Slowly getting back up to speed

Well, things are starting to settle down now. After the great Expo (see previous post), meeting a local group of writers, and applying for an independent artist grant, I feel like I’ve got almost everything out of the way to start making headway on A Queen’s Edict. Don’t get me wrong, I wrote some this month. Just not as much as I’m used to, when I’m writing at full speed.

There are still a couple things I need to do… I have a talk I’m giving to my daughter’s class coming up soon, which should be loads of fun! Apparently my daughter told her teacher that I write books, and so she approached me at “meet the teacher” night and asked if I’d talk to her class. Pretty exciting! Also, I need to get my books in the Saskatoon public library, and MacNally books. Finally, ACX is misbehaving and not letting me check my audiobook production of A Noble’s Quest, so I have no idea how that’s going.

But once those final pieces fall into place, I should be able to finish this first draft. It’s taken me so long to write, with the long break this summer for the move, that I think I should be able to go through it straight away because most of the book will be fresh to my eyes.

Finally, friends in Guelph have launched their first Kickstarter under the name “Broken Things” and it’s doing really well! The game, Builders!, is a deck builder where the idea is to hire workers to construct skyscrapers while also sabotaging your opponents. It’s loads of fun, and even though my wife never plays those sorts of games, she tried it one night and loved it. It’s great fun for everyone, and if you’re into games at all, you owe it to yourself to check this one out!

Gryphcon 2017

Photo care of the Gryphcon team

I went to Gryphcon this weekend as a vendor. If you’ve been following me, you know what that means…

The Good

No table fee is pretty enticing. All they asked for was a donation to put in their raffle. I gave them a copy of A Noble’s Quest (The Empire’s Foundation Book 1).

Gryphcon is a “small but growing” event that’s been in Guelph for 25 years. It draws in roughly 300 people, and they play all sorts of games all weekend long. They’ve got role playing games, board games, card games, whatever kind of games you want. It’s pretty awesome. The games are all scheduled, but I brought along my copy of Star Wars Risk just in case someone wanted to try it out… and someone did! I lost. (I played the Empire, and I’m pretty sure it’s almost impossible to win as them, after losing 6 games in a row – I had a ridiculous run of luck, killed Luke, blew up the Falcon, and just couldn’t clinch it.) But I’m the kind of person who hears a game is ridiculously hard and dives into it, hoping that one day I can find a way to win.

I found several new readers over the course of the convention, which was awesome! I was flattered when I came back from a panel on board game design (more on that later) to find someone I’d talked to earlier waiting at the table because he wanted to get a copy of A Noble’s Quest. While we were filling out the paperwork, he asked about my digital short stories and picked up all of them! “For $1 each, why not?”

The Bad

There’s something about three day conventions that start on Friday: That first night is dead. I mean, a few people showed up, but other than talking to some of them about my books, there weren’t any sales. I was only there for 3 hours or so, but it felt longer than that. We were told there would be more people Saturday, and that turned out to be true, but not for first thing in the morning. I think it was a couple hours before people started perking up and showing up in larger numbers. So I didn’t bother going in for first thing in the morning on Sunday. I was just too tired, and I figured everyone else would be, too. Besides, I’d already sold a fair number of books during the Saturday, so it wasn’t like I was hurting and struggling to pay for the table.

The Sunday was pretty quiet, too. Aside from a panel I went to on writing, and finding one new reader, not much happened. Turning a negative into a positive, I got some writing done! Over two days, I wrote over 3000 words on a new short story collection. The only reason I didn’t work on A King’s Decree (working title for my fourth book) is that I didn’t have the files with me, so I decided to start something new. Stephen Pearl mentioned an anthology that was looking for short, funny pieces, and since this short story collection is on the lighter side (as light as it can be, fighting followers of Dowreth) I might check it out. I mean, it starts off with Henry the Bulwark, a scrawny older wizard who fights with three enchanted shields, and then goes on to Torsten Carson von Schlepp the Third, the most arrogant “hero” I could come up with, and ends with the story of a yet-unnamed ranger, who might be the weak link in the humour lineup. But we’ll see. The heroes in A King’s Decree have already run into the ranger, and are on the road to meeting Henry next. I like tying in short pieces that showcase other things that are going on around the main storyline.

Anyway, after the raffle, I waited for another hour to see if anyone who hadn’t won the copy of A Noble’s Quest I’d donated would come to buy a copy, but no dice. So I left at 3, figuring other vendors were leaving, one of my kids was sick, and I wanted to give my wife a break after not having me around to help all weekend. If I missed someone who was waiting until the end to pick up a book, I apologize. They’re available locally at The Bookshelf, Janus Books, The Round Table, and the Campus Bookstore (in the Campus Author section, tucked away in the far corner of the store), or online through Createspace (or Amazon if you prefer).

The Ugly

I almost put the dead Friday and early mornings here, except that I still had a good time talking to people, and got some writing done. So no, there wasn’t anything that I’d call ugly about this con.

The Great

Oh. My. God. Have you ever played virtual reality video games? I hadn’t. I mean, I don’t count my work, which uses a driving simulator for research purposes. But a real, immersive environment created with a headset, headphones, and a joystick for each hand… it. was. epic!!! I played this zombie game on survival mode, and I was standing in front of a huge sewage pipe that opened up to a lake. Zombies were coming at me from the water behind me, the sewers, and climbing over the walls to either side. It was INTENSE! It took me a while to get used to sighting the gun, and I didn’t get bullets between round 1 and 2, so by the end of round 2 I was out and down to using a long knife to defend myself from the final zombie. Switching out my flashlight for the knife meant it was quite dark, and I was thankful there was only one zombie left! I found the extra ammo and could only get two packs (16 shots), and bought a flashlight attachment for my gun, in case I needed the knife again. I ran out of bullets pretty early on in round 3 and said, “Oh no.” Then I turned around toward the sewer and there was this HUGE ZOMBIE coming down on me like none I’d seen so far in the game. I swore. Out loud. And was politely told to be careful because there were children there (relax – they were teenagers. They’ve heard and said worse than “Oh shit!”). Anyway, I hacked my way through the big guy, but it took several swipes of my knife, and by that time there were just too many of them. My heart was racing SO HARD for quite a while after that. It was so amazing! Ctrl V is located in Guelph and Waterloo, so if you’d like to play, reserve some time now!

Also, there was a panel on game design. I was the only attendee, so it was interesting being on the other side of that dynamic (there were a couple panels I was on at GenreCon where the panelists outnumbered the attendees 3 to 1). The talk was great, I took some notes, and I’m considering dropping my board game idea for something else that came to mind while they were talking. Apparently “board games” are passé and part of the reason games like Catan and Carcassonne are so popular is because the players are invested in it right from the start, creating the world they play in. So to do something where there’s a board that’s made up of a premade map is “old school.” I still want to do the Wizards’ War setting, but I have a different idea that involves both a city building aspect, and a battle aspect. Multilayered games are also really popular, and they had a really interesting way of looking at it – a game is a platform to bring people together. So I want to work on both cooperative and competitive aspects to the game, instead of it just being a war game. So we’ll see. I’ll play around with it. It’s still in the early days of this idea, so there’s lots of room to play around with concepts and come up with something really fun. And that resonated with one of the designers, who said that the more time you spend coming up with the concept of a game, the better it will be.

The panel on writing took a twist ending, and we got to talking about movies – specifically, making your book into a movie. Katlin Murray had done the flip of that, writing a book based on a movie, but she had a lot of insights. Apparently working directly with a big studio is awful if you like having control over your work. At least 30% of the dialogue has to change from the book if the writer is to get credit for writing the movie script (which they always want). Ever wonder why movies always seem so far off from the book you loved? That’s why. BUT, there’s a loophole (isn’t there always?). If you can get an indie film maker to do it, you can offer it up as a proof of concept that a big studio might pick up and make into a blockbuster without changing the script. THAT sounds like the ideal path to me. I’m pretty anal about controlling my intellectual property, so being able to work with an indie film maker to come out with a movie that closely fits my vision would be great. Even if it never got picked up by a big studio, just seeing my story come to life on the screen would blow my mind.

Conclusion

It was a really great group of people, and I’m going to have to think long and hard about whether I’ll go as a vendor again next year (I should – the trilogy will be complete, and people might want books 2 and 3) or if I’ll just go to play some games. It’d be fun to set up a D&D adventure to run people through. Either way, I’d like to attend again!