Long Strange Roads
So a few years back, I was featured in a documentary. It was a strange experience, but an interesting one. It was filmed between 2005 and 2007, which was not one of the better parts of my life. Heck, it was a difficult part in the lives of just about everyone in it; not just the principles, but the people around us. It can be hard for me to watch, actually; it brings back a number of things that I’d just as soon forget. I attended a viewing of the film in New York, hosted by the Independent Film Channel, which was one of the top five weird/amazing experiences of my life.
During the Q&A session after the film, I was asked what it was like to watch the film now. I answered something like “it was like a five second car crash and an eight hour trip to Disneyland, extended and compressed to fit ninety minutes.”
The documentary didn’t see widespread theatrical distribution, but was released on DVD and online. I believe you can still watch it for free on Hulu.com. I get people finding me via Facebook because they’ve just seen the film and want to get in touch, which I secretly find amazing and wonderful. I was never one of the popular kids, you see. My best friend Amanda Shouse, shown prominently in the film, was even approached by a performer at the famous Magic Castle in Beverly Hills and asked if she was, indeed, the person from The Dungeon Masters. It’s an odd kind of fame; on the one hand, people who saw the movie tend to think I came off well in it and would like to get in touch to chat; on the other hand, that was me at one of my lowest points.
I’d just spent the better part of two years writing a novel, only to have any hopes of seeing it published dashed on the rocks in front of my eyes. My marriage was in a rocky and unstable state, my best friend’s marriage was on the verge of ending, I had a complete absence of recognition for any work that I had done or was doing at the time; I was a wreck. When I looked up reviews of the film and saw how people were perceiving me after viewing it, I could rarely say anything but “yeah, you got me.” I can’t (and won’t) speak for other people featured in the documentary, but as for myself, it nailed me dead-on… that was definitely me.
Or, to be more precise, that was definitely me five years ago. The documentary was quite the wake-up call, actually. It drove home that I really need to do something with myself besides sit on my novel and feel sorry for myself. For a few months, there, that seriously seemed like a viable career move; it didn’t make any money and didn’t provide any benefits or job satisfaction, but it was something I was proficient at.
With the help of family and friends, I assisted in picking me up off the floor and dusting me off, which is harder than it sounds. Self-pity is addictive. I started a new company, Dakkar Unlimited, with the help of my longtime friend Victor Gipson. It was slow going at first – I made some printable “standee” figures for use in Roleplaying games, which saw some reasonable success. Eventually, Vic and I threw ourselves into writing our own RPG, which seems to have done pretty well for a niche market within a niche market. There have been almost a hundred supplements in the three-plus years since we first published Hot Chicks: The Roleplaying Game; not a bad showing for a two-person company.
I didn’t get much of a chance to return to the production of Cable-Access television shows; the one that I was filming during the making of The Dungeon Masters won the local cable channel’s award for comedy that year, which was a real boost. Still, doing the filming was not only time consuming but physically taxing (one particularly rough day of filming put me in the hospital overnight). Going back to it is always a possibility; there are a lot of things I want to do with puppetry, yet.
With the success in publishing the game material electronically, I finally got up the gumption to make my novel available as well. Since people kept asking me about it, I figured I might as well put it out there and see what would happen. It hasn’t caused any meteorites or lightning bolts to hit me, yet, so that’s a good thing.
(Available Here, in case you were wondering…)
Vic and I are close to completing the core rulebook for our second, more family-friendly RPG project, which will spawn its own line of supplements and other products, and perhaps allow me to shop some work around to other writers and artists. Because of the first RPG we wrote, I’ve been asked to work on some fairly lofty projects in the RPG industry, and am currently the Lead Designer on the Omniverse Project (which I will elaborate on at some length in a future post).
My marriage is on much better footing than it was five years ago; my wife Annalisa and I have a more effective working partnership. My son Andrew is doing well in school despite a few problems; he was born with all of my stubbornness, along with all of my wife’s and a big chunk that is all his own. Add to that some learning disabilities that I am all too familiar with (having a set of my own), and it takes a more effective working partnership to make sure he has everything he needs to succeed. Fortunately, he’s bright and kind-hearted and has an imagination to match his stubbornness.
I haven’t been to GenCon since 2007, when I was filmed there for the documentary. I’ll likely be going back this year to shill the new RPG and get out and about the community; I tend to shut myself in, from time to time, and I really need to stop that.
It’s a much different life than it was five years ago; it’s a much better one. I’m stressed and over-worked, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m doing what I love each and every day, with people that I cherish. Sure, I need to lose a few pounds and get out and walk more often, and I should probably cut down on the caffeine, but all in all, things are good.