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The Pat Rothfuss Escort Service.

Today I was driving downtown and I saw a momma duck walking down the middle of the street with six little baby ducks following her. Downtown Stevens Point isn’t really a bustling place, but there’s still two lanes of traffic, and she was walking right down the center line.

I did a quick job of parallel parking, which turned out even more lousy than my usual. Then I hopped out of the car and made sure that they got out of the road okay.

The babies were still really young. They still had their baby fluff, and were smaller than tennis balls. Mom was taking small steps to they could keep up, and they were all trucking along to keep up with her, none of them ever falling behind by more than a foot and a half.

The other thing I noticed is that if she stopped moving, all of them sat down immediately. They did it in unison, six little duck butts hitting the pavement all at once. Then when mom started going again, they all bobbed back to their feet and started following her again.

Momma duck eventually headed off the road to the sidewalk and hopped up the curb. I was surprised that the baby ducks could make it up there too. But they did, bouncing up a sheer wall three times taller than they were. It was really cute. Hallmark cute.

I walked with them the five or six blocks to the river, stopping traffic when they needed to cross the road. I thought I might need to herd them too, but momma duck knew where she was going, and I only had to steer once to keep her going the right direction.

That said, she really didn’t like having me around and made it clear whenever I got too close. She would snap her beak, and the feathers on the top of her head stood up. I had no doubt that were I to cross some invisible line, she would bring all sorts of momma-duck wrath of god down on me.

A lot of the drivers I stopped of didn’t care for me much either, and their mouths made similar snapping motions behind their windshields when I stepped in front of their cars and held out my hand for them to stop. Luckily, this is something I can do with incredible authority. I worked in a parking ramp one summer, and that was the skill I carried away. I can stop a car at thirty feet with a hand gesture no matter what the driver might think of me.

However, people didn’t stay pissed for long. Once they saw what I was doing, everyone was full of smiles and willing to help. I believe, given the chance, the vast majority of people are eager to do the right thing. I believe that people are good, and that most of the ugliness in the world comes from folks being thoughtless, or misinformed, or simply inattentive to the world around them. No one willingly runs over baby ducks, but it happens all the time because people aren’t careful.

Sometimes you need someone to step out in front of you and say, “No. Stop. Look at this thing that’s about to happen. Think about what you’re doing. Attend. Be mindful.” Whatever you call this impulse, I have a great deal of it, and it’s constantly leading me to step out in front of moving cars. Metaphorically speaking.

Everything said, it took about an hour for me to escort the ducks to the river, and the milk that I’d left in my car got hot from sitting in the sun too long. But the truth is this: walking those ducks to the river was the best time I’ve had in months. Maybe longer. I felt good afterwards, better than I’ve felt in a long time.

It’s strange for me to admit this, but a lot of my life has felt very hollow lately. Many of my days are not particularly good days, though I would be hard pressed to explain why this is the case.

I’ve had fun, don’t get me wrong, but a lot of it has been fun like eating one of those giant Pixy Stix. It’s great while you’re doing it, but afterward, you don’t really feel…. good. It’s not a substantial experience.

I need to think on this. If an hour spent helping some ducks feels like the most worthwhile thing I’ve done in a months, I probably need to re-examine my life.

That’s all for now folks. Have fun, but look out for ducks while you’re doing it. And if someone steps in front of you and holds up their hand for you to stop, you might want to slow down whatever you’re doing and have a second look around, just in case.

Fondly,

pat

Posted in babies, baby ducks, day in the life | By Pat56 Responses

Fanmail Q&A: Convention Adventures

Pat,

I know you just did some touring around. You hit a bunch of conventions in Indianapolis, Chicago, and Seattle…

Why don’t you tell us about your trips? Not a lot of us can make it to your events, but we’d love to hear some cool stories from the road…

What was you’re favorite part of your travels?

Joe.

*     *     *

Joe,

The truth is, I always mean to write about my conventions/readings/adventures when I get back from them. Because honestly, something interesting always happens.

(What happens in Austin, stays in Austin.)

The problem is, when I get back from these things, I’m exhausted. Plus the travel has usually put me behind on a bunch of other projects. So I spend a couple days answering e-mail and trying to get caught up with things. By the time I *am* caught up, the convention has usually been over for a month. Or two. Or ten.

In fact, when I was at Gencon, someone asked me a question similar to yours. Except they asked about the book tour I did last year. 21 events in 21 days, all over the country.

“You never wrote about it on the blog,” she said.

“Oh sure I did,” I said.

“A little,” she said. “But not much at all. And I should know. I just recently found your blog and read the whole thing.”

“Wow,” I said. “Seriously?”

“Yeah,” she said. “I twisted my ankle so I couldn’t go hiking. It took me about three weeks and I kinda I read it all. The baby ducks. Your Aslan Story. The  Gaiman-Day unit of coolness…

I thought about it for a second, and realized that while I had *planned* to write blogs about some of my road adventures, I’d probably never gotten around to it.

Alternately, sometimes I start writing a blog, and never finish it because other things come up. I have a blog titled: “why people kill themselves in hotel rooms” that I’ve been trying to finish for more than a year now….

“So what was your favorite part of the tour?” she asked.”What was cool?”

I thought about it for a bit. Then told her the truth: There were a lot of cool things that happened. I met a lot of lovely readers. I got hugs and cookies and whiskey and knives…

And a plush unicorn Pegasus kitten.

I did a midnight reading in San Fransisco for the people that couldn’t fit into my earlier reading. Much to everyone’s surprise, more than 300 people showed up despite the ridiculously late hour.

My first signing was over 600 people. So many that I couldn’t take a picture of them all at once. So many that they filled two levels of the bookstore. I got to read in the Library of Congress. I met people that actually squeed with delight.

I met someone who had my name tattooed on her arm…

…which is a level of devotion that is equal parts flattering and terrifying. Especially given that book two wasn’t even out yet.

I got to do a reading at the Library of Congress. People dressed up in costumes….

But honestly? My favorite part came right at the end of the tour, when I met up with Sarah and Oot right at the end of the tour in Boston. I hadn’t seen them in a long while, and I missed Oot terribly.

Oot was barely a year an a half old at that point, so me being away for three weeks was a big deal. I got to see him at various points in the tour, but it was only for an hour or an evening at a time. And as I’ve made clear on the blog, when I’m away from him for a long period of time, I start to lose my shit. Around day five I become a wretched weepy thing, unable to go out in public without embarrassing myself.

It was even worse back then. He was so young. I was worried he wouldn’t remember me. Worried that he’d be shy of me….

So the first morning after the tour was over, we hung out in the hotel. We cuddled a little, and when he got bored with that, I asked him if he wanted to make a pillow fort.

He did. So we made a fort using the ridiculous number of pillows that those posh hotels feel obliged to put on your bed.

To all you parents out there. If you’re not making pillow forts with your kids, you’re really missing out. You don’t need a lot of pillows. Three or four is plenty. In some ways, it can be better without a lot of pillows, because then you can make yourself *part* of the fort. If your kid isn’t a big cuddler, you can get some clandestine snuggling that way.

Sarah and my dad went out for breakfast. Oot and I didn’t. We stayed in the hotel room and continued to made forts.

I told Oot that he better be careful, because there was a creature called the Goonch that would nibble his feet if they were hidden under the pillows. Then I would sneak my hand under the pillow and tickle him.

It has been more than a year since I started that little game, and it still hasn’t gotten old. Not for either of us.

He had a few plush toys with him, and I thought that maybe they would try to break into the fort. Add some drama to the game.

But Oot thought that if they wanted to come in the fort, that was fine by him. That made me unreasonably proud. No pointless antagonism. No warmongering. He just wanted to hang out in his fort with his friends.

So it went for about two hours, until Sarah and my dad got back from breakfast.

That was my favorite part of my book tour….

[Editorial note: I just searched my computer for an hour, looking for the pictures I know I took of little Oot in his pillow fort. I can’t find them and it breaks my heart a little.

Instead, please accept this picture of comparable cuteness]

(Click to Embiggen the Cute.)

I know we’re all programmed to think our kids are cute, but seriously. Look at him.

And that hair. I can’t bring myself to cut it. He’s just too pretty. About 80% of the people who meet him think he’s a little girl because of it. But I love it. Plus  can’t help but feel that will probably be healthy for him in the long run. Maybe if folks think he’s a girl for another couple years he’ll be slower to absorb some of the gender bullshit that’s constantly fucking up our culture.

*     *     *

Anyway Joe, I hope that kinda answers your questions. For one, it’s not that I try to keep these stories secret, it’s just that I tend to be busy and forgetful.

For two, generally speaking, my favorite part of these adventures is coming home to my little boy.

Rest assured that I’ll be sharing at least one cool story from Gencon in the semi-near future. One that Scalzi has already mentioned on his blog.

In the meantime, here’s one cool thing that happened in Chicago.

I wore a tux:

Oot wore a tuxedo shirt. We were quite the dashing pair….

Later all,

pat

Posted in book two, conventions, emo bullshit, fan coolness, Fanmail Q + A, Oot, Surreal enthusiasm, Tales from the Con | By Pat60 Responses

Worldbuilders FAQ – (And a Critique of Batman)

This is the FAQ for Worldbuilders fundraiser, 2011.

If you want details about how the the fundraiser works, click HERE.

If you want to make a donation, click HERE.

Okay, onward to the questions:

  • “When does the Fundraiser end?”

February 7th at Midnight, Central Standard Time. Make sure to make your donations before then to take advantage of matching funds and to be included in the prize lottery.

  • “I love that you’re doing this. Can I post about this on my blog?”

Nothing would make me happier. The fundraiser depends on everyone spreading the word. Twitter it. Post up a link on Facebook. The more the merrier.

That said, I would prefer if you would link to my blog, rather than trying to copy-and-paste my posts. Our main page gets updated whenever we get new prizes or something changes, so it’s best if people go there to get the newest information.

  • “How can I be a Worldbuilders sponsor/donor?

It’s easy, contact me at Worldbuilders.2011 (squiggly at thinger) gmail.com

  • “Can I donate to Heifer International using paypal?”

Yup. You can also use Amazon payments and Google. You’ve got all sorts of options.

  • “I don’t have a credit card. If I mail you a check will you enter me in the lottery and match my donation?”

Absolutely.

Mail the check to

Worldbuilders
PO BOX 186
Stevens Point, WI 54481
  • “Can I send you cash?”

Muahahahahah….

Um…. Wait. No. You really shouldn’t. It’s just risky all around.

However, if you don’t have a checking account or a credit card, you could get a money order and send that to me.

  • “If your name goes into the lottery hat multiple times, can you win multiple prizes? The first prize your name is drawn for? The Coolest prize your name is drawn for? How will that work?”

Here’s how it will work.

Say you donate 120 dollars, enough for a goat.

Your name would go into the final drawing 12 times. Then, if we draw your name out of the hat and you win a signed book, your name is still in there 11 times for the rest of the drawing.

That means you could, conceivably, win 12 prizes.

  • “I ordered a book/poster/t-shirt from you. When will I get it?”

Man. I’ve got no idea. We’re getting things out the door as quickly as possible. But the mail is really slow this time of year because of the holidays. My advice is to be patient. Sending me an e-mail isn’t going to make the package move any faster.

  • “What are my odds of winning something if I donate?”

I can’t calculate even rough odds on this year until we have all the donations in.

But last year I think if someone donated $10, they had a 1 in 70 chance of winning something.

That means if they donated enough for a goat ($120) they had a 1 in 8 chance of winning something. Pretty sweet odds, you have to admit.

This year we have way more prizes, so I’m sure the odds will be just as good, if not a little better.

Keep in mind these are rough estimates. And the odds will shimmy around a bit as new books come in and donation totals rise.

  • “My uncle/mom/grampa speaks Polish/Spanish/Estonian…. Can I buy a signed copy of one of your foreign editions directly from you?”

Yup. Other authors have been donating their foreign translations to Worldbuilders, too. So we’re getting a nice selection of foreign editions in the store.

  • “Why are the foreign editions in your store so expensive?”

The prices for most of the books in above the cover price. This is because:

1. The books are usually signed by the author.

2. Some of the books are rare or out of print, or just hard to find in the US.

3. Because all the money is going to charity, so we’re asking you to kick in a little extra to support the good cause.

  • “Is there a facebook page for Worldbuilders?”

Soon.

  • “I have something I’d like to donate to your lottery option. Where can I send it?”

Before you drop that macrame owl into the mail, why don’t you drop us a line at Worldbuilders.2011 (squiggly at thinger) gmail.com and tell me what you’re thinking of sending.

It’s not that I don’t appreciate your generosity, and it’s not that I have anything against macrame. Or owls. It’s just that right now we kind of have a tight focus of things we’re giving away as prizes. It’s mostly books with some comics and a little art and music. For now, I think it might be best if we keep that focus.

  • “How come you didn’t invite me to donate a book to your fundraiser? Isn’t my book good enough for you?”

If I know you and I didn’t send you a request, it’s probably because I’ve been insanely busy these last few months.

It’s also entirely possible that I don’t feel I know you well enough to come begging for donations. I know this is hard to believe, but I am kinda bashful about that sort of thing.

The other possibility is that I lost your e-mail, or that I’m a disorganized idiot.

But if you’ve got a book or an ARC you think would fit in into the mix, I’d love to include it. Send it to:

Worldbuilders
P.O BOX 186
Stevens Point, WI 54481

Three things:

1. If you’re the author, we’d love if you signed the books before sending them to us.

2. If you’re thinking of sending a collectible of some kind, please contact us first.

3. Please package the books carefully. It breaks my heart when books arrive damaged.

  • I’d like to do an interview with you so I can write a story about Worldbuilders for my local paper/magazine/whatever.

If you’re a journalist, blogger, webcomic-er, a celeb with a huge twitter following, or just someone who has a cool idea about how to spread the word, drop us a line at the aforementioned e-mail: worldbuilders.2011 [squiggly at-sign thinger] gmail.com.

Pretty much if you have any questions about the fundraiser, that’s the e-mail to use. You’ll get a response much more quickly than if you use the contact form on my website.

  • “Can I do some fundraising of my own, then donate it and have you match it?”

By all means. Have a bakesale. Search the couch cushions. Rally your book club or church group. Show people at work the website then pass the hat.

You can also start your own fundraiser page that’s linked to Worldbuilders if you go to the Team Heifer page I set up and click “Join The Team” instead of “Give to This Team.” That’s the only way I can track donations.

  • “I can buy chicks on your page, but not baby ducks!”

Yeah. They don’t offer all the different options on the donor pages. The cost of a flock of ducks is the same as for the chicks: $20.

  • “How much of my donation to Heifer goes to actually helping people?”

This is a fair question. A lot of so-called charities are actually just scams that collect money.

Others have good intentions, but the majority of the money they raise goes running their organization. Some very high profile charities spend as much as 60-70% of the money they raise on administrative costs, while only a small sliver goes toward actually helping people. I could name names here, but I’m not going to. If you’re really curious, you can google up the information yourself.

Please believe me when I say I’ve done my research. Heifer is an award-winning charity for a reason. They’ve been doing good works for over 60 years.

Heifer keeps all its financial records available to the public, and 75% of everything it collects go directly toward helping people.

Here’s a nice visual breakdown from Heifer’s site.

You can see here that less than seven percent of their money goes toward administration. That’s exceptional.

Everyone has their favorite charity. There are a lot of good causes out there, and people have very personal attachments to them. Emotions run high in these areas.

When I first started doing worldbuilders I got a flurry of e-mails. Someone asked me about animal shelters, another about diabetes. A third person posted a comment on the blog, arguing that people living in the US shouldn’t give money to charities that support causes outside the US. I erased the post because it was harshing my groove, then I felt guilty about it because the person was relatively polite in making their point, though I still think they were wrong as wrong can be.

But here’s what I’m getting at. I think it’s important not to go all Bruce Wayne in these situations.

Follow along with me on this. Bruce Wayne’s folks were killed by criminals, so he grows up and becomes Batman in order to fight crime. Because he hates crime. Because crime killed his parents with crime.

Now I like Batman as much as the next guy. Good stories. Batarangs. Men in tights. He’s probably my favorite superhero.

But the fact is, his whole Batman deal is pretty self-indulgent.

Think about it. Dude is a multi-billionaire. If he wanted to make the world a better place, he could create a foundation 100 times bigger than Heifer International. He could build shelters for battered women, schools in low-income neighborhoods. Sustainable agriculture. Renewable energy.

What does he do with his money? He builds super-gadgets so he can fight crime. Drives a rocket car.

Yes I know that Bruce Wayne is also a philanthropist. Don’t quibble. He does a tiny bit of charity and a whole big shitload of being Batman.

Why? Well… because it wouldn’t be much of a comic if he didn’t. Fair enough.

But the other answer is this: he fights crime because it makes him feel good. Not because it does good. There’s a difference.

Cancer got my mom not too long ago, and it took a good hard swing at my dad, too. That means that I should be raising money for cancer research, because I hate cancer, right?

Well…. no. Do I hate cancer? Of course. But if I just focused on fighting cancer for the rest of my life, I’d kind of be doing it for selfish reasons. I’d be doing it to make myself feel good. Instead, I’d rather focus on making people’s lives better. I’d like to focus on doing good, then let the feeling good be the side effect.

That’s why I’m focusing on Heifer. I can do the most good there. If I raised 200,000 dollars for cancer research, it would help pay for a piece of lab equipment. It could fund a lab’s research for a couple weeks, or maybe only a couple of days.

The sad fact is, 200,000 dollars isn’t very much when it comes to fighting cancer.

But 200,000 dollars is a huge shitload of money when it comes to buying animals. We raise that much money, and hundreds of people’s lives get drastically better right away. Kids get to drink milk right away. Families get to sell wool and eggs right away.

We don’t need to research how to cure hungry kids. We know how. We have the technology. It’s called food. We just need to do it.

Heifer helps people all over the world, not just here in the US. Why? Because people all over the world have it really shitty and they need help. To say that some people deserve my help more just because they’re from the same country…. Nah. That’s not my game. I’m playing for team human, not team USA.

Does that make sense? Wait…. What was the question again?

Oh. Yeah. Will I match donations somewhere else instead of Heifer? Respectfully, I’ll pass. I’m not saying you should stop loving your charity. But I’ve put some thought into this, and I’m going to stick with Heifer for now.

  • “I have a question you didn’t answer here….”

Drop me an e-mail at Worldbuilders.2011 [squigly atsign thinger] gmail.com we’ll answer them as soon as I’m able…

To go back to the main Worldbuilders page, click HERE.

Posted in Heifer International, Worldbuilders 2010 | By Pat25 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

Posted in baby ducks, mom, Worldbuilders 2008 | By Pat22 Responses
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