View from the end of our street, February 22nd, 2019

Monday, October 17, 2016

Rebooting the Franchise

          "3:00 AM is the hour of writers, painters, poets, over thinkers, silent seekers, and creative people.  We know who you are, we can see your light on.  Keep on keeping on."
          ~ Unknown attribution; posted on Facebook by STAR CLAY.
          Actually, with me it's about 6:00 AM, but I've enjoyed being a part of that group, and hope I will continue in their company for the rest of my life.  While it is still too early to tell (wait until Beyond the Rails is finished, and I'm immersed to the eyeballs in Stingaree), I fully intend to use my retirement to throw myself into the fabulous world of goggles and gears, and dare I say, become a Force to be Reckoned With on the steampunk landscape...  That's my intention anyway, and with no pesky job to steal the vital hours, I will at least have an honest opportunity to make my mark.
          The difficulty remains finding something to blog about.  I have in the past made a feeble attempt to give writing lessons of a sort, and have recently owned up to the hubris it takes for me to do that; the only lessons I'm qualified to give would be on How to Remain Obscure.  But I may post articles about my methods and techniques, so that at the very least, the aspiring author may assemble a working map of what not to do.  I also plan to refrain from talking about any specifics of my works in progress.  Famous and successful authors as diverse as Emily Bronte, Vladimir Nabokov, Anne Tyler, and Norman Mailer have offered dire warnings against "discharging the tension."  Having made that mistake in the past, I believe them.  That doesn't mean I won't discuss the backstories of my worlds and characters, offering background information on their personalities and motivations, and the pursuits that drive them.  I will also discuss other authors' books, movies, games, television, music, day trips around southern California, and very likely other things I have yet to think of.
          Here's a thought:  I have long told the story of the first novel I completed, Temple of Exile, which I just sat down and started writing with no preparation, notes, nothing but the concept of a modern fantasy story, and the bloated disaster it became due to my attempt to "pants" it.  Would anyone care to see that reprinted in these pages?  In installments, of course.
          My franchise, my brand, if you will, is very much Beyond the Rails.  That is about to change, or more accurately, it is about to be expanded, and I want this blog to be a dynamic, living document which grows in parallel with my writing that friends and followers can visit to see what's going on in my writing life without having to wait a year and more between books.  I plan to shorten that interval considerably as well, but that's another subject.  As far as this blog goes, I plan to have fresh material up all the time, and while it may take me a while to get to a "look" that enables me to be both current and relevant, bear with me; I'm a stubborn essobee, and you may rest assured that I'll get it right eventually.  Perseverance is a highly underrated virtue!
          On an unrelated note, aren't those yellow letters fabulous?  I've found my font for the "special" material, and no doubt about it!

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          So yesterday, Sunday, we had our old friend "Chops," a.k.a. Patrick, over for a game of Betrayal at House on the Hill.  We ended up playing five.  The liner notes describe the game thus:
"In Betrayal at House on the Hill, each player chooses an explorer to investigate a creepy old house.  As you explore the house, you discover some new rooms.  Each time you enter a new room, you might find something... or something might find you.  Explorers change over the course of the game (for better or worse), depending on how they deal with the house's surprises.  The house is different each time you build it.
At some random point during the game, one explorer triggers a scenario called a haunt.  When the haunt is revealed, one explorer becomes a traitor bent on defeating his or her former companions.  The rest of the explorers become heroes struggling to survive.  From then on, the game is a fight between the traitor and the heroes — often to the death.
This game has fifty haunts, and each one tells a different story.  All are yours to explore as you live or die in the House on the Hill."
          All of which is a pretty good description of a game that has an unbelievable amount of replay value.  The game offers twelve different characters, all rated in the categories of Strength, Speed, Knowledge, and Sanity.  Forty-four rooms are represented by tiles that are drawn and placed one by one as the explorers move through the house, tripping over trash, falling through rotten floors, struggling to cross chasms and labyrinths, and finding a multitude of items, from a holy Angel Feather that allows you to choose the result of any one dice roll, to a vial of smelling salts that restores a character's depleted attributes.  Flashlights burn out, spiders the size of fists drop from the ceiling, and you see yourself in a coffin.  Madmen rave, crystal balls are consulted, and mysterious teeth slash from the darkness, and just when it seems that things can get no worse, one of the explorers' minds breaks (or did they plan it all along?), throwing you into a fight for your lives as your erstwhile friend embraces the madness of the house, and invites demons, tentacles, specters, and in one case, a reanimated corpse reminiscent of Frankenstein's Monster over for a little party.
          I have to say, this game was so engaging and enjoyable, despite the pure horror of the subject matter, that we played five rounds.  We rarely play more than three of anything, so that will give you an idea right there.  It is like living in a B-horror movie, and one of the reviews I read during my preparation went so far as to call it "Cabin in the Woods:  The Game."  I would have to agree that that is a pretty apt description.  Horror book and movie fans need to add this to their collections.  Now you can take part in one of those books or movies as a participant trapped in the nightmare, and live or die based on your own quick wits, intelligence, and athletic abilities.  A footnote:  Patrick wasn't able to make it by for my birthday, but brought my gift on this visit:  The expansion kit called Betrayal at House on the Hill: Widow's Walk, which adds twenty new rooms, twenty new cards, and fifty new haunts to the basic set; we're going to be enjoying this for a long time to come!
         Patrick couldn't attend my rollicking-good birthday do because he was attending San Diego's Gaslight Gathering that weekend.  He brought me a program, and I have to say, it looked like fun.  A number of people who are members of my Friends list, or who I have at least spoken with on occasion, were listed as featured attendees, and it may have been fun to go and meet some of them in person, but there were a couple of obstacles.  First, the Gaslight people continue to schedule their event to conflict with my birthday, and second, I never go to this kind of stuff.  See, I'm a hermit.  I have crowdaphobia, and would cheerfully walk across the Mohave Desert to avoid one.  This may be an issue for me in the future, as he gave my name to a con coming up in San Jose that caters to steampunk authors.  The deciding factors will be how big it is, how long it lasts, and whether I can put down enough drugs to immunize myself against the lunacy of people in large groups...  oh, and whether they actually call me.  I'll start holding my breath in just a minute here.

*          *          *
          The self-editing of Slayer of Darkness continues apace.  I'm getting close to the bleeding from the eyeballs phase, and I'm only on the first edit.  I am aided in my writing by a really elegant piece of software called yWriter.  In this program, you type your book, scene by scene, into a template that tracks characters, items, settings, times, and so on, places them into storyboard presentations, and just generally helps you keep everything sorted out and organized.  The big drawback is that when you move the finished scenes to Word in the Times New Roman font, the apostrophes and quotation marks remain in Arial, so the first edit consists of going line-by-line through an 80,000-word novel and changing each set of quotation marks and apostrophes to TNR.  Madness!  Of course, I catch a few typos during this process, but OMG, so unnecessary.  The second edit will be to get out all the wonderful suggestions offered by my alpha-readers and decide one by one which ones I'm going to incorporate, and for the third edit, I'll be looking for just the right word in each situation - 300+ pages of them.  Little wonder that by the time I finish a book edit, I've sworn off writing as the worst idea I've ever had, and it generally takes me a couple of months to get back into it.  Oh well, stay tuned for updates.
          And that's thirty for this thrilling installment.  I'm going to try to keep this on a Monday schedule, meaning the things I did on the weekend will be fresh, so we'll see how it works out.  Until next week, play nice, look after one another, and above all else, get out there and live life like you mean it!

~ "Blimprider"


  1. Looking forward to the relaunch. I love hearing character background stories.

    1. Hellooooo, Karen! Thanks to you, and everyone who took time from your day to reply. Your wish is my command; I'll start a series on character backstories next week.

  2. Great blog post. I've played "Betrayal at House on the Hill" and agree, it's most excellent. I need to get my own copy since my friend who owned it recently moved away.

    I understand the crowd thing, but certainly would have enjoyed meeting you at Gaslight Gathering. I hope your friend Patrick had a great time.

    After converting your novel from yWriter to Word, one trick you might try is doing a "Select All" from Word's Edit menu, then select "Times New Roman" from the font menu. That *should* convert everything in the document to Times New Roman in a couple of steps. Of course, your mileage may vary, since first of all, Word often has a mind of its own about these things, and for one reason or another, you might not want your entire document in Times New Roman, but thought I'd throw that out there in case it helps!

    1. Good day, sir. Don't you love it when a game gets it right? Especially given what they cost these days! Nothing compares with laying out $60-100 only to find you've brought home some unplayable mess whose only redeeming feature is that the playing pieces make nice toys for you ten-year old. This one's the real deal!

      Don't be too disappointed; meeting me in person isn't the great thrill that some propagandists think. I'm much more enjoyable in print! Patrick was there and had a great time. He was jazzed about seeing Gail Carriger, and when I mentioned that you were on her panels, he remembered you because you use all three names. Then his eye lit on my new desk lamp, and the conversation took a sharp left. But yeah, between the crowds, the cost, the timing, and the fact that all I do is write, I tend to enthusiastically stay away from these things. We'll see if the mysterious San Jose con pans out.

      I am familiar with the Select And Replace feature, and have used it to make changes such as when I change the name of a character mid-stream, but when you hit the whole document with a change-all, you're going to be proofreading everything anyway, and without something to change on every line, I'll be going to sleep when I think I'm editing. Maybe it makes me a literary donkey, but it seems better for me to suck it up and do the donkey work...

  3. Good news in gaming and editing. Keep on trucking, writer!

    1. Good morning, Wee-yum. I fully intend to be here for the long haul, so pick out a comfortable seat, and enjoy the view!