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

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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

HOB: Picking a Cover

November 4, 2015

One of my personal favorite portions of the book creation process is the formulation and execution of the cover. It’s a lot of fun putting my head together with talented artists, like Carol Phillips, and seeing what shakes loose.

For my next book, the unbridled House of Bloodstein: Perlamum, the planning process followed the usual pattern.

SO MANY SCENES

First, we hash out what scene we want to layout for the cover. I usually pick seven to ten scenes from the book that I think are interesting, pertinent to the general tone and feel of the book, and that will be strong enough to catch the eye of a passing shopper.

Unused cover ideas generally are placed in the interior of the book. (Carol Phillips)

Unused cover ideas generally are placed in the interior of the book. (Carol Phillips)

I type up a quick synopsis and send them off to Carol. Now here’s the weird part–even though this is my book with my characters and scenes, Carol has a great deal of say-so in what shows up on the cover. Using her polished artist’s eye, she selects what scenes to expand upon, often asking to read those select parts of the book, and scribbles up a few quick sketches for reference. Then, between the two of us, we agree upon the final subject matter for the cover. As for the rejected cover ideas, those almost always end up in the interior of the book–Carol’s work is just too good to throw away.

WHAT’S A “NIXIE”?

Most of the covers we do have at least one Nixie lurking around in them somewhere. A Nixie is an element on the cover artwork that either A)-has been greatly modified or exaggerated from the text, or B)-wasn’t in the book at all. We do this to give the cover composition a little more life and eye-candy where needed. Usually the Nixie isn’t too egregious and we never promise something on the cover that is not delivered upon in the book–we just change things around a little bit sometimes. For the House of Bloodstein, there is one minor Nixie in the artwork, but nobody other than Carol or me knows what it is–and I’m not telling.

The House of Bloodstein, by Carol Phillips

The House of Bloodstein, by Carol Phillips

Depending on her workload, it takes Carol about three or four months to finish the cover–all of it painted digitally one little element at a time. Since Book 2 (The Hazards of the Old Ones) we’ve opted for a wrap-style cover, meaning the artwork goes all the way around to the back cover, including the spine. Having a larger canvas to paint on allows Carol more freedom create a knock-out piece of work, though she has to be careful to place the key bits of artwork on the front part of the painting (the right side) and a bit less on the left side (the back) allowing for the rear-cover text. You can tell on the finished work above the left side of the composition has a lot more free space than the right. Carol also likes to put a little surprise on the spine.  Can you see what the surprise is??

GOING LOOPY FOR LETTERING

bloodstein-textHaving the finished piece of artwork is just the first part, now we’ve got to letter it, and that’s a great deal tougher than you might first think. It takes talent to thoughtfully, and tastefully, letter the cover. You want the lettering to pop out, to be easily readable from a distance, or, more importantly, from a tiny thumbnail on a website. As The House of Bloodstein is a somewhat gothic tale, I wanted something in that tone, and I imagined the lettering in a twisting block layout. After some mixing and matching, we decided on the above, it’s got the gothic theme I was looking for, I like how the letters fit together and the purple matches the artwork well.

Current cover configuration for Book 10--The House of Bloodstein

Current cover configuration for Book 10–The House of Bloodstein

Now, comes the painful part–how to add the lettering without covering too much of the artwork. That is always a struggle–what to sacrifice without losing the spirit of the composition. In this case, we couldn’t find a good spot to put the lettering, either going high or low, it ruined the artwork. We decided on the old trick of dimensioning down the general size of the artwork, creating a significant void space where the lettering can freely go. We’ve done that before, way back on the revised cover to Book 2, we scrunched the entire piece onto the front creating a void space on the top and the bottom. Here Carol uses a gothic pattern stained a handsome shade of red and black to fill in the void.

The back cover is full-sized and covered with around 250 words of back-cover text strategically placed around the characters.

The over-all effect is great. You get the impact of the large-sized lettering without having to cover up too much of the artwork–we still get to witness Lord Kabyl of Blanchefort  locked in a mortal struggle with a horrific giant-sized space guy in the cool green passes of the Telmus Grove. Cool stuff.

MATCHING TONE WITH CONTENT:

This cover mock-up, although beautiful, looks more like a cover one might find on a romance book, which is not the case here. (Carol Phillips)

This cover mock-up, although beautiful, looks more like a cover one might find on a romance book, which is not the case here. (Carol Phillips)

One final word of note. Unless you’re aiming for some sort of sick satire, you want the tone of your cover to match the tone of your story. If you’ve written a twisted tale of the macabre, you really don’t want a lot of sunshine and lollipops on the cover, otherwise you’ll confuse your readers. The House of Bloodstein is an imaginative action thriller, so we opted for an action scene. Had the book been more focused on romance, we would have selected the cover mock-up on the left, which gives the impression of loads of romance, conflict and general male/female drama to come.

Bowl Naked

RG

The House of Bloodstein: Perlamum, will be released in late 2015 from Loconeal Publishng

copyright 2015, Ren Garcia and Carol Phillips

 

HOB: The Terror of Mare

October 18, 2015

Through 9 books of the League of Elder series, I’ve explored quite a bit of the League; we’ve been all over Kana, Onaris, Planet Fall and even Bazz. In the upcoming House of Bloodstein books, I wanted to step out of the familiar comfort of the League and take a good hard look at the League’s odd and rather antagonistic celestial neighbor: Xaphan Space. Previously with the Xaphans, we’ve really only explored the great and rather austere city of Waam. so far. As in Waam, I feel free to be as creative and over-the-top as I want, these are  the crazy Xaphans after all, the League is much more cultured and refined.

Planet Mare (with the Goshawk in the foreground). Painting by Ewelina Dolzycka

Planet Mare (with the Goshawk in the foreground). Painting by Ewelina Dolzycka

In the heart of Xaphan Space, tucked into a cove in the roiling tumult of the Great Xaphan Nebula is a lonely world with many names. Most people refer to it as Planet Mare, or simply Mare. It’s a large, terrestrial world with a fully functioning Type 1 ecosystem. It is one of the few habitable worlds in Xaphan Space not requiring decades of costly terraforming. Type 1 Planets are like gold, like hen’s teeth, rare and highly sought after. Being ready to simply land and “move in”, Mare should be a priceless stellar gem, endlessly fought over many generations of greedy Xaphan Warlords eager to colonize it for themselves as a fiefdom.

But, Mare has passed the centuries uninhabited, unconquered. No Xaphan ship has ever landed on its fertile soil, no Xaphan flag has even been driven into its ground, though not for a lack of trying. Many Xaphan Armadas have been assembled and quested to Mare, however, none have been successful and none have ever returned.

 

In 000003AX, The pugnacious House of Sorrander discovered Mare hiding behind the veil of the Great Xaphan Nebula, scanned it to be a Type 1 world, and claimed it as theirs. Without ever having set foot on the world, they fought two major battles in space with the House of Midas, and with their frequent antagonists, the House of Burgon. Depleted after their initial battle with Midas, the Burgons defeated the Sorranders and claimed Mare, naming it after themselves, they then launched a grand Expedition of 10,000 Ships to colonize the world, bringing with them craftsmen and courtesans, singers, clowns, the whole crazy bunch.

The expedition was never heard from again, lost down to the last ship. Assuming the expedition had been attacked and massacred by the Sorranders, the Burgons rallied their forces and subjugated them, laying waste to the original Planet Sorrander in 000006AX. Two years later, the Burgons tried it again, this time with full military escort. The second expedition to colonize Mare also was annihilated, the captain reporting that they were under attack from “something” coming from around the planet itself. Undaunted, the Burgons launched five more major expeditions to Mare, with each being utterly destroyed. The effort so weakened the Burgons, they ceased to be a major Xaphan power for centuries.

With the Burgons out of the way, a number of Warlords from Holly, Caroline, Clovis, Conwell and even the restored House of Sorrander each tried to take Mare, each failing.  The planet developed a justifiably sinister reputation and was given the official name Mare, which, in Vith, means: “Nightmare”.

Something truly terrible hovers over Mare, something that has thwarted every Xaphan hoping to claim it for centuries.

In the House of Bloodstein books, our heroes, the Blancheforts, must quest to Mare to assist their cousin, Lady Chrysania of Bloodstein, and they discover first-hand what is there and that it is not to be trifled with.

 

The House of Bloodstein: Perlamum will be out soon from Loconeal Publishing.

 

copyright 2015, Ren Garcia and Ewelina Dolzycka

 

I have, I think, over a thousand sketches, drawings and paintings of the various scenes and characters in my books. I love commissioning artwork–it’s a bit of an addiction, I think.  When I was a kid I loved all the illustrations in my Chronicles of Narnia books. I’d stare at the pictures by British artist Pauline Baynes for hours. Baynes also illustrated JRR Tolkien’s Farmer Giles of Ham, which I also loved.

A manga painting of Sygillis of Metatron by Bea Kimera

A manga painting of Sygillis of Metatron by Bea Kimera

I swore if I ever managed to collect the crazy ideas in my head into an actual book I’d have it plastered with illustrations.

Flash forward about thirty years. I made good on my promise. With an average of twenty-five maps and illustrations per book, I’ve got over 200 in print and counting.

A Picture is worth … a thousand less words.

The practice of adding illustrations to the interior of books seems to have vanished in modern times. When folks pick up my books to have a look at them, they almost always fan through the pages–what are they looking for??  Most books don’t have anything but printing in the interior and checking the pages for them usually comes up with nothing. But, imagine their surprise when they flip through my books and come to a page with a beautiful  illustration. It’s a genuine moment.

Illustrations are also helpful when you’re dealing with a fantastic, completely made-up world like what I write. You have to describe everything, and that can derail the plot. Modern readers don’t like that, plot is very important Instead of spending a couple thousand words going over one of my whacky creations,  why not toss in a cool picture and go a little lighter on the descriptions?

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Princess Marilith of Xandarr, by Carol Phillips

A Creative Symbiosis

I usually give my artists a lot of freedom when they create an illustration. Some authors can be quite exacting in what they expect, me, I’m easy. I rather enjoy seeing how the artist interprets the subject. If I see something I really like, I’ll often add it into the writing, it’s only natural to do so.

Take this image of Princess Marilith of Xandarr by Carol Phillips. This is one of the first commissions I got from Carol, going all the way back to Book 1. As you can see, it’s a nude. I don’t recall asking Carol for a nude. Princess Marilith is an angry, spurned, blue-haired woman, heartbroken and vengeful. However, my early visualizations of her were fully clothed. Carol’s painting of her captured those various feelings–you can see how upset she is in her painted face. Her unexpectedly nude body is strong and beautiful. I was captivated by what I saw. Inspired, I went through and re-wrote the Princess, making her essentially nude in the story. She comes from Xandarr, a very hot and dry place, so it seemed to follow. Wearing only light veils or nothing at all, daring you to look her in the eye, has been her trademark ever since.

An early painting of Professor Hannah-Ben Shurlamp,  by Eve Ventrue

An early painting of Professor Hannah-Ben Shurlamp, by Eve Ventrue

Revving-Up my Creative Process

I usually come up with an idea or a character years before they actually appear on the page.  Typically, as the image clarifies in my head, I get all excited and commission a drawing of it. Seeing the finished artwork gets me going every time and influences what happens in the books.

Take Hannah-Ben Shurlamp, EVoR. I was sitting at a Burger King several years back when I came up with a foil and opposite number for The Professor–Lt Kilos’ brainy husband. I imagined a tall, rather swarthy woman dressed all in white, her skin powdered to pearly perfection, her raven hair tucked up into a large white wig. I immediately sent a note to my friend, the amazing Eve Ventrue, gave her the details and waited a week or two to see the results.

Eve came up with Hannah-Ben sitting in an opulent padded study. As usual, I incorporated her study into the writing, the image of Professor Shurlamp sitting in her fine red room is her standard calling card.

That first painting of Hannah-Ben was stunning, she was beautiful, but I thought she was missing a little something.  She was too demure, too unassuming. Professor Shurlamp is anything but unassuming–everything she does is big and bold and in-your-face.

Professor Hannah-Ben Shurlamp as a mile-high hologram on the planet Eng (Carol Phillips)

Professor Hannah-Ben Shurlamp as a mile-high hologram on the planet Eng (Carol Phillips)

Not enough wig, not enough eyebrow and piercing stare. I wanted something beautiful, yet sort of horrible as well, rather like Gerald Scarfe’s work on Pink Floyd’s The Wall. Just like that. I wanted something cool, but a little creepy.

Enter Carol Phillips, the Queen of the League of Elder who has contributed probably 40% of my massive art inventory. Carol went to work and produced the second painting of Hannah-Ben.

Working with Carol for so long, she is often able to pop my head open, pull out the mess that’s inside and paint beautiful things with it. The painting Carol created of Professor Shurlamp was absolutely perfect. She was a mile high, she had the wig, the eyebrow, the “You are nothing to me” expression … everything was perfect. Even her snowy white gown was perfect–look at the frills, the buttons, the tight waistline and the bows. So many bows …

Seeing this thrilling painting gave me the added “oomph!” to finish The Shadow tech Goddess, a tome that had taken me four years to write.

Hannah-Ben Shurlamp, by Carol Phillips

Hannah-Ben Shurlamp, by Carol Phillips

And then came Stenibelle, another book where Hannah-Ben Shurlamp makes a notable appearance.

I wanted another image of Hannah-Ben for the book, I thought it would be a nice touch, and this time, Carol came up with a true masterpiece–the ultimate image of Professor Shurlamp holding her Glyph with scores of data orbiting her head. This image gave me chills when I first saw it (really–no kidding!!)

Seeing that giant wig, those curls, that glyph-wand in her hand helped me figure out the various twists and turns in the story that had been giving me a few minor fits.

So, when in doubt, get a piece of artwork and let it fire your imagination, you’ll be glad you did.

Copyright 2015, Ren Garcia, Carol Phillips and Eve Ventrue 

The House of Bloodstein

July 22, 2015

Riding fast on the heels of Book 9, Stenibelle is Book 10: The House of Bloodstein.  It is comprised of two volumes: the first being Perlamum, and the second Mentralysis.

Cover mockup for the House of Bloodstein, volume 1 (artwork and lettering by Carol Phillips)

Cover mockup for the House of Bloodstein, volume 1 (artwork and lettering by Carol Phillips)

ZOMBIES AND DRAGONS AND GODS, OH MY

I wrote the Bloodstein books to be fun, to be exciting. I tormented my imagination until truly weird and amazing things popped out of my head. Using the previously introduced House of Blanchefort characters, we embark on a journey across the League and beyond.

In the past, I’ve tried to avoid monsters that have been covered by other authors–vampires, witches, werewolves, etc. I was also going to avoid zombies--too over-done, too formulaic.  But then I had a bright idea–I figured out a way to use zombies that hasn’t been tried before, so you’ll find the zombies in The House of Bloodstein as breath of fresh air–dead air.

I also decided to tackle everybody’s favorite fantasy monster: dragons. Again–I never do the expected and well-trodden, if I’m going to have a dragon, it’s going to be a weird dragon. ‘Nuff said.

Here’s the current blurb for Volume 1:

THE HOUSE OF BLOODSTEIN: PERLAMUM

Mysterious and elusive, Lady Chrysania of Bloodstein calls from the ruins of her castle. She dwells in the dark, hiding her face, ravaged by an ancient curse. The only way to break the curse is to win a game called Perlamum. If she loses, she dies. She looks to her Vith kin in the west, begging for help acquiring the all-important pieces she needs to play the game. 

Lord Kabyl of Blanchefort, his Ne-Countess Sammidoran, and his cousins answer her call. However, collecting the Perlamum pieces for Lady Bloodstein is a deadly game. They must face a host of perils:

-The terrible Black Hat in the city of Waam, who knows their every move.

-A hated rival on the planet Xandarr and the bewildering labyrinth of Gods Temple.

-The man from Shook who cannot be killed.

-A family of vile bravos from the south, and, worst of all, the Dead Men of Mare, nigh invincible creatures straight from an insane nightmare.

To even the odds, Kay and Sam turn to a forgotten graveyard deep in the Telmus Grove, and the great eminence resting there.

Can Lady Chrysania of Bloodstein be helped, or, for that matter …

… can she be trusted?

 

The House of Bloodstein. Perlamum will be out September 2015 from Loconeal Publishing.

copyright 2015 Ren Garcia and Carol Phillips

The House of Bloodstein

June 10, 2015

This fall, the League of Elder book 10, The House of Bloodstein (HOB) will be published.  It’s the first of two HOB books, this one subtitled: Perlamum, and the second: Mentralysis. The second, already finished, will be out in 2016.

The House of Bloodstein cover.  Painting by Carol Phillips

The House of Bloodstein cover. Painting by Carol Phillips

This little epic began life three years ago. Much as I dislike and complain about NaNoWriMo month as an unproductive and potentially destructive stunt, HOB was, at first, a NaNo project my friends talked into doing.

As with all my books, the finished product is nothing like what I started out with.

My initial thought was to explore the elusive and somewhat austere House of Bloodstein mentioned in previous books and learn a little more about them. The central plot point was a Perlamum tournament between Lady Chrysania of Bloodstein and a mysterious unknown opponent, possibly someone from Xaphan space.

PERLAMUM

In case you’re wondering, Perlamum is a board game rather like chess that is often played between two ladies with a high-stakes wager of some sort placed on the outcome. In a radical departure from chess, the contestants give their game pieces to a person known as the Gamesmaster, who then hides the pieces and sets the date the game is to be played. The pieces can be hidden literally anywhere. The contestants then must recover their pieces using clues left by the Gamesmaster. On the date of the game, the contestants play with what they have collected.

So, with that in mind, the original plot of the book was the courageous House of Blanchefort featuring Lord Kabyl, Lady Sammidoran, and their cousins Sarah and Phillip questing to recover the Perlamum pieces for Lady Chrysania. She then, like a scrappy little trooper, would play her game against incredible odds and come out on top in an inspirational display of the underdog winning out.

Blah!! It read like a bad ABC After School Special, and I wasn’t going to have it like that. I went to work on the story, pouring all the odd bits of my imagination into it, completely revamping the plot and the characters eventually coming up with enough material for two complete books.

No more After School Special.

As you can see from the cover, I think I out-did myself with original story-telling on this one. We’ll meet the Bloodsteins and trouble over their many secrets. We’ll head back to the city of Waam, first seen in Book 4 and stand in the presence of Wilhella Cormand-Grande, the Mad Black Hat of Waam. We’ll trade fists with the House of Wunderluck, bullies from the south, and face the horrid fury of the Dead Men of Mare.

It should be a ton of fun.

copyright 2015, Ren Garcia, Carol Phillips and Ewelina Dolzycka

HoB: The Autopyle

March 16, 2015

 

 

Lady Poe of Blanchefort had quite a dilemma on her hands. A Silver tech female of growing regard, Lady Poe had become famous in Vithland for her Silver tech familiars, that she could create from thin air in a matter of moments.

The Autopyle room overlooking the Bay of Bloodstein (painting by Ewelina Dolzycka)

The Autopyle room overlooking the Bay of Bloodstein (painting by Ewelina Dolzycka)

She had a vast collection of them: Bark the hound dog that could act as a tireless extension of one’s eyes and ears, able to detect even cloaked persons. There was Shadow the cat that could uncover and destroy Shadow tech, Fins the fish that healed wounds and Whisper, the over-sized lady bug that could cloak one sight and sound.

Most popular of all was Tweeter, the little bird that could get one to where one needed to go without fail.

Lady Poe was always happy to create a familiar when one was needed, however, the demand for them became more than she could keep up with. She was a mother and busy tutor of the Blanchefort children after all, but she was the type of person who never wanted to let anybody down.

She tried creating a great number of her familiars to have on-hand for use in case one was wanted, however, the familiars only last for a week before they fade away into nothing and she’d have to start all over again.

Lady Poe of Blanchefort had no idea the trouble her Autopyle would create (Carol Phillips)

Lady Poe of Blanchefort had no idea the trouble her Autopyle would create (Carol Phillips)

She needed a method to keep her familiars functioning for an indefinite period of time, that way she could always have a small flock of her creations around for any who needed one. She eventually came up with a very clever and seemingly harmless answer to the problem.

Lady Poe created a Silver tech device she called the Autopyle.  As she wanted to use an abandoned bell tower in the western face of Castle Blanchefort to keep her familiars, she formed her Autopyle into the shape of a massive bell. The Autopyle transmitted vast amounts of energy, and, with it in place, her familiars would last indefinitely. She decorated the bell tower, sanding and staining the floors, painting the walls, adding artwork, bookcases, draperies and couches, all done up in her provincial taste. In the rafters she added bird houses for her Tweeters and branches for the Whispers to climb on. When somebody needed a familiar, all they needed do was come to the room and sign one out on her ledger so she would know what needed to be replenished. The room became very popular. It was considered very relaxing to go into the nicely decorated room and play with all the animals.

RUTHINKILN OF WAAM:

Lady Poe had little idea the trouble her Autopyle creation would cause. Word eventually got out of the wondrous Silver tech creation Lay Poe had invented. Its news made it all the way into Xaphan space and into the ears of Ruthinkiln of Waam, a foul Black Hat and sister of the long lost Ethylrelda of Waam. With such a wondrous device, Ruthinkiln could create Shadow tech monsters the League had never seen before, and, on no less than ten separate occasions, she attempted to infiltrate Castle Blanchefort with her Spectre henchmen, the Drunes. Their intent was to steal the Autopyle and take it back to Xaphan space where its secrets could be unveiled.

Fortunately, all of Ruthinkiln’s infiltration efforts were detected and quashed. Lady Poe’s daughter, Millie, and Sebastian, son of Magistrate Kilos, made protecting the Autopyle room their personal quest as they grew into adults.

 

copyright 2015, Ren Garcia, Ewelina Dolzycka and Carol Phillips

 

 

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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HoB: Waiting for #6

January 8, 2015

Nobody’s perfect.

In Book V: The Temple of the Exploding Head, the heroine of the story, Lady Sammidoran of Monama, is transformed into a homicidal Berserkacide bent on killing her love, Lord Kabyl of Blanchefort. The Berserkacide detested everything Sam loved. It hated “Kay” most of all, and he shot her dead in the ruins of the House of Bodice.

Sam waiting in the Grove at the foot of Carahil's statue (Painting by Fantasio)

Sam waiting in the Grove at the foot of Carahil’s statue (Painting by Fantasio)

Without revealing too much, Sam was returned from the dead about a year later, resuming her relationship with Kay, eventually marrying him in a grand ceremony. Certainly a happy ending.

But wait …

Though it’s not covered in the pages of the book, a lot of things happened in the year or so Sam was in her tomb on Dead Hill. Life, reluctantly, went on. Kay, though heartbroken at the loss of Sam, was an eligible young man, a sought-after prize, and many sought to take his hand. One of the prime suitors, hand selected and approved by Kay’s mother, Countess Sygillis of Blanchefort, was an ex-Black Hat and member of the Xandarr 44 Sisterhood named Domeneau of Holly, or #6 as she was designated within the Xandarr 44 sisterhood.

#6 (sketch by Carol Phillips)

#6 (sketch by Carol Phillips)

She had met Kay briefly while he was visiting the King and Queen of Xandarr. She found him handsome and suitably demure in a Vith-like manner. She made it known to Kay her door would be “unlocked” should he choose to pass through it, though he did not take her up on her offer. Several months later, #6 and a group of her adopted sisters, made the trip to Kana to pray at foot of Carahil‘s statue in the Blanchefort Telmus Grove. The Xandarr 44 had an open invitation to visit the Grove whenever they wished, as they considered Carahil, their savior during the Battle of Xandarr, to be a god. During her visit to the grove, #6 encountered Kay, he wandering alone in the tree-lined passes, lost and still grieving over Sam’s death. Before the day was out, Kay would take solace in #6’s arms. They made love, they would make love many times, #6 occupying Kay’s bed frequently. Once, they made love on Sam’s tomb.

It became a foregone conclusion, that #6 would become the next countess of Blanchefort. She even had a great number of her clothes sent to the castle.

But then, there was Sam, laughing, smiling, back from the dead, ready to resume her life with Kay as if nothing had happened. Sam was in, #6 was out, and she wasn’t happy about it.

As Sam discovered what had transpired while she was dead, she became rather put-off. Sam has quite a possessive and jealous streak and, in her private discussions with Kay’s sister, Lady Kilos of Blanchefort, revealed that she would have hoped that Kay would have grieved over her for the rest of his life. She considered #6 a home-wrecker and a rootless usurping slut. She even thought that forgiving Kay for “cheating” on her while she was dead was a great display of character and charity on her part. Sam found the trunk full of #6’s clothes and sent them back to Xandarr in tatters.

Conversely, #6 developed an intense hatred of Sam, the woman to wouldn’t stay dead. She had been warned in Gods Temple that the spirit of Sam was nearby and would attempt to re-enter the realm of the living. Fearing Sam’s “recorporation”, she snared her tomb with StT’s, intending to re-kill her should Sam rise from her grave. Obviously, her efforts failed terribly.

Sam developed an intense desire to confront and kill #6. She wasn’t proud of those feelings and kept them to herself. She took to creeping out to Carahil’s statue in the Grove to wait and see if #6 showed up to pray. Sometimes she would sit out there all night, waiting in the dark with her claws sharpened.

Sam’s strained relationship with #6 is further explored in LoE Book 10: the House of Bloodstein, coming soon from Loconeal publishing.

copyright 2015: Ren Garcia, Carol Phillips and Fantasio