Sunday, May 28, 2006

The randometer doesn't go high enough for this one....

A bunch to babble about.

A New Novel
I have officially entered novel-writing mode now, getting my second novel underway. I'm still working on the outline (fleshing out the initial pitch, which was my third pitch before I hit a home run, if you can follow that twisted metaphor, and trying to smooth over the plot issues that the editor and my boss identified in the pitch), but novel-writing mode means that for two days in a row now I have spent a couple of hours at the local Starbucks, sipping mocha Valencias in between banging my head and/or fingers against the keyboard.

Imagine my horror, then, when my friend Dave told me the other day that Starbucks was phasing out Valencia syrup.

I walked into Starbucks yesterday morning and met the manager by the door. I said, "Tom, tell me it isn't true!" He looked at me like I was crazy, and how could I blame him, and said, "What?" "Starbucks is phasing out Valencia?" He assured me this is not the case, that a directive did come from On High to relocate the Valencia syrup from the front shelf to the back, but it's a permanent fixture and won't go the way of the cinnamon dolce latte—that heavenly beverage that, this year, made the annual passing of eggnog latte season so much easier to bear. I was relieved. Honestly, I hadn't been sure how I was going to get this novel written with no mocha Valencias. 

Um, right, novel mode. It's another Eberron novel, in case I hadn't made that clear. There's no explicit connection between it and my first one, though I'm thinking about throwing in a few subtle links. I'm planning on spending at least half of every Friday through the summer working on it, rather than every morning. I don't know yet what impact, if any, that will have on my World of Warcraft playing... 

I'm Really a Grownup Now
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. My father 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. My father never used to cry much (he's been different since his very serious illness about six years ago), and I never thought he was very fond of that dog.

My son just lost his first pet. It was a triops, a little crustacean akin to both horseshoe crabs and Sea Monkeys. We hatched it in April, just after returning from our trip to Legoland (did I ever write about that?). On Friday morning, after he left for school, I noticed that it was on its back and not moving its legs much. Friday night we were out late, and we came home and put him straight to bed, but I noticed that it 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 my dad's tears all those years ago had less to do with his feelings for the dog than with his feelings for me. 

More Nick Hornby
This past Friday's trip to the bookstore resulted in another Nick Hornby novel, How to Be Good. Surprisingly, I found this book about a woman trying to deal with her husband's abrupt spiritual conversion far more depressing than the one about the four people who meet while preparing to kill themselves. It was just bleak. 

Perhaps bleakest was its portrayal of what I've begun calling the suburban dystopia, also exquisitely depicted in the hysterically funny movie Over the Hedge. The husband's spiritual conversion leads him to get the people on his street to take in homeless kids—basically, to put their money where their liberal mouths are. I am forced to admit that my family is one SUV (and perhaps weekly soccer practice) away from total absorption into that suburban dystopia, which was never what we intended. Hmmmm.

Lest you think that I never even think about D&D any more, here's a little tidbit from my work week last week. I was trying to fill a little white space in the Castle Ravenloft book that's coming out in October. It's in the hands of our exceedingly wonderful Managing Editor, Kim Mohan, right now, and the new adventure format demands nicely-fitting two-page spreads. So I figured I'd fill out an encounter spread by including helpful text about Improved Grab and Constrict. I went back to the D&D Open that Andy Collins and I wrote two years ago, where we included similar text for a shambling mound. I came to the part where it described how the shambling mound deals 4d6+12 points of damage on a successful grapple check. And that was the first time I realized that, when we say, "A shambling mound deals 2d6+7 points of damage on a successful grapple check," what we really mean is, "A shambling mound deals an additional 2d6+7 points of damage on a successful grapple check, for a total of 4d6+12." You have to go to the MM glossary entry on Constrict to find that out, however. I'm going to have to see what I can do to fix that.

Mike's Game
My only regular gaming recently has been in a lunchtime game that Mike Mearls runs. I'm playing Lucan, a middle-aged human cleric of Pelor. Funny roleplaying story: I decided, before showing up for the first session, that as my roleplaying hook I would pick one other PC that my sister was in love with. And I'd just be along because I promised her I'd keep that character safe. I picked spells like shield other so I could do the totally defensive cleric to the T. Then I show up, and the other characters include a kobold sorcerer, a goliath binder, a dwarf druid mounted on a camel, a shifter fighter/barbarian/something-or-other, and a human scout. In retrospect, I'm not sure why I didn't pick the human scout—it seems like that would have been the most obvious choice. But I sort of halfheartedly picked the goliath. Then that first session, I tried to cast a cure on him and it turned out that the particular vestige he had bound required him to fail a save in order to be affected by divine spells coming from a good deity. *sigh* A couple weeks later, that character died—the one fatality of the campaign so far. So much for my roleplaying hook. Fortunately, I never told anyone in the group about my character's sister. :)

Anyway, it's a fun game. Mike is doing all the between-combat stuff over email between sessions, and tries to build big encounters that will pretty well fill the hour. I mostly show up and kill things—my time between games is too cluttered. But it's fun. And I'm hoping to restart my monthly games (both the one I run and the one Andy Collins runs) pretty soon.

Speaking of Andy Collins, my son and I were at his house Friday night (when we got home late to find his triops dead). We were participating in the sort-of-monthly werewolf game that he and Gwendolyn host and run. And no, I don't mean the White Wolf roleplaying game; I mean the bizarre party game where you try to suss out who among the group is the werewolf who's been slaughtering townsfolk during the night. Every day the villagers hang someone, and every night the werewolf(s) kill someone, and the werewolves win if their numbers ever equal the number of remaining villagers. It's fun, trust me.

Well, I am almost never the werewolf, which is good, because I'm not a good liar. But this time around I drew the werewolf card three times in four or five games. And the werewolf team actually won I think two of those times. Good stuff.

And that's it for now. Deep and enlightening, right? Um, I mean, pretty much totally random. Oh well. Better than nothing, I hope.

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