Author! Author! – The Writing Board Game

My husband is doing a design course at Open University, and his latest assessment was to design a board game. The poor thing has had to deal with me through my road to publication, reading my book a million times (a rough estimate), listening to my whinging, my wonderings, my hopes and fears. He said eventually I got a certain look on my face where he knew I was about to ask something about my book. Guy knows me too well.

So he decided to make a board game about the perils of getting published. In order to win, you have to collect various Person cards: an agent, a publisher, an editor, and 6 fans.

The players draw chance cards, which give or take away moves, which are symbolized by some old IBM keys. There are also Cloak & Dagger cards, which are the ones with the evil magician, which give you various ways to screw over your opponent.

The board set-up

While this is still a prototype, it was still a fun game, mainly because of the tongue-in-cheek cards you drew. Craig and I collaborated on these. Some of my favourites:

– William Gibson retweets your robot kitten pictures. Get 1 move.

– The router breaks so you can’t procrastinate on the internet. Get 2 moves.

– Your manuscript stops a bullet headed for your beta reader’s heart. Get 4 moves.

– The person you punched out in the pub last night turns out to be a respected critic. Don’t pick up the next Person card you land on.

– The convention you attend is held in a post-apocalyptic Pontins. Lose 4 moves.

– Publishers are only looking for Were-Unicorn Urban Fantasy Romances nowadays. Lose 5 moves.

– Thespacekeyonyourkeyboardstopsworking.Lose3moves.

– Your beta readers are mysteriously silent about your latest draft of your postmodern Postman Pat trilogy. Lose 2 moves.

– You read a book that has the same subject as yours. It is better. Lose 3 moves.

– You get a kitten. Go to Writer’s Block. (Writer’s Block is like Jail in Monopoly)

Mixed in with the chance cards are challenge cards:

– You create a claymation trailer for your manucript. It generates some buzz online. You can leave it at that and get 2 moves, or you can roll the dice and send it to an agent:

1-2: The agent has claymationphobia. Lose 6 moves.

3-4: The agent thinks it’s ok, but you didn’t follow the query guidelines. Get 1 move.

5-6: The agent loves it and requests the full manuscript. Get 6 moves.


– You create some words in a new language for your sci-fi novel. You can just incorporate what you have and get 2 moves, or you can roll the dice and develop it.

1: It’s well dobby. Bearded people at conventions worldwide adopt it as their lingua franca. Get 7 moves.

2-3: It’s choodessny. Some academics take an interest. Get 3 moves.

4-5: It’s chepooka. Nonsense dweebery. Lose 3 moves.

6: It’s baddiwad. Who’ll publish something no-one understands, huh, Joyce? Lose 7 moves.


– Godfrey “Mindvoyager” Ho offers you psychotropic substances to help your imagination. You can opt for coffee instead for 1 move, or take is offer and roll the dice:

1-3: You hallucinate that you are Stephanie Meyer and Ayn Rand’s lovechild and write 100,000 words. Lose 6 moves and don’t pick up the next Person card. 

4-6: The Doors of Perception are open to you. 100,000 words flow from your glowing fingertips in rainbow ribbons onto a page that ripples like water and tastes of rapture. Gain 6 moves and move to the closest Person card.

We played and it was a close game–I was ahead for most of the game, but Craig made a dramatic comeback and ended up beating me at the very end! I only needed one more fan (where was my mom when I needed her, eh?)

Keiko also enjoyed playing

I’m tempted to bring it with me to Eastercon in two weeks because it’d be quite fun to play with actual authors, publishers, editors, agents, and fans. 🙂

Would you play?

Random Research: Stuff You Missed in History Class (Part 2)

Here are some other podcasts I’ve been listening to lately:

1.Queen Victoria and Abdul Karim – Queen Victoria loved two men: Prince Albert, and after his death, her servant, John Brown. Late in life, the Queen had a third partner, a Muslim man named Abdul Karim. So why did Victoria’s children want the records of this relationship destroyed?

2. Don’t Cross the Dragon Lady – When people think of pirates, they usually picture male, western scoundrels flouting the law throughout the Caribbean. However, piracy is not a solely western pursuit. Listen in as Deblina and Sarah recount the exploits of pirates in the South China Sea.

3. The Last Emperor of Ethiopia – Haile Selassie wasn’t just the last emperor of Ethiopia — he is also hailed as a messiah. In this episode, Deblina and Sarah explore the astonishing life of Haile Selassie.

4. The Affair of Poisons – From hemlock to cyanide, poison has unfortunately played an integral part in many of history’s great sagas, But in 17th-century France, the scandal over poisoning reached an unprecedented level. Tune in and learn more.

5. Hone Heke’s Rebellion – Also known as the Northern War, Hone Heke’s Rebellion took place between in New Zealand over the course of 1845 and 1846. In this podcast, Sarah and Deblina recount the events leading up to the war — as well as the consequences of Heke’s actions.

6. Tycho Brahe: An Astronomer’s Untimely Demise – Tycho Brahe is hailed as an influential astronomer, but why? Tune in and learn how this groundbreaking astronomer lost his nose, built the world’s first observatory and met with an untimely demise in this podcast.

7. Who Was the Real Sherlock Holmes? – Arthur Conan Doyle wasn’t the first person to write a mystery novel, but his focus on scientific methods and brilliant protagonist made the stories of Sherlock Holmes world-famous. Yet is Sherlock Holmes based on a real person?

8. The Cinderella of the Harem – Roxelana has one of the strangest rags-to-riches stories in history. As a slave who entered Suleyman’s harem and rose through the ranks to become the wife of the Sultan, Roxelana became a symbol of the Ottoman empire.

9. He was Killed by Mesmerism – Today, Franz Mesmer is hailed as the father of hypnosis. His original pursuit was called mesmerism, but what exactly was it? How did it (supposedly) work?

10. Spring-Heeled Jack, Mystery Assailant! – Most people are familiar with Jack the Ripper, but Victorian England was also plagued by an odd character named Spring-Heeled Jack. Were reports of this bounding scoundrel a symptom of mass hysteria, or something factual?

Random Research: Hocus Pocus by Paul Kieve

I’m doing quite a lot of these random research posts just now…but there’s not a lot else to blog about. I’m spending my days writing and refreshing my inbox every 5 minutes. And so, onward!

When I listened to the History of Magic podcast series, one of the episodes interviewed Paul Kieve, who did some work on the Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban film (hence the introduction by Daniel Radcliffe). Kieve mentioned that he had a book coming out, and so I picked it up as a starting point for my research on magicians.

The book is targeted at MG kids, and is framed around Paul, as a young magician in the Egyptian theatre, interacting with the great magicians of the past, who come out of their posters that line his office. Each magician explains his past and discusses the tricks he was best known for. The book is also dotted with some simple tricks for readers to try on their own at home.

It was a quick, delightful little read. The frame narrative made the book interesting and I could see it entrancing younger kids. From my other research into the history of magic, I came across so many instances of magicians seeing a travelling show when they were around 11-14, and that sparking their lifelong obsession with magic. However, once I worked my way into adult biographies of magicians, I did notice all the salacious details that Kieve understandably left out.

Definitely recommended for the MG age group.

Random Research: Stuff You Missed in History Class (Part 1)

The Fox Sisters

I’ve been on a history podcast kick lately, and I’m a huge fan of the Stuff You Missed in History Class podcast, which I usually listen to via Castroller. Most of the ones I listened to are hosted by Sarah Dowdey and Deblina Chakraborty.

So, below in no particular order, are a few I’ve been listening to lately. Some are directly related to books I’m writing, but plenty are topics I’m interested in or knew shockingly little about. I’ll occasionally make posts listing 10 or so podcasts.

1. The Fairy Tale Life of Hans Christian Andersen

2. H.H. Holmes and the Mystery of Murder Castle, Part 1

3. H.H. Holmes and the Mystery of Murder Castle, Part 2

4. Secret Science: Alchemy!

5. The Sisters Fox: They Talked to Dead People

6. Who Was the Mistress of Murder Hill?

7. The Radium Girls

8. Victoria and Albert

9. Civil War Spies: Allan Pinkerton

10. Princess Caraboo: Imposter from Javasu

Random Research: Finding my Characters in Vintage Circus Photography: 1899-1923

One of my favourite go-to blogs, the Retronaut, posted some vintage circus photography set around the same historical timeperiod of the world I’ve set my book, Pantomime, within (late Victorian, though some photos are newer). I’d already written the book by the time these photographs went up on the blog, but they helped cement the atmosphere in my mind when I started editing again. My favourites are re-posted below. I’ve captioned the images after some of the characters that they remind me of.

Aenea on the tightrope
Aenea on the tightrope
Nina the Snake Charmer
Nina the Snake Charmer
Karla the Equestrienne
Karla the Equestrienne
Drystan the White Clown
Drystan the White Clown
Aenea The Aerialist
Aenea The Aerialist
Aenea and Micah