Arbitrary Eberron Arbitration
or "My name is #25."

So we should be getting our rejection letters soon. The longer it takes, the better, since the "near miss/write a story for our anthology" letters will be personalized and take longer to produce. I think credit goes to Kam for ferreting out this information, but I could be wrong.

Anyhow, net-rumor says that 24 lucky folks get the callback letters. 276+ of their best friends get the photocopied "thanks, but no thanks." Having lived through the Maiden of Pain open call, I look forward to seeing the talent stirred up by this competition. In all likelihood these will be some of the people writing the 2nd and 3rd generation Eb novels.

But what about #25? Was she/he demonstrably less of a writer than lucky #24? I find that hard to believe. And yet it isn't hard to imagine #24 going on to fortune and fame, and #25 deciding to give up the ghost.

Now, I know that won't happen to any of you. I know that you'll all stick this one out and slam the next open call. But if you do happen to get a "Dear author" photocopy slip, you have to promise that you'll disregard it. Take a week to mope, catch up on the Simpsons, then come back meaner and leaner than ever. Get hungry. If it means you'll write better, get angry. Submit to the White Wolf call, start querying random shared-world lines, finish that original novel you've been working on. Start a new one.

Because it isn't a rejection of you. It isn't a signifier of future performance.

It is just an arbitrary line drawn in the sand.

Cthulhu Lives! ... In Hollywood!
These folks have done some amazing work. It feels like it is half again too long, but that is only because the first half rocks so much. Can't wait to see the entire film.


She Logged In to Kick Ass and Chew Bubble Gum
...and she's all out of bubble gum.

Elaine Cunningham's blog is back up and running.

We're looking for a few good GMs...

A Big, Deathy Shout-Out...
...to ol' Ed Gentry.

Ed and I (along with some other folks), will be duking it out gladiator style in a few months, competing for a preciously small publishing window. That didn't preclude him from going over my proposal and improving it 100%.

Thanks, Ed.


Choose Destruction
An amusing, well-written page that might get you daydreaming ... which is always good.

How to destroy the Earth

Courtesy of the Saurus.

Zombie Films and Hypothermia
An artist friend of mine is working on a low (read “no”) budget horror film. Last weekend I had the privilege of standing in as one of the kills. This consisted largely of me stumbling about in the middle of the street with a pressure sprayer duct taped to my back. On cue I would wave my hands in the air and Rob would fire the sprayer, creating what we hoped looked like a spray of blood gouting from my neck.

We were using black and white 16 mm (?) film, so the color of our faux blood wasn’t a concern, but viscosity was. After several tries, we settled on a chocolate syrup/grape juice mix.

Complications arose around take 5 or 6. We were filming in Colorado, so it was a little chilly, especially if you were drenched in chocolaty goodness and grape mashings. By take 9, I couldn’t feel my hands, but this might have improved my acting. Certainly it couldn’t have made it worse.

After 1.5 hours of wetting Grims and the streets of Fort Collins, we called it good. We did one last shot of my twitching corpse, mugged for the camera to use up the last of the reel, and ran home to the showers.

For the record, hot water showers are the foundation of modern civilization.

A final note for aspiring horror film directors:

There are a lot of fake decapitated heads on the market, some more expensive than others. You might ask yourself, “Self, what separates a $20 head from a $75 head? Shouldn’t I just save some cash and go with the cheap one?”

Sure, but like most things, you get what you paid for. We were using a cheaper, styrofoam head, and after the first couple shots, the girl was showing signs of wear. Her face mashed in a little, one ear threatened to fall off, and the paint had begun to flake.

So if you are going to use a decapitated head, and if you plan on throwing it around in the street, I recommend going with something a little more durable. The extra $50 you spend will be money you save when you use the head in later films.

Writing for Money and Happiness

Tonight I’m up drawing maps for a Goodman Games dungeon crawl, sorting ideas for the World of Darkness open call, drinking coffee and listening to “I Need a Lover That Won’t Drive Me Crazy” on repeat, which --- in all likelyhood --- immediately disqualifies me from the novel contest.

I had planned on getting to bed early, but before I knew it was one in the morning, and itunes is still showing no signs of wear. This is when I’m happiest with my writing, when the projects are still embryos and still have the potential for greatness. They’ll be flawed eventually, but right now they are perfect in their ambiguity.

Enough of the update. Back to wealth and happiness.

We all know that we’ll never get rich by writing, or at least there is a very, very slim chance that at some point we might be able to pay a couple rent checks with royalties. For a moment let’s imagine that we’ve all accepted this and move on to happiness. We talk about economics all the time; let’s spend a little time with the emotional half.

Just as writing won’t make you rich, so too publishing can’t make you happy. Sure, you would be happy as a mouse on the moon if you sold a Realms novel tomorrow, but then what? You go out, raise a few too many toasts, and when you wake up in the morning, you are the same writer that you were before you sold your novel.

Hmm. This hair may be too fine to cut in a blog at 1:32 in the morning, but let me try again.

When we’re unhappy we take a look around and assess the things we haven’t got. Me, I haven’t sold a book. So if I’m unhappy, it must be because I haven’t sold a book. This look/assess/move instinct is what kept us alive when we were living in caves (“I’m cold. No fire. Go get fire.”) but it can be misleading in our modern lives. Most of us have everything we need --- food, shelter, warmth --- but we still carry a persistent sense of unease. I’m no anthropologist, but I’d argue that this ennui is hardwired into our human code. Once upon a time it kept us alive, now it is what makes us tune into the shopping channel, get divorces, buy new cars, and --- for some of us --- write books. It's not a bad thing in an of itself, just as long as we can recognize it for what it is.

I’m not being terribly clear here. Let me try one last time, then I promise I’ll go to bed.

You’re an author. So when you get pinged by your own personal ennui , you write. But we all write, and we all know that the annoying Jiminy Cricket on our shoulder doesn’t go away. So we set our sights on selling stories. Surely then we will feel a sense of accomplishment and validation.

But it won’t, because Jiminy still wants more. Another story, a book maybe, certainly a trilogy. And yet, every time you come home at the end of the day, you still come home to you: perfectly imperfect, plagued by doubts and insecurities, envious, proud, and all of those other qualities and failures that make me love you so much.

What I’m trying to say is this: there are many reasons for publishing. But money isn’t one of them and neither is happiness. All the novels in the world won’t be able to solve the internal mess. You have to deal with that yourself.

Those of you that haven’t clicked on to the next link already might be scrolling back to the top of this post, where I mentioned that I’m happy tonight, writing. It’s true. The potential for these works has made me happy for the moment, but when I wake up tomorrow I’ll have to go at it all again, and when you’re as bad a writer as I am, you have more off days than on days.

If there were a summation to this post, it would be this: writing is a magical act, but please, please, please don’t assign it more power than it deserves. Would-be writers quit every day because it hasn’t made them rich/beautiful/happy, and I want to be reading your works when we’re both 90.


The third and final installment of "A Night in Maus" is up over at the Zeitgeist downloads.

Thank you, to everyone who hung around for all three parts. I sincerely hope you enjoy it.


A Big, Deathy Welcome to Laurie!
Thanks for stopping by. It's rare to see a new face these days.

And a wave to ec. I always feel a bit chastised when she drops in - like a pretender that has grown a little big for his britches. Suffice it to say that we should all drop by her blog at


and maybe learn a bit. ;)

A note on hyperlinks ... or the lack thereof. Blogger isn't too happy with my mac these days, and no matter which browser I use, I'm always missing "buttons." Which is to say: sorry for the overly simple posts.

Publishing Delays...
Hmmm. No NIM III, yet. I'm glad I didn't stay up later waiting for it. :)

Why One Page?
Because, as authors, it is our job to snag the reader from the very first word. If the first page of a book doesn't snare you, somebody isn't doing their job.

Harley Stroh Learns to Read
For the last 5 years or so I've had a hard time going to bookstores, unless it was to buy a book as a present for someone else. If I was shopping for myself --- even browsing --- I would go nuts within 5 minutes and have to leave the store.

It usually began with the first page of a book. I'd pick up random book X, read the first page, and be so utterly disgusted that my own sense of failure would trigger a mental breakdown of sorts.

You've seen me write it before: there is a LOT of terrible writing be published out there. The fact that I wasn't one of those terrible writers drove me crazy in a very tangible way.

This goes contrary to all the advice offered by the published folks. As writers, we are supposed to read like we breath. But if you had asked me who my favorite author was, I couldn't have given you an answer.

It wasn't that I didn't like to read. I love to read and always will. It was that my own failures as a writer made it impossible for me to enjoy another author's work.

Talk about self-defeating cycle.

A strange thing happened last week. I stopped into a bookstore, looking to kill time before I picked up H from the airport. While I was there I picked up two new titles. One of them isn't half bad.

I've begun to read again, and it corresponds directly to the NIM stories.

Now, to be clear, these stories aren't great. But they are mine, for better or worse, and you have all been very kind to them. And having my lousy writing out there, along with all rest, has given me a sense of peace.

I don't need to hustle ever spare moment of the day. Or rather, I still need to hustle every moment of the day, but I don't have to feel the pressure of "publish or perish."

It's nice, having the freedom to open myself to other writers again. It's nice to be able to let go of a little of my "cornered-badger" mentality.

Part III of NIM is due out today, probably sometime around midnight. :) I'm looking forward to reading it, just to see how it presents. But between now and then I'm going to read someone else's work, and hopefully learn something about writing ...

...because we all know there's a ton of lousy fiction out there. And tonight, some of it is mine.


And finally ...
It's 3:26 a.m. and the storm has finally arrived. Soon, the streets will be too wet to skate.

There's a moral here: make sure you skate when the streets are dry. :)

Harley, don't post when you are this sleepy ...
OR ... Valentines Day Reflections

H is back East this weekend, spending valuable time with her family. I took the opportunity to pop over the Rocky Mountains and visit my friends on the Western Slope.

I've also been taking the opportunity to get my late-night skating fix in.

The thing about the Western Slope (specifically Fort Collins and Boulder) is that it is home to 90% of the women that I've ever dated. These towns are rife with old memories. Ghosts haunt the street corners, sometimes in layers. Cafes and coffee houses still carry the scents of old lovers, and every alley has a story.

Tonight I was crossing north out of campus at 2:am. No cars, so the streets belonged to me and the skateboard. The old homes of three different girlfriends were in sight.

The stop lights behind me changed from red to green, and I noticed how, along with the street lights, I cast multiple shadows on the black asphalt. One was darker than the rest, the others darker or less so, depending on the source of the light. But they all moved in time with me, crossing the street, headed into darkness.

It struck me then, how these shadows were metaphors for my behavior in past relationships. Some darker, some lighter, but each was me, authentically Harley.

I've always been (like yourself) one to act impulsively, to speak without too much thought, the nerd professing his affection in socially awkward situations. I got myself into a lot of relationships I shouldn't have been in. I lost my shirt more than once. Even lost my pants once.

It just so happened, without any presence of mind on my part, that one of those ill-fated attempts turned out to be the Right One.

But the rest ....

Seeing my multiple shadows cross the road, I realized, perhaps for the first time, that I didn't regret all those previous relationships. Even when I lost big ---and Lord knows that when I lose, I LOSE--- I was still taking the initiative to express, no matter how thoughtlessly, whatever emotion was pounding in that writer's heart.

Right, wrong, it was real. Right or wrong, I shouted it at the top of my lungs.

That's something, to leave a mark, no matter how fleeting, in another's life. That has a lot to do with what we're here for: to feel, and to prompt others to feel.

When I started dating H, I didn't know how long she would be around, so I took pains to make sure that everything got said. As you know, this sort of credo ("Emotional vomit!") is a recipe for disaster.

But for some reason, she took it, and hung around. Not for my writing, because my writing was and is crap. Not for my humor, because I was always too shy to be funny around her. And certainly not for my looks.

Who knows why. And really, I don't need to know. I'm not keeping score against anyone else at this point. I'm just trying to improve upon myself, to make myself worthy of this infintely patient and kind woman that has chosen to spend her time with me.

A finite life. And she's spending it with me.


Anyhow, Happy Valentines Day all. Even if your heart is aching, take heart that you've left your mark on another. I'm with you.

And if there is someone in your life right now ....

Carpe Noctum. ;)


Die, Lara, Die!
Thanks to Lara and Co., for playtesting the "Iron Crypt of the Heretic."

It's a blast hearing how they are fairing, and amazing to see other folks tackling problems in unique and VERY creative ways.

But the best part, by far, is hearing them hit the traps.

Way fun. Way, way, fun. >:) >:)

Happy Valentines Day!
Hey, even if nobody else says it, I want to be YOUR valentine.

Gotta a lotta love to give. :):):)

Moors. Lots of 'em. And they're Black.
Huh. Typing that made me wonder if "moor=swamp" has anything to do with "moor= african guy in Spain." Dunno.

Anyhow, the next installment of the Blackmoor serials got the happy editor dance, which of course calls for a happy writer dance. The second story was easier to write, and might even have fewer plot holes...


This one drops Col for a bit, and follows a young Peshwah nomad trying to meet the world on his own terms. Fun, plus I got to write a creepy group of monks into the world.

I'm really starting to enjoy writing pulp material. You'll probably pick that up in the dialogue. There is a lot to be said about not taking yourself too seriously, and a lot to be gained when you turn the volume on the self-editor down a little. We'll see if I went too far.

The story is slated to go out later this month, along with a module introducing players to the Blackmoor:MMRPG, sort of a "living Blackmoor" event. My story dances around the module without revealing too much. Hopefully it will leave players interested in getting into the world and kicking imaginary bad-guy tush. :)

And I get paid for this? It's a crazy world out there.


Legacy of the Barbarian Whatchamacalits
So I don't know what the final title will be, but my first official d20 module is set to hit the bookshelves in May.

I dedicated the module to my little brother, who put up his sore-loser, grumpy older brother for 15+ years of gaming ...

...and his birthday just happens to be in May.

That makes me happy. :)

10:24 p.m., MST
Not too much to report tonight. I sent another 8k to Zeitgeist games today, a 2 part story to help promo their Living Blackmoor Project. I'll let you know if they like it or hate it.

I know I've said it before, but it bears repeating. It's strange, being given room to write in Blackmoor. The setting is older than I am, so what right do I have to invent new people and places?

For me, it all comes back to respect. When given worlds and characters, we need to try to divine and intuit the "soul" of the story/world. Superman has always got to be Superman, and Batman has always got to be Batman.

Heh. How's that for sleepytime wisdom? :)

Jeff (Ashlock) got a gig doing work for Goodman Games, which is great news. With a little luck, he and I will be sharing a title together. We're still waiting for Chris and Chrissy to get back from their honeymoon. I hope they're doing well. And send Ed a little love if you have the time.

Catch Up Q&A
Kam asked a good question a little while back:

"Why would [Garrote] kill the only ally who had a chance to unlock the Star? Was he really just trying to lure Col into a duel? Can't wait for Part 3."

Well, these questions are due to poor writing, but you've probably guessed that by now. I made the choice to sacrifice exposition for momentum, but I may have gone too far.

Garrote was using the mage as a dupe to get at the Star. Sort of like using the halfling retainer to check for traps. The arrogant mage never suspected that a (gasp!) 1/2 orc could have been manipulating him, and believed that he was the master of his own destiny.

When the mage activated the gem, it set off two spell traps set by the Cabal:
The first teleported Col to the gem. The second made a grab for the mage's soul.

Put yourself in Garrote's shoes: your arrogant partner is getting his face ripped off by a gem, and -POOF- your arch-nemesis drops in for tea.

Time to chop heads and ask questions later. You take the most insane escape possible ("I'll flee into an army of ghouls!") trusting that "they'd have to be crazy to follow us."

Fortunately, it just so happened that Col was crazy enough to follow ... Cut to part III. :)

Sorry for the confusion, and I hope this clears up any questions. Although, with my writing skills, there are likely plenty of other plot holes that I'm missing. :)

And to answer Rachel's question:
I'll be dropping off H at the airport on Friday morning, and then I'll be headed up to the Fort. Rob has found a midnight showing of Casablanca, and then we are going to try to shoot some footage of the two of us falling down on concrete in skateparks.

And H's birthday is March 8. :)

You Promised Us the Doctor!
Sadly, I still haven't met Doctor Dre. But the story goes like this:

So for 14 days, I'd been working 10+ hours a day cooking for the X-Games. The chefs taught as we went, so that by the end, we peons were cooking for all 1000 of our best friends. Not a bad deal, if you're interested in learning about cooking and working hard.

Around Saturday we had 6" of fresh snow and grilled hamburgers were on the menu, so I was sent out to brush off the grill and fire up some burgers. Not a big deal, you might think, but in my mind I was in mortal danger of giving the entire ESPN crew some serious food poisoning. After all, I'm not a cook, I'm just the guy willing to get up at 3 in the morning and hustle.

But 1000 hungry camera men aren't going to wait forever for their burgers. I rev the grills up to speed and start flipping endless patties.

The way I saw it, I had two options: I could leave the burgers a little pink so that by the time they made it to the tables, they would be just right, or I could char them to a crisp, until there was no chance in Aspen or Hell that bacteria lurked inside.

Well, if you've spent any time with me and my paranoias, you know exactly which I chose:

Crisp it was.

Now think back to early 90's MTV, when it seemed like every rap video featured a backyard cookout, with a hundred brothers and sisters getting down on a Sunday afternoon. It wasn't long before my imagination kicked in and that's where I was. Massive X-Games speakers helped out, with a medley of rap and rock, and sure enough, along comes Doctor Dre over the speakers, assuring me that all we had to do was "run shit as if I was the mayor."

A few hours of this go by, and nobody sends any burgers back or drops dead of food poisoning. Our shift ends, and I head up the mountain to get some turns in.

A friend and I ride to the top of Aspen and bomb down the otherside, intent on getting two runs before they shut the place down. We get to the bottom of a run on the backside of Aspen and realize the lift isn't running. Even more strange, there are 20 or so folks hanging around an access road.

Of course, the lift is already closed. Me and my 21 best friends are stuck waiting for rides back to the main lift.

My buddy and I decide to hike it, rather than get chewed out by the ski patrol for missing a sign that clearly wasn't there. We walk for about a mile before coming across a trail "closed for the X-Games."

Not for us, it wasn't.

We cross over, drop down a gulley, and over a smallish cliff to find ourselves smack behind the X-Course, a monster terrain park designed to put the fear of God into little kids watching from home.

I already fear God, and we were fed up from 10 hours of cooking meat. So we drop in and ran the course, blasting past the patrols on our flight to the base of the mountain. We dodge the 20' gaps and drops in favor of a quick descent and a ride out into the parking lot.

We boot down, hop in the truck and are off in a flash.

Good night, y'all, and have a safe weekend. I'm thinking about you.


Choose Your Own Adventure
So, if you are ever in Aspen, and your ride home decides to go hunting Argentinians ....

-Wander out into the cold in an attempt to find something interesting to do.
-Fall asleep on a park bench.

-Wake yourself up.
-Find his truck.
-Start up the engine, let it idle all night, with the thermostat set at a toasty 80 degrees.


Posted from a private bar in Aspen...
Heyya, crew. I love all of you.

So presently, I'm sitting in the basement bar of a B&B in Aspen, CO, celebrating the end of the X-Games. Viva la difference. Half of my fellow workers are from overseas. In fact, I suspect that Bob, Doctor Dre and I are the only norte americanos that worked this gig.

It's all good. My spanish is improving by leaps and bounds, not because I've working with Latinos, but because it is the one language I share with Argentinans y Brazilians.

Alright. I don't drink much, but la fiesta is calling. Hope you all are having a good night.....


...for the kind words, guys. You guys are the best. As one writer to others, you know how meaningful these silly little stories are.

Thank you.