Category Archives: meeting famous people

How to Embarrass Yourself in Front of Famous People

Over the last couple years I’ve learned that whenever I do a signing, I will inevitably screw up the inscription in at least one book.

This trend started with my very first signing, the day The Name of the Wind hit the shelves. I actually wrote about that in one of my earliest blogs. I still have that book inscribed “To Hell” on a shelf.

A lot of times my screw up is a minor thing. It’s not uncommon for me to misspell a word. This is embarrassing, but it’s easy to laugh it off. I usually correct my mistake with proofreaders marks, and say something like, “That’s what editors are for.”

Occasionally I misquote a piece of my own book. That’s not so bad either. Understandable, as I’ve known the book it for 15 years in several hundred different revisionary versions.

Sometimes it’s just my handwriting itself that’s embarrassing.

But nothing is worse than screwing up someone’s name. This is why, when I do a signing, I usually ask people to spell it out for me. I write it down on a separate piece of paper, point to it, and ask, “is this right?”

Most people don’t bat an eye at this. They’re not Nicky, they’re Nikki. It’s not Sandy, it’s “Big S, little A, little N, Big D, little E, Big E. With a star at the end!”

I ask everyone. If you get to the front of the line and say, “Can you sign this to Joe?” I write down J O E in my childlike scrawl, point to it, and ask, “like this?”

The reason I’m so careful is because I can fuck up any name. Once a guy got to the front of the line and said, “John. With an ‘h.'”

So I write, “To Jhon.”

Then I sat there, staring at it, thinking: “I am a fucking idiot.”

The thing is, not only do I tend to screw up one book at every signing. I typically screw up the worst possible book. If someone drove four hours to get there and brought the first edition hardcover their mom gave them… that’s the book I’m going to make a mistake in.

Or, if someone cool shows up to the signing, someone I’d like to not look like an idiot in front of, I’ll cock up that book instead. That’s what happened when Felicia Day showed up when I was doing a signing in LA. I made a real mess of the book I was signing for her brother.

Are we sufficiently backgrounded for the story? I think so.

So let’s jump back to last year when I went to San Diego Comic Con. While I was out there, I did a few signings. One in the main autographing room, one at at Mysterious Galaxy’s booth, and one in the nearby Borders.

The Borders gig sounded pretty cool. First we were going to have a panel where a bunch of authors would discuss urban fantasy vs epic fantasy, then we would do a signing.

I was really looking forward to it. Partly because I love discussing books with other authors, and partly because I love doing signings and meeting fans. But mostly because one of the other authors on the panel was Amber Benson.

I was excited all weekend, telling everyone I met about the panel/signing. But when I mentioned Amber Benson’s name, they mostly looked at me blankly. “I don’t think I’ve read her stuff,” they’d say.

“She hasn’t been doing books that long,” I said. “She does comics. Screenplays. Directs stuff. She’s an actress too. You probably know her as Tara from Buffy. Willow’s girlfriend.”

It was only when I mentioned the last bit that I would see the light of recognition go on in people’s eyes. So eventually I just started skipping straight to that, saying, “She played Tara in Buffy.”

I had one signing earlier that day, and despite the fact that a ton of people showed up, I managed to make it through the whole thing without screwing up anyone’s book.

Maybe that’s it, I thought to myself. Maybe my streak is broken.

Later on in the evening I went to Borders and had a great time. I managed to say a few clever things during the discussion which is nice, because, well, Amber Benson was there, and I wanted to look cool.

 

[Photo link dead]

 

After the panel everyone signed books. I had a nice line of people, which gave me another iota’s worth of cool. More impressively, I didn’t screw any of them up, not even a little. My streak finally seemed to be broken.

After all the fans had their books signed, the authors hung out and chatted. Amber came over from her end of the table and said something along the lines of, “I don’t normally do epic fantasy, but after what you said, I’ll admit I’m curious about yours….”

“I’d love to give you a copy,” I said. “So long as you’ll sign my copy of Death’s Daughter.”

She agreed and signed my book. I was all aglow with geeky joy. I’d met someone cool, made a good impression, and even had a little bit of banter. I was awesome….

So I grabbed one of my books and opened it to the title page. Then, so I didn’t screw up her book, I looked up and asked, “Do you spell it T-A-R-A?”

She looked at me, slightly confused, as if she didn’t understand what I meant.

I looked back at her, slightly confused, not understanding why she wasn’t following me.

Then, at the same moment, we both realized what I’d done. At the same moment, we both realized that I wasn’t awesome at all. I was, in fact, a fucking idiot.

The other authors standing around overheard this. They realized it too.

Amber was very gracious and laughed it off. But I was still covered in shame. Even now it makes me cringe to remember it.

So there you go. Welcome to me.

For those of you who don’t know, Tara Amber has written and directed a couple movies. In fact, her most recent one, Drones, is being shown in a few select locations right now.

In fact, it’s being shown tonight, (Tuesday the 13th) in LA, with all the proceeds going to charity. If you live nearby and you aren’t going, you might want to seriously reconsider your priorities. In fact, you might want to reconsider what you’re doing with your entire life.

I’d be there in a heartbeat if it wasn’t 2000 miles away. Right now I’m kinda pissed at you cool kids who live in your big cities with your film festivals and fancy hats. Yes. I’m looking at you Orlando, Boston, and LA.

If nothing else, you should really check out the trailer. I was curious about the movie before I watched this. Now I’m filled with a terrible longing like unto hunger. I love Jonathan Woodward.

Share and Enjoy,

pat

Also posted in buffy, my dumbness, signing books | By Pat103 Responses

Mark Tremonti Signature Guitar – Signed by Creed

This is a Worldbuilders blog.

If you want details, click here.

Back in September, I got a piece of fanmail.

By itself, this isn’t that strange. A lot of folks contact me using the form on my website. A lot. While there are too many for me to reply to personally these days, I do read them all.

One thing I’ve learned by reading these messages is that a lot of different people read my book. Subconsciously, I always expect my readers to be like me. That’s to say I expect them to be youngish college students who are… well… kinda geeky.

(I know that I’m not *really* a college student anymore, but that’s still how I think of myself in my head. After spending 11 years in college, then teaching for a couple years, I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to think of myself as anything other than a college student. In my head I’m also still in my twenties. And I’m thinner, too.)

But in the last couple years I’ve learned that not everyone who reads fantasy is a geek. Or at least not the sort of geek that I am. I’ve been contacted by soldiers in Iraq, lawyers, carpenters, politicians, a cage fighter, police, and aerospace engineers.

Well, the last one isn’t so surprising, actually. One of my my best friends in high school grew up to be an aerospace engineer, and we played D&D like nobody’s business.

The point is, by this point I should know better than to judge people by their profession. Geeks come in all shapes and sizes, and people aren’t defined by their jobs.

So back to the story: It’s September of last year, and I get an e-mail from Michael Tremonti. He tells me he’s Mark Tremonti’s brother and publicist. Apparently, Creed was going to be playing a show in Milwaukee, and they knew I lived in Wisconsin. So Michael was just dropping me a line to see if I’d like to come down, catch the show, and maybe hang out a little.

To be honest, at first I was pretty sure one of my friends had made a fake e-mail account and was screwing around with me. That seemed a lot more likely to me than a rockstar out there reading fantasy books. Aren’t Geeks and Rockstars diametrical opposites? Aren’t we supposed to be natural enemies in the wild?

It turns out we’re not. While e-mailing back and forth with Michael, he told me he and his brother used to play D&D in the basement just like the rest of us.

Again, I didn’t believe him. So they sent me this picture.


I am cowed by the might of your geekery, Mark. And I hereby promise never to question anyone’s geek heritage ever again. Not just D&D. But AD&D. That’s the real stuff. Back when the game was badass and you had to roll for things like parasitic infection when you traveled through a swamp.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t make it down to the show. This was back in September, and Sarah was big with baby. I knew if I drove down to Milwaukee, she’d go into labor. I was absolutely sure of it.

Still, we stayed in touch, and when I was starting to gather prizes for Worldbuilders, I dropped Michael a line and asked if they might be interested in donating a couple of signed CDs or something.

He replied, “How about we just give you a guitar instead?”

“What?” I said.



Thanks so much, Michael and Mark. This is really going above and beyond…

I have to say, all rockstar coolness aside, this is a really gorgeous guitar. Holding it, I was filled with a great desire to rock out.

Here’s the link to the auction.

This sort of thing is kinda unexplored territory for the fundraiser, as until now we’ve focused mostly on books and book-related stuff. So I’d appreciate it if y’all could help me spread the word a little bit. And sooner would be better than later, as the auction ends on January 15th.

Money raised by Worldbuilders goes to Heifer International, which helps people all over the world raise themselves up out of poverty and starvation. If you’d like to donate directly you can head over to my page at Team Heifer and I’ll match your donation by 50%. Trust me. You’ll feel great afterward.

Or, if you want more information about the Worldbuilders fundraiser itself, you can head to the main page HERE.

With thanks to our sponsor, Subterranean Press.

Also posted in music, Wierd Shit, Worldbuilders 2009 | By Pat20 Responses

My Trip to LA: Part Two

Just a reminder folks. This is part two of a longer blog. Part one is over here.

[…]

I’ve had the chance to hang out with some pretty cool people over the last year: Peter S. Beagle, Tad Williams, Neil Gaiman. Folks I’ve idolized for a long time. But I never had this strange vertigo with any of them.

I’ve thought about it a lot since then, and right now my best guess is this.

I think talking to someone you’ve seen on TV is like meeting someone you already know. Your brain has become familiar with the image of this person, you know the texture of their voice, their body posture. For all intents and purposes, you know them.

Except you don’t. You’re just familiarized to the sensation of them. What’s more disorienting is that if they’re an actor, the personality you’ve attached to their image isn’t really their own. Or at least it’s not *entirely* their own.

I don’t think it’s the same with writers. When you’re experiencing our work, you don’t see our faces. You might get a peek inside our heads (or think you get a peek) but that doesn’t lead to the same visual imprinting that you get from watching someone on screen.

I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve probably watched Dr. Horrible over a hundred times since it came out. I haven’t watched The Guild *quite* as much as that, but if you count the times I’ve re-watched each of the individual episodes, I’ve probably moved into the triple digits by now.

This means that in the last year, I’ve seen Felicia Day’s face more than I’ve seen the face of my own sister. More than I’ve seen the faces of any of my friends who all live out of town. More than any real-world face except Sarah’s, and honestly, during the week when Dr. Horrible was first released, that particular race might have been too close to call.

I think that’s what where this strange vertigo came from. It was some rational part of me hitting my the degauss button in my brain again and again. Helping me realize that the person in front of me was fundamentally different from the person I had been watching on the screen of my computer.

And eventually it worked. I was able to settle down and talk with her and the moments of odd vertigo grew farther and farther apart. Unfortunately one of those moments happened when I was signing a book for her. A signing that I screwed up to a degree that still embarrasses me.

I also have to say that I was really impressed with everyone else at the signing. I know a lot of people must have recognized her, but from what I saw, nobody freaked out on her or hassled her.

Part of this I’m guessing has to do with the fact that we were in LA, but I’m willing to lay a lot of it on the fact that my readership seems to be composed of very cool, intelligent people.

For example, when I was signing books after the reading, a couple folks came up to the front of the line, and thanked me for introducing them to Dr. Horrible on my blog.

I motioned them a little closer and they leaned in. “Be cool about it,” I said quietly, excited to get the chance to tell someone who could appreciate the news. “But Felicia Day is here. She’s behind you, standing in line!” I grinned, vibrating with geeky joy. Probably looking like a garden gnome who has recently stumbled onto the a particularly interesting patch of mushrooms.

“We know!” They grinned too, just as excited as me.

After the signing, the lot of us went out to dinner: me, my gracious hosts, a few of their friends, and Felicia day.

We ended up at a small restaurant, where I had the best Thai food of my life. And I must say, sitting there, surrounded by rocket scientists, librarians, and other persons of eclectic occupation. Chatting and trading stories with Felicia day. It was my own personal Valhalla.

Lastly, since we’re talking about public appearances, I’m going to be having a little reading up here in Hayward in a week or so.

So if you live up here in the north woods of Wisconsin and are not an elk, feel free to swing by. It should be a nice cozy event with just a few of us, so I’ll have plenty of time to chat with everyone who comes. Plus, I hear there will be cookies.

February 26th, Thursday, 6:00-8:00

Hayward Public Library
10788 HWY 27/77
Hayward, WI 54843

For more info call 715-634-2161

And back to work for me,

pat

Also posted in appearances, BJ Hiorns Art, fan coolness, Felicia Day | By Pat68 Responses

My Trip to LA: Part One

So, it’s been about a month since my trip to LA.

Now some folk will quibble and say that I was in *Pasadena,* not LA. But that is a distinction that matters primarily to folks who live in the LA area. To the rest of us, that entire gob of city there in Southern California is all LA.

It’s best not to split hairs about these sorts of things. If we’re going to get technical, I would have to explain to people that I’m not originally from Madison proper. I’m actually from the Town of Burke, right next to Madison. And right now I’m not in Hayward, hiding from the world and writing, I’m in the nearby township of Lenroot, or something like that.

These are pointless little truths that don’t do anyone any good.

This is the art of storytelling, you see. Telling small lies in pursuit of a larger truth. The art of being a reader is being willing to work a little to get at the meat of the story, while at the same time accepting the occasional bent technicality and comma splice.

Anyway. LA was awesome. I was flown out by the lovely folks responsible for one of the winning pictures in the photo contest. Not only are these ladies lovely and willing to get naked for my book, but they are also rocket scientists. Seriously. So while I was out there, I got to take a tour of JPL and look at cool spaceship stuff.

I got to see oranges growing on trees. Which might not seem like a big deal for most of you, but for me it was pretty cool. I also saw lizards running around wild, and can now identify a eucalyptus tree. I got to play some new board games and walk around outside without wearing a coat or hat or anything.

The book signing itself turned out to be a marvelous success. We had a surprising number of people show up, I’m guessing 100 or 120. They had to bring out a bunch of extra chairs, and even then people were standing in the isles and sitting on the floor.

It was a good crowd. I read a few Survival Guides, a poem, and a snippet of book two. I told some stories, answered questions, and got a few laughs. Afterwards, I signed a buttload of books and got to chat one-on-one with folks. Someone brought me wine, someone else brought me an entire care package including memory sticks and tickets to Disneyland.

Though I love the swag, I feel obliged to remind folks that the “Something Cool” rule only applies to books you’re mailing in for me to sign.

That said, if you have something you’d *really* like to give me, far be it from me to stop you….

Of particular interest was something that happened halfway through the reading. I was answering some question or another, and I looked out and saw Felicia Day sitting at the back of the crowd.

Now this is the point in the story where I don’t exactly know what I should say. Normally when I’m telling a story out of my real life, I go with the truth, even when it’s embarrassing or unflattering. I don’t know exactly why I feel obliged to do this, but I do.

But for some reason, as I tell this story, I want to lie. I want to pretend I was laid-back about it. Pleased, of course, but also nonchalant. I’d like to portray myself as relaxed… cool. Like the Fonz from Happy Days. Or like the modern-day fantasy author version of the Fonz: Neil Gaiman.

I’ve seen Neil Gaiman a couple times. He’s a great public speaker, funny, insightful. He knows how to work a crowd, and he’s irritatingly good at reading his own work out loud.

Even better, he’s terribly gracious in person. I once watched him get ambushed by a fan who was desperate to have Gaiman read his manuscript. The guy clung to Gaiman and wouldn’t take no for an answer. I found it irritating from a distance of fifteen feet, but Gaiman was unfailingly polite through the whole exchange.

I’m not graceful in that way. I honestly don’t know how I come across in public, but sometimes I expect that it’s something like the way my old dog, Pup, used to behave.

He was a big liony mutt that I grew up with as a kid. An outside dog who never knew a fence, as we lived out in the country and let him run wild. He a smart dog, and a vicious hunter. He patrolled our house, protecting us from pretty much anything.

Despite the fact that he was a great hunter and defender, he was also very friendly. Unfortunately, it was like he never figured out that he wasn’t a puppy anymore. When someone came over for a visit, Pup would jump up on them, putting his paws up on your chest (or your shoulders, if you were shorter) and lick your face.

This is fine behavior if you’re a fluffy puppy with milk-breath, or if you’re an adult dog hanging out with your family. But Pup treated everyone that way, even when he was full grown, shaggy, and smelling of whatever interesting he had found to roll in.

I suspect that’s what I must be like when I’m in public most of the time. I’m this great shaggy beast who gets excited about meeting new people, and does the conversational equivalent of jumping up on people and licking them in the face.

This means that when I want to be socially graceful, I need some sort of internal touchstone about how I should act. So when I see Felicia Day sitting in the back of the room, I think to myself: WWNGD?

I’m guessing he would not, for example, stand up at his own reading and say: “Holy shit everybody! Felicia Day is here!”

So I didn’t either. But I tell you, it was a near thing. I’m pretty sure I kept my game face on, and kept answering whatever question I was in the middle of. But the truth is, inside I was standing up and pointing, shouting: “Holy shit! Everybody! Felicia Day!” with all the enthusiasm of a four-year-old who has just seen his first real firetruck drive by on the street.

(Re-reading this, I think I need to add another item to my ever-growing list of Things You Should Never Compare a Woman to Under Any Circumstances. Number Seven: Firetruck. Perhaps any type of truck.

For the record, please note that this particular use of firetruck is being used to describe my reaction to Felicia, not Felicia herself.)

Anyway, after the reading, I managed to grab Felicia and chat for a bit before I started signing books. By this point I’d settled down a bit and was able to behave like a regular human being.

But still, every once in a while, my head would spin around a bit and I would think, “Wha? Who is this? Holy shit. I’m talking with Felicia Day!”

*****

Well folks, due to my tangential nature, this particular blog has ended up being WAY longer than I’d intended. I’ll post the rest of it in a day or two, how’s that?

In the mean time, if you don’t know what the big deal is, you can go check out Dr. Horrible, where Felicia plays Penny. Or The Guild, which Felicia writes and produces in addition to playing the part of Codex.

Later,

pat

Also posted in a billion links, BJ Hiorns Art, Felicia Day, my rockstar life, Neil Gaiman, tangentality | By Pat24 Responses

Peter S. Beagle’s donations.

Peter S. Beagle is one of my favorite authors. I read The Last Unicornabout once a year, and every time it just breaks my heart. It’s the sort of story that I know I’ll never be able to write.Peter and his friends at Conlan Press have donated some cool stuff to the fundraiser.

Check it out:

This 72 page chapbook contains three new stories by Peter S. Beagle, inspired by the singular artwork of Lisa Snellings. According to Neil Gaiman, “Lisa’s sculptures are frozen stories.”
The Green Man Review gives us a bit of background and praises Peter’s work: “All three stories were begun by Mr. Beagle in the space of a single hour, while sitting on the steps of his late parents’ house, as his business manager held a stopwatch to his head. It’s a genesis as unique as the stories themselves, with the sly humor, humanity, and awe of beauty that are characteristic of Mr. Beagle’s writing. “
  • A 6X8 photo of Pat and Peter. Signed by Peter and soon to be signed by Pat.
Here’s a picture of Peter and me both wearing our Serious Writer Expressions.Undoubtedly, one of the major perks of being a published writer is getting to meet people I’ve admired for a long time. Earlier this year, I got to meet Peter and talk with him a bit. Terri at Conlan Press managed to perform a miracle and take a picture of me that actually looks halfway decent. Believe me, this is a true a rarity.

  • A full set of Last Unicorn prints by Rebekah M. Cox. Signed by the artist.

We’ll be giving each of these out as separate prizes. So you have twelve chances to win.I really can’t say enough about these prints. Words fail me. When I saw them for the first time down at DragonCon, I was stunned. Absolutely stunned. They’re gorgeous.

About Moon Unicorn, Peter S. Beagle says, “This is, for me, the most stunningly lovely vision in Rebekah’s portfolio. It is at once the picture I always held to, laboring endlessly over the book; and yet it is something more, as well – something that I don’t think I could have articulated in words then, and never may. All I know to say now is, yes, that’s what I had in mind, yes, though I never expected I would ever see it outside the boundaries of my own imagination.”

If you want to browse them more closely, and hear what Peter has to say about them, you should really take a look OVER HERE. If you’d like to buy your own copies, or any of Peter’s other works, you can do that HERE.

Want to know how to win these and other fabulous prizes while making the world a better place? Check OVER HERE for the blog that describes it all.

Later all,

pat

Also posted in Heifer International, Worldbuilders 2008 | By Pat8 Responses

New Podcast – Writing Excuses.

When I was out at worldcon this year, I got to meet up with Brandon Sanderson.

This was pretty cool for me, because I’ve really enjoyed his books so far. Most notably the Mistborn series. Though Elantris was really good as well.

I’ve recommended his books on the blog before, so I won’t go all gushy again. But I have to say, his stuff is really good. Irritatingly good. Plus he writes really fast, which is nice as a reader because he has more books out. But irritating as a writer, because it makes people like me look bad.

Anyway, he does a writing podcast with a few co-conspirators, and they asked me if I wanted to be their guest for an episode and talk about exposition and stuff.

So I did.

Here’s the link, if you’re interested.

pat

Also posted in Interviews, recommendations | By Pat12 Responses

What happens at DragonCon….

Okay, a lot of you asked about the picture I posted up about a week ago:

True, the vast majority of the questions were variations on the theme of “what the hell?” But I still figure it could do with a little explanation.

While cruising around DragonCon, I tried to find a good present for Sarah, my girlfriend. I picked up the catgirl hat for her because I figured she would get a kick out of it.

About half an hour later I wander by a bookseller, and who do I see sitting at the autographing table but John Scalzi and Tobias Bucknell. Both authors, bloggers, and acquaintances of mine, it’s safe to say that the sheer awesome manliness radiating out from the two of them combined was overwhelming.

Perhaps I exaggerate slightly. I can’t honestly say it was overwhelming. Truth be told, it was just whelming. I was whelmed.

Anyway, I started to wander over to chat with them, then realized a golden opportunity lay in front of me….

Needless to say, they were horrified and amused. Scalzi actually borrowed my camera and took this picture of me, while Toby snapped his own.

That picture Toby posted up on his own website, offering a prize to the person who posted the funniest caption. There were over 80 of them there last time I looked, and I have to say, it’s been a long time since I laughed that hard.

You should go check it out.

Later all,

pat

Also posted in conventions, my dumbness | By Pat22 Responses
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