Writing romance novels using Dungeons and Dragons

My Greywater Chronicles books are a relatively normal exploration of friendship and love. There are no monsters and no one gets stuck in a dungeon with orcs or evil sorcerers (not that I don’t want to write that book someday). But I definitely used the traditions of Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) while writing my first novel.

  1. Get them all in a dungeon: Before the action even starts in Mistakes Were Made, Jules breaks both her ankles. This allowed me to keep her stuck in a recovery center–Misty Forests–for the first section of the book. Similar to how exploring a dungeon keeps role playing characters from wandering off from the intended quest, Misty Forests keeps the action and characters under control.
    My second book, Best Laid Plans, uses a different kind of limitation with the structure of the book (two chapter a season with alternating point of view). This was much more challenging and not nearly as much fun, but did force me to really try to see things through the eyes of both of my protagonists. Misty Forests was more fun, though!
  2. Alignment: a quick shorthand for the moral code that governs characters behavior in D&D, this is a fun way to think about how my characters in novels approach life. On the lawful-neutral-chaotic scale, most of my characters are in the lawful to neutral range, but I have two who tend to me closer to chaotic. On the good-neutral-evil scale, I have one brother who behaves pretty poorly, but even he is not firmly in the evil camp. And yes, the D&D Classes (or Jungian archetypes) are also helpful!
  3. Fighting when stakes are low: some of the most amusing moments in D&D can happen when the stakes are incredibly low–who drank the last goblet of ale? why are my tights stretched out? why does he always get to ask for directions? I try to remember this when my characters are starting to drift a bit. They can fight about stupid things.
  4. Adventure: what is D&D without an adventure? (rhetorical question) And so, what are my stories without some sort of adventure? This is both the larger arc of their exploration and also in little moments in a new place or in a new social interaction. Life (and stories) are more fun if we can see the adventure that we’re having, even if there aren’t any actual dragons or orcs.

I’m sure there are other D&D elements I’m using without even realizing it, and I will add them in as I realize. And someday I promise I’ll write an adventure novel. With a bard.


Progress on my next book, Good Fortune

I’m currently working my way through the first round of editing on Good Fortune, the sequel to Best Laid Plans. I’m very excited to start getting feedback from my very early readers on my next book! If you’d like regular updates on my progress, you can sign up for my email newsletter.

When I work on my books, I mark each section by their status: to-do, hot mess, first draft, etc. I’ve successfully gotten much of the book out of the hot mess status, although I’m sure there will be some new hot messes I introduce later this month.

Good Fortune has a similar structure to Best Laid Plans, in that we get Sam’s and Wil’s perspective in each of the four seasons. Instead of covering three years, Good Fortune will cover two years — between the two books, we will cover five years. I’ve enjoyed writing books with a more rigid structural requirements. It’s been an interesting challenge!

I absolutely adore the characters in Good Fortune, particularly Sam’s sisters. The Queezy sisters are a force to be reckoned with. Their affection and support for each other is loosely based on the relationships between my mom and her sisters, but they also very much have their own identity and dynamic.

Some of the early feedback has focused on drawing out more about Wil and how he’s growing and learning (or not). I’ll be working on the next draft later in June and early July, and then the manuscript will be off for the round of edit.s

I’m aiming for mid-November to officially launch the e-book and print editions. Sign up for my email newsletter if you’d like regular updates.

I’ll be looking for reviewers in the fall — drop me an email if you’re interested. And you can sign up for my email newsletter for regular updates on my progress.

Portland and the Greywater Chronicles

Portland plays an active role in the Greywater Chronicles books. The map below breaks down some of the key Portland locations. Mistakes Were Made locations are in blue, Best Laid Plans locations are orange, and Good Fortune (coming November 2016) are in green.

There are other key Portland things that don’t quite line up with a pin on a map, including Bridgetown Comedy Festival and Forest Park.

I really enjoyed making this map and seeing a visual representation of the various locations (real and imaginary) in Greywater Chronicles. I clearly need to have more locations in SE Portland and heading further south into SW Portland, and someday we’ll get to leave the central core of the city.

And remember that in the Greywater Chronicles, we’re in the future. New buildings have been built. Not all restaurants have continued. Businesses that are institutions in the Greywater Chronicles don’t even exist yet. Bikeshare: we don’t have Biketown (Bikey-town) quite yet in spring 2016, but it’s going strong in the 2040s.

Did I forget anything? Drop me a note and I’ll update this post!

Party for Best Laid Plans at Taborspace

We had a wonderful party in May for the launch of Best Laid Plans in print and digital editions. Many great friends — new and old — came out to celebrate the launch, and we spent a great couple of hours laughing and talking.

We were at Taborspace in SE Portland, and the venue was a delightful, all-ages space. I’m looking forward to coming back soon.

Interested in attending future parties? You can sign up for my email newsletter for monthly updates on all things Taylor Rush.

The Future in the Greywater Chronicles

The Greywater Chronicles are in the future. It’s true. But also not particularly overt. In fact, you could easily read the books as taking place in the 1990s as much as the 2040s. The first three books are focused on love and friendship, and the time period of the books is a (delightful) surprise for anyone who is paying attention.

But if you are paying attention, there are some interesting things going on.

  1. Things that are different in the future aren’t really remarked upon by the characters. The future is usually more boring and less exciting that we suspect.
  2. The cars drive themselves. We still have taxi drivers since we’re not allowed to have self-driving cars without human oversight.
  3. Global warming is real; greywater plumbing and energy efficiency are all the more critical.
  4. Portland became uncool, cool, and uncool again. In the mid-2040s, Portland is considered a bit provincial and not a hip place to live.
  5. The earthquake has not yet hit. This might change in a future book.
  6. We have mobiles and computers, but there is no discussion of what these look like and how we interact with them. For my  characters, the technology is unremarkable and unremarked upon. Some technology is seamless, with more devices referred to with a simple noun rather than any fancy new language.
  7. Old and young live together. The baby boomer generation is dying off, leaving us with a surplus of housing built for the old. At the Misty Forests Recovery and Adult Living Center, the longer-term residents are mostly older, but this is likely to continue to shift to a more balanced demographic.
  8. Portland has figured out how to deal with mental health crises with MenPros (Mental Health Professionals). Yay!
  9. The United States has not solved debt for higher education. Boo!
  10. People are still silly.

Detail & imagination: playing with the ideas

One of the tensions I find most interesting in writing is between providing real, vivid details and creating space for the reader’s imagination. I have an overactive imagination and as a reader, I love filling in the open areas of books to build connections to my own experiences. This is particularly true for me in romance, fantasy, and science fiction.

Because of this, there are some intentional ambiguities in the Greywater Chronicles universe with Mistakes Were Made and Best Laid Plans. I read a lot of classic science fiction growing up (and enjoyed Star Wars) where I switched the gender of the heroes. While my characters do have a specific gender identity and use gendered pronouns, I chose many names that do not have single gender uses and character traits and professions that do not always line up with traditional western ideas of gender. Besides a nice push back against more rigid roles, this hopefully also allows readers to more easily see their own gender identity in my characters.

I also like to imagine that I live in the cities or farms or tents or spaceships or castles of my favorite books. The Greywater Chronicles are clearly set in Portland, Oregon, but I don’t name the city initially. Furthermore, the

Race and class are perhaps the trickiest for me to give space for the reader to see themselves. I try to use descriptions that show the personality of my characters while not excluding readers’ own physicality. However, my characters are reasonably well employed, and not struggling with being part of a minority or oppressed group. They just want to find love and happiness, which is a luxury we rarely acknowledge.

All this being said, I also love stories that are incredibly specific in the details so that I can attempt to imagine life as someone completely different from myself. I’d be sad if everything was written so that I could project myself onto the characters, but I quite enjoy some character projection from time to time.