2016! Man, it’s been a while.

May 17th, 2016fiction, news

It’s a bit embarrassing how long it’s been since I last updated. But the reason is fairly simple: I’ve been really really busy. In addition to my duties at the day job, I’ve been working on fiction writing. I am very happy to announce that I finished the first draft of my Middle Grade novel Little Fears: The Wolf Pact. I am currently editing it for a summer release. I am also working on another kids’ book that I will shop around once it’s ready.

I’ve embedded the cover to The Wolf Pact below. Click on the link to check out LittleFears.com.

Little Fears: The Wolf Pact Cover

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Operation Awesome: Revelations on Story

February 23rd, 2015essays, fiction

This is gonna be mostly old hat to most writers, I reckon, but every author goes through their own journey and such so this is new and revelatory to me, at the very least.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the core essence of story lately in light of a) always wanting to get better at my craft and b) having a novel make the agent rounds to some initial interest but not enough to seal a deal.

And that initial interest is a really good data point to have. I managed to move beyond the query stage with a good handful of agents but the manuscript didn’t connect enough for them to say “Yes, I must have this!” What that’s telling me is that I am far enough into my novel-writing ability to have a solid concept and my query was good enough to pique their interest but the work itself wasn’t bulletproof which is where I ultimately want my writing to be.

Turning that over, and working on my 30k word Little Fears novel, The Wolf Pact, has caused a couple thoughts to bubble to the surface.

Thought One: What’s the story about?

More a question that a thought but it’s the first question I need to answer before moving forward. It’s essential.

Now, when most folks ask “What the story about?” they mean (or at least get an answer pertaining to) the genre, details of the world and characters, and cool stuff that happens. But that’s all much lower level than I initially need to be.

For me, the answer to “What’s the story about?” is “This is a story about how [BLANK] learns [BLANK].”

Everything else is details.

In The Wolf Pact, Nate Torrance is a boy who discovers there’s a world of monsters that exists next to ours. Throughout his investigation, he makes friends with a girl named Jennifer Mills who has her own tie to monsters and, together, they uncover the truth about some wolf attacks in the area.

But, really, The Wolf Pact is a story about how Nate Torrance learns about friendship.” As his oldest friendship with his neighbor starts to fall apart, he builds a new friendship with Jennifer. That’s the essence of the story.

Also, that second blank is the story’s theme. “Friendship” is the theme of The Wolf Pact.

Thought Two: What about the protagonist is being challenged?

Okay, so this thought is another question. And it stems from the first.

If this is a story about how Nate Torrance learns about friendship, what about Nate is being challenged that leads to an epiphany? In The Wolf Pact, Nate holds firm that friendships are fixed. They don’t change. They certainly don’t end. It’s one of his principles. That his neighbor, who is older than Nate, is moving on forces Nate to try to reclaim that friendship. Jennifer wants to be friends with Nate but the boy is resistant. Not due to a flaw in Jennifer but a flaw in himself.

Thought Three: How is the theme supported?

Okay, so now we’re onto question three which calls back to question one. How am I supporting the theme? Perhaps a better term is “exploring.”

I’m exploring the theme of friendship by presenting different sides of it: the neighbor is moving on from friendship. Jennifer is trying to build a new friendship with Nate. Nate is trying to learn how friendship works. The antagonists also address this theme of friendship which is tied into the book’s name. The titular wolf pact is a core expression of friendship and how beholden one is to a promise made in youth.

Thought Four: How does the protagonist change?

Hrm. So all these thoughts are questions. Good to know.

Okay, I know the story is about how Nate learns about friendship. I know his idea that friendships don’t change is what will be challenged throughout the story. And I know I’ll explore the theme of “friendship” by showing different perspectives and stages of it. But what will ultimately change about how Nate views friendship? Once he has all this information and has seen the theme of friendship from multiple viewpoints, what does he do about it?

I won’t spoil that in this post (you’ll have to read the book to find out) but the basic options are: he accepts that friendships change or he rejects that friendships change. There are additional levels of complexity to this of course but those are the top levels I’m concerning myself with.

In Sum

With those in mind, I was finally able to approach The Wolf Pact armed with the information I needed to start. Next came outlining, developing subplots (which go through their own version of this but with a mind of supporting the established theme), and then the actual writing.

I’ll be very interested to see how this all comes together in the finished project and how everyone reacts to it. Either way, these kinds of revelations help make my writing stronger which is my ultimate goal. Is it bulletproof yet? No. But it’s another level of armor and that’s good enough for now.

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Interview at Escapist Magazine

January 16th, 2015interviews, operation: awesome, rpg

So this was unexpected.

theescapist

Late in December, Adam Gauntlett—one of the folks behind the tabletop section of wildly popular gaming/geek site The Escapist—contacted me to see if I was interested in doing an interview about Little Fears. Of course, I jumped on it. I’m very happy to say that the interview is now up and I don’t sound nearly as dumb as I usually do.

Check it out here!

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Here’s the Thing About Dreams

January 2nd, 2015comics, fiction, operation: awesome, video games

Another year has ended (and I’ll write about that soon) and another one has started. All comments about arbitrary date changes aside, the beginning of a new year is as good a time as any other for reflection and declaration.

I’m not one for resolutions—no slight against them—but I am one for goals and dreams. It’s no secret that I love my day job. Writing video games is amazing and Volition is an aces place to work. I love coming into the office every day so much that I’ve become horrible at taking breaks from it. But, as do most creatives, I have ambitions beyond a single outlet. I want to create all the things—and I continue to strive to do so.

Over on Twitter, I posted the following:

Then, a little later, I added this:

Now, for the top tweet, those aren’t all crazy ideas. I’ve finished three novels in my life so far and though none have connected enough to move forward to publication, I’ve learned something with each. I am currently working with an artist on doing our own comic series and we’ll see what grows from that. And I endeavor every day to be a better human being in all relations, especially my familial ones.

But that second tweet, well, that’s a bit harder.

Some folks think because I write for a living (in video games no less!) that I have some sort of power and pull when it comes to getting Big Ideas made. Maybe, inside the confines of a Volition meeting room, there’s some truth to that (though video games are all about collaboration and any “win” I have is balanced by the wins of other people) but not-so in the bigger world.

Truth is, hardly anybody knows who I am. This isn’t a cry for pity or validation; it’s simple fact. My co-workers do, for the most part, and both my tabletop and digital games have fans (who are amazing!) but on the big creative scale, where the movers and shakers do their moving and shaking, I’m just another guy with ambition. Sure, maybe some credits too, but not so many big ones that they have to take notice.

I’m trying for that by making the things I can make and meeting the people I can meet but I’m not there yet. I’m not someone who enters a room and draws attention (outside of usually being the tallest person in the room). So, I’m just another anonymous person emailing a plea for connection and fives minutes of their time. When one of my emails hits an inbox, it’s shoved into the same Will-Get-To-Later-Maybe-Or-Maybe-Not pile as the emails of anyone else who doesn’t have some real clout behind their name.

And it doesn’t help that, frankly, the creative fields are tight, crowded areas. There are SO MANY people vying for the same thing that those who swim in the big pond can’t spend their time combing through all those emails looking for brilliance without a good reason. That good reason being name recognition or a referral from a friend or something that shines a light. I can only imagine being in the position the heads of studios are in when it comes to sorting through the in-flood of Folks Who Want Work.

I followed up the above tweets with the following two:

I wrote a comic, oh, about eight years ago (as I’ve talked about before) and I would love to get back in the field. And I’m doing that small comics project I mentioned earlier but there are some really cool established characters I’d love to take a crack at. I spent a good month putting together ideas for a Josie + the Pussycats reboot that I’d love to work on. Same for Cloak and Dagger. Zatanna’s one of my favorite characters of all time and telling one of her tales would be oh-woah-amazing. I would give blood to work on any of these titles. (And Power Pack too, as my friend Doug Snook reminded me.)

But so would a lot of people. Including folks working in comics right now. So, it’s a long shot. A really long shot. A Hail Mary pass into gale force winds. But it’s a goal. And it’s a dream. And I’m a big believer in having goals and working toward dreams. Once upon a time, working in video games was a long shot for me too.

I see myself as a creative who lives somewhere in the middle of this whole artsy mess. I write for a living but, I hope, I’m not at the top of my potential just yet. I’m just a writer trying to make it. I have my ups and downs, my successes and setbacks, but, mostly, I’m a guy with ambition. A guy who’s trying to do more and be more.

Maybe 2015 will give life to some of these dreams. Time will tell. But I’ll still be here working, no matter what the Fates have in store.

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New Stuff I’ve Done: LFNE

August 25th, 2014news, rpg

I realize it’s been a while since I updated the sidebar on stuff I’ve done recently so I thought I’d do that and spotlight a couple things in a post as well. If you’ve paid any attention to the 2014 Plan on the left (and I know you all check it daily), you’ll see some of this reflected there. I’m breaking this into two posts with this first one focused on Little Fears Nightmare Edition releases.

Little Fears Nightmare Edition

I’ve released a trio of new supplements for Little Fears Nightmare Edition with one full-sized supplement and two mini ones.

Book 3: Blessed are the Children

LFNEBook3Cover

Not every child is the same.

They are different than other kids.
Some would say strange.
Some might say cursed.

But they are called the blessed.

Blessed are the Children focuses on the realm of spirits and ghosts within the world of Little Fears Nightmare Edition. From the kids whose souls are different than others to the monsters who pursue them, Blessed are the Children introduces six new character options including Gifted, Soulless, and Changeling, numerous creatures from Closetland, rules for possession, a new take on the Spirit Drain ability, a full standalone episode called “My Soul to Keep”, and more.

Goodie Bags

First off, I wrote up a couple “Goodie Bags” supplements for my Little Fears Nightmare Edition line. Where “Campfire Tales” are standalone episodes for game moderators to use with their group, “Goodie Bags” are small expansions that introduce new characters, enemies, or (later) areas of the real world as well as Closetland. The first two in the line are below.

goodiebags1

They are the Butterfly Knights.

Goodie Bags #1: “The Butterfly Knights” is a bite-sized supplement for Little Fears Nightmare Edition that adds details to the sworn protectors of the mysterious winged creatures that appear in Closetland and have the power to heal–or to empower the very monsters the Knights must battle. Goodie Bags #1 talks about the Knights as an organization, details the three top members of the Knights, including full GMC and PC write-ups, and contains a half-dozen adventure hooks you can use to tell your very own tales about the Butterfly Knights.

goodiebags2

Baba Yaga’s Children are hungry. For you.

Goodie Bags #2: “Baba Yaga’s Children” is a bite-sized supplement for Little Fears Nightmare Edition all about the cannibalistic creations of the witch-crone Baba Yaga. Cast from their mother’s hut, these creepers roam Closetland and the real world looking for food. The more human, the better. Goodie Bags #2 talks about how these monsters come to be, how they hunt, who hunts them, and includes three new GMC characters, full write-ups for these creatures at all three monster levels, and a half-dozen adventure hooks you can use to tell your very own tales about Baba Yaga’s Children.

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Interview at Geek’s Dream Girl

September 26th, 2013interviews, rpg

I recently sat down with the wonderful Lillian Cohen-Moore over at Geek’s Dream Girl to discuss the origin of Little Fears and how the publishing scene has changed since I released the original game back in 2001.

For those interested in getting their hands on a copy of the original Little Fears, I sell the anniversary edition (titled Happy Birthday, Little Fears) directly or you can look for it in the secondary market (though it sometimes runs a pretty penny) or game specialty stores like Noble Knight. To learn a bit more about the editions, check out About Little Fears.

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Chat with Me Tonight!

March 11th, 2013interviews

Hey everyone, sorry for the last minute notice but I’ll be sitting down with the folks at #rpgnet for a chat tonight, starting at 8p Eastern/7p Central. I’ll be talking about all things Streets of Bedlam and Little Fears, as well as whatever other topics pop up.

You can pop into the chat via this link. I hope to see you there!

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A Metaphorical Haircut

August 28th, 2012fiction, operation: awesome

It’s not that I get bored easily. But when I do tire of something, I have to change it.

Mostly this means shaving my head or growing a ridiculous mustache but sometimes this means bigger things. I launched Operation: Awesome because I was tired of not being the writer I knew I could be.

Thing is, these years later, I’m still not.

I’m better, certainly. I’m more disciplined, have a much firmer grasp of the craft and of story, and have even achieved a position where I write for a living. But I’m not where I want to be yet.

When I was freelancing, I was also a stay-at-home dad which meant, if I wasn’t taking care of my kids, then I had to focus on writing that was paid for. If not upfront, then it had to be writing I could sell.

Even after landing some big gigs, I continued along that path. Only writing the stuff I could sell immediately. This is how Little Fears happened, how Streets of Bedlam happened.

“Writing what I can sell” meant, mostly, tabletop game material. Or short fiction for the occasional collection. It left no time for spec work such as screenplays or novels.

But now I have a (blessed blessed) day job that fills that gap. I write at work. What I write outside the office doesn’t have to be stuff I can sell right away. Course, now I have a backlog that needs written. Stuff I’ve promised, and even some stuff folks have already paid for.

I decided a few weeks ago, I was going to make a big change. I was going to finish all the stuff I needed to finish, take a break, and then do some spec writing. The type of writing I’ve wanted to do for a long time now.

I’m going to write a novel. One I’ve been mulling over for years. One that goes into a lot of new areas and challenges me like no work has in ages. I’m excited for it.

Before I can focus on it though, I have to clear my plate. Namely, I’m capping off my Little Fears work, finishing up what’s due for Streets of Bedlam, and then taking a break. After that break, I’m focusing my out-of-office efforts on my novel.

I hope to have a draft wrapped up four months after I start. So, say, maybe six months or so out from now. That’s my goal.

I need to focus on something new, try for something new. Whenever I stay put, nothing moves around me. Nothing moves for me. I can’t let the fact I have a dream job let me get soft. Time to reach a new level.

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Hear Me on the Jennisodes

March 19th, 2012interviews, rpg, video games

I recently sat down with Jenn from the Jennisodes to discuss my latest project, Streets of Bedlam, as well as future plans for the Little Fears Nightmare Edition line and a short rant on stories in video games. Jenn is a wonderful host and runs a fantastic podcast. Be sure to check out the latest episode for me, and then dig into her backlist for some amazing guests and insights into all sorts of gaming-related topics.

Huge thanks to Jenn for having me on, and I’d love to drop in again sometime.

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Hear Me on Gamestarter (and Then Again!)

January 27th, 2012interviews, rpg

I sat down with Josh Mannon from the Gamestarter podcast a couple weeks ago not once but twice! The first was a sit-down with Josh and fellow writer/designer Filamena Young to discuss various game projects currently seeking funding including Filamena’s own Flatpack: Fix the Future. The second time was an interview focused entirely on me, my upcoming neo-noir crime setting Streets of Bedlam, and the madness that is running a Kickstarter campaign.

Check out the panel with Josh and Filamena here.

You can hear me talk way too much about myself and Streets of Bedlam here.

Thanks to Josh for having me on and to Filamena for being a great co-guest.

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