Category Archives: Dr. Horrible

My Terrible Surprise – The Dreaded High School Novel

A couple days ago, Mary Robinette Kowal asked if I’d care to donate an act of whimsy to a fundraiser she was planning to Sequence Jay Lake’s Cancer.

I said I’d be happy to, and she put me in as their $17,500 goal, tucked between Scalzi and Gaiman like the ham in a coolness sandwich.

I had a couple ideas for what I could do, but wasn’t sure what would sound best, so I told Mary to put me down for “A terrible surprise.”

I figured I’d have at least a week or two before I had to come up with anything. Plenty of time for me to wrap up my own fundraiser, finish a story I have due, and do my amazingly good Kermit the Frog impression singing Rainbow Connection.

Or maybe I’d dig out my Dr Horrible lab coat and engage in a little mad science on my webcam…

Then Mary launched her fundraiser raised more than 20,000 in a single day.

Which was cool. Don’t get me wrong. But it meant I owed them something whimsical NOW.

Unfortunately, I have a bit of a cold right now, so singing is out. And all my glassware is boxed up in the basement. So I decided I’d post up a poem I wrote twenty years ago when I’d first started reading Terry Pratchett. It was called “A Wizard’s Staff has a Knob on the End.”

Despite the fact that I wrote it ages ago, and I can still remember the first few lines:

Oh wizard’s staffs are long and hard and known throughout the land.
A sight to heed, and fear indeed, is a wizard, staff in hand.
 

It’s everything you’d expect, a long, metrical double entendre. Fanfic I wrote before I knew what fanfic was….

Here’s the problem. I can’t find it. Not in my computer files, and not in the hoarder-esque boxes of old writing I keep squirreled away. Not anywhere.

But I did find something else. A piece of the novel I wrote in high-school.

While it isn’t terribly whimsical in and of itself, I’ll post it up here in a whimsical way, laying open my secret shame for everyone to see.

For you youngsters out there, this is what a dot matrix printout looks like. It’s the closest thing to a cuneiform tablet you’ll ever see.

I started this novel when I was 15-16. It’s the characters are D&D characters created by me and my friends.

This is the start of chapter 4. Don’t worry about being brought into the middle of things. So far the novel has consisted of two flashbacks and a dream sequence. The only action has been our three intrepid adventurers (A barbarian, a dwarf, and a Cat-Man samurai) have moved from one bar to another and  been given a quest by a monk named Dron.

Brace yourselves….

*     *     *

     Lambernath, the all seeing, stood wiping his clean oak bar with his clean, white, linen cloth. As his hand continued it’s unceasing movement it’s owner watched the four figures at the bar and silently gave thanks that there was more to be seeing lately.

     His eyes slowly passed over them all in turn, first the self proclaimed monk, Dron, who had sat waiting at his bar for nearly a week for a band of adventurers to respond to the leaflets that he had posted all over the town. Lambernath knew how anxious he was for help after the many long hours slowly sipping wine in the Cask. Lambernath had known when the trio of adventurers came in that the monk would do everything he could to sign them up.

     Still polishing, Lambernath looked over the dwarf sitting next to Dron. He seemed to be the stereotypical dwarf, his beard was more jet than silver and bristled out from his face and hung down to his waist. His commonplace chain mail hauberk hung to his knees and hooded his head, nothing surprising, as a matter of fact he had seldom seen an adventuring dwarf clad in anything else. His weapons though smaller than the battle axes that so many dwarves preferred were axes nonetheless. His ruddy complexion, fondness of ale, long pointed nose, the swagger and boisterous manner all perfectly dwarven. ‘If I saw him in a room full of mercenaries I wouldn’t notice him at all.’ All of these things viewed together make what a dwarf is expected to be, but it was too perfect and thus suspect.

     Lambernath shook his head as if to clear it, and chastised himself for thinking too much. “Just a dwarf,” he though, “they’ve never been much for originality anyway.”

     Following in dwarven tradition, instead of hammering out the details of the deal Deverax preceded to get hammered.

     Dismissing the dwarf from his mind, the magic user turned his attention to the two oddly matched friends that sat, huddled together. One was dressed in simple leathers, unremarkable except for their size. Occasionally they creaked as Kahn’s muscles bulged when he gestured to emphasize something he was saying. Lambernath strained to hear what they were talking about, but their speech was nonsense, unlike any of the half dozen languages he was fluent in, or another dozen that he could recognize.

     The other’s garb was foreign, and though the eyes of Lambernath the all seeing had beheld many things, they had never seen anything like what the black cloth mask and half cloak hid. His curiosity piqued, he brought to memory every reference to human/animal crossbreeding he could. But nothing matched up. The magic required to make a mating between two different species would be enormous. And the result would probably be much more animal than human. Lycanthropy seemed out too, the change from human to animal was quick and at both human and animal stages the lycanthrope was virtually indistinguishable from the real thing.

     After a long moment of deep thought on the subject Lambernath gave it up as another one of the many things that he would probably never know.
The three seemed to be well prepared on the physical side of the adventure, But it was always a good plan to have a cleric or a mage along on an adventure. Or, if you could manage it, both. This group had neither, and aside from the obvious magical benefits that come with a wizardly companion, it was good to have someone along to do the heavy thinking. Fighters never were much good at that.

     “Admit it.” Lambernath said to himself, “You want to go with them, you’ve tried the life of an innkeeper and it bores you!” But another part of him wanted to stay where he was, where it was safe. This part had been stung by the dwarf’s remarks about mages. Meant to goad Dron, the bars had hit home with Lambernath instead. Finally he decided on a course of action, he would make his availability known and wait to see what happened. But they would have to ask him, his wounded pride demanded that much.

     Lambernath turned to the dwarf, obviously the leader of the group. His mind working out the perfect thing to say to him. Something that would suggest his availability without making it seem as if they couldn’t handle the adventure themselves (even though they couldn’t) , something that wouldn’t make it seem as if he really wanted to go (even though he did), and most importantly something to appear to the dwarf’s rough nature. In the second that this took, Lambernath turned to Deverax to find that the dwarf was staring intently at him. Cool and calculating, the dwarf’s icy blue eyes showed no hint of the ale that Lambernath had seen him consume.

     Lambernath started to wonder how long the dwarf had been watching him while he had been watching the dwarf’s friends. The carefully thought out words lay forgotten and unused, indeed useless under that gaze.

     They’ll do just fine without me, Lambernath though. He dropped his eyes to the hand that still polished the bar. He stopped the hand and turned his back on the bar. When he spoke his voice was oddly subdued.

     “More ale, anyone?”

*     *     *

Ahhh…. The terrible commas. The recurrent it’s ~ its mistakes. The obsessive internal monologue. The over-description. The cloying reek of cliche….

Best of all, you should know that Lambernath wasn’t a main character in the book. He wasn’t even a secondary character. He was just the innkeeper. The next day everyone left the inn and you never saw him again. He had no business being a POV character.

Simply said, it’s a train wreck.

Here’s the thing. Am I glad I wrote this book? Were the hundreds of hours I spent slaving away at it worthwhile?

Absolutely.

The whole purpose of your early writing is to make mistakes so you can get them out of your system. That’s what first novels are for.

You can see a few good ideas in there, desperately struggling to raise their heads out of the morass of mistake. I was trying to build mystery. (The cat man was actually a Kensai with a magical curse in his past.) I was trying (and failing) to figure out what a plot was.

And I was trying to show that while the dwarf *looked* cliche, there was something more to him that just a stereotype. It was my first fumbling attempt to twist a genre trope into something fresh and new. Not that I knew what the word “trope” meant back then….

And of course, you can see that Lambernath contains the seeds of a very, very early proto-Kvothe.

 (Photo Courtesy of Deviantart.)

If I hadn’t written that terrible book. If I hadn’t made the pointless decision to have the characters move from one bar to another. If I hadn’t foolishly switched POV to focus on a character that was utterly useless to the story, I might never have written Kvothe. Which pretty much means The Name of the Wind wouldn’t exist.

Anyway, I hope y’all have found this at least slightly amusing. Thanks so much for helping out Jay.

*     *     *

And if any of y’all are still feeling altruistic, you could always check out my fundraiser: Worldbuilders. We’re giving away thousands of books to encourage people to donate to charity.

You can click here if you’re interested in the details.

Also posted in fanfic, Fuck Cancer, My checkered past, Stories about stories., the craft of writing | By Pat24 Responses

Brilliance Audio, BBC, Unicorns and Felicia Day

You know what’s surprising? If you google “Unicorns and Felicia Day” you don’t get any direct hits.

I find myself oddly proud to be the first.

With less than a week to go, Worldbuilders is still going strong. We’ve raised more than 92,000 dollars for Heifer International so far, and I’m hoping we can break 100,000 by the end of the week.

So remember, if you donate on our team page before Dec 13th, Worldbuilders will match 50% of your donation. Plus you have the chance to win all sorts of cool swag like this:

Y’all know about The Guild, right? If you’re geeky enough to have discovered our fundraiser, I kinda already assume you know about the Guild.

But even if you do know about The Guild, you might not have heard about this yet, as it’s pretty new:

  • A copy of The Guild comic written by Felicia Day and illustrated by Jim Rugg.

Over the years I’ve come to think of The Onion’s A.V. Club as the gold-standard of reviews. This isn’t just because they gave my book one of the best reviews ever. It’s because if the reviewers in the A.V. Club think something is crap, they aren’t afraid to say so, at great length, and with many scathing words.

So read the following blurb with that in mind.

“Seamlessly integrates with the web series’ mixture of discomfort humor and deep understanding of-and wry sympathy for-gaming nerddom.” -The Onion’s A.V. Club

  • Five copies of the full-cast BBC radio dramatization The Adventures of Sexton Blake.

I’ve gushed about this on a previous blog. And after buying at least a dozen copies to give away as gifts I couldn’t help myself from picking up another five just to donate to Worldbuilders.

I do this in order to share the joy with as many people as possible. If you’ve ever read a Sherlock Holmes story you’ll laugh your ass of at this BBC production of the Adventures of Sexton Blake.

Anyone who’s been reading my blog for any amount of time knows how I feel about Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog. Let’s just take that as read, shall we?

I’ve picked up five copies just for Worldbuilders this year because if you haven’t watched it, you really need to. And if you have watched it, but haven’t caught the musical commentary on the DVD then you’re really missing out.

Next we’ve got some lovely audiobooks from Brilliance audio.

  • A copy of the unabridged audio book of Wizard’s First Rule by Terry Goodkind. Read by Sam Tsoutsouvas.

While I never made it to the end of Goodkind’s series, I do have a certain fondness for this first book. I read it in 1998, back when I was having a bit of a creative slump. Reading this book for the first time jazzed me back up a little and got me back into working on The Name of the Wind.

“Wonderfully creative, seamless, and stirring.” – Kirkus Review

Whenever I read Catherynne Valente’s stuff, I’m made uncomfortably aware of the fact that she’s probably way smarter than me.

That said, she writes a hell of a book, and I was proud to discover she was one of the other authors who was writing for Scalzi’s Unicorn Pegasus Kitten chapbook.

While I haven’t listened to the audio version of Palimpsest, I have read it. Valente has a gorgeous use of language and she’s created a completely unique world. Plus the book is kinda sexy. Plus it has an awesome cover. Plus extra points for use of the word “palimpsest.”

“Overflowing with poetic images and epic repetition, Valente’s story washes us to an unexpected shore. –Regina Schroeder for Booklist.

First off, this is written by Bill Willingham. So you know you’re in for a good time.

Second off, this is actually a Fables novel. So you know you’re getting to explore a well-developed world with a cool mythic underpinning.

Lastly, this book is read by Wil Wheaton.

So there you go. Even before you consider the fact that this is in a neat collector’s tin, you’ve already got a trifecta of cool.

  • An unabridged set of Vol 1 and 2 of The Baroque Cycle: Quicksilver and King of the Vagabonds by Neal Stephenson. Read by Simon Prebble.

“BBC announcer/Shakespearean actor Prebble’s performance is wonderfully nuanced. His authoritative narration, combined with his chameleon-like facility for character and accent, is nothing short of enchanting… The experience of listening to this audiobook is something rare, as it’s a literary tale that brings history, science and philosophy to life in a heartily entertaining fashion.” – Publishers Weekly (starred review)

  • A copy of the unabridged audio book of Songs of the Dying Earth: Stories in Honor of Jack Vance edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois. Read by Arthur Morly. Stories by Neil Gaiman, Robert Silverberg, Kage Baker and many more.

“The 23 stories not only capture the unique feel of Vance’s dying universe but stand individually as one of the strongest gatherings of writers to pay homage to one of their own. This is highly recommended.” – Library Journal (starred review)

  • A copy of the unabridged audio book of Wolfsbane and Mistletoe: Hair Raising Holiday Tales edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni L. P. Kelner. Read by MacLeod Andrews and Tanya Eby. Stories by Charlaine Harris, Patricia Briggs, Carrie Vaughn, and more.

“Fresh, interesting tales…[that] star some of the more famous series characters like Sookie Stackhouse.” – Alternative Worlds

“A captivating collection…offers up the Christmas spirit in a wonderfully wicked way.” – Darque Reviews

  • A copy of the unabridged audio book of Many Bloody Returns edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni L. P. Kelner. Read by Luke Daniels and Teri Clark Linden. Stories by Charlaine Harris, Jim Butcher, Kelley Armstrong and more.

“Thoroughly enjoyable…a toothsome collection of birthday treats you will not want to miss.” – Monsters and Critics

“Toothsome” is a word you don’t hear enough anymore. I’m going to make a point of using it today…

  • A copy of the unabridged audio book of Death’s Excellent Vacation edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni L. P. Kelner. Read by Christopher Lane and Amanda Ronconi. Stories by Charlaine Harris, Katie MacAlister, Jeaniene Frost and more.

“Harris and Kelner’s third short-story anthology sends paranormals on vacation… Sarah Smith, Daniel Stashower, L.A. Banks, Lilith Saintcrow, and Sharan Newman also contribute quality work, and readers will find this collection a great sampler for discovering authors they’ll want to follow.” – Publisher’s Weekly

  • A copy of the unabridged audio book of Intrigues: Book Two of the Collegium Chronicles by Mercedes Lackey. Read by Nick Podehl.

“Lackey makes a real page-turner out of Mags’ and the collegia’s development… this book’s outstanding characters, especially Mags, will greatly please Valdemar fans.” – Booklist

  • Two copies of the unabridged audio book of The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, read by Nick Podehl. Signed by the author.

I had to get a special pen to sign these. I actually left the house. I don’t like to do that very often, so you better appreciate it.

  • A copy of The Last Unicorn DVD. Signed by author Peter S. Beagle.

This movie was made back when an author could actually be directly involved in creating a movie. Since Peter was actually had a hand in this project, it’s surprisingly true to the novel. Both in the tone of the story and the text of the dialogue itself.

This is a really great movie. It was animated by Rankin/Bass, the same folks that did the original animated Hobbit movie. It’s got a great score, and is very faithful to the spirit of the original novel. It’s sweet, mythic, tender, and frightening in places, just like any good old fashioned fairy tale is supposed to be.

*     *     *

Lastly Conlan Press has donated a couple unique items that I can’t help but auction off.

What we have here are original film cells from The Last Unicorn movie. Each of them in a clear protective envelope signed by Peter S. Beagle himself.

If you want more details about the cells, or if you want to order a specific set of cells as, you can check out Peter S. Beagle’s newsletter over here.

  • The Last Unicorn 35mm Vintage Film Cells. Signed by Peter S. Beagle.

This is what Beagle’s signature looks like on the protective envelope.

When I think of all the magician characters I’ve read over the years, only a few really stand out. Gandalf is the first of these, of course. But after that comes Merlin, Pug, and Schmendrick.

To see more pictures or to bid on this Vintage Film Cell featuring Schmendrick the magician you can follow this link.

This cell shows a classic Rankin/Bass landscape with the unicorn on the hillside at night.

To see more pictures or to bid on this Vintage Film Cell from the Last Unicorn, you can follow this link.

And here we have a cell with a close-up of the unicorn herself.

To see more pictures or bid on this Vintage Film Cell from the Last Unicorn, you can follow this link.

*     *     *

Remember folks, for every 10 dollars you donate to Heifer International, you get a chance to win these cool audiobooks and hundreds of others like them.

In addition to that, Worldbuilders is matching 50% of all donations made on our Team Heifer page before Dec 13th.

For more details about Worldbuilders, the auctions we’re running, and the other donated books, you can head over HERE.

Also posted in Felicia Day, Peter S. Beagle, Worldbuilders 2010 | By Pat34 Responses
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