Everything is set. All the manufacturing is finished and tomorrow I wire the final payment to our printer in Shenzhen. All 3000 lbs. of cardboard product will arrive in about 40 days. And then the debt begins to be paid: everyone from the 2014 + 2015 Kickstarters is getting everything they asked for and more (plus surprises). I am so fucking relieved. Massive. Massive updates coming all Summer long. (you don't even know anything about the new version of Deck Two. Did you know we printed it for you, and that's half the reason everything took so long? Well yer gettin' deck two. Oh man and wait until you see The Under Sky. SPELL SAGA FOREVER. (sorry it took so long). TO ME, MY WEATHERGUARD. [[EDIT: we are sending metallic stickers to everyone]]
As I just messaged a few of you privately: This is a note to let you know that, as of next week, 3000 pounds of cardboard is being freighted across the ocean from Hong Kong and into my climate controlled home. Decks 1, 2, prelude, and all the extra cards are finally arriving in their brand new packaging. Then begins the fun part--sending everyone more than they asked for, and then sending every reviewer a copy to share with the world. I have spent the last month secretly play testing Spell Saga to make sure the correct instructions and videos will be ready for when everyone received their decks. It took four years to get this thing ready, and that ain't nothing compared to the years of product and ideas we have to share with you.
Thank you for not publicly disowning me or this project over the last nearly half of a decade. Some crazy updates and many packages will be appearing soon.
Meagen and I used to walk around the neighborhood a lot more, back when we had a dog, and before that, when we lived a street over, both of us crammed into one shitty bedroom at a friend’s house. We would walk around in the middle of Autumn, just trying to escape the stress of surviving work, life, and a relationship that had claimed more parts of our psyche than either of us could have known. It was a dumb thing to do, walk around our own temporary neighborhood hoping to find a home (we were both as it turns out, much younger and inexperienced than we thought at the time).
Hope can look a lot like madness.
We moved in a street over after a month of searching. She came home to our shitty bedroom for the last night ever, and I walked her over to our new life, in a place that was so big (compared to a bedroom), we found ourselves overwhelmed with it all.
And like I said, we don’t really walk those roads together anymore. Not since Ellie The Dog died last June. Meagen goes running down the street all the time, but I still don’t like walking without the dog, or turning down what we once called “poop alley”.
But we were walking the other day, almost half a decade since we were twenty-eight and searching for a new place to live. We were talking about prose and narration. She’s a poet, and I’m a weirdo, so I often try to pick apart our brains, and see how they fire differently. Part of that is an unconscious desire to be safe (something she realized early on in our relationship) but it’s also because the idea that minds work differently in every person is very exciting for me. I think it makes me feel okay that I’m weird, and also special. I have ideas that other people don’t And some people like them. That’s the sort of revelation a kid like me needed growing up.
Here’s what we talked about:
When I’m writing a story, it’s because I see things. It comes in flashes of sound and vision. It’s a lot like watching a movie trailer. But since it’s a movie that no one can see except me, I end up trying to pull it out and show it to people, inevitably spending a decade trying to piece it all together and force it into a presentable package.
That’s what writing is for me. Figuring out what I saw that first time, and then letting my brain find the rest of the story, one agonizing thought at a time.
The problem is, once I figure out what the story is, I have to believe that deep down, somewhere else, all the stuff I saw truly happened. Because if I didn’t believe that, I wouldn’t be able to spend a decade writing about it. It would sound bad, like I was making shit up.
This method of make-believe/make-real becomes a problem when you have to change something in the story. And that shit happens all the time. It is necessary for thing to change while writing. A story needs certain things in it’s plotting, and what those things might be grow and change as I rush (for ten years) toward the end of the work.
Part of my growth as a writer has been learning how to believe the moments of the story occured in real life (just someplace else, in the unknown universe inside my head), while learning how to bend or even ignore the truth of them happening. It is nothing less than controlled madness.
I’ve had to do this several different ways, like pretending I didn’t “see” part of the story correctly (ie the events happened but I was squinting, or looking in the wrong direction), or pretending there are many alternate realities, and I was only looking at one of them (ie the thing happened just as I saw it, but the universe of my imagination has infinite realities, and I need to zoom out in my consciousness and dive into another).
It happens all the time.
Recently I was writing about this in middle school, and I had to change it to a kid in high school. That is not a huge leap to make.Surely I myself was not so different between seventh and ninth grade. But to change the story, even by that little flick of a memory, was excruciating.
Doing something like this always causes a slight panic in my head; the same primal warning that reality has shifted, and that true madness might occur if I can’t remember what is real or not real.
I’m getting better at it though. The novel is one of several gods in my life. My time and thoughts are a welcome sacrifice.
It has been unexpectedly hard to write about this kid in high school. After all, he is, for all intents and purposes, very much like me when I was his age. And that was not a fun age for me to be.
For me, good writing means I gotta delve on down, and pull up some real emotions to work with. But it also means knowing when not to go that deep; when to hold back the barrage of truthful thoughts, and make sure the vibrational energies of my theme and style are coming through correctly.
Make it fun to read. Simple. Some days it’s impossible, but it’s simple, really.
Writing about this kid means I’ve had to do a subconscious dive into my childhood, a place that for me still very much exists. It may be the past, but that world is just as real as the ones I make up. That means I can go there again, if I want to. I can walk those halls and be in that place. I can smell the vinyl seats of the bus and hear the noises of the road and the other kids who were excited to be in a place I considered a warzone. I carry that world in me wherever I go.
Those thoughts are part of the weight of Who I Am, the roots of my life which almost destroyed me.
When I look back at school, at the kid I was, I see trauma.
I see a child from an emotionally unstable family, forced to swim through the burgeoning expanse of his own mental illness, all while learning how to navigate a jungle-like prison filled with other kids who hated him for seeing it as such a place. And if I were to try and write about the things that happened to me, even just for one day, you would think it was fiction.
So that’s just what I did.
It was surprising to be in that world again. The daily repetition of constant fear and hatred eventually formed something out of me. It was a bomb-drop which caused the rest of my life to explode outward just the way it did; unliked and unloved, until i was good at something.
Damn, that’s almost too much to write, even for me. Too deep.
But I spent a week inside that world. Living a past life while forcing myself to pull up and stitch what I saw together into a cohesive plot, to shape it all just correctly to fit into the story I first saw flash before me eleven years ago. And one day, while I’m stuck in this other, painful world, time-travelling by myself in a library, my phone buzzed on the table next to me. It was my mother. The message was unexpected, for a thousand reasons. But she just wanted to tell me that she had seen all the things I’ve been doing with my life, the music, the writing, the games and whatever, and she thought that I was courageous for just putting myself out there and doing things that I wanted to do.
It’s hard to write that down and not go into some wikipedia length explanation of how my family does or does not work, depending on the definition of the word. Or to not explain how we don’t talk really all that much, that I wasn’t understood growing up and it led to years of unnecessary medication, public fallouts, and painful memories that will never be healed. But they are there for me when I least expect it, and I’ve spent years trying to rebuild the damage caused by the echoes of two stunted family trees crashing into one another.
But to hear those words from her, just at that moment, when I was trapped in the painful world of my childhood, meant a lot to me.
Three years ago my brother Asher sent me an email saying we weren’t brothers anymore. It was in the midst of a flurry of text messages. I had called him out on something, harshly, and he reacted about the way I expected. He was living in an asbestos lined closet of a bar he worked at in NYC. And he was mad as hell that Summer.
It got to the point where I would have a small panic attack every time he texted me. It was like his texts had the ability to explode in my hand if I wasn’t careful in my reply. And since it was the same Summer I had started writing songs for a band that would eventually become EFFORTS, I wrote a song about it all, and I played it, every time he texted me, before I responded. I would play the whole thing through by myself on the couch, quick and angry-like. You can play the whole thing while sticking your middle finger up. So it’s helpful.
Asher’s been in town the last month. We got better. Mostly. But I still have the song. He asked if he and a friend might stay at our tiny place. But I said no.
Addiction is a word that I don’t like. It brings up the wrong color. It used to mean blue–and blue was bad. Blue was a way of explaining or condemning the stark raving mad among our lot.
Addiction could mean the color green, if you let it. And green would be shared among many words. It would be a normal human function. Like intelligence or charisma.
Addiction should be a character trait in Dungeons & Dragons. Because the human mind, everyone’s palace of thought, is partially constructed upon a solid and necessary foundation of addiction. In some people, that trait is higher than others, sure. But the word addiction just sounds wrong. It sounds like junkie.
Now, I’m not someone who fears words. My youngest brother Ben used to be really afraid of certain words, and it would worry me. We grew up in a family where thinking or doing certain things would inevitably start the paved path to Hell. So I’m not sittin’ here, typin’ on a wobbly table in a coffee shop preachin’ that we should not Use This Word. I just don’t like it as a descriptor.
(Some words are wrong. They should not be said. Some are universal and some are just based on if you belong to the culture that spawned or adopted said words. That’s how I feel).
I love my family. We don’t talk. I have no idea what’s going with their lives, and I love them.
“Addiction Green” runs pretty hard in my ancestry, probably more so after the Michaud’s (ma’s family) and the Rogers (Dad’s family, originally Roge´, till my French ancestor changed it) met down in Florida and created me and five other chitlins.
Dad was the first to figure it out. He traded Christianity for AA meetings, but he was just as addicted to the circle and bad coffee as he was the alcohol and Thy Lord. It took me years to pull myself out of a tailspin of OCD, panic attacks and substance abuse–to figure out that my mind is many things, but it’s mostly an underwater minefield of addition-based behaviors.
It’s hard to be around my siblings. I think about them all the time, and I miss them a lot. Or maybe just the way it cold, or should be, based on traditional thinking of How Families Should Be.
I’ve seen a family work, once, in the wild. They galloped away before I could take a picture.
Everything is an addiction for me. Writing. Coffee. Going to the same places. Talking about myself. If it can be repeated, it would consume me. Complaining. Skittles. Cheesecake. Ice Cream. Airplane bottles of alcohol. Celadon American Spirits. That one good Murder Jerk of my dick at 1:00 am each night.
I have done my best to control it. To force it like some addiction-based Waterbender, to turn the tide of horror into something useful, productive, and beautiful.
I make projects and try to finish them. A decade is a long time for a thing to take to be finished, but I’m getting faster. I make plans and say I can’t do tham until I finish the things I started. I cut out the things that are harming me and try my best to learn from my mistakes.
(I’m six or seven weeks without sugar, as of this writing. And those first two weeks were so bad I ended up shaving my head like some sort of monastic living-room-rehab monk.)
So it is scary for me, and emotionally treacherous, to stay in a constant communication with my siblings. And I’m not saying it’s because I’m fighting my own wars and their not. I’m sure they are. They would have to be. But it’s painful because when they get what they want–when the younger kids I once held in my hands are happy, surrounded by the substance, people, or lifestyle they crave, they are so wonderful, and loving to be around. They tell me they love me. They hug me. They engage with me and ask questions about my life…
It’s like seeing someone come back from the dead.
But when that thing goes way…the substance, the people, the lifestyle, the high of getting whatever it was they wanted at that moment, the mood comes crashing down. And I’m nothing to them. They’re dead again, and I’m dead TO them.
And it is debilitating.
I was a very late bloomer. I assume it will be the same for them. So I reach out every once in awhile, try to remain safe but available in the distance.
It is possible I am a coward. And I don’t like that thought. But certainly if addiction has different hues, than cowardice does too.
The plan is to finish the EFFORTS album and self-release it in October (it’s a very Octoberish album). So Zach and I have been getting together most every week, trying to mix the album down so it’s ready for us to master. It’s the tail-end of three years of work.
Mixing for us means more recording though, whether it’s vocals (“I can do that better, punch me in”), or adding strings from a $3000 keyboard owned by some guy in New Zealand neither of us have met. (Zach has a lot of weird stuff in the studio. It’s great).
But it’s been just the two of us, really. Geoffrey might have been the bassist but he sort of disappeared from the project sometime last year, if he was ever really part of it to begin with. It was equal parts him being busy, a possible midlife crisis, and a partial and partly imagined falling out.
That was a hard thing to go through, for me. I think of my friends as siblings, in an effort to create the safe and similar family I always needed. Which isn’t to say that’s far to the parties involved. You can’t make someone be your brother, a lesson I never took to.
Abandonment issue smake for great songs but not a great band dynamic.
It was a welcome surprise when Geoffrey showed up in the studio to help us finish mixing the song I had written about my brother all those years ago. Between the three of us we make music that I find truly astonishing, and by the time we reached the end of the night (now technically morning) we had a finished track that I never could have expected. It’s called Ash to Dust.
I don’t know what will happen with EFFORTS. It would be nice to play out again. But I know that we will finish this album, and print up vinyl copies, and give the digital version away for free.
Music business is a joke. It doesn’t work, at least not for the type of music I want to make. Hanging all my hopes on the “Big I” industry is something I learned the hard way with my game, Spell Saga. And so it only makes sense to do things my own way with the music.
I have, as of right now, five various bands/projects/endeavors.
I have EFFORTS with Zach and Geoffrey, the side project DAMNSEL & THE EUTH GROUP with Geoffrey, I have Beset. with The Weapon, Noah (and more?), DEATH.GIF (just me), and possibly a new thing called Gender Scouts with my buddy Carminati.
We’ll see on that last one. I have a album cover and we’ve been sending each other demos. It could be great, so fingers crossed.
But the plan is, so far, pretty simple: send all my music to everyone who purchases the game, and film music videos when we have the time and money. Same goes for physical printings of albums. Who cares when the songs hit the internet? There’s no rules anymore. I’m just trying to make shit and do things my own way. And I’m very grateful to have people who want to do this with me.
The day after EFFORTS reunification, I had to wake up early (for me anyway) and drive down to the same multi-million dollar studio Beset. tried it’s best to record in.
It is a damn shame to be given such an opportunity (for free mind you!), and have it fall to pieces under the weight of a band who was not ready to be there to begin with. I cannot fathom a world where such a band would get a second chance. But we did. Thanks to The Weapon, our guitar player, who interns at the studio.
I was nervous. And I had every right to be. The last time we didn’t know the songs and had to play the same one twenty-one times just to get something unusable. Our violinist walked out and quit during a take and we all left feeling mildly concerned that our haphazard music was perhaps a sin against some unknown religion.
As I drove to the studio (a quite literal wooden castle hidden out in the country) I was forced to take a different route than I expected, which brought me past not one, but two familiar places. The first was the very school I had been writing about. The middle school building where I had been punished for being born. I craned my head as I passed, tryin to soak up as much of the horror as I could.
After that I ended up down a road I had not been on in many years, it was the back entrance to the first home we ever had in Tennessee. This was where we had arrived after driving cross country to a house we rented sight unseen in 1995. It was the place where I first turned twelve. Where my father spent his nights in the living room, trying to make music in a homemade studio, trying to make it in music city. It was also the place I discovered (but was forbidden to play) magic: the gathering, if I’m not mistaken. (though that might have been a news report in Spokane Washington, warning of the dangers of cards and modern witchcraft (“see!” I showed my parents excitedly, “It’s evil! Can I play?!”)) It’s also the place we got our first Super Nintendo (I’m listening to the Donkey Kong Country OST as I type this) and where my brother Asher ran away from home for a day.
But the most surprising thing about driving down that old road, and I must have known this at some point, but the name of the neighborhood we lived in was The Highlands. And not only that, but as I look at a map, it seems we lived on Highland Rd.
How could I not have known that? I must have.
For those of you wondering why that would matter to me, Spell Saga (my one player game/bane of my life, available now!) is split up into several decks of playing cards. The first the one I Kickstarted at least twice, the one that people around the world hae translated and played, is called The Highlands.
When I got to the studio I was no less nervous. Last time we didn’t know our songs, but The Weapon, Noah and I had been practicing almost every week for two months and we had two down real solid. It should have been a easy thing to knock both out in a day’s time. But we decided to do it the hard way, and had invited four other musicians to come and join us that day. None of them knew the songs.
I wasn’t worried about the bassist. Zach and I have been doing music together as EFFORTS for a solid couple of years. I was surprised when he agreed to join us, but I had not reservations he could pick up and play with any weird thing we might do.
For strings we had Evan on cello (he had played with us once before, and we practiced quickly upon a wooden turret so he would know the songs. But the violinist was new. He was young, and kind of like if Peter Pettigrew was a feminine festival kid. He was also technically proficient with an omega-level of ADD that put the rest of us to shame. But he was very gifted.
The last piece of the puzzle with this kid named Trey. Noah and The Weapon insisted on bringing him in for a second guitarist. I told them no, but he showed up and plugged in anyway. He was real nervous. But man, he was the find of the day.
It takes a long time to set up a recording session. We were very lucky to have Gavin the Engineer with us once more. Brave kid to go at it again with us. Gavin looks like a Viking and constantly vapes clouds of grape bubblegum scented chemicals throughout the room. He feels like part of the band now.
I drew out some reallllly crude “song maps” of where the changes were in the first song, and then Evan left (it takes a REALLY long time to set up) and then we went at it.
The main room o the studio is huge. It’s wooden, and it feels like some sort of Norwegian travelodge. Gavin sits in the middle, between a thousand cables and operates the machinery. At the far end of the lodge is a windowed drum room. Noah and The Weapon play in there, the amps for both guitars down somewhere in a room on the floor below us.Just outside the room sat Zach with his bass and a bemused look on his face. And beside him stood Trey, nervous and staring at me like a deer caught in a band’s headlights. The room behind him was windowed, and the violin player set up in there, moving so quickly he looked like a spider trying to wrap up a meal. And at the far end of the room was me, by myself, watching everyone, including my wife Meagen, and Noah’s girlfriend Corri, who sat together on a leather couch, supportive but unimpressed.
We could talk to each other through a confusing machine that sat next to each of us, and hear ourselves through headphones. “Play more like the lower deck passengers of the Titanic, but while it’s sinking” I said, trying to slow the violinist down and encourage him. “I can’t hear Todd.” said The Weapon. “You control the mix for your own headphones!” we reminded him after every take. “God Damn it!” I yelled when Noah dropped his sticks after the best intro I’ve ever heard in my life. “Keep that one.” Zach told us.
In the end we left with both songs recorded in about two and half hours. Which is insane. While they cleared the gear at the end I commandeered the speakers (imagine the soundsystem a billionaire might have in the seventies, only nicer) and Zach and I listened to the EFFORTS song we had recorded just the night before. It sounded good. Real good. And everyone seemed to notice. The Weapon walked up to me and stood in the center of the room (best place to listen to the monitors). “Todd, in a few years, I think you’re gonna be underground famous.”
“Thanks man.” I said to him, real stern-like, just the same as when my family talks to one another. The way someone does when they just want to stay safe.
I pieced together some of the takes a few days later. We sound good. Real good. Even without effects or mixing, and with rough “sang like this just for tracking” vocals. I played it for Zach in his studio, and I think he likes it too. Noah concurs, and Trey has joined the band. It turned out his guitar parts on the second song were my favorite part of the whole thing.
Spell Saga should be here, at my doorstep, in about two months. That gives me roughly enough time to finish half a dozen projects, so they can all be ready to launch at the same time.
It will be the Summer of Subheathen. A year long feast to celebrate the culmination of so many years of hard work. The Beset. double-single of “Where is Your Ocean” and “Psychic Loan” should be out this July, EFFORTS in October. The first DEATH.GIF single “Peasant Water” sometime between them.
Even The Novel should have it’s second draft finished by the end of December. And throughout every month, more Spell Saga news and packages then you could ever imagine.
I’m just relieved to have plans, for the repetition of familiar things to work on for a set period of time.
A of this writing I have been sober from alcohol for one year.
Summer 2018. It’s happening. More info soon!!
DAMNSEL & THE EUTH GROUP - BUGS ARE IN THE HOUSE!
DAMNSEL & THE EUTH GROUP PROMO
Ladies and lads! “MAY YOU ABSORB ALL EVIL” (the first ever EFFORTS extended play) is now up at bandcamp! Thanks to Zach Grace & Geoffrey Osborne for making music with me. This ep will be up on spotify in a few weeks, and we have an LP nearly ready to tomb-walk right out the door. https://effortsefforts.bandcamp.com/…/may-you-absorb-all-ev…
Holy Shit. It’s 2018.
Time continues to teach it’s lessons, and I am finally beginning to learn from things like repetition, growth and accidental clairvoyance. I started a pattern three years ago this month, during a moment of my life where I feared for what little was left of myself. A person can be a lot of things in their life, but I’ve been mostly lost.
One thing that continues to shine in the darkness is the light of what I Am Meant to Do—like the last rays of the sun blinking across the wish on a coin, as it flips slowly through the water to the bottom of a fountain.
I am meant to make.
But how I go about making things, and how I treat those who care about “What I Make” are things I need to start paying attention to. Having an idea does not a genius make. Promising something means nothing.
The Patreon is going away. I think it’s an amazing platform but (for right now at least) I am not wired to make art on a subscription based level. I would really like to thank everyone who gave me money to survive and faux-florist over the years, but it’s not me. I’ve tried podcasts, videoblogs, and all the other stuff, and in the end. I fucking hate it. When you start making art, you copy what has come before. I did the same thing with social media and self presentation. I’m not so ashamed of it, but I know where I’m at now. You can still see me make things on instagram and my website. I’ll be around.
But I would like to quit the bad habit of announcing projects before I even start them—it’s selfish, I do it for my own psychic high but there’s a better ways to psyche myself up for something (y’know like…making the thing).
Other things are going away too.
French Toast Gaming Co. is dead. The funeral pyre will be seen as hundreds packages ship out to everyone who waited so patiently for Spell Saga to arrive.
And yes. Of course. yes. yes. yes. Everything from the original KS is still being made and shipped. All the promises, three years later. It’s all still happening in the next couple of months*
*I just spent the last several days exchanging meticulously detailed emails with our manufacturer. Everything that hasn’t been printed (new packaging, deck 2) is about to go to press in Shenzhen, Hong Kong, sometime in the next week or so.
But FTGco is Dead.
And yet, Be ye not afraid!—that fire will light other things. And the games—at least those I designed (Spell Saga, EPIOCH, And Away) will go on to live a new life. If 2018 is going to be different (and good god-i-don’t-believe-in, it is!) then my choices, patterns, and artistic mutilation of the self need to be different also.
Spell Saga needs to become something better. It deserves it. Not because I made it—but because it’s good. And because Lauren and I worked so hard on it. And maybe even more importantly, because really like it. And if I’m going to drop the ball on something I would rather it be something else, like my diet (LOCAL GAME DESIGNER AFRAID TO CLEAN SHAVE FOR SHAPE OF FACE!!!).
So FTGco burns, but the things I made continue to live a new and better life, in an artistic paradise called SUBHEATHEN.
SUBHEATHEN is short for Suburban Heathen. It’s sort of joke (just for me, so…a BAD joke) but everything I make is something that, growing up, my parents wold have condemned and banned as evil from our home. Now they text me with pride and share my things on the internet. (that’s character development!).
SUBHEATHEN will be my castle, and my weapon; my shield when need be. But SUBHEATHEN will be where all my music and games and thingamajigs go. Anything I started in the last ten years will be finished under that black banner. (Except in the circumstance of someone else might like to publish something RE: the novel or my band, EFFORTS).
Spell Saga turned eight years old last month, and everything else continues to age unfinished as well. It has taken me years to crawl out of every hole I made for myself, and these bruises ain’t even done been’ collected.
But I’ve been moving forward, spending a all my time, money, and energy to bring about my endeavors. And it’s time to let everyone know.
it’s just a link to a blog right now, but the store will be up shortly, as soon as everyone has the things I promised them (including the WHYLC rune boxes!).
In the meantime, the first SUBHEATHEN release of 2018 has already occurred:
Me and my buddy Geoffrey released an EP on New Year’s Day. It’s up on both Bandcamp & Spotify. I’ll write more about what it is and how it came to be soon, but I hope you’ll check it out if’n your so inclined.
Happy New Year, everybody. Please expect a lot of wishes and promises fulfilled, a ton of new music, games, and stories, and probably an embarrassing blog post or 30.
The first Beset. photoshoot. I need to give credit to the Sky image but I ain’t on a computer with the info at the moment !
IT"S BACK. Last year Geoffrey W. Osborne & I released a song for Halloween (& thank god Dave Stewart was there to assist!) I took the song down while I figured out just what the project was. But now we know. So here you go, it’s DEATH WISH by DAMNSEL & THE EUTH GROUP. And stay tuned for news about the forthcoming EP.
Here is the next Beset. demo from Giovanni Moreno & me. You can listen to it right now for good health. This one’s rough to be sure, but we decided to post all our demos in an attempt to quell some sort of voice in the back of our minds. This one in particular made me smile last night in a way I do not normally make a habit of doing.
Beset. - Psychic Loan DEMO
This is me & Giovanni Moreno.
This post originally appeared as an update across various social media for Spell Saga.
Eh, ya’ll know I ramble. I don’t fucking like it when people who are too old use new language as if it’s their fucking language, but there is a tl:dr (god, I had to google that) at the bottom of the page if’n yer only interested in the sweet stuff (shipments, deck 2 & the like). But I like stories, and I am–if not old, getting older, so my stories take a long time to wind up and spill out. Longer than they did when I was a kid, anyhow. And much slower than these new youths and their dang emotiji’s or whatever.
all the kids’ talk in hieroglyphics
It’s good for feelings but not specifics
It all comes down to choices, really. I remember when I was younger–I was very newly 20, and barely 13 in most of my head–I remember I was homeless, not like, starving homeless (though sometimes I was) and not like, sleep under a bridge homeless (I had the couches of friends, and their friends, and my barely-met acquaintances, though no one seemed to own an air conditioner that Summer. One dude shall remain nameless, as I’m fairly certain he might be a super bad guy. He was never around anyway so I used to listen to his CD collections and spread my Star Wars figures around his house (13, remember, 13). I remember he had a box set of Joy Division, and I became obsessed with this one really fast version of “Love Will tear us Apart”. I used to listen to that in the Summer heat and walk around the house naked looking for something to eat. It was really years later that I realized I had lost my mind.
I had made the choice to stop taking my meds regularly. And then some other choices, as my mind spiraled without that ketracel-white. After what some would say was an alarming series of ordinarily dysfunctional life, my parents made the choice to kick me out. I have had to make a lot more choices since then.
here is a pic of me from around that time with original french toaster: Paxson of Ashgarden.
Where are your fucking packages?
I know that there are some people who keep in touch with me regularly and have a better idea of what’s been going on. And I also know there are others who backed this project 2 and a half years ago and think it’s dead, or i’ve been trolling everyone with shipping dates.
I was at a restaurant. I was not a customer. I had just spent three days straight and about 30 hours running around mopping up drinks. By Sunday, I’m usually on my third double, and it hurts to stand, or run up the stairs with trays of food. (who puts stairs in a restaurant)? But I was feeling pretty good about myself, having made it through one more death sentence of a weekend. I took the job to pay for Spell Saga when some other stuff fell through (like, uh, all our plans, & people abandoning the project). Each Sunday usually ends with me depositing a wad of cash into an ATM and then passing out on my couch surrounded by boxes of a fantasy card game. It is not a bad life, if not a little embarrassing. Also this particular Sunday it was tornado weather and I got to watch an entire porch of rich people get fucking destroyed. I was soaked and running around collecting plates being thrown on the wind. Inside I sat down next to people my age, and before long it came time to tell them why I was serving them and not doing something with my life, which is what I always do if I like a table. As it came out, these people were super into games, and Kickstarter, and anything I could possibly like. I had a used deck in my car that I grabbed for them and they thanked me and told me I was doing great. It was a real moment for me. What was most important though, was the stories they told me about other crowdfunded projects, and how much keeping backers up-to-date mattered to them.
Most of my choices about Spell Saga have been insane. Whether good, or bad (there have been both) the choices have been the work of a mad man. That goes for game design as well as business wise. I do not apologize for the game, but man I am fucking trying you guys. And you will have all your shit this year. But it’s taking forever and here’s where we’re at now:
In 2016 I made a plan with my main man J Rizzo to fund a shipment of 300 units, so all of you would get your shit before we finished with all the printing (there were delays due to packaging changes and etc).
Also that year, J Rizz* dropped off the face of the earth, as did most everyone involved with the project, due to various reasons. I took a second job or two and funded the shipment myself. They arrived in July of that year.
*J Rizz and I are cool. We had a very long talk recently that lifetime asked if they could film.
here is a pic of me & paxson of ashgarden & his son! (we are cool too)
I started sending packages out almost immediately, but I had to wait on the mail myself (autographed boxes take some damn time). By the end of the year everything was going smoothly and every. Single. Package. was about to go out by December 31st. What a fucking relief that was.
Then I lost two jobs in a month, and so did my wife. That was around the time the comments started to crop up, “where is my shit” and etc. Which I get. I mean, I don’t leave comments like that, but I get why someone would.
I scrambled and pulled together jobs and money and started sending out packages again. But now there was a problem: It was 2017 and we needed to start thinking about our patient, angelic manufacturer. Right now, they are waiting for us to upload the art to print Deck 2 and pay the deposit on it. Panda Games has been amazing with us. And I’m not saying that I’m paying for everything by working a restaurant–I have other sources of income for this project. But I am putting most of my personal funds towards it this month, just to get it finished quickly.
So in the last month I had to make another choice, in a long line of choices, and not send as many packages out. Everyone in the US who pledged over $25 should have their shit. I sent out a few Internationals, but not many. My ever-shifting goal is that by July everyone has their stuff. But again, I’ve lost two jobs before–shit happens. I used to not want to leave ANY updates because I didn’t want to get anyone’s hopes up. I think looking back that was a bad choice. It was probably also a bad choice to air ship any units over here. The cost alone would have covered the printing of Deck 2. But I like all’a you. Even if you leave a mean comment every once in awhile. And I want everyone to have their stuff. Most of my e n t i r e life revolves around it right now.
More choices have been made since the last update. We are printing new packaging for deck 1 and the prelude deck (which means everyone will at least have a fancy zero edition package from those we air-shipped last July–only 301 ever made)! We are also printing deck 2 AND it has it’s very own super-cool holofoil sleeve. But that’s not even the most exciting shit for me.
Cousin Lauren and I are finishing it up. That’s right. It’s happening. She is illustrating a picture for the front of deck 2’s box (I have been dreaming for years it would match the minstrel/lover pic we use on deck 1) and then she’s illustrating a picture for deck 3’s box.
We aren’t printing deck 3 at the moment. But it’s going to happen. So in the meantime, she’ll be spending the next month getting all the art for deck 3 and the ending finished (as soon as I finish writing her an art list).
And THAT’S NOT ALL. Lauren is going to be working on the art for the a new realmwalker deck you may remember called The Discordant Shore. It is the deck that includes copies of all the homemade Paladin Cards you will be receiving this year.
I don’t want to get too into details on this one just yet, but you play as a girl named Brell, who is also named Scaradh. And it’s an adventure so unlike the highlands you will be surprised at where it takes you. Here is a pic of some character descriptions I sent Lauren:
When I’m not trying to NOT vomit because I am cleaning up a table, or worrying about you, or reading wonderful or disparaging comments in between cleaning up tables and worrying, I have been very hard at work on the next Spell Saga release: 1.5 The Under Sky. This DECK is like 2 games in one. You can use it between decks one and two, or use it as a new deck one. The design of this thing has destroyed me. I had to Photoshop the cards as I was making it because the ideas became so complex. It’s all about The Last Minstrel, but it’s also about how this process of making the game has been. Everything has taken so long, and a part of me is sort of dead inside. But I think maybe that part was supposed to die. In it’s place I have found a new type of strength to make things no matter what.
This December is the 8th anniversary of when I first designed Spell Saga. In my head, there is a sort of countdown clock (198 days as of this posting). When the clock in my head strikes zero, my plan is that everyone will have everything. every. Thing. And then I’ll never work in a restaurant again.
Spell Saga continues to dominate my life. As do other things. My band just finished recording everything except the vocals on our first LP, another project that took longer than expected. And I wake up nearly every morning and try to spend at least an hour working on The Novel that has consumed a decade of my life. My plan is that once everyone has their shit, I will pay to have decks 3 and the ending printed, and then we will Kickstart them to recover costs and make sure everyone who wants one sees it. I don’t give a shit about money. I don’t care if I ever make a goddamn cent on this game. It’s all going to end up going back into it anyway. Ii just want to finish the story. And now we can. I hope, regardless of how you feel or think about me, you will want to finish it to.
913 days since the kickstarter started.
-packages still going out
-no you have not missed yours
-deck 2 the forest being printed with holofoil sleeve
-deck 3 the caves being illustrated / finished
-deck 4 the ending being illustrated / finished
-deck 1.5 the under sky nearly finished
-realkwalker ~ the discordant shore being illustrated / finished
-paladin level cards part of discordant shore
-everyone will have everything this year
-most will have everything by july
-life is hard but good
Episode 100 (april) - me beside my mother, in the pre-apocalyptic hotel
I started this podcast about 20 hours of recordings ago. The act was meant to chronicle how my life seemed to continually fall apart…in the hopes that my cave drawings of a lisp might be remembered by someone else after I was gone.
It was also meant as something hopeful–that recording myself in the worst of times meant there would be good times past it, that the reason to keep such a record was to mark when life was “different”–we could look back together on the dark in more halcyon days.
I believe art is just communication. And man, that took me a long time to figure out. But if that’s true, than it means communication can be art. Something I still struggle with on a daily basis.
There are no such things as halcyon days. Now I record knowing it marks nothing except a different darkness, and in that I take solace.
This article was originally posted September 20th 2016
Ladies and Gentleman. The first wave of card ships this week, and continue to be pushed through mailboxes until every last one of you patient scoundrels has a chance to open your mailbox and scream at the impossible dream I am sending you.
There is a brand. new. rulebook, which includes a 15 page walkthrough I would have KILLED for in middle school. It also changes and clarifies several key components of the game, and paves the way for how Spell Saga will be presented from now to the near future. The look and feel of this book is everything I wanted the game to be for the last seven years. And our new packaging will add to that effect too.
If you receive a package and do NOT get every.single. thing you ordered (looking at you beauties with multiple decks) I would like to remind you, that anyone who does NOT get a completed order will receive a second package that includes Deck Two: The Forest, as soon as it is printed and shipped with the rest of our product TBD. As of now, it is the ONLY way to get a copy of Deck Two, until further plans are made.
It is at this momentous occasion I feel the need to write about all sorts of behind the scenes info. Spell Saga was born under some of the saddest moments of my life, and it continues to be moulded under relentless duress. I have not written an actual update in many, many months, because I needed to get the game to a place where you could hold it in your hands. I could not shoulder the burden alone and chronicle the endeavor. Now it will be in your home soon enough, and we can own it, and the history of it, together.
This update is seven pages long. I have performed you the service of recording it, should you care to listen to it instead.
LINK to Audio is HERE. Please enjoy my Dark Lisp.™
Here are the secrets of everything. I present to you, past, present, and future:
The Rise and Fall of French Toast Gaming Co.
The Shore 2009 ~ 2011
Life is a constant and privileged horror. We do not believe in ourselves, we do not believe in others. Most of us are surviving through an epidemic of fear; the fear we are not capable to withstanding the storm of chaos we call sentience.
We mark the passage of time to record rare moments of clarity. Years, months, generations…the very idea of time is the hope for personal clairvoyance. It is the belief of a ship leaving port, that through storms and calendar dates, it will mark the trajectory of a destination.
Life is upon the land, and above the water; it is a storm. Some of us go under the water, and there we find art.
I learned the hard way (always) that my head does not work the same way as other people I meet on this planet; I read sentences and letters in front of my eyes just before I say them, and I can see my emotions as much as feel them, in little films that I’m forced to watch. It is hard to explain myself properly because I have to study these little reels and then type them out in my head just so I can read them aloud in a manner other people I know call “talking”.
It’s why I make art. Spell Saga is, perhaps as pure a form of communication as I have ever attempted to give. It is how I view the world, and myself and others within it. This may be a lengthy preamble, but I hope it sheds light on the format of this essay.
In 2009 I created Spell Saga, and I kept making it until I tried and failed to pitch it in 2011. As my life fell apart around me I sunk past waves of depression. I held the game tightly, worrying about what might happen to myself, or this dumb thing I had made. I hit the bottom of an ocean of depression.
The Highlands 2012 ~ 2014
In the Winter of 2012 I considered myself remarried (we skipped the wedding) and slowly pulled my life back together somewhere else, in another house, with someone knew, and wondered what to do with myself. I was young and I needed to crawl out of the ocean, and into the storm. I left the game and my worries about art in general, at the bottom of the water.
After a year of doing nothing, I knew I would have to go back. I was drawn to the drowning as much as the creation. But I knew what would happen if I returned to the depths. The game could never leave the ocean; I would have to go and live with it. Plans were made and a few well convinced friends and I dove into the darkness together.
A year later we had a slightly more finished game, and a way to let others play it (the rulebook, it took four months), and so with grandiose plans we launched a crowdfunding campaign. In two weeks, years of our work became undone. The game was not to be, and we had failed. The ocean began to claim us. Even the art was hard to see after that.
But I did not come up for air. I did not return to the storms of reality. Because you don’t need to leave the water. Not when the weight of the sea is only your own comfortable depression.
A year passed. Another crowdfunding project was launched, and this time it worked. We raised enough money to publish the first third of the game, and all the extra cards, and get everything shipped across the world, and pay ourselves for the effort. We did it.
And then the storms fell down to the ocean, and pulled away the art, my vision, and my friends.
The Forest 2014 ~ 2016
After two years the game was finally funded. We had a great manufacturer, money money money, and a damn good plan. And I couldn’t breathe.
I was almost alone now. Just me, this game, and a thousand faces watching me above the water. The delays began immediately. Some of it was my fault, two years of planning and I still didn’t account for extra cards and delays. And other things were no one’s fault, it was just the imprecise black magic of making things. (I learned it is hard to make things, even with money and a factory that makes things).
With each delay I added more stuff to give back to those who watched above the waves. And this added more stress, more time, and more money. In the end we printed almost three times the amount of cards we had first projected.
Every single card had to be redone from the design up for our printer. Every single one. And all the new cards needed to be designed and then illustrated, and then everything had to go through the factory. It was nine months of digital proofs, followed by several months of overnight shipped Hong Kong quality checks.
It took a year and a half, and during this time my life began to fall apart again. If Spell Saga has taught me anything, it’s the The World is Always Ending, and that life continues beyond it. I cried on a curb the day Sakroka and I parted ways. I have not seen Paxson of Ashgarden in over a year. Cousin Lauren and I are tight, but there were moments I wasn’t sure we could ever get it done. Joshua ended up in Spain with no money and a broken phone. He’s back now but I haven’t seen him.
I continued to create without breathing.
The Fall and Rise of French Toast Gaming Co.
The Caves ~ 2016
Life is a constant and privileged horror. The acceptance of this creates clairvoyance. The storm and the ocean, the chaos and the depression are pointless once you realize it.
A few months ago, something inside me snapped. I looked at where Spell Saga was–as a product, as an expression of my life. And then I remembered where I wanted the game to be, how it deserved to be seen in the world. I started to work two jobs, seven days a week. This allowed me to air-ship boxes of cards for those who had waited for so long, and it also allowed me to refill the French Toast coffers, which were being depleted from the extra card printings and the lack of sales without product. I rewrote the rulebook, redid every card for our Italian publisher, and released a brand new game called Spell Saga Realmwalker.
I fixed things with my friends, and spent an evening laughing with Sakroka. I called Paxson, and made plans to finish the next deck with Cousin Lauren. Last week Joshua sent me the rulebook to his game, and now I’m writing to you.
This game was my idea, the endeavor was my idea, and I want to shoulder the blame as much as the praise. The game was always going to be finished. But the product you’re about to receive in the mail, and the other pieces to follow, are radically altered from anything you might have played had we been on time. And god damn, I wish things would have been finished sooner, but art takes time.
Sometimes I come home late at night after a 15 hour shift, and I can barely walk. I have to hold myself up with furniture and bathroom fixtures just to get into the shower or go to bed. On those nights I lay awake checking my phone, and read comments from people who are disappointed with me, or who have lost interest in the time it took to finish everything. And I completely understand. I do. But on the rarest of nights, after photoshopping in the morning and then pulling a double at the job, I get messages from new fans, wanting to purchase the game, or from patrons who just want to continue wishing me good luck. And I understand that even more. I’m a hopeful person, and I am lucky have met others who feel the same.
Spell Saga is my life, or at least, a great big part of it. The idea that it got funded was a miracle, and I have spent every day for two years straight figuring out a way to get everyone more than they asked for, because that’s what you gave me. The time it took to do this is embarrassing, and I take the comments and concerns about it to my grave.
I hope this letter reads well. It is so embarrassing to be this honest. My days and nights are currently a mixture of melancholy relief, bits of sadness and laughter, and working until I want to throw up. But I love it. Because it means I can print new decks, and send everyone extra cards, and redo the packaging I said “yes” to, only because I was worried about shipping late. It was a living horror to have everyone watching me try not to fuck this up. But it’s been a privilege too.
The Other Shore ~ 2017 and Beyond
There is no storm. There is no ocean. But there is a shore at the end of my thoughts. Spell Saga, which began as 3 decks of cards I made at home, is now so much more. When you write stories, you learn more about them as you continue writing.
I certainly had no idea what the paladins were, or why the world had mystical detectives called sourcerors…or that anyone else would leave The village in The Heathers to go after The Last Minstrel. Now I know all that and so much more.
I know what it was like before the world ended, and the names of the realmwalker decks that will allow you to see it too. I know all about the two hearts, and the Black God on The Shore, and I know how they became a god. I’ve learned about the eggs, and the limbs, and the fall of the guard. I know what they did, and why the world ended. And soon, you will know it too.
Spell Saga continues soon with decks 1.5: The Undersky, Deck 2.5: The Heart of the Woods, and Deck 3: The Caves. And the story of the world continues with the next batch of realmwalker decks, including “realmwalker: The Discordant Shore” which arrives this Winter. There is a magnificent plan for the game that is also a novel. I know how it all begins, and how it all ends. Spell Saga is just that–a saga. I will be here, somewhere on the other side of your computer, making it until it’s finished. I hope we have not lost you in the last two year, but I apologize if we did. The world of delays has ended, and now comes the journey of The Last Minstrel.