To Farshores, and Beyond: Part II

As much as traditional publishing gave way to indie publishing with the advent of new platforms such as Kindle and Nook, so too did the video game industry change. Steam, Valve’s world-conquering distribution platform, changed the way developers reached gamers. One no longer needed a big publisher like Electronic Arts or Square-Enix to distribute games. You could do it directly, as long as you had a product that gamers would want.

But creating a game is still a monumental undertaking. When I was working at Nintendo, a few of my friends who also worked there decided to get together to create a game. I was brought in as the writer, having already published some of my Fourth World stuff. We started planning. But even this group of very motivated gamers did not get far beyond the planning stage. Creating a game is not as simple as just sitting in front of a keyboard and typing away. There are a lot of moving parts that require specialized knowledge. Failure to understand all of these parts could result in a game that is completely unplayable.

This is true of writing, too. One must patch all those plot holes or readers will complain. But it’s a much bigger deal for games. Imagine making a mistake while typing away in your novel, and the entire thing suddenly becomes completely unreadable. Such a catastrophe would never happen from a typo in a novel, but frequently does in a typo of computer code. And even if catastrophe does strike and a novel is lost, it’s usually because of some computer problem. Game developers deal with this routinely.

The biggest obstacle for us, however, was managing a team. When writing a novel, you are responsible only to yourself (for the most part). Only your schedule matters. Only your creative direction matters. As long as you create something of quality, you’ve done your job.

With video games, everyone on the team has their own ideas, their own schedules. There are bottlenecks. Technical incompatibilities. Creative differences. Any one of these could cause the project to collapse.

Despite having committed to the novelist path, I still kept my ear to the ground when it came to game development. Games still did something for me that novels didn’t, and perhaps, subconsciously, I knew that I still had the urge to create games.

I eventually came upon tools that allowed a single, focused game developer to create games much like those I loved since that fateful day in 1997: Japanese-style RPGs.

I thought, “What the heck. I’ll give it a shot.” I thought it would be a nice way to scratch that itch, even if nothing ever really came of it.

It was turning out pretty well, so I thought I would incorporate some of the ideas of the Farshores Saga into it, and make it part of the history of the Farshores world. I thought it would help me make the world real for me and help bring out some of that flavor into the novels. It would also give me an opportunity to create backstory for the characters.

At one point, I was playing through what I had created. I knew that it was more than just a repository of backstory and worldbuilding to aid in the creation of my novels.

I knew I could make a game that other people would want to play.

Thus was Super Secret Project B born (the “B” stands for “Brandon” because I’m, uh, super-creative).

I’ll have more details about this project in an upcoming post.

Advertisements

To Farshores, and Beyond: Part I

I remember when I decided to be a writer. Not the exact day, but I remember the event that triggered it. I’m sure many writers remember a similar event in their lives: the first time they read the Lord of the Rings, the first time they watched Star Wars, or some other exposure to a work they wanted to emulate. That work likely got them thinking about how that story could continue. They felt as if they had begun a conversation, and now it was their turn to speak.

When I was about 9 or 10 years old, I had dabbled in fan fiction. BattleTech fan fiction, to be exact. I was a GM for the BattleTech RPG, called MechWarrior. I loved creating stories for the neighbor kids, who themselves loved participating in them. Years later, one of those same neighbors recalled fondly a particular adventure I had taken him on in our little mech-filled universe. That was a big moment for me. I also loved reading BattleTech novels—particularly the ones written by Michael Stackpole—and eventually thought I should try my hand at writing one.

I did. It wasn’t good, and I only wrote a few pages before I ran out of steam. I decided to go back to what I was good at, which was running our game.

This wasn’t the moment that triggered the “I am a writer” compulsion in me, not really. It was just a false start. The real moment wouldn’t come until years later, but it too was brought about not by a novel or a movie, but by another game.

The year was 1997. I was just about to turn 14 when that fateful moment occurred. When Final Fantasy VII was released.

One of the neighbor kids (different from the BattleTech neighbor kids) brought over a copy of the game to play on my sister’s PlayStation. It was all this kid would talk about, and he begged me to borrow it so he could talk about it with someone who understood it. I did borrow it, somewhat skeptical (I was a dyed-in-the-wool sci-fi guy, and wasn’t interested in fairy tales and fantasies), and gave the disc a spin later that evening.

I went to bed, red-eyed and bleary, at around 7 AM the next day. And at that moment I severely resented my body and its stupid need for sleep. As soon as my eyes were open—perhaps after about 4 or 5 hours of sleep—I was back in Midgar with my spiky yellow hair and enormous Buster Sword.

ff7_us

When I finally finished the game, I sat back and realized something.

I could do this. I could write a video game script. Perhaps one even worthy of Final Fantasy.

That was the moment.

From that moment on, I was consumed with the idea of creating my own RPG, from developing the world and characters, to writing every line of dialogue. For that game, which I had titled Paradigm (for some reason), I had come up with some unique twists on the typical JRPG formula that the world wouldn’t see until years later, with the release of Final Fantasy XII (I honestly think someone in Japan read the script from Paradigm before creating that game. It had way too much in common with the one I was making).

I became an avid JRPG fan and played everything I could get my hands on. Another pivotal moment was, of course, the next iteration of Final Fantasy. This game, with its more realistic characters and (slightly) more realistic setting was more in line with what I wanted to create, me being the sci-fi guy. It was then that I decided on my hero, who incidentally had an awful lot in common with FF8’s hero, Squall.

I worked on this game for years before I finally was able to type the words “The End.” In that time, I had researched what it took to be a writer in the video game industry. It turns out to be a lot harder than I had naively thought as a 14-year-old kid. A lot of writers started out in testing, then worked their way up through design and finally into writing. Others already had writing credits to their name, having written stories and novels or worked in some other media before finally writing for video games. One does not simply declare oneself a video game writer, I learned to my dismay.

It was a sobering lesson. That was where I wanted to go. Into writing video games. I seriously considered going in through the testing route, and even tried my hand at it for a brief time, before I learned that was not where my skills lay, and I would have to work harder than everyone else just to get to the point where I could write games.

Then I turned to the other common route: writing in other media. The obvious media was novels. I had read a lot growing up, and when I started seriously considered writing novels, I had recently discovered a genre I had previously scorned: fantasy.

You see, I had never actually read a fantasy novel until I was 23. If there weren’t any spaceships or robots, I wasn’t interested. But once I finally caved into pressure and picked up my first fantasy novel, a little book called Wizard’s First Rule, I became utterly and totally obsessed. This was the second time in my life that I was convinced I would be a writer. This time, a writer of novels.

It wasn’t long before I decided that writing for video games would be just another dream job that I grew out of, like being an astronaut, a mad scientist, or a ninja. Writing novels would scratch the same itch as writing video games, and didn’t need to be a mere means to an end. It could be an end in itself.

I proceeded with this line of thinking for years, and much to my benefit. Here I am, on the eve of completing my first novel, and I am satisfied.

Mostly.

To Indie or Not to Indie

As I mentioned in a previous post, a story I had written, called Scrapyard Paradise, had been accepted in an anthology called A Game of Horns: A Red Unicorn Anthology, published by WordFire Press (you can buy it here and elsewhere). Getting that acceptance email was easily one of the highlights of my burgeoning career as a writer. Another was getting this:

A Game of Horns
One in the hand is worth two in the ereader.

Now, I’m a big fan of ebooks. I’ve got a Kindle and a Kindle Fire, and I often read books on my phone. And having moved around the world, I had to part ways with my large collection of paper books. I think electronic books are the future of reading, and paper books will eventually go the way of the candle. Good for decorating your house, but not as useful as its more technologically-advanced counterpart.

But damn, does it feel good to hold my book in my hands.

I’ve published my own ebooks before, and every time I did, I felt satisfied and proud of the hard work I had done. But none of that came even close to getting this professionally-produced and published book in the mail, seeing its gorgeous cover, feeling the heft of it in my hands. I could never make anything as wonderful as this.

The moment I realized that, I knew what I would do with the Farshores Saga, something I hadn’t yet attempted (with the exception of Scrapyard Paradise): I would seek out a traditional publisher.

Although I’m not entirely satisfied with the Fourth World series (what kind of author would I be if I were satisfied with something I had written?), much of the feedback I received about it was positive. I thought the stories were pretty decent, if a bit unconventional and overly ambitious. Even so, they never really generated buzz or took off by any stretch of the imagination. Part of the reason could be that I never spent the money to give them the professional treatment they needed. I tried too hard to do everything myself instead outsourcing to people who knew how best to publish a book. Another part, and perhaps the more significant part, is that if I didn’t go out there and generate buzz about the books myself, no one would. And I didn’t.

A lot of traditionally published authors say they work just as hard to promote their books as any indie-published author. And that may be true, especially for the more successful ones. But it’s undeniable that simply having a publisher in your corner, someone who was willing to take a chance on you, is itself a promotion of your work. Some of my friends who had never read my Fourth World stories picked up a copy of the anthology simply because they knew it was traditionally published. I think there’s a lesson in there, and it’s that traditional publishing is the way to go for me.

Of course, one does not simply will a publishing contract into existence. You need to have a product that the publisher wants, and you have to show them why it’s in their interest to publish it. My writing group is a phenomenal group of people who, when they combine their powers, are like the Voltron of polishing a manuscript. With their excellent feedback, I’ve been able to take my novel to a much higher level. I’m confident that when it’s finished, it will be ready for the big leagues.

Plus, with Scrapyard Paradise, I’ve shown that going this route is not as far-fetched as I once thought. I know it’s achievable because, in the case of my short story, I’ve already achieved it. Now it’s just a matter of doing the best work I can to make it happen with my novel too. And honestly, while I liked Scrapyard Paradise as a story, Shoreseeker is at least fifty bajillion times better.

But the question of going indie or not is actually a false dilemma. An idea that I had toyed with when I was just starting out with the Fourth World was a hybrid approach to publishing: traditionally publishing some things, independently publishing others. A lot of authors have tried this approach with success, and I think especially given my own inclinations as a writer, this is the best way for me. So I will traditionally publish my novels.

As for independently published stuff? Well, that’s where Super Secret Project B comes in.

Red Unicorns

For the past several hours, I’ve been pacing and fidgeting around my computer, wondering if ten minutes is too short a time to wait before checking my email again. I went back on forth on the issue, and eventually decided that only waiting five minutes was probably fine. I’m pretty sure I started checking it every three minutes.

Last year, a call for submissions to an anthology went out to the alumni of Superstars Writing Seminars. I was an alum, but I hadn’t been keeping up with the others much over the past couple years, and I had my hands full with my own projects and living in a new country. I didn’t submit.

That anthology had one driving theme and one basic requirement: purple unicorns. While a fantasy buff, I hadn’t developed much of an interest in unicorns since I cracked open my first fantasy novel. I didn’t think I had a unicorn story in me.

Unicorns, man. Unicorns.

Even so, I watched the proceedings with interest. The anthology, called One Horn to Rule Them All: A Purple Unicorn Anthology, was released in August of last year by WordFire Press. It was well-received, and sales exceeded expectations. The stories were strong, the artwork (by the talented James A. Owen) excellent.

Its publication wasn’t like that of any other anthology, at least not for me. Many of the authors in that anthology were people that I had met and knew, and because of that, I was buoyed by their infectious joy. Even though I wasn’t a part of the anthology, I couldn’t help but feed off of the enthusiasm and excitement of those who were.

I don’t often feel regret, but at that time, I felt more than a bit. I wanted in, but I had missed my window.

At least, that’s what I thought.

A few months ago, another call went out, this time for Game of Horns: A Red Unicorn Anthology. I still didn’t have any unicorn stories in me burning to get out, but I decided that could be an advantage: I would write a unicorn story that wasn’t your average unicorn story. It wouldn’t be laden with castles or forests or young Tom Cruises in scalemail.

Thus was born “Scrapyard Paradise,” a post-apocalyptic alien invasion unicorn story. I can’t be 100% sure, but it might be the first of its kind.

I wrote it, polished it (with the help of my brutal, bloodthirsty comrades, the Tokyo Writers Workshop, as well as my parents — voracious readers, both of them), and sent it off. I also tried to forget about it while I waited, but that didn’t work out so well.

Finally, yesterday, the editor began to send out notifications in waves. I waited and waited and waited. No email.

Then she announced the table of contents for the anthology. “Scrapyard Paradise” was there. I checked and saw the email she had sent, confirming it. I was in.

There was dancing, and it may or may not have involved the Running Man.

I will probably share more about this later, but for now, please excuse me while I go watch Tim Curry in a devil suit.

A Gift

With everything that’s going on in the news, all the tragedy and hate and violence, it’s sometimes easy to forget just how amazing our world is. One of the great things about holidays like Christmas is that it reminds us of this, that there are still good people in the world and that they, in fact, outnumber the bad by a large margin. It also reminds just how much progress we’ve made in terms of technology, too.

I was reminded of this just this morning. One of my favorite digital media distribution companies (all hail the Bezos) had its Christmastime $5 digital album download bonanza, of which I gladly partook. My tastes in music tend to run a little obscure, so for a long time I was always looking for CDs at the local record shops, hoping against hope that something that they would carry the latest album by whatever European band had caught my fancy recently. Then, there wasn’t too much hope of that. Just enough to whet my appetite and make me realize just how much I was missing.

I didn’t have too long to wait for the Internet to catch up, and many of the albums I was looking for could be bought online for a reasonable price. Then digital distribution became a worldwide phenomenon, where even independent bands from other countries could join in on the fun.

Now I tend to take this for granted, waiting impatiently for the latest DragonForce album’s price to drop (which it did, thank you very much). But I’m glad I live in a world where I can take this for granted, because hoping that I can buy that latest album is one more frustration I don’t have to deal with anymore. I know I can get it instantly with nothing more than the click of a button, and I can even wait for a lower price if I want to.

Of course, my other favorite form of digital media is the ebook. Prices tend to fluctuate even more with ebooks and I watch those prices even more closely than I do music. A lot of good ebooks are on sale right now, and I almost wish I could buy them again, they’re so cheap.

Clans cover finalAnd for the rest of the year only, I’ve made The Clans: Tales of the Fourth World, free on Smashwords. If you’ve been watching and waiting for this as eagerly as I do for other books, now is your chance. I’m not sure if other sites will pricematch that in such a short window, so Smashwords is your best bet, especially since it supports every major ebook format. I wish you all a Merry Christmas, and hope you all have an amazing new year.

Tour Recap and Giveaway Winner!

Thank you, everyone who stopped by during the Making Connections Spear Mother Blog Tour and helped make it such a success! It got a lot of exposure thanks to you all of sharing and participating. Hopefully, people who were itching to read something like Spear Mother will lead happier, more fulfilling lives as a result of the blog tour (hey, I can dream, can’t I?).

There were a couple of reviews as part of the tour. Here are some of the highlights:

“The story was well written and I was pulled into Sandrena’s story… I would definitely read more of Brandon M. Lindsay’s work.”2 Book Lovers Reviews

“There were places where I felt the book was BRILLIANT in terms of the concept and the end really blew my socks off.”The Bookish Foodie Reviews

Elated doesn’t begin to describe how I feel.

Also, I would like to announce the winner for the blog tour giveaway, and she is…

… drumroll…

Linda Bass!! She decided to go with the $25 Amazon gift card, and she was very excited to win. Congratulations, Linda!

Tour Update: More Stops!

Two more stops have been added to the Making Connections Blog Tour for Spear Mother, and they are as follows:

These Are But Shadows – already live

Dark Obsession Chronicles – June 20th

Please check them out!

Also, in my last post, I mentioned a giveaway, so here are the details: you can win a $25 gift card to either Amazon or Barnes and Noble! Follow the tour to take part in the giveaway!

Spear Mother Sighting on Smashwords

Multiple sightings of the mysterious Spear Mother on the Smashwords publishing platform have been reported. While these claims have not been substantiated, information about the sightings has been leaked at the following web address:

Spear Mother: A Tale of the Fourth World at Smashwords

We advise you proceed with caution as the entity known as Spear Mother has been known to cause heightened emotions, increased brain activity, and (in outlying cases) titillation. You have been warned.

If the claim of the Spear Mother’s presence on Smashwords proves true, it provides incontrovertible evidence that the Spear Mothers are multiplying. The nation’s leading scientists have already issued a statement saying that this could lead to more sightings of the fabled being at Barnes and Noble, iTunes, Kobo, and other ebook retailers. Details of the timeline of such events are forthcoming, though one of the scientists who issued the statement (name withheld by request) said the effects would certainly be devastating.

“I can’t believe these Spear Mothers are running wild, completely unchecked,” he or she said off the record. “First Amazon, and now this? We’re looking at the beginning of a pandemic. I fear for the future of the human race. I really do.”

After the release of the statement, we reached out to the other scientists involved, but have received no response as of the time of publication. Local authorities have declared them all missing persons, and are currently operating under the assumption that the Spear Mother(s) have sought the scientists out and challenged each of them to one-armed arena combat deathmatches. At this point no bodies have been found, but funeral services will be held for them anyway at St. James Memorial Cemetery in Newdirk, New Jersey this Saturday afternoon.

New Release: Spear Mother

Cover art for the new release, Spear Mother.
Cover art for the new release, Spear Mother.

I am pleased to announce that Spear Mother, a new 24K-word novella, has been released for Kindle! I apologize that it has taken this long to release, and would like to thank everyone for their patience. I hope that, after reading it, you will feel that your patience has been rewarded. Although everything I have written is special to me (especially when it’s what I’ve written most recently), this one is particularly so. Evoking an emotion is one of the most critical and fundamental tasks of any art, and literature is no exception. While I’ve never been one to shy away from powerful emotions by any measure, with Spear Mother I had a specific goal in mind – to create a story that evokes deeper, more powerful emotions than anything else I’ve written. I feel I have succeeded, though I’d love to know your thoughts in the comment section (or, even better, please write a review on Amazon!).

In other news, I have moved back to Japan. There are many reasons for this, not least of which being Japan is just an awesome country, but there was a writing-related motive as well. One of the reasons I love epic fantasy is its incredibly broad scope, geographical as well as historical. Living in the most modern country in the world, one with a history that only went back a few hundred years, couldn’t really serve as a model for the timeless worlds that I like to create. America is a very young place compared to much of the world. And as much as I love books, I don’t use them to research cultures very often since it often seems so fruitless – I’m more concerned about the tiny details of how people lived than with the abstract and broad sweep of events that fill most historical books. That’s what I really want to know about, so I opted for a more hands-on approach. Thus I decided to pick up and move halfway around the world.

It’s paying dividends. While Japan is a modern country, with skyscrapers and tech companies and giant robos, much of it is very rooted in the past, which sure is useful for someone who wants to immerse himself in a wildly different culture. It has me thinking about those tiny details that I love in the best fantasy stories, the ones that make you believe you are really there in the place that the author is describing. Those details have always seemed so elusive to me before, and honestly the best of them were borrowed from other people’s imaginations (a practice I am shamelessly fond of). Now I get to steal them from my own experiences. Woohoo!

You will likely see them in some form in the new project (The Fall of the Moon – working title) when it is released. Speaking of which, a lot of development has gone into that project of a form that is very uncharacteristic for me – outlining. Plotting has always meant having a few dots in mind, representing key aspects of the story, with the connecting of those dots being done in the act of writing. While I have done some outlining in the past, it has mostly been at the chapter/scene level. This time, however, I have outlined the last third of the book. I was so astonished with how useful that was that I may be inclined to do it again sometime. We will see.

Until next time.

A (Temporary) Change of Direction

From the time when I was a tiny tot, I’ve been rather curious about how the world works. While other kids were busy playing soccer, I was going to garage sales to find chemistry sets and electronics kits. When other kids went with their friends to the beach, I would go trilobite hunting at a known, high-density fossil site, pickaxe firmly in hand, dewy eyes shining in the desert sun. The world was my playground, and discovery was the name of the game.

Fast-forward a couple decades, and I’m still playing the same game, but in a different playground: the worlds that I create for my fiction. I still want to know how everything works, and I’m not satisfied until I finally find the answers. My own worlds are no exception; the only difference is the rules of nature are determined solely by me. While world creation may sound a bit easier than figuring out the principles underlying the behavior of quantum particles (because you’re just making stuff up, right?), the process of discovery has a distinct advantage over that of creation: the rules of nature are already consistent with themselves. When one creates his own universe, however, such an expectation of consistency is not automatically assured.

The reason I bring that up is this: I have recently discovered that my own creation, namely that of the Fourth World, has some issues that need to be solved, particularly as it relates to The Born Sword.

Working in a fantasy world as strange as the Fourth World has its perks, but it has definitely worked my worldbuilding problem-solving muscles. There are certain philosophical questions that arise in such a bizarre universe, and while I get all frothy-at-the-mouth excited when it comes to questions like that, discovering the answers to such questions and then integrating them into a coherent story is a task that will simply take a little more time than I had originally expected.

If it sounds like I’m giving up on that novel, I want to assure you that I’m not. I want The Born Sword to be the best it can be, and that’s going to require some fixing. The reason I’m telling you this is because I have given you the expectation that it would coming soon, so very soon, but I would like to now temper that claim with some realism. I’m not one of those people who like to say that utopia is just around the corner, as long as you continue to demonstrate a little more patience. I prefer to tell it how it is.

Like any writer I’ve ever heard of, I’ve got quite a few stories in me, some of which are more suitable to setting and style different from the ones I’ve already written. As such, I’ve been working on another novel in a completely different world on the side for a while, and in light of the issues cropping up in the writing of The Born Sword, this new novel has recently become the main focus for my attention. It started out as merely something that kept me writing while I was working out the problems in The Born Sword, but has become something much, much greater. It is, I believe, going to be as good if not better than anything else I’ve written. I’m really, really excited about it. The working title of the new novel is The Fall of the Moon, but that will likely change as a result of a change in direction the story has undergone since I came up with the title.

One of the nice things about this new book is that I’ve specifically built in a resistance to the kinds of issues that I’m working on in the Fourth World. It, too, is epic fantasy, but with a stronger focus on plot, character, and theme, and not as much on a crazy magic system (though magic certainly plays a significant role) that creates more problems than it solves. Stay tuned for more details on this new book.

Of course, I am not abandoning the Fourth World at all, not even in the short run. In fact, I’ve got a completed story that, once I finish with the polishing-up stage (and once I have a title for it), will be ready for your consumption. It will follow the same distribution pattern as Dark Tree: free on this website, free on Smashwords and all of its affiliated platforms, and (once they decide to price-match) free on Amazon. I am in love with this story. I think it might be the best one taking place in the Fourth World yet, and for those of you who are interested in the nuts and bolts of how the Fourth World works, it will illuminate some of the more metaphysical (if not the more troublesome) aspects of the universe.

Speaking of which, I’ve created a lexicon of writings from the Fourth World regarding various aspects of its metaphysics some time ago. I’ve been trying to think of a good use for it, and I’ve decided that I will periodically post entries from the lexicon onto my Facebook Fan page. It was content in need of a home, and a page in need of content. A perfect marriage, if you ask me. If you’re interested in the more arcane aspects of the Fourth World, don’t hesitate to like the page here.

For those of you who love the Fourth World stories and were really hoping to see The Born Sword sooner rather than later, I hope that this upcoming Fourth World story will sate your desire for now. If it doesn’t, well… know that The Born Sword will likely be released before the next Rothfuss or Martin book. At least I can promise you that much *winks roguishly*. And who knows? I may even suddenly realize everything needed to finish it and, in a surge of inspiration, get it done before the other novel. Either way, I will keep you posted.

In other wonderful news, the brand new sister (brother?) review site to BestChickLit, called BestChapLit, posted reviews for Dark Tree and The Clans, as well as an interview with yours truly. If you’re looking to discover some good indie authors, I would definitely recommend checking out their sites.

Furthermore! The Clans is now only $0.99 from all distributors (Amazon, Apple, B&N, Kobo, etc.), so if you’ve been holding out because the economy’s got you down, now is your chance to read it without breaking the bank. Thanks for stopping by!