This Friday, I’m happy to bring you a new guest post, this time from self-published author Jon Auerbach, author of his debut novel, Guild of Tokens, one of the books entered into this year’s SPFBO contest. Below, he talks about plotting, novel inspiration and shows an example of how inspirational and influential video games can be.
Check it out and thanks for reading!
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.
A man accidentally turns his fiancée into a golden statue with a cursed diamond ring. To break the curse, he needs to find an equally large diamond ring, but said ring can only be found on an island that no one knows how to get to. Well, save for one guy, who booked a gig for a band one time back in the day and had the map to the island tattooed on his back for some reason. Problem solved!
Except that this particular individual is asleep at an exclusive beach club into which no one may enter save members. Oh, and also someone stole the gold statue of your fiancée because this story does take place on an island full of retired pirates!
I won’t bore you with the remaining details on how to solve the quandary (plus they’re kind of gross), but hopefully you’ve recognized the above as one of the puzzles from the classic adventure game The Curse of Monkey Island starring everyone’s favorite pirate wannabee Guybrush Threepwood.
As a kid growing up in the 90s who didn’t have a video game console for most of the decade, the classic LucasArts and Sierra point-and-click adventure games were my favorite gaming pastimes. I remember stumbling upon The Secret of Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge on my cousin’s Amiga computer during winter break and spending nearly every waking moment of that vacation trying to just get through Act I.
Although the point-and-click adventure genre fell out of favor by the new millennium, games such as the aforementioned Monkey Island series, Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, The Dig, and Day of the Tentacle, to name a few, always held a special place in my gaming heart.
So of course when it came time to choose a career, the first thing I thought of was adventure game designer! Except, my programming skills were lukewarm, my digital art prowess was non-existent, and there was also the lack of genre popularity (Ron Gilbert and Tim Schafer’s Kickstarter-backed games notwithstanding). Then I moved on to thinking about becoming a television writer, because I was in a “picking careers with 0.001% chance of making it” kind of mood that week.
Finally, I came to the conclusion that there was nothing stopping me from writing a novel where the main character had to rely on her wits and ability to make connections between disparate items to solve the myriad number of plot obstacles I would throw her way.
And that’s how Guild of Tokens was born.
There was still the matter of making the book a proper fantasy yarn and that’s where one of my other childhood favorites, Chrono Trigger, came in. As I mentioned earlier, the lack of an actual Super Nintendo prevented me from playing the game when it first came out, so I relied on the magic of emulation to experience Crono and Marle’s adventures on my computer many times over to get my party up to level **.
One class of the items needed to do that were the so-called “tabs,” which added a point to your magic, strength, and speed stats. When writing Guild of Tokens, I imagined what would happen if someone were to create those tabs in real life, and those became gummy squares of various colors that when ingested, temporarily increased a particular trait, such as speed, strength, and focus. The effect wouldn’t be permanent, because where’s the fun in that? But it did open up lots of possibilities to merge the magic of Chrono Trigger with the puzzles of Monkey Island.
I’ll give you an example.
In the middle of the book, Jen, our heroine, recovers a string of 12 numbers that had been tattooed on someone’s back. She knows the meaning behind those numbers is important but whether they’re a computer password, a substitution cipher, or something else entirely is beyond her comprehension. So with the help of a speed buff, which not only increases a person’s physical but also their mental speed, she spends a cold winter morning jogging through lower Manhattan at super-speed while her mind works overtime trying to decipher the meaning of the numbers. She eventually discovers that they are a set of latitude and longitude coordinates that point to a nondescript door in Queens.
Of course, when she gets to said door, it’s locked and all attempts, both magical and not, to open it are unsuccessful. That’s where the puzzle-solving half of the equation comes in. Because those 12 numbers? Well, the tattoo actually hid three more sets of numbers and three more locations: the rock where Alexander Hamilton died after his duel with Aaron Burr in Weehawken, the last remaining staircase from the old Polo Grounds in Harlem, and a Dutch millstone in Long Island City. Visiting each place yields nothing except an opportunity at historical vandalism and Jen is about to quit when she realizes that each location is actually the vertex of a triangle, and the real prize is at the center.
I made a map and everything if you want to check my work, and it’s also hidden at location 2840 in the Kindle version for those reading along at home.
There’s plenty more puzzles and magic throughout Guild of Tokens, but the burning question you probably have at the moment is who stole Guybrush’s fiancée?
Turns out it was a pack of monkeys.
Jon Auerbach is a fantasy author from New York, where he lives with his wife and three young children. His debut novel, Guild of Tokens, is available now on Amazon and an entrant in the fifth Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off.
You can find out more about the world of Guild of Tokens by visiting Jon’s website.
Thanks for reading!