Monday, October 29, 2012

Abraham and the Dragon

Abraham woke up in the empty boxcar and stretched. His back ached and his head hurt from the wine last night. He crawled outside, yawning. The rail yard was by the seashore, and that made for cool mornings, which he loved. He reached back into the car and pulled out the broadsword. He looked at the cursed thing, his albatross. He still wasn't sure where it came from, but when he pulled it from the scabbard, it glowed with an effulgent light that blinded him. Even now, it pulled at him. It was leading him somewhere, some place Abraham didn't want to be. The home of the red dragon that had forged it. Abraham knew only one thing about that place. He had dreamed about it, so he knew it would be true. The steel and concrete skyscraper the dragon lived in would be the place where Abraham would die.

150 words

Also going for the overachiever title with the use of five prompt words. :)

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Men, Women and Geek Culture

Yes, I’m throwing my two cents into this arena. I really feel like I have to. It’s a long post today, but I really have a lot to say on this topic, so bear with me.

As anyone with an internet connection and any kind of link to the geek community at large is aware of, the topic of harassment and the treatment of women has been huge recently. And, in my opinion, this is a good thing. It’s an important topic, and one that we, as geeks, need to talk about.

Before I get too deep into this, however, let me start by talking about why this is important to me, and basically what my geek credentials are.

I’ve been a geek my whole life. And when I say geek, I mean I cross over many strata of the geek spectrum. I am a fan of Fantasy and Sci-Fi, be it film, TV or books. I love comic books, from the flashy, four color world of superheroes to the darker, more serious books like Sandman and everything in between. I’ve played Dungeons & Dragons, and various other RPG’s, since I was six years old. I’ve owned some form of a Nintendo home game system since I was eight, including the Game Boy, NES, N64, Game Cube and now the Wii. I’ve also owned an Atari 2600, an Intellivision and a PS2. I’ve played MMOs of some sort since Everquest, and various other PC video games since the original Zork. I was an arcade junky back in the 80’s. I have owned and wore in public Star Trek costumes, including bajorin nose make up and ear ring.

My dad probably is who started me on the road to geek culture. He gave me a good grounding in sci-fi, starting with E.E. Doc Smith and Ray Bradbury when I was a kid. He added fantasy later with the Hobbit. He expanded my instruction with the introduction of Isaac Asimov when I got older. He continued my education with TV and movies, with such classics shows as Star Trek (TOS), Lost in Space, Battlestar Galactica (the original) and movies such Forbidden Planet, the Day the Earth Stood Still and Them. He was also the one that introduced me to Dungeons & Dragons, when he bought for my older brother and then we all got into playing it. My dad ran many a campaign for me and my friends over the years, and has since played in campaigns I’ve run, including one I’m doing to play test the new D&DNext.

I expanded much on my own, finding new authors I loved, finding the joy of comic books and discovering video games. My geekiness just grew and flourished, all thanks to those initial seeds planted and nurtured by my father.

Now, even back then, as a kid, I realized that geekdom was predominantly a boys club. My friends and I in high-school would lament that there just weren’t any girls with the same interests as us, and how much we would love it if women could just discover the sheer joy of geeky goodness.

That changed for me when, in high-school, I found such a girl. My first real, serious relationship was with a wonderful girl who came into my life already interested in geek related stuff. In fact, she introduced me to several things that I still love to this day, such as Anne McCraffy and the Dragonriders of Pern, and the Sandman comic series and Neil Gaiman. She even played in all of my D&D games that we ran during the time. And I realized then just what how wonderful it was to have women in the geek community. My D&D games changed for the better with the introduction of a single woman to the group. My awareness of woman authors expanded as she introduced me to the ones she loved to read. I realized, at the tender age of 17, that women only added to the geek culture, they made it better. And it would only be to the betterment of geek culture to seek out and welcome more women.

And that leads me to today. I’m sure we’ve all heard the things happening in the geek world. The stories of Anita Sarkeesian and GenevieveValentine are all over the place, and I won’t be re-hashing them here. The links will bring you to all the information you need to know.

But I will say this. I’m honestly shocked at the treatment these women have received. And here’s why.

Even back in high school, my friends and I (all male) lamented the lack of women with interest in our favorite genres, mostly role playing games, but TV shows and books too. We discussed why it was and how things could be changed to make our favorite geek things more accessible. We talked about role playing games, especially fantasy ones, penchant for chain male bikinis, and sci-fi’s insistence on skin tight space suites that get strategically torn. We weren’t really aware at the time of terms like sexualization and misogyny, but it occurred to us, even back then, that maybe these kinds of images were not attractive to women.

We weren’t sure what the answer was, but we knew that continuing to show women that were half naked while the men wore full armor with massive swords was probably not it. And so I am shocked that a woman who says she wants to investigate these very tropes in the video game industry, people get outraged. As if she is declaring she wants to take away your favorite toys or something.

And while I’ve always had crushes on women who appeared in my favorite shows, or authors of my favorite books, I never tried to make passes at them or stalk them. I admit, this was mostly out of cowardness, but I also know what my father taught me about treating women, and that included the lesson that “no means no.”

And then came the news story about someone who was angry at pretty women who claimed to be geeks, but clearly couldn’t be. Because, after all, pretty women don’t like geeky things, right? They MUST be seeking attention and to manipulate all those lonely, looser geek boys.

I particularly hate this kind of talk, because not only does it reinforce two very negative sterotypes of both sexes, but it shows a lack of awareness of modern geek cultures. Most of the male geek friends I have are married, many of them to geek women. They have children, who they are raising to be the next generation of geeks. The idea of the lonely geek boy in his parents basement is an image that needs to die and be buried with other things from the eighties that should never return, like leg warmers.

But most of all, I’m shocked at the lack of welcome that geek women are getting from geek men. For years, my friends and I lamented the lack of women in our culture. Now, I look around and see that there are thousands of geek women out there, as many, if not more, as there are men. And yet, there are a number of very vocal geek men that seem to not want them here. As if this were some kind of tree house, and the sign on the door clearly said “No Gurls Alowed!”

As if we have a choice in allowing into the geek culture who we want. As if there is a gate to be guarded. Geekdom isn’t some kind of exclusive club. Hell, it’s not even a club, it’s more a state of mind. Sports fans that love to paint themselves up in team colors and wear the jerseys of their favorite players, that memorize the stats of all the players in the league, those are geeks. People that have memorized every line of dialogue from every play written by William Shakespeare and love to not only watch his plays, but perform in them, or maybe design costumes for them, they are geeks. The guy that has every single phone that BlackBerry has ever created and keeps up with their blog, tweets, news about the latest product, how it affects his life and business and what he can do with it in the future, that’s a geek.

Being a geek isn’t about loving something obscure or being able to quote lines from episode 5 of season 2 of the original Star Trek. It’s about being passionate about what you love. It’s about expressing that passion with other people that share it. And it should be about welcoming anyone that shares that love, or that is even interested in learning about what you love. It should never, ever, be about isolation and exclusivity.

Geek culture has grown tremendously since I was a kid. Part of that is due to the inclusion of women. I’ve been starting to see it grow due to the inclusion of other cultures, and I look forward to that as well. But in the mean time… guys, seriously, knock this shit off. Women are a part of our culture. If we’re really honest with ourselves, they always have been. And this idea that there’s a gate and they’re not allowed to pass it unless the meet some kind of critiea needs to stop. And the treatment of women as if they were something other than fellow geeks, that also needs to stop. These geek girls out there, they’re not some strange, magical beast or mythical sexual conquest. They’re fellow geeks, and we need to be embracing them, as people, as we would any other person that shares our passion.

It took geeks a long time to escape (if we truly have) the stereotype that we’re all fat boys living in our parent’s basement with our funny shaped dice and video games. I would really hate to see us replace that view with one of us being a bunch of angry, woman hating losers.

So, come on guys. Stop fighting against what has already happened, and embrace the growth and enrichment of our community. Give it a try. I’ll bet you find you’ll actually like it.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Old Beggar Woman

Wow, it's been a while since I posted, eh?

So, I like to listen to this podcast called Writing Excuses. It features some authors I really admire: Brandon Sanderson, Howard Tayler, Mary Robinette Kowal and Dan Wells. It's an awesome show, if you're not listening to it, you really should be.

Anyway, at the end of each episode, they offer a writing prompt. Well, a few episodes back, they offered this prompt:

Adapt the unadaptable fairy tale Mary introduced us to (the one about the little old lady who catches on fire and dies.)

After some research, I find out that the fairy tale they are referring to is from Grimm's Fairy Tales, and it's called The Old Beggar Woman. It's incredibly short and very strange. I decided to take the challenge, and wrote the below story. Note that before you read my version, you should read the original, to get an idea of what I was going for. Then, let me know what you think of mine! ('Cause I'm self serving that way. I mean, why else have a blog if it's not to get approval from strangers?)


The Old Beggar Woman

Once there was an old woman who had been driven to a life of poverty and forced to beg on the streets of San Diego. If you’ve ever been there, you’ve most likely passed her getting on the trolley, or walking through Balboa Park. Late one night, she found herself in Mission Bay, and made her way towards one of the few bonfires that were still raging. She came as close as she dared, trying to get some warmth from the fire without disturbing the young man who was tending it. When he looked up and saw her there, he smiled and offered her a place by his fire.

“My friends have all left for the night, but I just wasn’t ready to go home,” he said. “Come, share the warmth here, and I’ll make you a hot dog.”

It was the kindest thing she had heard in years, and quickly ambled over to the fire. She sat down next to the pit and warmed herself, happily eating her hot dog. After a short while, she fell asleep, not noticing that her clothing, dry and raggedy, had caught fire.

The young man noticed, and immediately pulled out his phone. But instead of calling the police, he switched it to camera mode and filmed the old woman burning.

“Man, this is going to be awesome when I post this to YouTube!” he thought.

The woman slept through the fire, but after filming for a minute, the young man could smell burning flesh. He jumped up and started screaming. He pulled out his phone again and called 911, who sent a fire truck and an ambulance. All he did afterwards was stand there and watch her burn.

When the trucks arrived, the old beggar woman was dead.

“Why didn’t you try to put out the fire?” the fireman said. “You could have thrown sand on it, or tossed one of these sodas onto it. Instead, you stood there letting her burn.”

All the young man could do was stare at his phone. He didn’t have an answer for the fireman. He just didn’t know what else to have done. Playing on his phone was the video he took of her burning. It didn’t seem so funny now.

The End

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Daily Word Count

So, last week, I finished the first draft of my novel, Mythic America. It ended up being close to 94,000 words long, which was 14,000 words more than what I was aiming for. It’s also pretty bloated, too, and when I edit it, I know that there will be lots cut from it. My second draft will be leaner, and stronger for it. But, I’m getting ahead of myself.

I started this novel during NaNoWriMo last year. I made a great effort to finish it after NaNo was done. And during the past few months, I set myself the goal of writing every day until I was finished. Well, really, I just set the goal of writing every day. I’m getting ahead of myself again.

Anyway, I’ve tried writing every day in the past, and was never very successful at it. This time around, however, I was, and I think I figured out why.

We all hear pro and self-published authors tell newbies that the first rule of writing is that you need to write, every single day, no matter what. Rain or shine, birthday or holiday, in-laws or dirty house, in sickness and in health, till death do you in.

That’s all well and good, but almost none of them tell you how to do it. Well, I figured out the secret.

It’s all about word count.

I know that right now, you’re screaming at the monitor, “but, Chris, I’ve been told not to worry about word count and just to write!”

Well, yeah, sure, that’s true. I’m not denying that. But, what that really means is, don’t worry about the word count of your story, just write it. For example, though I had a goal of 80,000 words, I didn’t let it constrain me. I didn’t try to force my story to fit in those 80,000 words when it wouldn’t. I just wrote until the story was finished.

What I’m talking about is a daily word count goal.

See, the problem I always had in the past when trying to write every day was that I was trying to do what I did during NaNoWriMo every single day for the rest of the year. That wasn’t feasible. At least, not for me. 1,667 words a day may not seem like much when considering an 80,000 word novel, but that represents about an hour and a half, maybe two hours worth of writing. And, for me, that amount of time was difficult to pull off.

So, I would get that done for a day or two, get tired, have a day where the best I could squeeze out was 500 words, and then get frustrated that I couldn’t keep up with my goal and quite writing for about a week.

And that, my friends, is why I kept failing.

Then, I discovered this wonderful little hashtag on Twitter. It was #WIP500. And I discovered that it was an online movement, similar to NaNo, where writers would vow to write 500 words a day. 500. That’s it. That’s about a half hour of work for me, maybe forty five minutes if I’m dorking around on Twitter.

I thought, hell, I can do 500 words a day. In fact, this blog post is already just over 500 words. (for the record, I never counted blog posts as part of my daily word count, only what went into a WIP). 500 is no sweat. And the best part about it is, it’s a minimum. If I write 600, 700, or even 1,000, that’s all just bonus.

So, that’s what I started doing. 500 words a day. And I did that for around three months. Now, my novel is finished, and I’ve started writing two short stories for an anthology I’m working on with some friends. All at 500 words a day.

And it’s working out great.

I get to write every single day, which makes me feel better. I don’t have to stress about not getting time with my family on the weekend, or even during the week when they  want to watch a new movie on the TV. I have time to play a video game if I get my writing done early, and I even get some sleep at night because I’m not forcing myself to stay up late to get 1500 words written. I’m way less stressed, and in fact feel pretty good about myself when I do get some writing in.

I’ll let you in on a little secret. I’ve started putting a ‘X’ on my calendar at work for each day I write. And it looks and feels pretty damn good when I get a whole month marked.

So, the lesson I learned about writing every day is that you need to set a realistic word count goal for your self. It doesn’t matter how small or how big that is, as long as it’s something that you think you can commit to every day. 200? Fantastic! 2,000 words? You go! It doesn’t matter, because after you do it for long enough, eventually you’ll get to those sweet, sweet words: ‘The End.’

For me, the sweet spot was 500, and I owe that to a fantastic little hashtag.

That’s all I got for now. I’ll be back later with some other lessons I’ve learned from writing every single day, including that sometimes, it’s okay to NOT write. Until then, keep on writing!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Friday Picture Show Win!

Hey, check it out! This week, I participated in a little writing contest (nothing major, just a group of writers doing flash ficiton for fun), called #FridayPictureShow. And guess what? I won!

Here's the link:

And for your enjoyment, here's the story I told.

The World’s End resort was exactly what Cameron needed after Sarah died. Sun, beaches, an amazing view of the edge of the world, Casino’s, theaters, movies, meaningless sex with beautiful women. There was just one last thing to do before he left. He got down to the beach in his swing trunks, to the dock, and rented a Jet Ski. He smiled as the man behind the counter took the last of his money. It had all been worth it. He put on his life jacket, got on the Jet Ski, and drove at top speed straight for the edge. 

Sunday, February 26, 2012

A Story Told to Me by My Son

Today, before dinner, my son told me he wanted to tell me a story. And this is what he said:

Once upon a time, there was a great big, scary monster. A young boy and his cat fought him. Now, the cat bit and scratched at the monster, but that only made it bleed. So the boy pulled out his sword and sliced it five times in the chest and stomach. And that killed it.

But then, bunches more monsters showed up! So, the boy ordered more warriors and cats, and they all fought the monsters together. The cats bit and scratched, helping the warriors kill the monsters, until eventually there were no more monsters.

But then, the daddy monster showed up. It was huge! All the warriors and cats attacked, and they had to slice and stab it twenty times before they killed the daddy monster.

And that was when the last monster showed up. It was the biggest monster of all. Bigger than you, bigger than me, even bigger than mommy! Now, the boy and the warriors could have stayed and fought it, but instead they screamed in fear and ran away.

They ran all the way through the gate of the castle, and turned on its waterproof force field. There were two force fields, one inside and one outside. The biggest monster made it through the outside force field, but couldn’t make it past the inner force field. It got stuck. And that was when they filled the space between the two force fields with water. And crocodiles! The crocodiles began biting and eating the biggest monster, and the water scratched at it like the cats did.

500 years later, the water and the crocodiles finally killed the monster!

The end

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Writing and Exercising

So, recently, I have been on task with my writing. I've written every single day during these past ten days, and for nine of them, met that writing goal. It’s a great feeling. And it led me to a question:

This feels great, why am I not doing this every day?

I realized that this is the same question I ask right after exercising. And it occurred to me that the two are remarkable similar. Which means that the answer to the question is the same for both. And here it is.

It’s hard and it’s not fun doing it.

Yes, that’s right, fellow writers; I’m saying that writing is not fun. And I stand by that, it’s not.

Let’s stick with the exercise for a moment. Exercise is hard. It requires a lot of movement, first off. Let’s all be honest. Given the choice of running around the block in sweat pants or sitting on the couch watching Doctor Who in sweat pants, which would you choose? I know what my choice is. Running is hard. Especially for me, as I am not in good shape. And it’s not fun while doing it. I run out of breath, I sweat up a storm. The same goes for when I work out in the gym on the weight machines. My muscles hurt. My face get’s red, and I grunt and moan as I try to breath during the workout.

In fact, exercising is so much not fun that I bring along my phone to play audio books while I work out, just to have a little entertainment value. Otherwise, I wouldn’t do it at all. Probably.

But, when I’m done exercising, I feel great. I’m awake, my blood is pumping, and I’m filled with endorphins. Sure, I may be a little sore, but it’s a good feeling. It means my muscles are growing. It means I have a goal to reach, for that day when this same workout will not leave me sore.

The same is true for writing. Given the choice of sitting at my computer and banging out words on a blank document, or sitting on the couch watching Doctor Who, again, I know what I’d rather choose.

And like exercise, writing is not fun. It’s a lot of hard work. Picking the right words, putting them in the right order, following an outline, or just winging it. There’s a lot of moments of frustration during the actual process of writing, at least for me. I write a sentence and then look at it and thing “man, that sucks. It took me ten minutes to write down those seven words, and they suck.” And they do. And sometimes, I fix them, and sometimes I move on, because it took me twenty minutes to get those seven sucky words down, and it’s just the best I can do.

I grunt and moan and sweat my way through each word, each sentence, each paragraph, each scene. But when it’s done, when I’ve hit my word count goal for the day, I feel great. I’ve accomplished something, and even though parts of it suck, most of it is pretty good. I’m flush with endorphins. And just like exercise, sometimes, I’m sore. Not physically, maybe, but my brain hurt from stretching it to find a proper resolution to that scene, or how to get myself out of that corner I wrote myself into. And just like exercising, I know that my goal is to write until I don’t feel that soreness anymore.

And in both cases, I wonder “why don’t I do this every day? I feel great!”

That’s because at that moment, I forget how hard it was to start. To even just get dressed in my sweat pants, or sit my ass down in front of my keyboard.

Writing is hard work, and not a lot of fun. But in the end, it is so, so worth it. Because in the end, I feel better than I did when I started.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Impostor Syndrome

Lately, I have been experiencing Impostor Syndrome. Not in the traditional sense, in that I’m afraid that people will read my stuff and go “man, he’s no real writer.”

More like, I’ve been questioning my ability. Am I really any good? Is this something that I should be pursuing?

It’s hard. I sit down to write, and just can’t get my self to write more than a few hundred words before the doubts start to crowd in. First, it’s those words I just wrote. They’re utter crap. They are, in fact, such total shit that there is just no way I can even edit them into something that’s just bad, never mind into something someone else will want to read. And if those words are horrible, than the rest of the book I’ve just spent time on getting to 56,000 words on has to be the worst piece of tripe ever written. Ever. Because I’m that bad.

It takes a very special kind of ego-manic to think that your own work is the absolute worst example of work ever, in the whole history of mankind.

Thankfully, I have some support. First, there’s my wonderful wife, who loves to hear about the stories I’m writing, even if the genre isn’t always something she’s interested. In the case of this particular book I’m writing right now, Mythic America, she’s excited to read it, and so encourages me to just finish the damn thing.

Then, I have my friends on Google Plus, Twitter and Facebook. The other writers out there who’ve been through this, who know where I’m coming from, who can tell me that if I just push on, it’ll get better.

And then I discovered today something else that helps.

My stories are really, really good.

I discovered this by re-reading a few. See, here’s the thing. There’s this saying “fake it ‘till you make it.” So, I was reminded of that when I mentioned to someone that I was feeling like a writing fraud. So, I kept on writing, no matter how much of a struggle it got, or how much I thought what I was writing was shit.

Then, the other day, my wife sent me the link to sign up for Clarion writer’s workshop. So, I said I would fill it out, even though I’m convinced that I’m nowhere near good enough to even get accepted.

Part of the requirements is that I find two stories to submit. So, I’m going back through some of my shorts to find the best two to send in.

I’m reading a couple, some I can’t even remember writing, and I find myself thinking, “Man, this is really good.”

Over and over again. Yes, some of those stories sucked, but there was a surprising number of them that were good.

Stories that I wrote. That I thought were good.

It’s important.

And it’s freeing. It helps to remind me that I’m not a fraud. I really am a good writer. One that’s good enough to get into Clarion. And so now I’m filling out this application for myself, because, damnit, I AM good enough for this workshop. I AM good enough to be published.

I am a damn good writer.

And I’m not going to let anyone, not even myself, tell me otherwise.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Why is Writing Every Day so Hard?

Write every day. It’s advice that every single professional writer that I have ever read or seen in an interview has given. And for a reason, too, it’s good advice. Advice I've given myself, because I’ve done it, and it does work in improving your skills as a writer.

But the question I find myself facing right now is, why is this so hard?

Why is it difficult for me to write every day?

I mean, it’s not like I’m asking myself to finish a complete novel every day. Hell, I’ve set myself a goal this year of writing 500 words a day. That’s only a half hour of writing. So, it’s not a matter of time, because I can easily find a half hour every day to sit down and write something.

Dialogue, a description, the opening of a scene.


But, here we are, twenty five days into the year, and I’ve only written on nine of them.

Why is that?

I don’t know. It’s not like the book I’m currently writing has suddenly stopped being interesting. It’s still a ton of fun. In fact, I have a few other ideas, one for a short story, that I am working on as well.

So, it’s not inspiration that prevents me from writing.

So, what is it that prevents me from writing?

Sadly, I don’t have any real answers today. I’m mostly here to write down my thoughts, get them out, in the hopes that writing this blog post today, sharing my thoughts and struggles with you, will somehow help me.

I have had one thought, though. Over the years, I have learned that at work, I perform much better if I am entertained somehow. In the past, that meant music. Today, it means podcasts or audio books. The truth is, what entertains me isn’t really important, as long as it entertains and allows me to do my job.

So, I’ve been wondering if I need to do something similar with my writing. Maybe I need to find a way to entertain myself while I write. Music seems to be a good start, so I’m going to try and do that.

I’ll be sure to come back here and let you know if I find any answers, to both the question of why is it so hard, and to if the entertainment helps me write.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


In support of the protest against SOPA and PIPA I have blacked out this blog (as much as I can, at any rate).

For more information, go here.

Monday, January 9, 2012

A New Edition of an Old Game

So, normally, I use this blog to talk about writing stuff. Which makes sense. I mean, I am a writer, after all. But, today, I want to talk about something else. I believe that I have mentioned before that I am a Dungeons and Dragons geek. I have been playing that game since I was around 8 years old, thanks to my Dad and big brother.

And today, Wizards of the Coast, the current manufacture of Dungeons and Dragons (D&D), announced that they are producing a new editionof the game. If you’re into table top gaming, then let me tell you that this is a really big deal.

You see, a few years ago, Wizard’s released what is called the 4th Edition of D&D, and it was met with mixed reception, at best. The previous edition (3E, or 3.0, or 3.5 even), was well loved by pretty much everyone that played D&D, and even those that hated it didn’t hate it as much as the 4E detractors hated that version. And 4E was, let’s be honest, an attempt to bring some of the esthetics of an MMO to the tabletop. Now, personally, I don’t have an issue with that. It makes a certain amount of sense. D&D inspired many video games, up to and including World of Warcraft and Skyrim, and so it seemed only natural that the last edition of D&D be inspired by video games.

But, many didn’t agree. They hated the video game like properties of the game.

Myself, I ran a 4E campaign for around a year, and I enjoyed the system. It was streamlined in a lot of ways, and playing went a lot quicker, especially combat.

However, after playing for a year, I discovered the things about the edition I didn’t like. The first is that the game is really focused on mechanics. REALLY focused. I mean, sure, mechanics are important to every tabletop RPG. But, in 4E, the mechanics started becoming the REASON for the game, and not the way to play it. Story got lost in mechanics.

And note that I am saying mechanics here, not rules. There’s a difference.

For example, in my campaign, I got caught up in making sure that each adventure I wrote had the correct number of encounters in it, and that each encounter was perfectly balanced to my party. I made sure that there was enough treasure to keep the party balanced. Balance was super important. But, at one point, I noticed that keeping the balance, sticking to the mechanics of the game, became more important than the story I wanted to tell. I was adding encounters and treasure that didn’t make sense story-wise. And my players noticed and were starting to complain.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that 4E sucks and you should never play it. I have learned from this what rules to ignore in order to play the kind of adventures I want to play. It’s been the same in every edition of D&D I’ve played. Some rules you learn to ignore or ditch altogether. Some rules you replace with house rules. 4E wasn’t any different.

In this case, I learned that to make my games work, I needed to ignore the mechanics of adventure construction, and just write the stories I wanted to tell. The rules would remain the same, but the mechanics would be different.

But, as I stated, 4E divided the D&D community, in a way that previous editions had never done before.

And so instead of finding a D&D game to join, or getting some players from the local game store, finding a game became a matter of “what edition are you playing?”

And if it wasn’t the “right” edition, it could lead to blows.

Geeks takes this shit seriously.

So, when I heard this morning that Wizard’s was announcing that they were going to work on a new edition of D&D, I sighed in relief. Because as much as I enjoyed 4E, and still love 3.5, a fix for both the community and Wizard’s plummeting PR was needed.

And they have done two things with this new edition that will help with these problems.

The first is that they’ve re-hired Monty Cook, who helped craft 3E when it first came out. He’s a wildly popular game designer, and there’s a reason for that. He’s good at what he does. So, having him on the new edition team bodes well for it.

The second thing, and probably the more important of the two, is that they are crowdsourcing the new edition.

According to the official announcement, they want player participation. They plan on sending out emails to volunteers to playtest rules and provide feedback. Kind of like an alpha version, later to a beta version. Or perhaps this is the open beta. I’m not sure.

At any rate, I’ve signed up for this. Because I’m a big D&D fan, and I want to have some kind of say in the development of a game that has meant so much to me for so long. I want to have a game I can enjoy playing, and one that I can introduce to my own son.

So, personally, I’m excited for 5E D&D. I can’t wait to see not only what Wizard’s comes up with, but what all my fellow gamers come up with.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Writing Resolutions

Well, here we are, at the beginning of a new year. It’s that time when most people are making all kinds of resolutions, and writers are no exceptions.

I’m not really one for resolutions, however. I’ve discovered that they’re just big targets for disappointments. They hardly ever get accomplished, and they just serve as a reminder of the failure of not meeting them through the year.

However, I did feel that I needed to set some writing goals this year. Last year, while I did get in some good writing, I didn’t get in as much as I could have. Most of it, in fact, came during NaNoWriMo. The year before that, however, I managed to write one 5,000 word story a week for the whole year.

So, I thought, why is that? Well, it’s because I set myself a goal, and then set up a blog to hold myself responsible to.

So, I’ve decided to do the same thing this year. I am going to set myself a writing goal, and find some way to hold myself responsible to meet it.

And I found it the other day with this fantastic little Twitter hashtag and site started by Cara Michaels.


The idea is simple. Write 500 words a day for the whole year.

500. That’s not so hard. It’s about a half hour of solid writing for me.

So, that’s my plan. I’ve signed up to this sight, and plan on writing 500 words a day for the year, and will log my progress with the site above.

Thanks, Cara, for providing me with this much needed tool.