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!

Games

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!


Comics

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

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.


Non-Fiction

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!

Progress Report #7: The Workhorse Edition

If you’ve been following my blog, you know that I am building my career strategically, by focusing on the work. That’s my choice to do that, and I feel that putting out quality effort is what will enable me to keep writing full-time. There’s a lot of planning and pitching I do as well, because this is my life and I want to be writing professionally for a long time. Sometimes, though, this puts me in the position of not being seen or taken seriously by certain folk, because doing the work isn’t the same as talking about the work or issues related to it. This is partly why I go to conventions, to connect with other people, but even then my budget and time is limited. I simply can’t get to them all.

Why am I telling you this? Well, I wanted to bring this up because I wanted to reinforce that this type of business plan is pretty normal. A writer who writes “a” best-selling novel, who makes a career writing professionally, doesn’t drop what they’re doing and simply spend all their time marketing themselves or the one book. Media/tie-in writers who get paid on a work-for-hire basis have to be more vigilant, I feel, because the rights are owned by the publisher. Regardless, my point here is that the most important thing you can do for yourself is to figure out your own plan–and own it. I certainly am! (And, it goes without saying here’s a note of encouragement: I believe in you!!)

No, there aren’t guarantees to success and luck doesn’t just favor the prepared. However, I feel you can never go wrong by focusing on quality work, because that makes all the difference in the world. I’ve had considerable more opportunities open up by showing what I can do, versus than trying to convince someone I’m amazing. The work, when you’re a writer, is proof that you know what the F-bomb you’re talking about–and that work is NOT just about hitting word count. It’s also about revising, polishing, reading, researching, and being able to disseminate feedback and criticism from those who either love everything you do or hate it.

In addition to my list of projects, I’ve also got more shows I’ll be going to than I have in the past few years; this means my focus has to be tighter. I recently spoke at the GAMA Trade Show and went to the Rainforest Writer’s Retreat, but I’m heading to OddCon, MO*Con, Origins, Geek*Kon*, CONvergence, GenCon, and UK Games Expo with a few more slotted in as potential trips. With a full traveling calendar, my work schedule will depend on hitting deadlines and staying on task–especially since I haven’t gotten around to spring cleaning yet. Ahem. I’m also sitting on a few announcements, too, some of which have been in the works much longer than others. Phooey.

Overall, though, I’m strongly focused on shoring up my portfolio by expanding into new areas. When you look at this list, please don’t make assumptions since these projects primarily reflect what I’ve done recently. If you want to hire me to write, please contact me and we’ll figure something out if possible.

On with the current state of the state!

Games

Q1 was highlighted by the World of Darkness: Dark Eras Kickstarter and some fun announcements–like how the Firefly RPG took 2nd Runner Up for Game of the Year 2014 in the Golden Geek Awards and The Escapist nominated the Firefly RPG for Game of the Year 2014. Shiny!

  • Things Don’t Go Smooth – This GM-facing Firefly RPG supplement is now available in digital and print.
  • Smuggler’s Guide to the Rim – This is a book filled with lots of great material for players and GMs. It released in digital early this year, and the print edition will be heading to a game store nearest you very shortly.
  • Ghosts in the Black – This is a Firefly RPG campaign supplement that we’ll be announcing on margaretweis.com shortly.
  • World of Darkness: Gothic Icons – What’s gothier and angstier than Gothic literature? Gothic Icons! It’s a free download that’s offered for Onyx Path Publishing’s April Fool joke.
  • World of Darkness: Dark Eras – Wrote the Hunter: the Vigil supplement for this book for 1690s Colonial America. We will be adding an additional 5,000 words to flesh it out with First Nations-related material, and I am also writing Geist: Roanaoke. Thanks for making this Kickstarter so successful!
  • 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!
  • Vampire the Masquerade Dread Names: Red List – Sending it off to editorial within the next couple of days.
  • Vampire the Masquerade: Ghouls – Once Dread Names: Red List is done, I’m tying up this project.
  • Conan RPG – That’s right CROM! fans, I’m writing for the Conan RPG and two of its supplements.
  • Unannounced – Working on an unannounced Savage Worlds supplement through a small press publisher. It’s hellacious!


Comics

Feeling crushed and defeated, so these are on hold. I come across opportunities for a single issue every now and again, but my options are bleak. I could write more scripts since I have an artist, but since I have a better chance selling my fiction? My efforts are going into that direction at the moment. It feels terrible that I can’t pay an artist to do the work, even with an artist who’s volunteering to do some work up front, and comics are very time-intensive. Also decided to skip the comic-related shows, since I’ve gotten nowhere.

Fiction

I went to a writer’s retreat and it was very, very good for me. Set aside a lot of bullshit, and have been diving back into storytelling.

  • Novelette – I submitted a 10,000 word novelette called The Women who Called Down the Worm for review.

  • Short Stories – I have a few reprints in circulation, and I’m also getting critiques on a few original short stories before I sub those out.
  • Anthology – I’m co-editing an anthology with Jaym Gates called Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling for Apex Publications. Here’s the announcement!
  • 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.


Non-Fiction

New for this project update! WOO!

  • Pitch A – Finishing up a pitch for Codeword: Palm Tree that’ll go out in a week or two.
  • Project A Plus – Working on revisions in April.
  • 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.

That’s all for now! More to come in the 2015 edition of: Work One’s Ass Off.

2014 in Review!

I had one of those moments a few weeks back, the kind where you’re forced to stop and wonder what you’ve been up to for the past several months. We were driving through the redwoods, and we stopped at the base of a very large tree. I suppose that’s an understatement, given the fact that they are, indeed, “the” redwoods, but to actually be there… To listen to nothing–no birds, no frogs, no crickets–nothing… The only bit that’s left when there’s total silence is either that or the thoughts swirling around in my head. Usually it’s the latter, which often turns into some musical refrain. Sadly.

Anyway, the big question that popped into my head was: “Have I done enough?” Did I accomplish my goals for 2015? This year, I’m happy to say, yes. Yes, I did. I wound up doing more than I initially anticipated, and managed to achieve said goals on top of major life upheaval (moving) and family medical emergencies.

This may not sound all that exciting to you, but the fact that I was able to go through over a million+ words and put a nail in 2014’s project management plans despite Real World Concerns is a huge deal for me!

In 2014, these were the games and supplements that were released:

I’m very grateful to see all of this work make the light of day. Many, if not all, of these releases are eligible for industry awards as well. Hope you count some of these among your favorites!

A huge “thank you” to my collaborators and business partners, my writers, editors, and artists, and to my fans and readers for your support. It’s been a great year, and I’m really looking forward to 2015!!!

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!

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