Tuesday, March 24, 2009
On the importance of treat-bringing
So a few days ago, it was St. Patrick's day. This gave me thoughts. The thoughts led to feelings, and thence to musings. So I wrote about the musings and then planned to post that writing up here. Because that's what I do...
But then, in the time between writing it up and finding a picture, I discovered I'd had similar thoughts before, a year ago, and I'd already written about them
I considered not posting this newer blog because of that. But now I think I will. For one, I'm guessing many of you weren't reading here a year ago. And for another, the blogs are remarkably different, despite the fact that they share the same seed.
There's something to be learned about stories here, but I don't know if I can articulate it.
Either way, here it is, if you care to read it.
When I was a kid going to school, you were allowed to bring in a treat to share with the rest of the class on your birthday.
I don't know if kids can still do this these days. Homeland Security probably has some sort of homebaked cookie alert system that never falls below orange. Maybe schools are only allowed to distribute snacks that are OSHA approved.
But when I was a kid, going to school in a place called, I kid you not, Pumpkin Hollow, you could bring treats.
This was a pretty big deal. Because if you brought treats for the rest of the class, you were cool, at least for the day.
But my birthday falls in the summer, outside the school year. That means I couldn't bring in treats on my birthday, and was in real danger of being denied the one day of being cool every kid was entitled to.
This might not have been a big deal for other kids who got to be cool all the time. But I wasn't cool, and it was a big deal for me.
Now I can hear some of you already beginning to think/type/say comforting things like, "Oh Pat, I'm sure you were plenty cool back then. You just didn't know it..." Etc. etc.
(Click to embiggen. But beware, lest my young geekery blind you.)
So here is exhibit A. I was just looking for a picture of me as a kid, I didn't expect to find one that so perfectly shouted my not-cool from the rooftops.
Okay, fine. The bullwhip was pretty cool. But other than that, you can tell this guy isn't going to know the loving touch of a woman until... well... maybe ever.
What as I talking about again?
Oh yeah. The importance of treat-bringing in kid society.
When you're a kid, these little things loom so large in our minds. After we grow up, we look and wonder how we could have ever gotten so worked up about being a leaf in the school play instead of a chicken. Missing a field trip was the end of the world.
And not being able to have a day when you brought in a treat in for the other kids to share… it was huge.
It's important to remember that this doesn't mean we were dumb back then and we're clever now. That's dangerous thinking, and it's wrong, wrong, wrong. What it means is that when we were young, we knew the truth of things. And now that we're older, we know different true things. We were right when we were kids and thought it was really important, and we are right now that we're adults and realize it's a little silly.
As with so many of my childhood problems, my mom stepped in to save me. She pointed out that my name was Patrick, and so I could bring in cookies on St. Patrick's day.
Problem solved. So we made shamrock-shaped sugar cookies, and frosted them green, and I took them to school. And, for a day, I was cool. Well... cooler. Cool-ish.
I always think of that this time of year. Yesterday I realized everyone was wearing green and thought to myself, "Is it St. Patrick's day?" I was amazed it had snuck up on me. It used to be such an important day for me. I always felt like it was my day, really. My mom gave that to me.
I never celebrate it now, though I always feel like I should. But I'm not Irish, and I don't drink. So my options are rather limited. Still, I like the thought that on my surrogate birthday, everyone is out whooping it up.
To all of you out there who are the summer children. The kids that weren't cool, or who weren't cool very often. Know that I am one of you, and that you are my favorite sort of people.
Labels: concerning storytelling, mom, pumpkin hollow
posted by Pat at
Monday, November 10, 2008
Heifer International: Part One - A Charity for People Who Love Baby Ducks.
Earlier this year, I held what I thought was going to be a little photo contest
. The response surprised me; hundreds of people sent in almost a thousand photos. People dressed up, stripped naked, and climbed onto rooftops. It was an eye opener for me. I realized that there were a lot of folks out there who *really* liked the book.
Ever since, I've been thinking about what sort of contest I'd like to run next. Fanart contest? Video contest? Something for the writers out there? What sort of prizes would people be interested in? Posters? Signed books? Sneak peeks of books to come?
But then I had a better idea.
Eventually, I will run the contests I mentioned above. There will be good times. We will revel in our shared geekery. Blogs will be writ. Prizes will be had.
But first, I'm hoping to direct some of this energy in a slightly different direction. If I'm going to hand out prizes, I'd like it to be for a good cause. Something I believe we all have in common....
I believe that deep down, people are good. I believe that most of us would go out of our way to take care of baby ducks.
My favorite charity is called Heifer International
. They are a great force for good in the world, and I'd like to help them raise some money.
There are a lot of worthwhile charities out there. Important causes. Things I feel strongly about. But Heifer is my favorite. Here's why.
Let's say by some miracle I raised ten thousand dollars to help fight cancer, or Parkinson's, or Alzheimer's. While it would help the cause, it would just be a tiny drop in the bucket. Enough to help fund some lab's research for a couple weeks.
But we don't need to research a cure for hunger or poverty. We know how that works. Heifer doesn't just hand out bags of rice, Heifer gives a family a goat and teaches them how to take care of it. Then that family has a continual source of milk for their children. They can sell the extra milk to make money. When the goat has babies, they give those babies to other members of their community, sharing the gift.
Heifer helps people become self-reliant. As someone who has just recently become self-reliant, I know what a nice feeling that is.
My Mom loved Heifer. Every Christmas I would donate enough money for a goat, then give it to her as a present. I remember the first year I did it. She opened the envelope where I had drawn a crude picture of a goat and a happy stick-figure child.
She knew what it meant right off the bat. "Oh! I love it!" she said. And she got a little weepy, because she loved nothing better than helping people who needed it. She had a heart as big as the sky.
This is why I love Heifer. If we raise a couple thousand dollars for them, it will make peoples' lives better. A couple thousand dollars means little kids get milk to drink. It means families get sheep, which means wool for warm blankets and clothes. It means better wells, so moms with babies can have clean water to drink.
I think this is something we can all get behind, can't we?
So here's my plan, the bare bones version.
1. You will help by spreading the word, and making donations.
2. I will match all of the donations, dollar for dollar.
3. We both have a big warm fuzzy feeling in our chests that lets us know we've helped make the world a better place.
4. Finally, as a gesture of my appreciation, I will supply gifts for the people who participated: Signed books, maps, sneak peaks of book two, stuff like that.
This blog is to explain *why* I'm doing this. The details about *how* are over here on THIS BLOG
. There are links to my Heifer Team page and details about the prizes. So hop on over there and check it out.
Labels: baby ducks, Heifer International, mom, Warm Fuzzy
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
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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