12 to Midnight

Fifteen Years and Counting

Posted Thursday, May 3, 2018 at 4:05 pm | Comments Off on Fifteen Years and Counting |

I had a revelation earlier today. I joined 12 to Midnight and began writing and publishing RPGs professionally in 2003. That means this year marks 15 years as an RPG industry professional. I don’t think I can entirely wrap my brain around that.

Games

My Slice of Flash Gordon

Posted Sunday, December 3, 2017 at 9:26 pm | Comments Off on My Slice of Flash Gordon |

I’m of an age in which I can claim having seen all three original Star Wars films during their original theatrical runs. That also means I remember seeing the 1980s Flash Gordon™ in the theater as well. At the time I think we were all hoping for another Star Wars, but that’s not what came to the screen. (In hindsight, it was the other way around. Little did I know at the time that Star Wars was a Flash Gordon tale, sans Flash.)

“I use these for smuggling. I never thought I’d be smuggling myself.”

I’m also of an age in which my only exposure to Flash Gordon came from the 1980s movie. I knew he didn’t spring into existence in the 80s, but only in the way I know the capital of Alaska–a bit of trivia I picked up somewhere along the way. I’ve never visited Juneau, nor did I get to watch any of the old films or read the old comics.

That is, not until little more than a year ago. That’s when Pinnacle gifted me the opportunity to contribute a chapter to Kingdoms of Mongo, a companion book to the Savage World of Flash Gordon™ roleplaying game penned by the talented Scott Woodard. This gave me an opportunity to delve into Flash’s history and adventures. Luckily for us, the old serial newspaper comic strips have been lovingly collected in a series of beautiful hardback books so they are more accessible now than ever before.

It wasn’t until I started reading those old comics that I came to appreciate the lasting impact Flash Gordon has had on our culture. While I came relatively late to the Flash fan club, there’s no question he’s of a class of hero I have admired since childhood. In my mind he stands shoulder to shoulder with Buck Rogers, John Carter of Mars, Tarzan, Indiana Jones, and many other pulp-style legends. Flash relies on his quick wits, steady hand, brave heart, and steadfast friends to overcome adversity and win the day. What’s not to admire?

Too many captions! Can’t decide among: “Arrr, warrra, rowar!” “Hey baby, I’d be lion if I said you weren’t hot.” “I’m a lion-man. Man in the streets, lion in the sheets.”

So little more than a year ago I began penning that chapter, adding my own modest contribution to the ongoing Flash Gordon legacy. It remains, quite simply, an honor. It was a real joy to expand upon the “my” little corner of planet Mongo as we know it from the comic strips. I got to immerse myself in how Mongoians live, what strange creatures inhabit the world around them, and what dastardly dangers might befall heroes brave enough to call themselves friends of the legendary Flash Gordon.

How much longer will the Earth hero’s exploits inspire us? As long as we cast our imaginations to far away Mongo and its wonderful and deadly denizens, and that’s exactly what The Savage World of Flash Gordon aims to do.

The Kickstarter has less than a day to go. It’ll be available in retail game stores and online later, but backing the Kickstarter ensures you get early access. The PDFs will be ready as soon as January. I hope you’ll consider backing the Kickstarter so you can see how Scott brought Mongo to the game table. Flash is Alive!

Miscellaneous

Upcoming Events

Posted Friday, January 6, 2017 at 12:37 pm | Comments Off on Upcoming Events |

My 2017 convention schedule is firming up, so I’m sharing my schedule in case anyone is interested in meeting up and chatting about gaming, writing, or even credit card security (my other specialty).

So far I don’t have any out of state convention trips scheduled. If you’re a convention organizer I’d love to hear from you. I love going to conventions, running games, speaking on panels, and generally hanging out with mind kind of people!

Books, Miscellaneous

Writing by the Numbers

Posted Monday, January 2, 2017 at 6:22 pm | Comments Off on Writing by the Numbers |

Last night I was on the phone with a writing buddy and he shared with me how he had written 6,000 words that day, to finish up a 10,000 word chapter. I’d also been assigned a chapter in the same book, so I thought it would be interesting to share with you my writing habits by comparison.

Right off the bat I’ll say I’m in awe of anyone who can write 6,000 words a day. Even if I had all day to write with absolutely no distractions I’m pretty sure I couldn’t pull that off. I am much more of a plodder. But you know what? After years of struggling with writing and the self-doubt inherent with any solo creative field, I’ve finally found a repeatable process that works for me. I’ve learned to put my faith in the process to produce results, even if–like the tortoise in the fable–other writers zip past me and produce far more words.

When I write, I get the best results by taking a three stage approach.

Stage 1: Just get something coherent on the page. Don’t worry about sounding perfect, don’t worry overly much about formatting, and (for game writing) don’t worry about character or creature stats. The most difficult part of writing for me is simply defeating the blank page. Knowing I can revise my way out of the ugliest of first drafts (because I’ve done it before) gives me the freedom from self-criticism I need to just move forward and get the job done.

1st draft stats: 9,412 words

Stage 2: Revise. This stage is all about fleshing out the rough draft. Here’s where I fill out areas needing more explanation, make sentences sound better, pay more attention to the style guide and generally fill in the giant gaps I’d told myself I’d fix later while writing the first draft. By the end of this draft, I have a pretty decent manuscript.

2nd draft stats: 14,199 words*

Stage 3: Polish. For me, this is where the magic happens. In this final proofing run I catch the mistakes I missed or created in stage 2, fill in anything I left for the end, and make sure I’ve followed the document style guide. It’s also where I focus on writing craft. Here, I tighten up sentences, polish grammar, and generally try to sound better. Recently, to make a tight deadline I tried combining steps 2 and 3 into a single pass, telling myself I’d polish as I went. While it was acceptable, my editor noticed the difference and I’ve learned my lesson. Take the time to polish and do it in a pass distinct from the revision stage.

3rd draft stats: 14,174 words; 707 minutes

Did you know MS Word can tell you how many minutes you’ve had the document open? Unfortunately it can’t tell whether the document is your focus or if it’s merely open in the background, or even if you left it open overnight. For that reason, I’m only reporting the minutes I spent on the polishing stage. Up to that point I didn’t take care to close the document as soon as I was done. In the earlier drafts I left it open overnight more than once.

To be honest though, I’m shocked I spent nearly 12 hours just on the polishing phase. Given that writing is still a moonlighting gig for me, I need to be more self-aware of my writing speed at each phase so I can do a better job of budgeting my time. All I can say with absolute certainty is I didn’t write 6,000 words in day, like my friend.

 

*Yes, I overshot my target word count by more than 4,000 words. I’d already been told the book would probably need more than what was assigned, but if not I figured they could be carved out and used elsewhere.

 

 

Current Events

Creating Greatness

Posted Thursday, November 10, 2016 at 9:18 am | Comments Off on Creating Greatness |

In 2008 half the population embraced “Hope and Change” because both were in short supply. In the eight years that followed, hope withered and not all the change was for the better. With this year’s presidential election, half the population embraced the opposing party’s slogan, “Make America Great Again,” apparently blind to the irony that both slogans spoke to the same thing.

It’s past time we faced some difficult truths. The political machine desperately needs you to keep overlooking how they’re incapable of producing the kind of greatness our country needs. They get away with it because our culture clings to the notion of the president improving things for us as a way of avoiding our own responsibility. Greatness isn’t a commodity packaged and shipped from the White House. It’s something you and I create in our communities.

The “Greatest Generation” was thrust into the position by world events, but their greatness came from rising to the occasion. We can be this century’s Greatest Generation. You and I can each work hard, be charitable, create jobs (or at least be entrepreneurial), practice our faith, help our community, oppose injustice, keep learning, and treat others civilly and fairly.

The country has a short memory, but as recently as this past August a part of our country rose to true greatness. Remember? In the aftermath of a deadly flood in Louisiana which destroyed or damaged more than 20,000 homes and businesses, neighbor helped neighbor in a massive rescue operation while the government struggled to respond. They did so without expectation of reward and without regard to race, age, sex, education, or income. Even after the rescue, with thousands of people left homeless, neighbors who had almost nothing gave to those even less fortunate with regret that they couldn’t do more.

That, my friends, is what makes America great and it can’t come from Washington.

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