I remember watching Phantom Menace in the movie theater wondering what the movie was missing. There was awesome Jedi action (and way better choreography than the original trilogy). The music was fantastic. Tatooine looked pretty much the same, and pod racing was...
Anton Strout is the author of urban fantasy, including the Simon Canderous paranormal detective series and the Spellmason Chronicles. He’s also the host of the Once and Future Podcast. He’s going to have a story in the fantasy anthology Knaves from Outland...
There are only a couple days left to back Knaves: A Blackguards Anthology on Kickstarter! Featuring stories from Cat Rambo, Mercedes Lackey & Dennis Lee, Maurice Broaddus, Anton Strout, Anna Spark Smith, Cullen Bunn, Walidah Imarisha, Sabrina Vourvoulias, Clay Sanger,...
Last year, some of us discovered the irreverence of Deadpool and are eager to view the sequel. This year, some of us are working with one of the writers from his comics: Cullen Bunn. But we’re not the only ones fangirling/fanboying. Cullen is wearing his fanboy hat...
As we cruise into the middle of 2018, it might be difficult, surrounded as we are with great kaiju novels and anthologies, comics, and Pacific Rim Uprising rampaging across theater screens, to recall a time when kaiju fans were at a loss for good material. And while...
Naming a character is like naming your first-born child. You agonize over very detail, even go so far as to pronounce the name under your breath to test the inflection. Lucky for you, you're more concerned with how it looks on paper rather than how it sounds spoken in...
In addition to wearing the Editor in Chief hat here at Outland Entertainment, I also write about pop culture in enough places that I've found it useful to follow the news. While this is particularly relevant for geek news, there are some headliners you just can't...
Outland Entertainment is please to announce a new look and edition for the anthology Blackguards, dividing the book into two volumes and including two never-before-seen stories. Blackguards, originally published by Ragnarok Publications, was a massive volume containing stories from some of the best dark fantasy and grim dark authors in the industry…
Dear Greg (in 1986), So you’ve just turned fourteen, and you’ve just entered your freshman year of high school. I wanted to send you...well, not a pep talk, exactly. You’ve never liked or trusted those; they’re treacherous, and too often they’ve been empty promises,...
This article by fantasy author Melanie R. Meadors first appeared Geek Mom: Geek Speaks...Fiction! Here, Melanie tells us about how she fought the voices (of the characters) in her head…and lost. When editor Marc Tassin invited me to write for the anthology, Champions...
Anton Strout is the author of urban fantasy, including the Simon Canderous paranormal detective series and the Spellmason Chronicles. He’s also the host of the Once and Future Podcast. He’s going to have a story in the fantasy anthology Knavesfrom Outland Entertainment, now on Kickstarter!
There are words and phrases from what one reads that stick with you throughout your entire life. From the moment you read them they inspired or changed you. As a teen, the now clichéd “Carpe Diem, Seize the Day” from the film Dead Poet’s Society was life changing, but it was reading that always struck to the core of my heart when it came to shaping who I was as both a person and as a writer of the fantastical.
No one was as pivotal to who I became in both respects than Douglas Adams. My first exposure was to the PBS import of the BBC television series The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Immediately I HAD TO HAVE the books and made my mother take me to buy what was then just the Hitchhiker’s Trilogy. I still have the broken spined, falling apart hardcover, coated in dried green slime from a toy accident years ago. Then I consumed the radio plays on cassette, and bought the annotated transcripts to read along with.
There are a million turns of phrase that the late Mr. Adams wrote over the years that stick with me:
“Don’t Panic.”—the words inscribed on the guide itself, and an obvious choice as a life motto.
“Life. Don’t talk to me about life.”—Marvin the Paranoid Android, moping about in his usual depressed state
From the planet builder Slartibartfast, best known for winning an award for designing Earth’s Norwegian fjords:
Slartibartfast: I’d far rather be happy than right any day.
Arthur: And are you?
Slartibartfast: No. That’s where it all falls down of course.
But the one that has always stuck with me is:
This planet has – or rather had – a problem, which was this: most of the people living on it were unhappy for pretty much of the time. Many solutions were suggested for this problem, but most of these were largely concerned with the movement of small green pieces of paper, which was odd because on the whole it wasn’t the small green pieces of paper that were unhappy.
To a 12-year old kid, it just seemed funny, but it also made me think. Adults were weird, anyway. Why would they obsess over these little green pieces of paper? The idea was absurd—later causing me to strive in my own fiction to capture even just a fracture of Mr. Adam’s genius/humor—but his words were also spot on about the human condition. These were IMPORTANT WORDS, important thoughts! As I grew up and became an adult myself (a debatable point, I know), I found the words stuck with me.
I’ve been financially stable as well as pathetically poor, but rarely have I suffered at the hand of that ebb and flow. Money is always welcome and nice to have and all, but I’ve never let a lack of it determine my happiness. It’s been a pretty healthy attitude, focusing me instead on what truly makes me happy—family, writing, rampantly consuming all manners of nerdery…
Such a complexly written yet simply logical line transformed my entire attitude about the true answer to life, the universe, and well, everything. Words…powerful stuff indeed.
Featuring stories from Cat Rambo, Mercedes Lackey & Dennis Lee, Maurice Broaddus, Anton Strout, Anna Spark Smith, Cullen Bunn, Walidah Imarisha, Sabrina Vourvoulias, Clay Sanger, Kenny Soward, Linda Robertson, Lian Hearn, Toiya Kristen Finley, and Shanna Germain, Knaves contains stories about people on the wrong side of the ethical tracks, folks whose moral compasses don’t quite point north, and those who have to make hard decisions that are in that gray area between good and bad. While many of the stories are traditional fantasy, others are on the edge of cyberpunk, horror, and urban fantasy.
Backers have the options of having characters named after them, getting their query letters or their fiction critiqued by the authors or editors, and getting an original piece of artwork from artist Nicolás Giacondino, and of course, getting eBook and print copies of Knaves. Backers will also have the option of being the first to receive new editions of the original Blackguards anthology stories, divided into two volumes and re-branded with the Outland Entertainment logo, These volumes will have new covers as well as one new story in each.
Knaves: A Blackguards Anthology was selected as a Kickstarter Staff Pick, and editors Melanie R. Meadors and Alana Joli Abbott have seen what a special collection of stories this will surely be. Fantasy fans of all types will find something to love. But don’t wait to back it—there are only a couple days left!
Last year, some of us discovered the irreverence of Deadpool and are eager to view the sequel. This year, some of us are working with one of the writers from his comics: Cullen Bunn.
But we’re not the only ones fangirling/fanboying. Cullen is wearing his fanboy hat himself as he has loveWarlock 5 for more than thirty years.
How did you stumble upon Warlock 5 for the first time?
I discovered Warlock 5 at my local comic book shop (Heroes Are Here in Goldsboro NC) when I was a kid. I picked the first issue up off the shelf.
Why did it capture you?
Right from the jump, that awesome cover of the first issue, featuring the 5 warlocks, had my attention. Then, reading the issue, I fell in love with the interesting, sort of hard-edged cast of characters, the fusion of horror, science fiction, and fantasy was right up my alley.
Did you have a favorite issue?
I think the first 5 or so issues were all pretty great, but that first issue will always be my favorite in the series. It did such a nice job of introducing all the characters and giving me a feel for the tone of the series.
How about a beloved character?
Savasthar, the shapeshifting dragon, has always been my favorite of the bunch, but I have a soft spot for Zania, too.
Did these change once you picked the books up to work on the project?
Not too much. If anything, I like both Savasthar and Zania a little more. In this project, I get to write Savasthar as sort of a brooding hardboiled detective… who can turn into a dragon… so that’s pretty hard to beat.
The original work must have cast a heavy weight, but what other influences did you have?
As with all my projects, I draw inspiration from many different places. Novels, movies, TV, other comics… It’s hard for me to pinpoint any one source. Those original few issues of the Warlock 5 comic were definitely the most vital influence.
The writing process is a collaboration between you and Jimmy Z Johnston. How is it to collaborate with other artists? Is there too much compromise?
I enjoy collaborating with others. Sometimes, writing comics is too solitary. Working with other creators helps to keep me sane.
This is not the only project you two have partnered up for. Why did you start working together?
I’ve known Jimmy Z for a long time now. Ten years, I guess. And we’ve always talked about writing something together.
Are there any specific scenes or narrative developments you want to include in this continuation of the 80’s comic?
We looked at the weird relationships between the warlocks as they were presented in the original comic, and we wanted to honor the way their interactions were depicted. But we also wanted to expand on what we had seen before and deepen those connections.
What are you most looking forward to work on?
I chuckle to myself every time I think of the interactions between Zania, the punk rock necromancer, and Argon, the Terminator-like robot from the future. But from a “big story” perspective, we’re getting a chance to really explore the idea of defending multiple realities from outside threats. And we’re introducing a really, really big outside threat.
The five main characters are extremely different and layered. What was the biggest challenge bringing them to life?
We have to make sure to give each character plenty of “page time.” This is an ensemble cast, and no one character needs to hog the spotlight. That can be a challenge at times.
Is it turning out the way you’ve envisioned it?
For the most part, yeah. Any time you work on a comic like this, especially with a co-writer, there are changes and new angles that arise as you are working on the project.
In these shaken times do you try to embed your work with some subliminal criticism or do you keep it detached from the outside world?
I think people will read something more into the book whether or not I try to include something. But my primary objective with these stories is to entertain. Sure, there might be some subliminal ideas that I’m working into a story based on things that I’m thinking about, but I’m not going to try to hit the reader over the head with any of that.
Anything you can tell us without giving out major spoilers?
Well, I always wondered what would happen to the five warlocks if one of them died.
As we cruise into the middle of 2018, it might be difficult, surrounded as we are with great kaiju novels and anthologies, comics, and Pacific Rim Uprising rampaging across theater screens, to recall a time when kaiju fans were at a loss for good material. And while there have been few gaps in the cinematic history of kaiju, when it comes to prose, things were pretty sparse until 2012.
Just how sparse? Well, there was a fairly steady stream of comics from the Marvel Godzilla issues of the 1970s. Dark Horse got the Godzilla license in the late 1980s and continued publishing their comics into the 1990s and acting as prologue to the abysmal American Godzilla film from 1998. IDW’s comics started in 2010 and became some big sellers, and along the way we had artist superstars like Matt Frank and Bob Eggleton become well-known names associated with kaiju. There were also a handful of other kaiju comics (i.e.: those not starring the Big G) or things that could charitably be called kaiju comics, too.
But when it came to actual prose—novels, novellas, and short stories—the scene was pretty thin. And beyond Godzilla? Not much.
In the 1990s, a series of Godzilla YA novels began with Marc Cerasini’s Godzilla Returns. But sales on the series probably were not what the publisher hoped, because it was cancelled after just four books (with a fifth written but never published).
A few random fits and starts occurred over the years.Monster Makers, Inc. (1987) by Laurence Yip, predated the YA series, but was more of a one-off thing. The Buzzing (2003) by Jim Knipfel was a detective story with its inspiration in kaiju stories.MM9(2012) by Hiroshi Yamamoto was certainly a full-on kaiju novel by a Japanese author, but the translated edition appears to be the last book by the author available on Western shores. (I should also point out here that this brief history of kaiju prose is strictly looking at novels in the English speaking world. I would expect—and hope—that there are plenty of kaiju novels available in Japan).
Although MM9 was released first, it didn’t have half the impact of the next kaiju novel released. And I know a little something about this next one. I was partly responsible for its existence. In 2011, I was freelance editing and working on my own novels as time permitted. One book I planned to write was a YA kaiju adventure set in Vermont (sadly still not completed). I talked about it with my most frequent editing client, Jeremy Robinson. It turned out he was a huge kaiju fan, and had always wanted to write a kaiju novel. Most of his novels up to that point featured large creatures—aliens, dinosaurs, sea serpents, the hydra, and stone golems—and the book he was working on at the time even had a creature/character named ‘Kaiju.’
I encouraged Jeremy to go ahead and work on his kaiju novel idea and release it. The time was ripe for self-published novels and if anyone could do justice to a kaiju novel, it was Jeremy. That novel, which I edited for him, was 2012’s Project Nemesis, and while Jeremy opted to self-publish the book, he had actually received an offer from a major New York publisher for it. He turned them down though, and he promptly made more money self-pubbing the book. The book came adorned with a label that read ‘A Kaiju Thriller’ and a novel subgenre was born.
Nemesis was huge. The novel was (and perhaps remains) the highest-selling original non-licensed kaiju novel of all time. Jeremy became an international bestselling author and among many other novels he also wrote four bestselling sequels in the Nemesis Saga. The character was licensed to appear in an indie video game. The book was reviewed in Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine, and when they launched their comic book publishing arm, American Gothic Press, Project Nemesis, written by Robinson and with art by the stellar Matt Frank (hot off the heels of Godzilla: Rulers of Earth) was their flagship title. The character has even had major Hollywood interest lately.
Following Nemesis, though, and seemingly all at once, kaiju were everywhere. It helped that the Pacific Rim film was coming in 2013 and a new American Godzilla film was on the way for 2014. But suddenly there were authors writing kaiju novels. Matthew Dennion (who wrote a Nemesis short story for G-Fan magazine in 2014), Jake Bible, JE Gurley, and Eric S. Brown were all putting out great stuff. Handfuls of other authors were diving in, many utilizing the ‘Kaiju Thriller’ tag line, loud and proud.
SF editor supreme Sean Wallace put together a reprint anthology for the Constable & Robinson (and in the US, Prime Books) Mammoth series:The Mammoth Book of Kaiju. Ragnarok followed up their successful Kaiju Rising anthology with a giant robot companion, called MECH: Age of Steel, and the book contained its fair share of mechs beating down on over-sized monsters.
In short, the last six years have been a second golden age for kaiju fans. Two Pacific Rim films, two Godzilla films (with more coming, including a Kong rematch). Animated films. Kong: Skull Island. Cloverfield sequels. The upcoming MEG. Even the black comedy Colossal. Comics have been bountiful, and there’s been plenty of good stuff beyond Godzilla and Pacific Rim comics, includingKaijumax, King of Zombies, and the upcoming Redman with kaiju-riffic Matt Frank art. Fantastic novels like Robinson’s Apocalypse Machine, Raffael Coronelli’s Daikaiju Yuki, Lee Murray’s Into The Mist, and Greig Beck’s Primordia series are becoming the norm. A cursory look at the search term ‘kaiju’ on Amazon will yield plenty of releases just in 2018 or scheduled for later this year.
About Kane Gilmour
Kane Gilmour is the international bestselling author of The Crypt of Dracula and Resurrect. His short stories have appeared in Kaiju Rising: Age of Monsters and MECH: Age of Steel. SNAFU II: Survival of the Fittest, and Dark Discoveries magazine. He also writes comic books. He lives with his significant other, his kids, her kids, and three dogs in Vermont. He’s thinking of buying a farm to house them all. Find him on the web athttp://kanegilmour.com/.
Naming a character is like naming your first-born child. You agonize over very detail, even go so far as to pronounce the name under your breath to test the inflection. Lucky for you, you’re more concerned with how it looks on paper rather than how it sounds spoken in the real world. Who would ever have you pronounce these names out loud anyway?
You agonize over whether the character will be made fun of at the school of Goodreads and Amazon, or even on book review blogs. Maybe the clever internet will turn it into some kind of pun that you’ll laugh and smile about…until it wakes you up at 2am with anxiety and you kick yourself mentally, mulling over how you could ever think that would be the right name for your character. Especially after all the pronunciation work you did in the beginning.
The character’s name can’t be too confusing either. Your reader might read Amieriel and just settle on Amy, instead, for ease of comprehension. It’s a delicate line to balance, especially in the science fiction/ fantasy worlds of Lothlórian and Arrakis and Cthulhu. You desire to use that sweet name you uncovered in the depths of lore you spent hours researching. The one with the Latin root and the Germanic ending, but with the accent of the French. You want to ensure the character’s name has meaning and is central to the plot as an Easter egg for your most enthusiastic, devoted fans.
You name her Amy after all. Amieriel gets hard to type after a while. Is it i before e?
You find the name doesn’t fit. You try different ones on like clothes, writing long paragraphs to test them out. Something just isn’t right. The other characters won’t cooperate. The dialogue doesn’t flow. They stand around the battleground of your imagination, hands on their hips, saying, “Amy? Really? Is that the best you can do?”
You end up using a simple letter to denominate the character’s name so you can keep writing. The most basic thing—a name—can’t stop you, the proficient writer that you are. Yet, 2am creeps around, keeping you up pondering the truth behind a name, mulling over the meaning behind what you call someone you created out of thin air. How can these characters be so defiant, so demanding of your poor brain?
You find the most glorious name of all the names. It means “titan of the dawn.” There’s even lore behind it that ties in with another facet of your tale—hint, it has to do with resurrected split personalities—and then later on down the road when you’re mid-way through your 100th novel revision, Canon comes out with a camera sporting the same name.
Stupid cameras. You’ve come this far. You can’t rename your baby, now. Eos stays.
You utilize names that correspond with legends. You delight in the background of the names. You learn that the main characters in your book end in an “-el” which means “of God.” You find that the one angel who’s been cast from grace, who has become more of an elemental being rather than God’s creation of fire, has lost this important, yet small, name ending, You delight in how the names all seem to fit together, how things begin to come together. You uncover an old martyr, somewhat forgotten, and can’t stop the smile that spreads across your face when you understand the possibilities of a once-minor character. This prince of the realm has so much potential, now.
You pick up baby name books at the grocery store while you wait in line. Sometimes, those standing in line with you will pat you on the back with smiles and you grin back, never thinking for an instant that they might be congratulating you. You’ve just uncovered your next character’s first name—and it fits like a perfect puzzle piece.
Emerging from the dregs of society to become a celestial warrior, Eos soon becomes immersed in a world of ancient texts and falling angels, tasked to find the sacred Book of Raziel and stop a war in heaven. The secrets of the Book will lead Eos down a path of betrayal, pitting her against those she loves. All the while she must cling to her own crumbling sanity as her psyche is split by the emergence of another entity, heralded by the onset of Eos’ new powers. Soon, Eos finds herself in the clutches of the Master of the Oceans, where she must convince him to give her the sacred book. His price? Her soul.
Raised in the wilds of countless library stacks, Gwendolyn N. Nix has forged her skills in writing and science in the shark-infested waters of Belize, by researching neural proteins, inducing evolutionary pressures in green algae, and through the limitless horizons of her own imagination. A born seeker of adventure, she saw her first beached humpback whale on a windy day in New York, met a ghost angel in a Paris train station, and had Odin answer her prayers on a mountain in Scotland. Her short fiction appears in The Sisterhood of the Blade anthology. The Falling Dawn is her first novel. She lives in Missoula, MT.
Same Assassins, Thieves, and Mercenaries, Different Packaging
Outland Entertainment Gives Blackguards a Facelift
May 9, 2018—Topeka, KS—Outland Entertainment is please to announce a new look and edition for the anthology Blackguards, dividing the book into two volumes and including two never-before-seen stories.
Blackguards, originally published by Ragnarok Publications, was a massive volume containing stories from some of the best dark fantasy and grim dark authors in the industry. It was so big that there was an e-book only supplement, The Blackguards Blacklist, containing stories from talented authors that were not available in print.
“Because of the large page count of the book, printing this book became prohibitively expensive,” says creative director and owner of Outland Entertainment Jeremy Mohler. “Dividing the book into two will not only allow us to release it in a financially feasible way for both readers and publisher, it will let us make room so that all the Blackguards authors interested can be included in the print editions.”
The new volumes, entitled Brigands and Scoundrels will have all new cover art by Daniel Rempel, and editing will be done by Alana Joli Abbott and Melanie R. Meadors (with first edition credit going to JM Martin). The books will have stories in them by Bradley P. Beaulieu, Lian Hearn, Rob J. Hayes, Anthony Lowe, Anthony Ryan, Linda Robertson, Cat Rambo, Erik Scott de Bie, and many more. Not only will the books have stories that appeared in the original anthology, but each volume will feature a brand new story from fantasy authors not included in the original volume or the ebook companion.
Backers of the upcoming Knaves anthology Kickstarter (May 15) will have a first chance to see the new books. Ebooks and physical copies of Brigands and Scoundrels will be offered as backer rewards for Knaves. Afterwards, both Brigands and Scoundrels will be available online and in bookstores.
So you’ve just turned fourteen, and you’ve just entered your freshman year of high school. I wanted to send you…well, not a pep talk, exactly. You’ve never liked or trusted those; they’re treacherous, and too often they’ve been empty promises, or outright lies. But I’ve got perspective now, perspective you don’t yet have, and God knows you could use some. I remember that year.
I would be lying if I told you the months ahead are going to be easy. In fact, in a lot of ways they’re going to be brutal. You know as well as I do how out of step you often feel these days, gangly and uncomfortable in your own skin, a book-lover and game-player and role-playing enthusiast and all the other things which are the opposite of popularity-producing. You like people, but they don’t always like you—or at least some of them. (You think it’s most of them, but you’re wrong there. And you’re not the only one feeling that way.) Those people will make fun of you a great deal, and worse. You’ll be bullied, hit in hallways, pushed in lockers, have your lunch spit in, your backpack ripped, your glasses broken. And you’ll be so goddamned passive (everything in that last sentence was done to you, enacted upon you) when all that’s happening, so uncertain of how much is your fault (just so you know: none of it is. None.), wishing you could use your intellect and general good will to override the anger and hatred and vitriol. You won’t be able to, though. You’re not old enough, and neither are they.
Mom and Dad won’t be able to help. They’ll mean well, and they care about you, but in some ways they’re as awkward as you are, as uncertain what to do with your messy emotions (and Christ, are they messy) as you are. Other adults—teachers, principals, other figures of authority—will do what they can, when they’re not busy blaming you for being punched in the stomach or slapped or unceasingly, mercilessly, unendingly mocked and humiliated. And you will have some friends, some places of refuge in the storm. Take shelter with them as often as you can.
And take heart—because the real reason I’m writing this is to tell you to hold on. You won’t see it now, but you’re building something within yourself; knowledge, wisdom, and a fundamental understanding of what real strength actually is. You’re developing empathy, and the ability to transform that empathy into advocacy for others. Don’t give up your music (ever!); don’t give up your writing (never!); don’t give up your reading, or game-playing. The Dungeons & Dragons Red Box you bought a couple of years ago? When you get older, you’ll meet some of the people who worked on that. The map of the Forgotten Realms you’ve got on your wall? The man who created that will become not only a friend but a colleague. You’ll do readings with him eventually; you’ll work with him on projects. Believe it or not, he’ll invite you to become part of a new world he’s created; he’ll publish a trilogy of your books, and he won’t do so out of pity, but out of genuine respect for your skill as a writer and a desire to draw upon your own base of readers (you’ll have one!). He’ll call your book good, even great—in public, in front of everyone! And others will agree.
There’s more. You’ll have a wonderful and growing group of friends, on and offline (you’ll understand the online part later—give it maybe ten years or so), and you’ll play games with them, and laugh and have fun just like you (sometimes) do now. You’ll have a wonderful family—not seamlessly perfect, but loving and caring and warm, with two wonderful children, and a house, and a job as a writer and teacher, like your mother and father, able to learn from their example in both strengths and weaknesses. And most of all, Greg, you’ll be able, thirty years from now, to talk about this, to open yourself up to others without fear or uncertainty or doubt (okay…maybe a bit of doubt, but you’ll get past it). And maybe talking about it will help others who feel the same way you often do now; maybe it will help them think of a future beyond, well, whatever this is. It can’t hurt.
So…be well. Take care of yourself. Trust in your path. It will be rocky and rough and difficult. But you have people who do and will care about you. Have faith. It is often hard to see, even harder to feel. But it is also, sometimes, rewarded. I promise you it is well worth the chance taken. Until then, remember this: you matter, all of you, now and in future.
Gregory A. Wilson is Professor of English at St. John’s University in New York City, where he teaches creative writing and fantasy fiction along with various other courses in literature.
His first academic book was published by Clemson University Press in 2007; on the creative side, he has won an award for a national playwriting contest, and his first novel, a work of fantasy entitled The Third Sign, was published by Gale Cengagein the summer of 2009. His second novel, Icarus, will be published as a graphic novel by Silence in the Library Publishing in 2015, and he has just signed a three book deal with The Ed Greenwood Group, which will be publishing his Gray Assassin Trilogy beginning with his third novel,Grayshade, in 2016.
He has short stories out in various anthologies, including Time Traveled Tales from Silence in the Library, When The Villain Comes Home, edited by Ed Greenwood and Gabrielle Harbowy, and Triumph Over Tragedy, alongside authors like Robert Silverberg and Marion Zimmer Bradley, and he has had three articles published in the SFWA Bulletin.
He is a regular panelist at conferences across the country and is a member of the Gen Con Writers’ Symposium, the Origins Library, Codex, Backspace, and several other author groups on and offline. On other related fronts, he did character work and flavour text for the hit fantasy card game Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer, and along with fellow speculative fiction author Brad Beaulieu is the co-host of the critically-acclaimed podcast Speculate! The Podcast for Writers, Readers and Fans, a show which discusses (and interviews the creators and illustrators of) speculative fiction of all sorts and types.
He lives with his wife Clea, daughter Senavene–named at his wife’s urging for a character in The Third Sign, for which his daughter seems to have forgiven him–and dog Lilo in Riverdale, NY.
Visit Gregory’s personal site: http://www.gregoryawilson.com/ and check out his book,Grayshade.
When editor Marc Tassin invited me to write for the anthology, Champions of Aetaltis, I was ecstatic. Not only was it heroic fantasy, which is one of my favorite genres to write, but it was a shared world project, an anthology that tied in with Tassin’s role playing game world. There were a ton of authors involved, many of whom I had admired for years from both the fiction and the RPG community: David Farland, Erin Evans, Ed Greenwood, Richard Lee Byers, Elaine Cunningham, Cat Rambo, and more. I’d never worked on tie-in fiction before, but it’s something I had always wanted to try. This was a great opportunity to break into this part of publishing.
Mind you, the anthology is called Championsof Aetaltis. While I love a good knight in shining armor story, it’s not exactly what I write. My “heroes” are usually of a quieter, nerdier type. Folks with mightier pens than swords. But I’m a pretty imaginative person. I was certain I could come up with something.
I read through the top-secret world bible for Aetaltis, that had all the info about the world, its history, the races and classes of people, the gods, and so forth. Almost immediately, a character popped into my head. A young female halfling.
Um… not exactly what people think of when they hear “heroic.”
I tried my best to come up with something else. There were so many cool ideas, I was sure, waiting in that world guide. There were a couple races in particular that fascinated me, including the reptilian-like Scythaa. But my halfling girl wasn’t just a girl now. She had developed a personality and was now joined by a whole village of halflings in my mind. “No, no, no,” I said to myself. “You’re doing this wrong. You’re supposed to be writing about heroic people. Elves with legendary bows and majestic men with swords bearing magic runes! Not halflings with… what? Frying pans??”
By this point I knew better than to fight it. My story would have halflings in it. But a wandering hero could come in, find them in the clutches of an ancient evil force, and rescue them. The halflings would celebrate him and he would rise to glory once more!
In my mind, my halfling girl looked at me, raised an eyebrow, and said, “Really?”
Well, enough was enough. “Fine,” I said. “If you’re so heroic, prove it.”
And I’ll be damned, she did.
“A Whole-Hearted Halfling” is possibly my most favorite story I’ve written to date. Why? Because it proved what I had always thought, and why the smaller races of fantasy have always appealed to me. People are different and have different ways of handling situations. Sure, a human paladin could rush in and smite a vicious ogre with his holy sword. Having a halfling do that wouldn’t be believable. Halflings have a completely different skill set from men or dwarves. But they do have a skill set. They have their life experiences and their own set of tools. Instead of fighting to force their story to fit a set of ideals, I let my characters have enough rein to show me where their strength was. I let them show me how they would defeat not just one, but two villains in their story. And they did it as only halflings could.
If I had forced my character to do things that weren’t natural for her, it would have seemed fake, contrived. If I had had someone else come in to rescue them, the story wouldn’t have been as satisfying. Who wants to be in someone’s head as they are being saved? Wouldn’t you much rather be the hero?
This is why the advice to hold your story loosely, and let your characters–to a point–act things out, instead of you the writer inflicting how things “should” be upon them. My story developed in a more organic, natural way because I let this happen, and I think has a very satisfying end.
But in the words of LeVar Burton, don’t take my word for it! Go forth and read it yourselves!
Recently, Publisher Melanie Meadors and Editor in Chief Alana Joli Abbott got together to chat about a serial they’re both reading: Born to the Blade.
Alana: So, Melanie, how did you feel about Born to the Blade?
Melanie: Wow, I have to say, I knew it would be cool, because I’ve read Michael R. Underwood’s work before, including what he contributed to Hath No Fury, but this was pretty awesome—it was even better than I expected! (I mean that in the best possible way, Mike, if you are reading).
It reminded me of something along the lines of Avatar:The Last Airbender and Game of Thrones, if you can wrap your mind around that.
Alana: It does! I’ve been following the Serial Box serials since their first project, and this is a great new addition to their library. It has some of the familiar things I’ve liked in their previous projects: strong characters and great world building, right from the get-go, for example.
Melanie: Yes—and it’s no easy feat because we get to know a few characters in this first part, but they all have strong voices and unique views so it works. I was nervous I’d forget who people were, but I didn’t, really.
Alana: The setting is really well established from the beginning as well. The first episode opens with rebels from Kakute freeing their exiled and imprisoned leader from prison. There’s the instant set up between the good rebels and the evil, conquering empire. But pretty quickly, that expectation comes into question. We meet Michiko, a bladecrafter, who is dedicated to serving that empire.
Melanie: And that mysterious Golden Lord of Kakute…wow.
Alana: His introduction is fantastic, and Mike sets up a twist that takes the whole episode in a different direction than I expected by the end.
Melanie: Yes! And let’s face it—I can’t quite tell how I feel about Lavinia, but what a badass character.
Alana: No kidding! Lavinia is the representative of the Empire in Twaa-Fei, a neutral nation where the best bladecrafters from the various nations meet to solve international matters, to the best of my understanding. And in this episode, she takes on two fellow Warders in combat and wins handily. She’s amazing.
Melanie: Yes. And the best thing is, you are kind of kept wondering throughout the entire encounter. You think you know how things will go, but you don’t KNOW.
Alana: And the combat, which mixes swordplay and magic in a really satisfying way, is beautiful. I could almost see it.
Melanie: YES! I absolutely loved that aspect of it, that’s where I was thinking of the Avatar: The Last Airbender comparison. The other thing is that the fight and action scenes seem to last just the right amount of time. They are suspenseful and keep you on the edge of your seat, and don’t drag on. Lots of nice details so you feel you are there.
Alana: If you have a chance, you should listen to the audio version, narrated by Xe Sands. Serial Box is doing enhanced audio, which mixes sound effects into the narration seamlessly. It really grounds you in the narrative, and it’s used so well here. Each of the sigils, the spells created by the bladecrafters, has a ringing sound that’s both magical and metal.
Melanie: Yes, I actually listened to a little bit of it, so I would get the experience, and I did notice the sound effects—what a cool addition to the story!
Alana: Xe does a great job distinguishing the character voices as well. So Ojo, who is an elder Warder and a bit of a rebel in his own right, comes across with a gravitas that youthful Kris, who is going to be tested to earn a place for their nation among the Warders, doesn’t yet have.
Speaking of Kris, I immediately thought of what a cool setting this would make for roleplaying as well. Kris’s nation has the inborn trait to change gender; Michiko’s nation can speak to their ancestors. How cool would it be to pick a heritage like that for an RPG?
Melanie: I agree!! And some parts of it, with the casting of spells and so forth, really seemed like it would translate well into a game as well.
Alana: With the ending twist from episode one, I’m really excited to listen to episode two–which came out today.
Melanie: Yes, definitely. I’m really intrigued by this world. And I appreciate that there are characters of non-binary genders, and sensitive use of pronouns as well.
Alana: I agree completely.
Melanie: I think authors and publishers are becoming more aware of how important it is that the voices of everyone can be heard. I also love the mixture of cultural influences as well.
Alana: I feel like they’re going for something that feels like Asian influence, but Lavinia feels very Roman Empire in some ways.
Melanie: Yes, I think there are Roman influence with the Empire side for sure.
I think this is a progressive and different story, but people who like a standard fantasy tale will be very pleased with it as well. I mean, I think they really pulled off something great here.
Alana: And this week’s episode is from Marie Brennan, who is a frequent Outland contributor at this point, so I’m excited to see where she’ll take it!
Contact: Melanie R. Meadors For Immediate Release
Announcing Knaves: A Blackguards Anthology, Coming to Kickstarter in May!
Outland Entertainment to Publish Collection of Anti-Hero Stories
April 18, 2018, Topeka, KS—Outland Entertainment is pleased to announce they will be publishing a new collection of stories where protagonists’ moral compasses don’t always point north, and where villains are the heroes of their own stories.
Edited by Alana Abbot (Kaiju Rising 2), and Melanie R. Meadors (Hath No Fury), this collection of fourteen short stories will include authors Mercedes Lackey and Dennis Lee, Anna Smith Spark, Cullen Bunn, Cat Rambo, Shanna Germain, Anton Strout, Walidah Imarisha, Linda Robertson, Clay Sanger, Kenny Soward, Maurice Broaddus, Sabrina Vourvoulias, Toiya Finley, and Lian Hearn, with an introduction by Howard Tayler. The editors sought out some of the best authors in the business, making sure their list was as diverse and representative of their readership as possible. Outland Entertainment is dedicated to making a difference in publishing by trying as hard as they can to have everyone’s voices heard.
This anthology will be funded through Kickstarter, with backer rewards that include print and digital copies of the books, “Tuckerizations” of readers (where the author includes their name in some way in the story), copies of other Outland anthologies, and more. As the campaign funds, stretch goals such as granting a pay raise for authors and creating interior artwork for the book, among others, will be announced. Outland has had several successful Kickstarters in the past, including the recent Kaiju Rising 2: Reign of Monsters, which is currently heading to the printer and will be sent to backers immediately after. Outland’s goal is to keep the campaign as simple as possible in order to make fulfillment to campaign backers fast and streamlined.
Outland Entertainment is a publisher of fiction, games, and comics. They also provide creative services, helping creators focus on the fun part of their job while they take care of business needs, hiring artists/writers/colorists/etc, and other things to help make projects run smoothly. You can learn more about them and their team at http:// outlandentertainment.com.