Advanced Adventures #19: The Secret of the Callair Hills PDF now on sale!

My latest roleplaying game adventure module has officially been released by the great folks at Expeditious Retreat Press. It’s exciting to see my work out there, and I hope the gaming community has as much fun playing it as I did writing it!

Here is a promotional blurb:

The Callair Hills are a true frontier region. Bounded to the east by impassable mountains, to the southeast by dark forests, and to the north by goblin lands, these windy hills are largely cut off from more civilized realms. If it were not for the rich veins of silver that lie close to the surface here and the passable soils, this region would have been entirely ignored throughout history.

And now something is rotten in the Callair Hills. Over 10 farms have recently been raided and the farmers slain in their homes. Their animals are left alive and either escape when food and water run low or suffer a piteous death in cages or pens sealed-fast. Most unusually, all the farms’ worldly possessions are left undisturbed. There is something rotten in the Callair Hills, and it seems bent upon murder most foul…

Writing it was the Easy Part…

The Tunnelers has been out for a few weeks, and it’s available on a number of websites (which I’ve included below). But as an author my job has just begun. Now, of course, I need to get the word out!

If my work was hardcover or paperback, I could do a lot of my promotional work by arranging book signings at local bookstores or other venues. Even if I didn’t make a lot of sales, the fact that I would be sitting at a table, surrounded by stacks of books, might attract people’s attention and the resulting conversations might generate a few indirect sales. But my book is an e-book, so there’s nothing tangible for potential customers to flip through.

Fortunately, the technology that let me send my manuscript to the publisher can also help me advertise it. There are quite a few bloggers who, if interested in an author’s work, will review it for free, and some of these sites have a considerable number of followers. Some reviewers will also post their reviews on Amazon or other sites, in addition to their own blog, which in turn will generate more visibility. Needless to say, I’ve approached a number of them already, and there is interest.

I’ve also searched local websites for community portals related to my genre (horror), and made contact with them. If things go well I’ll increase local awareness of my book, and make links to other writers in my community. Finally, I’ve contacted my university alumni magazine to post a notice about my book, and I’ve contacted the student newspaper – never underestimate the power of the alumni community.

Although these are only first steps, the feedback I’m getting from them is encouraging. Forward momentum, no matter how small, is always better than sitting around waiting for something to happen. And if nothing else, the connections I’m making are valuable in themselves.

Some places where you can get a copy of The Tunnelers:

Solstice Publishing






Efiction Bookstore

Useful Links:

Simon Royle’s Indie Reviewers listing – a collection of sites that will review your work for free if they’re interested – a great first stop.

Show, Don’t Tell

A mentor of mine once told me that when writing a story, it’s essential to show, and not tell. This means presenting the information or action in a story such that the reader sees what you mean, rather than describing what happens in a detached manner. This brings the reader deeper into the story.

A straightforward concept, but sometimes easier said than done. While doing an edit of the first chapter of my fantasy novel, I noticed that I used a flashback to describe an event that, while minor at the time of drafting, has proved to be more important in terms of character development. I took the handful of sentences and expanded them into a full mini-scene, while at the same time using the opportunity to craft some fun dialogue. I’ll share it below:

“So you want out, after only one night?” Raimonds leaned back in his chair, studying Andrejs over steepled fingers.

Andrejs swallowed, but his throat remained dry. “I…I don’t think this kind of work is right for me.”

Raimonds smiled tightly. “You leave me in a bit of a tight spot, Andrejs. Daina spoke so highly of you, and I expected much. Keeping the neighbourhood safe is dangerous work, and I can use all the help I can get. You’re from the country; you ought to know all about community spirit. But now,” he paused with loud sigh, “I may have to move Daina back to lookout duty,” he turned to Daina, who was glaring at Andrejs in disgust, “I know how much you hated that job, especially since your little incident, but as you can see our friend Andrejs leaves me with little choice.”

He turned back to Andrejs and narrowed his eyes. “You know, boy, you’re quite lucky that I like Daina. If you had been recommended by anyone else, there’s a good chance your body would be floating in the river about now. But I trust her, and if she says someone is worthwhile then they must be good for something.

“So here’s what I’m going to do. I’ll let you walk out of here with your life, your night’s wages, and the memory of the great opportunity you refused. Keep that in mind as you toil away for nothing, or more likely return to your hovel in despair.” Raimonds snickered loudly, and was joined by the other people in the room.

Andrejs wrestled with fear and anger. They’re making a big show of letting me live and they’re rubbing my face in it, he thought. “Keep your money,” he growled through gritted teeth, “I’ll make my own way!”

“Don’t think so, kid,” said Guntis, lounging by the fireplace. “I think you’ll come crawling back here in a week, begging Raimonds to take you back. I know your kind.”

“You don’t know anything about me or where I’m from. I’ll never walk or crawl back here. Never.”

Guntis smirked and folded his arms across his broad chest. “I’ve pounded people bigger than you into the dirt for much less, kid, but you’ve got guts to say that here. Either you’re real mad, real crazy, or brave. Whatever you are, you’re funny, so instead of beating you up I’ll play a game with you,” he pulled a shiny gold coin out of his pouch and flipped it into the air. His hand darted out and caught it, and he held it out for Andrejs to see. “I’ll bet you a gold lats – you know what gold is, don’t you? – that you’ll be back here in less than a month. I’ll even stake your wager, if you want.” He snickered and wiped his nose with the back of a meaty hand.

Andrejs stared at the gold coin. He’d never seen a lats before – none of the regular folk in Paraskas had that kind of money, or if they did they were really quiet about it. He should walk away, forget this day ever happened, and start over tomorrow. He turned towards the door to leave, but was startled by a chorus of loud giggling. Raimonds was laughing, as was Guntis and a handful of other men. Andrejs hurried towards the door, and Guntis called out to him. “Afraid? Go back home – maybe your father can teach you how to be a real man.”

Andrejs bristled at the mention of his father and glared at Guntis through narrowed eyes. “You take that back.”

“Make me.”

“Alright. I accept your wager. I won’t come back, and I won’t need anyone’s help. Come see me in a month, and then I’ll take that gold from you!” Andrejs held out his hand, which Guntis sauntered over and shook. His grip was like iron.

“It’s a deal. See you in a month. You’d better be living well.”

So, after an hour’s work, I’ve not only provided a clear reason for Andrejs’ anxiety in chapter 2; I’ve also deepened the antagonism between Andrejs and Raimonds and his cronies, and given Andrejs a character flaw (overcompensation for the loss of his father, which forced him to be a surrogate father to his siblings at a relatively young age). This will clarify some aspects of the conflicts in future chapters, as well.