Hooks & Histories: Fantasy RPG Game Resource

I’m pleased to announce that my first publicly-available gaming resource is live now at DriveThruRpg.com. “Hooks & Histories” is a character backstory builder for fantasy RPGs.

Are you a player who has a hard time coming up with interesting backstories for your characters? Are you a GM who’d like to create more fully-developed NPCs with strong motivations and personality quirks? These thirteen system-agnostic character hooks and histories will help populate any campaign with well-rounded and intriguing individuals to bring the world of the story and the story of the world to life.

Perfect for player characters, NPCs, and other inhabitants of any fantasy world RPG, these backstory starters are wholly character-based, and so can be used in any game system. Whether it’s for a new player who’s having trouble generating ideas for their character’s past, or a recurring NPC a GM would like to flesh out a little more fully, these character-building starters provide a great jumping-off point for characters to grow from.

Each backstory starter can be molded to fit any race or class, and includes a “Qualities & Quirks” section which players and GMs can incorporate as they choose. These are ideas, beliefs, and personality traits that may be used to further develop a character’s roleplay persona. These choices have no effect on game mechanics unless the GM chooses to use them in this way, but allow for deeper and more lively role-playing.

“Hooks & Histories” is just $2.00 at DriveThruRPG.com, so if you’re a gamer (or a writer!) you might want to have a look! The product includes both a stylized version and a tested accessible simplified doc.

Flights From The Rock takes Flight!

The upcoming anthology from Engen Books, Flights From The Rock, goes on pre-order today and you want to get yours!  This short fiction celebration of all types of flight (but particularly those with a speculative flavour) releases July 14th, 2019, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the first non-stop Trans-Atlantic flight from Newfoundland (AKA the Rock) to Ireland. (And just look at that sweet cover art by Kit Sora!)

When the call for submissions for this anthology went out, it caught my imagination and I really wanted to write a story for it. I’d done some peer review work last year with ArtsNL, the Newfoundland and Labrador arts organization, and had spent a good bit of time looking at maps of NL. There’s still much of the province that seems gloriously empty, and it would have been even more so a hundred years ago. Enough empty land, I wondered, to shelter something big…like really, really big…like…dragons? (cue dramatic music). I mean, once man began taking to the skies, they would have become rather crowded for creatures trying to fly under the radar (pun thoroughly intended). Newfoundland might have seemed a great place to escape to…until the Trans-Atlantic air race brought the annoying flying machines even there.

Thus was born my story, “Unquiet Skies,” a tale of a boy, a dragon, and the Trans-Atlantic air race, which you’ll find along with twenty-six others in this anthology of alternate histories, adventures of lost planes, steampunk tales, modern epics, and more. The book opens for pre-orders today at just $2.99, and could reach the Amazon bestsellers list, as others in the From The Rock series have done. So if you’re interested in stories that showcase “the invention, imagination, and prestige that brought us to the skies,” this book is for you! Order today and help us reach bestseller status!

OWS CyCon 2019 World-Building Showcase – Alice de Sampaio Kalkuhl

As part of OWS CyCon 2019, I’m hosting a stop in the World-Building Showcase Blog Hop. For this intriguing stop, we’ll be highlighting an Unbound to Earth tale (that is, the action is not necessarily set on Earth), but a full list of authors and topics is available on the CyCon website. I’m pleased to be hosting author Alice de Sampaio Kalkuhl for this installment of the hop, where we’ll find out more about the world of Alice’s series, Misguided Minds.

Q: Before we dive in to the specific questions about your world, what is Misguided Minds about?

Alice: The series is about how a group of researchers and the people who pick up on their work later use physics to alter the very concept of reality. Their research ultimately leads to space travel which opens the world up to a whole new  reality.

Q: That sounds fascinating! Does language play any role in your world? Does everyone speak the same language, or is there variety? Did you invent any new slang or terminology during your world-building process?

Alice: Equations play a role and following the principle of Mathematics as a sort of language. They all speak equations. Obviously, the aliens that turn up in the later books have their own languages, but I don’t plan on writing any of the languages.

Q: So, what about the world (or worlds) in the series…what kinds of climates do your characters experience? Do they see a lot of change or is it always the same? Has your world always had this kind of climate, or has it changed over time?

Alice: The climate on earth is the climate on earth, though as the years progress climate change affects the planet. In space, all planets have different climates, and, on each planet, the climate varies between places.

Q: Is there any kind of faith system in your world? Did you draw inspiration from any real cultures, living or dead?

Alice: No, most of the researchers are atheist. A few of them have their own beliefs, but they don’t placate them around.

Q: What do people in your world do for fun? Are there sports, games, music, or other activities they do in their free time?

Alice: There are a couple of amusement planets and the researchers always made sure to bring some sort of music they do, no matter what they do.

Q: What kinds of transportation and other interesting technology do your characters have access to? Are they ahead, behind, or a mix of different kinds of tech compared to where we are now?

Alice: Throughout the series, the development of technology is one of the key results of the research.

Q: Do you have different races or enhanced humans with their own unique abilities inhabiting your world?

Alice: Yes, there are aliens, both in the books taking place on earth and elsewhere. A few of the characters also develop cyborg technology that is later implemented.

Q: Let’s talk a little about your process. When you build a world, do you do a lot of research upfront, wing it completely, or something in between?

Alice: I am a research student. My favourite inspiration is research papers. Whenever I see something that would make for a good aspect to a story, I write it into the notes to my writing project. Another thing I use is pages from the vogue.

Q: How central is the setting of your story to the story itself? Is it more of an interesting backdrop, or is it integral to the events of the story?

Alice: I use setting as something that I set the characters into, not something else.

Q: When helping the reader get to know the world you built, what techniques do you use? Do you tend to be upfront about things, or keep the reader in the dark and feed them only bits at a time?

Alice: I feed readers information one aspect at a time. Long expositions only bore everything.

Q: How much of a role does realism and hard scientific fact play in your world-building? Do you strive for 100% accuracy, or do you leave room for the fantastical and unexplainable in your world?

Alice: A lot. I don’t strive for 100% accuracy. What I strive for instead, is inspiration by research. Extra-information will turn up on my website though and that’s why I occasionally write short stories for.

Q: Do you have any specialized training or background from your “real life” that has informed your world-building?

Alice: I’m about to finish a BSc Genetics which helps with developing new species and I studied a little Physics in the past.

Q: How do you keep all of the details of your world and characters straight? Do you have a system for deciding on different factors and keeping it all organized, or does it live more in your head?

Alice: I write all my books in LaTeX projects which allows me to have note documents. It’s like free Scrivener with programming.

Q: Did you experience any difficulties while building your world? Any facts that refused to cooperate or inconsistencies you needed to address while editing

Alice: It’s difficult to make sure that any new planet ends up being diverse in climate, species distribution, and culture. One thing I did was to design two species per new planet at least and to try having them not be too humanoid.

Alice, thanks so much for dropping by to chat! Where can people find you on the web?

Alice: If you want to find more about my science fiction stories, check out my booth for OWS CyCon. All my stories are available on Inkitt. The Hyperspace Hypothesis which is the first in the series can be found here. For more details on my science fiction check out my website and my blog posts on my science fiction books.

For more stops in the OWS CyCon World-building Showcase, visit the tour page on the OWS CyCon website.

My Top 5 Sci-fi Series Worlds

Coming up May 15th-19th I’ll be participating in OWSCyCon, an online genre convention (all genres!),  for readers, authors, and others in the publishing industry. I’ll be hanging around the science fiction, fantasy, and urban fantasy sections, and I have a lot going on that weekend, including a Facebook takeover event, a world-building showcase blog hop, a big giveaway, some Cover Wars brackets, and a Character Battle! Whew, it’s going to be busy and fun.

In the leadup to the convention, some of the Sci-Fi participants are posting “My Top 5” blog posts, and this is mine: My Top 5 Sci-Fi Series Worlds. I love world-building and talking about world-building, so this seemed like a natural fit for me. However, I’ve read books set in many great fictional worlds, so this took some thought! In the end I’m not sure these are truly my “top 5” or if they’re more like “5 of my top favourites plus one,” but I tried. ;) Read on to see what I decided…

Honourable Mention: Gateway (The Heechee Saga)

Books: Gateway, Beyond the Blue Event Horizon, Heechee Rendezvous, Annals of the Heechee, The Gateway Trip, The Boy Who Would Live Forever
Author: Frederik Pohl
Why it’s great: fabulous worldbuilding and intriguing aliens

It’s a long, long time since I read Frederik Pohl’s classic series, but the books, the world, and the characters have stayed with me in a way that many don’t. If I recall correctly, I first read Gateway during the university science fiction English course that had a big influence on my life. I think perhaps it made such an impression because it was one of my first introductions to a really believable alien encounter scenario. In Gateway, humans can take chances on piloting mysterious artifact spaceships without knowing where they will take them, and I realize there are echoes of this idea in both the wormhole-spelunking explorers and the types of aliens I try to write in my own Nearspace series–echoes that persisted in my brain for long years after I read the books. If you love a beautifully-realized future with intriguing characters and aliens and a relentless plot, you should give Gateway a try. It’s a classic, but it holds up pretty well.


#5 Mindspace (Mindspace Investigations Series)

Books: Clean, Payoff, Sharp, Marked, Vacant, Fluid, Temper
Author: Alex Hughes
Why it’s great: believable future worldbuilding and a perfect main character to guide you through the world

The “world” of the Mindspace Investigations series is our world, but in a future where telepathy is real, Tech Wars have torn the world apart, and telepath/drug addict Adam finds himself pulled and pushed in many directions as he tries to get his life back. I love this series in large part because this world is so well-imagined–I mean, what would humans do if some of us had telepathic powers? How would we react? And how would we function in a world where technology had been forced to fall back from its current prevalent position? It’s all very believably drawn and imagined, and there are so many storytelling possibilities inherent in the world itself! Of course, I’m also a sucker for books that mash up genres like science fiction and mystery, so it’s not surprising I’m sold on this series. If you like that kind of mashup set in a realistic sci-fi near-future, these books are for you.


#4 Rimway (Alex Benedict Series)

Books: A Talent for War, Polaris, Seeker, The Devil’s Eye, Echo, Firebird, Coming Home
Author: Jack McDevitt
Why it’s great: far-flung future worlds paired with intriguing deep space mysteries

While Mindspace takes place in our near future, the world of Rimway is far, far off–thousands of years in the future, in fact. Humanity has expanded across many planets and the far reaches of space, artificial intelligence is actually intelligent, and–finally–flying cars! ;) However, against the backdrop of this highly detailed and beautifully imagined future world, humans are still very much the same, which adds so much to the overall verisimilitude of the books. Despite our progress, there are still explorations to be made and mysteries to be solved, so these books offer just what I love in great science fiction.


#3 The Galactic Empire (Janitors of the Post-Apocalypse Series)

Books: Terminal Alliance, Terminal Uprising
Author: Jim C. Hines
Why it’s great: the twist of a future where humans are not on top, and the wonderfully imagined alien races

And now for something completely different…janitors in space! In the Galactic Empire of Jim C. Hines’ post-apocalyptic series, humans have been relegated to cleaning the toilets and tidying up after all the other sentient races who’ve fared better than we have through the march of history. I’ve been a fan of Jim’s for a long time and even had the pleasure of belonging to an online writer’s group with him long, long ago. However, it’s the exquisite combination of humour and world-building that really make this “world” a standout for me. I know, I know, there are only two books in the series yet! But that doesn’t stop it from being a definite recommendation from me if you love the lighter side of science fiction.


#2 Alternate History Earth (Oxford Time Travel Series)

Books: Fire Watch, Doomsday Book, To Say Nothing of the Dog, Blackout, All Clear
Author: Connie Willis
Why it’s great: the unusual occurrence of time travel that actually works!

It’s a little difficult to actually name the “world” where these books take place, since it’s our world in an alternate timeline where time travel is actually possible. However, I have to include it on this list because in the Oxford Time Travel series, Connie Willis actually makes time travel work. This is no small feat and although it’s been attempted a zillion times, writers are rarely able to pull it off without issues. You may not agree with me that this constitutes a “world” but to me it does; and in addition, Willis deftly navigates multiple times and historical events to bring them to life for the reader, while still tying them all together with the timeline and experiences of the main characters from the “present.” I think this series is a magnificent example of world-building, and if you’re skeptical that time travel can really be done well, I suggest you give it a try. You can read almost any of them as a standalone book, although you should read Blackout before reading All Clear, since they’re really one book that was published in two volumes. To Say Nothing of the Dog is one of the few books I re-read on a regular basis.


#1 The Expanse (The Expanse Series)

Books: Leviathan Wakes, Caliban’s War, Abaddon’s Gate, Cibola Burn, Nemesis Games, Babylon’s Ashes, Persepolis Rising, Tiamat’s Wrath
Author: James S.A. Corey
Why it’s great: the pure breadth of imagination in the world and civilization building

For sheer scale and imagination, I have to give the number one spot on this list to The Expanse. As I wrote in my original review of this first book on Goodreads, I fell in love with it because it had “grand-scale space opera, fascinating characters, tons of complexity and some great sense-of-wonder stuff.” The first book in the series is one of my favourites ever, in part because the world of the Expanse — the Belt, the Outer Planets, all of it — and the inhabitants of the world, are so brilliantly imagined. It all just works, drawing you in and not letting you go. The transition to a television series also seems to have captured this particular world-building magic, although I’ve only seen the first season. All in all, The Expanse has to be #1 on this list.

So, what do you think? Have you experienced any of these worlds? Do you want to fight me over my choices? (Just kidding, I don’t fight on the internets) However, I’m happy to hear your thoughts on the science fiction worlds you love!


OWS CyCon officially runs May 17-19 with the CyCon website and Facebook events acting as the hub for all of our events. Sign up for our newsletter or RSVP to the event to make sure you don’t miss out on any of the bookish goodness we have to offer. Plus, you can read more about our participating Sci Fi authors and their Top 5 favorites in Sci-Fi before CyCon starts. Visit the blog hop page any time leading up to CyCon for the latest posts and your chance to enter our MEGA giveaway (open May 10).

Author Interview: Felicia Fredlund (Eclectica Bundle)

Hello, everyone, we’re back with another author interview from the Eclectica Bundle, this time with Felicia Fredlund.

Sherry: Welcome, Felicia! To start, tell us a little about the story/book you have in the Eclectica bundle.

Felicia: The story is called “Dear Brother” and is about a young man who is trying to come to terms with his grief over the loss of his brother.

Sherry: Do you remember what sparked the idea for “Dear Brother”? What was it?

Felicia: I lost my mother when I was young, only six years old. When I became a teenager that loss hit me again as if it happened just then. I guess I finally understood she was gone. At that point I wondered how I could ever move on. I eventually had a moment that helped me move on. That moment was the inspiration for this story.

Sherry: Wow, that’s a very powerful motivation for a story. Thanks for sharing that with us.

Do you remember the first story you wrote? Tell us about it.

Felicia: I can’t be completely sure it is the first story I ever wrote, but it comes close. It was somewhere in first to third grade, I don’t know which because I didn’t write a date anywhere. But it was a picture book, and looked kind of like a book with a laminated cover and very simply sewed binding.

It was about a frog who lived in a shoe, and then one day his shoe was gone, so he had to go looking for a new home.

Sherry: That sounds adorable! Do you think there are certain themes that keep coming up in your work? If so, is it intentional, or something that just happens?

Felicia: I fairly recently noticed that almost all my main characters only have one parent left or they have one parent that doesn’t want to be a parent or who is absent in some other way. As I mentioned earlier, I lost my mother young, so I have a feeling that is where it came from. An unconscious bias I now always check for. Not that I always change it (if one parent is gone), but sometimes I do.

Sherry: It’s so interesting how we can do these things as writers and not always realize it right away. Do you think there were also early influences as a reader that have guided the stories you create as a writer? What were they?

Felicia: Absolutely. The first book I remember liking, in fact the book that made me like (and later love) reading was Alanna – The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce. Before reading that book, reading was a chore school forced me to do; after reading it, I devoured every fantasy book I could find. I love fantasy, but most of it I read growing up had male main characters (I don’t have anything against that, in fact my story in the bundle has two male main characters), except for Tamora Pierce. (I’m sure there were fantasy with more women/girls, but I wasn’t finding it.)

That fact, that so much epic fantasy (which is what I mostly read back then) tended to have mostly boys or men as main characters (and sidekicks), have made me always check what gender I’m making characters because I have unconscious biases from all I’ve read. If I don’t think about it, all bit-part characters tend to fall into gender stereotypes (healers are women, inn/shop keepers are men, etc.) and I would like to more consciously decide their gender.

Sherry: I completely understand that–I have to do the same thing. What we read when we’re young really imprints on us, I think.

Now, to more practical matters: do you keep a tidy desk/workspace, or a messy one? ;) Do you think one or the other helps your creativity?

Felicia: I do everything better with a tidy desk, but I tend to let it get very messy before I do anything about it and then I bonk myself on the head and wonder why I didn’t tidy up days ago. Hehe.

Sherry: I can sooooo relate to that! Tell us about your other works, projects, publications, and what’s on the horizon next. This is the shameless self-promotion portion of the interview. :)

Felicia: I mostly write fantasy and a bit of science fiction, but since I have a contemporary story in this bundle, let me point you to another contemporary short story: “At the Traffic Lights.” And if you lean modern, I also have urban fantasy, currently you can find “A Soul Calling,” but I have at least one more urban short story coming sometime this year. If you skew funny in your fantasy “You Can’t Walk Your Rabbit Without a Leash” would be up your alley. The darker side of fantasy comes out in the short story series Sorceress Islands.

Later this year a couple of fantasy novellas will come out, and I’m currently writing several short stories and longer works in a new series that I hope will start being published this year too.

Sherry: Thanks so much for dropping by to chat, Felicia! I’ve really enjoyed it.

Felicia Fredlund writes fiction about entertaining adventures and emotional journeys of interesting people. She currently lives in Japan after a period of traveling.

She writes one series, a dark fantasy series called Sorceress Islands. Her short stories have appeared in several Fiction Rivers.

She also edits. She edited Fiction River: Last Stand with Dean Wesley Smith.

Learn more about her on her website FeliciaFredlund.com, and join her newsletter for up-to-date information about all her books.

And don’t forget to grab the Eclectica Bundle while you can to read “Dear Brother” and many other tales!