This past Monday, I visited Games Universe in Brookfield. A set of six-siders stood out to me, so I bought them for Kid Kidwell, 6, in preparation for our foray into WARMACHINE. What better way for him to get his first dice set than to discover them in a treasure hunt?
Since I was going to start teaching him to play on Friday, that meant I had less than a week to get things together. Of course, I procrastinated. Well, that’s not exactly right. I’ve been working on a new short story, so that has consumed my nights. But during the days, I gathered the bits and pieces for the treasure hunt. I just needed to get them all together.
Thursday arrived and I still had nothing finished. Swallowing hard, I decided that writing would have to wait. Kid went to bed, and I got to work. Notebook in hand, I wrote a list of names corresponding to locations in our backyard: the Ruined Kingdom of Backyardia, the Temple of Kalaparnaxus (garden shed), Mammyammyonna’s Jungle Garden (the garden), the Tree-in-need-of-a-house (a maple tree that really needs a tree house), and the Tabeltarna Skyfortress (our patio).
All of these places had to figure in the treasure hunt. I wrote a mysterious letter from a guy named Malachi Barterweight. In the letter, he told of the places where an adventuresome six-year-old would need to travel, artifacts he’d have to discover, and a monster he’d have to defeat—the Gabbersmack—in order to discover forgotten treasure. One of the artifacts would be the Monocular of Sight, because Kid thinks telescopes rock. Another was a key for the treasure chest.
I set about building the Monocular of Sight from a thick-walled shipping tube, an applesauce cup, and a canning-jar lid. I wanted to paint it, but there just wasn’t enough time. So, I gave it the Mk. I designation: I’ll add bits to improve it for future treasure hunts.
In the meantime, I needed help with the map. I’ve drawn plenty of maps for D&D, but this needed something more than my stick-figure sensibilities. That’s where my wife Angela came in. I handed her Barterweight’s letter, and she got to work.
I have a small wooden box with lock and key that would serve as a treasure chest. I fished it out, dusted it off, and put Kid’s dice in it. Meager, thought I. After all this work, the dice alone didn’t quite sell it to me. What more? Loose change? Colored glass? A sharp rock?
A dice bag!
Burrowing behind some books in the office, I found a black velvet dice bag with an orange draw string that has been lingering for ten years through move after move, always finding itself tossed behind some books on a random shelf. In the dice went.
Asking for my inexpert art direction, Angela produced a map that I wouldn’t have been able to draw in three days, let alone a couple of hours. Once finished, we went over the materials, made sure everything was present, rolled up the map and letter and hid it all in our bedroom closet.
When I arrived home Friday afternoon, I was greeted by Kid at the door: “Are you going to teach me to play WARMACHINE?” No one can say that he lacks enthusiasm—or persistence.
“Before anything else happens,” Angie chimed, you have to read one of your library books. Brilliant! He ran off, grabbed the book and sat next to his mom while I sneaked around, planted the letter and map in the mailbox, placed the monocular in the temple, tied the treasure box key to the garden trellis, and hid the box under the picnic table on the patio.
I returned inside, looked out the front window, and asked Kid if he’d gotten the mail today.
“No. Mom did.” He rushed to look at the mailbox. “Hey! What’s that?” We were off!
The treasure hunt went exceedingly well. Kid ventured into the dark templer interior alone, stole a key from monstrous beans, overcame the Gabbersmack (me) with the help of his trusty green lightsaber, discovered his dice, and, I hope, has a cool story to tell his first-grade class about one of the things he did during the summer. The experience turned out to be a treasure hunt for me too: I got to make a bunch of neat things, uncover artifacts from my own life, watch my wife draw (which is always a joy because she has so much fun doing it, though she gripes the entire time), and I’m teaching my son his first “grown-up” game. WIN!
I have a friend who was giving me directions over the phone one day. He said, "Then take a right on ear-rack-wee-us."
"Excuse me," I said. "What's the street?"
"Do you mean Iroquois?"
"Oh. Is that how you say it?"
Sometimes phonics just fails us. Or perhaps it's the other way round. <shrug> Also, I think, our given accents can be devilishly difficult when trying to pronounce foreign or unfamiliar words. I remember people in college unable to get the nasals for French; too much Wis-can-suhn in them I suppose. I always found mimicking accents easy, but that might be because I spent my formative years near the Arctic Circle. I don't think we have an accent up there; or maybe it's more mutable.
In other news, new short stories have gone out to a couple of magazines you may have heard of: Apex and Clarkesworld. I've received rejections from both. Other stories went out in turn and the aforementioned new stories are about to be rotated into other hands. So, the cycle continues.
I submitted Little Wolf to a third agent. Keep your fingers crossed, or touch wood (you know the kind I'm talking about), or whatever you do for luck (I suppose you can touch the other kind of wood if that's your thing).
There's another short story in the works. It's been hard prising this one loose. I tend to get these little fictions out of the way in between larger projects. And right now, they're tumbling out, so it's as good a time as any to write them, though I'd like to get back to the larger course. All in due time.
For too long it has been the sorry plight of humans to come into a bright, open world of color and noise from dark, placental confinement only to suffer meaty imprisonment forced upon us by biology. Consider the harm inflicted upon all children, growing up segregated from the billions of other individuals inhabiting our planet, each spending their formative years with no one but their parents, grandparents, extended family, and family friends to help teach them about this immense, beautifully dangerous environment they find themselves deposited, never having asked for the privilege, but finding it thrust upon them nonetheless. Where do they get the advice ...
Every night our consciousness folds in upon itself, and we trust we'll wake in a few hours to repeat whatever it was that we did the day before. And then, one day, we do not wake and can go no further, know no more. I have pushed on, living, breathing, existing, after my father's death. And my son will do the same after me. Some might see poetry, meaning, or cosmic symmetry. I see naught by graceless, brutal robbery. That we all share the same ultimate fate lends no solace.
So, let’s roleplay a little bit. You’re Super Fan who wants to turn your passion for fanfic into a paying gig. No? How about Ordinary Joe who plays with his buddies every week and wants to get some of his adventures published? Or Geek Chick who revels in the challenge of genre writing and is looking to get her best stuff noticed?
So you want that magic formula to “break into the biz”?
No snake oil here. I’ll give you the lowdown. Ready?
After putting my Tolkien and Dragonlance books away, I continued inspecting the science and fantasy fiction books on my shelves. I saw books I hadn’t opened in years, while others showed signs of frequent flipping, as I’ve studied word choice and cadence or marveled over an elegant and breathtaking point-of-view transfer between two characters.
All this inspecting old books got me to thinking about the others I keep on my shelves and three authors in particular: J.R.R. Tolkien, Margaret Weis, and Tracy Hickman.
My love for Tolkien began in third grade. In school, we received fliers from Scholastic Books every month that were basically mini catalogs. My mom never let me buy from them, until, one day, I came home and was adamant that I wanted this book titled The Hobbit. By that time, I was already playing D&D, and I remember the blurb talking about dwarves and a wizard. That sealed it for me.
In the interest of full disclosure, I am a gamer. Not the video-game kind, but, rather, the sort who likes to sit down with friends around a table laden with chips, pizza, papers, metal figures, and dice. We brave traps, hunt treasure, and kill githyanki. Our characters dream of kingdoms and wizard’s towers and leading mighty armies to the very extents of existence to battle the gods themselves. Cue epic symphonic-metal score!
Waiting on an agent can feel like a waste of time, and sometimes it is.
On Oct. 2, 2013, I sent a prospective agent a submission query for my latest manuscript. Anyone who’s been around publishing knows that there’s a waiting period involved. Agents usually let you know, up front, the time it typically takes them to get to your manuscript. In my case, eight weeks. I received an auto-response from the agent’s email client telling me my query had been received. Waiting now lay in front of me. ...
Like so many writers, I have a primary job to pay my bills and write as a second job. And, as all writers in my situation know, this second job comes with a lot of opportunity costs.
What are those?
Oh no! Kidwell is going after his dictionary again! RUN!
Yessir, one of many trusty ...
As I write this, I’m waiting for a kettle of water to boil so I can make some tea. Yes, tea. Not coffee. Not whiskey. Just crushed leaves in gossamer bags steeped in water.
No word yet from the prospective agent. I expect something by the first week of December.
A couple of things: First, it seems I’ve coined the saying ...
Earlier this month, I sent out a query for Little Wolf to an agent on the recommendation of a friend. It’ll probably be some weeks before I hear back. In the meantime, I’ve got to move on. I’ve begun sketching out a new novel—the idea for it came to me nearly a year ago, but I to backburner it then. Over the months, when another idea would come, I’d jot it down, and now, all of those ideas are coming together pretty nicely.
I’m not a fast writer. I’m not a fast editor either. In fact, about the only thing I do quickly is ...