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Time for a new weekly writer’s roundup of my works-in-progress and those ready to read!

Edits! Kim completed a double read of chapters 4-8 of Vivian’s Last Cigarette, and presented me with her feedback on Sunday. Now that she’s finished the first act, I was pleased that its surprise at the very end affected her as a reader exactly as I hoped it would! Her excitement with the development gives me lots of confidence that the second act and climax is as good as I think it is.

Of course, there were rough spots and patches in need of improvement that she pointed out as well. I spent Sunday afternoon working on those, revising chapter five and half of six. There was certainly more in need of doing edit-wise this weekend than last. By the evening, chapter five definitely was reading better, and six is shaping up nicely. Finishing six and getting seven and eight to second drafts status will be an ongoing project for this week.

Meanwhile, the second drafts of chapters 1-4 are still with Jess. Her schedule’s been tight, but she did get in a preliminary read and hopes to annotate the drafts with feedback for me soon.

One thing that I’m hearing very consistently from both of my alphas is how they love the main characters of Viv and Gronk. I’d felt that these two were going to be a strong card in the story since pretty early on, but that independent validation is still good to hear. Engaging main characters are vital to any book, but this is primarily a love story, so their interaction and development is the rock it’s built on. So far, it seems like that foundation is very strong and solid.

Before I got the pages on Sunday, I started prep work for PortCon. The convention is coming up at the end of June, and I had a lot of fun creating and game-mastering RPGs there last year as a staffer. I’m hoping to make this year even better, but I realized last week that I won’t have a lot of free time going into May-June… Because that also coincides with my current target release window for Vivian’s. So I’ve decided to get started crafting those adventures now, between edits of the novel. I want to have them good to go long before last-minute shenanigans start looking like viable options! ;-)

I’m also using a different approach and strategy crafting the games this year.

Last PortCon, frankly, I overdid it on my preparation for the games. I wrote about 40,000 words of material for the events I was running in about a month’s time. Now, all my games went well and they ended with happy players that had a good time… But that is a crazy amount of work for me to invest into crafting four games that ran four hours each!

And it was unnecessary work at that. Most of it was spent detailing the backgrounds of playable characters and writing up adventure specifics as if I were to publish or have the game run by someone else. None of those things were happening with this material, so all that effort and polish was simply not needed.

The last game I made for PortCon 2016 was The Most Dangerous Game of Doctor Moreau. I actually ran out of preparation time to get it ready for the con, so instead I came up with a simple creation mechanic that allowed the group to quickly generate their own player characters and removed me from having to detail that process. Structuring the game’s plot very openly, I mapped an island, created the antagonists in notes only, envisioned a semi-firm idea of the players’ challenges… and winged the rest of it.

It turned out at least as successful as the other games I ran that I had put so much more polish and work into. It may have even been the best game I ran at the con.

These are four hour games. Players don’t have time to appreciate reading well formed and written character biographies; they want to play. The only person running these scenarios is myself; I don’t need polished writing and descriptions because it’s already in my head. I just need a few pages of important notes to manage things.

So I’ve got a whole new attitude going into crafting my four games to run in 2017. They’re going to be much leaner. Players will create their own characters with a quick system. I won’t be writing tens of thousands of words that go unread. Instead, I’ll be game mastering off of a skeleton outline and notes. Any gaps found in play, I’ll overcome with the improvisation I’m beginning to find is a strong point of mine.

As far as specific game ideas are concerned, I’ve already mentioned the G.I. Joe / Predator / Aliens crossover multi-game-master idea I’m working on with another GM back in November.

I’ve also worked out a session called Chaos at Camp Changeling that takes place in the universe of Vivian’s Last Cigarette! :-) In it, the players assume the roles of 12-14 year-old normal and changeling (orc, elf, goblin, etc.) kids at a summer camp. It’s a mix of humor and action with a little suspense that starts with them playing D&D in a supposedly haunted cabin (they’re spending the night in it on a dare). None of the characters in the book are in the adventure, but there are lots of indirect connections… and it’s also set in Maine during August, 1989, just like the novel.

I have also plotted Toys Against Darkness: A scenario wherein the players assume the roles of animate toys protecting their children from a horrific evil. The last scenario is Godzilla: Invasion of Monsters. I bet with a little imagination you can figure out what that will be about. ;-)

Alright, time for me to stop blogging and get back to writing editing some more fiction! Take care!