Final Torment Info

So the Torment Kickstarter is in the last week of its campaign. We've raised over $3.25M, but we hope to raise even more to make this game bigger and better, to make a game that truly lives up to the Torment tradition.

So this is the last you'll hear me plug it, but I wanted to bring to your attention a couple of things, including one bit of news that hasn't made it to the Kickstarter page.

Bit #1: Pat Rothfuss is on our writing team. I know, right? MIND. BLOWN. It might even be part of my job to review Pat's areas which, if I remember correctly, is one of the signs of the apocalypse.

Bit #2: Natalie Whipple is on our writing team. I know that's not as big as Pat (which is one of the main reasons this hasn't hit our Kickstarter page), but though this announcement might not excite the internet at large, for me this is HUGE.

I've been following Natalie's career since way back when she won one of Nathan Bransford's 1st Paragraph Contests, and since then I've been lucky enough to critique a few of her novels. I even got to read the first chapter of her upcoming "X-Men meets Godfather" debut, TRANSPARENT. Guys, it would not be a mistake to pre-order that.

Natalie is hugely imaginative, and she brings a cool, new perspective to the Torment team that I'm really excited about. Seriously, I cannot wait to work with this team and see what we come up with.

If you want to help the project, you can still do so. I, personally, would really appreciate it, considering the bigger this game gets, the bigger my job gets and the better I can support my family :-) We've added new tiers and rewards since the Kickstarter began, and you can see them all here. Some of the new rewards are additional novellas and a digital comic book (which it sounds like I might be co-writing :-).

I know not all of you are gamers but are still interested in supporting us, or maybe in reading the novella I'm going to write. Well, you can get certain rewards -- like the digital novella compilation -- without even getting the game. Information on how to get these "add-ons" is here.

I still cannot believe the series of events that has led me here. It's like the weirdest road to publishing ever, but I ain't complaining :-)

First Impact: THE EYELET DOVE by Lindsay Kitson (First Page)

It's time for another First Impact Critique, where we take a look at your queries, first pages, back cover copy, and more. You want to make an impact right from the start. We're here to help you do that.

If you'd like to submit your first impact material, send it to Details here.

Remember, anyone who offers their comments this month is eligible for either $10 for Amazon or B&N OR a 20-page critique from me.

This week we have the first page for THE EYELET DOVE, a dieselpunk novel (yes, that's a thing) from Lindsay Kitson. You might remember we did the back cover copy of this book last year.

My overall thoughts are at the end. As always, this is all just my opinion. Your mileage may vary.

First Page
Claire wanted to fly.

The last sentence here makes me
immediately think of LEVIATHAN.
I'm hoping this differentiates itself
from that soon.
It was an overcast day but the clouds were high up when she walked out onto the River City Base tarmac for pilot tryouts. Claire had tucked her shoulder-length hair up under her flight cap and drawn her goggles down over her face. With any luck, no one would guess her sex until after she’d proved herself in the sky.

She’d never felt so lucky to have a less than feminine jawline and small breasts.

That was why she’d joined the Ladies Division of the Avaline Air Guard in the first place, whatever she told
I'm confused. If there's a Ladies' Air
Guard, why does she have to hide?
people. She didn’t tell people the truth because she knew they would only laugh at her.

The truth was, working alongside the men who flew the machines that sailed among the clouds was the closest she might ever come to flying them herself.

But even that wasn’t enough for her any more.

The concrete airstrip stretched out to her left, bright white in the diffused sunlight. Some of the dreadnought crew had come out to watch the tryouts. Some of the hangar deck crew were out of their canvas coveralls, but the fly-boys wore their leather flight jackets like badges of pride.

Creepy. I hope the very next sentence
explains why she's still with him. I
guess because he teaches her?
Thomas wasn’t there though, thank Pete. Her boyfriend would have recognized her for sure, and he wouldn’t have hesitated to out her. It had taken no end of cajoling to convince him to teach her. He was a
creep—enough that the other girls wanted nothing to do with him. He made her skin crawl every time he laid his hands on her, and he bragged to the other pilots that she liked to do it in the sky, with no end of uncreative puns applied to the word cockpit.

Adam's Thoughts
I like the setting, but if you recall my comments from your back cover copy, you knew that.

I think I get the Ladies' Division thing, but it took me a couple of reads. I guess the Ladies' Division isn't allowed to actually fly, yes? That could be clarified.

I don't have a lot to add beyond my comments in the text. It does immediately bring LEVIATHAN to mind, perhaps too much for someone who has read that. So I personally want to know what makes this novel different as soon as possible. And the last paragraph creeps me out, so to keep Claire sympathetic, I want to know why he's still "her boyfriend," rather than her ex or something.

Other than that, I'm anxious to get to the action :-) What do the rest of you guys think?

Torment News and Me on Video

If you head over to the latest update on Torment: Tides of Numenera, you might see a familiar face. (Or maybe not so familiar, since some of you have never really seen my face).

This, by the way, is why I'm a writer, not an actor.

Also talked about in today's update is the series of Torment novellas we offer as a reward. I'm really looking forward to writing one of these, and I hope you guys will read them. Cuz listen: you don't need to know anything about Torment (neither the old game or the new) to enjoy the novellas. Each will be a self-contained story within a ridiculously cool world.

Sorry to go all salesman on you for a sec, but you can get the (digital) novella compilation at the $39 tier along with the game and the strategy guide. Or if you're not into games, you can get just the digital novella compilation as an add-on for just $15 (see this page for how add-ons work).

Plus, you know, you'd be helping me get a more stable job, and you'd be helping us make a really epic game. So, you know, there's that.

Or you could just watch me talk about state-of-the-art RPG alignment systems. You know, whatever.

First Impact: INGENICIDE by Joan He (First Page)

It's time for another First Impact Critique, where we take a look at your queries, first pages, back cover copy, and more. You want to make an impact right from the start. We're here to help you do that.

If you'd like to submit your first impact material, send it to Details here.

Remember, anyone who offers their comments this month is eligible for either $10 for Amazon or B&N OR a 20-page critique from me.

This week we have the first page for INGENICIDE, a YA dystopian from Joan He, whose query we read last week. My overall thoughts are at the end. As always, this is all just my opinion. Your mileage may vary.

First Page
It’s the first dance I’ve gone to in years.

I'm totally sticking on this: should
technicolor be capitalized?

I want to know what she thinks her
mother's thinking.
Mom tells me to stay away from the spirits. She glances out the car window, at the Technicolor lights that dart across Kennie’s packed driveway. Her brows knit together—I know what she’s thinking. Music thrums in the asphalt, vibrating through the soles of my shoes as I swing my feet onto the ground.

Dad rolls down the window. “Enjoy yourself. Today’s your day.”

“We’re so proud of you,” Mom adds, the little knot of worry vanishing. I blow them both a kiss. Dad honks. They drive away.

I knock and wait, apprehensive. It won’t just be our School at the post-graduation party tonight. Fairfax, Georgetown, and DC should be here, too. Already, I catch drifts of new voices among the blasting speakers and the familiar lull of the old. I relax when it’s Tess who opens the door.

Ombre's a pretty modern term (I had
to look it up). Is this near future?
“Hey, Sibyl,” she yells over the song. Her eyes are heavily made-up, but nothing competes with her dress. It’s got a million iridescent scales that scatter in ombre from the hemline. Rainbow lights dart around her form. They make Tess sparkle.

“You’ve outdone yourself,” I yell back. She laughs.

“Did you expect anything less?”

Not sure why school is capitalized.

Kind of a non-sequitur from Tess to
the school system.
No, I didn’t. Not from Style Enhancer Tess Wittle of Alexandria, which is one School of five in the DC and Virginia sector. All the Schools belong to the Training Of Prodigies system, better known by its acronym: TOP.

Tess doesn’t wait for an answer. The door closes behind us as she pulls me into the mass of dancing graduates. She’s whisked away after barely a minute, but I don’t mind. TOP Peers who recognize me pull me into their circles. They ask me about my plans after the one-month hiatus and congratulate me when I tell them that I’ll be apprenticing under a team of Experts in the renovation of the White House. Between beats, I ask them the same question. One Flesh Weaver leaves late June for a Bioprinting conference in Japan. Russell, Alexandria’s resident Beauty Translator, will be hosting his first art show in New York. Slaps and fist pumps go around, and then again, until it gets a bit overwhelming.

Adam's Thoughts
I really want to know what she thinks her mother is thinking :-) It seems like she's apprehensive, but I'm not clear about what, exactly. What is she afraid will happen? That knowledge alone might carry me through this piece a lot more strongly.

There are some world bits here that are intriguing -- the Flesh Weaver, for instance. But I'm not picking up enough to keep me hooked. That doesn't mean you have to add more just yet, but it's something to think about.

I kept getting hung up on simple words that were capitalized, but I didn't know why -- like School and Expert. I'm sure there's a reason, but because I don't know what it is, I find myself wondering why it doesn't just say school and expert. Why are they special enough to mark them as proper nouns? The problem is they appear to mean exactly the same thing as the common terms. It's similar to the problem of foreign terms: if a "hobarjee" is actually a duck, then it's better to just say duck.

These are nitpicks, and that's a good thing. I can't say I'm hooked yet, but I'm not turned off either. I think it just needs some turns in the right direction.

So what do the rest of you guys think?

First Impact: INGENICIDE by Joan He (Query)

Despite all the noise ($2M in two days, guys! Keep it going!), it's time for another First Impact Critique, where we take a look at your queries, first pages, back cover copy, and more. You want to make an impact right from the start. We're here to help you do that.

If you'd like to submit your first impact material, send it to Details here.

The random numbers have favored critiquer Melodie Wright for February's prize. Congratulations, Melodie! And the rest of you remember: anyone who offers their comments this month is eligible for either $10 for Amazon or B&N OR a 20-page critique from me.

This week we have the query for a YA dystopian from Joan He. My overall thoughts are at the end. As always, this is all just my opinion. Your mileage may vary.

Query Letter
I think the phrase is "the sky is the
limit," but also it's a bit cliche. You
can do better.
For sixteen-year-old Sibyl Kenschild, the sky is her limit when it comes to interior design--that is, until the Genocide reaches Alexandria, Virginia, and gatecrashes the graduation party.

Why is Peers capitalized?

What's Ingenium?

At the moment, I think her life is
more important than these things :-)
In a matter of hours, Sibyl’s world is shattered. Chaos erupts, Peers are slaughtered, and Sibyl has no idea why the Normals have resorted to mass killings of the Ingenium. All she knows is that she’s too young to die. She must survive and protect what remains most important to her--her heart, her spirit, and her sanity.

My confusion in the 2nd paragraph
is making this one impossible to
So when the leaders of the Genocide present a selection of Ingenia with a second shot at living, Sibyl decides play their game. Four Peers will have to summon all that they have learned to create unparalleled rooms for the enemy headquarters. It is a competition that puts at stake the dearest price; with each assignment, one Ingenium is exterminated. As she grows closer to her competitors—in particular, a troubled but gentle boy who designs chillingly twisted rooms—Sibyl is not sure if she has what it takes to win. And if she does, she just might not have enough strength to ignore the fates of the others.

INGENICIDE is a YA dystopian/adventure novel complete at 58,000 words.

Thank you for your time and consideration!

Adam's Thoughts
First of all, I love dystopian novels, and this sounds like it has some cool stuff in it.

Unfortunately, I'm having a hard time figuring out what that cool stuff is. Who are the Peers? Who are the Ingenium? Which one is Sibyl? And why are they designing rooms? That part, in particular, sounds potentially cool, but I can't tell because I don't understand it.

Now understand, the way to fix this is not necessarily to add the information into the existing query. Very often that leads to a bloated query that just raises new questions. Look for things you can cut so that you don't even raise the questions to begin with. For example, do we really need to know about Peers and Ingenium? Maybe you can just say "Sibyl's people," and use the space you save to explain the rooms. Which way you go is up to you and what you want to convey in the query. Just remember, it's okay to skip stuff; the goal is to make the agent want to read more.

What do the rest of you guys think?


UPDATE: Holy crap, you guys! We funded in just SIX HOURS! Keep going! Maybe we really can make this game as big as we want it.

We have 30 days to raise almost a million dollars as big of a budget as we can, so go pledge now! GO! GO! GO!

Wait. What is this? Where are we?
You may recall I'm a designer/writer for a computer game called Torment: Tides of Numenera, which is a successor to a game I helped make 14 years ago called Planescape: Torment. The new Torment will only happen become awesomer if we reach our funding goal on Kickstarter. Hence the noise.

Planescape what now?
Planescape: Torment. A computer role-playing game from 1999 that won a lot of awards and became the standard for deep characterization and storytelling in PC games (a standard which many feel has not been met since). It didn't sell very well at the time, but it has gained a lot of fans since then.

Why should I give you money?
Well, first, you're not giving money to me. But if Torment reaches its goal, it means I'll have a job (the extent of which depends on how much Torment exceeds its goal).

You should give money to the Kickstarter if:
  • You are a fan of Planescape: Torment, or have even ever heard of it.
  • You are a fan of RPGs with deep, emotional stories.
  • You like what you see in our pitch video or on the Kickstarter page.
  • You like my writing and want to see more of it (I should add here that one of the rewards includes a novella from me).
  • You like me and want to help me have something approximating job security.
Whether you pledge or not, please spread the word!

Actually I don't know what pledging is. Or Kickstarter.
I probably should've asked this first...
Kickstarter is a funding platform for any kind of creative project. You pledge money to projects that you want to see happen, because most of them won't happen without your help. If the project doesn't meet its goal, then they don't take your money (which is why we say "pledge" instead of "pay" or "donate").

Learn more about Kickstarter here, and read here for how it's been used in the recent past.

So, is this all you're going to talk about for the next 30 days?
Don't worry. I'll leave a short sticky post at the top of this blog throughout the campaign so you can watch our progress. Then, with the exception of a couple of posts here and there (which you'll be interested in, trust me), I'll return to our regular schedule of First Impact critiques, drawings, and what not.

But seriously, you should go pledge right now.

8 Things That Are True

1. There is only one flavor of Pop Tart.

2. Firefly is still on the air. Wash is fine.

3. No one's ever made a live-action version of Avatar. Also I am an Earth Bender.

4. Bacon is good for me.

5. Eventually, my logical, well-supported arguments will convince people I am right.

6. There are only three Star Wars movies, but they might be making a fourth (WE'LL SEE, ABRAMS).

7. Rivendell is real. It looks exactly like this. It's in New Zealand, and I will visit Elrond there someday.

8. All comments that deny these truths will be deleted.

What else is true?