Writing Partner: A Froggy Friend

D&D Banderhobb mini Painted Face

Ok, I can admit when I’m wrong. I was wrong about this guy.

D&D Banderhobb mini Painted

He’s great, isn’t he? Turns out the banderhobb miniature paints up well! I didn’t do anything with the base, though. I’ve got a long-term basing plan for all of my freshwater monsters, so he’ll be clipped off that one and put on something custom in time. But for now, I think he’s more than good enough to play with.

D&D Banderhobb mini Painted Back

I like to imagine that him floating at the surface of a pong or small lake. Just blending in, like lily pads in grimy water. Waiting until something gets close enough to gulp up.

D&D Banderhobb mini Painted Face

More importantly, he made for a great writing partner. I’ve finished both of my outlines. That means it’s time to start a new project.

My next book will be a horror novel built out of multiple short stories and novelettes about the same character. Most chapters will stand alone, but together they tell a complete story and showcase the character’s arc.

It’s a very different book than my last one, but I plan on taking it in bite-sized chunks. This means we’re going to need a lot of varied writing partners. And I already have the first one in mind.

Stay tuned!

Writing Partner: Working on a Character

After a couple of weeks off, I’m back to work. This time, on a pair of outlines. I have one for the book I want to write for NaNoWriMo and another for the one I’m working on in the meantime. Beyond basic plotting I also have to wrap my mind around a bunch of new characters. For a job like this, I’ll need the help of someone who is a real character themselves. And with that in mind… look at this abomination! 

Banderhobb miniature unpainted

I mean, why did I even buy this? In D&D it’s called a banderhobb, but I think of him as the gross little frogman I bought on a whim for 5 bucks. There had to be a reason. I think it’s that face: dumb, greasy, and bulbous. If I didn’t inexplicably love him, I’d hate him.

But somewhere in those wideset eyes is meaning. Why is he like this?  What niche does he fill in his environment? I know he’s a swamp predator, but why? What force of nature, or act of fate, molded him?

Similarly, I know the purpose I need my characters to fill in my narrative. But what got them there? What made them the people they are now and, more importantly, faced with what I’m about to put them through, what will they do next?

Stay tune. With the help of this grotesque frogman, I’m going to figure it out.

Writing Partner: Dragging this out – part 2

For part 1 click here.

When we last spoke, I was working away on my editing and painting baby dragons. I only mentioned one, but I wanted to test out two paint schemes for the mother dragon. I wanted pink to be the contrasting color, but I wasn’t sure if the primary color should be black or white.

Here are the results of my testing:

Baby Dragons Front
Considering these were done quickly as tests, I think they turned out well.
Baby Dragons from above
These minis had a lot of imperfections (they only cost 6 dollars a piece) so I couldn’t have asked for much more.

While I like the white scheme better, I’m happy I painted the black one too. I think it is a fun miniature, and having both has gotten the wheels in my head turning. I now have an excellent premise for a multipart RPG session, but I’ll get into that more when I finish their mother.

Black Dragon Baby
White Dragon Baby

In the meantime, I have more editing to do. That October deadline is fast approaching, and I have only just gotten into act 3. To get another draft finished in the next 5 months will be hard, but it looks to be doable. But after that, I’m done, and we can start talking about a new book!

Something I am noticing about my editing is I am adding in sensory descriptions naturally now. This is something I had to really work at. As a recap to any new readers, I spent about 5 years writing scripts before starting this blog. I’m a dialogue guy, and learning to write proper narration on the first draft was like pulling teeth. This process has made me a better writer and, fingers crossed, a faster one.

Today alone, I added 3 pages of new content while editing. This draft has added 25 pages so far, and I still have 10 chapters to edit. I’ve gone from having a short novel to having a pretty respectable one since Christmas. I’m pretty pleased with that.

Here’s hoping this newfound ease for narration carries into the next novel. If I can get a first draft done in November, it won’t take long before I have a second novel finished and ready for readers if it’s at my current standard. My short story collection is nearing 100 pages, and I have a half-finished book on the back burner as well. I could have a decent selection available to read relatively soon.

Fingers crossed, I stay on track. I could also get distracted by a new project!

Writing Partner: Dragging this out

Warhammer Dragon Head

Hello all,

As promised, I have finished constructing my new writing partner, and I must say, it is a majestic piece.

Warhammer Dragon Miniature Prince Imirk

This miniature is Warhammer’s Prince Imrik, The Dragon Lord. Mind you, I think the dragon itself is the real showstopper.

Warhammer Dragon Miniature Unpainted

I’ve neglected to glue Imrik down so that I can try to use it as a stand-alone dragon miniature as well. You might have noticed this in my other builds, but I like having options.

I have also grabbed one of wizkidz baby dragon minis to paint as well. This little welp will be used as a proof of concept for its much larger and much more expensive mother. I have a pretty neat paint scheme in mind, but I want to test it out first.

WizKidz Baby Dragon Miniature

Those are the minis that just leaves the short story I mentioned. Well, that’s where this story takes a turn. The tale I was writing was inspired by a video essay I watched on haunted houses. You can find the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mexs39y0Imw&t=964s. The idea of the house itself as the antagonist, that it is not haunted by something but has intent of its own, is really appealing to me. It has a similar bend to some of my previous work, and I’ve already thought of some exciting directions to take it.

I was working on this story last Saturday and had one of my best writing sessions in months. I hit flow state, and the prose just poured out of me. I honestly thought I was going to finish the first draft in one sitting. But then a scene popped into my head. It was grim and visceral in a way the rest of the story was not. This scene grew to eclipse the rest of the story, and beyond being horrifying, it was surprisingly moving. That was when I decided to stop writing.

You see, this new scene threw the whole project into flux. It was a complex character moment that needed at least 3000 words to itself. This meant I was no longer writing a short story; I was writing a new novel.

This leads to my final realization and also a reveal of sorts. You see, I had always intended on participating in NaNoWriMo this year. NaNoWriMo stands for the national novel writing month, and it takes place every November. You can find out more about it here: https://nanowrimo.org/about-nano.  I have wanted to participate for years now, so I’m biting the bullet and jumping into a new work in November. That’s part of why I have been working so hard to get my current novel off my plate. I want to work on a new one soon! When I realized my ghost story was actually a novel and that I was excited to dive in, it seemed apparent that this would be my NaNoWriMo project for this year.

So there you go, that evening of writing established my goals for the rest of the year. First, finish my current novel by October. Then write a new fist draft in November, and have the second book written and edited before the new year. In short, I have a lot to do… so I guess I should get back to work.

10 Chapters In

various painted gaming miniatures

Hello all,

I’ve finally finished editing the first act of my book. As expected, chapter 6 got the most work, but I honestly think this rough 100 pages is much better now. I’ll need to take a look at the second act and figure out where the problem chapters are so I can pick new writing partners.

However, let’s take a moment to look at the writing partners for the last section, the unusual suspects!

Here is what they looked like before:

assorted miniatures for D&D, Death May Die, and Warhammer

And here is how they turned out:

various painted gaming miniatures
They aren’t too bad, considering they each had their own challenges. Well, every one of them except the wizard.
Death May Die Wizard mini painted.
He was pretty easy to work with.

Working with a variety of minis from different companies at the same time really made certain features stand out.

For example, while this mini is big, I had to create most of the depth myself. It has a ton of flat areas with little texture.

Painted Wizkids demon mini.
He isn’t bad but some of the finer details are rough.

Meanwhile, shading and highlighting even a tiny games workshop mini was a breeze.

Games Workshop goblin. Painted AOS
Imagine, this guy was supposed to be a decoration for another mini!

The dwarf turned out fine, and the less I can say about the halfling, the better. However, overall I’m happy with them. I got a chance to play around with contrast paints, and they were just right for keeping myself busy while I brainstormed.

For the next section, I’m not sure if I should do another set of minis or paint one large one. I enjoy variety, but focusing on one mini does significantly improve the final product. I’ll just have to start working on the next few chapters and see where my muse takes me!

Xander of the Broken Antler

Hello All,

                I recently took part in a Christmas themed one-off D&D session. We did it over Zoom, but it was still great to roll some dice again. I didn’t use my normal random number character building methods for this character, but I still think it’s pretty neat.

This is the backstory for Xander of the Broken Antler.

*****

                It began like any other holiday season. Xander was home tending the hearth, waiting for his parents to return home from their shopping excursion to town. Xander was patient for a ten-year-old and was not concerned that they were running late. He busied himself with preparing dinner and writing his letter to Santa by firelight. It was a short list: a wooden ship, a new hat, sweets and something nice for his parents. The simple list of a kind child. He would soon deliver it by tossing the letter into the lit hearth of the fireplace, as was the tradition in his village, but he would wait for his parents to do that. As the night grew long, Xander could wait no longer and fell asleep on the rug in front of the fire.

                His parents never returned.

                Xander woke in the morning to a knock on the front door of the cabin. He opened it to find his neighbors there; sadness spread across their faces. They could hardly speak, but through sobs and choked voices, he understood what had happened. His parents were beaten, robbed, and left to die in the snow.

                The neighbors offered Xander their home. They said he could stay as long as he wanted. He thanked them and said he would come, but he wanted to say goodbye to his home. When they agreed to leave him there, Xander closed the door and went to his room. He sat on his bed and cried quietly for hours. He has heard of similar crimes committed across the countryside and knew the perpetrators rarely paid for their crimes. That thought crystallized in his mind. They would never pay for this.

                Night was beginning to fall. Xander knew that he would need to leave soon if he was to make his way to his Neighbors’ cabin. That thought floated back into his head, first like drifting snow, then like a frigid blizzard.

                They will never pay for this.

                His parents loved him and raised him to be kind. They would want to be remembered, but also for him to be safe. He knew he should have gone to his neighbors. They had always been good to him. They would treat him like family. Like family.

                Like family.

                He knew he should be charitable. They died due to the cold. The thieves may not have meant to.

                May not have meant to.

                Leave them to die slowly in the cold.

                Xander was unsure if the voice growing stronger inside him was his own, but he was sure of its intent. Guided by confidence uncommon for one so young, he moved to the hearth. For the first time in his life, he knew this letter would be read.

                Xander tore up his previous letter and gathered up a new piece of thick parchment. Rushing to begin his task, Xander cut his thumb along the side of the paper. A deep, stinging wound, but he hardly noticed it. He wrote a new letter to Santa Clause.

                Dear Santa,

                I have been good this year. I have been good all my life, as have my parents. But instead of gifts, they received death, and I misery.

                Know that I have only one request. If you grant this request, I shall never want for anything else.  One single gift for which I am willing to devote my life in exchange.

                I want revenge.

                With that final sentence, Xander felt a weight lift from his heart. For the first time in his short life, he was feeling hate. Admitting that was not only a relief, it felt good.

                Xander began to toss the paper into the fire when he realized he had not signed it. He scrawled his full, god-given name across the bottom of the page. Then, Xander felt a sting in his thumb. Guided again by assurance not his own, he pressed his thumb beside the signature, leaving behind a small bloody print.

                He folded the paper and threw it into the fire.

                Hours passed as Xander watched the fire. He wasn’t sure what he was waiting for, just that he had to wait. As the fire grew dim, the weather outside shifted. The light snowfall of the afternoon turned to a fierce blizzard. The chill wind howled and battered the cabin until suddenly, every candle in the house blew out as if the wind itself were let inside.

                “Do you hate them so?”

                Xander didn’t turn to face the voice behind him. He continued to stare into the dwindling flame. “Yes.” He whispered. “More than anything.”

                “And you would give your life to have theirs?”

                Xander considered this. He watched the flames and wondered if he could walk away. Could these flames be reignited, or would they succumb to this cold wind?

                “Yes, I will give my life,” Xander said.

                The response he received was a loud crack like a bone snapping behind him. At the same time, the fire went out, leaving only dying embers.

                “Take this and exact your task. Only with that can our pact be forged. Only then will I visit you again.”

                Xander turned to find he was alone in the room. Though it was dark, he could see no one, and nothing changed in the room, save for a curious item left on the floor. A bone, no, an antler.

                He picked it up. It was a single sharp tine from what must have been a monstrous antler. As he turned it over in his hand, it changed from bone to blade. The pale dagger glimmered in the dark and tingled in his grasp. He knew right away that it gave him power, but more importantly, it gave him direction.

                Xander disappeared from his town without a trace. He left behind the murderers, stabbed to death and shoved up the chimney of his parents’ now abandoned cabin.

*****

                Woof! I know, pretty dark for a Christmas character. I started with the concept of a warlock who has a pact with Krampus, and it just expanded from there.

                I built the character to be a stealthy magic-user. I picked spells to help him stay hidden and then gain combat advantage. If he had more levels, I would have to figure out how to give him the Sneak Attack ability to use these spells and the theme better. Think Nightcrawler from the second X-Men film, but Christmas themed.

                For the pact, I imagine Xander is compelled to give to the good and needy, but he is then obligated to punish the wicked to balance the scales every time he does. Basically, it’s a naughty or nice based pact. The dagger is the focal point of this pact, and it allows him to sense who is naughty and who is nice.

                I really like this character, and while I doubt I’ll ever play him again, I have a feeling I’ll be writing more about him in the new year. In the meantime, I’m well on my way to finishing my edit of the first ten chapters of my book, and likewise, I’m almost done with the accompanying writing partners. You can find a sample from the group below. Stay tuned for an update in the coming days.

Death May Die wizard miniature

Happy Holidays!

Writing Partner: The Unusual Suspects

assorted miniatures for D&D, Death May Die, and Warhammer

So I’ve finally finished redoing my previous chunk of editing and I’m ready to get back to fresh work. In the next tent-pole chapter, our protagonists will be at a location with all the principle murder suspects. In this edit/re-write, I’ll be focusing on emphasizing these suspects and strengthening red-herrings for the plot. Because of this, I have chosen to represent each character with a unique figure to paint. Introducing: the unusual suspects!

assorted miniatures for D&D, Death May Die, and Warhammer

Look at this lovely police line up! This diverse group of individuals may not all look like my characters, but they do a good job embodying them.

Lets start with this great wizard from the Cthulhu: Death May Die board game:

Wizard miniature from Death May Die

This wizard will represent a colleague of the victim and will provide unique insight into his profession work in alchemy. He will also allow me to talk about the amoral nature of science and discovery through the lens of magic. The figure itself is a great fit for my book, as it’s a fantasy book in an early modern setting. Death May Die has a 1920’s aesthetic which makes it a perfect fit for this kind of project. Not to mention the monsters in it are gorgeous; I’m sure we’ll be seeing more from this set in the future.

Next up is a fellow Goblin:

Goblin miniature from Warhammer Fantasy (AOS).

This is one of the ornamental Goblins from Feast of Bones Warhammer set we covered a while ago. Because it looked plain by itself, I added one of the Ogre daggers to its back as if it was a Goblin sized broadsword. I think it looks pretty cool like that. In the book, this character is an ex-lover of the victim and will give me a natural way to talk about Goblin culture without it seeming like exposition (though it is). I picked this mini specifically because of that accusatory finger point!

The Third suspect is an Elf. My Elves are not Tolkienesque and are instead diminutive fae-folk so I chose a halfling from the Wizkids D&D line:

D&D Halfling Miniature
This one is a little rough…

I find that the Wizkids minis are extremely good for their price, especially the large ones. The smaller minis are sometimes a tad half-baked. This little guy, representing the prime suspect, needs some serious work. I have mold lines and extra resin to trim and it’s lacking detail in a lot of places. What I do like about him, is that dagger and posture. Much like the character I’m writing, he is much more dangerous than he appears.

Our fourth suspect is a Dwarf crime boss:

WizKids Dwarf warrior, D&D miniature.

This miniature is also from the Wizkids line and has some of the same issues ad the Elf. It is probably the least fitting mini of this group but I’m trying to avoid kitbashing it for the sake of time, so I’ll try not to let it bother me. The character it represents is one of the main crime lords in the city and has many reasons to hate the deceased. But did they do it?

I saved the best for last. The final suspect is a Demon:

This Wizkids demon doesn’t look much like the demon in my story, but I think it is a great visual representation of its inner evil. I love the detail of this mini. In D&D, this is called a Nalfeshnee, which is a mid-tier demon. I like its pig face and tiny wings. It is almost a parody of grotesque excess, which is perfect for my character. I’ll need to close up some gaps in the model but otherwise this should be really fun to work on.

There you have it! A new group a minis for a new chunk of my book. Like last time, painting these will likely last longer than the work on this chapter. I’ll probably keep working on this for the next five or so chapters or until I hit another notable section of the book.

Work is starting to get back to normal so I’m hoping I can start posting more regularly again. I don’t like posting once a week as it really only leaves room for updates. Hopefully, some time soon I can post another Upping Your Game article. I have a good one in mind. We’ll just have to see how the rest of the month goes!

Writing Partner: Two For One Rehabilitation Special

D&D Iron Golem and Copper Dragon mini

After a hard month at my day job, I’m finally back to a point where I can focus on my creative work again. I’m not kidding, it was a rough month – at one point I worked eleven, nine hour days in a row. But now I’m back and craving that sweet storytelling fix.

Because August was a fairly dry month creatively, I really want to hit the ground running. Beyond getting back to the 3rd draft of my book, I have two new short stories to work on. For those of you who have read a few of my blogs before, you know this means finding a couple of painting projects that fit my stories. In the spirit of refreshing new beginnings, I have decided to pick a couple old minis that could use a fresh coat of paint.

Project Number 1: A Deadly Construct!

Iron Golem mini

This poor golem has seen better days. I bought it on a whim (it is an Iron Golem from the WizKids line) and ended up using him to test paint markers. I do, however, think this will work as a base for what will be a weathered, ancient golem when I’m done.

The story it is paired with is for a contest inspired by Steven King’s flair for making every day things seem otherworldly and scary. The contest cites Christine and Cujo, but my mind went to The Mangler. Something about a normal machine with the desire to kill speaks to that bit of my brain that is far too willing to personify objects.

Project Number 2: A Pretentious Dragon!

D&D Copper Dragon mini

This poor brass dragon (also Wizkids) was the sad result of neglect. I was working on him during a group painting night and was much more focused on the social aspect of the event than my dragon. He was also my second mini of the night, so he got far less time and much more tired eyes. The result was far too much shader on a mini that, let’s face it, is already lacking in definition. I’m going to need to grab lighter versions of the red and copper I used and slowly build definition into the paint job.

This mini will be matched with a story about the character who originally inspired my color scheme. He’s one of the dragons from my own fantasy universe and, while he does not appear in my book, he’s an important part of the world he lives in. He’s also a huge hipster, and when I saw a contest pop up for hipster fantasy stories, it was a no-brainer.

Those are my two main projects for September. I’ll write up a post for the results of each. I’m pretty confident I can pull off the stories, but let’s see if I can fix those messy minis I ruined!

Writing Partner: A Cute Monster

D&D Carrion Crawler Head

I finished the query letter For my book Everyday Monsters. Fingers crossed it properly embodies the book I wrote. As I have mentioned before I’m new to the concept of selling my works and I haven’t written a lot of these. luckily there are a lot of resources online with advice and examples. I also leaned pretty heavily on the instructions in my copy of Writer’s Market. I linked the most recent version, mine is from 2016 so it’s probably time for an upgrade.

As I do with all my writing projects I picked a thematically relevant mini to paint while I worked and this is how my latest writing partner turned out:

D&D Carrion Crawler painted.
He’s a slimy little friend but I like it!

Not as cute as the monsters in my book but it has it’s own charm. He has the kind of brash vibrant colors I was hoping for but I do wish my highlights and transitions were a bit smoother.

I ran into two issues with this mini: the first is his design and the second was the wash I used. If you look at the mini you will see he kind of has segments, but he also doesn’t. This made it hard to highlight as I had to create the sort of texture I wanted with my paint instead of it being built into the model. The Wash compounded this issue. When I washed the mini the pigment didn’t have a lot of recesses to fall into and it ended up giving a really mottled look. So I had to build up my transitions a second time because my wash didn’t smooth them out so much as cover them in a new texture.

I also could have worked more on his base, maybe added another layer to his teeth, a third layer to his eye transition, etc. However, I have new things to work on and it’s time to move on. My weekend project is looming and I need to prep my next writing partner. But first, I have some manila envelopes to toss in the mail…

Wish me luck!

Writing Partner: A Cute Creepy Crawly

Sometimes you just can’t avoid it. You work as hard as you can, try and put it off by working on new projects. Sometimes it can’t just be about the art… sometimes you need to try and sell something.

That’s what I’m working on this week, writing and sending out query letters for a book I wrote a few years ago. It’s a project that got shelved after the last wave of queries resulted in silence and rejection letters. Recently I decided to give it another shot.

It will be a lot of work creating proposal packages for the 30+ publishers I want to submit to. Such a large amount of, let’s be honest, kind of boring work would be really hard to do alone. As such I have picked out a writing partner for the project.

It’s a children’s book about monsters. This means I need to find a partner that’s monstrous, but also approachable. This would be a perfect project for a Warhammer squig, but sadly I don’t have any of those lying around. So I got my wife to help me pick out the perfect mini for this project from my sea of unpainted plastic.

This is what caught our eye:

A Carrion Crawler mini from the WizKidz line of pre-primed minis.

I’m not sure it’s everyone’s cup of tea, but I think it’s cute.

Because the project in question is a children’s book I’m painting this with bright heavily contrasting colors. I’m thinking lime green and purple. Big red eyes. Dribbling slime trails. Cute, right? The kind of mini a younger version of me would have really gravitated towards. Does it fit with the aesthetics of the book? No, not at all. But it feels right, and I think that’s what matters.

Stay tuned for an update on my submission process and to see the finished mini!