The last book I wrote was, in many different senses, an experiment.

It was experimental—for me at least—in content, development, and, when we get there, in publication style.

First, the content. I did a lot of the world building for this book a long time ago, in preparation for what would turn out to be a truly epic Dungeons & Dragons campaign. Much of the history and world events referenced in the novel, I wrote first in my big history document (Incomplete) and also my big religious document (also incomplete).

These things were purposefully left incomplete, you understand. I wanted space for players to contribute ideas and events of their own and, in fact, a small sliver of the history is player-generated. It’s usually the stuff closer to present day.

But you cannot just take notes from a D&D campaign and make a passable novel. The setting of Vontillian as it existed at my Dungeons & Dragons table was very silly in ways I found unpalatable for longer works of fiction. Certain locations like Imporia, whose name is an in-joke with the party of players I was hosting at the time, had to go. Certain aspects of setting had to be reigned in and made more believable. It proved to be more work than I was expecting to turn something that just works when your friends are making goofy double entendres about elves into a believable world.

Much of what I write in Dungeons & Dragons is written only to impress. It appears before the player’s eyes and they go, “Wow, what a cool thing!” and it’s gone from them again just as soon as I start describing something else. Because of this, I believe D&D is best with grand, dreamlike images: A castle that projects off the underside of a giant cliff like a stalactite, a dungeon-sized wagon that thunders across the plains, drawn by titanic wooden construct-horses, a desert that was the epicenter of a magical cataclysm where the dunes have become arched waves of glass.

Players don’t ask questions like, “If there’s a whole-ass castle on the underside of this cliff, how does the cliff edge not just snap off?!” Or, “Where did this dungeon-wagon come from? Doesn’t seem like the locals could build such a thing!” Or, “If everything turned to glass…how does anything grow? If nothing grows, how does anything eat? If nothing eats, how can there be monsters at all?!”

The readers of novels have time to ask themselves these questions. And they will. You had better have answers ready for them, buddy, or you’re going to get roasted on Good Reads…Let’s be honest. You’re going to get roasted anyway. But you can at least avoid the most savage of the beat downs.

So, revision. I took the strongest and most literary of the ideas I prepared for 3+ years of dice-rolling adventures and I constructed a story.

I centered it on the Masked People of the Plains, a horse nomad culture that is a melting pot by force and necessity, rather than choice. They were the most complex of the societies I created and their representative to the players in my campaign, a Ranger named Aliffe, was so beloved that I couldn’t imagine a readership that would not fall in love with him as a protagonist in a novel. I set it much earlier in Aliffe’s life, just as he was coming into his own and learning about the world outside of the great plains. I gave him companions from far away places, so that I could work in some of the richness of other lands not visited in the book.

My favorite of Aliffe’s new friends is the lunatic swordsman, Galvaine Revel. A character who is the very picture of how I view elves differently to a lot of fantasy fiction. Y’see, I don’t like Tolkiensian elves. Is that a hot take? Tolkien’s elves are super boring to me. They’re imperious and staid and pompous and they seem like they’d be super fun at parties. The elves that Revel comes from are none of those things. It doesn’t even make sense to me that near-immortal beings would be these languid, slow-to-change loafers. If you’re going to live forever anyway, there is no danger to taking risks! Just say yes to everything, what’s the worst that happens? You lose a century and have to crawl your way back out? Sounds like fun! This is the creedo by which Revel lives his life. He will do anything, say anything, fight anyone, sleep with anybody who is down. He has experienced every altered chemical state a human being can imagine and at least a few that they cannot. He’s a walking disaster and I love him!

The experiments in publication of Aliffe and Revel’s adventures are coming about because I wrote this book to be the first thing I self-publish. So, once all my Beta Readers have a pass and I do whatever major revisions are required, I’m going to embark on the adventure of putting this thing up on the Kindle Store at the very least and y’all will just be able to buy and read it on your many devices. I’m an older Millennial, so I always envisioned my path to publication being through a major publisher. When I first started dreaming of being a writer, self-publishing was talked about as a vanity project for hacks who couldn’t make it for real. But as the years have worn on, the likelihood that I will be able to just get in with such a publishing house seems smaller and smaller all the time. If I want folks to read my work, I’m going to have to get it out there myself. So, I’m going to do that. Wish me luck.

That’s the plan, folks. As always, if you’re reading this far down, I love you very much for having taken them time to read everything I have to say. Remember to tend to your dreams. If you don’t, who will?

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