Debriefing from Kingman

Despite the best efforts of the universe, I not only made it to K.A.B.A.M, but I made it there on time. (My day job had sent me on a side-quest that I accepted without realizing that one of my presentations was on the Friday).

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For those of you who missed my obscure notice several posts ago, I had two presentations (with power points and everything). One was on the realities of the Slush Pile, and the other was on world-building.

Writer at work

Not actually used in the Power Point

Slush Pile

[From my summary:]

Of the 1000 manuscripts added to the Slush Pile this month:

500 are unreadable.

250 are unpublishable in any form.

150 could be publishable with serious work that should have been done before submission.

90 are unoriginal or inappropriate for this market (and likely need more work anyway).

5 are likely good books, but not for this house.

3 could be good books for this house, but the marketing director won’t see an angle within 15 seconds, so why drag out the meeting?

2 are books we should buy, but there’s only budget for

1 book that we actually buy.

So if you write a good book, and do your submission research, you are competing with 10 manuscripts instead of 1000.

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World Building:

[Again from my summary:]

THE BEST WAY TO KEEP TRACK OF ALL THE DETAILS OF YOUR MADE-UP WORLD IS TO WRITE THEM DOWN – SOMEHOW.

THIS IS CALLED WORLD-BUILDING.

IT IS NOT A WASTE OF TIME.

That looks less shouty in the Power Point.

My presentation distilled work I had had already presented across several blog entries:

Magic Systems

The Three Questions about the future:

 

And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the update to Are We Lost Yet? about my campsite: Camping Over Kingman: Hualapai Mountain Campgrounds.

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I got better cell reception here than in downtown Kingman.

 

Now we know.

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Catching up with some quick lessons

I took a vacation, followed by back-to-back conventions in and around an extended visitation from Earl, and now that is all over, and I have my life back, and some time to reflect.

For those that know and/or care about Earl Hedges, he has left for Rochester NY on adventures, and will not have reliable internet for some time. That is what I know.

Now, some brief lessons learned in more or less chronological order:

My Vacation

Lo Lo Mai Springs Resort is what any KOA wants to be: over-priced and still worth it. I paid $40 a night for a tent site (which is twice what I might have paid at Dead Horse Ranch State Park, a few miles down the road) and I did not feel cheated at all.

First of all, we had the place nearly to ourselves until Friday.

Second, our tent site was right on Oak Creek. (Wading around in rivers works leg muscles you did not know you had. )

camp at LLM

Third, they all the KOA-like amenities such as showers, and a store etc. The store is cash only – a handy fact to know in advance.

Fourth, the neighboring property has a group of Alpaca’s, to which Cheryl is partial.

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Cheryl and friend.

Yes – it was quite warm, hence our extensive experience with wading around in Oak Creek.

And yes – we were able to hike the West Fork of Oak creek without disaster.

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Photo by C Zierman

 

I found I had to choose between quality time with my girlfriend, or documenting antics for Are We Lost Yet? I no longer have the bonuses to do both (if I ever did). AWLY? has not been updated in some time. I regret nothing.

There is probably still a market for a Arizona winery book. Meanwhile, we have these resources:

Verde Valley Wine Trail

Screenshot_2019-09-08 VVWC_Map2018(3) - Map-inside-brochure-wineries-8-18 pdf

CoKoCon

This is still CopperCon in size and spirit (and personnel) .

I played some Go Action Fun Time and moderated some panels.

Spoon theory, I now know after moderating a panel on it, is a metaphor for rationing personal resources while managing a disability. I did not have much to add, as whatever my disaqbilities, energy is not something I have ever had to ration.

RPG’s and writing: “You have to accept your godhood.” – Beth Cato

Do You Need an Editor? Yes.

“Write with abandon. Edit with extreme prejudice.” T.L. Smith

Five Rules of Writing (amended)

  1. Show – Don’t Tell
  2. Avoid Cliche’s
  3. Keep your ass in the chair
  4. Use adverbs sparingly.
  5. Just get there.

For rule 5  “there” is the story. Start where things start happening, and get to the end expeditiously.

Good world-building insulates you from characters (and player characters) going off the map. BUT BUT BUT the reader only needs to know enough about the world to follow the story. Just get there.

Things that appeared in my inbox:

Remedial crash course in website design: How Not To Suck at Design

Emmy Award-winning showrunner of The Office, Brent Forrester, shares his rules of writing comedy.

And finally some oddly edited but nerdily fascinated backstage action from the Drottningholms Slottsteater.

Drottningholms Slottsteater backstage 5 min from Drottningholms Slottsteater on Vimeo.

 

Now we know.

Sorry but not sorry about missing word count

I was out of town most of last week. I got a little bit of artwork done, but nothing else of substance creatively. So that’s the word count update. Beyond that, I learned a lot, and have a bit of news.

Before we get to the past, let’s look at the future a little bit.

I had plans to run Go Action Fun Time at G3: Gaming for Charity Game Marathon next 14666105_1480832878599345_5973039576855210945_nweekend, but they did not actually schedule my game. It has always been my policy that I do not announce events that do not have actual time/space coordinates. I’ll have GAFT in my car when I attend, but I cannot guaranty that it will be played.

Note to game event organizers: struggling game designers are willing, nay even eager partners in drubbing up publicity for your event, provided that you actually include them.

I’ll show up anyway, drop some money in the fishbowl and maybe just play for once.

In contrast, I have three games scheduled for Crit Hit 4, and I will be loudly announcing the particulars in the coming days.

Last week I went to Flagstaff on business, camped in the forest, then went to Las Vegas to attend Amazing Comicon, then went back to Flagstaff to pick up Rey, as she is spending most of the summer at my house. (Which, FTR, is her legal address anyway).

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Ruby Vroom vs all the bugs on the highway. (with Rey)

Things I learned in no particular order:

Ruby Vroom, my 2015 Subaru Forester, has an ideal speed that is appropriate for picking your way down jeep trails without startling elk.

For me, paying a little more for gas in Flagstaff is worth not having to glide into Kingman on fumes.

The nacho loco appetizer at El Capitan is just an absurd amount of food.

The north rim of Sycamore Canyon in the Kaibab NF remains one of my favorite areas to camp. Ruby and I found the end of Forest road 56C. I didn’t get any writing done there, but I got some thinking done, which is an important step.

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Ruby Vroom at the end of the road

 

The brief camping excursion was the only part of the journey that I did any real documentation on.  But that’s another post for a different blog.

Amazing! Las Vegas Comic Con is over-all a fine event for what it is, but I could not, in good faith recommend travelling to Sin City just for the event itself, especially not if you live in Phoenix. ALVC is a fraction of the size of Phoenix fan Fusion, and while the vendor hall is substantial, the porgamming is miniscule, and other events are non-existent. It is, in truth, more skewed to actual comic fans that Fan Fusion, and comics dominate the vendor hall and much of what programming exists. So if that is your focus, you might enjoy the weekend.

If you are a more casual fan, however, one day will be more than sufficient.

Of course, I went for the company:

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Fiona (mid transformation) in Ruby Vroom

Going to a con by yourself can be amusing, and maybe even educational. Going to a con with good friends is fun. Going to a con with your costumer girlfriend is very fun.

Even if you are not in costume.

My link dump from the Con:

Anomaly Comics are trying to combine augmented reality apps with regular graphic novels. Meh. But the novels themselves are good quality. http://www.experienceanomaly.com/anomaly/

They also put out tutorials: https://www.youtube.com/user/ExperienceAnomaly

Tiki God comics gave me a bookmark and are rewarded with a link: https://www.tikigodcomics.com/

Frameless hangars is an interesting product if you still ahve space on your wall. www.framelesscomic.com

Wayward Nerd is a travel site for, well you.  https://www.waywardnerd.com/

Bookmarks because someone on the internet is Wrong:

https://www.history.com/topics/great-depression/social-security-act

https://www.ssa.gov/history/InternetMyths.html

You might infer what they are wrong about.

Anyway, I did not make word count. So it goes.

 

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.

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.

Anything but politics

Which, so you know, is a struggle.

We went to Palm Springs (actually Cathedral City, but they are separated by a sidewalk) for Thanksgiving, because family. We now know the chair lift that takes you near the top of 8000 foot San Jacinto mountain costs $27/head. I’d tell you more, but that stopped us right there.

If you want to visit Joshua Tree National Park, the best way in is the south entrance. On what a ranger told us was the busiest day of the year, we entered without wait or charge. The visitor center was jacked, but the entrance was unencumbered.

We saw a tarantula. Joshua Tree is actually kinda sparse on huge wonders you can see from the car. It’s a hiking/climbing destination, and I had the wrong crew for that.

Stopping in Quartzsite for sustenance, we visited the Hi Jolly Memorial – so you don’t have to.

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My Rheem gas water heater went 14 years before the bottom rusted out, so I bought another one. If you have an old house, like mine, it is worth it to hire a plumber to replace the corroded, seized valve. But replacing the tank itself can be done by anyone of average handyman competence, and a buddy.

My dog has been laying in the same spot for a third straight day with “Old dog vertibulosis” which is basically vertigo. We have medicine for it. It’s yet to really work. We shall see. The folks at Madison Animal Hospital took us in  minutes before closing on a Sunday night as we clamored in with this 70 pound senile dog that we supposed to be near death. They were very helpful.

At Curious Continuity, ghost universes aren’t the same as time travel.

At Fantastical History, I whine about how deep POV ruined my literary vision for a fairty tale.

And at The64, I announce the novel that will actually happen.

Rejoice in a manner befitting your people.

Also this:

 

Now you know.

Lessons from our 2016 vacation

In late July 2016 (about two months ago) my family took what might be our last vacation as a single nuclear family, heading across California and then up the west coast into Oregon. All told we spent 14 days on the road and traveled just shy of 4000 miles.

Here’s some of what we learned, in approximate order of occurrence:

We learned that the Salton Sea is ringed with a layer of dead fish – and all the magic that comes with that.

In Bishop, California we learned that if you’re not in town before 9pm on a Sunday night, your choice for dinner is Denny’s.

We learned that Yosemite National Park is aswarm through July with bugs; that they are more paranoid about bears than Yellowstone (we were asked to put even our toiletries in bear lockers); that by 11 am, Yosemite valley is flooded with tourists, like Las Vegas/Disneyland densities; that stocking the lakes with trout decimated the local frog population – which aggravates the mosquito problem, that the rangers make really strong coffee, that Tuolumne Meadows – where we camped – has one of the few general stores that is less than an hour’s hike from the Pacific Coast Trail – so consequently it was often filled to overflowing with backpackers; and that Glacier Point is totally worth the drive.

We also learned in Yosemite how our 2009 Hyundai Veracruz handles twisty mountain roads (decently, to our fortune). This sort of driving would turn out to be the rule rather than the exception.

We learned we really, really like our Veracruz for this sort of expedition. The only drawback is that there is an electric motor for every damn thing, and when they fail, the thing fails. Our sun-roof is now sealed with duct tape because it locked up without quite closing. We also learned that no one on the internet seems to know anything about the sun-roof on this particular model.

We learned from Penny’s relations in San Jose that it is possible to become just as trapped by high real estate prices as by low real estate prices.

We learned that the John Muir Woods are overrun by local joggers, and you can’t just expect to park there and look around.

We learned that Point Reyes National Seashore is a worthwhile detour, even though your best hop is at least five hours, and that it is riddled with hiking trails and fearless deer.

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Bongo (and the rest of the family) at Point Reyes National Seashore

We learned that the California coastal redwood is the tallest tree in North America, but it’s inland relation, the Sequoia, is the largest by mass.

As the highway leaves any small town, and goes down to a single lane, you will find yourself behind the ubiquitous LTDS = Local Truck Driven Slowly.

We learned that you can BBQ oysters, and that you can make them into a hamburger.

The the southern coast of Oregon is beautiful in every direction; and that nothing ever really dries there. Ever.

Ben learned that hammocks are defenseless against mist.

We learned that the ocean is colder than the rivers.

Penny and I discovered that we could be totally happy living in Coos Bay, Oregon – if we could find a way to make a living with our big city skill sets. (More a problem for me than Penny).

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Bongo in Empire, OR, which may or may not be a part of Coos Bay.

 

We learned that you can’t take a bad picture of Crater Lake, but you can spend more in their snack bar than we did in a Lost Coast tourist restaurant and I had oysters and whisky on the Lost Coast.

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Bongo at Crater Lake National Park

We learned that by day 10, your teenage kids are totally OK with you leaving them in the hotel for a few hours in order to have a couple drinks in a local bar. Totally OK. “Go on, you guys. Have fun. We’re fine.

We learned that 850 miles is perilously close to the most you can drive in a crowded van without everyone losing their mind.

We learned that you can spend $100 in Farrell’s Ice Cream Shoppe, and still not really enjoy yourself. This has nothing to do with the food quality or the service. It has to do with the over-sized portions of everything, and – yes – the cost.

We learned that even when it’s 100F in LA, our kids still want to go to an amusement park.

We learned that two straight weeks of vacation is long enough.

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1qb-Uw4C46eJCMGwqBSMbHv7hWFY&usp=sharing