Thursday, January 28, 2016


Running late this week, but here we go...

Working at a game distributor is dangerous to my budget. I get to see ALL the games that are available to buy. Being a big RPG fan, there’s a tidy selection of books about 15’ away from me that I can go drool over. Then there’s the board games which dominate the majority of the showroom floor. Our warehouse is a gamer’s dream stop if money was no object. Not everything is worth buying, but I could get close to picking up one of everything and never play them all. The final bit of enticement to spend money is toys; action figures, POPs, along with knickknacks and branded merchandise. And most of it moves quite well.

My work desk is by no means the most cluttered one in the office in terms of having figurines and other pop culture items. There’s a section devoted to Fallout [all hail the post-apocalypse] and I’ve got a red dragon mini on my computer, but there’s plenty of space to work. I do plan about 75% of my purchases in advance. As we get 3+ months of warning and publishers love to miss street dates, it’s easy to budget for it. There are impulse buys and those are items which slip under the radar. A co-worker gave me a bit of advice when I first started – Bills first, toys later. It requires discipline to work here at times and that bleeds over into writing.

I try to write every day if possible and set a goal of at least 1,000 words. Some days are better than others but I keep going. Yesterday was a bad for me and I had a lot of stress built up by the time I got home. My impulse was to make dinner, grab a beer, watch some videos or play a game, and then bed. It would’ve been so easy to do that. Instead, I decided to be an adult and take the hard road. I packed my laptop and headed out the door. Being a creature of habit, I plopped down at Starbucks, got my coffee, and began to pound out a scene for my novel. When I was done 90 minutes later, I had ~1,600 words and much less stress. Why?  Because I’d made progress on my novel and that made up for all the other crap that’d gone on earlier.

Then I went home, ate, did dishes [more adult stuff], chatted with some fellow writers, and then relaxed to watch videos. Did not get to bed early, but I felt a lot more accomplished when I finally did crawl between the sheets. Today’s a new challenge and I’m sure someone’s going to get on my nerves. And just like yesterday, I’m going to go home, get my laptop, and go write. Cause it’s what I do. It’s who I want to be, a disciplined writer.

Foot note – Cause my brain hates to settle on one thing, it just gave me an idea for a short story.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Gaming and the Story

True confession time, I’m a gamer. Have been for close to 40 years and it’s a hobby I still enjoy. There’s something about making a character, writing background, and rolling dice that makes for an enjoyable evening. In that time, I’ve played the whole gamut of games, including a big foray into minis, collecting the Ravenloft setting books for 2nd Edition D&D [more on this later], and my current love of narrative RPGs [FATE and Dungeon World as examples]. I work for a game distribution company [board games, RPGs, that little CCG called Magic, and other stuff you might find in a card or game store. I always thought about being in the “industry” and my job gives me a good overview of how it functions, for better or worse depending on the day. That’s my background and frame of reference for the next bit.

My approach to gaming has always been more about the story than the min/maxing of characters. Even as a GM, I wanted to tell a story of the characters and worked to frame that around the bigger picture of the world. Looking back, it was an unfair thing to do to my players. I was trying to get them to dance to my jig without giving them enough motivation or insight on how things worked. And that’s on top of trying to plan for what players will do. The logical and sensible path? Hell no, we’re going to cut through the Swamp of Sinking Death and tackle this Mire Lich Drake we keep hearing rumors about. At 3rd level no less. I’d rather herd cats and leads me to my current outlook on games and running them.

It's a simple rule that I work by: Let the players choose and adapt on the fly.

Back in the day, I’d have set up a grand scheme and a bad guy with big plans, then set the players to go fight him/her/it. And off the rails they’d go, chasing whatever seemed to grab their interest at the moment and ignoring the plot. Even if I presented it with bells, whistles, gold, and magic, they were doing their own thing. That lead to more than a bit of frustration on my part and theirs. They had no investment in the story and I had all the investment in the story. Most of my campaigns were short-lived as a result and never satisfying to the extent I wanted.

A few days ago, Wizards of the Coast announced they were releasing a new Ravenloft module/campaign setting for 5th edition. I’ve been watching the recent books and not bought them for variety of reasons. This one might get me to spend a bit of cash to support my favorite hobby. There’s something about it that makes me just want to dive back in. Somewhere I have the original module along with the sequel [which had nothing to do with the Strahd]. All this got me thinking gaming and how story figures into the hobby.

Narrative-style games aren’t new, but they’ve enjoyed a spike in popularity over the last decade. It gives control to the players to tell their character’s story. Dungeon World goes to the point of not having the GM roll any dice. Sure, the GM will still need to build the world and create interesting people to interact with, but he or she is no longer the sole source of story. Each side collaborates in the game and both are better off for it. Letting go is hard, but well worth it.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

The First of 2016

Ah sweet rejection, I’d forgotten how much it stings.  There’s always that twinge of doubt that makes me ponder if I should try again or just bin everything. It lasts for a few minutes, then I go and update my spreadsheet, move files around, and poke around to see if anything is open were it might fit.  I take the time to dive into my homeless file for a quick review. There’s potential in there and I’d hope that some editor will look at the story and think, “That’s just what I need for my anthology”.  I can add in a list of rewrites [2], unfinished shorts [~10], novellas [1], and novels [2] all which beg for completion. Then there’s the paranormal mystery series rolling around in my head that needs more face time. The bright, new, and shiny tempt me away to dive into the project and drop the current one. I can’t do that. Then nothing gets done, the writing languishes, and the frustration grows.

Tonight, I’ll head out to the coffee shop and write until they close. It’s my routine on weekdays after work. I go from one job to the next, neither of which pay all that well, but both are ones that I enjoy. Writers have an odd life, as 75% of the ones I know do the exact same thing. We have two jobs when really we should have just one. That’s the other source of frustration. I’m not a Steven King or George RR Martin, but I think I’m decent enough [and some people, not relatives, have told me I’m good] to make some living off writing. At the moment, I’m not quitting my day job and working in the evenings to make the other dream come true. I’ve set myself a goal to have the first draft done before March, then work like crazy on the edits for a possible submission by June. Six months should be enough time.

This week’s been rough in the way of losing great creative people. David Bowie died on Sunday, Alan Rickman died today [01/14/16], and Lemmy Kilmister from Motorhead late last month. I’m not a big metal head, but I grew up with listening to him and Bowie in high school. Rickman was a late edition to people I loved to watch, though my favorite role will always be in Galaxy Quest. It spurs me on to make the most of my current situation and get those words to paper, if just to leave a small footprint in the world that says I was here.

Let's all get out there and put our footprint on the world in whatever manner. Life's too damn short not to.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

2016 - The Year Ahead

2015 was a crap year to be honest in terms of writing. I didn't get nearly enough done as I wanted and hit a few major stumbles along the way. So, here we are, a week into 2016 and let's lay bare my goals. I have a novel in process, which I think is about 60% complete after scrapping half of the first attempt. Six of the first seven chapters are complete, as are the last four, which leaves 5-6 in the middle to write. I'm swapping between two POV characters every few chapters to show more of what's going on behind the scenes. First person works for me in story telling, but doesn't give a good view of the players and events in motion. My goal is to have the draft done by the end of January and then start a slow rewrite. I might miss a submission window for a particular publisher, but that just gives me more time to revise it.

Aside from the short stories, there's the ongoing GRONK! series of stories that need attention and my assassin, Henri, has a few stories waiting in the wings. I have a collection of short stories that are crying out for attention, so I need to revisit them and see if I can find them homes individually. Last November I attended Living Dead Con and sat in a publisher's panel. I asked about single author collections and the universal consensus was they sold like crap. Anthologies weren't much better, but offered a different experience. Peddling them as a collection is on the back burner and I've dabbled in the single story sales of e-pub. That angle needs to be explored further. I sold my second erotic bit of fiction and received some good feedback. There was a rejection on a third piece and what I think to be an amusing bit of feedback from the editor. They liked the “action” scenes, but not the framing story, so I was doing things half right I guess.

I've got a few cons on my agenda with an eye on those dealing with writing and other interests. One of my friends suggested SakuraCon here in Seattle just of the experience and I'm definitely looking at Emerald City ComicCon, plus Norwescon. November promises BizarroCon which I had a blast at last year. Not as a writer, as my mind isn't bent that way, but as a consumer. I don't mean bent in a bad way, cause these authors put out some seriously good stuff. My fiction's more strawberry and chocolate ice cream vs. the vegan coconut milk orange toffee surprise variety.

I still have a stack of books to read, more Fallout 4 to play, and looking forward to the next Marvel movies. There's even a good chance I'll see some tabletop gaming this year on a regular basis. Oh yeah, X-Com 2 is on the way, so more alien killing goodness. There's a trip to see my dad planned for later in the year and not because there's a BBQfest being held in that area. Nope, not at all.

I hope that everyone has a great 2016 and let's see if I can do more than one blog post a month.