Site Features

Monday, October 28, 2013

On Recent Site Changes


Nearly one month ago I transitioned Ryndaria.com over to the new format, with two updates each week.  On Mondays, I post reviews of works by other independent authors, or create posts like today that look at my own creative process.  On Fridays, I post flash fiction that takes place in the world of Ryndaria.

For today, I'd like to discuss my takeaways after a month of producing content for the site and talk a little about what I've been working on.

Monday Reviews


I think the review posts continue to go well.  I completed reviews for three books in October, and all the authors seemed to appreciate the work and the feedback I was able to give.  I learned a lot and tweaked my reviewing format as I went.

One big change I made with my Rule of Thumb review was to go without a rating.  When I started, it seemed obvious to give a score to each book, but after reviewing a couple books, I realized my system for rating contained some flaws.

A rating system is not consistent with why I review books and post them to the site.  I see my reviews as a service to authors and their potential audience.  I want to connect readers with authors they may like.  The reviews also give me an opportunity to read a bunch of books I wouldn't otherwise read.

I do not feel comfortable giving an author a bad review in public.  I do not think it helps anyone to share a poor review of a fellow independent author's work.  I do not intend to be a critic that tells you which authors to stay away from.  I aim to highlight books I find that I enjoy, and share those with my readers.  If I find a book I feel is not worth reading, I will decline to post a review.

When talking about this with a friend, it became evident a rating system doesn't really make sense.  If every book I review is going to be 3, 4 or 5 "dragons," what does that mean?  The rating is meaningless since there are never 1-2 "dragon" books to compare with.

I do re-post my reviews to sites like Amazon and Goodreads.  Since those require a rating, I give a rating when I post the review.  So if you are really curious, you can look up my reviews on those sites.

I have a couple more stories in the pipeline to review.  Next up is James and the Dragon by Theresa Snyder.  I should have it ready by next Monday!

Are you an author looking for a review of your work?  Please find me on Twitter (@Ryndaria) and let me know.

Fantasy Flash Fiction


I completed my 4th flash fiction last Friday.  Each story is a little different in style and tone, and I continue to experiment with each new story I write.  I am still on track to release a new story each Friday, and will continue into the foreseeable future.

I hope you get a sense of the world of Ryndaria as you read these stories.  It is a dangerous world, and full of diverse peoples and societies.  I think it is obvious I am influenced by worlds such as Middle Earth (from Lord of the Rings), various Dungeons and Dragons settings like the Forgotten Realms, and even the reality of the world we live in.

Writing such short stories is more difficult than I originally thought it would be.  My earlier stories were much longer, yet said much less.  I think the practice of writing flash fiction will help clean up my writing style.  When I start to write longer stories again, I expect they will be much better reads.

I enjoy writing these stories, and I feel I improve with each one.  If you are looking to learn to write flash fiction (or any short story), I suggestion you look at Holly Lisle's free flash fiction course on her website, HowToThinkSideways.com.

I appreciate the feedback I've received for these stories, and hope you will consider posting feedback in the future.

In a couple weeks, I plan to put a poll up on the site.  I will ask you to vote on the story or character that most resonated with you.  One piece of feedback I continue to get is people want to hear more about these characters and their stories.  I will focus on writing more stories about the characters that receive the most votes.

Painting Miniatures


Many of you found my site through the pictures of the Dungeons and Dragons miniature figures I painted.  I received these minis from Reaper Miniature's (www.reapermini.com) "Bones" line of plastic, unpainted miniatures.  With Kickstarter, they raised over $3 million last year, allowing them to create molds for over 200 unique figures, and my support earned me their "core" set. 

They are doing so well, they just finished a 2nd Kickstarter campaign that raised another $3 million!  They can now produce hundreds more plastic miniatures next year.  I look forward to the many new figures that will be available next year when they complete production.

I continue to learn a ton about painting these figures.  I want to dedicate a post to them in the near future, but I learned taking pictures of these little toys is very difficult!  As my wife and I learn to take better pictures, I will write a more detailed post.





Thank you for reading today.  Please leave a comment below.  What would you like to see me tackle next?  What works for you and what doesn't?  I love any constructive feedback you might give!



Friday, October 25, 2013

Flash Fiction - Giants, and Dragons, and Orcs, Oh My!

Thank you for joining me for this week's story.  This story is based on the frost giant miniature (from Reaper Minis) I started painting a few weeks ago.  I also finished painting him this week, so you can see a picture inline with the story.

I hope you enjoy Helick's story.  Please leave a comment below.  What do you think about the characters and their actions?


Giants, and Dragons, and Orcs, Oh My!

Icy wind howled through the mountain pass. Helick Stonecleaver and his fellow frost giants concealed themselves among the rock. The fifteen foot tall giants' cold blue skin, white hair, and gray clothing allowed them to blend into the snow, ice, and rock on the peak over-looking the pass.

General Stonecleaver surveyed the area as the sun rose behind him, content his six soldiers remained hidden in the shadows, even from his own eyes. The experienced warrior hand-selected these giants from the elite 100 soldiers under his command. If this was to be his last mission, as Queen Sappira promised, these were the men to see it through.


The old general felt for his great stone sword and clutched the hilt, the familiar grip comforting his anxiety. The sun rose over the mountain peak, revealing a band of dozens of pale-skinned orcs. The general noted the muzzled young dragon, smaller than a mountain bear with scales white as the snow, with its wings tied down by thick rope.

While the frost giant leader still enjoyed obliterating the nasty, troublesome orcs after years of war with the fast-breeding pests, the dragon remained his focus. Wild dragons caused considerable trouble for the frost giant kingdom. Formidable opponents, a single adult dragon consumed the same food, treasure, and territory as a clan of giants.

Whatever their intentions for the beast, the orcs could not be allowed to keep a dragon in captivity. Helick and his men planned a quick assault: slay the subdued dragon first, and kill as many fleeing orcs as possible.

The boulder hurtling through the air at Helick and his men changed the plan.

The experienced warrior found cover as the rock slammed into the mountain below his position. Helick looked back out and saw two more rocks flying toward him. He ducked back as he glimpsed the heads of two frost giants behind the orc troops beyond the crest of the path.

Questions raced through Helick's mind. Why were fellow giants assisting the foul orcs? Had he been double crossed? The general pushed the thoughts away.

Prepare for battle,” he roared as he again grabbed his sword.

The orcs yelled back in reply as a number of them charged the pinned down giants. Two more rocks blasted the mountainside.

On his command, Helick Stonecleaver's most trusted compatriots countered the oncoming charge. They threw rocks and unsheathed swords, clubs and axes. The well-coordinated warriors tore through the lead orcs.

Boulders continued to fly in, knocking back and slowing the giants' offensive. The orc horde swarmed the seven warriors and overwhelmed them.

Helick, knocked down on his back, swatted away orcs as they rushed in on him, stinging him with their spears and swords. He knew his men lay dead or dying, their mission failed.

Orc cries of triumph turned to shrieks of terror. The general watched as orcs fled all around him.

The wounded general lay bleeding in the snow as the yells and shrieks of battle subsided. He willed his broken body and started to rise. A bloody claw, missing a talon, pressed down on his chest with unnatural strength, pinning him to the ground.

Helick lay helpless as the dragon rose its head above the giant's own. Helick glared, refusing to let the monster see fear in his eyes.

The dragon stared back, measuring up the wounded giant. It nodded its head, as if in thanks, then backed away from the general, spread its wings, and flew away. Its parting roar echoed along the pass.

Helick Stonecleaver looked at the carnage left in the dragon's wake. Slaughtered orcs littered the ground around his fallen comrades. The general forced himself up to look for survivors and answers.

 

Monday, October 21, 2013

Indie Review - Rule of Thumb

Rule of Thumb

Rule of Thumb, by Scott Baughman is a Sci-Fi adventure thriller, available on Amazon (here).  I met Mr. Baughman on Twitter, and he gifted me a copy of Rule of Thumb for an honest review.

Set in 2042, Rule of Thumb looks at the pervasiveness of technology in our lives.  As social networks continue to grow and permeate our identities, what would happen if we lost access and ceased to exist, according to the civilized world?  Can those in power truly cut us out of society, removing our identity?  Adrien Faulk discovers first hand the dangers of such a world in this Sci-Fi adventure.


Mr. Baughman does a wonderful job creating a believable near-future.  The first two chapters of Rule of Thumb sucked me right into his world.  He introduces us to Smith, a detective Mr. Faulk hires to help retrieve a lost item.  Mr. Smith prefers the "old" technology of the early 21st century, as a great contrast to the new technology of 2042.  Smith still reads the New York Times (on paper!), dines on unhealthy greasy foods, and drives an old gas powered Mustang.

The back and forth banter between Adrien and Smith helped explain the differences (both subtle and distinct) between present and future.  Their contrasting world views setup the story, and keep it moving forward.

What begins as a simple mystery of a lost family heirloom turns into an international adventure full of conspiracy, action, and intrigue.  The story flows quickly from scene to scene and does not waste any time on long exposition.  It is a quick read throughout.

The book is written in first person perspective, which I must admit is difficult for me.  I follow along first person stories just fine (and Mr. Faulk's thoughts are detailed and easy to follow), but often I find myself annoyed with the main characters of such books because I know too much of what he or she is thinking.

That said, the book is well written and easy to read.  I noticed very few, if any, typos and the formatting is clean and painless to navigate on an e-reader.  The author's clear and direct prose never confuses and keeps the story moving without hiccups.  It seems to me appropriate effort went into proofreading and editing the work.

I most enjoyed reading the author's version of future New York.  The people and technology of the high speed, high tech world are well defined and believable.  By the end of the second chapter, I was ready to settle into an urban thriller.  I must admit, I was disappointed when the story took a turn and left New York for more of an international adventure.  I hoped for more of Mr. Baughman's version of the city.

At times, the pace of Rule of Thumb races along.  I feel that the author has too many story elements for this books 140 pages.  Without giving the story away, the final third of the book contains several twists and revelations.  Before I could digest and come to terms with each one, the next showed up.  After reading the story, I feel there were a number of plot points and reveals that could be saved for later books in the saga.

After reading Rule of Thumb all the way through, I get a sense that Mr. Baughman knew where he wanted his characters to go, but did not always know how he wanted to get them there.  There are a couple scenes in the book that drive the story forward, but the characters end up surviving unbelievable situations to get to the next scene and location (particularly evident on their trip to South America)  These scenes felt like short cuts, and shook me out of the story for a time. 

I believe the story and characters would be better served taking a longer path.  This reinforces my belief that there is actually more than one book possible with this story (or a longer, more epic book perhaps).

Rule of Thumb is jam packed with action and surprise twists and turns.  Mr. Baughman's world of 2042 is believable, dangerous, and compelling.  I recommend Rule of Thumb for anyone looking for an imaginative, futuristic action-adventure tale.  I am excited to see where Mr. Baughman takes the story next!

You may have noticed there are no purple dragons here.  As I evaluate the point of my reviews and what I hope to accomplish with them, I realize a rating system is not the right way to go with Ryndaria.com.  In my post next week I will explain in more detail why I do indie reviews and why I think ratings won't be as useful as I would like them to be.  This is not to imply that Rule of Thumb does not deserve the coveted dragons.  It was a very fun read.  :-)

Friday, October 18, 2013

Flash Fiction - Treason

I went in a little different direction and stretched myself with this story.  I admit, I'm nervous about how it will be received. 

Does it make sense?  Does the ending satisfy? 

Without giving the story away, I hope you enjoy.  Please leave comments below on what you thought.  I will probably post more on this story later based on the feedback I get.  This story evolved as I wrote it, and it took on a life of its own.  I learned a lot writing it!

Here, for your reading pleasure:

Treason

Even from his private chambers deep within the castle, King Cedric the First felt the low rumble echoing off the castle walls. The king glanced between the faces of his advisers and personal guard, looking for answers.

"What are we to do?" he asked the room, eyes bulging.

"Your men will defend the castle to the last, Sire." Solomon, the King's uncle answered.

King Cedric sighed. "How did this happen? Who's even attacking?"

The king sat confused at the sudden attack. Peace marked his six year reign as king of Duwari, a small coastal kingdom. His ambassadors kept peaceful relations with neighboring nations. Increased patrols kept the roads clear of orc and goblin hoards.

"It looks like a riot, Sire. An uprising."

Cedric stomped his boots against the stone floor as he paced the room. The king dismissed Joab, Captain of the guard, to organize the castle defenses..

Solomon cleared his throat. "Your majesty, perhaps you would like to sit down."

King Cedric scowled and looked at his uncle. An armored soldier burst through the door, interrupting the tension.

"Your majesty," the soldier's voice echoed out of his iron helmet. "The outer courtyard is lost!"

"How?" Cedric squeaked. "Farmers and merchants cannot stand against my men."

"The troops surrendered, Lord. Many even turned to join the rebels." The panicked soldier stood at attention, awaiting the king's reply.

"What magic is this?" Cedric asked.

"Sire, perhaps we should regroup elsewhere," Solomon spoke up.

Cedric clenched his fists. “Never,” he spoke through gritted teeth.

"We can review our options from a safer location.” Solomon walked over and put a hand on his nephew's shoulder.

The king relented. He turned to the messenger.

"Hold the keep with your lives. No one gets through, and no surrender. Tell Joab to deal with any betrayal in kind."

The knight bowed and rushed from the room. Solomon pulled a small stone from the wall at the far end of the chamber.

A click sounded within the stone wall. The room shook as the wall moved, revealing a stairway heading down into darkness.

The king motioned to his two personal guards. One moved to the passage, leading the king and his uncle down. The second bolted the chamber door and took up the rear, pulling a lever to close the wall behind.

The lead guard grabbed and lit a torch. Cedric followed close behind. He pushed the soldier on, ready to be out of the dark, dank passage and out the hidden exit in the rocky hills behind the castle.

Cedric soon saw daylight and breathed a sigh of relief. His sigh became a shriek when strong hands grabbed him at the exit.

King Cedric squinted in the sunlight. Cedric's guard lay on the rocky ground with a tall heavyset farmer standing over him, crude sword pointed at his back. Other farmers and townsfolk pressed in on the king, subduing him and his companions.

What's the meaning of this treason?” His voice rose in pitch as he spoke.

For treason,” King Cedric recognized the voice, “and the murder of King Edgar VI, you are under arrest.”

Cedric narrowed his eyes in hatred and terror as the speaker, Prince Edgar VII, approached.  Cedric protested, fought, and begged as his captors dragged him to be hanged.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Indie Review - Antics

Here is my second review since the overhaul of Ryndaria.com.  I hope you find it helpful.
 
As always, please leave a comment below on what you found helpful or confusing about the review.  I want these reviews to help people find indie authors they can connect with and enjoy.  If this review doesn't tell you enough, let me know what is missing!
 
Indie authors out there - if you would like a review, please send me a tweet on Twitter.  In the future I will include a submission form here on the website.
 
 

Friday, October 11, 2013

Flash Fiction - The Trouble with Junior

Flash fiction #2 is here and ready for your reading pleasure.  The next story is about two characters I introduced previously, Aelar and Aelar Jr., when I painted their miniatures.  This little story takes place when the son is still a small child.

My lovely wife took a few new pictures of the miniatures, this time with some goblin enemies I finished painting this week.  I think they turned out well.  I kept them simple, but tried to bring out a little extra detail to really make them pop.  I can't wait to bring them against my players next time I am Dungeon Master!

I hope you enjoy the story.  I ended up rewriting it from scratch this week, and I do hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

The tone is a bit different than last week.  It takes place over several scenes and is in third person. 

As always, please, please, please comment below or on twitter.  I want (need!) your feedback. 

Thanks for reading.  Next Monday, I will have a review of another indie author's work up.


The Trouble With Junior

Aelar stirred, distracted from meditation by his son's cries. Noting the darkness outside, the elf sighed. He smelled the dirt and sweat of his soot-covered leather uniform lying on the floor.

Junior's habit of needing attention in the middle of the night wore on the tired elf. Aelar spent all his energy laboring for the humans of a small village. He earned just enough to feed himself and his infant son.

He surveyed the small, run-down cottage and sighed again. He promised his wife, Feliah, adventure, riches, and comfort. He failed, and she left.

A renewed cry from Junior snapped Aelar to attention. He saw the baby teetering on the top of the child's crib railing, before the little elf fell to the hard floor below.

Aelar's natural reflexes and long-ignored training sprung into action. He dove into a roll, stretching under the tumbling child. Aelar Jr.'s diapered bottom landed gently into his dad's outstretched arms.

Lying on the floor, Aelar once more let out a long sigh before he smiled and hugged the infant close.

*****


One year, and a dozen employers later, Aelar and Aelar Jr. shared the old cottage with two halfling roommates. The two little men often asked why Aelar refused to return to his forest home. With their own ancestral homeland destroyed over a century ago, the halflings scolded the elf for his pride.

Aelar replied to the questions with silence. He could never explain his self-imposed exile to anyone.

Most humans hiring unskilled, non-human laborers refused when they saw little Junior strapped to Dad's back. A few gave Aelar a chance, but their patience did not hold long. The little elf, now toddling around, found all sorts of trouble at the dangerous work sites. He climbed into an oven at a bakery, fell in a hole at the rock quarry, and caused a minor stampede of pigs at a local farm.

Each time, Aelar thanked the gods he was close by to keep his son from harm. Then he cursed them for his fate as he left to look for new employment.

*****

By the time Junior was three, father and son exhausted enough small village hospitality and relocated to Gateway, a city nestled in Sentinel Bay on the eastern coast. The larger city afforded more anonymity for the elves and more opportunities for work.

Aelar found work with a crew repairing and rebuilding a portion of the city's south wall, damaged from goblin raiders. Many on the crew enjoyed the energy and random ramblings of the toddler. They shared many good-natured laughs at the stress the little one caused his father.

Late one afternoon, Aelar stood atop the city wall adjusting the plumb line for the next section. He heard his son call out from behind.

“Ada!”

Aelar turned to see the tiny elf scramble up to stand on the twelve foot stone wall.

“Junior! How?” he yelled. The boy, surprised by his own accomplishment, stumbled, and Aelar watched his son tumble over the side.

Cries of alarm from the crew below confirmed the father's fears. He knew he could not save his son this time. He called out and reached anyway.

Aelar looked down to see Junior tuck his head, flip mid-air, and land in a crouch to the cheers of the crew.

Aelar let out a great sigh and smiled, a new idea taking form. Junior needed to train. They had work to do.

Monday, October 7, 2013

First Fiction Lessons

Happy Monday to you.

This week, I do not have a book review for you, as I am in the middle of reading several books right now.  I expect to have two reviews over the next two weeks though.  I'm close to finishing two books.

On Friday, I posted my first "flash fiction" story.  I posted other stories on the site in the past, but with Shadow's story, I wrote with a distinct beginning, middle, and end.  I tried to incorporate the lessons I learned from the free flash fiction course that Holly Lisle offers on her website, How To Think Sideways.  There are a bunch of great resources and classes on her site.

I think the hardest part of writing flash fiction is the ending.  Even though the ending is less than 10% of the words in the story (you should end a flash fiction story in less than 50 words), the ending is what gives the story meaning.  It completes the story, reveals something about the character or the world, and should answer "why am I reading this" for the reader.

I hope Shadow's ending made sense to you and that you want to see more of him.  I enjoyed creating the character and giving you a taste of him. 

The next hardest thing about flash fiction, for me, is I wanted to tell you more!  It is hard to constrain the story to around 500 words.  I'm sure many of you wonder who Shadow is, how he got in this predicament, and where he is going next.  With a story of this kind, those details have to be left out, as there isn't room to include them all. 

But, that doesn't mean I can't come back to Shadow again in the future!  I look forward to seeing where his adventures take him next time, especially since he left under messy circumstances.

I appreciate the comments on the blog and on twitter.  After taking Holly's class and learning what it takes to write flash fiction, I think I learned even more by actually going through the process and finishing a story.  I see what worked and what may have been confusing.  I can see pieces of Shadow's story I may have done differently if I were to do it over.

My next story comes this Friday.  It is a little different in tone, but I am equally excited about sharing it with you.  I hope you come back to see it soon.



I wanted to share a quick picture of my latest miniature painting.  The frost giant is not progressing as I hoped, so I decided to take a break from him and work on some monsters.  These little goblins are simple and small.  As you can see, I have the first couple colors down.  By next week, they will be complete and you'll get to see the finished product. 

Aren't they just adorable?  You can see how different they are with the giant general looming over them.

I still have over 200 miniatures to paint, so I will be busy for a long time.









Those of you into gaming miniatures, have you seen Reaper's new Kickstarter?  They are running a new drive to add even more plastic "Bones" minis to their already expansive line.  I recommend you check it out, there's a ton of great stuff there.  I can't wait to get my hands on the "gelatinous cube!"

See the Kickstarter Here



One final order of business.  I created a Facebook page.  I know some of you don't use twitter as much, but want to see my updates.  Facebook is the next best thing!  If you have suggestions on how I can make it worth your time, head on over and "Like" the page and leave a comment!

https://www.facebook.com/Ryndaria

Thanks again for reading!  Don't forget to comment below or send me a note on Twitter.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Flash Fiction - Shadow's Lament

OK.  Here it is!  My first attempt at flash fiction.  I hope you enjoy it.  Please, please, please leave a comment below or message me on Twitter (@ryndaria).  As I learn to write these, I want to know what worked and what didn't.  I respond to every comment and tweet directed my way that I can.

On Monday, I will discuss the story a bit and the process I went through in writing it.  See you then.  With that, here it is.


Shadow's Lament

"Shadow."

I winced at the name, one I chose in the arrogance of youth. I heard the sarcastic mocking in the voice. The face of the speaker showed he enjoyed my discomfort with the ridiculous name.

"Yes, Boss," I replied, eyes lowered. I spoke the well-earned name of the one sitting behind the large mahogany desk in front of me. I glanced to each side, taking in the smirks of Boss' two dangerous lackeys, the Twins.

"Ya failed me, son." His voice softened. "You lost something of value to me. How we gonna make this right?" He invited me to give a suggestion.

"I dunno, Boss," I stammered. "Maybe..."

"I'll tell you what's gonna happen," he yelled as he slammed his large hand upon the desk. "You're gonna gimme that pretty little black blade o' yers, and you're gonna thank me for lettin' you keep workin' fer me!"

"No."

The Twins circled around close while Boss finished his speech. Before I understood what I said, something hard struck from behind while a large fist slammed into my stomach.

Dizzy and out of breath, I fell to my knees and held my stomach. The need to throw up overwhelmed, but I worried how my employer would react if vomit decorated his fine exotic rug. I tried to breath.

Boss stood up from his desk and walked toward me. I understood why he negotiated behind that big wooden desk. It hid how short and fat he was.

He towered over me while I knelt.  I held my stomach and tried to keep the blade's pommel from his grasp.

"Look Shadow, we're both reasonable men." I blinked away any remaining tears as he smiled down at me. "The Twins and me ain't gonna steal yer sword. I know it's important to ya." He bent down so I could see his face.

"But we are gonna stay here until yer convinced it's worthy payment fer yer mistake."

My thoughts jumbled around inside. I understood the situation. I had no choice.

I bargained anyway.

"Boss," I panted. "Let me pay you back another way." I started to raise my head up, but Twin One grabbed my neck, forcing me to look at Boss' shoes. "I'll get it back, or find you something even better," I negotiated.

Boss sighed and shook his head. He lifted my chin with one hand and tapped my cheek with the other.

"It's the principle of it, Shadow. I'm not gonna hurt ya bad, boy. Ya got too much work to do. But I am gonna convince ya." He nodded to Twin Two.

The brute walked over to a door behind the desk. A yell escaped in protest when it opened, revealing David. Little brother looked scared, but he was in one piece.

"Boss," I stuttered as the thug pulled David's hand to the table. Twin One held tight, forcing me to watch as the little fat man lifted a hammer and brought it down on David's hand with a sickening thud. David wailed.

"Okay," I whispered, eyes closed.

I gave them what they wanted. 

As I grabbed David to leave, I shook my head. Boss could have had better than his own blood staining that glamorous carpet.


I hope you enjoyed Shadow's story.  I have a feeling this won't be the last we hear of him. 

Thanks for reading!