Category Archives: Publish

Warrior Princesses in the Realm of Everafter

A few months ago, I mentioned writing for a project that a friend of mine was working on. The project has finally completed, and is raising funds so that it can go to press and see the light of day. While I’m terrible at marketing my own projects, I feel much more motivated to promote a group project where I’m just a part of the whole.

The project is called Warrior Princesses in the Realm of Everafter. It is a setting for role playing games that’s fairly easy to adapt to any game system, but the one we’ve used is Dungeons and Dragons. Here’s a video outlining the setting and giving a few details about the project.

The video uses a (very nicely) edited down version of the opening fiction as narration, and it works to great effect. The art work is gorgeous and has a touch of Victorian whimsy to it. I think it looks almost painterly, which is a refreshing break from the de-rigueur of contemporary fantasy art, with its skulls and blood and dim, monochrome palettes.

Let me talk a bit about the project – we took the female characters from popular western fairy tales – Snow White, Cinderella, Rapunzel – along with other non-western sources – Pocahontas, Fa Mulan – and wrote the game around them. They are protagonists, with the agency to be the vanguard of change or the champion of their people. You play as one of them in a story of your own telling.

One of my favorite things about this project is that it’s female-focused, multi-cultural content in a genre that tends to speak only to white men. We’re seeing the tide shift toward plurality, and I’m glad to be a part of that movement. All that said, we’ve done our best to be as inclusive as possible, and if we’ve fallen short, we hope to be able to do better next time.

In addition to the writing and art, there is of course the game-setting itself. It includes fully constructed character sheets for the protagonists and antagonists, there are details on the settings with areas of interests and maps, and plot hooks to use in game. The game is ready to go more or less out of the box.

We’re hopeful that our first launch goes well, and we’re able to do a second deck in the setting, with more characters and realms. If this sounds like your sort of thing, we would appreciate your support, and any help you can providing in spreading word of it to other interested parties. Thank you!

Revision Bloat

I know better.

Revise after you finish. It’s the most basic of laws in writing. Don’t falter your momentum, keep pushing through the word count and scenes till you get to the end. But somehow, I always start at the beginning and work through, every time I sit down to write. And when you only have an hour after dinner, a break at work, or whatever, most of that time is eaten up fiddling with this sentence or that. I could spend days just working a single scene over and over till I have it just right, and leave the rest of the story unfinished.

Because, if the opening, or that one transition scene, or that one conversation, or whatever, isn’t exactly perfect, well, what incentive does the reader have to continue? Flawless logic, my dear, insecure ego. And whilst I fumble about the limbo of revision bloat, the ending remains unwritten, and so long as the story isn’t finished, I can’t be bothered to submit, can I? It’s a vicious, cruel trap I’ve set.

Catching myself red-handed doesn’t help as much as it should. It just makes things more awkward and uncomfortable, as I continue to do the thing I’m not supposed to, after it’s been pointed out to me, right in front of the person shaking their head, no!

That’s really my biggest problem right now, without deadlines of any consequence, projects can drag on endlessly, bloated with edit after edit, draft after draft. And eventually, an overworked, fussed-up story looses any grit and grain, become as smooth and uninteresting as baby-food and then it’s natural to let it go because whatever potency it once had is now sapped.

Some people benefit incredibly from a prolonged and extensive draft period. I feel my work is the opposite – the most successful stories have been ones I revised maybe once or twice, and then let them go, usually due to deadlines for contests or submission dates. The more I fuss, the less likely I am to let it go.

After years of silently thinking about writing, jotting notes about ideas that led nowhere, starting stories that faltered less than a thousand words in, this is the first, completely new story that I’ve never thought about before. It’s so easy to keep going back to old ideas that didn’t really get their due the first time around. And you have a starting point there, things already written, that you can borrow or steal to pad out the writing. It’s a cushion.

I didn’t want that security this time – I wanted something completely new, an idea and a culture and a setting I hadn’t explored at all. That’s what I’m churning out now and maybe that’s part of the reason why I’m being so fussy.

It’s been a long, and difficult labor already, but I know where to go, and what to do. I just need to pull the trigger on the last couple of scenes.

I can’t wait to finish.

Nudge the Needle

It’s difficult, starting from zero.

You’re fighting to get the needle to budge, even a little, and that’s the hardest thing of all. Starting from rest – even physics says so. You’re guided by something, maybe an image, or an idea that won’t leave you alone, so you have to get it moving somehow. But the needle is buried at zero, the engine sputters and coughs – that hum of power is long gone – the angle of the hill is too steep, and any number of other circumstantial things will stand up in the way of words.

Or that’s how it feels every time I sit down to write anymore.

Gathering momentum on a moving project is easy, it’s like the thing supplies its own ambition and motivation. The words come faster than I can write – which has its own problems, but I’d rather a torrent of useless words that need hours of editing and pruning, than this labor intensive grind to get the thing moving in the first place.

You start to doubt yourself, every sentence comes under scrutiny, cause and effect swap places, time frame changes, beginnings are re-written a dozen times, and the supporting cast changes names, appearance, number and beliefs like coats in the spring. On, off. On, off.

That’s probably the biggest hurdle in the way of my writing, that start from zero every time I work on a new story. And maybe that’s why all I want to do lately, is work on long projects, that will take me months if not years to do. Meaty, chunky books that I can get lost in for ages, a good 120 thousand word deep pool to dive into, and hide from the light.

But what good is a book, for a writer who hasn’t been published in four years? All the success from the past squandered in years of depression and so we find ourselves starting from zero, over and over. Every time it gets more difficult to get moving. The answer seems obvious, of course, even if it isn’t easy to implement.

Don’t turn the engine off. Let it idle, just a little, every day. Keep the insides lubricated and moving, and slowly, the engine will heal. That hum will come back. For now, if you have to get off and push the damned thing up the hill every day just to be able to ride back down and pop the clutch, and try to get the engine to start, well, sweat it out.

Just turning the key and hearing the engine chug isn’t doing any good. Finish the first one. The others will follow. They must. Because failure isn’t tenable. For now, I’m with all the other writers down here, in the purgatory of mud and muck, hunting for gems in the dusk and gloom.

I wish you luck, if you’re down here with me.

Another Week, Another book

About a year ago, my wife (who’s rather well established as a writer these last two years) wanted to put out an anthology to fund a local New York City charity, and sent out a call for stories. She was kind enough to ask me to contribute something, and I did. The anthology, Urban Harvest, was released last weekend, and here it is.

Urban HarvestIt’s odd to go for such a long dry-spell without exposing any writing, and then to suddenly have two stories in the ether is rather jarring. It feels like a splash of cold water in the face, or being dunked into freezing ice after a hot and sweaty day. Jarring, and exhilarating at once. If you’d be so kind as to pick up a copy, you’ll find in it, a few wonderfully warm (and a couple of particularly chilling) stories and you’ll be benefiting a charity – City Harvest – that feeds the homeless at a difficult time of year.

So much work left to do – with Slipstream City Volume 1 already out and about, we need to being work on Volume 2.  We have a theme, we have an idea, and soon, we’ll put out a call for stories to collect with a rather brief reading period, I imagine. And of course, there is my own writing to get to.

There, that’s about all the promotion I can muster for my own material right now.

The autumn is barely begun, and already the season is full of projects eating away at time. Something about the smell of October that makes me want to paint the grayscale world in bloody shades of red. Best get to writing before the fleeting season escapes with all the muses riding on its patchwork cloak of leaves.

Tick-tock!

Slipstream City

I was talking about finishing things last time, and I followed through on my own advise and finished up a project that has been a long time coming.

My friend, colleague, writer, film-maker, world-traveler and all-around good guy Sean Sakamoto and I had an idea to do a small collection of speculative-fiction stories about New York (where we live). The initial call went out to a few close friends, and we got a handful of stories. We wrote a couple ourselves and put together a small book, and here it is.

Slipstream City Volume 1: True Stories From Other New Yorks

Slipstream City Cover smallIt has taken a while to get here, but I’m glad it’s finally on Amazon, where people can possibly click on it and maybe even buy it, and at last, I hope, read it.

The actual exposing-the-book process has been very liberating, and I want to do more of it and on a larger scale. This is the first time I’m independently putting out my own material. Before, it has always been somebody else holding out an umbrella to shelter my work. This time, it’s just me (and Sean.)

We’re well on our way to working up a call for the second book. I want lots of stories, rich and thematic. But that’s the figure – for now, we are working to get the book more exposure as Volume 1 sails into the rear-view mirror.

On a personal level, this is the first work I have released into the open world since 2010. My short story “Entombed” was a finalist in the Blizzard Worldwide Story Contest and that left me with an incredible high, but shortly thereafter… well, maybe that’s for another day. I’m just glad to be back in the saddle.

See you guys down the trail.