January 1, 2017
It was bound to happen. Somebody called Stenibelle a Mary Sue.
It’s been over a year since we released LoE Book 9: Stenibelle. Stenibelle is unique in the LoE series, it’s by far the shortest book of all, ringing in at around 54 thousand words–much shorter than my usual average of 125 thousand (Hey, I write until I’m done, then I stop. I conducted the story I wanted to tell, which happened to be 54k). It’s also the first book in the series told entirely from a female protagonist’s point of view, all of the other stories tend to be male/female ensembles.
I really don’t like pitting one gender against another, highlighting one while denigrating the other, which seems to often be the case in many books. That approach tends to be extremely polarizing, and, for me, rather annoying. I like Humanist stories featuring positive cooperation and teamwork between the sexes.
A new term has popped up lately, and, like most things people catch wind of, everybody wants to bust it out and make bold use of it. The term has gotten batted around the Sociosphere like a piñata. The term in question: Mary Sue, mostly in regards to the character Rey in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
What is a Mary Sue? The term is loosely defined and can mean different things to different people. Mary Sue first came from a piece of parody Star Trek fan fiction by Paula Smith entitled: A Trekkies Tale, where a 15 year old girl named Mary Sue graduates as the youngest person ever from the academy, joins the Enterprise and quickly outperforms Kirk, Spock, McCoy and Scotty, takes command of the Enterprise, captures Kirk’s heart, out-Vulcans Spock, and dies a hero for which a holiday in her name is remembered ever after.
So, with that in mind, a Mary Sue is:
–A female character who outperforms all other characters in a given platform.
–A female character who has skills and abilities that are out-of-joint with her backstory.
–A female character who exhibits near flawless traits.
With Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the Rey character seems to exhibit all three of these criteria, though her full backstory isn’t known at this point, and, there’s always the wildcard of “The Force” to explain away pretty much everything she does: Rey could just be the greatest Force user …ever. When reading a book or watching a movie, you usually expect the characters you’re watching to grow and change in some way. With a Mary Sue (or as in her male counterpart, the Gary Stu) there’s no room for her to grow–she’s already perfect in every way. Such a character tends to be a product of lazy or just plain bad writing. In any event, such a character tends to be annoying, difficult to relate to and tends to make some people think that the film has a singular Feminist Agenda, and thus the conversation and frequent use of the term “Mary Sue” today when examining strong female characters.
So, back to my original thought–somebody read Book 9 and thinks Stenibelle, the female protagonist of the story, is a Mary Sue. Let’s take a look at the facts and see if that is the case or not.
A Mary Sue is a female character who outperforms all other characters in a given platform.
I honestly can’t see how Stenibelle outperforms anybody in the story. At the beginning Stenibelle is in prison, for failure and malfeasance of command during the Seeker Affair. She was captured in space, clapped in irons, frog-marched off her own ship by Lt. Gwendolyn and thrown in jail. She is saddled with self-doubt, self-loathing, is full of angst, full of self-pity and, though she, as a fully trained Tyrolese Sorceress, has the skills to escape from her imprisonment, she chooses not to as she wishes to hide from her problems.
It takes a monumental amount of tenacity and self-growth to not simply triumph in the end and conquer her personal demons, but to simply survive. Along every step of the way, her skills are put to the test and she fails as often as she succeeds. She also needs timely assistance from her allies around her, otherwise, she might nearly have been either killed or enslaved. Stenibelle does triumph, but it’s no day at the beach.
A Mary Sue is a female character whose skills and abilities are out-of-joint with her backstory.
Stenibelle has quite a few abilities that a common person about the League probably does not have, but, these abilities are all consistent with her backstory. She has the exact same training as Paymaster Stenstrom, thus, she was trained for nine years by her mother, Lady Jubilee of Tyrol, in the ways of Tyrol Sorcery. As such, she is able to Fade into the Shadows, essentially, to turn invisible. She is highly skilled at picking various types of locks. She is a skilled herbalist and chemist, well-versed at creating and using Holystones for a variety of effects and can conjure them at will out of thin air, along with her deadly MARZABLE throwing daggers. Stenibelle is also highly proficient at using the VUNKULA of the House of Grenville, which is a powerful weapon she makes use of quite a bit. A former lover, Lord Geryron of Grenville, taught her how to use it.
Given all that, nothing Stenibelle does in the story is out-of-the-blue or unexpected and is perfectly in-line with her background and training.
A Mary Sue is a female character who exhibits near flawless traits.
Essentially, this point means the character in question is nigh invincible, needs no help, and has no defects. As I mentioned before, Stenibelle is far from flawless. She is highly skilled, but is hampered by considerable self-doubt and inexperience that must be dealt with during the course of the story. She is crippled mentally and spiritually by past failures, and she needs lots of help along the way to discover herself, clinging to her friends, Lord A-Ram and Lady Alesta, for strength and guidance, and to her benefactor Hannah-Ben Shurlamp for financing and the exotic tools she needs for success. Even Bunged Up into a ruthless, heartless person by over-reliance on bolabungs, Stenibelle loses a brief fight with Lady Alesta–who is a monk, a Pilgrim of Merian. By the end of the story, Stenibelle discovers her confidence and her courage to become a truly formidable and seasoned adventurer, but it takes a long time and a lot of assistance to get her to that point.
So, given all of that, I’m not certain what story that person read to come up with the notion that Stenibelle is a Mary Sue. Perhaps he didn’t properly understand the term and simply busted it out in a review to sound current.
Stenibelle is a fully-developed human character exhibiting all the flaws, weaknesses, foibles, skills, potential, endurance and capacity for self-growth that we all have … she just happens to be a girl.
copyright 2017, Ren Garcia, Eve Ventrue and Carol Phillips
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
April 18, 2016
The Xaphans, if anything, are great lovers of stories. Though smaller and not nearly as old as the League, Xaphan lore is rife with shadowy characters and hidden places whispered into anxious ears in the insane courts of Burgon, George and Midas.
One such name is that of Queen Ghome, a favorite in Xaphan Society. Her name is familiar on multiple worlds, her likeness is seen in any number of statues and paintings hanging in Xaphan museums, even an entire class of battleships was name in her honor, her name conjuring up images of strength, tenacity and endurance.
Who was Queen Ghome? Was she a real person of antiquity, or is she simply a colorful figure of lore, more myth than reality? What deeds is she attributed with to earn her such a ready place in Xaphan culture?
Queen Ghome first came to light in Xaphan history thousands of years prior when she claimed the hand of Queen Xo of Trimble during the Night of Centenos when many came from across the Xaphan Empire to court and win her love. In the early days of the Xaphans, one of the first planets colonized and established as a Vith stronghold was Trimble, therefore the opportunity to claim its throne was clamored for by many. To the shock of all attending, it was an unknown woman milling in the crowds who claimed Xo’s hand, becoming Queen Ghome, ushering in the brief age of the Two Queens of Trimble.
Who was Queen Ghome? Many suspected she was a refugee from the League, with s0me even saying she had once been a prisoner of the hated Sisterhood of Light. Many thought she was a sorceress. With the sudden death of Queen Xo less than a year into their marriage, Queen Ghome would not remain an unknown for long. She ruled Trimble with an iron fist for over six-hundred years, slaying millions, putting her people to the lash and instigating any number of small to medium-sized skirmishes with both the Xaphans and the League.
THE WOMAN OF A THOUSAND FACES
Bloodthirsty tyrants and deadly potentates are no strangers to the Xaphan Empire. They come and go quite often, many forgotten to the ages once they’re forced from power and executed. Queen Ghome, though, was no ordinary tyrant. Everything about her was strange and fanciful, worth story-telling. For one, those in attendance in her court reported that her appearance varied wildly from day to day, sometimes from hour to hour. Elias of Sorrander, a mystic known for her ability to see through elaborate Cloaks, was a frequent guest in Queen Ghome’s court in the early days of her reign. She often wrote that Queen Ghome’s frequent changes in appearance, including hair color, general features, size and skin tone, appeared to not be a Cloak, rather her changes appeared to be quite real. She also wrote the one sure way to tell for certain when one was in the presence of Queen Ghome was to look into her eyes: red and piercing, like the eyes of a demon.
Elias also wrote of Ghome’s other body changes she often indulged in. She was known to flit about the towers of Centenos Castle with a leathery pair of wings, sometimes peeking through the windows of guestrooms in the upper floors.
The thing most commented on was Queen Ghome’s tendency to appear to her subjects wearing horns. Horns of various sizes, shapes and colors. Many who visited Trimble mentioned Ghome’s horns, though a few wrote that she wore a horned helmet instead of sporting real horns.
As Queen Xo had sought a suitor to the throne of Trimble, so too did Queen Ghome, though, to be a suitor for her hand meant facing death. Over many years, she put to death countless suitors, robbed and tortured others, and humiliated the rest. She often enjoyed making her less-favored suitors stroll through her deadly Garden of Zama where a host of carnivorous plants she had cultivated, lurked in wait for an easy meal. She never did take a husband, and many of the enemies she made during that time would lead to her eventual downfall.
In all, three women named Ghome ruled Trimble over six hundred years. Ghomes I and III were very similar in temperament to the point of being interchangeable, while Ghome II was considered a genuine saint. Ghome II also abjured the practice of wearing horns and changing her face. Still, scribes on Trimble often speculated that Ghomes I, II and III were the same woman, with Ghome II being under a spell that changed her brutish nature to a more benevolent one.
The people of Trimble living under Ghome’s lash never forgot about poor Queen Xo, whom they believed was murdered. An underground sect grew in the province of St Georges called the Brotherhood of the Murdered Queen, dedicated to the overthrow and prosecution of Queen Ghome. Ghome and the BMQ were constant antagonists. Ghome’s assassins, the Mensada, often smoked the BMQ out of their hiding places and slayed them only to see the sect rise again elsewhere. Ghome was also said to command a giant metal beast that was unstoppable in battle whom she used to slay the BMQ.
Conversely, Ghome’s ruthless and capricious rule was unsustainable, nearly toppling her from the Trimble’s throne several times. During these times, she was secretly propped up by the BMQ, as they wished to be the force that toppled Queen Ghome, not economics.
THE BATTLE OF THE TOMB
After six hundred years of rule, Queen Ghome III was finally deposed from the throne by the BMQ, backed by the warlord Vai of Sorrander and his fleet of battleships. Vai’s great grandfather, Wilmer, had been a rejected suitor of hers. After a pitched battle on the floating Garden of Zama, the BMQ defeated Ghome’s forces and sought to capture her. Ghome herself was never found among the dead, leading to speculation that she had escaped Trimble, though, she was never seen or heard from again.
Xaphan society refused to let her go. Many believed she had in fact escaped the Battle of the Tomb, wearing a different face and is living a more inconspicuous life somewhere, waiting to rise again. Some thought that Baroness Camilla of Sorrander was Queen Ghome in hiding, a rumor she enjoyed perpetuating. Other names bandied about are Millicent of Tuck, Melazarr of Caroline and the elusive Roethaba of George–are all people who be Queen Ghome in disguise.
And, it could also be that the venerable Queen Ghome simply died at the Battle of the Tomb, her body buried in a mass grave along with the other victims of that conflict, leaving many to scratch their heads and wonder, her lore simply too delicious to let die.
Queen Ghome’s many secrets are explored in the upcoming House of Bloodstein books, from Loconeal Publishing
copyright 2016, Ren Garcia, Carol Phillips and Fantasio
February 7, 2016
Menks are evil spirits often tasked to guard various objects or treasures. They appear in the upcoming LOE Book 10/11: The House of Bloodstein. Menks are horrific in appearance and fearsome in their power.
Menks are fixtures of Vith lore. From Vith Household to Household they are varied in their appearance. Menks can appear as famished, lanky humanoids possessing incredible strength and speed. They may also be part human, part animal, with animal heads, claws, wings, tails, etc. They may also be faceless, handless, and footless with metal hands and feet. Menks show little or no outward intelligence or emotion. They exist simply to stalk and kill any who fall into their gaze.
As they are varied in their appearance, Menks are also varied in their mystical origins. The most common method is to be cursed into becoming a Menk by a sorcerer or enchantress, who often use Menks to guard their arcane treasures. Additionally, according to some, if one has lost something precious and somehow loses their life whist searching, they might be transformed into a Menk, condemned to guard lost treasures for all eternity. Other stories speak of a mystical statue known in the Vith language as a Caul de Menk. Those wishing to protect their hoards place these statues on their grounds, hoping to both scare off the curious, and to collect more Menks. These statues are said to have hollow eyes where the light of the Kanan moons, Elyria and Solon, may shine through. If one beholds the glowing eyes of a Caul de Menk, then one is transformed into a Menk forever.
Some people and animals appears to be pre-destined to become a Menk later on in life. Such people are said to bear Menk-Sign, where their appearance in mirrors, paintings and photographs appear monstrous, becoming more so as the time of their transformation draws nearer. Some people with Menk-Sign take steps to rid themselves of the condition. The waters of the Indigo River on Hoban are thought to slow the process down, removing it completely in some cases. Xaphan Cabalists have rituals to thwart Menk-Sign. Bartering with a Menk, performing some task for it, will also cure the victim.
THE BLOOD BOX
Whatever guise they take, Menks are fearsomely powerful and nearly impossible to bring down. Menks keep their vital organs in a separate place called the Blood Box–how they remain alive without their vitals is a mystery. As such, Menks are virtually indestructible. They can absorb massive amounts of damage and continue to function. Arcane weapons and items can do them harm, but only if vigorously applied.
The best way to defeat a Menk is to locate their Blood Box and destroy their organ hidden within, once that is accomplished, the Menk will die. Menks go to great lengths to hide their Blood Boxes. Their boxes can come in many configurations, from a small jar, to a chest, to a whole shrine-like structure, guarded, in turn, by other Menks. The Blood Box can be hidden far away, buried deep or even located on other planets. Many times, locating the Blood Box is nothing short of Impossible.
Menks have the ability to remove their heads from their bodies. They often place their heads in elevated, advantageous positions giving them a wide field of vision. They may also summon the assistance of various evil creatures to carry or fly their heads great distances.
Menks give our heroes everything they can handle and more in the House of Bloodstein books, coming soon from Loconeal Publishing.
copyright 2016, Ren Garcia, Fantasio and Ewelina Dolzycka
January 25, 2016
I was sitting with my wife at our favorite pizza place a few days ago. My wife was bored; I was regaling her with my thoughts for upcoming book projects. She’s not much of a reader, and when I start talking books, she tends to tune out. Happens every time. Finally, after several minutes of fruitless babbling, my wife asked me a seemingly innocent question:
“Where do you get your ideas from?”
And I had to sit there and think about it. Where does creativity come from? Where do ideas and concepts, characters and distant places originate??
After several minutes contemplation, I had to admit I really had no idea or a ready answer for my wife.
Creativity is a very personal thing. Where a person draws inspiration from will differ. I suppose, for me, creativity is a result of everything I’ve ever seen, read, watched, smelt, tasted and felt. For those with a creative persuasion these things stay in your head; you dream and ponder about them. It’s also based in all the things you love, you’ve hated, been confused by, been afraid of … everything sort of stirred together over time like a vat of hot butter in the basin of your brain continuously churned, and then recycled into something sort of like what you’ve experienced, but different. Sometimes these images linger in my head for years, slowly evolving over time before I insert them into my books. Lt. Kilos was one such character. I saw her in my thoughts for a long time, initially a banana blonde, in a colonial uniform holding a gun. Eventually the rough-and-tumble lady from Tusck spilled out onto the page, though quite a bit different than what I’d dreamed of. Things always turn out different once you get to writing.
Other thoughts site in head for only a day or two. That’s just how it works out.
As an example of the creative process for my wife, I used the Wumalaar. The Wumalaar, in my book series, is a mythical beast that the Sisterhood of Light believe in. They believe that, on the last day of the League, the Wumalaar will come, break through their defenses and reveal all the Sisters’ secrets. The Wumalaar is the one thing the Sisters are afraid of.
I came up with the name “Wumalaar” from a movie that I loved as a boy. I never forgot the name, let it twist around in the back end of my head for about twenty years, modified it a little bit, and wham! I had the name Wumalaar. For me, that’s how creativity works.
Can you guess what movie I got the name from, and what it was called before I modified it?? If you do know, you have one of two choices. A: You should give yourself a rousing pat on the back for having such minute knowledge of `80’s pop cuture. Or, B: You should check yourself into an insane asylum for having such minute knowledge of `80’s pop culture.
Here’s where I got the name from:
copyright 2016, Ren Garcia
December 26, 2015
The Wunderlucks are a group of treasure and fame-seeking bravos from the Remnath area of Kana. They appear in the upcoming House of Bloodstein books. They are rude, crude and generally a trouble-making bunch. (Note–Authors have long memories. I based the Wunderlucks after bullies and louts I’ve known throughout my life.)
THE OLD JOCANDAS
The Wunderlucks are a modern off-shoot of the much older Remnath House of Jocanda. The Jocandas were infamous for declaring war on the Sisterhood of Light during a contentious land dispute (the rightness or wrongness of their position has been lost over time). The Sisters were, and still are, the defacto rulers of the League, and the Jocandas ill-advised “war” with them plunged their House into the dregs of Kanan society (The derogatory term “Jo-Boy” stems from this war. A Jo-Boy is a foolish person doggedly engaged in a fruitless or ill-advised task with no hope of success.)
Slowly, the Jocandas, relocated to the hills outside of the city of Wiln, died out, with several of their progeny branching off forming their own new Households, including the Storrs, the Wilners, and, most notably, the Wunderlucks.
IF YOU HATE US, YOU’LL HAVE TO RESPECT US
The Wunderlucks’ on-going credo is to restore prestige to their line, to erase the stain of the old Jocandas and to become the premier House on Kana and the League at large by any means necessary. Their most immediate goal is to fill their empty coffers with treasure. The concept of Frundage, or “collecting” is an important status measuring stick in the League, ie, the more you have, the more status you obtain. All of the great Houses possess massive stockpiles of treasure, land-holdings, arms, arcane items, vehicles and beasts. The Wunderlucks had virtually nothing when their House was formed, and they have, ever since, been acquiring any item, pile of junk, dogged-out vessel and arcane device they can get their hands on. Some of these items they purchased, others they quested for, and most they simply stole. They make no bones about theft, in fact they boast of it. The arcane item they are after the most is the legendary Oberphilliax, which they have laid claim to many times.
The Wunderlucks are unmistakable out in public. They wear garish spacing suits of shocking red, trimmed in blistering yellow, usually with a proud “W” emblazoned somewhere on their attire. The girl, Clara Wunderluck, mostly wears slinky, off-the-shoulder dresses and chain-smokes Wolf menthols. Wherever they go, they make a point of calling out the local hero and starting a brawl.
They are mercenaries for hire, lending out their services whether they are wanted or not. Aiken Wunderluck is the front man and spin-doctor of the group. He is adept at keeping his ears open, at hearing hidden conversations and discovering opportunities to acquire treasure or fame. Once they are on to a promising lead, they are difficult to be rid of. Their usual tactics include being as verbose, rude, obnoxious and haughty as they can, finding the low road they choose to tread upon to be much more productive than engaging in usual decorum. Beating them or imprisoning them accomplishes nothing, they are undaunted by defeats, humiliations, censures, and getting cast out of certain areas–they consider these things victories. Aiken Wunderluck can spin a humiliating defeat or shocking scandal into a resounding victory in the public’s eye. This “burn all the bridges” attitude has earned them few friends and a host of enemies, but, it has succeeded in making a notorious name for themselves. Any fame is good fame in their eyes.
CHEAP, KNOCK-OFF ARCANE ITEMS
Clara Wunderluck has proved herself a master of reverse engineering arcane items and creating easily produced knock offs that function in a temporary or limited capacity. She has replicated the Progenitor’s Skull, various dimensional jars, and, most notably the 10th Finger of Zahuti. None of these items are as potent as the originals and only work for a limited time, however, the fact she can do these things has provided added income for the House and more infamy to their name.
Her brother, Rusty Wunderluck, is a name in the Xaphan underworld as a smuggler and League traitor, with a number of sleezy contacts in the darkest of Xaphan ports. He is often able to obtain illegal Xaphan items, most notably the Midas Hemolizer assassination weapon, which he doesn’t hesitate to use in battle.
The final brother, Ernst Wunderluck is a mouth-breathing bore and blunt instrument of the group, always eager to cause a scene in public. He is known for his hatred of the Monama peoples to the southeast.
copyright 2015, Ren Garcia and Carol Phillips
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
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.
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