And another one bites the dust… again…

Recently another small publisher announced they’d be closing – Breathless Press. The news came to me via two routes – the first being via a fellow author on Facebook who discovered that instead of spending today preparing for the new release of her latest book she’ll be worrying about getting her titles back from BP and what to do with them. The second came via a thread in the Bewares forum at the Absolute Write website where the various problems of this particular publisher had been discussed for months.

It’s a strange time to be an author. While there’s more ways to be published than ever before thanks to the rise of small publishers and the ability to self-publish there’s also many, many more ways to have your heart broken when the celestial wheel spins over and crushes you at the bottom.

Not all small presses are bad. Not all big publishers are bad. Not all self-publishers are bad. But there’s enough of a flux in the industry right now that I don’t think there’s any absolutes anyone can lean on. That small press you’re looking at might fold in a year – your large publisher might be bought out by a competitor in a few months and your literary line discontinued; your self-publishing debut could be lost in the flood of new releases coming out from good and not-so-good authors as we all rush to the public screaming for readers.

As an author it’s hard to know what to do. But the best we can do for ourselves and for our friends and family who have to deal with us when we’re running around the house screaming and ranting is to do our research. Be diligent no matter what path you take; research who’s offering that helping hand and don’t be afraid to back off if your inner gut is telling you to beware.

Check out that small press looking for submissions. That agent who approached you on Twitter thanks to a pitch you made one day. That big publisher offering you a contract because you got yanked out of the slush pile. That editing service looking to help you get that new novel out via self-publishing.

Sure – research can be messy and take time. A good place to start is the Absolute Write forum and Writer Beware – don’t be afraid to ask around and see what experiences others have had with your possible partners. Do the Google, do the asking. Yes it’s still possible that you’ll end up running into the field to scream at the stars but if you’ve done your research at least you’ll have the consolation of knowing you did the best you could with the information you had.

And in the end that’s maybe the best we can all do for ourselves and others as authors – speak up if you see small publishers doing wrong, sing out if you see author services abusing those who they claim to want to help. Send your thoughts to Victoria Strauss at Writer Beware if you don’t want to speak up publically.

But let’s be careful out there. Right now I sense the whole publishing world is in a wee bit of a flux and no one really has all the answers. And anyone who tells you otherwise is probably looking to dip into your pockets somehow…

Keeping Up With the Hugos, 4/20/15

sherylnantus:

For those of you keeping track of the Hugos debacle… the voice of sanity and reason!

Originally posted on Whatever:

Hey, look, I’m home! Finally I’ll have a Hugo post whose comment thread I’ll be around to moderate. So let me present some not-terribly-organized thoughts on the current state of things (if you missed my previous Hugo-related posts on Whatever, they are here, here and here; also, File770 is doing a fine job keeping up with all the latest on the Hugos):

* I probably shouldn’t admit that I’m having a schadenfreudilicious time watching Larry Correia and Brad Torgersen now desperately try to put sunlight between themselves and that toxic bigot Vox Day, but I’m not going to lie: I am, and also, it’s not working for them at all, as there is a fairly obvious evidence trail to suggest there was hardly any sunlight between them until Day suddenly became inconvenient. Correia and Torgersen are two guys who brought an arsonist to a party, and when the arsonist…

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International Tabletop Day! This Saturday! Play more Games!

I’m a gamer, through and through. The hubby and I celebrate our anniversary by going to the Origins Game Fair in Columbus, Ohio every year. We spend most nights either playing board games or talking about it, haunting such great boards as Board Game Geek to see what’s up and coming. We buy games from Kickstarter and I review them here.

So yeah…. I’m a gamer.

But this upcoming Saturday, April 11th we can ALL be gamers! Because this Saturday is International Tabletop Day!

What? What? What IS this day, you ask?

So… let me tell you how you can have a great fun-filled day with your friends and family and discover a whole new world! As a writer I love the creative break a game can give me and it helps rejuvenate my mind so I can go back to writing refreshed and ready to go!

International TableTop Day started off as a response to a popular web series – TableTop hosted by Wil Wheaton. (yes, THAT WW as we all know and love him from Star Trek: The Next Generation!) In the web series he plays games with his friends and you get to watch them fumble through the fun and annoyance. It’s a great introduction to many games and if your game gets showcased on his webseries you’re pretty well guaranteed to have major sales for your product! As well as the actual games he brings on excellent guests such as Aisha Tyler among others to have a wild time.

Three years ago the idea of ITT happened – local game stores joined forces to give people the chance to try out new games and test the ones showcased on the web series. And it was wildly successful with now over 80 countries participating and thousands of events happening all on one single glorious day of gaming!

So how can you get in on this?

First head over to the ITT website and see what’s happening in your area – depending on where you live you might have a variety of choices on where to go for ITT. Local game stores will be listed and if you go to their websites or Facebook pages you’ll be able to see what they’re offering. Many stores have free swag for attendees as well as food and drink.

But, you say… what happens when I get there? What will I do, where will I go?

YOU WILL GAME LIKE YOU’VE NEVER GAMED BEFORE!

What does that mean?

ITT is a great way to discover new games. The stores will have plenty of demonstrations going on and you can hop in and play a variety of games for free. No commitment, no obligation. Just come out and sit down at a table, play a game and have a great time.

DOES IT GET BETTER THAN THAT???

I say not.

The hubby and I have discovered some great games over the past three years such as Smallworld, 7 Wonders, X-Wing and many others. Even if you don’t find a game you love it’s a great day out with other games and you can try out many games without having to buy them – sometimes the game you thought you’d love turns out to be a dud for you and it’s the small one off to the side that you try out on a whim that may be your best buy of the day!

And if you’ve never been to your Local Game Store?

Why not go out this Saturday and see what this whole gaming thing is all about? Watch a few episodes of Tabletop while you count down the days and then swing by this weekend to find a whole new world waiting for you!

International Tabletop Day – it’s for everyone!

And, as Wil Wheaton says…

PLAY MORE GAMES!

Against All Odds—What’s Our REAL Chance of Becoming a Successful Author?

sherylnantus:

An excellent post…. and one I needed this week! ;)

Originally posted on Kristen Lamb's Blog:

Image and quote courtesy of SEAL of Honor on Facebook. Image and quote courtesy of SEAL of Honor on Facebook.

Many of you were here for last week’s discussion regarding What Makes a Real Writer? When we decide to become professional writers, we have a lot of work ahead of us and sadly, most will not make the cut.

I know it’s a grossly inaccurate movie, but I love G.I. Jane. I recall a scene during Hell Week (the first evolution of S.E.A.L. training) where Master Chief has everyone doing butterfly kicks in the rain. He yells at the recruits to look to their left and look to their right, that statistically, those people will quit.

Who will be the first to ring that bell? Who will be the first to quit?

Image via www.freerepublic.com Image via http://www.freerepublic.com

Years ago, one of my mentors mentioned The 5% Rule. What’s The 5% Rule? So happy you asked. Statistically, only 5% of the population is…

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Game Review – Heroes of Normandie by Iello/Devil Pig Games

As we creep up on Origins Game Fair 2015 we’ve been looking over the games we bought LAST year and still haven’t played… we’re very good at finding plenty of games to buy and bring home, not so much the playing. So Heroes of Normandie  by Iello/Devil Pig Games has been sitting on our shelf for the better part of a year gathering dust until the hubby dusted it off. He picked it up based on a demo at Origins and his love of WWII gaming – we love our Memoir ’44 and have lots of boxed sets waiting for his retirement to get into.

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Heroes of Normandie started off as a Kickstarter production and, unfortunately, it shows. From what I’ve been able to gather (most of the information on the Devil Pig site is in French and even though I’m technically bilingual being Canadian, some of it I can’t figure out) the pledge rewards are late being sent out along with other issues. Iello is putting the core set on the shelves so it is available for general purchase.

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In a nutshell – great concept and lousy execution. The idea is fabulous – a fast paced WWII game that requires little setup, plays fast and furiously and doesn’t get too bogged down in the details. It’s always a fight when you do a war game whether you want accuracy or speed and this game, in theory, makes it work. The idea is to imagine more “Kelly’s Heroes” or “Dirty Dozen” rather than a war documentary and on that front it works in a lovely form.

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You build your teams using templates and add in units based on how they match the forms, allowing you to work quickly using simple number totals. With all the information on the unit chit you can have a game up and running much quicker than almost any other war game I can recall. The variety of units provide endless variety and the token cliche heroes make it fun while keeping the strategy going.

The fault is in the details – the rules booklet we received had numerous errors with tiles mis-numbered, cards and units listed not in our box and the rules so jumbled up that we’ve resorted to a fan-written version courtesy of BoardGameGeek  (a totally faboo site for anyone who plays any type of game – can’t recommend this enough!) that clarifies the rules, fixes up the errors and basically saves the game.

Without this the rules are a hot mess and gameplay is very frustrating. The hubby and I aren’t that dense and we’ve sat through various videos and scraped through scenarios and we’re still getting basic stuff wrong because of the disorganization in the rules booklet. Add to that pages (yes, I said PAGES!) of errata and I can only give a tentative thumbs up to Heroes of Normandie. I love the idea and I love the execution and I love the quick gameplay but the support from Iello/Devil Pig leaves a lot to be desired. One thread I read on BGG noted that DP seems to be okay with the idea of revising the rules as feedback comes in but I’m not comfortable with that – if I buy a game I want it to be complete, I don’t want to keep having to return to the website and downloading new versions of the rulebook because the creators didn’t want to put in the time and effort to get it right the first time. Having to depend on other fans to clean up the messy ruleset doesn’t sit right with me but, as with all things, your mileage might vary.

There are many planned expansions for the core set with specific units along with settings, giving the game almost unlimited replay ability.  I’m looking forward to many more games myself because I love the template idea and the idea of a fast paced WWII game really appeals to us. Heroes of Normandie really gives that feel of the classic war movie with the big heroes and plenty of action going on.

If you can deal with the aforementioned hot mess regarding the rules then I recommend HoN to you – if you like to play right out of the box you might find this too frustrating to deal with. While I’m not happy about leaning on fans to rewrite the rules and scenarios to make them coherent you might not mind. But it’s obvious that the rush to publish this game has made the final product suffer and I’m not sure it can continue unless the company cleans up their act. Leaving it up to the fans to return again and again to the website to download yet another version of the rules is just plain sloppy, in my opinion.

So a hesitant thumbs-up for HoN if you love wargaming on a limited scale with certain reservations. We’re heading back to Origins again this year and hopefully we’ll be adding more games to our inventory… who am I kidding – we’ll buy WAY more games and we’ll be opening them a year later, like this one!

Game Review – Stuff and Nonsense by Cheapass Games

The hubby LOVES to scour Kickstarter for new and interesting games – we’ve found many great board games through the fund-raising site and don’t plan to stop anytime soon. When he tripped across Stuff and Nonsense by Cheapass Games it was an automatic buy as we love the company and the game looked awesome. This week we received our copy from the Kickstarter campaign and copies should be on the shelves of your local game store or available through the website in a few weeks…

pic2446127_mdpic2446128_mdStuff and Nonsense starts off with the news about Professor Elemental, a famous adventurer, spinning his yarns at the club in Victorian London… but you know that he’s nothing but a windbag! All of his tales are nothing but lies – stories backed up with items he’s purchased from the local stores! But you’re not going to let this continue because YOU are going to start visiting the stores and collect the artifacts and specimens in order to go to the Adventurers’ Club and tell YOUR tall tale in order to dethrone the Professor! But beware because the Professor is on to your plan and is now actively chasing you through the city to make sure you don’t get the items and return to the club to tell your own story and steal his thunder!

This is a great card game for 2-8 players who love to chat and enjoy a good laugh. Each player takes the role of one would-be adventurer. Your goal is to visit the shops and collect cards that will allow you to claim to have visited one of five places (Africa, Mt. Everest, China, Antarctica and the Amazon). Each location requires a number of cards with the same symbols on it and you score points by adding up the points on the individual cards plus the location bonus. For example Africa only needs two cards to score while the Amazon needs six – meaning you need one card from each shop since you can’t duplicate the locations. But even as you return to the Club and get points for your tall tale the other members are tiring of the location so as soon as you finish the points for that location degrade and one other location rises, showing the new popular site.

10f2da49a9e499cf0b9130361131ebe6_originalAnd while you’re seeking out the most points for your story Professor Elemental is chasing you around – the good Professor starts at a random location and effectively locks that site down – if you go to the site to collect a card you’ll pay a penalty of either losing a card from your hand or giving up one point per card in your hand. But the Professor doesn’t stay still – you must have eight cards on the various locations at all times so when you take a card off the stack to replace the one you just took you will check the bottom of the card to see if there’s an arrow there to indicate the Professor’s movement. If the number is equal or higher to the number of players in the game he moves one spot clock-wise, coming closer to you and your ill-gotten gains. If he catches you in the shop you pay the penalty as mentioned above so it’s good to keep ahead of the good Professor as long as you can!

Each of the cards has a funny little story and cartoon to be read when you detail your adventure using the cards for reference – being a writer I don’t like games that make me basically do for fun what I do for work but S&N works in a lovely way where even if you’re not a wordsmith you can just read the cards and a hysterical story comes out.

Price-wise you couldn’t get a more fun game for your money. Small, portable and it only takes up a bit of space as you lay out the cards and tokens. We enjoyed a great game last night and expect to be introducing more of our friends to the game as time goes on. The replay ability is high on this since you never know where your cards will lead you and while there’s various strategies that can work in the end it’s all up to how the cards are shuffled, adding a luck component to the game.

Cheapass Games has a great deal of support already available for the game, starting with a faboo video here. You can also download the print and play version and give it a trial run before laying out the hard cash for a full cop.

Stuff and Nonsense is a great pocket game for anyone who loves to either spin tall tales or listen to them – the format is easy to understand, the cards entertaining and amusing and the gameplay fast and furious as each of you try to out-perform the other. Another great buy from Cheapass Games and Kickstarter!

Game Review – Star Realms from White Wizard Games

I’ve always loved card games from way back when I’d play euchre during my lunch break in high school. I tripped into Magic: The Gathering when it was in Beta (yes, I’m THAT old!) and over the years the hubby and I have snatched up various card games for our collection. We’ve collected the Living Card Games and the Collectible Card Games but you can never have too many card games…

boxWhich is why when I picked up a copy of Star Realms on a whim at our local game store I was excited to see how it worked – the space theme hooked the hubby from the start and once we broke the pack open and got going… well let’s just say that within hours we’d planned to get the expansion packs and I downloaded the digital app.

Star Realms is a deck-building game for two players – it’s our second one, after Valley of the Kings. What that means is that you start off with a basic set of cards and add in more cards from the game as time goes on. You build your deck and recycle cards back into play over turns. AEG did a great job with Valley of the Kings and I thought I’d never find a more fun game… until Star Realms!

The objective is to reduce your opponent’s Influence (or hit points as the gamer in me demands it be called) from fifty to zero. You can place obstacles in the way like outposts or bases but these can (and will!) be destroyed as your opponent puts more powerful cards into play.

The game was designed by ex-Magic players and it shows with the balanced factions. All four factions are equally balanced in my opinion and offer bonuses and minuses for players. Since you’ll likely end up playing two or three factions to build your deck up it’s great to have them all mesh well with each other.

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You start off with a small deck of Scouts and Vipers which will deliver you money for purchasing more ships or bases and Vipers who deliver attacks. As the game goes on there’s an option to remove some of them from play so that you can whittle your deck down and make it more compressed and stronger without the starter cards. Some cards give you back Authority and deliver punishing blows if you have more than one ship with the same faction in play. Others are bases and outposts that protect you from direct attacks from your opponent. Outposts must be destroyed first, however, and then you can deliver remaining damage to your opponent. But given how powerful some bases are you might choose to take them out.

diagramYour play area has five cards in play for you to purchase along with a set of neutral Explorer ship cards. This allows you to pretty well be able to afford anything no matter how bad your draws are in the start of the game. As time goes on cards move out of play into your decks and also may be discarded by certain cards who will strip them out of the game.

Star Realms plays fast, is fun and has great artwork. I’ve noted before that to me artwork is a necessary piece for a game to be successful – I have no doubt that most of M:TG’s success is because of the faboo art. You can have a great game mechanic but if the art sucks you’re not getting my money.

Star Realms already has expansion packs out but you can enjoy the game with just the starter deck. There is an option for more than two players (if you get another few decks) but it’s a great game for just two players and one you’ll want to play over and over again as you experiment with different alliances and the base abilities.

The game support for this is also fantastic. Aside from being able to download the rules and excellent website support you can get the digital version for free and learn the game that way. If you want to pay for an upgrade you can play against other players online or you can keep it as a resource for yourself for free – it includes a card gallery and you can always go back and redo the tutorial if you need a refresher or aren’t sure about the rules.

I highly recommend Star Realms for anyone who loves card games and loves a fast portable game. If I had a complaint it’d be that some of the card stock is a bit flimsy and card protectors may become necessary if you’re a vibrant shuffler like I am. But that’s a little negative and easily balanced out by the fun gameplay and addictive nature of this game.

If you see this one – grab it and get ready for hours of gaming fun!