21 Mar 2014, 8:03am
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More on Veronica Mars

I watched the movie again, mainly because I really like mysteries. Last night, the family finished watching season 2 (It’s slow going getting individual discs from Netflix on a one-at-a-time plan) and I have to say S2 was better than I remember it. Obviously, Lilly Kane was the heart and driving force behind season 1; Amanda Seyfried’s performance was so incredibly charismatic that the school bus explosion–with its numerous but mostly faceless victims, plus Meg–couldn’t touch. Every ep of S1 showed Lilly in some kind of flashback or dream sequence, if I remember correctly; how could sweet, honest Meg lying in a coma compete with that?

Still, watching both seasons all in a rush was very interesting. In season 1, knowing that some viewers would miss episodes, several of the clues and story beats were hit in several different episodes. How many times did they “reveal” that Weevil was having a secret relationship with Lilly, and that he loved her more than she loved him?

In season 2, they talked about the clues they’d discovered previously, but didn’t play them like story beats. What’s weird is that S2 almost completely drops the bus story line for several episodes in a row. The season gets caught up in a bunch of mini-mysteries that are either tangential to the bomb story (At no point did I believe Terence Cook was a serious suspect) or completely separate from it, like the murder of Felix Tooms. Then there’s the whole plot line that takes Wallace to Chicago, or the Casablancas family business troubles…

In fact, there’s a lot going on but much of it doesn’t seem to have much to do with the supposed Big Mystery of the Season. It feels fractured, leaving Veronica to act without the same wrenching need to Solve Everything she had in S1. The driving forces that should have been there–her guilt over surviving and over Meg’s condition, plus her name being written on Curly’s hand making her think the bomb was meant for her–just don’t feel immediate enough.

Another choice that felt weaker was the decision to lose the family lives of Duncan and Logan and replace those characters with Kendall Casablancas and the “Fighting Fitzpatricks”. Yeah, it’s a fine thing to widen the scope so we see more of Neptune, but Irish gangsters aren’t anywhere near as compelling as a fucked up family. Papa Casablancas is only in the first few episodes, Wallace’s mom goes up in a puff of smoke when she breaks up with Keith, and Aaron Echolls mostly turns up in his jail cell. Keith and Terrence Cook are pretty much the only parents on the show, and the Cooks are not nearly as fucked up as they should be for a long form mystery.

Still, the episodic mysteries were as strong as every, and Bell is still amazing as Veronica. I like Logan as a character but I’ve always had zero interest in their supposedly epic love. Seriously. If S1 didn’t exist, S2 would have been one of the best shows ever.

S3 is up next, and I remember it being more soap opera/relationship-focused than previous seasons. I was also Team Piz back in the day and I was even more firmly Team Piz after the movie. Still.

Anyway, the movie: I was sure the show would not work once the characters were adults. There was something incredibly effective about addressing class issues through teenage characters. They’re screwed up by the system but not really to blame for it, either. Plus, school forces everyone to be in everyone else’s spaces; you can’t avoid your enemies if you’re stuck going to school.

It worked anyway, which gives me hope for a sequel. Supposedly Warner has a dollar figure they want to see from the movie before they sign off on a sequel and no, I wouldn’t back another Kickstarter. Whatever annoyance I felt at the Flixster thing has been washed away by the movie itself. Still, Veronica with a cleaned-up Logan, back to work at her father’s PI office? I’d love to see a resurgence of PI stories.

Anyway, the show and the movie are buzzing away in my head, making work on my own stuff seem dreary and unpleasant. Must break through and get back to good things.

14 Mar 2014, 2:17pm
making books The Great Way:
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I am writing rpg gaming stuff now and it is hard

I’m supposed to be working right now but I’m not, and the reason is simple. Work is hard.

While The Great Way is getting an editorial working over, I’m putting together the game supplement for it. (For those who don’t know, I promised Kickstarter backers a Fate game supplement for the setting of those books.) Currently, it’s almost 10,000 words long, and not even half way done. Turns out that explaining your world-building takes time.

What’s more, writing game stuff is giving me major decision fatigue. With fiction, putting the sentences together is comparatively easy: There are characters who want things, places for them to pursue their desires, obstacles to overcome. That talk. They look at stuff. Maybe there’s a smell. It’s pretty straightforward.

In contrast, game material is all summarizing and making careful decisions on how stuff should work. What invokable aspects suit the capital city of this empire? How best to describe this sort of magic? What’s the best way to portray non-human intelligences without doing the xenophobe thing of giving them all a single personality? What if a player wants to play one of those non-humans?

Everything is as spare as possible, while trying to be as interesting as possible, while being as balanced as possible, while not contradicting anything I put in the trilogy, much of which I made up on the fly because shit sounded cool.

What the hell was I thinking?

5 Mar 2014, 6:38am
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Using Scrivener, once again

There comes a point when you’re (I’m) typing a long comment somewhere and a simple thought suddenly springs up: I should be posting this to my own blog!

Well, I’ll link to it instead. Author Sherwood Smith is working on a switch from her old word processing program to Scrivener, and I thought I would share the (rather simplistic) way that I use it. It’s not exactly in-depth, but it’s what I’ve managed to kludge together from all the bells and whistles the program contains.

Anyway, check it out. If you use Scrivener or are thinking of switching to it, there might be something useful there.

Also, if you haven’t read Sherwood’s work, I liked Inda but she has newer stuff, too.

19 Feb 2014, 6:41pm
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This is how it happens

I took my son downtown to see a movie and we missed the start. So, to kill some time, we wandered into the Barnes & Noble to browse around and pick up some books. This is what we came back with:

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EX-HEROES was for my kid; I’ve been pretty upfront about my distaste for zombies in all forms. The others were for me. You know what I didn’t realize until later that night when I took them out of the bag? They were all books by dudes.

It’s just too easy to stay in a comfort zone. It’s easy to stick with habits that we don’t even recognize as habits. I don’t talk about it much, but some time ago I decided that I was going to be more mindful about my book purchases; it’s super-easy to just buy books by all men. It’s pretty much the path of least resistance. Oops.

So I’m going to pull Dark Places off the shelf next. And I’m not doing it because it’s the right thing to do (although it is) or that it’s what other people think I should do (they don’t actually care). I’m doing it because carelessly limiting myself will weaken me when I need to make my writing stronger.

If you’re someone who only reads one type of writer, you should try new things, too.

17 Feb 2014, 7:16am
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You know what feels good? Selling fiction.

In Spring 2013, I was invited to take part in the Walk The Fire 2 shared-world anthology and I thought writers write and they sell stuff i should say yes and make money. After confirming that this anthology would have more gender parity in the table of contents, I accepted. The Kickstarter made goal, I wrote the story, boom.

Except there was a problem. The editor explained that the story broke the guidelines. It took me a while to figure out why, but the speculative element in the setting was that people would step into a special sort of fire here and emerge from another fire elsewhere. Essentially, teleportation.

However, somehow I got it into my head that this was like a wormhole through spacetime, and that not only could they travel through space, they could travel through time, too.

Oops. I apologized, obviously, and offered to write a new story. The editor thought it might be best for me to hold off for the third antho, but I’d helped pitch the Kickstarter and I didn’t want readers to back a book I wouldn’t be in.

So I sat down and wrote an honest-to-god science fiction story (if you don’t count the teleporting fire thing) set in the far future. Last night I got a note from the editor saying they wanted to accept it without asking for changes.

That feels good. After spending two years on this stinking trilogy–not to mention KEY/EGG, which has languished on my hard drive since the dawn of time–it’s nice to have a short-term goal and payoff.

13 Feb 2014, 5:47am
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In which I am interviewed.

Yes, that’s right, I was interviewed for the podcast Tell Me Another. You can listen here on their site or in iTunes for the low low price of nothing at all.

Tell Me Another is about stories and storytellers, and I talked about that, I guess? Actually, I pretty much forgot everything I said except: I recommended a book I read recently, I recommended a noirish movie on Netflix Streaming that I loved, and I went into my rant about vampires and vampire lore at some point. Presumably, I said other things, too.

Also, if you go the the podcast site, you’ll see a picture of me. Go ahead if you want. I’m not ashamed. (Much.)

28 Jan 2014, 10:26am
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Time to ruin my blog again

I’m going to make my blog inaccessible for a while while I try to install a new theme, fuss with it for way too long, then give up and go back to how it is now. Again. The main page, www.harryjconnolly.com will still be available.

Added later: Yep! Changing themes is a pain in the ass and I can’t be bothered to waste time on it. Back to the same old boring look.

30 Dec 2013, 6:27am
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2013

This was a tough, weird year.

It started off badly. I was in the dumps, THE WAY INTO CHAOS was not getting any bites from publishers, and the computer we got for our son (which he swore would not be a source of obsession) became an obsession. As the year went on, it became a bigger and bigger source of conflict.

In April, I signed on to a themed Kickstarter anthology called “Walk The Fire 2″ (theme: certain people are able to enter special fires and emerge from a fire elsewhere and elsewhen. They’re space-faring/time travel/whatever you want stories about travel) and it was funded. I turned in my story “A No Without A Thank You” but am still waiting on the edits (for perfectly understandable reasons).

I also tried an experiment in April: since sales of the ebook for Twenty Palaces had been waning, I dropped the price to $2.99. End result: no advantage. Sales were slightly better but the money it brought in was pretty much the same. This was a problem because it didn’t look like my agent was going to sell THE GREAT WAY and my only ebook was bringing in $100 a month, approximately.

I’d hoped to finish the zero draft of THE GREAT WAY in the spring, but it actually took me until August. While I was wrapping it up, I was also busting my ass trying to get the Kickstarter ready. I wanted it to run from August to September, but I couldn’t get everything ready in time.

As it turns out, pushing things back a month was a good idea.

The thing is, this was a very stressful time. Money was tight. I kept asking my wife if she wanted me to go back to temping, and she kept reassuring me that I didn’t have to, not yet. Also, it was looking like Christmas was going to be pretty thin.

The Kickstarter turned that around, but I’ve talked about that here at length already.

While the campaign was ongoing, KING KHAN finally came out. It’s the rpg tie-in for the Spirit of the Century game that was a stretch goal for a completely different Kickstarter from last year. (Or the year before, it’s hard to keep this straight.) It’s a fun, upbeat, bright book, but I wish I’d had a chance to give the text one more polish.

I also got invited to submit to a John Joseph Adams anthology of sf/f Kickstarter campaigns, which seems like a weird idea but I wrote up a love potion KS and PUA satire called “Beyond the Game.” JJA sent me his notes last week and the story is almost ready to return. Royalties! Boy, it sure would be nice to get some royalties.

Kickstarter is sorta running my life right now.

Anyway, things went from omg we have no money and this Kickstarter goal is too large omg can’t sleep feel sick all the time I should get a job mopping floors somewhere to Holy shit! for the last few months. We’re still pinching pennies, but I managed to replace my aging laptop with the cracked cover this Christmas, and I’m hard at work on revisions.

For 2014, I have to get the books out to people… and onto the market so they can start earning money again. I’ll also have to publish the two stretch goal books, which will take some revising. Someday soon I really hope to write original long form fiction again.

23 Dec 2013, 6:32am
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Christmas Secular Symbolism: a guide

If, like me, you really enjoy Christmas but are not a Christian, it can feel a little weird to fill your home with Christian symbols of the celebration: the tree, the star, the candy canes, the wreaths, the whole deal. A fair list of those Christian symbols can be found here and here.

I figured it was long past time we came up with a list of explicitly secular symbols for the modern Christmas decorations, so that they can not only be beautiful decorations, but meaningful to non-Christians as well.

The artificial tree: Long reviled by purists, fake trees look better and better each year and they’re becoming more popular. Of course, they’re made of serious plastic, so they have to be in use for some 15 years or so before they offset the effect of cutting down trees every year. But an artificial tree reminds us of what we make out of the world and that we have to be mindful of how we use it. As human beings, we make our lives better by creating joy and beauty, but we have to remember that it comes at a cost.

The natural tree: Except for the part about “serious plastic” and fifteen years, same thing.

The star atop the tree: Stars are the source of all life (well, ours is) and they also represent the future. As we celebrate this annual holiday, we need something to remind us to keep moving forward.

Multi-colored lights on the tree: It would be easy to say that these stand for the need to keep a wide variety of people in your life–not just variety in the color of their skin but also in their political beliefs, their gender, their sexual orientation, their hobbies and preferences. That would be easy but it’s not enough. The colorful lights should also remind us to seek out a wide variety of experiences, too, and to do so brightly with exuberance. And, of course, they’re all strung together, because it’s important to share those experiences with the important people in our lives.

Little white lights on the tree: These symbolize a need for uniformity, conformity, and a desire to withhold powerful emotional expressions to give the appearance of good taste. (Sorry, white-lighters, but ugh, go for the color.)

The wreath: Everything that comes out of the Earth must return to it someday.

Garland: A strand or rope of bright reflective stuff, garland represents the connection we feel with the people closest to us all year long. Sometimes that’s family, sometimes it’s friends, sometimes it’s a family of choice. And best of all, garland is easy to break when it has to be broken.

Stockings: I’m told that once upon a time, the stocking hung by the chimney with care were actual stockings sized to fit actual feet, and people received their gifts in them and were grateful. Now they’re sized for giants, are sewn to hang flat (to be decorative) and are made to hold gifts. What’s more, the gifts inside stockings have become the little things we get for each other, trifles that we don’t have to wrap or put a lot of thought into. “Stocking-stuffers.”

Those giant, oversized stockings should remind us all of the *stuff* we can make now, and how cheaply we can make it, how little we really value most of it, and the poverty of some of those people who actually do the manufacturing.

Mistletoe: Once again, I refer to the olden days (of not that olden ago): Women were mostly forbidden from expressing overt interest in a guy if she wanted to be treated with respect. She wasn’t allowed to *want* to kiss, not at first. So you had bullshit like mistletoe, which gave people an excuse to kiss someone else, and hopefully that someone else actually wanted to be kissed and was glad for the excuse.

Nowadays, that stigma is reduced to the point that we don’t need excuses like mistletoe anymore, which means it now represents people taking liberties they would not otherwise be offered. Mistletoe: a tradition we can do without.

Santa Claus: Santa represents generosity, which is especially important for little kids. Generosity can be very difficult for little kids to grasp, and all the myth and story around Santa Claus present utterly selfless generosity to them in the best possible light. Among the other benefits of believing in Ol’ St. Nick, he’s a role model for very young kids that their parents can never be.

For you very young child, everything comes from their parents and/or guardians: clothes, meals, TV time, a special milkshake all your own–getting stuff from your parents is how the world works. But Santa is different. Yeah, he is also giving things to kids, but it *feels* so different. It feels like a special occassion.

Finally, when a kid gets old enough to figure out that Santa is just a story, what do they discover? That their parents have been behind it all along and taking absolutely zero credit.

Secret kindness. Generosity without expectation of being repaid. Just talking about it makes me want to watch the end of HOGFATHER again.

What else? Are these too dour? Is there a decoration I left out? Do you want to defend little white lights (as if)? Comments are turned off on my blog but you can add them on LiveJournal, Twitter, Facebook, or G+ if you want.

19 Dec 2013, 12:10pm
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Best Gingerbread Houses Ever, An Annual Post

Yesterday, I took my wife out for our Giftmas trip through downtown Seattle. Our son is almost 12 and old enough to stay home, so we did without him rather than drag him along while he complained. Sadly, without the kid our time turned more toward shopping for him than anything else.

We started with a really nice lunch at the Michou Deli in the Market, followed by a tiny egg nog cheescake on a stick from The Confectionary. We hit Kitchen Basics for stocking stuffers, the walked up to the Sheraton to see the Gingerbread houses.

Everything there is edible. And it rocked back and forth!

The cow jumped over the moon, via a motor.

You can see them all (including close-ups of some sections, video of the moving parts, and a candy version of our downtown library) at the set. A few are a bit blurry; my one-shot camera seems to be on its last legs viewfinder.

Then we dropped by Pacific Place to listen to a church group of male singers muddle through some Christmas songs and enjoy the indoor snowfall. There was much fun to be had, but my wife is still recovering from an injury so we cut things short.

It was a nice time, but I wish we could have brought the kid (and he would have been cool about it).

How I planned my Kickstarter and why I think it worked out so well

So! As many of you know, last September and October I ran a Kickstarter for my new epic fantasy trilogy. My goal was $10K, which was barely enough to cover the cost of cover art, interior design, a map, printing, copy editing, etc. In my original budget I had about $80 worth of wiggle room, which I figured would be safe enough; if costs went over, I could cover them with the Twenty Palaces POD edition which is coming out soon.

Then this happened:

The project hit its goal in about 8 hours and doubled it the next day. This post is going to be about what happened, why it happened, what I did right and wrong, and what I learned from it. more »

17 Nov 2013, 2:47pm
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Things I have to do today before I watch Netflix:

    Revise one chapter
    Complete two blog posts for the week
    Clean kitchen floor
    Load dishwasher
    Pseudo-clean bathroom
    Take out trash and compost.

Not to self: Twitter will not help you get any of these things done more quickly.

I’m trying out a new mopey British detective series, and if they main character is surprised by the twist I’ve seen coming for 40 minutes, I’m deleting it from my queue. In ep one he said he goes where the evidence leads without jumping to conclusions. If the twist comes and he does not say “I knew this was a possibility from the start,” I’m out.

1 Nov 2013, 3:30pm
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I receive books in the mail

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Yep! The Fate books I pledged for on Kickstarter arrived, and so did my first ever author copies of one of my translated novels. The German language translation of CHILD OF FIRE turned up a mere four (?) years after selling the rights. Maybe it was only three years. Anyway, Russian, French, and I believe Polish books are still out there waiting to be mailed to me.

31 Oct 2013, 6:15pm
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Halloween Live Blog

Okay! The jack o’lanterns are lit, making a path from the top of the stairs to my apt door. Spooky lights are lit. Dracula is on the Netflix, but it won’t load because I can’t imagine why a horror classic would be slow to load on Halloween seriously can’t imagine.

I also have a candy bowl with four Butterfingers, four Snickers, four Nestle’s Crunches, and four (meh) Milky Ways.

There is also a cold beer in the fridge, waiting for my kind attention.

I’m going to live blog the number of kids who come, what treats they take, and what costumes they have. Assuming any show up at all.

Fingers crossed.

Anyway, movie’s playing. I always liked swapping out Renfield for Harker at the start of Lugosi’s Dracula. It simplifies things.

6:28: HOORAY! A tiny little girl dressed as “a rabid raccoon” selected a Crunch candy bar. One kid, at least, has come by.

7:00: No other kids have come by.

7:39: No other kids. Should I just give up? Shut out the light and stuff the candy into the freezer?

7:59: Seriously considering the freezer now.

9:49: Shit.

24 Oct 2013, 12:14pm
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Don’t judge a genre by its covers

Or should we?

Over a week ago (was it really that long?) I has a Twitter exchange with author Sam Sykes. (Longish rant after the cut) more »

19 Oct 2013, 7:28am
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Writing as an opportunity for gratitude

Writers complain. A lot.

And really, they have reason to. Does the guy who drives the truck full of books from the warehouse to the bookstore have to hold down a day job so he can pursue his love of truck driving? That’s a nope, but the people who create the objects he’s transporting often do. Most people in publishing do not make mint, but most of them don’t live as though their job is a hobby.

For writers, most of them have to squeeze writing in between work and family duties. Then, when they’re published, they find that things completely out of their control threaten to (or do) sink their book.

Lousy covers. Delayed royalty payments. People who send nasty reviews because they want the writer to see the reviewer’s contempt. There are a million indignities to be endured and worst of them all is the strong possibility that a writer will outlive their own career.

But there are good things, too. A review by someone who gets the book. An enthusiastic bookseller. Beautiful cover art. Beautiful design. A kind word from another professional. A happy reader.

I think that anyone within a (virtual) mile of me knows that I’m running a Kickstarter. In fact, I’m writing this post on Friday night but scheduling it for Saturday morning, 12 hours before the campaign closes.

Going into this thing, I knew I would have reason to be grateful. Even if it never funded, I would be grateful to everyone who pledged and everyone who helped me put the project together. My wife was endlessly patient with that damn video shoot. My kid was enthusiastic about making art for the stretch goals (and the Tejohn Minecraft skins). And others, too, that I’m not sure I should specifically name, who looked at the preview version and told me what to cut or change.

But the response from readers has really been beyond my expectations. I could type out thank yous until my fingers fall off and it still wouldn’t seem like enough.

And you know what? This is pretty much on par with my experience as a writer. The fact that I can string together words into a narrative means that I have been the recipient of astonishing kindness, from things as simple as a word of praise to as complex as offers to replace my writing computer or attend events at a convention.

If there’s one thing about being a writer that has surprised me, it’s the tremendous amount of gratitude it has brought into my life. So thank you.

I am interviewed about my Kickstarter

I did an interview for HELP FUND MY ROBOT ARMY a Kickstarter anthology I’ve agreed to contribute to.

I’d sworn off short fiction for the next several months to focus on my longer work, but when John Joseph Adams asked me to add a story I had an idea immediately, one I absolutely have to write.

Anyway, in the interview I talk about the success my own Kickstarter has had.

Also today I posted a writeup of A KEY, AN EGG, AN UNFORTUNATE REMARK, which is an urban fantasy with a protagonist in her mid-sixties. Everyone who pledges at $12 or more will already get an ebook copy of this new book (that stretch goal has already been unlocked) but the next stretch goal will unlock a game supplement so folks can roleplay inside this setting.

Finally, the Kickstarter has broken through the $35,000 level (twice now, actually, because this is a time when people will cancel or downgrade their pledges). That’s pretty wild. Thank you for all your support.

10 Oct 2013, 6:17am
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Sunday Night Gaming has a family squabble

Last session knocked off with the rescue of Walt’s daughter Ever, a girl who had her life shortened via genetic engineering. This session opened with a cut scene, in which the players saw a group of Xenari soldiers (those are the aliens who tried to commit genocide against the human race) found the body of the Xenari scientist our team interrogated and then… ahem… executed in cold blood.

In our defense, he was a big jerk.

Sadly, the alien soldiers didn’t seem all that pleased to find his corpse and the scanning devices they used promised to be quite advanced.

Action came up for the PCs with the party split. Evan (our resident mad scientist/anti-alien war hero or terrorist depending on your POV/Xenari executioner) was out of the party due to player illness. Finlay had returned and was sorting through her newly-acquired alien tech, trying to figure out what she could get for them. Walt retired to his home (which, seriously? Rich guys take out a contract on your life and you take your kid to your house?) with his daughter. Travis, for his part, had requested a meeting with his industrialist father and now found himself on a shuttle heading for an orbiting space station.

Ever began to get sick, running a high fever and experiencing quite a lot of pain. Walt shortly began to show similar symptoms, but with added nosebleeds. He called Finlay and she rushed over to help. As the two of them began to show increasingly severe symptoms, an X-Agg hit squad showed up and began shooting at them through the walls. more »

So. Many. Things. To. Do.

Lots going on here. I’m going to do a brief recap to share news and try to catch up.

1) If you’ve been waiting for my rpg game tie-in novel to be released, the publisher is selling it on their website right now. KING KHAN. If you buy the paper version, you get the digital version gratis.

2) Not an hour ago I put my wife on a bus to the airport. She’s spending three weeks back east to attend a family wedding, make some tough decisions about her late father’s artwork, and generally get some time with her siblings. There was a lot to do to get her ready and out the door, but now I’m a single parent again, so things family/house obligations are not exactly going to shrink.

3) If you missed the announcement yesterday, my Kickstarter passed the $30,000/ 300% of goal. Which is a lot of whoa and thank you and I hardly know what to do with myself.

4) If you haven’t backed but are thinking about it, one of the stretch goals is based on new backers that show up starting this week. I’ve been talking about growing my audience for a long time, so new readers are welcome

5) As a followup to number 4, my son has made some pixel art to demonstrate the progress of the stretch goals, but I need to fix it up and post it before we actually reach the goals. Time is flying by

6) I owe a ton of responses to emails and things. I’m sorry. I’ll catch up as quickly as possible.

Now, back to working on my stuff.

25 Sep 2013, 7:05am
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Sunday Night Gaming Flees From The Police

As a followup to last session, Our Team was stuck in an underground bunker with a dead alien. One of the players couldn’t join the game this time, so her character took off (with the alien hard drive that had been our macguffin) and we agreed to meet up with her PC later. For this session, it was Evan the mad scientist/anti-alien revolutionary, Walt the Gen-En soldier with super-powers and a shortened lifespan, and Travis the disreputable party boy and habitual liar who is pretty sure he’s a good guy now since he’s doing all the good guy stuff he’s seen on TV.

But first! Travis Roman, (high concept: Corporate heir trying to do right) had to be rejiggered before the session started. When I created him, I thought we were going to be playing a game about anti-corporate pro-democratic revolutionaries, but we’re actually caught up in an alien conspiracy. As a result, he didn’t have a lot of aspects that couple be easily compelled. So I changed the aspect “I love my family but admire their enemies” to “Must protect family from itself” (since some of my siblings are obviously In On It). The aspect “Just when I thought I was out…” was changed to “The conspiracy is everywhere!”

First order of business was for Travis to note that the slow physical collapse of the Shai’lun, which was the reason they were becoming unsuitable hosts for their parasitic masters, was remarkably similar to the slow physical collapse that Walt was experiencing. The Gen-En process that gave him duplication powers was aging him very fast, and his adopted daughter, too.

Gosh, wasn’t it a coincidence that the Shai’lun were the ones who gave him his powers? You know, those aliens who saved the human race from interstellar genocide solely so we could be the new short-lived hosts for their Shinkara masters? Why, you don’t think… The Shinkara are parasites, aren’t they? And Ex-Agg messed with Walt’s body, didn’t they?

Gee, could Walt have a Shinkara parasite in him right now? Could the parasite be even now transmitting everything we say and do to our enemies? Walt might be an unwitting traitor!

Unwitting was said several times, but no mention was made of the way Walton disrupted Travis’s interrogation of the Xenari prisoner, yelling at him, hitting him with the butt of his rifle, engaging him in a stupid shouting match, and practically taunting Evan to shoot the unarmed prisoner. At no point did Walt feel he was being accused of being an deliberate traitor, but I was prepared with assurances that it wasn’t so, along with Travis’s +3 Deceive skill and the actual dice in my hand, just in case.

Returning to Evan’s home/lab, as opposed to the warehouse lab we’d visited before–I’m beginning to suspect that everything Evan owns is a blank/lab–he ran some tests on Walt and found that there was alien DNA mixed in with his human DNA. Science! Could these be traces of the Shinkara? He didn’t appear to be actually hosting an alien parasite, though, and of course we all trusted him when he assured us he was fine. Just fine.

Travis also wondered where the real Walt was, since it was completely possible that the Gen-En soldier was just a cloned and altered copy of the original man, who could even now be sleeping in one of those big glass tubes (or decomposing in a mass grave).

Walt was so pleased by all this speculation that he immediately walked out. He rushed across the city to bring his daughter to Evan’s place to have her tested, too. She doesn’t have super powers (at the moment! Dum dum DUMMMM!) but she received the Gen-En procedure and is aging quickly. Immediate decision: Split the party! Because that’s always a good idea.

Walt takes off to get his daughter from the neighbor who looks after her while he’s out shooting people, while Travis and Evan make plans for a new safe house that Walt won’t know about. Just in case.

After parking some blocks away from his babysitter’s place (in a terrible part of town–it’s nearly dawn and people are still out on the streets, scrounging and staying warm by trash can fires) Walt makes his way down the sidewalk.

Two doors of a parked car open. One of the guys who gets out is very small and the other is so freakishly large that he almost falls off the far end of the bell curve. For humans, anyway.

Walt has an investigation stunt that allows him to put an aspect on a scene, and he rolls well. The little guy is now Payton Farraday, the Ex-Agg fixer that turned Walt and his daughter into Gen-Ens.

And he’s come to bump Walt off.

Farraday fires his machine pistol at Walt. The big guy grows even bigger, his left arm swells and changes shape, and he begins to press bullets into his the skin of his forearm… where they are absorbed into his flesh. He begins shooting at Walt, Bushwacker-style.

The big guy turns out to be an Aberrant. When the Shai’lun were making Gen-En soldiers to fight off the Xenari’s genocidal attack on the Earth, the Xenari were making Aberrants to do the same thing for their side. But while Gen-Ens look human, Aberrants are monstrously deformed. One of Walt’s aspects reflects his belief that these two types of altered humans are actually one group, and the poor pitiable Aberrants should not be shunned and mistreated the way they are. However, this guy doesn’t look like he’s about to sit down with a cup of coffee and a McMuffin to discuss it.

Walt starts making duplicates of himself as he runs straight at Farraday. The GM offers a compel: For one fate point, Travis can be paranoid enough to follow Walt and join the fight next round. Travis accepts.

Gunfire continues, causing general panic on the street and even hitting some innocent bystanders. Evan and Travis jump from Evan’s car, and join the fight. The most useful attack Travis does is mental, and he throws a can at the car then yells “Incoming grenade!” in the most believable way you can imagine.

The Aberrant dodges away from it, giving Walt only enemy to deal with. Evan takes out a weird metamorphic cube he invented–essentially a multi-tool made from semi-aware nanites–and he throws it at the Aberrant.

This turns out to be a pretty spiffy move, since the nanite tool wraps around the big guy’s forearm, digging into his flesh and jamming his creepy bone gun. Travis rushes forward, shotgun in hand, and the bodyguard gets down on the ground and surrenders.

Payton Farraday concedes the fight and gives Walt what he wants, which is information. He was hired to kill Walt by one of the Roman family, and the only cure for the Gen-En procedure is to go through the Genesis project. Or Genesis procedure. (I forgot to make a note of the name.)

Having given up the info Walt wanted, Farraday and his bodyguard vanish in a flash of light, which is a neat trick that our team should learn Real Soon Now. We hear sirens in the distance, and race to fetch Walt’s daughter since he won’t do the sensible thing and leave her safe with her babysitter and get out well ahead of the police.

FYI: cops in the post apocalyptic world are not the gentle, procedure-loving Officer Friendlies of the pre-invasion world. These guys are more likely to be yahoos with guns, and we do not want to say the words “Self-defense” to them.

After fetching Ever, Walt’s daughter, Mr. Bopples, her teddy, and Joey the babysitter who wanted to shoot us when we rushed into her place, we all piled into Evan’s car.

I don’t think I’ve mentioned it before, but the car Evan drives is one he built himself. It looks very much like the Homer-Simpson-designed vehicle that bankrupted Homer’s brother’s car company, if you added glowing neon racing stripes to the side. It also goes very very fast.

We take off with the cops in hot pursuit. It’s a contest! I’d thought it was strange that Evan, an alien-hating mad-scientist hunted by the law as a terrorist, used one of his +3 slots for the Drive skill, but it turns out to be surprisingly useful for a wanted criminal to be good at getting away.

With a sudden turn onto a vacant lot (and two very good rolls) we leave the cops behind and return to Evan’s house with a little girl who was not nearly as traumatized as you would expect from being waken in the wee hours by a gunfight on her street, crammed into a strange car with desperate, terrified people, pressed down on the floor of said car while her father leaned out the window and laid down suppressing fire at the pursuing vehicles while sirens where wailing everywhere, and finally dragged into Evan’s bachelor pad/terrorist cell/lab. Luckily, Travis knows how to sooth people, too, and he calms her down fairly quickly.

Walt nervously asks Evan to test her DNA, and what do you know? She’s got some alien stuff mixed in there, too. What’s more, unlike Walt, she has only two months to live. If he doesn’t find the cure for her by then, his little daughter dies.

Stakes! We got ‘em.

Travis receives a phone call from his sister. She’s concerned that one of his brothers (he has as many siblings as the plot requires) is really pissed at him, and wants him to be careful. Travis, at least, now has the name of the family member who tried to kill Walt. He asks his sister to set up a meeting with good old dad, since he’s not on speaking terms with the head of Roman Industries anymore.

Oh! And Evan finds a bit of the Aberrant’s blood on his cube, and he runs some tests on it. It turns out that, while the Gen-Ens have some alien DNA, the Aberrants are 100% terrestrial. Wildly distorted, yes, but they’re people.

Who do you pity now?

Next session we hope to have Finlay back. Travis needs to gather evidence to show his father about the Shinkara, not to mention the way Ex-Agg and some of his own family have sold out the human race to them. And we need to find a way to turn the human race from a suitable host species for these parasites into barren land where their seed can find no purchase.

Oh, and we still haven’t dropped a neutron bomb on the Ex-Agg dropship. Must get bomb.


Hey, if you’re a Fate player who’s new to my blog, you should know one of the rewards in the Kickstarter I’m running for my epic fantasy trilogy includes a Fate supplement: At the $30 level, you get all three books in multiple ebook formats (DRM-free, naturally) along with a little write up of the novel’s setting, an adventure or two, and whatever else seems pertinent to playing a Fate adventure in the setting of The Great Way. Check it out.


  • The prequel to Child of Fire: see here for more details

  • Starred review from Publishers Weekly

  • Starred review from Publishers Weekly

  • Named to Publishers Weekly's "Best 100 Books of 2009" list. Get the audiobook here.

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