Author | Monica Valentinelli

Monica Valentinelli

Monica Valentinelli is a writer and game designer who lurks in the dark. She creates original worlds and writers for media tie-in settings which include Dungeons & Dragons, Shadowrun, Firefly, and Vampire: The Masquerade.

Published stories and games include “Tomorrow’s Precious Lambs” for EXTREME ZOMBIES, IN VOLO'S WAKE for Dungeons & Dragons, and DREAD NAMES, RED LIST for Vampire: the Requiem by White Wolf Publishing.

Her non-fiction repertoire includes online articles, essays, and reference materials like the THE GORRAMN SHINIEST LANGUAGE GUIDE AND DICTIONARY IN THE 'VERSE for the Firefly TV show. She has written for sites like HowtoWrite Shop.com, Crackle.com, SFWA.org, GeeksDreamGirl.com, and BookLifeNow.com in addition to contributions for books such as FAMILY GAMES: THE 100 BEST and THE BONES: US AND OUR DICE.

For more about Monica, visit booksofm.com.


Monica Valentinelli

Celebrating Lovecraft’s Birthday with Cthulhu Gloom

Posted on August 19, 2011 by

To celebrate Lovecraft’s birthday this year, we went over to a friend’s house and popped open our shiny, new copy of Cthulhu Gloom from Atlas Games. Dubbed “the game of unspeakable incidents and squamous consequences,” our group consisted of five players — two of which weren’t as familiar with the Lovecraft mythos as we were.

So before we began, we attempted to channel Kenneth Hite and explain who Lovecraft and Cthulhu were. It was interested to see their reactions when they learned that one man inspired so many popular horror authors like Stephen King, Brian Lumley, etc. That, for me, was the best part about the game because then the cards mean something beyond their pretty pictures.

And pretty they are indeed. Instead of families, you play investigators ranging from those who work at Miskatonic University to the Village of Innsmouth. Since we played with five players, we each paired down our investigative group by one and gave that character to the fifth player.

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Monica Valentinelli

Back from GenCon 2011

Posted on August 12, 2011 by

GenCon: Indy 2011 has come and gone…already? The first DriveThruRPG partnership with White Wolf Publishing and select games from Malhavoc Press, Open Design, Nocturnal, Eden Studios and Abstract Nova was a lot of hard work but very rewarding.

The booth was located at the back of a very large and very huge hall, but that didn’t stop new and old fans of these games from driving on back to DriveThruRPG. The quality of the new books is really awesome; people were literally saying… “That’s POD?” when pointing to the Exalted Comic and Ptolus.

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Monica Valentinelli

Ghost Story (Dresden Files Book 13) Review

Posted on August 8, 2011 by

Hot off the presses, Ghost Story is the 13th installment in the Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher. At this point in the series, I would like to point out that if you haven’t read Changes or some of the earlier books, then this review will likely contain ***spoilers***. Be kind to the reviewer, folks.

First things first: due to the way characters are interwoven throughout the fabric of the plot, I would recommend that new readers do not pick up “this” book as the first one. While Butcher does a fine job of trying to facilitate the back story to remind readers who some of the existing characters are, the emotional gut-wrenching reaction that you may have as a reader will fizzle and pop like a dud firecracker.

As the title suggests, this is a Ghost Story.

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Monica Valentinelli

The Magician King Review

Posted on August 2, 2011 by

The Magician King is a novel penned by author Lev Grossman that follows after the events of The Magicians. Before I go any further, I want to point out two things: first, you may want to read my The Magicians review or our preview of The Magicians to help you recall the plot. Second? If you haven’t read the first book, I’m not certain you’ll enjoy this one as much, for reasons which I’ll get into shortly.

As I mentioned above, The Magician King takes place after the events of The Magicians. Because of that, fair warning: I feel there is no possible way I can write this review without spoiling something for someone… So be kind to the reviewer. Please.

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Monica Valentinelli

Pre-GenCon Sale on Dice Goblin Bags

Posted on July 23, 2011 by

Dice Goblin dice bagSome girls prefer diamonds and roses, but I get more out of things that I can either use or collect. Enter the Dice Goblin dice bags from an independent artist. Handmade and sturdy, I often get compliments on mine.

Available in the U.S. and internationally, the Dice Goblin dice bags are twenty-percent off through Saturday, July 30th.

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Monica Valentinelli

Geek’s Dream Girl, Dork Tower and Other Odds-n-Ends

Posted on July 21, 2011 by

Well, it’s been a little while since I’ve dropped in to talk about what I’ve been up to, so I thought I’d write about some of the exciting things that are happening behind-the-scenes. In this update, I talk about Geek’s Dream Girl, John Kovalic, The Creepy Cottontail and my helping out at the DriveThruRPG/ White Wolf booth at GenCon: Indy.

In July, my first article geared toward freelancers debuted on a site called Geek’s Dream Girl. My new column is written to help new writers move from commoner to freelancer and offers some “mechanics” to help you do that. Dubbed Calling all Freelancers: Adventure to Dice Castle, it’ll provide a different take on the topic and will appear once-a-month.

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Monica Valentinelli

Shadow Chase Fiction Review

Posted on July 20, 2011 by

Shadow Chase is an urban fantasy novel written by Seressia Glass. While this book follows the events of Shadow Blade in the author’s series, I felt the story — which dives deep into Egyptian mythology — stands on its own.

Glass writes believable characters that we can all relate to by focusing on their internal struggles. I really liked reading about the emotional impact of the “things gone wrong.” When someone dies? We feel it. When Kira, the main character, makes a mistake? We experience her guilt. By focusing on what makes these characters human, in spite of their supernatural powers, I feel the author takes some risks because we don’t always see the “cost” of magic in our world. However, these risks are what makes the story and its characters more believable, because those emotions help us identify with them — regardless of their ethnic or cultural background.

Kira Solomon is a Shadowchaser. Although she’s human, she serves the Light and dispatches the Fallen. Although a lot of the worldbuilding was inspired by Egyptian mythology, the battle between good and evil takes center stage.

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Monica Valentinelli

Hellboy: Oddest Jobs Review

Posted on July 15, 2011 by

Hellboy: Oddest Jobs is an anthology edited by Christopher Golden and illustrated by Mike Mignola. The collection isn’t like other anthologies, for this one steers toward the category of “collectible.” You want this anthology to sit on your self to show-off to your friends.

As a collector of all things Hellboy myself, I picked up this anthology for two reasons: one, it was Hellboy and two, I knew that Christopher Golden’s involvement would ensure that the stories would have a certain quality to them.

I wasn’t disappointed. Although I didn’t like each and every story in the collection, there’s a broad range of tales and storytelling styles from authors I’ve read and authors I haven’t. Each plot stands on its own, however, and offers something new for fans of this franchise. I really appreciated A Room of One’s Own by China Mieville and Jiving with Shadows and Dragons and Long, Black Trains by Joe R. Lansdale.

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Monica Valentinelli

Inside the New Instant Antagonist, The Creepy Cottontail

Posted on July 11, 2011 by

Flames Rising is pleased to announce the latest release in the Instant Antagonists line. The Creepy Cottontail author, Monica Valentinelli (and Flames Rising project Manager) shares some notes on the design and writing process that went into this product.

Having conducted a lot of occult research for my writing — both game-and-story-related — there’s a particular concept that always stands out in my mind. Performing a ritual (both real and/or imagined) is work, but the end result of that “job” doesn’t always yield the same results every time. Take a basic love potion for example. Do you have any idea how many different types of love potions there are? In many cases, not only do you have to get the ritual down pat, but you also have to worry about backlash, timing and the integrity of the materials. Even then, there’s no guarantee that magic will function the same way twice because there’s one-too-many factors that you cannot control.

The “cost” of doing magic is something I feel is often overlooked because some view it as an obstacle that gets in the way of a story or a game. I look at it as a characterization of a protagonist or… in this case… Instant Antagonist.

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Monica Valentinelli

The Third Bear Fiction Review

Posted on July 6, 2011 by

The Third Bear is a collection of fourteen stories penned by Jeff Vandermeer. The tales ranging from folklore to absurdist; each story offers a different, sometimes surreal, take on a genre. In short, the collection was penned by a “master writer.”

It’s hard not to be a little envious of Vandermeer’s writing, for each story has the kind of quality most writers dream about. These stories belong in a school curriculum to be pored over, obsessed about, and analyzed. By far, my favorite was the signature story — The Third Bear. When I read it, I imagined I was sitting in a pub somewhere with a tall pint of ale, listening to an old, grizzled guy tell this folktale as a warning to curious travelers.

That style of writing is what I feel will draw even the most casual reader into this book. Often, you’ll find that there isn’t just one, but two stories written in each and every tale.

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Monica Valentinelli

Clanbook Perky?!? Vampire and a Dork Tower Sale

Posted on July 3, 2011 by

Heart of DorknessFor those of you who love Vampire: the Masquerade as much as I do, you’re probably aware that its hitting a twenty year anniversary milestone this year. My old favorites like Gangrels and Toreadors were already on my mind — then I started re-reading Dork Tower.

And I groaned. A lot. Then smiled… Then secretly wished I, too, was headed to The Grand Masquerade.

Before I get to my experience reading Clanbook Perky, here’s the information on the sale:

All Dork Storm Press comics are twenty-five percent off through Friday, July 15th.

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Monica Valentinelli

Contest and Celebrating Girl Geeks

Posted on June 28, 2011 by

Girl Geek Week at mlvwrites.comWhat do FlamesRising.com readers and me have in common? A love for all things geek, of course!

Yesterday, I launched a theme week on my blog at www.mlvwrites.com about all things girly and geeky. This week-long celebration is due, in part, to my new column debuting in July on the Geeks Dream Girl website about freelancing for the hobby games industry. What better way to say “I like being a geek” than to enjoy a fun contest!?!

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Monica Valentinelli

The Golden Key Fiction Review

Posted on June 28, 2011 by

The Golden Key is a dark fantasy epic romance that was written as a three-way collaboration between Melanie Rawn, Jennifer Roberson and Kate Elliot. The book, which clocks in at eight hundred and eighty-nine pages, spans hundreds of years in a duchy called “Tira Virte.” The sequel, dubbed The Diviner, is due out this August.

I called The Golden Key an epic romance, but I feel that might be a little misleading. So, before I go any further, let me explain why I put it into that category. At the heart of this novel, is the tortured relationship between two characters: Sario Grijalva and the cousin he adores, Saavedra. He loves her; she does not love him. Well, at least not in that way. She does love and care for him, but her heart belongs to someone else. The passion Saavedra feels for (and shares with) Alejandro becomes the catalyst for Sario’s demise. In many ways, Sario has tortured himself for a love that may (or may not) never be consummated.

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Monica Valentinelli

The Element Encyclopedia of Signs and Symbols Review

Posted on June 22, 2011 by

Published by Harper-Collins, The Element Encyclopedia of Signs and Symbols: the Ultimate A to Z guide from Alchemy to the Zodiac is not one book, but several smaller books that range from the language of flowers to numerology and, of course, symbols.

Normally, I find there are two challenges a book like this has to overcome. First, there’s the issue of gravity. Books in this vein can either be lighthearted, with more of a pseudo-magical feel to them, or serious and grounded in fact. This particular tome is squarely in the middle. While it does offer an aura of mystery in some respects, The Element Encyclopedia of Signs and Symbols also offers a comprehensive resource guide at the end of the book.

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Monica Valentinelli

Free RPG Day Haul: Did You Get Yours?

Posted on June 21, 2011 by

Wow. This year’s free RPG day freebies were outstanding. We decided to shop at NobleKnight.com because we were looking for a copy of the Hellboy: Sourcebook and Roleplaying Game — and found it! At Noble Knight, we snatched a first edition, first printing from this fully-illustrated edition published by Steve Jackson Games. Also included in the “paid” portion of our haul, was the Pathfinder campaign setting Undead Revisited. I can’t help but think the name implies a double dose of necromancy — as if one wasn’t bad enough!

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Monica Valentinelli

Eternal Lies Suite Music Review

Posted on May 18, 2011 by

Eternal Lies Suite | Music for Trail of CthulhuTo enhance your gaming experience for an upcoming Trail of Cthulhu campaign called Eternal Lies, Pelgrane Press has published a collection of songs you can play in the background on a never-ending loop. For this hour-long selection, several composers collaborated with Will Hindmarch and Jeff Tidball to create the atmospheric tracks.

The purpose of the Eternal Lies Suite is to enhance your mood as you play through this campaign. Since Eternal Lies isn’t out yet, we can glean some insight as to the scope of this story — it’s a global adventure that may include two characters named Edgar Job and Henslowe.

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Monica Valentinelli

Dragon Age 2 (PS3) Review

Posted on April 27, 2011 by

Before I get into my review of Dragon Age 2, I’d like to put my thoughts into context for you. I’m a fan of the games that BioWare puts out and I enjoy the mechanics. Primarily, I play RPG style video games to relax and to shut my brain off. It’s increasing harder for me to watch movies, for example, and do nothing else. Playing games like Dragon Age: Origins allows me to turn off the brain-neuron connection switch and have fun.

Mind you, I am a min/maxer… There. My secret is out. Phew!

Anyway, when I get into a video game, I’m looking at it as a casual experience with the ability to cheat modify my characters in a way that gives me better flexibility and playing style. Story is important to me, but for some games *coughs Final Fantasy XII* I get confused if there’s no recap or summary after the side quests portion.

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Monica Valentinelli

Review of Shadowheart by Tad Williams

Posted on April 15, 2011 by

There are books, and then there are books. Shadowheart, the fourth and final volume of the Shadowmarch series by Tad Williams, is one such tome. You may recall my review of Shadowplay, my review of Shadowrise and our publication of the Shadowrise preview. It seems like only yesterday when I started reading this series about feuding families, ancient legends, bizarre cultures, extraordinary creatures and colorful characters. Shadowheart brings it all to a close in an unusual way.

Why unusual? Well, first and foremost, the series was originally supposed to be three books — not four. After reading Shadowheart, I can see why Williams needed a whole ‘nother 722 pages to explore this story. Or should I say…stories?

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Monica Valentinelli

Come Visit Robin Laws and other Industry Pros at OddCon

Posted on April 4, 2011 by

This weekend, I’ll be attending OddCon in Madison, Wisconsin as a panelist and moderator. Guests include J.V. Jones, Robin Laws and Sarah Monette. You may recall we conducted an interview with Robin Laws here at FlamesRising.com just recently. Well, Robin is the gaming industry guest of honor at OddCon, which takes place from Friday, April 8th through Sunday, April 10th in Madison, Wisconsin.

In this post I talk about other guests, my panels and offer more information.

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Monica Valentinelli

My Magic: the Gathering Demo at C2E2

Posted on March 29, 2011 by

One of the things I did at C2E2 was sit down and play a demo of Magic: the Gathering. I had the chance to talk to a very knowledge and experienced judge. We have some decks here at home and even though I’ve played a few rounds, with a game like Magic: the Gathering I feel there’s always something new to learn.

For my demo, I chose the Chandra Nalaar or red deck from the Planeswalker set. Immediately, the game designer in me wondered how gameplay might vary between the different colors. The red deck was totally appropriate to my personality and had lots of fiery cards and mountains in it.

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