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One of my dungeon maps is now appearing in the French RPG eZine La Saltarelle thanks to editor, Fabrice P. This is a little dungeon I drew while experimenting with a stark black and white style. In this map I used gray in the lower caverns to add depth to the levels.

The map appears with a contest (pg 39). Readers can enter by writing their ideas for the history and inhabitants of this dungeon and sending them in. Top two entries will receive a copy of Temple du Dieu Néant or a paper copy of  l’Étrange Manoir. I’m pretty excited to see what people come up with!

There are a couple of different ways you can check it out this eZine, and even if you don’t read French, there are some really cool illustrations to enjoy! You can read in an online reader, or download a zipped pdf.

For more information on this eZine, you can also visit the Editions La Saltarelle webiste.

 

 

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“Buyer Beware” is now up at Every Day Fiction. This very short story follows the professional woes of Trader Klorg and some personal complications that arise during the trans-galactic trading convention. What can I say, unregulated interstellar trade has its drawbacks.

Hope you enjoy the story! Please share, rate, and review if you have a chance.

My body swapping sci-fi farce “Buyer Beware” will appear in Every Day Fiction sometime in the next two months. This is one of the most comedic stories I’ve written, so it has a special place in my mind.

Readers of my horror stories may be surprised by the ending, but I think there is still a touch of the weird and strange in this tale of a body swapping alien and the woes of unregulated interstellar trade.

Will post again once the story is up. In the meantime, check out Every Day Fiction. They post a short story every day, always under a 1000 words.

“Show not what has been done, but what can be. How beautiful the world would be if there were a procedure for moving through labyrinths.” – Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose

dungeon symbols

pdf version

The labyrinth, the dungeon, and the mythic underworld are all time honored traditions in story telling and games, from Theseus and the Minotaur to the “Tomb of Horrors,” from Galouye’s Dark Universe to the mines of Dwarf Fortress. When you start thinking about underworld settings the examples are really innumerable.

Growing up I spent uncounted hours drawing dungeons and labyrinths to use in stories and games. I was always fascinated by the icons and symbols used in maps to represent various things, and symbols for dungeon maps were no exception.

I’ve continued to use my map drawing experience to sketch out settings for my stories and I recently gotten back into game maps. Above you will find my own key to various dungeon symbols for any like minded cartographers out there.

Here’s some examples of my game maps:

old dungeondeep levelsinky black

grand entrancewater dungeonwizard's lair

A Strange Habit

writer's desk

There’s a story that Robert E. Howard used to envision the ghost of King Conan behind him, ready to lop off his head with an axe if he didn’t keep writing. Never mind that this is probably an apocryphal story. It’s still a great image, and whatever Howard was doing to get his stories written, it worked!

Work habits are a subject of endless conversation when it comes to the creative process of writers. Numerous books and excellent teachers suggest various methods of accomplishing the noble goal of putting words on a page, and offer plenty of encouragement along the way. The most consistent truth, however, is simply that writing is hard work and the methods for getting that work done vary from writer to writer.

I have a lot of tricks to keep me writing: new locations, graph paper, computer setup, a cup of tea, timed sessions, word counts, and so on. We develop habits, of course, particular to our individual sensibilities. Sometimes these habits become rituals, even obsessions. There’s plenty of room for eccentricities.

Hemingway wrote standing up. Nabokov wrote everything on notecards. Ibsen wrote in the presence of a giant oil painting of his greatest rival. Hugo wrote naked, and had his valet hide his clothes to ensure he wouldn’t go out. The ancient Greek writer Demosthenes accomplished the same thing by shaving one side of his head before beginning to write. The list goes on, from Balzac’s coffee and lucky monk’s robe, to Dickens’ ritualized desk arrangements, from Dumas’ fresh apples to Schiller’s rotten apples.

As it turns out, there’s even some neuroscience to explain why these weird rituals work. Like a Pavlov’s bell, rituals associated with writing may cue creativity and productivity. (See “Why Weird Writing Rituals Work” by Rosanne Bane)

Most of the habits of writers we will never know, because they are done in solitude. But the purpose of some seemingly strange behaviors is almost always the same, and that is to help one engage in the most important habit of all: actually writing.

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*First published on ShadowSpinners.

ogA young botanist finds more than than he bargained for when he enters an ancient forest in search of a new species of tree. A horror awaits him in the heart of the old growth.

“Old Growth” is now available as a .99 cent Kindle eBook. First published in AlienSkin in 2009, this story links the Pacific Northwest with many of my other horror stories set in Auxerre, Wisconsin.

As I said in an earlier post, this story was inspired by a conversation I overheard. Two girls were talking about how they were afraid to go into the woods behind their house. They were really scared and it stuck with me. A couple of months later this story was born. There’s a lot of woods in Oregon, and some say deep in the old growth, are strange things still unknown to man.

Happy reading! Please share, post, and review if you get a chance.

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Fantasy, with all its weirdness and wonders, is the deep root of all fiction. Long before people began to write books, for 50,000 years they huddled around the light of fires, under starry skies, in deep forests, and in the shelter of caves to tell their stories. The impulse of fiction was already there, in the myths and legends that were born among them.

Imagine the kinds of stories they were telling. People knew little or nothing of what lay beyond the horizon. And at night, in the darkness, that circle of knowledge shrank to the dim glow of a campfire, if they were lucky enough to have one. The stars were a mystery, animals were otherworldly, and death was a great enigma. A man or a woman who ventured beyond the horizon, or out in the night, might never return. Those tales must have been dark and strange, filled with adventure, monsters, and magic.

There is an element of fantasy in all fiction, an attempt to imagine and understand something beyond ourselves: another person, another life, another world. Modern stories are born from that same original impulse, to weave tales, to entertain, to educate, to warn, and to find meaning in the world and in the often extraordinary experiences of our lives. I like to think my stories can be traced back to the mythic structures and weird tales that started it all, stories woven from the threads of an ancient dream.

Although our horizon has grown wider in a way, there is always an edge, without and within, beyond which dwell things unknown. The unknown is far greater than the known, and that is where horror lives. It lurks in the darkness beyond our meager campfires.

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*First published on ShadowSpinners.