Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Nameless Way

The novel I'm working on is based on a game I played in the late 1990’s. Like, not just inspired by, but actually based on it. Yeah, I know, bad idea.

Some time in 1998 or early 1999, my brother and I got together at the comic book store we were running and started talking about how much we missed gaming. We set up a plan that we hoped would help our ridiculously busy group keep going, with multiple dungeon masters, a world that we built as we went along, and no fussing about continuity if one or two people couldn’t make it to a session. We went with Dungeons & Dragons, partly because everybody was already familiar with it.

I provided the first adventure (or you can ride the Wayback Machine), establishing the village of Timber, Kasmordo’s tower, and the forested mountains around them as the initial setting. This session also established Ezren’s supernatural bargain, Shao Tsang’s frequent Tao-quoting, and a number of other recurring themes. Before long, there was a forum, a web page, and even a yearly awards poll for things like best quote, best adventure, and so on.

We eventually wrapped up the campaign because we wanted to try 3rd Edition. For a variety of reasons, the group fell apart after only a few sessions of that second campaign. I could blather on for a while about what those reasons were, but it’s beside the point. The only reason I bring up the second campaign at all is that it showed me something about the first one that I hadn’t realized.

Our characters in the second campaign were fairly iconic: the grim fighter, the brash half-orc barbarian, the rogue with the shady past, and the bossy but loyal cleric/sorcerer. In the first campaign, that hadn’t been the case at all. Those characters were flawed, damaged, and often kind of weird. They eventually stumbled their way into heroism, but most of them started out as misfits with something to prove. They learned to be a team, but they didn’t just snap together like pre-fabricated shelves or video game archetypes; they had to work at it, and sometimes they failed.

Around that time, I published a piece of flash fiction that would eventually evolve into this book’s prologue. You can probably find it online if you really want to. I made a few starts on a follow-up story, then got distracted by other things and forgot about it for years,  although Ezren, Mogdar, Seisha, Shao Tsang, and Tellar did lend their names to spells in both the 2006 and 2009 editions of the Peryton Fantasy Role-Playing Game.

Recently, having decided to focus more on novels, I came back to these characters and their adventures, and I found something new. I suppose it could still turn out to be a bad idea, but I don’t care.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Eyes Open

Losing Lanterns was as good as Losing Lanterns could be, but there are things that nag me about it. Chief among them is that it's a novella made out of short stories. It was never really plotted out the way a novel should be, so it has a weird, lumpy, pacing and... other stuff... I guess. Yeah, boring topic. I only mentioned it because I'm excited to be doing this next one the right way.

Okay, technically, my next-up project is another Qalidar supplement, but I don't have a lot more to say about that. Okay, a little bit, but then we move on to novels. The Qalidar supplement is going to have the rules for taking characters up to 20th level, which is as high as I see it going. Beyond that, it's going to focus on a species of aliens called the stardust, including sections about their technology, organizations, goals, and methods. That's pretty much it. Mostly it's material I wrote a long time ago that just needs cleaning up.

One project that isn't next is a fantasy novel that's been slithering around the back of my head for the past 15 or 16 years. It's based on an our 1999-2000 D&D campaign, which is why I have been referring to it as my bad idea. A story like that -- even after I turn it into a coherent story -- is going to be full of nostalgic moments and other memories that mean nothing beyond a very small group of people. Naturally, I can write around that, but my own unreliable instincts would be something I'd have to constantly look out for. See? Bad idea, right? There's still a good chance I'll try it -- I came up with some great stuff just tinkering -- but not this time.

Another contender, one I haven't mentioned before, is a different fantasy novel. This one would feature Aradoc (from Losing Lanterns) on his own in a strange, dying land. The reason for this and for his jumbled memories is something that gets worked out as we go. No, it's not Hell or any other kind of dead people place. The other thing going on is a tense desert journey with a group of adventurers with loosely overlapping agendas and not much in the way of scruples. And lots of other stuff that I'm not prepared to go into here. Again, this is definitely still in the queue; it's just not next in line.

The winner? Welcome to Blackridge, a fictional college town in the Arkansas River valley. A diverse collection of characters plot and scheme in a vaguely soapish fashion. Also, some of them are conjuring spirits and making deals with dangerous alien intelligences. I'm hoping to combine some engaging characters with an area I know very well for a backdrop and some low-key but creepy paranormal/occult stuff to keep them hopping. There's an actual plot in there too, but I'm keeping that to myself for now. I don't have a title yet.

Imagine the perfect conclusion.

Monday, March 02, 2015

Losing Lanterns - Finished!

Hey, don't bother reading this long, meandering post! Just look at the cover, then run over to Amazon right now and grab the book in whichever format you prefer. It's pretty cheap, and better than anything you'll find in the ratty old blogosphere.

Still here? Hrm. Well... Okay, I guess I'll have to blather on about how I ended up writing this - as in history'n all that. Once upon a time, there was Eposic. They published my story, "Starshadows in Sideways Time" in The Book of Exodi (out of print).

After that book, the next one was scheduled to be Out of Order, in which the theme was, as you might have guessed, stories with a mixed-up temporal presentation. I don't remember if time travel was a requirement or if Faulknerizing would be allowed. My submission for that book was "As Always," the precursor to Part One of this novella.

Well, Eposic accepted "As Always," but went out of business before Out of Order was published, so I got the story back. I sent it to a couple of other places. I also sent the story that would become Part Three of Losing Lanterns around a bit. "As Always" actually got accepted by another outfit that went out of business before publication. I got a couple more rejections and got bored with the whole process. I know, I know, but it just occurred to me that I already knew how to get art and do layouts and all that, so maybe there was no reason to burn all those hours dealing with the ritual bullshit of submitting stories elsewhere.

I had intended all along for the two stories to mesh into a larger collection once they were done with their appearances in third party magazines, so I decided to just go ahead and re-shape them into a novel. Or a novella. Whatever.

Then I finished it, and everybody hated the end. Eventually, I agreed with them.

Then I finished it again, and here it is.