Category Archives: things I shouldn’t talk about

Concerning Fanmail #3

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

Specifically, I hit 10,000 pieces of fanmail.

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

*Pat goes to check the archives*

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

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

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

Fast forward to today.

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

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

20131010_141249[1]

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

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

Back in 2008, I wrote:

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

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

Here’s one I got a while back:

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

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

Unless it’s something like this:

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

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

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

*      *      *

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

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

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

email-screenshot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

outlook screen grab

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

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

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

And that’s not counting Goodreads:

Good Reads

There’s 80 unread messages piled up there.

My facebook fan page has another 250….

messages tab FB

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

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

Here’s the worst of it:

photo-6

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

And I feel awful about it. All the time.

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

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

Dear Pat,

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

Though occasionally there are other types of messages….

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

On to my point–

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

I think these are my points:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eventually.

Fondly,

pat

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

Punctuation

So earlier today I took a break from catching up on my e-mail. There were sounds of intense tickling happening in Sarah’s bedroom, and Oot was doing one of his best laughs: sort of this helpless throaty chortle that means you’ve *really* got him going.

I don’t know if Sarah realizes, but he gets that laugh from her. When something happens that strikes Sarah as really funny, she does this deep, throaty laugh. It’s like the sound a donkey would make if it was suddenly turned into an cartoon stereotype of an overweight geek. It goes heah heah heah.

It is in no way a dignified sound. But it is my favorite laugh ever. It’s full of genuine amusement. And whatever it lacks in dignity it makes up in honesty. True laughter is rarely dignified.

Anyway, Oot is doing his version of this laugh, which means she’s probably managed to get his ribs. She’s good at the ribs, I’m a leg man myself.

Best tickle

(Dramatic Recreation)

I would like to digress slightly to say that I’m a master-class fucking tickler. Seriously. I’m amazing. I could teach a class on tickling. I could do a TED talk.

Anyway, I come in to Sarah’s bedroom and lay down on the bed all casual-like, ready to produce some bespoke tickling.

Then Sarah looks at me with lust in her eyes and says, “You smell so good. It’s making me stupid.

To understand her statement, you have to realize that I am the next stage in human evolution. My pheromonic musk is developed to the point where it’s practically a weapon. In the best of circumstances, I smell masculine. And on a day when I’m staying home and have skipped my morning shower…

Well…. suffice to say that you know there’s a man in the house, even if you can’t see me.

On top of that, I’d been writing. I don’t know why, but when I’m writing, my man-smell gets particularly strong. It’s like my body is trying to establish its dominance over reality itself.

The effects of this pheromonal cocktail vary, but with a select section of the female populous it has two profound, complimentary effects.

1. It delivers a message directly to the woman’s hindbrain, saying: THERE IS A MAN NEARBY, AND YOU MUST MATE WITH HIM.

2. It immediately drops the woman’s intelligence anywhere from 10-50 IQ points, which makes it hard for them to realize that mating with me is *obviously* a bad idea, while at the same time rendering them more vulnerable to my not inconsiderable charm.

You have to admit that evolutionarily speaking, this is a winning combo.

Anyway, Sarah says that, and we laugh. Then, after giving Oot a good tickling, I ask her if I can post her comment up on facebook.

She agrees, and I go to amuse the internets.

But here’s the problem. I can’t find a way to accurately portray what she said.

It should be easy. I know exactly *what* she said. Eight words. Two independent clauses.

But it’s not easy. The trouble lies in the punctuation.

Let’s start with the most generic way of doing this.

  • “You smell so good. It’s making me stupid.”

Punctuated like this, her statement feels choppy and wooden. More importantly, the statement feels matter-of-fact and emotionless.

But if you try to spice it up with an exclamation mark….

  • “You smell so good! It’s making me stupid.”

There’s a reason exclamation abuse is a crime. Punctuated this way, Sarah seems hopelessly manic. Like she was hopping up and down, excited. That’s not right at all.

You can’t do it the other way, either….

  • “You smell so good. It’s making me stupid!”

Then it seems like she’s excited that she’s stupid, which gives the wrong impression on every conceivable level.

And neither of those options address the other problem, that having a full stop in the middle makes it feel like she’s making two separate, unconnected statements. That’s simply not the case, she’s making one complex statement.

Here’s how I’d like to punctuate it…

  • “You smell so good, it’s making me stupid.”

But that’s a comma splice. I’m not opposed to them entirely, I’m no slave to grammar. But when you’re relaying one line of dialogue and it’s grammatically incorrect…. That’s just not classy. It’s sloppy writing.

Technically, you could fix this with a semicolon….

  • “You smell so good; it’s making me stupid.”

In some ways this is the right thing to do. A semicolon is the official way to show two independent clauses have a close relationship to each other.

Here’s the problem: Semicolons are for wankers. Seriously. You can go your whole life without ever needing to really use a semicolon.

Unless you’re an academic, of course. If you’re an academic, you’ve got to use semicolon to impress other wankers with how much of a wanker you are so you can get your paper published. You know, that paper you wrote detailing your in-depth Marxist interpretation of the last eight lines of John Donne’s “The Flea?” The paper where you used the word “moreover” twenty-seven times in eleven pages?

Most importantly, a semicolon looks really strange in a piece of casual dialogue. People don’t speak using semicolons. Unless they’re wankers.

A lot of time, I’ll default to an ellipsis. Because I love ellipses.

  • “You smell so good… it’s making me stupid.”

But it implies too much of a pause in the middle of the statement.

What about an em dash?

  • “You smell so good— it’s making me stupid.”

Nope. Just looks weird.

And don’t even think about using an en dash, you little fuckers. That’s *not* what an en dash is for….

In the end, the only way to make this piece of dialogue “sound” right to the reader is through use of interstitials.

  • “You smell so good,” she said, looking at me with half-lidded eyes. “It’s making me stupid.”

That’s not quite right either. We need some foregrounding *and* an interstitial….

  • Sarah looked at me lustily. “You smell so good,” she said, her eyes half-closed. “It’s making me stupid.”

There. That’s just about right. That conveys her tone and mood in the appropriate way.

What’s my point?

Well, first off, let me say that I never promised there would be a point here. Sometimes I just idly muse about shit. Sometimes I just tell stories. Sometimes there’s no point.

But if there *is* a point it’s probably this: When you’re writing, there are no small choices. Or perhaps it would be better to say that writing is nothing *but* small choices. And all of them have the opportunity to effect your story in a disproportionately large way. Punctuation can change the tone of a sentence. The tone of a sentence can change the feel of a scene. And the feel of a scene can change your impression of a character’s personality.

A secondary point is that this is why my revision takes so long. When you think all these little things to death, you tend to fidget with a text a *lot.*

More cool stuff this week. Stay tuned.

pat

Also posted in Oot, the craft of writing, things I shouldn't talk about | By Pat152 Responses

Fanmail FAQ: The F Word.

Dear Pat,

Life got busy for me early on this year, and I fell behind reading your blog. But now that school’s started back up again, I’ve been able to catch up by reading back through the archives during my more boring lectures.

So I’ve got a couple of questions. Well…. honestly, I have a couple hundred questions I could ask you. But I’ll limit myself to two that came to me from a blog you wrote back in April.

You talked about going to see Cabin in the Woods. And in that blog you said:

“My plan is to go see it, preferably in the company of an attractive, easily startled young woman. That way, when the movie gets scary, she will cling to me desperately for comfort.”

This struck me as a little odd. In you’re biography, you describe yourself as a feminist. That doesn’t seem like a feminist sort of thing to say.

I’m not trying to pick a fight here, honest. I’m genuinely curious. One of my favorite things about your books is how you handle your female characters. They’re strong and smart and… well…. kinda real. They’re not generic stereotypes and helpless maids in need of saving. They’re not cliche.

So my questions are these:

1. Was Cabin in the Woods any good?

2. How do you reconcile being a feminist and at the same time wanting to have pretty young girls cling to you for comfort?

Sorry this e-mail is a long one. And I understand if you don’t have time to answer it. I know you’re busy.

A fan,

Alanna

*     *     *

Okay. First off Alanna, you really shouldn’t be reading my blog in class. I am a former teacher, you realize. I can’t condone that sort of behavior.

Second off, while I am busy. (So busy.) I enjoy answering questions like this. Especially when it gives me a chance to talk about two things I enjoy: Feminism and Joss Whedon.

  • 1. Was The Cabin in the Woods good?

It was was so, s0 good.

How good? Honestly, I think I enjoyed it more than the Avengers. And I enjoyed the hell out of the Avengers….

It was so good that I bought the DVD just a couple days after it came out and watched it with my friends when they’d come to visit. I think it’s the first time in two years that I’ve done that. (Have I mentioned the whole so busy thing? Yeah. I’m that busy.)

Don’t worry about it being your typical cliche horror movie. Joss Whedon is way too smart for that. And he does a good job with female characters too, in my opinion.

  • 2. How can I consider myself a feminist and still want women to cling to me?

Okay. Here we go.

First off, we have to leave aside a huge, in-depth discussion of what, specifically, feminism is. Because that’s a big, big topic. It’s a whole book’s worth, let alone a blog.

Suffice it to say that there are roughly as many types of feminism as there are feminists.

Which means it’s really complicated. And believe me, it leads to some really interesting discussions when feminists get together and talk.

(And I’m not being catty when I say that. Yeah sure. Sometimes when feminists get together they fight like Paglia and Steinem. But most of the time when I’ve gotten together with other like-minded folks to discuss the nature of feminism, the conversations have been rewarding and enlightening.)

If I were asked for a very general, simple definition of feminism….

Well, honestly, if someone asked me that, I’d probably avoid the question. Partly because I’d suspect them of wanting to start a fight, and also because because there is no simple definition. As I’ve said, it’s a pretty complicated thing.

But if I were pressed for a definition, I’d say something like this:

1. Feminism is the belief that women are as worth as much as men.

1a. (Corollary) This means women should be treated as fairly as men.

1b. (Corollary) This means women should be respected as much as men.

1c. (Corollary) This means women should have the same rights as men.

1d. (Corollary) Etc etc.

2. Feminism is the belief that women shouldn’t have to do things just because they’re women.

2a. (Corollary) Men shouldn’t have to do things just because they’re men.

3. Feminism is the belief that women shouldn’t have to *avoid* doing things just because they’re women.

3a. (Corollary) Men shouldn’t have to *avoid* doing things just because they’re men.

As an example:

#2 up there means that (to pick a trivial example) ladies shouldn’t feel obliged to shave their armpits just because of some fucked up societal pressures that started due to marketing campaigns back in 1915.

#3 means that if you *want* to shave your pits, that’s cool too. It’s not like you’re letting down all of womankind if you do.

A more serious example of this relates to raising kids.

#2 means that women shouldn’t feel obliged to be stay-at-home moms.

#3 means that if you want to be a stay-at-home mom, and it makes you happy, then you should feel free to do that. It doesn’t mean you’re not a feminist, and it doesn’t mean you’re an Uncle Tom. (Or an Aunt Tommasina, or whatever.)

The key, in my opinion, is that people in general (and women in particular) shouldn’t feel obliged to do things due to pointless, bullshitty cultural constraints. Including (and here’s where #3 comes into effect big time) the cultural constraints put on them by other feminists with differing viewpoints.

Other folks have different opinions. And there’s more to it than that, of course. I could go on and on. But this isn’t really the place for it, as your question relates mostly to how I reconcile my being a feminist with a sentiment that, to put it plainly, reeks of machismo.

My justification comes from 2a and 3a.

2a means that I don’t *have* to act like a big testosterone-y alpha-male protector of the wimmins.

3a means that, if I feel like it, I can indulge myself and play the part of the manly protector. If (and this is key) I’m not a dick about it.

Here’s the thing: It feels good to be a big tough protector sometimes. Other times it feels good being protected.

It’s like when you’re spooning. Sometimes you’re the big spoon, sometimes you’re the little spoon. They both can be nice.

Here’s the problem: there are precious few chances to be a big tough protector in our civilized society. And honestly, that’s a good thing.

But watching a scary movie, that’s different. When I’m sitting in the dark theater, and the woman sitting next to me screams and grabs at me, her fingernails digging into my chest. Sorry. My broad, *manly* chest. It fills a deep-seated gorilla-type need to occasionally feel like a big damn heroic protector.

Now I’m not saying that’s now I’d like to live my whole life, but that’s one of the best thing about horror movies – they’re not real life. They’re like emotional cardio. They give us the chance to be terrified in a consequence-free environment.

That’s the joy of all fiction, really: you get the benefit of experiencing something without the burden of having to actually experience it.

And you know what? I’m gonna be completely honest with you here. Occasionally, it’s nice to have an attractive young woman cling to you in a moment of pure animal terror.

I know this because I went to see the original Scream with two pretty young women back in the day. They sat on either side of me, and I got it in stereo. Simply put, it was awesome. They both grabbed me at the same time, one of them hiding her face in my shoulder. And at that moment, I felt like Batman, Malcom Reynolds, and the next avatar of Krishna all rolled up into one.

Part of me, the educated feminist part, feels like I should be apologetic for this. Like I should feel guilty about it.

But you know what? I’m really not. No one is harmed by this behavior.

So there you go, Alanna. I hope you like your answer. It got way longer than I’d planned. But isn’t that always just the way of things…

One last thing before I sign off. Let’s be civilized persons here in the comments, okay? That means polite discourse. You can disagree with me or other folks expressing opinions, but let’s not be dicks about it.

Right? Right.

Fair warning: undue assholery from any corner will be viewed with extreme scorn.

Love and Peace!

pat

Also posted in ethical conundra, Fanmail Q + A, Nathan Taylor Art, things I shouldn't talk about | By Pat131 Responses

Why I Love My Editor….

Back in January, I mentioned on the blog that I thought my editor really deserved a Hugo nomination.

Imagine my delight when the list of Hugo nominees for 2012 came out, and there she was on the short list of nominees: Betsy Wollheim.

Weeks later, I was surprised to discover that in the 30+ years Betsy has been an editor, this is the first time she’s ever made it onto the shortlist.

It was more than a little startling to me. I mean, Betsy is Editor-in-Chief at DAW, one of the few publishers I knew about before I gave a damn about getting published. She’s never been nominated?

I think part of the reason she’s been overlooked is that while DAW is a great publisher, it’s not one of the hulking monoliths in the business. In fact, DAW is one of the very, very rare publishers that’s still privately owned. Betsy’s dad started it back in 1971. The “W” in DAW stands for Wollheim.

The other part of the reason I think Betsy’s never been nominated is that she’s not a big self-promoter.

I get that. Being from the Midwest, I’m not a big fan of self-promotion myself.

Now before people get their knickers in a twist and go pointing out that I have at times been a big old self-promoting whore, let me clarify.

Yes. I do promotion. Doing promotion is, unfortunately, a big part of being a published author.

So yeah. I do signings. I do readings. I run the blog. I go to conventions, sit on panels, and talk about writing.

But, generally speaking, that’s about as far as I’m comfortable going. I make myself visible in the hope that if someone finds me interesting, then they’ll be tempted to pick up one of my books.

What I *don’t* do is run around trying to sell people my book. Neither do I try to convince people that I’m awesome. I try to *be* awesome, and hope that people will notice.

Maybe that’s a fine line, but I’m more than willing to draw it in the sand.

Similarly, Betsy does promotion. Of course she does. It’s even *more* part of her job than it is mine. She promotes books. She promotes her authors. She promotes DAW.

But, generally speaking, she doesn’t promote herself.

So I’m going to put in a good word for her.

And I’m going to do it the same way I do everything, by telling a little story…

*     *     *

Back in the late summer of 2007, I was teetering on the edge of a nervous breakdown and I didn’t even know it.

On the surface, things were great. The Name of the Wind was getting really amazing review. Sales were good. Foreign countries were buying the translation rights. I had grown-up money for the first time in my life, and I used it to buy a house with my girlfriend.

In fact, things were so great, that I didn’t realize what a mess I was.

I’d been doing every bit of promotion that came my way. All sorts of conventions. Every interview somebody asked me to do. Readings and signings all over the place.

And whenever people asked about book two, I told them the same thing: that I already had a good solid draft, and that it would be out in a year.

This is in 2007, mind you.

When I finally sat down to work on the book, I realized the draft was *much * rougher than I remembered. The truth was, I’d been focusing all my energy on Name of the Wind for years while book two just sat their gathering dust. It was pretty shabby when I took a close look at it.

So I realized I had a lot of work to do. I quit my job teaching. I quit teaching fencing at the YMCA. I quit advising the College Feminists.

I kinda quit everything except for writing.

Aside from the roughness of the draft, my other problem was the fact that I’d never written to a deadline before. I was going from 14 years of being a hobby writer, straight into being a bestseller, and it was a huge mental adjustment. I was also a bit of an emotional wreck because my mom had died just a few months before the book came out.

And I’m not just saying that. I remember one night when I was writing frantically, I felt a pain in my chest and a numbness in my left arm.

My first thought was kinda surprised:  “I’m having a heart attack.”

My second thought was one of relief: “If I have a heart attack, nobody can blame me if the book is late.”

Seriously. That was my immediate thought. Not, “Oh shit, I’m gonna die!” Not, “I should call 911.” Not even, “Oh man, I’m never going to be able to cross ‘catgirl threeway’ off my bucket list.”

(In my opinion, it would be a shame if I never got to use this pic in a blog)

Anyway, my point is that when you’re *glad* to have a heart attack, something’s going wrong in your head.

I don’t tell Betsy about any of this, of course. Because I’m a newbie and I’m scared to death that I’m going to ruin my big chance with my for-real publisher. So I keep telling her everything is fine, and she keeps asking to see the draft of book two.

But I put her off again and again. Another month. Another two weeks. Four more days….

Eventually she says she *needs* it. Seriously. Now.

So I send it to her. It’s a mess. The beginning 100 pages are just a tangle.

Just to make it clear how different it was from the finished version:

1. The manuscript I gave Betsy was 150,000 words shorter than the eventual print version of the book.

2. Vashet didn’t exist. At all.  Bredon didn’t exist. At all.

3. There was no Adem hand talk. No tak. No ring rituals in Severen.

4. There are whole chapters that were nothing more than this:

Chapter 31: [need title]

(Something happens with Ambrose here.)

That’s how bad parts of it were.

So anyway, I send it off to Betsy, nervous as hell. She calls me a couple days later, real concern in her voice, and says, “Pat, this is really rough….”

I say, “Yeah. I know. But I can do it. I can put in the hours.”

Betsy says, “It’s going to be a *lot* of work. There are some real problems in here. Some parts are really skimpy.”

I say, “Yeah. I’m making good progress though. I’ve got my new workspace set up and everything.”

She says, “Book two has to be really solid, you know. People have high expectations. It’s really going to determine the course of your career.”

I say, “I promised book two would be out in a year. I just need to knuckle down and write hard for the next five months. No breaks. I can do it.”

She says, “That’s not really how your process works though. You’re a reviser. You like to get feedback from your readers and tinker with things. There won’t be any time for that if you’re still drafting the book now….”

I say, “I promised though. And I’ve scheduled it out. I’ve been writing 14 hours a day, and so long as I can keep that up….”

She says, “I really don’t think you can make this book as good as it needs to be.”

I say, “I can. I know I can do it.”

She says, “I’m pulling the book out of the production schedule.”

I’m stunned into silence, just standing there in my kitchen. I suddenly feel… good. Like someone had been standing on my chest and they just got off. “You can do that?” I asked her.

“Yeah,” she says, “I’m pulling it. You can’t disappoint people with the second book.”

I say, “Oh thank god.”

*     *     *

I’m paraphrasing a bit, of course.

After that she gave me the space I needed to figure out what the hell I was doing. Time to get my head together. When I gave her the much better draft of the book, she argued with me about some of the bad choices I’d made, and we hammered them out together.

In a nutshell, she saved my career. Probably saved my relationship and my mental health, too.

Needless to say, I think the world of her. She’s an editor that really cares about her authors.

Last year in April, she had her first #1 New York Times Bestseller. (Me)

Last year in October, one of her authors won the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel. (Nnedi Okorafor.)

And now, after 30 years in the business, she’s just had her first Hugo nomination.

Betsy has my vote. And if you’re eligible, I’m sure she’d like to have yours too.

She’d never say so herself, though. That’s why I’m saying it for her.

Later Space Cowboys….

pat

 

 

Also posted in awards, My checkered past, my terrible wrath, the man behind the curtain, things I shouldn't talk about | By Pat37 Responses

“…of thee I sing.”

Okay. Today I’m going to do something I really shouldn’t.

Today I’m going to talk about politics.

I’m going to do this the same way I do everything. I’m going to tell a couple of stories.

The first story:

This last Thursday, I did a reading and signing in Columbus. Despite the fact that I’d only scheduled it about two weeks ahead of time, about 200 people showed up. Thanks for that, by the way, it made me look good.

Whenever I do one of these, it’s really a reading interspersed with a lot of Q&A. I do this because reading off a page for an hour can be exhausting for both me and the audience. But Q&A tends to be more fun. Interactive.

So, the Q&A was going pretty well. I read some stuff, answered some questions, got some laughs.

Then someone says, “What are your thoughts about all the political stuff that’s been going on in Wisconsin? I notice you haven’t talked about it on your blog.” (I’m paraphrasing a bit here.)

The question surprised me. A big part of the reason I haven’t talked about this on my blog is that I’ve been thinking of our troubles in Wisconsin as a local issue. But this question, asked by someone two states away, made me realize that a fair number of people are watching Wisconsin today. It’s not a local issue.

(If you don’t know what’s going on here in Wisconsin, you can read about it here.)

So I said, “Well, here’s the thing. I really shouldn’t talk about politics. Professionally speaking, it’s just not smart….”

Then I talked about politics.

There’s no real excuse for it, except to say that I was operating on one hour of sleep at the time. And I have an odd compulsion that when people ask me honest questions, I feel compelled to give them honest answers.

I can’t remember exactly what I said. I remember talking about what the true purpose of government is. About what’s wrong with the country. I went on for about 3-4 minutes, and I’m pretty sure I swore more than just a little. At one point, I remember pounding on the table.

At the end of it, folks applauded.

Despite the fact that it seemed to go over well, I felt guilty about it. Like I’d done something irresponsible. It bugged me all night.

But after thinking about it all weekend, I realized a few things.

1. I like saying true things.

2. If I say true things, and it makes people angry. I think I’m okay with that.

3. We can’t be afraid to talk about politics. Talking is the only way that we can make things better in this country. And things need to get better. Our country is teetering on the verge of the howling abyss, if you haven’t noticed.

The second story:

About a month ago, I was hanging out with some friends when the conversation strayed into politics. While chatting, one of the folks sitting around the table mentioned that he’d voted for Scott Walker in the primary.

Now on most subjects, my group of friends is more than happy to live and let live. Differing opinions are welcome. “You’re Christian? Cool, I’m Taoist. Want to talk about that, or should we go play some Catan instead?”

But for someone to say they voted for Walker in the primary. That is to say, they voted for him *after* all the things he’s done this last year. That’s not like mentioning you like cool ranch Doritos instead of nacho. It’s more like like saying, “I’m actually a big fan of female genital mutilation.”

All around the table there was stunned silence.

“Seriously?” I asked.

“Yeah,” he said.

And I could tell that everyone was going to fall on him like angry dogs. Not only were things going to get ugly, but they were going to get so ugly as to ruin our day, and possibly some friendships too.

So I quickly said, “I veto this conversational topic.”

My sister who was sitting next to me said, “Agreed.”

(This is a rule we have at our house. Everyone gets one conversational veto. It’s a good rule to have when a bunch of passionate people are gathered together, as it helps keep friction to a minimum.)

So the conversation moved on from there, and we all had a pleasant afternoon.

But the truth was, I was really bothered by the fact that my friend was voting for Walker. I wasn’t bothered by the fact that his vote was different from my vote. That shit happens. But this person is generous. He’s a social progressive. He believes in equal rights.

So why on earth would he be voting for Walker?

So I did my homework. I spent about 5-6 hours gathering resources and verifying facts.

All the while, I dreaded the thought of the upcoming conversation. This was one of my good friends, you see. I didn’t want to ruin our relationship.

Then I asked if he would mind talking about the upcoming election. “Could you just give me 15 minutes?” I asked. “There are a couple things I’d like to bring to your attention if you don’t already know about them.”

He agreed, and we went somewhere comfy to sit.

I said, “Do you know that…”

I said, “Do you know that…”

  • Scott Walker repealed Equal Pay Enforcement Act? (A bill that had protected employees from being discriminated against based on race, age, disability, religion, sexual orientation or other factors.)
  • Scott Walker tried to push a voter registration law into effect before the recall?
    • And that Judge Richard Niess ruled against it, saying that it was unconstitutional?
  • Scott Walker tried to push through new mining legislation?
  • Scott Walker has taken steps toward privatizing deer hunting and selling off public lands, such as state parks.

I said, “Do you know that Walker has cut money to education. He’s pushed for cuts to health care programs like BadgerCare that would deprive over 60,000 people coverage? About 30,000 of those being kids from poor families?”

I looked up from my notebook, “I could go on,” I said. “There’s a lot more. I haven’t even started about the dodgy stuff they’ve been doing to mislead people. There’s a lot of corporate fuckery going on. Fake statistics and lies and such…”

Then my friend said, “I actually didn’t know all that.”

We talked for about an hour and a half. And he admitted that he hadn’t done very good research on his own. Most of his info had come from political ads. And because Walker has huge corporations donating to him, he can kinda buy all the ads he wants….

In the end, he said he wasn’t going to vote for Walker after all. And he thanked me for taking the time to have a talk with him.

*     *     *

The truth is this: the bullshit going on here in Wisconsin has been making it hard for me to sleep at night. I’m not exaggerating. I actually lie awake in bed with a tight knot in my stomach, worrying about this. My friends are losing their jobs, their health insurance. Oot is losing his chance at a good education and a healthy environment to play in.

Simply said, I am sick with worry. It’s going to wreck me if Walker stays in after everything he’s done. I’m going to be an absolute shambles for months.

I don’t know if my writing this down might help clue someone in. But it’s all I can do. I just have to post it and hope.

I’m hoping if you live in Wisconsin and you weren’t planning on voting today, this will get you up off your ass. This is important.

If you were thinking of voting for Walker, I’m hoping you might reconsider, based on some of these facts.

Lastly and most importantly, I’m hoping that I can encourage y’all to talk to each other about your political beliefs. It’s a terrifying thing to do, because emotions run high on these topics.

But the only way things will ever get better is if we all become better informed, then get involved.

*     *     *

Voting is TODAY, people. I’ve already cast my ballot.

So go. Do it. And remember, you can vote even if you’re not registered. You can vote even if you don’t have a photo ID.

Get all the details HERE, including where you go to vote.

Please, Wisconsin. Please.

pat

Also posted in things I shouldn't talk about | By Pat201 Responses

A Spathic Convention

Every year there are a few conventions I make a point of attending.

I go to Worldcon because the paneling is really top notch. I go to World Fantasy because it gives me the chance to hang out with other authors I’d never get a chance to see.

And, of course, I go to San Diego ComicCon for many, many reasons.

But I also make a point of going to a few other conventions every year. The main reason I do this is so I can get to different parts of the country and meet readers I might not get a chance to see otherwise.

Which is why, just a couple months ago, I was Guest of Honor at a little convention called Stellarcon.

Whenever I’m GOH at a con, interesting things happen. So for those of you who don’t get to attend, here’s the highlight reel from this year’s Stellarcon.

I’ll admit to having a terrible green-eyed envy of artists. (And by artists I mean people who do art. (And by art, I mean taking something out of your head and making a picture out of it.))

That said, the modern artists I can name off the top of my head I can probably fit on two hands. Mark Poole is one of those artists, because he was doing art for Magic Cards back at the beginning. Back when I used to play it. Back before it was cool.

Yeah. Okay. I’m just kidding. Playing magic is never cool.

So I was surprising when we sat next to each other at the opening ceremonies and Mark turned to me, introduced himself, and said he was a big fan.

I was a little shocked. I still think of myself as the new kid on the scene, publishing-wise. It  knocks me for a bit of a loop when other professionals know who I am.

For the record, Mark is a really nice guy.

I’ve known about John even longer than I’ve known about Mark, because I grew up reading his comic in his the Wisconsin State Journal. We share Madison, Wisconsin as our home town, so it seemed a little odd that I’d end up traveling to North Carolina before I finally got to meet him….

And you know what? I didn’t get to meet him. We sat two seats away from each other at opening ceremonies, and that’s the closest we got to each other over the space of the whole convention.

The Moral of the story? I end up being really busy at cons most of the time. I used to try make plans to meet with my friends and hang out, but these days I know better. Between readings, signings, panels, and occationally running a tabletop game, I just don’t have a lot of free time left over.

But this story had a happy ending. John and I ran into each other in the Madison airport and got to chat there. Small world.

  • I had an… intimate signing experience.

When I got home from Stellarcon, Sarah was in the kitchen, feeding Oot some dinner.

“How was the convention?” she shouted to me.

“I got to sign a boob!” I said.

“A naked boob?” she asked.

“A gentleman doesn’t speak of such things,” I said.

Which is a total lie, of course, because I wouldn’t shut up about it for a week. Someone asking you to sign their boob  is one of those mythical things that everyone jokes about, but it never really happens.

Except it did. It totally did.

Now just to be clear. The boob wasn’t naked. And she asked me. Without any instigation on my end.

To say I was surprised is a bit of an understatement.

But you know what? It was cool. Because for a brief moment, I got to feel like a rockstar.

(Note that Pikachu has turned his back on me, ashamed.)

Truthfully, I wasn’t very suave about the whole thing. I couldn’t stop laughing.  And as you can see in the above picture, I was more than a little blushy and flustered by the end of it.

Luckily, the young lady in question was very forgiving when I explained it was my first time. (It was her first time too.) Who knew that signing a boob would actually prove to be pretty tricky?

By the end of the experience, the two of us were good friends. What’s more, Pikachu stopped judging me so harshly, and Sarah really didn’t mind at all.

Honestly though, I think Oot was a little jealous.

Later all,

pat

Also posted in a few words you're probably going to have to look up, Achievement Unlocked!, Tales from the Con, things I shouldn't talk about | By Pat37 Responses

Not Your Usual Mother’s Day Post….

Yesterday was mother’s day. And it was not an easy day for me.

I set aside the day to spend with Sarah and Oot. That was my Mother’s day present for Sarah. She decided what she’d like to do, and I’d clear my schedule for it.

The plans she chose weren’t elaborate. We were going to run a few errands, get some food, then go to the park to play.

As soon as I got into the car, Oot said, “Gandalf, I don’t want to go on an adventure.”

“Oh,” I said. “Are you sure?”

“Yeah,” he said. “I’m a hobbit.”

“I think an adventure would be good for you, Bilbo. They can be a lot of fun. And you can find a lot of treasure.”

“No,” he said. “I’m too scared. I just want to stay home and smoke my smoker.”

We drove to Target, and since Sarah just had a few things to pick up, I offered to hang out in the car with Oot. Things are faster that way. Plus, we’re about to have an unexpected party, where all the dwarfs show up while Bilbo is fixing tea.

While Sarah is inside, I decide to be a good dad and coach Oot a little bit, like Sarah did for me on Father’s Day.

“Today is a special day,” I said. “Today is mother’s day. That means that you should tell your momma, “Happy Mother’s Day!”

“But I’m Bilbo Bagins!” he protests.

“Even Bilbo Bagins has a momma,” I say, thought I can’t remember who it is off the top of my head. “Everyone has a momma. My momma’s name was Marge. And she would have loved you so much.”

This might seem like it came out of nowhere, but the truth is, I think about my mom all the time. Especially around certain times of the year.  Especially when I’m with Oot. My mom died in February of 2007, just before the first book came out. Oot is only about two and a half, and that means she never got to meet my baby.

So at this point I’m crying, and trying not to make a big deal about it. Because Oot’s having a pretty good time, and beside, I’m sitting in the target parking lot.

“But I’m a hobbit,” Oot says again.

“She would have loved that you’re a hobbit too,” I say. And then I really start to lose it.

It’s a beautiful day out. I’m finally published and successful beyond my wildest dreams. I have a beautiful girlfriend who loves me beyond all sense. I have a delightful son who adores me. And I’m crying uncontrollably in the Target parking lot.

“Dad, why are you crying?” Oot asks. He’s not worried. Mostly he’s just curious, but there’s still some concern there.

“I’m sad,” I say. “I miss my mom.”

He reaches up and touches my face with the back of his hand. It’s the touch we’ve taught him to use on babies. His gentlest touch. “It’s okay dad,” he says.”It’s okay. You don’t have to cry.”

“You’re right,” I say. But I can’t stop, I’m a mess at this point.

“It’s okay dad,” he says. “I can kiss you.” And he does just that. Gives me a sweet, drooly little baby kiss on my face.

I try to clean myself up because I know Sarah is coming back soon. Oot continues to pet the side of my face. “It’s okay,” he says, again and again. “You don’t have to be sad. You can stay with me.”

Sarah and I managed to do something right over the years with him. I’ll tell you that for free. It was about the nicest thing he could have said to me. And I have no idea how he came up with it.

What’s the point of my story? Here’s my point.

I have a good friend who recently lost a loved one. Someone really important to her. A member of her family. She knew that things were getting close to the end. She’s known for ages. But it still knocked the stuffing out of her. I understand. Knowing ahead of time doesn’t really help.

A couple weeks ago I was on the phone with this friend. I was doing the useless thing you do when you want to comfort someone, but there really isn’t anything you can say.

“It’s like there’s just been a big hole ripped out of my life,” she said. “I can’t believe everyone goes through this.”

I told her that I thought the exact same thing after my mother died. That I couldn’t understand how the world could work with everyone constantly walking  around all the time feeling like they’ve been torn up inside.

What I didn’t tell her is the line from Shakespeare that kept running through my head after my mom died. It’s from Hamlet, when Polonius says, “Your father lost a father. That father lost, lost his.” You have to be a real twat to quote Shakespeare at someone. And you’re doubly a twat if you do it when they’re grieving.

“Does it get better?” she asked.

“Not soon.” I said. “But eventually. I don’t think about her for whole days sometimes. I don’t dream about her any more.”

“You dream about her?”

“I used to,” I said. “After she died. I always thought that was some bullshit literary device. Something hack writers put into stories. But it really happens, apparently. It happened a lot to me.”

There was a long pause on the phone.

“The worst part,” I said. “Was that in my dreams, she was always sick. It was just like before she died. And in my dreams we were doing everything we could to make things better for her. But you knew it was just a matter of time. They were horrible dreams.”

I’d never told anyone else this before.

“But the really bad part was when I woke up,” I said. “You know what it’s like when you wake up and you’re not sure if the dream is real or not?”

“Yeah,” she said.

“Well I’d wake up, then have a panicked moment when I thought the dream was real. But then I’d realize that none of it was true. That my mom wasn’t sick. She was dead.” I paused. “And when I realized that, I felt this huge feeling of relief wash over me, because I know I don’t have to go through all of it again. All the hospitals and doctors and funerals.”

I waited for my friend to say something, but she didn’t.

“I mean, how fucked up is that?” I asked. “I wake up from a dream and think, ‘Oh thank god. My mom is dead.’ There’s probably something really wrong with me because of that.”

“I’ve been feeling that way too,” she said. “I’m sad and it’s horrible. But I’m so relieved its all over. And so I feel guilty for that on top of everything else.”

“Well,” I said. “At least we’re both the same flavor of fucked up.”

“I can’t believe nobody ever talks about this,” she said. “I mean people have bad breakups, and you know how to handle it because you’ve heard about their breakups. But nobody talks about people dying. There’s no script for something like this.”

“It’s a real taboo,” I said. “Not one of the silly little play taboos like sex, things we aren’t supposed to talk about and we do anyway. Real taboos are things nobody even thinks of talking about.”

“Somebody should talk about them,” she said.

“Somebody should,” I agreed.

*     *     *

So here we are.

Generally speaking, when I think about something a lot, I write about it on the blog. Its one of the ways I figure out how I really feel about things. It helps me keep my head screwed on straight.

But the one exception has always been my mom.

I think about her all the time, but I rarely ever tell stories about her.

And you know what? That’s a fucking shame. Because my mom was awesome.

So we’re fixing that. Soon.

pat

Also posted in mom, Oot, things I shouldn't talk about | By Pat145 Responses
  • Our Store

  • Previous Posts

  • Archives

  • My Twitter

  • Bookmark this Blog

    (IE and Firefox users only - Safari users, click Command-D)