Hint of Retail Halloween and Poor Captain Whinypants

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Am currently in retail heaven, as the stores are full of Halloween delights. I have successfully restocked our treat bags and give-a-ways to friends, and have made a pledge that any new decorations need to be made. I’m already plotting to try my hand at making fancy chocolates this year, along with other concoctions that I probably shouldn’t. This is also a good time of year to get some fascinating tablecloths, of the cloth-and-vinyl variety, and I now have spider webs, sugar skulls, and obnoxious grinning pumpkins in my possession. Oh, but this is my favorite magical time of year. Fireball cinnamon whiskey and hot apple cider, chipotle-and-cinnamon roasted pumpkin seeds, old-fashioned ghost stories… I’m in heaven.(1) Should you not understand my sheer joy for this time of year, look no further than a piece I wrote last year titled Dear Humans.

This year, half of Halloween has been consumed not by Christmas, but by another retail occasion: the debut of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. As an adult(2), I remember having that excited feeling when the original movies were re-released in the theatres, and again when Star Wars: A New Hope debuted. Of course, my happiness has never been more abundant than when I got to shoot Gungans in the face as a droid in Battlefront 2… Anyway, I digress. There is nothing more exciting than that first moment when the opening credits roll, and I can’t wait to hear how the kids in my life enjoy this new movie premiere. I haven’t made plans yet to see the film, partially because I am crowd-adverse, which means I’ll likely go to the Sundance theatre that I love dearly. I can deal (and have) with the throng if I have to, but it is infinitely easier to be up on stage or hiding in the back than being swallowed up by massive amounts of people.(3)

On that note: I have much to do this week, but I’m planning on popping back in from time-to-time. Today, I leave you with Captain Whinypants in his new Halloween costume. You can see how excited he is. Clearly.

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I’m not sure if I like this one better or not. The loose straps reminded me of a helmet. Or a murderous disguise. See also: my revenge for that 4:00 a.m. wake up call the other day.

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That’s all for today. May you survive the prickly caltrops Monday is no doubt throwing at you, and live to see another day.

(1) Halloween often gets the short shrift in terms of holidays, for Christmas cannot come soon enough for many. I feel a strong aversion, however, to Christmas trees in July. Clearly, we need more monthly holidays like they had in medieval times. Which, admittedly, were subsumed into religious activities from their pagan origins, but the roots remain.

(2) Adult. Bah! Brain does not track age as well as the body does. Some days I’m eight years old wandering through a forest, bewildered by the height of the trees. Other days I’m ninety-five thousand years of age, wondering why the hell back pain wasn’t put into the manual.

(3) A visual from What Dreams May Come (1998).

    Mood: Truth in the smallest things.
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Balanced with water! I think…
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: A walk. In the park, even!
    In My Ears: A Beethoven trio with a name so long, Tolkien would be proud.
    Game Last Played: Sonic: All Stars Racing Transformed
    Book Last Read: Research for work.
    Movie/TV Show Last Viewed: Fringe
    Latest Artistic Project: Skull. It’s a cross-stitch thing.
    Latest Fiction/Comic Release: Gods, Memes, and Monsters
    Latest Game Release: Dread Names, Red List for Vampire: the Masquerade and Ghosts in the Black for the Firefly RPG.
    Current State of Projects: Read my latest project update and My Departure from the Conan RPG.

Kickstarters, Office Move, and the Death of Summer

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It’s been about two weeks since I’ve gone offline, but the wheels keep on turning so I wanted to give you some updates. First, today’s the last day for the Carolina Gaming Tables Kickstarter, and as the hours wind down we’re close to achieving the Dinner and Dice Cookbook–with a yummy crockpot recipe called “Fruits of the Forest” from yours truly. Have a look! The second Kickstarter that’s happening right now is the relaunch of Codex Infernus supplement for Savage Worlds. This supplement will include some of my work, which married my worldbuilding techniques with the rest of the team. If you dig demons, this book will be pretty hellacious. Hah!

I haven’t checked into social media since before Labor Day, and a fresh break has been great for me. This time I wanted a breather for a few reasons, but also because I’ve needed the head space following a busy con season to take stock of my current projects and reassess my goals. One of the decisions I’ve made is to switch offices in my house at the end of the month, to give me a smaller and more focused work space with a bigger window. I’ve decided not to put any art pieces up on my wall unless I make them myself, too. The idea is to create an environment where I’m forced to focus on what I am creating. While I don’t sell my art, for me all the arts I engage in facilitate what I’m doing writing-wise, and I’m refining a few techniques so I can connect those dots. I’m planning on blogging more often, too, if only because it’ll give me the opportunity to show my progress as I get more pieces done.

In the life of the mundane, I’m re-watching Once: Upon a Time prior to Season 5’s debut. Dark Swan! I started pulling my Halloween decorations out, too, and am getting ready to put those up. I finished a little black cat-and-moon cross stitch, but I’m afraid this sort of thing will push me over into domesticity, and that frightens me. Nesting, yes. Suburban… Well, that’s not for me. Not that my house isn’t Halloween year round, mind you. I’m talking about more Halloween-specific pieces. Boo instead of atmospheric. I’m pretty anxious for Summer to die, so I can wear sweaters and scarves and bunny slippers again. And to be perfectly honest, it’s hard to bake muffins when it’s ungodly hot, and I do like my homemade muffins.

    Mood: Truth in the smallest things.
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Balanced with water! I think…
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Ick. A walk.
    In My Ears: Doctor Whoooooooooooooo?
    Game Last Played: Kingdom Rush. Mega-battle. Seriously. Got to level 68.
    Book Last Read: A book about chakras.
    Movie/TV Show Last Viewed: Rewatching Once.
    Latest Artistic Project: Black cat on a white fence with a moon. It’s a cross-stitch thing.
    Latest Fiction/Comic Release: Gods, Memes, and Monsters
    Latest Game Release: Dread Names, Red List for Vampire: the Masquerade and Ghosts in the Black for the Firefly RPG.
    Current State of Projects: Read my latest project update.

Progress Report #8: K.I.S.S. and a September Twitter/FB Sabbatical

I mentioned earlier that my last show was this past weekend. Now that my world has mostly stopped spinning, it’s suddenly gotten very small–which means a renewed focus on four little letters. K.I.S.S. Keep It Simple Stupid. Essentially, it’s about deconstructing the most complex ideas into their simplest components. This philosophy is very popular among the tech crowd, but I’ve seen other variants of the idea, too, often referred to as the science of simplicity with respect to wardrobe and reducing other decisions to avoid distractions.

The past year has been filled with a lot of Deep Stuff, for me, and while it was necessary and important to go through another series of Life, the Universe, and EverythingTM events…I’m fried. I had a great time being a guest and speaker at a lot of shows, and was able to meet with a lot of friends–old and new–but now that my travel is over, it’s time to tie up projects and forge ahead. Thus, K.I.S.S. By narrowing my focus, I remove distractions and excuses so I can focus on my goals.

To help put me back in the right frame of mind for a heavy production schedule and a new stage in my career, I’m logging off of Facebook and Twitter for the month of September. It’s a real challenge, for me, because I have so many people that contact me via these mediums, as opposed to e-mail, either for work or to hang out. Ergo, I’m giving y’all the heads up that I’m avoiding those mediums as much as possible for the month of September. If you’re trying to contact me for work, please use e-mail because I’ll probably miss it!


Q2 and Q3 brought quite a bit of announcements your way, including several new Firefly RPG nominations for the Origins Awards and ENnie Awards. We were up against stiff competition, including Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition, and were honored to be included among such fantastic titles. We were also very grateful to accept the ENnie 2015 Judge’s Choice Award for Echoes of War: Thrillin’ Heroics and hope you’re enjoying the game.

We’ve had a number of questions about where the line goes from here. As we’ve mentioned in our interactions with fans, we’re taking a pause to promote the releases we already have for the line. Including the two releases I mention below, we’ve released six books so far for the Firefly RPG. Though the line launched a few years ago, we still have fans asking about the game as if they’re discovering it for the first time. For us, our focus is on highlighting the supplements because a lot of fans aren’t aware they exist. If you’d like to help, remember that reviews and actual play are lovely for your fellow fans to read. This really helps fans decide what they want to pick up. So thanks!

Since I write, edit, and manage projects full-time, this means that I’ve been looking forward more than I have been in the past few years. After all, despite the decisions that happen with respect to any project I’m working on, as a freelancer it’s my responsibility to ensure that I’ve always got something in the hopper so I can earn a living. That is why I’m pleased to tell you that I’m the developer for the Hunter: the Vigil Second Edition and the Conan RPG based on the literary works of Robert E. Howard. My roles on both are not as intense as they were on the Firefly RPG, which is partly why I’m able to fit them into my schedule in addition to other projects. Because my travel has now ended for the year, that enables me to get more done as well.

In addition to these announcements, I released the following since Progress Report #7: the Workhorse Edition.

  • Smuggler’s Guide to the Rim – This is a book filled with lots of great material for players and GMs. Both digital and print are now available!
  • Ghosts in the Black – This is a Firefly RPG campaign supplement. The story was designed by Robin D. Laws, and I’m happy to report it’s now available in digital and print.
  • World of Darkness: Gothic Icons – What’s gothier and angstier than Gothic literature? Gothic Icons! Now available in print.
  • World of Darkness: Dark Eras – Wrote the Hunter: the Vigil supplement for this book for 1690s Colonial America. We handed in our expansion material and new art notes for Dark Eras I, and Dark Eras II is due shortly.
  • Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn RPG – I contributed to the Skaa supplement for this game and Logan Bonner is my developer. Last I heard, it’s still coming out.
  • Vampire the Masquerade Dread Names: Red List – Fans can play as an Alastor to hunt the Camarilla’s worst enemies. Or, alternatively, Storytellers can drop one of the Anathema into their Vampire: the Masquerade chronicle.
  • Vampire the Masquerade: Ghouls – Currently in editing.
  • Conan RPG – We’re currently working on wrapping up the corebook, and are expecting a few pieces yet for the manuscript. I’ve got about three-to-four hundred applicants to sift through before I propose them to my teammates.
  • Codex Infernus – I developed the setting for this hell-themed Savage Worlds supplement, and the publisher is working on a relaunch of the Kickstarter. More soon!


Last time, I talked about how defeated I felt. However, I’m really stubborn. Amazingly so. Ergo, I’ve hit this hard and am now in full-on pitch mode. I am working with a few people as collaborators and mentors, but until we’re ready to announce I’d much rather give you the basics. Call this my safety catch, since I’ve been through too many “Hey, let’s announce!” “Oh wait, it just got canceled” cycles. Thus, here’s the basics about what is in the works (with codewords):

  • Starry Alpha – Working on outlines for an established property. Pitch!
  • Pinefresh Theta – Pitch, full script, and sample sketches sent off to an anthology.
  • Sparkle Mega – Full pitch in the works for a short-term series.
  • Red Sigma – In addition to pitching, I am going the small press publishing route for a collection. Still in the planning stages on this one, though!


Fiction is still on my radar, and there’s been some movement on that front.

  • Gods, Memes, and Monsters – My story “Three of a Kind” was recently published in this collection.
  • Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling – I’m co-editing an anthology with Jaym Gates for Apex Publications. Here’s the announcement. We’ve gotten in about a dozen stories so far, and I’m really excited to see this come to light.
  • Novella – I have a dark, science fiction novella I need to finish revising so I can sub that out. Codeword: Red Byte
  • Novels – Another round of revisions on Novel A (Codeword: Silver Dagger) in May, Novel B (Codeword: White Fang) probably not until July. I want to rework the plot for B.


New for this project update! WOO! I signed with Red Sofa Literary to represent a worldbuilding book I wrote.

  • Worldbuilding Book – I’m working with my agent to hone my pitches for interested publishers. Pretty excited about this!

  • For Exposure: The Life and Times of a Small Press Publisher – A book of essays written by Jason Sizemore, the publisher for Apex Book Company as part of the company’s 10 year celebration. I have written a satirical essay which is titled “The Case of the Mysterious Splatter.” It has footnotes. Many, many footnotes. It’s now available.
  • The Gorramn Shiniest Dictionary in the ‘Verse – This language guide for the Firefly TV show will be out this Spring from Titan Books. You can pre-order it now. Awesome!

That sums up the new releases and a few projects that are in progress for me. Back to the grind!

Writing 101 Advice from Geek*Kon 2015

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Geek*Kon 2015 was a mixture of seeing old friends and making new ones. I did have a great time and these fans are doing everything they can to put on a great show. I was thrilled to see folks like Emma Bull, Greg Weisman, Christopher Jones, Will Shetterly, and Alex Bledsoe speak to up-and-coming writers, fans, and all around great people.

Rather than give a recap of every panel and anime-related item I purchased (*coughs* Jiji rocks!), I’d like to highlight some of the wonderful advice given during my Writing 101 panel. The panel consisted of Alex Bledsoe, Will Shetterly, Emma Bull and myself. Here are some of the nuggets of advice given during the panel that I hope inspires you to write your heart out. Please note that I made every attempt to attribute said advice correctly, and some of the comments are sub-attributed to Steven Brust. Rather than rehash many of the tidbits I’ve mentioned here on my blog, today’s spotlight is on the other authors and their words of wisdom.

  • Point-of-view (P.O.V.) solves everything. Brust/Bull
  • Story starts with your P.O.V. character. Shetterly
  • Deal with the precipitating event as the first part of your story. Bledsoe
  • What serves the story is what you don’t tell. Shetterly
  • With respect to critiques and feedback from readers, “Worry about reader problems vs. reader solutions.” Shetterly
  • I write first drafts to create a skeleton. Bledsoe
  • With respect to revisions: “I pace around my house, reading the manuscript aloud.” Bledsoe
  • Figure out what drafts are supposed to do. e.g. They can be systematic or intuitive. Bull
  • Make the story more specific during revisions. Shetterly
  • What really matters, is the story itself. Shetterly
  • It’s better to write a bad first draft, than no draft at all. Shetterly

We also talked about info dumps and the Dread PrologueTM, and how many of the info dumps can be avoided by choosing the right character when selecting which character is telling the story. We also mentioned how it’s okay to suck (you’ve no doubt heard me say that before), and how the senses are crucial to add in layers of worldbuilding. For example, Bledsoe mentioned that a sense of smell can really make a big difference.

I hope today’s wrap-up inspires you to write, write, write! And remember, you’ll never internalize or finish what you start unless you sit down and simply…write. GOOD LUCK!

    Mood: Luxuriating in this damp, windy weather.
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Mostly managed!
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: HAH HAH HAH HAH HAH.
    In My Ears: Tron Legacy soundtrack
    Game Last Played: Kingdom Rush
    Book Last Read: For research, not pleasure. Ergo…
    Movie/TV Show Last Viewed: Frozen. Because in my house, it’s a horror movie.
    Latest Artistic Project: Sewing project that turned out to be a pescatarian oni. Don’t ask! Am planning Halloween-related crafts, however.
    Latest Fiction/Comic Release: Gods, Memes, and Monsters
    Latest Game Release: Dread Names, Red List for Vampire: the Masquerade and Ghosts in the Black for the Firefly RPG.
    Current State of Projects: Read my latest project update. A new one coming soon! SOON I SAY!

Martial Arts Movies and My Flavor of Fandom

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A little known fact about me, is that I love martial arts movies and consider myself a fan. Today I am going to start with, what I feel, served as my launch pad into martial arts movies and my interest in art, games, books, movies, etc. from the Far East. Some of my earlier influences were Gremlins (1984), The Karate Kid (1984), Big Trouble in Little China (1986), Charlie Chan, and fables from Japan and China. In other words, it wasn’t any one specific thing, but a fascination that grew out of the American-facing snippets that I had access to about the Far East in general. As a kid learning and reading about new cultures for the first time, I was immediately drawn to the Far East for several reasons, and have been ever since to some degree. Mind you, I spent A LOT of time inhaling books as a kid and learned to read at an early age, and while I can’t say that I was immersed in pop culture, I definitely tapped into what I had access to, when I could.

Looking back, I can see this perfect storm of influences was further enhanced by Star Wars and a textbook I remember getting at a library sale. I loved (and still do!) Star Wars for many, many reasons. It wasn’t until much later that I realized one of the reasons why I loved these movies, was because there were Asian influences which I internalized. Darth Vader’s helmet, for example, was inspired by the samurai. But that, to me, really didn’t have as much of an impact as the relationship between Luke and Yoda did. The wise master teaching the young apprentice the ways of the Force, which was both mystical and powerful, which could be used for good or evil purposes… The swords that each Jedi protected and treasured, that were attuned to that warrior individually…(1)

As a kid growing up in the Midwest, I didn’t know the creative forces behind Star Wars, or understood movie magic, or thought about the specifics about the many Chinese and Japanese cultures, other than what I could get from the books I had access to. All of these faraway places(2) and stories from the Far East seemed, like the rest of Star Wars–magical. So, to uncover more “secrets” of the Far East, I turned to books. I don’t know the name of the textbook, but I do remember I had a book that was very colorful and was bursting with stories. In the textbook, there were colorful, three dimensional pictures of kirigami to illustrate the different fables. I do recall that Urashima Taro was one of them, and the other was a fantastical romance about a shapeshifting kitsune who fell in love with a wayward traveler. I loved these stories dearly.

Before I end this post, I want to add a comment about the gargantuan element in the room: Karate Kid. The thing about Karate Kid, for me, was that it sparked my enthusiasm to check out other films with martial arts in them, to get to the source. Yes, I very much understood that this was an American movie, and I didn’t have any issues with that–but it inspired me to start watching other films that fulfilled my desire for authenticity and more from the Far East.

Next time, I’ll make a paltry effort to start picking apart specific films, and see where this trail leads…

(1) If you’re interested in this aspect of Star Wars, check out Star Wars and Philosophy.
(2) They are on my list of places to visit some day, and I hope I’ll be able to afford to go.

    Mood: Pre-convention stress exacerbated by a hot, hot summer.
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Now trying to figure out how to balance non-carbonated caffeine. In hell.
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Yogatastic
    In My Ears: Too much in between them!
    Game Last Played: Kingdom Rush
    Book Last Read: A big-ass stack for research. Again.
    Movie/TV Show Last Viewed: Um…
    Latest Artistic Project: Sewing project that turned out to be a pescatarian oni. Don’t ask.
    Latest Fiction/Comic Release: Gods, Memes, and Monsters
    Latest Game Release: Dread Names, Red List for Vampire: the Masquerade and Ghosts in the Black for the Firefly RPG.
    Current State of Projects: Read my latest project update. A new one coming soon!

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