Guest Blog – James Walley

 

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It’s time to wake up and smell the carnage. Just as every night gives way to dawn, all dreams yield to the break of day. For Marty, that’s kind of a problem. When you’ve fought killer clowns, sailed the seven skies, and generally laid waste to your own dreamspace, real life can be kind of a drag. At least, until your nightmares crawl through the cracks and shadows, and take a liking to your town.

When the jesters come a knocking, it’s time to man up. When the unmentionables under your bed come a biting, it’s time to grab your trusty, pint-sized pirate compadre and lead a charge against the night terrors.

What does this mean for Marty? It means the crew of The Flying Fathom are back, surfing on rainbows, swashing their buckles, and saving the world, one sleepy little town at a time.

Book one of this series, The Forty First Wink, brought you a glimpse of utter, rum-swilling madness. Now The Fathom Flies Again, pushing you over the edge and chuckling at your plummeting screams, before scuttling off to find something shiny to steal.

 Remember, if you hear something under your bed, don’t move. Don’t make a sound. Draw your cutlass and think of something devilishly witty to shout, because things, my friend, are about to get all too real.”

 

What’s worse than writing a synopsis? Not much, if you ask any author who has just spent the last few months living in the story they created, and are now tasked with summing it up in a few short sentences. Well, let me tell you, there is something worse: Writing a synopsis for a sequel.

I say worse. Obviously synopses are as wonderful as they are terrible, because they’re also the concentrated essence of the story you’re telling. Some refer to it as an elevator pitch, but I prefer to think of it as your trailer, a tease of all the glorious bunkum that unfolds within the pages of your book. Which is why writing one for a sequel is so hard.

In the blurb for The Fathom Flies Again, helpfully included just a few sentences upward of this very one, I wanted to encapsulate everything that people (I hope!) enjoyed in The Forty First Wink, whilst alluding to a darker tone, new characters, higher stakes and a progression of the story. All this, whilst still holding back the important, spoilery stuff that is a resounding no-no in situations such as this. On top of that, it needs to tell people who haven’t read book one that they should probably think about picking up a copy before tackling this one, because it’s a sequel, and that’s how sequels work.

So just to recap, you’re juggling “You haven’t read book one? Best go read that, because there’s a whole boatload of shenanigans waiting for you in book two” and “You read book one? You rock! Your reward is all your favourite stuff from that story, and a whole lot of then some.” And you’re doing that in a few sentences, designed to simultaneously provoke action and reaction, inspire newcomers and satisfy returners. Is it any surprise that authors spend almost as much time writing their synopsis as they do penning the story it describes?

Luckily, we’re super invested in what we’re talking about, and very excited for people to read all about it, so it’s a task that’s happily undertaken, albeit laboured over for more hours than is perhaps healthy.

After many a grain of sand has slipped through a glass, and more wine has tipped out of another, I like to think that I have come up with something that not only has returning readers excited for the further adventures of the crew of the Flying Fathom, but also has new readers wondering ‘What have I missed in book one?’

I guess when you’re brazenly flashing the good parts, whilst trying to keep a coy hand covering the important bits, that’s all you can hope for.

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About James Walley:

Hailing from the mystical isle of Great Britain, James Walley is an author who prefers his reality banana shaped.

His debut novel, The Forty First Wink, released through Ragnarok Publications in 2014 scuttles gleefully into this bracket, with a blend of humour, fantasy and the unusual.

A clutch of follow up work, both short and long (including books two and three in the Wink trilogy) are in the offing, and have a similar demented flavour.

When not writing, James is partial to a spot of singing, the odd horror movie or ten, and is a circus trained juggler.

About The Fathom Flies Again Wink #2

It’s time to wake up and smell the carnage. Just as every night gives way to dawn, all dreams yield to the break of day. For Marty, that’s kind of a problem. When you’ve fought killer clowns, sailed the seven skies, and generally laid waste to your own dreamspace, real life can be kind of a drag. At least, until your nightmares crawl through the cracks and shadows, and take a liking to your town. When the jesters come a knocking, it’s time to man up. When the unmentionables under your bed come a biting, it’s time to grab your trusty, pint-sized pirate compadre and lead a charge against the night terrors. What does this mean for Marty? It means the crew of The Flying Fathom are back, surfing on rainbows, swashing their buckles, and saving the world, one sleepy little town at a time. Book one of this series, The Forty First Wink, brought you a glimpse of utter, rum-swilling madness. Now The Fathom Flies Again, pushing you over the edge and chuckling at your plummeting screams, before scuttling off to find something shiny to steal. Remember, if you hear something under your bed, don’t move. Don’t make a sound. Draw your cutlass and think of something devilishly witty to shout, because things, my friend, are about to get all too real.

Amazon Link: https://www.amazon.com/Fathom-Flies-Again-James-Walley/dp/1945528389/

 

Sentinel by Chad Ballard

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“Aelathil is on the brink of civil war! Once pampered and spoiled as the only heir to one of Aelathil’s most powerful lordlings, Callan’s world has been tipped upside down by King Ramsey and his mighty dragons. Now he must join the growing resistance or watch as everything his family stood for crumbles away to nothing.

After her father is mauled by one of the massive lion-men of the frozen north, Pyra must do her best to hold his seat as Lord until he recovers—all while teaching herself to control the magical spark smoldering inside her.

Together, Callan and Pyra will shape Aelathil’s future. For better or worse, they will stand Sentinel over the people that the King has targeted for destruction. Should they fail, Pyra’s people will be buried in the northern wastes and Callan’s family legacy will be turned to ash.”

 

I’m not going to lie here when I say that I struggled a little getting through this book, I feel that it would have been a lot more enjoyable were I still in my teens. The plot is quite simple and trope heavy along with some of the characters and they way they were put together, they have small amounts of back story and managed to make me feel slightly attached to them. The main characters of the story had more time invested in them and as such were a little more fleshed out and interesting. The book has some great and interesting moments (Dragon breathing gas as another ignites it, races of large anthropomorphic cat and dog-like people and quite a few other moments which were brilliant) the issue is that they are few and far between the book just didn’t quite grip me as I’m sure the author intended it to. Now as a fantasy book as described it’s not half bad, enjoyable enough but it just didn’t grip me in the way some others have.

BUT we mustn’t forget that this is a debut so I’d like to suggest some creative criticism. Firstly let’s address the characters Callan and Pyra were strong points and both had some quite good development and time spent getting attached to them,  Murdock and the paladin (Whose name sadly escapes me) had some nice moments and remained interesting. But the side characters often felt quite trope heavy, the old mercenary who trained Callan for example. I feel like you were aiming for quite traditional fantasy and that’s not a bad thing at all, look at D&D still going after all these years. Because it takes those tropes and gives them a fresh lick of paint and adds new monsters, worlds and so on. We say in D&D (And I feel the same if true for writing) everything is cliche and has been done before. But that isn’t bad, sticking with a staple thing people love and have always loved and giving it a nice tweak is excellent (See earlier statement about the dragon combo, awesome!). I also feel the world would benefit from some more showing as opposed to telling, seeing characters interact with the world as they pass through it is great and it allows us to learn more about them based on those interactions. Chad all in all I think you have a very good foundation here it’s a good book, but to become a great one I think that moving away from or adding a new flourish to some of the tropes, showing as much as if not more than telling and focusing on making all of your characters interesting would greatly benefit a good book and make it brilliant.

So would I recommend this book? Yes, I think I would if you are looking for quite a simple easy read I’d also strongly recommend it as a young adult fantasy book because to me at least it felt that way. If you’re looking for either of those things you should definitely pick it up and I’d also suggest this to parents looking for entry-level fantasy for children. If you fit into those categories give it a look I feel you would get a lot more enjoyment out of it.

 

 

 

 

 

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THE BLOGIN' HOBGOBLIN

Holidays are supposed to be a time of joy and celebration, For families to come together and share the love they have for each other. But for most people it is a time of stress and panic. We have forgotten the true Original meaning of Christmas.

“So what is the Original meaning of Christmas?”

Great question! To answer that we need to take a small jump back in time. Back before it was called Christmas, back before the time of Christ back to a time  when it was  called Saturnalia.

 Saturnalia was a week long period of Parting till you drop. Celebrated between December 17-25.  During this period, Roman courts were closed, and Roman law said that no one could be punished for anything they did..  The festival began when Romans chose  “an enemy”.  Each community selected one whom they forced to indulge in food and other physical pleasures throughout…

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Dragon Hunters by Marc Turner

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Once a year on Dragon Day the fabled Dragon Gate is raised to let a sea dragon pass into the Sabian Sea. There, it will be hunted by the Storm Lords, a fellowship of powerful water-mages who rule an empire called the Storm Isles.

Emira Imerle Polivar is coming to the end of her tenure as leader of the Storm Lords, but she has no intention of standing down graciously. As part of her plot to hold on to power, she instructs an order of priests known as the Chameleons to sabotage the Dragon Gate. There’s just one problem: that will require them to infiltrate an impregnable citadel that houses the gate’s mechanism — a feat that has never been accomplished before.

But Imerle is not the only one intent on destroying the Storm Lord dynasty. As the Storm Lords assemble in answer to a mysterious summons, they become the targets of assassins working for an unknown enemy. And when Imerle sets her scheme in motion, that enemy uses the ensuing chaos to play its hand.

Brian Staveley called this book “Truly Epic” and I am inclined to agree with him, in fact I felt the book to me was quite similar to Staveleys own books.First we have a cast of characters who I couldn’t find a weak link amongst, in most books with multiple perspectives I find one character who I couldn’t care less about and more or less skim over the segments that are wrote about them. It’s sad but true, this was not the case with Dragon Hunters though, we have some very strong characters and I felt myself wanting to learn more about each of them and got behind the individual struggles they faced. When I started the book I found myself overly drawn to Kempis and Senar but as the plot thickens and events unfold Agenta and Karmel also had time in the limelight and both were elevated into the pantheon of well written characters, with beliefs, drives, ambitions, pasts and personalities of there own.

Next up was the setting of the series, I have started with the second book (But I have been told it doesn’t matter quite so much as each book follows a differing group of people making them almost independent from one another) and therefore didn’t have any grasp on the world or knowledge of it. Marc is definitely an author who shows you the world as opposed to telling you, which to me is vastly preferable to large info dumps that become tedious to read. Instead the characters experience the world and take you along for a grand tour, one which I was more than happy to enjoy. The different races and people who inhabit it are a marvel to behold from the fish like untarians to the various mages with control over several different schools of magic, I felt the magic system was well done and simple enough to not need a few pages of explanation. To my understanding a user of said school of magic needs a large amount of the source in the area – a water mage for example is at their best surrounded by it. A necromancer does best when people are regularly dying and can feed on the energy left by the mortal coils unravelling.

The plot was incredibly well thought out and we see things developing at a rate that made it very hard for me to put this book down,Another interesting event or turn of events is revealed every chapter or so and it makes it very difficult to read just a few pages. In doing this Marc has kept me interested throughout and I was forcing myself to put it down on regular occasions as I did not want to finish it. Or rather as is often the case with a very good book, coming towards the end is a bittersweet thing. The events throughout the book have some great highs, and some crushing lows. Even the death of some of the minor characters can hold a great weight and I felt bad for a lot of them, as they had also been given time to shine, to grow on you and make you feel attached.

Now I’m sure on seeing the title and the cover image you are thinking, but Tom. What about the dragons?! Well they were a real breath of fresh air, as odd a statement as that is with dragons being a fantasy staple and often seen as something that is perhaps a tad overdone. However in Dragon Hunters they are aquatic, merciless, gigantic, ravenous beasts that are brilliant to behold. Far from the fire breathing, obsessive hoarding, knight devouring tropes of days gone by. I love the way Marc has handled the dragons in this book making them more akin to a Megaladon or some other vast oceanic predator, gone is the intelligence and humanisation given to dragons in some novels. I would suggest that the dragons are closer to the image of a sea serpent and they are great, truly awesome and majestic.

In case you haven’t guessed, I love this book and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a edge of our seat ride filling with intrigue, violence, magic, brilliant characters, a well built and immersive world, and of course dragons. Who live up to the image on the cover of the book by being powerful, majestic and intimidating.

“Epic” Staveley chose his words well. Go grab yourself a sample on amazon or better yet treat yourself to a copy, I promise you won’t regret it.

Marc expect a message from me about getting my hands on signed copies of the trilogy, I loved it. Well done, you have written a fantastic book and I’m sure the others will be just as enthralling.

Carving Out A Space – Guest Post by Gregory A. Wilson

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Fantasy is driven by its worldbuilding: the exploration of new and wondrous places, driven by mysterious and powerful magic, with inscrutable, larger-than-life characters.  Naturally, fantasy authors are just as excited by the opportunity to build worlds as fantasy readers are to read about them, and if anything the tendency is to spend too much time on coming up with exchange rates and economic systems (though in reality, readers often won’t care about those details as much as authors think they will).  But usually, building a world is one of the pleasures of the speculative fiction field.

So what happens when the world’s already built?

The clearest example of this is media tie-in fiction, where an author is working within specific, and usually rigidly defined, parameters of a pre-existing universe.  In this environment authors often don’t have much room to maneuver; it might be nice for plot reasons to have, for example, a leader who is possessed by evil spirits which force him to threaten aggression against his country’s nearest neighbor, but if the world calls for those countries to be allies, that’s the end of the discussion.  Interested in killing off a particularly important figure?  You better hope those in charge of the world were planning on eliminating the same person, or you might as well forget the idea.  There are many fine tie-in writers who create stories of breadth and scope, but ultimately they aren’t the gods of their worlds, and they need to operate within someone else’s rules.

Shared world fiction has some similar limitations; the authors may have a bit more autonomy, but the continents are placed in certain spots, the countries are laid out in a certain way, and the magic operates in a particular fashion no matter whose book you read.

When I first started working on Grayshade, the last thing I imagined was that it would end up as part of a larger universe—specifically Asmer, the world laid out in the Stormtalons setting from The Ed Greenwood Group.  Grayshade takes place essentially entirely within Cohrelle, a sprawling city-state of sorts, and initially I imagined it as a coastal city with deep forests and hills leading to a mountain range to the west—lots of trade, but essentially self-contained in a political sense.  The Order of Argoth, the religious organization to which the title character belongs, was the most influential group within a complicated matrix of politics and faith. And Grayshade himself, the most elite operative in Argoth’s Service, had almost never been outside Cohrelle’s borders.  When I started discussing the book with the publisher, they were impressed—and, to my surprise, willing to make adjustments necessary to place it within the Stormtalons universe.  Some of the geography surrounding Cohrelle had to change, and the religious structure within it adjusted to fit the larger religious landscape in Asmer…and of course, the larger arc of The Gray Assassin Trilogy (of which Grayshade is the first book) would have to take more of Asmer’s world and geopolitical arrangement into account.  But the story itself remained essentially unchanged, the political interactions within the city more or less identical—and some of the things I first invented within the book have now been added to the larger Stormtalons universe.

In other words, my world had as much of an impact on Asmer as the reverse, which has led to some unexpected benefits.  Moving outside of Cohrelle in books two and three has become a relatively easy proposition, as I know exactly where the characters will head and under what circumstances they’ll be operating; I also know the impact their actions are likely to have on their surrounding environment, which frees me to concentrate more on their individual stories and interactions.  The world of Asmer will be changed by what happens in the final two books of the trilogy; other authors may write in that area of the world in the future, and they’ll be contending with the current circumstances when their characters arrive there.  So my work will not only be affecting readers, but writers, who will move forward with what they find there in (I have no doubt) remarkable and fascinating ways.

So the experience of writing in a shared world has ultimately been an enjoyable one. The constraints are there, but not overwhelming, and in a way I’m participating in a conversation with the other authors as we collectively advance the development of the larger world first created by Ed Greenwood himself.  That my stories play an integral role in that development is a pretty amazing benefit of being in TEGG.  I’ve been able to carve out my own space in Stormtalons, and I look forward to exploring that space further in the books to come.

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About Gregory A. Wlson:
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 Cengage in the summer of 2009. His second novel, Icarus, will be published as a graphic novel by Silence in the Library Publishing in 2016, 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 flavor 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 and daughter Senavene–named at his wife’s urging for a character in The Third Sign, for which his daughter seems to have forgiven him–in Riverdale, NY.

 

The Cracked Amulet by RB Watkinson

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Wefan is leaking from the world, and the blood-priests of the oppressive god Murak rise again to bring war to the lands of Dumnon. They search for those with Wealdan in their blood, for this gives them power. Power to twist, to alter and control, and ultimately to gain yet more power. In horrifying blood-rites practised on both humans and creatures, they gorge on the blood of innocents, destroying farms and families, conquering swathes of territory and gaining new followers. But not all Wealdan-infused blood carries the same intoxicating fuel. The blood-priests seek one above all others.

 

Against a background of failing states, magik and spirits, Coryn and Katleya lose all that they have and must flee all that they know. Coryn, protected by a cracked amulet, must find his sister and fulfil an oath. Katleya has only her wits and her knives to defend herself. Desperate to reach a haven where she can learn to use her power fully, Katleya uses her Wealdan to do little other than see the Wefan. But she is hunted by those who would use her for terrible purposes of their own.

 

A story as intricate and as powerful as any Weaving of the Wefan.

 

This books leaves me a little conflicted, I enjoyed some of the scenes within it a lot and moments really caught me and didn’t let me go. But for me personally it wasn’t a real page turner. Now this isn’t to say that it wasn’t a bad book, not at all. But I don’t think I’m really it’s target audience as I’m sure is obvious by now I have a great love for Grimdark and dark fantasy, The Cracked Amulet has some moments that fit the mould. But as a whole to me at least feels a little bit like a young adult novel, now I’m not talking the typical Hunger Games style cheese-fest. Because it wasn’t at all like that, we had no real romantic subplots both the male main Coryn and the female lead Katelya had their own goals, needs, wants, desires and ultimately did not need one another. And I think that was great, to have a book with two characters of opposing genders who didn’t fall in love with one another was a breath of fresh air.

I also think the world, the setting and the general tone of the book was very nice. The world is well thought out and a pleasure to immerse yourself into, the characters again are a strong point even the minor side characters were nicely rounded and filled out. They served a purpose and were not at all the sort of cookie cutter trope-heavy characters you sometimes find in such works. The plot is also well put together, it rolls along at a pace that I felt was perhaps a tad slow. But this is subjective, I’m used to books with a lot more action or a faster flowing story and at times to me the book felt a bit like it had a slower burn, not that this was entirely bad because I did want to know what would happen and found myself coming back to it in spite of it not being a book I couldn’t put down.

In short I’d recommend the book and I would like to read the sequel I feel that now the world has been laid out and the various gods, peoples and the general setting explained the next book will be more appealing to me. Don’t get me wrong here I really liked this book, great characters, a well thought out and developed world and an interesting plot all kept me going despite sometimes feeling a little like this book was a precursor to the sequel and served to get us into the setting. Go grab a sample from amazon and give it a go, this book was a good read and I think to a fan of epic fantasy or less dark works it would go down brilliantly, reminds me of Eragon by Christopher Paolini – a book I’d have adored in my teens and can still get some life out of even now despite having moved onto darker things.

Well done RB, it’s a great book and I look forward to reading the sequel. If you’re reading this I’ll be getting my copy signed at the next Bristolcon.

Guest Post – Cracking Fantasy Open by Philip Overby

Cracking Fantasy Open by Philip Overby

I’ve loved fantasy fiction since I was a teenager, something a lot of writers can attest to. However, I didn’t come into the genre with Lord of the Rings or the Chronicles of Narnia. My introduction was through the worlds of Dungeons and Dragons such as Forgotten Realms, Dark Sun, and Dragonlance. I read as much as I could and people would always comment about me carrying a book around. One thing that stood out to me as I got older was that while I still loved fantasy, I felt like I was reading the same kinds of stories. Nothing wrong with that by any means. I compare it to my love of Mexican food. If I could, I’d eat Mexican food every day. Yet part of me would wonder what it would be like to eat Chinese, Italian, Japanese, or Indian food again. This is sometimes how I feel about the fantasy genre. That’s why I always applaud calls for diversity. Diversity means different kinds of stories, different kinds of characters, and bringing new aspects of fantasy into my life. This makes me happy.

So what would I suggest as a reader, writer, and overall lover of fantasy? Cracking the genre open. OK, but what the hell does that mean? Well, allow me to elaborate.

  1. Delving into Different Aspects of History

If I randomly looked a list of most fantasy books, I would say a large percentage would be heavily influenced by Medieval culture. Again, this is fine. I’m not saying “No more Medieval-style fantasy!” In fact, I’d be sad if that happened. What I’d like to see is more authors finding aspects of history that haven’t had the fantasy treatment as much. How would fantasy elements affect Pre-Historic times? What if the Renaissance was full of wizard artists? What if the fantasy equivalent of the Crusaders rode monsters instead of horses? This doesn’t necessarily mean writing historical fantasy, but just thinking of different time periods throughout the world and how fantasy might have influenced various movements, societies, and conflicts.

  1. There Are a Shitload of Cultures to Draw From

As I was teaching a class last semester, we studied about dead or endangered languages. It was fascinating to learn along with the students about how these cultures exist in modern society and how their survival depends largely upon their assimilation to the mainstream. If fantasy could dig into more of these lesser known cultures, we could not only learn more about the fascinating world we live in, but also see how these cultures would thrive in a fantasy setting. So fantasy doesn’t always have to be based off things we know a lot about, but what might be interesting to uncover. Or it could even be slightly influenced by real life cultures, but re-imagined to such an extent that it feels like nothing ever seen before. Writers who do this extremely well would be Kameron Hurley, China Mieville, and Seth Dickinson.

  1. Fantasy Can Literally Do Anything (If It Makes Sense in the Context of the World)

People all have pet snakes that have magical venom that gives you power, but also slowly kills you. Killing monsters is outlawed, but monsters don’t care and eat people anyway. At a young age, girls and boys train to fight the Dark Lord in case they one day become The Chosen One. You can twist and subvert just about any trope that exists in fantasy or in real life in order to further crack open the genre. Not that my ideas above are entirely original, but that’s not really what matters. The “cracking” comes from embracing the fact that fantasy can do anything you want it to do. That’s why I believe some of the most creative people out there writing fantasy. It takes a great imagination to poof things into existence.

  1. The Real World is Ripe for Fantasy

While secondary fantasy is the usual choice, there are hundreds upon hundreds of stories that can still be told in our own world with a fantasy flair. Neil Gaiman has been quite successful doing such and urban fantasy has become a mega-genre of its own. If creating a world from scratch isn’t doing it for you, then there are so many stories that are itching to be told with fantastic elements in our own world. You could explore a wizard during the Great Depression, the world of rats on pirate ships during the Age of Exploration, or the plight of young sorcerers hired to battle back the Mongol Horde. The real world can also be cracked open, sometimes even more so than secondary worlds. What about under the sea? What the hell’s going on doing there, really?

All in all, fantasy is a genre that has amazed young and old for years upon years. And some fantastic writers are doing things in the genre that is really making an impact. My hope is that more writers follow the lead and try to really find that right story to shape into something truly wonderful. Sometimes just letting yourself “what if” until your heart’s content can get you there.

What do you think about the fantasy genre as a whole? How do you think the genre could be expanded even further? Share your thoughts in the comments!

About Philip Overby: Philip Overby is a weird fantasy writer and the creator of the Splatter Elf universe which includes stories, a Youtube channel, and an in-development card game. He is also the co-host of The Grim Tidings Podcast with Rob Matheny and has talked with some of the heavy hitters in all of speculative fiction, including Joe Abercrombie, Steven Erikson, R.A. Salvatore, Richard A. Knaak, R. Scott Bakker, Anthony Ryan, Kameron Hurley, Michael R. Fletcher, and many more. He spends his other free time as the drummer of the garage rock band The Candy Ditches which play in several clubs throughout Tokyo. He lives in Yokohama, Japan with his wife and collection of weird rocks. His website is PhilipOverby.com

About Splatter Elf: Splatter Elf is fantasy for those that love dark humor, crazy action, and loads of monsters. It was birthed out of a desire for weirder fantasy stories that embraced blood, cursing, and the grotesque while still being somehow light-hearted. Philip’s first three stories are “The Unicorn-Eater,” “River of Blades,” and “The Bog Wyvern” which readers have called “goofy and gory and gut-punchingly great” as well as “[being] hooked by the steady string of humorous dialogue and imaginative names for gods, swords, spells and monsters.” The first Splatter Elf novella One Goblin Army is now available for Kindle on Amazon.

 

The Splatter Elf Youtube channel features readings from stories, reviews, video game play-throughs, and a weird ass goblin named Grim Gozzoth.

Black Cross by J.P Ashman – Black Powder Wars Volume 1

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“Arcane magic can be a ruinous power, despite admirable intentions.

A mysterious scroll finds its way into Lord Severun’s hands, enabling him to release a dangerous experiment upon Wesson. With Sergeant Falchion unable to forgive himself for aiding the wizard, and desperate factions taking advantage of the devastating aftermath, Falchion embarks on an arduous quest alongside friends and strangers alike. However, even if their attempt to seek aid is successful and the city is saved, they risk revealing a secret that threatens much more than Wesson alone.

From a fantasy world not too dissimilar to our own dark and bloody histories, the beginning of an epic tale is told. Incredible magic is unleashed, allies become enemies; unlikely friendships are forged, and a foul plot is discovered that will shatter the long lasting peace of Altoln and her allies, plunging them into a gritty, brutal conflict that falls far from the fluffy fairytales of old.”

First and foremost I want to point out what a bloody tome this book is (670 pages), Morls Balls was it long. Hence why it took me a fucking age to get through it.

BUT

Rest assured I loved every single page from start to finish, whilst I do feel it took me a little while to really get deeply invested in the book as at first not being good with names and such I wasn’t sure who was who. Once I got my head around it though I couldn’t put it down the tale is quite a standard one of good vs evil, however what I enjoyed was the sense that neither side was really wrong or right in any true sense. Even the characters throughout the book are nearly if not all very grey in terms of their moralities and some that I adore might be despised by the next person to read the book. This was great for me as it meant I’d become attached to and involved with the characters and as such it became far easier to immerse myself.

The story itself whilst seeming quite simple on the surface is actually quite complex and I found myself at times having to stop and have a good think to myself about what had gone on so far to get my head around a few moments as the book went on. Something else I was fond of in the book was the character development nearly every character was given room to grow and slowly but surely matured or revealed aspects of themselves that were previously unknown. I enjoyed the use of some familiar tropes in the book and whilst some may see the use of them in a negative light. I feel that tropes exist for a reason, because they work. Not to say there wasn’t anything novel or new in the book, illusion magic, nymphs, knockers and faeries were all refreshing creatures and features that I rarely see in books.

Black Cross especially in the second half becomes rather bloody and violent with some truly cringe worthy scenes, I note this not as a complaint but rather because I feel that if you’re going to put violence in a book it should be gritty, visceral and make you feel a bit ill to read at times. Some authors have a tendency to glamorise it and violence is not and never has been glamorous, so well done for pushing the envelope and keeping it true to reality.

The setting itself isn’t elaborated on so much in this book, but I’m aware that it is part of a trilogy so I’m sure we’ll learn a lot more of the lore and lay of the land in the subsequent sequels. There is also a side story called Black Martlet that I have yet to read but intend to do so as soon as possible, perhaps there is more about the setting within?

To wrap things up before I start inadvertently spoiling things this book is a fantastic debut and I would recommend to anyone reading this to go and grab yourself the sample from Amazon and have a read. I’m sure it will grab you just as it has me, I should note that I finished the latter half of the book in one truly epic reading session last night so as to be able to get this review up and I couldn’t put it down.

Go give it a try, you’ll love it.

Gamers, Get Ready for a New World of Heroic Fantasy RPG Adventure!

 

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Mechanical Muse Announces The World of Aetaltis

 Tuesday, September 6, 2016—Gamers will feel the call to adventure this month, as Mechanical Muse launches the Kickstarter for their new heroic fantasy RPG campaign setting, The World of Aetaltis.

 The World of Aetaltis is a complete role playing game campaign setting that is compatible with the 5e rules. New players will have the chance to forge their own legends in an unexplored world, while veteran players will feel like they are coming home to the role playing worlds they grew up with. Many familiar faces reside in Aetaltis, including dour dwarves delving into the shadowed heart of the Deeplands, ethereal elves slipping through the trees of ancient forests, and kind hearted halflings smoking before the hearth. Players will know them well, but in Aetaltis they have new stories to tell and fresh secrets to share.

 But Aetaltis is not just an homage or twist on previous worlds. This RPG is something brand new that builds on the elements of the genre gamers love, a spiritual successor to settings like the Forgotten Realms®, Krynn, the World of Greyhawk®, and more. Players will discover new races, such as the scythaa, a desert dwelling lizardfolk, and the drothmal, a stoic warrior race from the far north. Aetaltis is a world with a rich backstory, populated by people shaped by their history and environments. Adventurers will meet the races of the Atlan Alliance, a coalition of peoples trapped on Aetaltis when the gates to their homeworlds collapsed. Led by the humans, the Alliance also includes the brutish warrior race called orogs, crafty cheebatan merchants, and the enigmatic worldgate builders known as the newardin. New players as well as veterans will all find adventure and thrills in this world.

 The World of Aetaltis was created by Marc Tassin, who leads the team at Mechanical Muse. Tassin is joined by artist Mitchell Malloy, editor Steven S. Long, designers Shawn T. King and Michal Cross, project manager Matt Eberle, and publicist/consultant Melanie R. Meadors. There is also a team of veteran freelance artists and writers working on the game’s stretch goals for the Kickstarter, hailing from some of the best companies and games in the industry.

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 Ed Greenwood, creator of Forgotten Realms, says, “Marc Tassin has crafted a fantasy world we can fall in love with!”

 Kickstarter backers familiar with fifth edition rules will receive everything they need to journey with their friends to Aetaltis, including rule books, maps, tokens, character sheets, character pawns, and much more. To see all of the backer levels, stretch goals, and the rest of the campaign, visit Kickstarter.com, search keywords “World of Aetaltis.”

Alright ladies and gents there it is, I’ve backed this one myself and I think it’s really going to be something special. At least take five minutes to check it out, the game is optimised for D&D 5th Edition. 

 

 

 

Hell Hath No Fury – An Interview with Melanie Meadors.

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Melanie R. Meadors is an author of science fiction and fantasy, blogger at The Once and Future Podcast, and a professional author publicist. She is also the editor of Hath No Fury, an anthology currently on Kickstarter. You can find her at her website, melaniermeadors.com, on Facebook, and Twitter, @melaniermeadors.

So first of all welcome to the blog, now I’ve heard rumblings of a badass female-led Kickstarter anthology from the people over at Ragnarok Publications and wondered if in your own words you could fill me in on what it’s all about?

Melanie: Well, Hath No Fury is basically a collection of not just badass females, but really well-developed badass female characters who go beyond stereotypes. We have stories in there that are about your typical woman warriors, but we also have stories that range from action packed tales of women fighting mega crocs to thoughtful stories of women who discover their inner strength, who are challenged by threats to the things they hold most dear and must react. We aren’t all strong in the same ways in real life, and in fiction, there’s no reason female characters should be, either.

Awesome, I think it’s nice to see some female characters and more vitally writers getting some time in the spotlight as fantasy seems to be a heavily male dominated area. So what or who inspired you to write Hath No Fury?

Melanie: Joe Martin invited me to edit this anthology with him. Ragnarok has several anthologies out now, but one thing we noticed was that it was often hard to get women involved. There always seemed to be more time constraints, family issues, all kinds of reasons they couldn’t do it, no matter how much they wanted to. We wanted to put together a book where we could say, that’s it, most of the authors are going to be women, and we are going to celebrate the sort of women we admire—not just barbarian fighting women, but all kinds of strong women.

What was it like putting the book together?

Melanie: It was definitely a challenge. Women are BUSY. Women authors even more so, because they have day jobs and their regular writing, they have kids and aging parents. We invited so many people to take part, and a very large number were so excited about the book, but had to say no. Even some who initially said yes had to come back and cancel because of family things or novel contracts. Another difficulty was that I had to say no to so many people just because I wanted to make sure we chose the best stories and authors for the collection. So many men came to me wanting to be involved, and I had to say no to all of them. I invited a few men whose work I read and admired, and who I knew could pull off what I wanted to accomplish with this book. But it was really important to me to have mostly women authors in here, for obvious reasons. And even those women had to be people I consider the best. And that was the most wonderful part of putting the book together: being able to work with so many people whose work I’d loved over the years. It was really an amazing feeling to have Margaret Weis and Robin Hobb, Lian Hearn, Carol Berg, and many others say, “Yes! I would love to contribute!” I don’t think anything in my career has compared to that.

What are your thoughts on female characters in Fantasy or fiction as a general, any that really caught your eye when you were a kid for example?

Melanie: I hit my teens in the late ‘80s/early 90’s, and I was lucky enough to have authors like Robin McKinley and Tamora Pierce and Cynthia Voigt who wrote fantasy with some really awesome female characters. I also read a lot of Dragonlance books, and Elfquest comics by Wendy Pini, which had women who kicked ass as well. And again, these women weren’t just warriors. They were healers, mystics, women of all sorts who kicked ass by being themselves and using THEIR unique strengths.

So I’m right in thinking the anthology has a deadline of September the 7th, if you’re reading this it’s well worth a look and you can get your hands on an ebook copy for as little as $10 which I’m sure just about anyone could rustle up. Having read previous anthologies from Ragnarok (Blackguards: Tales of Assassins, Mercenaries, and Rogues; Genius Loci, Neverlands Library and Dead west to name a few) I’m sure it’ll be fucking awesome.

Melanie: Yes, the Kickstarter ends on September 7th, right around lunch time in the US. There are some really awesome things available via the Kickstarter that people won’t be able to get with the retail version—for example, the hardcover edition, collectable coins, ebooks from other authors, etc. There are also reward tiers where a character can be named after you or someone you love (or hate, we won’t judge).

Well it’s been an absolute pleasure having you Melanie, before you go one final question. In true Grimdark fashion I’ve got to ask Xena the warrior princess versus Furiosa, one on one prison rules. Who would you bet on? I think I’d give Xena the edge, but that might just be the lust-filled fifteen year old in me speaking…

Melanie: I personally think that as the fight begins, Xena and Furiosa would stand there, measure each other up, and say, “What the hell are we fighting in this pit for? Let’s go kick ass together for a cause that means something!” But that’s just me 😉

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The kickstarter is still live and kicking and has reached so many stretch goals. Whole lot of free loot and there could be even more if you back it yourself also. 100% worth it, Ragnarok have an excellent track record and are a great bunch, give it a look. Or I’ll set Melanie on you, believe me Hell Hath No Fury like a woman scorned 😉