Weekend Haul + Updates (Appendix N Book and Wargame Wednesdays)

I’d been getting better about my book buying, but being in the same town as one of the best flea market book-stores in the state over the weekend meant another stack of paperbacks to add to my To-Read pile.  I’m being a bit more judicious about what I grab, simply because I have so much already, but I did not want to pass some of these up:  Sword of Rhiannon (Brackett), Hiero’s Journey (Lanier), Berserker (Saberhagen), a crumbly Incompleat Enchanter (deCamp) that was thrown in for free on account of being crumbly, as well as a book each by Norman Spinrad and Philip Jose Farmer (I don’t remember the titles offhand).  I passed up a pretty sweet looking Gardner F. Fox book in part because I’ve already got a huge stack of him in unread magazines (including the next story I have to read in the Fall 1945 Planet Stories!), but I may pick it up some other time if I make more headway in my stacks.

One guy at one of the place who has all sorts of cool toys and magazines and stuff (who I got some Astounding from before) continued to posture about how rare and expensive and hard to find Planet Stories was when I asked if he’d seen them (“Oh, some of them go for over a hundred bucks!” “most of the ones I’ve found, I’ve got for $8-$12, and I’ve got about a dozen of them” “Oh, well they must not’a known what they had!”), so if I’m going to keep collecting them, I’m probably going to need to turn to eBay (where they still mostly cost around $8-$12).  Then again, I really need to read all (or some) of what I have first.  These magazines have waited 70 years for me, they can wait until I’ve at least finished half of the stack I’ve got.

I’m about halfway through Sceptre of Morgulan, and I have so many thoughts about it, especially in light of Matthew Ryan’s guest post in which he cites Tolkien as one of his biggest influences.  His own tale is very un-Tolkienien, and while the D&D influence is obvious, the output is much more in line with pre-Shannara fantasy than it is with the sort of ‘pink-slime’ fantasy that normally comes out of D&D + Tolkien.  I am not kidding when I say it’s like “vampire-hunting in Lankhmar”.  Can the process be reversed?  Can Appendix N-like stories be extracted from D&D + Tolkien by someone who has paid careful enough attention to the implicit setting and mechanical minutia of demonology even without the benefit of directly having been influenced by those things literary forebears?  Am I giving Ryan too much or too little credit?  I don’t know, but his books are amazing and a breath of fresh air!

Jeffro’s at one of those stages of “done” with his Appendix N book that is somewhere between “completed” and “finished”, but when it is done done, you can bet I’ll be buying copies for my friends and try to bully local book clubs into reading it.  I’m hoping he will go for multiple formats, including a coffee-table edition with Doug Kovacs or Erol Otis dust jacket for myself and a student’s paperback edition I can snap up a few of for everyone else.

I was going to announce this earlier, but Wednesday came and went and a few hiccups resulted in delays, but everything’s good now.  I’ll be writing an occasional piece at Castalia House for Wargame Wednesdays.  I will not be moving my entire posting series over there, since there is a rotating weekly group of writers, but generally speaking, I’ll be featuring the first of whatever series I’m covering over there and the rest over here.  So, uh.  Avalon Hill’s Bull Run pt. 1 is up!  Part two will go up here tomorrow or Wednesday.

The Sceptre of Morgulan Out (Sometime) Today!

I’ll be hitting refresh on this Lulu page today until a purchase link for Sceptre of Morgulan goes live.*  I’ve been taking a brief break from fantasy & science fiction to read John D Billing’s Hard Tack and Coffee: the Unwritten Story of Army Life in preparation for Avalon Hill’s Bull Run, but I plan to jump back into the fray soon!

Now that I don’t have a backlog of magazine submissions to focus on, I’ll be doing Short Reviews again.  I’ve started on a 1945 issue of Planet Stories and just about finished with the opening “Novel”, the Juggernaut of Space.  But once Sceptre of Morgulan arrives, I’ll probably drop everything to read that.  I need to know how the roguish bounty hunters in the employ of the Drisdak mages guild are going to stop the black magic girl who’s building a death cult amidst the sundered thieves guild with the help of an enthralled vampire who’d once been general to the dark lord said black magic girl worships.  ::stops to catch breath::

Guest post by Matt D. Ryan tomorrow.

*The digital version is already out on smashwords and all the usual places.


Fortress Europa Wrap-up & Minor Updates

The final nail in the coffin was hammered on the September IV turn.  I managed to make one last heroic strike and was even able to take out SHAEF, but without enough troops to form a line, my few strong piles would get surrounded by Allied troops and would so be unable to escape (units retreating through enemy ZOC are immediately eliminated).

Anti-climactic, I know.  But we will be starting Avalon Hill’s Bull Run this week, which we are both pretty stoked about.  After bagging Fortress Europa, we set up the Order of Battle Cards, were both impressed and perplexed by the granularity of the forces, attempted to extrapolate the system based on the pieces and were delighted as we figured out that some of our guesses were correct.  On the surface, it looks like a far more complicated game than it probably actually is.  I’ll go into that in the first post of our run on that game.

So, time for a few updates.  First, the zine:

I may have found an artist for the first issue of Cirsova.  Once contracts are signed and everything is official, I can make the official announcement.  I’m pretty excited about it.  This week, I’ll be doing a bit more work on adspace; I’ve figured out how much adspace I have, now I just need to get some exact print dimensions so I can provide those specs to potential advertisers.

Now that I may have an artist, I have figured up my costs for this first issue, crunched numbers and have something in the way of rewards tiers planned out.  All rewards will be some combination of “investing” for one copy or many and buying an ad or not buying an ad.  I’m going to try not to harp on this too much, so I don’t burn people out before I get a chance to actually launch the kickstarter, so my next updates prior to launch will simply be to announce the artist, show off the art once it’s done, and to promote the kickstarter.  I’ll include details on those things here, naturally.

Second, Drasmyr Week:

It’s not quite going to be a full-blown Drasmyr week like I did when The Children of Lubrochius came out, but I will have the author Matthew D. Ryan here on Wednesday talking about Tolkien.  Hardback for Sceptre of Morgulan comes out on Lulu tomorrow and you can bet I’ll be ordering it!

Now, the AlisonScam:

I wanted to try to say something about the whole Alison Prime/Steve Polk massive troll, but I can’t really put together anything that doesn’t sound like I’m saying ‘this person is being pilloried and that’s probably a good thing’.  For those who don’t know, Alison Prime was a self-described boob obsessed lesbian gamer girl who was also a cancer survivor and survivor of domestic abuse who was loudly pro-gamergate (though from what I’ve heard, she would mostly derail conversations by bringing up boobs); this person turned out to be a sock-puppet account of some dude named Steve who used pics from a (supposedly dead) friend and other various similar looking women to create a composite fake gamer girl.  Steve’s house burned down and got outed when people were raising money for “Alison Prime” whose house burned down.

I was only vaguely aware of Alison Prime, because I mostly only paid attention to a small handful of streamers whom I had time for (Sargon, Vee, Queeny before she left, Sox and the Honey Badgers.)  Most GG drama is pretty bad for GG, but I don’t know if it will be bad in the long run that everyone in all corners of GG can be united in being pissed off that someone lied about being a cancer and abuse survivor for attention. It also shines a bit of an uncomfortable light on how the internet affects our empathy: many people seemed to love and genuinely care about this weird and kooky person who turned out to never actually exist.  To find out that someone you cared about was not only lying to you but didn’t actually exist must be pretty gutwrenching, and I feel pretty bad for the folks who’ve been affected by it.

The Sceptre of Morgulan: New Drasmyr Book Pre-Order

As you guys may know, I’m a pretty big fan of Matthew D Ryan’s Drasmyr books. In fact, it’s my embarrassing shame to admit that he’s probably the ONLY contemporary writer whose stuff I’m actively following. I need to get better about that, but when I’ve got a mountain of 40s and 50s pulp mags and 60s & 70s mass-market pocket paperbacks to read, it’s hard drop that and look at something new instead. So you know I think it’s a big deal if I’m going to squeeze something from 2015 in between the Leiber, Vance, Brackett, Swann and Offutt that I still need to get through.

Pre-orders for the ebook of The Sceptre of Morgulan are available now through Smashwords. I don’t read eBooks, but I’ll feel just as good about plopping down $20-something for the hardback as I was for Children of Lubrochius. If you do read eBooks, you should have no problem dropping $1.99 on this.  The eBook of Drasmyr is still free, but I STRONGLY recommend you buy the hardback copy.

If you’re a gamer, like horror campaigns and Fritz Leiber-style fantasy settings, the Drasmyr books are worth checking out.  A little over a year ago, I had Ryan here to answer some questions at Cirsova in conjunction with the release of the previous book in the series.  With any luck, we can get him back to talk some more about gaming and fantasy!

(Disclosure: I won a free copy of Drasmyr.  I bought two copies of Children of Lubrochius because I screwed up my address information on Lulu; I do not regret paying for that book twice.)

Random News, MYFAROG, and New Drasmyr!

Between the nightmarish last week and a half I’ve had, I haven’t got nearly as much reading done as I would’ve liked.  Nor have I had much new gaming insights, because I’ve mostly been vegging out on Morrowind and Age of Empires 2.  But that’s not to say that there isn’t some cool news.

First of all, we’re getting some more details on the new Basic edition of MYFAROG:

Yeah, the new edition looks nice, and hopefully will cost less to ship overseas.  I’m also glad to know that I’m not alone in some of the issues I experienced with 1e and those look like they’ve been addressed.  The real question is if once I get a copy of Basic if I’ll be able to use it to run this.  If that doesn’t work, a new sample adventure has been made available here for free download.

Matthew D. Ryan is looking for reviewers for the next book in his Drasmyr series.  Which means that pretty soon there’ll be new Drasmyr!  As tempting as it is, I’m just so bad about reading long-form anything in ebook format that I don’t think I’d be the best person to volunteer my services for this.  I’m content to actually shell out for the hardback for this. But maybe when it’s closer to release, I can get Ryan back to talk more about his series or do a guest post.

Cirsova got a nod from Dyvers’ Best Reads of the Week, which is always an awesome honor.

Mike Monaco has some awesome cave pictures.

At the Feet of Neptune’s Queen is finally almost done; thanks to all of my beta readers, all of whom have been a tremendous help.  I’ve made a list of a few likely candidates for submission.  Plans for launching my own zine will be on hold until I can resolve three particular issues in my life, at least one of them involving a car payment/accident settlement, but that won’t stop me from writing.  I’m working on another piece as decompression more than anything, which may or may not get a short epub treatment if I finish it.  Once I get a few more Planet Stories under my belt, I’ll consider writing more Abraham Strongjohn stuff.

Battlefields and Broadswords?  It’s still sitting about 1/3 of the way done.  Did rules for cannon fire really stump me so bad that it derailed the entire project?  No, but I did get distracted by a million things.  I keep telling myself that I’m going to crack open BattleSystem and see if it has something I can use in place of painted dowel rods, but I guess I just haven’t been in game designer mode lately.  I feel like maybe it’s one or the other, fiction or game design.

Alfheim non-update, current and future reading

Alfheim was postponed this week, due to the absence of two players. My guess is despite the lousy weather, wrist-band night at the state fair may have taken priority.

So, a handful of us got together and threw down at some Wii U Smash Bros and Mario Kart. I miss gamecube controllers. The movements on the Wii control stick was kind of, well… sticky? I refuse to believe that I was just that rusty! As for Mario Kart, I’ve always sucked on tracks where I can fall off the edge, and I always do, without fail. Goblin/halfling/ranger’s girlfriend wiped the floor with fighter and me using Dry Bones.  I managed to eke out a close second place overall in one of the piddly cups, but she took 1st every other cup we ran.

Anyway, I was given a chance to ask my players about my game in a slightly more casual setting, as we were doing other things. I was happy to find that most of the players seem to be really enjoying it; one seemed a bit dismayed that I was considering wrapping up soon (“we just really were getting into the swing of things, the meat!”), and my player for whom this is his first table-top experience ever told me privately that he has been absolutely loving the game, and his friend who invited him to our group has confirmed that he has been digging it and talking about it regularly. So that has definitely helped with my ‘DM fatigue’. What it doesn’t change, though, is that I want to play as a player in someone else’s game and that my situation makes it next to impossible to game multiple nights a week. Maybe I can change that situation, but it’ll be kind of painful. We’ll see.

One thing I may have overestimated was how quickly the party would level up. I want my group to be around level 5-6 by the time I decide for the scheduled story climax to occur, but that will involve clearing out at least one more big dungeon before I run Deathcrypt of Khaldun (or Caelden, as it will be in this case) followed by a showdown with the vampiric elven king.

Speaking of Vampires, I’ve just about finished Children of Lubrochius. It’s a bit slower than Drasmyr, but it’s a slow burn into the bigger 4 book story, whereas Drasmyr could (sort of) stand alone. I’m calling it now that Gaelan is probably the reincarnate of Morgulan. Which has some interesting implications regarding Zarina the Black’s role in the great war 1000 years ago…

Until Sceptre of Morgulan comes out, I’ll probably be reading the several sequels to Clan of the Cavebear. Not sure what happened, but my town’s second-hand marked came to be flooded with Jean Auel books, and I managed to snag several of the hardcovers (with the dust jackets in tact, even!) while I was still mid-way through Clan.

Children of Lubrochius

So, with my own vampire campaign really ratcheting up, it’s been the perfect time to start reading the second Drasmyr book. I know, it’s Ashes of Ruins book 1, but I can’t help but think of it as Drasmyr 2.

I think I’m encountering some strangeness with it early on, as I’m not sure if the exposition is meant to allow it to stand on its own without having read Drasmyr. From what I’ve gathered, Drasmyr was originally meant to be a prequel to the Ashes of Ruins series, but it got finished and published first, making it a prelude instead. I’m not certain about the order in which some of the writing was done, so it might make sense for the early chapters of Children of Lubrochius to recap previous events a bit more thoroughly than if it were a straight-up sequel to Drasmyr. I guess it lets you jump into the story without having read Drasmyr, but I don’t know why you’d want to, especially considering how good it was by itself.

Right now Korina seems a bit more petty and junior league than she did in Drasmyr, but at the same time it makes sense given the reveal at the end about just how petty and small minded her evil plan had been (extra creepy, given the brutal lengths she went to accomplish it).

Anyway, I’m looking forward to the trio of bounty-hunters imminent dungeon crawl back in Drasmyr’s castle to hunt down the Sceptre of Morgulan and the showdown between whatever rival forces are looking for it. Given that it’s the first book in a trilogy and the second book is called “The Sceptre of Morgulan”, my guess is that the good guys aren’t going to find it first, or, if they do, the mages guild is not going to be prepared for what will happen when they find it. Or they find it and end up accidentally bringing it to Korina just like they ended up bringing her an ancient vampire thrall which she can barely control.

Maybe after I finish it, I can get Matt D. Ryan back here for another interview.

City at the Top of the World (Discounts!)

The Amazon ePub version of City at the Top of the World will be out tomorrow.  It’s $2.99, but free with Kindle Unlimited.

Also, you can order a shiny paperback copy from Lulu.  I’ll even throw in a Promo code for you: FWD15

It’s good for 15% off your entire order, so why not throw in the sequel to Drasmyr while you’re at it?  I just started reading it over the weekend, and it’s living up to the first one.

Drasmyr Week Concludes! (Part 3: Interview with Matthew D. Ryan Cont.)

We conclude our weeklong spotlight on Drasmyr with the second part of our interview with Author Matthew D. Ryan.

Cirsova – The world, history and setting in Drasmyr seem pretty developed, with the first book just scratching the surface. How much more of the world are we going to be seeing as the ‘From the Ashes of Ruin’ series unfolds?
Matthew D. Ryan – Most of the action of the series is going to remain focused in Drisdak and its immediate surroundings. At least for the first two books. Then there will be a lot of action in a kind of pocket dimension, and in the last book everyone is going to Hell. As for the world of Athron, it is fairly well developed; I have far more material than I’ll ever actually use because it was originally intended as a setting for a gaming campaign. I may write a few books that take place in other parts of the world once I’m done with From the Ashes of Ruin, but for now, staying around Drisdak will likely suffice.

C – This may be an author’s secret, but how far along do you have your stories planned in advance?

I only have a vague idea on how the series ends and I’m writing toward that end. The original draft of Drasmyr was written (almost 20 years ago now) stream of consciousness. For The Children of Lubrochius I plotted things out in advance for the whole book, then wrote accordingly, though I did give myself permission to remain flexible. I’m working on The Sceptre of Morgulan now and I’m using an outline for that as well.

C – You mention that part of your inspiration comes from years of AD&D; were there any published modules or specific homebrew campaigns that were particularly influential on your work as a writer and game designer?

R – That’s a really tough question. I think they all had some influence to a certain extent. If I had to pick out a single one, I ran a vampire campaign for some friends back when I was in college. It was a female vampire with powers more similar to Drasmyr than the powers listed in AD&D (it actually had to bite to drain; claws wouldn’t do it). But that was so long ago, I’m not really sure which came first, the campaign or Drasmyr.

C – After your experience releasing and promoting Drasmyr and The Children of Lubrochius, which came out this week, what is some advice you might like to give any aspiring fantasy authors?

R – Write as much as you can. And don’t give up. With the way the Internet is now, it’s easy to get feedback on your writing and even self-publish on Smashwords or wherever when you’re ready. But make sure you are ready before you self-publish. I’ve read a number of less-than-stellar books that I’ve downloaded. I would advise seeing if you could at least get one short story published on an ezine as a kind of measure of your writing ability before you start cranking out self-published novels. Then, let your muses sing.

C – Any final thoughts?

R – The plan for the series, From the Ashes of Ruin, is for one prequel, plus four additional books. Just figured I’d throw that out there. Final thoughts, well I hope you and your readers enjoy my books and become steady fans. And I want to thank you for doing this interview and giving me an opportunity to connect with your readers. I think that about sums it up.

Thanks again to Mr. Ryan for taking the time to talk with us about his book here at Cirsova.  You can follow him over at his own blog, A Toast to Dragons (it’s over on my link list), and check out his books at all of those great online sellers I listed monday.

That is maybe the Mages Guild or Lucian's castle.

I imagined Korina wearing less revealing clothing given the Guild's dress code. Don't let stock-art dissuade you, gentle reader!

Drasmyr Week Continues! (Part 2: An Interview with Matthew D. Ryan)

I’m very excited to have Matthew D. Ryan, the author of Drasmyr, with us at Cirsova today to answer some questions about Drasmyr and it’s sequel, The Children of Lubrochius, which is being released today.

Cirsova -The market is undeniably glutted with Vampire books, but there are very few  like yours.  Tell us a little about how Drasmyr is different from all of those.

Matthew D. Ryan – The vampire of old has evolved considerably since Bram Stoker first entertained us with Dracula. Nowadays, the vampires in many vampire stories serve as love interests for mortals. Gone is any connection to the diabolical or nefarious. Most modern day vampires are kind of like superhumans who have an odd quirk that they survive on human blood. Drasmyr is quite different; it takes us back to vampire of yesteryear: an evil, cold-blooded killer who cares little for his victims and foes. It is a gothic Dracula-esque vampire set in a Middle-Earth-like world. My vampire is thoroughly evil with few, if any, redeeming qualities. Although the reader may enjoy his personality as a kind of alluring evil, the reader is not supposed to root for the vampire. He is a compelling character that drives the story, but he is most definitely in the role of antagonist.

C -What was the original idea or concept that you wanted to explore or put forward with Drasmyr?

R – I wrote the original draft a couple years before vampires became the big thing that they are. I’ve always been interested in vampires, both in literature and in gaming. I’ve always enjoyed the challenge a creature so powerful yet capable of blending into a human population provided. I wanted to write a fantasy story that kept true to the powers of the vampire as delineated in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. As it turned out, I did tweak the vampire’s powers somewhat, but I used Dracula as a kind of a source book. So, I think the idea can best be summed up as Dracula in Middle-Earth, or perhaps, the Forgotten Realms.

C – What can you tell us about the city of Drisdak its environs?  Were there particular real world locations or architecture that provided inspiration for Drasmyr’s setting, particularly Lucian’s castle and the Mage’s Guild?

R – The city, the guild, and the castle are strictly the products of my own imagination. What inspiration there was came from many long hours spent playing AD&D. As such, it’s hard to pinpoint a particular gaming experience that influenced me the most. All gamers have, at one time or other, been sent on a dungeon crawl in an old abandoned castle and likewise have been hired by a mage’s guild at some point. So, Drisdak and its environs evolved from the gaming mush that is circulating within my brain.

C – Your characters have some pretty unusual names (Lucian and Korina are probably the most ‘normal’ sounding names in Drasmyr).  Can you tell us some about where the names for your characters come from?

R – Again, it is imagination stemming from many long years of AD&D experience. When you play those games long enough, you develop a certain feel for how a name in such a world should sound: Coragan, Galladrin, etc… They all seemed to flow and fit the story. Although I will relate that one minor character was renamed after a typo. The watch captain, Mathagarr, was originally named Mathagar. I mistyped it once and one of my beta-readers commented that that looked cooler with the extra ‘r.’ I agreed, so I changed it.

C – There’s a lot more here than meets the eye, especially for RPG fans looking for inspiration in the form of settings, NPCs and adventure hooks.  As the Ashes of Ruin setting gets more fleshed out, can we expect some maps and a more expanded glossary?

R – I would like to, but I’m not sure if I’ll get around to it. I might wind up putting the maps on my web-site instead of in one of the books, but that is a project for a later day. The maps are pretty much ready: They just have to be scanned in and uploaded. As for the glossary, I have a lot of information I could use (it was originally going to be an entire gaming setting, after all), but I’m just not sure what pieces of information are the most relevant. But I’ll keep it in mind. If inspiration should strike me at some time, perhaps I’ll set both things up. But as of yet, it’s still up in the air.

Matt will be back on Friday for the second part of our interview.  In the meantime, you can visit his site and check out the book blast he is doing today for the release of The Children of Lubrochius.

^^^^Out today!^^^^