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Back to Work

Well, my vacation is now almost exactly one day from being over. I've been both busy and exceedingly lazy all at once. Writing projects took a breather, hit the reset button in my brain...well, mostly, I did work on some notes for a Circle of Skulls related project...and some artwork, character sketches for said project...and finished up inking a wicked beastie to show up soon over at the WotC Community.

Other than that a nice time-off that should have been spent outside camping in Devil's Den, but then stormageddon came along and shot that trip down. Ah well, did some gaming, nearly killed the entire party less than a few encounters away from the BIG finish at the end of the campaign. That fight was at 13 rounds where we left off and likely to go another 13...if they're lucky.

Anyway, back to the writing tonight. Should be fun. Had to write out some extensive background to detail the focus of the story. Digging into some deep Realms history and found some bits that were missed by the historians. Providing an explanation for those bits should be interesting ;)

Overall, April should be a fun month of gods and monsters. I'll keep ya' posted.

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Get Your Mind Outta' the Bloodgutter...

Or don't, no big. While I can only guess what the bloodgutter might be when spoken of in that context, I'm sure it's somewhere just outside the realm of what may be called 'normal' and is likely a perfectly legitimate way to spend one's time so long as nobody gets hurt.

The latest round of answers over at WotC Community revolves around the subject of A+ papers, or if not A+ then at least our favorite papers. My answer reminded me of all that time in the library researching stuff I would have normally been reading about anyway. Swords, axes, the evolution of armor, the dominance of the longbow. That was my favorite and last year of high school in my favorite class, English, with the coolest teacher I ever had, Mr. Shanks (without whom my transition from comic-book artist wannabe to author might have taken a bit longer).

I'm especially reminded of the paper because Mr. Shanks enjoyed reading the trivia regarding the 'bloodgutter' (or the fuller), a narrow groove down the length of a blade, usually on both sides. He enjoyed the bloody parts of the stories and books we read for class, so we had quite a bit in common. Until then he had assumed the bloodgutter was just that, to allow blood to run down the blade or to allow bleeding around the edges of the blade while still embedded in a victim. In truth the former is a bit silly and the latter a bit impractical, i.e. how long might one have to wait, in the middle of a battle, for someone to bleed to death? Hope ya' brought two swords...or a Snickers bar, you're not going anywhere for awhile.

Anyway, the groove was cut simply to lighten the blade (usually by up to 3 or 5 pounds, depending on the length) and to stiffen the edges, making the blade stronger. Pretty basic, practical stuff, but it was one of the details cited by Mr. Shanks as 'very cool'. For me, hearing a teacher say 'cool' or 'awesome' in a genuine, not 'trying to relate to you youngsters' kind of way was one of my favorite things. I had few teachers involved enough to talk like that (and never a math teacher...well, maybe one, but he thought math was cool...freak).

Well, I feel as though I'm on the edge of a wandering ramble and must end this before it takes a weird sidepath and concludes with theories on quantum mechanics and questions like, "Why can't it be Schrodingers's Dog? Or, more intriguingly, was the cat really a dog all along?" Man, don't get me started...So, Author Roundtable: go read it! Cool Teachers are, invariably, cool. And a bloodgutter is no place for your mind, for if ever the two should meet one can be assured of having a very bad day that will probably last for the rest of your life.

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Of Writing and Ink...

So. over at the Author Roundtable discussion here (question: What can't you live without?), I mentioned my unnatural love of the needle-point, black Pilot pen with which I write everything. Everything. Every story and novel I've written started its physical existence on the tip of one of these pens. As is my current project slowly coming to life and even more slowly making the transition from ink and paper to 1's and 0's.

I say slowly not because it's difficult, but because I've been taking my time, letting the story get a few cleansing breaths before committing it to a first draft. I've been considering doing more short stories, submitting more and faster, but though the ideas keep coming and are being neatly filed away I know I'm not going to be that dozen-projects-at-a-time writer. Once upon a time that realization was a bit frustrating, but now I find it quite freeing. I take my time and I don't sweat it.

So my latest project has grown into two one-inch binders full of notes and background, at least two pens worth of ink and two pads of quarter inch graph paper. And though the actual writing has only barely begun, the creation stage of a book is always my favorite part. My outline is organized, but loose, so I'm finding more and more detail to add in here and there. Eventually I'll have a first draft, then a second, then maybe something worth submitting. Either way it gives me something to do with all of these pens that I tend to hoard up on 'cause I fear that one day I'll go to the store and they'll be gone forever, heh.

Obviously, I joked about the pens in my Roundtable question, and I must admit that Erin Evans gave an excellent answer, conjuring up the idea of a world without meat (shudder), but my real answer to that question is one that I hope isn't necessary to put into words. It's not pens or graph paper or even writing. Not even tasty, tasty meat. If I have to type it then I'm doing something very wrong. She knows my answer.


Also, I want to give a shout out to my good friend Jeff Welborn, artist extraordinaire, with a couple of links to his work. Check them out and let him know what ya' think!

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Creeped Out

Being creeped out is not my usual state, in fact, should there be anything fitting the description of creepy in my vicinity one will find me moving steadily in its direction to get a better look. Honestly, I would be the most boring ghosthunter in television history with my own show, walking into the dark, eager to stand face to face with the ghost that I just found out was a dumb ol' shadow. But occasionally I'll see a movie or read a book that sticks in my head, a few examples are here http://tiny.cc/LnbV6 in the latest Author Roundtable with the Forgotten Realms writin' crew.

Mostly though, when watching a movie or reading a book, when something really creepy happens and my wife covers her eyes...I cheer. When the little kid in The Ring freaks out because his mom helped Samara and you find out she's not dead yet, I cheered, gleefully. When Michael Myers gets up after you're certain he's dead. Me, cheering. When the explorers in King Kong end up in the giant bug caves, the music stops and all you hear are the echoing sounds of crawling legs, men screaming, and mandibles clicking, there's me, edge of my seat, grinning like a goon just drinking it all in. Same as in Paranormal Activity and in every good horror movie or book I've ever seen or read.

Perhaps some think that a bit morbid, but I've never felt morbid about it, never seen it in that light. It's always just been fun for me or maybe fascinating is more the word for it. So, I cheer when the villain-monster-killer gets up or can't be killed, otherwise the story is over...unless there's one of those teaser endings, where the big bad is defeated, but still kickin'. 8D

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To expand upon my answer in the latest Author Roundtable (found here: http://community.wizards.com/wotc_vetanda/blog/2010/02/12/fr_authors_speak:_monstrous_affection ), I have given in to the pleas for a recount from all the other monsters in every Monster Manual I own. So I decided upon a top ten, all with a combination of features I enjoy in the game and in fiction...and maybe even a couple to appear sometime soon, hmmm...

10-- The Wraith: all purpose, need a creepy, incorporeal, freaky undead to make the unsuspecting players realize they have no special weapons capable of touching a ghost? Done. Add a few class levels and weapons and you might even make a PC cry :)

9-- Mimic: wanna' have the PC's view every object they encounter in the game as a possible new scar? Done. Not to mention the long-running jokes about how a random PC got attacked by a (insert embarrassing item here)...

8-- Kraken: 'cause I like puttin' on the dramatic Lawrence Olivier voice and announcing "Release the kraken!" And, honestly, who doesn't? Well, I guess my players don't enjoy it when I do that...

7-- Mindflayer: representin' the Lovecraftian crowd are my favorite cephalopod-faced beasties. Eating brains, talking in your head, and keeping goblinoids as pets (and snacks). Decent base creature for any spell casting class, therefore making them extra-scary brain-melting fireball-slingers. Super-fun for the evil DM.

6-- Dracolich: Need I explain? It's a skeletal dragon! With spells! It's one of the most heavy-metal monsters in the game and it rawks.

5-- Death Knight: And perhaps you might need a heavy-metal warrior to complement your heavy-metal dracolich? Done. A lich-like template for the warrior classes, made ever so much more cool by Lord Soth of Dragonlance and Ravenloft fame.

4-- Star Spawn: one of my favorite of the new 4E monsters. Malevolent representations of the slumbering old gods among the stars. So many ideas for these guys. Evil cults. Villains who think they're gods. Rampaging little deities ripe for madness and sacrifice. The list goes on. (Dibs! Dibs!)

3-- Demons, Devils, and Angels: a category of beings that needs no explanation. From slightly more challenging random encounters to constantly reappearing campaign villains, these guys fit the bill. My favorite, getting tired of slinging pit fiends at higher level characters and swapping them out for fallen angels. (mwahaha...)

2-- Avolakia: a large worm-insect-squid-spider-combo than can look like almost any humanoid, whose favorite food is corporeal undead, and who, therefore, is usually surrounded by various undead under its command. This was a strong contender for my number one spot. Pure creepy, disgusting, intelligent, magic-using monster. Love. It. :)

1-- Night Hag: and of course my number one choice. It all started with a few movies, LEGEND, PUMPKINHEAD, and CLASH OF THE TITANS. Meg Mucklebones in the swamp, the Old Lady what has powers and lives up in the hills, and the Stygian Witches. Spooky, selfish, mystic, and mysterious ladies that display proudly all the creepiest aspects of mortal aging, like living mirrors reflecting youth's exaggerated fear of the rolling years and the slow, stalking presence of time...

...and the utter horror of Bugs Bunny's struggle for survival against the persistent Witch Hazel (shudders)...

And that, after much consideration is my top ten. The beasties that my gaming group knows to fear, because when these guys show up the PC's know I will fight to keep them alive for as long as possible, mwahaha! And if one of my fav monsters survives an encounter, escaping all attempts at pursuit, the group knows they'll encounter it again and again and again...

...being a bloodthirsty DM makes me feel all warm inside.

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Captain Obvious...

...or Captain Oblivious? You decide.

The latest round of Forgotten Realms author questions attempts to delve the obvious in search of the elusive secret that hides in plain sight. I of course try to hide all my secrets whether they be innocent or not, so be careful what you go searching for...you just might find it...

...fair warning.


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Unexpected Talents

New question with answers from Forgotten Realms authors at the
Author Roundtable 2

Personally, pooling all of our talents together I see a traveling road-show of some sort. We have a decent bar, a juggling act, a sharpshooter, pie-stand, navigation, etc. As for a show, well, I doubt we'll have much trouble putting together a decent story.

Acting on the other hand...who knows? One way or another, it'll be entertaining.

As far as my Feng Shui talent goes, I've been noticing its effects in other areas of my life. Novel planning for example. My outlines are certainly driven by a certain amount of OCD, but there does seem to be a composition effect to the way my notes are laid out. Hmmm...

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On the Subject of: Zombies

Zombies, cute, cuddly pet of the decade or dead, flesh-eating cannibal?

I say, why can't they be both?

Over at Wizards of the Coast Community (courtesy of the curious questioneer Susan Morris) Forgotten Realm authors, including myself, are put to the test and asked what their plans are for the coming zombie apocalypse. (and more questions and answers to come, every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday!).

Check out our answers here

To expand a bit on my answer, here are a few things you can learn from the movies...on what not to do...all of course in my humble opinion...

1--Guns Are Bad!

I know, I know, not a popular answer. And with all due respect to those who wield them in glorious battle against the advancing hordes of undead, I say keep up the fireworks for as long as you can...I'll be stealthily heading in the opposite direction. Why guns bad? Well, noise for one. Zombies seem to have two hunting senses, sight and hearing, try not to engage either. Another reason, despite drawing every zed within earshot to your location, would be infection. Splatter to be exact. Infected blood in your eye, your mouth, a cut on your hand, your lunch, or your water. Close shots reduce the chance of a wasted bullet and up the chances of infection. A long shot, unless you're with the zombie eliminating army, just draws attention.

I know, guns are cool and intimidating in the zombie genre. They have good PR. But survival would likely mean killing as few zombies as possible and avoiding them at all costs.


Let's say you're trapped in a mall and you feel the need to make a break for the great wide open. It's quite possible there are many viable weapons and equipment in the mall...and more than likely, there's a leather store. Use it. Leather hard to bite through, 'nuff said.

3--Zombie Brains

They don't have much going on upstairs, so use that as well. Ever see a zombie climb a ladder? Not much coordination there either. One zombie isn't too big of a problem, but a thousand can be worrisome. One mistake in many monster movies involves the heroes trying to kill the unkillable. Chainsaw through Michael Myers not working? Why not cut off a leg? Or an arm? Can't walk, can't catch you. Can't stab, can't kill you.

So, can't kill it? Figure out a way to stop it, either by terrain or some clever dismemberment.

Just some helpful things I've noticed...or rather things I've yelled at certain movies while simultaneously rooting for the zombie/monster/creature that obviously represents the characters' destined fate, heh! Be prepared, the zombies are coming...and try not to appear excited ;)


P.S.--For those curious, links to my various social-networking presences. Friend me, follow me, stop by and say hello! Choose your favorite flavor:

Wizards Community

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So Long 2009...

Been a bit of a while and I've been meaning to post more for some time, so I figure New Year's Eve is as good a time as any to jump on and say goodbye to 2009. 'Twas a strange year with more downs than ups and I shall not be sad to see it well behind me. Ready for a fresh start. I'll certainly update with news and whatnot as I usually do, hopefully more frequent than I have recently. I've been focusing less on the internet lately and paying more attention to the world (the 'outernet', if you will). Buckling down on my writing, tackling the projects I always said I'd get around to one day, trying to make sure all my 'one days' are in the here and now. I might even dabble in movie-making soon, well, writing the script and consulting anyway. So, prospects for 2010 looking good.

As for 2009...good riddance.

I have started my resolutions two months early, eating better, working out (15 pounds gone bye-bye!), getting out of the house (and the state), camping, cutting my smoking in half, etc. I figure that way it'll seem more impressive if I'm actually following through on my resolutions by the end of January, heh!

For now, I have a party to look forward to, less to ring out 2009 than to welcome in 2010. I will be silly, possibly loud, likely a bit inebriated, and among many friends. When I recover, sometime in the late afternoon of January 1st, I'll clean up the house and sit down to start writing. I've had a bad dream swirling around in my head for more than a decade and it's about time I put it down on paper...or rather on the computer screen, using a ton of notes on paper, so I guess it's already on paper, just as a super-rough draft.

Anyway, everyone have a safe and happy new year!
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Happy Halloween!

Ah, tis time, tis time...the house is covered in webbing and a creepy orange glow and I have fresh pumpkin guts in a plastic bag. I shall display their hollowed out bodies with appropriate candle lighting this evening. The TV shall display naught but horror movies, history channel halloween themed shows, and if need be, news reports warning us all of the zombies running loose in the streets. And it looks as though, if the weather forecast be correct, that we shall finally, after several years of hoping, have a cold Halloween night (whoo-hoo!).

Until then, there's plenty of halloween horror to be found online...

And full, free movies at Hulu!

Silent Hill: http://www.hulu.com/watch/105292/silent-hill
Fright Night: http://www.hulu.com/watch/104928/fright-night
The Exorcism of Emily Rose: http://www.hulu.com/watch/105222/the-exorcism-of-emily-rose
Candyman: http://www.hulu.com/watch/104931/candyman
Puppetmaster: http://www.hulu.com/watch/103126/puppet-master
Dawn of the Dead: http://www.hulu.com/watch/92766/dawn-of-the-dead
Pit and the Pendulum: http://www.hulu.com/watch/67354/the-pit-and-the-pendulum
House on Haunted Hill: http://www.hulu.com/watch/70582/house-on-haunted-hill
Night of the Living Dead: http://www.hulu.com/watch/41065/night-of-the-living-dead

...and many more, these just caught my interest first.

And a cool little zombie survival quiz...


Have a safe and happy Halloween everyone!