I got an email a couple weeks ago pointing out that my blog is "getting left in the dust in comparison to [my] colleagues'." It's true, I admit it, but I can't let that pass without telling Mike Mearls that simply posting a picture of the Hulk every "Hulk Wednesday" doesn't qualify as a regular update. I won't be measured against him. :) (Thanks for the email nudge, Rob.)
All right, now that that's out of the way... Here's a general update on various aspects of my life.
Work: Work is great. Last Tuesday I returned from a morning meeting to find the following on my chair: Tome of Magic, Power of Faerûn, d20 Future Tech, the huge freakin' Star Wars AT-ST miniature, a new D&D Miniatures starter set, and two War Drums boosters. As Dave Noonan said later that day, we're "living the dream." I'm really excited about Tome of Magic, though I had nothing to do with its creation (beyond helping Matt Sernett brainstorm some about vestiges).
Expedition to Castle Ravenloft has shown up on Amazon, though without the "Expedition to" at the front of the title. I don't actually know which is the correct title! The files I turned over the other week had a four-word title, that's all I know. It was great to work with Bruce on that adventure. I just want to state, for the record, that the horrible tentacled thing is actually mine, not Bruce's. Bruce has a reputation as the creator of all things tentacled (thanks, originally, to his work on The Illithiad for 2nd Edition, I think), but the Formless Spawn was all me.
The Novel: I see that Amazon now displays the cover of my novel, which is in fact called In the Claws of the Tiger. Wayne Reynolds did the phenomenally awesome cover, which couldn't please me more. However, I am dreadfully embarrassed at the fact that in my efforts at shameless self-promotion in the pages of the Player's Guide to Eberron, I shamelessly promoted the book under the wrong title. Whenever you see references to a novel called Legacy of Ruin in the pages of the Player's Guide, that should be In the Claws of the Tiger. Off the top of my head, I know it's mentioned in the Xen'drik entry (Mel-Aqat). Huh. I guess it's just that one place. Well, I guess that's not all that shameless. Oh, but I will tell you more: There's a quote from a Janik Martell that leads off the Scholar-Adventurer entry in chapter 1. Janik is the hero of In the Claws of the Tiger, and I think that quote appears more or less verbatim in the novel. Janik is also mentioned in the Morgrave University entry. Similarly, a quote from Dania ir'Vran leads off the War-Torn Hero entry, and that's a quote from my short story, "Call of the Silver Flame," which appears in the anthology Tales of the Last War. Dania is the hero of that short story, which tells how she became a paladin, and she goes on to feature prominently in the novel as well.
As far as I know, my work on the novel is done. I completed a second draft in about two or three days of work—a very easy revision process! The editor is very pleased with it, as was Chris Perkins (the design manager for D&D and one of the people responsible for maintaining Eberron continuity—oh, and my boss). With such a great reception, it's only natural that I'm starting in on the next one. I'm still in the very early outlining stages, but I really like the ideas that are bouncing around my head. I think it's really cool the way these ideas bounce around and eventually congeal into a story. I feel almost as though I'm waiting to see how the outline is going to turn out, rather than consciously planning it.
Barnes & Noble University: I am in my second month of teaching an online course at Barnes & Noble University called "Discovering Dungeons & Dragons." I guess I mentioned it once before. The first session, in January, had 1,600 students registered! There were a lot of people who were just curious about what this was, including plenty of people who knew the game perfectly well already. (Maybe many of you!) Much fewer than that number even went so far as to read the syllabus for the class, which I don't quite get. This second session seems much more manageable, though I don't have numbers. It's pretty cool.
World of Warcraft and D&D Online: I haven't been playing much. Rieta (my night elf warrior on Hyjal) hit 60th level and I pretty much stopped playing her. Weird. Considering that I solo most of the time, I ran out of things I could do alone. I played an orc hunter (Vatharak) on Lightninghoof (an RP-PvP server) for a while, because I had friends playing on that server as well. But they had so drastically outpaced me that I was still soloing all the time. Plus, I'm not sure the PvP realm thing is for me. And Barrens General chat is just that much more annoying on an RP server because every mention of Chuck Norris is followed by an outburst about the RP policy. Stop the madness! So when I've been playing lately, it's been on Argent Dawn, where I have grouped occasionally with different friends. I have a warlock named Dairon on that server. But I have not been playing much—too much else going on!
I have a subscription to D&D Online: Stormreach now (thanks very much to the good folks at Turbine), but I haven't played the final game yet. I use a Macintosh, of course, so I can only play DDO at the office, and the last couple of days have been too busy. But I'm excited to take a lunch hour in the next couple of days and try my hand at this new game.
Valentine's Day: Here's a funny Valentine's Day story.
We actually got a babysitter for Valentine's Day this year. You'd think that after 13 years of marriage, we wouldn't make that big a deal out of this Hallmark holiday, and you'd pretty much be right. But we have a good babysitter now, and we decided to take advantage of that fact. We happily drove off to dinner, deciding to go someplace that's not on our normal rotation of restaurants. Cash was a little tight that week, so we grabbed a coupon from the back of a grocery store receipt that promised a buy one-get one free dinner at the Indian restaurant around the corner, Kabab.
Except it's not Kabab any more, it has a new name (and, I presume, new ownership). So we probably couldn't use the coupon (never found out for sure, for reasons that will soon become clear), but we decided to go ahead anyway. In we went. We were greeted by a young woman (and by young, I mean that I pegged her as the teenage daughter of the owners) wearing a T-shirt that said "I HATE U." She seated us, pleasantly enough considering her T-shirt, and soon enough we had drinks and bread and had placed our orders.
First problem: We sat too close to the door. Every time the door opened, we huddled into our coats for a couple of minutes until the heating system managed to catch up from the blast of cold air. (I know—I'm from Central New York, I know what winter is really like. But it was pretty cold for this area, and we weren't dressed for outdoor dining.)
Second problem: An hour went by, and our food didn't come. Amy got up to use the restroom and checked with Ms. I Hate U on the way, who was perplexed but not really apologetic. Finally, we gave up. We paid for our beverages and left.
And we drove to our favorite Thai restaurant, Simply Thai. They just closed Simply Thai II and opened Simply Thai III very close to Simply Thai I, and the new restaurant is gorgeous. We sat down in the gorgeous new restaurant and literally started eating within 10 minutes. We were so happy.
Best of all, during the course of our meal, a waiter who knows us well gave us an invitation to the grant opening celebration for the new restaurant, on Thursday the 16th. So not only did we have a very lovely Valentine's dinner (followed by nearly an hour of browsing at Barnes & Noble before returning home to find our son already asleep), we also got a free dinner two nights later thanks to the generosity of Rick, the owner, and the waiter who gave us the invitation.
Of course, while we enjoyed that free dinner we started thinking about how often we eat at Simply Thai and figured that, over the past six years, we've probably about paid for the very nice bathrooms at this new restaurant...
Getting Older: My son turned nine last month. My high school class is organizing a 20th reunion, and my college cluster is planning its 15th. (Oberlin does this thing where your class is grouped with two nearby classes for reunions, so you get to see people in classes ahead and behind your own. I graduated 16 years ago, but it happens that the class of 1991 is the center of the cluster this time around, so I get to celebrate my 16th. Or not—I probably won't go.) My hair is getting increasingly gray.
I have long said that the time I spent working as a minister really changed my perspective on aging. Some of the most active people in my congregations, who seemed young and vibrant, were 60, and I had one woman who still came to church every week at the age of 93. Considering that I started working there at the age of 25, it really did shift my perspective. Turning 30 didn't seem like that big a deal—it was only halfway to the age of those active 60-year-olds, and not quite a third of the way to 93.
As I creep up on 40, though, I'm starting to feel it more. I can see Midlife Crisis looming in my future. I want to grow my gray hair long and buy a convertible. (If anyone knows of a convertible that can comfortably fit someone who's 6' 4" while the top is up, will you let me know? I've been optimistic about the VW Bug convertible, but I rode in one the other week and still had to duck my head—not to avoid hitting the roof, but to properly see out the windshield.) Oddly, my wife seems to support this plan—maybe because there's an understanding that I won't take this crisis any further, by dumping her and having a fling with some girl half my age.
So I'm trying to figure out what it's all about, you know? I read a book by my old classics professor, Thomas Van Nortwick, called Oedipus: The Meaning of a Masculine Life. In the context of examining Oedipus at Colonus, Van Nortwick talks about aging, about incorporating the Shadow into oneself, embracing the suppressed and rejected parts of one's personality. Or consider these lines from Alice Peacock's song, "Some Things Get Lost":
You said you'd realized in life that chances pass you by,
And what you thought was yours, slowly fades before your eyes.
And part of growin' up, is that you can't go back in time.
You have to live with your regrets, the things you leave behind.
I think I remember from my studies in pastoral counseling in seminary (sparse as they were) that part of the midlife crisis is about learning to accept all the things you didn't do, the paths you didn't go down in your life up to that point. As you realize that this life will not go on forever, you realize as well that you'll never get around to backing up and chasing down those unexplored paths. My choices have been made, and there's no unmaking them. It's pretty deep stuff.
And you know, if a strong desire to drive a convertible is as bad as it gets, I guess that's probably all right. I don't really have a lot of regrets. My life is pretty good. My job—well, living the dream, as I said before. My marriage is wonderful, my son is amazing. My first novel is coming out in a couple of months. There's not a lot to regret, really.
Well. I've got 2-1/2 more years to 40. I'll let you know how things go.
And how's the world treating you?