Tuesday, April 16, 2013

What the Hell is wrong with me?

I’m running a Call of Cthulhu game at the College of Staten Island next week, for their Gaming Club’s party.  I’ve done it a few times; they are a great bunch of kids.  Most of them become my play testers for the material I publish.  Anyhow, I play with these guys often, which presented a problem.

Most of them had played all of my most recent short scenario, suitable for a four hour game.  I had to dig up something that NONE of them had ever played.  So I went digging in my old archives and found something I hadn’t run since probably 2007, a nasty little reactive game called Life After Death.

It’s a modern game, which I seldom write.  It’s set in a cemetery and the players take the roles of the traditional bad guys in the adventure.  Three of them are members of a small ghoul pack, one is a serial killer and the last is Kevin Meep. Kevin is a character I created, a madman, and probably one of the strangest individuals I’ve ever created.  I hadn’t thought about him in years, so when I re-read his description… well… I was a little surprised.
Yeah, I wrote this, I remember writing this… that wasn’t the confusing part. 

But as I read it I could only think…  Dude, what the hell is wrong with you?!?!?    So, I’ll share Kevin’s description, on his character sheet.

Kevin Meep - You didn’t have what you’d call a happy childhood. Your mother was a drug addict and your father ran out on you both. You grew up in foster care, never spending more than a year with one family.  Anyone you felt a connection to would always eventually leave. Love was a myth and a lie. That all changed the day you found the cheerleader, Mary Joe Wattle, dead in that wooded area.  She’d been missing for three days and it was clear she’d been strangled and raped. She looked so beautiful, lying there naked, like she was asleep and waiting for you. She was waiting for you! At last you found love, a woman who would never leave you, or hit you, or say bad things that made you feel small. After visiting Mary Joe for a week you buried her telling no one of what you had done. Now you knew there was love, real love and that it could only be shared with the dead. The dead don’t leave; the dead love you for who you are. 
            Getting the job at Oaklawn Cemetery was the best thing that ever happened to you.  While you didn’t make many friends you worked hard and eventually made it to acting caretaker.  Your job gives you many opportunities to find love and also led you to the only real friends you ever had, the ghouls. The ghouls accept you; they don’t judge you and they appreciate your help.  They are much nicer than people.  About a year ago you and the ghouls made a new friend, the serial killer Ramani.  She’s nice, she helps out by bringing her victims to the ghouls but she’s not like the lovers you find at work. 
            If you get fired, the ghouls will starve, Ramani will probably go to jail and it will be much harder for you to find love.  You can’t allow that to happen and you won’t!  You belong here, among the dead, and anyone who tries to change that will be sorry they did.

Yeaaaaah.  So, what the hell is there inside my head that possesses me to create a sympathetic necrophiliac PC?
It’s weird being a horror writer…

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Reviews from R'lyeh: Empire City Fears

Reviews from R'lyeh: Empire City Fears: New York stands tall in Call of Cthulhu canon. Not only are numerous scenarios set there, such as “Dead Man Stomp” from the Call of Cth...

Learning to Swim, The Hard Way

I haven’t updated the blog in a while, I’m sorry about that.  I’ve been totally focused on finishing something I had no idea how to do.  It’s not the first time; I suspect it won’t be the last.  So, let’s talk about this.

There is a school of thought that the best way to teach a child how to swim is to hurl them into water over their head, thereby giving them no real alternative rather than learning to swim.  They can drown, or they can swim.  The water rushing up their nose, down their throats and the utter terror they feel as their physical well being is threatened used as a teaching tool.  It’s Darwinism at work ladies and gentlemen.  I am sure people learn to swim this way, a few of them probably die, but hey, that’s progress.

Learning is important.  Gaining new skills is probably the only thing really worth acquiring. I’m all for learning new things, with a good teacher, taking notes, asking questions, a little hands on instructions, maybe with a couple of cups of coffee and some breaks to clear your mind.  I’ve had good teachers, I’ve learned a lot… I’ve also been hurled off the boat into water way over my head.

No, you don’t have to be angry at my parents for the way I learned to swim, I am talking figuratively.  
 I learned how to manage projects, put together manuscripts and publish books, along with my dear friend Tom Lynch.  We were learning how to do all this from an older, knowledgeable mentor named Keith Herber, as he formed his new company Miskatonic River Press.   We all put out a book together, which was well received, and started work on several others.  It was all going great and then, quite suddenly without any warning, Keith died.  It was a tragic loss.

So there Tom and I were, on our own with Miskatonic River Press adrift.  We could continue on or walk away to watch the company fade into the mists. Tom stepped up and took the wheel of the company, I had his back the whole way helping out as much possible, and we learned how to run a company.  It wasn’t pleasant, it wasn’t easy, mistakes were made and we got burned more than once by our inexperience but ultimately, in time, Tom and I learned how to do this.  Miskatonic River Press is still putting out great material which the critics like, the fans appreciate and that the company is proud to stand behind.

Now, several years later, I’ve started my own company called Golden Goblin Press.  It’s been going okay so far, I got a team together, approved pitches, assigned art, managed the project, did some promotion… chugging along just fine. I started feeling my way through starting a Kickstarter funding campaign, unfamiliar territory but I have great people with experience teaching me how to do that…  Nice, calm, organized… until.

So… You need a video for a Kickstater campaign.  You don’t need one, the way you don’t need a life boat or seat belt, but you CERTAINLY want one.  The people willing to help me do this were unable to.  Some who were able to help me were unwilling to. I wasted a couple of weeks calling for help, as the water rushed into my nose and my anxiety rose.

So I started trying to swim.

I downloaded some free video editing software, got a new SD card, played with my camera, and borrowed a tripod and digital recorder, read some online guides…  I learned because I had no choice BUT to learn or fail.  I did some test videos, downloaded some copy rite free music, some art owned by my parent company, uploaded some photos, recorded some voice over’s and learned how to edit film together.  I played with video effect, learned how to do things, forgot how to do them and rediscovered it again.  I lost a quite a few hours of work because I didn’t save my project.  I filmed myself, alone, and was told the footage looked like a kidnapping ransom video.  I got advice from helpful people, who were really too far away to physically help me.  Finally my wife stepped in to help me re-shoot the last half of the video, and we flailed and fumbled through the final process together. 

Overall it was a brutal, demoralizing journey outside of my comfort zone. But the video is done.  Is it going to be the best video on Kickstarter? Nope. But the team agrees it’s not bad at all, all things considered. So, I now have a few new skills with filming and video editing.  Did I want these skills? Nope.  Did I need these skills? Yes, unkind ungrateful universe, apparently I did.

Sometimes having no choice is the moment when you have your greatest victories. However, those can also be the moments when you utterly fail, unprepared for the challenges placed in your path.  Dreams are worth fighting for, they are worth suffering for and we are all as resilient as we choose to be. Victory and failure may be variables ultimately out of our control, although we can do much to skew the odds in our favor. Surrender and quitting are choices.

I’ve never run a kickstarter before, or for that matter a publishing company on my own, but I have people helping me with that.  There may be moments to come where I will have to face things on my own which I am totally unprepaired to deal with. When those moments come, I'll deal with it.
Hey universe, I’m still standing and I’m not going anywhere.
Sweet are the uses of adversity,

Which like the toad, ugly and venemous,

Wears yet a precious jewel in his head.




Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Dreams of Endtimes.

            I’m a horror writer; I have a bit of an imagination.  I know I dream because it’s a scientific fact that we all do but I seldom remember mine.  Last night was an exception.  Before I get to that, a dramatic set up.

There’s this show I love called “Stranded”, where three regular people get stuck in a haunted location for five days and are tasked with investigating the paranormal.  One episode a guy lost his nerve and couldn’t follow some mysterious sound into the dark.  He was frozen in place by fear, and hated himself for it.  He said, “We’re supposed to be investigating this stuff and we’re running from it.  We’re the worst paranormal investigators ever.”  At the time I found it very funny.

Now, onto my dream - It was New Years Eve, I was home with my family and the world was about to end.  I knew this, as well as I knew anything.  I had no doubts; not even the comfort of suspecting I might be insane.  I knew, and I also knew there was nothing I could do about it.  My daughter had a few of her pre-teen girlfriends over; they were making noise and painting nails, having a good time.  My son was in his room, on his computer, probably on Skype with his friends.  My wife was going to watch funny videos online. 

I decided to go to time square, Ground Zero for the first of thousands of portals that were going to open all over the world.  In the front yard of my neighbor Mario Ortiz, I saw the outline of a small portal already gathering power. Mario knew too, for some reason, I guess we had talked.  He asked if I was going, I said yes, and he offered to drive me to the train to get into Manhattan.  He also offered to give me his rifle; he doesn’t own a rifle in real life. 

I thought about it a moment.  I wouldn’t get a rifle anywhere near Time Square on New Years Eve.  I didn’t know Latin.  I didn’t know any spells.  There was nothing I could do at Time Square, other than see how the Endtimes all begins. 

I looked back at my house; saw my wife at the window, looking sad that I was going into Manhattan without her on New Years Eve.  I saw my daughter, screaming and laughing with her friends.  I thanked Mario, but refused the ride and the rifle.  I went home to be with my family, to watch funny cat videos with my wife.  They didn’t know the world was about to end, I hadn’t told them.  Why?  They were happy.  I wanted to be happy with them until it all just stopped.  One of two things was going to happen, the world would end or it wouldn’t, there was nothing I could do to stop it.

When I woke up I realized I would be the worst mythos investigator ever.  An investigator faces those odds, to try to save everyone, even if it appears totally hopeless.  I’m not an investigator.  I just wanted to be with my family as long as I could, see my wife laughing at videos of people falling down, hear my daughter screaming with her friends, knowing my son was safe in his room.

I’m not going to do any writing today.  I’m taking my kids to the Metropoltian Museum, maybe somewhere nice for lunch. Tonight, I am going to take my wife out to a surprise romantic dinner (it's okay, she probably doesn't read my blog).  Today I am going to be thankful for the small, but beautiful things in my life.  Today I am going to celebrate one more day, and live, pushing my dreams of Endtimes far, far away.