Missing both my computer and imaginary friends

If you’re the type of person who likes unfocused, general blog posts, then you will love this one!

So, what’s going on with me? First, I don’t have a computer! That sucks for anyone in general, but if you are struggling to put out the last book in an urban fantasy series, it perhaps really sucks. It’s been over a month now, and I miss having a computer a great deal. However, I just started a new job after being home with the kids all summer (read: not making money), so while I’ll hopefully have one soon, it hasn’t been able to happen yet.

Another thing: I was in two regular RPGs, and now both are on hiatus. I know this shouldn’t seem like that jarring an occurrence, but these were two people who I was very close to, and I do miss them. This happened at around the same time when I finished writing the first draft of Fresh Blood, so I also had to say goodbye to my protagonist. And for those who weren’t clear from reading above, the people I am missing are the characters I played in the games.

Thing of change the third: My older son started attending kindergarten in a public school this fall. He had previously only attended a private pre-k at his daycare. For those who don’t have kids, daycare hardly ever closes. Public school is closed all the time, for holidays I would never have off from work. In addition, daycare gets out at 6pm. Public school gets out at 2:20pm. So it was a bit of an adjustment, to say the least, with a ton of scrambling for childcare. When both parents work outside the home (and in different boroughs) and both kids attending different schools, commuting can be very difficult.

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My son on the first day of kindergarten!

So in conclusion, there have been a lot of changes lately, and I am looking forward to having things calm down a bit, if that ever really happens.

Minimalism Game–Finally Complete!

At long last, I am finally done with the minimalism game I was doing in January. Of course, now it’s the end of March, so, yeah. But the point is that I did it, and in the process, got rid of hundreds of items that were filling up my house with their uselessness, ugliness, and stress-making.
By the end of the game, you will notice that I included things in categories rather than individual items. Some may call this cheating, but these projects were very time-intensive. For instance, we had several hundred CDs. I had to go through them, separate the cases, paper materials, and actual CDs, and then put the CDs into a very large storage folder, and put the paper and the cases into recycling. This took many hours. Likewise, shredding several years worth of my husbands pay stubs took a full weekend of intermittent shredding.
Also, I am still going at it! My current two projects are to flip through old magazines and recycle them, and to make stray yarn into either preemie or chemo caps (depending on yarn weight).
But right now, I need to shift my focus and get back into writing, if I am to meet my self-imposed deadline of this summer for the next book in my urban fantasy series, plus do some writing for an RPG I’m going to be taking over for a few months, plus another writing project.
So below are the final days of the minimalism challenge. The next time I do this (probably in the fall), I will probably only commit myself to one item a day!

Week 4

Day 22–(1)Tank top too big. (2)Alka-seltzer that’s ten years old. (3)Small white onesie. (4)Small blue onesie. (5)Small pajamas. (6)Many old cards. (7)Broken AC. (8)Old underwear. (9)Birthday gift bags. (10)Gross bowl. (11)Gross toothbrush holder. (12)Decorative pillow. (13)Decorative pillow. (14)Earring unmatched. (15)Sock unmatched. (16)Earrings I’ve never liked. (17)Hockey puck. (18)Many broken discs. (19)Plastic toys I hate. (20)Disgusting cat toy. (21)Husband’s underwear that I hate. (22)Baby pjs too small.

Day 23–(1)Old notepads. (2)CD sorter. (3)CD sleeves. (4)Ripped towel. (5)Unmatched sock. (6)Small baby hat. (7)Boots that never fit. (8)Small plastic toys. (9)Old magazine. (10)Ugly underwear. (11)Knife that has no purpose. (12)Useless shelf. (13)Surgical tape. (14)Broken plastic toys. (15)Shirt my husband hates. (16)Son’s ripped pants. (17)Very old shirt. (18)Faded t-shirts. (19)Old face mask. (20)Broken Tupperware. (21)Unflattering shirt. (22)Shirt that hasn’t fit in years. (23)Plastic wreath left by previous owners.

Day 24–(1)Decorative pillow. (2)Another decorative pillow. (3)Baby hat I didn’t like. (4)More old underwear. (5)Husband’s shirt that I hate. (6)Old belt. (7)First scarf I knitted but don’t like. (8)Broken CDs. (9)T-shirt that looks ridiculous. (10)Jeans that are too big (Yay!). (11)Weird food items we won’t eat. (12)Plastic baby toy. (13)Razor holder never used. (14)T-shirt that hasn’t fit in years. (15)Husband’s very old white undershirts. (16)Belt missing buckle. (17)Inedible goodie bag contents. (18)Razor holder that’s never used. (19)Pumice stone. (20)Socks with runs. (21)Ugly barrettes. (22)Last of the maternity shirts. (23)Huge men’s shorts I can get both my legs in one leg. (24)Old robe.

Day 25–(1-6)Bowls left in cabinets by old owners. (7)Old pajamas. (8)Old nightgown. (9)Sweater with broken zipper. (10)Plastic game. (11)Broken toy. (12)Broken suitcase. (13)Old lanyard. (14)Old character sheets. (15)Granola bars no one likes. (16)Goodie bag rejects. (17)Fish tank. (18)Fish tank stand. (19)Fish tank light. (20)Fish tank heater. (21)Fish tank plants. (22)Fish tank gravel. (23)Fish tank hose. (24)Fish tank filer. (25)Fish net.

Day 26–(1)Fish tank cleaner. (2)Large box of other fish equipment. (3)Broken toy. (4)Old lipgloss. (5)Bucket with a hole. (6)Old herbs. (7)Broken bucket. (8)Second diaper genie. (9)Small hat. (10)Broken light box. (11)Small baby hat. (12)Dress way too small. (13)Shirt way too big. (14)Shirt missing buttons. (15)Pens that don’t work. (16)Ugly underwear. (17)Faded out shirt. (18)Horrible shampoo. (19)Baby outfit with broken snap. (20)Tupperware lid. (21)Worn out tank top. (22)Shirt with hole. (23)Worn out shirt. (24)Rubber ball too small. (25)Ripped bra. (26)Wicker basket.

Day 27–(1)Deflated balloon. (2)Cloak cat peed on. (3)Mixer. (4)Blender. (5)Broken toy. (6)Brita filter not used. (7)Kid’s old socks. (8)Socks with holes. (9)Tiny baby pants. (10)Crappy knife. (11)Shirt I thought I was sentimental about. (12)Cute but tiny baby jacket. (13)Weird lace thing. (14)Crap plastic toy. (15)Dirty rubber ducky. (16)Tons of underwear I don’t like. (17)Very old frying pan. (18)Tons of husband’s underwear I don’t like. (19)Too small baby socks. (20)Binkies baby never liked. (21)Sentimental old t-shirt. (22)Old robe. (23)Ugly pajamas. (24)Another old frying pan. (25)Blouse no one liked. (26)Granola bars we hate. (27)Key to my office (given back).

Day 28–(1-10)Very small onesies. (11-28)Old magazines.

Week 5

Day 29–(29+)Like 8 years worth of my husband’s pay stubs (shredded and recycled).

Day 30–(30)Books.

Day 31–(31)CD cases.

Interview with Epidiah Ravachol

A few days ago, I found a PDF e-zine in my inbox titled Worlds Without Master. It’s a mix of short fantasy stories, role-playing games, and other cool stuff. I loved the idea and the e-zine, and am so excited that the Overeditor, Epidiah Ravachol, agreed to do an interview on my blog!

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1. What prompted you to put together an e-zine? Was this your first?

It is my first! I’m not a stranger to independent publishing, and I’ve wanted to publish a sword and sorcery periodical for some time now; but the idea was a bit daunting. So I kept thinking of it as the project I tackle after this next one.

Then I was seeking an outlet for my own fiction and getting frustrated with the number of ezines that paid you in “free electronic copies.” I could get free electronic copies by emailing the stories to myself, if I wanted to. While venting this frustration on the Internet, I joked about making my own magazine, calling it Words Without Master, as a play on the title of a sword and sorcery game I had in the works called Swords Without Master. (Later I changed the name to Worlds Without Master, but I haven’t scrubbed the web clean of the original title yet.) The joke had some heat, and I realized I might have an audience.

Then I discovered Patreon, which is an interesting take on this whole crowdsourcing business. It’s a subscription model where the patrons pledge to give a certain amount of money every time you release something, up to a maximum amount per month that they set. The patrons aren’t charged until you’ve delivered your product and as the creator you can see how much money you’ll make on the product when you do release it. This is exactly the model I was looking for. I would know exactly how much money I could spend on each issue ahead of time, which helped eliminate risk. And I didn’t have all the pressure of fulfilling a product people had already paid for.

There were a few other pieces to the puzzle, but once I knew about Patreon, it was pretty much a forgone conclusion.

2. Why distribute as a PDF?

Printing and shipping is too unpredictable. I have friends who had really successful Kickstarter campaigns fund and then, before they could ship their product out, the US Postal Service jacked up their prices. It was not a pleasant sight.

So, in the interested of making this venture as risk-free as possible, I’m going to stick to electronic distribution. Right now, that means PDFs, because I’m most familiar with that format. In the future I hope to branch out into other formats, as long as they let me comfortably include the illustrations, comics and all the strange formatting that comes with role-playing games.

3. Your e-zine contains both fantasy stories, comics, role playing games. How do these things go together?

The sword and sorcery branch of fantasy and comics have a storied history. They both were raised in the pulps, and before the eventual rise of the superhero, pulp genres like Westerns, detective stories, and sword and sorcery figured very prominently in the comic industry.

I really wanted a comic strip for Worlds Without Master, but I thought that was something that could only happen in the far flung future. Something I would shoot for if the Patreon budget got really big. But then Bryant Paul Johnson, a gaming buddy and an accomplished artist, drew a frame of his comic and posted it online where he knew I’d see it. I seized the bait and I’m so happy with the results.

Sword and sorcery and role-playing games kind of go hand-in-hand, and that might be a bit of a problem for me. In the back of the original AD&D Dungeon Master’s Guide, Gary Gygax published a now somewhat famous list of influential fiction known as Appendix N. Not all, but perhaps the majority of the titles listed in this appendix fall within the genre of sword and sorcery. And when gamer goes back and reads these titles, they find origins of so many of monsters, sorceries and concepts found in the game.

The birth of D&D is the birth of the role-playing hobby, but it’s also the birth of a new genre of fantasy. One that is heavily influenced by D&D, as well as the fantasy role-playing and video games that have followed it. This genre is kissing cousins to sword and sorcery, but it’s not exactly sword and sorcery. And while I enjoy both genres, the D&D genre already has plenty of outlets. Sword and sorcery, in my opinion, could use another venue. I want Worlds Without Master to be that venue. So I’m drawing a hard line there, especially when it comes to the role-playing games I’m accepting. They’re under a little more scrutiny. Enter the Avenger, the role-playing game in the first issue, is a great example of a solidly sword and sorcery game. The list of places to visit in that game . . . I just want to grab my sword and leap into that world.

4. Artwork features prominently in your e-zine. Can you tell us a little bit about it?

Last summer I had the opportunity to see an art exhibit on imaginative realism, which is a style of art that takes fantastic subjects and portrays them as real objects. Or just a fancy name fantasy illustrations. One of the things that impressed me about the exhibit was the power of a single image to light a fuse that would eventually make my head explode in implied narrative. This quality was always vital to my experience of the fantasy art. When I’m sifting through the used book stores looking for lost classics, I’m judging a lot of these books by their covers. And there are so many role-playing games I’ve played based on the strength of their illustrations alone. And don’t get me started on Iron Maiden album covers.

So narrative is an important part of my art direction. I want the illustrations to present the viewers with a world they can’t help but step into and adventure in. I’m not as interested in seeing the characters in action as I am in implying the story around that action.

And it helps me make the e-zine something that teenage Eppy would buy. That’s a dude who could be swayed by some fancy drawings.

5. As an editor, what do you look for when reading submissions? Can you share any tips for writers?

I crave wonder in my stories. But this would be ridiculously useless advice if just said something vague like, “Make sure you deliver the wonder.” So let me instead point you to the more practical advice of a more experienced writer on the subject.

Michael Moorcock said, as part of his instructions on how to write a novel in three to ten days, “You need a list of images that are purely fantastic: deliberate paradoxes, say: the City of Screaming Statues, things like that. You just write a list of them so you’ve got them there when you need them. . . [T]hey have to cohere, have the right resonances, one with the other.”

My submission requirements ask for something a wee bit smaller than a novel, but this is grand practical advice for plugging wonder into your stories. I mean, when you read “City of Screaming Statues,” you were already picturing, and hearing, it in your head, weren’t you? What are these statues? How is that they scream? And why?

As a reader I cannot pass over a detail like that not literally wonder about it. If a submission does that to me then I have to pause and take it seriously. Even if it doesn’t exactly meet my other submission requirements or if it’ll take a lot of editorial massaging, if it pulls me in like that, I have to consider publishing it.

6. As a writer, what authors have inspired you?

Whoa boy. I’ll try my best to keep this list short by just naming the ones I can off the top of my head in no particular order: Fritz Leiber, Robert E. Howard, Robert Luis Stevenson, Michael Moorcock, Tanith Lee, Jack Vance, Charles R. Saunders, Harold Lamb, C.J. Cherryh, Leigh Brackett, Andrew Howard Jones, Italo Calvino, Jorge Luis Borges, and Clark Ashton Smith.

And, of course, the lyrical genius of the late Ronnie James Dio.

7. What else have you written?

Most of my other work is in my role-playing games: DreadTime & TempVast & Starlit, and my proudest accomplishment, What Is a Roleplaying Game? which is a 463-word long role-playing game my mom used to teach my aunt about the hobby. But I do have a very short fable in The Lion and the Aardvark published by Stone Skin Press.

8. Do you ever edit your own work?

I have editors and proofreaders for most of my stuff. Though I am embarrassed to say that, due to deadline constraints, a few of the peripheral parts of the first issue were not seen by anyone else before it was published, and there are a couple typos to be found. But most of them have been hunted down and eliminated.

I really like the people I’ve worked with so far. I need their eyeballs, expertise, and opinions. Since I’ve got the final editorial say, it ends up being something of a dialog between our tastes and voices. And the end product seems better for it.

9. Where can we get a copy of your e-zine?

You can buy the first issue for $3.99 using this PayPal link: https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=3VUDUTN3VLXMW

But more importantly, if you want to make sure you get future issues for only $2.99 each, you should join the Patron Horde: www.Patreon.com/Epidiah

I say more importantly because, as I mentioned in my answer to the first question, Patreon lets me know how much money I have to work with for each issue. As this amount grows, so does the size and content of each issue. More sword and sorcery bang for your electronic buck, and all that.

10. Anything else you would like to add?

If you dig sword and sorcery and you’re interested in submitting, here are my guidelines: www.dig1000holes.com/words/submissions/

A grave sight

I have been neglecting this blog, and I know it. The main reason is my desparate push to get the first draft of Witch Blood completed by my self-imposed deadline of mid-July. Things like life and sleeping seem to be getting in the way though. Anyway, onto my two announcements.

Announcement the First:
If you would like to read a bit of my non-vampire writings, go take a look at www.horrorbound.com. You will see my huge mug and a link to my short story, The Dweller. I originally wrote it after my first experience with the role-playing game Call of Cthulhu and subsequently reading some HP Lovecraft. Then, because I didn’t know what to do with it, I left it on my hard drive to die. But once I was getting rid of that computer, I came across it. Motivated by my ability to publish New Blood, I submitted it the the online magazine Horror Bound, and yay! I was accepted.

A grave sight

One day I wore a very unflattering coat and visited HP Lovecraft’s grave.

Announcement the Second:
There is an event happening on my facebook page! This is the deal: I will give you copies, in pdf or kindle formats, of my two books, New Blood and Wild Blood. In return, you promise to write me reviews on my Amazon page. And as an added bonus, if you write reviews for both books, I will send you a free copy of Witch Blood when it is released. It’s a win-win situation! Go check it out: https://www.facebook.com/events/373021822762101/

And with that, I should probably get back to writing!