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Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Short Story - Homecoming

These days most people who follow my work probably know me as a producer of D&D content over at Loot The Room, but for a long time I was exclusively a fiction writer. I never had any commercial success, but it was something I loved doing and something I think I was getting pretty good at before I stopped.

Years ago I had a short-lived project where I offered to write short stories for people - a story about whatever you wanted, published in a chapbook with a print run of two (one for you, and one for me). I did a couple of them, and I was pretty happy with the stories that I wrote. Then I went to university to study Creative Writing, and pretty much stopped writing fiction.

I've been feeling the urge to get back to fiction recently, so I started going back through my old work to see if I was ever as good as I felt like I was. I wasn't - are we ever? - but I'm still happy with a few of the stories I wrote back then. They're not perfect, and I know I can do better now, but that's a good thing. It means I've grown as a writer.

I think it's a shame that a lot of this stuff never really got read by anyone. I'm not about to start submitting 5-year-old stories to magazines, though, so I figured I'd share some of that work here for anybody who wants to read some of my old work.

The story that follows was the first chapbook that I produced, for a lady called Michelle who was the first person to ever tell me she was a fan of my writing. We've lost touch these days, but I'm still incredibly grateful to her both for her words of support and for being the first person to pay me for a story. In reading it back, there's a lot I like about it, but also a lot I know I'd do differently now. For one thing, it's more of a vignette than an actual story. Still, I enjoyed reading it again after all these years, and I hope you will too.

(I wanted to post the cover for this chapbook along with the story, but I've lost the file somewhere along the way. So, here's a picture of the book instead. If you'd rather not read this in a blog post, you can grab a free PDF of it here.)

Wednesday, 15 March 2017


My band released our new video last week. Where the last one saw me being waterboarded, this time I was hanged and (digitally, thankfully) set on fire.

Go check it out.

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Oh what a mess my first drafts are...

So, the 1st-of-the-month post I was going to be doing stopped quite quickly, didn't it? The reason for that is pretty simple - I've simply been too busy, and too tired, and too stressed, and I completely forgot that this blog existed.

Since October (which I believe was the last time I updated this blog) I've been posting 3 times a week to Loot The Room, I've published four D&D products on the DMs Guild, I've been (slowly) working on both a novel and a screenplay, I shot a video with my band (which still isn't out, and I'm not too happy about that) and I've been swamped with work from my MA. (I've also been helping to look after a toddler, but we won't get into that.)

I've been busy, is what I'm saying, and I forgot. Sorry.

I also didn't manage to get my usual Friday post up on Loot The Room, because I got in from work at 4am and was just exhausted. So, as a sort of penance, I'm going to shame myself a little. I wrote a short story for my MA that was really quite rushed, to the extent that I didn't even have time to proofread it before I submitted it. Which, you know, that's not good. Irritatingly, I was half a mark away from getting a Distinction on the module overall - and I lost marks for some typos in the story, and for the middle of it feeling rushed. Which it was, so that's fair.

I know people who claim to be able to write publishable, saleable writing on the first draft. I am not one of those people. My first drafts aren't bad, but they always need work.

This is what one of my first drafts looks like, typos and all. Enjoy my shame.

Sunday, 30 October 2016

Scripts and shit

I'm halfway through the first semester of my Masters now, and so far it's proving to be a hell of a lot of work - so much so that I haven't really had any time to work on GOLEM or Loot The Room this month. I was fully intending to get another DM's Guild book done this month (seriously, it's all planned out and the maps are mostly drawn), but between work, the MA, and sleeping, I've not actually had a free day in the last month (apart from a few days this week when I was sick).

A large portion of the MA thus far has been dedicated to writing scripts. The emphasis has been on writing for the stage, but that doesn't really interest me. Film, on the other hand, is something I've always been fascinated by. For some reason, though, I've never really tried my hand at screenwriting. I had never actually read a film script until this month.

What I've discovered is that I really enjoy screenwriting. I'm not particularly good at it yet, and the formatting still feels pretty alien to me, but I am enjoying it.

As for that formatting - someone this evening pointed me in the direction of Writer Duet, a free, browser-based screenwriting program, which immediately fixed my struggles with the format. When I loaded the site up there was a 15-minute timer and a pre-written opening for a scene (the location, two characters, and the first line of dialogue) already there. I'm not sure why - and I don't know how to get that timer back now that it's gone - but it was there, and I decided to have a go at writing something.

Here's what came out of it:

It's not great, by any means, but I actually kind of like where it went. It's not something I'll do any more work on, I don't imagine, but it's nice to have actually written something that wasn't purely academic this month. And hey, if I take 15 minutes every day to write two pages, I'll have a feature written in a little under two months. That's nice to know.

Saturday, 1 October 2016

What Kind of Month Has It Been? - September

September was a much more productive month than August. I feel like I'm settling in to the swing of creating things regularly again, and learning to manage my time a little better. I'm still not where I'd like to be, but I can see that I'm making progress and that's good.

Here's September, in bullet points:

Loot The Room

I said that Loot The Room was the thing I wanted to focus on the most (alongside Golem), and I've managed to make good on that so far. Dark Deeds was a little late, and didn't contain as much content as I intended, but I'm happy with the final product. I definitely intend to revisit it at a later date - possibly in November (more on why November in a moment) - to update it with the few backgrounds I didn't finish art for. As my first foray into self-publishing I think it went well; the product looks good, it's been selling steadily, and the feedback I've had on it has been overwhelmingly positive. 

Trinkets is something I wrote something like a year ago when I first started Loot The Room. On a whim this week I decided to upload it to DM's Guild just to see how it went. It's been up a little over 3 days at this point and has had just over 100 downloads - and that's without publicizing it at all. I imagine that's a to do with a combination of being on the front page of DM's Guild as a new product, and being free, but it's still nice that it's getting attention.

The series on Building A Campaign World is something I've been toying with writing for a while. when I started it part-way through the month I told myself I'd update twice a week. So far I've managed that, which I'm happy about. It's only been two weeks of sticking to a schedule, which isn't much to write home about, but it's better than I've done in the past - and I'm already seeing the results of having regular updates in the uptick of traffic Loot The Room has been getting. Again, nothing to shout about, but it's a start - and one that I'm happy with.

Other Writing

Golem unfortunately fell by the wayside a little this month, though I did make some progress on it. A friend of mine works in TV and asked me to write a screenplay with him - which he intends to direct - and I felt like I couldn't really say no to an opportunity like that. I can't say too much about it at this point, except to say that it's a mockumentary and that writing comedy is hard

Anyway, that - along with Loot The Room - took precedence over Golem, so progress has been slow. It's still happening, though, and with my Masters in Creative Writing beginning this month I'm sure I'll pick up the slack on it in the next few weeks if for no other reason than to have something to submit to my writing workshops.

Discipline has been the key this month. As always happens when I start writing again after an extended period of laziness, I've had a glut of ideas invading my thoughts. I've been very good about not allowing myself to become excited by them - I've jotted them down quickly, filed them away, and gone back to my priority projects. It's nice knowing that once the screenplay and Golem are done - and they will get done - I've got a ton of things to go to next.


The rest of this update is going to discuss money, and I'm going to be quite frank about it. If that makes you uncomfortable then I suggest you stop reading now.

The two products I've published on DM's Guild this month have done fairly well as far as downloads go. Dark Deeds went live on September 14th and, at the time of writing this post, has been downloaded 272 times. I published it under a Pay What You Want model, with the intention being to gauge whether people like what I'm doing with these books. I was also curious to see whether people would actually pay for it or simply have it for free (which is fine - if I had a problem with that, I wouldn't offer it for free in the first place).

Out of those 272 downloads, 24 have been paid for. The total amount paid for it has been $16.57 - with DM's Guild's 50% royalty, that's netted me $8.29. That's an average sale price of $0.69. I promoted it as much as I could without being annoying on Twitter (with a little bit done on Facebook) for the past two weeks, and deliberately didn't spend any money on advertising.

The second product - 100 Trinkets - I simply uploaded. I didn't announce it, I didn't tweet links to it, nothing. Since I put it up for sale on September 26th it's had 103 downloads, and 5 of them have been paid for (for a total sales value so far of $2.23, giving me $1.12). 

At the minute, I can't really infer anything from these numbers except to say that if I want to make money through writing RPG books, Pay What You Want isn't the right model. So far I've made $9.40 in royalties, which is around £7.20. That's enough to pay my web hosting for 6 months - and having said that, I still need to transfer both this site and Loot The Room over to my server; there's no point paying for it if I'm not using it! - which is great, and I'm very grateful to the people who have chosen to pay for these products. If I want to keep doing this, though, I need to be able to justify it beyond simply being a fun hobby. 

The next book - The Wheelhouse Prison - is an adventure module of sorts, and I'm hoping that it will prove to be more popular than a book of backgrounds and a one-page table of trinkets. With any luck it's a product people will be more willing to pay for. With that in mind, I'm putting this one up as Pay What You Want as well in order to see how it performs compared to the other two products. These are really the three kinds of things I enjoy writing most - random loot/treasures/etc., character options, and adventures in cool locations. Once I've seen how all three perform when given roughly equal treatment, I'll be able to make a more informed decision about pricing. (I'm also aware that I only have ~2 weeks of sales figures for Dark Deeds and less than a week on the trinkets, so it's stupid to draw any conclusions at this stage). It may be that I experiment with different price points for adventure modules - given that they're the bigger, more difficult things to write - and continue to produce smaller things that are Pay What You Want, but I don't know yet.

Beyond October

I'm aiming to try and get a new book on DM's Guild roughly once a month. So far, two months in to this Being A Better Me thing I'm doing, I've succeeded at that. November will have to be different, though. Come the end of October I'll be working on my first set of assignments for my Masters, which will mean having to cut back on the work I'm doing on Loot The Room. Rather than trying to produce something new in November, I might instead aim to roll out the updated Dark Deeds with the other 4 backgrounds. There's still a month to go before then, though, so we'll see what happens.

That's all for now. If you read all of this, give yourself a pat on the back. You've earned.

Monday, 19 September 2016

Short Stories: Language & Marionette

I've spent the past month or so slowly shaking off the cobwebs and getting back into the groove of writing. Part of doing that has involved going back and reading a lot of my old work.

If I'm being honest with myself, some of it is garbage. But some of it is work I'm really proud of, work that came really close to being sold to some magazines and editors I really admire. I'm still not sure what to do with a lot of those stories that never quite made it, but I'm trying to figure that out.

In the meantime, I thought I'd put up a couple of stories that were sold that aren't available any more.

The first is a very short piece I wrote for the chapbook I edited when I was doing my degree. It probably doesn't count to call this a published piece, since I edited the book myself, but I like it. It's a PDF download, and it's called Language.

The second is a slightly longer story called Marionette. It was published in Cutaways, and I really like it. You can read it here.

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Dark Deeds

Dark Deeds, the D&D book I've been working on this last month or so, is available on DM's Guild right now.

Originally I planned for this to contain 10 new backgrounds, but (as I said in my last update) the art was taking too long and pushing the whole thing back. I decided this week that it was better to release what I had and move on to this month's project for Loot The Room while there was still time in the month,

What that means is that I have 4 chapters from this book written but lacking art. I'll either finish them off and release an updated version of Dark Deeds containing them when the art is done, or work on another few backgrounds to go with them for a future book. I haven't decided yet.

Still, whether it contains everything I wanted it to or not, it feels good to have finished something. And it feels even better to already be getting sales and feedback from people who have enjoyed it. I'm excited to work on the next project, and that's the important part.