Saturday, August 19, 2017

Role Playing Games: How I Began


I remember camping with a friend and his family in Findlay, Ohio. I was nine or ten years old, call it 1980. My friend had an older brother who asked us if we wanted to play something called Dungeons and Dragons. Right away, the name spoke to me. I was a voracious reader in elementary school, and my favorites were all fantasy authors like Lloyd Alexander, J.R.R Tolkien, and C.S. Lewis.

We never actually played the game that trip, but I heard enough about it to be hooked. A few weeks later, I convinced my grandfather to take me to a hobby shop in Berea to get this game that would allow me to journey to Middle-Earth or Prydain and go on epic quests like the heroes of the books I loved. I had no idea there was such a selection of material already: the Basic Rules, Expert Rules, Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, and the many adventures that were in print at the time. I was not sure what I needed to play. I opted for the Red Box Basic Set. My grandfather splurged on a box of lead miniatures from Ral Partha as well.

I got back to my grandparents' house and tore open the box set, which included dice (complete with crayon because, hey, we colored our dice back then), the basic rulebook, and the Keep on the Borderlands adventure. I could not wait to get to school Monday and get my friends playing this game! I did. And 35 plus years later, still have never stopped.


Thursday, August 10, 2017

Busy July, Productive August

I'm based in San Diego, California. July in San Diego is always a busy time of the year. Our Pride Festival and Parade is in July. I live in the Hillcrest neighborhood where all of the Pride events occur. For the last four or five years, I've volunteered with the parade staging. The week after Pride is San Diego Comic-Con, which I always make a point of attending. This was a little disappointing. My experience was that the convention was less well organized than in years past. Staff seemed poorly informed, they did a poorer job with crowd control than they have in the past few years. Other people I spoke to had similar experiences. Hopefully, it was just an aberration.

After my busy few weeks I actually got some work done. I finished the rough draft of a new YA Fantasy novel, currently titled, Home is Where the Art Is. I put the finishing touches on a Middle Grade novel, called The Sea Crows. I was on the fence with regard to shopping it around with publishers and/or agents, or publishing it under my own In A Bind Books. The plan is to submit to a few publishers, large and small, as an unrepresented work to test the water. In the meantime, I completed a piece of flash fiction, Urine Rainbows, that I submitted to a local anthology.

I'll end here; I have to write a synopsis and cover letter for one of my submission packets.

Till next time.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Three Ways to Write

Writers have different methods of tackling their craft. I'm going to take a few minutes to talk about three that I have used throughout my writing life.

The first method is to wait for INSPIRATION. This essentially means doing anything but writing while one waits for their body to be possessed by a muse who gifts them with an idea from the great beyond and moves their pen for them. The writer is but a vessel for the divine spark. I tried this method out, as so many do, early in my writing career. Sure, it's a little embarrassing, but we all do silly things when we are young. No really, this is an awesome method for writing...nothing. I exaggerate; I did actually write while waiting for inspiration. The young are easily inspired. I wrote dozens of poems, some weren't terrible, most were maudlin at best. I wrote my first book using INSPIRATION. An idea implanted itself inside of me and I wrote diligently until I got it out. It was a terrible book. The point is that at best waiting for INSPIRATION produces sporadic results, and usually poor results.

For a while, I used a time goal. Here you set an amount of time, an hour, four, eight hours, whatever is reasonable for your schedule. For that time you sit in front of the keyboard and voila, you are writing. Only you aren't always writing, and since there is no word goal, there is no real obligation to write anything.

The method that does work for me is using a word count goal. I keep a modest goal of 500 words a day. With that goal in mind, when I sit down to write I just write. Editing, research, writing this blog, doing all the many things an indie author has to do; none of those count to satisfying the word count. Most days I write more than 500 words, every so often I miss my goal. But I track my word count daily. I have a little blank book that I use, the cover is the Abbey Road album. It only takes a moment and it serves as a great motivator to write. At the end of the month I can add it all up and see how I did. For instance in December I missed my goal 8 days (I blame the holidays for some of the missed days, but not all of them) and made it 23 days. My average was 539 words a day for a grand total of 16,720 words for December. At that pace it will take just about 5 months to finish a draft on an 85,000 word book.

Find the method that works best for you. If you aren't writing, whatever you are doing isn't working and it is time to try something else.

Good writing!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Volo's Guide to Monsters - Review

Since Wizards of the Coast released the 5th Edition of Dungeons &Dragons a few years ago, I've been back into the game that has been hugely influential on me since about age ten, call it 1980 or 1981. So far, I've been pretty happy with the new edition and it has enjoyed some success as a new generation of gamers take some time away from their consoles and pick up paper and dice and engage their imaginations. It has even found some semi-mainstream attention with the help of celebrities such as Felicia Day and Wil Wheaton and the others at Geek and Sundry (check YouTube if you don't know what that is) leading the renaissance.

That being said, I decided to make my second installment of my revived blog a brief review of the latest Dungeons & Dragons hardcover release, VOLO'S GUIDE TO MONSTERS. This is basically the Monster Manual II of the edition, but only about half the length of the Monster Manual (but at all of the price!).

Right away, the title tells us that the book is nominally set against the backdrop of the Forgotten Realms Fantasy Setting, as so much of WotC D&D has been. I have always been a Greyhawk man myself, so I would rather get a setting free book. But the Forgotten Realms flavor is kept minimal so this was not much of an issue. The book is then set into three chapters - Monster Lore, Character Races, and Bestiary. The first chapter gives detailed looks at the societies, psychologies, motivations, and more of some of D&Ds most iconic monsters, like Beholders, Giants, Hags, and Mind Flayers. Then they give each main humanoid race their own write-up. Really, when they only detail nine monster types, do we need separate entries for Kobolds, Goblins (actually has info for Hobgoblins and bugbears too) , Gnolls, and Orcs? Anyway, some may find this material useful. There are not stat blocks here, but a lot of ideas both for stories and role playing the monsters.

The second chapter has rules for rolling up player characters of various monster or at least non-standard races. I'm a big one for house rules, so I viewed this as pretty unnecessary but I know of some who like it. I won't comment too much on their selections, whether you like or dislike an Aasimar, or a Firbolg, or a Kenku, or any other is purely a matter of taste. There are about eleven of these monster race options in Volo's.

The last chapter contains the monsters themselves, the stat blocks. Most of this old material, monsters that have been around for decades that were not included in the first MM and now statted out for 5E. I was happy to see some old friends like the Froghemoth (The stats I had whipped up for the one kept as a pet by a local hag were pretty similar though), the Quickling, and the Catoblepas. In particular, I liked the number of fey monsters included, as I will probably be able to use them in the near future in my current campaign.

Overall, I am happy with the book. I've already used it in converting A2 for 5E (the boggles!). The best material is old material now made 'official' for 5E, but the original material isn't bad. The price of the book new is steep at $49.99 (really? I mean my old DMG with the Efreeti on it, which I still use, cost $12 and all the other hardcover books were $9. Modules were about $6. I'm old).


Sunday, November 6, 2016

Miralee: A Shadow Knights Tale - now available in paperback

I am excited to announce that my book, Miralee: A Shadow Knights Tale is now available on Amazon in paperback form. This is an updated and revised edition of the E-book, Miralee, published in 2013. Miralee: A Shadow Knights Tale is a Young Adult Fantasy about one girl's struggles with balancing the expectations of her parents and culture with her own dreams. The trade paperback is available for $15 new at Amazon (Use the link in the Available Works section to go directly there).