Writer. Editor. Leximaven. Game Girl. Vorpal Blonde. Bisexual Brainlicker. Midas's Touch. Schrödinger's Brat.

The Poison Eater: Picking Your Novel Back Up After You Put it Down

posted on: April 21, 2016
in: Blog, The Poison Eater: A Numenera Novel, Writing Process

Even those of us who write full-time sometimes have to put projects aside for long periods of time. Recently, I had to put my novel, The Poison Eater aside in order to finish up another book I was working on (The Torment: Tides of Numenera sourcebook). I’ve talked before about how I like to have multiple projects going at the same time, but one of the side-effects of that is that sometimes one of those projects moves to the forefront (due to deadlines or other needs), and you have to sink deep into it and focus on it solely for a while, pushing everything else to the side.

Now that Torment is finished and off for editing, I can move The Poison Eater back to the front burner of my brain. Of course, that is HARD to do after so much time away. I find myself saying, “Who is the character? What does that look weapon like again? What the fuck was I thinking here when I wrote those? Oh, I had an idea for this chapter, but I’ve totally forgotten it.”

This is the point where many people give up on their books. It’s HARD to go back to it. The sparkly bits have lost their shine. The path is overgrown and full of thorns. The characters you loved have started to fade into ghostly paper dolls. You can’t remember what happens next, and you are sure you screwed up whatever came before.

But here’s the truth: very few people have a life where they can work on their novel non-stop. Life intervenes. Someone gets sick. Work explodes. Summer arrives and you spend your days down in the dirt with seeds and soil. There are a thousand ways to step off the novel path — but there are also a thousand ways to step back on. It’s hard, yes, but not as hard as it looks. I promise.

Screen Shot 2016-04-21 at 10.16.44 AM

I have a whole bunch of techniques for picking a novel back up and finding my way back into its dark woods. I thought I’d share a few in case you find them useful.

  • Use a Pinterest board or other visual resource as a reminder. I start an inspiration novel board very early on, pinning everything that makes me think of the book, whether it’s a color scheme, a character’s expression, a weapon, or a creature. As the novel develops, I start moving some of those pieces into Scrivener and I start making notes. Talia has this character’s eyes, but her tattoos look like that character, and this is the dress she wears when she goes to see Isera. Using art can help you remember tiny details about your story, and submerge you back into the deep well of writing space.
  • Use music. I have a Spotify playlist called The Poison Eater. Some of the songs are general, to get me back into the feel of the book. Others are specific to characters, places, or even scenes. If I’m struggling to remember a character’s motivation or need, listening to their song helps put me back in their mindset.
  • Take ridiculous notes. My notes for a novel are crazy, wild, all over the place, and probably make no sense to anyone else (god forbid someone reads my novel notebooks after I’m dead. They’ll think I’m completely psychotic). But just picking the notebook up and flipping through it can help spark connections and get you back to the page.
  • Reread what you’ve written. Do this on your phone or ipad, where you won’t be tempted to go into editor mode and try to fix things. Just read for the rhythm of the book, the sounds of the characters, the thematic essence. Read it aloud if it’s useful to you.
  • Watch a movie or show that captures some essence of your novel — a character, the locations, maybe even the plot. Do this mindfully. Be aware that you’re thinking about your novel, that you’re sinking into the story. This process can be a bit like guided mediation. Don’t feel like you have to watch the whole thing. If you’re halfway through and feel inspired, stop the movie and jump into writing (or start writing with the movie in the background).

Beyond all of those suggestions, I come back to what I always come back to: just do that shit. Seriously. There’s a moment where you have to stop worrying and wondering. Just know that you’re going to screw it up, be okay with it, and write anyway.

Which is what I’m going to go do right now.

~Moon meld you, poison eaters.

Predation 03: Play the Dinosaur (and other Foci)

posted on: March 22, 2016
in: Blog, Predation: A Cypher System Setting
[If you haven’t already read the Predation Overview, you might start here. There’s also a bit about the groups in Predation here.]
Sketch of Plays a God by John Petersen

Sketch of the Plays God focus by John Petersen

I’ve been playing around with some ideas for character creation in Predation. This game is going to be tons of fun!

Self-Evolves: Through the magic of bioengineering, lab-grown organs, and cybernetic additives, you have become something far better than human. Something smarter, faster, and more adaptable. Call it neo-human, survival of the fittest, or just bad-ass—whatever it is, you’re able to exploit these superhuman skills to the fullest.

Predates: You’ve long dreamt of being the ultimate predator and now you’re on your way to achieving that goal. Claws and teeth are just the beginning, thanks to advanced surgical techniques, body modifications, and 4D printing. Sure, everyone else can ride a dinosaur or fight a dinosaur…but you? You can become a dinosaur.

Walks with Dinosaurs: You’re not so sure about other humans, but you and dinosaurs are like this. You just get them—and they seem to get you. Through training, technology, and an uncanny understanding, you can get dinosaurs to do your bidding. Ask them to fight for you, forage for you, or just roar on command to entertain* your friends.

*scare the crap out of

Plays God: Sure, you’ve got all your eggs in one basket—but those eggs are going to grow up to be tiny T. Rexes and that basket is a test tube. Your knowledge of gene-splicing, cloning, animal husbandry, and other forms of creation is beyond compare. No one builds, breeds, or blueprints new species and creatures like you do. 

Interested in Predation? Jump in on the Kickstarter here!

Screen Shot 2016-03-21 at 14.10.10

Sketch of the Walks with Dinosaurs focus by Sam Cullum

 

Predation 02: We are all the butterfly

posted on: March 15, 2016
in: Blog, Predation: A Cypher System Setting
[If you haven’t already read the Predation Overview, you might start here.]
We are all the butterfly.

#weareallthebutterfly

GROUPS IN PREDATION

There are a number of groups and organizations in Predation. Some work together. Others are at odds. And still others join forces in public, while they put darker, more insidious plans into action under the surface. Player characters can interact with these groups and organizations by becoming allies, foes, business partners, or even members.

Here are two of Predation’s more prominent groups:

SATI

The Cretaceous Period and the information thereon is the property of SPACE AND TIME, INT. and may only be used for the purpose for which it is supplied. Use of this time period, or the information thereon, in whole or in part, is strictly prohibited without the express digital permission of SPACE AND TIME, INT.

~CLAUSE C-786b of the Space and Time, Interglobal, Cretaceous travel contract

The largest and most established organization is Space and Time, Interglobal (SATI). Originally, SATI was an interglobal conglomerate that began sending bioengineers, paleontologists, and other specialists back to the Cretaceous period on top-secret scientific/business missions. In the hundred years since, SATI has evolved from a group of scientists and explorers into a more militarized organization.

SATI continues to control the majority of the original time-travel operation bases—fortified underground bunkers filled with supplies, technology, laboratory equipment, and more that were set up by the early arrivals—but their hold is tenuous at best. Everyone, SATI or not, knows that whoever controls the bases also controls the supply flow—including any remaining time-travel technologies. As the asteroid draws near, attacks against the bases by groups like the Butterflies are growing more frequent and increasingly difficult to repel; the group spends much of its energy and resources keeping a tight hold on what it has, while still attempting to find a way back “home.”

Over time, many of the bases have become more self-governing and self-sufficient, a change that is also starting to threaten the larger structure of SATI. The capital base, SATI;0A (commonly called Soway) is attempting to bring the other bases back in line, but not everyone in this new generation shares the same beliefs, and it’s becoming harder for the organization to present a unified front.

The Butterflies

In the flickering firelight, the Queen of the Butterflies bows her head. A book—hand-bound in red leather—lays open upon her palms. She wears gloves, black and thin, nearly threadbare. When she begins to read, the group gathered around her becomes silent. Not a scuff. Not a breath. If anticipation were a sound, it would be this utter stillness.

The Queen’s eyes are closed. The words come from memory, from repetition, from belief.

Out of chars and ashes, out of dust and coals, like golden salamanders, the old years, the green years, might leap; roses sweeten the air, white hair turn Irish-black, wrinkles vanish; all, everything fly back to seed, flee death, rush down to their beginnings, suns rise in western skies and set in glorious easts, moons eat themselves opposite to the custom, all and everything cupping one in another like Chinese boxes, rabbits into hats, all and everything returning to the fresh death, the seed death, the green death, to the time before the beginning. A touch of a hand might do it, the merest touch of a hand.

She pauses, closing the book slowly, two delicate red wings folding soft around a pale body.

“We are all the butterfly,” she says.

“Stay the path,” they answer.

Together, as they slip away into the darkness: “And listen, always, for the thunder.”

The Butterflies are a subversive, guerrilla group. They believe that humans shouldn’t try to fix the time machine technology, that they should die out in the upcoming cataclysmic event so they don’t screw up even more of the evolutionary time path. These beliefs are based on the ”bible” that the Queen’s grandmother brought back in time with her, a copy of Ray Bradbury’s short story, “A Sound of Thunder.”

As a general rule, Butterflies eschew technology, subsisting on what they can make, steal, or scavenge. They identify themselves by painting or carving an image of a butterfly on the bottoms of their boots. It’s rumored that their spies have infiltrated all levels of SATI, and if you look carefully, you can find their graffitied messages on cliff faces, large trees, and the backs of certain dinosaurs.

Interested in Predation? You can back the Kickstarter here.

Graffiter_Thu_Mar_3_2016_0

 

Predation 01: An Overview

posted on: March 15, 2016
in: Blog, Predation: A Cypher System Setting

Predation art by John Petersen

I’m working on a new game setting for the Cypher System, called Predation. It’s in what I call the “shower idea” stage of creation, that weird brainplace where you just suddenly have the most brilliant idea at the most inopportune time. I know that some of you are following along on progress as I work on The Poison Eater, so I thought I’d start posting about Predation too. Writing a novel and writing a game setting are very different and yet also the same, and I think there’s a lot to be gleaned by watching two very different types of projects come to fruition.

In short, the idea for Predation came about because I wanted to make a game about dinosaurs. BUT I also wanted to make stuff up. (I like to research, but I hate having to stick strictly the research when I write; my preference is to use it as a jumping point for wild and weird ideas). So I was trying to find a way to do both things, and came up with the premise for Predation: that the humans walking among the dinosaurs are scientists from the far future who are stuck in the Cretaceous period. They brought back high-tech weapons and advanced sciences, the ability to bioengineer themselves and the creatures around them, and a knowledge of the future–a future that they might be changing with every choice they make.

Predation Overview

The history of Predation is actually in the future. A few hundred years in the future, to be exact. That’s when an interglobal conglomerate known as Space and Time, Int. (SATI) began sending bioengineers, paleontologists, and other specialists back to the late Cretaceous period on top-secret missions.

For those traveling back in time, it was the career opportunity of a lifetime. The unprecedented chance to walk among the dinosaurs, and return with tales of discovery, scientific breakthroughs, and experiences. But something went wrong—no one knows how or why, but the time travel process broke down, leaving them stranded with the dinosaurs.

Predation Cover by John Petersen

That was almost a hundred years ago now. Those early travelers had to find a way to survive, and even thrive, in this harsh world. Using the technology and knowledge they brought back with them, they built communities; bred, bioengineered and hunted dinosaurs; raised families; and never gave up hope that they would find a way “home.” That generation is dying out now, leaving the world to a newer generation, one that has only ever known this place, this time as their home.

That’s where you as the player come in. You’ve read the story in history books of the asteroid that destroys your home, and you know it’s coming soon.

In this land of tame and wild beasts, a land of far-future technology and far-past materials, of a historical catastrophe that is about to become your future, can you find a way to survive? Will you instead try to use your skills and knowledge to accomplish what your parents and grandparents could not—find a way home? Or will you join the fight to let this humanity die out, so that future humanity may still find a way to rise from the ashes of evolution?

 

 

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