Aside: On the Move

Hello again! Didn’t I just see you all yesterday?

Well, since then a lot has happened. Namely, my dad suggested that I do an e-mail list to keep ya’ll updated on my books. He’s a full-time author, he knows what he’s doing. WELL. In order to do that I had to own a domain, and I don’t “own” the Tales of Ej Lowell. It’s a WordPress.com site. So, my kind sponsor helped me set up a new domain and I’ll be moving over there for the forseeable future. Don’t worry, all of my old posts here will still be here (and over there, because exports are a thing) and I’m not taking down this bad boy any time soon. Mostly because I’m lazy and as of yet can’t afford to redirect traffic by means other than a post. (Shameless plug: get my books and I might be able to! 😀 And big thank you to those who already have! Ya’ll are awesome!)

So if you’d like to stay updated about my projects as usual via blog post, OR if you’d like to join the Five Realms Book Club – which is basically just an email whenever I publish a new novel – head on over to my new digs at ejlowell.comI have a domain guys! And it’s so snazzy.

See you over there!

Slow Updates and Anniversaries

Hello my friends, long time no talk.

Seeing as my last update was in December and I haven’t spoken since I figured I should probably fill you all in on what my wee brain has been up to. Namely, too many things. So many things.

First of all I’m happy to announce that I’m in the process of scanning through the Tales of Esper Ravenwood and the Tales of Liserna, fixing typos and dialogue tags, and adjusting some personal and plot bugs that make me wince every time I think about them (like the end of Lightbringer). The Tales of Esper Ravenwood (Revenant, Scourgemarked, and Lightbringer) are all complete and have been updated in the Amazon Kindle store, as well as had a bit of a price drop. They and the first Redgate Chronicles book are also enrolled in Kindle Unlimited now, so you don’t have to pay for them in order to read them, if you’re a member. The Tales from Liserna (Runesong, Heartnet, and Winterdream) are still in progress but are next on the list. I’m also thinking about revamping the covers, but that’s on the back-burner.

Current projects in the works include finishing up the second Redgate book, New World, as well as a third(and maybe fourth) in planning, tentatively titled Other World. Esper Ravenwood is also bugging me about the tales from his “youth,” including how he met Veraggo, the beautiful Efreet fire dancer, and the rest of the band of bards he used to call family. His prequel series has a working title so far of The Adventures of Esper Ravenwood, or possibly The Bard Chronicles, I haven’t decided yet. Legion might be getting a prequel as well, currently titled “Gatewalker,” but I do believe that title is taken, so it will likely change. “A Long, Cold Road,” featuring Tiberius Winters and a shade named Erron Rook, is in a weird writing/planning limbo at the moment, while I try to figure out what goes where, and more importantly who. Blood of Hyperion is currently cryogenically frozen because the plot got so tangled that I might need a minor miracle in order to pick it up again. Last but not least, The Mythology of Omnia is a project that currently consists of a bunch of ideas for vignettes and short stores, Prose Edda style, about the First Gods, the Old Gods, and pantheonic shenanigans. My plan is to write the little vignettes in between doing other things, since they’ll all be in the same book, hopefully. I have dreams of short story collections, but short stories are very hard to write.

I’ve got a bunch of art projects going on behind the scenes, mostly for other people, but I did finally figure out what I wanted to do with the conglomeration of stories formerly known as both Charge and All’s Well in Asgard. I’ve never been good at sequential art, but I’ve decided to try vignette comics. We’ll see. I’ve got two pages done out of the first seven, so far.

It’s also April. This time last year – in a few days anyway – my best friend was in an auto accident and didn’t make it. First anniversaries are tricky at best. I’m dealing by way of having a list of projects the size of Mt. Evans. Obviously. Don’t worry, I have priorities. Just wanted to mention this as an explanation, if I’m a little bit more quiet than usual around the various tubes in the next few weeks.

See you when I see you, my friends.

ps. It apparently took me the better part of four years to figure out that having an undead main character definitely constitutes Dark Fantasy. WHOOPS.

A Big Project Win and NaNoWriMo Fail

Hello friends!

So I tried to do NaNoWriMo this year… and I got a bit distracted. I live in the United States, I’m not sure anyone can blame me if I’ve been a smidge preoccupied. With all that and the fact that I haven’t really written anything in about a year – I was going to back in April but due to an unexpected death of a close friend, it didn’t exactly happen – Marcus, Evaline, and Kisuke might have to wait a bit for their second book to actually get going.

However. Whilst in the middle of trying to do anything related to the Redgate Chronicles, I picked up a project I started back in February, which might seem a little unorthodox. I didn’t really want to say anything about it here in case it ended up being nothing but a pipe dream, but sometime in late November I started the project back up after a several month break (April was rough) and managed to bull my way through it in the space of a couple weeks. That’s the power of a Taurus, my friends.

What is this mystery project? The Five Realms Oracle. The art from which I’ve been posting on my author page over on Facebook since I started. Spoilers are kept to a minimum, I promise. Unless you’re really good at symbolism and theory crafting.

Why am I making an Oracle deck and not, say, a Tarot deck? I certainly have enough characters to do so, between all of the stories. I actually did try to create a Tarot deck once, but the characters and stories changed so much by the time I was done with just the major arcana that I couldn’t continue it. A full 78-card deck is also a massive undertaking, and one I didn’t really think I was ready for after completing the major arcana.

The Five Realms Oracle is a 40 card deck – which might change after I’ve gotten a chance to look at the proof copy, we’ll see – featuring 34 diverse characters from the Five Realms as well as five landscapes (one for each Realm) and a Wyrd card. The deck uses my own hand-made font, Ratatosk, and also pictures 33 runes from the Elder Futhark and Anglo-Saxon Futhorc. I plan to create a full guidebook for the deck at some point, and be able to sell the cards and the book as a set. There are a lot of steps involved in that process though, and I anticipate the cards won’t be out until sometime late next year.

This project has been and will probably continue to be a massive undertaking, for me at least. I find it an excellent way to pay homage to my universe and my characters, in a way that might help guide someone else through their life, or even just have around as a curiosity. It’s something I can hold and work with, which is important to me. At some point I might end up revisiting my previous attempt at a Tarot deck, but that will likely take more than a year to complete.

Have a good one, my friends!
φ

02-bard

 

 

NaNoWriMo 2016

Heyo!

It’s that time again. Time to settle down with a good book and a warm coffee. Of course, I’ll be writing said hopefully-good book. It’s November! Which means it’s National Novel Writing Month, and this year once again I’ll be diving into the Redgate Chronicles with the second book in the series, New World. Marcus, Evaline, and Kisuke were such an awesome group to work with last year, so I’m excited to continue their story.

A quick project update: The Tales of Esper Ravenwood audiobooks are in production (by me, as usual) and will be up on YouTube eventually. Probably not this month. I’ll make an announcement for it when it happens, and I plan to release two chapters a week when I start releasing them. The audio versions of my books have been edited, and I think the story is, frankly, better. Which means I’ll also be creating revised-edition versions of the Kindle books at some point. The Lazarus Anthology and Blood of Hyperion are on the back burner at the moment, and at some point I’d like to visit Esper’s younger years in a series of prequels, tentatively titled the Adventures of Esper Ravenwood. That’s a long-term idea, though, and I won’t know until I get there. Other far-distant projects include a sci-fi universe in the works, slowly developing with the inspiration of my friend and romantic-fantasy writer, Sarahbeth Lazic, and the story formerly known by various names, such as Charge and All’s Well in Asgard. For some reason it isn’t working as a story, which means I need to sit down and have a chat with it at some point. But not this month.

This month I’m breaking out the old Redgate playlist on YouTube and settling in to see what mischief this band of reprobates get up to. To my fellow WriMo’s, as usual, may the words be ever in your favor, and good luck!

redgatenw-cover

Aside: Character-Driven Workouts

Okay, hear me out. This one’s for writers who struggle to exercise.

Also this is especially fun for people who play D&D, Pathfinder, or whatever-have-you. Like moi.

You know that t-shirt that says, “I’m working out so I can do some of the things my D&D character can?” Well, the way I see it, doing – or attempting to do – some of the things your characters can do is a great way to learn about your character and get into their head, while getting exercise. And it’s kinda fun, if you’re into that kind of thing.

Think about it. How often have you played, say, Assassin’s Creed and wished you could do parkour? And if you can… props to you. All the props. All for you.

Now I’m not saying you have to go out and buy a sword or something to swing around, or go leaping around trying to do flying kicks or weird, super-human abilities. That’s a great way to hurt yourself. Or you wallet. However, picking out an action that your character does that might seem trivial to them, and trying to do it yourself, can and probably will help you write that character better. And it might just put some muscle on those bones. (points at self; I am twig)

For example: many fighters, soldiers, warriors, and mercenaries (so, many main characters) in fantasy stories wield swords. What do you think their training looks like? What would they do every day to keep their skills honed? You don’t have to have a sword to do this. For some, it might make sense to go outside, find a decent sized branch on the ground, and start swinging it around. For others, try one-handing a five or eight pound dumb-bell (or heavier, if you’re much stronger than I am). It’s a little heavier than an actual sword would be, but I feel like the extra weight compensates for the fact that the center of balance isn’t farther away from your hand. Once you have your weapon of choice, imagine you are that character, and start walking yourself through the motions. How would they slash? How would they parry? It might be a little weird at first, but if you think of it as warrior training, it might be a little less tedious. Especially if you’ve been sitting down and typing all day.

Archery types who don’t own bows – either because of money or lack of aim, or fear you might break something with it – can invest in a resistance band, which can be pulled up and let down as though you’re drawing back a bowstring. Since there aren’t any projectiles involved you don’t have to worry about breaking anything. Or anyone. The closer you hold the band, or even by doubling it over on itself, the more resistance is provided, and the heavier the “bow’s” draw will be.

Of course if you’re like me and you have characters that tend to walk everywhere because they don’t actually own horses, they do something every day that you might be able to do as well. Walking. It doesn’t have to be a long walk or a strenuous one, just some time spent on your feet every once in a while can help a lot of issues.

If you don’t feel comfortable walking, play a monk or mage, or feel awkward leaving your chair, I recommend Tai Chi and/or Qigong. Most techniques can be done seated, with a little creativity. The key is integrating all parts of the body, just to get them moving.

My current exercise routine varies from day to day as I feel the need to change, but I do stuff based on many of my characters, from books or otherwise. I practice Marcus’s ranseur techniques with an oak walking stick, I practice Eirnin’s archery with a resistance band. I have a ten pound dumb-bell that I can swing two-handed as though I’m using an axe, rather than a sword. For two of my tabletop RPG characters – Sadiq, a monk, and Hyena, a brawler, – I practice both Tai Chi and Kenpo, which is something I have prior experience with. Esper is a special case, since I do actual own a (not sharp) saber, and can work out his style with it, as well as Aelius’s to some extent. And, like all of my characters, I don’t own a horse (or a car), which means I walk everywhere. Thankfully, I live in a smallish town and built up excellent endurance via high school marching band. And no, I never do all of those on the same day. I would be exhausted and probably risk injury. My knee already gives me enough crap from the walking alone!

I would like to emphasize that you should never do any fitness program or exercise that makes you feel uncomfortable, or that you’ve been told by a professional that you shouldn’t do. If you pick up a big ol’ rock to heft around because your character carries people or things out of danger for a living, but you find that you’re straining, put it down and walk away. The goal is to have fun, get a break from the keyboard, and not hurt yourself. Please don’t hurt yourself. Be careful.

– Ej

ps. If you want to try this but lack inspiration, look up, “[Your favorite character here] Workout.” I know there’s one on the Witcher out there somewhere, which partially inspired me to start doing this.

pps. Again, check yourself before you wreck yourself. Listen to your body. If it hurts, stahp. Especially if you aren’t used to doing crazy business like flailing around with a weight in your hand. Do what you can, don’t feel bad if you can’t do as much as someone else, and celebrate that you did a thing in the first place.

Bonus fun fact! This is how I taught myself to draw! Getting up and acting out what the character on the page is supposed to be doing so I knew how it looked in 3D. I still do it sometimes. I have applied it to writing as well. A few combat scenes in the Tales of Esper Ravenwood trilogy involve actions that I stood up and acted out so I could figure out how to write them. See? Told you it was useful.

Character Tip: The Well of Nope

You ever have characters that, no matter what you do, you can’t seem to find a decent conflict for them? Maybe they’re a major support that needs a subplot, maybe it’s a main character who wants nothing to do with the story being told, or maybe it’s a character that should have a bigger role in the story but nothing is working.

Enter, the Well of Nope. Also known as the giant list of things that your character never wants to do, be, or witness.

There’s a phrase that I keep in my head when I’m writing, especially when I’m planning a story: “Never name the well from which you will not drink.” Not only useful to remember for character development, but decent life advice as well. Never say never, as in, never say you’ll never do something. This can have unintended side effects. For instance, when I was in school I constantly told myself that I’d never be an author because I don’t tell good stories. Esper and the rest of the Five Realms happened. I also told myself I’d never be a good multiplayer gamer, because lots of information overwhelms me. Overwatch happened.

So, what would your characters “never?” This question actually goes deeper than one might think. As an example: a young man never wants to become like his father. Which begs two questions: What about the father does he hate, and what is the father actually like? Answering those not only gives insight into the boy’s psychology, but also provides a direction and potential for growth. Let’s say the boy dislikes his father because he ignores his son. That would, of course, be from the young man’s perspective and not the objective truth. The flip side to that is that the father is a hard worker and wants desperately for his son to have a better life than he did, so he throws himself into his work.

That would mean a potential path of growth for the young man might go something like this: The son has grown up and made a name for himself, but now he has a young apprentice. He keeps working, but when he realizes that he’s ignoring said apprentice, he faces one of his “never’s” from the Well of Nope. From there he can confront that issue while maintaining his hard work, eventually becoming very much like his father, but not just the negatives. The end point might be that once he’s made peace with the fact that he is his father’s son, he realizes he is better able to manage both his work and his apprentice. He ends up knowing when to work and when not to ignore, and resolves whatever conflict stemmed from the neglected apprentice.

Marcus, from The Redgate Chronicles, also has an example, and one that illustrates how the Well of Nope can also be used as a massive catalyst. Because of his appearance, he believes he’ll never find love. When that belief is proven false, it gives him both hope and an exploitable weakness. It leads to him both screwing up in the worst possible way, but also to him trying again. The massive screw up? Changes the world forever, and leads him toward encountering and subsequently dealing with even more of his never’s.

While single never’s can have far reaching consequences, there are usually multiple answers to this question. Esper has a long list of never’s that he confronts throughout his story. All of them are double-edged swords, bringing both complications and boons. See how many answers you can find to that question, and pull them apart to see how the result would affect the character, both negatively and positively. How many of those can you weave into the plot? How many would change its course entirely?

From which wells would your character never drink? 

Think about it.
– E.J. Lowell

The Five Realms – Senabyss

43ip0ww
The surface of Mars as seen by the Curiosity rover; my inspiration for the deserts of Senabyss. (via Reddit)

Synopsis

Often called the Dark Realms or the Demon Realms, Senabyss is, by most accounts, a desolate place, full of creatures that don’t belong anywhere else. Unlike Liserna and Oberun, Arcturus and Senabyss aren’t so much harmonic opposites as they are harmonic equals. Beings from either realm can exist in the other, but it takes a great deal of energy and willpower to get from one place to the other. As could be guess by the common names for this Realm, the denizens are collectively called Demons. Two languages are spoken by the Demons, depending on the class they fall into: Infernal, which is the more common tongue, and Abyssal, which is spoken mostly by the Archdemon’s court.

Lands

The main Realm of Senabyss is ever-changing, with tempestuous seas and raging storms stirred by the high levels of volcanism, and massive tidal shifts. The earth is iron-rich and gives the ground a reddish tinge no matter where one looks, but which is especial evident in the vast stretches of desert in the rain-shadows of almost perpetually smoking mountain ranges. Anything living in this Realm is hardy, adaptable, and generally shares a chaotic attitude that mimics the natural order of the plane. The Demons manage to live in a tenuous symbiosis with their surroundings, but most established cultures are focused only on one thing: survival.

However, the main Realm is only one part of the Dark Realms. In the skies of Senabyss, an even more desolate sight can be seen: the remains of a once-glorious domain, a world broken to its core, trailing pieces of itself across the cosmos. It is the pull from this dead world that influences the tides of Senabyss, and many legends exist about it. The Shattered Realm, the Darkest Realm, is rarely discussed, save for being invoked as a manner of speaking. To all conventional knowledge, nothing lives there, and if there are still remnants from the Realm’s former living days… everyone hopes they don’t exist.

Countries

There aren’t so much established countries or kingdoms on Senabyss as there are tribes and clans, sometimes bands with no more organization than an average family group. Most Demons see any kind of order as unnecessary, since it will likely not survive in the harsh environment, anyway. That’s not to say that the people of the Dark Realms are barbaric, in fact they resort to trade more often than bloodshed, much to the surprise of foreigners.

The exception to the rule is the Archdemon’s Court. In one seemingly static, calm place in Senabyss’s otherwise difficult landscape, one Demon rules over a collection of underlings, officers, Knights, and Lords, usually with an iron fist. The first was Tharenor, who created the Realm in the beginning, and after he stepped down, Asmodeus took up the mantle. There have, of course, been various uprisings against whichever Lord of Chaos sits upon the throne, almost all of which ended in the challengers swearing fealty to the Archdemon. However, in recent history, there has been at least one successful revolution, by a Far-born with unusual talent.

dnd___asmodeus_by_ejlizardbreath-d6prd6v
Archdemon Asmodeus, a Firbolg and trickster extraordinaire.

People

The native races of Senabyss are a chaotic, eclectic lot, changed and shaped by the power of the Realm on which they live. They are the most likely to venture out into other worlds, most usually Omnia, simply because they can withstand whatever the relatively peaceful environments can throw at them. Most pure-born Demons are fire resistant, and can withstand intense heat, cold, and toxic conditions. However, nobody knows how long the natural lifespan of a Demon is. For all of their adaptations, most die either from accidents, environmental catastrophes, and each other. The most common types of Demons include Firbolg, Fomorians, Imps, Gargoyles, and Far-born.

  • The Firbolg are what most think of when they are asked to imagine a Demon. They are also the most Human looking, and stand around 6 and a half feet tall on average. They possess a wide variety of traits that set them apart, the most common being horns, tails, and scales. Some Firbolg bloodlines also grow wings, or have other abnormalities like several pairs of horns or multiple tails. For as long as Senabyss has existed, the ruler has been a Firbolg, or a Far-born, and as such the Firbolg are the most likely to speak Abyssal.
  • Fomorians are large, ox-like humanoids, standing well over 7 feet tall and built to take heavy damage. They have wide jaws and tusk-like fangs, and usually sport at least two pairs of large horns. They usually speak Infernal, because it’s an easier language for them to physically produce, but some have learned Abyssal to be able to conduct business with the Firbolg.
  • Imps are gaunt, devious, and the smallest of the Demon races. They stand 4 to 5 feet tall, and have long arms that end in claws. They hunt in packs, teaming up in scores to take down prey or enemies. They aren’t the smartest of all races, and tend to swarm rather than have any manner of tactics. Imps are often employed as mass foot soldiers in Senabyssian armies, sometimes to devastating effect.
  • Gargoyles are massive, lumbering brutes that tower over the other Demon races, even without standing up straight. They, like the Imps, have very long arms, but the Gargoyles’ are thick, built more like tree trunks than useful appendages. They walk around on their knuckles, hunched over, and don’t speak much of any language. However, they are intelligent, possibly even more so than the Imps, and know how to use their massive presence to their own advantage. The Gargoyles are on good terms with both the Firbolg and the Fomorians, and are actually the most peaceful race, relatively speaking.
  • One of the main ways Demons multiply isn’t by actual reproduction, but by contamination. The Far-born are members of races from other Realms, who have become become so affected by Demonic corruption that they begin to resemble one, themselves. They mostly come from Omnia, since Humans are the most easily affected by any manner of magical change, and while some choose to live out their lives on their home plane, many do flee to Senabyss. Those who master their Demon blood are often looked on with respect by the Firbolg and the Fomorians, and there have even been Far-born Archdemons in recent history.

I hope you all enjoyed this overview of the Dark Realms, and the people who inhabit it. Next week, I have to backtrack a little bit, because there’s a race in Oberun that I missed. Good job, self! Hope to see you then.

– E.J.