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Nexus Nine Interviews

Nexus Nine Interviews: Carl Gleba

Hell is about to break loose in the Megaverse® and we at Nexus Nine braved the flames to snatch an opportunity to interview the man who is fast becoming one of the most prolific freelance writers that Palladium has had in recent years. Carl Gleba, the creative mind behind Rifts® Dimension Book™ Six: Three Galaxies™ and Rifts® Dimension Book™ Seven: Megaverse® Builder, as well as a few very well received Rifter® submissions, is shaking things up across the Megaverse® with his upcoming Minion War series; a five book series that promises to touch Phase World®, the Earth of Heroes Unlimited™ 2ed, and Rifts® Earth. Here's what Carl had to say:

Nexus Nine: Thanks for taking time out from your busy schedule to do this interview Carl.

Carl Gleba: First let me say thank you. What you guys do at N9 is great and your support of Palladium and its freelancers is awesome. Its feels great being asked to do an interview, and I’m glad to give my first to Nexus Nine.

N9: Thanks Carl. We're proud to do it. First off, let's talk about you. Where's home Carl?

CG: I’ve lived in Utica, NY pretty much all my life. My wife and I finally bought a home three years ago in Rome, NY which is only a few minutes from Utica.

N9: What do you do for a living aside from freelance writing for Palladium?

CG: I work for a major bank based out of NY. The facility I work at handles electronic funds transfers. (Wiring money around the world) Because of my writing (believe it or not) I fell into a programming job at the bank. I used to settle interest claims between banks, and because of my business expertise I and a co-worker were given the opportunity to design and develop a new inquiry system for our investigation staff. Today we maintain that system, and do design and development on it. Its actually very rewarding to see changes I’ve made be rolled out to the staff and seeing that it makes their job easier.

N9: Does your day job give you any insight into the things you've written about in your freelance work, or any projects down the line?

CG: It has to some degree. I have learned a lot about the corporate culture and I used that in one of the solar systems in my Three Galaxies™ book. The whole government structure was based around a corporation. In book three of the Minion War there is a small section on Center’s financial district. I used my knowledge of the banking industry, plus what little I have learned about securities (stocks) to help develop that small section.

N9: How much research do you do for a project?

CG: I do a fair amount of research, but obviously it depends on the project. I’m more comfortable writing about subject matter I am familiar with or have a decent understanding of. When writing Three Galaxies™ I consulted books about our solar system to see how big planets were, to get a fair idea of the composition of gas planets, what different kinds of stars there are, and so on. For the books like Hades and Dyval I read every Palladium book I knew of that had a reference mentioned, just so I could stay true to what was written. It also helped to form ideas from which I could build on.

N9: Do you tend to spend more time doing research, writing and revising, or is it about 50/50?

CG: Well because I’m a pretty slow writer, I would say I spend the most time writing. I do the research before I start writing and that can take a few weeks to a month, and I’ll revise and edit sections before I even finish, but writing takes up most of the time.

N9: What, or whom, inspired you to become a writer?

CG: The Rifter®! I had no prior interest in writing until Palladium opened up its doors to the fans. From my first Rifter® I wanted to contribute something and that was when the seed was planted.

N9: Was there a mentor along the way that helped you out?

CG: No I was pretty much on my own in the beginning. After being published I would say Kevin Siembieda has become one. He has given me overall the best feedback, both positive and negative. I know where my weaknesses lie, as well as my strengths because of Kevin. Todd Yoho has also been a big help too. We edited each other’s early works before we had the NDA with Palladium and I learned a lot from Todd’s writing. He also helped me out a lot in the editing department and I think I’m a better writer for it.

N9: Do you have any favorite authors or literary role models?

CG: Well right now Carmen Bellaire is fast becoming my favorite. That guy can write! I also like R.A. Salvatore because I am a fan of the whole Drizzt series. I can also see how his writing style has improved over the years. For sci-fi I’m a fan of Greg Cox who wrote about the Eugenics Wars in Star Trek®. Weis and Hickman are also favorites. They wrote a great series call the Death Gate Cycle™ that dealt with dimensional travel! It was an awesome series and it still inspires me today.

N9: What are you reading right now?

CG: Right now I’m reading Carmen Bellaire’s novel that he wrote. All I can say about it is that its awesome and when its published its going to be a best seller!! In addition I’m almost finished with Source Book 1, and I have an unfinished Star Trek® book to get back to.

N9: Do you practice your writing skills? Do you have any tips or tricks to help hone your craft that you can pass on to others?

CG: You bet I practice. When the mood strikes I’ll try my hands at dialog and writing short stories which is something I need a lot of work on. As for tips and tricks, practice helps a lot. You just have to keep doing it and do a lot of it. I also find that I can’t force myself to write. If I’m not in the mood, or I’m distracted, it’s best not to write because it comes out bad. Write when you are relaxed and focused on the task at hand. Don’t write in front of the TV, that doesn’t work either! Finally be yourself and write what you’re passionate about. Oh, and back-up your work! A thumb drive is a good investment to keep a copy of your work on. Also, set your word processor program to do auto-recovery often. That way if your PC crashes you should still have a good copy of what you worked on. Well, unless you totally frag your drive that is.

N9: Any tips for young people hoping to become writers? Any suggested college courses or programs/schools?

CG: Again, Practice a lot! That is something I hear time and again and it’s true. Your skills will improve. I also say read a lot and try to increase your vocabulary. Study writing styles you like and always allow room for improvement. Let others critique your work and try and learn from what other people have to offer. As for school, I didn’t take any particular classes, just college English. That I would say did help a lot. I was lucky to have a real cool professor who would proof read our assignments for us. If you took his suggestions and changes you were pretty much assured an A or B. Since the English class I took covered all the various kinds of writing I benefited a lot from it.

N9: Let's change gears a little and talk about gaming. How long have you been playing RPG's?

CG: I’ve been playing since I was 14, so that’s 20 years!

N9: Would you say you've been a player more often than a GM, or vice-versa?

CG: It’s pretty much an even split, because my players like to run just as much as I do. For my group I’ve probably been running the longest.

N9: What game did you cut your teeth on?

CG: Robotech®!! We butchered the hell out of the rules in the beginning, but had a blast. We played through the entire Macross™ saga and were on our way to the Sentinels when Rifts® came out and we got hooked on that!

N9: How did you discover Palladium's games?

CG: My friend Thanh actually discovered Palladium. We were both comic book collectors and we kept seeing Palladium’s Robotech® advertisement. Being Robotech® fans he actually ordered the book from Palladium. So really all the credit goes to him for introducing me to Palladium.

N9: Do you, or have you ever, played any non-Palladium RPG's?

CG: Yes I have and I would recommend to other gamers to experience other RPG’s. For the longest time I played Palladium and even today I am a die-hard fan. But it was nice to see what else is out there and experience something new. Some friends I still keep in touch with ran a game where it was a mishmash of rules, kind of a home brewed game. It was for a space opera game and my first time ever playing a non-palladium game. The GM was awesome and I’ll always remember his games. I’ve played Shadowrun® and White Wolf® as well. Currently one of the players in my current group is running a D20 game. Fortunately, I play with great GM’s and their stories always keep the game interesting and fun.

N9: Do you port any of your other gaming experiences over to your Palladium games, or vice-versa?

CG: Yes I do. If a GM does something that I liked I’ll try and incorporate in my game and see how it goes. I’ve only run Palladium games, so while I’ve played other systems, I’ve never run any.

N9: Do you have a favorite RPG, Palladium or otherwise?

CG: Rifts® is definitely my favorite, but I do like the Palladium Fantasy RPG®. Both are pretty close in my book. I’m also a big Phase World® fan too.

N9: What makes it your favorite?

CG: For Rifts® I love the unlimited potential. I've always been a geek about dimensional travel and the name of the game immediately appealed to me and it met my ever expectation when playing it. I love the setting, the mix of magic and technology and the ability to play pretty much anything. I have to add that while Rifts® may be my overall favorite I'm also a huge fan of Palladium Fantasy® and Phase World®. Both have such unique and appealing settings that I love to play. I'm a big sci-fi fan, but I also love fantasy. There just isn't enough time to play them all.

N9: How often do you get to play nowadays?

CG: I play once a week. I have a pretty dedicated group that has been pretty consistent for at least the last 15 years. Some guys have come and gone, but the two guys I game with have been there, one for 20 years, and the other for at least 15 years.

N9: Do you make it to any local conventions to run or play in games? Any plans to?

CG: No I don’t. There is nothing local that I am aware of. The closest place I know of is about 2 and a half hours away and for that convention I stayed at a friend’s house. I’d rather save my cash and go to a convention where I know Palladium is going to be, and I try to get to one at least once a year.

N9: Tell us about your most memorable PC (any system).

CG: Venom the Great! He was my Kobold wizard from PFRPG. He started out evil along with the rest of the group and we were pretty much hellions. Later on , the GM took us to Rifts® Earth where our characters visited (not by choice) the Splugorth™. He fought in the Arena, was bought by a benefactor and later accused of killing him. We ended up in Azlum where we were exposed to the light. Pat, our GM, ran an awesome game where Venom, his Paladin buddy Gorm (he was an evil ogre paladin before he was exposed to the light too) and Syhphonal escaped from Azlum. That was an awesome game! We were hunted in the wilds where we finally escaped to America. We got involved in the whole Horsemen of the Apocalypse war and ended up in Egypt trying to overthrow the Phoenix Empire™. That was a great game and Venom has been a character that is hard to top. Pat’s game focused on the characters and the development and growth was great, and by the end, even though the light had only brought Venom up to Anarchist, he was climbing to Unprincipled after having discovered his son was under the influence of Loki (a supernatural link, his son was a Shifter) and Venom was trying to help his son. He's a character I could play anytime!

N9: Are there any O.C.C.'s or R.C.C.'s that you really like, but haven't written about yet?

CG: Well I only create them if I feel they are appropriate to the setting I’m writing, or something inspires me. For instance (and here is a little snippet from the Minion War), there is one O.C.C. in Hades, and none in Dyval or Dimensional Outbreak™. For those books I really wanted to focus on the setting and there was really no need for them. As for R.C.C.’s I prefer races that can take O.C.C.’s so you’ll see a lot of that from me. However I would say that the new Demons and Deevils are pretty much R.C.C.’s and there are plenty of those in Hades and Dyval.

N9: What's your favorite Palladium game setting?

CG: Well, like I mentioned above, Rifts® and PFRPG. But I can’t forget about Phase World®. I love Space Operas and I am a big Star Trek®, Star Wars®, and B5® fan. Palladium puts out such great products that for me there isn’t enough time to play them all. If I had the time I would play or run three games a week with one of the three settings I’ve mentioned.

N9: What is the one Palladium Books® title that you want to see written, but don't want to write yourself?

CG: I want to see Chi-town! I would love to see it mapped out and described in detail. Heck, if I had time I would do it, but I’m not sure I could do it justice like Kevin Siembieda would. I’d be willing to take a crack at it once I’ve finished the things I really want to write about.

N9: The Minion War is a very ambitious project touching multiple Palladium game settings. Were you equally familiar with each of them, or did you have to brush up on them and do a lot of research to make them fit?

CG: Well I know Rifts® and Phase World® intimately. I know Heroes Unlimited™, but not as well as your die-hard fans. I’ve had very little experience running it and playing it. I’ve read all the books, monkeyed around with characters, but I would not consider myself as up on it as say Carmen Bellaire or Todd Yoho. Since the idea of the Minion War is pretty simple (Megaversal® Armageddon) I knew it wouldn’t be too tough to do in the settings I wanted to work in. I also have the support of Palladium and the other freelancers. Carmen Bellaire and Todd Yoho have been instrumental in giving me input; especially on the HU manuscript.

N9: What more can you tell us about it?

CG: Well, lets call it Armageddon on a Megaversal scale. I really wanted to shake things up a bit and surprise the hell out of the fans by maybe doing things that would be unexpected. Hades and Dyval will set the stage, introduce the players, and give the fans a chance to go to Hades and Dyval. Both dimensions are mapped out and described in detail. There are all kinds of random encounter tables from weather and monsters to terrain modifiers, and GM’s can use them separately or in conjunction to make things more challenging for their players.

The war really heats up in Dimensional Outbreak™. I did some stuff in the Three Galaxies™ that I think the fans are either really going to like, or they’re going to lynch me  , but lets just say that if the Three Galaxies™ where an ant hill I just kicked it over with a bulldozer. The first four levels of Center are described in detail and that alone offers ton of play before we even get into the Minion War. After that we set the stage for the war in the 3G. You’ll see more Demon ships, demonic space stations, and even more info on Naruni™ Enterprises. There will also be key N.P.C.’s as well.

For Heroes Unlimited™ I’m exploring the magic O.C.C.’s and how they can be modified by the influence of Demons and Deevils. Its going to be a “save the world type book” that will give players tons of adventure ideas.

The last book Megaverse® in flames will explore how the Minion War has impacted Rifts® Earth and hopefully I’ll get a chance to expand on the time line currently going in Rifts®.

N9: Have you enjoyed writing any one book in the series more than the others so far?

CG: Well Hades was a lot of fun because it was something I really wanted to do for a while, but I probably enjoyed Dimensional Outbreak™ the most so far. I just love writing about the Phase World setting and the work on Center just poured out faster than I could write. It was like I was on a tour of Center and I could see it so clearly. I’m real happy with the way the first three books have come out and I’m hoping to keep the momentum going.

N9: Was it hard to keep from favoring one faction more than the rest?

CG: Great question! Yes it was, truth be told, I’m a demon fan! I gave a lot of time and attention to the demons and Hades. I used a lot of my best ideas so when it came time to write about Dyval I was worried for a while. But when I finally came up with an outline and had an idea of what I wanted to do the rest just fell in place and I feel I’ve given the deevils a fair shake and they will more than hold their own in the Minion War.

N9: Aside from a well deserved vacation, what do you have lined up to follow the Minion War?

CG: You said it brother! I’ll probably take a month or two off, but once you have the writing bug in ya, you can’t stay away for long. I have a bunch of ideas I want to explore. One is the possibility of publishing something myself, but that requires laying down a lot of groundwork and discussions with Palladium since I would want it to be something related to Palladium. I have a lot to learn about creating a business and publishing so that may be farther off.

Book wise I would like to do something with the Elemental Planes. I already have pages of notes and almost 50 pages written. I think I have some really cool ideas and I would like to explore them further. I would also like to try my hand at Palladium Fantasy®, and maybe a Rifts® title, probably something to do with the Magic Zone™.

N9: What advice can you give to someone that wants to be published by Palladium Books?

CG: Submit to the Rifter®. That is Palladium’s talent search and it works. If you really want to get noticed try something for one of Palladium’s lines other than Rifts®. System Failure™, Beyond The Supernatural™ 2ed, and Splicers™ would be your best bet I would think. Or do something different like Mega-Damage™ Chef (I think that’s the title). Once you have a few articles under your belt you’ll either be asked if you have any other ideas say for a source book, or you can ask if you can submit a proposal. It just takes time and you need to have a lot of patience. I always tell people on the message boards that once you submit one article, start to work on the next and keep sending them in. Don’t sit and wait by the phone or the mailbox cause you’ll just drive yourself crazy.

N9: Josh Sinsapaugh posed this question for our interview with Jason Richards, and I thought it was worth asking again. The upcoming D-Bees™ of North America sourcebook is, in part, a collaboration between multiple freelancers. Other recently published and upcoming books, such as Madhaven™, Delta Blues™, and even Tome Grotesque™, among others, are collaborations between different writers as well. What are your thoughts and opinions on projects collaborated between different authors, as opposed to those done as a solo gig?

CG: Well, solo gigs sure do seem to take a long time and the D-Bees™ of North America went pretty fast from start to finish. It was nice to have the input, energy and excitement contributed by the other writers. They're a great bunch of guys and it’s something I would do again. They were very easy to work with and Jason Richards seems to be a natural born leader. He volunteered to take charge of the project and coordinate things and I think it ran pretty smoothly. I have an idea for a collaboration in the future, but that’s something that needs to be run by Kevin before I even approach the other freelancers.

N9: When you aren't working, spending time with family and friends, or conjuring up demonic wars, what do you do for fun?

CG: Spend time with my wife. We like to go out to eat and it’s nice to just spend time with her since I either game or write most of the time. I’m also a DIY (Do It Yourself) kind of guy. Since owning a house I like to do little projects from electrical and plumbing to landscaping. I like to work with my hands and see the fruits of my labor, and working on the house that you own can be very rewarding and at the same time add value to the house.

N9: Do you play any board or video games? Any favorites?

CG: I have a PS2™ and around Christmas I was hooked on Mercenaries and God of War™. I made it halfway through Mercenaries and have almost beaten God of War™. I had to put the PS2™ away so I could focus on writing. Once I finish Armageddon Unlimited™ I plan on finishing Mercenaries and playing Final Fantasy™ Universe and Spy Hunter™ 3.

N9: What kind of music is in your iPod™?

CG: I don’t have an iPod™, but I do have a large library of music on my laptop which I listen to when writing. I prefer movie soundtracks which are easier to listen to while writing. Other times I like to listen to Shania Twain and Brian Adams. I’m not really a music connoisseur; I just buy what I like.

N9: What about comic books or movies? Are you into them at all?

CG: I don’t collect comics anymore. They kind of got a bit pricy and I have to pick my hobbies and I prefer to invest in Palladium and the occasional other RPG book. For movies anything space wise I’ll probably see as well as any of the super hero movies, like TMNT™. I like action adventure flicks and the occasional comedy. Oh, and the recent Robotech® Shadow Chronicles rocked!!

N9: What kind of writing do you hope to do over the next ten years?

CG: I have some goals set like being self-published. Maybe take that a step further and try my hand at my own publishing business. I’d like to try my hand at a novel. I’ve been practicing with a Rifts® short story that I would like to turn into an anthology showcasing the various character classes in Rifts®. That, however, is very slow going because I’m determined to finish the Minion War series and not delay it.

N9: Well we certainly don't want to keep you from it any longer! Thanks for the interview Carl, and good luck with your future goals.

Check out Carl Gleba's website at: http://www.freewebs.com/carlgleba/

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