Labyrinth of Souls Kickstarter: 3 Days Left

The Hanged ManThere are only three days left in the Dungeon Solitaire: Labyrinth of Souls Kickstarter! We have cleared nine stretch goals thanks to 350 backers and over $13,000 in funding so far. The latest stretch goal cleared adds an additional fully illustrated card to the custom tarot deck: The Lich! I’m super excited for this card, for the artwork Josephe creates for it, and for developing the rules that will go along with it. The Lich will be a boss monster, on part with The Dragon, with a special role in the Undead Hordes alternate rules for the game.

We’ve had an absolutely incredible campaign thank to all our wonderful backers, and with three days to go, there is still another stretch goal to reach for. At $14,000 we will add a digital Designer’s Notebook, in which I’ll share all my thoughts about the origins and development of Dungeon Solitaire, and about every aspect of the Labyrinth of Souls game.

With all these stretch goals cleared, all our current backers and everyone who pledges now will be getting a lot. Numerous additional game modes and alternate rules have been added to the rulebook, including a major rules expansion with Campaign Mode. A digital Labyrinth of Souls artbook will be included with all reward levels $15 and up. And all reward levels $5 and up will also receive a free pdf copy of Giant, a giant robot skirmish game that works great as print and play.

Many thanks to all our backers for making this project possible and for making this campaign such a great success! In these final days, you can help us reach that $14,000 stretch goal by spreading the word about Dungeon Solitaire and the Labyrinth of Souls! Share a link on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Reddit, Pinterest, or the social media of your choice. All your help is greatly appreciated!

Check out the Campaign Here!

stretch goalsExtra Stretch Goals

Labyrinth of Souls Kickstarter: Day 19

The MoonSo much has happened I don’t know where to begin. The Dungeon Solitiare, Labyrinth of Souls Kickstarter has continued to clear stretch goals and gain backers at an impressive rate. We’ve released new card art for The Moon, and a number of concept sketches for upcoming cards. On Thursday we were chosen as a Kickstarter staff pick and have seen an increase of traffic as a result. We cleared the last of our initial stretch goals at $7500 early Friday and have gained considerable ground since.

Many thanks to everyone who has backed this project already and all who have helped spread the word. Clearing these stretch goals means all my highest hopes for what I wanted to include in the rulebook will now become a reality. It’s been really wonderful to see this level of support and backing. Josephe and I are both looking forward to delivering an exceptional game and gaming experience in the Labyrinth of Souls.

Everyone backing now for at least $5 is going to get not only the core Labyrinth of Souls basic, expert, and advanced game, but also a multitude of alternate and expanded rules added on by our stretch goals, including Campaign Mode! They’re also going to get a free pdf copy of Giant, my giant robot skirmish game that works great for print and play. And everyone who backs at the $15 level and up is going to get at least one custom illustrated Labyrinth of Souls tarot deck.

But there are still 11 day left in the campaign. We think we can get a lot more people in the Labyrinth, and we want to offer another reward to our existing backers. So with this in mind, we’ve added a $10,000 stretch goal: All rewards levels $15 and up will receive a digital art book by Josephe Vandel featuring the Labyrinth of Souls artwork in large format and in all its detailed glory.

Check out the Kickstarter here!

tower and hermit

Labyrinth of Souls Kickstarter: Week One

Kn of Swords

In its first week the Dungeon Solitaire, Labyrinth of Souls Kickstarter blew by its base funding goal, and then proceeded to clear two stretch goals. And we just cleared another one! We have released a newly completed image for the Knight of Swords, and made four updates to the Kickstarter. It’s been a whirlwind of activity, and I can’t stress enough how wonderful it has been to see the support and enthusiasm for this game.

Josephe Vandel will be creating all the exclusive art that will go into the cards and the rulebook, and he has been putting an incredible amount of care and detail into each piece he produces. We will be releasing more card art as the campaign progress and as new pieces are completed.

Already we’ve added Two Player mode and Megadungeon mode to the rulebook table of contents. And we just added the Dragon’s Lair, a fast playing version of the game that guarantees a dragon battle every time. The next stretch goal is the Undead Hordes, and there’s more … until we hit Campaign Mode, a major rules expansion, allowing campaigns over multiple dungeon delves.

stretch goals

A huge thanks to everyone who has backed this project already, and to everyone who has helped spread the word about the Kickstarter! Josephe and I are super excited by what we’ve been able to achieve so far, and we couldn’t have done it without you. There are still 21 days left in the campaign, and we are looking forward to clearing more stretch goals, and adding even more great content to the game.

Labyrinth of Souls Kickstarter is Live

DS LoS Banner

The Dungeon Solitaire, Labyrinth of Souls Kickstarter

 
Last summer I wrote and released a little game called Dungeon Solitaire. The original game was called Tomb of Four Kings, and it used a standard deck of playing cards. Over the summer it gained some popularity. It got good reviews, some attention on social media, and I even got some fan mail. All this has been really awesome! And that game is still gaining steam as a free download on this website.Q of Wands

From the beginning though, I had the idea of expanding the game to use a 78 card tarot deck. When I had the opportunity to pair these new rules with an exclusively illustrated dungeon-themed tarot deck, the Labyrinth of Souls was born. This Kickstarter will support the creation of this new expanded Dungeon Solitaire game, with a rulebook and custom deck of cards designed and illustrated by artist, illustrator, and cartographer Josephe Vandel.

Check it out. There are great pledge rewards and stretch goals for backers, and there’s even a video of me talking about the game. I hope you’ll pledge your support, and help spread the word on social media, with your friends and family, and with any fans of gaming or tarot.

On Finishing …

the endFor twelve years I have been working on a trilogy of fantasy books. In that time I have lived in two different countries, three states, and six different homes. I’ve had eight jobs, gotten a Master’s degree, and gone through one marriage, one divorce, and two deaths in my family. Through it all I have been writing, among other things, this single epic tale. During the process, moments of boundless enthusiasm and despair mixed with long periods of just moving forward, doing the work, writing the next scene, the next chapter, the next book.

Last week I wrote THE END. I finished the last chapter of the last book and sat back, stunned by the moment and the magnitude of what I’d done. I had before me a single complete story spanning 300,000 words, roughly 1200 pages, and the occasion has gotten me thinking about finishing things, and endings in general.

I’ve talked with a lot of new and young writers who say they enjoy writing, but have trouble finishing anything. The reasons vary. Sometimes writers get stuck on a problem they never solve, or lose interest in what seems like an idea that didn’t pan out. Sometimes their story isn’t really a story, but rather a series of events with no central conflict demanding an ending. Sometimes writers just lose faith, or have a moment of doubt that brings their work to a halt and they never go back to it.

If the problem is technical, there is probably a solution if you work to find it, but sometimes the problem is psychological, a reluctance, for whatever reason, to finish. Either way, if you’re passionate about writing, you must persevere to an ending. At the very least so you get practice writing them. We all know a story must have a beginning, a middle, and an end. That’s why writing short stories is such good practice for the craft as a whole. They provide an opportunity to practice endings nearly as much as beginnings and middles.

Elizabeth Engstrom says to “find your ending in your beginning.” I always think about this when I’m coming to the end of a story. It’s important to end the story you started writing, and not some other story you picked up along the way. A strong central conflict really helps make this clear. The end must match the beginning in a way, and I found this to be just as true in a 300,000 word story as in a 1500 word story. The end must deal with the same protagonist, issues, and conflicts introduced in the beginning. So if you’re searching for an ending, that’s a good place to start.

When you get there at last, there’s nothing quite like the feeling of finishing a work of fiction. There’s a bit of magic in fiction, a sense of creating something tangible from the nebulous dreamscape of your mind. And when the last sentence is written, especially if it’s a good one, there’s a sense of triumph and relief like no other. If your project happened to take twelve years like mine did, there’s also a bittersweet sense of loss. All the unwritten scenes and plot puzzles and character arcs I carried around with me day after day … they’re all resolved now. The story is finished.

The work is far from over, of course. I already have a number of other projects I’m working on, and in a week or two I’ll dive back in for more editing and rewrites. Eventually, I’ll start thinking about the next big project, and what I want to accomplish in the next twelve years!

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*Simultaneously published on ShadowSpinners.

A Picture is Worth (x) Words

Everyone’s heard the saying “a picture is worth a thousand words,” but does it hold up when you’re actually counting the words?

Among writers, the subject of outlining seems to be a fundamental ongoing process question: to outline or not to outline, and also when, and in how much detail, in what form, and how closely to follow it. For the record, I’m a firm believer in outlining, and tend to make progressively more detailed outlines as a project unfolds. I also tend to sketch various ideas for the scenes I’m working on, and collect photographic references.

Visual references may not be talked about as much as outlining, but I think it’s a great tool, and at the recent Wordcrafters writers conference in Eugene, I noted both Terry Brooks and Elizabeth George talking about the use of visual references in their work. Mine tend to take the form of little maps or sketches of characters, visual details, or dramatic moments. I also look for ideas and take photographs at various locations, and use image searches on the internet.

Today I thought it would be fun to take a look at a few sketches from recent chapter outlines and do the math to figure out how many words a picture is really worth. In most cases there were multiple little sketches per chapter, so I took the number of words in the completed chapter and divided by the number of sketches. Here are a few pictures with their associated word counts.

2014-04-09 09.52.41

481.8 words

2014-04-09 09.54.39

298.4 words

2014-04-09 09.56.57

509 words

2014-04-09 09.57.45

410 words

2014-04-09 09.57.58

679 words

When I averaged everything up it turned out a picture is actually worth about 445.33 words. It was a lot less than a thousand, suggesting that pictures, while incredibly useful, may be slightly overrated. However, this was a very limited study of only a few sketches made by a single writer for a small sample of chapters. More research is needed.

Surely this doodle is worth a thousands words, but I haven’t written the chapter yet.

2014-04-09 09.59.25

*First published on ShadowSpinners, April 2014.

Dungeon map appears in French RPG eZine La Saltarelle

dungeon 002lwOne 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.

“Buyer Beware” to appear in Every Day Fiction

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.

Dungeon Map Symbols

“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 – click here

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:

grand entrancewater dungeonwizard's lair

*Update 8/26/2015: Posted a key for my simplified symbols for area and wilderness maps.

A Legacy Dark and Strange

320px-FireFantasy, 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.

*First published on ShadowSpinners, May 2013.