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 TheRise@ziggyswift.com.

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 http://tess2.uspto.gov/, 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 copyright.gov 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.

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.

Ziggy release 1.0

Well, I’ve got this turd polished well enough to release Ziggy 1.0. There’s still a lot left to do, and a lot more to add, but this is a good place for people to start looking at it.

Feel free to download it and take him apart- I’ve included the very truncated Dribbly.xml profile (dribbly is surly, be forewarned) and kept ziggy’s real config under wraps. enjoy!

Yay I’m 1.0!

Happy birthday to me, I live in a tree, happy birthday dear me- happy birthday to me.

My Pickled Herring is not Red

11:13 -!- lori [45dddd1f@A3455140.59D83169.126F8B2.IP] has joined #irc
11:13 < lori> jesse are you there?
11:14 < ~ziggy> he might be
11:14 < ~ziggy> want me to go get him?
11:14 < lori> sure why not
11:15  * ziggy runs off with a pickled herring under his arm
11:15 < morgajel> yo
11:16 < lori> what is jackie's work number?
11:17 < morgajel> *shrug*
11:17 < morgajel> I don't know.
11:17 < lori> well what good are you?
11:20 < ~ziggy> we're all wondering that
11:21 < ~ziggy> well, other than sperm donor- he seems to have gotten that 


ur mom

ok I need help- I need some ur mom jokes. I’d come up with my own but I’m heading over to ur mom’s right now. Just leave them in the comments.

Humanizing Ziggy

For those that are not familiar with Ziggy, he is a character based on a DnD character from a few years back and has taken on a life of his own. He’s made an appearance in my Willis module for Neverwinter Nights (based off the same campaign), a book that I’m writing, several sketches as to what he looks like, and an IRC bot written in perl.

The IRC bot is what has really shaped his personality, and he’s become pretty much another member of the group. The first iteration of ziggy had noticable issues- mainly the instantaneous full sentence reponses.

Fortunately, the initial workaround for this problem was easy- Ziggy is based off the PoCo-IRC module, and there’s an ability to delay() calls to session hooks. This has made ziggy much more realistic and given me the ability to make him… bizarre.

As I’ve added more and more functionality to Ziggy, I’ve had successes and failures. The current code rewrite I’m working on is massive, but well worth the effort. One of the big pushes I’m working on is modularizing his code; that in combination with the personality xml file would allow others to easily create bots and pick and choose features to add. This would also allow me to create an API for modules and let others develop for ziggy.

The problem I’m running into is the code I wrote in the previous version of ziggy is dependent on features available in the PoCo-IRC scripts, but not the plugin class. Lets look at a sample case:

Bar_brawl is triggered when someone performs a ctcp action that involves punching ziggy.

* morgajel punches ziggy in the liver
1-3 second delay
[ziggy] BAR BRAAAWL!!!!!
1-5 second delay
*ziggy hits morgajel with a chair

repeat the last two sets 4-8 times, changing the delay, the target, and it’s an action or a battle cry.

In the original version, I created a bar_brawl handler which recursively called itself and decremented a variable. Each round of bar brawl randomly selected a “brawl_option” from the personality xml file, immedately performed a post(‘privmsg’) or action to the channel, then performed a delay() on itself for a random 1-5 seconds.

The result was exactly what I was looking for, except that it was a big mass of ugly code in the middle of the program. This, if anything, should be moved to a module. The problem then became, “how do I declare the delays?”

BinGOs, the guy who maintains PoCo-IRC is working on a delay for plugins, which will almost fix my problem- he says that it’ll only work for main session hooks like privmsg, kick, etc- which means no plugin-level delay on a plugin-level bar_brawl hook.

So where should I go from here?

So it looks like the fix was using an internal function in $irc called _send_events
with this I could send a ‘say’ event, and had say recursively call itself if an extra parameter was given to it (a delay in seconds). on top of this, delay_add fixed the disappearing delays issue. Moral of the story: it’s all working now.


Hrm… I think I’ll try something new this year. As some of you know, 12/31 is my birthday, and I’m 26 now. That makes it twice as good to look back on my life and reflect. So what’s changed? Quite a bit. I always had a goal growing up, that when I was 25, it would be the one of the best years of my life. Looking back, I think that it very well could be.


This was my first full year in Virginia. Went with jackie back to visit friends in Michigan a couple times and realized how much I dislike Virginia. Growing up, I couldn’t wait to get out of michigan… now that I’m here I want to go back. That was quite a shock.

I worked at SPX(I still don’t use their full name here) for a full year, and went from junior developer to developer to webmaster to system admin to lead developer, which those last 3 all happening at the same time. I left the company over money issues and ended up with CSX(again, no full name), where I’m a full time Linux System Administrator. The job is great. I’ve been with them for 3 months as of christmas eve. It also allowed us to afford a new bed- the original move down here did a number on my back, and has been messed up for the last year. I went and saw a doctor and got some anti-inflammitories about the same time as we got the bed, and for the first time in a year, I was able to sleep 8 hours straight. I just ran out of the naproxin, but my back is in much better shape than it was.

We’ve been at our apartment complex for over a year now- This is the first time I’ve stayed at a single apartment this long since I started college. It’s not a huge apartment but it is quite expensive. We’ve also been digging ourself slowly out of debt. We did end up taking on a new debt- my Ford Tempo finally died, and we bought a new Toyota Corolla (my first foreign car; has a lot more meaning to someone from MI). The car is great, but we added a whole lot more debt to our lives.


Family has been good and bad, lots of interesting things going on. Jackie spent a good chunk of the year working 70 hours/week in New Jersey working on a case that her lawfirm ended up being disqualified for. The big bonus she was promised? well, she got 1/3 of it. She’s the 3rd person I’ve talked to this year who got screwed on a year end project based bonus through no fault of her own. From now on she ONLY works 40 hours a week. If they don’t like that, she can go elsewhere and make 50% more.

And to round things up:

  • Chaos, the cat who lives up to her name, turned 1 and has calmed down. She isn’t quite… “domesticated,” but she’s calm enough now that I don’t want to throw her off the balcony.
  • Toby still hides under the bed.
  • My brother Jamie broke his hand punching a guy, then got his ass kicked a few months later by a mob.
  • My brother Brian is still playing trumpet at UofM- his second year there I think.
  • My mom has been bowling a lot
  • My dad shot Bambi in the spine. He says Bambi is delicious.
  • My good friend Jeff got married to his girlfriend Corrie
  • my Mother in law Rhonda got married to her boyfriend jerry


It’s been a Good year for hobbies- or bad, depending on how you look at it. I’ve been hitting the guitar with a renewed passion after finding the Guitar Grimoire series of books and Rockhouse “Learn to Play Guitar” DVDs. Before this year I could only play chords and single notes- I was a rhythm guitarist essentially. Now I can play all 5 modes of the pentatonic scale and the first mode of the F major scale. I still got a ways to go, but this was a big hurdle for me; one I thought I’d never get past. Now I’m to the point of being able to understand music a whole lot better.

I’ve gotten back into art with the purchase of a Wacom graphic tablet. I’ve started working on several drawings, mainly pictures of old DnD characters I’ve played. lots of fun and interesting stuff.

For writing, I finally decided to write a story about the DnD world I created- Willis. since I can’t play DnD, I figured I could at least write about it. I got about 10k words in and realized that my outline had stopped being an outline. went back through and started writing a first draft, got about 1500 words in and got sidetracked with other projects.

One thing I’ve wanted to get into since I was 10 was electronics- never got the chance though. Well, the last 2-3 months I’ve decided it would be cool to make my own guitar pedals, so I picked up “Demystifying Electronics” and started learning. It’s a slow process, but I’m getting there. Right now I have a 130 in 1 electronics kit, and I plan on getting a real breadboard in another month or two (to make sure this isn’t another failed hobby).

And of course there’s my programming. I’ve been working on a bot named Ziggy who is based on one of my favorite DnD characters. He’s become quite a source of amusement to me, though I think he’s wearing a little thin on others. I’ve also started working on a Streaming Radio interface to allow me to tag and catagorize songs and create shows. It’s called Ridllr. If I can get this up to a certain level, I’d like to place it under a GPL license and sell support for it (though I doubt there’d be many takers). The hardest part was coming up with enough music to stress test it with large loads. Fortunately there was a used CD store down the block from me at SPXwith cheap CDs.

Linux is of course my bread and butter now, so I’m continually learning about new services and such. at CSX, I’m using Redhat, which I’ve honestly not had much experience with- I’m relieved to learn that it’s reall not much different, it just has some minor annoyances. the updates and security issue is really the most annoying. I’ve done a lot of work with apache, subversion and bind this year, and quite a bit with perl.

Lets see, hobbies that are going into stasis… Jow Gar is obviously since 1) there’s no place to practice and 2) my teacher is still in MI. Chainmailing is as well because I’ve always got my hands full with my other hobbies….


As I mentioned in the section above, Jeff got married. Shabbs got his wife pregnant and she popped out little zsolt …”skullteddy”.. ugh I’m horrible with spelling that, so phonetic will have to do for now. Made some new friends- Pete(dendrite) who I actually met in 2004 but we’ve kept in touch after both leaving SPX. There’s also Tony, who’s well on his way to a bright music career. Worked with him at SPX as well. Met William(shaldannon) and Ben(ben) who we hired at SPX right before I left- I keep in touch with them to help them when I can.

Of course there’s my new coworkers, but I differenciate between coworkers and friends to keep the lines unmuddied.

I also spoke to porter for the first time in over 5 years. I’ve come to the conclusion that being pissed off at people, no matter what crime (real or imagined) isn’t worth keeping up the hate. I doubt we’ll ever be close friends again, but at least it’s less thing I have to deal with. being mad at someone is entirely too much work. That said, he hasn’t continually annoyed me like other people I’ve put on a mental banlist. He’s never claimed to own my friends; he’s never threw temper tantrums and forced me to remove him; etc. Perhaps next year I’ll bury another hatchet.

I’ve spend a lot of time back in the #asp channel, so now I have a place to focus and vent my anger and hate. Met VP in real life, and he’s just as scary in person as he is to a clueless noob who wanders into #asp. But they’re all good guys generally and a very valuable information source.

All in all, it’s been a very good year. I have a pretty good idea how I’m gonna top it next year, but that’s my secret… for now.

Enjoy 2006 and happy birthday to ME, MUAHAHAHA.

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