Holy shit, two posts in two weeks!?!?!?

It’s sad that my posting here has gotten so sporadic that it’s worthy of comment, but honestly, there’s only so much time in the day between writing, social media, binge-watching TrueBlood (no spoilers, fuckers, I’m only on Season 5) and building and re-building my Magic decks.

I said decks. Get your minds out of the gutter.

And while you’re getting your minds out of the gutter, get your asses to Winston-Salem, NC next weekend (July 11-13) for the first ever ConGregate SF & Fantasy con! A group of veteran con runners has gotten together with a bunch of awesome guests (and me, but there’s gotta some filler in the sausage) to put on the Piedmont Triad’s newest con!

Some of you may know that Greensboro’s StellarCon is on hiatus for a while, so hopefully this will fill the void and supplement that show when/if it comes back. I enjoyed the one StellarCon I went to, but it overlapped with Connooga, which had triple the attendance, so I had to pick that one the next year.

So here’s my ConGregate schedule -

Friday

4PM – Signing with AJ Hartley – I always love hanging out with AJ, and he’s got a new audiobook out where Thorin Oakenshield reads his (and James Hewson’s) novelization of Omlet, Prince of Danish. If you don’t get that joke, you don’t hang out with enough Shakespeare nerds in bars. And there are enough Shakespeare nerds at ConGregate to remedy that problem.

8PM – Writing “the Other” – Yes, I am a straight white man on a panel about writing outsiders in society. But I asked to be on the panel, because it is something I write and something I’m interested in, and there are women (!) and people of color (!!) on the panel.

10PM – What are “You” Reading? – this is an audience participation panel, where people bring books to talk about and tell what they’re reading and why. I’m going to bring some books to give away! I don’t know what yet, I just thought of it as I was typing this. I gotta go email some publishers! BRB.

Okay, email sent. So hopefully I’ll have some new books in addition to some gems off my bookshelves for you at ConGregate!

Saturday

10AM -Fuck. I know. That’s pretty damned early. And I’m moderating back-to-back panels. BUT, they’re pretty damned cool panels. In the first one – at 10AM – we will “Build a Big Bad Radioactive Bug” – the panel and audience will create a monster. A badass but beatable monster designed by committee. I know, it’s gonna be an elephant. Or a platypus.

11AM - Part 2 – An entirely new panel will have to come up with ways to “Kill the Big Bad Radioactive Bug” that we built in the first panel. I wish Jason Cordova was gonna be here – this is totally up his kaiju alley.

5PM - Signing with James Maxey. Or James the Lesser as he shall now be know thanks to his incredible fitness regime and weight loss over the last few years. Always fun hanging with James. Come buy my shit.

Sunday

1PM - Fairies and Vampires and Shit – I know that’s not the real title, but that’s what you’re gonna get outta me on Sunday afternoon. At least by this point my hangover will be gone. This should be a fun wrap-up, light and frothy and talking about made-up shit that goes bump in the night.

 

You may notice I am not doing a reading at this con. I hate reading my prose aloud, honestly, and I hate sitting through readings of other people’s prose. The lone exception is the Tiny Pirate Ninja Theatre that Misty Massey and I created during our readings at Mysticon a couple years ago. If there are toys, and a potential for mayhem, then I suppose it’s alright.

And when is “Alright” going to become a real word? It’s pissing me off. But I digress.

I once heard someone misread Peter David’s column of that name as “Booty Deegress” and have wanted to say it that was ever since, but I’m always afraid no one will understand what I’m saying or they’ll just think I don’t know how to pronounce digress and am stupid. Booty deegress.

So I’m not doing a reading, but I promise to carry books of my poetry with me and if you buy me a drink I’ll read a poem in the bar, in full performance voice. Seriously. I dare you.

Hope to see all y’all at ConGregate!

Updates and a sample

So since last I posted here I’ve started a new job, worked there three months, got unceremoniously fired from new job, spent a month setting up a new company that will begin operations on July 1 to hopefully provide self-employed income for my family, had a great time at ConCarolinas, shared a booth with Get Some Game at HeroesCon, and written a bunch of shit. I’m still working on In the Still of the Knight, Black Knight Chronicles #5, but we’re moving ahead apace with that one and it should be out by the end of this year. I’m also working on a new Bubba for next month, and the first in a series of novellas featuring a new character for me – Quincy Harker, Demon Hunter.

Quincy Harker is the ridiculously long-lived son of Jonathan Harker and Mina Murray. You might have heard of them – they had a run-in with a vampire a while back. Well, when Dracula shared blood with Mina Murray, it affected her DNA, casing her child Quincy to be born a little more than human. He’s not a vampire, but he’s not exactly human, either. And he’s a wizard. And a bit of an asshole, honestly. He’s the guy you call when the shit has already hit the fan and been sprayed all over the room, because he’s not afraid to get his boots dirty. The first Quincy Harker novella will be available next month. Here’s a little sample – not safe for kids.

 

Quincy Harker, Demon Hunter Episode 1 - 

I fuckin’ hate demons. That’s what ran through my head as I got out of the car and walked up the sidewalk to the Garda home. It was a nice place, for the suburbs. There was a two-car garage off to one side, a neatly manicured lawn leading up to flowerbeds in front of a nice little porch, and an SUV in the driveway because I’m sure the garage was full of bicycles, tools, lawnmowers and other shit that I only see when I get a call out here in the ‘burbs. I live in a condo in the middle of downtown Charlotte, so the only time I see lawn equipment is when I get lost in a home improvement store looking for a new mallet or maybe a new wheel for my grinder.

I walked up to the pale yellow siding nightmare of a home and stepped up on the front porch. The welcome mat was a little askew, the only imperfect thing in an otherwise totally Good Housekeeping image. I took a deep breath and closed my eyes, opening my second sight and taking a look around. My third eye saw nothing out of the ordinary on the porch, no roiling black evil miasma ready to consume my soul and suck me down into the depths of Hell. It looked just as Martha Stewart in the supernatural spectrum as it did in the visible one. Good, I thought, maybe the little darlin’s just on the rag and I can get the fuck out of here and back uptown before the game lets out and traffic gets stupid. 

I opened my eyes and snapped back to the mundane world. After a second to adjust back to seeing the world with my eyes instead of my soul, I rang the bell. A dog immediately went apeshit on the other side of the door, as if the real trouble wasn’t already in the house. A couple of shouted “shut up”s later, the door opened and a flushed forty-something man opened the door. The top of his balding head stopped at about my nose, but I’m tall, so I was used to that. His polo shirt had sweat stains under his man boobs, and it stretched tight across his spectacular belly. He looked up at me, close-set brown eyes set deep in a florid face, capped off with a red nose that only happens when you’ve hit the bottle pretty hard for a pretty long time.

“You Harker?” He asked, glaring up at me.

“Yep.” I said.

“You got ID?” He asked.

No. I just randomly wander up to houses in suburbia and pretend to be an exorcist, hoping to arrive at the exact time their appointment was set for. I bit my tongue before that one could escape and just handed him my card.

“You got any photo ID?” He had that belligerent tone of a middle manager, the kind of guy that shits on all his employees’ good ideas until somebody smarter than him hears them, then takes credit for the good one.

I didn’t bother to hold back this time. “You want my badge number, too? This shit doesn’t exactly come with a union card, pal. You called me, remember? I’m here, the right time, the right address, now let’s see if I’m in the right place. I’m Quincy Harker, you got something needs banishing or should I just go back to my sofa and NFL network?”

“Sorry, sorry. No need to be a —“ he cut himself off, but I didn’t.

“Dick? Yeah, I’m a dick. You’re the stupid bastard who lets a demon into his teenage daughter, yanking me off the couch in the middle of the first Panthers playoff run in living memory, but of course I’m a dick because I didn’t immediately take off my hat and wipe my shoes before entering your fucking Ikea palace here. Now point me towards your daughter’s room and get out of my way before I do something really dickish, like turn you into a toad.” I pushed past the stammering jackoff and stomped towards the stairs, registering him mumbling something about the bedroom at the end of the hall. I didn’t need his instructions, as soon as I stepped onto the second floor I could feel what I was there for. This time the sense of evil, of just wrongness was so strong I didn’t need my Sight to find it. It almost knocked me over the second I turned toward the door.

The hallway was just like a normal two-story house, scene for slaughter in so many slasher flicks. There was a small bathroom to the right of the stairs, and three bedrooms arranged around the left-hand hallway. One of these would be the master bedroom, with its own bath, and the other two would be the kids’ rooms. The one on the left had pictures of motorcycles and rock bands with more makeup than KISS, but the one at the end of the hall was unadorned. Just a simple brass nameplate announcing it as Kayleigh’s room.

I could tell from thirty feet away that Kayleigh’s room had some seriously evil shit in it. I rolled my head and cracked my knuckles, then opened up my Second Sight to get a good look at the evil in the magical spectrum.

I slammed my Sight shut almost as quickly as it came into focus, shaking my head to clear the images from my mind. But there is no Visine for the mind’s eye, and I was stuck with that shit forever. Whatever was on the other side of that door wasn’t human, was powerful as shit, and was really hungry. It was also in a really good mood, which disturbed the fuck out of me. There’s nothing worse than a happy demon, at least as far as the humans around it are concerned.

“Mr. Garda?” I yelled down the stairs.

“Yes?” His voice came back. I might have heard ice cubes jingle in a glass. Good, if this was as bad as I thought it was, he was going to need to get seriously drunk.

“Who else is home?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, who else is in the building? Is your wife here? Your son?” I left off the “jackass,” but it was pretty well implied.

“No, they’re gone. My wife is out of town on business for two weeks, and my son has been staying at a friend’s house since Kayliegh got sick. It’s just you, me and Kayleigh.” And whatever has got its claws wrapped around Kayleigh’s soul. 

“That’s good. You might want to leave yourself for a little while.” Please don’t ask a lot of fucking questions.

“Why?”

Shit. “Because what I’m dealing with up here is pretty dangerous, and I don’t want you to get hurt.” And I don’t want this fucker to have another vessel to jump to if your daughter suddenly becomes uninhabitable.

“I don’t think I can -“

“Would you please just get the fuck out so I can quit worrying about your fat ass and save your daughter?” I yelled. Maybe a little direct, but I really didn’t want to have to fight this thing more than once. I heard a clatter of footsteps and then the front door slammed shut. Nice. I didn’t believe he’d actually leave. Maybe that panicked edge in my voice was useful after all.

I turned back to the door. “Just you and me, now, buddy. So why don’t you come out of the girl and let’s handle this like men?”

The voice that answered rang through my head like a dentist’s drill, piercing and ululating. “I can’t come out. Not yet. But when I do you’ll see that I’m nothing like a man.” Then it laughed, and in that laugh were the screams of millennia of tormented souls, all shrieking together to make one terrible sound.

“Then I guess I have to come in.” I said, and strode to the door. I lifted a size 11 Doc Marten and kicked the door just beside the lock. The jamb splintered, the door flew in, and my worst nightmares were realized.

The Poetry of Science Fiction

SciFi Image

Otherworldly Lines

If you are not moved by Roy Batty’s final words at the end of “Blade Runner,” then you are the replicant—a poorly built one at that, lacking an emotions chip. Just in case you have forgotten those impassioned words, here they are:

“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.”

Wow! The ‘wow’ was this author’s uncontrollable reaction, not part of the famous quote itself.

“No, I am your father.” Hearing these five words for the first time felt like getting hit in the face with a bag of bricks. If you are lost, exit the cave right now—you have been in there way too long. This is Darth Vader’s revelation to Luke Skywalker in “The Empire Strikes Back.” It may not seem like a big deal nowadays, but back in 1980, it was as mind-blowing as it could get. Note: Many people seem to think that the line was, “Luke, I am your father,” but it’s not. See for yourself.

Coming off an extremely disappointing, “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” in 1979, expectations were low when “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” released three years later. It has been 32 years since, and with all the subsequent “Star Trek” movies, many fans believe that “Star Trek II” outshines them all. This brief interaction has a lot to do with it:

Spock: “The needs of the many outweigh…”

Kirk: “The needs of the few.”

Spock: “Or the one.”

Goose bumps anyone? Here are some things you may not know about our favorite sequel.

This was just a very short list of breathtaking lines. Weirdmedia has 100 out-of-this-world quotes for you to feast on.

Futuristic Subway

 

It’s What Got Us Here

Take a moment and think of all of the wonderful innovations used regularly. We have Netflix streaming, BetFair gaming, satellite radio, and GPS gadgets, just to name a few. These and many more life-changing inventions are here because of dreamers, constantly trying to reach for the stars.

What inspired these brilliant minds and did Science Fiction play a role? Were they fans of “Star Trek” or H. G. Wells? Asking these questions is not just important—it is our responsibility as well. The answers could provide us with a blueprint for ingenuity and set our children on similar paths. It could make the world a better place for generations to come. Check out the top ten most influential Science Fiction writers, provided by Listverse. I’m surprised that Gene Roddenberry was not on the list.

The Science Fiction genre offers a universe of poetry that sparks the imagination and enriches the soul. The importance of such beauty cannot be overstated. The inspiration it releases into the atmosphere on a daily basis allows us all to dream. And dreaming is the seed of discovery and creation.

 

This is a guest post by Michael Page. Michael is an avid sci-fi fan and film enthusiast. When not blogging about all things science fiction, he enjoys binging on the latest video games and eating chinese food.

Intro to Magic: The Gathering Part 1, the concepts

As I’ve gotten back into playing Magic:The Gathering, it’s given me a way back to blogging, but I realize that not everyone who reads my blog plays Magic. Or has any idea about how to play Magic. And when my friend T was trying to learn the game, she wanted to know what book she could buy that would teach her how to play, and how to build decks, and all that jazz. That’s when I realized that there really isn’t a good beginner’s guide to Magic right now. So I figured I’d write one.

You know, along with all my other projects.

But I also thought that if I did it as a series of blog posts first, that would allow me to kill multiple birds with one stone. I get to write the Magic book I want to see available. I get my blog back on track and it becomes a place for people to find out more about me and my writing. And I get to do it in small enough snippets to fit it in between the other projects I’m working on.

So here’s the beginning. This is Part 1, the general concepts.

You are a Planeswalker. This is the intro to Magic:The Gathering. Four little words, that started a bajillion-dollar business. You are a Planeswalker. Right there in that sentence is a lot of information, and a lot of mystery. It tells you that you’re going to go somewhere outside yourself, you’re going to have an element of roleplaying in the game, and that there will be something new and exciting involved. Planeswalker – what the hell is that, anyway? Well, we’ll get there.

At its heart, Magic (or MTG) is a collectible card game. Two or more players (but for the purposes of most examples here, two) take on the role of wizards trying to destroy their opponents. Both players start with a predetermined life total, and they can win the game either by reducing their opponent’s life total to zero or by forcing them draw a card when they are out of cards to draw. That’s most of it. There are a few alternate win conditions that are dependent on cards, but those are the most common paths to victory.

As with life, there are plenty of examples in MTG that contradict the basic rules. There are advanced cards that literally change the win conditions of the game, but they are few and far between. What I’m going to try to do is present the normal circumstances of the game, and you keep hold of the basic understanding that if there’s a card on the table that says that the normal rules are suspended for a time, that card applies. For example, some cards say that if you have X amount of life (where X is typically greater than your starting life total) you win. If that card is in play, you have a third path to victory. But those are outliers and we won’t spend too much time on them.

So you have a deck of cards, and you have a friend with a deck. Those two things are all you really need to play Magic. Cards and a friend. And frankly, if you’re short on one and have plenty of the other, there are local game stores to help you acquire whichever one you’re lacking.

So sit down with your friend and your deck, and you’re ready to play. You each start with 20 life. Your job is to bash your opponent to zero while not allowing your opponent to bash you to zero. You do this by casting spells. And you cast spells by using something called mana.

Mana is the energy of the world around you. The elemental forces, if you will. There are five different colors of mana, each representative of a different style of magic. Over time, you’ll determine what type of magic best suits your personality and play style, and you will naturally gravitate toward those types of decks. Each color has a personality, and types of creatures that go along with it.

The five colors of mana are Black, Blue, Green, Red, and White.

Black is the color of death, disease and things that go bump in the night. Creatures like zombies, vampires, ghouls, ghosts and demons are typically black. Black spells frequently use your life total as a resource. You may spend life to draw cards, summon creatures, deal damage, etc.  Black has a lot of spells that take life from your opponent and give it to you. Black also has spells of disruption, that take cards out of an opponent’s hand or destroy the creatures that they have out on the table. I play a lot of black decks, because I write horror novels. What do you expect me to play, decks full of sunshine and unicorns?

Blue is the color of rational thought and control. Blue is also the color of the sea and sky , so lots of fish, merfolk, birds and flying creatures. Blue has long been considered one of the most powerful colors in MTG, partly because it features lots of spells that let players draw extra cards. Having more cards than your opponents is a huge advantage in game play, so it’s never something that should be overlooked. Blue is also very disruptive, because it has counter-magic. Basically spells that just say “NO” to anything your opponent wants to do. I like to play blue because I like to be in control, but it’s sometimes considered an “un-fun” color.

We’ll get to the other three colors next time, because I want to keep these under 1,000 words and I babbled too much in the beginning. Anyway, I’ll try to do at least one of these Magic intro posts each week, and maybe by the end of the year I’ll have the guide written. If anybody has any hookups at WOTC, I need to know who can give me permission to use their trademarks like mana symbols in illustrations.

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What are you working on?

It’s been a little quiet lately on the release front, since Paint it Black dropped in October, so I thought I’d give you a little idea of what’s going on at the keyboard around here. Just to remind folks that I do a little more than play Magic and go to my day job.

1) The dragon book is percolating. I’ll dust it off in a couple months and see what I think of it. I already know it’s choppy and the ending is rushed, so there’s probably a good 10,000 words to be added in to make the resolution make sense and not make people feel like I just threw them off a cliff. I’ll pick that up after I finish this next little gem.

2) I’m working on Black Knight 5 - In the Still of the Knight. This is the first of a major two-part arc that the whole series has been building up to. I’m doing lots of nasty things to the boys and everyone around them, so I fully expect some hate mail. But I think it’s going to be a helluva story, so that should outweigh the pain in the end. I really need to write 5 & 6 together, because there is a little bit of a cliffhanger between them. Not sure how that’s going to work out, because I’ve never written that way before. That’s why I have a brilliant editor – to get me through the crap I don’t know how to do. I hope to be finished with book 5 by the end of winter and book 6 sometime later in the year. Book 6 will not release in 2014, no matter when I finish it.

3) I’m also working on a traditional fantasy thing based off an old D&D character I used to play. He was the world’s most impulsive thief, and his favorite phrase was “What’s the worst that could happen?” Then he found out. It feels like a trilogy, but I gotta write the first one first. So far I like the characters, just gotta figure out the plot and build the world. I’m starting to understand why traditional fantasy novels are so friggin’ long – you gotta explain a lot more shit than when you’re writing in the same world your readers live in. World-building is hard, y’all.

4) I haven’t forgotten Bubba, but it’ll probably be March before a new Bubba story hits the street, thanks to my other commitments. But in the meantime, there’ll be another Steampunk story featuring Bubba’s great-grandpappy Beauregard out in a couple weeks. It’s in the anthology Capes & Clockwork, coming soon from Dark Oak.

5) And speaking of Dark Oak, the submission period for Big Bad 2 – an Eviller Anthology (not the real title) is almost over, and I’ve started picking through some of the subs. There are  very few open slots this time, so the competition is going to be fierce. But we’ve also received submissions from some invited writers that are just absolutely goddam amazing, so I think this anthology will be killer. Assuming I ever get around to writing my story for it, that is!

6) And then there are incorporation documents and paperwork for getting the Second Star Foundation started. Every time I turn around it feels like another friend of mine is diagnosed with another life-threatening illness that keeps them unable to work and earn, so creating the safety net of a charity designed for writers that are struck down by disease is a huge priority for me. I’ll give you more details as they arise, but you can read all about the beginnings of it over at Magical Words.

And I play Magic a couple times a week and I have a full-time job. Not to mention the fact that I still pick up theatre gigs for extra cash. So that’s what’s going on in my world. What of those projects, if any, excites you the most?

Drafting Theros – Successes and Failures

So I think of myself a something of a Limited specialist. At my local game shop (Get Some Game) we draft every Friday night, and there are a fair number of really solid players there. I’m not the best in the store, but I’m usually in the top 5-6. But Theros drafting has completely dumbfounded me. I have had only limited success in the format since the set came out (get it, limited success in Limited? See what I did there? It’s gonna get worse, I promise), winning very few of the drafts that I’ve played and rarely coming in Top 4 in our weekly drafts.

So there are few things that I wanted to talk about as my failures have continued to pile up, all of these being things that have kicked my ass over the months that we’ve been drafting this set.

1) Green/Red Monsters is pretty good, and often pretty open. I actually went against type last weekend and won a three-round draft going with Green/Red Monsters. I started out trying to be Blue/Red, but moved into Green after a Nemesis of Mortals wheeled. That means it went all the way around the table and made it back to me. When a really strong card like Nemesis of Mortals does this it typically means that no one is playing that color, so you can take anything you want in that color with impunity. From there I started picking up Satyrs. Not the piping one, I think Satyr Piper sucks ass, but all the others. Voyaging Satyr is an incredible two-drop in Green, giving a body and ramp. Satyr Hedonist has an awesome sac effect that lets you drop a monster really fast, and Satyr Rambler is just solid, a 2/1 body with trample for two mana. Slap a Dragon Mantle on him and you’re golden. So I rode the back of my Nessian Asps and my Nemesisesisesis to victory. And a Mistcutter Hydra, which is just really bad news for your opponent who is playing almost mono-blue.

2) Green heroic guys are trap cards. I have been such a sucker for Staunch-Hearted Warriors that I must have lost half a dozen matches because of them. The initial cost is too high, and they fall prey to Voyage’s End or Griptide just as easily as a more reasonably costed card. And don’t get me started on the Battlemaster. So Green heroic guys are to be avoided.

3) Minotaurs are fun. There are a fair number of minotaurs in the set, more than enough to draft a tribal minotaur deck, and the Kragma Warcaller often gets passed around the table, so he can be a fairly late pick. Grab all of those guys you can and just curve out perfectly from Deathbellow Raider to Minotaur Skullcleaver to Borderland Minotaur to Kragma Warcaller and smash face. Supplement with Harpies for flyer defense and it’s a thing.

4) Flyers are tough. Blue/White flyers is totally a thing, and when you add in that white has the best heroic guys, and blue has the best bestow creature, you can make an unstoppable air force pretty easily. Wingsteed Rider, Phalanx Leader, Nimbus Nyad, Fabled Hero, Akroan Hoplite, Battlewise Hoplite, Triton Fortune Hunter are all valid cards, and then at the top of the curve you have all the sphinxes for beatdown. Definitely a solid strategy, but a popular one, so you’re gonna have to fight for your cards and get a little lucky to get enough stuff to make it work. But one Phalanx Leader and a couple of Chosen of Heliod makes for a decent little army.

5) Pay attention to what’s open. I have such a problem with this, because I’ll try to lock in a strategy based on one rare, and I do better when I pay attention to the signals and just take what the table gives me. I have to pay more attention to taking early removal and bombs, then worrying about solidifying a strategy in packs 2-3.

So there are a few tips based off my mistakes in Theros drafting. If you’ve got anything to share, leave it in the comments!

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Stepping Up

So folks who sometimes stop by this little corner of the interwebs may have seen that over the past year and change I’ve gone back to an old pasttime – Magic:The Gathering (or Magic:The Addiction). I started playing again at LibertyCon because Brandon Sanderson invited me to a draft with him, and I had a blast, remembering how much I enjoyed the game all those years ago. That was the first step. Then I found a local game shop that I really like, and it was all downhill from there. I’ve spent a piece of almost every week since slinging cards, trading cards, and generally nerding out over chunks of cardboard.

For those that have never played, Magic is kinda like a blend of poker, chess and Dungeons & Dragons. It’s a collectible strategic card game set in a fantasy environment with awesome art and lots of smart marketing. And I’m totally hooked. I’ve primarily focused on my Limited play since coming back to the game (Limited is when you take a set of new packs of cards, open them and build a deck from what you find there). I enjoy Limited because the playing field is pretty level, and I can fall back on my game theory and understanding to lead me to some modicum of success. I’m a decent Limited player, but most of the major tournaments are Constructed format (Constructed is when you build a competitive deck from all the cards you own or can borrow and bring that to the tournament), so I decided about a month ago that it was time to step up my Constructed game.

In Magic there are two main ways to build a deck – homebrew something that you think will be awesome, or go on the internet and get the deck list from last week’s major tournament winner. After a year and change of homebrewing without real success, I moved on to Plan B and built a Mono-Black (with a splash of white) deck. I splashed white for Blood Baron of Vizkopa, because it has protection from white and black, which makes it very difficult for many decks to deal with. Once it resolves, it’s going to give a lot of people a lot of problems.

Last weekend was a Star City Games Super Invitational Qualifier tournament at Be There Games in Indian Trail. It’s not far from my house, and I’d heard good things about their events, and a bunch of my friends were going, so I decided to give it a shot. I got there and started to register my deck (bigger tournaments have you list the cards in your deck and then do random deck checks to fight cheating) and took a little advice from my friend Joe. Joe has had a lot of tournament success recently, winning two major events this year, so I listen to his advice. I was running one Prophetic Prism so that when I stole a card with my Nightveil Specter I could cast it no matter what. Joe suggested I cut that, because I’ll often pull land with the Specter and be able to cast the card anyway. That allowed me to add one more Blood Baron, upping the threat level of the deck considerably.

Unfortunately I had no answer for the other glaring error Joe pointed out in my deck. When I was tweaking things I cut back on my white mana sources from eight to four. I cut the Godless Shrines and kept the Temples of Silence, which meant that there could be times I was going to have mana troubles. I took a live and learn attitude to this mistake and hoped it wouldn’t screw me too badly. It didn’t crush me, but definitely ended up being relevant.

Round 1 – I played against a very nice guy from Atlanta (which set my tone for the whole day – all my opponents were very cool, which made the day way better) who was playing a Mono-red aggro deck. This deck feels on the surface like a terrible matchup for me, and in fact I had play-tested with Taco in a small tournament the week before and got my ass kicked by his mono-red deck. My Round 1 opponent had a couple of rough draws, but was still able to get some early threats on board, but I managed to push through his pile of early attackers and bad draws and beat him down 2-0 (Magic tournament matches are best of three).

Round 2 – Another nice dude, one of the other oldest guys in the room (he even had a few years on me). His name was Stephen, and he was playing a white weenie deck (lots of small creatures that kill with a swarming strategy). He couldn’t get anything going and once I resolved a Blood Baron (which has protection from white so he had no answers for it) it was pretty much game over. Game 2 I think I killed him with a swarm of Pack Rats. 2-0 and I was feeling pretty good about my deck and myself.

Then I got to Round 3, and found out what a problem my deck could be when I played a mirror match (a mirror match is what happens when two players piloting the same deck get matched up against each other). And my opponent had a lot more tournament experience than me, and more experience with the deck, and had better draws to boot. So a better player with more experience and better draws beat me in less than fifteen minutes out of the fifty-minute round. I was still in the running at 2-1, but couldn’t afford to lose another match.

Round 4 I clashed with Chris, another nice dude from Augusta. I don’t remember what his deck was, but I remember they were very good matches. Beating him was far from easy, with back-and-forth matches and the first time all day I went to Game 3. We were 1-1 going into Game 3 and it was going to come down to who got their deck going first. I got the advantage and took down the match, but don’t remember any of the details of the match.

Round 5 should have been better than it was, but I got stuck in the mirror match again, against a better player again, with more experience again, and got my ass kicked again.

Since I was eliminated from contention for Top 8 and major prizes (major for Magic, but first place was $400, which is a good day no matter how you look at it) I went ahead and dropped out of the tournament and entered a booster draft. Back in my Limited comfort zone I went 3-0 to win the booster draft and redeem myself a little for the day.

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Poverty

There’s a lot going on right now about poverty, and welfare, and Obamacare, and insurance, and all sorts of other “are”s, and some of the current discourse makes me want to puke.

For example, there’s a post out there about how people on welfare shouldn’t have a cell phone or an iPad, and that’s an incontrovertible fact. Well, lemme lay this out there for you – there are no incontrovertible facts about poverty, and until you’ve lived in somebody’s house, you should probably keep your damn mouth shut about them. If you live in your car, you might be better off paying a cell phone bill than a rent bill to actually get a job. And if you’ve recently gone from not-broke to broke as hell, you might still have a few nice things left over that were worth more to you either functionally or sentimentally than they were to pawn or sell on Craigslist.

Look, I get it. We’re all raised to believe that you work hard and good things happen, but it doesn’t always work out that way. Sometimes you make one bad decision and it screws you financially for years, or maybe even generations. Sometimes you’re just unlucky, or you didn’t do well in school, or something outside your control screwed you, and you need a hand getting back on your feet. I’ve certainly had my fair share of times over the years when I’ve had it rough and had to beg and borrow to make ends meet, and without help of friends and family I wouldn’t have made it through.

So if you’ve got enough to get by, good on you. If you can reach down and help someone out, please do so. You never know who you’re helping get out of a tight spot. And someday it might be you.

And if you want to be judgmental and not share any drop of the milk of human kindness, then go fuck yourself.

Big Bad 2 – Deadline Extended!

We’ve gotten some great submissions for The Big Bad 2, but I want more! To that end, we have extended the submission deadline until January 1, 2014. So if you didn’t have time to put something together before now, well, now you do! After all, you didn’t want to do NaNoWriMo or spend holiday time with your family, did you?

Hell no! Get to work, penmonkey!

Owwwww

So here’s my post for the week – OW MY FUCKING FOOT HURTS.

Thank you, and goodnight.

Nah, I’ll do better, but my fucking foot does hurt. But since I usually don’t type with my feet, it’s pretty much irrelevant to my work here, isn’t it? Yep, so you get a blog post. A boring one, but a blog post nonetheless.

I haven’t written shit this week, but I got 3-4K words done on a new Bubba story and a new YA novels about dragons that I’ve been working on most of the year. Did all that last weekend, then Sunday I jumped into theatre mode hot n’ heavy. I’m directing a Southern farce called Dearly Departed in Rock Hill, SC this fall, and auditions were this week, Sunday – Tuesday. Lots of great women showed up for the six female roles, but we’re short a few actors for the four male roles.

Like three.

So we’re working on that. Hopefully we can scrape up some guys and move forward. I gave us an extra week between auditions and the beginning of rehearsals because I remembered this being an issue the last time I directed for this company.

But at some point I also hurt my foot. I don’t know what I did to cause it, but I have an acute case of achilles tendinitis, which hurts like a bitch. Actually, I think I do know what I did – I drove wrong. I took my dad to the VA hospital on Monday to have a stitch removed from his eyeball (yeah, I said that) after his very successful cataract surgery, and I took Suzy’s car. Now a Nissan Versa is a fine automobile, and I enjoy her car quite a bit usually.

But driving it for six hours apparently causes me to hold me foot and legs in a funny position which seems to have tweaked my Achilles. A lot. It’s better today than it was yesterday, and hopefully through the good graces of Advil and ice, it’ll be almost back to normal tomorrow, but for now – FUCK.

Let’s face it kids, this is a whole lot of sexy to try and carry around on one foot.

So tonight I watched Lost Girl with my foot up and basically dicked around, so I’ll work on some word count tomorrow. In the meantime, you want a taste of the dragon thing I’ve been working on? Here’s a little nibble -

 

 

 

The ride to school gave Rachel a chance to clear her head and cool down a little after the argument with her dad. She knew he meant well, but the methods the mining company used were just so destructive. It seemed like no matter how much they fought, she couldn’t get him to see what she saw so clearly – that there’s no way blowing the tops off mountains could possibly be good for the environment. But it was definitely good for the CEO’s pockets, and the shareholders’ portfolios, and that’s all anybody cared about anymore. Some days Rachel wished she lived in a bigger city instead of the bucolic mountain town, then she could pitch a tent on the city hall lawn and protest. She could pitch a tent here, of course, but people would just think she was camping.

Rachel was still a little lost in thought as she turned into the school parking lot, so she didn’t see the taillights of the Mercedes until it was almost too late. The little coupe stopped on a dime, and Rachel had nowhere to go but to swerve hard left into oncoming traffic if she didn’t want to completely taco her front wheel on Jessica Baker’s back bumper. She knew whose car it was, of course. Not many Mercedes convertibles in the student parking lot, so everybody knew who it belonged to. But all Rachel thought about when she saw the red lights fill her vision was whether or not she could avoid putting her head through the back window of the ragtop. She swerved hard to the left, right into the path of an oncoming pickup.

Brakes squealed, Rachel pedaled hard to clear the front of the truck before it hit her, and she almost made it. The truck’s front bumper just clipped her rear wheel, but it was enough to send Rachel flying sideways off the bike to land on the asphalt. Her head smacked the pavement, hard, and her bike helmet exploded into shards of plastic and styrofoam. Her backpack dug painfully into her back and she felt a sharp burning in her left knee that told her one more pair of jeans was probably done for.

Rachel lay in the parking lot for a few seconds trying to collect herself before she managed to sit up. Just then, the driver of the truck got his vehicle turned off and made it to her side.

“Don’t sit up, you might be really hurt.” Rachel’s heart fell into her stomach at the sound of a familiar voice. Of course it’s Scott Morrison’s truck that I swerve in front of. Because the universe really does hate me. Please tell me it’s the thirteenth. I know it’s Friday, but it’s totally NOT my lucky day. Rachel sagged back to the pavement, wishing she could sink through it into the ground. When the ground steadfastly refused to open up and swallow her, she struggled up to her knees and tried to stand. Her left leg buckled under her, though, and Scott hurried forward to catch her before she fell.

“Hey! You really shouldn’t be standing.” She looked up at his brown eyes full of concern, and her knees went weak all over again. Scott helped her back to a sitting position on the ground and started to look her over for injuries.

“Are you all right?” He asked. “You seem a little …I don’t know. Did you hit your head?”

“No, I’m fine.” Rachel replied. “My helmet did its job. I think I’ve just got a little road rash on one knee. Just help me up and I’ll be fine.” As long as I don’t smell your cologne or look in those eyes again.

“Are you sure? Holy shit! You’re bleeding!” He pointed at her left knee, and sure enough, the fabric was shredded and soaked with blood.

“It’s not a big deal.” She said, trying to wave off the crowd that was gathering. “Just a little scratch. Don’t worry about it. It was totally my fault.” She saw Scott look at her out of the corner of one eye and held up her hands. “No, really! Look, you didn’t even bend the wheel of my bike. Much. Shit.” When she looked closer she could see that the wheel was just enough out of true that she wouldn’t be able to ride it until she got it fixed.

“Look, I’ll take care of the bike. I promise.” Scott said. “And I’ll give you a ride home today. You’re Ben Hampton’s daughter, right? Your dad works with my dad. I think I know where you live. I’ll take you home after school, then give you a ride to the bike shop and pay for the wheel. Okay?” It was more than okay with Rachel, who was getting a fluttery feeling in her stomach at the thought of that much time with Scott Morrison. Maybe today won’t be a total suck-fest after all.

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