August 1, 2016
Finally, after years of work, LoE Book 10, The House of Bloodstein is available! The HOB series consists of two books, this one, subtitled Perlamum and Book 11, subtitled Mentralysis. Mentralysis is already written, just going through the usual editing and pre-publication process which can take a long time. It should be out in 2017.
All authors are different. Some are note-takers, scribbling down thoughts and sudden ideas for consideration later. Others outline the story from beginning to end, making the work into a full-fledged project. And then there’s me. I write on-the-fly, no notes, no outlines, nothing. I just write. It works for me most of the time. The problem with writing how I do is I tend to change my mind in mid-stream a lot. It’s never the case where the story I intended to write at the beginning is what ends up in the final product–and that is triply so for HOB.
As much as I complain about the NaNoWriMo month as a destructive stunt and waste of time, HOB started as a NaNo project I did to appease a friend about five years ago. It was a fairly straight-forward tale, but it lacked the manic imagination and strangosity I’m known for. In fact, as I finished the first draft, it reminded me of those feel-good ABC After-School Specials I used to have to watch as a kid. There’s a term in Spanish that applies here: The first draft of HOB had no tiene chiste. What that means is the story was plain, boring, had no oomph, had no pop. Love or hate my books, nobody’s ever bored, and HOB, due to the emphasis of NaNo on word-count, was full-on boring.
So, there I was with a 50k manuscript that I, frankly, hated.
I moved on to writing the oft-mentioned but seldom-seen Shadow tech Goddess. As I wrote, the candy-coated mess that was HOB stayed in the back of my head like a doomed bug fying in a window pane. But, you know, sometimes, the addition of one or two elements can make all the difference, like that elusive missing piece of a puzzle that, once found, pulls everything else together. I’m not certain when it happened, but that missing piece for HOB hit me–hard–and I went back to the story. 50k words quickly exploded to 170k, enough for two complete books.
With this addition, all the old imagination came back in earnest, in spades. HOB went from a moribund cake-walk with no chiste, to the weirdest, most epic, most sprawling book in the LoE series yet with tons of chiste. I held nothing back… it is all out there and I am so happy to share it with the world at last.
I usually suck at blurbing–it’s a lot harder than you might think, but, this one just sort of wrote itself for HOB
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.
-The diabolical 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 is out on Amazon–CLICK HERE to go to Amazon.com. I also have several signed copies available. If you’d like one, message me. I’ll even pay the shipping and throw in a little swag.
copyright 2016, Ren Garcia and Carol Phillips
May 13, 2016
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??
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.
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.
Roethaba 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
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.
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.
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
Having 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.
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:
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.
The House of Bloodstein: Perlamum, will be released in late 2015 from Loconeal Publishng
copyright 2015, Ren Garcia and Carol Phillips
September 22, 2015
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
April 8, 2015
Melazarr of Caroline is a frequent character in the various Shadow tech Goddess books. Her character varies wildly from one book to the next. She almost always dies in the books.
25th DAUGHTER OF WILHELMINA
In all of the books, Melazarr’s lineage and general appearance are the same. She is an heiress of the Xaphan House of Caroline, born in the vast halls of Wilhelmina Castle. She is the 25th daughter of the current line. She has one father and ten mothers–the Carolines often indulge in the practice of gene-splicing to produce the most desirable of children. One genetic flag the Carolines always opt for is the potential for Arcane-Interface.
As familial giantism is common in the Carolines, Melazarr is a gigantic woman, standing 7’1 and weighing over 300 pounds of soild bone and muscle. She is typically very lank and skinny, hiding her impressive weight. Her hair is a fawnish-blonde color, though she often paints it green or blue.
She is a Tropist, skilled in creating sexual pleasure merely by touching non-erogenous parts of the body.
Melazarr is also always an Extra-Planar Entity known as a Merten. A Merten is a person who, for unknown reasons, carries important messages from the Universe. A Merten is never aware of carrying these messages, and, extracting them is most often fatal to the Merten. When in the presence of a person known as the Kaidar Gemain, a Merten will fall into a trance speak, sing, or draw out the message they carry. Others seeking the messages would have to extract them via sex, burning, torture or drowning. Mertens often die divulging the information they carry.
Melazarr’s mannerisms vary greatly from universe to universe.
In some, she is incredibly shy and insecure in the Court of Wilhelmina amid all her rival sisters, hiding the fact by painting herself in make-up and wearing bolabungs designed to make her fierce and confident. All “bunged Up”, Melazarr presents herself as an outrageous and rather debauched woman, reveling in Xaphan society. Often finding herself in dangerous situation, the VERY MARY, a garter belt that teleports a Caroline maiden back to the ancient Ruins of Caroline on Kana when she finds herself in mortal peril. Melazarr has turned up in the Ruins a record 57 times.
A Bound Tropist
In others, she is a bound servant of the notorious Xaphan Warlord Rodrigo of Burgon. Rodrigo often keeps her drugged into a trance-like stupor and bound to his side by a Chastity Key that has been branded into her neck. With the Chastity Key in place, she cannot venture more than fifty feet from his side. Rodrigo sometimes treats her with kindness, despite keeping her drugged and insensate.
Melazarr, no matter her situation, is often killed, either by those attempting to extract the information she carries within, or by accident, misadventure and poor circumstance.
copyright 2015, Ren Garcia, Carol Phillips and Kayla Woodside
March 11, 2015
It doesn’t happen too often, especially in my case, but on select occasions your own characters can jump up off the page and surprise the heck out of you.
Such was the case with Stenibelle, a character I dreamed up on a lark.
OUT FROM THE DARKNESS:
I was working on The Shadow tech Goddess, a tale dealing with alternate universes and Extra-Planar Entities. Our hero, Paymaster Stenstrom, Lord of Belmont-South Tyrol, had been informed that there are many Wvulgroms. alternate versions of himself running around, all somewhat similar to himself but undeniably different–such is the basis of the entire Shadow tech Goddess storyline. It’s not an unfamiliar concept, we’ve seen it before in various media: fiction, TV, comics, films (the Star Trek episode “Mirror, Mirror” immediately comes to mind). In many cases, these “alternate entities” are a study in opposites: good vs evil, chaste vs immoral, that sort of thing. In my case I wanted these Wvulgroms (qv=alternate entities) to be merely a product of their circumstance. They can be very different from the character we’ve come to know, or, they might be very similar, it all depends.
In the case of the Shadow tech Goddess saga, eight different versions of Paymaster Stenstrom are involved. They all have similar experiences: they all served as paymaster aboard the Fleet ship Seeker for Captain Davage, and they all bought the captain’s chair of the Seeker later on. They all had various levels of failure/success in the Seeker Affair, as it was known. Some had no trouble at all securing the Seeker’s chair, some had a bit of rough sledding, others failed spectacularly. One was imprisoned, one was enslaved in a sex pit, and one was killed.
At the end of Book 8, all of these various alternate versions are brought together in the smothering darkness of the Shrine of Boraster on the Planet Eng and sorted out, each sent on their merry way.
As I wrote the final scene, each Wvulgrom was brought forth and presented to the central version of Paymaster Stenstrom–all of them tall and handsome.
And then the 3rd version was presented. As I wrote, my fingers worked the keys all by themselves. The third version presented was a small, comely woman. I had established earlier in the story that the Wvulgroms of Paymaster Stenstrom didn’t all have to be as is, they could be of differing race, of differing species, and, of differing gender. Such was the case here–the 3rd version was a woman named Stenibelle.
Lord A-Ram told him: “In another universe, you are a woman, and you would be most proud of her.”
So, that’s all I had, just an odd revelation that he, somewhere out in the universes, was a she.
Shortly after I finished the first draft of the Shadow tech Goddess, I developed the idea of writing a series of smaller, shorter books detailing the activities of the alternate Stenstroms’ as pertaining to the main story. I started writing them all at once, but the one that stood out most in my head was Stenibelle, the female. I began writing a quaint story dealing with Stenibelle’s quest to discover the way to long lost Cammara, an abandoned home-world of the League lost for over 200,000 years. At first, Stenibelle had all of the “It Man” abilities the male versions of Paymaster Stenstrom have: super strength, invulnerability, flight via mind power, and so on. The only thing she couldn’t so was fire the NTH pistols, which require a male-hand to shoot. I wrote her as a demure, considerate woman doing her best for her House under bizarre circumstances.
I quickly got bored with her. Where was the growth? Where was the potential? I really didn’t see it. I put her down for a long time and moved onto other stories. I considered deleting her altogether.
Then, it occurred to me that I’d been doing Stenibelle a great disservice. There was no depth to her, no agency, no room for personal growth. I’d been treating her with kid gloves, and she, though she had a great deal of power, was essentially helpless, like a princess in a tower.
Time for the gloves to come off. Time for Stenibelle to face the world. I was going to lay her bare and watch her grow into something new–not a perfect person, mind you, not invincible, not a cold, gritty tent-pole character, but a human one, full of successes and failures, remorse and joy, frailty and determination, and the capacity to better herself and her House.
First, I removed all of Stenstrom’s It Man powers. She still possessed all of her skills in Tyrol Sorcery, the vanishing, the lock picking, all of that, but no more super strength, no more flying and TK’ing. I took away all of the vast sums of money Stenstrom has available to him and made her a pauper. I also stuck her in prison. I made her angry and unsure of herself. I put her under the sway of powerful people and I addicted her to personality-altering Bolabungs.
Through all of that, Stenibelle had to make do, had to overcome poverty and addiction, had to learn to stand up for herself in the face of powerful people, had to learn to trust and seek help when it was needed, and to come to terms with her own heart. The character that grew before me was quite a welcome surprise, becoming more whole and complete than I has first thought possible.
I put her through a lot, and the person she became is something anybody can relate to and cheer for.
That’s what I was hoping for all along.
League of Elder Book 9: Stenibelle will be available summer 2015 from Loconeal Publishing.
copyright 2015: Ren Garcia, Carol Phillips, Fantasio, and Eve Ventrue
November 9, 2014
I think of all the various characters I’ve toyed with over 8 League of Elder books now, the mysterious Grand Dame from Calvert, Hannah-Ben Shurlamp, EVoR is one of the most challenging, both to the other characters in the books, and to myself as the author. She never fails to surprise and impress.
THE PROFESSOR’S ADVERSARY:
In the early days of the League of Elder, the resident egghead was clearly The Professor, the nameless husband of Lt. Kilos, a man with the seemingly demonic ability to get answers to questions.
The thing with the Professor, he was always a foil, a tool to provide timely information. He was never intended to drive a plotline. Right around Book V, I decided to add a touch of flavor to him. I began speaking of The Hertogs, a group of disaffected scholars and artesans with a bone to pick with the Sisterhood of Light. I hint that the Professor had a “rival” within the Hertogs, an opposite number who was his equal in many ways. This rival matched him in intellect and in the ability to find answers to difficult questions. This rival exceeded him in regards to contacts, resources, plugability, tenacity and overall ruthlessness. That’s all I really had, just a vague concept for a character that was my version of the Kingpin with her little hooks into everything. That was the shadowy, formless beginnings of Hannah-Ben Shurlamp.THE GENESIS OF HANNAH-BEN:
Oftentimes, dreaming up the unpublished backstory of your fantasy world is the most fun part of the creative process. A lot of that stuff never makes it to the page, but provides an important foundation to place a story upon; you don’t really see it, but it gives the author confidence to write boldly.
I thought about this person, this unnamed scholar who was to be the Professor’s nemesis. The character seemed to be female in my head, so I went with it. I imagined her dressed from tip to top in frothy white, like an ice princess. As a boy visiting my grandmother’s house in Texas, I recalled a time where a garter snake had somehow gotten into her flour tin, and she wanted it dead. I tipped the tin over and the snake came out and raced across the floor, white like a snowflake until the flour rubbed off and revealed the black scales beneath (BTW-the snake got away to the safety of the backyard). That memory hit me in the face. I pictured my lady as strong and swarthy with an olive skin tone powdered into white perfection. As a child, I always found C.S. Lewis’ White Witch very imposing and threatening, and I wanted a similar vibe for my scholar. I imagined her with a great head of long, bumpy black hair. As my current heroine, Lady Sammidoran of Monama had a similar look, I decided to cram her black hair into a towering white wig with only a few hints of black locks spilling out here and there. So, with a white gown and a white wig with powdered features and hints of raven, I had my lady’s look. I threw in a wand-like system controller glyph as an added touch to give her a witchy quality.
Now, for her name. As the Professor doesn’t get to have a name (why, I don’t know), his wigged and powdered opposite number would have a grand, tangible name to provide a bit of contrast. I wanted her name to sound smart, something concrete and full of cultured bravado. I wanted a name that could be hoisted up in glittering lights. It took me awhile to come up with it–attaching names to characters can be a chore.I had a Black Hat I’d dreamed up in Book 4, Wilhella Cormand-Grande, the Mad Black Hat of Waam. I liked that name and thought about “re-assigning” to my scholar, but, for continuity’s sake, I left it where it was. I toyed with the idea of calling her St. Edna the Beasley. I figured this scholar has every title, degree, accolade and appellation available in the League attached to her, so why not saint as well?? I mean, if you’re going to do something, do it big. (BTW–I have a thing for the name Beasley. I have a book of Cthulhu adventures that I love, and in one of the stories, the bad guys were the Beasley Brothers. I’ve always wanted to use the Beasley name in my works, but always have a change of heart at the end. In Book 7, the band of evil robotic brothers were originally named Beasleys, so Book 7 was almost titled: Against the Beasleys, instead of the more-salty-sounding Druries).
So, anyway, the name Edna and Beasley for that matter simply wasn’t kick-ass and cool enough, therefore I moved on.
While inspecting the Ruins of Chanute Air Force Base in Illinois, I discovered the usual symbol for knowledge and learning is a lamp; a lamp illuminates, a lamp lights the way and throws aside darkness. Lamps were carved in stone all over Chanute, which was a training base. I knew that I wanted the word “lamp” in her name. A key is also associated with learning, to “unlock” the potential of young minds, so I batted around the idea of calling her “Keylamp“. Hmmm, I didn’t know. There’s an idiomatic phrase in Spanish that applies to the name Keylamp: no tiene chiste. It means: it doesn’t have any oomph, no pizazz. Keylamp just didn’t have the right sound. It had no chiste (lol, not really a correct word to use, but whatever) and I wanted my lady to have lots of chiste, so I got rid of the key part and kept the lamp.
I recalled once getting yelled at by a customer by the name of “Ms. Shurlbutt”. I recall this person having an indomitable will, not afraid to make a public scene and really giving me the business. That’s how I wanted my scholar to be: a tower of will. I thought to combine “Shurlbutt” with “lamp”, and got “Shurlamp“. Seemed to be what I was looking for. For her given name, I decided early on, I wanted to add the tag -Ben. I realize “ben” in Hebrew means “son of“, so what’s -Ben doing tacked onto a lady’s name?? I wanted that touch of masculinity in her name to give her an air of macho prowess and bravado. As for the Hannah part, I just picked that out of a hat and found no fault with it.
So, I had her name: Hannah-Ben Shurlamp.HANNAH-BEN’S TITLES:
As she is a Professor at the University of Dee in Calvert, Hannah-Ben Shurlamp has a number of post-graduate degrees attached to her name. Her full range of titles and degrees is vast:
Grand Dame Hannah-Ben Shurlamp, Professor Emeritus, University of Dee. EVoR, QrduP. NvPhD. Gran-Sequitor Hobanis-Realis and Knight of Bazz.
Though she was born into the Vith Household of Bloodstein, she married a man from Calvert and lost her title of Lady, instead being referred to as Grand Dame, as Calvert ladies are.
The EvoR is the degree she’s most commonly referred to. The E degree is like a bachelor of arts degree. The vo is akin to a masters, and the R is my version of a PhD. It takes around 200 years to earn an EvoR, so clearly, she’s quite old, though, in standard Elder fashion, she doesn’t show her age physically. All the rest of the titles and degrees, I just made up and haven’t explored much further.
Professor Shurlamp, by any reckoning, is a buxom and beautiful woman with intellect and wealth that knows few rivals. It strikes people as odd that she chose to marry a singularly average teetotaler from Calvert. She towers over this man in terms of wealth, intellect and sophistication, and he is entirely unaware of the underworld forces his wife commands or the number of people she enriches and ruins on a daily basis. People speculate on the reasoning for the marriage: was it blackmail, a cuckold, a political arrangement?? There had to be something. The reasoning is quite simple: she loves him, she continues to adore him and his picture is never far wherever she goes. And he, of all the people in the League, is the only person safe from her wrath.
Hannah-Ben Shurlamp appears in LoE Book 8: The Shadow tech Goddess and in upcoming Book 9: Stenibelle, both from loconeal Publications.
copyright 2014, Ren Garcia, Carol Phillips, Eve Ventrue and Sarah Smith
July 2, 2014
One of her favorite familiars is Tweeter, a tiny silver bird that can assist one in getting to where they need to go. She keeps a whole bell tower full of them in the northern wing of Castle Blanchefort, ready for use should someone need them. And, like all of her creations, Tweeter smiles. Lady Poe’s love of happy faces is well-known.
After the horrific events in the Grove with the Golden People and their Killanjo servants that nearly cost Lord Kabyl of Blanchefort his life, Lady Poe realized that the world can be a dangerous place and that she needed to actively protect the people she loved.
She took the basic Tweeter design and modified it, creating a Silver tech familiar that could kill if required. She once admired a kingfisher bird as it hovered over the lake hunting for food, so she shaped her new creation into the form of a crested kingfisher and named it King. And, as with all her creations, King functions perfectly. He does his job extremely well.King can do a number of things. He can go from standing still to moving at rail gun speeds in a matter of moments. He can pierce armor, touch-off explosions, and easily bring down small to medium-sized craft. He is also extremely effective against Shadow tech. His touch dissolves Shadow tech. He can also create a silvery cone of light from his eyes that vaporizes the dreaded StT’s Black Hats love using. He is able to lift heavy loads and he can fly across empty space from one planet to another. It is rumored King can change his shape into a much larger creature, but that has not been confirmed.
King also never smiles, unlike the rest of her creations.
Being a pacifist, Lady Poe was rather ashamed of her creation and the damage he could do. Instead of placing him in the bell tower with the Tweeters, she planted a number of embryonic Kings in a Servants Graveyard out in the vastness of the Grove. When one is needed, one must venture out to the graveyard, recite the incantation, and a King will rise. As a safeguard in keeping King from becoming an unprincipled murdering machine, he will imprint off of a nearby person, incorporating aspects of their personality into his own with the intent of furnishing him with restraint and a conscience. This imprinting gives King a marked variable in personality, with sometimes surprising results.Although Lady Poe intended that King only be used in an emergency situation, her feisty, hot-headed daughter and full-time adventurer, Sarah of Blanchefort, simply loves King and considers him her mother’s greatest and coolest achievement. Whenever she has a need that a Tweeter could easily fulfill, she nevertheless goes to the graveyard and gets a King, leading to a number of rebukes and punishments from her mother that do absolutely no good.
Lady Poe is currently considering moving his resting place from the graveyard to somewhere else in the Grove where Sarah cannot find him.
copyright 2014, Ren Garcia, Carol Phillips, Eve Ventrue and Ewelina Dolzycka.