Blog Archive

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Amazing Adventures Kickstarter - The Final Hours!

Project image

A couple more days, folks! We're officially down to counting HOURS, now, and are only 12 backers away from $200! Check the Kickstarter--we have unveiled a TON more really cool stretch goals! Let's see if we can hit $21,000 in 2 days!!!

Science, sorcery, pugilistic pummeling, gun-toting, sword-wielding, B17-flying, gadget carrying adventure. Own it!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Amazing Adventures Kickstarter - The Final Countdown

Well, folks, we've got less than 6 days remaining in the Kickstarter and a long way to go, still, to hit that all-important $21K stretch goal. I want more than anything to see all three of these books in hardcover, and I think that people are going to like the Companion enough that they'll be disappointed in it being only softcover.

So, while we're funded for the core book in hardcover and the Manual of Monsters and Companion to be produced in softcover, WE STILL NEED YOUR SUPPORT. Please consider pledging, or sharing the link around. Help a starving game designer!


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Amazing Adventures Kicksarter - Upping the Ante!

Greetings from the Troll Dens!

Regarding the Amazing Adventures Kickstarter, some of you may have noticed an extra "S" in the 10K stretch goal.  Steve and Jason were talking last night and have decided to do a little something extra:  When we open that door, anyone at the $99 or above level will get 2 Amazing Adventures Players books for your table.  And -- hint, hint -- expect a few more secret doors to be popping up.  :-)

We also have a little bit of a challenge put forth by Steve and the TLG Trolls. We currently are at about $8,300 now. IF we make $10,000 by Friday (midnight), everyone at the $99 or above level will get a digest sized copy of the Amazing Adventures Core book! So if you are considering adding more, or changing your pledge, now is the best time. 

And if you can help spread the word about it, we'd appreciate it. Here's a link you can share for the Kickstarter:


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Amazing Adventures Second Print Kickstarter is Live!!!

The Kickstarter for Amazing Adventures Second Print is Live!!!


I haven't been around for some time, folks. For that I apologize. I hope to rectify that in the future--life has been too crazy of late.

However, I'm back and pleased to announce that Troll Lord Games has launched the kickstarter for Amazing Adventures Second Print!

What is Amazing Adventures?
It is Pulp Siege! The newest core game powered by Troll Lord Games' celebrated SIEGE engine (this is what runs Castles & Crusades). It allows you to create any type of pulp adventure hero you want, and customize them as you like! Be it arcane scholars, mentalists, tomb-raiding archaeologists, Asian martial arts masters, or gangsters and G-Men, this game has you covered. And best of all, if you're a fan of Castles & Crusades, you can pick this game up and get playing in a matter of minutes! Inside this book you'll find:

• Eight brand new character classes: Arcanist, Gadgeteer, Gumshoe, Hooligan, Mentalist, Pugilist, Raider, and Socialite
• Character customization options: Generic Class Abilities, Traits, Backgrounds, Fate Points, Pulp Costumes, Sanity Rules, and more!
• The complete SIEGE engine rules, adapted to use a single Challenge Base
• Rules for vehicular combat
• Guidelines on how to run a pulp game
• A rogue's gallery of foes, pre-generated characters, NPCs, and a ready-made adventuring society to get you up and running fast
• A complete starting adventure for 4-6 new pulp heroes
• And tons more

The Amazing Adventures Kickstarter!
We want the Amazing Adventures core rulebook out in Hardcover and Kickstarter is the platform to make that happen. With you on board we can not only put AA out in hardcover but we can, with a little hard work, add Amazing Monsters to the mix and the next release in the series: The Amazing Adventures Companion, filled with all manner of new material, from classes to vehicles and more.

If we hit our funding goal, the core rulebook will be in Hardcover. We also hope to get both the Manual of Monsters and Amazing Adventures Companion through stretch goals. We feel very strongly that if we hit $20K we can meet those goals and have all three in Hardcover!

The great news is that after a soft open this weekend, we already hit our base funding goal! However, since our public opening, pledges have dropped off a bit. Help us get the word out and reach that $20K goal!!!

Even if you can't contribute, it would be awesome if you could spread the word. Thanks!

You can find the kickstarter at:

Saturday, April 12, 2014

On Being My Own Boss and Why You Should, Too

I came to a sudden realization this morning.

I'm living my dream.

It's not in the way I thought it might be, not remotely. But life is full of unexpected surprises. 

I've been in the "independent contractor"/"work for yourself" mode for about 5 months, now, but I have to say it's incredibly liberating. Yes, there are things about it that are terrifying, but it's nice to know my fate is in my own hands.

For those unaware, to say that a brand new library has limited funds is a gross understatement. The funding here isn't even enough to provide me benefits. So I am employed here as an independent contractor. I pay my own taxes and am on the justifiably-maligned Obamacare health system (which sucks--everything good you've heard about it is a lie, and if you're not actually ON it, you don't get to disagree).

Aside from the Obamacare bit, though, things are pretty good. Sure, I don't get PTO from here, but again, my fate is in my own hands. You see, I am also doing web content writing for a company called Optimized Scribes and quite frankly, that stands to be more lucrative than librarianship--at least at this stage. The amount of money I make from that is really up to me, but to put it bluntly, this two-week pay from OS is going to be easily as high as that from the library, and I've put in less than half the hours.

So why stick with librarianship at all? I mean, here I do have a boss, my contract can be terminated, and I can be out of work--I'm technically not my own boss at the library, and I don't even get sick days because there is (literally) nobody else to run the place on a moment's notice.

I stick with librarianship because I love it. I love this place, I love the kids and patrons, and I love what I do here, even if it's not quite as expansive as I thought it would be when I signed on. And guess what? I have the freedom to do this because I love it. I didn't go to school for my Master's in Library and Information Science just because, and I certainly didn't do it because it's a lucrative career. Hell, it took me two years to find a job and the one I did finally get pays way below the median salary for librarians. There's just too many new librarians and not enough librarian jobs. No, I went for the degree because it's a field I feel passionate about.  Sure, I didn't realize how difficult it would be to find a job, but even still. Baby steps.

I have a strange back-and-forth view of my two paying gigs. Technically the library is my day job and OS is my supplemental income. It's odd, though, because my supplemental job pays me more than my day job does, when it breaks down.

It's also nice to know that if things go south here (which given the state of libraries today is a very real possibility) I have a fall-back position. I can increase my writing output and likely more than make up the difference. Indeed, were all things to remain as they are, I could be making nearly six figures from content writing alone, just by doubling what I did this past week, every week. Anyone who says you cannot make a living doing this probably just didn't have what it takes to pull it off or has listened to propaganda from those who failed to pull it off. Ever hear the old fable about the fox and the grapes? Yeah, look it up.

Granted; I'm lucky. The owner of Optimized Scribes is a good friend and a very canny businesswoman, and is also *very* good at researching and bidding jobs for her freelancers. Her company is growing so hopefully you'll be hearing more from them in the very near future. 

So here it is.

For years I've said, "I wish to God I could make a living as a writer. I'd give anything for that."

I've also said, "It would be a dream come true if I could be a librarian."

Guess what? I'm a librarian who is also making a living as a writer.

Sure, 99% of what I write is ghost written, and little of it is creative, but I am, in fact, making good money writing. It's just not the kind of writing I always thought I'd be doing. I have given thought to the possibility of going full-time as a content writer, but the truth is, content writing is feast or famine and the library makes a strong fallback position for those times when there's no work in the writing. If you're going to make a living at writing alone, you have to do all the work you possibly can when it's there, and put as much money away as you can while you do it, because there will be times when the work goes dry--perhaps for months--and you'll still need to pay bills. Since the library is stable for now, I look at it as my main job while the writing, lucrative as it is, is supplemental. If I ever lose the library gig or the writing just goes through the roof, I'll re-evaluate.

There's all kinds of other issues at play--taxes are fun when you're self-employed, but you get used to that and you really just need to be diligent about putting away 30% of every pay for taxes. I also recommend a good accountant, but that's neither here nor there so far as this blog goes.

So what's the point of all this? Am I bragging? No, I'm not--at least, that's not my intent. You would not believe the number of arguments I've had with people over the years I was wildly unhappy as an administrator for a University. People told me, "I don't know what your problem is. Suck it up. Grow up and do what you have to do. Nobody gets to do what they want. As long as you're making good money that's all that matters."

You know, I learned the hard way that those attitudes are sheer bullshit. Do what you love and don't sweat the money. As long as you are paying your bills, that's what matters. Quit being jealous of people who go on cruises or travel the world. Many of them do that shit because they so desperately need to get away from their soul-crushing but high-paying day jobs which they secretly hate.

I'm a lot happier not hating having to go to work every day, and just scraping together the funds to go to a gaming convention every year. And you know what? I'm pretty sure that if I keep on keeping on, eventually the money will follow. I may never be making 200 grand a year, but I'm stable.

The truth is, most of us live either at or just beyond our means, regardless of what we make. If you make more, you'll spend more. If you make less, you'll spend less. And you will spend less if you make less. I know, because I do.

I took a 53% paycut to come to the library from my last gig, and even with the supplement from writing I'm still about $5,000 a year less than I was (though if I keep on increasing my earnings from OS, that will change). I spend less because I know I have to, and it didn't take a hard conscious adjustment. It just happened.

Yes, since I know you're wondering, it was scary making that move. Terrifying, in fact. It certainly helped to make the decision, that I had fourteen years of successive administrative jobs that paid me more and more and made me less and less happy. I also discovered that while I was a passable secretary and administrative / executive assistant, once I climbed into the upper management levels, I was really not good at that job, no matter how hard I tried.

I was at a point where I didn't have much to lose. I was going to change my life or succumb to a pretty severe and possibly permanent depressive funk. So the thought process of whether or not I should go from almost $45k a year with full benefits to under $23k a year with no benefits but in a field I really wanted to enter took about 1.5 seconds. For many people it'd take significantly longer and the terror of the uncertainty might be crippling. I get that.

You know, I have only one response to the people who don't make the move because they're afraid of not having security. 

Nobody in this world EVER achieved great success by playing it safe. Nobody. If you can't take the risks, you can't play to win. If you take security over happiness, you've thrown in the towel, and the two are not the same thing--it's nice when they overlap, but make no mistake: security and happiness are mutually exclusive concepts which can be complementary but one is not requisite to the other.

It takes balls to walk away from upper middle class pay and full benefits for a far less certain future, but if you have the balls, it's almost always worth it. Yes, it's better to do it when you're younger, but it's never too late. If you're not happy and someone tells you to "suck it up," it's usually because they're too afraid to make their own change, and misery loves company. Not always, but usually.

The moral of this story is, have courage to make the change you need to make. Do what you love and the money will follow, and there are, in fact, opportunities to pay your bills doing what you love. You just have to hunt for them and grab them when you find them.

If you think I'm stupid or full of it, that's fine. If you're too scared to make the change or are otherwise dismissing me out of hand, it doesn't matter. If you don't believe me, so be it. All I can do is speak from my own experience. It took too long for me to get there and I no longer have time for negativity in my life.

Is my life perfect now? Nope, not by a long shot. Nobody's is. I still have job-related frustrations and really shitty days. Hell, I still may fail. Guess what, though? Here's an uncomfortable truth: any one of you can fail at your job at any time. This is true no matter good at your gig you are. One mistake can end it all, and it doesn't even have to be your mistake. If there's one thing 2008 showed us it's that even major multinational corporations can fall apart in a day and you can be out on the street.

I'll tell you what: I'm a lot better off emotionally, spiritually, and in all other ways than I have been for a very long time, and I hope it stays that way for a long time to come. The times are changing, the economy is changing, and the middle class is going away. There's not a damn thing we can do about it, except make our own middle class by finding our own opportunities and doing what we love. The future of corporate work is haves and have-nots, not upper and middle class. The future of the middle class is self employment.

But enough of my rambling. Quit your job; you'll feel better.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

What is a Library, and Why?

(This post is evolved and expanded from a comment I made on a friend's Facebook page).

The above photo is circulating on Facebook currently, with the following caption:

"You want to photograph me eating chicken?"
"Well, if I let you, I need you to help me deliver a message."
"What's that?"
"I work at this library. And before that, I was coming here for twenty years. It's my favorite place in the world. As many people know, the main reading room of this library is supported by seven floors of books, which contain one of the greatest research collections in the world. Recently, the library administration has decided to rip out this collection, send the books to New Jersey, and use the space for a lending library. As part of the consolidation, they are going to close down the Mid-Manhattan Library Branch as well as the Science, Industry, and Business Library. When everything is finished, one of the greatest research libraries in the world will become a glorified internet cafe. Now read that back to me."

I'm not sure whether the gentleman being quoted is a librarian or a part-time staff member. I'm not even certain whether this quote is real or just made up, though given that this guy appears to be in his 20's or early 30's, I'm inclined to believe it's fake. If the library in question is in fact a research library, he's been going there since he was in his early teens at the oldest? Somehow I doubt it.

But let's roll with it. What I am sure of is that regardless of whether it's true, the message is written by someone who really...really doesn't get it. 

So this research collection is being sent to another institution. Sad? Yes. Well, actually, really, it's not even that sad. It's not as though the collection is being mothballed or destroyed. It's just getting moved to a different library. So it may be sad for the residents of Manhattan, but change happens.

Now, it is very sad that a few branches look like they're going to close with whatever consolidation is going on. That makes my heart hurt and it is unfortunately something that's happening all too often, but is mostly happening to libraries that refuse to evolve, and/or in communities that are not supportive of their library systems.  When the Carnegie Library system here in Pittsburgh was in danger of closing branches because our financially-beleaguered City Council could not uphold their "in perpetuity" funding agreement to Andrew Carnegie when one accounted for inflation, the entire community rallied and went so far as to approve a 0.1 mil (miniscule and not even noticeable by the vast majority of Pittsburghers) property tax increase, which went on to generate well over a million dollars annually for the library system. Perhaps New York should look at a similar strategy (expanded possibly to a miniscule rental tax?). Think about how much money a meager 5 bucks a year (41 cents a month) from each New Yorker would raise for the New York public library system. 

But I digress.

Talking of change happening, and speaking as someone who is (I can finally and happily say) a career librarian, libraries are no longer buildings with books. If they remain solely buildings with books, they will ALL close down. Libraries MUST evolve and change to survive in this day and age--I would argue, in fact, that despite the etymology of the word, libraries have NEVER been "buildings with books." What a library is, and always has been, is a center of information exchange and information archiving. Equating that solely with books is a gross misunderstanding at best, a logical fallacy at worst. Electronic delivery of information is the "industry standard" in society, as it were. Libraries having something in common with Internet cafes is not necessarily a bad thing, all told.

"So, then," you ask, "Why bother with libraries at all, when I can just Google what I want?"

"Google can bring you back 100,000 answers," Neil Gaiman answers. "A librarian can bring you back the right one."

At one point in time, information was best delivered by books. Hence, libraries were repositories of books. Delivery of information has evolved; so must libraries, which now serve as community hubs, gathering places, meeting facilities, and facilitators of all manner of information exchange.

In addition, assuming (based largely, let's face it, on skewed statistics you get from a Google search) that everyone has easy access to the Internet is also a patent falsehood. Libraries are what provide this easy access to the Internet and the technology to access it (read: computers, tablets, and e-readers) for MANY people.

Also consider that what this gentleman's message is not saying is that, in all likelihood, this "unparalleled research collection" is probably 90% WAY out of date.

I also find it difficult to understand how "use the space for a lending library" equates to "will become a glorified Internet cafe."

In the same way that public libraries are no longer stuffy institutions where children are shushed and only the academic elite hold sway, libraries no longer are solely book-centric. Do we love books? Hell, yes! You'd be hard-pressed to find a librarian who isn't a bibliophile. But this message is just the disgruntled ravings of a grognard who doesn't get it and is afraid of change. If you take the time to do the research, what libraries are evolving into is extremely exciting and will ensure that, yes, you will actually have a repository for real books for many, many years to come.

As a final thought, converting the space to a lending library says to me that they're increasing accessibility to the public, rather than focusing on stuffy academic-types. After 15 years of working in Universities, I've about had it with stuffy academic types. Kudos to doing something that will attract the general public to a higher degree, and possibly ensure the survival of the institution for many years to come.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Soul Searching - a Work in Progress

I recently stated on Facebook that this has been a summer of ups and downs. I've had two amazing trips this summer--one to Rehoboth Beach, DE, with the family, and one to Gen Con which was probably one of the better experiences I've had there in the years I've been going. On the other hand, there have been some serious low points--some about which I cannot speak, but others, such as my current job, which I thought was an amazing opportunity, going very sour. I've been wondering a lot why this keeps happening to me, why for three jobs in a row, now, my position that looked good at the outset, ended up just going sour. "Is it me?" I wonder, and I'm sure there are some people out there who don't give me nearly enough credit who will think it must be. But I've worked hard at these jobs, tried to do what I had to do and even a bit more, and things have just gone bad. I also have to consider that for the three (very long term) jobs prior to these, I was pretty darned happy. I just fell prey to the "you need to make more money," bug, and the "you need to get out of this job--grab the first thing that comes along," bug.

That's not to say I bear no responsibility. The events of this summer have made me start to do a lot of deep soul-searching. I do have a tendency to self-sabotage. I'm very bad at checking my own work--I overlook things that I probably shouldn't overlook. I make mistakes. These are things upon which I really need to work, but I'm not sure how to fix the issue. I do check over my work, sometimes four or five times, and I still miss things. I'm not sure what the solution is. Now, I normally don't repeat mistakes I make, but it would be really nice to not make them in the first place. I'm not sure how to approach and resolve that issue.

I'm working on fixing the general work-related stress issue by not applying for every job I think I'm capable of doing. I'm only applying for jobs that I really want. Jobs that I think will fulfill me, or at least be low-stress enough that I'll be able to work on things that will fulfill me. I'm tired of the rat race. I'm tired of, "I need to make more money because that's what everyone else does." I am learning that really, I just need to be able to pay my bills. If I can't afford to go out to nice, high-priced restaurants with everyone else, so be it. I don't need to do that. About five years ago I was working as an executive assistant and receptionist at another department here at Pitt, and I was pretty damn content. I was making ends meet, paying bills with no real problems, and I had the time and low stress to enable me to work on writing and other projects. So what happened? The bug, of course. I talked myself out of being content there. I decided I needed to make more money and do something "important."

I'd give anything to go back to that job.

What I failed to understand is that it's not something "important" that I want to do. It's something fulfilling to me on a personal level. And I had that at that job, in the ability to pursue my writing. Things have developed on that front that may indeed make my writing a source of decent supplementary income, which will in turn enable me to pay down some debts, but I need to be patient. I need to stop rushing things, or wanting them to rush.

But my soul-searching lately has been more than work-related. I've been taking a good, long, hard look at myself and trying to focus on personal areas that need improvement. I think this kind of started at Gen Con this year. I posted on Facebook about having tipped a waitress at Fridays there, on behalf of a table of rude patrons who did not do so. When I did that it made me think, that's the kind of person I want to be all the time. I don't want to be the person who gets irritated at someone for being slow on the uptake, or being an asshole (or just ignorant) driver. I don't want to be the guy who gets angry over a drive-thru getting my order wrong. I want to be patient and kind. I want to be thankful every day for people in my life who enrich it, like my wife. I want to be able to look up at the sky and think, "What a beautiful world," at least once a day. I don't want to think "why me?" all the time. I want to think, "Thanks for what I've got." I want to help people--even just little random acts of kindness. I don't want to be so cynical and bitter about things. I want to be the kind of person who makes someone's day better for having encountered me.

I'm going to take a minute to wax spiritual, so for those amongst my friends and readers who are atheist, I apologize if this irritates you, but for what it's worth, it's my own spirituality I'm talking about--I'm not advocating it for anyone else.

They say, "God helps those who help themselves." I've often angrily wondered why I don't get helped, then--after all, I try really hard to better myself and to do what is expected of me, do what's necessary, etc. But usually those bitter wonderings are about things like "I'm putting in all these damn applications and I'm qualified--why won't You just help me get an interview, or get a better job??"

Maybe, I have to wonder, helping myself means more than that. Maybe it means helping myself to be a better person as well as doing what I need to do. Maybe it means being less self-centered and more giving. And maybe it means doing it for the right reasons--ie. because I want to or because it's the right thing to do, rather than "because I want to build up karma."

Maybe that's what it means to do something important. Maybe living a life of meaning is paying it forward, appreciating what you have, acknowledging that appreciation, and doing what you can to make someone else's day a little bit better. Maybe helping yourself means being a better person, not just doing the practical or material things you need to do.

My heart and gut are telling me that's the way it's supposed to work.

I don't know. I do know that at this moment, I'm a work in progress.

Let's see how things turn out.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Frustration and Confusion

So yesterday was my birthday. I had a nice time with my sister and brother-in-law, low key but enjoyable.

Starting a few years ago I kind of battle a minor depression on my birthday. This is because I can't help but look back on my life and realize that I'm pushing 40, and I've really done nothing worthwhile by my estimation. By others' estimation I've done okay, but I don't measure success by my title or how much I'm making. The truth is, I'm not doing what I want to do with my life and have met failure at every turn in my efforts to do what I want to do.

I'm having to face the harsh, cold truth that I'm really not good at my current job. I'm trying. I'm trying really hard, but I'm very much not good at this, and by continuing to be not good at this (despite my best efforts) I'm doing harm to my department. So at this point I'm doing everything I can to hold it together here in hopes that either something clicks in a big way (unlikely at this point) or I can by some miracle find my way into a career path that I'm good at and that I find fulfilling on some level, instead of just physically and mentally exhausting. Please note that I'm not complaining about my job. I'm not saying I made a mistake coming here--indeed, I made the only choice open to me at the time. I love my co-workers. I love my department. They do great work here. The sad, simple truth is that I'm just not qualified for this job, and I have had zero success learning the incredibly complex skills set needed to perform here. I wanted more than anything to be good at this job. I wanted more than anything to make certain people--family, friends, and my current boss--proud of me.

I've failed. That hurts more than I can possibly express, to say. But I've failed.

So I guess it's back to the drawing board. But again, I'm pushing 40, and that's too goddamn old to be wandering in the forest.

There's been some hopeful news on the horizon, which I can't reveal just yet, but it's at least a good year or more away, so somehow I've got to hold it together until that glimmer of hope becomes any sort of potential reality.

Gods, the mistakes I've made. I'm so full of regret there's very little room for anything else. I've spent my entire life for the past 13-15 years doing what was expected of me instead of following the path I wanted. I spent the 90's blowing off school and sabotaging my own chances to enter a fulfilling career, so that I didn't have much other choice but to take what was available, and do what was expected of me. Now? I'm stuck in a room with no doors or windows.

I went to school and got a Master's Degree hoping that it might actually help to jump start a real career for me. That's the common wisdom, right? All I've gotten for it are doors slammed in my face and middle fingers. Oh, and people saying, "I know lots of people with graduate degrees that aren't working in their field of choice," as if that's supposed to somehow make me feel better--if that's the case, what's the point of a Master's Degree? No, the truth is, if I hadn't screwed around so much back in the 90's, if I'd done the path then, when I had the youth and ability to hold limited employment and do internships, I'd be in a very, very different place right now.

Unfortunately, self-sabotage is my super power. Too bad you can't make a good living doing that.

So where am I now? Back at the door of potentially making the same mistakes, thinking about going back to school to get ANOTHER certification to try and shift career paths. And I keep asking myself, "why bother?" It's not as though it'll make any bit of difference. Nobody wants educated people--they want experienced people. We've done a complete 180 from where we used to be. It used to be that a college degree was everything--doors opened for people with degrees. Now? Formal education isn't valued anymore. Only experience. Which nobody wants to open the door, to grant. Our society is rigid and immobile, the American Dream be damned. You end up in a career trajectory, and there's no way out. That's where you're stuck. Woe to those of us who aren't satisfied with the career into which we fell.

I get really, incredibly angry at people who fought and worked for a career of their choice, achieve what they wanted, working in the field they chose, and then complain about it. Some of us didn't get to choose our careers.

"So," you ask, "What exactly DO you want to do? What WOULD be fulfilling for you?"

Okay, maybe you're not asking that. In fact, given how I seem to go through this soul-searching bullshit once every year or two, it's really likely that you don't give a shit. But I'm going to pretend you do.

There are a number of career paths that I'd love to tackle, that would bring me joy. Most of them are closed to me for one reason or another.

1. Writing. I want to create. I want to write. I want to use my love of written language to pay my daily bills. Be it tech writing, fiction writing, game writing, or what have you. This is my talent. This is what I am best at. Sadly, game and fiction writing aren't realistic. Far less than 1% of game and fiction writers get to make a living at their talent. Tech writing, educational writing, or some such would be fine, except that again, we run into the "experience" roadblock. As my sister pointed out yesterday, tech writers tend to fall into their jobs by sheer luck, and there's no tech writers around here where I work, for that to happen. As it stands, writing is a hobby that doesn't even pay for itself, but pays a bill every so often and buys me coffee here and there. To be able to put out the amount of material I'd need to make a living these days through self-publishing, I'd have to write for 8 hours a day, and I don't have 8 hours a day to write. Now I'm not one of those phony writers who claims, "I'd write if I just had the time." That's not what I'm saying at all; I try to get in a couple hours every day as I can, but again, it results in a comparatively small word count against what I really would need to crank out if I wanted to try to make a living, and without a steady income, Julie and I would be out on the street, so I can't just quit my job to write full time until I have a steady income from writing. It's a terrible Catch-22.

2. Librarianship. This is what I went to school for. I'd give almost anything to be a teen/YA librarian. But again, everyone wants 5-10 years experience in addition to an MLIS. Which leaves that age old question, "how can I get experience if nobody will give it to me?" I have a laundry list of transferable skills and a very impressive GPA which I earned while working full time as a grants and research administrator. But transferable skills are meaningless nowadays, it seems. I can't even get a job interview for a library gig. Managing a book store would be satisfactory, but with no retail experience under my belt, that too is highly unlikely, though I have been looking at trying to land a part time evening/weekend bookseller gig to supplement my income and pay down some debts, so we shall see.

3. IT Services. This is what I'm considering getting certified to do. I would enjoy being a systems administrator very much. I love computers. I love to muck around with computer hardware. I have a passing knowledge of computer networks and would love to learn more. I love to solve the puzzles that come with IT troubleshooting--I've spent hours wrestling with viruses and malware rather than simply reformatting a PC, because I enjoy figuring out how to beat it and root it out of the system. I also think I have a better sense for customer service than most IT guys do. This one is still hanging out there. I'm deciding whether it's worthwhile to bother, or if I'll just end up with another useless degree/certification on my resume due to lack of experience.

4. Entrepreneurship. This is my ultimate dream. I want to run my own business that would be a combination book store, coffee house, New Age shop, and geek/gaming store. My Elevator Pitch for it is, "A small Barnes and Noble for Sci-Fi/Fantasy Geeks." I'd have a cafe area, a New Age shop that would host an apothecary (run by my wife), sell crystals, pendants, candles, etc., a book store that would sell gaming, sci-fi, fantasy, history, and religion books, and an area that would sell DVDs, Blu Rays, action figures, collectibles, board games, etc. The ONLY thing stopping me there is funding. I'd need a minimum of $250,000 to get open and keep running till I got solvent. I've planned this business for years; if I had the funds I could be up and running fast. But I've got no way to get the funds. It'd take a decade or more for me to even save a quarter of that, and see the "pushing 40," issue. I don't have decades to spend anymore.

So there you have it. Four different career paths I'd love to travel, and four different career paths that are pretty much closed, locked, and dead-bolted against me despite my best efforts. I could list others--acting, music, etc.--but those may as well just fall in with writing as pipe dream careers at which few get to make a living.

And here I am, facing another year full of false promises, fake blessings, and too much regret.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Spellcraft & Swordplay Summer Sale!

Okay, folks, for a limited time from now till the end of July, you can get the Spellcraft &Swordplay core rulebook in print (hardcover) plus a PDF of the game for only $15!!! That's 50% off the cover price of the core book alone, for $15! Just use the following link--and feel free to share it with others!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013


I've been feeling a bit lost, lately. It's not a heavy, soul-crushing depression like I was suffering with, nothing like that. Just...kind of lost in the woods. I'm not where I want to be in life, but where I'd like to be is so far away that it's just unreachable. I know, I know, someone (or multiple someones) is bound to say, "nothing is unreachable."

Truth is, that's wishful thinking. Some things are.

Before anyone says "I told you so," or says something like, "You'll never be satisfied, no matter what job you're doing," I'd like to clarify that I'm not bitching about my job. It's not a dream job, not by any stretch. But it's not bad, either. It's very stressful, like, all the time. I think about work even when I sleep. That's not 100% healthy, but it's also just the nature of the job I do. I'm responsible for managing a whole lot of imaginary money that unfortunately has all-too-real effects on the institution for which I work. I have no experience doing this, and the learning curve is steeper than I ever imagined. I think I'm doing well, but because it's my nature to think this way, I also think I'm not doing as well as I should be.

 But that's neither here nor there. This job was always meant to be a way station. I'll do the best I can, learn what I can, but I need to keep looking to better myself. I lost sight of that at first, thinking I really owe them for taking a chance on me. But as my 1-year anniversary at this place comes up in less than 3 months, I think it's time to set my sights back on the Big Picture.

The problem is, I need to (first) clear away my debts, and (second) come up with a BARE minimum figure of $20,000-$30,000 before I can even put together a business plan and go for a small business loan. That's BARE minimum. Where I'm going to come up with that, I have absolutely no idea because at the moment I can't even pay down a couple of medium-level credit cards. If I WAS able to clear away my debts, I could probably save it in somewhere between 3 and 5 years. Maybe less, if I scored enough in the way of writing gigs that I used to power it as well.

It's do-able, but man, I don't want to spend another half decade crunching numbers in an academic institution.

People think I've done the right thing. Moved up in my current career path, gotten big raises, bought a house, I'm getting ready to raise a family...somewhere in there, the word "sacrifice" became the definition of my entire life, and somehow even people I care about think that's okay. It's all about money first and happiness second (if at all). I'm getting tired of living that way, but I just don't see a way out. All I do is sacrifice, and sacrifice, and sacrifice, and do what I'm supposed to do and what's expected of me...when do I get to do what I want to do? When do I get to try something that'll make me happy? Why am I always putting what others think I should do ahead of what I want to do?

Man, this isn't why we were put on this Earth. But then again, this Earth is a beautiful planet that we've kind of pissed all over anyway.

Doesn't matter, in the end. I'll never have what I want. Why keep bitching about it? May as well just live with the hand life has dealt me and accept the fact that other people get to have happiness. I don't. 

Thursday, May 9, 2013

I am Generation X

I am Generation X.

We are those who were born in the 70's,

raised in the 80's,

and came into our own in the 90's.

Our parents were baby-boomers, and many of us now have children of our own. 

We remember Saturday Morning Cartoons like the Smurfs, Hulk Hoagan's Rock n' Wrestling, the Pac Man adventure hour, the Gummi Bears, and Dungeons & Dragons.

We remember weekday morning and afternoon cartoons like G.I. Joe, The Transformers, Thundercats, He-Man, She-Ra, Mask, Speed Racer, and Robotech. We remember these things before they were remade for a new era with new sensibilities.

We remember when Megatron was a Walther P38 instead of a jet or tank. We remember playing war with toy guns and none of us grew up to shoot up our schools (For the record, Harris and Klebold were Gen Y). We played Assassins in high school and nobody called it a "Dangerous game."

We were the first generation to have Dungeons & Dragons and were the consumers responsible for launching the modern role playing industry.

We remember when the woods were a safe place to play.

If we got bullied in school, a playground fist fight usually settled the case, and nobody went to prison or court for assault.

We didn't get expelled from school for having G.I. Joe toys or making gun shapes with our hands.

We remember a black-and-white, dark and gritty Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, as well as a brightly-colored pizza-eating cartoon version.

We were defined by Star Trek and Star Wars. We watched Knight Rider, The Incredible Hulk, The Dukes of Hazzard, Grizzly Adams, V, The Cosby Show, Cheers, and Night Court.

We ate dinner in front of the TV. With our families, be they one- or two-parent homes.

We were latch-key kids whose parents both worked, and nobody got arrested because we were home alone for a few hours in the afternoon.

We think The Lost Boys and Near Dark were two of the greatest vampire films ever made.

We had E.T., Indiana Jones, The Last Starfighter, Conan the Barbarian, The Goonies, and Back to the Future.

Films like Dream a Little Dream, Clerks, Chasing Amy, Waiting..., High Fidelity, Pump Up the Volume, Say Anything, The Breakfast Club, St. Elmo's Fire, or Reality Bites resonated with us on a deep and fundamental level and told us that other people knew what our lives felt like.

We hung out at the mall as teens and at dimly-lit coffeehouses as young adults.

We smoked cigarettes and weed, which was the inexpensive drug you could grow with a sun lamp in your basement, and nobody died from it.

We lamented how dead of a decade the Clinton 90's were, but look back now with nostalgia on those days, and only now realize what a decade of quiet progress it was.

We felt like we had no heroes and nobody to look up to. We were so desperate for a

We spawned the celebrity voyeur culture and reality TV. You're welcome.

We could've changed the world for the better. Instead, we've made it more divisive than it ever before has been. Good work, folks.

We embraced heavy metal, then killed it and replaced it with grunge. 

Our social network was the mall instead of street corners and smart phones.

We didn't ram our politics down each others' throats.

We went to school to get good jobs doing things with our lives that we wanted to do. We looked for fulfillment. We appreciated music, art, and books, and didn't steal them (as a rule) off the shelves at stores, only to justify it as "sticking it to the man," or "information should be free." We recognized the rights of artists to make a living from their talents.

We were proud to be American and for the most part, the world respected us.

And yet, now we do all those things we never did before, in spades.

And yet, the world we have all our fault.

You're welcome.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Motivation is a problem

So I've been having a real problem with motivation lately. I have all these ideas for novels whirling around in my head, and several that are already started, but I've barely put any words down in months. I'm not sure why. I'll get determined--today I'm going to do this--and then just won't. The one time I tried, last weekend, the result was, well, disappointing, to say the least. I got about 1800 words out and they were pretty much garbage. Not remotely provocative or exciting. Could be that I'm out of practice, or it could be that I've just not found the perfect way to start this one yet. Only way to be sure is to soldier on, I guess. Hell, Broken Gods went through four or five different beginnings before I got it right, so...

But anyway, I'm not sure what's going on. The life situation, nominally, has improved. My new job is worlds better than my old one, even if it is a ton of stress. I'm thinking that's part of the issue--this is a different kind of stress than I'm used to, and I need to find some way to manage it. I've never had a job before where I can't take a day off without feeling the need to check my e-mail to make sure there are no emergencies or disasters or fires to put out. It kind of weighs on me at times. It's hard to recharge the old batteries when you have to think about work even when you're not there. But I'm still relatively new to this job--only been here for 8 months and they say it can take up to 2 years or so just to get a handle on the position. So maybe after awhile I'll find a good place of balance. I hope so.

Yesterday I was really down and really emotional for no apparent reason. Not sure what was up with that. I just dealt with it by kind of withdrawing into myself and riding it out. There's still a bit of it lingering today. Hoping it diminishes instead of getting worse. 

Tonight after work I need to clean the house--it's gotten almost to the state where I'm afraid I'm going to see us on the evening news as having "deplorable living conditions." Julie's working late as she usually does on Wednesdays, so it'll be a good time to get things done. I am vowing right now that the television will not go on, unless it's to tune to a music channel or put on a music/concert disc for background music while I clean. Then I need to settle down, look through my various writing projects, pick one, and finish it. My publisher is going to open up for new submissions this summer, he thinks, and I need to have at least two books ready to send to him. One is done and waiting. I can finish one more, I think.

I'm losing weight--it's actually starting to be visible. That's a great thing. Mostly I'm just being more aware of my portion sizes, and have been getting more exercise just by virtue of how my commute works, now. I'm getting in at least a good half hour of walking every day, and working in hills and stairs to that. It's helped a lot. I feel a bit lighter, though I haven't yet got to the point where I can run without feeling a bit of..."bounce." That's the goal. That and dropping at least 2 inches off my waist. I think I'm down about an inch, but don't quote me on that. I don't keep a scale in the house because I would obsess about it. I know I'm starting--just starting--to be able to see my jawline in the mirror again, which is great.

Anyway, yeah, I've got a problem with motivation and drive. I have ambition, but my drive has once more gone far south. I'm not sure how to get it back. But one thing is certain--I need to figure it out fast.

Okay, rambling over. Thanks for listening, whoever you may be.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Feeling unhealthy again...

My ears are hot.

And I've been getting nosebleeds again.

It's largely stress-related. I'm much happier at the new job than I have been at any of my past ones (save perhaps my first-ever job here at Pitt, which alas paid shit), but unfortunately there's a ton of constant stress here, which gives me headaches, nosebleeds, makes my ears hot from the pressure, and sometimes interferes with sleep.

This is the type of job that even when you take vacation time you need to check e-mail to make sure there's no major explosions that need to be dealt with immediately.

At least the money is better, which will allow me--if I can get disciplined--to get my practical shit in order--pay off some debts, get my monthly bills in order--which in a perfect world would then result in me being able to take a less-stressful, lower-paying job in the future.

I need to lose weight. Really badly, I need to lose weight. I've been starting to feel unhealthy again lately. I need to cut out the sugar in my diet--I've been splurging and indulging FAR too often lately. I need to get back on a hardcore low carb regimen. The trick is actually taking care of lunch at home. When I get up in the mornings I am worse than an angry zombie. I can't even THINK about preparing food to take to work with me. And usually I fall asleep on the couch in the evenings, then wake up to stagger up to bed, so doing it before bed isn't a realistic goal either--at least not until I manage to successfully change my habits, which really needs to happen.

Maybe I should start getting it together first thing when I get home from work every day. That could work. Come home, make and bag tomorrow's lunch so I can just grab and go when I get ready for work tomorrow.

And I need to kick up my exercise.

I was lifting weights with a friend, but I really just didn't feel like I was getting out of it what I need. It's not the type of exercise I want. I understand the whole concept of building lean muscle mass and whatnot, but really, if you're not feeling better after exercising, it's pointless. The only way a person is going to keep up with an exercise routine is if they can find a form of exercise they enjoy and/or that makes them feel better after, and lifting does neither for me.

I need to start going to a gym with a good variety of cardio equipment and start an actual exercise routine. One that gets my heart rate up and lets me work up a sweat instead of one that just makes my arms, back, legs and shoulders ache for days. When I do cardio--jogging, walking, whatever--I feel better afterward. I feel healthier, and better about myself. For some reason when I lift weights I feel worse about myself after I'm done, and I don't mean just physically beat up (though that happens, too); I mean my self esteem takes a dive for some reason. During the work out I count the exercises, thinking, "how many more left to go?" whereas when I do cardio-related workouts I often find myself thinking, "Oh, that went fast," at the end of it.

Anyway,'s time to make a plan and follow through. I've been too haphazard for too long, and it needs to stop if I'm going to get healthy again, especially if I'm going to be working a higher stress job.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Petition is Live

My petition is live at It calls for an immediate and permanent reduction in congressional salary and benefits to bring Congress back to the level of their constituents and take away their right to vote themselves raises.

You can go here to sign it.

This petition has been created with the intention of (in the best of all worlds) forcing Congress back to our level so they're no longer so divorced from what they do to us on a daily basis, and at the very least showing the level of discontent the people have in no uncertain terms.

I have no real hope that the White House or Congress cares about the welfare of nor will listen to the voices of the people they are supposed to serve, but at least they'll have to SEE this one, so I'd appreciate the support.
And no, I'm not looking for a political debate here. If you don't agree--don't sign. It's that simple. Don't tell me why you don't agree, don't tell me you won't or didn't sign, and don't tell me I'm wrong. I don't care and will delete such responses. This link is intended for support, not debate or detraction. So if you support the idea, feel free to comment.

Friday, March 1, 2013

A Petition to Congress

I put together a petition that I intend to introduce on as soon as the Gummint gets around to sending my login confirmation, which I should've had well over an hour ago. But then, it's really not in the Gummint's best interest to actually make it easy for people to petition them, is it? That would make them actually *gasp* beholden to us.

Anyway, here's the text. Just thought I'd share.

We, the undersigned, feel that the United States Congress has far too long abused its authority and power over the people, and believe that Congress is the single largest cause of economic bloat and problem in the nation. We the People feel that serving in the United States Congress should be viewed as an honor and not as a day job. This was the intent of our great Founding Fathers. Instead, employment in the Senate and House of Representatives has become a vehicle for making outrageous sums of money at the expense of the public our representatives were elected to serve, and supporting the Few in the form of Special Interests, rather than the Many, in the form of the People of the United States. As such, due to their continual failure to do their duties in supporting the interests of the public, while continually seeing their salaries and benefits skyrocket, We the People of the United States (hereafter "We the People" or "we") hereby request the following changes be made in the United States Congress:

1. Salaries of all Senators and House Representatives be immediately reduced to $75,000 per year. This is roughly equivalent to (and slightly higher than) their original salary of $3,000 in 1855, adjusted for inflation. This should include the salaries of the Speaker of the House, and the Senate Majority and Minority Leaders, who we do not feel deserve extra pay based upon a title that should be reward enough.

2. FURTHER, we request that any future alterations to Congressional salary or benefits packages require the approval of the People through a broad Voter Referendum. Most working individuals count on their employer to grant raises; the same should hold true of Congress, whose employers are considered to be We the People.

3. FURTHER, we request that all current Senators and House Representatives see any pension and retirement benefits immediately removed, and any future automatic or assumed retirement or pension benefit programs for the United States Congress ended. To whit, we request that Senators and House Representatives no longer be covered under the Federal Employees' Retirement System Act of 1986. From the adoption of this change forward, all Senators and House Representatives will be required to pay into a 401K program for retirement benefits, as most of the working public must do, if they desire such benefits, and will be required to pay into Social Security at the same rates as the working public.

4. FURTHER, we request that all Senators and House Representatives immediately lose their federal healthcare program benefits, and that these programs be immediately terminated. Henceforth they will be required to seek healthcare in the private sector or under the new Affordable Healthcare Act. 

5. FURTHER, we request that the "soft retirement" model whereby members of Congress "retire" directly to Lobby Organizations and Think Tanks, based on their behavior/voting record in Congress, be immediately ended, and retired Senators and House Representatives be forbidden from joining Lobby Organizations and Think Tanks upon their retirement.

IN SUMMARY: We feel that Congress neither deserves nor is entitled to the high rate of pay and outstanding benefits they receive, which places them as a social elite above the people whom they serve. We request that the above steps (severe reduction in pay, healthcare and retirement benefits identical to the majority of the working public, loss of soft retirement, and the requirement to ask We the People for future pay and benefits adjustments) be taken immediately to rectify this situation and that Congress acknowledge that they in fact work for We the People by also acknowledging that these changes are what We the People desire, and that as such Congress beholden to and required on principle to implement such directives.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Seriously considering throwing in the towel

Well, I wasn't going to say anything because I didn't want to jinx it, but it seems it's jinxed anyway. The reason I didn't go live with the Charlie Morning kickstarter is that I had two agents and a publisher request a pitch and sample through people I know. A very exciting development indeed. Unfortunately, as seems to be the entire history of my writing, the publisher/agent combo dropped off the face of the earth (no contact in nearly two months) and the other agent e-mailed me back yesterday to essentially say that my writing didn't draw her in and the voice didn't match the content.

As of now, I'm re-evaluating. I don't know if I'll bother to publish it at all. I can't, it seems, score an agent even from a direct referral. Self-publishing or small press publishing will never see me on a shelf in a book store.

There comes a time when you have to realize that your family and friends are the only ones who tell you that you're any good, and the professionals who make a living at this stuff continually, time and time again, tell you that you're not. I've got my game design work and while I'll never make a living at it, people seem to enjoy what I do there. As a novelist maybe I should just face the fact that I've got mediocre talent at best and hang it up.

Also, if you're planning on commenting here to tell me how irrelevant book stores are, or how much I don't need to be on book store shelves, don't bother. You're not helping, you're only making it worse. Because the fact is, whatever YOUR opinions about book stores are, that's what *I* want: to see one of my novels on the shelf at Barnes & Noble. I dream of it every time I browse the shelves there. And I'm having to face the hard fact that it will NEVER happen.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Amazing Adventures: Five Star Reviews, but Slow Sales

And we have a THIRD five-star review of Day of the Worm at DriveThruRPG! 

The Thule Society, a dark Nazi cult dedicated to furthering the esoteric knowledge that fuels the ever growing Third Reich, may have acquired the ancient Heart of Yhtill and all the power it promises. Worse still, they appear to have partnered with malevolent aliens known as the People of the Worm, who seek to ensure that World War II devastates the entire planet, leaving humankind ripe for conquest and consumption have come seeking the Heart as well.

The PCs, working with the Allied forces, and alongside fanatical Ormazd Society allies, find themselves in a race against time to stop the People of the Worm from unleashing a doomsday device from within a hidden tomb in Egypt's Valley of the Kings. If only the Nazis and the People of the Worm were their only worries: there is another, equally mysterious force who want the Heart of Yhtill for their own alien agenda…

"It has Nazis, chase scenes, the supernatural, traps, a teriffic cover, and a plot so thick you can cut it with your Crocodile Dundee knife. What's not to like?

Troll Lord Games and Jason Vey have given a very good example of what can be done with their Siege Engine rules and the Amazing Adventures game in particular."

--Chet Cox, DTRPG Reviewer

In addition, Amazing Adventures itself has scored a 5-star review both at DriveThru and at  
 "My imagination is really grabbed by this system. I think there is a lot of potential here and a lot I want to do with this game"
--Timothy Brannan, featured DTRPG Reviewer

I'm incredibly proud of Amazing Adventures. It may be my favorite freelance project ever. I'm absolutely thrilled to see it getting rave reviews by those who have picked it up and given it a look and play.

Unfortunately, we're not going anywhere without some word of mouth and buzz, and there is the rub--nobody is talking about the game, despite pretty much universal rave reviews from those who have picked it up. Help us out! If you haven't picked up Amazing Adventures and Day of the Worm yet, by all means grab your copy today! If you've already bought it and you like it...TALK ABOUT IT! Get the word out there!!! Post on blogs, on message boards, on facebook and twitter. I'm not sure what the process is to submit something for a nomination for an Ennie or Origins Award, but even a nomination submission would be aces for drawing attention to the project. I am negotiating with Troll Lord as we speak for extensive support for the game, but until we see really strong, solid sales, we're likely looking at mostly internet/PDF e-book support and very little in the way of print. We need your help! If we can build a player base and get sales for this puppy going, you'll be amazed (no pun intended) at the ideas I've got for this puppy. Pulp is a limitless genre, and there's no end to the directions we can go...but first, we need to kick open the door, and that's where you come in. 

If you haven't picked up a copy, take the risk--I'll give good odds you'll love the game. If you already have it and are digging it, I beg of you--hit the streets, both literal and virtual. Request your FLGS to carry it. Tell people about it. The RPG industry is cramped right now, and it's only by loyal fan-base word of mouth that we can get people out there to discover new games.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Things Change

I was reflecting this morning on how much things change in such a short time--although I guess when you think about it, the 15-20 year period I was contemplating isn't exactly short.

Since the mid-1990's the Oakland Borough of Pittsburgh and the college scene in Pittsburgh has morphed into something completely different than it once was. In that time, three colleges have become full-fledged Universities (meaning there are few "colleges" left in the city and a lot of Universities). Oakland itself was once a thriving campus community that catered to and encouraged subcultures--everything from hippies to Goths to punks to metalheads to hipsters and more, all of them had a sort of place in Oakland.

There was Tela Ropa, the hippie heaven which pretended with a smirk to not be a head shop.

There was Avalon, a sort of retro-hipster haven, a consignment store for "vintage" clothing styles.

There was the Opera-Tunity, a thrift store for whom most of their donations came from the local Civic Light Opera company. This place was amazing--you could get full tuxedos in fantastic shape for $20 or $30.

There were a number of other vintage clothing and specialty thrift stores around.

There was the Upstage and C.J.s, bars and clubs originally for your average hard-drinking college students.

There was Club Laga, which (at least in the last couple years of its existence) catered more to the Goth and 80's-nostalgia subcultures.

There was Zelda's a bar...well, anyone who remembers Zelda's knows exactly what that place was, right down to them being full of underage kids the night they got shut down.

Then there was the Beehive.  The Beehive was the place where everyone, no matter your subculture, congregated. Preppies, hippies, metalheads, punks, Goths, all of them. It was like cheers, but without alcohol. We'd spend entire days in that place, just having long, endless and deep conversations about absolutely nothing, playing card games like Hearts, Lunch Money, Spades, and the ever-hated Malcave. Many people flunked out of school because of hanging out at that place, and it was pretty glorious.

Man, do I have great memories of that place.

But they're all gone, now. The Beehive is a T-Mobile Store. The Attic is, I believe, high-end apartments. The Upstage is an IGA grocery store. C.J.s? A Dunkin' Donuts. Zelda's is a Five Guys. Any cafes that exist are corporate entities like Starbucks and Caribou.

So, so sad. But I suppose that's the way things go. I just miss the days of independent businesses and the spirit of rebellion that was expressed in lifestyle and fashion sense that just doesn't seem to be present anymore. I wonder if, some day, when things in this country get on solid ground again, that sort of thing will make a comeback. I sincerely hope it does, because I'd like to think others can have similar experiences to those I did with my group back in the day. For all the drama, there were also some absolutely great times and great memories.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Nice weekend

Life has become something of a rat race for Julie and I lately. We rarely see each other, and hardly get to spend any real time together. When we do sit down together at home, we're both usually just plain tired so even the conversation tends to be minimal.  I'm stressed about my new job (it's good stress; just based on wanting to do well here, but it's still stress) and Julie is always stressed about her job, so it wears on you a bit.

Last week, before I went to my folks to go hunting, she and I had a long talk of the sort couples need to have every so often about where we are, where we're going, life in general...and no, we're not "having problems," so please don't worry about that. Jul and I are just fine--it was just time for a state of the union conversation, get a few things hashed out that we haven't had time to sit down and discuss.

One of the things that occurred to me upon reflection was that Julie and I have somewhat lost touch simply because we don't spend enough time together. We spend too much time with obligations with friends, family, jobs, and other things, and just don't spend time with each other, alone. That, as any healthy couple knows, is a bad thing. And by "spending time alone," I don't mean "sitting at home every night after work watching TV." I mean doing things together, spending the day together. Some time ago, she and I would on occasion just take a day off work together to go out for coffee, see a movie, whatever, but our current jobs (hers especially) don't provide for that sort of thing anymore, which makes it tougher.

So I decided last week that she and I should spend the day together this Saturday without anyone else around. I was supposed to go hunting again, but this was more important, so I called up Dad and told him I wasn't making it out, as Julie and I had plans.

Saturday, then, we went out to an early lunch at a local buffet we like, and then we did a double-feature at the local $1.00 theater, to see Brave and Snow White and the Huntsman. Both were films that Julie had really wanted to see in the theater, but we missed on first run, so this seemed a great opportunity.  I don't want to turn this into a movie review, so I'll just say Brave was outstanding (and I generally abhor Pixar), while Snow White was worth the 2 bucks we spent on it, but was incredibly disappointing and forgettable overall.

Between the movies we went to a few Halloween stores, and dropped in at a local comics/gaming store and book store. We had a really, really nice day together, and it was something I think we both sorely needed.

Yesterday we went to drop off some paperwork at her second, part-time job, then stopped at the store so I could get stuff to cook for the gaming group as it was my turn. Then we met up with Ken, Rya, and Brennan to go out to Simmonds Farm, a local farm and produce vendor, where we picked apples and bought pumpkins. Then Jul and I stopped for lunch on the way home. When we got home, I prepped a bit for gaming, watched some movies on DVD to try and get into the mood, and then cooked for everyone (tacos and Mexican rice).  We ended up not playing Conan, as two important players in that game are out for the next few weeks; instead, to everyone's delight, we got characters converted over for my Doctor Who RPG and I ran a brief vignette session of that game to get everyone back into the story for when I pick it up again full time. Still kind of getting a feel for the official Who RPG rules, but it should work out okay.

Overall, it was a really nice weekend for she and I (at least, I think it was, and I hope she does as well) and something we need to do more often. Life moves too fast for us all in 2012, and I think it's important every so often to take a weekend to ignore everything that you "just have to get done!!!" to take some time to enjoy life with your significant other. When things turn into a blur, when you start to feel tired all the time, it's okay to back off for a while and take a minute to enjoy the sun. It's also possible to be too social--if you're going out to hang with friends so often that it's starting to feel like an obligation, it might be time to tell your friends you need to take a little time to "hermit up," as I call it.  Not forever, but for a couple weeks or so. Real friends and family will understand.

Anyway, I guess that's about all for now. If there's anything to take away from this, it's to remember that grown-ups need to play, too...especially with the person closest to you. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Carnegie Library LYNCS project - Pittsburgh Public Market CLOSED.

So I forgot to blog about this. About two weeks ago, the Carnegie Library's LYNCS (Library in Your Neighborhood, Community, and School) service point at the Pittsburgh Public Market in the strip district closed down. Julie and I went to the PPM so I could take a last look around. I have to admit, I was a little heartbroken at this. Most of you who know me know also that I've become increasingly and passionately embittered towards libraries in general as a result of what I perceive as hypocrisy or at very least a severe disconnect between the current philosophy of library science, and the lazy reality of it.

That is to say, I spent two years in library school having it drilled into my head that what libraries need to move forward, evolve, and survive is a crop of new librarians just out of school that have new ideas, who embrace the digital world, and who have a fresh outlook and take on the field.

I graduated, and not a single damn library wanted to even interview me. Why? Because I don't have fifteen to twenty years of experience. Never mind the flat-out laundry list of transferable skills I've got, from information-related to administrative and management. Never mind that I carried a 3.87 GPA while working full time at an administration job. Because the word "librarian" followed by "20 years" wasn't written on my resume, I was screwed. And I'm not talking about 15 or 20 resumes, either. I sent out over 200 resumes in the intervening year between graduation and when I gave up. In all that time, I had three interviews. Two were for part time library assistant jobs who told me I was overqualified so they couldn't justify hiring me, and a third that turned out the woman just wanted to meet me because my resume was so impressive, but who was threatened by my skills set so she didn't want to offer me a job (she pretty much told me as much--"if I hire you, you'll be replacing me within a year.").

Eventually I decided, "Fine, if libraries don't want me, I don't want them either. They can all go to Hell." I wrote my Master's degree off as a waste of time and money (save for a couple good friends I made) and turned back to my current career trajectory, moving up to a full-on business administrator position, which is not a dream job but which doesn't suck, either, and which pays a lot more than a starting librarian position does.

But I digress.

I was, actually, pretty heartbroken at the closing of the LYNCS branch. I helped to open and establish that service point. I co-wrote a published article for the ALA's Public Libraries journal about the process, about what LYNCS represents for the future of libraries, and I've gotten amazing direct feedback about it from librarians all over the country.

And yet, none of the libraries here will hire me.

Sorry, there I go again.

So Julie and I went down that last weekend.  The PPM is starting to close down for the winter--not close down, per se, but the number of vendors in the fall and winter months decrease drastically. Still, I love the PPM. It's a great place. It just feels good in there--there's a good vibe about it. So we went down, and walked around the small LYNCS area (which was only maybe 10 x 10 or 11 x 11, maybe). We browsed the shelves, looked at some neat books they had there, I looked at their DVD collection, and just remembered the Marketing class in which our entire semester was devoted to putting this library together. Honestly, I welled up a bit. It made me sad to see it go. I'm not sure if that was the plan all along, for it to be temporary, if they refocused their plans for LYNCS, or if the service point was seen as a failure, but for whatever reason, I really wish the experiment had lasted longer than a year and a half.

Another part of my past gone away, but still, it was an achievement that nobody can ever take away. Even if the libraries around here don't see me as a worthwhile contributor to their staff, at least I got to do that. At least I got to make a contribution, once.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Amazing Adventures!!!

Like Pulp adventure? Want to celebrate the re-release of the Indiana Jones movies in theaters, and do it in style? Can't get enough Lovecraftian horror? Or is Robert E. Howard's El Borak and Sailor Steve Costagan more your style? What about the Shadow, or Doc Savage? Well, then, don't forget to stop by the Troll Lord Games brand new preorder page and put in your order for my pulp role playing game Amazing Adventures, which will be shipping in a couple of weeks! Support the Crusade--Troll Lord puts out great stuff and I'm proud to be publishing with them!
 I have also done a chat at IRC #RPGNet recently about AA and my new World War II book for Eden Studios' All Flesh Must Be Eaten line, Band of Zombies.  The chat log for that Q&A is available for those wanting more information than is here.   
That’s when all Hell broke loose. The back window shattered, there was a distinct “ZING!” sound, and the front window followed suit. Kate let out a yelp and jerked the wheel, sending us into a fishtail. I grabbed the door frame and held on for dear life while drawing my Colt 1911. I looked over my shoulder, and sure enough there was that pink Model T. I couldn’t see if Frenchie was behind the wheel; too much sun glare off the windows. But two goons leaned out. At first I assumed they just had pistols. I leaned out the window to draw a bead, and that’s when the one goon opened up with a bloody fire-spewing hand-cannon.

I ducked back into the car. “Great,” I muttered. “Just my luck. The SOB’s got a Tommy Gun.”

Kate snorted. “Look at the bright side. He can’t aim very well on full auto.”

“That’s a bright side?”

Another long burst of fire went wild into the air. Tires squealed as cars bootlegged around us, and the screams of bystanders rang out.

Kate jerked the wheel left, down a narrow alley, just as I pulled up to lean out again. I nearly toppled head-first out the window into a wall. My fedora flew off my head.

This was definitely turning into a bad day.

“Geez, Doll, watch it!” I said, and squeezed off a couple shots as the goon with the Thompson tried to reload. He ducked back into the car while his buddy returned fire.

Welcome to two-fisted adventure with the SIEGE engine!

Amazing Adventures, the newest core game powered by Troll Lord Games’ celebrated SIEGE engine, allows you to create any type of pulp adventure hero you want, and customize them as you like! Be it arcane scholars, mentalists, tomb-raiding archaeologists, Asian martial arts masters, or gangsters and G-Men, this game has you covered. And best of all, if you’re a fan of Castles & Crusades, you can pick this game up and get playing in a matter of minutes! Inside this book you’ll find:
  • Eight brand new character classes: Arcanist, Gadgeteer, Gumshoe, Hooligan, Mentalist, Pugilist, Raider, and Socialite
  • Character customization options: Generic Class Abilities, Traits, Backgrounds, Fate Points, Pulp Costumes, Sanity rules, and more!
  • A streamlined presentation of the SIEGE engine, which uses a single Challenge Base
  • Rules for vehicular combat
  • Guidelines on how to run a pulp game
  • A complete Monster section with all kinds of pulp beasties from giant apes to Lovecraftian horrors
  • A complete starting adventure for 4-6 new pulp heroes
  • And tons more!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Good morning, Blogosphere!

So I have been very neglectful of my blogs over the past, oh, year or two. My postings have been infrequent at best. The reason for this, as many of you know, is that I've been going through a very dark place in my life. Very stressful, very depressing, just generally not a good place to be. Thanks to the mercy of St. John's Wort, I got to a point where I could cope, but I still wasn't getting things done outside of my soul-crushing job at the time.

That's all changing. I am at a new job now, and so far it's going great. It was a major step up, a lot of really nice people, but a lot to learn and a ton of new responsibility. As such, I'm much happier, but I'm also tired a lot from all the learning. Still, the positive outlook gives me more energy to spare, and just in time, as I've got some new projects coming to fruition to which I need to devote time and energy.

What this means is, I'm really hoping to kick my blogging back up soon. So I appreciate everyone that's stuck around through the darkness, and keep your eyes peeled; hopefully I'll have some good new stuff coming soon on all of my blogs.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Why our society is falling the f*** apart.

I have come to a conclusion recently about why our country is falling the fuck apart, and it's all tied into the fact that we've forgotten, as a group, the most basic rule of life.

Keep it simple.

We overcomplicate everything in our world. We think the answer to everything is extensive discourse, ad nauseum. This doesn't lead to anything except gross overreaction in most cases. Take the issue of bigotry in society, for example. Has anyone noticed that the more we talk about it, the more it's not getting better, and indeed is leading to rather disgusting examples of white people (who are so far removed from the plight of minorities that they can't possibly begin to relate) "defending" the poor, beleaguered minorities as if they can't defend themselves? This, my friends, is bigotry--an assumption that a person of another race, gender, or sexual proclivity requires your defense. Indeed, to many minorities such assumptions are as insulting and hurtful as more overtly negative forms of hate speech.

Morgan Freeman had the following to say regarding the issue on 60 minutes (check snopes - this is true):

MIKE WALLACE, CBS`s "60 MINUTES": Black History Month, you find...



FREEMAN: You`re going to relegate my history to a month?

WALLACE: Come on.

FREEMAN: What do you do with yours? Which month is White History Month? Come on, tell me.

WALLACE: I`m Jewish.

FREEMAN: OK. Which month is Jewish History Month?

WALLACE: There isn`t one.

FREEMAN: Why not? Do you want one?

WALLACE: No, no.

FREEMAN: I don`t either. I don`t want a Black History Month. Black history is American history.

WALLACE: How are we going to get rid of racism until...?

FREEMAN: Stop talking about it. I`m going to stop calling you a white man. And I`m going to ask you to stop calling me a black man. I know you as Mike Wallace. You know me as Morgan Freeman. You`re not going to say, "I know this white guy named Mike Wallace." Hear what I`m saying?

A southern rock band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, has a song that contains incredible advice from start to finish. It's advice we as a culture and society have completely lost, and desperately need to get back.  Let me put it forth here:

Mama told me when I was young
Come sit beside me, my only son
And listen closely to what I say
And if you do this, it'll help you
Some sunny day

Just take your time, don't live too fast
Troubles will come and they will pass
You'll find a woman, and you'll find love
And don't forget, son, there is someone up above

And be a simple kind of man
Oh, be something you'll love and understand
Baby, be a simple kind of man
Oh, won't you do this for me, son, if you can?

Forget your lust for the rich man's gold
All that you need is in your soul
And you can do this, oh, baby, if you try
All that I want for you, my son, is to be satisfied

And be a simple kind of man
Oh, be something you'll love and understand
Baby, be a simple kind of man
Oh, won't you do this for me, son, if you can?

Boy, don't you worry, you'll find yourself
Follow your heart and nothing else
And you can do this, oh, baby, if you try
All that I want for you, my son, is to be satisfied

And be a simple kind of man
Oh, be something you'll love and understand
Baby, be a simple kind of man
Oh, won't you do this for me, son, if you can?

Now I don't doubt that someone is going to come along and be offended because they're an atheist and the song mentions "someone up above," or because they're gay and the song mentions "finding a woman," but those people are part of the problem. We as a society look for reasons to be pissed off and offended these days, and all we do, then, is scream about it on message boards and facebook.

That's kind of like getting on top of a building in the suburbs in the middle of the night and screaming incoherently at the top of your lungs for an hour. You're not accomplishing anything but irritating a lot of people.

You're also, in the case of the lyrics above, missing the point entirely because you're so busy looking for something to be pissed off about.

The point of those lyrics is that we don't need all this complicated shit society keeps heaping upon us every day. All we need is the basics. Keep it simple and you'll find yourself far happier than you are in pursuing mounds of "stuff" and "prestige." Even if you become rich and successful by some quirk of fate (or hard work) never forget where you come from, never forget that all you need is the basics, and never forget that life is a gift that we should all enjoy, regardless of whether this gift comes from a deity, the cosmos, or a quirk of genetics. The song was written by a straight man with a straight man's outlook, so of course it mentions finding a woman in conjunction with finding love, but it never makes any assumption that one can only find love in a heterosexual sense. The point is the "you'll find love" part.

And the fact that I had to take time out of this blog to defend that is sickening.

Faith is not bad. Nor is atheism. Where they both become problematic is when we get dogmatic about them and start trying to lord them over other people. Hell, even Christ admonished his followers to keep their religion behind closed doors and not to kneel and pray in public. The same goes for atheists. Who do you think you're convincing by announcing that your belief structure - be it supernatural or science-based - makes you better than someone else? What do you think you're accomplishing?

People need to get over themselves. Personally, I'm tired of politics and politicians. I'm tired of the religious and the atheists. I'm tired of reality TV celebrity culture. I'm tired of people criticizing movies and books because they're not complex and deep enough. I'm tired of people looking for things to get outraged about, but then not doing anything practical to try and effect change, as though bitching on facebook is enough.

And yes, I realize that on some level this blog is doing something similar. But in this case I'm not really trying to convince anyone of anything because everyone is so self-important about their mute self-righteous rage, trying to convince them is an exercise in futility.

Nope, I guess what I'm doing here is akin to the guy walking down the street with the "THE END IS NIGH" sandwich board. I think we're too far gone to go back. We're witnessing the burning of Rome, and our government is playing the fiddle and dancing in the streets while the rest of us are blissfully unaware and unwilling to be woken up.

Come to think of it, maybe that crazy "THE END IS NIGH" dude isn't so far off base.  I guess all I can do is try to take my own advice, keep things simple, enjoy what I've got and enjoy the gift of life I've got, and continue to do so until I no longer can.

Sophia, Goddess of Wisdom, and Mary Magdalene.

I'm not a mad bible thumper--Sophia, however, is my inspiration and always in my heart