A jumbled history that never was

That’s how I describe Steampunk. I spent the last weekend at WildWestCon 8 at Old Tucson Studios. Yeah- I should’ve publicized it more, but it’s basically a costume convention with just a dash of literature and almost no gaming. I moderated some panels to earn my keep.

I’ve never been much for wearing costumes at cons. The few times I’ve tried it, years ago,  they were all thrown together last minute, and consequently more troublesome than impressive. I wear loud tropical shirts and tell people I’m a time traveler – but one that’s completely burned out.

Then I started dating the costumer I met at a Con.

Before we get to that, though, I have an announcement. You might want to stand back a bit there….

Go Action Fun Time is LIVE at Drive-Thru RPG!!!

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/268196/Go-Action-Fun-Time-Basic-Rules

GAFT basic rules cover

Go Action Fun Time is an open-ended, rules-lite role-playing game invoking action/adventure cartoons. You can play basically any character you want and have them run amok through any setting. Adventures can be played in one session. Characters can pop in and out without affecting continuity. And sometimes … dinosaurs.

Teen-age superheroes from the past, present or future – real or imagined – have been thrown together to compete (as a team) (in theory) in a reality game show produced by chaotic and perhaps insane gods called the Executive Producers. These heroes now travel randomly through time, pursuing the strange and crazy challenges given to them by the Producers, and perhaps righting wrongs along the way.

It’s just $4.99 – because I want people to have a copy of the rules. These are very basic: no fancy typeset or watermarks, a few illustrations, all by my hand, some just pencil over graph paper. But this is all you need to start playing.

Where and when were we?

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Crank Hazard and friend.

I discovered recently – with some coaching, that I can put together a reasonable cowboy outfit out of means at hand. Not totally period ( I cannot abide actual cowboy boots) but it doesn’t have to be. Steampunk is forgiving like that.

I found myself inventing Crank Hazard, a cowboy, of sorts, who repairs time machines by way of trade. That’s fun and all, I can blather on command about the imaginary machinations of time travel, but Crank’s name is not on the cover of any of the books I am trying to promote at these events.

So I’m still trying to find that line.

More on the Steampunk genre here:

The term “Steampunk” originated in the late 1980s with a cheeky letter to Locus Magazine from science fiction author K. W. Jeter. Jeter was trying to find an accurate description of works by himself (Morlock Night), Tim Powers (The Anubis Gates), and James Blaylock (Homunculus). While Jeter coined the word, it was William Gibson and Bruce Sterling that brought the genre attention with the book The Difference Engine (1992). Best known for their offerings in cyberpunk, Gibson and Sterling took their intimate integration of man and machine back to 1885. In this alternative Industrial Revolution, Charles Babbage’s Difference Engine is not merely a curiosity but the norm, and now his Analytical Engine comes to fruition. The book centres around the struggle between the working class Luddites (who fear technology) and the upper-class “enhanced” elite.

Moderating panels, I learned:

  • Steampunk actually began with the dime novels of the day, where authors, desperate for new angles, would occasionally insert fantastic and rarely scientific elements.
  • BUT the TV show Wild Wild West was the first recognizable entry into the genre to gain any popular traction. And it predated the term “Steampunk” by several decades.
  • Technology does not let you make costumes and props any better necessarily, but it does let you make them faster.
  • The resource triangle: Good, Cheap, Fast. Pick 2.

 

Over at Curious Continuity, we talk about Warped Drives.

That’s all I have for word-count.

Non-linear time does not enable productivity.

Now we know.

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Things I have done so you don’t have to

As usual, I have been busy: travelling, making things, dramatically reducing the amount of vegetation surrounding my house. Since this is supposedly an author blog, let me lead with that news.

I have uploaded Go Action Fun Time to Drive-thru RPG  and now await their approval.

GAFT basic rules cover

Yes – my artwork. If you think you can do better, contact me. 

It is only a PDF for now. That was enough of a maze without trying to reformat for e-pub or mobi.  I now know there are six different formats of PDF. And PDF/A is bad. Well, it’s fine, but the security features will lock up the bots at Drive-Thru. Also, compressed or linked JPEGs and transparencies are bad because Apple is i-fussy. I’m not clear what any of that is, so I don’t have to worry?

You, loyal reader, do not have to wait for Drive-Thru’s blessing to get this product. Contact me directly, and I will hook you up. With a commitment to playtest it for me, it would be free.

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Bongo at a river-side park in BHC.

I journeyed to Bullhead City on RC Lurie business, so you don’t have to. Bullhead City is a cluster of hills on the banks of the Colorado River, across from Laughlin Nevada – where all the money comes from. On top of each hill is a 55+ trailer park. The exception is along AZ95, the main drag, which is an extended strip mall. You might infer how much I enjoyed my stay.

I’ve actually been there twice. The first stint I stayed at a $40/night motel, where nothing was open after 11pm (I arrived at 10:30pm) and my door didn’t quite lock. They had a fridge and microwave but no coffee. I found coffee in the lobby in the morning, and I survived.

On my return trip, the client put me up in a casino.

Casinos are crappy places to stay when on business. The Avi Casino, south of Laughlin proper,  gave me a room with no fridge, microwave or coffee. It’s like they don’t want you spending time in your room at all.

In fairness, the casino cafe (Feathers – I think) is open 24/7 and I was able to get a decent breakfast and out the door in half an hour.

I had a better time in Las Vegas, as you might imagine. I don’t gamble to speak of, but I drink, and prefer to drink with nerds. For that, Vegas features the Millenium Fandom.

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Yes – I have a girlfriend.

True confession: I have never been much for cosplay. Cheryl (my girlfriend)

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Cheryl 

 is an actual costumer, though, and views these events as marketing among other things. I now own a pirate shirt, and several other items of clothing I would not otherwise possess.

I’ve done worse things for romance.

 

Closer to home:

I have finally bottled the mead I tossed last summer. It is sweet and fruity and bubbly – like magic unicorn sweet and fruity. I’m mildly disturbed. It’s called Wildflower, and she be recovering from bottle-shock by late April, early May.

 

The internet promised me that replacing my two exterior doors would cost about $800. I’ve had bids from $1800 to $3600. So … that’s a little more. Curiously, the two estimators who quoted me around $1800 took the most measurements and asked the better questions.

It likely come down who provides the better actual door.

There is a 4-6 lead time with door installation.

The tool of choice for removing dandelions from gravel is a pick-ax. A 30 gallon garbage bag stuffed full of decapitated dandelions weighs the better part of 50 lbs. I filled 9 bags.

My arms still hurt.

Now you know.

A few quick notes because this blog is not dead

I have been on the road for the past five days, both personal and business reasons, so I might be a bit punchy. What follows are items worthy of note, but not, of themselves, worthy of their own posts.

A memo to my conservative friends, mostly the ones on Facebook: Venezuela is not a dumpster fire because it is socialist. Socialism is just the paint on the dumpster. It is a dumpster fire because the Maduro administration is both corrupt and incompetent. (Compare with his predecessor Chavez, who was merely corrupt). Somalia has almost no socialist programs. Sweden has a good deal more. If I have to explain how that deflates your analogy, you are not the world-savvy observer you claim to be, are you?

It is totally worth it to fill the car with snacks at the start of a journey rather than relying on gas stations as you go. Rural gas stations suck. Get a good cooler and load it up in civilization.

I mentioned to a couple of people the importance of the Jumping Frog Fee for designers, and they just stared at me blankly. I may or may not have promised to e-mail the link to this trove of wisdom, but I totally forgot who these people are.

So: The Jumping Frog Saga from 27B/6.

Also, while three hours at $75.00 does equate to $225.00, the total cost to recreate and sent your business card artwork would be $450.00 due to the Jumping Frog fee.

Before I sent Go Action Fun Time off to print, I had a moment of clarity regarding the introductory material and the cover art – deciding I could do both better. (You can see the cover art in question on the previous post.)

Perfect is the enemy of done but I can do better, so I will.

Due to travel and its distractions, word count is disastrously low this week, but we did update Are We Lost Yet ? about Bloody Basin Road. 

Now we know.

 

Promises to myself made on a blog

It is known that if you write your goals down, you are more likely to achieve them. What if you write them down and then blog about them? Let’s find out.

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So we’re clear: this is not my personal goal.

I have concluded that it is achievable to publish the Ruleset for Go Action Fun Time at least in PDF form by the end of the month. That said, the written goal is end of the quarter. There are LLC and ISBN issues to be worked through, and I am a prisoner of administrative response times.

After the Ruleset comes the Cast Directory of sample player characters, and other useful non-player characters, and then the Setting Bible with my lunatic visions of the fantastic past and speculative future.

There exists an online version of the rules, which I am still editing. I was doing these in conjunction with the text version, but that proved too time consuming. Character Creation is fairly consistent. Doing Things is synched with General Task Rolls and Movement. After that, you’re looking at older language and sketchy links.

A draft of the Setting Bible is also on the site, with original typos and everything. Use with caution.

I have a great admiration for people who design blank character sheets. That proved more difficult than any other single aspect.

The Ruleset may be the only book I write for this game with active links. Because geez.

Some other lessons:

  • Think through your outline and use it. It will save your sanity.
  • Pick a font early and stay with it. I spent a lot of time fixing fonts.
  • Remember you are teaching. It is OK to repeat things. If you are not sure which way to present the information, present it in all of the ways. People learn differently.
    • Examples! And give those some thought so as to be instructive.
  • Simple is the enemy of detailed.
  • Perfect is the enemy of done.

Later in this space, we will have more on ISBN numbers, and maybe the LLC process.

GAFT cover image

This is from the “Pilot Episode”

On more personal notes, we will soon blog about how hygiene is the enemy of sustainability, and the sad, but hopefully improving reasons that I know this.

We will also learn about my stupid and wholly self-created first world problem and its consequences. Hint: I currently have (and am paying for) both Dish and Cox cable – at least for the next 30 days.

Relatedly: don’t lose your contracts during a move – you may find a need to refer to them before making stupid decisions.

 

WORD COUNT:

I  edited a 30k document in two weeks.

Also, I turned a 400 word narrative into a thousand word epic poem because I hate myself. And I need to fix a bunch of meter issues, because I still hate myself.

But I have finished this blog entry, and I promised myself a cocktail. That promise I shall keep.

Now we know.

Markers were passed in our absence

So I’ve been busy, even if I haven’t been scrupulous about documenting that all here. Between my last post and this, some markers were passed, and we note lessons from those here. This is the personal part of my personal blog here. If you were hoping for random Facts about Odd Things, that must wait for later posts.

Last year vs this year: same guy, better lighting.

I have been an official resident of this house for a year. At just about that time, I wrote down some goals. I am pleased to report that a year later I have made maybe 60-70% of the progress towards those goals as I would like. Some of those shortfalls – particularly sorting the garage and the bookshelf situation – were unintended consequences of hosting Earl indefinitely.

Earl is in Louisiana working with the Salvation Army at least through Christmas. I do not know his plans past that, and I suspect that he does not know them either.

The follow-up to One of 64 is on hold to make room for pushing Go Action Fun Time into a real product. I have abandoned self publishing One of 64 for financial reasons. Every time I put together the money to move that forward some disaster cuts in front of it in line. So now it sits with a publisher awaiting a Decision. That decision would inform the pace (and perhaps direction) of the sequel.

http://www.mysticpublishersinc.com/store/product/beanstalk-and-beyond/

An actual book you can buy!

The sequel to Beanstalk and Beyond, provisionally titled Taliesin’s Last Apprentice, moves along decently. I’m only a few months behind on that.

Some of the shortfalls – particularly wordcount issues in the last few months – came as a result of having a girlfriend (I am cleared to use this word I believe) who does not live in town. It has been my serious philosophy that building relationships is not a waste of time, but the 5 hour drive time one way does expand the amount of time I am not really wasting.

It was loosely a year between the time I accepted emotionally that my marriage was over, and my accepting emotionally that this woman I am driving across the desert to see is my girlfriend.

 

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Still going…

Relatedly, I have passed 100000 miles in my 2013 Kia Soul. At that mileage, the only mechanical failures are the CD player, and I cannot roll down two of the windows from the driver’s door console buttons (they still roll down from the individual switches on those doors). That’s it. Everything else works. On we go.

I did get some writing done.

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Are we trespassing yet?

Over on Are We Lost Yet? we explore the remains of the Black Canyon City Dog Track.

And you can poke around in crumbling remains of how men once made money from shadows by getting dogs to run around a track as fast as they could. But watch your step.

While researching that, I found the Rogue Columnist – who chronicles the underside of Phoenix, among other things. I got lost in his work the way I usually get lost in TV Tropes.

Over at Curious Continuity, I muse about time travelers creating scars in time – into which they cannot travel. By time travel standards, that sentence makes as much sense as most.

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This can never happen – and not just because of copyrights.

And we are editing Go Action Fun Time into something more like a published product and less like internal notes.

GAFT cover image

This is from the “Pilot Episode”

If you made it down this far, we’re friends. And friends sometimes want to know what I want for Christmas. I’m a middle-aged man with more stuff than I can store, so consumables (whiskey!) are always appreciated. Also, I am currently without a decent BlueTooth speaker like all the kids have.

Or the means to play a CD in my car.

Now we know.

 

Goofing off is maintenance. Yeah. That’s it.

I have managed my sleep schedule poorly over the past few days, and here I am still awake. And it is not so much what I have learned but what I must remember: relaxation is maintenance.

There are studies. You’ll have to look them up yourselves – I’m on like 3 hours of sleep.

I have binge-watched the final season of House of Cards so you don’t have to. At it’s best it was kinda a mirror-universe West Wing with a little bit of Godfather. The last season is more Godfather than West Wing, until it just hits the side of the shark tank and descends into soap.

Spoilers: they are all eaten by sharks.

Is it wrong that I was kinda rooting for Doug Stamper? I guess because he was not beholden to any interests other than his own insanity.

Earlier this week, useful things were done.

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The enemy of productivity

If you are worried that I will drown poor Vet Bill in a bucket, don’t. We are warming up to each other. Currently, most of my problems with her are kitten problems rather than psycho-stalker problems. I have removed her from my desk four times while writing this post – and counting.

You can still have her if you want – but there is no emergency.

(I see that smirk.)

I have the house to myself, and mostly back to the way I want it. But I still have a lot of soda and chips that I will not eat. Open to suggestions.

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Point Reyes National Seashore

Over on Are We Lost Yet? I recall backpacking at the Point Reyes National Seashore.

I am about to throw the kitten off my desk again. Excuse me.

Over on Curious Continuity, we review the first half of the new Doctor Who season.

 

And on Fantastical History, I explain how folktales about Jack are based upon his autobiography. Or the other way around. 

 

Maybe I’m tired for good cause?

I have thrown Vet Bill off for the 6th time.

Now we know.

 

Vet Bill exposes the limits of generosity.

I haven’t paid the vet bill yet, but that day is certainly coming. First some housekeeping.

There’s been a bit of hiatus, I know, but most of what I have learned involved things off-limits to this blog: romance, finances, and the details of my day job.

Updates from the most recent posts: My back is healed. But I have long experience with these things, and was never worried – just annoyed.

I sold zero books at either KABAM or the Las Vegas Book Festival. But we have already learned that is not the point.

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Hualapai Mountain trail.

I did get a hike in around Kingman, and a bit of an adventure coming back from Flagstaff for day-job reasons. Those are at Are We Lost Yet.

Brazen Wonk has election endorsements, in case you are relying upon my opinion to inform your vote.

In the last few days, though, I have had  a lesson in the limits of generosity.

Earl brought home a cat he found on the highway. (Earl is my “room-mate”).

And this would be fine and even noble if:

  • He actually lived here or
  • He had the means to support a pet.

Since neither is true, has has brought me a cat to live indefinitely in my home at my expense.

I have named the cat Vet Bill. She’s about 7 months old, black/white/grey/and generally adorable. She comes (inexplicably for a street rescue) with a carrier, a litter box, and food bowl.

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Vet Bill meeting condition #1

You can have her right now if you want. I’ll even split the cost of spaying her.

See, I have two iron rules about creatures living in my house at my expense:

  1. Pee where you are supposed to
  2. Get along with the other residents. All of them.

Vet Bill sees Daphne, my daughter’s rabbit, as her lawful prey, and stalks the aging bunny relentlessly when she is free to do so. True, the other cats will torment the rabbit from time to time, but these episodes are occasional and short-lived.

Vet Bill has made stalking that poor rodent the focus of her life, and I do not have the time or skill to mitigate that. So she basically lives in the closet when either Earl of I aren’t around to police the living room. And she is on pace to live outside when (if) Earl goes off to Louisiana, as he plans to do by the end of the week.

I will not add chasing the cat into her closet to my morning or bedtime chores. She will live outside (or rather, in the garage) before I put either one of us through that.

Or – ideally – someone can come get her, and save her from my cruel tyranny. Seriously, I’ll split the vet bill with you. I know a very reasonable place.

Two things before anyone lectures me on kitty-whispering:

  1. I have never gone out and gotten a pet in my adult life. Every animal I have ever lived with has either squatted at my residence until I gave in and started feeding them, or has been abandoned on my doorstep by previous caretakers.
  2. All I hear is “I’ll come take the kitten off your hands…”

Actually, I will cheerfully deliver her.

Now we know.

 

WORD COUNT:

Two drafts of a chapter revision for Taliesin’s Last Apprentice = 2000

AWLY? Post about FR237 – The Bumpy Back Way into Sedona = 1000

Thursday night writer’s group = 500

Submitting One of 64 to a publisher = 500

Creating a video about my hike to Point Reyes National Seashore =1000

Writing the accompanying AWLY? blog (which goes online Thursday) = 1000