Current News

Photo Gallery of Fire Runs in Newspaper

January 22, 2021

Yesterday, coming back from dropping my kids off at school, I noticed the Long John Silver’s was on fire. The FD was just pulling up. I snapped a bunch of photos and sent them into the paper. Here’s a gallery they ran of my contribution–photo credit and all!

Click here:

News Leader Publishes My Letter about Mayor’s Statement

January 21, 2021

The News Leader published my letter to the editor today. In case the link eventually disappears behind their pay wall, here is the letter in full:

Mayor Oakes’ statement excusing the rioters was shameful: Letter

Mayor Andrea Oakes’ statement at the recent City Council meeting concerning the D.C. insurrection was shameful and appalling. It has no place in the City of Staunton, let alone on its council.

Rather than denounce the rioters and murderers as she should have, Mayor Oakes excused them. She said, “Riots are the language of the unheard,” and then she went further by equating the insurrection to the Portland riots.

For your information, Mayor Oakes, the invaders of the U.S. Capitol who bludgeoned a police officer to death with a fire extinguisher were never “unheard.” The country has been listening to their garbage all year. They further had a voice through their votes and then through their dozens of spurious lawsuits to overturn the election. They still lost, but that’s the nature of democracy. That they then attacked the U.S. Senate and the vice president is their crime, not ours to justify.

You would do well to digest Gov. Northam’s recent State of the Commonwealth Address when he said, “I say to every elected official in Virginia: You can be part of our democratic institutions, or you can use falsehoods to try to destroy them. But you can’t do both.”

What is your choice, Mayor?


“Tombs & Mummies”: 78th place in IFComp2020

December 6, 2020

My first text adventure game, “Tombs & Mummies,” placed 78th out of 103 entries in the Interactive Fiction Competition 2020, sponsored by the Interactive Fiction Technology Foundation. (Full results here.)

This was a fun and well-run competition. In addition to donated cash prizes, there’s a large pool of non-monetary prizes the winners will choose from, including a 30-minute audiobook production from me. At every turn, I was pleasantly surprised at how mutually supportive and positive the I.F. community remained, and that makes me want to program a better game for next year.

I learned many things about programming interactive fiction along the way, mainly from the people who were kind enough to post reviews of my game. For example, I learned there’s a much higher tolerance for difficult puzzles than I expected. The audience for these games doesn’t mind spending hours researching, hunting for clues, unlocking ciphers, and the like. I think they would really get a kick out of Staunton’s Traipse/WQSV 106.3 Treasure Hunt — and in fact, I discovered that one of the Traipse creators is a huge interactive fiction fan and served as an IFComp volunteer judge.

If you’d like to play the free game “Tombs & Mummies,” please click on the picture below. I advise you to create an account at the Text Adventures website, install the Quest 5.8 interpreter locally, and download the game to play it that way. Many of my reviewers were frustrated with the online experience. (I have the same advice about “Omelet Miner,” which really depends on speed. The online experience of that frequently hangs and locks up.)

Tombs & Mummies

“Tombs & Mummies” Fan Art by Donald Conrad

October 25, 2020

Artist Donald Conrad is cracking everyone up with his illustrations of this year’s IFComp entries. Here’s one he posted of Tombs & Mummies:

illustration of Tombs & Mummies by Donald Conrad

illustration of Tombs & Mummies by Donald Conrad

There is still time for you to be a IFComp judge and play the best in interactive fiction. Click here.

“Tombs & Mummies” Reviewed

October 20, 2020

My entry to the Interactive Fiction Competition 2020 (IFComp2020), Tombs & Mummies, received a kind writeup by reviewer Mike Spivey. He says, “Tombs & Mummies is a puzzle game in a classic setting that nevertheless manages to do some interesting things both technically and story-wise.” Read the review.

There’s still time for you to review five entries in IFComp2020 and thus serve as a contest judge.

Tombs & Mummies

“Omelet Miner” Game Online

October 6, 2020

Omelet Miner is my second game on the Quest platform, after Tombs & Mummies, which is currently available for public judging at the IFComp2020 website.

This one is a more ambitious attempt to create a text-based video game. Fight off laser gun-wielding assassins while tunneling through a 3-D cube in search of the teleportation pad to escape. The only way to stay healthy is to mine omelet ingredients and cook them into a healthy meal.

The site where it’s hosted sometimes produces some unpredictable server errors, so if something weird happens, keep trying!

Click here to play:

Omelet Miner

“Tombs & Mummies” Game Entered in 2020 Interactive Fiction Competition

October 1, 2020

Tombs & Mummies is a parser-style text adventure I programmed in Quest 5.8. It’s now online as an entrant in the 2020 Interactive Fiction Competition.

The public is the judge! You have until November 29 to play and vote for 5 or more games. It looks like there are some terrific entries. While I’m not allowed to be a judge, I’m looking forward to playing the best in IF. Please click here or the below artwork to play Tombs & Mummies. The ballot is at this link.

Tombs & Mummies

This competition has a generous prize pool comprised entirely of donations solicited by the non-profit Interactive Fiction Technology Foundation. If you would like to contribute to its pool of cash prizes, click here for information about the Colossal Fund. Additionally, IFComp prizes include an array of “expert services.” I’m donating a 30-minute audiobook production to get more experience in voiceover work.

“Where We Work” Essay About My Workspace in HWA Newsletter

October 1, 2020

The October issue of the Horror Writers Association Newsletter contains my short essay in the “Where We Work” column, describing my workspace.

The newsletter is only for HWA members, but not all of you are members to have access. Conveniently, I’m good friends with the author Matthew Warner, who gave me permissions to reprint the essay here. Enjoy:

My office

Here is a timelapse video I made of myself working on No Outlet, a novella for Thunderstorm Books, in 2011:

These days, I still sit in the office, but I’ve supplemented the laptop with a gigantic monitor on my desk, plus a spare large-screen TV set on the wall. Those help a lot in my daytime job as a Web-site designer.

For writing, though, I’ve lately preferred an old-school approach. This photo is from February. Aside from the kitty “helper” named Moody, I like the freedom of writing longhand on a legal pad. I have to write damn early in the morning—between 5:30 and 6:30—but it’s a nice time to create from a still mind. All that’s blown to hell, of course, when I take a coffee break to read the newspaper.

Matthew’s website

Win a 30-Minute Audiobook Production

September 10, 2020


I’m donating production of a 30-minute audiobook as a prize to the Interactive Fiction Competition (IFComp). The prize description under “Expert services” of the prize pool is as follows:

A short (up to 30 minute) audiobook of a short story by the author
Includes pre-production, narration (by the donor), and post-production of your story, with music intro & outro, suitable for sale on a platform of your choice. Must be claimed within one year.
Donated by Matthew Warner

IFComp’s winners will be announced in mid-November. See their schedule.

THE WHO (not the group)

The Interactive Fiction Competition is a 26-year-strong contest sponsored by the Interactive Fiction Technology Foundation, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization for the preservation of interactive fiction. Interactive fiction (IF) is the genre of text-driven digital games and stories such as parsers and game books.

Each year, they solicit donations to the contest. These consist of cash to the “Colossal Fund,” which is awarded to contest winners, plus services from the prize pool such as editing, publicity, content creation, gift certificates, games, books, and magazines. There is no fee to enter, so I’m impressed that so many people are willing to donate their time and money, making this the most award-heavy writing contest I’ve ever seen. I’m under the impression the great majority of competitors will receive something.


I expect my donated prize, once claimed, to require 8-10 hours of labor on my part. “Audiobook Production Tips” goes into detail about my process. I will work with the prize winner as my pro-bono client. We will begin with a token-remuneration (i.e., free) contract to spell out our responsibilities concerning things like copyright and byline. I’ve learned the hard way as a partner in Deena Warner Design and as an author that it’s helpful to have something written down so there are no misunderstandings.

The next step will be pre-production. I’ll request a short story manuscript of up to 4,000 words, sent to me in MS Word or .RTf format. I’ll pre-read the manuscript and consult the author about things like special pronuciations and accents. Following pre-production will be production, when I will record the narration. Post-production, once the recording is in the can, will consist of de-breathing and the addition of intro and outro material such as a short musical transition I will purchase and donate from third-party stock. Post-production is where the majority of my time is spent, as I may take up to an hour polishing each five minutes of audio. (This time out, I have access to a bona fide professional recording booth, so I’m hoping to cut this down a lot with better inputs.) I’ll then share the recording with the author and ask for notes s/he may have. It’s my hope we can finalize the content within two or three rounds of edits.

Once the recording is approved, I’ll master the audio quality according to ACX audio standards and send the final MP3 back to the client. My recommendation will be to sell it through a third-party service such as Author’s Republic for redistribution to channels such as Audible and iTunes. The author will not owe me any royalties, which will also be spelled out in our contract.


I’m doing this for a few reasons. When I found out about IFComp and entered a game I programmed this summer, I was very excited and impressed with the whole enterprise. Basically, I just want to support other writers — especially during the economic downturn — and this seems like a great way to do it. Programming little online games is one of my hobbies and a great marriage of my writing and programming skills. However, I always felt alone in the endeavor, so I’m glad there’s an organization like this out there. (Not to mention I would love for 1990s-style MMORPGs like Galactic Empire to make a comeback, but maybe that was just one of the few things I enjoyed about my high school years.) I’ve been going on for years about interactive fiction without realizing there is a whole subculture devoted to it. Maybe my Google-Fu hasn’t been up to snuff. I may also want to explore voiceover work as a side hustle (see my new portfolio of audio samples), and working with a real client is a good way to get experience.

So, with all that said, best of luck to my fellow competitors, and I hope to work with one of you soon! And to the general public, keep an eye on the IFComp website for this year’s entries, and vote, vote, vote! (Also register for the November election if you haven’t already, but that’s another topic.)

Rolling Rocks Radio Redux: EMPIRE OF THE GODDESS Commercial

August 28, 2020

The guys at Rolling Rocks Radio were kind enough to include a commercial for Empire of the Goddess in their Episode 12. It was recorded by none other than the book’s narrator, Thomas Dylan, and he would really like you to believe what he’s saying.

The commercial is at about 30:10, but I encourage you to listen to the entire episode. Scott Barker and Jerry Armentrout have a great show!