Starting over is cathartic for artists. Gut wrenching, painful, but from that can come artistic growth. So in the late 1990’s, I started over in so many ways.
During this rebuilding time, I met my soulmate and wife. I don’t know why she fell in love with me, but whatever the original reason, we were obviously meant for each other. Slowly we built a life together, and I learned what love really was from her.
I still had no players for D&D, Star Trek, or tabletop gaming. As she studied for her MCSE I began playing Dark Sun, an online RPG, but it was an empty, dying video-game world. Then on a second chance, despite the box graphic, we both began playing the online game Everquest. Kaladim and Kelethin, the dwarf and elf towns in the game became our second home, and we spent at least two thousand hours playing together over the next couple of years. Tejj the Klingon engineer became Tejj the Dwarf wagon drover, now adventuring with Turakin the Elf druid, and my writing spirit came back. We made friends online who became friends in the real world, and we visited each other in New York.
After Everquest came the online game Dark Age of Camelot, where new yet old Tejj & Turakin defended Midgard relics night after night after night, and where Ali bin Sophos ibn Al Andalus found his way from Gibraltar to Camelot England, and my fantasy writing in the online forums continued and grew.
After a couple of years of Dark Age of Camelot came the online game Star Wars Galaxies, and Tejj the wookie doctor of Nashal was born. Gelk Industries was built from cross server trades, with a dozen houses and hundreds of resource generators, and millions of credits in selling “Talus Water”, exotic crafting stations and feeding the bulk materials needs for level grinding the game required to become Force enabled. Star Wars writing took me to new places, and Dr. Tejj along with his mate wookie scout Turakin and her two killer dogs rode our falumpasets over ever every square bit of Talus, Naboo, Tatooine and other alien worlds. It is still the most fun in any online game we ever played and enjoyed.
Star Wars Galaxies was perfect for us but so unstructured that it annoyed too many people and it eventually failed; the only game to ever leave us instead of vice-versa.
The online game World of Warcraft came along about the same time as our daughter. My wife got into beta. I joined her when it went live. Dwarves and Elves became Taurins and Orcs, and then became Gnome wizards. The in-game roleplay was frequent, but my fantasy writing was not. Warcraft didn’t lend itself well to my fantasies.
I enjoyed the star ship aspect of Eve Online, and enjoyed building a merchant’s empire, but again, fantasy adventures alone loses some of its charm. Nobody seemed to be role-playing in Eve in the 2Ks. The somewhat visceral PvP nature of Eve was also a bit more stressful than I wanted for a passtime.
I had followed MEO, Middle Earth Online, for many years, waiting impatiently. MEO eventually changed into Lord of the Rings Online, and I joined a group of online writers who formed a guild waiting for the game to come out. They were called the “Gathering of Laurelin”, and twelve years later I am still with the “Leaves of Laurelin”, though thru many iterations, leader and server changes.
Thus the most serious writing I had ever done to date began, and has continued for over a decade. Incredibly gifted writers, and wonderfully engaging writing. I am humbled these people even included me.
A problem with Tolkien fan-fic writers is that none of us are Tolkien, but some of us think they are. Even finding general agreement on le hannon is beyond the ability of anyone but the dead author himself, and this kind of debate can lead to pointless arguments. It is very difficult to please such a learned, imaginative group that holds such strong emotional connections to their interpretations of the original story. We are almost denominationally religious in our enthusiasm, and subject to excessive drama over trickiness and sensitivities.
I have been a vigneron and winemaker for almost 20 years now, and have poured wine to over a quarter million tasters in that time. I have learned a great deal about wine, and a great deal about tasters, and a tremendous amount about unnecessary pretentiousness. This industry is far too often fools selling wine to fools, and it desperately needs to strike a tone closer to music appreciation than unapologetic snobbery.
Along with learning about wine, I learned about wine history, and slowly the idea began to develop that my creative writing could move into historical fiction about wine. I’ll leave potential futuristic wine fiction till another day.
Thus a past of writing, decades of wine industry exposure, research and time have lead to the Wine’s Anvil series.