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Category: video games

Booze, Bullets, and Books

How is it already mid-to-late September? This mystery is impenetrable.

I have not been doing much, apart from playing with my kid and generally hanging out and recovering from the previous eight months of endless work. Though because I’m terrible at not writing I started a novelette last week — I think it’s called “The Fairy Library” — and it’s going quite well, up to about 4,000 words now. It’ll be one of the originals in the new collection.

I did a reading last Saturday at Other Change of Hobbit with Nick Mamatas (I was his opening act; his book Bullettime is excellent, my favorite of his novels). There was booze that tasted like cough syrup (by design) and brownies and a surprisingly great turnout for a Saturday night. Nick and I have the smartest and most beautiful and discerning fans. Look, Nick posted photographic evidence!

Otherwise, I have been reading a lot. Mur Lafferty’s The Shambling Guide to New York City is fun and adorable; Salvage and Demolition by Tim Powers is as awesome as he always is at novella length; The Mark Inside is entertaining con-artist narrative non-fiction; Bitter Seeds by Ian Tregillis is dark and good and I’m eager to read the second in the series; Etgar Keret’s stories remind me of Donald Barthelme’s or Aimee Bender’s (which is a good thing).

I’ve played some Arkham City, and lots of Plants vs. Zombies and other casual games on my Fire. And I’ve been watching Revenge (it’s The O.C. meets The Count of Monte Cristo!). Playing lots of Candyland, War, and Connect Four with my kid, who already shows signs of being bitten by the gaming bug (when he’s a little older we are going to play all the games all the time).

I have also been eating less and exercising way more, after the horror of seeing my highest-ever weight on a scale back in July. I’m down 15 pounds since then. Let us hope this trend continues for another, oh, fifty pounds or so.

Autumn is coming. Soon it will be time to make the first chili of the season. Life is good.

Twelve! Twelve!

I turned 35 today, thus falling out of the coveted 18-34 demographic age bracket, which means my opinions are no longer of interest. I expect video games, film, and all other media to begin sliding away from my preferences immediately. Drat.

My wonderful wife took me out to Pizzaiolo, one of my favorite restaurants, on Friday night, and we feasted and made merry. And I drank bourbon. She made me a cherry pie last night, served with great heaping scoops of vanilla bean ice cream. Why pie? Because I looooove cherries, and I don’t really like cake. Carrot cake is okay, but mostly because of the cream cheese frosting. Cake is just… sweet bread. Eh. It’s not offensive or anything, but neither does it delight me. Generally speaking, creamy is my vice, not sweet — fat yay, sugar meh. So, yay for ice cream!

Tonight, my actual birthday, I’ll open some presents and eat a cheeseburger and probably watch a horror movie. I’m a simple man of simple hedonic tastes.

Saturday, while my wife and kid went to a party, I neglected fun in favor of work. I dove back into my half-written novel-in-progress, which stalled utterly while I was on vacation. (It was an intentional stall, but I found it difficult to get back on track.) I had, fortunately, figured out my plot while on vacation, though now I have to do some retrofitting to make that plot actually work out. I got to write an attempted murder scene, at least, so that was fun. And soon I get to write about tentacled river monsters. I’m still a bit panicked about getting it all done by the February 1 deadline, but I think it’ll work. I know where I’m going now, at least.

Sunday was more fun. I took the boy out for about five hours in the morning, just wandering around Berkeley, doing some Christmas shopping, going to the playground, eating cinnamon rolls at the coffee shop, eating ice cream cones in the cold wind, and so on. I love spending time with that little guy. I did some work on the novel, too, figuring out how to hack apart the structure to insert a new section early on. For the rest of the night… I pretty much watched TV and played Skyrim. It was awesome.

Near the City’s End

NaNo: Sunday was also a no-words-on-the-new-book day. I plowed through a bunch of the requested editorial changes to City of the Fallen Sky instead. It’s got the more pressing deadline.

I also went grocery shopping for our usual Thanksgiving feast. I’ll do the turkey, the potatoes, the cranberry relish, and my wife will make stuffing and pie, and my sister-in-law will contribute casseroles and salad. Should be awesomely yummy. (It usually is.) I ended up doing a lot of general grocery shopping, too, because the holiday sale prices were just absurd — some things were 75% off, lots of buy-one-get-one-free deals, etc. (Why offer people incentives to shop when they would be shopping anyway?) Lugging a thousand pounds of grocery around with a four-year-old in tow is tricky, but at least we can eat well, and be merry. (Though I’m hoping that tomorrow we won’t die. I’d hate to die this close to my vacation.)

In Skyrim, I slaughtered a dragon or two, got stepped on by a giant (I wasn’t even fighting him — he was dragon-battle collateral damage), killed a murderer, and joined a wizard’s school. A busy day, but rewarding, by which I mean, I was rewarded for my acts of violence.

Mars and Mars and Mars

NaNo: No progress on the novel yesterday. Other novel projects have come piling into me, with deadlines more pressing than this one. I got through about a quarter of my line edits/minor revisions on Grim Tides yesterday, adding about 2500 words to the total count (though I wrote more than that, since I also cut several bits). So, while I didn’t NaNo at all, I certainly worked.

Today is likely to be no better in terms of NaNo production, as I intend to get as many editorial revisions to City of the Fallen Sky done as I can manage in four hours.

Otherwise, yesterday, the boy and I ran around town, pretty much. We went to the library, and got some ice cream, and went up to a park he likes in North Berkeley, where we played rocket ship, blew up asteroids, did not blow up any moons (“because moons have eyes and a nose and a mouth, so you can’t shoot them”), and visited “a lot of different Marses,” as he says — Regular Mars, Sand Mars, Stair Mars, Turtle Mars, Circle Mars, etc. I assume we were flying in some sort of multiverse-traversing craft, but what do I know? I’m just the tailgunner.

And last night I played more Skyrim, where I went from being an amateur murderer to being a professional assassin, which is progress, I think.

My Sunday began with a clogged sink in the kitchen and a pipe section that dissolved into powdered rust when I touched it. Not an auspicious start. The hardware store around the corner should be open in five minutes or so…

Stories. For your buyings.

NaNo: Another late writing session last night netted me about 1450 words. It’s deadline week at my day job, and the last couple of days in the schedule are always rough, and tend to turn my brain to mush by the time I get home. It’s remarkable I got any writing done at all, and since this is deadline day itself, tonight I may accomplish nothing. (I would not be surprised to work an 11 or 12 hour day today, though I hope we finish before that.)

Last night I… sat around a bit, in a mush-brained state. Played some Skyrim, walking up 7,000 steps to the top of a mountain and killing an ice troll along the way. (There’s something satisfying about spraying torrents of flame from each hand into the face of some virtual indigenous wildlife.)

I have posted some e-books to the Amazon Kindle store ( will follow shortly). Some 99-cent stories for your reading pleasure:

“Little Better than a Beast,” a Marla Mason story, featuring time-traveling monsters and sexist jerks.

“Mommy Issues of the Dead,” another Marla story, this one set early in her career, when a semi-evil sorcerer hires her to plant a bomb inside a rival… who happens to be his brother. Soon Marla gets entangled in a truly dysfunctional family feud.

“The Christmas Mummy,” by Heather Shaw and I, a heartwarming holiday tale of mummies, ninjas, and other things.

“Rangifer Volans,” a very cryptozoological Christmas story, about the quest for that most elusive of all cryptids: the flying reindeer.


NaNo: No writing last night. I did do some writing-related stuff — copyedits to a story, some notes I’d promised one of my roleplaying game tie-in publishers — but no new words, the first day with no writing in 15 days. But a 15-day uninterrupted run is almost unheard of for me, so I don’t feel bad. I’m still a couple of days ahead of schedule, and expect to get a good number of words down over the weekend, too.

Life: My wife went out with friends last night, so I consoled myself by playing more Skyrim. I ended up committing a bit of highway robbery, I’m afraid. (But, look, if I try to make friendly conversation with you as we all trudge along the same remote road, and you call me a “dirty peasant” and then remark that you’re carrying a large number of valuables, what do you expect? Hint: you should expect me to shoot your bodyguard in the head with an arrow and then shower you with torrents of magical flame, all prior to stealing your stuff.)

When in Doubt, Send in a Man with a Gun

NaNo: Last night I wrote 1922 words, and the manuscript stands at 38,799. (I know, it seems like I would’ve just written one more word to hit the round number, but then why not write 200 more for the even rounder number? There’s no end to it when you let yourself get caught up in the significance of the arbitrary. Which doesn’t always stop me from doing so.) I was stuck on a scene, so I quite literally sent in a man with a knife. Which turned out to be exactly the right thing to do, I think.

Otherwise: Uh, I worked, at work. So that was workish. And did the usual evening things (cooking, washing up, TV). I played Skyrim a bit, though not as much as I might wish. I managed to slaughter a mine full of bandits and get my newly-acquired house carl killed, though, so that’s something.

I may take today off NaNoing. Can’t work on my lunch break because I have to do a bit of work on another book, and I’m on solo kid duty tonight. May be too tired. I should do some outlining instead. I’ve done two weeks without missing a day; tonight I’ll only write if I feel overwhelmed by inspiration.

Twelve days until I leave on my vacation. Time is slowing down a little more every day. That subjective slowness will last right up until the moment I arrive at my destination, at which point time will accelerate mightily, I’m sure.

The Rim of the Sky

NaNo: I broke down and bought Skyrim. (Or, rather, asked my wife to buy it for me while she was out running errands. Which she did. Because she = awesome.) I was afraid buying that game would be the End of NaNo, at least for a day or two, and indeed I did spend a couple of hours playing last night, and had to tear myself away as midnight approached. I was prepared to mark down a “zero” for the day… but I hadn’t missed a single day yet. I thought, okay, sit, write for 15 minutes, get a few words down, so today isn’t a total loss.

I actually got 1,465 words written. Not quite the NaNo minimum, but okay for my purposes, as I’m a few days ahead anyway. I’m approaching the halfway point for the book, and this week I need to make some notes and work out some blocking and timeline issues so the rest of the novel runs smoothly. Exciting!

Besides killing bandits and undead not-Norsemen in a virtual world (where I am a sneaky backshooter by preference), what else did I do yesterday? Went to the park with the kid so he could launch rockets skyward and play in the sand for a while. Ran a few very boring errands around Berkeley. Watched some TV with my wife. Attempted to nap and failed. Your standard Sunday, really. But I love a nice unscheduled day.

And only two weeks until I get an Actual Vacation, a full week of relaxation. First one in nearly four years. (I mean, we went camping once for a long weekend, and did a day in Disneyland, but they were not exactly days of languor.)

The Ice Man

Being a big slacker continues to satisfy. I haven’t done much with my evenings but play Alice: Madness Returns, watch the new Avengers cartoon on Netflix, and read the new Charles Stross novel Rule 34 lately. (All recommended.) I am beginning to get a distant itchy urge to write, but so far it hasn’t grown overwhelming. I think I needed this time to recharge.

I got some popsicle molds and have become a popsicle fiend. Besides juice pops for the kid, I’ve also made White Russian popsicles for my wife and myself. (Recipe: make a weak White Russian. Freeze it. EAT.) And I made some mocha coffee popsicles last night; yum. Soon I will experiment with margarita popsicles, cherry cream popsicles, and so on. This is preventing me from eating all the ice cream in the world, which is what I usually want to do in the summer, so it’s good. River likes to help me make the popsicles, though he hates waiting for them to freeze. Today we will go to Berkeley Bowl and consider their vast and mighty juice section. I predict pear nectar ice pops in my son’s future…