Wednesday, October 26, 2016

All the links!

Hey all you awesome people out there! Today's post is a special one. I've been having trouble with my author's page lately. Not all the books are attached to it properly. I've written to Amazon and haven't had any luck. On Goodreads they are pretty much all together, but not where it seems to really count. Naturally this causes confusion issues. So I've decided to create a post where you have all of those together in one place. But not only that (because just a set of links would be boring), but a recap of what you get and what the stories are about. It seems like the perfect time of year for this and folks have asked me where the best jumping on point is among my books. So, for your convenience I will also make a note of which those are. The name of each book will be linked to it's page on Amazon (for the hardback, but they are all in Kindle too). So just click on the name to get the book you want.

Chessmen: Opening Moves:  The queen died in childbirth and the king has been murdered. When the Royal Guard is framed for that murder they have no choice but to go on the run to protect the infant princess from the real killer. Pursued by mercenaries and assassins, attacked by monsters, and forced across the stars; the heroes soon discover a plot overshadowing their own problems and threatening their whole solar system. This is the origin story of a unique team of heroes. [Good starting point]

Chessmen 2: The Queen's Gambit:  Having survived what they thought was the worst, the Chessmen prepare to take the fight to their enemies once and for all. But Queen Margel has invited a new threat to do her dirty work for her. The Maker has come for the Chessmen and will take anything he wants in the process. He is a threat that neither side my survive. This story carries maximum action from beginning to end on a spiraling roller coaster ride with all new characters. Witness fantastic feats of power and survival. Will the Chessmen finally return to Chyssia?

Chaos Rising: When the Earth is enveloped in darkness bands of killers with strange weapons attack all the police precincts of New York City. Nothing seems to stop them short of taking off their heads. But that's only the tip of the proverbial ice berg. The White House is taken hostage and bizarre acts of evil erupt across the country. Hakim only just got his powers in the likeness of Anubis and will have to learn as he goes. A new team of heroes must band together to hunt down the cause of their problems before something even greater comes to destroy them all. [Good starting point and these events occur before Chessmen 2]

GZ Tales Vol 1:  Assassins with a mystery target, an imaginary friend that kills, the core of time and space, and a demon that serves Death himself, are just a few of the short stories that wait for you in the first volume. This book includes the short story, Tale of the Gator that won honorable mention in Writer's Digest. Some stories are origins that carry on and others are about heroes that appear in the novels. Either way, they are action packed and full of fun. [Good starting point]

GZ Tales Vol 2: Even more awesome stories about GZ heroes and villains. Meet Maestro, the King of Demons, take on poachers with Killer Whale, and see what a day being a psychic is like. Read stories that pick up where some left off in volume 1. You'll read about heroes in unlikely places with the strangest of problems.

Galaxy Zento, the Adventure Game: You've read the stories (or even if you haven't), now play the board game! Travel the universe for good or evil and race to complete your mission before anyone else. The characters from Chessmen are there as enemy or ally. Face beasts and obtain artifacts. Escape from dangerous traps. You never know what the deck will throw at you next. About an hour of fun for 2-6 players, aged 10 and up. This game is customizable so you choose what goes in the deck.

Galaxy Zento, Expansion One: Lots of great cards to add to your board game. Check out the all new Monsters! More spells, more characters, more artifacts! Comes with a tip guide on how to customize your game!

Marshmallow Fight!: (I would be remiss if I didn't put a link here even though it's not GZ). This is a great family party game! Perform stunts with marshmallows for points and be your household champion. You can finally play with your food! This game has been reviewed by PalladinElliott and FatherGeek with approval from both!

And there you have it! This will be the ultimate guide to all the links that I will share in a few places. If you haven't jumped in on GZ yet, you've been missing out. It's a universe of unique and original characters. People have said some interesting things about it:

- It's like Star Wars met Marvel.
- It's definitely not Disney.
- A new kind of space opera.

And the story is really only getting started. Big thanks to all my readers! More to come!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The Art Process

Once in a while I get asked what my process is to my artwork. Today, I'll answer that question. I have several steps that I use to put my artwork together. Sometimes I work on a Wacom tablet, but my true love is pencil to paper. I'm going to use a pic I was just working on for a special prize set to go with my board game. This will be the art for the Horseman of Apocalypse called, Plague (or Pestilence if you must).

First I start with pencils. I just use a number 2 and sketch away with basic shapes and refinement.  I work on paper that's at least 50 lb weight. That means it's sturdy and less likely to crumple when I erase pencil marks. I do have a tendency to use what's on sale if what I really want is too expensive. Hey, artists have a budget after all. I don't get into a lot of ultra small details at this level because my hands simply can't do it. On today's pic, I was having an exceptionally good day. Any other time and smaller details get added digitally.

Next is inking (photo above) This is the hardest part for me. I have to ink when my tremors are at their calmest. That's usually first thing in the morning because I haven't done anything to tax myself yet. For new readers; I have MS and my work is part of overcoming that. I have a cup with more than one set of drafting pens in it. I use several tip sizes to preserve the detail I'm aiming for. Even so, some errors will have to correct in the digital step.

Digital. I take the photo that you see from the ink step and load it up in Photoshop. I crop the image and use a layer called 'threshold' to instantly make it digital black and white. At this point, I can use tricks to zoom in on lines and correct them or make sure they are all connected where I want. I can add small details (see if you can spot the changes) that my hands weren't letting me do before. Once I have all the lines fixed and have added details I want, I get to my favorite part.

That would be coloring. I use the filler tool for the flats and then brushes for all the other details. I can zoom in and add all sorts of neat details like bloodshot eyes. I'll be the first to tell you that I'm not the most tech savvy guy. I still don't know a lot of tricks and even videos don't help with my specific programs as much as I'd hope. But I'm learning and that's what is important.

Now that you see Plague in color, you might be wondering what he's holding. Well, it's not his sneezy cloth. It's the Scarf of Pestilence. The nasty looking end can give you any disease while the clean end can cure any ailment. On second thought, maybe that's how he fuels the thing. Nah. Hope you enjoyed the simple breakdown. I have more drawing to do!

Friday, September 30, 2016

The God Pack

Actually, they are called Lord Entities and Entities in GZ rather than gods. Pantheon gods are actually a lesser power compared to the officially ranking entities of the GZ universe. But what is this about?

It's about a very special game accessory that I'm putting together. Players will only be able to get it under special circumstances. What it can do for customizing your game experience, well, check it out.

The lore: Way back in ancient times there was a war of the gods. The pantheons of Earth had become restless and took to fighting each other. Many died but not before the fighting reached out beyond the stars. The numerous deaths tilted and broke the balance of good and evil bringing Chaos into the universe. The remaining gods had to pool their power to contain Chaos and seal him away. They were successful, but the damage had been done. To repair the balance, a new universal pantheon was formed under the supervision of the four lord entities (Destiny, Time, Nature, and Cosmos). Three pantheon gods were promoted to entity status in order to govern their position of the balance. Set and Thoth, survivors of the Egyptian pantheon were given the positions of evil and neutrality. Thoth's position had the added requirement of protecting the balance as a whole, even moreso than simply being neutral. Thoth became the direct opposition to Chaos. Crimson King was a leading pantheon member of a distant galaxy, ravaged by the war. He took the mantle of good.

Each entity has their servants and agents to work for their perspective side of the balance. Who will you serve?

An entity or lord entity is put in the main deck. When revealed on any player's turn it acts like a super event. Some stay in play and continue to affect the game. Some grant you a special power, putting you in the service of that entity. These powers are huge, but let's take a look at the entities first, shall we?

Mother Nature (Lord Entity): When she is revealed, the player who revealed her is healed of all damage and negative effects (including spells). Nature remains in play giving all beasts +3 attack and defense.  -So yes, she helps and hurts at the same time. What would one expect of her?

Destiny (Lord Entity): When he appears, all players roll 1d20. The highest roll becomes a Herald of Destiny (whether good or evil) and gets the Herald of Destiny special power card from outside the game. After this, Destiny is removed from the game (does not go in the discard pile).

Time (Lord Entity): Does nothing on appearing but stays in play. At the beginning of each player's turn, that player must roll 1d6. 1: Lose a goal token (from a time anomaly), 2-3: Nothing happens, 4: Gain 2 achievement tokens, 5: Lose 2 achievement tokens, 6: Gain a goal token (Yes, 6 can cause you to win the game).

Cosmos (Lord Entity): When revealed, the player who revealed him must roll 1d6. On 1-3: Incur his wrath and all players take 1 damage. On 4-6, incur his benevolence and all players are healed of all damage. Cosmos is then removed from the game (does not go in the discard pile).

Karma (Lord Entity and daughter of Nature and Destiny): She does nothing on the reveal but remains in play. Every time a player hits another player with a ranged attack, they must roll 1d6. On 4-6, that player takes 1 damage. (Keep in mind that 5 damage is fatal)

The Four Horsemen (Sons of Nature and Cosmos):

War: Remains in play. Every time a player enters combat with an enemy from the deck or initiates combat with another player, they must roll 1d6. On 1-3 that player's opponent gains +10 to attack. On 4-6, the initiating player gains +10 to attack.

Death: Remains in play. All hits in combat result in damage tokens. (Normally combat only results in one damage token to the player who lost the combat)

Plague: Upon appearance, all players take 1 damage. Remains in play. On each player's turn, they must make a d20 roll of 12 or better or get another damage token.

Famine: Remains in play. All players modifiers and movement are cut in half rounded up.

Entities of the balance:

Thoth: The player who reveals him rolls 1d6. On a 6, that player gains the Guardian special power card and Thoth is removed from the game (does not go in the discard pile). On 1-5, that player gets that many achievement tokens and Thoth is shuffled back into the deck.

Crimson King: If the player who reveals him is "good", they get the Starknight special power card. If they are "evil" they lose all powers. If they have no powers, they lose all achievement tokens. When a player gets the Starknight card, Crimson King is removed from the game (does not go in the discard).

Set: If the player who reveals him is "evil" they get the Minion special power card (and Set is removed from the game). If they are "good", they lose all powers. If they have no powers, they lose all achievement tokens.

Chaos: The player who reveals him, rolls 1d6. On a 6, their alignment becomes Chaos and they gain the Chaos Lord special power card (and Chaos is removed from the game). On 1-5, lose that many achievement tokens and shuffle Chaos back into the deck.

That's just the main cards of this little pack of cards. There are a few events to add and yes, two of them can send entities away (remove from game). One of the events causes you to become a servant of one of the entities and gives you special powers.

So what do you think? Are there any suggestions you would make on the effects? Shoot me those comments!

Friday, September 23, 2016

Fall Update: Guess what's here!

This week has been loaded with surprises and now you can catch up on all of them at once. The first image you are seeing with today's post is the cover art for the box and yeah, it's the expansion set! I'll be getting my first copy from sometime in the next week. After I check it over, so long as all looks good, it will be launched. How much is it going to be? Just 24.99.

Now, with holiday shopping already starting, it's as good a time as ever to plug the board game and you get get your copy HERE for 44.99. It's new and improved to match the new layout of cards in the expansion. But then there's the lore of it all and there's something new to that too.

The newest novel and the second book in the Chessmen series is now available via Amazon and Kindle right HERE.  Be sure to use the "look inside" function for a quick sampling of the story as it begins. If you haven't read the first Chessmen story you can find it at the link in the upper right regarding the books. Here is where I have to address something more serious.

There is one thing the new book is  not going to be, aside from filled with action and adventure. It will not be FREE. For every book prior to this, I have done a free giveaway and put a lot of free books into people's hands. Unfortunately, it's time to admit that this has not been good for my own bottom line. I strive to be low cost in a tough age and I hope my readers will understand. The idea behind the free giveaway marketing is that it brings in sales of the other books and, in the last five years, this has simply not happened. That's not to say I'll never give anything away for free again, you can bet I will. Just not at that magnitude anymore. Just can't do it.

Okay, enough seriousness. I have been asked to clarify the order the books go in for people who want to catch up. Where to start? The exact order of the books is as follows:

Chessmen: Opening Moves
GZ Tales Vol 1
Chaos Rising
GZ Tales Vol 2
Chessmen: The Queens Gambit

Now, in the first three books, you could start with any of them. There is a character connection, however from Chaos Rising to the second Chessmen book. I won't tell you what those are of course, you'll just have to read for yourself.  So what will this have me working on now?

Crazy Harry
More artwork of course and more stories. My next bookwork will be GZ Tales Vol 3 and that is going to have some awesome stories in it. I can tell you that the adventures are only going to escalate from here. After that, I will dive into chapter work for the book that comes after Chaos Rising, tentatively called Wicked Ways. And for my in between time when I'm not writing I'll be working on the game expansion for New York City and the GZ combat system card game as well. Sound like enough for me to do?

Outside of Galaxy Zento, I want to point out that my family/party game Marshmallow Fight now has two glowing reviews (reviews are not easy to get) and you can check those out at the following links by author:


And you can get this game HERE also at theGameCrafter.  If you are considering developing your own game, I highly suggest looking into theGameCrafter. Not only can you put together a playable and nice looking prototype; you can continue developing with their step by step process and even sell your game on site (print on demand). Excellent quality, shuffleable cards, and bright colorful rendering. I have loved making my games through them so far. Customer service also gets an A+ from me. So check it out. And if you are looking for games further off the beaten track and want to support some true indy designers, you will be in the right place.

Seems like I have enough to keep me busy during the school year. The only thing I haven't been doing is conventions. Well, that will change around Spring, so stay tuned! Much more to come!

Monday, September 12, 2016

This board game just got a makeover!

My adventure board game, Galaxy Zento (based on the characters of the epic universe by same name) just got a huge makeover. There is a lot that's really cool about this and I'm going to spell it all out right here.

First, why the makeover? Because of the new layout being used in the expansion set. At this point in the planned sets I have for this customizable game (two sets include new boards) it just seemed like a good time to make sure there's a uniformity in the cards. Even a couple of my harsher critics really liked the new layout. The open art at the top of the card gives the artistic feel I was aiming for. The framed text gives the look that players wanted. Yay, compromise! But wait, I hear another question brewing.

But dang it, Dave, what about all the copies of GZ that people have already? Excellent question! Glad you asked! Because here's the truth of it. Not that many people have a copy of GZ yet. So here is what I'm doing. Everyone who has a copy so far is getting a whole replacement set of cards absolutely FREE. That's just my way of thanking them for their support.

But are you going to change the layout again? What then? No. I will not be changing the layout from this point on. New cards will have the same layout. The only way that may change is if GZ gets picked up by an publishing company with new agreements and whatnot, even then, not much should be changed.

So, you see, this really was the best time to do this. Right now, I'm waiting on the first set of new cards so I can check them over. Once I've done that, barring any corrections, I'll relaunch the board game and the expansion should happen very soon after that. Finishing touches are going into the expansion artwork now. If you would like to check out all the new art and card effects for the board game, you can do that HERE.

Check out the expansion set (what's done so far) HERE.

So what's next? That's easy! Next will be my fifth book and second novel in the Chessmen series: The Queen's Gambit.  It's a novel that will be jam packed with even more action than the first. After that will be GZ Tales volume 3 with work starting on the New York expansion of the game. That doesn't even include the juicy surprises I'm working on!  So keep those dice a rolling and we'll see you next time for a new and wonderful update.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Iron Maiden founder dies of Multiple Sclerosis

Clive Burr, gone too soon
Let's say you have dreams you want to accomplish in life, like writing books, designing games, or heck, anything. Then lets add something to that, namely a life threatening disease that could take you out anytime it feels like it. Let's put this in perspective.

Do you understand how your body works? At the very end of everything your body does, responsible for everything your body is capable of, is your nervous system. Multiple sclerosis (at a laymen level of explanation) is a disease that eats your nervous system. Now pause and think about that for a second. Every single function of your body, your organs, your senses, requires your nervous system to function.  Without the electric charges of your nervous system, your heart will stop beating. UNDERSTAND? At any time, if you have MS, it could damage the nerve actions required for your lungs to work. It can screw up your swallowing reflex and choke you to death. Got it?

That is what I live with. People tell us to shut up about having MS; that we are just full of excuses. Oh if only that were true. You see, you can get therapy for being "full of excuses". And if I were full of excuses, guess what, you'd never see me complete a damn thing. And what brought all of this about today was this story:

Clive Burr, founding member and drummer for Iron Maiden has died of MS at only 56 years old. He was diagnosed in 2001. Treatment for MS made it hard for him to pay for his home and general life. Think about that. He had amassed something of a fortune by being one of the worlds greatest heavy metal drummers. MS took it all. Would you say his problems were just excuses? Really?

I take copaxone shots to stabilize my MS. They cost my insurance nearly 6000 dollars a month. And still, my legs randomly go out on me, I have strange gasping fits, cognitive fogs, dizziness, and severe fatigue for no discernible reason. I have hand tremors that ruin my artwork and make even general things difficult. My insurance, medicare, lists me as "catastrophic" in coverage. It's a twisted situation.

Now, let's set aside my personal dreams for a moment (namely my universe of Galaxy Zento and all that it has going for it with 4 published books and a board game). I'm also a disabled parent of a young man with autism. Without being able to go out and work a regular job to teach him about life, I have to do something. I can't have him thinking that a disability like mine (without letting him know how easily it could kill me) means giving up on lifelong dreams or even making an effort at life itself. I can't be the disabled Dad who stares at the walls all day. That is what Galaxy Zento is for. It's the job I do to show him how to live, in spite of what holds him back.

And every time someone tells me my artwork isn't good enough or my game isn't good enough to be given any consideration, they actually help me with him. Because when I don't give up, just because people hate on my work, it shows him something. And I can't just wait in life until I can afford to pay someone else to do the artwork. If you can't see why after all you just read, I don't know what to tell you.

I know my art isn't the best you can get. It's cartoony and not seriously "graphic". Its not like a Rembrandt painting. But it's also not like I don't work hard. I work very hard and beyond my capabilities at times. That means I hurt myself to get things done. Hard to avoid actually.

But every single day, I have to wonder if I am going to be able to function for the whole day, or just part of it. That's because MS can take me out at any given level of exhaustion at any given moment of time; no matter what I've actually been doing. I could totally just be sitting on my ass, doing nothing, and crash anyway.

Is it so terrible to want people to understand? I mean, I get it if someone just doesn't like my work and they turn their nose up at it. That's going to happen. But for those who tell me I'm full of excuses, that actually stings at times. Maybe it shouldn't. But over 400,000 people in the US alone have MS. And it totally depends on what area(s) of the nervous system are damaged for each person, but its capable of killing you outright.

Famous people who died of MS

Celebs with MS

Even bigger list

Just to be clear; I don't expect anyone to jump on a bandwagon and buy things from me just because I have MS. I do want people to realize that I'm not your average game designer, not your average artist, not your average author. I'm not even your average parent, husband, or human being. It's understanding and awareness that I'm after. What would you want in my situation or if you have MS. If you do have MS, what is important in awareness for you? Feel free to post in comments.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Creators: Understanding your audience

It's not magic
Your audience is a collection of the people who follow your work, taking interest and ultimately buying your product. So how important is it to understand your audience? Well, if you don't have your own marketing team or money to dump into advertising, it's fairly important. If you aren't already considered some kind of guru or master of your craft, it's fairly important. Your audience is how you make a name for yourself. But how do you manage that?

Right now, you can break your audience reach into three forms; internet, local, and in person. Internet offers connections to far more people at great distances, but can be super difficult to navigate and gain the acceptance of those audiences. Anything in person is usually much simpler because you have the human connection that the internet lacks, but you are limited in access to people based on who is physically at whatever event you are part of.

Let's look at the internet audience. Everyone goes to the internet. You practically have the entire world at your fingertips. Or do you? You certainly have access to a great diversity of consumers. But there's a huge catch. Unless you are paying for advertising (and this session of my blog assumes you aren't) you can't just jump into some forum of people and say, "here's what I'm selling, everyone!". It won't work. That's because the one thing you have to understand about the internet audience is the universal bloody eyed hatred of spam. This hatred is so strong that it makes internet social marketing a veritable mine field.

This is even if you are talking to people of a group that is all about the product you have created. That's even if the forum you are taking part in, has clear rules that allow you to share your project in certain time intervals. It's not evil to be excited about your product. It's a great achievement for you. But this is the rule you need to follow.

Be a person first. People on the internet want to know that you are personally a human being they can take interest in. That means the want to have idle chat and basic entertaining post share. They are going to want to that for a significant amount of time as well. After all, how long does it take to get to know someone. They want to know that you aren't just a market bot on the net. No, just saying you aren't isn't going to work.  This is how you market yourself as a person. Just take part in the average discussions and present yourself as an interesting human being. Be yourself as much as you can.

Local audience is important too. This is audience you can go out and spend time with in person. Making local connections branches out into more local connections. But what's the secret? Be interested in other people. Learn about them and their projects. Be supportive of their projects. Often enough that will come back around to you. Be social and prepared to just shoot the breeze. Be personable. Remember that in many situations where you are approaching other people, the dynamics are the opposite of the last point I'm about to make.

The best way to find that "in person" audience is at events like conventions. The primary difference is that people are now coming to you to find out what your product is. It's a big part of the exact reason they are there. If this goes well, word of mouth will carry news about you. The more events you can go to for your book, game, etcetra, the better. This is practically the polar opposite of trying to market via social media outlets.

To sum up, remember that your audience is made of people. You need to understand what they want. They want you to appeal to their interests. Find the people who have the interests that match your product/project, and you will move forward (so long as you remember they are people first).

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Meeting Challenges

Brave the hurricane
No matter where you try to publish anything in any genre, there are an army of challenges to face. A lot of them are in marketing, gaining an audience, and taking rejection. The greatest of all challenges however, are in yourself.

Completing projects are typically the number one hurdle to scale. If there's one thing we authors do well, it's procrastinate. But that's not the only factor to work with. Self doubt, writer's block, and changes in ideas are all common demons of any creative work. Challenging perceived norms is another hurdle, if that's something you do. I know I do because I write stories and apply my universe to board games as well. Some people seem to think that's like crossing the streams in Ghostbusters.

As if the natural layout and environment of challenges weren't enough, you have to challenge yourself. What do I mean by that? I mean you have to push yourself. Whether it's coming up with that new idea or just finishing an art piece of chapter. You have to give yourself deadlines and push for them any way you can. We all know, if we get to that plateau we dream about, the deadlines will be imposed on us. We have to ready ourselves. Practice those deadlines now.

And don't get too down on yourself when a deadline doesn't work. Don't succumb to self doubt.

"If you begin to doubt your power, you lend power to your doubt." Yes, I just quoted an old movie, Mystery Men. Laugh away, but you know he was right.

I have multiple projects on my desk all the time. I have challenges of time management, completion, and self imposed deadlines all over the place. How do I handle them? I put my head into the game and just keep forging forward. It's the only direction worth going in. Right now, as many of you know, I'm pushing work through on my first expansion set for my board game, but that's not all. There is a cool surprise coming right along with that. It's been an additional challenge to keep my mouth shut about it. Then Chessmen2 is in final edits.

I have the challenge of appealing to varied audiences (something I will get more into later on). Board game audiences and book audiences are very different. But if you are a game designer, this advice holds just as true to you as it does an author. You have a lot of work to do in components, rules, and theme. You have management in development and manufacturing depending on how you follow through and what sources you use.

Not unlike being burned alive
Our age of self publishing ability can actually lend to a dangerous level of laziness because it's so damn easy to just publish whatever you want. This means you have an additional challenge of surpassing an ocean of crappy work that's all around you. And all the audiences for all aspects can be not only critical but unforgiving.

There is a lot of wonderful advice out there on developing board games, writing books, and publishing all of the above. I think, the best advice possible, is to just DO the work. And keep doing it. You have to have a special love for this too or you won't be able to handle it when someone says you suck. Another challenge, bad criticism hits hard. But keep doing the work, even if you fall flat on  your face. Your refusal to give up will eventually speak in your favor.

Next time I'll delve into understanding audiences and how diverse they are while being very much the same. Keep creating!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

UPDATE: New card layout!

People are liking it and its official! You get to see it first right here! It's the new card layout for the Galaxy Zento Adventure game. And it's happening right in the first expansion set. All the symbols are the same and definitions are unchanged. Only arrangement of information is different. As you can see, the borderless art stands out even more and information is all in one simply location. I'm working feverishly on getting these done right now.

Click on images for a better look. If you are playing "good", finding this artifact could mean finding a new ally! That would be non other than the top hero of GZ himself!

Fighting him won't be easy and recruiting him isn't a snap either. If you do get him for an ally, the only drawback is that you can no longer evade your enemies. That's because KF never runs from a fight. If you want him as an ally, neither will you.

Let's look at a beast next. In this case, you may find yourself dragged under mid fight! If he rolls a natural 20 against you, your next attack is stuck being and escape roll. Meanwhile, it keeps using its turns to attack you further. Good thing evading it isn't too hard (unless your just having horrid dice rolls that day).

Traps will have the same zing as always. This one is one example of how expensive they can be. Who keep setting these traps anyway?

There are only a few new events in this set, but I guarantee they will shake up the whole table. This one will probably be considered the most drastic. These are adventures where reality itself can take a turn on a dime.

Don't forget powers. The handful of new powers in this set will redefine game play in cool ways. Now you can mess with your opponents or just give yourself a better chance on the draw.

Special art cards. A few, and only a few, will have this special arrangement of art and information. These cards will have action and bright color for added fun. Obviously I couldn't do this with all card art because it just wouldn't work for some of them. I hope the few that are there will give you pause for their special appearance.

I'm really excited about the new look and there are even more surprises still ahead. So stay tuned for the next update. It's not far away!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

How Galaxy Zento got started

Galaxy Zento has been a long running project for me and the stories have been in my head for decades. Today I'm going to tell you how it all got started. It started as my "do it yourself" role playing game that I developed characters for. But it goes even deeper than that.

In my Junior High years art was my great escape and the one thing that actually made the bullies give me a break. It was the one thing I could do well that impressed others. I was also something of a cartoonist. Crazy Harry was my first character and he was a parody of Dirty Harry from the  movies. CH never used a gun, and he really is quite nuts. I gave him a superhero kind of vibe and made him a private detective. It used to be, when he went crazy, his hair would stand straight up on end, and that was how the bad guys knew it was all over for them.

Harry did things I wanted to do to get even with the world for my bullying. Harry was my outlet and no one ever realized it.

Years go by and as some people know, I ran away from home to escape abuse from my step mother. I really had no safe haven except for times when I was neither at home or school. While I nearly got myself killed, my running finally took root and I didn't have to go back. But then I had new problems that aren't for this entry. Eventually it all let to me going to Job Corps in Clearfield, Utah. Job Corps is a place for young people (mostly troubled) to learn a workable skill and grow up for lack of better terms. It wasn't a very nice place, but I did make friends. It was there, in 1987 that Galaxy Zento was born. I created a crew of heroes called PAC and started drawing mini comics of them.

There was a lot of DnD playing going on at the time and it was still in a controversial stage. I couldn't afford the books for DnD so I followed my Godfather's old advice from when I was a kid.

An OLD pic
"Make your own games."  And so I did. I started making a role playing game of my characters and the stories in my head. It wasn't called Galaxy Zento back then, though. It was called Galaxy Wars.

The immediate problem I had with the name was that everyone associated it with Star Wars. I didn't want that. I wanted my universe to stand on its own. Even though I had no idea what directions I would be going with it at just 17 years old. But there it was and I had some friends playing it with me regularly. Eventually I renamed it Galaxy Zento based on the Japanese word for "journey".

My friends enjoyed it enough that they wanted to play it quite often. There isn't a lot of exciting stuff to do during down time in Job Corps and it made for more colorful time spending. And it grew.

I really had no idea how to make a role playing game and my beginning stats were quite laughable. I actually made life points depend on what you had for weaponry in the very very beginning. That's not the case now, I assure you.

That's basically it, how the idea got started and eventually became the books and games it has now. There is more to the history of GZ and I'll be sharing more of those stories soon.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Late Summer Update!

It's amazing how easy it is to try too hard. Social media is a brilliant tool, but you sure can stumble it up. I know I do. Some people forgive it, others don't. Either way we can only go forward. That brings me to this update!

My awesome son is about to go back to school. While that may not excite him, it means more time out of the day for me to work on my schedule of cool stuff! Hey, it's not easy being an autistic parent raising an autistic child. Boy do I have stories! Sometimes we make for downright comical. Other times we trigger each other in just the wrong ways. My son has  renewed interest in Magic the Gathering. He's learning quick too. It's good to be a gaming family.

Ah, but I need to get on to what's going on GZ!

Several guest artists came forward about a month ago and they selected works off a list to put into the upcoming expansion set for the board game. They are going to be getting back to me around the end of this month (Aug). I'm still doing a  lot of work myself and the pics with this edition are works in progress. The new cards are going to allow you to rebuild the main deck with all sorts of fun and crazy stuff. I've already spoiled some awesome monsters. New spells are on the way now and sneak peeks are forthcoming.

I'm still working on the combat system in side time. It's a system that will allow for up to four (maybe six?) characters in combat with customized decks. That means you can build your deck for just one character (to take on a deck of another character) or form a team!

Also in design is the board for the next expansion: New York! The board is going to have various special effects on cards from the main deck depending on where you are. It will be based on the novel, Chaos Rising with amazing new character types and cursed artifacts.

Finally, I'm working on something else very very special. You won't be able to buy it. It will be a reward or prize. I call it the God Pack. It will be a special set of cards representing the gods of GZ. The special effects they have on the game will be like no other.

So, as you can see, there is a lot of busy work for creation. Gotta keep building and growing. Always more to come.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

I Don't Feint

Unlike with this guy, there is nothing
up my sleeve.
There is no doubt that, as an individual with autism, I don't see the world around me the same as the average person. This leads to misunderstandings and judgments that are not accurate of me as a person. These times frustrate me because, at times, they've been very costly to me in social circles. It happens on the internet the most because of the impersonal nature of posting or communicating on the net. That doesn't mean it doesn't happen in person too.

I never felt well understood in my youth. I would be referred to as "sneaky" or "shady" and usually "angry" when non of these were remotely true of my actual intentions or actions. Because I was different, I was inherently evil. There was some saving grace however with people in person. Those who took the time to actually get to know me after making such judgments, wound up apologizing to me. Sometimes it was years down the road after they met me, but it was always the same. Of course, this was all before I was diagnosed with Asperger's so I never understood why it happened.

But it still happens. In fact, I think the internet makes it worse in some ways. Mind you, there are just as many people who make a true effort to understand and just as many who live the same issues. I know I'm not alone.

One thing that happens with my internet posts a lot is the taking of one example and blowing it up into some that I did not intend it to be. It's like people lose the distinction between topic and example. My last blog post on here is a great example of this point. I really feel that internet hate is a broad and even serious problem. That was the main topic. I geared the post as an advice column (albeit rambled a bit), but that was still the main topic. Quite a few people took one example and treated it as if that was all I had to say (basically ignoring the fact that there were actually other examples or other words at all). They then formed their responses or opinions on only that example.

"That's not what your mad about and you know it." Was the accusation of one person in a Facebook forum that I'm not naming right now. (Note to person: congrats, you got quoted!). I responded that I was very specific and thus not interested (in his comment). Facts are; I wasn't mad at all. I was discussing and debating my position and trying to make my point. That was it. Nothing more and nothing less. Mind you this is an example and I will make another one to be fair.

But that person was 100% wrong about me. I don't feint, veil, or otherwise engage in such shadowy shenanigans. I do what I say, and do the best to say what I mean (and mean what I say). I only admit that I have a hard time getting my full message across. That is frustrating and has been pretty much my whole life. Oh, the other example to be fair:

This was a long time ago on another forum that I won't name. People on the forum were enacting a drive for donations for a legitimate non profit that was geared to board gaming. Great people, but for the sake of this article, I'm not naming them either because what I'm about to tell you hit me hard and deep. That means it really hurt and had a profound affect on me. One fine person, whom I respect greatly, was selling jewelry products advertised on the forum that normally wouldn't allow it and promised a percentage of proceeds to the non profit entity. I thought that was a great idea and had quite a bit of my own artwork I was willing to sell at low cost with the same offer. My post for that was taken down and I was penalized by a site moderator (of a lofty position even to this day) because said mod decided that I was running a scam to profit off the situation.

The mod wasn't the only one, rather part of a board clique of a few people who had decided they simply didn't like me as a person. Donations were to be brought to the non profit's booth at a convention that I attended. I won't deny feeling somewhat justified when I handed the check of the money I raised directly to the hand of one of the people who judged me (not the mod though). I saw that person swallow a hard lump in their throat as they took the check. That person had told me in direct message that I was untrustworthy. I was nice though. I just smiled, took my receipt and walked away. I did complain to a couple of people managing that forum above said mod, but the results were not good. They got together, called me out on public forum under the title of "manufactured drama" and proceeded on Facebook to mark everything I posted about anything as spam. But don't get lost on me here. The point remains that I was still misjudged, leading up the whole thing in the first place. In the end I blocked quite a few of them, including said mod, and walked away. I don't go to that forum any more.

I don't aim to manufacture anything of the sort. But it is common, if you ask enough of us autistics, to get accused of such, when it's really a simple misunderstanding. We aren't trying to cause any such thing, rather  make sense of the world around us. It's where the ideology of "wrong planet" comes from with us.

But I don't feint. I'm not sneaking anywhere. I'm not trying to rip people off. I do what I say I'm going to do and I really try to follow the group dynamic in what is allowed. My efforts are genuine.

Now I'm going to beat some to the punch, because I guarantee you some people out there are going to message me with:

"You just wanted to whine about these things. You are a whiner."

If that's all you get out of this, please don't bother commenting. I won't respond to you and you'll only be supporting my initial point. As a matter of fact I'm going to share this with other autistics I know and hopefully some of them will chime in with their own experiences. And being autistic isn't making excuses either. That's another rich one actually said to me.

"You're just full of excuses."

If that were true, I wouldn't have published 4 books and 2 games. My work ethic speaks for itself. So save your fingers the typing efforts. You will also, only prove my point.

What can you do to help? I would be remiss to fail in offering what you, the common person, can do to help us with this. Here is a minor list:

Don't rush to judgment. Stop and think and...

ASK... yes, ask us to clarify. It's not unheard of. It's okay to say, "hey, I don't understand what you are trying to say"

Be specific. As a rule of thumb, avoid too many "figures of speech" or slang terms. We are literal beings and sometimes words on a screen lose their intended context. I realize this goes the same for me or other autistics.

If you have autism and are reading this, please take the time to post your own advice on how people can be more helpful.

Here's hoping this reaches and understanding audience. That's all I really want, both for me and others with autism who know this struggle.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Handling Internet Hate on Projects

Fickle attitudes on the net
The internet is for hate. I remember an old comedic song that once claimed that the "internet is for porn" and if only that were still true. More and more, all the time, behavior of people who post is far more hate filled and usually about issues that just aren't worth it. It's bad enough with hate for politics, religions, sexual orientations,  and ethnic orientations, but it's gone to an all time high.

The new Ghost Buster's film, starring Melissa McCarthy and Leslie Jones has had so much vitriol and hatred fired at it, that there's been no room for anything positive. For that matter, like with many things, anything posted seems to draw the haters in droves before a single positive comment can be uttered.

Normally, the advice or general rule is not to respond to haters. Unfortunately, that no longer works. The behavior goes far beyond a simple "I don't like it". Leslie Jones was hounded off of Twitter with slurs on race and general appearance. Melissa McCarthy was fat shamed. Comments wishing death and dismemberment are the norm. It's so horrible and filled with stalking and bullying behavior that something has to be said. It's human nature to want to defend yourself and everyone has limits to how much sheer bullshit they are willing to (or are able to) shrug off. So I really don't blame any of the actors or producers for finally firing back. Especially over the victimization of the actors. But why do haters get the upper hand on the internet now?

There is a cartoon I saw once that depicted two friends talking about artists they liked:

Friend 1: I like that guy's work a lot!
Friend 2: So tell him.
Friend 1: That's not necessary. Oh, but look at that guy's work. I don't like it. HEY YOU! YOU SUCK AND I HATE YOU!

Why do we remain silent on work we like and further let it get overrun by negativity? It's hard to say but there is a lesson here that I shall further illustrate as follows:

Click on the image to see the actual comments. I took them from a page I frequent on board games. You can see the picture that's the subject of hatred, but I should give you a link to the game itself. So HERE.  

It's exactly the same as with movies. Any artistic representation is bound to met with hate before praise (with some bizarre and highly fickle exceptions). While it's not fun to have a line of 70 comments burning your hard work to the ground (and those who have followed me know I've personally dealt with exactly that); you can take solace in the fact that it's not just you. A couple of facts that I have learned.

1: You can't please or impress them. So don't bother trying. That's not to say 'don't do your best work' rather 'don't hinge it on their acceptance'. 

2: When it comes to art people are going to either love it or hate it. There is no apparent middle ground. 

3: It's still worth it to listen to constructive criticism, even though it seems to have become a mythical beast.

4: Don't give up because of them. It gives them far too much credit.

5: 99% of them have no idea or experience in what it takes to do your project or work with your budget.

I still post on one or two pages where my work was set upon like angry fire ants. Why? Because I've decided I don't give a damn what those specific people have to say anymore. That is exactly what you must be prepared to do. It doesn't matter what your artistic project consists of. You could be a writer, illustrator, or make Youtube videos. And if they decide that not being able to run you off makes them hate you personally (or if you tried to do what human nature dictates and defend yourself from being outnumbered and they hold that against you personally)... that is their problem, not yours. 

You see, haters are spoiled. They expect the highest possible quality in every single thing they see merely because the technology exists to make it that way. They don't care what your budget was or that different artists actually have different styles. So they undercut their own possible experiences. Then, they'll turn around to a totally different project that is arguably worse in production than their prior complaint and praise it to the mountain tops. You simple cannot depend on the criticism of the internet to be accurate and considerate. So you must filter it. 

In short, cast it aside, post your work where allowed and don't worry about haters. Let them hate. Do your best and keep doing that. 

Friday, July 22, 2016

What I used to be.

There is no doubt I always wanted to do my own stories, comics and games. I was taught by my Godfather to make my own games when I was about 7 years old. Ever since, it's always been a bright idea to me.

But then you grow up and have to become something else. You have to support yourself, work a job and take care of business in life. I did this by my other drive in life; helping people. I started out as a security guard and joined the Army. My unit was Military Police so I hoped to learn more from them as well. Every avenue I sought out. I wanted to be a detective even though I was told I would never make it. But then, one day I did. Just not the conventional way.

I became an Animal Control officer, yeah you might say "dog catcher". You might say "dog catcher" and laugh, but I guarantee you, the cases I worked were no laughing matter. I worked side by side with all forms of emergency services. I've been to the sites of house fires, murder scenes, suicide, drug busts, and all sorts of warrants served. I had no arrest powers myself, but I wrote real citations to court for animal cruelty and neglect as well as other infractions. I was recognized for my efforts to help others even before that job, but these are solid examples of my work.

This just shows a couple of general adventures and weird happenings. I had a lost bird that managed to tangle its head in the wiring of it's carrier. Fortunately, it didn't feel bitey at all as I helped it retreat. The weasel was loose at the airport and everyone thought it was someone's pet ferret. They had managed to scoop it up in a box before I got there. Imagine their surprise when I correctly identified the critter after getting my gloved hands on it. Poor thing was relocated to much better running grounds.

This woman fell in a city park and her trained dog wouldn't let any emergency personnel near her. Worse, she had fallen on the leash, making it nearly impossible to use it to get the dog away. Maybe it's because of all the hours we worked with animals, but we were able to calm him down and move him away. This clipping is from the local newspaper. The grateful daughter wrote in because, yes, we did take steps beyond the norm. We didn't impound her dog. We took the dog to her home with her keys and put him inside. The keys were returned by a city police officer. This was my job before health conditions caught up to me.

I was the reptile officer and no other officer minded that fact at all. When ever someone had a snake call, they offered it to me where ever I was at. I only needed help moving one once and that was because this guy weighed in around 200 lbs. No worries. He was docile. He had been left abandoned in a shut down stripper bar. Apparently the ladies would pole dance with it. He wasn't put down either. He made his way across the state for educational purposes.

Some guy was keeping this cayman in his bathtub and was going to throw it out in the snow because his girlfriend was sick of it. I convinced him that a ticket for an illegal animal was better than a ticket for animal cruelty plus abandonment. Save the little guy's life in the process. Nebraska winters can be brutal. It made it to someplace where it didn't have to be killed as well.

After I served for 6 and a half years I went through some very hard times and my work ability suffered for it. I still strove to help others. I was working as security for a bar and we had just closed. That's when we heard the shots. I looked out the front door and saw a man face down in the street. People were running all over. I ran out to him and administered first aid until the ambulance arrived. No, the shooter had not been located yet.

But now, I can't do any of those things anymore. Even today, I want to be as much help to others as I can in the ways I can. So I help online with autism and MS advice. And then there's my games. I want to help people through them as much as I can too. I know that sounds weird, but it drive me. It allows me to show my son that I can still do something. Life has changed so much and yet I strive to keep being me. We found homes for three kittens in the last year because old habits just don't die. I believe I would still "run" (yeah, I can't run anymore) out to someone hurt even under dangerous circumstances. But alas, I shall end this one before I ramble completely. I really just want people to understand.

Monday, July 18, 2016

When you have to do it yourself

I want to talk today about the realities of tackling huge projects by yourself. I'm going to compare to some professional advice in my talking points. The general consensus is that you should never do it all yourself. You should employ other professionals who have the skills where you don't (if you don't) to make your project (board game, novel, comic) the best shining example it can be. This is solid advice because the environment you are trying to enter is a no holds barred battlefield of very high expectations.

Now, truth be told, I'm not alone. I never have been. But in getting started, I was the only one to do all the writing, planning, and art. I'm a rare example that I do have artistic skill to tap into on top of my writing abilities. Not many people can be a one man band. There are factors to take into consideration here as well. Factors that most people don't think about.What I do also requires a solid work ethic and never give up attitude.

Why go solo in the first place? It's a fair question. Who in their right mind would want to do all this work on their own? That includes facing the critics of that work. Remember, this is the internet and critics aren't known for playing nice. You will feel like you've been ganged up on in the parking lot. We'll get to dealing with that later. For now, why go solo? The answer is deceptively simple:

Life. The issues of your life may prod you forward or make you decide it's just not worth it. What if you have a dream you want to make reality, but your life has become a ticking clock? Maybe you have terminal cancer? Maybe you have the onset of Alzheimer's? Or maybe, yes maybe, you have multiple sclerosis. My critics don't think MS is very serious. But then, they don't have to struggle with esophageal spasms that make it hard to talk, swallow, or breath. They can walk and will likely still be able to walk tomorrow. MS is a disease that destroys your nervous system. It's definitely a ticking clock. Over 400,000 people have MS in the US alone and it is robbing people of their life skills and indeed their very lives. See life expectancy results HERE.

So what do you do? In board games the experts say not to release your game to the public until it has the very top of the line graphic art and the structure is as perfect as you can make it. It even comes down to a money thing. If you didn't spend thousands on your artwork, you shouldn't release your game. But your own artwork is not stick figures. In fact you've been recognized for your work in the past and you can make a pretty passable product. Maybe not the Picasso of graphic art, but there's another plan for that. What do you do? Just give up and never bother because you can't cough up the funds they expect? Your life is not like theirs. You are on a ticking clock that may well mean you can't get all of your story out.

Turned up noses are frustrating, but you can't let that stop you.

My advice? Build it anyway. That's the path that will require the most courage and guts for sure. Not everyone can do it the way the critics expect or the way that the professionals suggest. Their's is not the only way. That's what I did. I did the very best I was capable of and made the game available. Why? Because at least I did it. It's my accomplishment, not theirs. If MS takes me out next year, I made an accomplishment. I beat MS to the punch. It wasn't about making a million dollars on my games. It was about putting out something fun, and doing it against the clock I have to live with. I would challenge any of my critics to live with what I live with and still manage to publish four books (soon to be five) and two games.

Granted, I've tried a lot of things that just didn't work. But doesn't everyone? The point you have to remember is that it's your accomplishment if your life has the same kind of issues in play. You can try to wait until you can pay your way in, or forge your own path while you still can. Under the circumstances, which way sounds better to you?

Another factor to how I have forged ahead, is that I have a product I can show in much fuller form to those who I may enlist to make it even better in the future. Here's an actual quote I received:

"If your project is so great, you should have no problems getting artists to jump all over it."

Spoken like someone who has never tried it. Don't listen to comments like this.

Everyone has to start somewhere and everyone has to take the factors of their actual lives into consideration. That's whether you dump your life savings into it or just your life. If everyone restricted themselves to only what is the most perfect of perfection to make the critics happy (can't be done), no one would succeed at anything. History proves that. The best of the best, forged their own paths even when told they would fail by onlookers and the "gurus who knew all". There is no reason that you can't do the same if you refuse to give up. That's when you just have to take it on yourself.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Another awesome game preview!

Today I'm going to answer a question that a few have been guessing at and show you some more of what is coming to the expansion set for Galaxy Zento the board game. First, lets start with that question.

Folks have tried to guess what the art meant for this goal and now you can see for yourself. That's right, the goal is to get your character killed twice. That means collecting five damage (or getting assassinated) twice in a row. You see, getting killed in GZ doesn't mean you're out of the game (unless you opt out). It only means you have to start all over again. With all other goals, dying removes all your progress, but not with this one. Playing out this goal will allow you to be the craziest player on the board, bar none.

With the addition of monsters, there are some new effects that may help that goal along! Take the Acid Slime for example. Normal combats only deal one damage to you at the end of combat. Not so with this monster. You get a damage token every time it hits you and then get one for losing the combat (if you lose). It's possible to rack up 4 damage facing this creature and that could kill most players. A definite threat.

The Wraith isn't as thorny a foe as the Acid Slime, but losing a combat with it can still be costly. Powers and artifacts are some of the best character support in the game. Taking an additional damage from combat if you can't pay up with one of them may be expensive.

The instant kill possibilities don't end there when you can play as the Assassin. If your first attack in any combat is a natural 20, you win. If it's against a player, you just killed them. Watch out if you get into a combat with the person playing Glutton for Punishment though. You might inadvertently help them win the game!

With 16 new player character cards there will be lots of possibilities for cool character play. I'll be back with more info soon. Till then, keep up the good fight and game on!

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Homage to MORE guest artists!

Today I want to talk about artists, very particular artists who have agreed to jump in and lend their talent to GZ. Mind you, this is even if they don't have work that's in the set for any reason, they either offered or said yes when I approached them. These are artists you need to know. I'm writing this because I'm grateful beyond words either way.

Big Rob Beltran: This is the man who made my hat. A hat that has lasted for a good 3 years through hot sun and rain storms. It's as awesome as the day I paid 40 bucks for it. This guy will put anything you want on a shirt, hat, shoes and even a bicycle! Check out his Deviant Art page HERE. He's well known in his area conventions and heralds his own special artistic style. People know me better for my hat than without it. That's thanks to this guy.

Dave Bain: Keeping the hits rolling, you get the amazing styles of this artist who is also on his own convention routes. I got to meet him at Southern Geekfest and hope to do so again. He has a sharp line style that's hard to miss. Check out his work HERE. I can tell you he already picked what he wants to do from the card list, but I'm not going to reveal that today. You'll just have to be surprised.

Gavin Michelli: Another of my good friends with Southern Geek who I met at the convention and every bit as talented as anyone on this list. Check out his amazing TMNT work right HERE. The colors will blow you away.

Ken Davis: Rounding out a trio from Southern Geek (they are an awesome bunch of people check them out), is this man. He's already contributed and at both cards have been shown off online so far. If you missed them, just check past blog articles or visit the Facebook page via links upper right. Ken also has his own signature style and some bookwork under his belt that you can check out HERE.

Billy Barnette: He was the first to jump in and offer assistance in the art and he's been a great help. He also has his own distinct style and a few of the cards he's helped with have been posted! His work has been freelance of late, but I did do a guest artist spot on him some time ago and his work could be seen HERE.

Kevin Woolfork: Speaking of prior articles, I wrote on on this man too. He did the gridwork for the first game board and now he's back! Just look at what he did for my character, Major Xeroh! And of course you can see his work HERE.  What he's going to do for the game cards coming up; well, you'll see. Kevin is well versed in photoshop and great with his colors too.

Jay Morgan: I've mentioned my fellow local author before and I'll mention him again. Examples of his art will show strong colors. For now, I can only send you to his authors page HERE. But you can be sure he's going to fit on this list just as well as the rest.

Ali Lamkin: Last but not least and newest is this man. He's a great form artist with talents he hasn't shown us yet, but just look. The pic is drawn by him and colored by Kevin Woolfork.

Some people may wonder what I'm doing. Well, over half the art is still being done by yours truly with some new twists and tricks. I'm working hard to get this together so that Galaxy Zento the board game will be as truly customizable as it's meant to be. You can bet there is going to be so much more to show and very soon.