Category Archives: Uncategorized

Rising of the Shield Hero Watch-Through Part 1: “The Shield Hero”

1dc7c7c0fd48b5a6a1fb07114db285becc2d8379r1-1280-720v2_hq

Japanese “Light Novels” are something I’ve been wanting to cover on this blog for quite some time. Essentially a cross between pulp fiction and YA, they’ve grown hugely popular in the last few years, and are starting to affect the western book market, especially in fantasy. Like LitRPGS? You can thank Sword Art Online and Log Horizon for that. Like Sufficiently Advanced Magic?

Recently, a show based on one of these Light Novels popped up, and has garnered both praise and controversy. Like the LN Goblin Slayer before it’s become very popular very rapidly due to some of the initial backlash it’s received. And since it’s somewhat topical at the moment, I’ve decided to dive into Shield Hero to dissect both the good and bad of Light Novels, and what western writers can learn (and avoid) from them. After watching a couple episodes, I feel Shield Hero is one of the best series for dissecting the tropes and elements of Light Novels, and what western authors can gain from them.

If you want to read the book, you can get it on Amazon here. If like me, you plan on watching the show, you can do so legally on Crunchyroll. There are massive spoilers ahead, so unless you’re okay with that, I recommend you check out the source material first (Crunchyroll is free but ad-supported).

For the sake of my more book-focused audience, I’ll be staying away from any terms or anime-specific wording, and will treat this as if I were discussing a western fantasy book or story. The one exception to this rule is the term “Isekai,” a LN genre where characters from Earth get transported to another (usually fantasy) world, often after dying and being reincarnated. The Chronicles of Narnia and Thomas Covenant series are kind of similar, but Isekai has its own tropes, such as the earth-heroes being reincarnated, or the world looking less like Middle-Earth and more like Dragon Quest.

Anyway, with that out of the way, let’s get on to the episode’s summary.

Continue reading

New Year, New Title Reveal!

So it’s 2019, and looking back, I’m honestly a bit stunned at all the stuff I’ve accomplished with writing. I released my short horror story, and a sword and sorcery one is coming next. I started author interviews with folks like Mark Lawrence, Christopher Wolf and Alec Hutson. And I’ve started work on not one, but two books I plan on releasing this year. So I thought I’d share a bit about what I’m cooking up, revealing a title and the ideas behind both books.

SE-Beveled-Logo-PSD-Black-D
The first is The Shrouded Emperor, an epic fantasy story inspired by late 17th century America and paranormal horror. It contains all the elements you’ve come to enjoy from the genre such as warriors, wizards, questing, battles between good and evil…the whole nine yards. However, there’s a bit of Lovecraftian horror thrown in the mix, as well as firearms and some old-timey tech. Think Johnny Tremain meets Wheel of Time with a dash of Call of Cthulhu and The Nightmare. Weird stuff, but I’m seriously digging what I’m writing, and I think you’ll really dig it if you’re a fan of more Robert Jordan/Tolkien side of things.

The second is a swords-and-sorcery inspired novel. Very much a Conan-style “wandering warrior beats the sh*t out of wizards” kind of deal, but set in a trippy setting that’s less like the middle ages and more like a prog rock album cover. Morrowind, Pirates of Dark Water and John Carter of Mars were all inspirations for the setting, a weird, almost alien world of brass cities and perilous sorcerers. As this is a tribute to Moorcock, Conan, Lieber and other such writers, it’s going to be very short and very weird. Like, I know what I described above sounds a bit out there, but this one has it beat by quite a lot. Maybe play some Pink Floyd in the background when reading this bad boy. Title is still TBD, but very close to being picked.

My swords-and-sorcery book’ll most likely come out before Shrouded Emperor as it’s one third the size. I’m working on cover design for that right now, and the cover for SE is already done. I’ll be revealing that later on in the year however, around mid to late summer 2019. Expect a cover reveal for the swords-and-sorcery book in the next couple months.

Author interviews will continue, but in the months leading up to the release dates of my books, they’ll decrease somewhat. I will however, be bringing some really cool ones to the table, including the #SPFBO finalists and a few more. So stay tuned for that as well!

Overall though, 2019 will be the year this blog focuses more on my content, now that I’m beginning to release it. I’m really looking forward to sharing these stories with you all, and hope you enjoy them when they’re out!

Beware the Lord of the Cavern! My First Short Story is Up…

LOTC-Cover

So a while back (around 3 years I think…) I wrote a short horror story called “Lord of The Cavern” based on a dream a friend of mine had. The dream centered around a shape-shifting creature in a cave or grotto that asked him a bizarre question:

“Tell me your achievements, for it will make you more appetizing.”

This struck me as such a weird thing to ask. Like, what does it mean by achievements? And why wouldn’t it just eat you? And where was the grotto? Even though it was strange, I felt like there was enough to go on to make a story. And well…I did! I’m not sure why I made it a historical story in the end, though Lovecraftian was the first thing that came to mind when adapting the dream. And well, after hours of editing, here it is!

I decided to try out this “Royal Road” site, even though it seems like it’s more of a LitRPG/anime light novel platform. But hey, I do enjoy those from time to time (Log Horizon is good) and anything that lets people read my work is good in my book. If you want to check it out, the link’s below. I’d really appreciate it if you left a starred review as well! Every little bit of feedback/ratings helps me in a huge way.

Special thanks to author Paul Lavender, who acted as my “British Inspector,” making sure everything was period-appropriate and English enough. You can check out his Amazon page here (he was in the Blackest Knights anthology too, along with some other excellent authors!).

Anyway, here’s the short. I sincerely hope you all enjoy it, though be warned. There are some pretty intense and horrific themes in there.

https://www.royalroad.com/fiction/22322/lord-of-the-cavern

Stan.

monkeymasterstanlee-1-e1542048422172

Every generation has a handful of people who seem larger-than-life, almost like something from well…a comic book. People who in a strange sort of way, seem almost immortal, in that they bleed into the very fabric of the current culture in a mythic way.

As far back as I can remember, Stan Lee was always one of those folks. Those living, immortal icons who was just always there. Even if you weren’t a big comic book guy, he was a recognizable name and personality, someone who not only created Spider-Man, but was in many ways, a character as well. I’ve always kind of had this suspicion that to Stan, these comic book stories he wrote were almost real to him. Not in the “factually in front of me” sense, but in the “I put a piece of myself in this art” sense. Again, any interview with the man is a sure-fire giveaway. Stan had this wholly unique cadence to him, where the way he talks almost feels like the way he wrote his characters. Very upbeat, with sharp-as-a-tack dialogue and almost super-heroic certainty in what he was doing.

While I’ve always been more of a book reader than a “comic book guy,” I got my start as a writer doing comics. And back when I started doing that, I watched hours and hours of different creators. Jim Lee, Dave Sim, Todd McFarlane…and of course, Stan Lee. And I think the biggest takeaway I got from watching Stan was just how sincere he seemed. He was a person who loved his fans and loved people in general, regardless of their color or creed. He wanted to tell positive stories, to make the world a little brighter…but never to talk down to or pontificate. If there’s two things Stan mans to me personally, it’s love and respect. Love of what you do and who you do it for, and respect for your consumers as thinking, meaningful people.

So rest in peace, Stan. You were always a hero to me.

The Tide is Turning in Indie SFF Publishing, #SPFBO

45923234_1950019861714326_1544864126797348864_n

When I first posted my Self-Published Fantasy Guide, I had no idea just how far self-published and indie SFF lit has come. I still remember a time when “self-published” was synonymous with horrible paranormal romance books and…stranger things.

As of 2018 however, we’re seeing some major authors and titles emerging from the self-published and indie scene. Books with stories and covers comparable to (or better than) traditional offerings. This trend has increased to the point where the Barnes and Noble Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog revealed the cover art for Rob J. Hayes’ Never Die.

Yes, this is real. The genre promotion blog of America’s biggest book chain just featured a self-published book. I remember talking to a fairly well-known author who’ll remain anonymous, and having him mention that “indie is the future.” That was not even a year ago, and as far as I can tell, we’re reaching that future at a shockingly rapid pace.

So yeah. The tide has definitely turned, and indie is getting bigger and bigger. I was told by the author Rob J. Hayes that some folks “took notice” of his SPFBO win, which goes to show what a useful tool that is for curating these titles. Which is something to keep in mind if any of you are planning books of your own.

If you haven’t bought any of his books yet, you can check out Rob J. Hayes’ Amazon page here. I recommend his piratical Best Laid Plans books, as they’re fairly unique in the fantasy space. Which is a trend Never Die seems to continue with its chanbara influences. It’s a book I think looks really kickass, and I’m glad Barnes and Noble seems to think so too!

Beware the Red Ripper! My Horror Short Story is Coming Soon From Gray Haven Comics (The Gathering: Horror V)

45583944_2066051650105280_9064856626594316288_n45351685_2066052040105241_7746463316406435840_n

So a while back, before I decided to write prose, I took a stab at writing comics. I made it into a couple of anthologies, and it’s largely thanks to these that I got my start as a writer.

The story is a riff on the classic “teenage boy becomes superhero” story, only said superpowers turn him into a slasher killer! Can Raul Garcia stave off the slow but inevitable transformation into a masked monster? Or can he save a piece of his humanity?

It’s worth noting here that I’m credited as “Alex Moya,” which…is my real name. Yes, Martin J. Ashwood is a pen name. Not for anonymity’s sake, but because I designed some mockup (novel) book covers and the name “Alex Moya” looked like garbage on all of them. Not exactly the most exciting Secret Origin of my author superhero name, but it is what it is.

The Gathering: Horror V will hit comic store shelves soon, so keep an eye peeled for the Red Ripper if you enjoy some horror/urban fantasy goodness. And check out the Gray Haven Facebook page for more info on Horror V and all their other comics anthologies!

I Bagged a (Book About a Were-) Deer, and Other Cool Stuff!

So recently, indie author C.T. Phipps was kind enough to send me these two books. I’ve been meaning to check out his Wraith Knight series for some time, and I’ve heard nothing but great things about his Bright Falls series of comedic Urban Fantasy novels. The blurb on the back of  Teenage Weeredeer had a masterfully so-bad-it’s-good pun that honestly made me laugh out loud. Think I’m gonna enjoy this one quite a bit.

I haven’t really done book reviews yet on this blog, in part because I’ve taken a bit of time when I read as of late. I used to be a lightning-fast reader, but my own writing projects have kind of taken a bit of that free time away. That said, once I get around to reading these, I’ll be sure to share my thoughts. What little I have read has been awesome so far, and once I finish some of my current epic fantasy reads, I will be checking these out for sure. In the mean time, I highly suggest you give C.T. Phipps’ Amazon Page a looksie. He has everything from Sci-fi, to Spies, to Superheroes to something called Cthulhu Armageddon, so there’s plenty of flavors to choose from here.

In unrelated news, I’ve found the cover artist for my own book! It’s quite exciting stuff, and his work is extremely impressive, unique and old-school, reminding me a bit of Mike Ploog’s work on Lord of the Rings. Much as I like the Warcraft aesthetic in games, I do find this gritter, more down-to-earth AD&D style much more to my liking. And my artist really captures this, but add a modern level of polish that really elevates it to a new level.

So yeah, between this and the books (Thanks, C.T.!) and the recently announced Warcraft 3 Reforged…November’s already shaping up to be a pretty kickass month for me.