Friday, August 29, 2014

Five Things on a Friday: Skyscrapers, Checks & Balances, and a Butt

I’m out of the hospital and ready to go!
If you were wondering, no, I definitely do not recommend “flesh-eating antibiotic-resistant bacterial infection brought on by spider bite” as a way to miss a week of work.  My advice is to just suck it  up and use a week’s vacation.  The folks at Bridgeport Hospital were great, but honestly, I hope I never have to go back.
“The SEC still has the best league in college football. But the best teams this year may be Oregon and Florida State.”

Thursday, August 28, 2014

WdH1: The Fire-Breathing Elephant Expedition (Duke Wallace Foghorn IV)

This is the second in a series of posts that collectively define an adventure module for the new (5th) edition of Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) called "The Fire-Breathing Elephant Expedition".  The module is set in Wanderhaven, the homebrew campaign setting in which my kids and I play and in which I set my book, Sneakatara Boatman and the Priest of Loki.  It's meant to bridge the gap from "The Lost Mine of Phandelver" in the D&D Starter Set to the forthcoming adventure The Rise of Tiamat.  As such, it's a short campaign, taking the Player-Characters (PCs) from mid-5th to 7th level.

This post makes use of the following previous posts:
Today we meet our expedition's sponsor, Duke Wallace Foghorn IV.

Duke Wallace Foghorn IV

Duke Wallace is a lithe, athletic man in his early thirties.  Though not a professional adventurer, he is trained to use the sword, the lance, the dueling blade (rapier), and the longbow, and he is reputed to be the finest horseman in the entire Kingdom.  Before Wallace III’s untimely death, the current Duke Wallace commanded the Blueblood Regiment of the Royal Heavy Cavalry Brigade.  He saw action in several skirmishes in the hinterlands north of Wanderhaven as well as one major deployment to coastal Frankonia where he fought Sentralian forces from the Legion of the Red Lord.  By all accounts, Wallace handled himself well at every turn.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

This Weekend in College Football

My buddy Henry and I were talking college football this weekend, and I got all excited.  There are a lot of games this weekend, and quite a few of them either look like they might be good or hold some interest for me personally.

This list isn't all-encompassing, but it is the games I think are worth at least a glance.  A Google Drive version of the list is here, which includes TV Channel information, or you can find the complete list at ESPN.Go.Com.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

WdH1: The Fire-Breathing Elephant Expedition (Introduction)

On Sunday, I put up stats for a creature of my daughter’s design, the Fire-Breathing Elephant.  I speculated in the write-up that one could design an entire campaign around the idea of hunting fire-breathing elephants, and as I thought more about it, a entire story concept came to mind.  Since I already need a mid-tier filler piece for my home game, I decided to start writing it up, and you can make of it what you will.  I’d love feedback, so if you’ve got some, let me have it!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Wanderhaven Sourcebook: The Fire-Breathing Elephant

My daughter Emma drew me a picture while I was in the hospital.  Now that I'm out, I feel like that picture needs stats*.

The Fire-Breathing Elephant
Huge Magical Beast, Unaligned

The Fire-Breathing Elephant

Friday, August 22, 2014

Five Things on a Friday: Looks Like I'm Gonna Live

1.  I got bit by a spider, but it didn't make me a superhero.
It happened last Friday.  I'd just gotten on the train for home after a really nice ride up from my office on my bike.  I sat down on the floor because the train was full, felt the bite, but didn't think much of it at the time.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Sketch in my Notebook (Part 12): Lost in New York (Part 2)

This is the second half of Chapter 9, which began last week.  To catch up on the whole story, check out the Sketch in My Notebook tab.


The Return of Dr. Necropolis
Chapter 9: Lost in New York (Part 2)

He looked around, but there was nothing close at hand.  They hadn’t tied him to the stretcher—that was a blessing—but he was still shivering, though less now than before.  The shivers were more intermittent than uncontrolled, enough to remind him that his escape had nearly cost him is life but not enough to stop him doing something when the time came.  
He hoped.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Naomi's Story: Prelude to The Stone of Kings

I started writing this story for a friend of mine.  Well, not really for her, per se, but inspired by her life.  I took my usual process and applied it to somebody else's life with what I personally thought were interesting results.

Alas, I ultimately decided to take the story in a completely different direction, and that's why I'm sharing it now.  I happen to know that this particular piece isn't going anywhere.


Naomi's Story

“They’re moving into position, Naomi.”
She looked up.  Tiberius stood in the doorway to her command tent looking concerned.  He held his helmet under his arm, but his shield was already set in place on his arm, and once he set his helmet and drew his gladius, he would be ready for battle.
“How long?” she asked.
“Half an hour?  Maybe more, if the gods look upon us with favor.”
“Do the gods ever look upon us with favor, Tiberius?”
He smiled, and it set his whole face alight.  “They did me, once.”

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Saturday Reading Room: Dealing with Rejection

I got my first rejection letter (email) yesterday, and I'm embarrassingly happy about it.

Sally: She said no, right?

Me: Yeah.

Sally: So why are you so happy?  Just because she read your work?

Me: Exactly!  I already knew my book's not for everyone.  She gave it a chance.  She's allowed to not like it.  This way, at least I know she looked at it.  That's all I wanted.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Five Things on a Friday: When Superheroes Attack!

It's been a crazy, crazy week, and not always in a good way.  Let's get to it.

The effort by the NYPD comes after costumed characters have come under scrutiny for bad behavior of all sorts…

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Looking for Hope

I've been Googling YA Genre Fantasy agents and publishers this morning, and what I've learned is that there's a whole industry out there dedicated to helping would-be authors find agents and publishers. It's sad. Not that folks want to tell their stories but that there are so many people trying to tell their stories that a whole industry has sprung up around them to try to make a buck off their desperation to be heard.  A week's subscription to one of the sites that hosts a searchable index of agents is $24.99.  To get access for a year, it's $399.  Prices to attend various "meet folks in the industry" events can be much more, and there are a raft of services beyond that to help you get your manuscript into shape--or even just figure out if it is at all commercial!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

"I love it when a plan comes together..."

I'm reading The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith, and I've just realized that almost every writer I've ever read skips over the hero's plan right at the end of the book. This is presumably because the plan's going to work, and they want you to be surprised at the way the book ends.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Sketch in my Notebook (Part 11): Lost in New York (Part 1)

I was all set to start working on Naomi's story (working title "The Stone of Kings", although I guarantee that's not what the final story will be called), but then I started feeling bad.  Poor Bob Ben (aka Robin) has been waiting patiently for the next part of Dr. Necropolis for months now, and I keep telling her that it's the next thing I'm gonna work on, and then something else comes up, and it's just not.

That is not the way that stories get finished.

I've had this next bit of the story outlined for months.  It's really long and involved, though, so I've been putting off the actual writing.  I can only get away with that because I have the outline in hand and can therefore theoretically come back later...

Anyway, I spent part of my vacation outlining "The Stone of Kings", meaning that I can now put that off for awhile.  It probably needs to happen anyway since it'll doubtless do me some good to get my head out of Wanderhaven for a few months.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Tilting at Windmills

I started sending out query letters for my book yesterday.  Not long into the process, I discovered horror stories about the size of various agents' and publishers' "sush piles", and I gotta say, it makes the submissions process feel like a wasted effort.  Who knows, maybe somebody will like my cover letter and respond, but it's much more likely that nobody's gonna bother reading my stuff at all because it was sent in cold.

The problem is, lots of folks like to write, and that makes it a huge pain in the ass to figure out what's worth reading.  That's true at every level.  As an example, Sci Fi author/Futurist Cory Doctorow took this picture of Tor Books' slush pile, and now it's famous:

Sunday, August 10, 2014

We're Home

If there's an upside to being back at home, it's that we have TV in the house.  I watched part of the Giants pre-season game last night while flipping back and forth to try and catch Johnny Manziel's debut for the Browns.  Sadly, the Browns put Manziel in too late, so that by the time he was in, Sally and I were already watching Suits.

I keep wanting to tell myself that it's good to be back, but I miss my beautiful lake view in the morning and the call of the loons.  I slept so well up there, but last night I was restless from the drive and--as often happens--couldn't stop thinking about the million-and-five things that I need to get back to now that we're home.

Heck, even our dog seems to miss Maine, but she's re-adjusting better than Sally and I are.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Pics from Blue Hill

Yesterday was our last full day at the cabin.  We hung around for awhile, swam, and took out the canoe, but it was mostly a lazy day. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

We drove out to the town of Blue Hill late in the day.  There's a local brewery out there that we'd read about, and Sally and the girls were looking to do some last minute souvenir shopping.

One Last Picture from Green Lake

This one's gonna have to last me awhile...

The car's all packed up. We'll be on the road before the turn of the hour. 


Sneax and company fought their first dragon last night.  In the D&D Starter Set there's an adventure called The Lost Mine of Phandelver, and in it, you're trying to rescue a trio of dwarfs, the Rockseekers, and help them reopen an ancient dwarven mine. One of the them gets captured and taken to Cragmaw Castle, but you don't know where the castle is, you have to seek out the druid Reidoth to get directions.  Reidoth will show you where the castle is--he'll even lead you to the ancient mine--but his price is steep. He wants you to chase off a young green dragon that's taken up residence in the ruins of a wizard's tower in the abandoned town of Thundertree.  This presents something of a problem.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Five Things on a Friday: the End is Near

1.  Vacation is Almost Over.
We've been in Maine for ten days, but tomorrow we have to go back.  I suppose I'm ready.  It's been great being up here with my family, but it's been a little like living in suspended animation. I want to get back, start sending out inquiry letters for my book, put my new story notes into some kind of order, and write.  Stuff from work has also started piling up, but I refuse to think about that just yet.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Schoodic Penninsula

We got a deliberately late start yesterday.  We lazed around the cabin, ate blueberry pancakes, and then played through the first part of Sneax and company's journey up from the town of Phandalin to the ruins of Thundertree. The company traveled safely the first day, but their camp was attacked by a band of orcs that night, and in fighting off the orcs, they gained enough experience to get to Level 3.  At some point today, I have to sit down and help my Players level their characters up.

This, by the way, is how my book was born. It's a set of short stories inspired by our travels in Maine, starring my kids' D&D characters.  This particular trip has seen a little more focus on my wife's new character, Salamatu, and her incipient romance with the dashing young Eldritch Knight/Artificer Wolfgang Amadeus, of House Amadeus.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Cadillac Mountain

MapMyHike says that the northern trail is a climb of some 3.5-miles. Cadillac Mountain peaks at just over 1,500 ft. above sea level, but of course, we didn't start at sea level, so I'm gonna guess we climbed something like 1,000 ft. from where we parked the car.   My cell connection isn't strong enough to verify that right now, unfortunately. 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Imagining My Family as a Party of D&D Characters

As we were walking back down Cadillac Mountain this afternoon, my daughter Emma started asking me about what kinds of races and classes I thought the various members of our family would be. This went on for nearly an hour and wound up encompassing almost everyone we know, but of the big four, this is what I've got, in the order in which we discussed them.

Wandering through Ellsworth

Yesterday was a planned rest day.  We didn't spend much time at the cabin last year when we came up, and that was fine, but it also felt like a waste in retrospect.  This year we're hoping to take more advantage of our home-away-from-home, and yesterday was part of that plan.

When Sally and the kids finally got up, we had breakfast, played some D&D, and then Sally and I went out in the canoe.  Green Lake was formed by glacier activity millions of years ago, and even now, it's often shallow, with massive granite boulders and little islands poking up at odd intervals. We paddled around some of these islands, saw a few island cabins and a few of the larger lake estates. It was nice, but we didn't take the phones or cameras for fear of them getting wet.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Riding the Carriage Roads

We road the carriage roads in Acadia yesterday. Hannah was on her bike; Emma was behind me on the attachment.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Bubble Rock

We drove down to Acadia National Park yesterday and hiked up to Bubble Rock.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Fun & Games in Maine

Sally called me at work early in the week to tell me that the owners of the cabin where we're staying had told her that we could go up as soon as we wanted. The cabin was empty this week, so they may as well let us in rather than have it stay vacant.

I'd been planning to work through Wednesday, leave three hours early on Thursday, and then get up early on Friday morning for the drive up. When they offered us the extra day, though, I took Wednesday completely off, and we worked hard that day to get ready to go a day early.  Thursday morning we got Great Santini-style, starting at 3:30 am. We hit the road at around 4:40, and we didn't stop until we crossed into Massachussets.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Five Things on a Friday: Looking Forward to Vacation

There’s a lot to be excited about this week, so let’s get straight to it.
1. OkCupid Set up Bad Dates in 'An Experiment' (CNN)
Online dating site OkCupid revealed on Monday the results of a study it conducted, in which it told subscribers they were more compatible than they really were. The result? There's something to the power of suggestion.