CAROL PHILLIPS is working away on the horrific cover to Book V, The Temple of the Exploding Head. It’s coming along quite well with the enhanced lighting adding mood and drama to the scene.

As Carol puts it:

Light and shadow is a really important part of creating mood in a painting. It can take a boring painting and make it look really awesome, or if done incorrectly, can make it look flat and dull. I learned early on it was important to pay attention to your various light sources and always keep them in mind while creating your piece. It is a key point in creating a believable environment, character or creature and can make or break your artwork.

"The Temple of the Exploding Head" by Carol Phillips

Creating an environment from your head can be tough and it can be difficult to keep your light source in mind. A good thing to do, is to mark out the direction of your light source with an arrow (on a separate layer or lightly on your drawing,) to remind you while painting where the light is coming from. It also helps with confusion of multiple light sources. Working from your head you probably wont get things 100% real life accurate but if you keep the light sources in mind it will help to make your work seem possible.

It’s also important to keep in mind if your light is warm light ( fire/ candle) or cool light (could be found out doors). It is especially challenging when working with both cool and warm light sources on a piece like the Temple, but using warm and cool lights can add a lot of drama and interesting colors to a piece.

Look how the warm fire light brings out the depth of the Temple, lighting up the back tiers giving the viewer a hint how wide the Temple is, while the cooler lighting provides a sense of loftiness and imposing height. With the lighting in place, you can see what was previously hidden behind the more prominent tiers of statue and pillars. With the orange light, the Temple looks more unsettled, more wild and dangerous, which is the impression the viewer should be getting. I can only imagine what the scene will look like when the character layers are turned on.

See the difference when only the cool lighting elements are displayed. The Temple looks calm, peaceful even, like a football stadium before the football game starts. Even though the place is festooned with horrific images, the lighting makes it seem at peace. It also loses all of its depth, with the deeper parts of the temple lost in shadow. The Temple seems much taller rather than wide in the cool lighting.

Book V, The Temple of the Exploding Head will be available for purchase November 2011.

copyright 2011, Ren Garcia and Carol Phillips

The second book in the Temple of the Exploding Head Trilogy is finally here!!

The Machine

The Temple of the Exploding Head Saga continues…

Lord Kabyl of Blanchefort, his cousins Sarah and Phillip and their friend Lord Lon of Probert quest to recover the three pieces of a fabled machine lost for centuries: The Oberphilliax.

Their quest will take them beyond the safety of the League to the Xaphan city of Waam where an ancient Black Hat and her vile army of Spectre henchmen await their arrival with great anticipation.

The Machine sees Kay and his cousins visit distant Xandarr where he is confronted by the manifestations of his three Gifts: Waft, Cloak and Sight. Each will test him to his limits and if he falters for even a moment, he will die.

And, if he manages to survive that, then there’s the city of Rostov where death is a roll of the dice away, Dee, with the creature lurking in the water and Waam with its Black Hats and roving army of Spectres. To be a Shadow tech Male in Waam is to be hunted and killed without question … and Kay is a Shadow tech Male. The chase is on.

The book features cover art by Carol Phillips, and is lavishly illustrated with over 25 full page maps and drawings by Carol Phillips, Fantasio and Eve Ventrue.

Book Specifics:
Publisher: Loconeal Publishing
ISBN: 978-0-9825653-5-3
Release Date: July 26th, 2011
Pages: 309

Thank You, Adam Ant

July 14, 2011

Adam Ant

In looking back on things as Book IV of the Temple of the Exploding Head saga nears release, I puzzle over exactly how I got here. What dissimilar things came together to put all these odd ideas into my head and then, eventually, onto paper in a cohesive manner.

The simple truth is a lot of things added their influence. The League of Elder series is a veritable Rabbit Stew elements thrown together to form the bedrock of my ever-growing universe. My home in Ohio provided much of my inspiration, my wife, Erin, as well provided a grand contribution, and the usual bits stuff also added to the pot (movies I’d seen, books I’d read and the subtle weave of morning dreams that refused to fade from my memory).

But, undoubtedly, a big part of the colonial-retro look of my stories comes from one singular source: Adam Ant.

Adam Ant--Punk Rocker and Self-Styled Madman (From Prince Charming)

Growing up in the `80’s, Adam Ant was a big thing. MTV was big and Adam Ant was big too, in the ascendency of a grand career. He was all over MTV. At the time, I lived out in the Ohio countryside and didn’t get cable, so whenever I visited my friends in the city, I watched my fill of MTV to make up for the lack of it all the rest of the time. And there was Adam Ant, emblazoned all over the small screen in a leather and wool commotion.

In the mid-Eighties, Adam Ant was taking that well-travelled step from being a speck on the fringe of things, from a punk-rock freak a-la David Bowie whom all parents fear, to a force in the establishment, accepted and welcomed into the pop culture with open arms.

Adam Ant, all Pop'ed-Out in Friend or Foe, a very influential album for me

And I watched. Everything about him fascinated me. I noted the colonial-style top coat he wore, with tight leather pants, bucket boots a tailed-shock hairdo complete with bow and Indian-style face paint scratched across the bridge of his nose.

To me Adam Ant was the embodiment of cool, of sexy and fresh, or daring and bold and I wanted to be him. I wanted to be just like him. I painted my face and grew long my hair (I didn’t quite succeed and ended up with the eponymous and dreaded mullet).

Captain Davage--Ant-like in his dress

I never forgot Adam Ant’s particular look, and, as the League of Elder began to take shape in my mind, it was only natural that I emulated it and made it my own.

I hope Adam Ant continues his recent comeback from years of obscurity, mental health issues and other set backs and once again thrills young people, as he did me.

Bowl Naked


"Lord Stenstrom of Belmont" by Eve Ventrue

LORD STENSTROM OF BELMONT serves Captain Davage aboard his grand Fleet warship, the New Faith. Stenstrom is a civilian aboard the ship and performs the role of Paymaster, a clerk overseeing and observing the ship’s pays and outlaying of money.

Stenstrom isn’t the normal sort of modest, unathletic fellow occupying the role of Paymaster. At 6’7 he is a towering man, taller even than Captain Davage. He is the son of the famed Fleet captain Lord Stenstrom the Older who commands the warship Caroline. He carries the traditional LosCapricos weapons of his House, the NTHs, a pair of pistols said to be capable of slaying virtually anything with a single shot. He also wears a long dark green coat once worn by the defunct Hoban Royal Navy–Stenstrom is rarely seen without his HRN. As a final odd note, Stenstrom wears a small mask covering his eyes.

He hails from the House of Belmont, an old Zenon House on his father’s side and the House of Tyrol on his mother’s. The House of Tyrol are an odd, silver-haired lot living on the eastern coast of Esther, and consider themselves a tribe apart, through no official recognition has been given to them as such. Stenstrom’s mother, Lady Jubilee of Tyrol, is a notorious socialite and suspected witch. Her indomitable personality is well-known–she was under Public Wergild for over twenty years, meaning someone had formally posted a vendetta against her. She bore Stenstrom’s father 29 daughters ahead of him as a result of an oath she took. She feared for the life of her husband as he spanned the stars in his Fleet ship and swore he would have no sons until his boots were firmly planted on the ground for good; thus twenty-nine Belmont daughters. It has been said that Stenstrom the Older had to resort to sorcerous methods of his own to gain a son, purchasing a questionable tincture on Bazz said to ensure the birth of a son, and thus Stenstrom the Younger was finally born.

Private Taara de la Anderson is one of Paymaster Stenstrom's closest friends (painting by Eve Ventrue)

The Blood Oath
His mother was said to be enraged upon his birth and swore to murder him in his crib, though she quickly came to love and adore her handsome son. Seeing the younger Stenstrom clamoring to follow his father to the stars, Lady Jubilee took steps … extreme steps to prevent him from joining the Fleet. Stenstrom has hinted she put him to an obscure ritual known as the Tyrol Blood Oath. Plunging a red-hot dagger into his heart, she made him swear he’d never join the Fleet as either a crewman or officer, least his wound burst open. She updated the Blood Oath over the years, adding the Astro Merchants, Billings and Merchant Marines to it. She was convinced the stars were no longer in his future.

A Tyrol Sorcerer
Paymaster Stenstrom is well-known for his ability to perform a number of feats considered to be Tyrol Sorcery taught to him by his mother. Though he has no Gifts of the Mind, he can fade into the shadows and pass unseen. He can also make small to medium-sized items appear and disappear with just a wave of his hand.

Flight From Bern
As a youth, Stenstrom went off to school at the University of Bern studying accounting (a pre-approved course of study). A disinterested student, his fiancée, Lady Lillian of Gamboa whispered in his ear and told him of a way to get around his mother’s curse. His oaths had made no mention of joining the Fleet as a civilian and she hit him upon the notion of becoming a Fleet Paymaster. The requirements of the position demanded he be an attorney or an accountant of vast tenure. Having no tenure, Stenstrom fled Bern upon his graduation and went into hiding in Calvert, accumulating his tenure at the barrel of a gun. Soon he secured a job as Paymaster aboard the Sandwich, a rusting Fleet frigate, which was illegally running Kanan grain spirits to the Xaphans. Due to his House standing and his fortune, he was not well-liked aboard the Sandwich and was widely shunned.

Lt. Gwendolyn, Lady of Prentess, threatened to knock Stenstrom's teeth out (painting by Eve Ventrue)

The Captain of the ship, a Lt. Dunkster of Carew, was caught red-handed trying to sell counterfeit spirits to the Xaphans and was forced to put out a call to the Fleet for help. The Fleet ship New Faith answered the call and ran the Xaphans off. When questioned, Stenstrom willingly took the blame for the spirit-running operation and allowed himself to be incarcerated. Captain Davage of the New Faith, had an extensive dossier on Lt. Dunkster and knew Stenstrom was covering for him. He was impressed by his loyalty and courage and was intrigued by his HRN and his mask. Davage released him from the brig and invited him to join the New Faith crew, replacing the retiring Paymaster, Lord Milke.

Stenstrom’s Mask
Along with his HRN coat and his NTHs, Paymaster Stenstrom is known for wearing a black mask at all times. The mask was a source of constant speculation until he revealed the mask contains several magical pieces of metal folded up in the cloth called “hermelins” which prevent his soul from being torn apart by demons sent by his mother. Without his mask, he’ll perish in short order.

Paymaster Stenstrom is introduced in Book IV as Captain Davage’s Paymaster aboard the New Faith. He will become the Main Character in the League of Elder Second Series starting with Book VII, The Sands of the Solar Empire, coming soon.

Copyright 2011, Ren Garcia and Eve Ventrue