Then a few people gave it 1-star reviews and my average dropped to 4.5 stars, causing a great wailing and gnashing of teeth on my part.

Still at 1028.

As a whole, I respect the concept behind the Amazon reviews. They're like true democracy in action, everyone gets to chime in and let their voice be heard. PHD in English literature? You get 1 review. Fourteen year old boy who loves Nascar? 1 review. Benobo chimp addicted to methadone? Assuming you have a credit card, you get a review too.

Still 1028. Maybe it doesn't update every 15 minutes.

While I respect the egalitarian nature of the Amazon reviews, it does tend to occasionally remind me how really low the lowest common denominator really is. A couple days ago some choad posted up a 1 star review because the book was 900 pages (which it isn't) and because he'll have to wait for book two to come out. I can respect a bad review if the person makes a few salient points, but my suspicion is that this guy hasn't even read the book.

Nooo! I'm at 1375 now. I suck. The Karma gods are punishing me for defaming some poor anonymous reviewer's character. And perhaps for the gratuitous use of the word 'choad.'

Okay. Another confession. I just bought a copy of my own book to see if it would make the Amazon rank go back up. It didn't (I expect there must be a delay.) But when I made my order, I saw that right now they're selling my book for less than fifteen bucks. How cool is that? I'm all about shopping locally, but 40% off is a significant chunk of money.... Maybe I should buy a few more... Is it tacky to give away your own book as a Christmas gift?

Okay, I've rambled long enough. I should get back to revisions of book two....

Later,

pat

P.S. Still 1375.

Edit:
P.P.S. In the comments below, RoseNeko posted a link to an article so perfectly relevant to this that I wanted to
LINK IT HERE for all of you to see. Bless you Neko, and the person who wrote this article. Maybe now I can start letting my obsession go.

Y'know... using 'P.S.' Doesn't make much sense anymore. For one, it was a convention that came about when you wrote letters longhand, so the P.S. was necessary in case you left something out. Nowadays there's no reason to leave anything out. Since I'm typing everything out, I could just go back and add it into the original post.

What's more. P.S. stood for 'post script.' But I'm not scripting anything, I'm posting a blog. So really, it should be P.P. for 'post post.'

But somehow I don't think that's going to catch on...



P.P.P.S. 1087


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posted by Pat at 41 Comments



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