Pat Rothfuss reads Twenty Palaces

Bestselling author (and my new BFF) Pat Rothfuss did a Google Hangout–aka, a webcam video interview–for Trey’s Variety Hour while I was offline dealing with my father-in-law’s passing. It’s a long interview, guys, but of course I assume you’ll want to listen to the whole thing, since my new BFF is totally interesting.

But if you want to skip straight to the good part (which would be the part about me) go to the 1 hour, 19 minute, 50 second mark where he talks about reading all three books in two days, and what he thinks about them.

Let’s embed, shall we?

I’m glad he liked the books, but whenever someone says: “They’re really different,” the tiny, pitchfork-wielding, scarlet-skinned dude on my shoulder says: “Too different!” Not that I listen, says the guy writing an epic fantasy at the end of the bronze age.

Anyway, new readers! New two-star reviews on Goodreads! It’s all a blessing, and I’m glad people are still finding the books.

Trying to get back into the swing

As I mentioned in my post last night, the last few weeks have been devoted to dealing with a death in the family.

Today, for the first time in weeks, I dug back into my new novel. I really wanted to do over 2K words but that wasn’t happening. Too much time away from the project, too much thinking about how long it was going to be and how much detail I should include. In fact, too much thinking about everything except character and story.

No wonder it was like pulling teeth. Tomorrow is Pokemon League, so I will have more time to do my thing. At least I surpassed my goal.

Lots of bills to pay, paperwork to handle, packages to put away, and art to store. Just because I’m back in Seattle and squeezing time for my writing doesn’t mean that the work is behind me. In fact, it’s going to be harder now, because all these tasks will have to be piled on top of what we already have to do, and my wife is going to be feeling pretty fragile about this for a long time.

On top of that, I put all my calorie tracking and such on hold while I was in Rochester. more »

25 Feb 2012, 8:03am
The outside world:

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Randomness for

1) Worst Car Chase Ever, from the movie KHILADI 420. Video. via Bill Martell

2) 52 Films Unfairly Rated Below 6 Stars on IMDB.

3) Real places that look like cgi sets from a fantasy movie.


25 Feb 2012, 12:39am

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Everything is temporary

It’s late and I ought to be in bed, but I’m not.

There’s a lot I want to write about, but I’ve spent all day playing catch up and I’m just going to let this come out however and go to sleep without looking at it again for typos, word echoes, and stray commas or whatever, because I don’t think I can.

See, back on January 30th, my son and I boarded a train and headed east to Rochester, NY, for what’s likely to be the last time. My father-in-law had just passed away and we needed to be there for the funeral and to do some good for my wife.

He was a good man and a good father. He was upbeat and hopeful, full of ideas for projects and constantly brainstorming ways to help his kids get ahead. He worked in advertising–he worked for years on all those white and red Marlboro ads most people remember so well (the ones with all the cowboys and other he-men) but he also designed the Sandy Strong character for the Strong Memorial Hospital, gratis.

But he’d reached 80 and his health had been troubled for a long time. My wife and I first met back in 1993, and she was concerned she might lose him even then. That he held on so long is a testament to his good cheer, his will, and the sustaining power of having projects to work on.

He’d done a great deal of fine art in his life, and he’d always wanted to be a cartoonist. For many years, he would draw all sorts of single-panel or three-panel comics, trying to break into the newspapers. It never really happened for him; while his art was superb, he couldn’t really do funny. His comics were always sweet and somewhat harmless–his work made The Family Circus seem like a Jim Thompson novel. But his line art was always extraordinarily expressive and his paintings were bright and lovely.

When his body finally gave out, and he decided he’d had enough, he let himself die. Which meant that his three kids were left with his house and all of the art he’d made in his life.

None of them have houses of their own, and none of them have much space in their apartments. What’s more, not only did they want to save his work, they wanted to save their own; a father who spent his life doing projects would have kids who did the same, and the house was full of their old works–not high school or grade school art (well, not much) but art school projects, and post-college work: pictures of gallery shows, illustrated childrens books, canvas after canvas, and my wife’s “wearable art” which she did in the mid-eighties until she kicked the New York scene all together.

So that’s what I’ve spent the last few weeks doing: helping my wife and her siblings safely wrap up her father’s work and moving it into storage, then going through their own work and deciding what they could save and what would have to be photographed and abandoned to the dumpster.

I almost wish I hadn’t found any time over those weeks to go online at all. Yeah I managed a few happy moments touching base with people online, but I also went to Twitter during a particularly dark moment and complained that the modern American grieving process had become much less about the memory of the person you loved and lost and much more about a frantic scramble to deal with their possessions.

Which is totally fucking unfair of me and I wish I hadn’t. It’s true that we spent too much time going through boxes and not enough sharing old stories over glasses of wine, but what I didn’t understand then was that it wasn’t just my father-in-law who had passed. The family home had passed away with him.

The bank will be taking it within a few weeks or months (and the details thereof are not for me to share). There won’t be any more Christmases celebrated around that giant table with the annoying wooden benches, no more hiking a few dozen feet through a snowy wood to avoid a half-mile hike along the road, no more wandering the rooms–including the basement and garage–marveling that they held so many books. (They were avid collectors, and their taste and mine barely overlapped at all.) No more complaining that someone closed the perpetually-locked door on the upstairs bathroom, no more halubki out of the oven, no more sausage out of the freezer, no more walking around the room with a glass in your hand looking for a bare horizontal space to set it down.

No more gatherings there.

Everything is temporary. Even the time the family got to spend around that big table, laughing and telling stories, their voices rising from delight as the evening went on–sometimes becoming so boisterous that I had to go into the other room because it was too intense for me–even that had to end. But it’s a sturdy house with bad gutters and good floors in a really nice neighborhood; someone new will move in and fix it up. I can only hope that they’ll love each other as much. That, if they have kids, they will teach them how to work. Shit, anyone can learn “the value of hard work.” That’s a tedious, pedestrian lesson to learn. I hope the new family learns enthusiasm for the work they were meant to do, and the joy of working together, and perseverance in the face of every obstacle.

My wife wept when her mom died last year, and she wept hard tears again these past few weeks. She didn’t just lose her parents; they were her friends as well. She was incredibly lucky in the parents she had and she knew it, so this has hit her pretty hard. I’ve never heard her voice sound like it does when her grief is too strong to hold in. Standing at her parents’ dual grave just before we drove to the airport, the strength of her sorrow frightened me a little and made me stand very close.

But she had also cried a few minutes before as we drove away from her childhood home for the last time. The people and the places we love are all temporary, and we don’t get nearly enough time with them.

23 Feb 2012, 7:54pm

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Back Home In Seattle, Finally

Yeah, I’ve been out of town since the beginning of February, but I haven’t mentioned it because my apartment has been empty.

We’ve all finally made it home and have collapsed onto couches. HOME! AFTER 3+ WEEKS!

More later.

21 Feb 2012, 2:00pm

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Does anyone recognize these jackets?

I wonder if folks wouldn’t mind helping out a bit.

We have these two jackets here: Flickr set

No clue front

Opera Co Front

The red and blue one has a stamp on the lining that seems to indicate it’s for the theater, but the black and yellow one has a mark I can’t make out. You can see all the interior marks if you click through to the Flicker set; I can’t decipher them.

Anyone know anything about old clothes?

21 Feb 2012, 6:10am
The outside world:

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“Vengeance is all about style.” A BUNRAKU review

After I finish this post, I’m going to write an email to another author about writing style and naturalism, because when it comes to books, I like naturalism. Even if the setting has fantastical elements in it, I like the language to be precise and not-particularly-metaphorical. I have a distaste for the pathetic fallacy, for settings and characters that are deliberately artificial, and for flourishes that “pull me out of the story.”

But with film it’s different. With film, I enjoy those flourishes very much, thank you.

Which brings me to BUNRAKU (Trailer | Netflix) a martial arts movie starring Josh Hartnett and Gackt. It’s very, very art designed–about as naturalistic as a movie musical–in fact, the opening fight scene deliberately, consciously begins like a big dance scene, with rows of identically-dressed men side-stepping through an arch, and a major villain strutting into the fight like a murderous Gene Kelly.

If what you want from a movie is what a producer once called “suture” (that is, a white-knuckle involvement in the dilemma of the characters), this isn’t the film for you. All the art direction, set design, colored gels, wild costumes and animated intrusions has a distancing effect; it can’t be helped. When Josh Hartnett steps into a round elevator and, instead of going straight down, it rotates down to the side with the same click you’d hear from a giant revolver, the response is That is totally fucking cool and I want that for my Sin Mansion, but it also reminds you that this is a movie.

It’s theatrical. And I love it.

It’s not a perfect movie; there are a few choices I would have done differently. I wish it hadn’t been rated R, for instance. But the truth is, I don’t think I could have imagined a movie like this, let along make one.

Anyway, as my wife and I were watching it, she asked me how it did in the theaters. I said that I wasn’t sure, but I didn’t think it had a theatrical release. “Of course not,” she answered. “It’s beautiful. People don’t care about beautiful movies any more.”

If you get a chance to watch it, you should.

“Bunraku”, by the way, is a kind of Japanese puppet theater. And the movie opens with an amazing puppet sequence.

20 Feb 2012, 10:29am
The outside world

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Male Gamers Swarm-Troll Female Game Writer

Christ, but these people are pathetic.

Me, I don’t play many games, but I would love a button that let me skip the bullshit boring combat scenes or the stupid platforming.

“Andre Norton and Me”

I raved about Sherwood Smith’s INDA series recently, and now I want to link to her post Andre Norton and Me. Good stuff. You should read it.

18 Feb 2012, 9:48am

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Puncturing the rainbow beach ball

Thank you, everyone, for the advice I received on my LiveJournal. I really, really don’t want it to be an impending hard drive failure, but I’ve already had the laptop for over four years. At this point I’m pretty much playing with the casino’s money.

Still, I downloaded OnyX from the developer’s site, and ran it. It checked the S.M.A.R.T. whatever and assures me that the hard drive is not about to fail (which I take with a grain of salt). It also repaired permissions and changed a bunch of things that Disk Utility completely ignored.

Anyway, things seem to be working pretty well, alluvasudden (knock on my wooden head), and I’m hopeful that the casino will keep fronting me chips for a while. In the meantime, stuff’s backed up and I have a crapton of work to do.

Thanks again. I’m really grateful.

17 Feb 2012, 8:16am

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I hate that rainbow beach ball

Things have been so busy at my end that I barely have time to be online at this point. I answer some emails–usually days after I should–and post silly tweets once in a while. Sorry, folks. I have interesting things planned for March.

In any event, I’m quite concerned about my laptop. It’s a MacBook I bought in 2007 (bottom of the line, frankly) and it’s the machine I use for all of my writing.

Sadly, it’s not running very well. I get the Spinning Beach Ball of Death every day, and my programs (Safari, Thunderbird, iPhoto, YoruFukurou, Scrivener) become non-responsive for frustratingly long times. Often I’ll type a word and sit back while each. Letter. Slowly. Appears.

I just deleted the contents of my OS trash, some 13+GB, because my hard drive was nearly full (now it’s down to 57GB). Writey runs 10.5.8 and has been really great so far but as the day goes on the performance become worse and worse. I don’t want to have to replace it.

Does anyone have any suggestions for fixing this sort of thing?

I’m turning on comments on my main blog (for those of you reading this at a mirror site) to see whether my spam issue has abated. I’m heading off to do some work and I’ll check back later. Thanks for any help you can offer.

17 Feb 2012, 6:56am
The outside world:

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Intellectual property and its discontents

This terrific video charts the toxic influence that wealth and power can have over the public good.

Everything is a Remix Part 4 from Kirby Ferguson on Vimeo.

I don’t hate Valentine’s Day

I don’t love it, but I don’t hate it, either. Even before I got together with my wife, I didn’t begrudge a holiday for love, lovers, and people with strong romantic feelings.

Still, for me it’s as private as most every other part of my marriage. And I know there are lots of folks out there who hate the day with a passion.

In that spirit, let me offer my sorta-annual pitch for the Twenty Palaces books: The male and female leads do not romance each other, and do not fall in love (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Magic! Violence! Problematic work relationships!

They’re in the little-recognized genre of Paranormal Unromance.

I assume most of the people reading this post will have either read them or decided they’re not interested, but if you know someone looking for some Anti-Valentine’s reading…

Randomness for 2/13

1) Former ‘Static Shock’ Writer John Rozum on ‘What was Really Going on Behind the Scenes’.

2) Harry Potter and the Chinese Bootleg Subtitles.

3) Classic depictions of Venus Photoshopped to make her thinner.

4) This karate rap is even worse than you expect. Video.

5) A scented candle for ebook haters.

6) How to use a women’s urinal. “I am convinced that women could pee standing up, with the same accuracy as a man (which means, what, 90% accuracy?), if they practiced as often as men do.” Via @ccfinlay

7) A functional bathtub made of books.

10 Feb 2012, 12:26pm
making books:

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8 Feb 2012, 5:09pm

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New OK Go video

Hard to believe these guys started with a choreographed treadmill dance routine.

They played their song with a car. I love it.

6 Feb 2012, 7:42am

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The Fox by Sherwood Smith

In 2007, I had just started reading The Fox by Sherwood Smith (the mmpb will be rereleased in April) when I signed with my agent. I’d enjoyed the hell out of Inda, the first in the series despite the long section set in military school. I’m not a big fan of school stories, but Inda won me over.

The Fox is even better. I don’t want to go too deep into it, but it’s a fantasy set mostly on sailing ships with lots of politics and action. The best thing is that the characters are so very real.

You hear a lot about gritty/realistic fantasy, and it’s always so cynical, as though realism is people behaving really badly. The characters in these books cover a wide range in a way gritty fantasy usually doesn’t–using omniscient POV, which isn’t used often enough.

And the world-building is terrific, yes, and there are so many characters it sometimes is hard to keep track. The hero is one of those super-capable types that make fantasy fun, but he has enough quirks that he rises above the generic hero stereotype. The whole thing is terrific.

There are two more books (which I’ve already bought) and the series is complete. You should totally read it.

  • The prequel to Child of Fire: see here for more details

  • Starred review from Publishers Weekly

  • Starred review from Publishers Weekly

  • Named to Publishers Weekly's "Best 100 Books of 2009" list. Get the audiobook here.

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