All about Words, Writing and an Anthology Update!

Words-art-for-blogIt has been awhile, friends! If you don’t hear from me, or see  me post, it’s not because I’ve forgotten you, it just means I’m crazy busy writing, editing designing games or painting (whatever is on the hot plate). I’ve been slammed working on our fiction anthology coming out soon! As those of you who backed our Kickstarter and/or read our fan facebook page know, we brought on board Phil Athans (TSR/WotC – Forgotten Realms) to assist with editing and also Darrin Drader to write a short story for the book. But I’ll give you a bigger update on all that later. Today I wanted to talk briefly about word counts.

Over the years I’ve noticed something odd about stories: There are numerous definitions on what lengths short stories, novelettes, novellas and novels should be (That’s not even including the various terms for even shorter stories!) I’ve seen the numbers differ considerably over time.

Personally, I don’t think it’s that big of a deal what they are called or why there needs to be so many categories or so much fuss over it. I’d only make maybe three categories likely (short story, Novella and Novel), but then there are organizations that hand out rewards completely based on word counts and so I guess more categories means more chances to win, so I can’t really complain there!

My own notions on proper length for the various categories don’t quite mesh well with the Word Count wiki on the topic, but as it seems that organizations that reward seem to be using similar numbers, I suppose that’s the one to go with, not the myriad of articles out there giving their own opinions and rules for them.

As for my own stories . . . well, I love digging into my characters heads, introducing complex storylines with lots of subplots and other details and as we’re talking the Cosmoverse Campaign Setting with so many interesting and largely unknown races, cultures, magic and other goodies that require description (if it were Star Wars, I could simply toss out keywords like Jedi and the Force and not have to explain it as much, but strangely, we’re still an unknown, heh), so my brain works and thinks more in the novella to novel category according to the wiki.

Somewhere around those two categories is sweet spot. My stories tend to have several characters and a lot going on. I don’t try to shoot for high word counts—I’m just saying that my mind tends to insist on certain things in my stories that tend to require higher word counts, at least when I’m writing something other than skits and plays. What about you? If you write stories, what word count tends to always come out on top as your sweet spot? Do you care about word counts? Do you think any of us should? For that matter, do you think rewards should be categorized by word count, and if not, by what method?

Looking at the numbers on that wiki, it looks like they’d rate nearly all of the stories in Arcane Synthesis as novelettes and some as novellas. Interestingly, my next project is going to be a novella, but since the wiki is claiming a novel can be as tiny as 40,0001 words (crazy short in my mind—I’d put a novel closer to the 75,000+ category), I guess we might be looking at a novel, folks. I’ll find out when I’m done!

One problem I’ve had is that I have way, way too many stories in the works and ideas for stories and outlines for stories and I don’t have time to write them all during my lifetime, so I’m starting to look at the concept of the novella a little more closely. It is for this reason that I once again did a little search into word counts to see if anything official ever popped up. Seeing such low word counts, I sighed over it as I ate my breakfast this morning.

There’s always been such a disparity between some instances of the various definitions. I think the reward system is what is causing some kind of finality here. If that’s how they are rewarding, then I suppose that holds more weight, even though it was kind of arbitrary to begin with. And there are oddities in some of the word count systems.

One site I found stated a novella was between 20,000 and 50,000 words, but a novel ranged from 70,000-90,000 words. What does that mean for the author who wrote something between 50,001 and 69,999 words or over 90,000? Does the story tear a rift in the fabric of the universe? Do ninjas drop down from the ceiling, and hack you to pieces or throw shurikens at your computer to wipe out the anomaly? Seems kind of silly that anyone would suggest a system like that!

There’s been a number of great novels written at the higher word counts like George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire books, The Order of the Phoenix, Fellowship of the Ring, The Grapes of Wrath, Last of the Mohicans, Les Misérables, and many others, some of which are much longer in length.

Anyway, I can’t wait for you guys to read Arcane Synthesis: A Blended-Genre Anthology. The stories are turning out very cool and I’m sure you are going to love it. We’re making good progress and hope to have it all ready around January of 2015, if all goes well! We’ve had some setbacks, but things are rolling smoothly and I remain hopeful!

As I mentioned, our next project is going to be a novella/novel that is partially finished. If we get the finances we need (hopefully via Kickstarter as we don’t have the budget for it yet) we expect that to come out around third quarter of 2015 and have no doubt you’ll get a kick out of that as well! Good stuff heading your way. The more fans and finances we get, the more top-notch products that will be coming your way. Never stop dreaming. Never give up. Never lose hope!

Cheers,
Bob

Posted in Cosmothea, Cosmoverse, Fiction, Hope, Kickstarter, RPG | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Taking Your Life and Work to a New Level (Part 2)

Hi folks! It’s been awhile. You can be assured that if you don’t see a blog from me, I’m either sick, or more likely, I’m working like mad on our latest offering (in this case: Arcane Synthesis: A Blended-Genre Anthology – our successful Kickstarter project). But in case any of you are reading this blog, I wanted to get Part 2 out to you before anymore time passes. Today, I’ll be talking a bit more about moving forward and also about some of the design decisions I’ve made for the Cosmothea Blended-Genre RPG. Sound good? Great, let’s get started! (If you missed Part 1, be sure to check it out here!)

Cosmothea-roomTAKE IT BACK!
Before you can take your life or your work to another level, you have to take it back. You have to own it, believe in it, commit to it 110%. If you can’t do that, you can’t expect anyone else to invest in it either. But to get to that point without being egotistical and therefore biased, thinking since you came up with it, it must be brilliant, take a hard look at it. Spend some serious time brainstorming, looking at your dream from different angles, talking to friends about it and listening to their advice. i.e. you need to do your homework if you want to succeed.

Let me explain. If you don’t do your homework, you won’t be knowledgeable enough to do it right. If you can’t explain it, you can’t convince someone else it’s worth investing in. If you can’t share it because “it’s not ready” or “someone might steal it”, well then there’s a good chance that a) No one will ever see it so it doesn’t matter anyway, and b) If you wait until you think it’s done before sharing it, chances are fewer people will invest in it (since fewer people will know about it) and it’s likely not as good as it could have been if you shared it, got the feedback you needed and improved upon it.

As for ideas being stolen, I don’t know if any of my ideas have every really been stolen over the years or not, but I can tell you that quite a few have appeared in other games. I could have been the one to get some credit for some cool concepts, but because I didn’t publish them, others got the credit and glory. If you keep writing and rewriting, you’ll never publish or you’ll publish so late that by the time you do, your concepts have likely appeared elsewhere whether you’ve kept it a secret or not, as ideas float around and when the time is right, one or many people come up with them. I believe it’s called Parallel Design.

You think only one guy invented the wheel? It might have been that way, or half a dozen people, but people only ever hear about the one that did something with their invention, their dream. Got it out there. Get over yourself, get over your invention, get it done and get it on the market, or you might very well either never publish anything at all.

Before you can improve something, you must realize it can be improved and then brainstorm the best way to go about it. Sounds simple, right? But creative types can quickly become so wrapped up in their work that they get tunnel vision and not realize there’s a better way of doing something. Before you can take your life or your project to another level, you need to commit to another level and make a battleplan of how you are going to achieve it. For me, that meant hundreds of hours of brainstorming, trying out different mechanics and concepts and also bringing on board other talented folks. Iron sharpens iron and all that! Collaboration can either be a nightmare, or if done right, it can be a very beautiful thing!

DESIGN DECISIONS
A lot of hard decisions need to be made when it comes to putting together a campaign setting or roleplaying game. I already touched on the Why, previously, and on its Blended-Genre nature. This blog post is already getting longish, so I’m going to go over a few decisions I made along the way and what seemed to work (and what didn’t), but I’ll spend most of the next blog post focusing just on this topic. So, if you are tired of my life discussions, you’ll have some more game designer meat in the next blog. I hope you’ll stick around for it!

One of my early decisions was that Cosmothea would be a mainstream game. A mainstream game is one that tackles popular concepts. This doesn’t mean it focuses on tired genres, recycled garbage that everyone thinks they want or should want. But it isn’t a micro genre.

One of my philosophies behind this decision is that a successful game needs to balance between two extremes: being too familiar and being too obscure. If a game is too familiar, then who needs it? We already have D&D. If it is too obscure, who can understand it and how many would really want to play it? This was a big decision, but only one of several.

There are a number of designers only making micro niche games. By that I mean an entire RPG devoted to some cool topic like roleplaying the servant of a god or evil master, running around as a zombie or ghost. I have nothing at all against them. I’m just not doing that.

Another decision I made was that I wanted any products I make to have high production values. So, I want very clean layouts, high-quality graphics, color, quality editing, etc. I could take the road so many other small publishers have (and actually get published way sooner – like decades ago), and I see why so many publishers haven’t gone down the route of high production values (though I’ve seen some nice covers and nice b&w art over the years, so I’m not putting any publishers down). There’s some great lil products out there, but Cosmothea is not a small game, so in order to afford high production values for a big game, it takes longer, more money, and a bigger audience.

Just as Cosmothea covers a lot of cool genres, all blended together in a nice montage (and still leaving some worlds single genre for those that love that sort of thing), I wanted to make sure to keep that trend going when it came to resolution systems. Most games have one resolution system. With Cosmothea, there’s four, plus a 5th micro add-on. I enjoy playing with different mechanics and I wanted to minimize the number of gamers saying things like, “Your game uses X? I hate games that use X to resolve conflict!” or some such. A related decision, I wanted to make sure you could swap between the resolution systems if you so felt inclined, so they are all compatible to boot! Now, my goal isn’t to make a game that is the be-all, end-all, but I felt these decisions and others were a good fit for what I am trying to achieve. So far, so good!

Interested in learning more about the Cosmothea Blended-Genre Roleplaying Game and what we’re up to? Check out our next blog post (I’m officially transitioning out of my life + RPG mode with the next post and will therefore have shorter posts, more often) or head over to our forums or website! As always, feedback is welcome!

Posted in Cosmothea, Cosmoverse, Encouragement, Fiction, Game Design, Hope, Kickstarter, Life, Roleplaying, RPG | Leave a comment

Taking Your Life and Your Work to Another Level: (Part 1)

Do you ever feel like you are all alone in the wilderness, fighting just to survive? Ever wonder whether you are heading in the right direction, doing things the right way and if you are getting somewhere even though no one else seems to notice, or worse—care? Whether all your efforts are going to be worth it? Have you been trying to slay the monsters in your life all by your lonesome?

What drives you on, relentlessly pursuing your dreams? And if you aren’t chasing a dream, why not? Well, until I hear back from you, I’ll dip into what has been keeping me going, why I’ve been spending time on the Cosmothea Blended-Genre Roleplaying Game and Cosmoverse Campaign Setting, writing stories, and why I keep working hard to improve a game most of you have never played.

Like the picture below, you can be sure there’s always more going on around you than meets the eye, and unless you insist on being alone, that need not ever be the case.
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There are always people out there that share at least some part of your dream, your values, your interests. I’ll spend a few blog posts talking about all this and more, like why I made some of the design decisions I’ve made for both the RPG and the setting as well. If you haven’t found someone who will stand with you, don’t lose hope; don’t give up. They are out there and might be even closer than you think!

While I designed Cosmothea 1.0 – 3.0, plus a mini lite version all by myself, I tapped friends for their advice and had help with playtesting. When I began Cosmothea 4.0, I built a large team. Sadly, I had to disband the 4.0 team when the economy ate my wife’s job, and finances became rocky, but I built another team for the Kickstarter and we’re making great progress and I’m slowly building another team for Cosmothea 5.0, which I’ve made great progress on. I’ve also had good success working on teams for other companies, so I know it can work!

ImageAs for the picture above, I commissioned Jason Rainville to paint it for the RPG as I have a number of different species of lizardmen races and dinosaurs in the Cosmoverse. Do you think all these critters think alike? Nope! While you can’t expect all of your friends and associates to agree with you on every point of your dream/project, that doesn’t mean you can’t come to a meeting of minds on the important stuff and together create something that’s even better than what you could do on your own. Everyone has talents. It’s more a matter of setting aside egos, brainstorming how you will work together, not just blindly team up with someone. Some personalities work better together than others. Common sense, contracts, professionalism, regular, respectful communication, patience, a humble attitude, etc. will help your team succeed where others fail!

What keeps me going? I believe in what I’m doing. I’ve played a number of other roleplaying games (and own quite a few more) and I also own a pile of settings. I let the good ones inspire me to make sure my own rocks at least as much, and I let the bad ones inspire me to avoid falling into the same traps they did.

I’ve built a solid foundation, have listened to a ton of folks, researched what people say they like and don’t like, studied mechanics and created my own, believe that with God’s help I can do anything, and love writing and designing, so I’m not about to give up! I also know that there’s still room for a great game and a great setting, and that’s very encouraging! Look for the positives in your own dreams. Don’t ignore the negatives, but see if there’s something you can do to turn them around into positives as well! Find the flaws, fix ‘em and move on. Don’t know how? That’s where the homework and teamwork come in.

One of the greatest things that ever happened to Cosmothea and the Cosmoverse was losing my budget! While I need money to publish, having no money put me into a position where I could take a step back, breath, and spend lots of time thinking about what I could do to make it work, to improve it, to take it to another level! When bad things happen, it’s often a perfect opportunity for personal and professional growth, changing directions, tackling a dream from a new angle, and next thing you know, something amazing can happen—if you don’t give up!

One of the nifty things that popped up while the budget was down was a better way to create characters in the game. One of the improvements was in the way I handle careers and races. In Cosmothea 5.0 you can now create nearly any sort of career path and race you can imagine. Sure, you could do that in 4.0 with some elbow grease, but now it’s a feature; it’s part of the game. And you can do it without a lot of headaches (there’s plenty of examples so you don’t have to create anything if you don’t want to). I felt this feature was important, as the Cosmoverse is so big, so I had to think bigger about variation among both careers and races across multiple galaxies and dimensions. While I’m still polishing things, it’s been easier to pull off than I imagined, and the payoff is quite exciting!

Be realistic, but think big! We’ll talk more on all this and other design decisions I’ve made along the way in Part 2. I’d love some feedback. This is your blog too, not just mine! Have a question or comment? I’m all ears!

Posted in Cosmothea, Cosmoverse, Encouragement, Game Design, Hope, Life, Roleplaying, RPG | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Passion Is Not Enough! (Part 2)

Today is my 50th birthday. There, I said it. I’m full of energy but I’m not 18 any more. I don’t feel old. I’m still a big kid at heart, and am not slowing down mentally, but speeding up (I hope!) Physically, I’m still doing pretty good and haven’t strayed too far from my ideal weight, though I have less hair on my head than I’d like (as you can see in my age progression samples – even less currently as I shaved off the goatee).

Meh, there’s more to a man than the number of hairs on his head. I’m happily married and love my wife more today than the day we married. I am a father of two wonderful young men, am surrounded by those who love me, am working on some very cool projects and the future looks bright!

ImageI’m passionate, driven, stable and raring to go. But I have fewer years to go than I’d like to have. Sadly, I started getting uber serious about my goals only later in life. Even so, I promised myself I’d have my first book out on the market by my 45th birthday, but some serious curve balls were thrown my way and I got hit by at least one of them. Like many of you, the economy kicked me in the stomach and I’m still recovering. It really threw my publishing timeline out the window, then ran down 17 flights of stairs so it could stomp on it some more. But despite my circumstances, I have peace and remain hopeful for the days ahead. I’ve been working my tail off and good things are coming!

Life is a roller coaster. Count on it. Plan for it, get over it, and keep moving forward! Every valley is an opportunity for personal growth and prepares you to soar higher than ever before. I didn’t get the book out when I wanted, but I do have one coming out at the end of the year! And along the way, I also got into acting, wrote, produced and directed a pile of plays and skits, even acting in some of them halfway around the world, did some public speaking, got into the missions field feeding the poor, doing construction work, and had the honor of being used by God to do some amazing things in lands I never thought I’d visit, and none of that was part of the original plan, so I’m by no means complaining!

I’ve never been lazy and have accomplished a lot of cool little things, but some of my lifelong dreams have yet to come to pass. I’m sure you can relate to some degree. I wasn’t sitting around watching TV all day or playing video games and it wasn’t a lack of passion on my part either. I have boundless passion, enthusiasm, drive, vision, a diverse set of talents and know others who can fill in the gaps to pull off my dreams, and I have a God and family and friends that love me so much and wants to help see my dreams come true!

I live a very full, balanced life. I am not so obsessed with meeting my goals that I am neglecting my family, my God, my bills, etc…, but something has to give. So, I don’t stay up till all hours working on the game design, the setting material or writing a novel. I still have to do grocery shopping, go to the dentist, do some freelancing to pay the bills, etc. It’s not all about me and I don’t have time to do everything nor do I have the talent to do everything. I don’t think any of us were ever meant to.

As many of you know, I’m a firm believer in surrounding myself with people of passion and of like mind, of building teams to make cool things happen. But at the end of my life, I don’t want to look back and see that I accomplished my dreams by neglecting my responsibilities as a husband and father, servant, etc. If I sacrifice those I love in order to selfishly pursue my own dreams, that’s a pretty shallow victory and I would be a shallow, miserable person for doing so.

We all have dreams and while we pursue our own, we owe it to the people around us to save some time to invest in their dreams too. We need to care enough — to love enough, or the race isn’t worth it. It’s never too late to stop, change directions and become passionate not just about what you are doing, but what others are doing too! And do what you need to do. Don’t be satisfied with mediocrity just to get published. Don’t half-ass your dream. Do it right or find something else to do.

Sorry, I’m rushing this blog post. I know, I just said not to half-ass your dream. This blog post isn’t my dream (fortunately), and while I’m all about being professional, frankly I really wanted to post this on my birthday, and with my plate filled high, the editing is not what it should be. And I barely touched on Cosmothea or the Cosmoverse to boot. Well,

So, if Passion isn’t enough, what is? There’s a lot of things that you can do, including realizing that if you are living a balanced life and doing your best, letting God do his job and only tackling your own (which includes looking after the needs of others and loving the people around you), you’ve already won, you are already successful! In fact, you are likely already happier than succeeding in your dreams would ever make you! Choose to be content in all things. It really is a choice!

Ok, but what about the dreams part? I haven’t forgotten… as for what is enough to accomplish your dreams, when passion just doesn’t cut it (and it won’t), while there’s no magic formula, doing the things I’ve posted in these 2 parts will get you well on your way to success. The rest is just smoke and mirrors!

Er, I mean, the truth is, if you are already doing all the things I mentioned in these 2 blog entries and still aren’t seeing your dream come true, it could be that a) the timing isn’t right yet – have some patience, b) you could be sabotaging it unconsciously by an unhealthy lifestyle habit or other likely fixable personal issue and should pray and/or seek advice (hey, none of us are perfect. As for advice, I’m neither a doctor, pastor, lawyer or accountant, but I’m all ears), c) you just might need to do some more market research, planning, brainstorming, get feedback on your project, and make some little adjustments and/or d) God just has something even bigger and better planned for you!

I’m going to get off the soapbox here and change gears with my next blog post. So, if you are tired of hearing all this yacking about life, no worries! I’ll be changing format with the next post and will delve more into QT games and our upcoming products with shorter blog posts since I’m getting too busy (rather than posting longer ones, less often). If you have something in particular (QT Games or life-related) that you would like me to address, please post in the comments below and I’ll see what I can do! But a month blew by since my last post, so I didn’t want to put this off one off any longer. Thanks for understanding about the lack of decent editing in light of my heavy schedule (shorter posts should help in that regards as well)! Let’s make it an awesome week, folks!

[Editor's note: If you got this blog post via email, there were some formatting issues that I managed to resolve too late for you to get them in your email likely - WordPress was acting way funky on paragraphs! And more importantly, I extended the post and wrapped up the topic! Check out the last few paragraphs above! Thanks!!!]

Posted in Cosmothea, Encouragement, Fiction, Game Design, Hope, Life | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Passion Is Not Enough! (Part 1)

Cosmothea_logo_tinyIt has been quite awhile my friends. I did not intend for the gap to be this lengthy, but our successful Kickstarter has kept me quite busy. In my last post, I promised my next would once again delve into the Cosmothea Blended-Genre Roleplaying Game and Cosmoverse Campaign Setting, and this will, if only around the edges.

As some of you know, there’s a lot to putting out a product and even when it comes to roleplaying, there’s a lot more to do than develop mechanics and write about distant worlds, so I’m going to hop around a bit in the next several posts to cover various aspects. Some of my most popular posts seem to be about life; therefore I thought I would discuss both our product line and life. Sound good? I hope so! This will be a multi-post topic as I have much on my mind!

I’ll talk a little about what’s going on with Cosmothea (Like the new logos?) and the Cosmoverse (recently finished the massive, 24″x36″ map below!), and also spend a good amount of time discussing chasing dreams, teamwork and what it takes to succeed (and some of the pitfalls) — in broad strokes. While I can’t guarantee you’ll agree with everything I have to say, I’m fairly confident that you’ll walk away glad you read through till the end of this mini series, and as always, I desire to improve the blog and what we’re up to, so feedback is always appreciated!

Success means different things to different people, but I think all of the definitions have some merit, though not all are entirely helpful. And sometimes success is actually just a beginning and the real adventure — the real treasure comes after. I completed a successful Kickstarter in January, but to be frank, despite hundreds of hours of research, I still made a few mistakes, some very minor, and some bigger. (If you’ve never done a Kickstarter, doing them right is much, much harder than you think, and if you’ve done one or more, you know exactly what I’m talking about). I’m still very proud of it, but I’m not in a hurry to do another for awhile.

I can’t tell you how many Kickstarter campaigns (and other crowdfunding campaigns) I’ve seen that have made huge mistakes. Amazingly, some of them still funded, though they could have done far better if the Creator had done all their homework. The mistakes on several seem so obvious to me (and I’ve tried to lovingly help when I could and when it seemed appropriate to do so) and no doubt those mistakes were obvious to many others as well, but to the Creator making them… well, apparently not. We all have blind spots and I learned volumes through the whole process (and still have loads more to learn). I’ve also seen this issue when it comes to pursuing dreams. I’ll get into that in a bit…

Several years ago, I decided to create QT Games LLC to publish my dream: The Cosmothea Blended-Genre Roleplaying Game, the Cosmoverse Campaign Setting and accompanying novels, anthologies, game books and supplements, as well as some of my board and card game designs. Yep, that’s one ginormous dream (ginormous is actually a legit word now, go figure). I have designed numerous games and written even more stories, some novel-length, that take place in the Cosmoverse. But creating and publishing are different things.

Cosmoverse_tiny

I did my homework and I made a big decision: I was not going to attempt to publish on my own. I was not going to complete my dream on my own. I would build a team and work to accomplish my vision, taking the time to do it right. I built a team of 11 writers and artists. QT Games LLC is my first company and I’m learning as I move along, but I’m not so egotistical that I don’t listen to the advice of others. I refined the team over the period of about a year, did more research, brainstormed and developing solid business and personal relationships along the way. The team worked. We were making progress. Things were going well despite a limited budget… for about another 3 months, and then the American economy all but collapsed (it took with it most of my budget).

I’m not rich and my wife was laid off work. We couldn’t afford to take a chance on a dream that was far from complete and still needed a good amount of financing. I believed in what I was doing and my wife did as well, but the timing wasn’t right. So, I waited. I chose to temporarily disband the team, but not the vision. I’ve lived with my dream since 1979 and I’m not the divorcing type (I’ve been married over 22 years). I’ve been expanding the Cosmoverse for nearly 35 years and was in the middle of my 4th major incarnation of the roleplaying game when the economy bit the dust.

But like I said, I’m no quitter. I do my best to do what it takes to make things work. eventually I built another, much smaller team, but shortly thereafter, I too was laid off! After gaining so much momentum, everything seemed to be slipping away.

Lacking money, I realized the only way to move forward might be to write a novel. I’d already written a novel, and half of another and a ton of short stories, but I had an idea for a trilogy that would make a good launching tie-in for our roleplaying game and setting so I began writing that. After outlining all 3 books in detail and writing about 30,000 words or so, I started hearing more and more about something called Kickstarter and did some research and brainstorming to see if it was right for QT Games (Free money sounds like a good deal on the surface, but nothing’s really free and Kickstarter is no exception, neither is shipping, and that hurts a lot of Creators, myself included).

I realized we needed to reveal more about the Cosmoverse Campaign Setting so people would fall in love with it, and what better way to introduce it than through a series of anthologies to develop our fan base! I also created a small series of videos which we introduced with our Kickstarter. So, I set aside the trilogy and began doing heavy research into Kickstarter and how to develop and run a campaign for our first anthology (which takes less time than a novel and I could bring in other authors to share the Cosmoverse from multiple perspectives and “voices”!)

Some use Crowdfunding but don’t really need it. Me, I needed finances (and still do) or my dream will take the rest of my life and still won’t be fully realized (publishing costs money after all and without a team, things take a lot longer). Thanks to our wonderful Kickstarter backers, the first phase of the dream continues and we were able to successfully fund our first anthology in January of this year: Arcane Synthesis, which is rooted in my Cosmoverse Campaign Setting! I have many more books planned and in the works, but you have to start somewhere!

We have produced and shipped most of the rewards we’ve promised (the others are in the works and will be shipped later this year). So far, the stories are looking great and I’m very excited with the team I’ve assembled. Arcane Synthesis is a small, but important step forward. It will begin to reveal the creative concepts behind the dream. We’ll continue to reveal more in the days ahead as our fan base grows and our finances permit.

Dreams are a big time investment (and as you know, QT Games is a huge dream of mine), but I’m taking a step of faith, believing after much brainstorming and research that QT Games is going in the right direction, and we are not about to back down. I’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating: We are just getting warmed up!

Arcane Synthesis is paid for, on its way toward completion and is slated for publication by the end of the year! We just don’t have much money for future products and need to develop our fan base. If after reading through our blog, visiting our site and forums, and/or after checking out our art and videos, you’ve liked what you’ve seen thus far, please spread the word! We’ll need to grow a larger fan base before we attempt another Kickstarter and get off the ground in a big way. I’m not worried though (I’d rather spend my time resolving this financial roadblock than pulling my hair out).

I’m still developing the latest incarnation of Cosmothea 5.0 (though Arcane Synthesis is my highest priority) and I can say with all honesty, that while it is under heavy construction and I’m working on it alone currently, it’s looking pretty hot! It’s still rough around the edges (things take time). I’ve been researching what gamers like and dislike in existing games, have been playtesting existing mechanics and tweaking them, have been expanding the setting and polishing everything, and have been continuing to do market research. The game is playable and fun and has more potential than ever! I’m very excited about it and am even more excited about our Cosmoverse Campaign Setting that Cosmothea was designed to support.

I will rebuild the Design Team for Cosmothea again one day, but we need to focus on the setting and anthologies for now. I have faith and I’m doing my part, so I remain hopeful that it’s just a matter of time.

This July, marks the 35th Anniversary of the Cosmoverse — 35 wonderful years of roleplaying adventures and stories about this amazing campaign setting! Cosmothea is only a little younger and with some more polish and expansion, it should entertain for many years to come, and is the perfect companion to those running adventures in the Cosmoverse.

I’m a very driven person. Perhaps you could say I’m stubborn, but that carries negative connotations that I don’t think applies here (at least not usually – hey, nobody’s perfect). I’m very passionate about several things (God and ministry, my family and friends, my writing, game design and art). But I am also keenly aware of my limitations and that passion is simply not enough. It really isn’t. I learned that a long time ago.

I once hoped passion would be enough, but chasing a dream doesn’t necessarily get you where you want to be. You can set your heart upon accomplishing a task dear to you, but unless you are willing to make crucial sacrifices (time, money, sleep… just to name a few), and have a concrete, well thought out battleplan (and a host of other factors in your favor), you may never achieve your dream.

That’s the sad reality, yet millions of people are running around in circles chasing after dreams and near as I can tell, a staggeringly large number of them will never achieve them (and some of them who do, will later realize they’ve been chasing after the wrong dream). I may not achieve my most precious dreams (time will tell), but I will keep my eyes wide open, do my homework, appreciate what I do have, and strive for excellence, come what may. No, passion is indeed not enough, and victory always comes at a high price.

Check back soon for Part 2 and I promise you will be encouraged and challenged — plus more on Cosmothea and our great, big Cosmoverse!

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About Life (Part 2 of 2): Be A Rebel, Just Like Everybody Else

In Part 1, I covered a lot of ground generally, talking about my belief that we all possess much potential; we’re all special. I discussed how we tend to have funny ideas on what success is and that we sometimes believe in all sorts of things just because the majority does whether we admit it or not (and I mentioned both the safety and danger in doing so). My time is no less strained for Part 2, so this will also be fast and furious with little regard for editing, sadly. Given what’s on my plate, it’s the best I can do. If you liked my last post, I hope you’ll stick around none-the-less. And if you missed my last post, you might want to go back and read it! I currently have 5 writing projects on my lap, a freelance art project, other art that needs doing, and more on top of that, so yeah, time to get rollin’!

This post focuses on the concept of being a rebel and being cool, two things that go together like James and Dean, but the concepts can be not only very misleading, but they also have some negative undertones. Now, don’t get me wrong, I, like just about every guy I’ve ever known, has at some point (or many points) coveted a black leather jacket or trench coat! I’m not sure if James Dean started it all or not, but he certainly glamorized the concept during his short life.
ImageMost of us who haven’t given up on the idea yet, likely want to be thought of as cool or having been cool and like to think that we live outside the box, not so straight-laced as others might think, that we’re a bit of bad boy or girl. Confidence is a good thing; the ability to stand on your own two feet and be a man or a woman who others look up to, rocks! Desiring that is quite natural and not a bad thing per se, so don’t tar and feather me yet! It’s what else that tends to go with the territory that has always bothered me.

I’ve owned a black leather jacket at one point and I currently have a med-length leather jacket that I wear now, and I still kinda wish I owned a trenchcoat, but I’m not wearing my jacket to be cool (it’s not even black), though I have received a number of compliments on it. My wife bought it for me about seven years ago for one of our anniversaries. Trench coats however, are so iconically cool that I’m not sure I could actually wear one without feeling a little like I was wearing a costume, to be perfectly honest. I would probably feel the need to wear dark sunglasses and it would be hard to keep from smiling ear-to-ear, which you generally don’t want to do if you expect people to think you are cool. If you want to be cool, you have to remember to come off like you don’t care. Unemotional is the key. The Fonz broke that image again and again, but he was an early icon and a good guy despite his rebel/cool label.

Now, James Dean was before my time, but I remember the Fonz! (I fortunately missed the episode in which he jumped the shark.) If you are like me, you’ve probably known someone who has gone to great lengths to try and get people to think of them as a rebel or as cool (or both), but while they might look cool, you know it’s a gimmick; you know it’s hiding something else. What was James Dean hiding? The Fonz? Ok, the Fonz was a TV character, but you get my point. You can spot cool people a mile away. What are they selling? Is the image they are attempting to portray genuine, or is it hiding a hurting heart? (I’m not really attacking any of these people. They are just cool, so they made for good examples.)

ImageHalf the concept behind being a rebel or being cool is actually distasteful when you think about it. (Um, is that tar in that pot you are heating up?) Who hasn’t wanted to be cool? Nothing can hurt you! Again, remember: exuding a lack of emotions or any concern for another’s well being are very strong elements of being cool. The cliche that girls want to date a bad boy but marry the nice guy? That’s got to be one of the dumbest concepts I’ve ever heard. After all, what does a woman really want? Does she want a guy who understands her feelings, recognizes how valuable and important she is, treat her like a princess, let her know that she is loved and cared for? Does she want someone who will be there for her, who knows how to say they’re sorry when they are wrong? And they ARE wrong sometimes! Does she want someone who is bottling up their feelings and always has the answer, never making mistakes?

How arrogant and proud is this person going to be if they really are like that, and aren’t just pretending? And if they are pretending, what sort of things are going through their bottled up brain if they are playing the role? You see where I’m going with this? How absurd! Why would anyone want to date a person who is acting cool and like a rebel? If they really are a rebel, then that means you can’t count on them being safe, out of jail, reliable.

These days that also means they are more likely to be into experimentation, and that can get pretty extreme. Maybe you are into that, but if you aren’t, being rebellious and being cool doesn’t sound all that hot when you think about it, but the rabbit hole goes deeper still. [Please don't think I'm being insensitive of the hard times some young people face who just want acceptance and approval, those people who just want to be loved and everyone deserves to be loved. This post isn't so much a rant as a wake up call, or reminder if you will.] It seems nobody is immune from wanting to appear cool…

ImageOf course, any post on being cool that leaves out Terminator or the Matrix is probably committing a grievous sin, so here they are, and I’ll be the first to say I wouldn’t have these guys any other way. Love it! In the early 90’s, my wife and I went to Universal Studios where they were featuring a wonderful Terminator 3D live action movie/ride thingy. It was our anniversary and one of the things she got me was a pair of terminator sunglasses that had this red light in it. Very cool. :)

ImageI’m into drama. I run a small drama group that I formed in 2001. I write, produce, direct and even act in some of our productions. I’m writing a script this week despite how busy I am (the show must go on), but there’s something odd I discovered when I was a little boy that has always stuck with me. I become more confident and feel like I can do anything, and be anyone if I’m simply wearing a pair of sunglasses. I don’t know why. It’s just the way it was for me. I still feel that way.

Yes, it’s true, the Matrix featured some of the coolest characters ever to come to the silver screen. Unbelievable! I would not have enjoyed the movie nearly as much if they weren’t being cool. Even if you hated the movie, you couldn’t help but keep watching because when someone’s this cool, you can’t take your eyes away…

ImageWhen we play the role of someone who’s cool, whether on stage or on the street, we are doing it “right” if we exude characteristics that come off like we don’t care what other people think, like we own the room. We’re doing it our way. We of course attempt to not trip over our own shoelaces or words. We act fearless and try to present ourselves like we’ve got our act together, and when we screw up (because we all do), we keep telling ourselves we’re cool as long as nobody noticed.

We all do stupid things, yet we still like to think of ourselves as cool. So, we try to hide our weaknesses. Sometimes we hide them behind shades, sometimes behind outrageous clothing, implants, tatts and other things (I’m not saying tatts are bad, they are only bad if you are getting them for the wrong reasons, though I don’t care for them myself).

Doing all sorts of crazy stuff to show that we don’t like being told what to do or that we’re cool in most cases, is completely missing the point; at the least it’s usually unproductive and unhealthy psychologically, IMO. Before you totally give up on me, I do think some tatts look especially cool and sexy, but that doesn’t mean I’d ever want one or that I like the idea of what amounts to a piece of jewelry you can never remove. We all change our clothes, so why would we want to wear the same tatt all the time, unless it held some deeper personal meaning, which in some cases it does.

Now, I totally get the desire to fit into the crowd and get along with your friends (or just get friends period), gain acceptance, all of that, but you are already loved and accepted just the way you are (whether you are drop-dead gorgeous or funny-looking). It really comes down to who you are looking for acceptance from? You may not be getting the love and acceptance in the circles you run with, and I’m so sorry if that’s the case, but there are circles of decent folks who love you just the way you are (and God loves you more than your friends do, obviously, since his love is unconditional where as us mortals always put conditions on things. Hence all the divorces. You are very special and precious in God’s eyes, but ignore that at your own peril).

ImageIn Stephen King’s movie, Christine, we see this nerdy guy who becomes obsessed with this demonic car and starts to become really cool, which of course meant that he also became a really big jerk. One nice advantage of becoming cool, however, is that your eyesight improves and so does your hair. His jacket was red, not black, but that was symbolic to more closely identify him with the demonic car. Well, I’ve picked on being cool enough and this is getting long, so let me dip into my big beef with being a rebel (at least what most people think of when they say rebel these days).

In most of the cases I’ve seen, being a rebel (and I’m not talking a George Washington rebel, but a modern rebel), amounts to no more than the opposite of the concept of a true rebel. Being a rebel usually ends up meaning you jump off the older generation’s bandwagon and you jump onto a different, and huge younger generation’s bandwagon. You’re just going from one box to another when you dress funny (just like everyone else), try to act like you are cool (just like everyone else), stab in some tatts or implants or wild makeup, (just like everyone else), listen to music not generally considered polite and acceptable to the older generation or that’s loud enough to hurt sensible or at least older ears (just like everyone else). Is that a bag of feathers?

Hey, I am making at least some sense here! I could talk about how colleges tend to breed a certain type of rebelliousness as well, again many who think they are rebels, really aren’t. They are the opposite since they are still jumping on a really big bandwagon.

There aren’t too many people that would call me a rebel. I fall into the older generation, but I feel like a rebel in some ways. I’m a Christian who actually believes what the Bible says, and since Christians who are serious about God are a very small number compared to how many people are out there that are Christians, but aren’t really doing much to grow closer to God, walk in his ways and act a lot like the rest of the world). So, if modern day rebels can call themselves rebels and that’s a huge number of people, then I can call myself a rebel, not that I really care about the term one way or another. Just sayin’. Most of society is going in a different direction than I am, and I’m Ok with that. I’d love it if more went down the path I’ve chosen, but if most people say red is blue, or we evolved from fish, doesn’t make it so.

And because Nick Fury and the gang are looking pretty cool here, and to break up some text, here’s one last pic!

Image

So, in summary, many people who are trying to be rebels are actually being conformists and many who are trying to be cool are missing the coolest parts of being cool. The ones worth being! Those who are trying to gain approval from others just might be trying to please the wrong folks. We need to be true to ourselves (unless what we are is rotten on the inside, in which case we likely need a change of worldview). But we shouldn’t be changing ourselves to conform just to become accepted by a circle of friends. God’s approval is worth far more than someone who refuses to love you if you don’t have the right shade of pink hair, tatts all over, join their gang, drink or sleep around. I’d just go find another set of friends.

Thinking back, smoking became very cool. Doing illegal activities became cool (i.e. being a rebel is cool). Listening to Satanic music became cool though that’s fortunately slipped back in popularity, I think. Doing anything that annoyed your parents was flat out cool. Heck, even doing drugs became cool. Thankfully, many of the things we used to think of as cool are no longer. But some of the questionable elements remain.

Me, I say thinking for yourself is cool, a rebel for the right cause is cool. Being a good husband is cool. Loving your wife and kids is cool. Loving God and trying to be a good person is cool. Working hard and doing your very best is cool. Showing respect and appreciation for other people is cool. If you happen to be wearing a trench coat while doing all those things, well good for you, but frankly the trench coat is optional.

Is that tar ready yet? Excuse me. I have to go to the bathroom (quietly slips out the back).

[Note: Please take no offense by what I said. I certainly don't mean to offend anyone. Yes, I touched on several touchy topics, but if you are offended by my comments about God, for example, think about how your telling someone you are offended by their faith is actually pretty offensive in and of itself as it is basically judging and rejecting a person's most deeply held beliefs. Heck, even that might have offended (sigh). It's impossible not to offend people, sadly. I just want you to know that I am not trying to be mean or judgmental so much as expose some misconceptions and offer my two cents, which you are free to ignore or call stupid if you want, but they came from a heart that wants nothing but the best for you, whether I'm right or wrong or stupid. 'Nuff said! If nothing else, I hope you enjoyed all the cool pics!]

If you are tired of hearing all this controversial talk, no worries, while I had 1 more part I was drafting, I’ve decided to put it off and dig back into Cosmothea goodness! As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts! And, if there are certain topics you would like me to touch on, especially related to the Cosmothea Blended-Genre Roleplaying Game or Cosmoverse Campaign Setting (or my Arcane Synthesis Kickstarter), let me know and I’ll see what I can do. [My next post will be way shorter. Your welcome. :) ] Have a great week, all!

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About Life: [Time Sensitive] … or “Don’t be a Zombie!”

For those of you who haven’t heard, our Arcane Synthesis: A Blended-Genre Anthology Kickstarter funded! Yay! I thought for the next few posts I would (as with my last post) again deviate from my regular posts on my Cosmothea Blended-Genre RPG or Cosmoverse Campaign Setting (I have been eating, breathing and sleeping Cosmothea the whole month of January, so a tiny break here, if you would be so kind), and touch on some other topics before digging back into the roleplaying goodies! Fair enough? No promise on the exact number of posts for this topic, and I admit upfront that I am currently too busy to edit this thing to the degree I probably should (so it might be a tad rambly or repetitive, though I hope not), but I still think it’s worth reading. Have a little faith in me and I hope by the end you’ll agree it was worth reading as well! Here goes…

Part 1: You are special! What a cliche! And yet, how true it is! Being special and doing something special are two very different things! Life is full of opportunities. Every day is filled with decisions, and sometimes losing is winning. Life’s funny that way! How we respond to our situations can usually make all the difference in the world. Life is a gift and sometimes working your tail off is the most important thing we should be doing, while at other times we really just need to take a nap or sit on the couch with a loved one and spend some time doing nothing together.

From my experience and my perspective, most of the world is fairly clueless about what’s really important in life and about what true success is. You only have to look at the divorce rate, crime and other societal ills to see that society has a pretty bent view on reality. We are part of society, of course, but it’s extremely easy and common to get sucked into societal ideals (mob mentality) and make poor choices or simply become unproductive or be less than what we could be. We start to believe nonsense when we hear it enough.

I recall witnessing a room full of people being told that brown-eyed people are less intelligent than blue eyed people, then later they were told the truth was blue-eyed people were less intelligent. They covered the gamut of eye colors. It was all very silly, but an interesting social experiment that made everyone in the room look really dumb. I’ve seen similar social experiments done in classrooms. The whole thing was an exercise in showing how quick we can be to believe something that isn’t true and jump on the bandwagon and act upon such nonsense, but I’ve seen it in other arenas as well.

Someone considered an expert in their field makes a claim and because they are an expert, others assume they are correct and then others who are not experts assume they are correct because, well, “those guys are experts,” and pretty soon people believe the nonsense just because, “Well everyone believes it, so it must be true,” and other nonsense. I see it happening all the time.

We need to make sure we are not zombies, but it’s Ok to read about zombies! Ever read a critic’s review of a movie, then see it for yourself and enjoy it less? Or ever see a movie you thought was great, and then hear a friend talk about it and soon find yourself liking the movie less? The movie didn’t change, just your opinion of it did. Now, sometimes what we hear is correct, but we need to make sure that we aren’t changing borrowing someone else’s belief systems or concepts without thinking more deeply about it. If you enjoyed the movie, you enjoyed the movie. Who cares what anyone else thought about it?

Sometimes we need to trust what the majority says. If a bunch of doctors or scientists say taking a certain pill will kill you, I’m not likely to take that pill. But we need to be discerning as well. We can’t be experts on everything, so we do need to trust others, but we also need to make sure we’re thinking for ourselves too! Sounds obvious, but I see the opposite happening more often than not, which is what compelled me to make this post in the first place.

But back to being special… I’ve found that as I shift my focus inward, I make more mistakes, not because I’m an idiot, but because I’m limited my ability to see the bigger picture and use all of the tools at my disposal. I’m not perfect, after all, so why rely solely on myself? Don’t hamstring yourself this week. Don’t believe everything you hear or read (including this post), and don’t be a zombie! I hope you return for Part 2 later this week!

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