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Roethaba of George, by Carol Phillips

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

 

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

CONSUMED BY SICKNESS??

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

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

 

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

A CYBERLING??

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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Queen Ghome and her Attendants (Painting by Fantasio)

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

THE WOMAN OF A THOUSAND FACES

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

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

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

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

THE SUITORS:

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

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

AN IMMORTAL??

 

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

THE BMQ

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

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

THE BATTLE OF THE TOMB

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

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

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

 

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

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

copyright 2016, Ren Garcia, Carol Phillips and Fantasio

 

 

 

HOB Legends: Menk

February 7, 2016

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

 

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

 

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

THE CAUL-DE-MENK

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

MENK-SIGN

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Menk, by Fantasio

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

 

 THE BLOOD BOX

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

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

DISEMBODIED HEADS

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

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

copyright 2016, Ren Garcia, Fantasio and Ewelina Dolzycka

 

 

HOB: 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.

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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 

 

 

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

Melazarr of Caroline (painting by Kayla Woodside)

Melazarr of Caroline (painting by Kayla Woodside)

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.

A MERTEN:

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, drugged and on a trance, is the Tropist of Rodrigo of Burgon (Painting by Carol Phillips)

Melazarr, drugged and in a trance, is the Tropist of Rodrigo of Burgon (Painting by Carol Phillips)

CHANGEABLE PERSONALITY:

Melazarr’s mannerisms vary greatly from universe to universe.

A Harlot:

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.

DYING:

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.

stenibelle_mockup1 CroppedMelazarr of Caroline appears in the League of Elder Book 9: “Stenibelle”, coming soon from Loconeal Publishing.

 

copyright 2015, Ren Garcia, Carol Phillips and Kayla Woodside

 

 

 

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

 

 

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

The Wandwilla is a creature of legend. Spicy tales of the great tree-like beings dreaming forever is ecstasy drift out of Xaphan Space and have taken hold in the collective imagination of the League, such that the Sisterhood of Light themselves investigated the matter. What findings they came up with were never revealed to the League in general.

Wandwilla, by Ewelina Dolzycka

Wandwilla, by Ewelina Dolzycka

A Wandwilla is a bizarre creature. It is described as being the fusing of a Shadow tech male and a Shadow tech female—usually a Black Hat—into one. Shadow tech females are enthralled by the touch of a Shadow tech male, and, if the two are allowed to touch for too long, they will never be apart again, welding themselves into a Wandwilla. They are gigantic, tree-like creature of a ruddy, somewhat greenish hue. Its trunk, many times, is shaped in the form of a man and woman in an intimate embrace and its extensive tap root system often resembles a series of reclining human figures. Its branches are twisting and rather tentacle-like, often bearing large, pear-like fruits. They are never described as having any leaves, just the fruits. The fruits, meaty and sweet, are prized for their arcane properties. Wandwillas often twitch a little in the heights of pleasure.

Xaphan tales maintain there is a hidden world where the Black Abbess has collected all known Wandwillas—there they live in a sort of forest. To fall asleep in this forest is said to cure any malady known, including insanity.

Ex-Black Hat and Hospitaler Samaritan, Bethrael of Moane, once experienced the touch of a Shadow tech male and documented her experience for study. She noted his touch was killing and overwhelming and she could feel her body changing as he touched her. She also noted she was never quite the same afterward and often dreamed of transforming into a great tree.

Ethylrelda of Waam, pre-Wandwilla. Sketch by Carol Phillips

Ethylrelda of Waam, pre-Wandwilla. Sketch by Carol Phillips

The great Black Hat, Ethylrelda of Waam, became a Wandilla with her Spectre general Krotan of the Yard. Black Hats often fear becoming a Wandwilla and go to great lengths to isolate themselves from Shadow tech males. Yet, as they grow older, the prospect of becoming a Wandwilla begins to appeal to them more and more as a sort of reward for their centuries of service. Ethylrelda of Waam made no secret of her desire to become a Wandwilla and attempted to fuse with Lord Kabyl of Blanchefort, a powerful Shadow tech male who fell into her midst. Lord Blanchefort managed to substitute himself with Krotan, who loved Ethylrelda and wanted to join with her. Their Wandwilla burst out of her temple and towered over the skyline of Waam until in disappeared in the night, taken away by the Black Abbess the Waamites say.

In the League, noted horticulturist and ex Black Hat, Duchess Torrijayne of Oyln, believes a small grove of Wandwillas exists somewhere on Kana, and has made it her mission to locate this grove and ensure its protection and well-being.

copyright 2014, Ren Garcia, Ewelina Dolzycka and Carol Phillips