Archives for January 2016

The Sword and Sorcery Bundle of Holding

The current Bundle of Holding is on a subject very close to my heart. It’s a collection of sword and sorcery games in the spirit of Conan, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser and Elric.

I bought it even though I owned two of the games already. Both of the previous editions of the classic Barbarians of Lemuria are in my collection. BoL a very accessible and well-designed game. The original edition was inspired by Lin Carter’s not-so-classic Thongor novels, which I have already written about elsewhere and it captures the feel of them very well. The bundle contains the Mythic Edition which is the latest and greatest version.

I also owned Sword Noir, a game that combines the sword and sorcery and film noir genres. What’s not to love about that?

There are a number of other very good looking games to go with them. There’s 4 different volumes of Shadow, Sword and Spell. There’s Crimson Exodus and Sorcerers of Ur-Turuk. There’s also the Highlander inspired Legacy: War of the Ages. If you feel like dusting down your claymore and bellowing,“ There can be only one!”, this is probably for you. A couple of other interesting not-quite-roleplaying games round out the package, Nod and the wonderfully named On Mighty Thews.

For just US$8.95 you get all five titles in the Starter Collection (retail value $42) as DRM-free .PDF ebooks. And if you pay more than the threshold price of $19.60, you’ll level up and also get the entire Bonus Collection of six more titles (retail value $61). This price rises as more people buy. The Bundle of Holding is available here.

If you’re interested in finding out when my next book will be released as well as in getting discounts and free short stories, please sign up for my mailing list.

Everything Counts in Small Amounts

A long while back I wrote about how even a 1% change in productivity adds up over the course of a year when you write thousands of words a day. It’s something that has been on my mind, off and on, ever since.

I’ve been thinking that you don’t need to write thousands of words a day for small changes to make a difference. For example, writing 100 extra words a day will add 36500 words over the course of a year. That’s the first draft of a novel in under three years. (In under two years if you’re writing a short novel.) That’s a pretty significant contribution to a lifetime’s work. If you imagine a career of 40 years, an 10 extra first drafts.

There are people who think its crass to take such a brute force approach to creativity. I think it’s all practise, and if I can’t improve at something with practise, I’m probably doing it wrong.

The most significant jump in productivity is probably going from writing no words per day to any words per day. Let’s say 100 words, 5 days a week. That is hardly a terrifying commitment. It consists of maybe 10–20 sentences. (For the record this paragraph has 51 words in it.)

If you do this every week you’re looking at writing 26000 words a year, or a the first draft of a 100000 word book in just under four years.

Let’s say you write one sentence a day. You’ll still manage that book everybody is supposed to have in them in under 40 years.

I know there are arguments against this. I would find it hard to keep up momentum on a writing project to which I added a sentence a day. Nonetheless, mathematically speaking, it is absolutely true.

And, of course, there are arguments in favour of attempting that one sentence. The greatest is this: often the first sentence of the day will be the hardest one you write. Just getting yourself to sit down and hit the keyboard can be the hard work some days.

The thing about this method is that it leaves you no excuse. You are free to go once you’ve written your sentence or your 100 words or whatever. But I am willing to bet that on many days, having actually broken ground, and done the hard work of getting started, you’ll find yourself inclined to continue. Who knows you might add another sentence or ten or a hundred. I’ve been known to write far more than the daily goals I set myself when I catch the flow of a thing.

The thing to remember about pretty much all forms of creative endeavour is that the important part is often just showing up and doing the work. The most brilliant idea for a story in the history of mankind will come to nothing if you don’t actually sit down and write it. Conversely, when cultivated an idea that seems utterly banal may grow into being something worthwhile.

You are not going to be inspired every day. There will be days when on considered reflection you’ll discover you’re not happy with what you’ve written at all. Well, you can always toss it aside, but before you do, I would recommend just letting it sit for a few months. Often the flaw is inside your own head, not the prose. Writers can be inclined to undervalue their own work as well as overvalue it, so looking at it cold months later is often the safest and sanest test.

The longer I stick around the writing game, the more I think that most of it is simply dealing with fear. We are all plagued with insecurities and feelings of unworthiness. We can all find excuses for not confronting those fears and avoiding what needs to be done. By making a very simple commitment, to writing one sentence or one paragraph or a hundred words per day, you can go a long way towards dealing with those fears. I think the important thing is not to be madly ambitious but to set the bar so low its all but impossible not to get over it if you make any effort whatsoever. Believe me, I know whereof I speak.

If you’re interested in finding out when my next book will be released as well as in getting discounts and free short stories, please sign up for my mailing list.

Upcoming Releases

Last year was a quiet one for me, at least in terms of releases. This year is shaping up somewhat differently.

The past couple of years left me sitting on a pile of manuscripts that needed licking into shape. These included 4 Kormak novels and one longer epic fantasy about wizards and dragons set in Kormak’s world. Over the past few months, as things have settled down in the wake of writing Illidan, I’ve slowly gotten to grips with them.

The Kormak books form a long arc taking our monster-hunting hero from the court of the King-Emperor of Siderea to the strange colonies on the far side of the World Ocean. He’s searching for the source of the sarcophagus containing the resurrected Eldrim warlord Vorkhul that appeared in Born of Darkness. Shadow cults, shapeshifting assassins, tribes of feral lycanthropes and deserts full of demons block the way to the answers he seeks. Will they stop him? What do you think?

The epic is a more traditional style fantasy story. It concerns the apprenticeship of a boy wizard indentured into a Black Company style mercenary unit caught up in a brutal civil war. Along the way he encounters love and dragons and assassin cults as well as Old Ones and their servants. The book is set in the haunted land of Umbrea where a three way struggle between the Solari, the Lunars and the followers of Shadow has been going on for millennia. It explores magic in Kormak’s world in considerable depth. It’s written in the first person and the style is a lot different from that used in the Kormak stories. I’m very pleased by the way this one turned out. It’s the first of a planned trilogy.

These books are written. I’m just revising them and ironing out inconsistencies. The first of the Kormak books should see the light of day in April or May, and the rest should be released every two or three months thereafter. There’s a possibilty that if I get my act together they might be here sooner, but I would not hold my breath waiting for that, if I were you.

There’s a Kormak short story which (hopefully)I’ll be sending out free to the folks on my mailing list next month. This one features ocean-going giants and an ancient sunken temple rising from the deep. It hints at some things coming up in the novel cycle too.

There’s also a new short story set in the Northlands of Kormak’s world, featuring a viking-style superhero in the service of the Old Gods. As you can tell I have been busy exploring that particular setting. I don’t know when this one will be coming out but it will sooner or later.

I’ve also done some work on the next Kormak arc which features some nasty vampire warlords, the Russian steampunk novel and an urban fantasy set in Prague. I’m toying with a military Space Opera which is very much at the planning stage right now.

Of course, Illidan will be released in April, at least according to Amazon. It can be pre-ordered here. And that’s where I’m at right now as far as upcoming releases are concerned. I’ll make concrete announcements on the dates these things go live.

If you’re interested in finding out when my next book will be released as well as in getting discounts and free short stories, please sign up for my mailing list.

Winter Is Here

Snow was on the ground in Prague this morning. It was minus seven and my phone’s weather app claimed it felt like minus ten, presumably due to wind chill. In any case, it was quite cold enough for me.

The snow’s been here for a while, and it inspired me to do some things I rarely do, take out my camera and start snapping away while I do my daily ten thousand steps.

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As you can see the party ships look a little different to the way they do in the summer.

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The cycle paths are kept clear though.

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The railway bridge has some interesting statues hanging around below it.

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It’s one of the things I love about Prague, the way you come across art in the strangest places— like these mobiles hanging around under the railway bridge or the alien babies climbing the side of the Zizkov tower.

Anyway, I hope your winter is less cold than mine, unless you happen to be skiing.

If you’re interested in finding out when my next book will be released as well as in getting discounts and free short stories, please sign up for my mailing list.

5th Edition D&D Goes Open License

Wizards of the Coast made a big announcement this week. The fifth edition of Dungeons and Dragons has gone Open License in much the same way as the 3rd edition was. In some ways they’ve gone even further with 3e by making some of their intellectual property open(ish) license as well. It seems that through their Dungeon Master’s Guild program people will be able to set adventures and supplements in the Forgotten Realms, release them and get paid for them.

I think this was a good and necessary move. I really like the 5th edition of D&D. In many ways I prefer it even to 3rd edition, which was the last edition I seriously played. The main flaw in 5e compared to 3rd edition is that it has not exactly had huge support.

Compared to previous editions, there has not been an abundance of material from WotC itself. Third party work is thin on the ground as well. I am really looking forward to seeing a wave of new worlds, supplements and scenarios for 5e. It will probably prove bad for my wallet but good for my gaming. It should also prove good for WotC as well.

In some ways this move proves that pen and paper games have become like computer operating systems and mobile phones. It’s not just about the brand, it’s about the ecosystem. I suspect the open licensing of 5e is an admission of the fact that no one game company can maintain an ecosystem by itself, not even one as large as WotC.

Currently there is a fork in the pen and paper D&D world. There is Pathfinder which is an enhanced version of 3rd edition based on the OGL and there is D&D 5e. (I’ll ignore my favourite fork, the OSR, for now.) At the moment we are in the bizarre situation of having the non-official variant of D&D better supported than the brand name version. This move by WotC should change the balance of power in that particular competitive struggle.

I’m not sure what the logic of opening up the Forgotten Realms IP is. It is a bold experiment and it does provide a way for WotC to monetise the open license. (They get a cut of everything that goes through the DungeonMaster’s Guild storefront.) I am looking forward to seeing what happens there.

For me 5th Edition is the best ever official version of D&D, and I am very hopeful that it will now get the support it deserves.

If you’re interested in finding out when my next book will be released as well as in getting discounts and free short stories, please sign up for my mailing list.

The Dark Side of Accountability

As of today I have managed to post more times in the past two weeks then I did in the whole of last year. Yay! I am quite proud of keeping up my workday blogging schedule.

One of the reasons I have done so, possibly the only reason, is because I said I would, here on this blog, in my very first post of the year. Because my resolution is a matter of public record, and it’s easy to see whether I have kept it, I feel some pressure to get the posts done. I will be embarrassed by my failure to do so.

Being in the spotlight has nudged me towards writing the blog. Not only have I made a public commitment, I set up a Seinfeld chain to encourage it. As the chain lengthened I felt the usual pressure not to break it.

The extra motivation helps me get things done but that is not an unalloyed good. There is a dark side. Certainly, because I feel the pressure of public accountability, I make the effort to get the posts up. That same pressure means that I sometimes ignore other things. I don’t make my living blogging. I make my living writing books. Yet there have been days in the past couple of weeks when I have put the writing of fiction on hold just so I could finish my daily blog posts.

It did not start this way. My original idea was that I would do the blog posts after I had completed the day’s writing, and I would devote at most one 25 minute pomodoro to them. Things have not quite turned out that way. There have been days when I have devoted much more time to the posts. They have also begun to take up headspace. I find myself spending as much time thinking about the posts as my fiction.

It’s a classic case of the urgent squeezing out the important and it’s making me have doubts about the undertaking. The discipline might be better applied to something else such as writing 500 more words of fiction per day.

This is not to say that I am immediately going to abandon posting. My doubts might just be my natural laziness and resistance to doing something new kicking it. I do need to monitor the situation and try and nudge things back towards the way I want them to be. If I feel my work is suffering I’ll cut back on the posting. Let’s see how it goes for another couple of weeks.

If you’re interested in finding out when my next book will be released as well as in getting discounts and free short stories, please sign up for my mailing list.