A Long Overdue Update and a New D&D Thing

Cthulhu Scribe by Drew Pocza

Hey folks, it’s been a couple of months. Three conventions and multiple continents later, and I’m back at my desk. We went to Helsinki, Finland for RopeCon, and had two weeks or so to scramble before the 50th Anniversary of Gen Con. Following that? We came home for Geek*Kon, too. I have a lot I want to talk about here on the blog, work to revive my Make Art Not War 2017 Challenge, and deadlines climbing all over my face. Yes, deadlines may be spiders–far creepier if I let them pass by!

I’ve spent quite a bit of time getting centered again, in part because waiting on certain projects/contracts really affected my productivity. I’ve got a few pieces to nail down in September, but most of my work is fully caught up. Now, it’s just a matter of focusing on milestone deadlines, and I’m good. Thankfully, my travel schedule is slowing down this Fall intentionally; I have a lot of art I want to do and unfortunately blogging plus conventions plus deadlines plus having a life got to be too much.

I’m hoping to announce some of the major bits soon enough. Yes, they include fiction! Non-fiction! And games! My business plan’s goals are definitely congealing, but I’ve learned a key thing that I didn’t account for: traditional publishing is slower than I expected it to be. That means, at least for the time being, I’ll continue to work in games and find other venues to publish in. I can always hope for the best while planning for the worst. Accommodating for growth has been a learning curve, because contracts can be either feast or famine. The key, for me, is to have a schedule that’s well-balanced, and that can be hard when factoring in money, family, health. Too bad Siri doesn’t manage that, too.

Speaking of “the absolute worst”, the news is dim, grim, and I’m so sorry to hear how many of you are affected by flooding, fires, etc. Many of my peers and co-workers are impacted by what’s happening, and that’s affecting their families, friends, deadlines, and travel. I don’t know what will happen long-term, especially if we continue to stick our heads in the sand that the climate is changing, but I have faith that we will continue to pitch in and help each other out. To that end, the first comic I wrote is included in a digital bundle of comics to benefit Hurricane Harvey victims. Proceeds from the Feeding America Hurricane Bundle will go to Feeding America, one of many disaster relief organizations DriveThruComics.com partners with.

And last but not least, I’m woefully behind on updating my publications and ensuring those materials are up-to-date. This week, a new adventure for Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition went live on DMsGuild.com. Over the Edge, which I co-authored with Shawn Merwin, is now available. This adventure is part of the Adventurer’s League and represents the most recent season. It is jam-packed with the possibility for adventure, and each section plays in about an hour–more if you’re like me and enjoy some great storytelling!

I will have more to talk about next week, and will start critiquing Iron Fist. For now, hang in there.

Mood: It’s fall. There’s pumpkin spice everything.
Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Uh, I had more water than caffeine. This is my ashamed face.
Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Lots of steps.
In My Ears: Coffee house music. It’s very soothing. Zzzzzzzzzz…
Game Last Played: Pokémon Go
Book Last Read: Loads for work.
Movie/TV Show Last Viewed: League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
Latest Artistic Project: Make Art Not War 2017 Challenge and Rules
Latest Releases: Over the Edge for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition, Dagger of Spiragos for Scarred Lands.
Current State of Projects: Read my latest
project update. New project update coming when I get time.

New Shinies Sans Sniffles

Sephiroth Avatar

…and I’m back for the next segment of “My Life as a Writer.” For ten minutes, at least, since I am STILL dealing with the worst kind of con crud imaginable. Yes well, I whine. What can I say? That’s what gets me through it. Hee.

Anyway, trying for fresh air today and I thought I’d give a brief update about Oscar Wilde, Stud Cat. Oscar has been given a clean bill of health, and he’s going up for adoption this weekend. There are currently 17 cats available for adoption; the staff really likes him and I’ll share a link when that goes live. If you’re considering rescue, please think about it. I found out just how common pet abandonment is, and a lot of time landlords don’t know a pet has been left behind right away. This is just not cool.

I’m good, really. Behind, but sane. I had a great time at WisCon last weekend, mostly because I was able to see people I knew and meet new interesting people. Haven’t gotten the chance to follow up with a living soul, though, because the way my week’s been going. For me, WisCon is the type of show that works well, when I have people to see already. Media-based shows, like a GenCon or NYCC and what-have-you, those I can fare well on my own because there’s always something for me to do, even outside panels. And here? I’m not sure what my contribution would be to a show like this, other than to boost the signal of the folk who are already there. That’s more being self-analytical than anything else, as I’ve pulled back from promoting for the sake of promoting–I don’t have a novel out just yet. Perhaps when that happens, I can talk to some trusted friends, and figure out what folks might be interested in. I suppose that’s every writer’s worst fear, right? Oh, you want to meet me? Um… Hopefully, I’m fabulous in person. Hopefully.

On that note, I’m planning an event for ConText 27 in Ohio that I hope will be the first of many. More on that later! But, for now? I want to share more of the jewelry I’ve been making. They’re clickable, so you can check out each one if you so desire. Shiny!

Vintage-Inspired Necklace

Helm Bracelet

Netted Bracelet

Wire Wrapped Pendants

Pocket of Posies Bracelet

Crystal and Leather Bracelet

    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Well? HAH.
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Up down left right up up down down.
    In My Ears: A computer fan. How droll.
    Game Last Played: Samurai vs. Zombies and Samurai vs. Zombies 2
    Book Last Read: *eyebrow raise* There was something…
    Movie Last Viewed: Antz Why? I really don’t know.
    Latest Artistic Project: You’re looking at it.
    Latest Fiction/Comic Release: Last Man Zombie Standing
    Latest Game Release: Mortal Remains
    What I’m Working On: Primarily tie-in games work, original comics, short stories, and novels.

A Story About Reality

Fire She-Ra Avatar

Before I get to today’s post: I have a new Tumblr account. I’m having trouble adding folks from Facebook and GMail, so if you re-add me over there I’ll follow you back. Some content will be the same, but there will be a lot more ephemera and pictures over there.

And now, on to today’s blog post.

One of the most common questions I get is: “Monica, why do you do so many different things? Why not just focus on writing your own stories?”

Many years ago, I met the creator of a very popular children’s property. He gave this company everything he had and, twenty years later, he was laid off and his situation quickly took a turn for the worse. Why? Because even though he did these fantastic creations — he didn’t own a piece and that hurt him in the long run. Not to mention, time changes what people are into. When he left, he had nothing and was forced to start over.

There are MANY experiences like this. One does not have to stray far to find a tragic tale in any creative industry. And, whatever you think of these people’s decisions, hindsight is always 20/20. Remember that. It’s easy to criticize. It’s hard (and even a little uncomfortable) to empathize.

I am creative, yes. And, I have a lot to offer those who are willing to pay me for my talents. But, I am also a businesswoman. The bills come every month. They don’t stop. Shit happens. Emergencies come and go. Art supplies, travel, instruments, and jewelry components aren’t cheap. And I have a life that needs living. Experiences that need to be had. Story nuggets waiting to be discovered. My world. My rules.

Reconciling the two things (art and life) is never easy, but this — coupled with the harsh truth that everything we do is tracked online nowadays — is the reason why I’m an octopus like so many others. I consult and freelance because I enjoying having the freedom to work on the projects that I want to write or provide my other talents for. (That doesn’t mean I’m not working on my own stuff; it just means you may not “see” the results of that for some time.)

Now, more than ever, I feel I have to be vigilant to remain flexible to changes that affect monies coming in the door. Sometimes, it’s as easy as showing up to write. Other times, it’s as simple as saying: “No, I am worth more than that.” Often, it depends upon the day and what’s in the pipe.

But this is where the reality comes into play. This isn’t what writing is like. This is what running a business is all about. While I’d love to focus all my time on creating endless works of art that magically disappear off my desk? And the huge check appears? And the readers and listeners and buyers threaten to break down my door?

None of that happens without quality art. I lose myself in fantasy when I can safely ignore reality. The two dimensions are interconnected for me — it’s my ouroboros. Without a beginning or an end.

And that, dear Readers, is why I do so many things. Because even when the words don’t come or my technique sucks that day or my fingers stop working? There’s one thing I can count on. The bills do.

    Mood: Cold
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Drinking Maximillian from Alterra.
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Chasing cats and cleaning my office.
    In My Ears: Nothing. Blissfully, nothing.
    Game Last Played: Sonic and All-Stars Racing Transformed
    Movie Last Viewed: Painted Skin: The Resurrection
    Latest Artistic Project: SHINIES. Still need to take pics…
    Latest Release: “The Button” We Are Dust anthology

January Is So Two-Faced. (Or What The Heck Is Going On)

Fly Away E.T. Avatar

And 2013 starts off with a bang! Or three. Or four. Right after the holidays, I dove into my style of project management; I set up a few spreadsheets, goals, graphs, and other ephemera — and hit the ground running. As a result, there will be several announcements leading into late Spring/Summer. Some are related to my own work, some are connected to licensed properties, and a few are in line with my “day job” wheelhouse, consulting. It began as a healthy enough mix of spec and paid, and all boats were lifting, lifting, lifting until…

This week, my SO, Matt, took an unexpected trip to the ER in the middle of a blizzard. It’s his heart. More tests, more exams scheduled, etc. etc. etc. Possibly surgery. Yeah, that kind. We just don’t know yet. So, more waiting. Initial tests came back just fine, though, which is what we both expected. Right now, we’re erring on the side of caution and hope the cardiologist is spectacular.

Matt and I have been together for years; he is my family and he’s treated me like *gold.* I knew that he was a good guy when he told me, up and down, how much he hated musicals — but he showed up to my rock opera performance, anyway, to show his support. And, while he’s a very humble guy, he doesn’t talk about the charity work or any of the other amazing things he does to make the world a better place. He’s just not that way and I love him for it. In short: he’s my hero.

We’ve had our ups and downs, just like any other couple, but our troubles have always been relatively minor day-to-day stuff and pseudo mid-life crisis crap compared with everybody else. (He’s got a GREAT job and a very understanding boss.) This year, we were going to take that international vacation, wrap in a few work meetings with publishers, and start making some of our dreams come true. Mine, of course, is to make a decent enough living off of my creative works and consulting efforts so we can buy a house with a large garden. The future was already on our minds; milestone birthdays will do that to you.

It’s just… now I want our dreams, like our trip to England, to come true. I want to be that crazy American in a karaoke club singing Queen. (Though, admittedly, he may not be able to watch that part of the trip.) I want to find a Tardis, stand in front of Big Ben, grab a ridiculously tall glass of stout, and savor the best of English cuisine. And I want to do this with him.

I’ve always erred on the side of pragmatic, careful when I blog, because you never know who’s reading your updates. We’re both pretty private people and that allows us to have a life offline. However, I am a very passionate person and sometimes I am scared to tell you how much I love, love, love what I do and all the people in it. I’ve had a crazy-ass life — brilliant moments and horrifying lows — and I wouldn’t trade this for anything. But, at the same time, that passion (and the show of it) is very scary on the receiving end. (There’s a reason why folks say I’m a force of nature, after all.) It’s not socially appropriate to run down the street screaming at the top of your lungs, after all.

But why not? Seriously. WHY NOT? Half the time, I feel like I’m going to burst out of my skin. And, I can tell you, the more mortality you face, the more skin-bursting you’ll want to do.

Then, reality hits. And it’s a major downer. But I have no time to be down. None whatsoever. Maybe one day I’ll tell you the rest of this story, but I’m not ready to do that just yet.

So, now you know why you’re going to be seeing a lot more of me this year. I’m not just writing for Matt’s heart. I’m writing for mine, too. I just hope readers and gamers like you will follow.

Deep breath. Here we go…

    Mood: Optimistic
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Balanced. It’s a strange feeling.
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Um… Didn’t happen. Has to happen today.
    In My Ears: “Stronger Than Ever” by Christina Aguilera
    Game Last Played: Sonic and All-Stars Racing Transformed
    Movie Last Viewed: Empire Strikes Back
    Latest Artistic Project: SHINIES. Still need to take pics…
    Latest Release: “The Button” We Are Dust anthology

Truth In Less Freak-Outs

Hellboy Avatar

I’m finally getting back in the swing of “work,” and I’m falling in love with it again. Mind you, there’s a reason for this, and I feel that that was eloquently put here:

When I shifted from my day job at Weekly World News to fulltime freelance, I was advised that 80% of my time would be spent seeking work and the remainder actually doing the work. We’re out there selling ourselves constantly – partly it’s why we blog and chat and do conventions and book signings and so on. You need to throw something like five times as many projects out there as there is time to actually write one. Salesmen chase five times the number of leads to bring in the one real sale so it’s all the same. — SOURCE: No Need For a Writer To Be Discouraged by Bob Greenberger

I find that 80/20 rule to be true, even if you have residual income coming in. The trick is finding that residual income stream (e.g. royalties or what have you) and balancing that with your non-“work” time online. That’ll give you a little more flexibility when you’re seeking out new publishing opportunities.

Of course, work/life balance is always something to be managed. Freak-outs not required. But in spite of everything? The words, like spice, must still flow.

    Mood: Soooooper-genious.
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Um…
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: The Gym.
    In My Ears: The screams of my victims cats.
    Game Last Played: Dragon Age: Awakenings
    Movie Last Viewed: Despicable Me
    Latest Artistic Project: In progress!
    Latest Release: “The Dig” The Lovecraft eZine Issue No. 19

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.

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