Tag Archives: Update

The Shield Hero Watch-Through is Over

So first off, I’d like to thank all the folks who enjoyed my blog posts on this show. They’ve gotten, and are still getting a good deal of traffic, and people really seem to like them.

Seeing the fantasy genre through a different cultural lens is really neat, and I think the subject of Japan’s influence on the western fantasy genre is a topic worth exploring. But as of now, I’m afraid I’ll be ceasing the weekly episode breakdown due to me starting the second draft of my Sword and Sorcery novel. With that underway, my free time is now 100% focused on getting the damn book done.

If you haven’t checked out Rising of the Shield Hero yet, wholeheartedly recommend it, as it’s a fairly good look at trends in Japanese fantasy fiction, warts and all. The warts aren’t too bad though, and I had (and am having) a blast watching this show. You can read my prior episode breakdowns here, complete with links to legally stream the show or buy the books.

But at the end of the day, this is not an anime review blog, it’s an author/writing blog, and I have news and announcements regarding my current project. So yes, while I’m still watching and enjoying the show, the weekly blogs are over. I’ll be doing a review of the first season though, as well as a post on what Western authors can learn from J-Fantasy and Light Novels. But there’s author interviews, book marketing research, and writing that needs to be done, and my time is limited.

Still, thanks for joining me on this short but fun journey. Maybe sometime later we can do a Witcher Play-Through, or Moorcock Read-through or something.

No “Shield Hero” Watch-Through this Week

So I’ve been fairly busy, and some family stuff’s come up that takes precedence over my blogging. While I said I’d try to cover Shield Hero on a weekly basis, I may have to condense a few episodes into one week’s post. “Filo” and Episode 6’s post will be up next week, assuming more stuff doesn’t pop up.

That said, I’m genuinely surprised at how many people are ready my ROTSH coverage, and I’ll be covering the whole season for sure. Because this isn’t an anime blog however, I’m going to be doing a different watch-through, or possibly a read-through. Either the Conan films and shorts, The Black Company, or John Carter of Mars.

I will return to Light Novels/J-LitRPG in the future though, either with the Overlord or Log Horizon books, so look forward to that it you like anime. Finally, if you’re regular fantasy fan consused about all the weeb stuff I’ve been posting on my blog, I will be covering last year’s SPFBO more.

#SPFBO Finalist Interviews are on the Way!

It’s been a bit quiet for awhile, so I’d like to make an announcement real quick!

I’ve been contacting finalists for the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-off to discuss their books, the contest, and the indie fantasy scene.  So far, here are the finalists that have thus far agreed to an interview:

Zachary Pike
Barbara Kloss
Angie Grigaliunas
Devin Madison

As more are announced, I will be reaching out to them, and my hope is that all finalists will be represented in the end.  Last but certainly not least, Mark Lawrence will be discussing his involvement in indie SFF, why he started the SPFBO, and other cool stuff. These interviews might take a bit, as Christmas is happening, and we’re all busy. That said, I’ll be posting them as soon as humanly possible, though that may very well be early January.

On an unrelated note, I will be revealing something very special on Jan 2019. As of now I am working on not one, but two books slated for release next year. They all tie into a bigger project I’m working on, and it’s something I honestly can’t wait to share.

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

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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.

The Spooktober Report! #SPFO, Writing, and more Author Interviews

October is probably one of my favorite months of the year, period. While I love the heck out of Halloween, it’s the whole cozy feeling of Fall that really makes me fall in love (no pun intended) with this time of year. October’s been a busy year for my writing as well however, and so I figured I’d post a quick update of some of what I’ve been up to…

As of now, I’m gearing up to write my book’s second draft. I’m working on a very, very detailed outline, as well as supplementary worldbuilding notes, which I suspect will occupy me well into next November. Draft 2 proper will likely carry me over into 2019, and will be ready sometime around summer or fall of that year, including edits and formatting and all that junk. Sometime in December-January-ish, I may be sharing some concept art for my book, as well as giving you all a sneak peek at just what in the heck it is. I can’t say too much at this point, though I will say I’ve been watching more than a few videos from the Townsends Youtube channel.

Author interviews are something I plan to invest a good amount of time in, and you can check out my most recent one here. The Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off is getting closer to declaring finalists, and when it does, I’ll be reaching out to them, as well as a few of the semi-finalists. Michael R. Baker, author of the Thousand Scars, is also doing many SPFBO interviews, and I strongly recommend you check those out! There’s also a possibility I may be interviewing a Special Guest related to the contest, so keep your eyes peeled for that as well!

Aside from that, I am continuing to work on some writing stuff in the game development space, and may be able to share some of what I’m doing sometime next year. When that happens, I’m hoping to begin writing about game narratives, and how to get started writing lore for video and tabletop gaming IPs. It’s a subject I’m really passionate about, and something I hope to share with you all very soon.

Anyways, that’s about it! Hope your October is festive and as full of tricks and treats as mine is!

Three Things I Learned I Learned While Writing My First Draft

As I type this, I’m so utterly mentally exhausted, I feel like I could sleep for a thousand years or more. Over the last couple months, I’ve been working hard on the first draft of a currently-unnamed fantasy novel, and am rapidly reaching the part where I plot out the fabled Second Draft. This legit feels like it’ll be one of the biggest accomplishments I’ve ever achieved, and it’s honestly taking every bit of willpower I have not to just gush about the concept here and now. Sadly, it’s far too early in development to do so, though I do have some concept art I’ll be sharing at a later date. Fun stuff!

Right now though, I just wanted to talk about my first draft journey,  where it’s taken me as a writer, and what I found out about myself and my craft along the way. Which…sounds a lot more dramatic than it really is. But like I said before, this genuinely feels huge to me, and this is coming from someone who’d had work (shorts) accepted by publishers before. This project is my baby, a world I’ve been building for 5+ years, and a genuine joy to work on, even through the sloggy bits.

While working on it, I learned a lot of valuable things, chief among them being:

My Genre and Voice

Initially, I set out to make this project a grimdark sword-and-sorcery story set in a sort of Gothic Horror fantasy setting. But when I actually tried to write out the book, I found that grimdark and gothic horror just don’t come naturally to me, at least in fantasy. I can do elements of it sure, but not wholly. I find that at least for my personal writing style, grimdark is to my fiction what bacon is to a burger. A little bit gives it more meatiness, but add too much and it’s just…well, greasy.

I don’t even know if that made sense, and I think I’m just hungry. For burgers. Specifically from Carl’s Jr because dang it, you make a good western bacon cheeseburger. You can keep those fruit loop donuts though, those look nasty.

Anyway, what was I talking about again? Ah yes, fantasy subgenres. So it turns out, I think I write High Fantasy best, but there’s a caveat to that — it has to have horror elements to work. Again, the bacon on the burger. I did a previous short story that tested pretty well with beta readers that was basically high fantasy with Lovecraftian elements, and people kind of dug it. So when I decided to make a full-blown book, I was like “Ha! I’ll add MORE horror elements!” But ultimately, I feel it works better with a balance, and you need the high optimism to really make the scary bits scary. Thus, Draft 2 will likely be totally different, and sadly won’t feel like a Castlevania level, but should be pretty cool in its own right.

Magic Systems

Okay, so now that I’ve actually written a draft after reading Sanderson’s Mistborn books, I feel like I totally get why the Sanderson-style magic system is a major thing in current fiction. Like I said before, when I started working on the first draft, my goal was to homage Robert E. Howard and classic swords-against-wizardry type stories. The type of stories the Stranger Things kids probably read before diving head-first into 80’s game night.

In practice though, I found myself often wishing I had a magic system to pad out certain scenes and add more character development. There were times when I was practically saying aloud, man, this scene would be so much more awesome if the protagonist had a special power I could have him talk about or use. And even cooler than the powers is of course, the weaknesses. The kryptonite, the bits where the MC has to macguyver himself out of bad situations, or can’t use his neat magic system because if he uses Tacomancy under the light of a full moon, the Taco Bell Chihuahua will drag his soul down to the ninth circle of Hades and…oh hey, there’s food again.  I should really eat an apple or something before I post.

But yeah. Long story short, magic systems are awesome because:

A) They add something totally unique to your story a la Airbending, Allomancy, or the lightweaving from Blackwing. It fleshes out the world and makes it feel like its own, unique thing as opposed to Tolkien or Conan or Game of Thrones with a DLC reskin.

B) It adds meat and pagecount to your story in an organic way, and helps add an element of character growth and development a he/she learns to use [INSERT MAGIC SYSTEM HERE]

C) It makes your readers wonder ‘what would I do if I had those kind of powers,” which is the SIGN OF A GREAT BOOK. All of us as kids at one point tried to throw a kamehameha, or cast Wingardium Leviosa, or use the Force, and anything that makes the readers theorize about what they’d do in that setting is like a hook you sink into them. Magic systems are like, the BEST way to accomplish this, besides really solid worldbuilding and characterization. A good High Fantasy book should ideally have all these elements.

Apparently Brian Jaques was a Huge Influence on my Writing Style

So I went back and skimmed through an old Redwall book, and holy smokes, I think he probably influenced me a LOT more than other writers.

That’s not to say my books feature talking animals or anything, but there’s this sort of cheerful optimism and humor that even when I try (and fail) to write Grimdark, just keeps slipping in. I think Brian was an absolute master at making characters that stick with you, and are really unique and interesting. I still remember that one psycho weasel princess from Triss who smiled when her mother died, or Clooney the Scourge and that flail on his tail, or the weird birds from that same book, or the long-drawn out feasts, Constance the badger, et cetera.

I place a LOT of importance on iconography and place in stories. It’s one reason that despite not being really into YA books or non-secondary world fantasy, Harry Potter sticks out in my mind as a great example of this. You have the four Houses, Hogwarts, a whole wizarding culture, Butterbeer, Bott’s Beans, the Olivander’s Wand-shop…it’s just an endless stream of all these really iconic bits. There’s other fantasy stories I’ve read by contrast, that have massive chapter counts, but never made me feel that same way. That never really put me in that place Redwall or Hogwarts, or King’s Landing or Hobbiton did. And I think going forward, that sense of identity and place is something I’m hoping and praying I can impart in my own fiction. Now that’s a tall order to be sure, and the prospect of living up to such a task is honestly a little (VERY) frightening. But as they say, nothing ventured, nothing gained.