INFECTED

We just completed our Infected campaign on Kickstarter, and it was a blast. Infected launched on Kickstarter the morning of March 28, 2017, and and fully funded within 3 hours. It went on to the #3 spot on Kickstarter's popular page, and raised almost $112,000 in funding in a 27 day campaign. You can view the Kickstarter campaign here.

I'm really looking forward to getting Infected to your table!

More about Infected:

The great Black Death has come to you in the Middle Ages, ravaging everyone you know. A Plague Doctor visits your village, promising help. Can you trust him, or will you be next?

Infected is a strategic, secret role, semi-cooperative, social tabletop card game with dice and a miniature.

13 Questions with Joan Lesley Hamilton, pseudonym William Sarabande

13 Questions with Joan Lesley Hamilton, writer behind the pseudonym William Sarabande and author of the internationally best selling eleven volume historical fiction series, The First Americans.

It's a great honor for me to be able to interact and communicate with Joan at this time. The First Americans is such an acclaimed series of books, well known for its accuracy to prehistoric times, and loved by its readers. The First Americans tells the story of first peoples coming to America in a bold move for survival. It's an amazing series of adventure in ancient times.

Joan is a historical novelist, and is now giving us insights into some of her thoughts and ideas.

1.  How did you get started writing?

A science teacher read an essay I’d written on geology and told me that I had a talent for “painting” images of the natural world and conveying my emotions about it with words; although I was majoring in Art, she encouraged me to rethink my major and take a class in Creative Writing.  I did.  And loved it!

2. Where did the character names come from in your "First Americans" series?

Finding the names was a challenge. The time frame of the first four novels placed my characters in a prehistoric world that predated any known language, and yet I wanted my readers to sense a connection with the roots of specific ancestral cultures that would later evolve in the areas I was describing. Having grown up in a theater family, I did a lot of role playing and sounding out vowel and consonant combinations until names eventually fell in place and sounded right to me. In later volumes, those dealing with Clovis and ancient Maritime traditions, many of the names were drawn from native American mythology which, I strongly believe, to be an oral tradition soundly and largely based on historical fact.

3. What initially drew you to this prehistoric time period?

Life is strange. Maybe it does flow in circles? When I finished WOLVES OF THE DAWN, a novel of ancient Celtic Britain, my publisher was so taken with the book that he told me he’d love to see me set my hand to developing a new novel on one of HIS favorite topics: the coming of early Man to Ice Age Alaska. I was stunned. This was a book concept I’d had simmering on a “back burner” for years and hadn’t shared with anyone, and he had no idea that my great great grandfather was the first unofficial governor of the Territory of Alaska . . . or that, when I was a kid growing up in LA, one of my favorite places was a stretch of lake and parkland on Wilshire Boulevard smack dab in the middle of the city - the La Brea Tar Pits. It was - and is - one of the largest Ice Age excavation sites in the world! And I loved it!  There are life-size statues of mammoths and other Ice Age megafauna all around. It was my favorite place to do my homework. As I said: life is strange and surely does seem to have brought me full circle. The creatures in the Ice Age world of my First Americans seem like old friends to me.  Bringing them to life in the imaginations of my readers has been a joy - and a privilege.

4. You've obviously done your research for your novels. Where do you find your best information? Any great resources you would recommend?

Museums. University libraries. And, of course, the Internet is a great asset. Many of my sources are referenced in my novels. Monographs of Nineteenth Century explorers are a treasure trove as are sources too often overlooked by Academia - elders in small country towns or on “the Res” who are versed in the stories and life ways of their own elders. Also, when I have questions that reading and leg work can’t put to rest, I’ll write or call a source directly: Dr. J. M. Adovasio, executive director of the Mercyhurst Archaeological Institute could not have been more gracious when it came to fielding my many queries about the Meadowcroft Rockshelter in Pennsylvania; Dr. Richard Michael Gramly, curator of the Great Lakes Artifact Repository Buffalo, New York, and Clovis Project director at the Richey Clovis Cache in Wenatchee, Washington even went so far as to send me what seemed his entire library of rare books on the Maritimes when I was blocking “Time Beyond Beginning” and “Spirit Moon”.

5. When you are outside in nature, do you feel stories coming to you? What inspires you to write these?

Yes. It’s really impossible to say just where inspiration comes from, save to say that I am immensely grateful for it and often deeply moved.

6. Is writer’s block something that you’ve come across yourself? If so, how did you get out of it?

Oh yeah! When on deadline I simply have to sit down and write and write and rewrite until I’ve worked through the dead zone.

7. Do you collect anything?

No. Not really. But “things” come to me from my readers, so my home has become a repository of some truly wonderful treasures.

8. It’s interesting to see how current research with DNA and new archaeological evidence changes what we know about the past. Is there any evidence that surprised you when you first discovered it?

Not yet! And I’ll be thrilled when it does! But I must admit that I have been surprised and delighted - and oh-so-relieved! - when my wild guesses have been proved right.

9. What museums have you visited or artifacts have you seen which featured Stone Age relics?

Too many to name! Recently, the First Nations Museum in Prince Rupert, Canada, had me literally on my knees with awe!

10. Who are your favorite authors, and do you read other historical fiction?

Loren Eisely. Gary Holstun Lopez. Carl Sagan. Thomas Cahill. John Steinbeck’s “To A God Unknown” is my favorite novel. And a good murder mystery is always a welcome diversion. I stay away from historical fiction.

11. When you aren’t writing, what are your favorite things to do?

Spend time with my two great kids. Invite friends over. Catch up on movies I’ve missed. Cut loose and drive up Coast Highway 1 here in California, no schedule, enjoying whatever comes, especially the sight of whales and orcas close to shore this year. Since I live in a four season mountain resort, in winter I’ll x-country ski a bit right out my back door when snow conditions allow. And now and then, I’ll do a little theater if the right part comes along.

12. Is there somewhere you would like to travel that you haven’t been to yet?

Too many places to name!

13. Finally, I read the exciting news where you mentioned you may be working on a novel set in the more distant past. Can you give us any more clues on this?

Not at this time.  But I am jazzed about it. And hope my readers will be, too!

I can't wait to see what Joan's new book is all about! She is creative beyond belief. You can follow her on Facebook so that you can keep up with information regarding her new book and other updates! - Bryan Sloan, Black Forest Studio

#joanlesleyhamilton, #williamsarabande, #firstamericans #historicalfiction #stoneage #iceage #writing #prehistory #clovis #labreatarpits #losangeles #california #prehistoric #archaeology #history #science

Electronic Games into Board Games

I’m a fan of games. Spending time with friends and family is important, and this is one way to do that. I like board games, parlor games (like mafia), playing cards (I’ve produced several decks on Kickstarter which were printed by USPCC and Bicycle branded), and video games. Games on phones can be a fun way to kill a few minutes if I have to wait around.

One strategic game that I discovered a couple of years ago is Plague Inc, by Ndemic Creations. In this game, you are a plague which is trying to infect the world. It’s a really infectious game (yes I did that) with a lot of strategy. New iterations including viruses, bacteria, apes, zombies, and other various sicknesses make the game a lot of fun while adding some unique twists and turns. You get to choose which country your infection starts in, and then the real work starts. Your infection grows in strength and ability, and it’s your job to infect every last human on earth. Fun, I know.

But how many electronic games make good board games? From my experience so far, the best board games don’t come from electronic games. But this one might be different. Plague Inc is actually a project on Kickstarter right now, and I think it’s worth taking a look at. I just backed it because the company who made the game for my iPhone has done such a great job supporting it that I think they’ll continue to do a great job with this game. I’ll look forward to playing it after the months it will take to manufacture it.

What do you think? Do video games and other electronic games make good board games?

Emotional IQ Card Back Design Process

I would love share with you the thought that went into the back designs for the cards in Emotional IQ, which is now on Kickstarter:  https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/blackforeststudio/emotional-iq-a-party-game-of-your-brain-vs-your-mo

 As a game, I wanted the design to be simple, colorful, clean, and effective. With only 2 card backs to design, I wanted them to work together, but to look different. I also needed to keep in mind that some people are affected by color blindness, so I couldn’t simply change colors within the same design.

I created something that would work on a micro and macro level. First, for the Emotion card, I wanted something that could express a multitude of colors, just as our Emotions could be varied. For this design, I used both hot and cold colors to reflect the variance of our own changing Emotions. One thing that is innate to us is the ability to read each other’s eyes to a degree. I designed the Emotion card to be an ultra-close up abstract interpretation of an eye.

To take you back to science class, the black circle in the middle is the pupil, the color outside of that (I have blue eyes) is the iris, and the white portion is the sclera.  The red outside of that is what happens when you have children.

For the back of the Sentence card, I wanted to think wider. The yellow circle on the Sentence card is shared with the yellow from the Emotion card. This brings them both together. But there is a long black rectangular shape on the Sentence card which “blocks” you from reading the Sentence. When you turn the card to the Sentence side, the black shape is “removed” with the Sentence now being visible, and the yellow Sentence portion and text remaining.

This way, the cards have some cohesiveness in the game, but are different enough so that you know to take 1 of each while playing.

Now that you know the ideas behind the cards, what do you think? 

13 Questions with Lorenzo Gaggiotti

I was fortunate enough to grab some time from Lorenzo Gaggiotti, an amazing artist living in Sweden. I love seeing custom playing cards, and he is one of the absolute best. His cards are known for astounding attention to detail, and are printed by USPCC (Bicycle) as well as EPCC. Some of his well known decks include Requiem, Heretic, and No. 17.  Among other things, he is currently working on 2 new decks, including Gemini and Ravn.

Some detail from Lorenzo's Requiem cards

Some detail from Lorenzo's Requiem cards

Where do you draw your inspiration for your designs?

When we talk about my designs, inspiration comes when I see something that somebody already made/created. Sometimes the work of other artists give me inspiration to start a project or a learning path. It's not copying; it's channeling the energy of a specific piece of art or design. Then I elaborate it, and I release something that has got the same energy, even though the design is totally different. The “wow factor” is an emotion that I want to feel when I finalize my designs.

How long does it take to come up with a design?

A fully custom deck might take up to 4 months if I frequently work on it. But it's not just drawing directly on Photoshop; I do a lot of sketches and studies on paper, and there is a lot of waiting time before I finalize a design. This is because I need to look at the drawings with “fresh eyes”, spot the mistakes and what needs to be changed.

My favorite card deck is Requiem. The individual detail is amazing. What do each of your decks represent?

Thank you, very glad that you like it... Requiem was a special project. They are all different among each other. The theme and the styles are different. Above the theme and the style of the illustrations, there is my will of doing something special, something that tells a story. What I like most is to make people curious and wonder what those drawings, symbols, and Latin texts mean.

When did you realize that you needed to create art?

I do not have a date. I have been drawing since I was able to keep a pencil in my hand. It is something automatic and instinctive that just happens in a spontaneous and natural way.

What kind of creative routines or patterns do you have, if any?

Once I get inspiration or an idea, I start a long period of research before I start drawing. I read and find pictures related to that theme or idea. I collect a lot of material for additional inspiration and I start doing some sketches. Then the design phase comes; it's when I decide how things will be, to keep them consistent among each other. If things do not work, I start over. The final part is making what you see on the cards, but even when I think I am done with the entire design, I let it “rest” for a few weeks. There is a final phase dedicated only to small changes, tweaks and improvements.

What is your favorite morning drink?

Coffee of course.

When do you get your greatest ideas?

My ideas come when I see or observe something that impresses me or makes me curious. It can be something from the internet as something I see in when I am out in town, or on a trip. It can be a theme, a story, an object, or something mysterious I want to know more about. I am attracted by the unknown and the mysterious aura around astrology, alchemy, legends, mythology, sacred geometry, and magic.

What’s your favorite thing that you’ve created?

I think that Heretic Playing Cards is my favorite one.

What artistic medium have you not pursued yet that you would like to pursue?

I just started to learn calligraphy. I've always been into lettering and fonts and I don't know why I waited so long before buying a calligraphy pen and started practicing.

Do you have any good advice to others who wish to produce creative projects and other art?

TIME. It takes time to create something good, interesting and attractive. Even the most expert designer knows that each project has got its own path that takes time and evolution. Rome wasn't built in a day.

Other than that it is important to have developed skills and education. A deck of playing cards – in my case – takes 3 months to be made, but at the same time it already took 15-20 years of hard work and practice.

What artists do you admire?

Putting aside Leonardo Da Vinci, I'll give you a few names from different artistic fields.

Painting: Alphonse Mucha (1860-1939),

Comics: Milo Manara and Masamune Shirow

Illustration: McBess and Blu

Sculpture: Miguel Ortiz Berrocal (1933-2006)

and at least 200 more names

Do you collect anything?

Not really, even though I have about 200 decks of playing cards from Kickstarter!

Where would you like to travel that you haven’t been yet?

Iceland and Japan are on the list.

**

Make sure to check out Lorenzo's upcoming projects!

by Bryan Sloan, Black Forest Studio

13 Questions with Death Wish Coffee

My morning started as usual. NEED CAFFEINE IN THE FORM OF COFFEE!  I’m a dark roast guy, and I grind fresh coffee each morning before it goes into my French Press. You can’t beat it. I recently searched for some new coffee, and came across Death Wish Coffee, the #1 Best Seller in Coffee Beverages on Amazon.com. Wait, THE #1?  Yes.  I ordered a pound of coffee and loved every ounce. But something amazing happened when my coffee arrived in the mail. The packaging happened. I opened my Amazon box, and every part of my creative juices loved what was inside. The label was big and bold, just like the coffee. I immediately reached out to Death Wish Coffee for an interview, as packaging and marketing is as much about the product as the coffee bean. Soon after, Death Wish also won a Super Bowl commercial! What?! Yes they did, so stay tuned for the big game and watch them as they blow up this year. Below is my interview with Kane Grogan of Death Wish Coffee, who says he has been drinking coffee since his late teens, so he knows a thing or two.

1.       How did you get started?

Owner Mike Brown owned a coffee shop and people kept asking for the strongest coffee they had. After a quick Google search, we discovered there was nothing for the world’s strongest coffee so it was an untapped market. We saw an opportunity and seized it.

2.       Who is the marketing genius?

We all help with the marketing. Initially it was all Mike, but we have all worked as a team to blow this thing up.

3.       I bought a 1 pound bag of coffee beans, and I loved opening the box. It also came with the sticker that I can throw on my laptop, which is cool. Everything about the packaging was awesome. How did you come up with that?

We are on a never ending journey on bringing the best package to your door step. We definitely want you to feel like you’re opening up something special every time you get package from us in the mail. We include some really neat freebies from time to time as well, so it definitely pays to be on our mailing list.

4.       Why was it so important for you to create coffee that was Fair Trade and organic?

On top of delivering bad ass, caffeinated coffee, we didn’t want to sell a gimmick. We wanted top notch, high quality beans. We also care about the farms we source our beans as it is a pretty cut throat industry and there are definitely some places that exploit their farmers pretty seriously. Having it be Fair Trade and Organic ensures we are delivering the best possible product.

5.       How did you get to be the best-seller on Amazon?

Anyone can sell on Amazon, and luckily we have a product that sells itself. We’ve been blessed to be able to work with Amazon directly, as they can offer things we can’t on our website such as free (prime) or expedited shipping. A lot of people use Amazon exclusively so it just kind of grew and grew. It even out performs our site sometimes, which is huge.

6.       Who is your coffee for?

Our coffee is for anyone who wants to really enjoy good coffee. There is a lot of bad coffee out there. We deliver a very strong, smooth blend that doesn’t come with the bitter, burnt taste. Our coffee is for the go-getter who wants to get stuff done and isn’t afraid to take risks.

7.       Any plans for new types of coffee?

We experiment a lot. Innovation is one of our favorite parts of the process. We have done a lot of barrel aging beans in whiskey and rum barrels to get it different flavors. We have experimented with different natural types of flavoring (most flavored coffee on the market uses a lot of chemicals) so stay tuned for seasonal blends.

8.       Any store openings planned?

At this time, we aren’t interested in having a Death Wish store, but we are trying to find ways to set up distribution with chains across the country so stay tuned for that!

9.       What can you share with us regarding future plans?

Beyond getting into stores on a national level, we have some cool things coming up. We have a vodka coming out with Albany Distilling Co. which is VERY tasty and we have some exciting announcements with the comic book community. Oh, we also won a SUPER BOWL COMMERCIAL! No big deal…

10.   Who is your favorite soccer team?

Team USA!

11.   Where did you get the inspiration for your coffee name?

Mike wanted coffee so strong it needed a warning and Death Wish just seemed to fit the best.

12.   Do you collect anything?

I collect bad habits and then collect ways to break them.

13.   Is there somewhere you would like to travel that you haven’t been to yet?

I would love to go to so many places and Death Wish is starting to allow me to go to places for work which is truly a blessing. I’d love to spend more time out west and also Europe. New Zealand is definitely up there.

***

Thank you Death Wish Coffee! I’m pumped about your new plans, and I’m looking forward to trying out the Valhalla Java next.

by Bryan Sloan, Black Forest Studio

The importance of playing games in-person

In our digital age, it seems we are still able to lose touch with each other. It’s more important now than ever not to just “stay in contact” by looking at our phones, but to have some actual face time with our friends and family. That’s why I think analog games, meaning board games, playing cards, and other parlor games we play with each other are so important.

Skills we learn include people reading, negotiation, and simply getting along. I’m not saying it isn’t ok to put up a trade embargo against someone who only needs 2 more Victory Points to win Settlers of Catan – I mean that it’s important to spend time with 3 dimensional people who breathe the same oxygen we do.

This short video below by Start Rite is an interview with children who feel ignored by their parents who spend too much time on their phones, leaving the kids feeling disregarded or unimportant.

https://youtu.be/xzIKphe9ZVM

During the video, a young girl says how she wishes she could play a board game with her parent, but the parent is otherwise too busy.

Do you think this digital age, while trying to connect us, is tearing away those who are closest to us?

by Bryan Sloan, Black Forest Studio