Covers of the LOE Series

October 9, 2017

We’re up to 12 League of Elder books now, and we’ve pumped out some sweet covers over the years, all by the Queen of the League of Elder, Carol Phillips. A lot of times the artwork gets messed up by my poopy text.

I thought we would review all of the covers naked with no text.

But, before we begin–a quick note of comments. Over 5 or 6 years, this blog has received only a handful of comments. I’d love to hear what you think–do you like these covers? Do you hate them?  Say something–let me know all about it.

Book 1–Sygillis of Metatron

LoE

The original Book 1 cover by Pat Larsen

Back in 2009 we put out the First LOE Book: Sygillis of Metatron. The original cover wasn’t done by Carol P, it was sketched by Pat Larsen. I used it for about a year, and then was told, in no uncertain terms, that the cover came up short in a number of areas.

 

I determined that a change was needed. I took to the internet looking for an artist to redo the cover for Book 1.

The very first name that came up on my search was Carol Phillips–fantasy artist. I sent her a note. She responded and it’s been golden ever since. I sent Carol a number of scenes from the book and allowed her to pick which one she wanted to try. Eventually, she settled on the scene in Metatron where Captain Davage is reunited with Syg. I thought the scene needed a little something, so we added Carahil, though, as written, he had already escaped Metatron prior to Syg’s arrival. Little changes that don’t fit in with the narrative are called Nixies. Nixies add a little drama to the scene.

Book1

Sygillis of Metatron, revised, by Carol Phillips

 

Carol’s cover was designed as a front-only image. We used a grab of the city of Metatron for the back cover. Not until Book 9, “Stenibelle”, would we use a front-only design.

 

Book 2: The Hazards of the Old Ones.

Book2

The Hazards of the Old Ones, by Carol Phillips

 

Book 2 is without a doubt the most metaphysical and pastoral cover of the group. We usually select exact scenes from the various books, this one was more abstract, combining several scenes together as one. We presented it as a wrap-around cover, with the scene extending to the spine and the back cover. I thought that the scene looked best all at once–it lost a lot of impact wrapped around, so we eventually revised the cover to the front only.

 

Book3: The Dead Held Hands

Book3

The Dead Held Hands, by Carol Phillips

 

Book 3 is the first in the Temple of the Exploding Head trilogy. It carries on the tradition of featuring Carahil on the cover, he has been on all three so far. Carol often places a “surprise” on the spine–in this case it’s Castle Blanchefort in the background. I had to beg Carol for the green flags on the spires of vacant Castle Durst.

 

Book 4: The Machine

Book4

The Machine, by Carol Phillips

 

Book 4 is one of my favorites. Once again Carahil appears on the cover though he’s a little harder to find. Thomasina 19th appears on the spine. The green cars are actually “cable cars” with cables going all the way up to a vehicle in orbit–though Carol didn’t want to have a cable messing up her artwork, thought it was a “Bob Ross” move. I thought the Princess Marilith vending machine was a nice touch. Carol put her initials “CP” on the dumpster.

 

Book 5 The Temple of the Exploding Head

Book5

The Temple of the Exploding Head, by Carol Phillips

 

I remember I was on vacation in Florida when we started working on this one. I told Carol to “Go Nuts”. I think the results speak for themselves.

 

Book 6: Sands of the Solar Empire

Book6

Sands of the Solar Empire, by Carol Phillips

 

Book 6 is the beginning of the Belmont Saga, featuring the intrepid Paymaster Stenstrom. The scene takes place in the Sanctum Sanctorum of the Bones Club. I based the scene off of a Masons lodge that was being torn down–they had a central oculus.

 

Book 7: Against the Druries

Book7

Against the Druries, by Carol Phillips

 

Book 7 is one of my personal favs. I’ve had a crush on Lady Alesta of Dare for some time., and there she is. I like the drama in the painting. As per usual, one of the giant Cronins appears on the spine.

 

Book 8: The Shadow tech Goddess

Book8

The Shadow tech Goddess, by Carol Phillips

 

The first book in the Shadow tech Goddess series. I think this is one of the prettiest covers–I like the colors. I also enjoy seeing Hannah-Ben Shurlamp on the cover.

Book 9: Stenibelle

Book9

Stenibelle, by Carol Phillips

 

Book 9 sees a return to a front-only cover. Book 9 also sees Paymaster Stenstrom as a woman in an alternate universe. This one seems to be Carol’s fav cover. She likes the color scheme and the various element, like the flying hookers swooping down to pounce on Stenibelle. Stenibelle, who appears as a man in other books, looks amazing.

 

Book 10: The House of Bloodstein–Perlamum

Book10

The House of Bloodstein: Perlamum, by Carol Phillips

 

The House of Bloodstein books add a touch of horror to my usual sci-fi/fantasy. The Machine in the background returns from the Temple books. The silver kingfisher is King, a favored character of mine.

 

Book 11: the House of Bloodstein–Mentralysis

Book11

The House of Bloodstein: Mentralysis, by Carol Phillips

 

This cover features Queen Ghome, one of my favorite bad guys. I just love her. I wanted a really colorful cover, and Carol delivered as usual.

 

Book 12: The 6th Turn–Kat

Book12

The 6th Turn: Kat, by Carol Phillips

 

A return to the Shadow tech Goddess books. This once deals with an alternate version of Kat, who really developed into a cool character over the various drafts. Carol designed her with a massive Mohawk, which I wrote into the story.

We made a conscious effort to make the Shadow tech Goddess sub-books look the same, so the formatting for this one resembles Stenibelle.

copyright 2017, Ren Garcia and Carol Phillips

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The Hospitalers

October 2, 2017

Hospitaler Logo

Seal of the Grand Order of Hospitalers

The Warrior/Healers of the League, the Hospitalers are an old sect, second only to the Sisterhood of Light in age. They are also the only non-Vith sect to achieve a very high position of power in the League. Originating on Onaris centuries ago, they started as group of fighting valets. They served their Blue Vith lords and were their trusty companions. Powerful fighters, the Hospitallers earned a reputation for their speed and fierceness in battle, they using a strange silver weapon called a Jet Staff instead of usual swords, pistols or axes.

 

At some point, on the forgotten wastelands of some battlefield, the Hospitallers began trying to attend to their master’s wounds. The Elder-Kind having been Gifted with youth and no disease had little need for medical knowledge and almost nothing was known about basic first aid. The Hospitalers, through persistence and practice, perfected techniques in binding wounds, clearing blood poisoning, re-attaching fallen limbs and so on. Their knowledge grew so great that even the mighty Sisterhood of Light turned to them for medical help when it was needed, sharing with them some of their most guarded secrets that the Hospitalers have never divulged. The Hospitalers have always worn black and silver.

There are a number of Hospitaler Sects that may or may not be well-known outside of the Order:

Hospitaler HopkinsThe Hopkins: General practitioners of the medical arts, often inhabiting healing sanctums in cities all over the League. The Hopkins are the most commonly seen Hospitalers. They are expert at most medical needs the general populace might present to them. They are well-versed at healing maladies of the flesh, blood poisoning, limb replacement, dental/orthodontics, hair transplantation and hair colorations, eye myopia corrections, tattooing, 4-D tattooing, and various exorcisms.

Throughout their history, the Hopkins have been targeted by a number of Xaphan Warlords hoping to impress them into service, as the Hopkins are vastly superior in knowledge and skill than the Xaphan Cabalists, who are widely regarded as quacks.

BoblytesThe Boblytes: The most warlike of all the Hospitaler sects, the Boblytes often serve on the battlefield, both in a fighting capacity and administering medical care while the battle is in progress. The Boblytes are well-known and prized for their martial skill. A small force of Boblytes can often defeat much larger fighting groups. Occasionally, their presence alone can prevent or postpone a battle.

Though mostly regarded as the military wing of the Hospitalers, the Boblytes have contributed a number of technical innovations, including the Troutman scanner for measuring blood poisoning and the Veltromax used to keep terminal patients alive until more comprehensive medical care can be administered. They also invented 4-D tattooing as a method for triaging casualties on the battlefield.

KnickerbaumsThe Knickerbaums: Knickerbaums are adventurous and outgoing, seeking to expand the Hospitalers’ medical knowledge through quest and adventure. Knickerbaums are often found serving aboard Fleet vessels, hoping to discover new knowledge and medical techniques.

Second only to the Hopkins, the Knickerbaums are the most well-known sect outside of the Hospitaler order. Their black and silver uniforms and winged silver helmets are often thought to be the standard wear for the sect as a whole, but that is not correct. Their martial skills are also considered to be second only to the Boblytes. The most mercurial of all sects, the Knickerbaums are known to be a bit temperamental to work with, often giving Fleet commanders fits.

EphysiansThe Ephysians: A mysterious sect within the Hospitalers seeking to expand their knowledge by means other than those allowed by the Sisterhood of Light. They are the most reclusive and least seen/understood Hospitaler sect. They are often tasked to test and validate new sciences, including Mentralysis, Anthecary, Bodism and Time Apparent.

The Ephysians are not known to travel much, except in rare situations, and their fighting skills are next to nil.

In their quest for knowledge, they are often said to share information and collaborate with unconventional parties, such as the Hertogs, the Ming Moorlands, the Black Hats and the Xaphan Cabalists.

The JonesThe Jones: A branch of the Hospitalers located on the world of Bazz, The Jones in the modern sense barely resemble the main branch of the sect. They were assembled by the Boblytes in the early days of Bazz after it had been terraformed into a Type 1 world. They are named after a hero of Bazz lore: Darius Jones. With the passage of time, they have diverged away from the Hospitalers.  Their appearance is bizarre, looking nothing like other sects. They are deadly in battle and are masters of fast hypnosis.

It is said The Jones seek a being called Bellathauser, a creature whom they believe to be the pinnacle of human perfection.

copyright 2017, Ren Garcia and Carol Phillips

HeartofALion_CoverStephen Zimmer is an award-winning author and filmmaker based out of Lexington Kentucky. His works include the Rayden Valkyrie novels (Sword and Sorcery), the Rising Dawn Saga (Cross Genre), the Fires in Eden Series (Epic Fantasy), the Hellscapes short story collections (Horror), the Chronicles of Ave short story collections (Fantasy), and the

StephenZimmerAbout the author: Stephen Zimmer is an award-winning author and filmmaker based out of Lexington Kentucky. His works include the Rayden Valkyrie novels (Sword and Sorcery), the Rising Dawn Saga (Cross Genre), the Fires in Eden Series (Epic Fantasy), the Hellscapes short story collections (Horror), the Chronicles of Ave short story collections (Fantasy), and the Harvey and Solomon Tales (Steampunk).

Stephen’s visual work includes the feature film Shadows Light, shorts films such as The Sirens and Swordbearer, and the forthcoming Rayden Valkyrie: Saga of a Lionheart TV Pilot.

Stephen is a proud Kentucky Colonel who also enjoys the realms of music, martial arts, good bourbons, and spending time with family.

Telling Rayden Valkyrie’s Story in Words and Images

This is the first time I’ve been able to tell a character’s story through more than one medium, with Rayden Valkyrie taking center stage in a TV Pilot after appearing in a couple of novels and a short story. Bringing one of my book characters to the screen is a new experience for me, with its own set of challenges and creative possibilities.

Short stories and novels are the end products themselves, whereas a completed screenplay is a blueprint that serves as a guide for a very collaborative process in creating an end product of a feature film or TV episode. Along the way in a feature film or episodic production, a lot of other individuals are going to bring elements to the process; whether it be the director costume designer, a prop master, cinematographer, members of the cast, or even a special effects artist. Each one of those production areas is going to make its mark on the final production.

Further, a screenplay can only show story elements and dialogue. Unlike a novel or short story, it cannot go inside a character’s mind to reveal what the character is thinking or going through internally.

Finally, the reader generates their own mental vision of a story through the intimate connection with the author through the words on the page. The author engages the imagination of the reader. In a film production, it is more of a passive process for the viewer, as the vision of the story is set out for them on the screen itself. The imagination of those involved in the production process is displayed.

The two realms are truly apples and oranges, which is why there will always be debates wherever both a book and movie/tv series exist of the same story. In my opinion, each needs to be judged on their own merits simply because they are completely different methods of storytelling.

All the same, it is my mission to bring Rayden’s story to viewers and readers alike in a manner where each gains a strong sense of who Rayden Valkyrie is, and what she is all about. While the TV Pilot production is a collaborative creative process, there must be consistency between the Rayden on the pages of the books and the Rayden portrayed on screen.

From the casting to the story I developed for the TV Pilot, I have taken great care to make sure the consistency is there, while also understanding that there will be differences due to the nature of the mediums. Rayden’s look on screen could not stray far from how she is described in the books, nor could her actions in the screenplay drift from how she acts and reacts in the books.

Those core parameters that had to be kept, while allowing room to breath for individuals such as the costume designer (Timothy Shackleford) and the actress portraying her (Sol Geirsdottir). Maintaining the nature of her character in the on screen presentation is, in my opinion, key to telling her story effectively in visual mediums.

The screenplay for the TV Pilot is not an adaptation. It is an original story that expands the Rayden Valkyrie storyline and universe, so it gives something new for the readers of the books without having prior expectations set in place (as there would be, if the screenplay was an adaptation of one of the novels).

Storytelling in words and images involve mediums that are very different in nature, but together I find them great channels to reveal the full Rayden Valkyrie story in a dynamic and multifaceted way.

ThunderHorizonCover_1200X800Book Synopsis for Thunder Horizon: A deadly menace stalks the shadows of the lands to the north, stirring the winds of war. Farther south, the power of the Teveren Empire spreads with every passing day, empowered by dark sorcery. Formidable legions bent on conquest are on the march, slavery and subjugation following in their wake.

Within the rising maelstrom, Rayden Valkyrie has returned to the Gessa, to stand with the tribe that once took her into their care as a child. No amount of jewels or coin can sway her, nor can the great power of her adversaries intimidate her.

With a sword blade in her right hand and axe in her left, Rayden confronts foes both supernatural and of flesh and blood. Horrific revelations and tremendous risks loom; some that will see Rayden’s survival in the gravest of peril.

Even if Rayden and the Gessa survive the trials plaguing their lands, the thunder of an even darker storm booms across the far horizon.

Thunder Horizon is the second book in the Dark Sun Dawn Trilogy.

 

HeartofaLionCover_1200X800Book Synopsis for Heart of a Lion: Rayden Valkyrie. She walks alone, serving no king, emperor, or master. Forged in the fires of tragedy, she has no place she truly calls home.

A deadly warrior wielding both blade and axe, Rayden is the bane of the wicked and corrupt. To many others, she is the most loyal and dedicated of friends, an ally who is unyielding in the most dangerous of circumstances.

The people of the far southern lands she has just aided claim that she has the heart of a lion. For Rayden, a long journey to the lands of the far northern tribes who adopted her as a child beckons, with an ocean lying in between.

Her path will lead her once more into the center of a maelstrom, one involving a rising empire that is said to be making use of the darkest kinds of sorcery to grow its power. Making new friends and discoveries amid tremendous peril, Rayden makes her way to the north.

Monstrous beasts, supernatural powers, and the bloody specter of war have been a part of her world for a long time and this journey will be no different. Rayden chooses the battles that she will fight, whether she takes up the cause of one individual or an entire people.

Both friends and enemies alike will swiftly learn that the people of the far southern lands spoke truly. Rayden Valkyrie has the heart of a lion.

Heart of a Lion is Book One of the Dark Sun Dawn Trilogy.

Teaser Trailer Link for Rayden Valkyrie: Saga of a Lionheart TV Pilot:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v7w_UI_RCg4&t=34s

Teaser Trailer for Rayden Valkyrie: Saga of a Lionheart: TV Pilot

Author Links:

Twitter: @SGZimmer

Facebook: www.facebook.com/stephenzimmer7

Instagram: @stephenzimmer7

Website: www.stephenzimmer.com

 

Tour Schedule and Activities

8/16 The Temple of the Exploding Head Guest Post

8/16 The Page Turner Guest Post

8/16 BOOKS TO CURL UP WITH Author Interview

8/16 Bookishly me Author Interview

8/16 DarWrites Guest Post

8/16 Sheila’s Guests and Reviews Guest Post

8/16 Sapphyria’s Books Guest Post

8/16 Deal Sharing Aunt Top Ten’s List

8/17 DarWrites Review

8/17 Bookin Around Town Author Interview/Podcast

8/17 Full Moon Bites Character Interview

8/18 BOOKS TO CURL UP WITH Review

8/18 The Sinister Scribblings of Sarah E. Glenn Top Ten’s List

8/18 I Smell Sheep Guest Post

8/19 Paranormal Pleasures Review

8/19 The Page Turner Review

8/19 Bella’s Book Reviews Review

8/19 Jeni’s Bookshelf Guest Post

8/20 3 Partners in Shopping, Nana, Mommy, & Sissy, Too! Guest Post

8/20 The Seventh Star Blog Guest Post

8/20 Stuart Thaman Books Guest Post

8/21 MyLifeMyBooksMyEscape Author Interview

8/21 SpecMusicMuse Author Interview

8/21 Jordan Hirsch Review

8/22 Beauty in Ruins Guest Post

8/22 Discover New Authors Author Interview

8/22 Butterfly’s Booknerdia Blog Review

8/23 The Occult Detective Review

8/23 Bookishly me Review

8/23 Jeni’s Bookshelf Review

8/23 Jorie Loves a Story Interview

8/23 Readers Life With Trisha Ratliff Review

 

Amazon.com Links for Thunder Horizon:

Kindle Version

https://www.amazon.com/Thunder-Horizon-Dark-Dawn-Book-ebook/dp/B06ZZ7JT56/

Print Version

https://www.amazon.com/Thunder-Horizon-Dark-Dawn-Trilogy/dp/1941706576/

Barnes and Noble Link for Thunder Horizon:

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/thunder-horizon-stephen-zimmer/1126268394?ean=9781941706572

 

Amazon.com Links for Heart of a Lion:

Kindle Version

https://www.amazon.com/Heart-Lion-Dark-Dawn-Book-ebook/dp/B00T44R6LE/

Print Version

https://www.amazon.com/Heart-Lion-Stephen-Zimmer/dp/1941706215/

Barnes and Noble Link for Heart of a Lion:

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/heart-of-a-lion-stephen-zimmer/1121113044?ean=9781941706213

 

 

copyright 2017, Stephen Zimmer

14291686_10154531872029586_2865426175355244435_nIf anybody had told me five years ago that I would have written a non-fiction book, I seriously would have laughed.

I mean really…

I don’t write non-fiction. I write about spaceships and Shadow tech and other oddities. Fiction is easy for me to write.  Non-fiction puts too much of a strain on my imagination.

And, if somebody would have additionally said the “non-fiction” book in question would have been about myself during my military years, I would have turned gray with fright.

A story about me? Who would want to read about me? Honestly, I couldn’t imagine a Hell more horrific than having to read page after dreary page of a book detailing the  insipid Wonder Bread doings of me.

But, here it is: 10 Weeks at Chanute, a daring but admittedly short detailing of my doings as a trainee Airman in the US Air Force. I had always thought that writing a tale about me would be hard, would be too much. Writing weird sci-fi is easy because it has nothing to do with me. But this–this is a glimpse into my soul.

HangarI was sent to Chanute Air force Base is 1992 to learn how to perform maintenance on jet engines. Chanute, for all of its long history, had been a place of training. I was just one of many to go there. But, I would be one of the last.

Chanute was dead–chopped, shut down, and, about a year later, would close its gates forever.

In 2012, I felt an odd calling to return to Chanute. I’m not certain why. I took the long, somewhat uninteresting drive across Indiana to what was left of Chanute. Twenty years of being abandoned had left its mark.

I wasn’t quite prepared for what I saw that stormy afternoon.

Chanute HQ BW 2So, when I got home, I started writing that non-fiction book I’d dreaded for so long. I had to write it, to get it off my chest. I wrote about me, and Chanute, how it had made me into a better person. I had no idea where I was going with it or what I was trying to say, I just wrote.

And then I lost it. I lost the Chanute manuscript. Even though I was only a few thousand words into it, losing those initial words would have been devastating. It’s difficult if not impossible to re-write something already written. I searched and searched for the manuscript. If I couldn’t find it, then that would be the end. My crazy urge to write a memoir would be over.

But then, there it was, hiding in the back of my drawer in an old jump drive I’d forgotten about.

Chanute was on again.

White Hall BW 3And I went on a tear. I wrote about my experiences and my state of being in 1992, how different things were back then. I wrote about Chanute, about its customs and heritage ninety years in the making. Those are things needed to be remembered and properly preserved.

I wrote about the funny things, the good times I had and the friends I made. I wrote about my sorrow twenty years later, seeing what had become of the old place.

Thirty thousand words later– just barely novella size–I was done. I said what I needed to say.

This tiny little book–I was amazed at what I had created. In just a few words, I told my story and Chanute’s story as well.

What more could I have asked for?

10 Weeks at Chanute is available in paperback and ebook at Amazon.com from Hydra Publications.

copyright 2017, Ren Garcia

 

 

The Making of Kat

July 12, 2017

Kat cover Front FinalIn a few days the paperback of The League of Elder, Book 12: Kat will be out. This journey has taken plenty of twists and turns over the past three years when I started it. Every book has its own flavor, and this one was certainly no different.

The issues I encountered with this particular work were unlike any I’d seen before.

First of all: I wasn’t satisfied with the story. When I first came up with the story, my intent was to simply add-on to the events from Book 8: The Shadow tech Goddess. In that book, our hero, Paymaster Stenstrom, encountered a sinister Knife-class Black Hat in the lonely, but oft-visited, Ruins of Clovis located in the Vithland region of Kana.  There, he encountered three Knife-class Black Hats, two dead, one alive, all searching for evidence of the identity of the fearsome, yet elusive, Shadow tech Goddess. After brief skirmish, the lone living Black Hat captured Stenstrom’s companions, Lord A-Ram and Lady Gwendolyn of Prentiss. Due to her astounding agility and her Shadow tech tail, he called her Kat. She then forced Stenstrom to descend into the catacombs under the ruins, where he encountered the dead bodies of her two companions. Despite everything, Stenstrom found himself fascinated by Kat, at the hints of blonde hair and sparkling green eyes through the mask. As Stenstrom begins his quest across the Plains, Kat’s name was added to the list of seven mates for him. And then she was horribly killed by the Lacerta in the Ruins of Caroline.

stg-7

Kat–as she originally appeared in Book 8, The Shadow tech Goddess. Panting by Eve Ventrue.

So, that was that for Kat. In the subsequent StG books, I wanted to explore the various alternate versions of Paymaster Stenstrom and his loves. For the 6th turn, it was Kat’s turn. My plan was to simply pluck her as is from the pages of Book 8 and give her a fresh lease, adventuring with Paymaster Stenstrom as he battled the horrible demon Bellathauser.  I used the KISS technique: Keep it Simple, Stupid.

 

But, that’s when my troubles began. I was about 40 thousand words into the story. I had thought to keep these StG stories short, anywhere from 40 to 60 thousand words, and I had accomplished that with Stenibelle at around 50k.

With Kat, though, I found myself disliking the story, for lots of reasons.  I found I was repeating myself. I never have issues with Writer’s Block, but, if I think I’m revisiting previous material, that can slow me down considerably as I strive to keep things fresh–I call that Writer’s Thunk! With Kat, I felt I was reheating old stuff at every turn–I mean this is the 12th book in the series, it’s hard to keep coming up with totally new material, but still.

After thinking about it, I came to the conclusion that most of the book’s issues came from the character of Kat herself. Simply ripping her out of Book 8 was not satisfactory for me at all. She was flat and uninteresting, her interactions in the story perfunctory at best. Her story was too similar to that of Sygillis of Metatron back in Book 1–the taming of an unruly Black Hat, etc. And, rather embarrassingly, I found her relationship with Paymaster Stenstrom reeked of Instalove.

Kat Sketches

Early sketches of the rebooted Kat by Carol Phillips. Kat’s spark, her ever-present brightness and zest for life is evident in the sketches.

Action was called for. I was certain if I could get the character of Kat right, then the rest of the book would follow. So, I went back to basics. In Book 8, Kat was a fully-powered Knife-class Black Hat. We’ve seen plenty of that in the previous books, while only hinting at the horrors they suffer during their training in a place called the Shade Church. I thought if I removed all her of skills and make her a trainee with limited skills, that could introduce all sorts of opportunity for growth.

 

 

Paige 2

A theme emerged after the additions, that all things, no matter how unlikely, have the potential to better themselves. (Painting by Carol Phillips)

I went to work, adding a few scenes to the front of the book to give Kat a little life–never in my wildest dreams did I think I  would eventually add up to 40k words, almost doubling the size of the book. I found myself intoxicated in the creation process, exploring the revised Kat character, seeing what was there, all the while, keeping the plot moving. I came up with Autocons and Sentrils.  A-Ram and Alesta, who had been absent from the book, reappeared. The two dead Black Hats from Book 8 became Kat’s sisters, Bird, Walker and Wheel. All of this was organic characterization, everything in real time, on the fly. In 40k words, Kat went from being a rather pat and uninteresting fantasy character to something special, stealing every scene she’s in.

 

Book 12: Kat has everything–lots of action, loads of imagination and fantastic situations the League of Elder is known for, plus fully developed characters that grow before your eyes.

Stg-blueThe 6th Turn: Kat is published by St G Press/Winter Wolf.

copyright 2017, Ren Garcia and Carol Phillips

LOE Places: Empire Hotel

April 28, 2017

Looming tall of the low-slung, Barbary city of St. Edmunds near the sea is a great building featuring a stout curtain wall of old red bricks, a stockade of inner-rings and a towering keep sheathed in patina green copper. So large and imposing, it can even be seen from orbit on clear days. This is the Empire Hotel, well known across Kana as a tourist attraction and playground for the wealthy peoples of the north and the west. It’s known for being a CWC, or Curtain-Walled City, a place with its own unique customs and ways, including a unique cuisine served in its many restaurants and its gothic-noir fashion. It’s also known for being the scene of several murders attributed to the killer known as the Fiend of Calvert. It was speculated that the Fiend might have been a guest of the hotel, or even one of the staff, though no arrests were ever made. Its wealthy guests come to disappear in its vast interior, dress-up, eat amazing food and People-watch the locals from the comfort of their exclusive terraces.

Empire Hotel Final

The Empire Hotel, by Ewelina Dolzycka

Originally, the hotel was a giant fortress built by the Vith House of Burgon in 477921 EX, intended to be used as a staging post for the conquest of the Calvertlands. The fortress, built to giant-sized Haitathe specifications, was completed, however the Burgons fled the League in 000000AX and the fortress remained unoccupied by the sea for centuries. Initially given a wide-berth by the Calverts due to its imposing appearance, eventually the seascape surrounding the fortress was taken up by the city of St. Edmunds. In 0010452Ax, the Fortress was bought by the Calvert House of Loin who first utilized it as a convent for daring women, then as a hostel for available youths, then as a cooking school, and finally as a full-blown hotel. It has since become a symbol of the city and of Calvert as a whole.

 

The hotel is considered by some a CWC (Curtain-Walled City) where the facility maintains unique customs, and, in some cases, separate legal status. These unique features are reserved for frequent guests only, often referred to as ‘Empirelites’. For these select persons, the hotel serves in its various restaurants, a unique cuisine enjoyed nowhere else on Kana.  They wear unique clothing tailored for them right there in the hotel. They listen to austere music and have access to floors, ballrooms and whole wings not listed or available to the general public. There is a reported room known as the Fiend Suite, where the Fiend of Calvert was said to have stayed and plotted his murders. Guests sometimes stay for months, years even, rarely venturing out.

copyright 2017, Ren Garcia and Ewelina Dolzycka

We’re doing a pre-read for LOE Book 12, Kat soon. I as given a character interview to fill out from Loving the Book Blog Tours to help promote the event.

 

kat-portrait-final

Kat, by Carol Phillips

While I love all the various characters I’ve created over the years, Kat, the first countess of the House of Belmont-South Tyrol, stands out. She’s a ‘new’ person, freshly minted and her response to things tends to be  childlike, mixed in with a bit of hard-bitten earthiness. It’s a lot of fun to dive into her mind.

 

So, what are we waiting for?

1: When you walk into a room what do you notice first? Second?

KAT: Oh, you’re going to think I’m weird or something, but the wallpaper. I just LOVE wallpaper. I like to look at it, and I like to touch it, too, especially if it’s padded wallpaper like we have in the Chalk House. Hehe, you know, I even like licking the wallpaper when nobody’s watching. I guess countesses aren’t supposed to do that sort of thing, right? But, yeah, I like the taste of the glue. I’ve licked wallpaper up and down the Esther coastline. The Harvey’s in Dee have the best-tasting wallpaper around. It’s like heaven. The second thing I look for, I guess, is a bathroom. I love sitting in bathrooms. I love the porcelain, I love the tiles and I love the smell of the water in the fixtures. I could sit in a nice bathroom all day.  Yeah, I’m mental, I guess.

 

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Original painting of Kat, by Eve Ventrue

2: How would you change the world?  The things around you? The people around you?

 

KAT: I don’t know—I’m still pretty new to the world and how it works. Sitting here in this big ole’ manor by the sea, I probably miss a lot of it. I guess I just want everybody to love each other. I’ve spent such a long time not being loved, I want to make up for it now. It was horrible in the Shade Church, that’s where I was for a long time and every day there was something new to make you miserable. Now that I’m out, I want to be loved. Love all around, everybody happy. Let’s dance and love each other. Why not?

3: How do you learn best?

KAT (Smiling) Haha, On the floor, after lunch. I love sitting on the floor. I feel all caged up in a chair. Yeah, I’m weird, right? But, that’s how G taught me to read mostly, us sitting nose to nose on the floor under the table in the library. I think I’ve thrown more chairs than have actually sat in them. Chairs are great for throwing, but, they kind of hurt my back. If I really want a good night’s sleep, I slide off that crazy bed and get comfortable on the floor. Hell, everything’s better on the floor, and I mean everything.

 

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Conceptual Cover for LOE Book 12, “Kat”, by Carol Phillips

4: What are your goals in life?

 

KAT: My goals? You’re making my head hurt, haha. I think a lot of my goals I’ve already accomplished. Here I am in the big house with my man. I’m not bleeding, I’m not unconscious. I’ve got a full belly and we’re playing cards tonight. Looking ahead, I just want to be a good wife and a good mom once me and G have kids. That might sound simple, I guess, but when you’ve lived underground under the Black Hat’s heel for most of your life, it’s the simple things you crave. Oh—I guess I want to master my Shadow tech, too. I’m trying, I practice all the time, and I’m trying not to cheat using NatalZ of Mund’s ‘squash data’ we got in Vain. That’s cheating. I want to figure out how to make StT’s, like NatalZ could. But, it’s really, really hard. Hey, you’re not a Black Hat are you?

5: What unusual hobbies or interests do you have?

KAT (Blushing) Well, ok, I’ll just tell you. I love tying G up. I’ll tie him to anything I can find. Having sex isn’t the same unless I’ve got him trussed-up like a Nether Day goose. Umm, that doesn’t freak you out or anything, does it? I mean, it’s all in good fun and if he didn’t let me do it, I wouldn’t. Heck, he tied me up to the flag pole once and left me there. I’m not a bad person or anything. I’m sure other countesses out there tie their guys up—look what they’re missing out on. I can teach them if they want–Bondage, made easy by Kat, haha. I love my G … but I really, really, really love him all tied up. I guess that counts as a hobby.

6: What are you most afraid of?

KAT: Well, I really don’t like being shut into confined spaces. It’s not something I like talking about much. I just don’t like small spaces. Can we move on from that question?

 

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Kat, Wheel (Standing on the left), Mountain Walker and Bird, by Ewelina Dolzycka

7: If you had one wish, what would it be?

 

KAT (Tearing up) My Sisters … Bird, Walker, even Wheel. I’d give anything to have them back. Really miss them. I visit them every day on the hill. I even talk to them. I’m sorry, I need to step away for a moment …

8: What do you like best about yourself?

KAT: Me? What do I like best? I like my hair. Yeah. I like the color and I like my temples freshly shaved. I like how my hair whips around when it’s windy, like it’s alive or something. I could sit in the boudoir for hours letting them comb my hair. I used to not like my hair color at all, but, as few other people seem to have it, I guess it makes me stand out a little.

 

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Conceptual sketch of Kat, by Carol Phillips

9: What do you like least about yourself?

 

KAT: I’m too short. When I want to kiss my G, I’ve got to stand on something, or he’s got to stoop. I used to just climb up his chest and latch on, but I’m not allowed to do that anymore–my claws tore him up too much. I loved how tall Walker was, that’s how I’d like to be: longer legs, way tall, my head in the clouds.

Kat will be appearing in the League of Elder, Book 12, Kat, coming soon from Winter Wolf Publications.

copyright 2017: Ren Garcia

 

LOE Characters: Sam

February 17, 2017

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The original painting of Sam by Fantasio. This painting became the standard for all future paintings of Sam

Without question, Lady Sammidoran of Monama (later, of Blanchefort) has been one of my favorite characters since she was introduced way back in Book III: The Dead Held Hands. As such, she’s also the most frequently painted character in my stable. I wanted to bust out a post celebrating her visual history as she has been interpreted by various artists over the years.

 

As in all things, she started out life very different than how she eventually turned out with lots and lots of sub-steps in between.

A LAUNDRY GIRL:

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Sam’s humble original look (Carol Phillips)

Sam started out as a simple servant, a laundry girl toiling away in the bowels of a Calvert Great House. There was nothing extraordinary about her at the time, except that she was rather brawny as a result of her labor-intensive life, and her odd ability to create mental projections known as Killanjo. There was no “Monama” at the time, I hadn’t even thought up the House of Monama yet. That’s how my creative process works, little by little, each thought building on the last. About half way through writing  Book III, I realized the direction I had been heading in wasn’t very interesting. Though I hated to do it, a drastic change was needed, and fast. I had created the House of Monama recently, and at a dinner scene there was a Lady Strella of Monama, a friend of Lady Sarah of Blanchefort. I’d written Strella as a sort of Goth, wearing black clothes and black makeup.

 

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Sam, wearing her steampunk goggles, by Eve Ventrue

On a lark, I suddenly flip-flopped plain, ordinary Sam with the much more exotic, gothic Strella. All of a sudden, Sam was the Monama and Stella was on the outs, though I eventually brought her back as a Fleet ship’s captain from the Remnath area of Kana in Book IV. As I created, Sam and her new Monama heritage got stranger  with each successive draft.

 

The pale makeup she’d been wearing previously became her actually skin tone. Her fingernails became deadly claws, in fact the entire House of Monama became an alien species native to Kana with a savage history where they were once four-armed beasts slaying everything in their past.

I continued to create. The brand new alien House of Monama blossomed before my very eyes.

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Sam, displaying many features of a Monama–claws, huge eyes, pale skin, massive hair, and no belly-button. She’s wearing her Snugs medallion which protects her from the cold. (Fantasio)

I imagined different tribes of Monamas huddled around their fog-bound ancestral home, Lake Monama. I imagined the Astralons, the Nebulons, the Cardinals and Fphenooks. I came up with the idea the Monamas were fast and strong, much more so than the Elders of the north. I also gave them their greatest weakness, a fatal susceptibility to cold, keeping them based in the south, and I made them very unfit for space-travel, slowly got sick and weakened when away from Kana until they perished.

 

Remembering my grandmother, I added the White Emilia flower that plays a large role in the Monama mating rituals.

And then I created the beast raging within all of them: the Berserkacide and the Killanjo demons from nowhere that tortured them without pause.

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Sam and her husband, Lord Kabyl (Carol Phillips)

In dealing with my German friend, Fantasio, I hit upon the idea that the Monamas don’t speak LC, or “League Common” as a first language. I changed them around to speak a family of Monama languages: Anuie, Conox and Systerel. At the same time, since they were speaking different languages amongst themselves, I figured there might be different types of Monamas as well–Big ones and little ones. I came up with the Greater Monamas, or “Anuians” and the smaller, more frequent Lesser Monamas, or “Conox“.  Of course I made my heroine Sam a Greater Monama–having her be little and stringy wouldn’t do.

 

SAM AND KAY:

Sam has always been associated with Lord Kabyl of Blanchefort, whom she would one day be wed to. Monamas have prophetic powers, Sam dreamed of “Kay” years before he was born in the cold north of Kana. She saw him every night in her dreams. Bucking a Monama tradition of abandoning her dreams by planting a White Emilia flower at the Wailing Wall, the remains of an old Anuian Fortress, Sam clung to them, hoping one day to meet in person and win the heart of this Elder boy whom she loved.

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Sam Dead (Fantasio)

Sam, though, was an unwitting pawn of a terrible outlawed being known as the Horned God, and was used by him to frame the saintly god Carahil. After a series of horrific events, Sam died as a Berserkacide, shot to death by her love, Kay. Put to rest in her tomb atop Dead Hill, Kay grieved for her for nearly a year.

 

But, Sam had foreseen her transformation into a Berserkacide and death. She had taken steps to either prevent the change, or to circumvent it.

Using the arcane Machine, Kay was able to Bring Sam back from the veil of death where they were shortly wed at last.

As they began their life together, Sam discovered that, while she was in her tomb out on Dead Hill, Kay had been seeing other people, and was enraged. That fact that she was dead while this was going on didn’t matter to her–she would have rathered he spend the rest of his long life alone and miserable.

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Sam waiting for #6 (Sarah Smith)

Displaying a long-lived  jealous streak, Sam grew to hate the woman who dared to conduct a relationship with Kay while she was dead. It was Domeneau of Holly, #6 of the Xandarr 44. As the 44 often came to the Telmus Grove to pray at the statue of Carahil, Sam often found herself out there, waiting for #6 to show.

 

Hey, nobody’s perfect.

As you can see, Sam has been painted a lot by various artists–this sampling displayed here is hardly all of the materials we’ve collected over the years.

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Sam Awakens, by Rebecca Sinz

Sam continues to be one of my personal favorites. I can’t wait to see what further treasures will be created.

 

Bowl Naked

copyright 2017 Ren Garcia, Fantasio, Carol Phillips, Eve Ventrue, Rebecca Sinz and Sarah Smith

Ah! The four year odyssey that is the House of Bloodstein books is nearing an end. The second Bloodstein book, LOE Book 11: The House of Bloodstein: Mentralysis is in post production.

Manuscript: Done

Editing: In-Progress

Cover: Done

Cover Lettering: Not Started

Interior Artwork: Collecting

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The House of Bloodstein: Mentralysis,  by Carol Phillips

The cover for Book 11 is a Technicolor dream. I had wanted tons of vibrant color, and Carol Phillips delivered. It super trippy and suitably weird, which I was hoping for. Unlike the previous covers which contain greater or lesser amounts of Nixies (Elements in the portraiture that are either exaggerated  or not “as presented” in the text) this cover, except for one small detail, is pretty much how the scene is presented in the book.

 

BLURB:

Blurbing is my bane, I hate it. Taking a 138 thousand word book and pot-boiling it down to a few-hundred descriptive words is a chore. I recall blurbing Book 1, with its sort of back-and-forth character interaction was almost impossible to properly accomplish.

This book wasn’t too terribly bad:

The House of Bloodstein: MENTRALYSIS

They thought the episode with their cousins to the east, the Bloodsteins, was over, something to laugh about at the grand table in fond nostalgia, but they were wrong. They were so wrong.

And Castle Blanchefort has fallen!

Lord Kabyl has lost everything: his wife, his kin, his family fortune… And his home, once a safe haven, is overrun with enemies seeking his blood.

In what follows, he must join forces with ancient enemies and with people who do not exist. He must treat with sinister, possibly untrustworthy gods and barter away his soul for urgently needed arcane help, or face certain death at the hands of forgotten tyrants and their terrifying machinations from a bygone age.

And, how can a strange science known as Mentralysis, practiced in secret in the hidden places of the League, hold the key to ultimate victory?

What should have been obvious to Lord Kabyl from the start has at last become crystal clear: Foolish is he who dares possess the Ultimate Object, for misery shall be his only reward.

League of Elder Book 11: the House of Bloodstein: Mentralysis will be available Summer 2017 from Loconeal Publishing

copyright 2017, Ren Garcia and Carol Phillips

STENIBELLE–A MARY-SUE??

January 1, 2017

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Front Cover of LoE Book 9 (artwork by Carol Phillips)

It was bound to happen. Somebody called Stenibelle a Mary Sue.

It’s been over a year since we released  LoE Book 9: Stenibelle. Stenibelle is unique in the LoE series, it’s by far the shortest book of all, ringing in at around 54 thousand words–much shorter than my usual average of 125 thousand (Hey, I write until I’m done, then I stop. I conducted the story I wanted to tell, which happened to be 54k). It’s also the first book in the series told entirely from a female protagonist’s point of view, all of the other stories tend to be  male/female ensembles.

I really don’t like pitting one gender against another, highlighting one while denigrating the other, which seems to often be the case in many books. That approach tends to be extremely polarizing, and, for me, rather annoying. I like Humanist stories featuring positive cooperation and teamwork between the sexes.

 

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The original artwork of Mary Sue accompanying Paula Smith’s  “A Trekkies Tale”

A new term has popped up lately, and, like most things people catch wind of, everybody wants to bust it out and make  bold use of it. The term has gotten batted around the Sociosphere like a piñata. The term in question: Mary Sue, mostly in regards to the character Rey in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

 

What is a Mary Sue? The term is loosely defined and can mean different things to different people. Mary Sue first came from a piece of parody Star Trek fan fiction by Paula Smith entitled: A Trekkies Tale, where a 15 year old girl named Mary Sue graduates as the youngest person ever from the academy, joins the Enterprise and quickly outperforms Kirk, Spock, McCoy and Scotty,  takes command of the Enterprise, captures Kirk’s heart, out-Vulcans Spock, and dies a hero for which a holiday in her name is remembered ever after.

So, with that in mind, a Mary Sue is:

–A female character who outperforms all other characters in a given platform.

–A female character who has skills and abilities that are out-of-joint with her backstory.

–A female character who exhibits near flawless traits.

With Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the Rey character seems to exhibit all three of these criteria, though her full backstory isn’t known at this point, and, there’s always the wildcard of “The Force” to explain away pretty much everything she does: Rey could just be the greatest Force user …ever. When reading a book or watching a movie, you usually expect the characters you’re watching to grow and change in some way. With a Mary Sue (or as in her male counterpart, the Gary Stu) there’s no room for her to grow–she’s already perfect in every way. Such a character tends to be a product of lazy or just plain bad writing. In any event, such a character tends to be annoying, difficult to relate to and tends to make some people think that the film has a singular Feminist Agenda, and thus the conversation and frequent use of the term “Mary Sue” today when examining strong female characters.

So, back to my original thought–somebody read Book 9 and thinks Stenibelle, the female protagonist of the story, is a Mary Sue. Let’s take a look at the facts and see if that is the case or not.

A Mary Sue is a female character who outperforms all other characters in a given platform.

I honestly can’t see how Stenibelle outperforms anybody in the story. At the beginning Stenibelle is in prison, for failure and malfeasance of command during the Seeker Affair. She was captured in space, clapped in irons, frog-marched off her own ship by Lt. Gwendolyn and thrown in jail. She is saddled with self-doubt, self-loathing, is full of angst, full of self-pity and, though she, as a fully trained Tyrolese Sorceress, has the skills to escape from her imprisonment, she chooses not to as she wishes to hide from her problems.

It takes a monumental amount of tenacity and self-growth to not simply triumph in the end and conquer her personal demons, but to simply survive. Along every step of the way, her skills are put to the test and she fails as often as she succeeds. She also needs timely assistance from her allies around her, otherwise, she might nearly have been either killed or enslaved. Stenibelle does triumph, but it’s no day at the beach.

A Mary Sue is a female character whose skills and abilities are out-of-joint with her backstory.

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The VUNKULA , provided by her benefactor, Hannah-Ben Shurlamp, is one of Stenibelle’s most trusty weapons

Stenibelle has quite a few abilities that a common person about the League probably does not have, but, these abilities are all consistent with her backstory. She has the exact same training as Paymaster Stenstrom, thus, she was trained for nine years by her mother, Lady Jubilee of Tyrol, in the ways of Tyrol Sorcery. As such, she is able to Fade into the Shadows, essentially, to  turn invisible. She is highly skilled at picking various types of locks. She is a skilled herbalist and chemist, well-versed at creating and using Holystones for a variety of effects and can conjure them at will out of thin air, along with her deadly MARZABLE throwing daggers. Stenibelle is also highly proficient at using the VUNKULA of the House of Grenville, which is a powerful weapon she makes use of quite a bit. A former lover, Lord Geryron of Grenville, taught her how to use it.

 

Given all that, nothing Stenibelle does in the  story is out-of-the-blue or unexpected and is perfectly in-line with her background and training.

And finally:

A Mary Sue is a female character who exhibits near flawless traits.

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An unused piece of concept artwork, by Carol Phillips 

Essentially, this point means the character in question is nigh invincible, needs no help, and has no defects. As I mentioned before, Stenibelle is far from flawless. She is highly skilled, but is hampered by considerable self-doubt and inexperience that must be dealt with during the course of the story. She is crippled mentally and spiritually by past failures, and she needs lots of help along the way to discover herself, clinging to her friends, Lord A-Ram and Lady Alesta, for strength and guidance, and to her benefactor Hannah-Ben Shurlamp for financing and the exotic tools she needs for success. Even Bunged Up into a ruthless, heartless person by over-reliance on bolabungs, Stenibelle loses a brief fight with Lady Alesta–who is a monk, a Pilgrim of Merian. By the end of the story, Stenibelle discovers her confidence and her courage to become a truly formidable and seasoned adventurer, but it takes a long time and a lot of assistance to get her to that point.

 

So, given all of that, I’m not certain what story that person read to come up with the notion that Stenibelle is a Mary Sue. Perhaps he didn’t properly understand the term and simply busted it out in a review to sound current.

Who knows.

Stenibelle is a fully-developed human character exhibiting all the flaws, weaknesses, foibles, skills, potential, endurance and capacity for self-growth that we all have … she just happens to be a girl.

Bowl Naked
copyright 2017, Ren Garcia, Eve Ventrue and Carol Phillips