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.”

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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.

MystiCon 2016 trip report

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.

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

Life beyond Kickstarter

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.