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Never ending stories August 24, 2018

Posted by thejinx in art, writing.
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I have some news to announce. The good news is: I’ve written a new story.

The bad news, of course, is I’ve written a new story.

Followers might wonder, so recently after I announced my intention not to write other books until I finish the Sisters of Chaos trilogy, why I suddenly wrote an entirely new book.

In short, I wanted to write a story for my daughter.

I’ve been wanting to write a story for her for years. But, as a SFF author of 100,000-word novels that lean more toward the grey side of the grimdark/noblebright scale, I found picture books just a bit too far outside my normal scope to attempt. Now that she is reading chapter books, however, I find an opportunity to write a story for her much more accessible.

I also made a realization recently. I hadn’t even considered writing a kid’s book before finishing with my trilogy, but it occurred to me that if I wait until then, she might be of an age when she can just read my regular work, and I’ll have missed the opportunity.

So, I sat down and wrote her a book. World, meet Mia:

mia

She’s nine years old, Hispanic, and lives on a space station.

Chapter books are still barely longer than my standard short story, so I was able to write out the entire book in a couple weeks. I still have some editing to do, but hopefully, the story won’t take much longer to finalize. The real holdup will be illustrations. Much as I would love to have someone else handle them, I just don’t have the budget for it, and I think my daughter would appreciate me drawing them myself.

Soon, I hope, I can share Mia’s story with the world.

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Gen Con 2018 games wrap-up part 2 August 8, 2018

Posted by thejinx in conventions, life.
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Friday – 7:00-11:00 p.m. – Mistborn: House War

cover-cfg-13001-mistborn-house-war-retail-500x750I’ve been eyeing this game for a few years, because Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson is one of my all-time favourite book series. In this game based on said series, players take the role of the noble houses, gaining resources and solving problems in the Final Empire and trying to curry the most favour with the Lord Ruler – or, based on how the game progresses, the most disgrace.

I went into this game open-minded and very curious, but I wasn’t crazy about the theme of the game, since I was, essentially, playing as the villains from the books. The game play, however, turned out to be extremely compelling. This is particularly interesting in my case, because I don’t generally care for games in which one has to stab one’s friends in the back. However, the way Mistborn played, with equal parts working together with and against the other players, made it very interesting. The game wasn’t super complicated and there was almost no luck involved (no dice to curse me, huzzah!) which I also thoroughly enjoyed. Plus, the fact that maxing out the Unrest slider on the board means the player with the least favour wins adds a very interesting element to the game. Overall, this was a very fun game and I ended up picking up a copy.

Saturday – 7:00-10:00 – CATaclysm the Board Game

Shiraz Sheikh and Brent Logan Kickstarted CATaclysm the RPG last year, a game in which humans are gone and cats have evolved into the adventurous heroes, with oversized rats being their primary opponents. What my husband and I played was a prototype of an RPG-in-a-box version of CATaclysm, which the game creators plan to Kickstart later this year. I didn’t know this much going into it; we saw a listing for a cooperative miniatures game starring cats and decided to go for it.

Simply put, this was easily our favourite game of Gen Con. The game play was fantastic, the theme was just the right balance between silly and actually quite sensible (the heroes, being cats, take damage if they stay in water, except the Maine Coon, of course), and the 3D printed minis and prototype board, cards, and pieces were of excellent quality, not to mention adorable. Shiraz also did a fantastic job explaining the rules clearly and concisely, giving us just enough detail to get the gist of the game without bogging us down with unnecessary information, simplifying game play for the sake of the demo, and letting us mostly work it out ourselves while still being on hand to answer questions, clarify rules, and occasionally make suggestions. I also really like the fact that the enemies are all AI-controlled, so no one has to play against everyone else in the group.

I absolutely loved this game and am seriously looking forward to October, when they plan to Kickstart the game. I highly, highly recommend this game for fans of the RPG-in-a-box style.

And that’s a wrap! It doesn’t sound like much compared to last year, but I got in just the right amount of games for me, more actual board/table top games than I took in last year, and really enjoyed what I did play. It was a great weekend.

The Gen Con 2018 haul August 7, 2018

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20180806_122042I shared a photo of our Gen Con haul this year in my previous post, but I wanted to go into a little more detail than that, since we picked up so much stuff that the photo is a little busy. So, here’s the breakdown:

Books

Games

Artwork

Miscellaneous gaming merchandise

  • Seven X-Wing Miniatures promo cards
  • One pack version 2.0 T-65 X-Wing damage deck for Star Wars: X-Wing
  • Four packs version 1.0 damage deck promo cards for Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures
  • Four packs card protectors
  • Assorted dice

It was definitely a larger haul than usual, and certainly my own largest yet. Thanks again to Gen Con for providing a space and for all of the producers/creators for creating work I enjoyed so much.

Gen Con 2018 games wrap-up part 1 August 6, 2018

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Another fantastic Gen Con has come to an end. I had a blast, as always, particularly since I took a cue from last year and scheduled my evenings full, rather than leaving myself to my own devices. I also came away from the convention feeling very inspired and actually have some time to do something about it, so hopefully I can get some work done on some of my projects this month.

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Our haul this year

Strangely, though, I didn’t find as many events in the evenings that interested me, so despite my desire to game until midnight this year, two nights ended (or at least were scheduled to end) at 11:00, one at 10:00, and Wednesday night I was done by 9:00. (I was glad for that early night, however, after getting up at 3:30 that morning to make the drive.) Then the other nights ended up finishing early as the games wrapped up before schedule. I didn’t mind going back to the hotel early, though; adding a few hours of gaming onto an eight-hour work day is pretty exhausting.

And I did play some great games I’d never discovered before. So, without further ado, here comes my 2018 games wrap-up post.

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Super Dungeon Explore July 30, 2018

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Off and on over the past several months, I’ve been painting miniatures from Super Dungeon Explore (the Forgotten King expansion), and now, I thought I’d finally share my progress so far.

The Forgotten King

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Rabid Squirrels

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Billman

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Pets (The Colonel and Admiral Fuzzybottom)

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Thunder Vale Huntress

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Treasure chests

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New art: Garrick July 17, 2018

Posted by thejinx in art, enduring chaos.
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Awfully late with this one, but I wanted to share this fantastic drawing of Garrick from Enduring Chaos by Stephen Peterson of TriCity Studios!

Scenes from the mountains June 19, 2018

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Sharing some shots from a recent trip to Colorado and Taos, New Mexico. Among the outings were a ride on the Royal Gorge train, a visit to the Taos Pueblo, a UNESCO world heritage site, and the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs. A few of these were taken with my phone, but most were using my camera. In my usual way, no editing of any kind was done on any of these pictures.

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Finding light out of darkness June 9, 2018

Posted by thejinx in life.
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Once again, mental health is on our collective consciousness. The reasoning is tragic, but I’m glad that it is, because sometimes, those still fighting need to hear that others are thinking about them, that there is help available. Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain show us, once again, that depression doesn’t care how successful or inspiring one is. Even people who seem like they should have nothing to complain about can suffer from it, and I guarantee you that those so afflicted berate themselves for feeling so miserable.

We need to talk about it. We need to hear that there are so many people out there – friends, family, and strangers – who care and who want to see sufferers improve. We need to tell the un-afflicted that sometimes it’s not enough just to say you’re there, that you need to actively reach out when someone withdraws. And we need to share our stories, especially the stories of success, so that those in the deepest pits know that there is a way out.

With that in mind, I just wanted to add a few things to the conversation, based on my personal experience:

1. Get help if you’re hurting. You go to the doctor when you’re sick, so go when your mental health is suffering. Seems like a no-brainer, right? But there’s a wealth of reasons why the afflicted don’t seek help when they should. I waited entirely too long to seek help for my anxiety, probably mainly due to pride. But I’ve been on medication for a couple months now and it has made all the difference. And don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t immediately make a difference; I got lucky this time, but when I was fighting depression in high school, I went through at least half a dozen different medications before I found one that worked for me.

If you don’t have a family doctor or you live in the U.S. and don’t have health insurance, Google is your friend. Search for mental health resources; they are out there. You deserve to go through your life without hurting. The search may be exhausting but you are worth the effort. You would do this for someone else, wouldn’t you? So put in the work for yourself. Look for what you need to get better, whether that’s medication, therapy, support groups, or just getting out more.

2. If physically possible, get some exercise. I have neglected this one much more recently and managed to forget that it is a crucial part of my treatment. Medication alone just isn’t enough for me, and it’s an easy way to work on feeling better while working out other treatment options. You don’t need any special equipment to do it. Couch to 5K is a free smartphone app and is an easy, gradual way to start jogging. Wii Fit and dancing games can be done from the comfort of your home and offer rewards and incentives for continuing. Do twenty minutes of jumping jacks if you have to. I know that when you’re in the throes of depression it’s extremely hard to do, but force yourself to do it.

3. Repeat after me: it is okay to take care of yourself. This is something I frequently have to remind myself. It doesn’t matter how much I truly believe it, I still have to convince myself that I’m allowed to take a break from work. Your health, and your mental health, are a priority. So go ahead. Cancel that event if you have to. Buy that blended coffee drink. Take the long way home and take a drive out into the country. Go to that local attraction you’ve always wanted to see. Go to the movie theatre alone. You take care of you. I know it can be hard, particularly if you work retail (hat’s off to you folks), but sometimes you need it, and you definitely deserve it. Mentally ill people are some of the hardest working and most caring and giving of themselves, because they tend to be so concerned with others. You deserve a break, in whatever form that may take.

I was there. I remember those days, and occasionally still have them, when I feel worthless and unlovable and ugly and a waste of resources. Frankly, it hurts a little just to write those words. But I’ve been fighting it long enough and I’ve learned enough to know that it isn’t true. So if you don’t believe it yourself, then take it from me, someone’s who’s gone through it and (mostly) made it through to the other side:

You are worth the effort.

You deserve to be happy.

You are allowed to help yourself.

The world is better with you in it.

Your friends and many others want to see you feel better.

You are not alone.

New art: Thunder Vale Huntress June 8, 2018

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On the topic of badly delayed posts, it’s time I shared some art I did only a full month ago. For Christmas, we got ourselves a box set of Super Dungeon Explore. As soon as I saw the Thunder Vale Huntress figure, I wanted to paint her.

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However, I wasn’t crazy about her in-game colour scheme.

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I saw her differently, so I decided to paint her my own way.

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Then, for some reason, the night I finished painting her, I was overcome with a desire to draw her as well. My muse, ADHD as it is, decided to devote my weekend to it. Not only that, but I broke out art supplies I haven’t touched in years, such as my 11″ x 14″ Bristol board (now possibly my favourite paper for markers, which I hadn’t tried before) and the brush pen I had yet to seriously try. I even went and attempted some serious comic inking, as well as more detailed horse anatomy than I’ve ever tried drawing before.

SDE centaur

Admittedly, I am pretty happy with this drawing (even if most of my shading on the horse body disappeared when I added the brown). I just wish my muse would get this excited about the projects I’m actually supposed to be working on.

Sisters of Chaos book 2 update June 5, 2018

Posted by thejinx in conventions, enduring chaos, writing.
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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