On Violet War

Land of Symphony Avatar

As soon as I reached an interim between The Day JobTM projects, I got sick with a bad case of the flu. I normally don’t get hit like this, but so it goes. Two weeks later… Finally back on the recovery train, then got a migraine. Thanks to some TLC, I’m back to my normal regularly scheduled madness. HOPE THIS STAYS THAT WAY!

Anyway…

I wrote an update on VioletWar.com about why I’ve stopped and started that particular book a million, zillion times. More to the point, I also mention what I plan on doing about it. My long overdue post pretty much boils down to a bad case of project anxiety. (A.K.A. Impostor Syndrome.)

I’m going to be checking in there once a week, but won’t be cross-posting the updates here. When the novel is done and off to beta readers, I’ll give you a heads up.

    Mood: The blockage identifieth hath put me out of sorts.
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Yeah, screw tracking that today.
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: I suppose I should get on this.
    In My Ears: Another gorramn snow plow.
    Game Last Played: Sonic All-Stars Racing
    Book Last Read: The Lies of Lock Lamora by Scott Lynch
    Movie Last Viewed: GLADIATOR
    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.


Ramblings on the Witch Trials

Cthulhu Scribe by Drew Pocza

I recently drew upon a long list of sources to re-research and refresh my memory about the witch trials. There is a lot of Hollywood-itis associated with what happened in the 1690s and prior to that as well with respect to the Inquisition and whatnot; so the approaches to the topic in general aren’t as nuanced in film as you might find in books. The side effect to research, though, are always more questions and more books to read. I talked a little bit about this before, when I mentioned I was a hobby anthropologist, but it always, always happens when I dive in deep. But here? I can’t think of anything more profound than centuries of routing out heretics, then witches.

Imagine being a naturalist or an artist or even an introvert. People in your town think you’re weird. Maybe the local authorities do, too. You have a family. Wife, husband. Kids. Even though you consider yourself a good Puritan, you have a few folk beliefs. You don’t exactly “fit the ideal Puritan profile” but you’re not self-conscious about that. You don’t have the time to be because you’ve got crops to tend, family to raise, homestead to maintain. You’ve had a couple of family emergencies and had to miss church. The weather has been really crappy lately. For whatever reason, someone in town added one plus six and got two: you’re a witch. You get arrested and you don’t even know who accused you. By the time the Magistrates begin their examination, you think the whole thing is so incredibly ridiculous you make a smartass comment. Because you didn’t respond in the precise modest tone of voice the judges expect — you are stripped naked and examined further for “witch’s marks.” You may be tortured until you confess. While you’re awaiting Trial, you get tossed in jail. That costs money. Your family has to pay for your jailtime. If they can’t, even if you’re found innocent, your house and everything you own is confiscated. Then the Trial starts. You’re up in front of the Grand Jury. Their decision is absolute. Guilty? You’ll hang. Innocent? You’ll be released. Broke, but free.

Part of the reason why I feel the 1690s in particular is great fodder for alternate history in games and fiction, is for the same reason why I’m attracted to the Westward Migration and Civil War–to understand a thing, even if it was horrible, I need to experience it. Then, I share my outlook with players or readers through a creative lens. Sometimes I have word count limitations; other times the point of a story isn’t about the events, but the characters. Either way, when I write alternate history, I’m using reality to ground my worlds and characters much in the way I use futurism to write science fiction. Part of the reason why I can get away with word conservation is because I prefer a more realistic, tangible sense to my worldbuilding. Even if it’s twenty-percent based on reality, then I will have a stack of books beside me to read up on that aspect I’m drawing from.

Alternate history is a lot of fun for me to write, because I get to do lots of research and dive deep into different viewpoints. The challenge is balancing how much history to include depending upon the scope of the project. Some of the decisions I make are impacted by word count, but also the goal of what I’m trying to accomplish. There’s a huge difference between writing to accurately represent a time period–which in my mind steers more toward non-fiction or fiction without supernatural elements–versus writing for suspension of disbelief. The minute vampires enter into a historical setting, then that changes the landscape.

In the end, I’m not looking to be precisely historically-accurate because that’s not my job. I’m not a historian or a history professor. My role as a writer, as a game designer, is to write stories and design games for your entertainment. To do that, I feel any time I dive into alternate history I have to do my homework to understand what really happened from multiple viewpoints before I can fictionalize it. This is how I fall in love with the work. And, if I’m not in love with what I’m doing? Then I suspect you won’t be, either.

Did I “fall in love” again with the witch trials? Well, that project’s still in development. When it’s released, though, you can be the judge.

No pun intended.

    Mood: I am zen.
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Addiction managed.
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: 40 words a minute
    In My Ears: Wax
    Game Last Played: Battle Nations
    Book Last Read: The Lies of Lock Lamora by Scott Lynch
    Movie Last Viewed: THE AWAKENING
    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.


Wax and Wane

Spike and Giles... Together at Last

I posted this to Facebook, but it made me laugh when I wrote it, so I’m resharing it (and expounding upon it) here.

    Hammered my InBox down to 99 e-mails (not bottles of beer on the wall), have a clear perspective on current/future product load, am caught up on news from varying sources old and new, scheduled *gasp* social time, managed caffeine intake, made the freaking bed!, and am spending tonight playing Skyrim.

    *deadpan voice*

    What happened to you Monday? Did you decide to finally grow up and start acting more like Tuesday? Or am I in a different reality?

I owe you a progress report and…I’m sorry. I have news and, while it’s all still delayed at the moment, I’ll provide an update as soon as I can. The news I can immediately share, is that those updates will start to include my original work again as early as March.

I think I mentioned this before, but I spent the better part of last year working with a group of beta readers. I had some goals which were primarily related to figuring out how other readers view my work for planning and marketing purposes. Now that I have that clear in my mind, it’s a lot easier to move forward.

The importance of other people’s perspectives? It’s kind of like me telling you I’m hilarious and that when you meet me, you’ll be cracking up mid-sentence and wonder why I’m not on television. And then I crack a joke. It’s disastrous. Volcanoes erupt, my frog cries, angels don’t get their wings. But, if nine out of ten people laugh…

You get my point. In a weird, discombobulated way… Yeah, that.

    Mood: I am zen.
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Addiction managed.
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: 40 words a minute
    In My Ears: Wax
    Game Last Played: Battle Nations
    Book Last Read: The Lies of Lock Lamora by Scott Lynch
    Movie Last Viewed: THE AWAKENING
    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.


Oh Star Disney… Or Walt Wars… Or…

Star Wars the Complete Saga Wallpaper

Before I start getting into this, dear Readers, I’d like to say that one day I hope to write within the Star Wars universe. I really do and I’ve tried a few times when the opportunity struck and nothing panned out. It happens! No big, but my post today is written out of love.

For me, Star Wars represents the wonder of being a kid. When I played on the school tires, I wanted to be Han Solo. (There can be only one Princess Leia, unfortunately. And I look better in blue.) I have fond memories taking turns, re-enacting scenes with my brother, going to Burger King and collecting the glasses… Of which I still have five… And I’ve also got the remnants of my Star Wars fanzine memorabilia hung proudly in my office. Well, and Lego Star Wars. Because let’s face it? Legos plus anything is very, very cool. (Pssst… Lego… GET ON A DOCTOR WHO VERSION, WILL YA?!?!?!)

End segue and? Okay, back from commercial. Anyway… So, Star Wars has been through a few overhauls before, in the form of the prequels, and has survived. I have a very silly story that took place early on in my gaming career about dressing up goth and running into Timothy Zahn devolving into fan girl goo. Still crack up about that now and again, but more importantly, I’ve learned a hard lesson since then. What “I” love about a property like Star Wars or Firefly (wink! wink!) or what have you can bring enthusiasm to the table. That’s a good thing, provided I understand there’s something super unsexy about the job, too. Business. Sometimes, all the best ideas in the world, past or present, are superseded by what a business needs to survive long-term.

By the time the prequels were shown in theatres, I had read over three dozen novels in the Extended Universe. Much of that was voided by the movie-verse and, truth be told, I was pretty upset at the time. Midichlorians took away that wonderment, awe, and mystery for me about The Force even though the Jedi/Sith mythology had been explored in new and interesting ways through the EU. I also didn’t like the Stormtrooper redesign, because it felt less accessible as well.

Consistency, for a property like Star Wars, has to be impossible to maintain given the volume of material published for it. So, to come up with an “official” canon that shows what is clearly on and off the table? To me, that makes a lot of sense and gives writers, artists, and project developers boundaries that will generate happy fans long-term. After all, many of us have grown up with Star Wars and, like Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, it’ll be around for generations to come.

If I were in charge, which I’m clearly not (Heh!), I’d prioritize canon based on frequency of use, popularity of character, and age of canon. The longer a particular reference has been around, the harder it’ll be to shift gears for fans–unless the whole point of doing this is to avoid older generations and focus on the 12 and under market. Next, I’d look at the timeline and ensure that any loose ends were tied up. Finally, I would also identify key branch points that, once the canon was reinforced, could be opened up to new stories. For example, I would hone in on the Gray Jedi Order myself. There is a LOT of potential there!

To close this love letter of sorts, I want to wish everybody working on Star Wars (past and present) all the best. I’ve been entertained many times throughout the years and I’m proud to say I’m a fan! GOOD LUCK!

    Mood: I can move things with my mind.
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Blood Coffee Level at Maximum
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: You really don’t want to know how much I’m writing.
    In My Ears: Panicked thoughts running around my brain.
    Game Last Played: Battle Nations
    Book Last Read: The Lies of Lock Lamora by Scott Lynch
    Movie Last Viewed: PATHFINDER
    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.


2013. You Were Great! Kinda Sorta.

Fizgig Avatar

Before I get started with my 2013 in review, a complementary message from the writer who made chocolate-hazelnut crepes and mimosas this morning. HAPPY NEW YEAR! Also: GREMLINS is my new/old favorite Christmas movie. I can’t believe how wondering Spielberg’s movies are; they really stand up to the test of time.

On to the recap!

2013 was the year of getting rid of baggage. In ye times of olde, there was a god and goddess for pretty much everything. Take the Greek goddess, Eris, who symbolizes discord, strife, and chaos. I’d say 2013 was definitely “her” year, because there were a lot of changes–which turned out to be very positive–that began with discord and ended in amazing.

In January 2013, I wasn’t sure if I made the right decision to go the entrepreneurial route. I opted out of a move to the lovely city of Austin, Texas in 2012 and decided that, what was truly in my heart, was to pursue a career based on what I could provide creatively. Oh, I’m not overlooking my business background, because that’s what helps me flesh out what jobs I can get. That being said, I know what I want deep down and I just have to find a way to make it work. The bills come every month. Those don’t stop, regardless of how and when I get paid, and that’s something I’m very aware of. As it turns out, 2013 was the year where I focused on filling out my hobby games repertoire. I wanted to be part of a visible property because I’d been in the industry so long as a freelancer and, then, on the business side working with Steve Jackson Games and John Kovalic. On the writing side alone, I’ve worked with over a dozen game companies on well over thirty products that saw various states of production. I also kept my consulting skills sharp when I took on a role with Onyx Path Publishing behind-the-scenes.

February was a month of serendipity and a ramp up to the rest of a wild and crazy year. I started with penning the April Fool’s joke Scion: Extras (Supplemental Yet Can Be Somewhat Useful On Occasion Scions). Oh, how I love to write satire. And oh, how very, very challenging it is to pull off for the fans. I was hoping for a range of reviews that tapped into different aspects I built into the product. That’s exactly what we got and I couldn’t be happier about that. Then, I was asked to fill the shoes of brand manager and lead writer for the Firefly RPG. Taking direction from Margaret Weis, we opted to leverage years of Cortex Plus experience and launch the line in 2013. Getting a new line off the ground comes with its own set of challenges; overall this has been an extremely rewarding journey and Fox has been great to work with. Margaret and the folks on my team are all dedicated to making this game shiny. (See what I did there? HAH.) For me, to put together this game was a dream come true — and a setting I love dearly.

With that announcement, it was head down for four months until the release of Gaming in the ‘Verse: GenCon 2013 Exclusive for the Firefly RPG in August. In addition to speaking on the Writer’s Symposium at GenCon, we also launched a preview of the game. That effort allowed fans to get their hands on game material early, but also gave me the chance to test the approach to gauge reactions. The response was overwhelmingly positive. Of the negative reactions we did get, I understood where the criticisms were coming from, in part because Cortex Plus is a different system than Cortex Classic. That’s why we released a supplement called Wedding Planners Classic with an adventure by Margaret so fans could dive into the old system and learn something new. The lesson I learned, though, is that it doesn’t matter what we tell fans about licensing constraints, business decisions, or what we can/can’t do. Fandom is about feelings and emotional attachments. I cannot make everybody happy — no matter how hard I try.

Once Fall hit, we started rocking the releases with the launch of the Echoes of War line, which is a digital series of stand-alone Episodes. These adventures are structured like quickstarts. To play, you need a character that’s found in the Serenity Crew, GenCon Exclusive, or Firefly RPG corebook. Then, pick a story! We’ve got four out so far, two of which were featured in the Exclusive. Wedding Planners Plus, Shooting Fish, Friends in Low Places, and Freedom Flyer. All of the digital Firefly RPG releases are available through DriveThruRPG.com.

In non-Firefly news, ROFL! hit the shelves and I participated in a short story workshop led by Cat Rambo. It’s a game I had a hand in bringing to life and I’m very proud of the work John did on this one. Huge milestone! I also designed the Onyx Path brochure and had a hand in several Kickstarters, too.

October marked the culmination of two other dreams of mine. After five years of searching for opportunities and learning about the business, my first comic was published. It’s called Last Man Zombie Standing and I had a TON of fun with this one. I’m pitching another standalone comic as a result and have a graphic novel script in the works. Second dream? To fly overseas. I went to World Fantasy in Brighton and spent some time in London afterward. Loved, loved, loved this trip. Got the chance to make new friends, assess the publishing landscape, and schedule a few meetings. To round out the year, I spent some time in northern California. (It’s like its own country. WOW. What an amazing place!) And, I continued my annual tradition of sending out three random gifts to women I know. I had a lovely holiday season and I feel incredibly fortunate for the experience.

Now, what this recap doesn’t tell you of the failures and emotional upheavals I went through. Too many to count or dive into, really. The projects I busted my ass for that won’t be coming out until next year or the following. The huge shift that occurred because I wasn’t traveling as much as I did in 2012. My inability to get back on the fitness horse. The change in friendships caused by moves and shutdowns. The insecurity and anxiety that comes with not knowing whether a new release will succeed or fail. Etc. Etc. Etc. That’s the other side of 2013, the emotionally turbulent ride, that brings me through to today. You could even say that I’ve finally put some demons to rest, ghosts I didn’t even know were haunting me, freeing me to move forward.

In closing, I have this to say to all you creative peoples out there: DREAM. It’s important! Dream about what you want. Get that vision clear in your mind — and don’t give up. No matter how long it takes you, just don’t. Not when you feel you’ve taken three steps forward and five more back. Not when you think everybody else is against you. Not when you’ve got a hangup or get distracted. Not when you feel you won’t get accepted because you’re [insert word-of-choice here]. There is no power greater than a dream that won’t die. For many, many reasons, I believe that with all my heart. For the first time in my life, not only do I feel that my dreams can come true, I feel that I actually deserve them.

Cheers to a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2014 for all of you. Thank you for reading and supporting my work. Thank you for the shoulders you’ve lent and the chances you took on me. I cannot stress how awesome it feels when you reach out and offer words of encouragement. More of THAT, less of “fake geek girls” and tribalism and trolls and click bait and… There are a million reasons to be angry and upset. There should be just as many to be happy — let’s try and focus on those!

    Mood: Peace and lurve.
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: I was moderate. Then there was Jim Beam’s Red Stag and Pepsi Max.
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Keepin’ up with my “one household chore” per day goal! Waiting for my FitBit.
    In My Ears: Queen Bavmorda. Is it just me? Or does she look like Mumm-Ra.
    Game Last Played: Battle Nations
    Book Last Read: The Lies of Lock Lamora by Scott Lynch
    Movie Last Viewed: WILLOW (Otherwise known as The Wizard of Middle-Earth)
    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.





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






Subscribe
* indicates required



Archives

Back to Top