30 January 2006

Hammer and Shadow Is Out

I know this because UPS dropped off my comp copies today. It's a good looking book, and the new cover art is sweet. As my second Midnight contribution, H&S holds a special place in my heart because it was so much fun to write. I enjoyed working on it a great deal. I hope I can continue to have such luck on my future Midnight endeavors.

Last week, Green Ronin sent me some comp copies of Shadowspawn's Guide to Sanctuary. It's a hefty book, all the more impressive because I've only ever seen it in PDF format. Shadowspawn's Guide is a healthy companion to the Thieves' World Player's Guide, though it is hardly a requirement. Personally, I don't think I'd want to run a serious game of TW without it, but that's just me.

I love getting free books. Granted, technically, they're not really free. They're often a part of the contracted payment I get for my work on a book. Still, they're a wonderful bonus. Who doesn't like getting packages?

In other news, today marks my second week at my new day job. I think I'm getting the hang of things. Now if only my paychecks would catch up with my bills!

By the way, I've added a link to Gnymphs.net to my list of Industry-related friends and so forth. There is some adult content to be had there, but it's not a "hard core" site by any stretch of the imagination, and I respect what the ladies at Gnymphs.net are doing.

20 January 2006

Where To From Here?

Warning: This is another one of those self-searching blog entries. The world is full of them. People who don't know where they're going, or why, posting at the speed of thought in an effort to make some kind of sense of it all. It's the ultimate in exhibitionism. It's more personal than posting nude photos, and sometimes it's even more risque.

Now, with that disclaimer out of the way...

When folks find out that I'm a freelance writer, they eventually get around to asking me something along the lines of, "Do you ever intend to write full-time?" This came up when I was letting folks know that I was leaving my job at the tooth factory, as if that was what I was going to be doing instead of ordering copy paper, cutting tools, and reclining task chairs with ergonomic back supports.

I used to think it was possible. I mean, I know it's possible, but "possible" and "probable" aren't the same thing. They're close cousins, but they're definitely two different takes on the same concept.

The meat of it is: would I want to write full-time?

The answer, of course, is yes. I'd love to write for a living. However, it's not something I can see happening realistically, at least, not any time soon. Being published does not equate to being wealthy; heck, it doesn't even equate to being "comfortably well-off." I'm proud of the work I've done, and of the work that I continue to do, but it has yet to pay for itself.

As it stands, I'm in pretty good with three or four companies who offer me writing jobs regularly. I attempt to follow the good advice I've been given in regards to these jobs: produce good work, and send it in on time. I can only assume that it is this mantra that has kept me busy for the past eighteen or so months. I'm busy, yes, but I'm working at my own pace, writing in my off-hours when I'm not slaving away at my day job.

Yep, my day job. Back to that sticky wicket.

See, the day job is what makes the freelancing possible. If it weren't for the regular paychecks I'm getting (or, rather, that I will be getting [at the new job]), I'd be living in a cardboard box, diving into dumpsters, or standing at a stop light with a "will write for food" sign.

I'd like nothing more than to be my own boss, to make my own hours, and to write about the things I love seven days a week. Yet what would I be giving up? Regular, (relatively) risk-free (not to mention guaranteed) paychecks. Health insurance. Paid holidays.

I'd have to beat the bushes constantly in order to keep the contracts coming in, and I'm not sure that I've got reputation enough to reliably land as much work as I'd need to land in order to keep the rent paid, the baby fed, and the gas tank filled up. Heck, I've got a full-time job now (or I will, come Monday), and making ends meet is still a pain in the ass.

So, would I like to write full-time? Sure, yeah, why not? But the sad truth is that this is about as "full-time" as it's going to get, at least for the time being. I'm not saying that someday, maybe, if God smiles upon me and I'm living like Stephen King in my own private Bangor, that I won't spread my wings and fly happily to the mythical land of Full-Time Author with a smile on my face.

Yet life gives us a lot of puzzles to solve, and so I'll twist away at the proverbial Rubik's Cube until I figure out how to get all the colors to their respective sides. Right now, the solution that seems to be working the best for me is that I am working full-time so that I can write part-time. As long as my wife and son don't mind me running off to Borders so that I can meet my deadlines, and as long as the publishers keep giving me those same deadlines, I plan to keep it up.

I'm wondering now why I got off on this rant. I'm not sure why. I guess that staying home with the sprout these past few days (even though the time spent alone with him was relatively short) has given me a new perspective. I haven't had anything to write, specifically (though I do have a synopsis I need to finish), but even if I'd had something on my plate, I doubt I would've gotten much of it done.

I also have a strange feeling that this year is going to be a busy one. Last year was busy, or so I thought. I have a feeling this year will be even more so. Do I mind? No, not really. Like I've said before, I enjoy the work. It's going to be a fine balancing act, weighing family vs. writing vs. everything else.

Can I do it? Yeah, I think I can. But I'm going to need to keep some perspective as I march along, just to stay sane.

Writing really is like a muscle. You have to work it all the time to keep it strong. Sometimes I lose sight of that, but I do try to write every day. Whether it's for a project, or merely a long-winded blog entry.

Ah, no more. Not tonight. Enough exercise for today. I'm about ranted out.

19 January 2006

Marcus Makes Third (This You Already Knew)!

Yeah, it's pretty pathetic when I can crow about having a character make 3rd level. Truth be told, I've been running a lot of games over the past several years, but I've not played in too many over the long term. I think that the longest-lived character I had prior to Marcus was in an AD&D 2nd Edition game, and that was prior to 3rd edition being released.

Edit: How soon I forget! I admit that I'm wrong on this count; I played in a 3.0/3.5 game a few years back, set in the world of Conan, and my character made it to 5th. To be fair, I've also got a 5th level Swashbuckler/Rogue that I played in my friend Dave H's "Tantalus" campaign, and I'm definitely quite fond of that character. So, friends, forgive me for overlooking those games, I wasn't thinking straight. It looks like Marcus has at least two levels to go before I can raise him to the lofty height of "longest-lived character."

[Removes foot from mouth.]

So let me be excited. As for stats, here goes. Not much new since the last upgrade.

Marcus: Human Clr3; CR3; Medium-size Humanoid (Human); HD 3d8+6 (16+1d8+2 hp); Init +1; Spd 20 ft (30 ft w/o armor); AC 17 (+4 armor, +2 shield, +1 Dex), touch 11, flat-footed 16; Base Atk +2; Grp +4; Atk +5 melee (1d8+2, longsword); Full Atk +5 melee (1d8+2, longsword); Space/Reach 5'/5'; SA Turn undead; SQ None; AL NG; SV Fort +5, Ref +2, Will +6; Str 14, Dex 13, Con 15, Int 12, Wis 17, Cha 10.
   Skills and Feats: Concentration +7 (+2 Con, 5 ranks), Craft +1 (+1 Int, 0 ranks), Diplomacy +0 (+0 Cha, 0 ranks), Heal +9 (+3 Wis, 6 ranks), Knowledge (arcana) +4 (+1 Int, 3 ranks), Knowledge (history) +2 (+1 Int, 1 rank), Knowledge (religion) +7 (+1 Int, 6 ranks), Knowledge (the planes) +2 (+1 Int, 1 rank), Spellcraft +3 (+1 Int, 2 ranks); Cleave, Improved Unarmed Strike, Martial Weapon Proficiency (Longsword), Power Attack, Weapon Focus (Longsword).
   Languages: Common, Celestial.
   Possessions: Money (33gp, 6sp, 5cp), Backpack, Bedroll, Dagger, Explorer's Outfit, Flask, Flint and Steel, Heavy Wooden Shield, Wooden Holy Symbol, Hooded Lantern, Light Mace, Longsword, 2 Flasks of Lamp Oil, Belt Pouch, Scale Mail, Waterskin, Whetstone, Healing Kit, Thunderstone, Smoke Stick, 2 Sunrods, 5 Tindertwigs, Vial of Antitoxin.
   Magic: Potion of Cure Moderate Wounds.
   Spells (4/3+1/2+1): 0 – detect magic, guidance, light, resistance; 1st – bless, magic weapon (D), sanctuary, shield of faith; 2nd – bull's strength, hold person, spiritual weapon (D).
   Domains: Healing (Healing spells at +1 caster level), War (bonus feats).
   Spell Saves: DC = 10 + 3 + Spell Level.
   Turning Check: 1d20 + 2.
   Turning Damage: 2d6 + 3.
   Action Points: 6.
   Experience: 3000+.

I've considered some of the available PrCs for Marcus, but I'm ultimately leaning towards a multi-class Cleric/Fighter combination. My original concept for Marcus was a hospitaler -- someone who cares for and defends travelers and pilgrims. The Hospitaler PrC in Complete Divine is far too centered on mounted combat to really mesh with Marcus, and I'm not going to shoehorn him into it.

As you can see, I've taken Improved Unarmed Strike as his 3rd level feat. I'd like to try out some of the close combat-related feats, like Improved Grapple. Seems like we've had lots of critters grappling us lately. Might as well fight fire with fire.

Besides that, I've noticed a distinct lack of 0-level cleric spells (ie, orisons) in the published material. Even the new Spell Compendium lists only one new 0-level divine spell. At lower levels, every spell counts, even the crummy 0-level ones. Oh, well.

Back to the salt mine...

18 January 2006

A Shogun Named Marcus

Nah, he's not a shogun. We've been over this before. As I mentioned, though, I've written up a brief background for him, and this is where I'll post it. Enjoy!

Name: Marcus Baer.
Age: 27.
Sex: Male.
Height: 5'9".
Hair Color: Dirty blond.
Hairstyle: Collar-length and well-maintained.
Eye Color: Hazel.
Skin: Losing its tan.
Distinguishing Marks: A lightning bolt tattoo on his left bicep.

Description: Of average height, Marcus looks a bit stocky when dressed in his fighting gear: a suit of scale mail which has turned more than its fair share of blades, covered with a simple stained tabard that was once white. He keeps his hair and moustache as neat as possible, but this is not always a simple matter when he is traveling. His hazel eyes are wide and almost naïve, but this might be construed as an act on his part. He is honest to a fault, though he attempts to keep his own counsel unless asked. He doesn't mind heroics, either on his part or on the part of his companions, but he prefers to hedge his bets whenever possible.
Background: Marcus Baer was born in the Shield Lands, in the city of Critwall. His father was a town watchman, and his mother was a laundress. The Shield Lands have known little peace, being as close to the Horned Society as they are. Marcus' father died in battle while Marcus was still a boy, and his distraught mother sent him away to be cared for at Critwall's temple of Heironeous.
   As he grew, Marcus' preoccupation with his father, who he viewed as a fallen hero, shaped his desire to join the Paladins of Heironeous. Despite his initial zeal, Marcus proved to be a poor candidate. He was far less disciplined than necessary, and had "washed out" by the time he was sixteen. The priests of Heironeous' temple, in an effort to salvage Marcus' talents, directed him to join the priesthood. Marcus would have none of it, and set out on his own to find his own faith.
   Time passed, and Marcus traveled far and wide. Eventually, he discovered his own form of worship, which revolved around the very principles of benevolence and mercy. While he honors all good-aligned gods, he refuses to serve any one of them above all others. He is, instead, a servant of all good deities, and will have it no other way. He sees organized religions as being unnecessarily bureaucratic, given to the faults of the men and women that control them.
   Marcus' travels have brought him to Cauldron, a place that he has been drawn to. He is unsure why the gods have brought him to this stinking, volcanic city. He sees that there is much good that can be accomplished here, starting with four children who have come up missing from an orphanage. It is obvious that evil stalks the depths of the city, so Marcus will seek to stamp it out as best he can along with the aid of his new allies.
Allies: Anyone he may have aided in his travels might be considered an ally, or at the least, may afford him some concessions in the case that their goals are not currently aligned.
Enemies: Marcus sees the servants of wicked gods as enemies of life. In his journey across the lands, he has opposed the agendas of many evil gods, including Iuz, Incabulos, Hextor, and Erythnul. As such, servants of these deities who have crossed paths with Marcus may take a special interest in undermining his efforts. Additionally, there are those in the priesthood and martial orders of Heironeous who view Marcus, at best, as weak, and at worst, as a traitor to the faith.

So, that's it. It's not much, but it fleshes him out quite a bit more than he'd been fleshed out before. Hopefully, he's not as bland as he used to be.

Unemployment Means Never Having To Say "I'm Bored"

Even though I am, somewhat.

The boy is in a nap presently. He must've needed it, because he's been sleeping for almost 90 minutes as of this writing. On one hand, it's nice, because I've got time to myself. On the other hand, I'm a little on edge; after all, he might wake up at any moment. There's little point in getting too deeply involved in a project, since he's liable to be up and at 'em in the next ten minutes.

I'm not really bored. Stephen definitely keeps things interesting, especially when he's awake. I've been able to watch a couple of Battlestar Galactica episodes today. Earlier, his mother and I took him to get his DOC band adjusted for the last time. I had intended to take him to the Wild Animal Park, but we were both a bit tired. He had a (rather stinky) poo diaper after eating lunch.

Sorry for the play-by-play. These are the best days of my life, so I may as well be detailed.

I've also been working on a background for Marcus, my cleric in Alan's Shackled City campaign. I expect he'll be up to 3rd level soon, so I'll repost his stats along with whatever history I manage to piece together. I'm not an expert on Greyhawk, so it's been interesting. I've done my share of playing games set in Greyhawk, and I even ran a brief (evil) campaign set there (which petered out when half the group moved out of state). In other words, I'm familiar with it, but I'm not precisely a font of information or ideas on the topic.

At least Marcus has a last name now.

Back to Battlestar Galactica, I'm not sure how I feel about it. I'm enjoying it, more or less, but I still have these knee jerk responses to the new series that are based on my childhood memories of the old one. I'm not about to say the old one was better, but it was good for what it was. At the time, what kind of FX budget did you expect for a science fiction series on syndicated television?

Oh, well. The child is awake. More later.

16 January 2006

That's That

For the first time in twenty-nine months, I am unemployed. As bad as that sounds, my unemployment will only last for six whole days. I will spend much of this week watching Little Einsteins and Teletubbies with Stephen, as I gear up for large doses of both gaming and game developing.

I suppose the next few weeks will be interesting.

Change is good...right?

My Last Day There

Today marks my last day at a company I've been with for over two years. For a number of reasons, I've decided to move on. I'm leaving a lot of great people behind, and I fear that I will lose touch with a great many of them as a result. This is unavoidable, perhaps. Sometimes the only thing I hold in common with these folks is the fact that we work for the same employer.

In any case, I'm a little torn, but I know things will work out. Time will tell.

07 January 2006

Happy New Year

See title.

The first week of the year has been hectic! There's been a change in the software we use where I work, and the integration is rife with bugs and other issues. This is less a problem for me than for my co-workers, since I will be leaving the company on the 16th of January.

I've got another job lined up. I'll be doing much the same thing (buying), but for substantially more pay. It's a good opportunity for me, and I'm hopeful that it will help to boost our standard of living a tad.

On the writing front:

I'm currently working on a project for Upper Deck Entertainment involving one of their CCGs. Can't say much more than that, but it's been interesting to be able to branch out from RPGs a little bit and see how the other half lives. I'm not sure if this will turn into a steady gig or not; right now, it's just a single contract. We'll have to wait and see how I perform.

There's also a new Warhammer project in the offing. It's a long-term project for a very sizeable book, and from the looks of the outline it's going to be a blast.

As you might know, I've always had a great gaming love affair with Cyberpunk 2020. As it turns out, the third edition of Cyberpunk has been released on DriveThruRPG, and the hardcopy is due to hit store shelves real soon now. I've been invited to participate in a couple of CP-related projects, and I'll update you on the status of those once I'm able to.

Template Troves III has seen a couple more reviews on RPGNow, as well as a couple of reviews on ENWorld. Joe Kushner gives a good accounting of the product in this four-star review. Not every review of the product is stellar, but as of this entry, none are rated lower than four stars.

So that's that. I need to get ready to move, as I'm heading to Borders today to get some of that Upper Deck project finished, and I'm dropping my boy off at his grandma's house on the way. It's going to be a busy weekend, I think.