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Monthly Archives: May 2015

Two quick announcements

First, there is going to be a game session of A Match Made in Austen, Friday June 5th at 19:00, at the Game Buff (L’As des Jeux) in Gatineau. It is an amazing place, and the owners and employees are awesome people, really passionate about games. This is going to be a great evening, I’m sure of it.

Second, my parents got a dog two days ago. I just met him yesterday.

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Pictured here with one of my siblings.

His name is Johnny Cash. (My dad is a fan, the dog is all black, Mom didn’t stand a chance. She just calls him Johnny.)  Apparently, he is a spaniel of some kind, but my parents couldn’t tell me which kind. Either the SPCA people didn’t tell them/didn’t know, or my parents forgot. Anyway, when I think spaniels, I think King Charles, the tiny dogs with big ears and long curly hair. Johnny looks more like a baby black lab to me. But he’s not a baby, he’s two years old. Could anyone tell, from my just-a-step-above-crappy picture, what kind of breed the dog is?

The breed isn’t what’s important, of course. What’s important is that he’s a well-trained, well-behaved, good dog, and he is.

Those are the updates for the week.

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Posted by on May 31, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Book Tuesday: The Hybrid Chronicles, by Kat Zhang

The first volume of The Hybrid Chronicles, What’s Left Of Me, was a great example of the Goodreads “Recommend” feature working the way it should. I gave the first volume a five star, and the other two four stars each.

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Kat Zhang creates a fantasy world where everyone is born with two personality living in their bodies. Generally, one of the personality begins to fade around age five, and has completely disappeared by age ten. The narrator, Eva, is one of the personalities of a sixteen years old girl, the personality that should have faded away years ago but never did. In typical dystopian fashion, the personal struggles she shares with her “sister”, Addie, expose the terrible way she and others like her are treated. They discover an underground resistance movement and radically transform their society to get rid of the prejudice she and others like her face.

I really enjoyed this series. I absolutely loved the first book, though the ending was a touch too ambiguous for a stand-alone. Then again, by that point, I already knew that this was a trilogy. By the second book, I encountered the biggest problem I have with this series: it is made clear in the series that most of the major world events happened in this world as well, that the reason Eva and most everyone else knows nothing about them is that America has severed all contact with the rest of the world, but it doesn’t tell us when. Or the when shifts between novel. In the first novel, it looked as though the separation happened sometime after the revolutionary war. In the second book, it looked like it happened around or after world war two. There is a lot of time between the two, and trying to figure out the “actual” timeline hurt my head. Once I stopped trying and just went with the flow, the book was good again.

One of the things I enjoyed best in this series was the fact that Eva and Addie are consistently written as co-owners of their body. Neither of them wants sole ownership; they don’t want the other to disappear. They are written like twins; they are different people, they have different tastes and different dreams and aspirations, they occasionally squabble, but they love each other, and they do not want to lose each other. I haven’t seen that kind of relationship written that well in many novels, and I thought it was a really good thing.

 
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Posted by on May 26, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Today was card game day

You may or may not remember, two weeks ago, I mentioned that I created a card game called A Match Made in Austen, and that my publishers, Renaissance, was using the game as a gateway to expend the business into game production. Card games, as it turns out, are a pretty good starting point for printing games, because they are relatively easy to make. So today, fellow Renaissance author Caroline Fréchette and I had planned a day of testing various kinds of card games. I brought mine and she brought hers, and we were going to try out as many as possible. The goal was to try out different systems, and get some ideas about adapting her book series Family by Choice into a card game.

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Those are my card games, photographed from my apartment.

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Those are her card games, photographed from her home. To be fair, she owns many – MANY – more board games then I do. I barely can fill a bookshelf with my board games. She has a wall full in her basement. I also included a regular deck of cards in my games, and I’m sure she owns one of those, too.

Turns out that between the making of the plans and the actual day, she and her partner had already figured out a system, which is the bunch of papers you see in the pictures of her games. So we tried out that version (still some details to iron out, but already a lot of fun) and played Gloom and Fluxx, because I had never played Gloom and she had never played Fluxx.

I think I may have been the overall winner of this game of discovery. I found Gloom to be so much fun. However, while Caroline agreed that the collectible Fluxx versions might be fun to have, for fannish purposes, the game itself is too random for her taste. Of course, randomness is the point of Fluxx, but if you like to be able to plan three moves ahead, it’s not the game for you.

In any case, today was a good day, and there are a lot of potential goodies in the future. One of those future goodies being my own game, A Match Made in Austen, which you can now support on Kickstarter.

 
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Posted by on May 24, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Book Tuesday: The Liar, by Nora Roberts

The most recent stand-alone novels by Mrs Nora Roberts, which came out a month ago, but I was waiting for my library copy, so I only read it this week-end.

the liar

A brief resume: Shelby Pomeroy married Richard Foxworth at age 19. Five years later, she becomes a widow, and immediately later learns that her husband lied about everything: he cheated on her, he pretended to want a second child with her but had a vasectomy in secret, he never even made the first payment on their new seven-bedrooms house. She’s left with nothing but her toddler and three million dollars of debt; so she returns home to her family. She reconnects with her old friends, and some old enemies too, and she catches the eye of newcomer Griffin Lott. But moving away doesn’t mean getting away from the trouble her husband left her into. On top of all the other things, the man was a thief and a con artist, and from old victims to former partners, there are way too many people looking to settle a score with him, through Shelby.

What did I think of this book? I liked it, for the most part, and I did finish it in less then 24 hours. When one considers that there are books I cannot even bring myself to finish, I think this is a fair indication that I really did like this book.

Beware spoilers under the cut.

Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on May 19, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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How my week-end went

Pretty well, all things considered. My week ended on sort of a shitty note, one that I’d rather not talk about, but so far the week-end seems to be making out for it.

Yesterday, the Preakness Stakes, the second race of the Triple Crown, was run in Baltimore. I don’t make as big a fuss about the Preakness as I do about the Derby, which ran two weeks ago, but I do watch it almost every year, if only to see if there’s going to be a Triple Crown winner this year. And from what little I know about horseback racing, things are looking pretty good this year. The same horse won both the Derby and the Preakness, and he won them both by a fair margin, which means he just might have the stamina to run the mile and a half Belmont, the final race of the Triple Crown, three weeks from now. And on top of that, it was pouring rain in Maryland yesterday afternoon, and the horse still held his own.

(Unrelated, but still good news, I went to my parents’ house to watch the race, and my Montreal sibling had dropped off the cats, both the ‘street rescue’ one and the ‘wanted ads’ one, in preparation for moving back in town for the summer. I got to pet the kitties, and they are both so nice and so gorgeous. I think I’m more ready then I expected to get a new cat of my own. Don’t tell the Montreal sibling, though; I don’t want to be pushed. I’ll go to the SPCA in my own good time.)

This afternoon was CanGames, a local convention of tabletop and role-playing gamers in Ottawa. I was leading a play-test for A Match Made in Austen, the card game I designed and which is now being produced by Renaissance. It was a small play-test, only one person signed up for it, but that one person was very enthusiastic, and picked up some of our promo material to distribute to friends who might like the game as well. My friend Caroline Fréchette, the driving force behind Renaissance, was also there, and we had a good look around in the vendors room, browsing other card games, looking for some inspiration. (We bought a few, and are planning a board game day to test them out. We haven’t had one of those in ages, it’s going to be great!) That was a fun time.

Speaking of A Match Made in Austen: the Kickstarter is trucking along nicely. The game is now 36% funded with 31 days to go. I don’t want to jinx it, but we might just make it, and wouldn’t that be cool! Launching a finished product knowing that at least two dozen other people are as excited about it as we are.

And tomorrow is a day off, because it’s Victoria Day. I’ve talked about my feelings about three day week-ends before (in a gist, the two day week-ends suit me fine) but it has been a while since I spent a day in my jammies, watching movies or reading. I think I might be overdue.

 
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Posted by on May 17, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Book Tuesday: The Scarlet Pimpernel, by Baroness Emmuska Orczy

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The Scarlet Pimpernel is one of the books that I had marked down in my Aurelia Osborne GoodReads, but never transferred to my [insert real name] GoodReads, and therefore promptly forgot. Then I heard the title somewhere, got intrigued, and picked it up.

The story is set in October 1792, in France. It is the Reign of Terror, and anyone even remotely suspected of being an enemy of the revolution is sentenced to die. Yet, the guillotine is cheated out of many heads by the hard work and ingenuity of a man known only as the Scarlet Pimpernel. All that is known about the Pimpernel is that he, and the League who operates under his orders, are English noblemen. Therefore, the French Government sends an agent, Chauvelin, as their ambassador to England to discover the identity of their clever enemy and have, if possible, send him in France to a trap where he would be caught and executed. To assist him, Chauvelin enrolls Marguerite Blakeney, née St-Just, the wife of Sir Percy Blakeney, baronet and leader of fashion, who just so happens to be the Scarlet Pimpernel. Marguerite does not know the secret identity of her husband: she only knows that unless she helps Chauvelin, he will have her brother Armand arrested for treason.

Having read this for the first time three months ago, and many many more times since, I am going to go ahead and call this my new favorite classic novel. I have some issues with the form: there is a lot of seeing the action happen and then followed by lengthy explanations. But I’m getting used to seeing this, as I’ve been reading more and more classic novels. It seems that they all employ this story structure. I don’t like it, and I’m really, really glad that it fell out of fashion, but I’m getting used to it. There is also a lot of wandering around, and A LOT of repetition and rehashing of events. But I do enjoy Marguerite, as a main character, and so much of the story, the intrigue and the action and the romance, is all so captivating. In a word, I have been enjoying the book despite it’s writing.

Because I do enjoy seeing classical works adapted in visual formats, I have begun to look for various Scarlet Pimpernel adaptations to compare and contrast. I am especially looking forward to Masked, a modern-day adaptation web-series announced for “summer 2015” (so… six weeks from now?)

 
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Posted by on May 12, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Things that happened during the hiatus: I rediscovered board games

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The thing is this: I really enjoy playing board game, but most of them are two players or more, and for a long time, it was really hard finding people to play with. My friends and family are either super-busy, or they don’t like playing board games. Playing was a special occasions thing: for example; my mother and I bought each other Tickets to Ride on Christmas a couple of years ago, and we’ve been playing after Christmas dinner every year since, and that was pretty much it.

But then, last Christmas, I saw that there were a copies of Pandemic at my local big box bookstore. I heard a lot of good things about that game, so I grabbed a couple of copies* to give out as presents, hoping that I would then be invited to play the game with the people I gave the game to. And it worked! One of the people I gave a copy to was my mom, and we’ve played almost every week-end since Christmas. And then this really cool game shop opened a block away from my apartment, just last month. I stumbled upon it the other day, and I am so happy! I dragged my mom to the grand opening, and we had a really good time.

My favorite part about playing games is the solving of the puzzle. There is a thing that you have to do, and using your brain to logically deduce how to do the thing is what, in my opinion, makes the game fun. The element of luck is what makes it possible to play the game more then once and still have fun. When I was first playing game, I didn’t think much about how the game works, I just played it. Now that I’m rediscovering them as a critically-minded adult, I am spending a lot of time thinking about them games; and how they work, or don’t, and how to make then better if I can.

These reflections lead to many ideas, the first of which is now well on it’s way to become a physical thing. To help make the transition from theoretical to concrete as smooth as possible, Renaissance as launched a Kickstarter campaign, which will last until June 17th. Check it out here.

If you are in the Ottawa region, and you want to try a physical version of the game, someone who looks a lot like me will be conducting a playtest at CanGames, a local convention of gamers. You can check out the CanGames website here. The playtest is scheduled for Sunday, at 2 PM.

And that pretty much catches everyone up on what happened during the hiatus. Next week, I’ll be talking about my CanGames experience, and then, who knows?

*along with plenty of books, because I took a bookstore vow.

 
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Posted by on May 10, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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