OMG, you won’t believe what a bastard I am

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Christmas was pretty great. Everyone was surprised and delighted by their presents to one degree or another, we got to spend a whole lot of time together, and the fact that we got new computers (and had terrible issues with Migration Assistant–come on, Apple, wtf) none of us had our noses pressed against glowing screens, which I guess goes back to spending time together. Nothing better than that.

However! The day after Christmas is my son’s birthday (the answer to the obvious question: 12). Since my wife has to work today, he blew out his candles and opened his presents first thing.

Boy was he disappointed. Here’s why:

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It’s been our family tradition that he gets toys on Christmas and books on his birthday; I always thought that was better than “half your gifts one day, other half the next” but let’s just say he feels differently.

Did I say he was “disappointed?” Because I meant that he asked us never to buy books for him again, and he told us books are only for when he’s bored, and he thinks I’m trying to force him to read books that he “ought” to read (the Myke Cole novel prompted that, because wut), that books are “okay, but…”, and why didn’t we get him something he would actually *like*, too. Of course most of those were chosen by me because I thought they’d suit his tastes so I’m the guy who ruined his birthday.

A couple nights sleeping in the yard should change his attitude, though.

For the record, the only books he was excited about were: The Minecraft history, The Oatmeal, Hyperbole and a Half, the Bacigalupi. The rest he views as work. I don’t even.

Best Gingerbread Houses Ever, An Annual Post

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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).

It’s a Cyber-Monday Non-surprise!

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The day when everyone, supposedly, starts their holiday shopping online. Try not to be surprised by what I write next:

I have a new book out that you can order.

The short version is that it’s the pulp adventure game tie-in I wrote. If you’re reading this on my blog, the cover is just to your right at the top of the sidebar. If not, click through that link: it’s full of pulp adventure nonsense like shrinking beams, infra-purple light, Aztec mummies, and a certain giant ape movie from 1933. Fun!

If you already have that one, don’t forget that I have a page full of books for kids recommended by my own son. Nothing in that list is there because I thought it should go there; everyone got the thumbs up from the incredibly fussy kid who sleeps down the hall from me. As they used to say: Kid-tested, kid-approved.

What’s more, there are new entries on the list. Check it out.

Randomness for 10/10

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1) Another drive-through prank, skeleton edition. Video. This one is funny and Halloween is coming up, so… (h/t Nick Kaufmann)

2) Banksy kicks off an art institute on the streets of New York.

3) What your style of beer says about you.

4) Hyperbole and a Half explains power, identity, and changing yourself with costumes.

5) 44 of the Best Scared Bros at Haunted House (2013 pictures). I will confess to enjoying these pictures of absolute terror to an unhealthy degree. Oh, and the body language is instructive for any writer, I guess.

6) Test your color IQ with an online test. My wife, who took the analog version of this test in art school, scored a 26, which is pretty good. Then my son took it and scored a perfect zero. I haven’t tried it myself.

7) The internet is full of “life hacks” but how many of them actually work? 30 Common Life Hacks Debunked. Video.

Things my son said while we watched Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn

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“Nice hair.”

“Oh hey! That’s Sam Axe!”

“wut.”

“Wow, this movie takes forever to get started!” <-- Sarcasm "I have no idea what is happening right now." "This is really cool! Who directed this?" "I like how there's always five doors to kick down." "This is a really great actor." <-- Said while Ash's evil hand dragged him unconscious across the floor "Oooo I can't watch this!" "Ha! A Farewell to Arms!”

“What?”

“Nope nope nope nope.”

“Ha ha! Oh my god! AAAAHH!” <-- eyeball bit "Did he bring the axe? I can't tell. He'd better have brought the axe." "Great. She's dead." <-- when character runs outside. "Oh my god." "What? What?”

“Is this really awesome makeup or cgi?”

“Aw, yeah! Chainsaw hand!”

“What. The. Heck. Whattheheck!”

“Chainsaw! Use the chainsaw!” (singing) “Chainsaw chainsaw to the neck! Chainsaw chainsaw to the neck!”

“AAAAH! Ha ha! Oh my god!”

and finally:

“Dad, did it every occur to you that maybe I don’t like horror movies?”

Hey, it’s on Netflix and it’s just as rough as I remember but even funnier.


Sunday Night Gaming has a family squabble

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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. Continue reading

So. Many. Things. To. Do.

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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.

The Great Way Book Trailer (such as it is)

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Part of the homeschool project surrounding the writing of my epic fantasy trilogy was that my son would make (with a very little bit of help from me) a book trailer with his Legos and the music software on his computer.

He’s a clever kid. My only input was to explain what happened in the books that he should animate and to ask him to reshoot things that were out of focus.

I think the music is especially nice. Check it out.

Sunday Night Gaming Flees From The Police

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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.


New page on my site: Kid Reads

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You know how some parents are always talking about what prodigious readers their are? “My little eight year old just loved 100 Years Of Solitude! Now she’s moved on to Russian poetry, but that’s fine. She’s entitled to her beach reads.” What books their kids read and how many they consume are like ornaments for their parents.

My kid, he’s not like that.

He’s fussy, easily-bored, and emits a high, uncanny keening when forced to read something against his will. That noise isn’t a whine; it goes beyond whining into a kind of shared pain that only parents truly understand. He doesn’t impress people with his books. He just enjoys them.

So we often have people ask us what he reads. I’m guessing they think that, being the son of a writer, he will walk away from a Minecraft session of his own volition for his love of books.

Nope. He wants books that are fun, funny, and fast-paced. So when people ask what sorts of books we recommend for their own reluctant readers, those are the books we recommend.

Anyway, to make things easier on us, I’ve put together a page called “Kid Reads” which contains lists of books he really enjoyed.

Check it out.