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

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

 

StG Characters: Kat

October 12, 2016

 

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Kat, by Carol Phillips

Every fictional character goes through a genesis of sorts during the creation process, be it big or small–it’s just natural for an author to either polish up or improvise bits to a character during the creation process, or to change their mind completely and start over.

 

It was doubly so for Kat in the upcoming LoE book 12: The Shadow tech Goddess: Kat. I changed her so much she really isn’t the same character as when I started.

I do that a lot, though. As I prepare no notes or pre-plan no outline for a story project, I tend to frequently change course, get inspired, add tid-bits, or, change direction entirely. I’ve cut lots of pretty cool stuff because I either thought I was treading over previously covered ground or could find no good use for the material. The Temple of the Exploding Head trilogy  is nothing like what I started out with–nothing.

And so, we come to LoE Book 12: Kat. First introduced in Book 8: The Shadow tech Goddess, as one of the 7 potential love interests for Paymaster Stenstrom across the universes, my original intention with Kat was to simply pull her off the page as is and resume her tale in Book 12 with little or no intro or preamble. In StG, Kat was a Black Hat sent with several others to infiltrate the Ruins of Clovis in the Kanan north and uncover evidence of the identity of the Shadow tech Goddess. It was, essentially, a suicide mission with the possibility of success remote at best.

 

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

Kat was a Knife-class Black Hat, very mobile, very heady with micro-line Shadow tech. When Paymaster Stenstrom came upon her in the cold ruins, she was alone, her two nameless companions dead, killed by whatever lurks in the depths beneath Clovis. She was cold and uncaring, limber to the point of being rubbery and quite ruthless.

 

This somewhat limited character is what I hoped to make the heroine in Book 12. I made a good go of it, but, as I neared the completion of the first draft, I realized something.

Kat was boring.

It’s important for an author to be able to step back to see the naked truth as it unfolds before them. Though I loved the limber, blonde-headed Kat (I had based her off of Ginger Rogers), I had to face the fact she was not only a re-tread from previous characters in the series, she had no life. She was plain boring. Her transformation from Black Hat to loving Countess had already been done (as with Syg and Duchess Torijayne of Olyn), and her love for Paymaster Stenstrom bordered on the dreaded “Insta-Love”. I stopped writing. I knew action had to be taken.

 

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Proposed cover for Book 12, by Carol Phillips (Kat’s new wind-whipped Mohawk easily seen in the sketch)

I figured I’d go back, add a few scenes to the beginning of the book, flesh-out Kat a little bit and give her her own path. Shouldn’t take too long, I thought.

 

It would take half a year and about 40 thousand words before I was done, the “few scenes” I wanted to add took on a life of their own and Kat would never be the same.

I started from an elemental level, following Kat as she struggled to survive in the Black Hat’s horrid training facility, the Shade Church. I took away her mastery of Shadow tech, making her a novice in the extreme (though I would have to figure out a way to give her mastery back again by the end of the book). I gave her mentors, those watching her from afar, weeping as she suffered under the Black Hat’s heel.  I even included Kat’s sisters, those sent with her to Kana. I also added the gods, people in far away places, mystical items, the works.

I threw the lot at Kat, and her transformation was stunning. Gone was flat, boring, Kat, replaced by a remarkable new character, full of life, one that I was proud of. Fueled by these changes, I finished the book in no time.

Kat is in the initial stages of pre-production. It should be out by 2018.

copyright 2016, Ren Garcia, Eve Ventrue and Carol Phillips.

 

 

The Ballwigs

July 2, 2016

Of all the various sects rolling about the League, it is probably the case that the Ballwigs are the most notorious and reviled. Never has a sect been so despised, feared and coveted all at once.

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Emblem of the Ballwigs

The Ballwigs are a select sect of beautiful, wealthy and socially influential ladies from all over Kana, Hoban and Planet Fall. They are both married and unmarried. Their primary function is to attend balls, endurocons, cotillions and other such social events across the League. Their mere presence tends to elevate the event they attend in stature.

What makes the Ballwigs so universally reviled is their frigidity and terminal unavailability. They take great pride in rejecting any attempt to socialize with them, with any and all attempts being rebuffed. They even go so far as to compete amongst one another to determine who can reject the most people. Whichever Ballwig collects the most points over a given period of time, receives a fabulous Golden Harrsprung made of gold, rubies, emeralds and sapphires.  Points are given for the following:

Being asked to dance

Being offered a drink

Being offered a cigarette

Being asked for a visit

One of the most coveted prizes the Ballwigs seek: hearing the words “I love you”. It is also said that the greatest point allocation is applied if a person commits suicide after being rejected.

If a Ballwig ever returns any affection shown to them, or if they publically state their love for a person met at a ball, they are immediately cast out of the sect.

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Lady Vendra of Cone, the founder of the Ballwigs. (Eve Ventrue)

The founder of the sect is Lady Vendra of Cone, a spinster socialite from Remnath who was spurned at a ball by the man she loved. Determined to get even and make others feel as she did, she created the Ballwigs to unleash hell upon the hearts of men everywhere in the League.

The rival sect to the Ballwigs is a group known as the Lambs, a collection of much more matronly ladies actively seeking to attract a husband.

Their emblem is a Harrsprung, a mythical rabbit-like creature of Vith lore leaping out of a garland wreath. The Harrsprung is said to be uncatchable.

copyright 2016, Ren Garcia, Eve Ventrue

 

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Roethaba of George, by Carol Phillips

Among the many new characters introduced in the upcoming House of Bloodstein books is the mysterious Xaphan Marist Roethaba of George.

 

Roethaba, for a number of reasons, is truly an enigma, so much so, even her very existence comes into question.

CONSUMED BY SICKNESS??

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Roethaba is often in the presence of her bodyguard, Hruntha, a Haitathe warrior. (Painting by Eve Ventrue)

Per the Book of Xaphan, Roethaba  was born in 3273 (or 003486AX in League designation) as the 5th daughter in the Court of George, a favored, gentile branch of the House of Burgon. Her mother, Marist Styxa of Burgon, was said to have snuck into a League ball and cuckolded with a Vith lord named Lord Mauro of Bloodstein. Two years later, Roethaba was the result, a beautiful, golden-haired girl, and she was given to the Court of George, who were lacking in females. A retelling of the story insists that Styxa gave birth to twin daughters, Roethaba, and Lady Chrysania of Bloodstein.

 

Roethaba’s young adulthood is very sketchy, with stories wildly varying. One story has her going to school in Midas before becoming an A-List Marist, other stories claim she was deathly sick as a child, inflicted with the genetic scourge of flesh rotting, an inherited defect brought on by the Burgon’s habit of eating human flesh.  Other stories claim she was sustaining herself via arcane methods at the expense of her twin sister, Lady Chrysania of Bloodstein; her rivalry with her sister is a common thread in her narrative, be it arcane or social.  In any event, Roethaba was considered a stunningly beautiful woman, long sought after by many Xaphan Warlords.

A CYBERLING??

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Roethaba is friends with the notorious Willhella Cormand-Grande, the Made Black Hat of Waam (Painting by Eve Ventrue)

If anything, Xaphans love stories, and any Warlord or Marist of note have their life history extensively chronicled by people known as “Daemonesses“.

 

Roethaba’s history was compiled by a Deamoness named Sysaphaea Marx (or, in League designation: of Marx). As she worked, Sysaphea ran into a significant problem. Though Roethaba was notorious for her love affairs, her expensive tastes, her scandals, her Haitathe bodyguard, her friendships with a number of Black Hats, including Wilhella Cormand-Grande, the Mad Black Hat of Waam, she could find no tangible proof Roethaba of George had ever been to any of the places she was said to have been. In fact, she could find few credible people would could say that they’d ever seen her in the flesh other than from a distance. Sysaphaea had seen her several times at various social functions, but could never get close to her or be granted an audience. Her 10 foot tall bodyguard Hruntha, would allow her no admittance–were it not for the bodyguard’s presence, she would seem like a ghost. She began to suspect that Roethaba of George was a Cyberling, a fictitious person with an extensive made-up history making her seem real, hiding some vast secret. She suspected the League was involved, possibly perpetrating some grand conspiracy in Xaphan society.

In her digging, Sysaphaea wrote that she found a hazy link at a ruined temple once dedicated to a dead goddess, Anabrax, the Goddess of Fertility. In the temple was a fading mural connecting Roethaba, Lady Chrysania and an old dictator from the early days of the Xaphan empire named Queen Ghome of Trimble–their faces were all there, painted together.  What that connection is, Sysaphaea never found out, as she dissapeared without trace, never having finished her work, leaving only incomplete hints as to what she had stumbled onto.

For now, Roethaba of George continues to make headlines and break hearts across the Xaphan empire for her outrageous behavior, still ever elusive and full of mystery.

bloodstein-purple CroppedRoethaba of George appears in the League of Elder, Book 10–The House of Bloodstein from Loconeal Publishing.

copyright 2016, Ren Garcia, Carol Phillips, and Eve Ventrue

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Queen Ghome and her Attendants (Painting by Fantasio)

The Xaphans, if anything, are great lovers of stories. Though smaller and not nearly as old as the League, Xaphan lore is rife with shadowy characters and hidden places whispered into anxious ears in the insane courts of Burgon, George and Midas.

 

One such name is that of Queen Ghome, a favorite in Xaphan Society. Her name is familiar on multiple worlds, her likeness is seen in any number of statues and  paintings hanging in Xaphan museums, even an entire class of battleships was name in her honor, her name conjuring up images of strength, tenacity and endurance.

Who was Queen Ghome? Was she a real person of antiquity, or is she simply a colorful figure of lore, more myth than reality? What deeds is she attributed with to earn her such a ready place in Xaphan culture?

Queen Ghome first came to light in Xaphan history thousands of years prior when she claimed the hand of Queen Xo of Trimble during the Night of Centenos when many came from across the Xaphan Empire to court and win her love. In the early days of the Xaphans, one of the first planets colonized and established as a Vith stronghold was Trimble, therefore the opportunity to claim its throne was clamored for by many. To the shock of all attending, it was an unknown woman milling in the crowds who claimed Xo’s hand, becoming Queen Ghome, ushering in the brief age of the Two Queens of Trimble.

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The Two Queens of Trimble. Queen Ghome (on the left) began her practice of wearing horns after she claimed the throne. Note the floating Garden of Zama in the sky.(Painting by Fantasio)

Who was Queen Ghome? Many suspected she was a refugee from the League, with s0me even saying she had once been a prisoner of the hated Sisterhood of Light. Many thought she was a sorceress. With the sudden death of Queen Xo less than a year into their marriage, Queen Ghome would not remain an unknown for long. She ruled Trimble with an iron fist for over six-hundred years, slaying millions, putting her people to the lash and instigating any number of small to medium-sized skirmishes with both the Xaphans and the League.

 

THE WOMAN OF A THOUSAND FACES

Bloodthirsty tyrants and deadly potentates are no strangers to the Xaphan Empire. They come and go quite often, many forgotten to the ages once they’re forced from power and executed. Queen Ghome, though, was no ordinary tyrant. Everything about her was strange and fanciful, worth story-telling. For one, those in attendance in her court reported that her appearance varied wildly from day to day, sometimes from hour to hour. Elias of Sorrander, a mystic known for her ability to see through elaborate Cloaks, was a frequent guest in Queen Ghome’s court in the early days of her reign. She often wrote that Queen Ghome’s frequent changes in appearance, including hair color, general features, size and skin tone, appeared to not be a Cloak, rather her changes appeared to be quite real. She also wrote the one sure way to tell for certain when one was in the presence of Queen Ghome was to look into her eyes: red and piercing, like the eyes of a demon.

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Horns and deadly red eyes were a frequent Queen Ghome attribute. (Painting by Carol Phillips)

Elias also wrote of Ghome’s other body changes she often indulged in. She was known to flit about the towers of Centenos Castle with a leathery pair of wings, sometimes peeking through the windows of guestrooms in the upper floors.

The thing most commented on was Queen Ghome’s tendency to appear to her subjects wearing horns. Horns of various sizes, shapes and colors. Many who visited Trimble mentioned Ghome’s horns, though a few wrote that she wore a horned helmet instead of sporting real horns.

THE SUITORS:

As Queen Xo had sought a suitor to the throne of Trimble, so too did Queen Ghome, though, to be a suitor for her hand meant facing death. Over many years, she put to death countless suitors, robbed and tortured others, and humiliated the rest. She often enjoyed making her less-favored suitors stroll through her deadly Garden of Zama where a host of carnivorous plants she had cultivated, lurked in wait for an easy meal. She never did take a husband, and many of the enemies she made during that time would lead to her eventual downfall.

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Queen Ghome was said to have command of a great beast that guarded her vast wealth. She often used this beast against her enemies. (Painting by Carol Phillips)

AN IMMORTAL??

 

In all, three women named Ghome ruled Trimble over six hundred years. Ghomes I and III were very similar in temperament to the point of being interchangeable, while Ghome II was considered a genuine saint. Ghome II also abjured the practice of wearing horns and changing her face. Still, scribes on Trimble often speculated that Ghomes I, II and III were the same woman, with Ghome II being under a spell that changed her brutish nature to a more benevolent one.

THE BMQ

The people of Trimble living under Ghome’s lash never forgot about poor Queen Xo, whom they believed was murdered. An underground sect grew in the province of St Georges called the Brotherhood of the Murdered Queen, dedicated to the overthrow and prosecution of Queen Ghome. Ghome and the BMQ were constant antagonists. Ghome’s assassins, the Mensada, often smoked the BMQ out of their hiding places and slayed them only to see the sect rise again elsewhere. Ghome was also said to command a giant metal beast that was unstoppable in battle whom she used to slay the BMQ.

Conversely, Ghome’s ruthless and capricious rule was unsustainable, nearly toppling her from the Trimble’s throne several times. During these times, she was secretly propped up by the BMQ, as they wished to be the force that toppled Queen Ghome, not economics.

THE BATTLE OF THE TOMB

After six hundred years of rule, Queen Ghome III was finally deposed from the throne by the BMQ, backed by the warlord Vai of Sorrander and his fleet of battleships. Vai’s great grandfather, Wilmer, had been a rejected suitor of hers. After a pitched battle on the floating Garden of Zama, the BMQ defeated Ghome’s forces and sought to capture her. Ghome herself was never found among the dead, leading to speculation that she had escaped Trimble, though, she was never seen or heard from again.

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Mysterious socialite Roethaba of George is often thought to be Queen Ghome in disguise. (Painting by Carol Phillips) 

Xaphan society refused to let her go. Many believed she had in fact escaped the Battle of the Tomb, wearing a different face and is living a more inconspicuous life somewhere, waiting to rise again. Some thought that Baroness Camilla of Sorrander was Queen Ghome in hiding, a rumor she enjoyed perpetuating. Other names bandied about are Millicent of Tuck, Melazarr of Caroline and the elusive Roethaba of George–are all people who be Queen Ghome in disguise.

 

And, it could also be that the venerable Queen Ghome simply died at the Battle of the Tomb, her body buried in a mass grave along with the other victims of that conflict, leaving many to scratch their heads and wonder, her lore simply too delicious to let die.

bloodstein-purple CroppedQueen Ghome’s many secrets are explored in the upcoming House of Bloodstein books, from Loconeal Publishing

copyright 2016, Ren Garcia, Carol Phillips and Fantasio

 

 

 

HOB Legends: Menk

February 7, 2016

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Menk with its Blood Box in the background (Ewelina Dolzycka)

 

Menks are evil spirits often tasked to guard various objects or treasures. They appear in the upcoming LOE Book 10/11: The House of Bloodstein. Menks are horrific in appearance and fearsome in their power.

 

Menks are fixtures of Vith lore. From Vith Household to Household they are varied in their appearance. Menks can appear as famished, lanky humanoids possessing incredible strength and speed. They may also be part human, part animal, with animal heads, claws, wings, tails, etc. They may also be faceless, handless, and footless with metal hands and feet. Menks show little or no outward intelligence or emotion. They exist simply to stalk and kill any who fall into their gaze.

THE CAUL-DE-MENK

As they are varied in their appearance, Menks are also varied in their mystical origins. The most common method is to be cursed into becoming a Menk by a sorcerer or enchantress, who often use Menks to guard their arcane treasures.  Additionally, according to some, if one has lost something precious and somehow loses their life whist searching, they might be transformed into a Menk, condemned to guard lost treasures for all eternity. Other stories speak of a mystical statue known in the Vith language as a Caul de Menk. Those wishing to protect their hoards place these statues on their grounds, hoping to both scare off the curious, and to collect more Menks. These statues are said to have hollow eyes where the light of the Kanan moons, Elyria and Solon, may shine through. If one beholds the glowing eyes of a Caul de Menk, then one is transformed into a Menk forever.

MENK-SIGN

menk-landscape-comp1-2-small

Menk, by Fantasio

Some people and animals appears to be pre-destined to become a Menk later on in life. Such people are said to bear Menk-Sign, where their appearance in mirrors, paintings and photographs appear monstrous, becoming more so as the time of their transformation draws nearer. Some people with Menk-Sign take steps to rid themselves of the condition. The waters of the Indigo River on Hoban are thought to slow the process down, removing it completely in some cases. Xaphan Cabalists have rituals to thwart Menk-Sign. Bartering with a Menk, performing some task for it, will also cure the victim.

 

 THE BLOOD BOX

Whatever guise they take, Menks are fearsomely powerful and nearly impossible to bring down. Menks keep their vital organs in a separate place called the Blood Box–how they remain alive without their vitals is a mystery. As such, Menks are virtually indestructible. They can absorb massive amounts of damage and continue to function. Arcane weapons and items can do them harm, but only if vigorously applied.

The best way to defeat a Menk is to locate their Blood Box and destroy their organ hidden within, once that is accomplished, the Menk will die. Menks go to great lengths to hide their Blood Boxes. Their boxes can come in many configurations, from a small jar, to a chest, to a whole shrine-like structure, guarded, in turn, by other Menks. The Blood Box can be hidden far away, buried deep or even located on other planets.  Many times, locating the Blood Box is nothing short of Impossible.

DISEMBODIED HEADS

Menks have the ability to remove their heads from their bodies. They often place their heads in elevated, advantageous positions giving them a wide field of vision. They may also summon the assistance of various evil creatures to carry or fly their heads great distances.

bloodstein-purple CroppedMenks give our heroes everything they can handle and more in the House of Bloodstein books, coming soon from Loconeal Publishing.

copyright 2016, Ren Garcia, Fantasio and Ewelina Dolzycka

 

 

HOB: The Wunderlucks

December 26, 2015

The Wunderlucks are a group of treasure and fame-seeking bravos from the Remnath area of Kana. They appear in the upcoming House of Bloodstein books. They are rude, crude and generally a trouble-making bunch. (Note–Authors have long memories. I based the Wunderlucks after bullies and louts I’ve known throughout my life.) 

HOB 4

The House of Wunderluck. In the background is a sham mock-up of the legendary Oberphilliax (Painting by Carol Phillips)

 

THE OLD JOCANDAS

The Wunderlucks are a modern off-shoot of the much older Remnath House of Jocanda. The Jocandas were infamous for declaring war on the Sisterhood of Light during a contentious land dispute (the rightness or wrongness of their position has been lost  over time). The Sisters were, and still are, the defacto rulers of the League, and the Jocandas ill-advised “war” with them plunged their House into the dregs of Kanan society (The derogatory term “Jo-Boy” stems from this war. A Jo-Boy is a foolish person doggedly engaged in a fruitless or ill-advised task with no hope of success.)

Slowly, the Jocandas, relocated to the hills outside of the city of Wiln, died out, with several of their progeny branching off forming their own new Households, including the Storrs, the Wilners, and, most notably, the Wunderlucks.

 

IF YOU HATE US, YOU’LL HAVE TO RESPECT US

The Wunderlucks’ on-going credo is to restore prestige to their line, to erase the stain of the old Jocandas and to become the premier House on Kana and the League at large by any means necessary. Their most immediate goal is to fill their empty coffers with treasure. The concept of Frundage, or “collecting” is an important status measuring stick in the League, ie, the more you have, the more status you obtain. All of the great Houses possess massive stockpiles of treasure, land-holdings, arms, arcane items, vehicles and beasts. The Wunderlucks had virtually nothing when their House was formed, and they have, ever since, been acquiring any item, pile of junk, dogged-out vessel and arcane device they can get their hands on. Some of these items they purchased, others they quested for, and most they simply stole. They make no bones about theft, in fact they boast of it. The arcane item they are after the most is the legendary Oberphilliax, which they have laid claim to many times.

The Wunderlucks are unmistakable out in public. They wear garish spacing suits of shocking red, trimmed in blistering yellow, usually with a proud “W” emblazoned somewhere on their attire. The girl, Clara Wunderluck, mostly wears slinky, off-the-shoulder dresses and chain-smokes Wolf menthols. Wherever they go, they make a point of calling out the local hero and starting a brawl.

Despite her unsavory reputation, Clara Wunderluck is highly skilled at reverse-engineering arcane items (Carol Phillips)

Despite her unsavory reputation, Clara Wunderluck is highly skilled at reverse-engineering arcane items (Carol Phillips)

They are mercenaries for hire, lending out their services whether they are wanted or not. Aiken Wunderluck is the front man and spin-doctor of the group. He is adept at keeping his ears open, at hearing hidden conversations and discovering opportunities to acquire treasure or fame. Once they are on to a promising lead, they are difficult to be rid of. Their usual tactics include being as verbose, rude, obnoxious and haughty as they can, finding the low road they choose to tread upon to be much more productive than engaging in usual decorum. Beating them or imprisoning them accomplishes nothing, they are undaunted by defeats, humiliations, censures, and getting cast out of certain areas–they consider these things victories. Aiken Wunderluck can spin a humiliating defeat or shocking scandal into a resounding victory in the public’s eye.  This “burn all the bridges” attitude has earned them few friends and a host of enemies, but, it has succeeded in making a notorious name for themselves. Any fame is good fame in their eyes.

 

CHEAP, KNOCK-OFF ARCANE ITEMS

Clara Wunderluck has proved herself a master of reverse engineering arcane items and creating easily produced knock offs that function in a temporary or limited capacity. She has replicated the Progenitor’s Skull, various dimensional jars, and, most notably the 10th Finger of Zahuti. None of these items are as potent as the originals and only work for a limited time, however, the fact she can do these things has provided added income for the House and more infamy to their name.

Her brother, Rusty Wunderluck, is a name in the Xaphan underworld as a smuggler and League traitor, with a number of sleezy  contacts in the darkest of Xaphan ports. He is often able to obtain illegal Xaphan items, most notably the Midas Hemolizer assassination weapon, which he doesn’t hesitate to use in battle.

The final brother, Ernst Wunderluck is a mouth-breathing bore and blunt instrument of the group, always eager to cause a scene in public. He is known for his hatred of the Monama peoples to the southeast.

bloodstein-purple CroppedThe Wunderlucks give our heroes fits and no peace in the upcoming House of Bloodstein books from Loconeal Publishing.

 

copyright 2015, Ren Garcia and Carol Phillips

The release of LoE Book 9: Stenibelle is here!! I’m very proud of the book and of the character in it, the first LoE book to feature a female main character–most of the previous books have been ensembles with strong male and female characters.

Stenibelle (Cover by Carol Phillips)

Stenibelle (Cover by Carol Phillips)

I’ve been asked if I think Stenibelle is a Feminist Book. I actually have no idea. The word “Feminist” has taken somewhat of a radical turn from the `60’s up till now. In the `60’s it meant a free, liberated woman, doing things previously considered to be “unlady-like” A `60’s feminist was probably a tomboy, or a hippie girl living in a VW van, smoking weed and wearing baggy clothes. She lived her life as she wanted, which might deviate from the established female model (chaste, married, motherhood, etc…).

Nowadays the word “Feminist” seems synonymous with “Feminazi“, a cold, opinionated, emotionally unavailable, agenda-ridden woman who hates all men. An invincible, man-killing war-machine bent on proving the superiority of the female gender. Obviously, such a character is a stereotype, and a polarizing one at that, setting both genders against each other.

 

STENIBELLE AND “THE TESTS”

I wrote Stenibelle to be a Female-Centric book, one that focused on the struggles of a female character without being political or polarizing. Stenibelle is not invincible, or perfect for that matter. She’s a flawed human being who starts out angry and unsure of herself, needing a healthy “kick-in-the-rear” to get pointed right. Stenibelle learns. She grows, she becomes more than what she was, as should be the case in any piece of fiction: the capacity to change.

So, what sort of a book is “Stenibelle”?

There are a number of tests out there, mostly aimed at judging women’s roles in films. We can apply these tests to Stenibelle, the book and see how she rates (Of course, this is me, the biased author judging the book. Read it for yourself and feel free to rebut if needed).

Bechdel Test

The Bechdel Test is a set of three simple and rather loose requirements designed to determine the role of women in a film.

  1. The movie has to have at least two women in it.
  2. The women must talk to each other.
  3. The women must talk about something besides men.

Given these rather vague requirements, Stenibelle easily passes the Bechdel Test. There are lots of females in the book, many more than just two. They have lengthy conversations with each other, and many of their conversations don’t involve men at all (of course, “talking about men” is a very nebulous factor. Are the women talking about a boyfriend? Are they talking about a man in the home or workplace? As there are only two genders, erasing 50% of them from a protracted conversation can be difficult if not impossible, forcing the conversation to be nothing more than “girl-talk” which opens a whole new can of worms. We’ll assume “talking about men” means discussing a boyfriend, husband or other love-related interest.)

 

The Russo Test

The Russo Test is a fairly new test designed to analyze the representation of LGBT characters in films. Inspired by the Bechdel test it’s named after film historian Vito Russo. It also has three loose criteria:

  1. The film contains a character that is identifiably lesbian, gay, bisexual, and/or transgender.
  2. The character must not be solely or predominantly defined by their sexual orientation or gender identity.
  3. The character must be tied into the plot in such a way that their removal would have a significant effect.

Without going into too much of the plot and the outcome of the story, Stenibelle passes the Russo Test, and it does so without being pushy, political or in any way agenda-driven.

 

The Mako Mori Test

Mako Mori was one of the lone female characters in the film Pacific Rim. Her depiction in the film has become the standard in giving a female a “fake, action-driven” role to play that fails the Bechdel Test.  Again, the test has three basic criteria:

  1. At least one female character must be present
  2. The female gets her own narrative arc
  3. The female does not exist solely to supporting a man’s story.

Again, Stenibelle passes. Stenibelle is not there to simply support a secondary male character. This is her story. Without her, there would be nothing.

 

The “Sexy Lamp” Test

Comic book writer Kelly Sue De Connick created a somewhat tongue-in-cheek test judging the role of females in a story-arc.  Essentially, if you can replace the female character with a lamp, blow-up doll, stirring stick or similar prop, would the story still fly??

Yes–you cannot replace Stenibelle with a cool lamp and have the story function. It would not–not at all. Moving on.

 

There is an additional test called the Finkbeiner Test dealing with the role of women in science. As Stenibelle is not a scientist (she’s actually more of a sorceress) this one really doesn’t apply.

So, that’s it. With Stenibelle, I wrote a human story dealing with a female in a tight spot. I tried to write it so that anybody, female or male, could get behind her and cheer. Pick it up–see if you agree.

Stenibelle will be available 7/24 from Loconeal Publishing.

 

copyright 2015, Ren Garcia

Queen Ghome’s reign over the border world of Trimble was certainly memorable. Trimble was, traditionally, a quiet place ruled with a steady hand by the House of Sevarr. When the last of the Sevarrs,  Queen Xo, died at a young age, her wife Queen Ghome took control, and very quickly, her fiery, tyrannical nature became evident.

Queen Ghome was an accomplished botanist. When she wasn’t murdering would-be lovers, starting wars on Xaphan worlds or killing off her own people by the thousands, she loved to relax in her bastion of the Garden of Zama and dream up new and exotic types of plants–most of which were either poisonous, carnivorous or contained a deadly property. Here are three of the most famous.

HORVATH CREEPER:

The Horvath Creeper (painting by Alexander O'Riordan)

The Horvath Creeper (painting by Alexander O’Riordan)

The Horvath Creeper was a large, slow-growing plant with a white, meaty flower that grew in calm pools of shallow water. It had a fairly strict list of requirements in order to thrive and was, accordingly, a rarely seen plant in the wetlands of Trimble. That is until Queen Ghome when to work on it.

She enhanced the benign plant, giving it an utterly sinister life cycle turning it parasitic. The Creeper now depended on human beings to survive, specifically, Gifted humans, those with the Seven Gifts of the Mind.  The golden spores of the Horvath Creeper, laced with narcotic perfume, get into the sinus of its victims and embed themselves. Those who do not have Gifts, the spores wither and die. However, those with the Gifts of the Mind provide fertile ground for the Creeper to thrive. The spores latch into the nervous system of the host and wait for the moment to strike. When the host encounters a pool of calm, shallow water, the spores activate and take-over the mind of the host, compelling them to jump into the water and drown themselves. Several weeks later, a large Creeper flower bursts from the victim’s skull, breeching the surface of the water. If allowed to fully grow, the Creeper will eventually tangle throughout the victim’s body, leaving a vine covered skeleton with a single white flower coming out of the skull.

Queen Ghome loves using the Creeper against enemies with Gifts of the Mind. All it takes is one good whiff of the spores and the victim is infected. Additionally, the spores deaden the victim’s use of their Gifts, making them unavailable for use. For those with the Gifts of the Mind, the mere sight of the Horvath Creeper is enough to inspire dread and terror.

 

ABOLETH:

Aboleth (painting by Alexander O'Riordan)

Aboleth (painting by Alexander O’Riordan)

An innocent lily pad, Aboleth is one of Queen Ghome’s most deadly creations. Aboleth belongs to a sub-genus of the common lily pad. In her long reign on Trimble, before being deposed from power at the Battle of the Tomb, Queen Ghome discovered a secret hiding in this innocuous plant. When harvested at the correct age, allowed to dry and when soaked with a few secret chemicals, Aboleth reveals an amazing secret: it explodes.

Aboleth explodes with remarkable force, easily releasing as much energy as a comparable artificially-created explosive of similar weight. Another remarkable property: Aboleth explosions are shaped, it releases its energy in one direction, always following the path of least resistance. It also cuts through armor and composite materials like they are not even there.

Queen Ghome and her followers wear Aboleth like body armor, powdering it and bushing it on. Many times, they dye the powder, painting into their bodies in decorative dots and swirls. Other times, they put it on plain, where it becomes invisible on the skin. Any forceful contact, and the Aboleth goes off. Warlord Crantz of Sorrander once tried to seize Queen Ghome and forcefully drag her on to his starcraft. The Aboleth explosion that followed took his whole arm off.  Ghome and her followers are adept at using the Aboleth as deadly weapons, easily able to attack and kill armored enemies.

 

DEATH EYE:

Death Eye (painting by Alexander O'Riordan)

Death Eye (painting by Alexander O’Riordan)

A bizarre and completely original creation of Queen Ghome, Death Eye has a number of medical uses and has been smuggled off of Trimble. League Hospitalers use the cocktail of chemicals found within it for various medications.

Death Eye appears as a colorful fungus with a fruiting body resembling a single eyeball. The fungus is quite toxic with a 90% mortality rate in those attempting to ingest it.  Eating Death Eye creates extremely vivid hallucinations, which are often psychically accurate down to the smallest details. Additionally, those eating Death Eye can sometimes alter reality to suite the details of their hallucinations.

Queen Ghome had an endless stream of criminals (often-times, these criminals were innocent people arrested on ficticious charges) she forced to eat Death Eye to give her information she needed. She learned the location of the Urn of Anabrax from an eater of Death Eye.  She also foiled the actions of her greatest enemies, the BMQ (Brotherhood of the Murdered Queen) by changing reality to undermine their activities to oust her from the throne.

In the League, the Hospitalers extract the drug Stenotarcin from Death Eye and use it in their Gaming Sessions to discover hidden secrets.

copyright 2015, Ren Garcia and Alexander O’Riordan

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