Another Stage

I feel as though a long time has passed since I last posted here. In reality, it has been just over a week. However, I know several important things have changed in these past eight days.

First off, I finished a novel I had been working on for over a year.

That alone is an awesome experience, especially given the burst of enthusiasm I found I could put into the story in this final stretch of sixteen-thousand words or so.

The writing of that books’ ending was possible because for the past 10 days, except for this most recent Sunday, I sat down for a couple hours each day and worked. It is bizarre how easy things feel when one can rely on oneself to do the work. For the first time in quite a while, I experienced the sense that my work is important, but also not out of reach.

Aside from the writing?

I’m preparing more episodes of both the podcasts I run. Alive After Reading is still young, but I can tell starting it was a good idea. It’s a fun show and has put me in touch with more writers I always wanted to talk to about themselves and their craft.

That said, the writing is the most important part of the feeling I have right now. The feeling that I have advanced in some way, become a different creature, maybe even a better one.

Why? I’m not entirely certain how much this accounts for, but I definitely feel good about doing the work. I also think I’m more open than in the past, especially on the internet. Some of you blog readers may think I’ve often been pretty open in these posts. I think that’s true. However, lately, my connections to other people through this medium seem stronger because I reach out to them more frequently and more casually.

I enjoy it. And I don’t feel guilty for spending time on social media as long as I have my work in hand. So, this is my progress. It may not sound dramatic in cause. The result, however, feels completely distinct to me.

I hope you too may feel this way more than once in your life, if not as much as possible.

Now, I have work to do.

Thanks for reading.

Mental

Good Monday to all and to all a good morning.

I am facing quite a challenge today (To tackle as soon as I stop yawning every five seconds). Today is the first day of a new attempt at a work schedule. The schedule? Eight AM to Eleven AM will be writing time on weekdays.

Three hours. Three hours of writing all in a row.

That may not sound like a lot, but overall it means about 4000 words if I stick to it with enthusiasm and discipline.

I would love to do that many words, that much story, each day. I will love it, is how I should write that.

The work of a few hours a day will really add up fast. And my current project, the sequel to Hunter and Seed, really needs to get done.

In related news, I am editing a much longer book into a pair of smaller books now. We will see how difficult that gets, especially because I have to give priority to the sequel I mentioned above. My hopes for getting two series out this year are high.

But right now, it all feels a little mental, as the Brits might say.

Hence the title of this post.

My books can still be found on Amazon and elsewhere if anyone is interested.

Thanks for reading.

RPG Making

 

I have hit my stride over the past couple weeks in designing stuff for this RPG I’ve had on my mind for the last 5 years.

The RPG? A tabletop game based on S. John Ross’ Risus, the Anything RPG.

I call my version of it Risus Hack, but perhaps I should think of a different name because of how much the game has grown from the base I started running as a senior in college.

I think it’s still a simple game, though one with a lot of room for fiddling.

As I get restarted on “Spurring the Beast” (Sequel to last year’s first book, “Hunter and Seed”) I keep having RPGs in the back of my thoughts. That may have something to do with running an RPG podcast every week. And, oh boy. Fans of the Of Mooks and Monsters podcast are in for a treat over the next few weeks.

I have to credit the show with a lot of my recent enthusiasm for games and stories. Turns out, going back to my roots as a game master and player has been good for my brain. Soon, I hope to have a version of Risus Hack available for download. I am not sure if I should charge for it. And if I do charge, how much should I?

I guess I had better get to work.

I’ve put a lot of work into this game. I look forward to sharing it in the near-future.

Thanks for reading.

Tenlyres is still available for Pre-Order. Buy me a cup of coffee and get a full novel in return.

 

Spell My Name

It has come to my attention over the past few years that I have a difficult author name.

It’s true. I remember as a kid my siblings and I all had a rite of passage. We had to learn to spell our own last name for school.

Having all reached college-level education at this point, we obviously managed it. Despite the hurdle seemed pretty high when I was younger, however. And I don’t blame anyone for having difficulty with such a complicated moniker.

With the release of Tenlyres imminent, I worry (Because I’m a worrier) that the difficult name makes searching tough.

For that reason, I made a little poem here to help people spell “Niederriter.”
Spell Niederriter! (2017)

Start with an “N”
Then put “i” before “e”
Add a “d” and an “e”
Two “r’s” side by side,
With an “i” next…
Fit in one “t”
And with an “e” and an “r” spell out Niederriter!
Pronounced: Need A Writer!
Thanks for reading.

(Picture Texture by sirius_sdz. sirius-sdz.deviantart.com)

Zen Game Mastery

I meditated a little before running an RPG for the Of Mooks and Monsters Podcast yesterday.

By this I mean, yes, I sat down on my meditation pad in the lotus position and focused on my breathing for a few minutes. I’m glad I did. And not just because I procrastinate far too much on meditation.

I thought it a little, odd, but I did this because I was nervous.

You see I wasn’t just game mastering an RPG, I was recording it for broadcast, with players I had never gamed with before. And that made me nervous.

It got me thinking about the Samurai, because wouldn’t it do the same to anyone?

Seriously, though. There was a reason.

For much of their history, the Samurai of Japan practiced Zen Buddhism as part of their training.

It once baffled me how a warrior culture could practice one of the most peaceful of all religions. Once, I had a professor describe to me that the Samurai benefited from the acceptance of reality in a way that also is a taught by Buddhism.

That acceptance is that eventually, everything is impermanent.

You must act in the moment, and accept the consequences. In battle taking no action is not an option.
Same for running an RPG in person.

The game is alive, and the players make choices you cannot predict. I simply put the tools in their hands, sometimes from the beginning, sometimes because their questions earn it. This is the power of the game master. But I was worried about messing up.

Turns out I really didn’t need to be. That session will air on the podcast in a few weeks. I really enjoyed it, and the players seemed to feel the same way.

I’ll be back soon with news on Tenlyres and its upcoming release.

Thanks for reading.

Tenlyres Announcements

Tenlyres is nearing completion in rough draft. There is still a lot more to serialize, but I expect to finish writing the story this week.

That also means the Tenlyres Complete edition will be arriving in online stores around the end of the month. There will be a preorder set up as soon as I get the book finalized.

All in all, I’m very excited by the progress I’ve made on this story over the last month or so. And I’ll be happy to have it completed, though I have grown to like my characters quite a bit. It is long-past time I should get back to writing the sequel to Hunter and Seed, but books arrive when they arrive so I can’t complain.

I’ll be back with more news soon. I have some exciting stuff lined up to spread the word when Tenlyres releases, but for now, there isn’t much else to say.

Thanks for reading.

Shift 2017

Happy New Year, everyone!

I am back after a good break for Christmas and New Years. I drank more than in any prior holiday season but kept sober most of the time. I had some fun with my siblings, and travel did not prove overly irksome. And on New Year’s Eve, my father turned 60, so I celebrated with the family and still got to bed on time.

So, that’s what I’ve been doing. At the same time, I have also been thinking about my writing, especially the last part of Tenlyres, which is nearing its completion in rough draft. It seems strange to me that this series did not exist in prose form AT ALL last year at this time. It took most of my work time in 2016, but in 2017 I want to be more dedicated, because next up on my list in the second Maker Mythos novel, “Spurring the Beast.” I’m excited about that one, and I got some words in it done last year too, so it won’t be long.

The time has come to get back all the way to having fun while I write. For too long I have seen it as important to think things through as I go. Well, this year I have a new mantra to go with the ones my professor gave me on my trip to India six years ago.

Back then my mantras started with “I’m glad I don’t walk faster.” And, “I’m a very lucky person.”

I think both of those are still true. I’m going to add a third personal mantra as of today. “I have fun writing.”

This is not meant as an affirmation, necessarily, but as a reminder. Because it is absolutely true. Even when the writing gets tough, the work is satisfying. And that is a fact I swept under the rug years ago. Time to get it out again and dust it off for its rightful position on the mantelpiece of my mind.

I don’t have any resolutions for this year, but I want to keep getting better at the things I’ve been striving toward. Health, productivity, and independence.

Health is off to a good start, as I have already been walking quite a bit for two days. My food intake has been reasonable as well. I will do my best to cultivate a healthier mindset for publishing and working too.

Productivity goes with my new plan to make a habit of writing three sessions per day instead of just one bigger session. Wish me power to form that habit successfully over the next month especially, if you will.

Independence is another serious movement for me. This is not just making more money, but also forging a sense of doing things by myself and getting my driver’s license (I still don’t have one, obviously).

Those are my three prongs, but the first two take priority for the most part because they require the most time commitment (For productivity) and mental effort (Health). So, without further ado, I think it’s time for me to switch to writing fiction for the day.

Good luck, and happy new year.

Thanks for reading.

And while you’re at it, give the opening of “Hunter and Seed” a try!

https://read.amazon.com/kp/embed?asin=B01AKC5T7Q

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.)