Kate Heartfield

We attended Can*Con, the Aurora Award winning Speculative Fiction convention in Ottawa, Canada.

There, we spotted the Aurora Award winning author, Kate Heartfield, and managed to get a photo-op with the TARDIS.

Oneshot – The Simplest RPG

Hello My Imaginary Friends and Gamers,

Back in 2013 I went to an event and at that event I offered to run a Oneshot RPG session. I had no rules and no ideas. They chose to play Cards Against Humanity instead and I spent the event dreaming up what I would call The Simplest Role Playing System.

It was okay and I used it for a few years before altering it and renaming it CoasteRPG I had grand plans to sell it as a coaster. The concept was cool but didn’t really work out. Apparently putting your drink on something you write on and then flipping the coaster didn’t work very well. I still plan on finding a way to sell this but I’m not sure how yet.

So here we are and I’ve modified the rules a little for balance. It still uses coasters, although you could use coins or even/odd dice rolls.

Oneshot – The Simplest RPG

Simple Rules: Each player chooses Body, Mind, or Luck as their character’s specialty. They have 4 in that ability. (Ex. Fighters choose Body.) Their Health and Defence each equal 4.

Complex Rules: Each person has 4 points to place in Body, Mind, and Luck. No negatives. Their Health equals their Body plus 2. Their Defence equals Mind or Luck plus 2.

Resolution Mechanism: When a character needs to do something, the Storyteller decides if it’s easy (1), hard (2), ridiculous (4), or inconceivable (6). The character then subtracts their attribute from the difficulty.

If the attribute is higher than the difficulty they succeed. If not, they have to flip the coaster 3 times and call it (if it’s a die have them call even or odd). Add every right guess to their attribute.

If the player gets 3 successes in a row they continue to flip until they fail.

Combat: Each character does 1 point of damage (unless specified in their abilities) if they hit something and takes the same if they are hit. Death occurs at 0 health.

Special Abilities: Choose 2 of; Hit (1 damage +1 flip), Heal (1 healing + 1 flip), or Help (+1 success to any other characters test.)

Everything else: The storyteller makes up.

Scenarios

Lost Toys

Character Sheets

Oneshot – The Simplest RPG Character Sheet (43KB)


Thank you and Good Gaming!

Éric

Dr Seuss Experience

If you find yourself in Toronto between now and January 5th, and love Dr Seuss, I hope you’ve bought tickets to the Dr Seuss Experience at Square One!

There are many beautiful and interactive exhibits, as well as plenty of opportunities for selfies amongst the scenes and with characters.

Image of the Truffula trees. Picture from blogto.com

Check it out here and here and buy your tickets before they sell out!

You can contact Jennifer Desmarais through Orleans Travel. jennifer.desmarais@orleanstravel.ca

Cutting Cable

Hello My Imaginary Friends,

Since I first moved out on my own I have had a form of cable tv. That’s roughtly 15 years now. I did the Canadian Big 3 Dance every couple of years. (That’s where you call and complain to get a better deal, threaten to leave, cancel, and finally get another okay deal.)

In February this year, our TV, Internet, and home phone went from $98 a month to $195. I started the dance, but after 5 phone calls, I got frustrated. There had to be a better way. Right?

So I did a bunch of research, found alternatives and told Rogers/Bell/Telus that I didn’t need them.

Image from TV Guide: How to Cut Cable: Your Guide to Getting the Most From Streaming

Home Phone

We cancelled this and now just use our cellphones like normal Millennials.

Unfortunately, I was stuck staying with Bell for the next 2 years with our cells. We’ll see what happens in 2021.

Total monthly cost: $0

Internet

It feels like everyone and their elderly relatives is selling internet plans. From Koodo, to Cogeco, and Teksavvy.

I’d heard good things about Teksavvy, but they are built like the big three and frankly I’m sick of it all.

So I found and subscribed to Start.ca. They have no deals, not packages, no bullshit. For $60 a month we have 100mbs downloads and that’s great for us. Their customer service is quite possibly the fastest and the nicest I’ve ever dealt with.

Total monthly cost: $60

Television

This was the part that worried me the most. I love television. I watch a lot of it. We decided to go with a 2 pronged alternative. Streaming and Over the Air.

For hardware we settled on an Nvidia Shield TV. It is fantastic. Runs extremely well and is officially updated with Google TV. My second option would have been a Roku.

The Shield also has apps for everything we wanted. You can get newer ones for $199-300. We bought ours used for $200 on Amazon.

Streaming

This is a tricky one because there are a lot of streaming services and you can easily find yourself paying too much.

We went with a lot more than we should but after a year we’ll decide what we use and what to get rid of. We’re saving some money by sharing the accounts with family.

  • Crave: 8.32 a month (99.90 a year)
  • Netflix: 5.66 a month (16.99 shared)
  • Disney+: 2.75 a month (89 a year shared)
  • CBC Gem: Free
  • Hoopla: Free attached to your library card
  • Amazon Prime: 6.66 a month (80 a year)

We used Prime for our diaper subscription where it saves us almost 10 a month in diaper costs so we’d have it no matter what.

Total monthly cost: $24.39

Over the Air

Depending on where you live, you can get dozens of channels in HD over the air. You just need an antenna. Most TVs have tuners in them.

PVR/DVR

I wanted to go one step further. We have 2 kids and watching live tv is awesome but not easy. We needed a video recorder.

I discovered Tablo makes some impressive video recorders for over the air. We bought a refurbished one and it cost us $90. Now the thing about this and all other OTA recorders is that they make their money by selling you a subscription to their TV guide. You can have 1 day free but it’s 69.90 a year for a full guide with 14 days of data.

The great thing about this is that you don’t hook it up to your TV; instead you connect through an app and watch from there. You can have multiple people watching TV or recordings and even enable watching away from home.

The company is based in Ottawa which is great.

Quick story… My daughter accidentally put a blanket on the first one and it died a horrible heat death. The company replaced it and I had a great experience with the customer support.

Antenna and installation

I bought a cheap, well reviewed antenna for $50 on sale. It’s an outdoor antenna. At first we got 8 channels with it mounted in our garage. I was greedy and wanted more.

I contacted Pinnacle Engineering Services and Doug patiently walked me through all my questions. In the end, the antenna was mounted on the roof and cost us $285 for installation.

Doug installed everything and was a really nice guy. Highly recommend their services.

I now get 14 crystal clear HD channels. I’m told if you’re closer to the US you can get some of their networks too.


Conclusion

We now have a plethora of streaming and can watch almost any network TV show and it costs us roughly $90 a month ($24 for streaming, $6 for Tablo guide, and $60 for internet.)

I do miss HGTV, the Food network, and watching the Weather Network live but that’s pretty small. I’ve also considered getting Stack TV ($12.99) through prime that gives access to Showcase, HGTV, Food, History, and a few other networks.

Now the monthly cost is darn great, but there were a lot of start up costs for a total of $624 ($200 for Shield, $50 for Antenna, $89 for Tablo, and $285 for installation.)

The way I look at it, we’re saving $50-$100 dollars a month, so the $624 will be worth it in within a year.

If you have any questions feel free to ask in the comments.

Enjoy your TV,

Éric

Cait Gordon

We attended Renaissance Press’s multi-author book launch recently, and brought the TARDIS for photo-ops with the authors and their brand new books.

What I *should* have done was ask the author which (if any) of their characters would run off with the Doctor. Hopefully they’ll answer in the comments!

Learn about Cait and buy her book here!

Éric’s Top 5 Convention Etiquette Pet Peeves

Hello My Imaginary Friends,

Apparently I’ve never written this, although I swear I have.

Conventions are a hectic and exhausting event for those of us that sell. These are my pet peeves that clients do quite often. Most of it boils down to respect. Here they are:

5. Haggling

Conventions are a lot of work and most artists don’t do it to get rich. The money is used to go back into the art and to let us go to these events.

Most artists underprice their stuff by not including their time in the calculation of cost and profit. Be it art, hand crafts, food, etc; the artist has worked hard to figure out their price.

You can ask if they have deals, but this isn’t a flea market; don’t try to haggle down the price.

4. Blocking a table

I understand you want to chat and hang out. That’s great, but if you’re done buying or are just chatting then move to the side and let others look. You can still chat and hang out without blocking a table.

Same goes for those who want to hang out with friends, do it somewhere else. Be aware that if you’re blocking a table, others can’t get to it.

3. Selling to vendors

When someone is working on selling their own stuff there is nothing more rude or insulting than you going around trying to sell them something.

The obvious exception is food, I’m okay with that. But I don’t want your cheap ass flyers for life coaching, hotel rooms, or other bullshit. I’m there to sell coffee and crochet, not hear about how you can help me become a corporation.

2. Touching

If your hands are dirty or you’re holding food/drink, don’t touch. For the rest of the time when it comes to my coffee bags I don’t care. I have a set up the encourages you to touch and look.

For everyone else. ASK! If we had a dollar for every person who played with the crocheted items we’d pay for our table twice-over.

Not everyone has displays that are fixable or products that can handle touching. Be respectful and ask first.

1. Photos

Don’t. Just don’t take pictures unless you ask first. For those that make print art it’s the number one way to pirate their stuff. For those that make products, it’s a great way to steal designs or patterns.

If you must send someone the cutest thing you’ve ever seen, ask first. If you post it online ask first and give the artist credit.

This is the artist’s creation, don’t be a jerk. Most will be okay as long as you ask and are respectful.


In the end it just comes down to realizing that artists are there to sell and talk about their products. Respect them and their art.

Anything I missed? Let me know in the comments.

Éric

Canadian publishing… WTF?

Hello My Imaginary friends,

Last Thursday I got an email from our wonderful publisher checking in to make sure everyone was okay after, “a tumultuous week for Canadian speculative fiction writers”.

I’m on parental leave and not as involved online as normal, also I’m kinda isolated from the larger writing community outside of events. I had no idea what was going on.

Holy Expletive did I wish I didn’t know after I read up on it. It made me sick and more than a little angry. Here’s a quick clean description from S. M. Carrière:

It began with accusations of non-payment and verbal attacks levelled against ChiZine Publishing by author Ed Kurtz.

Then things exploded.  Stories by others associated with the press, either having “worked” for (I put worked in quotation marks, because payment was not something they often did) or volunteered with them, and other authors expression concerns about behaviour and non-payment.  Some of it was truly sickening; verbal and emotional abuse that I found extraordinarily triggering. […]

Thoughts on a Bloody Mess – S. M. Carrière

If you really want to learn more you can check out this blog post by High Fever Books. It’s comprehensive and is still updating with information.

I’ve had very little dealings with ChiZine… Mostly the reading series that was run in Ottawa. The reading series in Ottawa was run by some fantastic people and I’m extremely happy that they don’t seem implicated in the terribleness.

When I first met the publishers, I thought they were the rockstars of publishing. They had edgy cool books, snarky attitudes, and a slight punk vibe. I pitched my first novel to them and was shocked that they liked the pitch.

Over the next two years, I periodically emailed about my submission, always getting emails about how busy they were. It was a stark contrast from Renaissance Press that actually published the novel. They apologized for taking too long (less then 3 months) and even walked me through what I should do to improve the novel.

I asked Sandra about the submission in person at the next years’ Can-Con and she replied curtly that, they’d get to it when they had a chance. From that moment on, she and Brett pretty much ignored me. I was on a panel at Limestone Expo and Sandra spent most of the time talking over me and interrupting the other panelists. I mostly tried to avoid them after that. I assumed it was me. I’m not everyone’s cup of tea and can rub some the wrong way.

I don’t know all the details, but there are a lot of people speaking out about WAY worse things that ChiZine has been involved. It’s seriously disturbing how bad some of the stuff being discussed is.

In case it’s not clear. I believe and support those speaking out.

In times like these, I truly appreciate my publisher. Renaissance isn’t the biggest, nor is it the fastest growing, but damn do they take care of their authors. They have a careful, people-oriented approach to publishing that I greatly appreciate.

I have nothing new to add to the conversation, but I do want to repeat two important messages:

  1. Don’t punish the writers for their publisher.
  2. Don’t assume that everyone involved with ChiZine knew what happened or were involved. There are some genuinely lovely people who were involved with the company that might not have been involved in the horrible behaviour.

Be kind, my friends,

Éric