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Will the new “IT” Movie, see a new wave of Creepy Clown sightings?

13 Jun

A subject not talked about on here for ages is that of the Clown sightings of the past few years. The worldwide craze started by the Northampton Clown, caused much fear and loathing in the community in the UK and US and started a viral sensation that now is but a distant memory.

September sees the release of the new version of Stephen King’s seminal horror, “IT” which I’m sure that we are all familiar with. The movie looks like something most fans of the horror genre will be looking forward to, but maybe not if you’re caulrophobia (Phobic of clowns) but the whole thing has got me thinking that while the whole craze is old hat now, we might be seeing a resurgence of such antics again once the movie has been released.

If you haven’t seen the trailer for the new film yet, where have you been? No longer will we see the great Tim Curry don the guise of the infamous “Pennywise the dancing clown”, but now Bill Skarsgard will play the evil alien entity who disguises itself as a variety of head fucks to feast on the young residents of the town of Derry.

For those of you who haven’t seen the trailer, here it is before we carry on with the discourse.

Looks ok, but the proof of the pudding will be seeing the movie in its entirety. It does look as if the movie will deal with the first part of the story (when they were kids) with a sequel in the works probably to carry on the second part of the story (when they are adults) and have to face “IT” once more to stop its reign of terror.

This aside, I’m pretty sure we are going to get the onslaught of clown sightings as a response to the movie’s release. There will always be some joker (get it?!) ready to put on the clown suit and mask and start scaring people for a variety of reasons, be it for publicity, for viral hits or simply to spite those who live in fear of clowns. This is a big issue, seriously bigger than you’d realise, some people really do have a proper fear of all things clown. the last time I blogged about them, at one point I received 160,000 hits in a day just on one post about the subject and over 100 private messages and emails! A real boost for my humble site stats for sure, but a real eye-opener in terms of how much this subject affects people’s lives and psyches.

I recently took my kids to the circus, myself hoping that the clown/s there would be creepy enough to entertain me (well, I’m not scared of clowns if you’re wondering) but what I ended up finding is that “real career clowns” if I can call them that, are somewhat watered down compared to the traditional idea, which for me at least was a bit disappointing!

What I will do here, is monitor the subject in the media over the course of the movie release, and what I find, I will blog about. One thing is assured this time, is that if my own area sees the return of the Doncaster Clown (or other pretenders to the title) I will try my best to get an interview with the guy, in fact, if there are any other regional clowns, I’ll also try to start up a conversation with them, just to see what motivates these folks to do what they do!

Who knows, I might end up making some clown related PDFs, minis or similar type stuff to cash in on the craze (well, if it happens) and the very least should help me shift some books!

Whatever happens, mark my words. The clowns will return, and I’ll be here to keep you up to date with the associated craziness that comes along with it! Let me know your thoughts and comments on the subject!

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A Reminder Call out to Writers who want to Collab…

12 Jun

Just a quick call out for anyone who would be interested in becoming an author of one of our growing range of Grinning Skull Studios PDF products for RPGers, Wargamers and other hobbyists.

Check out the page on the top or side menu, or visit the page HERE for more details, or just simply drop me a line via  the contact page for a chat about your ideas, Or if you’d like to have a look at our range of PDF products check out our various publisher pages here:

  

Feel free to peruse our wares to give you an idea of what we are doing. We’re up for new and exciting ideas too, and if you feel like having a chat, please feel free to do so!

5 reasons I F*%king love Hawk the Slayer!

3 Jun

I’m sure this movie needs no introductions. You can call this one of my guilty pleasure’s of the celluloid variety, as ever since I first saw it, I loved it ever since.

In an age growing up where fantasy media was limited to a handful of films on VHS, no one could ever understand why I liked this movie so much, no amount of me telling them would make them understand why. So with that in mind, I’m going to present five reasons I fucking love that film, even to this day!

1. THE SOUNDTRACK

The music and theme tune on the movie is brilliant, a weird mish mash of synth-pop, fantasy and nostalgia. It suits the film and themes perfectly (I think) A real curiosity of sorts, but cool none the less. Check it out:

2. THE CAST

What can I say about the cast ensemble for this low budget fantasy movie? Well, lets begin with the iconic stars in this film. Jack Palance as the older scarred and evil brother (and Hawk’s Nemesis) Voltan, The giant Gort played by “Carry on” mainstay Bernard Bresslaw, Shane Bryant as Drogo, Annette Crosby (Margret Meldrew from one foot in the grave), Patricia Quinn (Rocky Horror show)  as the witch, Harry Andrews, Roy Kinnear, Warren Clarke, and so many more decent well known British actors. There’s even Ferdy Mayne and the guy who was the original Jabba the Hutt in Star Wars IV (the cut out bit that was later CGI and put back in) Quite a decent cast for such a low budget.

3. THE ACTION

The frantic and sometimes comical nature of the action scenes is something I hold a soft spot for. Crow’s multiple cut and edited arrow shots were pure cinematic cheese,  as kids I remember my mates wanting to be him in games we played at school. Even though Crow the elf, was in my opinion the least developed of the party of heroes, he was bad ass due to this quick cheapo edit effect!

4. THE CHEESE

Hawk the Slayer is no masterpiece of cinema. I admit that it  was never going to win Oscars for any part of the movie, acting or script. What makes it good is that it is not good. Sure, it’s entertaining enough, but it’s no LOTR trilogy, but it has that feel of my childhood days playing red box D&D home brew adventures. This film is cheesy as hell, a little bit camp, and ropey SFX, but I still love it just for old times sake!

5. THE HERITAGE

When I speak of heritage, by that I refer back to the cheese,in which the plot and setup of the movie, is pretty much just that of probably many of our childhood D&D and RPG games. Beat for beat, these standard fantasy RPG tropes are in force. The party of heroes, the hero’s brother being the big bad, defend the Abbey mission, raid the enemy camp, the showdown etc. How many of us out there used this movie as direct inspiration for our own RPGs, wargames, and LARP (trust me, loads of LARPers has cited this movie as inspiration, it’s almost like one anyway!) Also this movie has a real Hammer films vibe too, now that’s real heritage!

If you haven’t seen it, go away and watch it NOW, if your into RPGs, fantasy or similar. If you have, go re watch it.

I now retreat to dig out my DVD copy of it from the vaults to become a starry eyed 80’s kid again and remember good old times….

Brainfarts: Selling adverts in RPG Ebooks: Can it work? Can you make it viable?

2 Jun

So, more thinking out loud here, I’m going to talk about something that is virtually non existent in RPG ebook media as far as I am aware, which could either be a real pain for me, or a real bonus.

To recap, while before I could advertise my own projects, material and goods etc on the WP blog platform, if I got caught advertising any other persons stuff without monetisation, I’d have been shut down, never to return. This restriction did not apply to my ebooks, in which I can publish whatever the fuck I like (with restrictions on dodgy material and such) however many pages I want, there is freedom to advertise anything.

Now the advertising word is my oyster, so to speak.

Sure, a couple of people moaned about me adding adverts at the back for my products, but the rest have said nothing. Whether it’s a sign of apathy, or that no one cares that I’m sticking the ads in at the end, listening to the vocal few is always a bad thing, so I’ll plump for the apathy angle instead.

Hear this idea out, then you can discuss, comment and chip in with your own thoughts.

These ads cost me nothing to put in, so why not make some cash by letting others do the same? So, before the nay sayer’s chip in and yap about it’s not worth it to advertise in my PDFs, why then, did plenty of real hobby advertisers opt to advertise in last years Grinning Skull Compendium 2016 if it’s no good to do so? Even so it was offered by me to do it for free, if there were no value to advertisers, then why bother? That is because, it is a good idea.

You might think that even so my releases don’t sell into the thousands usually, you forget that these adverts are classed as being in the niche subject of direct targeted adverts. With that the value goes up, the chance of response also goes up and job is done.

Since the idea was taken up with the compendium, why not take this forward and try again, only this time lets try and get it to pay. A full A5 sized page ad (half A4 page size) could be expensive to pay for, but as I am not a huge name publisher, I’m willing to keep the price low. Also I’d be inclined to offer the ad in each new small PDF release until 2018 as incentive to advertisers. Maybe selling myself short? but, as they cost me nothing to include, then I think this adds extra value to tempt niche advertisers to part with their cash. How much? $20 seems reasonable to me for almost seven months worth of promotion in a niche hobby publication.

Now while many advertisers were happy to take the free offer, how many would be willing to pay for the privilage? $20 is hardly anything for a whole 7 months worth of ads (and beyond if you consider that the PDFs will contain the ads whilst in that edition) I’d limit it, to the first 20 advertisers to take up such offer, and negotiate any others after that (space providing, and smaller ad, maybe $15 for a quarter page for same amount of time) I’d draft a template letter, containing the details, then isolate 100 potential niche hobby companies and potential advertisers, and send the offer. This would then be easy to log the results, maximise the potential of filling the schedule and net a possible $400+. Noice!

Can it be done? Will anyone be brave enough to be included and pathe the way for my grand future plan? (not telling just yet) Who can tell?

The reason for this transparency, is that I want to show those of you out there, that indeed there are other ways around situations like this, and to prove or fail in the attempt. Sure, I could do this in secret, try it myself and not publish how it worked or didn’t, but since this is an experiment, I wanted to share what happens in case you are in a similar situation and would like to do the same. I’m nice like that, you know, and want you all to know that I care about you all so much! Apart from that man at the back picking his nose, I don’t like him!!

So, what are your thoughts? Good idea? Bad idea? Is there any validity? Are there any small publishers like myself who have an opinion on this?

As ever, comment, share, and get a conversation going. I’d love to hear your opinions!

Let me know what you think, would you like me to try it? Would you try it?

Chinwag: Interview with RPG writer Allen Farr

1 Jun

Well, to kick off this month’s Post a day, we’ve got an interview with RPG writer Allen Farr, author of our recent adventure module “The Witch’s Daughter” (available from Grinning Skull Studios), we sat down and had a bit of a chinwag to discuss all things RPG, writing and life…

Grim: Hello Allen, welcome to Chinwag, and thanks for taking the time to talk to us, So lets start by introducing yourself to the audience, tell us a little about yourself.

Allen: Talking about myself doesn’t come easy, so I guess that makes me shy. I’m the shy person that once he gets to know you, he comes out of his shell, and then you get to spend the rest of your life trying to figure out how to fit him right back into it.
I’ve enough hobbies, interests and projects to last me a lifetime, or two. Other than playing and writing role playing games, my other main hobbies are gardening, and sea kayaking, which includes building them.

Grim: So then, at what point did you get involved in the hobby?

Allen: Like many people my age, I got into the hobby when I was introduced to Dungeons & Dragons. I was twelve or thirteen then. I can still remember my group furiously rubbing wax crayons into the etched numbers on the dice and trying to speed paint some really bad quality miniatures.

Grim: So tell me, when was it you decided you wanted to start writing?

Allen: As a child I was either writing stories, or reading them. Yet, it never crossed my mind that a writer was something you could be.

Other people wrote books, more specifically, adults. As I had no intention of growing up (and still don’t) that didn’t seem to be an option. Later, when I had moved on to other games such as Shadowrun and then Earthdawn, I would always write out my adventures to match the structure of the published modules. I can remember thinking it would be cool to write for FASA Corporation, but it remained nothing more than a thought.

Much later, after FASA Corporation had closed its doors, and Redbrick had the Earthdawn licence, I was on the forums, lamenting about a book that had been promised, but not delivered, Travar. The line developer then challenged me ‘Why don’t you write that book’. After I picked myself up off the floor my first thought was ‘how hard can it be’? Long story short, as soon as I started writing Travar I realised I was enjoying the whole creative process, and I’ve been writing ever since. That was almost eight years ago. As we speak Travar: The Merchant City is sitting with FASA Games, ready to go to print.

Grim: What would you say, inspired you the most in both your hobby direction, and your writing?

Allen: Dungeons & Dragons was my first RPG love affair, and nothing can take that away. It definitely inspired me, not just its concepts, which were new to me, but the beautiful artwork. Yet, there were things about Dungeons & Dragons that didn’t quite make sense, or rubbed me the wrong way, and it took me a really long time to put my finger on what they were. The dungeon in the middle of nowhere for no explicable reason, the trapped doors, treasure chests and passageways, rooms full of creatures that seemed to have been waiting an eternity in a sealed underground chamber just for the chance to attack a wandering explorer. Undead aside, what did these creatures eat, where did they get their gear, who cut their hair. With rust monsters lurking down there, how come they still all had steel weapons? It was these unexplained questions that eventually eroded my suspension of disbelief and made me look to other games.

I find the artwork on RPGs inspiring, and it was the Shadowrun artwork that got me running the shadows of Seattle. It was Shadowrun (Tom Dowd at Euro GenCon 94’ to be exact) that made pick up Earthdawn, and it was Earthdawn that offered a fantastic background that instantly made sense of all the things in Dungeons & Dragons that I couldn’t quite reconcile. Shadowrun set the bar on what something new should look like, and Earthdawn set the bar on depth of setting, and they both inspired the direction of both my gaming and writing.

Grim: What do you think of the state of the RPG hobby today?

Allen: People often talk about the Golden Age of RPGs and lament that it’s now a thing of the past. Personally, I think the hobby is in a great place today and the Golden Age has just evolved.

Yes, the age of companies making millions of dollars on their products is mostly over, but with the advent of the Internet, all manner of things are now possible. PDF publishing and POD have really shaken the market up and anyone who has ever wanted to publish their own RPG can have a go. Yeah, sure there are hundreds of Heartbreakers out there, but so what. The more people that have a go, the more likely we are to see new developments in the future.

I think the hobby will continue to evolve and crowd funding is probably the most recent tool helping this process along. Without the Internet and crowd funding, I wouldn’t have any writing credits. Another tool gaining traction is 3D printing. As the technology improves there will be a lot of RPG related innovation and I’m not just talking about miniatures, but other game aids, custom dice, scroll cases for player hand outs, dungeon tiles, printed 3D maps and maybe things that haven’t been thought of yet.

Grim: I totally agree, the industry is going to evolve with new tech and ideas, speaking of PDF publishing  You recently wrote “The Witch’s Daughter” for us here, could you tell the readers a little about it?

Allen:The Witch’s Daughter’ is an example of the evolution of the hobby. I saw a ‘Writers Wanted’ advert from a hobby designer on RPG.net who wanted an adventure to complement the upcoming release of his game. Unfortunately, the game never materialised, leaving me with an outline adventure. When Grinning Skull Design Studio advertised for writers, I pitched the adventure to them. It still needed quite a bit of work, but the core of it was there. It was the first time that I had to write something that was system agnostic.

The adventure itself is a mix of fantasy, murder mystery and horror and is set against the tense background of an expected spring offensive between warring nations. Of course, the player characters find themselves right in the middle of it all.

Grim: So tell us what were your inspirations in creating the adventure?

Allen: The witchcraft theme of the adventure was partially inspired by the setting theme it was originally intended for, but more than that I often write material where not everything is down to the ‘Evil Monster’. Don’t get me wrong, there is a place for the traditional high fantasy monstrosity running about and eating villagers, but I like a little ‘Grim’ that only humanity can provide, thrown into the mix. While there are a few low level monsters in the adventure, it’s more about the monstrous side of people.

Grim: You’ve written some ‘100’ titles for us, so would you say that you prefer writing those, or adventure modules?

Allen: I love writing adventure modules. I love the process of crafting the story arc and putting together a background to set the story arc in. So, writing adventure modules is at the top of my list. Having said that, as a writer, the ‘100’ titles are a great writing exercise. Take the Fatal Blows – Bladed Edition, there are only so many ways to describe the cut and thrust of a bladed weapon and the trick was to come up with 100 fatal blows without becoming repetitive. So word usage became very important as did sentence structure. 100 City Encounters was a different beast. It wasn’t as tightly subject focused, but it was still challenging to make each encounter unique, and as many of the encounters are also adventure hooks that made it all the more challenging.

Grim: Is there any advice you could give aspiring RPG hobby writers based on what you’ve learned on your writer’s journey?

Allen: Honestly, I could write a book on hobby writing, and I’ve only been doing it for a handful of years. Hobby writing is fun, and you want to keep it fun. Unless you want to become a full time freelance writer, be careful of the projects you work on.
Large projects with hundreds of demanding Kickstarter backers and tight timescale are probably best avoided. From my experience, smaller publishers are more likely to give the first time writer a chance and they also tend to pay promptly, the rates are often better and negotiable. Small publishers tend to have a quicker turn around, and you will see your work published sooner.

Getting your first writing credit is important, it can lead to other things, and its not as difficult as it might seem. Get involved with fan projects – I’ve been involved with a couple that have been picked up by publishers. Some forums have a freelance or bulletin board section, check these out regularly. There are plenty of pitfalls also. RPG publishers come and go regardless of their size, and you can be left high and dry with an unfinished project. Then there is the dreaded contract and Non-Disclosure Agreements, royalties, work for hire and getting paid… Its interesting ride, get writing and get it out there…

Grim: Great advice there! What are your writing plans for the future?

Allen: There is a lot more collaborative stuff with Grinning Skull Design Studios. There are more adventures planned. Singularity, a one shot Sci Fi adventure set on a scientific research vessel. Betrayal At Tarsus Mor, an adventure for beginning characters introducing them to the City of Tarsus Mor, which will be getting more attention in future products. Lament of the Gargoyle King, another adventure in the pipeline, which is also based in and around Tarsus Mor.

I’m also chipping away at a source book called, Mekello – The Forge of Eldorande, for the Warsong RPG. I have a couple of adventures written for the upcoming Travar sourcebook for Earthdawn, but I’m unsure if they will get released as an official product or a fan project. I’ve also written an adventure for FASA Game’s 1879 London Sourcebook, called Baby Boojum, which is in the development pipeline awaiting artwork. On top of that I have a couple of home brew settings that I would like to see published, High Frequency, and DemonPunk. I hope I will get a chance to return to writing them soon.

Grim: So here’s a question I always ask, Marvel or DC?

Allen: I’m not sure I would know the difference (I can almost hear the disapproving intake
of breath!). While I do read the odd superhero comic book and love the movies, I preferred Judge Dredd or the Aliens comic books.

Grim:  An excellent answer! I love the old 2000AD strips from last century, they are something that doesn’t get enough love or respect as they should! Here’s another one for you, is it Trek or Wars?

Allen: I’m going to throw caution to the wind and say Battlestar Galactica. I love the cheese fest of the original, and the dark gritty themes of the reimagining. But to pacify at least half of the crowdand antagonise the other, while I do love Star Wars, I think I love Star Trek a little more. What Star Wars needs is a tv series.

Grim: Well, thanks for taking the time to talk to us in this edition of Chinwag, it’s been great talking to you! Is there anything else you’d like to add? Like where can you be contacted or can be found on the interwebs?

Allen: Almost anything RPG related I’m involved with can be found on my G+ page. Folks can check it out and if they want to strike up a conversation or comment on anything I’ve worked on.

https://plus.google.com/108772548112027786997

Grim: Thanks again Allen for taking time out of your busy schedule to have a chinwag!!

Well, that’s it for this edition of Chinwag, we’ll be talking to author Tyler Omichinski next time in Chinwag to discuss more things about the writing, RPGs, life and the universe!

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