Counting down the days

And we’re less than two weeks out from the release of my short story collection, For a Few Gold Pieces More. I’m definitely looking forward to getting this out there. I have to admit, there were times I was beginning to wonder fi we could bring it in to a successful landing, but the proof is in the pudding — actually, the proof copy is in my hot little hands, but let’s not quibble.

Here’s a link to the StarWarp Concepts press release.

Cover to For A Few Gold Pieces More - Feb 2017

For A Few Gold Pieces More – Feb 2017

 

GenCon 2016 report

Back at work the Monday after GenCon. If I had been smart (and if things at work would have supported it), I would have just taken today off. So, I’ll give you the thumbnail from the show.

First panel was Short Stories vs. Vignettes. About 20 people in the audience. Since GenCon is a gaming convention, we discussed writing gaming short stories vice vingettes, which are usually used in gaming rule books to show the application of a rule without showing the dice being rolled. We also talked about how to write short (which is a skill I woefully lack), and how the shorter the piece can help a new author get published. When an anthology/magazine just needs one more piece to round out it’s word count, sometimes having a 1500-2000 word story might get you an acceptance over a 8-10K story.

Second panel was the Writer Beware presentation. Had one of the biggest crowds for this presentation that I’ve ever had – I know I had over 30 people there and it may have been more than that. It wasn’t the splendiforous presentation I’d anticipated, mainly because I swore it was scheduled for 5pm and at 3:05 the volunteers tracked me down wanting to know why I wasn’t at my solo panel — the one I have to set up A/V for. Yikes! Luckily, the room captain entertained the audience while I feverishly set up my computer and got the recalcitrant projector to work. Still managed to knock out a 50 minute presentation in 35 and had some time for questions, but I definitely was powering through a few of the slides. Still, got a lot of good questions, both before and after, and sent a few here to Absolute Write to check out the BB&R forum.

Third panel was Getting Inside Your Character’s Head. We discussed different ways to show inner dialogue as well as how to use body language to show emotions/reactions without having to constantly say, “X,” she thought. Also, we discussed techniques to show inner dialogue like the use of italics, using <<X>> to designate that the characters are speaking in a foreign language, even though it’s written in English. One of the panelists pointed out Mercedes Lackey used to use a colon at the front and back of a statement when her characters were speaking telepathically vice verbally. All in all, it became a techniques and tips panel about different things a writer can do, although the main point seemed to be “Be consistent whatever you decided to do”.

My first signing went about like I expected (no one), but I did get to spend a wonderful hour visiting with Eric Flynt, of the 1632 series of books from Baen. We talked about a number of subjects, like traveling to conventions (Eric once drove from Chicago to LA in one pull, but as he said, he was a LOT younger when he did that back in 1972), and publishing stuff in general. He gave me some tips for submitting stuff to the Grandville Gazette, which is a magazine dedicated to the 1632 series and he occasionally selects authors to co-author with from those submissions. Also caught up with Marie Brennan, whom I hadn’t seen in forever.

Fourth panel was Worldbuilding 101, with two game designers/authors and a video game designer/writer. We must have had about 60 people in the audience. Great panel, some good stories about applying world building to your story and your story to the world building (aka, you don’t need to build more of a world than your story is going to visit, but knowing a bit about what lies beyond the horizon helps make your story more realistic – if Character A has a throwaway line like “Oh, I see Joe just got in a new shipment of grapes from Ivanice,” you’ve just established the merchant’s name is Joe, there’s a country of Ivanice somewhere in this world and they export grapes. Even if your character never actually goes to Ivanice in your game/story, it still makes the world feel bigger.

Did my reading Friday evening. Not a huge crowd at 7pm, but good responses from the ones who showed up. I did a reading from “Shades of Blue”, one of the short stories from my For a Few Gold Pieces More collection, coming out this fall and I got a good feeling when Cat Rambo (president of SFWA) and Jody Lynn Nye (author of the continuing Myth-Adventure series) congratulated me on the story and asked when the book was coming out.

My last panel was “Knowing When to Quit”. Wow, what an open-ended topic. We discussed dealing with rejection, studying the market, knowing when to trunk something, knowing when to punt (but salvage good parts) and knowing when you just weren’t ready to tackle a specific story. We did not talk about knowing when to quit altogether. A couple of the panelist wanted to bring that up, but I thought we should keep the panel semi-optimistic. Maybe that’s sugar-coating it, but I didn’t feel people who’d paid to attend a panel should have their ambitions crushed before they even get started.

Did one last signing on Saturday and actually signed two of my books that had been bought over at the booksellers. Yay me! Also had a nice time visiting with Lawrence Schoen (who’s written a great book, Barsk. You should definitely check it out!) Jody Lynn Nye showed me an app I really should consider picking up for my iPhone (it lets you play the bagpipes on your phone … ah, dreams of the moors…ahem, where was I?)

Sunday I was assigned to do a read and critique session. We were supposed to have ten people read two minutes worth of their papers and then we would have three minutes to critique them each (3 critiquers). However, only three people of the ten who’d signed up made it. So, we did the initial critiques and then spend the rest of the two hours workshopping with the three brave souls (one of whom was a HS junior and her first time presenting out loud). It was a lot of fun and all of the stories were good, but not “great”, which I’m sure is why they signed up for the session. We had two editors and me on the panel, so each of us caught different things as the person read. Now, I fully admit, listening to a story instead of reading it takes a different skill and I’m not convinced it’s the most efficient way to do this since some people are good readers, some get carried away doing their voice acting, and some are just flat out nervous to read aloud, but that was the format I was given to work with, so we did what we could. Still, the presenters seemed to get a lot out of it and I think it was useful not only to them, but to me.

Oh, and the highlight of the convention, I had a pitch session with an agent. Now, luckily for me, the agent was a very patient man since I’d never done anything like this before. So, I pitched On Wings of Steel, my steampunk novel and when he asked if I had anything else, I told him I did have Steel on Target, my military science fiction story, but it was a few chapters short of being finished. He asked me to tell him about that and in the end, he asked for the first thirty pages of both manuscripts. Trying not to get too excited about this because I’ve had partials (and fulls) rejected before, but I have to admit, I may have done a fist-pump or two on the way back to the green room.

Also, talked to several gaming companies about doing some writing for them and may have accidentally gotten on the radar for a future anthology an editor is putting together. But, we’ll see about those.

So, all in all, had a great time, spent way too much money, had a less-than-stellar hotel, spent way too much money and time in cabs, and visited with a ton of writers, game designers, video-game designers, editors, and publishers over the five days I was in Indianapolis. Would I go back again next year? Oh, hell yeah.

The Last Push to the Wire and a snippet for everyone who’s helped so far

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”:

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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.

“Whatcha want?”

“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.

Collaboration – Take Two

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.

When the writer and artist are in sync, great things happen

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:

yukiThe update goes into more detail about how the artist and writer can work together to make something that transcends both of their initial concepts.

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.

A Halfway Point Treat

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…
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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.
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For the rest of the snippet, please check out Update #5 at the For a Few Gold Pieces More Kickstarter page.

Help comes from the Black Gate

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.

We’re entering the back stretch.

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*

A chance to whet the appetite

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:

Skin the Cat

#9 Skin the Cat

Farpoint 2016 and a Kickstarter update

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.

Shane Braithwaite's poster of Yuki for the upcoming Kickstarter

Shane Braithwaite’s poster of Yuki for the upcoming Kickstarter