1.31.2005

NIM, part II!
The second part of "A Night in Maus" is up. Feel free to read it and trash me on the Zeitgeist boards. :)

Free download, here:

http://zeitgeistgames.com/modules.php?op=modload&name=Downloads&file=index&req=viewdownload&cid=1

Sorry for the lack of posting. A story involving 700 hamburgers, the X-Games' monster terrain park, your Grimmy and Doctor Dre coming up just as soon as I beat a deadline. :)

Hope all are well!

1.22.2005

"Chopping onions is an honorable profession and builds character (and plot)."
Ain't it the truth. To wit:

I've always found it dificult to suspend my disbelief in some of the more elaborate and dramatic fight scenes found in fantasy literature. That all changed this week ...

I work for folks that work for the X-Games. My bosses were hired by ESPN, which is owned by Disney. How good of a chef can Disney afford to hire for the X-Games? You do the math.

The first day in they set me to chopping veggies. Easy enough, right? I chop veggies every day for meals at home. I start slicing and dicing, eager to show my work ethic.

Wrong.

Chief Chef steps in and in 30 seconds demonstrates how I _should_ be chopping veggies. Basically, without any wasted motion, he transforms a pile of organic, imprecise shapes into precise squares of the appropriate size.

This happens another dozen times through the day, the various chefs showing me (very quickly) how it ought to be done, and little H doing his best to keep up, or at least imitate.

These guys are masters with knives. They are magicians. They have stories about getting chewed out by old Japanese sushi masters. They bring their own blades, and give you the devil's eyebrow if you touch them. We're talking samurai chefs here.

Now. Strain all that through the mind of someone who spends his nights writing fantasy stories. Suddenly those dramatic fight scenes don't seem quite so improbable. Suddenly it seems VERY probable, that if, a person devoted their days and nights learning to sword fight, and if their life depended on it, they would eventually be able to perform stunts that are literally impossible for folks like you and me.

How do I know?

I saw it happen, while chopping onions, in a tent on a ski slope. :)

1.20.2005

Canons Away!
Thanks for the encouragement, guys and gals. I know that part of our job description is having thick skin, but your opinions mean the world to me. So thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

One of the perks --- perhaps the only perk --- of washing dishes for the X-Games is all the Red Bull I can drink. That means that I get to be awake, typing in bed, while H crashes out beside me. The wireless laptop is an amazing thing.

But back to canons.

Kam probably has some valuable thoughts on this, since he has spent the last year adding depth and definition to the Realms. It might be the gaming geek in me, but I am absolutely flabbergasted to have the the privilege of adding to a fantasy world.

Something strikes my fancy? Something sounds cool? I type it in and it becomes part of the world’s canon.

That makes a strong argument for moving slowly and cautiously, especially when you are, for all intents, a newbie.

But in the same breath, you can’t write a good fantasy story if you’re spending all your time being cautious. The world has to be alive with detail and depth. It has to resonate, and “generic” doesn’t get the job done.

So you end up treading in the middle. Just enough spice to make it interesting, but not so much that it is no longer palatable.

Sorta like my day job. ;)

Just in case it sounds like I’m starting to take myself too seriously, don’t worry. I’m headed in for another day of dishwashing, onion-slicing, and coffee-making tomorrow. I’m still a scrub, but one that is very excited about his night work.

And if I see Kurt Loder or Kennedy, I’ll get their autographs for you. ;)

A Night in Maus,
Part I of III

She's up! You can download the story here, but you might need to register with the forums. Dunno.

http://www.zeitgeistgames.com/modules.php?op=modload&name=Downloads&file=index&req=viewdownload&cid=1

Anyhow, if you read it, feel free to let the ZG crew know what you think.

As for a Night in Aspen ... it's about time for the H to go to bed. A lot of dishes to scrub for the X-Games media tent tomorrow.

...and THAT is how authors get by. But I'd be lying if I said I wasn't in love with my life. Good night, y'all.

1.19.2005

A Big Deathy Welcome to.....
TEKNOBI2000!

Welcome, welcome, welcome, to my dear friend Obi. A room mate for 2+ years in a Boulder rathole, a gamer for just as long, a Doc Savage gourmand, Doctor of Philosophy candidate, hetero life-mate, and just about the finest Christian you'll ever meet.

Plus, he put up with the Sisters of Mercy on repeat for 24 long months.

Welcome, Obi. I hope Chi-town is treating you well. Call me when you're within 500 miles of Aspen!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Hey You! Hands Off My World!
For the moment I'm going to ignore the fact that writing for "shared worlds" doesn't even carry the prestige of "real" fantasy writing, and is ---to many folks--- no different from fan fiction. The measure of quality rests in the article itself, not whatever packaging/baggage is attached to it.

But that's an argument for another day. Right now I'm just excited to get paid to fumble around blindly in Blackmoor, one of the oldest fantasy campaign settings around.

The story goes something like this:

Sometime during the early 70’s, Dave Arneson is killing time on a weekend. Saturated with Napoleonic war games and fantasy novels, he mixes the two into a frothy soup. Simmer for 1 month and serve.

Add rules by Gary Gygax and you have the origins of D&D.

(Please don’t mistake this as the origins of fantasy role-playing. D&D came out of a role-playing primordial soup of many codified and un-codified systems, and just happened to be the one that came to dominate the land.)

At some point, something goes awry and Arneson drops off the radar. All we know about Blackmoor is what’s cobbled on to the World of Greyhawk setting, a handful of modules, and then Mystara. Some devoted fans keep the faith alive, but it's mostly silence.

Thirty years pass. Open-source style licensing makes it possible for anyone to write and sell d20 material. All of a sudden Arneson is back and the rumor-shrouded northlands that have hovered on the horizon for so long come in to focus.

I did a little poking around, and technically the Realms seems to hold the honor of “Longest Running Fantasy World to Gaming Setting Award,” as the Esteemed Doctor Greenwood was writing short stories in a mapped and documented world as far back as 1967. But between now and then a lot has happened to Greenwood’s Vision. Some fantastic writers have had a chance to enrich the world, and some strange brand-managing decisions have diluted it. As the signature world of TSR/WotC, the Forgotten Realms had to carry all the good and evil that came from 2nd Edition AD&D and all its variants.

In contrast, Blackmoor has simply been Blackmoor. This isn’t to say that it is necessarily better for the isolation, but visiting Blackmoor is like finding a mythical city that has been cut off from civilization for the last six centuries.

I had a chance to talk with Dustin Clingman, editor and co-author of the Blackmoor Campaign Setting, and it turns out that Arneson has been actively running Blackmoor games for the last 30 years. That's pretty cool. It's also pretty daunting.

Imagine if Greenwood had never opened the Realms to other authors. Now imagine trying to write stories for that setting. Simply as one author respecting another author’s creation, you should be absolutely terrified of screwing up.

Enter Harley Stroh, stage right. No source material available other than the setting book, just an invitation to write some stories.

What do you do?

Suck it up and go in blind. Be respectful. Read every scrap of Blackmoor-related material you can find on the net. Try to make the story rich in detail, but know that any of it might have to be taken out for consistency. Trust in your skills, the Cool Theory of fantasy literature, and hope for the best.

Today, the first of a three-part serial is made available to Blackmoor readers. For better or worse, it is the first fiction set in “Dave Arneson’s Blackmoor.”

Here’s hoping the folks that have been following Blackmoor for the last 30 years enjoy it.

1.15.2005

Back in Black

So first off, if was only a flesh wound.

Secondly? I got betta.

This post of Choose Death is coming to you from 9,000 feet above sea level, deep within the Colorado Rocky Mountains. I don't expect many folks are still reading after my absence, but for anyone still hanging around, this one's for you.

So what happened? For about 4 weeks I had a nasty lung condition. For 4 long weeks I had wet corn flakes coming out of my lungs. No joke. No fun.

That month bled into Christmas, about the same time that H decided she had had enough of being alone in Colorado. THIS also coincided with deadlines for two projects that came to a total of around 30,000 words.

It was time to get busy. So, busy I got.

Unfortunately, it also meant dropping out of netspace. Every word I've typed in the last two months has gone to one of these two projects.

Christmas came and went with H's family and we hit the open road.

H and I put up 4'x8' plywood sheets on either side of my truck bed, filled the bed with everything we owned and headed west. Those of you that have ridden in the Reverend know just how small my truck is. That size translates to a very narrow wheel base, which, when combined with plywood "wings" made for a very tipsy drive West.

Things were passable until we reached Wyoming. Radio static gave way to dire warnings of "gusts up to 70 miles per hour," and "danger for high-profile vehicles." We weren't really ALL that high profile --- no more than 7' tall --- but that's relative to wheel base.

The wind picked up and progress slowed to 35 mph. I'm not sure driving slow would have prevented a roll-over if a real gust had come along, but at least it would have lessened the chance of dying in the wreck.

H and I pulled into my parent's ranch and literally had to park behind a barn to keep the truck from rolling over in the wind. In the morning we pulled off the plywood and ditched half our load for a later return trip.

H and I hopped back in the truck and made the push over the Great Divide. We rolled into Our Little Mountain Town and finally set up shop as husband and wife.

OLMTs can be tricky places to live. Usually they are ski towns, or are very close to ski towns. The demographic breakdowns are incredibly dramatic. One third of the population lives in mansions. One third of the population lives in mobile home trailers. And the last third lives in very tight condos.

That's where we're at right now, sharing a 2 bedroom with a second-grade teacher and her daughter. But that's not too shabby, since my last "apartment" was a refurnished wood-shed.

Finding work can be tricky as well. I showed up at an advertised call for prep cooks and dishwashers, and was thirtieth in line. Of the 300+ applicants, me and 29 of my best friends made the cut --- that masters degree might have made all the difference. :)

But don't forget that this is a OLMT near Aspen. I'm a scrub, sure, but a scrub for the X-Games. :)

Fortunately, I've got bigger plans. H's school needs a administrator, and the interview process has been going well. From scrub to headmaster --- almost a Cinderella Story, but you and I both know better. We're all shooting for that .1% that makes a living telling stories about elves and dragons.

So where are the elves and dragons these days? It's been a busy year, and a retrospective is in order:

Realms of the Dragons II is coming out this summer.


Ed "Arm Breaker" Gentry knocked heads until he, Kam, some other notaries (and little ol' me) finally got an article into
Dragon Magazine. Don't know the publishing date, but it will probably fall near Realms.


Goodman Games is publishing two modules before this year's Gen Con : Legacy of the Savage Lords, and Iron Crypt of the Heretic. They also commissioned (just last night) two more works for an anthology of low-level adventures. Thanks again to Alunic, Chrissy, and the Knights for their work as play testers, and now Lara (and perhaps Ed!) for play testing the latest dungeon crawls.


And finally,
Zeitgeist Games bought an 18k behemoth that will be used as a freebie on their website. The first of 3 parts is going up on the 19th. PLEASE feel free to drop in on the "Blackmoor Serial forums" and tell Dustin Clingman how much you loved/hated it.

As of today I'm committed to another 14k, with another potential 60k+ looming on the horizon. Really - at this point - I can't afford to win Eberron.

But it's not all sunshine and dancing elves. Let's recap a few of my more dramatic failures:

Goblin Tales:
Somewhere out in RPG land are 30+ copies of the book. I've asked sent multiple demands asking for them, along with the proceeds from the online sales. I even went up the chain of command and finally got an apology and a promise.

But still, no copies of GT and no check to hand out to the writers. I'm still working on it, but the change of address will only serve to royally complicate matters. "Yes, still please send them. No, my address is now ...."

2005 Antho:
Scrubs don't make enough to fund printers --- yet. The big mother of all fantasy anthos is on hold until I can scrape together the $5,000 necessary to do a real printing and distribution. It will happen, but it is on hold for now.

Whew. So there we go. Some triumphs, some failures, pretty much just like everything else.

The best part, to me, is this: while a stranger might mistake me for Sorta Cool, you all know better. Each and every person that reads this can write better than I can. I know this. I've read your works. Your ideas, your prose, makes me look like a fumbling newbie (which isn't too far off the mark). You've forgiven my typos. You've corrected my use of the - and the ---. You've read this blog and never pointed out my errors.

You know, or at least SHOULD know, in your heart of hearts, that I'm Nothing Special.

In the end, it just breaks down to something as simple as persistence. Over the last 15+ years I've scored a 100% rejection rate, followed by 1 year of marginal success.

For me, that's the real lesson. I might not sell another word for the next 15 years, but if I choose not to try for 16, or 17, or 18, I might as well stop typing right now.

15:1.

Not a great ratio by any means. Certainly not an indicator of future performance. A rational person could reasonably choose to find a different avocation. A rational person could choose to dedicate their to anything that doesn't result in scathing rejection letters on a regular basis. A rational person could choose any number of meaningful other ways to spend their finite hours on this planet.

Me?

I'll Choose Death.
























Okay. So that was more than a little cheesy. Sorry, but it's in the blood. Just ask my Saurus with his 100+ B Movie collection. But if you're still reading, let me just give a final thank you to Marce. Mother, Wife, Author, she was also the first person to read this blog. I don't knoww how she's doing in Arizona, but I hope she's doing well.

Thanks, Marce.