Apr 30, 2013

Book Promotion

Last year I kind of left myself a little short on time to prepare for the release of Locked Within. This year, to help spread the word of Silent Oath's release, I'm looking into my options early. In particular, two of the most prominent and widely-accessible promotion tools I'll have at my disposal:

Blog tours and giveaways.

I hadn't realised that there are companies who will organise large-scale blog tours for you! Having read about my fellow WiDo author Jadie Jones' experiences, I decided to do some investigating of my own into places that would specialise in such promotion work for urban fantasy. I'm pleased to say I've found a place I want to use and I'll be contacting them to make arrangements as soon as I have my release date. 

Prices do vary, from as little as $35 for a single-day's promotion, to a couple of hundred dollars for longer ones. That said, I've seen a few that are charging in the region of $500 to arrange fewer blog stops and less additional promotion than others who will charge a fraction of that for a much more comprehensive and specialised package. It definitely pays to shop around.

In addition to a professionally-managed blog tour, I'm going to of course be arranging one of my own among any of my followers who are willing to have me. 

I'll also be holding my first ever Goodreads giveaway for signed copies of the new book. This should be interesting, as I've never held a giveaway before and I don't know quite what to expect.

There'll also be my usual run of posts related to Silent Oath, especially closer to the launch.

If you're interested in helping out, in any way, with the promotion for Silent Oath, please let me know!

Apr 25, 2013

Theme Songs for Games

Just as I listen to music while I write, I use background music during the games I run. I've been known to spend hours going through my music collection to assemble the perfect playlist for a game before it starts.

Tonight we're starting a new campaign with the Dresden Files Roleplaying Game. In it, the players will all be on the run from the White Council's Wardens (magic cops, for those unfamiliar with the series), due to a violation of the Laws of Magic that they've either been directly blamed for, or are considered accomplices in for helping the lawbreakers evade the Wardens.

We're all taking a lot of inspiration from the tv show Supernatural, and it looks set to be a grim trek across America for the group as they try to track down the real lawbreakers. They'll have to keep one step ahead of the Wardens as they help people with their supernatural problems along the way.

Given the hopeless, "on our own" nature of the game, I figured this would make an appropriate theme song:

Do any of you use music in your games? Have you ever chosen a particular theme song to play at the start of each session, to help people get focused and in the mood?

Apr 23, 2013

Fear of Endings

It's strange to think that I've completed main edits on my second novel, and I'm well into writing the first draft of my third. I still remember writing Locked Within, and the sheer openness to Nathan's story. At first I had no idea how the story was going to go in later books, but as time went on I became more and more certain of what would happen to Nathan Shepherd and his friends.

I find myself nervous when I work on the third book. As a reader or movie/tv viewer, I am incredibly picky about how stories end. I know what I like and I've had a number of series disappoint me in the past. My biggest fear is that by the time the third book is out my readers will have their own expectations and I'll let them down. I suppose it feels weird to be thinking about how the series ends when people have only read the first book, but needs must, and if Book 3 is going to be released on schedule, I have to get the bulk of the work done early.

I'm pulling out all the stops with this one. Where Locked Within is Nathan's introduction and metaphorical rebirth into his life as New York's guardian, Silent Oath reveals more of his past and the stakes at hand. It's a brutal, hard-fought battle that leaves Nathan scarred in more ways than one. Hopefully, it will leave readers eager to read more.

The things I have planned give me goosebumps. I'm incredibly excited by Nathan's adventures and the moments that I've written and have yet to write. My biggest wish is that everyone feels the same way when they read them.

It's not just the responsibility I feel to give everyone a story they'll enjoy, but also the awareness that once I finish the third book, that's it. The end. Endings have always made me sad, but I hope that the sadness I feel will be bittersweet. Of course, this is harder to deal with because I'm currently two books ahead of my readers. I can't afford to get caught up in the emotion of the end when no-one else even knows what happens in the second book.

The ride isn't over yet, and I still have a lot of work to do to get the story told. So I need to keep my head in the game. Locked Within was the best start for my writing career I could have hoped for. Silent Oath is set to continue things. It's a stronger book, I believe. Certainly stronger than the original draft I sent to my publisher. I'm really looking forward to sharing more about Silent Oath as we get closer to a release date.

If you haven't read Locked Within yet, check it out so you're all set for Silent Oath.

Apr 18, 2013

Gaming in a Licensed Setting

There's a whole section of the gaming industry devoted to games based on established properties such as movies, books and tv shows. I think it's fantastic, because not only do gamers get to jump straight into playing in their favourite worlds without trying to adapt another system, but it also draws newcomers to the hobby who are fans of the property in question.

One of the earliest properties to be licensed for a roleplaying game, and still one of the more popular ones today, was Star Wars. Originally published by West End Games, there have been four different versions of the roleplaying game produced over the years and my time running Star Wars campaigns have given me some of my fondest gaming memories. To this day, I hold that my most successful campaign ever was a two and a half year Star Wars game which spanned from shortly after the destruction of the first Death Star to the years following the fall of the Empire and the rise of the New Republic.

Ghostbusters, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Battlestar Galactica, Supernatural, DC comics, The Wheel of Time, Lord of the Rings, even video games like Streetfighter and World of Warcraft have had tabletop roleplaying games published using their licensed material.

There are pros and cons, of course. While you have an immediate understanding of the setting and what the game is likely to be about, as well as the buzz of playing around in the setting of a favourite tv show, the group must figure out how to address problems like the presence of established characters. Typically this isn't an issue with villians - the players are usually heroes, so going up against Darth Vader or The Joker can be fun. But it can be a problem with heroic characters, who the players might expect to save them if they get in over their head.

Then there's the problem of choosing when in a particular setting's history to set your game. If you set it during the events, will the players' actions clash with the established plot? If you set it before, there's the danger of upsetting the starting status quo of the setting, or invalidating the players' efforts with the knowledge that the real heroes haven't known up yet. If you set it after, then there's the problem of figuring out what might happen next in the world, and the danger that further stories will contradict your own group's adventures.

My preferred method has always been to say that anything in a series or book that happened before the campaign is fact and has happened in our game world, but that everything else after that is fair game. Canon heroes can die, or fail in their task, their duties taken up by the players themselves. I firmly believe in making the players' characters the central heroes of the story, and the setting and metaplot must change to accommodate that.

Right now we're getting ready to start a new campaign using the Dresden Files roleplaying game. Starting in late 1999, before the first book in the series, this campaign will be a cross between Dresden Files, the A-Team, and Supernatural, with the players on the run from the Wardens of the White Council for a crime they didn't commit, travelling America helping those who no-one else will help, and trying to prove their own innocence.

Do any of you have any licensed settings you enjoy? Or do you prefer games with original settings, or coming up with your own from scratch?

Apr 16, 2013


I had another post all written up for today but I don't really feel like it in light of the events in Boston yesterday.

Like a lot of east coast cities, Boston has a strong historical and cultural connection with Ireland. No doubt there will be a lot of blame tossed around, or will already have been by the time this post goes live. I've never believed in seeking people to blame just for the sake of it, so until anything definite is revealed all I'll say is that this tragedy, and others like it all around the world, bring only pain and serve no greater purpose. The ease with which information spreads in the modern world means we are all connected. What hurts people on the other side of the world hurts all of us, no matter where we are or what we believe in.

My thoughts are with those injured in the explosions, and the families and loved ones of those who lost their lives.

Apr 11, 2013

James Dallas Egbert III

A while ago I mentioned that gamers and gaming had come under severe scrutiny in the 1980s. While gamers have often been marginalized members of society, it wasn't until an incident involving a gifted, but troubled, young man named James Dallas Egbert III that roleplaying games, Dungeons & Dragons in particular, came to be regarded with extreme suspicion and paranoia.

Egbert was a child prodigy. Extremely intelligent, he was studying in Michigan State University by the time he was 16 years old.

One day in 1979, he disappeared from his dorm room. His parents hired a private investigator, William Dear, to find him. After questioning some of Egbert's friends, he came up with a theory that the boy had gotten lost while wandering through the campus steam tunnels as part of a D&D game. Unfortunately, the media took this theory as fact and ran with it.

The story escalated to urban legend status, gaining national attention and creating the image of D&D players as dangerously unstable misfits with little grasp on reality. The story has inspired several fictional interpretations, including early Tom Hanks movie, Mazes and Monsters, which I've spoken about before.

Egbert, as it happened, had been nowhere near the steam tunnels. He had fled the campus and was hiding out with a series of acquaintances. Eventually he turned himself in to Dear, but made the investigator promise not to reveal the truth about his disappearance.

The following year, Egbert committed suicide by gunshot. His involvement with D&D was held up as the reason for his death, and due to his promise, it wasn't until four years later that Dear released a book, The Dungeon Master, which detailed the truth of his 1979 disappearance and addressed the wider issues at work.

You see, what the media overlooked was that Egbert's death was the result of his third suicide attempt.

It is known that Egbert suffered from serious pressure from his parents to perform academically. He was child prodigy, leaving him naturally cut off from his peers, socially. He struggled with drug addiction, and there is reason to believe he may also have suffered from depression, made worse by difficulties coming to terms with his sexuality. He never received the help he needed, and had been trying to end his life or somehow escape his situation for some time.

The death of James Dallas Egbert III was a terrible tragedy, one which was unfortunately glamorized by the media. For years following his death, rather than examine the complex issues behind it, Egbert's death was blamed on an easy scapegoat. Although the truth came out, the damage had been done, not only harming the reputation of the gaming hobby, but more importantly, tucking the issue of suicide away and filing it neatly into a drawer where the real issues, ugly and hard as they are to face, could be ignored.

Apr 9, 2013

First Writing Workshop

Last night I gave my first writing workshop with the English Literary Society in UCD. I love any opportunity to visit my old college, and doing so to work with aspiring authors felt great.

Things certainly have changed around the campus. New buildings, better facilities. The new student center feels more like a corporate convention center, it's that fancy. It even has a cinema.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that not only were the workshop attendees really interested in what I had to say about writing in fantasy and science fiction, but also that they were more than happy to come up with ideas at a moment's notice and share their own work.

I learned a lot from last night that I'll keep in mind if I'm ever invited to do something similar again. Primarily regarding timekeeping. We did run over time a little, but we also covered a lot of ground on a range of topics. Next time, I think I'll try and cut down on the amounts of topics and try to get more in-depth work and discussion on those I do include.

All in all, it was a lot of fun and I enjoyed meeting people with such a strong interest in writing Sci-Fi/Fantasy.

Thanks again to the ELS for having me. I wish each of you every success in the future!

Apr 4, 2013

Vaticon - Babies' First Con

This weekend is Vaticon, UCD's annual games convention.

Vaticon was one of the first conventions I went to, and the first I was involved in organising. It will always hold a special place in my heart and while I don't run games at cons anymore, I am looking forward to stopping by this weekend to see how things are going.

My wife and I will also be bringing Erica and Amy, so this will be their very first games convention. I may not get a chance to play any games, but I can guarantee there'll be a lot of introducing the girls to people and sharing nerdy conversations.

Yes, there will be pictures.

Apr 2, 2013

1916 Easter Rising

Almost a hundred years ago, the Irish Republic was declared on the steps of the General Post Office in Dublin. The building was seized and held, along with others across the city, for six days.

1,250 young men in the city itself, against 16,000 British troops and 1,000 armed police. There was also minor fighting in other parts of Ireland.

The ringleaders were imprisoned and executed by firing squad in Kilmainham Gaol. The only senior officer who survived was Eamonn de Valera, on account of his American citizenship.

It's widely accepted that the goal of this rising was not successful rebellion, but a glorious, bloody defeat. A defeat to inspire others to rise up against English rule. To what extent that goal was achieved I don't know, but it was the start of the Irish War of Independence, during which Michael Collins led a guerrilla war against the British in Ireland.

The Rising is akin to the signing of the American Declaration of Independence in our history, or possibly the Boston Tea Party. It was the trigger event that led to the establishment of the Irish Republic.

But what always struck me as strange was that we're never taught the dates in school.

It's the Easter Rising, given only solemn, almost overlooked attention every Easter Monday. Not like other nations that celebrate their independence or birth of their rulers.

Perhaps it's because the end of the War of Independence led directly to the Irish Civil War, and the violence we're still living with today. We can't celebrate the birth of our nation because we've got too much blood in too recent memory. There are people alive whose parents and grandparents fought in both conflicts. The wounds still run deep.

Unfortunately, I think the Irish habit of not talking about painful things has left the rest of the world utterly in the dark about what blood has been spilled and why. This is why you get foreign bars selling drinks called "Irish Carbombs" or "Black and Tans." I really don't have the stomach to go into just why these things are offensive. I just wish the leftover hate could end, and we could start to acknowledge our history, beautiful and ugly, in ways that are more than reasons to incite more violence.

War happened, we killed people, and it started on Monday, April 24th.