Wednesday, January 28, 2015

I Do Not Write Award-Winning Short Fiction

...and I don't expect I will for several more years, if ever. I'm just not that kind of writer! (He said coquettishly, batting his eyelashes.) But it does seem to be that time of the year, and it'll be a nice retrospective if nothing else.

I had two short stories and one novelette published last year, including my first SFWA-qualifying professional sale:

  • "Zugzwang" (SF short story) in Daily Science Fiction, magazine edited by Michele-Lee Barasso and Jonathan Laden, September 19, 2014
  • "Making Waves" (horror short story) in SNAFU: An Anthology of Military Horror, anthology edited by Geoff Brown, July, 2014
  • "Somebody's Daughter" (SF novelette) in Leading Edge Issue 65, magazine edited by Diane Cardon, January, 2014

I suppose Thursday's Children: Flash Fiction from 512 Words or Fewer is also technically eligible, but I have no idea what category that would be. More to the point, nobody cares about a self-published short fiction collection.

I'm not fronting humility here. My work last year was nowhere near the best that the field had to offer. Have you read "As Good As New" by Charlie Jane Anders or "The Hymn of Ordeal, No. 23" by Rhiannon Rasmussen or "Brute" by Rich Larson or "Tasting Gomoa" by Chinelo Onwualu or "Con/Game" by Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang?

And that's just the tip of the iceberg, dude. My potatoes are the smallest.

So if you're attending Sasquan, or a current Active or Associate members of SFWA, please go nominate someone else for the Hugos and Nebulas, respectively. Here are just a few links to get you started:

Exercise for the reader: Do a Google search for "award eligible work 2014" and see what else turns up. Add the name of your favorite author/editor/artist for possibly better results!


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

I am no longer the President

...of "Team Snout." But I am still the Captain of Team Snout. Confused? I'll explain.

My wife and I and our friends started running Stanford-style puzzle hunts, which were then known as "The Game," way back in 2001. At first it was all completely unofficial, and we never took in very much money in registration fees—all we wanted was to cover our material constructions costs. We didn't charge our players for our time and labor, or for any of the scouting, prototyping, or other exploratory work we did before calling a "go" and announcing the event. It was all for fun.

Then, in 2006, we got ambitious: we decided to put on a Harry Potter-themed event, including booking train rides to and from the event and making a freaking magic wand. This was going to cost a lot more than any of our previous Games. In fact, the overall budget was over $25,000, which also covered van rentals for every team and several meals along the way.

Boring tax information follows: If any one person on the team were to report that income on their personal tax returns (and yes, you do have to report all income, even if you spend it later—that's what "gross" means, and that's why you're taxed on the salary you eventually spend on rent and groceries and cats and Netflix), they'd be over the allowed "hobby income" deduction percentage (I think it's about 2% of AGI) and would have to pay several thousand dollars in additional taxes. And that's just not cool. (ETA: OK, so I don't really understand all the tax stuff. Ask DeeAnn if you want to know the details.)

The solution: we formed an unincorporated association in the state of California and registered it as an educational non-profit "to bring together those who are interested in... puzzle hunts, and to increase public awareness of the sport... by producing puzzle hunts." If you're interested, you can read the full Articles of Association for Team Snout (revised 2009).

And that worked really well. We were able to open a separate bank account for Game-related funds and file a separate tax return for the association. We hit a couple of bureaucratic hiccups along the way, but managed to defend our non-profit status and avoid paying the annual business/corporation fees (something like $800 in California). We ran two more Games after Hogwarts—Midnight Madness and WarTron—and co-sponsored several Game Control Summits with Shinteki.

However, now that DeeAnn and I—two out of three of the association's officers—no longer live in California, we've re-focused our Game-running efforts on other events and activities (Puzzled Pint, for one). The puzzling landscape has also changed significantly in the last few years, with escape rooms gaining popularity and weekend-long hunts declining. And there's always been name confusion, since we played Games as Team Snout before forming the association named "Team Snout" to run Games. To be frank, we've never been very diligent about the official-ness of it. It's all just for fun.

Last year, at our annual business meeting, we voted to dissolve the "Team Snout" association and follow the model used by many other groups and businesses who run events: to form up a legal entity when needed for a specific event, then disband afterward. We just weren't doing enough, continuously, to justify the additional overhead of maintaining the association.

Thanks to Bran McMillin for the modified logo :)

So "Team Snout" is no more. (I will continue to use the "Snout" name for personal purposes, as I have in the past, and hopefully remove some of the confusion that's existed around this.) We've donated our remaining funds—just over $1,000—to Elevate Tutoring, Bob Schaffer's California educational non-profit group, which continues to run puzzle hunts. You know, like ETPH3 - Zara's Big Adventure, which happens on January 31st and February 8th and can also be played online. Go check it out!

I can only speak for myself, but I was very happy with all we did as "Team Snout" and were able to do because we were an association. DeeAnn and I certainly learned a lot about forming legal entities, and if we ever decide we want to do it again for something else, we'll have the benefit of experience to help us get started. (Along those lines, if anyone has legal or tax questions about their own hobby groups, feel free to ask!)

What's next? Well, we and our many cohorts will continue to run Puzzled Pint, which may be adding two more cities in the next few months. Crazy! And I may have other big news to share soon, but let's not count our dinosaurs before they've hatched.


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

SnoutCast #213: Team Snout is Dead. Long Live Team Snout!

This is the end: after more than four years of lackadaisical podcasting, DeeAnn and I are hanging up our... microphones? headsets? I dunno. Anyway, we're stopping now. It's been fun, but it's time to move on. (This also coincides with the dissolution of our California non-profit association, which we talk about in the show.)

Thank you to everyone who listened, commented, or supported us in other ways for the duration of this endeavor. We got to talk to some really cool people, and managed to spark some great conversations. We learned a lot, and we hope we gave you something to think about along the way.

Don't worry, we are going to continue running puzzle events—honestly, it's pathological at this point—and you'll definitely hear about them (figuratively) on the Internet. But we'll do it under other names which are more suited to the specific event. Those names may or may not include the word "Snout." Always in motion is the future and shit.

Here's one last overshare: our podcast planning spreadsheet! Note that the proposed "topic notes" don't always match what we actually ended up talking about... 0Aj84p6-RxYgWdHRYVVlyT3pmM3EwYkxEOFhkRkV5Y1E& usp=sharing

Finally: we forgot to mention in the podcast that as part of closing down "Team Snout," we donated our remaining funds to Elevate Tutoring, another California non-profit which regularly runs puzzle hunts. Go check out their latest event, ETPH3 - Zara's Big Adventure, happening on January 31st and February 8th!

Thanks again, everyone. Run More Games.

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Show length: 35:21
File size: 33MB

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Music: instrumentals from "Code Monkey" and "Tom Cruise Crazy" by Jonathan Coulton

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Curtis DeeAnn

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

I Spend a Lot of Time Dealing with Puzzles

I'm not complaining, mind you. I enjoy making puzzle games and running events. But here's a snapshot of my hours worked, from January 2014 to early October:

(Blurred-out names indicate personal and/or secret projects)

I spent the most work time rewriting Waypoint Kangaroo, the novel which went out on submission in mid-October, but as you can see, the second-biggest time slice (nearly 18%) is Puzzled Pint.

That's not surprising; in addition to our Portland Game Control meetings almost every week, PP grew to twelve(!) cities last year, which meant a lot more organizational overhead. It's fun, but also a lot of work.

So what keeps me interested in PP, or the JoCo Cruise puzzle hunts we've been running since 2011, or any of the other volunteer events on which we spend dozens of hours and hundreds of dollars of our own money every year?

If you've ever listened to SnoutCast, you know we practice what we preach: RUN MORE GAMES. Puzzles—especially in-person, live events—are still not mainstream, and my impression is that they scare off a lot of people who might otherwise have fun with creative mental challenges. And I want more people to discover that they love this hobby.

But that's an issue of philosophy. The other thing that keeps me interested is the über-puzzle (as opposed to meta-puzzle) of actually putting on these events. Again, as we've covered on SnoutCast, the puzzles themselves are only one component of a much larger machine, even if they are the distinguishing feature.

Recruiting GC members, scheduling meetings and keeping them on track, finding and booking locations, managing players who find creative ways of interpreting your so-called instructions—maybe these things are more challenges than puzzles, but they're at least as difficult to solve. Especially when you can't ask someone for hints.

The reward, though, can be immeasurably greater. It's like any other piece of art: you have to believe in it hard in order to make it happen, to create something out of nothing, to persist long enough to actually finish it. But when you can make others understand what was in your head, when you can make them believe, too—I would argue there's nothing better than that in the world.

This is why I run Games. This is why I write fiction. This is why I keep trying to do more.


Wednesday, January 07, 2015

I Think It's Gonna Be a Happy New Year

(with apologies to RENT)

2014 was a very good year.

My writing life continued to go well. I self-published a flash fiction collection in January, went to Clarion West in the summer, signed a literary agent in July, and started trying to sell my first novel.

Also? I am now an Associate Member of SFWA. I can't even tell you how amazing that feels. Top of the world, ma!

I continued to be involved with various puzzle hunt events. Puzzled Pint expanded to twelve cities in three different countries, DeeAnn and I ran T.I.M.E. QUEST on JoCo Cruise Crazy 4 and at GameStorm 16, we helped our friends in Portland run DASH 6, and many of us participated in the 8th annual Game Control Summit.

DeeAnn and I also recorded twelve podcast interviews with awesome women who make puzzle games.

Both our cats are doing well, as is Food Robot.

I got to see the second NASA rocket launch of my life in December, and we're traveling to our first PAX South and our fifth JoCo Cruise in just a few weeks.

2015 is looking pretty great so far. Some exciting new things are in the works, and I'll say more about them when I can!