Sorry I’ve been away–the Con Season has been a pill.

"Tree of Life" by Ewelina Dolzycka.  The plot of Book II is told in this mural, with Carahil in the center as protector, the Planet Xandarr the object of his protection, and, in the wings, a weeping Maiax.

“Tree of Life” by Ewelina Dolzycka. The plot of Book II is told in this mural, with Carahil in the center as protector, the Planet Xandarr the object of his protection, and, in the wings, a weeping Maiax.

Book II, “The Hazards of the Old Ones” is the tale of Carahil and his quest to save the planet Xandarr. Running throughout the book in the background is the story of the god-turned-demon Maiax and the House of Bodice and the terrible tragedy that befalls them. The story is intended to be a parable of sorts, illustrating what happens when the gods interfere too much in the doings of mortal man. Carahil himself makes frequent reference to the story, using it as a cautionary tale in his own efforts to save Xandarr.

The story goes like this:

In 099989EX, the House of Bodice found themselves beset by demons. Their land in the northern Hala region of Kana went bad and they heard never-ceasing drums in the night. They went to the Sisterhood of Light for help, but were politely turned away. The Sisters did not believe their lurid tales–certainly they were over-exaggerating. (As it turns out, the Bodice’ land was sitting directly over the terrible Temple of the Exploding Head, and the demons they saw were the comings and goings of the Killanjo, the skinless servants of the Horned God who lived there.)

"Maiax Deceives the Bodice", by Justine Marie Hedman

“Maiax Deceives the Bodice”, by Justine Marie Hedman

Eventually, the demons became bold and tried to capture the Bodice and drag them below to the Temple where they could be offered up as sacrifice. Just as the Bodice were being carried off to their fate, a great creature came from the sky. It was Maiax, a god in the form of a gigantic elephant. He had seen the Bodice’ misfortune and had taken pity on them. Fierce and terrible, the demons rightly feared Maiax and they fled. Maiax became the patron god of the Bodice and he defended them faithfully for years. The LosCapricos weapon of the House of Bodice became the MAIAX, a little soapstone carving of an elephant that would summon Maiax himself when needed.

"Maiax in Flames" by Ewelina Dolzycka  Storytellers eventually cast Maiax as a liar and deceiver who personally oversaw the death of the Bodice

“Maiax in Flames” by Ewelina Dolzycka. Storytellers eventually cast Maiax as a liar and deceiver who personally oversaw the death of the Bodice

The problem with this arrangement was that Maiax was violating the Universal Rule of Balance. The gods cannot directly intervene on behalf of man. As a god, Maiax should have inspired the Bodice, provided leadership and offered advice, not directly defended them. In doing so, he brought a fearsome fate down upon their House, and they were all eventually burned alive in the Temple after first having been made to slowly starve and go mad in the cold emptiness of space. Once the Bodice were all dead, Maiax himself was punished by the Celestial Arborium. He was turned into a demon and sent to the Windage of Kind–the hell of the gods.

The Sisterhood of Light realized they failed the House of Bodice. They erected a statue in the ruins of their manor and created the holiday St. Porter's Day in their honor (art by Carol Phillips)

The Sisterhood of Light realized they failed the House of Bodice and erected a statue in the ruins of their manor. They created the holiday St. Porter’s Day in their honor (art by Carol Phillips)

In time, Maiax’ role in the death of the Bodice changed. Over three thousand years of telling and retelling the story, Maiax became not a protector of the House, but a deceiver, a liar, a demon revealing in their destruction who personally oversaw their deaths in the temple. When the Sisterhood of Light created St. Porter’s Day in their honor, they placed it at the extreme opposite end of the calendar as Maiax’ traditional feast day, to separate them as far as possible from their “destroyer”.

Eventually, Maiax escaped the Windage, along with Barr, the monkey god, Ibilex the crane and Mabsornath, the cat goddess. The foursome dogged Carahil as he attempted to save Xandarr and even tried to tempt him into becoming a demon himself. Carahil soon turned the tables on them and reminded Maiax of the tragedy of the Bodice. Still feeling the weight of their deaths, Maiax collapsed in misery. Carahil eventually forced the Celestial Arborium to forgive Maiax and the rest, to give them a second chance. Maiax though, was unable to forgive himself.

The story has a happy ending. Gathering his courage, Maiax goes to the spirits of the Bodice in Paradise to beg them for forgiveness (something he was forbidden to do as a demon). To his surprise, they are overjoyed to see him. They surround him and sing his name. They tell Maiax the one thing they lacked in paradise was him, and that they had missed him. He joins them in celebration forever.

copyright 2013, Ren Garcia, Ewelina Dolzycka, Justine Marie Hedman, Carol Phillips

As with many things in the League of Elder, the concept of Magic is a rather odd thing. It is the purview of a few, yet it can be had by any with the temerity to claim it.

There are three distinct schools of magic in the League of Elder: TK, Vortex and Gellar.

TK Magic is practiced almost exclusively by the Sisterhood of Light (Eve Ventrue)

TK Magic is practiced almost exclusively by the Sisterhood of Light (Eve Ventrue)

TK: TK magic deals with performing magic-like feats using only the power of one’s mind. It is an extremely versatile and potent form of magic that can emulate most aspects of the other two magical schools. It can manifest itself as: telepathy, empathy, telekinesis, sympathetic magic, divination and Elder esotericsm. The use of TK magic requires incredible mental prowess and is almost solely practiced in the League by the Sisterhood of Light. The Xandarr 44 also use a limited form of TK magic they call Simple 7.

A course in TK magic was once taught at Sarfortnim College, where it was said students began demonstrating great mastery of it. The Sisters abolished the course and forbade its further teaching. The Hertogs, a hidden sects of scholars and other professionals who are frequent critics of the Sisters, seek to uncover the secrets of TK magic.

In Xaphan Space, the Black Hat Sisterhood also makes use of TK magic, though their mastery of it is not in the same category as the Sisters.

Sygillis of Metatron using Silver tech (Vortex magic) is assist Captain Davage.

Sygillis of Metatron using Silver tech (Vortex magic) to assist Captain Davage.

VORTEX: Vortex magic deals exclusively with Shadow tech and how it relates to the structure of the universe. The term “Vortex” comes from the old story of Punt, a place with a hole that goes to the center of the Universe. The Vent at Punt was said to belch a great vortex of raw Shadow tech.

The study of Shadow tech has been illegal in the League since the ouster of the Grand Abbess of Magravine in 144670AX, therefore Vortex magic is practiced mostly in Xaphan Space. The Black Hat Sisterhood makes great use of Shadow tech, often clashing with the Sisters. Their Shadow tech can often match the Sisters’ TK magic.

All schools of magic can vary depending on their application, however Vortex magic manifests extreme differences in terms of Good (Silver tech), Neutral (Emplosser) and Evil (Shadow tech). The use of Silver tech was recently legalized by the Sisters and is studied and practiced by the Xandarr 44 and a social circle of married ex-Black Hats known as the Silver Circle.

GELLAR: Gellar magic, or Acquisition Magic is the largest and most widely practiced magical school in both League and Xaphan Space. The prime tenet of the school states that objects, both arcane and technological, have power, and to collect a vast number of objects imparts magical power on the owner of said collected objects. The more objects acquired the greater the power. The word “Gellar” comes from the godlike legendary beings outside the League said to be able to control man, animal, and plant.

Admiral Pax, by way of his vast personal collections, is able to influence those around him via Gellar Magic (Eve Ventrue)

Admiral Pax, by way of his vast personal collection, is able to influence the thoughts and feelings of those around him via Gellar Magic (Eve Ventrue)

The LosCapricos weapons of the various Great Houses all function via Gellar magic to a greater or lesser extent. Additionally, by using Gellar Magic, people can create their own sub-school of magic, tailoring it to their needs and desires. Magicons are local sages skilled at assisting people in designing their personal magical school.

The Old Vith were said to have achieved great strides in the development of Gellar magic. They devised the Gellartron, a structure housing their arcane objects, focusing it into vast power. Most of the Old Vith castles dotting the north of Kana, including Castles Blanchefort, Durst and Bloodstein, were functioning Gellartrons wielding power approaching that of the Sisters. To protect their cashes of treasure, the Vith invented the Bowerchest, a great animated construct usually in the shape of a mystical creature, where they kept their prize posessions.

The Sisters became quite fearful of the Vith and began an active campaign to take their arcane items, seize their Bowerchests, and deactivate their Gellartrons. The Vith were said to have hidden their Bowerchests in a distant place known as Edamathrombo to protect them from the Sisters. In time, the Sisters were successful, the Vith were reduced in Gellar power and their Gellartrons were deactivated. Edamathrombo, and the riches kept there, was largely forgotten in Vith lore.

Though the Vith Gellartrons are all non-functional, the Sisters strongholds of Westron, Valenhelm, Kurtiss and Kentaro are all said to be functioning Gellartons granting the Sisters vast power.

copyright 2013, Ren Garcia, Eve Ventrue and Carol Phillips

The following has nothing to do with my science fiction/fantasy book series. Just some thoughts on a sport that I love and respect. WARNING–there’s a bit of foul language.

Ronda Rousey

–Note, the following interview occurred only in the imagination of the blogger … Ronda Rousey is becoming a force in the world of women’s MMA, not just because of her amazing skills in the cage, but also because of her bold personality and ribald, unpredictable wit. Her material just sort of writes itself and she is destined to become the Muhammad Ali of women’s MMA for her ability to bang out quips and one-liners and self-promote a fight.

TOTEH: So Ronda, we appreciate the opportunity to sit down and speak to you today.


TOTEH: In your last outing, you beat Sarah Kaufman in just under a minute of the first round via armbar. What can you tell us about that fight?

RR: No, no, I beat Sarah Kaufman in about ten seconds, really. I bull-rushed her, knocked her down using some judo stuff that I know and then she spent the rest of the fight trying to avoid the inevitable. I snapped her arm off like a twig–you saw it. She was all patriotic before the fight, saying the belt was going with her back to Canada. Looks to me like the belt’s staying right here in the US. I’m amazed maple syrup didn’t come gushing out when I broke her arm off. How’s that for promoting US-Canadian relations??

TOTEH: You’ve won pretty much every fight you’ve ever been in, either amateur or pro, by way of armbar. Your critics call you one-dimensional–that’s not me talking, I’m just saying. What’s your take on that?

Anna Maria Rousey DeMarrs

RR: My take? Yeah, I’ve got a hot armbar, and when somebody can figure out how to beat it, I’ll move on to something else. Look, Plan A of every fight is to land the armbar. Want to know what Plan B is?? Do you? Plan B is: Repeat Plan A. I used to wake up as a kid with my teddy bear and footie pajamas and have my mom all over me, rolled up in the armbar position. “Get out of it, you little milk-drinking punk!” Mom would shout. “Get out of it!”, and eventually I did.

TOTEH: Your Mother is Dr. Anna Maria Rousey DeMarrs, a very famous judoka of the `70’s and `80’s.

RR: Damn right. The only chick out there tough enough to beat me is my mom, and I don’t think you’ll be seeing her stepping into the cage anytime soon.

Miesha Tate

TOTEH: Let’s move on. Miesha Tate

RR: Oh, f— that bitch! No–take that back, I wouldn’t f— that bitch if I was a guy, see? Did you see that scene while I was kicking Sarah Kaufman’s ass? She was sitting there eating a cupcake or something, and got frosting in that stupid hair-doo of hers. See, I frighten her so much, she can’t even eat a cupcake in my presence without embarrassing herself. So me and Kaufman are rolling around and I’m like: “Why don’t you take that forked tongue of yours and lick that frosting off of there, bitch, I mean Miesha!” Ha! Miesha Tate … Thanks to me, we all know what the inside of her arm looks like.

TOTEH: But, she …

RR: Next question, she’s old news and out of the picture. F— her. Did you see her almost lose to the dried up Earthly remains of Julie Kedzie in the under, under, under card that night? Heck, I could help Julie Kedzie cross the street and she’d end up with a broken arm and a busted hip. Julie Kedzie needs to apply for AARP or for one of those scooters old ladies rumble down the sidewalk on. Time to retire, Julie! You know what Tate’s trying to do, right? She’s trying to create some sort of cross-association linking her name to my name to get her places, sort of like Tonto and the Lone Ranger, Bigfoot and Wildboy, Batman and Robin. She’s like the ghost of some nameless person whose ass you’ve kicked and wants to haunt you forever. Let “Cupcake Girl” win some fights against non-senior citizens and eat some cupcakes without getting it in her hair and we’ll see. I’ll add her other arm to my collection.

Cris Cyborg

TOTEH: Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos is considered one of the most dangerous females ever to step into the cage. Her doping suspension is up soon, and she has stated that she wants you to come on up to her weight level and fight. Looks like she wants her belt back. What do you say to that?”

RR: What do I say?? I say there’s two types out there, there’s the “Champ,” and then there are all the “Chumps”. If you’re not the Champ, then you’re a Chump. I don’t see a belt around her waist, and therefore she’s a big, sorry-looking Chump from Brazil. Maybe there’s a problem with the Portuguese to English translation, but the Champ does not come up to the Chump’s weight class. No, no, if the Chump wants to fight, then she’s going to have to put down the `roids and the creams and the clears and come on down to where I am and we’ll fight. I wonder, when I rip her skinny, cut-weight Chump arm off, if it’ll wiggle around on the mat and do a little Chump Samba for me. What do you think?

Michael Phelps

TOTEH: I think that would be something to see. You were recently critical of former Olympic teammate Michael Phelps for being a “Diva“. Can you expand upon that?

RR: What’s to expand? He was a big guy around the Olympic village in Beijing–didn’t hang out, didn’t participate in stuff with everybody else, played by a different set of rules. Sounds like a Diva to me. Sounds like he ought to be dating Miesha Tate and they can hang out and be Divas together. I hung out. I made friends. Oh, by the way, he’d last about as long as Sarah Kaufman did against me.

TOTEH: Well, he’s not an MMA guy, he’s a swimmer. I don’t think he knows judo.

RR: I don’t know judo either, I just rip arms off. If he’d like to swim, we’ll swim. I’ll jump into that pool and armbar it into submission in world record time.

TOTEH: Well, er …

RR: You know, sometimes when I’m working out and I get a real sweat going, I think I can see through time. You know what I see there at the end of time?

TOTEH: What?

RR: I see a big arm there, ripe and sweaty, just waiting for me to grab hold and hyper-extend it.

TOETH: Miesha Tate’s arm?

RR: Oh, hell no–she wishes. She’s at minute 14 1/2 of her 15 and we’re moving on without her. Nope, it’s just an arm, and one of these days I’m going to reach out and it’s going to tap.


Still trying to collect my thoughts from my furious weekend at Gencon in Indianapolis, Indiana.

First of all, what an amazing convention. It was huge, stocked full of cool stuff and interesting characters. I met amazing people, like artist Kayla Woodside, whom I plan on giving a lot of commissions to, and fellow Seventh-Star Saint Georgia L. Jones . I also sold more books there than I ever have at any one convention. Sounds great, right, but … before we get carried away and proclaim the Gencon experience the ultimate an author could ask for, let’s compare it to another fair I recently attended, the affable Stillwater Arts and Crafts Jamboree in Dayton, Ohio (basically, a Catholic bake sale).

Outperformed by 30%

First, the hard numbers. Over four days at Gencon, I sold a total of 64 books. I was able to sell all books in the LOE series, including the usually difficult to sell Book II and the Temple Trilogy which made me very happy. Meanwhile, at Stillwater, I sold 22 books in one afternoon. Comparing the two events, the Catholic bake sale actually out-performed Gencon by 30%–I didn’t sell as many books of course, but I was only there one day for four hours, while I averaged only 16 books a day over four days at Gencon. Just looking at the cold, hard numbers, the Bake Sale took Gencon down, it stands to reason–Gencon was a bewildering kaleidoscope of books, artwork, games, shirts, monsters, costumes and dice. Many people in a daze, walked past my table, smiled, and said “Just looking”. Some, who might have wanted to buy a few of my books, said they couldn’t find me again. There’s also the novelty factor. At Gencon, I was surrounded by artists and other authors while at the Bake Sale I was the only bookseller there amid a sea of oven mitts, aprons, cookies, cakes, doilies and other homemade treasures, the novelty of being an author of a book series was pronounced and a key selling point, while at Gencon it really wasn’t a big deal. One final note–my expenses for Stillwater were virtually nil, amounting to a $25 table fee and a tank of gas to get there, while Gencon carried significant expense.

The Portal to Hell

My depleted rack at Gencon as the show concluded

You would think that Gencon would be a den of vice and pagan idol worship, which it probably is, however, I’ve never seen all Seven Deadly Sins as vividly on-display than at the Catholic Bake Sale at Stillwater, especially the sins of Sloth, Greed, Pride, Envy, and, in some cases, Wrath as each home cook and artesian tried desperately to out-do the other. Money flew and I was the beneficiary with people buying merely to spend money. It was quite amazing to behold.

So, next year, I look forward to another outing at Gencon, and I also look forward to another go at Stillwater where vice and all that goes with it makes for great sales.

Bowl Naked

copyright 2012, Ren Garcia

Relentless Ronda Rousey

March 6, 2012

NOTE–This blog post has nothing to do with my series of science fiction/fantasy books. This is just something that popped into my head.

Ronda Rousey

I admit it, I bought into Ronda Rousey’s game.

All the talk.

All the hyperbole and vitriol.

Her flippant rapport. Her sass.

Such theatrics caused me to overlook just how magnificent Ronda Rousey is in the cage, her skill and her champion’s heart. It’s like watching the Venus de Milo grow a pair of arms, get in the cage and fight.

I needled her prior to her much-hyped championship match with Miesha “Take Down” Tate. Given her past record, both amateur and pro, it wasn’t really a mystery what Ronda Rousey was going to do: Arm Bar. All day, all night.

“So Ronda,” I chortled, “when Plan A fails for ya’, what are you gonna’ do next?”

Huh, huh? What are you going to do?? What’s Plan B??

Apparently, the answer to that question is: PLAN B: “If Plan A fails, repeat Plan A.”
Repeat, over and over.

I figured that all those quick arm bar victories were won at the expense of some partially trained 0-record girls living out their boyfriend’s dreams by getting into the cage. I figured there was no way she was going to do to Miesha Tate what she did so easily before.

However, I figured wrong. The match with Miesha Tate was, without question, the most tension-filled and dramatic MMA bout I’ve ever seen. A good MMA fight isn’t necessarily a lot of blood and gore–it’s a chess match, move and counter move. From the opening bell, Ronda Rousey attacked, applied pressure and maneuvered Miesha Tate into position to apply her nuclear weapon: the arm bar. It really wasn’t a surprise. Everybody in the arena, including Miesha Tate, knew exactly what she was going to be up to, and when “Take Down” Tate escaped from the first arm-bar attempt and took Ronda Rousey’s back, I rose to my feet and cheered–“That’s it, babe! Game Over! You’re done!” I assumed that was it for Ronda Rousey, her fabled nuclear weapon quashed, I thought Miesha Tate was going to pound her to death … and I couldn’t wait for it.

I sat back, waiting for the carnage to unfold.

However, I learned (as Miesha Tate learned) that although Ronda Rousey has but one tool in the proverbial woodshed, that tool is so utterly sharp and deadly that, were it to fall to earth, it would continue on through the core of the planet and come out again in China and wreak havoc there.

There was no stopping Ronda Rousey. Attack, attack, go to the ground, step over, grab the arm, pull, pull! She’s massive and dense enough to absorb punishment, yet agile and light on her feet, elusive on the ground and always looking to apply the arm bar and lock it in.

Yep, Miesha, you left one arm in Columbus, Ohio

And I watched the inevitable happen. The answer to the question “How is “Take Down” Tate going to counter Ronda Rousey’s arm bar?” is “She isn’t. She’ll step into the cage with two arms, and walk out with one.”

The other amazing thing about Ronda Rousey is her use of judo. In comparison to some of the more “in-fashion” martial arts like Brazilian ju-jitsu, judo seems rather dated and quaint. However, in the hands of an Olympic bronze medalist, judo is in fact quite dangerous. Throughout the fight, Ronda Rousey was able to take Miesha Tate off her feet at will, throwing her down into a place that she rules. Add it all together, the size, the density, the agility on the ground and an infallible go-to weapon, I don’t think we’ll be seeing a new bantam weight champion anytime soon.

After the fight, a match with Canadian contender Sarah Kaufman was brought up. Sarah Kaufman, her face marked up and puffy from an earlier fist-flying encounter with Alexis Davis, eagerly accepted the fight.

Hope you don’t mind losing an arm, Sarah.

Bowl Naked


The Process of Cover Creation

February 16, 2012

Now that the Temple Trilogy is out in the world, we continue forward with LoE Book VI: The Sands of the Solar Empire. This is always my favorite time as we knock heads and come up with the design of the book. The manuscript is totally done–finished it about a year and a half ago. Of course as I go through the edited copy I’ll, do doubt, make a few changes here and there, but that’s all minor stuff.

It’s time to get the cover of the book going. The Cover creation goes in a very orderly progression, first from my head, then to Carol Phillips, then to sketch and then to paint.

I thought I’d illustrate the process using Book II, The Hazards of the Old Ones as a template.

First I come up with an idea. I usually have several floating around in my head. I then give them to Carol and I let her pick out the ones she’s most interested in painting (you’ve got to keep your artist empowered and excited). In the case of the Hazards, I took a photo of my favorite idea. My wife standing there represents Lt. Kilos, Tweety is Carahil and my house represents the mountains. Usually my ideas are pretty simple and uncluttered–I leave it to Carol to fill up the composition. Note how I imagined the painting from directly behind the characters.

Carol then comes up with a series of simple sketches which get progressively more detailed until we come up with a final sketch. I give Carol a fair amount of freedom and her final product is almost always much more elaborate than what I had initially dreamed up. Note how Carol has tilted Lt. Kilos and Carahil so that you can see their faces, she also sketched the Mountains much differently than I had envisioned them. That’s part of the creative process–things never quite turn out exactly as you originally thought they would.

At this stage of the process being small comes into its own. We don’t have a legal department or a Board of Executives or a line of editors waiting to throw their two-cents in–we do what feels right without having to get it past a committee. What you eventually see, for good or ill, is exactly how we intended it to be.

This is by far the longest part of the process. Carol Phillips usually takes about two and a half months to complete a cover from end to end. I try to leave her alone during this grueling part of the game, but it’s unbearable sometimes–like waiting for Christmas to roll around. Fortunately, Carol has a lot of patience with me. Note: we always choose to make use of a Wrap Cover, one that goes all the we around from the front, across the spine to the back.

We almost always come up with a few extras that we hadn’t thought of at the outset. I sit there and dream something up, pitch it to Carol and then she adds it in. Often times these Nixies don’t jive with the continuity of the story, but we toss them in anyway because we think they look cool. In this example you can see the reflection of Mabs the Cat Goddess in Carahil’s shiny body. That was a late add-in.

Building the cover is always a labor of love, but the end result is always worth it.

Bowl Naked

copyright 2012, Ren Garcia and Carol Phillips

Today I got the last pieces of artwork from my Sister-in-Crime, Carol Phillips for LoE Book V: The Temple of the Exploding Head.

Book V is done, now just to get it formatted and on the shelves and its history.

Looking back on it–what an undertaking TOTEH was. It is, by far, the biggest and most complex story I’ve ever attempted to write, and, prior to The Shadow tech Goddess, was the most grueling, most time-consuming manuscript I’ve ever written. It began, literally, with nothing but a title and underwent massive changes several times during its maturation to the point that I was ready to pull my hair out in frustration and delete it altogether.

So, what follows is a commentary and revelation on many aspects of the story as they came and went and you’ll bear witness to the story and characters from its tentative genesis to its current incarnation.

I began working on TOTEH in early 2008. Usually as I get to the last quarter of a manuscript, I begin wondering about the next book; what is it? What will it be? Will there even be a next book? I normally find myself bereft of new ideas as I end a manuscript–it’s like the gas tank is totally empty. As I finished up Sygillis of Metatron, I fretted over The Hazards. Likewise, as I finished The Hazards, I wondered what was next. Surely Carahil’s saving of Xandarr wasn’t the end of the LoE universe–was it??

Little things I encounter cause big inspiration and my mind turned to a tale I called “The Shadow tech Goddess“. I liked the title, but was having issues formulating a story for TStG so I set her aside (I would set her aside two more times before finally settling in and writing her story).

I remembered loving an AD&D adventure called “The Temple of Elemental Evil” that I played in college. I never forgot the name, it stuck with me through the years. Eventually the “Temple of the Exploding Head” entered my mind. I had no idea what the name meant, I just liked it. So, with nothing but a title, I opened a new file one day and began what would eventually become a 450,000 word manuscript taking a little over a year to form into a first draft.


The Cursed Captain Plotline: I started the manuscript having no plot. I knew I wanted to move on from Captain Davage and Syg a little, so I decided upon centering the story on their son, Lord Kabyl who was first mentioned in Book II. I floundered about for months. One of the issues I had was something I’d never encountered before: publication. As Sygillis of Metatron was going through publication I found the process was swallowing up much of my time. In fact, I often went months without even looking at TOTEH. I found myself growing distant from the story and disinterested. The initial plot I came up with was that an unknown group seeking revenge placed Captain Davage into a Death Curse, and it was up to Kay and his cousins to uncover the perpetrators and save Captain D. This “Cursed Captain” plot-line was how I initially structured the story.

"The Machine" plotline was a late-comer

The Machine Plotline: “The Machine” plotline eventually won out and drove the story. However, the Machine itself was very late in coming and didn’t exist as a concept until many drafts into the story. The Machine plot-line felt right and I cast aside the “Cursed Captain” in favor of it.

It took me forever to figure out who the bad guys were.

Bethrael of Moane: My first thought was to make good-guy Bethrael of Moane the main bad guy of the tale. My thought was that Beth had secretly been in love with Captain Davage for years but never could make any headway with him as he was with Syg. She then decided to court Captain Davage’s son, Kay, and when he rejected her for Sam, she lost her mind a little. The oiled, feathered High Priestess seen in the Temple at the beginning of the story was originally Beth. But, I couldn’t do that to Beth, so I discarded that idea and let her remain a good guy. The one remaining vestige of her sexual connection to Kay is the touching of her Silver tech which drove her into a frenzy.

The Horned God: The Horned God started out life as a benevolent elemental spirit of lightning who had been summoned by the Kestral Oligarchy and forced to do bad things. In the first drafts Carahil and the Horned Gods were friends, though they served differing factions. I found the Horned God to be unbearably boring, so I eventually “upped” the voltage and made him one of the main bad guys of the story soaked in evil.

Killanjo: The skinless and gross henchmen of the Kestrals, the Killanjo started out as mere apparitions. A Killanjo was spell cast upon a person by a practitioner skilled at focusing their mental energy. The Killanjo once cast, would sit invisibly on the shoulder of the victim and attack later in their dreams. Sam, in the first draft, was skilled at creating Killanjo and she was to place a Killanjo on the shoulder of Captain Davage. As I abandoned the original incarnation of the story, I kept the concept of the Killanjo, transforming them into grotesque, skinless monsters.

The Kestral Oligarchy: The Kestrals have been around since the beginning as rabid, golden-skinned inhabitants of the Temple. At some point I turned them into aliens with unknowable logic and an undecipherable language. As I settled on the Horned God as the Main Bad Guy, they sort of fell by the wayside, but then I had a moment of clarity and added the Kestral’s horrid City of Many Forms and they peaked my interest at just the right time.

The Spectres: “Punks” from Xaphan space and Black Hat underlings, the Spectres once played a much more active role in the story being a usual antagonist of Kay and his cousins. Sam herself was a Spectre at one point. But, as the story evolved away from the “Cursed Captain” plot-line, the Spectres were mostly cut out.

The Circle of Five: The what???? The Who???? The Circle of Five was to be the main bad guys of Book IV. A criminal element pervasive through the League the Circle was the mysterious group responsible for the “Cursed Captain” plot-line. When Sam led Kay into Grove, she was originally leading him out to meet the Circle of Five. I could never get a good feeling for the Circle and I discarded them in favor of “The Machine” plot which eventually drove the story to its conclusion. I did reuse the names of the Five for the various Black Hats seen in the city of Waam in Book IV. So, for a long time, Book IV was known as “The Trials of the Circle of Five”.

The Monamas: The Monamas were initially minor bad guys doing the Circle of Five’s bidding. They weren’t black-eyed and clawed at the time–they looked like anybody else. However, as I transformed Sam into a Monama, I also added their unusual appearance and attributes.

The Bersekacides: Berserkacides started life as typical zombies. As I modified the Monamas into alien creatures, I also added to the concept of the Berserkacide.


Kay: A storyline that cropped up in The Hazards of the Old Ones” was Syg’s pregnancy with a boy they would one day name Kabyl. I decided to focus the story on Kay and make it a coming of age story. I wanted to make Kay flawed and imperfect, an odd counter-point to his formidable parents.

Lt. Verlin: I initially planned to make the Marine Lt. Verlin Kay’s love interest. With that in mind, I decided to add a chapter to Book II discussing Lt. Verlin and some of her history in detail (Lt. Verlin’s Hero). The problem was I couldn’t make Kay and “V” gel–it was like a bad date you want to be over. I tried and tried and eventually gave up. I wrote V out and never looked back.

Thanks to Sarah of Blanchefort, I continued on and finished the MS.

Sarah: I came up with the idea for the feisty but loyal Sarah after watching actress Sarah Bolger in “The Spiderwick Chronicles”. Oddly, it the was insertion of Sarah into the book that really reignited my interest for this storyline. I’d become rather put off by the MS and it was the addition of Sarah that got me going again.

Phillip: I modeled Phillip after San Diego Chargers quarterback Phillip Rivers. Don’t ask me why, I just did, end of story.

Lt. Kilos: The presence of Lt Kilos was a big comfort for me, like wearing a comfy pair of shoes. In the Cursed Captain plotline, she was sort of a background character and stayed with the dying Captain Davage. As I made the change to The Machine plotline, I decided I wanted Ki standing at Kay’s side, and hence the big fight at the bar that will be seen in Book V.

Captain Davage/Syg: Captain Davage originally spent most of the story flat on his back, dying from a mysterious curse. Syg, seeing her husband dying, lost her mind. I restored his health in The Machine plotline and he and Syg conduct a parallel investigation in the background.

Thomasina the 19th: Thomasina existed in the story for a long time, especially during the “Cursed Captain” days. After I abandoned that plotline, I had no idea what to do with her–I even considered cutting her for a while. Eventually, it occurred to me to take the demure church-going woman from Saga and change her into a slightly crazed, green-haired Xaphan woman.

"Joy" inherited Sam's original look

Sam: Of all characters, it was Sam who underwent the most radical and all-encompassing changes from beginning to end, such that she is unrecognizable from when I started. Sam did not begin life as a powerful Monama princess, quite the opposite–Sam was a lowly servant in a Calvert laundry room with bad eyesight. I actually liked Sam as she was and I was heartbroken to cut away her best scenes hauling laundry and transform her into a clawed, black-eyed Monama. (I resurrected Sam’s original look with Joy–the Black Hat staying at Aunt Pardock’s castle. Joy looks exactly as Sam once did). Her shy nature also resembles Sam’s.

Sam was adept at creating Killanjo, little mental automatons that could cause misfortune. Sam was recruited into the Spectres and was tasked with placing a Death Killanjo on the shoulder of Captain Davage. Sam couldn’t go through with it and the Killanjo she created was full of goodness. Countess Sygillis detected Sam’s Killanjo and imprisoned it in a jar kept in a hidden room in the castle. When Kay first heard Sam’s voice in the chapel, he was hearing the voice of her Killanjo–in fact the first part of the story was originally called “The Lady in the Bottle.”

I’ve added a selection with Sam in her original incarnation in the FREE SECTION, so, if you want to see Sam as she was, give it a read.

Book V, The Temple of the Exploding Head, will be released in early 2012 by Loconeal Publishing.

Bowl Naked
copyright 2011, Ren Garcia



You dot the last sentence and hit the carriage return. Congratulations! You just finished your killer new manuscript. The world has never experienced anything like it and will never be the same again.

So, now what?? That stack of paper in the tray, or that file on your jump drive is just sitting there, mocking you. What to do with your grand new opus, that Monster you’ve been slaving over?? There are many possible answers to that question, and, depending on who you are as a person, the answer will vary. The trials and tribulations of what happens to you and your manuscript the day after you finish could fill a giant-sized book and be made into a number of movies, so this will, no doubt, be the first of several blog posts covering the topic.

First of all, are You a Perpetual??
The first question you’ll need to face as you consider your finished manuscript is: Are you really done??
There are many Perpetuals out there and either you are one yourself or you know someone who is. You know, a Perpetual is someone who is engaged in a never-ending pursuit: that person who’s been in college for fifteen years and is nowhere close to graduating, that person who has been grouting the bathroom forever, or that person who has written a manuscript and is never quite finished. Let’s face it, a manuscript is your baby and it can be tough to let go, couple that with an artist’s tendency to never be satisfied, it’s very easy to fall into a surreal mire of revision, re-thinking, re-editing and re-focusing, until such time that the original vision and purpose of the MS is lost. Some are perpetually “tweaking” and “fine-tuning” their MS and it will never be quite ready for Prime Time. Years pass, no progress is made, it’s just not quite finished.

The Perpetual and their Manuscript shall waltz together until the proverbial music stops, and it’s not going to stop anytime soon, so, for that person, the day after you finish your manuscript is the first day of the rest of your life.

Publishing: The Banana Republic
The next logical course is to attempt to publish your work–it’s only natural, you’ve written something, now you want to share it. The road to publishing is long and difficult and there’s no 1-2-3, step by step method of accomplishing it. Ask any author and they’ll have all sorts of horror stories of how they got put through the wringer prior to being discovered. It’s an inevitable process, and, whether you choose to seek an agent or submit directly to a publisher; it’s basically the same.

First: you need to know who to submit to. Different agents and publishers represent and publish different things, so, if you’ve written a hardcore science fiction tome, you’re not going to want to submit to a Christian, non-fiction publisher of inspirational short stories. Various publications and websites go over who does what, so it’s worth your time to do a little research and target a specific list that is best suited to you.

Next comes the part that has been the bane of many writers everywhere. All agents and publishers have a lengthy list of requirements that you have to follow pretty much to the letter; any deviation, anything added or omitted will lead to your submission being summarily rejected. These people can get pretty detailed in their demands, from the line spacing, to the exact type of font to use, to the word count of the submission. It is a real Banana Republic where they make the rules and you follow them, or else. You know what they say about absolute power corrupting absolutely–well, there’s the proof. They have the power and you don’t. If you don’t like it, complain to the President.

However, as we’ll see, these days there are other ways to get to Heaven that don’t involve going through Christ (But, that’s a different Blog Post).

The Hell of Manuscripts
So, let’s say you jump through all the required hoops and abased yourself as demanded, the final destination of your MS is a withering hell known as the “Slushpile”. Lording over the Slushpile is a demon from college, paid minimum wage (if they’re being paid at all) with girlfriend/boyfriend issues and a monitor sunburn who can barely see straight known as the Slush Editor. It’s the Slush Editor who picks through all MS’s consigned there and determines which will be forwarded on to the real editors for further consideration. Little balls of teenage angst, these editors vent their fury on the MS’s in their charge, tossing them aside willy-nilly as the case might be (Yes–I was a Slush Editor, and Yes my attitude was poor. It actually felt really good having supreme power at a time in my life when I was otherwise powerless, so flushing a manuscript or two really made my day). Just remember, the next time you see some ridiculous person who’s locked themselves out of their car with the engine running, that could be the person who just rejected your MS.

Thus begins the cycle of Submission and Rejection that many authors will face going the traditional route. Almost all MS’s meet their demise in the Slushpile, and almost all will end up there more than just once. Writers on the lecture tour are fond of mentioning that Harry Potter was once on the Slushpile. The truth of the matter is that Harry Potter was probably on a lot of Slushpiles and drowned in the vortex of most of them. It is a real, lottery-winning moment when your MS happens to make it out of the Slush purgatory and into the hands of an editor who loves it as much as you do. But, that’s a rare moment that can take years and lots and lots of rejection letters to get to.

Next, we’ll go over the Promised Land of Self-Publishing, the stigma that comes with it and the Hungry Beast/Chain-Gang of Marketing

Bowl Naked

My blog post today has nothing to do with the The Temple of the Exploding Head book series, I just feel like telling a (mostly) true story.

I come from the south-coastal bend of Texas, even today a rather remote and forlorn place. In the old days it was, quite literally, the backwater of both the United States and of Mexico, far away from everything.

Several years ago, two cousins of mine were hard at work digging a trench somewhere on the property of another one of my cousins, a doctor (everybody is a cousin down there). As they swatted flies and toiled in the hot sun, one of their shovels hit something solid. Clearing the silty soil away, my two cousins uncovered an old wooden box–obviously it had been there for a while. Pulling the heavy box out at last and cracking open the lid, they discovered the interior was filled with dozens of gold coins stamped “Bank of Mexico”. Amazed at their good fortune, my cousins did the worse thing they could have possibly done: they took the box to my doctor cousin, showed him what they’d unearthed, and asked if they could keep the box and the gold within. (I’d have kept my yap shut, thrown the chest in the back of the truck and called

My Doctor cousin’s reply was predictable–he said “no”. Since the chest was found on his land, it therefore belonged to him. He thanked them for their back-breaking labor in uncovering it and bade them get back to work, minus the chest of treasure.

Gold has the power to divide men, and soon my cousins were in a heated argument over the chest. Soon things began to get out of hand. Soon the Sheriff arrived, and that’s when things got really bad.

The Sheriff impounded the gold until it could be determined who was the rightful owner, and there were no shortage claimants.

Pancho Villa

–First were my two cousins: they dug it up after all. It should be theirs.
–Next was my Doctor cousin: The gold was found on his land, it therefore belongs to him.
–The State of Texas stepped in, claiming the gold was a mineralogical find and therefore belonged to the state.
–A group of claimants from Camargo, Mexico came forward. They claimed their ancestor rode with the great Pancho Villa, drinking, stealing and killing in the 1800’s. They claimed their ancestor stole that gold fair and square from a Mexican bank and buried it, never to return. Their ancestor stole the gold, and therefore it belonged to them.
–An insurance company based in Tobasco, Mexico popped up. They argued they had paid an insurance claim for that lost gold in 1876, and to recoup their loss, the gold was theirs.
–The Bank of Mexico stepped in. Clearly, the gold belonged to them as it was stamped on the coins.

The legal wrangling over the gold had just begun.

Meanwhile, the site where the chest had been taken became plagued with supernatural activity.

The Weeping Woman

Ranchers in the area saw and heard La Llorona, The Weeping Woman, a fixture of latin folklore–a lost woman who had drowned her children in order to please her love and was prevented from entering heaven. The Weeping Woman is said to appear in places of strife and conflict, looking for her lost children with gouged-out eyes And, there she was, gliding on ethereal light. She was even said to have been seen peering through the windows of the Sheriff’s Office.

Eventually, ghost or no ghost, the gold seemed to have disappeared from the Sheriff’s Office, though it was recovered later by investigators from the state.

The gold was ordered divided up between all parties involved and wasn’t enough to cover the legal fees that had been incurred. The wooden box was returned to the hole in the ground where it came from in an attempt to appease the Weeping Woman. It must have worked, for she vanished back to the dusty bowers from whence she came.

As in all things, golden booty does little except stir up the ire of men and all the old ghosts that come with it.

Bowl Naked

Carol Phillips

Carol Phillips is truly amazing. For three years now she’s been cranking out cover and interior art for The League of Elder book series, and I never cease to be amazed at the artwork she produces to match my crazy ideas. Carol is certainly The Queen of the League of Elder.

When we began planning the cover art for Book V: The Temple of the Exploding Head, the clear choice of scene was the Temple itself–it was only natural. The Temple is a rotten place, full of noise and death. A carnal orgy and rave has been going on inside the Temple for ages untold without stop or pause, and the Horned God has presided over it all, ever thirsty for more. As I described the scene to Carol, it was a phantasmagoric ride of cages and skulls and torn flesh, a captured Carahil, a demented Sam and a lonely, outnumbered Kay facing it all alone.

The floor of the Temple was to be where the Worshippers of the Horned God hung out. As I described it to Carol, “bad things” were happening there. I’m uninhibited and Carol’s uninhibited as well and she’s game to tackle anything I throw at her. I figured that, given the complexity and size of the area involved, the worshippers would be tiny in the extreme and all the nastiness I described to her would be nothing more than a curious, stick-figure Mosh Pit.

Carol delivered the art to me today. Stick Figure Mosh Pit?? Guess again, Ren …

What I was looking at was a masterpiece of carnal art, horrific and starkly brutal and all completely clear and richly painted. I marveled at it, but, as I took in the details I quickly realized this viscera and sex fest would never fly and would have to be changed. I mean, I’m pretty fearless about these things, but, I need to give my publisher a bit of a break every now and again.

So, the scene has to change. I emailed Carol and we talked. She’s going to obscure the floor of the Temple in writhing fog, offering only an occasional glimpse as to what is happening within. All in all, I think it’ll add to the drama of the scene.

So, let that be a lesson to me. If I can dream it, Carol can paint it bold and proud.

Bowl Naked

copyright, 2011 Ren Garcia and Carol Phillips