Archive for January, 2013

The FRAGMENTS Book Tour!

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

It’s book tour time! Fragments comes out in just a few weeks, and I will be back in the States for a quick signing tour. I’m not doing as many events as I normally like to do, mostly because living on a different continent has made that difficult, but the events I am doing are going to be awesome. Read on!

March 5, 6:30pm: Peerless Book Store, Alpharetta, GA
How could I do a tour without hitting one of my favorite stores ever? This is my only eastern stop this time around, alas, but it will be awesome.

March 6, 7:00pm: Provo Library, Provo, UT (Sponsored by King’s English)
Home again! This event will be big: not only is it my home town, but it’s the first stop of a Harper Dark Days tour, featuring a massive group of incredible authors–Debra Driza, Claudia Gray, Lauren Oliver, and Kiersten White with a special guest appearance by Brodi Ashton. Now you understand why they’re doing it in such a big venue.

March 7, 6:30pm: University Books, Seattle, WA *U District Location
The second stop of the Dark Days tour.

March 8, 6:30pm: Barnes & Noble, Clackamas, OR
This is our Portland event for Dark Days, held in Clackamas because…why not? I’ve never been to Clackamas. Come one and all.

March 9 — Double the Events!
10:00am: Tualatin Public Library, Tualatin, OR **location changed**
4:00pm: Eugene Public Library, Eugene, OR **location and time changed**
We’re canvas the state of Oregon so thoroughly they’ll never know what hit them. This is our final stop on the Dark Days super tour, so come see the whole group.

March 10, 3:00pm: Borderlands Books, San Francisco, CA
Have I told you how much I love this bookstore? Borderlands is the only store I know that is constantly, tirelessly improving itself. It is somehow physically better ever single time I go, and I go once or twice a year. Come spend your Sunday afternoon with us!

March 11, 7:00pm: Mysterious Galaxy, San Diego, CA
My final stop on the tour, and another of my favorite stores–I didn’t hit all my favorites this time, but the ones I did are spectacular. Come say goodbye before I wing my way back to Germany.

I’ll be in North America a few other times throughout the year, most notably the Writing Excuses Retreat in June and Vcon in October. I’d like to hit WorldCon and/or DragonCon, but I’m not holding my breath. Most of my events this year will be in Europe, and I’ll start announcing those appearances soon, including Germany, France, England, and as many others as I can manage.

If I’m in your area, please come say hello! I will deface your books and ask for good restaurant recommendations. AND, if I’m in the mood, I might read a little snippet here and there of some of my upcoming projects. It will be awesome.

I’ll see you soon.

Roleplaying Games With My Kids

Friday, January 11th, 2013

I’ve been an avid roleplayer ever since junior high, when I somehow stumbled on the game “TMNT and Other Strangeness” at the comic shop by my house. My brother and I played a ton, made new characters a WHOLE ton, and quickly started expanding into other games like Heroes Unlimited, Rifts, Toon, and so on. I never got actually got into D&D until college, when 3rd Edition came out, but since then I’ve had one game group or another meeting almost every week for the last fifteen years. For a while there I was in three campaigns at once–Pathfinder, L5R, and a wacky homebrew by Brandon Sanderson–and still couldn’t get enough. It’s one of my favorite hobbies, and I’ve been eagerly awaiting the day when my own kids would be old enough to play with me. I’m delighted to announce that this day has finally come.

When we moved to Germany, roleplaying was one of the many things that we left behind. I tried to convince my three gaming groups to drop everything and move with us, but they apparently have “jobs” and “families” and whatever, man, I don’t need them anyway. We’ve talked about trying to play over Skype or Google+, but even that’s not a great option thanks to the 8-hour time difference. My kids, on the other hand, were eager to jump in to Daddy’s favorite hobby, so I poked around for a good game to start with and, when one of the Grandpas asked for Christmas suggestions, quickly offered up “Marvel Heroic Roleplaying” from Margaret Weis Productions. My kids are avid superhero fans, even (and perhaps especially) the girls, so a game where you get to play as known heroes seemed like a great gateway into the larger hobby. I should point out that we’ve attempted some other games over the past year or so, and the one gap my kids still have in their roleplaying foresight is the idea of power balance: ask them to come up with their own character concept, and they’ll toss a ridiculously overpowered Mary Sue wish fulfillment monstrosity every single time. Even when I explain to them that weaknesses and limitations are what makes a character interesting, they still go a little crazy; one of my daughters created a superhero named Snapmind, who can do, be, or make absolutely anything in the entire world, instantly, except she has to snap her fingers in order to do it. Sounds super balanced, right? So yeah. Lets start by playing with pre-existing characters you already love, and go from there. We’ll get to the “create your own characters” part of roleplaying when we’re ready.

“Marvel Heroic Roleplaying,” or MHR, is a very simple, narrativist system, which is game-theorist-speak for roleplaying rules that focus on storytelling, from both the gamemaster (called the Watcher in this case) and the players. Every RPG is about storytelling, but a narrativist game takes it further, removing or lessening some of the standard considerations about power and “realism” (ie, the game does not try to simulate certain aspects of the real world like distance, ammunition, and so on). In MHR you take actions by rolling a big pool of dice and then choosing the best results, but the number and type of dice are controlling directly by your ability to tell a good story. If you say “my character punches the bad guy in the face” you might get three or four basic dice, but if you say “my character rips up a lamppost, swats away the thugs, then wraps it around the supervillain like a rope,” you get five or six dice, with more sides on them for potentially bigger numbers. There are rules to govern some of the more theatrical skills and powers, like whether your character’s actually strong enough to rip up a lampost, but for the most part that’s it: you tell an awesome story, and then awesome stuff happens. Combine that with well-known superheroes like Spider-man and Wolverine, and you’ve got a perfect game to play with my kids. Probably any kids, honestly, but my kids especially.

We took the shiny new Christmas present RPG book on our big vacation last week (which I have not yet blogged about, but I promise I will), bought a big old handful of dice from a hobby shop in Prague, and started our game one night in a Dresden hotel. I was playing with just my two oldest, 11 years and 9 years, and for their characters they chose, perhaps inspired by the eastern European vibe of the vacation overall, the two Russian superheroes in the book: Black Widow and the X-man named Colossus. I proposed a story about investigating a mysterious factory, because I’d worked out what I thought was a neat story, but they both immediately rebelled and demanded something more exciting and world-threatening. The factory idea would have eventually become world-threatening, but no matter; they wanted something more immediately flashy, and that’s fine. The game is there to have fun, so I asked them to propose some ideas of their own and figured I could wing it. We batted a few scenarios around, and at one point I proposed a time-travel idea: a villain tries to take over the world in the past, when there are no superheroes to stop him, and Black Widow and Colossus get sucked back in time and blah blah blah. My son said that time travel stories are lame, probably because his sister loves Doctor Who and he wanted to be contrary, and I said that I thought it would be fun because we’d just spent a week looking at medieval castles and stuff, and this would be an opportunity to play around with them in our game.

Instantly, and in perfect unison, my kids’ eyes lit up. “I know exactly what we should do!” My daughter cried. “I know exactly what you’re thinking!” said my son. I figured there was no way they were thinking the same thing, but I was amazingly wrong. Almost like they’d rehearsed it beforehand, they shouted together: “We go back in time, and Black Widow gets kidnapped by Elizabeth Bathory!” You see, one of the places we’d stopped on our vacation was the ruined castle of Elizabeth Bathory, and the kids had been enthralled by her story, even making up elaborate plots and movie pitches in the car. They thought the idea was the best thing ever, and I was down for it, so we dove in, and spent the first night getting their feet wet and learning the rules: they flew a jet, they dodged some lightning bolts, they got sucked through a portal, and ended up talking to a farmboy who couldn’t figure out why they were dressed so weird. The same two children who’d been convinced that the story would be lame unless the entire world was horrifically imperiled were now having the time of their lives just trying to figure out what they should say to this medieval farmboy, and how much they should reveal about themselves, and so on. We had a blast, and we spent the last few days of the vacation making jokes about “What year is this? I’m from the FUTURE.”

Our second game session was last week, when they finally got the chance to meet Elizabeth Bathory, learned that at least one other person was sucked through the time portal (THE PLOT THICKENS), and started to wonder if maybe Elizabeth Bathory wasn’t nearly as bad as they thought. They got into their first real combat, did some very clever, cinematic things, and ended on an exciting cliffhanger. The kids are getting really good at this, and I’m a very proud papa watching their little storytelling minds churn out one cool thing after another. Our next game session is tonight, and it’s going to be a doozy. This is seriously one of the best hobbies ever.

The FRAGMENTS book trailer is here!

Thursday, January 3rd, 2013

When PARTIALS came out the publisher wanted to do a book trailer, but my editor ( Jordan Brown) and I didn’t want to do a normal trailer. This was a chance to do something weird and cool, and Jordan and I are all about weird and cool, so we hit on the idea of ‘found footage.’ Instead of just telling you about the story, we’d give you a new piece of it that you couldn’t get anywhere else–actual film or video from within the world of the book. 

That first trailer was a corporate video from ParaGen, the company that created the Partials, presented as a stockholder video telling ParaGen’s investors all about how much money the Partials would make them. There was nothing about the story or the characters, but the message of hubris came across loud and clear: this was a society playing God with the powers of life and death, and they were ripe for an apocalypse. 

Now we have a trailer for FRAGMENTS, the second book in the series, and we’re following the same tactic, with a different flavor. Pride was the perfect story to tell in the first trailer, but things have changed now: we’ve already met the Partials, we’ve seen the differences between us, and we’ve seen the world fall apart because of them. FRAGMENTS isn’t about the pride that ends the world, it’s about the hatred and fear that stops us from rebuilding it, and so our new book trailer is about that fear, and the irreconcilable differences it created–and nothing says irreconcilable differences like a political ad.

Here for your pleasure is another bit of found footage from the boundless files of Afa Demoux, archivist of the end of the world.