Category Archives: Sherlock Holmes

A collection of essays detailing my opinions and thoughts on Sherlock Holmes.

January Update

The holidays have come and gone, as has Midwinter. So, time for an update!

Pugsteady

Last month I had a problem — my planning process which I had used faithfully for over two years collapsed on me. To make a long story short, I had two firm deadlines that I didn’t think I could reconcile, and one of the deadlines was a project that kept getting bigger and bigger the more I worked on it. Thankfully, my wife is a trained project manager, and she helped me work through my problems.

For those that are interested, the biggest problem was that my tasks were too big. I had gotten into the bad habit of lumping lots of small tasks into one large task (like “Meetings” or “Pugmire Manuscript”). The end result was that I was doing lots of work, but getting no visible progress, so I kept seeing lots of large projects on my plate. I subdivided the tasks down to the smallest realistic portion, something that I could do in half a day to a day. This allowed me to show momentum and replan quickly — if I was blocked on, say, a particular chapter, I could adjust and tackle another chapter and see progress, instead of one big task of “book.”

The other was that my sprint iterations had gotten too long. For years I used a month as my planning block — it was natural and easy to visualize. However, what started happening recently was that I would build up tasks at the end of the month, so the last week or so got dense with lingering tasks. When the holidays came up and effectively wiped out my end of the month, I ended up with a large plate of tasks that felt like I had been working on them since December 1.

Now I’m focused more on 15-day sprints, and I’ve taken to having tons of little tasks. I get two or three done a day consistently, and I can see progress better. The work itself hasn’t changed, but I feel like more is getting done, which means I’m more likely to get back to work instead of stopping because I feel overwhelmed.

Pugmire

At this moment, I have the first version of the book (called a “proof”) on my computer. My job now is to go through it and adjust the text, find typos, cut a little and add a little so that it all fits in the space allotted. Which means we’re very, very close to releasing it!

I’ve been through a bunch of story pitches for the Pugmire anthology. I think it’s going to be great, but it’s definitely a project I’ve largely handed off to Jim and his stable of writers. Once the first drafts come in I’ll have to devote a fair bit of time marking up canon concerns, but right now writers are writing!

Monarchies of Mau was playtested at Midwinter. It wasn’t as far along as I’d hoped, but in retrospect that was a good thing. Overall the core of the game is still strong, and experienced Pugmire players told me they felt the game was distinct from Pugmire while still being familiar — an excellent start! There were some details, thought, that weren’t gelling well. I did some great brainstorming with folks at the show, and I’m going to spend some time hashing all these new ideas out. Of course, odds are it will continue to evolve all the way through to the final manuscript of the finished book — I’m just working on the Early Access edition, after all — but it’s better to have a solid foundation so I can build a team that will focus on details later.

Earplay

The Pugmire Earplay has been taking off. Since my last update, I hired a writer to help me with the script of all eight episodes. We did a few revision passes with Dave Grossman, and it’s looking really good. I’ve also hired a composer and an audio team, as well as a voice director. This week we started recording with the actors, and so far the performances have been blowing me away. We’ve still got a long road to go before this sees the light of day, but I think it’s going to be amazing once it’s all done.

Fetch Quest Card Game

As I mentioned above, Midwinter was great for feedback on Monarchies of Mau. I also tested out a Pugmire card game (tentatively titled Fetch Quest), and was pleasantly surprised at how well it did in its first iteration! The design is a cooperative deck-building game: six pioneers from Pugmire are on a quest, and have to acquire Fortune cards to defeat increasingly dangerous challenges. I definitely need to test it a lot more, but I’m already seeing potential to introduce new quests and new characters (including cats). We might even be able to set up a community-generated storefront so people can use their own pets as characters in the game.

Sherlock Holmes

I got three Holmes anthologies for Christmas, and a book of Holmes-themed puzzles for my birthday. And as always, once I start reading I begin to think of Holmes-related projects I could work on. Now that the card game went well, I’m kicking around a Holmes-themed card game, as well as poking at my Inspector Lestrade-focused short story idea. I haven’t seen the new season of Sherlock yet, but I’ve heard… not great things, so I admit I’m worried. In the meantime, I’m continuing to make my way through my Blu-Ray version of the Jeremy Brett series when I have time to sit down and really appreciate it.

What Do You Want To Hear About?

Is there something in particular you want to hear about? Leave a comment or use my contact form, and I’ll consider it for my next post!

October Update

It’s been a few weeks, so time to give folks an update on where things are with me!

Pugsteady

The Pugsteady business is going well. I’m starting to work on the next steps of growing the company by investing in business cards and a website. For the past several years this blog has worked well as a central place to discuss and display my work, but increasingly I’m finding a need to distinguish between a place that fans of my specifically can come to learn more (which is here) and a place that costumers and clients can quickly and easily get access to information they need. I don’t know when it’ll be done, but I bring it up to show that I’m still as committed as ever to my self-employment.

Pugmire

The manuscript for the game is in an editor’s hands, which means this is the first time in months I can really focus on some other aspects of building up the world! I also opened up the new rules in the current draft for playtest and comments — check out the latest Kickstarter update for more information! I’ve also been seeing some great commentary about the game, and I’m really happy that something I’ve built from the ground up is doing so well.

Earplay

Meanwhile, things are picking up at Earplay. We’re deep into working on some new projects to release, including some great brainstorming sessions with folks like Richard Dansky and Dave Grossman. Hopefully we’ll be able to show some amazing stuff very soon and start getting people as passionate about interactive audio drama as I am.

The Local Scene

14567424_1215327728539022_2361550361651696086_oI’m done with travel for 2016, but I’m still busy in the local Atlanta scene. I volunteered to help out with the first Broadleaf Writer’s Conference, which was a small but passionate conference of new and experienced writers. It seems that both the attendees and the speaks got a lot out of the experience, and I got the chance to meet some great folks from the area.

This weekend I’ll be moderating a panel at SIEGE about writing video games for franchises. Pugsteady will also be part of the Game Studio Smackdown, where I plan to fail miserably at Mario Kart 8. Come watch me speak about the nuances of writing for a licensed property, or fight for the honor of Pugsteady!

Sherlock Holmes

After some time away, I’m coming back around to enjoy some more of my favorite detective. I’m continually impressed with the Big Finish audio series, and the latest box set did not disappoint. I’m also finally catching up on Elementary Season 4, and I just started listening to an audiobook version of Moriarty by John Gardner (although I should go back and read The Revenge of Moriarty soon). I’m back to playing with some ideas for stories or games set in the “Sherlock Holmes universe” (i.e., not necessarily involving a canonical Holmes and Watson), but it often takes a backseat to other, more pressing business. But someday!

What Do You Want To Hear About?

That’s it for me. If there’s something in particular you want to hear about on this blog, leave a comment or use my contact form, and I’ll consider it!

The Case of the Cloned Game

This is a rare moment when I get to talk about two things I’m passionate about: game design and Sherlock Holmes!

One of the oddities of game design is the confusion around what parts of a game are protected by law, and what parts aren’t.1 For many years, it has been asserted that the rules and mechanics of a game cannot be protected, but the presentation can. This is why, for example, there are probably hundreds of platforming games where the character runs to the right and uses jump as a primary means of movement and attack, but very few of them (legally) feature a character named Mario.2 Similarly, any card game can turn a card sideways to express that it can no longer be used, but only games made by Hasbro (such as Magic: The Gathering) can use the term “tap” for this action.

In reality, the line between “rules” and “presentation” isn’t that simple. There has been a long history of video game cloning. It’s happened in the tabletop RPG space as well, and made even muddier by the d20 Open Game License and a number of successful “retroclones” that emulate previous game designs to various degrees of fidelity. Further, where public domain begins and ends is even more complex. And thus we get to the Great Detective himself.

Continue reading The Case of the Cloned Game

  1. I’m a citizen of the United States, so all my references to legality are US-centric, only because that’s the legal system I’m most familiar with.
  2. Digression: I’ve noticed over the years a certain “linga franca” in game design. For board games, references are usually to Chess or Monopoly. For role-playing games, it’s Dungeons & Dragons. And for video games, it’s Super Mario Brothers. At some point I should compile a list of “games every other game designer will assume you’ve played.”

A Five-Pack of Sherlock Holmes Reviews

Over the past six months or so, I’ve been (slowly, so slowly) reviewing some of the Sherlock Holmes books over at DriveThruFiction. Here are the five I’ve done so far.

Sherlock Holmes: Repeat Business: New Stories of the Great Detective: A very good collection of short stories, all tied together with a common theme: a previous client of Sherlock Holmes coming back for a second case. Some cases are better than others, but all of them are true to the original canon, and the Watson voice is solid and immersive. A great anthology for Holmes fans who know the original canon, or casual fans who are looking for some solid, classic mysteries.

Sherlock Holmes: Victorian Knights: A compilation of the four-issue series, “Sherlock Holmes: Victorian Knights” seems to be inspired by the recent Guy Ritchie films. The story draws details from the original stories without being too closely committed to any of them. Holmes and Watson bicker and argue, and a few times the writing is laugh-out-loud funny. The art is good and the PDF quality is clear. If you aren’t a stickler for fidelity to the original canon, this is an entertaining romp.

The Sherlock Holmes Megapack: 25 Modern Tales by Masters: It has an uninspiring title, but this is a massive anthology of Sherlock Holmes stories — 25 in total. Most people don’t realize that many modern Holmes anthologies usually have a theme or a flavor, such as stories that attempt to accurate evoke the original Doyle voice or Holmes stories that involve the supernatural. These are a grab-bag of stories ranging from very well-researched and faithful pastiches to stories of Holmes travelling through time. With many anthologies there are always some stories that hit or miss with the reader, but that’s especially true with this. If you can’t get behind the concept of, say, an investigation into a cult of readers of bad Holmes pastiches, some of the stories won’t resonate with you. But with nearly 600 pages of material, odds are you’ll find more hits than misses with this collection.

Victorian Villainy: A Collection of Moriarty Stories: A fun rework of Moriarty as an anti-hero. This version of the character differs pretty strongly from the canon (unlike, say, Kim Newman’s version, which is still pretty villainous), but it makes for a fun anthology.

The Young Sherlock Holmes Adventures Trade: A charming (if moderately inconsistent) reimagining of Sherlock Holmes. The trade is set in an alternative steampunk world, where Sherlock Holmes runs around with his friend James Moriarty (!). There are some new characters introduced as well, including a female Indian character who is sadly more of a stereotype than a compelling character in her own right. It’s not remotely close to the original stories, but it’s a fun adventure.

Peer Review: “A Scandal in Bohemia” by Petr Kopl

(Disclaimer: Petr Kopl is a fellow author at MX Publishing, and MX Publishing gave me a free iBooks version for review.)

A few months ago, MX Publishing ran a Kickstarter to translate a comic. Intrigued, I looked into it, and was blown away. A Czech artist and writer, Petr Kopl had won several awards for his Sherlock Holmes comics, and his artwork was just amazing. Unfortunately I missed the window to contribute myself, but when I got a code to review it myself, I eagerly downloaded it and started reading.

Narratively, Kopl has woven two Holmes stories together (“A Scandal in Bohemia” and “The Speckled Band”), along with references to other stories not written by Doyle (most notably “Around the World in 80 Days”). It’s not a faithful adaptation, and it takes a lighter tone than the original material — for example, Watson once finds Holmes hanging from the ceiling as he tests a new theory. The dynamic between Holmes and Watson, however, is much more the squabbling friendship that is common in more modern interpretations, and there are some genuinely funny exchanges between the two. Plot elements are rearranged to accommodate the new material, but it all hangs together through the thread of Watson working to overcome Holmes’ inherent misogyny. It’s a wonderful, entertaining story.

Artistically, Kopl’s style is unique and evocative. It looks a lot like an old-school cartoon, with hyperbolic character expressions and toned-down images of violence. And yet there’s a level of detail that draws the eye in: colors are rich and textured, backgrounds are drawn with little details that jump out, and even the sound effects look carefully crafted. More than once I caught myself staring at a panel, forgetting the story for a moment as I just soaked in the look and feel of the comic.

The book also has an introduction about the Czech Sherlock Holmes community, and an epilogue from the author talking about why Conan Doyle created a fictional king of Bohemia, and the nature of love and sex in the Holmes canon.

I haven’t been this drawn into a Holmes-based comic since the run of Moriarty. I highly recommend picking this graphic novel up.

A Scandal In Bohemia – A Sherlock Holmes Graphic Novel is available from all good bookstores including   Amazon USA, Amazon UK, Waterstones UK, and for free shipping worldwide Book Depository . In ebook format it is in Kindle, Kobo, Nook and Apple iBooks (iPad/iPhone).