3.26.2005

A Big, Deathy Welcome to Walt!
...who is also something of an artist. Mike, you should check out Walt's page and see if his work is suitable for the FFP style.

Return of the Clockwork Inquisitor

In a surprising turn, Zeitgeist Games has plans to include "A Night in Maus" in the upcoming Wizards’ Cabal sourcebook. Even cooler, the editors suggested that the story will be illustrated, which is always a lot of fun. Royalties are great and all, but illustrations are where it’s at.

The editors also promised that the next story, “Son of Flame, Son of Hak,” will be posted soon. I’ll let you know as soon as I see something real.

Zeitgeist Games just hired some new hands, which should help with their workload. If you’ve submitted stories or proposals to ZG and never heard back from them, or toyed with the idea of submitting, now is the time. Hit them again and demonstrate your persistence.

A Note on Community
Elaine mentioned this in her blog, before she shut it down, but it bears repeating: writing is a lonely gig. This isn’t bad, per se, just the nature of the calling. You write alone, submit alone, and when you get the rejection, it is addressed to you and no one else.

But that doesn’t mean no one is on your side. Stop, take a minute and look around. This haphazard collection of artists, writers and designers, we all know what you’re going through. We’re in it together, we’re all chasing that same impossible dream.

That’s a pretty incredible thing. I remember getting into written fisticuffs with a certain Loghan Shadowhand, back in the day (and getting my vocabulary handed to me on a bloody shingle). I remember the day when Mother and Ashlock figured out they both listened to Rush. And the day Jeff thought I critiqued his discussion thread as “predictable.”

I can’t stress how valuable this group is. Out of a random 100 souls, probably three or four have aspirations to be writers. Out of a 100 would-be writers, maybe only one makes a go for it. That places you, and the fellows around you, in a very elite group.

It doesn’t make us better than anyone else. In fact, it probably only predisposes us for failure, melancholy and disappointment. But it also brands you in a certain way, makes you see the world in a different light, leaves you hungering for different dreams. For better or worse, you’re tainted.

Most of us have never met. Maybe we never will. But as Elaine Cunningham pointed out, it is rare – and valuable – to find other folks that can actually identify with this life. When you receive the inevitable rejections, you have an understanding audience. When one of us makes it, it spurs the rest of us to press that much harder.

It ain’t much, but it’s home.

Drywaller by Day, Author by Night,
Or, Why the Heck is Harley in Wyoming?!

So, Ms. H’s father remains very ill. She has been spending time back East with her family, and with her father, making the most of the time they have left. I miss my wife, but I wouldn’t deny her this for anything.

With H (the attractive one) gone, this leave the other H (me) to pay the bills for rent and what not, in one of the most expensive counties in the U.S.

Have I mentioned I’m a freelance writer? Well, right now, and for as long as it takes, I’m also a freelance drywaller. This means living out of my truck with a duffel bag full of clothes, a sleeping bag and pad, a laptop for writing (thanks to BWS!), and a fistful of software (thanks to MNTS/BWS!).

And you know, it’s not all that bad. I’d love to be with my wife, I’d love for her father to be healthy, but these aren’t things I can change. What I do have is a rare and marvelous opportunity to chase my dreams. In a lot of countries I’d be worried about where my next meal was coming from. Instead, I spend my evenings daydreaming about worlds that never were.

And that’s a pretty damn good life.

H vs. Tank, regarding Shared World Fiction
Tankgrrl: "You’re a literary whore!"
H: "Doesn’t mean I’m not good in the sack."

(Strained Metaphor Translation Service: Where you sell your writing has no relation to how good or bad your writing might be.)

3.13.2005

Coming in May: Legacy of the Savage Kings

"Remember the good old days, when adventures were underground, NPCs were there to be killed, and the finale of every dungeon was the dragon on the 20th level? Those days are back. Dungeon Crawl Classics don't waste your time with long-winded speeches, weird campaign settings, or NPCs who aren't meant to be killed. Each adventure is 100% good, solid dungeon crawl, with the monsters you know, the traps you fear, and the secret doors you know are there somewhere.

For centuries, the Great Swamp has hidden hints of an ancient culture of barbarian kings. While passing through this miserable bog, the PCs encounter Stygoth the Damned, a half-dead black dragon driven mad by a mysterious disease. Delving further, the heroes discover that the disease is tied to the very swamp itself. A great corruption once infested this place, destroying the savage barbarian kings and leaving only mighty statues as their legacy. Now this corruption has returned, and a terrible Witch Queen is mining the corrupted swamp-earth to produce evil, blighted artifacts. In order to stop the spread of these evil weapons, the heroes must enter the ancient caves of the savage kings, put to rest the corrupt legacy of their downfall, end the disease that scars the land, and then face off against the Witch Queen herself."


Come get your Conan on. :)

You Are Not Your Writing
A quick thought before I hit the road to wild, wonderful Wyoming.

"You are not your writing." I think we've all been told this at one time or another, usually by a loving friend when after we've received the umpteenth rejection letter.

I've always had a hard time believing it. I am my writing, I've told myself, or at least my writing is the blood-ink smear of my soul's best effort. That's close enough, right?

I thought so once, but now I'm not so sure. Let's examine the argument from the other side ...

Last week I was working on a gaming project and caught myself getting lazy. And why not? I had sold 6+ similar works, and publishers were asking for more.

But whoops. I was not my writing, or more accurately, My Writing Was Not Me. Who cared if it had the words "Harley Stroh" on the cover. If it was crap, it was still crap.

Fortunately, my edits hadn't been turned in yet, so I had the chance to re-invest myself and get the job done right.

But the lesson had been driven home. Whoever H. Stroh is, whatever he's done in the past, none of that applies to the work he is creating now. And conversely, the work I've done in the past doesn't apply to who I am now.

You are not your writing.
Your writing is not you.

So when you get those rejections, glean what you can, and move on, because you've grown tremendously since you sent in that last submission.

And when you get those acceptance letters, glean what you can, and don't get cocky, because you still need to hustle your little behind and make certain the NEXT story/module/supplement rocks. Quality isn't a given.

Today I'm published, but that's a far cry from being a professional.

3.12.2005

I'm Not Unemployed, I'm Freelancing
Today Goodman Games sent the map "galleys" of the d20 module, Legacy of the Savage Kings. It is really, really, geek-boy neat to see my blue-lined graph paper drawings converted into professional maps. The preview of the module should be up on the preview page some time this weekend. I'm excited to see what the cover looks like.

What a dork.

Along the same lines, it looks like Iron Crypt of the Heretics will be GGames' Gencon special. If, like me, you've been dreaming about going to Gencon since you were 12, having a module slated specifically for the event is pretty cool. If I can quit freelancing and get a job before August, I might be able to make the con, which means I'll slip you a $20 bill to go up to the Goodman Game's booth and demand a copy of the module. :)

On a serious note, I've also had the privilege of helping out with the module being written for GGames' Gencon tournament. Essentially I get to sit back, look over what has been written, and suggest ideas for development. It's a lot like like being paid to daydream. If any of you are gamers and plan to be at the con, I heartily encourage you to sign up for the tournament. It is going to be a blast, I promise you. Even if tournaments aren't your thing, it will be a chance to game with some great GMs.

A Big, Deathy Welcome to Tim!
...soon-to-be author of the best selling Falcon Cross.

And a Big, Deathy Wave!
I'm headed off to a month long Freelance Writers' Motivational Workshop (read: going to Wyoming to work construction and help out on the farm). I'm taking the laptop and hoping to finish a handfull of new d20 projects, but internet access isn't likely, considering the family farm doesn't have a phone.

Still, I'll be down on the weekends. I'll get your email, just expect some lagtime.

Until then, keep safe, keep writing, and don't forget that the best books have yet to be written.

//H

3.04.2005

Harley’s Fifth Grade Posse
Yesterday I subbed in one of the local private schools. Thankfully I was only an assistant, which amounted to sitting at the front of the class and reading aloud while the real substitute teacher helped the students with their handwork projects. (The Thief Lord is a great book, by the way. I’ll try to run down the author.)

By the time we hit fifth grade, the students had figured out someone new was in the school. I sat down and cracked open the book, but before I could start to read, a hand went up.

“Are you the guy who writes Magic books?”

“No,” I answered. “I’ve only written a short story for the Forgotten Realms, and the book isn’t even out yet.”

“Can I have a copy?”

“Um, sure.”

More hands go up. Pretty soon I’m taking orders from half the class.

I didn’t think about it until later on, when I told H about the day.

Her first question: was my story appropriate for fifth-graders?

Heh. Good question. Thankfully, they’ll technically be headed into sixth grade before the antho gets out, but ...

Now, for the record, I was playing D&D as early as third grade (which means my brother must have been in first grade!). And with our trusty Monster Manual in hand, we spent entire winters battling Asmodeus and hordes of devils in the Ninth Pit of Hell. You and I know that it was good clean fun, but I shudder to think what Mom and Dad might have thought if they had overheard more of our games. (I still remember asking Mom how to spell “assassin.”)

Again, good clean fun. We read constantly, and after the Monster Manual, our most oft-used resource was the dictionary.

But most of the parents in the school probably didn’t have that experience. When they hear "D&D" they probably recall kids playing with swords in storm drains, microwaving cats, and all the rest of the mindless mid-80s D&D talkshow scare.

Now I’m NOT proposing we censor ANY book, no matter the content, and you and I both know that Dungeons and Dragons has about the same corruptive powers as Charlie Brown. But how do we convince parents of that? Perhaps, with the new young reader imprint, the question is moot.

But can I give copies of WoTC books to my fifth grade posse, hoping to inspire a generation of writers?

I’m hesitant to proclaim any conclusions, so I’ll leave this one open ended. I’m still working it out in my own head.

=====
But I Digress...
*laugh* This reminds me of the time a friend bounced a check at the local gaming store.

Imagine his mother's chagrin when she got the bill from “Marshak’s House of Fantasy.”

... it might as well have been “Marshak’s Velvet Pleasure Dungeon” for all she knew. :):):)

3.02.2005

A Big, Deathy Welcome To ...
Zombie Flyboy --- Purveyor of all things Zombified!

Plus, he's the president of the Ash fan club, which is always worth points in my book. That and he likes to play with photoshop.

Eberroops
So I realized that my mail forwarding expired a little while ago, so if I was sent the rejection, I'd never know it. I may have to give the old roommates a call and see if something came from Hasbro.

That is, unless they share an address database with the FR folks across the hall. I don't know that an open call would justify the data entry, and harassing editors for rejections isn't the sort of thing you want become known for. ("Hey, Peter? It's that guy, again, on line one. He's whining about having never received some rejection letter.")

Nope. Time spent begging for a sheet of paper could be time spent writing. This is definitely one to let slide. :)

Bless WoTC Accounting
There is something very reassuring about receiving royalty statements ("$0.00") even though the anthology won't be out for another couple months.