Category Archives: mom

House Rules and Candy Land

If you’ve been reading my blog for any amount of time, or following me on any type of social media you realize that I’m a game player.

So it’s probably not a surprise that I like playing games with my little boy.

You probably also realize that I’m something of a hyper-critical curmudgeonly fuck. Which means I find a lot of things irritating.

For example, Candy Land:

orenstein_candyland

(This is what my version looked like when I was a kid.)

I’m not going to go off on some screed about game design here….

Ah hell. That’s a lie. I’m so going to. I didn’t mean to. I was just going to come in here and tell a cute story about my kid and then get out under 600 words. But I’ve kinda have to get this out or I’ll probably burst a vessel or something. I really shouldn’t keep this shit bottled up. I promise it will be a smallish, well-reasoned screed. Okay?

Dear everyone: Kids games should be games.

I know, I know. The main things we get from kid’s games isn’t competition. It isn’t intellectual stimulation. We’re not playing Traveler, here. We’re not looking for the subtle intricacies of Go. I get that. There are two primary things a kid’s game provides:

1. It gives you an excuse to hang out with your kids.

2. It gives your kids the basics of how to play a game.

This second one is not to be underestimated. When I started playing with Oot a year or so ago, I was amazed at how much of it wasn’t natural. The concept of taking turns, following rules. They need to be learned.

So yeah. I know those are the two biggies that you’re getting when you play a kid’s game. But you can still have some *game* in there.

Think about it. The main purpose of food is to get calories and nutrients, right? But we don’t just sit down and eat two cups of lard and a multivitamin, do we?

No. We do not. Not twice at any rate.

*     *     *

I remember playing Candy Land with my mom. It was fun. But I was a kid back then, so the bar for fun was fairly low. Pretty much anything a kid does with their loving parent is going to be fun. When I was older, my mom confessed that she’d gotten really tired of Candy Land. She used to hide the low-level candy cards because they made the game last forever.

Tedium is not the mark of a good game.

I felt a connection with my mom when, after playing Candy Land a couple times with Oot, I began to do the same thing. Because it *is* a tedious game, and not just for adults. Oot himself would start to zone out partway through the game. Not because he has a poor attention span, Oot will sit and read books for hours. He’ll work a puzzle on his own.

No. He’s bored because the game is tedious. And it’s tedious because there is no skill involved. You draw a card, you look at a card, you match a color, you move your piece.

Games that involve no skill are not good games.

Yesterday, after months of not playing, we brought out the game again and took another crack at it. Because he wanted to, and he asked nicely. And I can deal with some tedium if it makes him happy.

But we changed the game a little bit. We added a house rule where you drew two cards and got to pick which one you wanted.

With this small change, Candy Land became an actual game.

Sure there was still a huge random element to it, but now there was some skill as well. You had to make decisions.

CandyLand5

So what will it be, my little man? Green or red?

Suddenly, this game became fun for both of us. Not only was the race to the castle *much* faster. But you didn’t have to fear getting a “backer.” (Which is what Oot calls it when you get a card that makes you go backwards.)

Most important of all, there was suddenly some choice involved. He had a reason to pay attention. Which card do you want? Which will move you farther?

What really impressed me was when he got to this point on the board.

CandyLand4

“Oh no,” he said. “I hope I don’t get a green!”

(He didn’t want to get stuck in the Licorice Pit, you see. If you land on that particular green square, you lose your next turn.)

I took my turn and moved, then he took his turn and drew a double green and a double orange.

“I pick the two greens because I like green,” he said. Then he picked up his piece and looked at the board. He set his piece down again. “No. Wait,” he said. “I want the oranges instead.”

I tell you, I practically burst with pride and joy.

With this one simple rule change, the game became engaging for both of us. He even taunted me.

Candyland3

Which, as far as I’m concerned, is as vital a part of game playing as learning to take turns and follow rules.

The crafty little bastard even tried to coffeeshop me when I drew the popsicle.

Candlyland2

He’s like, “You should take the double blue, dad.”

Again, I glow with pride. That’s my boy. If you can’t win by the cards, you win the game with your mouth.

I beat him the first game. I was tempted to throw it, because I could tell he wanted to win. But that’s not doing him any favors. That’s another thing games teach us: how to lose. How to deal with disappointment. How to deal with the fact that sometimes, you just get shitty cards and there’s nothing you can do to fix it. And that sucks. Rub some dirt on it. Happens to everyone.

Also, Oot already taught me what happens when you don’t play straight with kids:

So I played that first game straight and beat him. He took it well, and because the game was shorter with the two-draw house rule, he was willing to jump right back in for a re-match. And, because it hadn’t been a tedious random trawl through sugar mountain, I was happy to give it another go too.

The second game I got an early lead again, and *really* considered throwing it. But I didn’t, and he won anyway. So that’s a good lesson for me, too: Sometimes I should just leave well enough alone.

It was also cool to see him get better at choosing which cards to pick. He’d always pick the doubles over the singles. But originally he liked to pick blue and green because he liked those colors better.

I didn’t tell him he was wrong, I just took my own turns and talked to myself, saying. “Hmmm. If I go to the blue, I go this far. If I take the orange, I go *this* far. I think I’ll take the orange, because it’s farther.”

By the second game, he was doing the same thing. Because kids are smart. They’re built to learn.

Why am I sharing this?

Well, partly because I love talking about games, and I love talking about my boy.

But I’m also telling you this story because I’m guessing a lot of you have kids, or you *will* have kids in the future. Or you’ll at least play with some kids. And this was such a simple, elegant fix to a classic children’s game that I couldn’t help but share it.

If any of you have suggestions for good kid’s games you’d like to share, I’d love to hear about them in the comments below.

Play nice everyone,

pat

Also posted in gaming, Oot | By Pat89 Responses

Signed Books from Awesome Authors

 

This is a Worldbuilders Blog.

Okay. Before we look at today’s books, I’m going to tell a little story. Because that’s what I do.

The truth is, yesterday I was right on the edge of burning out on the fundraiser. I was running on about two hours of sleep, worried about the holidays, and stressed because I’m behind on about fifty different things.

I don’t talk about it a lot, but it takes a lot of frantic behind-the-scenes juggling to make Worldbuilders happen, and even with the great team that helps run things, it can get a little overwhelming at times.

So there I was, exhausted, trudging through an interview I’m doing with Fantasy Lit about the fundraiser, the calendar, and what Heifer International is all about, when I draw a blank, and can’t remember if a flock of chicks costs 20 bucks, or 30.

So I wander over to Heifer’s website, into the “Gift Catalog” section, and I see that they’ve added stuff since I’ve been there last time. You can still give money for goats and baby ducks, but now I see “The Gift of Clean Water – $300.”

I click on it, and I see this picture.

And I just start to cry.

Now I’d like to claim it’s because I was worn down and low on sleep. But that wouldn’t be the truth. Ever since Oot was born, I’ve become incredibly soppy, and I cry the drop of a hat whenever I’m confronted with stories about kids.

My mom used to be like that. We’d see a telephone commercial where a kid calls home for Christmas, and she’d get all weepy. I’d roll my eyes at her and say, “It’s a *phone* commercial, mom.” And she’d laugh, saying, “You don’t know what it’s like.”

Now I know what it’s like.

I mean, look at that kid. He’s like, “Yeah! Clean water! This is AWESOME!”

And you know what? It is awesome. It’s the best thing I’ve seen all day.

There’s something else I haven’t seen on Heifer’s page: “Family Farm Care Package – $72.”

So I click on it.

The description reads:

“This gift will help a struggling family boost the productivity of their farm and increase their income. Training in soil conservation, irrigation and marketing will be combined with seeds, saplings or livestock so smallholder farmers around the world can transform their failing farms into dependable livelihoods”

I probably spent half an hour wandering around the Heifer site, looking at pictures. Afterwards, I didn’t feel burned out at all. I felt excited about getting back into the fundraiser.

So I figured I’d share some of the pictures with you. Just to remind you what we’re *really* doing here. When you donate on the Worldbuilder’s Team Page, you’re not just signing up to win some cool books. You’re making the world a better place.

And if you’re wondering, a flock of baby chicks is only $20.

Ah fuck. I’m crying again.

Let’s look at today’s books so I can get control of myself, okay?

*     *     *

Today we’ve got another batch of books donated directly from the authors themselves.

I love it when authors send us books, because they always show up signed. And sometimes, as we can see below, they show up signed PLUS…

  • A first edition copy of The Night Circus. Signed and doodled by Erin Morgenstern.

I’ve never met Erin personally, but she was cool enough to send along some first-edition hardcovers of her bestselling debut novel: The Night Circus. What’s more, she clearly cares about the cause because she took the time to doodle a little kitten sitting on the text of the copyright page, stars doodled all over the place, plus her beautiful signature and a rubber stamp of the circus tent.  It’s awesome.

“Erin Morgenstern has created the circus I have always longed for and she has populated it with dueling love-struck magicians, precocious kittens, hyper-elegant displays of beauty and complicated clocks. This is a marvelous book.” – Audrey Niffenegger, author of The Time Traveler’s Wife

  • Auction: A first edition copy of The Night Circus. Signed by Erin Morgenstern. Includes pen drawings and a rubber stamp from the author.

Because Erin was nice enough to send us a couple of these, we figured we’d put one up in an auction, too.

“Brilliantly detailed worldbuilding and complicated characters makes this an engrossing read.” –Laura Anne Gilman

“You know you’ve always wanted to read about an angry vampire slicing other vampires in half with a katana. Don’t deny it. –  Heather Watson

  • A hardcover copy of Wheel of the Infinite. Signed by Martha Wells.

“The vividly imagined Celestial Empire’s peril is made all the more dramatic by the characters’ sarcastic, reasonable conversations, and by their very human responses to inhuman dangers; there is real reading pleasure here.” – Publishers Weekly

  • A set of The Cloud Roads and The Serpent Sea. Signed by Martha Wells.

“Wells merrily ignores genre conventions as she spins an exciting adventure around an alien hero who anyone can identify with.” – Publishers Weekly (starred review)

  • The Wizard HuntersThe Ships of Air, and The Gate of Gods.  Signed by Martha Wells.

“A vastly entertaining and refreshingly different fantasy adventure with a surprisingly satisfying conclusion.” – Locus

“James Calbraith’s writing is reminiscent of a classic, epic fantasy – immersive, and detailed to the letter. The real-world cultures he draws from are incredibly well-researched and truthful, and yet well-balanced with the fantasy elements he sprinkles in between. An intriguing and impressive series.” – Ben Galley

“Durham has created a richly detailed alternate reality leavened with a dollop of magic and populated by complicated personalities grappling with issues of freedom and oppression.” – Publishers Weekly

  • A set of Never Never StoriesMillion Writers Award: The Best Online Science Fiction and Fantasy, and Million Writers Award: The Best New Online Voices.  Signed by Jason Sanford.

“If you’re new to [Sanford’s stories] then this is a very highly recommended collection indeed.” Jim Steel

  • 2 copies of Henry Franks.  Signed by Peter Adam Salomon. Each with a signed promo postcard (leaning against the book).

“Salomon’s Frankenstein homage churns through its often confounding but highly unnerving plot like a slow nightmare–readers won’t be entirely sure they even want to know how it ends. The scenes are clipped, the dialogue spare, and the prose rewards meticulous reading, making this debut the thinking teen’s horror choice of the year.” – Booklist (starred review)

  • A giant set of Black Jewels Books: Tangled Webs, Shalador’s Lady, The Shadow Queen, The Invisible Ring, and Twilight’s Dawn.  Signed by Anne Bishop.

“Bishop will draw you into her world like a spider and never spit you back out — it is like an addiction. I am not a re-reader, but I re-read this book simply because I love her characters and the depth she gives them — along with the mystery she is able to weave around each — leaving you guessing until she’s ready to tell you what she wants you to know.” — SFRevu

  • 3 copies of Bridge of Dreams.  Signed by Anne Bishop.

“With a well-paced mystery, likable characters, and fascinating world building, this is a fun read.” —Booklist

This is a collection of three short stories by Anne Bishop, James Alan Gardner, and Anthony Francis.  So much bang for your buck!

Pat’s Note: This is an ARC for Written in Red, so not only is it a bit of a rarity. But this is a pre-release ARC, which means that if you win this book, you’ll get a chance to read Anne’s newest book before it hits the shelves. Then, if you’re in the mood, you can go taunt people on goodreads about your insider status. 

“[Bishop's] worlds are so fully realized and three-dimensional, they jump right off the pages.” – Fresh Fiction

  • A set of The Winds of Khalakovo and The Straits of Galahesh.  Signed by Bradley P. Beaulieu.

“Well worth exploring… Beaulieu [depicts] a strange culture [with] a remarkable fantasy/magical reality feel.” – Glen Cook, author of The Black Company

  • A copy of Shadow Ops: Control Point. Signed by Myke Cole.

Despite the fact that Myke is a relative newcomer to the publishing world, he’s made a bit of a splash, with Fantasy Faction listing his next book as one of the 10 most anticipated books of 2013.

I read his this book, his debut novel, about a month ago and really, really enjoyed it. It’s well worth your time. (You can see my full review on Goodreads if you’re interested.)

“Blackhawk Down meets the X-Men, Military Fantasy like you’ve never seen it before!” – Peter V. Brett

  • Auction: A copy of Shadow Ops: Control Point. Signed by Myke Cole.  Comes with a challenge coin.

Those of you who watched the Author D&D video may also recognize Myke’s name. He was the GM, and he did an awesome job wrangling all the other authors.

As a cool promotional item, Myke as donated a Challenge Coin with this book. He describes them thusly: “They’re somewhere between a medal and a shinier, cooler version of business cards.”

To make sure this ends up in the hands of someone that will love it, we’re going to auction it off.

To bid, head over here.

“At over 600 pages, Epic: Legends of Fantasy will definitely get you your money’s worth and the seventeen stories inside will help satisfy your epic fantasy cravings, or possibly leave you wanting more.” - SFF Chat

This anthology includes works from Sanderson, Martin, LeGuin, and tons of other prolific authors.  I snuck my way in there, too.

If you want this multiple-signed copy all to yourself, head over to the auction and bid.

*     *     *

Every 10 dollars you donate on our Team Page gives you the chance to win one of our fabulous prizes, many of which still haven’t been revealed.

All the auctions Worldbuilders is currently running are over here.

Or, if you want to see the other items that have been donated to Worldbuilders, or learn more about the fundraiser itself, you can head over to the main page here.

Also posted in Oot, the longest fucking blog ever, Worldbuilders 2012 | By Pat25 Responses

Not Your Usual Mother’s Day Post….

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

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

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

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

“Oh,” I said. “Are you sure?”

“Yeah,” he said. “I’m a hobbit.”

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

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

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

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

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

“But I’m Bilbo Bagins!” he protests.

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

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

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

“But I’m a hobbit,” Oot says again.

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

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

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

“I’m sad,” I say. “I miss my mom.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Does it get better?” she asked.

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

“You dream about her?”

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

There was a long pause on the phone.

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

I’d never told anyone else this before.

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

“Yeah,” she said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Somebody should talk about them,” she said.

“Somebody should,” I agreed.

*     *     *

So here we are.

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

But the one exception has always been my mom.

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

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

So we’re fixing that. Soon.

pat

Also posted in Oot, things I shouldn't talk about | By Pat144 Responses

Just a Geek

I’ve owned this book for a long while, but it was just two days ago that I finally picked it up and started reading it. You know how it is. Life gets in the way, the book gets buried, you wonder where it is, you get distracted by whatever. Candy. Sex. Aperture science.

I finished reading it less than five minutes ago, and even though it’s 4:30 AM, I came upstairs, woke up the computer, and now I sit here, trying to figure out what I can say about it.

But I don’t know what to say. I’m flummoxed. I’m positively wallowing in flum over here.

I suppose I should mention that I don’t read Wheaton’s blog. I’ve wandered by there now and again, following links friends have sent me. But I’ve never made a habit of it.

Don’t read too much into that. It’s not like I avoid his blog. It’s just that I don’t read blogs. Not at all, really. Not even engaging blogs written by clever people I’m interested in, like Gaiman, Scalzi, or Wheaton.

I know that might sound odd to people. As I’ve been writing this blog for… good lord… over four years now. But the truth is, I don’t think of this as a blog. I think of it as a continuation of the humor column I wrote for almost ten years back in college. I make jokes, talk about my life, and occasionally give some bad advice.

But I don’t think of this as a blog.

For me, it’s a relief valve. This is where I give vent to the parts of my personality that don’t have any place in the novels I’m working on.

This is the place where I can snark and bitch if I want. I can talk politics or get sappy about my baby. I can say “Monkeyfucker” and get it out of my system. Which is a good thing, because that would be really hard to work into book three.

What was my point here?

Oh, right. My point is that I’m not a Wheaton fanboy. I picked up the book because I was curious, then never got around to it because I wasn’t curious enough.

That said, in the interest of full disclosure, I am a bit of a Star Trek geek. I used to watch it in high school. I watched it with my mom who was a Star Trek geek since before I was born.

God. I haven’t though of that in years. I remember watching that first episode of The Next Generation with her. During the first commercial, we agreed that the new version of the ship looked all wrong. It offended our sensibilities.

But we grew to love the show. We watched it as a family. It was an event.

Later on I watched it with one of my best friends in high school, Steve. He was a true geek for the show, and it was one of the things that gave us some common ground.

Eventually I left for college and watched it with my new friends. It let me know I’d found the right sort of people to hang out with.

Much later, after the show was long over, I bought a bunch of collector’s edition VHS tapes at a garage sale. They became part of my nightly pre-writing ritual. I would eat dinner and watch an episode of Next Generation while drinking an insanely strong cup of coffee. Then I would go work on what I called, “The Book.”

It was 1999, and I was still writing the first draft of what would eventually become The Kingkiller Chronicle.

It’s strange to think of how big a part of my life Star Trek used to be. I bet I haven’t watched any in ten years.

So. In summary. I read this book as a Trek geek, but not as a Wheaton fanboy. I’ve known *of* him for some time now. Hell, I’d even written a story with him *in* it. But I really didn’t know much about him. I knew he was a powerful part of the geek culture, but he was one of the cool, famous, Hollywood geeks, and I was just a writer geek. Our paths have never crossed.

Okay. Enough context. On to the book.

Simply said, I found it absolutely fascinating. I wasn’t a Wheaton Fanboy before I read it, but now I kinda am…. Now I can understand why folks like him so much.

The writing is perfectly, painfully candid. It’s like a little backstage pass into Wheaton’s life back when things weren’t going so well for him. Back when he was dealing with some hard stuff in his life.

The story really got its hooks into me. It made me anxious. Gave me troubling dreams. I don’t think that’s ever happened to me before.

There are a lot of things I liked about the book, but I’m still having a hard time putting my finger on the crux of it. I can’t say what it was that made me come up to my computer tonight instead of sleeping. I can’t say what made me write a 1000 word blog tonight, rather than the gushy little goodreads review I’d been planning on.

I liked the fact that I got a behind-the-scenes peek at Star Trek and some of the actors that I grew up watching. That was cool.

I liked that Wheaton talked about what it’s like being an actor. I found that really interesting too.

He’s funny, and articulate, and self-deprecating, and honest….

But I still can’t point to what it is that really grabbed me by the nuts, here.

I really don’t know. Still flummoxed.

It could be I liked it because, ultimately, it was a story about stories. I have a weakness for those.

Part of me wishes I’d read this book back in 2008. Back when I’d missed my first deadline and was feeling like absolute shit. Back when I was sure I was ruining my entire career by delaying book 2. Back when I was still trying to get a grip on some of this celebrity stuff while at the same time being wretchedly messed up about my mom being gone. I think this book would have helped me sort though my shit a little more quickly.

Gech. I’m making a rambly mess of this. It seems like the more I like a book, the more trouble I have explaining why.

Okay. I’ll take one more run at this. I’m going to keep it simple this time:

It was a good book. You should give it a try. Unless you really don’t want to. Then you should do something else.

Merciful Buddha. That’s just awful.

Let that be a lesson to any of you that come looking for blurbs. Don’t. I suck at this.

pat

Also posted in blogging, my dumbness, recommendations, the art of blurbing, Wil Wheaton | By Pat38 Responses

On the importance of treat-bringing

So a few days ago, it was St. Patrick’s day. This gave me thoughts. The thoughts led to feelings, and thence to musings. So I wrote about the musings and then planned to post that writing up here. Because that’s what I do…

But then, in the time between writing it up and finding a picture, I discovered I’d had similar thoughts before, a year ago, and I’d already written about them.

I considered not posting this newer blog because of that. But now I think I will. For one, I’m guessing many of you weren’t reading here a year ago. And for another, the blogs are remarkably different, despite the fact that they share the same seed.

There’s something to be learned about stories here, but I don’t know if I can articulate it.

Either way, here it is, if you care to read it.

*****

When I was a kid going to school, you were allowed to bring in a treat to share with the rest of the class on your birthday.

I don’t know if kids can still do this these days. Homeland Security probably has some sort of homebaked cookie alert system that never falls below orange. Maybe schools are only allowed to distribute snacks that are OSHA approved.

But when I was a kid, going to school in a place called, I kid you not, Pumpkin Hollow, you could bring treats.

This was a pretty big deal. Because if you brought treats for the rest of the class, you were cool, at least for the day.

But my birthday falls in the summer, outside the school year. That means I couldn’t bring in treats on my birthday, and was in real danger of being denied the one day of being cool every kid was entitled to.

This might not have been a big deal for other kids who got to be cool all the time. But I wasn’t cool, and it was a big deal for me.

Now I can hear some of you already beginning to think/type/say comforting things like, “Oh Pat, I’m sure you were plenty cool back then. You just didn’t know it…” Etc. etc.


(Click to embiggen. But beware, lest my young geekery blind you.)

So here is exhibit A. I was just looking for a picture of me as a kid, I didn’t expect to find one that so perfectly shouted my not-cool from the rooftops.

Okay, fine. The bullwhip was pretty cool. But other than that, you can tell this guy isn’t going to know the loving touch of a woman until… well… maybe ever.

What as I talking about again?

Oh yeah. The importance of treat-bringing in kid society.

When you’re a kid, these little things loom so large in our minds. After we grow up, we look and wonder how we could have ever gotten so worked up about being a leaf in the school play instead of a chicken. Missing a field trip was the end of the world.

And not being able to have a day when you brought in a treat in for the other kids to share… it was huge.

It’s important to remember that this doesn’t mean we were dumb back then and we’re clever now. That’s dangerous thinking, and it’s wrong, wrong, wrong. What it means is that when we were young, we knew the truth of things. And now that we’re older, we know different true things. We were right when we were kids and thought it was really important, and we are right now that we’re adults and realize it’s a little silly.

As with so many of my childhood problems, my mom stepped in to save me. She pointed out that my name was Patrick, and so I could bring in cookies on St. Patrick’s day.

Problem solved. So we made shamrock-shaped sugar cookies, and frosted them green, and I took them to school. And, for a day, I was cool. Well… cooler. Cool-ish.

I always think of that this time of year. Yesterday I realized everyone was wearing green and thought to myself, “Is it St. Patrick’s day?” I was amazed it had snuck up on me. It used to be such an important day for me. I always felt like it was my day, really. My mom gave that to me.

I never celebrate it now, though I always feel like I should. But I’m not Irish, and I don’t drink. So my options are rather limited. Still, I like the thought that on my surrogate birthday, everyone is out whooping it up.

To all of you out there who are the summer children. The kids that weren’t cool, or who weren’t cool very often. Know that I am one of you, and that you are my favorite sort of people.

Fondly,

pat

Also posted in concerning storytelling | By Pat64 Responses

Heifer International: Part One – A Charity for People Who Love Baby Ducks.

Earlier this year, I held what I thought was going to be a little photo contest. The response surprised me; hundreds of people sent in almost a thousand photos. People dressed up, stripped naked, and climbed onto rooftops. It was an eye opener for me. I realized that there were a lot of folks out there who *really* liked the book.

Ever since, I’ve been thinking about what sort of contest I’d like to run next. Fanart contest? Video contest? Something for the writers out there? What sort of prizes would people be interested in? Posters? Signed books? Sneak peeks of books to come?

But then I had a better idea.

Eventually, I will run the contests I mentioned above. There will be good times. We will revel in our shared geekery. Blogs will be writ. Prizes will be had.

But first, I’m hoping to direct some of this energy in a slightly different direction. If I’m going to hand out prizes, I’d like it to be for a good cause. Something I believe we all have in common….

I believe that deep down, people are good. I believe that most of us would go out of our way to take care of baby ducks.

My favorite charity is called Heifer International. They are a great force for good in the world, and I’d like to help them raise some money.

There are a lot of worthwhile charities out there. Important causes. Things I feel strongly about. But Heifer is my favorite. Here’s why.

Let’s say by some miracle I raised ten thousand dollars to help fight cancer, or Parkinson’s, or Alzheimer’s. While it would help the cause, it would just be a tiny drop in the bucket. Enough to help fund some lab’s research for a couple weeks.

But we don’t need to research a cure for hunger or poverty. We know how that works. Heifer doesn’t just hand out bags of rice, Heifer gives a family a goat and teaches them how to take care of it. Then that family has a continual source of milk for their children. They can sell the extra milk to make money. When the goat has babies, they give those babies to other members of their community, sharing the gift.

Heifer helps people become self-reliant. As someone who has just recently become self-reliant, I know what a nice feeling that is.

My Mom loved Heifer. Every Christmas I would donate enough money for a goat, then give it to her as a present. I remember the first year I did it. She opened the envelope where I had drawn a crude picture of a goat and a happy stick-figure child.

She knew what it meant right off the bat. “Oh! I love it!” she said. And she got a little weepy, because she loved nothing better than helping people who needed it. She had a heart as big as the sky.

This is why I love Heifer. If we raise a couple thousand dollars for them, it will make peoples’ lives better. A couple thousand dollars means little kids get milk to drink. It means families get sheep, which means wool for warm blankets and clothes. It means better wells, so moms with babies can have clean water to drink.

I think this is something we can all get behind, can’t we?

So here’s my plan, the bare bones version.

1. You will help by spreading the word, and making donations.

2. I will match all of the donations, dollar for dollar.

3. We both have a big warm fuzzy feeling in our chests that lets us know we’ve helped make the world a better place.

4. Finally, as a gesture of my appreciation, I will supply gifts for the people who participated: Signed books, maps, sneak peaks of book two, stuff like that.

This blog is to explain *why* I’m doing this. The details about *how* are over here on THIS BLOG. There are links to my Heifer Team page and details about the prizes. So hop on over there and check it out.

Excitedly yours,

pat

Also posted in baby ducks, Worldbuilders 2008 | By Pat21 Responses

Terminal

I’ve done so much flying in this last month that all the airport terminals have blurred together in my memory.

So while I can’t remember exactly where this happened, I know it was down by the baggage claim, relaxing and participating in my second favorite sport: watching people.

It was a slightly out-of-the-way corner of the terminal with a light scattering of folks who were waiting for their luggage too. Standing off to the side was a young mom with a couple little kids in tow.

She was obviously tired, and was doing her best to keep an eye on her kids while at the same time making sure that her luggage wasn’t molested by terrorists, gypsies, communists, or whatever flavor of bad guy homeland security is trying to frighten us with this week.

The kids were having a great time. The little girl was just wandering, staying close to mom and looking at stuff. But the little boy had invented a game. He would build up to a run, then flop down and slide across the smooth floor on his belly.

It was obviously a lot of fun, and adding to his enjoyment was the fact that his mom didn’t want him to do it. She stopped him once, but then he got out of arm’s reach and she couldn’t catch him without leaving her daughter and the luggage behind.

I should make it clear that the baggage claim area was far from bustling. It was quiet, and the kid wasn’t getting in anyone’s way. Neither was he wandering very far afield. He stayed in mom’s line of vision. He wasn’t being naughty, he was just being a kid.

Mom wasn’t being needlessly strident about it, either. She didn’t get all huffy or shriek qt him. And while she wasn’t happy that he wasn’t listening, she didn’t view this as a major challenge to her authority. She was just trying to do her job, which is to say she wanted to keep him from hurting himself, being a nuisance, and getting his clothes dirty.

She tried to corral him as best she could, but he ignored and avoided her, run-flopping all over the place. I was tempted to try it myself. It looked like a good time. However, the square-cube ratio is harsh on adults, and I worried that if I flopped onto the ground, I would rupture something vital in my guts. Plus I expect airport security would have tazered me for being a deviant.

So, because I was living vicariously through his exploits, I was watching him when he flopped harder than he meant to. It wasn’t a bad fall, but he bumped his head a little and lay there for half a second, hurt, angry, and confused. Then started to cry, picked himself up, and ran over to his mom.

Now this is the fulcrum of the story. The point at which it could pivot one way or another. The young mom could have cussed him out. But she didn’t. She didn’t shout or say, “I told you so,” or try to turn it into some sort of moral lesson. She picked him up, hugged him, and nuzzled her face against his head to make him feel better. And it worked.

That’s what moms are for. They give us good advice and we ignore it, running around like tiny Visigoths. Then we fuck up, hurt ourselves, and come running back so that they can make everything okay again.

It was a sweet thing to see. And honestly, it broke my heart.

Some of you know that my mom died not too long ago. I don’t talk about it very much, but the fact is, I think about her all the time.

Whenever I think too hard about it, I become uncertain about what I should or shouldn’t post here on the blog. Generally speaking, when I think something might be of interest to my readers (like an interview, or an appearance at a convention) I post it up. The same is true when I think of a funny story or a good piece of advice.

Part of the reason I haven’t written much about my mom is because I worry it will come across as maudlin, and I assume that people come to the blog to be entertained, not depressed.

On the other hand, if this blog is supposed to be a little window into my life, not writing about her at all feels dishonest. If the things I write here are supposed to reflect my real thoughts and emotions, how can I not mention her?

I get the feeling that I’m going to spend the rest of my life thinking of questions that only she could answer. Like how she kept the rabbits from destroying her garden even though she didn’t use a fence. The truth is, when she died it was like someone burned down a library, cut off one of my legs, and took away half of my laughing. Some days are okay. But other days I don’t know if I’ll ever be smart, or steady, or happy in the same way again.

But the thing I really miss is that she loved me like nobody else ever could. I grew up my whole life surrounded by that constant, unobtrusive, unquestioning affection. It has a lot to do with the sort of person I am today. That doesn’t mean she didn’t call me on my bullshit, or make fun of me, or point out when I was being a dick. But the love was always there, indifferent to my Visigoth behavior. Unconditional.

When you grow up surrounded by something like that, you don’t notice it consciously. It’s like the humidity in the air. You don’t even notice when it’s gone, either, except that something is different. Something isn’t right. Then you start realizing that you’re thirsty all the time, and you can’t figure out why you’re constantly tired, or getting nosebleeds.

Then, eventually, you realize the problem is that the air is too dry. Only then can you take some steps to try and get some moisture back into your life. Only then can you start trying to make adjustments so things can feel, at least a little bit, like they used to.

I think that’s the point I’ve finally reached. I’ve discovered that my life is drier than I’d like, and I’m trying to figure out what I can do about it.

So I think I’m going to start mentioning my mom on here from time to time. Not a lot, probably, but some. It’s a shame you can’t meet her, but I suppose the next best thing is you getting to know her through some stories.

I’ve turned the comments off for today, because I’m not looking for sympathy or consolation. Similarly, if you know me, don’t feel obliged to send me an e-mail, trying to cheer me up and gently dancing around the question of how I’m doing. How am I? I’m fine. Sad? Yes. Melancholy? Sure. But also fine.

I mean it. Few things are as irritating to me as someone trying to cheer me up when I’m in a perfectly good bad mood.

Stay tuned for next week, when I’ll continue spilling out the convention stories that I’ve built up over the last month. Hint: catgirls will be featured prominently.

Fondly,

pat

Also posted in day in the life, emo bullshit, the man behind the curtain | By PatLeave a comment
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