Category Archives: Inspired in Japan

Tick – Interview

Tick is the story of Tom Verbrisser, a young man who has everything and more; a great apartment in London, top of the range designer sunglasses and a luxury car. And he’s about to inherit his fathers fortune too. There’s just one hitch; Tom Verbrisser is a cat.

Peter Leonard, the author, and I have played Magic the Gathering together and he tells me he’s a big fan of Mine Craft and Mine Craft mods, including Mine Craft RPGs. I had the chance to chat with Peter about Tick and his current Kickstarter. He shares some great tips about story telling too, read on and enjoy.

Rodney Sloan: “Hi Peter. To start off, tell us a little about yourself and what you do?”

Peter Leonard: “Hello Rodney. Well, I’m Peter Leonard, I’m from the UK, and a small town called Worcester. If people don’t know where that is I tell them it’s where the sauce comes from. I’ve worked in Japan for four years, which includes the earthquake. I’m a trainer, not a shoe, but I teach teachers. Before that I work as an Assistant Language Teacher (ALT), teaching English. I’m very busy, I ride a train to work and wear a suit. I’m much like the character Tom in the novel, except that I don’t have a car or a cat.

RS: “Nice. So when did you start telling stories?”

PL: “I guess it started in elementary school, during creative writing projects. I would go wild and drive the teachers mad. Once we were given an extended project, in teams or individually. We were expected to write a two page story, but I wrote 20 pages, signed and complete with a decorated cover. The teacher couldn’t mark it. I suppose I just love creating things from scratch.”

“I was 16 when I wrote my first book draft. It was soon after watching the second Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers. Especially the Helms Deep scene. I just felt that I need to create something. So I decided to write without limits. Vaygan was the name of that story, a space epic without limits. When I finished I put it away thinking this was it, I never have to work again. Six months later I read it and though ‘…this is terrible’.”

“I went on to earn my English literature degree, and then re-edited Vaygan. It’s like the quote from that guy, he was sort of famous, Orson Welles. He said ‘The absence of limitations is the enemy of art.’ I added some limitations and boundaries and it became a much better story.”

“Here’s a tip for anyone looking to create stories: look up the 7 point story arc or 8 point story arc models. They detail every story cycle and you can apply them to any and every story. It’s a good structure.”

RS: “Tell us about Tick, the novel your promoting on Kickstarter.”

PL: “Well, the book is light fantasy, urban fantasy really. It’s aimed predominately at young adults but has something for older readers too.”

“Tick was the second writing project I did, and I’ll give you a very brief history. I used to work in a book store in Worcester and I was looking for a new series to read. I wanted a huge series, something to really sink my teeth into. I was working in the Children’s section, and wanted something light. I came across Erin Hunter’s Warrior Cat’s series. I was blown away, it was simple and straightforward, with at least 50 books in the series at the time. I researched her and discovered that she’s from Britain, but that she’s more famous in the US. She spent 1 year on the best seller list there. So I got in touch with her agent, who put me in touch with her. I told here that ‘I work in a largish book shop in a largish UK city, can we set up a book signing?’ She didn’t expect anything big, and neither did I, but we ended up having a queue right out the door the whole day. I was really inspired by her. I was immersed in Warriors then. Which is when I wrote about a city boy yuppie, a bit of a git really, who knocks down an old woman’s house to build a tennis court. This is Tom. Three days before a big presentation where he’ll receive his fathers inheritance he wakes up as a cat. He has no idea why or who did it. And so he has to turn back into a human. This sets him off on a quest with his pet cat, Puzzle. He soon finds out that there’s more going on than he thought. Really the book is about his return to humanity in a physical and literal sense.”

“I’m still friends with Erin Hunter. She read the book and has been a real inspiration to me.”

“Tick is my most polished work, which is why it’s on Kickstarter.”

RS: “When can we expect to see the book on Amazon?”

PL: “That’s an easy one: July 2014. Whatever happens, Tick will be on Amazon this year, successful Kickstarter or not. If the Kickstarter is successful then the book will be available in more places. And I’ll be able to better promote it too.”

RS: “Will you be publishing on DriveThruFiction? ”

PL: “Yeah, the more the merrier. I would be happy to put it in many places, if anyone can suggest other ePublishing sites, let me know.”

RS: “You said you live in Japan, has it inspired your writing? And could you tell us a little about Kami, the novel available for free on your blog?”

PL: “Yes, it has, it has changed the way I write. Because of the lifestyle and because of the job and not having much free time. I write when I can. You can find me on a packed train with a salary man’s elbow in my back, typing a book on my smart-phone. The train commute is crazy busy, but I can see Mount Fuji, which is great.”

“Japan has influenced my writing, because when you get here you have to start from scratch. In the books I write now, the protagonist is more out of his depth and more alien or unusual. I’m also writing more stories set in Japan, such as Samurai which is set in a modern Japan overtaken by evil samurai. The main character is the leader of a rebellion but has no idea why or how he got to be there. I like deliberate confusion. Starting out with the reader asking ‘What on earth is happening here.'”

“Kami was NaNoWriMo three Novembers ago, 2011, after the earthquake. It was my first NaNoWriMo ever. It’s a story about a young 12 year old who lives in a back water village. He’s sick of it and wants out. During the village festival he tries to liven things up but destroys everything, and so sets off on an adventure across the wilds of Japan to right his wrongs. Meanwhile, back in town, his friend notices signs of a conspiracy and that someone wanted the boy out of town for a reason. Kami is timeless. I think I mention cars once. It’s not meant to seem modern. I made it deliberately difficult to pin down a time frame. Like in the Harry Potter books, they don’t often mention things like phones, so the books age well.”

RS: “I found your writing style in Tick to be very descriptive, something I feel is very important in story telling, yet can be difficult to achieve. Do you have any tips for Game Masters and writers in this regard?”

PL: “Well, I’m not a big author yet, but tips wise, less equals more. Descriptive does not equal evocative. If you look back at your favourite books you’ll find that the description are short. You have to trust your reader or player to imagine the scene. Trust readers to imagine things so you don’t get bogged down by how things look. Does the reader really need to know the character has blond hair? In Tick, Tom has black hair and is 18 years old. I don’t say more than that really and the black hair is important because it links to his cat fur later on. So yeah, less is more and trust the reader to fill in blanks.”

“On descriptions, Vaygan initially had very long winded ones. I talked about how, for instance, one character had fingernails of many different lengths, hair parted many ways, and so on. All you need is a light sketch so you can carry on with writing. Short snappy descriptions. Show, don’t tell. Compare saying “you feel scared” versus “a bead of sweat trickles down your back.”

RS: “Nice tips. Thanks Peter, it was a pleasure talking to you. Good luck with your Kickstarter and the digital release of Tick.”

PL: “Thank Rodney. And thanks anyone and everyone for your support.”

You can find out more about Tick via the Kickstarter, or about Peter Leonard’s other works on his blog or on his YouTube channel. He’s got a super secret Kickstarter in the works too, so keep your eye open.

Samurai Bodyguard NPC

Inspired in Japan

Presenting the samurai bodyguard. He delights in pushing the peasantry around, roughing up his masters enemies and otherwise bullying anyone who stands in his way.

Samurai wearing a nodachi.
Samurai wearing a nodachi, or field sword.

 

Samurai Bodyguards
CR 3 XP 800
Human Warrior 5, CN Medium Humanoid
Init +0; Senses perception -1

DEFENCE_________________________________
AC 18, touch 10, flat-footed 18 (+8 armour, +0 Dex)
hp 39
Fort +5, Ref +1, Will +0

OFFENCE_________________________________
Speed 30 ft.
Melee  mwk nodachi +10 (1d10+3 /18–20 ×2)
mwk wakizashi +9 (1d6+3 /18-20 x2)
Ranged short bow +5 (1d6 / x3)
Space 5 ft.; Reach 5ft.

STATISTICS _______________________________
Str 16 (+3), Dex 11 (+0), Con 12 (+1), Int 9 (-1), Wis 8 (-1), Cha 10 (+0)
Base Attack +5; CMB +8; CMD  18
Feats Intimidating Prowess, Skill Focus (Intimidate) , Weapon Focus (nodachi), Dazzling Display.
Skills Climb +3 (+0 in armour), Intimidate +14, Ride +8 (+2 in armour)
Languages Common
Combat Gear  master work Nodachi, master work wakizashi, dagger, short bow, 20 arrows and master work agile half-plate.
Other Gear Leather belt case containing (2x antitoxin, 2x meditation tea, 2x smelling salts, 2x soothe syrup, 3x vermin repellent) and light combat trained horse with riding kit. 72 gold.
Tactics Pairs of bodyguards use their Dazzling Display to demoralize foes, then focus their attention on the nearest threat; who they cut down without mercy.
Description
These heartless oafs love nothing more than pushing around peasants at their lord’s command. They carry huge swords both as a sign of strength and as an effective means of crowd control.

Kamen, Land of Masks
Kamen, Land of Masks

This is the second of three NPC previews from my upcoming Pathfinder adventure, Where Heroes Stand. Check out the target of the bullying samurai bodyguard,  the humble mountain villager, from last week. For more NPC goodness check out my recently released NPC Strategy Cards on DriveThruRPG or Paizo.com.

Mountain Villager NPC

Inspired in Japan

Presenting the humble mountain villager. Strong, hardy, and ready to run at the first sign of a katana wielding samurai.

Mountain Villager
CR 1/3 XP 135
Human Commoner 1, LN Medium Humanoid
Init +1; Senses perception +0

DEFENCE_________________________________
AC 12, touch 12, flat-footed 10 (+0 armour, +1 Dex, +1 Dodge)
hp 6
Fort +0, Ref +1, Will +0

OFFENCE_________________________________
Speed 35 ft.
Melee dagger +1 (d4 +1 / 19-20 x 2) or club +1 (d6+1/ x2)
Ranged dagger +1 (d4 / 19-20)
Space 5 ft.; Reach 5ft.

STATISTICS _______________________________
Str 12 (+1), Dex 13 (+1), Con 11 (+0), Int 8 (-1), Wis 10 (+0), Cha 11 (+0)
Base Attack +0; CMB +1; CMD  12
Feats Dodge, Fleet

Skills Craft (choice of carpentry, leather, pottery or traps) +3 or Profession (choice of brewer, butcher, cook, driver, farmer, fisherman, herbalist, innkeeper, merchant, midwife, miller, tanner, trapper or woodcutter) +4, Handle Animal +4.
Languages Common
Combat Gear Club or dagger
Other Gear Rice bowl and cup, well worn kimono, grass hat, jacket and woven grass shoes.
Tactics Villagers know that in a fight their best bet is to run away, and, having lived their lives on the side of a mountain, they are particularly fast on their feet.

 

Kamen, Land of Masks
Kamen, Land of Masks

This is the first of three NPC previews from my upcoming Japan based Pathfinder adventure. For more NPC goodness check out my recently released NPC Strategy Cards on DriveThruRPG or Paizo.com.

Kamen, Land of Masks

Kamen, Land of Masks is the setting for my up and coming Pathfinder adventure module. It’s a land of intrigue, of secrets and hidden myth, of the bold samurai and his blood soaked blade and the ninja in the shadows.

This is ancient Japan, where duty and honour can be just as deceptive a mask as the samurai’s helm or the courtesans ornate fan.

Watch this space for more sneak peaks coming soon.

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Beijing – The Dragon and the Phoenix

Red banners touch the sky and golden stars decorate monstrous monuments. In courtyards of ancient stone, dragons play in the sunlight and the legendary Phoenix spreads its wings to the sun. But this is not some fantasy world. This is Beijing, the capital of China. Let me take you on a whirlwind tour of this fascinating city and leave you inspired with its ancient history and modern wonder.
Continue reading Beijing – The Dragon and the Phoenix

Friday Funny – Robotic Perception

I love teaching English in Japan. It’s a great learning opportunity… even if the stuff you learn is sometimes totally random. Such as when I asked my students to draw a robot and I got back pictures of Doraemon, a little blue robot cat. This is the home of Asimo right?

Asimo or Doraemon, who would you choose?
Asimo or Doraemon, who would you choose?

 

If you’re on DeviantArt why not check out my other deviations: cptphoenix.deviantart.com.

Gun Dammit – Inspired In Japan – Giant Japanese Bots

Inspired in Japan

A Gundam is a gigantic, human controlled, fighting robot and the stuff dreams are made of for many Japanese men. I teach Japanese high school boys, and they can’t get enough Gundam. You can’t say Gundam’s are big in Japan. They’re huge! A recent ad on Japanese television (YouTube Link) shows just how big they are, literally and figuratively. Continue reading Gun Dammit – Inspired In Japan – Giant Japanese Bots