Sunday, April 22, 2012


Now turn off your computer, go sit in the grass, and write something brilliant.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Got bears?

If you like action and adventure, then buzz on over and catch my new piece "Mother Bears"--it's a 3-part serial, and the grand finale goes up on Wednesday.

Working on this piece was a remarkable challenge. When I approached James Sutter, editor extraordinaire for Paizo, to talk about writing tie-in fiction, I had to admit with some embarrassment that I have never played a single RPG. (My friends are now probably looking at me with dismay.) You'd think that would disqualify me from writing in the field, but when I also admitted I had a tie-in fiction addiction, it seemed to ease our conversation a little. (That's right--if it says "Forgotten Realms" on the cover, I've probably read it.) But still: I had a lot to learn.

My first step in writing this piece was to catch up with the Pathfinder universe. No sweat, right? How big can one world be?

Astonishment, lithograph by Thomas Fairland after W. H. Hunt, c. 1870s


I can't even figure out how many books Pathfinder has. There are three bestiaries, a core rulebook, advanced player guides, creature guides, multiple wikis, web fiction, almost a dozen novels, and probably a lot of other material I've managed to overlook, let alone read. I spent about three weeks plowing through the basic information before I even knew enough to get ideas for a story. And then once I sent a list of story ideas to James, I learned how little I really knew, because a lot of my ideas didn't actually work in the world! I had to go back and revisit the historical timeline and bestiaries and sort out a few things. Then I worked up a solid story idea and drafted it.

I sent the story to James, who kindly helped me learn more about the monsters -- goblins -- that I'd chosen to write about. It turns out that goblins are really interesting characters in the Pathfinder world. In fact, if I was going to play a campaign, I'd definitely want to stumble into a pack of goblins. I mean, if I had quality weapons and some badass friends to back me up. These little guys are vicious and scary! I had to rethink "small" and turn it into "terrifying." Then I had to rewrite my piece. My original story made the goblins out to be trouble, but now I wanted to make them the kind of big trouble that could make a bunch of Viking-like guys crap their pants. (Errr ... breeches?)

To find out if it works, you'll have to read the story. Let's just say that the first draft of the story took a week to write. The second draft didn't get turned in until three months later. (Well, there was a lot of life going on in there, including going to World Fantasy and actually meeting James!) I'm pretty pleased with the results, and I hope to write more fiction in the Pathfinder universe. Why? Because it's such a cool place!

Now if only there were a Pathfinder board game for me to play...

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

My feet do NOT show it

As you may know if you read the Inkpunks blog, I went to a wonderful poetry class yesterday, full of great insight into poetry revision. The teacher, David Biespiel, proved excellent--easy-going, insightful, interesting--and I look forward to taking more classes with him in the future (money willing!). And I have to say, I am now even more excited about poetry than I was before walking in the door!

It's weird and wonderful to be returning to poetry. The first words that I ever wrote and fell in love with were poems--well, lyrics, actually, to a song/ode to our cat that my kind family members interpreted as a wonderful poem. I was eight, and I loved the way I could fall into the words and feel the world drift away from me. I'd always loved to make up little stories in my mind, but when I wrote poems, the actual words themselves held power. I loved feeling them come together on the page.

It wasn't until college that I began to feel more interested in prose than poetry, and I've really neglected the poetic realm since then. As a kid, I devoured all the poetry in the house, nearly memorizing our collected works of Robert Service and chewing my way through great swathes of Shakespeare's sonnets. (And of course, I'll never forget the poem "Mice," by Rose Fyleman--one of the few pieces I have completely memorized!) It's been wonderful to fall back into reading poetry, which is such a blissful, enchanting experience.

Speaking of enchanting experiences, I'll leave you with a poem that we read in our class. It is easily one of the most amazing things I've ever read, and I thought about it the whole two mile walk home.

by William Meredith

Touching your goodness, I am like a man
Who turns a letter over in his hand
And you might think this was because the hand
Was unfamiliar but, truth is, the man
Has never had a letter from anyone;
And now he is both afraid of what it means
And ashamed because he has no other means
To find out what it says than to ask someone.

His uncle could have left the farm to him,
Or his parents died before he sent them word,
Or the dark girl changed and want him for beloved.
Afraid and letter-proud, he keeps it with him.
What would you call his feeling for the words
That keep him rich and orphaned and beloved?