Book IV Cover Almost Complete

February 26, 2011

"The Machine" by Carol Phillips

The epic cover for Book VI, The Machine, is almost complete. Carol Phillips is working like a mad fiend.

This cover is quite different from the previous three covers for a number of reasons. The previous covers all have a distinct fantasy flavor to them, from the gothic city-scape of Metatron to the wooded Hazards of the Old Ones, Carol’s roots as a fantasy artist shine through, however, The League of Elder, is a space-opera after all, so I wanted book IV to highlight that. This cover also displays all four of the main characters, which hasn’t happened before (notice Sarah is not “turned on” in this still), as well as two Black Hat temples. Weird Bondarunga vessels and buildings are scattered all over the place.

The setting is in the Xaphan city of Waam. Our heroes in the foreground are being hunted by two separate groups: the Spectres are after our hero Kay, and the lovely Thomasina the 19th and her ladies are after Phillip. If Carol’s lined it up correctly, Thomasina should land right down the center of the spine.

Some old characters have made their way onto the cover. The gigantic vending machine the good guys are crouching behind is our old friend Princess Marilith of Xandarr, who is a popular folk hero in Waam. Also, as he’s appeared on all the previous covers, the elemental spirit Carahil is here as well–can you find him??

copyright 2011, Ren Garcia and Carol Phillips

Sarah’s Hair

February 23, 2011

I’VE GOT A VERY SERIOUS PROBLEM!! I need to pick a hair-style for Lady Sarah of Blanchefort, and I can’t decide. Cover artist Carol Phillips has given me lots of options and I’m at a loss. Here’s your chance to throw your two-cents in and have a say in how the cover for Book IV, The Machine will look.

Sarah is a rather brusque tom-boy, a hot-head and a bit of a loud-mouth. She loves the thrill of adventure and is an eager companion of her cousin, Lord Kabyl of Blanchefort. She’s basically a big kid. I describe her in the story as having a long head of straight blue hair, like her grandmother had. She doesn’t spend a lot of time fussing with it. She pulls it back into a bouncy ponytail and a rolled-up set of bangs, quick and easy and that’s it.

Here are the choices:

Choices A and D are most like how I describe Sarah in the story. However, given her rather girl-like nature, pigtails aren’t out of the question.

Go ahead, take a look and give me your thoughts.

Copyright 2011, Ren Garcia and Carol Phillips

TOTEH Characters: Carahil

February 19, 2011

"Carahil" by Carol Phillips

THE ELEMENTAL SPIRIT NAMED CARAHIL started life as a recreation in Silver tech from the various recollections of Lord Davage of Blanchefort. He often spoke of a gigantic seal-like creature he met in the dusty planes of Metatron named Carahil. Davage spoke of him being kind and wise.

His sister, Lady Poe of Blanchefort, listened to the dinner-time stories and was captivated. She was a newly trained Shadow tech female and was fast discovering her considerable talent for creating Silver tech familiars. She decided to put her new-found skills to the test and create an exact replica of Carahil, using vast amounts of Silver tech and the detailed recollections of Lord Davage in the process. She located a dry fountain basin in the Telmus Grove and began the long process of creating Carahil, running herself dry several times. As she worked she became very fond of the unfinished creation and began adding more to the mixture than she first intended. She added libraries worth of knowledge and arcane lore, cook books, joke books and other such things she thought would make him well-rounded. When he was nearly ready, she added the essence of a kindly dog from the kitchens. That evening, Carahil opened his eyes for the first time.

Carahil Figurines, by Carol Phillips

Carahil quickly grew in power, and he drew the attention of the Celestial Arborium, a fraternity of powerful creatures watching the continuity of the universe. Carahil passed the four Criteria of Deuum and the Arborium asked him to join.

Carahil has a fondness of lost and little creatures and will go to great lengths to assist those he feels need help. He loves giving gifts when he can. Considering himself to be “incredibly good-looking”, Carahil’s gifts are usually tiny images of his own likeness. He is also a relentless prankster–those he favors are often victims of his pranks.

Image of Carahil in Waam, by Carol Phillips

He is the patron god of Xandarr and is memorialized with many shrines and temples, the largest being a park on the banks of the River Torr called 1000 Carahil Park. Children often draw pictures of him and write little notes, leaving them at the flippers of his statues and hope he hears their call. It is also tradition that fresh-baked cream pies placed on a sill will attract him.

Carahil’s Secret-Talker is Mabsornath, the former Cat God of Zall-88. Mabs appears occasionally in a place called the Cat God Pub. There, the answers to many questions may be had and the voices of those far away may be heard. The Cat God Pub appears in different guises to different people and it never is encountered in the same place twice. Carahil and Mabs are thought to be romantically involved.

Copyright 2011, Ren Garcia

Book 3 Cover Finished

February 18, 2011

"The Dead Held Hands", cover by Carol Phillips

Just in time for Millenicon in Cincinnati later in March, the cover for the first book in the Temple of the Exploding Head trilogy is ready to go! This image, sans publisher logos and the ISBN barcode is the final version of the cover for The Dead Held Hands.

I think this one is my Carol Phillips favorite so far. Full of color, I love the composition and feeling of movement. Carol always adds a little “surprise” to the spine of each cover so that it jumps out and catches the eye while sitting on the shelf. In this case, she added an image of Castle Blanchefort in the background.

In addition to the amazing cover, there are over twenty maps and illustrations waiting inside the book, drawn and painted by Carol Phillips, Fantasio, Eve Ventrue and Chantal Boudreau.

The Dead Held Hands will be out March, 2011 from Loconeal Publishing.

Copyright 2011, Ren Garcia and Carol Phillips

The Gray Note

February 12, 2011

Perhaps you’ll understand what I’m about to share with you, and perhaps you won’t.

I often seek something I call The Gray Note. What is it?? It’s a sound that, when you hear, it takes you away, time forgotten, and your mind begins working at an incredible pace and in a rare harmony. My mentor at Ohio State told me about the existence of the Gray Note–that it was something he experienced once years before and had sought it out ever since. You never simply hear the Gray Note, it pulls you inside, like the embrace of an ancestor, and once you’re there conception is unbound and you’ve access to places in your own imagination never visited before–places you didn’t know existed. It’s like unlocking a hidden floor in a department store, full of treasures, where the public normally isn’t permitted to see.

Roebling Bridge (Cincinnati, Ohio)

I encountered it once on the Roebling Bridge in Cincinnati, Ohio about ten years ago. The bridge doesn’t have a paved roadway, instead it’s simply a segmented metal grate with large square holes through which you can see the rushing waters of the Ohio River far below. Cars rolling across this grated surface make the most incredible sound, full and mournful. On rainy days, when the air is thick, the sound sometimes changes a bit in timbre and becomes the Gray Note. I was walking across the bridge one rainy day and fell into it, standing there, mouth open, captivated, listening for hours, not wanting to come out of it. It was like an LSD trip, only without the drug, just a perfect communion of your mind and your senses. Eventually, the clouds parted and the sound changed, and I was dumped back to Earth, lamenting the perfection I’d experienced and then lost.

I often returned to the Roebling to try and recapture The Gray Note, but it never was the same, and I’ve looked for it ever since, always elusive and just beyond my reach. I’ve hunted it, like King Arthur’s Questing Beast.

Today, I found the Gray Note again, in an unexpected place.

My wife wanted to stop at Target and get a few things. I really didn’t want to go, but she insisted. We went inside and she grabbed a cart and started shopping. We made our way to the vast frozen food section, all the cases full of whirring fans, that droning staccato sound they made.


That sound…

As we moved down the aisle, there it was, in just the right spot, I re-discovered the Gray Note, rich and proud, full of life and creation.

As before, I fell in. Vast new worlds opened up, I created entire novels, beginnings and endings. Whole lives danced in front of me. I could have died there …

And then my wife shook me and it was gone. She said I was standing there in a stupor, like I was catatonic.

And there I was, back on Earth.

“Did you hear it?” I asked her.

“Hear what? I just hear noise.”

And my hunt continues …

Bowl Naked


TOTEH Characters: Lady Poe

February 11, 2011

"Lady Poe of Blanchefort" by Carol Phillips

LADY POE OF BLANCHEFORT Is the mother of Sarah and Phillip of Blanchefort. She is the elder sister of Captain Davage.

For most of her life Lady Poe was thought to be mentally ill, falling into frequent spells and was often taken by her father Sadric into the care of the Sisters. Mental illness is unheard of in the League, and such an infirmity was a scandal for the House of Blanchefort. Thusly, Lady Poe was considered to be social poison.

Later, it was discovered that Lady Poe was a hidden Shadow tech female and was suffering from Shadow tech poisoning. Her gigantic Shadowmark had been hidden underneath a latex cover. Sygillis of Blanchefort took Lady Poe under her wing and taught her to properly harness her Shadow tech.

Poe quickly mastered her Shadow tech and turned it to silver. She began creating Silver tech familiars that were very accomplished in their complexity. Her greatest creation was a little seal named Carahil, who became a god.

"Lady Poe" by Bea Matarredona-Garcia

Lady Poe met and fell in love with Lord Peter of Ruthven, a suspected pirate from Esther after she was abducted by Princess Vroc of Xandarr. They would eventually have four children together, not including Carahil, whom they also considered to be their child.

Always kind and patient, Lady Poe is considered to be a saint by all who know her. She has a great love of children, and is the teacher of her children and of her brother’s children as well: Kay, Kilos and Hathaline.

Carahil was a dutiful son and always remembered to visit his mother on her birthday no matter how far away his travels took him. At her latest birthday celebration, Carahil seemed unusually dour and concerned, rather unlike his usual jovial self.

Lady Poe asked him what was wrong, and, in measured tones, he said “I need your help, Mother.”

And he told her what was going to happen, and she was appalled.

copyright 2011, Ren Garcia

TOTEH Characters: Paraflies

February 9, 2011

THE LEAGUE SCIENCE MINISTRY is quite concerned about a sudden infestation of Kana by a previously unidentified species of insect that is clearly a transplant from off-world.

"Paraflies" by Carol Phillips

The insect in question, dubbed “Parafly” by Ministry entomologists is quickly becoming present in all quarters of Kana. Its entomology is baffling, as it exhibits traits of many dissimilar types of insect. Its body resembles that of a common dragonfly, though it is many times larger and heavier. It has a single pair of swept-back wings, like a wasp, though some early reports stated it has a second pair of wings. It also tends to move about in great, cloud-like swarms like a bee. By all accounts, the Parafly is a very pleasing insect to look at, with a metallic blue and green body with striking coppery wings. Their wings are extremely shiny and mirror-like in their reflectiveness. It also has a great tolerance for wide variations in climate and temperature as it thrives all over Kana from the temperate south to the frigid north.

Word is spreading that Paraflies carry an enormous stinger and a cocktail of poisons making it one of the most poisonous creatures on Kana, though dissections of southern specimens revealed no stinger.

"Paraflies" by Carol Phillips

The Paraflies temperament has been described in a number of different ways, from docile and patient to extremely aggressive and rather locust-like in their tendency to swarm, creating a deafening buzzing sound as they do. A number of reports have come to light by Kanan citizens claiming to have been chased by swarms of Paraflies. Others report Paraflies swarm into people’s homes, make a terrible racket, and then exit just as quickly.

Clearly not native to Kana, the Parafly is assumed to be a transplant from another League world, possibly a stowaway from Onaris or Bazz, two places known for their exotic and rather large insect life. However, the Parafly does not resemble any known species of insect from either of those two worlds.

A rumor in Zenon has cropped up regarding Paraflies and ghosts, that they are attracted by the presence of ghosts.

The Jones temple of Bazz, accustomed to dealing with large insects, believe the Parafly is an engineered creature, or purpose bred. If true, the person or persons responsible for breeding them and why is not known.

copyright 2011, Ren Garcia

TOTEH Characters: Lon

February 4, 2011

"Lon of Probert" by Eve Ventrue

LORD LON OF PROBERT is a character in the Temple of the Exploding Head trilogy. He is a good friend of Kay, Sarah and Phillip of Blanchefort. He appears in all three books of the trilogy, primarily in the second and third books.

He is the youngest son of Lord Milos and Lady Branna of Probert. His father is the lead engineer for the Stellar Fleet having designed the prolific Straylight and Triumph classes of warships. His mother is one of the four Imperitors of the Science Ministry. The tiny Lon inherited his father’s skill and his mother’s curiosity. He was a round, rather awkward boy standing where a handsome man will one day be; his silly appearance belying his intelligence and capability. At an early age he mastered the CEROS, the LosCapricos weapon of House Probert and the PITCOCK WONDER GUN, the same of his mother’s house. Being a Probert, Lon has no Gifts, save his talents and his wits. He often makes use of a number of gadgets and goggles that enhance him greatly.

"Lon of Probert" by Bea Matarredona-Garcia

When he was eight years old, his father took Lon to Castle Blanchefort to meet Lord Kabyl. His father had been a childhood friend of Lord Davage, and they hoped Lon and Kay would also become friends. Kay was in the middle of designing a CARG for himself, and Lon helped him work out some of the technical and mathematical difficulties. The two boys became fast, if rather mismatched, friends.

Lon met Lady Sammidoran of Monama at the Falling in Love ball at Castle Blanchefort. He was captivated by the tall Monama woman, and, as she appeared to be a social outcast and apparently available, he convinced himself that he was in love with her. When she came to him in the city of Arden with a number of technical questions, he was certain she felt something for him too. They sat down to lunch and what he told her set the stage for all that followed.

copyright 2011, Ren Garcia

TOTEH Characters: Phillip

February 2, 2011

"Phillip and Sarah" by Eve Ventrue

LORD PHILLIP OF BLANCHEFORT is one of the main characters in the Temple of the Exploding Head trilogy. He is the second son of Lady Poe of Blanchefort and the twin brother of Sarah of Blanchefort.

He is tall and thin like a standard Blanchefort, with the sturdy ruggedness of the Esthers (his father, Lord Peter of Ruthven, is of Esther stock). He wears his auburn hair short and neat in the Esther style, unlike his cousin Kay who wears his purple hair long and tailed, Vith-style. Being the son of a Shadow tech female, Phillip has captivating silver eyes with rather hypnotic qualities. He is often able to charm people with them if he so wishes.

"Phillip" by Bea Matarredona-Garcia

While his boisterous twin sister Sarah is a rowdy loud-mouth, Phillip is quiet and cerebral. He fully inherited his father’s hands and thoughtfulness. At an early age, Phillip showed a great aptitude for piloting and his father taught him to fly the swift Goshawk ship. Although he presents himself in a mild, upright fashion, Phillip has a definite love of thrills and adventure, allowing his verbose sister to do all the talking and planning while he, quiet but eager, follows.

Phillip was declared by the Stertors to have only one Gift: the Sight. His Sight is fairly well advanced for a boy his age. Everything Phillip does, he excels at in his quiet, humble fashion.

Inset depicting Phillip's name carved into a MT CALM

He has a secret love of what he considers to be wild, dangerous females and has always wanted to capture a Black Hat as his uncle, the Duke of Oyln, did. Problem: he tends to fall apart in their presence and lose all bearing, as evidenced by his inability to look the Sisterhood of Light in the eye.

If he only knew of the hellion, far away, just waiting to pounce on him. Makes a Black Hat look tame in comparison.

copyright 2011, Ren Garcia

TOTEH Characters: Kay

February 1, 2011

"Kay" by Eve Ventrue

LORD KABYL OF BLANCHEFORT or “Kay” as he’s known, is the main character in the Temple of the Exploding Head trilogy. He’s the eldest son of Captain Davage and of Sygillis of Blanchefort (formerly of Metatron). He was named after Lord Kabyl of old, a feared Haitathe-slayer from a time gone by.

Slight as a child, green-eyed like his mother and sporting an odd head of purple hair, Kay was considered a flawed non-Vith by the lords and ladies who came to examine him. His younger sister, Lady Kilos, blue-eyed, blue-haired, was considered a perfect Vith, and Kay often felt humiliated by the scorn he received.

"Kay" by Bea Matarredona-Garcia

As Kay grew, he found he had difficulties with many things. His father, Captain Davage, was a legendary pilot, and it was hoped Kay would have inherited those skills as well. Unfortunately, such was not the case, Kay proved to have little piloting talents (his younger sister, Hathaline, from an early age, showed great promise as a pilot). Kay also had trouble with space in general, becoming violently ill every time his parents tried to “take him up”. Kay also was not nearly as large or as strong as his father, as illustrated by his inability to lift his father’s seventy-seven pound King CARG.

And, the most unkind blow of all–Kay didn’t seem to have the Gift of Sight. The Sight was a Blanchefort tradition going back thousands of years going back to a time when the old Blanchefort lords used it to sack villages and slay enemies, and Kay saw nothing beyond the mundane. The Stertors, a branch of the Sisterhood of Light, came to the House to proclaim his Gifts and pronounced him having two: the Gift of Waft and the Gift of Cloak.

No Sight. Thousands of years tradition lost.

"Kay Falling" by Carol Phillips

When he turned thirteen, Kay couldn’t take it anymore–all the disappointed faces, all the failure. He decided the House would be better off without him. He had a baby brother, Maser, who would inherit the House, and his sister Kilos could stand as regent until Maser came of age. He found a good balcony high atop Pendar Tower on the western face of Castle Blanchefort with a four thousand foot drop to the crags below. All he had to do was step off and his body would be washed away with the tide. No blood, no fuss, like he’d never existed at all.

That’s when he heard the Voice speak to him for the first time.

copyright 2011, Ren Garcia