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Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

In about half an hour, our weekly RPG session starts.  This will be session 4 of our Hero 6th edition game entitled “gasoline punk.”  Basically, take a lot of elements from anime (including a heavy amount from “Wild Arms”), and set it on a planet that is mostly desert.  It’s the remains of an old colony long since cut off from the original founding culture.  It’s a western, with sci-fi elements.

I play a gunslinger, name of Jonah.  My sidekick is a young pilot.  Both of us are on the run from the Galbadian Empire, a collection of robber barons who picture themselves as rulers of the desert.  To paraphrase another sci-fi western “there’s some disagreement on that.”

We were hired to escort a scientist and his project to a place of safety where he could do research into an artifact left behind by the Mu, the worlds version of Native Americans.  Uniquely, Jonah is able to help with that a bit, having spent a lot of time among the Mu.  He understands some of their mysticism, and can even invoke a healing ritual, given enough time.  Of course, there’s the old flame from Jonah’s past who was also hired to go with them to retrieve an artifact from an ancient Mu temple.  Perhaps not too surprisingly, she turned on us, robbed us, took the artifact, and sealed us in the tomb to die.  We got out, and are looking for a bit of retribution.

Later, we’re going to be using GURPS because the GM is wanting to do something based somewhat on the Otherland series by Tad Williams.  So it looks like we’ll be doing a little post-cyberpunk adventuring.  Of course, I don’t care much for GURPS (or Hero for that matter), but like always, it’s either play what everyone else wants or don’t play.

Then of course, next week we return to Hackmaster.  The PC’s have decided that the dungeon is too tough for them, so I’ve been plotting a new story.  Don’t want to say too much here, but it involves the potential for some bad people to tear down the barriers between the planes of existence and “return the world to it’s natural state.”  Should be fun.

In the meantime, I’m also back to sketching out a new RPG system.  I’ve repeatedly tried, of course, to write my own rules, but in trying to be generic and universal, I always flounder after a bit.  This time, I have a goal in mind:  Instead of generic and universal, I’m aiming for cinematic action, a set of rules that can handle what I feel steampunk and pulp action should feel like.  The difference is that I don’t want to just copy someone else’s work, and I do want to consider how to add in other types of genre’s (even if the core isn’t written directly for it).

I’m calling it the “3D System”, which kind of tells you a little about the mechanics.  But it uses several different die types, and every roll is an opposed roll instead of just against a set difficulty.  Should make one on one duels a bit more interesting.  This way, even someone with a low skill might succeed, but the odds are against it.  Being a 3dice system, the result will still follow a bell curve, but you never know.  Damage in melee is a factor of how strong you are, and the better you beat his defense, the more damage you do.  Instead of just doubling damage when you roll a natural 20 (for example), the critical hits go up in severity based on how much damage you manage to score.

Right now, I’m still trying things out, and taking notes.  Soon, I’ll start on the actual first draft and maybe set up a time to do a preliminary playtest.  I might even share a few tidbits here with you.

Until next time…

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Every once in a while, I get a bug to write something.  After three or four revisions (or more), it’s done and it’s time to send it out into the world and see if anyone will buy it.

Such was the case with the short story I wrote “Galenor’s Bounty”.  The story is four or five years old now.  It was one of my first attempts at writing a story specifically with the intent to sell.  I’ve written other stories, of course, back when I was younger.  Those were just for the enjoyment of telling a tale (or for class assignments).

Galenor’s Bounty, on the other hand was written as a sellable piece.  It was the first, in fact.  If you learn nothing from me, learn this:  Your first work will be very hard to sell.  Very.  No matter how well you think you did, no matter how many times you’ve revised it, checked spelling, made sure your grammar is right, you are an unknown.  That alone makes it difficult.

To give you an idea why other authors refer to the process as “Submitting to the black hole”, let me tell you about Galenor’s Bounty.  Long story short (that’s a pun, y’see): Galenor is a disgraced knight with an evil reputation who is reduced to collecting bounties for a living.  Along the way to deliver his latest bounty into the hands of the authorities, he picks up a pair of followers: Oxnard and Benning.  As they travel to the nearest town able to pay the bounty, Galenor remembers his history, and tells them how he became known as “Dragon marked,” a ruthless killer.

I originally wrote it as a humorous piece.  It was loaded with puns.  And very bad ones.  “He looked as if he had been beaten by a club; the kind of club that only take thieves and ruffians as members.”  It was originally submitted to Baen books.  At the time (I don’t know if they still do it this way or not), if you wanted to submit a story to them, you had to join their forums, post it there, accept community feedback, revise, rinse, repeat.  Eventually, if you stuck with it and didn’t let your ego get bruised, you’d eventually have a work they might publish and draw the publishers eye.

This was my first “for sale” work.  I let my ego get bruised.

It sat in my archives for two years.  I had moved on.  In August of ’09, I decided to try again.  So I took a look at all of the scraps I had, and Galenor popped up.  And it sucked.  They were right over at Baen, but I was too thin-skinned to see it.  So I got out my red pen and started editing.  I removed the forced humour.  I re-wrote several scenes.  It grew from eight pages to twenty-one.  It is far more solid, far more effective, and gets rave reviews from everyone I’ve let read it.  So I mailed it to Realms of Fantasy Magazine.  Within 2 weeks, I got my first real rejection (as in an editor actually read it and decided they didn’t want it).  This was a fast turn-around.  Everything I’d read by this point indicated that three months was typical, if ever.

Beyond Ceaseless Skies refused it too, a month later.  This didn’t bother me.  I had grown up.  I had grown a thicker skin, and knew this was part of the process.  So I sent it to Electric Literature in March of 2010.

Never heard back.  That black hole thing.

Clarkesworld Magazine:  Rejected in 3 days flat.  Daily Science Fiction took 9 days to reject it.

Heroic Fantasy Quarterly took four months.  The funny part of that is that I had given up on them and mailed it to Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine.  I did that on my birthday in October, and eight days later, they rejected it.  A week later, I got the rejection from Heroic Fantasy Quarterly.  I thought it was pretty funny at the time, but it showed me that maybe I needed to give everyone a little more time.  As nice as it would be to have multiple offers on the same story, the publishers don’t like that too much.

I finally gave up altogether last Novermber.  I had been actively shopping that story around for more than a year straight.  I published it to my old blog.  As far as I know, it is no longer available there.  When I cancelled that blog and removed all of the information, as far as most people know, it ceased to exist.  I can still bring it up on Google (though doing so brings me to a ‘page not found’).

I’m thinking it may be time to send it somewhere else.  You can’t read it online anymore, but that may not make much difference to some publishers.  A lot of them have a policy of not accepting anything that was ever published online.  And that makes sense, after all.  Thanks to things like Google’s cache, you may still be able to pull up a copy from somewhere on the net.  And that may just be enough to kill it. But hey, it never hurts to try.

Galenor, BTW, is just one of several stories that I’ve tried to sell.  Currently I have four more that have not been actively rejected.

Something else to learn from me here:  Keep trying.  If you give up, you’ll never get there.

The funny part of the whole Galenor story?  Yesterday I got a letter in the mail from Electric Literature.  “Thanks for sending it, but it isn’t right for us.”  Well, duh!

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