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.

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