Lake Geneva West
This weekend I was down in Boulder, Colorado, falling down on concrete and regaling old friends with stories of new projects, and the triumphs/disasters associated with them. We were sitting at the Trident, a coffee shop down on the Pearl Street Mall, when it hit me.

I’m in Boulder. Do you know anyone else in Boulder that contributes to the RPG industry?

How about Keith Baker, author and designer of that little campaign setting called Eberron?

Suddenly I started looking around the shop, trying to spy anyone that might be working on a novel. This is Boulder, so that included nearly everyone in the shop. I narrowed my search down to folks with blue-lined graph paper, but still no dice*.

The coast clear, I continued my conversation, but at a lower decibel.

I'm still on the look out for Keith. I'll let you know if there is a sighting.

*I’m not half as funny as I think I am. But you know that.



Sunday in the Valley.
Last night I was invited to see Yo-Yo Ma perform in Aspen. It was an amazing event. You couldn’t watch and not know that there was a master playing on stage. Excellence and mastery transcend all arts. I think I learned about writing by watching him play a cello.

Afterwards, I went to the skatepark and kicked around until the sun went down. Knowing that my life is a juncture between these disparate worlds makes me smile.

Good times. I'm a fortunate, fortunate person.


We can only pray he uses his powers for good.
So the rumors are true. Through some sort of cosmic mistake I’ve been made line editor/developer for Goodman Games’ Dungeon Crawl Classics. What this means is that I’m the guy that commissions manuscripts, helps the writer flesh out an idea, commissions interior and cover art, and generally shepherds the module from conception to point where we hand it off to an editor.

It’s both exciting and terrifying, but the business cards are pretty sweet. ;)

The offer came at the perfect time. I was just looking around and thinking, “Wow, all my modules are starting to look a lot alike,” and ta-da: an excuse not to write modules* for a bit.

And the best part? There are some amazing writers out there that are coming out with amazing adventures. True story. But more about that next post.

*For Goodman Games. Whoops. Here come the NDA lawyers.


That Elf has a Blaster!

I love my night job.

Thank goodness for you guys, because no one else believes I get paid for this.


A Drifter walks into town …
We are living in a very, very strange time in the history of RPGs; ten years from now will we even remember d20? Heck if I know, but it is has created a boom-town like rush for those of us willing to weather tight deadlines and such.

The realist in me can’t help but look towards the inevitable bust. And it might just be this August if Wizards decides to release a non-open license fourth edition at GenCon. Those of us who moonlight as RPG writers need to branch out before it hits.

But between now and then I’m straddling the rush.

Heh. How many other gamblers, miners and saloon owners have said that before me? I’m just the latest in a long line of fools.

Still, it’s fun while it lasts, and you should see the dancing girls.


Kam II
No official word yet, but rumor on the street holds that Kam is the proud father of healthy girl.

Our thoughts to you, and you family. Hope all is well.


Creative Writing 101: “All I know is that I don’t know nothing.”
So way back in ’87 there was a punk band that called themselves Operation Ivy. The band started in 1987 and ended in 1989, after playing over 180 shows, but that didn’t stop them from becoming one of the seminal influences on later punk and ska-punk.

Scroll forward to 1992. Harley, naïve farm boy, goes to college, finds new friends and new music. A kid down the hall lends us the first Op Ivy album (produced after their breakup). We listen to it for weeks straight. The music is fast, upbeat and aggressive, with lyrics that call for social responsibility (when you can discern them).

Powerful stuff for an impressionable young male. When called in for a conference with the director of the Creative Writing program, I was asked, “What do you want to accomplish with your writing?”

My answer went something like this:

“I want my stories to pick up the reader and throw them across the room.”

I was laughed out of the office, and for good reasons. The power of music and writing are radically different. Still, traces of those original aspirations remain.

Fast forward again, to 2006. Tim Armstrong and Matt Freeman, previously of Op Ivy, are now part of Rancid and Lars Fredrickson and the Bastards. Now I’d never ask anyone to listen to either group --- it’s an acquired taste to be sure --- but here is some footage of Rancid doing an acoustic cover of an Op Ivy song. It’s suitable for adult ears, and captures the emotion of the genre.


That Op Ivy can still has relevance is inspiring. Maybe my old writing goals can still be relevant, as well.


Edit ... when my little brother got to college, he wrote Op Ivy, neither of us realizing that the band had been non-existent for 4+ years. He received a hand-written reply from the folks at Epitaph thanking him for his letter and encouraging him to check out Rancid.

We did, and things were never the same.


Fear the Ferg!
Mike Ferguson, the man who brought you the Emerald Cobra, has a new module coming out! No word on the release date, but September/October is a good bet. Meanwhile, check out Mike's musings on his blog. He has good insights on game design and is happy to share.

That, and the dog beat me to the title. Horned Lords are just so darn cool. *shakes fist in mock fury*


Torgo Lives!
When designing Legacy of the Savage Kings I wrote in a scrappy little kobold named Torgo the Eye-Gouger. Torgo is the leader of a much-maligned group of kobold miners. He doesn’t care to be the leader, but it is the best way to ensure that the other monstrous denizens of the Forge beat up on him as little as possible.

Torgo might have fallen by the wayside were it not for the classic, old school illustration by Doug Kovacs, that captures the best of the AD&D style:

Kovac’s Kobold

Thanks to the power of that illustration, Torgo has a new lease on life and will be appearing on gaming tables near you come late 2006.

He will no doubt fall to an endless rain of magic missles, the holy blades of crusading paladins, poisoned daggers striking from the shadows, and any other of the endless attacks PCs will turn against him. A dark future, to be sure, but one he never could have hoped for. And a dozen years from now you will be able to find him at the bottom of bins at garage sales, his paint chipping, dirks bent, but just as scrappy as ever.

Torgo’s a survivor. Good luck and God speed.

Kovac’s Kobold


You smell the scent of cinnamon vodka...
My first year in college I snuck into an upper level creative writing class. Don’t know why they let me stay, but it was pivotal moment in my life. Not because of anything I may have written (it was nearly all drek) but because of the people I met. One I fell in love with, and the other … I fell in love with.

Anyhow, obtuse personal references aside (hey, this is a blog after all), one of the aforementioned folks was Cathedral. Nearly six and half feet tall, with spiked black hair, and hundreds of bracelets running up either arm. The first day I saw him he was wearing a white t-shirt, torn blue jeans and purple tights. That perfect punk mix of effeminacy and the ability to kick the crap out anything that came at him wrong.

And of course, charismatic as all hell.

For some reason, Cath befriended this painfully shy kid who was fresh (literally) off the farm. I had never been to a real city, let alone seen a punk. But for the next few years Cath watched out for me, introduced me to mudding, and ran all the cyberpunk games for our cadre of social misfits.

He even introduced me to the old Vampire: The Masquerade, although we all wanted to play vampire hunters.

Anyhow, if you page back a few dozen months in this blog you’ll see that Cath was the origin of “Choose Death.” And he just dropped by his namesake.

So a big, Deathy shout out is due to Cathedral, a better writer and father than I’ll ever be. If you do a Google search for solo, fiction, tea bowl and cathedralyou might find some old stories kicking around, but only if it is after midnight and raining.


Fear the LaSalsa!

Jeff's LaSala's devious dungeon designs will first appear in the module anthology, The Adventure Begins, but his first solo module will follow in July! Goodman Game's promo modules sell out especially fast, so get a copy early if you want to have it signed by Jeff at GenCon.

A big Deathy Shout for Jeff, and my condolences to your PCs.


Back in the saddle again.
I don't know how other authors deal with post-project depression. Putting away the reference books, knowing that nothing more will be added or corrected, can be a little rough.

But, as Mr. Reznor taught us, there's nothing quite like the feel of something new. Especially if it has a rapidly closing deadline. Heard just today:

"Can you give me 4 thousand words by Friday?"

Hell, I've been doing 1k ever night since late February. ;)

To my fellow little or no-names: if you can get a boot in the door, you can make this happen. Look at Ed and Marce. Both of are on their way to their first novels. And Jaleigh, Eric and Kam are all well on their way to their second and third novels.

Not 5 years ago (erm...how long ago was Maiden?) they were sitting where you and I are right now. Lonely, depressed, selling their plasma for typewriter ribbon and coffee.

Today they're kicking back their heels, smoking fat cigars, while ghostwriters frantically scratch out the next in the series.

Well, maybe not quite. But they have all taken steps towards realizing their dreams, and made it easier for us to do the same. At this particular moment in time there are more books being published than ever before in the history of the planet.

Go out and make one of them yours. Tell 'em, Grimbones sent you.


When I was in graduate school chasing down a degree in Custodial Science, one of my mentors said something along the lines of, “if you choose to be a writer, it will cost you your friends and family.”

A little grim, all things considered. Of course I blew it off.

Thankfully, that didn’t happen this time around. My friends and family (i.e. all of YOU) were amazingly supportive over the last few months. More than any novel sales, good friends are a true measure of a successful life.

I’m a testament to the inequality of the world; for no good reason, for no inherent qualities of my own, life has been nothing but great to me. And watch, here I'm going to complain about my golden-soled life. Sad. Maybe this time next decade I'll be a little wiser.

4 Things Not to Schedule When Writing a Novel:

-Do NOT schedule a 200k word project due two months into the 5 months allotted for writing your book. (Would do it again.)

-Do NOT watch your wife/therapist/partner in crime leave for the East Coast, the weekend before your novel is due. (She's back. Whew.)

-Do NOT buy a house the weekend before you novel is due. (How often can you write "her attorney in fact" in twenty minutes?)

-Do NOT attempt to move into a new home the weekend before your novel is due. (Um...not quite done. Is it June yet? Not in Japan!)

But of course, there has to be a catch. If I was offered the chance to write a novel again, and with all the same conflicts of time and imagination, I’d do it in minute.

Well, actually I’d talk it over (more) with Heather first. Thank goodness we don’t have children.

And so … for all the friends and family that I fell out of contact with (especially these last 3 months), apologies for my absence, and thanks for your patience. Special thanks to Jeff and Mike who kicked butt at all the right times. Check out their blogs and tell them they rock.

What’s next? A quick d20 proposal I need to get out of my system, then one or two short stories followed by either a game or another book. We’ll see how things unfold.


P.S. To all my fellow unpublished novelists:

Remember that I am, and remain, unpublished in the realm of novels. Zip, nada, zilch. And here's the thing: 90k really isn't that long. Get after it every day and you'll be done inside of 6 months or less. Crazy, but true.