Category Archives: calling on the legions

Doing What We Can

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So I call Maria.

*     *     *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*     *     *

Fast forward to now.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then I saw this:

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

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

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

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

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

So I call Maria.

*     *     *

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

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

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(Like this.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

pat

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

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

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

I am having the best day ever.

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

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

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

(If anyone else cares to drop us a line, our e-mail is refugees@worldbuilders.org.)

Also posted in Worldbuilders | By Pat77 Responses

Cool News: A Dresden Files T-Shirt

Fair warning here: Spoilers. If you haven’t read the Dresden files…

Well… first off. If you haven’t read the Dresden Files, you’re missing one of the best fantasy series in existence and you really should consider checking it out. Really really. Seriously.

Secondly, if you haven’t read the series, this blog isn’t for you. Partly because I’m going to be talking about stuff that won’t make any sense if you don’t know anything about the books. But *mostly* because some of the stuff I’m going to say here has really significant spoilers for the series.

Specifically, I’m going to be talking about stuff that happens in the most recent book: Skin Game. Big stuff that happens at the end of Skin Game.

So… yeah. If you read this it’s going to ruin big character and plot arcs that progress over the course of (does a quick count) nine books.

So stop reading if you don’t want that ruined.

As an alternate, you can go check out this video of me doing an interview with Jim Butcher a couple years ago.

Or you can go vote on which Kingkiller t-shirt designs we’ll end up using in the fundraiser next week.

Last Warning: I’m not going to be coy. Real spoilers for Skin Game below…

*     *     *

Over the years, I’ve been pretty clear about my love of Jim Butcher’s work, especially the Harry Dresden series.

As evidence, I submit for your perusal my embarrassingly gushy Goodreads review of Skin Game.

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I first read this book more about two years ago. Yeah. Before it even came out. I’m enough of a rabid fan that I sweet-talked my way into getting an advance reading copy.

Since then, I’ve read/listened to the book at least two more times.

And every time it gets to the end of the book… at the very end outside the carpenter’s house where everything is at its most bleak…. I laugh my ass off with pure joy and delight when Butters takes up the sword.

Because of this, for years now, I’ve wanted a t-shirt that shows a hand holding up a katana hilt with a lightsaber blade. Underneath it the words: “Polka will never die!”

My desire for this t-shirt has come and gone over the years, but it’s never gone entirely away. And recently, when I re-listened to Skin Game, it came back full force.

So I told my assistant Amanda about it (she’s a big Dresden fan as well) and her face lit up. “I want one too!” she said immediately.

Then she said, “We should make them for Worldbuilders.

This shows she’s a better person than I am. I just wanted one for me.

At this point in my career, I’m lucky enough to know Jim Butcher a little bit. We’ve met at conventions a couple times. Had a few dinners together. He’s really a delightful guy. A proper geek, funny and smart. If you ever get the chance to catch him at a signing or hear him speak at a convention, it’s well worth your time.

What’s more, he’s helped out Worldbuilders a couple times in the past. So I plucked up my courage and dropped him a line, asking how he’d feel about letting Worldbuilders do a t-shirt as part of our upcoming fundraiser.

And he said yes.

It’s hard to squee when you’re a baritone, but I gave it my best shot. (Have I mentioned that Jim is a really delightful guy?)

That e-mail exchange was just last week, and we *just* managed to get the paperwork tied up. So now all we really need is a graphic for the shirts.

Here’s the thing: we could design this in house. But neither of the two artists I work with the most, Brett and Nate, have read the Dresden books. (Shameful, I know. I gave both of them a stern talking-to.)

I could hire someone to do it too…. but honestly, when I do a project like this, I firmly believe there’s no substitute for the passion and enthusiasm of the fans. Whenever I reach out to y’all creatively, you come back with things so much better than I ever could have imagined.

So I’m reaching out to the artistic geeks among you to see if any of you would like to take a shot and making this t-shirt design.

I won’t lie, our timeline is a little ridiculous. The fundraiser starts on June 1st, so we only have a couple of days.

But if you’re a fan of the Dresden Files, and you have the ability to art, and you’re interested in putting your skills to use for a good cause…. Well… that would be pretty awesome of you. You’d make a lot of geeks happy, and you’d be helping feed hungry kids, too.

A few notes:

  • Keep in mind that this design is for a t-shirt.
  • I asked Jim to confirm the color of the blade, and he said: “In the books, the blade is white edged in gold, like bright sunlight.”
  • Submissions go to: tshirt (at) worldbuilders.org
  • We need the entries by 12:00pm Central Time on Saturday, May 30.

I know. It’s not much time. But we can’t wait any longer because we’ll need to sort through submissions, e-mail back and forth with artists, fine-tune the design, and still launch it with the rest of the fundraiser on Monday, June 1st.

So there you go. I’m kinda silly excited about this. It’s like an early birthday present for me.

If you have any questions, please feel free to ask them down in the comments.

If you haven’t voted on the kingkiller t-shirt designs yet, you should check them out over here.

Lastly, I’m trying to think of something nice I can do for the artists who have been submitting designs for us. So if you are one of those artists (or if you’re just a clever person) I’d welcome any suggestions down in the comments.

Thanks for being awesome everyone,

pat

Also posted in contests, Jim Butcher | By Pat41 Responses

The Upcoming Festivities….

Not to let the cat out of the bag early here, but I figured I’d share what we having coming up on July 7th with those of you who make a habit of reading the blog.

Maybe this is a little silly, but I think of y’all… I don’t know really. I don’t want to say something like “core readership” because if you start using phrases like “core readership” then odds are you’re not far from using the word “utilize” instead of “use.” After that you’re only a few steps from enthusiastically using the term ‘synergy’ in regular conversation. And once that happens… well… it’s just a ever-tightening spiral until the end.

So while I don’t know what to call y’all exactly, I do think of the people who read this blog as the readers I know best, as I do make an effort to read the comments you write here. I also think of you guys as the folks that know *me* best, as you take the time to read through my great rambling bloggings.

By the way, have I mentioned that Cutie Snoo has just started to crawl? He’s wobbly as a youtube kitten. But when he sees something he wants to grab and stick in his gob, no amount of tipping over or face-planting will deter him. Seriously, the raw determination he possesses is really astounding.

In other cute-kid news, tonight I was feeling a little down. So I asked Oot if he would like to cuddle. He did, so we curled up on the couch. Then, while telling me a story he thrashed around dramatically and kicked me right in the nuts.

It was one of those good, sharp kicks. Where you’re given a moment of pain-free grace in which to think: I’m pretty sure he got me. But it doesn’t actually *hurt.* Maybe he just grazed them. Maybe….

And then, just when you start to really hope, the pain slowly blossoms. Like a lump of raw nausea forged from dull red iron.

I didn’t freak out on him. He didn’t mean to do it. He was just being a kid, and it was an accident.

Besides, years ago I worked out how to deal with these situations: Every time he kicks me in the nuts, I just make a note of it. Then, when he turns 16, gets his license, and asks to borrow the car, I’m going to say “no.” I’m going to say “no” once for every time he’s kicked me in the nuts.

At this point, he won’t be able to borrow the car until he’s 35.

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Sleep tight you innocent little fucker. Someday you’ll have kids, and they’ll kick you square in the junk and I will laugh and laugh and laugh.

Anyway, back to business. The upcoming festivities.

On the 7th we’re doing something new with Worldbuilders.  An experiment of sorts.

As most of you know, we tend to run a big fundraiser at the end of the year. We raise money for Heifer International by running a big lottery, some auctions, and occasionally selling things in the Tinker’s Packs.

This year, we’re trying something a little different. Instead of waiting a whole year, we’re going to do another smaller fundraiser here in July. Instead of having it last for a month, it’s only going to be one week long. Instead of having a big lottery and auctions, we’re going to be running it as an IndiGogo Campaign. So if you see something and think it’s awesome, you can just buy it. (As opposed to hoping you win it in the lottery, or bidding on it in an auction.)

The Worldbuilders Team has been putting this together for a couple months now, and we’re going to have some cool stuff in there: Book Bundles, a new T-shirt,  a Princess and Mr. Whiffle coloring book. AND we’re launching the 2015 calendar. Probably my favorite calendar we’ve done so far….

We’ve got cool stuff. Scads of it.

But, as always happens when you’re trying something for the first time, I’m getting a little nervous.

For one thing, we don’t really have a good name for it yet. The Worldbuilders Mid-Year Indigogo Geektastic Fundraiser doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue.

The other thing I’m a little nervous about is whether or not we’re going to be able to effectively spread the word about the fundraiser in this time frame. The entire thing is only going to be a week long….

Do you guys have any good ideas about what we might be able to call this? (And yes, I’m aware of the irony involved in my asking for help in giving something a name.)

Also, do y’all have any bright ideas about how we might be able to spread the word?

Ideas welcome in the comments below. Or, if you’d like to offer a particular type of help, you can contact us on the Worldbuilders page.

Stay hoopy fellow froods,

pat

Also posted in Cutie Snoo, Oot, Worldbuilders | By Pat199 Responses

Good News, Amazing Art, and Three Conversations About a Kickstarter

First off, good news.

Since I first posted about the new Kickstarter Project I’m doing with Cheapass Games a couple weeks ago, my previous kickstarter from last year has started shipping out.

By now, thousands of you have already received your cards in the mail:

(Monique’s decks and one of the limited edition bookplates.)

So far, the reactions have been great. And while I’m happy for y’all, this also fills me with a certain amount of envy, because I’m one of the thousands of you that *haven’t* gotten my package in the mail yet.

Let me say this: be strong my brothers and sisters. Know that you are not alone, and know that the folks at Albino Dragon have been furiously shipping stuff out. It’s just that there are, quite literally, thousands of packages to send, and many of them have *lots* of individual items that have to be picked and packed. It takes time.

But rest assured, they’re on their way.

*    *     *

The current kickstarter is clipping along nicely. As I type this, we’ve crested over 106,000 dollars. Which means that we’ve just unlocked the 105K stretch goal: adding another limited edition bookplate to the project.

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(Lanre, drawn by Shane Tyree.)

We’ll only be doing a single, limited run of these, exclusively for this Kickstarter. They’ll be individually numbered adhesive bookplates printed on high-quality archival paper.

Right now, anyone who pitches into the kickstarter at the $80 level or higher gets everything listed in that level, *plus* one of these bookplates.

I’ll be signing it too, of course.

*     *     *

Right now there are there are two decks set in my world. The core deck (from the commonwealth) and the Modegan deck. (From, y’know, Modeg.) The art for both of these is being done by Shane Tyree, who did the art for the NOTW cards.

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(So you *know* they’re going to be beautiful.)

There’s also other decks that we’ve unlocked in the kickstarter as well: a goblin deck, a pirate deck, and a barmaid deck all by different, lovely artists.

There’s also the Falling deck, which is actually an entire playable game by itself.

At $115,000, we’re unlocking another one of my decks, one based on The Princess and Mr. Whiffle.

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This one’s drawn by Nate Taylor of course.

And at $130K, we’re hitting my fourth deck, the Faen Deck….

This one’s also by Nate, and you’ll be getting a sneak peek at the Twilight court. So Bast will be showing up there.

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That’s right ladies. I’m going to put the kickstarter link right here, just in case you’re feeling a sudden, irresistible urge to click something.

Felurian will be showing up too. Which leads into the first of three recent conversations I’ve had with James Ernest that I’d like to share with you today.

*     *     *

I e-mailed James about a week ago. I’m paraphrasing a bit here, but this was the gist of our exchange….

Pat: Spent some time talking with Nate today about the Faen deck, which cards we’re going to include. What secrets we can hint at. He knows my world really well, so it’s easy. 

James: Glad to hear it.

Pat: So…. Can I show a bare ass in the Faen Deck? In my opinion, there’s hardly any point in doing a Faen deck at all if I can’t show Felurian’s ass and some tasteful side boob…

James: I’m okay with bare ass and tasteful side boob. Heck, we could go with bare boob if you want.

It will require me to figure out how to label it properly for retail, but I expect the Faen deck will be limited edition anyway. So that’s not a huge concern.

Let’s make sure the NSFW isn’t limited to just one card, though. That seems like a wasted opportunity. :)

Pat: I love you.

Two things resulted from this exchange.

1. I emailed Nate and told him to take Bast’s shirt off.

2. I realized the Faen deck isn’t reflecting a strict social hierarchy like the Commonwealth and Modegan decks. (Nobility on the top, Ruh at the bottom in the Commonwealth, for example.) This deck is almost telling a story instead.

3. I immediately cut some of the weaker cards and added better ones like: “The Mortal Guest” “The Sithe” and “The Faerie Revel.”

It’s going to be so much cooler than I’d originally thought….

*     *     *

A few days after that, I had another e-mail chat with James:

Pat: Hey there. I just had a couple of ideas for things we could add to the kickstarter. [Pat launches into a 500-word bullet pointed list proposing about 8 different things.]

James: Those are some good ideas. I especially like [secret thing we might announce Friday]. That would be fun. I’ll need to talk to a few people to see if we can make that work.

Pat: What about [six previously mentioned things]? Also, I just had two new ideas! [Details.]

Pat: Oh, and I forgot. Here’s one more idea. [Idea.]

Pat: [Two minutes later.] I’ve kinda had a bunch of caffeine today.

James: Well, they’re good ideas. But they’d also be a lot of work…

Pat: I wouldn’t say a *lot* of work.

James: That’s probably because you’re really caffeinated right now.

Pat: That’s… possible.

James: Besides, I’d rather focus on the core of the kickstarter: the decks themselves. I want them to be as good as possible.

Also, some of the things you’re suggesting would make more work for the artists or complicate our shipping process. Or both. If that happens, it might delay the kickstarter itself, and I really want it to ship on time.

Pat: Wow. Yeah. You’re right. Let’s focus on the key stuff.

James: No problem. Not my first rodeo.

*     *     *

So by this time, you should see part of the reason why I’ve really loved working with James so far. He’s not just a great game designer, he’s a good businessman and a good communicator too.

But as they say, third time pays for all.

Pat: At the risk of sounding like the idiot I am, I have to ask a question. Looking at your math from the previous e-mail, it seems like you’re cutting me in for a percentage of the entire kickstarter. Is that the case?

James: Yup.

Pat: Because I assumed I was only getting a percentage of the me-related stuff. My decks.

James: Nope. Our deal is that you get a percentage off the top. The core deck is based on your world. The other decks are, too. You’re making this something bigger and cooler, and I want to respect and reward that.

Pat: Are you sure about that?

James: Yup. Besides, your readers are remarkably cool and supportive of your projects. That’s a rare thing. You’re bringing the noise here, You get the big numbers.

Pat: Well. That’s terribly decent of you. Not just in the initial offering, but also in not slyly sliding it off the table right now when I was obviously clueless about it.

James: Well, thanks for giving me the chance to feel magnanimous in giving you what you already had.

So… yeah. James has pretty much won me over forever at this point.

What’s more, since I’m now making more money off this project than I’d anticipated, I’ve decided to give a piece of that to Worldbuilders.

So if you were looking for one more reason to jump in and play a little game with us, you just got one.

I’ll just leave a link here at the end of the post. Just in case any of you might happen to want it.

Goodnight Nobody,

pat

Also posted in cool things | By Pat89 Responses

A Pair of Kickstarters, and Kickstarting Pairs

Hey there everybody,

I’ve got some cool news today. Something that I’m really seriously geeked about.

But before I share that with you, I have to take care of some business. And that means sharing a little bit of bad news.

  • The (kinda) Bad News:

Luckily, this news shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s already involved. If you backed the NOTW Kickstarter last year, and you’ve been reading your e-mail, you already know the Kickstarter isn’t shipping on time.

I’m sorry as hell about that. But I’m afraid there’s not much I can do on my end. At this point, all the production, logistics, and shipping is being handled by Albino Dragon. There were over 11,000 orders, and it’s taken longer than all of us would like.

Rest assured that the parts of the kickstarter I do have direct control over are being taken care of as quickly as possible. Those of you who were lucky enough to get into the tiers that included a the prototype jot should have already received it, as I personally mailed all of those out before Christmas.

The only part that’s still up to me is signing the bookplates.

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So. Many. Bookplates.

You know what the best part of signing 4500 bookplates is? Nothing.

Okay, that’s not really true. They actually turned out really nice, and I know they’re going to make y’all happy when you get them. But you honestly have no idea how numbing it is signing several thousand of them.

I got these toward the end of January, and I’ve been signing them ever since.

At first I had a vague fantasy of signing all of them in one long 18 hour marathon. Unfortunately, I discovered signing my name 300 times in a row without a break caused a blinding pain to shoot up my arm, making me want to die.

And here’s the thing, I use that arm for a lot of things. Important things.

So, rather than flirt with carpal tunnel and potentially destroy my ability to type, I’ve been doing them in small batches over the last couple weeks.

As of last week, I’d sent about 2300 of them back to Albino Dragon so they could start shipping packages as soon as the other items end up at the warehouse.

(Edit! Only 20 minutes or so after posting this blog, I had a few people on facebook tell me they *just* got shipping notifications from Albino Dragon. So it looks like packages are moving toward backers at this very moment. Huzzah!)

As bad news goes, it’s not that bad. Everything’s still moving forward. The cards are going to look great, the poker chips will be cool, and the bookplates are beautiful.

But it does make my good news today a little awkward….

  • The Awkward News:

Any of you who have spent some time on kickstarter know that a project shipping late isn’t that uncommon. Especially when the overall kickstarter ended up being about six times bigger than any of us expected.

Here’s the problem. Months and months ago, game designer James Ernest dropped me a line. He’d created a new card game, he explained, and asked if I’d have any interest in incorporating it into my world.

For those of you that don’t know, James is the owner and head game designer for Cheapass Games. I’ve been playing his games for over 15 years.

Though a monumental effort of will, I kept my cool. I told James I was flattered, but I needed to play the game first to make sure it was a good fit for my world.

He sent me the rules, and I played it with a few friends. It was brilliant. Easy to learn, but with some good strategy. You can bet on it. You can play for drinks (or Sounten.) In 30 minutes everyone was mocking each other, cursing our own bad luck, and talking shit.

It’s exactly the sort of game you’d see people playing in the Eolian.

I told James I thought it was a great fit. “My people will love it,” I said. “But I can’t feel good about launching this project until my other Kickstarter ships though.”

“How about February?” James asked.

“Perfect,” I said.

But things didn’t go as smoothly as I’d hoped. And by the time I knew the NOTW kickstarter was going to be shipping late, James had already brought other people onboard and scheduled his launch. There was no good way to move things around.

  • The Good News:

Despite my Midwestern guilt and the awkwardness of having these kickstarters overlap, I’m still really excited.

Not only is the game designed by James Ernest, but the art is going to be done by Shane Tyree. He did the NOTW deck with Albino dragon. Needless to say, I’m looking forward to working with him again:

Bandit

The previous kickstarter was a deck of cards *about* The Name of the Wind. But this is something different. This is a deck of cards *from* the Four Corners. It’s the deck of cards that Kvothe and Wil and Sim would sit down and play with at Ankers.

A few details:

  • This isn’t a standard deck of 52 cards. It’s a pyramid deck with 55.
  • It’s got ten tens, nine nines, eight eights, and so on.
  • The point of the game is to avoid pairs. To simplify this all the cards of each number have the same picture. (So there’s one Tinker, two Amyr, three nobles, etc etc, all the way down to 8 Bandits, 9 Beggars, and 10 Ruh.)

ruh

  • The one exception is the sevens. We hit one of our early stretch goals, so the sevens (Calamities) are each going to be unique. I’m sure the savvy among you can figure out why.
  • Folks were clamoring for an Adem mercenary in the deck, so we’re going to put that in. It’s probably going to replace the courtesan.

Honestly, there’s a lot more I could tell you about the decks, but I think I’ll save that for a later blog.

For now, I’ll just keep it to two things:

1. We’d like to do some other decks from my world, too. A Modegan deck. A University deck. A Faen deck….

James is hoping to bring in decks from other worlds, too. Like a Girl Genius deck done by Phil Foglio. I would love to see that.

But those need to happen as stretch goals. That way James can cover printing costs and afford to pay the artists.

That means the more people jump onto the kickstarter early, the more decks we’ll all have to choose from.

2. For those of you who like awesome things: Here’s the link.

Later Space Cowboys,

pat

P.S. Okay. One final thing. When I was talking with James last night, he mentioned that as a game designer, the thought of designing a game like Tak was really interesting to him.

What would you guys think about us making that a stretch goal in this kickstarter? Is that something you’d like to see?

Also posted in cool news, gaming | By Pat70 Responses

Three Threes or Who Wants to Be A Beta Reader?

Hey there folks,

We’re coming up on the end of the fundraiser. As I type this, we’re at $417,000 and we’re closing in fast on last year’s total of 433,000 dollars.

Traditionally, this is the time of year where I kick something into the fundraiser that’s a little… unique. Something to give a little extra incentive for people to donate here at the end of things.

This year, I have three items that might be extra-appealing to readers of my books….

ALL THE COINS 2

Here are the three things I’m putting into the lottery today:

1. Prototype sets of Cealdish currency

2. Faerie stones

3. The chance to be one of my beta readers

I’m putting three of each of these into the lottery. Hence the title of today’s blog. Three threes.

Now, if you’re interested in winning these things, I need you to read carefully, because there’s a potential problem:

Back in the day, Worldbuilders used to mostly be fans of my books. But it’s grown over the years, and now we are strong with the collected might of many different geek clans.

And that’s a good thing. A *great* thing.

The problem is this: the things I’m putting into the lottery today are a little…. specialized. They’re the sorts of things some of you are going to geek out about. But other people aren’t going to care about them at all.

I’ve been trying to figure out how I give the hardcore Kingkiller geeks a chance to win these items, while keeping them out of the hands of people who aren’t interested. How can the Worldbuilders team pull some folks into a super-special Rothfussians-only lottery for these nine items?

So here’s what we’re going to do.

If you want to be eligible to win these items, you have to go and make a donation to Heifer International on the Worlduilders Team Page. Same rules as before: every $10 you kick in gets you another chance to win.

But if you want to be eligible to win these things, your donation should end with .33 cents.

Enough for honeybees? $30.33. Enough for a goat? $120.33. A Heifer? $500.33

You follow the pattern here?

If you donate with .33 at the end of your total, in addition to being entered in the main drawing for tens of thousands of dollars worth of books, you’ll also get entered into this smaller, side-lottery for the hardcore Rothfuss fans only….

What’s more, if you made other donations under the same name, we’ll include them in this separate lottery too.

So. Just to be clear. Let’s say you donated 60 bucks back in December. But you read this blog and want a piece of the action, so you go log onto our team heifer page and donate $33.33. That means your total donation would be $93.33. So you’d have nine entries in the main lottery, and nine entries in the Rothfuss-specific one too.

You got it? You can donate over here.

1. Three sets of prototype Cealdish currency.

Coins closeup

Here we have an iron drab, a copper jot, a silver talent, and a gold mark.

A few of you have seen the jots and drabs before, but this is the first time I’ve had a full set to show off.

I’m a bit of a geek for old coins. So I’ve been working with Tom Maringer from the Shire Post Mint to develop currency for my world. If Tom’s name sounds familiar to you, it should. Last week we showed off some of his handiwork when he donated a bunch of currency from Wheel of Time and Game of Thrones.

For the Cealdish currency in my world, we’re doing something a little different. Rather than starting with the modern coins (The coins that Kvothe would be using.) We’re actually developing the historical coins first, then evolving the currency forward in history.

This set of coins would have been from about 500-600 years ago. Back when they were only a few short steps removed from bartering tokens.

The jot is solid copper. The drab is steel with a fusion crust.

The talent is made of an alloy called billion. It’s 20% silver and 80% copper. It was commonly used for coins here in the real world. It’s normally a rosy color, not bright silver like these. You see, if you heat billion in a furnace, some of the silver naturally migrates to the surface. Then, if you hammer it, it spreads the silver out so it looks much brighter, like a solid silver coin.

That’s what they used to do before electroplating. And that’s what we’ve done here.

The gold mark actually has gold in it. Not a *ton* of gold, but a little. (Even a little gold is pricey.) The rest of it is silver and copper. It’s an odd molten red color I’ve never seen before, and it’s polished and buffed to the point where it looks like it’s been enameled.

We’re doing a limited run of these. We only made 1000 jots. And there will be fewer talents and marks. When they’re gone we’re moving on to the next batch. That set will be from 300 years in Kvothe’s past. The designs will be more developed, the alloys different, and the maker’s marks more complex.

We’ll be selling these in the store eventually, but first we have to make more of them, get packaging straightened out, develop the product descriptions, etc etc…

But I have three sets now. And you can win them if you donate.

2.  Three Faerie Stones.

Fairy Stone

For those of you whose educations have been sorely neglected: a faerie stone is a stone you find on the shore with a hole bored all the way through it. They’re supposed to protect you from the fair folk. The specifics vary from story to story, but it’s generally agreed that they help you see through glamour and guard you against their charms.

When I was in Brighton for World Fantasy last November, I went looking on the beach for faerie stones. And I found some. And I brought them home.

I gave one to Oot, who promptly used it to wish for a horse. I gave one to Sarah, because I don’t want the fae to be getting all seducy on her, or pulling any changeling shit with Cutie.

Why would I give them away? Well, here’s the thing…. Some traditions say that faerie stones are only effective if they’re given to you. A freely-given gift.

I have three of these stones left, and I’m putting them in the lottery.

3.  Three chances be my beta reader.

So ever since I talked about my writing process on the blog a couple years ago, I’ve had hundreds of people e-mail me, asking how they can get to be one of my beta readers.

Generally speaking, the simple answer is this: go back in time 15 years and get to know me back before I was published.

You see, back in the day, anyone could be my beta reader provided they were willing to slog through 250,000 words of unpublished fantasy novel.

These days, the main requirement is that I trust you.

Why? Because if an early version of Book Three gets leaked onto the internet, the results will be catastrophic for both me and my publisher.

But I *could* let someone beta my new novella about Auri….

AuriAmyWinterbreeze

(Art Courtesy of Amy on Deviantart.)

You’ll sill have to sign a truly draconian non-disclosure form. Then I’ll mail you a copy of the story with some instructions and a red pen. After you’ve had a chance to read it, and scribble some notes, I’ll give you a call, see what you thought, and pick your brain a little bit.

And maybe, *maybe* if things work out well, and I feel I can trust you, and the stars align. Then I might add you to my list of permanent beta readers….

If any of these things seem like they might be up your alley, remember, all you need to do is head over to the Worldbuilders Team Page and donate directly to Heifer International.

And don’t forget, end your donation with .33….

Good night, Nightvale.

Goodnight.

Also posted in contests, Worldbuilders 2013 | By Pat177 Responses

Concerning Cake, Bilbo Baggins, and Charity

So a couple days ago I did an AMA on Reddit.

It was fun. I enjoy goofing off, interacting with my readers, and answering questions. So this sort of thing is a good fit for me.

Kvothe pants

The day after the AMA, I went back in to see if I’d missed any particularly important/interesting/clever questions.

And I found one. A really good question.

I started to answer it. Then I kept answering it. Then I realized I’d written about 400 words and stopped myself from going any further.…

So rather than post my answer there, buried deep in a thread at the bottom of a dead AMA. I’m answering it here with the author’s permission.

*     *     *

This is going to sound pretty awful, but why all the charity work?

I’ve always been… well, financially challenged (at young Kvothe-like levels at times), and from what I’ve read, you were in a similar state for a long time. I can’t imagine doing so much for strangers even if that changed, and sometimes…

Well, it kind of bugs me. There are loads of things that you do that I would love to give you money for, but when you do them for charity, I feel like I wouldn’t be supporting you, my favorite writer, by supporting those charities.

This sounds intensely selfish, I know, but it comes from ignorance, not malice.

Thanks for being honest here Jason. This is an interesting question for me to see. And I think it’s an important question to answer.

The simple truth is, Jason, at this point in my life, I have enough money to live comfortably. And in my opinion, if you have enough money to live comfortably and you keep trying to get more and more and more money… well… it’s kind of an asshole thing to do.

It’s like this: if you have one piece of cake, and you eat it, that’s fine.

If you have two pieces of cake, you should probably share some with a friend. But maybe not. Occasionally we could all use two pieces of cake.

But if you have a whole cake, and you eat *all* of it, that’s not very cool. It’s not just selfish, it’s kinda sick and unhealthy.

portal(No lie.)

And if you have *two* cakes, and you keep trying to get more cakes so you can eat ALL the cake? Well… that’s really fucking mental. And awful. And about as close to real evil as actually exists in the world.

Right now, I have… well… probably somewhere between 2-4 cakes, financially speaking.

But some people out there don’t have any cake at all. Some people don’t even have dinner, let alone desert.

That’s why I run Worldbuilders. Because some people out there have no cake at all. There are kids out there that are hungry all the time. There are kids out there with no books at all to read. There are kids out there with no beds to sleep in. No homes to come home to. No safe places. No sweet dreams.

That’s why I do all the charity work. Because the world isn’t as good as I want it to be.

We all feel this way sometimes. Because honestly, the world is a fucking mess. It’s full of dragons, and none of us are as powerful or cool as we’d like to be. And that sucks.

But when you’re confronted with that fact, you can either crawl into a hole and quit, or you can get out there, take off your shoes, and Bilbo it up.

Rankin and Bass Bilbo it up(So What’s It Going to Be?)

The work I do with various charities is my attempt to Bilbo the fuck up.

Now it’s true that I could just devote myself to making a ton of money, then donate however much I liked to charity. A lot of people have suggested this to me. Smart people. People who care about me.

And y’know. It’s not terrible advice. That’s what Carnegie did…

But honestly, that’s not for me. I don’t like the thought of spending my whole life being utterly rapacious, getting *all* the cake it is humanly possible to acquire. And then, ten years before I die, giving a chunk of it back to the world.

One reason I don’t like this philosophy is that it means you have an excuse to act like a total bastard until you’re 60 years old. And y’know, Carnegie did a lot of ethically dubious things back in the day. There’s a reason they called him a robber baron.

My other problem with this is that after 60 years of being a bastard, most people aren’t going to make a sudden transformation into being kind-hearted humanitarians.

But the main reason I don’t like this way of thinking is that it’s predicated on the thought that you, my readers, are selfish, self-centered individuals. Carnegie’s philosophy implies that I should take as much money off you as I possibly can. Then, eventually, I should do something good with it, preferably getting my name on a building the the process. Because *obviously* the lot of you are not smart enough to make the world a better place on your own.

I don’t believe that. My philosophy is that people are inherently good. I believe when given the chance, people will happily line up to make the world a better place.

I think this is doubly true of fantasy readers, and trebly true of my readers in particular.

As evidence, I give you Worldbuilders. Over the last five years the geek community has given over two million dollars to Heifer International.

This year, I hope to raise another half-million. (Though I wouldn’t cry if we managed more.)

The truth is, you don’t have to be a billionaire to change the world. You don’t have to build a library. The truth is, if you donate 30 bucks to Worldbuilders, it will change someone’s life. Forever.

chicken 2

And sure, when you donate you get the chance to win a bunch of cool books, too. But that’s just a perk.

I know the truth. I know why you’re all *really* here. I know why you’ve read all the way to the bottom of this post. It’s because you’re good. It’s because you want to make the world a better place.

The truth is, Jason. I don’t think you’re selfish. You want to support an author whose work you enjoy. That’s not a selfish thing.

But here’s the thing. I don’t need twenty bucks from you. That’s not the support I want. That’s not the support I need.

I need you to help me make the world a better place.

You can do that by donating to Heifer International over on the Worldbuilders team page.

If you can’t because you’re broke, that’s fine. Believe me, I’ve been there. But you could still lend your support by spreading the word about Worldbuilders on facebook or twitter. You could write a blog. You could make a video. You could tell a friend.

Thanks for helping everyone,

pat

  • 12:30 – Since posting three hours ago, we’ve raised $3,000.

That’s enough to provide 150 families with flocks of chickens.

Chickens require little space and can thrive on readily available scraps; this allows families to make money from the birds without spending much. A good hen can lay up to 200 eggs a year, so a flock of chickens provides a steady source of nutrition and income.

  • 2:30 pm – Five hours after posting, we’ve raised $6,000.

That’s enough to purchase biogas stoves for 6 villages.

“For most families in the places where Heifer International works, cooking usually means gathering firewood by hand, which often depletes the soil and robs the environment of its trees. In addition, smoke inhalation in poorly ventilated homes often leads to chronic lung and eye diseases.

A biogas stove is a better option. It runs off methane gas captured from animal waste, and burns cleanly, reliably and efficiently. This is not only better for the environment, it is more sustainable and healthier for families feeding their children.”

  • 7:30 pm – $10,000. 

That’s enough to train and equip 50 Community Animal Health Workers.

In many countries, access to veterinary care is limited. So Heifer International trains Animal Health Workers. Participants receive training in animal health, husbandry, breeding, and nutrition as well as tools such as thermometers, stethoscopes, hoof trimmers, gloves, disinfectants, medicine for animals, and more.

This training and equipment gives someone the ability to support themselves in a lifelong career. What’s more, the presence of an animal health worker improves an entire community with healthier animals, more successful farms, and better education about sanitation and disease.

  • 6:30 am – $15,000. 

That’s enough to supply clean water to 50 communities.

In many communities where Heifer works, most homes lack running water, and some families do not even have a well nearby. Instead, they spend a huge portion of each day fetching water. This is often a chore left to children — especially girls — leaving them no time for school. Without a good education, those children have little hope for good jobs in the future.

Heifer helps families and communities install irrigation pumps, usually muscle-powered treadle pumps that are easy to maintain and repair. Heifer also provides education in terms of water conservation and sanitation, improving community health and making local farms and gardens more productive.

  • 24 hours after making this post… 

…lovely people have donated an additional 18K to Worldbuilders, bringing our total at this moment to more than 317,000 dollars.

That’s enough to start 850 small businesses.

Enough for 2600 goats and the training to care for them.

Enough for 10,000 hives of honeybees that will improve crop yields.

Enough for 17,000 trees that give fruit, provide income, and prevent soil erosion.

I won’t be updating our total on this blog any more. Instead I’m going to put in our donation thermometer so you can watch it climb yourself.

If you want to be a part of this, it’s easy. Click here to make it happen.

(P.S. For every $10 you kick in, you get a chance to win books.)

ShelfJanuary

 (A LOT of books.)

Also posted in FAQ, musings, Worldbuilders | By Pat141 Responses
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