Category Archives: Surreal enthusiasm

Concerning Fanmail #3

So a couple months ago, I unlocked another achievement in the great sandbox videogame that is my life.

Specifically, I hit 10,000 pieces of fanmail.

fanmail_10kWhile I occasionally answer questions people send me, or post quotes from letters up on facebook, I haven’t actually written anything about fanmail itself since…

*Pat goes to check the archives*

Wow. Since five years ago. I did two blogs back then. One talking about fanmail in general. And another giving some memorable quotes.

Back in October of 2008, I’d just hit 1500 pieces of fanmail. I was pretty sure it was impossible to get any more mail than that.

Back then, I made a point of answering every piece of fanmail. It’s something I put a lot of effort into, and a lot of time. It was really important to me…

Fast forward to today.

For those of you that are into the specifics, I should clarify that this 10,000 mark is kinda arbitrary. I’m only counting messages that come to me through my website’s contact form. (Right now, because it’s taken me a couple months to write this blog, that total is standing at closer to 12,000 messages.)

That total doesn’t count people who e-mail me multiple times. Folks that contact me through other channels, or messages sent to me through facebook, goodreads, or good old-fashioned paper letters.

20131010_141249[1]

Here’s several hundred RL letters that have been sent over the years. I don’t know if it’s weird for me to keep them, but throwing them away seems unspeakable awful.

I’m guessing that if I totaled up all these varied instances of epistolary perspicacity, it would be somewhere closer to 20,000 pieces of mail.

Back in 2008, I wrote:

Fanmail is great. There have been occasional exceptions to this, like the guy who sent me a message saying that he hoped a dog would bite me on the nuts. But even that made me laugh.

This is still true today. The vast majority of fanmail I get is friendly, witty, touching, or funny. People send me useful info. People tell me stories of how my book has impacted their lives.

Here’s one I got a while back:

Your books have given me a way of communicating with a teenage son who has now metamorphosed from a complete alien to a fine young man.

As a dad myself, I can hardly think of a nicer thing to hear.

Unless it’s something like this:

I would forever live with a small piece of my heart unfulfilled had I not met Kvothe.

I have hundreds of these little snippets from messages my readers have sent me. I hoard them like treasure. Sometimes the best part of my day is a short message someone has sent me. Sometimes it’s a 15 year old girl from Brazil. Sometimes it’s a 70 year old grandmother in Virginia.

But I won’t lie to you. It’s not all good…

*      *      *

Here’s the thing. I used to respond to every piece of fanmail. Even if it was just a brief note. Even if it took me months to get the message out.

Not responding never really occurred to me at first. After all, a lot of these people had written elaborate letters, or said really touching things. Not responding would have felt unspeakably rude….

But eventually I had to give it up. If the reason isn’t obvious, here’s a visual aid to drive the point home….

email-screenshot

That’s a screen capture from my sent items folder back in 2008. If you embiggen it, it paints a grim picture of what my day was like.

So I stopped replying to everyone. It was a slow decline. At first I still replied to most of them. Then half. Then maybe a third. These days it’s dwindled to about one in ten, and even those replies are usually brief.

But the truth is, I never decided to cut back. It’s nothing I ever wanted or deliberately chose to do. It’s something I was forced into because there simply weren’t enough hours in the day. And honestly, I still feel guilty about it.

My one consolation was that I still make a point of reading all my fanmail. On facebook. On goodreads. I read it all.

Well, that’s not entirely true. Sometimes I would get a 4000 word message. Those I skim.

But I’m guessing that the math-savvy among you can see the problem looming, can’t you?

Let’s say I can read each message in just one minute. One minute x 20,000 e-mails ends up being well over 300 hours.

That means just to read that many messages takes me two months of full-time work. That’s assuming every day I did nothing but read e-mail for 8 hours.

That doesn’t count the time it might take me to occasionally respond to a message. Or reading the messages that are more than just 60-70 words long. Many of them are 200-300 words. About as much text as page in a paperback novel.

A more realistic estimate would probably be that it takes me 2-3 minutes on average to read a message.

That means that since 2007, I’ve spent between four and six months of full-time work reading messages people have sent me.

God. I’ve honestly never done that math before. I knew it was a huge chunk of time, but not that much. That’s fucking horrifying.

Because that doesn’t take into account me *replying* to messages or actually taking care of the rest of my daily e-mail. And I get a shit-ton of that, too.

I guess it does make me feel a little better about this though:

outlook screen grab

(Yes. I use an archaic e-mail program. Don’t judge me.)

Let’s ignore the 100+ regular unread messages. And the flashing danger light that is more than 100 unread messages deliberately tucked into a folder called “Important.”

Circled in red, you can see that I’ve got more than 300 unread pieces of reader mail. I’m terribly behind.

And that’s not counting Goodreads:

Good Reads

There’s 80 unread messages piled up there.

My facebook fan page has another 250….

messages tab FB

And that’s *despite* the fact that I’ve pointedly mentioned that it’s a bad place to contact me.

I’d also like to point out that these aren’t a year’s worth of messages. It’s just these last couple months where things have really started to spiral out of my control…

Here’s the worst of it:

photo-6

The stack of unread letters. 50 or 60 of them from all over the world. Probably half a year’s worth. People WROTE these on real paper. They paid money to mail them to me. These are tangible acts of affection, and I’ve been too busy to give them the time they deserve.

And I feel awful about it. All the time.

I was keeping up pretty well until a couple months ago. I jump in occasionally and prune the online messages back…. but it’s like kudzu…

No. That’s not right. Because I’ll say it again, the vast majority of these messages are friendly, or heartwarming, or delightfully eccentric.

Dear Pat,

I admitted to my boyfriend that his only real competition is Kvothe only to have him admit that my only real competition is Kvothe too. I’m simultaneously flattered that only Kvothe can outshine me and impressed that my boyfriend’s sexuality is now under question due to a couple of words you put together.

Though occasionally there are other types of messages….

But I don’t know if I want to get into that. I don’t know if y’all would be interested in hearing about the other kind of messages people send.

On to my point–

Creft. What is my point here? I don’t know anymore. When I started writing this blog hours ago, I really didn’t expect it to get as long as this.

I think these are my points:

1. Part of this is just bitching a little. I’ll cop to that.

And while I’m well aware that it’s hard to get more first-world-problem than: “Oh noes! I have too many fanmails!” the truth is that this *is* my blog. I’m allowed to kvetch a little if I want.

2. Much more than that, this is a blanket explanation and apology to everyone who has e-mailed me and never received a reply.

I am sorry. I wish I had all the time in the world so I could e-mail you back and thank you for taking the time to drop me a line. I wish we could all have lunch together and hang out and talk about fun, useless bullshit all afternoon.

3. I want y’all to know that even if I haven’t replied, I have read your e-mail, your message, your letter, your postcard, your engraved clay tablet, your origami crane, your smoke signal, your telepathic space beam.

I have these missives and appreciated them. They have made me smile and they have made me weepy. They have made me feel proud, and loved, and very, very lucky.

That said, things will have to change soon. I’m not sure *how* they will change, but I need to find a way to keep more time for myself while not feeling hellishly guilty about being selfish for keeping time to myself. This is a hard thing for me.

Until I say otherwise, know that I’m still reading your messages.

Eventually.

Fondly,

pat

Also posted in a few words you're probably going to have to look up, Achievement Unlocked!, fanmail, Things I didn't know about publishing, things I shouldn't talk about | By Pat94 Responses

A Modest Proposal….

Some things are so cool that I have nothing to say. I just have to link to them.

Congratulations.

Also posted in cool things | By Pat27 Responses

Tit for Tat

Okay. I’ll admit it, I couldn’t come up with a good title for this blog.

What we have up there isn’t just a *meh* title either. It’s a bad title. It implies things that simply are not borne out in the blog itself. This is simply a blog about tattoos.

Let me make it up to you with a utterly useless etymological fact: The phrase “tit for tat” actually comes from an old Norse expression “tip for tap” which meant, literally, “If you hit me, I’ll hit you back.”

How do I know this? Hell. I’m an endless trove of useless, fascinating information. I don’t even bother seeking it out any more. It just comes to me. I accrete it. I pluck it from the luminiferous aether. I apprehend it through examination of my Socratic soul.

It’s also possible that I make some of it up, then forget that I make it up. Or that I dream it. Or that I lie. But you know what? Sometimes I make shit up, and I *know* I just made it up, but it turns out to be real anyway. Or real enough, at any rate.

Anyway, tattoos.

Several years ago, I met someone that had tattooed my signature on their arm. An act of devotion that was equal parts flattering and flummoxing. But I assumed that that event was going to stand by itself as a statistical anomaly.

Then, a while later, someone dropped me a link to a literary tattoo page. I just went looking for now so I could link to it, and got 404′d, but I did find the photo archived somewhere else….

tumblr_m3ngblWc3e1rvxj0ko1_500

If I remember the story from that now-defunct website correctly, she’d been through a bad breakup, and got a Kvothe’s quote as a reminder for herself.

At first I thought, “Wow. That’s pretty cool.” And, of course, I was flattered, too…

…but more than that, I realized I was oddly proud. Those words are words I’m proud to have someone claim as their own.

Since then I’ve had perhaps a dozen people e-mail me or facebook me pictures of their NOTW tattoos.

Tattoo

Most of them are texty:

Tatoo - sun will shine

(“And the sun will still rise in the morning.”)

Some are no text at all…

book cover tattoo

Some have quotes I would expect….

941647_10151677890130908_1405206476_n

Some have quotes that were a surprise to me….

DSC01514

(“Vorfelan Rhinata Morie”)

And some that are as simple as they are obscure:

Tattoo - name

The horrible thing is that I know I have more pictures than these, but I can’t for the life of me find them on my computer. I haven’t cleaned up my desktop in… well… years at least. Maybe forever.

But rather than postpone this blog as I have so many others, I’ll post it up for now, incomplete as it is, with the hope that these pictures bring you some of the geeky joy that they brought me….

Wearily but with love,

pat

Also posted in a few words you're probably going to have to look up | By Pat51 Responses

Introducing….

Everyone, I would like to take this opportunity to introduce someone to you….

Meet young master Kvothe:

IMAG0532

(You may have heard of him.)

You can click to embiggen if you like, but he’s pretty tiny. There’s only so much embiggening that can be done….

Here’s the story, and forgive me if I’m a little vague on the details, but I’ve promised his parents I’ll keep quiet about specifics for the most part.

I was contacted by a relative of little Kvothe a couple weeks ago. He mentioned that there had been a baby born in his family named Kvothe, as far as he could tell, my character was the only Kvothe out there.

(This is true. Somewhere in my files, I have a screen capture of a pre-publication google search that showed no hits on “Kvothe.” As far as I can tell, I was the first.)

My reaction to his e-mail was pretty much along the lines of “pull the other one, it’s got bells on.”

I wasn’t quite so British about it. (I’m reading some Pratchett right now, and it’s seeped into me.)

In fact, I think my whole response to his e-mail was, “Seriously?”

I honestly didn’t believe him.

I knew it might happen eventually. Statistically, it was probably going to happen sooner or later. I’ve already had one baby named out of the book a couple years back. But that was “Andan.” His name just comes up a couple times in the book, and if you wanted, you could always claim that you pulled the name from the Swedish word for “Breath” or something like that.

I’m pretty sure there’s a little girl with the middle name “Auri” out there too. Though I lost some e-mails a while back, and I can’t find record of it right now….

But yeah. They were serious. His name is Kvothe. They even sent me a picture of the birth certificate.

So there’s a little Kvothe out there in the world. It boggles the mind a little bit.

I feel an attachment to the little guy. I feel like a godfather or something, though I’m not. I feel like I’m responsible for him in a way.

All of which is crazy, of course. I’m aware of that. But I have a problem in this regard. It’s hard for me not to feel responsible for things.

Ah well, crazy or not, all I can really do is wish him the best….

Hello little Kvothe, 

It will probably be a long time before you read this, if ever. I just wanted to give you my best wishes and fond hopes for the future. 

I hope you grow up sweet and loving. I hope you grow up clever and strong. I hope you are happy.

I hope your life is hard, but not too hard. I hope you are careful, but not too careful. I hope you make beautiful mistakes and learn things. 

I hope you always have ten good friends who are close to you. I hope you know that you are loved. I hope you make the world a better place.

Thanks for making me smile, 

pat

Also posted in babies, naming | By Pat67 Responses

My Rambling Thanks (And a Song)

Sorry for the Radio Silence here folks. In addition to the pleasant madness of the end of the Kickstarter, I also had a bunch of other things fall on me at the same time.

They included (but are not limited to) sickness, a car crash (everyone is fine), flight delays, cancellations, Worldbuilders running its first-ever serious booth at Origins, (blog to follow), seduction, piracy, storm, shipwreck….

I’m not going to dwell on any of that now. Suffice to say that in the end, it took me sixteen days to make it to Severen….

No. Wait. What was I talking about again?

Oh. Yeah. Radio Silence.

Today, I mostly wanted to thank all of you that stomped out and made the Kickstarter such a huge success.

I appreciate it. The folks at Albino Dragon appreciate it. Worldbuilders appreciates it.

And though they’ll never know the particulars, all the families that Heifer International will help with the money appreciate it too.

And it goes without saying that the success of this project will lead to more cool stuff in the future. He said tantalizingly…

There were a few things that I offered up as stretch goals in the Kickstarter. One was a video of me singing “I Crush Everything.”

The other was a video of me reading The Princess Book to Oot.

That second one will take a while, but I launched the I Crush Everything video on facebook a couple days before the end of the Kickstarter.

For those of you who missed it. I offer up to you…. this. A thing that I did.

Honestly, I haven’t listened to it, because I prefer to live firm in the illusion that the voice I hear in the shower is the same voice everyone else hears when I sing.

If it doesn’t…. well…. I would like to state that for the record, Shane kept cracking me up through the first several takes by doodling things. So my voice was pretty tired by this final take.

And also, I was sick as a dog when we recorded this. I was drinking tea with lemon and doing drugs just so I could perform.

And by drugs, I mean just regular drugs. Ibuprofen and pseudoephedrine.

And by perform, I mean sing. Perverts.

Okay. Enough equivocating.

Here it is:

Later all,

pat

Also posted in my dumbness, videos | By Pat24 Responses

Video, Verse, and Veritas. (Or Verbosity, if you prefer.)

Today we have a video that tickled me more than just a little bit.

Figuratively, of course.

Also, I did an interview on SF Podcast that was a lot of fun. I had a bunch of caffeine right beforehand, so I was a chatty, chatty bitch.

So you can check that out if you like. If you’re into things that are fun….

Share and enjoy,

pat

Also posted in Interviews, podcasts, reviews, the craft of writing, videos | By Pat14 Responses

Fanmail Q&A: Convention Adventures

Pat,

I know you just did some touring around. You hit a bunch of conventions in Indianapolis, Chicago, and Seattle…

Why don’t you tell us about your trips? Not a lot of us can make it to your events, but we’d love to hear some cool stories from the road…

What was you’re favorite part of your travels?

Joe.

*     *     *

Joe,

The truth is, I always mean to write about my conventions/readings/adventures when I get back from them. Because honestly, something interesting always happens.

(What happens in Austin, stays in Austin.)

The problem is, when I get back from these things, I’m exhausted. Plus the travel has usually put me behind on a bunch of other projects. So I spend a couple days answering e-mail and trying to get caught up with things. By the time I *am* caught up, the convention has usually been over for a month. Or two. Or ten.

In fact, when I was at Gencon, someone asked me a question similar to yours. Except they asked about the book tour I did last year. 21 events in 21 days, all over the country.

“You never wrote about it on the blog,” she said.

“Oh sure I did,” I said.

“A little,” she said. “But not much at all. And I should know. I just recently found your blog and read the whole thing.”

“Wow,” I said. “Seriously?”

“Yeah,” she said. “I twisted my ankle so I couldn’t go hiking. It took me about three weeks and I kinda I read it all. The baby ducks. Your Aslan Story. The  Gaiman-Day unit of coolness…

I thought about it for a second, and realized that while I had *planned* to write blogs about some of my road adventures, I’d probably never gotten around to it.

Alternately, sometimes I start writing a blog, and never finish it because other things come up. I have a blog titled: “why people kill themselves in hotel rooms” that I’ve been trying to finish for more than a year now….

“So what was your favorite part of the tour?” she asked.”What was cool?”

I thought about it for a bit. Then told her the truth: There were a lot of cool things that happened. I met a lot of lovely readers. I got hugs and cookies and whiskey and knives…

And a plush unicorn Pegasus kitten.

I did a midnight reading in San Fransisco for the people that couldn’t fit into my earlier reading. Much to everyone’s surprise, more than 300 people showed up despite the ridiculously late hour.

My first signing was over 600 people. So many that I couldn’t take a picture of them all at once. So many that they filled two levels of the bookstore. I got to read in the Library of Congress. I met people that actually squeed with delight.

I met someone who had my name tattooed on her arm…

…which is a level of devotion that is equal parts flattering and terrifying. Especially given that book two wasn’t even out yet.

I got to do a reading at the Library of Congress. People dressed up in costumes….

But honestly? My favorite part came right at the end of the tour, when I met up with Sarah and Oot right at the end of the tour in Boston. I hadn’t seen them in a long while, and I missed Oot terribly.

Oot was barely a year an a half old at that point, so me being away for three weeks was a big deal. I got to see him at various points in the tour, but it was only for an hour or an evening at a time. And as I’ve made clear on the blog, when I’m away from him for a long period of time, I start to lose my shit. Around day five I become a wretched weepy thing, unable to go out in public without embarrassing myself.

It was even worse back then. He was so young. I was worried he wouldn’t remember me. Worried that he’d be shy of me….

So the first morning after the tour was over, we hung out in the hotel. We cuddled a little, and when he got bored with that, I asked him if he wanted to make a pillow fort.

He did. So we made a fort using the ridiculous number of pillows that those posh hotels feel obliged to put on your bed.

To all you parents out there. If you’re not making pillow forts with your kids, you’re really missing out. You don’t need a lot of pillows. Three or four is plenty. In some ways, it can be better without a lot of pillows, because then you can make yourself *part* of the fort. If your kid isn’t a big cuddler, you can get some clandestine snuggling that way.

Sarah and my dad went out for breakfast. Oot and I didn’t. We stayed in the hotel room and continued to made forts.

I told Oot that he better be careful, because there was a creature called the Goonch that would nibble his feet if they were hidden under the pillows. Then I would sneak my hand under the pillow and tickle him.

It has been more than a year since I started that little game, and it still hasn’t gotten old. Not for either of us.

He had a few plush toys with him, and I thought that maybe they would try to break into the fort. Add some drama to the game.

But Oot thought that if they wanted to come in the fort, that was fine by him. That made me unreasonably proud. No pointless antagonism. No warmongering. He just wanted to hang out in his fort with his friends.

So it went for about two hours, until Sarah and my dad got back from breakfast.

That was my favorite part of my book tour….

[Editorial note: I just searched my computer for an hour, looking for the pictures I know I took of little Oot in his pillow fort. I can't find them and it breaks my heart a little.

Instead, please accept this picture of comparable cuteness]

(Click to Embiggen the Cute.)

I know we’re all programmed to think our kids are cute, but seriously. Look at him.

And that hair. I can’t bring myself to cut it. He’s just too pretty. About 80% of the people who meet him think he’s a little girl because of it. But I love it. Plus  can’t help but feel that will probably be healthy for him in the long run. Maybe if folks think he’s a girl for another couple years he’ll be slower to absorb some of the gender bullshit that’s constantly fucking up our culture.

*     *     *

Anyway Joe, I hope that kinda answers your questions. For one, it’s not that I try to keep these stories secret, it’s just that I tend to be busy and forgetful.

For two, generally speaking, my favorite part of these adventures is coming home to my little boy.

Rest assured that I’ll be sharing at least one cool story from Gencon in the semi-near future. One that Scalzi has already mentioned on his blog.

In the meantime, here’s one cool thing that happened in Chicago.

I wore a tux:

Oot wore a tuxedo shirt. We were quite the dashing pair….

Later all,

pat

Also posted in book two, conventions, emo bullshit, fan coolness, Fanmail Q + A, Oot, Tales from the Con | By Pat60 Responses
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