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Originally published at Ramblings from the Flip Side (Site under construction). You can comment here or there.

Sometimes when I get stuck on a writing project, I write a little fanfic to keep my instrument in practice and to get my inner editor to shut up. As I set up to work on Shadowrun, a little Doctor Who flash fiction bit hit me upside the head. I don’t own Doctor Who. I have no claim on any of its trademarks. As a tie-in writer, I shouldn’t even be publishing this. But it is short and cute and hopefully the Beeb will take it in the spirit it was intended (light-hearted fun not meant to violate any copyrights).

It was, the Doctor decided, quite the conundrum.

On one hand was the ultimate metaphysical problem which, if resolved the wrong way, would destroy the entire planet and quite possibly all of Time and Space with it.

On the other hand, he was very, very, very hungry.

Spoiler Inside SelectShow</>
The workroom wall shuddered, punctuated by the explosion of glass and mistreated pottery. “Damnation!” A male voice shouted.</p>

Upon the kitchen table lay a sharp knife, its red-tinged serrated teeth glimmering in the candlelight. Nearby sat a still-steaming loaf of freshly-baked bread and a large, opened jar of homemade strawberry jam. There, right in front of him, lay the solution to all of his problems.

Well, the solution to the current problem.

Actually, if he were being honest, it was only part of the solution to the current problem. Something important was missing. Something he could fix, if he really wanted to muck about with history and risk a paradox worth shattering half the known universe.

Curse after curse filled the air from the adjoining workshop, punctuated by the screams of shattered ceramics. The Doctor’s stomach growled. He glanced skyward for no particulary reason. “Better to ask for forgiveness later than permission now, yes?”

The night sky remained quiescient. If the Time Lords watched, they gave no sign.

Licking his lips, the Doctor sauntered over to the workshop’s doorway. Hands stuck in his pants pockets, chin elevated to a suitably wise position, he announced with all the gravity he could muster, “Butter.”

Surrounded by the detritus of gears, machines, and plant materials, the working scientist and teacher—George by name—looked up from his ceramic-laden temper tantrum and blinked owlishly at his visitor. “Pardon?”

The Doctor inhaled deeply, absorbing the bread’s sweet aroma through his nostrils and letting it work its healing magic. “Think butter, Mr. Carver.”

“Do you really think that will work?”

“It had better,” the Doctor replied. “I still have 37 galaxies to save tonight and I’m famished.”

George Carver frowned as calculations danced in his head. “That… might work. Though, maybe as a lubricant…”

The Doctor stamped his right foot impatiently. “Well, hurry up, man! The bread’s getting cold and a PBJ on cold bread is utterly inedible.”

And so, inspired to great heights by another man’s hunger, George Washington Carver invented the greatest foodstuff in the world that would spawn health myths of epic proportions, inspire childhood allergies, and plague denture wearers of all ages.

And they called it “Peanut butter.”

Originally published at Ramblings from the Flip Side (Site under construction). You can comment here or there.

As I was prepping for my Shadowrun game last Friday, I rediscovered an interesting tidbit that I wrote for the Shadowrun Storm Front’s Seattle Shakes chapter. In a fit of “evil gamemasterness,” I printed it out and took it to the game.

As each player arrived, I pulled them aside and asked them about their commlink setup (PAN, associated devices, how many commlinks they have, etc.). Then I said “As you go through your morning messages, you find this in your inbox” as I handed them the below message.

Dear Constituent,

On behalf of my husband, Governor Brackhaven, I am pleased to welcome you and your kin to Seattle. As you know, we recently passed a law that brought all residents of the Ork Underground into the Seattle metroplex family. Welcome to your brand new life as a legal and contributing member of society.

What you may not know is that Kenny has opened up a fund to give all new citizens of Seattle a 600¥ tax credit for the next 5 years. This tax credit will be sent to your bank account immediately, and on the first of every year thereafter. Think of it, my friend. 600¥ with which you can pay medical bills, buy groceries, or put a down payment on a new apartment. But you can only receive this credit if you register with the online census committee. Click this LINK here for more details.

Again, Kenny and I are thrilled to add you to our ever-growing family of friends and constituents. We look forward to speaking with you and don’t forget to register to vote!

Mrs. Brackhaven

“What do you do?” I asked after they read it.

So the decker (the first player I talked to) was wise enough to do research on the message before touching anything. Another player said “I forward it to the decker and ask him to check it out.” The other four players, much to my evil dismay, decided to ignore the message, declining to click the link.

But their reactions were more hilarious than I counted on. They didn’t ignore the message because they recognized the SPAM factor (despite seeing spam every day IRL). They ignored the message because 600¥ was NOT enough money for their runner characters to risk putting themselves on the grid by registering with the Seattle metroplex government. On the other hand, one player admitted if I’d put 10,000¥ in the message, he’d have known it was suspiciously spam-like.

And as soon as I permitted them to talk to each other about it, the decker immediately yells out “Don’t click the link!”

Ah, well. It didn’t work on my players, but maybe your Shadowrunners won’t be quite so clever or greedy. Give it a try and see what happens. If you haven’t already clicked the link above, it takes you to an otherwise unlinked page on my website with stats and scenario details. Check it out and let me know what you think. Before you ask, I admit to fudging things on the Matrix Actions.

Originally published at Ramblings from the Flip Side (Site under construction). You can comment here or there.

Left to his own devices (I’m working and writing today), the SO is spending the day on a Justice League and Justice League Unlimited marathon. The few times I’ve walked into the living room, I’ve added my own color commentary on remembered plot holes and character arcs. And as he swings into Twilight Part I, where Darkseid asks the League’s assistance against Brainiac, I’m suddenly struck with an important question.

At what point did Brainiac become a big enough menace that he could threaten Darkseid and Apocalypse? Darkseid is a god. Brainiac is just an android (or in the old days, a psychic entity). Maybe one heck of a powerful android, but just a friggin’ android at that.

I’m struck by another question. Darkseid wants power, immortality, and a wonderful McGuffin called the Anti-Life Equation which will give him all these things. He’s vicious, amoral, and cruel. The standard definitions of megalomania, sociopathy, and psychopathy don’t apply to him since he not really deluded (he is a god, after all) nor is he truly anti-social. He just doesn’t care about anybody but himself and his goals.

So what exactly does Darkseid get out of being in charge of Apocalypse? It’s not like he cares about the adoration or the suffering of the people. Nor does he need the “assistance” of his ambitious and frivolous lieutenants. He is powerful enough to accomplish his goals on his own, without anyone’s help. At least, that’s the way he’s always been written.

Darkseid is the DCU’s biggest power player villain. He’s spanned the centuries from the medieval era heroes, through the modern era (our time), all the way to the time of the Legion of Superheroes. Sometimes he’s dead, sometimes he’s part of the Source Wall, sometimes he’s alive and kicking (just sitting on his throne, staring into space and plotting until someone does something stupid). But he is arguably a lot more powerful than Brainiac and hardly needs to “strike a deal” with the green guy just to keep Apocalypse intact.

And now I want to know at what point Darkseid took over Apocalypse. At what point did he consider the whole thing a project worth his attention? I want to know why Orion’s DC wiki page, Orion has long been known as Darkseid’s son, has a “mom” reference linked to a comic page where Tigra claims Darkseid is not his father. I always thought Kalibak (Orion’s half brother) was the younger son, not the elder. Now I find out that Darkseid fell in love once long ago (with Suli) and had a son (Kalibak), but then there was Orion who may or may not be Darkseid’s son.

Suddenly I’m in love with a love story that I would almost pay Warner Brothers (DC Comics’ parent company) to let me write.

We all have a romantic side (believing in the power of love and heroes). It’s why Romance as a genre makes so damn much money. It’s why even our action movies have love interests in them. It’s why we cheer even for the bad guys when they have their hearts broken. We’ve been there, feeling the passion, the instant attractions, the destruction of our dreams when we lose what we love.

That’s why writing a new version of the Darkseid love story appeals to me. Here is one of the coldest of the cold bad guys who has a vulnerable side, a weakness that he has shared with no one else. Once upon a time, before he was Darkseid, he had a “love of his life” before she was murdered. He had a second son later with a woman what he did not love, who may have loved him (or had other motives for consorting with him). I want to take this heartless villain and make him a man of great passion. I want to break him into little pieces, one bit at a time, as the supports in his life are taken from him one at a time. Exploring Tigra’s relationship with him, her connections to Granny Goodness, and Heggra’s own dark schemes for her son.

Grayven, Darkseid’s third son, is a recent addition to the DCU, so I haven’t yet plotted out his mother’s relationship to any of this. But three women, three children? What other children of Darkseid could be hiding in the wings? A daughter perhaps, forgotten and sacrificed to Darkseid’s ambitions? Or perhaps he never knew she existed (that one is a stretch). Yeah, the daughter is a bit of a Mary Sue, but I’m seeing quite the potential here.

Damn. At what point did I become a Darkseid fan? When I was a kid, I didn’t care much for Jack Kirby’s world and characters. Something has certainly changed, though, because I’m obsessed with taking a younger, more vulnerable Darkseid and put him quite thoroughly through the wringer.

A New LJ Community for Writer Support

I've just created a new LJ community called WritingFirst for writers (new and veteran). Stop on by and take a look.

Originally published at Ramblings from the Flip Side (Site under construction). You can comment here or there.

So I woke up this morning in the middle of another story writing itself out in my head. This time, a group of 8-9 kids (of various ages from about eleven to fifteen) were running from the authorities for some reason. One of kids also had a father in hiding that he had just found. Suddenly the authorities were swooping down and the kids scattered to the winds. In the dream, only Cali had a name (something weird like Calios).

This is the scene that was writing itself in my head as I woke up (first draft warning). Forgive the lack of identifiers for most of the group. They’re still creating themselves.

The busy downtown streets afforded them one protection, it hid them in the crowd.

“We need to find some place to hole up.”

“But where? Every place we go, they track us down.”

“Here!” Toby said.

The kids nearly piled up on each other beside the reflective glass-walled building, staring inside as neon bright lights from the ground level businesses reflected back at them.

The elevator sat at the ground floor.

“Quick. Inside.”


“Just get inside!”

“What about the pig?” Two of the kids asked. They had ridden the pig during their escape and it hadn’t let them down. Running with all it had, along paths that the adults and the cars could not follow, the pig had brought them back to the rest of the group. Now they could not abandon it after all it had done.

“I’ll worry about the pig on the second trip. Just get inside!”

Half of the group piled inside the open elevator door. One of them pulling the dog inside with them.

The door closed behind them. Molly hit a button and the elevator took them up several floors. They emptied out into the furnished but dark lobby and sat on the floor, waiting for the rest of the group. When the others arrived, they gathered in a tight knot.

“What now?” someone asked, glancing at Toby in the gathering twilight.

“We should have gone for the penthouse,” another groused. “It will have room for all of us. We won’t get separated by walls.”

“They’d find us easier.”

“How do you know they won’t find us now?”

“Cali, tell us about this building.”

“It was finished right before the construction bust. Everything above level two was meant to be condos. Garage is in the basement. Ground floor is the business level, groceries, restaurants, department stores. Level two was the fitness center, building offices, security…”

“Security? Damn, girl! That means we were probably recorded coming into the building.”

Cali shook her head. “Finished right before the bust, remember? None of the condos were bought. Even the second floor isn’t really used or equipped save for the building office, which manages the few businesses that opened up on street level. The construction company went under. It couldn’t afford to maintain the equipment on the upper floors and not all of it got installed. The only things monitored are the garage and bottom two levels. And Molly can hack that feed and erase the image of us walking into the lobby.”

Thunder filled the room. The glass shook. The footstep boom drew their attention to the side walls.

“Colossus,” someone breathed.

Someone else whimpered in panic.

Just three blocks down, the bright red coat and high white hate of the five-story high security mecha took another block-devouring step toward the condo building. Like a toy soldier on the march, its blocky head swiveled back and forth, its gaze raking along the car-packed streets and the downtown buildings.

“We’re doomed!”

“Hush! Flatten yourselves against the floor. Don’t move. Don’t talk. If we can stay still as it passes, it probably won’t register us as anything but furniture,” Molly cautioned.

The kids lay down where they sat, each trying desperately to become a piece of the floor. Someone reached over and held down the dog’s slow thumping tail. The dog whined, so someone else reached over and gently shut his muzzle.

The glass walls rattled again. The chandlers shook.

Cali gritted her teeth and chanced a whisper. “Toby, what about the pig?”

Seriously, this made total sense in my head when it happened. Now I just need to figure out where it fits.

Originally published at Ramblings from the Flip Side (Site under construction). You can comment here or there.

Shadowrun Fifth Edition has officially been out for over 1/2 a year, so few would be surprised that Catalyst Game Labs will release new adventures, source books, and rule books for the product. That said, when a reject project spec came up, I decided to throw my hat in the ring and try my hand at writing hard-core rules. Usually I stick to fiction, metaplot fluff, adventures, and source material. But I really want to write for the current book because I have some specific things I want to see in there.

How does the proposal process work? Well, it varies from publisher to publisher. Since this is such a lengthy post, I’ve hidden the project spec crunchy bits inside the cut.*

[Spoiler (click to open)]
At CGL, the line dev notifies the freelancers that a new project spec is available. The freelancers have until X date to decide if they want to submit proposals. After the deadline passes, the line dev makes the final writing assignments based on what was proposed and what the company wants out of the project.

To the publisher, the most important parts of the project spec are project title, lead developer, final due date, target total page count, and target total word count. Page count, word count, and final due date are crucial pieces of information. Let's look at each of these in reverse order.

Final Due Date: The company is making a very specific hole in its publishing schedule for this book. If the due date is not met, then the entire schedule slips. Printers have their own needs and schedules. Not only do they have a limited number of employees, but the printers accept work based on when their equipment is free. When a publisher goes to a printer, the publisher gets put on that schedule, sandwiched in between all the other clients. If the book schedule slips, then the publisher misses its opportunity to get printed, then has to wait for all the other clients that got their work in on time.

Page Count / Word Count: Not only is this information crucial for the printer (so it knows how to allocate machine time, employee time, and supplies), but these numbers are vital for the publisher. RPGs are printed on such a thin margin that the publisher has to account for every single penny of the budget. If they go over budget, they probably won't make any money off the product. If they go under budget, then something else is going wrong. Budgeting for books is an art form and a science. Businesses that constantly overestimate or underestimate their needs often end up closing.

After the company-relevant information comes the writer-focused crunchy bits. These include a high level description of the book (the "what this book is" bit), project milestones (due dates for the individual portions of the book), references (a list of past books for proposal research), vision (the "why people need this book" bit), the format (how this book will be laid out), and a detailed synopsis.

The "references" section can be misleading. It is rarely intended to be a complete list of everything needed for a project. Some books are put on the list as a base knowledge library (recent themes, events, and rule changes). Some books are added because they are style references (we want the book to follow this format or be written in this voice). The references section is intended only as a "quick and dirty" resource for proposals. Once writing assignments are handed out, the authors are expected to do more research and use the entire library of Shadowrun products for their work before they hand in the final drafts.

Finally, the detailed synopsis is a section-by-section and chapter-by-chapter breakdown of the book itself, including word counts for each chapter (very important!) and the general idea of what each chapter is expected to include. Catalyst likes to share the love among multiple authors, so each chapter is essentially a separate proposal. While authors can propose for the entire book, it's not likely that one author will get the whole thing unless A) it's an adventure module or B) it's a very small source book.

The detailed chapter bit, BTW, is the thing that tripped me up when I first started freelancing. I took those details too literally and that’s why my very first proposal was rejected hands down. I didn’t take enough of a risk. Keeping that lesson in mind, my entire freelance career has been one of “I’m going to suggest adding this one tiny crazy-a$$ thing in the middle of all this not-so-crazy stuff and see what Jason says!”

Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But I’ve gotten a heck of a lot published under this theory. In fact, Sacrificial Limb was one huge risk. It touches on an old Shadowrun plot that shocked fans when it was first introduced before the plot ran its course and fell out of favor (around when Third Edition came out). I proposed SL to Jason Hardy knowing it was 90% likely to get rejected. Then he approved it. Really, if he keeps approving my ridiculous notions, I may one day actually get my dragon colony on Venus and my Awakened penguins in Antarctica! (If anyone sees flying pigs and ice in hell before I do, please let me know. That’s when these ideas are ripe for real pitches! @=)

I’m extraordinarily excited about the current project. There are certain ideas I’ve long wanted to add to the core rule set. As I starting playing with the spec, there were two sections I definitely wanted to add my voice and ideas to. I started a “spitball” list, writing down every crazy and new idea I could think of. Then I scanned the Fifth and Fourth Editions books to match the spitballs against existing items. The obvious stuff (ideas I thought were unique but I found existed under a different name) were removed from the list. The non-obvious stuff I left in.

Then I came up with three items that may break the new system. Oh My Gosh! I was dancing when I found those ideas hiding in the nooks and crannies of my brain. Okay, so they break the system as an initial idea, but that doesn’t mean they are bad ideas. I played around a bit with them, came up with possible counter measures, then added them to my proposal. What’s the worst that can happen? Jason rejects my entire proposal. But then there’s the possibility that he accepts my proposal and says “no” to those three items or that he accepts my proposal wholesale and lets me play with AWESOME NEW STUFF.

Yeah, I’m a little excited about this project. Perhaps way more than I should be. That’s the thing I love most about writing, though. Throwing spitballs at the wall (publisher) and seeing what sticks.

UPDATE: The Shadowrun Introductory Box Set, one of the very first projects I worked on for CGL (way back in the day) has finally come to light and will be published soon. Amazon even has a page bookmarked for it. Be prepared for amazing, folks. This thing ROCKS.

*Since I’m bound by NDA, I can’t discuss particulars about projects and project specs, however, I did get pre-posting permission to discuss CGL’s project specs in generic terms.

Originally published at Ramblings from the Flip Side (Site under construction). You can comment here or there.

Writing Prompt Wednesdays welcomes you to the most dreaded time of the year. You’d never know it given the chipper music, bright lights, and festive happenings, but a monster lurks in the workplaces of the average American. It’s name? Annual Performance Reviews. We tend to forget about them until they leap out of the darkness, fastening themselves upon our necks, draining the strength from us and sucking away our will to live. Perfect fodder for a horror story, right?

Or maybe I just see it that way because I read too much Dilbert. @=)

Today we focus on character development via commonly used tools in the workplace.

Da Prompt: Pick a character from one of your stories and write a performance review (either as a peer of the character or the character’s supervisor). The performance review must include the following:

2-3 of the character’s strengths

2-3 of the character’s improvement opportunities. NOTE: This is not where you list character flaws. This is where you list weakness, some of which can come from their strengths, and use constructive criticism to tell the character how they can fix these problems.

My Example: Bruce is a self-starter and proactively takes responsibility for his mistakes, fixing them before others notice. He isn’t a glory-seeker, preferring instead to let his actions speak for his talent. While Bruce has a stellar reputation for rapid problem solving, his troubleshooting methods, blunt words, and abrupt demeanor cause others to see him as an arrogant loner with a disregard for rules. His need for immediate action overrides any consideration for discussion, which in turn jeopardizes team functionality. He willingly admits he’s not a team-player, but seems predisposed to remain a loner rather than learn how to compromise.

These problems may be resolved with a few actions, such as moving his desk closer to Clark’s (and away from Diana’s), replacing his name plate with his legal name (I can’t put his preferred nickname on the paychecks) and revoking his costume privileges. Perhaps if his cape and cowl were confiscated, Bruce Wayne might be more predisposed to create relationships within the workplace.

Da Extra Credit: Use the below 3 words in both sections of the performance review.

Da Words: Cat Wrestling, Janitor, Cookie

Da Wordcount: 500+ (flexible)

Remember, be creative. You choose the workplace / environment! It doesn’t have to be an office building, ya know.

Have fun!


Writers are frequently asked the question “Where do you get your ideas?” The question is a hard one to answer because we all find our inspiration in different places. Some people need to be given prompts, little snippets of ideas to spark their imaginations.

With that in mind, I am posting Writing Prompt Wednesdays. The goal is to inspire writers with exercises meant to train their skills and fire up the creative juices. There are rules. Most prompts will have associated word counts or style instructions. These are not meant to restrict the writer, but give the writer a chance to explore different ways of writing.

If you are an author in search of that one juicy idea, I hope these posts help. If you have ideas for writing prompts, please let me know.

Da Rules:

1) Anything goes so long as you stick to the spirit of the prompt.

2) I ask that if you do publish something based on one of my prompts, that you post the good news (and the link) in the comments of the prompt that inspired your success. You want other people to help you celebrate, right?


Originally published at Ramblings from the Flip Side (Site under construction). You can comment here or there.

At SQL Saturday Orlando, another speaker and I got into a discussion about the transition from writing to publishing. He went to my blog looking for SQL Server stuff and got confused when he found all the literary references. For a moment, he thought he was in the wrong place, then realized he had indeed found DBA Brandie who was fulfilling a dream that he himself had.

So he found me at lunch and we started talking shop, then writing. It was an amazing conversation because he articulated something that had happened to me back in the day: the endless writing loop with the goal of getting published, but none of the action.

And that’s a problem. Not just for him and not just for me, but for many people. Everyone has this dream but now that I’m in the industry, I keep forgetting what it’s like to not know how to do it. We write, we go to classes, we write some more, we go to conventions and press flesh, then we write even more. All the while we keep waiting for that magical piece of advice, that golden key that someone at a bar or in the middle of a panel will say “Brandie Tarvin, give me your novel and I will publish it with great fanfare.”

Except it never happens that way.

Sure we get contacts and we do our networking and (as I’ve said before) Networking Is Good. But until the day we actually get off our collective duffs and do something, all the networking in the universe won’t get us published.

So aside from having a completed story, what does it take to get published?

Most of the current available advice consists of the following:

    Write a cover letter.
    Get an agent.
    Have a web presence.
    Go to conventions.
    Take classes / workshops.
    Network (duh).
    Write the next thing.

Sigh. That’s all good advice, but it misses the point. That most people don’t know where to start with any of that. There’s a terror of rejection or, worse, fraud that steals all their rights or even their stories. The scariest tales of copyright infringement and intellectual property theft come from the unpublished authors, not the published ones.

So how do we do this, get from unpublished writer to published author? It depends on what you expect to get out of publication.

If you write only short stories, you’re unlikely to find an agent since most of them only rep novels. It’s the same with media tie-in works. I don’t have an agent as of yet, and here I am published.

So let’s start at the basics. You’ve finished your story. You think you’ve polished it off and it is an excellent piece of fiction. Your family and best friends have all read it and they love it. Maybe you have a writing group (and if you don’t, you need to get one). They’ve gone over it and corrected the grammar and pointed out plot points they think need fixing. Are you ready? Not quite. Get some beta readers, preferably ones that have been published before if you can and have them give you a critique. Most importantly, do NOT make changes to the story while someone is reviewing it. That’s a waste of effort and will make them feel like their opinion is unwanted. Plus you might screw up something fantastic in your quest to fix a non-existent bad thing.

If you don’t have beta readers, you can get some at these online groups:, Critters, and Book Country.

Remember to take critiques with a grain of salt. All reviewers have their own agendas even when trying to be unbiased. Get reviews from people who enjoy reading the market the story is aimed at. After incorporating the comments and reviews into the next draft, go through for a final spellcheck and punctuation review.

Decide if you want an agent or are submitting to publisher directly. Then look them up. You can learn about potential agents and publishers via Writer Market (a helpful but expensive resource that is partially out of date when it reaches print, though it has an online version too) or via search engine (an iffy result set due to paid advertising) or Publishers Marketplace (who doesn’t always vet the people who sign up there). Yet for all that, these are good ways of finding names and potential matches to your market. So use them, then follow up with additional research once you think you have a match.

And yet, we’re still missing the crucial piece here. Where to find the market for the story. The current “big six” science fiction & fantasy publishers (though that is changing with all the mergers) are Tor, Baen, Random House, Macmillan, Simon & Schuster, and Penguin (which was bought recently by Random House). Harper Collins and Hachette Book Group are also big publishers but I ignore them as I am not currently writing for their markets. Other places to find current markets (though they are mostly short stories) include, Duotrope, and the CRWROPPS Yahoo Group (whose link I can’t get to work. BTW, this is mostly a poetry listing).

Once you know your market, I strongly advise researching them before submitting. Check out their website (if they have one), Google their name with the words “+ scam” attached to the search, and most importantly read the submission guidelines (and any sample contracts they may post to their site). AbsoluteWrite, Writers Beware, and Preditors and Editors have the best resources for investigating potential agents, editors, and publishers. They report (as truthfully as they can) what sounds hinky, what looks good, and when people disappear.

Decide on where you want to submit first. Read the submission guidelines at least three times so you understand what they want, what they will accept, and how to format your cover letter / submission. Then write up the cover letter, create the submission, and send it away.

Expect rejection. You will be through the moon if they accept, but expect rejection. It’s not personal. It’s part of the business. It’s not about you. It’s about the story, the timing of the story, the voice the individual submission editors are looking for, and what slots they have available. Don’t dwell on rejection, just have a good cry and move on to the next market.

Rinse, Repeat.

Yes, you should absolutely be writing the next thing as you wait to hear back, but you should also be submitting every chance you get. Keep a list of who you submitted to and who you didn’t submit to. Put it in order of Best to Worst markets. Submit to the high paying markets FIRST (not last). I can’t say this enough. Reach for the highest bar you can. The fall might hurt a little bit more, but there’s a strategy to this. If the work is that good, and hits the right note at the right time with the right person, you won’t have to “climb the rungs” to get to the best markets. In fact, in writing there is NO SUCH THING as working one’s way up to the top. We start at the top and work down. That’s the way to get published.

And if you feel your work is still missing something, apply to one of the three best writers workshops (and most trustworthy) I’ve ever heard of: Odyessy (if you have 6 weeks free), Clarion (again, do you have 6 weeks?), or Viable Paradise (a 1 week experience that I absolutely loved). These intense writers workshops are for advanced writers with the basics down who are missing that one or two little things that push them from unpublished writer to published author. Trust me, it does work, and you make friends and networking connections that will last you a life time.

So, this is how to go from writing to publishing. The thing is, as long as we keep writing, but not submitting, all we’re ever going to be is writers with a dream. We have to take that leap of faith, that risk of failure, before we can succeed. Success is not for the faint of heart but for those brave souls who risk the chasm to grasp the reward on the other side.

Did I miss anything? Probably. Let me know if you can think of any questions I didn’t answer, any advice I passed by.


Originally published at Ramblings from the Flip Side (Site under construction). You can comment here or there.

Everyone loves a book review, especially good ones. Which is why I am so excited about this.

I am a member of the Hivemind Collective, creators and authors of the Latchkeys YA series. And while our attempts to get season 1 out and about have been stymied due to low sales numbers, we are still hitting 100% of “love it” book reviews for every reader we’ve met so far. To wit, one of my blog pals posted the following (titled “Hey, Brandie Tarvin”).

I believe it was Robert Heinlein who once said that the only book critic he cared about was a kid with two dollars in his pocket and a shelf full of books to choose from.

The-Kid-With-Two-Dollars just came to find us: “I like the first Latchkeys book, can I have the rest of the series?”

And so it shall be done. for the rest of you. :)

AWESOMEST book review EVAH! Help us get this series rebooted. Ebooks are available in Nook and Kindle format. Crazy 8 Press now has paperbacks of the season 1 (first half) available.

On a quiet, dead-end residential street on the outskirts of Omaha, Nebraska sits an old house called Tanglewood.

On a quiet, dead-end residential street on the outskirts of Omaha, Nebraska sits an old house called Tanglewood.


Originally published at Ramblings from the Flip Side (Site under construction). You can comment here or there.

I started Shadowrun Sundays to talk about the basics of RPG writing, but today I’m going to discuss rewriting. Specifically (in case you haven’t heard) my upgrade of Sacrificial Limb from Shadowrun 4A to Shadowrun Fifth Edition.

Sacrificial Limb was proposed at GenCon 2011, written in the last half of the year, and came out in 2012. Even as I wrote it, Catalyst Game Labs was planning 5e. All the freelancers were involved in some level of those discussions. But we were bound by NDA and couldn’t discuss it. What was worse, was I couldn’t write it as a dual-statted adventure because there were no rules for 5e at the time. So I wrote SL using Fourth Edition Anniversary rules using Unwired, Street Magic, Runners Companion, and Arsenal for some really kick-butt spells, gear, and rules.

About a year after SL came out, it became defunct. For those who embrace 4A rules, it still works. It’s still a grand campaign. But I hated the idea that people who upgrade to the new rules wouldn’t buy it because it was “old material.” So I came up with the brilliant idea to upgrade the adventure myself. I just didn’t realize what a massive undertaking it would be.

Rewriting an RPG adventure requires meticulous attention to detail. Not only do stat blocks need to be updated, removing old skills, adding new skills, fixing gear stats, changing out spells and weapons, but the document has to be combed for page references to other books, Opposed Test notations, nuyen (Shadowrun money) and karma (experience point) declarations, and miscellaneous typos that managed to pass by the proofreaders the last time this was printed. This is not a task for the faint of heart. My printed version is dripping with red ink. It looks so bad, that if it were a person, it would crying out for emergency aid.

Here’s a few examples of what I’m doing.

In the spells department, the following spells have not yet made it into Shadowrun 5e:

Night Vision
Decrease Reflexes
Hot Potato (one of my favorites, sigh)
Alter Memory
Borrow Sense
Chaotic World
Eyes of the Pack
Glue Strip
Some of these spells are used by multiple NPCs in the book, and some NPCs have almost nothing but these spells. That means I have to come up with completely new spells for these NPCs to take their place.

The new Matrix rules do away with nodes. Now we have grids and hosts, and currently no slaved hosts (only devices). Additionally, programs no longer have their own stats, and some of the programs in question have become actions instead. So I get to clean up issues like this:

Knight Errant Node Security (Visible)
Response Signal System Firewall

4 4 5 5

Knight Errant Node Security (Hidden)
Response Signal System Firewall

5 0 5 6

Black IC: Three Musketeers Suite
This suite from NeoNET is actually three IC programs used in conjunction: Athos, Porthos, and Aramis. Each IC program has a different task. The Athos program runs a Track program on the user, while the Aramis program runs Attack against the intruding icon and Porthos runs its own Attack program to crash the invader’s programs (selected at random).
Loaded Programs: Attack 5 x 2, Track 5, each with the Ergonomic option.
I don’t even remember what the Ergonomic option was! Now I have to go look up all the 4A stuff, compare it to the 5e stuff, and see what can be substituted.

I’m nearly done with this rollercoaster ride, which is good because it’s giving me a non-metaphorical headache. Still, I think it’ll be worth it to know that Fifth Edition players will still be able to play Sacrificial Limb. Fifth Edition Sacrificial Limb will be available as PDF Only (though a big enough sales surge might see it printed, hint, hint). And if you don’t yet have the Fifth Edition Shadowrun core rulebook but have been wanting one, there’s still one week left in my SR5e PDF contest. You can enter on Blog1 or Blog2.

And if you want to buy the current 4Ae version of Sacrificial Limb, it is still available on Battleshop or DriveThruRPG in both print and PDF formats (and the combo print / PDF product too!).


Brandie's Stories

The Monster of Mogahnee Bay (reprint ebook, Coming Soon, Musa Publishing)

The Drunkard's Progress (Coming Soon, Musa Publishing)

Slipping Thru the Cracks, Latchkeys #7 (Sept 2012 Crazy 8 Press)

Legend of the Beemen (June 2012 Musa Publishing)

Feast of the Torn (upcoming Buzzy Magazine)

The Hunt for Liberty Jones (Space Tramps, Flying Pen Press)

The Tales We'll Tell Tomorrow (Shadowrun: Street Legends, Catalyst Game Labs)

Silk and Steam (The Ladies of Trade Town, HarpHaven Press)

Love Me Knot (A Lady Katya Story,

Another Day, Another Labor (A Career Guide to Your Job in Hell)

Locke-Down (Blue Kingdoms: Mages & Magic)

The Rose Garden (Shadowrun: Corporate Guide-Mitsuhama Fiction, Catalyst Game Labs)

The Monster of Mogahnee Bay (Blue Kingdoms: Shades & Specters)

Just My Luck (Pirates of the Blue Kingdoms)

Two for the Price of One (Transformers: Legends, iBooks Inc.)

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