Showing posts with label short people. Show all posts
Showing posts with label short people. Show all posts

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.

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?

How to Get Schooled by a 4-Year-Old

My daughter Anica is beautiful, ruthless, and ridiculously smart. She embodies every connotation of the word precocious.

In this chapter, she and I play a game called "I'm Thinking of an Animal" -- kind of a kindergarten version of Twenty Questions. (I designed it myself. I'm so very smart.)

Sometimes, Anica gets bored and messes with me.

But that's just her playing around. Recently, she got ruthless.

Trying to outsmart her is futile.

Even when she takes pity on me.

Even when it's my turn.

At least my daughter still has one shred of compassion.

My only hope, at this point, is to curry favor for when she rules the world.

About What We Do

From the AMA bag of holding, Surface asks:
Not to only ask about Torment - Im genuinely curious about your involvement with that orphanage.

How did it happen, really - and so far away from home? Im imagining you were probably on a vacation and just happened to run into it and then just... felt the call? Am i correct?

And how do you finance it? Seems like an impossible task just for one guy and his wife.

Is it you who is keeping it all together or are you helping or... how does it all work really?

This might be the first question for which my new readers need the backstory. Or just the story, I guess.

Like it says next to my picture over there, my wife and I foster a bunch of kids in Thailand. We're not an orphanage (though we used to work at one). We don't even really like the term "children's home" (though that has more to do with certain connotations that has out here -- technically, we are a children's home). We prefer the term family, because that's what we try to be in every way.

We take in kids that have nowhere to go. We try as hard as we can to treat them like they were our biological children (we have 2 of those as well, which gives a good point of comparison). We currently have 10 kids -- 9 at home and 1 in college -- from all kinds of backgrounds: orphans, refugees, abused, abandoned, Thai, Burmese, Lisu, Karen. Our only real criteria is that we are their last stop. These kids have had it hard enough; the more stability we can give them, the better they will be able to heal.

So our "children's home" is just our house and our family. We're the parents. We have no employees except a house helper (who is, herself, more family than employee). We almost never both leave at the same time because (1) it's hard on the kids and (2) it's hard on us!

How did this happen? The simple answer is what you said: God called us. The run-on sentence is that Cindy's had a heart for orphans since she was young, so when we felt called to come here (it was a more gradual thing, culminating in a very strange moment at a pastor's conference where we both *knew* God was asking us to go), we had a vague idea of running an orphanage/planting a church in whatever country we ended up in. About a year after we got here, we had something of a reclarification, in which we realized we didn't want to manage an orphanage. We wanted to parent a family.

Financing our home has mostly come from friends and family who support our vision, as well as from our own savings. Over the last few years, our family has grown beyond our income from supporters, and our savings have been gradually exhausted. It was almost exactly two years ago when we were considering fundraising (blech), but then I got this job you might have heard of.

So yeah, your Kickstarter dollars help support orphans in Thailand. That's how awesome you are. Seriously.

You can't believe how grateful I am -- to you the backers, to Colin and Kevin and Brian, to God. I never, ever, ever, ever thought I'd get to be in game design again without quitting everything we do out here (which isn't going to happen). The fact that I get to work on this amazing game, without taking any time away from my amazing kids, has been blowing my mind for two years straight now.

Thank you for the question, too. I appreciate the opportunity to share my family a little bit.


Got a question? Ask me anything.

AMA: 7 Quick Answers

The lovely Authoress asks:
Why aren't you writing a novel right now?   :)

Brian Fargo (my boss's boss) has been quoted as saying that we have generated 800 pages of design documents, and I'm personally responsible for about 150,000 words of those documents. (That's an excuse, I know. I am writing a novel, but much more slowly than before.)

Sandra asks:
What will you look for in an intern? What are some basic skills the intern must have? What kind of attitude should s/he have if they want to apply at a company? (Given that, ofcourse, the company you work for, accepts interns)

I, personally, do not look for interns. There are more than enough people in my house who require me to teach them everything I know for next to no pay, such that I don't need any more. I don't know if inXile takes interns, but I'm sure you can find out.

The even lovelier Cindy Heine asks:
What's the next gift you're going to give your wife? 

Either something from the States, something from an airport, or a hug. Maybe all three.

Ali Martinez asks:
Are you guys going to make the [Torment] combat system like Planescape/Baldur with the pausable real-time mode?. Because right now there are WAY too many "turn based combat games" like Banner Saga , Blackguards , ShadowRun, Wasteland, Divinity Original Sin ETC. And I really think that many people want that old school RPG complex combat system, so it would be great if you guys go with the real time paused system :) 

Torment's combat will be turn-based, which we've talked about (and there were "many people" on both sides of that decision).

(Also, real-time w/ pause = old school? Am I that old?).

Hiver asks:
How come the Changing God doesnt get that his discarded shells are continuing to live? He seems as a rather smart guy and he makes them himself. - Does every shell survive or just some? How come?

I can't answer too much without spoiling, but he does get it (at some point).

David asks:
Can I play T:ToN without having to learn the massive lore beforehand? Can I as a layman play the game and learn about the world and rules through playing the game rather than having to study beforehand?
I ask because whenever I see an interview or an update, I've got the strong sense I'm missing a vast amount of knowledge.

I backed both Project Eternity and Torment Tides of Numenera, but my attention had been focused mostly on following Project Eternity. I now have this idea that starting T:ToN I might be well out of my depth. I hope not, because so far, I like everything I've read. And as a fairly critical person, that's rare.

You will absolutely be able to play Torment without knowing anything beforehand. If you come in having read every post and novella, you'll notice cool things here and there, but we are explicitly assuming the player has no background knowledge coming in.

Hugo Chavez asks:
You're pretty cool. What's your shtick?

Clean living, Jesus, and a barrel of children who won't let my head get big for even a second.

Got a question? Ask me anything.

My Boys' First RPG

I've been wanting to try my boys out on an RPG for a while now, but I wasn't really sure how. I'd given away a lot of my sourcebooks, so all I had left was the d20 SRD which, while great, wasn't quite what I wanted.

Then I got this fancy schmancy Numenera corebook in the mail. This system is what I wanted: simple, flexible, and with a heck of a lot of leeway for a GM who wasn't sure how well his players would get things. But the Ninth World can be kinda . . . creepy, at least for 6- and 7-year-olds. I wanted something they could be excited about.

"Why don't you just make something up?" said my wife, ever supportive of even my geekliest dilemmas.

"Are you kidding?" I said. "Do you know how much work that would take? Even if I adapted what I have, I'd still have to make up a bunch of equipment and powers. Though the types would be pretty easy to adapt, I guess. Most of the esoteries are basically Force powers anyway. And the descriptors work okay. . ."

And then I couldn't stop thinking about it.

The next couple of days looked like this:

Now all I have to do is figure out the rules for lightsabers before they earn theirs. . .

What I've Been Doing Instead of Blogging

I hate having only First Impact posts go up, but I am trying to make money at this writing thing, so. Anyway, here are some of the things I've been doing in the last few weeks instead of blogging.

Designing an alignment system. Basically codifying all of human experience and emotion into little boxes so we can tell the player things like, "You're Lawful Good." (Note: We're not using Lawful Good.) FUN LEVEL: High.

Thinking about what makes RPG combat interesting. There is quite a lot of debate in the hardcore CRPG world about whether combat should be turn-based or not. Part of my job has been to think about this a lot. FUN LEVEL: Medium (only because I'd rather get into specifics, but I can't yet).

Writing design docs. Fact: if we don't document it, it gets forgotten. FUN LEVEL: Tedious (but like our producer told me and Colin the other day, we don't get to do the fun stuff until we actually have money to do it).

(Anyway, tedious is a relative term. The most boring game design task is way cooler than anything I did for my Office Space job. I just want to think up cool stuff all day and have someone else write it down for me, is all.)

Writing Kickstarter copy. You'd be surprised how much work goes into a major crowd-funding campaign. I mean, look at a typical big-budget Kickstarter. Someone has to write all that stuff. FUN LEVEL: Tedious.

Planning Kickstarter videos. FUN LEVEL: High (until they start talking about my video update, then Abject Terror).

Iterating. I get an e-mail asking what I think of a design doc. I critique said design doc. What do I think of the latest concept art? Review and reply with my thoughts. Music? Videos? Someone's possible response to a forum question? Review and respond. Oh, and also respond to all the critiques of my stuff. FUN LEVEL: Surprisingly High.

Waiting on Air Pirates. Submissions, man. FUN LEVEL: Zero.

Revising Post-Apoc Ninjas. FUN LEVEL: Really slow.

Playing chess online. Our producer, Kevin, saw this drawing and said he might challenge me sometime. I can't let him win. FUN LEVEL: High.

Playing games with the kids. We raise gamers. I can't imagine why. FUN LEVEL: High until their attention spans wear out (so about five minutes).

Fending off tiny tyrants. This one, in particular. She gets mad at me when I work. Or cook. Or read. Or do anything except give her 110% of my attention. FUN LEVEL: I don't like it when she screams at me.

Driving. Yeah. I'm basically a soccer dad. FUN LEVEL: Usually High (this is where I come up with ideas).

So... what are you all up to?

State of the Writing

It's been a long time since I've given you guys anything like a regular status update. I mean, there's my Works In Progress tab, but (a) who reads that? And (b) that only covers things with names.

So here's where things stand.

AIR PIRATES (being the novel that got me my beloved agent) is on submission. I've gotten some very pleasant-sounding feedback, but you know. When I have an announcement here, you'll hear it.

POST-APOC NINJAS (being the novel I talked about last month) is being revised. Of course the novel I drafted the fastest would take the longest to revise, but at least it's moving.

EVANGELION-ISH is a sci-fi novel I'm going to write after the Ninjas are revised (and the Pirates, if necessary). It has an outline. The two people who have read that are excited, so I guess that's a good thing.

SECRET FANTASY PROJECT is something I can't talk about yet. But it's cool. Unfortunately it's also back-burner, which means I'm spending as much energy trying not to think about it as I am actually working on other things.

TOP SECRET PROJECT, the nature of which I cannot even tell you. But rest assured it's awesome and exciting, and with luck I'll be able to talk about it in a couple of months.

This is on top of getting kids to school, making them food, and sometimes sleeping. I don't know how I got so many projects all of a sudden, but at least it increases the odds you'll get to read one of them eventually. Though it does mean a lot of drawing and remix posts. Sorry :-/

(And to answer the question "How do you do all that?": awesome wife + very poor single-tasking*).

So what are you up to?

* Being the more accurate term for "multi-tasking."

A Letter to my Son

Dear Isaac,

I would like to apologize for your DNA.

Not that you aren't awesome. You totally are. But,'s because you're part of me that you get upset when you don't excel at something the first time. I will spend my whole life trying to teach you what I learned only a few years ago: that you can do anything if you work hard at it. But it won't make you feel any better when you fail, and I'm sorry for that.

It's my fault you can't sit still. I know, I know. Daddy is the most inert, quiet, non-silly man you know. But as a boy, I was exactly like you. When you get in trouble for it as much as I have, you'll learn to keep it inside too.

And it's my fault you feel everything must be in perfect order. That's why you have to put your Go Fish cards back into pairs before you can count them. That's why each piece of your orange peel must touch none of the other pieces. In the future, you will straighten stacks of cards every time you take a turn, and your friends will mock you by knocking things out of place (see #4).

It's okay. They still love you. And I'll help you fix it.

Keep in mind that for all our faults, you are still an incredibly handsome genius. Most of the credit for that goes to your mom, of course, but at least I didn't screw it up.

Though if you grow to hate your widow's peak, well, I apologize for that too.

Love you, buddy.


How Creativity Dies

A couple weeks ago, I drew this pig for one of my kids. He came up with an awesome story about how the pig ran away from his mommy but his mommy was coming to find him. You can see the whole drawing and story here at Anthdrawology.

One of the other artists asked the excellent question: "Why does that crazy creativity go away when we grow up?"

I can think of a couple of reasons, though these might just be why my creativity died, or almost did.*

My son's story about the pig and his mommy comes almost directly from The Runaway Bunny (which I know only because I read it to him all the time). It would be easy for me to say it's not creative because I know where he got it, and I think a lot of people -- parents or not, well-meaning or not -- do exactly that.

But his story is creative. He added bits that are totally unique (at least I don't recognize where he got them, which is the same thing), and the whole thing put together is his own creation, whether I know where he got all the pieces or not.

A lot of people assume originality means something completely new, never been done before. Unfortunately, that's an unreasonable expectation, especially for a kid who hardly knows any tropes and has no idea he's "stealing" them.

A friend of mine was teaching a Jr. High art class. One of the students was very good, with a unique style all her own, and the teacher said so. This student's mom, however, disagreed because her daughter's art wasn't "realistic." She kept asking the teacher to help her daughter "get it right."

Stories like this make me mad. Can we just agree that art is subjective? What moves one person may not move another, even if those people are a kid and their own mother. Realism does not equal art.

We could define good as something that moves a lot of people, or moves more people than it doesn't. But to get to that level takes practice. Telling a newbie they're no good isn't helpful and -- especially with kids like I was -- it can make them quit forever.

I understand the difficulty. When one of my kids brings me a piece of paper covered in green scribbles, usually the best I can muster is, "That's nice, buddy. Put it over there with the rest of them." But I try really hard to praise creativity when I see it, and especially to praise practice and hard work, because those are the things that will turn those green scribbles into Awesome some day.

I have to remember that for myself too. I'm constantly getting down on myself for not being creative (that's why I keep writing posts about how nothing's original; it makes me feel better). It's the thing I hate hearing the most, but it's true: you have to fail a lot before you get good at anything.

What are your thoughts? Did you ever have your creativity squashed by some well-meaning authority? How did you get through it?

* For the record, my parents were fully supportive of my artistic endeavors. I don't actually remember who taught me that "original" and "good" were required for creativity.

Answers! (and a Selfish Request)

Before I get to the questions, I have a task for you. You remember that story I wrote, "Pawn's Gambit"? The one about the escaped convict trying to find his daughter (before the assassin he works for does)? If you haven't read it, go read it now.

Your task (assuming you like the story, of course) is to go to this thread on the BCS forums and vote for "Pawn's Gambit" to appear in their Year Two anthology. And next time you need an internet vote for something, I'll vote for you too.

(There are lots of other stories you can vote for in addition to mine (you're allowed up to 5). Beneath Ceaseless Skies is easily my favorite fantasy mag (all the more for being free), and it's worth clicking through to read the other stories.)


Jodi Meadows says: Your Q&A comes with sound effects: how much input do you have in that aspect of your videos? Can you request certain sound effects?

My sound effects team is not the easiest to work with. She only takes on projects she's interested in and rarely takes creative input. And if her mommy's around, she refuses to do any work at all.

Despite all that, she's one of the best in the business. After all, she was raised by sound effects masters:

Susan Quinn asks: When are you going to start writing for children? You have a massive built in critique group. :)

I don't know if I can trust my critique group. They still pick Garfield the Easter Bunny for bedtime reading (if I forget to hide it). I do, however, have an idea for an ABC book that includes "A is for Airship" and "Z is for Zombie." If I could illustrate it, I think they'd really like it.

Dave asks: If you could fight anyone from history, who would it be?

Man, I don't know. Why would I fight someone? Cuz it's cool? Cuz I hate them and want to beat them up? Cuz I want to learn something?

See, I'm pretty sure if I fought someone, I'd lose (unless I'm fighting a five-year-old, but then why am I beating up a five-year-old?). Does growing up in a dojo and sparring with other ninjas count? Maybe I could do that.

Deniz Bevan asks: Where or when would you vacation if money and time were no object?

My wife and I really, really, really want to go to Italy someday. And maybe Paris. I think we could pull together the money, but the real issue is the ten kids we'd be leaving behind (or worse, dragging along behind, that would be terrifying).

The funny thing is, I think both of us want to visit those places because of the food.

C Ann Golden asks: If you could be any superhero who would you be and why?

That's a really tough question for someone like me. I want to spend weeks researching all the different superheroes and their powers, then write a thesis about it. (That's only partially true. I actually just want to read a lot of comic books).

He's probably on my mind because of the movie, but as a kid I always liked Green Lantern. He seemed so cool because he could do ANYTHING. Though I have to admit having your weakness be "the color yellow" is kinda lame.

David Jace asks: If you could become any animal (and turn back) what animal would it be?

A seagull. No seriously, check this out: I could fly, live near the ocean, have no natural predators, and feed on a diet of sushi and beach BBQs. IT'S THE PERFECT ANIMAL!

That's it! Thank you for your questions (seriously, one time nobody asked any questions and I cried for a week (okay, so I didn't cry)), and don't forget to vote for "Pawn's Gambit"!

Question/Answer Time

It's been a while since I opened things up for questions, so now's your chance. Same as before: ask anything you like in the comments -- serious or silly, professional or totally inappropriate -- and next week I will answer your questions. I'll probably even tell the truth.

And because I hate leaving you with nothing on a Friday, here's a peek at what it looks like when I'm reading your comments and blogs.

Cooking for Nine

You may know I have an acute fear of failure. The kind that makes me terrified of stupid things--like small talk or mowing the lawn--just because I might fail at it. This, of course, makes writing and getting critiques rather difficult. Anyone who's been writing for a while knows you can't please everybody--even the best books have haters, and the unpublished more than most.

Turns out cooking for my family is good practice then. For a sufficiently large family,* somebody will always hate whatever you cook for them. And they're kids, which means they're just as honest as if they were hiding behind the anonymity of the internet.

For someone who's afraid to even play a friendly game of soccer, you can imagine what this does to my ego.**

But here's the bright side, and hopefully something you can use in your writing: no matter how strange or bad my cooking is, there's always at least one person that likes it. See, the converse law of "You can't please everybody" is "You will always please somebody."

It might be only your mom or your best friend, but it will be somebody. In order to get past the crotch-kicking that is rejection, you have to focus on that person. Internalize their opinion. Believe them. Honestly, it's the only way to keep moving forward when you feel like everyone else is cranking your soul through a sausage grinder.

Mm, sausage. Maybe everybody will like that...

* I don't know for sure, but I'd bet "sufficiently large" might even mean "two."

** It doesn't help that they're all Thai, so the foods I actually
like to cook are generally frowned upon.

Five Things I Love

I don't remember where I got this meme, but here it is. You may see it again in the future.

Also, you may notice there's a poll in the upper-right corner (some of you will have to click through to see it). I'm thinking of doing polls this way every once in a while, but probably not if nobody's voting. It's up to you guys.

Anyway, 5 things I love:


Rainy Days


Deep Fried . . . Whatever


Answers the First (or "Hi, This is What I Do")

Apparently 88% of us would rather be lonely (and smart) than stupid (with friends). I'm with you guys, but you should know this is how super villains are made.

You guys asked some fantastic questions! I'll be answering some today, some Wednesday, and on Friday we have a double sketch featuring a very special guest artist. Now, to the questions!

An anonymous visitor from Natalie's blog asks: Can I ask what your main profession is?
Believe it or not, the "About Me" description over there is pretty much it: I write and I foster kids. My wife and I have a heart to give a family to kids with nowhere else to go, and most of our income comes from folks who support that mission (though obviously I'd love it if writing could help with that!). In my previous incarnations, I programmed computers, led Christian worship, and developed computer games.

Yeah, I don't see the connection either.

Advice for people who did not study writing or English or anything related to that in university...and struggling on how to really "start". Is there a method?

Ha! As you might have guessed, I studied Computer Science in college, not English. I think I wrote a total of ten papers--none fiction--and I haven't read a novel for a class since I graduated high school. So no, I don't think a formal education is necessary at all to write good fiction.

Here's what I do instead:
  1. Write.
  2. Read.
  3. Get and give critiques.
That's it. I would (and do) read books on writing as well as fiction. I always recommend Orson Scott Card's Characters and Viewpoint and Nancy Kress's Beginnings, Middles, and Ends. But everyone's got their favorites. I bet they'll tell you in the comments (hint, hint).

And I'd love to know what a typical "day" or daily schedule is like for you (how you fit in work, writing, reading, eating, etc).

Yeah, I'd love to know how I fit all that in too.

Seriously, most days kinda look like this:
  1. Wake up (or get woken up) about 6 am.
  2. Get boys fed, girls ready for school, etc.
  3. Check e-mail and the rest of the internet.
  4. Write (my wife teaches the boys, and a helper takes care of the baby for a couple of hours).
  5. From about 11 am - 4 pm: watch/play with the boys, keep the baby happy, clean the house, fix the house, and (if possible) write blog posts, critique manuscripts, and maybe read or draw.
  6. Pick up the girls from school.
  7. Repeat #5 until bedtime.
  8. Bust out Secret Snacks. Watch So You Think You Can Dance until unconscious.
Today was a little different. Cindy took all the kids to a homeschool co-op, and one of our friends is leaving the country soon. So it was more like:
  1. Wake up.
  2. Check e-mail.
  3. Play Agricola.
  4. Eat bacon and ham sandwiches.
  5. Visit Lutiya's school.
  6. Play Agricola.
  7. Write blog post.
  8. Pick up girls.
  9. Play Agricola.
  10. Pass out.

Myrna Foster asks: Have you written a ninja story?
Sadly, no. I've got ideas for one, but it still feels too much like Batman Begins (which I guess isn't a bad thing). Later this year, I expect to choose a new project. We'll see if the ninjas make the cut.

How many children are you guys raising at the moment?
Nine. And we're in the process of adopting a tenth. This is what we look like now (click to enlarge):

More answers on Wednesday!

The Ocean

I'm sick, so today's post is short. This picture is from our recent trip to the US, in which my son sees the ocean for the first time (that he remembers).

"That's the ocean, Isaac. When you grow up, the Earth will be covered in it, and you'll be the most famous pirate in the world."


I feel a little weird just jumping back in with a post on writing, so here are some things I accomplished in the last two weeks:
  1. I did not die. Surprisingly, no one else did either.
  2. I discovered the most awesome Lando Calrissian ever:

  1. My wife and I celebrated our 10th anniversary. We even got to go out!
  2. I learned that no matter how many toys you have, Children A, B, C, and D will always fight over the one Child E has. (I already knew this, but I learned the theorem scales to any number of kids).
  3. J. J. DeBenedictis enriched my life with this tiny, fully-functional cannon.
  4. I discovered this guy's videos. They're kinda hilarious.
  5. I had a weird/awesome dream about Dr. Horrible.
  6. I learned how to say "Don't be bossy" in Thai. Repetition is key.
  7. After a month's forced vacation (that only partially had to do with the new kids), I finally added 2,600 words to Cunning Folk.
  8. I did not hear from a single agent.
There, I hope that's thorough. If it's not, we can do an informal question/answer session in the comments.


Those of you who follow me via other means may know we recently added to our family. That is, we added FOUR KIDS to our family.

Being as fatherhood is my primary job, and as these kids are far more important than writing, blogging, or even (dare I say it?) reading your blogs, I'm going to focus on them for a couple of weeks. So the blog will definitely be quiet. I probably won't be commenting on your blogs (though I'll try to read them when I can, honest), and my Twitter/Facebook updates will be focused on letting people know that I and the kids are still alive (so remember that a comment about Nathan eating trash bags means we're well and in good spirits).

Two weeks. I plan to be back on August 23rd, if only to say, "Hey, guys, I need another two weeks to love on these kids."

If you want to know how the kids are doing, what they look like, or how long it takes for five little boys to turn the rest of my hair gray, you can follow my other blog, Facebook, or Twitter (depending on your surfing preferences). I'll still be checking my e-mail too.

Otherwise I'll see you all in a couple of weeks.

Answers, in Which I Reveal My Secret (and Not So Secret) Loves

We're back home now, and all is as it should be. Basically. Jet lag is about a quarter the misery it was going east. Our house is in fine shape, and our kids are all super-happy to have the family back together again.

As to your questions just...well done. I'm so proud to have such curious and imaginative readers. I'll answer some today, some Wednesday, and one of them (that would be yours, Carrie) gets its own post on Friday.

Matt Delman asks: Would you like a jelly baby?

Heck. Yes. If it's gummy/chewy/not black licorice, I want it.

If the square of the hypotenuse is the same as the square of the other two sides, then what is a mouse when it splints?

Actually it's the square of the sum of the other two sides. Unless you're asking if hypothetically it weren't... In that case all 3 sides would be the same, which would mean right angles would always be 60 degrees, which would make my house only slightly less square than it already is, which of course means a mouse when it splints is slightly better than a cricket when it smokes.

Why do we drive on a parkway but park on a driveway? 

Actually I drive on freeways (which are usually free) and highways (which are never high, except in Bangkok but then they are no longer free). And I have to drive on my driveway. How else am I supposed to get the car up there?

Amie McCracken asks: Besides writing and drawing what's your favorite thing to do?

Hang out with my kids. I love to talk with them, play games with them, watch movies with them, and mostly to see them grow and learn. It's aMAZing.

And, where else in the world have you been? 

Not many. Evidence to the contrary, I'm not much of a world traveler. I have been to Guadalajara to visit my retired parents. And I spent a month in Kunming, China for a cultural exchange program. That trip to China was kind of where I fell in love with Asia in general.

India Drummond asks: If you had a day to yourself, and the assurance you would never get caught for anything you did, have to justify yourself, and if you wanted, no one would even know... so what would you do for those 24 hours? 

I'm so boring. You've given me free reign to drive a Ferrari in the Indy 500, steal the Tower of Pisa to put in my backyard, or take a joy ride on a stealth bomber. But all I can think about is watching both seasons of Full Metal Alchemist while pigging out on various Western foods delivered to my lap.

Ricardo Bare asks: Hey Adam--have you ever read "The Edge Chronicles"?

No, but a bit of research brought up terms like steampunk, sky pirates, and sky galleons, which is no end of interesting. Let me know how they are!

Susan Kaye Quinn asks: What's the children's book that you read to your little ones so frequently that you've memorized it?

Isaac (my three year old) is the one who memorizes the books. Once he starts quoting a book over and over, I start to memorize it too. Usually the Dr. Seuss books are the culprits, being the easiest to memorize, but there's one book in particular Isaac likes: Disney's Mother Goose. I didn't take this book to the US with me, but Isaac really wanted to read it on one of his bad days. So he and I started saying as many rhymes as we could remember from it. Considering I don't even like the book, I remember a surprising amount of it.

When did you know you were an artist?

You're going to think I'm silly, but I never really thought of myself as an artist. Not until I drew this fan art for Natalie Whipple and she called me one. My little brother was always the artist, not me (he loves to say I taught him how to draw, referring to our doodles in the margins of the church bulletins on Sunday, but I never taught him this).

What's your favorite non-kid, non-writing activity? 

So aside from kids (and the more predictable answers of movies, games, and anime), my favorite activity is music. Not listening, but playing. (Ironically, my brother far exceeds my skill in this too. Isn't he supposed to be in my shadow?).

The only instruments I'll claim any skill to are acoustic guitar, bass guitar, and voice. And of those, bass is my very, very favorite. Unfortunately, it's the most boring instrument in the world to play by yourself, but I get my fix at church twice a month.

Okay, I'm cutting off the answers there. I'll get to the rest of these on Wednesday.

Show vs. Tell, in Which My Son Teaches Me About Writing

Writers are always told, "Show, don't tell." The other day, one of my 3-year-old boys gave me an object lesson on why that is:
DADDY: Nathan, that was naughty. You're on a timeout.

NATHAN sits on the step and cries for like an hour.*

N: Timeout over?

D: Your timeout will be over when you're quiet.

Nathan stops screaming for an entire breath.

N: Nathan's quiet already!

D: If you have to tell me you're quiet, you're not quiet.

But you know, sometimes it's okay to tell too.

DADDY: What are you eating, Nathan?

Nathan opens his mouth as wide as he can.

D (holding stomach): Thanks.

* Not actually an hour.