22 Jul

Off-Topic Tuesday: Embrace the Grind

Sometimes, I feel like having such varied interests works against me when it comes to making a brand out of myself. Also working against me? Not liking the idea of making a brand out of myself. The common wisdom, available in photoshopped images of lightning on mountains and tweets ending in #truth, says that I should just “be myself.” I try to run with that idea, but I think it sometimes leads to confusion.

Bruce Buffer - It's Time
“It’s TIIIME… to discuss preconceived notions about acceptable interests in geek culture.”

During a discussion of interests, someone I had only recently met through gaming circles said, “Oh, so you’re a bro.” I didn’t really know what that meant. After some thorough research –apparently, I must be a pretty nerdy “bro”– I was happy to learn that I was grossly misclassified. The source of the confusion? My disinterest in several popular science fiction and fantasy series combined with my interest in mixed martial arts. MMA is, apparently, “bro” territory.

Instead of launching into the “well your interests are dumb, too” death spiral that powers the internet, I’d rather explain one of the reasons why MMA speaks to the writer in me. Continue reading

11 Oct

Eternal Rest After the Zombie Run

DriveThruRPG Drunken GoblinThe zombies didn’t get me. Well, actually they did, but I think I’m just a carrier of the virus rather than a full on zombie. The fact that that I walked off the course with a smile and no limp is, to me, a win. I have to say, if a Run for Your Lives event takes place in your neck of the woods, you should check it out. And, to celebrate my lack of injuries and the impending creepiness of Halloween gaming, I’ve put The Eternal Rest on sale over at DriveThruRPG.com on the Drunken Goblin’s page. Continue reading

4 Oct

Personal Zombie Apocalypse

Run For Your Lives - Zombie RunZombies aren’t anything special to me, but they’ve gotten quite a bit of PR lately thanks to the resurgence of zombie literature, zombie movies, and zombie games. Several years ago a friend who worked in the computer game industry confessed “zombies are the new WWII” with regards to every studio falling over themselves to make a zombie game or at least insert some kind of Zombie Mode. Don’t get me wrong. I can enjoy the new zombie brand that has emerged from the dead (again). I just think the “zombie people” should realize they’re just like the “vampire people,” but without the terrible fake accents.

Why am I talking about zombies, though? Because apparently I’m going to be attacked by them. Continue reading

12 Feb

Using Kanban to Write

Staying focused is a key piece of writing for me. My thoughts and ideas tend to be scattered, both physically and mentally, and it is easy to work on multiple things at once. Multitasking yields unsteady progress, though. I wanted to be able to maintain a clearer focus on what projects I was working on and know roughly how far they were from completion. More importantly, I wanted more of them to reach that completed stage faster. So I turned to my background in manufacturing for an answer: kanban.

How Not to Do Kanban
Just. No.

Kanban is a means of tracking workflow with a simple visual chart. The system can take a variety of forms: a whiteboard, Post-It notes, or a digital application. The goal is the same, though: present all work that needs to be done, that is currently being worked on, and is completed, in a single glance. Kanban might seem like an odd choice for a writer, but in a career that relies so heavily on self-motivation and self-assessment, kanban (combined another technique we’ll discuss later) is a great tool to keep you honest with yourself. Continue reading

18 Dec

The Next Big Thing

Mayan's Next Big Thing
All this assumes that the Next Big Thing isn’t just the end of all the things.

Everyone prefaces these sorts of things with “I don’t do chain letters BUT . . .” So consider mine prefaced as well. Jeff LaSala was kind enough to tag me in this chain that I think was begun by Elaine Cunningham. (Chain letters always make me think of the telephone game that starts at one end of the classroom as “I’m finished with our big stone calendar” and ends on the other end as “The calendar has predicted the date humanity is finished!”)

The idea behind the Next Big Thing is to answer 10 questions about a work in progress, and then tag 5 more writers who do the same thing the following week. I like the idea of promoting some good people. And a little self-promotion never hurt anybody, I suppose. My lead project for 2013 is a novel. –gasp– I’m always working on multiple things, but this is receiving the lion’s share of my efforts. Continue reading

21 Aug

Off-Topic Tuesday: Silence is Electrum

I frequently discuss the strange dichotomy of my writer’s desire to remain undisturbed and my baser human need for socializing. It’s probably because I feel that tug-of-war all of the time, whether it’s related to writing or not. The recent round of “care and feeding of an introvert/extrovert” blog entries and subsequent Facebook links just went entirely around me. I don’t feel like either, or maybe I feel like both. It’s hard to say, hard enough that I think the label is pretty pointless. (And I’m wary of people who deliberately seek labels for themselves.) I’m usually very social when I need to be social, and pretty antisocial the rest of the time.

Here's Johnny!
“Who feels like being sociable?”

People often seem surprised when they realize I have “the other half” of what they knew me as. People who are accustomed to the grouchy asshole me are shocked to see me laughing and carrying on at a party. And the ones who met me at the party are surprised to hear what I sound like on the phone when they call while I’m working. Most accounts portray me as, well… a grouchy asshole. (I’ve tried to explain that if I was as irritated as I sounded, I wouldn’t have even answered the phone but, apparently, that’s not the point.) Continue reading

31 Jul

Off-Topic Tuesday: Pearls of Wisdom

I’ve mentioned before that I sometimes await the publication of finished articles with some trepidation. (Don’t worry, that hasn’t changed.) But there’s an accompanying excitement that builds, especially when I don’t know the exact date of publication. Part of it is the thrill of success, of completing something. And part of it is the desire to see the accompanying artwork and cartography. After all, I have a vision of something in my head but, lacking all talent for the visual arts, when someone turns my villain into an actual image, it’s like magic to me. And there is a special place in the Seven Heavens (or Arcadia, or the Twin Paradises, or wherever their alignment has decreed) for the cartographers who turn my insane maps into something people can get excited about!

As a writer, though, I’m also eager to see what final edits were made to a piece. I read the published article side-by-side with my final manuscript to see what’s different. Now I know this is not always the way of things. Obviously, a short story’s final look does not surprise the author. But, for gaming material (particularly adventures, the majority of what I do when it comes to gaming material), there are mechanical issues, balance issues, and the results of playtesting that all come to bear in one place. And there are people who are far better at those things than I am. Although no amount of staring at a Ben Wootten or Jason Juta cover painting is going to make me a better artist, making note of the changes made to a creature, an encounter, or even a passage of text can make me a better author. Continue reading