Redwing’s Gambit Sale, Novella Excerpt, and Design Essays

Today, I am pleased to announce that Redwing’s Gambit, which takes place in the fun, romping Bulldogs! universe, is on sale through Saturday, May 13th at DriveThruFiction.com. Written in 2012, this novella is an earlier look at my storytelling — perfect if you’re waiting for my upcoming stories to come out! When Redwing’s Gambit first debuted, I wrote notes on the story’s and setting’s design, and am re-sharing those here in addition to one of my favorite scenes.

If you’re interested, here’s a link to Redwing’s Gambit on DriveThruFiction.com. The story is formatted in ePub and PDF; you receive both when you order the file. Additionally, I pulled some links to design essays I wrote about the novella for you, too!

  • Constructing Redwing’s Gambit: Research and Background Part 1 of 5 – The first question I asked myself was not about what story I wanted to write, but how I wanted to present the tale in such a way that felt more like Fate than d20. In my mind, the Fate rules really emphasizes and focuses on relationships or the ties that connect and bind the characters to one another.
  • Constructing Redwing’s Gambit: Characters and Treatment – Part 2 of 5 – The treatment evolved from the original concept for a number of reasons. At the time, I thought the story required one perspective, but that didn’t turn out to be the case. One mystery in a closed environment was “okay,” but it wasn’t enough for the readers to get a feel of what makes Bulldogs! a cool science fiction setting. Initially, my thinking was that an observant character could really dig into and tell a tale, highlighting the different aspects of the alien races and the worlds. Boy, was that ever wrong! While that technique sounds good, it didn’t work when I started writing it because I bored myself going on and on and on…
  • Constructing Redwing’s Gambit: Structure and Plot – Part 3 of 5 – After I had an approved story and treatment, I went to work writing the first and second draft. My inclination was not to offer one perspective, but to offer several. A mystery just did not work from an observer’s point-of-view because I had a lot of characters and they’re all not physically located in the same place on the ship. The logistics of having Dan sneak around like a ninja were not only boring — but creepy and Clueish. So, I added in other perspectives straight off the bat. I knew multiple viewpoints (there are three) was outside of how I normally write, but I felt it was necessary for a good story.
  • Constructing Redwing’s Gambit: Revisions and Cut Text – Part 4 of 5 – I have about 7 to 10,000 words of cut text that I removed from Redwing’s Gambit during the revisions process. Once I erased Dan Daget’s character, I restructured the flow of the different perspectives and ensured that they read correctly. The biggest reason for the revisions, however, was to reduce any extraneous worldbuilding or plot hooks to keep the pace strong. With this being a novella, that meant minimizing certain aspects and also changing the strength of the relationship between Violet and the security chief to one of hidden, but mutual, feelings for one another. This first bit was altered because the spying robots was less important than Xax or Edna’s kidnapping.

Redwing’s Gambit Excerpt

One of the characters that readers really enjoyed was an angry teddy bear/mercenary named “Fang”. This short scene is Fang’s debut! The angry bear is a stowaway on board the ship, and he’s facing off against a feline robot.


Deep within the bowels of the cruiser, a small bear-like creature crawled through a grimy pipe and dropped down through a narrow opening. He wiggled his way down, down, down until he landed on the floor of a sooty vent.

The animal bared his teeth, hunting for signs of the enemy, but could not see his prey.

Turning a corner, he came face-to-face with a cat. It nudged its cool body against him and purred.

The mechanical noise grated his ears. It wasn’t a cat, it was cat-like. A robo-cat. And it was colored a bizarre shade. Watered down red. No, pink. An albino cat?

“Out of my way,” the creature hissed. “You will move for Fang.”

A clicking sound. Then, a high-pitched squeal. An antenna poked out of the metallic cat’s mouth, its red tip blinked urgently.

“Move. Now.”

The small bear stepped forward, but the robo-cat would not budge.

“Stupid cat.” Fang grabbed the robo-cat’s antenna and yanked back hard. The pink robot yelped in pain, its head spun faster and faster until a thin plume of smoke escaped from its pointy ears. Crouching low, Fang swept his foot and knocked the cat on its back. Then, the creature pulled out the robo-cat’s leg and beat its rosy body with it until he was satisfied.

It was an empty victory.

Redwing’s Gambit is available at DriveThruFiction.com.

Seriously, Ladies. A Discussion About Clothes.

Shiva Final Fantasy X Avatar

Writing The Red Door has forced me to examine feminist issues I normally take for granted. There are a few pieces, like sexuality, which are embedded beneath the plot. Or, in other words, it’s not a story about feminist issues but I felt forced to address them because of the story. And that, as they say, is all I’ll say about the writing portion.

One of the issues that came up is the difference between what we, women, feel we have to do to make ourselves attractive to the opposite (or even same) sex in a traditional sense. And, on the flip side, what we stereotype or envision our potential partner feels is attractive.

Sexuality? Really? Yes, really. This is often where I feel the arguments for/against make-up, for/against dressing in revealing clothes, for/against wearing something other than sweat pants all day comes into play. And, many times, it’s based on stereotypes of mate attraction rather than what women really dress up for. It’s a fascinating issue, really, which is part of why I’m exploring this with you today. (Please understand, too, that I’m *trying* my best to not define a woman’s sexuality as “just” woman-man here. I may not have succeeded in all concepts, so forgive me.)

When I was younger, sure, there was the recommended attire to go out to a bar. Girls would wear the black body suits and tight jeans; the guys would wear flannel or polos. Sometimes I went with the flow; often I didn’t. Now-a-days it’s the daily wear of Ugg boots with the sweat pants or tights tucked in and the baggy sweatshirts and the variety of 80s or vintage attire — but almost always, almost always, clothing had something to do with how visible one was to a potential mate and what social tier/group/class you belonged to. For me, the only uniform I have now is the one I put on because I want to. (Once I figured that out, it was very freeing to be able to do that in all situations.) Mind you, I still consider myself to love fashion, perhaps even more than most, because if I gotta wear clothes, might as well like and appreciate ’em — especially the ones I feel look good on me.

As I write this story, I’m also exploring the possibility that for some? Clothing is also worn as a shield to avoid getting hit on, to be protected from potential threats. (For example, when I used to drive alone at night, I’d often wear a baseball cap to hide the fact I was female.) In some cases, yes, women are afraid and I think it’s something that isn’t really talked about very often. I feel this underlying fear is what’s causing new and interesting discussions of sexual harassment — sometimes at cons, sure, but also at work and whatnot. How scary is it, after all, to be in a position where you could die if you didn’t abort and be told that you have no control over your own body? (That happened not too long ago, too.) How frightening to think that you’ll be labeled a whistle-blower and unhireable because you didn’t want to constantly hear about how tight your abs were? Or how big your boobs were? Or how you weren’t attractive enough?

I have to wonder if the issue is exacerbated by the social acceptance that comes from sexy women’s attire/poses often lauded in the media. We see people whose careers are based on how in shape they are; so many believe that they have to be them in order to be attractive or desirable. (Which isn’t realistic at all.) So some women just give up after a while because they don’t have to dress up anymore; they have a husband or wife, right? They had the career and maybe they’re working-from-home now. (Mind you, what clothing women wear is cultural, too, depending upon where you live in the country and in the rest of the world.) Well, they got their “mate” and now they don’t have to dress to impress anymore. Or maybe they’re too tired to always dress up or nicely (a sign of depression/low self-esteem in some cases). Or they can’t afford good-fitting clothes. Or they are too proud to fit their current body shape.

The idea that clothing is worn specifically to attract a mate is very interesting to me from a storytelling perspective. We’ve lost a lot of other “mating rituals” over the past century. I think one of the ones that survived is the “ring” in the sense that it’s a promise of a deeper commitment, but there really isn’t anything outside of that to my recollection and even that’s not a requirement anymore. Still, wearing an outfit “to” signal you’re available fascinates me — because that’s assuming a LOT about women and a LOT about potential partners, too — especially since the “rules” of what’s proper to wear are so relaxed now. Remember, jeans started out as tent material and were only worn on farms. Sweatpants were for sweatin’ in. Not anymore!

Makes you think, doesn’t it? Why women wear what we do and how it relates to what we feel about ourselves, the Tango of Looooove, and social pressure? Be interesting to hear your thoughts, below. If we get a good discussion going, I’ll follow-up with another post about this.

Cheers!

    Mood: Back hurty.
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Caffeinatin’ on up!
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: A walk. Some necessary housework.
    In My Ears: Body Paint from the Buffy soundtrack.
    Game Last Played: Dragon Age: Origins
    Movie Last Viewed: Spiderman the new one.
    Latest Artistic Project: In progress!
    Latest Release: “Fangs and Formaldehyde” from the New Hero anthology through Stone Skin Press

Redwing’s Gambit Design Essay Round-Up and Reviews

Redwing’s Gambit has been out now for a little while. I just finished the design essay series about this story based on the Bulldogs! RPG, am knee-deep in revisions for the Kickstarter short story, and am reading a portion of the tale at Balticon this weekend. Since I covered quite a bit of the process on my blog, I thought I’d grab those links for you and a few quotes from the reviews.

One reviewer pointed out what so many other fans have told me, that Fang was their favorite character: First of all, it has an ass kicking teddy bear. How do you go wrong with that? I haven’t enjoyed reading about a teddy bear this much since The Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse by Robert Rankin. The story is basically a ragtag bunch of space couriers, whose job is to deliver a “package”, which pretty much sums up the Bulldogs game….well, minus all the hijinks that can ensue.

This reviewer figured out what my goal was for the novella and then went on to talk about the characters. “Redwing’s Gambit is a pleasant mix of science fiction action and suspense. Valentinelli deftly weaves her narrative through the corridors of the Haldis. Traditional sci-fi tropes such as the mysterious ship saboteur and disappearing crew members fit well for the story that Valentinelli is telling. As someone who had no previous exposure to Galileo Games Bulldogs setting, the use of these traditional tropes helped to keep me in the story as I built my understanding of the universe.

You can read both of those reviews beneath the http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B007O7PFWU/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=flamesrising-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B007O7PFWU>Redwing’s Gambit on Amazon.com listing.

I dove deep into the design essays so you could get a feel for the process. Here’s a list of articles with excerpts for you to check out if you haven’t already:

  • Constructing Redwing’s Gambit: Revisions and Cut Text – Part 4 of 5 – I have about 7 to 10,000 words of cut text that I removed from Redwing’s Gambit during the revisions process. Once I erased Dan Daget’s character, I restructured the flow of the different perspectives and ensured that they read correctly. The biggest reason for the revisions, however, was to reduce any extraneous worldbuilding or plot hooks to keep the pace strong. With this being a novella, that meant minimizing certain aspects and also changing the strength of the relationship between Violet and the security chief to one of hidden, but mutual, feelings for one another. This first bit was altered because the spying robots was less important than Xax or Edna’s kidnapping.
  • Constructing Redwing’s Gambit: Structure and Plot – Part 3 of 5 – After I had an approved story and treatment, I went to work writing the first and second draft. My inclination was not to offer one perspective, but to offer several. A mystery just did not work from an observer’s point-of-view because I had a lot of characters and they’re all not physically located in the same place on the ship. The logistics of having Dan sneak around like a ninja were not only boring — but creepy and Clueish. So, I added in other perspectives straight off the bat. I knew multiple viewpoints (there are three) was outside of how I normally write, but I felt it was necessary for a good story.
  • Constructing Redwing’s Gambit: Characters and Treatment – Part 2 of 5 – The treatment evolved from the original concept for a number of reasons. At the time, I thought the story required one perspective, but that didn’t turn out to be the case. One mystery in a closed environment was “okay,” but it wasn’t enough for the readers to get a feel of what makes Bulldogs! a cool science fiction setting. Initially, my thinking was that an observant character could really dig into and tell a tale, highlighting the different aspects of the alien races and the worlds. Boy, was that ever wrong! While that technique sounds good, it didn’t work when I started writing it because I bored myself going on and on and on…
  • Constructing Redwing’s Gambit: Research and Background Part 1 of 5
  • – The first question I asked myself was not about what story I wanted to write, but how I wanted to present the tale in such a way that felt more like Fate than d20. I had played Spirit of the Century and I also participated in a game run by Ryan Macklin, too. In my mind, Fate really emphasizes and focuses on relationships or the ties that connect and bind the characters to one another.

Easter Eggs! Constructing Redwing’s Gambit Part 5 of 5

Finally! I was supposed to write about the easter eggs but I forgot that required me to break the space time continuum and go through the manuscript line by line. So what are Easter Eggs? The simple answer is: the step-by-step process I take to decide how a particular line or passage sounds. Also, certain nuggets I weave in or hide that are revealed either when you’re smart enough to figure it out OR when I tell you. Like today!

Bulldogs! is unique, yes, but this particular setting has lots and lots of aliens which is something I wanted to highlight. In order to avoid an info dump and help ground you, the reader, I thoroughly researched the original d20 Bulldogs! RPG, the FATE system, and other science fiction settings to figure out how I should handle this unique conundrum. Writing about many different aliens in an RPG, after all, is a lot different from handling them in a story.

The goal of this story was to help you get to know the characters and based on the reviews so far? That’s what you got out of it, too. Here are a few “easter eggs” to show you how some elements in Redwing’s Gambit evolved.

“Grrr… Dishonorable wretch…” Marrl forced himself to calm down. The word “dishonorable” was a descriptive nod to Worf from Star Trek in the very beginning. I knew readers familiar with Star Trek might think of Klingons and I felt, with eight alien races to juggle, they could get a picture right away that would then be clearly defined as the lion-headed Rjyllians as the story went on. Bulldogs! has *many* alien races within its universe; I offered you the chance to see six of them and hear about two more.

If the rumors were true, Splish navigated a cruiser through the heart of the Frontier Zone with a broken engine and hardly any fuel. The idea of a rogue pilot’s boasts was courtesy of a larger-than-life reputation. Han Solo. The original Starbuck.

“By the sons of…” Marrl swore in earnest. Alexander Dane’s character in Galaxy Quest always did get pissed off when he had to say this line: “By Grabthar’s hammer… by the Sons of Warvan… you shall be… avenged.” Here Maarl alludes to a mysterious insult. Initially, I thought about making him swear to the court of the High Saldralla, his religious affiliation, but I thought it sounded better if his voice trailed off since I would have had to explain that the Saldralla were lizard men and I was worried I was spending too much time on the setting already. The line would have read: “By the sons of the Saldralla, must I warm every egg?!?!” To Maarl, having to sit on an egg and warm it up would have been a huge insult and one reserved solely for child-bearers.

He would hate to put that in his daily report. The idea of writing daily reports was inspired by the bureaucracy from Babylon 5. I twisted it some and turned the reports into a bureaucratic nightmare. You’ll find out more about that in the short story I’m writing for HAVE BLASTER, WILL TRAVEL.

An antenna poked out of the metallic cat’s mouth, its red tip blinked urgently. I love robots with character! Futurama, Flash Gordon, Buck Rodgers and the 25th Century… And I love cats!

To annoy her boss, she recited the contents of every label she touched out loud. Doctor Dunn never complained; she was too busy work, work, working. I find great humor in an annoying character who’s in space for the first time. Then? DOM DOM DOM… The exaggerated touch was my subconscious acting on more comedic spacefarers. Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. The Jetsons. Etc.

Instead of talking about the former slave trade there or the problems with trade, she focused on the golden necropolis rumored to be buried far beneath the planet’s coarse sands. ‘Course, Talus didn’t know she was lying. The idea of a treasure hunt evolved all on its own, but I should point out I have a fondness for space pirates that flourished courtesy not only of Treasure Planet, but a lot of early pulp back in the day.

Xax couldn’t wait to find out if Talus fixed the hyperdrive. Broken ships? Busted engines? Bad hyperdrives? Farscape, Firefly, Star Wars, Apollo 13. When things go wrong in space — they really go wrong.

By the Flame, he would rather get into a fight with Talus than piss off that cyborg. Well… The word “Flame” was a nod to Lord of the Rings. Many sacred fires in that story and I can’t think of anything more serious than invoking that.

Well, by now you can tell my thought process as I worked through the plot for the novella and its revisions. I sincerely hope you enjoy the novella based on the Bulldogs! RPG and will consider writing a review. 😉

Thanks for reading this series!


Other Parts to this Series



About Redwing’s Gambit: Redwing’s Gambit, the first novella for the Bulldogs! RPG, debuted on Monday, March 26th in digital. This story was written by Monica Valentinelli and will be published by Galileo Games, creator of the Bulldogs! RPG. This RPG was originally published with a d20 system in 2005. It has since been updated and released in a new edition which employs the Fate mechanic in 2011.

Constructing Redwing’s Gambit: Structure and Plot – Part 3 of 5

After I had an approved story and treatment, I went to work writing the first and second draft. My inclination was not to offer one perspective, but to offer several. A mystery just did not work from an observer’s point-of-view because I had a lot of characters and they’re all not physically located in the same place on the ship. The logistics of having Dan sneak around like a ninja were not only boring — but creepy and Clueish. So, I added in other perspectives straight off the bat. I knew multiple viewpoints (there are three) was outside of how I normally write, but I felt it was necessary for a good story.

Now, having said that, multiple viewpoints requires something else: your ability as a reader to like the characters. There’s a reason why Dan Daget didn’t survive the final cut. *Yawn.* Since this was the first novella I wrote with a three narrator structure, I didn’t go into the story guns a-blazin’ and write it based on a solid frame. The structure was reorganized during the revisions process. At first, what I needed to do, was simply focus on the story and the viewpoints. The other niggly bits, like consistency, physics, and the like, came much later.

The three perspectives you’ll read are: Fang, a psychotic teddy bear who’s technically not supposed to be on board, Xax (a.k.a. Edna Keene) a young recruit who gets kidnapped, and Maarl, the last character I added. Maarl replaced Dan as Chief of Security; he’s a former slave and his alien race resembles lions. Maarl came last. The first drafts had Dan Daget at the helm, but he wound up being such a jerk.

Now, telling part of the story from Xax’s perspective really worked out well because you got to experience what happened to her. If I say anymore, I’m going to include spoilers and that I don’t want to do. Instead, I’m going shift gears and address how the plot evolved.

Writing a mystery enabled me to hone in on the differences between the characters and introduce new fictional elements to Bulldogs! that weren’t in the corebook. I built some layers into the plot and the characters because, in my mind, readers are smart. You’re going to figure out the whodunnit part faster than I could write it, but that doesn’t mean I couldn’t have fun leading you through the story and the world.

Since this is very much a whodunnit type of a tale, I knew straight off the bat I did not want to wind up with a Scooby Doo moment where GO TEAM SCOOBY catches up with the evil villain and has a long dialogue that explains away everything. I call this technique “the tell” and I despise it. It’s natural to gravitate toward this, too, and I did my utmost best not to have a Scooby (or a Scooby snack) moment. While there was a reveal, primarily because it had to happen due to multiple viewpoints and with the way things went down, I didn’t put enough explanation in my first draft and had to tweak it some for the final.

First things first. I decided who the villain of said sordid tale was before I wrote a single scene. Had to. If I don’t know what’s going on, then certainly you won’t! Only… In Redwing’s Gambit there’s a certain amount of expectations you might have based on the alien races involved. In the game, the Ken Reeg are the McSlime-balls. Anyone who knows Bulldogs! understands not only this, but a little something about the other alien races, too. Did this factor into how the plot was structured? *whistles innocently*

To add in layers to the plot, I focused on character backstory and motivation. I really wanted (I’m sure you’re getting this deep-seated desire by now…) to help you get to know these characters to care about them. Sure, it’s a science fiction story, but I also wanted to create characters that could go onto other things; there’s a possibility there may be other adventures, game material, or stories with this crew.

On the ship, everybody’s got something they don’t want the other character to know about. Everybody’s got some secret they either want to risk, are blackmailed into giving, or feel obligated to confess.

Still, it all goes back to the main plot. Otherwise, I’d be telling you non-stop how cool this particular character was, and what’s the fun in that?

Other Parts to this Series

  • Constructing Redwing’s Gambit: Easter Eggs – Part 5 of 5 will be published on April 23, 2012.
  • Constructing Redwing’s Gambit: Revisions and Cut Text – Part 4 of 5 will be published on April 16, 2012.
  • Constructing Redwing’s Gambit: Structure and Plot – Part 3 of 5 will be published on April 9, 2012.
  • You are reading Constructing Redwing’s Gambit: Characters and Treatment – Part 2 of 5
  • Constructing Redwing’s Gambit: Research and Background Part 1 of 5



About Redwing’s Gambit: Redwing’s Gambit, the first novella for the Bulldogs! RPG, debuted on Monday, March 26th in digital. This story was written by Monica Valentinelli and will be published by Galileo Games, creator of the Bulldogs! RPG. This RPG was originally published with a d20 system in 2005. It has since been updated and released in a new edition which employs the Fate mechanic in 2011.

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