Matchbox Girls: Origins (Guest Post)

Today is Guest Post day from Chrysoula Tzavelas (who authored last week’s 52 Book Challenge book).  She’s amazing, and this post is awesome!


Once upon a time, over a decade ago, I wasn’t just a gamer. I didn’t just play games. I lived in a place chock-full of both amateur and professional RPG designers. That kind of thing can affect a person’s creative development. It rubbed off.

I really liked some of what was happening with a certain Well Known Game Company, in terms of producing work that might, these days, be called “urban fantasy.” But vampires and ghosts have never been my thing; even werewolves, while compelling, had gotten a bit old after a while.

So I sat down to create my own setting, one that featured my favorite set of supernatural creatures: angels. I created five factions of celestial origin, and came up with a lot of vocabulary and secret history and other fun things. But not only was I in a sea of game designers, I was in a sea of GMs, and I never really had a chance to run it (especially since I was just going to rip off another game’s mechanics).

Fast-forward a few years: I’d gotten some experience running play-by-email games by then, and I decided to run a new one for a pair of friends. I’d been watching a lot of anime, and the angelic urban fantasy setting I’d created was really never far from my mind. So I dug it up and tweaked it some. I decided the characters would be nephilim, belonging to none of the factions. And because I like big stories, like I was seeing in anime, the two characters portrayed by the players were going to be special nephilim. They were soul-tied teenage girls, with special powers. (This time, I invented my own system. It was simple and I loved it. Ask me about it after you’ve read Matchbox Girls.) The game went on for a while, they had some adventures, there were some guest stars, and I think everybody had fun.

Time passed. I occasionally made stabs at further development of the setting as a game setting. I did other projects. One year, after submitting an epic fantasy novel to a writing contest, I decided I needed to start a new book immediately so I wouldn’t obsess over the contest. I wanted to move away from epic fantasy into something less retro. Urban fantasy! Just the thing. Angelic urban fantasy! Yeah! I dug up my notes and updated them and tried to come up with a plot.

I really liked the plot and backstory I’d had for the game I ran. The presence and impact of the special PC characters felt stitched into the whole setting. I decided taking them out would take away some of the inherent tension. But I wasn’t sure I really wanted to write directly about them; I didn’t actually want to rip off my game. So I had to figure out how to handle that.

At the same time, for various reasons, I wanted to write a book that was going to be the beginning of a Long-Ass Series of connected but semi-standalone novels. A series where I could follow different characters for a variable number of books, and have an ongoing timeline that made them come together into a fully realized, detailed world. Like Discworld, but with less humor and more metaplot. 

And I thought maybe my first book should be about somebody who was as new to the setting as readers would be.

I’d just had a baby a few months before, so what happened next seems obvious in retrospect. I decided to take the special teenage characters and turn them into tiny children—kids old enough to be mobile and conveniently toilet-trained, but too young for anything else. The actual protagonist of the story was the young woman who unexpectedly found herself taking care of them as she discovered the secret world of celestial factions, rebellious nephilim, and the magical Geometry.

It took a lot more work to make that kernel of an idea into an actual novel. A lot of the setting material I developed for the game versions barely makes an appearance in the story, precisely because it starts out from the outside. But it’s there, to be explored in future stories, and meanwhile, there’s Matchbox Girls, which is about a whole lot of things, and started with some notes about an RPG.


Marley Claviger is just trying to get her life together. Stumbling into an ancient conflict between celestial forces is going to make that a whole lot harder…

When Marley wakes up to a phone call from a pair of terrified children, she doesn’t expect to be pulled into a secret war. She rescues them from an empty house and promises to find their missing uncle. She even manages to feed them dinner. But she barely feels competent to manage her own life, let alone care for small children with strange, ominous powers…

And when a mysterious angelic figure shows up and tries to claim the girls, it all falls apart…

Plagued by visions of disaster, Marley has no idea what she’s gotten herself into, but she knows one thing: magical or not, the kids need her.

Matchbox Girls by Chrysoula Tzavelas will be published in paperback and digital form by Candlemark & Gleam on February 21, 2012. You can pick up a copy through the Candlemark & Gleam website (, where all paperbacks come with a free digital edition, or through your favourite indie or mainstream book source.

Follow the author online at or on Twitter @chrysouladreams

Banner used with permission from: Go Make Me A Sandwich.

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