Monday, January 30, 2012

Space: 1889 And Beyond News

Just recovering from Winter War down in Champaign, IL (almost next door) which was this past weekend. Tom Harris and I ran a very big Mars Needs Steam game -- a little too big, actually. It was exhausting to run, but looked very cool. Tom's camera broke over the weekend but a couple attendees took some pictures and I'll post them along with a report, as soon as I get them.

In the mean time, here are three news items on Space: 1889 and Beyond.

Item One: Big Sale at BooksOnBoard
All of the Untreed Reads titles -- including Space: 1889 & Beyond --are currently on sale at the BooksOnBoard site. Prices are 1/3 off list if you enter the coupon code EZMATH at checkout. The good thing about this sale is the authors still get full royalties, so it's a good way to support their work. If you haven't picked up the line yet, or you've got a friend considering it, here's a good opportunity. This link will take you directly to the Untreed Reads section.

Item Two: A Prince of Mars Coming Soon
A Prince of Mars, the fifth installment in Series One of Space: 1889 & Beyond and the first book in the series authored by Yours Truley, is in final proofreading, so should release soon -- sometime in February. I am very excited.

Item Three: Co-Authorship of The Dark Side of Luna
As you may remember, I'm co-authoring the first book in Series Two of Space: 1889 & Beyond, Conspiracy of Silence. I did some rewriting on J. T. Wilson's draft of Dark Side of Luna, the sixth and final book in Series One.  The rewrite ended up so extensive J.T. suggested I should be brought on board as a co-author, and so that's where we are. Why the extensive rewrite? Two reasons. First, Since I wrote book five and will write book one of Series Two, I probably have the best handle on where the characters are coming from and going to in this volume. Second, there is a lot of military action in this book and I have, it seems, a knack for writing about the military. Who knew?

So if you are anxious to see my fiction (and why wouldn't you be?) you now have three books coming in a row with my hand heavy on the oars.

Item Four: Baen Update
I know I said three items, but this one does not relate to the Untreed Reads series. Baen Books has accepted all my rewrites on How Dark The World Becomes and we're now forging forward at the somewhat more deliberate pace characterized by the traditional publishing world. Probably release date will be spring of 2013. It seems very odd that Conspiracy of Silence, which I haven't yet finished my half of, will be out before How Dark The World Becomes. Odd but understandable. I used to be in the publishing business and I know from first-hand experience how substantial an investment there is behind a new print product launch. If you just crank it out and throw it out the door, you don't stay around very long. Baen actually sent me a nice Powerpoint presentation tracking everything that will go on over the next twelve months with the book. It's different than the game industry, but only in detail, not essence.

So lots of stuff happening. Stay tuned.

Friday, January 20, 2012

2012 Steampunk Chronicle Nominations Open

The nominations are now open for the 2012 Steampunk Chronicle awards. Those of you who have enjoyed one or more of the Space 1889 and Beyond books are encouraged to nominate one for Best Fiction, but there are lots of categories of awards for those of you more heavily into the experience. For those of you not as aware of the scope and depth of the hobby, you might want to take a look at the award categories to get an idea. Here is the link for nominations. I have also added Steampunk Chronicle to the list of permanent links.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

New Space 1889 Web Page

There's a new Space 1889 web page up, put together by Andy Frankham-Allen in cooperation with Untreed Reads, with emphasis on Space 1889 And Beyond, of course, but eventually to serve as a portal to all things Space 1889-ish. Here's the link. I've also added it to the permanent links on this page. Have a look.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Guest Blog from L. Joseph Shosty

As promised, Abattoir in the Aether is live and here is a guest blog from its auther, L. Joseph Shosty which addresses, among other things, the contact points between role-playing and story-telling. Enjoy.

Comedian George Burns once gave an interview on The Arsenio Hall Show whereby he outlined what he called being “at the table”.  Apparently, in the old days of vaudeville and later with radio and television (back when that was done live), the performers would hang out after a show, eat dinner, talk shop, tell jokes, and just generally relax.  Being at the table, he said, guys could be different than what you saw in public.  Some who were notoriously funny in front of an audience were serious, even morose, in private, while somebody you would never expect to be funny could be a laugh riot.  No subject was taboo, for to set limitations would destroy the spontaneity and force everyone to walk on eggshells lest they offend.  Inevitably, personalities would clash, and there were some (I’m looking at you, Groucho Marx) who had a pathological need to exhibit alpha male dominance over the others.  The friction of strong personalities butting up against one another was a small price to pay, however, for the exuberance shown by friends while at the table, and you could tell as Burns recounted his stories that he had a strong affection for those with whom he’d once shared company.

 I know the feeling.  I’ve been at the table for thirty years, now, only my people aren’t shobiz types.  They’re computer programmers, college professors, retail wage slaves, military personnel, and the like.  We tell jokes, just like the old guys did, and no subject is off limits once we’re seated and the words start to fly.  Our table is a little different, though.  It’s filled with rule books, miniatures, and dice.  Junk food was once piled so high on my table that you could barely see another face, but as we start that free fall toward forty, Funyuns and Mountain Dew are being replaced by rice cakes, bran muffins, and bottled water.  One night a week we gather to engage in cooperative storytelling.  As perennial game master I tell outlandish stories, and my friends play heroes (or sometimes villains) in my dramas.  I’ve been doing this so long now, I can’t recall a time when I wasn’t surrounded by the trappings of the imagination.

And we have our frictions, too.  Friendships have dissolved at the table.  A once-close friend and I spent the better part of seven years not talking to one another, only to make amends at the wedding of a mutual friend and fellow gamer.  We have our rulesmongers and our rules lawyers (what table doesn’t?), and we have people who want to roleplay constantly at odds with the dice-hungry hack ‘n slashers.  But that doesn’t stop us from getting together, week after week, rain or shine,

You can also learn a lot about yourself at the table.  For instance, I learned that I wanted to be a professional storyteller from running campaigns.  I’ve played a little bit of everything, from Dungeons & Dragons (where I got my start) to Warhammer Fantasy, Rolemaster, Star Frontiers, Star Wars d6, Boot Hill, Top Secret, GURPS, Shadowrun, and Call of Cthulu, which probably accounts for my eclectic tastes as a writer.  As a person who came to storytelling through an unconventional route, I didn’t learn my craft by reading the works of others and stealing from them.  I came to reading a little later than playing RPGs, believe it or not.  It was in stocking a dungeon that I learned how to plot.  In the same way, I learned the importance of pacing, of balancing risk versus reward, action, tone, symbols, world-building, and character.  It also taught me a great deal about thinking on my feet.  My group is known for trying to derail my narratives, and so I have to stay sharp.  And as long as we’re talking about my friends, dealing with them also taught me about having fans and learning to take their feedback in a constructive manner.  There’s no one in this world quite like your friends for telling you when a story sucks, but the important thing is to not take it personally.  Long before I ever received my first rejection letter as a writer, I was hearing all sorts of criticism from my usual gang of idiots.

It wasn’t until I was thirteen that I realized I wanted to tell fantastic lies for a living.  From age six to twelve I wanted to be a game designer, the nuts and bolts guy.  I still do, to a certain degree, but in my teens I discovered TSR’s Forgotten Realms series and Lord of the Rings.  Everything changed after that.  Stuff got real, son, as kids say these days.  I stopped wanting to be Mr. Nuts and Bolts and wanted to be Mr. J. R. R. Tolkien or, more to the point, Mr. R. A. Salvatore.  I wanted to write tie-ins for Forgotten Realms and Dragonlance, or for anyone else who wanted to throw ridiculous amounts of cash at me to transform my campaigns into epic sword-and-sorcery trilogies.  My junk food dreams of writing for large sums of money eventually came to an end, replaced by the rice cakes of reality.  TSR, Inc. was sold to Wizards of the Coast, and, a little defeated, I decided to go out and become a “real” writer instead.

So, when the chance to do a tie-in for Frank Chadwick’s Space: 1889 fell into my lap a little under a year ago, you can believe this was a dream come true.  I’d read about Space: 1889 as a teenager.  I’d even seen the core rules at a second-hand shop.  I picked it up, scanned it, and put it back.  Something about it was just beyond my reach of understanding.  I’ve heard it said recently that Space: 1889 was more for grownups, and I think that’s right.  It’s hard for a kid who was brought up on slaughtering orcs and making deals with dragons to get his head around Victorians discovering interplanetary travel roughly eighty years before we put a man on the Moon.  I’d always been intrigued by the concept, however, and I never forgot it. 

Later, in college, I developed a love of Victorian fiction, specifically the scientific romances.  For some reason, I never made the connection between the game and the stories I was reading, but when the opportunity to write in the Space: 1889 universe came about, I realized I was suited to the task.  I’m a little older now, and slaughtering orcs is no longer my forte.  The story is the thing, now, not so much the bloodshed and violence.  Space: 1889 is more story-oriented than most RPGs, and it better suited my sensibilities.  Yet, when I started to outline the story, all of my instincts as a game master and player came rushing back. 

I built my story much like I would build a campaign.  I drew a map of the heliograph station on graph paper, put numbers in each of the rooms, and I stocked it just like a dungeon.  I wrote descriptions of each room, its contents, and what encounters might occur there.  Using the core rules, I created a cast of characters with stats and skills to use as a reference for how they would interact and deal with their problems.  I even rolled dice in some situations.  Chance has always been a big part of how my narratives turn out, a holdover from the days when dice ruled everything, and I was surprised at the directions my story took as a result.  The outline I sent to Andy Frankham changed dramatically once I began telling my story.  The result was Abattoir in the Aether, which I hope those of you reading this will purchase, once it’s released.

I’ve been sitting here for several days now, trying to figure out how to end this love letter to good friends and gaming.  My editors are champing at the bit for this piece, but I’m not ready for them to see, just yet.  I’ve never been good at talking about myself, and every word of this has been difficult to commit to paper.  I suppose if there’s anything I hope you, the readers (and, hopefully, gamers) take from this, it’s that there’s one of us out there, one of those guys who grew up at the table with bad jokes and Crown Royal sacks full of dice, trying his best to take some of that magic we make every week and transform it into something others can appreciate.  In a perfect world, every game master would be a professional writer as well, getting paid for his hard work that usually goes unnoticed or unappreciated, except by those who sit at his table.  That’s not the case, however, and I’m careful to appreciate the chance I’ve been given.  I hope I make you proud.  Furthermore, I hope people buy my book, so I’m given the opportunity to come back and do it again.  I’ll do it for as long as I have an audience, but if it comes to pass that I never get to do another tie-in again, I’m cool with that, too.  It’s been a hell of a ride. 

Good gaming to all of you.

-- L. Joseph Shosty.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

"Abattoir in the Aether" Live Tomorrow!

L. Joseph Shosty's "Abattoir in the Aether" goes live tomorrow at Untreed Reads and world-wide. I'm sure I'll have an exerpt for you soon to whet your appetites. I also have a guest blog from the author about how he came to Space: 1889 and writing, and I think you'll find it a good read. I'll post that tomorrow when the book officially launches.

In the mean time, Untreed Reads' December bestsellers were announced a couple days ago and we have two Space: 1889 and Beyond entries in the top ten: Andy Frankham-Allen's "Journey to the Heart of Luna" at number seven and K. G. McAbee's "Vandals on Vens" at number ten. Congratulations, folks!

No new release for the series in December, unfortunately, due to the holiday crunch, but we have Louis Shosty's book coming out now and that means "A Prince of Mars" is next. It's in final proof-reading, so my guess is early February. I have finished my rewrites on J. T. Wilson's "Dark Side of Luna," the book-length finale to the first season, and it will go to proofing soon, so hopefully it will follow close on the heels of "A Prince of Mars."

For all of you who have read the series, take some time if you would, go on, and review the books you've read. I'm not trying to game the system here -- give the books an honest review. When my own "Prince of Mars" comes out, give it an honest review. If you don't like it, review it anyway. (Just use a pseudonym so I can't send my sinister minions after you.)

I hope everyone had a great holiday season and is ready to face 2012 recharged and anxious to change the world for the better, even if it is one honest act, or one honest piece of writing, at a time.