Among the Missing – Out today!

May 25th, 2011news, rpg

The second book in the Little Fears Nightmare Edition line came out today in PDF. This book was a long time coming but I had a lot of fun writing it and I think I came up with some pretty terrifying stuff. Here’s the cover and blurb:

You were a normal kid once with a normal life and a normal family. Then things changed. There was a moment when your life took a sudden turn and you stopped being a normal kid. You became a headline, a statistic, a picture on the grocery store window. A warning for other children.

Maybe you were taken, stolen by a monster, or maybe you simply disappeared.

Whatever happened, at that moment, you became one of the missing.

Book 2: Among the Missing is an expansion to the Little Fears Nightmare Edition game. In it, we talk about what missing children mean in the world of Little Fears, how kids become missing, what happens to them next, how they can help in the fight against monsters, and how they can be saved. Includes expanded GMC rules, new monsters, information about the World In-Between, and a full-length episode titled “The Long Way Home.”

If that sounds like it’s up your darkened alley, check out the official Little Fears website for details on getting your own hardcopy when it comes out or you can grab the PDF right now for just $10 from the good folks at DriveThruRPG and RPGNow.

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Free Comic Script Day: The Long Count

May 6th, 2011comics

As you may know, Free Comic Book Today is tomorrow. If you have a favorite local joint (mine happens to be the excellent Westfield Comics), head over to grab some exclusive issues and previews of upcoming titles from a variety of publishers.

But today, at least over here, it’s Free Comic Script Day.


Back in 2007, I had signed a deal with Archaia Studios Press, publishers of Artesia, Mouse Guard, and many other great titles, to write a twelve-issue series called The Long Count. The story centered on famed sports star Carmen Sandoval, her history with the serpent-god Quetzacoatl, and how her personal destiny meshed with the fate of the world and the coming change foretold in the titular calendar. The comic took place in an alternate America known as Colombiana, one where the “Southern Tribes” of the Mayans and Aztecs conquered their northern brethren prior to Europe’s western expansion. So, when the Europeans showed up on the shores of the “New World”, war broke out with the Spanish, Dutch, and English on one side and the Mayan/Aztec alliance on the other. The Tribes pushed back, slaughtering the Dutch and the English, eventually making peace with the Spanish, allowing them access to their land in exchange for weapons, medicine, and other technology. History, primarily told through flashbacks intertwined with Carmen’s story, went on from there.

The story took place primarily in Colombiana’s capitol city, Nueva Cempoala, and incorporated a heavy dose of Mayan and Aztec mythology, history, and culture.

I was proud of the story Leanne, the illustrator, and I cooked up, and the folks at Archaia were pretty jazzed as well. Unfortunately, due to circumstances beyond the publisher’s or my control, the project fell apart, and only one issue ever saw publication. Which is a shame, because I think I did some good writing on the project and I was excited to see it continue. Joe Illidge, my editor on the project, gave great feedback and guidance while the comic fans I let read the scripts really enjoyed the characters, the world, and seeing the plot unfold.

Of the twelve scripts, I finished four of them (and did a fair bit on the fifth) before the project went south. I’ve sat on them for years but, in fit of nostalgia, dug them up recently and have decided to put them online for anyone who’s interested.

Here are links to the PDF versions of the scripts (language warning):

The Long Count #1: The Silence Inside Her Heart, Part One

The Long Count #2: The Silence Insider Her Heart, Part Two

The Long Count #3: The Old Blood

The Long Count #4: The Permanence of Stains, Part One

If you get a chance to read them, I’d love to hear what you think. And if you know anyone hiring a comic writer, feel free to pass them (or this link) along. I enjoy writing comics a lot, and I would love some more work in the field. Perhaps the future holds some.

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Operation: Awesome – The 1000-Word Plan

May 5th, 2011essays, operation: awesome

One thousand words. It’s not a lot. But neither is a single grain of sand.

Earlier this year, I hit a hard realization: Writing wasn’t working for me anymore. I was writing in spurts. Some days I’d hit 3000 words but most days I wasn’t writing anything. Operation: Awesome was stalling, and I needed to jumpstart the engine if it was going to survive.

Part of Operation: Awesome was collecting the tools I should’ve gathered a decade ago: the study, the concept of form and genre (Step One), the dedication to a path (Step Two), and reading regularly (Step Three). I was doing well at those. I obsessed over structure and story, knew the type of career I want to have, and have been reading stacks of books in my audience and genre. Operation: Awesome had fixed a lot of my flaws as a writer, or helped me work on fixing them anyway, but I was struggling with one very important thing. I lacked the discipline to write (Step Four) and with every day I became less motivated to work on that discipline.

I don’t have a lot of time to dedicate to writing. Most of my time is spent raising my kids (and my dogs and cat and, well, the chinchilla pretty much takes care of himself). My wife and I don’t have the cash to put my son into daycare so, even though my daughter is at school, my attention is elsewhere throughout the day. When my wife gets home, I want to spend time with her and the kids. By the time bedtime rolls around, I’m out of juice. Sometimes she doesn’t get home until after 8 o’clock at night which leaves me even more exhausted (and is she too). After 13+ hours of always-on fathering, I just don’t have the word count in me. I sit and read or catch up on television or play games. Or, maybe, on rare occasion, hang out with friends.

In recent months, that routine had worn me to a nub. I was stressed to my limit, and I started to resent writing. I felt too much pressure to cram all my week’s writing into two days. Any other time I wasn’t writing, when I was spending time with family or catching up on books/games/shows, I felt like I was wasting time I should be writing. I was stymied.

My work and my life were too muddled and I wasn’t dedicating the time and attention I should to either. I had hit a wall, and I had to make a choice: Write or find something else to do.

In order to make sense of this, I did what my pretentious teenaged self should have done, I turned to the professionals for advice. I read somewhere that Cory Doctorow (of BoingBoing and Little Brother fame) has (or maybe had) a writing goal of 250 words a day. Stephen King, one of the most popular American novelists of all time, writes 2000 words a day.

That blew my mind. These guys weren’t nose-first in their work from dawn to dusk as I imagined. A lot of aspiring authors I know huddle in front of their screens day-in and day-out and, hey, if I could, I would probably do the exact same thing. But I can’t. I have other, bigger responsibilities, but I knew I could find a sweet spot between Doctorow and King, something that worked for me.

I looked at my schedule and contracts and realized to hit my deliverables, I only needed to write 1000 words a day. That’s it. About an hour’s worth of work. While I can’t park my son in front of the television for six hours every day, I can set him in front of Sesame Street or a couple episodes of Dora (or, his favorite, Dino Dan) and crank out 1000 words.

I decided that was my plan. I would write 1000 words a day, every day. But, I added some rules to make that more meaningful:

A Thousand Words of Fiction or Other Paid Work. Not blog posts, Twitter, emails, LittleFears.com updates, or even the work I do for AdventureGamers.com. The thousand words had to be on projects I was selling (or hoping to sell) or paid gigs. All that other stuff had to be done outside the goal, at night or during the extra work hours my wife’s days off allowed me.

No Making Up Missed Days. I couldn’t push one day’s work onto another. Meaning: I couldn’t skip Tuesday but promise myself I’d write 2000 Wednesday. If I didn’t hit my goal on a day, I had to accept that as failure even if I did write 2000 words the next day. (I take this from something attributed to Jerry Seinfeld: When you hit your day’s writing goal, mark it on a calendar. As the chain of marked days grows, you become more motivated not to break the chain.)

I Couldn’t Write Ahead. Same idea as above. I couldn’t buy a half-day Tuesday by writing 1500 words on Monday. Each day’s goal was separate.

I Could Go Over. If I felt inspired, I could do 1500 or 2000 or more. But I didn’t have to. 1000 was the goal.

That was a couple months ago. Overall, I’ve done well. I’ve missed days but not enough to beat myself up. On the positive side, I’ve noticed some big changes beyond the increase in productivity:

I’m Happier. Writing is working for me again. I get my 1000 done and the writing stress is gone. I’m not up late berating myself for watching Supernatural or playing games instead of writing.

I Have Gained Control of My Schedule. Since I know my output, I can better gauge my workload. This means I know at a glance if I can take on other work or if I have to turn something down. This is new to me (and is a big reason I was not good at freelancing for so long). But now I know my schedule and I don’t overload it.

I Jump Into Writing More Easily. Another great piece of writing advice, attributed to multiple sources, is to stop writing in mid-idea so you know where to pick up the next day. Writing only 1000 words puts me mid-idea almost every time so I come back to a project knowing where to start. The words flow from there.

I Have More Writing Energy. Because I’m not squeezing 5000 words out of my day’s imagination reservoir, I come into the daily goal refreshed, with a full day’s creative rest between rather small bursts of output.

So, after a long time struggling with my goals as a writer, I have found a system that is working for me. I’ve already handed in a bunch of contract work and am almost done with a new book for Little Fears Nightmare Edition.

A side effect of the new plan saw my last bit of contract work line up with May 31st, meaning I was free to start new projects on June 1st. After some noodling, I put down designs for the Big Summer Project, which I’ve codenamed Operation: Last Chance. This is something that terrifies and excites me in almost equal measure. See, there’s more to this new phase than I have said, more at stake than simply hitting a daily goal, but I can’t talk about it just now. I’ll leave the details of that for another time.

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