Thursday, June 30, 2005

So Much Stuff On My Mind!

I have so many projects on my mind that sometimes I fear they may be cancelling each other (and my wife pointed this out to me last night). Nevertheless, I gotta keep at it.

Project #1 - Finishing the Testament adventures for release. One is edited, the other one is undergoing Spike's magical hoodoo. Waiting on graphical elements from Green Ronin, but giving them time since Origins is this weekend.

Project #2 - Edit the one Medieval Player's Manual adventure I have in. This is a monster at 50-pages in rough form. I just need to take the time to sit down with my red pen (yes, I do edit with a red pen, comes from having an English degree) and go through it. Preliminary reading revealed it's in good shape, just needs tightening.

Project #3 - Launching 'DaVinci Labs' once and for all. I have been sitting on the initial two pieces of artwork for some 8 months now, and it's just ridiculous. If my friend Josue finally gets the covers done that'll be a start. Adam Dickstein should have the second piece of artwork I commissioned soon, and then I just need to write it, or find someone who can write it based on my notes (it's a d20 Future mecha for a fixed rate, if there are any takers).

Project #4 - Writing, editing, and seeing if I can 'True20' Project Shira (I just made that up), which I am developing with Scott Carter. The d20 Modern part is coming along fine, and I believe it can be translated to True20 with ease (and with some new mechanics, as well), but it takes time, and I'd like to get the Modern version done first seeing as how we are about 65% already done.

Project #5 - General 'expanding HMP' stuff. It takes a lot of time to run this one-man show, and HMP is still small even among small publishers in this small corner of the small RPG industry!

Project #6 - Though it's currently simmering on a backburner, there's the Literary magazine I'd like to start. But as I said, this one's simmering, so it's not pressing.

Project #7 - The travel store. And this is the big one because this is the one I feel will be able to carry me and my family, allowing for all the other projects to be continued.

I have decided on a name for the store: Destination: Earth Travel Store. The name just came to me, and my first instinct has never failed me as far as names go. My wife pointed out that it has a slight 'sci-fi' tinge to it, and she's right; I like that, though, as it sorta hints at other parts of me. I am finishing the store's website and purchasing the domain either today or tomorrow. I've also started my business plan, and got a couple of books on the subject of a start-up retail and travel business. So, for one week later, I feel there's been some movement in the right direction.

If ever I needed confirmation that my idea for a travel store was viable, this weekend was it. Sunday we went with my mother-in-law to The Container Store to look at the travel stuff they had, in preparation for our trip to Holland and Belgium next year (see 'Germ of a Travel Idea' below). Well, looking turned into purchasing, and when all was said and done, by mother-in-law had spent some $250 plus another $70 spent by her friend for a travel-related gift. All in about an hour's shopping, without any salesperson helping us (actually, my wife and I should have gotten that commission), and with a limited product selection. Understand that my mother-in-law is not a spendthrift by any stretch of the imagination, so this was a calculated buy with some impulse items thrown in.

That's not all, the next day I went to the same store with my father-in-law (who IS a spendthrift) only to purchase a $30 toiletry kit. Half an hour later we left with a purchase of $350, once more without the help of any salesperson (and again, I should have gotten the commission). These two episodes alone convinced me that there is a market out there that would shop at my store; heck, even the lasy at The Container Store that sorta helped us liked the idea! I really need to make this happen.

Project #8 - Getting the house clean and ready for Shabbat and for my wife's friend visiting from California.

Oy vey. Seriously, I need to clone myself.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Shameless Auction Alert - Vampire Coffee Mug

Vampire: The Masquerade Coffee Mug

Rejoin the world of the (un)living each dawn or dusk with a cup of life-giving coffee served in this unique mug. Features the classic "Vampire: The Masquerade" logo on the unforgettable green marble background so familiar to hundreds of denizens of the World of Darkness.

This White Wolf collectible was produced at the dusk of the last millenium in small quantities, sold out very quickly, and now, like a good undead, it comes back from torpor, ready for this new millenium. Don't miss this opportunity to own your very own Vampire: The Masquerade coffee mug. It could be another thousand years before it resurfaces again.

Mug is in perfect shape and has never been used. It has languished in a cupboard and then in a storage box for the past 6 years, nicely packed in corrugated cardboard. Winner pays shipping (USPS Media Mail) and tracking/insurance, or alternate delivery methods, are optional and
negotiable. PayPal is preferred. Item ships from Miami, Florida.

Now go and bid.

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Like I didn't know that already.

Friday, June 24, 2005

New Nephew :-)

At 12:03 AM EST (Orlando, FL), my sister gave birth to her firstborn son, Kevin Anthony Morrow Amezquita (I know in the US the mother's last name is not used, but the kid is half Puertorican after all). He was 7 lbs. 12 oz. and 21 inches long, and all is well with mother and baby.

Yay! My second nephew! Will probably have to wait till the weekend after July 4 to drive up to see them.

Monday, June 20, 2005

A Sobering Thought And New Decisions Made

Since going Friday to the Container Store and having a Post-Travel Depression attack at the store, I spent the whole weekend deep in really serious thoughts, the kind that are scary because it means you are an adult and stuff. Chief among these, was a very sobering thought:

I am 30 years old right now. By all accounts, regardless of how many years of life G-d decides to grant me (may it be 120), I have lived a good chunk of my life already. There's been ups and downs, but overall it's been good, except for one thing, the whole "following your dreams" thing. Now, I have Highmoon at the moment, and what I do through Highmoon is incredibly satisfying and fulfilling because it is precisely a part of my dreams, now a reality. But there's more; dreams don't feed a family, or buy a house, etc. but they can be used to enable those things.

I want something where I can feel like I am following a dream, making it a reality, and at the same time being a responsible head of household, with all that entails. So I pondered all throughout the weekend about what is it that I truly like, those things that speak to the core essence of my Being. I came up with three concepts: Writing, Travel and Knowledge (there are actually two more, G-d and my wife, the two constant and overarching essentials in my life). Highmoon now fulfills my Writing core desire, so I now had to figure how to address the other two. Furthermore, I want my wife to be a part of this; there is no point in following a dream if you are going at it alone, leaving your soulmate behind. The great thing about my wife is that she shares these three core desires as well; we are soulmates, after all!

After an initial chimera sparked into my brain on Friday, this idea has been floating around in my head. So I did some web research on Friday, and on Sunday, and thought about it more and more, had a conversation with my mother-in-law, had another conversation with my wife, and after all that, it was still around, so maybe there is something to it. I would like to open a Travel Store.

Easier said than done, I know, but frankly, everything in life worth pursuing is. I think there is a market for it, especially here in Miami, a gateway to the world. While it is very easy for my wife and I to plan a trip, do all the research, get everything together and go, it is amazing to me how many people are unable to do this, mainly out of fear of the unknown. If we can help people enable and realize their travel dreams, while doing it for ourselves as well, while earning a living for our family, then there is something worth pursuing there for sure.

I am not dropping Highmoon, but rather expanding my horizons. We'll see where this ends up; hopefully in a dedicated Travel Store in Miami, Florida very soon.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Travel Longings

I went this morning to the Container Store in order to get some stuff for my father-in-law for Father's Day. He'll be taking a 1-week vacation to Santo Domingo for the July 4 week, and we figured we'd get him his own set of Eagle Creek packing cubes. Lucky for us, the store is having their annual Travel Sale, and the cubes came out a lot cheaper than I had anticipated.

While I was in the travel aisle, picking out which cubes to get him, it hit me, like a meteor hurling towards Earth: I want to travel again. I was filled by an overwhelming feeling of running out the store, speeding up to the airport (stopping by my wife's job to pick her up first), and getting on the first plane to Europe I could find. Knowing that I can't do that, my eyes watered for a moment, and I felt so chained.

My wife and I were talking yesterday that we were both filled with a strange and sudden desire to travel to Israel. It's not something we can do at the drop of a pin, but we spent all the afternoon IM-ing back and forth about it. The travel bug's in the air, and there's nothing we can do about it.

Right now I gotta go home and get ready for Shabbat, but I am already counting the days until we can start planning our (possible and hopefully) next trip to Benelux next year. Until then, our photo albums from the Transfiguration Tour and the Rick Steves DVDs will have to do.

Rick Steves' Travel News: Killing the Messenger

Rick Steves' Travel News: Killing the Messenger
Rick Steves' sent out this letter in relation to the upcoming vote on the House of Representatives that could very well end government funding for public broadcasting.

I cannot even begin to articulate how royally pissed off this makes me, so I won't. Instead, I will contact whoever I need to contact to make sure my voice is heard. I urge everyone to do the same. An easy way to do it is through's online petition: Save NPR and PBS.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

[HMP] Bardic Lore: The Villa of Mysteries Released

Highmoon Media Productions presents Bardic Lore: The Villa of Mysteries.

We first crossed a fancy gate that marked the entrance to the estate. Tall, spear-like trees—cypresses, I was informed—created a natural fence around the vast property and stood as soldiers flanking the path that led up to the villa proper. As we got closer, pairs of statues of creatures I'd only heard of in the myths of the invaders replaced the cypresses: centaur, pegasus, medusa, and the god they called Bacchus in a central and prominent spot right in front of the entrance to the house. A dark-haired, olive-skinned woman, Mirella Valerianus, unmistakably the mistress of the estate awaited our carriage with a veritable army of servants. [...] Early the next morning we were escorted to our carriages by the lady Mirella, who extended personal, private invitations to the Ard Righ and myself to return at any moment to the villa, whether on an official function or not. As we pulled away, and I turned back to see the olive-skinned beauty waving us farewell, I thought I may just have to take her up on her offer.
— From the journal of Amergin Ó Míl

Bardic Lore: The Villa of Mysteries details an Imperial-style villa for your d20 Fantasy game. Learn the history of the villa, its association to the cult of Bacchus, and the secrets it hides within its walls. Includes a history, a detailed tour of the villa, important NPCs, a new creature, a new spell and Lore/Knowledge information. Written by Daniel M. Perez.

Fully compatible with UKG Publishing's
The Villa of Mysterious Delights, a full-color 25mm printable map of the villa for use with your miniatures!

I am excited about this product. This is our first collaboration with another company, namely UKG Publishing, and I hope it is only the beginning. John Milner makes some bad-ass maps, and the one he did for the Villa was just astounding. I honestly don't know if our cross-promotion will work out as well as we hope it will, but gamers everywhere should definitely get a kick and some use out of his Roman villa map.

This product, The Villa of Mysteries, has waited some 2 years, and gone through various incarnations, in order to see the light of day. The villa was originally conceived as an isolated location known as the Villa of Earthly Delights, set in the world of Arcanis, namely just outside the city of Savona. This was way back when the idea of releasing Arcanis-themed articles first came up during company meetings, and though it never came to fruition, the article was completed anyway, and filed for possible later use.

Fast forward to earlier this year when, during a long-overdue clean-up of My Documents folder, I came across my folder of possible Arcanis articles, about 8 total. By now I'd already started Highmoon, and given that it was going to be next to impossible to get permission from Paradigm Concepts to use the Arcanis PI, I decided to make it generic and release it myself. After all, that was the whole point of starting my own publishing company. I started the process of making the story generic, which was quite annoying since I had made the villa quite integrated with the Arcanis setting, and I didn't want to necessarily rewrite 6 pages of history. So I gave it a go, made a first draft, and let it simmer for a while.

In the meantime, Bardic Lore turned from being a generic fantasy line to one portraying an implied campaign setting, name a mythic Celtic Ireland and British Isles (something that was unforseen, but quite welcomed). After the deal was made with UKG for them to do a map of the villa, I went back to it, and decided that I really did not need to make so many changes if I decided to make it part of Bardic Lore. Since the villa was set in Coryan, which is basically Arcanis' fantasy Rome, I decided to set the villa outside Londinium, and thus expanded the reach of Bardic Lore's implied setting and somewhat defined the time in which it is set (not that I am entirely sure of what that is, mind you; I wanna leave Bardic Lore grow as needs dictate). The second draft was easier to do; all I had to do now was remove the leftover PI elements, and Roman-ize it, which was quite easy to do. The result was the Villa of Mysteries, which I decided to name the same as the model in Pompeii.

I'm biased, but I think it is a nifty product. Even if you don't use it as-is, or decide the whole Roman-like style and history are for you, the location itself is a staple of fantasy, and the descriptions, NPCs, and new rules are all world-neutral enought that there should be no problem dropping them into any game. Ultimately, I am proud of the product because I like it; if I saw this product for sale, I would buy it, and I hope others feel the same way. Perhaps it's silly to get so involved with a short publication like this one, but each one of my original works, regardless of size, are one more notch I can put on my "Doing What I Love" belt.

I hope you like it.

Monday, June 06, 2005

The Matisyahu Of Gaming

I am determined to become the gaming world's Matisyahu. If you don't know who's he, follow the link and come back.

Short version: Matisyahu is a hasidic Orthodox Jew who's also a kick-ass reggae singer. What sets Matis apart is that his lyrics are all about his relationship to G-d and the Torah, and he makes no apologies about it. He sings from the heart, and whether on stage in a little venue, or at MTV, he's the same Jew he always is, with his tzitzitiot hanging out and his beard and hat.

Now, I don't mean that I'm gonna turn hasidic (not that there's anything wrong with that), but that I am a Jew, a proud one, and I allow Torah to influence all I do, even my gaming writing. This is not about proselytizing, since Judaism doesn't do, or condone, that, but allow the Torah I have learned to inform and influence what I develop, what I write, what I put out through my company. For the most part it's actually quite subtle, and you wouldn't even know it's there. My first product, Liber Sodalitas: The Blind Path, presents a pseudo-oriental organization that most people would associate with "Kung Fu," but at the core of the group's philosophy is a Torah teaching, taken straight from the Shema (Numbers 15:39): Do not follow your [...] eyes, after which you stray.

That's it. That wasn't so bad, was it? It's a simple statement that hides a wealth of teaching. In the case of Judaism, it refers to trusting G-d and His Torah for guidance, not your eyes, yet at its core all it's telling us is to look beyond the obvious because the obvious can lead you astray. And from there I developed a gaming supplement! Not necesarily all of my original products have such a connection; most are simply imbued by the simple fact that I am imbued. By the same token, we do have some products coming out that feature Torah heavily into the mix, in a way that I'm sure will be enjoyable for gamers. You don't have to hit people over the head (in fact, that's counterproductive), but just allow yourself to be honest in your writing, and let whatever teaching can be included go on that journey.

When I say I want to be the Matisyahu of gaming, I mean that I want to be a proud Jew who is not afraid nor ashamed of who he is, what he is, and goes on working in the real world, letting Torah go wherever it wants to go, and more importantly, wherever I can take it. If Torah wants to go out in the world as a reggae song, then so be it, and if Torah wants to go out into the world as a roleplaying game about Nephilim, then by all means let's do it.

By the way, that was a not-so-subtle hint. ;-)