Hey everyone,

Some quick updates.

  • I’m almost finished with editing for Defying Destiny. I’m currently still aiming for a September 1st release if possible, but it may slip a little further. Either way, I expect it out soon.
  • I made some progress on Weapons and Wielders 2. The first draft is probably about 50% complete, but there are still some elements I’m not sure if I’m going to keep in there, so it could vary significantly.
  • I made a little progress on Arcane Ascension 3 as well. I’m going to call the first draft 10% written.

Sufficiently Advanced Magic is on sale on the US and UK Kindle stores today if anyone hasn’t picked it up yet. If you already have it and love it, please spread the word!

attuned_final-1200

Thanks, everyone! Hope you have a great month.

Best,

Andrew

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Some quick updates:

  • Defying Destiny (the third War of Broken Mirrors book) is out with beta readers. I sent it out in phases. The first beta (maybe more like an alpha) only went to a few people, mostly my immediate family. I’ve gotten notes back from two of them, which I used to make my first edits, then sent out the second beta phase. That’s a bit wider, and I haven’t gotten notes back from that yet. I consider the book to still be on schedule for a launch sometime around September.
  • I didn’t get as much writing done this month, since editing took a lot more time than I expected. In the future, I’ll plan for a longer period of self-editing – I was making my own edits for close to the entire month, rather than just a week or so as expected.
  • I did make some progress on the third Arcane Ascension book, but not a lot. I’d say it’s at about 7% progress, if we gauge based on the length of previous books.
  • I made more progress on Diamantine, which seems to come to me a little more easily. That one is much further along, probably close to 30%, depending on the final length. (I expect this one to be about as long as Sufficiently Advanced Magic, unless I cut it in half. Which I might – shorter books on a regular schedule is often better for readers. I’m not sure on the route I’ll take on this yet.)
  • I’ve also worked a little bit on side projects, but I don’t have enough on any of them to really announce anything new.

Thanks for your patience. I hope everyone enjoys Defying Destiny when it’s out!

Forging Divinity was the first book I published, but it was far from the first book that I wrote.

Like many authors, I spent years pursuing the dream of getting something traditionally published before going to self-publishing. I wrote books, submitted them to literary agents (and occasionally, directly to publishers) and got rejections. Stacks of them. Hundreds of rejections.

It’s very easy to give up when things like that happen. I’m glad that I didn’t, and I’m extremely grateful that my partner and my family supported me through those times.

I think about those unpublished books regularly. Sometimes I wonder about what would have happened if I’d gotten a contract for one of them, or decided to self-publish earlier. I also think about spending time to revise them now, if any of them are still salvageable.

I don’t think it’s likely that any of those projects will see the light of day. But I’d like to talk about them briefly, since the history behind them helped shape my current projects, as well as things to come.

Dawn’s Tear was my first book. It’s a finished book, and it’s…well, bad. My partner once said it was like “someone’s first fanfic”, and they weren’t wrong. It was, in many respects, my own fanfic of a D&D campaign I’d run in college. It was also something I started working on with another writer, but that didn’t work out – and that collaboration failure taught me some important lessons about setting expectations ahead of time for professional projects.

This book was almost a direct depiction of a D&D campaign. That was, to be direct, a terrible mistake. That’s not to say that it’s impossible to make a D&D campaign into a book series – Record of Lodoss War and Malazan both pulled it off (although I think the latter might have been GURPS). But I wasn’t at the skill level as a writer to know what to report directly and what to tweak more heavily for narrative.

Notably for my existing readers, this took place much later in the timeline of the setting than the books that are currently out. (It’s even later than Arcane Ascension.) Some of the things from the War of Broken Mirrors were created as backstory for the “ancient past” of this D&D campaign.

Also of note, a few characters from my later books were in there – including very different versions of Taelien, Jacinth, Aayara, and Wrynn Jaden. This Taelien was already an older and more confident veteran, and he wasn’t a main perspective character (maybe he got one chapter? I don’t remember, and I’m not checking, it’s too embarrassing.)

Will the events of Dawn’s Tear ever happen in my updated book new universe? Probably not. The whole story has changed significantly since then, and many characters – like Taelien and Wrynn – are fundamentally different people in this version of the story.

This is the least likely book for me to ever touch again.

 

Dawn’s Blade was going to be the sequel to Dawn’s Tear, but I didn’t finish it. Fortunately, I moved on to something much better instead.

 

Blackstone is when I actually found my legs as a writer to some degree. People actually liked reading Blackstone, which was a marked improvement. It’s a silly, self-deprecating autobiographical piece from the perspective of the Blackstone Assassin, chronicling his accidental rise to infamy. It also showed the start of his legendary romance and rivalry with Symphony, the Lady of Thieves.

I think this was a book that could have launched my career. It’s not at the same level as something like SAM, but it was amusing at times, and I think the protagonist had a likable kind of snark.

Notably, this is where I really started to flesh out dominion sorcery in book form. Dawn’s Tear was basically still using D&Dish magic, with very little internal consistency. I created dominion sorcery as a system for a LARP campaign in the same universe, and I think using it for this book helped make it feel much more interesting and unique. Interestingly, it also had a whole extension of the system for using scrolls (since Jacinth wasn’t actually a spellcaster for most of the book), which had some neat elements I might revisit.

This was a finished book and probably could have been published.

The novel-within-a-novel stuff I’ve been doing with the Blackstone Assassin books in my other books is an homage to this actual novel, and I’ve considered updating it for publication several times. It’s mostly a matter of just not having enough hours in the day, and wanting to prioritize my more recent works.

 

Dreams of Jade was my first attempt at a Wrynn Jaden novel. It was my first attempt at writing a martial arts focused protagonist. It probably would have been called a xianxia novel if I released it, but I had no idea what that was at the time. (The last time I touched this book was apparently June of 2010.)

Notably, the secondary protagonist (or deuteragonist, if you want to get fancy) of this book was Jonan Kestrian. Jonan is an interesting case – he’s actually one of my oldest gaming PCs (he predates Salaris), but this was my first effort at working him into a book.

It didn’t work well. This book was never finished – largely because I didn’t like the pacing, or how I was handling Wrynn herself as a character.

Shadowblade was my sequel to Blackstone. It was finished, and from what readers told me, probably better than Blackstone. Unfortunately, continuity has drifted much further from the story of this one, to the point where I don’t think I could realistically just “update” it to modern standards without rewriting it completely. In a different world, Blackstone, Shadowblade, and Dark Paladin would have been my first trilogy.

Arcanist was my attempt to write to market. In 2010-2011, epic fantasy and swords and sorcery weren’t doing so well (at least according to the people I talked to in the industry), and the cool thing at the time was urban fantasy. So, I tried to write one.

This is a really interesting one. First, because the book was terrible. Writing to market was an awful idea, and I didn’t even do a good job of understanding what made urban fantasy appeal to people ahead of time. (I’d read some, but not a lot, and I didn’t have a firm enough understanding of the hooks for readers.)

It is, however, also interesting because it was almost a LitRPG in an era before LitRPGs were codified.

In this setting, Arcanists were mages living on modern earth. They were broken down into categories based on a specializations: Movers, Burners, Breakers, Cutters, Twisters, Finders, Healers, and Turners. They wore devices called Shards that were basically pocket watches that stored mana and displayed their remaining mana percentage.

You might see some similarities to a certain other magic system of mine there.

If I’d pushed the class-based angle and the systems a little further, this might have actually been a pretty good LitRPG setting. As it is, however, I didn’t have the confidence to go all-in on those mechanics at the time, and thus they remained surface-level and kind of boring.

Oh, and my main character was named Sarah, so there’s that overlap with Arcane Ascension as well. (She was a Breaker, for the record. There were no Summoners in Arcanist.)

This is a complete book, but it’s also not a very good one. I probably won’t go back to it.

 

Marks of Iron is another interesting one. It’s the first book I tried to write where Taelien was one of the main perspectives. It also has one of the most interesting settings I’ve written, which involved a city where people are revived from the dead, then sustained with alchemy rather than food and water. The premise is that the sustaining alchemy has stopped working properly, and in a week, virtually everyone in the city is going to die (permanently).

Ashel Val, a famous alchemist, is brought in to investigate the alchemy problem. She saved a foreigner – Taelien – from being eaten by a monster while he was asleep (long story), so he tags along with her to serve as her bodyguard. We see the story through both of them, and using Taelien as the foreigner who doesn’t understand local customs or how alchemy works was a useful mechanic for introducing things that are obvious to Ashel to the reader.

I very easily could have published this one. It’s complete, the setting is interesting, and it’s probably the best self-contained piece I’ve written.

It does, however, have serious flaws.

When I was making the decision to self-publish, I had to choose between going for this one or Forging Divinity first. I chose Forging Divinity over Marks of Iron because of a couple key factors.

First, the character interactions in Marks of Iron just weren’t as good. The dialogue was weak (especially Taelien’s), the emotional highlights were unearned, and Taelien was the only person who experienced any real change.

Second, it just didn’t have enough moments of awesome. Forging Divinity is still relatively low magic compared to my modern books, but Marks of Iron was even lower, and I think it suffered from that. There are plenty of ways to write awesomeness without magic – and I had some of them, with Taelien getting a couple decent sword fights and Ashel having some decent investigative moments – but I think Forging Divinity just had more of them.

Ultimately, this would have been an interesting book to start with, but I think I made the right call.

That was the last book I finished before Forging Divinity.

I’ve had a lot of other books I’ve started without finishing after that – but those are more likely to actually be finished someday, so I won’t get into them in a lot of detail.

I will mention that I almost finished and released a “traditional” VRMMO-style LitRPG before I wrote Sufficiently Advanced Magic, and that would have been another interesting way to launch my career. I still intend to release something like that someday, but I don’t know what form it will take. I’ve started several, and I still haven’t found one that works perfectly for me yet.

Thanks for reading! I hope that this is interesting to some of you, and helps remind any aspiring authors that it can be a long road – but one that can ultimately be very worthwhile, if you stick with it and have sufficient luck.

Finally.

Finally, my first draft for Defying Destiny is done.

This book has been the most challenging work of my career. Trying to conclude a trilogy in a satisfying way is extraordinarily hard in general, and it was a challenge to switch back to a writing style similar to that of the Broken Mirrors books after working on things like Arcane Ascension. I’m much more comfortable writing in the style of Arcane Ascension now, so trying to make sure I maintained the tone and style of the original series was tricky.

I hope that people enjoy the final product when it comes out.

I’m sure my Broken Mirrors fans are wondering about the release date. I have an estimated timeline, but please bear in mind this is just an estimate.

My estimated timeline is as follows:

  • About a week for self-editing.
  • Sending to beta readers around June 1st.
  • Getting beta reader comments back around July 1st.
  • Making edits from beta reader comments until around July 15th.
  • Sending to professional editor around July 15th.
  • Getting professional edits back around August 15th.
  • Making edits based on professional editor comments for the following two weeks.
  • Hopefully done in time for a launch on September 1st.

We’ll see if I can actually make that happen. My schedules almost always tend to slip a little bit, generally at the beta reader stage. Beta readers are volunteers, and I can’t expect them to keep to a set timeline, so I expect them to often drift a little bit outside of my requested time range.

That said, I’m going to make every effort to try to get the book out by sometime in September if I can. I can’t promise anything, but that’s the goal.

Thanks to all my readers for your support and patience.

Once this is out, I’ll have more time to focus on Arcane Ascension 3 and Weapons and Wielders 2. I still haven’t made a firm choice on which one I’m going to release next; I will most likely work on both at the same time.

First, quick updates.

I’m at about 90% completion on the first draft of Defying Destiny, the third War of Broken Mirrors book. Virtually everything else is on hold in the meantime.

Once the first draft of that is done, I plan on tinkering with some other pieces while I’m in the midst of editing it and beta readers are reviewing it, then getting back to Arcane Ascension 3 and Weapons and Wielders 2 when the book is finished and released.

Now, for something completely different.

I wrote the section below for a post over on /r/fantasy, but I figured I’d repost it here, since I know some of my readers might find it interesting.

***

This is going to be something that is already very obvious to some readers, so forgive me, but it’s something I wanted to get down into writing.

The “hard magic” vs. “soft magic” discussion comes up regularly both here and in other fantasy discussions, and I wanted to bring up an element of it it that I consider to be important to me as both a reader and a writer – “fair play”.

In the mystery genre, there’s a subcategory or style that’s sometimes referred to as a Fair Play Mystery or Fair Play Whodunnit. A simplified version of this concept is that all of the major elements of the mystery are presented to the reader in advance, so that theoretically the reader can solve the mystery alongside the protagonists.

This is an essential part of the experience of the mystery for some of the people who read it. It enhances the enjoyment of the story for some to be able to say, “I figured it out!” or “Aww, how’d I miss that?” or even “I noticed this on a reread!”

To a certain subset of the fantasy reader base, a detailed magic system that is applied in a consistent way allows for a fantasy story to have a similar style of appeal.

When a character learns a new spell, or picks up a new super power, or finds an item, a reader of a fair play fantasy can try to think about how the protagonist might cleverly use that new thing to solve problems later in the story.

Similarly, when a character encounters a problem in a fair play fantasy (or “hard fantasy”, as we’d more commonly call it), a reader can stop and think, “How can the protagonist solve this with the tools at their disposal?”

The clearer the system framework in place, the easier it is to accurately predict how magic can be used to solve problems. This does not mean that great specificity and simplicity are necessarily better, however. These are simply knobs for the author to turn, and in some cases, a degree of flexibility allows for both the writer to be more creative and for the reader to have a harder (but still possible) problem to solve.

Notably, this does not just apply to magic. It’s true for any capability a character possesses, regardless of source. For a non-magical example, let’s consider Batman’s utility belt.

Let’s say we’re watching a new episode of Batman: The Animated series, because this is a better hypothetical world and the show is still being made.

At the end of the episode, Batman tricks one of his usual antagonists – Two Face – by using a trick coin he had hidden in his utility belt.

There are several ways to make this fair play, with different pros and cons. Some of these can be combined.

  1. No foreshadowing in the episode itself. The viewer is supposed to know the character already from previous episodes. This relies on long-term continuity of characters and capabilities, rather than making the episode self-contained. This means the episode has more time to focus on other things, and may work more for established fans – but it won’t be fair play for someone who only watches that one episode.

  2. Character foreshadowing. We establish Batman’s relationship with Two Face early on. He knows Harvey Dent is out of prison, and we know they’ve tangled before. He knows about Two Face having a thing for flipping a coin and using it for determining how he is going to behave. For some readers, this might be sufficient in itself.

  3. Light item foreshadowing. Early in the episode, we could see him working with his utility belt in the bat cave and filling it with items. They’re all small items that can fit in there – a utility knife, a vial of acid, an emergency beacon, a collapsible gas mask, a tracking device…all stuff Batman would have clear reasons to have on hand. This foreshadows that the belt itself, and the objects within, might be used to solve the problem.

  4. Heavy item foreshadowing. In this case, we could literally see Batman putting a coin into his utility belt at some point in the episode, or perhaps playing with a trick coin under other circumstances. Maybe Zatarra the Magician gives him a trick coin in a flashback where Zatarra is teaching him about transposition magic, making it personally relevant to Batman’s training, and more impactful when the coin is used.

Character and item foreshadowing can be combined (and often will be) to make a clearer picture, if fair play is the goal.

The heavier the foreshadowing, the easier it is for a reader to put the pieces together and see where things are going – which can be good or bad, depending on the creator’s goals. But one other advantage that’s easier to overlook is that clear foreshadowing also gives you the ability to subvert expectations.

When we see Two Face’s background with Batman, Batman loading the utility belt with all the items above, and we see Batman with the coin early on, and we might think, “He’s definitely going to trick Two Face with the coin.”

Then Batman tries it, and good old Two Face says, “I’m a lawyer, Batman. You think I’ve never seen a trick coin?”

That’s a whole other way to thrill a reader in a fair play story – misdirection. The coin was the obvious solution. So, when Two Face isn’t tricked by the coin, some readers are thrilled by the misdirect.

And that makes it all the more thrilling when Batman explains, “Of course, Harvey. But you were so distracted by the coin that you missed the tracking device.*”

*I will not pretend to be able to write Batman, but you get the general idea.

We’re reminded about the other items that Batman had in his utility belt – the ones we potentially forgot, because we as the audience were too distracted by the obvious solution presented in the coin.

Some watchers are thrilled by the twist because they caught it. They get to say, “I knew it! When Harvey took the briefcase, Batman had already put the tracking device in it!” Others get to be thrilled because they missed it, but they knew it was fair. That they could have potentially gotten it, if they’d only paid a little more attention. That can be part of the fun, too.

This isn’t going to be appealing to every individual person, nor is it necessary in every single case. But it’s a part of why I think that hard magic has a clear appeal to some readers – they can read watch the episode and say, “I knew Batman was going to try the coin, but I was surprised when he beat Two Face by using magic.”

What – you remember when I said that Zatarra taught Batman transposition magic, right?

Maybe that wasn’t the best example – maybe it wasn’t exactly fair play. It’s a sliding scale, with some readers and writers preferring different techniques. Regardless, I hope this helps illustrate the concept of why some of us enjoy hard magic in fantasy.

Hey all!

Six Sacred Swords is out on audio! You can find it on Audible here.

B1_Six Sacred Swords_Weapons and Wielders Small

It’s also currently on sale for 0.99 on the US and UK Kindle stores! If you’re interested in the Kindle edition, you can find that here.

Just a minor update.

I’ve gotten confirmation that the audio release of Six Sacred Swords is set for April 30th! This’ll be on Audible, much like my other titles, and once again narrated by the amazing Nick Podehl.

In terms of my other works:

  • Defying Destiny (War of Broken Mirrors 3) is about 80% written. I’m finally making steady progress with it. It’ll still be a while before it sees a release, since I’ll need to do beta reading and editing for it after the manuscript is done, but I’m in the final stretch of the hardest part.
  • I’ve paused working on Weapons and Wielders 2 and Arcane Ascension 3 to buckle down and finish Defying Destiny.
  • I have some other new side projects I’m very excited about, but I’m barely starting on them until I get Defying Destiny done.

That’s it for now.

This overlaps a bit with my Writing Progression Fantasy post, but I was replying to a topic on /r/progressionfantasy today and I felt it was relevant enough to repost here.

The topic of discussion was how to write progression in a satisfying way, and I’ve got a few pointers from my own experience.

Character-Specific Abilities can be awesome, as long as they feel properly earned. A good example of this would be the Iron Bodies in the Cradle series. Everyone who reaches “Iron” level gains a permanent enhancement to their body, but people who do specific training can get more specific benefits, like greater bonuses to strength, dexterity, regeneration, etc. Because there’s a personal component to this stage of progression, this makes the Iron Body feel more meaningful than most other stages of progression in that setting (and in many other settings in general).

Note that these do not truly have to be “unique” – having multiple people with the same Iron Body is fine. The main goal is to distinguish the main cast members from each other, which leads me to my next point.

Abilities that Distinguish Party Roles are useful for making a character feel awesome, but in a way that doesn’t invalidate the rest of the group of protagonists. This is easy in RPGish settings; character classes are an extremely common way of handling this, by creating a structure where each character advances, but in different ways. (The attunements in my Arcane Ascension series serve this function.) In a more open-ended style of setting, it’s often easier for character roles to overlap, and an author should be conscious of when they’re giving characters overlapping abilities.

Notably, overlapping can be fine when multiple characters share a theme, or when cooperation between them is a part of the story. Multiple characters with stealth characters makes sense if you’re writing about a group of thieves or ninja, for example.

Branching choices, when well-executed, can make a character’s progression feel more meaningful. In cases like this, it’s not necessarily important that the protagonist makes the same choice that the reader would have – the protagonist’s choice simply needs to make sense for the character. Then, once the choice is made, demonstrate the coolness of the choice. There can (and often should be) downsides, but we should see why the protagonist’s choice was valid and will give them interesting options for the future.

A great example of this is in Forge of Destiny, where the protagonist has key choices about certain elements of her path appear as abstractions in a dream.

Metrics for Improvement are a huge way of giving satisfaction to a reader. Rather than just having a character train and get “better” at sword fighting, it’s clearer when there’s some sort of structure to it. Numeric levels and named titles (ala xianxia) both serve this function. Having multiple different categories of progression can help distinguish between characters. In RPGs, this is easy because you can have things like Hit Points, attack power, etc. as separate values. In other settings, different types of advancement (e.g. physical cultivation level vs. spiritual cultivation level, or character level vs. equipment level, etc.) can help.

Comparisons Between Characters can help as well. Some readers really enjoy seeing a character surpass people who used to be far ahead of them in power, especially in things like revenge-focused stories. This can also be done with non-specific entities, like showing how a character can easily defeat categories of monsters they used to struggle with, etc.

Upgrade Frequency is a tricky subject. Stories with extremely frequent upgrades, like Forge of Destiny, are probably the clearest examples of this genre – but there’s a saturation point where it becomes harder to care about individual benefits if they’re coming super quickly. I think it’s important to find the right balance for your particular story between making upgrades frequent and meaningful.

Interesting and Distinctive Upgrade Methods can help make a particular boost feel more meaningful. This can be a very specialized form of training that makes it memorable (e.g. Goku training in high gravity) or it can be a risky choice on the part of the protagonist. Most people have seen the more traditional stuff like killing monsters to level or sitting around and Cultivating – variety helps.

I’d also like to recommend reading Cradle and Forge of Destiny for some clear examples of progression, for anyone who hasn’t checked them out already.

I hope that any aspiring writers reading this find it useful!

 

Hey everyone,

Sorry if I scared anyone with my April Fools announcement too much. =D

I am, in fact, still continuing to write my books. In fact, last month was pretty productive.

Some project specific updates:

  • I got through some major content for Defying Destiny. It’s still not done, but I’d put it at around the 75% mark.
  • The second Weapons and Wielders book is well into being written. This is largely because Six Sacred Swords was originally going to include a lot more content, but I split it into multiple books. As such, I already had a clear outline of what was going to go into this one, and I’ve gotten underway on it. I’d say it’s about 25% written, but I may stop working on it to focus on Arcane Ascension 3 next.
  • I wrote a bit of Arcane Ascension 3 – it’s at about 5% progress.
  • I’ve been itching to do some new stuff, so I’ve have a couple small projects in progress.
  • The first is a LitRPG novella. It’s basically a Zelda and Dragon Quest parody, similar to something like Yuusha Yoshihiko, Legend of Neil, Endro!, or Maoyu. This is a short project that I don’t expect to take up much time. I’ve wanted to write something that’s more of a “traditional” LitRPG for a while, and this is something of a test case for that.
  • I’ve got a bit of writing done on a more martial arts focused story (something more like Naruto or a xianxia epic). I’m enjoying getting this started, but it’s still probably a long way off.
  • I spent some more time working on a tabletop rules set for Arcane Ascension, but I’m a little conflicted about it. This would be a stand alone rules set, but I’m debating switching over to making it a Pathfinder compatible game instead. I’m not sure what would appeal to my fans more – I’ll be curious what people think.

To give a little more context behind some of my side projects, I’m going to give a little bit of explanation about the genesis of my main book setting as a whole.

So, the earliest seeds of my book universe came from online chat role-playing on AOL. For those of you were around in those days, maybe you saw me and friends playing prototypes for some of this setting’s characters in the Red Dragon Inn or that sort of thing.

The real meat of it started coming in when I wanted to write games for the IFGS (International Fantasy Gaming Society), a major live action role-playing organization. One of the player characters I created at that time was none other than Jonan Kestrian. While he’s changed significantly in his book incarnation, his affiliation and basic personality characteristics came from playing him in a LARP.

I didn’t actually end up running many events with the IFGS, but it got me working on the bits and pieces of setting information that would serve as a foundation for the next stage, which was much more important.

In college, I started running a tabletop game. This was where many of the elements that are recognizable today started – the tabletop versions of Salaris, Wrynn Jaden, Velthryn, House Theas, and the earliest seeds of Rendalir.

Years later, I started running my own LARP campaign based in the same world.

That LARP campaign started out on Mythralis – the continent used in Forging Divinity – but involved visiting other parts of the world, as well as travelers from other locations.

This is where things get super relevant for future books. Each of the other continents has a different “flavor” to it – Tyrenia is heavy on alchemy, Vylin Tor is war-torn and filled with beasts, and Artinia is heavily focused on martial arts and spiritual powers.

Some of my earlier, unpublished books, go into these areas. Marks of Iron is an entire novel written in Tyrenia (well, the intro is in Vashendamir, but almost all of it). Dreams of Jade was one of my very first attempts at writing a book, and it’s on Artinia. As you may be able to discern from the name, Wrynn Jaden was the protagonist.

When you see me talking about side projects, many – but not all – of them are going to be ways to explore these other continents that existed in the tabletop game/LARP. In some cases, I may just revise my existing books, but in many cases I’ll just be writing new ones.

I love fleshing out entire worlds like this, and I’m hoping that my readers will enjoy seeing the distinct cultures, religions, and magic systems for each continent. You can also expect to see crossover elements showing up more and more over time.

(As an important note, none of these books actually cover the events of my LARPs, tabletops, etc. They’re set in a different time period. I may do some of that someday, but things like Forging Divinity aren’t actually based directly on gameplay. That’s a valid style, but it’s not what I’m doing – I’m just writing in a RPG universe.)

Thanks for reading, and I hope my April Fools joke didn’t scare anyone too much!

Edit: APRIL FOOLS, everyone. I’m keeping the post below for posterity’s sake, however.

I have an important announcement to make today.

As many of you know, I’ve been struggling with writing Defying Destiny, my third War of Broken Mirrors book.

I’ve realized that, while writing as a professional has been very fulfilling in some respects, it’s taken a lot of the joy out of the writing process for me. I miss writing just for fun, and by making it my profession, I’ve lost much of my momentum and enthusiasm.

And so, today, I’ve come to announce that I will no longer be a professional writer. I’ve decided to pursue my true passion in life – writing Dragon Ball Z crossover fan fiction.

I realize that this may come as a shock to some of you. Not everyone can be as much of a true, passionate fan of Dragon Ball Z and crossover fan fiction as I am. I hope that if you decide to read my fan fics, you’ll see why I’ve made the choice that I have.

Here’s the first chapter of my first fic.

***

After a lifetime of wondering what my father was like, I spent my first moments in his presence avoiding him.

There was little rational reason for it. It was possible that talking to him at this early stage could create enough of a divergence in the timeline that I wouldn’t be born in that particular timeline, but that wouldn’t affect this iteration of me in the slightest.

Mother’s earliest tests had made it clear that we were dealing with a multiverse setup, and that changes to another timeline wouldn’t directly impact our own. That had, as far as I understood, been one of the greatest challenges with designing the time machine.

Getting here was easy. Setting an anchor point so that I could eventually use the machine to come home was the difficult part. She needed to find and save some sort of multiverse variable so that I could return to exactly the right time and place – otherwise, I’d either potentially end up in another timeline when I used the device to move forward, or just end up in the wrong location in space. Earth moved rapidly, so even if I returned a few minutes off, I’d be in the middle of space rather than on the planet.

If I made a serious enough mistake, I could end up in another dimension entirely. I didn’t know a lot about those, but Mother had spoken to me about legendary figures like King Kai, who had once trained many of the warriors of the past.

As exciting as the prospect of learning the Kaio Ken was, I was hoping to avoid meeting him this soon.

Still, I considered, I should see if Son Goku is willing to teach it to me, and possibly others. What would the cumulative effects of the Kaio Ken and a Super Saiyan form look like? And perhaps with such a technique, we’d be able to keep some of the others from falling so far behind in the power curve. With Piccolo’s legendary regenerative abilities, I suspect he’d be able to handle the technique’s strain even better than Goku could.

My time ship was, of course, also equipped for space travel – just as a precaution. We didn’t have the resources for exhaustive testing. Even if we had, redundancies were a good idea, and mother had considerably more experience with space flight capable ships than she did with time machines.

Killing Frieza and King Cold had been comparatively easy. Doing so without much collateral damage – and without giving a clear indication of who I was –were the difficult parts.

By my calculations, Goku would be arriving in about three hours. I had capsules on me with food and other resources to help pass the time, but I had a few more important things to do first.

I withdrew one of my capsules and expanded it, revealing a backpack. Then I opened the back and began my salvage operation.

I’d done my best to keep Frieza’s soldiers relatively intact, using only my sword when I killed them. That meant that there were a number of pieces of equipment on them that still had considerable research value.

The highest priority were scouters. My mother had fixed the one left behind by Goku’s brother, Raditz, many years ago – but that was an older model. While she’d been able to reverse engineer it and make some improvements of her own, having access to newer models of scouters would undoubtedly be useful.

Maybe we’d even be able to correct that obvious design flaw where they exploded when they detected too much power. It boggled my mind that someone would design a computer that couldn’t handle more than a six-digit integer. Maybe it was a deliberate self-destruction mechanism to prevent anyone that powerful from retrieving the device and using it to track the other devices it was connected to?

We’d find out soon.

The arm-blasters used by Frieza’s soldiers put out too little energy to be of use to me, but they could be used by seemingly anyone. I wanted to know if they generated ki on their own, or if they had some way of focusing an ordinary person’s ki to distribute it into a ki blast even if that person couldn’t manage one on their own.

The former was still useful; it could give us insights into how the android’s energy weaponry worked. If Mother could reverse-engineer the blasters – and she obviously could – perhaps she could make ones that were powerful enough to harm the androids eventually. Or, perhaps, a protective shield that would work against similar types of energy attacks.

If they worked by utilizing an ordinary person’s ki, that had better long-term applications. Any use of ki – even through the device – was likely to build up the amount of ki in the user’s body over time. We could use them as a training aid to teach ordinary humans how to manipulate ki. Eventually, maybe they would help bring people up to the level that the various legendary humans like Master Roshi, Krillin, Tienshinhan, and Yamcha used to be.

I paused, glancing upward to where most of those legendary figures were actually standing. They were still observing me from a distance.

Father was closest. He was the least intimidated my presence – understandably so, given that he was clearly the strongest person here aside from myself. He was, however, also very obviously angry.

Father’s competitive instincts were something of a legend, too.

I could use that.

I floated over to them. I was nervous, embarrassed. Fighting with Frieza and Cold had been something I’d trained for, but no amount of practice could prepare me for speaking to a man who had died before I’d been old enough to form memories of him.

I his hands clenched into fists as I floated in his direction, settling about twenty feet away.

Mother was there, too, I realized. Hiding in the back behind…was that Yamcha?

Awkward. They’d had a “thing” once, before she’d met Father.

I drew in a deep breath. “Son Goku will be arriving on this planet shortly. With his return, you will all be safe once again.”

I saw Father’s eye twitch.

Good.

“I’ve eliminated these paltry threats for you, but you should be aware that stronger opponents will be on the way. Ones that won’t sit around and gloat, or go through four forms before demonstrating their actual power. When they arrive, I’d advise you all to allow Goku to handle it. In reality, none of you will be strong enough to contribute.”

Father stepped forward, just as I’d expected. “Who do you think you are, boy? I am Vegeta, proud prince of the saiyan race! An elite among elites! If there is a threat coming, it will be I, not Kakkarot,” he spat on the ground, “that rises to handle it.”

I shook my head. “Elite? Among…who, exactly? There are four people with Saiyan blood left that I’m aware of. You couldn’t hope to scratch me or Goku in your present state, and frankly, even the boy is likely to pass you shortly.”

Vegeta trembled.

“And why are you spouting about your ranking in a structure that clearly wasn’t actually accurate? Your system classified Goku as ‘lower class’, because it apparently only took childhood power level into account. Perhaps the Saiyan species would have flourished if people had actually taken potential power into account, rather than simply looking at a starting point.”  I shook my head.

“Such. Arrogance.” Vegeta stepped forward, power cracking the ground around him. “Our empire once ruled the stars! We were the mightiest of warriors, a proud people, with generations of conquest. If not for the work of a single treacherous—”

“Frieza?” I snorted. “The guy I just offed in, what, a second?” I shook my head. “Honestly, if Goku wasn’t messing around, I’m sure he could have done the same on Namek. That’s what’s wrong with you — all of you. Stow your pride. Use a little common sense. Maybe then, the saiyan species will actually be worth something.”

“I will listen to your insults no longer!”

Vegeta charged me.

I had to hand it to him — he really had some courage, trying to attack someone who just obliterated an opponent who had killed him with ease not long before.

I didn’t bother going into my Super Saiyan form. My base strength and speed were more than sufficient to catch his hand, then punch him once in the chest.

There was a crack. Ribs breaking.

He bent double, clutching at his chest.

There was something deeply cathartic about finally being able to punch the bastard that had sired me. Sure, I’d wanted to meet him, but I knew his background.

And I knew Mom never had much in the way of taste.

This son of a bitch had once tried to destroy our world, all because a lower-class saiyan was beating him in a fight.

He coughed, producing blood.

I was unconcerned. He’d handled far worse and survived. Saiyan physiology was tough stuff.

I raised my hand again, but hesitated.

I didn’t actually want to kill him. From a practical standpoint, our future would be safest if he both existed and had sufficient motivation to grow.

That was enough time for Gohan, of all people, to flicker and appear in front of my father.

“Stop.” Gohan’s eyes narrowed. “I won’t let you hurt him anymore.”

I blinked, lowering my hand.

I couldn’t fight him. I wouldn’t. Not even if it would make him stronger.

“I won’t.” I lowered my eyes to Gohan. “But I do have one more thing to say to him.”

To his credit, Vegeta raised his head, staring me straight in the eyes in spite of his injury. “I will heal from this, boy. And I will get strong enough to destroy you for this insult.”

I laughed at the utter irony of that statement. “You should grow stronger. Getting near death like this makes us all stronger. You know that, but for some reason, you apparently forgot about it after your fight with Frieza. Get yourself a reliable method of healing and train. And when Goku is stronger than you, don’t complain that he’s ‘low class’. He’s a warrior. If you want to compete with a warrior, you need to start training like a warrior, not a prince.”

Gohan raised his head slightly, giving me an odd, appraising look. I wasn’t speaking to him, but he seemed to be processing my statement.

Vegeta just smirked. “Oh, I am a warrior. I have no doubt been fighting before you were even born. I don’t know where you came from, boy. I don’t know what backwater planet produced another hybrid — and I have no doubt that’s what you are. That hair of yours could never mark a pure blooded child, and I’ve seen the strength a hybrid can produce. But you’ve reminded me of something; a power that only a true saiyan can reach. And when I find it, I show you what a saiyan prince is truly capable of.”

“I’ll look forward to seeing it.” I smiled. “Now, I think that’s enough boasting and posturing.”

I produced a capsule. People tensed as I hit the button and tossed it, producing a mini-fridge. “Anyone want something to drink?”

***

It was, oddly enough, Krillin that chose to take Vegeta toward Korin’s landing. Perhaps there, he could receive healing from Dende. I didn’t know if he was presently on Earth, or if he’d gone to New Namek – my knowledge of certain events in this timeline was a bit fuzzy. I’d focused primarily on knowing what I needed about Goku.

The damage I’d dealt was enough to trigger a zenkai boost, the kind of near-death power increase that saiyans always seemed to experience. While taking my anger out on Vegeta had been cathartic, expediting an increase in Vegeta’s power growth had been the primary goal.

With it, perhaps he’d reach Super Saiyan a few years earlier. And with that, I hoped he’d have more time to properly train — perhaps even with Goku — before the androids arrived.

More importantly, I’d reminded him and Gohan of the utility of zenkai boosts in general.

In my timeline, they weren’t a usable advantage. We didn’t have any easy means of providing the healing necessary to get an instant benefit. There was no Dende for in-combat healing, and we’d long ago exhausted our supply of senzu beans. With Piccolo dead, we had no easy access to dragon balls.

Not until I managed to get to New Namek and used their dragon balls to wish for Piccolo, but I couldn’t do that while the androids were still roaming. I worried they might destroy the entire planet while I was away, and I wasn’t sure the Namekian balls could fix that. They were limited to restoring one life at a time.

Perhaps mother could have gone to New Namek without me, but she was rightfully concerned that the time travel machine was a higher priority.

We’d handle that soon after I returned.

I made awkward small talk with the others for a few hours until Goku finally landed.

It was amazing to see him in person.

“Hi, everyone!” He emerged from his capsule.

“Daddy!” Gohan looked so strange like this. He jumped into his father’s arms, hugging him tight.

“Oh, hi, Gohan! Wow, you’ve grown so much since I was gone.” Goku smiled, setting his son down. “You’ll have to show me what you’ve learned in a sparring match later!”

Gohan’s expression momentarily slipped into a frown, but then it brightened again. “Of course, Father!”

I noted some of the dissatisfaction there, but it wasn’t my place to say anything. Was it?

I took a step forward. “Son Goku. It’s an honor to meet you. Could we talk in private?”

“Sure!” He beamed a smile at me. “You must be the one who beat Frieza! I could sense your power even from space — you must be quite the fighter!”

I nodded to acknowledge his compliment. “I am. But there are others you’ll need to worry about more. Please, come speak to me in private.”

I noticed Piccolo listening closely to our conversation from not far away, but I ignored him. The Namekian could be discreet.

It was Mother who couldn’t hear this conversation. True, I’d probably already pushed events enough to prevent my own birth, but I didn’t want to change things so much that she avoided father entirely.

…probably.

I had conflicted feelings on that.

Goku and I walked off a ways, far enough that ordinary humans probably couldn’t hear us. Gohan looked worried, but said nothing. His eyes narrowed, not in anger, but in scrutiny. Even at his age, he was analyzing the situation.

Perhaps he’d noticed the “Capsule Corporation” logo on my jacket. I should have been more subtle.

“I’ll be direct. Son Goku, I’m from the future.”

His eyes widened for a moment. “Wow! Is that why you’re so strong?”

I nodded. “Indeed. At this point in time, I have not even been born. In order to ensure the safety of this planet, I need you to train hard for a battle to come.”

“No problem! I love training. What am I fighting?”

I smiled at his simple response. He was just as Mother had described. “A pair of androids. Their creator remains unknown in my time, but their power is tremendous.”

“What’s tremendous mean?”

I flexed for a moment, drawing in a breath. I felt a tingling sensation in my spine. Then, in a moment, my hair had shifted to the spiked gold that signified my super saiyan form.

Perhaps on reflex, Goku did the same. His power shattered the stone beneath him, shimmering in a brilliant translucent field.

I could sense his strength. It was truly impressive — almost as high as Gohan’s had been in my own time, and similar to my own current power.

“As we are right now,” I explained, “We would not stand a chance against them, even if it was two of us against one of them. We would be beaten and broken, then left to die. And they would continue to destroy the world.”

A grin slid across Goku’s face. “I like it.”

I blinked. “What?”

“A challenge. Good. I was worried that Frieza would be the end of it.” He punched his fists together. “Good, good. I needed this. You’re strong. Can I fight you?”

I nodded. “I’d like that. It would be wise to evaluate each other’s strengths. And, if possible, I would like you to share a technique or two with me.”

“Teaching isn’t really my thing,” he grumbled. “But I guess I’ll think about it, if you give me a good enough fight.”

I gave him a slow nod. “I can do that. But first, one more important thing. In my timeline, you develop a severe heart disease. It completely cripples you, leaving you incapable of fighting.”

“Aww, man! That sounds awful.” He frowned. “Don’t spoil my fighting mood like that!”

I raised to hands in a warding gesture. “I brought a cure. We developed it in the future.”

“Oh.” He sighed. “That’s a relief.”

“You have to take it when you start feeling the symptoms. No delays. Do not lose it, and do not forget. This disease will prevent you from fighting, Son Goku.”

He gave me a serious nod. “Alright, alright. I get it. You have it with you?”

I nodded, reaching into a pocket and producing a vial.

I tossed it. He caught it, then shoved it into the belt on the side of his gi.

“Great. Ready to do this?”

I nodded. “Let’s begin.”

***

I’d never fought Son Goku before, but I’d fought his son a hundred times. A thousand.

I knew much of his style and techniques, even if Gohan’s primary teacher had been Piccolo, not his father.

And so, while we were more or less evenly powered, I had an information advantage.

It amounted to little.

Son Goku was a master of technique.

Every time I came in with a direct assault, he deflect it with ease.

Every time I tried to exploit a weakness, he moved smoothly to roll with the punch.

Every time I tried one of his old companion’s tricks that I’d learned — like the famous Taiyo-ken, or Solar Flare — he knew a counter.

When I tried to leverage the reach advantage of my sword, he simply blocked it with a single ki-infused finger.

I could have imbued my sword with ki as well, allowing it to potentially cut him, but that was too much of a risk. I didn’t want to maim Son Goku in a sparring match.

In truth, fighting him was an exhilarating experience, as well as a true lesson.

Power was intensely important, but what Goku demonstrated was something different.

Skill. Instinct.

He had these things in levels I couldn’t hope to achieve.

If I wanted to confront opponents like him in the future, I’d need to devise a style that suited my own strengths more clearly.

In the end, we stopped our fight quickly. We were clearly scaring the others, and a simple mistake could have caused collateral damage.

“Wow.” Goku said. “So that’s what another Super Saiyan is like. We should do this again sometime!”

I smiled. “I’d like that. I plan to return here to assist you with fighting the androids. But first, would you do me the honor of teaching me the Kaio Ken technique?”

Goku frowned. “Why do you wanna learn that? Super Saiyan is stronger.”

“I believe we could develop a way to use them simultaneously, increasing our power even further.”

Goku shook his head. “I don’t know… There’s a difference in the allocation of ki in our bodies when we’re in our Super Saiyan state. I don’t know if it’s possible to push enough ki into the extremities at the same time to maintain both techniques.”

I stared for a moment. It was a far more technical answer than I’d expected. It was easy to forget that Goku was both a veteran fighter and a ki-wielding prodigy. While he utilized most of his abilities intuitively, that didn’t mean he didn’t understand them at all. “Could you show me regardless? Perhaps even they can’t strictly be used at the same time, I could find a way to adapt them in a useful capacity.”

“I guess.” He shrugged.

“And perhaps show the others? It may be useful to people without a Super Saiyan form, such as Piccolo or Tienshinhan.”

“Hm. Why not? Okay.”

With that, he launched into a series of demonstrations for the group.

I took copious mental notes and began to practice them.

Flooding my limbs with ki was a simple enough exercise, but I wasn’t able to emulate his technique completely. Not right away.

Still, I could sense the foundations of it working, and perhaps in time, I could learn to master it.

***

Before I left, there was one more thing I had to do.

I gave Goku the date, time, and location of the androids.

Then I went to speak privately to Piccolo.

“You heard everything, didn’t you?”

He nodded. “You’re from the future. From the look of you and the attitude, I take it you’re Bulma and Vegeta’s kid.”

I saw no reason to argue. “Yes. I’m sure you can understand why it’s important they don’t learn of that too soon.”

“Right. Fine. What do you want with me?”

I handed him a second vial of the heart disease medicine. “Make sure Goku actually takes this.”

Piccolo snorted. “I’m not his babysitter.”

“No. You’re his son’s babysitter. But you’re also practical enough to know how necessary Goku will be on the battlefield. Consider this a favor in exchange for convincing Goku to teach you the Kaio Ken.”

Piccolo glowered at me. “Fine.” He snatched away the medicine.

“One more thing. Don’t die. In my timeline, you’re gone, and so are the dragon balls. You may also want to make a backup plan, like preparing someone else who can make a dragon.”

“Hmpf. I’ll consider it.”

I nodded to Piccolo. I suspected he’d do as he was asked.

I briefly regretted hurting my father before I’d had Goku teach everyone the Kaio Ken, but with several people using it, I suspected he’d pick it up on his own if he needed to.

For now, it was finally time to go.

I headed back to my time ship, then loaded in all the goods I’d salvaged.

The scouters and ki-blasters would be useful.

With a moment of hesitation, I went back to the group.

“Did anyone bring senzu beans?”

I confiscated the small bag that Yamcha was carrying.

They’d have fewer for a little while, but they had years before the androids arrived.

I needed every edge I could get in the months ahead.

If I was injured again, now I could pop one of these immediately and earn a zenkai boost. They’d also be useful if I severely injured myself while training to combine the super saiyan form with the kaio ken.

With those in hand, I punched in the coordinates to return home.

I didn’t notice that my craft had been just slightly damaged in my sparring match with Goku.

When I hit the button to return home, I saw an error message.

And then I was somewhere else.

***

I found myself in a dark passage. The space was tight enough that my ship could barely fit inside.

I exited the craft cautiously, grimacing when I found the damaged component. I’d have to repair it before I could return.

For the moment, I stored the ship in a capsule and put it on my belt.

There was an unfamiliar type of ki source nearby, and I had to investigate.

I used a ball of ki to illuminate my surroundings.

I was indoors, in some kind of ancient-looking structure. Strange glyphs were carved into the stone walls, perhaps inscriptions in some unfamiliar language.

Was I in the wrong time, or simply the wrong place?

I didn’t know. Perhaps the ki source up ahead could tell me.

I cautiously walked forward, keeping a hand ready to draw my sword at any time. The ki source was both strong and operated under an unfamiliar frequency. It felt almost like human ki, but there was something about it that was subtly different, as if it was deeper and more all-encompassing than something I’d sensed before.

It reminded me of the descriptions that Son Goku had given me for King Kai’s ki, in fact. Had I died, perhaps, and found my way into the afterlife?

I didn’t think so. This didn’t exactly look like King Yemma’s desk.

In fact, it looked rather more like some kind of labyrinth. I imagined the ancient pyramids might have looked similar.

I sniffled at the dust in the air. This place wasn’t well-trafficked. There were no spiderwebs, though. No insects at all, so far as I could tell.

Just a single source of ki up ahead, looming. Not threatening, exactly. Just radiating outward with might.

I came to a single huge stone door and pushed it open.

A man stood on the other side, already wary. He had a white-bladed sword in his hand, glimmering with some sort of unusual ki that felt cold to my senses.

Strange, blade-like constructs protruded from his back. I could sense a faint signature of unfamiliar ki from them as well, but they appeared mechanical in nature.

My eyes widened. Was he another android?

My hand drifted to my sword, purely on instinct.

“So,” the man said, “The Abidan have finally sent me a challenger. A wolf, from the look of you.”

I shook my head. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“I suppose it doesn’t matter. Perhaps you don’t even know why you’re here.” He stretched out his sword in front of him. “But people only come to this place for one reason.”

I raised an eyebrow. “Oh?”

He nodded. “To die.”

I tensed, drawing my blade. “Do not threaten me.”

“Oh, not threatning.” His lips curved up in a little smile. “More of a challenge, from one swordsman to another.”

“If I beat you, will you explain some things to me about this place?”

He shrugged. “Sure. But you won’t. I’ve come too far to fail here. Tell me, though, stranger. Who are you?”

“I’m Trunks.” I drew in a breath. “A saiyan from Earth.”

The swordsman nodded to me. “I’ll remember that, stranger. You should know that your opponent as well. You face Tim,” he made a flourish with his blade, “Sage of the Endless Sword.”

That was an impressive title, I had to admit. “A pleasure to—”

I heard something ring in the air, then ki exploded from my blade.

I barely had time to shift the ki in my own body to shield myself before the energy made contact. If I hadn’t trained with Goku, perhaps I wouldn’t have responded quickly enough.

As it is, the strange ki rebounded harmlessly off my body, much as the sword had been deflected by Goku’s finger.

I didn’t know what that attack was, but it was clearly a dangerous technique, and he was already preparing another. I could see a bright white light beginning to form around his sword, and the mechanical arms on his back were glimmering as well.

There was no toying with someone like this.

I powered up immediately, taking my super saiyan form.

His eyes widened just a hint, and he drew his sword back to strike.

I punched him once.

He flew back against the nearby wall, cracking into it, and collapsed to the ground.

I winced.

I’d hit him a little too hard.

***

I dragged Tim’s unconscious, bleeding body into the nearest room. There was a bed set up there, as well as a second nearby rug that looked like it might have been where someone else was meant to sleep.

I may have made a terrible mistake, I realized.

If I was in the distant past, had I just caused some serious harm to the future?

I decided the simplest approach was the safest.

The so-called “Sword Sage” was alive, merely unconscious. I left him in what looked like his bed.

He seemed a resilient sort. If I left him alone, he’d probably recover on his own.

I briefly considered giving him a senzu bean, but I decided against it. I didn’t know enough about the physiology of the people here to know if it would work on him. He seemed mostly human, but there was enough different about him that feeding him a pill didn’t seem wise.

And, of course, I didn’t want to waste any senzu beans when I was still in a strange land.

I didn’t even know if I was on Earth. I hadn’t heard of any human swordsmen with power comparable to his. Yajirobe had used a sword, but he didn’t have sword techniques like this man did.

Perhaps I was in the afterlife after all?

I shook my head, then headed out of the room toward a light that indicated the surface.

Just after I left, I sensed several other, much weaker ki signatures nearby, heading toward the entrance to the labyrinth I’d just exited.

I hid my ki signature, observing.

The other figures included several warriors and a small child. None of them had ki comparable to the man I’d just faced. They were armed with various weapons, but also carrying what looked like potion vials.

I felt a degree of relief. Perhaps they had healing concoctions they could give to the man I’d knocked out.

I left the area without a word, hoping that the Sword Sage would get the treatment he needed.

I had a whole new world to explore.

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