…and so the wheel turns.

Back in 1998 (ten years ago), I was thirty two years old and running adventure summer camps for kids in a park in Boulder, Colorado.  Those were good times for me and some of what I still feel are my best creative ideas came out of those days when my wife was willing to tolerate me running about unemployed or rather under employed out on a limb doing creative things.

I certainly made mistakes during that period.  I was still young(ish) and not very responsible with some aspects of what was meant to be a business but was always more of a just for fun / creative project.  There never was much money in it, not much more than what would barely support one person and possibly pay a couple of part time summer helpers (mostly students) to help with things during the summer months.

Still.  All in all I have very fond memories of those days.  By the year 2000 I was back in California and working in a regular full time job again and spent the better part of 2000 until 2007 just sort of barely poking at creative endeavors, writing notes about the Rocketship universe here and there and expanding on my ideas for my fantasy world and the story that might unfold there.  I had a very brief stint in 2005 where I was able to really focus on the writing for about six months.  I think I accomplished the vast majority of the realization of the fantasy setting that had been constantly evolving around that time and also did quite a bit of the foundational work creating the Rocketship Empires universe with artists Mike Doscher’s and Chris Pickrell’s input.

There was a brief flirtation with the idea for a comic book series that came oh so very close to realization.  We had no real idea just how much work was involved in creating a professional comic book at the time but still I think we got pretty far on it.  Further than most people in that I’d say we have a pretty amazing comic book in pencils sitting in a desk somewhere.

Later in 2005 Valerie and I packed up the boys and moved to Topeka and it wasn’t until the middle of 2007 that I was finally able to dust off Rocketship Empires during the late night hours…literally between one in the morning and five in the morning and get the books finished to the point where I could post them for sale.  It took the better part of four solid months of work to get those first two books out and another two months to follow up with the second two books.  That all was done working on a very much part time basis, never being able to find more than ten or twenty hours in a week to really write.

So now it seems that there is a good possibility that I will once again have a good stint away out from a forty hour a week joe job where I will take on more of the stay at home parent duties so we can eliminate some of our daycare costs (we spend a fortune having twins to pay for) and have twenty five…possibly even thirty or thirty two hours a week to devote to writing and working on game books.

This is a real opportunity for me as I have the hindsight from my last stint being allowed to do this but quite possibly a larger window to work in…about two years really if all of the stars fall into alignment and everything sorts itself out properly.  I have all of this foundational work done and now I can really focus in on bringing it all together, making it all more polished and professional and expanding on it.

So this time I am working out a work schedule and a proper business plan, project outline and such rather than playing at it like I did back in the old days.  Taking it all quite a bit more seriously and looking at it all as what I might actually do with myself rather than the odd side fling while the real job, the real career was something more concrete and rather normal.

My hope is that through some blessing from on high and quite a lot of work on my part that in two years I’ll be able to have enough of a business and income going from creative projects / writing etc…to be able to point to it as “this is what I do and how I make a living..” even if the living is modest or fairly middle of the road.

After all.  If you love what you do then getting rich isn’t really the point is it.  I mean, people dream about getting rich so they can have enough money to free themselves from their hum drum bullshit job in order to do whatever it is that they love to do..and would do for rather less than their ordinary job given the opportunity.  The trick being that you have to be able to at least make ends meet..possibly a little bit better than that if you can manage it..

So it will likely be a month or two sorting out how to do this so I can keep doors open where I have a joe job, just in case I need to hop back into it rather sooner than I’d hoped.

Yes its a bit of a risk.

Yes it makes me a little bit nervous stepping out on a limb like this but it made me nervous stepping out on a limb to do the kid’s camps in 1998…and even though I never made a fortune at it I certainly made enough to replace the income from my old joe job…and do so working primarily the summer months leaving most of the rest of the year as very much part time work.  Its always a bit scary striking out on your own for a while at least until you’ve become basically established.

But…I’d rather give it a shot than not.  I have a stack of unfinished ideas and dreams and goals to accomplish after all which include publishing the fantasy setting, getting that comic book out there in finished form, a novel that is nearly complete but sitting in several filing cabinets at home…etc..etc..  Not to mention sorting out all the books for the Rocketship universe.

This will be a very interesting stretch of the road.  I plan to work it for all that its worth from the word go.

Ed

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Summer Time – Summer Time

I am back to posting with reasonable regularity on the Rocketship Empires forums.  I plan to post some artwork from some of the books pretty soon.  Hop on over to the forums to catch up on the latest.

I made the difficult decision to pull out of Gen Con this year.  $1,600.00 for a basic table was just too expensive considering this is my very first year at this and the fact that I spent so much of the spring and early summer sick. (yuck)

I have a full plate of books to finish up.  I am taking the vacation scheduled for Gen Con and hiding out in a hotel with my laptop so I can wrap up one module and a source book.  My hope is to post both of those by the first week of September for PDF sales.

Summer time has been nice all things considered and I am enjoying it.  Kansas is growing on me.  The possibility of owning a little piece of land in the rural areas outside of town, writing and enjoying our local board game and rpg club is very appealing.  I was lucky enough to run into a cadre of very nice gamer types in town over the course of the last few months.  I am looking forward to building those friendships and organizing some games but also some regular old hanging out gatherings, bbq’s and movie nights.

Huzzah.  Time to get back to having something resembling a life outside of work and such! 

More to come…

Back in Black

Well ok then. 

That was a bit of a drama.  I vanished, as you know, for about a month.  Long story short.  Had a pretty good speed bump with health issues which culminated in a few weeks dealing with the cough from hell.  Only recently managed to get back to grabbing three and four hour blocks of sleep.  At one point I was literally forced to attempt sleep sitting straight up to try to keep from hacking my fool head off. 

Pretty aweful.

But feeling better.  I still have a cough but it seems to be slowly going away.  Hopefully this time next week it will be largely behind me.

I spent a bit of time last night thinking about module design concepts and what I’d worked on so far and how I want it to work.  I gained some inspiration from a youtube series devoted to game design.  More on that in future posts. 

So just a short post to say hi.   Here I am.  I’ll be back posting again.

Module Writing – Done

So I spent the entire last week with my nose stuffed in the Madrid Run module.  Writing, writing, writing and even doing a bit of play testing with some friends.  I like the result and the whole thing has been shipped off to the editors computer for scrubbing and editing over the next week to two weeks.

So now I am playing catch-up with emails and forum posts.  This weekend I hope to finally get the changes ready to go for the website up and “live”.  I would also like to get our books posted up on one of the new e-stores we now have access to.

So lots and lots to do.  June is coming up.  I think in June we will go ahead and bite the bullet..pushing our fiscal year to the six month mark instead of five.  We launched in February so technically we are only entering our fourth month of operation.  Has it only been four months?

We are closing in on 225 members on the website.  250 does not seem that unreachable.  In fact 300 by the end of the year seems more than achievable at this point where before it seemed like a dream within a dream.

I am excited to get the new book out and break ground on the next one.  The Other Woman / Tramp Freighter source book.  That will be a lot of fun both to finish writing and to have at the game table.

 

CHARGE!

After a little speed bump it is time to strap into the cockpit of our personal hurricane starfighter, make sure the g-suit and life support is functioning and punch that full thrust button.

Work is going great on the module despite having my boss give his notice at work last week.  Yikes!  That was out of the clear blue sky, let me tell you.  Over the course of the last week I’ve found more and more stuff rolling my way which means more time working and cleaning machines and the shop at work and less time for emails, checking the rocketship forums etc…

Does it mean less time for writing?  Heck no!  Are you kidding me?  I start to twitch if I can’t sit down and write something for Rocketship Empires for a few hours every day.  What it does mean is that when I get off work from the graveyard shift at 7:00 or 8:00 am that I wind up at the coffee shop writing -then- for a few hours before heading home to collapse.

Hopefully that will not have to happen for more than a few days or weeks as it does -definately- tire this poor writer guy out. 

I will do a crazy man happy dance this weekend if I can get my e-commerce shopping cart up and finished.  What a great thing to get off my plate.  I have a few other things I want done this weekend as well so I can just finish the book, play through the changes I made with my friends and see how it all shapes up…get it into editing and then out. 

Unfortunately with everything going on this month there has been minimal time for editing books one-three although I’ve had some freaking outstanding volunteer help from Gary and others.  I want to get the website basically finished this weekend so next month I can totally focus on getting those edits done on the first few books.  That will limit our output in May to the tramp freighter source book but that is ok. 

We’ll still be at six great books in four months and that is an awesome thing.

Yes…yes he’s a loon…mad totally mad…

Why do I say that?  Because as a break from writing Rocketship Empires when my brain just won’t write jetpacks and nazi bashing and dinosaur hunting any longer…I’ve been secretly working on my fantasy material.

Ok, ok.  Not much.  Very much on the side but still.  I find having the fantasy work to mix things up helps keep Rocketship fun and fresh.  The variety helps keep my A.D.D. self from getting burned out.  I had planned to just wait on doing anything fantasy until 2009 but with Gary Gygax passing and everything i thought I might dust off all my old 1st edition books and pick up some I’ve not had in a long, long time and work on writing one last 1st edition campaign setting.

This will be the 1st edition campaign setting to end all campaign settings…at least in my book.  It will include all the classic elements of alignment influences, all the classic races but in a more sword and sorcery style than anything I’ve written in years.  This will not be Skybourne.  That I’m holding off on until 2009.  This will just be a limited run.  One last salute to good old 1st edition as a tribute to Gary and everything fun that was and remains 1st ed.

It will be dark.  It will be more along the lines of something conanesque in style than lotr. 

No word on when I’ll put something out for it but probably I’ll put out a little mini booklet with maps and background and such for the world as OSRIC material in May.

Ed

Industry slow down

Everywhere sales are slow.  Not only in the RPG industry.  Everyone, everywhere is tightening their belts to get ready for a recession which will likely last through the end of this year and perhaps beyond.

It will be interesting to see how many publishers attend Gen Con this year versus last year.  Of course I have no personal experience to reflect upon but I can ask around and get feedback when I get there.  We are going to hold off on some of the more fancy aspects for our booth this year as I am guessing this may become a banner low attendance year for the convention.

From what I can tell Gen Con is a fairly expensive proposition for everyone from vendors to GM’s and players.  I’ve already heard from a few friends who attend religiously that they are not going to make it this year, specifically because of the expense involved.  Of course I’ve met lots of new people and a few of them confirmed that they will be going, which is encouraging. =D

I have my eye on two excellent RPG game systems to license Rocketship Empires rule books for and both of these I will have to table until later this year as the expense involved versus how the market is doing means that most of our meager profits would be eaten up by licensing fees.  Of course there are other systems out there that are open source and I will have to look at them closely.

I think for now we’ll just keep it all systemless.  That approach seems to hold true.  Unless we suddenly hear from someone with a solid offer that seems supportive rather than a means to gut our budget for art and other books.  Here’s hoping things begin to turn around closer to the end of the year, provided the economy does not continue to slide.

Ed

April – All the Leaves are Brown and the Sky is Gray…

I love that old song.  I reminds me of my life growing up in California.  Living in Kansas I occasionally enjoy a few hours of California dreamin, remembering the sights and sounds and experience growing up in and around the Berkeley campus in the 1980s.

Telegraph avenue was a completely different world back then.  Between 1980 and 1988 there remained a lingering influence from the Berkeley campus that existed in the 1970’s.  People’s Park was still a place where the hippy types gathered although that generation slowly gave way over to the homeless or those who were mentally ill, people with no place to go and no resources to help them change their situation.

We had a great comic book shop on telegraph avenue and Blondie’s pizza where you could buy just one massive slice of pizza for just a little more than a buck.  The comic book shop was enormous and doubled as a game store with a great selection.  If you were in the know you realized that Steve Perrin, the author of Runequest was the guy standing behind the counter for a while.

Back then i was dating a beautiful asian girl and upstairs from us lived two of the main people from Chaosium, which I only discovered on accident one afternoon when I bumped into Sam carrying an arm load of Cthulhu books up the stairs to his apartment.  Fencing was high on the list of fun things to do.  Game nights happened almost every weekend or at least every other weekend in those days. 

I remember the smell of the honeysuckle that grew everywhere around Berkeley and how great it smelled walking down the sidewalk in an evening in the fall when it was still very warm, hauling a backpack of game books over a shoulder on my way to a game.

What a long strange trip it has been.

April is turning out to be an exceptionally slow month for sales.  Not only for us but for everyone.  We have had all four books in the top 15 all month and we are seeing perhaps a seventy percent bottom out in sales across the board.  Seventy percent guys.  The only saving grace I suppose is that we really have almost no overhead at this point outside of what we are working on for up and coming books.  We can certainly turn that around by releasing a new book and generating a solid 100 – 150 sales in four weeks of that new book.

Even so.  This has got to be killing the guys with staff people to pay and large projects with many people working on them.  It is definately putting on the back burner plans to license some rule books from favorite game systems that ask for a flat $500.00 to $750.00 payment to license a book.  The way the game industry is going this month that additional fee will put a book in the red for months before they can even consider breaking even and will gobble up the majority of the actual profits you might hope to make off of a PDF book over the course of the year.  Even though that rate sounds low and reasonable since the licensing company does not have to invest any work on the book or any artwork or support and on top of that they stand to make between 30% and 50% or more of your net profits for the year…little guys like me need to rethink going down that road.

There are other ways to garner interest from other publishers and we are looking into those options.

2008 promises to be a very lean year for RPG publishing across the board.  The only way to overcome it is to put out a LOT of smaller projects, inexpensively to grab sufficient sales to keep your net profits up to something where the company has real operating capital and continues to grow.

Entering new e-stores will have a lot to do with that this year for us.  I am also considering the purchase of our own print equipment outside of the store where i work to drive down our print copy costs a whole lot more and allow us to print and sell both black and white and full color books very cheaply.

We had plans to branch out into a fantasy product / campaign setting as well in 2009 and we may go ahead and launch that a little earlier. 

Our goal was to get the company to a net profit each month of around $6,000.00 a month by the end of 2008.  We are headed in that direction but if we want to keep growing and gaining ground we are going to have to start operating even smarter, leaner and faster while improving on quality. 

That will present a challenge but it is one that I think we can overcome.  One thing we may well have to do is trim down the sheer volume of interior artwork in some of our books from what we had planned.  Or we may have to adjust our style to a more old school format with the same amount of art but less color and flash.  Readers may have to be content with a certain amount of my own personal artwork in there to flesh out a few corners of the books or more maps.

April may simply be in the dumps because of tax time with a double whammy of poor economy.  People have fewer and fewer dollars to spend on things like games.  I would imagine that this year even the booming MMORPG industry is going to see a migration of customers cancelling those monthly fee based subscription accounts simply because they can not afford to throw twenty bucks away x 12 months of the year.

We have the module coming in April and the 2nd starship feature book in May.  Hopefully with a region book right on the heels.  We may double up on the region books between May and June as they tend to sell pretty well and also require more maps and technical charts than expensive interior artwork. 

Once the new module is out look for a major bundle of all of our books.  Everything as far as all PDF books in a new GM’s starter bundle (all five books) for something like $25.00 bucks.  With the big update coming for the main rule book we may also do something revolutionary like reorganize everything we’ve done so far into one big / single book at the 6 month mark.  Probably make that the main entry level book into running rocketship empires.  Then do the yearly compilation books as we had planned.

We may decide to hold off on doing print versions of books until we’ve put out six months worth of pdf books and then just do one single compilation print run book combining everything from the last six months in one big volume.

Price point for that sort of large book would be pretty good as we would likely reformat to make the best possible use of space and the best possible method for organization.  So all ships would be together in a ship chapter.  All the maps and region information would be together in a region chapter…the module would have its own section….etc…

The goal, of course, would be to do all this while keeping the cost down and the production values up.  I am reasonably sure I could put everything to together in a soft bound B&W interior version for less than $40.00 and that includes shipping in North America.  If we managed to get our own color production machine we might be able to even do a color version for below $40.00.