Writing and Playing Dungeons & Dragons

As those who have read my books may know from my author profile, I was exposed to the fantasy genre back in 1980 when I played my first game of Dungeons & Dragons. Not to date myself too much, but I was still in grade school. The game was a big part of my life until I was 25 or so, and for various reasons I won’t mention, I gave it up. The next time I played D&D was Christmas of 2013, when I ran a short one-off game for my family as a group activity.

Dungeons & DragonsThat game had a big impact on me. Although I hadn’t intended for it to be so, it inspired me to write my third novel, and even provided some plot events that made it into the book. I didn’t play again until just a few months ago, when I picked up the 5th edition Starter Set and the three core rule books (Player’s Handbook, Dungeon Master’s Guide, and Monster Manual for those unfamiliar with D&D).

I walked into Goin’ Gaming, a game and comic store in Troutdale, Oregon, bought some miniatures and got to know the owners, Alan and Becky Schmid. (See other posts about the store and the owners and how that factored into my writing career.) They host D&D games every Thursday evening, and the group needed more players. I showed up at the next game session and was warmly welcomed.

Other walk-ins saw our enthusiasm and the group has grown to seven players, all of whom I now consider to be my friends. We play at least once a week. After our current campaign wraps up at the end of June, I’ll take over as Dungeon Master, and that gets me to the point of this post.

Once I read through the 5th edition rule books, I began to get ideas for the plot of my fourth novel. My vision is to write three trilogies in the Taesia world, of which The Taesian Chronicles is the first trilogy. The fourth novel will be book one of the second trilogy. (Forgive the seemingly strange logic for the way I’m structuring the series; there’s a method to my madness.) I brainstormed the plot and am very happy with it. But, that plot would also make an outstanding D&D campaign.

With the group’s permission, I will switch from being a player to being the DM. Our current DM, Joseph, will become a player, and the group will run through my new campaign. In a sense, we will be play-testing my plot idea. I don’t anticipate the game campaign directly translating into a novel. That was done with Against the Giants, and what was one of the best modules ever written failed horribly as a novel. However, as what happened with my one-off adventure played by my family over a Christmas holiday, I think there is some wonderful inspiration to be generated by the game that can feed into the novel.

It is my intention to run the D&D campaign first, at least for several weeks, before I begin work on my fourth book. The creative energy required to write a campaign and the amount of time it takes to flesh it out severely limits my available bandwidth for novel-writing. I can do one or the other, but not both. I don’t usually write much during the summer months anyway, so work on the book probably won’t begin until autumn. At that point I will have a pretty good idea if my plot idea holds water, and I will hopefully also have some great source material from the game itself. Players often come up with dialog or creative solutions to challenging problems that make excellent material for books.

We’ll see how this goes. Stay tuned.

Sales of Kindle vs. paperback

My first book, Ohlen’s Arrow, was released in 2013. I chose to sell it as an ebook only. Initially, it was available for Kindle via Amazon, Nook via Barnes & Noble, and iBooks via Apple’s iTunes bookstore. In 2014, I released the sequel, Ohlen’s Bane. Again, it was sold as an ebook only, via the same three channels.

In 2015, I released the third book, Paragon’s Call, with what became the trilogy The Taesian Chronicles. Sometime during the process of writing Paragon’s Call, I made the decision to sell the three individual books as Kindle ebooks exclusively, removing the Nook and iBooks versions, and then selling The Taesian Chronicles as a paperback as well as a Kindle ebook.

I have noticed something interesting about this sales strategy. Several readers have purchased The Taesian Chronicles in paperback, and told me they have held off buying my books until they were released in paper form. One reader told me she had been waiting since 2013! To some people, if it’s not a dead-tree edition, it’s not a book.

In fact, I’ve noticed more enthusiastic and voluminous interest in my writing efforts now that I’ve released something in paperback than I ever have when my works were available as ebooks only. People seem far more impressed by the heft and size of The Taesian Chronicles than they were when I told them I’d written three novels [as ebooks only]. Perhaps ebooks just don’t seem tangible and real to people.

I’m toying with the idea of releasing special paperback editions of the individual books that make up the trilogy. What do you think?

The Taesian Chronicles in Paperback: The Process

The process to release the entire Taesian Chronicles trilogy in paperback is moving forward. I am using the print-on-demand service, CreateSpace, to make the book available in a dead-tree paperback edition.

Formatting a book for print is a more tedious, exacting process than it is for e-book. That took me several days to nail down. I followed some on-line tutorials various people have posted, which helped tremendously. Fortunately, I was able to export the print-ready file directly from Scrivener and didn’t have to use a specially-formatted Word template.

Another, more complex process was creating a cover for the paperback. With e-books, you only need a single-page graphic image. With paperbacks, you need the cover, spine, and back cover represented in a single image file. The thickness of the book needs to be determined based on number of pages and book size (5″x8″, 6″x9″, etc.), which determines how wide the spine portion of the cover image will be.

I spent almost a week working with my cover designer, Steven Novak [www.novakillustration.com], going back and forth and reviewing subtle changes and tweaks, before we created a design that worked. Steven is a fantastic designer and I’ve been very happy working with him.

CreateSpace lets you view your book cover to cover in a virtual tool online. This is a key part of the process. Once I was happy with it in virtual format, I ordered a proof copy, which is on its way. I’ll review that printed copy, and if any changes need to be made, I’ll modify the digital file, upload it, and order another proof. I will repeat this process as many times as necessary until the printed edition is perfect. Once that is done, I’ll mark it as complete. The book will then be listed as available for sale via Amazon.com.

Paragon’s Call is now available!

Now available on Amazon.com
Now available on Amazon.com

Paragon’s Call is the third and final book in The Taesian Chronicles trilogy. In this exciting and fast-paced conclusion, we pick up the story a year after the Battle of Eeron from book two, Ohlen’s Bane. Ohlen and his comrades, Therran and Ahmahn, discover the novaari, dangerous beasts that are half man, half animal. Ohlen is conscripted by Emperor Percy Saltos to lead a ragtag group of criminal misfits called Paragons, who are charged with seeking out these monsters and destroying them. But not everyone wants them to succeed.

All three books are available for free to Kindle Unlimited subscribers.

The first book of the Taesian Chronicles trilogy is Ohlen’s Arrow, released in 2013. The second book in the series is Ohlen’s Bane, which I released in late 2014. Now that Paragon’s Call is published (as an e-book), I will start work on combining all three books of the trilogy together into a single volume called The Taesian Chronicles, and will release it as a paperback via CreateSpace on Amazon.com. It will be my first dead-tree publication.

First editorial review of Paragon’s Call

Paragon's CallI met with my editor last night to go over our first review of the rough draft of Paragon’s Call. Her analysis, in a nutshell, is it’s the best book I’ve written to-date. My impression of it matched hers, that it is my most refined book so far.

We identified some areas where I can add text to clarify some plot events, but these are minor and the book would still be a good one if I didn’t add them. Some of the other minor comments were admittedly subjective, but I trust my editor’s advice and perspective and will most likely implement her suggestions.

My goal is to make these revisions and get the manuscript back into her hands for editing within the next two weeks. I think it is a reasonable expectation that I’ll have the book completed and ready for publishing by the end of March.