Busy Month

6/30/00: I woke up with a nasty cough, but nothing more than that. My laryngitis, it seems, is finally on its way out the door, and none too soon, because I'm going to need to be very healthy for July. Things have been busy lately!

In addition to the last of my crop of Star Trek gigs, I've designed a parody micro-RPG for a local company (it'll be available at GenCon), and lots of work on my new Cumberland Games projects (including promotional stuff for Sparks). I'm also developing proposals for Guardians of Order, who recently invited me to write some very cool stuff for them. Since those projects will mean working with Dave Pulver again, which is always a privilege, I'm happily stoked about that. All this on top of the usual Secret Doin's that bubble up and under . . . This time of year is always a busy one for the gaming business, even out here in the freelance boondocks.

So, armed with lemon tea and a steely gaze, I set my hands to work . . . In the meantime, hope this finds you all well.

"I Have No Mouth . . ."

6/26/00: Well, I'm not really sick anymore, but my throat still hurts like heck, and the virus left me with a memento: a case of acute laryngitis. In the wee hours of Sunday morning, I woke up with a painful cough and no voice at all! So, I've been doing even more of the fluids-and-sleeping thing, and fiddling with stuff on the 'puter to pass the time in the wierd hours. The good news is that I'm almost better now, since the virus is for-real gone. I'm tentatively getting back to work today, and by tomorrow afternoon I'll be in full swing. In a pantomime sort of way.

The other good news is that when I'm fiddling, the Blue Room gets updated! I've added two more links to offsite Risus pages. One is a Risus RPG based on Red Dwarf, one of my favorite british comedies; the other is a very blunt (but amusing) Star Trek parody.

I've also loaded up a fresh version of the Blue Room Talisman cards, with 50% more cards (54 in all). Thrill to the adventures you'll have in the Oriental Cathouse, or as the proud owner of the Amulet of Vorlax or the Disposable Golem. It's a 36k ZIP file containing a PDF, as before, and it has a permanent home in the Secret Library.

And Yet More Risus

6/22/00: I've updated the Risus page today with two more links: one to the new Risus mailing list, and another to Ironsides, Dylan Craig's way-cool 17th-century fantasy Risus page! Lotta Risus in the air, lately . . . lotta Risus in my inbox! It's a good thing.

What's not a good thing right now is my health. I've had a nasty virus laying me out and beating on me for the past several days, and I'm spending half the time on the couch groaning and the other half restlessly fiddling with the website and whatnot. Today I think I'm beginning to feel the first glimmer of being on-the-mend, but it looks like this will carry me grumpily into the weekend. Many thanks to the nice folks who've e-mailed me well-wishes and suggestions after I griped about all this on the mailing list! Fortunately, Sandra hasn't caught this thing from me. She had a bad tummy on Monday, but now she's doing fine. On Monday, we probably looked pretty silly, trying to help each other while we were both barely able to help ourselves!

On the bright side, the past couple of weeks have been very interesting, work-wise. Soon I'll have a couple of surprising projects to talk about, including a Secret Odd Thing that should be available at Gen Con! More soon.

Cordite, Fire, and Bare Skin

6/16/00: From out of the flaming wreckage, they emerge, with sweat glistening in the oily fire and barrels still hot from the rush of combat. They're Macho Women with Guns, the subject of "The only roleplaying game in the Vatican Archives," Greg Porter's masterpiece of politically-incorrect, shamelessly-exploitative action. I'm darned proud to announce that the official Macho Women with Guns Sparks set is now available! Nuff 'said!

I Choose YOU!

6/6/00: I'm having lots of fun showing my friend Tim around Austin again (he was here once before, a year ago, but I've learned a lot more about Austin in that year) and yesterday, we made the rounds of a few bookstores and comic shops . . . At one (Comics & More, on South Lamar) we saw a display of the Pokemon Jr. adventure game, from WotC, and Tim bought it on a lark.

What a lark! If you know any little Poke-fiends, I highly recommend it. It is, sure enough, a simple RPG, with NPC encounters and puzzles and fights (lots of fights). The one-page "GMing advice" section at the beginning (the game assumes the parent is the GM) is possibly my favorite part . . . Good stuff.

In other news, the Call for Playtesters has borne good fruit! I've heard from some very interesting GMs, and it looks like Cumberland G&D will be off to a good start with a strong core of opinionated testers. Big thanks to everybody who wrote in, and heavy nudges to any that want to get in under the wire!

And, as most of you have heard by now, one of the publishers I've done a lot of freelancing for lately, Last Unicorn Games, is being purchased by Wizards of the Coast! I heard about this from the folks at Dragon's Lair (up on Burnet) last night, and it's causing a lot of buzz. I'm not sure what all the implications are, but one thing's for certain: LUGTrek (now WotCTrek) will be on a lot more shelves, now.

Splashing in Puddles of Fun

5/29/00: I've been happily busy for the past week. A lot of it, as usual, has been work (building spreadsheets to double-check the species stats in Final Frontiers, for example), but a lot of it has been pure fun. My new GURPS campaign has me nose-deep in the Basic Set again, and I've been fiddling with my Makechar files, pestering Dennis Sarrazin with bug reports on his super-powerful GURU software, and sitting around with colored pencils sketching maps. Meantime, the first wave of playtest applicants (see below) appeared in the mail, and that's really got me jazzed. Lots of fun things, lately . . . All this character-making inspired me to finish up a project I meant to finish ages ago: the Makechar DTA file for GURPS Russia.

The Risus page has seen two updates in the past few days. The first for Hollis McCray's risus character-making app and ASCII character sheet, and the second for Christopher Thrash's very entertaining Risus conversion of Traveller: Travelling Light.

And in-between, Sandra and I've been enjoying the long weekend by kicking back and watching movies on the VCR, walking around Austin, and shooting pool up at the campus Underground. Hope this finds everybody well. More soon.

Playtesters Wanted

5/22/00: As many of you know, I'll be creating RPG e-books for sale this year - adventures, settings, and an entire (seriously kickass) RPG are in the works. But I don't intend to sell any work that hasn't been thoroughly playtested. The first products will be in finished draft form sometime in June, and I'll need a team of GMs across the country with players at the ready!

I'm not looking for people to comment on the drafts . . . I already have my Top Secret Inner Circle of Picky Friends for that. I'm looking for hobbyists interested in taking this stuff to the table and playing it to the limits, eager and intending to tear it a new one. Playtesters will be thanked by name in the credits, provided with free copies of the finished goods, and sundry other perks.

Playtest materials and reports will be exchanged almost entirely by snail mail; the same goes for applications. Interested gamers should drop me a line at

S. John Ross/CG&D Playtest
6503 Bluff Springs Road
Apartment #1019
Austin, TX 78744

No E-mail applications, please! Describe your gaming tastes and your playing group, including any information that might help me select you for the team. If you're selected, I'll send you a Non-Disclosure Agreement and further details. Here's hoping I hear from you soon; there's good stuff happening here!

CG&D Logo

Custom Fonts?

5/17/00: Well, the storm ended, the book got written, and work continues apace. The local coffeehouses continue to provide my favorite work-venue, but this week I'm still doing a lot of writing at home . . . and that means more frequent Blue Room updates, among other things. This one is font-related: I've received a couple of questions along the lines of "If I send you my signature will you make a font out of it for me?"

Yes, I can do this (and yes, it's darned useful - I use mine for "signing" faxed invoices, which is required by some of my publishers).

My rates for custom dingbat fonts (including signatures, logos, amusing doodles, or any other kind of strictly black-and-white images) are $15 for a single-glyph font, or $25 for fonts of no more than 5 glyphs (there are Serious Fontmakers that charge hundreds of dollars for this kind of thing, but I'm not a Serious Anything). Anything bigger than 5 characters I probably can't spare the extra time for, but feel free to write and ask.

Stormy Weather

5/12/00: Here in Austin, a nasty storm is blowing in . . . Sandra and I came out of the supermarket faced with blowing debris, dust, and misdirected plumes of water from sprinkler systems. Pretty dramatic stuff! I'm due for an all-nighter tonight, putting the finishing touches on the first draft of Troubled Times, my newest book (the "fantasy Muscovy" supplement for C&S). Since I'm not entirely certain the electricity will be staying on, I thought I'd drop in here and say hi, and listen to the rain against the windows for a while while the worst of it blows past.

Those of you who pay close attention might have noticed a few other recent updates, over in the fonts section of the site . . . What used to be the Blue Room Fontworks is now the Cumberland Fontworks, and there are little "Cumberland Games & Diversions" logos on the pages of the fonts for sale. CG&D is the name I'll be applying to all my "self-published" stuff, fonts or e-books or what-have-you (I'm looking into the costs of paper publishing, too, of course, but that's for later). More on all of that, later (much more, but not much later)!

Simply Cool

5/8/00: The concept of pencil-and-paper games being sold in electron-and-phosphor form is taking shape. It began over on HyperBooks, with BTRC's PDF versions of paper books, and Eric Hotz' excellent Red Stag Inn (the first original commercial PDF for gamers, I believe - and still the most impressive). Deep 7 came along a year or so after that, making a few people go "hmm" but not really making many waves with the "1PG" concept.

Now, something really special has happened. MicroTactix has released Simply Roleplaying! - a complete universal system sold entirely in PDF form. I've had a chance to look over a copy, and I'm very happy to say that it looks solid and meaty; definitely worth the low ticket-price they're asking. As a old GURPS-hound, I appreciate the optional and very clean integration with their tactical games. As a drama-over-numbers GM, I appreciate that they pull it all off without a bunch of gritty math to slow my brain down. I also know for a fact that they'll be supporting it, which is great.

Of course, this is doubly-good-news for me, since, after two years of gearing up for it (many of you may remember our late-night talks in the Pyramid chatroom about it), I'm finally jumping into e-books myself, later this year, with a series of adventure collections, setting-collections, and a full-bore RPG (just collecting the research material has been a hoot for me and a pain for the city librarians) . . . lots of cool stuff I've been wanting to write for years. Seeing Simply Roleplaying! makes it a lot less scary, because by releasing a serious, professional system in PDF, Guy McLimore and company have taken a big step in "legitimizing" the concept of PDF as a method of delivery, building on Hotz' foundation with something worthy of it. They have every reason to be proud. Give it a look.

Web-Wanderings

4/30/00: As a few of my correspondents know, I recently became one of the thousands of editors at the Open Directory Project - the outfit that writes the web-directories used by Alta Vista, Google, and other search engines to direct the confused web-wanderer to pages that will please and amuse. I did this primarily to bring the GURPS directory up to speed, but while I was in there I created entirely new directories for Risus (natch) and Fudge (the latter I've handed off to Shawn Lockard, who's more of a Fudge expert than I, and can do it real justice).

With all that linking and summarizing and whatnot, I (embarassingly) included a link on the Risus directory that wasn't actually on my own Risus page! I've corrected that, now, and Chuck Paschall's Life is Always Intense - the "Unofficial Repo Man RPG" - is now given it's proper place on the roster of cool Risus sites.

Easter Eggs

4/23/00: Happy Easter! I've set out a basket for everybody, but instead of plastic grass and jelly beans, it's an Adobe Acrobat (4.0) file filled with yummy Talisman cards. Talisman is a wonderful boardgame published by Games Workshop, years ago - a fantasy quest game, probably the best in that particular genre. With loads of cards giving the game variety, Gary Chalk illustrations giving it character, and Games Workshop giving it lots of support (there were six expansion sets), it was a winner ... Until they finally let it shuffle off this mortal coil almost ten years ago. A completely-revised Third Edition failed to please anybody, so now the game is long gone.

But, today is about renewal and resurrections and sneaking off to France with the Magdalene, or whatever, and so I've done a bit of reviving, myself: This file (a new addition to the Secret Library) has 36 cards in it, half of which are resurrected from my teenage years! Sandra helped with the rest, since they arose from a bout of Talismania that kicked in yesterday afternoon. Enjoy!

Still Swamped, Still Happy

4/15/00: Jeepers. I don't normally let two weeks slip by here without saying a word; sorry about that! Still super-busy, and still enjoying it. Those of you who've sent emails into the black vortex that is my inbox may rest assured that we're still breathing! In fact, taking a breather is what today's all about - there's a reggae festival going on, and the poets are packing the coffeehouses for their festival, and there's even a Wheel of Fortune audition up at one of the malls, if we're feeling whimsical. Either way, it's time to head out. So, until next time (which'll be sooner than the last next time) best to you from us out here!

Happily Swamped

4/2/00: It's one of those months when deadlines all converge, like some kind of bizarre astrological even that foretells the rise of new empires and the death of an evil tyrant. Since I'm also laying ground for my first long-term, for-real fantasy campaign right now, too, empires and tyrants are swimming in my mind . . .

The Blue Room has been quiet, though . . . But won't be for long. A new Sparks set is finished, and will be ready to roll out as soon as I have time to write the docs and web page for it. The Star Trek page will soon sport a spiffy new Andorian FAQ (the first in a long-overdue series of Blue Room FAQ files), and I've even got a new GURPS article in the works (fiddling with campaigns always does that).

And speaking of GURPS, I'm secretly doing Stuff For Another Website . . . several of them, in fact. I'll explain later.

Many things on the short-term horizon. In the meantime, just wanted to say hi!

Sea & Snow

3/25/00: When we got back to Austin on Thursday, the difference in climate was incredible. Here in Austin, it's been warm and breezy, with all the vegetation coming to life after a series of rains, and we rode the cab with the windows down, soaking up the fragrant air and smiling placidly at the maddening traffic. Home again.

The pleasures of familiar surroundings aside, I already miss St. John's. Snow, grey clouds, icy winds, and more snow . . . And the chilly North Atlantic, which is just about the most beautiful thing I've ever seen crash repeatedly into rocks. Shoveling snow in sneakers wasn't too bright, but it was an awful lot of fun - and since I'm writing about fantasy Russia right now, the climate brought a lot of things into focus.

Seeing the in-laws was especially cool, too - I got more gaming in than usual, with Sandra and I going head-to-head at 5x5 and Once Upon a Time and the whole family grooving on Cosmic Wimpout (and dominoes, and Scrabble, and Royalty). And we got to take our favorite niece and nephew book-shopping!

Gah. Too much happened to even provide a summary, really. But suffice it to say it was a much-needed break, and there were photos taken. We'll let those speak for themselves, in a day or two. In the meantime, I have a lot of work to finish, and Pratchett's in town tomorrow for a signing, so I need to snooze. Check out the Risus page while you're here; the new French translation (by the same game designer responsible for the French edition of GURPS, as it happens) is a real hoot! More soon.

Back to Newfoundland

3/7/00: Today is a day of preparation, assembly, and distillation. Thursday morning, Sandra and I will be flying out of Austin on our way to her home city of St. John's, Newfoundland, the easternmost city in North America. We'll be gone for two weeks. Since I'm in the heart of two major RPG projects: my Russian Chivalry & Sorcery book, and my development-work on Final Frontiers for Star Trek, I'll be taking work along, and taking advantage of the energy that fresh surroundings always bring.

The Russian prep-work has been exciting but tiring - the plane trip will be a welcome break! Yesterday, I was welcomed up at the UT campus by the helpful folks at the Center for Russian and East European Studies, who opened their library to me and were extremely helpful and generous with their resources. They had plenty of books that I'd never had access to before, and I got some exciting material, along with an invitation to return whenever I needed to. Thanks very much, gang!

Of course, the Blue Room will sit here quietly without updates for the next two weeks, but I'll be posting greetings and updates to the Blue Room Mailing List from St. John's. In the meantime, I leave the site in your hands. Take the opportunity to explore and read at least one article that you haven't read before. There are a hundred or so pages here, and a lot of folks haven't yet tried out the Big List of RPG Plots or the Novus Ordo Discordia, or Blind Geoff. Poke around in the Secret Library and the Fontworks. Raid the fridge for some Sourdough or Guinea Grinders. You may be quizzed later!

Anway, take care, everyone, and we'll see you when we get back.

Weigh In

3/3/00: If you're interested in gaming (and if you're here, you probably are), you'll be interested in the RPGnet Industry Directory. There are a lot of gaming sites on the web, ranging from bigass multi-topic homepages like mine (or John Tynes' excellent Revland, or the functional-but-oh-so-sweet realm of Steffan O'Sullivan) to pages containing nothing but a page of old links, a stray Shadowrun character, and an animated banner saying "Under Construction." While others have attempted annotated, searchable databases of these sites, RPGnet has the best effort so far . . . Since, being RPGnet, it's certain to stay around to grow!

So, I'm asking everybody to help it grow! Visit the Directory and vote! If you think the Blue Room is entirely swell, give it a 10. If you think the Blue Room is a pile of rancid squirrel pelts, give it a 1. Vote honestly, but vote!

The second part of helping it grow is adding sites! The database is still relatively small, so if you have a gaming site of your own, or a favorite site that you think should be indexed, please submit it! The Directory - and RPGnet in general - is a resource worth supporting.

Icon System

2/26/00: It's been a long time since I gave the main logo a facelift, but the bug bit me this evening. Sandra dozed off early (we've both had a tiring week), and I started doodling around with logo alternates. I wanted something kind of neat-looking but not too "slick." I did slick about a year ago and got sick of it in less than a month - this is my homepage, and should be comfy and fun, not "professional!" The result is above.

Note that the quote is missing! For a while, I'm going iconic . . . Instead of an epigraph that changes regularly, I have a box containing a simple doodle that will change regularly. I can't draw worth a lick, but I like stick-figures! I call them The Little Cartoon Bastards, and I first started drawing them to decorate my "'Zine" submissions to All of the Above, the GURPS APA. Since then, they continue to occupy my pen and emerge from time to time. They've made recent appearances (in fantasy garb) on the Scrapbook 2000 page. I even got paid to draw them, once, when (again in costume) they graced the logo I designed for a Pyramid article by Steve Jackson.

So anyway, now would be a good time for me to sleep. 'Til next time!

Russian Reading

2/22/00: As the C&S Russian project continues to fall into place, my desk and neighboring shelves here at home are beginning to sag under the weight of my collection of source-material, which continues to grow long past the point when I should just settle for what I've got (an occupational hazard, aggravated and complicated by acute bibliophilia). In the eight years that have passed since the last time I did a book about Old Russia, there have been some very good books introduced that have made the research a little easier, this time around. In addition to classics like the Afanasev collection and Fedotov and Platonov, there are swell new books like Mike Dixon-Kennedy's Encyclopedia of Russian and Slavic Myth and Legend, which is exactly what it sounds like and amazingly good - it's well worth a library trip. Since this book favors folklore over history, I've also indulged in a few books that were around before but didn't scream out to be read until now. Chief among these is Arkadi and Boris Strugatski's Monday Begins on Saturday, a soviet era modern fantasy (of sorts) about an out-of-the-way Russian town where all the old creatures from Russian fairy tales still live, with a Soviet institute working to make them good communists(!) - it's not exactly "period," but it's been a very entertaining satire, and it always helps to see how people view their own folklore; it reveals a lot of little connections and shades of humor in the source material that isn't otherwise obvious.

There are a dozen or two more, but those two titles, in particular, make for snappy reading that anyone interested in the subject would get a kick out of; hunt them down!

This week is also a heavy Star Trek week, although I'm not writing much, this time. I'm collecting (with a whip in one hand and a chair in the other) material from the writers of Final Frontiers, and beginning official development of that book for my pals over at LUG. And with all this immersion in Old Russia, don't be surprised if Final Frontiers subversively supports Chekov's ideas about the real shape of history! Not that I'd do that on purpose, of course . . .

Anyway, I'm heading outside to write. Best to everybody.

Sparks in 3-D!

2/15/00: In the "apropos of nothing" category for this evening, we have the 3-D Sparks Image. I did this for absolutely no reason at all (apart from my previously-revealed enthusiasm for The Dungeoneers). I used to play around with anaglyphs (as these things are sometimes called) when I was a teenager, drawing them by hand with markers. This is my first stab at doing one on the computer, and it's much easier this way. To get the 3-D effect, you'll need an old-fashioned pair of Red/Blue 3-D glasses, with the blue lens over your right eye.

Sparks Will Fly!

2/8/00: I'm very very happy to announce that the newest Sparks set, The Dungeoneers, is ready to go and bursting with raw cool. The mighty Dan Smith outdid himself with the art in this set, which takes Sparks into the vine-choked ruins and damp catacombs of a distant fantasy realm, filled with all of the usual good stuff: sinister undead, beautiful sorceresses, big ugly golems, mighty-thewed and eagerly-violent barbarians, et serious cetera. Enjoy the nifty demo version (Win9x or Mac - just under 50k each), complete with a courageous party of delvers and all the orcs they can eat!

Cold Comfort

2/6/00: While, physically, I'm wandering from street to street and library to library here in sunny Austin, my mind has gone home, in a way, to the cold waters of the Volga; the dark forests north of Moscow; the forgotten paths to the Thrice-Tenth Kingdom; the murky realm of the Rusalki; the forbidding house of Baba Yaga . . . With a long stretch of Star Trek writing behind me, I've shifted into development-mode on Trek (working with the writers of Final Frontiers), and my writing energies are at last turned to the pages of my new "Russia project" - my first supplement for Chivalry & Sorcery. While GURPS Russia told the story of medieval Russia from a historical perspective, the C&S book dances nimbly around history (and even traditional fantasy), discarding fact in favor of truth by presenting gameworld based entirely on Russian folklore. This project has been in the preparation stages for the past year, and I'm happy to announce that it's now underway full-time. Wish me luck; it's been eight long years since I got to write about Old Russia; I've been longing to return.

Here on the Blue Room, things are bubbling up all over. Sometime later this week, we'll have a new Sparks set available - the eagerly-awaited swords-and-sorcery set, The Dungeoneers. In the meantime, you can join us in the world of Sparks with the Scrapbook 2000 project!

Finally, the language barrier has been broken yet again! German Risus fan Achim "Al" Leidig has created Risus - Das "Alles Geht" Rollenspiel and made it available on the web. Thanks, Al!

Dice and Snow

2/1/00: We got back from Missouri on Sunday night, via puddle-jumper from Columbia and then jet from St. Louis. As we boarded the latter, the Super Bowl was just warming up to a kickoff (with the local team in the game!) and there was ample evidence of local buzz. The pilot kept us abreast of the score as we lifted off, but I was busy watching the landscape peel away, all snow-covered. Sandra and I were both dead tired after the weekend, and the final flight was a relaxing blend of sleep, smooches, and me scribbling in my notebook.

The con was smaller than it might have been, due to the snow falling steadily throughout the weekend. Watching people turn at amusing angles in the parking lot was good sport, and so was being chased by a crazed, snowball-chucking Sandra. Ah, snow . . .

Snow was the big problem in Tsar Zmedyed's Son, my GURPS Russia "beast fable" that ran as Saturday's charity event for the Humane Society. It, and Friday night's Escape From Po'Ki'Sai (my Yrth/Sahud adaption of John Nowak's classic Escape From Poughkeepsie) went very well, and I'll be running encores of both as local game-shop demos soon (keep an eye on the calendar at Dragon's Lair if you're in the Austin area, or plan to be). The former was mythic and dramatic and bizarre, the latter was high-fantasy and silly and deadly (and bizarre); both introduced me to tables full of some really good gamers! We played with beta-prints of some new fantasy Sparks (available soon!), terrorized innocent barbarians, blinded owls, hob-nobbed with Baba Yaga, and explored the deeper meaning of being a man named "Luther."

When I wasn't gaming, I was answering questions or signing things or waxing on about the "behind the scenes" aspects of the gaming industry (I prefer the term "seamy underbelly;" it's more colorful and descriptive), and met some great people that way, too, including a Star Trek gamer I'd emailed with but never met personally before, and this really nice gamer-couple who were in Friday's GURPS game as well. Sandra and I did some gaming of our own, too, with games of 5x5 and billiards in the hotel bar, but since she thrashed me at both I won't dwell on that. :)

And then yesterday, I was on the streets again, doing a full-time day on my new Russia book, which has finally reached the front burners, alongside Final Frontiers. It's great to be back home in Austin, but I miss the snow already . . .

Away We Go

1/27/00: This morning, I'm finishing up preparations for Eclipse, filing characters and sorting notes and scribbling maps and so on. The one thought that is putting a big smile on my face is: snow! Missouri is getting snow, and is scheduled to get even more of it this weekend, so I'm pscyhed for the trip. A weekend away, with Sandra and snow. Doesn't get much better than that.

I'll post a report when I return. I'm really looking forward to the maiden run of Tsar Zmedyed's Son, in particular! Until then, best to you from us.

A Darker Eclipse

1/26/00: John Kovalic, scheduled to appear as Artist Guest of Honor at Eclipse 2000, unfortunately will be unable to attend. Early this morning, John got word that his uncle has passed away, and he'll likely be traveling this weekend to attend memorial services. Condolences to John and his family, from ours.

Spark Plug

1/25/00: The Daily Illuminator, the eclectic and often-enlightening voice of SJ Games, gave a nice plug to Sparks this morning, which I read happily just as I was opening files to fiddle with the beta version of the new fantasy set, currently in the works (I want to have a few to game with at Eclipse 2000 this weekend)! Steve became aware of Sparks this past Friday, when I left a "Saucer Man" playfully in his office inbox. I was visiting the company to do some paper-signing for the new printing of GURPS Russia, due out next month! Steve also autographed a copy of Murphy's Rules (the only book where SJ and I share equal billing!), which I'll be signing myself and taking along to the con this weekend, where I'll get John Kovalic to complete the cheery vandalism. From there, it'll make a very nice addition to the convention charity auction.

A Summer of Words

1/20/00: Well, it felt like summer for much of the week, and I did a lot of writing outdoors, sitting on a curb over on Manchaca Blvd, on bus stop benches, at picnic tables in small parks, and so on. The usual collection of restaurants and coffeehouses, too, of course (today it got cool and even a little chilly in the evening). I've been working on Star Trek: The Next Generation material for much of the week, along with development work on the movie-era sourcebook, and some proofreading for the fine folks at Dragon Tree Press. On top of that, I've been fiddling with material for next weekend, where I'll be running a charity RPG event at Eclipse 2000 (Columbia, Missouri), where I'm the Gaming Guest of Honor. The adventure - Tsar Zmedyed's Son - is a Russian beast-fable, using material from both GURPS Russia and my upcoming C&S: A Time of Troubles book being prepared for Chivalry & Sorcery.

And speaking of eclipses . . . Sandra and I were out there tonight, bundled up and snuggled close in deck chairs, watching the moon shadow over. What a sight!

Sjohn-AFK

1/11/00: Blue Desk updates have been a little scarce over the past week or so; sorry about that! The main reason that that I've been "AFK" as we say in the chat rooms: Away From Keyboard. In what turned out to be a kind of accidental New Year's resolution, I packed up my Mead organizer one day and just walked out the door, determined to finish my current projects longhand, on slices of bleached wood-pulp, like the cavemen did. Those of you on the mailing list will remember the stage that immediately preceded this - my search for a new word processing program. While that search did turn up some interesting results (some of them currently installed on my hard drive), the best result was that it drove me to just turn off the idiot box (Television, as far as I'm concerned, has been dethroned) and get to work.

Well, boy-howdy. It worked so well that I feel foolish. I used to write this way, long ago, but getting a computer (my old 8088 with 512 whopping "k" of RAM, the one I wrote Wierder Tales and my Citybook stuff and GURPS Warehouse 23 and a sizeable chunk of the In Nomine library on) improved my productivity, so I happily went digital.

Then I "upgraded" . . . Steffan O'Sullivan and I have talked about this, how we used to get so much more done in XyWrite in DOS . . . Heck, just adding up the time I wait for Word to load in a year is probably enough time to write a pretty big article or adventure, if not a small book.

So I've been writing elsewhere. Austin Is My Office. I've been writing on hospital patios, on the steps of the local game shop, up at the UT Student Union, in fast food joints, in coffeehouses (French Roast with skim, sweetener, and a dash of Tabasco, please), on the bus, at bookstores, at Pizza Hut up on Riverside (it's handy to have a salad bar handy while working), at supermarkets, and elsewhere. I've got a clipboard for writing on benches (it makes a good paperweight, too), and a notebook full of gaming material (and also mustard stains). And I've gotten so much fresh air and exercise, and am enjoying all of it so much, that I can't really call my job a sedentary one anymore . . . I write 'til my butt tells me to move, and then I walk, meet some new people (hell, I could write two plays with the material I've picked up in idle conversation with strangers . . .), find a new place, then write some more.

Anyway, today I'm home, typing it all in. Oy. My handwriting sucks. I need to type it all in now while I can still read it! In the meantime, there have been several updates to the Blue Room recently; I just haven't had time to mention them here yet. Now they're mentioned! Hope this finds you well. Now I'm just itching to get back outside and get writing again . . . Which, ultimately, will soon mean more full-size articles to add to the Blue Room, too!

21st Century

1/1/00: Originally, Sandra and I had planned on staying in for a cozy New Year at home. After last night's Skynrd/ZZ Top show, we were partied out and ready for some hot beverages and a video, but it didn't quite work out that way!

We went up Congress to catch dinner at Magnolia South with every intention of returning home in time to rent something appropriately New Yearsy. I had some kind of chicken-and-linguine thing dressed up with chipotle sauce. Incredibly good, whatever they called it. Sandra opted to make a short stack of whole-wheat banana pancakes her own last meal of the 20th century, and we dined happily.

But then, we were so close to downtown . . . And the big "A2K" celebration came complete with two bigass stages with good musicians playing, and half of downtown shut away from motor traffic. It sounded too good to pass up; the city was already starting to bubble a little with the excitement of the holiday. Off we went, hoofing it up Congress, hearing the music kicking in from a good distance across the river!

We're definitely glad we went! A quarter of a million people showed up, dressed outrageously and hooting and dancing and smooching and throwing things and doing all that good stuff. Sandra and I got in our share of dancing and smooching, and had stuff thrown at us, which was fun (a few girls in a festive mood decided we'd look better covered in glittery confetti, and I agree). We wandered the crowds, checked out the music, and sat and talked for a while with a woman who is, it turned out, running for Mayor.

After couple of hours, though, it started getting very chilly, and since we had gone out expecting nothing but a quick return home, we opted to continue the evening back here, so we boarded the bus (more fascinating people, there, and a bit with three guys on unicycles), shot home, and snuggled up to watch Great Big Sea singing back in Sandra's home town of St. John's - the first city in North America to greet the New Year (it was around 11PM by now, but the VCR had been dutifully watching TV while we were away, just in case). There was more smooching as Austin's own countdown came along, and then we listened to the crackle of fireworks, noshed a little popcorn, watched an episode of Absolutely Fabulous, and Sandra drifted off to sleep.

At which point I came out here to write this, and was interrupted by the sound of several small animals being squeezed to death by giant harmonicas. Or rather, a man in a funny hat and a kilt standing just below our balcony, playing the bagpipes! I went out to watch as his companion (an tipsy blonde in a dress that had to be a bit cold in this weather) was snapping pictures and sort of dancing along. When he was finished and they were once again in posession of their champagne glasses, I shouted down a Happy New Year, which they toasted, and the guy in the kilt sounded something that sounded cheerful and Scottish.

And that brings me here . . . wishing you a Happy New Year, too, and a dose of whatever that guy in the kilt said, too. Best to you from us.


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