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Monthly Archives: June 2009

I noticed that some authors post  “trailers” for their latest release (like movie trailers) on their websites consisting mostly of stock images done to music. Which makes me wonder about a few things:

  • Media Rights: If you’re using music, pictures or even video from other sources how much do their rights conflict with your own.
  • Effectiveness: Do people really buy books based on these?
  • Sources: Connected to media rights. I mean where do you get the music and pictures from anyway? Public domain or do you commission them, and at what cost?

I mean fans make their own trailers for movies, video games (from simple rip/edit jobs to full fledged machinima) and even create their own stories using game software, but can you extend that to books as well?

What do you think?

Are they worth it or just a waste of time?

Here is an example of World of Warcraft inspired machinima so you can see what I’m talking about:

(Oops! I posted the same video twice! Doh! Here is a different one.)

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I decided to switch dates (and titles) from Teaser Tuesday to Flash Fiction Fridays to reflect the fact that these shorts are not teasers in the traditional sense.  Besides this stories are based on copyrighted material, so they won’t see the light of day otherwise.  I hope you enjoy them:

A murder of crows circled over the ship as it made its way to port of Alhaster. They were a dark portent of what was to come, or so Jaymes thought. Nightmare visions of undead armies marching across the central Flanaess consumed his dreams. If everything the Archmage Tenser told him was true, and the evidence he presented was hard to refute, thousands of souls could fall to Kyuss worm ridden undead. How exactly could he stop all of this, he did not know but he would do his utmost.

As soon as the ship dropped anchor a man with a giant sword strapped to his back walked up the gangplank. “Ahoy Captain! Is Jaymes Feywind aboard?”

Jaymes look askance at the boarder. He fitted the description Tenser gave him of Kane but he had to be careful. The Bandit Kingdoms were not know for their hospitality. Jaymes removed his blasting rod from his belt ring and secreted it among the folds of his cloak. “Aye! And who you may be?” he shouted back.

“Good, Kane be mine name.” He turned to the crew “We leave immediately!” the newcomer hollered back.

“The Hell we will!” shouted Captain Bans. “This here is my ship and it comes and goes and I see fit. You better have a good reason other than a big mouth to order it around!”

Kane drew level with the Captain. He was a head taller than the ship’s master. “My Captain, I need your vessel for speedy travel.” He leaned into the Captain and in a carrying whisper added “And my coin speaks louder than my mouth.”

The two fell into negotiations while the rest of the deck crew watched with anticipation. After a few minutes Bans turned around and bellowed “Turn her about! We sail!” The crew set off to their tasks.

Kane stood in front of Jaymes and shook his hand. “So you’re an elf?”

Jaymes noticed Kane features and saw that the other was not exactly an elf, not that he cared either way. “That I am.”

“I see no sword or mace on you, unless you count that wooden stick your trying to hide in your robes as a weapon of some sort.” Kane laughed.

“A bit more useful than a sword, at least when it comes to spells” Jaymes replied with a impish grin.

“Really? A wizard then. I traveled with one of those once, that is until the fool decided to jump through a strange portal. Never knew what happened to him. A bit arrogant if you asked me.”

Which Jaymes did not, although he was not surprised by Kane’s words. Elven folk had a well earned reputation in the Flanaess for arrogance especially when it came to their half-elven brethren. “And what happened to the rest of your company?”

Kane looked down. “A misunderstanding. Stupid fools tried to have me kicked out of the ship they took. Mind you, I could have taken the lot with a swing of my sword. Besides that canoe was not fit to travel the waters deep. I doubt any of them made it ashore.”

“Hope this ship is made of sterner stuff” Jaymes replied.

But they would not be able to find out. On the second day of the voyage, storm clouds gathered on the horizon. Captain Bans stood his ground “I will not send my ship into that storm!” he yelled.

“I’ll double your payment” Kane said.

“And what will I do with the gold if fishes are devouring my rotting innards.  You want to go there, then you will have to swim.”

Jaymes thought about swimming an unknown distance through a ranging tempest. But failure was not an option. “Time to take the plunge.”

“Don’t worry wizard, if you drown, I’ll make sure to drag your carcass to shore and give you a proper burial” boasted Kane.

“Says the man wearing heavy armor plus has a oversize sword strapped to his back” Jaymes replied. “Captain, please take us as close as you dare, we will do the rest” Jaymes said to Bans.

“That’s crazy, that is! No one can survive that!” he said.

“That’s for us to worry about!” This time Kane he put his height advantage over Bans to good use.

“Very well. On your heads it is.”

——

All copyrights belong to their respective holders. D&D, the Greyhawk Campaign Setting and all related copyrights belong to Wizards of the Coast (WotC).

Another Tuesday, another story, (of sorts). I’m thinking of switching to Friday’s so I don’t crowd Amy’s stuff (please go check it out, it’s pretty good stuff). Maybe call it Flash Fiction Fridays. I don’t know, will see.

But now we rejoin our friend Jaymes somewhere in the Free City of Greyhawk, the Geml of the Flanaess:

—-

The Shady Dragon Inn was full, as usual, for this time of night. Pipe smoke, stale ale and nervous gossip roiled the air.  Strange happenings, strange even for the City of Thieves, had occurred in the past months. Rumors of kidnappings, attacks on trade caravans and Iuzian attempt to desecrate Rigby’s grave were just the tip of the iceberg.  The disappearance of two important people, Loris Raknian  and the chief priest of the Heirnonean order in Greyhawk merged with the raw nervous energy coming from the masses gathering around the temple of St. Cuthbert to mourn Rigby’s death.

This meant little to Jaymes, who found himself short on coin. Hopefully an old friend would come through with an good offer.

“A pence for your thoughts young man” said a man passing by Jaymes table.

“Your coin, your questions, although I really got nothing to say” quipped Jaymes as he looked up from his drink.

The other gave him a lopsided grin. Peralay sat down and ordered a round for both of them. “How about work then?”

“If you got something worth doing, speak.”

“Aren’t we a grouch this night?”

“No money and no Home will do that to you.”

“If you do this for me you could have both.” Jaymes stared back at his interlocutor and waited. “A friend of a friend is looking for men of skill. Evil is afoot.” Peralay’s tone betrayed no irony.

Jayme’s reply brimmed with it “Evil is always afoot in this world of ours. Got any particular person or thing in mind?”

“My friend has the specifics, but suffice it to say that what happened at Rigby’s funeral and Raknian’s disappearance are related, that much I know to be true. If you want further proof, you can stop by the hamlet of Diamond Lake on your way to meet our friend in Magepoint. Ask around and see what we are up against.”

“Work is fine, but you know what I really want” Jaymes said.

“Yes. Help us and we will do whatever we can to open the Ways for you.” He tossed a small pouch on the tabletop. It crashed with the sound of coins. Jaymes took it.

“That should cover your expenses. Time is of the essence.” With those words Peralay stood up and disappeared into the Inn’s noisy crowd.

—–

All copyrights belong to their respective holders. D&D, the Greyhawk Campaign Setting and all related copyrights belong to Wizards of the Coast (WotC).

Another Teaser Tuesday post. I’ll guess I will have to stop riding Amy’s coattails and create something original for a change, since I am not really teasing existing works but crafting new ones for this feature.

Anyway, this is part of another D&D character back story. I like making them, they are good practice and keep me writing. I hope you like them too.

Jaymes walked anxiously among the towering pines of the Welkwood. He could feel the change in the air. Something called to his blood, he knew what it was, Home. The Land and the Queen’s Fairy Mysteries were one and his blood ran with said power, infused with the ancient pacts of time immemorial. Once Elves ruled the pathways between worlds, not longer. That power had faded with the eons.

In most of his race that is.

An arrow cut through the air and landed at Jaymes feet snapping him from his revelry. A voice from above cried out “Brother, turn back. You are not welcomed here.” He heard the sadness in the voice that belonged to a man he once called brother, one Cirdan Tasardur. “Turn back Súrion.  The Ways are close to you my friend.”

Jaymes shouted back “By what right do you  deny me the Way home Cirdan?”

A tall figure, wearing gleaming maille, landed a few feet in front of him. Blue eyes look down at him from between wisps of obsidian hair. “By the same right that allows you to change your name and defy the will of our Queen. The Ways are closed.”

Jaymes pulled a scroll from his pouch. “I returned as instructed and I present to his Majesty my qualifications and heraldry. By the laws of the Land I demand access to the Ways so that I may return Home.”

Cirdan looked at his friend with tired, sad eyes “Your family has lost their position, your actions run contrary to the wishes of the Fey Court, you know that your request will be denied. Has the impatience of humanity infected your soul as well?”

“I ask. You deliver” Jaymes replied.

“Very well.” Cirdan called out to the members of his patrol “We will set up camp. Calmacil, takes this note and deliver it post haste. We will wait here for you.”

The younger elf looked puzzled by his leader instructions but obeyed. The other rangers set up camp. Tári, a golden hair lass approached Jaymes with an offer of food. “Thank you Tári, how are your parents?”

She blushed, as she always did in his presence since he first spoke to her in Master Amroth class. “Doing well. Father wishes to join  the pilgrims in their journey to the Isles.”

Taken aback Jaymes chewed on the strip of venison. “He will not take the Gate?”

“No.” Her voice lowered to a whisper “Divisions among the clerics are spreading. Something stirs in their divination. They are starting to question—“

“Tári! How about a song!” shouted another member of the patrol. Jaymes had also know Fëanor from childhood and apparently a century of life had not changed his loutish ways.

“Why should she bother, your ears can’t tell the difference between her dulcet tones and a boar’s grunts” Jaymes shouted back.

The others laughed. Cirdan smirked, casting a sidelong glance at Jaymes.

“His ears are not that bad, once he remembers to clean them” Tári added with a wide grin of her own.

Fëanor eyes gleamed with anger. He opened his mouth to speak but saw Jaymes hand rest casually over his dagger.

“I am sure the rest of us will certainly appreciate a song or two, if you do not mind Tári” Cirdan said.

“Here, here!” echoed the others.

“Very well! If you insist Captain.”

A pang of jealousy hit Jaymes in the gut. Was there something between Cirdan and Tári? Fëanor’s barbed smirk showed Jaymes that he had read his expression like a book.

Tári stood in front of the fire and began to sing:

There’s a coldness in the air
but i don’t care….

Travelling somewhere
could be anywhere
there’s a coldness in the air
but i don’t care
we drift deeper
life goes on
we drift deeper
into the sound

Travelling somewhere
could be anywhere
there’s a coldness in the air
yeah but i don’t care
we drift deeper into the song
life goes on
we drift deeper into the sound
feeling strong

so bring it on so bring it onnnn
we drift deeper into the song
life goes on
we drift deeper into the sound
feeling strong
so bring it on so bring it onnnn
we drift deeper……..

we drift deeper life goes on
we drift deeper drift deeper
we drift deeper into the song
life goes on
we drift deeper into the sound
feeling strong
so bring it on so bring it onnnn
we drift deeper into the song
life goes on
we drift deeper into the sound
feeling strong
so bring it on so bring it onnnn

Jaymes joined the clapping of the others as she finished. The night passed without further incident. On the morning of the third day the runner returned bearing two scroll cases. He saluted the Captain, spoke a few words in his ear and then handed the tubes . One bore the Royal Seal, the second the Súrion family seal. Jaymes opened the first. As Cirdan had predicted, his request to enter Celene had been denied, yet again. He tried to open the second but it he could not break the seal. An inscription on the rim of the lid read:

This will not open until the appointed time and place.

Jaymes recognized his father’s handwriting and the runes that covered the bronze tube spoke of powerful warding magic. He would have to wait for the appropriate time and place to open it, whatever that may be.

Cirdan approached him. He extended a hand “Good luck in your path Jaymes, I hope that the Ways are opened to you when you return. Until then we will wait.”

He shook the offered hand “Thank you old friend. Take care.”

He waved at the rest of the patrol as it took the trees. The last thing he saw over his shoulder was a swish of golden hair. He heard a distant, lilting tune that lifted his spirits as he made his way back to the lands of Men.

Here is the video for the song included above.

All rights belong to their respective holders. I do not own or claim rights over D&D, The World of Greyhawk campaign/game setting or associated material.

Years ago I thought up an epic saga, two thousand years in the future with vast star ship armadas, legions of mechanized soldiers and double dealing noble houses. I spent many an hour writing the back story, going so far as creating a “Encyclopedia Galactica”.

So where is this great story of mine?

In a drawer somewhere?

Perhaps a lost computer file?

I wish.

It remains all in my head. I wrote a paragraph at most only to annihilate it with the dreaded backspace button.  Yes, I fell victim to the bane of oh so many would be speculative fiction writers, world building disease.

Although, truth be told, it is not really a disease, per say, but an addiction. What really happens is that writer’s get addicted to the act of world (or universe) creation.  There is always something new to create; a race(s), country, time line, key characters, monsters, magic items, technology, etc.

I have three ways of breaking the cycle of addiction to this God-like power:

  1. Forget about world building and just write the story. The story’s universe will be come to life as you write.
  2. Mine what you already have.
  3. Look for work where world building skills are useful.

That is what I did for my second novel. True, I did cheat by placing it in a near-future setting and borrowing heavily from history (both real and mythological). Yet I had to create organizations, magic, demons and the like.

So I did a bit of world building, but only so much. I’m not a outline writer, instead what I do is I scribble a few notes to set my “universe” boundaries. I ask myself a few questions about the scope (planetary, star system, galaxy), technology (giant robots, magitech, steampunk) and characters. These form the outer edges of the canvas I will work with, as well as the basic palette of colors. As I write the story I take notes of the stuff that comes up, expand where needed (research, research and when in doubt research some more). That way I kept writing and ended up with a complete work that included a fair amount of back story.

The second strategy is to mine what you already have. As Howard Tayler suggest in the latest episode of Writing Excuses podcast, write a story about the people already in your outline.  Somebody had to create the fabulous Sword of Unbending Truth, defend the Pass of No Return or assault Garesh VI, right? You don’t have to write a whole novel around them, but a short story would do. It also shifts the focus from telling (world building) to showing (writing a story). At the very least you are creating a living framework for your universe, one that will hone your skills as a writer and may even be publishable in their own right. Not all 600 page books are made up of one story,  many are omnibuses/anthologies.

This brings me to my third point; you might not be a writer…of novels. Your talent may well lie in creating fertile fields for others to explore. You might still write in your universe, but that doesn’t mean your the only one that has to. You can share your idea with your writer’s group or get a job with a gaming company (paper/pencil or computer). They are always looking for the next “campaign setting” to serve as the basis for an existing or new franchise.

Just look at the many books already published in pre-existing franchises. Most of them are based on RPGs, comic books or other preexisting works. George Lucas created Star Wars, but dozens of writers have worked on the Expanded Universe. Same thing with D&D (all versions), World of Warcraft, Star Trek, and so on.  Just look at the Dragonlance series of books.

Whatever approach you decide to take the key is to be productive. World building is necessary, but it should not stop you from doing actual writing. At some point you have to stop telling me about the genealogy of the great kings of Adtmadar and start showing me who they are and why should I care about them. That means more than a dissertation or a time line. It means characters, dialogue, plot and action.

It’s the difference between a house and a home.

A house it’s a structure. Nothing more, nothing less.

A home is place that people live in.  A place that has meaning and consequences.

Time to turn your house into a home.