Is it Gaming, or is it Storytelling?

Yesterday I mentioned that I was thinking of a character that I’d created for a role playing game, and that I’d written a few chapters around them, sort of gave them a history.  I also made a comment sort of like, “Oh, I don’t do fan fiction.”

Except for that time when I sort of did.

Allow me to explain:

Back in the dark, dim days of the early 1990’s, I used to do a lot of gaming.  In fact, I pretty much gamed non-stop from about 1989 until 2003, or there about.  Yes, there was a little bit of gaming going on from 2005 to 2010, but not like I’d done in the prior decade.

I not only gamed, but I ran them.  I was The Gamemaster, and for a few years my games of choice were MechWarrior, and Cyberpunk.  MechWarrior was your “Giant Mechanical Things You Pilot so You Can Blow Shit to Hell!” game, and we had a blast with it because people loved blowing shit up.  Save when the shit being blown up was your mech–the gigantic robot-like thing your character piloted–then it wasn’t so much fun.  For the most part, however, it was a great game, and I put in a lot of time changing the “known history” of the game, just to put a twist on the game, and so people wouldn’t be going, “Oh, I know what happens next!”

The other game was Cyberpunk.  Now, if you want to know about that, read The Sprawl Trilogy, by William Gibson, and you’ll know a little about the game.  People were cybered up, hook into The Net, and loaded down with armor, guns, and drugs–and not always in that order.  Well, my players, the armor and guns always came first, and if you weren’t careful, you might take a shotgun blast to the face–or worse, Full Auto To THE HEAD!  People were killed just going to the ATM, and not always because they were a target.

Again, there was a lot of fun to be had, and I ran one particular game for about two and a half years of weekends.  I finally brought the game to a close, ended up killing a few player characters, and gave everyone–well, almost everyone–a good resolution.

However . . .

When I was in my writer’s group, I needed something to write about.  And lo and behold:  I came up with a set of character who existed in the world laid out within the game, and its supplements.  And, once–yeah, I wrote a story for them.  Said physical story is now lost to the ages, because it ended up on a hard drive I didn’t back up, and I never recovered, but it’s still in my head, and if I ever wanted to rewrite it, I could.  If memory serves me correctly, the story was probably thirty to thirty-five thousand words long, but it could have been longer.  To be honest, I just don’t remember.

But to show you how nutty I was, I not only wrote that story, but I figured out a whole HBO-type TV series for the characters, one that was about thirteen to fifteen episodes a season, with a full eight seasons planed.  No, really, that’s how I was rolling back in the early 1990’s.  I even had titles for some of the stories:  the first one would have been, “The Great American Nightmare,” and the last three would have been based upon the titles of famous movies.

Ah, another of those crazy ideas that never went anywhere.

So let that be a lesson to you:  no matter how crazy your ideas may be, act on them.

Because what’s worse than never having them come true?

Of Late I Dream of Beta Quadrant

Today is one of those Fake Tuesdays:  the ones after a three-day weekend that pretends it’s a Monday.  And it feels that way.  It feels long, slow, and tiring.  It feels like one of those days where you want to stay in bed and sleep the day away.

It was a little like that yesterday as I returned to The Undisclosed Location.  The traffic wasn’t bad, but the time felt way off.  It was alternately sunny and gloomy, and when I stepped out of the car, it felt like I’d entered a steam bath.

Then I drifted off to sleep–and woke up at 3 AM.  Lay in bed until the alarm went off, hoping against hope that I’d doze off and get a little dream time in.  Nope, not a chance.  The motto of The Undisclosed Location is, “Never Give a Sucker An Even Break,” and guess who is playing the role of The Sucker?

Needless to say, keeping my mind focused on something for long is a bit of a struggle.  The mind feels like swiss cheese, and the body feels a little cold–probably caused by, as someone mentioned, a combination of low blood pressure and stress.  It doesn’t matter:  the brain is feeling like it needs a road trip, and the body is saying, “Wait . . . I thought you were flying?”

As usually happens when I get bored or tired, my mind starts wandering to different things, different stories, different ideas.  I haven’t been all over the place as I often am, but the mind keeps slipping away to another place–

Somewhere about thirty thousand light years distant, to be exact.

For some reason, I’m going over the plight–well, sort of semi-life–of a character I once made for an aborted Star Trek role playing game–one that I’ve often referred to as the worst game I’ve ever played.  I loved the character, and the history I created for him, but if I were given the choice of going back in time and gaming with the same bunch, or having a body part gnawed off by a rabid squirrel, I’d take the latter option.

There was a time, however, when I wasn’t doing anything between sessions of dealing with idiots and munchkins, and given that time I wrote.  I don’t want to say what I was doing was fanfic, but it was.  Or maybe I was just writing history, since my fanfic didn’t involve my character getting involved with any green women.

But I’ve been drawn back to this limited story, not just yesterday, but today.  I think it was because I was looking up something that ended up in a scene, and it got me thinking about what I’d written a couple of years back.  I know that nothing I wrote back then was worth a damn, but it gave me a little bit of peace, because it helped me deal with the fact that I was gaming with hyper-spacial doucherockets.

Will I do anything with this work?  Probably not.  Maybe take it out and read it, cringing here and there when I come across a bad line or three.

Still . . . it’s on my mind.  Can’t tell you if that’s good or bad.


As much fun as I poke at people who are often thought of as geeks, I’m right in there with them–for the most part.  I’m a gamer, but not one of those newfangled TV or computer games.  No, sir.  I’m a table top role player, the sort of person who sits down at a table with a bag of dice, and sets about slaying the dragon, or blowing shit up.  Usually the later, as the only dragons I ever met were in Shadowrun.  Happy elves and singing dwarfs make me want to slit their throats when everyone is asleep . . .

GenCon is going on this very moment.  That’s like the Lourdes of gaming for some people, and it’s always a big deal.  I used to attend GenCon back when it was in the MECCA Complex in Milwaukee, back when us folk close to Chicago used to sing, “Hey der, Ho der, Yah, hey hey, Stay in Milwaukee and Game!”  Back then there was a sort of funky, low rent feel to everything, almost like you were gaming in your parent’s basement, but when I was there running four games, early in the morning and late at night, I couldn’t have had a better time.

That’s all in the past.  These days it’s in Indianapolis, and it holds sway over the burb for four day in August.  It’s a good time for all, though given the state of the gaming industry, it’s not quite as–well, role playing-centric as it once was.  I suppose I could bitch and grumble like some old fart who keeps finding kids on his lawn, but no:  the future is here, and why get pissed?  I’m happy people are still gaming, I’m thrilled to see how independent companies have started selling through the Internet.

I’m not at GenCon this year.  2008 saw my last appearance, and the year before that I’d had such a horrible experience at the con that I almost didn’t return in ’08.  I ran games again, I played a little . . . I had a great time.

Then I was laid off, no work, no spare income, and GenCon had to wait.

Now, here I am, working, a little extra money, and yet . . . I kept saying, “Naw, I don’t have to go.  I don’t need to go.  Hell, I don’t even want to go.”  Yep, I’d decided I didn’t need the con this year, because–well, it’s not because of science, that’s for sure.

I blew it off, and now I’m feeling a bit of regret.  Not because going gives me an excuse to spend money, but because . . . I could use the fun.

There has been a singular lack of fun in my life for a while, and just wandering the halls would brighten my spirits.  Maybe I’d see some people I know.  Maybe I’d even see something cool that I don’t need, but want.  If I’d thought ahead, I could be styling in my Ponythulhu tee shirt, letting everyone know that Friendship is, indeed, Madness, and getting my gaming grove back.

I let work get in the way of enjoying myself, and now I’m feeling bummed as hell.

Never mind.  I’ve got my mind made up . . . next year, I’m coming, project deadlines or not.

And if they think they’re gonna stop me, they best make a saving roll . . .

Playing With Shadows

This long week is almost over.  Travel Day today, and it’s looking like it’ll be a good day.  I might not even think too much about the fools on the road this afternoon when I’m making the trek back to the Real Home.

Even though I had copious amounts of fuzzy head yesterday, I got into Diners at the Memory’s End, and I kept at that sucker.  I didn’t want to stop.  Well, a couple of times, it felt like I wasn’t making any headway, but that was shaken off.  Slowly, yes, but shaken it was, yes.  I have my goals, you know?  Writer’s gotta write.

But fun was being had last night.  I’d forgotten–me?–that in the original version of the story, after the telescopes were in the process of being set up, and Albert and Meredith were waiting for the fun to happen, they were playing a game.  Of course, “playing” is a loose term, as they were virtually immersed inside a first-person shooter.  Back then I had them wearing pretty simple gear with electromagnetic shields, fighting against some alien creature I just made up on the spur of the moment.

That was twenty years gone, however, and I’ve picked up on a few things since then.  One, I made the world much bigger.  Two, I put them both in powered armor because–hey, powered armor equals big guns.  Lastly, though, I gave them Shadows to play with . . .

If you ever watched Babylon 5, you remember Shadows:  usually invisible black spider-like creatures that was four-square for chaos and death.  Sort of like head crabs in Half-Life, only these take your body as well when they attack.  Since all they want is to see you dead–or be their bitch, whichever seems like more fun to them–they make for a worthy foe to face and mow down.

It was actually fun to write last night.  Albert in his sort of hulking Forever War-style suit, with a huge gun in one hand and twin pulse lasers on each shoulder, and Meredith in her sleeker, faster, more nimble Bubblegum Crisis-style suit–with high heels, naturally–up against the creatures that inhabit the shadows.  Throw in some crazy music I was listening to right before bed, and the slaughter of the big, black bugs becomes something of a surreal experience.

It was while I was listening to said music last night that I realized the game really sets up Meredith what comes later in the scene.  The game lets her get her inner bad ass out and on display, and that boosts her confidence, and . . . well, one thing will lead to another, you know?  She’s never been like this before, never been allowed to take the stage and shine, and with everything else she’s dealing with in her life (which comes out later in the story), this becomes her moment to take some real action.

Shadows are everywhere, sometimes making you do things you shouldn’t do.  Including  them in at this point in the story seems right, because it opens up something else that will take the story in another direction and–corrupt it?  Naw.  Maybe that’s to harsh a word.

Maybe just darken it a tiny bit . . .

Ghost Train on the Big Wheel

If you follow the rhythm of this blog, you’ll know that right around the time of full moon I’m out late, visiting a friend, and last night was no exception.  Headed on down to his place to eat pizza, drink coffee, and enjoy visual entertainment.  For the evening it was Babylon 5 and a former Prophets of Science Fiction on the life of Philip K. Dick.  Great fun, a chance to BS, reminisce, talk about my new job . . . stuff I don’t normally get to do, because I’m such a solitary creature.

(Oh, and for the guy I met online who said he couldn’t watch Babylon 5 because he just didn’t “get it”, suck it.  But I wouldn’t worry; I’m sure you’ll find something less mentally challenging to watch–notice I didn’t say, “read” . . .)

Then it was time to head home with the near-full moon keeping me company.  February’s full moon is known as that Snow Moon, but damned if we have any snow around these parts.  Which is just the way I like it, because it means I don’t have to shovel that shit.  Doesn’t matter, ’cause I’ll drive, snow or no snow.  You don’t live for over 50 years in the Lake Effect Belt and not know how to drive in snow.  Okay, some people are like that, but I ain’t one of them.

Driving along near midnight, Making Movies playing once again, my mind on a lot of things.  I thought about the game character I was creating, and how I was past all the posturing from the other night, and how I’d done something in my posted character’s history that seemed to have disturbed someone–something about a spike heel in a guy’s groin.  Yeah, that’s gonna hurt.

I thought about Couples Dance, how much I liked the story even though it’s about to take a very sick turn for the worse here, literally after I finish doing this blog post.  Since some of you (yeah, looking at you!) might be curious about what I’m writing there, here is an entry from the private journal of Frazier Byrom, 12 July, 1932:


G— refused to be consoled tonight. M—’s death two nights ago—just the eve of her return to Château-Thierry—is affecting her greatly. Most likely it has to do with them being together the night of M—’s death. G— told me she had kissed M— goodbye that night, before returning to her flat, and then, only a few hours later, she was discovered murdered, her body lying in the street beneath her balcony. The police say it is a suicide, that there was evidence that M— had partaken of laudanum before her body was found . . . I know M— to use the drug quite often, and she had, on occasion, turned up on my doorstep sheathed safely within its vaporous hold.

G— refuses to believe this. She knew of M—’s use of laudanum, but insists she was excited to be returning to Château-Thierry, that there was no reason for her to become so forlorn as to anesthetize herself with an overdose before flinging herself from her 5th Floor balcony. She said that it was all foul play, that someone killed her before throwing her from her balcony. She insists her head did not snap around because of the impact with the street, that it was that way before she left behind this wretched dream of life . . .



This is really nothing, ’cause I’m going to finish off the chapter today, or at least try; what I don’t do today I’ll probably finish when I arrive at The Undisclosed Location later tonight.  But Chapter 8, which is now 6,160 words long, will come to a very bloody end soon.

And then, on the very empty stretches of road leading home, my Muse showed up to ride shotgun.  And we didn’t talk current game characters; we didn’t talk Kerry and Annie; we didn’t talk Works in Progress.  We got on the ghost train and rode it along the big wheel, and returned to the past.

She told me when Couples Dance is finished, it’s time to get back into Transporting.

I’ve spoke about this a few times before, but Transporting is my very first novel, written in the dark days of the early 1990’s, when my first marriage was started to split at the seams.  It’s been a work in progress for two decades, having been through a couple of re-writes and even some added material.  I moved it all into Scrivener a few months back and began plotting out the end . . . and I need something like nine chapters to finish it.

My Muse is saying, “Enough fooling around, Mr. Writer.  Time to get to work.”

I’ve heard that voice before, and it’s a serious voice.  It’s got serious tone.  She’s telling me I should take a novel that has a lot of great concepts–at least to me–and make it so it’s publishable.  Finish it, edit it . . . get it to the public.

This doesn’t means I won’t do a new story when the urge hits, but this novel thing, it’s been waiting for a long time to see the light of day.  And now that 2012 is here, and a good 20 years have passed since I started this sucker, maybe it’s time to kick it off the computer and into the the hands of other people.

Hey, when the Muse speaks, I gotta listen.

Detours Along the Routes of Imagination

You might say I was a bad boy yesterday.  I didn’t do anything with my story.  Nope, not one word.

But that’s not the bad part, oh no.  The bad part is I didn’t care.  I didn’t worry.  I didn’t get bothered one bit.

That doesn’t mean I have given up on the story.  It’s just that yesterday was something of a story holiday.  I was off on different tangents all day yesterday, and my mind was all over the place.

You can blame gaming for that.

When I speak of gaming, I don’t mean the video stuff.  I’m just not good enough for that.  My daughter will sit and play Left 4 Dead all day, blowing up zombies left and right.  I can’t do that; I just don’t have the hand-eye coordination for that stuff, not the stamina.  (I also think zombies are really, really stupid.  But that’s me.)

On the other hand I love driving simulations, but that’s because I love driving and going fast, and spinning out some asshole who is trying to get around you.  So I can do video, but I usually don’t.

I’m talking table top games, where you have books and dice and you sit around and BS half the night while a story is told.  I’ve done those for a very long time–just over 25 years–and I hope to keep going for a while longer.

So I’ve been roped into a game that you play online–Play by Post, as we say–and I’ve created a character.  I love character creation; it’s the writer in me to make something and turn her into a believable person.  Yes, a “her” again, because I love creating female characters.

Believe it or not, this has a lot to do with writing, though.  How, do you ask?  Because there is always something that comes into play with a character: a character history.

Like the nut I am–or maybe it’s because I’m a writer?–I started getting into the character history in my head a few days ago.  Actually, I didn’t have a choice; I’d finished stating out the character, getting all her skills and abilities and putting a numeric value to them, and I’d finally finished buying all her gear.  So now . . . why is she the way she is?

History time!

The thing I have to watch is that I’m a wordy bastard, and I can’t spend 15,000 words describing her.  Otherwise I’m screwed, because I’m spending all my time writing about her and not writing about the character in Couples Dance.  Yes, when I wasn’t working it was a much easier time, because my work was my writing.

At the moment, though, I’m stuck in the drudgery of looking through hundreds of lines of code trying to figure out why a file isn’t getting data (yep, that’s my day yesterday), so it’s really hard to find a couple of hours to sit and explain why my gaming character was kidnapped and held in a secret facility for 4 years; why she’s now on the semi-run; why she’s into BDSM (oh, yeah) and female domination of others (and even bigger yeah!), and that she’s something of a freak sexually; and most of all, why she had killer instincts coupled with superpowers.

I’m already three pages into the “Why” of her, and it’s a nice diversion.  It’s a different sort of writing, just like this blog is a different sort of writing.  It allows me to go off in a different direction, get away from something that is very heavy and have a little fun.  Not to say that Tammara, my character for this game, isn’t going to get into some heavy stuff.  Nope.  She’ll be up to be up to her rather pear-shaped butt in it.

But it’s a different sort of heavy.  And it’s going to be fun–I hope.  I’ve started out with high expectations for things like this before, only to see them crash and burn in short order.  But the good thing this time around: if she gets thrown into a game that isn’t going to last very long, I can throw her into another story.

Because when you meet a girl this good, you never let her go.

Bittersweet Me

Post 199, and the penultimate for the year.  The name of tomorrow’s post will be easy; you may have even guessed it already.

As much as I’ve hated 2011, last night I felt like something was ending that has made an impact on me throughout the year.  As I said, some thing that went down in 2011 were horrible, mostly due to the crushing depression I felt.  Believe me, there were times when things got so bad you just wanted to find a meat grinder to shove your head into.

But there were also things that happens that made it all worth while.  They brought me joy and a bit of happiness when I needed it, and I’m very thankful for those.

Like all good things, though, you wonder if they are lasting.  I know one will.  I know it will always be there . . . but for the moment it’s in flux.  Right now it’s all different.  And how will it be in the future?  Who knows?  You can never tell what tomorrow is going to bring, and if there is one thing I know, it’s that 2012 will be a lot different for me.

I do know I will push on with my writing.  Though after the marathon I was on yesterday, today I feel like I need a break.  Finished up a part of the new story, knocked off another chapter for the NaNo Novel, and ended up editing some 20 or so pages for my story Kuntilanak.

Oi.  Did I find a few errors.  Not a lot; maybe 7, 8 of them, but one was so bad . . . jeez, I don’t know how we missed it.  But I’m not gonna beat myself up over it.  Just make some changes and move on.  And hope it’s going to go easier the next time.  We’ll see.  All I know is that idea I had about self-publishing a novel?  Not without a couple of people helping with the edits.

The biggest project I have for 2012 is going to be getting my first novel finished and edited.  It’s such a monster, and working through that sucker is going to take a large block of my time.  I also want to find a publisher for my NaNo Novel.  It looks good and feels good and reads good, and gosh darn it, I think people will like it.  Does that mean anyone wants to read this stuff?  Who knows?  But I want to see it out there.  I want to see people reading it.

And if I can get it published, I can continue writing about the characters I created.  I know of at least two stories that can follow the original novel; one idea that I had a while back while I was still in the process of writing my NaNo Novel, and another that I just came up with a few days ago, where I saw my role playing character, and his girlfriend, being a part of the world where my novel takes place.  I would love to write these, in particular the last, if for no other reason than I have stories I want to tell, and this is my way of telling them.

At least I have ideas bouncing about inside my head.

Just a matter of whipping the suckers out into the light of day.