Project B

Now that I’ve explained that Super Secret Project B is a JRPG-style video game based in the world of the Farshores Saga, I can no longer really call it super secret. It’s only kind of secret. And by the end of this post, nothing about it will be a secret.

When I first started developing the game as a serious production, I had intended it as a prelude to the series, explaining where the sheggam came from, as well as providing backstory for some of the main characters while introducing new ones and advancing its own self-contained story. At some point, I realized that in order for the game to achieve its maximal impact, it would have to be released after the final book in the Farshores Saga. That way, it wouldn’t answer any questions before the reader has had a chance to raise them.

However, this made me nervous for a couple of related reasons. First, that’s a long damn time to wait. I’m not that patient, and I’m proud of the work I’ve done with the game so far and I can’t wait to finish it and get it out there. Second, I had intended the Farshores Saga to be longer than a trilogy, and at that point, somewhat open-ended in terms of length. I didn’t know if it would be six books or twelve books. It could be a great many years before the world saw a tie-in video game. I didn’t want that idea to eventually fall by the wayside because I was too busy with the novels. They’re both important to me, perhaps equally so. I didn’t want to sacrifice one to the other.

Then one night, an idea came to me. Why did it have to be just one game? Couldn’t I break the game up into small pieces, more digestible for me and its potential players? So that’s what I decided to do. Production suddenly didn’t seem so daunting, and completing the first game seemed a much more reasonable goal. And I know that once I finish one, making the rest would be a downhill effort. Only one question remained: how many games?

I decided that I would tie the number of games to the number of novels, and release each game after a novel. I began to plan out the entire arc of the games, breaking them up when I thought it was appropriate. I soon realized that with the length of story I wanted to tell in the games that there would be five of them.

And that’s how I came up with the length of the Farshores Saga. Five games, so five novels.

It was good to set that limit for myself. It’s one of the reasons I have planned so far ahead in the novel series; the limit gave me structure to work with. I knew how much time I needed to accomplish a certain story goal, and that put constraints on what I could do with the story. Plotting it became a lot easier. There are a lot of details to work out still, particularly in the later books, but I know where I need to go.

As for the games, well… the main quest is entirely plotted out for all five games. It’s done. Written in shorthand in a notebook, but done. All that remains is implementation and adding side quests for flavor and depth. That’s still a lot of work, most of the work actually, but I’ll never wonder where the games need to go. That roadmap is finished.

So what about implementation? I’ve been working on the first game for a while now, and I can already tell you that the beginning is completely playable. I recently made significant changes to the gameplay and art style, but they were worth the time to do. I’m in the process of making it better, but a good chunk of the game is done. If I were to put a number to it, I’d say 30%. The one thing that can slow me down is getting too excited and adding things it doesn’t need.

Initially, when I envisioned it as a single game, I called it The Birth of Maelstrom (what the name means, I’ll leave you to wonder until book 5 😉 ). This hasn’t changed, but that’s now the name of the series instead, with each installment getting a number and a subtitle.

The titles are, tentatively, as follows:

I – Ghosthand

II – High Tyrant’s Sword

III – Memory Orbs

IV – God Seed

V – Eternity Thorn

And while each series will stand on its own completely, they will also work together, shining light on mysteries in each and enriching the world of Farshores. For example, at the end of Ghosthand, we learn what the sheggam really are and where they come from, a question that is only answered in part in the novel series. Yet, it isn’t information given solely to please fans of the novels; the information is actually an essential aspect of the overall plot of the game series. And even though each series shines a little light on the other, it doesn’t do so in a way that spoils anything or ruins any surprises. I hate spoilers as much as anyone, so I was very careful to construct everything in a way that avoids them.

Maelstrom follows Jurin, a young Sword Patterner and captain of a specialized mercenary group called Ghosthand. They’re in pursuit of a terrorist group called Atarax, who is planning to embroil the world in war in a misguided attempt to bring world peace.

The games will differ from the novels in a number of different ways. Most importantly, tone. Maelstrom will be quite a bit lighter than Farshores, especially in the beginning. This was a conscious decision. I wanted someone who was familiar with Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest to play Maelstrom and come away feeling enriched, not disturbed. And while there is a lot of fighting in the game, there isn’t the same level of violence that will be a major part of Farshores. Somewhat paradoxically, though, Maelstrom will be the tragedy of the two, since it details the events leading up to the sheggam scourge that nearly destroys the world (even though that particular event doesn’t actually happen in the games). As the release of both gets closer, I’m going to stress this difference so fans of one aren’t too surprised or disappointed in the other. That said, while the tone and level of violence will be different, the level of storytelling will be the same in both. Maelstrom isn’t dumbed down at all, just filtered for content appropriate to the medium.

In my post To Indie or Not to Indie, I mentioned that I intended to take a hybrid approach to my writing career, with a mix of traditional and indie publishing. Maelstrom will be the indie part of that. My plan is to release the games on PC and Mac through Steam, as well as through the Apple Store and Google Play Store, a few months after each novel is released. I hope that this release schedule will keep the Farshores world fresh in the minds of fans and draw fans of one series into the other while they wait. I’m really excited to show both to the world, and I hope you’ll be there when it happens. Thanks for reading and let me know what you think in the comments!

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So What is Farshores, Anyway?

As I mentioned in my last post, the Farshores world encompasses much more than the just the events of a novel series. But let us focus on that for a moment first, and Shoreseeker in particular. Here is a description:

*

Over six hundred years ago, a race of monsters called the sheggam swept across the world like a plague, killing everyone in their path. Mankind was driven to the brink of annihilation, and only found refuge behind a magical wall designed to repel the sheggam. Now, all that’s left of humanity is huddled behind Andrin’s Wall on a small peninsula called the Sutherlands.

Despite having faced extinction, humanity was able to rebuild. Grand cities were constructed, and the magical art of Patterning, nearly lost in the war with the sheggam, began to flourish again. The horrors of the sheggam scourge were far removed from the lives of ordinary citizens, and as the centuries passed, the dark memories of that time faded into myth.

At the time of the completion of Andrin’s Wall, a ripple in the world’s Pattern had caused a second barrier to be formed, called the Rift, which divided the Sutherlands in two: Naruvieth, a small city on the peninsula’s southern tip; and the many cities of the Accord in the north. All contact between the two lands had been severed almost from the beginning. Yet three years ago, a highway called the Runeway, created with magic once thought impossible, bridged the two lands, allowing contact between them for the first time in hundreds of years.

Not everyone is pleased with this, however. Tharadis, the Warden of Naruvieth, will do anything to stop the Runeway’s completion, even risk a war with all of the Accord. For, as humanity learned so long ago, there are worse things in the world than war. And all of them are poised on the other side of Andrin’s Wall.

*

So, what do you think? I know that if I had read this on the back of a book cover or in its product description, I wouldn’t hesitate to pick it up. I think that is every writer’s goal, to create fiction that he or she would enjoy reading. Shoreseeker is exactly the kind of book I would like to see more of, so I’m doing what I can to rectify this lack.

It’s hard to talk about the series without giving away too much about Shoreseeker, but one can only be too careful. It is an epic fantasy series, so you probably already know that the Sutherlands are too small to contain it. And what fantasy author would waste a big, scary world devastated by monsters? I, for one, wouldn’t.

While Shoreseeker starts in a more-or-less familiar epic fantasy world, the kind you could expect in a Robert Jordan or Terry Goodkind novel, it becomes horrific by the end. While fantasy has its dark worlds, such as anything that falls into the grimdark category, I haven’t come across any that are really that scary. One of my goals in this series is to create an epic fantasy that can give you nightmares.

But not because I think there is inherent value in giving people nightmares. I’d rather not have them myself. But one of the main reasons I’m writing this series is to give a home to the main character, Tharadis.

In a previous post, I mentioned that one of the reasons I write is to explore what makes us humans tick. A lot of dark fiction works do this, but they often examine how people break down in times of adversity. It’s fiction like this that gave rise to the idea of the anti-hero. This kind of fiction is almost always tragic, in the sense that even when the main characters get what they want, no one is really satisfied.

This kind of fiction is almost universally described as realistic, which is to say it accurately describes the human condition. “That’s the way the world works,” it implies. “Everything sucks, so you’d better get used to it.”

Perhaps it does end up that way for a lot of people. But it doesn’t have to.

Art can be powerful. It can be a light in the darkness. The world can be a cruel place; no one needs confirmation of that. But there is something that people often forget—goodness is real. And it can win. Sometimes we need art to remind of this. Personally, the books that I cherish the most are those that remind me of this simple yet profound truth.

So how does the world of Farshores, as relentlessly brutal as it often is, lead us to this idea?

Because some lights shine brightest in the darkest of nights.

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.

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.

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!

News News News, and Thank-Yous

I’m pleased to announce several new developments. First of all, the combined 5-day free promotion for The Clans through Amazon was a resounding success, with several hundred copies downloaded worldwide in that short span of time. I was absolutely floored at the response; I know that a lot of those downloads came from readers of my blog, and also from people who heard about it from them. From the bottom of my heart, I thank you all for helping out with this. The success of that promotion is due in very large part to all of you, and I want you to know that I greatly appreciate it. My hope is that people who are looking for something a little different in the realm of epic fantasy find it in The Clans, and opportunities to spread the word like this are some of the best ways for this to happen.

Also, on that note, Dark Tree is now free on Amazon as a result of their price-matching policies—which, again, is thanks to all of you who helped out with the “Help Me Save the World” campaign I launched last month. This is huge, as it is likely that Dark Tree will stay free and thus will allow potential readers to become actual readers with no risk to their pocketbooks. I know that some of my readers became fans of the series due to trying out Dark Tree for free on sites like Smashwords, so having that available for free full-time on such a prominent site is incredible. Again, thank you to everyone who contributed in any way.

Speaking of Smashwords, The Clans is now available there. When I first released The Clans, I had wanted to try out Amazon’s KDP Select program, which provided perks like the 5-days-for-free promotion (which was great) as well as the Kindle Lending Library (which didn’t do a thing for The Clans). However, it came with the caveat that no other site could offer The Clans for at least 90 days, so anybody who bought their books from other sites weren’t able to read it unless they got their hands on a Kindle app (a problematic situation if you mainly read on your Nook).

I had heard a number of arguments for and against the program, and I knew that I would be taking a risk by participating in it, but I wanted to know one way or another if such a program could help get the word out for the Fourth World series. As I said earlier, the free promotion paid off, but it was at the expense of those who wanted to get the book from a different site. It was an interesting experiment, but I have determined that it would probably be better just to release future books to all sites and for all formats as soon as possible rather than allowing anyone to have exclusivity to it. After all, isn’t that what spreading the word is all about?

On the writing front, I’ve been plugging away at The Born Sword—which is shaping up quite nicely—as well as a couple of stories for a future Fourth World collection like The Clans. Also, thinking of the deep future for when the Fourth World series is complete, I have been toying with a few ideas for a new fantasy series. I’m getting pretty excited about it, but don’t worry. The Fourth World is still priority number one. *grins*

Well, that’s it for now. I hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday season! See you next year!

Help Me Save the World…

… 99 cents per download on Dark Tree by making it free through Amazon. It’s easy, doesn’t cost you anything, only takes a couple minutes, and would be really awesome.

Want some undying gratitude from yours truly? Here’s how to get it. Click on the following link to go to Dark Tree‘s Amazon page:

Dark Tree on Amazon

Once there, scroll down to the section titled, “Product Details.” You should see something that says, “Would you like to give feedback on images or tell us about a lower price?” Click on the “tell us about a lower price” link.

A little window will pop up asking where you saw the lower price. Click on the radio button that says “Website (Online).” A URL bar will come up. Copy the following and paste it in that bar:

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/dark-tree-brandon-m-lindsay/1112440327?ean=2940044762299

For the price and shipping cost, type in “0.00” and hit “Submit Feedback.” That’s it. You’re done. Though if you want to, you can do the same again but with the following URL:

http://www.kobobooks.com/ebook/Dark-Tree-Tale-Fourth-World/book-wiwhKtkMzk-Cm_2CkUMejA/page1.html?s=J8avGdUgQEWud7pkOGo3qw&r=2

Then you can start collecting that undying gratitude I told you about.

Why do this? Why make a book free when I can charge for it? The short answer is: a free book is a much easier entry point for a reader who hasn’t heard about an author yet than a book that comes with a cost, even a minimal one. Dark Tree had done a pretty good job of drumming interest in its followup, The Clans (now available on Amazon), mainly because people were willing to take a chance on it due to the fact that it was free through most retailers.

However, I hadn’t quite anticipated just how well a free book could do on Amazon. Recently, The Clans had been made free on Amazon for two days. By the second day, it shot up to #20 in the bestselling free Epic Fantasy list, and #78 in the overall free Fantasy list. The number of downloads of The Clans during those two days destroyed Dark Tree‘s lifetime record. It even got a good number of downloads in the UK and Germany. That’s right – Germany. Who could have guessed?

I was astonished. While Dark Tree had been making strides up the rankings on other sites such as Barnes & Noble, it had been slow progress, and almost nonexistent when compared to The Clans’ rocket ride up the Kindle bestseller lists.

Now, part of this (maybe even a substantial part) had to do with the fact that The Clans is a full-sized book at over 100K, and Dark Tree is a novelette. Shorter fiction has always been a harder sell, and while that’s changing thanks to e-publishing, it’s still true that most people prefer longer works to shorter ones. So I don’t discount the length factor. Even so, I also can’t discount the fact that Amazon is still the 800-pound gorilla when it comes to selling ebooks. Other retailers are gaining market share, true, but for now Amazon is still the undisputed king.

Having a free ebook there would only be augmented by the fact that I also have a full-length follow-up book as well. Epic fantasy readers love their series, and they typically don’t like waiting around for the next installment in the series, so when it’s already out, they may be more likely to try it the first one. That’s what I’m hoping will happen with the Fourth World.

I believe that my plans for the series actually will work quite well in this regard. I will be releasing novels in series, starting with The Born Sword, in addition to smaller works which in between novels so that fans won’t have wait as long for new Fourth World books. Some of them will be free, just like Dark Tree.

However, the first step down this path starts with you, dear friends. By telling Amazon that Dark Tree can be bought for cheaper than what they’re selling it for, they will hopefully match the price. Once that happens, readers the world over will have free access to Dark Tree from their Kindles, phones, and computers.

Who knows? By doing this, you very well may save the world… 99 cents per download.