Friday, July 27, 2018

Cold Steel, Dark Arts, and comic books ~ a LOT of art in this entry~

Original painting (before digital enhancement) by Christian Martinez
From: Whispers of Persephone

It has been a very busy summer with me working to complete the formatting of The Steel Road, and getting the play test draft together for Whispers of Persephone.  I've also been coordinating work for a comic anthology project I'll be publishing in 2019 (once again we'll be using KickStarter to fund that printing).  So things have been very busy with me and Sinopa Publishing LLC lately!

The Steel Road:

Work on this project began more than a year ago and progressed nicely.  Things were going swimmingly and then my laptop died rather unexpectedly and in a fantastically thorough fashion. Long story short, I couldn't get my InDesign file to link to the image files again once I got a new computer system. This forced me to reformat the art for the book all over again (and YES, that cost me a lot of time).  I have been formatting text into the book for the last few weeks, and that has progressed nicely.  Presently, I have completed all but one region (the islands of the Pacific), and am very nearly done.  Great news is that The Steel Road is set to fulfill on time this August!

Lessons I've learned from this:  

1) Save the image files to your cloud after you've formatted them into your document so you can re-link them easily if your computer suddenly catches fire one day and you have to use a new machine.

2) Formatting text around an image and making it look good is a lot more time consuming than you might expect.  It is far easier to simply format blocks of text with reserved space allotted for your images.  That said, I think the text wrapping around the image looks far better.  So if you plan on doing this yourself, budget the time accordingly.

My thoughts on this project

The Steel Road was tremendously fun to research and write.  The KickStarter campaign was my most backed to date, and many of those backers have asked if I would be putting a second book with more weapons out.  I've spent a great deal of time formatting the text, revising the material and sweating the little things to create the best book I can for the backers and the RPG community at large.  I'm thrilled to put this book out and very grateful to Zachary Viola for all the fantastic sketch art he did to make the book possible.

Whispers of Persephone

I wrote this book's material by hand.  I'm hoping to format the complete play test file for the next round of play tests this weekend.  With Whispers of Persephone I'm going to send this file (which should have the page background art in it) to the entire play test group with just a little art in it.

Christian Martinez is doing fantastic work for this project, creating all original paintings (some of which will be available as backer rewards during the KickStarter campaign).  If you've seen his work in The Draw of Glenfallow or Comet over Echo Rock you're probably as excited as I am for this new art! 

Lessons I've learned from this project:

1) I took a different approach with regard to play test on this product.  I put the material in front of a handful of people rather than in front of the whole play test group.  This afforded me the opportunity to tweak a few points early on.

2) For Whispers of Persephone I want a LOT of art, but I had to calculate my art budget based on a smaller number of images.  I've decided to create stretch goals for additional art in the KickStarter campaign.  Content is key, after all, and art is incredibly important.  This project has been an excellent exercise in project budgeting.

My thoughts on this project

Whispers of Persephone was fun to write.  Presently I'm looking to the launch date for the KickStarter and working to coordinate the live stream event (more on that soon).  The book's mechanics and content are things I'm particularly proud of and I hope people will get much use and enjoyment out of this evil tome, this bloody little book of necromancy!  As I write this I'm plotting out the time line for the KickStarter launch.  This an incredibly exciting project that has been a long time in development (from the writing and design) and one that I am enjoying the thrill of receiving new art for!

Comic Books   

Yes, I blew the font up for this section.  I have some dramatic feelings on this topic, so stick with me. There are a lot of fantastic comic book creators working on titles I'll be releasing in 2019... check this out!

47 Furious Tails  

The first comic book I've ever written for publication.  Last year (2017) I tried and failed to fund this project through KickStarter.  This year (2018, if you're viewing this in the far future) I'll be relaunching this project, with more of the art done.  This first issue begins the retelling of the Ako incident in a unique way.  Alexia Veldhuisen has made tremendous efforts and I'm thrilled that she has continued to pursue this project with me.

Cover art by Alexia Veldhuisen
47 Furious Tails, Issue One

Untitled Comic Anthology project  

We're focusing on the book and will have a working development title in a few months.  Right now that's not the important part.  The IMPORTANT part, is the work going into this jewel of a book.

This book will have eight (8), yes EIGHT different contributing artists sharing their titles.  These are projects the artists and writers are very passionate about and it shows in the art they've produced so far.  Each of these contributors are producing eight pages of content to introduce everyone to the fine work they are doing.  I'm pleased to help bring the work of these talented professionals to the world. Art direction/edits by Alexia Veldhuisen.

I'll be launching a Kickstarter campaign in 2019 to fund the printing of this book. Below I have included samples of art from that project. I hope you'll enjoy it and look forward to that book.  Artists credited with the images, and most of them are available for commissions (follow the links in their biography pages for more information).

From the mind of Brian Lee
Art by Brian Lee
You can learn about Brian Lee and his art HERE!

From the mind of Colin Hartigan
Art by the legendary Christian Martinez
You can learn about Christian Martinez and his art HERE!

From the mind of Kelsy Cowan
Art by Kelsy Cowan
You can learn about Kelsy Cowan and her art HERE!

From the mind of Lotus Blair
Art by Lotus Blair
You can learn about Lotus Blair and her art HERE!

From the mind of Nick Caponi
Art by Nick Caponi
You can learn about Nick Caponi and his art HERE!

From the mind of Rebecca Coulthart
Art by: Rebecca Coulthart
You can learn about Rebecca Coulthart and her art HERE!

From the mind of Zachary Viola
Art by: Zachary Viola

You can learn about Zachary Viola and his art HERE!

We've assembled a great team for this project and I hope you will all look forward to some fantastic comic book material coming from these talented artists and writers!

{Legal stuff:  All art included on this blog is copyright of their respective creators and are used with the express consent of those same individuals.  All rights are reserved.}

So stick with me for more information on these and other titles that are presently in development.  2018 will continue to be busy as development for "Death comes to Glenfallow" is underway, and new titles will be seen coming out with more art from these artists and more!


Thank you for continuing this adventure with me!  I hope you'll join me again next time for more information on artists I'm working with, projects I'm exploring, games I'm developing, and mistakes I learn from as I continue to publish.

See you next time!

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Fan fiction for fun and as a writing exercise

I make no claim to be a great or even a good author.  That is for my audience to determine.  I genuinely enjoy writing and sharing my stories and game ideas.  One thing to which I aspire, is to become a better writer. I have taken to writing whenever I can, in an effort to improve my skills.

There have been several sources I have read over the years that encouraged aspiring writers to hone their craft through the simple process of practice.  All the practice in the world won't make me a 'perfect' writer but I feel as if it is helping me to improve.  This is a sentiment I much convey to you as well.  Become a better writer by writing often. Practice may not make you or I perfect, but it will help us to improve our writing skills!

Publishing RPG material has required considerable amount of editing of my work.  This is because I happened to write my initial drafts in a lazy fashion, similar in construction to my speech.  Couple this habit with a tendency toward shorthand grammatical structures and you get some really rough material as a starting point.  It was fortunate for me that another writer reached out and reminded me of the importance of practice.  So I took up and began a Shadowrun (tm) fan fiction blog several months ago.

Fan Fiction and a writing exercise:

I write the fan fiction because I enjoy telling the stories of games of the past.  I like fictionalizing the interactions of those game sessions and reminiscing about old friends.  This is also my version of practice.  When I started my fan fiction blog I was determined not to rewrite anything. Sure, I'd go back and correct gross spelling errors or rub out the dreaded "the the" repetitive text, but I left the grammatical structure intact and tried to transform my writing away from the rough to work with material I was producing.  It's slow going but very recently I'm seeing an improvement.

So for all of you who write, design games and self-publish I want to remind you that we can all use practice to develop our skills.  Even those of you who are magnificent authors with thousands of fans  behind you, I would like to remind you to keep your skills as sharp as they can be.  Scribble in your spare time to capture ideas and have fun creating. 

Episodic or Chapters:

There is an interesting difference of opinions I've encountered regarding fan fiction.  On one hand, several sources I've read argue that most people spend less than ten minutes reading any narrative online.  The other side of this is that I like to release whole, complete stories that can be digested as one segment of the running narrative. 

I found myself writing fan fiction that was sometimes well over 12,000 words in length, including one particular tale that spanned almost 30 pages!  It was then that I realized that people were having to come back a second time to finish reading those stories.  They were simply too long for a single, casual reading and so people who have been following that blog were reading each story either in pieces, or were stuck finding time to read through them.  While I personally prefer a longer tale in one go, I came to believe that there was such a thing as "too much" on a single entry.  This lead me to break up some of the stories into separate entries and release them sequentially. 

The jury is still out for me on which format I will follow.  I like writing out the whole of a story in one go and leaving it for the reader to digest at his or her leisure, but I also like the idea of shorter entries that someone can read through during break time at work or while on the bus. For now I'm referring to these shorter components of larger stories simply as "Part One, Part Two, etc" of the main title and so these short chapters are easy to distinguish where they fit in the overall story.  The longer form, episodic entries, I will very likely continue to do for some stories but for now I'm looking to my readers to see which format they prefer.

What I've learned:

I make a lot of grammatical mistakes, spelling errors, and have a nasty habit of using too many commas.  I know I habitually make these mistakes so I am now becoming more aware of them as I write.  This has, only recently, helped me cut down on the time I spend in editing.  This alone has been enough to teach me just how valuable such practice is.

I hope you'll take up your pen or keyboard, and practice as well.  You may very well be the next Jim Butcher or Charles Stross.  The world awaits your words and stories, so polish your craft and let your work shine brightly in the hearts of your readers.


I want to thank you all for joining me once again for my continuing adventures in game design, self-publishing, and game design.  I look forward to seeing you next time!

For those of you who may be curious about my fan fiction, I'm posting links to a recent story line.  This fan fiction blog runs chronologically, so if you want to get to know the central protagonist (Tommy 'the Machine' Gunne) I'll recommend that you start from the beginning story and read forward.

Thank you all!  Your comments are most welcome!

Where it begins:  The Beginning: A Story about Tommy

Rise of the Machine, Part One

Rise of the Machine, Part Two

Rise of the Machine, Part Three

Rise of the Machine, Part Four

Rise of the Machine, Part Five

Rise of the Machine, Part Six

Wedding Bells and Burning Hells, Part one ~ The Iron Citadel

Wedding Bells and Burning Hells, Part two ~ Power in the Blood

Wedding Bells and Burning Hells, Part three ~ Requiem

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Help yourself: Focus on the artist ~ Zachary Viola

The first piece Zachary Viola every did for me
From: Tale of the Wizard's Eye
It's been a long week of formatting text, convention appearance, day job, playing with the kids, and catching up with my fan fiction.

As you may have noticed, I try to make this blog useful for anyone who is thinking about designing their own game, writing their own books, publishing and / or crowdfunding.  One of the key things I've written about over the course of this blog's history, is the relationship with artists you may hire to produce content for your publications/games.  It's no secret that I have a lot of respect for people who are able to create visual art.  I don't possess the skill to do so and that means I have a real need for talented professionals to produce that content for me.

Today I want to focus on one particular artist,though I plan to do a posts on the other artists I've worked with in the future.  So today I want to speak about Zachary Viola (the link takes you the artist biography page I set up for him).

Zack's first contribution was to my first adventure release.  Zack came through in a clinch when I made a drastic to the encounter in a key part of the book.  He was able to put together the piece above ahead of deadline, all while going through the final preparations for his graduation from the Kubert School.  The next time we worked together was to partner up on The Steel Road!

Working with Zack on The Steel Road was a real treat.  He was great about asking questions and providing feedback on stylistic choices, had a really strong insight for the visual style of the book, and was always consistent and professional.  Would I work with with Zack again????  You bet!

Now, how is this useful to you?

As I've written before, treating your artists with respect, being professional, and paying fairly are essential.  My recommendation, find artists whose work you enjoy and build a working relationship that benefits both of you.  After all, you don't want to be in a position where you are forced to seek out new artistic talent because people who have worked for you in the past aren't wanting to work with you again!   Cultivate the talent of those whom you work with.  Elevate their opportunities and you'll see your own grow as well.

Whether you are a new writer / designer looking for art, an established publisher looking for new talent, or a comic and RPG fan who wants to see who the new talents are that are bursting out onto the scene; keep your eyes on Zack Viola.  He's not done, by a long shot!

Promotional image from: The Steel Road

Thank you for joining me on my adventure into game design, writing and self-publishing. I hope you'll find useful information in these entries that may, in some small way, help you find joy and success in your own endeavors.

As always, your comments are most welcome.