Saturday, February 14, 2009
My Trip to LA: Part One

So, it's been about a month since my trip to LA.

Now some folk will quibble and say that I was in *Pasadena,* not LA. But that is a distinction that matters primarily to folks who live in the LA area. To the rest of us, that entire gob of city there in Southern California is all LA.

It's best not to split hairs about these sorts of things. If we're going to get technical, I would have to explain to people that I'm not originally from Madison proper. I'm actually from the Town of Burke, right next to Madison. And right now I'm not in Hayward, hiding from the world and writing, I'm in the nearby township of Lenroot, or something like that.

These are pointless little truths that don't do anyone any good.

This is the art of storytelling, you see. Telling small lies in pursuit of a larger truth. The art of being a reader is being willing to work a little to get at the meat of the story, while at the same time accepting the occasional bent technicality and comma splice.

Anyway. LA was awesome. I was flown out by the lovely folks responsible for one of the winning pictures in the photo contest. Not only are these ladies lovely and willing to get naked for my book, but they are also rocket scientists. Seriously. So while I was out there, I got to take a tour of JPL and look at cool spaceship stuff.

I got to see oranges growing on trees. Which might not seem like a big deal for most of you, but for me it was pretty cool. I also saw lizards running around wild, and can now identify a eucalyptus tree. I got to play some new board games and walk around outside without wearing a coat or hat or anything.

The book signing itself turned out to be a marvelous success. We had a surprising number of people show up, I'm guessing 100 or 120. They had to bring out a bunch of extra chairs, and even then people were standing in the isles and sitting on the floor.

It was a good crowd. I read a few Survival Guides, a poem, and a snippet of book two. I told some stories, answered questions, and got a few laughs. Afterwards, I signed a buttload of books and got to chat one-on-one with folks. Someone brought me wine, someone else brought me an entire care package including memory sticks and tickets to Disneyland.

Though I love the swag, I feel obliged to remind folks that the "Something Cool" rule only applies to books you're mailing in for me to sign.

That said, if you have something you'd *really* like to give me, far be it from me to stop you….

Of particular interest was something that happened halfway through the reading. I was answering some question or another, and I looked out and saw Felicia Day sitting at the back of the crowd.

Now this is the point in the story where I don't exactly know what I should say. Normally when I'm telling a story out of my real life, I go with the truth, even when it's embarrassing or unflattering. I don't know exactly why I feel obliged to do this, but I do.

But for some reason, as I tell this story, I want to lie. I want to pretend I was laid-back about it. Pleased, of course, but also nonchalant. I'd like to portray myself as relaxed… cool. Like the Fonz from Happy Days. Or like the modern-day fantasy author version of the Fonz: Neil Gaiman.

I've seen Neil Gaiman a couple times. He's a great public speaker, funny, insightful. He knows how to work a crowd, and he's irritatingly good at reading his own work out loud.

Even better, he's terribly gracious in person. I once watched him get ambushed by a fan who was desperate to have Gaiman read his manuscript. The guy clung to Gaiman and wouldn't take no for an answer. I found it irritating from a distance of fifteen feet, but Gaiman was unfailingly polite through the whole exchange.

I'm not graceful in that way. I honestly don't know how I come across in public, but sometimes I expect that it's something like the way my old dog, Pup, used to behave.

He was a big liony mutt that I grew up with as a kid. An outside dog who never knew a fence, as we lived out in the country and let him run wild. He a smart dog, and a vicious hunter. He patrolled our house, protecting us from pretty much anything.

Despite the fact that he was a great hunter and defender, he was also very friendly. Unfortunately, it was like he never figured out that he wasn't a puppy anymore. When someone came over for a visit, Pup would jump up on them, putting his paws up on your chest (or your shoulders, if you were shorter) and lick your face.

This is fine behavior if you're a fluffy puppy with milk-breath, or if you're an adult dog hanging out with your family. But Pup treated everyone that way, even when he was full grown, shaggy, and smelling of whatever interesting he had found to roll in.

I suspect that's what I must be like when I'm in public most of the time. I'm this great shaggy beast who gets excited about meeting new people, and does the conversational equivalent of jumping up on people and licking them in the face.

This means that when I want to be socially graceful, I need some sort of internal touchstone about how I should act. So when I see Felicia Day sitting in the back of the room, I think to myself: WWNGD?

I'm guessing he would not, for example, stand up at his own reading and say: "Holy shit everybody! Felicia Day is here!"

So I didn't either. But I tell you, it was a near thing. I'm pretty sure I kept my game face on, and kept answering whatever question I was in the middle of. But the truth is, inside I was standing up and pointing, shouting: "Holy shit! Everybody! Felicia Day!" with all the enthusiasm of a four-year-old who has just seen his first real firetruck drive by on the street.

(Re-reading this, I think I need to add another item to my ever-growing list of Things You Should Never Compare a Woman to Under Any Circumstances. Number Seven: Firetruck. Perhaps any type of truck.

For the record, please note that this particular use of firetruck is being used to describe my reaction to Felicia, not Felicia herself.)





Anyway, after the reading, I managed to grab Felicia and chat for a bit before I started signing books. By this point I'd settled down a bit and was able to behave like a regular human being.

But still, every once in a while, my head would spin around a bit and I would think, "Wha? Who is this? Holy shit. I'm talking with Felicia Day!"

*****

Well folks, due to my tangential nature, this particular blog has ended up being WAY longer than I'd intended. I'll post the rest of it in a day or two, how's that?

In the mean time, if you don't know what the big deal is, you can go check out Dr. Horrible, where Felicia plays Penny. Or The Guild, which Felicia writes and produces in addition to playing the part of Codex.

Later,

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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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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