I've been super-busy for the last couple of weeks between Dark Sun and my rewrite on Avenger, the last book in my Blades of the Moonsea trilogy. The novels are something that's outside my day job; I work on them in the evenings and on weekends. The downside is that sometimes I find myself with deadlines looming on both fronts at the same time, which makes for a few pretty miserable weeks. This is one of those times, but the good news is that I'm only a day or two away from wrapping up my Avenger work. (Another downside is that after knocking out three novels after-hours in a little more than two years, I'm literally not going to know what to do with myself when I finish it up. It's been a long time since I've come home in the evening without a writing project to work on, or hovering in the not-so-distant future. But hey, I asked for it.)
I'll get one more look at Avenger in a month or so, when the galleys come around. Galleys are the edited, copy-edited, typeset version of the book our typesetters produce right before we send it off to final production and printing. You can make small changes in first galleys-say, striking a sentence and replacing it, if you have to-but for the most part your changes should be limited to fixing any minor punctuation and spelling goofs that have somehow survived to this point. There are always a few. Anyway, Avenger's getting real close... and for those of you who've been following the adventures of the swordmage Geran Hulmaster and his friends, I think you'll like it a lot. It's definitely a darker story than Corsair, with Hulburg dealing with oppression, tyranny, and rebellion while the Hulmasters struggle to remain relevant. There's more character introspection, poor choices, and the consequences of those choices. I often thought of Swordmage (the first book in the series) as a Western in disguise, and Corsair as a Barsoom story in disguise. With Avenger, I think it's not quite so clear. There's a little Zorro and a little Scarecrow of Romney Marsh, but the villains aren't bumblers. They're pretty clever and vicious, in fact, which leads Geran to make some pretty dark decisions and really casts a long shadow over the whole story.
In some War at Sea news, I've recently reviewed a bunch of new sculpts for Condition Zebra, the fourth set. I'm very pleased with most of them; we've got a couple of small hangups here and there, but I think the sculpt quality will be at least as good as Flank Speed. I also put together a final set list for a fifth set (name and release date forthcoming). In case you're wondering what the heck Condition Zebra means as a set name, here's the deal: Condition Zebra is the ship's state of material readiness at general quarters. Basically, all the hatches are secured and dogged down, and the ship's therefore at maximum watertight integrity, ready to take hits and stay in the fight. We still use the term in today's Navy: the announcement goes like this: "General Quarters, General Quarters! All hands man your battle stations! Set Condition Zebra throughout the ship!" For some reason that I've never been able to determine, it still uses the WW2-era phonetic alphabet (Able, Baker, etc.) instead of the current one (Alpha, Bravo, etc.). Since the 1960's it's been Zulu instead of Zebra for most purposes, but Zebra's still sticking around in this usage. In any event, one of the little challenges we have in producing a game like this is coming up with set names that other people haven't used for games before, and you can see that we've got to stretch a bit now. Beats me what we're going to call Set Five!
One final thought: Once again the baseball season is winding up in fine style, and my Phillies are looking like they're poised for a deep run in the postseason. I think it's actually a stronger team than last year in all regards but one: the bullpen. We had the best bullpen in the league last year, but this year's edition came down to earth. On the other hand, I like our lineup, defense, and starting pitcher better than last year's World Champion team. The question is probably going to come down to who gets hot heading into the postseason. The Cardinals, Rockies, and Dodgers are all very good teams, and I don't think any of them would be pushovers. Any of them would be a strong entry for the NL this year.