Monthly Archives: January 2018

Here’s the Query Letter that got Fantasy Writer Ed Mcdonald Published.

So I came across this post from author Ed McDonald detailing the query letter that got his book accepted. It’s a great read, and an excellent look at a proper and professional query letter.

If you’re a new writer, I strongly suggest you give this a read, and also follow his blog as well!

ED MCDONALD

While I was going through some old files, I happened across the cover letter that I sent when I was submitting Blackwing. I thought that it be interesting to people to see it, so, here it is. It’s nothing flashy or that doesn’t go outside the kind of guidelines that you’d usually see, but well worth noting that I provided exactly what was asked for.

View original post 275 more words

So I Found Dragon Ball Z Vol.1 at my Friends of the Library…

20180127_190536.jpg

So…Dragon Ball Fighter Z came out recently, and it seems the internet’s abuzz with DB fever! Though I didn’t get the game, I did find a small piece of OG Dragon Ball media in the form of a manga volume at my local Friends of the Library.

This is the first volume of the “Dragon Ball Z” manga, which is really just Dragon Ball Vol. 17 in Japan, if I remember correctly. It pretty much starts right off where the anime started, with Goku’s brother and gutter trash tier character imposing bad guy Raditz showing up.

20180127_190618

Honestly, I’m kind of shocked at how good the art is here. It looks just like the DBZ anime’s playing out in my hands! Except it’s bit more clean, expressive, punchy…and violent.

Anyway, it was a good read! I’m kind of tempted to do an in-depth post about the connection between DBZ and early American pulp fiction, because as my other posts might infer, I dig me some pulps.

20180127_190605

Weirdly enough, I also found Maus there, which was every bit as harrowing and sad a story as it’s made out to be. Everyone and their dog knows that though, and there’s really not much I can add to the conversation. It is kind of funny to think how utterly opposite DBZ and Maus are stylistically, though. One’s a sketchy family tale about a holocaust survivor…and the other’s a clean, sharply-detailed funnybook about martial artists firing laser beams at aliens.

It goes without saying, I quite enjoyed both though.

An Update + Readin’ Blackwing!

 

The year’s barely started, and already it’s nuts…

So just a quick update going into next month. Very soon I’ll be starting work on another draft of my Hispanic-flavored epic fantasy novel. Expect some writing-related posts vaguely related to whatever might be on my mind at the time.

Another thing that’s literally keeping me up at night, slowly turning me into some kind of shriven lich bothering me somewhat is publishing, agents and all that jazz. Now obviously I’m a bit of a ways away from all that, but as someone who likes to plan ahead, listening to people’s wildly different opinions is agonizing.

Trad Pub Chad will swear by the system, say it’s the best deal in terms of editing, covers, and all that jazz. And he’s right. Hands-down, in fact.

But then Indie Pub Cindy comes along, says that she sold eight billion copies on Kindle and makes TOP DOSon the platform, is demonstrably more popular than Chad, and to top it all off, other Trad Pub Chads (and I’m talking big dogs) have flat-out personally told me indie is the future…provided you can get noticed among the crowds. And they’re also right.

Honestly, this is one of those topics that only gets more confusing the more I research it. There’s a real good article on the state of the publishing industry here from a veteran of it. Really worth a read if like me, you find this stuff endlessly frustrating/fascinating.

Oh, and Ed McDonald’s Blackwing kind of kicks ass. It’s got that weird old-school fantasy vibe that the Elric books have, but feels real fresh and modern to boot. It also doesn’t at all feel like someone’s D&D campaign, which is really nice and refreshing. Buy it, or the Baba Yaga will shank you while you sleep. I haven’t even finished it, but I seriously doubt my opinion will change at all.

Happy Birthday, Robert E. Howard!

quote-civilized-men-are-more-discourteous-than-savages-because-they-know-they-can-be-impolite-robert-e-howard-13-72-30

So today is the birthday of pulp fantasy titan Robert E. Howard. One of my personal literary heroes and monumental influence in genre fiction, Robert E. Howard is the creator of Conan the Barbarian, Kull the Conqueror, and Solomon Kane. As you may have gathered, I’m a bit of a fan.

While Robert E. Howard isn’t as popular or ‘academic” as J.R.R. Tolkien, there’s a lot to be said about his more working-class, American style of fantasy prose. One that eschews Elvish linguistics and epic backstories for bare-knuckled grit and bronze-age spectacle, and made fantasy lit accessible to millions. On top of that, he inspired the kick-ass paintings of Frank Frazetta, basically the entire Sword and Sorcery genre, Khal Drago, Barbarians and Fighters in your favorite RPGs…the list goes on and on…So happy birthday, Robert!

If you’d like my personal breakdown of why you should absolutely check out his Conan stories, here’s a handy link to my post on the subject. And by Crom, give these stories a shot, you won’t regret it!

Wordbuilding Series: A Case for Spears

 

This article came about after consulting a HEMA instructor on facebook about what weapons and armor, were best for a (gunless) fantasy party. The results were surprising, to say the least, and certainly not what’s usually depicted in fantasy games, books and movies.

For starters, heavy plate armor is kind of a no-no. Mobility is key for a questing/adventuring scenario, and thus, cloth armor like a gambeson is best suited for the task. But most surprising of all was the preference for spears and long weapons. The short swords and legendary blades often depicted in fantasy media were apparently unrealistic in most common scenarios (specifically adventuring). A quick Youtube search revealed that instructor I consulted wasn’t the only HEMA expert who shared that opinion, and that really intrigued me. So I thought I’d delve a bit deeper into this subject and do some more research on why this is the case. Are spears really the best weapon for adventuring? And if so, why are they so lacking in fantasy media?

WHY YOU SHOULD USE SPEARS IN YOUR FANTASY STORY

 

Before I go any further here, I want to point something out. When I say “fantasy story,” I generally mean the adventuring, questing, dungeon-delving type. If your fantasy story is about courtly intrigue or wizards opening a chain hamburger restaurant, then feel free to disregard all this and do your own thing.

But when it comes to questing — specifically hunting things whose bodily fluids may or may not turn you into a zombie/vampire/werewolf/obsidian horror, distance is key. If werewolves were real, you would want a weapon that keeps them as far the heck away from you as humanly possible. This is one major advantage a good spear has that even a legendary Excalibur-esque magical blade commonly depicted in media simply doesn’t.

Spears are also incredibly easy to use, and don’t normally require a lot of training or finesse to be able to use adequately. Sure, there are some polearm martial skills you can learn to better wield such weapons, but the base mode of use for a spear is simple. You point and thrust. Given that many fantasy adventure questing-stories revolve around young and/or inexperienced protagonists with little fighting prowess, this is an ideal starter weapon for them.

But all this is of course, speculation. I mean, it’s not like there’s real-world monsters that we can look at historically to see if this is all accurate, right?

Wrong.

There are in fact, some real-world animals we can look at for inspiration when it comes to monster-hunting or questing in fantasy fiction. A real-world monster that’s so cunning, intelligent and dangerous, they strike fear even in the hearts of seasoned, fully-armed hunters in the real world.

Boars.

 

On a whim, I decided to use the same principle applied fictional fantasy monster-hunting and see if there’s any real-world equivalent. And sure enough, when I type in “boar hunting art medieval” on Google Image Search, a good majority of the images overwhelmingly depict spears being used.

dbee2af1996322d387a26ad923a32a5c
37-svaghi2c_caccia2ctaccuino_sanitatis2c_casanatense_4182995ae65480db38a9b5f96668be391f48-medieval-books-art-medieval

And let me be real here. I wasn’t kidding when I said boars were basically monsters. They are. In fact, here’s an excerpt from a hunting site I found that says as much.

Experienced hunters say that wild boar can be even more dangerous to hunt than a bear. Equipped with thick, razor-sharp tusks, and a razor-sharp mind (hogs are the 4th most intelligent animal in the world) a wild boar can weigh a staggering 660 lbs and exhibit extremely aggressive and unpredictable behavior.

Hunters be warned! After wounding a boar, give the animal plenty of time before you follow it in to the bush. Otherwise, you’ll go from being the hunter to the hunted. Boars will circle a human adversary, charge rampantly and attack from behind.

So just to recap, the big pigs are worse than grizzly bears. Add a surprising amount of intelligence to that, and we basically have a good stand-in for a fantasy monster. And the historical evidence (and logic) overwhelmingly suggests that spears (and arbalests) are the best option here.

Logically speaking though, it makes sense, right? Whether it’s chittering skeletons with rusty swords, or some warlock muttering arcane curses at the back of a battlefield, spears are a great primary option for taking them out. They can be thrown, thrusted, used as polearms or even as a magic staff for more martially-minded wizardly types.

Popular culture though, keeps depicting the use of swords in adventuring parties, as well as a host of other inaccuracies, such as leather armor and the dreaded “fantasy weapons/armor.” You know, the ones that look like the protagonists got them from Alibaba, but people somehow still insist look cool?

 

With all that established then…

WHY THE HECK AREN’T SPEARS USED AS MUCH IN FANTASY NOVELS?

Well there’s no real concrete theory as to why this is, and it’s all speculation on my part. But I do have a few ideas…

First off, there’s iconography. People just kind of take for granted that swords are they way to go, because swords are cool, right? He-Man had one, Luke Skywalker had one, the friggin’ Beastmaster had one (and a tiger)…it’s just kind of embedded in our psyche that swords are bad-ass while spears are just kind of that other thing. I mean, maybe Dave has one, but is Dave He-Man? Does he have the power? Probably not.

This is probably because throughout history, great heroes are generally depicted as bearing swords in particular. From St. George and the Dragon, to Perseus, to King Arthur, cool swords were what heroes and kings used, while common hunters and peons in the front lines used boring old spears. One kills dragons, the other kills…boars.

Another reason why spears might not be as popular is because they’re pretty basic. You just kind of point them at the thing you want to kill and push forward. There’s no mystique or allure in terms of martial arts or sword-craft associated with them usually. They’re just kind of plain and boring at first glance. And they aren’t often very cool-looking. They’re usually wooden sticks with a simple, pointy thing at the end. Practical? Absolutely. But plain? Well, yeah. Not exactly Excalibur in the aesthetics department.

HOW TO FIX THOSE ISSUES

So let’s say you’re an aspiring fantasy writer (or aspiring to make a different fantasy novel). You want to do something different and more historically accurate than the typical “guy/gal with sword” story. And so you wanna go the spear route. But you also don’t want to be boring. So how do we make a spear as bad-ass and iconic as Excalibur or Luke’s lightsaber?

In terms of Iconography, you can always reference or model your character’s spear after legendary weapons like Gungir and Green Dragon Sabre. There also is an Odinic connotation of spears with old men and wizardry. So if your main character is say, going to become a wizard, a spear thematically works for him/her because it doubles as a magic staff. Guan Yu, the Chinese figure of legend, was also seen as a great warrior with sage-like, almost Paladin-esque qualities. If you’re going for a wuxia (Chinese fantasy) theme, the Guan Dao (sword-spear) is an iconic and powerful weapon evoking honor, virtue and godliness, especially when paired with the color green. And of course, if you want something a bit more fun, you can have a character in a western fantasy setting pick up a Guan Dao from a foreign merchant, or work it into their culture. They are pretty bad-ass weapons, and stand out more than the standard knife-on-stick look. And there’s a whole suite of martial arts associated with it, so boom! There’s an easy fix for the innate boring-ness of spears.

 

Archetypally speaking though, the spear as a weapon projects confidence, fatherhood, authority, utility, magic, and war. The Guan Dao projects all this as well  — plus it’s basically the Chinese version of a Paladin’s mace if you wanna go that route. And of course, seeing how the basic standard-issue spear was used frequently in big game hunting, it can work thematically for a hunter character as well.

Alternatively though, if you’re going for a more realistic fantasy story, you could forgo a lot of the legendary stuff and focus a more on the prep time and tactics of monster-hunting and fighting. In reality, fights are pretty short and deadly, and rarely involve karate-flipping Matrix action. But they do require tactics, foresight and planning, and thus a Rainbow Six-esque fantasy setup with realistic arms, armor and quick, bloody skirmishes would be a neat spin on the questing formula. Spears of course, are a must for this. You’ll need them, plus a couple arbalest wielders, and a wizard or healer if your setting allows it.  But even if it doesn’t, a fantasy story about a ragtag group of spear-wielding adventurers braving a world of horrible monsters with tactics and tenacity could be pretty gripping (and potentially grimdark).

 

Off the top of my head too, the practical nature of the spear itself could be used as a theme. Maybe you can flip a trope on its head and make the all-powerful magic sword essentially useless against enemies with longer range, and make the hero rely on a boring old spear to get the job done. Maybe a stereotypical group of adventurers sets out with nothing but “enchanted weapons” and gets their asses kicked by warriors wearing practical arms and armor? That could be fun. Or silver spears used to dispatch werewolves sin nil-biting conflicts where one simple scratch makes you a goner? Honestly, there’s a lot of cool stuff you can do with spears. And given how lacking they are in many fantasy settings, it’s a simple addition you can use to spice up your story and add some realism.

But hey, that’s just my 2 cents. Know any fantasy books with bad-ass spears? Got thoughts on the subject? Let me know in the comments, I’d love to hear more thoughts on this!

A Writer’s Resolutions for 2018 (and Beyond!)

 

2018 is gonna be an interesting year for me. The latter half of 2017 was focused on writing (and eventually discarding) drafts of books I plan on finishing and releasing this year. I also finished a short story I submitted to the Shards Noblebright Anthology, and am awaiting a final answer on that front.

My Writing Resolutions for This Year

First off is get a damn novel finished. Heck, maybe two. I have this terrible habit of getting burnt out on books or outlines and playing single-player mental ping-pong as I bounce ideas back and forth. Last year I attempted to solve this issue by tying the projects I was working on into a single setting, so if I get burnt out on one thing, I’d still be fleshing out the larger world.

At some point, the ping-pong match needs to end, and thus I will be finishing up a book this year out of two outlines I’m currently working on. It might require me to glue my feet to the floor, or some other self-imposed, Misery-esque shenanigans, but come hell or high water I’m finishing it.

I also plan on working on a  few additional anthology shorts to get my name out there. Some of my comics shorts will be coming out, but I aim to supplement them with prose (mostly fantasy) works. I’ve had a few ideas regarding a fantasy hero inspired by crime vigilante fiction like The Shadow, and if I’ve made anything at all clear from prior blog posts, it’s that I dig the pulps. A crime fiction sword-and-sorcery narrative would be pretty sweet, and I may explore those themes on some level this year.

My Other Resolutions

All in all, they’re pretty bog-standard and boring. I started exercising more at the latter end of last year and it felt great. Also ditched coffee and most refined sugars, except for the occasional cookie that looked really sexy. So ditto for that. Some people might say something like “lean to cook,” but my chefing’s already at a decent level. I can make Pita Bread and pizza that people swear is better than the restaurant, so I dunno. Learn to play the violin? Or MMA Lucha Libre? I mean if I had to pick either of those, I’d definitely pick the latter.

My goal is to keep all that good stuff up, do more of it and feel even better. Oh, and watch more King of the Hill. Because nothing keeps the good vibes up like propane and propane accessories.