Cosplay is a crazy craft; cosplayers all begin somewhere and the question is where? How does someone start cosplaying comfortably? Who can cosplay? What are the etiquettes behind cosplay and what does a cosplayer need to know? Can someone with an unsteady hand become a cosplayer? Can someone who has never sewn-up a hole create stunning works of art? What do you need to get started? In a series of mini-guides, I hope to quell some of these questions and more.
You know, this may seem like a relatively simple article to write about, but it’s made me think back and reflect a lot. We’ve been going since 2013, meaning that in September of this year, we’ll officially have been around for five years; half a decade. In this time, we’ve had to learn a lot about producing content of all forms. We’ve written regular articles, we’ve produced videos, we’ve made little in-jokes, which have become more (see Gordon the GeekOut Goat). However, in our time, we’ve had to learn how to bring about a balance of being content creators, community organisers and being our own tech teams. If you’ve ever wanted to do something similar, here’s a reflective post on what we’ve done over the years.
It’s been a while since we last spoke about our highly ambitious eBook, capturing our Top 10’s in a format which is both similar to a digest, but yet comprehensive enough for anyone who hasn’t had the experience of our Top 10’s before. Naturally, we’ve been thinking long and hard about it, but there’s a lot of time and planning involved with a project like this. So, if you’ve ever been faced with making an eBook before yourself, let’s look at what we’ve been doing behind the scenes in order to get on with it!
A few weeks after declaring myself “for hire” (wink) as a Dungeon Master, what exactly have I been up to?
A New Campaign
Most of my campaigns fall into one of two categories: they’re either there today and gone tomorrow, or they will go on for years, outliving the tolerance of the players therein. Time to create something confined to a few games, something that promotes return custom and also promises a satisfactory conclusion.
The Wandering Pass closes every winter, leaving a handful of isolated villages and incautious travellers stranded high in the mountains. Food starts to dwindle, tensions run high, and somewhere out in the cold forests there waits a fate worse than death.
Winter of the Wendigo draws inspiration from the likes of Dead of Winter, Grim Dawn, Until Dawn, 30 Days of Night, and probably a lot of other sources that have sunk so deeply into my subconscious library of ideas to pluck from that it may offer some unforeseeable twists for new and experienced players alike. It will be for 1st level characters to emphasise the fragility of their position, and it will be comprised of five episodes that can be played in sequence and stopped satisfactorily when a group decides they’ve seen enough… or until they’ve seen it through to the Spring thaw. Their actions, successes and failures will echo throughout the game in ways most video games can only hope to imitate.
In addition, I’ll be expanding on one of my former one-shot campaigns – loosely entitled “Hangman” – into a three episode campaign of mistrust, deceit and subterfuge. I’m toying with a few new Mega-Dungeon concepts to bring to regular gaming sessions if I can secure repeat engagements with venues around the county, as well as throwing in some non-D&D games for those with a taste for something other than fantasy.
So, in minor steps news the Facebook page for The Shropshire Dungeon Master has been started, albeit falteringly. Things that it will require – as a precursor to actual website construction – prices, contact details, a selection of what’s on offer games-wise, and a serious “looks” overhaul. As it stands it might as well just be a very thin version of my personal profile without the rambling “stream of anti-consciousness” that pours from my keyboard on occasion. Tim has rather kindly offered a logo design for me, and his ideas thusfar have been promising to say the least.
If you live in the Shropshire area or nearby enough you can expect to see my grizzled features appearing in a gaming store near you to tout my services in the next few weeks, as well as a healthy plastering of the business across social media, aided by Tim’s own support of my endeavours.
Business Oriented Thinking
Three separate conversations with myself across several days:
“Why would I need to look into new business funding? I already own the books I need, printing costs will start out negligible, I have a host of miniatures I do not use enough, set dressing and the like. After that it’s all advertising and I have cash to put into that.”
“Oh wow, I would look so much more professional if I had printed maps, and art done by someone who can draw well, more ornaments and the like. Oh wow the cost of graphic design is high for my minimum wage, they do not make it easy for the lowly peons.”
So while I can start this little undertaking without financial backing, there’s no two ways about it, I can think of ways and means that a bit of start-up capital would accelerate progress rather dramatically, and take me from someone optimistically going cap in hand around gaming shops asking to be paid to run role-plays to someone capable of presenting a professional front to what is essentially the next step up for a hobby.
On a Related Note
Work continues on the upcoming eBooks for GeekOut. I have been toying with layouts for script and putting some simple designs to paper, while dashing Tim’s hopes that we can get each Top 10 to two A4 pages. As previously mentioned, we have a list finalised, and all new original Top 10 lists for the eBook readers planned to be assembled soon. And the Pokenomicon is close to two major milestones:
I have one last mutation to add and my starting line-up is complete. New trainers will be able to pick from Sporgoth, the slumped beast suffering a fungal infestation across its back, Katouche, a feline with a strangely artificial appearance, and Mudbait, an innocent looking amphibian with an odd taste for carrion.
And I’m about a third of the way to 150! I’m coming up with ideas I’m dismissing on the basis of either being too obscure, too far removed from the original works of Lovecraft, contemporaries and inspirations, or too half-formed and shambolic to put into something this big. Never the less I will gladly share with you Kozilick The Endless Tongue as a parting gift:
Today marks the 1st of January and as you’re reading this, I’m probably still tucked in bed. Don’t get me wrong, I’d like to start the year off nice and early, I truly would, but ultimately I’d only end up going to bed earlier, right? So which is the bigger crime? That’s what I thought – Happy new year, everybody! It’s time to consider your resolutions, as always, but I’d say that it’s about time we stop relying on long-term resolutions and instead relying on smaller goals. Here’s what GeekOut South-West will be doing this year, over time – and we’ll see how far we get with these goals in 2018.
We’ve been thinking about new ways to share our content with the world; but more importantly how to reward those who have been with us all the way. We’re really excited to announce that Joel and I have begun discussions on creating our first ever eBook which we haven’t got an official name for yet. We’ve got a working title, we’ve got a premise, we’re going to talk Top 10 with all of you, as these have, by far, been our most well received articles. So buckle up, here’s the low down on what we’ll be offering everyone – Hopefully, kinda maybe as soon as this Christmas.
One of my favourite discoveries of recent months, the works of Creighton Broadhurst and his group Raging Swan Press have served as an inspiration and a great resource for me to call on in the quiet moments where ideas are running short and just need to be given a push until momentum takes over.
As it stands I am not short of ideas, but after spotting this headline I’m prepared to push a few planned articles back a week. Creighton‘s list and mine will differ quite radically though, I’m not so interested in running famous dungeons or campaigns, while I sit and peruse some of the classics from time to time I’m a firm believer in finding my own style and adjusting as I play, rather than finding someone else’s style and adapting it to my own, and after ten years and forty articles I’d like to think I know my style at this point. (more…)
Short and simple today, I’m going to talk to you all about the future plans for this website, along with what I’m doing to realise these plans. As such, it’s not an article on anything particularly geeky, although you will get to read about what I do in the background. There’s a lot on the way and there’s not much left in the year 2016, which has been a truly phenomenal year for GeekOut South-West and it’s been, shall we say interesting in the wider world as well.
For today’s article, I thought I’d have a quick look at the concept of Gamification and open discussion to all of you about the subject. First and foremost, I am certainly not an expert on this subject, having only gotten some interest in the subject when I took it up on a MOOC course over on Coursera. The lecturer is certainly very credible, as he’s got his own book on the subject, which I would recommend getting as it’s a thoroughly interesting read. You can get his book, For The Win: How Game Thinking Can Revolutionize Your Business over on Amazon for just £4.31 for the Kindle book or £10.99 for the paperback.
Gamification has given me a lot of food for thought, especially when it comes down to what I thought was standard business practice. It’s true, Joel and I have had many discussions about what we can do to make this GeekOut blog bigger and better. Whilst we ultimately will keep providing content, we’d love to implement some changes to the website, so I’ve been studying Gamification, as well as technologies.
Welcome readers to another issue where we celebrate the works of writers.
This week, I’ve had the chance to have an interview with the awesome Stark Holborn, who is close to releasing more books in his or her series Nunslinger. If you want to meet Stark, he or she will be attending this years BristolCon! If you’ve not yet got your tickets, please do remember to do so! A few of us in the GeekOut crew will be attending, so do stop by and say hi. I’ll… probably have knocked up another costume or something for the event. It is me, after all.
So, read on and read about what the awesome Nunslinger series is all about and even learn a bit about the writer in the process.
Interview with the Writer – Stark Halborn
Q: Welcome to GeekOut South-West! As is customary, could you introduce yourself for our readers?
A: Stark here. Small time liquor bootlegger, moonshine brewer, purveyor of Penny Westerns and author of the Nunslinger series. Currently hanging my hat in Bristol, UK.
Q: So, you’re working on a series of books called Nunslinger. Before we go into the series, how did you get into writing?
A: I reckon reading is what did it: my parents read to me and my sister every night for years. Not just children’s books either. Pa started reading us The Lord of the Rings when I was 2 and my sister was 4. Took him nearly 3 years to read us the whole thing. I still remember hearing the end for the first time. My parents read us all sorts, basically whatever they were reading at the time, from William S. Burroughs to Brian Aldiss. Anyhow, that showed me that stories came in all shapes and sizes, and got me used to always having a book in my hand. From then, I guess it was natural to want to try writing them, too.
Q: I’ve read the first Nunslinger book which is awesome and really well priced on the Waterstones website. Can you tell me a little bit more about Nunslinger and how you began writing it?
A: Nunslinger follows Sister Thomas Josephine, a nun of the Visitandine order, who leaves her home in St. Louis, Missouri, to set out on the perilous journey west, in order to join a mission in Sacramento, California. It’s 1864, the heart of the Civil War, and the road is bristling with dangers. Of course, her journey is far from smooth, and before she knows it, she’s a wanted fugitive. Add in a mysterious drifter, a dangerously obsessed Cavalry Lieutenant, shoot outs, jailbreaks, snow storms in the Sierra Nevadas, deserts, bandits and steamships and you’ll be on the right track.
I began writing it… Well, to be honest I was sitting one Sunday morning, nursing a hangover and watching an old Western on TV. It was particularly bad one, featuring a nun who – when confronted by an objectionable grizzled ol’ cowchaser – seemed to forget every vow she’d ever taken in order to fall in love with him. “Jeez,” I thought, “that nun isn’t sticking to her guns at all.” (Sorry). So I decided to write one who would.
Q: I’ve noticed you’ve written a number of books in the Nunslinger series. How many more books are there and are there more books for this series? When are the next books due?
A: Nunslinger is a twelve-part series. The first nine e-books have been published in three-monthly instalments throughout 2014, with the final three due on 11th September. The Complete Series paperback is due for release on 4th December 2014.
Q: Who are your inspirations as a writer? Are there any common themes in their writing or do you like them all for completely different reasons?
A: You know, when I was 12 or 13 I was all about Tamora Pierce; she always had brilliant female lead characters and I wouldn’t be surprised if some of that influenced my approach to Sister Thomas Josephine – at least subconsciously. From a more modern angle, David Mitchell is definitely an inspiration: he makes me want to be a better writer (after I’ve finished sobbing “WHY DO I EVEN BOTHER I’LL NEVER BE THIS GOOD” into the corner). In terms of Nunslinger, I’ve taken inspiration and research from Patrick deWitt’s The Sister’s Brothers, which I think has helped nudge Westerns into people’s attention once again, to Elmore Leonard, Mark Twain, Walt Whitman, Mary Hunter Austin and even 14th century mystic Julian of Norwich. So a bit of a mixed tub.
Q: What sort of research went into writing Nunslinger? How did you start the research and how do you keep track of it all?
A: Apart from the writers mentioned above, the quick answer is A TON. The American Civil war is a particularly well-documented time, which has its upsides and downsides. On the one hand, if you want to know what a fully functioning Philadelphia Derringer from 1859 looked and sounded like, there’s probably someone online who knows, and has posted pictures of it. On the other hand, it means that getting things wrong is pretty inexcusable. But there are some incredible resources out there, from internet archives to podcasts like Backstory, which help present a nuanced view of historical sources.
I keep track of everything using Evernote, and tend to research as I go. It certainly results in some weird Google searches, like: “which desert lizards are edible?”, “how to skin an iguana”, “history of mattresses” and “recipes for groundhog”. I also watched a man cauterize a wound in his own arm with gunpowder. He didn’t look very well afterwards but he put the video up on Youtube anyway.
Q: You seem to be quite active in producing eBooks. Do you think eBooks are a good thing for writers, or should people be actively promoting physical purchases of books still? What’s best; digital or printed books?
A: I wouldn’t want to champion one over the other exclusively, but my heart, like those of many other readers, will always belong to print books. However: ebooks and digital works do have the ability to do things that print books simply can’t. My pa had a stroke, for instance, and isn’t physically able to hold print books open or follow the text from page to page. Not a problem with a Kindle. But rather than just shifting texts from print to ebook format and leaving it at that, I think it’s important to look at the differences between the two, and the potential of digital to explore not just what we read, but how we read and address that. That way, it’s about different experiences rather than competition.
Q: If anyone wants to keep up to date with your works, how can they get a hold of you or see any updates?
A: Y’all can always reach me on Twitter (@starkholborn) and that’s where most updates appear. But other than that, there’s my website, where most of the important things feature, but without tweet-based ramblings. There’s also Hodderscape for other SFF news, pictures of dodos and general taxidermy.
Q: Here on GeekOut South-West, we celebrate all things geeky. So what geeky hobbies do you divulge in?
A: I ain’t had much time for hobbies of late, apart from drinking bourbon and writing, but y’all can’t go wrong with watching and re-watching Firefly. Except that isn’t geeky, that’s MANDATORY. Recently, I’ve become partial to a board game or two of an evening, mostly Dominion, because I’m the sheriff in that town right now.
But first and foremost, reading. Always reading, and usually until far too late at night. I’ve just chomped my way through fantasy-western The Incorruptibles by John Hornor Jacobs and can definitely recommend it, it’s like Cormac McCarthy meets The Hobbit with a steamship and a bar brawl.
I’d like to extend my thanks to Stark for his or her interview with us today (we still don’t know). The enthusiasm he or she brings for their work is a delight to read and honestly, it shines through in the Nunslinger series. You can buy all of the released Nunslinger books from Waterstones.
Have you ever wanted to write a book but just didn’t know where to start? Just contact people who’re already releasing their works to the world, most of these authors are eager to share their experiences with people who are interested. Have you read any of the Nunslinger books before or ever heard of them? Let Stark know what you think of them, I’m sure he or she would love the conversation!