Monstercology: Orcs represents my longest solo work to date at 50,000+ words. This project was a hard effort, and it taught me my limits in how many quality words I could write in a day. In the second half of this project I hit that beloved zone, that hole in the paper writers fall into when they're really cooking ... every night I would stop writing, check my word count, and exclaim the new total out loud, amazed at what had flowed into my humble, ever-expanding Word document. I love that feeling. The writers out there know what I'm saying when I say there are times I'd pay to make the words flow like that. (Toward the end of this project, every night I lined up a row of plastic orcs on my computer monitor and I would later knock one off for each 1,000 solid words written—if I didn't make good progress, the orcs "won" and were added to the next night's row. I took great pleasure in defeating the orcs in hordes later on!)
I'm real happy with the way this turned out—it somehow has a huge amount of creative fluff and yet when one flips through the book one runs into lots of 4e crunch: orc variations, new weapons, new feats, paragon paths, etc. I also stuffed a full-blown lair in the back of the book for good measure. I was trying for a 60:40 fluff/crunch ratio and I think I came pretty close. The new Monster Manuals in particular have virtually no fluff, IMHO, and I definitely wanted to provide details that could both extend a DM's knowledge of this very classic monster and also give them a few plot hooks in addition to the crunch.
My favorite part of the book was actually the fiction intros for each chapter. Early on I conceived the idea, based on my memory of a Forgotten Realms Cult of the Dragon supplement written by Dale Donovan. The supplement wasn't particularly memorable from a rules standpoint, but I thought the fiction snippets, written in serial form, of an ego-strong dragon falling under the sway of the cult and becoming a dracolich was wonderful, wonderful stuff. As it turns out, my project manager, Harley, had good memories of the fiction in that book too, and let me run with my concept. Making the fiction blend into the chapter concepts the way I liked was a challenge, but in the end I think the fiction works and adds the right flavor.
And hey, while I'm going on here, I'd like to give due props to the talented Ben Wootten for a wonderful cover. That hulking guy is bad-ass!
I'm curious to see how readers like the book and to hear their take on it.