Writer. Editor. Leximaven. Game Designer. Vorpal Blonde. Bisexual Brainlicker. Midas's Touch. Schrödinger's Brat.

Twas Brillig

The drones probably don’t do any writing.

posted on: January 11, 2014
in: Blog

The best thing you can have in your writing life is someone who is brave enough and smart enough to give you honest, helpful feedback. The second best thing you can have is the ability to listen to that feedback with all of your senses, and then use it to make your work better.

I have the first of those things and usually (okay, sometimes, at least) the second as well.

Some of that is thick skin. Some of it is how much I respect the person taking time and brainpower to give me feedback. And some of that is because it’s just plain fun. Because as much as I like writing, perhaps what I like even more is that moment when I think I have a good piece completed and someone gives me feedback that resonates perfectly, when someone presents me with an idea that has the potential to take a piece from good to great. It’s like sitting on a spider web and feeling that first strum of a meal touching down. The excited tremor of “wow, yes, that’s exactly what it needs” runs up my spine, and down into my feet. I know what comes next, and I know that if I don’t screw it up too badly, the end result will be awesome.

I’m having that moment right now, my mind racing to capture and hold the suggestion so that when I sit down to write tomorrow morning, it will be there, ready for me.

Giving feedback is as hard as taking it. Maybe harder. Anyone who’s willing to brave your tangled web with useful suggestions and thoughts about your writing is a keeper. Wrap them up in your silver web threads and feed them drops of moondew so they will stay with you forever. And don’t forget the most important part: Actually using their advice to improve your work. Spinning a yarn is good. But spinning a silken yarn is even better.

Today’s Words:

2,500 gaming

Miles Walked This Year:


Words Written This Year:


My 42 Writing Projects This Year: 

6. The Bone Key (novel)

5. Love and Sex in the Ninth World (gaming)

4. The Ninth World Guidebook (gaming)

3. Numenera CO (gaming)

2. Izaltu’s Needle (gaming) 3,500/8,000

1. Kinky Rewrite (non-fiction book) 46,000/60,000


Kiss kiss bang bang, s.

**Today’s title courtesy of I tell thee all, I can do no more, a short story by Sunny Moraine.

If you see her, will you tell me?

posted on: January 10, 2014
in: Blog

This post could also be titled Gone, Baby, Gone. But someone else already took that and, hey look! I’m here now, aren’t I?

I haven’t been writing as much as I’d like. Despite how that might sound, I am not actually lamenting this. I am putting it down on paper to show that this is the perfect and true life of a writer. The writer doesn’t always write every day. The writer can’t always write every day. I don’t care what they say. If you’re a writer, you write as often as you can, as much as you can, as well as you can. That’s it. You don’t have time to beat yourself up for the days when you didn’t get words on the page.

Mostly what I’ve been doing is the OTHER part of being a writer who writes for a living. Paying bills. Starting taxes. Project management. Meetings. Organizing art. Playtests. Stupid passport photos. Proofing hyperlinks for the new book. Begging a sex activist that I love to fit an interview with me into her busy schedule. And, of course, the triumphant return to the treadmill desk (which I had to set up, seeing as its in a new house and all).

That’s what being a writer is like, at least for me. I write. I don’t write. I get back up and write some more. Tonight, the wind blows fierce through the trees outside, knocking the windows. And I put my butt in the chair, determined to stay here until the words are done.

This Week’s Words:

4000 non-fiction, 1500 gaming.


Miles Walked This Year:


Words Written This Year:


My 42 Writing Projects This Year: 

6. The Bone Key (novel)

5. Love and Sex in the Ninth World (gaming)

4. The Ninth World Guidebook (gaming)

3. Numenera Character Options (gaming)

2. Izaltu’s Needle (gaming) 3,500/8,000

1. Kinky Rewrite (non-fiction book) 46,000/60,000


Kiss kiss bang bang, s.

**Today’s title courtesy of The Rapid Advance of Sorrow, a short story by Theodora Goss.

Normal towns don’t lure you back.

posted on: January 6, 2014
in: Blog
Doing the words in the new writing nook.

Doing the words in the new writing nook.

Hit the ground running this morning with a bunch of words on my long-abandoned novel, then eased into a thousand words on the next Numenera glimmer. Unfortunately, all of this writing doesn’t leave time for answering emails or dealing with the business side of things. And thus my to-do list tomorrow is a million miles long with things like: get passport photo taken, send bio and photo to cons, mail cookies, create agenda items for meeting, create my character’s new foci for The Strange playtest, answer all the emails, etc. How do people get things done and also accomplish the words? Someone please let me in on the secret.

Today’s Excerpt:

“You look like shit.” Gren’s voice in her head, a hive whine, a bad low buzz of things with stingers and a revenge agenda.

She shoots him a glare. Unnecessary of course. He can hear her head as well as she can hear his.

She wants to tell him to shut the fuck up. Wants to tell him that neon green isn’t a good color for a gargoyle. Wants to tell him to go crawl back into whatever brick-and-mortar ledge he came from and leave her be.

But they’re tied together, her and Gren. Bound. Not like the fun leather and ropes kind of bound. Like the mental forever until-something-do-you-part kind. The shitty kind.

Today’s Words:

1500 fiction, 1000 gaming.

Words Written This Year:


My 42 Writing Projects This Year: 

6. The Bone Key (novel)

5. Love and Sex in the Ninth World (gaming)

4. The Ninth World Guidebook (gaming)

3. Numenera Character Options (gaming)

2. Izaltu’s Needle (gaming) 3,500/8,000

1. Kinky Rewrite (non-fiction book) 46,000/60,000


Kiss kiss bang bang, s.

**Today’s title courtesy of Graveminder, by Melissa Marr. I’m about a third of the way through it, and finding it compelling in its mystery.

The diamond will be there tomorrow.

posted on: January 5, 2014
in: Blog
Numenera Creature Deck: Hot off the presses!

Numenera Creature Deck: Hot off the presses!

I painted the pantry today.

Now that is a sentence I never thought I’d write, except perhaps in fiction. But as a brand-new, first-time homeowner, I am doing the kinds of things one does when being a grownup-ish person. Things like flipping Comcast off through the phone. Trying to learn how to not kill myself when taking silverware out of the dishwasher. (Or for that matter, how to spell silverware). Figuring out which noise is just the ice maker and which is the new sink leaking all over the inside of the cupboard. And painting the pantry. Now the kitchen is the color of melting chocolate and the pantry is a lovely shade of blue-green (that, I just realized, looks a bit like the colors in the Numenera Creature Deck).

Today I painted the first draft of the pantry. Tomorrow is the revision, to fill in all those tiny things I missed the first time. Everything can be a metaphor for writing if you’re willing to look at it in the right light.

In other news: I appear to have started the hashtag #buttgate on the Internet. Totally by accident. You’re welcome.

Today’s Excerpt:

Does it breathe, this eminence, or does it just seem so, its sloped sides wavering in the fog and dust? Does it live, truly, beneath the years of silence and slavery, or does it just seem so, coming alive in children’s tales told in the dark of night? 

Today’s Words:

1,500 gaming.

Words Written This Year: 6,500/420,000

My 42 Writing Projects This Year: 

4. The Ninth World Guidebook

3. Numenera Character Options

2. Izaltu’s Needle (Numenera glimmer) 3,500/8,000

1. Kinky Rewrite (non-fiction book) 46,000/60,000

Kiss kiss bang bang, s.

**Today’s title courtesy of The Cormorant, a beautiful fucked-up book by Chuck Wendig. You should own it.

To return with absolute treasure!

posted on: January 4, 2014
in: Blog
A lovely gift of mini books from my fantastic publisher!

A lovely gift of mini books from my fantastic publisher!

There is much going on, and yet time stretches like taffy this early in the new year. Every day a treasure, a box not yet opened, a bit of gold that spills slowly through the palms and onto the floor. I have no idea what the year will bring, so I show up at the desk and do the words and there we are, the words and me, sitting together, wrestling really, in the low streams of afternoon light.

I am writing in 2014. And that is the best there is.

Yesterday’s Words:
1,500 non-fiction, 1,000 gaming.

Today’s Words:
1,5000 non-fiction, 1,000 gaming.

The Year of Life:
Oh my gosh. You can’t even see my 5,000 words in the larger context of what I hope to accomplish this year. But they’re there. Honest.

My 42 Writing Projects This Year: 

4. The Ninth World Guidebook 0/80,000
3. Numenera Character Options 0/20,000
2. Izaltu’s Needle (Numenera glimmer) 2,200/8,000
1. Kinky Rewrite (non-fiction book) 46,000/60,000


Kiss kiss bang bang, s.

*Today’s title courtesy of Frank O’Hara

A nice number that you can take home and introduce to your family.

posted on: January 3, 2014
in: Blog


This year, I will turn 42 on 4/2 in the year 2014. (And there is a rumor that I was delivered by the Easter bunny at 4:20 AM, but I can’t confirm that part — well, I WAS born on the morning of Easter Sunday, but I’m not sure about the exact time).  Every place I’ve ever lived and every phone number I’ve ever had (including my current one) has had an abundance of 4s and 2s. (The house I just moved into last month, the first house I’ve ever actually owned, oddly, doesn’t have a single 4 or 2 in its address.).

What does all of this mean? I have no idea, but I like the idea of all of these converging in what could likely be the halfway point in my life. I’ve also been mulling over 2014 — what do I want this year to be? I’ve had years of words, of wanderlust, of learning, of writing, of poetry, of books. This year? I didn’t know and I didn’t know and I still didn’t know.

But then the idea of 42 collided into other things. Hitchhiker’s Guide. Alice in Wonderland. Tony Stark. Me. Life. The Universe. Everything. The Gutenberg Bible. Juliet’s long sleep. The Hunting of the Snark. Answers. And, perhaps most importantly, questions. So this year shall be the year of 42. What exactly does that mean? I have no idea. The question, the exploration, the asking, is what matters.

I will set a goal to write 420,000 words this year. That comes out to 1400 words per day (assuming that I write 300 days this year). That’s not so many words, but I’d like them to be good words, in the end. Words that mean something.   

“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many things.”

I’ll keep you posted.

Kiss kiss bang bang, s.

The Gravitational Pull of Girl(s)

posted on: November 30, 2013
in: Blog, Poetry, Shanna's Writing


The Gravitational Pull of Girl(s)

I used to smoke so I had an excuse
to inhale the detritus of your skin.
I said this in our secret language.
Each smoke signal becomes a planet
becomes a cypher becomes a glyph
of you through the shower curtain.

I knew your breasts were moons
the first time I heard them orbit,
the first time my fingers landed
and sunk and the gravity of you
propelled them back to sky.
The rocksalt of your thighs is the
taste of the uncertainty principle.
I refuse to become addicted.

Through these drinking glasses, the night
sky holds planets haloed
by areolas, rosy rings. I can only reach
you on my knees. Here is where I say
Missing Variables Escaped My
Joyous Sight Until Nova.
The expendables always come last.
I never came with you. That sidereal period.
If I swoon here long enough I can pretend
you’re making one more revolution
around this primary body.

I talk about this so I don’t have to
talk about you.
The way you circled me and circled me.
The way you came home like an asteroid.
The way you entered my lungs like atmosphere.
How the sky blazed red-gold and snowed
glass. How we all died, holding our breaths,
burning from the inside, our hearts exploding
our hearts going bang bang bang


(Poem from a five-minute poem exercise. Write a poem in five minutes or less, then post! It’s great for jumpstarting creativity). 


Kickstarting the Revolution

posted on: November 21, 2013
in: Games


“No other game I’ve played has so casually included gay & lesbian couples as well as females in non-traditional roles. This is subtle, but my god it’s made such a difference. Treating all these non-traditionally gendered & sexually oriented NPCs so staunchly casually is really great. Numenera isn’t about shouting equality from the rooftops, but this treatment of people is just taken as a given.”  ~Darcy, gamer

About a month ago, I was on a crowdfunding panel at Geek Girl Con here in Seattle. There were four women on the panel (Julie Haehn, Lillian Cohen-Moore, Nicole Lindroos, and myself) — all women with successful crowdfunding projects in the game industry. It was incredible, listening to the four of us talk about the experience of working in the industry, running Kickstarters, and, perhaps most importantly, having the opportunity to make games that we are passionate about, games that reflect our values, games that create memorable, exciting and fun experiences around the table for everyone who wants to play. As we talked, I could see the audience members, men and women both, get that glint in their eye. That glint that says, “Thanks to crowdfunding, this thing I’m passionate about just might become a reality.”

And that, right there, is why I really really love Kickstarter. Because it has the power to create the change we want to see in the industry (and dare I say it? — even in the world).

Bear with me for a second, while I explain what I mean. Not that long ago if you wanted to create a game (or, really, almost any creative product) that featured main characters who were female, gay, transgender, non-white, or gender queer, you were sort of screwed. You could either: go through the same gatekeepers everyone else went through (the gatekeepers who seem to think that games don’t sell unless they’re about heterosexual white males) and get rejected. Or you could pour all your time, money and passion into your game and hope that you could get the word out and get a few people to buy it.

Fast forward to today and look at how Kickstarter (and namely the BACKERS of Kickstarter) are changing all of that. Here’s why: Kickstarter is the ultimate tool for market research for companies and individuals. Anyone can put their idea out into the world and they see whether people like it enough to fund it. If people hate the idea, the product doesn’t get funded. If they love it, then it gets super-funded.

And that’s where you come in. Never before has the opportunity to make change been so clearly in your hands. Every single person can make an equal difference. Don’t like seeing scantily clad women who are just there for titillation? Don’t back the games that only feature that type of art. Tired of seeing games where everyone is white? Skip those games. Sick to death of undertones of misogynism, sexism, racism, and homophobia? Don’t help fund them. Wish there were more games where topics like rape and sex crimes weren’t a forced part of play? Just say no.

However, I think that NOT supporting the products that piss you off is only step one. Step two, the really important step? That’s SUPPORTING the companies and products that align with your values.

When you find a company and/or product that seems to be doing the things that are important to you, how can you actually make a difference? You do so by giving them your money or your mouth (or both). Here’s how:

  • Back the Kickstarter at whatever level you can afford.
  • Back the KS at whatever level you can afford, and then spread the word about why you backed it.
  • Don’t back the KS, but spread the word to people who share your values and who might be interested.
  • Back the KS at the playtest or feedback level, if the company offers that option. And then actually playtest and provide feedback.
  • Be the person in your playgroup who brings new games to the table.
  • Talk to your local game store about the games that you love. Ask them if they plan to have the game in stock or if they intend to back the game’s KS.
  • Offer to GM games at conventions or at your local game store.
  • If the game has a fan use policy or limited license or open license, take advantage of that and create your own awesome tie-in products that are full of strong, smart, positive minority characters.

Here are some of the things that I look at when deciding where to spend my money or my mouth:

  • What are the values of the company or individuals who are creating the product? As always when making decisions that matter, be wary of Internet suppositions and guesstimates and really do your research as best as you can. Forums, people’s blogs, social media, and comments are not always the best place to get solid information about companies and individuals. Instead, look at their actual actions: do they actively and loudly support the things you believe in? Do they donate money, products, or time to organizations that support your beliefs? How diverse is their staff? Do they take good care of their artists, writers, and other contractors?
  • What are the values of the product itself? Does it include positive depictions of both minorities and the majority? This is important to me because to me inclusion and acceptance means including and accepting EVERYONE. I won’t buy a product that knocks heterosexual white men any more than I will back a product that knocks gay women. No one deserves to be treated as “less than.”
  • Where has the product or company fallen short in the past and have they attempted to improve? Everyone makes mistakes, no matter how strong their desire to do good. How did the company handle these mistakes? What are they doing to improve?

It probably won’t surprise you, then, to hear that Monte Cook Games, the company that I co-own, is actively involved in all of the above, because they are important to me, not just as a consumer, but as a producer.

What does Monte Cook Games do about all of the above? Where does your money go? What change does it support in the world? Here are the answers to that:

  • We are a company that actively supports our values, with our money and our mouths. We create campaigns like the We Are All Strange project, we donate to organizations such as The Able Gamers Charity, and we actively promote people, companies and products that are doing awesome things.
  • The core team that built Numenera was 6 people — 3 of us are women, and 2 of us openly identify as GLBT. Our group of contract artists and editors is even more diverse than our core team.
  • We are in the process of talking to a variety of gamers about their experiences at the table, and are putting together a comprehensive survey about what makes a game inclusive for everyone. From this, we hope to make our future games like The Strange even better in that regard.
  • We believe in creating games that encourage inclusion and acceptance. The Numenera corebook includes positive depictions of couples and people of all sexual orientations, people of all genders, people of all abilities, ages, and physiques. Everyone wears armor that is appropriate for their personality and skillset. We don’t have a variety of races because (with a few exceptions) nearly everyone is mixed race in the Ninth World.

There’s a lot more that we’re doing, ways in which we are attempting to create great games for EVERYONE. But the point here isn’t that we want you to support US. The point is that we want you to support what supports you. You have the power to be the change you want to see in the geek world. Your money or your mouth — that’s all it takes to make change. You matter. Everything you do, say, or buy matters. And perhaps doubly so when it comes to crowdfunding.

Accept. Support. Embrace. Kickstart the Revolution.  


7-Flesh and Steel-Engle

99 Ways of Looking at the Numenera Limited License

posted on: October 11, 2013
in: Games, Numenera

 Okay, there are really only three ways here, but the Internet has pretty much already covered the other 96 (including some nicely written, thoughtful pieces like this and this). However, since the Internet is occasionally incorrect or incomplete, I thought I would offer a few more possible ways of looking at Numenera’s limited license.

Here they are, in no particular order:

A Limited License is Voluntary

By which I mean that it’s voluntary for you—you don’t have to create Numenera products if you don’t like the IP or the license—but that it’s also voluntary for Monte Cook Games. There is nothing that says we even have to have a limited licensing policy (or any licensing policy for that matter).

However, we love our fans and we love small publishers and we want to support them. Charging $50 is an inexpensive way to let fans use the Numenera setting to create products for profit without us taking a percentage of their sales (as we do with full licenses).

To be honest, creating and maintaining limited licenses are an awful lot of work on our end for $50, so at least from our perspective, a limited license never was and never will be about money. It always has been—and always will be—about supporting our fans and the small publishers who want to support us right back.

A Limited License Protects Our Fans

Here why:

1. If someone doesn’t take the time to read and comprehend the website page clearly enough to understand that:

a. what’s been published on the web page is not the entirety of the limited license (despite the fact that it says, and I quote: “This is not the entirety of the limited license”)


b. that for full details they need to contact us (not the internet or a fan site or Twitter (again, despite the fact that it says right on the page, “if you are interested in pursuing a publication under our limited license and would like additional information about what it entails, please contact…))

then the chances are good that they will have a difficult time creating quality products in a field where reading comprehension and communication are vital. Our fans deserve quality products.

2. If someone can’t afford (or doesn’t think that Numenera is worth) the $50 licensing fee, then the chances are good that they might be better off pursuing something else that they love more or can afford. Our fans deserve products created by people who love and support the game.

3. If someone doesn’t understand the difference between licensing a game system (d20, for example) and a game setting (Numenera, for example), then this gives them a chance to learn the difference. (NOTE: We are not licensing our game system here. We’re licensing the Numenera setting. Your arguments about d20 OGL/OGC do not apply). Our fans deserve people who care enough to learn the difference.

4. If someone comes out on the Internet and says that the Numenera limited license is the worst thing they’ve ever read, that’s an absolutely fine opinion and one we won’t argue with. However, if someone comes out on the Internet and says that the Numenera limited license is the worst thing they’ve ever read and that they will never work with us because we’re awful, horrible, money-grubbing jerks who make shitty games, well, they’re right in at least one aspect: They will never work with us. Because why would we want to work with someone like that, ever? And more importantly: Why would we want to subject our fans to that kind of mentality? Our fans deserve a supportive, positive fan culture.

-Make amazing games that bring good things to people’s lives: company motto #1

-Only work with people who give a damn: company motto number #2

-Create a supportive, positive work and fan culture: company motto #3

-Give fans only our very best: company motto #4

A Limited License Supports Small & Starting Publishers

For the low, low cost of $50, you are getting the opportunity to get your foot in the door in a big way. It’s a low-risk way to get into the game industry. Not to mention get yourself some amazing publicity. If you are supportive of Numenera, are generally a nice person, and your product is awesome, we will probably talk about you. A lot. To everyone we know.

Case in point: Numenera fan Ryan Chaddock. He originally came to us a while back to ensure that his fan creations fit our fan-use policy. Then he made beautiful fan work! (You can see it here). When he approached us with a professional query recently to apply for a limited license, do you think we said yes? Of course we did. And then we talked about him publicly and often. Because he is awesome and he thinks Numenera is awesome and that is how you show support for the people who support you.

Another example is Michael Fienen who runs the wonderful fan site, The Ninth World. He came to us to make sure he was abiding by the fan use policies and then he created a great place for fan-created content. If he comes to us in the future to ask for a limited license on something, do you think we’ll support him? Hell yes we will. Ditto with the fans who are right now working on limited licenses for fiction anthologies, adventures and other support products.



A few other questions that people are asking:

1. Do I have to pay you $50 to put something on my blog? No. You do have to read and comply with our fan-use policy, though.

2. Why can’t I crowdfund? You can. And many have, including Torment: Tides of Numenera and Christopher West’s Numenera maps. However, you need negotiate a full license to do so.

3. Dear, Internet: What is the … ? No, please let me stop you right there. You should know better than to ask the Internet anything, especially about legal things or gaming things. Ask us. We’re the only ones who have the answers you seek in regards to this topic. The email address is right on the website.

4. How will you know when I’ve made $2000? We’ll know because you are awesome and honest and professional and we trust you with our whole hearts, and thus you will tell us that you’ve cracked that mythical number. And then we’ll celebrate your success and see where you want to go from there. (Hint: to the Big Time!).



In the end, is the limited license the right thing for you? Is it the right thing for Monte Cook Games and Numenera? Most importantly: Is it the right thing for fans?

At this point, only time will tell. But we hope the answer to all of those things turns out to be yes. And if it doesn’t? Then we already have 96 other ways of looking at it for the future.

~iadace~ with a side of kiss kiss bang bang, s.

Love What You Love

posted on: August 12, 2013
in: Blog

It’s been a rough week around here, for a whole lot of reasons. The big one was the loss of Monte’s dad, who passed away after a long illness. Instead of flying to London for Nine Worlds GeekFest, we drove to a wake and a funeral and said goodbye to a man who played a huge role in Monte’s life.

Those events have put everything else into a certain kind of perspective, as you might imagine. They make me feel softer and kinder toward others, but they also make me fiercer — woe to anyone who wants to take away something that I hold dear right now.

In a recent post, Monte talks about finding something that you love, and I feel like that’s the sentiment that feels closest to my own at the moment. It’s easy to tear things down–a life, a game, an action, someone’s quote. (To be clear: I don’t mean constructive critique or thoughtful discussions here; I mean hate, vitriol, knee-jerk ire).

It’s so much harder to love things. Because, of course, you might lose them. Someone might come along and tell you that you aren’t supposed to love that thing because it’s dumb or sexist or ridiculous and that you in turn are dumb or sexist or ridiculous for liking that thing. It’s hard to love something, because sometimes when you love something, it feels like you’re not doing anything to create change. It’s hard to love something because someone might come along and take it away from you. And then that thing you loved so truly, so openly, is ripped from you and the world feels like it’s going to end.

It’s easier to hate, because hate is hard and safe and secure. It builds a wall between you and the world and no one can ever get through it. You are impenetrable, unreachable, safe in your castle of righteous anger. Hate makes you feel like you’re making a difference, like you’re making a change for the better.

But I believe that it’s love–not hate–that changes the world. It’s kindness and thoughtful criticism and having a sense of humor about the horrible, horrible things that happen to all of us that moves us forward. It’s taking the risk to love something–or someone–so deeply that you are vulnerable.

Please love something today. Do it loudly and with fervor and with grand gestures, if that feels right. Drown out the hate, even if just for a few moments. Be a positive force in world, if you can.

Here is where I say thank you for all the positive forces in my world. Here is where I say I love you, with all the softness and vulnerability that I have in me. Here is where I say I forgive you and I’m sorry you’re scared and I understand your need to hold onto hate like a blanket. Here is where I say it’s okay to claw at me if it helps you feel better.

Here is where I say: Keep your hate if you must, but remember that it traps you immobile and scared in the corner, lashing out and destroying the very things that matter to you. Here is a hand, reaching. Here is a way out.

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