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Back in 1980, some friends of mine invited me to an SCA event. There I met the local Baron, Steve Jackson. I showed him a painting I had done, and he bought it on the spot to use as the cover for an issue of Space Gamer Magazine. That was my first professional sale.
After that, he hired me on as a bad typesetter, and soon after as a not-so-bad staff artist. For the next 4 years I worked on cover art, interior illustrations, and map and counter art for his games and magazines.
While at Steve Jackson Games, I met Richard Garriott -- aka Lord British -- and Aaron Allston, who later became friend, roommate, gamemaster, and New York Times Bestselling author.