Something big happened at Gen Con this year, which has necessitated a change to my website that you might notice above in the banner. I am officially a game designer now! Yes, it is true. My first sold game Shadowrun Sprawl Ops was announced at Gen Con and displayed in a case at the Catalyst Game Labs booth. I don't look proud at all, do I? So yes, I can officially say that I am a professional game designer now. I can't answer too many questions about it, but as you can see in the photos, it is coming soon. This kept me smiling through the entire convention!
So I am very excited to share the fact that I have a new piece of writing out and available. It is a novella, set in the Shadowrun universe. This has been something that has been very long in coming and that I have worked very hard for, so I am proud to have it available. Here is the synopsis from the Drive Thru RPG site.
Lucas, a gifted shaman and member of the Salish-Shidhe Council, is respected for his arcane talents among his tribe. When he’s blinded during a shadowrun on an Evo Corporation outpost, he’s fitted with a set of cybereyes during his recovery. But upon his return to the Council, the tribe banishes him, saying the cyberware he’s accepted makes him unfit to be a shaman. Distraught, Lucas heads to Seattle and spends time in the Barrens attempting to scrape by.
Wanting revenge against Evo, he teams up with a group of shadowrunners, influencing them to take runs against the megacorporation. During one such run, they determine that Evo is retrieving an arcane artifact from a dig site located in Salish-Shidhe territory. Lucas convinces his team to take the initiative and either stop the dig or steal the artifact. But when a team member double-crosses Lucas and the others, he must race against time to discover the true masterminds behind this shadowrun…and stop the thief before they escape with both the artifact and Lucas’s last chance for redemption…
Now that I have been back for a while from Iceland, I decided it was well past time to post an update about the adventures we had there. I uploaded all of the pictures (at least the ones I thought worth sharing) to my Facebook page, but provided very little details on the pictures themselves. I wanted to share some of the stories as well, which should come as no surprise to pretty much anyone reading this post.
For those who weren't aware, the trip to Iceland was in celebration for Sheena and Todd's wedding. We arrived two days before the ceremony, planning on doing some exploring and activities around the hotel. We left Seattle early in the morning and landed in Iceland at about 2300 local time. In the SeaTac airport, I debated whether or not to check my bag. I normally carry it on - I hate checking bags. But, it was a direct flight, we were already checking one bag, and it was free. So, I thought "what could happen?" and checked my bag. At least now I wouldn't need to worry about finding space for it on the plane.
We landed and went to the baggage claim, only to find that my bag wasn't there. There was another section for "unusually shaped bags", so we spent about 30 minutes going back and forth between the two baggage claim areas, but nothing showed up. When I went to report my bag missing, I was told I had to wait an hour before they could do anything. After waiting an hour, I filled out a report, and they said that it was probably not put on the plane and that they would put it on the first flight the next day. So, I should have it shortly. On the plus side, they did volunteer to drive it to the hotel. However, I had to go through a special customs line because my bag was lost where I was grilled about everything that was in it, down to the most minute detail. All because my bag was lost. Then we stood outside in the very cold temperature (my jacket and my pants were in my missing bag - I wore shorts on the plane) in an empty parking lot, waiting for a bus to take us to the car rental place. When we finally got there, the car company had no record of our reservation! Luckily, they had enough cars that it wasn't a problem, but at this point, at one in the morning, it was not looking good for our trip.
Then we started a two and a half hour drive in the fog that was so thick that lights made it harder to see. Every time we started to see lights and signs of civilization, our directions told us to turn away and enter the wilderness. We had serious questions for where we were going. But, eventually, at about 0330, we arrived at the hotel - only to discover the door was locked and you had to call a number to be let in. We were so tired and punch drunk at this point that we just stared at the sign, because neither of our phones were set up to work in Iceland. Luckily, a wonderful receptionist saw us waiting at the door and let us in to check into our room. From there, the trip started to look up.
The next day we started our adventures in earnest, staying close to the hotel because my bag was due to arrive around 1400. We drove around, and the first thing we saw that stood out was the viking gate here. It just felt like it was so appropriate. It just seems so... Icelandic. We had to get a picture, even stopping on the road and turning around to go back.
That first day we stayed in a fairly small radius, taking detours wherever we found one. There was a lot of small hiking down trails and up hills where we would just pull up to the side of the road and climb out of the car. I was amazed at how many horses there were everywhere. Most of the areas seemed fenced off, but there were still a lot of places open to exploring. Including climbing down into a sinkhole. In my defense, I didn't know it was a sinkhole at the time. We didn't find that out until much later that night when we had dinner with other friends there for the wedding.
And now let me pause for a moment of recapping and just share this street sign. This is one of the signs along the highway that you are supposed to be able to use (I imagine) while driving down the road at 70 km/h. Not knowing Icelandic, or where we were, we found that to be a little daunting. This is just one of many signs, but one that I think best summarizes our experience. That made a lot of sense to us!
That night we went to go see a horse show centered around the myths and legends of the Icelandic horse, and I learned quite a bit. One of the fascinating things I found out is that the Icelandic horse is apparently one of the most genetically pure breeds of horse in the world. In the 12th century, vikings declared that no new horses would be brought to the island, and that rule has been maintained ever since. In fact, if an Icelandic horse ever leaves the island, it can never come back. They have been bred to survive in Iceland for generations, and as such as very specialized mounts.
Later in our trip, we would get an opportunity to ride some, but for right now we had to settle for the show and being able to tour the stables. I also learned that the Icelandic horse has a gait that no other horse has: the tolt. It is a very steady gait and is characterized by always having one hoof on the ground.
The next day was the wedding day, and that was a gigantic bustle of activity. Even just listing all of the activities would take a lot of time to write out! Sheena and Todd had a very energetic and enthusiastic wedding planner who made sure we were always keeping to a very intense itinerary. It was great to see so many different places in such a short amount of time, and not have to do any of the driving! We started with the wedding itself which was held in this lava tube that stretches for several kilometers. The cave was mystical and rocky, and quite literally breathtaking. When the ceremony was over, I climbed through to the dark areas in the back, and with the mist and fog, it really looked like a dragon cave.
From there, the whirlwind commenced and we went to black sand beach, an old fisherman's hut, a lighthouse, Thingvellir National Park, and more. The park was amazing because it is literally where two tectonic plates meet. It is a very popular tourist spot and was expectedly crowded, but it was well worth visiting. Just being there is a little bit humbling and awe inspiring.
After our full day of touring and activities, there was the reception with some amazing food. I do think that it is worth mentioning that the food we had in Iceland was fantastic. There was not a bad meal that we had during our entire stay. However, it was also incredibly expensive compared to what I am used to paying back here in the States. It is not surprising, considering how much needs to be imported to Iceland, but it was still a bit of a shock that took some getting used to.
The next day, we bid adieu to our friends and toured Iceland on our own, heading along the south coast all the way to Vik and then a bit further. One of our first stops was a geothermal plant that we wanted to tour. It is fascinating to think of how much of Iceland's energy and heat comes from sources like geothermal energy. Apparently, all of the hot water in Reykjavik is supplied from the plant we toured, and even though it is transferred long distances, it only loses two degrees during it's journey. The inner science geek in me had a field day at the plant, seeing how it all works and then picking up some flavored salts to use once we got back home. Seriously - I was recently introduced to flavored salts, and they are amazing. I used some smoked birch salt in meatballs last night, and it provides just a nice little touch of smokey flavor. This is a new thing in my culinary repository and I cannot recommend it enough. But I digress.
The next place we found was Seljalandsfoss Waterfall, which was and is still my favorite place that we found in Iceland. The waterfall itself was something almost out of this world. You can climb down to where it crashes into the water, only a few feet away from you. There is a trail that goes all the way around it and is well worth walking, as long as you don't mind getting a little bit wet. I am a water creature, and just loved being around it and soaking it all in - sometimes literally.
If you continue following the path, you find that it leads to a large cave where another waterfall comes down and crashes into this hidden pool. I had to go inside. If you don't want to get your shoes wet, you need to step from rock to rock through a narrow split in the mountain. Once you are in there, the entire place opens up into this large cavern with the water cascading down from overhead in this near-deafening roar. You are secluded from the outside world and feel like you have stepped into another one completely. It was magical. There is no better word to describe it.
From there we continued our theme of driving along and stopping at any place that seemed interesting. One thing that we noticed is that it is very clear why a lot of filming is popular in Iceland. The terrain is so varied, and in such a small area! You can go from hot springs, to a beach, to a rocky wasteland, to lush fields in a matter of minutes. Heck, on one single day we walked through a rocky flat wasteland (more on that in a moment), toured a beach, hiked a mountain, climbed to the top of a waterfall, walked in a glacier, and spent some time in some green pasture fields. And that day wasn't even rushed or had the most driving in it!
Speaking of that wasteland...
We were driving along when I saw that we could get to the ocean just be hiking across a flat field. So we pulled over to the side of the road and decided to start the trek to the ocean. I didn't think it would take that long, only a few minutes since it didn't look like it was that far. About two hours later, I learned some very valuable lessons. First, I cannot measure distances accurately across level ground. While I have been in the wilderness a fair amount in the forest and in the mountains, open plains is a whole different kind of wilderness. In D&D terms, I understand why you need to specialize your wilderness survival with specific terrain types. Secondly, I saw how feasible it was for people to have walked across long distances in the desert or in fields, always thinking they just had a bit further to go, and then collapsing from exhaustion. Lesson learned. Flat wasteland is worse than I thought!
We saw several more mountains, walked around a few other waterfalls, and yes, even did manage to hike onto a glacier. We didn't go too far down that road, because it required ice climbing gear we were not equipped with, but we wanted to at least walk on the glacier to say we did it. How often do you get to say that? Especially when earlier that day you were walking and playing in the ocean?
The next big event we had was horseback riding, and that was a treat. I was astounded at how small the horses were, and how hairy. Yes, I realize that sounds odd, but it is true. They even had long hairs coming out of their nose and all around their eyes. It makes sense considering their climate, but it was still very different from what I was used to. And even more surprising, this was their summer coat. It was thicker than most winter coats I know on horses from around here! Again, it makes perfect sense, but it was a noticeable oddity.
My faithful steed for the day was Brunni, who was the largest of the horses out there and had this "I can do it, I want to be in front!" attitude the entire time. I spent most of the entire ride convincing him that he wasn't allowed to pass the guide. Needless to say, probably a good match for me - or a horrible match depending on your point of view. I would frequently try to keep him at the back of the ride, but that would last for no more than five minutes before he was trying to shoulder his way to the front.
I did have a chance to ride the tolt, and I have to say, it is incredibly smooth! At first it was make me very tired in the core because I was trying to move along and force myself to sit it. But once I relaxed into the gait and kept my core loose, everything just clicked together and flowed smoothly. It is a fast pace too! Those horses can cover an amazing amount of ground, especially over rocky terrain that would normally make me terrified of a horse injury. Wonderful animals, and definitely one of the best things of the trip.
After that, we had a couple of days of quiet exploring, including a brief retreat to a spa and gym, where I did in fact go swimming in an outdoor pool in Iceland. I don't know why, but it made me happy to do that especially since it wasn't a hot spring. We were going to go to Blue Lagoon, but had to change our plans because it was the one thing we didn't schedule ahead of time and it is so popular that you need to do so. In retrospect, it is also very expensive, so perhaps it was best that we did not go.
We also went to go see some old volcanoes and hiked around some hot springs - not the kind for swimming in. In fact, they had warning signs about how your shoes could melt if you walked off the path. They also had some very interesting plaques about local myths and folklore regarding the steam vents that were good to read and very inspiring. It definitely was a trip that was good for writing purposes as well as just general relaxation.
Our way back was luckily uneventful and all of the baggage arrived. However, it did take almost two hours to get through customs on this side, something that I was not expecting. And for the record, once you leave the plane, there are no bathrooms until you have finished with customs. Just something you might want to be aware of for your own travels. It was a wonderful trip, and so much more happened, but much more than I could ever get in a single blog post. Well worth it, and energizing on multiple levels.
I know that this postmortem is overdue, but life has been busy. The largest thing is the fact that I returned from Gen Con only to have to hit the ground running since the Seattle Knights were in the middle of the Midsummer Renaissance Faire. It is our largest show in the year and is three solid weekends of fighting, riding, jousting, and entertaining the patrons. For me, this was the debut of my new armor. I acquired a set of Polish Winged Hussar armor, and the wings made quite an entrance. For those who are so inclined, there are several pictures up and connected to my Facebook account. Although here is one of my favorites.
But I digress. I merely wanted to explain part of the reason why this postmortem is so long in coming. The convention was extremely busy, even more so than usual. Gen Con is always my busy convention, usually because I am splitting my time between working a table, talking on panels, spending time with friends I only see a couple of times a year, and of course talking with other professionals to see if there are more writing opportunities. This year, added to that mix, I had my board game that I wanted to put in front of any publishers who might possibly express an interest.
In summary, it was absolutely amazing, and I have more work to do than I have ever had on my plate before when it comes to my creative endeavors! This is very exciting and a wonderful problem to have. First off, I was able to talk with several companies about my game. For most of the companies, it was very short since these were cold calls. I would talk about the game briefly and drop off a one-sheet of information. I have yet to hear from any of those, but there is still time.
More directly, I was able to present my game to a couple of companies. Both of the ones that I spoke to in detail about it acknowledged that it was very well designed and expressed an interest in playing it. Considering that these were professional game publishers, I was very excited to get that reaction! One of the companies did admit that the game was not for them because of some of the mechanics, but they told me that they thought it would only be a matter of time and finding the right publisher. The other publisher said they might be interested in it and we would talk further.
Considering this is the first time I have ever attempted designing a board game, I am ecstatic at the reviews and feedback I am receiving. I also pulled it out for a few other writers and friends at a writing get together, and while we didn’t get to play the entire game before last call, they did very much like what they played and said they would like to play a full game sometime. So now I am starting to believe that it is only a matter of time until I can officially add game designer to my resume!
As far as the writing is concerned, I had some very good meetings with people who want to see work that isn’t created yet! I don’t want to speak about such things in too much detail until we see what happens, but I do want to say that I have a heck of a lot of work to do! As I mentioned before, this is a very good problem to have. No I just need to find the time to create it all.
Outside of business, it was great to see old friends and meet some new ones. As per usual, we did our annual True Dungeon run. It was fun, but for the first time in many years, we did not survive the final room. We thought we had a final solution, but we ran out of time to test it. It did not help that someone (yes, me) suddenly got a bloody nose in the last minute of the puzzle. I honestly don’t know what happened, but my nose literally started running blood in the darkness. I think I freaked out the DMs in the room more than myself or anyone in my group! Needless to say, there was no real damage; it was just a random freak accident. It definitely added something different to the adventure!
As always, I stayed until Sunday to enjoy some peace and quiet before having to brave the airport once again. Thankfully, I was not flying Delta, so was not affected by that insanity on my trip home. It was uneventful, for which I am extremely grateful.
All in all, it was a wonderfully productive convention, even if it was even more exhausting than normal. Many positive things came out of it, and I am excited about the prospects laying before me. Now it is time to get back to all that writing I mentioned!
Hey folks. It's that time of year again, when I am about to be Gen Con bound! I am very much looking forward to it. As usual for the past several years, I will have a table in the Authors Avenue section of the dealers hall. Come by and say hi if you will be in the area and check out some books either from myself or the other authors that are there.
I'm also going to be talking on panels throughout the convention. Here is my schedule and what I will be talking about. It is a good bet that if I don't have something on my schedule at a time when the dealers hall is open, I'll be at my table.
9:00 am - Crowdfunding 101
11:00 am - Signing in the exhibit hall
5:00 pm - Business of writing, media tie-in market
I'm a fiction writer, a game designer, a computer programmer, a hardcore gamer, and a professional sword swinger. I have a thirst for adventure and am a bit of an adrenaline junkie. I try to put a bit of that into all of my stories, and I do love telling stories!