Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Our experience at Southern Geekfest!

Photo by John Ethridge
We made it! Not only that but I have to say that I had the best convention experience I have ever had.

The con was arranged by the awesome people of Southern Geek, spearheaded by Rafe White and Tim Nicholas. With an awesome crew of volunteers they did a wonderful job of making this convention run very well. I know there were many times it didn't feel that way to Rafe as he was on the run non-stop.

The convention had everything you could hope for! A huge list of celebrities for autographs, amazing cosplayers from casual to pro, astounding artists, talented authors, a board gaming section, and vendors of geek paraphernalia. TEAAM for autism was there with their amazing Doctor Who Dalek laser game and a couple of cool TARDIS boxes for photos. ECTO1 from Ghostbusters was there as well as the awesome car from Supernaturnal.
Hangin with Discount Dark Knight and Capn Murica

Amazing people. That's what made this convention so special. I met people that I had only known online up to this point. Yes, that's something that I've done before, but this was the best meetup I had ever known by far. Southern Geek is a truly fantastic group of people. Everyone was friendly and glad to be there. Someone was always stopping by just to see how we were doing. The camaraderie was at factor 11. That doesn't even include the great people who came to see my board game or books. I had some wonderful discussions with people about my brand and everything in it. I'm still stoked today after this incredible weekend.

I was also on a panel for autism at conventions and it was such an honor to be involved. We discussed autism friendly environments, how to help someone who is being overwhelmed, and creativity in autism. Everyone on the panel had very educational information. Just one more great experience to add to the weekend.

Since this was a first time for me running a table (for my wife as well), I was a bit nervous. It went so smoothly, that I don't think I could have had a better first time experience if I tried.

For us, our convention fuse is lit. Now to figure out what we will do next!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

February Update!

Bad Wolf Bar-Con is only a few short weeks away! As in, less than three! That's at the Bad Wolf Bar and Grill in Marrero, Louisiana on March 12! We are very excited to get there! And yes, that's a link to the event page on Facebook. I will have a small stock of all four of my books and will be demoing the board game. It should be outrageous fun. So, for those of you anywhere near that area, don't miss out! (And don't forget Southern Geek Fest in April!)

Writing is continuing on Chessmen 2 with so much action, your head will spin. Ever see a Minotaur take down a whole starship? You will in this story. It's the most astounding line up and collection of characters I've put together yet and the whoop-ass just does not stop. The image I'm using for this post is of Warhorse and he's in it too. I'm really having too much fun with it.

Artwork has started for the expansion set to the board game. If you haven't got your hands on it, you still can at The Game Crafter and the page for the game itself is right HERE. Check out the description and give it a whirl. For try before you buy, there is something of a free print and play available on the Board Game Geek page, HERE. You can at least see all the cards and the rules. I will say the actual game does look way better than the PNP. And it's only 44.99; not bad for trying out a new game. And when you buy the game you support growth for GZ!

GZ is more than just it's stories. It's stories, books, games, and aiming for so much more. We want GZ to go everywhere it can. That means toys, apps, miniatures, and who knows what else! It's started out much like a lot of ideas start out. I just do this at my home right now with a laptop and a few cute programs. The building will never stop.

What can I say? I love making heroes and I love making their stories.

Speaking of stories; if you send the words "free book" to Galaxyzento@gmail.com, you will get a free PDF of my first novel, Chessmen: Opening Moves. You will also be added to a mailing list (NO spam) that will lead to future sneak peaks and more. I don't send out to it very often, but when I do, who knows what coolness I will send your way. Hope you'll join in!

Coming up is also a little thing I'm calling "The Mad Men of March". No universe is complete without its crazies and I'm going to post all new artwork of them!

This brings me to one more thing that has had a very interesting outcome. Last year (and still recently) there's been some significant hating on the artwork for Galaxy Zento. It was so much that it actually made the artwork controversial. Well, today I thank the haters because they actually increased visibility of GZ by a good strong leap. Not everyone is going to love the looks of the game or other art representation, and that's fine. What they don't understand is that the artwork carries a special meaning. It's dedicated to people with disabilities who keep on struggling for their dreams, no matter what.

The fact that I can still do any of this, is pretty amazing. Those who actually get to know me (and I'm pretty approachable) know that I have multiple sclerosis and autism. I'm losing the coordination in my hands to a point that many daily tasks can be difficult. Yet, I still manage, with great effort, the artwork and writings that you see. I walk with a can and I'm one step away from a wheelchair. A lot of people would give up and just sit in the corner. I won't do that. I fight and I do my best to inspire others to do the same. This especially goes for my son (who has autism) who needs to see that his disabled, at home Dad doesn't ever give up.

The fact that I can hold up one of my books or my game and say "I did it all, even when my body didn't want to" speaks volumes.. Eventually there will be other artists and designers, but for now, this is the start of it all.

That's the update for now. More news coming soon! Hit me up for that free PDF!

Friday, February 5, 2016

The SPAM trap: Getting your product known on social media

I don't play golf, but I sometimes find myself comparing my journey with my brand to hitting a ball out of a sand trap. But what I call the "SPAM" trap is much harder to miss. When you are trying to get your brand out to your prospective audience, you have to remember one thing:

EVERYONE HATES SPAM.

And everyone seems to have a hair trigger response to anything they think qualifies as spam. There was a discussion on the Boardgame Geek Facebook page recently that highlighted this very point. It began with this:


This led to a long drawn out and very messy conversation/debate from many angles. But then someone added this:


It rings true. There is such a fine line between being seen as spam and getting actual interest in your product that it's decayed and broken. It's like tightrope walking on a wire that's fiber thin. So what do you do? Well, you can look to the advice of those proven successful or simply look at what they do.

James Mathe (Minion Games) and Jamey Stegmaier (Stonemaier Games) are established pillars of the gaming community in multiple fashion. They each have blogs that will give you detailed examples and "how to"s that are considered the cornerstones of game manufacturing information today. But how did they do that? And what if you aren't going to be a blog writer gaming guru? 

I asked James Mathe and his group over at Tabletop Game Kickstarter Advice how you get word out without becoming a spammer. 

James Mathe said, "That's not an easy question to answer. You kind of have to be a spammer; but a nice one that doesn't go overboard."

But how to do that?

James Campbell of "I will never grow up gaming" said: "Contribute to the wider community for months before getting the word out. Don't push your product continuously. Provide helpful and informative commentary about things other than your product regularly."

And he's absolutely right. You have to give people a chance to get to know you as a person. Not as a designer or anything else. A person. After all, unless your brand skyrocketed and got word out everywhere at once, no one knows who you are. It's going to take time in talking to people and learning about their interests. That means that not all your posts should be about your product. The same rings true for books if you are an author. So what do you do? 

While it's hard to post to lots of groups and keep up, you should try to be involved as much as you can. But you should only post updates about your product once a week at maximum. All the rest should be interest in group discussions. Your product may become relevant to some discussions, but avoid making all discussions sideline to your game or book. Take interest in other peoples interests. If you don't have tons of advice to offer, then become the student rather than the teacher. Aim to learn new stories, games, and get to know people for who they are. 

Over time as people watch you online (and make no mistake, they will be watching) interest will grow. You will get approached with questions. When that happens, you are in a good position. Don't overdo it. Keep your response simple and give a link to where they can get a good look at your game ( if you aren't on Boardgame Geek, why not?). Or be able to give a nutshell run down on your game. Then leave it up to them to continue for more information. I like to give a link to my page on Boardgame Geek and remain approachable if they have questions. 

Never send unsolicited messages to people in social media about your game. If you see someone posting interest in a game like yours. Ask them on the public forum: Hey, I have a game that fits what you are asking for, would you like to know more about it? Then back off. 

Keep these realities in mind; even though you have an accomplishment you want to shout to the mountain tops.

-People hear about this guy or that guy has made a new game, every single day. Some people get sick of it. So bear that in mind. The better they know who you are, the more likely they may want to hear what you have to say.

-There is no holy grail of gaming. Don't pop in out of nowhere and claim that your game is the greatest ever made. It's one of the biggest red flags out there.

-Never bash another designer, especially when you're new. Just don't do it. Stick with what's good about your and your brand, not what's bad about someone else's.

-Patience is a virtue, no matter what aspect of your brand or reaching people you are thinking of. Rushing only looks desperate.

Do you have a tip you'd like to share? Feel free to post in comments. 


Monday, January 25, 2016

You may enjoy the GZ Board game IF...

Because such exciting times are coming up in the next couple of months, it seems fitting to share this list. I'm still seeking the audience I know is out there for my game. In that I'm still hard at work learning new ways to reach people (hopefully without falling into the spam trap). I'm going to have to dedicate a blog to that later on.

Besides that, if you like any of the following in your games, you may find GZ to be quite a bit of enjoyable fun!

-If you like rolling D20s for any reason: The 20 sider is used heavily in the game for almost everything you have to roll dice for. It's for escaping traps, recruiting allies, combat, evading enemies and more. The simple combat system employs taking turns with D20 rolls to hit your targets defense. First person to score three hits wins the combat. No chance of ties.

-If you are a fan of games like Munchkin. Mostly the random draw from the main deck, gives the game style a little bit of a "munchkin feel". Kind of like "kicking in doors" for Munchkin, for every move you make on the board for GZ, you reveal a card from the main deck and deal with what ever jumps out at you. It's a randomization that will keep your game on its toes.

-If you like games you can customize or change with expansions: The planned expansions will allow you to change your game up in practically any way you want. You decide what kind of characters, monsters, and traps will await you on your mission. And it doesn't stop with just those. Items, spells, artifacts, and special events are all available to spice things up.

-If you like to beat up other players: Because you totally can! Not only can attacking your opponents be fun, it can keep them from completing their mission before you do the same. The game is all about completing your mission before anyone else does theirs. A well timed combat can really slow someone down. Player revenge has not been uncommon among players so far.

-If you like fantasy adventure with original characters: With the game based on the characters from my first novel (with a 3.5 star rating on Amazon), you get to interact with a unique character base. You don't have to know the story to enjoy the game, but it sure doesn't hurt. As I'm currently working on my fifth book, you can expect the adventures to continue! But guess what, you may be able to get a free copy the book as a pdf, just for being involved with GZ!

Yep, all you have to do is send me a request to be on the GZ mailing list for updates, stories, and more. Once you send me your email address (that will not be shared) I will send you a pdf copy of Chessmen: Opening Moves. With the king and queen of Chyssia dead, only an infant stands in the way of the killer taking the throne. After being framed for the royal murders, the royal guard have no choice to but to take their princess on the run to protect her. They face mercenaries, assassins, and monsters but those are only the beginning.

It's a great chance to get your read on! Now, if any of the above are of interest to you in your games, then you are just the people I am looking for! Check out the free print and play where you can read the rules for yourself!


Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Early schedule for 2016!

Oh yes! 2016 is starting with a bang. I have two events to tell you about and you can bet I'm planning on having plenty of goodies to hand out!

I'm so honored to have been invited to these events, I can't even relay it in effective words. Just so you all know.

Bar Con at Bad Wolf! Starting at high noon on March 12th will be a con unlike most I've ever heard of. It will be held at the Bad Wolf Bar and Grill in Marrero, Louisiana. I'm going to be there with my wife. We will have the books, the board game, and goodies! My wife will also have some great geek stuff from her project (partnered with GZ) Passions by Pecanflower. I'll get more into her work in a minute! This really looks to be a unique and amazing event!

Southern GeekFest! April 2nd and 3rd will see us in Hattiesburg, MS for the first ever of it's kind, Southern Geekfest con! You best check out the link because the guest list is already huge! I can already tell that, for being a new con, it's going to be mind blowing! Again, dear wife will be with me and you can meet us both! More books, games and goodies!

For the creative schedule, my next direct projects are finishing Chessmen 2 and getting work done on the expansion set for the board game. This first expansion of cards are really going to spice up the game. You're going to have the ability to tailor your game experience with all new characters, artifacts, and spells. There's even a CURSED artifact! The art is going to take some cool new directions with guest artists to make the game even more unique. The next expansion after this will actually have a new board with bearing a new location and new effects! I'm really excited about this.

The schedule follows the books that have already been released, so you can get an inside view by reading the stories.

Now I want to tell you about Passions by Pecanflower. My wife Lisa Hale makes the coolest crocheted geek things in our given area. Her best work by far has been the Dr. Who scarf. But she's great at so very much. The link is to her Facebook page. Don't worry, she'll be posting more there soon. But she makes dice bags, geek scarves, and pretty much anything else. Her prices are good too. She'll have some works to show off at the events mentioned right next to me. Be sure to add her page to your favorites!

That's the update for now but there is so much more to come. 2016 is going to be a great year!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

HAPPY HOLIDAYS 2015! Year in Review

Well, it's been quite a year. Ups and downs, ins and outs, and all of it survived to bring us to this holiday season. It's amazing. My wife and I just celebrated our four year anniversary and I couldn't be happier for that. It was a great day. She's been by my side for so much that is GZ. She's the editor and proof reader for the stories and my morale support.

I put two books out this year; Chaos Rising and GZ Tales 2. I haven't been able to keep any stock on my person or send to all the people on my list to send to, but there is so much in process that such will change. I'm listed as a guest for a great convention coming up in Spring (Southern Geekfest) and there will be more on that as the date gets closer.

Early in the year I tried my hand at Kickstarter, but a severe concussion ended that. I don't know if it would have been successful or not, but it really doesn't matter at this point. The work goes on. Putting the board game out with The Game Crafter has been excellent exposure for the game. People who have played it have reported it as a fun game and it made an appearance at Geekonomicon this month with the help of a good friend and supporter at the con, Steve Huckabee.

So the official score is two books and a board game. That's pretty darn good for a year's work.

Guest artists have stepped forward this year too and I couldn't be more grateful. Billy Barnette helped out with several illustrations that will be in the expansion set for the board game. Other artists are in consideration for the upcoming year where most of the work will take place to put the expansion together.

The art you see in this post is holiday art from last year, but it still holds up to festive theme and I am working on new art as well as improvements.

I look forward to blasting into a new year with a wonderful fan base of people all around. So happy holidays and every other way you look at this time of year. May all of you be blessed, happy and safe. See you next year!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

GZ Tales Volume 2 Line Up!

In about 12 hours from the time I'm typing this, my fourth book should be available via Kindle/Amazon. When it's ready, I'll be doing the usual freebie book promotion to get it into folk's hands. Today, I'd like to give you the line up of what's happening in this edition of stories.

Volume 2 has 10 stories with some new characters and familiar faces too. Let's check them out by title and in order as they appear in the book.

London Fables: The taunting letter to police claims that 100,000 people are going to die. Is it a terrorist threat or just a diversion to something more sinister? Federal agents, Blacktide and Nyhtwulf will face off with a criminal crew called the Fables to find out. You'll wonder at a crime boss who calls himself, Mother Goose.

Anubis and Horus: The Castle of the Demon King: The cosmic duo are back! This time they are sent on a mission to rescue a captured Starknight. This pits them in a new villain's cruel game for entertainment. Meet Maestro! His debut is only the pre-beginning of what he has in store for GZ heroes! Anubis and Horus will never forget this.

Shadowplay: Someone is practicing a special and gory craft of killing on New York's homeless population. Federal Agents, Anthony James (from Chaos Rising) and Panther Steele seek a killer with "a knife in his smile". What they discover will challenge their combat skills and raise concern of future threats.

Appetites for Power: The whole Southern crew is back! Percival and Vicky meet back up with the Gator. When word comes that Amon Le Fey is still alive, they journey back to Gator's swamp. But Gator's hands may be full with a new enemy of his own! Enter Coven's newest weapon, the Piranha! A super speed cannibalistic killer with alligator on the menu!

Brother Whale: Killer Whale is the last of his kind and living on Earth. He's taken to being a protector of the seas. When he learns that whales of Earth are being poached and killed, he decides to take action the only way a sea faring hero can! You're going to love justice dished out like this!

The Fist of Allah: A hero from the Middle East reveals himself on a rescue mission. A terrorist regime has taken hostages and the Fist isn't standing for it. These terrorists are about to get a major lesson in right and wrong!

A Day in the Life of a Psychic: The Elven telepath, Dreamseer returns to Earth (after Chaos Rising) to visit. In her casual stroll through the city, she takes heroism to a new and unexpected level. All in a day's work? We'll see!

Return of the Demon: Demonjack makes a fiery and rage filled return at a medical center. Can Sandstorm and Electrode contain him before lives are lost? There's fire, wind and lightning in a showdown of epic proportions.

The Falcon and the Kestrel: Finally the full story of how King Falcon and Lord Kestrel became the enemies they are today. This is the precursor of stories to come. Learn the historic tale that will be passed down for generations on planet, Arconia.

The Fight in the Dog: Introducing, Dolphin Man! When you can shapeshift into any combination of animals, you can do almost anything. When investigating a dog fighting ring turns up something even more  heinous, this hero will become anything to get the job done right! Just don't let him near your cell phone.

There you have it. 10 tales of heroism that you will just have to dig into for yourself. Some do tie in to prior stories in Volume 1, so if you haven't read it, be sure to grab it! Just click on my "Author Page" link in the upper right or on the "Shop Now" button on Facebook! Happy reading!