Author Spotlight: Gabriela Pereira of DIY MFA

DIYMFA-Book-CoverGabriela Pereira is the mastermind behind one of my favourite writing blogs, DIY MFA. I’ve been following the blog–which is all about creating your own personalized writing education–for a number of years now and even interviewed Gabriela in 2012. Over the years Gabriela has expanded DIY MFA to teach a variety of writing courses. She even ran an online writing conference last year which was both fun and educational.

Now Gabriela is gearing up to release DIY MFA the book and I am really excited to be hosting her for a second interview to discuss all the progress she’s made.

Please give Gabriela a warm welcome!

1) Can you tell me a bit about when you first thought up DIY MFA? Was it an AHA moment or a process?

The idea for DIY MFA came to me as I was sitting in the graduation ceremony for my own traditional MFA degree. As the student speaker gave her commencement talk (complete with clichés like “spread your wings and fly”) I reflected back on the two wonderful years I had spent in the writing program. It was a phenomenal experience but I felt a wave of deep sadness when I thought about the writers who weren’t able to go back to school for an MFA, but really wanted to improve their craft. I started pondering: “how can I translate what I learned in the MFA into something that can be done outside of a formal graduate program?” That question grabbed hold of me and would not let go until I finally launched the first nugget of DIY MFA the following fall. From there, DIY MFA grew from a tiny blog experiment to a full-fledged business, to my full-time job, and now into a book.

DIY MFA has also become my passion, my obsession, my life’s mission. My goal is to enrich the educational experience of writers and creative people. While I used to think I would end up as a writer who taught classes on the side, I am now very much an educator, who also happens to be a writer. The teaching component is front and center, and writing is just a means for communicating concepts.

2) How did your experience with the DIY MFA blog shape the classes you created?

Blogging has been fundamental in the development and growth of DIY MFA. When I first decided to test the idea, I did that by challenging myself to blog about the DIY MFA concept everyday for one month. It was kind of like a personal NaNoWriMo, but for blogging and I limited myself just to that one topic. I figured, if I could find something to say on this topic every single day for a month, then maybe there was something to the idea. This personal DIY MFA “challenge” happened in September 2010, only a few short months after I graduated from the traditional MFA program.

At the time I had a teeny-tiny personal blog with something like twelve followers (one of whom was my mother!) so when I announced the project I figured I’d get at most a comment or two in response. To my surprise, people started coming out of the woodwork, sharing my posts and engaging with the material I shared. By the end of September, my audience had grown from 12 blog followers to several hundred!

But the blog has had a deeper impact on the DIY MFA concept than just audience-building. I’m a firm believer in iteration, and over the years I have used the website and newsletter as my testing ground for just about every piece of curriculum I create. Whenever I have an idea for a course, I weave bits and pieces of it into blog articles or newsletters, then gauge the response. If you dig back into the DIY MFA archives, you’ll see nuggets of ideas that I’ve spun out into conference talks, magazine articles, even entire sections of a course.

3) What is your favourite thing about running DIY MFA classes?

Just one thing? There are so many, but probably the thing I love most is the community in the flagship course: DIY MFA 101. When I first launched the class, I knew I’d be iterating on it and improving the material, so I decided to give the first wave of students unlimited continued access with the option to retake the course as many times and they wanted, free of charge. While some colleagues said I was insane for doing this, it turned out to be one of the best business decisions I’ve made, and I have continued doing it to this day.

What ended up happening is that we now have a core group of returning students who take the course again and again, helping to welcome new students into the community and set the tone overall. It has created a close-knit, supportive space where people really trust each other and feel that they have a tribe, a place where they belong. I’ve become incredibly protective of this community, and they’ve become protective of each other as well. This is so amazing to see. This year I’m taking some big steps in expanding the DIY MFA curriculum so one of the big questions I’ve had to think about is how to expand that community aspect while still having it feel safe and nurturing. Let’s just say, I’m doing a LOT of beta-testing behind-the-scenes to see how things play out before we implement any major changes.

4) How did you apply what you learned from running the DIY MFA classes to writing the actual book?

All those motivation and productivity techniques I teach in DIY MFA classes really came in handy while writing the book. Mantras like “honor your reality,” “resistance is your compass,” and “don’t compound failure with guilt” not only made it into the book—quite literally—in that I actually wrote about them, but they also helped me get those words on the page in the first place. I used the same DIY MFA techniques I talk about in the book to write the book. It was a bizarrely “meta” experience, but also fun because I was able to see the tools in action and confirm that they did indeed work.

Remember, too, that I had been blogging about DIY MFA and building courses around it for the past five years before I even attempted writing the book. By the time I sat down to hammer out those chapters, the ideas were so well-formed in my brain that the writing side of it was straightforward, almost like taking dictation. I knew what I needed to say, so it was just a matter of applying my bottom to the chair and clocking in the words.

5) You’re also a fiction writer. What is the biggest difference between your fiction writing and writing DIY MFA?

Writing fiction is a zillion times harder. Seriously. It takes a lot more trial and error for me to wrap my head around a character than it does for me to grapple with and finesse a concept for DIY MFA.

You see, I’m a categorical thinker, not a linear thinker. I’m good at distilling ideas from nebulous concepts into straight-forward nuts and bolts instructions. I love acronyms, formulas, and anything that can fall into categories. For me, it’s easy to take a big topic like “supporting characters” and break it down into the five most basic elements or archetypes.

Storytelling, on the other hand, is sequential, and therefore much more challenging for me. There’s a cause-an-effect aspect where one event or motivation leads to the next, and the perfectionist in me finds it very difficult to trust that the story is going somewhere even if I don’t have a clear idea of where that might be. When I do write fiction, I’ll write by the seat of my pants for a short while, but once I have a good sense of the protagonist and her struggle, I’ll put together a detailed outline and stick pretty close to it for the rest of drafting process. I’ve learned over time that I work best when surrounded by structure and order, so I try to make the messy process of writing fiction as organized as possible, especially because for me the fiction is much harder than nonfiction.

6) What are you reading right now?

At any given moment, I’m usually juggling about 8-10 books. I have a category on my Kindle titled “Nightstand” which is where I keep all the books I’m currently reading. Most of the books on that list are ones I need to read as I prepare for podcast interviews, but I try to weave in some “pleasure reading” every so often as well.

Right now, the book I’m reading that’s not podcast-related is John C. Maxwell’s The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership because leadership is a topic that has been pressing on my mind a lot lately. I never really thought of myself as a “leader” growing up; I was always more of a loner, doing my own thing and not really caring if anyone else followed along or not.

Recently, it dawned on me that my role at DIY MFA is, in fact, one of leadership. I know, I know, you would think that as the founder of the company I’d have an inkling that I was its leader, but I think I’ve always been a bit in denial about that. I’ve realized, though that if I want DIY MFA to grow into its full potential, I have to stop burying my head in the sand and admit that I am actually a leader. This means doing whatever it takes to educate myself and improve my leadership skills.

What I’m loving about Maxwell’s book is that he breaks down the concept of leadership into manageable nuggets and elements so it’s not this big, overwhelming topic, but instead just a series of actionable steps and techniques. He also digs into the different facets of leadership and the strengths and weaknesses that go with each one. I’ve realized from reading this book that it is, in fact, possible to be a leader, even if my personality is much more that of a loner.

7) What are you working on now that writers should look out for?

There is so much fun stuff happening over at DIY MFA right now!

First, the DIY MFA book comes out in June/July so my team and I are gearing up for some really fun pre-book celebrations. We recently launched our Storytelling Superpower quiz (DIYMFA.com/STSP) and in June we’ll be doing a week-long Storytelling Superpower Summit, where I’ll dig into the different storytelling archetypes, and how to apply the concepts to your writing. Think of it as a FREE online master class, led by yours truly.

Writer’s Digest just announced the details for the DIY MFA book launch event, to take place during their annual conference in August, 2016. Go to DIYMFA.com/WDC16 to learn more.

In addition to all this exciting book stuff, I have a few articles slated to come out in the June and July/August issues of Writer’s Digest Magazine (so check newsstands for those!) and I’m also beta-testing some courses behind-the-scenes right now and those will be rolling out later this year and in early 2017.

BIO

GPereira-AuthorPic2Gabriela Pereira is the Instigator of DIY MFA, the do-it-yourself alternative to a Masters degree in writing. She earned an MFA from The New School and has helped hundreds of writers get the MFA experience without going to school. She teaches writing at conferences, workshops, and online courses and also hosts the podcast DIY MFA Radio.

When she’s not teaching or developing new courses, Gabriela enjoys writing middle grade and teen fiction, with a few “short stories for grown-ups” thrown in for good measure. Her book about DIY MFA will be out in July 2016 from Writer’s Digest Books.

Does DIY MFA sound awesome to you? Has anything Gabriela said inspired you? Let us know in the comments section below!

Book Review: The Path of Sorrow

path-of-sorrow_eb-pb-2700pxhNormally I don’t take review requests because I firmly believe in only reviewing books I love but when Martin Bolton approached me to review The Path of Sorrow I was thrilled, having already enjoyed and reviewed The Best Weapon back when it was still a Musa Publishing novel. The Path of Sorrow is a sequel and although I’d forgotten many details of The Best Weapon I still wanted to see more of the world.

This book is so intense right from the beginning that I honestly don’t know what counts as a spoiler so I’m going to let the back cover blurb explain as much about the story as the authors find appropriate:

“A song of hope and sorrow, born on the coming storm.”

After the cataclysmic events of The Best Weapon, an uneasy calm has descended over the world. The Winter Realm and the Old Kingdom are ruined by war, while the people of the southlands have retreated to their deserts and jungles, to lick their wounds and wait for better days.

Fulk the No Man’s Son is now the lord of Silverback, and commander of the surviving Templar knights. Considered a heretic by many of his followers, he struggles to contain his unearthly powers. His half-brother Naiyar has returned to the deep jungle of his youth, where he prefers to live alone, isolated from his tribe. Both men notice the stars shift in the sky, and become aware of the rising of a new god.

On a remote tundra in the heart of the great continent of Temeria, a peaceful nomadic tribe is attacked at night and wiped out by a mysterious enemy. There is only one survivor, a boy named Sorrow. Hunted by Templar Knights, bloodthirsty pirates and an army led by an increasingly desperate slave-turned-sorcerer, Sorrow’s chances of survival are slim. He finds an unlikely saviour in the form of Bail, a ruthless assassin, and the pair realise they must stay together to stay alive…

The Path of Sorrow is Book Two of The World Apparent tales, and continues the story of the half-brothers Fulk and Naiyar.

I loved The Best Weapon because of its detailed worldbuilding and the unusual tribal culture Naiyar came from, so I approached The Path of Sorrow with enthusiasm, but I was still utterly blown away by how awesome this book is. I’m kind of wishing I had a paper review copy so I could have covered it in sticky notes(I can’t stand the note function on my Kindle) where all the awesome techniques were used. If I ever teach a writing course this will be one of the books used as an example over and over again because it’s that good.

The Path of Sorrow features a huge cast of characters, all of whom manage to be interesting(or dead really quickly). It’s also got a fascinating story I guarantee will actually keep you guessing right up until the end–and an ending that manages to shock you while still being perfect for the story. And unlike other self published novels I’ve read it is edited impeccably.

The Path of Sorrow is not, however, for the faint of heart. I mean, I didn’t expect a happy-go-lucky novel after reading the title, but Martin Bolton and David Pilling impressed me with their ability to always make things worse and their willingness to kill characters. I’m not going to throw in any spoilers about who dies or how, but let’s just say the character death count in The Path of Sorrow would make George R. R. Martin proud.

Still, if I had to give this book a star rating(which I will when I upload this review to Goodreads and Amazon tonight) I would give this book a 5 star rating. 

Still interested? You can read this book on its own but I really suggest you read The Best Weapon first since it’s also a fantastic book. You can purchase The Path of Sorrow on Amazon.

Author Bios:

Martin Bolton was born in Cornwall in 1979 and now lives and works in Bristol.

Previously he concentrated on his artwork and writing small pieces of nonsense for the amusement of his friends, before deciding to do some serious creative writing. His first published work, a full length novel co-written with David Pilling, The Best Weapon, was published by Musa Publishing on 02 March 2012. The sequel, The Path of Sorrow, was published in March 2015. The Peace of Elias, a novelette set in the same world is also available on Amazon.

His short stories can be read at The 900 Club.

His work is inspired by such authors as Robert E Howard, Joe Abercrombie, Bernard Cornwell and Iain M. Banks.

You can find Martin Bolton @Bo1_tan.

David Pilling is an English writer and researcher, addicted to history for as long as he can remember. He spent much of his childhood dragging his long-suffering parents up and down the misted ruins of castles in Wales, and the medieval period has always held a particular fascination for him. He is also interested in the Roman period, the Dark Ages and the British Civil Wars of the 17th century.

His first published novel, Folville’s Law, followed the adventures of Sir John Swale during the dying days of Edward II’s catastrophic reign. It was followed by twelve mini-sequels. He has also written one stand alone novel, The Half-Hanged Man, and published the first two White Hawk novels, part of a planned 4 part series that takes place during the War of the Roses.

David Pilling’s most recent published works are Nowhere Was There Peace, a stand alone tale of espionage during The Second Baron’s War, and The Path of Sorrow, the second novel in a series co-written with his friend Martin Bolton. All of his published novels are available as both ebooks and paperbacks.

You can find David Pilling @RobeH2.

Does The Path of Sorrow sound awesome to you? Do you want to see more book reviews? Let me know in the comments section below!

 

Author Spotlight: David Rettig of Project Dandelion

As anyone who follows me on Twitter(@DiannaLGunn is where you can find me) is probably already aware, I am a huge fan of crowdfunding. I love how powerful crowdfunding is for indie artists of all kinds and the massive variety of projects being funded at any given time.

I’m also a huge fan of the niche crowdfunding site Inkshares, which is designed specifically for writers. They actually act as publisher for you, directly connecting you to editors and marketing professionals once you’ve successfully completed a campaign. They also have a really cool credit program which allows you to earn credits when people buy books you’ve recommended.

Anyway, I discovered today’s author on Inkshares and was immediately excited about Project Dandelion. The first chapter draws you into the world right away, introducing fascinating concepts and characters in scenes that have enough action to keep you interested. It’s still actually in draft mode right now, which means you can follow and give feedback. The draft system is also a cool way for writers to test the audience for a book before starting the funding campaign.

David’s been kind enough to come over here and answer some questions about this upcoming science fiction epic. I hope you’ll enjoy learning about his process as much as I have!

  1. Can you tell us a bit about your novel, Project Dandelion?

It’s about two people: a young woman, Kyrsia, from a savage planet and a man, Ien, from a dying world, who find each other. Both of their lives have recently undergone radical shifts from where they wanted to be.

  1. What part of the story came to you first?

On Ien’s world, most people live to be over 1,000 years old. On Kyrsia’s survival is so difficult, most people never see 40. I wanted to write a story about what that interaction would be like. Imagining that came first.

  1. How much planning did you do before you started Project Dandelion?

Ten years. Or a four hour road trip from Chicago to Indianapolis, depending on your perspective.

I had thought about it for a decade, what immortal people would be like. Imagine not having to fear death, to have nearly unlimited time. What would you value? What would you fear? My daughter, Rebecca, encouraged me to turn it into a science fiction book.  She still inspires me.

  1. One of the worlds in your story, Saoghal, features humans who have become almost ageless but also almost sterile. How does this shape their society?

Saoghal seems serene on the surface: no predators, long life, plenty of food. But under that surface, things get strange. The Council of Saoghal selects a mate for you based on someone who is most likely to allow you to reproduce.  Everyone, straight or gay, is required to produce two children. Two of my main characters are gay and must live under this rule. Murder is unheard of; there hasn’t been a violent death on Saoghal in millennia.

  1. What is the hardest part of the writing process and how do you make it easier for yourself?

Editing. Easier? Tequila.

In all seriousness, editing is painful.  Imagine looking at twenty or thirty hours of writing and deciding that those chapters don’t work and pressing the delete key. It’s like cutting a chunk of flesh out of my body each time. I hate it, but then I read some book where it’s apparent that the author didn’t care enough to invest the time to edit, and I think “I want to write something that matters.”

  1. You’re currently crowdfunding your project on Inkshares. What made you decide to go the crowdfunding route?

Let’s call Inkshare an experiment. I’m not committed to it. I don’t think their terms of service are in line with my goals as a writer, but I’m still editing and may change my mind when I’m ready to pull the trigger.

  1. What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned so far?

Read the Terms of Service. On the surface, Inkshare seems like a no-brainer, but when you find out that you don’t get paid a thin dime for the first 250 – 750 books they sell, well, you see my trepidation.

  1. What are you reading right now?

Icebitch by Dick Grimm. Dick Grimm is a friend of mine and a damn fine author. Chapter 1 of Icebitch is flawless. A real work of art.

  1. If you could give an aspiring writer any one piece of advice, what would it be?

Find an author’s group. Get feedback. Listen to feedback. Apply feedback. Rinse. Repeat.

  1. What are you working on now that readers can look forward to?

I’ve got a few interesting projects.

Dark Places is currently on Channillo (online), but will likely be pulled into traditional print soon. It’s a work in progress about a gated community full of the worst sorts of people in the middle of a zombie apocalypse.

Project Dandelion Book 2: Kyrsia returns to her homeworld, Baoli, to find it has succumbed to a charismatic dictator, and she is an enemy of the state.

Six Degrees is another work-in-progress (around 15,000 words). It’s an epistolary scifi novel about the humans who willingly turning into cyborgs and a mysterious man behind it all.

Unplugged is another WIP which looks at a world where privacy no longer exists. In fact, it’s illegal to hide information of any kind.

Lastly, Raising A Sociopath is a fictional story of a boy raised by a psychopathic father.

Lately, I mostly work on editing Project Dandelion, but when the editing is too painful, I write something else.

Project Dandelion Blurb

Project Dandelion scattered humanity across the stars, leaving a dying world behind. Separated by the vastness of space and thousands of years, the children of Earth have all but forgotten their common heritage until a mysterious voice from a distant world speaks.
On her homeworld of Baoli, Kyrsia fights everyday for survival. High metal walls separate the only human settlement from a savage world filled with giant armor-covered spiders and deadly plants. Elite warriors, the Kansho, constantly battle the Baolian predators to prevent them from overtaking the city. Krysia’s ambition to join the Kansho takes a sudden turn when, in a dream, she learns of other humans on a distant planet who survived Project Dandelion and are coming to Baoli.
On utopian Saoghal, humans have thrived in peace and prosperity. The strange environment of Saoghal has made the inhabitants nearly ageless, but at a high price: the people of Saoghal are nearly sterile, and no one knows why. A Saoghallan religious order, the Speakers, learn of the humans on Baoli, and now the Saoghallans are coming to Baoli.
Kyrsia must uncover her mysterious past, her role with this new world, and why she dreams of a faceless man from the stars.
Author Bio
Twenty years authoring business reports prepared David Rettig for writing fiction, especially horror and fiction. He has three kids, two masters degrees, and one cat, and leads a small collective of authors known as The Broad Ripple Morning Writers. His blog is available athttps://dandelionscifi.wordpress.com. Project Dandelion will hit the shelves Summer 2016.
If you think Project Dandelion sounds interesting follow it on Inkshares.

Reflecting on the A to Z Challenge

survivor-atoz 2016 v2 - sm_zpsx3dtq1n6

I did it! Well, mostly.

The A to Z Challenge is a crazy challenge to write 26 blog posts, each one about a word starting with a different letter of the alphabet, during the month of April. It means blogging every day except for the Sundays during the month, which is the most I’ve committed to blogging during any month ever. And I did it, except for the bit at the end where I waited too long to write my Z post and didn’t have time to do it on the actual day because I had about 50 million other things to do(or, more accurately, three things which involved a buttload of travel time).

It was a lot of fun and despite not getting as many comments as I hoped to see during the challenge(or making it to as many blogs as I wanted to) I have already started planning out next year’s challenge, which will relate directly to the Moonshadow’s Guardian series and so will be much easier to complete. Also because I decided to do it now rather than in February next year.

Some of (in my opinion) the best blog posts I wrote this month were H is for Hope, I is for Illumination and Y is for You. These words definitely made me think, especially since I wasn’t in the brightest place mentally this April. Hopefully next year my inner struggle will be less exhausting so I can focus more on commenting on other A to Z Challenge Blogs.

All in all this challenge is a great one and I think any blogger who wants a structured challenge that will help them be more productive and connect with other bloggers should give it a chance. Of course at this point you’ll have to wait until next year, but that does men you’ll have plenty of time to plan!

All of that said, I’m glad to be returning to my regular posting schedule of two posts a week with articles on Tuesdays and interviews on Fridays. I have lots of exciting interviews planned with writers of all kinds going well into June and even a couple authors who have asked for dates in the summer.

Introducing Gamemaker Alan Bahr of Gallant Knight Games

GKG_logo_ribbonI am a gamer. I love all kinds of fantasy and science fiction games: video games, board games, strategic card games. Over the years I’ve enjoyed games of all kinds, sinking the vast majority of my gaming hours into one roleplaying game or another. But one thing I never really did was tabletop roleplaying, mostly because systems like DnD have so many complex rules. So I was delighted to discover Tiny Frontiers, a minimalist science fiction roleplaying game currently running a campaign on Kickstarter–which has already been successfully funded and achieved multiple stretch goals.

I was even more thrilled when Alan Bahr, the primary game designer behind Gallant Knight Games(also the game designer behind the Schlock Mercenary RPG), agreed to do an interview here on the blog. As somebody who frequently daydreams about creating game worlds and content(and might have a few ideas already written down) I was of course eager to pick his brain. I hope you’ll enjoy learning about the RPG creation process as much as I have!

  1. Can you tell us a bit about Tiny Frontiers?

Tiny Frontiers is a rules light science fiction roleplaying game. It’s built to play quickly, be easy to teach (and kid friendly), and help the GM minimize prep.

  1. What originally inspired you to create Tiny Frontiers?

Tiny Dungeon, frankly. I backed that Kickstarter and was very impressed, and caught to the idea of a Science Fiction version of the game. I love taking Tiny Dungeon to cons, and science fiction seemed just as valid as a game! I also wanted to write a sci-fi RPG where being in a ship felt positive. Too many of my experiences were of the “hurry up and wait” variety, while the pilot and gunner took all the actions, and my doctor or scientist was less than useful.

  1. How did you select writers to create the micro-settings for Tiny Frontiers?

Some of them I’ve worked with before, some of them are personal friends who are authors, and some were recommended by other writers. It’s sort of just been whomever reaches out to me on a level, be it friend, former contributor or a recommendation. I asked for ideas, and we narrowed down the ideas to the ones we felt were either most interesting, necessary, or exciting.

  1. You’ve participated in multiple Kickstarter campaigns as a partner before. How did these experiences prepare you to run your own campaign?

Well, I had a pretty good idea of what a good presentation looks like, how far along I wanted to be ready, and what was a good schedule and reasonable time-frame for all the components. I also learned a lot as a consumer of Kickstarters. I’ll have backed close to 50 by the time Tiny Frontiers ends, and I’ve learned what I like, and don’t like, from the presentation. LudiCreations runs my favorite Kickstarters, and I started with the idea to emulate them a bit. I got away from it more than I’d have liked, but as I go on, I plan to model my Kickstarters more and more like they do. The first one, I took a bit more of a traditional approach, and it’s worked pretty well (probably why everyone uses it).

  1. How long was Tiny Frontiers in development before you took it to Kickstarter?

Well, we were pretty done with the rules in December 2014, but my pressing commitment was as the rules developer on Planet Mercenary (the RPG based on the popular Schlock Mercenary webcomic). As my portion of Planet Mercenary was being finished, we were able to start playtesting and streamlining Tiny Frontiers again.

  1. As I’m sending you these questions we’re about a week into your campaign. What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned since you started?

That Kickstarter emails me for every backer, changed pledge, comment, or like. You want to see if you can keep it together in the face of anxiety inducing emails? Run a Kickstarter. You start to worry when the emails slow, or someone cancels a pledge, or there’s a less liked update. It’s a popularity contest against yourself, and is really hard to win.

  1. There are many potential micro-settings if the campaign hits stretch goals. Do you plan to eventually release these micro-settings later even if the campaign doesn’t hit stretch goals?

Yes. However, the releases of these micro-settings (be it in PDF form or free) is dependent upon the cash flow this Kickstarter generates. We haven’t paid all the writers, so they haven’t turned everything in. It’s really just a matter of finances, but yes, all the micro-settings will come out, and I hope we get a lot more.

I’d love to do a yearly collection of the best fan-made micro-settings and publish those in a print on demand format, as a book. But that’s a pretty big dream.

  1. What are some of your favourite tabletop games? 

Man, that’s a harder question. I think RPG wise, my go-to system is Savage Worlds (I’m a massive fan of that system, and plan to work with it soon). Obviously, Planet Mercenary is pretty cool. But my absolute favorite RPG is Pendragon by Nocturnal Media (they have an unrelated KS on right now [Web and Starship]). I love the mechanics of Pendragon, the theme, and the unique and clever way they’ve blended the need to roleplay right into the game.

Board Game wise, I’m a big fan of Sentinels of the Multiverse, the old Highlander TCG (it’s barely alive and tons of fun), and currently, my favorite board game is [redacted], an espionage bluffing game. I play most LCGs, have played most CCGs, and have a huge collection of board games we play. We try to net a board game a week.

  1. If you could give an aspiring gamemaker any one piece of advice, what would it be?

Work really hard. Spend a lot of time failing, because every failure makes the success a little bit easier. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, and talk to those who know.

  1. Are you already dreaming up the next game? I’d love to hear about it!

Well, honestly, my hope is, we do well enough I can roll excess funds right into prep work (such as art, graphic design, and samples) for the next game. But yes, I have about 4 finished game systems, and a massive whiteboard with lists of roleplaying games (and a few board/tabletop games), I’d love to get out. You can certainly expect more.

Additionally, we already know what the next Kickstarter will be, so that’s already getting underway on a prep side.

Gallant Knight Games is a new game company, which focuses on roleplaying games at this juncture. We currently consists of Alan Bahr as the principal designer/creative/writer, his lovely wife Erin as the force behind the throne (seriously, she’s why stuff gets done), and a variety of talented freelancers and creatives. Their first game, Tiny Frontiers, is campaigning on Kickstarter right now.

Alan Bahr is a game designer best known for Planet Mercenary: The Roleplaying Game, (14th highest funded Kickstarter RPG of all time!) based on the space opera webcomic Schlock Mercenary.

You can reach him via email at alan@gallantknightgames.com.

Does Tiny Frontiers sound awesome to you? Do you have more questions about the gamemaking process? Let us know in the comments section below!

 

April Accomplishments

May is here and the A to Z challenge is over at last! April wasn’t exactly the best month for me but I still did make significant progress on each of my goals:

Submit Moonshadow’s Guardian to publishers – This goal is actually changing. As the second book is developing in bigger and bolder ways than I imagined when I set out to write it I’ve reached a point where I want full control over every aspect of this series. Which, by the way, has now become a trilogy.

I’ve already gotten a quote from a professional editor and will be moving forward with this very soon. My plan is to pay for the developmental editing myself and do it over the next six months, then run a crowdfunding campaign next year(probably in February) to pay for line editing, formatting and cover art. I don’t have a huge platform but it is growing steadily and I believe it’s strong enough to get my first book into the world.

Finish Moonshadow’s Guardian 2 – As I mentioned above, this book just keeps getting bigger, so I’m honestly nowhere near done. I had to throw a lot of my outline out the window and change a bunch of stuff, so I have spent lots of time on it and I am confident this will be the best first draft I’ve ever produced.

Blog Regularly – I did all the A to Z Challenge posts except for one(Z is the one I missed, more on that next week) and I also posted a bunch of interviews on The Steampunk Cavaliers blog. Things are going really well over there and I encourage you to check it out.

And here are this month’s goals:

  • Finish altering things in Moonshadow’s Guardian — I have a couple fight scenes and one conversation to alter, then everything is ready for the editor!
  • Actually finish Moonshadow’s Guardian 2 — To be completely honest, I’m not really sure this is plausible because of how much the book has grown and how many threads I have to wrap up now. Still, I’m going to put a lot of hours into it and it just might happen.
  • Keep blogging regularly — Having all my A to Z Challenge posts planned out in advance gave me time to plan all of this month’s posts, so this one should be pretty simple. I’ll be posting articles every Tuesday and interviews every Friday.

What did you accomplish this month? What are your goals for next month? Let me know in the comments section below!

Y is for You

Y is for YouThe A to Z Challenge is almost over! Thanks for sticking with me through this crazy month! 

Y is for You.

I’ve written before about the importance of self care for writers and I’d like to reiterate it today. Writing can be incredibly fun but it is also often incredibly difficult. A great many writers struggle with mental health issues, making self care even more important. The majority of writers I’ve had the pleasure of meeting have also been women, a group of the population who is utterly notorious for neglecting self care.

So today i want you to think about self care. When was the last time you had a hot bath? Got a massage? Read a book purely for pleasure? Actually took time to just sit by yourself in a quiet room, enjoying your own company?

If self care isn’t already part of your regular schedule you need to start making changes. Even fifteen minutes a day spent writing in a journal, meditating or doing yoga can make a huge difference in your mental state. A weekly bath can take away many of the aches and pains you’re suffering from–and smell great if you get the right kind of bubbles.

The truth is I’m not always the greatest at scheduling self care but I have grown much better at it over the years. I’ve built a solid yoga routine I do almost every day, started taking bellydancing lessons and gone out of my way to read for pleasure. There’s a long way for me to go–I’d like to eventually have a more consistent meditation practice and I constantly struggle to maintain a journal writing routine–but I know the journey is worth it.

How do you take care of yourself? Do you actively schedule time for self care? Let me know about it in the comments below!

X is for Xenophobia

X is for XenophobiaToday the A to Z Challenge continues! I’ll be posting about one letter/word on every weekday in April. Don’t want the barrage of posts? Sign up for my newsletter and I’ll let you know when I start doing new stuff next month!

X is for Xenophobia.

I spent a great many days pondering my X word before finally settling on xenophobia. Xenophobia is the intense and irrational fear of people from other countries and cultures. It’s a word that is uncomfortably relevant thanks to the horrific mess we’re calling the American election campaign. I think we’re all well aware of this campaign though and I don’t think I have anything new to add. So I’m going to take your attention away from the horrors of our world and discuss how xenophobia can be an interesting story tool.

The most obvious way to use a xenophobic culture is to throw an outsider in and see whether they get killed or they can actually build a halfway decent relationship with these people. The second most obvious way is to send somebody out of a xenophobic culture and have them learn the world isn’t such a bad place after all.

It’s obvious from these storylines that most modern writers are uncomfortable with xenophobia, which is a good thing, but there’s a lot of interesting potential in candidly exploring xenophobia from an insider’s point of view. Most xenophobic cultures actively train their youth to perpetuate the cycle of fear and hatred. Think of all the times when aboriginal people or people of colour were called savages and much worse by white historians, preachers and teachers.

A xenophobic culture often has many more interesting things about it than the xenophobia itself, many processes used to control their people. 1984 is the obvious example of excellent fiction that really explores how a culture like this works. It’s pretty scary stuff, which means it’s fertile ground for a great many stories.

Have you read any other interesting books about xenophobic cultures? Let me know about them in the comments below! 

W is for Waiting

W is for WaitingToday the A to Z Challenge continues! I’ll be posting about one letter/word on every weekday in April. Don’t want the barrage of posts? Sign up for my newsletter and I’ll let you know when I start doing new stuff next month!

W is for Waiting.

Trying to become a professional writer involves a lot of waiting. Waiting for people to read your stories and hopefully let you know whether or not they liked it. Waiting for people to respond to your emails. Waiting to see when the people who took review copies of your book are actually going to review it. Waiting to find out whether or not any of your marketing efforts resulted in any sales. Waiting for the royalty check when you finally earn enough money to get one.

I used to think the worst part of the writing process was the rewriting, but now I believe the waiting is the hardest thing. Even when I have a dozen other creative projects going on I can’t help but wonder whether or not my submissions have been read at least once a day. The silence is deafening. A rejection, at least, is a notch on my belt, a sign that I’ve been trying, but the lack of response is a sign of, well, nothing. Most of the places where I submit promise at least a form rejection if they don’t take your work, but that isn’t true all the time. Not knowing whether or not my work has even been looked at, will even be looked at based on the cover letter, that is the hardest part of this trying-to-be-professional thing.

Waiting makes part of me want to instead invest my time in a crowdfunding campaign which will at least theoretically mean an earlier publication. I could likely publish my books faster via crowdfunding than through a traditional publisher even if a contract was handed for me tomorrow, but I want the support of a traditional publisher, even if it’s a tiny press.

I suspect the waiting gets easier the more you submit, but I’m also sure it will never be easier. I’ve poured my life and soul into the pieces I’ve actually sent out into the world, and every unanswered submission is a question burning somewhere in the back of my brain.

Have you submitted any written work? How do you make the waiting easier on yourself? Let me know in the comments section below!

V is for Video Games

V is for Video GamesToday the A to Z Challenge continues! I’ll be posting about one letter/word on every weekday in April. Don’t want the barrage of posts? Sign up for my newsletter and I’ll let you know when I start doing new stuff next month!

V is for Video Games.

I’ve been looking forward to this one since I started the alphabet. Video games have been a big part of my life as far back as I can remember. As a little kid I remember playing a lot of co-operative games with my parents and one thing that really makes me sad is the disappearance of local cooperative multiplayer from most mainstream games. My fiance is a bigger gamer than I am and being able to game together is one of my favourite things about having him in my life, but there is a very limited selection of games for us to choose from.

That being said, many of my favourite games don’t have a local multiplayer function or any multiplayer function at all. I love RPGs including a great many Japanese RPGs–some of the Final Fantasy series as well as several others–because of the wonderful worlds these stories allow me to explore and the stories they tell. The Dragon Age series is another big favourite of mine.

A good RPG is simply another type of story, one which focuses a lot on dialogue and exploration. The best RPGs make fascinating character studies. Games like Dragon Age are a great way to explore what happens when characters make different choices.

Usually I go through intense bouts of gaming that last a few weeks, then go several months without playing video games, but the fiance and I have been playing an awesome cooperative video game called Divinity: Origin of Sin steadily for a while now and I suspect we’ll be at it for several months to come. Or years. I have no idea how big this game is yet. All I know is it’s one of the best multiplayer games I’ve played in a great many years.

Some people consider video games a waste of time, but I think you can learn something about storytelling from almost any game, especially a well written RPG.

Do you play video games? Got any awesome recommendations? Let me know about them in the comments section below!