Showing posts with label real life. Show all posts
Showing posts with label real life. Show all posts

Got Me a Jorb

Last month, as you'll recall, I lost my game design gig. For the past several weeks, I've followed every lead I have and pulled together pieces of several jobs. Unfortunately, none of them are big enough (or steady and consistent enough) to serve as a Family-Providing Job.

But that's the past! I am now officially a remote editor on the roster for an online editing and proofreading firm.

Okay, that sounds super boring, but let me tell you why it's exciting IN LIST FORM!
  1. It's a steady job! Game design is super awesome, but it's hard to consistently find contracts for a remote designer/writer/whatever I am.
  2. It's ridiculously flexible! I can stay on the roster as long as I edit a minimum 10,000 words a month, which is like a day of work for me. That means that I can still do game design contracts, freelance editing, and writing gigs as they come up, and this editing firm will still be there when I'm done.
  3. It'll make me a better editor! I get tons of practice, advice from professionals, and even free training, so every job I take for these guys improves my skills for my private clients as well as my skills as a writer.
  4. I set my own hours! Do I need to make extra money one month? I can work crazy hard and do that. Do I need to take a week off suddenly without asking for permission? I can do that too. Nobody cares, so long as I meet my minimum (and feed my family, which my family cares about, I guess).
  5. I work to a task rather than to an arbitrary number of hours! On Torment, I was paid monthly no matter how much I worked -- and I worked a lot. I don't regret the time I put into that game (the opposite, actually; I wish I could have put more time into it), but it wasn't really sustainable. On the other hand, most projects pay me only for the hours I do, which is more fair but gets tricky when they don't have enough for me to do or when there's too much for me to do in the hours they've budgeted for me. I much prefer to get paid for a task and then be left to work at my own speed. I don't have to stress about working too slow (within reason), and if I work fast then I get bonus freetime.
  6. As I said on Twitter a few weeks ago, I freaking love editing! I get to help people! And clean things! And make money doing it!
Reasons #2-6, by the way, apply to freelance editing as well. And freelancing pays better. AND I get to work on awesome projects like novels and RPG rulebooks. But yeah, that Reason #1 is kind of important. Editing resumes and college essays and dissertations might not be a manic dream job, but it's exactly the glue I need to hold all these other job pieces together while still keeping my family alive and junk. (And I do get to edit novels sometimes).

Other theoretically more exciting updates, in no particular order:
  • My Sea of Souls outline is still in the hands of the person who will decide its fate. That's publishing, man.
  • I'm working on a gamebook for a mobile game company. It's no steady job (and no contract has been signed, so I can't say anything concrete), but it's pretty exciting. Gamebooks are basically my prestige class.
  • I'm doing some proofreading and editing for Monte Cook Games and enjoying every minute of it (and not just because I get to read all this awesome stuff before anybody else). I love all my clients, but MCG might be my favorite.
  • On Sunday nights (US time), I'm currently streaming Ori and the Blind Forest, which is one of the prettiest most explory-fun games I've played.
  • I might MIGHT be able to breathe new life into ye olde Cunning Folk (which could be exciting for the two of you who've been reading this blog since forever).
As always, more on these if/when I have it.

In the meantime, how are you doing? What are you playing? Or watching? Or whatever you do for fun?



Let Me Edit Your Book

While I'm in between design gigs, I've decided to offer up my services as a freelance editor. I've been critiquing and editing novels for years (in addition to virtually every single conversation in the incredibly verbose Torment), and I'd like to use that experience to help you.

If you'd like to have a professional author with an obsessive eye for detail take a look at your novel, I'm your guy. I'm offering several different levels of editing, including a sample edit so you can try before you buy. If you can't find what you're looking for... well, I'll be surprised.

Details on the Editing Services page, here.



Update, August 2017

Hey, guys! If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, then you probably already know this, but for those who don't: my new game design gig (mentioned in the last post) has ended and I am currently looking for new work.

Being unemployed is weird, but I think I'm through the emotional worst of it (he says, just before his family runs out of money entirely and he discovers new meanings of "worst"). I have a few leads, though nothing concrete yet as of this writing. Honestly, I'm excited at the possibilities, but that's easy to say, isn't it? Possibilities are always exciting.

Here are some other things that are going on:

1) I'm still thankful. Remember that gratitude posting I talked about last year? I'm still doing it, day 257 and counting. And I'm really glad I have been. Not even counting the rotting landfill that is American current events, I've had a number of depressive times in my own life this past year. Forcing myself to literally count my blessings has really helped me get through them.

If my notifications are any indicator, it's helped other people as well. So no worries. I'm gonna keep going.

2) Sea of Souls. Last time, I mentioned a Middle Grade novel tentatively titled Sea of Souls. This novel has been outlined and the outline sent to the person who requested it. We'll see what they think. Me? I'm excited. This novel feels important to me, more so than most things I've written, and I'm anxious to see what comes of it.

3) I'm streaming on Twitch. What's streaming, you ask? Basically, you get to watch me play a game while you and other fun folk chat at me (my family, in particular, is pretty fun to chat with). I've been playing games like Thimbleweed Park, Black the Fall, and Old Man's Journey -- mostly games with strong narratives because that's the kind of thing I enjoy. If you'd like to watch, head over here on US Sunday nights: https://www.twitch.tv/adamheine_th, or you can catch up on old streams at YouTube here: https://www.youtube.com/user/AdamHeine.

(Yes, I realize I stream the same time as Game of Thrones. Whatever.)


I've got some other things going on, but I can't talk about them yet as they're all just possibilities at this point. None of them are guaranteed provision for my family, but they're exciting possibilities with the potential to provide. I'll tell you more when I can.

How are you guys doing? Tell me in the comments.



Current Status

For a long time, not a lot had changed, hence the lack of updates. But here's what's going on in my life right now that you may (or may not) be interested in:

1) Torment is out. You probably already know this, but if you don't let me say it again: TORMENT IS OUT FOR PS4, XBOX, PC, MAC, AND LINUX. It's also getting some pretty great reviews, with a metascore of 83 on Metacritic. I don't think I could be happier with all of our work.

2) I have a new game design gig. I am not (currently) working for inXile and instead am doing narrative design for Nexon. I do very much hope I get to work with the fine folks at inXile again in the future, but I'm also pretty excited about what we're doing at Nexon. Such is the life of a freelancer.

3) I'm currently drafting "Secret Middle Grade Fantasy Project." I want to tell you more, but I can't. Suffice to say I'm excited about this project.

4) I'm also writing another Middle Grade novel. This one tentatively called Sea of Souls. It's very different from anything I've written, which makes me both scared and excited. I think it could be pretty great, but we'll see!

5) I'm considering starting a Twitch stream. Because obviously I have all this free time. If you don't know what Twitch is, don't worry about it yet (I'll explain more if/when I do). Right now, I'm just trying things out and deciding what I want to do with it (and why). Any thoughts you have on the topic are welcome.

6) I'm finishing up Rurouni Kenshin. Thinking about what to watch next. Probably Iron Fist (since I'm fully invested in the Netflix Marvel universe), but there are so. Many. Shows.

7) I'm (finally) playing Banner Saga 2. And discovering I really suck at it, but also discovering how not to suck at it, which is fun.


As for other things you might be interested in -- like Izanami's Choice, some kind of sequel to Izanami's Choice, Post-Apoc Ninjas, etc -- I have no new news on these things (hence the long periods of silence). But that doesn't mean they have disappeared. As always, I'll let you know when I have something to share!

So that's what's going on with me. What have you been doing lately?




On Being Thankful

I don't remember why, but decades ago I decided, as part of reflecting on the day, I would name whatever good things had happened that day. Whether they were big, awesome things like getting to speak to the girl I had a crush on (it happened once!) or small, stupid things like getting a green light on my way home from work. My teen years, like most, included some dark times, but I believe that habit helped me through.

Today, when I'm having a crappy day or bordering on depression, I'll force myself to name five things I'm thankful for that day, whatever they are. The first one or two are easy but have little effect. The third or fourth is always difficult to think of. I often want to give up. But by the time I get to number five -- for some weird, nigh-magical reason -- I actually feel better (and usually name one or two more things because it's easier all of a sudden).

With social media, I've seen at least a couple of people now post one thing they're thankful for each day for a year. My brother, in particular, has kept going and is now on year four. These posts don't often make me laugh out loud or inform my day (the two main things I hope for in social media), but they make me smile. They provide pleasant bright spots in what can sometimes be a dark feed.

They remind me there are things to be thankful for.

With all the crap my feeds have been filled with, I don't know why I haven't started the same thing sooner. But I have now. You are more than welcome to follow on Facebook or Twitter, but honestly it's not for you. It's for me, to remember that there is always something good -- there is always light.

And if that light touches even one other person? Well, that's awesome. That's the one thing I want most to do.

In the comments then: What are you thankful for today? There is nothing too small.

5 Things You Might Need to Hear Right Now

My hand-crafted echo chambers are full of mourning and outrage (with a sprinkling of praises and celebration). Reading through it is hard and not good for anything useful of any kind. Expectations have been shattered, and some are genuinely afraid for their lives or livelihood.

If your echo chamber is similar -- or if it's your life or livelihood that's endangered -- I'm not going to tell you it'll be okay or it will get better. I don't know that. I don't. But I do know a few things you might need to hear right now.


1) Take care of yourself. If you fall apart, nothing else you take in or put out will matter. There is no shame in taking a few days off to cry or laugh or escape. In fact, there may be shame in not doing that.
 
2) Turn off the Endless Browser of Outrage. I'm in a much better place than I was a month ago, but even I feel the gravity of the downward spiral with each turn of the scroll wheel.

STOP IT. Your life is not in here. It's out there, with friends and family. Nothing here will affect what you do out there, so if the Browser of Outrage is stealing your life, kill it. Take that life back.

3) Love someone. Love everyone. Be nice to nobody in particular. Be the change you want to see in the world.

I mean in real life. You can love people online too, but it's way more effective in real life.

4) Do you create? Then create. If you can't create for anything right now, then don't. Create for you. If you can create for a purpose, do that too.
 
5) Have a booplesnoot.


I Took Two Weeks Off Social Media and All I Got Was This Lousy Blog Post

If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook then you may have noticed that I took the last two weeks off from social media.


So there were a lot of reasons, but mostly it was my kids being off school for two weeks and the aforementioned big ugly reason I haven't blogged much. (My kids are not related to my anxiety, but both things affect how much time I have to get creative work done).

"Okay, so... what'd you get out of it?"

Right, well first you need to understand how Twitter and Facebook factor into my normal life. 

On a good day, the first thing I do is get through all the e-mails the US sent me while I was sleeping. Then I sift through Twitter/FB (and any associated articles) while I'm eating breakfast. It's my newspaper. I have a couple of lists of people for whom I try to read everything I missed, and for the rest I just read whatever Twitter and Facebook deem important for me to read. I usually do this again at lunch and then at night when I need to decompress.

On a bad day, I will additionally be checking them constantly -- every time Unity compiles, every time Torment loads a new scene, every time I come back from the bathroom, every time I get a glass of water or someone asks me a question or a cat mews outside. Hell, I checked Twitter three times just now while I was writing that sentence.

Lately, I noticed I was having more bad days, hence the social media vacation.

So what happened these two weeks? A list:
  • The first 2-3 days were hard as hell. I felt disconnected from everything and everyone. When Unity was compiling, I had to sit there and watch like a chump.
  • I found myself checking fivethirtyeight.com and Izanami's Amazon ranking about ten times more often than their updates can possibly justify.
  • I gathered news from primary news sources. It was super weird.
On the other hand....
  • I had way more time for Torment, my kids, and Shadowrun Hong Kong.
  • I watched the third debate without commentary and it didn't make me mad even a little (exasperated isn't the same as mad, right?).
  • I remembered how to solve Rubik's cube.
  • I didn't get depressed even once.

Let me say that last one again: I DIDN'T GET DEPRESSED EVEN ONCE.

When it came time to get back on, I was actually afraid. Did I want to go back to the monster that sapped 2-3 hours of my day and an immeasurable quantity of my joy?

Well, yes I did. Because among other things, that's how I connect with the world and that's how people connect with me. (The second day of my break, my mom IMed me to say my posts helped her get out of bed in the morning and now she didn't have a reason. I love my mommy.)

But I didn't want to do it the way I had been doing it, so I decided to change a few things.


Limiting the time is easy (for certain values of easy). For one thing, I don't need to read every single damn post that went up since the last time I checked. If I'm afraid of missing something? Hey, look: actual news! For another, I really really really really need to stop checking every time I'm in mid-thought.

Yeah okay, that part's not actually easy. But you know what they say.

How to limit anxiety? I spent a lot of time thinking about that (because I had time, you see). Turns out social media can cause depression (shocker), but why? Well, for me it was mostly all the outrage. There are a lot of legitimate things to be outraged about, but when you're scrolling The Endless Browser of Outrage, it kinda bores into your skull. I mean, that's why you're not supposed to read the comments.

I needed to remember that the world is not outrage. It's mostly pretty mundane -- or even happy -- especially the part of the world that has any effect at all on my life.

So for now, I'm trying to pay closer attention to my emotions as I read. Am I getting upset? Bored? Depressed? Maybe it's time to stop scrolling.

Will I stick with it? God, I hope so. Maybe you can help keep me accountable on that.

I don't know how or whether this applies to anyone else. But having done so I would definitely recommend a break from social media from time to time. And if you do take a long break (like a few days or more), before you turn it on again stop and think about how you want to consume it.

So what's your deal with social media? How do you handle the terrible signal-to-outrage ratio?



Two Reasons I Haven't Been Blogging Much

Reason #1: Because the intersection represented in this not-to-scale diagram is very small.

The red circle is the real killer. That shouldn't be a surprise to anyone who has read this blog before. Something about having 2-3 fulltime jobs and only 24 hours in a day. WHATEVER.

I do tend to talk about things on Twitter and Facebook from time to time, so I'm not silent (most of you probably got here from one of those platforms, so you know). There has just been very little I have required a long-form medium for.

But also, there's been Reason #2:
I know. I completely ruined the Venn diagram thing I had going. But you know what? That's what anxiety does it ruins everything and makes you talk in all-italic run-on sentences.

Before you worry about me too much, don't. My anxiety is relatively mild and hasn't lasted for more than a couple of days at a time (I only had one really bad weekend a few weeks ago). I don't even know that it would count as clinical anxiety. I just know that whenever I thought about writing a post on something, my brain shouted, "HERE ARE ALL THE REASONS YOU SHOULDN'T DO THAT, YOU UTTER SCREW-UP!" and then it would launch a 3-hour marathon of Pen-Pineapple-Apple-Pen.

Mainly, I just had to remind myself to focus on my work, take a walk, get off social media, and talk to my three-dimensional loved ones (though not all at the same time). I won't say my anxiety is over, because the triggers are all still out there, but I'm coping all right.

Anyway, I'm just letting you know the blog still isn't dead. It may never be (because where else would I post long-form thoughts?), and it's definitely not dead now.

So. How are you guys doing?

And hey, how do you deal with anxiety when it pops up in your life (for those of you in whom it does)?



Giveaway winners and the future

The Izanami's Choice signed giveaway is over, and our two winners have been selected. Congratulations to Jeanna M. and Jackie! I've e-mailed the winners and will send out your copies as soon as I can.

For the rest of you, I know. I'm sad, too. I wish I had signed copies for everybody! But you can still buy your own copy at any of these fine places: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound | Broken Eye Books. I can't sign them for you, but maybe some day. Yeah... some day.

So what's up next? Several things:

1) Torment. We're pushing toward our release (early Q1, 2017), so expect to hear more about that as we get closer.

2) I'm working on my own stuff (specifically, I'm plotting the project listed as "Secret Fantasy Project" on the Works in Progress page).

3) I hope to write more in the world of Izanami's Choice, but that's not up to me yet. (In a way, it's kind of up to you. BUY MY BOOK!)

4) I'm obsessively watching my Amazon sales rank, because I heard you're not really an author until you do that.

5) I'm coming up with the next No Thank You, Evil! campaign for my kids.

6) I'm trying to finish Stranger Things before somebody spoils it for me. I mean spoils it more.

All of which means I'm... still doing more than one human should be capable of in 24 hours. Yeah, I don't know how it works either (most of the time it doesn't, I think).

As always, watch this space (or this one, or this one) for what I'm doing, whether any future giveaways surface, or whatever the latest ridiculous thing my kids' said is. And stick with the newsletter to make sure you don't miss any new fiction I have coming out.

No Thank You, Evil!

I consider the age suggestions on the sides of game boxes to be total lies. Boss Monster (13+) is one of my 9-year-olds' favorite games to play on their own. My 6-year-old daughter kills at Love Letter (10+). One of my sons, when faced with an inevitable loss at Star Wars Risk (10+), blew up his own planet so the rebels would either have to call the game or spend another hour of gameplay going around the long way. He wasn't pouting. It was a carefully thought-out tactic.

He was 7 at the time.

So of course I try to get these kids into role-playing. Unfortunately, most RPGs have a lot of rules which, although my kids are capable of learning them, make playing the game kinda like wrangling velociraptors.

"You can't cast fireball. You don't have any material components or enough 3rd-level slots to.... Fine, you cast the spell."

Numenera's story-focused rules are great for kids, but the Ninth World is kinda creepy, and homebrews, although fun, are a lot to keep track of.

So when Monte Cook Games announced they were doing a kid-focused RPG, based on the rules of Numenera, I knew I was in. No Thank You, Evil! is the perfect game for our family.

Part of that, admittedly, is that my kids are ridiculously amusing to GM. They're fearless to the point of idiocy (requiring me to come up with clever ways in which to not kill them). They have no in-game morals, so persuading, lying, and attacking are all perfectly valid options (and usually all suggested simultaneously). And most of all they're deviously clever.

Two days ago they were trying to convince a guard they were innocent and should be set free from prison. The guard said it wasn't his job to determine innocence, and that if they were in prison it was obviously because they were bad (the guard was aptly named "Justin Justice").

Later on, a mostly successful escape attempt resulted in the PCs being outside while Justin was trapped inside. "I told you you were criminals!" Justin shouted through the door.

"But you're the one in prison," said Joel. "That means you're bad."

As the GM, I didn't know what to say to that. I didn't say anything for several minutes because I was laughing. Justin eventually tried to argue, but Joel had a point. Justin is still trapped in that prison trying to work it out.

But as amusing as my kids are to GM, it works mainly because No Thank You, Evil! enables their creativity. The game's got rules -- even advanced rules for kids who grow beyond the simple version -- but it encourages players to try crazy things. For example, of the six characters my kids created, only two use corebook character classes, none of them have corebook weapons, and at least three try to use their self-defined abilities to slide past the rules at every opportunity.

Sometimes I even let them, because it's funny.

The thing is NTYE doesn't break when you do this. Everything players try to do boils down to one simple rule: roll a d6 to attempt it. They all get it (a little too well, actually -- I have to keep telling them their rolls don't count until I've told them the difficulty), and they all feel free to try anything at any time, knowing that something fun will happen no matter what.

There are some things I questioned about the game. I thought it was weird to ask my players to describe a character I just introduced, and sometimes I feel like the world is too whimsical for my boys who want quests and villains. But (1) I don't have to do any of that stuff -- I mean, I could make the world all Forgotten Realms if I wanted to -- and (2) it turns out my kids like this stuff.

Like, the whimsy keeps everything light, even though one of my boys threatens everybody he meets (and another doesn't waste his time with threats; he just goes straight to zapping them). The moment I described above with the prison guard occurred after they had befriended, and then betrayed, him to get out. Justin liked them, and they turned on him. It's a dark, almost villainous turn, but Joel found humor in it.

And it works perfectly well within that world.


My daughter hit Justin in the face with a sandwich. It did 1 damage, but he also lost his next turn because, honestly, the sandwich was pretty delicious.
As for asking them to describe people, what a time-saver! I'm starting to think I should do this with grownups, too. I didn't have time to detail a full adventure for our most recent session, so I asked them to describe the main villain and name several characters (hence the name Justin Justice). They love it, and it's less work for me!

When I GM adults, I feel like there's a lot of pressure to either have everything prepared or to think quick on my feet. I no longer have time for the former, and I'm terrible at the latter. But my kids don't care! If I stumble on a plot point, they start yelling out ideas. Sometimes I even run with them because they're so crazy I just want to see what happens. It's true collaborative storytelling -- the best part about role-playing.

So, hey, if you're a gaming parent who's been looking for a family-focused RPG, maybe check out No Thank You, Evil. You might be surprised what comes out of your kids' heads.




Why "It's Just a Joke" Doesn't Make It Okay

I had a little rant on Twitter earlier. It's primarily in response to Donald Trump's terrifying implication that maybe 2nd Amendment people can "do something" about Clinton, but it's also build up from years and years of online death threats to people followed up with "that's just the internet" and "geez, it's just a joke."

What's terrifying about Trump's joke is not the joke itself, but the fact that so many people are nodding along, the fact that he says crap like this all the time, the fact that he could conceivably be our next President, and...

Well here's what I said on Twitter.


The great paperwork coup

Anyone remember the coup? Probably not. It's pretty boring, and the news is filled with far more interesting things. (Though I'm sure life under the junta is more interesting if they think you're making trouble.)

For our children's home, it's meant paperwork requests at inconvenient times, lost paperwork at any time, and surprise government inspections (well, one inspection -- fortunately I was dressed at the time).

This week, it meant this fun enactment, while applying for my yearly visa extension:
Immigration Official: Sorry, you need a new document this year from your district office.
*goes to district office*
DO Official: We can do that, but we need this document that you left at home.

 
*comes back the next day with missing document*
DO Official: Now we need this other document from city hall.
*goes to city hall*
City Official: We can't do that at all. We could do this instead, but you either need to go back to America or get this document certified by the consulate.
*goes to consulate*
US Official: We can do that, but you need an appointment. Come back Tuesday.


So what's life been like under the coup so far?

WORST.
FETCH QUEST.
EVER.


The States of Things

Torment:


New part-time project:


Izanami's Choice:


Currently playing:

SpeedRunners
Ultimate Chicken Horse
Shadowrun: Dragonfall - Director's Cut

Current mood:

Currently answering questions in the comments:





Accomplished this year; expect to accomplish next year

My head has been deep in Torment for so long that I feel like I haven't done anything else this year. Turns out I have!
  • The public got to see part of that game I'm working on.
  • I got two new short stories published: "The Patch Man" and "Curiosity."
  • I officially met the requirements to be an active member of SFWA (not that I've joined yet, but I can!).
  • I read 11 books. (That's not a good reading year for me, but a couple of those books were part of James Clavell's enormous Asian Saga, and I also critiqued a couple of novels).
  • I went to PAX, had breakfast with Pat Rothfuss, and even spoke to people.
  • I wrote a novella.
  • I have a new novel on sub.
  • And in my personal life: our blind daughter started school, we finally made progress in getting our paperless child an ID card, I fell in love with Star Wars again, and the teen-formerly-known-as-Sullen is no longer sullen -- she even laughs at my jokes again!
What's coming in 2016?
  • The public will get to see the rest of the game I'm working on, and we'll find out whether the last three years were worth it. (Hahaha! I'm just kidding. I haven't had to worry about income for three whole years! What do I care if you like the game or not?)
  • (Still kidding. Please like the game.)
  • You'll probably get to read that novella I wrote.
  • I may finally discover a way to consistently write novels as well as design computer games for a living. Either that or time travel. We'll see!
Also, for your edification, here are a couple of things I loved in 2015 that I want you to love to. I'm deliberately trying to focus on things you might not have heard of.


House of Ivy and Sorrow. A young adult fantasy from Natalie Whipple about witches. I have always loved Natalie's worldbuilding, and I love unique takes on witches. House of Ivy and Sorrow delivers both.




Primordia. A graphic adventure in the classic style of the Sierra *Quest games, with a heavy dose of influence from Planescape: Torment. It's an insanely cool world in which humans are gone and only intelligent -- and surprisingly sympathetic -- robots remain. Written and designed by Tides of Numenera's own Mark Yohalem. If you liked Planescape or Space Quest, you should definitely check this out.


Frostborn. A middle-grade, Norse-influenced fantasy novel from Lou Anders. If Banner Saga were a book about a boy and a half-giantess, this is what it would feel like. My boys loved it. I loved it. I need to get my hands on the sequel for them.




Shovel Knight. A crowd-funded side-scroller in which you play a knight whose primary weapon is his shovel. It's way more fun than that sounds. Shovel Knight is Mega Man and Ducktales and every platformer I've ever loved.


Tales of Monkey Island. If you know Monkey Island, then odds are you've heard of this one, but I only just played it this year. I love it almost as much as the Curse of Monkey Island (being my favorite of the series). My only real problem with it is that there will probably never be a sequel.





What did you love in 2015?


Writing Status

Those of you who saw my post about my super ridiculous September may want to know how I made out. Here are where things stand on all things writing and a few other things.

I'm on schedule for Torment. At least I should be. I'm pretty happy with what I've gotten done, anyway!

I wrote a novella. Specifically, I drafted and revised the novella known as "Post-Edo Bladerunner" on the Works in Progress page. It is out of my hands for now. With luck, this will be a thing you can read in the near future. We'll see.

There may be another story for you to read soon. Specifically, this one, but that is also out of my hands. I'll let you know.

Air Pirates is no longer on submission. For those of you who have been reading this blog for a long time, I know this is really sad news. Though honestly it's been nearly four years since I got my agent; Air Pirates has not been on submission for that entire time, but it has been for a lot of it. I'm sure most of you already figured out it wasn't happening.

We got a lot of great feedback on Air Pirates, and at least one editor wants to see more of my stuff (an editor I really, really, really, really, really want to work with). But a lot of people expressed that -- while they loved the world and the characters and the story -- the category and genre of the thing was kind of hard to pin down, which means it would be kind of hard for them to sell.

Air Pirates is not dead. I love that world way too much. There is a major revision in its future (maybe even a rewrite?), but we'll see. What happens to Air Pirates depends on various career things that are out of my control over the next several months. Speaking of which...

Post-Apoc Ninjas is on submission. This novel has had its own bumpy ride, but I have learned a lot of things from the Air Pirates feedback and other soul-crushing critiques, and so I've revised the crap out of it. The result is something my agent loves (and if preliminary feedback on the Post-Edo novella is an indication, the critiques may also have leveled me up as a writer). Now that thing my agent loves is Out There.

Don't get excited yet, though. Publishing is slow, Tricia and I are cautious, and, well... you know what happened with Air Pirates. The point is I'm still writing and things are still moving.

The Thai government is happy with us. Or at least they're leaving our home alone, which in bureaucracy terms is the same thing.

No children died while my wife was gone. Though there was a fractured bone incident, but that wasn't my fault, and I handled the crap out of it.

Though it was a close thing.

Was there anything else you wanted to know?


Super Late PAX Post

PAX Prime was over a month ago, but I know several of you guys want to know what it was like. I have more time than I did in September, but I'm still short on it, so I'll do what I can.

As I've said before, I had never been on a panel, or even seen a panel, or even been to a convention before. I knew about PAX, of course -- even when I was separated from all things games, I still read my beloved Penny Arcade and witnessed the birth of their Gamer's Mecca -- but I had no idea what to expect.

But a Gamer's Mecca is pretty much what it is. Hundreds of thousands of geeks pile into Seattle for the weekend. Cosplayers are everywhere. Nearly every Uber to and from the convention is a Mad Max vehicle. Some weird tentacley thing is bursting out of the convention hall annex. Even miles away from the convention center, you might be going to dinner at a nice sit-down place and see Harley Quinn or Fire Emblem's Mia walk out.

It's pretty amazing.

And because everyone's there for a shared love of games (and many of them are introverts too), everyone's super nice. I played games and even had conversations (gasp!) with total strangers while waiting in line for other things. I spent the weekend with my brother and his friends -- also game developers -- and we talked RPGs, industry chat, card game design, and a thousand other topics that I never get to talk about at home.
Other highlights and comments:
  • The difference between AAA exhibitions and indie games is staggering. Watching Bethesda's animatronic Fallout robot or the Dark Souls fountain made me realize just how much more money these guys have than we on Torment do.
  • I discovered I'm much more attracted to the styles and innovations of indie games than the flash of AAA (not that I dislike the flash, mind you, I just found myself hanging in the Indie Exhibition Hall a lot more). Here was one of my favorites: Ultimate Chicken Horse.
  • I got to hang out with (and in many cases meet for the first time) a bunch of awesome game devs, including but not limited to Chris Avellone, Brian Mitsoda, Adam Brennecke, Monte Cook, Shanna Germain, and all the folks on my panel.

  • I had lunch with Pat Rothfuss. Our e-mails crossed paths, so we had only good intentions, but no actual plans to meet. But when my brother and I were in line for PA's live D&D show, I saw a notable bearded man walk past and -- in a truly non-introverted moment -- ran up to him, introduced myself, and made plans for lunch. I know. I'm super proud of myself, too.
The panel itself was both terrifying and really, really fun. Honestly, I would have loved to just sit and talk RPGs with Annie, Mitch, Swen, and Josh without all those people watching. Sounds like an awesome afternoon to me. We talked for an hour about RPGs and the difference between old-school and modern RPGs (and why we tend to like the former), as well as answering some very good questions from the audience.

In case you missed it, the audio for that panel is here.

I would love to go to PAX again, though honestly I don't know what I would have done if I didn't have my brother to hang out with. He and his friends were a huge part of what made PAX awesome for me (heck, half the stuff I said on the panel was stuff that I had said to them in our own conversations).

But who knows? Maybe one day I will.


Fix All The Things!

I know some of you want to hear what my time at PAX was like. I intend to write that post, but you'll have to wait a little longer. I have a crapload of work to do, including but not limited to:
  • Write Torment conversations
  • Design Torment conversations for others to write
  • Review Torment conversations others have written
  • Fix a number of problems created by the most recent round of Torment cuts
  • Finish a novella by October
  • Write a newsletter by October
  • Give the Thai government a bunch of documents they asked for while I was in the US (timing, man, seriously)
  • Fix everything that broke around the house while I was gone
  • Parent several children...
  • ...while my wife takes her own trip to the US
So my already ridiculously over-tasked life got turned to 11 for a few weeks. I will tell you about PAX, but not yet (fair warning: I fail at pictures).

However, you can hear me at my panel, wherein I and several awesome designers talk about what makes a classic RPG. There is no video recording, but the audio is here:

What I've been doing since 1999

On Friday, the Torment team released the first Alpha Systems Test, a look at the opening scene of the game and its most essential systems (conversation, mostly).

Shortly after I tweeted that out, some folks wondered what I've been doing, game design-wise, since 1999 (other folks wondered what happened in 1999 which, you know, that's fair).

Here's a very brief look at what happened since:
  • 1999 -- Planescape: Torment was released to high critical acclaim (and low sales).
  • 2000 -- I got married and left my awesome-but-crunch-timey game dev job for what I commonly refer to as my Office Space job.
  • While I was at work (sometimes literally), I designed D&D campaigns and board games, drew crappy comic strips, wrote stories, and programmed games based on those stories.
  • 2003 -- I decided I wanted to actually finish something I started, so I put my other projects aside (fourth question down) and focused on writing a novel.
  • 2005 -- My wife and I moved to Thailand. I kept writing, but I could no longer pay attention to the game industry (among other things) as much as I used to.
  • 2006 -- We took in our first child, and over the next several years would increase our family to include ten children, both foster and natural. Meanwhile, I kept designing RPGs and board games (that never got played outside my house).
  • 2008 -- I sent my first novel to agents (and also started this blog).
  • 2010 -- I wrote a story that somebody actually paid me for.
  • 2011 -- I got an agent and began the search for a publisher (that search is still ongoing, though we've updated the novel it is going on for).
  • 2012 -- I started working for inXile and "researched" what the game industry had been up to since I left (read: I played games again and wrote them off for tax purposes).
  • 2013-2015 -- I wrote hundreds of thousands of words for game dialogue and systems design. I also wrote a novella, a Pathfinder story, and a number of other things I hope you'll get to read some day.

So there you go. That's what I've been doing instead of (or in addition to) designing games for the last 15 years. Hopefully that also explains why my tastes in games tend to skew oldschool.


Q: Big Pot Cooking Recipes?

Erik says:
You're a foster father of 10. Got any good big pot cooking recipes to share?

Actually, I do! Here are two of my favorites (my kids like them too, as it turns out).

Note that, as far as I'm concerned, cooking is essentially magic. So these numbers aren't exact (as evidenced by the ranges below). I usually try different amounts of things each time until I figure out what feels right. Tasting as you go also helps.


CASHEW CHICKEN (ไก่ผัดเม็ดมะม่วง)
Roast 1 1/4 cup of cashew nuts and 1 1/4 cup of chopped green onions (actually, I tend to fry these in oil nowadays, but you can do what you want). When they're nice and brown, take them out and set them aside.

In 2-3 Tbsp. of oil, fry 1 cup of dried chilis. When they get dark, take them out and set them aside. (IMPORTANT: Take them out before they start smoking, lest you fill your house with face-melting, eye-scalding chili smoke. My children hate me for the times I've done this. They still won't let me forget it.)

In the chili-infused oil, fry a bunch of garlic until it's brown, then add all of this stuff:
1 kg of chicken
1 green bell pepper
2 onions
1-2 big carrots
5 Tbsp. soy sauce
5 Tbsp. oyster sauce
5 tsp. sugar

Cook that for a few minutes, then add 1 cup of chicken broth. Cook it some more until it's done (see? magic).

Turn off the heat, and add the cashew nuts, green onions, and the fried chilis (the latter is optional -- most of my kids complain when I leave these in, so now I just put them in a separate dish for the spice-immune teenager).

Serve it on rice (we make 7-8 cups for our family). Feeds at least 12 people.


YELLOW CURRY (แกงกะหรี่)
I loved this stuff as a kid. It's even better now that I live in a country where the spices are native.

If you can get yellow (or Indian) curry paste, then use some of that with an appropriate amount of coconut milk (it'll probably say on the package what proportions to use).

If not, here's how I made my own curry sauce:
3-5 Tbsp yellow (or Indian) curry powder (sadly, if you can't get this, I don't think I can help you)
Lots of garlic (I put in like 10 cloves)
1-2 Tbsp red chili pepper
2-3 Tbsp ginger
2-3 tsp salt
1500 mL coconut milk


Pretty much just mix that in a pot, then throw this stuff in:
1.5 kg of chicken (or whatever meat you want, really)
4 big potatoes
2 big carrots
2 onions

Bring it to a boil, and then leave it on low heat for like 30-60 minutes. Serve it on rice (we make 7-8 cups for our family). Serves at least 12 people.


Anyone else have any good big pot cooking recipes to share? I only cook like four things. It wouldn't hurt to discover other options.

--------------------------------------

Got a question? Ask me anything.


How you can be part of a cybermob and not know it

Cybermobbing is getting ridiculous. I mean the entire spectrum here: public shaming, online bullying, harassment, and the general dickery that goes on all over the internet everyday.

The existence of this crap is not news (well, actually it is, like every single day). But it's often assumed that the people engaging in these activities are sociopaths, sadists, and trolls -- people who get high off wrecking other people, or who just have no conception of empathy at all. To be fair, parts of these mobs are exactly that.

But this post is about you, and how even the most innocent, well-meaning person can get caught up in mobbing someone and wrecking their day, if not their life.

An author recently posted the gif below, saying simply, "I don't claim to know s--t about soccer, but I know this women vs. dudes gif amuses me."



His point -- the point of the gif -- is that women athletes can be just as badass and worthy of celebration as men, if not more. Not really a point worth arguing against (unless you got a thing against badass women, I guess?).

The responses he got, though. Last time I checked, almost 50% of them pointed out that the woman in the gif is a rugby player, not a footballer.

They're not wrong. And that's not harassment nor bullying, and so far as I know the author in question was over it before I even had these thoughts. Most of the people correcting him even went out of their way to support his point (though there were a few who thought the mistake meant his argument was invalid which is... a different point, I guess). Taken individually, none of the comments would be a big deal, but when you get 20 replies like that, it can wear on you, literally.

It seems innocent. Each individual is thinking, "I have an opinion that he should know." But the recipient is thinking, "Dear God, MAKE IT STOP."

My point? Think before you post. You are not the only person to have the thought that you had, and you are likely not the only person to express it. Think, and then think again, and then maybe check to see if anyone has said the same thing before you do.

Too much work? Then don't post. Nothing bad will happen if you don't correct that person. But bad things become more likely each time you do.

"But I'm not correcting them. I'm really upset about what they did!" That's fine. There are things you can do, but being a dick shouldn't be one of them.

Social media is real life, guys. The people on the other end of those data packets are real people, and the words you type hit exactly the same as if you said them to their face.

The internet is a powerful thing. We are the ones who determine whether that's good or bad.