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Back Cover Copy Writing

I…don’t know if I’ve ever done this before; written the back cover copy for a novel. If I did, it would have been for Picking Up the Ghost and that feels like ages ago.

Lotta stress here. There’s a lot of sales riding on how enticing I can make this sales pitch in under 250 words. Here’s the current draft. What do you think?

Welcome to the Strip. A world of spies and subtle, specialized, and sometimes sloppy psychic powers. Its existence kept secret, even from other secret agents.

Doctor Ken Park, Korean-American psychologist, leads six psychic agents called Cards. They handle esoteric threats the Department of Homeland Security cannot.

Sent to Africa to retrieve an old Soviet psychotronic device. One that turns prayers into suffering. The team finds the Faith Machine in the hands of a demented warlord. But fail to stop him from slaughtering hundreds of innocents while the machine burns. Park and his team return to the States in disgrace and under attack by the mysterious Casemen.

Cut off from command and each other, the scattered agents run west to their safe house. The FBI attempts to arrest them, and the Chinese try to interrogate them, with the Casemen always one step ahead. On the way, they discover the true threat. There’s another Faith Machine. One more powerful and destined to bring hell on earth.

The Faith Machine, an ESPionage novel written in the spirit of TV’s Legion and the MIND MGMT graphic novels.

Review: Wearing the Cape

I’ve finished a first pass through both of Wearing the Cape, the Roleplaying Game and Barlow’s Guide & The B-Files and I believe I’ve finally found my Fate Superhero RPG.

I’m an old Champions player. It was my first RPG. I loved how I could make any character come to life in Champs. I still gravitate toward systems that support that level of player creativity. I’ve dabbled with Icons and Venture City, but both games were missing that range of expression.

Venture City is really good for experienced Fate players to dive right into the attached street-to-corporate superheroes setting, Superpunk. Powers are built on a Extra template. And characters are limited to two powers each. Which I found a little confusing until I realized that the player defines the powers. So Captain America has the powers Super Soldier and Adamantium Shield rather than, Super Fighting, Super Athletics, Super Strategy, etc. Just like Wearing the Cape, the power level can be scaled up by increasing the PC’s number of starting stunts. But I find that two power limit kind hangs over the creation process. And it lacks implicate support for flexible power pools, like magic or hypertech.

Icons is a proto-Fate game, written before Fate Core was published. So the dice, rules, and nomenclature are a little different. What Fate Core calls Stress, Icons calls Stamina. And the game uses d6’s instead of Fate Dice. Icons is a simple game and it’s really easy to make NPCs on the fly. You can also add limits to powers like in Champions. You can do that in Wearing the Cape, and indeed in any stunt in a Fate Core game, but the the point cost of limits in Icons are straight forward and don’t require bargaining with the GM. Icons has the Bronze Age of comics feel whereas Wearing the Cape feels contemporary, both in the way powers are built, but in the setting material. Icons is built around a random character generation system (which I really don’t care for) and the points based version feels like an afterthought.

In the setting material, all supers, called Breakthoughs, have a common origin. Since the divergence event (a worldwide blackout called…The Event) some people in dangerous situations have a ‘breakthough’ and manifest superpowers. Besides breakouts, you can play a robot from the future, or a hyper-intelligent, vampire dog from a parallel universe, no problem. The setting material is very broad and accommodates a wide range of character origins. But it’s missing the legacy of a Golden Age. You can set a ‘Golden Age’ in a parallel universe. But in the core setting, the Event happened in recent history.

Character creation in Wearing the Cape includes power templates called Types which cover the major archetypes of super heroes. Wanna be a Hulk? Ajax Type. Wanna be a Superman? Atlas-Type. Etc. I like how there’s a Paragon-Type for your Batman or Mr Terrific, and a Verne-Type for your Iron Man or Lex Luthor, so there’s less debate on who is a proper superhero. You don’t have to stick to these Types, you can create your own Type from whole cloth, ignore the Types altogether, or mix and match Yypes. The Metamorph Type in particular crosses over with the other Types quite well.

The magic/super science/Stunt pools provisions are great for flexible Dr Strange/Warlock types. And probably faster in play than Champions’ Power Pools.

The rules build on Fate Core, but only a little. Skills have been split into Attributes, Skills, and Resources (Reputation, Wealth, Contacts). High attributes grant bonuses to skills when appropriate, so a high strength grants a weapon rating to the Fight skill and an Armor Rating for defense. With characters with a high upper ceiling for their capabilities it makes sense. Other new rules include; if a PC makes a roll with no ‘+’s they get a Fate Point. And if a role fails by -3 or more that’s an Epic Fail and creates a Collateral Damage Aspect. There might be other divergences from baseline Fate Core, I’ve only read through the book once.

Barlow’s Guide & The B-Files is the big book of NPCs. It has a few more Types, and a lot more of the setting, and a very satisfying number of Breakouts. You can see the influences, but very few of these characters feel like direct analogs of properties published elsewhere. Compared to other NPC books for supers games this book is light on the villains. Probably because they’re pulled from the source material, Marion G. Harmon’s Wearing the Cape novels. There’s also few straight forward bad guys in contemporary fiction, and more every-villain-believes-they’re-a-hero types. Many of the NPCs are private contractors using their powers to do a job. It makes the supers feel like the live in their world instead of on top of it, a feeling often lacking in the comics.

Need More NPCs?As a Fate Core game, Wearing the Cape allows the GM to bring in a wider rage of NPCs from other setting books without complication. So throw Harry Dresden at your player’s super hero team, why not?

Even if you don’t use the setting, the expanded Extra rules for creating power types should be enough to get your Fate Core Super Hero game going. And the art is fantastic.

Pitching Programming

I’m pitching two live role-play panels, and two sessions of the ESPionage RPG, for Comic Fest. I’ve run the games before at Kingdom-Con, but this’ll be the first time I game in front of a crowd since LARPing in the ’90s. Fortunately, I still have the black trench coat.

Panels:

Writers Worldbuilding Live with Microscope RPG

Watch (panel to be determined) create before your eyes! Using the Microscope RPG, our panel will start with a blank slate and a stack of index cards. They’ll brainstorm and spitball ideas, and end with characters, a setting, and a history of a fictional world.


Roleplay Live Improv with Fate Accelerated

You are the game masters! (Panel to be determined) play characters in a world and setting built around suggestions from the audience. While author and game master Tone Milazzo will attempt to keep everything moving forward in a cohesive narrative. It could be brilliant, it could be a train wreck. It’s improv!

Using Evil Hat’s simplified role-playing ruleset; Fate Accelerated.

Games:

ESPionage-Sunny Days and Rain (Fate Core)

From the pages of Tone Milazzo’s upcoming novel, The Faith Machine, ESPionage is an RPG of psychics and spies. Imagine the X-Men in the X-Files, or Legion meets The Men Who Stare at Goats.

The agents of Rainbow Intelligence Services find themselves in Paradise Round, an idyllic and isolated community filled with burned spies and dangerous psychics. The PCs don’t remember how they got here, but know they were sent here to retrieve the ‘Hex File’ hidden somewhere in the community. But today’s election day. Can the players find the file without getting caught up in what passes for local politics?


ESPionage-There’s Always Time to Die (Fate Core)

From the pages of Tone Milazzo’s upcoming novel, The Faith Machine, ESPionage is an RPG of psychics and spies. Imagine the X-Men in the X-Files, or Legion meets The Men Who Stare at Goats.

A scientist who specialized in the study of time abruptly disappeared five years ago. Her head’s filled with dangerous knowledge, and your boss wants to know what she’s planning on doing with it. She’s just been sighted heading into the Appalachian Mountains and it’s up to the agents of Rainbow Intelligence Services to find her and figure out out where she’s been, and what she’s after.

Professional Status Renewed!

From Publishers Marketplace: Tone Milazzo’s THE FAITH MACHINE, to Lisa Diane Kastner at Running Wild Press, in a nice deal, in an exclusive submission, for publication in fall of 2020.

Dr Ken Park, a Korean-American spy with a PhD in psychology finds himself in over his head when his team of agents with psychic powers is sent to Africa to recover the Faith Machine, a Soviet psychotronic device that turns prayers into suffering.

I’ve been working with Running Wild Press since they included my story, The Ginger Jar, in the Running Wild Anthology of Stories, Volume 2. mostly, by hosting and producing their podcast.

While I’m working with the editor, I’m building an audience for The Faith Machine and the ESPionage RPG for Fate Core. I filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the CIA for their files on Project Stargate and received a DVD with over 12,000 TIF files.

Some of these documents are hundreds of pages long.

That’ll keep me busy.

I intend to start scouring through these documents for interesting bits that I can serialize in blog posts, a podcast, or on YouTube. Maybe all three.

ConDor Con Schedule, Feb 22-24

When I’m not attending our table in the dealer’s room with Melissa Milazzo and J Dianne Dotson, I’ll probably be off somewhere eating snacks.

On the rare moment that I’m not filling my face with cookies, I’ll be on the following panels with the following people:

Friday the 22nd

2:00pm: How Many Characters is Too Many?: Do we need to know what every son of Westros is doing? Are we just confusing readers? Garden II (J.L. Doty, Tone Milazzo, H. Paul Honsinger, Janet Tait)

8:00pm: Role Play in RPGs: What ways can players make the characters come alive in Table Top RPGs. From accents, pantomime, to detailed character histories. Garden II (Tone Milazzo, Jordan Munn, Marc Biagi)

Saturday the 23nd

2:00pm: I Feel Like Talking: Podcasts are a way to express yourself, but how do you get started, how do you distribute and how do you listen? Is this a possible new way to spread your writing to the world? And is there a financial model that can get the writer paid? Garden I (Daniel Cortopassi, Matt Pallamary, Tone Milazzo, Sherri Rabinowitz, Cynthia Ward)

4:00pm: Drawing from Non-European Folklore and Myth: Fantasy draws mainly from the traditions of Northern Europe and the British Isles. What other cultures might we take inspiration from? Garden I (Jean Graham, Henry Herz, Tone Milazzo, Henry Lien, Cynthia Ward, Deborah Flores)

Stop by the table and say, “Hi!” I hope to see you there!

NaNoFailMo

I tried and failed at NaNoWriMo last month. That’s fine, most experiments fail. I went in hoping for a kick start on the third novel, Alejandro’s Ocean a post time travel story about feeling unappreciated. 3100 words in and the problems were pretty clear:

  1. The backstory was more interesting than the story itself.
  2. The supporting cast was a collection of stick figures.
  3. What little I had, was written toward a theme.

The consequences of rejecting the outlining process and of putting theme before character and plot. Lesson learned. It’s outlines from here on out, and actions will make the message. This book isn’t for me to write. On to the next one.

Russian Espionage Agencies Have Terribly Boring Names

With The Faith Machine and the ESPionage property I draw a lot from the weird history of Cold War parapsychology. US agencies like Stargate Project, MKUltra, and the First Earth Battalion are the backbone of the setting and inspired my own creations; Project Dead Blind, MKIntra, and Task Force 21.
And then there’s Russia; the land of literal and uninspired nomenclature. According to Parapsychology in the USSR, released by the CIA in 2000, there was The Russian Society for Experimental Psychology in 1870, the Institute for Brain Research in 1921, and the Special Laboratory for Parapsychology founded under the Soviets in 1961. Yawn.
There’s an unposted appendix of 27 other Soviet institutes conducting paranormal research. I filed a Freedom of Information Act request for this list, but I don’t have high hopes that there’s any flair on that list. The only cool espionage name the Soviets ever came up with was SMERCH which stands for ‘Death to Spies.’

John Husler, Co-owner Lestat’s Coffee Houses

John Husler and his partner Jamie have been in the coffee shop business for over twenty years. First with the store in the Normal Heights neighborhood of San Diego. Now with two other shops through up town. Find out how they started, how he hires, and how he’s adapted to technology though the decades.

Lestat’s / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

John Husler, Co-owner Lestat’s Coffee Houses
Big Talk/Small Business

 
 

00:00 / 19:15
 

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Gabriel Valentin and Gallie, Digital Lizards of Doom

Digital Lizards of Doom is an electronic/alternative rock band/brand from San Diego, CA. The duo consists of Gabriel Valentin (guitar, strings, vocals,) and Gallie (mandolin, keys, vocals,) both singer-songwriters, producers, performers, and composers signed to Noize Cartel Records. They are best known for their worldwide collaborations with other artists, producers and DJs in the electronic and rock music genres, and for their brand’s rising presence in pop culture. Digital Lizards of Doom is releasing a graphic novel at the end of 2018, and their full-length album, Lizards and Labyrinths,debuts September 14.

Digital Lizards of Doom / Spotify / iTunes / Google Play / Beatport / Facebook / YouTube / Instagram

Gabriel Valentin and Gallie, Digital Lizards of Doom
Big Talk/Small Business

 
 

00:00 / 51:52
 

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