2013. You Were Great! Kinda Sorta.

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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.

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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