Saving Throws and story

Back when I was a young pup, we got the three white book box set of D&D.  Actually, my buddy Ed Smith got it.  Todd Downing and I were just brought over to play.  We did not understand those rules at all but we were very excited. Role playing just didn’t make any sense to us yet.  We thought that the point was to make a map with different symbols on them and as we walked along the map, we’d fight whatever monster was represented by that symbol.  The world was shiny then.  We were in 7th grade and had all just read the Lord of the Rings, The Dark is Rising, and Dune.

We wanted to experience story in a new way, beyond anything we’d ever dreamed.  And this game did not disappoint.  Oh, we meandered around a while, trying to understand Chainmail, figuring that maybe we needed miniatures to understand D&D.  But that just proved to make things even more confusing

Eventually we worked out the basic concepts and things got even more fun.  We were a creative lot, making up stories about wizarding apprentices who became hunch backed because they were turned into an eraser as a punishment then used to fix a magic scroll by the absent minded wizard.  That one had us laughing so hard we thought we were going to throw up.  We designed deadly dungeons that no one could survive and found out just how hard they were to play.  We began to haunt gaming stores and buying anything we could from places like TSR and Judges Guild and buying magazines like The Dungeoneer and Dragon.

We were progressing through junior high and by ninth grade had a free period each day.  Like recess but we were much too mature for recess.  We started spending our free class in the biology teacher’s room where we could play games as long as we were not too rambunctious.  Oh, we were true Kentucky nerds, living on Mt. Dew and Ho Hos, rolling dice and snickering every time we made a saving throw or killed a kobold.  We were living the dream.

Then the biology teacher mentioned to us that her brother was moving to the area for his wife to go to school, and that he played that game as well.  She asked if we’d be interested in meeting him and we were all over that.  A grown-up who understood the magic of this new world.  How could we not?

We arranged to meet in one of the meeting rooms at the public library.  We could get there by bike and it was a public place, after all.  There was much excitement when we met Merle Davenport.  He had played the game in Ann Arbor, MI with the likes of Jennell Jaquays and the folks at Judges Guild.  Merle had even written some articles for The Dungeoneer.  We were in awe.

Merle helped us roll up some characters and showed us the newly published first hardback of D&D rules: The Monster Manual.  I remember holding that book in my hands, mesmerized by the art work, carefully turning the pages and seeing the wealth of knowledge hidden inside.

We gamed with Merle a few times over the year, but soon enough he moved away.   Other gamers came into our life and we kept digging into new stories, building new characters and delving into the worlds of our imagination.  Those were magical years, formative years in the way of story and adventure.

I still have that character sheet 30+ years later.  I was a ranger who stole a baby Manticore, hoping to raise it as my own.  The mother nearly did us in, but we prevailed.

We grew older, brought in new friends, evolved as humans (slightly).  There are many lessons from those days, but this one bears remembering.

As my good friend Ted Huffman learned — when you are facing a door with a skull glyph on it, I don’t care how good a thief you are, there is a chance you’ll fail your saving throw and the whole party is screwed.

“He broke the glyph upon the door, he failed his save, a fucking four”

From the sixth grave of Van Judas, thief extraordinaire

Also dead that campaign: Englase, the Samurai  (me) and Shardik the wizard (Ed Smith).  The GM was Tony Howard.

Those were spectacular days — moments that shaped my view of the world.

Every story I write, every character I bring to life have a beginning in those raucous days of running from skeletons and cutting purses.  Life has always been a grand adventure and story will make it always so for me.

Writing in a (mostly) undisclosed location.

StHelens_Hotel_20140301Synopsis for the new series is coming along swimmingly.  Can’t wait to get this off my plate and over to the agent extraordinaire so I can start drafting.

The publishing world continues to baffle me, so word on the next Sarah book is still pending, but my agent is working her magic.

The project I’m working on now is a brand new trilogy set in the near future with genetics and government conspiracy, bloggers, vampires, mutants and general mayhem and chaos.   Working title for the series is: The Breaking.  Book 1 is Revelation.  These will be longer than the Sarah books, but I hope just as enjoyable.

As things roll along, I’ll update information about this and any other thing of interest.

Be happy, read good books, share the love.




Rare opportunity for writers

My good friend Peter Orullian has arranged for an amazing writers workshop where I’ll be one of the authors teaching/supporting.

This is in conjunction with Pat Rothfuss and Worldbuilders, all in support of Heifer International

Check it out.  You know you want to spend the day with some awesome writers. :)


Go bid on this and do something nice for yourself while helping a great cause.

Interviewed over on Outer Alliance Podcast

I really enjoyed this interview.  Good questions and Julia is a total kick.  Had a great time.  You should check it out.

Short Story Collection available for pre-order.

While Thursday I mentioned my first ever e-novelette, Bones of my Father is available for purchase.  Today I bring you even more news.

For those with a little more patience, you can wait until November and get the full collection containing this and 13 other stories.  In it you will find the original short story that launched the Black Blade Blues series, as well as two unpublished stories set in the Sarah Beauhall world.  One featuring Katie and Sarah, and another set in Japan.

There are also 9 other previously published stories, Bones of my Father, and the never before seen Luck Muscle.

Publishers Weekly said some nice things, including: “The 14 short works of science fiction and fantasy show that Pitts is comfortable with a wide range of settings; as ordinary as the soundstage of “Black Blade Blues” (linked to Pitts’s Sarah Beauhall books) and exotic as the alien world of “Towfish Blues,” as fantastic as the fairy kingdom of “Mushroom Clouds and Fairy Rings” and as familiar as the university campus of “Three Chords and the Truth.”  … Pitts often turns to art and romance, those most human of activities, to anchor the stories.”

This collection is available for pre-order  (available in e-book as well as trade paperback) at Fairwood press today.   We will be launching officially at Orycon on Saturday, November 9th along with The Diamond Deep by Brenda Cooper as well as the anthology Raygun Chronicles edited by Bryan Thomas Schmidt.

Bones of my Father e-novellete for sale

For those who’ve been writing me wanting to see more of my writing, I give you my first e-novelette.  You can go buy this right now.

I’m releasing this in conjunction with Fairwood Press.  You can purchase it at traditional sites such as Amazon and Baen Books.  The artwork is by the fabulous Mark Ferrari.

Interested in seeing what I can do with a post-apocalypse setting?  Give it a try.



Lady Like Book Club reviews Black Blade Blues

BBB_MMPBIt’s been a weird summer. Lots of day job crazy, some scattered writing projects and a good solid revision on book 4 in the Sarah Beauhall series.

About a six weeks ago, while I was teaching at the Cascades Writers Workshop one of my fans pointed me to a really cool podcast which just happened to be featuring Black Blade Blues.

I got back to my room, called the family and was about to crawl into bed, way past my normal bedtime, when I remembered the podcast. I clicked over to it and found myself totally enthralled with these women. It’s >>>>> Lady Like Book Club, episode 15  <<<<<

Even though it was really late I listened to the whole thing It’s funny and sweet and says nice things about my first published novel. They really liked it. I had no idea they were talking about the book, I’d never heard of them before, and suddenly I want to get to know them. I want to meet these intelligent, funny irreverent women who have such a great time building a podcast. It is obviously something they love.

Check them out. I’m thinking you’re gonna love them as well.

My Lonestarcon schedule

Well, I’m in San Antonio wrapping up some time with the family before they flee back to the sane weather in the Pacific Northwest, and I continue here in the land of hot and humid. This little trip has been interesting. Always good to reconnect with family and honestly not spend too much time dealing with my day job for a while. I love my job, but getting away every now and again is a good thing to do.

Starting Thursday, this vacation evolves into Worldcon – Lonestarcon. The third time San Antonio has hosted World Science Fiction convention. I’m looking forward to seeing folks I know, and meeting new people along the way. My last Worldcon was in Reno and it was also HOT. I’m beginning to think we should maybe support the Helsinki bid for one of the upcoming Worldcons, if for no other reason than to balance the temperature. :)

Okay, here’s my schedule. If you want to meet me, here’s where I’ll be. Stop me and chat a bit if you see me around. Never fear, I’ll let you know if I’m jammed, but I love to meet people.

Writers Workshop F

Friday 13:00 – 15:00

Alex Shvartsman, John Pitts
Food in Science Fiction and/or Fantasy

Saturday 12:00 – 13:00

From soylent green, to vat-grown protein, to descriptions of lavish meals in Game of Thrones, food is depicted in many forms in science fiction and fantasy. Our panellists discuss the role of food in world-building. There may even be recipes, although probably not for soylent green.

Chris O’Halloran (M), Liz Argall, Fran Wilde, John Pitts
The Impact of SF on Economies and Scientific Development

Sunday 18:00 – 19:00

The SF Community regards either itself or the literature as having had some impact on the larger world. We dare ask: Have we really?

Sam Scheiner (M), Yasser Bahjatt, Clifford (Kip) McMurray, John Pitts

Autographing: Elizabeth Bear, Gabriele de Cuir, EIleen Gunn, John Pitts

Monday 10:00 – 11:00

Eileen Gunn, Gabrielle de Cuir, Elizabeth Bear, John Pitts

My kingdom for a sack of rat tails

I’m definitely writing. But I’m struggling today with an overwhelming desire to log into Everquest and check out my old addiction. Apparently it’s free to play and they still have my account live on their website. Just don’t know if any of my old characters are still around or anything.

But, I know I’ll be disappointed. Too much has changed. Everquest jumped the shark years ago with the Planes of Power upgrade turning the game into a raider/grinder fest with almost no value to the casual gamer. Makes me sad, because when I first started playing it just a few months after launch, I was enthralled in the world and the game play. I absolutely loved the risk and reward the game provided. But as more and more raiders appeared, they started dumbing down the risk and making it so you had to be online for an epic amount of time to get anything accomplished.

I used to run a guild. We had fun exploring new territories, trying out different classes/races and generally enjoying the game.

When I left, I could no longer advance without a full party and I had no chance of getting upgraded gear without raiding and farming way beyond the world of reasonable game play.

Granted, there are those out there with no limit to their free time, and they were on all the time. There are even professional farmers (or there were) who ran on macros to do nothing but kill a certain mob over and over and loot what they dropped. No real human interaction.

I know it’s just nostalgia, but I miss those early days where you took a chance by exploring new territory and how the difference between life or death was being able to craft a wolf skin armor or make a decent enough batch of arrows.

I remember hunting rats in Freeport in hope of earning enough money to buy an actual back pack. Or trying to stop Orc Hill from being overrun when some idiot got lost and trained a dozen of the beasties on top of those who were just trying to explore, level, etc.

My first run from Freeport to Qeynos was harrowing. There were zones there that I had NO business being in, but I couldn’t afford a wizard or druid to port me via their standing stones.

That was fun. Later, when all you had to do was walk into the newbie zones and touch a book, and you could travel anywhere with no time and of course, no risk, the game started becoming boring and tedious.

I want to run around East Commons healing random people as they try to survive the suddenly appearing mummy when they just wanted to kill a few snakes — all the while listening to people hawking their wares from the tunnels near the black market.

Oh, well. I’ll never find it’s like again, I’m afraid. Games today are geared to the power players, the raiders and the grinders. No love in the world for those of us who want to get into a scrap or two, finish a quest, and retire to town for a nice cold ale and to sell a sack full of rat tails.

Mores the pity.

Happy Book Day: Forged in Fire comes out in Trade Paperback

I know Forged in Fire has been out a year in hardback, but I also know some people are waiting around for a better price point. Well, those of you who’ve waited, wait no more. Today, Forged in Fire comes out in Trade paperback. I know my local Barnes & Noble has signed copies if you are so inclined. I’ll be at the University Bookstore on the Ave in Seattle tomorrow night, Wednesday, July 24th at 7pm if you’d like to get one personalized.

Of course, you can always get the hard back if you want, those are still around. The reading and signing tomorrow night should be especially great because I’m not the main course. :) There’s this new kid in town, J.M. Sidorova is releasing her first novel: The Age of Ice from Scribner.

And then, on Thursday, I travel down to Portland with a car full of writers to go to the Cascade Writers Workshop where I’ll be surrounded by very cool people including my agent: Cameron McClure and my editor: Claire Eddy from Tor.

Busy week, busy weekend coming. But all writerly goodness.

Hope to see you folks out and about.

« Older Posts |

What I'm Reading


Ernest Cline

Recent Comments


The wild ox; strength and power.


Creativity; words, music, and art.


The troll cross; wealth and prosperity.


The sun; energy, honor, guidance.


Personally earned or lucky wealth and prosperity.


The harvest; patience and promise.


The chariot; journey and travel.

Note: This is not the real book cover.