Progress Report #6: Thar Be Dragons

I’m firing myself when it comes to these progress reports, but for the love of the stars…there’s a good reason why I’ve been fairly quiet on the writerly front.

While the Firefly RPG has been the primary focus for my day job, other projects I lovingly refer to as “zombies” have come back from the dead. Plus? Dragons or more aptly named: a multi-headed hydra who answers to the name Reality. Moving, hospitals, friends…my routine got buggered. Everyone’s doing well, just altered a bit as Lord Lardbottom is beginning to lose his sight (Do they make bifocals for cats?) and other human parts were tinkered with. (Thankfully, not mine as I am not a fan of hospitals in general, but will suck it up if I need to and am able to attend…with vigor.) Still, that doesn’t excuse my lack of bloggery, and I’m beginning to think it’s more valuable for me to write for you here, than Tweet or FB anecdotes. Hrmm…

And now we pause for a moment of discovery. I’m listening to Good Omens in the background for the first time, and ZOMG THERE’S QUEEN IN MY STORY ZOMG!!! A-hem. Yes, *huge* Queen fan. And I’m not sorry about it! Though I should say that singing Fat Bottomed Girls at the top of one’s lungs while driving will entertain shockingly bizarre looks from other drivers.

Annnnnd back to the task at hand. Routine? Yeah, that got shot to hell in some kind of bullet-tested handbasket. Potentially made out of glass, but not sure. So, I’m back to setting goals, to-do lists (it is squamous), and taking it one day at a time. Slow and steady wins the race. Don’t ya love turtles?

The good news about changes in life, the universe, and everything is that my theme song has shifted to the opening sequences for Rawhide. Oh, if ever…I am rollin’, rollin’, rollin’…

Games

My work on roleplaying games since the last progress report which, if I remember correctly, was accessed via a TARDIS. Here’s a status update on where I’m at right now.

  • Firefly RPG – The print edition of the Firefly RPG corebook is now available at a friendly local game store near you. Shiny!
  • Echoes of War: Thrillin’ Heroics – We surprised fans with a print compilation of our first four Echoes of War Episodes, including “Friend in Low Places”, and the Serenity Crew. We sold out at GenCon!
  • Echoes of War: Bucking the Tiger – A digital version of this Episode went live in the month of May as promised!
  • Things Don’t Go Smooth – This book is currently in layout and is slated for a Q4 release. I have a blog post you can read about on the MWP website. Get the lowdown on Things Don’t Go Smooth.
  • Hunter the Vigil: Mortal Remains – This book went live in May. I wrote and designed the interstitial fiction for this supplement; I also edited this book.
  • Cortex Plus Hacker’s Guide – I wrote an essay geared for Cortex Classic fans interested in tweaking their sheets for a more cinematic style.
  • Unframed: The Art of Improvisation for Game Masters – I wrote an essay about worldbuilding by the seat of your pants. Sounds about right, eh? This was released in July.
  • World of Darkness: Dark Eras – Wrote the Hunter: the Vigil supplement for this book for 1690s Colonial America. Threw everything and the kitchen sink into this supplement! It is jam-packed with story.
  • Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn RPG – I contributed to the Skaa supplement for this game and Logan Bonner is my developer. It’s still on the schedule; I hope to give you an update on this in the coming months.
  • Vampire the Masquerade: Red List – Working on it! We’re expanding the outline and dumping more into this supplement. Hang in there!
  • Vampire the Masquerade: Ghouls – I’m writing the fiction for this book, which will be edited by my developer. I’m also editing the main text.
  • …and more Firefly and soon-to-be-announced fun!

 

Comics

I am working on three original scripts, one of which I have a publisher for. I pitched to a few publishers and individual writers but haven’t heard anything back. (Yes, I’ve been depressed about the lack of responses.) Instead of waiting and pitching another five years to get a standalone comic published, I’ve decided to move ahead with a pair of scripts. From there, we’ll see. I’m in the project set up phase right now. More to come after some ink is dry! But yes, this is all on spec.
 

Fiction

Project set up for a pair of novels I need to finish by the end of the year. A light has opened for my Violet War novel, a possibility I cling to–and it’s rejuvenated me. Short fiction is on hold and I’m putting off revisions for a Lovecraftian novella in favor of my novels. Both are on spec.

My schedule will shift at the tail end of October, but I’m not waiting any longer to start working on these projects. Like Queen Bavmorda oh how I want the darkness to come so I can hibernate in my writer’s tower a touch, but the key word for me right now is finding a work-life balance that’ll support writing my own original work while I get these comics and novels done.

That’s all for now cats and kittens… Hope you’ve enjoyed this edition of “What Monica’s been up to!” and I’ll see you in a new blog post. I’ve got a Cortex Plus Halloween hack I’m mulling over and other hilarity of a funner (artistic) variety.

Because funner is totally a word. Funotally.

Cheers!
 

Progress Report #4: Time Machine

If you’ve been following my progress reports, you’ve probably seen a lot about Firefly – with good reason. This has been the primary focus for my efforts last year. In fact, it was SO busy, I mis-numbered my progress reports, so you get a retro version of all that’s been happening.

Games

Last time, I mentioned I have a number of games and supplements in development. The ones listed here are either on my immediate “you must do this now” horizon, the second (or third) draft has been handed in, or it’s out in the wilds. I also pitched a video game, and hope to hear something back in a week or two on that.

  • Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn RPG – Ironically, Mr. Sanderson was at Gen Con but we never connected. I haven’t received feedback yet, but my understanding is that this new supplement is still on the horizon.
  • Echoes of War: Friends In Low Places – Will be running this at brand new Nexus convention in Milwaukee.
  • Free Interactive Crew and Ship Sheets – Offered this for fans recently. Free download!
  • Firefly RPG – Digital is out. Waiting for feedback on print.
  • Echoes of War: Freedom Flyer – Debuted Winter 2013.
  • Echoes of War: Bucking the Tiger – Next adventure in the hopper. We’re potentially looking at a May release for this one.
  • Things Don’t Go Smooth – Planning a GenCon release for this one.
  • Echoes of War: Volume 1 – Collects the first four Echoes of War releases into a print edition. Also looking at a GenCon release.
  • Vampire the Masquerade: Red List – Working on it! Writing, writing, writing.
  • Hunter the Vigil: Mortal Remains – Waiting approval right now. I wrote and designed the interstitial fiction for this supplement; I also edited this book.
  • World of Darkness: Dark Eras – Wrote the Hunter: the Vigil supplement for this book for 1690s Colonial America. Waiting feedback on third draft prior to approval.

 

Comics

Lots going on here, but nothing new to announce just yet. I turned down a comic that…well, let’s just say the contract was not good.

 

Fiction

Nothing to announce just yet. I am focusing on long form, but have opened up to anthology invites.
 

Consulting

This will be the last time you see a consulting update from me. I am continuing to work behind-the-scenes at Onyx Path Publishing, but I’ve since stepped down from my role with John Kovalic. Any support positions I take on will be invisible, primarily because I’m focused on writing and continuing to find work in that creative sphere. That doesn’t mean I won’t do consulting, it just means that in terms of highlighting all that I do, I’m focused on sharing what I write with readers like you. I’ve learned, the hard way I suppose, that there’s a difference between being in a support position and a creative one. The two don’t play well together reputation-wise.

Next time, though, I’ll talk about the conventions I’m attending. ‘Til then? Here you be!

2013. You Were Great! Kinda Sorta.

Fizgig Avatar

Before I get started with my 2013 in review, a complementary message from the writer who made chocolate-hazelnut crepes and mimosas this morning. HAPPY NEW YEAR! Also: GREMLINS is my new/old favorite Christmas movie. I can’t believe how wondering Spielberg’s movies are; they really stand up to the test of time.

On to the recap!

2013 was the year of getting rid of baggage. In ye times of olde, there was a god and goddess for pretty much everything. Take the Greek goddess, Eris, who symbolizes discord, strife, and chaos. I’d say 2013 was definitely “her” year, because there were a lot of changes–which turned out to be very positive–that began with discord and ended in amazing.

In January 2013, I wasn’t sure if I made the right decision to go the entrepreneurial route. I opted out of a move to the lovely city of Austin, Texas in 2012 and decided that, what was truly in my heart, was to pursue a career based on what I could provide creatively. Oh, I’m not overlooking my business background, because that’s what helps me flesh out what jobs I can get. That being said, I know what I want deep down and I just have to find a way to make it work. The bills come every month. Those don’t stop, regardless of how and when I get paid, and that’s something I’m very aware of. As it turns out, 2013 was the year where I focused on filling out my hobby games repertoire. I wanted to be part of a visible property because I’d been in the industry so long as a freelancer and, then, on the business side working with Steve Jackson Games and John Kovalic. On the writing side alone, I’ve worked with over a dozen game companies on well over thirty products that saw various states of production. I also kept my consulting skills sharp when I took on a role with Onyx Path Publishing behind-the-scenes.

February was a month of serendipity and a ramp up to the rest of a wild and crazy year. I started with penning the April Fool’s joke Scion: Extras (Supplemental Yet Can Be Somewhat Useful On Occasion Scions). Oh, how I love to write satire. And oh, how very, very challenging it is to pull off for the fans. I was hoping for a range of reviews that tapped into different aspects I built into the product. That’s exactly what we got and I couldn’t be happier about that. Then, I was asked to fill the shoes of brand manager and lead writer for the Firefly RPG. Taking direction from Margaret Weis, we opted to leverage years of Cortex Plus experience and launch the line in 2013. Getting a new line off the ground comes with its own set of challenges; overall this has been an extremely rewarding journey and Fox has been great to work with. Margaret and the folks on my team are all dedicated to making this game shiny. (See what I did there? HAH.) For me, to put together this game was a dream come true — and a setting I love dearly.

With that announcement, it was head down for four months until the release of Gaming in the ‘Verse: GenCon 2013 Exclusive for the Firefly RPG in August. In addition to speaking on the Writer’s Symposium at GenCon, we also launched a preview of the game. That effort allowed fans to get their hands on game material early, but also gave me the chance to test the approach to gauge reactions. The response was overwhelmingly positive. Of the negative reactions we did get, I understood where the criticisms were coming from, in part because Cortex Plus is a different system than Cortex Classic. That’s why we released a supplement called Wedding Planners Classic with an adventure by Margaret so fans could dive into the old system and learn something new. The lesson I learned, though, is that it doesn’t matter what we tell fans about licensing constraints, business decisions, or what we can/can’t do. Fandom is about feelings and emotional attachments. I cannot make everybody happy — no matter how hard I try.

Once Fall hit, we started rocking the releases with the launch of the Echoes of War line, which is a digital series of stand-alone Episodes. These adventures are structured like quickstarts. To play, you need a character that’s found in the Serenity Crew, GenCon Exclusive, or Firefly RPG corebook. Then, pick a story! We’ve got four out so far, two of which were featured in the Exclusive. Wedding Planners Plus, Shooting Fish, Friends in Low Places, and Freedom Flyer. All of the digital Firefly RPG releases are available through DriveThruRPG.com.

In non-Firefly news, ROFL! hit the shelves and I participated in a short story workshop led by Cat Rambo. It’s a game I had a hand in bringing to life and I’m very proud of the work John did on this one. Huge milestone! I also designed the Onyx Path brochure and had a hand in several Kickstarters, too.

October marked the culmination of two other dreams of mine. After five years of searching for opportunities and learning about the business, my first comic was published. It’s called Last Man Zombie Standing and I had a TON of fun with this one. I’m pitching another standalone comic as a result and have a graphic novel script in the works. Second dream? To fly overseas. I went to World Fantasy in Brighton and spent some time in London afterward. Loved, loved, loved this trip. Got the chance to make new friends, assess the publishing landscape, and schedule a few meetings. To round out the year, I spent some time in northern California. (It’s like its own country. WOW. What an amazing place!) And, I continued my annual tradition of sending out three random gifts to women I know. I had a lovely holiday season and I feel incredibly fortunate for the experience.

Now, what this recap doesn’t tell you of the failures and emotional upheavals I went through. Too many to count or dive into, really. The projects I busted my ass for that won’t be coming out until next year or the following. The huge shift that occurred because I wasn’t traveling as much as I did in 2012. My inability to get back on the fitness horse. The change in friendships caused by moves and shutdowns. The insecurity and anxiety that comes with not knowing whether a new release will succeed or fail. Etc. Etc. Etc. That’s the other side of 2013, the emotionally turbulent ride, that brings me through to today. You could even say that I’ve finally put some demons to rest, ghosts I didn’t even know were haunting me, freeing me to move forward.

In closing, I have this to say to all you creative peoples out there: DREAM. It’s important! Dream about what you want. Get that vision clear in your mind — and don’t give up. No matter how long it takes you, just don’t. Not when you feel you’ve taken three steps forward and five more back. Not when you think everybody else is against you. Not when you’ve got a hangup or get distracted. Not when you feel you won’t get accepted because you’re [insert word-of-choice here]. There is no power greater than a dream that won’t die. For many, many reasons, I believe that with all my heart. For the first time in my life, not only do I feel that my dreams can come true, I feel that I actually deserve them.

Cheers to a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2014 for all of you. Thank you for reading and supporting my work. Thank you for the shoulders you’ve lent and the chances you took on me. I cannot stress how awesome it feels when you reach out and offer words of encouragement. More of THAT, less of “fake geek girls” and tribalism and trolls and click bait and… There are a million reasons to be angry and upset. There should be just as many to be happy — let’s try and focus on those!

    Mood: Peace and lurve.
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: I was moderate. Then there was Jim Beam’s Red Stag and Pepsi Max.
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Keepin’ up with my “one household chore” per day goal! Waiting for my FitBit.
    In My Ears: Queen Bavmorda. Is it just me? Or does she look like Mumm-Ra.
    Game Last Played: Battle Nations
    Book Last Read: The Lies of Lock Lamora by Scott Lynch
    Movie Last Viewed: WILLOW (Otherwise known as The Wizard of Middle-Earth)
    Latest Artistic Project: *Still* *still* *still* need to take pictures… It’s on the list!
    Latest Fiction/Comic Release: Last Man Zombie Standing
    Latest Game Release: Freedom Flyer
    What I’m Working On: Primarily tie-in games work and novels.


Progress Report #5: The “Yes, I’m Talking About Firefly” Edition

Firefly RPG Corebook



Well, August was my last progress report, and there’s a really darn good reason for that. It’s a word that begins with “F” and ends in “y.”

Of course, I’m talkin’ about Firefly. Since March, we have fulfilled every promise thus far and believe me when I say: “Yes, it’s a LOT of work.” GenCon was really exciting for us, and the limited debut of Gaming in the ‘Verse: a GenCon Exclusive was a smash hit. Though the GenCon Exclusive is no longer available, the stand-alone versions of Wedding Planners Plus, Shooting Fish, Serenity Crew, Wedding Planners Classic Bundle, and a new Episode I wrote called Friends in Low Places, are all available now through DriveThruRPG.com with more on the way.

On the Margaret Weis Productions website, we have also released the Firefly RPG pre-order, which is scheduled to debut in February. We have also published several previews including an article written by myself and Mark Diaz Truman for Game Trade Magazine Issue #166. (The design was provided by Daniel Solis and the article was edited by Amanda Valentine.)

Where we stand right now is that we have a:

  • corebook that is over 150,000 words (over 100,000 words of brand, new material compared to the GenCon Exclusive) in various stages of editing and layout
  • new supplement about antagonists called Things Don’t Go Smooth that’s already half done
  • new Echoes of War adventure called Freedom Flyer that’s done and being sent for approvals
  • …and other (unannounced) adventures and supplements in various stages of completion.

Have I been living, breathing this game line? Yes. I did go to England for two weeks (more on that later) but honestly… this is how I am normally. I am this intense all the time, because I believe that as a creative professional, my invisible employer are the fans. It doesn’t matter if it’s my own work or someone else’s property, I always keep fans in mind because I started out as one myself. If I don’t love what I do, then you won’t either.

I didn’t do all this work alone, though, and I want to be very clear on that point. There have been many people on my team, including both past and present freelancers, who have buckled down to get these products done on time in the quality that fans expect. I can’t thank them enough.

Overall, being the brand manager and lead writer for the Firefly RPG, doing all that I do, has been a really rewarding position and I’m happy Margaret had enough faith in me to give me a shot. But, the best part about this job is hearing how excited Fox TV is about all this and how happy many of the fans are already. That, to me, makes even the crazy days worthwhile. Sure, it’s true I can’t please everybody, especially with a property as visible as Firefly, but I’m very realistic about that. I take comfort in the fact that we’ve all done our damnedest to make this game as awesome as possible. Hopefully, with a little luck, you’ll think it’s fun, too.

SHINY!

:-)

Progress Report #3

I haven’t posted one of these since the end of March, and for that… I apologize. If you’re just following up on these now, the progress reports are to check in and show you what’s up in Monica-land. I’m happy to report that all plates are spinning and balanced appropriately. I may even have a bit of a tan. SHOCKING, I KNOW!

I’m back from CONvergence which is, in my opinion, the best-run convention in the country. There is always something to do whether you’re by yourself or not and folks are very, very friendly. I stayed across the way and that turned out to be the best, possible decision. No standing in long lines for the elevators; very easy to go back and chill if I need to.

The panels went great and I’m very grateful for the fine conversation and company of so many wonderful people. This was a fantastic convention and sorely needed. I’d been averaging somewhere in the neighborhood of four-to-five thousand words per day for almost two months straight, and the break totally recharged my batteries. Thanks, all! :-)

I am still recovering post-con, so e-mail communication is a little sparser than normal as I slog through and get projects done.

Since a lot has happened since the end March, I’m going to give a bullet point recap of what I’ve done. Note to self: provide these updates monthly… Second note to self: no wonder my office is a disaster area.

Games

  • Scion: Extras – The annual White Wolf April Fool’s joke was an absolute blast to write. I had a ton of fun with this one. After the fact, we provided a Scion style Irusan write-up.
  • Gaming in the ‘Verse: GenCon 2013 Exclusive – What’s 268 pages and full of Firefly? This limited edition game book is a preview of both the Firefly RPG corebook and Echoes of War, our line of digital adventures that will launch soon. The official release date will be the first day of GenCon. You can order a copy through www.margaretweis.com — you don’t have to go GenCon to get a copy.

I have a number of games and supplements that are in development. The ones listed here are either on my immediate “you must do this now” horizon or the first draft has been handed in.

  • Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn RPG – Thanks to the fine folks at Crafty Games, I’m able to announce that I worked on the Skaa supplement and handed in my first draft.
  • Echoes of War: Old Friends In Low Places – I am writing an adventure for the Firefly RPG that takes place on Hera. My first draft is due shortly.
  • Firefly RPG – Working on the revisions to the outline now and then assignments will be handed out. The writing continues! This will be released in stores February 2014.
  • Vampire the Masquerade: Red List – I’m partnering with Matt M McElroy and diving into this with bloody abandon. Bloody.


Fiction

I cut back on my short story work in order to focus on long form, which has mightily decreased the size of my list here. Next month, I’ll put little word count bars in so you can see what progress I’ve made.

  • The Women Who Called Down The Train – This is a Lovecraftian Orient Express story that’ll appear in an anthology. I read the editor’s draft for the first time at CONvergence and the story went over really well. I also received some feedback for the historical and pacing elements of this terrifying tale.
  • My Compliments To The Tailor – I promised to donate this story to charity, but I’m not quite happy with it yet. I’d prefer to expand it some and I’ve gotten some historical fact-checking back on the Victorian-era voice. It’s just not long enough in my book, and I’d rather provide some value even if it is free.
  • The Red Door – The novella is 40% done and I hate every damn word of it. I went back and storyboarded it last night. Due to the nature of this story, I have some word lists to build ahead of time.
  • Traitor’s Masque – Alternately titled “Argentum.” I’m also going back into this and storyboarding certain sections, because I want to make the story tighter and more exciting. Pacing is crucial for this one.


Comics

  • Last Man Zombie Standing – This stand-alone comic will be available in an anthology called Unfashioned Creatures, A Frankenstein Anthology late this Summer. Want to see a preview? Check out the inks for Page 5.
  • The Adventures of Lord Lardbottom and Captain Whinypants – I have a few options available to me for comics, and I’m exploring those. My current plan is to get a year’s worth of scripts done for this satirical comic before moving further or finding artists.


Consulting

  • ROFL! – John Kovalic’s new party game debuts from Cryptozoic Entertainment later this month. I had both hands in this project and it was fun to see it through to completion. Watch for it at a games store nearest you!
  • Exalted Third Edition Kickstarter – I worked behind-the-scenes as the invisible ninja for this Kickstarter. We ended up just shy of $700,000, which set the current record for the most-funded RPG.


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