My Favorite Genre Character

Okay, so I thought today’s part of the 30 Day Genre Meme hit a little too close to home. For those of you who are familiar with gaming, this is the part where I tell you about my character. My favorite character that is.

The only trouble is, I found it was really hard to pinpoint just one! Memorable characters are important to me for different reasons. In some cases, I remember a character because they were different, so unusual in the way that they were portrayed it stuck out in my mind. Kind of like the characters in the Otherland series by Tad Williams or The Stand Unabridged by Stephen King, where an array of characters from different ages, backgrounds and cultures, all come together to tell a story.

The Morgaine SagaFor female characters, my vote would be Morgaine from the time-traveling series written by C.J. Cherryh. She’s the reluctant hero, the keeper of the mysteries, the ultimate mistress — but is she? A mysterious character, everything we know, imagine and feel about her is filtered through the viewpoints of other characters. In this way, for this science fantasy setting, Morgaine is an outstanding character not in the way she’s described, but for all the things we don’t know. You can read about Morgaine in a collected tome called The Morgaine Saga.

Dragon Wing Book CoverFor male characters, my vote is Haplo from The Death Gate Cycle series by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. The first book in the series is called Dragon Wing. Like Morgaine, Haplo is enigmatic but for a different reason. Part of why I like his character so much, is not because of his fierce independence, but because Haplo is what I call an “intentional” character. Everything that he is and does–independent, reluctant to trust, determined–is because of the setting. In my mind, The Death Gate Cycle represents an excellent example of how worldbuilding can (and should) have an impact on the main character’s appearance, personality and demeanor.

In both of these examples, what drew me to these characters was the technique the authors employed. Other memorable characters stand out in my mind due to their inventiveness and their quirks and whether or not they’re different from the others in the book.

Previous Days

Day 10 of 100: What I Don’t Hear (About Books)

Well, it’s been ten days since I forced myself to go dark on social media and this is the first day I’m noticing a huge difference. Huge.

It’s quieter. In my head. A lot quieter. Already, I feel like I’m disconnected because now I have to rely on news and updates by either a) going to a website I already trust or b) getting news from an outside source via e-mail. When I go to a website, I don’t have to guess. I am spending more time browsing, poking around, seeing what is what. However, there is a significant lack of variety, as Twitter and Facebook allows me to discover things more often.

When I wanted something fun, I defaulted to icanhazcheesburger. When I wanted something cool, I headed over to Boing Boing. When I needed to feed my head with industry news, I went to a handful of sites I knew or read a e-newsletter I signed up for. When I had to ask someone a question, I shot them an e-mail. Even then, I don’t feel compelled to check my e-mail as often, which might be a direct result of not being on information channels that throw constant information at me. Is it a brains thing? Not sure, but I suspect it may be.

On a typical day, with Twitter open, I’ll see news about three, maybe four book releases. Yes, that is per day, every day. I couldn’t tell you what those book titles were or who published them, just who Tweeted about them. In the past ten days? I’ve heard about zero. Zip. Nada. Nilch. Instead, I discovered the works of LaShawn Wanak and John Jackson Miller through a convention. Oddly enough, I’ve spent more time with people in the past ten days than I have in the previous month.

Not hearing about book releases and author news really struck me because it’s something relevant to me and happens way too often for me not to notice. This caused a series of revelations and questions to pop off in my head. To understand where I’m coming from, take a look at the picture of book covers below. How many of these did you recognize? Of the ones you remembered, did you know I wrote for these titles? Do you know the publisher? Don’t worry, I’m not going to be upset if you didn’t remember all–or any–of them. It’s what I expected your answer to be.

A Few Recently Published Books

My questions range from the frustrating to the mundane. So what happens when someone isn’t on Twitter to hear about The Zombie Feed, Volume 1? How do they find my story unless I blog about it? What happens when I miss them on Twitter and Facebook? What happens when they don’t have any idea who I am? Does this mean older releases, like Pie in Buried Tales of Pinebox, Texas, are new again? New to new people who are new to me? How do I find said new people? What about old people that have been following my work since the beginning? What are they looking for?

I have to tell you, I knew I was cutting down on the noise, but I didn’t know just how close to home this would hit. Not hearing a single word about any book release tells me that Twitter and Facebook are only valuable to people on Twitter and Facebook. Even then, Twitter and Facebook are important through the people who are connected to me and reading my updates at that particular time.

Additionally, the fact that I haven’t retained said news about other people’s books is a cause for great concern on my part. This has split my mind in two. First? I’m damn happy I’m blogging more on my own site because this is content I can link to at a future date. This is also content that is easier to find than a Tweet or an update. Second? The value of Twitter and Facebook is misleading as hell. What good is one voice? I’m guessing not a whole heck of a lot. How many voices would it take to spread the word? Not just on Twitter or Facebook, but online period? And, at what point, will consistent followers like myself get annoyed with regular updates about the same title? But–and here comes the clincher–how much promotion do I really need to be doing?

What I am beginning to suspect, and again this chills me to the bone, is that the success of a book has nothing to do with how much an author or publisher promotes it. What matters then, is whether or not the book touches the reader in such a way they talk about it. With the lack of book covers on the backs of e-reader devices, how much harder will an author–not a marketer–have to work to ensure their readers will spread the word? In other words, how powerful must the story be that someone goes… “Oh yeah, that was awesome. Not only that, I’m going to tell all my friends.”

This is the part where I scratch my chin and raise my eyebrow. This is also the part where I’m thinking about writing a story and releasing it during this 100 days just to see what would happen.

Hrmm…much to ponder on this front. I wonder what story people would want to read…

Family Games: the 100 Best is an Origins Nominee

Hi everyone, I am excited to share with you that FAMILY GAMES: THE 100 BEST is up for an industry award. If you read my previous post where I listed the essay list for FAMILY GAMES: the 100 BEST, you might recall that I wrote about GLOOM, which is one of my favorite card games.

Since writing the essay, I managed to pick up a few expansions and indoctrinate cajole encourage new fans to play this fun game. I’ve also learned that this particular tome is a favorite of librarians everywhere. (Note: librarians are awesome!)

What are the Origins Awards?

The Origins Awards are presented annually by the Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts and Design to recognize outstanding achievement in design and production of games and game related products.

The nominees were voted on by hobby game retailers at the GAMA Trade Show in March 2011 from a short list in each category determined by a jury of hobby game professionals and knowledgeable enthusiasts. The winner of each category will be determined by the votes of attendees at the Origins Game Fair in Columbus OH, June 22nd-26th. — SOURCE: The Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts and Design Announces 37th Annual Origins Awards Nominees

At Origins this year, convention attendees will vote for their favorite games and, in this case, books related to gaming. To have made it this far, in the category of Best Game-Related Publication, is pretty darn awesome. Edited by James Lowder, the book is a fine collection and a great way to revisit or learn about classic family games we’ve all enjoyed. There’s some tough competition this year, so who will win is anyone’s guess.

For more information, please read: The Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts and Design Announces 37th Annual Origins Awards Nominees.

Good luck to all of the nominees! Happy gaming!

The Zombie Feed e-Book Now Available!

The Zombie Feed Volume 1The Zombie Feed, Volume 1 is now available in several e-book formats. My short story entitled, “Tomorrow’s Precious Lambs” is included in this tome and I’ll be reading it at OddCon in Madison, Wisconsin this weekend.

I hope you’ll do me the honor of picking up a copy.

  • TZF Kindle Edition
  • TZF Nook Edition
  • TZF Smashwords Edition
  • For more information about this anthology, feel free to read:

  • Beyond Survival: Living in a Zombie-Filled World
  • The Zombie Feed, Volume 1 Table of Contents
  • Hope you enjoy it!

    On the Voynich Manuscript and Other Ancient Texts

    When you write in the realm of horror, dark fantasy and science fiction, you’re often required to read and research different topics for reference. Like many other authors, I’ve poured through copies of ancient texts to get behind the myths and legends, to view them with a critical eye.

    Working on Argentum, for example, required a deep dive into researching Alchemy. That field is interesting because there’s a lot of symbolism and allegory there. Formulas were coded into paintings, and there was often a dual-edged meaning embedded in the rituals. Alchemy wasn’t just about transforming one physical medium into another, it was about transforming the self. In many paintings, some of which you can see in this awesome art book from Taschen entitled Alchemy and Mysticism, there are parallels between the birth-death-resurrection cycle prevalent in Christianity and other religions. Indeed, this book correlates a premise using art. Really fine work, here.

    As interesting as that may be, it’s important to understand these works in context. What was happening during those time periods? Why would these ancient texts need to be secret? Well, if you think about it, organized religion back then in many parts of the world isn’t like it is now. You could be killed or thrown in prison for your beliefs. Although Alchemy was practiced as a scientific art for hundreds of years, for many it also required varying amounts of secrecy. Remember, the history of Christianity is a turbulent one that affected every corner of social, scientific, religious and political development in certain parts of the world for many, many years. The references to Christianity in the Art and its formulas weren’t always obvious; there were often many artistic and visual references to other things that acted as symbols for the process.

    In other words: these texts are important for more than the words written on their pages. I feel they can’t be read with stars in your eyes, though that is what some people tend to do. It’s always been that way, though. The words “ancient” and “magical” have always inspired people, for a promise of power. Just recently, there was a book called The Secret which sold millions of copies worldwide. What was this tome about? The Law of Attraction. Nothing new to see here. Brilliant marketing, though.

    Voynich Manuscript

    When I was reading up on other texts, I stumbled across the Voynich Manuscript a couple of years ago. Immediately, when I hear about some mysterious and ancient text it raises an alarm for me. I’m pretty grounded, even though I went through a short phase in my late teens where I wasn’t. Reading further, I understand that there’s a lot of theories about this unusual manuscript from the mid-to-late 1400s which many believe originate from Central Europe.

    First, it hasn’t been deciphered yet and there are strange illustrations in it. Just as one example of my thought process, there’s discussion about why plumbing (e.g. pipes and whatnot) was used to depict the biology. Some Alchemists used to boil their bodies in hot water and scrub all the hair off to purify themselves. Bathing as a ritual was an important one for many years; people didn’t take daily showers and baths back then like they do today. Bathing is also relevant to a baptism, too. So, the paintings may not be direct representations, but allegorical illustrations drawn to represent something else.

    Now, after having looked at the illustrations and having read the theories, I have a few of my own. Let me be very clear on this: my thoughts are purely speculative since I haven’t put the time in nor have I poured over every word. Seeing a book like this makes me wonder not what the book is saying, but why someone would write it in the first place. Since it isn’t a modern hoax, there’s a theory that it was created for the Holy Roman Emperor at the time, who enjoyed rare and unusual books. If this were true, e.g. created for someone’s enjoyment, what would the creator of the book get out of it? Crafting something like this is a time-consuming process, so there would have to be some larger gain behind this or other story.

    Instead, I feel this book might have been coded so no one would understand it, perhaps not even the person (or persons) who wrote it. In other words, there is no cipher because it was never written with one in mind. I don’t believe this manuscript is gibberish, either. It could simply have been written to document rituals in order to solidify their meaning in the writer’s mind. What the Voynich Manuscript could be, then, are the ashes of a life-long pursuit of rituals that cannot be replicated by anyone else.

    Take, for example, the strong repetition of words. If I wanted to perform a secret ritual (or a series of them) for a life-long goal, routine would be crucial to me to ensure success. (Just reviewing the illustrations by themselves, you can see that the creator(s) of the Voynich Manuscript have some scientific leanings.) But what if I got stuck (e.g. couldn’t come up with a code or cipher purported to be rampant in Alchemical and other mystical texts)? For the sake of sticking to routine, which is crucial to those who have performed Alchemy and other arts like it, then I’d use the same word over and over because I needed to write something there. Here, the words may not be important as the writing itself, unless the repeated word is an anagram or cryptogram. In that case, the author might feel the word was a magical one, and should be repeated like a chant to imbue power into his concentration or ritual. (Abracadabra is just one of many examples of purported “power” words best used in repetition.) Perhaps the author read his words out loud as he was writing them down. For an Alchemist, that act would add another layer of symbolism and ritual to it.

    My next step would be to research the time period and location before closely analyzing the manuscript, to see if I could narrow down the culture and atmosphere to help bring relevance to the text. What were the religious attitudes of the 1440s and beyond? What political influences were occurring at the time? What was the lifestyle like? Education? Literacy? Etc.

    Sure, these are just my thoughts. And yes, there’s no way I could be certain I’m right. But here, I’m not trying to be accurate beyond a shadow of a doubt. Here, I’ve explored a mystery to show you how my author’s mind works. After all, researching or theorizing about the Voynich Manuscript is not all that dissimilar to thinking about how a character might have written that book, and for what reason, all those centuries ago.

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