Archive for the ‘D&D’ Tag

New Year Reflections

The start of the year is a time to reflect on what’s past, on where you find yourself at the present, and where you want to be going in the future.

We are now a couple of weeks into 2016 and I find myself, on the whole, to be in a pretty good place. I have several publications under my belt including three novels and another coming soon (SUFFER THE CHILDREN, my first novel, due for re-release from MuseItUp Publishing later this year). I’ve got two more novels in progress, and ideas for a few more. The day job is going well, and I’ve seen significant improvements in my health since taking the decision to drop twenty pounds in 2015.

However, my life is also pretty packed. The day job pays well but works me hard, and I spend not only eight hours a day five days a week there, but three hours a day commuting to and from London. I have my bass guitar lesson once a week and am doing regular open mic gigs with Hubby. I am trying to develop a regular exercise routine, we play Dungeons and Dragons twice a month, I run the T Party writers’ group which meets once a month, and this is before we start talking about fitting in the writing, the promotion, the conventions, and holidays.

Don’t get me wrong – this is not a whine. I am where I am in my life because I chose to be there, and I do not regret anything. However, there is always room for improvement, and the start of the year seems to be a good time to look at what I  can do better.

First of all, this blog has been neglected for the last couple of years, and I am going to endeavour to change that this year. Monday will still be the guest blog feature Monday’s Friends, as it has been for some years now. Wednesdays will be a writing-related post, cross-posted on the WriteClub blog. I hope to pick up the Ten Commandments of Writing feature, which rather tailed off halfway through last year. Friday Fears will feature with more regularity, and I would welcome contributions of two-sentence horror stories from anyone who feels inclined to send me one – credited, of course.

In addition, I’d like to feature other posts on the blog, about more general subjects. I can’t promise this will be weekly – it’s more likely to be once or twice a month. But when I started the blog, I was talking about commuting and London and weather and travelling and all the things that I deal with in my everyday life. And because I don’t want to be the kind of writer that only comes online to say ‘buy my book’, I’d like to get back to this again.

So, that’s one resolution: more regular blog posts. A second, more personal one, relates to the aforementioned weight loss. This was something that I didn’t really discuss on the blog, but those who follow me on Twitter will be aware of it, since I was Tweeting about my weekly weigh-ins.

This was something that came about when I went on a short holiday to France in June and couldn’t get the zip of my favourite summer dress done up. Coming at a time when I’d lost several family members and friends to cancer within a fairly short period, I was more mindful of needing to look after my health and decided the time had come to get a bit healthier. The weight loss was all about trying to shed bad habits, as well as a few pounds. I hate the gym, I hate vegetables and I love all things sweet and sugary. But sometimes you have to do things that are good for you, whether you want to or not. I aimed to get back to ten and a half stone (that’s 147 lbs for the Americans amongst you), which is what I was when I last lost weight, in 2009. The intervening years had apparently seen a gain of over twenty pounds, which I wanted to lose again. I managed to hit my goal just before Christmas, but then came all the eating and drinking and not moving from the couch for two weeks that accompanied the holiday season, and I’m now a few pounds above that goal again.

However, I resolved at the beginning of this year to try and go back to the good habits I’d adopted at the end of last year: regular exercise, more fruit & veg, fewer sugary treats, fewer takeaways, less red meat. I’ve ridden this whole weight-loss roundabout before. The weight comes off, I go back to eating what I like to eat, it comes back on again. This year, I want to try and keep the weight off – especially since Hubby bought me several new dresses in my new smaller size for Christmas, and I want to be able to keep on wearing them.

It can be quite difficult as a writer to stay fit, since writing generally involves sitting on a chair for hours at a time, moving only to get more tea and another couple of biscuits (favourite food of The Muse, apparently). And I am inherently quite lazy. I have no trouble getting up early to write, especially when my early morning writing sessions involve a yummy breakfast muffin at the coffee shop I set up in, but I am much less inclined to get up early to go for an early-morning swim.

There, then, is Resolution Number 2. And then there are the writing resolutions, which I discussed in the December round-up post. I have two novels to finish. I have to crack on with them.

There’s an additional resolution that comes in to help me with all the others, and that’s to be more organised. I’ve got a rather anally retentive personality anyway, and I love lists. Lists are the key to staying organised. I have to do lists for every week, involving both writing and non-writing related goals, and they get dutifully ticked off as I complete the tasks. Finding time to write, or to exercise, equally involves noting appointments in my diary and making sure I turn up when I say I will – even if not doing so lets down no one else but myself.

It’s always dangerous to declare one’s intentions in a public forum, since you have a lot of people to answer to if you fail to fulfil them. But it also provides a good motivation to sticking to your resolutions.

Hence, I start the year full of good intentions. I guess we need to come back here at the end of the year and see how well – or otherwise – I’ve managed to do!

Whatever you wish for this year, I hope 2016 delivers.

Cover Reveal: The Whispering Death

FINAL COVER

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

It’s time to unveil the cover for my forthcoming horror novel THE WHISPERING DEATH!

This one is being released by British horror publisher Kensington Gore in the Autumn. The e-book version may, in fact, be available in a few weeks. The print version will follow in a couple of months. I am hoping to be able to launch it at FantasyCon in Nottingham in October but I am awaiting confirmation on that.

This is the scariest novel I have written in a while, and it’s not for the faint-hearted as it has rather a lot of gruesome scenes. It also has a lot of references to LARP, to D&D, to Resident Evil and is an homage to geekiness in general. Oh, and it has zombies, too.

I am very excited about the release of this book. For those of you in the UK and not going to FantasyCon, I’m endeavouring to arrange another launch, in the South of England, to offer another opportunity to attend. As always, watch this space for further info.

In the meantime, here’s a teaser in the form of a blurb for the novel.

Blurb for THE WHISPERING DEATH

Death comes to us all; life is the name of the game and everyone has a role to play.

When a group of live action role-players perform a ritual as part of a game, they unwittingly unleash an ancient evil that tears their world apart. The reanimated corpse of a long-dead magic user, corrupted by powerful dark magic, offers a promise of unlimited power, but at a terrible price. Having helped open this Pandora’s box, Mark and Elizabeth must race against time to close it again – before it’s too late.

THE WHISPERING DEATH Finds a Home

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

I am pleased to be able to announce that my new horror novel, THE WHISPERING DEATH, has sold to British small press horror publisher Kensington Gore. There’s an exciting announcement about it over on their website.

THE WHISPERING DEATH is about a group of live action role-players who unwittingly release an ancient evil loose upon the world during a game. I am particularly fond of this novel because it is effectively about a group of geeks, and I was able to incorporate all the geeky things I love into the novel. LRP. Dungeons & Dragons. Video games. Zombie films. And it’s got a kick-ass heroine who’s also a geek girl. I had such a good time writing about her.

And it’s a novel that at one point I lost faith in. It had gone through several rewrites when I first started subbing it, last year. After getting fairly consistent feedback along with the rejections I decided it needed rewriting. But the rewrite took it to a place where the ending I wanted wasn’t going to work and I got quite depressed about it.

But it just goes to show you should never give up. Have faith and keep collecting those rejections. Eventually, acceptance will come. And sometimes you have to believe in your own writing, even when it seems no one else does.

THE WHISPERING DEATH is scheduled for release later this year, which means I am expecting edits to come my way very soon. And this one will be out in paperback as well as electronic format. Yay!

On A Roll

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

With two finished novels out on sub, it was time to begin in earnest a new project.

I’ve mentioned in passing a collaboration with Hubby. Who, it has to be said, is not a writer. However, after 30 years of running Dungeons & Dragons games, he’s become very good at plotting – especially with our group, who frequently decide to go off and do something that’s not actually in the module, which means he often has to do some spontaneous plotting to keep the game going.

The WIP is a crime thriller set in the late 1960s, and is about a young woman with aspirations to be a rock musician. The novel takes her from California and the Monterey pop festival in 1967 to the emerging and influential music scene in London. On the way she gets mixed up with gangland London, in a search for a friend who’s gone missing.

This project is in its early stages.  Hubby and I have been working together on the plot outline, and I’ve been doing the writing thus far. Though I am relying on his expertise on references to bands and songs of the late 60s, and what make of guitar bands of the time would be playing, as he knows a lot more about this than I do.

Thus far I’ve been struggling with the first draft. The first 20,000 words took months to write, and I was struggling to find the voice of the main character.

But suddenly, I’ve found the story and the character, and the novel has become much easier to write.  In the last two weeks I have written as many words as I did in September and October combined.

The project is in its early stages, and I am reluctant to say too much about it as anything can happen between now and the end of the book. But thus far it’s going well. I am on a roll.

Here’s hoping it continues.

New Feline Friends

This is a post all about our new kittens.  Just to forewarn you.  Just in case you don’t like cats, or something.

When I blogged about putting my old cat Misha to sleep a few weeks ago, I’d already decided to get new cats.  The house just felt too empty without them.

We took our other cats from kittenhood to old age, and we decided we’d like to do the same to some more cats. There really needed to be two, to keep each other company, since we are generally out at work all day.

We went through the Cats Protection League in the end.  As it happened, they had plenty of kittens looking for homes – as it was June, it was possibly the right time of year.  They dutifully sent someone round to check our home was suitable for cats.  No problems there, since we have plenty of space and a good size garden.  And thus we were sent to a CPL ‘foster mum’ who had kittens needing homes.  The lady we saw was lovely, but was one of these people who seem to be better with cats than with people.  The place was absolutely full of cats.  About a dozen of them were hers – I gathered that she would adopt any cat who came through her care who did not find a new home.  There were also lots of kittens, in cages.  The two that immediately charmed us were a pair of black and white sisters, who were 12 weeks old.  They seemed very laid back when we picked them up and stroked them, and seemed very friendly.  We were told that they were the last two of a litter that had been abandoned at the police station.

They were extremely nervous when we brought them home, and spent two days hiding behind Hubby’s guitar cases before they would come out.  But eventually they got a bit braver, and started to explore their new home.

Cassie (L) and Alia (R)

Cassie (L) and Alia (R)

They are both black, with white back paws and white patches on their chest.  We have named them Alia and Cassie.  Alia has a bigger white patch on her chest, and is a bigger kitten, though I imagine this situation will not remain as they get older, as Cassie is greedier and is now almost as big as her sister.

We’ve had them about a month now, and they are four months old.  They are very familiar with the house, and with us, and they are into everything.  They chase each other around the house, climb up anything that’s static and chase anything that moves.  They are particularly fond of chasing shoe laces – normally when you are trying to do them up.  My last cats were old when they died, and spent most of their time sleeping.  I had forgotten how active kittens can be.  You have to be careful where you step, as they have this habit of following directly behind you, and you have to be careful what you leave lying around, as they’ll either play with it or try to eat it.

They were rather timid when we first got them, but they have now got to be very friendly.  They run and greet me when I come in from work, wanting strokes and cuddles.  When other people visit the house they remark on how friendly the kittens are – they now seem very comfortable with visitors, and have worked out that if they come over looking all adorable, they’ll get some attention.

The Cats Protection League are quite insistent that all kittens get neutered at the appropriate age, and that cats are not let out until they have been neuteured, to prevent unwanted kittens.  I have no issue with this policy, and I have every intention of getting them neutered.  But that can’t happen until they are five months old, and they are already trying very hard to get out.  We have to be careful not to leave either the back or the front door open, as if they notice it they will make a run for it.  The UK has been sweltering in a heatwave over the last three weeks.  Not being able to open the back door to let some breeze in has been a tad inconvenient.

We have instead been opening the windows, but now we have to be careful of that too, as Cassie has already got out through one of the upstairs ones.  The window is right above the front porch.  It seems she made her escape from the window to the porch, and then the porch to the ground.  I spent ages hunting high and low before ascertaining she wasn’t in the house.  I found her eventually under the car, looking rather terrified.  It seems this kitten wanted to explore the world, and when she got there she decided that the world was big and scary.   I had trouble persuading her to come out from under the car.  In the end I had to entice her out with a plate of tuna, so I could grab her and bring her back inside (they are both very fond of all kinds of fish, we’ve worked out).  She seemed no worse for wear for her little adventure, but I’m not sure she’s learned not to jump out of windows.  Just in case, I’m now endeavouring to make sure they are open just a tiny crack, and not leave a space big enough for a kitten to squeeze through.

There will come a point when they will get too big to both squeeze onto this windowsill - currently a favourite spot.

There will come a point when they will get too big to both squeeze onto this windowsill – currently a favourite spot.

If anyone’s wondering about the names, we have a tradition of naming our cats after characters in current D&D games.  These two kittens happen to both be named after magic users, but since they are mostly black, like witch’s cats, that seems appropriate.  Alia is my character in one of the games we play.  The more discerning geek might have remembered that Alia is the name of Paul Atreides’ mad sister in Frank Herbert’s DUNE.  This is, of course, where I originally got the name from.

They do keep insisting on doing cute things.  So I have no doubt you will be hearing lots more about their adventures in future…

Smells Like Chaotic Neutral

I came across these RPG scented oils from ThinkGeek, and I think they are a great idea. Dab a little behind your ears and smell like your favourite rogue. This is supposed to bring a touch of extra realism to your tabletop games.  Somewhat idealised, perhaps. Having done live action role playing, I can say with authority that after a weekend of tramping through the woods with a band of sweaty adventurers, with kit that doesn’t get washed between games and shower facilities few and far between, most members of the party end up smelling the same, regardless of character class.

edda_rpg_class_scented_oilsI think this is a really cool idea, though. What does chaos smell like? According to this product, “a whirling mélange of multicolored musks with wasabi, rooibos, heliotrope, and mastic.” Not even sure what half those ingredients are, but it sounds impressive. I like the sound of the rogue scent: “Soft, well-worn black leather, hemp, and rosin”. My favourite D&D character is a rogue called Kaylia. I played her for years. She was chaotic neutral, and this does sound rather appropriate for her.

I like Think Geek’s comments on this product about what they delightfully refer to as “Nerd whiff”  never being completely eradicated “as there will always be that guy who rates his need for gaming above his need for a shower”.

I’ve been a tabletop roleplayer for nearly 30 years. Trust me, I’ve met this guy a few times…

WIP Update – March 2013

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

Time for an update on current Works in Progress.

I’ve got several things going on at the moment. The most progressed WIP is the horror novel. It’s been to beta readers, I’ve had feedback, and I have recently started work on Draft 4.

This novel, in summary, is about a group of live action roleplayers who unwittingly unleash a lich on the world during a game. Said lich wields powerful dark magic, and leaves death and destruction in its wake. And it sets about raising an army of zombies, as sort of a sub-plot. Anyway, on the whole the feedback was fairly positive. All my women beta readers love my main female character – she’s a crack shot with a shot gun, she’s ace with Resident Evil, she takes out many of the real-life zombies and she saves the boy.

There are some plot holes, and some characterisation issues, and these I am working to fix in the current draft. But I’m feeling pretty confident about this one. This one will be finished before the end of this year. In fact, I’m aiming to have it out on sub before 2014 dawns.

In the meantime, there’s a second project – a collaboration with Hubby. Now, he’s not a writer. But after more than 25 years of running D&D games, he’s pretty good at plotting. And he’s a musician. This new project is a crime thriller featuring a young female bass player, against the backdrop of the music scene in the late 1960s. We start her off at the Monterey Festival in 1967, and then bring her to London. This project is at an early stage. We’ve been doing a lot of the plotting together. And I have started doing some of the writing. But there’s a long way to go yet, and since I’ve never collaborated with my life partner on a writing project before, it’s somewhat uncharted territory.

And what of Shara 2? Well, that one’s still languishing in a drawer. I got a bit discouraged after the crit session. Every time I get it out and review how much work there still is to do on it, I get depressed and put it away again. And DEATH SCENE has not exactly been flying off the cyber-shelves, so it’s not as if I have a long queue of fans impatiently waiting for the further adventures of Shara Summers.

Nevertheless, she has one or two fans. And I would rather like to get this one finished. So perhaps I’ll finish it for you. You know who you are.

This does make three WIPs on the go at once, however. And talking about them doesn’t make them any closer to being finished. It’s time to get back to the writing.

My Life in Books: The Sword of Shannara

In this series of blog posts, I have been talking about books that made some kind of impact in my life.  Terry Brooks’ SWORD OF SHANNARA made an impact, alright, but a very different impact to the other books I have been blogging about.

I mentioned that I got into science fiction after becoming obsessed with Star Wars.  In grade 10 I discovered Dungeons & Dragons, when I joined my high school’s D&D club.  I enjoyed the game, and thought perhaps I should read some fantasy, since it was this genre that inspired it.

The first fantasy book I picked up was this one.  And I thought it was a dirge.  Overstuffed with two-dimensional and boring characters and overlong descriptions of foliage, it was a world with a complete lack of strong female characters and it left me cold.  I didn’t finish it.  And that’s pretty unusual – to date, I can count the number of books I have abandoned halfway through on the fingers of one hand.

If I had started with something like LORD OF THE RINGS, would my perception of fantasy be different?  It’s possible.  I still connect fantasy fiction with overlong descriptions of foliage, plodding plots that take ages to get going and a mysogynistic society that has no real place for kick-ass women.  I am sure there are plenty of books out that that can disabuse me of these notions, but I never felt passionate enough about the genre to go seek them out. And for that, I’m still blaming Terry Brooks.

On the other hand, it might just be that fantasy will never be my genre and my life-long fondness for kick-ass women solving mysteries and stories about supernatural monsters eating children would have prevailed no matter what.

Bizarrely, I enjoy watching fantasy films. I’ve still never read LORD OF THE RINGS, but the Peter Jackson films rock. I particularly enjoyed the kick-ass women that were Arwen and Eowyn. I have been told that in the books, neither of them are quite so kick-ass.

And I still enjoy playing table-top D&D, where the world is interactive, the players control what’s going on, and in the games my husband runs (he’s still my favourite GM) there is generally a mystery to solve. And if I want to play a six-foot Amazonian female warrior who’s a demon with a quarterstaff and is, frankly, a one-woman killling machine, I can.

In fiction, I still prefer reading about kick-ass heroines with a mystery to solve. However, if someone can name a fantasy book that fulfils that criteria, I might be prepared to give it a try.

Geek Games

I started playing Dungeons & Dragons in the 1980s, right at the height of its popularity. There was a D&D club at my high school. We used to play on Mondays, after classes, in one of the science labs. I was 15. I developed a crush on the DM (that’s Dungeon Master, for the uninitiated – the person who runs the game), who was a classmate of mine. Sadly, beyond the fact that we played D&D together every week, he barely knew I existed, and my affection was entirely unrequited.

I first met my husband 22 years ago, also through playing D&D. He, too, was my DM. Clearly I have a thing for DMs. I think it’s all about the power. The DM has god-like power, controlling the game and having final say over what happens to the characters. If you’re staring down a dragon and you fail all your saving throws, the DM has control over whether your character lives or dies.

We still play D&D, and my husband is still the DM. About once a month, generally on a Sunday afternoon, our dining room table becomes the games station, covered in coffee-stained character sheets, dice, lead figures, pencils, and snacks. Don’t forget the snacks. They are a vital part of table top role playing. The unhealthier, the better.

I have noticed that the vast majority of table top role players are my generation – those of us who grew up in the 70s and 80s when D&D was all the rage. The generations that have come after are more interested in the online role playing games than those that require dice, pencils and calculators. There’s also a trend amongst 13-year-boys nowadays for Warhammer, which seems to have come out of D&D, but is more about building an army big and powerful enough to smash your opponents, and less about strategy.

D&D Game In Progress

D&D is more than just combat. It’s also about strategy, decision making and role playing. And the role playing is a big part of its appeal. When you play a D&D character, you can become someone you’re not. It’s all about escapism. My current D&D character is a kick-ass warrior woman. She has incredible strength, she wears plate mail, specialises in the quarter staff and is a one-woman killing machine. She wades through the beasties smashing them to a pulp whilst barely breaking a sweat. The down side is, she really isn’t very bright. So when the group is discussing strategy, I sometimes have to remember to keep quiet. Sara might have this idea, but Hylla probably wouldn’t. Therefore I should stay in character and not vocalise it.

Playing a character that’s so far removed from me, though, is rather fun. And orc-bashing is a great stress reliever – almost as good as zombie slaying.

Archetypal Fears

(Cross-posted from the WriteClub blog)


What do you see when you look at this picture? Do you see cute toys? Or do these dolls give you the creeps?

I’ve always been very fond of dolls, to the surprise of my friends, as I am very un-girly in most other aspects. As a child, I had dozens of dolls. They all had names, and personality traits, and family backgrounds. Dolls, to me, have always been characters. I am still fascinated by dolls, and those in the picture above represent part of my collection.

However, a lot of people get creeped out by dolls. I think I understand why. They are a parody of humanity, with cold hard skin and unblinking eyes. They are lifeless objects that make a mockery of life. And they are an archetypal fear. Why else would they be the subject of so many horror stories?

My collection of dolls used to occupy shelves in the dining room (or ‘roleplaying’ room, more accurately, as we play D&D in there more often than we dine there). But some of our roleplaying friends do get creeped out by dolls, and they objected to spending hours at a time in the same room as the dolls.

Fortunately for me hubby is not in the least bothered by dolls, because they now live in the bedroom. Alongside the shelf with all my Star Wars action figures. Bizarre as it may be, this rather sums me up.

Dolls may not bother me, but there are other archetypal fears that do. But maybe that’s a topic for a future post.