I have had Bob Dylan’s "The Times They Are A-Changin’" stuck indelibly in my head all day. I woke up with it lodged, I watered the garden with it, I drove with it, and now I’m typing with it.

It was also sometime last night that the inevitable wave of "OH HEY I HAVE A CON NEXT MONTH!" hit like a ton of bricks, and now I’m mining old sketchbooks for a promising seam of small cute doodles. Fortunately I hit one rapidly–apparently I was seriously inspired sometime in January–and now I just have to make a couple zillion teeny paintings. While writing the next Dragonbreath book. And finishing the last half-dozen paintings and doing all the art edits and the cover for Batbreath and keeping up with Digger.

"You must have amazing time management skills," my editor told me once. And indeed, logic dictates that she must be correct, because the work all seems to get done reasonably close to on time. Still, I’m thinkin’ this time I might be running a little close to the wire…

D&D, Live!

So for the first time, yesterday, we finally got to play D&D in person. We’ve been gaming for a good six months via Ventrilo and it was cool to actually be able to get together in person Everybody came out for a cookout, our buddy Tango (aka Rush the Druid) came down from Virginia, Jen (aka Wilhelmina the Gnome) came out with her husband and daughter, and Amy (aka Ceri the Rogue) brought the World’s Smallest Corgi with her.

Since our usual plotline was kinda off the rails at the moment–seeking evil peat moss, still awaiting details–we wound up with a fairly improv session, which meant that Kevin (aka the GM) finally got to drag out a plot hook he’s been sitting on for awhile–the back story of my character (aka Rooster the Paladin) comes back to haunt him. Rooster used to be a thief, but left under a dark cloud/trail of bodies, joined the Order of the Silver Weasel, and now his old associates had sent assassins after him.

Which is awkward, because for six months, I’ve been very careful not to do anything to indicate that by the way, Rooster’s a multi-class rogue. There was one backstab, which went completely unnoticed, and nobody had noticed that the time he pickpocketed a pack of drinking straws (for the greater good! You have no idea how useful drinking straws can be!) that the bonuses were rather higher than one would expect from a paladin. And generally on a dungeon crawl, this sort of thing doesn’t come up.

But there we are, in a city, walls covered in thief sign claiming that the dark god is about to rise and drag all into the abyss, and the GM says that only Ceri and Rooster can read it.

PARTY: Wait, Rooster can read it?
CERI: So, Rooster, you seem to be paying a lot of attention to the wall there.
CERI: Reading something?
ROOSTER: Yes. It’s….um….paladin-sign.
CERI:  ….Paladin-sign.
ROOSTER: It says to tithe. And brush your teeth.

Despite this unbelievably clever bit of subterfuge ("Tithe!"!) the cat was about to be out of the bag, what with the assassins descended on us in the alleyway, with the knives and the demands and the gee, maybe Rooster isn’t his real name, and the refusing to be bought off.

And then:

GNOME: I use my ghost-sound power to make the sound of guards approaching.
GM: ….
(sound of GM plans being completely derailed.)
GM: ….that’s a really, really good use of that power. Damn. Okay, the assassin says "This isn’t over," and melts into the shadows. Guess I won’t need this map after all…
PARTY: *wild cheering for gnome*

And then there was some ‘splainin’ to do, and also we made the druid turn into a giant seagull and go get the horses.

GNOME: I feel so disillusioned. Everything I knew about paladins…I can’t trust any of you people. This vial of acid you bought me–is it even acid? What if it’s grape soda? 
ROOSTER: I swear it’s acid.
GNOME: Not good enough! I smell it to make sure it’s not grape soda!
GM: Your sinuses burn and your eyes water.
GNOME: It’s real acid! Yay! I feel better now!

RUSH: So this was the secret the one oracle was talking about?
RUSH: And here I was thinking you were probably a cross-dresser.

MOB BOSS: We want things peaceful, you understand?
GNOME: We’re very peaceful people.
ROOSTER: Yes. We make peace wherever we go. Whenever we leave, it’s always very peaceful behind us.
GNOME: Very.

CERI: We need someplace for Rush to turn into a bird. Is there an alley?
ROOSTER: Maybe we should stay out of alleys. What’s behind the taco stand?
GM: It’s a taco stand. It’s on a corner. There’s nothing much behind it.
GNOME: Ooh! I’ve got it! I go to the taco stand guy and ask him where the bathrooms are!
TACO STAND GUY: Ditch! Everybody go in ditch!*
RUSH: I am not going in the ditch!
TACO STAND GUY: Is great ditch! Very popular!
GNOME: Is there anything…err…better than the ditch?
TACO STAND GUY: I have bucket. Special bucket! Only two silver!
PARTY: (awed silence)
TACO STAND GUY: I clean bucket! I make tacos! Full service taco stand!
ROOSTER: Suddenly I don’t feel so good about this taco I’m eating.

After encounters with the mob, a drama student, a dwarven version of the Godfather who made his neighbors move by flinging goblins at them from a great height, an ancient and senile runepriest of the Silver Weasel who seems to be following us around and offering us holy weasel musk, and precipitating a nervous breakdown in the worthy Pastor Ferretmonger, we finally called it a day.

I can’t wait to see what he does with Ceri and the traveling elven circus…

Also, Tango left with a cat. Everybody give him a round of applause!

*Kevin’s mastery of accents is frequently erratic, so we appeared to have found the only Eastern European taco vender in Middle-Earth.

Mormons showed up at the house yesterday. They did not look old enough to shave.

I opened the door a crack, restraining the frantic beagle, read their LDS nametags, and said "Thanks but if this is a Mormon thing, I’m not interested."

They said "Okay!" cheerfully, and turned to go. I shut the door.

And then my conscience twinged, probably because they appeared to be so damn young, and I opened it up again and said "Look–you’re out on a really hot day, do you need water or anything?" (Not adding "And you’re wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants and ties, you poor sods.")

They thanked me and said they were fine, but by then the beagle was out and leaping for their shins. I apologized and rescued him (not before he left faint beagle prints on immaculately pressed trousers.)

"Is that a beagle?" asked one.


"I love beagles!"

"You want one?" I hoisted Gir bodily and began hauling him inside while he whined because there were PEOPLE PEOPLE PEOPLE NEW PEOPLE and he hadn’t sniffed them yet!

"Free beagle? Mmm….nah."


I would’ve totally listened to their spiel if they took the beagle at the end, then. "Moroni, you say? Fascinating. Here, here’s his leash for walkies, and he has a corn allergy."