ANNOUNCEMENT Official summary of ALL FATHER PARADOX along with color cover illustration! What if an ancient god escaped his fate…and history was thrown to the wolves? Churchwarden Michaels thought it was just a run-of-the-mill crazy old man who stood in the graveyard,...
ANNOUNCEMENT: Announcing Riddle of the Loremaster, an all new original comic series written by Melanie R. Meadors, with art by Nicolás Giacondino! Here is a sneak peek at some of the promo art: Riddle of the Loremaster is a comic for mature readers set in a fantasy...
In doing a bit of research looking for a dark-fantasy-related topic for this article, I sought something that I knew at least a bit about, something I felt strongly about, and something where I could add meaningfully to the conversation. Many things were considered,...
Earlier this year, I met the only student Katy Kellgren ever had. He told me he just about had to bully her into being his teacher. This amazing, multiple award-winning voice actress with hundreds of audiobooks under her belt truly didn’t believe she knew anything...
Backers of the paperback and hardcover editions of Hath No Fury will be happy to learn that the books have arrived at the printer's headquarters in Chicago! Now, they just need to be sent to our head honcho Jeremy Mohler, and then they will be sent out to backers...
I like fairies—not a difficult admission for a fantasy writer—and I don’t mean the safe Victorian ones with gossamer wings that spread sparkles when they walk. I mean the ones that steal little children and make Faustian bargains. They were ancient and magnificent and...
Announcements Introducing the beginning of a new transmedia project with fiction, comics, and games in development! VIKINGVERSE From a concept created by Ian Sharpe, Vikingverse is going to launch this fall with a novel called All Father Paradox. Here is the line art...
“Mr. Broaddus, you need to start a Creative Writing Club.” Thus began a four week campaign in which different members of my eighth grade class wore me down and I agreed to run an after school program. We ended up with nearly a dozen intrepid souls in our merry band,...
Thanks to our awesome backers and readers, the Kickstarter for our anthology, Knaves, has been a success! Four hundred eighty-nine backers came together and invested $15,342 to make Knaves happen. Not only will this anthology be produced, but the authors will all get...
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...
I like fairies—not a difficult admission for a fantasy writer—and I don’t mean the safe Victorian ones with gossamer wings that spread sparkles when they walk. I mean the ones that steal little children and make Faustian bargains. They were ancient and magnificent and knew worlds beyond our own. Is it any wonder they acted like gods?
What attracted me to the idea of fairies weren’t the fairies themselves. It was the idea that they were hidden, usually in plain sight, and only the initiated would be able to find them. It was a test of worthiness and the outcome was never guaranteed to be a good one. Catching a leprechaun earned you a pot of gold, but if you weren’t careful it also came with a curse. No one ever said adventure was a good idea.
But as I got older, I was pulled away from the fairy world. I could say I outgrew it, but that sounds sad, like someone who no longer catches wishes on the wind or searches for four-leaf clover. No, I moved away from fairyland because no one there looked like me. My roots are Latina and I knew very early that all those fairies—pixies, gnomes, sprites—were not mine. They were Northern European with pale skin, long, straight hair and bright, light eyes. Just as I knew I would never be compared to Snow White, I knew fairies were just as far from reach.
That didn’t stop me from wanting to write myself and people like me into the stories. I wanted a mythology, folklore that looked like the fairyland I’d grown up loving. And then I discovered something wonderful. Fairies are for the rest of us. The trick is to expand the idea of what constitutes a fairy
One of the early inhabitants of Puerto Rico was the Taino. They had a rich culture and heritage and during my studies I discovered something that looked familiar—beings that only walked the mortal realm after sundown. They were shapeshifters, pranksters, and could be benevolent (when moved to be) or malevolent (when crossed by mere mortals). During the day they lived in a realm called Coaybay, which was considered “the other side of the island”, as though people could get there. The ruler of their realm was called MarquetaurieGuayaba and he had a dog Opiyelguabirán who guards the entrance to Coaybay. In the stories the realm was only for the dead when their goieza, or souls, left their bodies. Then the goieza were judged and the good ones became hupia, while the bad ones became Maboya. Both could be identified by the lack of a navel and were attracted to guava.
The more I read, the more I saw similarities to other fairy stories I’d read. Their changeable nature. The ability to do kind and cruel things. Having a kingdom, tantalizingly close to the world of man, complete with a ruler. Only emerging at night and having a distinguishing feature. These were spirits of the dead, but they never moved on and after centuries they forgot where they came from and became spirits of the forest, the rain forest. It sounded like fairies to me. And I wondered, what if I had been asking the wrong question? Maybe every culture has a fairy and I didn’t know because it’s not out there to find. But it is. I just had to look for it. Kind of like fairies—close at hand, but only for those who know what to look for. They don’t make it easy, but if you’re one of the chosen, you may get a glimpse of a fairy that looks like you.
About a Smuggler’s Path by I.L. Cruz (coming soon!)
In Canto, magic is a commodity, outlawed by the elites after a devastating war and brokered by smugglers on the hidden market. But some know it’s more—a birthright.
Inez Garza moves through both worlds. She’s a member of an old, aristocratic family and she works for the hidden market as a magical arms dealer. Inez must keep her smuggling of magical contraband a secret for her sake and her family’s safety. Her worlds stay separate to hide her real purpose—funding The Heir Apparent, an underground group determined to return magic to the people at any cost.
But the discovery of a relic from before the war threatens her delicate balance.
Inez’s inherent magic, which lives in all the Canti, has been awakened by an ancient cowry shell. Now the Duchess’s daughter and smuggler must add another title to her already precarious position—mage, a capital crime. This could bring her to the attention factions at home— both the rebels she secretly supports, and those at the highest levels of government, doggedly holding to the status quo to avoid another magical war—and abroad.
And Inez must decide who she can trust and what her powers mean for her future and the future of Canto.
Introducing the beginning of a new transmedia project with fiction, comics, and games in development!
From a concept created by Ian Sharpe, Vikingverse is going to launch this fall with a novel called All Father Paradox. Here is the line art for the cover-in-progress by Jeremy Mohler:
All Father Paradox is coming in October!
Odin has escaped his doom at Ragnarok. Now, history has been thrown to the wolves.
In the All Father Paradox, Ian Sharpe reveals a parallel universe where Vikings rule seas and stars with restless fleets. In a series of interwoven sagas, a young Norse prince plots to shatter empires and claim the heavens; a newly qualified professor finds the key to new horizons but unlocks a ceaseless hunger; and a bold empress discovers there is a price for immortality, one her ancestors have come to collect.
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!
There’s a saying that goes around (books are written on this topic, and serious research done by anthropologists) that storytelling is what makes us human. If storytelling is that core to our identities as people, it’s no surprise that we like to ingest stories in so many different ways. We consume click-bait headlines that lead us to (probably) true stories, our favorite movies through our preferred streaming systems, high definition video games or tabletop RPGs, the latest issues of a comic or latest updates of a webcomic, and (gasp!) print books.
And you know what’s fun? When you can see stories in more than one format. I am an old school Star Wars fan, and as a teen I hit the sweet spot of getting my Star Wars in multiple formats (before, of course, the explosion of new Star Wars stories). Not only did I watch the films over and over again, but my public library bought every single new Expanded Universe (EU) book as it was published. I devoured them. I was ecstatic when Luke Skywalker and Mara Jade got married in a comic (the only Star Wars EU comic I still own). Eventually, being a grownup got in the way of keeping up with the EU, in part because so many books got published, but I still dabbled. And I loved it.
Fast forward not only to the new Star Wars canon (I have Elizabeth Wein‘s Cobalt Squadron on my desk, and if you’re not reading the Marvel run on Star Wars that started in 2015, you are missing some awesome stuff), but to my job at Outland Entertainment. Creative Director Jeremy Mohler and I have had a lot of discussions about our visions for the company. We have these fantastic comics, anthologies, and games that we publish, and we love them. But what could we do to make those projects even better?
And this is our answer: Let our readers dig into our stories in all of the formats they want.
Having grown up with shared world projects that spread across media formats, and having written fiction, comics, role-playing games, and interactive novels, taking Outland in a transmedia direction made sense. We already had three formats we were publishing. Tying them together and giving readers more of the worlds and characters they loved across all our platforms has given us a mission. It’s also made us look at each project we take on and say, “How would this look as a game? Or a comic? Or a novel?”
If you’re a table top gamer, you may already be looking forward to the Shotguns & Sorcery RPG, a game based on Matt Forbeck’s fantastic novels (which we’ll be bringing out in omnibus format, complete with a brand new Max story). Matt is also on board to create an S&S comic. All three formats: one awesome world to explore.
If you’re a comic fan, you may have picked up Nightfell. We’ve started development for an RPG in that setting, as well as a novella to dig deeper into the world through prose. If you’ve come to us through fiction, such as the Blackguards anthology…well, we might just have some surprises in store for you coming up.
In the meantime, I’ve got a little bit of Star Wars reading to catch up on.
Alana Joli Abbott is the author of the novels Into the Reach, Departure, and Regaining Home, the interactive multiple choice novel app Choice of Kung Fu and was the writer for the webcomic Cowboys and Aliens II. Her game writing has been featured in Steampunk Musha, the award winning Serenity Adventures, and Dungeon and Dragon magazines. Alana has visited ancient ruins around the world; sung madrigals semi-professionally; and recently earned her black belt in Shaolin Kempo Karate. She lives near New Haven, CT.