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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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.

Later everyone,

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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Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Back from Portland.

I'm back from Portland, where my first attempt at marraging two people up seemed to go pretty well.

When we were planning the ceremony, I asked my friends what they'd like me to say when I pronounced them husband and wife. I've been to a lot of weddings, and I've heard a lot of different authorities cited. Sometimes it's "By the authority given me by god and the holy Catholic church." Or "By the authority vested in me by the state of California."

I really didn't know how to handle that. In some ways, it seems like a product placement in the wedding, like the officiant is saying, "This wedding brought to you by God, the new Pontiac Sunfire, and the letter G."

So I asked what they'd like best, and there was a long pause. Then my friend said, "How about, 'By the power of Grayskull?'"

We all had a good laugh, but I have to say that when the time came, the temptation to actually say it was almost overwhelming. I'm still a little disappointed in myself that I didn't. I mean, that's a wedding story that they could have told for years and years.

If you're curious as to what I look like when I'm pretending to be a grown-up, here it is:





Enjoy the sight of me in a tie. It probably won't happen again for years. Longer if I have any say in things. Which I do.

While out in Portland, the folks I was hanging out with wanted to go to Brewfest: a A big shindig where, apparently, 60,000 people show up to try all sorts of clever local beers. They were all excited about it, so I went along for moral support, and possibly to hold their hair out of their faces while they puked.

But here's the thing. I don't drink.

I can drink, and I occasionally do. It's just that, generally speaking, I don't. I don't like the taste of beer or wine, and alcohol is a drug that has nothing to offer me. I'm plenty uninhibited. And the three or four inhibitions I've kept serve a vital purpose. They are like heavy chains restraining my true inner nature. Without them, I would devolve into a pure Dionysian force that would rampage through the countryside. While this would be a lot of fun for me and the Bacchae, I worry about the damage we might inflict on the general populace. Hence my restraint.

[Note to self: group costume idea.]

So the fact that I don't drink, combined with my dislike of crowds, drunks, and noise meant that Brewfest really wasn't my scene. So I left my friends to booze it up and went to visit Powells.

I was not disappointed. It's like book Valhalla. The sort of place where I could spend a long weekend very happily gathering more books than I can carry, afford, or load into a car.

What's more, they had a bunch of copies of NOTW there, both hardcover and the paperback. I'm guessing I signed about two dozen, so if you're in the area, odds are you can still get in there and grab one.

They also had me sign their author wall, which was pretty cool....





If you look closely, you'll probably recognise a few names there...

That's all for now, folks. Be good to each other.

pat

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Friday, May 30, 2008
Photo Contest Part VI - Miscellaneous

Well, I seem to be on the mend from my recent bout with hellish sick. It was one of those where, as my mom used to say, "You run for the bathroom and then don't know which end to point at the toilet."

Even in the moments when I was not in danger of sudden containment breach, my guts.... how to put this delicately.... They have been filled with terrible rumblings. Were we on a spaceship together, and my guts made this sort of noise. I believe that you would be fully justified in shooting me and stuffing my body out an airlock, rather than risk dealing with whatever alien life form eventually emerged with the express purpose of wrecking your shit.

But enough of that. On to today's winners. I've been saving some of the best for last:

There were a lot of pictures that didn't fit into any category. So I decided to lump them all together under Miscellaneous. That's what we have for you today:





Some of these were simple, if slightly quirky.




Some were slightly odd.




...and some were surreal.




Wii!




I really don't know how I should feel about this shot....

Right now I'm going with vaguely titillated, then weird and guilty.




"Aerlevsedi" is definitely worth some extra points.




You guys..... I.... I love you guys. I don't know who you are, but I'm guessing if I lived closer to you, we'd hang out. I'd bring over hex map (as opposed to your grid map) and teach you the Hero System ruleset so we could play in my world.

But alas....




These guys should go hang with the Barbies. I think that would be my favorite party ever.




I never expected The Name of the Wind to be scrapbooked. Ever. Never ever.





Someone familiar here, giving a bit of an Auri vibe. Plus: awesome tree.

As a side note, I think if I live a good life. I might see something like this when I die.

Hopefully just after I die though. Not just before. If I see this after I die, it's because an angel wants my autograph. If I see it just before I die, it's because a pretty young girl just pushed me out of a tree. Probably because I got all pervy on her.




I'm not sure why I like this one so much, but I do....




Science!




This looks like one of the old pieces of machinery you'd find in the Underthing.




(Click to Embiggen)

The Runner-Up. Most of the pictures will be familiar to you, but you'll have to embiggen it to read the text, and the text is really what makes this one shine.




(Click to Embiggen)

The Winner. You'll have to see the larger version of this one too. In fact, you'll probably need to see some parts of it kind of close up to appreciate what's going on....









Thanks again everyone who participated. And, as I've said before, info on claiming your prizes is in this blog post over here.

Still to come:"Best Cosplay" "Most Dramatic" and "Most Sexy."

I'm off to work on book two....

pat

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Monday, May 12, 2008
Interviews, etc

I did an interview a couple weeks ago over here, but I forgot to link to it until just now.

Also, for those of you who haven't seen it already, Tarol Hunt over at Goblins did an awesome comic about the book. (It's the second comic on the page, you'll have to scroll down a bit.)

And lastly, this week I managed to hit the top 10 on the New York Times:




(Click to Embiggen)


That's all for now. I'll start announcing the winners of the photo contest later this week, so stay tuned....

pat

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Thursday, December 6, 2007
Of things to come...

There are a few things I've been meaning to write about here in the blog for some time now.

Some are just little stories that I've been meaning to tell for a while. I have a bad habit of making a post that mentions that I'm going to a con, then when I get back I make a post saying something along the lines of: "Whoo! What a trip! I'll give you all the details later." But then I get busy and never seem to get around to it.

For example. My last signing was at a library in a little town where I went to high school, just outside of Madison. We got a surprisingly good turnout (about 30-40 people) and I stayed for about three hours, reading, chatting, and signing books.

Anyway, when I stopped to ask for questions, a little boy of about four or so raised his hand. I called on him, and he tells me that he likes the draccus. His parents had read him the book. Everyone smiles to themselves, and I tell him that I liked the draccus too. (In retrospect, I wish I would have asked him *why* he liked the draccus.)

I answer a few more questions, read another section, and the little boy raises his hand again. This time he tells me the secret to selling a lot of books. "You just write one," he explained, making a gesture as if holding a pencil. "Then they make COPIES of it. Then they sell the COPIES."

He was pretty proud of his idea, and, honestly, it was a pretty good one, so I guess he had every right to be proud.

Over the next month or so, I'll try to get you the rest of these stories before they evaporate out of my flaky brain.

I also have a few... announcements to make. Some of them you're going to probably be excited about, and some of them you're probably not. Either way, both types will take some detailed writing up, and I just don't have the time, energy, or mental wherewithal to do right now. It's getting light outside and I should really be getting to sleep.

In closing, let me pass along a delightful time-waster: FREERICE.

I tend to average around 42 or 43, but I made it as high as 46 once. I was pretty proud of that.

Later everyone,

pat

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Monday, December 3, 2007
.... and I'm back.

Hello there everyone. Sorry I've been away for so long.

One of the problems with doing a blog like this....

You know, only after typing that sentence did I realize something. I don't really consider this a blog. Rather, I know this is a blog. This entity that you show up and read is a blog. But I don't think of myself as *writing* blogs. I think of myself as writing something else. Something nameless. Something somewhere between a news post, an editorial column, and an open letter to the world.

Anyway, as I was saying, one of the problems with writing something like this. (Something that I update according to my whimsy, but that a fair number of people show up and read.) Is that if I don't post anything for a while, it actually starts getting harder to post. After two weeks of silence, I start to feel like like I should have something *Really Cool* so say when I come back.

But I don't. I don't even really have any especially exciting reason for not posting for a while. Truth is, Me Being Busy Playing Catch-Up After A Convention + End of The Semester Grading + Thanksgiving + Two Signings = Radio Silence on My End.

I've been so busy lately that I haven't even checked my Amazon Ranking for, like, two or three days.... an unprecedented event.

(470, by the way.)

Let's see, what news do I have? The Name of the Wind has been nominated for Borders' Original Voices award for 2007. Point of interest, I'm the only person in my category whose title does not have a colon in it. For some reason that fills me with pride.

It just snowed here in Wisconsin. About 10 inches. My first snowfall as a homeowner. I shoveled for a solid hour tonight, great exercise that has reminded me how truly out of shape I've become. Take it from me, kids, being a writer has certain perks, but physique isn't one of them.

Other news.... Hmmmm... it seems like after almost three weeks of being gone, I should have more to report....

Oh, right, my meeting with Gaiman.

In brief, it was pretty cool. About four hours before Gaiman was scheduled to do his reading, I went from being nervous about meeting him, to a different sort of nervous. Suddenly I was worried that Gaiman wasn't going to be cool enough to live up to my expectations.

I know it's silly to idolize authors. I know this because I *am* an author, and it's silly for people to idolize me. Over these last couple months I've had people get nervous about meeting me and/or have various degrees of anxiety-related endearing geekiness when we talk. When people e-mail me and tell me that they're nervous about meeting me a signing or a reading, I laugh and say, "Believe me, I'm really not that impressive."

Anyone who has actually met me will back me up on this...

So I know firsthand that it's silly. Authors are just people. But the fact remains that when we love a book, we want to love the person who wrote the book. We want them to be as cool as the stories they write, and Gaiman writes one hell of a story...

So as Gaiman's reading approached, I grew increasingly nervous. What if he wasn't cool enough?

I needn't have worried. He was very relaxed and laid back. Very witty and articulate. He's a marvelous public speaker. He gave us a early taste of his upcoming "The Graveyard Book." He's a great reader, too. Though I wasn't surprised by that, as I really enjoyed the audio book story collection, "Fragile Things" which he read himself.

My reading was a half-hour after his, a hard act to follow. But I muddled through as best I could, reading a bit of my novel, a bit of poetry, and an essay I once wrote on the slow vs. fast zombies debate. It was a pretty good time.

I had about five minutes left in my time slot, and was trying to decide how to fill it, when one of the people organizing the conference came in and said, "Mr Gaiman wants to make sure he has a chance to talk to Pat before he leaves. I'm afraid I'm going to have to steal him..."

I gave the audience a look that said, "Are y'all cool with me heading out a little early?" They looked back, "Are you kidding? It's Neil Gaiman! Run you fool, run!"

So I went over to meet him. I tried my best to not be a total spaz when we met. I didn't want to be all gushy and fanboy. Personally, I enjoy it when people get a little geeky over my writing, but I figure he has to get that sort of thing all the time, and it has to be wearying after the first ten years or so.

So we hung out and chatted for a bit. Me and Neil. I have a picture somewhere, but I can't find it right now...

He was, as they say, "a hell of a regular guy." He told me that he'd had the chance to read the first few chapters of my book, because his publisher in England had given him a copy. He said something very flattering about my writing, but unfortunately, the book was too big to fit it into his carry-on luggage for his flight home. (The UK book is even bigger than the US version.) After that his life got a little busy, what with two movies coming out, books, signings, and generally being Neil Gaiman. So he kinda lost track of it. I can understand that. I'm overwhelmed right now and I can't be a fraction of as busy as he is...

So yeah. The whole experience was lovely. We chatted and I asked him some comic-book questions, as I have some people sniffing around about doing the graphic novel adaptations of the book. It was lovely, and he gave some good advice.

Now here's the crux of the story. Gaiman got ready to leave, but before he could head out, one of the con-goers caught him. The guy asked if he could send Gaiman a copy of his brother's novel to read, so that Gaiman could give him some feedback. Gaiman politely refused, explaining that he wished he could, but he really didn't have the time.

But they guy wouldn't take the gracious refusal. He asked if Gaiman would maybe just look at a few chapters instead. Gaiman explained, again, that there just weren't enough hours in the day, and besides, his brother would probably get better, more in-depth advice from a local writer's group....

But the guy really wouldn't take no for an answer. He tried a few more times from different angles. And here's the thing: Gaiman stayed cool through the whole thing. He didn't get bitchy or snippy or exasperated. Considering that he must get hit like that all the time, I was truly impressed.

The end. Moral: Gaiman is awesome.

I think that's all I've got for now....

Oh... one other thing. I've been invited by writer/author John Scalzi to offer up one of my already written blogs for promotional re-post on his site: Whatever.

Any advice? Of the blogs you've read on here, which one do you think would be best for amusing/entertaining/hooking in new readers?

I'd appreciate it if you let me know what you think in the comments below.

Later all,

pat

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Thursday, November 8, 2007
Various and sundry items

It seems like I have a half-hundred little things I want to write about, but not enough time to do any of them justice.

So today you get a hodgepodge of miscellany. A hodgelany. If my regular blogs are nutritiously balanced meals, served with an eye for presentation... well... then this blog is going to be more like you coming over to my house and eating fish sticks directly off the cookie sheet while sitting on my couch. Tasty, but strictly no-frills.


Item 1) What I dressed up for this Halloween.

Gay Dumbledore.

If you hadn't already heard the news, crawl out from under your rock and look HERE.






"Ah yes," Dumbledore thought to himself. "That young Potter is a lovely bit of crumpet if I've ever seen one. I wonder if he'd fall for the old 'pull something out of my hat' routine...."





"Five points for Gryffindor!"


My accomplice in the photos is none other than my lovely ladyfriend, Sarah. It really wouldn't have been a funny costume if I hadn't been able to chase her around the party all night, groping shamelessly by the punchbowl and occasionally making suggestions that would make a fanfic author blush.


Item 2) Name of the Wind just made Publisher's Weekly's list of the top 150 books of the year. There were only seven books in the Sci-fi/Fantasy category, so I'm pretty flattered by that.

Item 3) Name of the Wind was also named one of the top ten Fantasy/Sci-fi books of the year by Amazon.

Item 4) Name of the Wind is the only fantasy novel to make it onto both of those lists.

Item 4-a (corollary) I rock the house. And, by virtue of association, so do you.


Lastly, because the blog has been getting swamped with spam advertising comments, you now have to do one of those mildly irritating security countermeasures in order to leave a comment. Please don't let this dissuade you from making your usual witticisms. I crave them, and if they are not forthcoming, I may curl into a wretched emo ball and weep piteously.

Later,

pat

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