Dragons & Dungeons

I’d like to take a moment to talk about one of my major hobbies: Dungeons & Dragons. I am the Dungeon Master in two weekly games, and I play in a bi-weekly one. I really do enjoy running my games, and those campaigns have been going for a solid 8 years combined. One is set in the world of Tal’dorei of Critical Role fame, and the other is set in my own homebrew world, Rhomeria.

 While I love both games and the players involved, I have a soft spot for my homebrew. It’s a world I created ages ago by coming up with a long history of how the nation-state of Rhomeria was founded. I planned out cities, towns, and hamlets, drew out maps of some of them, and started to recruit friends to play.

Why am I talking about Dungeons & Dragons? Ultimately, because I believe that my work and play in these games is in a very large way the reason that I am a writer, and my style, and I wanted to share my story.

My style as a Dungeon Master is very roleplay heavy. To me, the point of the game is to tell a collaborative story with a group of friends. My job as the DM is not to railroad, but to open a door and guide my players through it. The players choose their path, and I find ways to weave the story I’m telling with their actions. This means that the players never quite know what’s ahead… but neither do I.

The core skill of this style is structured improvisation. I have a very loose plan of story beats that I need the players to experience. That’s the structure. The improvisation comes from subtly suggesting which path leads to the story.

As an example, my story needs my players to investigate a farm full of cultists. However, they are currently exploring an abandoned mansion at the edge of town. I can give them what I call a “push” by having one of the rooms be an office, which will naturally lead the players to investigate. As a reward for a good roll, I present the push as a sheaf of documents including a deed to a farm, or perhaps a map with locations circled, so something along those lines. A “pull” would be more of a direct line, such as a guard or mayor directly telling the players to go to the location.

In the example, the only structure was knowing that the players needed a destination. The actual machinations to entice them to choose that destination is made up on the spot. The players can indeed miss the push as well! They could roll too low, or perhaps skip investigating the office, or even collect the sheaf of papers and not read them. That’s all part of the fun!

This directly influences my style of writing. I plan out very brief and simple plot points and story beats in a very, very rough and loose outline. That’s my structure. My characters take the place of my players, and I do my best to imagine their personalities, whims, and wants. I let the character inform me what their choices would be, and I do my best to write it down.

This means that I tend to write straight through my works; I start at the beginning, and I end at the finale. It’s exceedingly rare for me to write anything out of order. The improv nature of the bulk of my writing means that loose outline often gets pushed, pulled, and malformed with time. By the time I reach the end of the work, I’m often far away from where I expected to be.

 As for my desire to be a writer, I’ve always told stories of one kind or another. When I was a kid, I was always in my head, imagining complicated fantastical worlds to explore. I let that part of me fall by the wayside as I grew up, tired of being bullied for being different, tired of not being able to make a difference in the world. I let my artistic side whither and languish. Dungeons & Dragons reminded me that I used to be good at being creative.

So it is in large part thanks to tabletop RPGs that I rediscovered the spark of creativity. Let this be a reminder to everyone that it is never too late to start writing. The same goes for painting, sculpting, singing, and any other creative endeavor. We are complicated, complex, chaotic creatures and we need to remember that we need to be well-rounded in order to survive.

Two Months In!

Sorry for the break between posts, it’s hard to stick to a schedule starting out. On top of that, we’ve been dealing with an injured dog, which of course takes priority. On top of the top of that, I started looking for a new job too. So on top of the top of the top of that, I figured that today was an opportune time to restart my blog with a state of the author post.

Today is officially the three month anniversary of Pallas Lost’s release! I’ve sold pretty well for myself, considering I did almost no marketing during June. Nothing amazing, but I did accomplish several things:

  1. I sold more books than I expected to ever sell.
  2. I relearned I have problems believing in myself.
  3. I got a glowing review from a person I have no connection with.

Basically that’s two of the three things I needed to consider myself a success. The third, of course, being unprompted/unrequested fanart of my work.

By the end of this month, the royalties for the May should roll in. I plan to use that for advertising, and to help pay vet bills. I’ll also have a big decision at the end of the month on whether or not I re-enroll in KDP Select. The biggest “cost” to KDP Select is locking exclusivity to the eBook for a further three months. One of the benefits is the ability to run special sales; I’m tempted to forego that in order to use other sellers. I know some people rightfully don’t want to support Amazon at all, it’s just a shame they have the corner on the market.

As well, I need to push for people to leave reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. I have a very low conversion rate of readers to reviewers. I deeply appreciate everyone who has left a review, every little positive mention is a step towards the algorithm giving a shit.

I’ve also started actually using Twitter, instead of just having a Twitter account that languishes in the dark like a particularly evasive potato. I don’t think I’ll be able to send myself to conventions to sell books any time soon, so digital marketing is going to be my big footprint. Seeing a couple of friends get pretty massive success on the back of their social media presence hit me somewhat hard. I know TikTok is all the rage right now, but I have severe reservations about the level and amount of data that the app collects on each user. Besides, I don’t have the face or musical knowledge to properly Tik some Toks.

Work on the sequel has floundered some. I had a bit of a dry spell; I took a month off that has turned into several. It really seems if I don’t hold myself to a higher standard of scheduling time for writing that I’ll fall into a trap of neglect. I’m seriously like 90,000 words into this novel, and I’m so close to the finish line. I’m finding myself excited to see what the ending will be!

My plans for the threequel have taken a huge blow. A major change mid-novel for Pallas Found meant that the ending changed drastically… which drastically changes the trajectory of the third book. My current plan is to finish Pallas Found in July, and immediately start editing it. NaNoWriMo this year will be a tossup between the threequel and draft two of Pallas Found.

I want to get Pallas Found in the hands of my Alpha and Beta readers by the end of the January at the latest. I might send the Alpha as soon as August/September if July goes well.

So that’s the plan. Stay tuned to see if I pull it off!

Starting the World

I like to read about worlds that are coherent and fleshed out. I don’t necessarily need a fully described and realized explanation of the economic system, or a blow by blow of the exact history of the realm. but it helps. I can’t say I’ve gone that in depth with my worlds, though I’ve gotten pretty close. For the Fifteen Systems, for example, I started with the basic idea for the setting: A series of close star systems far out in space that holds the fragile remnant of humanity.

That was a promising start. Right from the jump, I knew that humanity either had developed faster than light travel, or used generational travel of some form. I also knew that something had to happen with Earth. I worked on the Earth angle, because that thread had to be short, and it would help me figure out the rest.

For inspiration on what could happen to Earth, I had to look no further than the lamentable and broken state of our current climate condition. It’s clear that those in power only have eyes for the number of zero’s in their bank accounts, leaving the needed changes and work to the wayside for “future generations” to worry about. So the specter of overpopulation of the planet plus the catastrophic effects of a rising sea and worsening climate became my crisis point.

The thing with any story, and in my opinion the thing that makes fiction what it is, is the single-handed diversion of a looming crisis. It always comes down to one character to Make the Choice that Saves the Day and Drives the Plot. So to enact the grand story that would turn into the Fifteen Systems, I settled on the idea that one philanthropic person would make the decision to get people off the planet in a unified fashion.

I spent some time daydreaming about what humanity might do, realistically, when faced with a dying planet. I figured the first thing to happen would be the creation and development of arcologies. These aren’t just a long-held sci-fi staple, we’re building structures in real life! That would be an easy first step for humanity. plus it would have the side effect of making the rich richer, and that is always a driving force unfortunately.

As the environment grew hostile, the invention of stasis of some kind would become a necessary technology. The rich, in my story background, began to enter stasis for ten years at a time. But all of this had to be embroiled in another crisis. A near Earth asteroid would fit the bill, one close enough to scrape the atmosphere. This led to a surge in the idea of colonization. Mars is the easiest target, but in the timeline I came up with there would be fighting over the Martian colony.

That sparked my next realization of my story; that humanity has a fractious tendency to balkanize itself. Colonization would be no different; each major country would send its own contingent of colonists, with the idea that their own people would form the “best” colony.

That gave me the opening for the single-handed diversion. Someone would have to make an effort for some kind of pan-national gathering of people, breaking up the single-cultured colonies. A generational ship would need to be operated by something, so I hit upon the idea that the philanthropic person could be the creator of the first AI. An AI to run a colony ship, and eventually the resulting colony. An AI would think logically about the population of a colony, so it would create a cross-culture group of people with a wide range of backgrounds.

Now knowing that my philanthropic ancient hero was likely a programmer, I decided to name her after Grace Hopper. Admiral Hopper is one of the unsung heroes of computing, being one of the first people to believe that an English-language based programming language was possible. She then invented the complier and the progenitor of COBOL. She’s a big deal, you should read more about her.

So following that train of thought, I had a character, Hopper, inventing an AI, and deciding to use that to put together a colony ship that spanned nations and backgrounds to give humanity the best chance of survival.

That’s a lot of world-building, right? And that’s all just background stuff that barely gets a mention in the book. Yet it was absolutely crucial to understand the layout, pacing, and general themes of Pallas Lost.

Launch Day!

Hello everyone!

The release of Pallas Lost is here! The journey to being published is at an end, now the journey to selling copies has begun, ha ha. Thank you all so much for your determination and support as I bring this series to life.

Quite a few of you have contacted me about getting a signed copy. I want as many people to have a signed copy as I can, so I’ve come up with a few ways to get this done while covering my costs. The choices are basically a bookplate, a mailed signed copy, or an in person signing. If it involves mailing, I will be doing them in batches, hopefully once a week.

This is all new to me, so my more experienced friends, please, let me know if I should make changes!


Message me using the contact form and provide the name exactly as you wish to be addressed, which method you are choosing, and your address. I will reply and give you Venmo information and my address. Even if you think I know where you live or how to spell your name, please send it anyway. I am paranoid about making mistakes, ha ha.


For a signed bookplate (basically a fancy sticker that I’ve signed that you can either stick on the inside cover or just keep with the book), I expect the cost to be around $5. I’ll be packing them in an envelope with some cardboard to keep it from being ruined. This makes it a little more expensive to mail, but I think it will be nicer quality.


For a physical mailed signed copy, purchase the book of your choice and have it shipped to my address. Use the postal calculator at https://postcalc.usps.com/ to estimate the cost, and Venmo me that total. It’ll be in the Medium Flat Rate Box, as the books are 6”x9” and 7”x10”.


I am still figuring out a date for this, but I’ll be doing a signing at my parent’s house in Niceville some point in May on a weekend. You’ll be welcome to come in person, but you can also have it dropped off there and I’ll sign it for you to pick up later. I’ll be posting the date soon, but expect it to be in the latter half of the month.


Nikki and I desperately want to visit Austin and do an in person signing. Mostly to see all of you! But it’s expensive, and all our money is going to Athena’s second surgery right now. I can’t even hazard a guess as to when such a trip will happen. So if you want to chance it and wait for us to visit, absolutely do that. We will eventually go, and we will definitely have a signing day, and it would be awesome to have it at Dragon’s Lair. If you don’t want to wait, follow the instructions for the US above.

Whew, that was a lot. If you have any questions, please comment and I’ll answer them publicly. I guess I need to go practice my signature!

A Taste of the Future

Last week’s post was a bit heavy for me, but talking about my imposter syndrome is important. Unfortunately that doesn’t solve it, but I like to think that it helps. This week I would like something a bit lighter, a bit more aspirational, but just as personal. That’s right, I’m here to talk about the Future.

As always, the Future is a muddling miasmic muck of vague hopes and ideals tempered by the crushing reality of doubt and fear. Despite the odds stacked against us, we all hope for a brighter future. Though I dare say that things have been very difficult for me on that front. This post aims to change that. Or at the very least, lay out a crude road map.

The launch of Pallas Lost is right around the corner, and that is both exciting and terrifying. Even though I’ve had great response so far from friends and family, that imposter syndrome is making it hard to hope the success will continue beyond that. But because humans are mercurial creatures capable of living with dichotomy, at the same time I have plans to continue the series.

The second book, Pallas Found, is 90-95% written. As I am a plantser by nature, during NaNoWriMo this year I took a turn I didn’t see coming. I completely invalidated my original ending, and I’m currently working out what the new one will look like. I’ve given myself a pretty good deadline, however. I intend to release Pallas Found in 2023, ideally one year to the day after Pallas Lost.

That is an ambitious goal, however. It took almost a decade to bring Pallas Lost to this point, and I’m determined not to let another decade go by without a follow-up. Plus, my wife will literally kill me if I renege on finishing the sequel. I hope to finish writing the first draft in the next month or so, and then pushing it to Alpha readers.

Hell, maybe a year is too optimistic. But I’m going to do my best to stick with it. Once I push the Alphas out, I’ll start laying the groundwork for the threequel. I always saw the Pallas story as a trilogy, and that plan hasn’t changed. It won’t end where or how I originally planned, however, so I’m excited to see where the story takes us all.

At the same time in the background I’ve been working on a fantasy series. It is based on my homebrew D&D setting, though significantly changed and tweaked to be altogether, well, novel when compared to the world of D&D. Part of my planning has been the creation of  unique races and creatures to populate the realm. The world is Pelynos, and the story takes place in Rhomeria. I don’t want to say too much more at this time because the story is still in its infancy.

After the Rhomeria book comes out, there will be others in that setting. I have ideas for other books in the Fifteen Systems universe to complement the Pallas books. By this point, who knows, maybe I’ll have other ideas that I’ll want to tackle instead. At the end of the day, I would just like my work to be at least somewhat successful. I’ve often said I’ll consider myself a successful author when I get my first fanart or cosplay.

We’ll see.