Friday, March 22, 2013

Growing, Brewing, Cooking and the Call of Cthulhu

So I need a break today after a busy week of editing. 

I decided to set up the seedling boxes for my family’s backyard garden.  Last year we got seedling, but the choice was limited.  This year I picked up the seeds, boxes and soil to do it myself.  I got sweet Spanish onions, two types of tomatoes and two types of peppers.  My wife asked about cucumbers and zucchini, but I don’t really like those vegetable so they weren’t even on my radar. It was nice and relaxing, working with the soil, counting out the seeds, watering everything and finding a sunny spot for it all in the front window to let nature do it’s magic.  It got me thinking.

I like plants, always have, since I was a child.  I own a spider fern; I’ve probably had it for most of my life.  It’s from a cutting of my mother’s spider fern, which is a plant older than I am.  Those things never die, if you take care of them.  Water, soil, sun, it’s a peaceful thing caring for plants. It’s not quick, or flashy, but I really like it.  It’s comforting, Zen I guess. 

I’m passionate about other things too, like coffee.  I own a coffee maker, but I only use it for big gatherings.  No k-cups for me.   I have a well stocked coffee corner, with mason jars of beans, a grinder and a French press coffee maker.  Every morning I grind my beans, get the water to a rolling boil, let everything brew slowly before depressing the plunger and finally enjoy a few really good cups of coffee.  For me it’s a beautiful ritual, like a Japanese tea ceremony.  It slows you down, makes you really appreciate that cup of coffee.

Then I was thinking about the plants I'd chosen, onions, peppers, tomatoes… and realized I'd unconsciously chosen the ingredients of another of my passions, making Chili. It took me years to perfect the art, and it is an art.  Not from a can, not from a package of mixes, but honest, homemade chili.  Yeah, I use beans, I’m an easterner and that’s how we make it here. It takes a LONG time to make, cutting, browning, mixing, chopping, seasoning and slooooow cooking.  I stir every 15 minutes, for 3-4 hours, after about 90 minutes of just getting everything into the pots.  No two batches are every the same. I am very proud of my chili.

At that point, something dawned on me… 

My last edits were harder than usual, because my editor wanted me to add a big shocking gross out scene early in my scenario. I didn’t want to argue about it, but neither did I want to add it.  I’ve played scenarios that start with explosions; my friend Dan Harms wrote one like that which I was lucky enough to be a play-tester for.  Those scenes are great, effective, enjoyable… but that’s not how I do things.

My scenarios start slowly, trying to allow the players to get a feel for things.  I want them to calm down, to role play, to live as that person they are trying to portray, to let their guards down before anything dangerous or unnatural happens.  Then, when bad things do start happening, it’s often a more brutal shock.  Players go, “What that HELL?!?!” and I point to the Keeper’s screen and smile.  “Oh yeah, we’re playing Call of Cthulhu” they sometimes say.  I don’t say my way is better than scenarios that start with a bang; it’s just not how I like to do things.   Not my style… 

I grow plants.  I brew my own coffee.  I’ll spend an entire day making pots of slow cooked chili.  I write scenarios where the suspense and tension build slowly.

I love seeing my plants grow and enjoying the vegetables they sometimes produce.  I adore a cup of freshly brewed, freshly ground coffee.  A bowl of homemade slow cooked chili you made yourself is a meal beyond compare to any other.  The reaction of a player who’s slowly gotten into character, been teased by properly maintained tension when the monster finally does attack, or the ghost manifests, or the person they are talking to drops their mask to unveil a face made of tentacles… that’s priceless. 

For me, it’s all connected.  People say I write a lot but I never really rush things.  It all happens as it’s meant to.   For all things there is a season and a time for every purpose under the sun.


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