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Posts from July 2008

Well. GenCon 2008 (Indy) is in two weeks, and it can't come soon enough for me. Not only do I badly need the brief respite from my day job, but I'm really looking forward to the unapologetic geekdom the convention represents, and this year both my wife and my brother will be with me. Before my book cancellation, I was thinking of my attendance at GenCon as half work, half play. Work = my freelance writing career. Play = gaming fun. Promotion of The Darkwood Mask has taken a backseat to fun. I hope to meet up with a lot of people, network a bit, maybe brainstorm on some future projects, and come away with . But mostly I just want to have fun. I feel I've deserved it, and I hope Marisa and John (the aforementioned wife and brother) will have even half the fun that I expect to have.

Thanks to Marcy Rockwell and the folks who organized the non-WotC-sponsored Authors Avenue, I'm scheduled to join Keith Baker (of Eberron-creation fame) and Tim Waggoner (of many books fame) at a couple of book signings. I may have only gotten one novel with WotC, but mostly I look forward to talking to these guys about shared experiences, Eberron, and whatever else.

Here are some of the things on my GenCon schedule, in some form or another. Mostly I just want to hang around, walk around, and have a good time.

Thursday, August 14th

  • Book signing (along with Keith Baker)
  • Secrets of Eberron (seminar)
  • Eberron game run by C.A. Suleiman

Friday, August 15th

  • Women In Gaming seminar (seminar)
  • Villains of Eberron seminar (seminar)
  • Eberron Through the Ages (seminar)

Saturday, August 16th

  • Hey, I've Got a Day Job! (seminar)
  • Book signing (along with Keith Baker & Tim Waggoner)
posted on 07.30.2008

Not long ago, at my day job, the company did a vicious round of layoffs. The bad economy, blah blah blah, fine, I understand why. That I was spared feels more like the toss of the dice than any value the company holds for me personally. It's not that I didn't understand why people I worked with and had become friends with had vanished overnight—it's for reasons of security. But what I still cannot forgive is the method by which these layoffs took place (and the mess they leave behind). One minute you're working your ass off for the company you've invested your efforts into for years, the next minute a single phone call is received: a study in scripted, ass-covering derision. Oh, there's legal reasons for the minimal wordage. But these people were human long before they were employees. They deserve, at least, a dose of dignity.

Well, my night job (writing) just became disturbingly like my day job.

So, as has been mentioned in a few places now (like here and here and here), Wizards of the Coast has recently made some presumably corporate decisions, resulting in the cancellation of a number of series and books that were in the pipeline. Included in this was the complete termination of the series that my recently finished (well, a 96,000 word first draft) book was part of. The book will not be published, and that's that.

Most of all, I wish I could give the time spent writing the book back to my wife. The nights and weekends for the better part of six months.

There's nothing more to say about it. WotC is well within their rights to pull a book from the schedule of releases, it's built clearly in their contracts. And we sign those, like the freelancers we are.

For the record, I like Wizards of the Coast. Still do. I love the D&D game, glad they saved it by buying it off of the tanking TSR. And I loved writing for Eberron. I was a fan before I was an author, and I have a real passion for the creative efforts of the people who fashioned the still-young campaign setting. Despite some frustrations along the way, I really did love every minute of it. I got a novel published, which is what I dreamed of doing for years.

Will I write for WotC again? Maybe, if they'll have me. But not right now. So it's time to turn my attention elsewhere.

A bit of irony: One of the themes in the book I finished this summer (but will probably never see publication) is that of loss of innocence. A man betrayed looking back in disgust as the naiveté he once possessed, that led him to his current plight. The novel was supposed to have a Western vibe to it, a lone rider of sorts. Funny, just yesterday, I had my wife borrow an anthology of short stories written by Louis L'Amour, the quintessential Westerns writer, so I could gear myself up for the revision of my book.

I don't want to be a bitter writer (or resentful employee) after all these recent happenings. I just want to be a smarter one.

posted on 07.19.2008

Fiscus, daughter of Biscus, the stray kitten we've been taking care of since her birth in April, finds a new home today. Stupid cat. Going to miss her. I hate goodbyes.

Finding the mother a home will be another story. Stupid cat.

posted on 07.17.2008

My wife and I saw Rush yesterday, at Jones Beach on Long Island, New York. They were good. We had fun.

What, did you expect more than that? What, you think I'm liable to write up some big-ass review? Not sure where you'd get that idea.

In other news:

  • Rush is going to be on The Colbert Report tomorrow. Don't miss it!
  • I took a lot of pictures. And, a few videos. If you like South Park (I don't, but this is fun) and you like Rush, you might enjoy this. Download here.

posted on 07.15.2008

Random snippets from this week:


6am - Receive an mpg file from my friend and fellow Eberron author Paul Crilley: footage of a monkey he recorded in his backyard in South Africa. A naughty monkey.

8:26am - Wonder when we'll get to see Wall-E.

9:45am - Reread the introductory text of a zany online serial my brother is gearing up to write. I'm glad of it.

9:30am - Receive a call from my dad as he waits on a plane that hasn't taxied yet; heading to Japan (again) for a single 3-hour meeting. My dad's spent more time on a plane in the last year than I have my whole life times ten.

1:13pm - Choose another awesome picture from Inga Nielsen's gallery to set as my desktop wallpaper.

5:19pm - Wonder if I have time to write up a review for Alanis Morissette's Flavors of Entanglement. (Probably not.) I really like it. It's no doubt the album that will always make me think of this summer. Last year's was Blue October's Foiled.

6:30pm - Go with my wife on another hospital visit for her dad. Things are getting worse.


6:03am - Queue up Fly By Night in my iPod so I can get a fresh listen before the next installment of Dreamlines.

2:13pm - Wonder where Harley Stroh went off to again. The man is a gypsy.

2:14pm - Strongly hope my editor takes a bit longer in sending back comments on my first draft.

8:53pm - Continue posting 4th Edition D&D rules updates behind the scenes for my play-by-post game.

8:58pm - Finally grasp the fact that you can't fight with two weapons in 4E without the use of a power that allows it. (I think.)

10pm - Watch a new episode of Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmerman that I hadn't seen before with my wife. Fun show. Educational, too. Makes me feel so embarrassingly...Western.


11:30am - Listen to some old Jon & Vangelis while walking around the Wall Street area on my lunch break. What a crazy match-up that is.

2:11pm - Receive email from Netflix that Dr. Katz Season 1 Disk 2 is coming next; seems they skipped Hellboy on my queue, not surprisingly.

6:13pm - Feed the cats that we've been taking care of again.

6:15pm - Hope the tenants upstairs do indeed bring friends of theirs willing to take the cats. The fate of every stray cat on my block, given time, is death by speeding car driven by some a-hole. I don't want this to happen to them.

4:30pm - Sit back and smile as I come across a an Eberron fan's post over on the WotC boards that cites The Darkwood Mask as an example of a good depiction of evil-minded Karrnathi zombies. Yeah.

4:52pm - Dread the next day at work. Thursdays and Fridays are hell lately.


11:14am - Meet my wife on my lunch break to walk through Battery Park. Nice day out. The people in the Statue of Liberty costumes have to be burning up, though.

1:04pm - Resist the desire to collapse under weight of a soul-crushing, ever increasing workload at the day job. Okay, I exaggerate. A little.

3:14pm - Ruminate on the delay of Friday. Where the hell is it?

5:25pm - Listen to the first podcast from Atomic Array on my iPod. Very cool game talked about in there called Colonial Gothic.

11:48pm - Get woken up by idiot tenant who's paying late, and not in full. Idiot.


8:46am - Post this list.

posted on 07.10.2008

Hey, if you like art, supporting artists, giving to charity, or just stylized kobold silhouettes on the cover of books, you should consider picking up Hey Junction!, the latest installment of HEY Quarterly.

Incidentally, there's a conversational interview in there with me about, well, the conflict of writing professionally vs. having a day job and not really having the time for it. And also, a conversation with VUA, including my brother John, Chris Torgersen, and Kate Baldwin.

Josh, owner of Sidedown, keeps each year's HEY Quarterlies on a letter theme. For example, last year was brought to you by the letter C, so there was HEY Cities!, HEY Consumers!, HEY Country!, and HEY Convenience! This year was J: HEY Jailbird! and HEY Junction! What's next? Some suggestions, Josh:

  • HEY Jackass!
  • HEY Joker!
  • HEY Jude!
  • HEY Judgment!
  • HEY Jinx!

posted on 07.06.2008

So here's the deal. If you have heard of, or actually like, or have even the slightest interest in the band Rush, please read on. If you have zero interest in them, well, you can move on.

I'm writing a serial over at Sidedown called Dreamlines, in which I will review each and every music release (albums and live albums) Rush has put out over the course of their 34-year (and still going) career. Why? I'm a Rush freak, that's why, and because I'll enjoy it. Expect it to be simple, fun, and honest. I'm a hardcore fan, but there's plenty of things about Rush that I can poke fun at and even a few little tidbits here and there I'm not crazy about. Moreover, this creates an official archive of my basic thoughts on the band and their music.

From the moment my brother held the green, owl-adorned cover of Fly By Night in front of my eyes in a mall in Newburgh , NY, flipped the cassette over, and pointed to the song title "Rivendell," my inevitable and severe attachment to this band was carved in stone (or...rune-carved in adamantine?). I single-handedly made my brother sick of Rush for many years—maybe he still is—for borrowing his tapes and playing them over and over...until the day came when I needed to put together my allowance to get my own copies. Fortunately, by then, CDs started to replace tapes.

The music of Rush was the anthem for the majority of my teenaged years. They played through almost every single D&D session I ever ran back in West Point. (I still remember running The Black Courser or traipsing through the Forgotten Realms when I hear "A Farewell to Kings.") 2112' still brings me back to ski trips: in the car, in a warm lodge, on the slopes. And they served as surrogate mentors when my thoughts were darkest during high school when the cry for adolescent conformity was loudest.

Though I never hopped onto Rush's obvious atheistic leanings, they won me over with their unending optimism. Or, I should say, lyricist/drummer Neil Peart did. Every other song is a message of hope in some capacity. Some are mere commentary on life ("The Trees"), some are calls to tough it out ("The Pass") and others are narrative, principle-charged fiction and philosophy ("2112"). This was not a band that lived the rock star life. They might have lived half their lives on the road, but these guys were family men and always have been. They never sold out. They're the band that stuck to their principles (musical, artistic, and philosophical principles) like sovereign glue. So they're a band that I've always been the most proud of.

Who am I to even say this? It doesn't matter, I'm nobody. These guys hit me on every level. Almost makes me want to quit my job, run to the Canadian border, and learn how to play guitar. But, err, I won't.

From a music standpoint, they're geniuses. All three guys have won numerous awards, including the Juno Hall of Fame. They've got 24 gold albums and 14 platinum (3 multi-platinum) albums. In sheer music innovation, I can think of none better.

But enough praise already! Geez. On with the reviews. I didn't learn Rush albums chronologically...not even close. I discovered them sometime after their 1989 album Presto. But it makes sense to start this serial in the order of each album's release. Join me for a look back...

  • Rush
  • Fly By Night
  • Caress of Steel
  • 2112
  • All the World's A Stage
  • A Farewell to Kings
  • Hemispheres
  • Permanent Waves
  • Moving Pictures
  • Exit Stage Left
  • Subdivisions
  • Grace Under Pressure
  • Power Windows
  • Hold Your Fire
  • A Show of Hands
  • Presto
  • Roll the Bones
  • Counterparts
  • Test For Echo
  • Different Stages
  • Vapor Trails
  • Feedback
  • Rush In Rio
  • Snakes and Arrows
posted on 07.02.2008