Letter to You
Everything takes three years. Your mileage may vary.
My headphones keep breaking. I paid good money for them but they keep going deaf on one side. Geoffrey fixed them last time. But he’ll be joining the air force soon and then who will fix my cans?
We used to change our names and pics for each other in our phones, and then when one of us called, screenshot what we had for them. In this way Geoffrey went from Jieff, to Geoff a Sexless Stalk of Broccoli, to Geoffrey Maybe. Which is his official name in the liner notes for EFFORTS, where he plays bass, and DAMNSEL & THE EUTH GROUP, where he does everything except sing poorly (that’s my job!)
A few weeks ago I was at Geoff’s house with Noah, who drums for Beset. Noah was thinking about moving into Geoff’s home, which I believe is dubbed “hot dog palace” though that might be just the living room. Either way, his house that day was just as surreal as usual--I once described it to Meagen as the set of a sitcom, like what would happen if a child had only seen a home while watching prime time television in the nineties. She didn’t believe me until she walked in. It was especially strange to have Noah there, as if two very separate pieces of my life were colliding.
That night Geoff and I sat down on the couch and he told me he was leaving town at the end of the year. He would be joining the air force (an odd time to feel patriotic, don’t you think?) and as he told it, would basically become a ghost for the next ten years. Unless he is killed in combat, in which case he would become a real ghost. I told him I hope he fails out. And I meant it. And then we made plans to finish the DAMNSEL & THE EUTH GROUP LP, “Sorry Everyone Disappoints You” before Christmas.
Yesterday he texted me from New York to tell me we would have another few months, and that he would not be a ghost until next Spring.
We already know the next song we’ll be recording It’s called “I believe in Horror” and thank god Geoff remembered how to play it--we had only come up with it for about 30 seconds a year and a half ago. I did my part and cracked into the files of an old phone to find the lyrics I had written in those timeless days.
With or without (often without) Geoffrey, Zach & I have been hard at work mixing and mastering the first EFFORTS LP, “I Bought You a Coffin” for it’s hopeful and inevitable release this October. Zach has been on tour with his real band, so we’ve been darting in-and-out of his schedule to get it done. My hope is that we have time to get some pressed so I can throw them into the Spell Saga packages going out around the same time.
I was at a show with Zach the other night, talking shit about the shit-show of a band on stage. I told him we should try playing a show without a bassist. He made a face like he was eating sour candy, but I think we could pull it off.
The lock screen of my phone is a screenshot of one of those gaudy-looking countdown sites, the sort of one where you type in “how many days until this specific date” and it displays a timer. The date on this screenshot is the day I start sending out all packages, four years after the 2014 Spell Saga Kickstarter was successfully launched.
I couldn’t even look at the boxes after they arrived. I think it took a full week-and-a-half for me to enjoy the fact that they were there, instead of blanking them out of my mind so the weight of it wouldn’t kill me.
They arrived on July---how could I have forgotten this date already--July 27th. “But why aren’t you sendin’ them out immediately?!” cried the voices of only one commenter, but to me, of course, this was the loudest comment--the true voice of the crowd. “Why wait until October?!”
It’s not a bad question. But there are a few reasons, actually. The first is that our manufacturer forgot to send some of the boxes. So we are actually missing the holofoil sleeves for Deck One ~ The Highlands. And it took about a week or two for them to search the factory in Hong Kong, only to find the sleeves had gone missing forever (I know what you’re thinking, it was one of those damn holofoil card collector cartels, probably The Shining Snakes, is my guess).
But be ye not afraid! We have a great manufacturer and (what I hope but highly doubt) is still a good relationship with them. They are reprinted the sleeves on their own dime, and sending them to us here in the states ASAP. I took this as an opportunity to update the design--the sleeves were cool before, but we have a new company, and a new logo, and I took a chance to make ‘em better by upping the Satch to +20% (I made the saturation a little brighter as they are being printed on silver cardstock). Here is the new final holofoil sleeve. It feels real good to have that SUBHEATHEN logo on there:
Once the new sleeves get here, Cousin Lauren is going to fly up and help me autograph them. This will be the first time we have seen each other in person since the month after the Kickstarter worked, when we finished the art for Deck Two ~ The Forest. And you better believe the plan is for us to go over what we got left for Deck Three ~ The Caves, as well as the next ~ realmwalker ~ deck, which is called “The Discordant Shore” both of which (I hope) will be out next year, 2019, along with Deck 1.5 The Undersky. But we’ll see. I know enough now to know I don’t know anything.
So that’s part of the wait in shipping the packages. But there’s other reason too. First, the practical one: Do you know just how much money it’s going to take me to ship these things out around the world? I do. And it's a lot! And I’m not complaining. The only thing I feel (besides the constant rumble of fear) is excitement to get everything out to everyone. To make good on one-thousand, four hundred and sixty days of promises.
But I ran out of Kickstarter money a long time ago. We reprinted the packaging and even Deck Two on mostly whatever I could scrounge working an impossible amount of jobs. And just getting the boxes to the shores of America took about three grand. I gotta make sure them coffers got enough.
And there’s the other stuff too. The other things everyone is getting in their shipments. Some of them are surprises, so I won’t spoil it here. But it almost doubles the amount of funds needed. It will be worth it. For both of us. Making things takes time and money. And if you’re me, really patient fans (some of whom may not even like me, but like my game and that is A-OK with me, Pardner. I get it).
One of the things I’ll be sending out are one-of-a-kind holofoil cards. These are being sent to everyone who pledged at the highest tiers of the 2014 Kickstarter. Each card is unique. None of them will ever be made again.
I spent a lot of time trying to think about Deck One ~ The Highlands, and get back into the feel and flavor of Spell Saga. It had been a few years since I tried to create anything in that world, especially with the sense of that first chapter in The Last Minstrel’s Story.
My notes included things like Heroes described with the letter “L”, reminding myself that ITEM cards should (for the most part) perform useful and necessary actions, and a list of enemy names I had made up years ago. Though I did take those and mutilate some of them with a bit of quick research. If there is a formula for the tone Spell Saga (there is not), it’s Medieval Sword & Sorcery + Spaghetti Western + Scotland + Africa + loneliness + the ratio 40 % known fantasy tropes & 60 % stuff I made up to add to that age-old mythos.
(and speaking of mythos I was careful to include a lot of clues as to the future of this game in the narration upon the cards).
Here are some of the cards I have made for the holofoils so far. Some of them I really wish were part of the original Kickstarter, or even the original Highlands Deck. Partly so I could see Cousin Lauren draw them, and partly so we could reprint them as perennial moments in the game. Especially the new PLACE card, Rhinoceros Rail. Damn, that’s a good one.
Beset. has one again booked the same multi-million dollar studio space for free. Somehow. And we plan to get as much recorded for our forthcoming LP, “There Are Places They Can Get You”, in three days as it is humanly possible, though it helps these humans are pretending to be shipwrecked wizards.
One thing we do plan on finishing is our next single, We Brought Weapons. Which is a song I wrote one day when I woke up and the first thing I saw on my newsfeed was the Las Vegas shooting. I’m not so good with understanding my own emotional state without some form of time and distance. But seeing those pictures really fucked me up. I didn’t know what else to do, so I just started writing lyrics down. Of course, the song is about something else entirely. Most songs are, I guess. At least in the case of Beset. But that horrible thing happened, and I made something to deal with it. To either confront or escape the thing, depending upon who you ask.
Here’s a video of us recording a DEMO last November.
The Weapon (Giovani, guitar player. Beset. Boy) and I used to get together every week to record DEMOS, a practice that necessarily slowed down as the LP filled out and the band grew and changed in both shape and scope. To this day I’m not quite sure who is in Beset. Me, Noah, The Weapon, Gavin The Great (I hope). But Gio showed up at my house the other day, and we sat down and made a rough and dirty recording for our latest song Dire Doves.
(The last time we tried to get it down it was a disaster, as The Weapon forget to tell me 1) he had new neighbors, so we couldn’t be loud, 2) he had a new roommate so we did not have full use of the house and 3) he had dropped his recording gear and it no longer worked).
I like this song a lot. I wrote the lyrics one day while walking back to my car from a coffee shop. It was fortuitous that The Weapon showed up that same day with this fully formed song he had written while away in Florida, and that the lyrics and melody matched entirely.
I’m going to embed the dirty DEMO here for your pleasure. Though I do warn you, man, it is rough!
Once upon a time I got so stuck while writing a novel that, even two or three hundred pages in, I had to go back and rewrite the pieces that came before, and rework the entire structure until I had written two new beginnings, one of which was moved to begin the third book of a trilogy which had now changed its shape and purpose entirely. And then I was still stuck in the same place; a world of floating
asteroids, endless darkness, and two people whispering into one another's ears as they hung from one of the boulders. A person named The Häx listening below them.
I kept writing.
And it took a year. It took over a year, really. But yesterday I finished the chapter. Not well, not in any manner to be read. But I finished it. With a certainty and finality I have rarely experienced in my life. I got to the end of it. I bowed my head into my keyboard and nearly wept as I pulled the hair against my fingers, so filled with joy and overwhelmed by the moment.
It was this same month, nine years ago, that I started this god damn novel.
And it was also this month, just a week or so ago really, that I stayed up late one night, and wrote out what appears to be an accidental manifesto. About fiction, and the state of publishing. And etc.
And I did this because I have made the (for me) momentous decision to share the first few chapters on SUBHEATHEN.com. I have shared pieces of these before. During the Kickstarter, and on Patreon… But never this much, never presented in this manner. It may seem like nothing to the casual observer, but this is me telling the world that this story is real. That it is not some Courier Font unfinished idea of a manuscript. It is a line drawn in the digital sand, a promise that it is real, and important, and that it will be published someday.
I had a panic attack for about 24 hours after announcing this. But at least it has a cover (with help from Weshoyot Alvitre, who read the first chapter nine years ago and drew this illustration).
See you in October.