It’s been a busy week here at Worldbuilders central. We got a surprising number of orders for Unfettered in the Tinker’s Packs, along with people taking the chance to buy t-shirts, posters, and other assorted ephemera.
After I mentioned the book on Monday’s blog, we had about 500 orders, which is (if you’ll excuse my language) a shit-ton of orders for us to process in a week. But my team rose to the challenge, stared it grimly in the eye, and destroyed it.
Or, if we didn’t destroy it, we at least gruesomely maimed it.
I think my analogy is falling apart here.
My point is that everyone’s orders are being processed and shipped out with such speed and efficiency that you’d think that we were entirely staffed with some manner of high-tech robot ninjas. We’ve got the first 350 out the door already, and would be even further along if not for the whole federal holiday/post office being closed on the 4th of July thing.
First, I’d like to thank so many of you for supporting both Worldbuilders and Shawn by buying the anthology off the tinker’s packs.
Second, I should mention that if you’re one of those people who feels a burning desire to pick up first edition copies of books, they’re selling *much* faster than I’d anticipated. I asked Shawn, and it turns out that the first printing of this book was only 5000 copies. He’s sold a couple thousand. I’ve sold 500. The rest are going to get snapped up pretty quickly….
Thirdly, if you don’t know what the deal with the anthology is, you can read the introduction I wrote for the book over on Goodreads.
Lastly, a story about Oot….
* * *
The man himself, showing off his new fruit-and-music tattoo.
When he showed it to me, he explained that it was pretty cool and that it made him super tough.
“How tough?” I asked.
Wow. That’s pretty tough.
But that’s not the story. That’s just the prologue.
This is the story….
A couple days ago, the two of us were taking a walk, giving mom some time to herself. We were looking at trees mostly.
On this particular walk, Oot also had brought a sack with him. He told me it was his bird sack. That’s where he’s going to put the birds he catches. Into the sack. He’s obsessed with trying to catch birds right now. Chases them all over.
And Honestly? I wish him the best. Aim high. Dream the dream.
Then out of the blue he says, “Y’know dad, I’d like to see you write your own book.”
“What was that?” I ask. It’s caught me a little off guard. He knows I’m an author, but he’s never asked anything like this before.
Then I realize this is probably because two blocks back, I stopped to chat with some folks out doing yard work. A husband and wife, older than me. What I think of as grandparent age.
Are you that author? they asked.
I am that author, I said.
We can’t can’t wait until the third book, they say.
Side note: If I ever get snippy or terse about people being on my case about book three, it’s because of this sort of thing. It’s not mean spirited. And honestly, taken by itself, it’s fine. Flattering even. And it’s loads better than someone screeling, “Why aren’t you writing the next book rightnow!!!”
The problem is that it’s incessant. I don’t just get it online. I don’t just get it when I go to conventions. I get it when I go for a walk around the block with my boy. Three years of this sort of thing wear a guy down.
Anyway, Oot repeats himself, he says, “I’d like to see you write your own book.”
I thought about it a little bit, then asked, “What do you think that would look like?”
“Oh you know,” he said, very matter-of-fact. “You’d pull a feather out of a turkey. Then dip it in some ink and write on some paper.”
I nodded. “That is probably what it would look like.”
Then I asked, “How much time do you think it takes to write a book?”
“Oh you know,” he said. “Not so long….”
I’ll admit my heart fell a little bit when he said that. I found myself thinking, Oh Oot, not you too….
But then he kept going, “…but long.”
And you know what? He’s exactly right. That’s exactly how much time it takes to write a book: Not so long, but long.
So Neil Gaiman has a new book coming out in June. It’s called The Ocean at the End of the Lane.
I mention this for those of you who live deep in the wilderness or high atop some craggy mountain. (I’m assuming you access my blog with the help of some sort of friendly pigeon, or by using a type of prana-bindu meditation.)
I assume everyone except a complete eremite knows this book is coming out. Because generally speaking, I’m pretty clueless, and I’ve known about it for over half a year.
That means for half a year I have *craved* this book. I have desired it with a sort of grim, white-knuckled intensity that is normally the purview of sociopaths and teenage boys.
The worst part was that I knew Advance Reading Copies existed somewhere, but I didn’t know who I could schmooze to get one. You see, I’m at that point in my career where I know how publishing works, but I’m not exactly sure if it’s entirely cool to… say… contact Neil’s publisher and just ask for an ARC.
Trapped between my powerful desires and my own uselessness, eventually I did the modern equivalent of crying out the name of my beloved to the unfeeling sky, which is to say that I whined about it on goodreads.
Surprisingly, this helped a bit. I got it off my chest and was able to move on with my life.
Then, months later, when I’d almost manged to forget about it, something arrived in the mail:
And on the back cover….
Wait. Wait for it….
Y’know, I feel like I should try to be cool about this. I am a professional author after all, have been for years. That means in some odd way I’m a colleague of Gaiman’s. Part of me feels that, as a professional, I should feign some sort of nonchalance about getting this book.
But it’s just not true. I am the furthest thing from nonchalance. I am brim-full of chalance. Overflowing with it.
The truth is, when I opened the envelope and saw this book, my heart actually beat faster. I was filled with a giddy joy. For a couple days, I carried it around with me. I showed it to my friends, filling them with rage and despair.
The truth is, I’m not a grown up. Underneath all of this, I’m still the same kid who used to spend all his allowance at Waldenbooks.
The truth is, I love books. I love them beyond all reason and sense. I will not pretend otherwise, and I am not ashamed. I am a geek, and the thought of having a special book signed by one of my absolute favorite authors fills me with a ridiculous and disproportionate amount of joy.
So. I got the book. My fondest wish. My heart’s desire.
You know about the shape of stories. You know where things go after this. Now we gently slide into a sweet and simple ending, an easy ever-after. Right?
No. Oh no. If you think that then you’re forgetting who I am. You’re forgetting who Gaiman is too.
I lack the ability to write a simple story with a simple ending. (I am, even now, telling you a story about a story. I cannot help it.)
And Gaiman’s stories, while they may be sweet, are never merely sweet. And when his stories are simple, they are deceptively so.
So this is the place where the story takes a turn.
* * *
Once I had the book, I did not read it.
At first the reason was a simple one. I was in the middle of a book. I can’t stop a book halfway any more than you can stop a sneeze. Neither can I read two books at once. The very idea strikes me as being vaguely obscene.
So I finished the book I was reading.
But still I didn’t read The Ocean at the End of the Lane.
The problem this time was that I was busy, putting in 12-14 hour days. Then I was traveling and didn’t want to risk taking the book. When I returned, I was swamped again, desperately trying to catch up on the work I had missed.
Then I caught up a little bit. Not entirely, but enough to have some breathing room. Enough to read.
Still I didn’t read the book.
Through all of this, the book sat on my desk where I could see it. It was nice having it there. Looking at it made me happy. Sometimes I would reach out and touch it a little bit. Occasionally I would pick it up and turn it over in my hands a little.
Then I would put it back down, unopened and unread.
I didn’t think much about it at first. After all, I was still busy. I would wait until I had enough time to relax and enjoy it….
So it continued to sit by my computer. I would reach out and touch it. Its presence comforted me.
Then, after a couple of days, something occurred to me. This is addict behavior. This is exactly how an experienced drug addict with good coping mechanisms treats their stash. Those of you who have had junkie friends will probably know exactly what I’m talking about…
Once I started thinking about my reading in these terms, the parallels were a little disturbing. I read about 150 novels a year, that’s not counting the comic books I’m increasingly fond of. Not nearly as much reading as I used to do, but it’s still a hell of a lot considering I’m usually working 10-12 hours a day.
I binge read. I read compulsively. I have been known to break plans with others in favor of staying home and reading. When I go too long without reading, I get irritable and depressed. The list goes on and on….
It kinda sounds like I’m making a joke here, but I’m really not. While labeling my reading a full-blown addiction would be a little silly (not to mention insulting to folks who struggle with genuine chemical addictions) I actually suspect that I may have an honest-to-god compulsive obsession with reading.
That said, as far as compulsions go, I’m pretty okay with it.
Besides, even if I wanted to fight it at this point, I doubt I could break the habit. The thought fills me with genuine horror. (Which is, of course, another sign of addiction.)
Still, the realization was a little troubling. So, looking for a little comfort, I did what I always do.
I started reading The Ocean at the End of the Lane. The only reason it took two sittings is because the restaurant closed and kicked me out.
(I feel as if I should mention at this point there won’t be any spoilers in this blog. I don’t go in for that sort of thing.)
I will say this. It made me smile. I laughed out loud. I cried. Not because of any particular sad moment, but because sometimes the shape a story makes is like a key turning inside me and I cannot do anything but weep.
Gaiman’s stories do this to me with fair regularity, which is one of the reasons I’m so fond of him. We are not similar writers. Not at all. But I like to think we share a fondness for the shape of stories.
Ultimately, when you tell a friend about a book, there is only one truly meaningful question to answer: “Is this book worth your time?”
Well, actually, let me tell you a story that consists of several stories. And it’s *about* stories.
This should not surprise anyone, really. This is what I do.
* * *
Back in 2009 I attended Gen Con as author Guest of Honor. It was one of my first GOH gigs, and at a convention I’ve been attending off and on for most of my adult life.
That said, I was still a pretty new author in 2009. I only had one book out, and had only been published for two years. People came to my signings and panels. I had fun. But honestly, I wasn’t a very big deal.
Wandering around the dealer’s hall, at one point someone came up to me and said, “What makes you so honorable?” When I gave him a baffled look, he pointed down at the ribbon on my badge that said. “Guest of Honor.”
“Oh,” I said. “I write books.”
“Oh,” he said. And walked away.
* * *
After taking a break from Gen Con for a couple years, I headed back in 2012. I wasn’t GOH or anything, and was mostly going to play some games and hang out with friends, including my new bestie Robert Gifford of Geek Chic.
But in 2012 I’d been published for *five* years. And I had *two* books out. I’ve hit #1 on the New York Times. I’ve been hugged by Felicia Day. I’m not really a big deal, but I’m certainly a bigger deal than I ever was before….
The difference was most notable when I walked around the dealer’s room. People would stop and say, “Are you Patrick Rothfuss?” And we’d stop and chat a little bit. One particularly memorable couple came up to me and said, “That’s the best Pat Rothfuss cosplay we’ve ever seen! The beard looks so real!” and asked to get a picture with me.
I won’t lie, it’s kinda fun. One of the main reasons I go to conventions is to meet up with my readers. My readers are lovely people.
Still, I was surprised at how *many* people recognized me. Artists, dealers running their booths. Catgirls.
On Sunday, a tall dark stranger came up to me and said, “You’re Pat Rothfuss, aren’t you?”
“Yup,” I said. We shook hands and I read his badge. “Nice to meet you Colin,” I gestured to the vast panoply of geekery around us. “How do you fit into all of this?”
“I write games,” he said.
“Role Playing stuff? Computer games?”
“Both,” he said. “I worked on Planescape back in the day…”
“The computer game?” I asked.
“Planescape Torment?” I asked.
He nodded again.
“You are fucking kidding me,” I said. “I was just talking to someone about Torment. That was one of the best games I’ve ever played.”
He looked at little surprised at this, “Wow,” he said. “I….”
“The narrative was brilliant,” I said. “It’s been ten years, and I haven’t known a game to come close to it.”
“I mean you had honest-to-god open-ended character development that was an integral part of the main narrative,” I said. “Nobody else has ever pulled that off as well. It was amazing.”
“I still remember the interaction you could have with some of the NPC’s,” I said. “You actually had to be clever talking to them. You could offend them and piss them off. The writing was solid and smart. You had a branching narrative that still felt cohesive and engaging. I’ve never seen that handled so well except for maybe in the early Fallout games.”
“And the dialogue,” I said. “It was great. How the hell do you manage to write things like that? To keep track of all the different ways a conversation can go…?”
Eventually I shut up long enough for him to tell me he liked my books. We traded e-mail addresses, and he offered to show me what the dialogue trees looked like when you’re writing a computer game.
I was happy as a kid at Christmas.
* * *
A couple months later, in November, Colin and I chatted a bit.
“We’re going to be writing a game that will follow in Torment’s footsteps,” he said. “Good character. Good story.”
“I’m tingly at the very thought,” I said.
“Want to help write some of it?” he asked.
“Oh shit,” I said. “Yes. I’ve always wanted to take a poke a writing a computer game.”
“Cool,” Colin said.
“No,” I said. “I want to, but I can’t. I have to work on Book Three.”
“We don’t want you to write *all* of game,” Colin said. “Maybe just a side area. Subplot. A piece.”
I made a miserable noise. “I can’t.” I said. “My editor would be pissed. My readers would be pissed. I’m already behind schedule.”
“That sucks,” he said.
“Yeah,” I said.
I’m paraphrasing a bit, you realize. But the sentiment is dead-on. When I said “no” I felt like a kid who had to stay inside and practice the piano while all his friends got to go eat ice cream and have awesome sex on the moon.
* * *
Colin: You sure?
Me: I really can’t. Revision is going slow. I should keep grinding away.
Colin: Fair enough. I understand.
* * *
I bring in Colin McComb, Jerry Holkins (From Penny Arcade), and Veronica Belmont (From Sword and Laser) to talk about videogames and storytelling on Storyboard.
It ends up being one of my favorite episodes so far, probably because everyone is passionate and outspoken. Colin, Jerry, and Veronica all know so much more than I do on the subject, and that’s great.
(Sorry. It’s embedding ugly. Just click over to Youtube.)
Colin mentions the upcoming Torment game. They’re going to launch the kickstarter tomorrow. They’ve got a lot of great creative people on the project.
During the panel, I get a little crotchety about modern games. I make some noises along the lines of, “Video games are pissing away the storytelling opportunities available to them. There’s bad writing. Foolish mistakes. When I was a kid….”
Jerry steps in and says, “We’re at the helm now. If we see these things we don’t like, it’s our fault. [...] We can’t just point at it and expect the universe to fill it.”
It’s startling to hear. But he’s right, of course. I know he’s right.
They raise over $2,000,000 in less than a day. It seems like I’m not the only one who remembers those old games fondly.
* * *
I realize the story I’m trying to write for an anthology isn’t working out. It’s my second attempt to write a story to fill this obligation I agreed to more than a year ago. I’m months overdue, and I feel like an asshole.
I need to get this story done and out of the way so I can get back to working on book three.
Though honestly, those revisions aren’t going that well either. It feels like a grind. It’s going slow.
* * *
I’m at the Tucson Festival of Books, eating Pizza with Sam Sykes, Kevin Hearne, and Diana Gabaldon.
Sam Sykes says, “We’re at our most creative when we’re at play.” Then he tells a story about a famous director who would send people home for the day if they were taking their job too seriously.
And he’s right, of course. I know he’s right.
* * *
Coming home from Tucson, I think to myself, “Fuck it. When I get home, I’m going to start a new story for that anthology. Something fun.”
* * *
I decide I’m going to write a story about Bast.
I have no idea what the story will be about. I have no plan. I have no plot in my head. Honestly nothing.
When I teach, I stress that writing is not merely a communicative process. People think writers are effectively engaging in transcription. We have something in our heads, and we just write it down. That’s how people think stories happen.
But that’s not how it works. Writing can be communication. But most of the time, writing is a generative process. The story comes into being as it’s being written. It’s about discovery. Assuming you have to know what happens before you sit down to write is a rookie mistake.
So I sit my ass down. I decide I’m going to take my own advice. I’m going to write even though I have no plan. I’m going to write and see where it takes me.
I’m going to be irresponsible. I’m going to play.
At the end of the day, I’ve written 4,500 words.
* * *
I write 16,000 words. Good solid words. That’s not even counting the crap I trimmed out and threw away. I finish the Bast story except for one or two small scenes. It will be a great fit for the anthology.
I feel great. I’m excited about writing again. I think about revising book three and it sounds fun. I want to get back to it.
If you don’t know how much 16,000 words is. Let me put it in perspective for you.
If I wrote 16,000 words every week. By the end of the year I would have produced over 800,000 words of text.
That’s twice as long as The Wise Man’s Fear.
If I can maintain my sense of play. I could easily write a book a year.
A book a year *plus* all the other things. Fun little stories. Poems and songs. Maps.
* * *
I call Betsy, my editor. She’s glad to hear the writing’s going well again.
She’s not surprised that a fun side project has helped refresh me. She’s knows how writers’ brains work. She knows more about it than I do, actually. That’s her job.
She’s a great editor.
* * *
I send Colin an e-mail. Then I decide to call him, instead because I know we’re getting down to the wire.
“Do you still want me?” I ask. “I know it’s kinda late.”
“We’d love to have you,” he said. “We can add you as a stretch goal.”
“How much writing are we talking about here?” I ask.
“Maybe 10,000 words,” Colin says. “More if you like. Less if you need it to be less.”
“Could I maybe help with some of the character arcs too?” I ask. “I’m pretty good with character. You could use me as a sounding board if nothing else, and ignore me if you think I’m being an idiot.”
“Um…. let me think,” Colin says sarcastically. I can hear the smile in his voice. “A chance to chat with you about stories and character development. I think the answer to that is…. yes. “
I want to for so many reasons. But still, I hesitate.
“We’ll pay you of course,” he says. He names a number. “I could get you more, if you need it.
“That seems fair,” I say. “I don’t want to put the squeeze on you.”
Then a knee-jerk instinct kicks in. “However…” I say in my best used-car salesman voice. “I do run a charity….”
“You mean Worldbuilders?” he says.
“Oh,” I say, pleasantly surprised. “You’ve heard of it.”
“Of course I’ve heard of it,” he says.
“Well,” I say slowly. “This year we started accepting corporate sponsorships….”
“I can make that happen,” Colin says. “I’ll talk to the boss, and one way or another, we’ll make it happen.”
“Okay,” I say. “You’ve got me.”
* * *
So there you go. Pretty soon, within just a couple of hours, they’re going to be announcing my involvement in the project.
I’m not going to lie. I think it’s going to be an awesome game, and I’m not just saying that because I’m writing a piece of it.
If you’re on the fence, here are a couple reasons to consider jumping into the kickstarter.
1. If you’re planning on buying the game eventually, it’s cheaper to buy it now.
2. If you know you’re going to want to try it later, chipping in early means they’ll be able to make it an even better game. More development money means more content.
3. If a healthy number of my readers rush over and jump onboard, I get to look kinda cool to the developers. They’ll think things like, “Oh, maybe we didn’t make a horrible mistake bringing that Rothfuss guy in.”
4. You have to give these guys credit for supporting Worldbuilders. That’s mighty damn nice of them.
5. This is the first step in my extended master plan. If this goes well, it means we’re *much* more likely to see a Kingkiller game. More importantly, a Kingkiller game I’ll be able to have a direct hand in. Personally, I think that would about a thousand flavors of awesome.
Later Space Cowboys, I’m off to sleep. I’ve got a story to finish tomorrow….
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.
* * *
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?
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.
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.
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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.
As those of you who were following the cage match already know, Bast couldn’t pull off the win against Rake.
What can I say? Dude can eat a *ton* of pie.
And before you ask, no, I won’t be writing up the Bast vs. Zaphod fight anyway. I was surprised at someone’s post on Wednesday’s blog when they said something along the lines of, “After he mentioned something like this, how can Pat not write the scene?”
The answer is this: “Quite easily.”
You see, *not* writing things is really, really easy. Believe it or not, there are an infinite number of stories that I don’t write every day. Adding one more to that list won’t appreciably increase the not-burden of that not-writing.
What I did find oddly galling were some of the comments along the lines of, “Bast could never win against X. X has a power level of 9000!!1!”
This bothered me for two reasons:
First, you have to realize that any time something like this is an open vote, it’s ultimately a popularity contest.
Here’s a mnemonic to help you remember: “When the internet votes on who will die, it comes down to Vox Populi.”
But vastly more irritating to me is the odd opinion that strength/power is the key factor when two people come into conflict.
The truth is, I find that sentiment more than irritating, I find it troubling. It means a lot of you haven’t been paying attention to the books I know you must have read.
If power is the only important thing, then Frodo loses against Sauron. Hell, if power’s the only important thing then Gandalf loses against Sauron. If magic is the deciding factor of a fight, then four plucky kids from England get their asses turned to stone by the White Which.
I see too much fatalism these days, folks. The truth is that the world is full of dragons, and none of us are as powerful or cool as we’d like to be. And that sucks. But when you’re confronted with that fact, you can either crawl into a hole and quit, or you can get out there, take off your shoes, and Bilbo it up.
Man. I don’t know if this is going to make any sense to anyone. I meant this to be a lighthearted blog. A quick lead-in to the story below.
But the truth is, folks, tonight wasn’t a good night for me. It was one of those nights where I wake up and can’t go back to sleep because I’m worried about things. I worry about so many things. The environment. The concealed carry law. Kids not having food to eat. Parents who have to work so much that they don’t have time to be good parents. The fact that people vote based on television ads. The fact that some guys out there want to kiss other guys, and some girls want to kiss girls, and other people really have a huge fucking problem with this, to the point where people get killed over it.
There’s just so much shit that is really wrong in the world. And it’s so big.
But that’s the point, isn’t it? Yeah. It’s big. What are you going to do? You can lie in bed, staring at the dark. Or you can get up and do something. Even if that something is as small as writing a blog that might make people smile.
Or, in this particular case, you write a blog that ends up as a great rambly mess that makes you look like a homeless guy preaching on a street corner. I should probably just erase this and start over. But fuck it. If I can’t write what I want in my own blog, then what’s the point of writing anything at all?
Okay. Back onto topic.
Simply said, I’m not going to write up the Bast vs. Zaphod fight. But when I wrote Wednesday’s blog, I dug out the scene I wrote for the Kvothe vs. Aslan match. What’s more, I was surprised at how well it held up. I wrote it two years ago sitting in a hotel lobby when I woke up in the middle of the night and, coincidentally enough, couldn’t get back to sleep.
I’m pretty sure it’s okay for me to post this up. While I am using a character that is Lewis’ intellectual property, I think it falls under fair use, as I’m not making any money off it.
Anyway folks, for those of you who wanted to see it, here it is:
* * *
There wasn’t any snow on the ground, but the early morning air was chill as the cloaked and hooded figure moved through the forest, brushing aside the fir branches as he went. Eventually the trees thinned and the figure stepped from the pale blue of early morning into a warmer, richer, light.
The cloaked figure smiled fondly and ran one hand over the iron lamppost. Then sighed and walked past it, moving deeper into the forest. After the better part of an hour he found a clearing where a small stream cut through the thick grass, making a gentle sound as it rolled over the stones.
Still wearing his hood, the figure looked around for a long moment. Then he spoke: “Aslan,” he said, and though he did not speak loudly, his voice was strangely resonant, striking the air like a bell. “Aslan.” He looked around, drew a breath, and squared his shoulders. “Asl–.”
“You cannot bid me come,” came a deep, sweet voice from the edge of the clearing. It was like distant thunder laced with honey. “Neither can you bid me go.”
“Of course not,” the cloaked man said. “You’re not a tame lion.”
There was a low, throbbing sound that almost sounded like a purr, and a lion padded softly out of the trees, his huge feet making no noise in the grass. The sun came out from behind a cloud, warming the air, and when it struck the huge animal he shone as if made from molten gold.
“Nice entrance,” Kvothe said pushing back his hood. His hair caught the sun as well, shining like copper and fire. He looked younger than his voice sounded, a boy just on the verge of becoming a man.
“I will admit,” Aslan said. “I did not expect you to come here.”
Kvothe unclasped his cloak and lay it carefully on a nearby tree and looked back up at the lion. His clothes were threadbare, only a half step away from being truly ragged. “I thought we should talk.”
“We are to fight,” Aslan said. “It strikes me as odd that you should come here and give me the advantage of the home ground. It seems your best hope would be hold your ground, force me to come to you, so you might catch me with some trick or trap.”
Kvothe smiled. “That reminds me of a joke,” he said. “How do you catch a unique lion?”
The lion cocked his head.
“You neek up on it,” Kvothe said with a straight face.
Aslan’s tail stopped its restless motion. He turned his head slightly to look behind himself.
Kvothe continued, “How do you catch a tame lion?”
The lion turned back to look at him, but said nothing.
Kvothe gave a slightly embarrassed smile. “Tame way.”
There was a moment of silence, and then the clearing was filled with a low thrumming noise that could conceivably be the sound of a lion chuckling.
“It’s been a long time since anyone told me a joke,” Aslan said, then shook out his great golden mane. “But we still have to fight.”
“We do,” Kvothe agreed. “Though it might be more accurate to say that we are forced to come into conflict.”
“And you know you cannot win, especially here,” Aslan continued. “The only question is how much you might hurt me before the end.”
Kvothe shook his head seriously. “No, the real question is how much will winning cost?” The young man smiled a small, sad smile. “Believe me, this is something I have some personal experience with.”
“I… I don’t know if I follow you,” the lion said.
“If we fight, you’ll kill me,” Kvothe said matter-of-factly. “You’ll win, but there will be a cost.”
“You would bring your death curse upon me?” Aslan said.
“That’s Harry Dresden,” Kvothe said, obviously irritated. “Come on now. Except for point of view and a respect for thermodynamics we really don’t have much in common.”
“Oh,” Aslan cleared his throat. “Right. Sorry.”
“There’s nothing I could do to you if I lost,” Kvothe said. “And honestly, I’m not sure I’d want to. I’m not really one of those ‘from hell’s heart I stab at thee’ types.’”
“Actually,” Aslan said, “From what I’ve heard, you’ve…”
“Don’t believe everything you hear,” Kvothe interrupted, his eyes narrowing. “My point is this: if you kill me, there will never be a second book.”
Aslan was silent for a moment. “So you’re threatening me with reprisal from your fans?”
Kvothe shook his head again. “You’re missing my whole point. I’m not threatening you at all. I’m just saying that if you kill me now, people will never get the chance to read the rest of my story.”
Aslan looked thoughtful. “And the result is…”
“Despair,” Kvothe said. “Terrible despair in the hearts and minds of thousands.” He gave the lion a frank look. “You’ve always struck me as the sort of person…”
“Sorry… You’ve always struck me as the sort of lion that was trying to make people happy in the long run. Not the sort that would actively cause despair.”
Aslan lifted one huge paw from the ground and then pressed it down again. He cleared his throat. “Tricky.”
Kvothe nodded. “Your books are all finished. You’re immortal in ways more important than the obvious. I’m not quite there yet.” He sighed. “That’s why I figured we should talk.”
After a long moment, the lion looked up. “So what’s the other option?” his voice was low and uncertain.
“Forfeit,” Kvothe said. “Just walk away.”
“*You* could forfeit,” Aslan pointed out.
Kvothe shook his head. “It’s not in my nature to give up or walk away. I’m psychologically unable to back down from something like this. Hell, I’m a short step from feral.” He ran his hands over his ragged clothes, half embarrassed.
Then he made a sweeping gesture to the huge lion. “You, on the other hand, are a noble creature. You have a precedent for martyrdom. It’s consistent with your character. You better than anyone know that sometimes the only way to win is to concede.”
Another pause, then Aslan spoke. “You’ve thought about this a lot, haven’t you?”
Kvothe smiled again, and for a moment his face was almost boyish. “It’s all stories,” he said. “That’s what I do.”
Aslan looked up and swished his tail. He drew an impossibly long, deep breath. “Fine. Fair enough. I concede.”
Kvothe sagged with relief. “Thank God.”
“You’re welcome,” the lion said as he turned his massive head and began to walk from the clearing.
“Um…” Kvothe said. And for the first time since he came into the clearing he looked unsure of himself. “Before you go…. I was wondering…. Could I?”
Aslan gave a great gusty sigh that was more amused than exasperated. “Very well.”
Kvothe stepped closer to the lion, moving hesitantly. Then he raised his hands slowly and sank them deep in the thick golden mane. He leaned forward and gave the huge lion a hug, burying his face in the lion’s fur.
After the space of a deep breath, Kvothe pulled his face away, but left his hands where they were. “I’ve wanted to do that forever,” he said softly, his voice a little choked. “My mom used to tell me your stories.”
“I would lick your face,” Aslan said gently. “But it looks like it’s been a while since you’ve washed it.”
Kvothe laughed and stepped back from the lion.
“When is the second book coming out, by the way?” Aslan asked. “I’ve been waiting frikking forever.”
“Soon,” Kvothe said.
“What does that mean?” Aslan said. “In a couple months? Sometime this year?”
“I call all times ‘soon’” Kvothe said.
Another deep, thundering chuckle. “I suppose I deserve that,” Aslan said, and turned to pad silently out of the clearing, where he was quickly lost to mortal sight.
* * *
That’s all for now, folks. Be good to each other.
P.S. I’m going to be on WPR this morning with Veronica Rueckert from 10-11. I‘ll be chatting with her and Laura Miller about heroines in literature.
I think I’m going to need some serious coffee before I sit down to that….
What amazes me is how quickly some things are developing.
Today he wanted to make a pillow fort. So we made a pillow fort. Because pillow forts are awesome.
(Box forts are also awesome.)
After the fort was done, he walked across the bed, picked up a book, and brought it back to me.
Oot loves books. Sarah reads to him all the time. I read to him a lot, too, but Sarah beats me out in sheer hours, as she spends all day with him, while on a good day, I’ll only have three or four.
So he brings me a book, but it wasn’t a picture book. It’s the book that Sarah’s currently reading, my copy of Brandon Sanderson’s The Hero of Ages.
He holds the book out to me and says, “Daddie.”
This means many things. His inflection tells me that he knows its my book. But it also means he wants me to read it to him as well. He can say a lot with just one word, and I’ve become very good at interpreting in this last year.
He sits in my lap, and we put the book in front of us. (We only had three pillows, you see, so I was the back wall of the fort.)
I open the book up to the middle and point at the text. “Once upon a time, there was a little boy named Oot,” I say. “He was very nice. One day, he wanted to go for a walk. So he went outside with his momma, and he got in the wagon.”
I know he doesn’t understand all of it. But he can catch the gist. He can use a lot of these words himself. I think it sounds kinda like this to him:
“Xxxx xxxx x xxxx, xxxxx xxx x little xxx namedOot. He xxx xxxx nice. One xxx, he wanted xx go xxx x walk. Xx he xxxx outside xxxx his momma, xxx xxxx xxx in the wagon.”
I would bet serious money this is what it sounds like to him. Because these last couple of weeks, this is exactly what he talks like.
He says: “Ya ya ya ya ya ya ya daddie,” and points at a picture of me on the fridge. He’s obviously saying something about the picture of me, but he doesn’t know that the rest of the words should be. “Ya ya ya ya ya book. Ya ya ya ya ya eyaphant. (elephant)”
Anyway, I’m making up a little story for Oot. After every couple sentences I turn a page, because that’s what happens when you read a book. I know the game. We’ve done this before.
But this time things are different.
“…and he got in the wagon,” I say.
“Dog!” Oot interjects. “Bark.”
It takes me a second to figure out what he’s talking about. We keep his wagon in the garage, and sometimes the next door neighbor’s dog is out there.
“And Oot saw a dog,” I say. “And the dog barked and barked. Then momma put Oot in the wagon and pulled it.”
“Stand!” Everything he says has an exclamation point at the end of it. It’s said with such certainty. These words aren’t exclamations as much as they’re declamations. Assume that what I’m using is a declamation point at the end of his sentences.
I continue: “Then Oot tried to stand up in the wagon, but his momma said, ‘Oh no. Be careful.’ So Oot sat down in the wagon again and his momma pulled it.”
He seems satisfied with this. I turn a page.
“On their walk, they saw a tree, and a rock…”
“Geddit!” he says. “Trowit!” he moves his arm excitedly, like he’s throwing. “Air!”
“And Oot took the rock and threw it through the air.”
“Bird! Fly! Up!”
“And they saw a bird flying high up in the sky.” I pause. “Is a bird big or little?”
“Eeedie beetie,” he says in a high voice, holding out two fingers pinched close together. (itty-bitty)
“What does the bird say?”
“Does a bird say, ‘Toot?’”
He shakes his head. “No.”
This makes me sad. Birds used to say, “toot.” I really liked that. It was cute as hell…
I turn the page. “Oot and momma go and have some dinner. They have soup and carrots….”
“Candy!” he says. This word is perfectly enunciated, though a little long on the “a” sound. “Caaandy.”
“First they eat soup,” I say. Doing my best to maintain rule of law, even in the story. “First chicken and pickle. Then candy.”
I didn’t know he knew that word. He must have learned it over Easter.
“Yes,” I concede, “then they had chocolate. Then they came home.” I close the book. “The end.”
This is how deeply rooted stories are, folks. We crave them before we can walk, and we start telling them before we can talk.