Once upon a time, I was a novelist.

Before that, as a teenager, I created a fantasy world and spent many years defining its cultures, refining its people, and making history. Sprawling storylines coalesced into vast webs of possibility. Then I collected my chronicles and chose a point in time to start telling my stories to this world.

The result was The Renegade Chronicles, a trilogy that introduced my primary setting, the island province of Capricon. The world was—is—Altaerra, and all I ever wanted to do was write novel after novel that elevated my legwork (and finger exercises) of earlier years into a saga worthy of public consumption.

I wrote and published Magic’s Daughter and cooked up an outline and introductory chapters for its sequel Magic’s Disciples. But then I stopped.

Much to my surprise, after more than a decade of cultivating my fantasy setting, I decided to walk away and try other pastures—a children’s chapter book, a dreampunk trilogy, a YA portal fantasy, and most recently a short story collection.

Past is Prologue

No matter how far I strayed, Altaerra was never far from my heart. In fact, 2022’s Ghost Mode & Other Strange Stories includes a tale set just before Book 1 of The Renegade Chronicles. I’ve contemplated producing a collection of Altaerra short stories. I’ve mapped out eleven additional novels, continuing with Magic’s Defenders and culminating in a plot that my earliest notes only hinted at.

Yet I can’t bring myself to return for an extended stay.

Perhaps that’s the problem: all of these people and plot twists have been at home in my head for upwards of 30 years. The thrill of exploration is dulled by the fact that I know the ultimate destination. I can tell myself that there’s value in elevating my earliest writing exercises, transforming those disparate scenes into a cohesive series. However, my meager readership isn’t exactly clamoring for the continuing adventures of Selena Nelesti, Klye Tristan, and all the others.

I know their futures. Sharing them with a slightly wider audience just seems like unnecessary labor.

The younger version of myself would’ve been horrified to read that last sentence. Back when the most important thing was telling Altaerra’s stories, I couldn’t have fathomed abandoning them for other characters, other books, other projects.

History Repeats Itself

Not that any of this is especially noteworthy. Many authors move on to new subjects, new genres. Maybe they, like me, feel that spinning the same yarn is akin to spinning their wheels.

That would explain why, after publishing The Soul Sleep Cycle and contributing short stories to two dreampunk anthologies, I don’t feel compelled to continue my trek into madcap mindscapes. Neither did my stint in the YA fantasy sector compel me to stay the course.

The good news is there are no shortage of categories to explore and audiences to engage. Space opera, superhero fiction, alternate history—ideas for these genres and others perpetually percolate in my psyche.

One might expect that my literary path would lead me to pen a standalone book, a trilogy, or maybe even a series of one genre and then move on to the next. Pioneer new territory. Perpetuate my recent pattern.

If variety is the spice of life, repetition is a grueling gruel indeed.

Sadly, this sentiment extends to the novel itself.

Game On

Whenever I come up with an intriguing premise for a book—any book—I find myself wondering, “Why bother?”

What do I hope to gain from the experience? I know how to write a novel. I’m proud of what I’ve produced so far. I could follow similar steps and release additional titles. Add more books to my shelf.

Maybe this mental state is a symptom of not achieving as much “market penetration” as I had wanted with my prior attempts. Maybe it’s the realization that relatively few people appreciate the immense amount of work required to add to my bibliography. Or maybe I’m simply tired of hoping my next publication will be the one where I “make it.”

Likely, it’s all of the above.

It’s also more than that. Trying my hand at new media has stretched my creativity in exciting new ways. From publishing a pixel-art webcomic to checking “write for a video game” off my bucket list, the challenge of attempting something new has paid off in multiple ways.

That goes for writing, editing, and publishing tabletop roleplaying games (TTRPGs) too. Most of my recent blog posts have focused on TTRPG projects. Last year, I released my first full-length adventure, The Curse of Er’Mah’Gerd. Before and since then, I’ve worked on other publishers’ source books and modules. I’ll be announcing additional contributions and collaborations soon.

I still enjoy pursuing the uniquely creative format of shared storytelling, this unlikely marriage of technical writing and prose—hence, my recent work on my next TTRPG tentatively titled The Last City of Mirth.

This project-in-progress exhibits more examples of my thirst for novelty beyond novels. Instead of sticking with the Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition system, I’ve decided to make my own. Even the setting, with its biology-based “magic” and eleven unique sapient species, oozes originality. The Last Tale of Mirth is forcing me farther outside my comfort zone in no small part because inventing a TTRPG from scratch will push my math skills to their limits.

And far beyond the traditional boundaries of sword-and-sorcery realms like Altaerra.

Home Sweet Home

I’m not a fan of the word “never.” Absolutes seldom suit reality. I might return to my first fantasy world someday, maybe in a novel or maybe as something else. I always leave the proverbial door open for possible sequels. Perhaps the book bug will bite again, and I’ll surprise myself overwhelmed by an idea for a novel I simply can’t ignore.

Until then, I’m content to set aside the role of novelist for now and see where my imagination takes me.

For those of you who have been kind enough to indulge my past creative endeavors—not to mention those who have read to the end of this very long blog post—I thank you for your enduring support and patience. Readers who have been waiting for a new novel will have to wait longer, I’m afraid.

If I’ve learned anything on the weird, wild ride of being a writer, it’s that enthusiasm is an integral ingredient of any successful creation.