Looking back, looking ahead

Traditionally, late December is a time for summarizing the past year and taking a look at what the next year might entail. Here in my blog I focus on my writing endeavors — what’s been accomplished in 2018 and what I hope work with in 2019.

2018: My Accomplishments

  1. Partisan, the Great Surprise: In March, somebody found the sole remaining printout of the legendary and never-published Swedish RPG Partisan and gave it to me. It deals with foreign occupation of our country, presented in the four settings Brown (Nazi Germany), Red (Cold War Soviet), Blue (Cold War with an authoritarian United States), and Ultraviolet (nefarious aliens from space). Serendipity: everybody had thought that the game was lost forever, but here is my incomplete manuscript from when the game was shelved thirty years ago. The printout nowadays rests securely in a safe. Link (Swedish) >>>
  2. During the autumn, I launched my Patreon page, where you can sponsor my writing role-playing games (RPGs) and get various goodies, such as the extant three Partisan settings Red, Blue, and Ultraviolet; and Thriller, my unpublished RPG manuscript from 1983 (espionage and sleuthing in the vein of the original Mission Impossible TV series). Link (English) >>>
  3. In October, Helmgast published Sorgeveden, my campaign setting for Krister Sundelin’s fantasy RPG Hjältarnas Tid. The book depicts an immense forest, stretching from spruces and birches in the subarctic north to jungles in the tropics. Link (Swedish) >>>
  4. In November, I delivered Märk hur vår skugga, an introductory adventure to the new edition of Chock, a Swedish horror RPG that will be published by Eloso in 2019. Link (Swedish) >>>
  5. In December, I launched my product page on DriveThruRPG. So far, it is a trial version, but I intend to use it to sell English PDFs of Traveller settings and other “stuff”. Link (English) >>>
  6. In December, my adult daughter Elin, aka the Tiger, joined forces with me as Team Fox. She is currently a student at an art & design school and she will illustrate some products that will get published at DriveThruRPG. Link (English) >>>
  7. In December, I published Dust & The Road, a paperback with two dieselpunk shortstories that are partially based on my experiences of serving in Afghanistan ten years ago. The stories introduce my setting Patchwork World, a fragmented steampunk & dieselpunk world. Link (English) >>>

Q4 2018 was obviously a hectic time. When I look at the list above, I feel contented with what I achieved.

2019: My intentions

  1. Since 2014, I have planned to make a revised version of the vintage Swedish postapocalyptic RPG Wastelands, but I quickly encountered various snags and obstacles. When Tove & Anders Gillbring a few years later decided to produce Freeway Warrior as an RPG, we agreed that I would turn Wastelands into a Swedish setting for the game. My vision is best summarized as “Lars Molin meets Mad Max”. Tove’s cancer has repeatedly delayed the project, but I hope we can get it moving during 2019.
  2. The hush-hush job: I have made a deal with an publisher about a major RPG project. A non-disclosure agreement prevents me from mentioning details until the publisher has announced the venture. But I am already working on it, and the production team has had fruitful brainstorming sessions on Skype. My deadline is late 2019. Yeah, I feel good about this project.
  3. Dusk and Dawn is a standalone steampunk novella taking place in Patchwork World, though far from the locations of “Dusk” and “The Road”. I have written the first half of the story and and I hope to complete it in 2019. Link (English) >>>
  4. I have outlined a Traveller universe with distinctive qualities, grimmer than the one Marc Miller developed. It’s there to be written when I get time for it. It will sooner or later get published via DriveThruRPG. What rules? Well, probably one set of Cepheus Light and one set of BRP.
  5. I have outlined a dieselpunk RPG, working name Iron Empires, that takes places in an alternate timeline. The game will get at least two Terrestrial and one Martian setting. It is too early to go into details, but you’ll get updates in my blog when I have something substantial to tell. My plan is to publish Iron Empires via DriveThroughRPG, using a variant of the Cepheus Engine rules.

I don’t expect to complete all these projects during 2019, but if I get sunny weather with the wind in my back, and there is plenty of coffee in my thermos flask of holding, I might walk a part of my road. However, an ancient word of wisdom cautions us: Man supposes, God disposes.

Dusk and Dawn, v 1.2

My second revision of the Patchwork World novella Dusk and Dawn is progressing nicely thanks to my buddies in the Mellonath Hirgon writers’ group. Their input is improving my text week by week. However, I make no prediction about when the story will be complete. Anyhow, here is a teaser: the first page. In medias res — that’s my preferred way of starting a tale.


At the first glimmer of dawn, thunderclaps shattered Fennec’s sleep – the customary reveille by the enemy’s siege guns since nineteen days. The androgyne rolled out of bed and grabbed xer trousers and pistol belt. Moments later xe dashed through the citadel corridors towards the observatory staircase while servants backed into nooks and crannies to protect their breakfast trays.

When Fennec reached the top of the spiral stair, xer legs ached from exertion. The circular observatory topped by a copper hemisphere was warm and soon the rising sun would make it baking hot. There six soldiers monitored the siege with tripod-mounted telescopes that peeked through slits in the cupola. The men’s black torsos already glistened with sweat.

Towering above Fennec, the soldiers saluted perfunctorily with right fist on left collarbone: “Good morning, my domi!”

“Good morning, troopers. Any signs of a relief force?”

“No, my domi,” said the corporal in charge.

Crap, yet another lost day, Fennec thought while exhaling sharply between tense lips. Vanzan Shor’s allies apparently kept on dawdling, thereby forcing the city state to stand alone against the Commonwealth’s armed might. “As you were, men,” xe ordered.

The soldiers bent over their tubes and resumed spying at the enemies. Fennec approached the man who gazed along the outward canal going to the invaders’ realm. Nervous tingles flittered along xer spine. Have they set up any new heavy guns?

Back to the Keyboard

After a long and tiresome hiatus, I have returned to the creative keyboard (unlike the mundane one at the office). Since last autumn, some beta-readers have given me a lot of constructive feedback on the Dusk and Dawn MS, a steam(ish)-punk adventure in the Patchwork World setting. So I have started doing a thorough revision, starting from chapter one. I will do a complete overhaul of the final third of the story after realizing what will be the “hero’s journey” for protagonist Fennec. I will insert an ancient human archetype in a science fiction context, emphasizing growth and responsibility. It feels so good to return to that alien multi-faceted world, the home of so many of my dreams.

The Best Plans Laid by Mice and Men

In the spring, after delivering a sea-faring campaign book for the latest version of the Swedish fantasy RPG Drakar och Demoner, I made a nice schedule for fiction-writing in my spare time till the end of 2016: publishing Dusk and Dawn, starting the sequel to The Ice War, and making a few RPG articles for the Fenix magazine.

However, mundane life intervened and disrupted all planning: this autumn I have had to spend all available energy on my children’s schooling and on earning my paychecks while suspending the fiction projects. But there is at least one piece of silver lining on the involuntary writing hiatus: my buddy Carolina Gomez-Lagerlöf got time to read the completed MS of the Dusk and Dawn novella and she found a serious flaw in a major turn of events. Her verdict is justified, so I now will have to rewrite several chapters to improve the story’s pacing. However, being somewhat wiser than nine months ago, I won’t make a prediction about when it will be completed.

“Dusk and Dawn”: When All Is Said and Done

Yesterday I typed the final paragraph of the Dusk and Dawn novella (a stand-alone sequel to the short-stories “Dust” and “The Road” — link >>> ). I started writing it in early 2014, but in the summer of 2015 a cluster of tough life events derailed my schedule. Almost twelve months passed before I was able to resume writing and complete its final chapter.

Now I feel sad and joyful because the likeable protagonist Fennec’s journey has reached its end. In 2014 author Jo Walton taught me a trick of the trade: a story’s ending must carry its weight. I think I have created a satisfactorily closure, but now I must wait for the test readers’ verdicts.

Next step will be editing. Ten percent of the initial text is superfluous according to my rule-of-thumb. The story will now rest for a while before I proceed with that. Meanwhile, I will start writing the next Patchwork World story: The Forest.

“Dusk and Dawn” — end in sight

During spring I was busy writing an ocean-faring campaign book, Skymningshavets gåtor (“Mysteries of the Sunset Ocean”), for a new edition of the Swedish fantasy RPG Drakar och Demoner.

After completing it, I returned to Dusk and Dawn, a Patchwork World novella that is a stand-alone sequel to the short-stories “Dust” and “The Road” (link >>> ). I had not touched the story for a year because I have been wrestling with the final chapter, but now some troublesome plot pieces have fallen into place and only three or four concluding scenes remain unwritten. Let’s hope that I soon will get time and energy to do that.

I have drawn a lot of inspiration from Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel, a book that attempts to explain why certain pre-industrial societies “did better” than others; the author argues that a culture’s ability to progress is mainly determined by its basic productive resources, such as available crops and domesticable animals.

These ideas were hardly present when I started writing Dusk and Dawn in 2014, but the protagonist Fennec kept on making “Diamondian” observations during a journey through her desolate homeworld. I hope that Dr Diamond, would he ever read my story, will nod approvingly at Fennec’s deductions and outside-the-box conclusions.

“Dusk and Dawn”: A City in the Flatlands

I am currently working on the final chapter of the adventure novella Dusk and Dawn, a story from the retrotech Patchwork World setting, which so far also encompasses my shortstories “Dust” and “The Road” (link >>> ).

Three ancient cities serve as important venues for the novella’s plot. Here is what its protagonist Fennec has to say about one of them:

Sirak Thod lies where the Flatlands touch the World’s Brim. Millennia ago the canal builders founded the city on a hillside next to a deep lake, which they connected to the canal network through feeder gates that regulate the water flow into the Flatlands according to seasonal needs.

Similar cities dot the inner edge of the World’s Brim. Every time our ancestors came down from the mountains to reclaim the Flatlands, they started by repopulating those places. Then they pressed on, city by city, into the desolation. They dredged waterways, cleared and irrigated farmland, and rebuilt bridges and locks. All rulers know that the bountiful Flatland grain is indispensable for advanced societies; the meager crops of fruits and tubers in the mountain valleys cannot feed a teeming population.

Artist: DrawingNightmare at DeviantArt.

“Dusk and Dawn”: an Oasis Stronghold

Today I continue with the Patchwork World theme that started in the previous post, but now we go elsewhere in that multifaceted setting.

I am currently in the final stages of writing Dusk and Dawn novella, the third Patchwork World story. It is a stand-alone sequel to the published short-stories “Dust” and “The Road” (link >>> ). Much of its action occurs in the arid Flatlands, a region that has been inspired by the Martian deserts portrayed in many of Leigh Brackett’s stories.

Here is a place that could be a fortified oasis settlement in the Flatlands, located at an ancient dead canal. Click on the picture for a larger version.

Artist: Adam Kuczek on DeviantArt

The “Dusk and Dawn” Novella

For more than a year I have been writing a novella called Dusk and Dawn. It is a piece of diesel-retro science fiction, taking place on the same planet as the short-story ‘The Road’ that was recently published in the anthology Waiting for the Machines to Fall Asleep, though both stories stand alone and take place in locations far apart.

Dusk and Dawn will soon be completed; looking ahead from a metaphorical crow’s nest, I see my port of destination in the distance. The novella will be a part of a collection called Rimland Tales. I have already completed its two initial short-stories, one of which is ‘The Road’; the other one is called ‘Dust’. The collection’s internal chronology has one unoccupied “slot” between ‘The Road’ and Dusk and Dawn and I am therefore pondering on a possible second novella.

An excerpt from Dusk and Dawn, Chapter 2.

The steam engines that powered the elevators in the Tower of the Dark Voice were out of order due to lack of spare parts. Breathing heavily I reached the top of its spiral stairs just as the setting sun touched the horizon. Storm sat in a corner with a small backpack and the quarterstaff and we exchanged silent greetings. I was in no mood for talking with my legs exhausted from the long climb and my mind focused on the next task at hand.

Instead I walked to the railing. Here, a few hundred paces above ground, no buildings obstructed the wind, so the steady breeze soon dried the sweat from my torso. I emptied two bottles of water while I regarded the jumbled towers of my home city, ancient ruins mixed with recent edifices.

The sun disk vanished and the sky changed into star-flecked darkness. The Father-and-Son double planet shone sharply ten fingers above where the sun had set, while the Red Wanderer gleamed far higher in the sky.