Hello! I’m back after ten days visiting family. We spent five days in Ocean City NJ (my hometown), and five days in Yorktown VA (the hometown of my lovely wife). Somehow we’d managed to let three years slide by between visits to the East Coast, but we did a pretty good job of making up for that in the time we had. The kids are getting older and the time’s coming when we might not be able to coordinate summer vacations for everybody, so it was important for us to make this trip happen.
Back to School
Here’s something you might not know about me: I drove a school bus for the 2018-2019 school year, and I’m planning on doing it again when September rolls around. Last summer my friend Dave Goetz, who drives for the Kent school district, sold me on the idea, so I decided to give it a try. I went through training with the Auburn school district—a much easier commute than Kent, and the district my girls went to school in—last August, and worked as a substitute driver for most of the school year before taking a position as a “hired” driver at the end of the year. (“Hired” in this case means you get paid more, you get a regular route, and you get benefits.)
While I’d love to tell you that a career as a freelance game designer and midlist novel writer is your ticket to a life of leisure, it just ain’t so. Working as a writer means that you get paid twice a year and you never know how much you’re going to get. Driving a school bus actually works well with my writing schedule: I can make good use of the hours between the morning and afternoon runs, and it’s something that doesn’t really compete for my creative energy. So far in 2019 I’ve managed close to 200,000 words of fiction and 40,000 words of game design work, so it seems to be working out so far. (Although I’ve warned my dispatchers that if someone comes around and hands me a six-figure advance on my next book, I’m probably hanging up the bus keys.)
There are definitely some things I like about the job. I genuinely enjoy driving, and the challenges of handling a 40-foot bus in tight quarters or figuring out alternatives when the usual route is blocked can be fun puzzles to solve. Managing students can be trying, but the older kids just want to get home and really don’t give you much trouble, and most of the younger kids are pretty good after they absorb your ground rules. And it helps that my co-workers are really good people, too.
I’ve always felt that it’s important to take up something completely new every now and then—it’s how you grow as a person. Writing is the thing I expect to do for the rest of my life, but for now, a bit of school bus driving helps to make that work for me. Oh, and you don’t *really* appreciate a summer as an adult until you’ve had a reason to not go into the office for ten weeks.
I’ve got some interesting things in the works! This month I’ll finish up the first draft of my first Torg book. After that, I’ll be diving in on the first few chapters of a science-horror story that’s set in the early days of the Soviet Union—I’ve got a detailed outline with transitions and twists all worked out, and I’m looking forward to seeing if it’s as cool as I think it could be. In the meantime, I’ve got my agent shopping out an alternate-history novel I finished up just before summer. And a little later this year, I plan to return to Primeval Thule for the first long adventure in the setting, a project we’ve been calling the “Gods of Winter” adventure path. Barbarians vs. nameless ice gods from the stars? Check! It’s going to be metal as all hell.
That’s all for this one. Enjoy the rest of your summer!