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Category Archives: my terrible wrath

Why I Love My Editor….

Back in January, I mentioned on the blog that I thought my editor really deserved a Hugo nomination.

Imagine my delight when the list of Hugo nominees for 2012 came out, and there she was on the short list of nominees: Betsy Wollheim.

Weeks later, I was surprised to discover that in the 30+ years Betsy has been an editor, this is the first time she’s ever made it onto the shortlist.

It was more than a little startling to me. I mean, Betsy is Editor-in-Chief at DAW, one of the few publishers I knew about before I gave a damn about getting published. She’s never been nominated?

I think part of the reason she’s been overlooked is that while DAW is a great publisher, it’s not one of the hulking monoliths in the business. In fact, DAW is one of the very, very rare publishers that’s still privately owned. Betsy’s dad started it back in 1971. The “W” in DAW stands for Wollheim.

The other part of the reason I think Betsy’s never been nominated is that she’s not a big self-promoter.

I get that. Being from the Midwest, I’m not a big fan of self-promotion myself.

Now before people get their knickers in a twist and go pointing out that I have at times been a big old self-promoting whore, let me clarify.

Yes. I do promotion. Doing promotion is, unfortunately, a big part of being a published author.

So yeah. I do signings. I do readings. I run the blog. I go to conventions, sit on panels, and talk about writing.

But, generally speaking, that’s about as far as I’m comfortable going. I make myself visible in the hope that if someone finds me interesting, then they’ll be tempted to pick up one of my books.

What I *don’t* do is run around trying to sell people my book. Neither do I try to convince people that I’m awesome. I try to *be* awesome, and hope that people will notice.

Maybe that’s a fine line, but I’m more than willing to draw it in the sand.

Similarly, Betsy does promotion. Of course she does. It’s even *more* part of her job than it is mine. She promotes books. She promotes her authors. She promotes DAW.

But, generally speaking, she doesn’t promote herself.

So I’m going to put in a good word for her.

And I’m going to do it the same way I do everything, by telling a little story…

*     *     *

Back in the late summer of 2007, I was teetering on the edge of a nervous breakdown and I didn’t even know it.

On the surface, things were great. The Name of the Wind was getting really amazing review. Sales were good. Foreign countries were buying the translation rights. I had grown-up money for the first time in my life, and I used it to buy a house with my girlfriend.

In fact, things were so great, that I didn’t realize what a mess I was.

I’d been doing every bit of promotion that came my way. All sorts of conventions. Every interview somebody asked me to do. Readings and signings all over the place.

And whenever people asked about book two, I told them the same thing: that I already had a good solid draft, and that it would be out in a year.

This is in 2007, mind you.

When I finally sat down to work on the book, I realized the draft was *much * rougher than I remembered. The truth was, I’d been focusing all my energy on Name of the Wind for years while book two just sat their gathering dust. It was pretty shabby when I took a close look at it.

So I realized I had a lot of work to do. I quit my job teaching. I quit teaching fencing at the YMCA. I quit advising the College Feminists.

I kinda quit everything except for writing.

Aside from the roughness of the draft, my other problem was the fact that I’d never written to a deadline before. I was going from 14 years of being a hobby writer, straight into being a bestseller, and it was a huge mental adjustment. I was also a bit of an emotional wreck because my mom had died just a few months before the book came out.

And I’m not just saying that. I remember one night when I was writing frantically, I felt a pain in my chest and a numbness in my left arm.

My first thought was kinda surprised:  “I’m having a heart attack.”

My second thought was one of relief: “If I have a heart attack, nobody can blame me if the book is late.”

Seriously. That was my immediate thought. Not, “Oh shit, I’m gonna die!” Not, “I should call 911.” Not even, “Oh man, I’m never going to be able to cross ‘catgirl threeway’ off my bucket list.”

(In my opinion, it would be a shame if I never got to use this pic in a blog)

Anyway, my point is that when you’re *glad* to have a heart attack, something’s going wrong in your head.

I don’t tell Betsy about any of this, of course. Because I’m a newbie and I’m scared to death that I’m going to ruin my big chance with my for-real publisher. So I keep telling her everything is fine, and she keeps asking to see the draft of book two.

But I put her off again and again. Another month. Another two weeks. Four more days….

Eventually she says she *needs* it. Seriously. Now.

So I send it to her. It’s a mess. The beginning 100 pages are just a tangle.

Just to make it clear how different it was from the finished version:

1. The manuscript I gave Betsy was 150,000 words shorter than the eventual print version of the book.

2. Vashet didn’t exist. At all.  Bredon didn’t exist. At all.

3. There was no Adem hand talk. No tak. No ring rituals in Severen.

4. There are whole chapters that were nothing more than this:

Chapter 31: [need title]

(Something happens with Ambrose here.)

That’s how bad parts of it were.

So anyway, I send it off to Betsy, nervous as hell. She calls me a couple days later, real concern in her voice, and says, “Pat, this is really rough….”

I say, “Yeah. I know. But I can do it. I can put in the hours.”

Betsy says, “It’s going to be a *lot* of work. There are some real problems in here. Some parts are really skimpy.”

I say, “Yeah. I’m making good progress though. I’ve got my new workspace set up and everything.”

She says, “Book two has to be really solid, you know. People have high expectations. It’s really going to determine the course of your career.”

I say, “I promised book two would be out in a year. I just need to knuckle down and write hard for the next five months. No breaks. I can do it.”

She says, “That’s not really how your process works though. You’re a reviser. You like to get feedback from your readers and tinker with things. There won’t be any time for that if you’re still drafting the book now….”

I say, “I promised though. And I’ve scheduled it out. I’ve been writing 14 hours a day, and so long as I can keep that up….”

She says, “I really don’t think you can make this book as good as it needs to be.”

I say, “I can. I know I can do it.”

She says, “I’m pulling the book out of the production schedule.”

I’m stunned into silence, just standing there in my kitchen. I suddenly feel… good. Like someone had been standing on my chest and they just got off. “You can do that?” I asked her.

“Yeah,” she says, “I’m pulling it. You can’t disappoint people with the second book.”

I say, “Oh thank god.”

*     *     *

I’m paraphrasing a bit, of course.

After that she gave me the space I needed to figure out what the hell I was doing. Time to get my head together. When I gave her the much better draft of the book, she argued with me about some of the bad choices I’d made, and we hammered them out together.

In a nutshell, she saved my career. Probably saved my relationship and my mental health, too.

Needless to say, I think the world of her. She’s an editor that really cares about her authors.

Last year in April, she had her first #1 New York Times Bestseller. (Me)

Last year in October, one of her authors won the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel. (Nnedi Okorafor.)

And now, after 30 years in the business, she’s just had her first Hugo nomination.

Betsy has my vote. And if you’re eligible, I’m sure she’d like to have yours too.

She’d never say so herself, though. That’s why I’m saying it for her.

Later Space Cowboys….

pat

 

 

Also posted in awards, My checkered past, the man behind the curtain, things I shouldn't talk about | By Pat37 Responses

San Diego and The Legend of Neil

So last night I was writing up a blog about my embarrassing adventures out at San Diego Comic-Con. It was a good blog, chock full of me making an ass of myself.

Then, just as I was finishing it, my computer decided that 3:00 AM is the *perfect* time to auto-update. Shutting down and erasing the blog and several e-mails I was in the middle of.

Needless to say, I quickly became a pillar of incandescent rage. I’m glad nothing else was going on at three in the morning because this was the sort of anger that easily could have led to an Ovid-style metamorphosis. I was so angry that if something would have bit me during that first fifteen minutes, I would have manifested super powers and gone on a fucking rampage.

Eventually that blog will rise from the ashes, but for now the pain is still too close to the surface. So instead, I’d like to share one of my current geeky pleasures with you.

Ready? Here we go.

There were a lot of things I didn’t get to do out at Comic-con. I didn’t get to see Neil Gaiman or Joss Whedon. I didn’t get to see the preview of the new Tron movie or go to any of the Firefly panels. Those panels were too full, and I’m not cool enough to hang with the beautiful people.

But I did have a good time. And one of the main things that made the trip worthwhile was the fact that I got to touch base with Felicia Day and the rest of the cast of The Guild as shown here in Exhibit A:

(Click to Embiggen)

It’s well-known that I have a bit of a fanboy crush on Felicia Day. But that’s nothing out of the ordinary. Any proper geek is morally obliged to have feelings for her. Aside from the fact that she was in both Dr. Horrible and Buffy, Felicia writes and produces The Guild. Plus she’s good with math. And a gamer. And a musician. Anyone who claims they don’t have a bit of a crush on her is just a fucking liar.

That said, the subtle subtext of this picture is harder to see. Specifically, it’s the fanish crush I have for another member of The Guild cast: Sandeep Parikh.

(That’s supposed to be a heart, by the way.)

For those of you are tragically out of the loop, Sandeep plays Zaboo in the Guild. But not only does he possess brilliant comedic timing and an enviable magic carpet. He writes and produces his own web series: The Legend of Neil.

Anyway, the story goes like this. Sunday I hit The Guild booth to buy some signed copies of season 1 and 2 to use for prizes in this year’s Heifer Fundraiser.

Felicia recognizes me, smiles, and introduces me to everyone as that author guy who wrote that book. (I’m paraphrasing here, she was much more eloquent.)

That’s when Sandeep looks up at me and says that he really liked my book. I look at him and I tell him that he is seriously funny and that I’m a geek for Legend of Neil. (I’m paraphrasing here too, I’m pretty sure I cussed a bit for emphasis. )

Our eyes met. Everything went quiet for a moment. We had a magical moment of shared geekery that might have eventually led to a hug…. but unfortunately there was a table in the way. Plus the two of us might be too manly for that sort of thing, anyway.

Now don’t get me wrong. I love The Guild. But in terms of pure irreverent humor, The Legend of Neil is hard to beat. Plus Felicia plays the Fairy in episode three. Even if you never played Zelda, you’ll laugh your ass off.

Seriously. Check it out. Here’s a link. (Get it? Zelda? Link?)

More convention stories soon…

pat

Also posted in Felicia Day, recommendations, The Guild | By Pat39 Responses

DragonCon

In less than ten hours I’ll be leaving for DragonCon. I’m trying to look forward to it, but honestly, right now it’s hard for me to see the convention as anything other than a pain in the ass.

Part of the problem is that I over-scheduled myself this month. Four conventions and a family vacation in August means that I’ve spent 9 days at home this month, everything else has been travel.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had some good times, (more stories will be forthcoming) but it’s easy to have too much of a good thing.

Adding to my lack of enthusiasm about the con is the fact that I’m not going to be on any of the programming. One of the main reasons I go to conventions is so I can sit on panels and discuss writing, worldbuilding, and stuff like that. At Worldcon I did 6 or 7 hours of panels, autographings etc. At Gencon, I did 11 hours, not counting a reading and signing at the nearby Indianapolis library.

Dragoncon? 1 hour. I have a reading at 1:00 on Saturday and that’s it. (So if you’re looking to catch me at the con to get your book signed, that would be the easiest place to do it.)

And now, looking at the Dragoncon page, I see that for some reason I’ve actually been removed from the list of official guest authors. Oh totem spirits of the con, what have I done to anger you? Let us not quarrel amongst ourselves, and instead use our combined powers to usher in an age of peace, enlightenment, and fluffy bunnies.

That said, angry spirits, if you chose to stand against me, be aware that I have terrible powers at my disposal. Should conflict arise, I will destroy you as easily as Optimus Prime would tear the stuffing from a one-armed Muppet with a learning disability.

Humorous hyperbole aside, I am looking forward to the con. This will be my first Dragoncon, and I hear it’s a hoot. It will be nice to just be able to stroll around and look at things, as opposed to rushing from one panel to another.

Plus, I’m thinking of wearing a kilt. That might be tricky, if I was doing a lot of panels. Panelists tend to sit up in front of the audience, and I’m not used to keeping my knees together….

For those of you who are going to be in the neighborhood, but don’t want to brave the convention crowd. I’m going to be making a stop at the Decatur book festival while I’m in town. I’ll be on a panel about Fantasy with Peter S. Beagle from 12:00 – 1:00 at the Decatur Library Stage, wherever that is.

Yeah. That’s going to be cool. I’m also hoping to hang around a bit with Peter at bit at the convention. Now that we’ve already met once, hopefully I can be a little more relaxed.

If you happen to see me at the con, feel free to come up and say howdy and ask me to sign a book if you have one with you. I’m down with that.

That’s all for now folks. Wish me luck,

pat

Also posted in appearances, conventions | By Pat20 Responses

Goddamn Blogger….

Won’t let me upload photos.

I am full of terrible rage. Hulk-style rage. Not the sissy green hulk either. I’m talking grey hulk. The sort of hulk that gets pissed and builds a bomb out of a stapler, but then smashes it and throws the jagged, pointy pieces at the internet. Throws them so hard that whoever is in charge of blogger wakes up screeling in pain, clutching their genitalia and trying to staunch their bloody nose.

GGggrrraaqaaaHHHG!!!

Posted in my terrible wrath | By Pat29 Responses

Dear Fed-Ex: Why do you hate my book?

A few weeks ago, a bookstore out in California asked if I would sign a bunch of books for them. The thought fills me with joy. Someone out there likes my book. That means, by extension, they like me.

Even better, it means the bookseller is probably going to give my book some extra publicity. That fills me with childlike delight. So I thumbs-up the idea and the people at Penguin tell me to keep an eye out for the delivery.

Fast forward to a few days ago. I wake up at the crack of afternoon, look out onto the porch, and here’s what I see:

(Yes, the picture is blurry, but this is actually a pretty good representation of what things look like to me when I wake up.)

There is the box of books, utterly manhandled, abused, and dumped on my porch.

How do I know that this box actually contains my books?

Simple, the box has been busted open along most of its seams and I can actually see the books inside.

Everyone, wave to my book. “Hello book!”

(For those of you that have been wondering what my leg looks like, now you know.)

I don’t have children, but this is what I imagine a parent must feel like when they see their kid fall off a jungle-gym or take a really bad digger on their bike. I look at the box and find myself being desperately optimistic. Maybe the books are okay in there, I think to myself.

Maybe it’s not as bad as it looks.

It’s as bad as it looks.

Witness the dead remains of six of my books, their spines broken. My only hope is that they didn’t feel much pain. Most of the other books had their covers ripped and their pages bunged up pretty badly.

So why am I telling this story? For one, because I’m pissed off and need some catharsis. If I just repress this shit, everything will seem find on the surface. I’ll smile, go about my day. Then, eventually, I’ll snap and vent my rage in an inappropriate way. Trust me, in a few months you don’t want to read a news story about how book three will be delayed because I’m in jail for punching a fluffy kitten.

My second reason for telling you this is to pass along a warning. This isn’t the first time I’ve had my books manhandled and destroyed by Fed-Ex. It’s not even the second time. In the last several months I’ve had at least three packages treated this way.

I could call and complain, but the only real outcome of that is that I’d end up tongue-lashing some poor helpless wageslave on their complaint line.

So instead I’m telling you. Fed-Ex are a bunch of book-killing choads. Don’t ship your stuff with them if you give a damn about how it arrives.

From now on, I’m a UPS man.

Here endeth the lesson,

pat

Also posted in hodgelany, holding forth | By Pat21 Responses
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