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So I’m guessing some of you like stories….

Heya Everybody,

There’s a few projects we’ve been working on over here at RothCo. Some of them for years and years. The biggest of these is the website renovation. I’ve wanted a new website for 8 years, and we’ve been working on it for ages.

And now, believe it or not, it looks like we’re going to be able to launch it by the end of the year.

But here’s the thing. One of the big problems with the current website is that it didn’t really show off the blog properly. Because when we created the website, I didn’t know I’d be writing a blog. Or at least I didn’t know I’d be writing a blog as extensive as mine has ended up becoming.

Over the last decade, I’ve written stories I’m proud of. Some funny. Some sad. Some strange. I’d like to show those blogs off to people who swing by the new website, or to people who have only tuned into the blog in the last couple years, and have no way to find those old stories except to troll through

I have a few that I remember that I’m proud of, but to tell you the truth, I wrote a lot of them a long time ago. A lot of times, people say, “I love that blog you wrote about your dog,” and I honestly can’t remember writing it.

So if you have a blog you’re particularly fond of, could you let me know down in the comments below? Preferably with a link?

Thanks,

pat

Also posted in blogging, calling on the legions | By Pat140 Responses

Worldbuilders 2015: The Wrap Up

As some of you can guess by the fact that I’m posting blogs again, I’m mostly recovered from our big end-of-year fundraiser, followed by the holidays. What’s more, the Worldbuilders team has recently finished shipping out the last of this year’s prizes.

One of the things we do when we’re wrapping up the yearly fundraiser, is look back over the previous year. We look at our numbers, sift through data, we assess our current projects and think about where we’re going to focus our attentions in the future. (More about this later.)

This is oddly dangerous ground for me. Because, the truth is, every year before we launch our big End of Year fundraiser, I worry about Worldbuilders.

You see, I always want Worldbuilders to be better than the year before. I want us to be bigger, raising more money, working with more people, doing new and exciting things. I want us to continue growing and being a force for good in the world.

But on the other hand, I know the key to happiness is reasonable expectations. 2014 was our first million-dollar year. It’ a level of success that would’ve seemed unattainable to me a couple years ago. So for me to demand we do even *better* than that… it seems somehow arrogant, if not just downright silly.

The problem is my brain. For me, it’s a short step from this:

Two Million Dollars sketch1

To this:

Two Million Dollars sketch2

This is a constant dance I do mentally, I want the charity to be awesome, but I also want to be emotionally healthy. What’s more, I want to be a good boss, and reasonable expectations are a huge part of that. How awful would it be if we ran a fundraiser, made a million dollars, and felt like we’d failed?

The truth is, Worldbuilders raised a million dollars in 2014. And if we never, ever got bigger than that, we would still be an awesome charity.

That said, in 2015 we *did* raise more than two million dollars.

worldbuilder(1)(Which is kinda awesome.)

This is counting the our mid-season Geeks Doing Good campaign on Indiegogo. And our completely-impromptu fundraiser for the Syrian Refugees. We had a huge outpouring of support from the community that caused both of those to be delightful successes.

So, let’s look at some graphs. Because as much as I love the words, sometimes it’s easier to grok this stuff graphically.

WorldbuildersPlusMatching

 

That’s almost a mind-numbing amount of money. Because of it, villages will get clean and reliable water for the first time. There will be a ton of fruit trees planted, to increase air quality and provide healthy food. Parents will be able to feed their kids milk and eggs. Families will be able to generate income that will give them control over their own lives, letting them have better homes, education for their children, and a brighter future.

This also shows very visibly that y’all are willing to come along with us to support other worthwhile causes like helping with the Syrian refugees.

But that’s not the only cool thing going on. Check this out.

PieChart_DonorPercentage

This is a really cool piece of data for me. It means people who donated $60 or less made up 22% of our total for our big End of Year fundraiser.

Every year I hear people say, “I was only able to give $20….” as if they felt guilty about it. As if they weren’t *really* helping.

So check out that graph. That proves what I say every year. There really aren’t any small donations. And it’s by working together that we are mighty. If you’re one of the folks who helped out with 20 or 30 bucks, I want you to know that together with your brethren and sistren, it added up to a huge piece of money.

Individual-Donors_Final

There were 3,824 new donors this year who have never participated in Worldbuilders before. Considering we had 7100 unique donors, that’s a RIDICULOUS number of new donors. More than half of you stepped up and participated even though you’d never done so before.

Unique Donors_Final

Across all fundraisers, we had almost 14,000 unique donors. We are growing every year thanks to you guys. This was the first year we shipped prizes in January. We also finished shipping prizes last week, which is by far the fastest we’ve gotten prizes out.

It’s almost like we’re getting better at this stuff.

*     *     *

On that note, we’re already looking toward the future. We’re constantly trying to improve the fundraiser, deciding where to devote our energies.

To do a good job at that, we need as much data as we can get. We’d like to know what you like about the fundraiser, how you’ve participated, and what you think about some ideas we have for the future.

If you’re willing to help us out, the survey is right here. It won’t take too long, and it’ll do a lot of good in terms of helping us make good plans so we can keep growing in the right direction.

Thanks everyone. You warm my bitter old heart.

pat

Also posted in Worldbuilders 2015 | By Pat21 Responses

Pontificating on True Monsters

A while back, the some folks contacted me and asked if I’d like to talk about monsters and stories and mythology and stuff for a show they were putting together for the History Channel.

(I’m paraphrasing, of course.)

It wasn’t a hard decision. I’m all about talking about stories and mythology. Stuff is right up my alley, too.

And… Ah… who are we kidding? I just like to talk. If I didn’t have access to the internet, I’d constantly be pulling Ancient Mariner bullshit on people.

Anyway, the first episode went up last week Friday. Here’s a little teaser.

You can watch the entire episode right here. Brandon Sanderson is there too, better dressed and more articulate than me.

Before you rush over there and get your hopes up, I’m not in much of the episode. Part of this is because I didn’t have much to say about things like the Jersey Devil or Hel (The Norse Hel).

But a contributing factor is the fact that I have trouble talking in soundbites. Anyone who has seen me on panels at conventions knows this. When I’m asked a question, your best case scenario is that I’m going to talk a paragraph at you. More often my answer will probably be a little story of its own with its own distinct narrative arc. It’s the only way I really know how to talk. That doesn’t translate well onto camera.

Super impressed with my shiny name

Also, I was so impressed with how shiny my name was that I wore this expression all the way through the interview.

Seriously though, I spent most of my interview telling stories, making jokes, and cussing with extravagant flamboyance. Which, in retrospect, probably wasn’t what they were looking for. Though I do remember getting good laughs off the camera crew…

There are going to be 3 more episodes. I’m particularly curious about how #3 turned out: Gods and Monsters. I remember talking at some length about Loki fucking a horse. Which… now that I’m thinking of it… they might not put that in the episode either.

Blowing it off 2

Anyway, here’s the schedule:

  • Cannibals and Killers – Friday, October 16th, 2015 at 10pm EST / 9pm CST
  • Gods and Monsters – Friday, October 23rd, 2015 at 10pm EST / 9pm CST
  • Giants and Beasts – Friday, October 30th, 2015 at 10pm EST / 9pm CST

You could make a drinking game out of it. Every time they put me on the screen – take a drink. Every time I give a Midwestern pause in the middle of a statement – two drinks. Every time I laugh at one of my own jokes – three drinks. Every time they have to bleep me – do a shot.

That’s all for now, folks. Share and enjoy.

pat

Also posted in appearances, Interviews, videos | By Pat23 Responses

WMF Photo Contest Part XIII: Grand Prize Winners

Today we bring you the final part of the photo contest.

Those of you who were around for the beginning of this might remember that I extended our deadline because some people said they were trying to get permission from the FAA for what they were trying to do.

So really, it’s their fault that I haven’t finished the photo contest yet. If I’d had those two weeks, we would’ve finished the photo contest in a timely fashion.

I joke, I joke. And even if it was the truth and their small delay somehow *had* somehow cascaded into this longer one. I honestly think it would be worth it….

You know what? I’m not even going to be coy here. I’m going to skip the preamble and jump right to the end. I’m going to show you the goods.

Here’s what they did:

IMG_0062

This is my book. In space.

It’s. In. Space.

Look at that. It’s so high up that you can see a slight curvature of the earth. And my book.

So there. You know the end. But I’m guessing you’re going to stick around for the preamble anyway. Because you’re my readers. You know the journey is the worthier part…

*     *     *

Three folks from MIT collaborated to make this happen. Jay, Kristyn, and Mike. (With a strong assist from their friend Malcolm, who let them use his book.)

Their photo shoot started at 5am on a Saturday.

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They got a serious weather balloon, and started setup.

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IMG_0126 copy

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Realize that these photos were taken in 2011. Four years ago. Digital cameras weren’t *quite* as pervasive then, and neither were superphones.

So they hacked an old camera to take pictures every 5 seconds, attached a phone that sent out a GPS signal every 30 seconds, and wrapped everything up in Styrofoam for protection during the flight.

IMG_0424 copy

But they didn’t stop at getting a cool view of the city.

IMG_1951 copy

You see how the clouds in the sky make the same ripple effect that wind makes on the waves? You see how that is the same ripple effect you see in the sand on the beach?

You know what that is? That is the name of the wind writ large across the face of the world, my friends.

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Hello you great, blue beautiful thing….

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It’s almost perfect. It just needs a little something….

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There we go. Fucking rainbow. Done.

For those of you who are into numbers, the balloon went up at around 500 ft/min and reached approximately 75,000 feet.

So… yeah. My book has been into space. I’m *so* going to give John Scalzi a hard time about this the next time I see him…

Hold on. It only now occurs to me. Commercial planes don’t fly that high. And I doubt very much that anyone takes novels on rockets due to weight limitations….

That means The Wise Man’s Fear has probably set some sort of weird record. I’d bet a modest amount of money that it might be the first novel in the stratosphere. If not, maybe first hardcover novel. Or.. maybe… First Hardcover Fantasy Novel to Reach Stratosphere Via Balloon?

Does anyone know how to get in touch with Guinness?

You know what? It doesn’t even matter to me. The fact that someone did this with my book is cooler to me than I can express in words. (And when you read that, please consider who is writing it.)

So thank you, you excellent people.

Thank you, you shiny geeks.

Thank you.

*     *     *

I hope it’s obvious that this isn’t something the three of them just banged together in an afternoon. They made plans. Coordinated with the FAA. Make a test run…

Here’s a piece of the story that Mike sent along:

“During Jay’s practice flight he sent up the camera and when it came back down it landed in a wooded area, so he climbed through a bit of woods only to find it stuck about 40 feet up a tree, with not much remaining daylight he had to leave the camera up in the tree.

The next morning I went down with him to see how we were going to retrieve the camera and we stopped by Home Depot to pick up supplies. Jay went to get some pipe while I set about getting rope and duct tape. Turns out asking a clerk before he’s had his morning coffee what aisles rope and duct tape would be in will get you a raised eyebrow. Then trying to explain the situation away before you’ve had your morning coffee doesn’t alleviate his concern.

It ended up taking us the better part of the day throwing sticks, stones, lassos, trying to knock it from the tree with a 40’ pipe before it finally fell. Our triumph lasted long enough to find out the data was corrupted and “tech experts” were only able to recover the first 10 – 20k feet of the flight.”

Of the actual flight, they said this:

“One of the fun things about this project is the fact that you lose control of the balloon’s flight path the moment you let go of it. You can use weather radar and predictive models and they really mean absolutely nothing.  Once the balloon reaches a certain altitude the gps we were using stopped working, but we could track it once it dropped back below that altitude.  So for a couple hours we had nothing to do except find a local diner eat breakfast and wait(my favorite weekend activity).  The predictive model we used suggested the book would travel over 50 miles and land up near Marlborough, Massachusetts about 25 miles from the ocean.

So after breakfast we started driving that way to at least be in the general area.  We kept checking the GPS and eventually it resurfaced(not sure if thats the right word considering the book was coming back down) about 75 miles south of Marlborough and  less than 3 miles from the Atlantic.  So we turned the car around to drive toward the balloon.”

There you go. While it’s safe to say that I loved the thousands of pictures y’all sent in for the photo contest, there’s no denying that these guys went the extra mile.

I think it goes without saying that these guys deserve their gold talent pipes. My heart is full of joy when I look at these pictures. I am awash in the glow of their reflected cool.

Gold Pipes

Because they went above and beyond *ahem* I’ll also be sending them some signed books (And a special copy for their friend who gave up his own copy for the cause) and any other swag their hearts might desire.

What’s more, if y’all are interested, next time I’m out in Boston I’d love to take y’all out to dinner. If you’re free, you can pick the place and it’s my treat. I also offer post-prandial libations and board games at a venue of choice.

Because honestly? You guys are people I want to hang out with. You’re my kind of crazy.

* * *

With that, the Photo Contest is finally a wrap. While I enjoyed it, you guys have no idea how nice it is to finally have the weight of it off my neck. I feel positively bubbly having expiated that particular long-term shame.

Lastly, because I’ve been focusing on getting the photo contest finished. There are a few quick announcements I should make.

1. Worldbuilders will be doing its second-annual mid-season fundraiser at the beginning of June.

Last year it went amazingly well, and we raised more than $200,000 for charity. So this year we’re doing it again. Bigger and better.

2. We’re launching a new t-shirt or two along with that fundraiser.

To that purpose, we’re going to have a quick t-shirt design contest. And I *do* mean quick. We’re launching it on Monday, and the window for submissions will only last for seven days. (Though if you’re reading this you can have a couple day’s head start.)

After a week is up, we’ll ask y’all to vote on which ones you like best and they’ll go up in the IndieGoGo.

 3. This afternoon, I’m going to be participating in the Twitter Fiction Festival.

I’m going to be writing a story on twitter. It’s going to be a bizarre melange of improvisational storytelling, old-school text adventure games, and raw caffeinated madness. You’ll control the character through suggesting the character’s actions. I’ll control the story by choosing which suggestions we use, and giving replies.

It’s going to be a glorious experiment that I expect will explode in a huge roiling ball of narrative flame.

I’ll be doing that from 3-4pm CT today. If you want to check it out, or participate, my twitter is right here.

See you later, space cowboys…

pat

Also posted in being awesome, fan coolness, Photo Contest 2011 | By Pat29 Responses

A Guy Game

Today Oot came up to me and asked me if I’d like to play a game.

“What kind of a game?” I asked him.

“Oh you know,” he explains, sounding very matter-of-fact. “A guy game. Because we’re both guys.”

20140922_162944

I hear this, and I sigh a little inside. We’ve tried really hard to keep the gender stereotype stuff away from him. I don’t want him to think that trucks are for boys and dolls are for girls. That boys are tough and girls are delicate. When I tell him stories, the heroes win because they’re clever instead of being strong, and sometimes it’s the prince that needs rescuing, not the princess.

But I can’t watch every piece of media before he does. Or every book before he reads it. Besides, this stuff is insidious. It’s everywhere. And I know that despite my best intentions I sometimes tend to reinforce stereotypes without meaning to.

It’s like trying to keep dust out of your house. You can do a lot, but ultimately, *you* are one of the main reasons there’s dust. You track it in on your clothes without knowing it. And even if you somehow managed to avoid that, you’d still shed skin cells. Even if you don’t want to. This constant, low-grade sexism is everywhere. It sneaks in.

But they can’t all be learning experiences. Sometimes you just want to play a game with your kid. Sometimes you watch The Princess Bride because you love it, and it’s a really great movie even though there is only one woman in it, and Buttercup is pretty much the epitome of a useless trophy damsel.

Sometimes you’re going to lose a little. That’s the way of things. It stings, but all I can do is try my best and hope he grows up having internalized less of this cultural bullshit than me. Then he won’t have to work so hard to be a halfway decent human being.

Then, years from now when he has kids, he can help them be even better than he is. And so on. I might lose a battle here and there, but I’m taking the long view. I’m aiming to win the war.

So it’s okay. We’ll play a guy game.

“What sort of guy game would you like to play?” I ask him.

“Well,” he says. “Maybe me and you could play a game where we make a house.”

I’m okay with that. It’s a good game. I did a lot of construction projects with my dad when I was little. At least it’s not killing-things game. It’s a making-things game. I’ll take what I can get.

So we go into the room and he explains the game to me. We’re dragons, and we’re making a house. In the house we’re going to make a nest. And in the nest we have some eggs. Our job is to take care of the eggs, keep them warm and safe until they hatch.

After they hatch, we’ll take care of the baby dragons. We’ll bring them food to eat and toys and soft things to cuddle up with.

You know. A guy game. Because we’re both guys.

Some days you lose despite your best efforts. Some days you win without even trying.

Be good everyone,

pat

Also posted in Beautiful Games, Because I Love, Oot | By Pat84 Responses

Thirty years of D&D

This may come as an absolute lack of shock to most of you, but growing up, I was not very cool.

As proof, allow me to present exhibit A.

Cool-Pat-with-Shades-786164

That’s me on my birthday. And if the Aerobie, sunglasses, and sleeveless shirt weren’t enough of a clue for you, I’ll just mention that this was somewhere in the early 80’s.

So. Me: Not particularly cool. Really rather impressively not cool.

Now don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t miserable. I wasn’t one of the popular kids, but then again most people aren’t. I didn’t have a lot of friends, but I had a few. Besides, I lived out in the country, so it wasn’t like the neighborhood kids pelted me with stones or anything. There were no neighborhood kids for the most part. No neighbors. Just me and lots of books.

What’s more, I had the best pair of parents imaginable. Parents who, when I asked for a bullwhip for my birthday, actually bought me one.

And, as you can see if you embiggen the above picture, they also bought me a copy of the green D&D box set.

*     *     *

I first found out about D&D in the fifth grade. I saw some kids playing at school one day when it was crappy out and we were having recess inside.

I’d never heard of it before. It looked like a lot of fun. I asked the kids if I could play with them.

“No,” they said.

It wasn’t a hesitant no, either. It was a genuine, “No, we are certain we do not want you to play with us.” Whether or not they intended to, I was left with the distinct impression that I wasn’t cool enough to play D&D with.

Keep in mind that this was in the early 1980’s. Geek wasn’t chic back then. There was no internet. There weren’t huge comic conventions. There was no PAX.

These days everyone plays WOW and reads Harry Potter and Watches X-Men movies. Geek is mainstream now.

Back then? Not so much. Back then, you were picked on for reading fantasy novels. Or reading comics. Or rolling dice and pretending to be a wizard. Geeks were really far down the social pecking order.

Those people, those geeks, were the folks that didn’t particularly want to hang out with me.

So I arranged to get the D&D red box. And I read it all. And I made a character. And I played D&D with myself.

(It occurs to me just now that this might have been one of the first steps toward being a writer. Being an author is kinda like playing D&D with yourself.)

Later I got the other boxes. Usually as Christmas presents….

BECMI_DnD_boxes2

(I never knew about the Immortal Rules until just now….)

My parents didn’t really know what it was all about. Despite that, they were understanding. My mom was a hippie, so when I asked her to make me a cloak, she didn’t think much of it. She’d made cloaks for people before. The main difference was that the people she made cloaks for back in the 60’s had at least a distant possibility of having sex.

Then I found this at the Madison public library.

DMG

It wasn’t this actual book. It didn’t have this cover, either. Because of damage, or perhaps as a nod to Christian sensibilities, the library had re-covered the book.

Advanced Dungeons and Dragons. This book was different. It was weighty. It was serious. It was full of  charts and tables. Let’s say you were adventuring in a swamp. And you wanted to know how likely you were to catch a disease. Well, there were rules for that.

I am all-the-way serious:

DMGDiseaseTable

There’s something to be learned from this table. Honestly, part of the reason I live in Wisconsin is because of the -1% modifier for cool weather.

Toward at the end of one of the books was Appendix N – Inspirational and Educational Reading. That was where Gygax listed books that had shaped his views on fantasy. Books he thought other people would benefit from reading.

I found a nice scan of it online:

Appendix-N

(Click to embiggen, if you’re curious.)

You’ve got some great names on there. Tolkien. Zelazny. Saberhagen. Norton. Looking it over now, I realize I still haven’t read half of these, and I feel like I should.

Back then, it was really interesting to see this list of books. But I was just a kid. I didn’t seek out books so much as I just devoured anything that was available at the library or the Waldenbooks at the mall.

Eventually I found some people to play D&D with. I played it all through high-school with several different people, most consistently with my two best friends, Steve and Ryan.

When I graduated from high-school, rather than have a graduation party, I asked my parents if I could go up to our cabin in the north woods with Steve and Ryan. They agreed, and for a week, we did very little but play D&D.

By that time, 2nd edition was out. That’s the edition I played the most of. The one I know inside and out.

I played in college too. That’s how I made my first friends here in Stevens Point. Most notably Endo, who introduced me to other friends. That was how I met my first girlfriend and other people I still know and love to this day. Though I don’t get to see them nearly as much as I’d like.

This year, as some of you might know, 5th edition came out.

PH

I got to know this edition pretty well because I had to make a new version of Viari that I could play with Acquisitions Incorporated.

The book is beautiful. The new system is flexible but easy to use. Elegant and smooth in a way I couldn’t have appreciated ten years ago. Using it, I was able to make a thief that could hold his own in combat and survive jumping off an airship onto a dragon.

But I’m not here to sing the praises of 5th edition. I’m here because of what shows up in the back of this 5th edition player’s handbook.

Appendix E: Inspirational Reading….

PHReadingPage

There’s more books than before, you’ll notice. That’s only appropriate. The genre’s grown a lot since Gygax wrote his list back in 1979.

There’s still some of the familiar names on here, as there should be. Zelazny is still brilliant. So is Tolkien. And what’s that? Oh my stars and garters, there’s more than one woman on the list! Which is good, because these days a list that misses LeGuin and McKillip isn’t worth shit in my opinion.

We’ve got some new folks on there too. My friends and colleagues. Jemisin and Sanderson. Lynch, and Bear and Saladin.

And this.

PHReadingPage 2

I’m there. I’m in the book. In a small way, I’m *part* of D&D.

It’s hard to get my head around that fact. Words fail me, and I honestly don’t know what to say. Except that it’s wonderful, and flattering and so, so strange. My life has become so strange these last few years.

I think this must be what it feels like to be cool.

DnD_recommended2Be good to each other everyone,

pat

Also posted in gaming, musings, My checkered past | By Pat82 Responses

Slow Regard of Silent Things – The Narrationing.

Over the last couple of months, I’ve talked about the upcoming Auri book quite a bit.

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(Everyone’s favorite moon fae. Art from GungGoGrimm)

When I do interviews or events, people ask me questions about the story, and I do my best to answer them without giving anything away. But the end result is that sometimes I have trouble remembering what I’ve officially announced, and what I’ve just kinda talked in one interivew. Or at one particular event at a bookstore.

(My official announcement of the book and the explanation of how it came to be is over here on the blog, if you happened to miss it.)

So. There’s been some news about the book I’ve known for a while. Something that I’ve mentioned a couple of times in various places in various ways. But I’ve never make an official announcement:

I’m narrating the audiobook.

Achievement unlocked - audio_book 2

I’ve always had a great admiration for the people who are able to read their own material. When an author reads their own work, it can add so much to a story. Over the years, I think I’ve probably spent a thousand hours listening to some of the best of the best tell their own stories in their own voices: Neil Gaiman, David Sedaris, and Garrison Keillor.

I’m not at that level. But I enjoy reading my work in front of an audience. I’ve done work with Wisconsin Public Radio. What’s more, I have been told I have a good voice….

Mountainous

(This might be one of my favorite complements ever.)

So I decided to throw my hat into the ring. This is a much shorter book than my usual. A perfect chance to give it a try. Besides, how different could it be, reading in front of an audience vs. reading in a studio?

Well…. quite a bit different, as it turns out.

Luckily, the folks at Random House/Penguin Audio brought in a great producer to work with me. Someone with a ton of experience who has more than a thousand audiobooks under his belt (figuratively.)

His name was Rick Harris, and he worked wonders, setting me at my ease and teaching me the ropes.

I won’t go into the details of what I learned. That should probably be a blog all by itself. Suffice to say now I have a *lot* more respect for people that do this for a living. There’s so much going on. So much craft and artistry. I look forward to working on it and getting better in the future.

Without further ado, let me present to you a brief teaser of the audiobook that the folks at my publisher have made available for you.

I hope you like it. I myself managed to listen to an entire 8 words of it before I turned it off again. For as much as I joke about loving the sound of my own voice, the truth is, I hate the sound of my own voice when I hear it recorded. I just can’t bring myself to listen to it.

Anyway, here it is. All fancy and embedded:

If that doesn’t work, here’s a straight-up link.

I hope you like it. Honestly? I’m nervous as hell about how it turned out, and not being able to listen to it at all, let alone with an objective ear, is not helping with that anxiety.

Be gentle with me, it’s my first time.

pat

Also posted in audiobooks | By Pat100 Responses
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