BTW ...
Courtesy of Kam --- Elaine's blog is back up! Was I the only one in the dark? http://ecwritingjournal.blogspot.com/

Copied from White-Wolf.com:

World of Darkness Novel Contest: Five Winners of Round Two Announced

November 28, 2005 - From an initial field of over a thousand entries, the World of Darkness Novel Contest enters the Final Round with these five winners of Round Two:

Cody Bye
Joshua Alan Doetsch
David Nurenberg
Harley Stroh
Brayton Tompkins

These authors wins prizes of $1000 and the opportunity to complete their World of Darkness novels. The winning novel will be published by White Wolf Inc., though all of the other completed novels will be considered for publication as well.

Thanks to everyone who entered, and congratulations to the other winners of Round One, especially the five authors who finished in places 6th-10th (alphabetically): Christopher Frye, Max Gladstone, Andrew Peregrine, Mary Pletsch and Chad Welch.

Winners entering the Final Round will be contacted directly by contest judge Stewart Wieck, co-founder of White Wolf and co-creator of the World of Darkness.

Thanks for all your thoughts, guys. It’s enough to make an old skull smile.

There was a saying that used to circulate amongst my friends back in college. I only said it once, but if you ascribe to the idea of memes, you know how ideas can have a life of their own. Anyhow, this one has remarkable staying power and still comes back to haunt me on occasion. This is one of those occasions.

It went a little something like this:“Life is too short not to be a hypocrite.”

The idea I was trying to convey was that, in a finite life, standing on principle for principle’s sake can get you into trouble. As far as I know I have one shot at this life. There are good reasons to cling to principles, but just “because” isn’t one of them.

When the world changes, adjust.

Given my current schedule, do I have time to write a novel? Absolutely not. Work is eating up 60+ hours per week, and I’m booked on gaming material through the summer.

So what does one do? Start by waking up at 4 in the morning. Make coffee and write for two hours before going to work. Throw myself into this with all the hungry, desperate passion I can muster. Lean on my friends for editing; skate until I cry. Try not to be this melodramatic in the actual novel. :)

As far as I know this might be my one and only chance to publish a book. I have to crunch words like my life depends on it, because –in a very real sense– my “life” as an author does depend on this.

To be clear, I’m still a ways from selling any book. There are four fantastic writers who are doing their best as well, and only one of us gets the sale. All I can count on is the opportunity to write and to be read.

What a blessing.

One chance. Marks, set, go. Time to write a book.


Yipes. Things just got real busy.

I'm scared and excited, all at once. This deserves more airtime but through all the shock I'm left with just one thought:

I am so damn blessed (!) to have you guys (and gals) as friends.

Hey! A Question!
"So, Harley, I gotta ask, do you ever question whether some of these module ideas would have made a good short story? I think that's one reason why I've held off on jumping into the d20 game design market--every idea I have I would rather explore as a story."

Nah. Remember, I'm only writing dungeon crawls. The reason the modules are so much fun (and easy) is because I can just write really fun scenes (dramatic environs, crazy bad guys, really weird magic) and let the players do the rest. It's candy store writing: show up, drop exciting ideas, get paid, and get out. :)

Anything important that I might have to explore wouldn't really fit into 20,000 words (less stat blocks). All right. Gotta run. See you guys tomorrow!


Just as you were beginning to think I was a chronic liar:

A sale in hand is worth two contests in the bush, neh, choomba?

Goodman Games
The sequel to the classic DCC #1: Idylls of the Rat King (written by the brilliant Jeff Quinn). This dungeon was goblin tested and GM approved by game designers Chris and Christine McCoy, and their Knights of the Dinner Table, so if you have a total party kill, it’s their fault. ;)

Goodman Games
A Rosolf cover. Maybe you’ve heard of him? He painted the cover to a module writen by some guy named Gygax. The module was entitled “Keep on the Borderlands,” more commonly known as The Caves of Chaos.


This is a longer adventure, with some fun, overarching puzzles, goblins on giant bats, a dwarven moonshine still, stolen heirlooms, and a tribute to Gygax’s original. What more could a 1st lvl character ask for?

For the record, I'm one of the luckiest bastards alive. :)

And in other news ...
I hope you all had a safe holiday. Nothing like trying to drive home on a belly full of tofurky.

Heh. Anyhow, I'm in the midst a self-imposed crash deadline. A week and a half to finish a module, start to finish. The good news is I've fallen in love with the idea and theme, making it easier to write than sleep at 1 in the morning. The bad news is I've fallen in love with the idea and need to pull it off a big finish in the next 3k.

Could be a pinch. :)

And in other, OTHER news ...
Spoke with Jeff last night. I should start paying him for therapy. I’ve realized that the WoD is a win/win situation. I have more than enough work to last me from now through August, but I’d hate to turn down the chance to sell a novel.

I did a little calendar magic and blocked out the time to write a book …. BUT, if I get the big bounce, I’ll have more time to work on the upcoming projects and skateboard.


We’ll see tomorrow. Could be the first time I’m happy to get a rejection. Sleep tight. >:)


Harley: The Eternal Struggle
So yeah. Way to go Stroh. Knock the contest, and then make round 2.5. Round three will be announced Nov 28.

You can find the post here:

Edit: Out of self-preservation, I'm going to put in some plotting work over Thanksgiving. Just in case.

H Versus the WoD
As of Friday, 7:30 a.m., no word yet on the novel contest. I should be anxious and frustrated, but as I wrote to Jeff in an email, something has changed in me. I’m still eager for the chance to write the book, of course, but it’s different now. Less edge to the emotion, perhaps. Less panicked drive.

I think it has something to do with prior commitments. I have a campaign setting that needs my attention. The words are all there, but – and forgive me for bringing this up – there is a spiritual component as well, a force of will that needs constant exertion lest the project fall to the wayside. If I start to focus on another mammoth project before the first is truly finished, I’ll have failed in my task as a writer.

I’m looking at the last paragraph and it reads like goobly-gook. Out of context, which I don’t have time to provide right now, it doesn’t make much sense. You’ll have to trust me on this one, at least until I can free up the hours to explain it.

Suffice it to say that Harley is a greedy, greedy writer. He wants every project, every spare word he can get. But he also believes, perhaps mistakenly, that everything he works on is imbued with a living spirit of sorts. And if that spirit is neglected, the work suffers for it.

It’s not a matter of getting a project it up to word count. I can do that blindfolded. It’s a matter of investing enough time and energy to ensure that a work is full-bodied, developed, and healthy.

If you’ve read some of my writing, you know that I fail at this on a pretty regular basis. But that’s due to a lack of skill, not for wont of passion, effort or time. Right now I have enough work to take me through to Summer, 2006. I’d jump at the chance for a 1st novel, but baring a major change in lifestyle, it would be negligent and irresponsible to take on a 90k project due in April.

When the rejection comes down I’ll be bummed, for certain, but I’ll also be writing.

PS. To Lara, Jaleigh, and everyone who has clicked over to the WW forums, or checked in on Choose Death because they were thinking about me. You guys are better friends than I deserve.

For me, that’s the real lesson. Thank you. I won’t forget it.


"Ease back,
ease back,
ease back,
'cause he's back..."

Whew. Fastmail is restored, and I think I have all my back mail. But if you sent me a warning about an impending attempt on my life, feel free to resend it.



Goodman Games

Tonight our school is celebrating the Feast of Saint Martin, or Martinmas. The Nursery-Kindergarteners, first and second graders have spent all week making lanterns in preparation for their walk tonight.

The school is about 5 miles out of town, so when I flip all the breakers this evening, the grounds will be very, very dark. The children will be led through the woods, their lanterns held high. At the end of their walk they will encounter a roman soldier atop a white stallion, and a beggar, pleading for the soldier’s cloak. The solider slashes his cloak, giving one half to the beggar.

Guess who gets to be the beggar? ;)

It’s a Christian tale, but the story could just as easily be Hindu, Muslim, or any of the other world traditions. What is important is the example of selfless giving, and the experience of following your personal “light.” Even in the dark times of the soul, or so we would like to believe, every human has an inner guide lighting the way. Too often I choose to ignore mine, but it’s there, whether I look for it or not. A candle in the darkness, an innate sense of justice.

So, if you’re in the Colorado Rockies tonight and you come across a beggar on the roadside, think of me as you’re passing by. ;)

Fastmail server #4 ...
is down for emergency service. The new mail is being queued so I'll get your messages by the end of the weekend, but if you need to get in touch with me right away, use the old bagboy address.



Dragons Landing Inn Review
Dragons Landing Inn

Chuck and Lonnie are two great fellows that run a regular gaming podcast. In episode 17 they were gracious enough to review and recommend both Legacy of the Savage Kings and Iron Crypt of the Heretics. Fun stuff.

If you are a designer/writer, I'd encourage you to drop by the website and send the pair an email. It's a great opportunity to get your products reviewed or to host an interview. In case that I was too subtle, that was a wink, wink, nudge, nudge to Kam, Eric, Jaleigh and Ed --- pimp that WotC ride!

And tell 'em Harley sent you. ;)

In other news ...

A Deathy Shout-Out to the Superfan!

Ben "Superfan" Waxman has completed a series of battlemaps for my DCC modules. These are scaled maps in jpg and pdf format that GMs can use for their games. Print them out at full size for your miniatures, or project them onto a whiteboard, and -tada- instant maps for your game. For those of you that have the Dundjinni program, this is an example of battlemapping at its finest. You can find his awesome work here:

DCC #12.5

DCC #17

Thank you, Superfan! Superfan was also the cat that turned me on to Dragons Landing ... many, many thanks, indeed!


Keith Parkinson, 1958-2005


Be a writer ... or just look like one.
It seemed appropriate that this Halloween have a writing theme. A few minutes with the shaver to accentuate my impending baldness and Harley was Hunter.

Hunter went dancing at the local Thai restaurant, so you all know how that went. If any pictures surface I'll post them for your amusement.