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Desert Island Directors

In Filmspotting’s most recent episode, the hosts went through their top five directors whose movies you’d want on a desert island. In other words, if you were stuck on a desert island with a TV and a DVD player, which five directors’ complete works would you want? This is a fun game and an interesting twist so I played along.

On the whole I was closer to David Gordon Green’s choices than to those of the hosts. He’s not listed at the link above, but he chose John Landis, Alan Parker, Robert Altman, John Ford, and Stanley Kubrick. I think Alan Parker in particular is a brilliant choice.

I’d start with Steven Soderbergh. He has huge range: this gives me everything from classic indie movies to weird experimental stuff to blockbusters, and all of it is beautiful. I could rewatch any of these movies again and again. He’s also directed 40 or so movies, so there’s a lot of watching there.

Next: Kathryn Bigelow. She’s only got nine movies under her belt, so I lose all the ground I gained with Soderbergh. Doesn’t matter. I’d probably have her on the list if she’d only directed Near Dark, Strange Days, and The Hurt Locker. Her movies are consuming, and I want that if I’m stuck on this island.

Third is the Coen Brothers. Like Soderbergh, but even more so, their movies will reward repeat viewing. They’re also where I’m getting most of my comedies — dark, cynical, sometimes sad comedies, but nonetheless you have to laugh somehow.

From there we’ll go international and pick up Kar Wai Wong. This feels like cheating since I’m also getting a ton of Christopher Doyle cinematography. If it’s cheating, I have no regrets. I couldn’t live without someone from Asian cinema and preferably Hong Kong, and while John Woo might be more accessible, Kar Wai Wong will be better. Plus I still get a couple of good martial arts flicks.

Finally, and stolen from Adam Kempenaar’s list, Howard Hawks. Since I am a poor excuse for a film student, I didn’t think of him at once, but he’s an obvious choice. He worked in every genre, he made a huge number of great films, and he provides a superb window into earlier film. This also means I get some lighthearted movies. A win all around.

Savage Steve Holland does not make my list.

Mirrored from Population: One.

One last howl

Originally published at Mouseferatu: Rodent of the Dark. You can comment here or there.

Today, CCP–White Wolf’s parent company–pulled the plug.

Didn’t know White Wolf was still around? That’s understandable. They stopped publishing pen-and-paper RPGs some years ago. A great many of the staff went and founded Onyx Path, the company that is currently publishing the World of Darkness games, as well as Exalted, Scion, and other stuff. They’ve been a worthy successor.

But White Wolf still existed, in the form of people at CCP working on the Vampire MMO. Today, a huge number of them have lost their jobs, to say nothing of years of hard, thankless work that will now never see the light of day. The last formal vestige of White Wolf is gone.

This is a big deal for me (though certainly not nearly as big a deal as it is for the people who were laid off). Vampire: the Masquerade was the first non-D&D game that I got into long-term. (I’d played others, but only briefly or sporadically). It was the first RPG I played with the woman I’d later marry. It completely changed the way I thought about running games.

But more than that… White Wolf gave me my career. After years of failing to break into fiction, it was White Wolf–and Justin Achilli, specifically–who gave me my first professional writing shot. It was the freelance work for WW that led me to D20 work; the d20 work that led me to official D&D work; and it was through WW and Wizards of the Coast that i was finally able to get my foot in the fiction door.

Would it have happened without them? Maybe. But it wouldn’t have been the same, and anyway, it did happen with/because of them.

As I said, Onyx Path is a worthy heir. Heck, it’s many of the same people. I hope to work with them again in the future, and I wish them all the success in the world. But I’m still sorry to see the end of the company that started it all for me, and the effect it’s having on some very good, very talented people.

Farewell, old wolf.

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Back in January I sat down and wrote a plan. That plan, more or less, said this is the year when you write all of the things. Then I made myself a list, which broken down what all the things were in roughly the order I wanted to write them.

It was an ambitious-as-hell list of stuff. Full of hope and shiny, happy unicorn spit, pristine in its gleaming awesomeness.Full of novellas, weirdly enough, ‘cause that’s the way my year was rolling. I had a bunch of novellas that were due, for various reasons, so I figured I’d go with the flow.

Now we’re into April and the list of all the things has been beaten around a little, the schedule thrown off track by computer problems and work problems and that whole moving-into-a-new-house thing.

That’s okay. I expected things to fall apart. In fact, I even built in time where I’d use the beginning of April to regroup and re-plan my year, figuring out what was still goddamn viable. Apparently my dream of being a self-employed hermit who never emerges from my bunker is not viable within the coming 9 months.

On the other hand, I’m still moderately convinced that a sizable chunk of my writing wish-list is achievable. Partially this is because a certain percentage of it needs to be achievable, because of deadlines, and partially because I just feel the need to get a keyboard beneath my fingers and start pounding out stories until it feels natural again.

With that in mind, I give you my 2014 accountability list – the ten projects I’m more-or-less committing to getting done by the end of the year.

1) Exile

It’s written. It’s submitted. I’ve drunk the celebratory beer. But the editorial letter came through on the weekend, outlining a bunch of problems with the MS, which means I’m diving back into rewrites this week in order to get things done. I’ve got about four weeks to process the changes and rewrite the bits that need writing. I’m spending two of those four weeks packing and moving to my shiny new digs. If you see me out in the wild, it’s possible I’m looking a little manic at the moment. What’s the novella about? Your basic urban fantasy featuring burnt-out hit men, gambling demons, hippie sorcerers, and trying to stop the apocalypse

2) Long Night at the Black Wolf

A short, serialised sword and sorcery novelette about a bunch of characters trapped in a remote Inn by evil fey. This one fucking terrifies me as a writer, since it’s a) written in third person, b) my first real attempt at a project that ties in to an existing world, and c) lets me check off one of the goals on my writing bucket-list that I seriously figured I’d ever get a chance to tick off. I have a fairly detailed pitch document, a shit-ton of notes, and a self-imposed deadline of April 30th.

3) Frost 

Urban Fantasy Novella. The sequel to Exile. Occult hit-man Keith Murphy gets to deal with the fall-out of killing the man whose death could start Ragnarok. I’m due to turn this over to the Apocalypse Ink team on July 1st, which means it’s first cab off the rank once I’ve moved and set up a new writing space. Again with the occult hit men, demons and sorcerers, but this time they’ll have added bikies and Valkyries to keep me entertained.

4) Crusade

Yep, another Urban Fantasy Novella, following on from Exile and Frost. The deadline for turning this one over isn’t until November, but I’m aiming a little earlier than that. Not entirely planned out yet, but I’ll fix that while writing Frost in May. I’m still putting together a plan for this one, but as one of the few things on this list that have a hard deadline, it’s occupying plenty of mental space. 

5) Altered Pitch Document 

A few years back my friend Kevin got into voice acting in a big way. He’s done some cool stuff since then, including serving as the voice of Judge Dread for Tin Man Games. Sometime last year he pitched the idea of working together on the pitch for an animated series, which has slowly evolved into the Altered project. Super-powers. Creepy shit. Rogue government agencies doing massive amounts of property damage.

6) Claw

Also known as Miriam Aster, book three. No, really. Really. Shut up. I can hear you laughing back there. I am for real, here.

7) Hot for Teacher

It’s come to my attention, in recent years, that I quite like romance novels. I’ve got a particular weakness for the Regency period, since Georgette Heyer was my gateway drug, but I’ve found authors I really like all over the romance spectrum. A while back I was talking the great Van Halen era of hair metal with romance writers/editors online, and the kernel of a novella idea kinda plunked into the back of my head. Weirdly excited to give this a go (especially since getting it done means I can finally go read Kylie Scott’s Stage Dive series, which I’ve promised myself I won’t read until this is done).

8) Untitled Planetary Romance Project I

Ambitious lady detective. On Mars. With her Mad Profesor father and a rotund ex-Colonel for back-up. Another one of those projects I’ve been meaning to write forever, but the writer-mind just wasn’t in-gear. Then I took the idea to Kim Wilkin’s Novelist Bootcamp workshop at the writers center earlier this year, banged out a fairly solid plan for the first half of the book, and figured it’d make a nice chance-of-pace project between the urban fantasy novellas that are making up the bulk of my year. 

9) Bad Wolf

A few weeks back, I picked up a copy of Death is No Obstacle, a collection of interviews with Michael Moorcock where he discusses the creation of several of his projects. He spends the first half of the book talking about structure a lot, and how his understanding of structure allowed him to do things like produce books in 3 to 10 days of furious writing with sufficient pre-planning. Later this year, when my schedule allowed it, I figured I’d take a week off work and give his approach a go with a genre where I know the structure really well (hard boiled detective stories) and werewolf tropes.

10) Space Bros! Project

This started as a joke with my flatmate, based on Mass Effect, where we envisioned a trio of Shepherd, Kaiden, and Garrus pissing about the universe, being kinda douche, and generally being awesome SPACE BROS! Then it occurred to me that I’d actually read the fuck out that story if it existed, and I’m actually in a position to make it exist. The sole thing on this list that doesn’t have any planning associated with it at all, but that should have changed by the time I get to work on it in December.

Originally published at Man Versus Bear. Please leave any comments there.

It’s Savage Steve Holland Time?

This probably isn’t the result of his recent exposure on HBO, but he’s directing another teen comedy! I am irrationally excited and will remain so regardless of further news.

Mirrored from Population: One.

World of Parsantium Map

Crossposted from

This new map, drawn by Symatt, shows the wider world of Parsantium.

World of Parsantium

Writing Update: Exile

So last Tuesday I submitted Exile to Apocalypse Ink. It’s the first thing I’ve written and submitted in a long while, and a project that’s been plagued by interruptions and unexpected turns to boot, so it feels good to have gotten the file through more-or-less on time. Especially since the last time I was going to get the book sent off, about twelve hours ahead of deadline, I dropped my laptop and wiped out about 18,000 words of text I didn’t have backed up anywhere else.

The stupidity of that still stings a little.

On the other hand, the submission of Exile means I’ve officially set off the great-2014-write-a-thon-where-Peter-remembers-how-to-be-a-writer-and-things. One novella down, a little behind schedule. A whole crap-load of things to go before the year is done.

For instance, after I drank Mango beer to celebrate the Exile submission, then started work on the three short stories I have to get done in April in order to meet some deadlines. I did some planning on Frost and Crusade, the novellas I’m due to be turning over to the AI folks in July and November, respectively, in order to make up the full trilogy of books they contracted me for.

Then I went and signed the paperwork for my mortgage, ‘cause I finally found an apartment  that both looked spiffy enough to buy and passed through the approval processes I mentioned back in February.

My world, right now, is all writing and packing boxes, preparing to move in two weeks when the sale is finalised. ‘Course, once it’s done, I have my weekends back again, which means regular transmission will likely resume in May some time (basically, whenever the internet’s on after I move into the new Chez Ball).


Originally published at Man Versus Bear. Please leave any comments there.

Elder Scrolls Online Launched Clean

So saith Massively. I am not at all surprised given what I know about the engineering teams working on that title. I am, nonetheless, tickled pink by this paragraph:

From my 50-hours-of-playtime perspective, though, the launch has in fact been completely lag-free. It’s also been one of the more polished overall launches I’ve experienced in a number of years, though I wouldn’t say it’s number one (Lord of the Rings Online had fewer quest bugs out of the gate, which was all the more impressive since smooth MMO launches were unheard of in 2007).

Aw yeah. Champion and still #1, LOTRO launch!

Mirrored from Population: One.


13th Age Parsantium at #UKT5

Yesterday, I travelled up to Worcester for the fifth annual UKdndtweetup and ran a Parsantium game using the 13th Age rules. We had a lot of fun!

The adventure I ran, Murder at the Hippocampus Baths,  was for 4th level characters so I used the pregen characters from the 2 hour demo on Pelgrane’s website as a starting point but changed some of the classes and races around for a better fit with the Parsantium setting, then levelled them up. At the start of the game, I sat down with the six players and got them to come up with uniques, backgrounds and icon relationships for their characters. Because this was a Parsantium game we used the icons I had written for Dragonmeet with Steve Dempsey’s help – of these, the Archmage, the Maharani, the Mummy and the Water Lords were the most popular. (I’ll write all the icons up in more detail soon and post them here on the blog.) The game was new to everyone, I think, but they seemed to grasp the concepts pretty quickly and we ended up with the following diverse bunch of characters:

Farraz Yusufi, a vanara wizard who passed his wizard school exams with the lowest marks ever

Iroas Jainson, dwarf cleric of Amarani the All-Knowing and only living possessor of an amazing secret of the dwarves

Tanveer, human fighter and travelling clock and pocket watch merchant; has business dealings with the Cult of the Black Mother and on the run from the Water Lords

Arthani, halfling rogue from Sampur who doesn’t believe magic exists

Dregor, gnoll ranger who hates the wilderness after a terrifying experience in the Feyshore Forest for which the Elf Queen was responsible

Basil, dragonkin paladin of the Platinum Knights of Themicia, who spends his spare time teaching the local children

Next, we did icon relationship rolls and I allowed those who rolled a 5 or 6 to choose a magic item (again from the two hour demo) as a gift from the relevant icon. After a brief discussion about how the PCs knew each other before the start of the adventure, we jumped straight into the action with the party stopping thugs from the Golden Scimitars smashing up the Golden Bean Tree coffee shop. The players started off using mostly basic attacks but as the combat went on they started experimenting with the different talents and powers on their character sheets. It was hard to tell if I’d made the bad guys’ defences a little too high or if it was just a lot of unlucky dice rolling from the players, but the thugs proved slightly tougher opposition than I intended.

The second encounter involved the PCs getting mixed up in a street brawl between the Most Excellent Order of Stonemasons and the Guild of Potters and Tilemakers with the Golden Scimitars providing additional muscle to their masonic allies. In this battle, we decided Basil’s background as a teacher gave him a bonus to perception checks (teachers need eyes in the back of their heads!) and Farraz used his Lightning Bolt to take out three mooks, confusing Arthani, the non-believer in magic. Tanveer got one of the Scimitars, a halfling named Cyrus, to surrender and used his pocket watches to tie him to some handy railings.


Interrogating the halfling, the PCs learned that something was due to happen at the Hippocampus Baths that evening. With a few hours to kill, the PCs visited the headquarters of two of the Artisans Ward’s guilds in an effort to find out more of what was going on, then went to the White Palm tavern where the landlord begged the party to get rid of the Golden Scimitars spies on his staff. Another clue here seemed to be pointing to the Hippocampus Baths so the party decided to head there next.

At the baths, I ran the third and final encounter, featuring a battle in steamy, slippery surroundings against Golden Scimitars assassins sent to kill the Guildmaster of Weavers and Dyers. I used the cambion katar from the forthcoming 13th Age Bestiary for Tuzniq, the tiefling assassin – a deadly 6th-level wrecker. Tuzniq managed 40 points of damage on Basil with a critical, taking him to -3 hp, and followed this up with two hits for 20 points of damage each on Tanveer who saved himself with his Heavy Warrior talent. Iroas was called upon to do plenty of healing on everyone in the fight, especially Farraz who had ended up on 11 hp with no recoveries remaining. The PCs pursued Tuzniq down into the hypocaust  and finally finished him and his fire genasi ally off in the hot, cramped surroundings beneath the baths.

I thoroughly enjoyed running the game thanks to the great group of players taking part and think they all had fun too. Combat was pretty fast and I think everyone enjoyed the variety of powers at their characters’ disposal once they got used to their PCs (always a bit tricky in a one-shot con game). Although the icon relationships and magic item quirks didn’t come up much during the course of the session, they definitely would have done in a longer-running game and they certainly helped bring each PC to life. I created quite a few stat blocks for the NPC enemies in the adventure, so will try and post these here in the next couple of weeks ;)

Finally, thanks to all the players, to Adam Page for organizing the day, and to everyone who bought a book!

Thanks for the anniversary wishes, folks.

Thanks for the anniversary wishes, folks.