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Posts Tagged ‘l5r’

Where I’ve been for the last two months

At home, obviously — like a truly staggering percentage of the planet’s population. But it’s been near-total radio silence around here, apart from links to the weekly Patreon posts, so I figure I should update.

The good news is, the silence has not been due to any sort of illness with me or mine. Instead . . . you know all those people posting about the stuff they’ve finally gotten done around the house or the new bread-baking hobby they’ve picked up? That is not me. Through a confluence of factors (some of which were my fault, some of which weren’t), I got behind on drafting Night Parade — which meant that circa early March, I had to put my head down and start charging ahead at speeds nearly unprecedented in my writing career in order to get it done by deadline. (The only comparable instance even in the running was during my senior year of college, after I turned in my thesis and then a novel fell out of my head in about seven weeks.) We’re talking working at at least 150% my normal pace for weeks on end, with no days off anywhere in there. Oh, and partway through that time I had to drop it for five days so I could copy-edit a 214K-word novel, which is about 200% my normal pace for a task of that kind.

Yyyyyeah. It’s been a busy time around here.

The good news is, Night Parade is done and turned in on time (a day ahead, even!), The Mask of Mirrors is copy-edited, and Tachyon gave me until early May to handle the proofs for Driftwood, because I think the Look of Utter Panic I got when those were sent to me a couple of weeks ago was visible even in email. And we’re all healthy here.

We’ve been weathering lockdown fairly well. I work from home anyway, and so does my husband more days than not; my sister (who lives with us) does not, but she used to, so on a domestic level this is a familiar routine. The big changes for me are that I can’t go to the dojo, and I can’t have in-person gaming. Both of which I miss rather acutely, but I’m not among the people who have had to figure out how to do their job from home while also wrangling kids doing distance learning, etc. We’ve figured out how to make online gaming work about as well as it can — the trick is to reboot our Discord video call every 40 minutes or so, as soon as it starts to get choppy — and over the winter I purchased a folding exercise bike that’s put about 500 miles on the odometer in the last two months, as all three members of our household have been making use of it. I’ve also been doing a lot of online teaching, fitting the already-existing theme of 2020 being the year I teach a lot more than I have lately. I did four of Clarion West’s free one-hour workshops, on a variety of worldbuilding themes, and there’s a plan in progress for a six-hour workshop in the near future — that being another thing that got delayed until early May so my brains wouldn’t liquify and pour out my nose. And I’m working for the Kelly Yang Project, teaching creative writing to a kid in Hong Kong.

Free time? What’s that?

In all seriousness, I have also been giving myself a break with some entertainment. Not a whole lot of reading, simply because my brain’s reaction to text on a page is NO NO MAKE IT GO AWAY, but TV shows, video games, and (most unexpectedly) opera, because the Met has been making one opera available for free every night for weeks now. Maybe look for some posts on those in the upcoming days, as I regenerate my ability to word.

Right now, though, I’m doing my best to take a break.

Beware the Night Parade!

Hey, remember when I wrote a novella for Legend of the Five Rings?

Now I’m writing a novel for them. 😀

To my great surprise, despite the abundant evidence that some of the past writers for L5R had read extensively in Japanese culture and folklore, nobody seems to have ever done anything with the Night Parade of One Hundred Demons. So when I was told that Asmodee, the parent company for L5R, was starting up a fiction imprint for (among other things) game-related titles, and that they were interested in having me write a novel for them, my mind gravitated more or less instantly toward this concept. (Me? Make a beeline for the folklore thing? Strange.)

This is actually what I’m drafting right now, so it’s nice to be able to talk about it! The book is currently slated to come out in January of next year, so you won’t have to wait too long . . .

My publications in 2019

For those of you who nominate for awards (or just want a reminder of what I’ve been up to lately), herewith my publications in 2019!

Novel
Turning Darkness Into Light

Novella
The Eternal Knot

Novelette
“La Molejera”, Cirsova Magazine

Short stories
“VÄ«s DÄ“lendÄ«,” Uncanny Magazine
“On the Impurity of Dragon-kind,” Uncanny Magazine
“This Is How,” Strange Horizons
“Sankalpa,” Beneath Ceaseless Skies

. . . it turns out that writing more short fiction leads to selling more short fiction. Who knew?

Non-fiction
New Worlds, Year Two

I also published two collections, one of which is theoretically eligible for awards, as all but one piece in it is original? But since the total word count of Never After is small enough to fit into the short story category, I suspect that if there are any lower limits on the length of collections for award purposes, it’s fallen well beneath them. And The Nine Lands is all reprints.

(In theory my Legend of the Five Rings short stories are also eligible. But given that they’re part of a larger ongoing story written by many hands, and they’re only published through the game’s website, I figure there’s not much point in listing them. You’re either following the L5R story or not; nobody’s going to get much by dipping in and only reading the bits I’ve done.)

BTW, my impression is that the addition of Turning Darkness Into Light and “On the Impurity of Dragon-kind” is not enough to re-qualify the Memoirs of Lady Trent for the Best Series Hugo. (Someone brought that up at my Borderlands reading.) If I’m wrong about that, though, do let me know!

The Eternal Knot!

Publication is a bit of an odd beast when it isn’t going through normal book distribution channels, but as near as I can tell, today is the release date for The Eternal Knot, my Legend of the Five Rings novella! If you’re interested in the setting of Rokugan but don’t want to dive into the middle of the ongoing storyline, this makes a much better entry point; it clearly takes place in a much larger setting than is necessary for the story at hand, but it doesn’t require pre-existing knowledge of canon to make sense or be enjoyable. (And if you want more samples, flavored to the various clans, there are three other novellas out now: The Sword and the Spirits, Whispers of Shadow and Steel, and Across the Burning Sands.)

If you want to get this from a brick-and-mortar store (which is a very useful thing to do in general), you’re more likely to find it at your Friendly Local Gaming Store, though I think it’s possible that places like Barnes and Noble might be able to order it.

I had a lot of fun writing this one. The novellas are giving us L5R writers a chance to explore characters at greater depth, and to take the story into corners of the Empire that are too far off the beaten path to make it into the main story. And since mystical tattooed monks are basically how I got involved with L5R in the first place, it’s a pleasure to play around with their world in this story!

L5R novella!

I have been sitting on this news for A YEAR AND A HALF.

Not too long after relaunching the game Legend of the Five Rings (and its associated story), Fantasy Flight Games announced that they would be doing a line of related novellas, one per clan. Since most of the stories I’ve been writing for them have been about the Dragon Clan, I leapt on that immediately, with a pitch for a story about a character I helped develop for the story in the first place.

cover art for THE ETERNAL KNOT

The monks of the Togashi Order are known for their wisdom, their strength, their mystery, and the superhuman powers they gain from their unique tattoos. For Togashi Kazue, completing her training is only the beginning—discovering the true power of her enigmatic tattoo may be the true test.

Accompanied by the experienced monk Togashi Mitsu, Kazue embarks on a journey to learn the power of the newly acquired knot design on her forehead. When Kazue discovers the danger her tattoo poses to others, she contemplates the unthinkable. But she soon learns that attempting to deny her destiny is the truly dangerous path.

For those of you not familiar with L5R, The Eternal Knot is a reasonable entry point: it doesn’t require you to know anything about the setting or the ongoing story. It does very clearly take place in a world that’s much larger and more complex than this particular narrative needs, and there are some threads left dangling at the end in a way that is obviously bait for future fiction, but the story it tells is self-contained. So if mystical tattooed monks sound like your jam, you can pre-order it here!

Ten pounds of story in a five-pound sack

I can’t say a lot about the work I do for Legend of the Five Rings because I signed an NDA. But the most recent round of brainstorming for a fiction has me reflecting on what this job is teaching me about making sure that the material I write pulls as much weight per word as possible, and I want to discuss that a little. So let’s see what balance I can strike between specificity and deliberately vague generalities!

The context here is that I have a fairly strict word count for each of my fictions: 3000 words max if they’re going into a pack, and 3000 with some wiggle room if they’re being published on the website. That is . . . not a whole lot. And the story of L5R is so sprawling that even with a bunch of writers producing a bunch of fictions, making sure that everything gets mentioned and explored and moved forward means we can’t afford to waste words. It isn’t enough for a given fiction to do one thing; it needs to do at least two, more like three or four, as many as we can stuff in there at once. Ten pounds of story in a five-pound sack.

Take the one I’ve got on my plate right now. The original query from the person I work with Fantasy Flight Games was, “Are you willing to write a story about Character and Group? Something to flesh them out.”

Me: “Sure! What do you think of Scenario?”

FFG: “Sounds good. Maybe you could work in how Character feels about Key Theme, and also expand a bit on Group’s Main Focus.”

Me: “I lean toward having Character feel this way about Key Theme, because that lets me make a contrast with Previously Mentioned Backstory Character. And for Group, maybe Side Character says XYZ — that adds depth to their personality because of Probable Reader Interpretation. Heck, I could even put in Callback to Other Plot A, in a way that layers in some ambiguity.”

FFG: “Great!”

Me: “OOOH. And — just spitballing here — but given the timing, what if we say that Side Character also has Information about Other Plot B, which of course they interpret in Particular Way?”

FFG: “Go for it. But maybe spin it a bit more to the left to emphasize Aspect.”

Me: “Awesome. I’ll have an outline for you shortly.”

It could have just been a story about Character and Group. It probably would have been a perfectly fine story. But the more we can build up these elements, expanding on some things and contrasting with others, making callbacks to previous material and introducing points of linkage in all directions, the richer the fiction becomes.

Not all of this will stand out, of course. Sometimes the work the fiction is doing is fairly subterranean, and only somebody who’s digging into the craft of it will notice that, for example, we’re spinning that last bit to heighten a particular flavor. The overall effect is there, though, and in the long run it pays off: you can poll the readership and they’ll agree that Character Q would never do a particular thing, without you ever saying that outright, because you’ve put enough data points on the table that they can extrapolate as needed. Things become three-dimensional; they feel interconnected. The world feels real.

In my novels I have a lot more room to work with, but it’s still a good lesson to bear in mind. Why just have two characters converse with each other, when their conversation could also be making metaphorical allusions to something from earlier and enriching the reader’s understanding of someone else not present for that scene? Why solve conflicts one at a time, when the solution could be taking out two problems, creating a third, and sending a fourth in an unexpected new direction? This is pretty standard advice for writing, but I feel like the level to which I’m doing it here is higher than usual, and rewardingly so.

Sustaining that over the long run is tough, of course. On the other hand, this is like a muscle: the more you use it, the stronger it will get. So I’ll keep pumping narrative iron.

I’m writing for LEGEND OF THE FIVE RINGS!

I’ve been sitting on this news for nearly a year, waiting for my first piece to go live so I can tell you all about it.

So there’s this game called Legend of the Five Rings. It was a collectible card game and RPG; I got involved with the RPG, doing some freelance work for the later parts of fourth edition, because it had sucked me in overnight. The setting, Rokugan, is inspired by Japanese history and culture, and it’s got the kind of rich worldbuilding that makes the place come to life for me. So when the parent company sold L5R off to Fantasy Flight Games, I was, shall we say, rather determined to stay involved.

And I am. But not writing for the RPG this time: instead I’m one of their fiction writers. You see, one of the defining characteristics for L5R has always been the ongoing narrative of the game, influenced by the winners of various tournaments, and expressed through official canon stories.

My first story is here!

I think it should be a decent introduction to the setting for those who aren’t familiar with it. (In fact, that’s one of the goals for this first set of stories: give newcomers an overview of Rokugan, clan by clan.) If you like what I wrote, you might find L5R overall interesting, and you can check out the other fictions here (those provide links to the pdfs if you want to see the pretty formatted versions).

Yeah . . . I’m pretty excited. 😀 The setting has been rebooted back to the Clan War, so there’s an opportunity to do all kinds of cool new things, and this story provided a really great chance to showcase that, with the Dragon facing two entirely fresh conflicts that don’t come with easy answers attached. And I’m working on more stuff as we speak, so my involvement will be ongoing. *\o/*

You’re a handsome devil. What’s your name?

This came up in the comments on Sovay’s LJ, and it turns out to be much too long to fit into the comment limits. Besides, I’ve told gaming stories here before and been assured that I can actually make them interesting, so why not share the story with all of you?

This is the tale of Hantei Seikiro Shosuro Arikoto the man currently known as Ensō, an NPC in my Legend of the Five Rings campaign. Also known as, my best effort to date at creating a Magnificent Bastard.

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Books read, May 2014 (and other months, too)

April was another month where I was terrible about recording things, and then never even got around to posting about it. But the good news is, I remembered another book from January, which is the previous time I forgot to record stuff! So this post is mostly but not entirely from May.

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