Monday, 15 October 2018

Rangers of Shadow Deep - Cover Revealed!

I know a lot of people are patiently waiting for the release of Rangers of Shadow Deep, and I can report that a lot of progress has been made. In fact, we now have an official cover! Many thanks to Barrett Stanley for providing the cover art and Steve Meyer-Rassow for the graphic design!

The internal layouts for the book are now underway. This is the last major step towards completion. (There are a couple of minor ones, but they should take no more than a day or two once layouts are completed). So, when in the book going to be available? Not this week, I'm afraid, but next week is looking possible...

I will, of course, keep you updated!

Friday, 12 October 2018

Pursued by Wolves

Yesterday afternoon I was cycling along, enjoying the autumnal sunshine, when I glanced over my shoulder and saw... a pack of wolves running after me! Despite the heavy fence, I must admit, it was a little unnerving...

Frostgave: Maze of Malcor Miniature Pre-Order Campaign!

It is a big day for Frostgrave fans! It is the start of the Maze of Malcor Miniature Pre-Order Campaign.

As of today, a host of new Frostgrave miniatures are available to pre-order, including five new wizards and apprentices, a dozen or so new monsters, some new specialist soldiers, and the Frostgrave Soldiers II box set. This last item, which features twenty, plastic, multi-pose female soldiers is something that me and the gang from Osprey and Northstar have wanted to produce since the game was launched. 

To make it all more fun and interesting, the pre-order campaign has taken a page from Kickstarter and established 'spend-goals'. Basically, as the campaign reaches certain total-order thresholds, everyone participating gets freebies. In this case, there is a chance to pick up the phantasmal 'shade' versions of each of the five new wizards.

Most of the figures in the campaign are drawn from Frostgrave: The Maze of Malcor. You can also pick up the book, if you don't have it, and you'll even receive a special bonus treasure token if you do. (A really cool one, I might add).

The campaign lasts for 28 days, so get your order in now. And, remember, this is not a Kickstarter; it is not crowd-funding. All of these figures are either already produced or in the final stages of production. So all of the orders should be shipped soon after the campaign ends. 

I'll post periodic updates for those who are interested.

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Tiny Cars to Stomp (and a Fun Day with My Son)

This past weekend, I took my two-year-old son to the Folkestone Model Railway Exhibition. He can’t fully articulate his interests, but he doesn’t need a full vocabulary to make his love of ‘choo-choos’ apparent. As for myself, I’ve always loved model trains, even if I have never owned one, and only needed this slight pretext for attending the show. Besides, I figured there would probably be a few items there that would be suitable for wargaming…

The show was actually a bigger, more impressive affair than I expected. There were something on the order of 40 different track layouts on display, and probably 20 dealers. This is the show’s 47th annual installment, so it’s well-established, and even on Sunday it seemed well-attended.

My son loved it. In fact, he liked watching the trains so much, it was often hard to get him away from one display so we could look at another. There were some impressive set-ups. My favourite was a mining scene that had several trains running, including one underground, as-well-as a kind of cable-car set-up. Strangely, my son’s favourite was the guy who was at a table fixing broken trains and running them back and forth on a very short track to see if they worked. He did have a pretty cool engine that was billowing smoke.

The only drawback to the whole experience was that I had to constantly lift up the heavy little kid so he could see the trains. The show did have stools you could use, but even with these he was still a little too small. So, by the end of the show, my arms were burning. 

It’s hard to do any shopping while carrying a 2-year-old who wants to look at trains, but I did manage one little purchase. I bought some tiny cars that I thought would work with my 6mm set-up. I think they are ‘Z-scale’. In truth, they are actually too big for traditional 6mm – although a lot of 6mm is bigger than it is supposed to be these days. Also, when compared to my mechs, which are up on bases, they look even smaller. Anyway, they work for me.

A good day, all-and-all. I suspect we’ll go again next year, if he’s still into trains, when he’ll hopefully be tall enough to use the stool.

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

The Problem with Novels

Over the last few years, I’ve been having an increasing problem with novels, at least as they relate to my favourite genres of science-fiction and fantasy. It’s not the form itself that bothers me, but the frequency with which I have encountered stories expanded to novel length that would have been better served by some shorter form. These stories just don’t have enough plot – in genres traditionally driven by plot – to fill up 300+ pages. Often you get 100 – 150 pages of really interesting story mixed in with about 200 pages of ‘filler’ – scenes that may be interesting in their own right, but don’t really advance the story.

Unfortunately, this can often be very hard to recognize until you are deep into a book. That said, I do suggest wariness of any books that switch the point-of-view character a lot, especially those that switch to the POV of the villain. While this can be done effectively to tell a great story, it is also the easiest, and laziest, way to fill pages in a book without expanding the plot.

It is easy enough to understand why this happens. The whole fiction publishing industry is driven by the novel. It is by far the easiest format of fiction to sell. For whatever reason, society has decided that a 300 page story is worth £9; this unfortunately leads to the natural (if erroneous) conclusion that shorter stories are only worth a proportional amount. This has had the knock-on effect that short stories, novelettes, and novellas are often not worth an author’s time. All of these forms are actually harder to sell (at professional rates), and earn the author significantly less money than a novel. Thus, authors often don’t want to ‘waste’ a good idea on a short story or novella, when they could expand it to a novel. Unfortunately, for the most part, story ideas have a natural length, and the only way to expand them is through filler.

All of this was brought home to me recently as I read Of Whimsies & Noubles by Matthew Hughes. This science-fiction (maybe science-fantasy) novella clocks in at 74 pages and was published as an independent hardback by specialty publisher PS Publishing for the price of £12. It’s a terrific little story, a sci-fi crime-caper filled with interesting ideas. The main character is an overweight art-forger who likes to live the good life. He’s not an attractive character, but he is interesting. What I really love about the story is that it has no fat whatsoever – no filler at all. Every scene drives the story forward until it reaches its logical conclusion. That’s not to say the story is predictable, just that it never wanders from the main story line, and when it reaches a natural stopping point, it ends. Because of its short length, I don’t want to say much about it, but if it sounds like your kind of thing, it is definitely worth a look.

Now Matthew Hughes got lucky. He found one of the few publishers willing to publish a stand-alone novella. He probably even got paid a decent amount for it. That said, I have little doubt that he could have easily expanded the idea into a novel, sold it, and gotten a much bigger paycheque compared to time worked. On the other hand, the reading public would have lost a great novella to have it replaced by a likely mediocre novel. That would have been a real shame.

But now, I put forward the question: how many people are willing to pay £12 for 74 pages? The answer is – not many. That is why the book is published by the small press. I admit it, I would have a hard time paying that much for a novella unless I was a BIG fan of the author. That’s not a short at the publisher, they have to charge that kind of money if they have any hope of making a profit (Actually £12 is a really good price, usually these kinds of things are closer to £20).

Seemingly anthologies would be an answer to this problem, but, strangely, these sell significantly worse than novels, possibly even worse than independently published novellas.

The only answer, I suppose, is to be willing to pay for good fiction even when it is in a shorter format. The more people that do so, the larger a print run becomes, the cheaper the publisher can make the cover price. A good book is nearly always worth the price, a bad one never is. Of Whimsies & Noubles is a really good book.

[In the interests of full disclosure, I was sent this book for review, and had previously never encountered the author Matthew Hughes. I will be looking into him ore now. Over the last few years; however, I have purchased several independently published novellas, most recently The Last Full Measure by Jack Campbell]

Monday, 8 October 2018

Gamorrean Guards and Me

Return of the Jedi was first released when I was 7 or 8 years old. Thanks to the magic of terrestrial television and Betamax, I had seen the previous two Star Wars films, and absolutely loved them. I suspect my parents struggled with whether or not to take me to see the film, but, in the end, I think they deemed it important for my education. So, on one Saturday afternoon, my Dad took me to the dollar theater to catch the film before it exited theaters for good. (Remember when dollar theaters were a thing?).

The opening segment of the movie absolutely terrified me. Jabba’s palace is such a creepy, evil place. The rancor was the scariest thing I had ever seen, and when it crunched into that Gamorrean Guard I think I nearly passed out. To this day, that whole sequence remains my favourite bit of Star Wars. (Although Lucas damaged it badly with the Extended Editions). In fact, if Return of the Jedi ended with the destruction of Jabba’s sail barge, I think it would still be my favourite Star Wars film.

Thanks, Mom and Dad, for taking the risk of giving a kid nightmares. That little investment in my future has paid huge dividends.

I am still slowly working my way through the stuff I acquired at GenCon this year, and that includes a load of Star Wars: Imperial Assault figures, most of them from the Jabba’s Realm expansion. The figures in the box are terrific. Wonderful detail, crisp casting. They are significantly better than the figures that came in the original box.

Now, in truth, I don’t play the game, but I enjoyed painting this figure a lot, and I am looking forward to trying a few more. I actually like these figures a lot better than the Star Wars: Legion figures, that are all the hotness right now, for the simple reason that they are more or less in scale with every other miniature I own. Legion figures are just too large.

I’m not sure what I’ll use these figures for, but I’m sure I’ll find something…

Standing next to a Pig Iron trooper for scale purposes.

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

Aerospace Support!

Yesterday, I mentioned that my new mech was part of my ‘Firehawks Legion’. I am using the term ‘legion’ under its definition as a combined-arms military unit. In the future I hope to add tanks, infantry, etc. For the moment though, I am concentrating on aerospace support.

The fighter is a ‘Salamander’ miniature that was originally manufactured for Silent Death: The Next Millennium, a space-fighter game from the 80s/90s. I am a huge fan of this game, which I think has really stood the test of time, and plan to use my work on the Firehawks as the basis for painting up a bunch of fighters to play the game. I’ve even ordered a new outer space hex map from Cigar Box Battles!

For those interested, the fighter is part of a set of twelve plastic minis that can still be obtained from EM-4 in the UK (although they are listed as out of stock at the moment) and Metal Express in the USA. It’s probably the best deal in space fighter minis around!

I painted this guy up in the blue and red of the Firehawks. Nothing fancy, just slap some paint on, give it a wash, a bit of dry brushing, and there you go. Easy and effective!

Well, I say easy – this guy actually had a wing-man, but he didn’t survive the painting process... 

Foolishly, I painted the figure while not on its flight stand, and got enough paint in the hole that it would no longer fit. In order to clean out the hole, I got my dremel tool and, in a fit of over-enthusiasm, managed to drill straight through the figure. I probably could have salvaged it, but decided it probably wasn’t worth the effort, considering I’ve got at least three more of them.

When you are piloting a mech, it is good to know you’ve got support in the skies above!