Dreams with a Hint of Barnacles

I had an unusual dream last night. For one thing, it wasn’t a nightmare.

I enjoyed this dream.

In the dream, I witnessed a dark fantasy world, which appeared as a nested set of tales, one hidden within another down a few layers deep. For this reason, it is tough to remember what the overall story was about.

Dark armor. Bright blades. Powerful heroes. Tragic and dramatic results.

All surrounded in wind and rain, possibly a result of the winter storm going on in my area last night.

Right now, it seems to me this dream could apply to an odd set of worlds I have been fiddling on, involving space-traveling fantasy with barnacles on giant spacefaring creatures. But now, as I unpack the dream, it fits a much older setting I’ve created a lot better.

That setting has gone by the name of Fantasy A (I know, I’m terribly creative).

This is a setting I’ve probably mentioned before on this blog, but likely that was years ago. I can’t recall precisely.

It’s a world of demons and magic, but regardless, I’m excited to pick it up at some point in the near future, especially after this night of dreaming.

For now, though I have other work to pursue. Such is the life of a writer.

Thanks for reading.

The Deadly Sins of Writers

Let me explain the title of this post for starters.

I’ve been kicking around a nonfiction idea for writers, I think of as the seven deadly sins of writers. Greed, sloth, etc, as they apply to writers. As I consider this book (Along with my many and varied fiction projects), I realized one of these sins stands out the most to me as it applies to writers.

I think envy is my greatest challenge at the moment (With sloth/indolence being a close second).

Lately, I look at the success of others, and though I think I’m managing the envy well compared to how I’d deal with it in the past, you could say I’m a bit nervous of how long I can maintain a good attitude about my feelings.

There are lots of independent authors who do very well. I’m working to become one of them, as I’m sure many of you know. The only way to get there is to work more. That’s where sloth arrives to join forces with envy. I’m less skilled at dealing with envy of other peoples’ attitude or work ethic, and that’s what I find gets to me these days. It’s not about the money, it’s about the process. If I felt freer, I would be on my way in no time.

Of that, I feel certain. But never mind the negativity.

I have more words to do today. Just wanted to check in with you readers first. I’m still working on the sequel to The Mangrove Suite. It’s going pretty well right now, though it could always be better.

No excerpt this week. Would be too spoilery given the subject matter of the recent chapters.

The Return of Blogging

 

Hey, everyone.

 

Let me just dust off this old blog here.

 

Whew.

 

By god, it has been a while.

 

First off, I want to say thanks to everyone who read and enjoyed the serials Tenlyres, Stolen Parts, and Invisibles. Those are going to be on hiatus for the time being, to give me more time to write other fiction. I love writing stories, but right now I don’t have the ability to split my focus and construct fiction for sale and fiction for this blog simultaneously.

 

Next up, there are only a couple days left before October, at which point I will be ending my giveaways on instafreebie.com. If you want to get Rem’s Dream for free, head over there using this link before the first of the new month.

 

Now, a quick update on my writing process.

 

I picked up the writing pace on Sunday, and maintained a pretty solid rate (for me) through the week. All these words either went to notes in the “Clean” universe, where my latest release is set. This is a pretty unusual genepunk/cyberpunk setting which also features an alien occupation of the Earth in the near future.

 

I decided on Sunday, after a solid day of writing on the second book in the series, that I want to keep this setting alive for a good long while. I don’t want to be bound to one story-world for my whole career, but I think I can commit to this one for a while. Along those lines, I started brainstorming some new spin-off story ideas on Tuesday, for use once I get some more released in the main series.

 

It’s also worth noting that I have begun a consistency challenge to write at least 100 words every day for 100 days. Lately, I haven’t always been consistent, and this has hurt my momentum on the stories I’ve been producing. I started this challenge on Sunday, so I’m now on Day 6 of the challenge, as of this writing.

 

Anyway, I’m pretty happy with my progress. I’m sharing a brief sample from the week’s writing below. It’s good to be back and talking as myself. Feel free to leave a comment, or click on the sidebar at mentalcellarpublications.com and check out any of my books. Thanks for reading everyone.

 

Weekly Writing Excerpt (Rough Draft)

He nodded. “It felt good to help. To be one of the good guys again.”

“Is that how you felt when you served?” Elizabeth’s voice was soft. “Like a good person?”

I remembered how she once told me her father had been in the military. Elizabeth rarely discussed her family, and I could tell at the time she and her father were not on good terms. She looked down at her plate with a sigh.

Thomas glanced at me. I unfolded my arms. The silence seemed absolute despite the other residents eating at neighboring places all around our table.

I said, “Don’t rush into anything, Thomas. It’ll be dangerous out there.” Outside the window, snowflakes started to scatter from low, gray clouds.

Thomas gave me a small smile. “I promise, I’ll tell you first if I decide to do something crazy.”

Soul Art

Today today today!

The sequel to “Hunter and Seed,” a little novel called “Soul Art” by yours truly is finally out for preorder!

I could not wait to release this, but it’s taken longer than I wanted. All things considered, my brain is a wild and weird artifact, including a few features I don’t like a whole lot. One of those despised traits is depression, and I have been dealing with that for much of my life. I suffered some serious bouts of depression over the last year and a half.

Excuses aside, I am excited to finally release this book. And in the honor of this release, I’ve lowered the price of “Hunter and Seed” to ninety-nine cents. If you have not checked that book out yet, now is the time.

I love writing, and writing this blog is good fun. However, writing fiction is my greatest passion. I think a lot of you, especially those of you who have enjoyed my serials on this blog, will like reading both “Hunter and Seed” and “Soul Art.”

Thank you for reading.

Triple Threat Giveaway

Hey, everybody, I missed my accountability post yesterday for two reasons.

1. It was Mother’s Day where I live. I love my mom.

2. I was actually busy working when I wasn’t doing Mother’s Day things.

That work involved editing and producing three samples of my existing fiction for three giveaways over at Instafreebie.com. Those are all live now, as the triple threat giveaway.

Each of the sections is the opening of a novel I have not yet completed. They will be available until July 15th 2017. After that point, I’ll look at the one with the most downloads and the best feedback, and then I’ll complete the most popular book.

So, without further ado, here are the descriptions for these three stories.

The Mangrove Suite

A story of lost love, and the man who will give anything to restore a memory.
Jethro Gall is a memeotect, one of the specialists who creates shows for the mental networks of his strange near-future world.
When he finds a woman who he once knew, but with her memory erased, he will pursue the truth behind the otherworldly beings that govern humanity, and their ability to remove memories.

This is one of three early samples by Tim Niederriter. Check out the ones that look interesting. The most popular will be the first to be fully produced. The other two samples are entitled “White Curtain Court Mage,” and “Temple Theater.”
Spread the word and enjoy them all.
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White Curtain Court Mage


An empire built on magic. A young plant mage. A rival nation prepared for war.
Edmath has trained for most of his life to become a life mage. When he graduates from his magical academy, the real challenge begins. Separated from his royal lover by their diverging careers, Edmath finds himself caught in the intrigue of court politics.
The machinations of the neighboring nation will push him to the limits as war threatens. He will be driven far to find the truth and to stay alive.

This is one of three early samples by Tim Niederriter. Check out the ones that look interesting. The most popular will be the first to be fully produced. The other two samples are entitled “The Mangrove Suite,” and “Temple Theater.”
Spread the word and enjoy them all.
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Temple Theater


Take the stage or die trying.
Dol once met the girl who would save the world almost nine years ago. He will do anything to protect her, and help her in her mission.
Gods in ill-health witness plays performed by mortals in their temples. Through those plays, mere mortals attempt to sway the minds of beings beyond time. Humans need all the help they can get against the gigantic enemies who appear in the east.
All the worlds a stage. And even the gods are merely players.

This is one of three early samples by Tim Niederriter. Check out the ones that look interesting. The most popular will be the first to be fully produced. The other two samples are entitled “White Curtain Court Mage,” and “The Mangrove Suite.”
Spread the word and enjoy them all.

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Whew, the links are in the titles of each story.

Also, if you don’t want to scroll back up, here they are again.
The Mangrove Suite
White Curtain Court Mage
Temple Theater.

Thanks for all the support. Share. Share. Share and enjoy!

Thanks for reading.

A Challenging Book

I just finished reading a very interesting book. It’s called The Brothers Jetstream: Leviathan by ZigZag Claybourne. Some of you may recognize him as the author of a fabulous guest blog post a while back.

I thought this book was really quality entertainment, but at times it was difficult to follow for a few reasons I went into in my review over at amazon and goodreads.

Reviews aside, I liked the book. I also thought it challenged me a little bit, especially with some of the notions I have acquired as a writer.

The first of those notions that The Brothers Jetstream challenged was the assumption of what needs to be dramatized as a scene, as opposed to summarized. Without getting too nuts-and-bolts, I mean that certain types of scenes, especially action scenes received moments of concise summary, in place of length exchanges. I like this part of the book a lot, but it is definitely not something I have done much in the past, within my work. In the future? Probably I will have to try it out.

Second, I think the sheer glut of characters, while it did not bother me, it spiked up the reading difficulty. Just keeping track of all the names could be tough at times. However, I could generally put the name to about 80% of the characters in even the biggest group scenes. All in all, this is more of a quibble than a complaint. And the fact that, given the name and a little dialog I could usually recall large parts of the character’s introduction, I gotta say ZigZag rocks quick characterization.

I’m beginning to run down for the day. I think I’ll leave it here.

Thanks for reading.

Happy Holidays (And a Sale)

Dear readers, we are approaching the end of 2016, as I’m sure you are all away.

I haven’t had a lot of time to blog lately. I have been writing a lot of fiction and preparing a lot of outlines for more fiction.

The work is going well. The words are flowing.

In related news, there is currently a kindle countdown sale going on for my book, “Hunter and Seed,” the sequel of which should be out in March. Follow the link below to get the ebook for 99 cents American.

Amazon

The price will rise in a few days, but as long as you get in before the 22nd, you can get it at a reduced price.

Thanks for reading. Happy holidays.

Guest Post: Heisenberg Compensators

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Today I have a guest post for you, from an amazing writer I’ve been following for a few months. He has a style I can only dream of, and his crazy ideas are the sort I aspire to as well. If you ever wondered about genre, this is the guy to see. Everyone, Zig Zag Claybourne!

Heisenberg Compensators

“Tell me about the Before-Time, DiJonn,” says the waif.

“It was a time of repetitive wonders…” says the old man, eyes focusing on days he’ll never get back. “When only starship captains were allowed emotional arcs, and fans knew precisely at all times what they were buying…”

Low blow? Not too low. Let’s talk genre. Sci fi. Horror. Fantasy. Literary. Comedy. Erotic. What’d we leave out? (Tractor porn is not a genre. Ignore what Skeeter says.) Genre sets up expectations. From sci fi, we don’t expect deeply emotional romance. From horror, we get blindsided by the inclusion of robots (although we already live in a ghost world thanks to AI and “smart” tech). Fantasy? Get that socio-political layering out of my elven shire! We want what we want, and publishing has made sure we get that. Up till now.

Just this year I’ve read a book that features religion, damnation, time travel, horror, and a fair bit of comedy, not as incidentals but as the very fabric of the book; another where a witch and a technogeek have an on-again, off-again relationship that threatens to destroy the world; I wrote one myself (shameless frikking plug) merging science fiction, adventure, literary, satire and fantasy. It’s been described as “Buckaroo Banzai by way of James Baldwin and Blade”, and in my neck of the woods you mention any one of those three, you have my attention.

I freaking adore genre blending.

Frankenstein: gothic horror environmental philosophical treatise. The Bible: horror, sci fi, poetry, adventure, love story. Lucian of Greece’s True History: travel writing, sci fi, satire straight from the second century. Hell, even Peanuts counts as YA Dystopia (a world where even children need psychological counseling on a regular basis, and happiness is sought but never achieved). Creators have been dipping their chocolate into peanut butter since words became the rage. The blending of genre speaks not only to the sophistication of the world but of the reader herself. The Greek myths were huge soap operas against a backdrop of testosterone and estrogen of unimaginable levels. The African Orishas are sci fi, horror, fantasy, and romance all at the same time. There is no story that is a single thing unless we force it to be so. Unfortunately there’ve been lots of forced marriages in publishing. The world may never know how many writers have felt compelled to funnel what could have been grand ideas into narrow loveless couplings. Imagine The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy being pitched today.  It’d either be an indie effort or it’d be pared down to being a buddy comedy with a quick, easy payout. Which is sadness.

The argument against blending says readers will be confused, and an author can’t build a following off of confused readers. Let me throw some names out to Google at your discretion: Sam Delany, CSE Cooney, Harlan Ellison, Kurt Vonnegut, Toni Morrison, Ursula Le Guin, Gene Wolfe, Frank Herbert, Julian May, Terry Pratchett. You can build audience by being intriguing, by being daring, and respecting that a reader’s sense of adventure knows no bounds. One of the best novellas I’ve read in years came out via Tor.com in 2015: Kelly Robson’s Waters of Versailles. It’s fantasy, it’s historical, it’s farce, it’s as much about class structures as Les Miz and it’s deeply emotional. I love it. Kelly is one of the best practitioners out there of blending not only genre but realism, and guess what? You’ll be seeing her name for years. We forget that before there was “genre” there was simply good story.

In the beginning was the word, remember? And the word was good?

Are we seeing an upsurge in people wanting their consumables to do more than comfort them? I think we are. There’s enough familiarity in innumerable aspects of life that people can enjoy the challenge of a many-flavored mental meal, and with indie artists experiencing a boom of reach and availability (check out the indie lighthouse-site Narazu.com) the walls of genre aren’t merely crumbling, suckers are vaporizing. Don’t get me wrong, it’s good to have markers. But it’s also good to know that at any moment of your choosing you can screw the map and go off-road. I titled this little blog “Heisenberg Compensators.” Why? If you’re into Star Trek you know that’s a McGuffin they created for their transporter technology to overcome the principle that the position and the velocity of an object cannot both be measured exactly, at the same time, even in theory. In theory we’re not supposed to be able to bounce about on a quantum level and have all kinds of resulting fun.

I give the human brain credit though. We take disparate bits, beam them into our imaginations, and reassemble them as paranormal detectives, mermaid orphans, mystic adventurers, or starship captains quite literally in love with their ships (hello AI-virtual reality world!). Genre-blending is not only fun to write and read, it leaves both the author and audience (wait for it) energized.

Surprised, even. Pleasantly.

Who doesn’t love that?

BIO STUFF

Zig Zag Claybourne (also known as Clarence Young) wishes he’d grown up with the powers of either Gary Mitchell or Charlie X but without the Kirk confrontations. (And anybody not getting that Star Trek reference gets their sci fi cred docked 3 points.) The author of The Brothers Jetstream: Leviathan, Neon Lights, Historical Inaccuracies, By All Our Violent Guides, and In the Quiet Spaces (the last two under C.E. Young), he believes a writer can be like an actor, inhabiting a delightful variety of roles and genres, but his heart belongs to science fiction.

His fiction and essays have appeared in Vex Mosaic, Alt History 101, The Wayne Review, Flashshot, Reverie Journal, Stupefying Stories, The City (a cyberfunk anthology), UnCommon Origins, Extraordinary Rendition: American Writers on Palestine, and Rococoa (sword & soul/steamfunk anthology).

When not writing (or fiddling on Facebook) he loves promoting great art and posing the Great Questions, such as whether or not anybody will ever be funkier than Prince.

Find him on the web at www.WriteonRighton.com

Guest Post: World building: Novels v. RPGs with James Silverstein

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In the spirit of sharing the awesome, I have a guest post for you readers today.
James Silverstein is the author of Necropolis, now available on amazon.com in print and ebook. He is a veteran game-master, and an articulate writer as well as a skillful storyteller. I can say from experience he’s also a solid friend to have in your corner on a bad day.
Fans of the podcast, Of Mooks & Monsters, should enjoy this post because it’s about world building for roleplaying games.
With that in mind, I’ll get out of the way now. Without undo ado, please welcome James Silverstein to the mental cellar.

Buy James Novel, Necropolis! Print Kindle Ebook
Of Mooks & Monsters Podcast

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World building: Novels v. RPGs
(or: Movie Sets vs. Community Playgrounds)

by
James Silverstein
World building for a novel. In the beginning, we said, “Let there be story!” And… there was still this sheet of blank white paper there. We needed a place for our characters to do their jobs in.
And while those two lines look mostly identical, and while the processes of filling those white spaces are quite similar, there are strong contrasts, in the end, as to what we’re building: Movie sets, or playgrounds.
When building a world for a novel, I get to mold the entire universe around an action, or a set of actions, that the characters in the book will do. While writing the novel ‘Necropolis’, I needed Marcus Sage to find out about an infidelity. Boom, suddenly there was a nice seedy hotel that he could peep into. The blinds were down, of course, so there were only silhouettes, but still, it was there because it needed to be there. Likewise, a steamy brothel, a dirty alleyway, a federal office; everything existed to further the plot as I saw it. In other novels, unlikely-placed planks of wood, or lonely roads, or diners in the middle of nowhere all sprung up, populated by a plethora of characters (even a monkey!), and all became part of the world. Many, if not all of these places and people would be revisited more than once in the course of the writing. Some would even become more central plot points along the road. And while I found myself sometimes writing spaces simply for flavor, even in the end, these places helped inform the action or atmosphere of the story itself. Everything was built, custom-made, for the plot and adventure I was trying to put forth. It was a movie set, with everything in a specific place, and the lighting, the scenery, the props, even the extras; everything was planned and placed exactly where I needed it (largely to be adjusted in the editing process, but this, too, made it like a film set.) Furthermore, I built this world alone. Yes, there were moments I would talk to friends or other authors to smooth out some rough edges, but in the end, everything came together for a story in my head that went onto paper.
* * *
World building for a game. In the beginning, we said, “Let there be game!” And… there was still this sheet of blank white paper there. We needed a place for the players to play in.
World building in a game is another creature entirely. Most GM’s know that if you place your players in a static movie set, they’ll do one of two things. Either they’ll become bored at the possible railroad nature of what’s ahead of them (for those who aren’t familiar with the term ‘railroad’, I suggest checking out this excellent article: http://www.gnomestew.com/game-mastering/gming-advice/how-you-prep-is-how-you-run/ ), or they’ll immediately set themselves to knocking over that piece of scenery over there, or that light stand just next to the camera. Granted, there are those players who are just fine playing in a static world, but I find them to be few and far between.
The world building for an RPG, I feel, is best done dynamically. Much like the building of the world of the novel, things appear as they need to in order to serve the story, but in this case, the story evolves with the participancy of the players. You are no longer building a movie set, but a community playground. Because of this, I find that allowing the players share the heavy lifting can do a world (no pun intended) of good for the construction and the familiarity of the world. The dwarf needs a homeland to come from. If the player suddenly pipes up and mentions that his homeland has a problem importing grain, and he wants to make it a priority for his character to get some sent back? Instant world building detail, and the GM didn’t have to lift a finger.
Now, this particular detail can, of course, go off in many directions. You may, later in the campaign, revisit why the grain problem is as it is. Are there bandits? Is there some curse the dwarves are under? Is it politics? Is there perhaps a monkey involved? Suddenly the dynamic world building has brought you more game and more game-plot. Again, you didn’t have to lift a finger to get it. And if you don’t feel like you want to drive the plot in that direction? The world detail is still there for you to simply know about. It informs the dwarf’s character.
Further, a more dynamic approach allows the players to run amok in a world that they feel they have a greater stake in. When a merchant appears that one of the players mentioned in their backstory, there’s an automatic connection. Whether the characters know the merchant already or not, the players know that they helped create her, and that investment tends to draw players in much more quickly and completely. This is the ‘community’ nature of a community playground; when the entire neighborhood builds the swingsets and the slides, everyone feels they have a stake in both the upkeep and the general use of the place.
When writing for a novel, I almost always outline the action as I see it, and build around that. It is, as I’ve mentioned, a solo act. While writing a game, I have a small exercise I give to my players that involves them in the process; a sort-of forced brainstorming session that goes like this*:
During character creation, I have each player come up with three people their character gets along with, three that they don’t, and three that they just know, without any specific bonhomie or animosity. All they need is a name and a line or two of description. I encourage players to find ways to link their nine NPC’s together, and often I’ll give some small benefit to the players that do so (in the form of a little bonus XP or the like). If possible, I like to do this in a group; it fosters discussion about events, places, and people in the backstory of the characters. It’s more instant world building and investment for the players. Suddenly the elf’s uncle Chuck who was so nice to him is also the sneering noble that the human has crossed swords with, and their duchy is the one that the mutant druid grew up in. A whole corner of the world has sprung into being through the pre-game interaction of the players.
Of course, in the end, there is a certain level of authorship and editor-ship expected from you as the GM. You get key veto power. You can tell the dwarf that no, their clan didn’t invent the nuclear bomb, or that the mutant druid can’t live that far south, or that the mage isn’t betrothed to the princess. In lieu of this, however, I suggest taking the ideas and using them in different ways. Certainly, the dwarves did invent a super-weapon. It recently was stolen and is about to be detonated in the human lands. The PC’s might want to stop that. Certainly, the druid lived that far south. She was exiled from the northern tribes, and there are still bounty hunters looking for her because of it. Certainly, there was an almost-betrothal for the mage, but the princess has asked to extend the courtship for reasons that seem quite arcane and mysterious. In this practice, you as a GM still maintain power over the world, but the PC’s still get the feeling of investment from their work.
In the end, while world building for a novel encompasses a story, world building for a game encompasses many stories; at least as many as you have PC’s, and likely quite a few more. The lifting there is heavier, but you have a lot of extra hands to make the job light. Use them to your best advantage in building the best playground you can make.
Oh, and don’t ever forget to add a monkey. Trust me on this one.

*(Note: I apologize for not properly crediting whomever I lifted this from: I’ve been using it for decades, and I don’t remember whom I first got the idea from.)