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Sisters of Chaos book 2 update June 5, 2018

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book-proofreading.jpg

I haven’t said anything about the progress of the sequel to Enduring Chaos in a long time. It’s intentional, though I’m not exactly sure why. Some nonsensical, subconscious mix of not wanting to get anyone’s hopes up, feeling like people would just be frustrated with me posting about what I’m doing while still not having the book ready, feeling like I’m making too big a deal of it, still taking blog posts too seriously to just sit down and write one, or perhaps some straight-up pride (or guilt). But, it’s coming up on five years since the first book was released, which makes me groan, and I owe you, the readers, if nothing else, an explanation.

If you’ve been waiting for book two, all I can say is I’m sorry.

I have been working on it. After making a push last year and in late 2016, I finally finished the final first draft last summer. I then spent the next few months doing my preliminary edits before sending it off to beta readers in late fall. My beta readers gave me fantastic feedback, which came back in winter. Unfortunately, they made it clear that the story still needed some significant editing.

The editing has been a slog for the last few months. Just trying to figure out how to portray what I was trying to show instead of the less favourable impression the readers got, on one scene alone, held me up for a month or more. This has proven to be a very challenging book to write, and subsequently edit. There are particularly complex conflicts and character interactions, a whole wealth of new characters with their own cultures and histories to introduce, struggles not to bog down readers with too many characters or too much info in a notably bigger story than the first book*, dealing with all the backstory that a sequel entails (which I have never written before), remnants of earlier drafts that more often than not end up mucking up the works and have to be reworked, even hints of character development that the characters themselves aren’t aware of. Getting everything to align properly has also been tricky, because unlike every other book I’ve written, I wrote consecutively occurring storylines one POV at a time, and balancing timelines and spreading out scenes from different characters when I put it all together has required a lot of tweaking. It’s a lot of work and a lot of aspects that are difficult to handle.

* Spoiler alert: I completely failed at that one. Still working on some scenes there.

However, the beta readers are in agreement that it is a much better book than the first. Even though it’s not where I want it to be yet, I am quite pleased with it so far and have high hopes for it when it’s finished. The manuscript has already been through a lot of changes over the years and it has become a much stronger book for all the work I’ve put into it. I briefly considered trying to push it out for Gen Con this year, but I don’t want to rush it just to get it done. I want this book to be as good as it can be before I release it, particularly because it’s already better than the first book.

I have vowed not to write any other novel until I’ve finished this trilogy. I will, though, have a new short story related to the series in this year’s Missing Pieces volume at Gen Con. (It features a minor character introduced in book 2.) I do have at least a soft goal of having the book ready by next year’s Gen Con, if for no other reason than that the short story I have planned for next year’s Missing Pieces will contain a major spoiler for the book. I will admit that a couple years ago, I wrote a mostly unrelated novella that was intended to be for an earlier volume of Missing Pieces, but after finding that it needed much more editing than I could reasonably accomplish within the time frame for the anthology, it has been entirely back-burnered. Aside from that, and despite my muse occasionally (*cough* since last weekend) giving me a massive burst of inspiration for some other story, I have not written anything else.

I have a working title for the book which might end up being the final title, but I don’t want to share it yet because I’m not 100% satisfied with it.

For those who have been waiting for the book, thank you for your patience and I apologize again for the lengthy wait. If there’s anything you want to know about the book or any hints you’d like to see to hold you over until it’s ready, please don’t hesitate to comment here or send me a message through my contact form.

Meanwhile, I hope to see you at any of the Brain Lag events coming up this summer:

June 17: Brampton ComiCon – Brampton, ON
July 13-15: Ad Astra – Richmond Hill, ON
August 2-5: Gen Con – Indianapolis, IN
September 22: Forest City Comicon – London, ON

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Gen Con 50 games wrap-up part 3 August 24, 2017

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And the conclusion of my Gen Con gaming posts. Read on for Pinball Showdown, The Sword of Zaldor: A Fantasy Escape Room, and Here, Kitty, Kitty!

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Gen Con 50 games wrap-up part 2 August 22, 2017

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Since my first Gen Con games wrap-up post ended up being so long, I decided to break it up into separate posts per day of gaming. So, without further ado, here is my summary of my Friday gaming.

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Gen Con 50 games wrap-up part 1 August 22, 2017

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20863249_10155060707918155_8257465401688659497_oGen Con has been my favourite convention/festival since the first time I went there seven years ago. It’s always been my best event for sales and the atmosphere is so welcoming. The tens of thousands of gamers who descend upon Indianapolis are the friendliest bunch of geeks I’ve had the pleasure to be with. And unlike even other massive fan events, the celebration of geekdom spreads well beyond the convention centre and takes over all of downtown Indianapolis. It is the most inviting place for a gamer to be.

There’s one thing I’ve been doing wrong most of the years that I’ve gone, however. I keep missing the point: the games.

Usually, the gaming I take in at Gen Con is an unplanned scramble of trying to find something to play (a rather daunting problem for someone bad at improvisation), without knowing a vast majority of the games there and often not having any company to do so (a fairly insurmountable problem for an introvert). This goes about as well as one might expect. Not to say that I haven’t done my share of gaming there, but it tends to come about more as a happy accident* than through any effort on my part.

This year, I decided to change that pattern. I thoroughly perused the event catalogue and made selections that I submitted the moment event registration opened, scheduling my Thursday through Saturday evenings full up.

It was absolutely the right idea for me. Even though I was strapped for time getting to all my events, I felt much more at ease having a set schedule and I got to try out a number of new games. I didn’t feel like I missed out on the true fun of Gen Con, as I do sometimes when I struggle to find something to play (and often don’t manage to).

In fact, I enjoyed the games I took in this weekend so much that I wanted to write up a summary of them while details are still fresh in my mind. Thursday’s results follow; Friday and Saturday will come in later posts. Due to length and the fact that this is only really of interest to me, the rest is hidden behind the cut tag.

* speaking of happy accidents, have you heard about the new Bob Ross game?
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Ad Astra schedule April 27, 2016

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I’ll be at Ad Astra this weekend, Toronto’s original scifi/fantasy/horror literary convention. I’ll be spending most of my time at the Brain Lag table in the dealers room, and I’ll also be involved with the following events:

Saturday

11:00
Creating Art on Commission
So someone has asked you to create a piece of art for them. And they’ve even said they’ll pay. How much do you charge them? How do you sell yourself as a commission artist, and what are the pros and cons of offering to create work on commission?
Thornhill room

1:00
Selling Your Art at Conventions and Festivals
So you’ve finally finished a beautiful set of paintings. Or maybe you’ve been selling your fan art on commission and want to think bigger with prints. Maybe you want to do commissions for money, or you fancraft and have an Etsy store and want to sell in person. You’ve got wares, and you’re ready to sell them and think that a convention or festival is your best bet. How do you do this? What’s the etiquette? How do you market yourself? Should you participate in an art show or just book a table? And is what you’re selling even allowed? In this panel, learn the dos and don’ts of being an artist on the convention or festival circuit.
Thornhill room

5:00
Tabletop Games You May Never Have Heard Of
Are you bored of playing Monopoly and Risk over and over? A fan of RPGs but unsure what the best party games are? Curious about which games are best for specific numbers or types of people? This panel is a great opportunity to learn about and share recommendations for tabletop games from those in the know!
Oakridge room

6:00
Brain Lag launch party
Brain Lag invites all Ad Astra attendees to join us at our spring book launch party celebrating the release of Why I Hunt Flying Saucers And Other Fantasticals by Hugh A. D. Spencer and Tinker’s Plague by Stephen B. Pearl! The authors will be on hand to give readings and sign autographs, there will be free snacks and drinks, and we’ll be featuring an exclusive sneak peek at the cover art for the upcoming sequel to Tinker’s Plague, Tinker’s Sea!
Room 1080 (penthouse suite)

Sunday

12:00
Setting Up Shop as an Indie Publisher
So you want to be an indie publisher. How do you bring other authors on board? How do you build your reputation within the literary community? In this panel, learn from those who have done it how to be a publishing entrepreneur, and get tips on start-up costs, marketing, and what it takes to get started.
Newmarket room

3:00
Sunday Afternoon Fantasy Reading
Join authors Catherine Fitzsimmons, Rob Howell, Cameron Currie and Brandon Draga as they read a fantastical selection from their work.
Oakridge room

I hope to see you there!

June update June 2, 2014

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Summer is filling up fast and I am looking forward to getting out to many events this season with my books. Before I get to that, though, I’d like to share a gorgeous portrait of Damian, the star of Enduring Chaos, drawn by the very talented Chris Babarik:

damian-babarik

Huge thanks to Chris for such a lovely drawing.

And now, my schedule for the next few months (so far):

Hope to see you at one of these events this summer/fall.

Also, I’ll let you guys in on a secret – the trailer for Enduring Chaos that so many of you so generously contributed to help make a reality? It’s finally going to be released within the week. Stay tuned.

SFContario and Enduring Chaos launch events November 23, 2013

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We are now officially less than a week away from the launch of Enduring Chaos! Plans are coming together for multiple launch events celebrating the release of this long-awaited book.

I will be at SFContario at the Ramada Plaza Hotel at 300 Jarvis St. in Toronto next weekend, November 29-December 1, where the official launch party for Enduring Chaos is taking place. Enduring Chaos will be available at the table for Brain Lag in the dealers room all weekend. I will also be sitting on two panels during the convention: Horror, Scifi and Fantasy in the Gardenview room Saturday at 1:00 and Strength of Characters in the Solarium room Sunday at 11:00.

The launch party for Enduring Chaos is taking place in the Courtyard room of the hotel Saturday, November 30 at 6:00 p.m. This event is open to the public so please come out and help me celebrate the release of the first book in the Sisters of Chaos trilogy with games, prizes, and more fun. RSVP not required, but if you do so by comment here or on the Facebook event page, you can have your very own custom-made SFContario badge for the party!

For those in the Milton, Ontario area, there will be another launch event happening at Recycled Reading at 171 Main St. on Friday, December 6 at 3:00 p.m. Come out to meet the author, get a signed copy, learn more about the book, and enjoy complimentary snacks and beverages! For more information, feel free to visit the Facebook event page.

Word on the Street September 21, 2013

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Just a quick note to say that I will be at Word on the Street in Toronto tomorrow! Look for Brain Lag in the Fringe Beat section, just south of Wellesley St. on Queen’s Park Crescent East. Hope to see you there!

Indiegogo campaign a success! July 30, 2013

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Thank you so much to everyone who contributed to the fundraising campaign to create a live action trailer for Enduring Chaos. Thanks to your generous contributions, we surpassed our fundraising goal! I’m really looking forward to creating the trailer for my next book and seeing how it all comes out. I’ll be sharing progress updates here as it commences.

Also, one final reminder that I will be at the Pirate Festival in Milton, Ontario this weekend, Saturday through Monday. Look for Brain Lag in the Local Authors booth, or come out for a reading on the stage from 2:30-3:00 p.m. each day of the festival. I will be reading from Aurius on Saturday, Halcyon on Sunday, and I’ll be giving a new advance reading from Enduring Chaos on Monday. In addition, I’m very excited to say that I’ll have a sneak peek of the cover art for Enduring Chaos to share during the reading. So come out and have a look. Hope to see you there!

Ad Astra 2013 wrap-up April 9, 2013

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I have been to numerous conventions now. I don’t just mean multiple visits to the same convention in different years, but I have been to at least half a dozen different conventions. The focus and topics of these conventions vary; some are geared toward comics, some toward anime, some toward science fiction. (All, of course, are based in some area of geekdom; I don’t try to pretend that’s not where my interest lies.)

Panels and workshops are a large part of these conventions, as anyone who has attended one will know. To tell the truth, however, largely I am not very interested in attending panels. I’m not overly interested in discussing or hearing discussions on pop culture or media, nor am I interested enough in things like sketch-offs or trivia games or other such events to want to spend time with them, and largely any panels that relate to writing or other interests of mine are either on very basic aspects of it that I don’t feel I need to spend an hour covering or otherwise just don’t quite match what I’m looking for. Part of it I think is the intimate nature of panels and workshops, being with a smaller group and therefore closer to and more directly involved with the people there, rather than the refreshing anonymity of the crowd of general attendees milling about. And, of course, these days I don’t simply attend conventions anymore; I’m there to sell, and even if I have assistance with doing so, I still usually don’t want to leave my table for a panel.

Ad Astra last year, however, was an entirely different matter. The sheer number of panels held at the convention that I would have loved to listen in on blew my mind, and I feel like I could have spent almost the entire convention going from one panel to another. It is, of course, a matter of focus. Ad Astra is a scifi/fantasy literary convention, so the entire event is largely centered around what interests me most. As a result, the panels went into more detail on aspects of writing than all other conventions I’ve attended, and offered a slew of very interesting topics. Alas, I was stuck behind my table with no one else to watch it for me for the weekend and didn’t have the opportunity to attend any of them.

This year, however, I had a second person manning my table and was talked into not just attending panels, but sitting on them. Having rarely even attended panels before, as well as for various personal reasons, I was quite nervous about the idea leading up to them. After having done it, however, I can say that it was a very positive experience. The panels were very thought-provoking and informative and it was an excellent opportunity to meet some very interesting people, both other panelists and attendees of the panel. I think they all went quite well and it seems that everyone there learned something new or got a new outlook on the topics covered.

I Love to Hate You: This was the first panel I sat on. This panel looked at villains and discussed both good and bad villains, as well as the difference between villains – the characters who command the basic conflict of the story – and antagonists – those characters who aren’t necessarily involved with the central conflict but still serve to get in the protagonists’ way. Examples of good villains included, of course, Darth Vader from Star Wars – though mention was made of diminishing his impact through overuse of the Force strangling technique in The Empire Strikes Back – as well as classic literature like Iago from Shakespeare’s Othello and Grendel from Beowulf. The idea of blurring the line between traditional notions of “good” and “evil” as well as not compartmentalizing characters and conflicts into such simplistic definitions was discussed, although some readers do prefer to have a clear idea of who the ‘good guy’ and the ‘bad guy’ are in fiction.

What to take away: Villains are an integral part to fantasy and scifi literature and they must be given as much care as the protagonists. An author must know everything about their villains, even if the details of their motives and history are never revealed in the text, and in fact that can be used to great effect when hints of the existence of those things are sprinkled throughout. When one does get into the reason why a villain is doing such evil deeds, however, one must be careful to avoid their actions becoming petty or obsessive as their backstory is revealed. Also, unscrupulous or villainous characters can be used as protagonists and keep readers from completely despising them as long as there is some nugget for them to like, even if it is something as simple as the character is nice to their pet cat.

Is the Stand Alone Novel an Endangered Format?: This panel addressed the place of standalone or one-shot novels in a genre dominated by trilogies and series. From an author’s standpoint, there is a clear advantage to writing or at least pitching series, both because readers want more of what they already know and like and because the sales teams for publishers are likely to sell far more books of an installment in a series to bookstores than a standalone novel, for the same reason. Publishers also put pressure on authors who write a successful standalone novel to extend it into a series, again to draw in those same readers who have already been sold with the first book. That said, authors should not feel obligated to extend a standalone book into a series for the sole reason of selling more books, and even discerning readers can be very satisfied with a really good standalone novel. Also, there was frustration on both sides of the table for the way publishers tend to handle series, in particular with how unclear it often is where a certain book takes place in a series.

What to take away: It is a tricky market to enter for authors with standalone novels, and ultimately publishers do not put out nearly as much effort to push standalone novels as series. But, there is still a place for standalone novels and one shouldn’t force a series. When writing a series, particularly a longer series, using the same words and terms to describe characters, while repetitive, can help keep consistency throughout the different books and allows new readers to understand the characters just as well as those who have been following the series from the beginning. Having a central outline for each character that one refers back to for each installment is also recommended, for while characters evolve throughout a series, one should not forget the basic roots of the character. Also, Robert J. Sawyer and Julie Czerneda have wonderful senses of humor.

Writing High Fantasy: This was such a fantastic panel that covered so many different areas of writing high fantasy that I’m not certain I can effectively sum it up. It began with a discussion of the definition of high fantasy and the various ways one can delineate high fantasy from other sub-genres. The “high” in high fantasy can refer to the stakes, which are often world-changing even if the events themselves are fairly small or the decisions made very personal; it can refer to the level of the fantastic in the story, e.g. the difference between a story like Lord of the Rings, rife with magic and dragons and other races and such, and a story like George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series, which does have very fantastic elements but focuses far more on the politics of the world in a way that is much more like our own world; or it can even be a reference to the class of the main characters, as in “high” fantasy referring to high-born characters and the story concerning itself with kings and queens and nobility as opposed to the main characters being more common people.

The panelists were also asked to identify what one aspect of fantasy defines the genre to them, with answers ranging from the sense of wonder, otherness, and unknown that we all once held as children, to the world itself, a completely different place from Earth and distinguishes high fantasy from something like historical fantasy. Much discussion ensued on female characters and the often stereotypical way they are presented in fantasy literature, tough female characters either pretty much presented like a man with breasts or having very female-oriented motivations, i.e. rape or pregnancy/childbirth. There was also discussion on the diversity of setting and characters in fantasy – or, often, the lack thereof – along with some examples of recent titles that have explored different types of worlds or races of people, and by that I’m not referring to elves and dwarves. The panel concluded with some pet peeves in the fantasy genre by the panelists and a brief discussion on how a fantasy work originates.

What to take away: Fantasy is an immense canvas with which to explore the unknown but also to address the same issues that we ourselves face in our own world. As such, one should look to our own world to reflect the same level of diversity in an invented world and not be afraid to write stories based in other cultures aside from the much-used medieval Europe. However, when trying to create something new and fresh, one should not just flip an established trope on its head. A mirror image of a cliche is still a reflection of the cliche itself. Female characters should be given all the complex motivations that male characters, and actual human females, have. Ultimately, fantasy worlds, conflicts, and characters should all display the same level of complexity as our world does, and doing so makes one’s fantasy much more rich and believable. Also, when introducing a fundamentally different aspect of life into a fantasy world, careful thought must be given to the impact of that thing on the world in terms of technology and society.

Finally, I would be remiss not to mention the launch party for Brain Lag, my publishing company, and I want to thank everyone who came out to celebrate its opening. Overall, I had a really wonderful time at Ad Astra and I am certainly looking forward to returning next year.

Also, if anyone who attended these panels has anything to add that I forgot, please feel free to comment and add your input!