Looking for Beta Readers

Finally Finally Finally! Third revision of Ziggy’s first book is done. Now I’m looking for beta readers to read it and give me feedback on strong and weak parts of the story.


This is an autobiography of a man trying to find his place in the world. That world is the Kingdom of Willis, where Wizards are regulated, elves are under siege, Gnomes and Dwarves have locked themselves away, and an undying tyrant is feared by all.
Cut off from the rest of the realm, Ziggy was raised by a tribe of now-barbaric gnomes and knows that King Vern is responsible for his tribe’s isolation. When it’s time to leave his only home, he enters a a new world, and finds himself ill-prepared.

What I need In a Beta Reader

  • Someone who likes Fantasy
  • Someone who can provide *constructive* criticism
  • Someone with the time to read a 400 page book

Types of Feedback I Need

  • Identify boring sections
  • Identify continuity breaks
  • Identify what “doesn’t make sense”
  • Identify bad spelling or grammar
  • Identify uneven sections
  • Identify what works- Interesting, exciting, amusing, etc
  • Identify “infodumps’ (sections where I give too much detail)

Types of Feedback I don’t Need

  • “Yeah it’s nice.”
  • “Sorry, it sucks.”
  • “Your book is Satanic and you’re going to hell.”
  • “It needs more sexy vampires and werewolves.”

If you’re interested in reading it, leave a comment below or drop me a note at

Releasing my Inner Rust Monster

It’s no secret Ziggy’s book is based off a DnD campaign that I ran many years ago, but due to the miracle of Intellectual Property law, I’ll probably have to obfuscate that in the book. The problem is identifying the legal lines in this situation;  it’s unclear what I am and am not allowed to use.

Let’s take the lowly Rust Monster in my book, Rusty. Wizards of the Coast does not appear to own a trademark on the term Rust Monster, however Gary Gygax did invent the creature for the first edition of DnD. So, can I use the term Rust Monster, or the general concept of a giant cockroach that rusts metal and eats it? IP Law breaks down into three categories:

  • Is there a Trademark?
  • Is there a Patent?
  • Is there a Copyright?

For me to be in the clear to use the term rust monster, I need to check and see if WotC has any actual legal claim over it. If they do, I need to get permission from them (of which they will ignore or demand entirely too much money to use), or change the creature in my book so it does not infringe of their IP.


After a quick lookup on, there does not appear to be a trademark filed of any sort relating to rust monsters. Since they have not registered it, nor does google reveal any indication of intention to trademark, I may be in the clear here.


Reading up on patents, I don’t think the concept of a monster qualify as Patentable Subject Matter under Section 101 of Title 35 U.S.C.:

Whoever invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof, may obtain a patent therefor, subject to the conditions and requirements of this title.”

Since it doesn’t meet one of the base requirements, I don’t think monsters in general are patent-protected.


Copyright is where it gets tricky. Micky Mouse is an IP megastar- his name is Trademarked, and his likeness is copyrighted. Now, presuming the rules are the same for everyone, there’s not much difference between a dancing mouse that wears pants  and a metal eating cockroach. From the site:

Several categories of material are generally not eligible for federal copyright protection. These include among others:

  • Titles, names, short phrases, and slogans; familiar sym­bols or designs; mere variations of typographic ornamen­tation, lettering, or coloring; mere listings of ingredients or contents
  • Ideas, procedures, methods, systems, processes, concepts, principles, discoveries, or devices, as distinguished from a description, explanation, or illustration

So, the idea of a metal eating cockroach is not copyrighted (nor is the phrase “rust monster”), however the description, explanation and illustrations are protected. So as long as I don’t use their verbatim descriptions or illustrations, I should be safe.

So am I Safe?

Who the hell knows? I probably need to consult a lawyer to make sure I’m covered. It’d be really nice if WoTC would give me cart blanche on these critters, but I’m not gonna hold my breath on it. Their website is focused more on authors who wish to publish through them and write stories for their worlds. Short of a few critters and some generic spells, my world has no overlap with Greyhawk, Dragonlance or Forgotten Realms.

In Conclusion

It’s crap that I have to even think about this. The sad part is Rusty was probably the simplest example, and there are hundreds in my book that are close to the same case. It would probably cost a small fortune in legal fees to have my book vetted, and even then it may not be a guarantee that I’m in the clear. Also, if there are any lawyers out there interested in some pro-bono work, I would gladly accept it.

IP Sucks.

Revisiting Ziggy’s Book

I appeared to have stalled out on SPoE before I could finish it, so I’m flipping back to the reason for SPoE- Ziggy’s book. After taking a full year off of writing, I’m ready to revise the first of the two books. Last year I stalled out on the 3rd draft and was unable to get restarted; now I think enough time has passed to give me a fresh perspective.

Here’s my current method of attack. I’ve printed up the second draft of the entire book through lulu in a spiral-bound, full page format with plenty of room for making edits (~330 pages) . I’ll try to edit one chapter a week for 2 months (there are 8 chapters, but I’ll give 2 weeks to the first chapter). Part of my editing process will involve a set of pens that I’ll keep in a pouch along with it:

  • Black Pen – New additions, replacements
  • Red Pen – Corrections (spelling, punctuation)
  • Blue Pen – Ideas, notes, non-prose
  • Yellow Highlighter – Area that needs work
  • Green Highlighter – Area I like
  • Sharpie – Kill it with fire, I don’t wanna remember it.
  • Mech. Pencil – Overall structures, themes, constructs.

I’ll go through each chapter several times during it’s allocated week;

  1. Read-through: a personal read to reacquaint myself.
  2. Red Pen, Pencil: correcting painful errors, identifying patterns and motifs.
  3. Verbal Read-through: read aloud to identify bad structure.
  4. Yellow Highlighter, Green Highlighter,Blue Pen: marking areas I like or want to change, flesh out ideas.
  5. Black Pen, Sharpie: changes to be made, sentences that should be obliterated.

I’m hoping that a nice, even pace will keep me from burning out, and a logical set of tools will keep the process fresh. With luck, it’ll give me the drive to create a manuscript polished enough to show others. I’m hoping that breaking each chapter into five run-throughs will make it bite-size enough that I can do a little bit each night.  After I finish this process for each chapter, I’ll make the changes and create a new, third draft.

With the start of the 3rd draft, I’ll have to look at pacing and structure issues, but I’ll worry about that when I get to it.

Why does Ziggy’s Aunt Hate Him?

If you ever see me talking to myself, I’m just working through ideas for my book, honest… Here’s a good example of what I’m chomping on right now.

So I’ve been thinking, why does Ziggy’s Aunt Makuran hate Ziggy so much? Why does his cousin resent him?

First off, Ziggy is adopted, so take that into account.

Originally I thought it was because she was upset that Keltrem was made chief instead of her(since she’s female), and resented him for it because she is the eldest child. When Keltrem’s biological son died, she knew her son Gunthorm would be the next chief. When Keltrem adopted Ziggy, she blamed him, and raised her son to hate them both.

…but that didn’t Gel. Why didn’t Kinnon, Marukan’s husband hate Ziggy? There was power to be had if his son became chief… unless it wasn’t his son.

What if Marukan’s first husband was killed in battle by Keltrem’s decision? That is a much better reason not to forgive her brother. But why would Gunthorm share that hate? He was the son of the first husband… and Kinnon adopted him and had another child with Marukan. Kinnon would feel empathy towards Keltrem’s plight with an adopted son, and give ziggy the benefit of the doubt in private, but be distant when around Marukan.

Marukan’s second son (Agaleron) was fathered by Kinnon, and doesn’t care about all that crap, but since his older brother hates ziggy, he hates ziggy as well.

Gunthorm doesn’t empathize with ziggy being adopted because he doesn’t see Kinnon as a father figure, he sees him as a guy who married his mom. There’s tension there.

Lets back up a bit. Keltrem and his wife Zimissa had a son named Botulf. When Botulf was very young, he wandered near some contaminated turnips and ate one, then died of poisoning. That’s what everyone things. … but did Marukan have a role in that? intentional or unintentional?

Zimissa was heartbroken. Keltrem comforts her. Years later, she becomes pregnant again, but miscarries several months short. (did Marukan have a role in that? just how evil is she??)

Zimissa is devastated, tries to commit suicide (did Marukan have a role in that?) She does so by walking past the dark curtain into the plane of chaos. Keltrem follows, but watches her die, unable to save her. Kinnon (the best tracker in the tribe) witnesses this.

Keltrem is despondent, returns to the tribe, only to walk away without saying a word. Marukan takes command of the tribe much to the anger of the elders.

Keltrem wanders, finds Ziggy, thinks it’s a gift from the gods for his loss.

Keltrem returns several days later, tells all what happened. They accept this as truth, and kick Marukan to the curb.

This adds much more depth to the family dynamics.

This is what I was thinking about this morning.

What’s up?

So I’ve been pretty quiet since I hit 100k words- what’s been going on?

  • Round of layoffs at work
  • Friend diagnosed with cancer
  • Another round of layoffs at work.
  • Jackie became a pampered chef consultant
  • Finances have been wiped out from christmas and getting her PC stuff off the ground.
  • 10% paycut at work
  • Guitar lessons are now done because no one can afford them.
  • Have been reading Manuscript Makeover for ways to improve my book
  • Decided to do an initial cleanup of the first draft of my script, then rewrite the outline before starting draft #2
  • started yet another opensource project- this time it’s a collection of Nagios Plugins.

So I’ve been pretty busy. I’ve finished the cleanup of the first two chapters of book 1; hopefully I’ll finish the rest shortly, but it’s very slow going. We’ll see where things head in the next few months- I expect more crappiness.

103,375 words

I recently crossed the 100k barrier and came to a realization- this book is way too long. I think I’m gonna chop it after section 7 (90k words, 360 or so pages) and split it into two books-

The Autobiography of Ziggy Swift: The Rise
The Autobiography of Ziggy Swift: The Fall

This means that the first book is technically complete and ready for a revision. I’d like to finish the rough draft of both books before I proceed with a second draft of the first.

Jackie is about to start working heavy on revising the first section- hopefully that’ll mean I’ll have something for you guys to read soon.



Writing another Book

So I’ve started on another book- this one however isn’t a novel, it’s a notebook for guitar students. The first two pages contain a layout of notes on the fretboard, commonly played chords (open, barred and power), pentatonic modes, and relationship of the guitar and tablature to standard musical notation.

The rest of the book will follow a simple format, allowing notes, sketches and some notation on the left page and the right containing 6 tab staffs similar to this:


I suspect it will be around 80 pages, about the same size as a black and white college-rule journal-type notebook. It'll be US-letter size paper and spiral bound (so it'll lay flat).

If you can think of anything else that should be added to the first two pages of cheat sheet, let me know. I also need a name for this beast, something better than "Morgajel's Guitar Notebook".


Whew, it’s been a busy year. Back in 2005 I wrote a list of things I’d like to do eventually that I’d be able to do if I had the time and resources that winning the lotto would provide. I’ve made a positive step towards realizing a couple of those.


The big change this year was the addition of Ian. We didn’t get off too well in the beginning, but we’re doing pretty good now. He’s just now to the point where he’s taking his first steps. He’s a smart kid, very inquisitive, but stubborn. Within a few years he’ll be learning how to read and write- I’m guessing it won’t be long until I’m teaching him how to program. He’s got an eye for any type of electronics, but goes nutty for my blackberry or laptop. Yeah, he’s a geek in training.

Jackie’s been doing fairly well, all things considered. She’s been staying home with Ian rather than going back to work, and it’s driving her a little stir crazy. To help ease the cabin fever, she got a laptop for christmas- Ian wasn’t letting her stay in the office, so now she has a way to keep in contact with people from the living room.


This was the year of the wedding… Brad and Erin, Jordan and Beth, Matt and Carrie, William and Charleen, Jackie’s friend Joslyn, Jackie’s sister Lori, and Paul and Kristen. I only made it to 4 of the weddings, but I was standing up in two of them. The ones we went to were all in Grand Rapids, so we had the joy of driving back and forth 155 miles each way, with the added bonus of dropping Ian off somewhere along the way


Work started off pretty rough. I have a habit of reflecting the attitudes of those around me, and my supervisor at the beginning of the year was pretty negative. That coupled with Ian’s birth and all the associated expenses turned me into a pretty miserable person. Fortunately the supervisor left and was replaced with a cautious optimist. Things got better- so much so that I just passed the 1 year mark at my current place and still find it interesting and entertaining.


I’ve played with many new technologies this year- Jboss, Netscaler and CentOS being the three foremost. I’ve dug back into ruby with a couple of new projects, as well as LDAP and a plethora of new utilities. I even picked up a bit of python. This trend doesn’t look like it’s gonna let up, so the job should be exciting and interesting for some time to come.


This year saw me move away from music and go back towards software (although I have been playing harmonica in the car at stoplights on the way to work). I joined the Luma team as head cheerleader and started the QT4 branch. After becoming frustrated with the python, qt3->qt4 transition and the codebase in general, I started an unofficial sister project, Ruma. I still sit in the Luma channel and help when I can, but I’m gonna sit back and wait until we’re ready for QT4- hopefully we’ll scrap the entire codebase and start fresh.

Right now I have two other developers “working” for me on Ruma, Lars and Hiro. They’ve put a lot of effort into bringing this bad boy to life, and I’m thankful I’ve had their help. For those of you not aware, Luma and Ruma are LDAP administration tools. As a System Administrator, I use LDAP a lot, so having specialized tools can be helpful.

Another project I started this year was competing in National Novel Writing Month. I finished the rough draft for my first book, Sinblade, a week early. It’s only 150 pages or so, but not a bad start all things considered. Jackie’s (sorta) working on revising it, and once she’s done I’ll open it up for others to start giving me feedback. I’m excited and nervous about it. If it takes off and people like it, I have 6 or so more books that I’m interested in writing.

The money situation is still pretty tight, but it’s getting better. Hopefully next year will be as much of an improvement over this year as this was over last year.

National Novel Writing Month is Over

So it’s the end of November, and the final count is 53,708 words. I’ve submitted it to the nano site and got a nifty little image to display:

Official NaNoWriMo 2007 Winner

It’s sorta funny because I finished early- I had a week left when I stopped writing, and I probably could have hit 60k if I had more plot. Maybe when the revision process starts I’ll get some ideas for back stories and such that I can weasel in there.

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