Tag Archives: creativity

I’ll keep this short.

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K. M. Alexander posted a quote that struck a chord. For over a month now, my entire writing existence has centered around the idea he recently espoused here.

It works. I sit at the computer, and I say, “For the next 15 minutes there is nothing but writing.” Then I set a timer, and I go. Sometimes I get 350 words of total crap. Other times I can barely force 190 words, and none of them seem great. Other times, I feel like it’s all coming together. I feel like I’m writing something I would enjoy reading.

The other times are starting to outnumber the rest. It’s a good feeling.

Now back to work.

RPG Review: Tiny Frontiers

WILL RAMBLES

I’m not really in the business of reviewing role-playing games. Granted, I’ve been playing them off and on for 28 or so years. My generation lived in the time when this sort of make believe was frowned on. A time when the most parentally appropriate handling of RPGs was to sell them, throw them out, or burn them.

At any rate, now I play RPGs with my kids. Take that, irony! It’s a nice way to bond, have a good time, and do something intellectually stimulating. I also find it helps exercise the creative muscle in my brain that I use for writing. Playing sci-fi RPGs helps me think through scenarios in The Galaxy and All Her Charms.

THE REVIEW

Fair warning: I play RPGs with the author of Tiny Frontiers on a fairly regular basis. I might not me the most unbiased person to write a review of Tiny Frontiers, but I’m going to do my best.

Today I’m reviewing Tiny Frontiers by Alan Bahr of Gallant Knight Games.

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It’s a minimalist sci-fi RPG system, designed to play on the run, with new players, with kids, or just with your normal group when you are between campaigns.


1.) Size and Production Quality 

The Tiny Frontiers book isn’t huge. It clocks in at 136 pages in with black-and-white illustrations and layout. The sidebars contain call-outs. It’s well organized and easy to read. My only complaint is the binding on the standard Kickstarter edition. It’s not the best and I think eventually it will fail. However, if you can get your hands on a Deluxe hardbound edition (good luck) it’s binding is perfection and has a handy bookmark ribbon to boot.

At any rate, the standard book is priced at $15 and the PDF on DriveThruRPG is only $5 at the moment. For my money, a huge bargain.

8/10


2.) Art

The art is quite decent for a first Kickstarter. It evokes the sci-fi setting effectively and there is quite a bit of it spread throughout the book. It feels very thematic to the game and true to the original fantasy setting, Tiny Dungeon.

6/10


3.) Content and Rules

 

For me, there are two areas where Tiny Frontiers really shines. This is one of them. The original TD rules are a great minimalist take with only 3d6 required to play. The statistical curves are good and the simplicity lends itself to easy understanding for new players and kids. Take those original rules and add brilliant adaptations for alien species, cybernetics, space ships, and mecha. Now you have yourself a sci-fi bonanza!

9/10


4.) Game Master Section

For a minimalist RPG, the GM section is pretty short and sweet. Some decent guidance and nifty tables for random generation of everything from planets to enemies.

7/10


5.) Pre-made Adventure

There isn’t exactly a pre-made adventure in Tiny Frontiers. Instead, Gallant Knight Games gives us something I really love: MICRO SETTINGS. Part of the stretch goals for the Kickstarter were micro settings written by sci-fi authors, rpg luminaries, and generally talented folk. People like Steve Diamond, Ryan Schoon, Marie Brennan, and Dan Wells to name a few.

Micro settings are an amazing way to wrap your head around a quick idea for a universe of gameplay and include several adventure hooks to get the story jumpstarted.

I love them.

10/10


Total Score: 40/50

So, I’ve never done this, but I think 40 is a pretty dang good score.

I’d purchase this game again. In fact, I’m backing a follow-up Kickstarter right now: Tiny Frontiers – Mecha & Monsters! The new game stands alone, but can be used in conjunction with the original. It also has full-color art! This is a great chance to get one of those deluxe copies, and Alan has told me he’s going with a better binding on the standard version as well.

You can read my review of the completed Tiny Frontiers: Mecha and Monsters here.

I’ll tease you with the cover art:

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Learn Like A Poetic Viking

My friend Ron Coulson (who I’ve known practically forever) has challenged himself to write a poem a day this year. He is well underway. This is #63 of 366, because, you know, leap year.

I’ll be the first to admit I’m no poet (any evidence to the contrary cannot be proven), but the subject matter here is near and dear to me — learning! I also enjoy a good metaphor and the Viking theme here is vivid and wonderful. Overall, it struck me as fantastic and I thought I’d like to share it with you all. Ron generously agreed. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

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Untitled

Let us devour knowledge in a way
That would make vikings cringe
Let’s gorge ourselves until we
Vomit certainties no one can dispute
Let truths drip from our chins
As the spittle of enlightenment
Lands in our opponents eyes
Raise your mugs, my friends
Then chug down life’s lessons
Until we are drunken sages
Then sleep
Then do it all again

-Ron Coulson (2016)

If these words have inspired you to learn, be sure to check back on Friday. I’ll be posting a brand new Friday Link Pack #FLP for writers.

Friday Link Pack 1/15/2016

HERE I AM — writing comments on other people’s blogs instead of writing my own posts. I mentioned recently that I’m planning to recommit to posting here in February. Let’s jumpstart that a bit.

It's Alive

Beginning NOW, I’ll be posting a Friday Link Pack every other week opposite this fine fellow. Drew is a friend and a member of, not one, but two of my writing groups. He’s a super talented writer and an all-around fantastic individual. You should follow his blog: Write Brained Ramblings. I would be totally remiss if I didn’t mention that Mr. Gerken and I didn’t come up with this idea entirely on our own. Our fellow writing group member, and considerably more accomplished friend (and… cheerleader?), K. M. Alexander has written 100 (ONE HUNDRED!) Friday Link Packs over the past couple years. As his writing career has put him in a place where many of his readers are now fans and not just other writers, he has passed the torch on to us. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t follow K. M.’s blog. I’ll cheat and link to one of his recent posts below.

Anyhow, here is last week’s installment in case you missed it: Friday Link Pack: 1/8/16

WRITE-ING (Note to self.)

Self Critique and the Road to the End
Fellow writer and friend, J. Rushing said all the right things to motivate me today. He has a delightful blog and his reminisce/advice here is beautiful prose in and of itself aside from its obvious extrinsic value. Looking forward to more from him soon.

Cildaire, a Fledgling World: A History
Nope. I don’t think I’ve linked to Drew enough. Why do you ask? Just one of his many talents, Drew Gerken, is a master worldbuilder. Check out this first post in a series that promises to keep your creative juices flowing.

CREATIVITY/INSPIRATION

David Bowie on Stardust
Going back to the father of the link pack on this one. Great way to send him off, K. M. What a week. Bowie and Rickman. A couple of gentlemen I admired for years. Bowie, though, was an inspiration as an artist AND a creative. Rest in peace, fellas.

SCIENCEY

NASA’s Propellantless EM Drive
The article is a little dense; click at your own risk. The gist is this: a drive for spaceflight that doesn’t require propellant means we could create generational extra-solar colonization spaceships. We could send people to other planets! It would take multiple lifetimes to get there, but we could do it! This is not science fiction, folks.

Nadine the Human Robot
It’s a good thing this needs no words because I have none.

GIF OF THE WEEK

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Use Your Opportunities Wisely

Hi.

It’s been awhile.

No, I’m not quoting a song intentionally. It just came out that way.

I’ve been inordinately busy of late. I won’t make excuses. Just know that if I could have taken the time and energy to keep my Tuesday/Friday cadence going, I would have. Now, let’s get back on track with a short post.

Spending a few days in San Francisco on business is a boon I needed badly. Free time is at a premium due to hours of talks in hotel conference rooms, however, just feeling the hum of the city and seeing, hearing, AND smelling the masses of humanity here is exciting. Yes, I live in Salt Lake, but it isn’t the same.

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I’m in love with the concept of a walkable city where one doesn’t need to own a car. There aren’t many like it in the U.S., but San Fran is eminently walkable. I took the BART from the airport to downtown and walked everywhere. It is not only energizing, but it’s also enlightening. I’ve learned I’m out of shape, for one. I remembered that people come in a lot more varieties than generally show up in Utah. Also, I discovered that a lot of people here smoke weed walking down the street on their way home from work in the financial district. Blew my mind. The world is an ever-changing place.

On my walking trips, I spotted a dozen neat little shops, but the one that caught my eye was a hat shop filled with fabulous hand-crafted hats. As is my standing tradition, I bought one.

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It is lonely and somewhat depressing to be away from family. Though sitting in a utilitarian hotel room and writing at night, with only the hum of the city to keep you company, does provide plenty of time.

All of these variations on life are experiences to capture for writing inspiration.

As a writer, I cannot afford to be frivolous. I must never leave my most peculiar days to the dismal gray of long-term memory.

And so I write.

See you Friday.

Writing vs. Having A Life

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It’s my firm belief that writing and having a normal, fulfilling life are not mutually exclusive. I can do both. You can do both. It might be easier than it seems.

“Having a life” might even be completely necessary to writing. For a writer, almost every activity undertaken has value. We just need to use experiences and opportunities that our lives give us to our advantage.

Many of our hobbies become research opportunities. Like to read (I argue you can’t write at all unless you read frequently)? Enjoy watching movies or documentaries? Television? Browsing Wikipedia? Perfecting a tasty dish in the kitchen? Picking up gardening? Watching how-to videos on YouTube? Travelling?  All usable. They just need to be focused properly to subjects that relate to our writing.

Our physical activities help us understand the body’s reaction to strenuous activity and limits. Hiking, biking, running, skiing, martial arts, etc. teaches us about that particular discipline. Exercise also helps to achieve the levels of brain activity that might otherwise be unavailable. Read about it in Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain by John J. Ratey and elsewhere on the interwebs. We’ll be healthier and live to write longer.

Wasted time becomes writing time. Time spent organizing files (including photos) on the computer is mainly wasted. Time spent playing repetitive games can be reclaimed. People who know me are calling BS right now, but I mean games like Plants vs. Zombies, Angry Birds, Clash of Clans… big time wasters with no real benefit (board games are better… more social interaction). Time endlessly browsing Facebook or Twitter comes back.  The entire topic has been addressed unto itself by countless authors. Here’s one: Top 20 Time Wasters.  We’ve all spent time that is basically wasted. Reclaim that time. It is writing time.

Bonding with children over stories, play, and outdoor activities help refine ideas and remind us what it is like to look at life from a child’s perspective. I wrote a scene about a little girl for my upcoming novel The Galaxy and All Her Charms that would never have been possible if I didn’t play with my kids.

Lunches and dinners out become opportunities to observe people and build character description skills. Dates not only help us maintain healthy, loving relationships with our significant others, they also help our writing. And if you’re doing it like this… yeah… don’t:

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Even sickness, grief, and personal trials help us give meaning to our writing. They enable us to write from experience rather than assumption and second-hand knowledge. I’ve written pieces I really like, for future use, about my experience learning to ski (as an old snowboarder), about personal loss and the fear of loss, and also about a recent bout of food poisoning. Writing about grief and trials is also therapeutic and liberating. It will lighten our burdens.

To be a living, breathing, observing, reading person is all the preparation that is necessary for that person to become a writer.

You can guess my conclusion: the struggle isn’t writing vs. having a life.

Quite the opposite.

Writing IS having a life.

Attention To Detail Is A Must

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Hello, World! I’m back with a short post today because I’m ironing out the revisions for Part 4 of Rue From Ruin.

In the meantime, something exceptional arrived in the mail today. You could call it an early birthday present.

I recently ordered some swag from K. M. Alexander‘s website, and this is the first day I got to hold it in my hot little hands. I haven’t reviewed K. M.’s books here, although I have on Amazon and Goodreads.

I can sum his work up in two words: READ IT.

The world of Waldo Bell is so wonderfully realized and beautiful. Upon reading The Stars Were Right I immediately despaired that I would ever achieve such mastery in the craft of writing. I asked K. M. how he got everything so perfect, and I’ll paraphrase his response: “My work wasn’t always this good. The books are what they are as the result of a lot of hard work and practice.”

The words had the intended effect and I continued to work on my writing.

It goes without saying that he is also incredibly attentive to details. Any work K. M. puts his name on is delightfully fantastic. To illustrate this point, I’m going to share some unboxing photos I took today.

My lesson for the day (mainly for myself) is that great art requires a creative, attentive, and detailed mind. It is inspiring to see what can be produced by someone who has honed these skills.

Enjoy the pictures and please ignore the fact that I’m a horrid photographer.

Envelope with the stamp of the City of Lovat.
Envelope with the stamp of the City of Lovat.
Look what's inside!
Look what’s inside!
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The patch I ordered and a caravan employee registration form to go with it. It even has Waldo Bell’s signature!
Bookmarks, stickers, and pins. Such cool swag!
Bookmarks, stickers, and pins. Such cool swag!