Monday, February 22, 2021

The Darkest House

Whelp, this zillow(?) listing gives me a bad feeling.

https://thedarkesthouse.com

"Don’t let the outside fool you—step inside and this house will steal your heart! Surprisingly spacious, crafted with amazing attention to detail, and filled with discovery after discovery, this home welcomes you with timeless grace and charm. A history as intriguing as it is mysterious will draw you in, and you’ll find yourself amazed as room after room beckons you."



Wednesday, February 3, 2021

We Walk and We Like It

 Hey folks!

How's your week? Snowy for some of you, sounds like. For us here in the greater Seattle area, rainy. But that means nothing to our dog Tesla. The walk is the highlight of her day. Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays her from giving me that guilt-inducing "It's time for my walk now!" look.
(Ok, she has a few other highlights. Breakfast. After-walk dental treat. Supper. Sitting on the couch with humans after dinner. Running like a crazy dog into the back yard when she's spied a squirrel....)
Anyway, this intro was all precursor to me dropping novel chapter seventeen for The Ark of Broken Dreams, but I lost the thread. So expect that next!

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Greetings, Earthlings!

Greetings, Earthlings! 

The days are getting lighter earlier, and I have to say, I enjoy that. Getting up while it's still dark outside isn't my groove. Of course, we set up conditions in our room that are optimum for sleeping, not getting up. By which I mean we leave the window open to cool things down, so that it's nice and comfy under the covers.  We also keep the shades drawn to filter out any light so it's like a cave. Great for sleeping, but not so great when you have to get up and it's still cold and dark.



But if the sun is up, our shades can't stop it from leaking in and giving everything that sort of quiet dawn glow that, to me anyway, promises a good day. Maybe because I remember those sorts of mornings when I was little? Anyway, today was like that when I got up. Do you have any similar reactions to morning light, positive (or negative?)

Anyway, on to the next chapter drop, Chapter 16, which I'm preparing in my next patron-only post.

[Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash]

Friday, January 22, 2021

A New Week, A New Era (Hopefully)


Hey everybody!

[Cross-posted from my Patreon]: Like me, I imagine most of you are relieved to be where we are. We've got a brand new (old, heh) president in the White House whose associated officials no longer have to watch their back for sprouting knives when talking about serious issues (Fauci, I'm looking at you).
As I was just remarking in a private message (you know who you are), the "new" norms of open racism, reality denial, and ugly aggression aren't actually norms after all. The cover has been pulled back, revealing that it's ugly all the way down. Here's hoping that makes an impression on a lot of folks at the margin. (I know at least one on who it has, anecdotally.)
Take care, and be kind to your mind if you can. I'm certainly trying to in the face of all the various things that have come my way lately. Peace.
[Photo by Kien Do on Unsplash]

Friday, January 15, 2021

Grading yourself on your response to the Pandeminsurection

Greetings from 2021!

If you're reading this, I just want to let you know that I value you. Your support, yes, but also you as a person. Stay strong, my friend. Find those moments of peace. Try 5 minutes of meditation if it's not something you're already doing. Look at the window at some trees and do some slow breathing. We can't control events, but we can control how we respond to them to some extent.

If I were to grade myself on how well I'm responding, I'd give myself ... well, I suppose it varies by day. I'm going to say 7 out of 10, on average.

I hope you're doing at least as well.

In other news, I've dropped Chapter 15 of my novel here at my Patreon. Take a look!

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Rune of Reconciliation

Howdy! 

Mid-December brings with it a couple of active tabletop roleplaying game Kickstarter campaigns that I'm involved with.

First, we have my friends (and employer) MCG's Heroes of the Cypher System campaign, in which I'll be writing a sourcebook about people with powers called The Origin. As it happens, I wrote a preview here, which takes the form of some secret communications on the dark web. This campaign ends in two days, so if you wanna get in on the super fun, the gap is narrowing

Next, my friend Peter Schaefer is running a TTRPG Kickstarter for his new setting and game system called The Well. The Well utilizes a new, lightweight game mechanic directly integrated into the story of your PCs exploring the abandoned crypts of your people's ancestors, putting down the undead abominations that have risen from their remains, and escaping with as much loot and as few scars as possible.

As it happens, I'll be writing some short fiction for The Well, as unlocked by the very first stretch goal.

You have about two weeks to check out The Well at the time of this writing.

P.S. Wanna see an excerpt from the short story "Rune of Reconciliation" that I've started? Head over to my Patreon, where I've dropped it as a public post!



Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Sweet 2021 Action


My friends, 

It's December 2020! I don't know about you (though I can guess), but I'm ready for some sweet 2021 vaccine-deployment-and-new-administration-attention-to-critical-issues action. That's a mouthful. What do you think of my new portmanteau? Probably needs some trimming. I'll leave that for the editor. (JUST KIDDING!)

Ready for another chapter in The Ark of Broken Dreams? Well, ready or not, here you go: https://www.patreon.com/posts/44584308

[Photo by William Daigneault on Unsplash]

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Liminal Shore

A land of secrets, beyond the farthest seas—Liminal Shore brings an entirely new, previously unexplored region to the Ninth World, unlike anywhere you’ve ever been. Here, everything lives!

This book has new cyphers, artifacts, and creatures, all flavored by the unique nature of the Liminal Shore.

It brings several new sapient species, including three suitable as PCs. Play a winged caterpillar-like creel, a shelled wholkin, or a mysterious, fungoid spirant.

Finally, two complete adventures introduce your characters and enable them to explore and understand this strange new land.

https://www.montecookgames.com/liminal-shore/

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Expanding Subjective Time

Working from home isn't new to me. I've done it fulltime since 2013 when I left Wizards and joined MCG. But with the additional social restrictions of the pandemic, things have been different. One day just seems to blur into the next, and recalling what I did two days ago let alone two weeks ago is difficult. I'm sure that's true for a lot of us late.


When you’re a kid, three months seems like an eternity, because it’s all new. Almost every experience is novel. But as you get older, time seems to go faster and faster. We wonder where a month has gone, or even a year. You may have even speculated that's because it only seems that way because so many things that happen to us as adults are things that have already happened to us, perhaps many times if we have a regular job and live in the same place.


Recently, I've been on a kick to read outside my regular sci-fi/urban fantasy wheelhouse; I recently read Madelaine Albright’s latest memoir, for instance. After that, I selected Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything. I figured maybe I would learn a few methods to improve my memory. 


As it turns out, the Moonwalking with Einstein is actually more that, diving into a high-level overview of how memory works. An objective measure of how much I'm enjoying it is how many times I'll randomly quote a section to Batgirl. (Her enjoyment may differ.)


The book describes author Josh Foer's own journey into learning about memory. During this "odyssey of the mind," he meets and befriends all sorts of super-interesting people. In fact, I'd say the author displays a Hunter S. Thompson-esque talent for making these characters larger than life, which is enjoyable in its own right.


The text describes two types of memory explicit and implicit. Explicit memory is a specific memory of something that happened, like how you might remember that one time you had that bad interaction with your boss. Implicit memory is knowledge, like your knowledge of language, how to divide numbers, or that you like (or dislike) icecream.


Explicit memory is constantly shrinking, thanks to implicit memory. The way implicit memory works is that the more we do a certain activity over and over, the more likely that additional but similar memory gets classified as “more of the same" by your brain. When a new memory gets that tag, the memory is far more likely to be tossed out. It doesn't need to be stored, according to your brain. It's not new; you've already go it covered under implicit memory.


Anyway, in the process of learning how a memory palace actually works, (as opposed to how I incorrectly thought it worked), one of the interviewees (a British memory champion named Ed Cooke) talks about how he hoped to expand subjective time so that it feels like he lives longer. The idea is to avoid that feeling at the end of the year ‘where did all that time go?’


And I'm like 'YES!' This is what I want, too! Lockdown or not, I'm tired of wondering how the previous year could have possibly passed so fast. Even though I'm still not quite finished with the book, I've taken at least one inspiration from it. I'm going to expand my subjective time by seeking chronological landmarks. 


All of which is to say, I'm going to try a little harder to do more new things more often, really. Starting with reading outside my regular wheelhouse... oh. I guess I've already begun.


[This article was cross-posted from my Patreon. If you'd like to support my fiction-writing, please check it out!]

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Foreshadowing Vs. Telegraphing

In this modern age of peak tv, plentiful podcasts, fantastic co-op options for computer RPGs, and of course good ol' tabletop RPGs, I don't read novels and short stories at the pace I once did. When I was younger, I read pretty much during every spare moment.

But, I still read. At my slower pace, I have the luxury of picking and choosing novels that others have already read and recommended. Often, those novels are fantastic. Apart from pure enjoyment, these novels usually have something to teach me, too. Like for instance how The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers let me know that a sci-fi novel could take its time to focus on character interactions and still be quite enjoyable. Or how All Systems Red by Martha Wells showed me that a very short novel (technically a novella) can be both enjoyable and successful.

A book I finished not too long ago taught me the difference between foreshadowing and telegraphing.

I've been an avid user of foreshadowing for a long time. Usually, my foreshadowing gets added into my manuscript later, after I've introduced some twist or unexpected path forward for the POV character to take. Then I go back and add a bit a foreshadowing to avoid a sense of deus ex machina later. Generally speaking, foreshadowing should be used lightly, not to bash the reader's face in with a warning of imminent danger.

Unfortunately, that's what telegraphing does. 

Telegraphing is using foreshadowing so much that the reader can't help but notice. For example, the prose "If only I knew then what was in store for me when I walked out the door," is probably just fine if used only once. But if some variation on that is used prior to each and every new scene, it becomes comic. It becomes telegraphing.

Enough other gold lay in the aforementioned book that taught me this lesson that I finished. But the only way I was able to get through the novel was to turn it into a drinking game (as I noted on Twitter). Each "I did not know then that one day," or some variation, DRINK!

Books in my queue I look forward to reading (and maybe learning something from, too): Agency (sequel to William Gibson's Peripheral), Revenger by Alastair Reynolds, Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir, and False Value by Ben Aaronovitch.

[This article is cross-posted from my Patreon. Please take a look?]

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

The Importance of A Writing Critique

Last night I was expecting some hard love on the chapter of Ark I submitted to my Writer's Circle (pictured here).  After all these years, I still get a bit anxious ahead of receiving feedback from my peers on what I've written, whether it's fiction or RPG. And yet I keep being part of one, because of course, not doing it would be far worse.
Bruce, Torah, Sarah, Peter


Why? Several reasons. Here are a few.

Critiques force at least one more revision. Of course, I'm always doing a little polishing, but there's always one more chance to get a chapter or piece in shape right before you send it off for your critiquers to apply their hairy eyeballs. You'll still end up doing a second draft later on (if you're writing a larger piece). But this doesn't hurt.

Critiques grant you a wider perspective. I try to encompass the perspective of my characters, but in the end, I'm just one person. What my characters think—and how I portray their internal thoughts—is probably a bit narrow by definition. Having other people bring their perspective allows you to open up details or smooth over tripping points that I just figured was common knowledge or that I read past without 

Critiques provide accountability. I'm always looking for mechanisms that encourage me to keep to my deadlines (e.g. the recent creation of my Patreon!). A writing group can provide another impetus to keep moving forward. Because, let's face it, it's awkward if you've gone five months without writing anything and there's nothing to critique. In a group, there's subtle pressure—friendly, one hopes—to get back to your keyboard and write.

Oh, and what about the group's reaction to that chapter? Well, dear readers, they had their issues, but of course, these are all issues I am now going to fix, and make the chapter better.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Chapter One, Ark of Broken Dreams

Photo by Adam Bixby on Unsplash
My Patreon has been active for a full week!

(If you missed my last post, TL;DR - I need deadlines to keep me honest about the two novels I've started but failed to finish in the absence of someone having expectations that I'll ever finish.)

So, it's time I roll out a perk reserved for Collaborators, Co-Conspirators, and those on the RPG Consultant tier—a full chapter of a novel in progress. w00t!

Chapter 1 of The Ark of Broken Dreams:
https://www.patreon.com/posts/chapter-one-31894935