Monday, August 23, 2010

The Grue Cafe: Episode 2

(Image:  Rox's 1st Place Trophy for Role Playing in Dragoncon 97)

In Episode #2 of The Grue Cafe, my sister, "Rox of Spazhouse," is joined by her cohost, Kim along with Peter White to discuss the pros and cons of convention gaming:

The "Grue Crew" has a slightly different take on gaming at conventions, because gaming is not the primary focus during events like Atlanta's Dragoncon, or our own Norwescon.  So it becomes a question of how much gaming do you want to do, versus other important happenings--like attending panels hosted by Kelly LeBrock, Summer Glau or Barbara Eden.  (See Dragoncon 2010's Guest List under Film & Television).



However, much of their advice can apply to wargame conventions as well--such as scheduling time to take care of personal hygiene.  Unfortunately, this seems to be a recurring theme, and a common bond among gamers of all types.  So please shower, or bathe regularly!  Your fellow gamers/attendees will appreciate that you did.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

One Day Novel Writing Seminar with Bob Mayer

This was a first for PNWA (Pacific Northwest Writers Association).  Normally, the first day of their annual writers conference is primarily for member registration with a few afternoon seminars thrown in.  This year, the association sponsored a day-long, novel writing seminar taught by Bob Mayer.

Bob is a best selling author, former US Army Special Forces officer, resident of the Pacific Northwest and is a regular host to PNWA events.  For this special edition, condensed version of his novel writing seminar, Bob discussed the following topics in rapid-fire style:

The Original Idea:  The Heart of Your Story and Key to Selling Your Book

Plot and Outline: The Events of Your Story

Point of View:  The Voice of Your Story

Characters:  The People of Your Story

Selling and Marketing Your Book, and finally,

The Current State and Future of the Publishing Business for the Writer

I managed to scribble down 27 pages of barely legible notes, so I won't go into exhaustive detail about this excellent workshop. Instead, I'll jot down a key point, or three,  in each topic.

Do you have an original idea?  Think again.  Most story ideas are based on previous tales, some reaching far back into early mythology.  The trick is to tell your story from a unique perspective, with a unique voice, or with a twist, like Gregory Maguire's Wicked.

While "stuff" happens to us in real life, with no apparent rhyme or reason, your story must move in a specific direction.  The story's plot is about a protagonist trying to solve a problem and a series of events that outline the action.  This action consists of five narrative elements:  The Initiating Event, (the catalyst for adventure); Rising Action (the stakes get higher); Crisis (the do or die moment); Climax (the final showdown) and Resolution (not necessarily "happily ever after").

Who's telling your story?  The point of view (POV) must be consistent throughout the narrative.  For instance, all the Sherlock Holmes tales are told from Dr. Watson's perspective.  While you're not limited to writing from a faithful companion's standpoint, you should avoid "head hopping," that is, switching the viewpoint in the middle of a scene.  Also, most readers can't handle 3 POVs, so keep the POV changes between the Protagonist and Antagonist.

And speaking of characters, your story should focus on the main two:  The Protagonist and the Antagonist.  But unless these two opponents are cage fighters, they should have a supporting cast, like a side kick, love interest, allies and minions, etc., to help them achieve their competing goals.  This shows your characters are interconnected as real people would be.

Once you've typed "The End," getting your manuscript published becomes your next full-time occupation.  Keep in mind though, traditional publishing industry moves at glacial speed, so in the 3 years it may take for your book to hit the shelves, you need to be your own PR rep.  That is, take advantage of today's technology by blogging, establishing a website and getting involved in social networking.  Doing this will generate enough buzz and create a fan base, that publishing companies will view as profitable--and therefore,  keep you gainfully employed as a successful writer.

Okay, this post is a mere snowflake on the tip of the Novel Writing Workshop Iceburg.  For more information on Bob Mayer's books and seminars, check out his website:

Bob is also the co-creator of Who Dares Wins Publishing:

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Premiere Podcast of "The Grue Cafe"

My sister, "Rox of Spazhouse," along with a couple of friends started a new gaming podcast called The Grue Cafe.  In this premiere episode, Character Creation, Rox, Kim and "Doc" Ezra discuss what drew them into the gaming hobby, what do they look for in a game and what game(s) are they playing now:

Rox is primarily a role-playing gamer, while Kim and Doc are into computer games, so most of the discussion centers on these gaming genres. 

The Grue Cafe is one of many entertaining podcasts that can be found on the Need Coffee dot com website, specializing in entertainment and pop culture, run by "Widge."  Their most famous (or is it "infamous?") podcasts is a program called Weekend Justice, which is posted every Friday.

Sunday, August 1, 2010



A few months ago, I offered to GM (game master) a Star Wars RPG (role-playing game) for my friends in the Puyallup Wargamers group.  While I'm still in the throes of developing the campaign, I plan on hosting the first adventure by the end of this month.  In the meantime, here is the opening vignette for the initial adventure, set in what is known as the "Legacy Era," some 130 years after the Battle of Yavin (Star Wars: Episode IV, A New Hope):

Here on the Outer Rim, it is said that happiness is seeing the planet Bongolaan in the aft viewport…

At least that’s an image you hope to glimpse when the Aimless Drifter lifts-off from this rock tomorrow. In the meantime, you sip your drink, touch the boarding pass in your pocket like a talisman, and enjoy the Galactic New Year’s Eve party, sponsored by Bongolaan’s newly elected president-for-life, Zeveg Bharzi. Fortunately, the Dear Leader has yet to join the festivities within the palace’s ballroom. Instead, His Excellency is taking visiting dignitaries on an evening tour of Ratankiri, assuming the joyful rent-a-crowds of the planet’s capital will convince the delegates of his popularity.

As you make your way back to the bar for another drink, the band starts to play “Red Stars at Night,” a hit by the holo-vid group,The Sixthe, nearly 30 years ago. Shouldering your way past frenzied dancers, many already high on ryll, giggledust--or both, you realize your fellow off-worlders already beat you to your destination. Once clear of the gyrating mob, you readjust your formal attire, pat your sidearm for reassurance and join your companions-by-circumstance at the bar.

"Red stars at night. Wo oh. Oh oh oh…"

"Red stars at night. Wo oh. Oh oh oh…"

All of you spent the past several months with relief agencies attempting to repair damage caused by last year’s earthquake. However, this first assignment away from your respective homeworlds turned sour shortly after making planetfall. Instead of helping the citizens of Ratankiri rebuild their lives, Alliance credits were used to subsidize gabaki plantation owners and to bribe Bharzi’s supporters--thus ensuring his election. While funds were siphoned-off, relief supplies turned up on the black market throughout the Shannekam Subsector.

"Should have taken warning…"

The Galactic Alliance will investigate Bharzi’s “Credits for Cronies Program,” thanks in part, to your report. Unfortunately, probing Bongolaanian boondoggles will remain on the back micro-burner. Despite the approaching New Year, the Alliance’s war against Roan Fel’s Imperial Remnant continues unabated. The last holo-bite speculated Admiral Stazi's Core Fleet was en route to the Cirius System, hoping for a showdown against the Imperial Armada reported near the ravaged world of Camaas.

"Running, hiding, lost…"

"Couldn’t find, find a place to go…"

But news travels slowly from the Core Worlds to the Outer Rim. So far, there have been no reports of the battle’s outcome—or even if a battle was fought in the first place.

Oh, well. No new is good news, right?

You hoist your fresh drink, turn to your companions and offer a silent “cheers” to ring in the New Year. Everyone quietly raises their glasses in return. Everybody that is, except the human female at the end of the bar, chattering into her comlink, in a vain attempt to be heard over the din of the party.  A recent arrival, she’s an aide to one of the fringe-world VIPs, on a mission to negotiate a new trade deal. While sipping your drink, you recall some trivia about her homeworld Tarsus, an agricultural world beyond the Alliance’s border, known primarily for its beef products and temperature extremes. The cattle baroness is obviously too busy hawking her bantha burgers to join the celebration.

"Someone’s taking over…"

Before any of you sip your drinks, a roar of thunder overpowers the deafening music and reverberates throughout the ballroom. You and your companions gaze up at the shivering skylights, then glance at each other and give a collective shrug. The burger queen continues to prattle-on, despite three more thunderclaps in quick succession, each sounding closer than the last. From what you remember of Bongolaan’s geography, storms during the dry season at these latitudes are unusual, but not unheard of.

"Someone said we could be dead by morning…"

Oh, well. As long as the approaching tempest doesn’t spoil the party, right?

"Red stars at night. Wo oh. Oh oh oh…"

"Red stars at night. Wo oh. Oh oh oh…"

Note: “The Sixthe” and “Red Stars at Night,” were inspired by the band “The Fixx” and their song “Red Sky at Night.”

Bongolaan's name was partly derived from Mike Murphy's "Bongolesia," while Ratankiri was based on the name of the Cambodian city Ratanakiri.

Some notable drugs-of-choice in the "galaxy far, far away..."