Tuesday, November 4, 2008
The Art of Letting Go....
Today, as I sat at my computer answering e-mail and worrying about the election, a lovely person in Japan sent me this photo....
(The Great Buddha in Kamakura, reading my book.)
Seeing this picture made me realize that somewhere along the line, I have lost my way.
I used to be very Buddhist in my thinking. Well... perhaps not *very* Buddhist. But somewhat
Buddhist, especially for a westerner. My philosophical beliefs are an eclectic hodgepodge at best, but there's some good stuff in Buddhism. Stuff that makes a lot of sense.
One of the foundation stones of Buddhist philosophy is especially appealing to me. Namely, that desire leads to suffering.
For example: You see a kid at the grocery store. He wants a candy bar. His mom says no. Result? Suffering. He pitches a fit. Similarly, when I was in my early twenties, I spent a long time desiring various types of romance, and because none was forthcoming, suffering ensued. Much suffering.
It's simple. The more things you desire, the greater your potential for suffering. It's basic math. And when you stop to think about it, the solution is obvious. If you want less suffering in your life, you simply have to reduce your desires. You need to let go of things.
This particular truth fits in well with other parts of my personal philosophy: my love for simplicity, my appreciation for the cynicism of Diogenes
, and my basic bumish laziness.
I used to be good at letting go. I kept my life simple and had few desires. That was what made it possible for me to work on my book for more than a decade without wanting to kill myself. I told myself the truth: that it would probably never be published. I did my best to avoid that desire (sometimes with only moderate success) and therefore saved myself a lot of disappointment over a great many years.
But lately, I've fallen from that path. I worry endlessly about all manner of things. I feel responsible for so much. I want to make sure book two is really good. I want to to be pleasing for my fans and successful for my publisher. I want to lose some weight. I want my country to get back on track, to take care of its citizens and stop shitting on the rest of the world. I want, I want, I want....
And for a year now, I've been wondering why, for the most part, I'm not really happy. It sounds really horrible to say, but it's true. By the numbers, I'm way ahead of the game. But emotionally....
Here's the deal. It's one thing to be unhappy when your dog gets hit by a car and your house burns down. You should be unhappy then. Everyone can understand that. That's a sensible response to your situation.
But when your book gets published, becomes a bestseller, and gets translated into a billion languages you're supposed to feel good. You're supposed to feel super-amazing-good. But a lot of times I don't. That's not sensible. I don't understand it, and it frustrates me. Not only that, but it seems downright perverse at times. Then on top of it all, I feel like a real shit for not constantly feeling like the universe is giving me a hummer.
So why, I constantly ask myself, was I so perfectly content as a poor teacher with an unpublished book and 20,000 dollars of credit card debt? Now I own a goddamn riding lawnmower, and I worry about my lawn. For over a year now I've had a solid knot of tension nestled between my shoulderblades like a lump of hot lead. I worry about the next translation of my book. I worry about my carbon footprint. I worry that in writing this blog, I'm going to come off as an utterly self-absorbed frothing emo titmonkey.
But writing about it helps. That's what I do, you see. I write about things. That's my deal.
People who don't write usually assume that writing is a process of communication. They think I have something in my head, and I'm just transcribing it onto the page.
But that really isn't the truth. Writing is a process of discovery. I think about things, but then when I start to write about them, I learn things while I write. I figure things out *because* I write. This happens in poems. In those silly satire columns I write, in the novel, and today, it's been happening here in the blog.
Right now in fact. I think I've finally put my finger on something important. Desire. I have been too much with the world lately, getting and spending. I think I need to start letting go.
I realize that might sound ominous, but it isn't. I feel good. Better than I have in months. Letting go shouldn't be seen as giving up, either. In Buddhist philosophy, once the problem of suffering is realized, there is still right thought and right action.
So now I'm going to go vote, largely without desire. It feels good letting go of that. Later I will work on the book without desire.
In between those two, I think I will go the Kebab House for lunch. Sometimes they serve a great soup called "Fire and Rice." That, I think, I will desire just a little. Because it is really good soup, and no matter what else I might be, I'm still only human.
Labels: Buddhist leanings, Diogenes, emo bullshit, foreign happenings, hodgelany, the art of letting go
posted by Pat at
Sunday, September 7, 2008
I've done so much flying in this last month that all the airport terminals have blurred together in my memory.
So while I can't remember exactly where this happened, I know it was down by the baggage claim, relaxing and participating in my second favorite sport: watching people.
It was a slightly out-of-the-way corner of the terminal with a light scattering of folks who were waiting for their luggage too. Standing off to the side was a young mom with a couple little kids in tow.
She was obviously tired, and was doing her best to keep an eye on her kids while at the same time making sure that her luggage wasn't molested by terrorists, gypsies, communists, or whatever flavor of bad guy homeland security is trying to frighten us with this week.
The kids were having a great time. The little girl was just wandering, staying close to mom and looking at stuff. But the little boy had invented a game. He would build up to a run, then flop down and slide across the smooth floor on his belly.
It was obviously a lot of fun, and adding to his enjoyment was the fact that his mom didn't want him to do it. She stopped him once, but then he got out of arm's reach and she couldn't catch him without leaving her daughter and the luggage behind.
I should make it clear that the baggage claim area was far from bustling. It was quiet, and the kid wasn't getting in anyone's way. Neither was he wandering very far afield. He stayed in mom's line of vision. He wasn't being naughty, he was just being a kid.
Mom wasn't being needlessly strident about it, either. She didn't get all huffy or shriek qt him. And while she wasn't happy that he wasn't listening, she didn't view this as a major challenge to her authority. She was just trying to do her job, which is to say she wanted to keep him from hurting himself, being a nuisance, and getting his clothes dirty.
She tried to corral him as best she could, but he ignored and avoided her, run-flopping all over the place. I was tempted to try it myself. It looked like a good time. However, the square-cube ratio is and harsh on adults, and I worried that if I flopped onto the ground, I would rupture something vital in my guts. Plus I expect airport security would have tazered me for being a deviant.
So, because I was living vicariously through his exploits, I was watching him when flopped harder than he meant to. It wasn't a bad fall, but he bumped his head a little and lay there for half a second, hurt, angry, and confused. Then started to cry, picked himself up, and ran over to his mom.
Now this is the fulcrum of the story. The point at which it could pivot one way or another. The young mom could have cussed him out. But she didn't. She didn't shout or say, "I told you so," or try to turn it into some sort of moral lesson. She picked him up, hugged him, and nuzzled her face against his head to made him feel better. And it worked.
That's what moms are for. They give us good advice and we ignore it, running around like tiny Visigoths. Then we fuck up, hurt ourselves, and come running back so that they can make everything okay again.
It was a sweet thing to see. And honestly, it broke my heart.
Some of you know that my mom died not too long ago. I don't talk about it very much, but the fact is, I think about her all the time.
Whenever I think too hard about it, I become uncertain about what I should or shouldn't post here on the blog. Generally speaking, when I think something might be of interest to my readers (like an interview
, or an appearance at a convention
) I post it up. The same is true when I think of a funny story
or a good piece of advice
Part of the reason I haven't written much about my mom is because I worry it will come across as maudlin, and I assume that people come to the blog to be entertained, not depressed.
On the other hand, if this blog is supposed to be a little window into my life, not writing about her at all feels dishonest. If the things I write here are supposed to reflect my real thoughts and emotions, how can I not mention her?
I get the feeling that I'm going to spend the rest of my life thinking of questions that only she could answer. Like how she kept the rabbits from destroying her garden even though she didn't use a fence. The truth is, when she died it was like someone burned down a library, cut off one of my legs, and took away half of my laughing. Some days are okay. But other days I don't know if I'll ever be smart, or steady, or happy in the same way again.
But the thing I really miss is that she loved me like nobody else ever could. I grew up my whole life surrounded by that constant, unobtrusive, unquestioning affection. It has a lot to do with the sort of person I am today. That doesn't mean she didn't call me on my bullshit, or make fun of me, or point out when I was being a dick. But the love was always there, indifferent to my Visigoth behavior. Unconditional.
When you grow up surrounded by something like that, you don't notice it consciously. It's like the humidity in the air. You don't even notice when it's gone, either, except that something is different. Something isn't right. Then you start realizing that you're thirsty all the time, and you can't figure out why you're constantly tired, or getting nosebleeds.
Then, eventually, you realize the problem is that the air too dry. Only then can you take some steps to try and get some moisture back into your life. Only then can you start trying to make adjustments so things can feel, at least a little bit, like they used to.
I think that's the point I've finally reached. I've discovered that my life is drier than I'd like, and I'm trying to figure out what I can do about it.
So I think I'm going to start mentioning my mom on here from time to time. Not a lot, probably, but some. It's a shame you can't meet her, but I suppose the next best thing is you getting to know her through some stories.
I've turned the comments off for today, because I'm not looking for sympathy or consolation. Similarly, if you know me, don't feel obliged to send me an e-mail, trying to cheer me up and gently dancing around the question of how I'm doing. How am I? I'm fine. Sad? Yes. Melancholy? Sure. But also fine.
I mean it. Few things are as irritating to me as someone trying to cheer me up when I'm in a perfectly good bad mood.
Stay tuned for next week, when I'll continue spilling out the convention stories that I've built up over the last month. Hint: catgirls will be featured prominently.
Labels: blogging, emo bullshit, mom
posted by Pat at
Monday, March 17, 2008
St. Patrick's day.
I have a warm place in my heart for St. Patrick's day. When I was in grade school, you got to bring a treat to share with the rest of the class on your birthday. Cookies or brownies or rice-crispy treats.
But my birthday is in July, so I could never bring in treats. I can't remember why this was so important to me as a kid, but it was.
So my mom, rather than being relieved at having one less chore in her busy life, came up with the idea that I could take cookies to school on St. Patrick's day, because my name was Patrick. That was the sort of person she was.
So we made sugar cookies shaped like Shamrocks and frosted them with green frosting. I helped. Or at least I remember helping. More likely I tried to help and got in the way instead.
So I got to bring cookies to school once a year, and my standing in kid society was saved.
As I write this, I realize not everyone might have done this at their schools, growing up. Maybe it just happened in my little corner of the sky.
I grew up in a small town in Wisconsin, just outside Madison. The Town of Burke, unincorporated. Lots of land, not many people.
For most of grade school, I went to the modern equivalent
of a one-room schoolhouse called Pumpkin Hollow. No, I'm not kidding. It was called Pumpkin Hollow School.
It had four classrooms, one each for first through forth grades. The entire faculty consisted of four teachers, the aid, and the lunch lady
. We borrowed music and art teachers from a bigger school district and they came out to visit us once a week.
I think this small school was a very special thing, though I didn't realize it back then. We had a really active group of parents that would organize great things for us. We went to see the Nutcracker Ballet every year, and we had little fairs in the springtime with craft booths and little games.
I remember the playground. You'll never see a playground like it these days. The equipment was good, old-fashioned dangerous, or made out of tires, or both. We had a tire swing. A real one that hung from a high branch, and because the rope was long you could really whip people around on it. We could have killed ourselves, but we didn't. It was fun. Good lord I miss recess. When did play get squeezed out of our daily curriculum
It wasn't a perfect place by any means. I don't mean to imply that. Even small groups of children can be cruel. There was one girl that everyone said had cooties, and we teased her though I didn't care and I was her friend anyway. None of the cool guys liked me very much, which sucked.
Ms. Otto, the aid, had strong old-school views about propriety, and she didn't approve of the boys and girls playing together. We could mingle together on the equipment, or play tag, but we couldn't cluster together in and make up our own games. A boy who played with the girls was given the worst punishment possible: he was forced to sit on the steps.
I spent a lot of time on the steps. Don't misunderstand me. I was not a young Casanova
. I just preferred
the company of girls. Generally speaking, I still do.
Once I brought an old Indian Spearhead to school to show the other kids. It was real, we'd found it when we were digging in the garden. But when I took it out to recess, I showed it to a girl and told her that it was sharp and it could cut her. I wasn't really threatening her, but I wasn't exactly *not* threatening her either. I was being tough, and slightly wicked, and I knew it.
The girl told Ms. Otto, and I had to sit on the steps and they took the spearhead away. Later that day, my teacher Miss Anderson gave me a serious talking to and gave me the spearhead back.
That was it. I was deeply ashamed, and I knew deep in my heart that what I'd done was Wrong.
I also felt like I'd dodged a bullet because they hadn't told my parents. Everything worked out smoothly, and I learned something. These days, they would have called homeland security, put me in therapy, and installed flint detectors on all the school doorways.
It was, everything said, a good place to grow up. It was too small for any severe social stratification. When your entire class is only 18 kids, the cool kids (Like Chad VanEss
) still weren't that much cooler than the uncool kids. And the prettiest girl (Jody Mulcahy
) wasn't that much prettier than the least pretty girl.
They closed Pumpkin Hollow not long after I left. Probably for budget reasons. I drive past it every once in a while when I'm at home. A small business
has set up shop in the building, and I always want to stop and ask if I can look around. But I never do.
But in my dreams I go there. Sometimes the school is abandoned as I look around. Sometimes the new owners let me in and I see the old school half-hidden under the renovations. Sometimes I'm with someone, showing them around, saying, "This is the room where we had art class." "This was Ms. Stewart's room." "Everything is so small. How did twenty kids ever play dodge ball
They are melancholy
dreams, full of a deep, slow sadness. They always end the same way. After moving from room to room, I lay down on the floor and cry. Not for anything, or about anything. Simply because I am full of sadness, and I miss something that is so long gone that I can no longer remember what it was, or put it into words.
I would give each of you a shamrock cookie today, if I could. But that is beyond me. So instead I wish each of you happiness, joy in the changing of the seasons, dreams free of melancholy
, and hope of new friendships on the near horizon.
Labels: emo bullshit, growing up, mom, pumpkin hollow
posted by Pat at
Thursday, January 17, 2008
The unhappy announcement
I have to pass along some unhappy news, but before I do that, I have to tell a story. (For those of you who have been reading the blog for a while, or who have read the book for that matter, this behavior should not come as any particular surprise.)
A couple weeks ago, I was home for Christmas. While I was helping my Dad get ready for dinner, we talked about his Christmas letter. You know, the sort of thing I'm talking about: the yearly cute picture and Cliff Notes version of your family news.
My dad and I had talked about the letter before because this year's was a lot harder to write. It's been an odd year....
Wow. Look at that. "It's been an odd year." That, my friends, is what we call a classic Midwestern understatement.
Let me try again. This post is meant to pass along some important news, so I might as well speak plainly....
In some ways, this has been the best year of my life. The book that I've worked on for over fourteen years finally hit the shelves. I have met countless fans who have stunned me with their cleverness and kindness. I got to meet Tad Williams and Neil Gaiman and a host of other incredible authors. The book has gotten stunning reviews, and won awards, and they're currently translating it into twenty foreign languages.
I would say that my dreams had come true, but honestly, I never had dreams this big.
But in other ways, this year has contained some of the worst things I've ever lived through. My mom died this February, about a month before the book came out. She was my biggest fan, and liked me back before anyone else had a reason too. She was so exited about the book....
Later, my dad discovered he had cancer too. Just in time for last year's Christmas. His was, by comparison, a good cancer, and they removed his lung in January.
Yeah, as we say here in the Midwest, it's been an odd year.
Anyway, because of these things, writing the Christmas letter was tricky. Still, my dad managed to get all the family news summed up in a page and a half. Included was the most recent news about Name of the Wind and information about the release date of book two....
So, as I was saying, my dad and I are making dinner, and he tells me that two days after he sent out the letter, friends started to stop by his office at work. "The publication date of book two, was that a typo?" They ask. "Or is that really when it's coming out?"
My dad tells them that it's not a typo. That is when book two is really coming out.
Telling the story in the kitchen, my dad mimics their posture when they hear the news: the disappointed slump to their shoulders. One person went beyond disappointment and seemed truly distressed when he heard the news "This is awful!" the guy said, standing in the doorway to my dad's office. "I can't tell my son about this, it'll ruin his whole Christmas."
The story was pretty funny the way my dad told it, but my stomach still twisted into a knot when I heard it. It confirmed what I already knew, that people were going to be really disappointed when they heard the news about book two. I've known for a while... but I've been putting off making the official post here. It's easy to tell jokes and post up good news about awards. It's hard to make an announcement that's will make people unhappy.
But here it is: As of now, book two is scheduled for April of 2009.
I'm sorry. We were sure we could have book two out in a year, but it just wasn't the case.
There are reasons. For those of you who are interested, I'll cover them in the second half of this post, but the heart of the announcement is simply that: Book two has been delayed. It was unavoidable, and I am sorry.
The Reasons Behind the Delay
Answers to Your Questions
Why Pat is a Total Dick
"I thought you said that books two and three were done?"
I did. It wasn't a lie.
In some ways all three books were done way back in 2000 when I managed to write the story all the way through to the end. But there's a HUGE difference between a story that's finished, and one that is polished, revised, and refined into something really, really good.
I tend to revise A LOT. Over the years these three books have been put through hundreds of revisions. That's not an exaggeration. Some of them are small, just me tweaking words here and there to make things sound better.
Other revisions are huge and involve me moving chapters, removing scenes, and adding characters. On more than one occasion I have gone through this first book cut out over 10% of the total text. Then sometimes, in later revisions, I put some of it back. There's a lot of trial and error. A good book doesn't happen by accident.
(Warning: Minor spoiler alert for those of you who haven't read Name of the Wind.)
For example. If you were to go back in time and read The Name of the Wind one major revision ago, you'd discover that there wasn't any trip to Trebon, no draccus at all.
If you were to go back two major revisions, you would lose Auri and Devi. Their characters didn't exist in that version of the book.
Three revisions? You wouldn't have the scene where Kvothe and Elodin go to the asylum. Or the scene where Kvothe saves Fela from the fire in the Fishery. Or the scene where Bast talks to Chronicler at the very end of the book. I hadn't written any of those them yet.
Think about that version of the book. Would you want to read that instead? I wouldn't.
Were those early drafts finished? In some ways, yes. They had a beginning, a middle, and an ending. They probably could have been published, and people would have liked them fairly well, but they would not have been the best book possible, and that's what I want to write for you.
Hell, just thinking about the book without Auri nearly breaks my heart.
So when I say that book two needs revisions, you have to trust me. What I have right now is good, but it's not the best book possible. I want to give you a great book. A book that is as perfect as I can possibly make it. I want you to read it and laugh, and cry, and be horrified.
But that takes time....
"Fine, book two needs revisions. Why aren't they already done, you dick?"
1) Mental Exhaustion.
As I've already mentioned, we found out my mom had terminal cancer in September of last year. That meant that I had to do my final revisions on The Name of the Wind while coming to grips with that, working my day job, and driving down to Madison to spend as much time with her as I possibly could.
Needless to say, it wasn't a lot of fun. Trying to re-write a scene so that it captures the delicate magic of budding young love when the main thing on your mind is your mom dying... it's kinda rough.
What's more, I didn't tell my publisher about my mom, because everyone at DAW and Penguin was really excited about the book, and I the last thing I wanted to do was take a big old shit on their enthusiasm. We were just getting to know each other professionally, and I didn't want our first interaction to be me backing out of a bunch of commitments, no matter how good my excuse.
Plus, sometimes when authors go through heavy emotional stuff, they stop writing. Sometimes for years. I didn't want the publisher to start worrying about that before my first book was even out.
But because I didn't tell them, I had to cowboy up and do all the pre-publication promotional stuff. I went to a lunch with bookbuyers on the same day my mom had to go in for emergency thorastic surgery. (This was made easier by the fact that my mom told me she'd kick my ass if I didn't go....)
Don't get me wrong, it wasn't all bad. In some ways it was nice to get away and be around people who didn't know. It gave me a much needed vacation from that traumatic part of my life.
A few months later, when my dad found out he had cancer too, I finally fessed up to my publisher. Betsy was very supportive and cut me every piece of slack possible. However, at that point we were looking at unmovable production deadlines. Because of that, the ten days I had to look over the final page proofs for The Name of the Wind, were the same ten days my dad spent in the hospital after getting his lung removed. I remember red-penning corrections into the manuscript while he slept in the ICU, the tubes everywhere and a machine helping him breathe.
In the end, I did it. I managed to meet my deadlines and get the Name of the Wind out on time. But I felt like I'd done the writing equivalent of running in the game-winning touchdown on a broken leg. We won the game, but afterwards, I really didn't feel that great...
I don't know. It was like I'd pushed things too far and pulled a muscle in my brain. Following my dad's surgery and my mom's death, I didn't even want to think about working on the next book. Not for months....
2) Unexpected busyness.
Just yesterday I read something that Charlie Stross wrote on a message board. He said, "The epiphenomena of a writing career can easily occupy about 30 hours a week, on average."
This, is some capitol-T fucking Truth.
Before my book was published, I had no idea how much extra work was involved in being a published author. I'm not talking about the writing itself. I'm talking about doing interviews, going to conventions and booksignings, answering fanmail, corresponding with the editor and agents, looking for promotional blurbs from other authors, answering questions for my foreign translators....
That means when my book came out, I suddenly discovered I had brand-new 30 hour-a-week job. That, plus teaching at the University, plus, teaching fencing, plus working with the College Feminists as their advisor.... Assuming that I still wanted to sleep, eat, and occasionally kiss my girlfriend, there just weren't enough hours in the day, and my writing time was slowly eaten away.
Also, the timeline for publishing a book is a lot tighter than I ever knew. It takes a lot of time to print, promote, and edit things. Because of that, for the book to come out in April of 2008, I actually would have had to have it pretty much finished this last August. Five months after my mom died. I tried, but I just couldn't make it happen.
"So what are you doing to make sure that you don't delay the book again, you dick?"
For starters, I've quit my day job. Starting this semester, I'm no longer teaching at the University. It was a hard decision to make. I'm giving up my health insurance, my office, and the ability to act as advisor to a lot of student groups that I really enjoy. Plus, I really love teaching. But it take a lot of time and mental energy, so I'm leaving it behind to focus on my writing.
I've also trimmed a lot of the extracurricular things out of my life. I've given up the fencing class that I taught at the YMCA, and the College Feminists don't hold their meetings at my house any more. I'll miss them, as they're some of the coolest people I know, but I need to buckle down and streamline my life.
Whew. Longest post ever.
In summary, I suck and I'm sorry.
That said, I'd rather disappoint you a little now by delaying things, than by crapping out some half-finished turd of a book and disappointing you a LOT in April.
Hope I didn't retroactively ruin your Christmas....
Labels: book two, emo bullshit, epiphenomena, mom, my sucking, turd
posted by Pat at
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Today, I suck at life....
I was ready for today to be a cool day. A super-cool day even.
My star seems to be in ascension. A couple days ago I got a super cool review on NPR. As if that wasn't cool enough, superhero librarian Nancy Pearl is the one doing the reviewing and recommending.
If you don't know who Nancy Pearl is, you should. Any you know that any librarian with her own action figure is a force to be reckoned with...
If that weren't enough, I also recently got wind of a review in Science Fiction and Fantasy Magazine. Michelle West wrote such a flattering, descriptive, spoiler free review discussion of the book that I realize I will probably never have much luck being a reviewer myself. I don't think I have the knack.
Anyway, my point is that things were looking pretty rosy moving into today. Two embarrassingly good reviews, my student's tests were graded, and my amazon rank was ridiculously high (#240). I was half convinced that the local woodland creatures were going to wake me up, sing me a song, and help me get dressed for school -- Cinderella style.
Because they didn't show, I had to find my own socks and consequently I was running a little late. So I drove onto campus and found a spot right in front of the building. It even had 20 free minutes on the meter. Better and better.
Then I end up having a disagreement with the local photocopier. I want to make copies of the grading rubric for my class. The machine wants to take a big old shit on my day.
Ultimately the machine wins. It even manages the trifecta by denying me my copies, devouring the one and only copy of the rubric, and making me five minutes late to my own class.
Everything went downhill from there. The class was a trainwreck. Because dealing with the photocopier took all of my class prep time, I looked disorganized and clueless. I wrote all over the dry-erase board with a big bright red non-dry erase marker. (Not my fault, someone left it there.) I looked like an idiot several times and some of the students actually were talking to each other and laughing at me.
Lastly, toward the end of the class I said something in response to a student's comment that was meant to be a general statement for the class, but I think was interpreted as me being bitchy at that student. *sigh* I don't know.
It's strange how quickly your day can turn to shit. In some ways it's even worse because everything else was really good before that. If you spend the day picking up dogshit it's not going to be a great time, but at least you know what you're in for. You're braced for it. It's different if you're just having a picnic and someone hits you in the face with a turd.
And with that lovely image, I will leave you. Hope your day is going better than mine.
P.S. 204. That helps a bit.
Labels: emo bullshit, nancy pearl, reviews, turd
posted by Pat at
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
They are not all good days....
When I stop to think about it, I realize how odd blog-writing is....
These last several months of posting haven't been that strange for me. I've had years of practice writing a weekly humor column in the local paper. For nearly a decade I've told stories, given bad advice, and generally tried to make people laugh.
This blog is kind of like those columns.
Also, when I was growing up, I always loved it when the books had author's notes in the back. Not just a little one-paragraph blurb. But a real message from the author to the reader. I thought that was the coolest thing, getting a little glimpse into their lives.
I like to think that this blog is kind of like those notes, too.
The blog is other things too: It's a way for me to spread book-related news to those of you who give a care. It's an easy, if rather unscientific, way to gather information. It also allows me to give some writing advice to people who are interested, though I'll admit, I haven't had much time for an "ask the author" blog lately. I should do one of those soon.
But recently, I've been wondering about the blog. What troubles me is this:
Though I am a liar by profession, I like to think of myself as a fundamentally honest person. Painfully honest, some people have said. But recently I've come to realize that the picture I've painted here is a somewhat dishonest portrayal of myself and my life.
It started months ago when I had a bad day and I thought about writing about it in the blog. Then I thought to myself, "Pat, people don't come to your blog to listen to you bitch and moan about your sad life."
"But I tell them about other stuff," I protested. "Why shouldn't I mention this?"
"Because they come here for news or for laughs, not so you can get all weepy on them."
I realized I had a pretty good point, so I decided to keep quiet. Once I made that decision, it was fairly easy to abide by it. And lord knows there's certainly been enough cool news lately
so that I haven't been scraping for stuff to post.
But over the last several weeks I've come to realize the other side of this. Sure I'm keeping it light and entertaining. But by only posting when I have cool news or a joke to make, it looks like my life is some sort of happily-ever-after, candy mountain place constructed entirely of rainbows and orgasmic bliss.
But this just isn't the case. Things are not all sunshine and roses in Patland. I have bad days too.
Don't get me wrong, life is pretty good. Hell, after all these years, my book is in print and people like it. That's the top of the mountain, things don't get any better than that.
But shit still happens. Today I bounced a check for the first time in ten years. Cost me fifty bucks and make me feel like an idiot incapable of performing simple math. Instead of leaving my credit union with money in my pocket, I left knowing my account balance was -2.56 even after depositing the whole check I'd gone in to cash. I didn't even have enough to bring my balance up to zero.
Later on, I went to the coffee place and after I've ordered, I see the sign that says they don't take credit cards. And of course I don't have any money. So I have to explain that I can't actually pay....
Then I come home and I see that on Amazon someone posted a one-star review of NOTW. That means my average dropped just enough for me to lose my perfect 5-star status, which I was unreasonably proud of. Then I feel like a dink for even caring about something like that. But I go on being irritated even though I know it's silly, and that makes me even more
That's the reality of things. I have money troubles. I make bad choices. I get pissed off for no good reason. It's stupid how a few relatively small things can just wear you down.
It used to be that when I had a day like this I'd call my mom. I'd tell her about the one-star review and she'd be pissed. She'd go online and read it and just seethe about how the person was a total ass, and probably a half wit too. She'd be furious on my behalf, and I'd explain that it wasn't really that big a deal (which it isn't) and it would be off my chest and over with. It was enough to know that she was looking out for me, even if only to protect me from one-star reviewers.
You see, that's the main thing that I've avoided talking about on here for months now. Months and Months. Normally if something big happens to me, I tell stories about it. It's how I'm built. But I've been keeping that particular piece of story under wraps for a while now. Not only has it made me feel dishonest, but it really goes against my nature.
The thing is, my mom died a little while back, just a few weeks before the book came out.
She was great. I wish you all could have met her, and I'm sure most of you would have if she were still around. She'd be on here reading your posts, calling me on my bullshit, and telling stories. She would have gotten such a kick out of all the attention the book has been getting lately. The movie talk. All the foreign deals....
The Quill award. Oh man, she would have been unstoppable with a piece of news like that. She'd be telling strangers on the street. Moms don't have to be modest so she would have been bragging all over the place. I'd be a embarrassed about it, of course, but knowing that she was being excited on my behalf would mean that I'd feel better about just being calm and happy about the news. Sometimes it's not that much fun being excited about your own stuff.
She didn't miss all of it. She got to have some fun with NOTW. She read the galley and saw the printed versions before she went. She was around for some of the initial cool news: the first few foreign sales, some of the movie talk. She was so proud of it even then, before it even hit the shelves, even before it ever had an agent or a publisher. She referred to it as her "grandbook."
I tell you though. I'd set these books on fire if I could have her back healthy and happy for one good week. Fuck. Some days I'd trade it for a good fifteen minutes.
What's my point? Hell. I have no idea. If I had a point when I started writing this, I've long since forgotten it. I certainly didn't sit down tonight with the intention of writing about my mom....
I think I mostly just wanted to let the cat out of the bag. I generally live my life with policy of full disclosure, and it was feeling increasingly weird keeping mentions of such a big part of my life out of these blog posts. I prefer to keep my lies and editing for my books. My life I just like to live and share.
Tell you what though. Let's not have a big sympathy fest in the comments section. I'm not looking for a pity party. Aside from the occasional bad day where I can't seem to do anything but miss her, I'm doing pretty good. I'm doing pretty good right now, actually. I feel better than when I started writing this. Which might be the moral of the story.
You be happy too, okay? As for me, I'm going to go eat a cookie and go to bed.
Maybe two cookies.
Labels: emo bullshit, life, mom
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