Category Archives: meeting famous people

175K Stretch Goal – Music with Vi Hart

When I started Worldbuilders, my main goal was getting people to donate books. I’ve always considered that the heart of the fundraiser, and I spent a lot of time approaching authors and publishers, trying to bring them onboard.

But these days that’s not a problem any more. We’ve got a lot of authors who send us stuff every year. We’ve got publishers and collectors and bookstores that send us hundreds of books. Signed stuff. Rare stuff. Out of print stuff.

If I had to guess, I’d say this year we’re going to be giving away more than 50 or 60 thousand dollars worth of books to people who donate on our Team Heifer page.

That means these days, our problem isn’t getting more books (though more books is always nice). These days the challenge is getting the word out to people. Letting them know Worldbuilders exists. That’s why this year, we’ve been bringing in some geek celebrities to do some stretch goals

But here’s the thing, I know a lot of cool bookish geeks, because that’s the world I live in. But I don’t know many music-type geeks. And as for the video/youtube geeks… I know barely any at all.

So I called up Paul and Storm to see if they’d be willing to put me in contact with some folks who might be willing to help us spread the word. They agreed, and named a few names like The Doubleclicks and Molly Lewis.

“Is there anyone else you have in mind?” they asked.

“Well…” I said. “I know you’ve worked with Vi Hart in the past. If you’d be willing to introduce us….”

And I’ll be honest here. This last one wasn’t very much about Worldbuilders at all. It was more about the fact that I’ve had a huge geeky crush on Vi Hart for years now. Ever since I saw some of her videos….

So was I viciously exploiting my charity with the hope of making a connection with her? Yeah. A little bit. I’m not proud of the fact, but I won’t deny it either. I can occasionally be kind of an awful person.

Luckily Paul and Storm don’t know this. So they send a gracious e-mail introducing me to Vi. They briefly explain who I am, and mention Worldbuilders….

As soon as I read their introduction, I begin to obsess about my response. I start to think about how to be appropriately complimentary without coming across as a deranged fan. I start planning the tone of the e-mail, agonizing over how I will attempt to be enthusiastic about the fundraiser without being boring or self-indulgent.

But most of all, I’m desperately trying to think of something I can say that will make me look cool to Vi Hart.

Then, before I manage to write a single sentence, I see Vi has already replied to Paul and Storm’s e-mail. I click on the message, and it says:

Pat,

The yellow edition of The Name of the Wind that I won in the lottery a couple Worldbuilders ago is right here on my desk. I may have heard of you.

Vi

And I just sit there, stupefied. I think, “Wait. She knows who I am?”

And then I think, “Wait. She knows about Worldbuilders, too? She already knows about Worldbuilders and *donated* in the past? And won something?”

Then I think. “Hold on. Did she actually maybe just reference my book in her e-mail to me?”

And I am suddenly filled with a warm, glowy joy.

We’ve had several conversations since then, both on the phone and over e-mail. She is every bit as sharp and fun as I’d imagined. Simply said, even the few too-brief conversations I’ve had with her have changed the way I think about certain things. Which is about the nicest thing I can think to say about anyone.

To cut to the end of the story, Vi and I have decided to be bestest forever friends.

*     *     *

In the course of talking about stretch goal stuff, I mentioned to Vi that I had some lyrics lying around from the book. Songs that weren’t really songs, so to speak. Because a song without words is still music. But a song without music is just irritatingly formatted text.

I’d written the lyrics for Knackerman Knackerman a decade ago. It was kind of a round. Kind of dark with some layered meanings. I’d always thought of it as a duet for two female voices, and I remember the lyrics being pretty cool. Would she be interested in turning one of those into, y’know…. music?

She would.

So I went digging through my archives. And I found the lyrics. I remembered them being cool. They weren’t cool.

I e-mailed Vi and said I didn’t know if I’d be able to find them. Would she maybe be interested in taking a crack at Tinker Tanner?

She said she’d wait. She really liked the idea of Knackerman.

I e-mailed back and explained that I’d found the lyrics, but they weren’t any good. That they were, in fact, quite bad.

She said she’d still like to see them.

I explained I was afraid to send her these lyrics. I worried that they might make her lose respect for me. I worried that the lyrics might actually make her dumber. They might, in fact kill a piece of her brain. Maybe an important piece. Like the piece that stores the memory of fluffy kittens or the ability to taste pie.

She reminded me that we were best friends now, that it was okay.

I tidied up the lyrics a bit and sent them. I apologized for the fact that I shifted verse forms and pointed out the meter was uneven. I told her I was sorry for recklessly endangering her future ability to enjoy kittens and pie.

She replied:

Oh Rothfriend you lovely creature you don’t understand, this is a DUET, for two female voices, and it is a song, and songs that people sing do things, they grow their own special lumps and become unique, and what a lovely creature to wake up next to. Sometimes when I read a poem I can simply hear it in my head (I think I got this skill reading fantasy books. Hooray Tolkien!) and, well, ok, I’m just going to make a very quick recording so you get why the verse form isn’t a problem and then you can make edits if you want.

And the e-mail had an attachment. It was a song. She’d just… y’know… Done it.

And I thought. What the hell? What the serious hell?

About a year ago, I did a really bad magic trick for my 3 year old son. I used slight of hand and misdirection so clumsy that it would have made Pen and Teller weep tears of blood.

But it was enough to fool my son, and when he saw that I had made three blueberries disappear, he looked up at me with unalloyed awe in his expression. He looked at me and said, “Dad, you are quite a wizard!”

That’s how I felt just then, as I opened the e-mail and listened to the song. I felt awe and confusion and an almost holy fear. What sort of person can do this? I thought. Who can just look at some words and then make music out of them? Who does that?

My new best friend, Vi Hart, that’s who.

We talked more, and it changed my understanding of music. And I tweaked the lyrics again, because I’m me.

And here we are.

Thanks so much, Vi. I can’t say that big enough or loud enough.

Your new bestie,

pat

*     *     *

Please remember that these stretch goals are designed to promote Worldbuilders.

If you liked this awesome thing, please consider donating on our Heifer International Team Page. The more money we raise, the more cool things we do.

For more details about Worldbuilders, including a list of our past and future stretch goals, you can head on over here.

Also posted in fanmail, geeking out, music, Oot, Worldbuilders 2013 | By Pat41 Responses

Rothfuss and Brooks: Part IV

Here’s the final installment of the mutual interview I did with Terry Brooks. If you’d like to start at the beginning, here’s Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

And now, without further ado, Part 4….

*     *     *

Pat: What’s your revision process like? How many drafts do you go through?

Terry: I outline pretty thoroughly before I put pen to paper.  I don’t write anything until I have it all pretty clear in my head, then I do the outline, and then I do the book.  This doesn’t mean there won’t be changes, some of them extensive.  But it is my blueprint for the book’s foundation and support timbers.  I can pretty much rely on it to see me through.  That said, nothing tells you more about your book than the writing of it.  So I pay attention to newer, fresher ideas that crop up as I write.  I listen to my instincts.

But here’s the good part.  With this method, I only write one draft.

Pat: Boy. I think I’d hate to outline everything. But I have to admit, I’m really jealous of a one-draft model. I end up doing somewhere between 50 and 300 drafts, depending on how you want to count them.

Hopefully I’ll manage to streamline that a bit as I gain more experience. I’m the first to admit my way isn’t very efficient. I end up going back and forth a lot. Once or twice I’ve gone back and realized the best thing for the book was to hatchet out an entire chapter.

What’s the biggest cut you’ve ever made to a manuscript?

Terry: I did a lot of cutting when I was learning the craft under Lester.  Lots of pages went by the board.  But along the way, I’ve learned a few things.  So I haven’t had to cut anything much in a long time.  I should add, though, that I decided a while back to curtail the length of my books.  I am an advocate of less is more these days.  I use fewer words and actively look for ways to cut bits and pieces as I write.  I was feeling wordy about my books about 15 years ago, and that was the end of big books for me.

Pat: Strange as it might seem, that’s actually my philosophy too. I really believe in less is more. And yes, I know how ridiculous that sounds coming from someone who just wrote a 400,000 word book. Believe me, it would have been much longer if I wasn’t constantly riding my own brake.

Terry:  I think you will do more of this the more you write and the older you get.  This isn’t meant to be a warning.  I just think that you learn how to say more with less (that less is more thing again) as time passes and writing skills improve.  You change because that’s in the nature of who we are as writers.

Pat: Roughly speaking, how many copies of your own books would you guess you have in your house?

Terry: I don’t know how many of my books I’ve got in my house, but I’ve got thousands in my book storage rooms, and about half of them are European paperbacks!!  Those guys insist on sending out dozens of author copies every time there is a new print run.  If you put them altogether I think you would find I have somewhere around 20,000 on hand.  Anyone need a foreign edition?  Croatian, Thai, Hebrew or Inuit?

How about Martian?

Pat: The foreign editions really do pile up after a while. And I’ve only got the two books. I can’t imagine what it’s like for you, so many different editions of so many books. There’s really only so much you can do with them, too. One to the library. One to a friend who wants to brush up on his Estonian, then the rest of them sit on a shelf…

Terry: Do you see yourself writing fantasy twenty years from now?  Or do you think you might go off and write something else entirely?

Pat: I don’t think I’ll ever stray very far from fantasy. Not only is it what I love best, but there’s so much room to write any sort of story you want.

Terry: That’s pretty much my thinking, too.  I’m writing what exactly what I want to.

Pat: Rumor has it that Edith Sitwell used to lie in an open coffin for a while before she began her day’s writing. Do you have any little rituals that help you write?

Terry: I’m kind of like Monk.  Very anal.  I have my writing space and I never write anywhere else.  I have my stuff all carefully arranged, and I don’t like it if something gets moved.  I have several recourses that I can turn to when I am stumped or bothered about a piece of writing to remove the so-called block.  I always write in silence.  No sounds, no music, no interruptions.  This is all weird, but it beats lying in a coffin!

Pat: We’re birds of a feather there. I’m not orderly or neat. But I do have my writing space. Nobody is allowed in there, with a few rare exceptions.

And I’m with you. Silence. No interruptions. I can’t understand how some folks write with music playing. I know it’s an issue of different strokes for different folks, but writing with music on strikes me as being profoundly counter-intuitive. Unnatural even.

Pat: The internet has really changed the face of fandom in the last ten years. Has it had much of an effect on the way you interact with your fans?

Terry: When I started out, there was no internet, of course.  My connection with fans was all by snail mail and personal appearances.  I’ve never been good about mail, but I loved going out and meeting readers.  I did it every year, sometimes for as many as 5 or 6 weeks a year, here and abroad.  Can’t do that anymore because my energy level and tolerance for airport security won’t allow for it.  Now I do maybe 2 or 3 weeks a year.  But the personal connections, face to face, always mean more.

On the other hand, the internet allows for instant communication, and a different kind of closeness between writer and reader.  Before, there was no central venue for communicating with readers.  It was all done one on one.  If you were doing a tour, you could send out fliers or the stores could print and distribute them.  You could rely on word of mouth, but you didn’t have video or audio mass distribution available that didn’t cost an arm or a leg.  The internet changed all that.  About ten years ago, I went out on tour and asked at every stop how many people were there because they had read about it on the website.  Web Druid Shawn asked me to take this survey.  The response was eye opening.  More than 80% were there because they had read about it on the site.

How about you, coming in later on when the internet was already the established form of communication? I know you blog regularly.

Pat: Yeah. I have a lot of fun interacting with my readers online. I’ve met a lot of cool people that way. It can be very rewarding….

But part of me also thinks that it would be nice to be able to go back to writing in a vacuum, like I did before I was published. I get about 10-15 e-mails a day from readers. That’s not counting print letters, or Facebook, or Goodreads. It can get a little overwhelming.

As for the blogging, I do that almost as a defensive measure. I know I can’t write a detailed letter back to every one of my fans that contacts me, but I can write something that anyone can show up to read. I use it to tell little stories out of my life and answer questions. I’ve run a contest or two. We’ve sold some t-shirts at our online store, The Tinker’s Packs, to support my charity.

I mostly goof around, in all honesty. But in between the goofing around, I keep people filled in about events and new projects.

Plus it gives me a venue to do the occasional interview with another cool author….

Terry: I like your thinking about using the blogs to answer questions for a general audience when it is virtually impossible to answer individual letters.  I used to do that by snail mail before the internet, but I can’t manage it anymore.

Pat: It works out pretty well. It lets people know that you care. Plus you get to be helpful without having to spend three days of the week doing nothing but correspondence.

Terry: Hey, Patrick, this has been a lot of fun.  I love finding out how other writers manage their lives, why they choose to write what they do, and what makes them tick.  Especially writers I admire.  Thanks for taking time to do this.

Pat: The pleasure has been all mine, Terry. This has been such a thrill.

*     *     *

There you go folks, share and enjoy….

pat

 

Also posted in fanmail, Interviews, Me Interviewing Other Folks, Revision, the craft of writing | By Pat22 Responses

New Year’s Resolutions

I’m not the sort of person who makes new year’s resolutions.

In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever made any new year’s resolutions. Ever.

But yesterday, I wandered onto goodreads and fired up this little “reading challenge” widget they have. There’s not much to it. You set a goal for how many books you want to read over the course of the year, then this thing tracks your progress.

Last year I tried it on a whim and made my goal of 150 books even though I was sloppy about keeping track. This year I decided to shoot for 250, which is probably closer to what I actually read in a year.

Ever since I fired up that silly little widget, I’ve been thinking about new year’s resolutions. Which is odd, because, like I said, I don’t typically go in for that sort of thing.

Philosophically, the concept of making a resolution has never made much sense to me. It seems to me that if you really want to do something, you should just fucking do it. Resolving to do it is sort of a bullshit intermediary step. If I’m hungry, I don’t *resolve* to go eat lunch. I just find food and put it in my mouth. Simple. Problem solved.

So why am I thinking about New Year’s Resolutions?

I think the main reason is that I had a really great New Years. Some friends came to visit. We played board games, did some tabletop role-playing, and just hung out.

It was the most fun I’ve had in ages. And after everyone went home, I felt good. Not just happy, but physically and emotionally healthy. I felt like a million dollars.

No. I felt better than that. I felt like a second season of Firefly.

Seriously. A full 22 episode season. I felt that good.

Ever since then, I’ve been rolling it around in my head. 2011 was a pretty good year for me. Book two was finally published. The Wise Man’s Fear hit #1 on the New York Times. I met Terry Pratchett, got to perform at Wootstock, and attended some very cool conventions.

(Speaking of conventions. I’m Guest of Honor at Confusion later this month. You should swing on by if you can. Jim Hines is going to be there, as is Joe Abercrombie, Peter V. Brett, Brent Weeks….

Holy shit. Robin Hobb is going to be there too. I didn’t know that until I just checked their website. How awesome is that?)

But anyway, yeah. 2011 was my first official signing tour. I met thousands of my readers all over the country. (Though I realize now, as I go looking for a link, that I never got around to blogging about that. I probably should at some point.)

For now, a picture will suffice. Here’s a shot I took from the podium at my first signing of the tour in Seattle.

(They were a great crowd.)

If you look at the highlight reel of 2011, it looks like I’m living the dream.

I’ve actually had people say that to me over this last year: “Congratulations! You’re living the dream!”

I know they’re just excited for me. But whenever I hear that, I think, “Whose dream? I don’t ever remember dreaming this….”

Now don’t get be wrong. Parts of this year have been profoundly cool. I love conventions. I love talking about writing and hanging out with readers. I love getting to meet authors that I’ve been reading my whole life.

But the fact remains that a lot of times, after going to a convention I feel exhausted and hammered flat on both sides.

On the other hand, after hanging out with my friends on New Years, I feel like I could lift a truck over my head with one hand, then go write for ten hours straight.

Looking back over these last couple years, I realize that most of my close friends left town back in 2007, just as my first book was getting published. They were getting jobs in other parts of the country, going to grad school, joining Americorp….

I missed them, of course, but I was plenty busy getting used to the whole published-author life. I started writing this blog. I signed up for Facebook. I did some signings, started attending conventions….

At the same time, I quit teaching at the University. Quit coaching fencing. Quit acting as advisor to the College Feminists.

When I look at things with the clarity of hindsight, it’s blindingly obvious what the end result of all this is: I’m suffering from a rather specialized sort of social isolation. The sort of isolation where I can go online at any point and interact with 10,000 people.

I never thought of it like this before, but hanging out with friends is psychologically healthy. Facebook and blogging and going to conventions is the social equivalent of eating Pringles. It’s fun. It’s tasty. It’s relatively harmless in moderation. But if you eat nothing *but* Pringles, you die.

Similarly, lack of genuine hanging out with real friends must lead to a sort of psychological scurvy.

This is the situation I’ve accidentally backed into.It wasn’t until I hung out with my old friends again that I realized how much I missed that. How much some part of me was starving.

So. Over these last couple days I’ve been thinking about my life. I’ve been thinking about the difference between things I do that are fun, and things I do that actually make me happy.

For example, playing some stupid flash game on my computer might be fun, but playing board games with my friends makes me happy.

Or, for another example, it might be fun to do a reading at a convention, but hanging out with little Oot makes me happy.

The difference seems to be this. If something is merely fun, it’s mostly enjoyable while you’re doing it. Something that makes you happy is different. It’s enjoyable afterwards, too. Minesweeper and cocaine are fun (reportingly.) But talking with Oot about ducks or watching Buffy with friends make me happy.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that fun doesn’t have its place. I plan on playing the hell out of Skyrim when I have the chance.

What I’m saying is that my priorities have gotten seriously out of alignment. These days, flying to San Diego for a convention don’t just feel easy, it seems like a  professionally responsible for me to do. At the same time, driving down to Madison to hang out with friends, have dinner, and watch Avenue Q seems like an extravigant and impractical use of my time.

That’s some fucked up mental arithmetic.

So, in an effort to de-kink my thinkings, I’ve decided to make some changes to my life.

In fact, I’ve done more than merely *decide* to do these things. I’ve built up bad habits in these last years, and it’s going to take some effort to break them. So I’m going to *resolve* to do them.

Here they are:

1. I’m going to hang out with Oot at least two hours every day. I’m going to make it a priority, rather than something I try to fit in around the edges of the other stuff I have going on in my life.

2. I’m going to do my damnedest to hang out with my friends at least twice a month for the express purpose of playing games, hanging out, watching movies, and just generally dicking around.

3. I’m going to start exercising at least three times a week. Because, y’know, I don’t really want to die from author-related sitting-on-my-ass-ness.

At this point, the righteous self-improvement impulse starts to gather steam and I’m tempted to continue adding things. Turning this into a laundry list of me-betterment that include things like, “pet more fluffy kittens,” “smell even better,” and “floss regularly.”

But no. I’d rather pick three important things and actually do them, rather than list 50 things then get frustrated and quit after a month.

Why am I posting these things here on the blog?

The simple answer is because… well… writing things out helps me figure out where exactly my head is on a particular subject.

In fact, I just now realize that’s a lot of the reason I bother with the blog. If my friends still lived in town, I’d hang out with them and chat about this stuff in my living room, using them as a sort of sounding board. But since they don’t, I kinda hang out in my head with y’all and write blogs.

Which, now that I’m thinking about it, might be kinda crazy behavior.

The other reason I’m posting this up here is because I know myself pretty well. I’m prideful. If I make a public declaration like this, I’m much more likely to follow through with it.

Lastly, I figured I might as well post my musings up here with the hope they might be interesting/helpful to anyone else who is having trouble adjusting to this whole living life as a grown-up thing. I was really good at being a broke, mouthy, irreverent college student. But this being-an-adult shit can be really hard sometimes….

Feel free to post up your own resolutions in the comments. Especially if you’re like me, and think that going public might help you keep them.

Keep on tranglin,

pat

Also posted in musings, social networking, the man behind the curtain, things I shouldn't talk about | By Pat96 Responses

San Diego 2011: Thursday Part II – Wootstock

This is part of my San Diego ComicCon diary from 2011. It’s sort of the middle of the story.

If you want the whole story, you might want to start reading at the beginning. Other parts include: Wednesday, Thursday Part I, and Friday Ad Infinitum.

*     *     *

Before I tell the story of Wootstock, I should give you a little background so things will make sense.

A stab at definition.

For those of you that don’t know about it, Wootstock is….

Wootstock is….

Well, it’s just Wootstock.

It’s sort of like a modern variety show. (Except nobody knows what a variety show is these days.)

Imagine A Prairie Home Companion if it was run by a bunch of sci-fi nerds. (Man, that’s no good either, does anyone else other than me listen to A Prairie Home Companion?)

Okay. How about this. There’s music. There’s comedy. There’s music-comedy. There’s skits. There’s cussing and nerd humor and poetry and, well…

It’s pretty much a big geek performance orgy.

Honestly, I’ve wanted a piece of Wootstock for ages. Ever since I first heard about it, I wanted in.

Now did I get a piece of the action?

I got an invitation from Ernest Cline.

I mentioned his book on the blog a while back. It’s called Ready Player One. And not only did I like it enough to give it a blurb. I liked it enough to dig up his e-mail address and gush to him directly about how much I loved it.

I think the entire content of my first e-mail was, “Your book is fucking awesome.”

I tried to get them to use that for the blurb on the back, (“This book is fucking awesome.” — Patrick Rothfuss) But their marketing people wouldn’t go for it.

Anyway, Ernest got an invite to Wootstock from Wil Wheaton, who is narrating the audiobook of Ready Player One. Ernest, being a generous human being, asked if I’d like to share some of his stage time.

I said yes. I said it in a firm, manly, baritone. Then I hung up the phone and laughed my most maniacal laugh.

Right. So. We all on the same page here?

7:00 – Backstage.

I walk up to the side door of the Balboa Theater in San Diego. Someone was waiting for me at the door, where they gave me this:

My very first All Access pass. It makes me feel like a rockstar.

I go backstage and down into the secret parts of the theater. It’s a magical sort of place. It’s a secret place that only the performers get to see, and it’s electric in a way that’s hard to describe. Everyone there is getting ready for the show. They’re excited, and a little nervous, and happy to see each other. Plus it’s comic-con, so we’re all a little exhausted. And a few of us are slightly tipsy, too… (Though not me, as I’m not much of a drinker.)

There’s a blur of people all over the place. Some of them I recognize, like Adam Savage from Mythbusters. And the guys from Rifftrax (who used to do MST3K.)

I’m introduced to a few people in a whirlwind fashion. I shake hands and nod at names. But they all run out of me like water. If I say, “someone said” or “someone did” I’m not trying to protect anyone’s identity, or snub them. It’s because a lot of the evening is a blur to me. I suck at meeting people, and I only have space in my head for about 5 new names.

Then I turn around and Wil Wheaton is there.

It’s weird meeting someone you kinda already know. And I kinda know Wil from a bunch of different directions. From his blog, from Star Trek, from his books, and from the Guild.

Plus we e-mailed just a little a day or two before Wootstock. I won’t bullshit you, that made me kinda tingly.

Anyway, we’re introduced, and we shake hands. He thanks me for the nice things I said about his book on my blog. And I’m a little surprised that he’s read it, though I shouldn’t be, I suppose. I tell him that I loved it.

That’s all we have time for. The stage manager is gathering everyone up to make some announcements before the show.

We all jam into a room and Liz is introduced. She is the boss. She tells us how it’s all going to work. She tells us we can watch from backstage, and that we should, so that we don’t miss our cues. She tells us to stick to our allotted time. She tells us where the beer and pizza are.

Everyone else nods attentively. There are a few jokes. But all of this is old hat for most of them.

Me? I’m grinning like an idiot. The show hasn’t even started yet and I’m having the best time….

*     *     *

I should explain something. I used to do lots of group-performance type things. I used to sing in choirs. I used to do radio comedy. I used to act a little, and did a few plays, a musical or two.

I even used to do a little improv comedy. Which is like a trial by fire. Once you do improv comedy, no other type of performance will ever truly frighten you.

Now I didn’t do a lot of these things seriously. But I did them. I enjoyed them.

And I miss them.

You see, one of the downsides of being a writer is that it’s a very solitary occupation. If everything is going well with my writing, I’ll spend 10-12 hours a day alone, and the rest of my time sleeping. (Also alone, usually.)

When I do get out to do a reading or a convention, I have a lot of fun. I enjoy meeting fans and signing books. I enjoy doing Q&A and reading stuff to an audience. It’s a nice opportunity for me to go out and be social.

But while it’s social, it’s a very solitary type of performance. I’m up in front of 200-600 people talking. There’s just me and the audience.

I’d forgotten what it was like to be part of a group of performers. To be a piece of a WE.

It feels great.

*     *     *

Liz makes one last announcement. They’ve gone to the worst seat in the house and borrowed the person’s camera. They’re going to pass it around backstage and we’ll all take pictures with it. That way the poor schlub with the worst seat will have a cool memento of the show and, as a bonus, the pictures will go online so everyone can use them.

It’s only because of the photoset that I have a shot of Ernest and me backstage, wherein I am getting my Kawaii on.

The show kicks off, and after cadging a piece of free pizza, I head upstairs we head up onto stage and watch the show from the wings. The theatre is gorgeous. A place with some real style to it.

It’s certainly the biggest house I’ve ever played to, and I’m a little nervous. But despite the fact that I’m anxiously fretting over what exactly I’m going to read, I can’t help but get pulled in by Molly Lewis playing the ukulele.

Her songs crack me up as I watch from backstage, and it helps me relax a bit.

Then, as I’m watching her play, a little motion catches my attention from the corner of my eye. So I look over and see Wil Wheaton dancing.

Before that point, I liked Wil Wheaton. I knew he was cool. I respected him as a writer, enjoyed him as a performer, and admired him as a strong, smart, outspoken member of the geek community.

But backstage in the Balboa theatre, I watched Wil Wheaton do a happy, goofy little dance, and that was when I started to love him.

Soon afterwards, Ernest gets his cue and heads out onto stage. He reads some hardcore geek poetry. Good stuff. He’s a good performer, too. Gets a good reaction from the crowd.

Then he introduces me. I’m a surprise guest of sorts, as I’m not on the program. People cheer when they hear my name, which is kind of a shock. It’s then that I decide what I’m going to read. I’m not going to try to follow Ernest’s poetry with more poetry. I think he’s got me beat in that regard.

I’m not going to read a piece out of my book, either. Too clunky. I even decide against reading a piece of a short story I’m working on.

No. A whole theatre of people cheering and my new man-crush Wil Wheaton watching from the wings means I go straight to my best material. The piece I keep in my back pocket whenever I do a reading. My sure-fire winner. My big gun.

I pull out The Guinea Pig Story.

Those of you who have seen me at a live reading might have heard it. Most of you have not.

It’s one of of the humor pieces I wrote back in college. Theoretically I was writing an advice column, but realistically I was making fun of people and telling incriminating stories about my life.

Here’s the only video I was able to find of the performance. The first little bit of my performance is cut off there, but it’s only about a sentence of the letter someone wrote in, asking for advice about keeping pets in their dormroom.

[Edit: After searching around a bit, I found another video from farther back in the audience that shows my performance AND Ernest's with Wil Wheaton's introduction.]

I got a great reaction from the audience, and left the stage feeling roughly ten thousand feet tall.

8:00 – Random House Party

After hanging around for a while and watching a few more acts, Ernest said he was going over to the Random House party and asked if I’d like to come along.

Though I was loathe to leave, I figured I should go and rub some elbows with some more bookish types. That’s kinda my job in some ways.

So I went to the party, hung out with some folks, and ended up riding a mechanical bull.

Why? No. Why is not the right question. I was at San Diego ComicCon. The proper question is “why the fuck not?”

That party was fun, but after about 45 minutes, I made my excuses and headed back to Wootstock. Because, y’know, Wootstock.

9:00 ish – More Wootstock.

I got back just in time for intermission, where I amused myself by handing out copies of the Chick Tract Dark Dungeons to members of the audience. I hope nobody thought I was serious….

After all my tracts were gone, I used my fancy pass to get backstage, feeling rockstar all over again. I wandered down to the dressing rooms and bumped into Felicia Day, who was also a surprise guest. I got a free hug and we chatted for about forty-five seconds before someone tells her she’s about to miss her entrance cue.

Somehow, someone managed to catch us on film during that brief moment. Proving that I’m not a big fibber.

I hang around and chat with folk, occasionally watching some of the show from backstage. I catch Jeff Lewis (Vork, for you Guildies out there) doing a piece of honest-to-god standup comedy. The man has amazing comic timing and delivery. As you’d already know if you were watching The Jeff Lewis 5-minute Comedy Hour.

11:30 ish – Autographing.

Eventually the show wraps up with a great closing number that I watch from the wings. Then I head downstairs to get my backpack and maybe another slice of pizza before I head out. When I’m gathering up my stuff, someone asks if I want to stick around and sign autographs. I shrug and agree, because I have nowhere else in particular to be.

Now over the last couple of years I’ve done a lot of signings. It’s old hat in a lot of ways. Usually I’m all alone. I’m a one-man-show.

But this one was different. A bunch of the performers were sticking around to sign posters and programs.

What’s more, at Wootstock, most of the people could give a damn about me. They’re there to see Wheaton, or Savage, or bask in the radiant glory of Paul and Storm.

And you know what? It was nice  doing a signing where most folks didn’t care who I was. It gave me a chance to goof off and get to know the people sitting on either side of me. To my left was the aforementioned Molly Lewis. And to my right was someone I didn’t know at all, but I quickly learned that she was Amy Berg, writer/producer for Eureka (among many other things.)

So we hang out and chat as the line of people slowly trickles past. I’m feeling pretty relaxed. I’ve had a good day. I was on a panel with George Martin, had dinner with Jim Butcher, and got to chat with Wil Wheaton. I went to a party with an actual velvet rope, and the bouncer nodded me through even though I wasn’t on the list. I rode the mechanical bull and didn’t hurt myself. I got a hug from Felicia day and made a thousand people laugh….

It’s  been a busy 14 hours, and I’m in that warm, happy place that comes when you know you don’t have to work any more. And, because I’m in a good mood, I start to joke around with the people coming through the line….

And that’s when I *really* start to get to know the people sitting on either side of me.  I draw a picture of a duck on someone’s poster, and they mock me for its utter terribleness. They mocked me with a sharp-tongued viciousness I haven’t experienced since most of my best friends moved away from Stevens Point.

So I abandoned drawing and started signing clever things on the posters. Then my neighbors started writing things on their posters that were clever-er. And I feel really put out by this, because normally *I* get to be the witty one, and they were out wittying me without hardly trying. I felt the sudden need to step up my game, to say nothing of wanting to buy some of Molly’s music and catch up on the current season of Eureka….

The signing went on for at least a couple hours, and it was the perfect end to the perfect day. As I left the theater I felt that strange, glowy feeling that comes when you level up. It wasn’t until I got home that I found out where the XP boost had come from:

Best of all, I’d made it through two entire days at the convention without making an ass of myself in front of anyone.

But then again, it was only Thursday….

*     *     *

Sorry this one was so long delayed. More soon…

pat

Also posted in a billion links, College Survival Guide, Consistent Verb Tense Is For Bitches, conventions, Felicia Day, my rockstar life, the longest fucking blog ever, videos, Wil Wheaton | By Pat36 Responses

San Diego 2011: Wednesday

Okay. ComicCon was cool this year, and people have been asking for details.

So here they are.

*     *     *

As I mentioned earlier, my trip to comic-con had a pretty rocky start.

This seems to be a theme of ComicCon for me. My first trip to ComicCon was fraught with peril, as mentioned in this comic by Greg Dean. While my second trip had a delayed flight that left me stranded in Chicago for a night.

Luckily, this year I had Valerie to help me out, so I made it to the con without too much stress. Though I did only get about an hour and a half of sleep Tuesday night.

Wednesday:

  • 11:00 – Nap.

I arrive in San Diego, find my hotel, and promptly fall asleep. The people at the hotel seem a little confused when I ask them for a 3:00 wake up call.

“You want us to wake you up at 3:00 AM tomorrow morning?” they say.

“No.” I say. “3:00 this afternoon. Four hours from now.”

Eventually they catch on, but I feel like they’re judging me. And I guess that’s fair. When the first thing I do at the convention is take a nap, I am officially old.

The fact remains that it was a delicious nap. I wake up refreshed and ready to get my geek on.

  • 4:00 – Blog.

Because I didn’t have the chance the night before, I decide to post a blog telling everyone about the talent pipes Badali Jewelry is making based on my books.

(This one is shown with black antiquing)

I’ve been approached by various people over these last couple years who want to do merchandising. Most of the time I’ve replied with a polite, “Thank you, no.”

The biggest reason is that I don’t want to feel like a great big whore. I don’t want to churn out a bunch of gimmicky merch just to make some extra money. That sort of thing has always struck me as being tacky, if not downright unethical. It seems like a betrayal of trust, like taking advantage of my readers.

But Badali Jewelry does wonderful work. They hold the jewelry licenses for several big-name geek properties (LOTR and Wheel of Time, just to name a few.) What’s more, they’re actually fans of my books. They’re proper geeks, and their love for what they do shows in their work. I trusted them enough to let them beta read The Wise Man’s Fear, and that says a lot right there.

Anyway, the pipes turned out great. That’s the moral of the story here. You’ll be seeing some more stuff from them before too long.

  • 5:00 – Crash.

After banging out  quick blog on the computer in the hotel lobby, I head to the convention center. I end up standing next to Seth Green while waiting for a stoplight to change. I try to think of a way to say, “Your stuff is awesome” that doesn’t sound gushy and fanboy, but I can’t think of anything. So I settle on a companionable silence instead.

Despite the long line, getting my badge is a remarkably painless process. I’m just putting the program book in my backpack when my phone rings.

I open it up. “Hello?”

Hey,” Valerie says. “It’s Valerie.

“I know,” I say. “Your text is green. What’s up?”

Badali’s website is down. A bunch of people posted comments about it.

“Really?” I say. “When did it go down?”

About twenty minutes after you posted the link on your blog.

My first reaction was to feel pretty cool. My second reaction was terrible guilt. I thank Valerie and give my contact at Badali a call. They’re only a couple hundred feet away, but I don’t have an exhibitor badge, so I can’t go into the hall until 6:00.

“Janelle?” I say as soon as she picks up. “I’m sorry. I think I broke your stuff.”

“What?”

“I posted up a link to the talent pipes on my blog. But I think the traffic crashed your website.”

“Wow,” she says. A pause. “That’s kinda awesome!”

A wave of relief fills me, and I’m no longer overwhelmed with guilt. “I know!” I say. “I feel like Neil Gaiman!”

  • 5:30 – First contact.

I get off the phone and finish putting some stuff away into my backpack. I sling it over one shoulder and look around, wondering how I’m going to kill half an hour until the hall opens up for preview night.

A pretty young Asian woman makes eye contact with me. She cocks her head to one side. “Are you Patrick Rothfuss?” she asks.

“I am,” I say.

She looks hesitant, then says, “Can I have a hug?”

“Absolutely,” I say.

And we hug.

I decide that this is probably going to be a pretty good convention.

  • 6:00 – On the Floor.

For those of you that don’t know much about San Diego ComicCon, let me explain. Wednesday night from 6:00-9:00 is preview night. Only people with 4-day passes can get in.

This makes it a great time to meet people in the exhibit hall. Not only is the place relatively uncrowded, but all the exhibitors are bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. (Both literally and/or figuratively, depending on the booth.)

I wander around pretty aimlessly at first. But luck takes me past Donato’s booth, and I get to say howdy to him. He’s a hell of a nice guy, to say nothing of the fact that he’s amazing artist. We chat for a bit, and I thank him for the donation of some prints he made to Worldbuilders this year. (You’ll be seeing those in the Tinker’s Packs before too long.)

I swing by Jason Palmer’s booth too, but he’s not at the con yet. I shrug it off, knowing that I’ll have plenty of time to stop back later in the con.

Next I stumble onto a booth where the cast of the Guild is doing a signing. The con is barely half an hour old, and they already have a huge line. I consider stopping to say hello to Felicia and Sandeep, but even though they’re not signing yet, I can tell the cast is kinda hanging out together. Besides, Felicia and Sandeep are chatting with some guy and I don’t want to barge into their conversation.

I’m also vaguely anxious that if I run into them 30 minutes into the convention, I’ll look like I’m stalking them. Which I’m not. Not at the current moment, that is.

I decide to leave them to their throng of adoring fans and see what else the floor has to offer.

I swing by the Penny Arcade booth, where I say howdy to Mike and Jerry. I wrote an intro for their most recent anthology, and hadn’t had a chance to see it in the real world yet.

Jerry comes out from the booth and gives me a hug. “We said terrible things,” he says.

At first, I have no idea what he’s talking about. Then I realize he’s probably referring to the comic they did a while back, and the podcast where they talked about the book in frank terms, and, well… mocked me.

Honestly, I’m a little flabbergasted. “I don’t know what it’s like where you live,” I say. “But where I come from, mocking is how we express love.”

And it’s true. There’s a world of difference between snarkery, loving satire, and full-blown vitriolic excoriation. Penny Arcade does all of these things, and does them well, but I can tell the difference.

After establishing that we’re all still best friends, I wander by Mysterious Galaxy’s booth, where it turns out they’re selling copies of Ghost Story even though the book technically wasn’t going to be released for days yet.

Needless to say, I bought a copy and clutched it lovingly.

“Is Butcher going to be here at the con?” I ask the people at the booth.

They tell me he is.

This is good news. I’ve read all the Dresden Files books at least twice, many of them three or four times. I’m a huge fan and I’ve been hoping to meet Butcher for years.

So Wednesday was full of win. A great way to start the convention. Best of all, I’d managed to make it through the whole thing without committing any huge social gaffs and making an ass of myself.

But it was only Wednesday, I still had four days of convention left….

*     *     *

This is part of the San Diego Diary: Wednesday, Thursday Part I, Thursday Part II (Wootstock), and Friday Ad Infinitum.

Also posted in geeking out, my dumbness, my rockstar life | By Pat56 Responses

Meeting Terry Pratchett

So as I mentioned yesterday, while I was at NADWcon this weekend, I got the chance to get a book signed by Terry Pratchett.

The thought of getting a book signed is an odd one to me. In these last several months, it’s possible that I’ve signed thousands of books. Many thousands. I’ve signed books to families, to kids, to grandparents. I’ve signed books in warehouses, libraries, bookstores, and colleges….

But honestly, I don’t know if I’ve ever approached someone to get their autograph. Not in a formal setting. And certainly not anyone of Terry Pratchett’s status. Not someone I’ve been reading since I stumbled onto a copy of Sourcery in Shopko in 1989….

By the time Monday rolled around, I’d been at the convention for three solid days. And truth be told, I was kinda hoping that I might run into Terry at some point in that time. Maybe we’d be in the elevator together. Maybe we’d meet in the hallway on the way to a panel. Maybe someone would introduce us and I’d get a chance to say a few words….

But it didn’t happen. I wasn’t surprised or disappointed. I know how these things work. It’s a big con, and Terry’s the star of the show. They have to work hard to protect the Guest of Honor at events like this or they’re mobbed by fans. If they aren’t careful, a guest like Terry will have a hard time finding a moment’s peace to eat. I’ve seen some titan-level writers who have trouble simply walking down a hallway at a con without a handful of people asking for an autograph or a picture.

So I didn’t stalk Pratchett. I didn’t arrange an introduction, or just happen to bump into him somewhere. Even when I found out that his room was right next to mine in the hotel, I didn’t do anything like leave a copy of The Princess and Mr. Whiffle outside his door. I didn’t want to be that guy.

The signings were carefully controlled, too. They have to be. Terry has written more than 50 books, and everyone there would like nothing more than to get a bunch signed. If they let everyone get as many books signed as they’d like, Terry would have spent the entire length of the four-day convention signing books.

I’m not being hyperbolic here. It’s the literal truth. He could easily have spent 70 hours signing books if the convention didn’t work hard to control the situation.

This is something I understand only now that I’ve been on my first signing tour.

Take me, for example. I’m a newbie author. I have two books out (compared to Pratchett’s 50+). I’ve been published for four years (compared Pratchett’s 40.)

To put this in different terms, I am currently hovering around 2300 Gaiman-Day units of cool, which isn’t bad.

But Pratchett probably ranks in at more than 60,000. I mean, when you write so well they actually knight you, you’re kind of a big deal.

Despite my relatively newbie nature, when I showed up in Houston back in March, I signed books for 9 hours straight. Given that I’m about 2% of a Pratchett, you can see how quickly one of his signings could spiral into madness if it wasn’t carefully controlled.

My point is, I knew Pratchett wasn’t going to be signing books all higgledy piggledy at the con. Even if he signed a single book for every person there, it would take him 12 hours. Because of that, I knew I probably wasn’t going to have a chance to get anything signed.

That said, I was pleasantly surprised when the guest liaison for the convention told me that if I wanted, he might be able to pull a few little strings for me. Maybe enough for me to get a book signed. Maybe.

I was honest, and said I’d be grateful for the chance. If I could get a book signed, I’d be able to use it for the charity I run every year.

He said that if the book was for charity, we could almost certainly make it happen.

So I bought a copy of Nation from Dreamhaven in the dealer’s room, and on Monday, I wandered to the hall where Terry was signing. He was mostly autographing stuff items that had been sold at the charity auction the day before. I’d had to miss the auction because I was doing some paneling. But it was probably for the best, as I’d already spent more money than I should on swag.

The guest liaison motioned me over and told me it was cool if I got something signed. It really didn’t have to be for the charity, either, he said. I could just get something for myself.

Suddenly I was really conflicted. I’d brought a copy of Where’s My Cow? to the convention, because whenever we travel with Oot, we need to bring about a dozen books to keep him happy. (He’s like his dad that way.)

I’ve been reading Where’s My Cow? to Oot since before he could talk. It’s a great book, and the ending makes me a little weepy, because I’ve turned into a total soppy git ever since I became a dad.

Oot knows what noises the animals make, even the  Hippopotamus. He really likes the page with Coffin’ Henry on it, too, and asks to see it again and again.

He also enthusiastically says, “Buggrit!” Which is a little troubling to Sarah, but pleases me to no end.

So when the guest liaison says I can get any book signed, I realize I have Where is My Cow? in my backpack. I could get Pratchett to sign the book to Oot….

It’s a hard moment, but I decide to get Nation signed for Worldbuilders instead. Because personal isn’t the same as important. The signed book will be a nice draw for Worldbuilders if we throw it into the general mix of prizes. And if we auction it, I’m guessing it will bring in at least a couple hundred bucks. That’s enough for a couple of goats….

I consider trying to get both signed, of course. Because I’m only human. Terry is a nice guy, and accommodating, so I’m guessing if I pulled a second book out of my bag when I was at the table he’d go for it….

But I shake off the thought fairly quickly. I am not a special snowflake. I don’t deserve to get two books signed when everybody else gets one. If everyone tried to pull that shit, Terry would have an extra 2000 books to sign.

The guest liaison brings me up to the table and introduces me, explaining that I’m fellow author and that I’ve hit the New York Times with both my books. That’s nice of him. It lets me stand a little taller.

Terry looks up at me and says, “I’m guessing you’re fantasy, not science fiction.”

I grin and nod. “We do have a certain look, don’t we?”

I’m pleasantly surprised by the fact that I don’t feel terribly tongue-tied or shaky or awkward.

[Author's note: Sarah just brought Oot in after his shower. He grinned at me and, "Bugit! ... Hand and shrimp! Fow Ron!" (This will only make sense if you've read a lot of Discworld or Where's My Cow?)]

I hand over the copy of Nation and say, “This book was absolutely gorgeous. It might be the best book I’ve ever read.”

“I got a lot of letters from children,” Terry says. “They were upset because it didn’t have a happy ending.”

He opens the book and signs his name. His signature is way loopier than mine.

Terry keeps talking as he signs, “But I always reply, ‘It has a ending. It has the right ending.”

“It has the perfect ending,” I say. “It was beautiful. It absolutely broke my heart.”

And that was it. I moved away and made room for the rest of the folk who had things for him to sign.

Would I have liked to talk longer? Maybe chat about writing and the art of ending? Of course. Who wouldn’t?

But there’s only so much time. And honestly, I was happy to wrap things up before I accidentally made an ass of myself.

Besides, though Pratchett didn’t know it, he’s said about the best thing possible to me. I worry about the ending of my story sometimes. I worry that people won’t like it. Most of my readers are hoping for a particular type of ending. They e-mail me with their theories and their hopes. They want X to hook up with Y. They want Z to get his comeuppance. They want such and such story tied up in a certain way….

I know it comes from a place of love. But it makes me nervous.

After talking to Terry, I’m less nervous. I can’t give each of you your own personalize ending, containing everything you specifically wanted out of the story. That’s impossible.

But I can give you the right ending. A perfect ending.

That’s all for now. If you have a spare moment, send a good thought this way tomorrow.

I don’t want to give any specifics, but tomorrow is going to be a little rough for us. If everything goes well it won’t be a big deal. But still, if you have a spare thought, Oot and Sarah and I could use it, just for luck.

Later,

pat

Also posted in conventions, Oot, signing books, Tales from the Con, Things I didn't know about publishing | By Pat100 Responses

Future Readings and Conventions Past….

So a long time ago, just a couple weeks after my first book came out, I received my first-ever professional convention invite. The convention was called Fantasy Matters, and it was there that I first met Neil Gaiman.

Fast forward to now, the same people that ran the Fantasy Matters convention just started up their own website, and they asked me if I’d write something to help with the launch. So I wrote a little something that talked about attending their convention back in the day. It was one of the very first that I attended as a professional writer, and meeting Neil Gaiman at that point in my life had a bit of an impact on me.

Here’s a link, if you’re interested in reading it…

In other news, I’m going to be doing a reading, Q&A, and signing up in Rhinelander on the 27th.

This should be a fun event for a couple reasons:

1) It should be cozy. (By which I mean there will probably be less than 400 people there.) That means I’ll have more time to hang out and personalize books for people.

2) Since the second book has been out for a couple months now, I can finally answer questions about it during the Q&A, and maybe read a piece of it, too. I couldn’t do that during my tour for fear of spoilers.

3) We’ve got a nice venue in an auditorium. So everyone can have a seat, even if we get 150 people or so. It’s flattering when so many people show up to an event that it’s standing room only, but I feel bad for the people that get stuck standing behind shelves or sitting on the floor.

4) I’ll have access to a projector, which means I might be able to show y’all some things I don’t normally get to share with people….

Here’s a link to the facebook event, if you’d like more details.

pat

Also posted in appearances, My checkered past, Neil Gaiman | By Pat36 Responses
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