Meet Authors & Illustrators

Pretty excited to be a part of this event put on by one of my publishers, Crwth Press. It’s on Facebook Live and is free! If you have questions about publishing or writing or illustrating, this is the event for you!

How to Play Dungeons and Dragons Online

I could also call this post, “How to play D&D in your Pyjamas and Get Away With It.”

There are lots of ways to play Dungeons and Dragons (or other table top role playing games) online. With Roll 20, or Fantasy Grounds, or many of the other dedicated services out there. (If you have a favourite, please leave a comment!)

For me, I wanted to keep the game going that we’ve been playing weekly for the past two years. This is our final stretch for this campaign–the lead up to fighting the Big Boss. They’ve encountered her before, once, and it was the first time the party had no choice but to retreat. Since then, they’ve been chasing her tail trying to figure out how to bring an end to her absolute rule.

This game has been a combo of homebrew, Ghosts of Saltmarsh, Eberron: Rising from the Last War and Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus. A war between the vampires and the Illithids–started in the early days of the campaign when the party found a machine that opened a portal to four dimensions and neglected to shut it off. This allowed both Illithids and vampires from their worlds to travel inter-dimensionally. Did I mention two of the characters are Time Lords?

Like many others practising social distancing, my goal was to get the game up and running as quickly as possible and to have it feel as normal as possible. In these times, a little normalcy is comforting.

What I needed:

(1) A way to show the battle map. I play D&D a little like chess, with 3D printed minis that represent the party and terrain pieces to immerse the characters into the plot.

(2) A way of handling my notes quickly and efficiently. I normally use my laptop, but for reasons I’ll explain below that wasn’t possible for my plan to work.

(3) Get the players (and me!) online in a way that we couldn’t talk over one another, and the connection would be stable and clear.

The resources I had open to me (where there are alternatives, I’ll mention in the longer explanation):

–my 2012 MacBook Pro
–A Raspberry Pi connected to my TV (normally used as a retro game console) running Raspbian
–an iPad mini and iPhone
–all the old-school D&D necessities, such as a battle map, minis, books, notes, dice, etc.

Longer Explanation:

(1) I chose Zoom as my “conference” tool to bring the players and myself to the “table.” It’s more stable than Skype, and is built for many voices to be present on it. I signed up for a basic account for $20 so we could play longer than 40 minutes.

–ALTERNATIVE: Skype, which is free, would probably still work.

The MacBook became my “host” computer that I signed into on Zoom. I started the meeting, and pointed the camera at the battle map. This was handy, as I could move the camera as needed, and point it anywhere necessary.

The battle map I used is actually two large pieces of laminated grid paper. This is my usual battle map, and works great with dry erase markers. (I also have one that’s three large laminated grid papers.)

I chose to sprawl this on the floor, so that the MacBook would have plenty of room to be placed around the map.

(2) For those of you unfamiliar with Raspberry Pis, these are tiny computers the size of a credit card. They can be programmed with Linux operating systems (to run applications such as Libre Office (an open source program comparable to Microsoft Word) or to surf the Web), or with operating systems such as Lakka to create retro game systems. Mine is dual programmed for Raspbian (Linux for Raspberry Pi) and Lakka.

I loaded all my notes with Libre Office and had them on the screen. (The example here is just an example. Not my notes, so as not to give away anything to my players who may read this.)

ALTERNATIVE: Obviously, paper notes. I had them as well, sprawled over the floor.

(3) My iPad mini also connected to Zoom was my way of connecting to the players. To avoid feedback, I made sure that the audio was off on my MacBook (it was only displaying video of the battle map anyway). Players could pin the MacBook display to their screen so they could see the game play, but for me I could see who was speaking as their photo displayed on my iPad each time they spoke.

ALTERNATIVE: You could use a smartphone instead. I chose to keep my iPhone free to look up any rules on Roll 20 that we needed clarified quickly. (What can’t be clarified quickly, I make a ruling on and we look it up later. My players are great at trusting my judgment.)

The game play started out feeling a little weird. I eventually realized I needed something comfy to sit on (I found a stool), but after an hour or so it just seemed to flow naturally. It wasn’t better than having everyone here, but it sure was a close second best.

After several days of solitude previous to the game, I found playing this way with my group was just healing and what I needed. Turns out, it was the same for them, too. We’re in weird, unprecedented times right now. Having something like this keeping our lives feeling somewhat normal is good.

Happy TTRPing, all.


Social Distancing and an Offer of Free Reading

Not much I can do to be helpful during social distancing when I have a compromised immune system from childhood cancer treatments. Makes me feel a little useless.

However, I have seen a lot of desire for reading material. So, I am offering my novel “Children of Ruin” for free reading on Wattpad: https://www.wattpad.com/myworks/111473258-children-of-ruin

Also, I have 20 promo codes of free copies of the audiobook on Audible I’ll give away to the first twenty who ask. (DM me.)

Or, should you want an ebook, it’s 99 cents US until the end of April: https://books2read.com/u/mBMk1Z or https://www.amazon.com/Children-Ruin-James-Alfred-McCann-ebook/dp/B07BPJXD9H/https://www.amazon.com/Children-Ruin-James-Alfred-McCann-ebook/dp/B07BPJXD9H/

Book Signing November 16 in Delta, BC

3D Printing and Novel Writing

To celebrate the upcoming release of my next novel, the Three Spartans published by Crwth Press, I’m 3D printing a scene from the novel.

The premise: a parody of the Battle of Thermopylae (480 BCE), the novel is a paintball war between two groups of tweens over a tree house.

Above, we have (left to right): Zeke, George, Lea, and Art.

Above, we have the beginnings of the tree house.

I’m currently using the printers at Richmond Public Library. If you’re interested in trying something like this, check if your local library has access to 3D printing!

New book news!

See that toothy grin? That’s the look an author gets when a new contract has been offered and signed. Crwth Press will be publishing my fifth novel…more details to come as they are made available.

What I can say for now, is that this will be my first middle grade novel–and my first adventure/comedy.

A hint of what the book is about is in the two photos above.

Workshops at the surrey public library

This past spring break, I had the opportunity to do six workshops for the Surrey Public Library system. Working with this library as an author is always a huge pleasure, as the librarians and library techs work so hard to make their programs a success. Plus, they are incredibly knowledgeable and interesting to chat with.

My first stop was Ocean Park Library, and a handful of teens all prepared to write showed up to learn how to come up with story ideas by making their own maps.

Ocean Park Library

I showed them all sorts of maps, including the 3D printed map I use in my Dungeons and Dragons game.

Second, I went to the Semiahmoo branch and met with a handful of teens ready to pen their own tales.

Next, I was at Strawberry Hill where I was met by Orlando Bloom (in a photo) and we each did our thing to encourage teens to read and write.

Him, holding a book so tightly as if to say “You can never have this book,” obviously to make you want it even more since you can’t have it. Me, teaching the one teen who woke at 11am during spring break to come learn how to create stories with maps and cartography.

Before going to the Cloverdale Library, I stopped in at the Rustic Rooster for some food.

And I took a selfie by the dinosaur outside the museum next door!

And then I went to work, talking story writing with the creative writing club. Librarian Carmen, who runs the club, came on her day off to participate in the workshop. Thanks, Carmen!

My penultimate stop was at the City Centre library, where we chatted about how Dungeons and Dragons inspires writing. We also wrote some stories, and drew some maps. One of the teens expressed disappointment that there wasn’t enough time to actually play a game of D&D!

City Centre Library in Surrey has one of my favourite library cafes!

My final stop was at the Guildford branch, where I taught the teens how to create multi-ended stories as a computer game using a program called Inkle. They picked it up fast and wrote some interesting tales!

Big Thanks!

Again, a big thanks goes out to the Surrey Public Library for hosting my workshops. All of you at the library who were so kind to me were absolutely amazing, and you do an incredible service to your community. Keep up the amazing work!