The Secret Power Behind Storytelling

People ask where I get my ideas. Sometimes I can say, sometimes I can’t. I can say where I learned storytelling, though.

I learned it from role playing.

This article mentions how many authors got their start through role playing games like Dungeons and Dragons. It’s pretty nifty.

I got involved in role playing relatively late in life – most people seem to start in high school or a little before. I also got involved through a very unorthodox person: my at-the-time girlfriend! Usually it’s the boys dragging the women to the sessions!

But from the very first session I played, I was caught. I remember getting up and acting out a sword fight I had against another player while the other players were stuck in the muck fighting off a horde of zombies. It was dramatic. It was fun. It was instantly addictive in a good way. That dungeon master knew how to put together a fun story.

And then I tried to run a campaign.

And failed miserably.

Well, I don’t know if I failed miserably, but it wasn’t as good as I wanted it to be. So many story ideas! But… I ran it all wrong. I tried for a second time… and that one just disintegrated.

And then a friend lent me a book: Dungeon Master Secrets 3.0. And that next year, my friends were kind enough to allow me to try again in a very different setting. Instead of Dungeons and Dragons I ran Mage: The Ascension. It was a modern-day setting using magic in very creative ways.

And… it worked.

Role playing taught me how to construct a good story. It taught me how to use characters well. How to interact with the players to create an engaging narrative.

So, for that old girlfriend, thank you for inviting me. For that DM, thank you for letting me play that first time. The experience quite literally changed my life.

And now, though I get to role play rarely, I still tell stories, and it’s so much fun. And the stories are richer for my time as a role player.

Quality Christian Speculative Fiction — on the cheap!

I’ve reviewed a number of books from Marcher Lord Press, most recently A Star Curiously Singing and Crosswind. They’re a great company producing good speculative fiction that happens to have Christian characters.

They’re recently rebranded themselves as Enclave Publishing, and they’re having a Kickstarter campaign for their next five releases. I’ll be pledging to it (I need to wait to the new month for my new “allowance”), and if you like good fiction, you should, too. It’s cheap to get ebooks of all five novels, you support a great company, and you get five good books cheap. Did I mention that already?

I can already attest to the quality of Firebird, which I read in paperback back in the day. The concept of A Time to Die in particular also grabs my attention.

So, check out the Kickstarter, and if it interests you, send some money their way!



A New Kind of Story: One Created by the Readers!

Normally, readers find writing and musings on this blog. Well, I’m going to twist it up by trying something completely new. All you silent readers, be silent no longer! I need your input on this project! I’ll post two different versions of a story and you get to tell me which one I should use to continue the story and why. This helps me as a writer because I will be getting constant commentary on my writing; it also is an opportunity for you to control the story! In your comments, you can choose which version you like better, suggest revising ideas for that story, and suggest where the story should go next! I’m not going to be able to write the next chapter of the story if no one comments, so I will wait until I get someone to comment! Got it? Well here’s the first two versions! Continue reading

Finding Inspiration in Fireworks

Happy 4th of July, everyone!

Almost everyone watches fireworks. A beautiful display of danger high above us.  Being the good ole American that I am, I went to see some fireworks too. While I was watching, I decided to come up with adjectives to describe the fireworks differently. It’s a fun writing exercise that can be done anywhere! Here’s a few of my favorite ones.

1. The back of Chris Hemsworth’s head (the actor who plays Thor)

2. A ping-pong ball in a tutu

3. Pixie dust in an exploding bomb

4. Hydrangea bushes

5. Dreadlocks

6. Medusa’s head of snakes

7. The Hydra: a spark dies out, replaced by three more

8. A rose

9. A cheerleader’s pom-pom

10. A bow tie

11. A person puking

12. Saturn (rings and all!) and other planets

I know. You guys reading this post are cracking yourselves up with my insanity. Go ahead. Then create your own insanity. It’s a cool place to be!

Looking at every day objects and trying to creatively express their nature is a good brain teaser. It can help bring more details into your writing because you have more cool ways of expressing those details. I certainly need help with that! People like Tolkien though…a complete different story.

I hope that whoever reads this post will find an inspiration to write more from around them. Maybe even shove some time in their busy schedules to write a story!

Happy 4th to all! Woo America!

A Star Curiously Singing

A Star Curiously Singing
by Kerry Nietz

What makes a robot commit suicide?

Sandfly is a debugger: a human with an implant that allows him to interact directly with the coding in any machine. He serves his masters the Abduls without question. He’s not allowed to. The implant sees to that.

But when his master sends him to space to the first ship capable of interstellar flight through a process called “flipping,” Sandfly is given an impossible mission: He must solve why the robot tore itself limb from limb, bashing its skull against the bulkhead dozens of times. Are robots incapable of “flipping”? Did it encounter some impossible coding virus out around that distant star? Or is something more sinister happening?

Oh, and by the way? Sandfly is incapable of sleeping while on the orbiting platform. And now, the entire station is in quarantine until he can discover the source of the robot’s impossible actions. That’ll help.

And then Sandfly finds the audio stream that the robot heard immediately before going berserk…

…the star… it was… singing? Continue reading







by Kathryn Littlewood

Ever felt… just average?

Ty’s good looks bewitch everyone in the high school. Sage makes everyone laugh. Leigh can get away with anything. Ah, but Rose, the second child and oldest daughter? She faithfully helps her parents. That’s it.

Rose’s parents run the Bliss Family Bakery. Everyone in town loves their products. They’ll even claim the food is magical.

They don’t know they’re right.

Rose’s parents help out with a pinch of sunshine and a dash of laughter, or even a few whispers from the Gnome of Perpetual Sleep. When someone has a broken heart, or a moment of despair, or even when they get stuck in a rut – they’re there with the perfect baked treat.

But Rose’s parents don’t want her learning any of that. Not yet. She’s only twelve. Time enough soon.

Until an emergency calls Rose’s parents out of town and they leave her in charge of the bakery. No magic recipes, they order, and off they fly.

But Rose could prove to her parents she can handle a little magic, right?

Soon love muffins and cookies of truth are causing disasters all over town. Good thing Aunt Lily chose just that moment to visit.

…unless she’s just after the magical cookbook that keeps the family together. Continue reading

Hiatuses Happen

I made it! By my count, I’ve posted three times a week for seven weeks in a row. My original goal with Barrelbottom was to post three times a week for six weeks. I initially failed. A second attempt and I’ve done it!

…though the story obviously isn’t done.

I’m going to go on hiatus for a few weeks; I suspect a month, maybe a bit more. I know I will return, at latest, Monday, August 4th. Why am I breaking my streak?

First, the last few weeks I’ve scrambled to get posts out on time. I want to spend a few weeks without the pressure of posting and still hopefully building up a nice pad of done posts.

Second, for a large chunk of July, I’m simply out of town on vacation. I’m expecting to do a lot of writing while I’m gone, but I don’t to pressure myself into posting, or even writing Barrelbottom if I feel like writing something different.

Third, the last post ended on an appropriate cliffhanger-ish type thing. When I return, the next season will barrel forward with the metaplot and we’ll start pulling characters together. It’s time. It’s more appropriate to pause now before we tackle the next leg of the journey.

Fourth, the thing that derailed me last time was struggling with depression. I’ve felt that I’m “in the breath between storms” for a while now, and lately I’ve felt the first few raindrops hit. I’m going to give myself time to deal with this stormfront. Let’s not set up the writing for failure, shall we?

Fifth, this summer some amazing things are happening at my church, and I want to concentrate on them. God has been doing great things here – I take NO credit! – and I need to make sure I’m mentally free to focus as much as possible.

Sixth… really, do I need to go on?

But for now, the plan is to go on hiatus for Barrelbottom for at least a few weeks, but I will return to three-times-a-week posts August 4th at the latest, barring emergencies. I will likely post other things on the blog here in the meantime – if nothing else, book reviews, and my Bride’s and mine annual “book-hunting” getaway is in mid-July. I’m sure I’ll post to show off our trophies.

So, until then, read good!