In Which I Give You Something Free to Read

When I posted this on the 19th, it was day #3 of my county sheltering in place. By the time I promote this post and you see it, it’s probably #8. We’ve got a little routine down: I take the kids in the morning so my wife can do her work from home, and in the afternoon I search for a day job. The kids are in contact with their schools online, and we’ve got a bunch of educational workbooks picked up from Office Depot. We’ve made sure to take them out in the sun once a day for a little running around, and Sunday we packaged up some meals to give to a food bank.

I was going to write some stuff about how you should glove up, wash your hands often, and stay informed, but if I’ve learned anything from the quarantine, it’s that there are times when your brain wants to take a break. Through this all, movies, video games, and books have been a lifeline for my family. And it’s made me think about how little and how much I can do for others without leaving the house.

So here’s the deal: I’m making the Kindle version of my vampire novel Civil Blood free, all this week, Monday March 23rd to Friday March 28th. (It’s also free on Kindle Unlimited.) I’d do it for the paperback version, too, but Amazon doesn’t make that anywhere near as easy. Besides, right now, who wants to touch a book that might have been handled by a stranger?

I’m not pretending my writing is what the world needs. But it doesn’t hurt anyone, and it could help a little, so I might as well.

In case you somehow navigated here without hearing Civil Blood‘s pitch, I usually sum up the story as “the class-action vampire rights trial to determine who gets to be called human, as told by the people assigned to kill its plaintiff.” There’s a bat virus in it, but it’s a lyssavirus rather than a coronavirus, so my application to be the next prescient prophet is firmly rejected. The book is a 400-pager, so it’s a decent time sink. Here’s the link.

Stay safe out there. Or if you can, in there.

In Which “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” Meets Miyamoto Musashi

Many years ago in Los Angeles, I was up late at night watching the Independent Film Channel. This was around the time of the breakout success of the Blair Witch Project. It being October, the traditional horror month, the IFC showed the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre. By way of introduction, they asked some film expert why he thought indie horror films spawn stories of phenomenal success. Studio films like those of Alfred Hitchcock in his ’60s oeuvre were carefully crafted, but indie horror, particularly in the ’70s to ’90s, had many stories where the not-very-cerebral flicks were made on shoestring budgets and still became wildly popular.

The expert said, “Well, when you watch an Alfred Hitchcock horror movie, you’re in suspense because you’re in the hands of a master. When you watch an indie horror movie, you’re in suspense because you’re in the hands of a f**ing maniac.”

It is with that spirit that I present to you a bit of roleplaying game writing my wife and I did long ago. Because I liked gamemastering samurai horror, and it wasn’t because I was Hitchcock.

I dug these out of the vaults, as it were. There’s three adventures, all tournaments for the samurai fantasy tabletop roleplaying game Legend of the Five Rings. They put the players through their paces with roleplaying challenges, a little mystery, and combats. They were playtested in gaming tournaments at the Origins and Gen Con conventions, over the course of three separate game sessions apiece.

I doubt I’d ever call what I did in tabletop games “wildly popular,” but some fans liked the work enough to archive the original versions of these adventures on the L5R fan site Kaze No Shiro. To add a little value here, I’ve cleaned up the old versions’ visual presentation and added a few sections based on fan feedback.

Curious gamemasters can read “Mirror, Mirror,” “Fortunes Lost,” and “Hindsight” here. Curious players who wanna read ’em can get off their duffs and become curious gamemasters.

The adventures are free to download and play. I don’t have a tip jar or Patreon or anything like that. If you liked the games, maybe you’d like my novel.

Vrrrooom vrrroooom vrrrrraaawwwwwr…