Introduction: The Longer Version
Back in January this year, Wizards of the Coast approached me. Knowing of my love for their game, Magic: The Gathering, they were wondering if I would be willing to write a tie-in story for them. They mentioned since it was the 25th birthday of Magic, they wanted to do something special—and might be able to splurge on a Brandon Sanderson story.
I was, of course, interested—but went back to Wizards with a proposal that I think surprised them. You see, I knew they'd been doing some very interesting things with their stories in recent months. (The multi-part Dominaria sequence by Martha Wells is a good example, if you are interested.) I liked how they were using free stories on their website to both enhance the lore and give some work to talented writers.
Way back in the beginning of my career, one of the things I liked to do was periodically release free stories. Defending Elysium, Firstborn, and even Warbreaker are examples. Over the years, though, I've gotten busy enough that I haven't found a good opportunity to do this again. I liked the idea of doing a story for Wizards in part for this reason.
So I went back to them with a proposal: I didn't actually want payment for this story. I just wanted them to put it up for free on their website, and then if (later down the road) it generated any money by being in a collection or in print on its own, I wanted my portion of that donated to charity. In exchange for doing it for free, I wanted to be allowed to write the story my way. That meant me picking one of their settings, then developing my own characters and plot to happen there. (As opposed to writing the story for one of their official releases, as most of the other writers they hired were doing.)
It wasn't that I had anything against writing one of the main-line-setting stories. I just felt that in this case, I wanted greater flexibility. Beyond that, for several years now, I've had a story brewing in my head that I felt was a perfect match for one of their settings—a story I couldn't make work in the Cosmere, but which I really wanted to write.
Wizards was on board immediately—and so, "Secret Project" was born.
Regarding the Story
Wizards has a lot of great settings for the card game, so I had plenty of options. The story I'd been brewing was specifically inspired by their Innistrad set—a gothic horror setting with some magepunk elements underpinning it. It has had a very interesting evolution over the years, and was the setting for one of the best Magic sets of all time. Ever since writing Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell, I've wanted to do another horror/fantasy hybrid, and so I dove into what became Children of the Nameless.
I don't know exactly what Wizards was expecting of me, but I suspect a 250-page behemoth of a story wasn't it. (At 50k words, the story is roughly half the size of something like Skyward.) I have to say, though, working with them was an absolute pleasure. They jumped on board with the main character pitch I made, integrating him right away into the larger Magic story. They even went so far as to loop me in on conference calls, where I could explain my character concepts so they could develop art. I'd thought they might be worried about letting me go off on my own like this, but they were instead enthusiastic and supportive.
So, it is with great pleasure I present Children of the Nameless. Consider it a Christmas present from me and from Wizards of the Coast to you. I hope you enjoy it!