Wednesday, 5 September 2018

The Last Days of Summer

For the first time since 2013, August didn't find us jetting off to the States for a games convention.

It must be said, it was a bit of an odd sensation not to be shuffling through Heathrow airport at some ungodly hour, dealing with its ever-surly security staff. (Seriously, every single one of them has had a sense of humour transplant and has apparently never spent a sleepless night on a transatlantic flight based on their total and utter lack of empathy with/sympathy for the poor shambling wrecks trying to work out where it is they're supposed to be going now they've changed all the security procedures. Again.) Mind you, we do at least now know where the half decent seats are for the three to four hour lay-overs we invariably end up having to make.

No, this August we largely spent at home. So while most of the people I work with or know in the gaming industry were getting trampled to death or melting with heat exhaustion in Indianapolis, we enjoyed our beautiful former kingdom, helped by a couple of friends and their families coming up for their holidays.

Northumberland is beautiful, and has the best castles (Bamburgh, Dustanburgh, Warkworth, etc., many of which have featured in a variety of films and television series). It also has wonderful beaches, amazing moorlands, fantastic museums (many of which have been involved in the Great Exhibition of the North this summer, even if the definition of what constitutes "North" has been somewhat elastic. Cheshire? North? Really?) and a ton of other cool historical stuff for us to explore. Which makes it a very inspiring place to live; aspects of which often creep into my work, be it legends, locations, or people. (One of these days I'll get round to writing a Northumbria sourcebook for something - in fact, I was doing research for that when I was hired by Modiphius to head up Achtung! Cthulhu.)

And just because I wasn't at a games convention doesn't mean I wasn't slaving away at the day job (none of that while the cat's away nonsense, thank you very much!). More development and mentoring on an upcoming project for Call of Cthulhu; finishing off proofing the Call of Cthulhu Starter Set (it comes in a box and everything. Plus: dice!); more writing, playtesting, and correcting the Children of Fear campaign; and I also started editing another Call of Cthulhu supplement that's making me determined to plan a return trip to the location it's set in after the fabulous week I spent there last year. (And that's as much of a hint as you're getting for now, I'm afraid!)

There's been quite a bit of peripheral stuff, too: getting costume ready for a World War II WAAF LRP I'm going to in September, sending stuff off to conventions regarding panels and games I'm offering, and confirming attendance at other events. The end of the year is going to be its usual blur, convention-wise, that's for sure, and I'm already making arrangements for OrcaCon and Necronomicon next year, too.

One of the other events I was privileged to take part in over the Bank Holiday weekend was a 24-hour charity fundraiser for Leukaemia Care, organised and hosted by the folks over at the Necronomicon Discord community. I lost a friend to leukaemia when I was a teenager, and one of my jobs back when I was a biomedical research scientist was developing a screening panel to identify chromosomal breakpoints in leukaemias in order to make sure patients received the most effective treatment for their illness, so this one was close to my heart.

Once again, the generous nature and community spirit that I've found among Call of Cthulhu players and professionals came to the fore, and there were numerous panels and three live-streamed games over the course of the 24 hours. (I was on two: one introducing Lovecraft and discussing how a host of writers came to be involved with the game, the other on scenario design, both of which were great fun.) Those who couldn't directly take part donated prizes to help with the fundraising and, at last count, the team had raised £480.

Thank you to everyone who took part, and to everyone who donated. Gaming has its fair share of dark moments, but every now and again, it shows what I'd like to believe are its true colours with events like this. May there be many more.

And on that uplifting note, it's time to get back to the real world and those scenarios. After all, they're not going to write/edit themselves!

Friday, 3 August 2018

Busy Bees

So, Flaming June turned into Equally Flaming July here in England, before descending into Somewhat Sweaty With Occasional Thunderstorms July. As someone with very fair skin and a tendency to imitate a boiled lobster when exposed to sunlight, working indoors can be a boon. But, working from home means that, if I have research to do, I can at least escape into my little wilderness (laughing known as the back garden) and sit under a sun umbrella with my books so my vitamin D levels get a bit of a boost.

There was a bit of that in July as I managed to get on with more Children of Fear - technically, the final chapter, although readers of this blog will know that there is another one after it in the book, consisting of support material and random NPCs. Sometimes during the research phase, you stumble across an absolute gem: in the case of this chapter, it was the amazing All About Tea Vol. I, by William H. Ukers.

Written over twelve years and published in 1935, Vols. I and II were the follow up to Ukers' 1922 book, All About Coffee. All About Tea has pretty much everything you'd want to know about tea history and production, and then some. And, unlike some period tomes, it's a really good read - engaging and informative without any stuffiness. Mind you, I seriously doubt how many people nowadays need (or want) to know exactly who worked for all the tea companies in the world in the 1930s, but if you do, now you know where to look!

The first draft of the chapter was completed as July drew to a close, and once again, there's a huge pile of research that never made it anywhere near the book. It may get used again for something else somewhere down the line, but otherwise, it joins that in the gigantic pile of notebooks stacked all over my writing hovel.

I've also been proofing the print pdfs of the Call of Cthulhu Starter Set. Starter sets are a great way into gaming, and Mike Mason's done a smashing job of putting together something that will lead complete novices all the way through from their first tentative steps to running a game for up to five friends. And, once again, Nick Nacario and Chaosium's artists have done a smashing job of making the text look wonderful. As if that wasn't enough, it comes in a box! With dice! (But not ones you have to colour in with a crayon - this isn't the 1970s, you know.)

I also got to go and do a bit of gaming myself in July, thanks to Continuum, the biennial games convention in Leicester. Its predecessor, Convulsion, was the first games convention I ever went to, back in 1992. Our gaming group was encouraged to go along by our RuneQuest and Call of Cthulhu GM, John. I took part in the giant Glorantha freeform, Home of the Bold, despite knowing only a little bit about Gloranthan lore, but it was such a fun convention, I went back again for years (with a gap in 1996 when I was working in Canada).

I'm not sure when it switched over to a new committee and name, but the convention in 2000 was the last one we went to for a long time. There wasn't a particular reason, really - it just somehow never seemed to be at the right time for us to make it. So we didn't go back until 2014. I'm glad we did - it was lovely walking in to see so many familiar faces and be welcomed back as if we'd never been away.

Anyway, the convention is a good excuse for me to indulge in a few games rather than just writing and running them. I tend to split my time between short freeforms and tabletop games, and that's what I did this time, too: a totally bonkers Live Aid freeform/skit on Friday night where I played Toyah, complete with bright red wig and 80s makeup, which was a huge amount of fun (in that reality, Toyah and David Bowie ended up contracted to make a record with the Muppets... and that was about the most sane thing that happened all evening); Noir World, set on the Orient Express with a Great Belgian Detective who wasn't M. Poirot, so ended up getting completely the wrong man, thanks to the machinations of the actual murderer; Liminal, where I played a fae who was slightly obsessed with chatting to ghosts while trying to work out why a bunch of villagers on Dartmoor were trying to kill all the tourists; and The Borden Legacy freeform, which was a very Mythos twist on the legend of Lizzie Borden, where I suspect I misread my character background but had a great deal of fun anyway (everyone seemed to think my sheriff should be incompetent, but I thought she was supposed to be like Marge from Fargo - not that I've seen Fargo, so maybe that's where I went wrong...).

I did do some work bits: a panel with Mike about what's coming up for Call of Cthulhu (it's always fun to be on a panel with Mike) and I ran Blue Rose for the first time. I thought I really should get round to it at some point seeing as I'm its editor! The game went very well, and it was lovely to see the players engage with their characters, sitting down and trying to find a diplomatic solution to something rather than just wading in with their fists. They did get the chance to thump something later on, but it was very much a last resort. And demonic creatures do need a good thumping, apparently.

It was interesting that some people were a little put off by the game's "romantic fantasy" tag, assuming that it therefore must be a game about in-character romance rather than chivalric, sweeping fantasy. Not that you can't have in-character romance if you want it, of course! Hopefully I managed to set a few people straight on that point, at least.

Mostly, though, I once again ended up wondering where the month went to. But at least I got to enjoy part of it catching up with old friends I haven't spent much time with in far too long, and with people I've worked with since the last Continuum but never actually met properly. Gaming has introduced me to so many lovely, talented, and generous people, and Continuum was no exception (thanks again for the copy of Monkey, Dan and Gwen - it's great fun, although I bet the people on Newcastle Quayside had no idea what I was doing sitting on the side of the beach with the book and a deck of cards giggling away to myself!).

Monday, 2 July 2018

Flaming June

In terms of temperature here in our little corner of England, June was definitely quite a warm one.

It was also quite a busy one again, what with Women in Tabletop in Tabletop Gaming Month getting into full swing. Chaosium's contribution was a series of 24 brief interviews with some of the women who have worked with the company over the years in a variety of roles, be that writing, editing, artwork, layout or publishing as a licensee. Links to each interview can be found here.

This was an important project for me as, although women have been in gaming since the beginning, we are constantly having to fight to be included at the table and, it seems, these days more than ever. Gaming needs diverse voices if it is to thrive, and my hope is to try and encourage women and other under represented groups not to self select against getting involved by seeing that you don't have to have qualification X and have been gaming since Y to contribute on a professional level. I also wanted to highlight that there's more to game production that writing and artwork, so if your forte lies elsewhere, there's still no reason you can't get in there.

Of course, such a project comes with the inevitable downside in these days of social media: trolls. I was dreading the potential backlash we were going to get for daring to raise our heads above the parapet, but, apart from one misogynist at the very beginning and one at the end, we seem to have avoided that sort of nonsense. Unless I didn't see them, which is always a possibility. I had to seriously consider whether we should even take part, primarily from the viewpoint of the safety of the other women involved because, as the curator of the project, I have a duty of care towards them. If that doesn't underline the need for Women in Tabletop Gaming Month and other programmes to raise the visibility of minority groups within gaming, I don't know what does. I sincerely hope the day comes when we don't need to go out of our way to say "Hey, look we're here and we deserve to be treated with equality and respect. You know, like we're actual 'normal' people." But, sadly, today is not, apparently, that day.

On a more positive note, though, I learned so much by reading the interviews that came in and was inspired by each of the stories the women involved were generous enough to share with me and you. We had industry stalwarts from back in the day through to young new voices just getting started, and the thing that shone through more than anything (to me) was their passion for their work. Passion can be inspirational, and sharing your love of your industry/hobby will hopefully encourage new blood into it, or old blood that may have drifted away to give it another shot.

Other than Women in Tabletop Gaming Month, it was also Free RPG Day, so I was down at my FLGS running Scritch Scratch, mine and Chaosium's contribution to the gaming swag this year. (If you missed it, it's now available here as a free pdf with links to POD). I'd already run it for them twice over the years, so it was nice to have a trio of folks who hadn't had the delights of playing it before come to keep me company. As it has been round the block with me a few times over the last two years, I keep threatening to stop running it but, like Sean Connery and James Bond, I've come to the conclusion that I should never say never again!

As Scritch Scratch is very much a character piece until the horror kicks in, it's always a fun one for me to run as I can sit back and watch the players bicker and scheme as that group of pregenerated investigators. It's also fascinating to see how people interpret the characters you've written, and what they pick out of the backgrounds to build their portrayal around. It seems to have gone down well on the whole, and it was a great honour to be asked to turn my go-to convention scenario into something more.

What else?

Back to the last two chapters of Children of Fear, that's what! In June, I managed to complete the first draft of Chapter Eight and began the final bits of research for Chapter Nine. So far, there are ten chapters, the last of which contains various appendices, so that one's already largely written. The first six scenarios have all been tested by various groups (the first chapter is the introduction, of course), and the first three scenarios have been fully tweaked and corrected. (I'll correct the rest once the final round of playtesting is complete.)

It's been a long time coming and it's almost three years since I first discussed the campaign with Chaosium at Gen Con. Obviously, little projects like the newly released Masks of Nyarlathotep got in the way a bit, but it's full steam ahead to get this one finished before the summer is through. (It's also almost two years since we started on the somewhat epic task of bringing Masks up to date with the Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition rules system. Time does, indeed, fly.)

The thing is, big projects take a lot of time to complete, starting with the research, then on through the writing, editing, commissioning artwork, layout, proofing and printing stages. Other, smaller projects and real life have a habit of mugging you on the way past, meaning what was already going to be a long haul gets even longer. Sometimes, you wonder whether you'll ever get to the end of it. But you do, eventually, although it can be a really weird anti-climactic feeling when you finally hand it off to the next step in the chain. Until you see the finished product, of course - then it all becomes worthwhile!

Monday, 4 June 2018

The Merry Month of May

Blimey, here we are again and, like the rest of this year, May sort of went tearing by in a bit of a blur.

I'm happy to report that the first pass edit on the Aldis City Sourcebook went off to Joe Carriker (Blue Rose's lovely line developer) a little over a week ago and it's full of fun, interesting and useful stuff for your Blue Rose game.

Although I've played the game before (as I mentioned in January's post), I've not actually taken the plunge and narrated it yet. Now, after quite a few requests from gaming friends, I'm about to put that right at this year's Continuum games convention. It can be a bit intimidating sometimes to run something you've worked on, particularly in an editorial capacity, as people can expect you to be an expert on it. Because I hop around systems quite a bit with my job, that isn't always the case - I'm an expert for as long as I need to be for that given project and then I have to go and be an expert on something else. Still, I'm looking forward to seeing what the Continuum crowd make of it, and as long as we tell an entertaining story together, I'll be happy.

It looks as if the second volume of the Miskatonic University short story anthology I submitted a piece to is going to go ahead now, so more information on that when I get it. I'm really pleased the story should see the light of day as I had fun writing it. And there are a lot of other interesting looking stories in there, too!

We were lucky enough to go to a new mini-gaming break at Schloss Neuhausen, Germany, in May as well. The schloss is home to October's Kraken convention, a small but perfectly formed retreat where you get fed and watered to a ludicrous extent in very mellow and beautiful surroundings while gaming, socialising and learning to throw axes (yes, really). There were no axes at the mini version, but there was copious cake and beer, and an opportunity for me to test out my new Call of Cthulhu convention scenario. (As Scritch Scratch is this year's Free RPG Day scenario, I thought I'd better write a new one!)

In glorious sunshine on two consecutive mornings, I ran the players through a strange tale inspired by an actual event I attended at a local museum earlier this year as part of their After Dark programme (not uncoincidentally also the name of the scenario). Both sessions went really well, which was a relief as the scenario itself had been quite stubborn in taking shape, meaning that I was still writing it a few days before the convention started. (I also had to pay a visit to one of our local beaches for props for it as well...)

Often at conventions, I don't get a chance to play anything or be anything other than "on" in a professional capacity. What was really lovely about the mini-Kraken was that I did get to play games and just be sociable. As a result, I got to try three games I've been wanting to have a crack at for ages (Tales from the Loop, Ten Candles, and Blades in the Dark) and got to make some lovely new friends. All of the games were great fun, although sitting huddled under multiple blankets in the schloss' freezing undercroft in the pitch dark while slightly tipsy on G&Ts listening to the mice scrabbling about in the darkness behind you definitely made Ten Candles a particularly memorable experience!

A large proportion of May was dedicated to getting everything ready for Chaosium's contribution to Women in Tabletop Gaming Month. With 18 interviews in total (a 90% response rate!), the series highlights the contributions women have made to Chaosium over its lifetime, from established names to those at the beginning of their gaming industry careers. As well as promoting the stellar work these women are doing, I hope it also encourages other women to get involved as content creators, be that as artists, writers, editors, graphic designers, or in layout and production - all of which are essential roles in getting games out there for people to enjoy. As I'm writing this is June, I know the first two interviews have gone live, and I'm going to cheat and say you can find them over on the Chaosium blog.

And I can finally say that Masks of Nyarlathotep is on its way to the printer gods and should be out in pdf form some time in July. I may have mentioned before how pretty it is and there's a whopping amount of play contained in its two volumes. It'll be good to see it in actual physical print come the autumn. I hope people like what we've done with it, but regardless, it was a tremendous project to work on in terms of experience.

I don't doubt I've forgotten something I was going to tell you, but perhaps I'll have remembered by the end of the month! So, until next time...

Friday, 4 May 2018

In Like a Lion

Once again, it's been a busy month here in the writing hovel. As you can see, I didn't quite manage to get two blog posts out in April, largely due to spending the last weekend of it in Prague with my lovely husband, Richard, on a belated 20th wedding anniversary holiday.

Prague was wonderful, and so inspiring. Steeped in myth and legend, the city gave rise to the golem and was home to loads of hidden alchemy laboratories during the reign of Rudolf II. We even got to visit one that was rediscovered during massive flooding in the city in around 2000 - great fun, and pretty spooky!

Along with its history, Prague has some amazing buildings. Not only are many of them painted with fabulous designs or trompe l'oeil, a lot have Art Noveau decorations, or just out-and-out odd things (plaques and statues) mounted on them - like the one we found of a duck-billed snake! The city is also home to two buildings containing beautiful libraries: the Klementinum and the Strahov Monastery. Although they won't let you into the libraries for a good rummage, you can gaze upon their magnificence, and the Klementinum tour also involves climbing several spiral staircases and rickety wooden stairs (almost ladders in some sections) to get to the top of the astronomical tower, where there are fantastic views over the city.

Another absolute gem was hidden in the grounds of the Petrin, Prague's hilltop park, complete with mini Eiffel Tower from the city's 1891 Exposition. Of course, I'm talking about the Magical Cavern, home of artist Reon Argondian's gloriously over-the-top artwork. If you want some seriously psychedelic and mind-bending images to inspire your scenarios (especially Dreamlands-based ones), take a peep at his gallery... As the first tourist attraction we went to in Prague, this place really got our trip off to a flying start!

Apparently, one of the things I said most over the weekend was "Oo, this would make an awesome setting for a scenario!" Perhaps one day...

In work terms, though, April continued to see progress on Masks of Nyarlathotep. It's going to be a whopper, and no mistake. As I mentioned in the last blog post, going through such a luscious book with a fine-tooth comb is a long, slow process and even then, there will be things we miss. As a friend of mine says, books aren't so much released as escape into the wild when you turn your back for a moment. Still, hopefully we've caught most of the big things!

Besides that, I'm back on editing duty for Green Ronin. At the moment, I'm working on the Aldis City Sourcebook, and it's always a pleasure to dive back into the world of Aldea. The book details the city of the Blue Rose and its eclectic inhabitants, as well as providing some interesting new mechanics to support game play in the world (as discussed in Joe's article) and a very sweet scenario by the wonderful Steve Kenson. My official title as editor on the Blue Rose gaming line is "Benevolent Dictator in Chief," a role I take very seriously indeed! The book is shaping up very nicely, and I'll be continuing to work on it through May.

Sadly, the Kickstarter I mentioned in the last blog post didn't fund. It's always disappointing when interesting projects don't come to fruition, but people only have so much time and money to devote to supporting creators, so it's understandable that not everything is going to get made - at least not yet. Which is what makes it even more frustrating when projects do fund, you submit your work, and never hear another thing from the developer, only vague rumours years later that you have to follow up on the campaign's public announcements page (and even then, you still have no idea what's really going on).

This brings me back to something I've mentioned before, and certainly touched on in the #AprilTTRPGMaker thread over on Twitter: communication is key. Yes, things go wrong, and real life has a nasty habit of getting in the way of projects that are often run parallel to people's day jobs, but not talking to people about those problems, pretending they're not happening, or just disappearing altogether, helps no one. On the whole, people are very understanding and forgiving if you keep them informed about what's going on. But not knowing? That just leads to mistrust in the long run, and makes people very wary of supporting you again in the future.

But, on a happier note: the sun is shining and it's time for a cup of tea. May promises to be another busy month as we gear up for the start of the summer convention season and trying to get various projects finished off and back to the publishers. Now all I need to do is get my new convention scenario written...

Thursday, 12 April 2018

Best Laid Plans

I know I said I was going to be really good and do a blog post every month this year, but March pretty much thundered by in a bit of a haze, with my head well and truly down over my keyboard.

Still, a promise is a promise, so here goes: What did I get up to in March, precisely?

Lots of proofing, for a start. Masks of Nyarlathotep is coming along nicely, but with such a luscious and high profile product, it has to be carefully checked to make sure everything's A-Okay. (And, believe me, that takes time.) Myself, Mike, Scott, Paul, and various other eagle-eyed folk check each chapter as it comes in from our very talented and lovely layout guru, Nick Nacario, then fire off our corrections and suggestions for him to implement. It's all horribly pretty, believe me.

What else? Recruiting women to take part in Chaosium's contribution to Women in Tabletop Gaming Month, coming this June. Chaosium has a long history of employing women to work on its products in every capacity: writing, editing, developing, art, design, layout, and production, and we've already had some very interesting interviews returned to us from some very talented and inspiring women creators, old and new.

And? Still plugging away at Children of Fear, of course! Lots more playtesting and tweaking went on during March, so hopefully there's now even more ways for your investigators to get themselves into no end of trouble while exploring Central Asia and Northern India...

I was also approached to take part in another Kickstarter project (There and Back Again: An Anthology of Travel and Gaming) by Jason Brick, one of my authors back in my line editor days over on Achtung! Cthulhu. As I'm British, of course my contribution will be about how the weather affects travel. I mean, what else was I going to write about, eh?

Other than that, March involved a lot of working out which conventions we'd be going to in the next 12 months. So far, that includes mini-Kraken in late May, UK Games Expo in June, Continuum in July, Kraken in October, and OrcaCon next January. Other distinct possibilities, but not confirmed yet, include Steampunks in Space at the National Space Centre again (always a great deal of fun) along with Dragonmeet. I also have the nagging suspicion I've missed something, but I can always tell you about that in April's official installment (so you get two this month, as long as I remember!)

Sadly, there won't be a return to Gen Con this year, or in the foreseeable future. As a freelancer who has to pay their own way, it's now just far too expensive to attend under my own steam. Many conventions are costly to get to and take part in, particularly as most of the big ones aren't in the UK and transatlantic flights and accommodation ain't cheap. I also find Gen Con (and Essen Spiel) grueling and not always pleasant experiences because of their sheer size (although it's always lovely to see old friends and make new ones).

So, from here on in, I'm concentrating on conventions I really enjoy. I'm saving up for NecronomiCon and OrcaCon next year as my two "biggies," because not only do they take place in cities I'm immensely fond of, but I always have a wonderful time at OrcaCon and my first NecronomiCon was a lovely, welcoming experience and I'd like some more of that, please! (Plus, Richard didn't get to go last time, and I think he'd love it, too.)

Right, best get back to the day job! Ta-ta for now...

Friday, 23 February 2018

All a Bit Hush Hush

Well, I did say I was going to try and be good this year about writing blog posts, so let's get this month's installment committed to electronic paper.

Which might be a little bit difficult, seeing as most of what I've been working on hasn't actually been announced to the public yet.

Ah, well!

So, what can I actually tell you?

First: Playtesting and tweaking is ongoing for the Children of Fear campaign that I've been beavering away on in one form or other now for the last couple of years. For fairly obvious reasons (i.e. Masks of Nyarlathotep), Children of Fear had to take a backseat for almost a year while we updated and refined such an important piece of Call of Cthulhu gaming history.

And while being asked to work on Masks was thrilling, it was also rather daunting, precisely because it is so beloved. Not that you say no to such opportunities - they only come along once in your career, if you're lucky. And hopefully everyone who is waiting for Children of Fear will let me off once they've seen what myself, Mike Mason, Scott Dorward and Paul Fricker helped usher into the world (along with the lovely Nick Nacario and all the insanely talented artists and cartographers who have contributed to the book).

Playtesting can be a difficult, if ultimately rewarding, experience. If you're lucky, it all goes smoothly but, more often than not, it highlights something you knew, deep down, wasn't quite working the way you'd hoped or - worse - just isn't working at all. But, with a good, honest bunch of playtesters, you can fix those problems and make things so much better than they were. That doesn't necessarily mean it isn't a somewhat terrifying procedure to put yourself through, especially when you know people are eagerly awaiting the finished product (and that's certainly the impression I got from all the enthusiastic people who came by the Chaosium booth at Necronomicon last year to ask me why I hadn't finished it yet!). All writers need to be able to kill their darlings, but that doesn't always mean it's an easy thing to do.

Having playtesters you trust helps enormously, and I am blessed to have a lovely group in America (run by the wonderful Heidi) and my own bunch of Wednesday night reprobates here. (Hi, folks!) Sometimes they may say things I might not want to hear, but their experience and knowledge makes their input invaluable and much appreciated, because it is very easy to get too close to your work and end up lost in it, particularly big projects you've been working on for a long time.

Second: Um, this is where it needs to get  bit vague. Earlier in the month, with my Assistant Editor's hat on, I finished up something for Call of Cthulhu that I think you'll all be excited by, but I can't actually tell you what it is just yet.

Third: Another vague one. I spruced up a pitch for a scenario for a games company (not Chaosium) and am waiting back to hear on whether or not they want to pick up the final version. It's been a bit of a long haul this one, just on a much smaller scale to Children of Fear (they were both originally mooted at the same Gen Con back in 2015). It had been a year since I'd last done any work on this pitch, and it always takes a bit of time to get back into the swing of things, especially when a different rules set is involved. So, watch this space on that one.

Fourth: More vagueness. Back with my Assistant Editor's hat on again, I've just finished a read through on a book under development, to give my opinion on what we can do to get it finished and out there for all of you to get your teeth stuck into. Again, watch this space!

Fifth: You'll find out about this one pretty soon. It's for Call of Cthulhu, and I'm quite excited about this one. (Not that I'm not excited about pretty much everything I work on, but you'll understand when you see what it is...)

Sixth: Mentoring. I've spent a bit of time this month mentoring a young lady who's entering the gaming profession on the production side, having been a gamer for years. We're into multiple generations of gamers now, and those of us who are working in the industry need to keep an eye out for the people who will, ultimately, replace us, and help them find their feet, be they writers, artists, or graphic designers. Hopefully I'm not telling her a load of old tosh!

Seventh: Embroidery! Yes, as well as writing and editing, I also teach traditional hand embroidery techniques and give talks on them to various groups, such as the Embroiderers Guild. This month is particularly busy, largely because I'm daft enough to take my car out into the wilds of Northumberland in the middle of winter, regardless of the weather. (Not all tutors are quite so adventurous, it seems.) I've already been to Hexham so far this month to give a talk on a traditional Norwegian technique known as Hardanger work (which I'll be repeating on Monday at Ponteland), and tomorrow I'm off to Hartlepool to teach an all-day workshop on a traditional Indian form of quilting, known as kantha.

As for next month: we'll see. I'm expecting in two editing projects from different companies, and there's this small matter of getting Children of Fear finished (although that's going to take a few more months just yet - sorry). There's also Airecon, which we may pop down to for the day. There's undoubtedly something else - there always is! - but, for the moment, I think that will do nicely.