Wednesday, January 31, 2007


I'm a-posting Warbreaker nice and early this time, since I'm going to do a school visit tomorrow during lunch, and I know how rowdy the crowds get when I don't get these up early enough.  Wouldn't want anyone to show up at my house with pitchforks and torches, only to find me not there and be forced to lynch my neighbor instead.  Note that this is TWO chapters, since the second one is really, really short.

Warbreaker Chapter Forty-four and Forty-five

My brother/webmaster/pandaman Spriggan had developed a nice little survey for my website.  I'd appreciate it if any of you wonderful readers would give it a look and a response.  We're doing a new version of my website, and have had complaints that certain features are hard to find.  Now's your time to voice your opinion.  If you only read me via one of my mirror blogs--that's you, LJ people--then go ahead and note that as well.

I'm through the 3.0 Warbreaker draft, which makes me happy.  So, this is our first chapter posted in new, glossy, 3.0.  What's the difference?  Mostly line edits in this draft.  Draft one is the rough draft, draft two is the cohesion draft (where I fix big problems).  Draft three is a line edit/cut where I trim 10-20% line by line and rework bad sentences.  Draft for is where I start to do chapter-by-chapter smaller fixes.  (Which is where most of your comments come in.)  I should be posting a 2.0-3.0 comparison document on part one, like I did with 1.0 to 2.0.  Also, I'll soon post 3.0 versions of all of the previous chapters.  Huzzah!

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Amphigory + Viewer Mail

Warning!  Answer below!

Yes, in case you are wondering, that is indeed...

Wait for it....

A KIMONO Dragon. 

(Rim shot)

Anyway, I got a lot of great responses to my nerd rant, and thought I'd share one with you:

"Hello this is Jacob from Las Vegas. I just read your EUOLogy on being a Nerd. I'm 17 and a senior in high school. Lets just say, that Nerds are now the coolest people in school. I was once one of those kids that was scoffed at for wearing Zelda shirts, and going to the renaissance fair. But thanks to Peter Jackson, George Lucas, and Nintendo. I'm cool (of sorts). I proudly wear my "Don't Make Me Go Zelda On You" shirt and the only comments I get are, "Hey where did you get that?" And the fact that I still own a working NES with the game Duck Hunt impresses more people than it should.

I've come to learn also that Nerds rule the world. And despite what all the old people in this world think. Video games are now an important part of our culture. I also wished I would have put some money into Nintendo's stock in November, (they went up 130% in the past few months) I also hope that I get to read Wheel of Time 12 sometime soon, and read Harry Potter 7 before I go on my mission. I can almost taste getting a Wii, and sitting for hours playing the new Zelda.

Sorry, I needed to empty my system of that. But I also attribute nerds becoming cool largely to the craze Napoleon Dynamite started. Those Mormon boys worked wonders for everybody.

Thanks for listening,


Thanks for writing, Jake.  It's cool to get a younger person's view on this, someone still in high school.  Perhaps things are a'changin for our particular counter-culture. 

Warbreaker tomorrow.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Nerds + Annotation


New Annotation: Mistborn Chapter Twenty-One Part One

Yesterday I had diner with Parker, and spent a lot of time with him talking about what it is to be a nerd.  I find the concept interesting for a couple of reasons, which I'll address in another overly-long rambling essay.  Ready...go!

It seems to me that, when I was a kid, 'nerd' meant something different than it does today.  Once, it related to social awkwardness and personality.  Now (kind of like the Forsaken in RJ's books) a title that has been given with scorn has been adopted with pride, and we of nerd culture tend to use this term as an identifying feature of our society.  (Perhaps like African Americans using a certain once-derisive term for members of their own race?)

Yet, it seems that remnants of that old definition still linger--both outside the culture, and within it.  The thing that brought this up was a discussion with Parker and his wife.  I referred to Parker as a nerd, and she immediately piped up.  "No, HE'S not a nerd." 

I proceeded to list his credentials.  (World of Warcraft addiction, aspiring fantasy novelist, in-depth knowledge of the Final Fantasy games, among others.)  She seemed shocked--as if by implying that he was a nerd, I was implying that she had poor taste in men.  (Which, of course, isn't true at all.)

This set me thinking.  I've been within nerd culture for so long, it's sometimes hard to remember that there are those outside of it who still cling to the old definitions.  And, perhaps that IS the definition for those outside of the culture.  I have trouble remembering, or understanding.  (Things like this seem to take on a different dimension when you leave high school, and power is no longer directly tied to how popular you are at school.)

Has the definition of nerd really grown up with me, or has nerdy ALWAYS been perceived as a cultural identity by nerdy adults?  Is it only children and teens who feel ashamed to be called a nerd?  If so, why do so many of us WITHIN the culture still harbor vestigial insecurity surrounding our culture.

 (In a funny story, though, a man I talked to last month at church claimed that calling people nerds was a threat to national security.  He said that by insulting engineers and mathematicians, we are driving people away from those professions, and therefore making the United States have a more poor crop of people who can grow up to keep us on the cutting edge of technology, letting other nations get better at it than we are.  Interesting theory, one that I think is wrong for such a long list of reasons it's hard to begin naming them.)

My definition of nerd has very little to do with social awkwardness or the like.  Most nerds I know are quite eloquent, keen minded, and engaging people.  True, there are a lot of shy nerds, and some who are very socially awkward, but you'll find that in any crowd, I bet.  Yet, that doesn't change the fact that whenever we'd play D&D in my friend's basement, we'd all yell "Hide the books!" if a knock came at the door or a girl came to visit.  (We wouldn't really hide them, but we'd only admit what we were doing with a bit of grudging shame.)

 I'm confident in my profession.  I'm very happy to have the interests that I do.  And yet, there's part of me that still wishes to prove that I'm not a nerd in the pejorative sense.  This manifests most often by pointing fingers at other people and saying "Well, at least I don't do THAT.  Those are the real nerds."  (See the Geek Hierarchy for a look at this in depth.)  Why do we do things like this?  Why do sf/f writers point at people who dress up like Klingons and say "Whew, glad I'm not one of those guys?"  Why do role players point fingers at LARPers and say, "Look at those losers!" Do we have any right? 

Seems like a silly issue, I know, but for me it ties back to the self-loathing I sense from a lot of fantasy authors who get big.  I know I've mentioned this before, but nothing annoys me more than a writer who says something like "Well, you're right, fantasy is crap.  Fortunately, I don't read or write that crap.  I'm special."  (I'm looking at you, J.K. Rowling and Terry Goodkind.)

United we stand, divided we fall.  Every time we within nerd culture make fun of someone else's hobby or passion, all we're really trying to do is mainstream ourselves in a futile attempt to get a little bit closer to that 'coolness' that most of us never knew in high school.  I think we should just give it up.  It's all in our heads. 

We, as fantasy and science fiction authors should understand that concept.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

A Note From Tracy Hickman

Got this in the email box the other day:

"Just a note of thanks for pointing out my 'Rose of the Prophet' series as an example of a work by an LDS author that includes a gay protagonist. For what it is worth, the character was very well received among the gay community -- or at least those whom I have met.

If you are interested, however, I did a much more serious treatment of gay/straight relations in my "The Immortals." It was (and is) a dark future book essentially about AIDS concentration camps in west central Utah. The book is about to go back into print and you can actually listen to my wife and I perform an audio rendition of the book on

Anyway, thank you so much for noticing!

Tracy Hickman"

Note also that Tracy's "Rose of the Prophet" trilogy (my favorite from the classic era Weis and Hickman catalogue) has just been reprinted in an attractive omnibus edition including all three volumes.  If you haven't tried this series, I highly recommend it.  It has an innovative mythology with some great characters in an Arabian fantasy setting.  I read these books again and again, and am never disappointed. 

Friday, January 26, 2007

Wizard of Ooze + Annotation

Hey, my pal David Farland (Of Runelords fame) just got the cover design for his new book!  Check it out!

I love the covers for these books.  The fun thing is, Dave--working with Covenant, which is a local press--wanted something a little more dramatic than the usual art they have, and so he invested a bit of his own money to hire a top-notch artist to do the Ravenspell covers.  They're delightful books; middle grade fantasy novels about a boy who's been turned into a mouse.  I think this one is coming out next fall.  And I get to read it early.  Ha ha.

Annotation:  Mistborn Chapter Twenty

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Warbreaker + FAQ

First off, let's post a Warbreaker Chapter:  Chapter Forty-Three

And now, another one for the FAQ:

Q: You might get this a lot, but why did you become a writer in the first place? Did you ever see yourself doing something else instead?

A:  Good question. I should definitely have this on one the FAQ.

My story starts back when I was in grade school. In third and fourth grade, I was a big time reader. My favorite series was the “Three Investigators” books, a kind of Hardy Boys style mystery series. I hadn't had much exposure to fantasy, and the young adult genre/middle grade genres hadn't been split off into their own sections back then.

Well, as I grew older, people tried to give me other books to read. Most of these were realistic fiction--the types of books that bored me out of my skull. My reading habits dribbled off, and I landed in junior high as an average student pulling Bs and Cs.

Then I had a wonderful English teacher--Ms. Reeder, ironically--who told me I couldn’t keep doing book reports on novels that were four grades below my reading level. Instead, she gave me her copy of DRAGONSBANE, by Barbara Hambly. That was the beginning of the end for me! I was amazed by the book--I hadn’t realized that there were things like that out there. The book engaged my imagination to an extent none ever had. I read through every book in the Library that had “Dragon” in the title, then quickly move on to the bookstore, buying whatever fantasy I could get my hands on. I still remember when both DRAGONBONE CHAIR (by Tad Williams) and EYE OF THE WORLD (by Robert Jordan) came out in paperback--both books quickly hooked me as a reader, and those two became my favorite authors. (And, interestingly, my grades at this point shot up to be straight As, and stayed there all through high school.)

My mother thought that being a writer for a living, however, was too difficult a task. She convinced me that becoming something more legitimate--like a chemist--would be a better path. (She always maintained that I could write on the side. She wasn’t discouraging, just realistic.) So, I went to college as a bio-chemistry major.

I did okay in my chemistry classes--not excellent, but not poorly. Solid “B” student. At that point, I served a 2-year mission for the LDS church in Korea. During that time, I really didn’t miss chemistry. (In fact, a big piece of me was very excited to be on a completely different continent from chemistry. . .) However, I DID miss writing. Spent my day off doing it, working on what eventually became my first writer.

So, when I got back, I bit the bullet and admitted that I was really a writer at heart. I determined to become a professional author, and changed my major to English.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Another Movie Poster


This is a kind of tough one.  The trick is, Denzel actually starred in a serial killer movie.  However, this pun isn't about that at all--it's completely a play off of his football movie.  The picture below links to the solution, along with a higher-res version of the picture, title logo included, should you want it.

In news of my life, Pemberly is home sick today.  Her voice was shot, and she just couldn't go talk before a classroom all day.  I'm sitting here on the couch, working on the Warbreaker rewrite, still trying to settle on my my next writing project. 

Monday, January 22, 2007

Signing + Annotation + FAQ

You people in Salt Lake get all the love.  I'll be at the Murray Barnes and Noble from 6-8pm this Thursday (the 25th.)  Come drop by and see me!  Get books as gifts for friends!  Throw things at me for not releasing novels fast enough!

To assuage the pitchfork-carrying masses, I present a new Annotation: Chapter Nineteen Part Two

And, since someone was kind enough to ask on my forums, how about an update to the FAQ too?

Q:  Were any aspects of Elantris at all biographical? In my case, at least, my writing is often unintentionally reflective of my own experiences. Is this the case for you as well?

A: Thanks to Armadius for the question.

Every book is a little autobiographical.  You can't separate yourself from your work, though I try not to include intentional messages in my writing.  (That doesn't mean I'm opposed to my books having meaning; it just means that I don't tent to approach them with the idea "I want to teach something in this book.")

Each of the characters is a little autobiographical, something that is most noticeable to me in retrospect.  Raoden represents my belief in the power of optimism.  I'm an optimist.  I can't help it; it's just the way I am.  And so, a hero like Raoden often grows to represent my beliefs.  His conflict--that of being cast into the most horrific place in the kingdom--is an outgrowth of me trying to devise the most hopeless situation I could, and then make the conflict for my character the attempt to retain hopeful in the face of that.

Sarene represents an amalgamation of several people I knew in my life, most notably Annie Gorringe, a friend of mine in college.  Not that Sarene acts just like her, of course--but that some of the conflicts in Annie's life, mixed with some of her personality quirks, inspired me to develop a character that ended up in my book.

Hrathen is as much a piece of me as Raoden.  I served a mission for the LDS church, and while I did so, I thought often about the 'right' way to share one's beliefs mixed with the 'wrong' way.  It seemed to me that focusing on the beauty of your message, mixed with the needs of the individuals you met, was the way to go. When you start to preach just to be preaching--or to convert not because of your concern for those around you, but because you want to seem more powerful--you risk beating the life out of your own message.  You also get in trouble when you focus on putting other religions down (or challenging others on their beliefs) instead of just talking about what makes you believe like you do.

So, in a way, Hrathen represents my fears of what I could have become--a warning to myself, if you will.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Puppies. They sing about puppies.


I recently made two purchases in the music department.  The first is one of the newer albums by the band Rammstein.  The second is one of the Europe-only albums released by the Italian band Eiffel 65

You may remember Eiffel 65 from their big American single Blue.  A couple years back, I gave the whole album Europop a chance, and was surprised to find that I liked it quite a bit.  Blue isn't even the best song on the album, in my opinion.   Research showed that they'd done several other albums which never made it big over here, and I'm only now getting around to picking those up.  (They're a little bit tougher to get ahold of, since you can't Itunes them.)

Rammstein, I think, has an undeserved rep.  I mean, sure the lead singer SOUNDS like he's about three seconds away from ripping your heart out with his teeth.  And, true, the gunmen from the school shooting a few years back listed the band as one of their favorite influences.  However, I like to give people the benefit of the doubt.  I don't really speak German, but I've decided what a few of the songs are about. 

Puppies.  The guys from Rammstein just really like puppies.  They can't help it if the only way they can express themselves is through heavy-metal-industrial-techno music sung by a guy with the most evil-sounding voice in all of existence.

I mean, look at that publicity photo they released.  That should be enough, right? 

Anyway, both albums are cool.  The Eiffel 65 one is better, I think.  Rammstein is great, but Mutter is still my favorite album of theirs, with Angel being their best single. 

Friday, January 19, 2007

Annotation + Idea


So, there's a very interesting discussion going on at my forums.  If you've ever wanted to read a respectful conversation between a conservative Mormon and a homosexual, then you might be interested in this thread.  I offer two warnings, however.  First, this is MOSTLY a thread about me explaining my church's position and my religious beliefs.  My goal isn't to preach to anyone, but I can see this thread feeling like that, so if you're the type who doesn't really care to know about an author's religious leanings (particularly in detail) you might want to skip this.... 

Second, this is a sensitive topic, as you might imagine.  I'd request that if you say anything in the discussion, you make it non-argumentative.  There are plenty of places on the net where you can scream and call people names.  My forum is not one of them.  The reason I linked the discussion is because it WAS so reasonable.  It feels to me that most places where people debate these issues--or even discuss them--people seem to take little care for one another's feelings, or to even try to understand how people think.  In short, I'm really not looking for anyone else to jump into the debate, I just thought you might want to see the conversation.

Either way, my thanks to Armadius for inspiring one of the more thoughtful discussions I've been a part of lately.  It leads me to this:

Think of a personality trait, activity, or ideology you disagree with, then write a story with a main protagonist who has that trait.  Difficulty: Their character arc doesn't include changing this trait.

One of the things I find the most challenging--and therefore most rewarding--in writing is trying to understand and write characters who don't believe like I do, and do it in a way that those who agree with that character would find them believable.  The above conversation, for instance, reminds me of several times when I've considered having a gay character as a protagonist.  The real trick in doing this, however, is to make that protagonist feel REAL.  If you include them just so that their way of life can be proven wrong, I think you're undermining your fiction--and insulting people who believe differently from yourself.

So, it's tough.  Not only do you risk doing a poor job of presenting this character, but you risk letting your own impulses write a story where that character is shown to be wrong.  However, if you can do it RIGHT, I think that you start to approach writing that hits another level--writing that isn't just about you, but is about exploring what it is to be human. 

There's a fine line to walk here.  I don't think I could ever write a sympathetic story about a pedophile, for instance--that's not just a position I disagree with, but one that makes me sick.  However, a story about a gay man, or an atheist, or someone who has political leanings far different from mine--those are stories that it would a challenge, and an honor, to write in my opinion. 

Anyway, those are just my thoughts.  It's a little like last week's Idea, I know.  Next week I'll try to do another wacky magic system.  Until then, here's another Mistborn Annotation: Chapter Nineteen Part One

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Warbreaker + FAQ

First off, let me get you a new Warbreaker Chapter: Chapter Forty-Two.

Thank you to everyone who has been commenting on these.  It has helped me quite a bit.  You can join the discussion--and find the other chapters--right here.

Time to add another few questions to the FAQ.  I like to post the same questions on my blog as I build the FAQ larger, in case readers of the blog are curious about any of the questions.  Eventually, this thing will replace the bio on my site, so let's get through some of the questions about me and my personal life.

Q: Where were you born?  Where do you live now?

A: Lincoln, Nebraska.  Lived there until I was eighteen, when I moved to Provo, UT to go to school.  Soon after, my family moved to Idaho Falls, ID.  I now live back in Provo.

Q: Where did you go to school?  What is your educational  background?

A: High school was good old Lincoln East, where I spent a lot of my time hanging out in the band room.  I played trumpet, though--unfortunately--I haven't picked one up in years.  There's really only time for one art passion in this guy's life.  Anyway, I went to Brigham Young University in 1997, where I got my bachelor's degree.  I went back for a Master's (after getting rejected to every MFA program I tried) in creative writing. 

Q: What are your religious leanings?  How does this affect your writing?

A:  If you didn't figure it out from the above post, I am LDS (Mormon.)  Religion is very important to my life, as is belief.  As you can probably tell from my writings, however, I'm not all that pleased with the track record of a lot of the world's regions.  I DO think that most of them are generally filled with honestly good people who never get any attention, but a few bad apples can cause a lot of pain--and, if they're powerful enough, they can corrupt teachings and harness what should be a wonderful thing and turn it into something terribly destructive. 

In both of my current books--Elantris and Mistborn--religion plays a big part, often on the side of the antagonists.  This isn't because I hate religion, but because it worries me.  The use of something good for evil purposes is one of the most frightening things I can imagine.  I also, sometimes, worry what would happen to me if I were to let fanaticism overrule good judgement.  In a way, some of these characters are warnings to myself.

My goal is always to treat religious beliefs--even if that belief is atheism--with respect in my books.  I feel this is what a strong belief SHOULD inspire in someone: a strong desire to respect what others believe.  My goal is to respect my characters--even the ones I don't agree with--and to not create plots that undermine or mock their beliefs.

Though, of course, mostly I just want to tell good stories that people like to read, no matter what religion they happen to be--or even if they think I'm a loon for believing myself....

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Amphigory + Babysitting

So, we're watching my sister-in-law's kid this week.  (Mostly on Sunday and Monday, but a little bit on the next few days.)  It's strange.  None of my siblings are married, and it's tough to get used to the idea of having nieces and a nephew.  They're still "My wife's sister's kids" or something like that.

Anyway, this is the first time this particular sister has left her baby with anyone and gone away.  The kid is still under a year old.  So, being the compassionate, empathetic person that I am, I kept up a constant string of promises to her that the moment she left, I intended to sell the baby on the black market.  I don't see what the big deal was.  I promised her fifty percent.  You think she was holding out for sixty?

Anyway, this one is for her. 

Yes, this is the first time I put the actual name of the pun in the image, but it seemed like it would work best that way.  Click for a full size image, assuming the html works right.

Warbreaker tomorrow. 

Monday, January 15, 2007

Romantic Times + Comic about me + Annotation


So, turns out that my Evil Nemesis and I are both up for Romantic Times awards this year.  Since I won one last year, now I'm wondering if I can go back to back on the romance front.  Maybe I'm in the wrong genre....

On a more serious note, I'm very honored, and I'm quite impressed with the Romantic Times for doing awards and reviews in other genres.  Romance is one of the top dogs in publishing, and they don't need to reach across the isle to other genres.  It's cool that they are so willing to point their readers toward things outside of their own corner of the bookstore.

Oh, and John and I are nominated in different categories, which is fine with me.  I'm still reeling from the beating I took from him at the Campbell awards.  I must hide and wait for a while before taking my revenge.

In other words, I've been made fun of!  A webcomic did a parody of my essay on hardback vs. paperback sales.  Have a look (warning--some objectionable language):

Note--I'd rather that those who read here NOT go post critical comments on the webcomic website.  I think they misinterpreted my essay quite profoundly, but I've made a response--which you can see--and think that should stand.  They have a right to their opinions, and I believe they should be respected.  If you want to discuss the essay with them, and others, use the link to FantasyBookSpot that the webcomic artist put in their comments.  There's a good discussion there.  Also, give the comic archives a read--they're fun!

Next, here's an annotation: Mistborn Chapter Eighteen Part Two

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Alcatraz Annotations


So, I don't know if I ever blogged here about the insanity that was the Alcatraz copyedit.  I intended to do the copyedit while I was in D.C. for my signing there.  However, I forgot the pages and left them in Utah.

I emailed Scholastic, and they said they really, really wanted me to get the copyedit in by the end of the week--which was a problem, since I was going to be in D.C. until the end of the week. 

We tried getting them overnighted to me, but it was too late to get them in on time.  We thought we were in trouble--we even considered faxing all 300 pages--until I thought of simply letting Pemberly do most of the copy edit.

She stepped up quite admirably and went though the edit, approving or stetting changes by the copyeditor.  When she came to larger changes, she noted them, then called me to talk them over and ask what I wanted to do.  It was a process that took hours for her, and must have been very frustrating because she had to call and talk to me while I was roaming all over D.C. visiting bookstores.  I had to keep hanging up on her to talk to booksellers as we entered new stores.

Anyway, my wife is awesome.  The problem with this was, however, that I couldn't write the annotations during the copyedit, as I normally do.  So, I'm going to try and get them out while I do the proofread--which I have to send back next week, so we'll see if I can get it all done in time. 

Anyway, I'm not sure if you care about all that or not.  To make it up to you, I'll post the 'about the author' page of Alcatraz Verses the Evil Librarians (which is indeed the final title, as people have asked me.)  This might explain to you why I'm using a potted plant (which isn't potted) as my author photo.

“Brandon Sanderson” is the pen name of Alcatraz Smedry. His Hushlander editor forced him to use a pen name, since his memoirs were going to be published as fiction.

Alcatraz actually knows a person named Brandon Sanderson. That man, however, is a fantasy writer--and is therefore prone to useless bouts of delusion in literary form. Alcatraz has it on good authority that Brandon Sanderson is actually illiterate, and dictates his thick, overly-long fantasy tomes to his potted plant, Count Duku.

It is widely assumed that Brandon went mad several years ago, but few people can tell because his writing is so strange anyway. He spends his time going to science fiction movies, eating popcorn and goat cheese (separately), and trying to warn people about the dangers of the Great Kitten Conspiracy.

He’s had his library card revoked on seventeen different occasions.

Also, by request, here's the Pemberly eating cake picture from my birthday party:

Friday, January 12, 2007

Alcatraz Author's Photo + Annotation


Well, today I got in the mail the "First Pass" of Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians (a.k.a. Alcatraz Smedry Book One).  Though it's called the first pass, usually this is the last time the author sees the book.  It's essentially the first round of proofreads, and that's the one they send to the author. 

So, I get to spend the next few days reading this book one last time, making any little changes that I think it needs.  I also just sent out a copy of the author's photo, which I figured you might like to see:

Hum...let's see.  What else is on the camera.  Ah, yes.  This would be me cutting my birthday cake.  They made me do it with the sword.

Two cakes with one sword.  Hum.  It's getting a reputation.

Here's your annotation:  Chapter Eighteen Part One

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Class Starts Today + Idea

Well, today I start teaching my creative writing class again.  It's a lot of fun; I really enjoy interacting with aspiring writers and being part of a writing community.  I've got some new ideas regarding how I want to work the class.  I'm tempted to turn it into a mini Nanowrimo, forcing the students to each write a novella length manuscript that they start, work on, then complete during the class.  I think that 50k might be too much to require, however.  I'll have them do 25k instead.  (Though part of me wants to lay a full 50k demand on them.  Still, that wouldn't be a fair workload, I think.)

Since I haven't done one for  a while--and since someone chastised me for the lack--here's an Idea of The Day.

Story Prompt: Write a story about an alcoholic in a fantasy world doing an important job.

I've been thinking a lot about a character I used in a book that I never finished.  (MYTHWALKER, if anyone cares.)  I had this great, affable soldier character who became the mentor of the protagonist.  The problem is, that soldier was an alcoholic, and tended to do things like sell his weapons in order to get money to drink.  It was a fun character to write because I felt like I made the conflict REAL for him.  He was a good character, likable, but he just had this quirk that rounded him out.  One of my favorite character traits of Sherlock Holmes was his cocaine addiction--not because he worked through it or overcame drugs, but because he didn't.  It wasn't something for him to overcome; it was simply part of who he was.  (Not that I'm advocating this in real life, of course.  It just make the character more rounded.) 

So, give it a try.  Make a character who is important, competent, yet also addicted.  Not the most original idea, I know, but it seems to me that in fantasy we're far to eager to give our heroes 'fake' flaws.  Flaws that are really just advantages in disguise.  Instead, try giving a character something that would normally make you dislike a person in real life, and don't make it an advantage--or even something to overcome.  Then, make the reader like them anyway. 

Also, here's a comic that made me laugh:

The one before is pretty good too. 

Wednesday, January 10, 2007


New chapter:  Chapter Forty-one.

Once again, if you don't know what Warbreaker is--or if you are looking for the old chapters--check out this link. 

So, a new year means it's time for me to start working on something new.  I've finished my copy edits, I'm ahead on my contracts, and I have a little breathing room.  I've begun to plan something and--like usual--it's completely snowballing out of control and becoming a massive epic of magnificent proportions.  I'm not exactly ready to talk about it yet--give me some more time to work on it--but hopefully by the end of the month I'll be announcing my next big endeavor. 

I did talk to Joshua about it, and he suggested--in his patient, suffering way--that I think about doing the 3.0 draft of Warbreaker.  (Which is the last draft of a book I do before sending it out to my publisher and agent.)  That's the line edit, where I try to cut a book by about 10% and clean up the language. 

He probably has a point.  However, he's just eager to read the book, I know.  So, we'll see.  Maybe I'll do that.  In the mean time, I'll continue posting 2.0 chapters (which is what these are, despite what the chapter title says.)

Also, Lost sucks.  I'm sorry.  But it just does.  I'm halfway through season two on DVD, and the characters have lost all semblance of personality consistency and rationality.  It's sad to see something so mighty fall so far.  However, I hear that the end of the season--and the beginning of three--is even worse.  I don't know if I'll watch much more of this.

It's Fish's fault.  She shouldn't have pointed out how bad it was.  Now it's been all ruined for me.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Amphigory + Annotation

So, my first attempt at a 2-panel Amphigory.  If you can't figure out the pun, click right here.

Yesterday I got the coolest thing in the mail.  My editor at Scholastic noticed that I'd written a review of Bone, and so she fired off copies of the Bone Hardbacks in color that Scholastic is putting out.  They look pretty darn sweet.  I was rather surprised, and very pleased.

As I mentioned yesterday, here's a new Annotation: Mistborn Chapter Seventeen Part Three  (And, the bug that revealed spoiler text in the annotations has been fixed.  Thank you super web guru Spriggan!)

Also, thanks to everyone who had comments and thoughts about my rant regarding hardback books. 

Monday, January 08, 2007

Essay: Why You Should Buy Hardbacks

I have no idea what the game is about--heck, I only saw short advertisement for it on the PA website--but the image is so uber cool that I had to post it:

Anyway, not to relate a dead vampire skull to the publishing industry, but I've posted a new EUOLogy on my website.  I'll lovingly reprint it here.  We get this instead of an annotation today, but maybe I'll post one later.  (Or on Tuesday.)

EUOLogy: Why You Should Buy Hardbacks

Why we publish Hardbacks

First off, let me say that this is the third version of this essay. I’ve rewritten it a couple of times, partially because of feedback I’ve received, and partially because my own thoughts on it have changed. The original drafts just felt too. . .well, whiny, which I didn’t intend.

The desire to write this essay came from an intersection between two events. First off, I received a clump of emails from readers who asked variations of the following questions: “Why are hardbacks so expensive?”, “How much do you make off of a book?” and “If I could buy two or three of your paperbacks, or one of your hardbacks, which would you like me to buy?”. Secondly, I heard that a fantasy novelist I respect is having difficulty making ends meet, and was a little bit frustrated to hear that he was working a second job to pay the bills.

So, I sat up one night doodling on the computer with my thoughts, and tried to write an essay that talked about all of these things. What I ended up with was an essay that sounded uncomfortably like I was begging readers to buy my books in hardback. When I read it over the next day, I felt the tone was off, and soon did a revision. However, despite my best efforts, some people interpreted the essay as me chastising people for buying paperbacks.

I found this frustrating, since I love it when people read my books--whatever the format. I’m a proponent of digital distribution and free content, going so far as to give away a complete ebook of one of my forthcoming works. I’m not angry when people buy my books in paperback! I’m excited to hear that they took the time to read my work.

That left me with a problem, though. I didn’t simply want to pull the essay, since that’s really not fair to some who might have linked to it in one form or created discussions based on it. However, I’d tried very VERY hard to get across that I approved of paperbacks and library books, and was still being misinterpreted. (And I believe the burden of guilt for the misunderstanding rests on my shoulders, as the essay--like most of the ones I write for my website--tended to ramble.)

I eventually decided I’d just try to rewrite the essay a third time, further attempting to get across my meaning.

So, let’s address the questions people have asked me and hope that leads to better organization. First off, “How much do you earn off of a book?” That one is both hard and easy to answer. Hard, because it depends on the book and the number off sales. Easy, because I can throw some hard numbers at you.

From what I’ve been able to see, most authors get between 6% and 8% on a paperback sale. Usually, the percentage is scaled--authors earn 6% off of the first group of paperbacks sold, 7% off of the next group, then 8% off the next group. These ‘break points’ tend to be rather high, in my experience. For instance, on Elantris, my break point is 75,000 books. (Meaning I get 6% off the first 75k, 7% off the next 75k, and 8% after that.) But, since the print run for Elantris was well below 75k, it will be a long, long time before I hit a break point. (However, I’m sure other authors have lower break points--and other others sell far more paperbacks than I do.)
Anyway, if an author’s book sells for eight bucks (average for a big fantasy paperback) and they get 6%, That gives them around 48 cents per copy sold. Let’s say that author does fairly well with the paperback and sells around 20,000 copies in the first couple years of release. That makes them a 10,000 dollars. (That’s not bad, actually. Sure, 10k isn’t enough to live on, but these sales will continue over years and years. Paperbacks have a long shelf life, and people buy them for a long time. The author will make residuals over quite a long time.)
Hardback royalties are much better than paperback ones. I’ve seen an average royalty being 10% on the first five thousand hardbacks, 12.5% on the next five, and 15% there after. And, since the book costs far more, those percentages deliver a lot more in return. So, a hardback of $25 will earn $2.50 on the first 5k, around $3.15 on the next 5k, and $3.75 per book after that. It’s not uncommon for a book in the mid-lists to sell around 10k copies in hardcover for an epic fantasy. At those numbers, you begin to ear around $30,000 for the run.

Perhaps you can see the beginnings of why we publish hardcovers. The first answer is very simple. They earn us more money. In epic fantasy using the Tor model (which focuses on the hardcover sales) it’s the way we stay afloat in the mid-lists.

Now, right there is part of what gets me into trouble in this essay. I don’t want to give the impression that if you buy paperbacks, you’re doing the author a disservice! We write books because. . .well, we love to do it. I really, really, REALLY don’t want you to feel guilty if you buy paperbacks. As writers, for most of us, our first and most important goal is to share our stories with readers, and you do us a great honor by reading them. This essay was never intended to make readers stop buying paperbacks.

It’s a fine line to walk, and I really don’t know how to walk it best. I do like it when people buy hardbacks--it’s the way I can make a living at this, and if someone were to ask me “Which would you rather I buy,” the answer would be obvious. That doesn’t stop me from appreciating the reader who reads the book in other forms, however. Think of it this way--the word of mouth you’ll give me by (hopefully) reading and liking my books is even more valuable than the money I get from a book sale.

Anyway, before I get myself into more trouble, let’s move on to the next question. “Why are hardbacks so expensive?” One of the other things I wanted to get across in this essay was that hardcovers are not, in my opinion, an attempt to rip off the reader. Yes, it may only cost a couple bucks in paper to print the books, but there it requires a whole lot of time and effort by a large number of people to get that book into your hands. This is all rather off-the-cuff, and I don’t have exact numbers, but here are some educated guesses of the breakdown of a hardback’s cost:

Let us assume a hardback, like Elantris, that cost 25 bucks. First off, roughly half goes to the bookstores. (Little bit less, but it depends on the book.) So, let’s say there’s around 14 bucks going to the publisher out of every sale. Three of that (on average, with the break points) goes to the author. 11 bucks left.
The publisher has to pay shipping on the book when they send it to the bookstores, and they also have to print the book. That eleven bucks is shrinking to something more like seven. From that seven, they pay the editor, the typesetters, the proofreaders and copyeditor, the cover artist, the interior artist, the designer, and a fleet of assistant editors and office staff, not to mention publicists, accountants, sales reps, and a legal department. Cut out the costs, and I’ll bet the publisher nets less than the author does on a given sale of a given copy of the book.

There are a lot of different models for making money in this business. Some people print a ton of paperbacks and get them into venues like supermarkets and airports where they can sell a lot of copies. Other people write in a format where they can produce a book every two or three months, then publish a large number of books, all earning them a small chunk of money.

For people in my situation, we try to produce a long, thick novel with interesting design and a lot of perceived value to encourage people to buy the hardcovers. As I often say, science fiction and fantasy actually has a much smaller readership than some other genres--but our readers are dedicated and they read a lot. A nice Tor hardcover is something that appeals to them, and the company has made a business out of providing this for them.

Do I need to stop again and say that I love paperbacks too? ‘Cuz I totally will, if you want me to.

Anyway, let’s move on to the third and final question. This is probably the one that sparked the most controversy in the original essay. One reader sent me an email asking if I’d rather they buy several paperbacks of my books or a single hardback. (Yes, there are people out there who ask questions like that.) This set me thinking.

You can buy a book like the hardcover of Elantris at deep discount on the internet for around seventeen bucks. You could do this the very week it was released. Seventeen bucks. That’s about the same price as two paperbacks. One hardback=$3 royalties. Two paperbacks=$1 royalties.

I thought “I’ve hit on something!” and I focused on this concept a lot in my original essay. I suggested that if people wanted to buy two paperbacks, they instead buy a single hardback, then read the other book from the library. Same money spent, but the author gets triple the royalties.

It was a cool connection of ideas, but the way I presented this just didn’t work. The problem is, a lot of people PREFER paperbacks. They’re easier to cart around, and you don’t worry so much about treating them poorly. Also, if you are buying only hardcover, then what about the authors who don’t publish in hardcover? If a person was going to buy my book and another person’s book, am I really suggesting that they buy my hardcover and ignore that other person?

Lots of problems. I still think this was a cool suggestion, but it’s more of an academically cool suggestion. In the end, I just couldn’t present this idea in a way that didn’t come across as sounding like a strange mixture of greedy and desperate.

Anyway, that’s the third version of the essay. Still rambles a lot. Still rather long winded. Hopefully less controversial. I was going to post the original draft on my website somewhere and reference it, but it’s almost four am. If you want to read it so you can shake your fist at me, just fire off an email and I’ll send it to you. As always, I apologize for the inevitable typos and grammatical awkwardness that shows up in a draft like this. I keep hoping to edit this thing in a way that fixes smaller problems, but I always end up completely rewriting the darn thing, and so it never gets any more polished.


Friday, January 05, 2007

Viewer Mail + Annotation

So, as I posted earlier, I've dedicated myself this week to answering my email backlog.  I've got a good 90% of it done, so if you emailed me through my website and never heard back from me, then you are officially given permission to bug me about it!

Many people are surprised that I take time to answer my fan mail.  The thing is, I'm in no position to brush off anyone who takes the time to not only read my books, but then compliment me on them.  You all support me in my love for writing books!  Without you, I'd be flipping burgers for a living.  (Well, maybe not that, but I do have a Master's in English--which means burger flipping is a real possibility....)

Here was one of my favorites in the recent emails:

"To Whom it may concern,

Faraway in the middle of nowhere there is a gravel road.  At the end of the gravel road there is a house surrounded by a ten foot wall.  The ten foot wall houses not only a house, nut a yard filled with tall and elegant weeping willow trees.  The whole place has an almost magical air about it, and seems to contain an immeasurable amount of secrets.

Sadly, this message is not about the secrets of this house nor that of the house's owner, a man who loves to read books about everything from waffles to dung beetles.  It is not about his per snake named "Sheep", nor his fine apple strudel recipe.  This message is the message of a humble fan, wondering how many excruciating months he is going to have to wait before the next Mistborn Book is released.  At this time this poor reader may finally stick his head out of the world of his own fantasies and read the pleasant works of others.  He calls upon the great Brandon Sanderson to answer this question."

The answer is August 21st (not the 24th as I may have said to others.)  You can see that right here on amazon.  You can even preorder!  Wow!  Look at that discount!  At those prices, you can totally grab like three copies.  One for you, one for your significant other, and one to give the homeless guy on the street.  Because homeless guys love Mistborn.

As a further bribe to get you to buy more books and encourage me in my writing addiction, we now return to our regularly scheduled Mistborn Annotations!  Chapter Seventeen Part Two!

Oh, and another nice Pemberly Moment for you: "I was either ahead of myself or behind myself all day today." 

Thursday, January 04, 2007

FAQ: Will There Be an Elantris Sequel

I get this one an awful lot, and so I thought I should finally address it officially on the website.  I can't remember if I've ever talked about this before on the blog, but I know I haven't done a FAQ entry.  So, here goes.

One of the things I really wanted to do with ELANTRIS was make it a stand alone. I think that the fantasy field is too cluttered with series that should have ended years ago, and I--personally--am tired of waiting for years between books in my favorite series. So, when people asked me if there would be a sequel, I used to respond “Maybe.”

However, more and more, I’m feeling that someday I will write a sequel to ELANTRIS. A lot of people seem to want one, and there is a lot of the story that I’ve left untold--the origin of the Seons, the reason that the Dor and the landscapes are linked, the Fjordell magic. Doing book tours and reading emails from readers has reminded me of all the wonderful things I wanted to do with the world of Opelon.

So, the official word right now is yes: I will most likely be doing a sequel to ELANTRIS.  I don't know WHEN I'll do one, but I eventually will.

Thus ends the FAQ entry.  You can read previous entries on the FAQ page.

Life is good.  I'm finally beginning to get over the fatigue of the book tour and the holidays.  I'm back to being a recluse--today, I didn't know that there had been any snow until I finally opened the garage door to leave at around 4:30 pm.  The rest of the day I spent answering emails, brainstorming for my next project, and playing good old FFXII. 

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Pemberly Moment + Warbreaker


So, my wife dreads it when I say "I'm posting that!"  I seem to be getting myself into lots of trouble.  But that's what we authors do.  We live on the edge.  Rebels and all that.  So, today she said:

"No!  No more quotes about buttocks!"  Which, of course, I had to post.

(I'm not supposed to give context to those, but it was in reference to a Monty Python skit, in case you were wondering.)

(Oh, and warning, that's classic python.  Which means it's funny as all get out, but terribly inappropriate.  Consider yourself warned....)

Anyway, I seem to be the man to complain about lately.  Superagent, after reading my post about how he drug me all over Washington DC and totally wore me out, claimed that I had totally miss-represented him.  In his opinion, I drug HIM all over Washington, forcing him to hop from bookstore to bookstore in rapid succession when he just wanted to take his leisurely time. 

However, this is MY blog, not that of Pemberly or Superagent, and so I'll just represent things how I want to!  So there!  Ha ha!  And, you can believe that I'm right and not them because I NEVER make things up, and everything I write is perfectly realistic and truthful. 

Like this Warbreaker Chapter:  Chapter Forty

Happy New Year!

Did you think I forgot?  I have two resolutions.  Get back to work, and answer my email. 

Hopefully, this Amphigory isn't that tough to figure out.  It's the first of what may be a series of alternate jobs for famous science fiction characters.  Be afraid.

File name has the solution.  Warbreaker tomorrow.