Watch out for Dragons!

Yesterday’s article received some flak from some of my buddies. I also got some very supportive messages too. Today I’m going to avoid controversy by talking about something I like to do every Sunday.

The City of Gate.

Not the City of Gate: Chronicles, but the Facebook group that started it all. I have done one article on this already, but it’s my blog and I can write what I want! 😛

For those that haven’t read the previous article on the subject, “The City of Gate” is a game. A turn based narrative role-playing game. An interactive story. As the storyteller, I post a new update every Sunday telling the players what happens next. Then each player has until the following Saturday to tell me how their character reacts. Currently we have one group member playing a dragon, flying above the ruins of the city. There’s some humans in the city trying to help two different factions rebuild. A couple of vampire characters are trying to avoid the city. 3 other players are walking around far to the North. There are even a couple of players far beneath the city.

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The story is often led by the decisions made by player controlled characters. Sometimes it can get quite difficult to remember what is supposed to happening in the story I already set in motion as the potential heroes all go off on their own little agendas. For example, I wrote a backstory for one of the non-player characters called Myche (pronounced Mike, but with a softer ‘k’). His story is still unfolding as the game continues, despite the fact that he’s now a vampire due to the actions of the players. Every so often I write in little clues that refer back to earlier parts of the story, and bring in a relevant non-player character.

I do this mostly for myself. I doubt the players consciously notice the layers and details I add, but I’d like to think that it still feels like the story has depth and complexity. Whether the players spot these easter eggs or not. H’vannah is one of my favourite non-player characters in the game. By now I’m sure most of the players know that H’vannah is, or was, a man rather than just a place. I’m not sure they really know who or what he was, or what he’s doing behind that fortified gate. So far no player character has passed through the gate and returned to tell about it.

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The players themselves are from all over. Some are based in the UK, some in the States, and we may have a few members from more exotic locations. The game actually has a lot more members that are just there to read the posts and comments than active players. You’re more than welcome to join, either as a passive member or an active player. You don’t have to have any experience with role-playing games. In fact, if you’re a veteran of D&D or Pathfinder, you may find yourself so concerned with stats and dice rolls that you’ll get confused by a narrative driven game. There are no stats. There are no dice. We don’t even really worry too much about alignment. We’re just telling a story and having fun making it up (more or less) as we go.

The City of Gate: Chronicles started out as a collection of short background stories for the non-player characters posted on the Facebook group under ‘files‘. They’re still there. My hope is to pad out these fluff pieces with rewritten parts of the game, and a little bit of original writing, to tie it all together in one cohesive narrative. Eventually. For now though I’d rather focus on the current timeframe. The one we’re currently playing in. Maybe I’ll come back to the Chronicles once I have Hermes925 finished.

If you’d like to join the City of Gate group, you can follow this link. If you prefer you can post a comment here with a link to your Facebook page, then I’ll send you an invite to the group, and our out-of-character chat in Facebook messenger. The messenger chat itself is a lot of fun and allows the players to get to know each other and talk about whatever they want, as well as discussing the game itself.

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As I mentioned earlier, you don’t have to be involved in the story, you can just read the posts and enjoy them. However, it’s a lot of fun to play. You can be anything you want. A fairy, a witch, a time-travelling cyborg, a half-troll-half-mermaid, anything! Hope to see you there.

In the meantime, click every link in this blog to find some treasures! Articles written by me and some of my favourite bloggers. Follow any that you don’t already! Happy reading and have a great day.

Mum’s Back!

I’m going to start with a video. This is the first 5 minutes of my Dad and I driving out of Pontgarreg this morning. Just because.

Mum has spent the last four nights in Dalton visiting my Grandparents and making sure the guest room at the bungalow will be ready for me to take up residence. The nieces were gone too, spending time with their father. They all came back today on the same train. Sometimes the trains here in the UK are a little weird.

The train they were on was supposed to split into two shorter trains at a town in Wales called Machynlleth. Don’t ask me how to pronounce that. I know that the double ‘l’ is pronounced softly and sounds more like ‘hl’, and the ‘th’ doesn’t sound the way you expect either.

Anyway, they were supposed to have two drivers, but they didn’t. As a result the half of the train that was supposed to continue on to Aberystwyth, where we’d already arranged to meet them at the train station, was cancelled. My sister has her own car, so she went up to Machynlleth to collect our Mum, and her daughters. Dad and I got a little more guy time in.

Last time he and I were in Aberystwyth, there were two stores we wanted to look around in weren’t open. It was a monday, and they only open tuesday thru saturday. We took the opportunity to check them out. Pic dump!

As you can see from the pictures, both stores contained a joyous mish-mash of geeky stuff from various fandoms. DC, Marvel, Game of Thrones, X-files, Dr Who, Game of Thrones, Family Guy and much more. Rickety Ramshackle even had Laurel and Hardy! Dad walked away from Other Dimensions with a Doctor Who coffee mug and a clockwork spinning Tardis!

I rather like the new phone I picked up while in Carmarthen, and decided to get a pay-as-you-go sim card for it, so I’d have a fully functioning phone while I’m waiting for Mum to order the spare one from her plan. Here’s some other shots of Aberystwyth and other places between there and Pontgarreg.

I’ve skipped a bit. Before we could go back to Pontgarreg, we had to meet up with my Sister, Mum and the girlies. They showed up right as I got my new minutes loaded. I couldn’t resist loading up Pokemon Go! to test out my new data plan as we all walked back into Aberystwyth. Dad and I wanted to introduce them to the cafe we had gone to on Monday, MG’s. Just as before the food was great, even though we could only get ‘light bites’ at that time of day.

Mum was exhausted from her trip back from Dalton with the little ones. We decided to go back home. I’d used up all my Pokeballs before we got back to the car, so I missed out on a Muk. I managed to hit some Pokestops as we drove past though, but then used all of them up when we got back and found a Drowsee in the driveway! No-one else in the car was even remotely interested.

Today’s poke-haul was a Paras, 2 Pidgeys, a Ponyta, a Weedle, a Kakuna, a Pidgeotto, an Eevee, and of course the Drowsee. That last one got me to level 5. This is only the second time I played, the first being while wandering the airport. You may recall that prior to having nothing to do for nearly 12 hours in an airport I was skeptical of Pokemon Go! Besides being disappointed, but not really surprised, to discover that there are no pokestops or gyms in the village of Pontgarreg, it seems like harmless fun. I just now caught another Weedle!

After she’d rested and recovered from the trip, Mum and I talked a little about the layout for my new room in Dalton, figuring out where my bed, desk an Xbox might go. We also talked a little about my recovery, my writing (she loves it), and one of our favourite books ever, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrel. It’s nice to have Mum back. Dad and I have had some fun, but now we can really get things done! She’s always there for me.

Dad did point out that I had a few words missing from my Hermes925 excerpt, so here’s the updated version, now with comments enabled. Click here!

Summoning a Short Story

I was going to try and get a short story written today. At least get one started, but my brain is not cooperating. In America I could put a familiar movie on in the background, pick up a pen, and start writing. Today I found myself watching the movie instead. It was Avengers. A great movie, but one I’ve seen countless times before. When I did get writing it wasn’t particularly helpful.

A US periodical called ‘Fantasy & Science Fiction‘ offers 7-12 cents per word up to 25,000 words. So I used up half a page just figuring out how many pages I would have to fill in my notebook to get to 25,000 words. They want the document printed, so I would have to type it up and print it. That shouldn’t be too hard since my parents have their own printer, but these thought processes don’t actually get the story written.

Even now I’m thinking that I should research UK magazines and find out how many words they want, and how much they pay. I’d be very frustrated if I spent time and effort writing a story, only to find it’s too long, or that there aren’t any magazines that are looking for that genre. I’d like to write The Lord Highwayman, but I’m not sure it’ll sell, being historical fiction. I’ve also thought about writing the barfight scene from Hermes925. It’s in the draft I only have in my notebooks right now. I’m not sure it still fits in the new version of the story I’m mapping out, or even if it has to.

Does anyone know of a UK website similar too ‘Freedom with Writing‘? It’s a website I currently subscribe to that tells you about paid writing opportunities. Or does anyone know where I could start looking for writing work in the UK? Which magazines take submissions and which ones pay?

I should just write something first, then I could send out samples right away to whomever I think might publish it. I can worry about editing the length and content later based on their feedback. If it doesn’t get accepted, I’ll just add it to the archive. I can always dust it off later if I find a niche for it. That’s what I set it up for.

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I’m I just hesitating because I don’t want to be rejected? Maybe. I just need to suck it up. In the states, when I felt like this, I had access to a herbal solution that would calm me down and return my thoughts to the imaginative and creative, instead of the practical. Even if I were to acquire some I’m not going to smoke it in the vicarage. I just need to get writing and let the story out, and hope that I get caught up in the flow enough to keep my concerns from distracting me from my goal.

So having got this all off my chest, I’m now going to attempt to write something. I’m sure you’ll end up seeing some, or all, of it in a future article. Please follow, if you don’t already, so you don’t miss it, and have a great day.

PS. The video took so long to upload I did get a quick draft of the barfight written up, taking into account the new direction of Hermes 925. Click here to read it!

 

Gods Dammit Dad!

I had another great day with my Dad. We had to go back to Kidwelly to get some measurements we missed last time we went to (what will soon be) my parents new home. We decided to come through Carmarthen on the way back to see if I could grab an unlocked phone from a good price from their Game store. We reasoned that it would have a bigger store and a better selection, since it’s a bigger city.

The Kidwelly mission went well, in fact it went much better than we expected. Stuart from Extreme Tree Services was already at the house cutting back the overgrown vegetation. Dad got a chance to go over some of what they wanted done, which was lucky because we had no idea that they were going to be there! The house is getting fixed up for us by the Church in Wales, since Dad is moving to Kidwelly to minister at St. Mary’s (and I think he’ll be in charge of a few others also). They arranged for Stuart to come this week. It was just luck or divine providence that had us show up while they were there. We even found out that, hidden among the overgrown trees was a plastic playhouse for the kids!

We popped into Burn’s Farm Shop on the way out of town. Dad needed his coffee levels restored. You may recall me describing their amazing playground and cafe in a previous article. Follow the ‘last time’ link above if you don’t. 🙂 As I waiting for Dad to order his coffee. A waitress looked up at me and smiled. She did so again later when she came to our table with Dad’s order. She’s a cute little redhead. Dad noticed the smile.

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I’m 36 and living with my parents. I have no job, and no money until my writing career takes off. To make my writing career take off I need to spend time, everyday, working on my writing and developing my stories. In the short term I need to start writing short stories and getting them out to magazines that will pay me for them. I don’t have time, or even have anything to offer, for a romantic relationship right now.

If Dad had said nothing, I might have been able to forget that smile, that giggle in response to a throwaway line that wasn’t really funny. When Dad hints, he doesn’t just make one subtle comment. He stacks them up. Layer upon layer of subtle comments until he’s sure you get it, and then adds a couple more to be sure. Dammit Dad! It was a really cute smile though. I know we didn’t see her there last time. I don’t know her name. I need to stop thinking about her.

The rest of the day went well. I got myself a handset for the sim Mum is going to order. It’s an LG G4 Stylus. Still had all the factory stickers on it. Once I get the sim card I’ll have an awesome and fully functioning phone! I also got a new pair of clippers to replace the American ones that went pop when I last tried to use them.

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Dakka-dakka!

We even visited the local Games Workshop store where Mike (or is it Mark? Sorry!) and I had a good little talk about the possibility of rebuilding my Golden Sons Space Marine army. I had to sell them off to buy my plane ticket home. He even suggested I write for the Black Library (Games Workshop’s publishing house), which would be freaking awesome!

I’m really looking forward to the move to Kidwelly. I’ll be just a short train ride from Carmarthen so that I can mix it up with my fellow Warhammer geeks, perhaps get a few of them to follow my blog! We’ll be just around the corner from the Farm Shop though too. Trying to find the cute waitress again would be a terrible idea. I’ll just have to avoid the place to prevent myself from doing anything foolish. Especially since I won’t be there that long.

Dad wants to watch a movie together, and then I have to get working on a short story. Should I do the War on Magic? Throw some of my City of Gate chronicles together? Or should I write out the hold-up scene for The Lord Highwayman as a stand-alone short story? I could even do something Church of Daemonism related. What do you think?

If you make any comments regarding the redhead, please just tell me she has a boyfriend so I can drop it and move on. I have writing to do!

 

Writing the right story

I got some more work done on Hermes 925 today. Finally.

I have been reading through all my old notes and found an older version of the story from back when the working title was 9 to 5 Spaceman. Before I had added the N•Viron to the narrative. That version was about a man called Bruce Anderson, who was a repairman by trade, fixing whatever needed fixing. Bruce discovers that one of his frequent customers had set him up with a test to see if he was smart enough to work for him. This differs quite a bit from the young and naive James I had been using as the main character in draft I was just calling Hermes. You can see that version by looking at the first few entries on the Hermes 925 Facebook Page.

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I’ve decided to combine the two. The protagonist is now called Jaime Anderson, and he hates being called James. So of course, when he meets his antagonist, Simon (who insists on being called Psi-man), guess what he’s going to call Jaime all the time? James. The original 9 to 5 spaceman version of Psi-man was the programming expert for what was called the ‘far-reach project’, and is now just called ‘Hermes’. I prefer that to them both being basically janitorial staff. That way we can have Psi-man tweaking with the ship’s programming to further frustrate and annoy Jaime (eg, having the Hermes AI call him James too).

I also prefer the idea of Jaime being the maintenance and repair expert, so I started him out a little differently. Instead of being completely naive, with no basis for him liking the N•Viron other than it being cool, now he’s into it because he loves technology in general and has an affinity for it, and had even tried to make his own homemade version before his family could really afford one.

Having struggled to get an N•Viron in the first place only exaggerates his perception that Discons have no excuse. That if he can do it, so can they. I think this will increase his shock when he learns from ‘Tanisha’ (I may yet change that) what the Discons think the N•Viron really is. She’s the one he’s going to meet up with, no doubt we’ll all see how that goes in the next entry. I did think about making her a techno-pagan of some kind, but perhaps I should leave magic out of it, to avoid making the narrative needlessly complicated.

The relationship is going to be difficult and challenging. Which will originally excite and fascinate Jaime’s problem-solving mind, but will leave him feeling undermined, jaded and broken. When he decides to join the Hermes program, he’s desperately trying to make a new life, get a fresh start, and probably doesn’t think things through as well as he should.

Check out “First Entry” via the link or under the Hermes 925 tab. Make sure you don’t miss out on the next entry by subscribing to e-mails of following via wordpress (or both), and don’t forget to share you favourite posts on Facebook and Twitter.

Oh, and if you happen to be an illustrator that’s excited to draw (or digitally render, photo manipulate or paint) Jaime, Psi-man and Hermes, please get in touch! As you can see from the lack of pictures in this article, I’m having trouble finding images that relate to the story.

Thank you for your continued support, and have a great day.

This is Serious!

Last night, before going to bed I pulled out all the notebooks I brought with me. I had a quick glance through at some of my older ideas for 9 to 5 Spaceman (which has since become Hermes 925), Charlie (a story about a little girl with a monstrous pet killer), and even my old Warhammer 40k notes. I decided that I would begin working through them today and seeing what my be useful for my current stories.

At about 4am I woke up from a dream about a spacecraft that flies within a protective force-field. I remember thinking I could make it a sci-fi retelling of Peter-Pan, and the ship would be pan-galactic. I woke up realising several things. That the force field I was thinking of was similar to the Geller fields that keep the massive space vessels in the Warhammer 40,000 universe safe from the warp, that it was also similar to the shields in Star Trek, and that I’m not working on my fiction enough.

I stopped writing for Don’t Hate the Geek because I was spending all my writing time writing for them, and leaving myself no time to work on my own ideas. Now I’ve only myself to blame. So I’m going to try a new resolution. It’s not enough for me to just write everyday. Especially since this website will be my only source of income for the time being. I need to work on my stories every day too. With that in mind I’m setting myself a challenge, and I hope you, my friends, family and followers, will hold me too it.

I am going to work on my stories every day. You’ll still get a daily blog article too, but you should also see a new entry for Hermes 925 or City of Gate: Chronicles, or even a new story everyday. If you don’t see one, pester me to write one!

This new resolution may have something to do with the talented craft of Nine Finger Jo I saw at the Pontgarreg Festival yesterday. Her papercraft wall art and greeting cards were amazing. I’ve dabbled in papercraft myself and I know how tricky it is to get the fine detail and precision that her work demands.

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This was my favourite piece of wall art by Nine Finger Jo. The red is a separate piece of card that floats above the background.

I had a great talk with her husband Jerry, who had a wide variety of styles and themes on display for sale at the festival, including Celtic designs, Star Wars, Dr Who, Harry Potter, 70’s retro sci-fi rockets and some sports stuff too. I was a little embarrassed that I had so comparatively little to show for my own craft. Check out Nine Finger Jo on Facebook and Etsy. Jerry tells me they’ll ship to the US too.

I also met Ros Price-Jones who makes jewellery and paintings. She had some very pretty pieces, but she’s trying to cut back on the jewellery and focus on the art. It’s a shame that I don’t see any examples of her painting on the website so you can see them for yourself. I didn’t think to take pictures. She doesn’t ship to the US though, so if you like something she makes, let me know. I’ll order it for you and send it to you. 🙂

On my way to the Pontgarreg Festival I took some pictures of the village. I added a few of these to my Instagram page, but I found the ability to upload only one picture at a time tedious and annoying. So here’s a pic-dump including all the shots that didn’t make it to Instagram.

Maybe I’m being too hard on myself. After all, this is only my second day of my fresh start in the UK. My body hasn’t even gotten over the jetlag yet. I’m impatient to start my new life, to be able to help out both my family here in the UK, and my friends still struggling to get by in the US. I received a reminder that the utility bill for the apartment I just moved out of is due soon. I should probably just have Jitters, my former roommate, switch it into his own name. This was supposed to be a clean break, leaving the US behind and moving back to the UK, but he’s already doing so much for me by looking after Scotty. I feel guilty asking him to do this too.

Whatever the reason, my success as a writer is not optional, it’s mandatory. I need to do everything in my power to ensure my success. Writing one article per day and neglecting my stories, telling myself “I’ve done my writing for the day” isn’t going to cut it. I’m not going to get published that way. I’m not even going to get sponsorship that way. This is my only job now. I need to show my commitment to it. How will anyone else take it seriously, unless I do?

Today I will go through my old notes. Plan articles for some of the better ideas. Make myself write some more Hermes 925. I may even look into some of the Google business tools if there’s time.

As usual, your comments and questions are appreciated.

The Lord Highwayman

This is a story I first came up with nearly 13 years ago. I was raising the money to come to America, so I got a job in a candle factory. It paid better than the barwork I had been doing. I didn’t really care it was nights. All I had to do every day, until I hurt my back doing it and had to quit, was trim wicks all day. The conveyor belt was a little too tall for me, causing me to slightly over-extend for reach the far side of the belt. Don’t worry, my next job selling massage cushions fixed it right up.

The nice part was I was on my own. There was no inane chatter from co-workers to distract me. I could do the work on autopilot and let my mind wander. One day I was working there and got the song “Stand and Deliver”by Adam and the Ants stuck in my head. In particular I got to thinking about the line “Your money or your life!”, and thought it would be funny if the Aristocrat in the carriage volunteered his life willingly.

Just to clarify, he doesn’t want to die. The Lord has simply grown bored with high society and has been longing for some excitement. He’s already tried all the acceptable games, and even tried introducing some of the unacceptable ones. The crude games of chance and deception played by the lower classes. The suggestion was met with disdain by his guests. He sees this as an opportunity.

It surprises the bandit when the Lord’s eye’s light up and he begin’s yelling excited “Oh, my life? My Life! Yes, My life! I hate it so, it’s so boring and dull, but you! You are exciting! You live this wonderful adventurous life! Come now, don’t stand about in the rain, step into my carriage. I’ll take you back to my house and I’ll show you!”

Gun still raised, the would-be robber moves cautiously into the carriage. “Oh, no need for that, I won’t turn you in, this will be so much more fun! Driver” he knocks on the carriage wall behind his head. “Continue homeward!”. The Lord then goes on to explain his proposal as it comes to him. He would teach the ruffian how to pass for a noble, and would want for nothing. Rich clothes, rich food, rich lifestyle. They’d be introduced at parties and other social gathering as a cousin of some sort, having returned from many years travelling the world.

In exchange the Lord would teach their new protege the life of a rogue. The Lord already knew how to duel as a gentleman would, but he wanted to learn the rough fighting of the streets. He also wanted to learn the skills he assumed that all poor people had. Lockpicking, pickpocketing, sleight of hand and con-artistry.  It turns out that the Lord was more talented with a sword and pistol than the thief, and so the aristocrat happily pays for lessons in fencing and shooting. He also provides powder and ammunition that they didn’t have before.

However, the rogue has spent time at sea, and gotten to know all kinds of bad people. The Lord is soon introduced, in his new disguise as a scruffy old crook, to the criminal element of his city. He makes contact with people who, in exchange for the dirtiest coins they could find in his coffers, offer to teach him some of the skills he wishes to learn.

I was thinking of having the Highwayman find themselves well suited to the high-society lifestyle. Fitting in well with the gossips and showing a talent for talking while saying nothing. In the meantime the Lord finds the life of a petty criminal exhilarating. Unfortunately he doesn’t take any of it seriously and soon finds himself in a pickle. I’m thinking perhaps he steals from the wrong person.

Word takes too long to reach the former-bandit, and the Lord is killed. The story ends with the surviving character’s future uncertain. At the time I didn’t think much of it. It seemed to Prince and the Pauper meets Aladdin to me. I was also worried that I don’t know history well enough to make the time period authentic and believable. I could just set in a fantasy realm of course, but it seems like an easy out.

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I had originally assumed that the highway robber was male when I came up with the idea. As I was mentioning this story idea to my room-mate, he suggested that making her female would be more interesting. He also thought though that actual romance between the characters would be unnecessary. If the story is good enough, readers will still imagine them together anyway. They may even write fan-fiction far more graphically detailed than my naive mind could think of.

He suggested I even leave the genders vague. I like this idea. After all, people might still ‘ship’ the characters even if they’re the same gender, or different species even! He could be a dwarven Lord, from a bloodline that rival’s the King’s. She could be a wood elf! Of course, that could make the ‘cousins’ thing difficult to sell. I could even make them Vampires. I kinda like that last one!

So here’s what I need to know:

  1. Is this a book-worthy idea?
  2. Is it better than “War on Magic“?
  3. Should it be our world’s history, or a fantasy world? Would you prefer a sci-fi?
  4. Should the character’s gender matter? Do we make it clear or vague?
  5. What about race/species?

Should we crowdsource the whole damned story? I could write a new post showing you what I’ve written so far, and ask you questions like this about what happens next. If I have no follow up questions I could then write the next part of the story based on my favorite answers. That would be so much fun!

Should it be Vampires? The monsters, not the shiny models.

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What do you think? You don’t have to answer the questions I asked, if there is some other suggestion, inquiry or insult on your mind, please tell me :). Either in the comments below or via one of the other ways to contact me.

And please sign up for emails, it makes my numbers look good! 😉