Nice Looking Covers

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I’ve done a lot of work to get my Patreon page up over the last couple of weeks.  One of the items I was tooling with in the wee hours of the morning was this composite image of some of my book covers.  And I just think it’s a cool ensemble and wanted to post it.  So…  there it is. 🙂

Now I have to get to bed and try to get some sleep.  Tomorrow is my first day back on day shifts and I expect my body is going to be thoroughly confused…

Time Is Running Out

Time is running out on two superheroic pre-order opportunities!

MASKS, book one of the Secret Origins series, is now up for preorder!  Order now and get the ebook on launch day, which is May 2nd.

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A doomsday cult has risen in Mesa City. 

Signs of the Never-Ending Serpent haunt alleyways and nightmares, and the police seem powerless to stop it.  Medicine Man and Coyote stood against them and Coyote paid the ultimate price.  Her partner hasn’t been seen since.  Gone off the deep end, they say.

Is there no one who can save us from the End of Days?

Red Mantis doesn’t have a lot of experience, but he’s no stranger to combat.  And the mysterious Shadow Puppet appears impervious to death and everywhere at once.  But when faced with the true horrors of the Never-Ending Serpent, will these rookie saviors prove friends or foes?

Nakai and Nizoni Proudtree are Native American kids growing up on the wrong side of Mesa City, where it’s not cool to root for superheroes.  No wonder: the patron cape of the neighborhood is currently on a rampage.  Probably not a good idea to steal his car, then, even if it is for the right reasons…

Masks is a triple play of action, adventure, and pure pulpy fun.  Combining the classic conventions of the genre with gritty new twists, this trio of superheroic tales is sure to please comic book fans young and old.  The featured story “Medicine Man” also earned an honorable mention from the Writers of the Future Contest.  

Pre-order it on Amazon, B&N, iBooks, and Kobo.

You can read chapters one and two of the primary novella right here on the blog!  (Just click those words “one” and “two” right there…)

*

Cowl_Cover_Ebook_miniMay 2nd also happens to be the release date for Hiding Behind the Cowl, a multi-author anthology of superhero tales that features my novella Secret Identities, which will actually become book two in the Secret Origins series!  So if you want a jump on the next background story planned for my Identity Crisis Universe, that’s the way to go!

To look into pre-ordering HBTC on Amazon, click here.

New Website, Same as the Old Website

For the time being, at least, I’m going back to this original theme set-up.  I liked some things about the other one, but my portfolios got all messed up (book covers were pulled away from book descriptions) and I am not enough of an HTML champ to so tweaking shit to make it work.  So…  we’ll go back to this.

Not really news, but… *shrug*

Patreon is Live: “Join Us”

P-my

It took me a while to convince myself of this.  But here it is, at 4:30am my time.  (Because I’m transitioning from night shifts to day shifts, and it’s not an easy task to manage with only 48 hours between work days!)

Are you familiar with Patreon?  I

t’s genius, really.  The old-world concept that artists were supported by patrons who pitched in to keep them producing paintings of plays instead of being stuck day-in and day-out working in the mill.  Hard to produce art when you have to work 50+ hours a week just to pay the bills.

It’s not for everybody and I feel shy and ashamed about asking for such a thing.  But if you’re willing, I won’t stop you…

Click here to check out my Patreon page and see what I have to offer, for as little as a dollar a month.

Also click there if you want to watch the ridiculous video of me babbling while sleep deprived…  it ain’t pretty.

Now, to bed!

New Superhero Fiction: Chapter 2

As I mentioned (again) yesterday, my newest is up for pre-order right now at these locations: Amazon, B&N, iBooks, and Kobo!

I posted Chapter 1 yesterday.  Today, Chapter 2!

MASKS-17-mini

2

RED MANTIS

Am I hallucinating? Mantis wondered, trying to blink the hypoxia from his vision.

But there was no time for it, even if he was.  Go crazy later, he told himself.

Mantis rolled up, off of the crushed bundle on the van floor and onto the cultist whose arm he’d hopefully fractured.  A few more brutal blows to the face and he was certain the guy wasn’t getting up to fight again.

He checked outside.  Phantom Humphrey Bogart still had an arm lock around Hipster Chong’s throat.  The knife arm was no longer flailing viciously, but instead hung limp.

The enemy of my enemy is my friend, Mantis told himself.  At least long enough for me to free the girl and get my footing.

The bundle whimpered as he pulled at the blankets.  Finally, he found a head of dark brown curls wrapped inside and a young girl beneath them.  An even greater level of fear arrested her features when she saw the thorny red mask peering down on her.

“It’s okay, it’s okay,” he said, unravelling her further.

Mantis glanced behind him to confirm what he’d taken for granted.  Hipster Chong was no longer visible—lying unconscious on the ground, most likely.  Instead, there was the faceless figure in the coat and hat, splintered scrapes and gouges plain on his otherwise smooth head.  He stood there with his hands in his pockets, staring on without eyes.

Wooden, Mantis thought.  He has a wooden head!

And his casual stance indicated that he was not an immediate threat to the Red Mantis or the young damsel in distress.

Even under the smothering blanket, the girl was bound with belts and bungee cords.  She wore a school uniform—a blue and white cheerleader’s skirt and top.  Caesar Chavez High.  Not his school, but one of their rivals.  He knew it well.

“Caesar,” he said, the name now too ready on his tongue.  “My name is Cae—I mean…”

Damn!  His first kidnapping rescue and he’d already nearly blown his secret identity!

“You’re from Caesar Chavez High School?” he asked, untying her.  She still hesitated to answer.  “I’m the Red Mantis.  I’m a superhero.  You’re safe now.”

Mantis crawled backwards out of the van and helped the girl out, too.  She favored her right leg, hesitant to put weight on her left.

If that’s the extent of her injuries, he thought, we did pretty well.

The trench coat made room for them.  The hipster cultist lay on the ground, breathing exhaust fumes.

“We should get out of sight,” the wooden-faced figure said.  (Without use of a mouth!) 

“Thanks for the help, sir.  I’m the Red Mantis.”

“I’m called Shadow Puppet.”

You’re the Shadow Puppet?”

The mysterious figure pinched the brim of his hat and gave a slight bow.

Another superhero!  A real superhero!  Mantis was in good company now.

“We should move this guy, too,” Mantis said, nudging Hipster Chong with his foot.

The girl followed suit, but kicked him, hard, while mumbling obscenities.

“He’s a bad guy,” Mantis went on, “but we can’t let him get carbon monoxide poisoning breathing these fumes.”

The Shadow Puppet opened the driver’s side door, leaned in, and turned off the engine.  He came away with the keys and tossed them into the random darkness of the alley.

“Oh,” Mantis said.  “That works, too.

“A job well done, I guess,” he concluded.  “Why don’t we call the cops and get this girl home?”

“Cops have better things to do than get killed,” Shadow Puppet said in a raspy voice.

Mantis cocked an eyebrow beneath his mask.  “Isn’t that…?  Isn’t that from a movie?”

“I came here for a reason,” Shadow Puppet said.

“So did I.  I was patrolling.  I knew there’d been kidnappings lately, and saw this van speed away from a curb as I was coming around a corner.  Seemed suspicious, so I followed it.”  Mantis placed a hand cautiously on the girl’s shoulder.  She nestled in and allowed tears to roll from her eyes, streaking her mascara all over again.  “Did they hurt you?” he asked.  “Did they do anything to you?”

She shook her head, but hooked her fingers around the plates of his armor, digging in and pushing her face harder against him.  It was all coming to a head now, he realized, the full weight of what she’d been through.

“We need to get this girl to a hospital.  And the police.  And her parents.”

“You do that,” Shadow Puppet said.  “Get her taken care of.  I have something else I have to do.”

The trench coat walked away.

“Something else…?”  Mantis secured the girl with one arm and followed.  “What do you mean?  What else are you going to do?”

Shadow Puppet came to an alleyway door on one of the buildings.  A big padlock kept out the uninvited.

The superhero produced a set of lock picks from his coat pocket and went to work.

“I didn’t follow the van.  I followed something else.  A clue, a lead, a trail.  I’m investigating the Never-Ending Serpent cult.  And obviously, I’ve found them.”

We’ve found them,” Mantis corrected.  “And I want to help.”

“I work alone.”

“Alone?  One guy against a whole cult?”

The girl sucked in and choked on a violent syllable—probably a word that wouldn’t pass in Mr. Hernandez’s gym class—and pointed.

Several yards up the alley, another figure in a shiny green hood and cloak was crawling up on all fours.  It must have been the first cultist that Mantis had knocked from the van.  But getting body checked alone wouldn’t have done that much damage.  Maybe Shadow Puppet had intercepted him some time after that.

Red Mantis disengaged from the cheerleader and jogged over to the man on his knees, who slowly cocked his head back enough to see who was towering over him.  (Towering, perhaps, wasn’t the right word—Caesar Hernandez was only five-foot-six.)

Mantis checked the goon back out with a powerful downward punch.

The young brunette was waiting for him when he returned—her rescuer, her protector—and though she hugged only herself now, she resumed a close stance just inches behind him.

“Thank you for the help,” Mantis said.  “And now it’s my turn to help you.  I want in on this.”

“You’re welcome.  But I don’t need help.  They can’t kill me.  I don’t think.”

Those last three words were quieter, less confident.

Something clicked.  Shadow Puppet twisted open the big lock and pulled it free.

“The girl needs your help,” he said.  “Get her out of here.”

She did need his help.  Without him, who knew what might have happened to her?  But saving her was just the tip of the iceberg.  The kidnappings would continue.  The cult would go on.  They were becoming more brazen, more dangerous.  If the rumors were true…

“I heard they killed Coyote.”

Shadow Puppet had his faceless head against the door jamb and was about to ease it open for a peek inside.  He paused now, though.

“I heard that, too.  She was one of the good ones.  I’ve also heard that Medicine Man is on the warpath because of it.”  He turned around.  “The time to strike is now.  To topple this cult on multiple fronts.  But not with her here.”

They both looked at the cheerleader.  She sniffled her wet nose, wiped it with the back of her hand, and stared back with black-streaked, blue eyes.  The fear in those eyes had been displaced now, though, with…  Defiance?

Like she was taking Shadow Puppet’s remark as a challenge and was resolving to meet it.

“We can’t stand here debating,” Shadow Puppet said, turning back to the door and readying his shoulder for a charge.  “On three.”

Mantis held up a hand.  “Wait.  On three?  What ‘on three’?”

“I tracked this scum to this shop.  ‘Papito’s.’  I think it’s a Serpent safe house.  The fact that we’re all here right now, having this conversation, confirms it.  Now there may be more goons inside.  There may not.  But we have to spring with the element of surprise.”

Surprise?  The van ran into the side of their building!” Mantis exclaimed, then caught his own volume and lowered it.  “How could anyone inside not know we’re coming?”

“I just opened the lock,” Shadow Puppet pointed out, dangling it from one black-gloved finger.  “Anyone inside is going to assume we have a key if we come through that door, and therefore must be cultists.”  He dropped the lock with a heavy metallic chink on the asphalt.  “But you’re right, if anyone was in there, they’d probably have come out to see what the hell was up by now.”

The same gloved hand reached out and slowly turned the doorknob.  When it reached its limit, Shadow Puppet leaned further into his ready stance.  “On three…”

“What about the girl?” Mantis demanded.

“Yeah!” the cheerleader agreed.  She gave Mantis a desperate look and raised her empty hands in front of her.

Was she relaying helplessness or asking to be armed?

“Keep her at the rear.  Here we go…”

Impressed as he’d been just minutes ago, Red Mantis was becoming rather doubtful as to the Shadow Puppet’s superhero credentials.

“One, two… three!

* * *

It gets better from there.  (Beginnings are always the most awkward part…)

But to find out, you’ll have to buy it.  That’s it for the free sample.  (Sorry, but hope you enjoyed it!)

Pre-order at these locations: Amazon, B&N, iBooks, and Kobo!

(Pre-orders, through the magic of computer algorithms, boost the visibility of a book when it hits the stands live.  So I appreciate your forward thinking and enthusiasm!)

New Superhero Fiction: Chapter 1

You may or may not be aware, but my newest is up for pre-order right now at these locations: Amazon, B&N, iBooks, and Kobo!

Just the ebook for now, paperback coming later.

But how’s about a free sample first, eh?

MASKS-17-mini

This is Secret Origins: Book One.  The SO trilogy will be all about the histories of some of the mainstream characters in my other Identity Crisis Universe books.  This book consists of a novella, a novelette, and a short story.  And I thought this weekend, I’d share the first two chapters of the cover story, “Masks” —

1

RED MANTIS

The nondescript grey van turned left, without signaling, and rolled lazily into an alleyway.

Another car followed from a distance: a small, red Prius with the headlights switched off.  It was a hybrid model, capable of prowling the streets nearly silent on battery power.  That’s what the driver told himself, at least.  Truthfully, the payments were kind of steep on a gym teacher’s salary in Mesa City, but he loved that car.

Tonight he wasn’t a gym teacher, though.  He was a superhero.

Red Mantis allowed ten seconds to pass after losing sight of the van.  Then he crept the Prius to within a block of the alley, gliding along the curb.

There was no other activity in sight.  It was past ten o’clock at night, after all, and this was a small business neighborhood.  There were no residents here.  No one to notice any suspicious activity.  No one to hear a young girl scream.

He eased to a stop, threw it in park, and turned off the engine.

From across the street, Mantis could see that the alley was flanked by a small adobe-faced shop on the left and a larger, dark building on the right.

Papito’s Tailor and Dry Cleaning was a square, one-story structure with a large, darkened front window.  The mechanical centipede of the rotating dry cleaner’s rack made an ominous shadow on the other side of the glass, but there was no obvious movement inside.

The other place was a much larger lodge hall, three stories of dark brick.  The Honorable Brotherhood of the Sunset Horizon, the sign read.  The lodge crest looked Native American in theme: a red semi-circle resting on a thick black line, irregular, like a brush stroke.  A falcon or hawk soared above and a sinuous snake crawled beneath.

“That even sounds like a cult,” Red Mantis mumbled to himself.  “Why hasn’t anyone looked into these guys?”  He peered over his steering wheel.  “Huh.  Maybe that’s why.”

A smaller sign read: “Food Pantry: Tuesdays 5-7pm” and “Bingo Night: Thursday at 7”.

Maybe I’m chasing the wrong suspicious van

He looked at his watch, its face spun around to the underside of his left wrist to allow for the rigid plastic brace that was strapped to his forearm.  The digital display read 10:14:49, alongside the time zone and his current pulse rate, which was an excited 92 and anticipating more.  (Let’s face it, the watch had probably cost more than he’d needed to spend, too.)

He’d now allowed twenty-seven seconds to pass since the van had left his sight.  Too long.

Without another second of hesitation, Caesar Hernandez—the Red Mantis—popped out of the driver’s seat, adjusted the crimson plates of his segmented combat armor, pulled the pointy-frilled mask down over his face, and burst into action.

The big cargo van idled in the alleyway, its side door ajar, brake lights casting a sinister crimson glare behind it.  Two figures in shiny green robes, like shapeless satin gowns, were struggling with a blanket-wrapped bundle between them.  Or rather, the bundle was struggling in their grip.  One emerald-cloaked cultist was backing away, the other was still inside the cargo hold.

Neither was prepared for the stout, muscular man in red plastic armor who came sprinting into the alley in a wide-curved arc, heading right for them.

The Red Mantis came hurtling through a haze of scarlet-lit exhaust fumes and ploughed straight into the cultist standing on the ground.  The villain was blasted off his feet and thrown to the asphalt.  Thanks to his armor and mastery of balance, Mantis bounced off his victim and near-perfectly replaced him, catching his end of the blanketed burden.

Something squirmed and kicked inside, bound by hooked bungee cords.  The prisoner was petite, not much more than five-feet tall and little over a hundred pounds.

The man on the other end of the bundle stood paralyzed, hunched over in the van, shocked by the sudden transposition he’d just witnessed.  Mantis shoved the writhing thing between them, forcing the second cultist backward and feeding all three of them back into the vehicle.  The cultist—a brown-skinned man with a black scrunchie for a headband—stood with mouth agape and eyes wide in surprise.  His hands unconsciously fumbled with the human bundle as it slipped away from him and folded up on the van floor.

Two red-plated fists struck his bulging eyes shut and slammed him against the van’s opposite hatch.  Mantis then hugged and flung the man bodily.  The thug nearly cleared the prisoner on the floor and rolled against the extended van’s rear doors.

“It’s all in the hips!” Mantis bragged, panting.

He snapped toward the driver’s seat.  (His unexpected speed in the ring had always been Caesar’s greatest asset.)  A third villain, the wheelman, sat half-turned around, arm wrapped around the headrest, hipster glasses mismatched with his heavy Cheech and Chong style mustache.  Just as he opened his yap to fling out a string of curses, Red Mantis’s thick hands slapped onto either side of his head.  He squeezed and pulled simultaneously, jerking the driver half out of his seat.

The Spanish obscenities came fast and loud as the driver tried to wrestle with the forearms that had arrested his face, but he found gripping the irregular arm guards problematic.

Mantis pulled again with his full weight, dragging the now screaming hipster cultist into the cargo space.  He let go with his left hand, only to bring it back with a vengeance.

The blanket-bound captive screamed too, the high-pitched wail of a teenaged girl—Mantis had stepped on her.  The van’s hold was big, but not that big.  Collateral damage was unavoidable when fighting outnumbered in a confined space.

Then the entire world came unhinged: the van was moving!

“The brake!” Mantis realized aloud, spitting the words into the wheelman’s face, as if it were his fault he was no longer standing on it.

Selective darkness moved beyond the windshield as the headlights probed the walls on either side of the alley.

Mantis climbed on top of the kneeling driver and dove between the seats—but found that his broad shoulders with their (perhaps overly ornate) armored plates couldn’t squeeze through.  His head poked into the cab and came to an abrupt stop.

Just in time to see someone new appear in the headlamps.

Mantis gasped.  This headlong tumble into chaos was all happening too fast.

A figure stood before the runaway vehicle, buttoned-up in a trench coat with an old-style fedora on his head.  His hands flashed up as if to somehow stop the two tons of rolling steel.

“Move!” Mantis roared.

But the man only had time to stare up at him.

Half a second later, he was under the van.

Mantis froze.  Hunched over, shoulders pressed between the headrests, too stunned now to act.  The momentum of his attack had been broken and someone had just been run down by the errant vehicle, thanks to his rash, thoughtless assault on the driver.

If he was real.  Did he even have a face? 

In that flash of panic, as the figure had glanced up just before disappearing beneath the van’s nose, Caesar’s eyes had been convinced that there was no face in the V formed by the raincoat’s up-turned collar; nothing at all beneath that archaic hat brim.

His weight jostled as bodies moved behind and beneath him in the chaotic cargo hold.

The van continued to idle further down the alley’s throat, picking up speed.

Hands clawed at Mantis from behind.  Both cultists came at him again—were already on top of him.  The black scrunchie headband, swollen eyes, the hipster glasses, a bloodied nose.

Three men became entangled in a very tight melee, all on top of the poor girl bound in a blanket on the hard steel floor.

Have to end this quickly, he thought.

Luckily, this was his element.  Little did the cultists know that Caesar Hernandez was even more adept at ground work than slugfest.  His days in the MMA circuits had made him a consummate grappler.  Even tangling with two men at once wasn’t much of a challenge when his opponents were untrained in the arts.

He wrapped one flailing arm—he didn’t know whose—against his own shin and pulled.  Something snapped audibly, followed by a howl of pain.  The scrunchie curled to one side, no longer a threat.

Boom!  The van—and their world—suddenly crashed to a violent halt.

The dogpile of bodies lurched forward.

Mantis found himself near the bottom now, with a whimpering lump beneath the small of his back, a hand wedged against his throat, and gritted teeth growling above him.  He heard the click of a switch blade and saw the van’s pale internal light glistening off the thin plane of steel.

“You’re dead, muchacho,” Hipster Chong snarled.  He stabbed down to pierce the would-be hero’s heart, but the strike was blunted by his sturdy plastic armor.

Finally good for something!  The thought blurted across his mind, but his relief was short-lived.

The blade dragged itself across his red chest plate, dropped a quarter-inch off the edge, and found nothing but cloth backing to protect the sternum beneath.  The gap between plates was little more than thick elastic.  The chink in his Red Mantis armor.

A toothy grin split wide beneath the fogged lenses and their thick, black frame.

Every muscle in Mantis’s body exploded in an effort to escape, but they failed to free him.  His burst of motion managed only an inch of disruption.  Not enough to save him from the knife that was about to splinter through his breastbone.

The girl squirmed under him.  Once he was dead, there’d be no one to save her.

Suddenly, two gloved hands appeared on either side of Hipster Chong’s sweaty, wild expression.  Ten fingers curled around his ears and yanked him backward.

He disappeared with a yelp.

Mantis shot up into a sitting position.

Outside the van, Hipster Chong was stabbing wildly at a trench coated figure who now had the thug in a sleeper hold.  The knife landed several vicious points right into the man’s face, but he never blinked.

In fact, he had no eyes.  Nor any other features.  The head beneath the hat brim was smooth, blank.

He had no face at all.

* * *

Chapter 2 up tomorrow!

 

DnD5e XP option

If you understood the code in that title, you’re a nerd.  And that’s okay, nerds are “in” these days.  No more hiding in our parents’ basements (at least not for most of us…)

Anyway, thought I’d post my latest take on dishing out experience for player characters in the 5th edition of Dungeons and Dragons, “the world’s greatest role playing game.”

(BTW, if you want to see more of this stuff, check out my Fifth Edition Creative Companion on the DM’s Guild — it’s pay what you want, so if you want to pay zero, you can.)

female elf with a bow in the forest

EXPERIENCE POINTS AND LEVELING

This is the biggest change I’ve brought to my personal house rules for Fifth Edition D&D.

I’ve always had issues with the traditional Experience Point (XP) system.  It seems to me that it’s pretty much kill-monster-based and collect-gold-based.  If these are the only factors that matter in gaining levels, then they become the only things that matter to the characters.  Any other storytelling or character interaction is irrelevant.  Why bother with that crap when it doesn’t do anything to help me become a greater hero?

I do like that this Fifth Edition emphasizes three aspects of game play: not just combat (which we all enjoy), but also character interaction and exploration.  If there are three aspects to our fantasy adventures, then all three should count toward advancing our heroes through their careers.

Now, there is a way to figure out non-combat XPs in Fifth Edition by calculating encounter difficulty along with the angle of moonlight and alignment of the North Star, etc.  I’m being a tad sarcastic, obviously.  The way they’ve outlined it isn’t a terrible system, but it’s pretty tedious and math-heavy.  More so than I care to deal with.  I want less math and more story.  So here’s what I’ve come up with.

XP is measured in Blocks, acquired by completing Story Objectives. 

If one of your story objectives is to defeat the band of hobgoblin bandits that have been robbing caravans passing through this area, then yes, you get an XP Block by killing all the hobgoblins.  Or at least beating them down and chasing them off, never to return (hopefully).

But your Story Objectives might also include finding a missing person, discovering the identity of a killer, brokering peace between two political factions in a war-torn city, or bringing home a specific item from the long lost ruins of an ancient king’s hidden treasure hold.  These move the story along through use of exploration and character interaction, as well as potentially using the more exciting dice-rolling action of combat.  And they advance your characters and shape your unique world.

Story Objectives might be accomplished each gaming session, or they might take several.  Conversely, you might achieve more than one in a single session, even a single encounter.  Maybe discovering the killer’s identity and bringing him (or her) to justice are two separate objectives laid out by the DM, and after two sessions of tracking and investigation, you pull off both in the evening’s climax encounter.  In that case, BAM! you get two blocks in one fell swoop.

Subplots could also contribute as a character-driven experience.  Let’s say you own a tavern and it mysteriously burns to the ground.  Rather than continue on the main course set up by the DM last adventure, you decide to investigate the fire further.  Instead of chasing the next planned adventure, you go off on a tangent important to your characters.  This is a story in and of itself, and certainly worth some XP.

Other subplots could include investigating the murder of a PC’s parents, suddenly noticing the significance of a trinket, or pursuing a love interest or political office.  All of these character-based story lines can become adventures in and of themselves.

So what is an XP Block?

I call them XP Blocks because the easiest way to track them and chart out level advancement is with our old friend Mr. Graph Paper.  I have come up with two simple formulas for Level Advancement, but I’m only going to talk about one in this blog post, which I recently developed after using the first for a while.

(You can see the other one in my Fifth Edition Creative Companion if you really want to know, but I think this one is the better of the two.)

Leveling Up: The Proficiency Method

Each level is accomplished by achieving a certain number of XP Blocks, just like it is with normal XPs.

The requisite number of Blocks to advance to the next level is equal to your current Proficiency Bonus.

Therefore:

Levels XP Blocks to Level Up
1-4 2
5-8 3
9-12 4
13-16 5
17-20 6

Mr. Graph Paper’s (or Mr. Excel’s) XP Tracking Chart, then, might look like this:

XP TRACKER 1   2   3   4   5     6     7    
Bobfreid the Druid                                  

So the further up you go, the longer it takes to advance, but not so much that you never get to level up.  DMs can regulate the rate by either being stingy or generous with XP Blocks and what constitutes a Story Objective.

Play Tested, Mother Approved

In actual game play, this new XP system has been working out great.  The PCs are advancing at a steady pace but not too fast.  They level up regularly but not every session.  They have to earn those levels.  And, as the DM, I only have to keep track of what is important: milestones in the story.  After all, counting dead monsters and dividing them up is accounting work that I don’t need in life.

Still Chasing My Tail

It’s nearly 4am.  I’ve been working on writing stuff for about 4 hours and I still feel like I haven’t accomplished anything!

I keep reworking or correcting crap that should have been put to sleep long ago.  Even when I have an increasing amount of new, better projects I could be working on.

I make these lists.  And I even remake my lists over and over again!  ‘Cuz every day, there’s a new idea, a new take on priorities, new (and old) projects that have to be reshuffled through.

It never ends.  

When you have to do it all yourself, and only in your spare time–like at 4am on your night off–it just never ends.  New things crop up before you can get the last 20 finished.

Right now, as I write this, I am killing time waiting for Create Space to upload the paperback version of a story years old.  And not because I expect anyone to buy a short story in paperback, but because this is like version 3.67 or something and I have to correct the previous paperback version so it’s consistent…  Okay, it’s a long terrible excuse, but let’s just say that I can never seem to escape from past tangles to get a good forward momentum.

To give you further idea of how backward I am, I am currently listening to a Don Henley *CD* that I bought in 1999.   Yeah!

So my list…  I actually did kind of mark a couple things off of it, at least partially.  I started a few things that I now have to revisit to be sure they take and get done by other (generally cybernetic) parties.

Two major things I wanted to work on:

  1. Revising Masks so I can get the final draft uploaded in time for the release date.
  2. Working on a Patreon account in the vain hope that some folks out there will feel artsy-generous enough to flip some coin to fund these projects.  I’ve actually been thinking of this since before the New Year!  That tells you about my tail-chasing, own-butt-sniffing circular motion that gains little ground.  (And about how I’m not making that a priority because I just can’t believe people do that kind of thing.  But apparently they do.)

But I didn’t do either of those things tonight.

Also need to fix this website.  The new theme isn’t compatible with my portfolios that feature my fictional universes.  (You may have noticed…)  The text and images are askew.  Oh well, not tonight.

Also should have gone to the gym at like midnight.  But who has the motivation to do that at midnight??!!

I did write the beginnings (about 600 words) of  a new space pirate story, which is now a NEW item on my long list.  And my damn list ain’t getting any shorter as it is.  Just what I need…

Okay, got that paperback sent in for processing.  Time for bed!

G’night!

(Sorry, no picture to go on this post.  Couldn’t find a good shot of a dog sniffing its own butt…)

Ten Short Reviews of Contemporary Short SFF

Hugo-nominated blogger Jeffro Johnson gives up the skinny on 10 contemporary SF/F short stories. Worth a look! Maybe you’ll find something you want to read!

Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Okay, the Thorne story is from 2013. I slipped up there! But I’m trying to focus on new stuff here even when I know there is some really good stuff from last year that I ought to have gotten around to. (If a story comes in my email from Lyonesse or Sci Phi Journal that has a copyright date of 2016, though, I don’t even look at it!)

Anyway, I’ve done another five (count ’em, five) short reviews of short sff stories and folded them in to my ongoing rankings. Brian K. Lowe held on to his top spot this time, but I had some pulp revolutionary type come in and say that they liked Louise Sorensen’s better. Just before someone else butted in to say her story was the worst evah!

So yeah… the rankings are subjective. I like a combination of cogency and punch in short fiction…

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