Black Raven Revealed – February in Review

Hi All,

Well, the past few weeks have been extremely busy.  I’ve gone through a couple rounds of Dämoren revisions, and she’s looking pretty good.  There’s more editing and changes left to do, but it’s coming along very nicely.  Of course, novel revisions have eaten into a lot of my normal writing time, but I still found time to knock out Chapter 5 of Hounacier.  I’m about 25% through the first draft, so I’m pretty excited to see it shaping up.

But what gets me the most excited is this…

MOD - Cover artHiya, handsome

That, ladies and gentlemen, is the cover art for Mountain of Daggers, and I think artist Didier Normand did a fantastic job.

Ahren looks great, and that Tyenee pendant…wow.  I mean…WOW!  I love it.

I’m already discussing with a couple places the details for having that pendant made for real.  I can almost promise that myself and my editor, Jason Waltz, will be getting one.  That medallion is just too pretty not to exist.  Pricing, of course, will determine if other medallions will available, and if so, expect some contest prizes. 

The picture seems to be cut off though, doesn’t it?  What’s Ahren doing there?  What’s in his hand? If only the picture kept going, maybe wrapping around the rest of the book, we could see what he’s up to.

Oh wait, never mind, it totally does…


Mountain Cover 1st DrIs just a few short moments, three people will need to roll some Saving Throws


That picture makes me happy.  It makes me very, very happy.  I want to thank Rogue Blades Entertainment and Didier Normand for making that picture a reality. 

The last update I can give for the month is that last night I outlined my next Black Raven adventure.  Very Lovecraftian.  I can’t wait to start writing it out.



Story Inspirations – Florence

Hi all,

As I’ve written before, every author can name specific things they’ve seen, or read, that eventually appeared in one of their stories.  One city that has, and will continue to inspire my writing, is Florence Italy.


My first trip to Florence was in 2006, then again in 2012.  It is a beautiful city, brimming with history.  So much of it has appeared in my Black Raven stories, but the majority is simply atmosphere.  However, I did get a few pictures of some of the specific things that have directly influenced my writing.


TowerLonely Tower:  This tower was once part of the city walls and housed the mint.  Now it stands alone on a little island in the street.  Its imposing walls, and the difficulty I imagine in trying to break into a building that is so out in the open, led me to use similar buildings in both Darclyian Circus, and City Beneath the Kaisers.





Michelangelo's TombMichelangelo:  It’s impossible to spend any time in Florence without seeing Michelangelo’s influence.  He was so popular in his time, that the Pope more or less forced Michelangelo to work commissions for the church.  The idea of an artist held prisoner is what inspired The Gilded Noose.




LocksLockLock Clusters:  On and around the Ponte Vecchio bridge, there are thousands and thousands of padlocks affixed to just about everything.  The local legend is that lovers who affix a lock to the bridge, then throw the key into the River Arno, will have good luck.  I used these locks in Dämoren.




PerseusPerseus with the Head of Medusa:  Benvenuto Cellini’s (the guy whose bust is surrounded by locks above) beautiful sculpture captured my imagination when I first saw it in 2006.
I’ve always loved the Perseus myth and used the story in Dämoren. Later, I decided to give the statue a brief cameo in my novel.






Florence StreetsRoofs Along Narrow Streets and Alleys: My love of rooftop chases is older than I can remember. I’d already used the idea in The Mist of Lichthafen before I’d ever made it to Europe. Later, when I actually saw how close the rooftops actually were, and the support arches between buildings, I knew that it wasn’t just fantasy. Since then, my heroes have hopped rooftop to rooftop in several stories, most notably, Thieves’ Duel.

Alleys are one of my guilty pleasures.  When other tourists are snapping pictures of beautiful churches and great artistic achievements, I’m creeping though the narrow alley across the street. Florence is centuries old.  It’s endured wars, plagues, riots, and all kinds of other nastiness.  There’s no inch of the city that isn’t history, and for some reason, alleys are where I can really feel it.  More than once, my wife has turned around from something beautiful to realize that I’ve ducked off into some side-street to explore.

Narrow StreetThis alley is exactly one Seth wide

 I’ve heard many authors say, “Never stop writing.”  That’s great advice.  However, you do stop.  You go to work, you go out with friends and family, you get sick, you bingewatch Downton Abbey.  You might stop for only a few hours or days, but you do stop.

Because life happens, my secondary advice is, “Never stop drawing inspiration.” When you’re not writing, you’re still researching.  Maybe not consciously, but you are.  Keep that little recorder going in the back of your head.  Note smells, sights, and the way things make you feel.  Keep them in your mind because once you do return to your writing, you’ll have them waiting for you.

Writing isn’t just sitting in front of a computer, pounding out page after page.  Writing is teaching yourself to record the world in ways that can be told to others.  You don’t just look at a picture to draw your inspiration.  You note the frame, the wall behind the picture, the sounds of the room the picture is in, the hall that led you to it. Being a writer is being able to remember all those little details, the emotions they conjured, and letting your imagination run wild with them.

Never stop drawing inspiration.


3 Origin Stories They Totally Dropped The Ball On

Whenever we’re introduced to a great an interesting character in a movie or TV show, we want to learn more about them. How did they get that cool?  Why are they so evil? What’s up with that hair?  So our favorite writers will sit down and toil away for hours/months/years to craft a beautifully fitting and awesome origin for these characters.  Other times, they just puke something out, hand it to us, and cash their check.  Below is a few of those.

(Warning: Spoilers of old Movies and TV shows)


3 – Anakin Skywalker
You should have seen this one coming.  How could you not?  When George Lucas told us that he was going to reveal the story as to how Darth Vader got so evil, and so damned mysterious, the Nerd World was literally lining up to hand him our money.  This is the same guy that beautifully explained that Indiana Jones became such a badass guy because his daddy was James-Freakin-Bond, and his fear of snakes was because of a circus train mishap while he was being chased by his future alter-ego, oh, and Indiana was the dog’s name.  Brilliant!  And now that same beautiful mind will tell us how a young Jedi became Thulsa Doom. (Author’s Note:  If you understood incoherent rambling above, you’re my people.)

Instead of awesome, we got this:

AnakinAnd the Nerd World wept.

After Qui-Gon Jinn’s SR 71 Blackbird spaceship lands on Tatooine, they meet little annoyingly cute Anakin Skywalker whose force-power is through the roof.  When they ask his mom who this kid’s dad was, she said he had no father.  This leaves us to believe one of the following…

1: She’s lying and is ashamed of the father’s identity (I’m guessing Watto)
2: She was impregnated by a swarm of midi-chlorians (They swarm, right?)
3: This is a virgin birth and Anakin is Jesus.

Younglings DieWWJD?  I’m guessing not murder a room full of cute kids.

Why it Sucks:
There is no need for a mysterious origin like this.  If Lucas wanted to say that there was something more at play to a random slave child on a back-woods planet to be the most powerful Jedi in the world, he could have given us more. 
Fans have theorized that Anakin’s origin was the clever manipulation of midi-chlorians by Darth Plaugeis, but that’s just a fan theory to explain the unexplainable.  Now we’re to believe that the already ridiculously elaborate plan of Darth Sideous to get himself on the Senate included the part where they stop for gas on Planet-X and happen to pick up a child that they will bring home for him to corrupt.
Lucas could have had Anakin’s mom be impregnated by a mysterious man that came out of the desert and loved her for one night, or a mysterious man with a hypodermic needle, or she was on a medical ship that crashed on Tatooine and was sold into slavery and has no idea what experiments were done to her, but 9 months later Anakin came flying out.  Those then lead to further questions and more mystery and not some goofy, “I swear I’m a virgin” excuse.


2 – Starbuck.

DirkBenedict - StarbuckNo, the other Starbuck.


Starbuck-KaraYep, that Starbuck.

The reboot of Battlestar Galactica turned a fun and cheesy 70’s sci-fi show into a kickass series filled with intrigue and commentary on current events.  Among the cast is Kara “Starbuck” Thrace.  For most of the show Starbuck is a cocky, overconfident, emotionally damaged, extremely religious, very artistic, likely an alcoholic, badass.  We loved her.  As the series goes on, and the Cylons begin revealing themselves, we learn of the #7 model, Daniel.  We never meet this Daniel, but learn that he was a very artistic model, and that he and his entire line (of very religious robots) are dead and the Cylon ability to regenerate (come back from the dead) won’t even work on him.

Meanwhile, Starbuck dies.

Never mind, she comes back in a brand new Viper, that’s just like her old one, but not.

Logically, everyone believes Starbuck is a Cylon.  But then we learn that she’s not.  Then we have flashbacks of her dad, a musician that’s been dead now for several years.  Her dad teaches her a little song that also just so happens to be the key coordinates to Earth, a song that the half-breed Cylon child of Athena and Helo also knows.  At this point, everyone has come to one of two conclusions.

1: Starbuck’s piano-playing father is this Daniel guy who made a unique model (Kara) and Kara is a Cylon (or half-Cylon) and she has the ability to regenerate somehow.  Maybe before Daniel died, he gave her all the clues in her databanks and that’s where all her visions come from.
2: Kara is Daniel in a different body.  She’s created her own regeneration ship that’s been following the fleet and she and has learned the key to Humanity’s salvation.

In the end we learn that neither are true.  Kara is an angel (or something) and in the last few minutes she vanishes into thin air.

Why it Sucks:
Fraking angel!
Seriously? After all the good writing and twists and turns, we have Starbuck just vanish for no real reason? I have no problem with there being angels on the show. They already had two of them. But neither followed the weird incoherent rules of the Starbuck Angel (such as being corporeal and killing things). The Starbuck explanation was terrible writing in an otherwise great show.



 1 –  Shepherd Book.

BookBadass space-preacher

Out of all the great characters in Firefly, the most mysterious was by far Shepherd Book.  At first, he’s this nice priest that ends up on a crew of smugglers, fugitives, and Jayne Cobb (which is a classification unto itself).  As the series progresses, we start learning little tidbits about our good Shepherd, such as his in depth knowledge of the criminal underworld, master proficiency with military weaponry, and one freaky moment when psychic River sees him being all kinds of sinister beneath his normally sweet facade.  At one point, bounty-hunter Jubal Early mentions that Book, “ain’t no Shepherd.”  The biggest mystery, however, was when Book was shot, and the desperate crew brought him to an Alliance ship for help.  The captain was about to dismiss Book to go off and die, but then sees Book’s ID card, craps himself, and gives Book the best medical attention the future has to offer.  Why would they do that?  Then the show ended and he Nerd World wept.

Then the movie “Serenity” comes out.  In it, we learn two things:

1: Book knows a hell of a lot about super-secret Alliance spies.
2: Book won’t reveal his past and it will forever be a mystery (and the Nerd World wept.)

And that was it…until…

TheShepherdsTale-CoverSeriously, if you have not read this, do not keep going.

In this origin story comic book, they just couldn’t leave well enough alone and decided to reveal who Book really is.  In short, Shepherd Book is a super-elite Independence Movement spy that infiltrated the Alliance, worked his way up in the ranks until he could sabotage it from the inside.  He was responsible for the “single greatest disaster in Alliance history” in which thousands of people died.  Disgraced, he was politely asked to leave the service by being shout out of his ship in an escape pod.  Eventually he found God, joined the Monastery, and then wandered onto Serenity.  Oh, and he has a bionic eye and his real name isn’t Book.

Why it Sucks:
OK, so if Book was a disgraced Alliance Officer that was responsible for the “single greatest disaster in Alliance history,” why would an Alliance captain even bother to fix Book’s injuries?  He wouldn’t.  Book was dishonorably discharged out of an escape pod.  They don’t care if he dies.  They WANT him to die.  This makes no sense.  Also, it’s just too easy that Book was a super-spy for the good guys.  This was a cop-out.

There are dozens of fan theories out there as to who, and what, Shepherd Book was supposed to be.  Here’s mine: Shepherd Book was Alliance.  Possibly high-ranking officer or even an Agent.  Book is hailed as a freaking hero because during the Rebellion, Book was instrumental in the victory at The Battle of Serenity Valley.  He won the war.  However, the carnage and death he witnessed was too much for him and he faded off into obscurity.  He found God, joined a monastery, and then finds himself on a ship captained by a man that lost his own faith in God when his men died at the Battle of Serenity Valley.  Book sees this as a sign, and the reason he stays on the ship is because he believes that the key to his salvation is to restore the faith to the man he stole it from.

Now imagine that the series was never cancelled.  Now imagine the conflict that would occur when someone found out that sweet Shepherd Book was responsible for all the mental anguish that Malcolm and Zoe endured.  Imagine what they would do if Mal or Zoe found out.  Beautiful, isn’t it?

Unfortunately, they went with the bionic eye story, instead.

Editing and Ice: A Summary of my January

Hi all,

The past month has been eventful.  Hounacier is coming along quite nicely.  I’ve broken the 20,000 word mark and am plugging away at a good speed.

Early in the month, Old Man Winter blessed our house with this little present.

StupidPipeBurstThe pipe says:  “Boooooshhhh!”

 It might not look like much, but that teeny tiny hole was quickly able to turn our downstairs into a small lake.  Fortunately, my wife was home at the time it blew, otherwise it might have destroyed our house.  The pipe itself went to an outside faucet, and yes, I had put one of those insulated covers on it.  The problem was that the people who built our home never really considered the possibility that Texas would get that cold, so they were a tad lax on installing anything that resembled wall insulation.  (It was the 1980’s then, a strange time when bathrooms were carpeted, and insulation was just a suggestion.  Both those issues have now been addressed.)

Dämoren revisions are underway.  So far, we’ve trimmed over 2,000 words.  Right now I’m just waiting for the next round.  Most authors I talk to really hate the editing process.  Not me.  I dig it.  My reasons for that could fill an entire blog post (Note to Self: Write a post about this), but the short of it is that stories look better after they’re professionally edited.  Yeah, it can hurt some, but so can all sorts of other things we do to make ourselves presentable.  I trust Tim Marquitz, and together we’re going to clean her up and make her shine.

The cover art for Mountain of Daggers is just about finished.  I saw it last week and absolutely love it.  There was just one minor change I requested before it’s complete.  Hopefully, I’ll get permission to share it soon.  Mountain of Daggers has been a long-time coming, and seeing the art actually gave me chills.  The focal point of the cover is a pendant depicting a mountain made of upturned daggers.  Seeing that symbol (drawn well, and not my own terrible sketches) was by far the greatest part.  There is a slight (98.42%) chance that I may have a pendant made for myself.

All in all, it’s been a good month (Except for that broken pipe part.  That part sucked).