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#RPGaDay 2: What is an RPG you would like to see published?

One of the problems I have as an adult with a job and a family is that there are too many games and not enough time to play them all.  I own stacks of RPG sourcebooks and systems that I have never played, and probably never will, unless I live long enough to end up in a retirement home with a bunch of grognards with too much time on their hands.  That’s about the only form of retirement that appeals to me, actually.  A return to my childhood, where I spent nearly every day with a group of close friends having adventures without ever leaving the couch.   I figure that would be a good way to wrap up my life, if I manage to live that long.   Someone should start planning the themed retirement home for old gamers right now.

Anyway, I’m very reluctant to suggest new games when I have such an embarrassment of riches, because likely anything that I would like to see published would go unplayed along with the rest of the games that I have.  That said, I’ve always wanted to see a game setting, for really any system, based on the New Cobrazon and Bas Lag setting by China Miéville.

Perdido Street StationInstrumental to me getting back into science fiction literature post-college was reading Perdido Street Station, along with some short stories by Charlie Stross in Asimov’s.   One thing about games is that they’re usually somewhat derivative of the cutting edge work going on in literature, which is not something I say as disparagement.  I think that trend is changing as more talent is attracted to working in games, given that it’s still a decent way to make a living, where all but a slim few barely earn minimum wage writing prose these days.  But for most of my life, where innovation of setting and world-building is concerned, prose fiction has led the way.   Miéville’s work for me was like an atom bomb of creative world-building.

That’s not to say it wasn’t inspired by things that came before.  Miéville has been open about how much of his work was inspired by reading the monster manuals of various roleplaying games.  Relatedly, he also explains that he never really played RPGs, which breaks my heart.  It’s long been a dream of mine to some day have China at my game table with a few other people who never got to know the joys of playing in their youth.  I imagine he’s received better offers than mine, though.

Anyway, Perdido Street Station describes a wild, bizzare, thriving city that made me want to explore it. I wanted to go off the page as written and poke around in the dark alleys and tunnels.  New Crobuzon would be a fertile place for adventure and intrigue.  The various characters are already practically archetypes for good character classes and races to build further, interesting player characters.   And later books like The Scar only served to deepen and broaden the world as all good RPG source material does.

From what I understand, work has been underway for 6 or 7 years on a game set in this world, but nothing has come out yet.  Maybe it’s better that way; it can live in that perfect and ephemeral state of idea, rather than as an imperfect execution.  It might just be too good an idea, and I would always be disappointed with any execution.  Things that I spend so much time pining for can rarely live up such unfair expectations.  But if it ever does hit the store shelves, I’ll happily buy it and add it to my pile of unplayed game reference books.  I’ve got a space for it picked out on my shelf.

For the month of August, I will be participating in #RPGaDay. I haven’t posted much on this blog about my love for role-playing games, and for a while, I wasn’t really acknowledging that love myself.  But RPGs were my entry point in the the geek lifestyle, and they are very important to me.  I’ll be exploring my relationship with RPGs all month with these posts.

Map image by JenJenRobot via DeviantArt.

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#RPGaDay 1: What published RPG do you wish you were playing right now?

If I could be playing any role-playing game right this very second, it would have to be Shadowrun, chummer.

If you’ve never heard of Shadowrun, allow me to summarize.  If William Gibson and J.R.R. Tolkien stayed up all night doing blow and riffing on each other’s work, they might have come up with Shadowrun.  In this game, set originally in the far off future of 2050 (ha!),  magic has returned to a cyberpunk future.  We have the usual themes of megacorporations ruling the world, and of crushing poverty in the cracks, but add to that dwarves, elves, trolls, and and orcs, among many other new “goblinized” races that have sprung back into being with the return of dragons, shamanistic magic, and good old fashioned wizardry.   Native Americans have taken back much of North America, and what we think of the U.S. has shrunk considerably, with one major seat of power being Seattle, which is home to several of the giant megacorporations.

In Shadowrun, the players take the role of runners, criminal operatives who eek out an existence outside the system.  It’s a game of heists, of moral grays, and I don’t think any game captures the feeling of living in 2017 better for me.  In Shadowrun, everything is coated in a layer of grime, and there’s a strong sense of living in a world that’s the product of vast, uncaring forces that could crush you out of existence at any moment. Still, there is a lingering sense of wonder, and there’s the possibility of hope, of scoring big, of making it out.   Dreaming of a better life is never quite dead in Shadowrun, but it always feels just a little bit out of reach.  Maybe one more run will lead to a better life, but it’s more likely that your corporate masters will betray you, shoot you, and leave you to bleed out in the gutter because you failed to make your DocWagon contract payment this past month.

A lot about the news lately has reminded me of the thrill of playing Shadowrun as a teenager with my best friends, Hans, Jason, and Jared.  The four of us cut a swathe through the cyberpunk Seattle that was epic and exciting.  I think nearly all of us tried our hand at game mastering stories.  Later, in college,  I played in a epic campaign not as a runner, but as a runner turned DocWagon operative charged with heading into gun battles to save dying runners who were paid up on their contracts.   Of course, not all was on the level inside of DocWagon. Conspiracies were discovered, and everything turned to shit in that particularly exciting way that always seemed to happen in a good game of Shadowrun.

A lot of games of Shadowrun played out like this:

  • Players are presented with a job by the GM, hired by some shady NPC or fixer
  • Players research and meticulously plan the job like professional criminals
  • Job goes south in about 30 seconds, but players manage to succeed at their goal

Somehow, this never grew old for me, and even though we knew the plan was never going to go off quite right, it was always exciting to see how things were going to turn.  Shadowrun was a lesson for me in how the desires of the participants don’t always make for the best stories.  Can you imagine how boring Shadowrun would have been if every single job went off without a single hitch?  You might as well get a job as a salaryman, chummer.   At that point, you’re just workin’ for the man.

Shadowrun was never a perfect game, mechanically speaking.  I’ve played something like four or five different editions, and I’ve never felt any of them balanced out very well.  Cybernetically-enhanced reflexes were nearly always a must.  I’m not sure what the current version requires, but back in the day, if you wanted to roll giant fistfuls of dice, playing a street samurai with enhanced reflexes was a sure-fire way to do so.

Me, on the rare occasions that I got to play instead of GMing, I always liked playing shamen.  I’m not a very spiritual person, but the mystical/spiritual world of shamanic magic in Shadowrun always appealed to me in some deep and profound way.  Nature spirits were intriguing, especially urban ones.  The novel series by Robert N. Charrette played heavily in my interest, I suspect.  I am often tempted to re-read these books with an adult writer’s eye, but I worry they would disappoint me.

For me, Shadowrun captures all the excitement of living in today’s upside down world, with none of the risks.  There are many a day where I would happily return to the 1990s and play Shadowrun instead of living in 2017 in the Trump presidency, watching as corporations grow in power with each passing day.  We’re getting all the negative parts of Shadowrun, and none of the good.  Sadly, it seems like a magical awakening isn’t in the cards for us here in the real world.

For the month of August, I will be participating in #RPGaDay. I haven’t posted much on this blog about my love for role-playing games, and for a while, I wasn’t really acknowledging that love myself.  But RPGs were my entry point in the the geek lifestyle, and they are very important to me.  I’ll be exploring my relationship with RPGs all month with these posts.

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The Dungeon Tile Project

I haven’t been writing much, lately, although I am deep in revisions on a number of stories from earlier in the year that you should see coming out soon. Instead, I’ve been working on 3D printing, casting, and painting a bunch of dungeon tiles for playing fantasy role-playing games. It’s been very good for me to spend less of my “leisure time” at a computer where I can encounter political news. So, below are a few photos rounding up what we’ve made so far. There are over 300 individual tiles, plus countless doors and other items/props. Only a few of these items have been things that I’ve designed myself — the big demon statue being one of them. Most of the models are items I’ve purchased from various companies — especially Hero’s Hoard. This project has had enormous help from my business partner Elwood Schaad and painter/artist Gabe Dorsey.

I opted to go with the partial wall style tile over the full-wall style you see from companies like Dwarven Forge because in my experience, they’re more playable. Walls much higher than this get in the way of players maneuvering their figures. I wanted something that looks good, and plays well. On Monday, we’ll be playing our first official game on the tiles. I’m really looking forward to seeing how people react to them.

This is all part of a side venture I’m working on with a partner called the Level Up Guild. LUG is a company that specializes in exactly what the name says – we aim to help people “level up” their gaming experiences. Stay tuned for more information about what that means in more specific terms…

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Gaming, Geek Life

Return Of the Nebula Weekend Conference: Part Three, The Pittsburghening

For the past three years, I’ve been attending the Nebula Awards Conference in a semi-official capacity as SFWA webmaster. Last year, I even gave a talk on author website best practices. This year, I learned I was going a little to late to make it onto programming, but I still have a little official meetings business to attend to, and I had some thoughts that I wanted to note for myself while the memories are still fresh.

It was disconcerting to realize that I’m no longer one of the youngest people in the room at a science fiction-related gathering. A lot’s been said about the graying of fandom, and it’s something I’ve picked up on since my first convention in 2002. This may be true of fandom, but writers run the full gamut of ages. I met writers as young as 25, and as old as… well. I’ll omit the specifics. The future of the writing of science fiction appears to be handing down to younger generations just fine. I still wonder in my darker moments if there will be anyone left reading it who doesn’t also write it.

Each year that I’ve attended, the conference itself has been better and better executed. The team of Steven Silver, Terra LeMay, and Kate Baker really bust their asses to make this a premiere event of the year. Sean Wallace deserves special mention for his work to organize the book room where many attendees could sell their books on commission. Prior to discovering the Nebulas conference, my convention of choice was WorldCon, but thanks to this amazing events team, I’m content to mostly attend the Nebulas each year and not much else. It really is one of the best conventions for my interests and needs. I don’t get to see all my awesome friends there, but I do see many of them. Please, come hang out in 2018. I’m pretty sure I’ll be there.

While I enjoy the weekend’s general activities and hangouts, I don’t usually to attend the actual ceremony. I skip formal events with fancy attire. I’m not comfortable around the well-dressed, especially given my slovenly appearance most of the time. Also, by the end of the conference, my introvert energy reserves run dangerously low. Instead, as is my tradition, I sat in my hotel room and listened to the stream while tweeting with folks. It’s a good way for me to not go home completely drained by all the amazing conversations. In my younger days, I’d run into the red badly and become depressed during the convention, but I know how to watch myself for it now. When I start to feel like everyone hates me and I’m a big dumb nobody, then I retreat to my room. I may well be a big dumb nobody, but I’d rather not feel like one.

Every year, I meet amazing new people that leave me in awe of our community. My memory for names is terrible, to suffice to say, if we talked for more than thirty seconds, you impressed me with your wit and charm. I will say that I felt a bit of awe to spend the time I did, brief as it was, with Grandmaster Jane Yolen. And that was only one of a dozen or more conversations in which I learned something new or felt I shared some of my limited expertise or experience with others (I won’t bore you with poorly recounted details). Not being the youngest person in the room means I seem to have some opinions I like to share with those who are just starting out. I tell a lot of people that if they want to write more short fiction, they should read more short fiction.

There’s so much energy and joy at this thing, regardless, I mostly come home feeling pleasant and buzzed. I lately feel a bit jaded about my prospects as a writer, but meeting with fellow writers who still have the can-do spirit inspires me to work harder in the future. Sometimes, the best thing that you take away from a conference or con is the general feeling of good will towards your peers.

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On Art, Writing, and Storybundles

I have often enjoyed experimenting with small scale magazine ideas. Some of you may remember the Fortean Bureau, my first foray.

When Nick Mamatas came to me with an idea to do a noir crime magazine called the Big Click, I was immediately on board.  We ran for a solid few years and published some amazingly talented authors, but ultimately, the spark died as it sometimes does. Revenue was never there, and we poured a lot of our own time and money into it.  The quality was great, but it just didn’t find a sustaining audience in its life. Perhaps in the afterlife, it will? You can now read nearly everything we published in a single collected volume available as part of the Noir Storybundle that Nick has curated.  There are a ton of great writers in the bundle, multiplied again by our collection.  It’s an awful lot of gritty fun for fifteen bucks.  You can find it here!  I’m very proud of the work we accomplished there, and I think this is a good place to leave things.

With this Bundle wrapping up the Big Click, I’m moving away from publishing experiments for the foreseeable future.  When I first became interested in electronic magazine publishing, the field was relatively wide open, but today, there seems to be a surplus of online magazines. As a reader, I can’t read a small percentage of the fiction that’s published in any given month, stuff that I’m genuinely interested in.  If I’d succeeded in finding a niche that connected with audiences early on and had a project become self-sustaining financially, that would have been another story.  The market’s matured, and new entrants are going to find it difficult to compete for attention and dollars.  The hard truth that few want to admit is that in fiction publishing, supply far outstrips demand. The thing that keeps many of these smaller magazines afloat is passion and outside money, and that was certainly the case for me and my projects. Alas, my passion for publishing is waning across the board.

Lately, I feel hesitant to even write at all, and haven’t written a word since I completed a novella in March. I feel that with each story I may just be contributing to an ever-growing surplus of content that nobody has time to read.  To pass my time usually spent writing, I’ve taken up drawing and digital sculpture as hobbies (the sculpture part, being a return to something I did in college).  I’m spending my time trying to learn the basics, watching tutorials, and doing exercises. I’ve never been a very good artist, and only a competent designer, but I hope with time I can create things that satisfy me as much as writing a story.  The visual arts have always taunted me. I have even less natural talent there than I ever did as a writer (and that’s really saying something).  I figure with raw determination, I can perhaps become competent before old age sets in.

It may well be that it’s not the pursuits that actually hold my attention, but instead the act of learning them.  I may be a learning addict.  With writing stabilizing at a level of quality just above mediocre, I feel ready to move on, at least for a while.  I doubt I’ll ever give it up entirely, but lately, it holds no spark.  The rest of the way toward writing “success” looks like an enormous, unpleasant grind with little improvement to be found.  But who knows about any of the above?  Maybe some fresh new success will rekindle my energy. A story sale, or a wildly successful Storybundle?  Maybe what I’m really seeking is some sense of a win, any kind of win, to make it all feel worthwhile again. I guess we’ll find out in time.

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My Dad’s Books

We recently bought some nearly floor to ceiling IKEA bookshelves which has almost doubled our bookshelf space. This has allowed me to finally process my Dad’s books out of storage and figure out which I will keep and which I’ll try to sell or donate. For those who don’t know, my Dad died of lung cancer at the age of 46 a little more than a decade ago. I inherited my love of science fiction from him.

Lots of memories in these books. We don’t have a childhood home to go back to these days, but looking at these books, I can remember exactly where they used to be on shelves in the two different places we lived before I went to college. I can remember which ones he recommended (Saberhagen, McCaffrey) and which ones he said I shouldn’t bother with. (So many Gor books, and Stranger in a Strange Land, which he thought I wouldn’t understand until I was older. He was right.).

Dad was a bit of a pack rat and never got rid of books. Many of his books (but not as many as I remembered, oddly) were scrounged and missing covers, so I think someone had passed him remaindered books cheap. We bought a lot of stuff at garage sales. In the 90s, he became a SF Book Club subscriber, and there are tons of Anne McCaffrey hard covers; a love for her work was something we had in common. There’s also a surprising amount of Andre Norton and Ursula K. LeGuin (one for every Perry Rhodan and E.E. Smith paperback). A surprising variety of stuff across all subgenres really, even D&D and Shadowrun tie-ins. I think I got him hooked on the Shadowrun stuff when I was in high school.

It’s weird; I can’t really say that my Dad had taste you could pin down. He was pretty damned omnivorous when it came to science fiction and fantasy. In the aughts, towards the end, he didn’t read SF/F anymore; he’d decided he was done with that stuff and had moved on to thrillers and mystery. I was sad that for the first time in my life post-college, I had time to read, but we could no longer recommend each other books because of his shifting tastes.  He read everything I wrote, though, and often provided me pretty good feedback on those early stories.  He lived to see my first couple of professional sales, although by that point, I don’t think he read them, so far gone he was.

Really, I think the only books I heard my Dad even slightly disparage were the Gor books, and even then, he thought they were pretty hilarious, just outside my age range at the time. He never outright forbid anything on his shelf from me, except maybe the book he was reading at the time. There were a few times where I tried to steal the latest book club books before he got to them, but never pulled it off.  I wish to this day I had his speed; I don’t know how he did it, but the man managed to read 5-6 books a week. He was also an avid library user for most of my childhood. There was no way we could afford to keep up with his habit, really.

At the bottom of one box, I found a near complete run of 1982 Asimov’s. I think those hit me the hardest. God damn, but I really wish he had lived to see me publish a story in there a few years back. I knew he was proud of me. In fact, the last words he ever said to me were to those effect. But sometimes you kind of feel like you haven’t earned that pride quite yet. Still working on living up to that, every single day.

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Dudes? Feminism is for you, too

First, a caveat. My language below may not be elegant or use the proper scholarly terminology because I’m not formally educated in these subjects, but I have some things to say and I hope I say them well enough to convey my message, which is a simple one. My message here is more specifically for my male peers: gamers, nerds, and geeks.

Over the past few years, I’ve witnessed a lot of guys my generation or younger who believe that feminism is something it isn’t, or have taken some extreme form of it to stand for the whole thing (much like people often confuse radical religion factions to stand for a broader religion). These men (not necessarily full-blown Men’s Rights Activists which I won’t even get into here) believe that feminism has nothing to offer them. Ignoring the fact that you’re kind of a jerk if you can’t support something that doesn’t directly support you, I find this really sad. Most of us don’t conform to the traditional notions of masculinity much at all!

Feminism, I’ve come to learn over the years (perhaps embarrassingly late), has its sights set not just the societal structures responsible for women’s so-called “gender norms” but also the ones responsible for toxic masculinity. When it comes to my male peers, not one of us has escaped harm by toxic masculinity.

Ask any of us to describe what a man should be, and I will bet we’d most often describe gruff, taciturn men who never cry and spend their days drinking beer and fixing cars. Real men don’t have much in the way of feelings you can hurt. They fix things. They certainly don’t play games because they’re too busy doing home repairs or replacing engines in cars. I still have this mental picture.

Me, I don’t conform to that notion in the slightest. I’m a geeky, sensitive nerd who would rather play board games than rebuild a car engine. I barely trust myself with a hammer as I’m more likely to break something with it than I am to fix it. And when I wrote “sensitive” earlier, I felt a strong urge to write “overly” in front of it. That is toxic masculinity in a nutshell.

And do you know why I don’t feel any less than a man? Because feminism has taught me that being a “man” doesn’t mean conforming to any of these things. In general, I don’t feel any need to police what makes a person a man or what doesn’t. Especially not myself. You feel manly? Great. Gender norms are bullshit and I believe you should be who you want and do what you want (provided you’re not hurting anyone). It’s a pretty basic rule that I think most people agree with generally. I don’t know why this particular issue trips people up.

I spend a lot of time thinking about what it means to be a man for myself lately because it’s entangled with my notions of what it means to be a father. I find myself emulating my own Dad more often than I like. I struggle with how I react, in particular, to my son crying. My bone-deep instinct is to encourage him to stop crying at any cost, to tell him he’s not hurt, etc. But of course he is! When I catch myself doing that, I feel a lot more shame than I ever did for not being able to change the oil in my car or whatever.

I feel like none of my peers really like gender norms much. If you don’t like them, then I believe you need to acknowledge the role that feminism has in attacking all gender norms. You’re more free to be the person you want to be because of the hard work of feminists.  Feminists aren’t working to just make the lives of women better; they’re working to make all lives better, even yours.

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March Link Roundup

What follows is a list of links I’ve collected this month in regards to projects by friends that I think are interesting and worthy of your attention.

Haikasoru is giving away a copy of ORBITAL CLOUD, the second book by Taiyo Fujii.  I’ve got GENE MAPPER on my to read list, and this sounds another really fun book.  All you have to do to enter is leave a comment about your favorite hard SF novel on the link.  Haikasoru

My pal and sometimes co-worker at Clockpunk Orrin Grey has a novel coming out with Privateer Press.  Orrin’s a great writer, and even if you’re not a fan of Warmachine, this is worth checking out.

Tobias Buckell, author of many fine SF novels, has a Patreon now.  He’s close to reaching the threshold where he’ll write a story a month.  I love most everything I’ve ever read by Tobias, so if you’re a fan, this is a way to directly support him writing more fiction.

Excellent designer and also sometimes co-worker at Clockpunk Jenn Reese as set up a shop on TeePublic selling her designs.  Jenn’s work is simply lovely, and has a strong feminist bent. If you’re looking for an awesome design with which to hide the shame of your meat form, you could do a lot worse than her shirts.

That wraps it up for now! If you ever want to suggest a link for me to share, you know how to reach me.

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Links

Miscellaneous Life Updates for March 2017

Spring has arrived and life is good. I feel a lot more relaxed with social media’s reduced stature in my life. Facebook’s basically gone, and I might be tweeting too much to compensate, but overall, I’m not spending a ton of time reading social media which was the real time suck. I’m reading books and writing. The first draft of “Dragon of Dread Peak”, the second Dungeonspace story, came in this week at 19,000 words. I’m working on revisions, and expect by the time I’m done it will be a solid 20,000. If all goes well there and it turns out great, I hope you’ll be reading it this year or early next.

Back in February, I got a preliminary diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes. It hit me pretty hard. I’ve watched diabetes work its way through my mother’s side of the family for more than twenty years, and if there is a disease that scares me as much as cancer, it’s this one. My aunt died from diabetes complications, and possibly my grandfather’s heart failure was related. My mother and many of my aunts take insulin. I scored a 6.9 on my A1C, and anything above 6.5 receives a diagnosis. It figures that my three month blood sugar over the holidays would be high, but no, I’ve been pre-diabetic for years. I didn’t take it seriously enough. So I’ve found myself in the same boat as the rest of my family. I did quite a bit of self-flagellating over it. I’ve also been determined to reverse the trend, and I’ve been radically altering my diet and upping my exercise.

It’s been working, at least as far as one metric is concerned. In early December, I weighed 264 pounds according to my tracking, and as of today, I’m a little under 250. This is still way too heavy, but I’m trending in the right direction. Most of that weight, I’ve lost since February. Additionally, I take my glucose levels every other day, and I haven’t had a single result outside of the range for a non-diabetic (although that might be due to the medication they have me on).

This diagnosis has been a wake-up call for me to take better care of myself in general. I’ve cut 75% of the carbs out of my life, which isn’t easy when pizza is my favorite food. I’m eating more vegetables and fruit, which really can only be a good thing. In general, I eat a lot less processed crap. And I feel better than I’ve felt in a long time. My stomach problems have mostly gone into remission. Really, the only complaint I have is that I’ve strained my ankle and I’m keeping up the exercise so much that I’m not giving it time enough to heal.

Of course, getting a diabetes diagnosis right at the time when Republicans have announced their plan to bankrupt and kill everyone who isn’t rich has been stressful. I’ve read many articles about “Trumpcare” or “Republicare” and there is not a single measure in which it is better for my family. I think there is a very good chance, if it passes, that it will result in a much lower quality of life for us. We have two asthmatics and a diabetic in the house. Chronic condition is the name of the game, unfortunately. I don’t know what we’ll do if we end up losing our ACA coverage. We don’t even collect subsidies; I pay full price for a market plan. But that price is set to climb astronomically and offer far worse levels of coverage under this plan. All so the wealthy base of the Republican Party can receive a tax cut they don’t even need. To be blunt: I will never vote for a Republican as long as I live. They have proven themselves unfit to govern. They have demonstrated that they would much rather people like me die off than receive care at some cost of  minor wealth redistribution.

But enough about politics. I’ve gotten a couple of stories written this year– a cybernetic eagles vs. drones story called “We Mete Justice by Beak and Talon” that I think is a lot of fun, and the aforementioned Dungeonspace story. I’ve finished reading dozens of short stories and a couple of novels, including The Great Wash by Gerald Kersh and I am Providence by Nick Mamatas. Both of which I enjoyed very much. Currently, I’m about half-way done with The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers. It remains to be seen if it will stick the landing, but her writing has some great, warm characterization. She doesn’t seem to do characters you can’t like, which I suppose is part of why it has garnered so many comparisons to Firefly. Regardless of how I end up feeling about the book in the end, she makes me want to write deeper, more interesting characters that readers can really come to love.

My kiddo Matty continues to grow and develop from a baby into a tiny little person.  Yesterday, we spent a lot of time together while Sarah celebrated International Women’s Day.  We walked to a local game store, and I giggled as he introduced himself to the store owner and asked how he was doing. He’s this exceedingly polite little thing, very gregarious unlike his parents, and full of boundless amounts of joy for the simplest things. My life is made immeasurably better by his presence. We play a lot of computer pinball together, we watch cartoons, and we go on walks.  And oh blessings of blessings, he’s pretty much potty-trained! Life as a Dad continues to be the best thing ever.

Lastly, some notes on web work. I’ve got two projects running this month, which is great, but I have nothing booked beyond what I’m currently working on, which worries me. Things seem to be coming in fits and starts this year, and while typically things pick up after everyone gets their taxes in the mail, I would really love it if people would start dropping me a line to inquire about my services. If you’re interested at all in having a site built or redesigned by me, please let me know. Between this and healthcare concerns, my professional life is feeling a bit precarious. I really don’t want to go back to a corporate gig if I can avoid it. I love working with my author and publisher clients. [/end sales spiel]

So, what’s been new with you? Any big announcements you want to share with me? Email me or post a comment, and let’s catch up. Until then, keep on being the best you that you can be.

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Personal Life

On the Innate Values of My Fiction

I have been corresponding with my good friend (and astonishingly great writer) Gord Sellar lately about writing in general and my writing specifically. I’m still working through that mid-life crisis moment, although with the help of close friends and some thought, I’ve been developing a plan of attack. I hope that the end result will be much more of my work to read in professional venues, and less uncertainty as to my purpose in life.

In our conversations, which are long and winding and go on for pages and pages of emails, Gord hit on something that really stopped me in my tracks.  He has this idea that I write fiction that seemed to be based in a belief in human decency. My initial reaction to this was one of surprise, but I suppose I can happily own this descriptor if it’s true. I do believe, and have believed, in the basic decent-ness of people. I do believe that together we are capable of great things. Gord calls this quality “American.” I think perhaps not American as a whole, but maybe Midwestern? I think perhaps it is only modern politics that makes me flinch away from the description of “American” writer. I will never consider myself truly a part of Trump’s America. That is an America rooted in fear, and one that stands for values I stand against. I honestly hope that my writing never, ever reflects that vision of my country. I hope it will continue to stand for a belief that people do more good than harm, and that fearing the other harms us all.

So, yes; I do believe that most people are fundamentally good and kind on a base level, but I didn’t realize it appeared in my fiction. And that something of my deep values does show up in my work made me pleased; reading his comment made me feel more pride in my work than I have in a long time. I write about fun, joyous things mostly, and often I worry that there’s nothing deeper to take from my work beyond a little entertainment. But if by accident I am conveying some deeply held beliefs about the nature of humanity, well, then… gosh. That’s a whole new reason to go on writing, I think.

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