10 Weeks at Chanute

September 7, 2016

chanute-final-cropped-frontWithout a doubt, 10 Weeks at Chanute is a radical departure from anything I’ve ever written before. It went from a cathartic impulse, to a lost manuscript, to a surge of creativity and a finished product that I’m quite proud of.

BORING OLE’ ME

In nearly ten years of writing, I’ve been careful to keep myself out of the equation. Some authors make themselves the star of the show, with their writing a distant afterthought and by-product of their cult of personality. That is totally not me. If you’ve ever seen my tables at the various shows I attend, you won’t see my name splashed up in giant letters on towering banners with me dominating the space as a Grand Poobah over my devoted followers–all you’ll see is The League of Elder, my series with my name nowhere to be found.  I’m just the little irrelevant guy pulling the strings, the odd things and places I’ve created are the undisputed stars of the show, I’ve never made any pretense about that. That’s how I like things.

So, all of a sudden, here’s this little book, 10 Weeks at Chanute–no spaceships, no Shadow tech, no dashing people or daring-do, just a story about me and my military experience set as it happened in suburban 1992.

Me??

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Abandoned, lonely  Chanute, 20 years later in 2012.

IN RUINS

I served in the Ohio Air National Guard from the end of 1991 to 1997. I went to Basic Training at Lackland AFB with all the other recruits and then finished up my training at Chanute AFB in Illinois. Though most trainees disliked desolate, landlocked, remote Chanute as a “real drag”, I actually loved it, found peace and an easy affinity with the place. I credit my time at Chanute for creating the mature person I am today. In 1993, about a year after I graduated, Chanute closed, just one of many bases to be shutdown and abandoned by the military.  Twenty years later, I decided to return to Chanute, just to look around and reconnect. I wasn’t prepared for what I saw: the desolation, the ruined buildings, empty streets, broken windows and utter silence. It was like walking straight into Silent Hill where the only demons roaming about were in my head.

chanute-final-1-cropped-backSeeing a place that I loved in such a state of smash had a profound effect on me. I sat down and started writing about my experiences, both at Basic and at Chanute. I wondered if I could actually accomplish such a thing, and, even if I could jot down a few thousand words, would anybody want to read it? How could the exploits of boring old me as an Airman in the military during a time of peace be of any interest?

I got about four thousand words into it and then stopped. I was busy pumping out my League of Elder books, the Temple Trilogy at the time if I’m not mistaken, and I had to put it aside in order to get the other books produced. Writing books is one thing, publishing them is another, much longer process. Eventually, with everything going on, I sort of forgot about it.

I forgot about Chanute… 

Time passed. Books were published. I’m not sure why, but in early 2016 as I finished Kat, the latest of the Shadow tech Goddess books, I became rather nostalgic for my little Chanute epic. Lost projects, if given enough time, can find new life, and Chanute was rapidly reawakening in my imagination. I thought about the story, about my time there, and I was suddenly flush with things I wanted to put into the book. The sheen of twenty years had taken effect–Chanute seemed now like a Wonderland to me, a place crying out to be remembered.

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Chanute’s abandoned hospital, situated in the heart of the old base, a neglected derelict in 2016, still maintaining a fragment of its haunting beauty despite broken windows and overgrown trees.

I was ready, at last, to continue and give the story the attention it deserved.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find it.

I couldn’t find Chanute…

Try as I might, I couldn’t find the file. I knew, back in 2012, that I’d penned down around four thousand words–not much but a decent start. The only file pertaining to the story I could find in my archives, was a mere two hundred words. Losing three thousand words, words that could never be replaced, would have sounded the death-bell for the project. I could not had recovered from such a loss. Words, once written, can never be replaced. I searched and searched, I lamented what was lost, I despaired. Then, in the back of my desk drawer, I found an old jump drive. On the drive was a copy of Chanute, four thousand words, just as I had left it years earlier.

I was elated.

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P3, White Hall, once the crown jewel of Chanute, a dangerous, rotting place in 2012. It was torn down in 2016, a great hole left where it had stood since the `30’s.

I sat down and wrote. Over the next few months, four thousand words increased to twenty-three thousand–not quite a novel-length, but enough that I needed to tell my story.  I filled the pages with humor and bawdiness of an earthy sort that soldiers tend to indulge in. I wrote of the birth of my ambition, my fear, my growth as a person and as an Airman, and my sorrow at what was lost. Those who have beta-read the book tell me it’s a fine glimpse into the life of a modern soldier, seeing what a soldier sees, feeling what he feels, far from the lurid, blood-soaked tales of Full Metal Jacket and other romanticized military stories.

It’s just a story about a soldier and a great place that died.

And so passes Chanute AFB. But, perhaps with my little story and other little bits of shared memory, it will live on through the ages as a great place that once was that should not be forgotten.

10 Weeks at Chanute, will be published by St G Press in early 2017.

copyright 2016, Ren Garcia

 

 

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bloodstein-purple CroppedFinally, 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.

Cover mock-up

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

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.

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The Wunderlucks, Ernst, Clara, Rusty and Aiken, are a bunch of bullies that are fun to hate. (Carol Phillips)

BLURB:

 

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

 

 

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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??

Hruntha

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

 

 

pizzaI 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.

THE BUTTERCHURN

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Magistrate Kilos of Blanchefort danced in my thoughts for years (Carol Phillips)

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.

THE WUMALAAR

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:

 

 

Bowl Naked

copyright 2016, Ren Garcia

 

HOB: Picking a Cover

November 4, 2015

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

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

SO MANY SCENES

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

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

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

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

WHAT’S A “NIXIE”?

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

The House of Bloodstein, by Carol Phillips

The House of Bloodstein, by Carol Phillips

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

GOING LOOPY FOR LETTERING

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

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

Current cover configuration for Book 10–The House of Bloodstein

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

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

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

MATCHING TONE WITH CONTENT:

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

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

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

Bowl Naked

RG

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

copyright 2015, Ren Garcia and Carol Phillips

 

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?

Princess Marilith Covered Up_001

Princess Marilith of Xandarr, by Carol Phillips

A Creative Symbiosis

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

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

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

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

Revving-Up my Creative Process

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hannah-Ben Shurlamp, by Carol Phillips

Hannah-Ben Shurlamp, by Carol Phillips

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2015, Ren Garcia, Carol Phillips and Eve Ventrue 

The House of Bloodstein

July 22, 2015

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

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

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

ZOMBIES AND DRAGONS AND GODS, OH MY

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

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

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

Here’s the current blurb for Volume 1:

THE HOUSE OF BLOODSTEIN: PERLAMUM

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

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

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

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

-The man from Shook who cannot be killed.

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

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

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

… can she be trusted?

 

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

copyright 2015 Ren Garcia and Carol Phillips

The House of Bloodstein

June 10, 2015

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

The House of Bloodstein cover.  Painting by Carol Phillips

The House of Bloodstein cover. Painting by Carol Phillips

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

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

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

PERLAMUM

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

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

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

No more After School Special.

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

It should be a ton of fun.

copyright 2015, Ren Garcia, Carol Phillips and Ewelina Dolzycka