Okay. I’m going to tell a little story. But for it to make sense, you’re going to have to understand two things…
First, my sleep schedule is wildly variable. When I’m in the thick of revisions, it’s not odd for me to be up until 5 or 6 AM. Neither is it odd for me to sleep until 2 or three in the afternoon.
Second, spring is a confusing time in Wisconsin.
Don’t get me wrong. Spring is great. In Wisconsin we appreciate spring way more than most other folks because we spend half the year buried in snow. In more temperate parts of the world, if the thermometer dips to 68 degrees people start putting on sweaters and shutting their windows.
Not here in Wisconsin. Our winters can easily dip to -40 Fahrenheit (Which, for those of you who are all metric, is the same as -40 Celsius.) So when we get a sunny spring day that hits, say, 55 degrees, we’re all putting on our shorts and playing Frisbee. To us, 55 degrees is like getting a kiss from God…
The main problem with spring in Wisconsin is that Mother Nature is beginning fresh after the hard winter. She’s effectively starting her whole life over again.
That means in April and May Mother Nature is the equivalent of a 14 year old girl. Which is to say she’s insane.
So on May 13th, she can be sunny, happy, and sweet. She can wear a pretty sundress and hug puppies. Then, 12 hours later, she’s weeping inconsolably in her room. By May 15th she’s listening to NIN, wearing black lipstick, and burning herself with cigarettes.
That’s what a Wisconsin spring is like: Sun. Warm breeze. Two inches of snow. Lilacs. Birds singing. Hail. Tornado.
But even in her less extreme mood swings, a Wisconsin spring can be troublesome. Lately I’ve been heading out to my writing space at night, and it’s been chilly, if not chilly and damp. So I put on my coat and hat, walk over there, and write most of the night. Then, if it’s gotten really late, I sleep on the futon mattress I have over there just for that purpose. (Yeah. I know. Pretty glamorous, huh?)
The point is, when I wake up the next day at 1:00 in the afternoon, it’s lovely and sunny. I don’t want to wear my coat home and get sweaty, so I leave it at work and enjoy the weather on my way home.
The first day this happened it wasn’t a big deal. I didn’t have my black leather duster, so I went to the back of the closet and pulled out my old, grey denim duster that I wore for 9 years back in college. It’s tatty, but it’s warm. I also found a weird furry hat that was too small for me, and stuck up about a 8 inches off the top of my head.
So I walk, write, and sleep again. Then when I get up it’s lovely, so I walk home coatless to see Sarah and Oot.
But the third night I was out of options. I don’t own multiple coats. It goes against my whole philosophy. And while Sarah has roughly one Billion hats, they’re all too small for me.
Normally I wouldn’t mind walking a mile or so if it’s just a little chilly. I’m built like a bear, after all. But I was fighting off a bit of a headcold, and I didn’t want it to get worse just a before heading off to so a reading down near Madison.
So, for all these reasons, I ended up walking through downtown Stevens Point at 1:30 in the morning wearing a cloak.
I’d forgotten I owned it. I bought it back when me and my friends used to hit the Ren Fair. Or maybe when we were doing our fantasy LARP. It’s green and black, and in many ways, it was the perfect garment for the job, as it had a hood, too.
But wearing it made me realize two surprising things.
First, the silhouetted figure on the cover of The Wise Man’s Fear is absolutely perfect.
I know it’s perfect because when I was walking down the street, the shadow that splayed out in front of me on the sidewalk looked exactly like that. Almost to an uncanny degree.
The second thing that surprised me was how amazingly self-conscious I felt. I don’t like to admit it, but I was really mortified at the thought of anyone seeing me walking around in a cloak.
I think I’m vain. The old denim duster I’d worn the night before was really ragged and awful looking. It’s frayed and torn. Holes in the pockets. The furry hat looked stupid, but not nearly as stupid as the hat that I wear the rest of the time.
So if I’m not vain, why was I so uncomfortable with the thought of someone seeing me in this cloak? It couldn’t be that I was worried I might look stupid. I’m fine with looking stupid. I go out of my way to look stupid sometimes.
I think my worry was that someone would recognize me as, “That Local Fantasy Author,” and then that they’d assume I dressed up in a cloak because I was desperately trying to be… I dunno… extra fantasy author-y. (Which would make me a poser.) Or that I was trying to dress up as Kvothe. (Which is worse.)
All whys aside, I was trying to stay out of sight. But it quickly occurred to me that trying to be inconspicuous while wearing a cloak looks really, really suspicious. And if there’s one thing worse than being identified as “that local fantasy author who dresses up in a cloak.” It would be people thinking of me as, “That local fantasy author who dresses up in a cloak and hides in the bushes outside your house.”
Plus, there are some places you simply can’t hide. I have to cross a couple parking lots to get where I’m going.
So, of course, when I’m crossing one of these parking lots, that’s when the cop car drives by. He’s trolling along Main Street at bar time, looking for drunk college kids. I’m the middle of the empty parking lot, wearing my cloak.
I knew the cop was going to circle back and come talk to me. He would drive up and say, “Um, hello?”
And then I would get my ass in trouble because when I’m put in a situation like that, I just can’t take it seriously. The urge to flap around like Batman would be overwhelming. Or I’d pretend to cast Magic Missile when he talked to me. Or when he asked “Who are you?” I’d say something like, “I am the servant of a secret fire! Wielder of the flame or Anor!” and then get my stupid, sarcastic ass would get tazered and put in jail for the night.
But the thing is, as soon as I saw the cop, I wasn’t nervous any more. If one person sees you doing something kinda weird, it’s really embarrassing. But getting thrown in jail because you wore a cloak and then quoted Gandalf? That’s awesome. That’s a story I’d tell for the rest of my life.
Unfortunately, the cop didn’t circle around. It would have been the perfect ending to this little adventure, but real life rarely gives us that sort of satisfying closure. That’s why we love stories: they give events the pleasing shape the real world so seldom provides.