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What’s In a Character’s Name?

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...

4 Ways to prep for the Royal Wedding Outland Entertainment style

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...

Press Release: Blackguards Anthology Gets Facelift

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…

A Letter to My Past Self

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,...

Fighting The Voices in My Head

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...

Outland Entertainment on the new serial, Born to the Blade

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,...

Press Release: Announcing Knaves, A New Blackguards Anthology

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.

Rejections: The Building Blocks of Collections by Maurice Broaddus

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...

Dagon’s Bones: A Lovecraft-Inspired Kickstarter Game!

Dagon's Bones 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,...

Interview with Warlock 5 Artist, Jeffrey Edwards

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...
What’s In a Character’s Name?

What’s In a Character’s Name?

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.

***

About The Falling Dawn: Celestial Scripts Book One

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.

The Falling Dawn is available online wherever books are sold! Find your copy here.

About Gwendolyn N. Nix

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.

Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and on her author website, www.gwendolynnix.com.

4 Ways to prep for the Royal Wedding Outland Entertainment style

4 Ways to prep for the Royal Wedding Outland Entertainment style

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 miss. In this case? It’s the upcoming wedding of Prince Harry of Wales and American actress (ret) Meghan Markle on May 19, 2018. While I’d love to get swept up in the romance of the moment, I’m also a fan of mixing my real-world with some SFF—which is why I came up with these four ways to prep (with a side order of geek).

  1. Watch Meghan Markle’s SFF works

Although she’s best known for her role on USA drama Suits, the princess to be has also dabbled in SFF appearances. She appeared as a guest star on the 2008-09 revival of Knight Rider. Catch her as Annie Ortiz in the episode “Fight Knight.” She also appeared as Junior FBI Agent Amy Jessup on Fringe in the 2009 episodes “A New Day in the Old Town” and “Night of Desirable Objects.” And though this film itself isn’t SFF, Remember Me features Markle with in scenes with star and SFF regular Robert Pattinson.

  1. Get hooked on Royally Yours

If you love a good prose serial the way I do, the obvious choice for royal wedding prep is the new serial being launched by in tandem Serial Box and Rakuten Kobo, Royally Yours, which launched May 2. This six-part feel-good romance mini series intertwines relationships of several different characters in the style of Love, Actually as a fictional royal wedding takes center stage. The serial is created by a team of writers, including Megan Frampton, Kwana Jackson, Liz Maverick, Kate McMurray, and Falguni Kothari, in a television-like environment.

  1. Get the latest on podcast Spilling Royal Tea

If you’re more interested in the real-time news TMZ style, you can tune in to Sean Mandell (TMZ) and Craig Robert Young (British actor) as they cover the latest wedding developments and put them in a historical perspective. Are Harry and Meghan sticking with tradition or striking it out on their own? Sean and Craig answer the questions with commentary in every episode of Spilling Royal Tea. Episodes drop every Thursday until the May 19 wedding celebration, and the series is very bingeable. There’s a “Best of” playlist through Spoke, where you can check out the season’s highlights. Of particular interest for our readers might be “Old Royal Weddings Were Shady AF,” because sometimes the real world totally beats fiction when it comes to being ridiculous.

  1. Check out the best SFF royal (and seriously cool) weddings

If you’re not really following the upcoming nuptials, but the romance puts you in the mood to revisit other happy couples, it might be time to reread or rewatch some excellent weddings from SFF favorites. I wrote an article for Den of Geek that’s chock full of suggestions (and summaries), but here are a few I didn’t fit into that post:

  • Pick up that classic princess bride story, The Princess Bride by William Goldman, or rewatch the classic film. “Mawwiage… Mawwiage is what bwings us togeva today…”
  • Worf and Jadzia Dax’s wedding plans don’t always go smoothly in Star Trek: Deep Space 9 season 6 episode “You Are Cordially Invited,” but even though the Klingons aren’t initially a big fan of Dax, by the end, even the staunchest opponents from Worf’s House welcomed Dax into the family.
  • Another Star Trek couple married in Voyager season 7 episode “Drive”: Tom Paris and B’Elanna Torres.
  • While this one doesn’t last, it’s always fun to return to the Firefly episode “Our Mrs. Reynolds.” There’s a sweet ceremony in which Captain Mal unknowingly gets married to con-artist Saffron, making for great comedy while endangering the whole crew.

What are your favorite SFF weddings? Give us a shout out on social media and let us know!

A Letter to My Past Self

A Letter to My Past Self

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, 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.

Much love,

Greg (in 2016)

***

About Gregory A. Wilson:

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.

Fighting The Voices in My Head

Fighting The Voices in My Head

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 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.

Image: Mechanical Muse, used with permission
Image: Mechanical Muse, used with permission

Mind you, the anthology is called Champions of 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.

Image: Mechanical Muse, art by Mike Schley, used with permission
Image: Mechanical Muse, art by Mike Schley, used with permission

“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!

Rejections: The Building Blocks of Collections by Maurice Broaddus

Rejections: The Building Blocks of Collections by Maurice Broaddus

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 MagazineWeird TalesApex MagazineAsimov’sCemetery 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. 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MauriceBroaddus

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mauricebroaddus

Interview with Warlock 5 Artist, Jeffrey Edwards

Interview with Warlock 5 Artist, Jeffrey Edwards

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!