The Concubine’s Spy: A Preview

Here’s a sample from The Concubine’s Spy, part one of A Lord of Five, the next volume in the trilogy The Furnishings of Baba Yaga’s Hut. You can buy the first book, A Lord of Three at

Dr. Erasmus Lammergeyer strode the sewers of Mydmos at a furious clip, the crisp lines and regular motions of his long skinny legs resembling the opening and closing of a tailor’s shears. He muttered to himself animatedly, gesturing at the empty air with long fingers, from time to time dashing his unruly hedge of silver hair back from his eyes with an unconscious, irritable gesture. The awful stink of the sewer and the unsavory shifting of the shadows washed unremarked through his senses; his mind was too occupied to notice. His scholar’s robe, now somewhat fouled since he’d absentmindedly stepped off the path a few turns ago, snapped smartly in the wind created by his swift passing. Yet it was not the urgency of his errand that fired his movements, it was the excitement engendered by his newest acquisition.

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Color by Number #1: Goomba

This is the first in a series of color by number games I’m designing in Microsoft Excel. The worksheet uses conditional formatting to change the fill color of specific cells based on their contents. Then I add a simple formula (=[cell number]) to link the indicated cell to the place where the user types in the answer to the addition question. If they get the answer right, the cells change color, gradually making a picture.

This one is super simple, just four addition questions that yield the image of a Goomba from Super Mario Brothers ™.

Any kind of pixel art is easy to do; you just have to count how many pixels high and wide the image is so you know how many cells in the worksheet you need. Then resize the cells so they are square and go crazy with the conditional formatting. It’s a good idea to go into File — Options — Formulas — Error Checking Rules and uncheck “Formulas inconsistent with other formulas in the region”, otherwise you’ll get unsightly little green triangles in the corners of the cells in your image.

Keeping it all Straight in My Head (Part 1)

When I tell people how many projects I’m working on, their usual first response is “How do you keep all that straight in your head?”

Simple: I don’t. That’s what technology is for! I use Word, Access, Excel, Visio, OneNote, Notepad, and the Snipping Tool constantly to keep myself organized.

The gallery below has screenshots of a few of my organizational techniques. How about you? How do you keep your writing and artwork organized?

A Model of Human Psychology

This came to me in a dream one night. The concept is difficult to convey with 2D graphics; a 3D animation might be more suitable. The upshot is that the outward manifestations of personality are the result of the dialectic between the base desires (common to all humans) and the psychological filters accumulated through life experience (unique to each individual).

Any suggestions for changes to the model, or ideas for how to make it visually more effective?