The Dirty Streets of Heaven

One of the coolest things about being a published author is that I occasionally get sneak peaks of books before they’re officially released.

These books are called ARC’s. (Advanced Reading Copies) And publishers send them out to booksellers, reviewers, and authors with the hope of getting promotional blurbs.

This leads to one of the oddest things about being a reasonably popular author: getting asked to blurb books.

As I’ve talked about before on the blog, giving blurbs is something that doesn’t come easily to me. Talking about books is easy. But giving a short, snazzy statement that’s marketable while also being honest…. Well, I often make a mess of it. It’s only recently that I feel as if I have it even halfway figured out.

But in this last year or so, I’ve had to deal with another mind-bending permutation of it all. Getting asked to blurb books by authors I’ve admired my whole life.

For example:

Do you know how weird it is to have a promotional blurb on the front of your favorite book?

You know what my original blurb was for this book? The blurb that I had to get out of my system before I could write the civilized one up there?

It went something like this:

Are you fucking kidding me? You want *me* to tell you why this book is good? I’ve been published for, like, five years. This book has been shining like a pure white diamond of divine fire since 1968. It’s one of the cornerstones of modern fantasy. What is wrong with you? Do you need a blurb on a candy bar telling you it’s sugary and delicious? Jesus, Krishna, and Siddhartha, how can you even consider yourself a fantasy reader if you haven’t read The Last Unicorn? Seriously. Read it. Read it or I will kill you….

Yeah. Like I said. I’m not that good at writing promotional stuff.

And things have only gotten weirder. Earlier this year I burbled a reprint of a Terry Brooks novel. Terry Brooks. His books were some of the first serious fantasy I read back in high school.

Then now we come to this….

For those of you that don’t know, Tad Williams’ newest book just hit the shelves about a week ago. Two words: Angel Noir.

And on the back?

(Click to Embiggen.)

I’m up at the top there. Glibly blurbing away. As if I could somehow sum up how I feel about Tad Williams turning his hand to urban fantasy in 30-40 words.

Part of me wonders where this madness will end. Because honestly, this sort of escalation can only go on for so long….

Okay. Back to the point here. Tad’s book.

Here’s the short version: I really enjoyed it. It might be my favorite book of his to date, and that’s saying something.

Here’s the moderate-length version:

Back around Juneish, I went on a bit of a family vacation. I needed it, and I owed it to my family to get away from work for a while.

So went up north with Sarah and Oot to hang out with my dad. I left my work at home, but I did bring the ARC of Tad’s book. Because for it to really be a vacation for me, I have to have something to read.

I start to read it on the drive up into the north woods, and I got pulled into the story. So pulled in that I would rather read the book than sleep. So pulled in that I end up reading the book late, late into the night. So pulled in that I ended up sitting in a stairwell for hours and hours, until 4 AM, effectively hiding from my family, because I didn’t want to wake anyone up by having a light on. And also because I didn’t want my dad to wake up, see that I was still reading, and give me that look that says, “You know, we’ve got stuff to do tomorrow. You should really get to sleep.”

Yeah. So it was pretty much like high school all over again.

If you still need more encouragement than that, you can read the review I wrote over on Goodreads.

Later folks,


This entry was posted in recommendations, the art of blurbing, the business of writing, Things I didn't know about publishing. By Pat50 Responses


  1. darkmatter
    Posted September 14, 2012 at 4:47 AM | Permalink

    I wrote 11 book reviews in the last 24 hours. I *was* going to reward myself by reading something I bought myself so I could have a ‘book off’ and not review it. Now I feel that you have my arm firmly up my back, steering me towards the couch, in front of which is my coffee table with my review copy of Dirty Streets.

    Thanks. -_-


  2. NTHM
    Posted September 14, 2012 at 4:54 AM | Permalink

    I just bought this for the Kindle, simply because you referred it. Reading it tonight. :P

  3. justajenjen
    Posted September 14, 2012 at 5:11 AM | Permalink

    I may get this. I haven’t decided yet. I’ve had sort of a mixed relationship with Mr. Williams and his books.

  4. nerdwerds
    Posted September 14, 2012 at 5:14 AM | Permalink

    “Do you know how weird it is to have a promotional blurb on the front of your favorite book?”

    Seems to me like that should be the blurb!

    • Mason K
      Posted September 14, 2012 at 5:20 AM | Permalink

      Agreed. You can hardly get a better endorsement and it’s exactly the kind of blurb I’d buy a book over.

  5. Jiyuu
    Posted September 14, 2012 at 5:28 AM | Permalink

    I think the actual blurb is only 1/4th of the deal. 3/4ths of that is whose name comes after the blurb. I once bought a book purely because it had a blurb from Diana Wynne Jones on the cover. (It was Sarah Prineas’s Magic Thief). I can’t even remember what she said in the blurb, but if Diana Wynne Jones liked it, I wagered I would also. Turns out I did.

    And any book with ‘Patrick Rothfuss’ written on it, I will buy.

    • jorgybear
      Posted September 15, 2012 at 9:06 PM | Permalink

      Ditto for Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (recommended by both Patrick Rothfuss and Joe Abercrombie). I got my mum to buy it for me for Christmas, spent the whole of Boxing day reading it. Great buy.
      Just made a couple of additions to my Amazon wish list.

      • Howland
        Posted September 17, 2012 at 4:03 PM | Permalink

        I also read Ready Player One based on PR’s recommendation, and was glad I did. Didn’t like Redshirts (also recommended) as much though

        • tlvierra
          Posted September 18, 2012 at 5:11 PM | Permalink

          I just found Scalzi via a winemaker friend who reads same stuff I do. Like Redshirts muchly, but the one that REALLY made me howl, was Fuzzy Nation, his revamp of H Beam Piper’s Little Fuzzy. Give that a try! Agent to the Stars also good.

  6. itsjusthim
    Posted September 14, 2012 at 5:37 AM | Permalink

    I just want you to know that as per your list you’re somewhere between Optimus Prime and Zeus in my mind. If The Doors of Stone is as good as the first two books you’ll be right at the top with Joss Whedon!
    You’re awesome!

    • jorgybear
      Posted September 15, 2012 at 9:06 PM | Permalink


  7. Inithra
    Posted September 14, 2012 at 5:37 AM | Permalink

    Excellent. Now if only there was a way to purchase an electronic copy in the UK other than the Kindle version!

    • HeroineOfCanton
      Posted September 15, 2012 at 8:07 AM | Permalink

      The Barnes and Noble Nook is coming to the UK next month!

  8. Posted September 14, 2012 at 6:09 AM | Permalink

    Now I really *must* get around to reading The Last Unicorn. The cartoon adaptation has a special place in my heart since childhood and I hear it stays reasonably true to the story. I still watch it several times a year and can’t watch Mia Farrow movies because she will always be the voice of the unicorn to me – perhaps you could look it up for Oot if you think he’s old enough. I believe I was around 4 or 5 when I first watched it. I’m in the middle of reading everything by Tad Williams but I’ll definitely add actually reading this story to my list. I really should, since it has been such a favourite.

    • Posted September 14, 2012 at 7:54 AM | Permalink

      The film was a great adaptation, and true to the story. But the writing in the book is beautiful. It’s just beautiful.

      I grew up watching the animated version and one day my brother casually mentioned that the book was “better” than the movie. There was also a snooty implication that I must be an idiot for not having read it already since I was such a “fan” of the story. It really got under my skin. I had to read it. I’m glad I did.

      By the way, that is gorgeous cover!

  9. ResearchMom
    Posted September 14, 2012 at 7:49 AM | Permalink

    Loved everything Tad ever wrote so this book was going to the top of my reading list anyway… Now it has your endorsement too. Cannot get any better. Talking about good books and as a die hard Serenity fan who still hopes to see it fly again someday (yes yes I know, it needs a miracle), I just discovered a series that reminded me of it a lot. A barely held together ship, a handsome if damaged captain, a bit of unlucky piracy…. Rings a bell? Pick up Retribution Falls by Chris Wooding – first in a series of three so far – and thank me later. I was up all night reading the first book and it keeps getting better. Beyond the steam punk slash western slash sci fi aspect, which is very well done, it is really cool to find a book where the characters actually learn and grow. Disclaimer note: no connection whatsoever to said book. No gold changed hands. Not getting his firstborn…. Oh, and Joe Abercrombie said nice things about it.

  10. steveJD
    Posted September 14, 2012 at 8:01 AM | Permalink

    I might check this out–but Neil Gaiman wrote Murder Mystery–the ORIGINAL angel Noir and anything else is gonna be compared to that. There are TONS of angels themed urban fantasy out there. Alan Campbell’s stuff like Scar Night, The Iron Angel and The God of Clocks. Not to mention that awful “Fallen” series that my students read. Really surprised to hear you call an angel themed POV original Pat. I mean the late 90’s early 00’s were kinda rife with it.

    • Marcus Cox
      Posted September 14, 2012 at 8:27 AM | Permalink

      Murder Mystery is quite possibly the best short story I’ve ever read. Pat, is this anything on par with that, quality and substance wise?

    • tlvierra
      Posted September 18, 2012 at 5:14 PM | Permalink

      Have you read Christopher Moore’s Stupidest Angel? Hilarious Christmas fable; I haul it out every year to re-read.

  11. Posted September 14, 2012 at 8:09 AM | Permalink

    “Jesus, Krishna, and Siddhartha, how can you even consider yourself a fantasy reader if you haven’t read The Last Unicorn? ”

    Totally stealing that line.

    I was looking for something to read while waiting for my pre-order of “Alchemystic” to land. Thanks for giving me options.

  12. romangoro
    Posted September 14, 2012 at 8:47 AM | Permalink

    I would buy any and all books by any publisher that prints that blurb. I’m serious about that.

  13. Posted September 14, 2012 at 11:56 AM | Permalink

    I was just wanting a new book! Thanks.

    Off Topic – Does your friend that does the drawings on here have an online comic or anything?

  14. dcashd
    Posted September 14, 2012 at 1:13 PM | Permalink

    “I start to read it on the drive up into the north woods.” I sincerely hope you weren’t reading and driving at the same time. But if you were, props, because seeing how you survived, that is very impressive.

  15. Synergy012
    Posted September 14, 2012 at 1:37 PM | Permalink

    Ummm Pat… Joss Whedon has been writing Urban Fantasy since the ’90s. I saw your Urban Fantasy show and Buffy qualfies as Urban Fantasy by just about any definition.

    • Marcus Cox
      Posted September 14, 2012 at 5:25 PM | Permalink

      That list is people he’d like to do blurbs for.

  16. Little My
    Posted September 14, 2012 at 3:01 PM | Permalink

    Huh. Somewhat surprised to see GRR Martin above Peter Beagle in that list.

    • Mark G. Schroeder
      Posted September 14, 2012 at 5:53 PM | Permalink

      Not so sure that was a ranking so much as “people I haven’t blurbed on top of the list, people I have blurbed on the bottom.”

      Yeah, that sounds kind of rude, but you know what I mean.

      • Little My
        Posted September 17, 2012 at 2:44 PM | Permalink

        Yah, could be. But then, you KNOW Joss Whedon ranks above Zeus in Pat’s pantheon.

  17. Mark G. Schroeder
    Posted September 14, 2012 at 5:27 PM | Permalink

    Tad Williams is awesome. War of the Flowers doesn’t seem to get mentioned all that often when people talk about his work, what with the rest of the stuff on his resume, but it’s one of my favorites… and Stone of Farewell is probably the most beautifully written and most compelling 2nd-book-in-a-trilogy that I’ve ever read.

  18. IvoryDoom
    Posted September 14, 2012 at 6:42 PM | Permalink

    How do you get ARC’s?

    I’ve also been wondering how your go about becoming a beta reader…it sounds like fun, but I never bothered to figure out how to get involved.

    • flakes
      Posted September 14, 2012 at 7:18 PM | Permalink

      A couple ways to get arcs.

      The easiest way is to work for a bookstore. If you work at a chain bookstore like B&N you will probably only get stuff after management has picked it over. If you work at an indie, usually a book rep will try and find out your taste, then try to find books to match that taste.

      Become a book reviewer, i.e. write a well followed blog, become a journalist, or a librarian then sign up at and just request copies of anything that interest you.

      Go to publisher trade shows like BEA or NAIBA. There are usually tables of free books there.

      Become a well known author. Other authors will send you books asking for reviews. Your publisher probably will too. So will your agent.

      Getting advanced books can be fun. I got my copy of The Wise Man’s Fear a couple months in advance of everyone else for example. Sometimes it can be weird. When I read Changes by Jim Butcher in ARC form then read Ghost Story, I was shocked to discover that there was an entirely different ending that was published from the one I read.

      Unfortunately there is an incredible amount of bad books that you have to slog through.

      P.S. I hope you don’t mind a book recommendation. Blood Song: Raven Shadow by Anthony Ryan is awesome. It’s self published, but when I read it I was so blown away by it that I emailed someone at Penguin Press that I know. A week later I got an email from an editorial director that they’d offered the author a 3 book contract. If you like epic fantasy, it is on par with Rothfuss, Jordan and Martin.

      • jorgybear
        Posted September 15, 2012 at 9:10 PM | Permalink

        “Become a well known author”. Were it so easy…

    • jayh
      Posted September 15, 2012 at 7:09 AM | Permalink

      best way… donate to Worldbuilders during the lottery and win the golden ticket.
      hmmm, wonder if Pat could get other authors in on that too?


    • Howland
      Posted September 17, 2012 at 4:07 PM | Permalink

      I think ARC’s and beta reading sounds like a lot of fun, but I bet there are a lot of books you would have to just slog through, especially if they are unfinished.

      Also after reading Pat’s post about people reading his unpublished works, I’d be petrified that someone would steal my copy and post it on the internets and Pat’s wrath would be incurred.

  19. ajalbinak
    Posted September 14, 2012 at 8:17 PM | Permalink

    Tad Williams is one cool cat. About 15 years ago, I was an assistant manager at an Italian bookstore in Chicago. His agent called up and said, “Tad is going to be across the street at Borders doing a big book signing next month. Do you want him to run over to your store and sign any stock while he’s in town?” I wept. We were a mostly foreign language bookstore with lots of coffee table art and architecture books. No Tad Williams books in stock. The agent laughed in sympathy when I explained how much I wished I could say yes.

    A month later, I got an inhouse call on the second floor. “There’s some guy here to see you? Can we send him up?” A good looking guy in a super cool leather jacket came jogging up the stairs two minutes later and shook my hand. “Hi, are you AJ? I’m Tad Williams and my agent told me how disappointed you were not to carry my books. I just wanted to come over and say hi and thanks for reading them.”

    I have bought every book the man has written since in hardcover. Even when doing so meant ramen noodles for lunch for month. Coolest dude ever.

    • Little My
      Posted September 17, 2012 at 2:47 PM | Permalink

      Wow. That was a really thoughtful thing for him to do. I’d imagine it’d be very, very easy just to accept the kudos and move on.

  20. hendric
    Posted September 15, 2012 at 1:22 AM | Permalink

    Any idea on a release date for the new Last Unicorn reprinting? I’ve been searching for a hardcopy locally or a digital version but haven’t been able to find one. Thanks!

  21. HeroineOfCanton
    Posted September 15, 2012 at 8:12 AM | Permalink

    One of the best things about being a librarian is that I see the new books as they head out to the shelves. Occasionally this means I snatch up books before the public gets a chance to check them out first. I grabbed DSoH the second I saw it earlier this week. However, I was afraid someone else would request it before I could finish it, so I decided to put down the book I had been reading–Stone of Farewell. Ha! As much as I was enjoying SoF, I think I made a good choice; I’m loving DSoH sooooooo much. And SoF will still be there when I’m done.

  22. Kashiraja
    Posted September 15, 2012 at 8:14 AM | Permalink

    I tried reading Dirty streets. compared to it Peter Jackson is a master of subtlety

  23. steveJD
    Posted September 15, 2012 at 11:08 AM | Permalink

    Also, I read the first two books of William’s Shadowwhatever series and found them full of character that were some of the least likeable or care about-able that I’ve ever come across. The more I read about this book, even with Pat’s blessing, the more it goes on my meh list.

  24. Posted September 15, 2012 at 8:24 PM | Permalink

    “And also because I didn’t want my dad to wake up, see that I was still reading, and give me that look that says, “You know, we’ve got stuff to do tomorrow. You should really get to sleep.”
    Yeah. So it was pretty much like high school all over again.”

    Story of my life. So glad I’m not alone in that! My mother would get up every few hours (in vain) to tell me to “go to sleep or you won’t get to ride your horse tomorrow!”

    If Name of the Wind/Wise Man’s Fear had been out when I was in high school, they would have definitely been two of the books completely worth a horse-less day.

    Now I live alone. I still stay up. I get to leave the light on (ha!). No fear of recrimination whatsoever. Sometimes, though, I kind of miss the dreaded footsteps creaking slowly down the hallway…

  25. jorgybear
    Posted September 15, 2012 at 9:15 PM | Permalink

    If I had a pound for every time I’ve taken a sick day off work because I’ve been reading till 4am, I wouldn’t need to work!

  26. Raven Darkmoon
    Posted September 16, 2012 at 6:05 PM | Permalink

    I guess I can no longer consider myself a fantasy reader since I have not read The Last Unicorn. I read The Lord of the Rings once a year, I have read NOTW, WMF, and The Princess and Mr. Whiffle. In addition I have read most of Brandon Sanderson’s books, I have read the entire Steven Erikson series Malazan: Book of the Fallen, but I guess I am not actually a fantasy reader. Who knew *shrugs*

  27. Vishnu dastak
    Posted September 17, 2012 at 2:16 AM | Permalink

    Couple of posts earlier you mentioned upcoming big announcements. Was the one about Calendar it? Any update about Book 3?

  28. browncoat
    Posted September 17, 2012 at 1:59 PM | Permalink

    And the way Tad Williams pulled you in, that’s the way your books pull me in.

    Looking forward to reading your blurb on the front of season 2 of Firefly ;)

  29. Gavin
    Posted September 21, 2012 at 12:47 AM | Permalink

    And then God said let there be Rothfuss and just like that a new age in fantasy was born. I know it is the usual fan mail but inspiration hit me and I had to post it. What I would love to see is an episode of your show with you, Larry Correia, Eoin Colfer, Brandon Sanderson (because Robert Jordan bless his soul is dead), S. M. Stirling, Henry H Neff, Anne McCaffrey, Orson Scott Card, Terry Pratchett, Stephen Baxter, Ursula K. Le Guin, and more who I have forgotten well I know it is asking a lot but image the possibilities.

  30. rwscissors
    Posted September 21, 2012 at 3:31 AM | Permalink

    Hi Patrick.
    Just wanted to take a second to thank you. I am re-reading “A Wise Man’s Fear,” and I decided to log on to your site to see if there were any update on a new book when I stumbled across this blog post. The whole blurb thing, and free books sounded cool (When I was a kid I used to dig through the dumpsters behind the library for books, and when I was a teen I used to dig out the books with the covers torn off behind the local bookstore. I LOVE books), but that isn’t what I’m thanking you for. Your depiction of loving the book so much that you found yourself in a stairway at 4 A.M. really brought back some memories for me. When you also included the part about getting the look from your dad…well, it made me remember all the times she found me, in a stairway, under the covers, in the bathroom, in a tent, in a car…up in the middle of the night because I couldn’t put a book down. It isn’t a stretch to say I dropped out of high school because I was addicted to reading. (And Mattell Intellevision…which I know totally dates me). Anyway, my mom has been gone for over a decade, but I got a real clear picture of my mom in that fuzzy blue robe finding me and shaking her head, and a real clear feeling of being loved in a way that can never be replicated, and I just had to say thanks. I know that I don’t write anything I write by accident, so I’m guessing that your inclusion of your father in this narrative was a testimony to a similar set of memories, and more importantly, a similar sort of love. The postscript to this story is that I too still find myself in the stairway at 4 AM. Except now, when my kids wake up to go to the bathroom and find me reading in the middle of the night, it’s them shaking their heads at me. Thanks.

  31. astarael
    Posted September 24, 2012 at 12:10 AM | Permalink

    Hey Pat,

    Hope all is well with you. That’s quite a list you have there. Can’t say I would make too many changes, though I’d probably throw in Haruki Murakami and Daniel Abraham. But that might just be a personal preference.

    First of all, I wanted to tell you just how excited and anxious I am for the third book to come out. I read a (ton) of fantasy and there are few novels that have really knocked me back the way The Name of the Wind. It was Ender’s Game-esque (and I don’t use that completely manufactured and obnoxious terminology lightly) in terms of how blown away I was with taking familiar concepts and not only flipping them on their heads but manipulating them at will. Your prose and characterization strike my fancy. That last sentence was not trying to make you or any of your readers fall in love with me.

    I know you probably get a plethora of recommendations (or I was just looking for an excuse to use the word plethora because it’s normally fairly difficult to use in normal conversation and it’s AWESOME kind of like the word “yonder”) but the one I’m hooked on right now is Zero Sight by B. Justin Shier. Holy balls, what a ride so far. The Dirty Streets of Heaven is now added to my list.

    Mighty Fine Shindig,

  32. mikesilvano
    Posted October 9, 2012 at 4:23 AM | Permalink

    Hi everybody,
    probably you have writting about this, but here i go with a casting of a future film of the name of the wind.

    Are you agree with this?

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