"How do you generate maps?"

Generating the maps involved nothing more than drawing on (yup!) the blue lined graph paper of yore. My first module used two facing sheets 8.5x11 sheets, to be printed on the inside cover of the module. (Think Caves of Chaos, or any of the classic 1st Ed modules. This was actually a selling point for Joseph Goodman ... that guy is the COOLEST. But I digress.)

I sketched the maps in pencil, using ink pens for clarity once I was satisfied. Once Goodman ok'd the maps, I made a few changes to help drop my word count, and then he sent the maps off to a professional cartographer who will draw/CAD what you see in the actual module.

Essentially the process was identical to designing a dungeon crawl for play at home. Flesh out the descriptions, copy in the stat blocks, and tada! You've just earned yourself a nice paycheck, writing credits, and a spot on the rack at the local gaming store.

Way easy. Way cool.

There are dozens of companies doing d20 work, some better than others. You need to be certain that your writing will be supported by good art, design, packaging and distribution . Both
Zeitgeist and Goodman Games come highly recommended.

One last note: the entire process might have been swamped if MNTS and Silverfyre/TSG hadn't agreed to playtest the module. I don't have a local group, and playtesting turned out to be vital in shaking out the gaps and broken bits.

The OTHER Reason to Be On Time

We've all know that no matter what, we have to have our work done on time.

Wizards makes it clear that they are "very deadline driven," Elaine's blog has lauded the virtues of being a "low maintenance author," and there is even an article on the Wizards site about how not to blow deadlines.

Okay, cool, we get it. Writing is the balance of art, craft and business. Be prompt, rock and roll.

But there is another good reason to be on time ....

Over the last two months I wrote a d20 module for Goodman Games. It wasn't literature, but it was fun, easy writing, the sort of work I dreamed about doing as a geeky kid. I beat the deadline by a month, and when the revisions came back, I beat that deadline by a month.

Any of us could have done it. If you spent your childhood doodling on blue lined paper, you know exactly what I mean. This wasn't work, it was play.

Yesterday morning I received an email from the folks at Goodman Games, offering more work. Was I free to write another module under a tighter deadline? Darn tootin'!

So yes, it is good that we get our work in on time. And yes, most companies are very deadline oriented. And yes, we should all try to lower Archer's blood pressure. But there is a flip side: get your work done on time, be a low maintenance author, and maybe they'll come back looking for more.

That's what were shooting for.

"Iron Crypt of the Heretic." Look for it soon. ;)


Yelrah: the AntiBlog

You have to be pretty arrogant and insensitive to post about sales (let alone two in a row!). Who is this chump? Meanwhile, the rest of us slave night after night, beating on the door, filling railroad spikes with rejection letters, just trying to get a hit.

You people are too polite to say it, so let me put it out in the open: this Grimbones/Harley is a lousy writer, he can't edit to save his life, and he isn't particularly creative.

And these modules? He calls that writing? Last I checked using cut and paste to pile up stat blocks didn't count as writing. Of course it is easy. A monkey could do this, and probably write better traps. Grimbones/Harley just happened to be bumbling along when there was an opening. 999 monkeys missed the hole, the thousandth monkey fell in.

That's it. No particular skill (he still doesn't own any 3.5 rule books). No particular talent (I can count the number of errors in his blog, but then I run out of fingers AND toes). No particular dedication (he's gotten really good at Tony Hawk ProSkater). And apparently he hasn't learned to use spell check yet.

And then to presume he has something to offer the rest of us? Please.

This industry isn't fair. We all know that. You are all better writers than him. We all know that, too. Expecting us to sit by and watch this nobody give sermons about writing is asking too much.

Just my two cents. But that's 1 cent more than this guy has to offer.


"Hello, is Naivete there?"

Recently I was offered the chance to write a fantasy serial. The project is fairly open ended, as I've been given the green light for as many words as I can type by the end of December. The gig might still fall through if my writing isn't up to spec, but for right now I'm excited and optimistic. My last few projects have all come in over word count, forcing me to go back and trim (and in some cases amputate) entire sections, so having the room to breath is refreshing.

As projected, it should come out to be somewhere between 20k to 30k words in length. Just big enough to feel like an accomplishment, but not TOO big, especially when the love of your life is in another part of the world, and your main pastime is falling down on concrete late at night.

Preparing for the work has me flipping through all the 1st Ed book, especially the old "Dungeon Master's Guide." It has left me with a new appreciation for the sheer amount of information that was compiled by Mr. Gygax and Co. Twenty-thousand words? That was nothing. He has chapters that are 20,000 words long.

The name of gems? In there. How about titles for Northern European rulers? In there too. Along with all that stuff pertaining to actually playing the game. Amazing.

So to all the folks that came before us and made a niche for stories about point-eared people and midgets, thank you.

I'm having a blast.

P.S. I would be remiss if I didn't add that people have been telling stories about elves and whatnot for ages. In the next few years I'd like to read enough to develop a sense of context for all these fae and goblins. Can anyone recommend any good titles?


(Bless you.)
So the hard working folks over at Zeitgeist Games are accepting submissions for their new Blackmoor line. "New" is a bit of a misnomer, since Arneson's campaign world was kicking around before D&D was a game system. This lends Blackmoor certain old school sensibilities that makes the world familiar and exotic all at once.

Stop in a check them out.


Ending on a High Note
My friend and yours, Chris McCoy, has two articles in the latest Silven Trumpeter. Go check it out. As a bonus, one is an interview of Elaine Cunningham!


Putting Down the Pen
Let's just be up front about this: I'm nobody. My advice is no more relevant than the next stranger's.

Now that the disclaimer is out of the way, let me give this "no more relevant than the next" piece of advice: Submit.

To everyone.

To new companies, old companies, to anyone with a mailing address that accepts unsolicited submissions.

Our chosen field is cutthroat, but at this very moment there are more opportunities to get paid for writing than ever before in the history of the written word.*

Sometimes it can seem that it is impossible to succeed at this trade. Sometimes it seems that everywhere you turn you find corpses of failed would be writers.

But maybe they all gave up just a day early. Maybe if they had held on another day, another month, or another year, they would have made that lunge that separates the published from the perished.

I don't know if this is true. I can't prove that you'll sell stories in the end. But you can't prove the inverse either, and given the choice between two unproven theories, why not believe the hopeful one?

I know how you feel when you get 18 rejections in a row. I know how you feel when you devote years of your life to a manuscript that turns out to trash. I know how you feel when everyone else's name is on the marquee, except for yours.

Please, as one writer to another: hold on. Keep punching keys. Be your own greatest fan, and your own harshest critic. When no one else will touch your work, YOU have to believe it has potential. When your friends all say it is brilliant YOU have to the one looking for the flaws.

If I have learned anything this year, it is this: hang on, just one more day.

*I'm making that part up, but I think it is true.


Dead Can Dance
... but they sure do sweat.

Courtesy of Ed and Lara Photography.

All those assumptions about elegant masked balls? They're wrong. People dancing in masks end up dripping with perspiration. :):):)


Favorite Head Smacking Edit To Date
Heroine, in a tavern, sitting next to an open widow.

I mean wiNdow. *smacks head* Glad we caught that one.

8 gazillion FR readers and my debut includes frisky matrons.


Must be the Season of the Witch
It is always an enormous joy and honor to attend a wedding. An honor: to be in attendance when a couple makes public their declaration of love; and a joy: to be reminded of our own loves and commitments. Just as a funeral can be seen as ritual for the living and not the deceased, so too can a wedding be a gift to the attendants from the bride and groom.

That comparison may seem a little dark, but Jeff and Marisa threw a Halloween-themed masquerade, complete with a
Jack Skellington and Sally cake, a masked ball, and renaissance gala. Jeff and Marisa carried themselves with grace and poise throughout the evening, smoothly integrating the different groups of friends and families, translating for those of us that don't speak Italian (or was it Spanish?), and absorbing the stress of a masquerade, bi-lingual, fantasy, Halloween wedding.

I had the opportunity to meet some of the great folks that stop in to Choose Death from time to time. An internet-deprived
Josh Wentz was in attendance as a best man, Lara and Ed came in from Indiana, we all had a chance to dance with the talented ladies of the Five Wits, and of course, actually meet the bride and groom.

Quite the social watershed, considering I've only exchanged email with this entire crowd. We live in amazing times.

We finished the evening as darkness fell upon West Point, strains of Argentinian-techno (!?) fading into the rustle of autumn leaves. A late-night run across 3 states gave me the chance to pull all the mental faculties back together, and to appreciate what it means to have wedding in a season of coming darkness.

Thank you, Jeff and Marisa, for having us, and I hope to see you all again soon. Blessings on your union.