Would You Rather / Hateful Ace / The Witness

Hello dear readers!  Things are going well; I am waiting on my editor at Skyhorse to have a look at the final draft of the MS.  From there it’s line and copy editing.  I can’t wait until I can share the cover with you!!

In the meantime, I wanted to share a few neat games with you.  For one you will need nothing but people, for the other you will need people and a deck of cards, and for one you’ll need the game itself and a thinking cap!

I played a game called Would You Rather on New Years Eve, and it is fascinating.  It’s a game where one person posits a question to the group, and each person has a go at picking the thing “they would rather”.  The devil’s in the details though; the best ones are the ones that divide the group in half.

Here are some of the “would you rathers” that stuck with me.

Would you rather: never have eggs again, OR never have berries again?  (To clarify, “berries” are things that are berries in common parlance, not any technical bullshit like “tomatoes are berries” or “strawberries aren’t berries, they’re aggregate accessory fruits”.  And never having eggs again includes anything that eggs are in.)

Would you rather: Whenever you encounter stairs, you don’t know what they are or understand what they work, and to use them someone must explain them to you, OR have every article of clothing you wear jingle like it’s full of a ton of loose pocket change?  (To clarify, you don’t remember you don’t understand stairs; every time you encounter them is like the first time, and you simply cannot use them until someone helps you grock what they are.)

Would you rather: Have your mind in a gorilla in a lab being experimented on, with the knowledge that you will eventually be retired to a sanctuary at the end of your life, OR have your mind as it was at 4 years old, in a horse, working as a trail-ride horse.  (To clarify: as a gorilla, you are you with all your experience and knowledge.  You may have a chance to communicate with your captors, or a chance to escape, but only after years of failed attempts.  As a horse, you are you as you were at 4 years old.)

It yielded some interesting discussions.

Another game you will need a deck of cards for.  It’s called Hateful Ace, and it’s a neat party game as well!

BTW there’s a huge market for collectable decks of cards right now; Kickstarter has been a boon for designers!

So, grab a deck of cards and shuffle it up.

The game is about trying to guess how good or how bad something is, according to the person talking about it.  Good things are red, not so good things are black.  High cards are more, low cards are less.  So a red ace is best, a black ace is worst.  A red 7 is pretty good.  A red 2 is just barely ok; black 2 barely not ok, and a black 7 pretty bad.

So someone goes first and draws a (secret) card.  They look at it and formulate something to say that will enable the other players to guess the card.

Say I draw a Jack of diamonds-

I’d have to think of something I thought was pretty good.  It could be something that happened to me, or something in general that I made up.  I might say something like “…When you see your book cover for the first time.”  And one by one, the other players guess what card I have.  If someone nails it bang on, guess stops, and they’re awarded the card as their point.  If no one gets it, it goes to whoever is closest.  In the event of a tie, you can do either carry the point over, or do a tie breaker question with another card.

When it’s someone else’s turn, I won’t know what card they have and have to guess it using their clue.  So if I said to you, “Seeing someone achieve their lifelong dream of becoming a published author, and you really dig their book,” what would you guess?  I’d have to guess

because to me that’s pretty damn good.  (By the way, that 10 of diamonds comes with 3D glasses; it’s a set of 3D playing cards!)

The last game I want to mention quickly is “The Witness“.  It’s a puzzle solving game where you wander around a beautiful island and solve puzzles.  I can’t say too much without it feeling like spoilers, so I’ll just show you some pictures, and then a link to a video review from one of my favourite content creators right now, Justin MacElroy.

So it’s pretty beautiful and beautifully pretty!  The puzzles are fun and challenging, and truly there are some innovative things to stump you until you have a lightbulb moment.  I really recommend this game if you like solving puzzles!

So that’s all for me for now.  I’ll keep you posted about the progress of my book, Sleep Over.  I hope to update here more regularly, even if it’s just to say hi and to show you neat stuff I’ve found, writing or otherwise.  🙂

Thanks for stopping by!

Heidi out.

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Sleep Related Research, Glass, Prop Hunt

Well dear readers, I hope you are well.  I have had the flu for the past several weeks!  For a few days, it was that kind of sick where you can lay on the couch in silence and not even feel bored.  Your body wants you to be laying down and it makes you not care that you don’t even want to watch Netflix.

When I got better (after a solid week of eating like a maniac and napping every afternoon), I got Prop Hunt.  I have played it for the past 5 days (not all day… not today anyway haha), and it is incredible.

Prop Hunt is the modern day video-game-age equivalent of Hide-and-Seek.

The “Hunters” are “it” and they are blind for 30 seconds while the “Props” take their preferred form (or hastily-chosen-in-a-panic-form [A CABBAGE NEXT TO THE TOILET OH HOW INTERESTING]), and hide.

Once released, the Hunters must find the Props and kill them.

Hunters have health, and every time they attack an innocent object (I swear that lamp looked suspicious) they take damage.  An ill-placed grenade can be lethal.

Props have health directly correlated to how big they are.  That honkin’ vending machine is sitting pretty at 200 health, but is way out in the open.  A tiny pop can is able to hide in small spaces, but only has one health.  A nearby grenade can take one out, even if they weren’t the intended target.

So for the past few days, I’ve been a filing cabinet, a bottle, a lamp, a hula girl figurine (the hardest thing in the game to shoot!), various boxes, all sorts of junk.  It’s been a lot of fun.

When I get sick, I watch Youtuber “Seananners” play Prop Hunt, so I already knew what it was all about.  I’m glad this time I was able to play it myself.  Here he is in action.

Seananners. Pretty fun.
Onwards!

There is sleep research showing up on my feed nearly every week!  I always get excited to see how interested people are in it.  I think my novel will strike at just the right time.

Here’s some neat things, if you’re interested:

Discovery of a sleep node in the brain could lead to treatment for people with sleep disorders, such as insomnia.

How your brain actually makes decisions while you sleep

Scientists find evidence that narcolepsy, a chronic sleep disorder, may in fact be an autoimmune disease.

So yeah, interest in sleep and sleep research is high right now.

Here are some amazing things made of glass. I may have posted a few of these before… they continue to amaze.






Source is the very talented Paul J. Stankard.

I’ve always loved watching glass blowing.  Some day I’ll have a setup to play around with.

So that’s all for now!  Everything publishing-related is still hush-hush.  Though I can say, I have another manuscript waiting to be looked over by my fabulous agent, Beth Campbell, and as soon as she can give me notes on it I can get to work.

I’ll leave you with these: pictures of ink dropped in water.  Cheers!

Full album here!
 

My X-Files Message in a Bottle Reply in the News

So last week I posted on reddit about how I used to throw messages in bottles over the side of the ferry, and when I was 11 someone from the X-Files responded to one.

Well maybe I can find the kind-hearted person who wrote to me from my favourite show!

BuzzFeed did an article about it, and today I’m in the Province!



And just for you dear readers, a bonus pic. The photographer from the paper didn’t even notice it (or maybe he did and just kept on walking).

It’s the photo on Agent Mulder’s badge when he and Scully make an appearance on The Simpsons, in case you’re wondering, and in case that makes it less weird that this is virtually the only thing on the walls of my apartment.

In writing news, the last of the revisions are off to my fabulous agent, Beth Campbell, and maybe I can start sleeping properly again, now that I’m not having to tinker about in a world where the insomnia apocalypse is ravaging humanity.

That’s all for now folks!

Thanks for stopping by.

Heidi out.

Stay On Target

Sorry for the long time between updates!  I have a draft of something I was working on, but I won’t post that yet.  For now, news on the novel.

Things have been smoking along at quite the clip.

I have another day of read-through and editing to do, and then my manuscript will be ready for the beta readers!  I am so excited.  I’m already feeling relief; I have written so many challenging things these past few weeks, and I really will be glad to be done.

I have to make a tough call tomorrow about cutting a piece.  The fact that it’s on the chopping block means it’s probably already been chopped, but for some reason my current self hasn’t accepted it yet, so I’m still “considering” it.  I am being careful not to say the same thing twice in this book… so I need to really look at what I said and see if I come at this part of the event at two different enough angles.

Of all the segments I had to write, the pregnancy miscarriages and deaths of infants was one of the hardest.  In the insomnia apocalypse I’m writing, children get a pretty shitty deal.  I wanted to cover it but not dwell on it- because it might come off as shock-value- but damn.  It really took it out of me.  And I fricking wrote the damn thing twice.  One from a paediatric nurse working the neonatal unit, and one from a medical hypnotist.

Guess which perspective is more interesting?

See, it’s obvious.  But my stupid writer brain is clinging to the nurse.  It took so much time to pull that off, it was haaard, it thinks.  Cram it brain, the Hypnotist is better.  But the nurse shows it better.  The Hypnotist is all about The Hypnotist.  

Ugh.  Cutting is hard sometimes.

Sorry, this is all abstract.  Here’s a bat.

This is the most challenging thing I have ever written, and keeping it held together in my mind, dozens of stories, vignettes, characters, locations, research- it’s messing with my brain.  …And my life a little.  Like missing appointments, shifts at work… my brain is just about at its limit with this one.

I got four hours of sleep last night, then went to the cafe, and spent five hours fervently writing (one segment completed) and editing (perhaps 45,000 words read-through/edited.

Once I get this book done I can go back to the methodical agent researching.  I already have notes on several whom I’d love to work with- I hope one of them loves my project enough to work with me on it.

A new apocalypse scenario, who would have thought, right?

Onwards.  Oh god I just devoured The Handmaiden’s Tale.  Man alive, that one will stick with you.

Banished is an amazing medieval city building game.  If you like resource management and seeing your villagers die of starvation, this game is for you!  T_T

It is hard as butts.  But addictive, and also fun.

And also we’re getting another kitty, a kitten.  Will post pictures, of course.  It’s going to be a toss up between news about this book and a kitten.  …I will try and mash them together, maybe like a cute kitten photo with a caption that’s all business.

*

Today I got a full manuscript request from the most amazing agent ever!**

*not my kitten

**is only a caption example, has not happened (for this particular manuscript, yet, as it is not finished).

Ta ta for now, beautiful readers.  I will have a tidbit of good news to share with you soon.  😉

And then, hopefully soon, the best news.

Thanks for reading.

Heidi out.

PAX 2013: Top 10, and the Record Speed Bureaucracy that Got Me There

Well hello there!

Been a while.  It’s been a little slow going on the writing front; sometimes it’s a slog, and you just have to muscle through it.  ._.

I just got back from PAX!  Penny Arcade Expo is a huge gaming convention in Seattle, and this year it went from Friday August 30th to Monday September 2nd.  Four days of wicked awesome gaming fun with my best friends, and 80,000 other people.

We had an 8 bed room at a hostel.  I made a nest up on the top bunk by the window, and it was excellent.

But I’m getting ahead of myself…

This is perhaps the most clutch example of bureaucracy I will ever recount.  I still cannot believe it happened.  Truly, I am in the luckiest timeline.

9PM the night before leaving for PAX: someone in my group posts on our coordination thread that they just realized that their passport was expired.  The rest of us gave our condolences and continued packing.

So at about 9:05PM, the night before we leave, I also discover that my passport is expired.

There was much freaking out, but I kept it together.  Discovered that it was possible, though not likely, that I could get a new passport in time to make my 11:30 bus the next morning.

10:05PM: get passport photo taken.  Thank goodness for late night convenience stores that take passport photos.

That night I packed and figured out the timeline for the next day.  If I got up at 6, I could get in line for the passport office at 6:30.  When it opened at 7:30 I was the first in line, of about 40 people.  I explained my situation to the teller with a good a mix of urgency, optimism, and cheerfulness, but with an underlying panic that was impossible to conceal.

Longer story shorter, my new passport was handed to me at 11:17AM.  I was in a cab at 11:20, and on the bus with all my friends at 11:25.

I cannot believe that worked.   The people at the passport office in downtown Vancouver are wizards, literally wizards.

Bonus: my friend who was in the same predicament got his passport as well and made it to PAX in time for An Afternoon With Patrick Rothfuss.

Onto PAX!  Here I shall share my top 10 games to check out.

#10: Against the Wall

Against the Wall is a first-person platforming-adventure game set on the side of an infinite wall.  You have a weapon/tool equipped to manipulate sections of the wall, pulling them outwards so you can climb on them.  This game looked challenging and fun and I look forward to trying it out. (by Michael Consoli)

#9: Mushroom 11

I only got a quick look at this game but it seemed really neat; you’re herding an ever-growing fungus through a side scrolling maze. (by Itay Keren)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EkFGbMYmeT8#t=5m54s

#8: Orbitor

There was a contingent of Australians up on the 5th floor of the main convention hall, near the PAX10, and I had a brief peruse to see what would catch my eye.  Orbiter jumped out at me because of how insanely beautiful it is.  It’s a space game where you orbit stars and moons and blow them up for energy.  The effects are eye catching and the soundtrack is great.  Just a beautiful game that I look forward to playing more of.  (by Tim Stasse)

#7: Aarus Awakening

This game was eyecatching- everything in it started hand drawn on paper.  The concept was neat and challenging- little beasty-dude can teleport to where your mouse cursor is.  I had a tough time picking it up, but that was mostly because I was exhausted by the time I got to it.  This is one game I will be playing again, when I have skills like basic hand-eye coordination, and brain function once again.  A neat game.

#6: Cannon Brawl

Cannon Brawl is out right now.  My husband plays it a lot.  He was very excited to meet the creators of it; he made a shirt and they were pretty thrilled to see how into their game he is.  They signed it for him, and played the game with him.  The creators are super cool, and their game is absolutely fantastic.  Think Worms Armageddon meets tower defence, with real time zeppelin warfare and destructible terrain.  It’s super fun!  Check it out, and get your Cannon Brawl on.

The next three on the list are all about sound.  Visuals and gameplay are great, but mostly it was the soundtrack that drew me in.

#5: Soundodger

It’s like asteroids, but you can bend time.  Oh and also the soundtrack sometimes kicks into reverse, and so does everything else but you.  It’s hella cool, and free to play.

#4: Electronic Super Joy

Sidescrolling 2D platformer that has a kickin soundtrack to accompany you on your perilous journey.  The look and feel is really great.  Bought it when I got home.

#3: Crypt of the NecroDancer

This is a fantastic concept that’s so well implemented I could have played this game all day.  You move to the beat of the music to keep your combo multiplier going, and it rocks my socks.  This had such a crowd around it, mainly because they had a DDR pad hooked up to it, so people had to get their feet moving to the beat to dodge skeletons and fight dragons in this roguelike rhythm dungeon crawler. No picture could do it justice; you have to hear it to believe it, and everyone watching was bobbing their heads along to this awesome game.

#2: BattleBlock Theater

This game was round 2 of the Omegathon, and boy oh boy was it fun to watch.  It’s like Smash Bros, but with more game types, and with the cute factor pumped to 500%.  Customizing your little battle dudes before the fight is super fun; there’s a jillion different heads to get.  I bought it when I got home, and have a stoic lion head as my mug of choice.  Want a party game?  This is the one.  Epic fun times ahead with Battleblock Theatre.

#1: Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime

Holy moly this was fun.  Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime at the top of my list for sure: it’s beautiful, sounds amazing, and is so inventive I fell in love with it immediately.

It’s two player co-op.  You and your partner are manning a ship, and there are four guns, a shield, a giant space lazer, and thrusters, and you have to operate the ship in real time while being assaulted by space aliens, and simultaneously trying to save whole planets that are being attacked.  It’s super fun, and I cannot wait to play more of it.

But wait there’s one more: it was the most hilarious thing to watch and then to play.  Octodad: Dadliest Catch is a game where you play an octopus in disguise as a normal human dad, trying to fake his way through normal human stuff without letting on that he’s an octopus in a suit.  Controlling the jelly-noodly-flip-floppy-cephalopod resulted in constant laughter.  Having to do such mundane things as “Get your daughter the milk” and “Make coffee” resulted in near catastrophe as my flailing tentacles sent things flying around due to my inept control.  It was so, so funny, and I will make everyone that comes into my house play it, so that I can laugh at them.

So that’s *my* PAX10.  PAX11 I suppose.  There were so many games, and even more that I list here that I’m looking forward to.  The final round of the Omegathon was “Spy Party” and I think I’ll get it and play the heck out of it, and I will learn a new meaning of the word “subtlety”.

(My lanyard by the end of the con!)

That’s all for now folks!  Thanks for checking it out.  I hope I’ve inspired you to take a look at a few of these games and see if you like them.

Cheers.

Heidi out.

12PAX: Coming at it as a Writer

This was my first PAX.

For those not in the know, PAX is Penny Arcade Expo, a gaming convention.  It spanned the three days over the Labour Day long weekend, and had many things that interested me.

I went to a ton of panels with interesting people talking about interesting things.  I mostly tried to come at it from my perspective as an author.  It was nice; a lot of the talks really applied to writing, and not just in video games.

I wanted to share a bit about some of the writing related panels I went to, and the points I took away from them.  The speakers were engaging and humourous, informative and well thought out.

First up: Loving The Alien: Non-Humans in Fiction and Games.

This is extremely relevant to writers of science fiction and fantasy in particular.

The panelists were Erin Evans, author of Brimstone Angels and The God Catcher, David Noonan, lead writer of TERA, and referenced weekly in our D&D campaign, and Keith Baker, creator of the Eberron campaign setting in D&D, writer of two trilogies, as well as the creator/writer on a host of other RPG and computer games.

I know, right?  Writers makin’ it.  So good.

These good folks talked about non-human characters and the challenges faced by writers trying to flesh them out.  It was interesting, though I felt rather pretentious when I had the thought “I know all this.”  I DON’T know all this, but I guess it feels like that sometimes when you’ve spent time thinking about a topic.  …But then, I’ve been doing A LOT of thinking about this; I am in the throws of writing a novel where the main character is non-human.

The one point I hadn’t really thought about was, when you have non-human species, show them interacting in places where they’re forced together with other species.  You get to see all kinds of tensions, their differences, but also their similarities when you show where their borders clash.  Showing a non human character in their element is fine and dandy, but show them at odds with other species to really make them shine.


The next day, a panel that caught my eye was called Making Magic Work: Designing Magic Systems for Games and Books.  I was, unfortunately, behind the last person admitted.  :/  The Tabletop Theatre was consistently too small for the number of people that wanted to see the panels there.  I saw tons of people turned away from every talk there!  I hope next time they have a bigger venue for such interesting panels.  I found an interesting read if you’re into magic systems.

One good thing happened there, even without me actually getting into the panel: a girl in the line got a game going.  It was a simple game to learn, and a lot of fun.  It drew strangers together.  I purchased it post haste!  I ended up proliferating her idea, and started a game of it while waiting in another line up.  It was just a fun social interaction that left everyone feeling great.

The game is “Spot-it” if you’re interested.  Colours and shapes; you’d think it was easy.

Anyway!

Later that evening, I attended “Setting the Mood”, on what makes a good RPG.

I was pleased to see Keith Baker again; he had a lot of interesting things to share about his experience with RPGs.  Also on the panel were Will Hindmarch and Logan Bonner.

These guys had a lot of RPG experience between them. They went over many great ideas, from using music as an aid, to party cohesion, to dealing with problem players. It was all about steering the story in the direction it should go, helping players play their characters, and just having a good time.

Ok, not explicitly about writing, but it was about storytelling.  It was a lot of anecdotes, some good Q&A, and just a lot of fun.

On the third day, I went to a panel called “Sympathy for the Devil: Creating Killer Villains for Games and Books.”

This was a lot of fun too.  It was hosted by, again, the fantastic Erin Evans, as well as Susan Morris (author of Writers Don’t Cry, five books, and D&D for kids!) and Philip Athans (author of several of the Forgotten Realms books).

What this panel made me want to do was just talk with them about vilains.  Interesting panels have this effect.  It sometimes causes the Q&A to get a little dumb (we’re here to hear the panelists, not you, random audience member).  But my friends, who were also listening with me, and I had some great discussions afterwards about villains and villainy.

It was interesting hear the panelists talk about their favourite villains; my friends and I made observations about them based on which villains they identify most with.  I completely agreed with Erin Evans, who said the her favourite, Ozymandeous, was not actually a villain.

One of the most interesting points they made was to have someone trusted turn out to be the villain.  Guy keeps supplying you with weapons?  Arms dealer bent on destabilizing the region for his master plan.  Sometimes it’s easy to have a stereotypical view of villains.  But the best villains have good ideas, make you want to join their cause, help them carry out their grand plans.  It just so happens that they’re going to kill millions of people in the process.

The more human you make your villains, the more compelling they are.

So, that was PAX from a writer’s perspective.  There were a lot of other interesting things going on, and I think in my next post, I’ll write about it from the perspective as a gamer.  Good times.

…Especially when the creative team from Ubisoft joined our gaming session in our hotel on the last night.  Wow.

But more on that in my next post!

Thanks for reading.

Heidi out.

Watch. Dogs.

Allow me to digress from the topic of writing, if you will, and share with you some amazing gameplay footage.

…this is me, and probably all of r/gaming right now.

Because of this:

Oh.  My.  Glob.  Right?

The setting (Montreal?!), the little details (trash blowing in the wind?!), the swagger of the main character (last time I played a character with that distinct of a walk, I found myself waiting for busses with my hip cocked out, waiting to tip my hat at passing cowboys).

My biggest excitement, though, is caused by, what looks like, much more realistic NPCs.  It’ll be a huge step up for immersion when games can get NPCs right, and this game looks like it’s taken a pretty good stab at it.   A woman running back to her friends to solidify plans?  That guy trying to save his wife in the car crash?  People doing anything other than standing around: huge step up for realism.

And on top of all this, the concept of Watch Dogs is HUGE.  Being able to connect with all the electronic devices around you, gather information, control things- this could be good.

I’m always hesitant to get excited for a game, but this one… this one had me at hello.

Thanks for reading.

Heidi out.