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Quarantine Post 6: Spitfires, Dinosaurs, and Magical London

Not sure why I get so much pleasure from music with samples, esp audio clips from movies, but I do. I really do.

Over the weekend, we finally got the chance to play the second half of our Escape from Dino Island PbtA game. As an emulation of Jurassic Park, it’s pretty great: fast and deadly. As I mentioned on Twitter, before the game started, I suggested we start with two PCs each, since the game looked like it was designed to kill characters pretty quickly. The others poo-poo-ed that, telling me I could just make up someone new if I had to.

Two die rolls later, I was doing exactly that.

One of the mechanics in the game that I really liked was that the basic moves were broken into categories: Peril Moves and Safety Moves. When you make a Safety Move, you’re supposed to tell a story about your character (each playbook has a number of specific prompts, which you cross off as you go through them). At the end, when the story is wrapped up, either because the living PCs have escaped the island or they’ve all died, you roll for the denouement.

Like all PbtA games, you roll two dice, but then you add the number of stories you’ve told.. 10+ gives you a great result, 6+ is a failure, 7-9 is a modest success. So, the more stories you tell about your character, the more sympathetic they are and the more beloved they are by the audience.

My character had made the Finale move, which was a self-sacrifice play to save everyone and wrapping up the plot. So while the other two players got to roll on the “Safe at Last” table, and both got the result “… describe something (an image or memory) you will carry with you from your time on the island.” which is the modest result, I rolled on the “Never to Return” table.

And I’d told four stories over the course of the game, so my roll was +4. And I had sacrificed myself for the group! And I rolled snake eyes.

That was the only roll I could have made and still failed, and I’d done it. The result I got was “… tell the others why you deserved your fate.”

Is life fair? It is not.

But I laughed my ass off, which I really needed. At this point in my life, I don’t get to laugh all that much. Not that I’m unhappy (I’m not) but I don’t find many things funny. Except when I’m playing in a game with terrific players.

Anyway, next up is a longer game (we hope) and the group has picked Liminal, a contemporary fantasy game set in London. (I’m not doing an accent.) It looks great, and I don’t just mean the art. Seriously, that art is amazing.

But for the meat of this post, and the whole reason I am doing these, let me link to a site I found inside the rulebook:

http://www.guerrillaexploring.com

It’s a site about people getting into places where they’re not supposed to be, and the pictures are cool. I really liked the concrete… rooms? tunnels? in the bowels of the Tower Bridge.

Anyway, worth checking out.

Take care of yourselves.

Reposted from my blog: http://harryjconnolly.com/quarantine-post-6-spitfires-dinosaurs-and-magical-london/

TWiC

Quarantine Post 5: Seduced, but by the 80’s

First, your musical interlude, which is Leon Redbone’s cover of Seduced:

RIP, dude.

It’s been longer than I planned since my previous QP post, mainly because I sat down for another binge watch of Stranger Things. I’d been joking about it on social media, but I find the show soothing and I have a prescription for watching endless hours of TV to ease my anxiety. No really, I have the prescription around here somewhere it was right on that table I swear.

Then I came across this Vox mini-documentary about the origins of the 80’s aesthetic that shows tries to replicate. Maybe 75% of this video looks like one of the outfits Millie Bobby Brown wore after her character visited the mall.

But the interesting thing about this is that a person (or group of people, in this case) can be so influential yet remain unrecognized. Until now, obviously.

Reposted from my blog: http://harryjconnolly.com/quarantine-post-5-seduced-but-by-the-80s/

TWiC

Quarantine Post 4: Cirque du Soleil

Cirque du Soleil has dropped an hour-long special on YouTube.

No music video today, because this is a music video, sort of.

Reposted from my blog: http://harryjconnolly.com/quarantine-post-4-cirque-du-soleil/

TWiC

Quarantine Post 3: Stuck Inside and Driving Each Other Over the Bend

Sometimes, an artist steps out of their usual role to work for someone else, and their own creative impulses bounce against exterior constraints to create some of their most interesting work.

Graham Coxon, formerly of the band Blur, was tasked with creating a song for the Netflix series I AM NOT OKAY WITH THIS. This is the song he wrote and recorded. Then he just kept making music, putting together a whole album for what should have been a fictional band. Check out also Vanilla Skin and Bloody Witch, and the whole rest of the album, too.

One of the problems people are having with the quarantine guidelines is that they’re going stir crazy with the people they’re quarantined with. Over at The Social Distancing Project, people vent their stories of stress, heartbreak, revived romances, and petty grievances for you to… enjoy, I guess? Some are sad. Some aggravating. Many are funny.

It’s a bit like a COVID-19 edition of reddit’s relationships group.

Being cooped up with my wife and son has added very little stress to my life, to be honest. My wife is a kind person and always has been. She’s considerate as a reflex, and is mellow when I’m upset or need space.

I make an effort to be a kind person because I fell for her, and I realized that my old habits–basically, that I wanted to make people laugh and would do anything to get that laugh, even say cruel shit–were poison to her, our relationship, and to me, too. When I realized how much she hated humor based on shock and cutting remarks, I also realized how toxic it was to me.

It’s hard to talk about how much importance I used to put on making people laugh. It felt like a connection, but one where I was both the one in power and the one who was doing a kindness. It was a sort of competition with the world to see who could get the most laughs with cruelty, but without crossing over the line where the laughs stopped coming. And the only way to continue in that wholly made up competition was to pretend I couldn’t see the way peoples’ faces looked when I hurt them. And when I couldn’t pretend anymore, those hurt feelings became part of the game.

Anyway, I’m glad I stopped doing that, even if I miss making people laugh.

Reposted from my blog: http://harryjconnolly.com/quarantine-post-3-stuck-inside-and-driving-each-other-over-the-bend/

TWiC

Quarantine Post 2: Dreams and Star Trek

Siri, show me a fever hallucination with a mellow beat behind it.

If you’re a casual(ish) fan of Star Trek, you might enjoy this Filmjoy dive into the history of the original series, plus a second part about the show’s revival at the movies. I’m not really a fan at all (although I’ve watched most of what falls under the ST umbrella) and I thought these were interesting and fun. This is about the same length as their three-part Harry Potter film study, and I’m sure I’ll be re-watching this, too.

Kick back and enjoy.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Reposted from my blog: http://harryjconnolly.com/quarantine-post-2/

TWiC

New Feature: Quarantine Posts. Here’s QP1

Author Mindy Klasky has been writing Coronavirus Diversion posts, highlighting interesting stuff on the internet for people stuck at home who need a pleasant diversion. I think that’s a brilliant idea, and I recommend everyone go ahead and click that link above to check out what she’s sharing.

I don’t want to copy what she’s doing, but I thought I’d try something similar-ish. A little music. A little cooking. Comics or shows or something. Who knows? Something mellow and casual. I can’t promise to post every day, but I’ll try not to let this space go fallow.

To start, today’s song.

My Twitter timeline is full of people talking about baking, and the grocery stores are sold out of flour, so it seems like a lot of folks have stocked up for baking. If that’s you, check out this episode of What’s Eating Dan:

Having made this recipe myself, I can say the results really are amazing. They’re so fluffy and light that they almost feel like they’ve been made by a machine or something. Maybe that doesn’t sound appealing, but it really is.

And now I’m thinking you must be wondering how a tangzhong works in a pizza crust recipe. Not well, it turns out, because of course I tried it. Tangzhong makes a soft interior rather than a chewy one, and that’s okay of the bones at the edge of your pizza are very small, but feels insubstantial if they’re large. I’d only use it (again) if I was planning to make a stuffed crust pizza.

Take care. Keep washing those hands. Don’t forget to check out Mindy Klasky’s posts linked above.

Reposted from my blog: http://harryjconnolly.com/new-feature-quarantine-posts-heres-qp1/

TWiC

Key/Egg Giveaway for You and Anyone You Choose

Lots of folks are self-quarantining at the moment, and there’s a lot of tension and anxiety out there. My family feels it the same as anyone else.

There’s not much I can do about that, and I don’t have much to offer folks to make this difficult time easier. However, I can do this:

Until the end of March April, you can use coupon code

HX57G

to get a free Smashwords ebook of A Key, an Egg, an Unfortunate Remark, which is probably the most upbeat, least harrowing book I’ve ever written. Just go to the link above, click the “Buy” button or the “Give as Gift” button, then add the coupon code in the provided field. After, you can “Update cart” to be sure the price has been set to zero dollar and zero cents.

Key/Egg is a pacifist urban fantasy about Marley Jacobs, a sixty-five-year-old woman who’s a cross between Gandalf and Auntie Mame, and it’s set in modern day Seattle. (Or, at least, “modern” to the time it was finished, about six years ago. In construction-happy Seattle, some of the locations in the novel no longer exist.) There are lots of books out there that feature vampires, werewolves, and ghosts, but I like to kid myself that I’ve created an usual take on them here.

Plus, this is my most upbeat, light-hearted book. I figure folks don’t need another harrowing angsty bloodbath right now.

Finally, there’s no limit on the number of times you can use this coupon, so if you want to pick it up for yourself and make a gift of it, please do. All I ask is that you only send it to people who might like this sort of thing.

And that’s it. Take care of yourselves and take care of each other.

Reposted from my blog: http://harryjconnolly.com/key-egg-giveaway-for-you-and-anyone-you-choose/

TWiC

Quarantined

Like a lot of people, I’m spending more time than usual inside my home. What’s extra weird is that my wife’s workplace has shut its doors until the end of the month so she is stuck here, too. Me, I like being at home. She’s currently on day two and is already a bit stir crazy.

But there are only so many evenings you can while away with board games. To that end, a self-quarantine is an excellent time to binge the TV shows you meant to watch but never got around to. And for this list, I’m only naming shows that cost only the price of a subscription. Lots of us are struggling to find work at the moment, after all.

I have suggestions:

Amazon Prime:
This isn’t the first streaming service I think of when I fire up the TV, but for quality shows of the (recent) past, it has some serious heavy hitters, such as

The Wire
The Sopranos
The Americans
Deadwood
Orphan Black

Not all their offerings are so critically acclaimed, though. Space: 1999 is a seventies cheese fest and a lot of fun. Dead Like Me captures that disaffected 90’s slacker style that is overdue for a come back. And Eerie, Indiana is pure and adorable in its low-budget earnestness. Concentrated comfort food.

Netflix:

Netflix doesn’t lean as heavily on the critical acclaim, but they have some solid gems, like

Original Twilight Zone
Mad Men
Monty Python
Twin Peaks

When people want to know if I prefer Star Trek or Star Wars, I tell them Person of Interest. The first season is fun but not promising. By the midpoint of season three, we were shouting at the screen. Also, all the Star Treks are here, too. For lighter fare, they have Pee Wee’s Playhouse, which is anarchic fun (and also my wife worked on the NYC set, building several of the props, including Conky the Robot and Chairy, which is why I have a soft spot for this weird show). If you’re feeling stir crazy, Ash vs the Evil Dead is bloody and hilarious and over the top. If you need to be soothed, Father Brown is concentrated gentility.

Hulu

If Amazon Prime is home to Big Prestige TV About Terrible Dudes, Hulu offers a wider variety of stories with a wider variety of leads.

Killing Eve
Veronica Mars
Atlanta

They also have Legion, which is BPTATD, but has a non-naturalistic flair that I thought was fascinating, even when it didn’t totally work. Also, I know lots of folks binge Law & Order as a sort of comfort view, but that’s not streaming anywhere at the moment. However, Hulu has Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Finally, if you need something gentler, you can find Steven Universe here.

Disney Plus

Then you have this channel, where you can find… all the Star Wars cartoons? Agent Carter is lots of fun, but they never really let that terrific lead character shine. And… what? The 90’s X-Men cartoon? Gargoyles? If I’d written this post about movies, D+ would have more to offer.

Anyway, I’d originally planned to only list shows that had finished their run, but then I saw Killing Eve and that went out the window. Personally, I’d love to binge a few of these myself, but my wife hates to binge shows, so I’ll have to enjoy them vicariously through you guys.

One a personal note: We’re self-quarantined until the end of the month at least, and we’re taking the time for family and art-making time. One Man was released a few months ago, so we’re expecting that money to come in at the end of the month. So, yeah, this is going to hurt long term, but in the short term we ought to be okay.

But the economy is going to take a big hit. It might be time to rethink your Patreon and Kickstarter pledges. I appreciate the support I get through Patreon, for example, but I want everyone facing hardships of their own to cancel their pledges before they come due at the end of the month.

Take care of yourselves and take care of each other.

Reposted from my blog: http://harryjconnolly.com/quarantined/

TWiC

Things to Watch and Things to Listen to: Audiobooks, Plus Other Stuff

First, courtesy of Greg Van Eekhout, author extraordinaire, the perfect nine-second YouTube video for our times.

Second, if you’re one those good people who backed my Kickstarter for new Twenty Palaces novels, you’ve already seen the update with this news, but: Tantor Media has signed on to create audiobooks for all the Twenty Palaces books I’ve self-published. That’s Twenty Palaces, The Twisted Path, and the two Kickstarter novels.

What do I know about audiobooks? Not a lot! I just hope things turn out well.

As for the 20P books published by Del Rey, they still hold the audio rights. Will they also sign with Tantor? Or handle them in house? Or something? Or nothing? I dunno. That’s up to them.

Third, what the Kickstarter backers don’t know is that Tantor has already signed up to create an audiobook for One Man.

I’ll let you know when the books are available, obviously, and when I have definitive word on who will be doing the narration. It’s exciting! Audiobooks are big deal, and even though they don’t fit neatly into my life, I know they matter to a lot of you guys out there.

And finally, thank you everyone for the kind reviews, especially the ones saying you thought One Man was the best book of the year. That brings a slight flush to my cheeks every time I read it.

Also, it prompts others to buy the book.

Thanks again.

Reposted from my blog: http://harryjconnolly.com/things-to-watch-and-things-to-listen-to-audiobooks-plus-other-stuff/

TWiC

5 Things Make a Post (nostalgia remix)

1. Remember the old days when a person would simply turn to their blog and record a bunch of thoughts, instead of giving them away to a profit-free social media company like Twitter? Man, those were the days.

2. I’ve reached a tricky part of The Iron Gate. That’s not a bad thing (the exact opposite, in fact) but this is a part of the narrative where I’m going to be second-guessing myself and jumping around, trying to iron out a decent sequence of events so that things are fun and also cool and also make you want to keep reading. Every once in a while I see writers talk about writing a first draft and just going out with it, and I wish I could do that. Never happen, though.

3. Watched Ernst Lubitch’s final completed film last night: CLUNY BROWN. It’s a rom com that doubles as a satire of upper class British manners. (“Darling, if I trust you now, I’ll always have to trust you. And I won’t.”) Often, when a movie criticizes social mores, it makes itself a period piece. Its much more palatable (marketable) to GREEN BOOK racism than to address racism in the here and now. But CLUNY BROWN, released in 1946, was set in 1938. Anyway, it’s a funny, clever film with terrific performances. Worth watching.

4. Two weeks ago, I asked you guys to please review One Man and my other books, too, and you have really responded. Before I that blog post, sales for all my work on the Kindle store were in the mid-20s. Almost immediately, they jumped to the high 50s or low 60s, and now One Man is only 8 ratings/review from that sweet 100 mark on Amazon. Thank you all. It really makes a big difference to discoverability and to overall sales. If you’ve been meaning to post a review but haven’t gotten around to it, the links at the bottom of the main post should make for easy clicking. Thanks again.

5. My son has been working on a novel and has given me his first draft. It’s pretty good for a first effort, although no where close to ready for public consumption. But every moment I spent doing something other than editing his book or working on my own makes me feel guilty, like I’m slacking off. Luckily, guilt has never stopped me from being super lazy, so I’m going to log off, make a couple of notes about our respective works, and then put in the library dvd for TITANS, which I’ve heard is terrible. If so, I can turn it off after ten minutes or so and never be tempted by it again.

Reposted from my blog: http://harryjconnolly.com/5-things-make-a-post-nostalgia-remix/