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It has become a tradition for me to auction off naming rights to one of the characters in each of my novels. In the past, I've done this locally, with a church group. People would 'bid' cans of food that they would donate to the local food bank, and the winner got to name a character in one of my books. The first appearance was Lord Penrod, named for a woman who's last name was—not surprisingly—Penrod. Lord Yomen in THE HERO OF AGES changed the tradition slightly in that I started describing the character to look like the person who won the auction. Warbreaker's Llarimar is another of these winners.
When I started working on the Wheel of Time novel, it was my assumption that I would forego the tradition for this particular book. I wasn't planning on doing anything. But then the awesome Pat Rothfuss (by the way, Pat, I'm going to answer your email soon. Sorry—I got distracted. Bad Brandon!) started up a charity drive this Christmas. This was a particularly bad year for charities, as a lot of people were tightening their belts and cutting their spending. I read several articles talking about how difficult a year it was going to be for a lot of people in underdeveloped areas of the world, where the economy doesn't just mean fewer trips to the movies—it means children starve because there isn't enough food to be had.
At that moment, I realized that we had something very special in the Wheel of Time book—an opportunity that shouldn't be passed up. I wrote an email to Harriet, telling her about the charity that Pat had been using for his drive. It's called Heifer International. Instead of just giving food to the poor, they go into developing countries, give them animals to care for, and teach them how to use the livestock to create a sustainable source of income and food. It's a fantastic idea, and a worthy charity. I asked Harriet if she'd mind me auctioning off a character in A Memory of Light. She was behind that 100%. As some of you may know, Robert Jordan did something like this once, giving a walk-on part to a fan in one of the books. There are a LOT of people who need to be named in this story, and so why not let a few of those names and descriptions go to real people?
Setting up the infrastructure for this took long enough that we couldn't just make it part of Pat's charity drive, but he was the inspiration, so he gets a bow and a tip of the hat. I talked with Melissa over at TarValon.net—which deals with the charitable work among Wheel of Time fandom—and we kicked around some ideas. Here's what we came up with.
First, you can bid in the silent auction. This is just what it sounds like—you bid an amount, if you bid the most, you get a walk-on part in the Wheel of Time. I promise you a few lines of dialogue at least, and I'll let you pick your nationality and affiliation. We get veto rights over the spelling of your name—it has to fit the world and culture—but other than that, you've got a lot of control over what your character will look like and act like. The bidding ends early April; details are on TarValon's website.
However, Melissa and I realized that this auction would probably go high, probably into the thousands of dollars. We'd get one huge donation, but a lot of people would feel left out. And so we decided to create a SECOND way that you could appear in the Wheel of Time. During the Last Battle, there will be a lot of groups fighting the Shadow. Well, we're going to develop and include a special group to represent the Wheel of Time fans who donate in our charity drive. If you can't participate in the auction, you can still donate a few bucks to Heifer through Tar Valon's link, and you can consider yourself part of this group. We're letting the fans vote on what the group's nationality is, and from there we'll probably let the fans pick the banner for the group as well. This group will be written into the novel (there are several places where I'll need to be doing this and inserting various groups of people) as participating. Several of the officers of the group will be mentioned by name. Those officers names will be drawn randomly from everyone who donated at least $20 to the fund raiser through TarValon.net.
I hope that's not too confusing—there's another explanation on the official rules page, which I suggest you look over. In short, you can do one of two things (or both:)
1) Bid on the naming rights through the auction.
2) Make a donation and join those fighting in the Last Battle. (With a $20 minimum donation getting you a shot at appearing in the book.)
This is the sort of opportunity that doesn't come around very often. Happy bidding, and thank you.
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