Jennifer Brozek | Wordslinger & Optimist!

Tell Me – Richard Iorio

I met Richard at his Colonial Gothic booth during a GenCon a few years back. The name caught me, the RPG kept me, and then Richard hired me to write for him. I’ve been working off and on for Colonial Gothic ever since. My newest book with them is Colonial Gothic: Locations. I think this is a really interesting RPG and that’s why I’m pleased to present this special 12-12-12 edition of Tell Me.

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It was a sunny, warm September day (9/7/2011 for those keeping score), when I posted the following on the Rogue Games’ website:

You are not ready. The countdown has begun, and the Rogue of Rogues Games are plotting.
For some, it might be an end, but for us, it is only the beginning. Grab your dice and get ready.


This was the last I said anything, and in secret I continued working on a project that I had been working on since 2010. As of this afternoon, 12:12:12 to be precise, the secret has been revealed, and the world knows I was working on Colonial Gothic 2nd Edition. By now, the some have bought the book and have gotten the PDF. They have noticed the changes.

This is not about the changes, this is about why I did what I did.

Colonial Gothic is a labor of love. This is the game I have always wanted to play, and since I could not find it, I created it. A game like Colonial Gothic does not come about by itself. It is the sum of experiences and ideas I received from others who listened to me prattle on about history, gaming ideas, and how to make everything work. What you hold in your hands is a product of years of work. Many players have played in variations of campaigns based upon the ideas found here. Something about this period always attracted me to running games in it.

The first time I ever thought about running a game set during this period was in 1985, as an eighth grader. My family had just moved to a small Midwestern town at the start of summer. Being a new face in a new town, and not knowing anyone, I had a lot of time to think about new campaigns and new games. Tired of fantasy and having just read Last of the Mohicans for the eighth time, I wanted to try something more “real.” Armed with a library within in biking distance, I spent many days reading and taking notes on the period. As luck would have it, I found some gamers who were interested in my creation and I unleashed it to uneven success.

A year later I found myself in another new town and this time I was about to start high school. Undeterred from the previous summer experiment, I revised the campaign and let it loose on a new group of players. They liked it, but they were not ready for something so different from the orcs, rogues, and dungeon crawls that were so popular at the time. Reluctantly I put the campaign aside and returned to the lands of dragons, fuzzy footed diminutive creatures and magic.

Fast-forward to college, with its huge libraries and new opportunities. Unlike my earlier attempts, in college I was even more versed in the subject because of the resources I had on hand. I was also a little more experienced with kit bashing different game systems and ideas into something playable for myself and others. Each new discovery I made, or historical bit I uncovered in my reading and endless research, was applied to my campaigns. Through the years, numerous players have walked the footpaths and forest trails of Colonial New England or the Southern Colonies searching for the evil haunting the land.

Those people gave me something, the will to keep going to produce this game. What you have in your hands is a labor of love, a project worked on by people that are as equally passionate as I am about good role playing games.  As such, Colonial Gothic would not have been possible without the help of many people.

As much as I tried, it always seemed as it Colonial Gothic never got the attention it deserved. It was always rushed, and it always suffered from being something that I worked on, while I tried to do so many other things. Things changed when Graeme Davis decided to help me out, and he kicked me in the butt to rethink and rework the game. It was during a phone call in January 2010 that I finally agreed that the game needed to be rethought, and I began working on the 2nd edition. I thought the project would be faster, but it turned out to be two years of playtesting, writing, rewriting, and rewriting.

Finally it was 9/7/2011 I had a draft that I was proud of, and a yearlong playtest begun. Every rule was examined, every system rethought, and the guts of 12° were pulled apart, put together, and pulled apart. There were times I wanted to stop, and call it quits, but I didn’t. This game means too much to me, and I wanted it to be what I always felt that it should be.

Colonial Gothic 2nd Edition is a game that I always wanted, and now I have it.

Birthday Awesomeness

For my birthday, the Husband took me to the King Tut exhibit in Seattle. We took the audio tour which was well worth it. Having seen them with my own eyes, I now understand why men would kill for Egyptian artifacts. They are really amazing to see. Beautiful craftsmanship and gorgeous to gaze at. The history, the age, of the artifacts can be felt. Ryan told me that walking through the exhibit would give me story ideas. And he was right. If you get a chance to see the exhibit, take it.

After the exhibit, the iMax movie, and dinner, I came home to a whole passel  of good stuff. First was a confirmed pro story sale. Then was an interview request. Next came an email from the anthology committee verifying one of my anthologies was eligible for a Stoker—which means nothing more than someone nommed it and they have to make sure everything is all good—but I’m chuffed someone thought so well of Dangers Untold to nom it. Then another bit of awesome news dropped that isn’t finalized yet but soon. And finally, I had a about a bajillion Facebook birthday wishes to read. That was a really nice surprise.

Lastly, a reminder that Mastication is my birthday gift to you. Get it free on Apocalypse Ink Productions webstore.

Tell Me – Erin M. Evans

I’ve met up with Erin off and on at various conventions. She is a great person to talk to and I’m pleased to know she, like me, has a fascination with villains and the point of view of the villain. Lesser Evils is the sequence to Brimstone Angels.

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I can remember watching G.I. Joe as a child—four or maybe five years old—and wondering about Cobra. “They can’t,” I remember thinking, “just be evil.” No one would waste that many resources or poorly aimed red lasers on just being jerks. Not when being good, like G.I. Joe, clearly worked better.  Perhaps, I thought, Cobra believes they are being good. Perhaps they think G.I. Joe are the bad ones.

And there began my fascination with villains.

It’s a level of characterization that I won’t argue that old cartoon earned, but the idea of perspective affecting morality is one I love to read about and write about. Conflict is king, so far as I’m concerned, and nothing makes a conflict rule the page quite like the complexity of different people’s goals, prejudices, and desires coming together as if they’re a united force.

In Lesser Evils, Farideh, a tiefling warlock, is faced with a whole flock of villains. From the devils of the Nine Hells to the representatives of the shadowy City of Shade; from the ancient secrets of a mad arcanist to the fractious mercenaries of the secretive Zhentarim, she’s beset on all sides by people who could be labeled “evil.” Including Farideh herself—as a tiefling some portion of her blood is devilish and it shows in her horns, tail, and strange eyes; as a warlock, she draws powers from the Nine Hells. Put her in a line-up and not a few people would call her evil on that alone.

But in some cases, those evil-doers are allies, or allies of allies, or enemies of enemies—which can be as good as an ally. In some cases the “good” people on her side, aren’t so firmly on her side at all—can you trust someone who sees you as a rival and an impediment? Anyone could be a traitor or a valuable ally, and the line between “with me” and “against me” is one that shifts as the stakes rise and new foes appear. Even Farideh’s goals aren’t all pure and good, as she hunts for a spell to free the half-devil who fuels her warlock pact from his prison in the Nine Hells.

The best part of so many colliding factions? Characters. If I’m fascinated by villains, I’m deep-down, crazy in love with conflicted characters, and Lesser Evils stole my heart.

In their clashes and reflections, the shape of whole organizations can be seen.  Between the three Zhentarim characters, you have a power-hungry leader risen up from the streets, dodging assassinations and following risky rumors of powerful weapons; a merciless assassin as happy to train a starstruck girl as to turn around and run her through; and an archaeologist turned thief willing to do almost anything to keep the Zhentarim happy and funding her discoveries…even return to someone she’d long left behind.  And I hope you can find in that a secret society of people willing to do a lot to get what they want, capable of supporting each other as they build something massive and unstoppable…or undercut themselves by lashing out at the people who should be on their side. A tricky place to be.

So if you love conflict, villains, and alliances that stand the test of great strain as much as I do, be sure to check out Lesser Evils.

Birthday Gift to You Guys

Sunday is my birthday. I’m getting older than I’d like to admit. As much as I like gifts, I decided that for this birthday, I was going to give out a gift of fiction. In 2009, I created a chapbook called Mastication. It’s a series of six stories about things that eat people. We had 200 copies made and that’s it. I know there are physical copies of this once free chapbook out there for sale. Now you can get it at the Apocalypse Ink Productions store for free.

And because people have asked…

My ThinkGeek wishlist is here.

If you are going to donor money in my name, please donate it to a charity caring for animals. In truth, I really love this.

Thanks for sticking around. I appreciate it.

Tell Me – Dave Gross

The one time I met Dave, he described himself as "the evilest nice guy you'll ever meet" AKA an author and a GM. He was right, he really was a nice guy. Thus, I am please to present what it was he wanted to tell me about pitches.

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Pitching the Pitch
 
Most of my writing in the past few years has been for Pathfinder Tales, always with the same pair of mismatched protagonists. Count Varian Jeggare and his hellspawn henchman Radovan first appeared in the novella “Hell’s Pawns” (my love letter to film noir), but since then their travels have included four short stories, another novella, and three novels. Queen of Thorns is the latest.
 
For almost every story with “the boys,” I try to do something a little different, often inspired by my latest film binge. I even pitch them Hollywood style. For Prince of Wolves, I told my editor it would be “Indiana Jones in Transylvania.” I described Master of Devils as “Varian and Radovan vs. every Kung Fu movie ever.”
 
While my original idea for Queen of Thorns also had a Hollywood angle, the outline soon drifted far from movie inspirations. Rather than drawing on films, I found myself using the Pathfinder setting as my principal and almost sole source of inspiration.
 
Part of that inspiration comes from the map of Kyonin. Ages ago the elves fled the world of Golarion to avoid a cataclysmic event. By the time they returned, demons had claimed their land, and they have fought ever since to reclaim it. Now and then, they stumble upon an ancient ruin—obviously of elven design—that not even their eldest sages can remember.
 
From the start I knew my plot involved the search for a missing person. After researching the map and sourcebooks for Kyonin, I traced a path through sites with evocative names like Omesta, Erithiel’s Hall, the Walking Man, the Wandering Spheres, and the Endless Cairns. Finding a common thread in their histories, I wound it around the personal story of the elven father Count Jeggare had never met.
 
Besides the map, the most important influence from the Pathfinder setting came from its depiction of elves. Except their enormous irises and ears, they resemble Tolkien’s famous version of the fey folk. Under the surface, however, there are a few other slight differences.
 
The elves pity their “Forlorn” kin, elves raised in human cultures. Likewise, the elves tolerate but do not fully embrace the gnomes who settled Kyonin in their absence. Some of those gnomes suffer from a magical ennui known as the Bleaching. Reviewing these facts of the game world, I knew I had to include a Forlorn elf and a Bleachling gnome. They made excellent foils for the half-elven Varian and the devil-blooded Radovan, no less outsiders among their own people.
 
Unlike the more familiar elves of fantasy fiction, Pathfinder elves strive to embody guile, lust, and revenge, the three stings of their chief goddess, Calistria. No one better embodies those stings than a Calistrian inquisitor. Naturally, I had to have one in the story. But for contrast I also wanted to include a classical elf ranger, an incomparable scout and archer. The fun came in showing how each character embodies the passions of their goddess in different ways.
 
When it came time to promote Queen of Thorns, I found myself fumbling for a Hollywood pitch that no longer existed. Sure, you can see some Tolkienesque elements in the setting, and the demons serve a role similar to that of a certain infamous xenomorph. Now that I write those words, I wonder whether I should just give in and start describing the book as “Lord of the Rings meets Aliens.” However, the truth is that Queen of Thorns, more than the previous two Varian & Radovan books, is almost purely a Pathfinder novel.

Bubble and Squeek for 30 November 2012

A bunch of little things to catch up on.

First is a lovely review of Caller Unknown by Steven Saus. I’m glad he liked the book.  A thought for the holiday, if you would like to get a signed and/or personalized copy of Caller Unknown or Industry Talk, go ahead and buy them from the Apocalypse Ink Productions store directly from the publisher and then contact them through the contact page with the personalization request. We’ll get it done.

This month has been a very good month for short story sales. I sold “An Infestation of Adverts” to Blue Shift Magazine, “Sandcastle Sacrifices” to The Guide to the Village by the Sea, and “Memories Like Crystal Shards” to the unnamed limited edition Origins Game Fair anthology for 2013. A very good month indeed.

I have completed my personal NaNoWriMo of catching up on contracted and promised short stories. I scheduled eight short stories. In and around travel, illness, hospital visits, and the holiday, I completed all eight stories for an official word count of 26,292 publishable words.  Written was: “An Infestation of Adverts”, “Sandcastle Sacrifices”, “The Bathory Clinic Deal”, and The Nellus Academy Incident, episodes 15-20. Yes, I did sell two of my NaNo stories during the month of November. It was a good month but I’m tired now.

December is not looking any less insane. On the docket: Editing Beast Within 4 and beginning edits on Jay Lake’s Process of Writing book. Writing-wise I will be working on Colonial Gothic: Roanoke Island and The Nellus Academy Incident, episodes 21-25 (finishing the Battletech webseries off). Research-wise, I investigate the culture of Assam, India in 1920.

As an aside, it is going to be a very Lovecraftian holiday season for me. Colonial Gothic: Roanoke Island is going to be Lovecraft based. Just like Colonial Gothic: Popham was. Only with a different Elder God and its minions to contend with. January is slated for me to work on my novelette, Dreams of a Thousand Young, for Innsmouth Free Press and their Jazz Age Cthulhu book. I’m extremely pleased to be included in the latter. I’ve been wanting to write this novelette for ages. Now I have a professional reason to do so.

Official cover of Beast Within 3: Oceans Unleashed

Here's the official cover of Beast Within 3: Oceans Unleashed - So pretty!
Official release date: 7 Dec 2012


Table of Contents for Beast Within 3: Oceans Unleashed
Edited by Jennifer Brozek


Foreword by Jennifer Brozek
The Roe Girls by Mae Empson
Dry Run by Pete Kempshall
Wreckage by Rosemary Jones
Rites of Justice in Civilized Societies by Amanda C. Davis
Beyond the Reach of Moonlight by Jamie Lackey
The Murmur of Lorelei by Jason Andrew
Salt on the Dance Floor by Nisi Shawl
Mother Water by T. S. Bazelli
Beneath Feather and Fur by Minerva Zimmerman
Woman of War by Ivan Ewert
Trolling by Michael West
Safe by Mari Ness
Spawning Season by Montgomery Mullen
The Wedding Seal by Josh Reynolds
Hunger by Jennifer Pelland
The Summoned by Wendy Wagner

Cover art by Shane Tyree
Interior art by John Ward

Publisher: Graveside Tales

 

Tell Me - Tina Connolly

I’ve not gotten a chance to meet Tina Connolly or to read IRONSKIN but I want to do both. IRONSKIN has an intriguing premise and is already added to my “to read someday” bookcase. Tina has a wonderful website that all authors should take a look at—simple, clear, concise—exactly what I’ve been telling authors to do for ages. ~JLB

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So I've been reading over Jennifer's suggestions for the "Tell Me" post. And I'm lucky because I've already gotten to talk about a few of my favorite things in IRONSKIN. For the Tor newsletter I got to talk about "The Books in the Book.".. (Ironskin has a number of imaginary books in it, which was quite fun to think up.) And for Mary Robinette Kowal's blog I talked about My Favorite Bit (which includes a note about the textual joke I had to delete).

But I haven't had a chance to talk much about the setting for IRONSKIN, so I thought I would do that. IRONSKIN is not alternate history, but it's set five years after a Great War between the humans and the fey, so I ended up doing a bunch of research into the interwar period in Great Britain, to help me give it a sense of place.

More specifically, IRONSKIN takes place both in the country and the city. There are several key locations – Silver Birch Hall is Mr. Rochart's half-destroyed estate in the country, where we start the novel. Relations between the humans and the fey used to be more cordial – humans have been trading with the fey for cheap clean technology for a long time (making the tech in IRONSKIN both ahead and behind of where you might think for post-WW1). But other relations between the fey used to be more cordial as well. And Mr. Rochart's estate is an example of fey architecture from long ago. It has been bombed and half of it is destroyed, but what is left shows the inhuman logic of fey building; staircases that don't lead where you expect, hallways that double back. A good place for a gothic setting!

Jane leaves the estate to attend her sister Helen's wedding in the city. The wedding is held at the posh home of Helen's fiancé, Alistair. This is a narrow house on a city block in an expensive part of town. I knew a few key features about it for IRONSKIN. Whereas Mr. Rochart's house in the country still has a strange amount of fey tech left running, Alistair has been trying much of the new updated technology. So there are gaslights instead of the blue lights of the old fey tech. Helen and Alistair's home becomes much more prominent in book two, and so I now know about Alistair's game room in it, its parquet floors, and just how far Helen's bedroom is from the foyer.

Another setting that comes up in both IRONSKIN and the sequel is the foundry. This is where Jane ran for shelter after the war, when she was dealing with the aftereffects of the shrapnel that had scarred and cursed her. A man named Niklas runs the foundry, and it is down by the waterfront, in a very seedy part of town. As if there wasn't enough iron onsite, it's surrounded by iron, ensuring the fey cannot get in.

Of course, in addition to the buildings, there's also the outside locations—the moor and the forest, both outside Silver Birch Hall. The novel begins in early spring, and the moor is dotted with cowslips (which remind Jane of a day 5 years before, when she marched into war with her little brother.) The forest surrounds Silver Birch Hall, is practically trying to eat it. I live in Portland, where we are constantly dealing with invasive natives in our forests and parks—ivy and Himalayan blackberry are two of the worst offenders. In that spirit I hung the forests around Silver Birch Hall with poisonous mistletoe, a parasitic plant that just happens to like silver birches.

I'm now working on the sequel, and it's been fun developing the new settings—IRONSKIN is mostly set in the country, but the sequel is mostly in the city. In addition to the places we've seen before, like Helen's house and the foundry, there are some new key settings, including several society houses, a flamboyant actress's artsy home, and a used bookstore. Of course!

Thanks for having me on the blog today to talk about IRONSKIN, Jennifer!

Gratitude

I have a lot to be thankful for in my life and I try to remind myself on a daily basis of it. I have all the basics covered: food, shelter, health. I have the husband of my desires, the career of my dreams, the home that is becoming a castle complete with gargoyles. I have a pays-the-bills job that has saved my bacon on more occasions than I care to admit. I have a pride of fuzzy butts who are pains in the butt but oh-so-cute and bring me so much joy. Yes, there’s a lot to be thankful for.

Recently I’ve been thinking about all of the things that have gone wrong in my life that have brought me to the right place.

Losing my ROTC scholarship made me come back home and get a job in CA. That job led me to a QA career that ended me up in a company that got bought out. The company that bought us out moved me up to the Seattle area and had me meet the best and worse bosses of my QA career. Losing my best boss allowed me to say yes to his D&D where I met the man who would become my husband. Losing my best boss also gave me the courage to leap off a cliff and dive into a writing career. Having an emergency with my first cat led me to a pays-the-bills job that I adore.

These are just the big examples of things going wrong that put me where I needed be. Recently I read a pithy comment that struck me: “When things fall apart, maybe they’re just falling into place.” It’s a silly phase, a platitude to make people feel better. At the same time, I can identify with it.

It’s just something to think about. Sometimes failures and disasters can lead to great things.

Also, on the NaNoWriMo front, my second NaNo story has been accepted by its target market. So, here’s where my personal NaNo stands right now.  4 of 8 stories written. 2 of those 4 stories have been sold. The 3rd is off to market early because it’s way over word count and the editors need to read it and determine if it is good enough to make an exception over the word count.

“An Infestation of Adverts” – sold to Blue Shift Magazine.
“Sandcastle Sacrifices” – sold to The Guide to the Village by the Sea.
“The Bathory Clinic Deal” – under consideration by the Future Embodied anthology editors.
The Nellus Academy Incident, part 16 – Done.
The Nellus Academy Incident, part 17 – In progress.

Tell Me – Howard Tayler

I adore Howard. I've been meeting up with him at conventions for years. Recently, we got together at a small convention and actually got time to talk to each other. He told me about this calendar and I thought it was the perfect thing to have as a guest blog post. ~JLB


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Nothing But Pith

I’ve been writing comedy for the last dozen years or so. I have a great big bag of tricks for refining dialog, shaping narrative, and (because my principle medium is comics) creating the accompanying illustrations so that the reader is encouraged to laugh.

In the course of doing this, I occasionally write a “true” punchline, a pithy bit of wordsmithing that is not only funny but is memorable, perhaps because it sums up some aspect or another of the human condition in a way that allows it to snuggle up nicely against the parts of your brain that want that sort of thing.

Within the ongoing “Schlock Mercenary” project (www.schlockmercenary.com) I found a particular plot device especially handy in this regard: an in-world book called “The Seventy Maxims of Maximally Effective Mercenaries.”

The idea for in-world reference is not a new one. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine introduced us to the Ferengi “Rules of Acquisition.” Every so often Quark or some other prosthetically-foreheaded alien merchant would say something truly horrible about proper greed, and drive it home with a number.

The challenge for the writer lies in writing an actual aphorism. It’s nothing but pith. It might originally appear in a TV episode or a comic strip, but eventually it’s going to have to stand alone, with all the framing bits gone. Contextless, naked, it still needs to work. If it doesn’t work then it isn’t what you said it was. It isn’t a maxim, a rule, a commandment, or a verse of scripture.

As of this moment I’ve written exactly half of the seventy maxims. Eighteen months ago I’d written about ten fewer than that. People began asking me to actually publish the “Seventy Maxims” book, and I decided to go about it piece-meal. I put out a calendar featuring the first twelve. For that calendar I needed to write two new ones. I cannibalized a punch line, and came up with “Close air-support and friendly fire should be easier to tell apart.” Then I mused upon food, and came up with “If the food is good enough, the grunts will stop complaining about the incoming fire.”

Not bad. Some of my friends in the military tell me they’re actually words to live by.

Well, the calendar sold quite well, paying the bills for a few months, so I decided to do it again for 2013. But this year I found myself seven maxims short of the dozen I needed. In retrospect, I only needed to write ninety-five words to fill those seven slots. Ninety-five! Some people can type that many words in a minute.

Well, it took me from January until late October. Granted, I wasn’t thinking about it full-time, but that’s still ten months to write ninety-five words.

Would you like to see them? Here are all ninety-five, complete with their accompanying maxim numbers (those aren’t included in the word-count.)

  • Maxim 17: The longer everything goes according to plan, the bigger the impending disaster
  • Maxim 18: If the officers are leading from in front, watch for an attack from the rear
  • Maxim 19: The world is richer when you turn enemies into friends, but that's not the same as you being richer 
  • Maxim 20: If you're not willing to shell your own position, you're not willing to win
  • Maxim 22: If you can see the whites of their eyes, somebody's done something wrong.
  • Maxim 23: The company mess and friendly fire should be easier to tell apart.
  • Maxim 24: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from a big gun


So, how did I do it?

One method I use for crafting these is subversion. It’s a common enough trick for writing humor to begin with, and it lends itself spectacularly well to this task. Find something already pithy, and break it in such a way that it means something new, but remains pithy. Easy, right?

Maxim 24 is a great example. We’re all familiar with the original quote from Arthur C. Clarke: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” It’s already been subverted by Barry Gehm, who said “any technology distinguishable from magic is insufficiently advanced,” so the precedent for further ruin has been set.

My subversion in Maxim 24, “indistinguishable from a big gun,” plays on the fact that most technology can be weaponized, or indeed grew out of a need for weapons. It was perfect for the project. And because the reader, familiar with the original, gets surprised by the new ending, it stands a good chance of garnering a laugh and being remembered.

Another method is “going back to the well,” or the “running gag.” This wouldn’t seem to work well for stand-alone aphorisms, but if a particular bit of wordplay worked once, it might work again. I noticed that “friendly fire” kept cropping up in the comic, and so I looked at Maxim 5 (close air-support and friendly fire should be easier to tell apart) and asked myself what besides “close air-support” might be dangerous to the troops.

Bad chow, obviously. Or maybe an angry cook. Regardless, I did a simple word-swap on my own earlier maxim, and came up with #23 above, comparing friendly fire to the company mess. And yes, I fully intend to return to that particular well again. In fact, at this point people probably expect it. Possible options for the future comparison to friendly fire include “new equipment,” “the lowest bidder,” and “HALO (High Altitude, Low Open) paratroopers” (although that last one’s a bit wordy. Hilarious, but wordy.)

Sometimes, though, it’s whole cloth. Forget subversion or running gags, both of which leverage an existing structure. Maxim 20, the one about shelling your own position, grew out of a line of dialog from one of the characters. I wrote something very close to that (“if you really want to win, try shelling yourself”) but it didn’t scan quite right. So I tweaked it a bit, and then realized it sounded like an aphorism. It sounded like the character was quoting somebody.

That moment when you discover you’ve written dialog like that? That’s gold, right there. I recognized it immediately, and re-framed the text so that the character in question was citing Maxim 20, instead of just rattling off something he’d heard.

Maxims 13 through 24 are done, and I’ve illustrated them for the 2013 calendar (available for pre-order here.) Next year I only need to come up with three maxims in order to fill the 25 through 36 slot. But the 2015 calendar takes me into uncharted waters. I have exactly three maxims in that space right now – numbers 37, 38, and 39, which means that at some point between now and October of 2014, I need to write nine new maxims, which is probably around 125 words.

But thinking about it in terms of word-count is not going to get me there. Between now and then I need to be filling my head with things to subvert, fresh gags to return to, and I need to write thousands of words of good dialog in the hope of striking gold a few times. Because unfortunately, the trick to writing a few really good words is the same trick for just about everything else we writers want to accomplish. Write a lot of probably crappy words first.