Help my friend, my muse, Lex Friedman.

I know this has sort of become a blog where I only post when friends of mine need help. But honestly, I can't think of any better way it could be used.

This Lex Friedman, she was in an accident recently, broke her femur - I only found out today. She's an amazing actor - she has a huge heart, and I've been lucky enough to call her a friend. She's also... it is hard to explain, if you've never met someone who inspires you, but, for instance, as lovely as the headshot is I've posted here, it's not how I think of her - there's this vibrant, active, bright light there, and on more than one occasion I've attempted to capture it in my own work, capture this larger than life personality, this capacity for love and action and strength. Lex has been kind enough to humor me through it all too.

Other friends of hers have set up this GoFundMe page - - to help her get through this very trying time, as she recovers from her injury. I'd consider it a personal favor if you'd look, share, give if you can - I know it's a hard time of year to ask for money, but this is one of the best causes, best people I know.

And thank you.

Help me help those who took me in.

The happy couple below are who I fondly refer to as my other mother and other father, Lauri and Ruben Roman.

Lauri and Ruben are two of the most kind, crazy, and loving people I know - which, for me is really saying something. In college, so often they were my holidays, the brought me into their home, showed me some of the many secrets that both New York and New England hide from the typical tourist, and made me feel like I had roots somewhere other than the "holler" I came from. Yes, at the time I was dating the wonderful daughter Samantha, but even after that, they've always made me feel welcome and loved, have met other girlfriends, and called and written and sent gifts during the holidays. I've always felt like my family is shrinking - death, divorce, all of that - but Lauri and Ruben and what they've done for me is one of only a handful of times [along my mother remarrying, and my kid brother being born] I can proudly say it grew.

They have been limping along, but managing, like so many of us, for some time. But like every single one person living pay check to pay check, it only takes one more unexpected thing on the pile, and it can leave your entire future in doubt. Their landlord has notified them that their current place of residence will soon be sold, and they are looking to raise the first and last month of rent, along with a security deposit so they can move. I know they hate having to ask. But they shouldn't feel the least bit bad - I'm sure we all agree, we all need help sometimes.

I'd consider it a person favor to me from anyone who can help them out during this particularly hard time. The link to their account can be found here or by clicking the picture above. And if you can't give, if you can spread the word, I'd appreciate that too.

Friday the 13th - Wrath of the Kill-ver Fish.

I have a superstitious streak. Which is weird because, you know, avowed atheist and believer in the absolute cruel randomness of the universe. Yaaay.

Justin came over to play some Magic and just hang out - we hadn't gotten the opportunity to lately [and by the way, if you want to see some amazing comic work, you should head over to his site to check out why - he's doing some amazing and innovative work right now when it comes to developing and coloring comics. If what he's doing works out, and I'm more than sure it will, he'll be making some big waves one day], and I promised him I'd dig out a handful of old Swamp Thing comics from the Moore years that I had doubles of. He's wanted to get a better look at the coloring, which isn't printed in nearly the same way these days, even when the big collections and omnibus editions are put out. 

I dug out a few long boxes, but was having trouble finding them. There's this place, like a cubby or a hidey-hole under what would be... the desk, I guess in my room, which I stuck about six long boxes in to maximize space in my... let's go with modest... living quarters. What I pulled out were a bunch of moist, chewed up boxes, falling apart as I tried to pick them up, and dropping out comics pulped in the wrong sense of the word.

A wet wall. Comic books full of silverfish. 


As gross goes, it doesn't get much worse. Tiny translucent land shrimp that eat paper and adhesive, and like nothing better than to chow down on one of the things I love the most in this world. Plus, they bring centipedes in, which are... frightening and loud and far bigger than any bug should be [seriously, how are folks  afraid of spiders with shit like this in the world?]. They're pretty much one of the biggest bads of the comic collecting world, one I fought, one my mom hated about my particular hobby, one of the reasons part of my collection was bent out of shape when I switched for a while to Rubbermaid tubs instead of long boxes...

Anyway, I freaked a little, repeating myself, edge of a panic attack [been a bit, old friend], etc. - Justin's always pretty well got his head together though, and having him there to help pull things together with me mentally, hold the light, the trash bags [sob]. With his help, I managed to get everything out of there, and sorted enough that I could clean up the mess, hang some cedar, get the comics in a place to be properly gone through, to see what survived.

Look, I have always said my comic collection was a reader's collection. Dad's was too, and when he passed and I got his comics, the bends, the tears, the nicotine stains... they were a pleasant reminder of him. Sure, growing up in the 90s, I have heard every rationalization for shucking materialism, but I don't buy it. I just don't. We put parts of ourselves in things. Some of them we make, some of them we purchase. Some we share, some we don't. That doesn't mean we all have to be hoarders. 

Even though now I'm dealing with a hoarder's problem.

Going through the contents of the six boxes, I've by and large lucked out. Everything of mine and dad's was mostly bagged and sealed, keeping the moisture and the bugs out. Most of what was in the boxes that were under there were only technically a part of either of our collections - a friend of my father's sold us a rather large lot of comics on the cheap from the sports store he once ran. We really only planned to pick and choose from these to supplement some of the holes in our collections from a stint of particularly hard financial times, and everything else was boxed again and tucked away. Dad held on to them, and then they passed to me. Most were monuments to the worst of the 90s - softcore porn, Image comic ripoffs, loads of the manga Dark Horse attempted selling on a monthly basis [now, call me softy, but I still mourn for them. The thing about making comics is that there is a small place in your heart that knows the work that goes in to even the worst, and keeps you from *completely* hating anything], and few if any were ever read by either of us - we wanted the Green Lantern and Avengers and Thor we wound up bagging and slipping into our own unfinished collections, which were fine, as were the Swamp Things I was looking for - they weren't under there after all, instead stacked up off the ground. 

I'm not saying that nothing important was lost - a few bags were compromised, and one of the boxes had newer stuff in it [for some reason - newer stuff is usually kept off the floor so I can get at it], meaning a handful of copies of "The Boys," "Ex Machina," some Dan Jurgens Captain America, and a few copies of the Cassandra Cain "Batgirl" will need to be repurchased. Which means, fixable, in a way, but still heartbreaking.

And all of this - all of it, is embarrassing too. I always held myself up as better than this, a "good collector." I don't think much about geek cred, and again, reader's collection, I never meant to sell any of this, but in a way, its worse, because that's a lower bar and I still screwed it up. Thanks to some unexpected payments for work I did in the past, though, the new corrugated plastic boxes are on their way, and some resealable bags and cardboard backs too. Time to get the bulk of the collection back in protective shape, which should be easy with the extra time, since with grandma's health [another story for another time], she's been of a keener mind when I'm closer, just in case.

So I'll be taking the time, letting myself poke back around into the stories I love and grew up with, making sure what wasn't stored in that soggy hellhole won't ever be in danger of the same thing happening, and what was and survived the experience will never have to face it again. I think even some of these comics might be unloaded, sold, donated, something, to give myself more room, and make sure my focus is on the memories that are most important, and maybe share some of these them with others.

I don't know. We'll see how it goes. Hoping it won't take over my life.

Happy Friday the 13th. And Happy Father's Day.

I'm sorry, dad.

21 Others: First Revised Edition

Certainly far from the last.

I've been fairly busy this week with the proper jobs in my life, but that didn't take some time to go through and fix some of the problems that plagued the game in the first two tests. I feel like I've addressed some of the biggest concerns of the game, particularly as it concerns some the vestigial elements I mentioned last time, fleshing some out and removing some others. Six cards have been eliminated from the deck completely [I'd like to add four cards in their place, but one step at a time, I figure], and I reprinted several cards with clearer... I guess instructions would be the word to use. I guess that's yet another swipe from MTG - "if it's written on the card, it's the rule."

I changed the names of a couple things too. Wanted to give a shout out to the lady who gave me the most helpful suggest last time through.

There's a possibility I might get another test in on Monday at my friend Caitlin's birthday, which I guess was the reason for wedging this in when I had things I should have been paying more attention to.

The only regrettable part about all of this is, for at least right now, the game is 3-21 players. The 2 player mode just raised too many questions, and is something I'm going to try and figure out later on down the line. I've thought about possibly hosting some sort of event here at my house [I have a long table, in an attempt to get some other people who are more at my skill level or lower with games to give it a shot too, hopefully with some hardcore table-toppers thrown in the mix.

21 Others - First Play Test

Thanks to the help and enthusiasm of Terry Bartley, I was graciously invited to play test my card tonight with his games group. They usually get together for a D&D campaign, or a new board game, but were incredibly generous to give up one night and their tabletop to play the first two games of "21 Others" - as well as give me a lot of really great feedback about the game. All these guys were veterans when it came to gaming too, so their feedback had a lot of good stuff, a lot of stuff I can, and will, use. The "special thanks: for this game is building up fast.

I was a bit on edge during play. I've never really had problems getting feedback on my work, but with a game, it is just so much different, watching people engage with what you've produced, and getting to engage with it to, with them, and sort of feel all the various successes and frustrations in real time.Very exciting. A little terrifying. But they were such a great group.

Got a game going with seven players, tweaked the rules a little the first time, at the behest of those at the table, and really got into the play of the game. Right now, it looks like a good game would come in close to an hour long, which seems okay, seems like something people would be okay with, in practice at least. That's probably the biggest relief - overstaying my welcome with a hardcore group of tabletoppers would official be a death knell for this, but I feel like my little game passed that test, and am pretty heartened by that.

I have about four pages of notes in my garbage short-hand, well less "notes" and more cues to the problems that we run into while playing, and a couple of more in-depth things which were immediate improvements on play. There were more than a couple of "why didn't I think of that?" moments too, which are lovely and humbling - and a lot of things were pointed out to me, underdeveloped things, things I wasn't sure if I'd use, which for some reason I kept calling "vestigial tails" out loud [because I just couldn't stop saying "vestigial"], which I think I can develop, which I think I have to develop further - opportunities to reach out beyond my "keep it simple, stupid" philosophy a bit.

There is one play mechanic that seemed... wildly off, really unpleasant for folks, and from the comments, most definitely flawed, and I may actually focus just on overhauling it for the next week or so, maybe even before the next play test. I'll keep you updated.

I'd like to thank everyone again, too. Feel like I've shaken a lot of my dread now, and I might be able to hunker down and actually make a game people will have fun playing.

"21 Others" Games Played Count: 2

Prototype of a Prototype.

Wasn't that what Protoman was?

Anyway. Finished putting my little card game together Thursday night, everything was printed, sleeved, and generally looks too much like bootleg Magic the Gathering for my tastes, but... what I have is a box full of cards that is play-testable, and that's the most important thing. I think I've managed to stir up some excitement in my friends Caitlin, Terry, and Trinh, as they seem ready to help me out with the testing part of it, which is very kind of them.

More than anything, their enthusiasm when I told them, along with a string of "LIKEs" on Facebook have brightened my spirits considerably. As I get closer to actually playing it out with people, I'm not sure if I'm nervous, or just a little sick of working on it and goldfishing it out in my head theoretically, but a lot of Friday night was just... dread. I want to work out the kinks, I want the game to be fun, be interesting. And everything's moved so smoothly. Makes me nervous.

Tonight I polished off the rules and gave the game a nice little intro. It occurred me I hadn't checked in here about how things were going, so I thought I might do that.

Even though I've got people to play test with, naturally, anyone else interested in also trying it out are welcome to contact me, come hang out, play a few games. If you're one of my people located around the world, and wouldn't mind playing it with some friends, I'm open to that too - of course, it would be a little intensive - there are 205 cards in all, which is a lot of printing and cutting, all of which needs to be done on card stock, or sleeved up in El Cheapo Deck Protectors. Still, if you're willing to put in the effort to check out my little brainchild...

Might get to play as soon as this week. Will report back.

Not Just the Name of The Kinks song.

I spent roughly four hours scrawling out information on note cards last Friday night, when I realized, you know, there's a much easier way to mock up these cards that won't make it feel like my hand is breaking. 

One of the big inspirations for making this card game was "Magic: The Gathering," a hobby I rediscovered a few years back. One of my favorite things about the Magic cards is the flavor text, and it's a concept I stole almost completely for mine. I've always been charmed by alternative storytelling, and the fact that Wizards of the Coasts manages to make a long-running trading card game that is both functional, and hints at, even outright tells an overarching story while sticking to various, sometimes contradictory themes over time has always been amazing to me. I can't claim that my forays into flavor text this time does anything nearly as amazing as what WotC often does, but as a first go, I've been pretty pleased, and if I entertain no one else by the time this project succeeds or fails, the bad jokes, plays on words, stupid puns, and endless hours spent in, of all things, a pocket thesaurus, has been a lot of fun for me.

So, as much as I don't want to get sued by my heroes, I downloaded the freeware "Magic Set Editor" and took a couple of nights to leisurely use their templates to do functional mock-ups of my own cards, and then ordered about... 300 Super El Cheapo card sleeves, so I don't have to worry about the first cards I make being hard to shuffle or see-thru. What I've ended up with is something that has all the necessary information to play with, a good little color-coding system, and a design-style I WILL IN NO WAY BE KEEPING, as I am only using these to test out the actual play of the game with friends, to help fine tune the rules, see what works, what doesn't, and what needs added, and what needs to go.

The nice thing about the MSE template is that it lets me get all my information for play in there, there's already a place for Flavor text, and it'll make any changes in the early stages relatively easy. The downside is, it'll look even more like a MTG rip-off while on the table, which I'm not wild about, except more bland because there are zero illustrations.

Of course, if I continue to go forward with this, I will need to find an artist to not only design the card illustrations themselves, but also the card borders, so this isn't exactly anything that wasn't already planned for. I just think my original idea, with the note cards, was to give the people who I eventually play tested this with sort a blank slate kind of feeling, so I could get at their feelings of what they were picturing, projecting on the cards themselves, and now having the immediate relation to the MTG frames is a little... disheartening. Useful? Yes. Mostly in my head? Entirely.

I took another run at the rules last night, eliminated one big play mechanic, but nothing gone is ever gone forever at this point. Honestly, having as many rules as I have right now really feels to me like a betrayal of my "Keep it Simple, Stupid" mindset, so there could be further changes like this even in the next couple of days.

End count is a whopping 205 cards. I'd be printing them now, rather than writing about them here, except I'm all out of printer ink. Waiting for gods of Amazon and Epson to smile on me, and deliver unto their servant the tools needed in which to make his art.

From there, it'll be about 30 pages worth of printing [probably double that after I screw up a few times], and then I'll whip out the paper cutter Sarah gifted me with a few years back. And then... play tests! Which I'm hoping Terry and Caitlin and whoever else I can get on board to help out with this will be willing to suffer through.

Stay tuned.

Cards - done [sorta].

Well, more or less. There are some small things I need to do, and I'm contemplating adding six more cards [because apparently I'm as masochist], but tonight I finished the bulk of the cards that make up the gameplay aspect of my card game. The next part is mocking up the cards, so the game can actually be tested - I have some rules that I like for it, pretty well set down, but I also have a few extra things, minor changes I might try after playtesting a bit.

Of course, the next part is going to be a bit tedious, since I actually think I might write out the cards by hand instead of attempting to print them on my own. There are probably much easier ways to do it, but this will at least give me a chance to make sure there are no redundancies, and won't leave me with yet more hours in front of a computer screen as I try to figure out all the necessary measurements and margins.

Anyway, just a short post to commemorate the occasion.

A family friend died this past weekend, and honestly, this feels a bit bittersweet, considering. But I might have reason to remember getting this far with 21 Others, so I wanted to make some kind of post about it.

The Rules

The game is coming along pretty soundly. I have about 15 cards left to finish writing, which is one of those things that gets harder as you go along, because of the kind of... I guess hyper focus it takes to make things fit in the last few spots I have free. Taking a quick break tonight, and I'm actually going to try and hammer the last of them out.

The other big thing I did was write the game's Rules. They fit on a single page, and are less than 600 words, which I think is good. I'm trying to keep things simple, and understandable, and I'd like to sweat a little more out of that, somewhere south of 500 words on how to play the game. Shouldn't be too difficult.

I did hit my one big snag when I sat down to write the conditions in which you actually win this little card game I've put together. From the beginning, I kind of wanted a situation where, on some occasions, no one would win the game - kind of a little message about what grabs for power could get you. And I have that, and the appropriate situations where there's a definitive winner...but also one set of conditions that is somewhere in-between, which I'm worried will be unsatisfying in the long run, especially if one of the players at the table opts to be a spoiler.

I don't know. I'm just sweating it. I should wait until I get to play test a bit, which means finishing the main cards so it can be played. It is, after all, just a first draft.

An aside, thanks to everyone who chimed in about naming kingdoms. Will be diving into that soon too.

"The View From a Tree in The Zombie Apocalypse" in Non Finito Magazine

My short story about the fall of civilization, the coming rise of the undead, and the existence of the world's most famous cryptid was featured yesterday on Non Finito Magazine. Non Finito is the pet project of a great friend and previous collaborator of mine, Sam Roman. Here's a short excerpt:
A lot of my friends said they were ready for this. Some of them claimed they were even ready for this, specifically. Which would seem ludicrous, and was then, but you know, not so much now. So some of them had escape plans. One guy learned to fire a gun. Another bought a crossbow. I think some of the more pragmatic ones stored water. That spaceman food, the powdered stuff, batteries, canned peaches. Seriously, one of my friends, the one everyone thought was the most responsible of us, had an attic full of guns, and canned peaches.

So yeah. A lot of my friends said they were ready for this. Which is funny to me now, because I haven’t run into too many of them. That were, you know, talkative, smug, and surviving, instead of murderous, decaying, and trying to eat me. Which is a shame, because some company would be nice. Someone to talk to. Even the self-satisfied, “I told you so”-types. Especially up in these damn trees.

Click on through to read the rest
, and make sure to share with your friends. And while you're at it, you should submit to Non Finito too - Sam's always looking for new creators, especially ones looking for a space for those bits of art we sometimes have trouble finding a place for - those things left rough, unfinished, or raw. You can see the magazine's submission guidelines here, as well as their contact information.

Thanks, Sam.

How in the hell do they name these places?

After having quite a bit to drink on Friday night, and then piling two oddly-timed power outages on top of that, this weekend has been something of a haze. And yet, still work has been done.

This card game is starting to look mostly like a way to enable my Wikipedia addiction. To compound things, I've always enjoyed following the citation as much as actually perusing the articles, which is probably the closest thing we have to Alice's rabbit hole that isn't a psychotropic drug. Over the past several days I've racked up a web history ranging from the Greek city states to medieval methods of torture and execution, to what names were innovated by Shakespeare [an odd gap for me, since I actually studied those plays pretty extensively in college].

Oh, names. I'm been compiling kingdoms for this game, and there's one aspect of fantasy literature I just cannot wrap my head around - how in the hell they name these places. I once again like I screwed myself for not taking Latin or German or something at some point, so I could actually come up with something that was sort of... fun, airy, but evocative. Magic comes up with "Lorwyn" or "Innistrad" and Tolkien comes up with "Mirkwood" and "Gondor" and I... sit on great little gems like "Edgewood," "Riverport," and "Hilltop." None of which really fit what I'm doing now. And typically, when I think I've finally come up with something sort of interesting, I remember, no, wait, I've stolen it from an SNES RPG.

So if anyone has any nifty tips and tricks for coming up with names for fantasy kingdoms, I'd appreciate it.

For the game mechanics themselves, I'm still sticking pretty close to "Keep It Simple, Stupid" as I develop, though I've thrown a couple of extra things in just since Friday that sort of excite me, and that I can't goldfish out myself to see if they work or not. They feel like things that, if they don't work, they can be easily removed, but if they do have the interactions I expect... they'll become the most important part of my game. A off-handed suggestion by Justin kind of cracked things open for me, so I think the thanks have to go to him for any work I did this weekend.

Cameos, or loose approximations of.

Though I was fairly busy with review work all this weekend, several of my better opportunities to procrastinate went to tooling on the card game. Since this is my first foray into making any kind of tabletop game, I've tried to stick to the pat yet useful principle of "Keep it Simple, Stupid" - I figure the more complicated I make this thing, the longer it will take, the more mistakes which will be made. I mean, what I might wind up with is something downright unplayable or too easy, or... something, and as much as I tend to think if you're going to fail, then fail big, I'd like to wind up in the end with a game that, if not good, is at least complete.

Since I picked a fantasy theme [a lot of my escapism lately has been fantasy stuff - Red Sonja comics, SNES/PS1 RPGs, genre novels], I found an interesting way to use some of my favorite archetypes from the genre in admittedly generic [because I don't want to get sued], but I think kind of fun, ways. So far I've managed to compile a neat little list of semi-recognizable analogs, based on various characters I've listed below, with my own little twists.

1. Queen Jocasta
2. The Assassin Lightborn
3. Othello's Roderigo
4. Mary Firth
5. Jack the Ripper
6. Lady Macbeth
7. Henvy IV's Hotspur
8. Suikoden II's Ayda
9. Don Quixote
10. The Beastmaster
11. Conan the Barbarian
12. Red Sonja
13. The 300 Spartans
14. Thor
15. Santa Claus
16. The Oracles of Delphi
17. King Hamlet
18. Dolores Haze
19. Final Fantasy IV's Edward Chris von Muir
20. As You Like It's Touchstone
21. Grima Wormtongue
22. Eowyn
23. John Wiswell's Automatons
24. The Necronomicon
25. St. George the Dragon Slayer

These are mostly favorites of mine - pulled from all over, but still mostly in that fantasy vein. And while I know it seems like a lot, trust me when I say I still could use a few more, and if there's anything or anyone from those sorts of worlds that it looks like I might have missed, or you think I might want to consider, just let me know in the comments, or @ me on Twitter, or even email me at I appreciate the help in the meantime.

Heirs, apparently.

Time to get back to this, right?

In 2013, I made a whopping six posts. There are a lot of reasons... a lot of family stuff, some depression stuff, perhaps even just the inevitable conclusion to my slow falling off with this blog. I toyed with starting again near the end of last year, but was annoyed and frustrated with my attempts to change the layout, and just generally make the site look a bit better, and more importantly, simpler than it does. Even toyed with the idea of transferring the whole thing to Wordpress instead.

Still might. Still could. 

The past couple of weeks I've been doing some tabletop gaming. Barring "Magic the Gathering," and some "Cards Against Humanity," I wouldn't call myself a fan of board games, necessarily. I've actually always sort of hated them, partly because they always felt a bit like a punishment, or something that went along with other things I don't care to do, or have happen - Sequence with a girl about to dump me, my mom and I playing Uno on the way home after my college graduation, blackjack while camping. I mean, I guess Life was kind of cool, and if someone introduced me to something like North Korean High-Stakes Connect Four, maybe I could get on board [heh], but honestly, never been my scene.

But you know, good company always puts me in a good mood, and trying new things is always important, and I've found a few things about table top games I enjoy now. A friend's gift of "Timeline" was a very pleasant surprise, Sushi Go! was surprisingly fun, etc., etc., etc. I guess what really surprised me is how all the games are just mechanics that are the means to tell a story, even if that story isn't entirely linear or even much of a story. And that's kind of charmed me.

So it stands to reason that with little experience and no idea how to proceed, I've spent the past couple of days staying up until well into the wee hours of the morning developing a card game based off of this post - "With apologies to Regina Spektor, and Aaron the Moor" - just dropping about 10 heirs for what I have planning. This really is one of those times when I'm playing in a sandbox I've no real business being in, but thanks to having seen so little success with my own work, no one can really be all that critical about how I spent my free time and sleepless nights.

I'm also back to work on a comic project that came to me over a year ago, but because of aforementioned family problems, I found myself back-burning for... well, everything. And I've found a rather delightful collaborator in Glynis Mitchell, so with all this coming together, I thought getting back to the old work blog was a good idea.