Sunday, May 24, 2015

'The Eight-Bit Bard' is published.

As of today my newest novel, The Eight-Bit Bard, is available on Amazon

It's a fantasy story, a blend of humor and action. It's also the story of seven misfits trying to find a place for themselves in a world where the obvious good guys aren't so good, and the bad guys are the best of the worst.

For gamers, particularly retro gamers, this one is heavy on references to classics like Bard's Tale, Ultima, Might and Magic, Wizardry, and many others from that generation. For those who don't do computer games but like fantasy, I've tried to make the story stand well enough without being distracted by inside jokes.
I'd also like to note this one is a bit more family friendly than my previous novel, Chicagoland. If it were a movie, it would be PG-13, tops.

It's currently only available in Kindle format from Amazon. If you don't have a Kindle, nearly any computer can get a Kindle reader for free. If you have Amazon Prime, you can also "borrow" the book for free any time you like, no purchase necessary.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Book Description/Blurb

I've been working on what would be the "back cover" blurb on a physical book. The Eight-Bit Bard will begin as digital only so it'll just be the description used on web sites, but it's the same idea. In one of those weird ironies, it's more agonizing for me to work on two or three paragraphs that summarizes the book than it is to turn out dozens of pages of novel. I'd rather be loquacious than pithy, I guess.
The evil sorcerer Ssor Ssorensen must have attended the "freeze them with perpetual winter" school of villainy, because when he and his minions conquered the town of Noresha, the first thing he did (after taking a nice, hot bath) was encase the city in ice. Then he laid out a thirteen-dungeon obstacle course challenge, filled with mind-twisting riddles, fiendish traps, and a bevy of the most monstrous guardians a conqueror's shoestring budget could afford, because that's what the best of the bad guys do. 
Strife inevitably brings resistance. A band of heroes led by Yorel the paladin, calling themselves the Phoenix Dragons, are the front runners to challenge the sorcerer and put an end to his menace.
This is not their story. This is the story of Endrew the bard, a fallen hero and humiliated former Phoenix Dragon, who has to join up with a pack of misfits just to make it through the week. His companions include an untrained rogue, an unusually sophisticated half-orc mage, a misplaced pixie, a dwarven monk full of improbable theories, and a halfling warrior who wants more than anything just to be tough. Endrew and his unlikely crew set their sights on surpassing the champions and saving the city from evil, but before they can do that they must surmount their shortcomings just to survive. For a mismatched group that can't even settle on a party name, that may be a tall order indeed.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Book Cover Concepts

I've been working on some cover concepts for the novel. I think I've mentioned by now it's a fantasy novel with themes related to classic computer games, particularly role-playing games. I'm fairly well set on the title, The Eight-Bit Bard, to evoke a blend of older electronics and fantasy. 

You can click on any of the images to get a larger pop-up to see them in detail. I'd love to hear your preferences.

Concept 1: A classic graph-paper map to further emphasize the computer game roots.

Concept 2: A lute and sword for the bard, but pixelated for a hint of computery-ness.

Concept 3: Simpler, cleaner. More old-time bard, less emphasis on computer.

Concept 4: More colorful, bringing back the sword.



Monday, May 4, 2015

Fun with Grammar Check

Before letting anyone else see your writing for the first time, it's always a good idea to run a spelling and grammar check. For a project the size of a novel, this generally means clicking Ignore several hundred times to ferret out a few dozen mistakes. Note that by this point I've reread the thing multiple times, checking all the red squigglies as I go; don't think for a second my first draft doesn't have a lot more mistakes than that.

I'm probably not the only one, but when I write I make choices that the spellchecker doesn't always agree with. Creative names, an accent that calls for innovative spelling, (parenthetical clauses the spellchecker can't follow), and cutting short a spoken sentence--all of these can bring out a swarm of red or blue squigglies. Most of what spellcheck flags can be chalked up as a difference of opinion. For the record, I'm looking at red squigglies under the word "squigglies" right now ... and I'm okay with that.

The grammar checker, though, now that one can be fun. More than just suggested improvements that I'm declining out of some sense of artistic freedom, in many cases it's flat-out wrong, sometimes outrageously so. I know the tool has gotten better over the years. Back in the late nineties I remember a version that would throw out objections like, "This sentence does not appear to have a verb," even when it clearly did. I told myself one day I'd run some great works of literature through a grammar checker and reprint the most hilarious annotations as it corrected Hemingway or Steinbeck, Fitzgerald or Salinger. (I was about to throw out a name like Joyce, but we already know his grammar is intentionally broken; that's part of his charm, so using him wouldn't be playing fair. Same for Kerouac, or even the heavily accented dialogues of Twain.)

But that was nearly two decades ago, and I still haven't managed to get around to the project, so in the stead of laughing at grammar check failing to handle fine literature, I'll use my own writings instead.

We'll start small. Very small: it's. According to the stats, I used "it's" 319 times in my upcoming novel, tentatively titled The Eight-Bit Bard. Of those instances, spellcheck is convinced 11 cases ought to be its instead. These include selections like, "It's okay," "You think it's poison?", "I don't think it's working," "It's part of the job," and "It's his map." All of these cases I do mean it is, and not "belonging to it." Oddly, the software never once flagged one the other way around.

Did it have some troubles with statements and questions? It did. "Next to him lounged a halfling in reinforced leather" doesn't need to end in a question mark, no matter how much grammar check begs. Likewise for "I was happy to let him have it."

Since this is fantasy, I can see how it might try to replace the word "mages" with "images" occasionally, but that's not going to improve the story. And while "I was a bard back then" might trigger the same skepticism, trying to replace it with "I was a bad back then" isn't helping. And, frankly, "I could see a rend in the ectoplasm" is not secretly supposed to be a trend in the ectoplasm. My characters are adventurers, not business analysts, by Infernus.

As for pronoun-verb agreement, I think grammar check has been taking notes from my four-year-old, who still starts sentences with "him went" or "us are". Suggested corrections included, "I was willing to grant the idea that, on a purely aesthetic level, man-flesh tasted much well than troll flesh," "Don't let they touch you," "Teleport we back outside," and the surprisingly simple, "Neither did me."

Homophones are knot just for humans. Grammar check suggested that rather than a whine, the dog sank to the ground with a wine; I cannot tell you know came over me; combat broke lose; and the dwarf has got away with people. The computer has got a way with words, for sure.

Saving the best song for last: who wouldn't want a finely tuned arm, rather than a finely toned one? Right?

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Pre-Reader Copies Released

I've just handed out a few pre-reader copies of "The Eight-Bit Bard." Now the fidgets begin, where mostly I feel jealous of musicians and poets, because they can get feedback after just a couple of minutes rather than requiring days or weeks. Who thought being a novelist was a good idea?

If you're interested and think you could return some comments in less than a month, there's still time to contact me for a copy.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

My Next Novel: The Eight-Bit Bard

My next novel hit a major milestone today. I basically completed the early reader's draft. There's a few stray notes and a little cleanup left, but all the major writing and editing is done.

This project is very different from the first: a fantasy novel with heavy references to early computer role-playing games. I think it stands on its own even if the reader isn't big on computer games, but it may resonate especially well with anyone who knows Ultima, Bard's Tale, Pool of Radiance, Wizardry, and other classics, and also with more modern gamers.

The current working title is The Eight-Bit Bard, but that's still up for review.

In coming weeks I'll be sending copies to advance readers for some commentary and revisions. Any enthusiastic readers are welcome to contact me for a copy, if you're interested. 

I'm not sure how long revisions will take. Somewhere between two and four months from now is likely, depending on feedback.

Once things get cleaned up a little more I'll be posting some excerpts and maybe some candidate artwork for the cover.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

'Chicagoland' Excerpt: DEFCON Drunk

The car I was in got back to the house first, while Moses’s car with Dan got delayed. Not wanting to waste any minutes of the bachelor party, everyone with me started drinking quickly. When Dan arrived, we shoved drinks at him so he could catch up. Then we had more drinks so we could stay ahead and keep stringing the late arrivals along.

We talked Dan into doing some shots, him individually against several of us, before the party moved upstairs. A while later, I went back down to the kitchen to find him doing a shot against himself. “Nobody else wanted one, and I wasn’t going to waste it,” he said.

“Why not just pour one shot?”

“I didn’t think of that.”

Soon after that, I found Dan slumped over the kitchen table, head on his arm, muttering to himself in German. I didn’t even know Dan spoke any German. “Mein freunde, mein freunde,” I heard him say, which I barely recognized as “my friends, my friends.” I tried to shuffle him off to bed, but some switch had flipped, and he ignored everything I tried to tell him in English, only responding with more German. I had maybe thirty words in the language total, but thankfully one phrase I could remember was “good night.” Heavy repetition of “gute nacht” got him to agree it was time for nighty-night. I grabbed his shoulder to help move him toward a couch.

Apparently that was a mistake. Angry, belligerent, Dan turned on me and shouted in an evil robot voice, “DEFCON 3, defenses rising!”

“Hey, wait, I’m just helping you to bed.”

Again, in the robot voice. “Does not compute. Nicht Deutch. Error.”

“Look, can we just go and-”

“Misunderstood. Mein freunde sprechen Deutch. Escalating. Approaching DEFCON 2. Nuclear assault imminent.”

“You’re a vegan, damn it; you’re supposed to be a pacifist!” He approached me threateningly, regardless. “Freund! Freund!” I shouted, desperate for any friendly German words. “Gut! Liebe! Freund!”

Dan started to deflate. “Freund recognized. DEFCON levels decreasing. Nuclear arsenals on standby. Gute nacht.” With that, he turned and walked upstairs, lay down on the couch, and didn’t move until morning.

This was an excerpt from Chicagoland. The complete novel is Kindle format through Amazon