Posts Tagged ‘Fiction’


Review – The Sixth Shotgun

5 January, 2021

The Sixth Shotgun by Louis L’Amour is a short story of the same title and a novella The Sixth ShotgunThe Rider of the Ruby Hills” in one volume.  I am not much of a reader of Westerns but L’Amour is so well regarded I thought I would give this collection a try.  It is easy to see why his stories are so popular, he has an easy and readable style and a knack for describing characters in a short space that gives you a good sense of them.

If you like Westerns, you should like these stories.  However, they are a product of their time and genre and the women, while competent and more active than I had expected, are defined by their relationships to the men in the stories.

But I am going to put a roleplaying spin on my discussions about them:

The Sixth Shotgun has a light mystery mixed with its Western and is a good example of how to blend genres.  There are no real surprises but it is a fun story and could be adapted for a roleplaying adventure pretty easily.

The Rider of the Ruby Hills is virtually a masterclass on how to run a campaign based around a single character.  The main character is exceedingly competent and goes into the situation prepared and with a plan, unfortunately for him, the situation in the valley in not entirely what he expected . . .

I think this is a good model for single character campaigns, the primary character has to be competent because there is just them at the core of it, I think this should be leaned into.  Almost everyone like playing someone of heroic statue now and then and this sort of campaign structure is perfect for it.  In the story the main character finds allies which could be GMCs or even guest players depending on how you wanted to structure the campaign (and if you had people interested in “guest staring” in your game) but they are very much secondary and support to the drive of our hero.  One of the main role of GMCs will be to provide information and context for the player.

In The Rider of the Ruby Hills, our main character wants to claim land and cattle to build a house and settle down after a life of roaming and working for other people and he has a plan to do such.  Naturally, things do not work out as he had planned.   In this kind of campaign a character’s drive could be anything, restoring their family’s good name, overthrowing the evil duke, whatever but it should be clearly defined at the beginning and they should have the capability to achieve such, if things break their way.  Ultimately everything that happens in the game should be building toward that goal and its final achievement (or tragic failure).

Notes: The links are affiliate links and I will get a small sum of your purchase through them.


Horror Fiction – Cannon forged of Chains

31 October, 2018

Athens, State of Georgia
12 November, 1891

Dear Hannah,

It is done, I will be on the next train back to you. I cannot say I will be sad to be leaving the South, it is not welcoming to a man of my temperaments.

When last I wrote, our local agent, Jon Butler, and I were close on the heels of an artefact tied to the men behind the Order of the White Sword. Using the cache of letters of one Augustus Bartholomew as a guide to trace what had become of the ingots of tainted iron, iron rendered from the chains of slaves, but not any slave chains -as if slave chains are not evil enough- but the chains used to transport escaped slaves back for execution. Anything made from the iron would be at best cursed and at worst, a weapon for evil.

The war was a chaotic time, so much of the paperwork and records of the period were lost. This made tracking the iron into difficult task if not impossible. Records in Atlanta where useless but they set us onto a collection of papers in Athens at the University of Georgia library. There a scrap of information indicated that the iron had been shipped to Athens for use by John Gilleland, to cast a double-barreled cannon. Nothing in our research showed that Gilleland, who designed the cannon, knew the source of the metal used but someone was working with or for the Dark insured that it was the iron used.

Double Barreled CannonThe cannon and reports on it were not difficult to find. It was our good luck that the cannon was still here in Athens. Silver powder applied surreptitiously to the cannon tarnished instantly. It was truly cursed, the souls of the murdered slaves were still bound into the metal shown by the black green of the silver. Mr. Butler believed that is why the cannon failed so spectacularly when it was tested, the angry spirits would not let it be turned against those that were trying to free them. But someone knew what had been created. Why they did not finish binding the spirits to the cannon, indeed, even who was behind it, we could not discover. Mr. Butler believed he was a Confederate officer who was called away and killed before he could complete the magic. It seemed plausible but I doubt we will never know. Read the rest of this entry ?


Review – The Girl with Ghost Eyes (novel)

22 February, 2018

The Girl with Ghost Eyes is a fantasy set in the San Francisco Chinatown in the late 19th Century. It follows the troublesome situation Li-lin, daughter of a Daoist exorcist and practitioner of the Maoshan tradition quickly finds herself in.

The author handles the situation of the Chinese in the 19th century US with a light touch, weaving the cultural threads of Chinese tradition and the problems faced by the immigrants deftly, so they inform but never overwhelm the story. The magic and the spirit world play a major role in the story are fascinating and well drawn from Chinese myth and legend.

My only problem was that it was difficult for me to track what was happening in some of the action scenes, which are notoriously difficult to write, so it may be more me than the writing. But overall an enjoyable book and I look forward to reading more of the adventures of Li-lin and how she adapts to America and America to her.

The book is an excellent resource for anyone playing game set in a fantastic China (such as Feng Shui) or even a mythic version of Japan (such as Legend of the Five Rings), the description of the spirits and the magic of the Maoshan is quite evocative.

Note: The link in an affiliate link and this site would receive a small amount if you purchase using it.


Review – The Boy with the Porcelain Blade (novel)

24 April, 2014

The Boy with the Porcelain Blade by Den Patrick follows the coming of age of Lucien di Fontein in the city of Demesne in the Kingdom of LandfBwtPBall.   Lucien is one of the Orfano, mysterious orphans cursed with unusual physical characteristics, Lucien blood is clear but turns blue after it has bled out while another Orfafi has spines on his forearms for example, but the Orfani are raised within the nobles house and treated as nobility on the Orders of the King.

The title comes from the fact that Orfani are not allowed to wield a steel blade until they come of age, before that they are restricted to -still lethal- porcelain bladed weapons.  The story is told in chapters alternating between ‘now’ and chapters showing how Lucien’s grew up and how it shaped his view of the world, while this occasional breaks up the action it does cause the story to unfold in an interesting fashion without overwhelming the reader with background information.

The city is very Italianate in style -and the characters curse in Italian- with a dark Renaissance feel to the technology and society, vendettas and rivalry for status dominates the relationships between the noble houses.  And very dark secrets are hidden behind the facade of Demesne, secrets that Lucian is drawn into and must confront in order to survive.  It is a good read, though there is some issues with pacing due to the chapters alternately switching from present to past, with interesting characters and a compelling plot.  The story resolves completely but sets up the characters up nicely for future stories (which makes sense as it is the first of a series).

From a roleplaying point of view, it has many useful ideas, a group of characters like the Orfani, physically distinct and social privileged by law but shunned by many people for being different.  Adopted into different House they would have access to different skills and contacts but still united by their aspect of ultimately being outsiders, pawns of the politics of the nobles yet with their own agenda and a certain amount of social protection from their status.  That could make for quite a fun setting, dark and baroque yet with a reason for the character to band together against the world that does not have a place for them, unless they make it.

Notes: Gollancz kindly provided me with a copy of this book so that I might review it.  And you can find more information on the author, Den Patrick, at his website.



Review – Foreshadows: the Ghosts of Zero (Cyberpunk Fiction Anthology)

7 October, 2012

While some say that cyberpunk is a dead genre, the authors and artists behind Foreshadows: the Ghosts of Zero would disagree having gathered 19 stories of a cyberpunk future, each with its own musical track and illustration.  The world portrayed in the stories is not a happy one, dominated by mega-corporations, scarred by war and economic upheavals and racked by future shock.  Overall, the authors do a good job building ties to the background and including threads from other stories so that you can see that they all take place in the same world.

As with any anthology, it is a mixture of styles and voices many of which are from the gaming fiction side of things (Keith Baker, Ed Greenwood, Ari Marmel) and all of whom seem comfortable writing the broad cyberpunk genre.  As mentioned, each story is illustrated (ably by Talon Dunning) and given its own musical score (some samples of which can be heard here) which adds an interesting framework to the stories.  I found Foreshadows a very good read with an interesting blend of voices and viewpoints, though there were a couple of stories that failed to really come together, I would certainly read more set in this world.  If you read the cyberpunk genre, you should enjoy this collection.

Part of the purchase price of Foreshadows goes to aid the Hunger Project.

Disclosure: The Very Us Artists provide me with a review copy of Foreshadows after meeting with them at GenCon.


My First Published Legend of the Five Rings Fiction

25 November, 2011

Is up at at the Legend of the Five Rings page!   Though wish they would have warned me, as I had to have it pointed out by one of my friends.

You can visit the fiction directly here, mine is the third part (Monastery Among the Winds).  Hope you enjoy.


Steam-Powered 2 Anthology

4 August, 2011

Some of you may recall that I reviewed the Steam-Powered Lesbian Steampunk Anthology last year.  This year, there will be a second volume which I will not be review as I am one of the authors!   This is my first non-gaming related fiction publication so I am very proud of it.

Steam Powered 2The table of content for Steam-Powered 2 is:

Introduction: Kevin Steil (of Airship Ambassador)

Journey’s End: Elizabeth Porter Birdsall
Amphitrite: S.L. Knapp
In the Heart of Yellow Mountain: Jaymee Goh
Playing Chess in New Persepolis: Sean Holland
A Thousand Mill Lofts Gray: Jeannelle Ferreira
Dark Horse: A.M. Tuomala
The Return of Cherie: Nisi Shawl
One Last Interruption before We Begin: Stephanie Lai
Selin That Has Grown in the Desert: Alex Dally MacFarlane
Granada’s Library: Rebecca Fraimow
The Canary of Candletown: C.S.E. Cooney
Fruit Jar Drinkin’, Cheatin’ Heart Blues: Patty Templeton
Deal: Nichole Kornher-Stace
Not the Moon but the Stars: Shveta Thakrar
The Terracotta Bride: Zen Cho

Article/Afterward: Winding Down the House: Taking the Steam out of Steampunk: Amal El-Mohtar

Update: We have a release date, October 26!  As soon as ordering information is available I will have that up as well.  Updated Update: Kindle Edition is for sale – SteamPowered II: More Lesbian Steampunk Stories

Update 2:  There is a mini-interview about my story up at the Steampunk News.


Review – Steam-Powered: Lesbian Steampunk Stories

14 November, 2010

Steam•Powered: Lesbian Steampunk Stories, an anthology edited by JoSelle Vanderhooft and published by Top Shelf, an imprint of Torquere Press Publishers.

This anthology consists of fifteen stories mixing lesbians and steampunk in various concentrations.  For me, steampunk is mixing the untapped potential of the new sciences and technologies of the industrial age through the 1920s to the punk ethos from cyberpunk, in other words how the new technology changes and oppresses the world.  By my definition, three of the stories do not fit into the steampunk genre but they are still quite interesting all the same.
Read the rest of this entry ?


Review – Rhetorics of Fantasy

27 December, 2009

This review was originally published in my LiveJournal but it occured to me that it might be of use to the general RPG debate on fantasy campaigns and games.

Mendlesohn, Farah. Rhetorics of Fantasy. Middleton, Connecticut: Wesleyan University Press, 2008.

Best to start with the “Health Warning: This book is not intended to create rules. Its categories are not intended to fix anything in stone. This book is merely a portal into fantasy, a tour around the skeletons and exoskeletons of the genre.” (P. vii)

Read the rest of this entry ?


Fiction – Wizard’s Path II

13 October, 2009

Now up at the Mor Aldenn – City of Mages log is the second part of Cellian Varr’s story:

Wizard’s Path, Part II: Broken Bones

Feedback welcome either here or there or both.  Please go read and enjoy.

%d bloggers like this: