I’ll be catching you all up on some of the stuff going on here, but the quick highlights:
“No Rest for the Wicked” was published by Battlecorps on their website and will be released in their “Slack Tide” anthology later.
Just finished the first draft of “The Enemy You Know” tonight. That’s a bit over 10,000 words since Saturday (and given how slowly I type, that’s saying something – unlike my friend Keith who probably types that many in-between innings at a Yankees game.)
“Paladin” will be coming out in the Origins Game Fair limited-edition anthology titled “Robots”.
Just got notification about two more stories about to be released in the near future. More to come there.
And, “For a Few Gold Pieces More” is being edited as we speak. Hopeful for a July/August release. More to follow on that also.
And possibly releasing another book through StarWarp Concepts in 2017. More to come there, mainly dependent on finding the right cover artist.
And it’s convention season. I’ll be appearing at Origins Game Fair, SoonerCon, Shore Leave, GenCon, and Archon and possibly one more convention to be named later (depends on how many draft picks they want. *grin*)
Down to the wire on this project, and I appreciate all the support we’ve been getting here. So, to reward you for helping spread the news and contributing to the project, I’m posting another snippet from For a Few Gold Pieces More, this time from the sixth story, “Pearls of Water”.
As I’ve said, I wanted to introduce people to folktales and fairy tales that were either lesser known ones, or variants from other countries. This story, while set in my own world, takes its genesis from the Swan Maiden, but this particular story is based on a Chinese Legend of a prince who not only marries a swan maiden, but has to travel through fantastic lands to find her when she is driven off by a jealous suitor.
Now, no one’s going to mistake my rogue for a prince, but he too has to help find a wife who’s fled against unjust charges to help keep the peace in this kingdom–albeit much against his better judgement and will.
So, here’s the opening scene to “Pearls of Water”:
The town of Karakuhm was strangely quiet as Yuki and I entered. The lone guard at the main gate waved a bored hand at us as we rode through. It had been a long ride, and we were searching for an inn to spend the night. Eventually, we found something that looked like it wouldn’t collapse in the middle of the night and dismounted. In the distance, we heard the rumble of an angry crowd. It didn’t seem to be moving our direction, so Yuki and I exchanged glances, and I shrugged before entering the inn. An old woman stood behind the bar, wiping the counter with a rag dirtier than the bar was. I resolved to find my meals elsewhere.
“And a good day to you too, ma’am. We’re looking for a room and some information.”
She grinned, showing off all eight of her teeth. “Rooms is five silver pennies a night. Information’s a tad more expensive. You gonna want two rooms or just one?”
For five silver pennies, I could have slept in the best rooms of the Empire, but we weren’t in the Empire any longer. Luckily, we had successfully tracked down a lost treasure hoard in the Kaladhar Mountains, so the price wasn’t the issue. The issue was trying not to look like we could easily afford it. No sense in her alerting her “friends” she had rich travelers staying with her.
I glanced around the inn with a disapproving look. “Five silver pennies. I guess that’s not a bad price for a week.”
“You deaf or something, sonny boy? I said five silver pennies a night.”
I eased a chair out from under a table and gingerly sat on it, praying it wouldn’t collapse. “Madam, I’m afraid you’ve confused us with nobility or something. Where would I come up with that kind of money?”
“T’ain’t no concern of mine. Ther’s enough people in town that’ll take the room if you don’t want it. Towns done full up of visitors.”
Yuki moved forward, putting on her best smile. “I heard a commotion when we arrived. What’s got everyone so excited?”
She fixed her one good eye on Yuki before responding. “You ain’t heerd? Shoot, it’s the prime minister. Claims he got word our army was defeated four days from here. Says the Jakali army will be here any day now. Folks coming from miles around trying to find out if it’s true and what the king’s gonna do about it. The prime minister, he’s claiming that our boys was betrayed and that the prince’s wife is the one that done it. Said she’s a foreigner and she’s got no love for this here kingdom.”
Yuki glanced around as if frightened. “So you’re saying it’s not a good time to be in town if you’re a foreigner?”
The landlady looked Yuki over with a mixture of envy and disdain. “Honey, ain’t no one gonna mistake you for a Jakali, especially with that hair. Your companion smells too good, so he probably ain’t a Jakali either. However, the prince’s wife—probably his widow if he fell with the troops—now, people says she’s from Barhon or points east of there. They’ve always been tight with the Jakali. Prime minister was ag’in the prince marrying her, but the king and queen was always soft on him. Let him do what he wants. Now see what he’s got hisself into.”
I spoke up then, “What do you think?
The landlady looked at me in surprise. “What do I think?”
I leaned forward, a conspiratorial tone in my voice. “You seem to be the type who’d know which way the wind was blowing here in Karakuhm. I wager you know a lot more than those guards we met. Just good business sense to keep your ears open.”
She grinned, obviously enjoying being the center of attention. “You ain’t as dumb as you look, sonny.” She checked to make sure no one was hanging around the doorway before returning to the bar. “Now, t’ain’t neighborly to spread gossip, but I don’t think the princess is guilty. She’d have to be an incredible actress to pretend to be that much in love with the prince and then send him off to go get slaughtered. Nope…” She paused long enough to spit on the bar before wiping it some more. “I think there’s more going on ’round here than normal. But you didn’t hear that from me.”
I swallowed my bile and kept my smile firmly affixed. “Hear what from who?”
“You know, I kinda like you, Bright Eyes. Call it four silver pennies and I’ll even throw in some fresh linen.”
“Done and done. I think we may just see what’s going on once we see the room.”
I think we can safely say, this is no four-star hotel he’s staying at for the night. *grin*
We’re down to the last push. Here’s to bringing this home successfully.
And Update #7 has just been posted to the For a Few Gold Pieces More page over at Kickstarter. Since I talked about how Shane Braithwaite and I put together the Yuki poster, I thought I’d give people a sneak preview of the rest of the art Shane’s going to be doing for this collection.
Here’s a couple of the thumbnail descriptions I’ve given him to consider and suggest revisions to:
“The Mountain of Ice”
The protagonist is climbing up a cliff, barely hanging on to the wall with his fingertips. There is a rope trailing out behind him down the cliff face. Above him, a shadowy feminine figure (Yuki) is looming out over the edge of the cliff, watching him climb. (He should be looking away from the audience so his face remains hidden.)
“Shades of Blue”
The protagonist is standing in the shadows as a ship slams into a dock under full sail on a foggy night, sending splinters and debris all over the harbor.
“Hunters in Darkness”
The protagonist and a young light-brunette haired woman are fleeing through dark woods, pursued by spectral hounds. She is dressed in a rustic style of dress (obviously torn and dirty from their headlong flight through the woods.)
If you’re interested in the rest, bop on over to the Kickstarter page, I’d love to get your opinions on them.
Just posted a new update on the For a Few Gold Pieces More Kickstarter page. I discuss how Shane Braithwaite and I conspire to put together the artwork for this project. It’s really frightening how in sync we are on the art. He was able to take a description of no more than a few lines and turn it into this sketch:
We’re also starting to come down to crunch time on the Kickstarter. I really need those of you who’ve supported this project to boost the signal once again to help me get the word out to everyone possible. I know I’ve had some verbal pledges to help out with the Kickstarter too, so I’m really hoping you’ll come through on this. So, thanks for everything you’ve done so far with both donations and support and let’s take it to the finish line.
We’ve got two more weeks to ignite this thing. Let’s see what we can do.
To read the rest of this, please check out Update #6 at the For a Few Gold Pieces More Kickstarter page.
Officially recovering from MystiCon 2016. It was a whirlwind of a convention and came and went in a blur. It was fantastic catching up with so many friends and acquaintances and getting to meet several new people who I’d enjoy hanging out with in the future. It seemed like I was constantly running from panel to conversation with someone to another panel to yet another conversation and so on. I know I saw a whole lot of people that I really, really wish I could have spent more time visiting with and I apologize if it feels like I slighted any of you.
The World Building panel was a blast. All my fellow panelists brought some good thoughts that I’m going to have to steal … I mean consider when I’m working on my next columns for Black Gate.
The Comic Books to the Screen panel went very well also. Even though we didn’t cover all the topics the moderator hoped to get to, there was no question the panel (and the audience) had a passion for the topic about what’s been done right and what could be improved.
Got invited to a couple of new conventions and promoted my Kickstarter (politely), and have several people interested in buying books at my signing tonight. So, along with having fun, the business-side of the convention is going well also.
Saturday started with the Beginning Roleplaying panel which went incredibly well. All of the panelists were well versed in either tabletop or live-action roleplaying and we did briefly touch on on-line roleplaying. The best part was a young man who we let know about the game demos going on upstairs – his mother let me know later that evening that he’d basically planted himself at the demos and was loving every minute of it. Now, that’s a great con memory both for that kid and me.
After that, I caught up with a few friends and then did the Mr. Adventure Podcast, where I got to play Doctor Richards, who was a scientist helping out the superheroes. However, the gentleman playing Atomik Fist flat out stole the show! What a phenomenal performance. I apologize for not remembering your name, but my hat is off to you, sir. And Rich Sigfrit, thank you again for inviting me to contribute to this podcast. I can’t wait for it to be released (and I don’t envy your producer trying to splice all the asides and laughter out).
I went from that to “Them’s Fighting Words”. We talked about different styles of fighting, where to do research on weapons, fighting techniques, etc., how to make fight scenes believable, how much is too much detail and so on. It was really an interesting panel and we had a great audience who asked really good questions, so that always is a pleasure.
I went back to the room to collapse a bit and then did the How Much Worldbuilding Does an RPG Need? panel. For a panel going on against the Masquerade, we had quite a decent crowd – in fact, one of the biggest crowds I’ve ever had when I wasn’t on a panel with the GoH. I was the fill-in moderator, but we quickly opened the floor up to questions, which considering we’d already done a world-building panel the day before was probably wisest. There was well over 100 years of gaming experience among the panelists, so we could not only give good suggestions, but we all admitted a few times when things had gone wrong, so they could avoid our mistakes.
After that panel, I had my reading and read from Shades of Blue, part of my For a Few Gold Pieces More Kickstarter. Got a good reaction from the crowd and we talked about the Kickstarter more afterward. From there I went down and did my signing. It was in the hallway near the concert, but with the doors shut, the music was much more manageable for my poor ears. Since no one was following me, I just lounged out at the signing area and actually made more sales after my signing was over than during it. Go figure, right? I’ll attribute it to the music. *grin*
Finally had time to dump my gear and spend sometime visiting with friends and crawled into bed way too late. The Sunday morning alarm and i did not agree it was time for me to get up, but it eventually won.
My first Sunday panel was Writing a Successful Query Letter and the panelists talked about what had and hadn’t worked for us and then took more questions from the audience. I made sure to plug Query Letter Hell on Absolute Write, Writer Beware, Query Shark, Evil Editor and the Miss Snark archives. There were a lot of follow-up questions afterward with audience members who had more personalized questions, but I think (hope) we answered them as best we could.
I took a short break to sit in on the Valentine Wolfe concert. I met the members of Valentine Wolf Friday evening and had a blast visting with them. I heard them at the Saturday night concert, but their ambient performance on Sunday sealed the deal for me. Wow! What an experience.
I had to run from the concert to get to my last panel, Beyond Western Europe. I had hoped it would be more of a “here are some myths and legends that get overlooked and you should really check them out”, but there was a certain amount of “how to avoid cultural appropriation” that sidetracked the panel. Not that it is/wasn’t an important topic, but that’s not what I thought the panel was supposed to be about – I generally try to avoid panels that look like they’re going to get political one way or the other – but in the end, I was able to promote Folktexts at the University of Pittsburgh’s web site and “My Life in the Bush of Ghosts” by Amos Tutuola as things the audience should definitely look into.
I’d love to list everyone I had a ball talking too and meeting for the first time (or maybe for the fortieth time), but I’m sure I’m going to miss someone. Still here goes – thanks to Mark Macdicken, April MacDicken, Meredith Lydia Thoroughman, Davey Beauchamp, Michael Ventrella, Gail Martin, Mike Allen, Podcasting’s Rich Sigfrit, The gang from Skeleton Key, Valentine Wolfe, Christopher Axlthem, Caroline Axlthem, Peter Prellwitz, Allen Wold, John L. French, Tiffany Trent, Ashley Chappell-Peeples, Steven Peeples, RS Belcher, John Watts, and a host of others that I blame a definite lack of coffee and a mind like a steel sieve on.
Believe me, after a great convention like this, it was tough to go back to the real world this morning.
As we reach the halfway point in our Kickstarter, I want to send my congratulations to the Pangea II Kickstarter crowd for successfully funding this evening! Congratulations for all your hard work and can’t wait to see the anthology!
You all seemed to enjoy the snippet from Skin the Cat, so I thought I’d follow it up with a short cut from the opening to Shades of Blue, the third story in the collection. Shades of Blue is the first story I wrote that mashed two legends together and I hope you’ll enjoy this sample.
Our protagonist has been hired to escort a young woman to meet her future husband, but the ship she’s sailing on has just entered the harbor under full sail and has plowed into the nearby docks…
I rushed through the field of debris onto the wreck of the ship. Even among the wreckage, the absence of the crew was noticeable. Many of the deck hands could have been thrown overboard due to the violence of the wreck, but there should have been bodies among the fallen spars and torn canvas. There was nothing.
If Lady Daphne was still on board, her cabin should be near the captain’s. I rushed to the quarterdeck to check below. As soon as I opened the door, the smell of death assaulted my nostrils — not the smell of newly dead, but the stench of unfortunates who’d been exposed to the elements for some time. It was a smell not easily forgotten. I suspected what might have been the fate of the Alexander, but my first and only duty was to try and find my passenger. If I could at least report what happened to Lady Daphne, I might salvage something from my commission.
Hard-hearted? Perhaps, but I can’t prevent a pirate attack that happens before I spot the ship. Mourning people who died long before I found them doesn’t make them less dead or put gold in my pocket.
I checked the captain’s quarters first. After lighting one of the surviving lanterns, I found his body lying face down on the floor with his arms outstretched toward the door. I rolled him over onto his back and immediately wished I’d left him alone. I recoiled at the expression of sheer terror on his face, but as I searched his body, I found no obvious wounds. The only explanation I could come up with was he had literally been frightened to death. That made the scene even more macabre. The scars on his face and obvious callousing on his hands showed he was no stranger to fighting. Whatever could scare a man like that to death was something I never wanted to meet.
For the rest of the snippet, please check out Update #5 at the For a Few Gold Pieces More Kickstarter page.
And a very nice Q&A about this Kickstarter has just been published on the blog at Black Gate.
And since confession is good for the soul, I will admit, I’ve done some writing for Black Gate (in fact, I owe him a column on world building which I will try to finish as soon as possible). Still, I have to thank John for helping to spread the word about this Kickstarter as well as the rest of you who’ve shared it with family and friends. Thanks for all the support.
Just got my schedule for MystiCon in Roanoke, VA, next weekend.
Fantasy Worldbuilding – Board Room 1 – Friday 5pm
Bringing the Comic Book World to the TV or Big Screen – Ballroom D – Friday 10pm
Beginning Roleplaying – Ballroom E – Saturday 12pm
Reading – Saturday 1:30pm
Podcast: Mr. Adventure – Ballroom C – Saturday 2pm
Them’s Fighting Words – Ballroom D – Saturday 3pm
How Much Worldbuilding Does an RPG Need? – Vista Room – Saturday 7pm
Writing a Query that Sells – Ballroom E – Sunday 11am
Beyond Western Europe – Other World Cultures for Fantasy – Ballroom D – Sunday 1pm
Plus, I’ll be doing a signing somewhere in there. I was supposed to be at my table at 2pm, but it’s Mr. Adventure! I’m not missing out on a chance to be on this podcast. And if you’re not listening to it, you really should be.
Yeah, I’m insane. *grin* But, I figure it’s my way to give back to the convention by helping out as much as possible.
After an exciting day at work building Powerpoint slides, what better way is there to relax than to start working on improving the For A Few Gold Pieces More Kickstarter page.
We’ve just posted the first two stretch goals for this project and given you hints to other stretch goals to go. Now, it may seem a bit early to post stretch goals while we’re still so far away from funding, but I wanted to take the opportunity to let you see, we’re thinking positive and planning on ways to make this even more enticing for you. So, be sure to spread the word about this Kickstarter to your friends, colleagues, and anyone else who might enjoy some dark fantasy.
And as we get closer to the end, I’ll definitely share some of the larger stretch goals with you, but for now, let’s just say, this is a teaser. *grin*
Working with some very interesting people to bring you some cool stretch goals for the For a Few Gold Pieces More Kickstarter. Hope to start posting some of them in the very near future.
However, to tide you over, I’ve posted a small snippet from “Skin the Cat” – For a Few Gold Pieces More #9.
A young woman, perhaps fifteen or sixteen, stood before me. It was hard to tell where the dirt and stains stopped and the young woman began, which made me believe she was a servant. However, her clothing caught me by surprise. She wore a dress made of sewn skins, something I’d only seen in some of the more savage lands that bordered the Empire, yet she spoke and carried herself like one of imperial stock.
For the rest of the snippet, please check out Update #2 at the Kickstarter site.
Here’s the original cover from it’s first appearance:
Home from Farpoint 2016. Had a great time visiting with old friends and making new ones. It’s always fun to catch up and swap some new stories and think about old times.
I was on a number of really cool panels this year – Publishing on a Budget (Hmm, that sounds really familiar), Hero vs. Anti-hero (that also sounds like a certain rogue I know), Holy 50th Anniversary, Batman!, Enter the Hobbit (about writing fighting scenes and tactics), Writing for the Gaming Industry, Collaboration, and Writer Beware! I shared the podium with some incredibly talented and knowledgeable panelists and I learned as much from them as I hope the audiences did.
Also did some of the requisite schmoozing and may have a few nibbles for projects down the road.
I also had a blast Saturday night after the convention. I’d hoped to do my internet radio broadcast from the convention but, let’s just say, the hotel wifi left much to be desired. So, I meandered home and took advantage of a more stable environment and wound up rocking the airwaves from 10:30pm to 2:30am. Honestly, when I first logged in, the audience was dwindling, so I thought it might be an early night, but they started piling into the game and we were having a great time in Guild Wars. Then the requests started coming in for music I actually had (for once – these guys are good at stump the DJ), and the next thing I knew while I have enjoying myself, I was about to faceplant on my computer from falling asleep. So, we wrapped it up in time for me to get some sleep.
But, now that the convention is over, it’s time to get back on the Kickstarter grind. For a Few Gold Pieces More isn’t going to fund itself. It’s going to take getting the word out to friends, family, and aficionados of smart-alek protagonists, twisted folktales, and dark fantasy. We’ve just past the five day mark and while we’re making good progress, it’s slowing down a bit. So, every little tweet, share, or word-of-mouth recommendation is going to make a big difference here. Let’s see if we can’t push this over the top!
Thanks for your help so far. It’s appreciated more than you know.
Getting ready to start packing for Farpoint (and doing a little cleaning for our guests who stay with us during Farpoint). Farpoint is a SF/F convention with a heavy dose of Star Trek and other movie or TV related Science Fiction and Fantasy. It’s not as big as Shore Leave, but that gives me a chance to catch up with people I might only have time to say “Hi! Bye!” to at other shows.
Between it and Shore Leave, I always enjoy catching up with the other Trek authors who attend. It’s interesting to see what they’re working on these days, both media tie-ins and original works. Media Tie-in isn’t quite the ghetto it used to be among SFF writers, but working in any sub-genre draws its fans and disdainers.
I did get an interesting e-mail today. I may be talking to some people about placing another of my stories, which would be incredibly cool. Not going to spoil it by saying what or who, simply because, let’s just say, until papers are signed, everything is as solid as Jello. However, once there is a decision one way or the other I’ll let you know.
And, of course, there’s a Kickstarter update. I had some wonderful donations today and my first “Uh, sorry, I’ve changed my mind”. And you know what, I’m cool with that. Sure, I wish they hadn’t, but everyone’s got their own story and life happens. Sometimes, you get a little over-extended–trust me, I was a junior enlisted in the US Army back in the 80s, I know over-extended–so I’d rather they change their mind now than 20 minutes before the Kickstarter is supposed to close. That would be a tad more awkward. *sigh*
But, again, thanks for all your support.
(Reposted from the For a Few Gold Pieces More Kickstarter Page)
Wow, what a whirlwind first day. Thanks to everyone who’s pledged to this project. It’s enthusiasm like this that makes me really want to ensure this is going to be worth your while.
And speaking of that, I’m talking to some people to make arrangements regarding the project’s stretch goals. I didn’t post any at first because I wanted to focus on telling the story and showing you what great rewards we had planned for you, but after talking to some friends and having them run some numbers for me, I hope to announce the first stretch goals on Monday, February 15th.
I’ll be attending Farpoint as a panelist and I guarantee, I will be promoting this Kickstarter (albeit politely and understatedly…no one likes a carnival barker except in a midway). One of the panels I’ll be on is called, “Publishing on a Budget: Spending Your Money Wisely”. Not only will I be relating my experience from this Kickstarter, but I will be taking notes as my other panelists have KS experience too.
Again, thanks for your support and here’s to a successful conclusion to this campaign.
As the old song says, “It’s too late to turn back now!”
Yep, I pressed the green button and the Kickstarter for my short story collection is open for business. Over the next 35 days, we hope to raise at least $4,000 to help off-set the costs of paying my artists, editors, cover and interior designers, promotion, and printing costs (along with little things like KS fees, paypal fees, Visa fees, taxes, and shipping costs).
Keep your fingers crossed, it’s going to be a very interesting 5 weeks.
And for something different, here’s some more of Shane’s artwork, showing how we take it from a concept sketch to a digital painting.
Been an interesting week so far. Just started a new assignment at work and waiting for all my IT support to be established–so I’ve taken advantage of the downtime to get some writing in. Almost 8 full pages of handwritten script for “The Sleeping Hero”. No clue how many words that translates into – my cursive tends to get bigger or smaller depending on my mood at the time. I’ll try and transcribe it this weekend.
And, I just fired off the “For a Few Gold Pieces More” Kickstarter page off to the Kickstarter team for approval. I
received an almost instantaneous “You can launch” from them, but I decided to take advantage of getting Community Manager feedback on the page, so we’ll be officially launching the KS on 09 Feb 2016 for 35 days.
So, we’ll need your help to push this thing over the goal. I’m not necessarily asking you to contribute (not that I’ll turn it down, mind you), but I am asking for help amping up the volume. Mention it to your friends who like fantasy books. Mention it to your writing groups and on your favorite social media. The only way this is going to succeed is word of mouth. I’m not someone who’s going to spam twitter or put out a FB update every hour – that’s not why you follow me here or there – but I will certainly be mentioning it on a fairly periodic basis.
But I can’t do it alone.
Every share, every comment, every link helps. Thanks in advance and with any luck, we’ll celebrate a victory lap on March 14, 2016.
So far, we have survived Snowzilla 2016. I’ve managed to not completely fritter away my days off buried under the snow. Well, mostly, but not completely.
I heard back from my editor on Paladin who liked the edits I made to the story. Always good news. So, I suspect the next time I see it, it’ll be the galley proofs. *yay!*
I also worked on my Gale Allen story this weekend. Added 1387 words to it tonight as well as selecting specific events from the old Fiction House Planet Comics to base my story around. I’m enjoying the interaction between Gale and one of her nemeses that she’s forced to cooperate with for the good of Vanam. *evil writer grin – I love putting my characters in these kind of situations*
I spent part of this evening visiting with a fellow author/publisher who ran a very successful Kickstarter. He looked over my page and gave me some good feedback as well as highlighting what worked and what didn’t work for his campaign. I’ll be taking that advice to heart.
Also, I managed to get my badge and hotel for Gen Con, where I’ll be a part of the Writer’s Symposium later this summer. Not exactly the easiest of tasks – Gen Con seriously underbooks the number of hotel rooms they need for the show, but whatcha gonna do?
Oh yeah, and several hours of shoveling snow this weekend. Can’t forget that – or at least my back can’t quite yet. Not quite as young as I used to be back in Missouri where this might be considered a normal snow storm. Then again, Missouri actually has a good number of snow plows and drivers who know how to drive in this stuff. Maryland seems to be somewhat short on both. *sigh*
Woah, talk about a blast from the past. I just received a fan letter for my Gauntlet Dark Legacy novel that was published back in 2004. It was quite flattering, but it brought up a reoccurring question about the book – “what happened to the sequel?”
Gather round and listen to the joys and dangers of writing media tie-in work.
A friend of mine who was an editor at Byron Preiss’s iBooks, Inc label contacted me and asked if I’d like to take a shot at doing the novelization of Gauntlet Dark Legacy. Being a writer, I answered in the only way I could–of course, I’d love to take a shot at it, are you crazy?
Well, would Midway provide a copy of the game? No.
Would Midway provide (X)? No.
Would Midway provide like emoticon? No.
What would Midway provide? A copy of the Prima guide to Gauntlet Dark Legacy.
OK. I’ve worked with less background material. After all, my first professional short story sale was writing the original Avengers 1.5 (aka, I did an Incredible Hulk story set during his time as an Avenger, which was tricky since he was in Avengers #1 and quit in Avengers #2). So, with the instructions that Midway did not want me to just write a story based on playing the various levels, but to create a whole new story set in the Gauntlet Dark Legacy universe.
Then the questions started:
Me: What’s the name of the elf?
Midway: Whatever you want to call her?
Me: What’s the name of the wizard?
Midway: Up to you.
Me: What’s the name of any of the cities?
Midway: Who’s writing this?
I got the hint. This was SO weird after doing the Marvel story where everything was gone over with a fine-toothed comb. So, I’d say the novel, Paths of Evil, was 95% mine and 5% Midway material.
Now, iBooks had no expectations of good sales on this book from what I could tell, but it took off. We were getting ready to go back to a second printing and I was feverishly at work on the second novel. I’d left the first novel on a cliffhanger, because hey, it was supposed to be a trilogy. Fan reaction was reasonably favorable – only one or two major brickbats thrown at me, so I’ll take it.
I submitted “Paths of Fear”, I’d seen the rough sketch of the next Bob Larkin cover, and I was waiting to get the edits, so we could meet the Sept. 2005 release date.
Then the bottom fell out.
Byron Preiss was killed in a car accident in June 2005. iBooks and Byron Preiss Visual Productions went into bankrupcy shortly thereafter and all of the iBook licenses reverted to their owners. So, here I was with a book, not only the sequel, but the conclusion of the story I’d left on a cliffhanger, and…
it would never be published.
I certainly didn’t have the money to license the property, the person who bought iBooks wasn’t interested in the property, and no one else has ever expressed interest in reviving the book series. So, Gauntlet Dark Legacy “Paths of Evil” is a one and done of what was going to be my first novel trilogy.
So now, even going on 12 years later, I keep getting asked when the second book is coming out and I have to keep telling people, yes, I completed the second novel, no I can’t share it with them because I don’t OWN the rights to the story and if I did share it with them and one of them decided to upload it to the web, then Midway’s 600 pound gorillas, I mean lawyers, would have bad things to say to me.
Every so often I kick around the idea of shaving the serial numbers and doing something with it, but it seems like more work than just creating something original of my own. Still, somedays I miss hanging out with Morgan, Leyla, Kore, and Orlando.
And I still wonder, does the wizard need food badly?
Submitted a proposal for a new short story last night and continued refining my Kickstarter site. Spent some time visiting with a couple of friends who’ve run successful campaigns -they had very different approaches, but I see things in both that I think I can adapt to my campaign.
What I need to do now is start coordinating with people to advertise this beyond just my personal circle of friends, social media acquaintances, and convention buddies.
If anyone else out there, besides those I’ve already approached, has any suggestions/comments/brickbats they want to launch my way, (besides, “Flee, you fools”), they’ll be gratefully accepted.
Another busy evening here. Proofed a short story that’ll be released soon. Silence in the Library is re-releasing the stories that originally appeared in the 2014 Origins Game Fair anthology, Monsters to the general public. I’m excited to see this release and hope you enjoy all the stories.
Also, I am submitting a pitch/synopsis/50 pages to a publisher for a novel I’ve got a lot of hopes for. Normally, I don’t mention submissions – especially if I have to come back months later and go, “Nope, not this time”. Still, I think it’s good for people who’re trying to get started in this business to see people like me still get butterflies when we submit and sometimes things we have the most confidence in just don’t seem to resonate with an editor/agent, while the story we did a fire and forget on is the one that gets picked up.
And then, tomorrow, I need to get to work on a short story coming due here pretty soon as well as my next Black Gate blog post.
I need a few 60-hour days in the near future…aarrgh.
Whether you’re celebrating Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Festivus, Solstice, or any other celebration that falls in this time of year, this is a wish from my family and myself to you to have a fantastic holiday season and the best of things to you in the upcoming year!
Take a moment to give those closest to you a hug and remember, family and friends are what makes this life special.
Well, looks like it’s not quite going to be as busy as 2015 was, but I’ll be doing conventions in the local area as well as away from home this year. I’ll be going to shows partially to represent myself and also doing work for Writer Beware(R) for SFWA.
I will be attending a show I’ve always wanted to go to ever since I was introduced to Dungeons and Dragons back in 1979—GenCon, in Indianapolis, IN in July 2016. I’ll be a member of the Writer Symposium, doing panels and visiting with new (and not so new) writers to talk about writing for games as well as books.
My current schedule (subject to change, of course) is:
Farpoint February 12-14, 2016 (Baltimore, MD)
Mysticon February 26-28, 2016 (Roanoke, VA)
Origins Game Fair June 15-19, 2016 (Columbus, OH)
SoonerCon June 24-26, 2016 (Midwestern City, OK)
Shore Leave July 15-17, 2016 (Baltimore, MD) – possible
GenCon August 4-7, 2016 (Indianapolis, IN)
Hopefully, I’ll add one or two fall shows, but that looks like a full year of traveling for me. If you know of a convention I should attend, feel free to drop me a line with your suggestions.
Looks like December is going to be a busy, busy month.
First of all, I have Geekonomicon coming up on the 11-13th, so I need to start figuring out what I’m going to take with me to the show.
Then, I have to finish and submit my story “Paladin” to Kelly Swails for the 2016 Origins Game Fair anthology.
And tonight, I got an invite to submit an 8,000 word story for another anthology – oh, and that’s due by the 21st of December.
And, along with that, I’m working on two novels – The Sleeping Hero and The Black Ice Affair (a follow-up novel for the Full Moon Affair short novel from Pro Se Productions).
Also, I’m still out beating the bushes for Terra Incognito, looking for some reviewers and some other places to plug my first non-fiction book – which is still doing remarkably well over on Drive-Thru Fiction as well as Amazon and other fine purveyors of literature. *subtle plug, no?*
Oh yeah, I’m also trying to put the final touches on my Kickstarter project so I can launch it in early 2016.
Sleep? *pffft* Who needs it?
You might notice a slightly new look to the web site. We’re doing some experimenting to try and bring you a cleaner site. I hope you all can sympathize with my long-suffering web master as he deals with my indecision.
In fact, I’m pretty sure some days, he feels like this:
It never fails does it. Been working on”The Sleeping Her“, which is the working title for my novel follow-on for For a Few Gold Pieces More. Unfortunately, as I hit about 8000 words, I realized, the first half of the 2nd Chapter had nothing to do with the second half.
OK, so now I have a third chapter, but I now have to go back and add some more meat onto the 2nd chapter. So, White, what happens between X and Y since Y is now a separate chapter?
Back to the whiteboard.
In better news, I heard my story Crossed Swords was approved by the editor and passed on for inclusion on the anthology. Hopefully there’ll be more news I can release to you all soon.
Terra Incognito is like the gift that keeps on giving. Because I wrote the book, Black Gate gave me the opportunity to keep doing world-building articles for them.
I guess I did OK with my first one.
Apparently I had the #1 viewed blog post at Black Gate for the month of October. Thank you everyone who stopped by to check it out.
And now, time to buckle down on the next two posts I’m planning on doing there.
My publisher just sent me the link showing Terra Incognito on the Waterstone’s web site. Kind of cool seeing the book available for my horde of British fans (all two of you).
Still, this begs the question – does this mean I’m now an internationally published author? *silly grin*
Sent the first set of revisions for a short story back to the editor. Took me a bit to get into the revisions, partly for personal reasons, partly because I’ve been busy with other projects. Still, I think all in all it’s going to turn out OK.
Also found out that another anthology I’d submitted for several months ago seems to be coming to fruition. This is the one I’m REALLY looking forward to seeing the other stories (along with mine) and seeing how various authors treat this franchise.
Still haven’t heard back from one anthology that I submitted to back in July. *sigh* Not sure what’s going on with that one, but I understand the editor is swamped under at the moment, so I’m still keeping my fingers crossed until I either get the contract or the rejection letter.
Also, got some work done on the Theron Chase novel I’ve been kicking around as well as The Sleeping Hero, my novel follow-up to For a Few Gold Pieces More.
Short stories, novellas, novels. Writing and revising. I guess Anne Lennox said it best, “Sweet dreams are made of these.”
In the first part of this article, I was talking about how I was approached to create a series bible that would be used my multiple authors to create The Darkside Codex, Musa Publishing’s shared world. I’ve discussed where the germ of the idea came from and also where I got the ideas for the city of Southwatch. But that’s only the first part. I used all the various techniques I discuss in my new book, Terra Incognito: Building the Worlds of Your Imagination, to flesh out the city once I had built its basic structure. So, let’s return to that idea and see how Southwatch grew from just a few buildings on a small island into something people could incorporate into their stories—
Continuing on, I started identifying people who were needed in the town. I decided Southwatch was a city-state run by a baron. However, he handles the major issues with the Empire that controls Southwatch. There is a Lord Mayor and a city council running the day-to-day operations and then each city district has its own council also. However, beyond that, I began developing personalities any of the writers could use. Some of them are simply names and positions like the Lord Mayor’s secretary, the bartender at a specific bar, two second-story men, etc. Just something a writer could use as a hook for a story or as a background character their protagonist could meet in passing.
Then I started thinking of specific people to populate Southwatch. Here’s where I started adding in the mad scientists, the baron’s secret police, sky pirates, a couple of industrial spies, the military leaders who were stationed by the Empire to protect Southwatch and the southern coast; all of these had more details so they could be potential protagonists or even antagonists for the writers. For my good friend and fellow author, Myke Cole, I created the Imperial Coast Guard and stationed one of the Coast Guard Squadrons in Southwatch.
Another area I provided a bare bone sketch was in the Southwatch Underworld. I came up with the names and areas of interest for several of Southwatch’s seediest characters. However, I left it at that. I am hoping some of the writers will explore these characters. Now if I was writing about one or all of them, it would be safe to say, I wouldn’t want to be on any of their bad sides. I suspect if you dig deep into their characters, you’re not going to like what you see. However, another author may decide one of them is really not a bad person, but they’re as much a victim of circumstances as the people they terrorize. Another person might decide even I wasn’t depraved enough with their story. That’s why I left some of the characters wide open. I want the writers to bring the story each character has hidden away to life.
While most steampunk is set in a variation of Victorian or Edwardian England, we decided this would not be just an alternate Earth but a new world with its own history and religions. We already had the city map, but if this was a new world, I was going to need to start with the macro and work toward the micro. So, first we created the world of Thalia by creating the continents and the oceans. From that, I was able to identify which continent held Southwatch, and I did a larger version of this map, identifying the current Empire of Dalriada and its neighboring lands. Then, we did an expanded map of the Empire of Dalriada and identified the various duchies, kingdoms, and imperial city-states allied with Southwatch.
I decided since Southwatch was an independent city-state inside an empire, the Empire of Dalriada would be similar to the Holy Roman Empire and Southwatch would be one of the imperial electors. Given its industrial power and being a major port city, it allowed Southwatch to have quite a bit of influence within the empire without controlling large tracts of land. This would help the authors concentrate on the city, but give them the ability to include imperial intrigue, foreign spies, or even do a story involving traveling around the globe if they wanted to investigate the entire world.
If you’re going to have a world, it can’t just exist in a vacuum. So, I wrote the history of the lands around Southwatch and wove the history of the city into the over-all history. This helped identify the old lines of nobility as well as introducing events reflected in ancient documents that might be discovered in the bowels of the city or even a potential pretender for the imperial throne who might be living in Southwatch completely unaware of their noble bloodline. Would the current nobles welcome him into their midst or would they dispatch forces to ensure the permanent extinction of the threat?
In conjunction with my work, Celina helped design the major religions in the Empire. She came up with the major religion as well as three minor cults. By designing the religions, she then created the holidays in Southwatch as well as deigning the calendar. It’s an unusual one: twelve months with thirty days per month (five weeks of six days each) and then a short five-day month which is dedicated to the major holy days.
Along with developing the religions, she also designed the most commonly seen fashions in Southwatch. After all, what is the local noble supposed to wear when out and about on the town? What are the latest fashions in filter masks for slumming below the cloud? After all, once can’t be expected to wear just any old filter mask.
Seriously, Celina put a great effort in developing and refining what is standard wear in Southwatch. She helped design not only the clothing for the aristocrats, but helped design the standard uniforms for the police and Sky Rangers as well as identifying the styles of clothing worn by everyday people both at work and at play. Even though a lot of steampunk focuses on the gentleman adventurer or the lady daredevil, even they will be encountering people of all ages and social classes. By determining what the fashions of Southwatch (and by extension, the Empire and beyond), this helps ensure continuity in the various stories to come.
The advantage of having this be a near-Earth-but-not-quite is we can introduce almost anything into the story and make it work. Glass as strong as steel? A rare element that assists in personal flight devices? Androids possessing human souls? Is it magic? Is it super-science? Is it a combination of both? Or is it Clarke’s Law (“Any sufficiently advanced science is indistinguishable from magic”) in action?
Well, the fae might have something to say about that.
Oh, hadn’t I mentioned them yet? Yes, they are the ones who decided to make Southwatch pay for all the pollution they’d been pumping into the sky for hundreds of years. They maintain the winds keeping the cloud perfectly centered above the city. They figure the humans will figure it out eventually. As I point out in the series bible, the fae may be playful or they may be malevolent, but they always have their own reasons for doing things. Always.
Southwatch has been built and destroyed at least three times in its history. There are things that lurk within the bowels of the city and on the outskirts and within the cloud. Some might call them the undead. Some might call them shadows of the past. Some might claim they’re creatures from a different reality summoned by a mad genius and then released into the world for an unfathomable purpose. All of them could be right. However, there are no friendly undead. They do not fall in love with humans. Humans are cattle to be used and discarded. Humans can be agents to accomplish tasks the undead cannot do during daylight. Humans can be toys (sexual or other), but they are not love interests. Remember, some of what we would call undead are not former humans. They think very differently and see humans very differently from the way humans see themselves. This could be fertile ground for Steampunk Horror, especially if the otherworldliness is played up.
In a nutshell, these are the steps I went through to build the city of Southwatch, which was going to be the crown jewel for what I called The Darkside Chronicles. Unfortunately, Musa Publishing closed its doors in March 2015. Still it was a great project to be involved in and it was great seeing how all the different things I talk about in Terra Incognito came together for this project. And this might not necessarily be the final end of Southwatch, but that will have to wait for another telling.
Before we post part two to the Darkside Codex story, I have some general writing news.
Sunday was the first blog post I’ve published at Black Gate. It’s supplemental information for my book, Terra Incognito, about designing a fantasy or historical village for writers or gamers. After talking to my publisher, StarWarp Concepts, they’d like me to collect up these new world-building posts for a Terra Incognito II. I’m certainly not going to argue with that.
Be sure to check out the blog post and post a comment there or here, especially if there are any subjects you’d like to see me cover.
Also, I have finished the first draft of Paladin, at 7,000 words into The Sleeping Hero, the novel to continue the adventures from For a Few Gold Pieces More. I also submitted “Extractor” for an anthology with a new publisher for me. Keep your fingers crossed. I’d really, really like to get this one. *grin*
Also, I’ve seen the first draft of my Kickstarter video and Joshua Orozco at Atomic Canary Studios did a kick-ass job with it. Just waiting for him to add the music and smooth out a few rough spots and we’re hopefully going to be ready to rock and roll with this.
I’ll probably be reaching out to a number of people in the very near future re: my Kickstarter. While I’m not asking anyone specifically to contribute to it, (although I won’t turn you down if you decide to support me), but I am going to be asking many of you to help up the volume on this. Some of you are much, MUCH, more tied in via social media and just reader-bases already, so if you could just direct a few more eyes to the Kickstarter than I’ll be able to generate on my own, you’ll have my undying gratitude.
(Yeah, I know undying gratitude and $4.00 might by a Starbucks coffee, but hey, it’s something!)
In my writing guide Terra Incognito: A Guide to Building the Worlds of Your Imagination (now on sale from StarWarp Concepts), I take readers through the process of constructing a fantasy world from a blank piece of paper. We build and populate the lands, determine the various ethnicities, divide them into countries and tribes, and determine their forms of government, religions, and monetary systems. We also create the cosmology of the world and its surrounding neighbors, and demonstrate how it influences the creation of the calendar in use on the island continent of Aviones.
Many of you may wonder how practical this advice is. Well, to give you a real-world example, let me tell you about the process I went through for Musa Publishing.
In June 2012, Celina Summers, the editor of Penumbra—the magazine in which the articles that comprise the majority of Terra Incognito first appeared—approached me with the concept of creating a shared steampunk-genre world that could be the basis for a new line of novels and novellas. At first, it seemed a little overwhelming—after all, it’s one thing to develop a world for my own personal vision, but it’s another to create a world that anyone could use to develop a story. After taking a few deep breaths, I sat down and began brainstorming some directions in which I could go.
While I’m no expert on steampunk, I know several people who are, and based on their feedback, I realized there are no absolute rules for the genre. It’s incredibly flexible, which is where I see the “punk” part coming from, thumbing its nose at the idea there’s any one way to do it. So, when I accepted the challenge, I decided to develop a wide-open concept. Yes, there would be some staples from steampunk—steam-powered machines, airships, strange science, and intrigue—but I didn’t want to tie this new series into just science fiction or just fantasy. I wanted to create something that could be Urban Steampunk, Steampunk Noir, Steampunk Horror, or even Steampunk Romance. Basically, if there’s a genre out there, I wanted an author to feel comfortable creating a story set in my new world. Heck, if someone wanted to do Steampunk Literary, I couldn’t wait to see it. But first I had to create the framework for all these potential stories.
I remembered a cover I had seen when I attended the convention Archon 30, back in 2006. Alan Gutierrez’s wraparound cover had a woman with steel wings and mechanical arms standing there in a modified kimono on the front and a scene of airships mounting cannons flying over a landscape launching small airplanes from underneath. So, using the cover as inspiration, I knew I wanted to use winged people. Then looking at the airships, I had another inspiration. Being a longtime Trekkie, I was reminded of an original series episode called “The Cloud Minders,” in which the wealthy lived in floating cities while the commoners worked in horrible conditions on the planet’s surface.
Suddenly, I had my idea for the storyline.
What if there was a city where the more powerful, more influential or wealthier you were, the higher up in the city you lived? Thus the city of Southwatch was born. I took two sheets of paper and began doodling. On one page, I built a city with a huge steam plant in the center of the town, dividing it up into various sections. On the other page, I began working on an elevation map, deciding which region was the tallest and which were the lowest. As I played with this idea, I came up with a second one—the Dark Cloud.
Playing the “what if” game of brainstorming, I decided Southwatch was a major industrial city with a pollution problem. However, in Southwatch, the pollution had been affected by strange winds. The cloud of pollution grew out to the city limits and stopped, swirling slowly over the town in a huge fifty-foot mass. So, literally, there was a separation between the middle and lower classes and the (literal) upper class.
The city has a huge fleet of airships stationed above it, moored to the tallest portions of the town. While discussing this idea with Celina, we decided there were two different types of airships hovering above the town. The outermost ring of ships consisted of the standard military style airships, which I decided were manned by the Sky Rangers, the city’s main defenders. The interior ships are made out of a Southwatch unique material called “bessum.” This is a special mixture of glass with the tensile strength of steel. It allows for the building of beautiful airships large enough for “noble” housing. Also, it creates a spectacular visual with a flock of stained-glass airships hovering high above a dark cloud below.
Another thought that came to me while I was envisioning a towering city of skyscrapers. I remember going to the old Chicago Con back at the Rosemont Center. The convention was connected to the four major hotels by these walkways above the highways. They were commonly referred to as the habitrails, since they were completely enclosed to protected conventioneers from the weather. So, since we’re talking about huge skyscrapers hundreds of floors high, no one is going to want to have to go down to the ground floor walk to the next building and then take a steam-powered elevator back up. So now imagine standing on the ground and looking up to see a spider work of enclosed and open walkways between buildings extending up toward a dark, slowly swirling cloud over your head, allowing workers, deliverymen, messengers, and families to travel between buildings, while on the street around you, steam and electric powered cars jockey with bicyclists and a strange contraption that appears to be half-wagon and half horse clops down the street. Under your feet, you can feel the throbbing of the factories and the heavy people-movers taking those who live down in the underground slums from their homes to the steel mills and the factories that build the items that keep Southwatch running.
Oh, did I mention the mechanicals? Yes, along with the mechanical horses that were seen on the street, there are mechanical workers in Southwatch. Designed by the finest scientists (mad or otherwise), there are four different types. There are the winders—simple mechanical devices custom built for their specific jobs and, true to their names, require winding every so often by their human minders. Slightly more advanced than the winders were the myrmidons, generally humanoid in shape, primarily designed to provide military and police support for the humans in Southwatch. Even more advanced are the cybernauts, who serve as personal servants in jobs where the winders or myrmidons would make regular humans nervous. A fourth type of mechanical does not exist officially, but some people claim there are self-aware mechanicals called androids. Most people say androids are a figment of a vivid imagination, but there are those who speak of them in hushed tones and swear they exist. What will the writers who visit Southwatch decide? To be quite honest, there could be one story that swears they do exist and one that says they’re nothing but an urban legend and they both could be right. After all, not ever character in Southwatch is going to have the same understanding of the city or the same point of reference. That’s going to be the great part about doing a shared universe.
And speaking of urban legends, I created seven of them. However, all I did was come up with the name. Who is the Lady in White? Does the White Cliffs Strangler really exist? Are there more than seven urban legends in Southwatch? I certainly hope so for a city that’s been around for over a thousand years. However, that’s left to the writer’s imagination. The writers who want to visit Southwatch can certainly create their own or flesh out the ones I introduce. This was a decision I made to give our authors as much latitude as possible to create their own stories. It was a fine line to walk. I wanted to provide enough details for writers to get a good feel for Southwatch but not put so much detail into it so that the writers can put their own personal spin on this world.
(Of course I have my own opinions on what is what in Southwatch—it is my baby, after all—but that’s the joy of a shared world. I fully expect the writers to come up with ideas I never even considered and plots that will make me smack myself in the forehead, saying, “Why didn’t I think of that!” I’m really looking forward to that happening one day.)
All of this was a good start, but there’s more to tell in Part Two . . .