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Posts Tagged ‘Star Trek Adventures’

Reaching a crisis point

February 29, 2020 5 comments

For the past few years, I’ve been caught in a pattern I don’t know how to get out of.

Before then, for more than a decade, I managed to get by modestly on my income from Star Trek novels and occasional original fiction. So I settled for being a full-time writer and didn’t try very hard to pursue alternatives. Then Pocket Books’s Trek license came up for renewal and was badly delayed, so for more than a year I wasn’t getting Trek work. I kept being told it would resolve fairly soon, and I was expecting income from several other sources that I was told would pay off fairly soon, so I just waited for those payoffs, and they all improbably got delayed at once, so I ended up very nearly broke, coming close to the brink of not being able to pay my rent or my bills anymore.

Eventually, I got help from family and from reader donations, and then Trek contracts started to come through again, but even those advances were not frequent or large enough to do more than let me ease away from the brink for a few months and then wind up back on the edge before I could find other work. Because I’ve been a full-time writer so long, I never developed the skill of looking for other kinds of work. I’ve gotten a few interviews here and there, but none have led to a job.

All of this, I realize, has left me suffering from depression, something I’ve been wrestling with on and off all my life. The closer I get to the brink, the worse my depression and anxiety become, which makes it harder to look for work or find solutions. I keep hoping a new Star Trek contract will come through in time and give me enough of  a financial cushion to find a more lasting solution. But depression doesn’t go away that easily. Every time I do get a novel advance or a loan, I try to take some time to recover emotionally and work on my writing for a while, thinking “It’s okay, I have some time before I have to start seriously looking for other kinds of work.” But because depression makes it harder to work, I always take longer than I expected and lose track of time. And I always underestimate how quickly I’m losing money, because I keep forgetting to account for the massive credit card fees that effectively cancel out my efforts to pay down my debt. And once I notice that I’m too close to the brink again, I start panicking again, and the cycle continues.

I’ve known for a while now that I had to stop depending on Star Trek alone as my lifeline. I needed to reorient my life and find some stability, and just get out of this rut I’ve been in for years. But I was slow to act on that, clinging to the hope that rescue would come in the nick of time as it has so many times before. (Being depressed is weird. I keep bouncing back and forth between “I hate being trapped in this rut and need to make a change!” and “I’m afraid to change anything, I just want to stay in my rut where it’s safe.”)

Now, though, I know that’s not going to happen. I assume that, with fewer Trek novels per year these days, and with the uncertainty resulting from the new Trek shows and the re-merger of CBS and Viacom, I can’t rely on Trek offers coming my way like clockwork, and can’t pin my hopes on something materializing just in time. It’s already too late for that now, with tax time looming. I’ve feared this for years, but have still clung to the old way and just hoped things would go back to the way they were somehow. And as a result, I now find myself at a crisis point where I have to change.

Even before I recognized this, I’d begun making some efforts to look for work. I’ve continued to submit game outlines to Star Trek Adventures and I’ve been working on those, but they pay a lot less than a novel and I have to wait for approval. I’ve made a connection that could potentially lead to other tie-in work, but I’m still waiting for an opening to emerge. I have my Kickstarter coming up for Arachne’s Crime sometime soon, but I don’t expect the royalties from the novel or its sequel to be anywhere near the size of a tie-in advance. I’ve joined an online audio transcription service, though it’s turned out to pay hardly anything. I’ve applied to work for the 2020 Census — no reply yet. This past week I found a temp agency that specializes in creative work and signed up for it, hoping that its agents would help me find work since I’m so bad at looking for it myself; but it turned out that it’s more just an online job alert service that informs me of opportunities to apply for, and I’m still waiting for results. Last night I thought I’d found a good option in a freelancer service called Upwork, but on further examination, it seems I’d have to pay to make bids for work with no guarantee of a return on my investment.

It’s not all bad news. I’ve actually made a few hundred bucks this past week or so, helping to stem my losses slightly. I got paid for a bit of Star Trek Adventures writing that I did last year but can’t announce yet. I got a refund on the last monthly bill I paid after I cancelled my cable, which I was apparently charged in error. And I finally got some overdue Only Superhuman royalties that had fallen through the cracks. But it’s not nearly enough, especially with tax time looming in six weeks or so.

The realization that this time I’m definitely not getting a new Trek contract in the nick of time has been terrifying. When it finally hit me, my depression and anxiety reached levels I don’t think I’ve felt since an epic bout of unrequited love back in college 30 years ago. I’ve been going through ups and downs since then, and I’m hampered by the fact that every time I try to confront the situation to look for a solution, it just brings back my anxiety and makes it harder. (I got maybe 3 hours of sleep last night, tops.)

I know this is a very personal thing to broadcast to my fans, but I realized I need to talk about this for my own mental health. I need to share it with someone, and because of my (inherited) proclivities toward depression and self-isolation, I don’t really have any family or good friends close at hand to unload my burdens on, and haven’t done enough to cultivate what local friendships I do have. I’m not always comfortable talking on the phone, I never got the hang of texting, and I’m too broke to go out much, so my online life is really the only way I have of reaching out to friends and family. And my fans have been a great comfort to me these past few years, through your generosity and patience. You’ve been part of my support structure too, and I’m very grateful. (But I’d be glad to hear from any family and friends who wanted to reach out more privately.)

I’ve been giving serious thought to starting a Patreon page. That way, instead of periodically and haphazardly begging for donations all at once, I could offer my fans regular new material in exchange for small, regular monthly donations. It seems a natural thing to migrate my movie and TV reviews there and start monetizing them. (There is a way to add a Patreon plug-in to an existing WordPress blog like this one, but I’d have to upgrade and pay a fee, and I don’t know if I’d make enough profit to offset that.) I’d also try to offer original fiction content alongside the reviews. I have a few unpublished stories I could premiere there, along with my three published but uncollected stories, and maybe some deleted scenes from Only Superhuman, worldbuilding notes, behind-the-scenes stuff like that. I think I might have enough to provide fairly regular content for several months, and if that were profitable, it would hopefully give me time and incentive to create new reviews and original fiction for the platform on an ongoing basis. My fans have been so generous with your donations that I hope a lot of you would be willing to invest a few dollars per month to read my reviews, original fiction, essays, and the like.

But again, getting a Patreon page up and running and earning a profit would take time, and wouldn’t help enough in the immediate term to get me through tax time. It’s the same boat I’ve been in for years — none of the plans I’ve already made or can make going forward will pay off soon enough.

In the meantime, I’m always open for reader donations, and my book sale and naming rights bonus offer are still on. I hate having to keep pleading to my fans and offering so little in return, which is why I’m hoping to make the jump to Patreon. But I’m hopeful that by now I’ve planted enough seeds that something will start paying off soon and finally help me get out of this rut over the months ahead. It’s just that, one more time (and hopefully for the last time), I need some extra help staying afloat until they can.

STAR TREK ADVENTURES: STOLEN LIBERTY is out

November 14, 2019 5 comments

Today’s the release date for my fourth standalone Star Trek Adventures PDF campaign and my fifth STA campaign overall: Stolen Liberty.

STA Stolen Liberty coverWill Your Crew Dare to Break the Prime Directive?

“This is Interlunar Probe Twelve. We are in immediate distress. We are caught in Zafrel’s gravity well. Our orbit is decaying into its outer atmosphere and we are unable to generate sufficient thruster power to break free. We are in full eclipse from Jinidar and unable to contact Master Control. If any other listener is somehow able to receive this message, please respond and advise! Repeat, this is Interlunar Probe Twelve…”

When the crew responds to a call for help, they soon find themselves faced with an ethical dilemma. Does the crew hold to the Federation principles of non-interference, or break regulations to provide assistance?

This standalone 19-page PDF adventure by Christopher L. Bennett is for the Star Trek Adventures Roleplaying Game and is set during The Next Generation era. This adventure also contains advice for adaptation for use in campaigns based in other Star Trek eras.

Stolen Liberty is available as a downloadable PDF at the following links:

The tagline is pretty similar to the one they used for The Gravity of the Crime, but rest assured this is a very different Prime Directive story, more global in its stakes. It’s also a story I’ve had in mind for a long, long time, a concept I initially developed for my original fiction decades ago, and then reworked into a Star Trek: Voyager pitch back when I took a couple of stabs at trying to write for that show. (It may have been a TNG pitch before then, but I don’t quite recall.) I’m glad I finally got the chance to dust it off and do something with it.

So as of now, all of my completed STA campaigns have finally been published. But I have some new pitches currently awaiting approval, so I’m not done with STA yet.

STA: STRANGE NEW WORLDS MISSION COMPENDIUM is out (plus a blog article)!

STA Strange New WorldsToday’s the day! Star Trek Adventures: Strange New Worlds: Mission Compendium Volume 2 is out now, containing nine missions focused on literal “strange new worlds” — exotic environments and settings for STA players to explore. I wrote one of the nine, The Whole of the Law, involving an artificial world with a dual personality.

To quote from the Modiphius press release:

Star Trek Adventures: Strange New Worlds is available in print and PDF on Modiphius.net as part of our Star Trek Adventures Collection

It’s also available in PDF only on DriveThruRPG.com.

Meanwhile, the Modiphius site has just published a blog piece they asked me to write, talking about my creative process in devising game ideas, and the challenge of creating character-driven stories with no idea who the characters will be.

The book looks good in the preview images, and I look forward to getting my print copy.

STAR TREK ADVENTURES: New campaign now out, two more on the way!

UPDATE 10/18: By an unfortunate coincidence, my STA campaign Hard Rock Catastrophe came out just days after a fatal collapse at a Hard Rock Hotel under construction in New Orleans. It’s been decided that we should change the title for the sake of sensitivity, and I apologize that we didn’t catch this sooner. Hopefully we’ll have the new title sorted out within the next few days.

I’m pleased to announce that today is the release date for my third Star Trek Adventures RPG standalone campaign: Hard Rock Catastrophe, my first STA campaign set during the Original Series era. Here’s the official description:

STA Hard Rock CatastropheUnlock the Mystery of the Rock Creatures!

“Captain’s Log, Stardate 8054.1. We have received a distress call from Rikyu, an independent Saurian colony beyond the Federation border. Planetary governor T’Rimushei is requesting assistance with a natural disaster endangering the planet’s cities, although she was vague on the specifics of the threat. The Saurians are famously self-reliant, so it could be that the governor was embarrassed to ask for help – but I got the impression that she didn’t think we would believe her if she told us more.”

This standalone 22-page PDF adventure by Christopher L. Bennett is for the Star Trek Adventures Roleplaying Game and is set during the Original Series era. This adventure also contains advice for adaptation for use in campaigns based in other Star Trek eras.

Can your crew solve the mystery behind the apparent invasion of giant monsters and stop them before the colony is destroyed?

Hard Rock Catastrophe is available as a downloadable PDF at the following links:

Yes, that’s right — I found a way to tell a kaiju story in Star Trek. You could say it was a… “Passion” project. After the psychological thriller of Call Back Yesterday and the murder mystery of The Gravity of the Crime, Hard Rock Catastrophe is a full-bore action blockbuster which I hope will be great fun for STA players. After my first few pitches were approved, I actually tried to write this one first because I had so much fun with the idea; but the action and logistics proved too big and difficult for me to tackle first time out, so I needed to do a couple of other campaigns first to get the hang of the game mechanics.

Note that there’s a typo in the early release, though a fix is on the way and will be pushed through to all buyers once it’s made. It’s entirely my own fault; I accidentally duplicated Governor T’Rimushei’s Values in the stats for Doctor K’Manehai. If anyone wants to play the campaign before the fix comes through, substitute the following Values for K’Manehai:

  • Science Is My Passion
  • All Creatures Have a Right to Exist

STA Strange New Worlds Mission CompendiumWe also have confirmed release dates at last for my remaining two STA campaigns. Star Trek Adventures: Strange New Worlds: Mission Compendium Vol. 2, containing nine missions including one by me, will be released a week from now, on October 24. And my fourth standalone PDF campaign, “Stolen Liberty,” will be released on November 14.

So every STA game campaign I’ve written so far will be out by a month from now. But don’t worry — I’ve already done a bit more writing for STA and submitted a few more game pitches just yesterday. This is starting to look like a steady gig…

I need a job!

October 14, 2019 2 comments

Remember how I recently vagueblogged about getting some bad news in the mail that I assumed was a mistake? Turns out it wasn’t a mistake — or rather, it was my mistake. Because I tried to save money by doing my own taxes this year, I missed a pretty huge step, and it turns out that I owe much more in taxes than I actually paid. And any prior notifications of my tax debt were apparently lost in the mail, so the first I heard of it was a final warning. This was not a scam; I consulted with the people who usually do my taxes, hoping they could confirm it was a mistake of some kind, but they determined that the mistake was mine and the debt is real.

Which is awful timing, since I don’t currently have a book contract or any steady work. Even if a new contract comes my way very soon, which I hope it does, I can’t be sure how long it’ll be before my next advance. I have picked up some new work with Star Trek Adventures, which will help over time, but it’s probably not enough for my short-term needs, especially with this added tax debt.

So I need to find some kind of part-time work that will help tide me over for now. It’s something I should’ve done well before now, but unfortunately I’m very bad at job-hunting, since I’ve been managing as a full-time freelancer for so long. Plus I’ve been going through bouts of depression as a result of my money problems, which just make it harder for me to get up the courage to look for new work and thus worsen my money problems and my depression. It got really bad last week, since I got sick and was stuck inside and didn’t get much sunlight or exercise. Luckily I went for a good long walk yesterday and I’m feeling better now. Still, I need to break out of this rut I’ve been in. I’m really grateful to my fans who’ve helped keep me afloat with donations over the past year or two, but I can’t keep depending on your generosity. (Although of course my book sale is still going on.)

So I’m putting this out to my colleagues and friends in the industry — if anyone has any work for me, something that can earn me a decent amount of money in the short term rather than months from now, please contact me. Or if any of my friends in the Cincinnati area can offer me or point me toward some part-time or seasonal work, let me know. I’m good at writing or copyediting, I have a lot of experience as a reviewer here on my blog, I’d be open to transcription or data entry work (especially if it’s from home), and I have library and bookstore experience. My resume is here.

Rough week, but some good news

Well, this has not been a great couple of weeks for me. Let’s see… I was feeling sick last week and not up to much of anything. I therefore put off getting groceries for a while, and when I finally felt well enough to drive to the store… I found my car battery had died. So I had to walk to the store instead. I think I waited another day, but I don’t quite recall — it’s a bit of a blur. Also, I somehow lost my receipt on the way home. I had to check my bank account online to find out how much I’d spent.

I’ve glimpsed three roaches or similar large bugs crawling around my bathroom and kitchen over the last week, the first time I’ve had any in quite a while. It gave me an incentive to finally put down a new set of plastic roach bait traps. On the upside, somehow I find my phobia about insects seems to have gotten a little milder, so I reacted to the bugs merely as an annoyance to be dealt with aggressively than as the catalyst of a borderline panic attack. (When I saw the second one, I happened to be carrying a heavy hardcover book. Fortunately the dust jacket proved easy to wash off afterward.)

Anyway, while moving the range and butcher block cabinet (I think that’s what it’s called) around to place the traps, I failed to notice that a glass pot lid was precariously placed. It’s the second piece of kitchen glassware I’ve accidentally shattered in the past month, and the third in the past six months or so. (The first was a Pyrex measuring cup that I’ve since replaced. The second was my last remaining tumbler of a set of four, the main one I used every day since it was the best one I had.) Now I no longer have a lid that fits my large saucepan. And I really wish the engineers would hurry up with developing shatterproof consumer glassware. Or softer kitchen floors.

There’s one more worrisome thing I’d rather not go into detail on since it’s finance-related, but it involves getting something in the mail yesterday that was very alarming to read until I figured out that it had to be a computer error or mixup of some sort, something sent to me by mistake or through a miscalculation, since it’s evidently not a scam but there’s no possible way it could genuinely apply to me. I just hope I can convince the relevant parties of that. I’ve reached out to someone that I hope can provide help or guidance, but I’m still waiting for a reply, and they might not be available right away.

Anyway, I put off dealing with the car because I was just too overwhelmed by all this stuff piling on at once, and I decided to focus on getting some work done on a thing I’m doing for Star Trek Adventures, one of the few bits of good news going on right now. Today, though, I managed both to make significant progress on that STA project and to take my car in to the garage, thanks to a helpful neighbor who gave me a jump start. Apparently the previous battery was kinda cheap and defective, but the guy had the right kind in stock and was able to replace it in a matter of minutes. I wish I hadn’t had to spend so much on it, but it could’ve been worse, and at least I got that off my list of worries, as well as returning some library videos that were due today. So I’m feeling somewhat better today than yesterday.

STA Strange New Worlds Mission CompendiumThe main bit of good news I have to report is that we finally have a firm release date for Star Trek Adventures: Strange New Worlds: Mission Compendium Vol. 2, for which I wrote one of the adventure scenarios. It’s been pushed back several times from its originally expected release date in August, but it’s now solidly on track for a November release, and it’ll be available for order on Modiphius.net as of October 24. There will be a formal press release coming soon, and I’ll post when it’s available.

In the meantime, I’ll be finishing up that other STA thing, and then finishing up a story I’m planning to submit to an open-call anthology. Then I’ll have to see about finding some other work to tide me over until my next Trek novel contract. Maybe I can get some seasonal work in a bookstore or something.

Interview with STAR TREK ADVENTURES manager Jim Johnson

September 10, 2019 1 comment

Morning, folks. Here’s a new interview with Jim Johnson, the editor — and now line manager, congratulations, Jim — who brought me in to write for Star Trek Adventures. If you haven’t tried the game, Jim explains the basics of how it works and how to get into it, and talks a bit about how he’s recruited authors like me.

Interview: STAR TREK ADVENTURES Manager Jim Johnson

 

In other news, the Strange New Worlds mission compendium, for which I contributed one of the adventures, is still running behind the expected release date, but it and my remaining two PDF campaigns should be arriving sometime this fall, possibly October. Stay tuned. And don’t worry, I have a standing invitation to pitch more games, though I have to think of some first.