Last month I posted about Murray passing away. Naturally, this month isn’t going to be easy. This is the first time I haven’t had a pet in the house in more than fifteen years, which is my entire freelance career. You really don’t realize how much of your daily schedule is based around pets (particularly sick pets) until they’re gone. I still have moments where I feel like I need to head back home to feed Murray, or that I can’t stay out too late because I didn’t get a sitter for him.
Yes, it’s hard losing Murray. But I also learned a lot. It’s forced me to reassess my current situation, and find new ways of dealing with things. My work process is slowly changing, for example — as much as I hate to say it, I’m a little more productive now that I don’t have to stop every couple of hours to attend to Murray. I wish with all my heart I had the distractions, though.
Family and friends help. So does work. And certainly things are solid on the work front. Unrelated to Murray’s passing, but I did step away from my Executive Producer position at Earplay to take on a role as In-House Developer for Onyx Path Publishing. (It actually happened back in September, but Murray’s death distracted me from the announcement.) Monarchies of Mau is continuing forward at a good pace, and with excellent writers stepping up to do wonderful work. New Pugmire projects are continuing to move forward, and I’ve picked up freelance work on projects like They Came From Beneath the Sea and Deviant: The Renegades. My work on Tunnels & Trolls Adventures went public a couple of months ago. I also just signed a contract for an unannounced project, and behind the scenes I’m helping out Phil Brucato in getting more Mage: The Ascension 20th Anniversary Edition books out the door.
So, a lot of changes. Some of it is the nature of being a self-employed freelancer, and some of it is living in a new country where a part of your family is gone. But by necessity of describing my situation, I perhaps sound more maudlin than I am. Things hurt less. I’m not as numb as often. I get out more. Life is improving, slowly but surely.
I still miss him, but I need to get on with things.
On 23 September, at 9:30pm, my dog Murray passed away very suddenly in my arms. He saw his vet that morning to start a course of heart medication, when a heart attack took him. I gave him several rounds of CPR, but he didn’t recover. He was 15, and led a good and full life.
The past week has been a blur of pain and numbness, as our family comes to terms with our lives after Murray. We all knew he was an old dog, and a sick dog, but within minutes he changed from getting better to gone. The suddenness was a mercy for him, although painful for us.
After I made arrangements for his funeral, I couldn’t sleep, so I wrote a Pugmire story about Murray, and about dealing with death. And through the world of Pugmire, Murray lives on.
Goodbye, buddy. I miss you.
Yosha knocked hesitantly on the thick oak door to her uncle’s office. She heard a deep “Come in, come in,” and pushed the door open.
Behind his desk, Seneschal Murra, Prince of Pugmire, shuffled papers from one part of his desk to the other. Yosha noticed his fur was getting grayer every day. At this point, it was more gray than black. She wondered if he would end up being completely gray at some point.
“You sent for me, Uncle Murra?” Yosha sat in the chair across from him, paws folded in her lap.
“I just need you to sign some papers, niece. A mere formality.” He flipped through the stack, and carefully extracted one. He adjusted the glasses on what passed for a nose, nodded to himself, and then handed it to her.
Yosha carefully took it from him. Her eyes grew wide as she read the first few lines. “But uncle… this is your will.”
“Yes, my child. I am not a young dog, you know, and I have to make certain… allowances… for when my time comes.”
Yosha set the paper down. “But you’re a strong dog, uncle. I’m sure you’ll live for many years yet.”
The elderly dog took his glasses off and set them aside. “Sweet Yosha, I sometimes forget how young you are. To you, everyone will live forever. But I know that I won’t. Every day my legs hurt a little more, and my cough gets a little worse.”
“But…” She shoved the paper away, suddenly. “I don’t want to think about you dying!” Her eyes brimmed with tears.
Murra stood up, walked over to the young puppy, and knelt beside her. She could hear the soft pop from his joints as he did. “There is a way you can make sure I live forever, you know.”
She wipes the tears away with a paw. “What’s that?”
He smiled, and patted her head. “Remember me. Tell everyone about my life, good and bad. If I leave just one happy story behind, then I’ll always live.” He poked her in the chest. “Right here.”
Crying, she leapt out of the chair to wrap her arms around Murra’s neck. “You’ll always be a happy story to me, uncle. Always.”
Murra hugged her back, so she couldn’t see the tears in his own eyes.
At long last, Pugmire is available to everyone to buy! Here’s a handy list of where to get it right now, and in the very near future.
DriveThruRPG. If you want the PDF, this is where you get it from. In a few weeks the print-on-demand version will be available as well. Also, the support decks will become available through DriveThruCards.
Indie Press Revolution. Very soon IPR will also offer physical Pugmire products!
Your Local Hobby Store. If your local store uses Studio2 as a distributor, you can order from your store!
If you like Pugmire, please spread the word, and leave a review at any of these outlets that allow for ratings. Reviews really help sales!
In 10 days, I’ll be on a plane from Dublin to Indianapolis to attend the 50th Gen Con! If you’re going to the show as well, or if we meet at another convention at some point, here are some tips to help you understand me a bit better.
0. I’ll be mildly insane (Gen Con-specific)
Between jet lag, selling Pugmire for the first time outside of the Kickstarter, celebrating 50 years of Gen Con magic with friends and peers, meeting fans for Pugmire and my other work, and getting a chance to catch up with various current and former clients, it’s going to be an exciting and busy time. As such, I may come across as frazzled or distracted. Give me a minute, and I’ll come around.
1. I have hearing loss
I do have hearing loss in both ears, and hearing aids only help so much (particularly in loud environments like… well, just about everyone in and around Gen Con). I will miss what you said, and I will sometimes misunderstand you. Odds are you’ll call our my name in a bar and it’ll seem like I’m ignoring you. If you want to talk, standing in front of me and saying my name to get my attention is a huge help. There are more helpful tips for communicating with people who have hearing loss, if you’re interested.
2. I suck at names
It’s entirely possible we’ve met before, but if it seems like I’m struggling to recall your name, don’t take it personally. I meet hundreds of people at Gen Con every year, and it’s difficult to remember them all. If you could remind me of your name and how we’ve previously met, I’d really appreciate it.
3. I want to meet fans, but I’m here on business
I absolutely want to meet and chat with fans! But please understand that my main goal at the convention is business. It’ll be hard for me to carve out time to let you buy me a drink or to talk about your amazing Pugmire chronicle at length, because I’ve got to spend my time carefully at the show between business partners, contractors I hire, and other fans who also want to chat. Further, some folks I used to see more often I may only see at Gen Con now that I live in Ireland. Please don’t be offended if I cut our conversation short.
4. I don’t mind physical affection, but please ask first
I like giving hugs and other forms of physical affection to my friends, but please don’t assume that it’s okay unless we’ve talked about it first. A simple “I’d like to give you a hug, is that okay?” is perfect.
5. I’m not going to be drinking alcohol a lot at the show
Over the years I’ve discovered that I function better at conventions if I’m not drunk. On some occasions a beer or a mixed drink helps me unwind after a busy day on the floor, but far more often I’ll be having iced tea or water. So if I turn down your shot, please don’t take it personally!
6. It’s not a big deal
In the end, don’t worry that you’ve upset or offended me, or that you did something “wrong.” We’re all here to have a good time (even if it’s professional), so if you stumble, just take a second and try again. I promise I won’t be upset.
Murray recently had a nasty cough. We had to see a vet anyhow to refill or find replacements for his current medication, so we navigated the Maynooth veterinary system.
The first challenge was our lack of a car. Carrying Murray several kilometers to a vet wasn’t feasible, and I couldn’t find a clear answer on whether cabs would allow animals or not. (It didn’t help that this was while I was sick myself for a week.) In the end, Michelle just called a cab for her and Murray, and I’ve used cabs since. It’s technically not allowed, but none of the cabbies give us much grief over it.
Next was the issue of his existing medication. Murray’s cough suppressant pill doesn’t exist in Ireland, so we had to find equivalents. Getting our Irish vet in touch with our Atlanta vets didn’t help — ultimately, there’s just not enough overlap in medicine for them to be able to sort out an exact replacement. In the end, we decided to go with a liquid form of his cough suppressant. We’ve started him on it a couple of days ago, and he’s not a huge fan, but we’ll see if he adapts.
When his cough got bad and his lungs were rattling in the middle of the night, Michelle and I seriously considered going to an overnight vet. It turns out that there isn’t an urgent care vet like in the US. Rather, there are overnight services, but once your normal vet opens, your pet is transferred there. Which means you need a car there and back. Further, the nearest overnight vet was 45 minutes’ drive. We ultimately decided to wait to see our regular vet here in Maynooth.
When his regular vet saw him, he agreed that Murray probably had a respiratory infection, and ordered a course of antibiotics. Again, we ran into a challenge: The antibiotics are different as well. Murray’s usual antibiotic does exist, but only as a shot, not as a pill. He got the shot to start him off, and then a six-day follow-up course of a different pill.
Murray did not like the new pill. Normally he takes his medications just fine, but this one he hated, to the point where he would strip everything off the pill just to spit it out. In the end, we had to use a pill shooter to get it down his throat — it wasn’t pretty, but he settled down enough to accept the pill. Now Murray’s doing better, so the antibiotics did their job. We’re watching him to see if his cough returns, and that’ll inform whether we adjust his normal cough medication or give him another course of antibiotics.
One of the upsides of the experience is that vets do seem to be cheaper here: An office visit is €32, and medication has generally been around €15. Of course, Murray has been charming everyone he meets here in Ireland as well, including some of the cabbies. The vet here is great as well. I miss some of the options we had in the US, but I think for day-to-day treatment Murray will get good care here.
I expected to post earlier about my first thoughts on Ireland, but the first few weeks have been pretty insane. I had to catch up on work after my sudden cross-country trip to San Francisco, and then I got sick for a week. That naturally meant more catch-up work. Plus, we had family visit for several days, and I’m trying to spend some time learning about my new home.
I’m simultaneously not sure what to say and spoiled for choice. There are a lot of cultural differences, to be sure, but I haven’t really run into many that make me wonder “now why is this?” There are a few that stand out, though.
Talking to People
Right now, I’m the one with the “charming accent,” which is nice if a little unusual (since I have rarely found anyone who thought my northern Ohio accent was distinctive). I expected that, with my hearing loss, it would be harder for me to understand people, since the comfortable flow of American accents would be gone. But so far, it hasn’t been much of an issue, and the few times it has are mostly situations where I probably would have issues with anyone speaking to me.
I haven’t had many opportunities to talk to people, though, as I generally work from home. We’ve tried to head from Maynooth to Dublin at least once a week, if only so I can get out of the house and explore a bit, but we’ve also wandered Maynooth a few times (such as the Summer Festival we ran into a few weeks ago). But all in all, while I’m still struggling a bit, it’s not nearly as bad as I feared.
Similarly, the stereotype of Irish humor seems to be well deserved. Many of the people I’ve chatted with will joke around about the weather (“lovely Irish weather” is code for “rain,” by the way), and more than once I’ve been politely ribbed about being American. I find it all quite comfortable, and it’s nice to live in an area where I can crack a joke with a relative stranger, and not worry that they’re going to get angry or upset with me. I’m still very conservative in my joking, as I want to learn where the various boundaries are culturally, but I do find the general trend to be pleasing.
I have been told many, many times that the weather now is not typical. It’s been fairly warm by Irish standards — in the low to mid 20s Celsius/low to high 70s Fahrenheit. While that seems positively frigid compared to the high 30s C/low 100s F I was enduring in the US, Ireland just isn’t equipped for this kind of weather. Air conditioning, for example, isn’t really a thing except in very specific situations, and the air is naturally humid. So, most of the time I end up cooling down the house by leaving the back door and front windows open to allow a breeze to come through the house.
Similarly, it hasn’t been raining all that much. I should qualify that a bit, however. It’s rained nearly every day I’ve been here, but only in the very literal sense of “at some point in the day, water fell from the sky.” Much of the time, it’s a light passing shower that’s hardly damp, and occasionally I’ve seen it rain enough that getting out the umbrella for a few minutes is worth it. What I haven’t seen is full-blown rainstorms with dark clouds and torrents of water (what appears to be called “lashing rain” locally). It’s been very sunny and generally quite pleasant, if a touch humid.
The “sunny” part is particularly relevant. Today, sunrise was 05:21 (5:21am), and sunset will be at 21:40 (9:40pm). The sun is up just about the entire time I’m awake. I thought it would bug me, but so far it really hasn’t — it’s a little confusing when I have to get up early in the morning to take Murray out, but otherwise I don’t seem to be having problems sleeping or anything.
We don’t have a car here, so we rely on walking, biking, buses, trains, and the occasional cab to get around. Not having a car has made me much more aware of how I shop, since I can’t just expect to toss everything into the trunk and drive it home. However, our situation is closer to the norm, and not a strange exception like in the US. Delivery services and online ordering is much more common and robust here. You can even have groceries delivered to your house at a specified time and date, and takeaway/food delivery services are a lot smoother than in my US experiences.
However, I’m still wrapping my head around the money a bit. Using credit cards for low purchase amounts doesn’t happen often, so I generally need to have a little cash on me when I go out. But taxes (VAT) are rolled into the price of items and services here, so when someone says something costs 5 Euro, I hand over 5 Euro, and we’re done. It’s incredibly convenient compared to the “plus sales tax and state tax and maybe a mandatory tip that isn’t actually spelled out anywhere” of US commerce, but I still occasionally have the feeling that I’m getting away with something.
Also, now that I have loose change with me more often, I find I fidget with the coins a lot.