Author Archives: Pat

Hollywood News

As many of you know, a few days before San Deigo Comic-Con this year, the option on my books expired.

What this means is that ages ago, I sold some people the rights (the option) to make a TV show based off The Kingkiller Chronicles. They tried to make it happen, but it didn’t work out. Then, when the option period expired, all the rights reverted back to me.

Just so you know, this sort of thing happens all the time. The vast majority of things that get optioned never get made. The same way that most people that think about writing a book never get it published. Shit happens. People lose interest. Things get complicated. Projects lose momentum.

I don’t have handy statistics at my fingertips, but I’d be willing to bet a dollar that more than 98% of all book options end this way, with no TV show or movie or anything happening.

Anyway, my rights reverted. It didn’t come as a huge shock to me.

This, on the other hand, was a surprise:


(Click on the headline if you want to read the article.)

Because everyone was suddenly interested in the books,  I spent most of my Comic-Con having meetings with representatives from every major Hollywood power. At least that’s what it felt like to me. It was a strange experience, and I talked about it in some detail on the episode of Untitled Rothfuss podcast that Max and I recorded out at the convention.

To say that I didn’t know what I was doing in those meetings is a bit of an understatement. In fact, I remember starting several of the meetings by saying, “I have no idea what I’m supposed to do in this meeting.” I also dimly remember explaining to someone that there was no way you could turn The Name of the Wind into a movie. I explained it rather, well… emphatically for, like, 20 minutes. I’m pretty sure that’s fairly high on the list of things you’re not supposed to do in a meeting with someone who wants to turn your book into a movie.

I had fun though. It’s nice to be desired. For that brief moment in time I was the prettiest girl at the party, and everyone wanted to dance with me. (Only frequent readers of the blog can appreciate how clean I kept that little analogy.)

Princess Pat

The meetings weren’t stressful for this simple reason: I wasn’t that interested in turning my books into a movie. I know for a lot of authors, a movie deal is like the holy grail. It’s kinda free money. And if a movie gets made? Well, then, you get a truckload of cash, a bucket of fame, and your books get to hang out on the bestseller lists for a while. Usually a long, LONG while.

But honestly? Money’s never been a huge motivator for me. And my books already sell well. And I’m already more celebritous than I’m entirely comfortable with.

Most importantly though, I’ve never been that interested in a straight-up movie deal. Pretty much every fantasy movie created so far has been an action movie, or plot centered, or both. And my books aren’t like that. My books are about the characters. They’re about secrets and mysteries and the hidden turnings of the world. My books are all about antici-


-pation. And a movie, even a long movie, simply doesn’t have enough time to fit all of that stuff in. That’s why my original option was for a TV show. I wanted space for the story to breathe.

So when I met with these people from movie studios, I told them that I wasn’t terribly interested in a movie deal. Not to be a dick, but because I prefer to be honest with folks. I’m happy to have meetings, talk about stories, listen to a pitch…  As I said, it’s fun to be desired. It’s nice that you think my books are pretty. Let’s have a dance. But I wanted them to know that I wasn’t really planning on jumping into bed with anyone. (Damn. I knew the analogy was going to end up there eventually.)


There was one exception. When I met with Lionsgate, I said, “If you come at me with a movie offer, it’s going to be a hard sell. I’m not that excited about movies by themselves. But you guys are different from a lot of other studios. Those guys are huge. Monolithic. But you’re more agile and innovative. Your movie people and your TV people actually know each other. They could work together. Share resources.

I continued: “If you came at me with a pitch that involved a television show AND a movie, I’d listen to that. I’d listen really hard, because something like that would let us be big-budget while still giving my story room to breathe. It would give people the ability to spend more time in my world. I can’t think of anyone who has really done that, but it seems like we could have the best of both worlds that way. And it seems to me that you guys are one of the only places that could realistically pull something like that off.”

Yeah. I’m from small-town Wisconsin. But I’m not stupid. And it’s impossible to have 15 hours of meeting with Hollywood people without learning something about who’s who and how that world fits together.

But ultimately, I was just shooting my mouth off and I knew it. I was running on too much caffeine and too little sleep, but I still realized what I was saying was something along the lines of, “I see you guys are offering me the moon, but I’d really like the moon AND a chocolate cake with solid gold frosting. And you need to make the cake from scratch.”

So comic-con finished up. I went home. My coach turned back into a pumpkin and my pretty dress turned back into a geeky-tshirt and kinda grubby pair of cargo shorts. Which is probably for the best. As I’m not very good at important meetings or dancing. I’m way too beardy to be a princess.


The End.

*     *     *

Then Lionsgate got in touch. “About that whole TV-show-and-a-movie thing you mentioned,” they said. “If we’re going to do some sort of big narratively intertwined multi-platform development deal based on your books, wouldn’t it make more sense to do a video game along with the TV show and movies? Because seriously, why wouldn’t we want to do a video game too?” (I’m paraphrasing a little here you understand.)

I said, “What?”

*     *     *

Since then, I’ve been talking with Lionsgate kind of a lot. Going over particulars. Talking serious talks.

And when I say, “I’ve been talking with Lionsgate” I mean “Me and my team of skilled movie-smart people who do this for a living and some of them are powerful, hard-eyed lawyers.” Because like I said, I’m from small-town Wisconsin, but I’m not stupid.

And I’ll be honest, from the first moment I sat down at the table, I was ready to walk away. I liked the way Lionsgate was willing to dream big with me about adapting my books. They were willing to think outside the box. They were willing to make a whole new box just so we could go outside of it.

But… well… Hollywood is scary. The contracts are, to be quite honest, horrifying. And the power differential is immense. Even the smallest of studios is more powerful than some countries. And the biggest author ever is kinda not a very big deal at all.

So yeah. Silly as it might sound, from the very beginning of this process, I was willing to walk away from the deal. I was almost looking for an excuse to do it, because life is too short. I didn’t want to get a sack of money and pat on the head, then spend the next three years watching helplessly as they molested my books.


So we started to negotiate, and that’s where I received my biggest surprise of all.

You see, I never expected a studio would treat me like a human being. But through this whole process, Lionsgate has treated me with amazing respect. I’ve made what to me seem like reasonable requests, and they responded to them… reasonably. And I’m not just talking about pretty words here, they’re making contractual agreements granting me control of things. They haven’t just been reasonable, they’ve been kind, and understanding.


To be perfectly honest, it’s a bit disconcerting. I never anticipated that a Hollywood studio would treat me like a human being. Let alone want to work with me as a creative partner and respect the fact that I do, in fact, know a lot about how stories work. This story in particular.

So… yeah. That’s the news. Me and them, we’re gonna do a thing.

Lionsgate is making its own press release today and there will be stories in all manner of Hollywood news outlets pretty soon. It’s not a coincidence that my blog is launching up on the very same day as their big announcement. In the same hour, even. Lionsgate coordinated with me so I could share this news on my blog at the same time they’re launching their story.

This was important to me because if you read my blog or follow me on social media…  well… you’re a part of the reason my books are a big deal. A lot of you have been a part of my team for years, and I wanted the chance to tell you about this piece of news myself rather than have you hear it on the street.

The fact that Lionsgate was willing to go to some lengths to let me launch this blog simultaneously with their press release is another good sign, in my opinion. It shows they respect me, and it shows they respect you guys, too.

Now I know some of you will be reading this news with fear in your hearts. You’ll worry about them screwing it up. I understand. I know you love these books.

But hear me when I say this: You cannot love these books more than I do. You can’t care about them more than I do. I’ve put twenty years of my life into them. They ride next to my heart. They are my tangible soul.

And I’m not stupid. I hope by this point you know me well enough that you can trust me not to rush into… well… anything. If I cut a deal like this, it’s only because I really think there’s a chance for us to make something beautiful.

I’ll talk about this more on the blog later. I’ll answer questions and explain things and give more details.

Later. We’ll do that all later.

For now. Just for the next couple of days. How about we just let ourselves be a little excited about this? There will be plenty of time to fuss and fidget in the days to come. But right now, I’m not going to worry. Right now I’m just going to spend some time being a happy geek, excited at the thought of getting to see the Eolian or the Fishery. There are some scenes I’d love to see somewhere other than inside my own head.

I’m guessing there’s some scenes y’all would like to see, too….

See you later Space Cowboys,


Posted in a few words you're probably going to have to look up, BJ Hiorns Art, cool news, movie talk, the longest fucking blog ever, the man behind the curtain, trepidation | By Pat233 Responses

Novelties: Hoodies, T-Shirts, and Drug-Addled Dracci

Novelties has become a lot of fun over this last year, mostly because we get to show off the cool new things we’re putting up in The Tinker’s Packs for charity.

As of now, we’ve pretty much finished shipping out the Geeks Doing Good fundraiser perks, with the exception people who never got back to us about t-shirt sizes. *HINT HINT* So that means we can finally start rolling some of those products out in the store.

But first, a signed book:


Amanda geeked out when she found out John would be in Madison for a signing, and so drove down to see him in all of his sarcastic glory.

She got 10 copies of his newest book, The End of All Things, and he graciously signed them for her, despite her intense fangirling. We’ve got those first edition copies up for grabs right here.

  • Auri’s Gear Temporary Tattoos


This is, apparently, Amanda’s “tough” face. Amanda is hella street.


This is her ‘I am mildly surprised and a bit perplexed by this tattoo on my arm’ face.

There are two tattoos per pack, so you can be double tough. Or, y’know. Single tough twice as long.

They’re available right here.

  • Geek-a-Week decks.


These Geek-aWeek decks are cool, as each card has a geeky celebrity featured on the front with some of their vital stats on the back.

During the fundraiser we actually played a little game of D&D showing one of the best uses I’ve seen for these cards: namely, using them to generate off-the-cuff NPCs with more personality than is generally the case.

Here are some highlights from Season 1 and Season 5:



I’m guessing you can see a lot of familiar faces there.

Decks are available here. And fair warning: quantities are limited.

  • All of the t-shirts


Dear beloved Worldbuilders employees: Do not break each other. This is expressly forbidden in the employee handbook.


All four of the new t-shirts we made for the fundraiser are now live the the store. The team have been wearing theirs with pride, and Amanda, Jeff, and Rachel were all giddy when they saw some out in the wild at my recent signing in LA.

If you missed out on getting one before, or you suddenly thought of a friend who probably needs these, you can pick them up over here:

What Does It Unlock, Waystone Inn, You Have Died of Chandrian, and Polka Will Never Die.

  • Hoodies


Amanda’s been SUPER photogenic lately…


So apparently, this is what my team does when I’m not in the office to keep an eye them. They dress up and take pictures of their butts.

The hoodies were something of an experiment. They’re much more expensive than t-shirts to produce, so they’re more expensive to purchase, and we were worried no one would be interested in them. Or at least not enough people to make them worth the expense, not to mention the storage space.

They went over way better than we thought, and so even though we hadn’t intended to carry them in the store afterwards originally, you swayed us, and you can get your own over here.

  • Draccus for King of Tokyo and King of New York


As I mentioned before, King of Tokyo isn’t just a personal favorite game, it’s captured the hearts of the entire Worldbuilders team. They got together and played it a few weeks back, then posted a bunch of pictures up on the Worldbuilders Blog.

So imagine our delight when the lovely folks that make the game worked with us to create a special promotional character, so you can destroy Tokyo like the giant drug-addled cow-lizard you are.

When we brought this promotional Draccus card to GenCon, we only had about 400 of them, which we thought were plenty to last us the weekend. Even so, we limited it to 50 a day, so folks who only came on Saturday or Sunday still had a chance to pick some up. We sold out every day in just a couple of hours.

But now we have our full shipment of draccuses (dracci?) in the store, and we’re making them available to everyone for the first time.

Fair warning: We have a limited number of these, and once they’re gone, there won’t ever be any more. So if you want one, you might want to grab it sooner rather than later. Personally, I wouldn’t be surprised if they sell out in just a couple of days.

For those of you who’ve never played the game before, I highly recommend it. So we’re selling copies of King of Tokyo and King of New York in the store, too. You can use the draccus in either game.king-of-tokyo-couverture2

And, as always, all the money raised in the Tinker’s Packs goes to charity. So you’re not just buying geeky swag, you’re making the world a better place, too.

* * *

Three final notes before I sign off today.

I’ve decided that I’m going to be fewer events and less overall traveling in 2016. So if you’d like to see me in person, you might want to catch me in some of the following events coming up here at the end of the year, if that’s at all possible.

1. I’m doing a bit of a tour with Paul and Storm on the East Coast this week. There will be stops in Philadelphia, Alexandria, Brooklyn, and Somerville. (Which is not the same as Sunnydale. I checked.)

2. The convention I’ve been helping plan is fast approaching: NerdCon: Stories. It’s going to be a seriously awesome time.

3. Expect another post later this week on the blog. Odds are I’ll have some news to share….

Later Space Cowboys,


Posted in gaming, Novelties, The Tinker's Packs | By Pat13 Responses

The Things My Child Has Taught Me

Last Thursday, right before I launched the fundraiser, I took my son to a movie.

This is a rarity. He’s almost six, but over the years I’ve only seen two movies in the theater with him. (Three now.) But I knew this was going to be our last chance to see Shaun the Sheep on the big screen. And he’s been very good lately, patient and kind with his little brother, understanding when I haven’t been able to spend time with him. So. Movie.

As we were walking across the parking lot, he said, “Dad, what do you wish wasn’t real?”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“Is there anything you wish didn’t exist?” he clarified.

“Ah,” I said. Then, because the Syrian refugees had been on my mind lately, I said. “War.”

He nodded somberly. “I wish global warming didn’t exist,” he said.

I was surprised, but not too surprised. Kids are more aware than we assume, so they soak up more information than we think. And as a result, they worry far more than we ever know. And the worries of a child are huge, horrible fathomless things.

When I was a kid, I worried about nuclear war and running out of oil. The first because I was a child of the 80′s during the cold war, and the second because I learned in school that we only had 25 years of oil left, then we’d run out.

I’m guessing I wasn’t alone in those fears. Enough people were worried about nukes that these days we only have about 20% of what we had back in 1986 (Which is still way too many, but better…) Unfortunately, a bunch of people worried enough about the oil thing in the wrong way, figuring out how to get more oil,  rather than how to make due with less. Now, as a result, my son is worried about global warming.

Anyway, we go watch Shaun the Sheep. It’s great, by the way. You should go watch it with your kids if you get the chance. The DVD shorts are brilliant too, if the movie isn’t playing in your area.


Then on the way back to the car, Oot asks me, “Can we play a game when we get home?”

“I’d like to,” I say, “but I’m busy tonight.”

“That’s okay,” he says quickly. Almost as if he’s embarrassed that he asked.

This is the part of my life I hate the most: constantly having to refuse my son’s polite, increasingly unhopeful requests for my time. But these days he’s old enough for me to explain why I’m busy. So that’s what I decide to do.

“Off in a different country, there is a bad war going on. There are bombs going off, and people with guns. A lot of people are scared. A lot of moms and dads have been taking their children and running away so they can keep their children safe.”

He just listens. I worry I might be doing nothing more than giving him worries for the future. But I’ve already started down this road, so I keep going.

“But when these people run away, they have to leave their houses behind. They don’t have a place to stay, so right now a lot of those families are just sleeping in tents. They don’t have clothes or food. They don’t have toys. There’s a lot of them, and they need help.”

He’s still tuned in, watching me seriously.

“I’d love to play a game with you, but tonight I’m going to try and help those people. Some of the families have tiny babies, but they had to leave everything behind when they ran away. A lot of them don’t have beds to sleep in or blankets to stay warm.”

Then Oot cocks his head and says: “Why don’t they just move in with somebody?”

This strikes me as a good question.

*     *     *

Over the last handful of days, our fundraiser has raised almost $250,000 to help the Syrian Refugees.


This is astounding to me, given the fact that we kinda threw this together. Honestly, I was hoping that we’d manage $100,000, but even that felt like a lot to hope for…

What’s even more impressive to me is *how* the money was raised.

When y’all heard about the fundraiser, you stormed in to help. No hesitation. It was like a flood. It made me so proud, and it made me feel less alone. Amanda told me she cried four times that first day of the fundraiser because y’all were so awesome.

Me? I didn’t cry. I spent the whole day laughing. My heart was full of such joy. I laughed more on that day than I had for the whole month previous.

Worldbuilders offered to match the first $25,000 in donations, and I matched the second $25,000. Then, as many of you know, folks started contacting Worldbuilders to offer up money of their own so we could continue to match donations. By the end of our first 36 hours, four donors had given us another $55,000, enough so we could match all donations up to $105,000.

All four donors wanted to remain anonymous. But even if you don’t know their names, you know they’re awesome.

Thank you everyone. Thank you. Thank you. It sounds strange to say, but I really needed this. We’ve done some real good here.

And the fundraiser isn’t over yet.

*    *     *

Our fundraiser is running for a few more days until late Friday night. So if you haven’t donated yet, there’s still time.

What’s more, we’ve had two more anonymous donors come in and offer to help some matching funds for our final days: one for $5,000 dollars, and one for $3,000.

That means all donations up to $151,600 will be matched. And… Ah, what the hell. I’ll kick in enough to bring it up to a nice even number, and we’ll match all donations up to an even $155,000.

[Edit: Hey guys, Amanda here. Just for clarity's sake, all donations from the $141,600 we were at when this blog was posted this morning until we hit $155,000 will be matched.]

I’m pretty confident we can hit that in the next couple days. And I’m curious to see how much further we can go….

*     *     *

Answers to a few questions:

  • “Why did you decide to raise funds for Mercy Corps?”

Many reasons, but here’s the highlights:

  • 93% of their staff live in and are from the countries where they work – giving them unique insight into the recovery and building long term effects toward resiliency
  • They help when an emergency occurs, but then stay beyond afterwards to help with long term recovery
  • Mercy Corps has earned the highest ratings for efficiency, accountability and transparency from independent charity watchdog groups
  • Over the last five years, 87 percent of Mercy Corps resources have gone directly to help people in need around the world

That said, there are other charities I would have happily thrown in with if Mercy Corps hadn’t been around.

For example, Neil Gaiman’s support for the UNHCR is well deserved. Neil has been out to visit the refugees. He’s been supporting this cause for ages, long before it recently became popular in the media.

Because I live under a heavy rock sometimes, I hadn’t been aware that Patrick Ness apparently got fed up with all of this in much the same way I did, and ran a fundraiser for Save the Children. Tons of YA authors jumped in to help match funds with his fundraiser too. Folks like Hank Green, John Green, Maureen Johnson, Phillip Pullman, Cressida Cowell, Holly Black, and more.

Yeah. Further proof that people are awesome.

  • “So what will this money be doing?”

Many things. Because I think in terms of stories rather than factoids, let me share a couple people’s stories with you.


Houda, 13, was an excellent student in Syria with lofty dreams for her future. When the conflict became too much to bear, her family fled to Lebanon — where they’ve resorted to using a cowshed as their temporary home.

“I haven’t been to school in over two years,” Houda told us. “I loved my school and I miss going to class and seeing friends.” She attends programs at one of Mercy Corps’ Child Friendly Spaces, which provide play and psychosocial support for children who have endured trauma, but she hopes to return to school one day.

“I don’t know what the future will bring, but I have not lost my dream of becoming a doctor someday…or maybe an artist. I’m not sure yet.”


25-year-old Zeena was a university student with great aspirations until violent clashes erupted around her home in Syria. She studied philosophy and law and planned to become a human rights lawyer, but those dreams were put on hold when her family was forced to flee to Arbat Transit Camp, a tent settlement in northern Iraq.

There, her studying was replaced with daily chores like cleaning the family’s living space, collecting water and taking care of her brothers.

But Zeena has since found a positive outlet for her energy in Mercy Corps’ conflict negotiation program. She underwent training to become an official negotiator in the camp, and now helps settle disputes between its growing number of residents.


In Syria, 10-year-old Omran had a fun-loving childhood: He went to school, played with friends and enjoyed helping his dad with his construction work. When the conflict uprooted his family and sent them to Jordan in search of safety — they now reside in Zaatari Refugee Camp — Omran became distraught and angry.

“I miss Syria and my home. I miss school and playing with my friends,” he says. “I miss swimming. I played soccer with my cousins and friends in the field behind our house. I miss my house and the graves of my two brothers the most.”

In Zaatari, Omran plays soccer every day through Mercy Corps’ sports therapy program, which uses sports to give refugee children the opportunity to make friends and cope with stress. “That’s the only thing that relieves me,” he says.

  • “What the hell is happening in Syria anyway?”

To answer this question more effectively than I ever could, I’m going to turn to John Green, who made an excellent video about the history and current implications of the crisis.

  • “Why don’t they just move in with someone?”

This is a good question. But the fact that there are more than 4 million refugees make it hard to answer.

The US has offered to accept 10,000 in the next year. And the first thing we have to say is that this is good. It’s a good thing. It’s more than we were doing, and it’s a good first step.

But the next thing we should probably admit is that it’s a very small step toward resolving the overall crisis.

It’s a big topic. But once you strip away all the outer layers, it comes down to the fact that there are families with nowhere to stay. People who left everything behind to to keep their children safe. Families that own nothing. Kids with no beds to sleep in.


If you were in that situation, you’d want someone to help you. To give you a place to stay. Helping people who have been screwed by circumstance is the humanitarian thing to do. It’s the human thing to do.

But the fact remains that even if everyone did suddenly, magically, have places to go. It would take a long time to sort it all out, and they need help now.

So for now, we’re going to do what we can to help.

If you want to throw in with us, here’s the link to our fundraiser.

Thanks for reading, everyone…


Posted in calling on the legions, Oot | By Pat20 Responses

Doing What We Can

Over the last year, I’ve been reading the Little House on the Prairie books to my oldest boy. I ended up reading the sixth book, The Long Winter, in the middle of a bitterly cold January at my father’s cabin in the north woods of Wisconsin.

I have to say, I’ve rarely been more caught up in a book. Without going into too much detail, it tells the story of how the Ingalls family lived through a truly horrific winter out on the frontier back in the 1880′s.

So there I am, in a Little Cabin in the Big Woods of Wisconsin. It’s 30 below outside, (-34 Celsius). Then, at 2:00 am, the LP tank runs out of gas.


For you city dwellers, an LP tank is like a big propane tank for your house if you live out in the country. It provides natural gas for your stove, your water heater, and… well, your furnace.

So the cabin starts getting cold, and my dad and I haul in wood and light a fire in the old cast-iron stove. We feed it all night, and make it til morning without much trouble. The place has modern insulation, after all. The kids stay warm with extra blankets and the water pipes don’t freeze. Still, it’s an eye-opener.

That night I read a few more chapters to my boy about a pioneer family trying to survive in a building that’s not much more than a wooden shack. No insulation. No electricity. Cut off from civilization due to blizzards. They have a stove too, but there’s no coal. No firewood. They keep alive by burning hay. All they have to eat is potatoes. Then even the potatoes run out and they have nothing to eat but grain.

It goes on for months, and while I’m reading, all I can think is: How can people possibly survive like this?

The next morning, I stumble onto an article about the Syrian refugees. Lebanon just had its worst blizzard in a decade. Feet of snow. And most refugees don’t even have a clapboard shack for shelter. They’ve got tents. Tarps. They have nothing. They’re freezing to death. Kids are freezing to death in the snow.

So I call Maria.

*     *     *

As many of you know, I have a charity called Worldbuilders. We raise money from the geek community and use it to make the world a better place. Over the last several years we’ve raised about 3.5 million dollars.

Worldbuilders-Logo_Web - crop smaller

We work primarily with Heifer International because they offer the biggest bang for our buck. Heifer focuses on providing people with tools, education, and infrastructure so that they can become self-reliant forever. It’s the whole teach-a-person-to-fish thing. Except Heifer is actually better than that, because they also teach people to teach *other* people to fish. Which means the good they do is like an ever-growing avalanche rolling forward into the future.

I used to run Worldbuilders, but not anymore. These days Maria runs it, because she’s roughly 8000 times better at it than I ever was.

So I call Maria up and say, “Syrian Refugees are freezing to death. Can Worldbuilders give them some money to help?”

There’s a pause on the other end of the phone. Maria isn’t surprised. She’s just thinking. I call her like this all the time, saying things like: “I need a map of 18th century Ghent,” or “Why don’t we sell greeting cards in our online store? Can we get than ready by tomorrow?” or “Is it illegal for me to have a laser gun? And if so, how illegal? And also, can you find someone to build me a laser gun?”

It says a lot about Maria that she has never tried to choke me. Not even once.

So Maria is quiet on the phone for about 8 seconds, processing. Then she says, “We’d need to make sure the money goes to the right place.”

“There’s a place called Mercy Corps,” I said. “I haven’t checked them out completely, but they seem solid. Also, right now someone is offering matching funds, so if we hurry, we’ll be able to double up on our donation.”

“Okay,” Maria says. “I think that’s workable.”

Now I hesitate. “I worry that people might be upset if we support another charity,” I say. “We talk a lot about Heifer. I don’t want people to feel like we’re pulling a switch on them.”

“We’ve made donations to First Book,” Maria points out. “No one was bothered by that.”

“True,” I say. “But this isn’t the sort of charity we normally support. It’s not about education or sustainability. But long-term help isn’t appropriate here. These people don’t have anything. They need blankets. They need heaters and fuel.”

“I think we should do it,” Maria says.

“But when people donate or buy something in our store, they’re trusting us to put the money to good use,” I say. “I don’t want to risk that trust by changing charities on them all of a sudden. How about I give some money to Worldbuilders, then Worldbuilders donates it to Mercy Corps? That seems safer.”

“If that’s the way you want to do it,” Maria says. “I’ll look into them and make sure it’s a good charity.”

And that’s what we did. It was different for us. Worldbuilders usually tries to work for long-term change, but we knew this donation wouldn’t solve the refugee problem. It won’t give them homes and jobs. But you can’t teach someone to fish when they’re freezing to death. Sometimes all you can do is keep people warm. Sometimes all you can do help a little, and that has to be enough.

*     *     *

Fast forward to now.

Unless you’ve been living under a heavy rock, you’ve been hearing a lot about the Syrian refugees lately. I’ve heard there’s a picture of a little boy that drowned trying to get somewhere safe. I haven’t seen it, and I’m not going to go looking for it either. I don’t want to see it, and I wouldn’t put something like that in my blog.

Instead, here’s a picture of The Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan.


Its population is 79,900. Making it the fourth largest city in the country. There’s a lot of kids there. 

I can’t imagine what it would be like, having to flee my country with my kids. I can’t imagine abandoning everything just hoping to keep my little boys safe. I can’t imagine what it would be like to live in a tent and just hope desperately that someone helps me.

Actually that’s not true. I can imagine what it’s like. I can imagine *exactly* what it’s like. I’m a writer. That’s what I do. I can imagine it and it’s horrifying.

This video touches on the edge of it. It’s a only a minute and a half long. You have the time.

My imagination is much worse than that. It makes it hard for me to sleep at night. 

Every day I see more of this stuff. And every day it makes me feel more helpless. Hopeless. Angry at the world.

Then I saw this:


This woman is named Petra Laszlo. She’s a journalist. This picture shows her tripping a refugee carrying a child in his arms. (Story here if you like.)

It’s been days since I first saw this. And I am still so angry. I’m so angry I can feel it in my chest. My skin prickles. I’m so angry that I can’t even describe it to you. I have no words for it. Nothing is big enough.

I believe that people are good. I really do. It’s one of the truths I live my life by. It’s one of the things I cling to when I have trouble sleeping at night. I’ve seen such proof of it through the years. From my children. From my readers. From the fact that so many people come together to make Worldbuilders a success.

But this. It’s makes me wonder if maybe I’m wrong. 

I hate that this is the world. And I’m so angry. And I’m tired of feeling like I can’t do anything to help.

So I call Maria.

*     *     *

So. For the next week, Worldbuilders is raising money to help the Syrian refugees.

What’s more, Worldbuilders will be matching donations for the first $25,000 of the fundraiser. So if you kick in 10 bucks, it turns into 20. Donate $50? We’ll turn it into a $100.


(Like this.)

100% of the money from this fundraiser will be donated to Mercy Corps, because they’re already on the ground, helping out the refugees. They have more than 30 years of experience doing this sort of thing. We’ve checked them out and they’re excellent.

I’m taking a flier on this one, folks. It’s an experiment. We haven’t planned this the way we normally do. We aren’t giving out prizes. There aren’t any stretch goals. We don’t have any media lined up to help us spread the word.

This is just about helping people who are in desperate need of help.

And honestly? It’s kinda ridiculous for us to do this now. Our big end-of-the-year fundraiser in November, we should be focusing on that. That would be the smart thing for us to do.

But the simple truth is this: I can’t just watch this happen any more. I need to do something to help. I’m guessing a lot of you feel the same way, so I thought I’d give us a chance to do it together.

I don’t want to feel angry and hopeless any more. I want to see more pictures like this:


If this isn’t your kind of charity, I completely understand. Rest assured that Worldbuilders will be doing its regular fundraising extravaganza in a couple months.

But if you want to help, you can do it over here.

Thanks for reading to the end, folks. I appreciate it.


Edit 9:47 am: I posted this blog late last night, not knowing what the reaction might be. Whenever you reach out to people like this, it’s a risk. What’s more, I hadn’t done a lot of planning, and I was worried it might not go over well. Around 4:00 I finally managed to get to sleep.

A few minutes ago I woke up, blearily checked my phone, and saw that we’ve raised over $28,000. I’ve never been so happy to be awake after only 5 hours of sleep. And I’m going to give Worldbuilders another 25,000 dollars so they can keep matching donations. I’d love to see this thing keep rolling.

Edit 1:28 pm: We just hit $50,000 and within minutes, someone dropped us an e-mail, offering to provide us another $25,000 to help us continue matching donations. She would like to remain anonymous. But I salute her generosity, as it means all donations up to $75,000 are going to be doubled. 

I am having the best day ever.

Edit 6:18 pm: We just hit $75,000, and another lovely human being has stepped up with $5000 dollars so we can continue to match donations. I’m not sure if he wants to remain anonymous or not, but until we know, we’ll keep his name private. Named or not, he’s the reason donations are being matched up to $80,000.

Edit 8:05 pm: Just when we were closing in on $80,000 we got an e-mail from someone who offered to match another $20,000 dollars. When I saw the e-mail I actually laughed out loud. I’ve been laughing so much today, and it’s all because of you guys.

Thanks to our newest citizen philanthropist, we’re now matching all donations up to $100,000 dollars.

(If anyone else cares to drop us a line, our e-mail is

Posted in calling on the legions, Worldbuilders | By Pat76 Responses

Using Your Words

If you read this blog (and I’m guessing most of you do) you know I tell a lot of stories about my older boy, Oot, who’s creeping up on 6.

I have another son, who’s a little over 18 months old. I don’t talk about him as much for the simple reason that when you’re that young, there aren’t as many stories to share. Babies are, to be completely honest, fairly useless. They can’t do much, either physically or conversationally.


But Cutie Snoo has been talking more lately. What’s more, he’s started saying “dada” again, after a few months of heartbreaking hiatus.

It’s a fascinating time in a kid’s development. He’s learning how to express himself, and if you’re good at interpreting, you can get a little window into how his charmingly unspoiled little baby mind works.

Tonight, I ended up having to do a fair amount of work (because that’s what Labor Day is all about, right? Working until 9:30 pm?) and as a result, I missed my kid’s bedtime. By the time I wrapped up the things that needed immidate attention and opened the door to my office, the house was dark and quiet.

Still, I crept into the room where they sleep with Sarah. It was dark and as I stepped close she said, “the end,” finishing what was no doubt their bedtime story.

“dada” Cutie said.

I crawled into the bed and lay next to him. It’s a big bed, but I still had to move carefully because he’s so tiny and it’s so dark.

I smooched him, and he squirmed around a little bit until he was nestled next to Sarah, then he said: “my mama.”

There’s only so much that text can do to replicate a baby’s speech. Most linguists agree that nonverbal communication (which includes things like tone, inflection, and body language) accounts for about 80% of the total information transmitted when we talk. But when you’re a baby and your entire sentence is two words, that number is pushed even higher.

Here’s part of what he was saying: “My mom is here.”

But he was also saying, “Look at me, cuddled up against my mom.”

But he was also saying, “Look, this is my space. There are boobs, like, right here, and they’re great, and that’s kinda my thing, and I’m going to sleep next to them. So just be clear, I’m glad you’re here, but don’t try to pull any shit with me. This is *my* mom. Okay? Okay.”

(In his defense, I do sometimes tease him by trying to steal the boobs from him while he’s nursing. So this is not an unfounded fear on his part.)

Last and not least, he was also saying, “Isn’t this great?”

It was clear as day what he meant. And now that I was closer to him and my eyes had adjusted a little, I could see him smiling. His tone was so contented that it was actually kinda smug. And his body language… he wasn’t just relaxed. He was deliberately and theatrically lounging.

It made me realize how awesome his life is. Think about it. How cool must it be to go to sleep next to the person you love without any reservation? The person who is, in effect, three quarters of the known universe? To know if you are hungry or need comfort or a cuddle, a boob is right there. Like, literally, right by your head. To know that you’re cared for. To know you’ll be taken care of. To not have any fears or worries that ride you into the night and make you wake up sweating?

What must that be like, to feel like that for days at a time?

I’m not going to lie. Thinking about it now, I’m more than slightly jealous.

But at the moment, I was jealous for a different reason. He’d said, “My mama” with such smugness and satisfaction, but he’s never said, “my dada.”

I should be better than that, I know. But I’m not. I’m not going to carry a grudge or anything, but still, I can be jealous.

“My baby,” I say, and I kiss his belly.

I say goodnight to him, and give more kisses, and promise that tomorrow I’ll try to spend more time with him.

“Bye,” he says. “Go. Go!” he pushes at me with his foot. This might sound like a dick move. But it was playful. Not mean. And there’s nothing wrong with letting someone know what you really want. If I was all geared up to snuggle with a boob as big as my head and someone was there who might ruin it for me… well… I’d kick them the hell out of my bed, too.

I get up and I say goodnight to Oot, too. (He’s on the other side of Sarah.)

Then I get up and start to leave. “Goodnight my family,” I say.

“My dada,” Cutie says, and I get all melty inside.

“My baby,” I say.

“He’s reaching up for you.” Sarah tells me, because she knows I can’t see him in the dim.

So I get down into the bed and kiss him again. A lot. On their deathbed, nobody ever says, “I wasted my life kissing babies.”

Still. Oot has school in the morning. I know I’m keeping them all from getting to sleep. So I get up.

“Mo,” Cutie says. This is one of his other few words: more.

“Mo dada,” he says. In the dark, I can see he’s reaching up again. “Mo my dada. Mo bebe dada. No bye dada bebe.”

I think it was Robert Bly who said vocabulary wasn’t important for a writer. He claimed you could write marvelous poetry even if you only knew 200 words, so long as you knew how to use them properly to get your point across…

He’s not wrong.

Later all,


Posted in babies, Cutie Snoo, day in the life | By Pat33 Responses

NerdCon: Why Stories Matter

So let me tell you a story.

Years ago, I met someone named Hank Green in an accidental way through social media. I’d watched a couple of his videos and liked them. He’d read my book and enjoyed it. He offered to help out with my charity. I offered to help out with his.

I didn’t know him very well, but he struck me as a cool person who was working to make the world a better place. Best of all, he had a fine-tuned sense of the ridiculous, as shown in the Stretch Goal he did for Worldbuilders, where he shot a video of himself seducing a tree.

When I saw that, I knew he was my kind of crazy.

A couple months after we’d met, Hank dropped me an e-mail. It went kinda like this.

Hey Pat,

I do a thing called Vidcon, and I was wondering if there’s a convention where authors and people who love books would get together and… y’know… talk about books and stuff.

If there isn’t, there really should be. And I’d like to make it happen.

You seem to know the book world and a lot of book-type people. What do you think?


Now, before I go any further, I need to point out that I’m paraphrasing a lot here. This was about two years ago, and I can easily forget what I had for breakfast any given day.

That said, I remember the first thing that came to mind, reading this e-mail. I thought, “Wow. That’s adorable.”

I’m not proud of that thought, but it’s what popped into my head. The second thing was, “Science fiction fandom is where the whole convention thing started. We’ve been doing conventions for, like, 50 years. There’s a ton of book-type conventions.”

My third thought was, “I should give him a call. Planning a convention is a nightmare. He doesn’t want to go down that rabbit hole.”

Did I mention that I’d only known Hank for a little bit at that point? And that sometimes I can be unutterably dim? My only real excuse is that my youngest boy had been born just a couple weeks before that, so I wasn’t really performing at optimum efficiency.

Luckily, my assistant Amanda e-mailed me before I could make a total ass of myself.

He’s serious,” Amanda told me. “He does this sort of thing all the time. He’s good at it.

Amanda explained that Hank wasn’t just a guy that sometimes made videos and did a charity thing. She explained about the Nerdfighters. She explained to me that Hank was one of the people who had founded Vidcon.

“What’s a Vidcon?” I asked, dimly remembering the term from somewhere in my distant past.

It’s a convention,” Amanda said. “For people who make videos on YouTube. Hank mentioned it in the e-mail he sent, remember?

“No,” I said.

*     *     *

CKuzM1VUEAA2XLN(Since then, I’ve been to Vidcon. And a good time was had by all.)

Thanks to Amanda, my vast ignorance wasn’t the stumbling block it might have been. I called Hank and told him that there were bookish conventions, many of them quite well-established (Worldcon has been happening since 1939, for example.)

But I also talked about other conventions that I’d been to over the last several years. About how the ones that felt the most electric and alive were the newer cons. The comic-cons and Game cons like PAX. While I loved meeting up with other authors and readers, a lot of the book-centered conventions felt kinda…. well… stuffy by comparison.

Hank talked about building community, about making a place where we could celebrate stories, about making a place where everyone would feel welcome.

I talked about a lot of the people I’d come to know over the years, authors who were smart and funny and full of enthusiasm. People who were good on panels.

Hank talked about bringing people in who were performers. Musicians and storytellers. Podcasters. Actors. He talked about doing programming that was more dynamic. He talked about people singing and playing games and having fun.

At first I was just chatting with Hank about general ideas. What the convention could be. What it shouldn’t be. This was easy for me, as I’ve probably hit more than a hundred conventions in recent years. Then I recommended some authors who were funny and smart and articulate. Then I was contacting the authors to see if they were interested, and to sell them on the idea of the convention.

Before I knew it I was helping plan the programming and enjoying the hell out of myself.

*     *     *

Fast forward to now. Nerd Con: Stories is happening in just a month or so. It’s October 9-10th in Minneapolis.


I’m really ridiculously excited about this convention.

It’s going to be different than any convention I’ve ever been to, and I can say that with some authority because I’ve been helping plan it. I’ve invited some of my favorite people to attend, and helped put together some of the best programming I’ve ever seen.

It’s going to be fun, folks. There will be singing and signing. There will be bad poetry and puppets. We will talk about the shape of stories. I will have a serious geek out because the folks from Nightvale are going to be there….


Cecil Baldwin, Jeffrey Cranor, Joseph Fink, and many others will be there, speaking on panels and playing games like, “Guess what’s in my mouth” on stage.


(Just a few of the cool people we have coming to the convention.)

A week ago, Amanda and I went out to Minneapolis with the rest of the team to check out the convention center, and honestly? I was stunned.


I’ve been to a lot of conventions where the events spaces are composed pretty much entirely of a bunch of stacking chairs in hotel conference rooms. And while that isn’t necessarily bad. This… well… it’s something completely different. It’s beautiful there.

Mpls Convention Center 4

Nice theater seating, comfortable chairs, good acoustics….

We’ll be talking about why stories matter. And we’ll be talking about the craft of writing. I’ll be leading an improvisational story game called The Adventures of Baron Von Munchhausen, and leading a team as Captain in a game of Artemis as well.

There’s going to be an open mic session every night. There will be book signings and a dealer’s room for you to go buy nerdy goodness in. The Worldbuilders Team will be there. Harry and the Potters will be there. Paul & Storm will be there….

Author crop2

(A lot of people will be there….)

Here’s the deal: It’s only a month away, and the con is selling out pretty quickly. What’s more, the block of rooms we have reserved at the nearby hotel is going to be gone pretty soon. So if you’d like to come (or if you want to get a cheap room for your stay) you’ll need to decide soon.

And you want to come. Trust me on this. Imagine what it would be like getting to go to the very first Worldcon back in the day. The first PAX. The first Comic-Con.

If you want to be at the first NerdCon, you can register here.

I hope to see many of you there….


Posted in conventions, cool things, geeking out, signing books | By Pat41 Responses

Thoughts on Pratchett – [Part 1]

Earlier this year, when I was in Germany on tour, Terry Pratchett died.

It didn’t come as a complete shock. We’ve known for ages that he was sick. We’ve had years to brace for the inevitable impact.

Even so, it hit me surprisingly hard. I hadn’t expected that.

Odds are, if you know much anything about me, you know I’ve been a fan of Pratchett for years. If you follow me on goodreads you’ve seen me write reviews so gushy that they border on the inarticulate.

Terry Pratchett – Facing Extinction

I didn’t know him. Honestly, I didn’t even know too much about him. I saw him speak once at a convention in Madison, and got to meet him very briefly. I wrote about it on the blog.

The fact remains that his work (and a few of the things I knew about him) had a huge impact on me.

So… yeah. It hit me kinda hard.

If you’re in your 20′s and 30′s and reading this blog on the interweb, it may be hard for you to understand that our opinions about authors used to come almost entirely from reading their books. Even after the internet crawled gasping onto the devonian shore of the 1990′s things like social media and author blogs simply didn’t exist in any meaningful way.

As a result, one of my first exposures to Terry Pratchett as a person was in an interview in the Onion back in 1995. Just to give you an idea of the time frame. That was back when you could pick up a copy of The Onion printed on paper. What’s more, it available *only* on paper, and even then, you could only get it in my home town of Madison, WI.

What Pratchett said in that interview had a big effect on me, as I’d been working on my own novel for a couple years at that point.

It took some digging (as I said, this was published pre-internet) but here’s the interview:

O: What’s with the big-ass hat?

Pratchett: Ah… That’s the hat I wear. I don’t know, it… It… That hat, or types like it, I’ve worn for years and years. Because I bought one, and I liked it. And then people started taking photographs of me in it, and now, certainly in the UK, it’s almost a case of if I don’t turn up in my hat people don’t know who I am. So maybe I could just send this hat to signings. I just like hats. I like Australian book tours, because Australians are really, I mean that is the big hat country, Australia.

O: You’re quite a writer. You’ve a gift for language, you’re a deft hand at plotting, and your books seem to have an enormous amount of attention to detail put into them. You’re so good you could write anything. Why write fantasy?

Pratchett: I had a decent lunch, and I’m feeling quite amiable. That’s why you’re still alive. I think you’d have to explain to me why you’ve asked that question.

O: It’s a rather ghettoized genre.

P: This is true. I cannot speak for the US, where I merely sort of sell okay. But in the UK I think every book— I think I’ve done twenty in the series— since the fourth book, every one has been one the top ten national bestsellers, either as hardcover or paperback, and quite often as both. Twelve or thirteen have been number one. I’ve done six juveniles, all of those have nevertheless crossed over to the adult bestseller list. On one occasion I had the adult best seller, the paperback best-seller in a different title, and a third book on the juvenile bestseller list. Now tell me again that this is a ghettoized genre.

O: It’s certainly regarded as less than serious fiction.

P:  (Sighs) Without a shadow of a doubt, the first fiction ever recounted was fantasy. Guys sitting around the campfire— Was it you who wrote the review? I thought I recognized it— Guys sitting around the campfire telling each other stories about the gods who made lightning, and stuff like that. They did not tell one another literary stories. They did not complain about difficulties of male menopause while being a junior lecturer on some midwestern college campus. Fantasy is without a shadow of a doubt the ur-literature, the spring from which all other literature has flown. Up to a few hundred years ago no one would have disagreed with this, because most stories were, in some sense, fantasy. Back in the middle ages, people wouldn’t have thought twice about bringing in Death as a character who would have a role to play in the story. Echoes of this can be seen in Pilgrim’s Progress, for example, which hark back to a much earlier type of storytelling. The epic of Gilgamesh is one of the earliest works of literature, and by the standard we would apply now— a big muscular guys with swords and certain godlike connections— That’s fantasy. The national literature of Finland, the Kalevala. Beowulf in England. I cannot pronounce Bahaghvad-Gita but the Indian one, you know what I mean. The national literature, the one that underpins everything else, is by the standards that we apply now, a work of fantasy.

Now I don’t know what you’d consider the national literature of America, but if the words Moby Dick are inching their way towards this conversation, whatever else it was, it was also a work of fantasy. Fantasy is kind of a plasma in which other things can be carried. I don’t think this is a ghetto. This is, fantasy is, almost a sea in which other genres swim. Now it may be that there has developed in the last couple of hundred years a subset of fantasy which merely uses a different icongraphy, and that is, if you like, the serious literature, the Booker Prize contender. Fantasy can be serious literature. Fantasy has often been serious literature. You have to fairly dense to think that Gulliver’s Travels is only a story about a guy having a real fun time among big people and little people and horses and stuff like that. What the book was about was something else. Fantasy can carry quite a serious burden, and so can humor. So what you’re saying is, strip away the trolls and the dwarves and things and put everyone into modern dress, get them to agonize a bit, mention Virginia Woolf a few times, and there! Hey! I’ve got a serious novel. But you don’t actually have to do that.

(Pauses) That was a bloody good answer, though I say it myself.

I’m looking forward to buying myself a cheese hat.

O: Back to the hat.

P: Let’s go back to the hat… Everybody needs an edge, and if the hat gives you an edge, why not wear a hat? When you get started writing, you’re one of the crowd. If the hat helps, I’ll wear a hat— I’ll wear two hats! In fact, I’m definitely going to buy a cheese hat before I leave here. We’ve never heard of them in the UK, and I can see it as being the latest thing in fashion.

Okay, you can turn the tape back off again.

I actually remember where I was when I read that. Right now, twenty years later, I remember where I was sitting as I held the paper and read it.

I’m not going to be cliche and say it changed my life.

You know what? I am. I’m going to say it. It changed my life.

Remember what year this was. It was 1995. This was before Harry Potter was written. Before Neil Gaiman wrote Neverwhere.

Pixar has just released its first movie. There was no Matrix. No Sixth Sense. No Lord of The Rings movies. Pan’s Labyrinth and Hellboy were a decade away.

There was no Game of Thrones on HBO. Hell, there wasn’t even Legend of the Seeker. Buffy the Vampire Slayer was 2 years away, and even more years from being recognized as brilliant television, rather than silly fluff with vampires.

I had been writing my fantasy novel for about two years, and while I loved fantasy, I knew deep down, it was something I should feel ashamed of. Fantasy novels were the books I read as a kid, and people picked on me for it. There were no classes on the subject at the University. I knew deep down in my bones that no matter how much I happened to love fantasy, it was all silly bullshit.

Even these days, people look down on fantasy. They think of it as kid stuff. They dismiss it as worthless. They say not real literature. People say that *NOW* despite the fact that Game of Thrones and The Hobbit and Avengers and Harry Potter are bigger than The Beatles.

That’s NOW. If you weren’t around back then, you really can’t begin to understand how much worse it was. When I told people I was working on a fantasy novel, a lot of people wouldn’t even really know what I was talking about.

I would say, “I’m writing a fantasy novel” and people would look at me with earnest confusion and concern in their eyes, and they would say, “Why?”

Then I read that article, and it filled me with hope. With pride.

*     *     *

I’ve got more to say on this, but this blog is already really long. And I’m leaving for PAX in the morning, so I’ll save the rest for next week

Be good to each other everyone,


Posted in emo bullshit, European Adventures, Fantasy, Stories about stories., the longest fucking blog ever, the man behind the curtain, travel abroad | By Pat76 Responses
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