The Never-Ending Halloween

I went to work yesterday, and they were playing Christmas songs. Christmas decorations were everywhere, and I had to assemble a cardboard replica of Santa’s mailbox to hang gift cards on. And yet just a few days ago, I posted this on Instagram. Halloween hasn’t been over for a full week, and already Christmas is dancing on it’s dessicated corpse.

Of the two holidays, I have to say that I’m more of a fan of Halloween these days. Oh sure, I don’t go trick-or-treating, and I spend more time with friends and family on Christmas than I do on Halloween. But I feel closer to the spirit of Halloween than Christmas. Maybe it’s because Christmas has been commercialized out the wazzu (not that there isn’t a huge commercial element to Halloween as well), or maybe it’s because I’m sick of hearing about the War on Christmas from the more conservative side of the family. But honestly, I think it has more to do with Halloween being steeped in fantasy and horror, my two favorite genres both to write and to read.

Anyone who reads my blog should know I’m a fan of the macabre. I think I’ve posted more horror stories on this blog than any other genre. The same goes for the stories I post on my Patreon. I could make up some pretentious artistic explanation for why that is, such as horror being able to expose our underlying primal anxieties or whatever, but the truth is that I just find it fun to read scary stories and to write my own. I have ever since I was a kid. Seriously, you have no idea how many Goosebumps books I checked out of the school library.

A lot of my current projects revolve around horror, as well. Wednesday marked the premiere of the podcast TerrorTop, a Dungeons and Dragons Actual Play with Gothic and Lovecraftian elements. I’ve been working real hard on DMing the game and working together with my players to create a believable and terrifying world. We plan on releasing a new episode every other week, alternating with out sister podcast Quips and Crits.

TerrorTop
The thumbnail art for TerrorTop, as drawn by Evan La Medica

In addition, I have been working on an urban fantasy/ horror themed indie tabletop RPG, which I hope to eventually be able to publish. Working on developing the rules has been really fun, especially since I decided to work on my own system instead of piggy back off of someone else’s work. Unfortunately, that means I could very well screw up and create something unbalanced and not at all fun to play. But that’s the basic risk that comes with making any game.

Finally, I’m continuing to write horror stories. I’ll be posting a short flash fic later today, and I’m spending time that I’m not working on the RPG writing a longer story that I eventually hope to have published. if I can’t publish it, I’ll throw it on the Patreon and work on the next one. Eventually, I’ll get good enough to be a published horror author. Halloween may be over, but I will never stop celebrating the spirit of the macabre.

WolfNut of Red Larch

The following is a parody Werewolves of London by Warren Zevon. The lyrics are inspired by Acquisitions Incorporated: The C-Team. For best results, sing loudly while accompanied by a classic piano with an occasional guitar solo.

I saw WolfNut with a Draconic menu in her hand
walking through the streets of Red Larch in the rain.
She was looking for a place called the Yum Yum Hut.
Gonna get big plate of beef and romaine.

Hawooo! WolfNut of Red Larch
Hawoo!

Hawooo! WolfNut of Red Larch
Hawoo!

See her howling round your dungeon door,
better not let her in!
Tiny little goblin got mutilated late last night.
WolfNut of Red Larch again!

Hawooo! WolfNut of Red Larch
Hawoo!

Hawooo! WolfNut of Red Larch
Hawoo!

She’s that hairy handed creature
who ran amok in Nemezir.
Lately she’s been overheard in Neverwinter.
Better stay away from her:
she’ll rip your lungs out, sir!
Heh, I’d like to meet her armorer.

Hawooo! WolfNut of Red Larch
Hawoo!

Hawooo! WolfNut of Red Larch
Hawoo!

I saw Jim Darkmagic Walking with Omin Dran
dancing the WolfNut of Red Larch.
I saw Jim Darkmagic’s clone walking with Omin Dran
dancing the WolfNut of Red Larch.
I saw WolfNut drinking an ale at the Dran and Courtier.
Her hair was perfect.

Hawooo! WolfNut of Red Larch
Hawoo!

Hawooo! WolfNut of Red Larch
Hawoo!

Heh, draw blood!

Hawooo! WolfNut of Red Larch
Hawoo!

Projects, Projects, Projects

Has it really been July since I’ve updated this blog? Man, I really have been in my own head, haven’t I?

I’m still getting the hang of juggling my OfficeMax job with the other things I want to do, but the good news is that I’m more happy and motivated than I have been in a long time. Having a steady job gives me a bit of financial security, so I can focus on other things and not have to worry about paying my student loans. It of course helps that my parents have been letting me stay with them, so I am privileged int his regard. Still, it’s a load off my shoulders and has greatly reduced my anxiety.

I’ve been doing a lot of work on various projects, most of which are related to role playing games in some form. The first one I should mention is Quips n Crits, a Dungfeons and Dragons fifth edition actual play podcast with some homebrew rules. I play Nikos the Younger, an Eladrin Warlock who has become the firs of his kind to step onto the material plane in generations. He joins an eclectic cast of characters including Breeze the Tabaxi bard, Tribute the Tiefling Paladin, Cas the Half-Elf Eldritch Knight, Talos the Half-Orc Cleric, and  Adela the Water Genasi Druid. Their current quest: figure out how to stop a pirate captain from killing everyone while also tracking down Breeze’s long-lost family and there’s also this thing about a war between the elementals and the gods and…you know what? It will make more sense if you go listen to it.

The second major project goes off of the first. On Halloween, a new  5e actual play podcast will premiere. With myself as the Dungeon Master, and a number of my friends as the players, the new podcast explores the Gothic city of Godsfall, a plce where monsters stalk the streets at night and strange conspiracies intertwine. Pray you are one of the lucky ones who can sleep at night in the city without worrying about what’s lurking down below. The podcast is called TerrorTop, and it brings Gothic/Lovecraftian horror to the realm of D&D actual play. It is legitimately the best campaign I have ever run and I am so excited that I get to share it with the world. Head on over to the facebook page, or follow Quips n Crits, as TerrorTop will be premiering on the same podbean channel.

Also, check out this amazing cover art by Evan La MedicaTerrorTop

The final project is still in development. I am talking with an artist friend about a collaboration. Specifically, a webcomic, one that I will write and they will draw. We are still working on character designs, so don’t expect anything soon. Suffice it to say there is still a lot of work to be done. But we are both very excited about the project and cannot wait until it goes live!

And that is what I’m up to. Hopefully I will get a chance to post something again relatively soon. And I definitely plan to post once TerrorTop goes live.

A Matter of Seasons

Twigs crunched under Nikos’s feet as he made his way to the border. All around him were the signs of summer: chirping birds, bright sun coming through the trees, and of course, the late summer heat. Nikos’s own appearance, however, did not reflect the season of his surroundings. Nikos was dressed from head to toe in the regalis of autumn. His cloak was made of autumn leaves, and his armor was the deep red gold of maple leaves in that most transitional of seasons. His hair, too, was of the same color, as were his eyes. Nikos had always gravitated towards the season of autumn, even as a child. It was a season of generosity and friendliness, when the beginnings of cold were seeping in. It matched his own personality, as he had always tried to be friends with as many people as possible. Though he had to admit, that tendency of his had caused him more harm than good as of late.

Nikos looked to the sky and saw the colors of autumn reflected in the setting sun. It would be twilight soon; the crossing would be open and he would soon be out of the Feywild forever. Nikos shook the thought from his head. It had been all he could do not to fall into the patterns of winter and despair all through the trial. Even when he was sentenced he tried to maintain a friendly and polite demeanor. But when he had seen the scorn in the eyes of his father, he felt icicles begin to form in his hair as a chill spread through his body. He had been stuck in the season of winter for the entire week leading up to his banishment. He had only been able to break the spell on the day the was told to begin walking towards the border.

Finally, Nikos reached the clearing that marked the end of the forest and the beginning of the border. Though the border itself was invisible, Nikos felt the hair on his neck stand on end. Clearly, there was magic about.

Suddenly, he heard a twig snap behind him. Turning around he saw a creature that was rare, even for a place like the Feywild: a unicorn. She was tall and regal looking, her fur the color of a snowfall. Yet it seemed as though she could disappear into the forest as easy as any creature with better camouflage. She looked at Nikos, and her blue eyes seemed to be staring into his very soul.

“Child,” she said, “why are you so far from the domain of your parents? Why have you come to this liminal place between worlds?”

“I am no longer welcome in my home,” said Nikos.

“Why not?” asked the unicorn.

And though Nikos was quite sure that he had never seen this creature in his entire life, he told her everything. He told her of his father’s rival, of the dare his older brother gave him, of the chase through the manor and up to the ramparts. He told her how he had dropped the bust he had tried to steal and how it had shattered beyond repair on the ground below. He told her of the trial, of his father, Nikos the Elder, and his scornful stare, full on in the implacable season of summer. And he told her of his shame and his banishment, though it made the chill of winter creep back up his spine.

The unicorn was silent during Nikos’s story, and only spoke once he had finished. “The selfishness of some eladrin never fails to amaze me,” she said. “That you committed a crime is evident. That you are guilty, there can be no doubt. But to banish you for such an affront? It seems too extreme.”

“I thank you for your sympathy,” said Nikos, “but unfortunately, my fate is sealed. I have brought dishonor on my family, and my father will not have me. I must try to find a home elsewhere.” With that, he turned to leave. He could already see the crossing shimmering into existence. Soon it would materialize fully, and he would leave his home forever.

“Wait.” Nikos turned around to face the unicorn. “Your fate may not be sealed just yet,” said the celestial. “I may be able to help you regain your father’s favor. If you were to slay a great monster, one that threatens both the material plane and the Feywild, your banishment may be lifted.”

“And how would I do that?” asked Nikos. He was no warrior, nor was he a mage.

“With my blessing,” said the unicorn. “There is a monster that hunts my kind. It travels throughout the material plane, killing unicorns. Whether it hunts us for sport or sustenance, i have no idea. I do not even have a description of the beast, save only for the dying words of one of its victims: ‘the Red Bull.’”

The unicorn stepped towards Nikos. “I will give you a portion of my power. It will grow in you like a seed, and you will become strong enough to face any foe. In return, you will find whatever this ‘Red Bull’ is, and you will kill it. If you do this, I will tell the Fey Court of the service you have rendered my kind, and your banishment may be lifted.”

Nikos looked at the creature before him. It was true that unicorns had great magical power, and could bless mortals with it. But if this beast had slain unicorns before, how could one mortal stand up to it? And yet, for the first time since his trial, he felt a glimmer of hope. Suddenly, there had come to him a way out of the darkness. This was his only chance to get back what he had lost.

“I accept,” said Nikos. The unicorn stepped closer to him. She bent over and touched her horn to Nikos’s forehead. As soon as the horn touched him, Nikos felt a brightness enter into his very being. He felt power within himself: power that was just beginning to take shape. He wasn’t sure if he could stand up to such a beast as this Red Bull just yet, but he knew that if he got stronger, he may be able to face it.

“Go,” said the unicorn, “and end this beast.” And with that, the unicorn stepped back into the forest’s edge and disappeared.          

Nikos turned around to face the crossing. It had fully materialized now: a door of light in a wall that wasn’t there. Before, it had been a symbol of Nikos’s shame. Now, it was just the first step of a long journey home. Nikos the Younger walked towards the door and vanished into the light.

I’m starting a thing where I stream myself writing on my Twitch channel. This was one of things I wrote today. It’s a backstory for a D&D character, Nikos the Younger, whom I will be playing tomorrow night at 8:30 PM EST on Quips N Crits, a live podcast on twitch. Come check out both streams sometime!

Imposter Syndrome, WiFi Connectivity, and Other Things That Give Me a Headache

Hi. Long time no see. Sorry that I haven’t posted for a while, but WiFi connectivity in my house has been spotty at best. I’m actually typing this out on my phone right now. Please forgive any spelling errors.

Lately I’ve been having trouble writing. I’d call this problem writer’s block, but it’s not really lack of ideas that has been holding me back. In fact, it’s kind of the opposite problem: I have too many ideas and I can’t decide which ones to work on right now.

Now before you go nailing me to a tree for complaining about a “problem” that most writers would kill to have, I should explain a couple of things. First of all, I’m having trouble being confidant that my ideas are good. I’ll start writing a story, hoping it will become a novel, then halfway through the first chapter I become convinced that the whole thing is horrible and I should just give up. In other words, I have imposter syndrome. Secondly, these ideas are huge. Each is way bigger than anything I’ve tried to write before. As a result, I become intimidated by the size of what I’m trying to write and immediately feel inadequate. These two problems combined have made it really hard to get any writing done at all. Luckily I have a solution: stop trying to do too much too soon.

The thing I keep forgetting is that it took years for my favorite authors to get where they are. I’m only twenty-six. I’ve got plenty of time to write. I shouldn’t be so impatient to become a novelist. I’ve got plenty of time to work up to that.

So right now I’m just gonna go back to basics and write a few short stories. Nothing huge. Maybe a couple back stories for my D&D characters.

I’m also tossing around the idea of starting a second blog for discussing/writing about D&D and other tabletop RPGs. Something to help me grow my readership and keep me writing on a regular basis. Also, I can write pages and pages about RPGs. I’ve been a DM for years and a player for even longer. I’ve got loads of opinions and experience to draw from.

Anyway, that’s the state of my writing right now.

AlexAloiTV

I haven’t talked about it on the blog yet, but gaming is a pretty big part of my life. My weekly Dungeons and Dragons game is the biggest contributor to my interacting with people outside of work. I’ve been playing D&D ever since my freshman year of college, and it continues to be one of my favorite passtimes besides reading and writing. Well, now I’ve officially jumped on the streaming bandwagon. Starting tomorrow, I’m going to be streaming several times a week on my Twitch channel.

To start, I’m going to play through the classic computer RPG Baldur’s Gate II. But later this month I will begin streaming a Dungeons and Dragons campaign that will follow the new Curse of Strahd module. It is the latter of the two streams that I am most excited for.

Curse of Strahd
The campaign in question.

Dungeons and Dragons is, in my opinion, a good passtime for writers. It is at its heart a kind of group storytelling experience. Each player creates a character, except for the Dungeon Master, who creates the many: the villain, the players’ allies, and all the little side characters in between. Even when playing a pre-written campaign it is impossible for the Dungeon Master to leave the world free of their influence, as they are still in charge of how each character acts.

The interaction between players and their Dungeon Master creates a unique story experience no matter what module you’re running, and it is for that reason that I find Dungeons and Dragons just as much fun to watch as to play. I hope you’ll toon in so you can see what I mean.

The Baldur’s Gate II stream will take place every Tuesday and Thursday at 6:00 PM EST starting tomorrow, March 29th. The Dungeons and Dragons campaign will be streaming every other Saturday at 7:00 PM EST starting April 9th. I hope to see you there!