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Respecting Limits

Hello, fellow lifelong learners! This week quarter I learned a thing or two about my limits; where they are, and how far I can push them. Turns out, not as far as I could when I was a teenager. Who knew?

Ambition vs Sense

I’ve lived with chronic illness for most of my life, and you’d think that by now I would now what I can and can’t do. And that might be true if not for two things: the way my illness fluctuates, and my irrepressible optimism.

The fluctuations mean that I can’t predict my pain and/or energy levels ahead of time. The smart thing to do in response to this would be to assume the worst, and plan like a pessimist. That’s where thing two comes in. It takes a lot to dampen my optimism and ambition, so my programming tends to look something like this:

  • 10 Make a new plan, one that will really work this time!
  • 20 Peak activity
  • 30 Struggle
  • 40 Crash
  • 50 Recovery
  • 60 Go to 10

I need to get better at playing the spoons.

Spoons?

If you’re not familiar with the Spoon Theory, then I encourage you to go and take a read. Go on, I’ll still be here when you get back.

Good, isn’t it? What I tend to forget is that it’s not just physical things that cost ‘spoons’. There’s also mental and emotional energy, which means that a networking event can be exhausting! As well as physically attending, I need to be alert and make conversation.

Don’t get me wrong – I like networking. It’s fun, and I get to meet loads of interesting people. But it is exhausting, and I don’t give that fact enough weight when I’m planning my day. I’d like to say ‘lesson learned’, but I suspect it’s more a question of ‘lesson taught’. It will take a few more crashes before I really learn how to colour within the lines, but at least I know how to make sure I bear the fallout, and not my clients (mostly). And, after twenty years of this, I’m good at cycling through the ‘fail’ stage quickly, and stretching the ‘activity’ stage to maximum.

So, in conclusion, I’ve learned not to push myself too hard for too long. I’ve also learned that limits are to be respected, not feared. Pushing at them is fine; smashing into them at 90 miles an hour is not.

My Visit to the UK Games Expo 2018

UKGE logo

The UK Games Expo is an annual celebration of tabletop gaming held in Birmingham every June since 2007. This year, more than 300 exhibitors and 21,500 visitors enjoyed three full days of gaming and games-related entertainment, spread over two halls of the NEC, and multiple reception rooms of the adjoining Hilton Hotel. As you can imagine, I wasn’t able to see everything there – but what I did see was great.

Double L Games had a stand where they were demonstrating their first game, Build, which lets players run their own island nations. Rogue Artist Creations was featuring Top Hats & Tretchary, a game I was lucky enough to playtest back in 2016. Play Again Productions had Metro City Meltdown, a co-operative game about managing a city hit by disaster.

On top of all this there were merchandise stalls, tournaments, live events, and (of course) cosplay. My personal favourite was Rincewind, complete with Luggage and Librarian. I’d like to show you an iconograph of the costume, but my imp ran out of red.

My Game: ‘More Tea?’

While I was there to have fun, I also had a game of my own to pitch to publishers. Unfortunately, circumstances meant that I didn’t have a playable version with me. However, I got some interest just by describing it to people, so this week I’ll be emailing out the print-and-play version to the companies that asked for it. For everyone who didn’t ask, here’s the basic idea.

‘More Tea?’ is a card game that uses a board to keep score (like Dixit, or cribbage). Most of the cards in the deck represent a topic of conversation, and the game consists of a simple ‘draw one, play one’ mechanic that lets the ‘conversation’ flow freely around the ‘tea table’.

The aim of the game is to enjoy the discussion by having your favourite topics discussed, and your least favourite topics avoided. These ‘favourite’ and ‘least favourite’ topics are drawn at random at the start of the game, and each player keeps their ‘triggers’ hidden, so that half the skill in the game is working out what other people’s hidden trigger cards might be. When a card is played that matches one of your triggers, you move either up or down the board, depending on the type.

The real challenge of ‘More Tea?’, however, lies in using your ‘interrupt’ cards wisely. There are five different types, in varying frequencies, and they have the power to block, enhance, or redirect the effect of the topic card in play. Of course, the most common ‘interrupt’ card is the eponymous ‘More tea?’ card, that lets you derail the conversation by offering everyone refreshments. After all, who doesn’t like tea?

Current Status: Brewing

‘More Tea?’ has already had over two years’ worth of development, both from me and from Spiral Galaxy Games. SGG were initially planning to publish the game themselves, but are not able to follow through on that right now. To their credit, SGG avoided entering into a contract with me once they knew that their publishing future was uncertain, and they have encouraged me to take ‘More Tea?’ elsewhere. No matter where I go from here, Spiral Galaxy Games will remain an important part of ‘More Tea?’s story.

There are all sorts of fun extras in development, too – like a combo that lets you switch one of your secret triggers, and variations for younger players and/or shorter play. Watch for more news as it becomes available, both on this blog and on social media.

Introducing ‘Beyond the Script’

You may be wondering what any of this has to do with Penna Scriptum’s writing services. The answer is, of course, not a lot. Penna Scriptum is currently a one-woman show, and that means that anything I work on has a place here. Writing, game design, CPD, and even my sideline as a distributor for Wikaniko – all these things will show up on this blog, and in my social media.

To help you find what you are interested in, and only what you are interested in, I’ll be splitting my posts into categories. These are:

  • Better English (BE): Tips and tricks for improving your written English. Posted every other Monday, starting 11-June-2018.
  • This Week I Learned (TWIL): A weekly natter about anything from life lessons to professional studies. Every Friday, starting 8-June-2018.
  • Beyond the Script (BtS): Posts like this one. Contains two subcategories:
    • Eco-Aware: News and ideas for living a ‘mid-green’ life. May occasionally contain product reviews for Wikaniko. Every four weeks on a Wednesday, starting 20-June-2018.
    • Creative Work: Exactly what it sounds like. News about my creative work, ranging from game design to songwriting. Every four weeks on a Wednesday, starting… well, today.

You can subscribe to any or all of these categories by using the RSS links in the sidebar. There will also be a monthly newsletter coming soon, containing a round-up of the month’s posts. If you would like to be notified when the first issue comes out, please sign up below.

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This post is a lot longer than usual, so thanks for sticking with me to the end. I’ll be back on Friday with my first ‘Life Lessons’ post. Something about setting reasonable goals, probably.

Y Bova?

Penguin throwing wing up in a shrug I mean, language is always eovlving, write? The way we Comunic8 is changing, and been *correct” only matters to stuffy grammar nerds and English teachers, no wot I meen? Jus say wat you gotta say and iGnore the h8rs, who R like sad and boring loosers NEwai.

If you are fluent in English, you could probably make sense of that opening paragraph. But was it easy? Did you have to work on it to get the meaning?

When we communicate with each other, we share a lot more than words. In speech we have tone of voice, speed, and volume to help out with our meaning; in writing we have spelling, punctuation, and layout. And then there’s word-choice, grammar, and all sorts of other things that we use to suit our communication style to the occasion.

Of course, we don’t have to write perfectly all the time – just like we don’t have to speak perfectly all the time. Letters and emails to friends and family will normally be pretty casual, and no-one’s going to care about the occasional spelling mistake or punctuation error (unless it changes the meaning of the sentence, but more on that another time). It’s a bad idea to get so hung up on The Rules that you can’t so much as write a shopping list for yourself without reaching for the dictionary. In everyday life, so long as the meaning is clear, it’s all good. But there are times when good writing is essential.

Go back and look at that first paragraph again. Now imagine it was part of a letter to a magazine, asking them to publish an article I’d written for them. How far do you think the editor would get before throwing the whole thing in the bin? What if I wrote like that on a job application? Or in a letter to my bank, asking for a loan?

When we talk face-to-face, we make judgements about each other. Leaving aside prejudices about age, race, accent, etc, there are several things we take in at a glance, such as body language, facial expression, style of clothing, and cleanliness. If the occasion calls for a smart appearance, you are unlikely to be impressed by someone who shows up looking scruffy, slouched, scowling, and smelly. It’s the same with writing.

If someone uses bad writing in a formal situation, they are telling you one of three things:

(a) they don’t think that this is a formal situation,
(b) they don’t know how to write well,
(c) they can’t be bothered to check their work, and they expect you to fix their mistakes for them,
or (d) all of the above.

And all this before you’ve read most of the message! First impressions in writing can make or break the reader’s willingness to listen.

In future posts, I’ll be covering various aspects of writing better English – especially commonly confused words and phrases. If you have an idea for a ‘Better English’ topic, please leave a comment.

If you want help with a particular piece of writing, then why not request a quote?

Revised Plans: Penna Scriptum to Launch in January

So, it turns out that when you have a plan, and then add in a second plan, things get a bit… disorganised.

Since there’s no real hurry to start this business, and I don’t have many clients yet, I’ve decided to take my time. I can do a fast turn-around when it’s needed, but in general I prefer good to fast.

Penna Scriptum will be officially open to new clients on the 15th of January at 9 a.m. Meanwhile, I thank you for your patience. See you in the new year.

 

In Other News…

It’s Saturday, and that means a blog post. It’s also November, and that means NaNoWriMo. It’s the first Saturday in November, so it must be Double-Up Donation Day.

What is NaNoWriMo?

NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. It was started in 1999 by a group of friends who decided to get together and write their novels in a month. The story of how that idea grew to become the international giant of today is very well told here, and is a pretty inspiring read in its own right.

There are also plenty of encouraging ‘pep talks’ donated each year by successful writers, on everything from character creation to what to do when your plot springs a leak. These are available on the forums, as well as being delivered to members’ inboxes each week.

Then, of course, there is the community. The forums showcase an amazing and diverse range of writers, from first-timers to old hands, and there is almost certainly going to be a thread that makes you want to say ‘I’ve found my people’. The forums are moderated, and the moderators are all active members of the community who are taking part in the challenge themselves.

What is Double-Up Donation Day?

Double-Up Donation Day is a big push for words and funds, aided by extra donor gifts, virtual write-ins and lots of forum activity.

If you are doing NaNoWriMo this year (or even if you’re not) consider taking a look at the special events planned for today. The fun starts at 0600, and goes on until 2100 (all times GMT-7). So no matter where in the world you are, you should be able to catch at least some of the action.

Why Should I Care?

National Novel Writing Month sponsors literary programs for children and adults all over the world. NaNoWriMo is their most well-known annual event, but there is also Camp NaNoWriMo, the Young Writers’ Program, and the Come Write In program to encourage literacy, creativity, and confidence throughout the year.

Excuse the Mess

Please be patient while I switch website providers. I’m taking the opportunity to redesign the site, now that I have access to a WordPress website.

Here’s the schedule as things stand:

  • 26-28th October: The hand-over. Transfer the domain name. Save information from old website.
  • 30th October – 11th November: Design the structure of the new site. Create placeholder pages and posts.
  • 13th – 25th November: Write and/or rework copy for the pages of the site.
  • 27th November – 9th December: Add images, refine layout, check links.
  • 11th – 15th December: Link social media to website. Check everything works. Fix problems.
  • 17th December: Launch.

This isn’t going to be a very exciting place for the next couple of months, unless you find template pages and placeholder text exciting (hey, each to their own). If you want to be among the first to know about developments, then sign up to the Penna Scriptum Newsletter using the form below.

See you in December.