Sunday Inspiration: Good Works

God does not need your good works, but your neighbor does.
—Martin Luther


How Many Hit Points Does a 1st-Level Author Have?

A Facebook friend shared this article from the New Yorker a few days ago: “The Uncanny Resurrection of Dungeons & Dragons.” Apparently, D&D is growing in popularity forty-some years after it first hit the hobby store shelves. I won’t say D&D is cool again, though. It was never cool in the first place—that’s why I loved it!

According to Neima Jahromi, the author of the article, a “circle of life” story seems to be unfolding as at least some people are rediscovering forms of entertainment that don’t involve video screens and can even require sitting down at a physical table and interacting with one’s friends in real time. According to Jahromi,

In 2017, gathering your friends in a room, setting your devices aside, and taking turns to contrive a story that exists largely in your head gives off a radical whiff for a completely different reason than it did in 1987. And the fear that a role-playing game might wound the psychologically fragile seems to have flipped on its head. Therapists use D. & D. to get troubled kids to talk about experiences that might otherwise embarrass them, and children with autism use the game to improve their social skills. Last year, researchers found that a group of a hundred and twenty-seven role players exhibited above-average levels of empathy, and a Brazilian study from 2013 showed that role-playing classes were an extremely effective way to teach cellular biology to medical undergraduates.

I first played D&D in sixth grade at the invitation of a group of friends who thought it would be something I’d be interested in. The pitch, loosely paraphrased, began, “Now, don’t laugh, but the name of this game is ‘Dungeons and Dragons.’ It’s kind of hard to explain.” Intrigued, I showed up and was introduced to three tan booklets packed in a white box with a picture of a wizard blasting goblins (or something) on the front. (Thinking back, I can’t for the life of me remember who was there. I’m pretty sure we were playing in Bryan Beecher’s basement, though. As it turned out, these guys weren’t my go-to D&D buddies in years to come.)

I gave up D&D in college, mostly because I lacked the time. Second, third, fourth, and fifth edition passed me by without even making a blip on my personal radar. But when I started writing Into the Wonder, I started thinking of my worldbuilding tasks as if I were running a new campaign and trying to get my homebrew setting and house rules to work right. (I even managed to get a jokey D&D reference into the first book.)

Along the way, I discovered several other RPG systems and settings that helped me hone in on how magical creatures, powers, and artifacts might work in terms of the story I was trying to tell. Without even thinking about it, I began to accumulate the free PDFs and online extras you can find for GURPS supplements, Changeling: the Dreaming, and other settings and rule sets.

So now I’m working out the details of a different story world for a new set of characters with new sets of abilities. And for the first time, I’ve been experimenting with setting down at least some of this information intentionally in the form of a “rules supplement”-type document.

Along the way, I’ve discovered that a coworker, who has never really gotten into RPGs before (at least not seriously), has a growing interest because it’s something he has started doing with a group of friends outside of work.

And along the way, I have once again found myself bonding with a friend over a shared interest in a geeky hobby.

And also along the way, our conversations have led to exploring the possibility of me crafting a one-shot RPG session set in the world I’ve been creating for the past four or five months. Wouldn’t that be cool?

Funny how things circle around, right?

Oathbeaker Now Available on Kindle!

Here’s how it starts:

* * *

Taylor scowled at Bledrus Dingle. For his part, the spriggan didn’t seem to notice. He looked at her from across the table and shoveled another bite of turkey into his misshapen mouth.

The Route 80 Diner in Manchester, Kentucky was a quaint little place. The décor might have been described as Early Modern Basketball: photos of local high school teams going back thirty years or more adorned the walls, along with donated jerseys and some autographed pictures of people Taylor would probably recognize if she cared anything at all about sports.

The place was mostly empty. Besides Taylor and her repulsive dinner date, the only other people in the tiny restaurant were a couple of county sheriff’s deputies and a homeless guy the manager had taken pity on. It was Thanksgiving, and most people were enjoying the holiday at home with their loved ones.

Taylor was sharing the holiday with her personal jailer, who had glamoured himself to look like an angel-faced ten- year-old. But Taylor had no trouble discerning his true, hideous appearance behind the illusion.

“You’re enjoying this,” she said.

Dingle’s face revealed nothing. “I’m just doing my job.” Taylor scowled at him and poked at her mashed potatoes.

The waitress approached them and asked if they’d like dessert. Her nametag said “Wanita.”

“None for me,” Taylor said.

“Do you have pecan pie?” the spriggan said. Even his voice sounded like a kid’s. Most spriggans didn’t have that much skill. “Is that okay, Mom?” Wanita asked Taylor. Taylor wasn’t any good at the kind of husks Dingle could project to mask his faery nature, but over the last thirty-six hours, she’d had plenty of practice honing her power of suggestion. Nobody in the diner questioned that she could be somebody’s mom. As far as they were concerned, she was just an extremely young-looking thirty-something woman.

“Fine,” Taylor said.

“You ought to have some, too,” Dingle said. Sweet treats enhanced faery magic. William Matthews thought it might have something to do with boosting the level of serotonin in the brain.

“I’m good.”

“Please, Mom?” Dingle said. Beneath his husk, he furrowed his brows: a subtle threat?

Taylor sighed. “Do you have pumpkin?” If she were home, she’d be digging into a slice of her mom’s pumpkin pie about now.

“One pumpkin pie and one pecan, coming right up,” Wanita said.

As soon as she left the table, Dingle said, “You’ve got to keep up your reserves. Mrs. Hellebore wants to see what you can do.”

“Yes, she’s made that quite obvious,” Taylor snapped.

“Like I said, I’m just doing my job.”

“Uh huh,” Taylor said. “I go through these stupid tests, showing you how good I am at glamours. You watch me and report to Mara on my progress. And along the way, you make sure I don’t do anything tricky.” She wondered, though, if anyone was watching Dingle.

* * *

Now go see how it ends. I know you want to.

Shameless Self-Promotion

Into the Wonder is nearly complete. I need to finish off the CreateSpace process and see the physical proof (issues with the cover last time), and then Oathbreaker will go live in both paperback and Kindle editions!

If you’ve enjoyed my content on this website, may I ask a favor of you? Would you be willing to (1) purchase one of the earlier novels (start at book one, Children of Pride, or move on to the first book you haven’t read)—ebook or paperback, it doesn’t matter to me—(2) read it, and (3) leave a review at

I’d certainly appreciate your support. (And I wouldn’t stop you from sharing the links with your Twitter and Facebook friends…)


Cover Reveal: Oathbreaker

The covers of the Into the Wonder novels have “grown up” with the story, from something more “kid-friendly” (one person described them “old-school Nancy Drew”) to something a bit more serious and “mature.” This was approximately 87.3% by accident.

At any rate, here is the cover of Oathbreaker, which will become available later this month at

With Oathbreaker, the story of Taylor Smart comes to a fitting end. It has been a fun ride. I’ve learned a lot and may have accidentally taken on a new hobby that I find highly enjoyable.

What’s next? I’ve got a few ideas kicking around in my head, so don’t be surprised if something new pops up either in this space or somewhere else.