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

Milestone

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
(18.2%)

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
(16.4%)


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.

High School

Such weirdness.

I missed my 20th high school reunion this month. Well, what I mean to say is that it happened, and I didn't go. At the time, I didn't really think I was missing anything. I don't have a lot of fond memories from high school, and I'm still in touch with my very best friends from that period in my life—people I played D&D with, incidentally. I find that I am still intimidated by people who remind me of the kids who intimidated and bullied me in middle and high school—both adults and teenagers. Dwelling on what I was like 20 years ago doesn't seem to be a productive way to spend my time, my emotional energy, or the couple of hundred bucks for a plane ticket.

You already know where this is going, don't you? I've mused about midlife crisis on these pages enough that you can see it from a mile away. I didn't, though.

I just spent maybe an hour browsing through the bulletin that the reunion organizers put together, compiled from information that people sent in and a questionnaire people answered. There were a lot of faces I didn't recognize, but a lot of people that were really important to me 20 years ago, that I haven't seen or spoken to since, and that, based on the stuff they wrote, seem like they're still really cool and interesting people. It makes me sad that I've lost touch with them. There are some I have seen more recently—I performed a wedding for one good high school friend as late as, oh, maybe 1996 or so? Oh God, that was 10 years ago. I just learned from the bulletin that she has two adorable kids, ages 6 and 3. 

Hrm. I don't know where this is going. (I'm pretty sure that was an emotional floodgate closing, my psyche's way of saying, "Let me stew on this for a while before you consciously explore any more.")

In related news, one of those two best friends from high school has just started his own blog, leading off with an entry that follows on something I said yesterday. David is probably the smartest person I know, and I can always count on a lot of thoughtful conversation whenever we manage to get together. Though he's been more or less out of the gaming loop since we stopped gaming together regularly, he's credited as the "military adviser" for my Incursion article in DRAGON (he has a Ph.D. in military history) and he also helpfully reviewed both my novel and my short story at various stages of writing. In high school, we drove our 10th-grade biology teacher absolutely insane with a constant stream of puns. So that's David. Read his blog. Assuming he continues to post there.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Scientific Complexity and Public Debate

I believe I've mentioned how I've been listening to the Scientific American podcast recently, and I'm really enjoying it. The host, Steve Mirsky, has a fine sense of humor, which comes to light particularly in the "Totally Bogus" section of the podcast, where he challenges you to identify one of four science news stories as "totally bogus." He also seems to have a knack for finding interesting, likable, and even inspiring scientists to interview on the show. 

Mirsky's humor is at its most scathing when directed against proponents of Intelligent Design and other opponents of the scientific theory of evolution. This week's totally bogus news story, for example, was that the Dinosaur Adventure Land theme park ("Where dinosaurs and the Bible meet!") closed because of overwhelming scientific evidence that humans and dinosaurs never coexisted on Earth. That's bogus, because the actual reason it closed had to do with the fact that the church that ran it never filed building permits for the place. (They claim that applying for building permits, and paying the associated fees, would amount to paying a tax, which would deny Christ's lordship over the church. That's how I read this page—click the red banner on top—on a quick scan, anyway.) I'm filing them as yet another entry in the list of people who give religion a bad name.

Speaking of giving religion a bad name: I passed on a brief joke about the publication of Ann Coulter's book, Godless, on 6/6/06, but, to be honest, I knew very little about Coulter. (I live a very sheltered life, what with not watching television.) So yesterday I read an article discussing that book's two-chapter "refutation" of the theory of evolution. It's a long article, but a worthwhile read, if you can make it through the science. Back to that in a sec. But I was frankly appalled more at her fundamental meanness—the way she hurls random insults around at people whose politics she disagrees with—than at her scientific ignorance. Somehow, I find that diminishes the strength of an argument about how liberals are supposed to be godless. 

So there's something really important lurking in the background of all this discussion, and it has to do with the complexity of the issues our society is debating, and the fact that debate and complexity are really difficult to reconcile. Ann Coulter says this about the people who coaches her through the principles of Intelligent Design:

I couldn't have written about evolution without the generous tutoring of Michael Behe, David Berlinski, and William Dembski, all of whom are fabulous at translating complex ideas, unlike liberal arts types, who constantly force me to the dictionary to relearn the meaning of quotidian.

(Is that supposed to be a joke? That she had to make quotidian trips to the dictionary to look up quotidian? I think I'm missing something here.)

Anyway, the Media Matters article is thorough and convincing, to me . . . but it's hard reading. There are a lot of complex ideas in there. And in the modern political atmosphere, complexity is an excuse for your opponent to point at holes and gaps in your knowledge and claim they undermine your entire argument. When scientists say that, for example, its more rare for soft-bodied creatures to fossilize than for hard structures like bones and shells, it's easy to oversimplify that qualification, as Coulter does, and claim that it's false because we have some fossils of soft-bodied creatures. Scientists say, "No, wait, we didn't say it never happens, just that it's even more rare," and they look weak and waffling. 

For another clear example of this sort of thing, check this entry on the SciAm weblog. It discusses, basically, the paradox that scientists find themselves in when trying to explain global warming. If they responsibly report the open questions and the variety of possibilities, they convince no one. If they simplify (or maybe oversimplify), they're accused of resorting to scare tactics by highlighting only the most extreme possibilities. 

That's what scares me. We live in a country where we place so little value on scientific education that religion can get taught as science, politicians can manipulate science to serve their own interests (and seriously, what do you think Senator Inhofe has to gain from attacking the science behind global warming? What else but generous contributions from the oil industry?), and important research can get killed because of partisan agendas. I don't know what the answer is. Scientific knowledge has become so intricate and specialized that it's impossible to expect even policymakers, let alone voters, to be well-informed about issues that will have significant impact on our educational system, our consumer habits, our medical treatments, and our world. How do we ensure that decisions are made based on informed consideration rather than political lobbying and misguided theology?

Friday: The Anti-Thursday

First, let's establish just how awesome Thursday was. On Thursday evening, after my amazing writing day at Starbucks and the beach, I went to a second round of callbacks for the show I'm doing this fall, where we auditioned folks who I hope will be our baritone and an additional soprano. (I'm in a production of The All-Night Strut this fall, starting rehearsals next week. It's nice and funny. I went and auditioned for The Sound of Music last fall because my wife was choreographing the show and they were having a heck of a time finding a captain. I have always been a singer rather than an actor, despite my performance in quite a number of musicals and operettas during high school and college. So I went and sang for them, but the captain's part is really low—lower, I suspect, than Christopher Plummer sang it in the movie, though I can't swear to that. So they found another captain and I played Franz, singing only off-stage for the finale! But when the director decided to do this show this year, she put me in as the tenor without an audition. :) ) Afterwards we went to Red Robin and had a hilarious time, then came home and put the boy to bed. I stayed up and wrote a little more, trying like heck to get to 3,000 words for the day. I couldn't keep my eyes open long enough, and I had to stop 51 words short. Anyway, a fabulous day.

So then Friday was completely different. After I dropped my son at school for the day, I came home rather than going to Starbucks. Let's call it a minor financial crisis. I spent a good part of the next hour trying to figure out why our bank account had roughly $175 less than we thought it should, and eventually decided that relying on online banking to give us up-to-date information about the status of our account is not particularly wise (especially when we do it on a Saturday). Anyway, the end result was a much less productive day—I strained to make it to 450 words, which is my normal daily target for the days when I'm writing for an hour before work (Mon through Thurs) before I had to go back out and pick Carter up from school. Oh, well. Clearly, not every day can be a record-breaker. 

Fundamentally, I seem to have developed a mental block that prevents me from getting good work done at home. My typical excuse is that it requires a level of concentration I can't achieve when I'm regularly interrupted by questions (or triumphant exclamations about having caught Zapdos). But I don't know why I should be able to achieve that level of concentration at Starbucks, when I feel like I spend long stretches of time staring into space or people-watching. Perhaps more importantly, why is it that I can muster the concentration to write something like this when I'm home with Carter, but not work on the novel? Hmmmm?

Speaking of the novel: I made an interesting discovery the other day. If you order my novel from Amazon (see link at right), you pretty much double my royalties for that copy of the book. If you're thinking of buying it and haven't done so yet, please please please use that link to buy the book! Thanks!

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Hi Diddly Dee, the Writer's Life for Me!

I'm writing this on the shores of Puget Sound, at Dash Point State Park. Quite a panorama stretches out before me: a sandy beach with a constant stream of waves washing in, the forested hills of nearby Maury Island, and behind them the tops of the Olympic Mountains, still blanketed with snow. There are a couple of sailboats on the water, and lots of kids playing on the beach. The sky is almost completely clear, but the air is pleasantly cool where I sit, in the shade of towering trees I lack the skill to identify. There are a lot of crows around, scavenging the scraps of picnickers and summer-camp field trips.

This, as they say, is the life.

Specifically, it's the writer's life, exactly as you sort of fantasize it will be. I've taken a week off from work—this is day 1—primarily for the reason that, with my wife out of town, my working a full week would add undue stress to my son's life. Because he goes to school (and summer camp) quite some distance from both where I live and where I work, my 8-hour day at work (which is cutting it shorter than usual) translates into 9-1/2 hours at camp for him—6 hours of actual camp, plus an hour before and 2-1/2 hours after in care at the school. Those add up to long days, particularly when it's 90° outside, which it's supposed to be today and tomorrow. So I'm taking a week off of work to break up that drudgery for him—he had three long days this week, then gets just 6-hour days at camp today and tomorrow, three more shorter days at the start of next week, then two more long days before my wife gets home.

Right, I'm doing this for him. That's pretty easy to forget, as I sit here by the water.

So I dropped him off at camp this morning (we didn't have to leave the house until 8:15! So much better than 7:30!), then went and sat in Starbucks for about 3 hours. I wrote almost 1,900 words in those 3 hours, which completely makes up for the three days I didn't write at all this week. Then I went and had some falafel at a new Mediterranean restaurant, writing another 200 words while I waited for my food. And then I drove to the beach. I've got another hour before I pick him up from camp, so I'm hopeful that I can get another 500 words written—as I sit here and listen to the waves.

Four more days like this, and I'll be completely caught up on my writing, despite all the things that have gotten in the way of it over the last couple of months.

I probably shouldn't mention the bikinis. You never know who might be reading this. Besides, I'm pretty sure most of these girls are like 14, and that's just oogy.

Sometimes I imagine making a living by writing novels, no longer going into the office every day. This is the kind of day I imagine. The life you always see in movies about writers. (You ever notice how many novels feature protagonists who are novelists? Talk about writing what you know...)

So anyway, I'm living the dream. How's your summer?

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
16,614 / 120,000
(13.8%)

Monday, July 17, 2006

Single parents, I don't know how you do it

My wife left town on Sunday to teach two courses (this one and this one) at the Graduate Theological Union, where she's working on her Ph.D. (No, she's not Christine Valters Paintner; that's her friend and colleague, who had to cancel out of these classes near the last minute.) So I am doing the single dad thing: getting up at 6:30 so I can shower before Carter wakes up, leaving the house at 7:30 to get him to before-care at about 8:15 (camp starts at 9), getting to work close to 9, leaving shortly before 5 and reversing the commute so we can get home about 6:30. Makes for long days for me, and even longer for poor Carter, who was hot and exhausted when I picked him up tonight. Last night (when I tried to start this entry), he had a hard time falling asleep and then woke up several times because he missed Mom so much. So no writing yesterday. Sunday I had his babysitter come over for a few hours so that I could get some writing done over the weekend—I lost Saturday because we spent the day with Carter in the emergency room, since he'd been puking and dehydrated. Geez.

I don't know what I'm saying. Tired. Hungry. Need to see if I can scrounge some kind of dinner from the very bare cupboards and/or fridge. (Grocery shopping was on our list of things to do this evening, but Carter was asleep in the car.) All I really want to say is, my hat's off to those of you who do this every day.

Friday, July 14, 2006

I am "the equivalent of semi-naked babes"

A friend (who shall remain anonymous) claims that being mentioned on my blog gives him as much cred with his students (who shall also remain nameless) as being quoted in Maxim magazine (which is not nameless). I find that hard to believe, but I like being compared to semi-naked babes. I think.

Wednesday I went and saw my novel on the shelves in Barnes & Noble. I was there again today, and it's still there. They had it shelved face-out, which is always nice.

My brother has a new album out that you can purchase from Doug Wyatt - The Dream of 'I' He's also touring a bit—he currently has plans for shows in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and here in Seattle. He's got more info at his web site.

And my word count meter for the day:
Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
12,866 / 120,000
(10.7%)


I guess that's it for now.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Oh!

That's pretty funny. I just realized that July 11 came and went. I didn't go check the bookstores for the book. I didn't think until now to check and see that, indeed, Amazon shows it as shipping within 24 hours.

I guess my novel's out. Huh. Cool. :)

Zokutou Word Meter

I finally got around to poking around the iBlog documentation and web support to find out how to incorporate HTML code into an entry. Let me tell you, that's been frustrating. Now that I've done it, I can put in better Amazon and iTunes links. I can also do this:
Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
11,006 / 120,000
(9.2%)


That's progress on my novel, as of this moment. Wheee!

And at this moment, I need to go to sleep.

Sunday, July 9, 2006

To be perfectly clear...

Other people have read past Chapter 4, at least in some stages of the book. Pretty sure my editor, Mark Sehestedt, has read the whole thing, as well as the book's proofreader. Chris Perkins reviewed the first draft, as did both my lovely wife and my friend David Silbey, who utterly rocks. And who sent me an email to point out that the list of people who had read past Chapter 4 was woefully incomplete.

There, David. Happy now? :)

d20 Future


On the topic of playing D&D with my son...

This weekend I brought home d20 Future, at his request. He likes fantasy, but he also has a taste for the high-tech. So on Saturday he made up a character: a 4th-level Tough hero/Dreadnought with a dozen mutations and a mecha. Together with my bioreplica robot Strong hero/Soldier, he fought off a klick invasion of our colony and rescued a "power core" (whatever that is) from a magma-covered planet. Besides the klick stats in d20 Future, I applied the extraterrestrial template from d20 Future to an ankheg and, when even that proved too easy for the mecha, a chuul (which nearly killed us both), to replicate larger species related to the klicks. Then on magmaworld we fought a magma hurler and an elemental wall, sans mecha. Finally, we defended our colony against more klicks—this time with an AT-ST to provide a challenge for the mecha.

It's been fun, but scifi is really not my thing. I don't have a clear vision of what this "campaign" is, and I find it much harder to throw encounters together. (Not being able to just pick minis and use stats off their cards is a significant factor.) It's also quite clear to me that these 4th-level characters shouldn't be toting a Large mecha around—mechas are pretty clearly designed for mecha-on-mecha action, not for blasting monsters of a challenge rating equal to your level.

But what matters is that he's having fun, right? He gets to use a micro series Transformer for his mecha, combined with both Star Wars and D&D minis. It's all good.

In the Claws of the Tiger news

The official release date is almost upon us, and a couple of people over at worldsofdnd.com have reported picking up copies. As of Friday night, neither the Borders nor the Barnes & Noble in Tukwila (near where I live and work) have it in stock. 

I noticed another reference to it in the Player's Guide to Eberron the other day—in the Documents entry, the art depicting a letter of marque is made out in the name of Janik Martell, and dated with the date Dania secured the letter in Sharn. I had forgotten I did that, and now I think that was a neat touch. :)

The forums at worldsofdnd.com have book club threads set up for discussing the book. Apparently no one has yet read through Chapter 4. I expect to be there pretty regularly, answering questions and reading feedback, so that's a great place to visit if you want to talk with me about my book!

Well, maybe not nobody. I loaned copies of the book to Rob Heinsoo from work and Cameron Curtis, who used to play in my Eberron campaign. (Remember that campaign? Yeah, he and Dave Noonan were both leaning on me pretty hard over the holiday weekend to get it started up again.) Rob finished it and liked it, except for one specific critique about the ending. I'm going to wait and see if other people say the same thing in the book club before I talk about it at all. :) I respect Rob's opinion, so it was good to get his feedback. Cameron said that it reminded him of my campaign, which I'm forced to take as a compliment.

I'm going to GenCon, as I think I mentioned. I'm scheduled to sit at a table and sign books with the esteemed Matt Forbeck (who has been called the nicest guy in gaming), on Thursday, August 10 at 11:00 am. I feel like I've written about this before, but I can't prove it either way. Anyway, there are also Eberron signings scheduled in Author's Alley, and I'm going to try to get to those as well, depending on my work schedule for the show. As always, I'll be around the WotC booth most of the time.

Other Writing
Not novel-related, but I wrote two articles for the WotC web site that have appeared on the last two Fridays. The first one talked about playing D&D with my son, and I've been getting a lot of really cool feedback about that one—lots of people telling stories about gaming with their kids or finding the improvisational inspiration while DMing. That's cool. The second one discusses the new stat block format.

The Actual Task of Writing
Remember my whole Starbucks saga, about being told that Starbucks is phasing out its Valencia syrup? And how it was supposedly permanent, according to the manager I talked to? Turns out, its "corporate-permanent," which means something like, "permanent until we decide to cancel it." A barista recently told me they're phasing it out in September. And my next novel isn't due until November. How am I supposed to get this thing done?

Well, in the Starbucks attached to the Barnes & Noble in Tukwila (like how I tie the beginning and end together?), I found a big bottle of Valencia syrup for sale. I bought it. I plan to go back and look for more. I'm going to stockpile it. That's the only way I can imagine actually finishing this next novel.

Saturday, July 1, 2006

More books, both reading and writing...

And once again plans (to blog more often) collide with reality in unpleasant and sometimes dangerous ways...

OK, not really dangerous. Don't know why I said that, really.

I've been reading, though my pace has slowed down considerably. Work slammed me hard this week, to the point that I had to put my novel aside. Then I found out on Wednesday that I had less time to write my novel than I thought I did—eight weeks less time, in fact. On the plus side, it's looking like I'm going to write two more after this one's done.

Reading: I read John Grisham—first The Client, then The Firm, then The Broker, because it turns out this guy can write. The three books have a lot in common, and by the time I finished The Broker I was getting a little tired of petulant people who don't think Witness Protection is good enough for them. Especially since I read in Mental Floss that Witness Protection actually works very well, as long as the people being protected don't do stupid things like commit more crimes or contact old acquaintances. Anyway, they're all good books.

Somewhere in between, I borrowed Everything Bad is Good for You, by Steven Johnson. The subtitle is, How Today's Popular Culture Is Actually Making Us Smarter, which pretty well sums up the thesis of the book. It's intriguing, and well-argued. He quotes a section from the D&D Player's Handbook as an example of how complex our entertainment has become. He discusses video games, and the complex series of tasks you need to fulfill to achieve objectives in games like Zelda. Just after I read it, my son was playing Pok√©mon Emerald version, and I got him to explain all the things he had to do before he could challenge the next gym leader, which helped me explain Johnson's point to my wife. He goes on to talk about the high end of today's TV dramas (things likeThe Sopranos), comparing them favorably to earlier shows, and even emphasizes the emotional-intelligence aspect of reality TV shows. It was an interesting, and very quick, read.

Speaking of my son playing games, my article about playing D&D with him has gone live on the Wizards website. Check it out! I've got another Design & Development column coming up, as well.

Yesterday I saw the first galleys of Expedition to Castle Ravenloft. It looks pretty awesome.

Finally, when I took the Google ads off, a Loyal Reader sent me this email:
Feel free to add a paypal link to your site, in lieu of the google ads.  I’m sure some of us would be glad to periodically help with the upkeep of the site.

So there it is, down below the Amazon search box. Do with it as you please. :)
OK, that's about all the time I've got right now. Happy Independence Day (U.S.)! Don't kill yourself (or anybody else) with fireworks.