Tuesday, October 6, 2009
A New Addition to the Family: Portugal

The Name of the Wind just came out in Portugal. They tell me that at the beginning of the month it was actually #7 on the bestseller lists over there. Which, I will admit, gives me a little bit of a tingle....

I haven't actually held one in my hands yet, but the cover looks pretty cool:





I always like seeing new covers for the book. Especially when the art has obviously been commissioned especially for the book.

Though I've only recently become a father, I've compared writing a book to having a baby for years. My mom used to refer to it as "her grandbook." And one of my friends used to ask about it in those terms. We wouldn't see each other for months, and when we got together and caught up on the news, she'd eventually ask, "And how's the baby doing...?"

Now that I've been a dad for a couple of weeks, I realize that the baby analogy is better than I thought. Before I was mostly referring to the emotional connection you feel to your own book. But now, having dealt with a newborn, I realize that writing a book is not entirely dissimilar to actually raising a child.

You feed it. Change it. Cuddle it. Dress it. Undress it. Change it. Feed it. Change it. Change it. Get it to take a nap. Change it.

And then, at the end of the day, you look at it and realize that it's pretty useless.

Don't get me wrong, you love it. You love it like nobody's business. But unless you're an idiot, you realize this thing really isn't good for anything yet. You're going to have months and months of thankless, repetitive work before it's capable of going out into the world on its own.

Later, when your book is published, it's very cool and very scary. That's when your baby has grown up enough to leave the nest. It's out there, meeting people all on its own. If you've raised it properly, it hopefully makes a good impression. Hopefully it makes friends.

But the foreign editions of the book are... different. It's still my baby, but it's not *really* my baby. It's like someone has cloned my baby and dressed it up in lederhosen and made it smoke a pipe for marketing reasons.

Yeah. The analogy really starts to fall apart after a while, I guess.

What was my point? No point. I don't always have to have a point, you know....

Wait! I guess I do have a point. It's that sometimes they make your baby smoke a pipe and you have to shrug it off. You don't know what sells books in Bangladesh, or Berlin, or Brigadoon. For the most part, you have to trust that the publisher knows what they're doing. For all you know, those Doonies are loonies for pipes...

But it's nice when you see the marketing and it appeals to your aesthetic. Like the trailer I posted before. Or this picture that I stumbled onto when I was googling up an image of the cover for this blog.




(Click to Embiggen)


I'm guessing this is a promotional poster. If it is, I wish I had a copy. I like the tagline across the top. "Kvothe: Magician, Musician, Thief, Assassin and... Hero."

Hell, if I'd have been able to come up with promo copy like that on my own, it wouldn't have taken me five years to sell the thing.

Later, you hoopy froods....

pat

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Monday, May 4, 2009
Signings in Rome and Amsterdam.

Okay folks, I've got the first round of foreign book signings organized.

First off, we've got two in Rome:

Location: Le Storie
Date: Saturday, May 9, 2009
Time: 6:00pm - 7:00pm
Street: Via Giulio Rocco, 37/39
City: Rome

Here's the link to the appropriate facebook event, if you're into that sort of thing.
And a link to Le Storie bookshop.


Location: Fanucci Bookshop

Date: Sunday, May 10, 2009
Time: 6:00pm - 7:00pm
Street: Piazza Madama, 8
City: Rome

Here's the facebook event.


Then we've got one in Amsterdam.

Location: American Book Center – ABC Amsterdam
Date: Thursday, May 14, 2009
Time: 6:30pm - 8:30pm
Street: Spui 12, 1012 XA
City: Amsterdam, Netherlands

Here's the link to ABC bookstore.
And the facebook event.

In Amsterdam, because more of the locals speak English, I'll actually be doing a little bit of a reading, then a Q&A session before I sign books. I love doing Q&A.

Even better, my Dutch translator will be be making an appearance at this signing too. Lia Belt was my very first translator. Not only did she really hold my hand through the process, but she helped me understand a lot of the dangers of translation. It's because of her that I've made a point of getting in touch with all my other translators since then, trying my best to work with them so as little is lost in translation as possible.

So I'm excited to meet her. I've invited her along to sign books too. After all, the Dutch version is more than half hers, and it's always seemed like a shame that translators don't get more credit for the work they do.

Edit: Additional: my Italian translator will be around during the Saturday signing in Rome.

Anyway, those are the first three signings we have planned. If you know anyone that might be interested, you'd be doing me a great favor if you passed the information along to them. We're setting these things up pretty quickly, so there isn't much time for word to spread.




(This illustration has nothing to do with a book signing.
I've merely inserted it here to confuse you.)


Despite the cool cover, I won't be doing any public signings in Paris. It's just too early. The book hasn't been out long enough there for people to want to show up for that sort of thing. And if there's one thing more depressing than sitting in a bookstore for two hours while everyone tries to avoid eye contact (As was the case in many of my early US signings) it's sitting around in a bookstore in Paris while people avoid making eye contact.

And for those of you in England, fret not. Things are in the works. Fabulous things. We'll have at least one in London, and hopefully a few more scattered around the rest of the country.

I'll post details as soon as those plans firm up. Soon.


Best,

pat

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Thursday, December 11, 2008
The Perils of Translation: Babelfish.

Alright folks, while I'm dealing with the aftermath of the fundraiser, here's a question from the mailbag.

Pat,

You've mentioned your translators on your blog before, generally in glowing terms. I don't really see what the big deal is. You wrote something great. You made something out of nothing. But they're not doing that. They're not really making anything, they're just.... copying it.

Plus, don't you think that what they do is rapidly becoming obsolete? They already have programs that can translate languages. One wonders why they bother having people translators at all.

Your fan,

Steve

At first, Steve, I thought you might be pulling my leg with this e-mail. "Nobody could really think translation was easy," I thought to myself. "He has to be putting me on."

Then I realized that I've been having a crash course in the perils of translation over the last year and a half. And I remembered that most Americans are pointedly, painfully monolingual. And I remembered one of my friends saying as a joke, "How hard can it be to learn French? French babies do it all the time...."

So I'm going to take this question at face value, Steve. The truth is, translation has got to be one of the hardest jobs there is. Period.

First off, you have to be fluent in two languages. Not just kind of fluent, but *really* fluent. You need to understand the culture of the language you're translating from, and the idiomatic speech.

Like what I said up there in my first paragraph. "Pulling my leg" is an idiom. It doesn't mean what it actually says. If you're pulling my leg, it mean you're playing a joke on me, teasing me.

There are a thousand little things like that stand in the way of true fluency, and you can't just copy them over into the new language and have them make any sense. For example, if I said, "You have a bird," in Germany, I'm not actually saying anything about a bird. What I'm actually saying is that you're crazy.

Secondly, you have to decide if a translation is going to be true to the letter of the work, or true to the spirit of the work.

What do I mean by this? Well... I'm reminded of what one of my favorite professors said when I asked him which version of the Odyssey I should read. I was looking for the best translation, and I trusted him, because he had a good old-fashioned classical education and could actually read Latin and Greek.

"It's not really an issue of the best translation," he said. "My old classics professor used to say, 'a translation is like a woman. It can be beautiful, or it can be faithful, but it can't be both....'"

Sexism aside, I think this strikes to the heart of the issue. A word-by-word translation is going to be clunky and awkward. But a beautiful one isn't going to actually say the exact same thing as the original. A translator needs to walk that fine line between. Or rather, they have to dance madly back and forth over that line.

And as for translators being replaced by computer programs? I give a hearty laugh. Translation is not a science, it is an art. And as such, it belongs solely in the realm of humans.

Most everyone knows about Babelfish. Let me show you what something looks like when I use that program to translate something from English to German and back again. If this were as simple as plugging numbers into an equation, we should end up with the same thing we started with, right?

Here's a paragraph most of you probably recognise:
I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trebon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in. I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during day. I have talked to Gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep.
You may have heard of me.
After Babelfish.
I stole princesses back of sleeping truck kings. I burned down the city of Trebon. I spent and with my reason and my life left the night with Felurian. I was away-driven of the university at a recent age, than most people are inside permitted. I step ways by moonlight, which others are afraid, in order to speak during from the day to. I spoke loved women and written Lieden, who let the Minnesänger cry with Gods.

They can have heard of me.
And that's using German, a language so closely related to English that if they were people, it would be illegal for them to get married.

Look what happens when you do the same think with a language that's *really* different, like Japanese:
I stole the king woman from wheelbarrow king of sleep. I burnt under the town of Trebon. I passed the night of Felurian, my sanity and went away with my life both. I was discharged rather than being able to allot most people from the university of a younger age. I the other people between day step on the road with the moonlight which is feared in order to speak concerning. I God, to the song by the document which makes the woman and the wandering minstrel cry who are loved spoke.
It can inquire about me.
Yeah. I think the translators' jobs are safe for another year or two.

pat

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Thursday, June 26, 2008
Japanese Covers


So just a couple days ago, guess what came out?







(Click to Embiggen)


That's right - It's the Japanese version of the book.

I really like this interpretation of Kvothe. He's young. He's got some attitude going on. His hair is more manga than I typically picture it, but it's totally appropriate for the Japanese market. Plus, Kvothe himself says, "When left to its own devices it tends to make me look as if I've been set afire." So there you go.

This translation of the book was different in a lot of ways. For one thing, bringing the book into Japanese is much more difficult than, say, Dutch, or German. Not that every language doesn't pose its own problems. But there's just a lot of different cultural things going on, and the languages aren't really similar at all.

I'm guessing it's partly because of this that instead of one, I had a team of three Japanese translators working on the book. They were really great. They asked a lot of good questions, and included me in the decision making process. I like it when the translators ask questions or press me for clarification.

You see, when I wrote the book, I made a point not to over-describe everything. I also tried to make the book very full... of stuff.

Yeah. That's great. My book is full of stuff. They should put that on the cover: "The Name of the Wind - It's full of stuff."

What I mean is that I didn't want to club the reader over the head with everything. My strategy was to make sure that every page had enough cool things in it than if you missed half of them, you'd still have a good time. That means there's stuff for you to enjoy the second time around. That means you can like the book in a different way than your friend. And it means if you're a careful reader, you'll get more out of the book.

So I'm fine if the average reader doesn't get everything I put into the book. I expect that. I planned on it.

But if a translator doesn't notice something that I've put into the book very subtly, that's different. If they don't catch it, it can't be brought into the new version. And that's a problem, obviously. But these translators were really on the ball, and I'm guessing that not a lot slipped through the cracks with them.

There's another big difference in the Japanese edition. Apparently big, thick books aren't really the norm over there. So they broke this first book into three separate volumes. That means three separate covers for the first book....





Nice hands. Can you tell what scene this is?






And number three. Check out the dracus in the background. I would not want to fuck around with that thing.

I've been reading the comments and suggestions for future contests, and my gears are slowly turning. But more on that later. For now, I'm off to write.

pat


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Friday, February 29, 2008
Name of the Wind - Italian style.

So today is the day that the Italian version of The Name of the Wind hits the shelves. While we've sold the foreign translation rights in a lot of countries so far, this is only the second version to actually make it into print, so I'm still experiencing some of that giddy, newbie author joy over the whole things.

I don't know if it's significant that the book is coming out on leap day. Except I think it means this book will age more slowly than the other versions of my book, only getting one year older for every seven normal years.

Wait. Seven? No. Four. I was thinking of dog years....

...

Man. Now I'm wondering what would happen if a dog is born on leap day.

Okay. I can figure this out. I used to be good a story problems, and that was before I studied symbolic logic. Let's see...

Given - one dog year is equal to seven human years.
Given - those born on leap day only age one year for every four calendar years.

If a dog was born on a leap day, after twenty-one calendar years, he would be:

A) 504 years old.
B) 36 years old
C) 42 years old.
D) Still bound by his duty.
E) Other

Anyway, back to the Italian translation. I haven't actually seen the book yet. Not in a real-world sense. I got the editor to send me a nice picture of the cover, but it's really not the same as holding a real book in your hands. It's roughly the same difference as seeing baby pictures and holding a baby.

Anyway, here's the cover. I think you'll all agree that it's a whole lot different than the US, UK, and Dutch covers that we've seen so far...




(As always, you can click the picture to embiggen it.)



I'm curious what y'all think of this cover, so feel free to drop a comment into the discussion below....

That's all I've got for now. More news is on the horizon, so stay tuned.

pat

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Monday, February 11, 2008
The Perils of Translation: Part 2

Hello there everyone,

Since I made my post about the translations of the book, a few people have asked if I would make my list of Translator guidelines public.

Unfortunately, I can't. Well... that's not true. I won't. There are too many secrets in there.

Even if there weren't secrets I'd be hesitant to do it. Not just because I'm cussed (though I am.) But because a lot of the beauty in a book comes from the things that are inobvious. If I pointed them all out to you, it would ruin it. It's like when you have to explain a joke, you might get it afterwards, but it's not really funny.

Still, since people asked, I can give you a little non-spoiler taste of the sort of questions that are asked, and the way that I tend to answer them. Just so you can see....


"Shamble-Men. Is this a term you've come up with yourself? I'm not happy with my translation for it yet. It doesn't sound frightening enough in Dutch."

The Shamble-men are entirely my own creation. The term doesn't sound particularly scary in English either. But it have vaguely menacing, creepy overtones. This is partly because there is an old usage of the word "shambles" that also means a place where you butcher animals.

(That's where we get the expression, "This place is a shambles." Nowadays it means messy, but back in the day it meant strewn with bloody guts.)

Stagger-men would just be drunk. Shuffle men would be oldd and slightly silly.

Imagine a homeless person, bundled against the cold, raggedy with a lot of hair. They're dirty and ragged, and walking in a slow walk, as if they're sick or hurt or very tired. It's a slow slightly unsteady walk, dragging their feet a little. That's what I'm trying to capture with "shamble."

But the name should be vaguely menacing if you can manage it.

"In Tarbean, Pike calls Kvothe "Nalt." What does this mean?"

"Nalt" is a mildly derogatory slang term. It's a reference to Emperor Nalto, who mismanaged the Aturan Empire so badly that it collapsed.... The name is mentioned briefly during Kvothe's first admissions interview.

"One last thing that I'd like to ask you, is your permission to change the names of Jake, Graham, Shep and Carter to more general-sounding names. These names have a very English sound, and though I initially had no intention of changing them, they keep "poking me in the eye" when I read the book in Dutch. Most or all other names are pretty universal. These I would like to change to Jaap (which is actually how we Dutchies abbreviate Jacob), Gard, Stef and Karsten."

Those names are meant to be very plain, rustic even. They should be very common, rural names. If you need to change them to make them appear that way for your culture, that's a great idea.

Keep in mind that Carter is, by profession, a carter: someone who drives a cart for a living. It would be nice to maintain that...

That's all for now. PLEASE don't take this an an invitation to pepper me with questions about the book. If that happens, all it will do is cut into my writing time, slowing down my revisions of book two...

Besides, a little bird told me that we'll actually be getting a forum pretty soon, and when that goes live it will be the perfect place for questions and answers and of all sorts. So if you've got a question, don't worry, its time will come. Just write it down and save it for the upcoming forum shindig.

Later all,

pat


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Thursday, January 31, 2008
On the Perils of Translation

For those of you who may not know, over this last year we've sold the foreign rights to The Name of the Wind in, at my last count, 20 countries. So many countries that when I just tried to make a list of them all on a piece of paper, I was unable to remember them all.

When we first sold the Dutch rights, my giddy thought was that I would learn Dutch well enough to read my own book. Later, when a few more sales started to pile up, I realized a more realistic goal might be to learn enough so that I could read, perhaps, the first page of the book. Or the first few lines.

But now, with 20 countries, I'm thinking that if I work at it I can learn how to say the title of my book using the appropriate accent. I'd still just be saying, "The Name of the Wind," but it would sound French, or German, or whatever they speak in Holland.... Hollandaise.

But on to the heart of the matter. When I first heard we'd sold the Dutch rights, my main thought was, "Wow, a quarter million word translation... that poor bastard."

And that was about it.

A few weeks later, my translator contacted me and started asking questions about my book. It was only then that I started to get an idea of how complicated the process is. How many ways there are to go wrong in a translation....

For example, how can you translate the nicknames for all the buildings in the University? They're slang. Artificery becomes Fishery.... But you can't just translate that, because it really doesn't have anything to do with fish...

Even worse are the names in Auri has given the places in the Underthing, they're not even slang, they're puns. Imagine trying to translate the belows/bellows/blows/billows conversation into another language? It just can't be done....

Then there's the plot points. Some subtle things are mentioned in the first book that will prove to be very important later. If they're accidentally left out or changed, the series as a whole will suffer.

Luckily, my first translator, Lia Belt, was wonderful. She walked me through it carefully, asked a lot of questions, and helped me understand some of the potential pitfalls.

So over the last couple of weeks I've been putting together a comprehensive FAQ for the translators. It clarifies things that are potentially murky, and brings up some of the potential difficulties that I've become aware of.

In a way it's fun, it forces me to examine my language and word use from a different angle than I'm used to. But at the same time putting together this FAQ has been like some sort of fractal magician's trick. Where every time I answer a question it unfolds into four other important issues I need to address.

Anyway, that's what's going on in my life lately. Just thought I'd share...

And lastly, an interesting piece of fanmail someone sent me....

Pat!

Dude. I was looking around on E-bay, and I found THIS. Is it really yours? I thought Name of the Wind was your first book....

Let me know because if it is yours, I'm totally buying it...

J-
As always, I will protect the privacy of my fan by using a fake name: Susan.

Well Susan, The Name of The Wind was my first book in a lot of ways. It was my first novel. It was also my first professionally edited and published book.

But I did have a few other things printed before that, and Your Illustrated, Annotated College Survival Guide was one of them.





It is a collection of humor columns that I wrote over the space of four years for the local college paper, illustrated by a friend of mine, and with interesting annotations from yours truly. If you're wondering what the columns were like.... well, odds are you've already read one of them here in my blog. Namely: The Great Zombie Debate.

Other helpful columns were written along the lines of, "How Not to be a Goddamn Mooch." "On the Impotence of Proofreading." and "How to Deal with the Unbearable Shittyness of Your Life..."

So yeah, in a nutshell, it's me.

Later all,

pat

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