This is what forever feels like!

I am writing this blog entry - even more horrendously overdue than the last - about quarter of an hour shy of twelve hours after I started playing (Settlers of) Catan with the awesome and equally crazy people that I work with at Snakes & Lattes in Toronto.

The event is the fourth annual Catanathon-Against-Cancer. I make no particular attempt to hide the fact that I do not enjoy Catan, but there are few causes for which I would be happier to play it, or be around people playing it, for over twelve hours straight. We are approaching 7AM EST and, at time of writing, we have 4 more hours of play paid for through donations that have come in.

If you are reading this soon enough that we are still playing (check the livestream at www.snakesandlattes.com/catanathon), then please support this fantastic cause. As a side-effect, the more money that we raise, the longer we keep playing. We're aiming for 24 hours, if we can keep it going that long.

The new job is awesome though. My job is to recommend and teach people board games. For those who are not versed in the modern world of board games, we are not talking Monopoly, Life, or Snakes and Ladders - though all of those still exist. There are thousands of board games out there, and I think it is probably safe to say that there is probably a game out there for every possibly personality.

This is the first time that I have had a job that I am regularly sad to leave at the end of the evening. I meet awesome people every shift, and I get to share the joy of my obsession with other people. That is a great thing, and I'm glad that I have found it!

On the flipside, I have been working a lot recently. We're almost half way through NaNoWriMo and I'm not even ten percent of the way through my goal. I really need to work on that...!

Back to the island of Catan. See you once I stop counting ore - or bricks - or sheep...

Podcast release, and a quick catch-up

Goodness, it has been a while.

I didn't actually realise how long ago I last posted a blog entry, so a quick one just to say hello.

BUT FIRST...

I am delighted to announce that I have released episode one of Once Upon A Die, my board gaming podcast. To listen, please go to this page and you can download or stream the episode. In it, I look at the excellent Fantasy Flight game Arkham Horror, and face off against the dread Azathoth in a three-investigator, solo game.

I would love to hear any comments or thoughts that you may have. Please feel free to message me through the contact page. I have also posted a link into the Board Game Geek podcasts forum, and that message is also available to comment on for those that have a profile. (You could also reply to this post.)

Other than working on the podcast, I am currently getting ready for a production of Shakespeare's Star Wars, which will be happening at the Storefront Theatre, Toronto on June 1st. Details to follow soon.

More news to follow, but that will be a in another post in a day or two.

A childhood obsession is remade - but does International Rescue survive the process?

I haven't posted in a long time, and this post is not going to be my normal thing. Facing off the back end of a rather nasty bug, I am stuck at home and was looking for something to entertain myself earlier. I managed to watch the first episode of the 50th anniversary remake of Thunderbirds. To say I was a little obsessed with the original would be an understatement, so mixed feelings abounded. Now, out the other side, I have decided to share my thoughts on the show.

The 2015 series is entitled Thunderbirds Are Go!, a catchphrase used sparingly (to my recollection) in the 1965 version, although featured in the title sequence of every episode. Nevertheless, it is synonymous with the series, and fits the revamp well.

I'll get the obvious question out of the way first: what did I think? As a die-hard fan of the original series – yes, I own the whole lot on DVD – I went into this with a great deal of trepidation. The 2004 film was a travesty, with a well-deserved, average score of 4.2/10 on IMDb. The contemporary ship designs were somehow overwhelmingly jarring, despite retaining the basic features of the original machines, and the plot was painful.

Thunderbirds Are Go! manages somehow to write a new plot and modernise the ship designs, and yet not have that same problem. The story is gripping enough, although it does fall into a chasm that many modern series do, but more on that later. The ship designs are sleek and have taken into account the advances in technology since 1965, but they are still Thunderbirds, and despite being just as different as the 2004 ones, they fit.

I wasn't sure about the CGI when I heard about it, and I'm still not. It will take a few more episodes to convince me one way or the other, I think. The change from puppetry is jarring, but it is not bad, and it will appeal to the young generation in a way that the puppet approach just wouldn't any more, I think. (If you don't know what I'm talking about, look at Team America. The puppet style is a direct parody of Gerry Anderson's work.)

I'm glad that David Graham came back to voice Parker. He fits in perfectly with the new cast, and even the spritely appearance of the younger character model.

So what's not great about it? That chasm I was talking about, for a start. Way too much is crammed into episode one. The editors felt it necessary to introduce us to all of the characters in the first couple of minutes in a hectic, over-the-top assault of cuts to other scenes of other rescues. The action throughout is then so frantic, that it can be hard to keep up. I very much dislike this trend of ramming everything possible into episode one. Why not show off while leaving a few surprises? (Gotham did the same thing, to name another recent show.)

Secondly, there is excessive over-use of Peter Dyneley's iconic countdown. I love that they put that in, and the plotline of Jeff being missing allows that to be there without competing with a new voice actor. However, hearing that countdown – and the titular catchphrase – every single time a Thunderbird launches will get old really fast, and I hope that's a first episode spam, rather than a trend.

I found the frequency with which the Tracey brothers contacted each other over radio using the full Thunderbird name and number a little awkward. In full conversation, I hope they begin to use their names more often, but that's a small issue for me at this point.

All in all, I'm impressed, and pleasantly surprised. I will watch more – not yet with the fervour with which I devoured (and occasional still devour) the original – and I will see where it goes.

A small post-script. In case you, dear reader, are a board game nut and have not seen the news. Matt Leacock – designer of the wonderful Pandemic, Roll Through The Ages and Forbidden Desert, amongst other great games – recently Kickstarted a Thunderbirds board game, and the base set should be shipping around August. I'm insanely excited about that!

More on both in future blogs. Next time – which hopefully won't be far away – back to my usual fare.

F.A.B.

"Behold, as a wild ass in the desert, go I forth to my work."

Yes, for those that read my last post, this is another Dune quote, spoken by Gurney Halleck on the titular planet. Gurney is a character never lost for a quote appropriate to the situation, and this is a saying he offers to Duke Atreides on acceptance of an order in the first third or so of the book.

It has been a little quiet for the last couple of weeks. I'm sure those that have moved house, let alone country, might understand that my mind is elsewhere at the moment, and you would be correct! This will be my last blog post from England for a while. However, you might also have noticed a change on the website itself.

A new page has appeared under the 'Books' tab entitled 'Card History'. This is the beginning of a long-term project to write a factual book about the history of playing cards, with a focus on the recent explosion of cards into the hundreds of card games that can be found on a good game shop's shelves today. No longer are we just familiar with the French Deck and the Tarot - there are thousands of decks of cards out there, each featuring individual artwork, appeal and game mechanics.

If you are a card gamer - be it with one of those myriad decks, or with the French Deck, please feel free to fill in the survey that I link to on that page. It would very much help me with the beginning of my research. Only 100 people can take part, so if it's closed then that number may have filled. At the time of writing, it is open by a good margin.

Naturally, the move is also eating my time. I am taking a brief respite from packing up my life to write this. I depart British shores on Sunday, and will be gone for at least a year, all going to plan. I will write more once I have established myself back in Toronto.

Until then, work is resuming on the redraft of MSCE book 2, The Night Banks. Nick and I are also working on some new songs, details of which will be forthcoming once we're happy with where we are. The dragon is taking wing but, as far as you, dear reader, are concerned, isn't really going anywhere!

"...take the most special care that you locate Muad'Dib in his place..."

Back on December 3rd, I finished a blog post with the idea that 'home' is an intangible issue that can be confused by the people and places that you know. This is the dilemma I have been facing for the last year. Ever since I returned from Toronto, back before Dragon Literature was a thing, I have been questioning whether I should return or not.

As of mid-February, I am indeed going back for another year of living there. My home is in two different countries - I have said this before - but right now, it is more in Toronto than it is in London.

The quote in the title of this blog post, for those who do not recognise it, is from Frank Herbert's Dune, a book which has been in my top three novels ever since I read it. It is from the chapter 'header quote' - whatever one calls quotes that come under a chapter number and before the chapter begins - and, at that point, the reader has no idea who Muad'Dib is. He is Paul Atreides, who was born on the planet Caladan, but the Muad'Dib alter ego came into being on Arrakis (aka Dune), and that is his home.

While David A Xavier was a name I established in London, it began to take shape before I returned here. While I don't feel that he and David Kingsmill have two different homes - although I am a melodramatic personality, I wouldn't go quite that far(!) - I do feel that different aspects of me flourish in each country.

I have been slowly gaining support amongst those who glance at this site, my Twitter account, or my Facebook page, and I do hope that you will all continue to follow me on this adventure. I will continue to produce work in both countries, and I am excited to see what opportunities are opened up to me by this move.

Another year has gone

Goodness knows where it went. I'm pretty certain that the last time I looked I had just got back from Canada on New Year's Eve 2013.

Kudos to anyone who gets the reference in the title, by the way. You have been with me a long time if you do.

As people who know me will be aware of already, I do not celebrate New Year's. For me, it is more about reminiscence - looking back at the achievements of the year gone past, clearing the decks for the new year, and raising a glass to those that are no longer with us.

2014 has been an enormous year for me in so many ways - personal and professional. I will not linger on the former, but I will say that it has taught me a lot about myself and freed me up to be more honest with myself, and I think that my new year's resolution will be to continue that trend.

Professionally, of course, most of my successes have been logged on here. Out Of The Lens and So What If I Dance? were a phenomenal step forward in my theatrical pursuits. Equally, the publishing of The Puppet Master has given me an enormous boost to my writing confidence. The third book of the series, now retitled The Chandler's Den, has been written, and my focus is now on finishing the redrafts of The Night Banks.

Equally, Nick and I have plans for 2015 which we will reveal once we are ready to do so. For now I shall just say that if all goes to plan, it will be quite an exciting year for Kingsmill & Chave.

A very happy new year to you all. I hope that 2015 is good to you, and I look forward to sharing experiences throughout the 12 months to come. I hope that it will be a really interesting year, and I hope that you will come with me on the journey. To quote one of my fictional heroes: "I'm going on an adventure!"

Home

The end of NaNoWriMo always feels like the end of a month-long show for me. I spend a month writing a novel in a community of like-minded individuals: talking through ideas; providing support and receiving it; generally socialising with people as mad as me...

The people are what make the month as important as it is. Just as with theatre, NaNo can expose deep emotions within those writers that partake in it, and I have formed bonds within that community as strong as any I have created in theatrical or other environments. I hold my NaNo family very close to my heart.

This year was a little different to my previous experiences as I was only in Toronto for half of the month, but I still managed to attend a couple of events, including the wonderful overnighter that the Toronto NaNo group holds - an event that runs from 10pm on the penultimate Saturday through to breakfast the next day. Equal parts social and write-in, it is thoroughly enjoyable, and was no less so this year.

I got some great feedback on The Puppet Master as well, which is helping me as I edit The Night Banks and in my work on the new novel. Sure, I did not hit my 100K goal, but I am delighted with the work I did. Speaking of The Puppet Master, competition winners will receive an e-mail from me before Friday.

I also managed to get my affairs fixed over there - to ship my possessions back over to England - quickly enough that I caught up with almost all of my old friends and met many new ones at the same time.

It never ceases to fascinate me how people communicate and connect - something I'm sure I will blog on in the future - and the fact that a single party (let alone the other get-togethers I went to) could introduce me to such a group of people that I already miss greatly, despite having met most of them once or twice at most, is wonderful.

Whether they were someone I travelled a few extra miles to see, someone I had known for years but ran out of time to catch up with, someone I met just once and look forward to seeing again, or someone in-between who left an indelible mark on me, every person contributed to make this such a fantastic trip. Thank you all, and I look forward to our next encounters.

I find myself wondering once again where my 'home' truly lies. I have said before, and will say again that home is where the heart is. In that case, my home is on two different continents and in four different cities.

Some people might argue that you can only have one home, but I find that communication and connections often create relationships with people and places that really blur the issue...

- David's final word count: 73, 637
- Toronto final word count: 33, 762, 929 (11th highest word count by NaNo region - London was 4th, after Germany, Seattle and Maryland)
- Final global word count (as of December 3rd): 2, 909, 151, 985 (that's almost 3 BILLION words worldwide)

NaNoWriMo'14 blog 5: Completion and not...

We are drawing towards the end of the 2014 NaNoWriMo, and I am both pleased with myself and a little disappointed in my NaNo efforts.

I've been in Canada since the 18th, spending a few days in Montreal and the rest of the time in Toronto. I had to come back to deal with some remaining admin from my time living here. However, it was also a wonderful opportunity to catch up with friends and old colleagues that I've not seen since April, or even longer.

My decision process as to whether I would return to live here again or not is a discussion that could take up an entire post and still not have a firm resolution. However, I have had the most wonderful week and a bit, and I still have a few days left. This, of course, is still my NaNo blog, so maybe I'll talk Canada later on.

Why am I pleased with myself? I finished the third book in the MSCE Investigation series! It has a working title, but I've since decided that it would suit the fourth book better, so I need to come up with another one. I finished it on day 20 this year, which I am very excited about. My next job is to finish editing The Night Banks, book 2, but that has to wait until after November.

That said, I'm disappointed because my word count has fallen off since I finished. I began book 4, but I had no idea of where it was going to go. The series was meant to be three books and, although I managed most of the key plot points I had planned, there is no way that the series could finish without a fourth novel. This left me completely stuck and at risk of knee-jerk reactions that would spoil the continuing story. So, I switched to short stories.

These have been going okay, but without the overarching goal, I've found myself meeting the wall that is writer's block. I am not happy with the work. I have been writing every day, but nowhere near even the NaNo target on most days, let alone my own.

The upshot is that I have left the NaNo target in the dust, but my own is now all but unreachable - I would have to write 7,000 words per day to hit 100,000 words. Very possible, and I could do it, but it is not the future words that disappoint me, but the chances I've had over the last few days that I have squandered.

As far as the future is concerned, I have work still to do here, and also I have met many new friends and still not seen a couple of old ones. I will add to that word count every day, little by little - I am about to do some work for today right now - but since I'm only here for a few more days, I have more important things to do than write.

David's word count (as of November 26th): 72,001
Global word count (as of 15:35 GMT on November 27th): 2, 419, 322, 052

P.S. Don't forget the competition to win one of 5 eBooks of The Puppet Master! Deadline is 23:59 GMT on November 30th. ENTER HERE!

COMPETITION: Win an eBook copy of The Puppet Master

Hello everyone! It's competition time. I said I would post this yesterday, but things got a little hectic with the Limitless concert, which was a fantastic evening - it raised over £300 for Parkinson's UK, by the way! - and then the London Underground was so messed up that I got home too late to post.

Anyway, to the matter in hand. As well as hopefully sharing some of the joy the NaNoWriMo gives me, I am also celebrating 100 followers for the Dragon Literature Facebook page and over 250 followers on Twitter. To that end, I am giving away 5 eBook copies of The Puppet Master. All you need to do to win one is to read the first chapter, which you can do by clicking here, read my NaNoWriMo blogs, and then get in contact with me using the form here.

Send me a message with the subject "Puppet Master Competition" and answer the following questions:

1) Ben Wattler was invited to a party that his wife would not let him go to. For whom is the party being thrown and what is the occasion?

2) I quoted Leonard Bernstein in my Toronto NaNo pep talk. He said that in order to do something amazing, you need to have two things: a plan, and what?

The deadline for entry is 23:59 GMT on November 30th. Five winning entries will be randomly selected after this. Winners will be notified within 5 days after the deadline, and will be sent instructions on how to download the eBook and a unique bookstub code for use on the Trafford website. In order to redeem the code, you will have to submit your name and e-mail address to Trafford Publishing, but you may opt out of receiving any marketing from them. You will be able to select which format of eBook you would like to receive. There is no alternative to the prize.

Your personal details will be used by me solely for the purpose of getting in touch if you are one of the five winners.

NaNoWriMo'14 blog 4: Targets

This is just a quick, probably rambling update, as it has been a long day!

I hit 50,000 words yesterday (by which I actually mean Friday, so I suppose the day before yesterday, given that it has passed midnight now). I managed it in 27 days in 2012 and 24 days in 2013, and this year I got there in 14! I am delighted with this, but it is only part of my journey. As I said before, I am aiming for 100,000 words in total.

I had a mammoth writing session to get up there, but I knew that this weekend was going to be busy doing other things. Sunday is the Limitless concert - see the page on my site for more info - and Saturday was the last rehearsal, and a very heavy day of preparation.

Nevertheless, I managed to write. I want to make sure that I do that every day of this month, no matter what happens. I had a couple of days over the previous years where I managed something like 47 words, but simply being able to say that I had made progress - even if it was just a couple of sentences - was important.

Today was the hardest day of writing yet. I had to force the words out. I suspect it is because my mind is on the concert, but that's okay. The most important thing for me is that I am still going. It looks as though the MSCE series, originally planned to be a trilogy, may end up as a quartet, however. I am nearing the denouement of this book, but I have a ways to go in the story.

There will be a more coherent update in a few days. Ciao for now.

David's word count: 52,360