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!

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.


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