State Of The Writer’s Brain/Work

Hey all, it’s been a while since we’ve talked. I mean REALLY talked.

How’ve you been? Are the kids doing well? How about the dogs? Goldfish? Broom?

If you’ve been following along on Twitter or my Facebook page, you might have gleaned a few tidbits about what I’ve been up to. However, I think if you read on, you’ll find some surprises.

work-in-progress-2ohayi

What’s On Hold

The Galaxy and All Her Charms is officially on hold. What I realized is this: the story I have in my head doesn’t match what I’ve written. I’m not ready to write that story for many reasons. I readily admit, one of them is my lack of skill.

Good news though, I had some professional help to review what’s already written. I have some fabulous feedback I’m going to be working through, but for now, I have other projects taking precedence.

What’s Done

If you missed it, a second Clah tale is published. Clah Versus the Volcano: A Marshmallow Roast.

The first draft of parts 6, 7, and 8 of Rue From Ruin are in the can awaiting a revision and publishing here on the blog. I also had some professional feedback on the first few parts, and I’m going to do a bigger overhaul at some point and submit the resulting story to some contests and anthologies.

I submitted around 5000 words of RPG writing to be published in a forthcoming RPG game. I’ll keep the name of the game quiet for the moment. It’s due out later this year or early next, so I’ll share once there is something for you to see.

What’s In-Progress

My new novel, codenamed GIAO, is well underway. The draft is about 1/4 finished, and I’m writing on it regularly. This one is very exciting for me. I’ll write about some related topics as I go along. Maybe some worldbuilding posts and such.

Blog posts: I have one about paying for professional critiques (the short answer is: if you can afford it, do it). Also an RPG review a new version of one of my favorite games of all time King Arthur Pendragon. Finally, for those reading from work, I have several posts in various stages of completion on my tech blog: http://blog.dubmun.com

What’s Brewing

Another RPG project is in the works. This one is considerably more ambitious than the last, and I may be involved as more than a pinch-hitter. Very early stages, but I’m really excited about it. I’ll share more when the plans firm up.

I’ve also written up seeds of quite a few new stories and/or longer works. They aren’t worth sharing at the moment, but a couple of them are exciting.

Finally, I’m considering writing a webcomic. I’m talking to a few artists about an idea I believe translates well to the medium.

 

See ya around, and thanks for reading!

Clah Versus the Volcano: a Marshmallow Roast

Clah came into being during a writing exercise a while back, and I had a ton of fun writing about her. A few folks I know enjoyed Clah’s brief flash fiction introduction. They wanted to see more of her adventures. Who am I to argue? When I started writing 15 minutes a day, a new Clah story was one of the first things on my list.

Personally, I think it would be best to read Clah and the Ship before this new installment, but it isn’t necessary. Both stories stand alone.

Clah Versus the Volcano tries to keep the same dark whimsy feel as the original. Same content warning as last time: maybe read the story first before sharing it with smaller children.

—–

Clah Versus the Volcano: a Marshmallow Roast

by William Munn

Slow and rhythmic, the swaying midnight black tail lulled Clah as she slurped blood from the dead snake’s neck. At the edge of her vision, she could see the tail’s circular stripes encircling the viper’s body in a pale red that matched the lifeless reptilian head lying on the nearby loam. Reptiles were far from Clah’s favorite breakfast, not warm enough for her tastes, and yet one ate what one could catch and kill. Since the recent eruption of her island’s central mountain, and the feast of fleeing animals driven before it, she was having a harder time finding anything furry to eat. Creatures with some fuzz on them were her favorite, you see. Not because they tasted the best, but because it always amused her the way they tickled around the edges of her mouth while she ate.

Clah finished draining the remainder of the snake’s life, and she spat its neck out onto the floor of the forest with some distaste. It landed near the severed head, a sharp contrast to the mossy ground, in a loose pile of noodly limpness. Once, Clah had hidden behind a moss-grown mound as she watched similar viper strike. Its prey was a small fuzzy beast with cute little pink ears and large brown eyes. Those brown eyes stopped darting about as the snake’s venom took hold, paralyzing the fear in them. The struggle ended with the reptile opening its mouth wide and swallowing the creature whole. It was an unpleasant sight indeed, and one Clah never wished to see again. What kind of monster eats their meal whole? she thought.

Where do the bones go?

A shudder started in Clah’s shoulders and extended down to her toes. She bounded away from the deceased serpent to a nearby spot where rare sunlight gleamed through to the forest floor. The beams of shining light reprimanded the mist that still clung nervously to the bases of trees and undergrowth. Delicate and deadly, Clah curled up in a neat ball in the midst of those beams and fell quickly to sleep. Her dreams were soon filled with thoughts of sailors and other delicious morsels.

Visions so delightful weren’t meant to last, and soon Clah awakened to an uncouth and near-deafening rumble. A sound of this nature could mean only one thing, and as she came fully awake, she noticed the ground shaking. Clah uncurled from her comfortable position and looked up in the direction of the single blackened peak at the center of her homeland. Gigantic billows of smoke and ash rushed forth from the open maw at the mountain’s summit, and dully glowing rocks were arching through the sky away from the opening in a firestorm of sizzling death. Wave upon wave of glowing red fire rock poured out of the top of the mountain and down its side toward the forest below. Clah wondered somewhat idly what would make the land behave in this way. She watched in awe for a moment, until the molten wave of devastation crashed over and through the first row of trees and began coursing through the woods in a fiery wave. Another explosion rocked the island, and the ground quaked anew as one side of the mountain simply gave way. A full quarter of the mountain avalanched down to the now burning trees below, followed by another gush of glowing lava. The ground bucked so hard she could barely retain her footing.

It was at this point, Clah considered the fact she may be in real danger. If even the very earth would not maintain its shape in the face of such destruction, perhaps her home in the craggy cliff by the sea was at risk. She turned and leaped away toward the crag. There was one item in her home she must rescue which might also rescue her. She scrambled— jumping over fallen trees, mossy hillocks, and the rushing stream that ran through this part of the forest. The ground shook with another explosion, and Clah dared not look back for fear of risking her footing while dashing through the woods at top speed. A bird took flight from a tree in front of her, fleeing the same general direction as Clah. It was one of the white plumed flyers with a hooked beak. She had always wanted to taste one, but never could because they were too crafty to be caught. No time for such thought, she kept to her route as the flyer veered away, and Clah bounded to the edge of her cliff and scrabbled down it.

Clah stole one glance back at the burning catastrophe and noted that more than half the forest was now buried or in flames. She darted inside the cliff-face gap with the agility of one hyper-familiar with their surroundings. Touch was the only sense she needed, and it was well because the sky was darkening as the growing cloud of ash moved to cover the sun. The crag was in shadow on a sunny day, and now its interior was near complete darkness. Clah made her way to the back of her home and found the thing she was looking for. The small log raft onetime shipwrecked sailor had built at the edge of the forest on a beach near the mountain tree line was right where she left it.

Clah had been fascinated in the sailor’s progress as he worked to craft the vessel, and kindly waited to eat him until he finished his creation and was pushing it into the waves. She played on the boat in the surf of the beach that day, but only after enjoying her meal atop it, and giving the sailor an impromptu burial at sea by nudging him overboard. Being the curious creature she was, Clah wondered at how the raft could stay afloat with her riding its ridged back in the shallow waves of the incoming tide. Perhaps it was sinking, but very slowly, she thought. In the end, she had dragged the log construct to the crag, and now occasionally brought the raft out to play with it in the safer cove just north of her rocky one.

Today she pulled the vessel back to the cove quickly. Only as needed did she stop to hoist it over her head so not to damage it on the jagged lava rock jutting up from the black sand of her beach. She peered nervously at the mountain, and it shuddered and rumbled deeply again as if admonishing her, and another gout of fiery liquid rock flowed over its edge and sped across the already darkening layer beneath. Some already reached the edge of the forest at the north cliff of the cove. It was spilling over the brink and pushing out across the sand.

Clah rushed to the spot she intended to launch from, she pushed the raft into the surf and climbed atop it, paddling at the water with two legs to gain more distance. Moments later, ocean water hissed and steamed as lava pushed out into it, blackening on contact and releasing a stench like eggs left too long without a mother to tend them. As the tide took her out to sea, Clah watched her only home shrink in the distance and wondered where the ocean would guide her tiny craft.

What I’m Excited About: Coal Belly

Hey folks, time to take a break from writing and discussing RPG games (and how I like them as creative tools for writers).

Now I’m going to talk about reading.

I try to broaden my reading horizons from time to time. Try is the operative word. When I had an opportunity to read some books indie-published by an author in my writing group that was firmly outside my usual reading coterie, I welcomed the opportunity with perhaps some minor trepidation.

K.M. Alexander’s weird fiction series, The Bell Forging Cycle, has three books so far. I didn’t relish telling a growing friend who gave great writing advice his style of writing wasn’t for me. What if I couldn’t bring myself to read book two (Old Broken Road)? Also, I’ll admit I wasn’t very excited about reading something “self-published”.  All I knew about self-pubs at the time was the worst FUD distributed by two types of sources. Traditional publishers and reviewers with obvious skin in the game continue to rail against self-pubs even today. Also, multiple people I know have read and reacted poorly to something written and published by a person (often their neighbor or family member) who clearly had no understanding of what is actually involved in the publishing process or frequently even the writing process.

It turns out, there was absolutely no cause for concern. I finished The Stars Were Right rarely putting it down over a single weekend. I’ve since read the rest of The Bell Forging Cycle, and I can’t imagine a sci-fi/fantasy fan who wouldn’t enjoy following along with Waldo Bell’s trials and triumphs in the strange yet familiar multi-tiered city of Lovat. It’s such a rich and intriguing world. I could imagine myself visiting Lovat, and I sure wish I could.

The Point–

K.M. has just finished a zero-draft version of Coal Belly, and I’ll be gnashing my teeth and wailing until I can get my hands on it. Coal Belly isn’t a new installment in The Bell Forging Cycle, it’s a new novel with a whole world of fascinating characters, stories, and ideas behind it.

Mr. Alexander can surely explain it better than I:

–REBLOGGED–

Last weekend, after a year and eight months, I finally hit print on the final chapter of my latest novel, Coal Belly. The first of what I hope to be a trilogy. Right now, it weighs in at 190k words, and I expect it to grow. Long time readers know this isn’t the first time I’ve written […]

via So, Coal Belly is Done… Sorta — I Make Stories

A New TinyD6 Game… Sort-Of

Updated 9/15/2017

In a way, this is even better than a new TinyD6 game.

I’ve written about TinyD6 tabletop RPG games on several occasions. Now the grandparent of them all, Tiny Dungeon, gets an update. The new 2nd edition includes tons of expanded rules for characters and GM tools. Also, MICROSETTINGS! Have I raved enough about MICROSETTINGS? I can never tell. A microsetting is a six-page primer with all the setup of a world complete with adventure hooks. They give GMs a great place to start without having to be too prescriptive or taking forever to grok.

Alan Bahr and team have done a fantastic job updating the original Tiny Dungeon (by Smoking Salamander Games) to the standard of Tiny Frontiers and Tiny Frontiers: Mecha & Monsters.

If you held off trying the original, or you loved it like so many of us, do yourself a favor and check out Tiny Dungeon 2e! The stretch goals keep falling. Get in there and help us backers fun out what else Gallant Knight Games has up their sleeves!

The Kickstarter funded in no time and the stretch goals keep falling. Get in there and help us backers find out what else Gallant Knight Games has up their sleeves!

Tiny Dungeon 2e Kickstarter

You can see Alan’s original blog post about the kickoff below.

Our newest TinyD6 game is live on Kickstarter! Tiny Dungeon 2e! Please, go check it out! I can only do this job I love because of support of others and their generosity in purchasing my products!

via Tiny Dungeon 2e Live on Kickstarter! — The Last Paladin

Tiny Dungeon 2e - Minimalist fantasy roleplaying is back! -- Kicktraq Mini

What to Expect During Your First Year of Writing Fiction

Welcome, friends, to a post about writing when you are new to the craft. First, let’s do a little housekeeping. You may have questions. I think I have guessed a couple of them. Let’s see if I’m right.

Isn’t it presumptuous of you to be giving writing advice when you aren’t published (indie or traditional)?

Yes and no. I’m not going to be telling you about “my sure fire way to get published”, “the top 10 things you MUST do as a writer”, or even “all the mistakes I made during my first year writing”. Believe me, do I ever have plenty of content for the last one.

But no. This is an experience report. An opinion piece on all the things I believe a new writer will probably notice as well. At least if they are half as dim-witted and brain-addled as I am.

Wait. Haven’t you been writing way more than a year?

Yes. Sort of. I’ll explain eventually, give me time. I REQUIRE TIME.

On to the experiences!

Your first year as a writer

The first year as a writer is one of the most frustrating things a person can experience.

You’re thrust from the world where people don’t see your thoughts, feelings, and ideas on display for full scrutiny. Now those same thoughts, feelings, and ideas are available in a format where anyone and everyone can analyze them at their leisure.

It’s like if you moved your funny bone from its semi-protected spot on your elbow all the way down onto your fingertips. Now every time you angry-text someone, you get a nerve zinger shooting up your arm.

Delightful.

It’s ok. Sometimes people are kind– oh wait. Sometimes Roy is right too:

You’ll spend hours revising and proofreading

You will spend hours checking the words you wrote. You’ll look for spelling errors, grammar gaffes, poor phrasing, long sentences, short sentences, too many sentences that all are the same length, use of all five senses, nice rhythm and flow, consistent persona and tense, and the list goes on and on.

Everyone goes through this. We all have to learn it. Good news: the longer we spend looking at these mistakes and fixing them, the less likely they are to get into our zero-draft work in the first place.

You’ll receive conflicting advice

You’ll get advice from other writers, much of it conflicting.

You’ll be drawn in different directions by people with more experience than you. Who’s opinion should you take on board? Who’s right and who’s wrong?

As a wiser person than me once said: there are very few absolutes in the world. What works for one writer may not work for another and vice versa.

Reserve judgment on the “facts” you see and hear. When a writer tells you that she thinks writing in 15-minute sprints is better than waiting for bigger blocks of time, ask her why she thinks that. If you’re lucky, you’ll get concrete reasons for the opinion, and you will have learned something. Collect ideas from more than one writer. Find out if there’s a consensus. Read the original material and do your own research. Take no-one’s opinion as gospel, but put effort into formulating your own.

Try some of the different ideas, but not all of them. You’ll be forever experimenting otherwise. Just be sure you quit the things that are not working.

You won’t know what to learn

Should you learn more about tactical sentence structure? Do you need to figure out how to make your characters life-like? Does creating a plot structure terrify you? How early should you start building a following and how do you do that? How do you world-build and how much world building is too much? Where do you find reliable resources on writing?  And if you have to learn all this, what order should you learn it in?

It’s a hard enough to learn just exactly what the list of things you should learn are. Worse, you also have to prioritize the list.

I’ve gone down some rabbit holes in my time. My best experience thus far has been when I’m writing new words every day, and I try to get answers to the things that come up as I’m writing.

Also, having a good writing group at your back is an immense help here. If you aren’t part of a writing group… be part of a writing group.

Your ego is in your words

You’ll feel that a failing in your words is a failing in you as a writer. If someone finds mistakes in your writing, you’ll feel it’s an attack on you.

Learning to write well: you need to get some less desirable words out on paper/screen before you’ll start writing better ones. There isn’t a way around it. Just accept that you’ll be writing poorly at times.

Writers with more experience stay a little more detatched. They’ve already written tons of words even they consider terrible. Try to welcome criticism. Look at it as an opportunity to learn and improve.

Man, sometimes I want so badly to get defensive about words just because I happened to be the one that wrote them. The good news is, as the old coding saying goes, your words are not your child. You can throw them out if they get unruly. No one will even bat an eyelash.

You’ll feel like you have to know everything

The good news is: you don’t.

You’ll probably quit a lot

Maybe you won’t. I did. This is the answer to the question above. I just now feel like I’ve really had a year’s worth of writing effort. I will say this (and break my rule about giving advice in this article in the process):

Don’t quit.

Quitting is how you lose. In fact, it’s the only way you lose. Keep writing. Write every day or nearly every day.

It will pay off.

———–

Thanks to Najaf Ali for setting up a great template in his article about the first year writing code. In more than a few ways, coding and writing are alike. I shamelessly thieved Najaf’s format for this post.

 

 

 

RPG Review – Tiny Frontiers: Mecha & Monsters

WILL RAMBLES

Here’s the deal folks. I’m not an RPG reviewer. I can’t pretend I’ve read all the books currently on the market, or even all the books I actually own. I love Tiny D6 games (Tiny Dungeon, Tiny Frontiers) as some of the best minimalist RPGs I’ve personally played, so I’m going to write an RPG review… even if it isn’t completely unbiased.

If you’re looking for my previous write-ups on Tiny D6 games, I can oblige. Just click the image below

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THE REVIEW

Fair warning: I play RPGs with the author of Tiny Frontiers: Mecha & Monsters on a fairly regular basis. I’ll do my best to remain unbiased, but keep this in mind.

Today I’m reviewing the Kickstarter edition of Tiny Frontiers: Mecha & Monsters by Alan Bahr .

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It’s a minimalist STAND ALONE (that’s right, you don’t need the original Tiny Frontiers to play) sci-fi RPG about giant robots and hyper-destructive kaiju, designed to play on the run, with new players, with kids, or just with your normal group when you are between campaigns.


1.) Size and Production Quality 

The Tiny Frontiers book isn’t huge. It clocks in at 164 pages in with gorgeous full-color illustrations and layout. There are sidebar callout, sensible tables, and has an overall clean look. It’s well organized and easy to read. The paper quality and binding are great. In short, the producers learned lessons from their previous projects. This book it top notch quality.

At any rate, the standard book is priced at $15 and the PDF on DriveThruRPG is only $10 at the moment. For my money, a huge bargain. It’s also available in hardcover print on demand for $30.

10/10


2.) Art

The art in Mecha & Monsters is far above average for an RPG. I’ve seen Ennie winners with worse art. There’s plenty of it, and it’s very evocative of the setting. I guess there could have been a little more? This is picking some serious nits.

9/10


3.) Content and Rules

For me, there are two areas where Tiny games really excel. This is one of them. The original TD rules are a great minimalist take with only 3d6 required to play. The Tiny D6 ruleset has been adapted for Mecha and Monsters with great effect. The game is still minimal and simple, getting out of your way so you can tell great stories together. Win.

9/10


4.) Game Master Section

In Mecha & Monsters, the GM section is a bit expanded over previous Tiny games. It has some nice guidelines for devastation, plenty of tables for random generation, and some guidelines for how to keep games about this particular brand of game fun.

8/10


5.) Pre-made Adventure

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I LOVE MICRO SETTINGS. Part of the stretch goals for the Kickstarter were micro settings written by sci-fi authors, RPG luminaries, and generally talented folk. People like Steve Diamond, Robert Denton, Marie Brennan, and Elizabeth Chaipradikul to name a few.

I can’t say enough about how easy and fun it is to read a 3-5 page micro setting, take one of its adventure hooks, and run with a fun session. All this in mere minutes.

10/10


Total Score: 46/50

The highest score I’ve ever given. Not that I’ve given many.

I’d purchase this game again.

POSTSCRIPT: Alan Bahr runs a tight KS ship, and he is running an amazing Kickstarter right now for Nocturnal Media. It isn’t sci-fi or minimalist but is it one of my all-time-favorite rulesets (King Arthur Pendragon– it’s possible KAP 5.2 will be my next RPG review), and the game is absolutely gorgeous. Also, a huge chunk of the proceeds goes to the widow and family of Stewart Wieck. Paladin was a labor of love for Stewart. Check out the Kickstarter. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/nocturnalmedia/paladin-warriors-of-charlemagne
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I’ll keep this short.

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K. M. Alexander posted a quote that struck a chord. For over a month now, my entire writing existence has centered around the idea he recently espoused here.

It works. I sit at the computer, and I say, “For the next 15 minutes there is nothing but writing.” Then I set a timer, and I go. Sometimes I get 350 words of total crap. Other times I can barely force 190 words, and none of them seem great. Other times, I feel like it’s all coming together. I feel like I’m writing something I would enjoy reading.

The other times are starting to outnumber the rest. It’s a good feeling.

Now back to work.