Monday, December 4, 2006

The New Regime

The New Regime is going great. Since establishing it, there have been only two days where I have failed to write 800 words. But I wrote so much on the other days that I'm still ahead of schedule. Last Saturday I came back from my morning's writing with 1,387 new words under my belt and declared that I wanted to start playing World of Warcraft again. Just so I'd have a way to reward myself for days like that. So I did, and the really fun part is, we got Carter an account as well. So now I spend a fair amount of time wandering Azeroth with my son. It's awesome. We're like best buddies now—we've really bonded even closer in this last week.

So the writing:
Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
89,641 / 120,000

[Oops, I guess I already wrote about returning to WoW. Oh, well.]

How to treat your customers... and their kids

A couple weeks ago, my son dreamed up what an Apple smartphone might look like. (He was inspired by a billboard in O'Hare Airport advertising some Windows smartphone.) He drew a cool picture, and we put it in the mail to Apple. It was almost certainly less than two weeks ago that it went in the mail.

Today he got a letter back:

Re: Submission of an Idea to Apple Computer, Inc.

Dear Carter:

Thank you for your letter to Apple about your idea for a smartphone.

We're glad you are interested in Apple and our products and wanted to send us your ideas. We value innovation and creativity. And while we cannot review new product ideas sent to us from outside the company, we appreciate your wanting to share your ideas with us.

We encourage you to keep generating new ideas for yourself, your family and friends, your interests and studies or schoolwork. We know you'll be successful!

Very truly yours,


Mark Aaker
Senior Counsel
Apple Law Department

That, my friends, is class.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Writing This Week

Last night I sat down and figured out how much I have to write every day between now and Christmas in order to get the book done. It came out to 800 words. So I set myself a reasonable target for the remaining days of this week, and then the New Regime begins: 800 words per day, no matter what. That means finding the discipline that has so far evaded me in this novel, to actually write in the evening and late at night, if I don't hit my target in the morning. That's been the main reason I haven't finished the book yet: school started up in September, my wife started working in a church on Sunday mornings, and I could no longer write every morning. But I didn't make up the time later in the day. So now I have to do that, always.

Yesterday morning I had written almost 400 words. So I figured out I had to write 800 words a day, and then I proceeded to write 800 more words last night. Then at Starbucks this morning I managed to crank out almost 1,400. I'm blowing my target out of the water. So I came home from Starbucks this morning and announced, "I think I need to resubscribe to World of Warcraft, in order to have a way to reward myself for days like today." It's been kind of a running joke at my office that I needed to restart my subscription if I wanted to get this novel finished, because it was such an effective motivator for the last book.

Well, today I finally did it. What's more, I set my son up with a guest pass, so we played together. Quite a lot, today, actually: we started new characters and got up to 7th level. He had so much fun, and it rekindled a lot of my early excitement about the game. Good father-son bonding.

More milestones: last night I broke 80,000 words, and this morning I passed page 200 in my Word document.

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
81,904 / 120,000

Friday, November 24, 2006

By the Way...

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
79,712 / 120,000

I'm really hoping to be done by Christmas. That's going to mean cranking up the pace on a constant basis. We'll see how it goes...

So far, in National Novel Writing Month, I've written a total of 16,772 words. That's pretty sad. I'm glad I've had more than a month to write this novel.

Carter's view of Thanksgiving

We had a nice Thanksgiving, with four folks from the office over and a very fine meal. But Carter really wanted this group of people to play Vegas Showdown with him, which I had brought home from work the day before. He and Amy and I stayed up late playing on Wednesday night. Unfortunately, only five people can play that game, and the seven people we had were not particularly interested. We were happy sitting around the fire, digesting our food and talking about a wide variety of topics.

So Carter wrote out and delivered (standing on a chair) a speech. Here it is:

Talking. Talk, talk, talk. That's what talking is. Well, Vegas Showdown is much more . . . talkative. Well, there's talking, talking, and . . . Oh! Talking. So, will you reconsider?
(response) . . . . . .
I'm waiting!
(response) . . . . . 
Come on, answer!
. . . . . 
* sigh*

What does it say about his experience of the day that he wrote in, before delivering the speech, what he would say when we didn't respond? Poor kid. It's tough being an only child, especially when so many of our friends don't have kids. (And the ones that do have families around to have Thanksgiving dinner with.)

About my Dad

I spoke at my father's funeral last weekend, which was even harder than I expected it to be. Here's what I said:

In the first few days that my dad was in the hospital, the thing that kept rattling around in my head was all the parts of him that I see in myself. Initially, I was thinking only of the sort of big-picture things, but almost as soon as I arrived here and started talking with my brothers and Mom, we’d start talking about the little things—things like his workaholic tendencies, or put a different way, his sheer delight in his work. Or like books needing to be in just the right order on the shelves. Or the idea that if you want something done right, you need to do it yourself, which is why Dad wrote his own obituary and planned his own memorial service. And each time something like that came up, I’d say, “Adding that to my list...” It’s become a running joke this week, something that we laugh about as we three sons of David Wyatt see so many facets of him in ourselves and in each other.
I suppose any of you that knew him well have heard him talk about his sons. Several people have told me in the last few days how often he spoke of us, how he positively beamed with pride at the mention of us. I’m sure you’ve heard him say that we all love language—we enjoy the interplay of words, appreciate a fine pun or shaggy dog story, spay with ploonerisms—sorry, play with spoonerisms—and take delight in crafting sentences and paragraphs and narratives lining up words in just the right order, like those books on his shelves. That’s on my list. 
And you’ve heard him say that we all love music. We all have our different tastes and our different skills as performers, but we all of us perform and listen and compose we bathe in music the way our father did. All of us had the pleasure of appearing on stage with Dad at least once, and all of us have stood beside him in church, blasting out carols on Christmas Eve, then later gathered around the piano to sing more quietly together. As we were pulling together the music for this celebration, following Dad’s directions, I observed that Dad had great taste in music. And I should know, because I inherited it.
I’m pretty sure Dad also boasted about how the three of us all use computers. We can certainly trace that back to the first Texas Instruments computer he bought and plugged in to our television. We all played games on it, wrote programs on it, and worked our way to a comfort and familiarity with computers that has helped us all make our livings as adults. More importantly, we all—father and sons and mother, a little later on—came together around computers like nothing else in our lives. And that’s true to this day. Let me tell you, we got quite a kick out of gathering here this week and each pulling out our Apple PowerBook laptops: Doug has the big 17-inch PowerBook, Andy has the medium-sized 15-incher, and I have the little 12-inch.
And that’s really the most important thing, right there: family. Dad was fiercely devoted to his family—to his parents and brothers and sisters as well as his wife and sons. He spoke the other day about how he has been blessed with three generations of saintly women: his father’s mother, his mother, and his wife. His brothers and sisters, my uncles and aunts, and all their children, were some of the most important people in my life during my childhood, a fixture of every family vacation I can remember. I will count my life a success if I can manage somehow to be the kind of son, the kind of husband, the kind of brother, and the kind of father that he was.
Here's a story about the kind of father he was. I have a vivid memory of the day my first dog died. She was clearly very sick, but I had plans to go—gosh, I feel like it was skiing. Maybe that's why I never went skiing again. Dad took her to the vet while I was gone. When I returned home, he tearfully told me that she was gone. I remember being struck by his tears. Dad didn’t used to cry much, and I never thought he was very fond of that dog.
So back in May, my son lost his first pet. It was a triops, a little crustacean akin to both horseshoe crabs and Sea Monkeys. We hatched it in April, and it grew to be about 2 inches long. Then one Friday morning in May, after he left for school, I noticed that it was on its back and not moving its legs much. That night Carter and I were out late, and we came home and put him straight to bed, but I noticed that the triops had stopped moving entirely. I didn't tell him until Saturday morning. He took it very well, I guess because he always knew that it wouldn't live long. He alternated between tears and talk of mummifying it, all actually very sweet.
And I finally realized that Dad's tears all those years ago had almost nothing to do with his feelings for the dog and everything in the world to do with his feelings for me.
That was my father: he delighted in our joys and accomplishments, and grieved in our sadness.
In his notes for his memorial service, Dad suggested a way to introduce these eulogies. But I want to use it to end them. He started off with a snippet of dialogue from Man of La Mancha:
"My friend, I have lived almost fifty years, and I have seen life as it is. Pain, misery, hunger . . .cruelty beyond belief. I have heard the singing from taverns and the moans from bundles of filth on the streets. I have been a soldier and seen my comrades fall in battle . . . or die more slowly under the lash in Africa. I have held them in my arms at the final moment. These were men who saw life as it is, yet they died despairing. No glory, no gallant last words . . . only their eyes filled with confusion, whimpering the question: ‘Why?’ I do not think they asked why they were dying, but why they had lived. When life itself seems lunatic, who knows where madness lies? Too much sanity may be madness. To seek treasure where there is only trash. Perhaps to be practical is madness. And maddest of all, to see life as it is, and not as it ought to be."
Dad went on to write, "Now, that’s rather cynical; but the real point is in the final sentence: that is, that I rather quixotically have refused to see life as it is: I prefer life as it ought to be. And there is hope for Humankind so long as some still tilt at that particular windmill."
That was my Dad.
Life as it ought to be. That is, without a doubt, the most important thing I have inherited from Dad: his defiance of what is, his hope for what can be, and his willingness to live his life as it ought to be: passionately and compassionately, joyfully, energetically, courageously. Dad lived for a decade with MS, never letting it slow him down or keep him from traveling the world and pursuing the work he loved. That’s how life ought to be. His sense of humor, skewed as it sometimes was, his ready laugh, his kindness and concern—that’s how life ought to be. That’s how all our lives ought to be.
I look around this room, full of people whose lives have been touched by Dad’s life, and I see how profoundly he has left the world a better place than when he entered it. Through his teaching, his life on the stage, and especially as our Dad, Mom’s husband, a loving brother—Dad made the world more like what it ought to be. His students carry on that work. His fellow performers, maybe even his audiences carry it on. And his family will always strive to do the same, in his honor and his memory.
Thanks, Dad. 

Read his obituary in the New York Times and the L. A. Times. Both are more accurate than the one in Bangkok's The Nation, which was unfortunately picked up by the AP.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

David K. Wyatt, 1937-2006

DAVID KENT WYATT died 14 November 2006 at the Hospicare Residence in Ithaca, New York, at the age of 69.

David was born in Fitchburg, Massachusetts on 21 September 1937. He spent his childhood in Waterloo and Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He was the oldest of five children and is survived by his brothers John Wyatt (Easley, SC), Richard Gist (Columbia, MD), and sisters Deborah Stanberry (Prosser, WA) and Penelope Saulnier (Fitchburg, MA).
David took enormous pride and joy in his wife of 47 years, Alene Wilson Wyatt, their three sons, Douglas, Andrew (Barbara Cain), and James (Amy), and their five grandchildren, Eric, Simon, Tim, Sarah, and Carter.
David graduated from Harvard College in 1959 with a degree in philosophy, and received his Ph.D. in Asian history from Cornell University in 1966. He taught Southeast Asian history at the School of Oriental & African Studies, University of London (1964–69), and then at the University of Michigan (1969–70). 
In 1970, David accepted a tenured position at Cornell, where he was promoted to a full professorship in 1975 and the John Stambaugh Professorship of History in 1994. In his years at Cornell he served as Director of the Southeast Asia Program (1973–76) and chairman of the Department of History (1983–87 and 1988–89). He also served as President of the Association for Asian Studies in 1993–94.
Wyatt’s publications exceed a hundred items, including eighteen books. His Thailand: A Short History, now in its second edition, has been in print since 1984, while his most recent book, Books, Manuscripts, and Secrets will be published in 2007. His academic work established him as one of the preeminent historians of Thailand, and his former students hold positions at universities around the world.
He derived great pleasure from a long career on stage. He sang leading roles and chorus parts with equal delight in countless Gilbert & Sullivan operettas produced by the Cornell Savoyards. He played the role of Cervantes/Don Quixote in the 1983 Ithaca Players production of Man of La Mancha, and also appeared in various operas and dramas.
A celebration of David’s life will take place at Kendal at Ithaca on Saturday, 18 November at 4:00 p.m. Memorial donations can be made to two funds at Cornell established in his name. The David Wyatt Fund of the Southeast Asia Program will be used to bring students from Southeast Asia to use Cornell resources (c/o SEAP, 180 Uris Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, 14853). The David Wyatt Fund of the Echols Collection will be used to acquire additional resources for that collection (c/o Marisue Taube, 701 Olin Library, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, 14853).

Monday, September 25, 2006

Lame, Lame, Lame

No, I didn't mention my vacation, the one that was all about catching up on my writing. Well, in a stunningly successful week off from work, I managed to... avoid falling farther behind. And then follow it up with two of the lamest weeks of writing yet.

You see, school has started, and that seems to have thrown my writing schedule for a terrible loop. Well, that on top of my show opening this past weekend.

So here I am:
Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
49,636 / 120,000


Sunday, September 17, 2006

Net Peeves, vol. 1

Now, mind you, I'm no Mike Mearls, but every once in a while I manage to build up a head of steam over something that boils over into what I think of as a rant, even if those around me are inclined to view it as something more akin to a minor complaint. So here we go, James' rant of the month.

It has to do with the sorts of things that people say about Wizards of the Coast on the Internet—although they usually call us Hasbro in this context, as if trying to make some comment about how we've become a corporate entity. And that's really the gist of this rant, such as it is.

So here's the thing: Wizards of the Coast is not Hasbro. It's a subsidiary of Hasbro, but it's not like there's a bat-phone on the desk of anyone at Wizards that rings when someone in Rhode Island (Hasbro HQ) wants to tell us what to do with D&D—or any other property. The people who make decisions about D&D are, almost entirely, people who play D&D. Chief among those is Bill Slavicsek, the director of R&D RPG, who has been at the company for at least a dozen years. You might know his name from 2nd edition Dark Sun products, the Council of Wyrms campaign setting/option book, and, oh, I don't know, maybe the Eberron Campaign Setting? Not to mention Star Wars stuff—he wrote the Guide to the Star Wars Universe as well as a gajillion Star Wars books when he worked at West End Games. Here's something you need to know about Bill: He's a gamer. He runs a D&D game every week. He plays City of Heroes and D&D Online. I don't think I've ever seen him wear a suit. And he's the single most important person in the chain of command that determines what D&D products get made. 

So anyone who proclaims on the Net that the course of D&D is being decided by a bunch of "suits" at Hasbro just doesn't know what they're talking about. 

So I saw a comment on Gaming Report to the effect... no, I'm not going to try to paraphrase it, I'll quote it:
considering Hasbro's seeming desire to get as far away from producing "free content for anyone to use" as possible?

i doubt there will be anything like the OGL for a 4th edition.

I want to know what the heck this guy is talking about. What company does he think created the OGL? Hasbro owned Wizards in 2000 when D&D 3E came out, why is Hasbro now all of a sudden the stingy company that would never release any "free content for anyone to use"? Huh???

Now the one that really gets my goat. Folks were talking about my novel (among other Eberron novels) on the WotC message boards. Someone referred to the recent DRAGON article about a visit to WotC, and mentioned the meeting that took place to plan out my next novel. I don't remember how the article described that meeting, but the way it was reported on the message boards was basically this: I sat down in the office while marketing people told me what would sell, and told me to write what would sell.

Nothing could be farther from the truth.

The people at that meeting were me, Bill Slavicsek (remember him? the gamer?), Chris Perkins (the Design Manager for D&D and thus my manager, who runs like three D&D campaigns), and Mark Sehestedt (the books editor in charge of Eberron novels). In other words, it was Bill and three people who work for Bill. There was nobody whose job description includes any kind of marketing in the room.

We were talking about my original idea for a novel, which involved focusing on the changeling character from my first novel. Mark and Chris both expressed some concern that a changeling might be a really hard character to write about, and I do remember Mark saying that we generally seem to have a hard time with novels that feature main characters who are anything but humans or elves—not because they don't sell well, but because readers have a hard time identifying with dramatically nonhuman characters. Now, it's also possible that someone in the room pointed out that dragons sell novels—ideally, the title of the book should have the word "dragon" in it and the cover art should feature a dragon. That's pretty basic marketing, it's true. But whatever. The most important things we talked about were hammering out a compelling set of characters, a pulse-pounding plot, and a story that would show off the best that Eberron has to offer.

OK, that's all the rant I've got in me. I know, it was pretty tame. Yesterday I apologized to one of the directors of the show I'm in for being cranky with her, and she said, "You were cranky?!?" That's me. 

A final note: I realize this is now the second time I've made what might be perceived as a slam on Mike Mearls on this page. I want to make it absolutely clear that I really like Mike. I think he's been a fantastic addition to the team in the last year, and I consider him a good friend as well. I really like his rants, too. And he also said something both funny and relevant to the matter at hand in the first D&D Podcast: He said that GenCon is like the anti-Internet. People on the Internet, he said, are there because they're bored at work or don't want to study, so they're in a bad mood, and they tend to grouse about things. Like, they're on the D&D message boards because they can't play D&D at that moment, which makes them grumpy. On the flip side, people at GenCon are taking a vacation from work or school in order to go play D&D, so they're much more positive, enthusiastic, and excited. That's certainly what I've seen, and it helps me to think about the Internet that way, too.

I mean, just look at me. I spent the weekend playing games at GwenCon and rehearsing my show, but now I'm on the internet, ranting.

Friday, September 1, 2006

I Forgot a Milestone...

My Word document is now over 100 pages long. That seems like another milestone.


I broke the one-third point today:
Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
40,801 / 120,000

Unfortunately, I've also passed the halfway point on my allotted time (began 6/12, due 11/15). Well, I'm taking the next week off from work in order to try to catch up (and celebrate my birthday, and be around for the first day of school, and try to catch up on sleep, and do some work on possibly getting our house ready to sell in preparation for moving into a new house...!).

I just finished chapter 17 of 50, which is right on target. With 50 chapters, I'm aiming for 2,400 words a chapter. 2,400 x 17 is 40,800, so I call that just about perfect.

I saw my brother perform here in Seattle a couple of weekends ago. He asked me at one point if I found that blogging about my writing helped motivate me to do it. Interesting question. Actually, I think the thing that is my strongest motivation is my contract, with that 11/15 deadline specified for the first draft. That's pretty strong motivation, especially when combined with the Excel spreadsheet that tells me just how far behind I am on a day-to-day basis. (Today, I'm 19,199 words behind where I had hoped to be by the end of the day Sunday.) Seeing that number every day is a beating.

Hence this vacation.

The house we're hoping to buy, by the way, is about a half a mile from the beach where I did all that writing while I was on my last vacation. And a half mile in the other direction is the park where our son's school had a picnic last weekend, where we stood by the beach and saw a bald eagle flying by. That'd be the good life.

This would be the view from my little writing loft.

This is all very tentative, because there's a contingent offer on the house already. If those folks manage to sell their house in the next week, they'll get this one and we won't. So we're in this weird, stressful waiting game.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Despite the fatigue...

... I am nevertheless continuing to make steady progress. I brought my work laptop to GenCon, so I managed to get some writing done on the plane both ways—even with the guys in front of me reclining their seats onto my lap. *sigh* I grow to hate flying more and more, because of the whole sardines factor.

Here's where I am:
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33,544 / 120,000

GenCon: the Year of the Accessory

I'm back from GenCon. Despite the terror scare, I had no travel difficulties, unless you count arriving at the airport for my return trip 3-1/2 hours early and getting to the gate 20 minutes later a "difficulty." I don't. 

I was struck by a proliferation of new accessories at GenCon this year. Three different initiative trackers: one from Open Mind Games that seems to have won the popularity contest, one from Ready and Waiting that gets marks for thoroughness, and a third one that failed to impress me enough to find it again. There were magic item cards from Tokkens (of the collectible, tin variety) and from Paizo (of the paper kind). There were cool disks you could use to represent a mount on a battlemat, complete with art and game statistics, from a new company called Conflict Chips.

There was Dreamblade, our new minis game, which made a big hit at the show. I probably never mentioned here that I led the world-design team for that game, though lots more world design happened after my time on that project ended. It was really cool getting to work with people I don't usually come into much contact with: Brady Dommermuth, Ryan Miller, and Jonathan Tweet. It's an awesome game and some really cool minis.

There was the D&D Delve, which this year featured our D&D Icons miniatures: the available-now Gargantuan black dragon and the coming-this-fall Colossal red. It turns out that if you give D&D players a chance to pick up a 20th-level character and fight a really big dragon, they're pretty happy. 

Speaking of D&D, I played a bit of it. Friday night I grabbed Chris Sims, Logan Bonner (two of our newest editors), David Noonan, and Mike Mearls and played a random dungeon using our new Dungeon Tiles. I like the DMless random dungeon format, because it lets me put a game together and also play a character. This time, I played a dwarf crusader (from Tome of Battle: The Book of Nine Swords) named RakhĂ»l the Hammer. If you ask why he's swinging a waraxe when he's called the hammer, he'll tell you: "This is my chisel. I'm the hammer." Fun and hilarity until wee hours.

On Saturday night, Charles Ryan managed to reunite many of the now-scattered former players in his d20 Apocalypse game for a six-hour session. Charles (who is moving to England any day now to start a job with Esdevium) ran, with me, Chris Perkins, Stan! (now at Upper Deck), Jeff Simpson (now living in NYC), and Stan's friend Hyrum Savage (who was not in the original campaign) fought our way through the post-apocalypic landscape, killing lots of nasty demon-dogs.

I did novel signings, both in the Wizards booth and in Author's Avenue. That was pretty cool. I'm pretty sure it drove quite a number of sales of my novel—so thanks to all of you reading this who bought it, either at the show or elsewhere. Actually, when I got back, emboldened by my success at the show, I went to my local Borders and Barnes & Noble and signed copies on the shelves, which now bear "Autographed Copy" stickers. That's also pretty cool.

I led two seminars: Expedition to Castle Ravenloft and Other Adventures, which was pretty small because of a mixup in scheduling with Bob Salvatore, and Getting Your Kids Into D&D, which was a lot of fun. I also sat on the panel for the Secrets of Eberron seminar, which was great. It was really cool to see a strong, active, excited Eberron community there, and a couple of guys who were in that seminar caught me after my Apocalypse game ended (at 4 A.M.) and talked with me some more.

So yeah, I didn't get a lot of sleep. The result was a bit of convention crud and a lingering fatigue that's making it hard for me to get up early and work on the novel. 

Favorite T-shirt of the show:
Gay-mers United
+5 Fabulousness

And that about wraps up my convention report, don't you think?

Monday, August 7, 2006

My GenCon schedule!

I'm heading for GenCon on Wednesday, and I figured I'd better get my schedule up here in case any loyal readers want to find me. Not that it's really that hard to find me at GenCon...

11:00-11:30 am Book Signing (with Matt Forbeck) in the WotC booth
2:00-3:00 pm D&D Miniatures area
3:00-4:00 pm Book Signing (with Keith Baker, Ed Bolme, Matt Forbeck, and Tim Waggoner) in Author's Avenue
5:00-6:00 pm D&D Miniatures area

10:00 am-noon Expedition to Castle Ravenloft and other adventures seminar
2:00-4:00 pm Eberron seminar

1:00-2:00 pm D&D Miniatures area
3:00-4:00 pm Getting Your Kids Into D&D seminar
4:00-5:00 pm Book Signing (with Keith Baker, Ed Bolme, Matt Forbeck, and Tim Waggoner) in Author's Avenue

11:00 am-noon D&D Miniatures area
1:00-2:00 pm D&D Delve
2:00-4:00 pm D&D Miniatures area

So that's that... One last thing:
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28,952 / 120,000

Apparently I forgot to click Publish the last time I did that. Huh.

Friday, July 28, 2006

In the Claws of the Tiger feedback and discussion

Just a quick note to point out that In the Claws of the Tiger is getting a lot of good feedback and interesting discussion over at the Worlds of D&D forums. Come join in!

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Belief and behavior... in gaming!

Another random connection: I was talking with Mike Mearls today about some monster (what was it, Mike?), and he said he thought they were cool; he used them in an adventure once. I can't remember what the monster was, but it must have been utterly lame. And not cool, absolutely not. Oh, that's it—he was talking about the apparatus of Kwalish, not a monster. I made the leap to monsters. My observation tied in with what I was saying on Tuesday about the complicated interrelationship between belief and action, and I postulated that we (D&D players) are inclined to believe things are cool if we've used them in an adventure. I said, "Heck, I wrote a whole adventure called 'The Maze of the Morkoth'—obviously I think morkoths are cool. They've just been the victim of bad implementation." 

Steve Schubert then observed that, somehow, the spawn of Tiamat presented in Red Hand of Doom, Monster Manual IV, and War of the Dragon Queenhave not yet been recognized as cool, despite pretty high opinion within the walls of WotC RPG R&D. Hey, use them in an adventure—then you'll think they're cool, because to believe otherwise would suggest that you'd wasted all that time prepping that adventure.

Wait... what?

It was good to be back at work today, despite the load of anxiety I felt on the drive in. I had lunch with Andy Collins, Mike Mearls, Steve Schubert, and Gwen Kestrel. FIne company, big brains, good food.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006


I broke 20,000 words today, which feels significant—one-sixth of the way through! I then proceeded to break 21,000, and I'm a few hundred words from breaking 22,000. Might still make it before bedtime...

Yesterday's "bookwork" was productive, but it left me with a grand total of 11 words in the manuscript for the day. Nevertheless, today and Monday combined to make this the best week so far on this project. Tomorrow, alas, I'm back to regular work, so I might not have time to write again until the weekend, when my wife comes home at last.

So here's where I am:
Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
21,787 / 120,000

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Making Connections

One of the things I like about this state of mind I've been in recently—all the reading, and the listening to the Scientific American podcast, and the thinking about things—is that I find my mind making connections among different things. So David posted an interesting quotation today:

"Gladstone saw that the maintenance of the liberal state was incompatible with holding within its centralized grip a large disaffected community of settled mind."

I don't know much about Gladstone or the Irish situation in 1885 to which this passage refers. But it reminded me of an article I read yesterday on David Berreby's blog where he asks this "forbidden question": is the kind of nationalism that agitates for "freedom" for smaller, distinct ethnic groups really good and worthwhile? Was it better for East Timor to be free from Indonesian rule rather than taking part in its "struggle to become a fair and democratic society"? Would a united Ottoman Empire today not be, at least in some ways, a better situation than we currently have in the Middle East? And should we support Irish independence on principle? It's interesting reading; check it out.

And in going back to his blog to get that link today, I see a new article that connects to something else I read this weekend. He suggests that "Belief" might someday become an antiquated notion, because of mounting evidence that seems to suggest that there's a much more complicated relationship between people's professed beliefs and their actions than we typically expect. The traditional expectation is that what you believe determines your actions, more or less. The reality seems to be much more nuanced, and seems to indicate that influence works both ways. We try to make our actions suit our beliefs, but we also tend to make our beliefs suit our actions. 

I read about this on Sunday in a column in the newspaper about sex, which was basically saying that people who have lived the monogamous ideal (marry your high school sweetheart, have a bunch of kids, and remain completely faithful) have good reason to feel very threatened by people who say there's nothing wrong with premarital sex, or homosexuality. I have often found myself wondering exactly how allowing gay people the same legal benefits that straight people who get married enjoy could somehow be a threat to "the institution of marriage," but I think I'm starting to see what that's about. 

And the coolest connection of all is that this ties in with research that my wife has been doing this week for her doctoral thesis. She'll appreciate these links.

Writing versus "bookwork"

This novel is kicking my butt. Mostly, that's OK. But it has been urgent for a long time, pretty much since the start of the whole process. I had to hurry up and come up with a pitch. Then I had to hurry up and come up with two more pitches before I finally found the plot that was right for the novel that the book department wanted. And now I'm on a really tight deadline to actually get the book written, as I mentioned yesterday. 

The problem is that, as I started writing, I realized that I needed more work on the outline. My wife reviewed it, and had a lot of questions that needed answering. I started writing, and realized that 40 chapters weren't going to fill this book if they averaged only 2,400 words instead of the 3,000 words I had budgeted. And one of the characters (the one who also appeared in In the Claws of the Tiger) started taking on a larger role in the writing than I'd given him in the outline. So I've been feeling like I really needed to take some time to work on the outline again, but that conflicted with the need to generate 6,000 words a week.

I've been listening to Michael A. Stackpole's podcast, called The Secrets. In his most recent episode, in which he's outlining some exercises to help develop characters, he talks about what he calls "bookwork"—the stuff you do to get ready to write, as opposed to actually writing. I think this needs to be contrasted with the stuff you do to make you think you're writing when you're actually not, like reading books about writing, or reading books that aren't about writing, that sort of thing. That's a problem area for me, and I suspect for many people who want to be writers but somehow never get around to actually sitting down and writing. Anyway, bookwork is the stuff I need to spend some time on.

Well, I can't put it off any longer. I realized this when I sat down to write this morning and found that I'd started a chapter (one that wasn't in my outline) and had no idea how to finish it. After staring at it for a while, I started putting together a timeline, matching up the events of the book so far with actual dates in the calendar. Doing that, I realized that it was actually way too early in the book for this chapter to appear—it was a sideline story that actually would have taken place several days later than where the main action of the story is. I renamed it Chapter 15 instead of Chapter 9 and saved it on a back burner. 

This post sort of exemplifies the problem I'm facing: Even on a day like today, when I've ostensibly taken time off from work for writing, I had to stop in mid-post because it was time to go pick up my son from school. I really need some time completely free from time constraints and distractions. That seems to be hard to come by.

It's my hope that I might be able to pull off some "bookwork" time during hours that I might otherwise spend doing sudoku puzzles—times when I can't work uninterrupted or find the focus I need to actually put words on the page. It's possible that in a lower state of concentration I might be able to hammer on the outline or work on character development. Of course, it might also be the case that I can't, that I need more peace and quiet to do bookwork than to do actual writing. I guess I won't know until I give it a try.

Here goes nothing...

What I learned in Starbucks today

The John Denver song, Country Road, is actually improved by the addition of a reggae beat and a Jamaican accent.

EDIT: Here's a link to what I think was the version I heard in Starbucks this morning. It is not, amazingly, the only reggae version of that song out there.
Toots & the Maytals - Funky Kingston - Country Road

I'm really beginning to miss the music that I heard just about every day while I was writing In the Claws of the Tiger.

If I'd had a blog in 1998...

... I would have posted this. I just found it in a file of random notes on my computer.

Bib overalls is an oxymoron. Because a bib, you see,is something designed to keep food off of a child’s clothes. While overalls, particularly the bib part of overalls, seem designed to channel food down into portions of the child’s clothes where it will not be found until the baby’s diaper is changed.

There was another idea in the same file I'll think about posting later. It requires more thought and writing.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Monday is the new Thursday

Nah, but it was a pretty good writing day anyway. Still enjoying vacation, so I spent the day much as I did on Thursday last week: morning in the coils of the mermaid (at Starbucks), lunch at Shish Kabob, then a couple of hours by the beach. Weird thing: it was low tide, which it was not on Thursday, and the water must have been 200 feet farther away than it was on Thursday. I had some trouble with glare, hurting both my eyes and my ability to read my computer screen. Nevertheless, I broke 2250 words for the day. So here's where I am right now:

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
19,658 / 120,000

Incidentally, Real Live Preacher mentioned last week that 1,000 words in a day is a big deal, almost never sort of thing for him. A thousand words a day is approximately what my normal work writing schedule comes out to—well, it's actually 25,000 words in 20 days. And if I'm to finish this novel on time, I need to average 903 words a day for the next 111 days (just short of 16 weeks). So these 2– to 3,000-word days are really important. Sorry, Preacher. My goal is 6,000 words a week, though I need to beat that these next few days to catch up. My plan is to shoot for 450 words per day Monday through Thursday, when I can pretty much only write for an hour before work, and then go for 1,400 words Friday through Sunday (company-wide, Hasbro has moved to what we used to call Summer Hours: 9 hours M–Th, with a shortened Friday, so I can write on Friday afternoons).

Can I do it? I'll keep you posted.