Sharing The Love: Board Games

My wife and I are spending New Year’s Eve at home — not (just) due to the pandemic, but because we’re at that age when going to bed at a reasonable hour is far more enticing than staying up stupidly late. There will be lots of food, lots of booze, a cozy fire, and board games galore.

We used to play a lot of video games together, but video game producers seem to hate the idea of two people sitting on a couch in the same room and playing a game together, so we’ve gravitated toward board and card games because we enjoy the personal interactive quality of them — and we cannot wait until it’s safe enough to have a decent sized group of friends over for a proper game day!

But for now, we’ll have to content ourselves with our various two-player games, and as a public service, here are the games we’ve been playing heavily over the course of 2021.

Arkham Horror – Third Edition (Fantasy Flight Games)

The second edition of Arkham Horror was my gateway to modern board games. Sure, it was bloated, complicated, and had some wonky game mechanics, but I was instantly hooked and it’s still one of my favorites. I was admittedly unhappy that the third edition deviated so far from the game I knew and loved, but I’ve come to enjoy 3E for what it is. It’s a longer game, and more story-driven than its predecessor, but it’s cooperative and has a lot of replay value, especially as you add expansions.

Elder Sign (Fantasy Flight Games)

Another of FFG’s Lovecraftian games, this one is a little faster paced, and the base game is challenging but not frustrating (you need to go to some of the expansions for that). I generally am not a big fan of heavily dice-based games, but this is one of our regular go-to games. For a longer experience, try playing this marathon style: keep going until your characters are devoured or until you defeat every ancient evil.

The Big Book of Madness (Iello Games)

I stumbled across this one at my comic book shop (That’s Entertainment in Worcester, MA) and it was a very happy discovery. Players take on the roles of students at a school for elemental magic, who are fighting to hold back monsters being unleashed by a book of evil magic. Players have to coordinate their spellcasting to defeat the monsters, avoid curses that drive them insane, and prepare for the final battle to decide who wins. Takes a game or two to get used to the mechanics and develop your strategy, but after you get into a groove, the game moves nicely.

Note: the Iello website is currently down for an overhaul, so look for this in stores.

Here to Slay (Unstable Games)

We got this for Christmas and it became an instant favorite after one game. It’s a fantasy card game in which players develop adventuring parties to hunt and kill monsters, but the characters are all cute animals. Aside from being freaking adorable, the game is easy to set up, easy to learn, and you can get a few rounds into an hour. Nice, light, fun, and did I mention FREAKING ADORABLE?

Marvel United – X-Men (CMON Games)

Each game sets up a randomized board with different perks and pitfalls, and each hero has their own powers that influence game play as the X-Men try to defeat Magneto, Sabertooth, Mystique, and the Juggernaut. I took a chance and backed this on Kickstarter earlier this year. I’ve already received the base game, and am now awaiting the expansions I also backed, which stand to give the game a ton of replay value as it adds new heroes and villains galore. There’s also a main Marvel Universe version, which I plan to pick up.

Horrified – American Monsters (Ravensburger)

I was already a huge fan of the original Horrified, which is based on the Universal Monster movies, but when I heard they were releasing a version using American cryptids, my response was something along the lines of “You son of a bitch. I’m in!” The base mechanics are the same, so if you know the original game you can jump right in to American Monsters (or vice-versa), but the particulars of defeating the monsters are different, so between that and the new theme, it’s a satisfying new experience.

Note: the company is currently not selling directly from its website in the interests of supporting its retail partners, so look for it in stores.

Sharing the Love: The Play That Goes Wrong/The Gone Wrong Show

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these, but here we go.

Several months ago, I caught a production of The Play That Goes Wrong and immediately fell in love with it. The concept: The Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society is putting on a murder mystery, and as the title suggests, everything goes wrong during the performance. The (bad) actors bungle lines and miss cues. Props malfunction. The set falls apart. But the cast keeps on going, despite the increasingly hilarious gaffes.

My description does not do this show justice. It’s the kind of thing you have to see to fully appreciate, because the physical comedy and sight gags are absolutely brilliant, more so for being performed live without a single IRL misstep.

The live show is, obviously, on hiatus until the coronavirus passes, but when the touring show resumes, go see it live and in person.

In the meantime, to get a taste of the play, you can watch The Goes Wrong Show, currently available on Broadway HD (which I also recommend). The Cornleys put on a series of half-hour one-act plays that put the fake theater company’s comedic sensibilities on full display. The first series offers five episodes plus a Christmas special, so you’ll burn through it pretty fast — and then wait in agony for series two to arrive (which it will; the BBC renewed the show! Yay!).

Weekly Update – November 26, 2019

Thanksgiving is two days away, and immediately after that, the holiday shopping season kicks into high gear. Well, who am I to not engage in crass commercialism?

That’s right, the Kindle editions of the first books in the Action Figures and Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot series and the Well-Behaved Women trilogy will be on sale for 99 cents beginning on Black Friday and through Cyber Monday! Remember, you can buy any of these books now as a gift and schedule them to be delivered to the recipient on Christmas Day (or any date you choose).

I’m also participating in a cross-promotional effort with the Superhero Fiction Authors group, so go here to check out other superhero novels that will be on sale during this period.

But wait, there’s more! I’m also part of a cross-promotional effort with the New England Speculative Writers group, so here are even more great books on sale for 99 cents!

Hey, speaking of the superhero fiction group I belong to, we’re holding a cover art contest. Nothing major, mostly a fun thing to direct traffic to the site (and our books), but the cover of Action Figures – Issue Eight: Crawling From the Wreckage, created by Patricia Lupien, is in the running, so if you’re of a mind, go show my awesome cover artist some love!

WRITING PROJECTS

The Action Figures Omnibus – Volume One: Awaiting editing.

Action Figures – Issue Nine: Hell Hath No Fury: Beat reader feedback is coming in, and the cover art is almost done.

The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot – Sworded Affairs: Third draft is finished and it’s almost ready for editing.

The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot – Assassins Brawl: Recording of the audiobook edition is done and it’s now in final processing!

APPEARANCES & EVENTS

  • Arisia 2020 – January 17 – 20, Westin Boston Waterfront Hotel. I am confirmed as a vendor for next year! Now I’m waiting to hear about any panel assignments.

The New England Speculative Writers group has a new preview book for newsletter subscribers. Pick it up and read the opening chapters to Well-Behaved Women – Awakening and other stories.

If you’d like to make sure you don’t miss any news from me, remember that I have a weekly newsletter that features some of the stuff you see posted here plus new, newsletter-exclusive material. Click this link to sign up.

Weekly Update – November 19, 2019

Next week, the Kindle editions of all three first books in my three series — Action Figures, The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot, and Well-Behaved Women — will go on sale for 99 cents!

Action Figures and Well-Behaved Women will also be part of cross-promotional efforts with several other authors, and I’ll have more info on those next week!

On another note, mostly of interest to other indie authors…

Earlier this year, I was invited to participate in a multi-author event, but I declined due to what I regarded as an exorbitantly high table fee — $125, which got me a table for four hours of a first-year, one day, eight-hour show. For context: Arisia charges $120 for a table for its entire four-day weekend (early Friday evening through early Monday afternoon).

I later learned that the table fee was greatly slashed to, according to one author who attended, $45 — still for only a four-hour block. I also learned from a number of attending authors, that wasn’t enough of a reduction to make the show profitable. One person said they made their table fee back, others said they ran at a loss — but they “had fun,” “got to network with other writers,” and “got some decent exposure,” so it was all good, they said.

Excuse me a minute while I set up my soapbox…

If you’re an author with designs on making a career of your writing, full- or part-time, you have to adopt a businessperson’s mindset, which means you have to always consider the dollars and cents of doing an event at which you’re allowed to sell books.

Basic rule of thumb: if you don’t make a profit, or at the very least break even on your expenses, the show is not successful.

Quick aside: in business there is something called a “loss leader,” which is typically a product sold at a loss for the express purpose of attracting customers. This is an established and, under the right circumstances, viable approach to lining up future sales.

The problem I often see is when authors who take a bath at an event brush it off, claiming that they got good exposure and a lot of people said they’d buy the book online at a later date.

Here’s the problem: people say a lot of stuff they don’t mean, especially at conventions and fairs at which people sell their wares. “I’ll be back later” is one of the greatest customer lies in the convention scene. It’s code for, “I’m not going to buy anything but I don’t want to say so to your face, so here’s some false hope for you.”

As for authors who do see an online sales spike after an event, claiming cause and effect strikes me as wishful thinking. Sure, an increase in sales via Amazon (or whoever) following an event could be directly connected (in effect, the aforementioned loss leader). It could also very well be coincidence, and it’s damn near impossible to prove which scenario is true.

In any case, it still doesn’t make the show profitable or break-even. You didn’t meet or exceed the cost of being there, ergo the show was not successful.

Now, having said all that, I know authors who do shows fully expecting to walk out in the red — authors who have some other reason to be there, usually. They’re on panels or doing readings or conducting workshops — things that are much better loss leaders than standing at a table in the vendors’ area. There’s active engagement with potential customers who will learn something about the authors and what they have to offer.

If your goal is to have fun and network, go to events as a patron, but if you’re there as a businessperson, do your research to determine whether a given event is likely to yield positive financial results. Don’t enrich someone else at your own literal expense.

WRITING PROJECTS

The Action Figures Omnibus – Volume One: Awaiting editing.

Action Figures – Issue Nine: Hell Hath No Fury: Draft two in review with beta readers.

The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot – Sworded Affairs: Third draft is almost finished!

The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot – Assassins Brawl: Recording of the audiobook continues.

APPEARANCES & EVENTS

  • Arisia 2020 – January 17 – 20, Westin Boston Waterfront Hotel. I am confirmed as a vendor for next year. Now I’m waiting to hear about any panel assignments.

The New England Speculative Writers group has a new preview book for newsletter subscribers. Pick it up and read the opening chapters to Well-Behaved Women – Awakening and other stories.

If you’d like to make sure you don’t miss any news from me, remember that I have a weekly newsletter that features some of the stuff you see posted here plus new, newsletter-exclusive material. Click this link to sign up.

Weekly Update – November 12, 2019

Not much to report, because The Big Move to Oxford took up all of my weekend, and then some. I’m working on getting the new writing space in order.

WRITING PROJECTS

The Action Figures Omnibus – Volume One: Second pass is finished, and now this one goes on the back burner for a while so I can focus on other things.

Action Figures – Issue Nine: Hell Hath No Fury: Draft two in review with beta readers.

The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot – Sworded Affairs: Third draft has begun!

The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot – Assassins Brawl: Recording of the audiobook continues.

APPEARANCES & EVENTS

  • Arisia 2020 – January 17 – 20, Westin Boston Waterfront Hotel. I am confirmed as a vendor for next year! Now I’m waiting to hear about any panel assignments.

The New England Speculative Writers group has a new preview book for newsletter subscribers. Pick it up and read the opening chapters to Well-Behaved Women – Awakening and other stories.

If you’d like to make sure you don’t miss any news from me, remember that I have a weekly newsletter that features some of the stuff you see posted here plus new, newsletter-exclusive material. Click this link to sign up.

Weekly Update – November 5, 2019

It’s been a hectic week or two due to our Big Move to Oxford. We closed on the house last week and started moving stuff over right away. I also started setting up what will become my writing office! This weekend is The Big Move, when we haul over all the major furniture, at which point the moving part will be complete and we can get down to setting up the house.

 

WRITING PROJECTS

The Action Figures Omnibus – Volume One: Second pass continues.

Action Figures – Issue Nine: Hell Hath No Fury: Draft two in review with beta readers.

The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot – Sworded Affairs: The beta readers have spoken, but I’ve yet to sift through their notes due to the move.

The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot – Assassins Brawl: Recording of the audiobook continues.

APPEARANCES & EVENTS

  • Arisia 2020 – January 17 – 20, Westin Boston Waterfront Hotel. I am confirmed as a vendor for next year! Now I’m waiting to hear about any panel assignments.

The New England Speculative Writers group has a new preview book for newsletter subscribers. Pick it up and read the opening chapters to Well-Behaved Women – Awakening and other stories.

If you’d like to make sure you don’t miss any news from me, remember that I have a weekly newsletter that features some of the stuff you see posted here plus new, newsletter-exclusive material. Click this link to sign up.

Weekly Update – October 29, 2019

Today’s the last day for the cross-promotional effort spearheaded by Emerald Dodge, which features Well-Behaved Women – Awakening. You can go here to check it out and maybe find some new reading material!

WRITING PROJECTS

The Action Figures Omnibus – Volume One: My second pass is almost done, and then it’ll go off to my editor for a quick once-over.

Action Figures – Issue Nine: Hell Hath No Fury: Draft two in review with beta readers.

The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot – Sworded Affairs: Second draft is with my beta readers.

The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot – Assassins Brawl: Recording of the audiobook version is underway.

APPEARANCES & EVENTS

  • Arisia 2020 – January 17 – 20, Westin Boston Waterfront Hotel. I am confirmed as a vendor for next year! Now I’m waiting to hear about any panel assignments.

The New England Speculative Writers group has a new preview book for newsletter subscribers. Pick it up and read the opening chapters to Well-Behaved Women – Awakening and other stories.

If you’d like to make sure you don’t miss any news from me, remember that I have a weekly newsletter that features some of the stuff you see posted here plus new, newsletter-exclusive material. Click this link to sign up.

Weekly Update – October 22, 2019

First, Well-Behaved Women – Awakening is part of a new cross-promotional effort spearheaded by Emerald Dodge that begins on Thursday and runs through October 29. You can go here to check it out and maybe find some new reading material!

Speaking of Well-Behaved Women, the audiobook version of Endtimes is now available! That makes all three books available in print, Kindle, and audio formats — the first time I can make such a claim for one of my series!

WRITING PROJECTS

The Action Figures Omnibus – Volume One: Wait, what’s this? Well, the first three Action Figures novels have been out for a while now — they were released in 2013 and 2014 — and I’m planning to release Secret Origins, Black Magic Women, and Pasts Imperfect as a collection, complete with revised text and a new cover! Look for that sometime in 2020!

Action Figures – Issue Nine: Hell Hath No Fury: Draft two in review with beta readers.

The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot – Sworded Affairs: Second draft is with my beta readers.

The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot – Assassins Brawl: Recording of the audiobook version is underway.

APPEARANCES & EVENTS

  • Arisia 2020 – January 17 – 20, Westin Boston Waterfront Hotel

The New England Speculative Writers group has a new preview book for newsletter subscribers. Pick it up and read the opening chapters to Well-Behaved Women – Awakening and other stories.

If you’d like to make sure you don’t miss any news from me, remember that I have a weekly newsletter that features some of the stuff you see posted here plus new, newsletter-exclusive material. Click this link to sign up.

Weekly Update – October 15, 2019

Something strange has happened: for once, I don’t have a writing project.

Technically I have a few projects in process right now (see below) but I’m not doing any new writing at present. It’s unusual for me, but the timing is good, because over the next few weeks, my wife and I will be packing up and moving to a new home — a home with a writing office for me! Yay!

WRITING PROJECTS

Action Figures – Issue Nine: Hell Hath No Fury: Draft two is done! Time for beta readers to start chiming in!

The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot – Sworded Affairs: Second draft is with my beta readers.

Well-Behaved Women – Endtimes: Audiobook is undergoing final review.

The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot – Assassins Brawl: Recording of the audiobook version is underway.

APPEARANCES & EVENTS

  • Arisia 2020 – January 17 – 20, Westin Boston Waterfront Hotel

The New England Speculative Writers group has a new preview book for newsletter subscribers. Pick it up and read the opening chapters to Well-Behaved Women – Awakening and other stories.

If you’d like to make sure you don’t miss any news from me, remember that I have a weekly newsletter that features some of the stuff you see posted here plus new, newsletter-exclusive material. Click this link to sign up.

Weekly Update – October 8, 2019

The audiobook version of Well-Behaved Women – Awakening is part of a major promotion hosted by Emerald Dodge, so go check it out and maybe find yourself a new audiobook!

Now that I’ve gotten the blatant self-promotion out of the way…

I had my author day at the Connecticut Renaissance Faire last weekend, and I’d like to publicly praise my wife Veronica for being a selling machine. Because of her I topped last year’s sales figures handily, and she sold three of the four Well-Behaved Women trilogy/audiobook special packages I had. She even sold books I didn’t have on-hand because I ran out!

WRITING PROJECTS

Action Figures – Issue Nine: Hell Hath No Fury: Still working on draft two, but the cover art is nearly done, so look for an early reveal soon!

The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot – Sworded Affairs: Second draft is with my beta readers.

Well-Behaved Women – Endtimes: Audiobook is undergoing final review.

The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot – Assassins Brawl: Recording of the audiobook version is underway!

APPEARANCES & EVENTS

  • Arisia 2020 – January 17 – 20, Westin Boston Waterfront Hotel

The New England Speculative Writers group has a new preview book for newsletter subscribers. Pick it up and read the opening chapters to Well-Behaved Women – Awakening and other stories.

If you’d like to make sure you don’t miss any news from me, remember that I have a weekly newsletter that features some of the stuff you see posted here plus new, newsletter-exclusive material. Click this link to sign up.