Back from Austin

I was in Austin all last week for meetings, meetings, and more meetings with Steve Jackson Games. When I started back in November, I was a little hesitant to talk more about my job because every company is different and I wanted to see how it was working before I’d start blogging more often. Even though there’s nothing “official” that companies can do or say to stop employees from being themselves, I’ve run into situations where being genuine (and I am a WYSIWIG person) works against you — especially if it doesn’t fit the culture or there’s politics involved.

That is most definitely not the case here. The people I work with — Steve included — know I’m an author and a game designer on top of what I do for the company. They also understand that I consider the work I do for them to be a part of me, too. While there are some common sense/NDA boundaries, I feel like I’m finally in a position where I can say: “Hey, I’m going to X con for an author appearance. I have scheduled a time where I can hand out Munchkin bookmarks, etc. Would you be interested?” The reason why I can do that is because the company’s core philosophy is to be genuine.

I started going back through the Daily Illuminator and took a trip down nostalgia lane. We opened one of the first sets of Car Wars, pored through old catalogs, reviewed Ogre, and laughed about how the Illuminati card game is a perfect snapshot of politics at the time. There is a *lot* of history here and that perspective really helped me to understand what I’ll be doing and how I can make sharing the fun a real experience. Being genuine is a hard marketing approach for a lot of companies because there’s some amount of risk attached to that. Here? Steve Jackson is Steve Jackson Games. I leave, the company doesn’t suffer. (Though, I’d like to think it would!) He leaves?

Yeah, you get the idea.

Much of the staff is invisible in the sense that you probably haven’t gotten the chance to see or talk to them except at cons. I was impressed with the talent and friendliness of everyone at the office. There are award-winning mini painters, gamers who’ve played a Dungeons & Dragons campaign for twenty-five years, music connoisseurs, video game aficionados, toy collectors, foodies, animal lovers, master game demoers, and crafters. We worked our proverbial tails off and, at the end of each day, I felt like we accomplished something. The experience is a little bit like working for a newspaper or a fine restaurant. You don’t see the chaos or the careful attention being put into the games and toys, but it’s there and it shows.

I’m happy I get to telecommute because there’s a lot of strategy and writing I have to do in my position. I have to concentrate — especially since I have editors. Truth be told: I’ve always gotten more done working-from-home than I have in any office with someone looming over my shoulder. Remember Scrooge McDuck and his pacing room? I’d love one of those! Though, I could have more days slaughtering winning a game like Castellan for the first time. Here’s the Castellan thread on

Lastly, there is something I get from this position that I haven’t gotten out of a job before. I don’t have to *hide* or apologize for my intelligence, my randomness, or who I am. Yes, I have had to do that for non-consulting/non-freelance positions in the past. No, I’m not going to go into details because, quite frankly, I’m part to blame for that. And yes, this does not just happen to me especially in a culture where typos are common and people are considered snobs if they use a dictionary or read and research before they open their mouths. Regardless of what happens during my time with this company, I will be eternally grateful for the ability to simply focus on the work. This, combined with what I’m doing for John, allows me to continue writing, designing, and telling stories. For me? It’s the best of many worlds and fortunately they’re all on the same fun-loving planet.

Special thanks to Phil Reed for arranging this trip and making me feel at home.

    Mood: Zoning
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: A “few,” but they’re not doing any good.
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: I pressed many buttons on my controller.
    Yesterday’s Projects: None, sadly. Grrr…
    In My Ears: The Queen of the Damned soundtrack
    Game Last Played: Final Fantasy XIII
    Movie Last Viewed: Cowboys and Aliens
    Book Last Read: Broken Blade by Kelly McCullough
    Latest Artistic Project: Crystal cluster bracelet in silver
    Latest Release: Strange, Dead Love for Vampire: the Requiem

Monica Valentinelli is an author, artist, and narrative designer who writes about magic, mystery, and mayhem. Her portfolio includes stories, games, comics, essays, and pop culture books.

In addition to her own worlds, she has worked on a number of different properties including Vampire: the Masquerade, Shadowrun, Hunter: the Vigil, Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn, and Robert E. Howard’s Conan.

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

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