February Update

My, how time flies. Looks like it’s already time for another update!

Pugsteady

For those who are fans of process, moving to 15-day sprints seems to be helping. When I break down tasks to the smallest amount, it takes up a lot of planning space, and a month is just too much to wrap my head around. I think I’m going to let this sprint go long and switch to two-week sprints (so, planning from Monday to Friday instead of when the 1st of the month happens to land), but all in all this chance worked out well for me.

Of course, part of the reason is that my workload has finally eased up for the first time in over a year. I’d gotten so used to having steady work that it’s a bit weird not being swamped. That doesn’t mean I don’t have any work — Pugmire and related projects in particular are taking up a fair bit of my time — but it does mean I’m back to checking with old clients for new work, as well as making connections with new clients. If you know of someone who could make use of my services, point them to pugsteady.com!

Pugmire

The book is proofed, and ready for Kickstarter backers to receive! Tomorrow the various backers will get access to the next-to-final version of Pugmire. Naturally, I’m a bit nervous, because this will be the first time that the book is actually out there in a complete state. However, I’m really happy with what the team has done with the book, and I hope that the majority of Pugmire fans will be happy with the product.

Meanwhile, I’ve been focused on Monarchies of Mau, and I’m hoping to have a complete manuscript of Monarchies of Mau Early Access by the end of the month. I’m also offering my two cents to both the anthology (tentatively titled Tales of Good Dogs) and the introductory adventure (Pan’s Guide for New Pioneers), but the developers in charge of each of those projects are doing a great job keeping things afloat.

Earplay

Recording for the Pugmire Earplay (titled Friends and Enemies) is done! The actors were all great, and very efficient. Plus the composition for the project is also done, and sounds wonderful. What that means is that we have a lot of audio files that need to be cleaned up and compiled before it’s all put into the software, so there’s still a bit of a long haul ahead of us. But all in all, I’m pleased with how its shaping up.

Sherlock Holmes

No, I haven’t seen the latest season of Sherlock yet, but I’ve heard decidedly mixed reviews. Odds are good I’ll watch it — I’m obsessed with Holmes, after all — but I admit this is the first season I’m not really excited for. I am hoping that the latest season of Elementary wraps up soon so it’ll drop on Hulu and I can catch up!

Meanwhile, I’ve read through most of the backlog of Holmes books I got for the holidays, and I must admit that the Laurie King/Leslie Klinger anthologies have been really good. It’s a wide grab bag of Holmes-related short stories and media, but usually there’s always a few stories that fall flat in most anthologies. But not these — every story has gripped me so far, even the really far-out ones.

What Do You Want To Hear About?

Is there something in particular you want to hear about? Leave a comment or use my contact form, and I’ll consider it for my next post!

Red Shoelaces

I was born in 1974 in a poor city in northern Ohio. (Don’t worry, I’m not going to regale you with my whole life story. But circumstance and environment shape perspective, so I ask for your indulgence). My developmental years fall in the 1980s and early 1990s. It featured concerns (and the eventual decline) of nuclear fear, the Cold War, and the twin god-emperors of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. I was angry and attracted to rebellion, but I was a hearing impaired, socially awkward nerd without access to nightclubs or musical friends. As a result, I wasn’t shaped by one musical movement, so I sampled from anything I could find. I listened to heavy metal and hardcore hip-hop before finding inspiration from bootleg punk cassettes. The rough lyrics and basic chords tunneled through my thick hearing and seared my heart.

When I went to college and got access to real subcultures, I dyed my hair sea-foam green in time for punk to evolve away from me. All my friends wore black, Victorian clothes, which appealed to my secret love of the literature but made me feel awkward and ugly. I grew to love Vampire: The Masquerade and became part of a massive live-action game on the campus of the University of Akron. But even then, the Brujah and the Anarchs spoke to me, the last gasp of old-school punk in a growing crowd of pale and sexy people.

As I embraced my outdated aesthetic, I clung to Vampire‘s self-applied model of Gothic-Punk, and saw punk all around me. Again, I lived in Ohio, which did not have a thriving underground scene (or at least, not one I was invited to), but the media I consumed filled the void. Judge Dredd comics and Doctor Who episodes smuggled from friends in the UK. Hellblazer comics bought when I could afford them. Games of Cyberpunk and Kult played when we could find time. I sought out anything that felt punk to me.

And that’s when I met my first neo-Nazi, around 1994. And he terrified me. I remember swastikas tattooed all over his head, and the red shoelaces on his boots. In fact, he’s the one who explained the red shoelaces to me. It was a badge of pride, which became a warning as I refused to speak out against my friends of the “mongrel races.” If I ever saw anyone with red shoelaces, he explained, that person would hurt me as a traitor to my race. He told me to reconsider.

I was scared and angry, and in my head, I wanted to punch him back, punch him first, do something to get him to stop saying such horrible things. What I did was shake my head, refusing his bile, and then I hurried away. My whole body shook uncontrollably as I called the police and babbled incoherently before hanging up. I stayed to clubs and houses that firmly excluded neo-Nazis, and a few times I was the person who acted as lookout while my friends threw the punches I never had the nerve to throw.

After that, I had bigger concerns: I flunked out of college and looked for a job to pay for rent in a barely furnished house. But I let my hair grow out, ditched my leather jacket, and steered clear of people with red shoelaces in their boots. All my punk trappings became a costume for my character, not a part of me anymore, because I betrayed them. I had my first chance to throw a punch against tyranny, and I had failed.

Fast-forward to the 21st century. Over the years I’ve reincorporated bits of my old punk persona back into my life. As I gain more experience and access things on the Internet I never saw before, I’ve come to understand what I was actually chasing. I became an archaeologist of my youth, uncovering the connections and threads that got lost in fear and awkward Midwestern understanding. I discovered that while I had used the word “punk” as a hammer for every nail of “thing that spoke to me,” I wasn’t entirely off-base. If I had closer contacts to groups like the straight edge movement or antifa punks, I probably would have had a clearer path, and a better outlet for the anger and terror of my youth. When I got a chance to work on Vampire, I channeled that old-school punk voice because I felt it was lost under the polished, darkly erotic surface. I dropped “punk” as an exclusive term in describing myself, and instead made it part of my personal gestalt.

In recent months, I’ve been reminded of those formative years again. It felt like a second chance for me to reclaim discarded punk mantle and vindicate my past self-treachery. Neo-nazis weren’t something from World War II; they were a terror from my past, an evil I could slay now that I was older and wiser. Surely, I could finally punch a Nazi.

I learned that an alt-right rally was scheduled to take place less than an hour from my house, and I was filled with an old, familiar terror. I found myself glancing at a stranger’s boots once, checking his shoelaces.  I didn’t know what to do, and social media shouted about punching Nazis and not punching Nazis. I never had much of a punk scene in my life, so I went back to the scene I had constructed for myself: the TV shows and comics and books that influenced me.

I started from first principles, and I discovered all the things I ham-fistededly collated as part of the same movement had two things in common. They all had a sense of humor and a lingering sense that everything would work out in the end. The anger and violence (both physical and social) was there, but they could be directed to a purpose. The Doctor didn’t use violence, but he still stood up against fascists, angrily pointing out how ludicrous they were. John Constantine was an asshole, but he was an asshole that used his brain. As I move outside the punk sphere, most of my heroes used intelligence and conversation as much or more than violence: Sherlock Holmes, the Fantastic Four, Captain Kirk, Ford Prefect, and so on. While I had obsessed over the trappings, I had missed the result that not everyone who fought racists and fascism used a fist and a broken bottle. Some people rebelled through a loud scream, an angry satire, or a damning put-down, and not all conversation is about conciliation. In the end, I would never be Sid Vicious, but I could be Tom Baker’s Doctor. (Or, to steal the language of Vampire, I wasn’t a Potence Brujah, but I could be a Presence Brujah.)

My life is now based around words. They’re my weapons, my shield, my livelihood, and my obsession. Sometimes I tell my own stories, and sometimes I help others tell stories to each other, but this is who I am and what I do. Just because my hands shake from fear and adrenaline doesn’t mean I won’t stand up against what I think is wrong. Some days my words are careful and considered, and others they’re a jumbled mess of passion and anger. I know now that I didn’t fail when I refused to punch that neo-Nazi; I had succeeded when I refused to bow to his hateful rhetoric. I didn’t punch someone in the face, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t stand and fight. And now I know that not everyone with red shoelaces is going to hurt me.

January Update

The holidays have come and gone, as has Midwinter. So, time for an update!

Pugsteady

Last month I had a problem — my planning process which I had used faithfully for over two years collapsed on me. To make a long story short, I had two firm deadlines that I didn’t think I could reconcile, and one of the deadlines was a project that kept getting bigger and bigger the more I worked on it. Thankfully, my wife is a trained project manager, and she helped me work through my problems.

For those that are interested, the biggest problem was that my tasks were too big. I had gotten into the bad habit of lumping lots of small tasks into one large task (like “Meetings” or “Pugmire Manuscript”). The end result was that I was doing lots of work, but getting no visible progress, so I kept seeing lots of large projects on my plate. I subdivided the tasks down to the smallest realistic portion, something that I could do in half a day to a day. This allowed me to show momentum and replan quickly — if I was blocked on, say, a particular chapter, I could adjust and tackle another chapter and see progress, instead of one big task of “book.”

The other was that my sprint iterations had gotten too long. For years I used a month as my planning block — it was natural and easy to visualize. However, what started happening recently was that I would build up tasks at the end of the month, so the last week or so got dense with lingering tasks. When the holidays came up and effectively wiped out my end of the month, I ended up with a large plate of tasks that felt like I had been working on them since December 1.

Now I’m focused more on 15-day sprints, and I’ve taken to having tons of little tasks. I get two or three done a day consistently, and I can see progress better. The work itself hasn’t changed, but I feel like more is getting done, which means I’m more likely to get back to work instead of stopping because I feel overwhelmed.

Pugmire

At this moment, I have the first version of the book (called a “proof”) on my computer. My job now is to go through it and adjust the text, find typos, cut a little and add a little so that it all fits in the space allotted. Which means we’re very, very close to releasing it!

I’ve been through a bunch of story pitches for the Pugmire anthology. I think it’s going to be great, but it’s definitely a project I’ve largely handed off to Jim and his stable of writers. Once the first drafts come in I’ll have to devote a fair bit of time marking up canon concerns, but right now writers are writing!

Monarchies of Mau was playtested at Midwinter. It wasn’t as far along as I’d hoped, but in retrospect that was a good thing. Overall the core of the game is still strong, and experienced Pugmire players told me they felt the game was distinct from Pugmire while still being familiar — an excellent start! There were some details, thought, that weren’t gelling well. I did some great brainstorming with folks at the show, and I’m going to spend some time hashing all these new ideas out. Of course, odds are it will continue to evolve all the way through to the final manuscript of the finished book — I’m just working on the Early Access edition, after all — but it’s better to have a solid foundation so I can build a team that will focus on details later.

Earplay

The Pugmire Earplay has been taking off. Since my last update, I hired a writer to help me with the script of all eight episodes. We did a few revision passes with Dave Grossman, and it’s looking really good. I’ve also hired a composer and an audio team, as well as a voice director. This week we started recording with the actors, and so far the performances have been blowing me away. We’ve still got a long road to go before this sees the light of day, but I think it’s going to be amazing once it’s all done.

Fetch Quest Card Game

As I mentioned above, Midwinter was great for feedback on Monarchies of Mau. I also tested out a Pugmire card game (tentatively titled Fetch Quest), and was pleasantly surprised at how well it did in its first iteration! The design is a cooperative deck-building game: six pioneers from Pugmire are on a quest, and have to acquire Fortune cards to defeat increasingly dangerous challenges. I definitely need to test it a lot more, but I’m already seeing potential to introduce new quests and new characters (including cats). We might even be able to set up a community-generated storefront so people can use their own pets as characters in the game.

Sherlock Holmes

I got three Holmes anthologies for Christmas, and a book of Holmes-themed puzzles for my birthday. And as always, once I start reading I begin to think of Holmes-related projects I could work on. Now that the card game went well, I’m kicking around a Holmes-themed card game, as well as poking at my Inspector Lestrade-focused short story idea. I haven’t seen the new season of Sherlock yet, but I’ve heard… not great things, so I admit I’m worried. In the meantime, I’m continuing to make my way through my Blu-Ray version of the Jeremy Brett series when I have time to sit down and really appreciate it.

What Do You Want To Hear About?

Is there something in particular you want to hear about? Leave a comment or use my contact form, and I’ll consider it for my next post!

December Update!

It’s the holiday season. Which means, it’s time for an update!

Pugsteady

 

This month I tried to take a bit of a vacation, to help me collect my wits. It didn’t entirely work, as I had to handle a number of time-sensitive issues. Plus, staying at home and calling it a “vacation” probably isn’t the best way of going about things. I think I need to plan well in advance to have a proper, away-from-home, not-thinking-at-all-about-Pugsteady vacation. It’s all part of learning how to be self-employed!

Pugmire

The manuscript for the game is done, done, done! I’ve sent it off to the art director, who is laying it out and talking to artists. Thanks to the successful Kickstarter, we can add in a lot of art, and I think this will be a gorgeous book when it’s done. I can’t wait to see it!

The anthology is also starting to kick into gear. James Lowder is really taking the bull by the horns, and he’s passing along some tough questions about the setting (which is a huge help!) We’re in the middle of people pitching stories to him, but already I think this will be a great line-up of talent.

In the meantime, I’m now heads-down on Pugmire: Monarchies of Mau. After a few unsuccessful starts, I think I have a strong idea that fits well within what I’ve established for Pugmire but is also its own thing. I’ve bounced it off a few people, and so far everyone seems to like where it’s going. Which means I need to start preparing for the next Kickstarter! Eep!

 

Earplay

I’ve been really focused on helping out with the World of Darkness project for Earplay, called “The Orpheus Device.” Working with Dave Grossman and Rich Dansky has been awesome, and I’m starting to hear the audio from the actors as well. I think this will be a compelling product that will do justice to Wraith: The Oblivion.

Meanwhile, I’ve finally gotten back to the Pugmire Earplay, which I’ve tentatively titled “Friends and Enemies.” The design is in a pretty good place, and hopefully by this time next month I’ll have a final script and some actors ready to go!

Midwinter Gaming Convention

As I mentioned last month, I’ll be at the Midwinter Gaming Convention in Milwaukee. This year is even more pug-stastic than usual! I’ll be playtesting my first efforts on Monarchies of Mau, I’ll have a few Pugmire-themed card games to try out, and I might even have a Pugmire-related Earplay teaser to show off! This show is a lot of fun, so come check it out!

What Do You Want To Hear About?

Is there something in particular you want to hear about? Leave a comment or use my contact form, and I’ll consider it for my next post!

November Update

Wow, time flies by. It’s time again to update what I’ve done in October!

Pugsteady

As I mentioned last month, I’ve made some strides in giving Pugsteady a more professional presence. First off, I used the great services at Moo.com to make some new business cards. Check them out!

Personal contact information intentionally obscured.
Personal contact information intentionally obscured.

Also, after much debate, I decided to use Squarespace to make a professional-looking website for pugsteady.com. It’s been a long time coming, and there’s a lot I want to do in the coming months, but I needed a place to not only promote my services, but also a central place to point people for all things Pugmire.

Pugmire

Speaking of Pugmire, that central web page I just mentioned is not only on pugsteady.com, but you can also get to it via worldofpugmire.com.

Meanwhile, I have the manuscript back from editing, and I’m in the process of reviewing those edits, synthesizing all the playtest feedback, and making all the small last-minute changes before it goes to layout. This is one of the most exciting steps for me, because it start to feel like it’s really happening!

I’m also deep into the initial design for Pugmire: Monarchies of Mau, and I hope to make the cat civilization as engaging and fun as the dogs are. Right now I’ve put it to the side so I can focus on Pugmire, but I hope I’ll have something to show people in a few months!

Earplay

Things are still going great at Earplay. We’ve announced a few great projects, including one tied to the World of Darkness, and another one tied to Pugmire. We’ve also committed to doing a project based on Scion. It’s interesting to work with properties I know well, but with a completely different team! I’ve also been helping put the last touches on a re-release of Codename Cygnus for Alexa-enabled devices, so hopefully you’ll start seeing a lot of cool things coming from Earplay in the coming months!

Midwinter Gaming Convention

Last month I mentioned that I’m done with travel for 2016, but I’m already preparing for 2017! As I have for the past several years, I’ll be at the Midwinter Gaming Convention in Milwaukee. This year is even more pug-stastic than usual! I’ll be testing my first efforts on Monarchies of Mau, I’ll have a few Pugmire-themed card games to test out, and I might even have a Pugmire-related Earplay demo to show off! This show is a lot of fun, so come check it out!

 

What Do You Want To Hear About?

Is there something in particular you want to hear about? Leave a comment or use my contact form, and I’ll consider it for my next post!

October Update

It’s been a few weeks, so time to give folks an update on where things are with me!

Pugsteady

The Pugsteady business is going well. I’m starting to work on the next steps of growing the company by investing in business cards and a website. For the past several years this blog has worked well as a central place to discuss and display my work, but increasingly I’m finding a need to distinguish between a place that fans of my specifically can come to learn more (which is here) and a place that costumers and clients can quickly and easily get access to information they need. I don’t know when it’ll be done, but I bring it up to show that I’m still as committed as ever to my self-employment.

Pugmire

The manuscript for the game is in an editor’s hands, which means this is the first time in months I can really focus on some other aspects of building up the world! I also opened up the new rules in the current draft for playtest and comments — check out the latest Kickstarter update for more information! I’ve also been seeing some great commentary about the game, and I’m really happy that something I’ve built from the ground up is doing so well.

Earplay

Meanwhile, things are picking up at Earplay. We’re deep into working on some new projects to release, including some great brainstorming sessions with folks like Richard Dansky and Dave Grossman. Hopefully we’ll be able to show some amazing stuff very soon and start getting people as passionate about interactive audio drama as I am.

The Local Scene

14567424_1215327728539022_2361550361651696086_oI’m done with travel for 2016, but I’m still busy in the local Atlanta scene. I volunteered to help out with the first Broadleaf Writer’s Conference, which was a small but passionate conference of new and experienced writers. It seems that both the attendees and the speaks got a lot out of the experience, and I got the chance to meet some great folks from the area.

This weekend I’ll be moderating a panel at SIEGE about writing video games for franchises. Pugsteady will also be part of the Game Studio Smackdown, where I plan to fail miserably at Mario Kart 8. Come watch me speak about the nuances of writing for a licensed property, or fight for the honor of Pugsteady!

Sherlock Holmes

After some time away, I’m coming back around to enjoy some more of my favorite detective. I’m continually impressed with the Big Finish audio series, and the latest box set did not disappoint. I’m also finally catching up on Elementary Season 4, and I just started listening to an audiobook version of Moriarty by John Gardner (although I should go back and read The Revenge of Moriarty soon). I’m back to playing with some ideas for stories or games set in the “Sherlock Holmes universe” (i.e., not necessarily involving a canonical Holmes and Watson), but it often takes a backseat to other, more pressing business. But someday!

What Do You Want To Hear About?

That’s it for me. If there’s something in particular you want to hear about on this blog, leave a comment or use my contact form, and I’ll consider it!

September Update!

It’s been a few weeks, so I thought I would give an update on where things are with me!

Futurama: Game of Drones

A few weeks ago I passed my first anniversary working on Futurama: Game of Drones. The folks at Wooga are all great, and even though some of them have since moved on to bigger and better things, I continue to enjoy working with them every day. Plus, getting the chance to collaborate with Patric Verrone is amazing, even though he is an incredibly busy man. Here’s hoping I can continue to write gags about porn and Fox News!

Pugmire

Meanwhile, Pugmire passed its own important milestone, as I wrapped up a complete draft last week! There’s still a lot to do — I have to revise everything so it all lines up, and then I’ll have an editor go over it before I revise it again — but things get a lot easier from this point on. I posted a more detailed status on all things Pugmire on Kickstarter and the Onyx Path blog.

2016-08-26-06-32-42-576x1024Earplay

Earlier this month, Earplay got the chance to show off a teaser experience at the Grand Masquerade in New Orléans: a prototype for our upcoming Wraith: The Oblivion interactive audio story. We also launched Earplay on Amazon Echo, so if you have an Echo, go ahead and enable the skill and test out our demos. And maybe we’ll get the Wraith teaser up there as well….

I’m really looking forward to what’s coming up for Earplay. It’s been a lot of hard behind-the-scenes work, and it’s nice to finally get something out in front of people. I’m told all the folks who got a chance to play the teaser at Grand Masquerade had a great time, and I hope we’ll have even more amazing interactive audio experiences for both World of Darkness and Pugmire.

14142075_10157413437020173_829686795637345684_nTravel

I had a wonderful time at Fan Expo Canada! It was certainly the largest show I’ve ever been a guest at, and it was only the second time I had the privilege of going to Toronto. I was on four panels and ran three games of Pugmire, all of which were well-received. I even got to meet a few Kickstarter backers, which was wonderful. There was always something to do, and I even picked up a little souvenir for myself from the dealer’s room. Definitely a worthwhile show!

That said, I realized that I’ve travelled a lot this past year, and while I really enjoy getting to see people, it’s also a lot of time away from getting work done. So, while I’m certainly not going to stop travelling, I am considering being a little more strategic on which shows I attend.

Speaking of shows, here are a couple I am planning to attend!

And More…

There’s a lot more brewing behind the scenes, but those are the highlights this month. I’ll try to make monthly news updates, especially now that more of what I’m working on is actually seeing the light of day. So, see you in October!

Writer. Gamer. Sherlockian. Usually Not Dead.

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