Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Made the List!

(Image by Adrian N.:  The Battle of Heraclea, Enfilade 2010).

Stern Rake Studio is now listed in the Blogs of War, by Steve Blease.  This "blog of blogs" lists the links of over 940 sites, at the time of this post, devoted to various aspects of the wargaming hobby. 

Because of the unique nature of Steve's blog, I gave it distinct spot under the sidebar title Wargame Bloggers Index.  This way, viewers have a clearly defined index of other gaming blogs they can explore:

Wargamers have utilized the internet from the very beginning in various ways to enhance our favorite hobby:  From transmitting game turn moves via e-mail, coordinating gaming activities, writing table-top after-action reviews (AARs--with lots of pictures!), participating in on-line forums, to running entire campaigns in the realm of cyberspace.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Happy 10K!

I started this blog in October 2008 and this evening the Studio Views Counter just hit 10,000.

I'm honored that folks find this site interesting enough to spend some time here.

During the past 2 years, I've revamped, updated and tweeked this site to it's current form.  However, maintaining a blog is never static and I'll continue to improve the quality of this site, along with my YouTube movies and graphic novels.

In the meantime, I'd like to thank everyone for stopping by.  Your visits make this all worthwhile.

Happy Holidays!  And I hope 2011 is a fine and prosperous one for all of us!



"The Day the Music Died"

Yesterday, fans of Seattle's Smooth Jazz Station, KWJZ 98.9, received a shock:  The station now called "Click FM" changed its format and will no longer be playing jazz.  I've enjoyed listening to this station from the first night I tuned in to it 12 years ago this very month.

Sometimes, it's small events that make you say "WTF?" While this radio station's format change may not have any earth-shattering geo-political repurcussions, it is truly upsetting to long-time listeners.

When I first tuned in last night, I thought someone had their wires crossed, or there was some atmospheric disturbance causing my radio to receive a Portland radio station. (That's happened before). Then I went online, saw the notice on the website and received Carol Handley's newsletter in my e-mail account.

I discovered smooth jazz when I moved here 12 years ago. I was flipping through the stations and came across Diana Rose's lovely voice during one of her City Lights programs.

She certainly got my attention!

Then the music grew on me and I've loved jazz ever since.

I never thought I'd take a deactivation of a radio station so hard, but I'm really saddened to see KWJZ dissappear from the airwaves, because it introduced me to a new realm of music.

Text of Carol Handley's newsletter message:

To the KWJZ Family,

For 19 years 98.9 KWJZ has been presenting a mix of Smooth Jazz music for you, our very loyal music fans and radio listeners. It is with sadness that we inform you that this era for 98.9 FM has come to a close.

Technologies change and the new radio audience measurement is not favoring our once “ratings-strong” Smooth Jazz music format. I encourage you to continue to support the artists who make the music and the venues who bring them to the Northwest.

It is with huge gratitude on behalf of the entire KWJZ staff that we thank you for being here with us for these many years.


Carol Handley
Program Director

 The fans certainly are not happy.  The station's Facebook page is still up and running, while the complaints continue to pour in, (you must have a Facebook account to read the link):!/989KWJZ

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Stern Rake Studio Fan Page

I just announced a "public opening" of the Stern Rake Studio fan page on Facebook.  By doing this, I'm hoping to increase awareness of my work. Ever since reading Christina Katz's book, Get Known Before the Book Deal, I've been slowly developing my platform as a wargame graphic novelist and YouTube movie producer.  However, it was reading a blog post by Kristen Lamb, author of We Are Not Alone: The Writer's Guide to Social Media, that inspired me to develop the Facebook fan page.

According to Ms. Lamb, once 25 or more people become fans, by clicking on the "like" button, then Facebook will recognize me as the sole proprietor of Stern Rake Studio.

So please feel free to log on to Facebook and become a fan today.

Links to platform and social network savvy authors:

The first time I heard the term "platform," or a writer's expertise, was at a workshop hosted by Karen Burns during last year's PNWA (Pacific Northwest Writers Association) Summer Conference.

Karen Burns' website:

The pages of my copy of Get Known Before the Book Deal, is predominantly yellow because of all highlighted passages.

Christina Katz's website:

At this time, I haven't gotten around to purchasing Kristen's book, but if her blog posts are any indicator of her writing, then I'm looking forward to buying and reading it.

Kristen Lamb's website: 

Kristen Lamb's blog:

Friday, December 24, 2010

Oldie, but Goodie (and Freebie!)

For the past week, I've been working on game counters I downloaded from Dwarfstar Games.

Remember Dwarfstar Games

I do.  This company, produced several "micro games" in its short run between 1981--1982.  If I remember correctly, each game cost about $5--a great price for an unemployed teenager in the '80s.  Now, thanks to the internet and desktop publishing, the cost of these out-of-print games is even better.  That is, all but one of them are now free downloads: 

Click on the icon of the game for an overview, along with download instructions and links to PDFs.  Of the original eight titles, the only one not available is Dragon Rage, designed by Lewis Pulsipher.

During the original print releases, I managed to buy 3 games:  Goblin, Demonlord and Barbarian Prince.  Of these, I played Goblin and Demonlord with my brother and really enjoyed their simple and straightforward game mechanics.  I tried playing Barbarian Prince, but at the time, with all my gaming friends living close by, I wasn't at all interested in playing a solitaire game. 

Unfortunately these games became casualties of my frequent moves during my military career.  A couple of years ago, I came across the Dwarfstar website and downloaded all the available material.  Other gaming and writing projects have kept me busy, so I didn't get around to printing the rules and counters until recently.

I've always purchased boardgames with an eye for utilizing them as campaign systems, or scenario generators, for miniature battles and role-playing game (RPG) sessions.  So I'm a bit more forgiving of Dwarfstar's "hit & miss" editorial quality control.  My current plan then is to incorporate Star Viking, Star Smuggler and Grav Armor into my Star Wars: Redshift Campaign.

Now that I've been blogging and posting YouTube videos for two years now, I've finally developed an interest in playing solitaire games, especially since Barbarian Prince and Star Smuggler can be story generators for movies or graphic novels.   
So, stay tuned...

Wikipedia has a short entry on Dwarfstar's titles and authors:

Friday, December 17, 2010

21st YouTube Movie Posted--the Road to Heraclea

(Image:  Pyrrhus' campaign in southern Italy and Sicily)

Back in May, I managed to attend the last day of NHMGS (Northwest Historical Miniature Gaming Society) Enfilade 2010 Convention.  I lucked out and snagged a spot for the Warhammer Ancient Battles (WAB) game my friends Adrian and Dean were running.  Their scenario:  The Battle of Heraclea, 280 B.C.

I took over 200 photos of our battle, which will be the subject of my next movie.  While researching the background of this battle, I became fascinated by Pyrrhus' campaign in southern Italy, because I knew very little about it.  So I decided to making a "prequel" would be a good way to show how and why Rome and Epirus (northwestern Greece) came to blows.

Wikipedia provided a general overview of the campaign:

To illustrate the course of the events, I used the game Rise of the Roman Republic, by GMT Games. (Pyrrhus' campaign is one of the scenarios).

The Road to Heraclea--The Movie:

WAB, produced by Games Workshop (GW), is a popular rules set among miniature wargamers.  Jeff Jonas wrote a Heraclea scenario based on WAB, along with a short narrative of the historical battle, and posted it on his blog:

Richard Evers, another WAB enthusiast, used Jeff's scenario and played a game of his own.  His battle report can be read on his website:

What was the outcome of our battle?  Stay tuned to find out...

Sunday, December 12, 2010

PNWA Christmas Party 2010

Last night, I managed to get enough of my pre-Christmas chores done in order to attend the PNWA (Pacific Northwest Writers Association) Christmas party.  The Holiday get-together was held at the newly opened Writer's Cottage in Issaquah.  I'm not sure what the head-count was, but I'm sure there was at least 30 people attending. 

The association brought in four of it's published authors to discuss their work, motivation and writing style; along with bringing a bunch of their books for members to purchase and have autographed. 

The first interview of the evening was with Elizabeth Boyle, (pictured above, center), an historical romance author.

Elizabeth's website:

Susan Wingate, (center, above), has written books in a variety of genres, such as: Literary fiction, noir mystery, memoir and short stories, just to name a few.

Susan's website:

Marcella Burnard, (above, center), a sci-fi romance author will have her second book, Enemy Games, published in May.   I purchased her debut novel, Enemy Within, which has some real kick-ass cover art:

Marcella's website:

Robert Dugoni, an author specializing in legal thrillers, encourages the audience to keep writing.  In the 3-4 years I've been attending PNWA's summer conferences, Bob has played master of ceremonies throughout each event.  In each workshop he provides an "I've been where you're at" perspective and gives 100% of himself back to the association he attributes as the key to his success.

Bob's website:

Jason Black is a book doctor.  That is, a type of freelance editor, assisting authors in making their works-in-progress (WIC) more marketable.

I'm currently taking a Popular Fiction class, taught by PNWA's president Pam Binder.  A couple of weeks ago, Jason was our guest speaker and talked about the finer points of the "show, don't tell" concept of writing.  (A more detailed post on this workshop will be uploaded soon).

Jason's website:

From the feedback I've been receiving so far, the party was a success and everyone enjoyed themselves.

"God bless us! Everyone!"

For more information on PNWA, check out the association's website:

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Two-for-One Meal-Deal with Lisa Gardner

This year, PNWA managed to snag bestselling crime novelist Lisa Gardner as one of the dinner keynote speakers, for this year's summer conference.  Even better yet, they managed to convince her to hang around another day for the Lunch With Author session.

Between these gatherings, Ms. Gardner entertained attendees with stories of her less-than-smooth road to success.  She started off as a romance novelist while juggling a waitress job--and flaming saganaki (cheese).   Despite several fiery mishaps, Ms. Gardner managed to finish her first book, while avoiding visits to the burn treatment center and went on to become a managing consultant.  Thirteen romance novels later and loathing everything about the corporate grind, from commuting to pantyhose--especially the pantyhose--she sought a change and wrote her first suspense novel.

Her first thriller, The Perfect Husband, was the success she needed to quit her corporate job and throw out her pantyhose.  (I'm surprised she didn't ceremoniously douse her nylons with flaming saganaki).

Ms. Gardner is a funny and lively speaker, who engaged her audience with amusing anecdotes, like:

--Driving around Portland as a teenager with her best friend, interviewing prostitutes for her first novel.

--Dumping a carton of milk on her brother.  The same brother, later having to convince a date that all the romance novels in his place were written by his sister.

--Catching her husband watching porn.  But unlike most hapless husbands caught in such acts, the Luck O' the Irish was with him that day.  The movie turned out to be a German production of one of her books, where the heroine always ends up naked while fleeing the knife-wielding psychopath.

However, it wasn't all fun and games and German soft porn.  Ms. Gardner's keynote presentation focused on her top five reasons for being a writer.  Or, as she wrote me, "The top five reasons it is absolutely wonderful, amazing, rewarding, inspiring, exhilarating, and just plain fabulous to be a writer."

And they are:

1. It is okay to be cranky.

2. Anyone can do it.

3. It's a business that when one writer succeeds, all writers succeed.

4. Creativity is never wrong. 

5. And finally, one of the best reasons for being a writer is that you can come to conferences, such as this one, and finally meet people as neurotic as yourself.

(For us gamers and sci-fi fans, feel free to substitute "geeky" for "neurotic").

For more information on Lisa Gardner and her work, check out her website: 

(This link can also be found under the Authors tab).
For aspiring authors, check out her Writer's Toolbox page.  It is packed with her how-to articles and lecture notes.

She can also be found on-line among "the usual suspects" of Facebook, Myspace and Twitter.