Reading Broadly

The Grinch Avatar

I’ve got some link salad for you today and also some comments on a meme that’s going around. But first? LINK SALAD!

Now that that’s out of the way… There’s a meme going around about the top ten books that have influenced you. This meme, in particular, speaks volumes to me about what people’s personal preferences are. As a professional writer, I cannot tell you how incredibly crucial it is to read broadly. Even if you don’t like a particular genre, there’s always something you can learn from a different perspective. Not only is this technique something to consider if balancing characters from a gender, sexual, or cultural perspective is important to you, it’s also good to help you better understand your readers. Most people don’t read one genre!

On that note, here’s mine. It’s CERTAINLY not everything, mind you… I’ve specifically avoided non-fiction, public domain, mythology, fables, folk stories, comics, books I’ve mentioned before that have influenced my work, and classic literature in this list.

1.) Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
2.) A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
3.) Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon
4.) The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
5.) The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
6.) Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
7.) The Mummy (or Ramses the Damned) by Anne Rice
8.) Imajica by Clive Barker
9.) The Otherland Series by Tad Williams
10.) The Stand (Unabridged Verson) by Stephen King

    Mood: The end is in sight
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: The equivalent of three cupes of coffee.
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Yeah, let me get right on that.
    In My Ears: Background noise
    Game Last Played: Battle Nations
    Book Last Read: An encyclopedia on gemstones
    Movie Last Viewed: RED 2
    Latest Artistic Project: *Still* *still* *still* need to take pictures… It’s on the list!
    Latest Fiction/Comic Release: Last Man Zombie Standing
    Latest Game Release: Freedom Flyer
    What I’m Working On: Primarily tie-in games work and novels.

Two Cats in Snowsuits

Christmas Rimmon and Zak

You may recall seeing the notorious Rimmon (our black kitty) and Zakar (the orange tabby with no tail and seven toes) in this picture perfect holiday photo. I mean really, don’t they look thrilled?

In the spirit of the season, here’s another set of silly photos. Since these suits lasted all of three minutes on them, there’s no pictures of the two together. Hah! It snowed here for the first time and accumulated quite a few inches. Both cats have mixed feelings about the weather. Rimmon has become much more of an indoor cat in recent years; Zakar, on the other hand, really likes to adventure which is something we watch for. They are both very spoiled and have many admirers both here and at the vet.

Enter the snow suits. Hee. Had to do something new for the holiday photos!

Here you can see that Zak did venture out (supervised, mind you) into the cold.

Zakar in Maroon

Rimmon, on the other hand… Well his expression speaks volumes.

Rimmon in Blue

    Mood: Hobbitses!
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Quite a few. Ahem.
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: I typed. A lot.
    In My Ears: The Hobbit soundtrack
    Game Last Played: Battle Nations
    Book Last Read: An encyclopedia on gemstones
    Movie Last Viewed: RED 2
    Latest Artistic Project: *Still* *still* *still* need to take pictures… It’s on the list!
    Latest Fiction/Comic Release: Last Man Zombie Standing
    Latest Game Release: Friends in Low Places
    What I’m Working On: Primarily tie-in games work and novels.

Shameless Comic Plug

Monster Edition

Over at Red Stylo Media, you can get the Monster Edition of UNFASHIONED CREATURES along with two other literary-based graphic novels POE TWISTED and SHAKESPEARE SHAKEN for $50. Here’s a link to the monster bundle. Enjoy!

My first comic Last Man Zombie Standing is included in both the monster edition and standard edition. You can get your hands on a digital copy now and see a preview through and Red Stylo Media. The print editions of both will be available early 2014.

Light Bulbs and Measuring Sticks

Big Giant Sword Fighting Avatar

It’s winter here. Cold, blustery, and dark. I love winter — especially snowflakes — but sometimes too much dark gets to me. Had to go on a cleaning meltdown for that reason. Washed the curtains, the rugs, did a little house maintenance, got an architect lamp to add some full spectrum lighting to my office — the whole bit. Also celebrated new phase of my career with a FitBit to keep me on track.

Now that I’m back from the U.K., I’ve been diving back into the pile and loving it. Getting a ton of words written, projects completed, outlines sent… Yesterday, my short fiction for Hunter the Vigil: Mortal Remains had been accepted. It’s interstitial and connected in a series, so each piece builds off of the other. It was a LOT of fun to write and I can wait to see it in print. Tying up the Episode Guide for the Firefly RPG corebook while the other pieces are being edited and proofread. We are very close to calling it a day. Phew!

But in the midst of all that, every once in a while I catch a whiff of the drama. You know the kind I’m talking about. The “You’re not a real writer until…” Or “If you write, it’s not really work.” Kat Richardson recently talked about this on her blog a little bit in the context of NaNoWriMo. And I laughed when I saw the “It’s not really work.” I never STOP working.

To me being a writer is one part craft, one part business and my job is to balance the two by making smart decisions that impact me now and in the future. (Here’s a financial snapshot of this career’s sustainability through the lens of self-publishing, traditional, and hybrid models.)

More to my point, there’s a lot of magical thinking out there about the craft. I get frustrated when the measuring stick gets pulled out. I’m sure you’ve heard this before. The “you’re not a real writer” unless you:

a) publish an original novel that person has heard about
b) publish a series of novels on that first book
c) have a graphic novel/comics based on those novels
d) sell movie/TV writes based on those novels
f) roll in the dough
g) have a million Twitter followers
h) etc.

Gah! So why does the measuring stick exist? Jealousy and insecurity, sure. That’s natural and going to happen. But deeper than that, our personal qualifications for success are putting those tick marks on the ruler. Take 50 Shades of Gray for example. I can’t tell you how many people came to me and said: “This was badly written, but I had to keep reading.” And then I found out how this book came to be published, and well… I know so many erotica/romance writers who write high-quality prose. This runaway hit blew my mind because it broke my rules of what I feel deserves to sell that many copies and get all the licensing, etc.

Obviously, my opinion is just that. Does it have a bearing on the future of that property? Sales, etc? Nope! It’s just “talk.” My point here, is that a stranger’s opinion shouldn’t make you feel bad about what you’ve achieved as a writer. Half the time they’re saying: “I wish I was as success as you.” or in my case “I don’t understand your success.”

To me, the lesson to be learned about measuring sticks is that they’re useless. Success is, to be perfectly hokey, in the eye of the beholder. Measuring sticks are just opinions that can get in the way or attack your confidence as a writer so you freeze up and avoid the blank page. Success is always best viewed in context, anyway. Don’t let anybody take your happiness away from you. If you’re pleased with what you’ve done? Then that’s really all that matters. If you’re not, well… That’s a whole ‘nother conversation.

    Mood: How did it get to be December again?
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: COOOOOFFFEEEEEEEEEEEEE
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Meh
    In My Ears: Electronical buzzings
    Game Last Played: Dragon Age II
    Book Last Read: A modernized version of Mallory’s King Arthur
    Movie Last Viewed: RED 2
    Latest Artistic Project: *Still* *still* *still* need to take pictures… It’s on the list!
    Latest Fiction/Comic Release: Last Man Zombie Standing
    Latest Game Release: Friends in Low Places
    What I’m Working On: Primarily tie-in games work and novels.

Progress Report #5: The “Yes, I’m Talking About Firefly” Edition

Firefly RPG Corebook

Well, August was my last progress report, and there’s a really darn good reason for that. It’s a word that begins with “F” and ends in “y.”

Of course, I’m talkin’ about Firefly. Since March, we have fulfilled every promise thus far and believe me when I say: “Yes, it’s a LOT of work.” GenCon was really exciting for us, and the limited debut of Gaming in the ‘Verse: a GenCon Exclusive was a smash hit. Though the GenCon Exclusive is no longer available, the stand-alone versions of Wedding Planners Plus, Shooting Fish, Serenity Crew, Wedding Planners Classic Bundle, and a new Episode I wrote called Friends in Low Places, are all available now through with more on the way.

On the Margaret Weis Productions website, we have also released the Firefly RPG pre-order, which is scheduled to debut in February. We have also published several previews including an article written by myself and Mark Diaz Truman for Game Trade Magazine Issue #166. (The design was provided by Daniel Solis and the article was edited by Amanda Valentine.)

Where we stand right now is that we have a:

  • corebook that is over 150,000 words (over 100,000 words of brand, new material compared to the GenCon Exclusive) in various stages of editing and layout
  • new supplement about antagonists called Things Don’t Go Smooth that’s already half done
  • new Echoes of War adventure called Freedom Flyer that’s done and being sent for approvals
  • …and other (unannounced) adventures and supplements in various stages of completion.

Have I been living, breathing this game line? Yes. I did go to England for two weeks (more on that later) but honestly… this is how I am normally. I am this intense all the time, because I believe that as a creative professional, my invisible employer are the fans. It doesn’t matter if it’s my own work or someone else’s property, I always keep fans in mind because I started out as one myself. If I don’t love what I do, then you won’t either.

I didn’t do all this work alone, though, and I want to be very clear on that point. There have been many people on my team, including both past and present freelancers, who have buckled down to get these products done on time in the quality that fans expect. I can’t thank them enough.

Overall, being the brand manager and lead writer for the Firefly RPG, doing all that I do, has been a really rewarding position and I’m happy Margaret had enough faith in me to give me a shot. But, the best part about this job is hearing how excited Fox TV is about all this and how happy many of the fans are already. That, to me, makes even the crazy days worthwhile. Sure, it’s true I can’t please everybody, especially with a property as visible as Firefly, but I’m very realistic about that. I take comfort in the fact that we’ve all done our damnedest to make this game as awesome as possible. Hopefully, with a little luck, you’ll think it’s fun, too.



Previous Posts Next Posts

Looking for Monica’s books and games that are still in print? Visit Monica Valentinelli on Amazon’s Author Central or a bookstore and game store near you.

Subscribe to Monica’s Newsletter

* indicates required


Back to Top