Category Archives: the man behind the curtain

Everyone Hates Their Job Sometimes…

Here’s the truth. Sometimes I hate writing this fucking book.

I know this isn’t something most of you want to hear. You want to hear that it’s going well. (Which is it.) You also want to hear that I love every moment of writing it. It’s my baby, right? You have to love your baby…

Well, yes. But technically I’ve been working on this trilogy since 1994. The book is more like a teenager in some ways. You love a teenager too, but you can also be angry with a teenager. And sick of its endless shit.

The problem is this. People want to believe that being a published writer is a beautiful, happily-ever-after, candy mountain place where all your dreams come true.

Unfortunately, that’s bullshit.

This is a part of something I’ve come to think of as The Myth of the Author. I’m not going to get into the details right now. That’s a blog for a whole different day. But the gist of my theory is that, in general, people think of writers as a different sort of person. And by extension, writing is a different sort of work. It’s strange and wonderful. It’s a mystic process. It can’t be quantified. It’s not chemistry, it’s alchemy.

While some of that is true, this belief makes it really difficult for me to bitch about my job.

For example, if a doctor wrote a blog saying. “Fuck! sometimes I hate being a doctor…” People would read it and say, “Yeah man. I can see where you’re coming from. Long hours. Tons of responsibility. People expect a lot out of you. That’s a rough gig.”

On the other hand, if I come on here and bitch about my job. People will be disappointed. Irritated even.

Why would people be irritated? For several reasons.

Reason #1: It’s irritating when people complain about having a simple job.


Of course, writing a novel isn’t simple. Anyone that’s ever tried writing one knows this. The problem is, a lot of people haven’t tried. They assume writing is easy because, technically, anyone can do it.

To illustrate my point: Just as I was getting published, I met one of the big, A-list fantasy authors. (Who will remain nameless here.)

He told me the story of the time he’d met a doctor at a party. When the author mentioned that he wrote for a living, the doctor said: “Yeah, I was going to write a novel. But I just don’t seem to have the time.”

The author got a irritated just telling me this story. “When you say something like that,” he said. “It’s like saying being a writer doesn’t take any skill. It’s something anyone can do. But only a very slim percentage of the population can write well enough to make a living at it. It’s like going up to a doctor and saying, ‘yeah. My appendix was inflamed. I was going to take it out myself, but I didn’t really have the time.'”

Newbie writer that I was, I simply enjoyed the story, privately thinking that surely *my* readers would never be so foolish to assume that. And even if they did, I wouldn’t mind that much…

Fast forward to earlier this year, when I got the following e-mail:

Hi Patrick,

I’m a librarian, former teacher. I just read your book, very good. But, boy do you have a problem. Finishing tasks?? Why isn’t your editor doing a better job of guiding you? Here’s my quick recommendation: stop going to conventions. Your first book is a great hit, you don’t need any more marketing there. Sit down and decide where to END the second part. You don’t need to write any more. If book two is anything like book one, it is basically chronological. You’re done with book two!! Stop in a logical place, smooth out the transitions, and begin obsessing about book three. Good luck.

For those of you who have been reading the blog for a while, this is the letter I was thinking about mocking Waaaay back in May.

Re-reading it now, most of my irritation has faded. But my profound sensation of *What the Fuck* is still as strong as ever.

Let’s not even deal with the first half of the letter. Let’s ignore the fact that this woman isn’t a publicist, an editor, or my personal life-coach. Let’s jump straight to how she explains how I should write my book:

Oh. I need to sit down. I see. I need to know where to END it. I hadn’t thought of that.

And chronological order? Brilliant! Up until this point I’d been arranging all the chapters by length.

I mean seriously. You people do know that I have to make the entire book up, right? I’m not just cribbing it out of Kvothe’s biography, right?

Right?

And I lack the words to express my stupification at the offhand advice that I should just “smooth out the transitions.”

That’s not true. I do have the words. They go like this: “If this is the sort of advice you used to give your students when you were a teacher, thank you for not being a teacher any more.”

I counted yesterday. Do you know book two has eighteen fucking plotlines? Six entirely distinct settings, each with their own casts of characters? How exactly to I smooth that out? Do you think I just go down to the writing store, buy some fucking transition putty, and slather it on?

Okay. I lied. I guess I’m still irritated.

Truth is, I know that this letter comes from a place of love. This person is genuinely trying to help me. Deep in her heart of hearts, this woman believes she knows how to write a novel. The answers are so obvious. It seems simple to her…

This is why some folks will get irritated if I complain about my job. Because they think writing is simple.

But it isn’t. Nobody’s job is as simple as it looks from the outside.

Reason #2: It’s not cool to complain about your dream job.

I’m well aware of the fact that, I’m living the dream. A lot of people want to be published. They want it so bad they can taste it. They’d give anything…

I know this because that’s how I used to feel.

I’m lucky: I got published. What’s more, I’m one of the few writers that gets to write full time. Even better, I’ve gone international, and people all over the world are waiting for the next book.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t hate my job sometimes.

It doesn’t matter what you do for a living. Ron Jeremy probably calls in sick some days because he just can’t stand the thought of getting another blowjob. I don’t doubt that Mike and Jerry over at Penny Arcade occasionally wake up in the morning and think, “Fuck, I’ve got to play more fucking video games today.”

That’s just the way of the world. Everyone hates their own job sometimes. It’s an inalienable right, like life, liberty, and the pursuit of property.

Reason #3: The Myth of the Author.

People want to believe that the act of creation is a magical thing. When I write, I am like some beardy old-word god, hewing the book from some raw piece of literary firmament. When I write, the muse is like a lithe, naked woman, sitting on my lap with her tongue in my ear.

(This would make a great bookjacket photo.)

And you want to know the truth? Sometimes it’s exactly like that. Sometimes when I write, I’m so full of adrenaline that I could lift up a truck. I can feel my my tripartite soul burning in my chest like molten gold.

But sometimes it sucks. Just like any job. I get bored revising the same chapters over and over. My back hurts from hunching over the keyboard. I am so tired of fucking spellcheck. Do you know how long it takes to run spellcheck on 350,000 words?

I’m tired of trying to juggle everything: the plotlines, the character arcs, the realistic depiction of a fantastic world, the pacing, the word choice, the tension, the tone, the stories-within-stories. Half of it would be easy, but getting everything right at once? It’s like trying to play cat’s cradle in n-dimensional space.

The truth is, sometimes I’m so sick of sitting in front of this computer I could shit bile.

There. That’s all. I’m not quitting. I’m not even taking the night off. I just needed to vent.

Thanks for being here. Remember to tip your waitress. I’ll be here all week.

pat

Also posted in BJ Hiorns Art, fanmail, Rage, Things I didn't know about publishing | By Pat285 Responses

Terminal

I’ve done so much flying in this last month that all the airport terminals have blurred together in my memory.

So while I can’t remember exactly where this happened, I know it was down by the baggage claim, relaxing and participating in my second favorite sport: watching people.

It was a slightly out-of-the-way corner of the terminal with a light scattering of folks who were waiting for their luggage too. Standing off to the side was a young mom with a couple little kids in tow.

She was obviously tired, and was doing her best to keep an eye on her kids while at the same time making sure that her luggage wasn’t molested by terrorists, gypsies, communists, or whatever flavor of bad guy homeland security is trying to frighten us with this week.

The kids were having a great time. The little girl was just wandering, staying close to mom and looking at stuff. But the little boy had invented a game. He would build up to a run, then flop down and slide across the smooth floor on his belly.

It was obviously a lot of fun, and adding to his enjoyment was the fact that his mom didn’t want him to do it. She stopped him once, but then he got out of arm’s reach and she couldn’t catch him without leaving her daughter and the luggage behind.

I should make it clear that the baggage claim area was far from bustling. It was quiet, and the kid wasn’t getting in anyone’s way. Neither was he wandering very far afield. He stayed in mom’s line of vision. He wasn’t being naughty, he was just being a kid.

Mom wasn’t being needlessly strident about it, either. She didn’t get all huffy or shriek qt him. And while she wasn’t happy that he wasn’t listening, she didn’t view this as a major challenge to her authority. She was just trying to do her job, which is to say she wanted to keep him from hurting himself, being a nuisance, and getting his clothes dirty.

She tried to corral him as best she could, but he ignored and avoided her, run-flopping all over the place. I was tempted to try it myself. It looked like a good time. However, the square-cube ratio is harsh on adults, and I worried that if I flopped onto the ground, I would rupture something vital in my guts. Plus I expect airport security would have tazered me for being a deviant.

So, because I was living vicariously through his exploits, I was watching him when he flopped harder than he meant to. It wasn’t a bad fall, but he bumped his head a little and lay there for half a second, hurt, angry, and confused. Then started to cry, picked himself up, and ran over to his mom.

Now this is the fulcrum of the story. The point at which it could pivot one way or another. The young mom could have cussed him out. But she didn’t. She didn’t shout or say, “I told you so,” or try to turn it into some sort of moral lesson. She picked him up, hugged him, and nuzzled her face against his head to make him feel better. And it worked.

That’s what moms are for. They give us good advice and we ignore it, running around like tiny Visigoths. Then we fuck up, hurt ourselves, and come running back so that they can make everything okay again.

It was a sweet thing to see. And honestly, it broke my heart.

Some of you know that my mom died not too long ago. I don’t talk about it very much, but the fact is, I think about her all the time.

Whenever I think too hard about it, I become uncertain about what I should or shouldn’t post here on the blog. Generally speaking, when I think something might be of interest to my readers (like an interview, or an appearance at a convention) I post it up. The same is true when I think of a funny story or a good piece of advice.

Part of the reason I haven’t written much about my mom is because I worry it will come across as maudlin, and I assume that people come to the blog to be entertained, not depressed.

On the other hand, if this blog is supposed to be a little window into my life, not writing about her at all feels dishonest. If the things I write here are supposed to reflect my real thoughts and emotions, how can I not mention her?

I get the feeling that I’m going to spend the rest of my life thinking of questions that only she could answer. Like how she kept the rabbits from destroying her garden even though she didn’t use a fence. The truth is, when she died it was like someone burned down a library, cut off one of my legs, and took away half of my laughing. Some days are okay. But other days I don’t know if I’ll ever be smart, or steady, or happy in the same way again.

But the thing I really miss is that she loved me like nobody else ever could. I grew up my whole life surrounded by that constant, unobtrusive, unquestioning affection. It has a lot to do with the sort of person I am today. That doesn’t mean she didn’t call me on my bullshit, or make fun of me, or point out when I was being a dick. But the love was always there, indifferent to my Visigoth behavior. Unconditional.

When you grow up surrounded by something like that, you don’t notice it consciously. It’s like the humidity in the air. You don’t even notice when it’s gone, either, except that something is different. Something isn’t right. Then you start realizing that you’re thirsty all the time, and you can’t figure out why you’re constantly tired, or getting nosebleeds.

Then, eventually, you realize the problem is that the air is too dry. Only then can you take some steps to try and get some moisture back into your life. Only then can you start trying to make adjustments so things can feel, at least a little bit, like they used to.

I think that’s the point I’ve finally reached. I’ve discovered that my life is drier than I’d like, and I’m trying to figure out what I can do about it.

So I think I’m going to start mentioning my mom on here from time to time. Not a lot, probably, but some. It’s a shame you can’t meet her, but I suppose the next best thing is you getting to know her through some stories.

I’ve turned the comments off for today, because I’m not looking for sympathy or consolation. Similarly, if you know me, don’t feel obliged to send me an e-mail, trying to cheer me up and gently dancing around the question of how I’m doing. How am I? I’m fine. Sad? Yes. Melancholy? Sure. But also fine.

I mean it. Few things are as irritating to me as someone trying to cheer me up when I’m in a perfectly good bad mood.

Stay tuned for next week, when I’ll continue spilling out the convention stories that I’ve built up over the last month. Hint: catgirls will be featured prominently.

Fondly,

pat

Also posted in day in the life, emo bullshit, mom | By PatLeave a comment

Following Diogenes

The other day I was getting dressed, and I experienced something unfamiliar, something I couldn’t remember ever experiencing before.

For this to make sense, I need to explain something first. I’m a sensation seeker.

Some people with this personality trait call themselves “thrill seekers,” but that’s not really appropriate in my case. I don’t feel the need to jump off bridges and go snorkeling with sharks. I’m not an adrenaline junkie — I simply like to experience new things.

And if you have my peculiar type of curiosity, there are new things all over the place. This is part of the reason I like meeting people and going places. It’s why I like reading books, which is like meeting people and going places except you don’t have to take a shower and find your pants first.

Hmmm…. I still feel like I might be giving the wrong impression. I’m not talking about going anywhere exotic. A few years ago I really enjoyed visiting a small town called Amherst – population: not much. They had a great river, and the locks on the public mailboxes were really cool. New York was interesting too, but despite all the museums and landmarks I saw, the thing that I liked the most were the pigeons and the sidewalks. The sidewalks in Soho are really great.

It would probably be fair to say that I’m a thrill seeker with simple tastes. If you’ve ever been driving around central Wisconsin and seen someone running his hands over the bark of a tree, or staring intently into the water that’s running along the gutter and into a storm drain, it was quite possibly me.

The point of all this is that I am tuned to the sensation of a new experience.

So a few days ago, I was getting dressed. I was halfway thought putting on my socks when I realized that I was experiencing something new…. But for the life of me I couldn’t put my finger on what it was.

It took me the better part of a minute to figure it out: I was sitting on my bed while I put on my socks.

The socks weren’t the new thing. The new thing was sitting on the bed while putting them on. Normally I put my socks on standing up. Part of the reason I do this is because I have ninja-like balance that I use at every opportunity, lest I dull my keen fighting edge. But the main reason I’ve always done it this way is that for the last 15 years I haven’t owned a bed.

Where do I sleep? Well, with the exception of a few years of futon while in grad school, I’ve usually just slept on a mattress on the floor.

I use sheets, mind you. I’m not an animal. I just never bothered getting all those other parts that go together with the mattress to make it a bed.

While I was sitting on my bed, thinking, “Hmm. This is different,” I realized y’all probably have a terribly inaccurate idea of what my life is like. You’ve come in at the end of the story, so to speak.

It would be reasonable for you to assume that my life has always been this luxurious, full of beds, posh coffee drinks, and Chinese food delivered directly to my house. But the truth is, for most of my life I have practiced simplicity of living. As a philosophy, it is very appealing to me. And, as a bonus, when you aren’t worried about making a lot of money, it frees up a lot of your time for writing.

Simplicity has come naturally to me over the years. It’s easy when you don’t have much money. I live cheaply, move often, and don’t focus on frippery. Please don’t compare me to Thoreau. While he made some good points, Thoreau was kind of a poser.

No. Ever since I studied the Greek philosophers, I’ve done my best to follow in footsteps of Diogenes. The man who threw away his bowl after seeing a boy drinking out of his cupped hands. The man Plato called, “Socrates gone mad.” Brilliant, bitter, barefoot Diogenes.

This means for most of my adult life I’ve only owned one pair of shoes, one coat, and one pair of pants. I’ve eaten a lot of ramen. (Chicken Maruchen ramen, given a choice.) Before selling the book, I never paid more than $250 a month for rent, or more than ten dollars for a piece of furniture.

No, wait, that isn’t true. I paid 80 bucks for a desk back in 1998. It was one of those plywood assemble-it-yourself kits. Two years later I moved, and when I realized it couldn’t be taken apart, I just ripped the top piece off and laid it across two filing cabinets. That’s what I still use for a desk. That’s what I’m typing on right now.

Do I have a point? No. Probably not. Except to say that life is strange. I have lived most of my adult life happily poor. (Though I have never been truly desperate or destitute by any means.) Now I have a bed. A real bed with a box spring and a frame and everything. I recently bought a dishwasher. I have a house — or at least a mortgage in the shape of a house.

I’ve been up all night, writing and thinking. And before I lay down in my new bed in my new house and catch a refreshing day’s sleep, I’m going to go out and buy a couple copies of the Sunday edition of the New York Times. This is another thing I’ve never done before. I wonder how heavy three copies will be? How much does the Times cost?

I’m buying a Sunday paper because there is a full page ad for The Name of the Wind in there today. A full-page color ad. And though I don’t know the specific numbers, I expect this ad cost the publisher more money than I made in a year of teaching at the university. It is terribly flattering. It is a glamorous gesture of faith and support. It shows that they really believe in the book.

Today I have a full-color ad in the New York Times, and my life is strange. This is not a bad thing. After I post this up on my blog, I will take a shower, put on my only pair of pants and walk downtown to buy a Sunday paper for the first time. Spring is finally here in Wisconsin, and though the trees are still dark and leafless, the ground has thawed. It is almost fifty degrees out. More luxury. More than I deserve. I will celebrate by leaving my only pair of shoes at home and make my way barefoot, pretending for a while that I am still following Diogenes.

Take care everyone,

pat

*** Edit – 9:45 AM ***

First off, it turns out it isn’t a color ad. That makes me feel better, actually.

Secondly, they reallydon’t want to let you into the grocery store if you don’t have any shoes on. Even if it’s just so you can buy a paper. Even if it’s just for a minute so you can buy a paper that has an ad for your book in it.

If it wasn’t for the authority of my majestic beard, I don’t think they would have let me through….

Thirdly:

(Click to Embiggen)

Whoot!

pat

Also posted in cool things, day in the life, Diogenes | By Pat36 Responses

“While I’m alone and blue as can be…”

I don’t dream often. I’ve never had the “show up naked at work” dream. Or the “I didn’t study for the test” dream. I’ve never had sex dreams, not even when I was teenage and sloshy with hormones.

My ha’penny theory is that I don’t dream much because I don’t have many inhibitions, so my brain doesn’t need to let off much steam when it’s on vacation. Another theory is that I don’t have much separation between my conscious and my subconscious minds.

Either way, last night was the exception to the rule, because last night I had a dream.

I was in a classroom, similar to the room where I used to take physics in high school. The room was full, two people sitting at each of the large, black worktables, and there was someone teachery up at the front.

It wasn’t high-school, or college, but it was definitely a class of some kind, and I was definitely one of the students.

The teacher never said anything, not through the whole dream. He/she was just a faceless presence at the front of the room. Everyone knew what was expected. We were going to be reading our stories aloud to the rest of the class.

I wasn’t anxious. If anything, I was a little smug because I was going to read from The Name of the Wind. And, all Midwestern modesty aside, I think the book is pretty awesome. This was my chance to be cool in front of the other students.

I’m first. I don’t go up to the front of the room, it’s not that formal. I just and turn so I can face most of the class and pull out the hardcover. I’m excited with that slight sweaty-palm feeling I always get before a performance.

I start to read, but some of the words are hard to see because they’re caught in the middle of the book where the pages come together in the binding. I lose my place once or twice, make a mistake, and start to sweat as people start to move around in their seats, bored and embarrassed on my behalf.

Then the lights start to get dim so I can’t see the text on the page. But I know I can’t stop reading. I only get this one chance. Either nobody else notices the lights dimming, or they consider it part of the reading. Either way I know that it’s no excuse to stop. By now I can’t see any of the words. I’m having to fake it and things are a real mess.

At this point, I have some sort of seizure. I literally fall down on the ground and foam at the mouth. From the strange semi-detached perspective of the dream, it’s actually something of a relief, because now I don’t have to keep doing my sucky reading.

I’m not clear whether it was a real seizure. It’s not that I don’t remember what happened in the dream. It’s that the dream itself it was ambiguous. Was it real? Did I fake it so that I didn’t have to keep reading? Was it real but I hammed it up so that people would feel sorry for me? I really didn’t know.

The paramedics come and take care of me, and everyone admits that it wasn’t really my fault that I had to stop reading. Understandably, I’m glad it’s all over.

Then everyone starts writing out their evaluations and passing them to the front of the class. And somehow I can see what everyone is writing. Most people are giving me A’s, but some people are giving me B’s or C’s. Then, I see the worst thing…. someone has given me…. a C-.

I’m laughing now as I write about it. That was the big reveal. My book got a C-. But you know how it is in dreams. At that moment, I was profoundly ensaddened and hurty inside. It was like every teenage angst of my life distilled down into one powerful, emblematic event.

And then I realize that I’m not wearing any pants.

Seriously. I’m not making any of this up. I don’t know if I’ve been missing my pants this whole time, or if perhaps the paramedics have taken them off as part of some innovative attempt to revive me. All I know is that I’m still wearing my t-shirt, but I’m totally nude below the waist. It’s not a very long t-shirt either, just barely halfway covering all of my dangerous man-stuff.

Worst of all, nobody has noticed, and I know that if I could just somehow get out of the room, I’d be safe. But I’m in the middle of the classroom and there doesn’t seem to be any way to leave without drawing attention to myself….

And that’s the end of the dream. I didn’t wake up in a cold sweat or anything. I actually forgot about everything until I was in the shower.

So… yeah. Welcome to the inside of my head.

Personally, I think the whole thing was brought about by the fact that yesterday, despite my better judgement, I read the pair of two-star reviews that showed up recently on amazon. I know that I should be over that sort of thing by now, but… well… apparently I’m not.

Plus, all I had for dinner yesterday was a bunch of bowling-alley nachos and a huge chocolate chip cookie. I will admit to actually dipping the cookie in the cheese at one point. I’m guessing that’s what caused it. That sort of behavior is bound to anger the gods.

Later folks,

pat

Also posted in dreams | By Pat38 Responses

St. Patrick’s day.

I have a warm place in my heart for St. Patrick’s day. When I was in grade school, you got to bring a treat to share with the rest of the class on your birthday. Cookies or brownies or rice-crispy treats.

But my birthday is in July, so I could never bring in treats. I can’t remember why this was so important to me as a kid, but it was.

So my mom, rather than being relieved at having one less chore in her busy life, came up with the idea that I could take cookies to school on St. Patrick’s day, because my name was Patrick. That was the sort of person she was.

So we made sugar cookies shaped like Shamrocks and frosted them with green frosting. I helped. Or at least I remember helping. More likely I tried to help and got in the way instead.

So I got to bring cookies to school once a year, and my standing in kid society was saved.

As I write this, I realize not everyone might have done this at their schools, growing up. Maybe it just happened in my little corner of the sky.

I grew up in a small town in Wisconsin, just outside Madison. The Town of Burke, unincorporated. Lots of land, not many people.

For most of grade school, I went to the modern equivalent of a one-room schoolhouse called Pumpkin Hollow. No, I’m not kidding. It was called Pumpkin Hollow School.

It had four classrooms, one each for first through forth grades. The entire faculty consisted of four teachers, the aid, and the lunch lady. We borrowed music and art teachers from a bigger school district and they came out to visit us once a week.

I think this small school was a very special thing, though I didn’t realize it back then. We had a really active group of parents that would organize great things for us. We went to see the Nutcracker Ballet every year, and we had little fairs in the springtime with craft booths and little games.

I remember the playground. You’ll never see a playground like it these days. The equipment was good, old-fashioned dangerous, or made out of tires, or both. We had a tire swing. A real one that hung from a high branch, and because the rope was long you could really whip people around on it. We could have killed ourselves, but we didn’t. It was fun. Good lord I miss recess. When did play get squeezed out of our daily curriculum?

It wasn’t a perfect place by any means. I don’t mean to imply that. Even small groups of children can be cruel. There was one girl that everyone said had cooties, and we teased her though I didn’t care and I was her friend anyway. None of the cool guys liked me very much, which sucked.

Ms. Otto, the aid, had strong old-school views about propriety, and she didn’t approve of the boys and girls playing together. We could mingle together on the equipment, or play tag, but we couldn’t cluster together in and make up our own games. A boy who played with the girls was given the worst punishment possible: he was forced to sit on the steps.

I spent a lot of time on the steps. Don’t misunderstand me. I was not a young Casanova. I just preferred the company of girls. Generally speaking, I still do.

Once I brought an old Indian Spearhead to school to show the other kids. It was real, we’d found it when we were digging in the garden. But when I took it out to recess, I showed it to a girl and told her that it was sharp and it could cut her. I wasn’t really threatening her, but I wasn’t exactly *not* threatening her either. I was being tough, and slightly wicked, and I knew it.

The girl told Ms. Otto, and I had to sit on the steps and they took the spearhead away. Later that day, my teacher Miss Anderson gave me a serious talking to and gave me the spearhead back.

That was it. I was deeply ashamed, and I knew deep in my heart that what I’d done was Wrong.

I also felt like I’d dodged a bullet because they hadn’t told my parents. Everything worked out smoothly, and I learned something. These days, they would have called homeland security, put me in therapy, and installed flint detectors on all the school doorways.

It was, everything said, a good place to grow up. It was too small for any severe social stratification. When your entire class is only 18 kids, the cool kids (Like Chad VanEss) still weren’t that much cooler than the uncool kids. And the prettiest girl (Jody Mulcahy) wasn’t that much prettier than the least pretty girl.

They closed Pumpkin Hollow not long after I left. Probably for budget reasons. I drive past it every once in a while when I’m at home. A small business has set up shop in the building, and I always want to stop and ask if I can look around. But I never do.

But in my dreams I go there. Sometimes the school is abandoned as I look around. Sometimes the new owners let me in and I see the old school half-hidden under the renovations. Sometimes I’m with someone, showing them around, saying, “This is the room where we had art class.” “This was Ms. Stewart’s room.” “Everything is so small. How did twenty kids ever play dodge ball here?”

They are melancholy dreams, full of a deep, slow sadness. They always end the same way. After moving from room to room, I lay down on the floor and cry. Not for anything, or about anything. Simply because I am full of sadness, and I miss something that is so long gone that I can no longer remember what it was, or put it into words.

I would give each of you a shamrock cookie today, if I could. But that is beyond me. So instead I wish each of you happiness, joy in the changing of the seasons, dreams free of melancholy, and hope of new friendships on the near horizon.

Fondly,

pat

Also posted in emo bullshit, mom | By Pat41 Responses

Today, I suck at life….

I was ready for today to be a cool day. A super-cool day even.

My star seems to be in ascension. A couple days ago I got a super cool review on NPR. As if that wasn’t cool enough, superhero librarian Nancy Pearl is the one doing the reviewing and recommending.

If you don’t know who Nancy Pearl is, you should. And you know that any librarian with her own action figure is a force to be reckoned with…

If that weren’t enough, I also recently got wind of a review in Science Fiction and Fantasy Magazine. Michelle West wrote such a flattering, descriptive, spoiler free review discussion of the book that I realize I will probably never have much luck being a reviewer myself. I don’t think I have the knack.

Anyway, my point is that things were looking pretty rosy moving into today. Two embarrassingly good reviews, my student’s tests were graded, and my amazon rank was ridiculously high (#240). I was half convinced that the local woodland creatures were going to wake me up, sing me a song, and help me get dressed for school — Cinderella style.

Because they didn’t show, I had to find my own socks and consequently I was running a little late. So I drove onto campus and found a spot right in front of the building. It even had 20 free minutes on the meter. Better and better.

Then I end up having a disagreement with the local photocopier. I want to make copies of the grading rubric for my class. The machine wants to take a big old shit on my day.

Ultimately the machine wins. It even manages the trifecta by denying me my copies, devouring the one and only copy of the rubric, and making me five minutes late to my own class.

Everything went downhill from there. The class was a trainwreck. Because dealing with the photocopier took all of my class prep time, I looked disorganized and clueless. I wrote all over the dry-erase board with a big bright red non-dry erase marker. (Not my fault, someone left it there.) I looked like an idiot several times and some of the students actually were talking to each other and laughing at me.

Lastly, toward the end of the class I said something in response to a student’s comment that was meant to be a general statement for the class, but I think was interpreted as me being bitchy at that student. *sigh* I don’t know.

It’s strange how quickly your day can turn to shit. In some ways it’s even worse because everything else was really good before that. If you spend the day picking up dogshit it’s not going to be a great time, but at least you know what you’re in for. You’re braced for it. It’s different if you’re just having a picnic and someone hits you in the face with a turd.

And with that lovely image, I will leave you. Hope your day is going better than mine.

Best,

pat

P.S. 204. That helps a bit.

Also posted in day in the life, reviews | By Pat31 Responses

They are not all good days….

When I stop to think about it, I realize how odd blog-writing is….

These last several months of posting haven’t been that strange for me. I’ve had years of practice writing a weekly humor column in the local paper. For nearly a decade I’ve told stories, given bad advice, and generally tried to make people laugh.

This blog is kind of like those columns.

Also, when I was growing up, I always loved it when the books had author’s notes in the back. Not just a little one-paragraph blurb. But a real message from the author to the reader. I thought that was the coolest thing, getting a little glimpse into their lives.

I like to think that this blog is kind of like those notes, too.

The blog is other things too: It’s a way for me to spread book-related news to those of you who give a care. It’s an easy, if rather unscientific, way to gather information. It also allows me to give some writing advice to people who are interested, though I’ll admit, I haven’t had much time for an “ask the author” blog lately. I should do one of those soon.

But recently, I’ve been wondering about the blog. What troubles me is this:

Though I am a liar by profession, I like to think of myself as a fundamentally honest person. Painfully honest, some people have said. But recently I’ve come to realize that the picture I’ve painted here is a somewhat dishonest portrayal of myself and my life.

It started months ago when I had a bad day and I thought about writing about it in the blog. Then I thought to myself, “Pat, people don’t come to your blog to listen to you bitch and moan about your sad life.”

“But I tell them about other stuff,” I protested. “Why shouldn’t I mention this?”

“Because they come here for news or for laughs, not so you can get all weepy on them.”

I realized I had a pretty good point, so I decided to keep quiet. Once I made that decision, it was fairly easy to abide by it. And lord knows there’s certainly been enough cool news lately so that I haven’t been scraping for stuff to post.

But over the last several weeks I’ve come to realize the other side of this. Sure I’m keeping it light and entertaining. But by only posting when I have cool news or a joke to make, it looks like my life is some sort of happily-ever-after, candy mountain place constructed entirely of rainbows and orgasmic bliss.

But this just isn’t the case. Things are not all sunshine and roses in Patland. I have bad days too.

Don’t get me wrong, life is pretty good. Hell, after all these years, my book is in print and people like it. That’s the top of the mountain, things don’t get any better than that.

But shit still happens. Today I bounced a check for the first time in ten years. Cost me fifty bucks and make me feel like an idiot incapable of performing simple math. Instead of leaving my credit union with money in my pocket, I left knowing my account balance was -2.56 even after depositing the whole check I’d gone in to cash. I didn’t even have enough to bring my balance up to zero.

Later on, I went to the coffee place and after I’ve ordered, I see the sign that says they don’t take credit cards. And of course I don’t have any money. So I have to explain that I can’t actually pay….

Then I come home and I see that on Amazon someone posted a one-star review of NOTW. That means my average dropped just enough for me to lose my perfect 5-star status, which I was unreasonably proud of. Then I feel like a dink for even caring about something like that. But I go on being irritated even though I know it’s silly, and that makes me even more irritated….

That’s the reality of things. I have money troubles. I make bad choices. I get pissed off for no good reason. It’s stupid how a few relatively small things can just wear you down.

It used to be that when I had a day like this I’d call my mom. I’d tell her about the one-star review and she’d be pissed. She’d go online and read it and just seethe about how the person was a total ass, and probably a half wit too. She’d be furious on my behalf, and I’d explain that it wasn’t really that big a deal (which it isn’t) and it would be off my chest and over with. It was enough to know that she was looking out for me, even if only to protect me from one-star reviewers.

You see, that’s the main thing that I’ve avoided talking about on here for months now. Months and Months. Normally if something big happens to me, I tell stories about it. It’s how I’m built. But I’ve been keeping that particular piece of story under wraps for a while now. Not only has it made me feel dishonest, but it really goes against my nature.

The thing is, my mom died a little while back, just a few weeks before the book came out.

She was great. I wish you all could have met her, and I’m sure most of you would have if she were still around. She’d be on here reading your posts, calling me on my bullshit, and telling stories. She would have gotten such a kick out of all the attention the book has been getting lately. The movie talk. All the foreign deals….

The Quill award. Oh man, she would have been unstoppable with a piece of news like that. She’d be telling strangers on the street. Moms don’t have to be modest so she would have been bragging all over the place. I’d be embarrassed about it, of course, but knowing that she was being excited on my behalf would mean that I’d feel better about just being calm and happy about the news. Sometimes it’s not that much fun being excited about your own stuff.

She didn’t miss all of it. She got to have some fun with NOTW. She read the galley and saw the printed versions before she went. She was around for some of the initial cool news: the first few foreign sales, some of the movie talk. She was so proud of it even then, before it even hit the shelves, even before it ever had an agent or a publisher. She referred to it as her “grandbook.”

I tell you though. I’d set these books on fire if I could have her back healthy and happy for one good week. Fuck. Some days I’d trade it for a good fifteen minutes.

What’s my point? Hell. I have no idea. If I had a point when I started writing this, I’ve long since forgotten it. I certainly didn’t sit down tonight with the intention of writing about my mom….

I think I mostly just wanted to let the cat out of the bag. I generally live my life with policy of full disclosure, and it was feeling increasingly weird keeping mentions of such a big part of my life out of these blog posts. I prefer to keep my lies and editing for my books. My life I just like to live and share.

Tell you what though. Let’s not have a big sympathy fest in the comments section. I’m not looking for a pity party. Aside from the occasional bad day where I can’t seem to do anything but miss her, I’m doing pretty good. I’m doing pretty good right now, actually. I feel better than when I started writing this. Which might be the moral of the story.

You be happy too, okay? As for me, I’m going to go eat a cookie and go to bed.

Maybe two cookies.

Fondly,

pat

Also posted in day in the life | By Pat43 Responses
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