Posted by Rampant Coyote on November 3, 2015
I don’t know what to say. But seeing as that rarely stops me from spewing whateverage on this blog, I’m sure I’ll find something anyway.
Thought 1: Incredulity. Is Activision itself even worth $6 billion? I guess so, but that’s a lot of money. (Answer: Yes, checking Google Finance, Activision Blizzard has 739 million shares at ~ $33.50 per share, so that’d give them a value of $24.4 billion). But for comparison, Disney bought Lucasfilm for a relative bargain price of $4 billion. Mojang was bought for $2.5 billion, which … well, okay, that was still pretty mind-boggling. Mind-boggling all the way across the board.
Thought 2: Disappointment. In preparation for their IPO, King.com got especially nasty with lawyers and trademark issues. Like trademarking the word “Saga” and trying to trademark the word “Candy.” It’s astonishing and disgusting that the “saga” trademark was even granted in the first place. It’s also disappointing that they’ve proven so successful using energy mechanics and practices that are… well, maybe not unethical, but borderline and somewhat predatory, and probably not good for the long-term health of the industry. And as a reward for their bad behavior, they made bank, setting an example throughout the industry.
Yes, I’m not the biggest fan of King.com. While I don’t consider Activision Blizzard to be a sterling example of virtue or anything, I guess there’s a chance they might serve as an influence for good. Or the other way around. I don’t know.
Ah, well. How much will this impact me, personally, as a small-time indie developer? Probably in no noticeable way. Hopefully.
Filed Under: Biz - Comments: 4 Comments to Read
Posted by Rampant Coyote on November 2, 2015
If you aren’t already involved in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), well, you’ve missed a day or two already, but you can still jump on board.
This is not going to be the month I write a novel. No way, no how. With the work on short stories and the release of Beyond the Wail last month, I’m behind on Frayed Knights 2 and need to devote some concentrated effort to it this month. Unless I find myself with some more editing that I have to do with stories already in the pipeline. Maybe there’ll be a novel next year, but serious effort on anything of that size is going to have to wait for Frayed Knights.
There’s some criticism being leveled at NaNoWriMo, but to me, that’s like criticizing Game Jams. Are the results at the end of November, with the goals of 50k word count, going to be awesome, ready-to-publish works of art? Heck, no. It’s a good exercise, a good start, and could end up with something that – with considerably more work – could be of commercial value. That’s the process, but getting stuff down on paper in the first draft is a critical early step. And there’s something about setting a hard goal and working for it in a disciplined manner that’s of incredible value, probably more so than the end product.
Although I should add that author J. D. Spero has some legitimate but amusing gripes with NaNoWriMo that I enjoyed. Mainly… why November? December might have been the only worse choice of months, although with only 28 days February’s not great, either.
I think it’s a great tool for first-time novelists, but I think it’s more than that. I know some published authors who also take advantage of it in order to create momentum. We can all use all the help we can. But in the end, it’s a support and encouragement mechanism, not a limit.
Maybe next year. But for the immediate future, if anybody needs me, I’ll be down in the dungeons making things that are trying to kill me. Please send food. Possibly a rescue party.
Filed Under: Books - Comments: Be the First to Comment
Posted by Rampant Coyote on October 31, 2015
Happy Halloween, folks!
While not related to Halloween at all, I’ve got a special Saturday post to preview an upcoming book. Xchyler Author Ben Ireland has the second book of his Kingdom City series due out in January –
Ben churns out his prose from his home in Southeast Texas, where he lives with his wife and three children, and works in IT. When he isn’t writing, he’s either thinking about writing, or he’s driving his wife insane talking about his novel ideas. His work has appeared in two X-anthologies: “Kissed a Snake” in A Dash of Madness: a Thriller Anthology (July 2013), and “Fairykin” in Moments in Millennia: a Fantasy Anthology(January 2014). His first novel, Kingdom City: Resurrection was published in February 2014.
In case you missed the first book, you can find it here on Amazon: Kingdom City: Resurrection
Filed Under: Books - Comments: 3 Comments to Read
Posted by Rampant Coyote on October 30, 2015
The new / old White Wolf Publishing company will run as an independent subsidiary, and will primarily deal with licensing the brands.
To me, this means hope that maybe… MAYBE… we could actually see a video game version of Mage: The Ascension. Or more likely, Werewolf. Or more Vampire titles. Honestly, all of their games were pretty fascinating. The challenge came about in that they were really geared towards human interaction and storytelling, which didn’t translate to computer games all that well. That would be my fear of basing a game on their role-playing system.
But the settings – were incredible. I’m one of those weirdos who actually really enjoyed Vampire the Masquerade: Redemption. And Bloodlines – well, its reach exceeded its development team’s grasp, sadly, but even in its broken state at release it had some amazing things going for it.
One of the cool things is that Paradox Interactive is not a “big” publisher. They publish mid-tier games by smaller, independent studios. Will this translate to some games being made by “big indies” that are willing to be a little experimental? Maybe!
Incidentally, the 20th anniversary editions of the first dice-and-paper games have been recently released by some of the same development teams that worked at White Wolf in the old days. I’ve got the one for Mage: The Ascension, which is something like three times the size of any of the previous editions. They are being made by Onyx Path Publishing, and are available via Drive Thru RPG and other sites (as well as crowdfunding campaigns).
Filed Under: Biz, Dice & Paper - Comments: 4 Comments to Read
Posted by Rampant Coyote on October 28, 2015
One of the areas of “streamlining” for Frayed Knights 2 was the drama star abilities. To explain further, I’d like to recap a little bit for those who haven’t played Frayed Knights: The Skull of S’makh-Daon.
Like most people, I tend to save the game frequently when things are getting dangerous. When I suffer a setback, I’m tempted to reload. This is exacerbated by the games that provide encounters that all but demand that you do this – if you don’t enter a combat with with full health and spells, it is going to be far too challenging to complete. Because, you know, they want a challenging encounter. Then you have the next level of simplification of this… games that automatically restore you between encounters, so they can max out the challenge without worrying about frustrating players.
Which in my mind has ruined one of the critical gameplay elements of RPGs – resource management. Which has been a major gameplay element in tabletop roleplaying and computer RPGs since… ummm… pedit5?
My effort with Frayed Knights has been to return to a bit more of the flavor of old-school dice & paper gaming. One of these is the immediacy of having to play through bad luck or bad decisions. Now, I didn’t want to go so far as to add permadeath or anything like that, or even to limit the player’s ability to save the game. But I did want to encourage players to play through setbacks in the game rather than replay from a saved spot over and over again. The latter is boring, anyway, even if it does pad the hours.
To this end, I borrowed an idea from some dice & paper games – the ability to manipulate the game outside of character abilities. This is what I call Drama Stars. The idea is that as you play, you accumulate points which can be spent to have a major impact on the game… basically giving you the same advantage you’d have had if you replayed a tough section a couple of times (including bringing dead – or in FK’s case, incapacitated – characters back to life). In fact, you get some major “drama points” for doing something dangerous or having a character become incapacitated. While these drama points persist if you save & exit and then later continue, if you simply re-load from a saved point, the counter resets to zero.
So, in theory, the player who “plays through” a rough patch of the game (but survives) isn’t at much of a disadvantage over another player who reloads and re-plays several times to optimize results. But the player who didn’t save and reload probably had a more fun and exciting game.
That’s the theory. In execution, it wasn’t a legendary breakthrough in game mechanics or anything like that, but it worked okay. In Frayed Knights 2, I’ve tried to streamline and simplify things a little bit more so that Drama Stars are easier to understand and use.
In the first game, you had three stars that filled in from empty to bronze, then silver, then gold. It looked and sounded cool, but it was unnecessarily complex, and made it hard to understand the relative costs of the special abilities. Now you still have drama points that slowly complete a star, but you either have a star or you don’t. To make up for that, we need more stars. You can fill in up to ten stars. At that point, you are maxed out, and any more drama points you earn will be lost. But at that point you are able to use all of the drama abilities – which includes resurrecting (well, “recapacitating”) the entire party so long as one member is still up.
That’s the other thing I cleaned up: the drama abilities menu. There are a total of ten abilities, in ascending cost of 1-10 drama points:
The effects have changed somewhat from similarly-named abilities in FK1, but the basics (and the Holy Grail references) are the same. Fool’s Luck, which costs only a single drama star, guarantees a maximum result on the character’s next roll. The idea here is that you could just save and reload constantly until you succeeded, so why not let the player guarantee success on something that really matters? Problem solved. Bigger Fool’s Luck (I leave it as an exercise to the reader as to whether this refers to bigger luck or a bigger fool) adds a bonus on top of this, allowing a character to succeed in something that might otherwise be a little bit beyond their ability. Second Wind removes short-term fatigue and reduces long-term exhaustion. Only a Flesh Wound eliminates all damage to a living character. I Got Better removes all negative status effects. And I Feel Happy! means that a character (or the group) is not dead yet… they are no longer incapacitated and have a portion of their health restored.
So that is how the new and improved drama star system works. As in the previous game, current drama star status is retained if you save and exit and then continue at a later time (for those of us who may only have gaming sessions measured in minutes, not hours). But if you save anywhere and then reload, you’ll have things reset back to zero. (Clever players know to spend their drama points right before saving, if need be).
I hope it will prove an even more useful tool exploring the new dungeons!
Filed Under: Design, Frayed Knights - Comments: 4 Comments to Read
Posted by Rampant Coyote on October 27, 2015
Do you want to do a game jam, but you can never find the time? Well, courtesy of the weirdness that is Daylight Savings Time, the time has been found for you… This is a game jam that by a quirk of procedural custom takes place in zero time. You start at 2 AM and end at 2 AM, an hour later.
In the U.S., in the areas that practice DST, this happens in the wee hours of Sunday morning, November 1st, this year. Europe already had the jam a few days ago. I’ve participated a couple of times before, and it’s always been fun. And I’ve ALWAYS gone back and spent another five hours or so polishing up my game, so I’ve had the original jam entry and a more polished version. It’s interesting to note how a technically playable version that is more-or-less “done” can take five times longer to get “finished.” That ought to be a lesson…
Anyway. It’s a jam. It literally takes no time at all, at least measurable time. If you can stay up late (or get up early) and give it a shot… it’s a fun exercise.
Maybe this week I ought to experiment with Unity’s WebGL exporting before the jam…
Filed Under: Events, Game Development - Comments: Be the First to Comment
Posted by Rampant Coyote on October 26, 2015
Obsidian Games just announced that Pillars of Eternity surpassed a half-million units sold worldwide. This is a game that was originally a nostalgia project… a game like Baldur’s Gate. They created it on a fairly low budget (by their usual, more AAA-focused measurements – it was still a TON of money by indie standards).
This tracks with the success of what was in many ways a reboot of the Dungeon Master / Eye of the Beholder games, Legend of Grimrock, which also enjoyed phenomenal success for a smaller-budget (but not shoestring budget) project – nearing a million copies sold as of a year ago.
When I embarked on the Frayed Knights project originally, there was few games embracing the old-school western computer RPG styles. You had Spiderweb’s games, and a few games like Eschalon Book 1 on the horizon and some other titles that seemed to be much further in development than they really were (The Broken Hourglass – a Baldur’s Gate style game itself – which was canceled, and Age of Decadence, which released just a couple of weeks ago).
My story that I maintained back then was that these games were still fun… with some modern updates, they could prove to be popular still. Of course, before the indie revolution, what publisher would take a chance on that? Especially since the numbers wouldn’t be “AAA” numbers selling into the millions. But with a modest budget, I maintained these things could still be viable and successful. But no, we were stuck in the desert of games that were mainly jRPGs console ports, Diablo clones, or Elder Scrolls wannabes. Not that those were bad, but there wasn’t enough out there to really scratch all the RPG itches.
Now we’re living in a world with games like Wasteland 2, Divinity: Original Sin (with a sequel forthcoming), and with sequels to Ultima Underworld and The Bard’s Tale in development, three successful turn-based Shadowrun games (based on a dice & paper RPG)… and a spiritual sequel to Planescape: Torment. And more. No, it’s not all super-rosy or anything, but I think with this latest announcement, the proof is that yes, there’s still a substantial market for these kinds of games. While they may not enjoy the “mass appeal” of some games, I have a tough time saying that 500k+ sales is a “niche” interest.
Not only that, but all of these games could be labeled “old-school” yet they are all very, very different. That’s the thing: “Old school” is not some monolithic, boring formula, but rather a wide field of possibilities that were discarded in pursuit of last year’s hit game. And we’re poised to strike out in some new, interesting directions from here, with what really amounts to a larger toolbox that embraces both old and new ideas.
So yeah. As an RPG fan, this smells like… victory.
Filed Under: Biz, Indie Evangelism - Comments: Be the First to Comment
Posted by Rampant Coyote on October 23, 2015
I pulled out this old article from the old, lost blog from about 9 years ago. I think it’s still pretty relevant.
I’ve noticed with some curiosity that after having a positions at a few different companies in my career, the most productive software development teams were the ones at the companies with the least stringent dress codes. In one case, the same engineers worked at two different companies, and I noted their productivity was better at the place where they wore jeans and T-shirts to work.
I’m not saying there’s necessarily a causal relationship here. Two companies with the most stringent dress codes also had some management / business issues that were hurting either the department or the business as a whole. So while the I.T. team couldn’t get their job done, they at least LOOKED GOOD while they weren’t doing anything.
My favorite “Dress Code” story comes from Singletrac (hey, over five years at a company that rose to stardom and fell almost as quickly is bound to result in a lot of stories!) Bernie Stolar was then the head of Sony Computer Entertainment of America, and they had taken a big gamble on this small company of mainly engineers who had never done games before. There was a lot of skepticism about our ability to turn knowledge of building tank and aircraft simulators for the military into entertaining videogames. (Editorial note from 2015: And at the simulator company where I now work, we’ve had a number of former video game developers developing hard-core training sims…)
One day Bernie came to take a tour of our office, and to talk biz with Singletrac’s president, Mike Ryder. So Bernie pokes his head into our offices where we’re all dillegently plugging along on our games. A few of the guys on the team had problems “dressing down” for a videogame job, so they were somewhere in-between “business casual” and casual. A few had nice jeans and knit button-down shirts.
Bernie snorted and told Ryder, “They sure don’t LOOK like gamers.”
We had an all-hands meeting every Friday during lunch. During the following Friday meeting, Mike Ryder gave us his plea:
“At Singletrac, we’ve never really had anything like a dress code. But if you feel so inclined to wear jeans with holes in them to work, or to flip your baseball hat around backwards while working on the game… please feel free!”
Filed Under: Game Development - Comments: Be the First to Comment
Posted by Rampant Coyote on October 22, 2015
In this case, it’s another Netflix film that was panned by many critics: Odd Thomas, starring Anton Yelchin (Chekhov in the Star Trek reboot) and Willem Defoe, directed by Stephen Sommers (The Mummy), based on a Dean Koontz novel of the same name (in fact, a series). You’d think that’s a pretty good pedigree, but the critics disagreed.
Me? I liked it a lot. Yeah, it was a little jumbled, and there were man moments that looked like there were significant events portended that ended up on the cutting room floor. It’s quirky — the characters are definitely quirky — and at times it acts almost as if it wants to be a comedy. Sort of like The Mummy. But it’s really not. It’s an action / mystery movie with major supernatural elements.
The titular character is Odd Thomas, a guy with clairvoyant abilities. He sees dead people. And more. That makes him extremely handy to the chief of police, as Odd is remarkably on the nose when it comes to solving murders in his small town. Besides being able to see ghosts, he sometimes has prophetic dreams, has something of a psychic ability to find people he’s looking for, and can see into the spirit world. This includes seeing bodachs, nasty spirits that feed off of pain and violence. They can also possess people. But usually, they are simply the harbingers of extreme pain and violence. But you don’t want them to ever learn that you can see them, or they’ll use their abilities to possess someone and kill you.
And suddenly, the small town has become filled with bodachs. Something really bad is about to go down.
It’s a popular Instant Play show right now, and I really enjoyed it, warts and all. It’s unrated, but it’d probably warrant a PG-13 for violence.
Filed Under: Movies - Comments: Be the First to Comment
Posted by Rampant Coyote on October 21, 2015
Okay, it’s kind of a dumb meme going around, but I’ll bite. After all, it’s a one-time event for those of us who are children of the 80s. Today was the day in the future that Marty McFly traveled to from 1985 in Back to the Future II (released in 1989).
The vision of 2015 from 1989 was comical and… in my view… pretty annoying. But they had the anti-grav thing going for it, which was pretty major. And Mr. Fusion. Everyone talks about the hoverboards… where are our hoverboards?
(Well, we kind of have them, but they have to be used on a special surface. We are no closer to anti-gravity now than we were in the 1980s).
Personally, I’d rather have the flying cars. And more particularly, Mr. Fusion. I want to turn my organic garbage into 1.21 gigawatts of power, dang it! You pull that off, and have that much power at your disposal, and maybe everything else becomes a solvable problem.
The films under-estimated technology’s advancement a bit, too, still using pay phones and fax machines. But they weren’t trying to accurately predict the future… they were just trying to have fun. And the most fun thing about them is the comic representation of the same phenomenon written about in Ray Bradbury’s “A Sound of Thunder” – how seemingly insignificant actions taken by time travelers in the past could all kinds of ripples and ramifications back in their own present time. The films played with all kinds of weird causality – starting with Marty’s own disrupting of his own parent’s relationship, causing him to slowly paradox his family and himself out of existence. Wild stuff to think about, made into a fun comedy for mass consumption.
It’s also pretty funny having such a window on mid 1980s America – deliberately shown in sharp relief against other eras – to look back on now.
So, hey, we get to give an old series which is definitely out of its own time one last great send-off today.
Filed Under: Movies - Comments: Read the First Comment
Posted by Rampant Coyote on October 20, 2015
Yeah. It’s Monday night, and I’m supposed to be writing this blog post. Not much is occurring to me, because I’m like 10 years old again, and watching this about a dozen times:
Admit it, you did too. Well, okay, most of you.
I’m still cautious, because I remember the heartbreak of the prequel trilogy. I mean, the ads for The Phantom Menace made chills go up my spine, too. So a part of me is afraid of getting hurt again.Not that I completely hated the prequel trilogy. Yes, I completely hated some parts of them, and loved others. I guess if you were to watch the movies with the audio turned off and just cranked up John Williams soundtracks and watched them like giant music videos, they would probably be pretty cool.
But yeah, as much as I try to not get excited… holy crap. The trailer nails something that was terribly missing in the prequels… real personal, character drama. The prequel movies were big on spectacle, but glossed over character development… if anything, character actions often seemed forced and unrealistic just to move the action along to the next planned scene. This trailer suggests some pretty interesting characters… including one of the villains.
But more interestingly, if I were to describe the story that this trailer seems to imply, it would be this:
“A powerful successor to the original Galactic Empire is on the rise. A new generation of heroes, too young to remember the original conflict, try to come to grips with what they are facing. Older veterans of the original war realize that it has returned with a vengeance.”
Of course, the real meaning that it is trying to say can be obtained by a substitution:
“A powerful successor to the original
Galactic Empire Star Wars films is on the rise. A new generation of heroes fans, too young to remember the original conflict films, try to come to grips with what they are facing watching. Older veterans of the original war series realize that it has returned with a vengeance.”
Man, I hope so.
Filed Under: Movies - Comments: 5 Comments to Read
Posted by Rampant Coyote on October 19, 2015
One of my gamedev friends stepped up to the plate and offered to host an interview for the Beyond the Wail anthology. With the luck of the draw, he was asked to post the interview with my wife, Julie.
So DUH… of course I’m going to link to it!
I can’t say I’m unbiased, but it’s an excellent story! Ghosts and an enchanted fiddle (“the devil’s instrument”) make a great combination.
Also remember that there’s a link to a contest with free loot, so be sure to sign up.
And remember – if you are looking for some spooky stories appropriate for the Halloween season, Beyond the Wail is a great new choice!
Filed Under: Books - Comments: Be the First to Comment
Posted by Rampant Coyote on October 16, 2015
I was led to this incredibly awesome 40-minute long talk by Vlambeer’s Rami Ismael – one of the relatively big indie success stories of recent years – by Josh’s post at Kickbomb. I’ve got it embedded at the end of the post. It’s geared more for newbie entering the indie field, but it’s a great talk for everyone. It’s entitled “How to Survive Your First Indie Game,” or “You Stand No Chance.” While it’s sort of doom-and-gloomy at the beginning, the upshot is “do it anyway.” As in, “You are probably going to fail. But you should try anyway.” Not exactly a rosy vision of the brave, new world of indie.
Then there’s this, by even more-veteran indie Cliff “Cliffski” Harris:
This is not about the awesome early days of mainstream mobile iPhones the press got excited about when someone could make hundreds of thousands of dollars on an app that made fart noises. No, he’s talking about the wasteland of mobile gaming today… a battlefield littered with a million corpses of once-promising games. The goldmine that Steam once was when it was highly restricted and curated has become an open, Greenlight-fueled slush pile a mile high. People who thought “just get on Steam and make a bundle” are finding reality to be a lot more stark. A LOT more.
As a friend was saying, things don’t look good for the average indie. My response was, as always, that it’s NEVER been good for the “average” indie.
Still, it’s hard to come away from all of this without feeling a little bit gloomy. This is the brave, new world of indie that I was craving… just like the brave, new world of eBooks that can now bypass the chokehold of the publishers. YAY! For creators, it means you can sell directly to your customers… assuming you can find them and they can find you. For customers, it means a whole lot more content to choose from… just good luck trying to choose something that isn’t crap. Your choices get artificially curtailed because you’ve been burned too often taking chances on unknowns. But how does anybody get from being an unknown to a known… or be allowed to improve?
This is a hard problem. This is possibly an unsolvable problem on a general level. It’s also a very, very old problem. As old as there have been marketplaces in society. The most common solution on an individual basis is to throw a lot of money at it. Spend enough money (probably more than you expect to see back for a couple of years), and you may make yourself famous enough for people to pay attention. That is the Way of the Big Money, that is not the Way of the Indie.
The Way of the Indie starts with “don’t be average.” Don’t be inconspicuous (yeah, that’s a super-hard one for most of us… believe me, I’m totally there). Don’t follow the pack… try to make an end run around the pack and shortcut to where they are probably going. You may end up in the wrong place, but at least you won’t be lost in the crowd.
I wish I could say what the rest of the “Way of the Indie” was, but that’s sort of the nature of indie-dom… we’re all pretty individual and our paths are all different. As Ismail says, what worked for an indie in 2013 probably won’t work in 2015 or 2016. For that matter, even the Big Money approach still isn’t a guarantee.
I just get hammered with a feeling of how much I suck, because I’ve been through at least three of these boom-then-bust cycles as an indie, yet I never was able to capitalize on them during the gravy months. Maybe I’m still just trying to get out of the “don’t be average” category. Probably true… about the only non-average thing I’ve got going for me is indie and mainstream veterancy.
But here’s the thing… it’s always been the case that making games is a stupid way to make money. It’s way too hard and way too unpredictable. But like other creative professions, if you’ve got it in your heart and soul, you won’t give a crap about that and you’ll do it anyway. For those who do, I salute you!
Filed Under: Biz, Indie Evangelism - Comments: 2 Comments to Read
Posted by Rampant Coyote on October 15, 2015
In conjunction with the launch of “Beyond the Wail: 12 Grave Stories of Love and Loss,” I also did a short interview for the blog hop. You probably know way more about me than you want to know as far as game development is concerned if you are a long-time reader. But I brought up a couple of ancient stories of… um, stories:
I talk a little bit more about the origins of the story and about my continuing development as a teller of stories. And of course, how I refuse to settle on being JUST a game developer OR an author. Frankly, I’m having too much fun doing both. Not sleeping a lot, but at least I’m having fun.
To top it off… a graphic by fellow author from the anthology, A. F. Stewart. She did one of these for all of the stories:
Filed Under: Books - Comments: Be the First to Comment
Posted by Rampant Coyote on October 14, 2015
What is it about fear and the unknown that pulls so passionately at the human heart? Perhaps we are drawn not to the darkness itself, but to the resolution, the overcoming of what we most deeply dread. After all, the more terrible the struggle, the greater the victory when it comes at last. Presented in this anthology are twelve remarkable stories of the darkness that overshadows us, and the resolution that may be found beyond them. They are stories of fear and oppression, but ultimately stories of hope, stories that will take you BEYOND THE WAIL.
The Xchyler Publishing blog tour for the latest paranormal anthology continues here today with a spotlight of author L. K. McIntosh. One of the very cool things about anthologies is that it’s a great opportunity to sample new authors – or at least ones that are new to you. It’s extra cool being one of the authors in that I get to run into some of these really talented and creative people at conventions and book signings.
Xchyler authors range all over the world, but I suppose through word-of-mouth networking and their strong appearance at a couple of Utah conventions, we seem to have a pretty strong contingent of Utah authors! That, and Utah’s got a reputation for having an extremely high per-capita number of speculative fiction authors. Something in the water, I guess. So I’m doubly excited to introduce you to my fellow Utahn and my fellow author in Beyond the Wail, L. K. McIntosh.
L.K. McIntosh has been making up stories about the people around her since she learned how to talk. She eventually discovered cultural anthropology, a fantastic and often macabre world of research rabbit holes and bare bones tales just begging to be fleshed out. She is irrationally terrified of sharks, which makes perfect sense, considering she has always lived in a landlocked state, and she is a proud supporter of the Oxford comma. She is currently working on two speculative fiction novels and several short stories. She physically lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, but tends to live life vicariously thanks to the Internet, books, television, and a vast array of interesting people.
Her story is entitled, “The ‘Grim’ Reaper.” When a soul reaper loses the source of their power, the reaper must either find the witch who stole it or a new purpose for living.
With that, here’s a barrage of questions for her:
How did you come up with the concept of your story?
Xchyler provided a prompt of “Losers Weepers”, and the genre was paranormal, so I just kind of brainstormed for a bit. I like creating stories that are a bit different than what one would expect, so I didn’t want to do a story involving ghosts or psychics or creepy demon children. I landed on the concept of a reaper, with a beansidhe being a supporting character.
Please provide some insight into or a secret or two about your story:
I decided early on that the story didn’t necessitate a gender for the main character. The reaper is just a bundle of energy (granted, we all are), and doesn’t reproduce. They are just kind of there, doin’ what they do, reaping souls. So, I’ve gone with gender neutral pronouns when absolutely necessary. The story is in first person, so it allows a reader to decide for themselves what gender the character is.
What was the most surprising part of writing this story?
How difficult it was. Short stories are so much harder than you think they will be. You have to condense a tale into just 20 or so pages, but still have great character development, good conflict and tension, and a complete plot. Writing a good short story is an art (see Ray Bradbury or Neil Gaiman for proof of this). I have no idea whether or not I succeeded, but I sure tried my best!
What is your preferred writing genre?
Speculative fiction that dips into anthropology. I love to research things and then mold what I find into the framework or details of a story.
How does writing impact other parts of your life?
It’s more…the opposite of that. At my fulltime job it’s all facts, logic, and numbers, so it’s nice to come home and have more flexibility to be creative. But writing only ends up taking a small percentage of my time, due to work and other obligations. I try to make time when I can.
What is your advice to writers?
The same advice that I have to remind myself of every day – finish something. Even if it’s total crap, you can rework that into what you want it to be. Without a framework, your story can never unfold. So sit down, crack your knuckles, and start writing. No one has to see that first draft. Write it down, put it away for a little while, then come back and edit, and you’ll be able to get a better picture of your next steps – how to make your work into what your brain has envisioned.
Star Wars or Star Trek?
Star Wars, though I do like the new Star Trek films.
Harry Potter or Pirates of the Caribbean?
Harry Potter. Great stories, great character development, fairly consistent in the quality of the films. Plus, it’s a story I grew up with.
Vampires or Werewolves?
Vampires. Werewolves have too much hair, and the pack attitude gets a little old. Vamps can be molded into anything, and can be menacing without growling.
Sherlock: Robert Downey, Jr. or Benedict Cumberbatch?
Benedict Cucumberpatch. I think he’s a fabulous Sherlock, and his neuroticism is charming without trying to be.
And – SUPER IMPORTANT! We’re giving away LOOT!!!! Enter for some prizes to thank you for checking out these blog posts about the book (if it doesn’t work, try this link):
Here are links to more blog posts that have already been published or are coming up over the next few days:
Book Release Blog Tour
Featured Author: Danielle E. Shipley
Saturday, October 10, 2015
Featured Author: Alex McGilvery
Sunday, October 11, 2015
Featured Author: T.N. PAYNE
Monday, October 12, 2015
png” alt=”L.K. McIntosh” width=”200″ height=”274″ />Melissa McShane, Author
Featured Author: Ginger C. Mann
Tuesday, October 13, 2015
Featured Author: L.K. McIntosh
Wednesday, October 14, 2015
Featured Author: Jay Barnson
Thursday, October 15, 2015
Featured Author: A. F. Stewart
Friday, October 16, 2015
Featured Author: Amanda Banker
Saturday, October 17, 2015
Featured Author: Julie Barnson
Sunday, October 18, 2015
Featured Author: Sebastian Bendix
Monday, October 19, 2015
Featured Author: Tirzah Duncan
Tuesday, October 20, 2015
Featured Author: F.M. Longo
Wednesday, October 21, 2015
Filed Under: Books, Interviews - Comments: 2 Comments to Read
Posted by Rampant Coyote on October 13, 2015
I’ve had two relatives (on my wife’s side) with dementia or something akin to it which causes hallucinations. My grandfather had it in conjunction with Alzheimer’s. And my wife’s aunt suffered from delusional episodes. With her grandfather, he was pretty much off in his own world most of the time anyway, so while frustrating and sometimes outright scary, it was sort of like he was in and out of a dream state almost constantly. It was sad because of how he used to be. He was constantly experiencing strange hallucinations, and would sometimes ask us about it.
I had a conversation with her aunt several years ago, and that was another story. I don’t know if it was properly diagnosed as dementia or something else, but she suffered from hallucinations. It reminded me of the movie A Beautiful Mind. She was a very intelligent woman and was fully cognizant of what was happening to her, and it frustrated her to no end. She could never be sure what was real and what wasn’t. She told one story of being woken up in the middle of the night by her family warning her that there was a fire, and they had to get outside and wait for the fire department. She could smell the smoke, and of course, her family was warning her. She grabbed what she could and stood out on the lawn with her family in the chilly night.
Then her son (?) came up to her and asked her what she was doing on the lawn. She said, “You told me to! There’s a fire.”
Nope, it was all a hallucination. Dreams merging with wakefulness. It infuriated her, because what was she supposed to do? Wait for her family to prove to her that the house was really on fire before she got out of bed?
That was the real tragedy of it all. With grandpa, he was more-or-less checked out all the time and only half-conscious when he was awake. He wasn’t really aware of what was happening to him most of the time. But with my wife’s aunt, she was sharp as a tack, fully aware of what was going on, and fully frustrated in a world where she couldn’t be 100% sure what was real and what wasn’t.
And so it was with that background that I read Ginger C. Mann’s story, “The Poltergeist and Aunt Betty,” found in the new paranormal anthology Beyond the Wail by Xchyler Publishing. I couldn’t help but think of my discussion with my wife’s aunt. In the story, eccentric Aunt Betty is a dynamic, take-charge kind of lady who kinda storms through life, but she is plagued with mental issues and has to take medication. So when weird stuff starts happening to her, she takes it in stride as part of her unique condition, and her family members assume the same. But what happens when some of the weird, impossible stuff happening around her isn’t just a figment of her imagination?
Anyway, I’ve liked Ginger’s stories since reading “China Doll” in Shades and Shadows. I wonder if it’s a software engineer thing… maybe we get fascinated by similar details (Ginger is a software developer for a security company in Texas).
It’s only one of many great stories in the book, but it was one that perhaps hit me a little harder because of personal experience. Not first-hand experience thankfully, but it still made me think. Once again, I think one of the advantages of this kind of storytelling is that it necessitates the reader taking on some of the storytelling burden, and thus personalizing it.
Tomorrow I’m spotlighting author L. K. McIntosh, author of the story “The ‘Grim’ Reaper,” also featured in Beyond the Wail.
For today – Ginger gets the spotlight in other blogs, including Jana S. Brown’s blog, Kristin Baker’s Fairies & Pirates, and on L. K. McIntosh’s blog. She has interview details they are sharing with some insights into her story and with writing in general.
Filed Under: Books - Comments: Read the First Comment