The Die is Cast

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One of the things I am most looking forward to, now that the new year is finally getting underway, is starting up my new RPG group in earnest.

My girlfriend introduced me to tabletop role-playing games a little under a year ago, when she started bringing me to her weekly fantasy D&D games with her friends. I instantly fell in love with them. As I told the Game Master of her group, a wonderfully talented artist and illustrator named Joe, “it’s got the cinematic grandeur of film, the episodic structure of television, the interactivity of video games, and the richness and depth of a novel.” I forgot to add the personal immediacy of theater, the intimacy of a fire-lit ghost story, and the scope of a classical epic. The sheer exhilaration that comes from creating a world and an experience out of literally nothing except the creativity and imagination of a group of friends, it’s like nothing I’ve ever experienced.

Over the next few months I became a regular at Lacey’s Sunday night group, a silent audience member watching their games. Occasionally I would stand in for a player when they were out of town or sick, and eventually I got my own character in a superhero-themed side-game, run by a hilarious and insightful storyteller named Jon. Then one day, I asked Jon if he would run a game for the rest of the cast of The League of Ordinary Gamers, so they could learn how to play. Aside from Lacey and KMis, none of them had ever even attempted a game like this, but several had expressed interest and I knew it would be something they would enjoy.

What followed was a seven-hour session on a Sunday afternoon that was one of the most fun times I’ve had with my friends in years. There was adventure and comedy and danger and pizza. And really, what more can you ask for than that?

After that game, we quickly decided to start our own regular game. I’d never run something like this before, but aside from KMis none of them had played one, either, so it all worked out. We spent an evening picking our personal sets of dice, and our first session was a resounding success. Since then, though, it has been a bit of a problem scheduling a regular event: everyone is working and it’s tough to get a weekly space open for everyone at the same time.

A few months of trying, though, and it looks like it’s finally going to happen: starting a week from tomorrow, we’re going to have a weekly Savage Worlds game set in a universe of my creation. It all begins in an ancient sea-side metropolis called the City of the Waves: Q’art Hadash.

I’m also going to take this opportunity to practice my writing. I’ve noticed recently that I sometimes get bogged down in the early phases of my writing figuring out the nitty-gritty details of my story, and I find it difficult to actually start writing because I’m trying to iron out all the kinks before I put pen to paper. What better practice, then, than to novelize the ongoing adventures of the heroes in our weekly RPG? If the events are up to chance and the next leg of the story is unknown, it will allow me to practice my prose without wasting my work, as it were. It will be the writing equivalent of a 24-hour film festival every week, practicing my craft while also spinning a cool yarn and documenting good times shared with friends.

So for now, look forward to regular posts each weekend detailing the adventures arising from our game, in addition to the regular blog posts I’ll be making each week. I’m going to work up summaries of the first game that Jon ran for us, as well as our first session from a few months ago, and post them as soon as they’re ready. If you’re interested in learning more about our weekly game, or reading the weekly short stories adapted from it, look for posts under the category name “Q’art Hadash.”

In the meantime, stay tuned for news about my agent search and the latest progress on my book!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have twenty-one new documentary featurettes to watch concerning the making of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

The Exquisite Dilemma

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There’s something about organizing your ideas, gathering them together into lists and outlines and structures and hierarchies, that is absolutely fantastic. That left-brain prep before the right-brain party, like Data ticking through the checklist before Picard says “Engage,” just cannot be beat.

Except, you know, by all the parts that come after. Those are awesome too.

Really, the whole process is just tops. It’s the bee’s knees, the cat’s meow. The cream in my coffee at the start of my day.

It’s the central experience around which I’ve built my life.

My father once told me about his todo list at work, a Sisyphean battle that was characterized by a peculiar cycle. He would make a list of the most important things he had to do, but he was so busy that it would quickly become a cumbersome mess. So he’d start bolding the really important items, but soon everything would be bold. Then he’d start highlighting the really really important stuff, but soon he’d have three pages solidly highlighted. So he’d start underlining the really, really SUPER-important stuff… and so on.

That’s kind of how I feel about sorting through my ideas, except that the whole experience is dipped in liquid awesome. It’s like walking through a toy store where everything is free. Do I want to revisit this world of adventure and romance? Or maybe explore this quest of personal redemption? Get into the head of this deliciously evil villain, or play around with this weirdly abstract way of telling a familiar tale?

Movies and books and websites and apps, scripts and shorts and products and plays. Comedies, dramas, mysteries, adventures; glorious romances and unspeakable catastrophes. Sometimes I’m tempted just to spend all day skipping from one to the other, flipping channels like a patriarch with a TV remote, sampling each in turn but never settling on just one.

Sometimes I give in to that temptation.

But then I remember: the trailer isn’t the best part, even if it seems that way at first. The full movie is even better. And so I buckle down and make the hard choices: scripts before novels this time, websites before apps. Three weeks for prose, then two for code. This script before that one, because that third act still needs work, but knock this one out fully before moving on, because the day will never come that there isn’t another cool idea waiting further down the list. If you ever plan to finish, it has to be now.

Done. Check. Scratch it off, bump them up. What was next? Oh yeah! Love that one, starting now.

I’m quivering with anticipation, a greyhound at the gate, waiting for the left brain to finish so the right brain can run. The list is important, but oh what a bother! So many options, so many interests, so many stories and worlds and experiences and characters all clamoring to exist at once.

The only question left to answer is…

What do I work on first?

Out With The Old

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They say that before you can get started on something new, you have to get rid of something old.  I’m not really sure I buy that, but today it certainly seems to be true.

On my last night in Dallas, I helped my mom clear out a bunch of electronics and equipment that have been lying around the house for the last few years. Among them were the televisions, VCRs, routers and cords used to make The Codex. I hadn’t used any of that stuff in years, almost a decade, but a lot of very powerful memories were made in and around and by those devices, and they were very hard to let go of. The Codex still looms as the biggest event in my career to date, like Everest towering over gently rolling hills, and its presence in my mind cannot be overstated.

The love of my life recently told me that she felt like she was entering a “cleaning house” phase, removing the clutter and confusion from her life in order to more efficiently move forward. Maybe the same is happening for me. In a way, The Codex has been both my biggest motivator and my biggest obstacle over the subsequent years, simultaneously serving as proof of the attainability of my dreams but also of their daunting difficulty. I don’t know if getting rid of that equipment will have any effect on me in the long term, but for a bunch of machines I haven’t turned on in eight years, they were surprisingly hard to let go of.

But in the end, The Codex is over and the equipment is gone.

It’s time to fill that shelf with something new.

Hello, World

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It’s just minutes after midnight on January 1st, 2014, I just finished re-watching Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing on BluRay, and now I’m starting a blog. I have yet to pick a theme, I don’t know how to use WordPress, my new laptop doesn’t have even my standard web design tools on it yet, and I don’t really know what I’m going to write here yet.

What I do know is this: last year I finished a feature screenplay, wrote an hour-long pilot script, began editing my first full-length novel, began selling DVDs of my first live-action webseries, learned how to code iPhone apps in a month, released 12 apps on the App Store in two months, quit one job and started another, completely redesigned my professional website, gained over 10,000 fans on Facebook, and began the search for a literary agent by sending out 88 query letters in three days.  All that on top of finding the girl of my dreams, making a whole new set of very dear friends and, for the first time since finishing The Codex in 2005, finally rediscovering that feeling of boundless creativity and decisive ambition that I’ve always thought is what makes life worth living.

Last year was big.  It was powerful, it was exciting, and it accelerated straight through to the end, like an Apollo booster rocket strapped onto a shopping cart in the dairy aisle.

And by all indications, 2014 is going to beat it flat-out.

So strap yourselves in, folks, and don’t touch that dial: there will be art, there will be business, there will be the glamour of Hollywood and the grit of trying to get into it.  Who knows, there might even be blood, (though there will certainly be milkshakes).  But most of all there will be ambition, and a single-minded, razor-sharp, laser-targeted-orbital-strike-to-within-a-fraction-of-a-micron focus to get this show on the goddamn road.

My career has been “on the horizon” for long enough.

Now it’s time to get there.