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.
Short stories are my first love. As much as I enjoy writing novels and novellas, I keep coming back to short stories. That’s why my first collection, The Voices of Martyrs, means so much to me. But as I’ve reflected on the long journey in getting here, I keep coming back to one thought: rejections are a part of a writer’s life.
Number of short stories I have written: 87
Number of times I’ve sent stories out: 594
Number of acceptances: 67
Number of rejections: 527
By my rudimentary calculations, I have about a 13% acceptance rate over the history of my career. I have no idea where this ranks in terms of being typical. I’m no Jim C. Hines or Tobias Buckell or else I’d crunch these numbers to death. I know that if I were to grant my acceptance rate over time, you’d see an ascending curve as the acceptance rate in my first five years is quite different from my most recent five years. When I was first starting, I was sending stories out to every market I could think of. It took a while to get a feel for what kinds of stories particular markets were looking for. So being better at matching stories to potential markets helps.
The other thing that has helped is that I get invitations to submit to projects. While no guarantee of an acceptance, it helps the odds (like an editor already familiar with my work wanting me to write something tailored to them). All that said, that’s still 527 times I’ve received a rejection. Five hundred twenty seven times I’ve had to read “no” and feel that sting that you never get used to.
There can be a difficult learning curve to rejections. It takes a while to emotionally realize that the rejection was of the story, not of you. Different kinds of rejections tell you different things. A lot of quick arriving form rejections may be telling you that the story’s not ready (or tat the market is brutally efficient). I have sold every story that I wrote in college. The last one sold five years ago (well over a decade since I first wrote it). They’ve gone through maybe ten drafts each. I stuck with them because I believed in them and because the rejections went from forms to personal comments. Those stories which never moved past the form rejection stage, after a dozen send outs, I took a hard look at. They simply weren’t good and have been trunked (there are ten short stories that will never see the light of day).
Over the last couple weeks I’ve sent three stories off into the wild. One I’ve already heard back on with a “maybe … if you’re willing to edit.” The other two I’m simply waiting to hear back on (read: I’m working on new stories to distract myself). I’ve also sent out rejections to all but a dozen or so authors for the April issue of Apex Magazine which I’m guest editing. I’ve had to reject some great writers and close friends whose stories simply didn’t work with what I was looking for.
You will be rejected. It’s part of the writing life. It feels personal (especially when you’ve poured your soul into it, bleeding over each page), but it’s not personal. It’s about the work. Not every rejection means the same thing. Before you reach to drown the grief of your baby being rejected, parse it for what it means to you and where you are. Rejection can refine us, letting us know when a story is not ready. But that rejection could just mean “not for us.” Or “we ran out of room.” Or “we just brought a story similar to this.” Rejection can teach us things, but sometimes the biggest lesson is about perseverance. About getting up, dusting yourself off, and sending your story out again. Because, like much of life, a successful writing career is about determination. Those eventual acceptances are how collections get made.
About The Voices of Martyrs:
“An outcast in the distant past struggling to survive. A religious captain rationalizing away the evil of the slave ship he commands. A future biomech warrior in a literal culture war. The stories in The Voices of Martyrs again prove why Maurice Broaddus is one of the most exciting writers of today’s genre fiction. His vision spans space and time while staying grounded in the stories–in the very voices–which make us fully and tragically and hopefully human.”
–Nebula Award-nominated author, Jason Sanford
We are a collection of voices, the assembled history of the many voices that have spoken into our lives and shaped us. Voices of the past, voices of the present, and voices of the future. There is an African proverb, “Se wo were fi na wosankofa a yenkyi,” which translates as “It is not wrong to go back for that which you have forgotten.” This is why we continue to remember the tales of struggle and tales of perseverance, even as we look to tales of hope. What a people choose to remember about its past, the stories they pass down, informs who they are and sets the boundaries of their identity. We remember the pain of our past to mourn, to heal, and to learn. Only in that way can we ensure the same mistakes are not repeated. The voices make up our stories. The stories make up who we are. A collected voice.
The Voice of Martyrs is available online and wherever books are sold. Order your copy here!
About Maurice Broaddus:
With sixty seven stories published, Maurice Broaddus’ work has appeared in Lightspeed Magazine, Weird Tales, Apex Magazine, Asimov’s, Cemetery Dance,Black Static, and many more. Some of his stories have been collected in The Voices of Martyrs. He is the author of the urban fantasy trilogy, The Knights of Breton Court trilogy. He co-authored the play Finding Home: Indiana at 200. His novellas include Buffalo Soldier, I Can Transform You, Orgy of Souls, Bleed with Me, andDevil’s Marionette. He is the co-editor of Dark Faith, Dark Faith: Invocations, Streets of Shadows, and People of Colo(u)r Destroy Horror. Learn more about him at MauriceBroaddus.com.
A fast and fun Lovecraft-inspired dice game played in the pubs and bars of Innsmouth. Roll the Bones, pray to Dagon.
Utility Games, LLC is proud to announce our first game, debuting on Kickstarter, Dagon’s Bones.
Dagon’s Bones can be taught in minutes, is designed to be played casually, yet players have to make quick decisions to win. It makes a great warm-up for Game Nights or as a fun mini-game in Lovecraft-themed RPGs. Either way, it’s a fun and fast beer-and-pretzels game that’s easy to play while plotting to overthrow the accursed land-dwellers.
In the seaside pubs of Innsmouth they play a game of chance and fortune called Dagon’s Bones. It’s a dice game that requires both luck and daring and maybe a small blessing from the Elder Gods.
Will you steal from the other players, rob Cthulhu himself, or be granted, however fleetingly, Dagon’s blessings? Roll the Bones…and pray.
Included with each game are three dice with unique combinations of Innsmouth inspired symbols and 25 plastic replica coins from The Marsh Refinery, all packaged in a sturdy storage tube. Backing begins at $20.
Shipping for each backer will be determined after the campaign has ended and will be added to the bid amount. We will always strive to find the lowest cost shipping solution possible.
About Utility Games, LLC:
Our gaming passions span the gamut, from dice to board games, RPGs to minis, simple to complex. Together, we have over 80 years gaming experience.
Brian S. Roe is a graphic designer, sculptor, and writer and the creator of Zombie Plague and Trash Bash Bits.
Cinda Lybarger is a gaming hobbyist, with a background in production, logistics/shipping, and technical writing.
Ryan Lybarger is a scientific/technical writer, project manager, and lifetime gamer who has decided to apply his skills to game design and production.
Visit us on Kickstarter, Facebook, and Instagram:
From Batman to Star Wars, Jeffrey has tackled numerous fandoms. Now, he faces the Warlock 5 Grid!
Did you read Warlock 5 before joining this project?
No, unfortunately I had never even heard of Warlock 5 before signing on to work on this project. I was given a .pdf containing all the images of all the books after signing, however. So, I’m working my way through them as work on the book. Amazing stuff!
Do you have a favorite character?
Honestly, my favorite character is Zania, full stop. From the very first description of the character, I loved her. Then, when I was told we would be making some small changes to her as well as updating her look, I loved her even more! I grew up loving characters like Wonder Woman, you know? Powerful females, but also beautiful women who could not only beat the snot out of a snarky kryptonian, but could also capture the gaze of every eye at the high-class gala! So when Zania came along, I gravitated towards her.
Did these change once you picked the books up to work on the project?
Not at all. My favorite character is still Zania. Hands down. But what has changed since taking on the project is the amount of distance between my favorite character and the second place finisher. Zania was my fave by a long shot at the beginning, but I have really come to love others! Savashtar and Doomidor are at times the perfect picture of brotherly bickering and banter! Then, you also have the super dry mechanical wit of Argon. He’s not a sarcastic character by nature, but the fact that he takes everything said around him literally lends to a lot of funny interactions. He is super literal, but surrounded by a quartet of smart-mouths. It’s great! Tanith could easily have been a simple character summed up with one word: sexy. Yet, she is so much more than attractive. She has insanely powerful magic and is a natural leader. She’s great. All the other four guardians are and I’m getting to see that more and more as I work on the project. That’s the only change.
The original work must have cast a heavy weight, but what other influences do you have?
The original work cast a shadow the size of a mountain! Those pages are beautiful! I wanted to try and keep the core of the characters alive, but I have a style that is much more linear and graphic. I grew up drawing panels from the books I was reading. I’m talking Todd MacFarlane, Jim Lee, John Romita Jr., Mark Bagley, to name a few. But as I grew older, I started looking at a lot of different artists from the laundry list of ridiculously talked artists working today, and the ones that influence me the most would have to be Ryan Ottley, Ed McGuinnes, Sean Gordon Murphy, and Jim Lee.
Are there any specific scenes that stand out?
Absolutely! I love action scenes, but so often the most impactful images, at least in my opinion, aren’t action-oriented, but drama-oriented. I mentioned Sean Gordon Murphy earlier, and now more specifically, his work on Joe the Barbarian. In that book, the ending is so powerful, it would bring tears to your eyes. I know it did to mine. It wasn’t the usual action scene capped by the shot of the death of a beloved character, for example. I won’t spoil the ending, but take my word for it. Buy the book, read it, and you’ll understand why I love dramatic scenes.
In Warlock 5, there is a great one. It takes place in Tanith’s chambers. She’s searching for something and is visited by Savashtar. They’re both detectives of a sort, and they have a kinship. Nothing tawdry, more of an unspoken connection, but in this scene Cullen wrote the dialogue in such a way as to be uncharacteristically unsnarky for Savashtar, as well as uncharacteristically affectionate for Tanith. It made for a scene that needed some subtlety. So, I arranged the camera angels and the composition to try and imply that they were engaging in a verbal dance. A back-and-forth spinning waltz that grabs you and takes you along with them. The best part is they never take a physical step in any direction in that entire scene! But they do move with each other just like a dancing duo reading the flow of each other’s moves.
I have to say that I’m more inspired by this script than any other I’ve ever worked on and its the depth that Cullen puts into it that makes scenes like this one happen. It happens to be my favorite scene so far!
The story is really diverse, ranging from fantasy settings to hi-tech scifi. How does one keep aesthetic coherence between this blend?
I think the best way to maintain coherence is to boil down the different genres to what’s at their respective cores. Once you do that, the job is to remain true to them. Remain true, but blend them. I think of it in terms of colors of paint. Imagine that Sci-Fi is red. The most intense, vibrant red you’ve ever seen. The same is true for Fantasy, but it’s yellow. Now, they seem like such different genres. Different colors. They both have bodies of works ranging from iconic movies to comics that inspired generations. Each one is a slightly different take on their original respective red and yellow. Perhaps the iconic movie Star Wars is a vermillion. That would make Star Trek: The Next Generation a scarlet. The comic book Conan is a goldenrod, while the movie by the same name is a canary yellow.
Both of the genres are filled with millions of iterations, but when you strip away all the subtle differences, you get back to the core of the genre, the yellow and red. Then, the job is to blend those colors to make orange. It’s understanding the two genres well enough to know what makes them unique and then blending those aspects together.
The five main characters are extremely different and layered. What was the biggest challenge bringing them to life?
The biggest challenge in bringing them to life is to try and constantly do justice to that depth of character you mentioned. We are all affected by our environment and so are the 5 warlocks. In order to do them justice, I must push to show the depths of the worlds that they hail from. When you’re trying to show, at minimum, five different worlds full of living beings, as well as their guardians, it is a super challenging task. You have to know these individual characters both inside and out. And when you can do that, then the real fun part kicks in. If you were from a different planet within a different solar system within a different galaxy, well you might have an entirely different response to a common occurrence/question than I would. Makes sense right? Right. But what is that response? Exactly. What IS that response? You have to know the answer to that question a million times over. And that’s just for one warlock. Now do it 4 more times! Ha! But basically you have to know seriously everything about the 5 guardians! It’s a challenge for sure!
Did the fact that a previous artist had already given them a face help or harm your creative process?
Oh, it absolutely helped! You hear it all the time as artists, ‘we needed somewhere to pull from. We need a starting point. And then we can go from there’. But lucky me, I already had a starting point, and amazing one at that. From there it was just a matter of breaking down the characters to their core, and keeping the most important stuff while playing around with the rest! The push and pull of reshaping these characters was made much, much easier with having already had such an amazing foundation to pull from!
Has it turned out as you’ve envisioned it so far?
Truthfully, it has turned out better than that. I have worked on projects before that got me certain positives but would come at the cost of certain negatives. You know how it is. And one project in particular had supremely tight deadlines. But I did it. I did the work. I even learned to get faster at interior pages. Big positive! But it turned out to be at the cost was the final art. I hated it. I still do. It doesn’t represent my skill set as an artist and it doesn’t feel like I improved at all during the production phase. And most importantly, it doesn’t look cool! So I hate that project.
But Warlock 5? Well this project is a completely different story. I feel like I am constantly learning and improving, I feel like it is easily, far and away the best storytelling I have ever put out and most importantly, it is the coolest looking interior pages I have ever made! And that’s not me bragging, I don’t do that. That’s just the results of me taking a cold, objective look at this project versus my previous ones. It’s the best storytelling I have ever created. And its the most fun I have ever had working on storytelling. It’s just way better than I ever could have hoped for! I truthfully hope this never ends!
Thanks Jeff, for giving us a sneak peek into your work and the future of Warlock 5!
Thank you so so much for talking with me! It was a blast! I hope you all love the book!
You gotta do what you gotta do… And for me, that’s writing science fiction adventure stories. Why? The answer has to do with my boyhood. My mother was an avid reader. That meant weekly trips to the local library. And, in a house without television, books were my only source of entertainment other than running free, like latchkey kids could safely do back in those days. (Well, sort of safely.)
And my mother didn’t believe in limitations where my reading was concerned. I read three or four books a week. So, after exhausting the kid’s section, I made a move on adult books. I remember plopping a stack on the library counter and having the librarian chase my mother down. “Your son wants to read some very adult books,” she said. “Is that okay?”
“Absolutely,” mom said. “Let him read anything he wants. If he has questions he’ll ask me.” Now that was freedom! And I made use of it to sample all sorts of stuff. Non-fiction (military mostly), mysteries, pirate stories, you name it. But the section of the library that really captured my attention was science fiction. That’s where I met Asimov, Heinlein, Norton and all the other greats.
It didn’t take long for me to discover that adventure stories, especially military adventure stories, were what I liked best. And it was at some point during that time that I made a vague ill-defined commitment to be a writer someday. A science fiction writer, or so I hoped.
Years passed… No, decades passed. By then I was a writer. A news writer, a television writer, and a marketing communications writer. Everything except a fiction writer. All the while promising myself that I would write a book by the time I was 40.
Well, when 39 rolled around and I hadn’t started, I knew it was time to man up. So I wrote a book called War World, later changed to Galactic Bounty, and sent it off to ACE (now part of Penguin) where, after sitting in the slush pile for a few months, a young editor was kind enough to read it. The rest is history. I sold my first book on my first try. And here’s the connection between that Galactic Bounty first novel and Into The Guns.
Although it is about a futuristic bounty hunter rather than a young female army officer, and the soon-to-be president of the United States, the major themes of Into The Guns are consistent with the content of Galactic Bounty. Those include the eternal battle between good and evil, the virtues of courage, loyalty, and honor, a man who’s willing to fight for what’s right, a woman with the capacity to lead during a time of tremendous danger, a romance forged within the heat of war, a willingness to make a commitment, and the characters (good and bad) who surround and have an effect on them. That’s the kind of story I love, and that’s what readers should expect when they read Into The Guns.
Here’s the set up: On May Day, 2018, sixty meteors entered Earth’s atmosphere and exploded around the globe with a force greater than a nuclear blast. Earthquakes and tsunamis followed. Then China attacked Europe, Asia, and the United States in the belief the disaster was an act of war.
After meteor strikes decimate the nation’s leadership, surviving elements of the armed forces are left to try and restore order as American society descends into chaos. While refugees battle the military over scarce resources–corporate oligarchs seek to restructure the country for their own benefit.
The story centers around a young Cavalry officer named Robin Macintyre, and United States Secretary of Energy Samuel T. Sloan. Macintyre, better known as “Mac,” must struggle to keep her troops alive during the post impact chaos, even as Sloan makes his way home from Mexico, only to fall into the hands of the oligarchs. Both characters will meet eventually. And when they do, it will be in the context of a battle that will presage the coming of a second civil war. Each volume of the America Rising trilogy will have its own story. But the overarching plot story will continue with volume 2, Seek and Destroy, and volume 3, Battle Hymn.
Thanks, mom… And a special shout out to librarians everywhere.
Into the Guns is now available on-line, on audio, and in bookstores in the U.S and the UK. For more about me and my fiction please visitwilliamcdietz.com. You can find me on Facebook at:www.facebook.com/williamcdietz and you can follow me on Twitter: William C. Dietz @wcdietz.
About William C. Dietz:
William C. Dietz is the national bestselling author of more than forty novels, some of which have been translated into German, Russian, and Japanese. His works include the Legion of the Damned novels and the Mutant Files series. He grew up in the Seattle area, served as a medic with the Navy and Marine Corps, graduated from the University of Washington, and has been employed as a surgical technician, college instructor, and television news writer, director, and producer. Prior to becoming a full-time writer, Dietz served as director of public relations and marketing for an international telephone company. He and his wife live near Gig Harbor, Washington.
About Into the Guns:
From the New York Times bestselling author of The Legion of the Damned® Novels and The Mutant Files comes the first novel in a post-apocalyptic military science fiction series about America rising from the ashes of a global catastrophe…
On May Day, 2018, sixty meteors entered Earth’s atmosphere and exploded around the globe with a force greater than a nuclear blast. Earthquakes and tsunamis followed. Then China attacked Europe, Asia, and the United States in the belief the disaster was an act of war.
Washington D.C. was a casualty of the meteor onslaught that decimated the nation’s leadership and left the surviving elements of the armed forces to try and restore order as American society fell apart. As refugees across America band together and engage in open warfare with the military over scarce resources, a select group of individuals representing the surviving corporate structure makes a power play to rebuild the country in a free market image as The New Confederacy…
Andy Poole says that one of the reasons that attracted him about being a colorist is the satisfaction of “seeing black and white art brought to life with color, under your very hands.” In a previous interview, we have also learned he enjoys playing with conventions when it comes to coloring comics. But how did Andy face the Warlock 5 challenge?
Did you read Warlock 5 before joining this project?
I’d never even heard of Warlock 5 before joining the project, as comics were not an interest of mine up until maybe ten years ago, so a Canadian comic from the 1980’s was completely off my radar. I did get myself into gear and do some research on the series however, reading reviews and finding what books I could.
Did you discover a favorite issue?
Not a particular issue, no. The original Warlock 5 had a cliff hanger at the end of issue #3, which I won’t ruin here, but it’s a pretty good one. Unfortunately, it was never resolved in later issues, so despite the writing continuing to be good and fun, I kind of gravitated towards the artwork instead of the story. From that point of view, any issue from #4 onward is a favorite.
While the first three issues had great artwork, the later issues kick it into overdrive with some of the most incredible black and white paints and inks I’ve ever seen. A page in issue five is especially nice, with the Robot Warlock Argon’s ship moving through space in front of a rocky, crater marked planet, with bright sun and ethereal nebula behind it all. The lighting is fantastic and makes the entire scene both dark and mysterious and beautiful too.
How about a beloved character?
Tanith. I find that the other Warlocks know their positions, powers, responsibilities and conspiracies well, but Tanith has had a lot of growth as a messenger of peace and harmony realizing that her standing as one of the Warlock 5 means performing acts that are far from savory. She’s straddling the line between her personal views and philosophy, and the corruption and violence that dealing with The Grid and the other Warlocks is pushing on her. Personal conflict is the most human story, my favorite kind of story, and she fits the bill the most.
Warlock 5 is tied to this 80’s view of a dystopian multiverse. How is it to work on such a setting?
The setting is interesting because it’s not a single setting at all, it’s like being thrust into 80’s Horror, or Urban Fantasy, Cyberpunk and I even get a Masters of the Universe vibe every now and then. These are all different worlds that rather than make the book feel convoluted, they make it work. They’re defined as individual worlds, not a mish-mash of genres. Working on that is interesting, it gives me the opportunity to join in on defining those individual worlds and genres using the colors, which is quite obvious when you see the color theory in practice.
The series has a – quite large and – faithful fanbase. Did that put any different kind of pressure onto you?
Not at all, mostly because I’ve remained blissfully ignorant of the fan base. But now I know… I did put pressures on myself though. When I saw the artwork from after issue #4 of the original run, I assumed that anyone who saw the art would pretty much instantly fall in love with it the way I did. As a Colorist I have to live up to that standard, and that is not easy at all.
The greyscale art is detailed and rendered expertly, and is something I would personally love to see the new series of books rendered as. But I’ve been brought on to modernize the story along with Cullen, Jimmy and Jeff, the writers and artist respectively, so I had to color the thing in a more modern style. I wanted to keep an eighties vibe, so I limited the color palette to suit that, but it’s still obviously a modern take.
Warlock 5 has always stricken me as having these bright colors. There seems to be something nearly violent about that approach. Do you agree with that? Or is it a misconception?
I can certainly agree. The original four issues had a very, I guess you could call it a sharp style of inks. They felt very in place with a violent story. Denis Beauvais, the artist, could reel that style in when the story required a softer touch however. I’ve tried to live up to that myself.
The original work must have cast a heavy weight, but what other influences did you have when tackling this project?
I’ve tried not to be influenced by anything but the original source material and the creative team around me. If I feel I’m capturing the atmosphere of the original, I’m happy. If the Writers, Artist, Letter, Editor, Publisher and Creative Director are happy with it, I’m happy with it.
Are there any specific scenes that stand out?
Tanith using her magic stands out the most. It’s bloody brilliant, in the literal sense. Bright blue and white glowing power, taking the form of butterflies that Jeffrey Edwards must have killed his knuckles drawing. But he pulled it off excellently! I hope that I lived up to his efforts in those scenes, because he deserves nothing but the utmost praise for pulling them off.
Is it turning out the way you’ve envisioned it?
Yes and no. You come into projects like these, with very rich and detailed artwork, with a style in mind, but the work grows and changes all on its own, and you have to flow with it. I’ve found it both to be good and difficult for me to render, and it’s fallen away from my original vision, or perhaps my need to honor the original artwork. That aside, it looks quite nice, I’m pleased with how it’s turning out and can’t wait to see the printed pages. That’s when it all comes together, the experience of reading the finished product and holding those floppies or trades in your hands.
Thanks, Andy, for leading us through the colorful multiverse of Warlock 5!
This post was originally posted here on Books of M (www.booksofm.com).
When Marc Tassin invited me to write a story for the anthology he and John Helfers were editing, Champions of Aetaltis, I was over the moon. I had always wanted to work on an RPG tie-in project, and since this had a sword and sorcery type setting, it seemed right up my alley. Some of the first fantasy novels I read as a teen were Dungeons and Dragons tie-ins, and I’ve enjoyed the Pathfinder Tales books from Paizo as well. It didn’t take me much thought at all to agree to work on this project with two editors I admired.
When I got the setting guide to the world of Aetaltis, where the stories of the anthology were to be set, I started reading it with glee. I couldn’t wait to get started, and I was sure inspiration for a story would hit me as I pored over the pages. There were two hundred pages, to be precise, with details about races and classes of characters, facts and maps about the settings, and everything I ever wanted to know about the history and gods of the world. But when it came time to actually write the story, aside from having a little struggle coming up with the proper “champion” (and you can read more about my struggle with that here) I became really worried. There was so much stuff in the world guide, so much of it was already established. What if I completely screwed something up?
Thankfully, I’m not a shy person and went straight to Marc with my fears. Not that I asked him to hold my hand or anything, but I pitched my story idea to him as specifically as I could, and asked him to please verify that the world stuff that was involved with my story seemed accurate. I told him straight out, “Hey, I’m new at this shared world stuff. I just need your OK that I’m going in the right direction.” Sure enough, I was fine. I wrote the story and submitted it to him by the deadline.
Then things started to get really cool.
I hadn’t thought much beyond needing to get my story written and then taking care of edits when they arrived. To me, my characters existed in Aetaltis, and there were creatures and mention of other places in the story, but that was it. It was self-contained in my mind. But of course, to the world developer, this one story was a piece to a much bigger puzzle. My story’s characters and the events in it would become the stuff of leg-end in Aetlatis. And possibly most awesome of all was finding connections between stories in the anthology, things that were completely unplanned but just coincided. Two stories, for example, that had a staff in them. When Marc emailed me one day and asked if I could fiddle with the description of a device in my story to make it match one in another story, which would actually be a legendary weapon, I realized for the first time just how cool writing in a shared world really was. My story was more than just a story, it would become a bit of the mythos of the world. People could read my story and create a game out of it, just like the Aetaltis role playing game world was the basis for my fiction story.
The same goes for pretty much any tie-in. When you write a story based in the world of a video game, RPG, or movie franchise, your story becomes part of that world’s cultural literacy. Something small in the world might have inspired your story, but something small in your story might inspire someone to write another story, or game, or even movie. Your work becomes part of something bigger than it would have been if it was just a stand-alone tale.
A simple story becomes legend.
About the Author
Melanie R. Meadors is the author of fantasy and science fiction stories where heroes don’t always carry swords and knights in shining armor often lose to nerds who study their weaknesses. She’s been known to befriend wandering garden gnomes, do battle with metal-eating squirrels, and has been called a superhero on more than one occasion. Her work has been published in Circle Magazine, The Wheel, and Prick of the Spindle, and she was a finalist in the 2014 Jim Baen Memorial Science Fiction Contest. Melanie is also a freelance author publicist and publicity/marketing coordinator for both Ragnarok Publications and Mechanical Muse. She blogs regularly for GeekMom and The Once and Future Podcast. Her short story “A Whole-Hearted Halfling” is in the anthology Champions of Aetaltis, available on Amazon.
Interview with Warlock 5 Writer Jimmy Z. Johnston
We’re excited to feature Jimmy Z. Johnston, writer for the Kickstarter-funded revival of Warlock 5!
What was your first contact with Warlock 5?
I picked them up new off the shelf in the late 80s. I remember seeing the cover to issue one and thinking it was the most amazing thing I had ever seen.
Why did it capture you?
100% the cover. I bought it because that cover was one of the most incredible I had seen. Issues 2-6 had fully painted covers featuring the face of each Warlock. And they stand the test of time today as being some of the most striking covers of their time.
Did you have a favorite issue?
In many ways, the first issue holds that honor. It did such a wonderful job introducing the world.
How about a beloved character?
I have a ton of art I did through high school, and there is one montage I have of dozens of characters I loved from various works. Argon is in that montage, if I find it I will share it.
Did these change once you picked the books up to work on the project?
When I read them years ago, I never thought about the idea of where their story might go if I was writing it. It was a few years later that I began thinking about these things in earnest. But rereading the original series now is a tough thing to do. Because it is very much a product of the time. Storytelling was different back then. In issue 3 (I think) Zania sets off a nuke in Grid City. In issue 4 they don’t even acknowledge it. There is no way a writer could do something like that today, the fans would be all over it. They did resolve that eventually in the trade, but if you only get the issues you don’t see the resolution.
As for characters, when we started writing the series, I spent a lot of my time working on the new character Lycia, so my view of the original characters didn’t change much at all.
The original work must have cast a heavy weight, but what other influences did you have?
Clive Barker is my biggest influence. He tells stories in ways that no other writer I have ever read can compare to. I do find it interesting, having read comics spanning all eras, how storytelling in comics has changed. I worked on Micronauts with Cullen Bunn, a series that originated with Marvel in the 70s. I have talked to fans who wish we were writing stories like the ones Marvel did. But the reality is that nobody could write like that today. Readers wouldn’t be interested in it. There are many readers who seek out the older stories like that, but the nostalgia factor lets them be read without worrying about the storytelling. Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series is one that stands the test of time. He did such a fantastic job telling the stories he told, that they will always be relevant examples of how to tell a story.
The writing process is a collaboration between you and Cullen Bunn. How is it to collaborate with other artists? Is there too much compromise?
In spite of what Cullen says, we work really well together.
But seriously, we sit down and talk out the idea. Then we write up a page by page outline. Sometimes that could be one line “FIGHT” or it could be a paragraph with dialogue we want to make sure we use. Through this process we make sure we don’t have too many scenes we are trying to fit in. In this case it was a 60 page script, so when we finished the outline, we talked about scenes we “wanted.” Cullen really wanted the Savashtar investigating scene, so we blocked that out for him. After we do that it is usually pretty close to an even split on the workload.
When we finish our parts, I combine it into one unified script and we both go over it. This part is fun because we get to revel in the genius of our parts and rewrite the stuff the other guy did. I joke about it. Usually it involves tweaking a few things here and there, but not too terribly much.
This is not the only project you two have partnered up for. Why did you start working together?
I met Cullen in 2003. He met me in 2004. There is a story there, but this isn’t the day for that. We were both at a horror convention for writers in New York (in 2004). Found out we lived very close to each other and when we got home started talking and hanging out more. He was working on writing prose, and I had discovered an innate talent for editing. I did an edit for him on a story and he really liked what I did. That was the start of working together.
Are there any specific scenes or narrative developments you want to include in this continuation of the 80’s comic?
We are looking at this as a continuation of the series. 30 years later, these 5 are still defending reality from threats. They have changed, but the dynamics amongst them are still pretty consistent. Zania and Argon are the “bad” pair, while Tanith and Savashtar are the “good” pair, leaving Doomidor in the middle as the balance between them.
The only thing I really pushed for was doing a cover based on the original issue 1. We are technically working on the fourth run of the series. The second run was a short mini series that did a new version of the issue one cover. The third run did not, but it deviated massively from the original concept. I am glad that we got to use a version of the original cover. Jeffrey Edwards did an amazing job on it, and on every page that will be between the covers.
The five main characters are extremely different and layered. What was the biggest challenge bringing them to life?
Anytime you have an ensemble cast it takes time to develop the individuals. It is much easier to write a story with Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman because you don’t need to establish who they are. You see the S, the Bat cowl, the lariat, and you instantly know who they are.
We have 5 main characters we are essentially introducing to readers. Along with a handful of new characters to the series. That takes time to develop. Being able to do a 60 page issue helps massively with the character development aspect.
Is it turning out the way you’ve envisioned it?
I am still pretty fresh in the comic world, so I am loving the process. Seeing thumbnails come in, then pencils, then inks, then colors. . . Seeing my words and scenes turned into comic pages is amazing. It is so much better than I envisioned it. I love it.
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?
Oh, I am constantly putting Easter Eggs into things. Many of which go unnoticed. Cullen is always telling me not to worry about things like that because no one will notice. The secret is, I am putting them in for me. I am ok if no one else ever notices!
I am guessing though that your question is leaning more towards the current political and social climate in our country. And that is something I try and avoid. I don’t need to make enemies right now as I get started in writing. Many writers and artists are taking positions publicly about their support or lack of support for our current administration. I will leave that to them for now.
Anything you can tell us without giving out major spoilers?
We start out seeing the Warlock 5 fighting against an incursion into Grid City, but we will be showing them in their own worlds. And a portion of this first volume is going to take place on a new world in crisis. This will be creating a dilemma for them as they have to choose between helping an individual world or pulling back to Grid City and simply protecting the Grid. It goes towards the question of what are you protecting. It is all good standing guard over a forest and making sure it doesn’t succumb to a forest fire, but when you let a lumberjack in to cut down a tree. . . well, it sucks if you are that tree.
Thanks Jimmy for opening up about the future of Warlock 5!
About WARLOCK 5 KICKSTARTER
Five guardians protect the multiverse against the chaos that lurks outside the boundaries of reality. There’s only one problem: they hate each other.
A mystical nexus, a crossroads connecting all times, all realities. Along the ley lines of the Grid, the multiverse clusters. To move along the Grid is to move from one reality to the next. To harness the power of the Grid is to harness the awesome might of creation.Five touchstone realities exist at focal points along the Grid. From each of these realities, a Warlock is chosen to act as one of five Guardians.
Savasthar, a shapeshifting dragon-like being.
Doomidor, a warlord from the Dark Ages.Argon, an advanced cybernetic organism from a techno-hell.
Tanith, an ageless sorceress.
Zania, a power-mad, machine gun necromancer.
Together, the Warlocks protect the Grid, thereby protecting all of space and time. They are the last line of defense against the awful forces of chaos that lurk in the darkness outside the Grid.There’s only one problem.They hate each other.”
Originally created by Gordon Derry and Denis Beauvais, Warlock 5 was published by Barry Blair, a Canadian comic book publisher, artist and writer, known for launching Aircel Comics in the 1980s. A fierce advocate for innovation in the themes, genres, and types of illustrations, Blair helped to bring titles to life that broke the narrative and graphic boundaries at the time — including Warlock 5.
The new Warlock 5 Kickstarter funded this continuation of the Aircel Comics classic fantasy masterpiece. This 2017 reboot is written by CULLEN BUNN and JIMMY JOHNSTON, illustrated by JEFFREY EDWARDS with colors by ANDY POOLE, letters by ED DUKESHIRE, and designs by EDWARD LAVALLEE and SHAWN T. KING. This saga of rivalry, betrayal, magic, dragons, and killer robots is aiming for a 60-page full-color (hard cover) original graphic novel.
We’re pleased to highlight Melanie R. Meadors, who will be writing a Kaiju story for our recently funded Kickstarter anthology, Kaiju Rising: Age of Monsters II! Check out the anthology here!
When Nick Sharps and Alana Joli Abbott invited me to write a story for their new anthology, Kaiju Rising: Age of Monsters II, I was pretty ecstatic. I love a good monster story, and I have several ideas I’d like to some day write about. I pretty much immediately accepted, and off I went, on an adventure with some unlikely heroes to kill some monsters.
Only…it wasn’t that simple.
My story is one that kept surprising me with every draft. What started out as a simple action monster story grew to have a depth I didn’t expect. Yes, it was action-adventure, but as I got to know my characters, and spent more time with them even within the seven thousand word confines of their story, all these little connections started happening. Little motivations for their actions. Or vice versa—they would do something, and then I would say, “Oh, they are doing that because___,” and I’d discover something new about that character.
For example, I had my character, a half-orc, in draft one, traveling to a town where she took a job hunting a monster. OK, that was fine. And it would have been perfectly fine. In fantasy stories, that happens all the time. But then as I wrote, I said, “OK, maybe she has this job because it’s personal. Maybe this monster messed with her home city.” “All right,” another side of me said, “But how can we make it WORSE? How can the stakes be raised?” In the next draft, the stakes got higher. Then, as I learned more about the character as she interacted with other characters, I said, “Oh, here is a new way to make her experiences shape her situation even more…” and “What if her own MOTHER [redacted for spoilers]??”
After doing this with the main character, the secondary character started coming into more focus as well. If the main character’s mother did this thing, then this other character would do ___. Wait…What if that character actually was the hero of the story? As one thing developed, another thing would, like a chain reaction. And one of the hardest things for me to do while writing is to not fight this process. I often feel the need to rush. I have some author friends who seem to write four books a year. Could I do that? Sure. Should I do that? Well, I don’t know, but I do know that when I let a story grow as it needs to, that story turns out to be so much better and deeper than it would have otherwise.
Part of a writer’s job is to make the reader’s experience seamless and effortless. Readers aren’t supposed to see the machine behind the works, they aren’t meant to see all the blood, sweat, and tears that go into a story. They are supposed to just get swept up into the story, live life through their characters’ eyes, and have adventures, fall in love, or do whatever it is the story’s purpose is—mostly, they should be entertained. Sometimes, as a writer who is also a reader, it’s easy to forget that stories have layers. With each draft, something new comes out, some new aspect of a character, or of the backstory, of the world. This is why, at least for me, when I’m in the middle of my first draft, with every story, I think to myself, “My glob, I have forgotten how to write!” No, I haven’t forgotten how to write exactly. I’ve just forgotten that the way I write, I have to start with a core, and work out, fleshing out the details as I go. Draft one is often terrible, but then draft two gets better. Draft three is where things start getting really interesting, and then when I hit draft four, I’ve got the story as it should be, usually, and will just need some proofreading. It takes time for things to process. But sometimes, the best stories are the hardest to write.
About Melanie R. Meadors
Mealanie R. Meadors is the author of fantasy stories where heroes don’t always carry swords and knights in shining armor often lose to nerds who study their weaknesses. She’s been known to befriend wandering garden gnomes, do battle with metal-eating squirrels, and has been called a superhero on more than one occasion. her fiction has appeared in Circle Magazine, Prick of the Spindle, the anthology Champions of Aetaltis, and other places. She’s the co-editor of the anthology MECH: Age of Steel and editor of Hath No Fury, and she is a blogger and general b*tch monkey at The Once and Future Podcast.
About Kaiju Rising: Age of Monsters II
A few years ago, Kaiju Rising: Age of Monsters smashed onto the book scene, collecting stories from some of the best writers of monsters in the business. Now, the age of monsters continues on with the follow up anthology, Kaiju Rising II, featuring stories from authors like Jeremy Robinson, Marie Brennan, Dan Wells, ML Brennan, Jonathan Green, Lee Murray, Cullen Bunn, and more! If you love movies like Pacific Rim, Godzilla, and Kong, you won’t want to miss it.Learn more about this anthology from Outland Publications on Kickstarter now, keywords Kaiju Rising.