I just received a lovely piece of fan art. Obviously, it’s Pancras and he looks great. I think he’d be a bit embarrassed and no doubt the drak twins would tease him for weeks.
The Best Four Days of Gaming™ have come and gone and Gen Con 50 is behind us. I came away with a pleasing number of sales (which will hopefully generate some new fans for the World of Calliome and Zack Jackson), some new ideas, and a few hopes for future projects/collaborations. I would love to shout from the rooftops about a couple of these potential opportunities, but since nothing is set in stone, it really would serve no purpose save to get my hopes up. I prefer to be calm about such things until there’s something to actually talk about.
The convention itself was the typical mix of awesome and obnoxious. Fortunately, the awesome outweighed the obnoxious. I think I’m going to invest in some cloth banners to hang from the backdrop next year and eschew the pictures in frames. They’re unwieldly, unstable, and difficult to travel with. I’m also happy that only one person made the mistake of thinking MY name is Zack Jackson.
At some point, I suppose I’ll have to start picking and choosing which titles to bring. I’ll definitely have Zack Jackson & the Secret of Venus for next year (I’m hoping to have it published by the end of the year, frankly), and if my schedule holds and no immediate paid work comes up, maybe another title as well.
There is another World of Calliome novel in the works, but as I’m only about 1/4 – 1/3 into the first draft, that’s all I’ll say about it for now. Well, that, and it features a cast of all-new characters.
I can’t really comment on the gaming. As an exhibitor on Author’s Avenue, I only spent about an hour wandering the Dealer Hall, and since most vendors were closed when I did, I didn’t see much. I didn’t sign up for any events; when you work all day in the Dealer Hall, committing yourself to something else when you could be finding dinner and resting for the next day is difficult. It’s tiring, but rewarding.
The next convention at which I’m scheduled to make an appearance is GameHole Con in Madison, WI. I’m mostly scoping that con out this year, so I’m only appearing on one panel and will likely not be there all four days. In the meantime, I’ll keep writing and hope that you keep reading.
Each year, I participate in a local contest: Best of Indy. You can to vote daily to nominate your favorite Indianapolis business and personalities and I would appreciate your support in the Best Local Author category! So far, I have been the ONLY sci-fi/fantasy author represented on the list of nominees. I’m a firm believer that genre does not determine whether or not something is literature or worth reading.
- Click Arts & Entertainment
- Press “Continue” to proceed to page 2
- Press “Submit” to get to page 3 where you can type in “Hans Cummings” in the Best Local Author field (as shown in the attached picture).
- Press “Submit” again and type in the Captcha code.
- Press “Submit” one final time to record your nomination.
If you were looking for my gaming blog, DoctorStrangeRoll, where this article usually appears, I’m putting it here since that one is updating daily with RPGaDAY 2017, and I don’t want this to get lost in the flood.
Gen Con is nigh! With just over a week to go before the best four days in gaming (as of the time I’m posting this), I’m not going to rehash what so many others have put out there; there are tons of blogs and articles out there with advice regarding large conventions like Gen Con. My advice is going to be different. I am going to rehash what I’ve posted in previous years (they’re my most popular posts!). To most of it, Wheaton’s Law applies. For those of you who are link-averse, Wheaton’s Law is this: Don’t be a dick.
However, the things about which I’m going to speak, are the sorts of things people are not aware they’re being dickish about. They’re usually not being malicious; they just don’t have any personal experience with these sorts of issues, so when they start breaking Wheaton’s Law, they don’t know they’re doing it. My job here is not to castigate, but to educate.
Specifically, I’m talking about dealing with those who have physical challenges at conventions. The disabled, to be blunt. People like my wife. She can walk, but conventions like Gen Con are too big for her. So, she uses a wheelchair to get around. She has a snazzy metallic red electric wheelchair, but in years past, I’ve pushed her in a manual wheelchair. This gives us a unique experience at Gen Con.
Be Aware of People Around You
The average con goer is, shall we say, Plus-sized. OK, that’s fine. I’ve been there; I lost nearly 50 pounds a few years ago. At conventions, people often have large backpacks. Sometimes, everything they brought to the convention is in this backpack. People are not always aware that this backpack adds two to three feet to their girth. They spin around quickly. If you’re in a wheelchair, those backpacks are level with your head. More than once my wife has narrowly avoided being clobbered in the head by an unaware con-goer suddenly spinning around because something caught his or her eye. When I pushed her, I watched for this sort of thing. Now she drives herself, and I worry she’s going to get beat up.
Step to the far sides or into a booth space, if possible, to have conversations with friends or on your phone, or to look at the map, in your backpack, etc.
Moving through large groups of slow moving people is a challenge in a wheelchair. Sometimes people back up unexpectedly. Worse, they often stop unexpectedly. Sometimes it’s because the crowd in front of them has stopped. Sometimes it’s because something caught their eye. Sometimes it’s because someone caught their eye, and they’re stopping to chat. If this happens to you, look ahead a bit and see if there’s a spot in a booth where you can divert to stop. Please, please, please don’t just stop in the middle of the aisle to root through your backpack or catch a Pokémon. You’re not in a high school hallway; stopping in the middle of the aisle is hugely disruptive. Also, if you’re pushing your kids in a stroller, you really need to watch where you’re pushing them. My wife almost got t-boned by a stroller a few years ago because the mother had her head turned one way, watching something, and was pushing and walking in a different direction… in a CROWDED hall way (not even the Dealer Hall). She also almost got run into by a guy walking very fast and not watching the direction he was walking. His friend yelled to get his attention, otherwise he would have tripped over my wife’s (in motion) wheelchair. She had no chance to take evasive action because he approached from an angle that was mostly behind her. Situational Awareness is a thing. You don’t have to be a fighter pilot to practice it. Seriously.
Bathe regularly. Use deodorant.
Shower regularly and use deodorant. This has been covered by almost every blog and podcast I’ve seen on the subject. I bring it up because something most people aren’t aware of: Gamer Funk is worse when your head is at waist level to the average con goer. Think about it: you sit on your butt every day during the con, often for four to six hours at a time. Frequently, walking around the city during the Con can be like walking on the surface of the sun (i.e. it’s HOT). The chairs don’t breathe. The A/Cs in the convention center will have trouble keeping up with a roomful of gamers when it’s hot and humid outside. Except for a very few, select people, most attendees have the crotch region covered completely by a couple of layers of clothes (basically, I’m talking about everyone who can’t get away with wearing something like a swimsuit or lingerie to Gen Con). Sweat happens. Funky things happen in dark, warm, moist areas. This is not shameful, it’s just a fact of bio-chemistry. Cleanliness saves noses.
Give wheelchairs and other mobility devices a wide berth; don’t step over them.
Often, those of us using wheelchairs, canes, and walkers move a little more slowly than others in the Dealer Hall. Sorry, it’s just difficult to drive or push a large mechanical object through a crowd. Sometimes, we have to stop for a moment to wait for an opening to cross an aisle. I know you’re in a hurry. I know there’s a demo you think you’re late for, or a game in another room. But FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY: DO NOT STEP OVER THE LEGS OF THE PERSON IN THE WHEELCHAIR. This happens to my wife at least once a year. Someone will get the bright idea that they can cut a corner if they just step over my wife’s legs. That is 100% NOT OKAY. For one, these people usually misjudge how much space they need and end up kicking my wife’s feet or the wheelchair. She’s not paralyzed, OK? She has feeling in the lower half of her body. In fact, because she has a degenerative spine condition, she feels these jolts acutely. IN HER BACK.
Pain is a funny thing (and I mean funny like a heart attack). In my wife’s case (and I know many people experience this same thing), it’s like gas prices. It’ll spike very quickly, and then take FOREVER to come back down. If you kick her wheels (however accidentally) or kick her legs because you felt stepping over her was quicker than going around, or accidentally knee the back of the chair because you’re standing too close in line, all of those jolts go right into her back. The extremities are ALL connected to the spine in some way. That jolt of pain doesn’t just go away. It takes HOURS. Often, it takes her lying down for hours before it gets back down to a manageable level and it’s not something that can be alleviated by popping a couple of ibuprofen. Chronic pain does not work that way.
More than once, she has missed out on a half-day or a whole day of a con because of this pain. When you are the cause because you carelessly stepped over her wheelchair and kicked her legs, causing a flare up of pain in her back, you have taken a day at Gen Con away from her. Is that worth saving five seconds to you?
Don’t tie up wheelchair accessible ADA bathroom stalls unless you have a Potty Emergency.
A comedian once proclaimed the virtues of the wheelchair accessible ADA rest room stall, saying it was “the Cadillac” [of the stalls]. While it is true these stalls are often very roomy, there is a reason for that. Here’s a hint: the reason is NOT SO YOU CAN USE IT TO CHANGE INTO OR OUT OF YOUR COSTUME. I respect cos-players. What they do is AMAZING. But if you’re tying up the accessible stall chatting on the phone, changing clothes, having a quiet moment, you may be preventing people who need to use it for its intended purposes from using the facilities they require. From what I hear, because I don’t have first-hand experience with the ladies restrooms, for every ten to twenty standard stalls, there are one or two wheelchair accessible ADA stalls and one or two “family” stalls (if you’re lucky). The family stalls are slightly smaller than the wheelchair accessible stalls, but larger than a standard stall so that a parent can stand and assist her toddler. Handicapped attendees don’t expect the wheelchair accessible ADA stalls to only be used by people with disabilities. With some 60,000+ attendees anticipated, it is understood that sometimes there will be a line for the facilities. People expect to have to wait their turn. The main point is to use a non-wheelchair accessible stall if one is available and to be aware that people using wheelchairs and other mobility assistance devices often cannot choose one of the smaller stalls.
Look, I get sometimes you need a quiet moment (Gen Con has, in fact, special rooms for quiet moments; use them, not the restrooms), or have to change clothes, but that stall is that big so that wheelchairs or people with walkers can get into it, and the commode with raised higher than in the non-accessible stalls. My wife told me of an experience a couple of years ago where she was in a line three wheelchairs deep waiting for the wheelchair accessible ADA stall while two young ladies were changing clothes and giggling and were pretty much oblivious to the fact that they were not the center of the universe. Apparently, of the twenty or so other stalls, only two others were occupied at the time, so it’s not like these young ladies had no choice (and couldn’t wait). One woman had to get out of her wheelchair, crawl along the floor, and into a non-wheelchair accessible stall because she could not wait any longer. My wife confronted them and politely made them aware they were holding up the line and they cried and accused her of being rude.
Another anecdote my wife shared with me involved another con-goer who apologized for using the wheelchair accessible stall when she saw my wife waiting in her wheelchair. The woman explained she had had a hip replacement and couldn’t sit on the lower commodes. The lesson here is that not everyone has a visible disability. Many people with hip replacements risk dislocating the joint if they bend beyond 90°, which includes sitting on a commode shorter than 19″ high.
When people abuse the wheelchair accessible restroom, handicapped con goers risk wetting their pants. That shouldn’t have to be one’s main concern in a public restroom.
It’s a safe bet that most cosplayers are from out of town and have hotels. Perhaps they see the bathroom, the wheelchair accessible stall in particular, as a more convenient place to work on their costume than going back to their hotel. Well, tough. That stall is for people with disabilities to pee and poop. You don’t get to act put out when one of them calls you on it. Besides, have you SEEN what’s on the floor in a public restroom? I certainly wouldn’t want to get that on my costume.
Watch for Canes
They’re easy to miss; and it’s hard to tell if someone’s cane is part of a costume they’re wearing or an actual mobility-assistance device (it could be both; mobility-impaired people cos-play, too!). Be aware of where your feet are as you’re walking around the crowded dealer hall. It’s not fun to rely on a cane for stability only to have someone kick it out from under you. White Canes or white-tipped canes extended in front of the people using them signify they are low-vision or blind. Do not step in front of them or over them.
This last thing actually is castigation because this happens every Gen Con and it’s not a matter of people being unaware; it’s a matter of people being rude jerks. If there’s a person with a wheelchair or other mobility device waiting for an elevator and they were there waiting when you and your group of friends arrived, WAIT FOR THE NEXT ELEVATOR IF YOU ALL WON’T FIT. More than once we have had our elevator poached by a group of rude assholes who rush to get into the elevator before we can. That’s being a dick. That’s being rude. You are bad people and should feel bad. When that happens, we hope the elevator breaks down with you in it. Don’t make me be a bad person for wishing bad things upon you.
Let’s work together to make sure the Best Four Days of Gaming are the best days for ALL attendees!
Life has a way of sweeping you to unexpected destinations, as Pancras discovers as he continues his investigation into the Lich Queen’s return. Enlisting the aid of Justicars, the stern knights in the service of the Divine Tribunal, he tracks a growing army to Badon Hill, the site of the Lich Queen’s last battle.
Returning to Muncifer and burdened with the truths discovered in the Valley of the Iron Giants, Delilah and Kale must bring the megalomaniacal archmage Vilkan Icebreaker to justice. Delilah takes it upon herself to keep the vast arcane secrets she carries safe from the archmage while Kale struggles to balance his desire for adventure with his responsibilities to his mate.
As their worlds collide and their enemies advance, the twins and Pancras have their mettle and faith tested as the fate of their world hangs in the balance.
Salvation is the conclusion to my Scars of the Sundering trilogy. I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it. Signed copies will be available at Gen Con along with my print-exclusive offering, “Burble’s Big Day.”
In addition to Gen Con, I will be at TeenCon 2017 at the New Castle-Henry County Public Library this Saturday, July 15 from 10am – 3pm.
You’ve seen the artwork, but there’s more to a cover than just art. Thanks to the efforts of Eric Hubbel, I’m proud to present Scars of the Sundering, book 3: Salvation.
The files will be going to the printer in the next few days and I will have books to sell at Beachside Authorfest in Lake Geneva on July 8th. The Kindle version will be up when I get back from that event (if not sooner, but I make no promises; I have to get “Burble’s Big Day” to the printer, too).
Of course I haven’t! I’m not an old general! I have, however, been very busy with an annual project at work as well as working on final revisions for Scars of the Sundering, book 3 – Salvation.
When I get busy like this, I often will still update my Facebook page, so if you’re not following me over there, you might want to stop by.
And with that, I must apologize. For while I let people on Facebook know, I neglected to show things off here. I was going to go for a whole fancy cover reveal to build hype, but it seems like that works better for authors who have a larger readership than me.
Last month, Lily Yang delivered the cover art for Salvation.
The cover design is being worked on now and Salvation will be available for sale prior to Gen Con in August. I’ll announce an exact date once I work on the interior layout.
In addition, I’ll have a new short story available for sale at Gen Con. “Burble’s Big Day” will be available in print EXCLUSIVELY at my convention appearances. All of the art is by Brian Patterson of d20 Monkey fame.
If you’re going to be in the Lake Geneva, Wisconsin area on July 8th, I’ll be at Beachside Authorfest (despite what the Facebook link indicates, it’s not hosted by me; they’re just slow in updating the official sites for this year, so the link to the event I set up is about all I have right now). Both Salvation and “Burble’s Big Day” will likely be available from me there, barring any printing delays.
Look for the official launch announcement for Salvation in the next few weeks.
The Year of Living Biblically: One Man’s Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible
I heard about this book a couple of years before I got around to purchasing and reading it. I know a lot of people who claim to take the Bible literally and who claim to live their life as closely to the guidelines set out therein. Well, the author did just that and his results are wildly different than the people I know.
While trying to follow the Bible as literally as possible, A.J. Jacobs discovers contradictions, some explicit, others springing from differences in translation and interpretation. He has difficulties incorporating the realities of modern life (like having to carry a chair with him so he doesn’t accidentally sit in a seat a menstruating woman has been in; it’s unclean) and it is only due to the eternal patience of his wife that he is able to live within some of these restrictions (although she draws the line at a rule that states he can’t touch her at ALL for weeks after her c-section delivering their twins; spoiler: he suspends his “quest” for about a month after their birth).
The challenge the author undertakes in this book is something I, myself, would NEVER attempt, but I did find his account illuminating. Like him, I think a lot of people seek to live the best lives they can by following tenets set out in the good book, but being human, fail to varying degrees. Jacobs’s quest did lead him to being a kinder, more thoughtful person, so even as a self-described agnostic, by the end of his journey, he felt it was worthwhile.
I don’t want to go too in depth about my views on religious; my personal beliefs aren’t relevant to this review. It’s a well-written, engaging, funny account that answers a lot of questions I had about how would one have to live if they really took the Bible as literally as they said they do. His conclusion confirmed what I suspected: it’s impossible to follow ALL the rules literally and EVERYONE cherry picks.
But don’t take it from me. Read this and be yourself, enlightened. It’s not going to make you a true believer (it certainly didn’t affect my beliefs in any way), but it might increase your understanding.
As a new year begins, it’s time to take stock of what projects I have on the table and where they all stand.
“Burble’s Big Day”
A short story I wrote for an collaborative Author’s Avenue anthology (the quality of which I was extremely displeased with), this will also come out soon as a short, middle-grade short story book with art by Brian Patterson (of d20Monkey fame). I’m going to edit it once more for good measure, but aside from the art, it is essentially finished. It will be available at Gen Con, if not sooner, in a deluxe full-color edition. I like to have something special to offer at Gen Con, and this is it for this year. This will be great for those of you with younger children interested in fantasy.
Scars of the Sundering, book 3: Salvation
Editing and revisions are underway. I hope to have it finished and published by Memorial Day weekend.
Zack Jackson & the Secret of Venus
The first draft collects dust, awaiting it’s day in the light of editing. Basically, this is going to sit until Salvation is done. Still, I hope to have it finished and published for Gen Con.
Scars of the Sundering, book 1: Malediction – Audio version
This is still in production. I’m just waiting on the narrator (Dan the Bard) to finish. Fun fact: this is the only audio-production of a fantasy novel I know of that will be narrated by an actual bard.
Of course, none of these projects are a new novel for me to write in 2017. I’m developing a couple of different story ideas right now. One is a young-adult novel/series for the World of Calliome set ten-plus years after Scars of the Sundering. Another is a sort of cyberpunk/urban fantasy set several thousand years in Calliome’s future. I’m not sure where my muse will ultimately take me, I’m also interested in writing some supplements or adventures for a role-playing game (which depends on my mood, potential collaborators, and various licensing factors). Of course, I intend to write the fifth Zack Jackson novel in 2017, Zack Jackson & The Ruins of Athos.
Here’s hoping your 2017 will be as productive and fulfilling and I’m going to try to make mine!