Story Inspirations – Raid on Wewelsburg

My Valducan short, Raid on Wewelsburg releases tomorrow as part of Cohesion Press’ SNAFU: Black Ops anthology.  I’m very excited about this story because it shows a completely new perspective of the Valducan world with a different cast than any of the other previously released tales. With any story, there is always the defining moment of inspiration – a scene or an image that grew into a narrative.  “Raid on Wewelsburg” was a little different in that its inspiration came from an already amazing and unsettling story. It started with a cauldron.


 The Chiemsee Cauldron – In 2001, divers discovered a 23 pound, solid gold cauldron at the bottom of Lake Chiemsee in Bavaria.  Covered with Celtic symbols, the cauldron was originally believed to be a great archaeological discovery until analysis discovered that it was made in the 20th Century.

Research into the cauldron’s origin revealed that it was a Nazi artifact used by the SS and created by the jeweler Otto Gahr.  Gahr is most known for crafting the infamous Totenkopfrings (Death’s Head rings) of the SS.


 Death’s Head Rings – The silver rings were the honor rings worn by the SS.  The rings were decorated with runes and engraved with the owner’s name.  Upon the bearer’s death, the rings were sent to Wewelsburg Castle, the headquarters of the SS, and entombed there.


 Wewelsburg Castle – This German Castle was chosen by Himmler to serve as the headquarters for the SS and as the “Center of the World” for the Reich. The enormous remodeling and reconstructions performed are believed to have been in an attempt to make a modern-day Camelot, complete with a round table and a grail. It is also believed that this grail was the Chiemsee Cauldron.

On March 31, 1945, as the Allies were closing in on the castle, Himmler sent Major Heinz Macher in to collect several valuables, including over 9,000 Death’s Head rings.   Before fleeing, dressed as civilians, Macher’s men attempted to blow up the castle.  They only succeeded in blowing up one of the towers and the neighboring barrack house, but fire destroyed the remaining castle. No one has ever discovered the 9,000 silver rings.

While no one knows why or how the cauldron ended up at the bottom of a Bavarian lake, it is theorized that Macher gave it to an SS Division called the Nibelungen, which was also formed in March of 1945 and consisted primarily of Hitler Youth.  The name Nibelungen comes from German mythology about a race of dwarves tasked with protecting a great treasure. Some suspect that the treasure the Nibelungen Division was tasked with protecting included the cauldron.

On May 2, 1945, the Nibelungen were forced to retreat to the shores of Lake Chiemsee. They surrendered on May 8th, and it believed that during their time there, they sank the cauldron before it could be captured.

The Chiemsee Cauldron and its probable link to Wewelsburg has fascinated me. I’d always wanted to write about it and when Cohesion Press contacted me about their anthology, I knew that it was time. Working it into my Valducan mythology was fun because I wanted to keep as much of the incredible truth to the story as possible. In fact, I used every bit of the history above.

But even before the story was written, I knew the cauldron’s place in the Valducan mythology. My original draft of IBENUS had Luc mention the cauldron when he first discussed demons and governments with Victoria. Sadly, that scene was trimmed for pacing. But very observant readers will notice a few other links between “Raid on Wewelsburg” and several other Valducan stories.

As far as any inspiration that might be noticed between “Raid on Wewelsburg” and the Black Cauldron… well, I think I’ve mentioned before just how influential the Black Cauldron was on my young and impressionable mind.

I hope my readers enjoy this newest addition the the Valducan mythology as much as I do. The anthology releases tomorrow, but readers can buy it today for a special pre-order price.



Nine Facts About Sea of Quills

Sea of Quills RagnarokOne year ago, my second Black Raven collection Sea of Quills hit the shelves.  So in keeping with the tradition with Eleven Facts about Mountain of Daggers, I want to celebrate with a few bits of trivia about Ahren’s second collection. And being that there are nine stories, it deserves nine fun facts.

**Spoilers Below**

1:  Unlike most of the adventures that were written as stand-alones to be released one at a time, the first story, Temptation’s Proposal, was written specifically to be the opening for the second collection. It mirrors Birth of the Black Raven by taking place at a party, and offers a wide range of Ahren’s skills. It is my favorite story in Sea of Quills.

2:  Washed Ashore, The Gilded Noose, and The Raven’s Cage were originally intended to appear in Mountain of Daggers.  It was decided to split them off in order to release both collections back to back at 70,000 words each.

3:  Despite Ahren’s reputation as an assassin, The Blossom of Eternity is the only story where Ahren works as a willing assassin “on screen.”  It was originally requested and written for an assassin-themed anthology, but the antho never happened. The original version had Ahren make one additional attempt on the immortal Baron’s life by murdering him in his bedroom, but the story was beginning to feel too long, so we cut that scene to keep the plot moving.

4:  Both Washed Ashore and Treasure of Bogen Helm were inspired by a sailing trip I did through the Caribbean some years ago.  The island in Treasure of Bogen Helm was modeled after a small island we stopped at that was once covered with wild goats.

5:  The Gilded Noose was inspired by the story of how Michelangelo was conscripted into service by the popes. While Michelangelo’s circumstances were vastly different, I fell in love with the idea of a master artist forced against his will.Prison Hall

6:  The Raven’s Cage was inspired by the prison at the Doge’s Palace in Venice, most notably the graffiti and the passage window looking into Ahren’s cell. It was also my little nod to The Count of Monte Cristo, one of my favorite books. It was the fourth Black Raven story I ever wrote, penned in 2007.

7:  The Second Gift was a story requested for the Time in a Bottle anthology.  It was the first time I ever had an editor contact me to request a story and was a bit of a milestone for me. The stipulation was that it had to be about time.  The pun with using “second” in a story about time was completely unintentional on my part and I hadn’t even thought about it until someone pointed it out to me later.

8:  The Lunnisburg Undercity was inspired by the Seattle Underground. After the Great Seattle Fire, the city was raised, leaving sections hidden below ground. The design of the streets to handle drainage, with raised blocks to allow foot traffic to pass, was taken from the streets of Pompeii.

9:  One of the earliest ideas I had for a Black Raven story was the scene in The Noble Hunter where Ahren steals the jeweled eyes from a public statue, leaving feathers in the empty sockets. The entire story evolved from that specific mental image.

BONUS:  Because many writers ask me about cover art, here is the evolution of Sea of Quills’ cover art from the Rogue Blades Entertainment designs until the final Ragnarok Publications design.  For both, the only requests I had as the author was that Ahren’s face is not clearly visible while the Tyenee pendant is.  



Evolution of Dider Normand’s cover concept design


Sea of Quills
Final wrap-around cover concept by Dider Normand


Final cover art by Alex Raspad


In the next few months I plan to announce Black Raven’s next adventure.  What?  You didn’t think he was done, did you?

If you want to give Ahren a gift for his birthday, please leave him a review on Amazon or Goodreads.


Guest Blogs

It’s been quiet on my blog, but I’ve been busy chatting it up on other blogs.

So for anyone that has missed my current blog-storm, you can find them here.

At Beauty in Ruins, you can read about how I came up with some of the unique monsters I used for Dämoren, Hounacier, and the Screamers in Ibenus. I also confess me deep fear of jellyfish.

At The Quillery, I discuss the different genre styles I use between each Valducan novel in order to keep the series fresh.

I paid a visit to RisingShadow where I explained how I try to avoid the dreaded Aquaman Trope and Eigen Plots. 

Finally, I’m at author Timothy C. Ward‘s site discussing the different layers in storytelling and how summing up a novel’s plot, especially one in an ongoing series, is pretty difficult to pull off in only 1-2 sentences.

I have several more guest blogs on the way, including a few podcast interviews, so I’ll post those up once they go live. In the meantime, I hope everyone enjoys my rambling thoughts and enjoys Ibenus.


Fourteen Facts About Hounacier

Hounacier 2One year ago today Hounacier hit the digital shelves.  In honor of its birthday, and keeping with the tradition that I started with Dämoren’s first birthday, I wanted to share a few fun facts about it.

**Spoilers Below**

1:  Originally, Hounacier wasn’t intended to be the second novel. I’d planned to write Ibenus, followed by Hounacier as the third. However, after a trip to New Orleans, the ideas for for the story were too good not to act on, and Hounacier muscled its way ahead in line. (I have a longer blog about Hounacier’s inspirations from that trip over at Singular Points)

2:  The killers in the Missouri house with the Mistcat were partially inspired by the real serial killers, Leonard Lake, and and Charles Ng (do not read those links unless you are ready for some seriously dark and horrible shit).

3:  The line Malcolm is given about, “I bet I can guess where you got your shoes,” is a real New Orleans street hustle.  I lost $20 to it.  I have since been told by a friend that his uncle lost $50.  I suppose he should have just read Hounacier and saved a few bucks.

4:  The picture that Malcolm sets up in his room with Nick and Colin in Paris was a pre-reference to Hungry Eyes.

5:  Malcolm was a character that caused a lot of conflict for Matt in Dämoren. The move of taking a conflict character and making them the hero in the sequel was inspired by Anne Rice (I called it, “Pulling a Lestat”).  It’s just a coincidence that Anne Rice’s stories also take place in New Orleans.

6:  Malcolm is described as resembling a young Martin Sheen.

Sheen 33
Badlands, 1973

7:  The werewolf, Gulmet, refers to itself as the rougarou. The rougarou is a Cajun folklore monster believed to be a werewolf stalking the bayous around New Orleans.

8:  Flashback scenes with Gulmet take place in Greece between April and October of 1792, when a pair of lunar eclipses occurred within 6 months.

9:  The demon that Ulises kills in Haiti is an asanbosam, which is a vampire-like monster from Ashanti folklore.

10:  Gulmet mentions that there is a lamia named Niriffo that rules the Mid-City district of New Orleans with a pack of ghouls. As of the end of the novel, she’s still there.

11:  Malcolm kills 8 people while under Gulmet’s control.

12:  The original inspiration for the novel was the idea of Malcolm waking up naked and covered in blood in a French Quarter courtyard.  The trick was figuring out the story as to how he got there.

13:  Being a demonic spirit, Gulmet is sexless, though it does prefer male bodies. Gulmet is referred to as either he or she, depending on the sex of the body it inhabits. 

14:  Malcolm’s tattoos described in the book are:

  • Warding Eye on left palm (Earned with his first demon-kill. Killing Gulmet allowed him to replace it.)
  • Empathy Eye on Right Palm (You’ll have to read Hungry Eyes.)
  • Blue Scarab on wrist allows him to sense demonic entities (Earned with a triple kill. He no longer has this tattoo by the end of the novel.)
  • Smell three times better than any human.
  • Three tapered golden lines on forearm gives him night vision (Earned by killing a mistcat)
  • Stamina to stay awake for days at a time (Earned by killing a jorogumo)
  • Serpent on bicep detects poisons.

He has more, but those don’t  have as obvious of benefits.

So there you go.

If you want to give Haounacier a gift for her birthday, she’d love reviews on Amazon or Goodreads (and a huge thank you to everyone who already has).  Also, there is a list of Memorable Quotes on Goodreads.  Please click which ones you like, and feel free to add any ones that I forgot.







Eleven Facts About Mountain of Daggers

Mountain Cover FrontToday marks one year since Mountain of Daggers‘ release.

I’ve written before about the journey it took for it to finally hit print, as well as the various inspirations. But in honor of Black Raven’s birthday, I wanted to share a few bits about my roguish hero. And because there are eleven stories, I figure I should give eleven fun facts.

***Spoiler Warning***

1:  The first story, Birth of the Black Raven, was meant as a stand-alone with an open ending.  I’d never intended for it to have any sequels.  I nearly changed it to a flashback story where at the end a much older Ahren is recounting the tale to a new initiate into the Tyenee.  Thankfully, I decided against it.

2:  While most fantasy thieves are usually depicted in a cloak, Ahren always wears a wide-brimmed hat. I chose the hat because that’s what seemed the most practical for a sailor to wear. (Despite the cool appearance, cloaks murder peripheral vision.)

3:  A news article about diamond smugglers loading their goods into hollow crossbow bolts and firing them outside the perimeter of diamond mines to retrieve later is what inspired The Reluctant Assassin.

4:  Because the first story lacks any magic or fantastical elements, I wrote the The Porvov Switch to bring in demons, magic, and introduce Delakurn’s only obvious non-human race, quellens.

5:  The Ferrymaster’s Toll was originally slated to appear in Flashing Swords #13 as the featured story.  The magazine folded before it hit print. flashswordscovermockup13

6:  Originally, Mountain of Daggers was 14 stories and over 90,000 words.  When Rogue Blades wished to publish it, I was asked to cut that down to 60,000 words, add some newer stories I had already written, and release it as two 60,000-word collections. Three stories were cut and moved to Sea of Quills. Washed Ashore was originally set after Reluctant Assassin. The Gilded Noose was to take place after Darclyian Circus. The Raven’s Cage was the original closing story.

7:  The Seventh General came about after I had a new boss that immediately began pushing me out of a former job. It was also the last story written for the first collection.

8:  Dolch is inspired by the repeat villain Murdoc on MacGyver.

9:  While Ahren has a reputation as an assassin, he never actually murders anyone “on screen.” The people he’s shown killing are always armed and actively posing a threat to him or to his companions.  This was an intentional throwback to the old pulp heroes.  In The Ferrymaster’s Toll he does commit murder, but the reader only sees the bodies after the fact. He’s also shown murdering the unarmed villain in The Reluctant Assassin, but that guy was a dick and totally deserved it. 

10: Race for the Night Ruby was the second Black Raven adventure I wrote.  It’s also my favorite in the first collection.

11:  The Tyenee symbol is described as a mountain of upturned daggers.  I had no idea how that actually looked when I wrote it, but thought that it sounded cool.  When artist Dider Normand was commissioned to create the original cover art, we had to figure out what the symbol actually looked like.  It took several rounds before we had the final look.

BR - Concept MedallionsBR - Mountain Rough

Original concept sketches

Mountain Cover 1st Dr

Final Design


Actual medallion made by Campaign Coins
And you can buy one at my Store!

So there you have it. If you’d like to give Ahren a birthday present, he’s always happy to have a review or rating on Goodreads or on Amazon.




18 Facts About Dämoren

Dämoren was released one year ago today.  In honor of the occasion, I wanted to share a few facts about it. And since Dämoren has 18 shells, I decided on 18 facts.

**Spoilers Below**

1:  Dämoren was originally planned to have been built by the Italian gun-maker Beretta. But when researching, I learned that Beretta didn’t do much work with revolvers in the late 19th Century.  It was changed to a Holland & Holland pistol, a British gun-maker. It wasn’t until after finding pictures of Joseph-Célestin Dumonthier’s cutlass revolvers that I changed it to a Dumonthier pistol and added the blade.

Dumonthier Engraved

2:  There are 21 characters living in the chateau when Matt arrives, him making 22. I’d originally planned for five more, but decided I already had more than enough characters.

3:  The demons that inhabit the jade masks are shishi lions.


4:  The Valducans can confirm 46 holy weapons at the beginning of the book.  They discover one more, bringing the total to 47.  By the end, there are 36 (with a 37th being rebuilt).

5:  Matt being a male character was a last-second decision.  Because I was already so far outside my comfort zone by writing something other than Sword & Sorcery, I decided to make him male.

6:  The Valducan’s airplane is a Fokker F27 turboprop.


7:  Max Schmidt was named after actor Max von Sydow. However, his character was inspired by Walter from Hellsing.

8:  The Mel Gibson movie that Matt watches in his Canadian motel room is Lethal Weapon.

Lethal Weapon Quad

9:  Dämoren takes place in 6 countries and 3 continents (7 countries if you count the interludes).

10:  Neil Gaiman’s use of informational interludes in American Gods inspired their use in Dämoren.

11:  Dämoren’s name was rooted off of the German word  dämon, which means, demon. While I personally love the umlaut in the title, the problems that readers might face when typing searches for it led us to listing it as Damoren on Amazon and Goodreads. 


12:  There was a cut chapter that explained that Ben and Natuche were in a secret relationship. Ben deeply regretted that he never told Natuche that he was in love with her. The chapter was cut because it was the only chapter that wasn’t in Matt’s Point of View and it stuck out.

13:  Dämoren took 15 months to write.

14:  The Wendigo attack in Chapter 1 takes place in upstate New York off of Kinzua Lake. My wife’s family owns a cabin at the same location.

15:  Aside from their holy weapons, the Valducans use several firearms. Matt uses a Mac10 Ingram.  Luiza and Luc both use a SIG Sauer P226 (Luc’s is tan). Allan uses a Walther PPK.  Malcolm caries a sawed-off Remington double barrel. Kazuo uses a WWII Colt M1911.  Jean uses a Steyr AUG at the mine scene. Schmidt carries a .357 Magnum revolver. Ben carries a 5-shot .38 Special.

16:  Demonic breeds shown in Dämoren are: Wendigo, Strutter, Ghoul, Vampire, Werewolf, Oni, Ifrit, Hellhound, Lamia, Rakshasa, Succubi, Itwan, Shishi, Tiamat, and an unnamed orange thing. Demonic breeds mentioned, but not shown are Aswang, Sigben (a.k.a. Chupicabra,) Tengu (the bird-headed thing in Matt’s story), and an unnamed bipedal horned lizard.

17:  Chapter 1 is obviously a prologue, but because so many people have expressed a dislike for prologues, and often skip them, I labeled it Chapter 1.

18:  Lunar eclipses are a major plot point to the novel.  There was a total lunar eclipse on the night Dämoren was released*

Blood Moon

Bonus 19th Fact: (because Dämoren regained one shell):  Dämoren’s technical stats – Seven-shot single action centerfire revolver.  11mm bullet.  Loading gate on left side. Eight-inch octagonal barrel with ten-inch blade. Gold leaf. Small red gems along barrel and a prayer (without “amen.” That’s on the bullet.) The handle is straight, angled down. It is ivory and capped with two wolves heads in bronze.

*OK, technically the next day, but in the early AM before sunrise, so I’m counting it.

Guest Blogs and Events

With two book releases in a single month, everything has been busy.  However, I’ve found the time to write several guest blogs concerning my new books as well as my thoughts on the genre.

At RisingShadow I have, Pulp Heroes: Why We Love Them.  I discuss how pulp heroes are not just some forgotten heroes of a bygone era and why they appeal to us (hint: I talk about James Bond).

SF Signal hosted , Sword and Sorcery: A More Intimate Fantasy, where I explain why I think Sword & Sorcery is a much more fun and relatable genre than Epic Fantasy.

Over at The Quillery, I shared, So We Saved The World…Now What?. There I discuss how sequels needlessly have to up the stakes in every installment and why I rebelled against that in Hounacier by simply changing them. 

At Singular Points I have, Story Inspirations: The History and Hidden Places of New Orleans.  Here I share the story of how I hadn’t planned to write Hounacier as Book 2 until a trip to New Orleans completely changed my mind.

Check them out.  If you like them, or have anything to add, please leave a comment.  I’d love to hear everyone’s thoughts.

Ragnarok Publications is hosting a Facebook Release event on Monday March 21st 8-10EDT.  We’ll have some guest authors (Cat Rambo, Kenny Soward, Jaym Gates, Tim Marquitz, and Lincoln Crisler), give away some free books (I’ll be giving out an Audible version of Damoren and a Black Raven pendant), and have ourselves a good time.  Come by. Laugh with us. Score free stuff.

Finally, for anyone in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, I’ll be speaking at the Tarrant County College Trinity River Campus on April 16th at 2:00.

That’s all for now.

Story Inspirations -Venice

I’ve written before about how travel has inspired many of my story ideas.  Now that Mountain of Daggers is just about to arrive, I want to share how much Venice Italy has influenced it.  In fact, if wasn’t for Venice there would be no Black Raven series.  I’d originally written a single story, Birth of the Black Raven, and intended it to be a stand-alone.  Then in February 2006, my wife and I honeymooned in Italy, spending the majority of our time in Florence and Venice.  When I returned, I immediately started writing new adventures, starting with Race for the Night Ruby.

Venice CanalsCanals:  You simply can’t talk about Venice without addressing its most notable attribute.  If a movie is set in Venice, you can be pretty much guaranteed a boat chase (and a moment when a speedboat cuts a gondola in half). The canals have served as the city’s primary means of transportation for a thousand years. And while they’re no longer the open sewers as they were once, you wouldn’t want to take a dip in one. But they’re as beautiful and as haunting as can be imagined. The city of Nadjancia has a canal system like Venice and is the setting for both Race for the Night Ruby and the Ferrymaster’s Toll.



Venice StreetsStreets:  While the canals are Venice’s best known feature, the streets themselves are a bizarre maze-work of narrow lanes. There are no straight lines in Venice, and trying to walk from one place to another will quickly get you lost, even if you have a map. Many of these streets, even main ones, are so narrow that  I could easily touch both sides at the same time.  You can see this in Race of the Night Ruby.




Masquerade BallsMasks:  Venice is known for its beautiful masks.  They give a sense of mystery. The veils worn in Race for the Night Ruby and The Ferrymaster’s Toll were my own spin on Venetian masks. In 2012 we returned to Venice for Carnival and attended some of the masquerade balls. Shortly after, I wrote Temptation’s Proposal, which centers around a masked ball.


Venice Island of DeadIsola di San Michele:  This walled island serves as the city’s cemetery.  The idea of an “Island of the Dead” caused me to write The Ferrymaster’s Toll.



Venice HorsesHorses of Saint Mark:   These four bronze horses decorate the front of Saint Mark’s Basilica.  They have a facinating history of being looted from Constantinople, then by Napoleopon, and then returned to Venice.  The part that stuck with me most was that they once had ruby eyes (stolen by Napoleon). The idea of a statue overlooking a street with ruby eyes appeared in City Beneath the Kaisers and The Noble Hunter.





Of course the single most influential place was the Doge’s Palace, which I dedicated an entire post to.

Venice is one of the most beautiful places that I’ve had the pleasure to visit, and I’m excited to share what stories that that single city has inspired.  I hope you all enjoy them and I hope maybe they’ll inspire someone to visit the city that brought them to you.




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.


Story Inspirations – The Doge’s Palace

Every writer can name specific things they’ve seen, or read, that eventually appeared in one of their stories, either as a central plot-point or just atmosphere.  For me, the one place that held the most kernels of inspiration was the Doge’s Palace in Venice Italy.

I first visited it during my Honeymoon in 2006.  My wife and I were to take an all-day walking tour of the city.  It started extremely early one cold February morning, and we were on time in getting to the starting point.  Then, half-way there, we realized we’d left the tickets back at our hotel.  In a frenzy, we rushed back, grabbed the tickets, then ran across town to where the tour was (not an easy task, since there are no direct paths anywhere in Venice).  We missed the tour by five minutes.

Since we were up, we decided to make the most of it, and wandered into the Doge’s Palace.  We figured it would be two, maybe three hours, then we’d explore somewhere else.

We spent nearly the whole day there.

Later, many of the things I saw ended up in my fantasy stories.   Most I hadn’t taken pictures of at the time, but when we returned again in 2012, I made sure to snag some shots of the things that directly inspired me.

Mouth of TruthMouth of Truth:  Once upon a time, Venetians could denounce criminals by writing the lawbreaker’s name and crime on a note, then slipping it through the open mouth of this carved face.  Think of it as the original ‘Police Tip Line’.  I used a similar device in my story, ‘The Porvov Switch‘.  In it, I referred to the Mouth of Truth by a much less romantic name:  The Rat Hole.






Trapped BoxTrapped Box:  This nasty little box appears like any other casket for money or treasure.  However, the treasure this box holds is DEATH.  When opened, it fires 4 bullets simultaneously, two out the front, one out of the left and right sides.  I used a similar device in my story, ‘Race of the Night Ruby‘.




Trapped KeyTrapped Key:  The picture really doesn’t capture the mechanism involved, but the idea is quite devious.  The key is a trap.  When used, a button at the tip fires a spring-loaded spike out through the shaft and into the user’s hand.  Not enough to kill anyone, but definitely enough to ruin someone’s day and to identify who stole your key ring.  I used a similar device in ‘The Ferrymaster’s Toll‘.





Prison HallPrison Window:  There is a prison linked to the Doge’s Palace (which is a lot like having Gitmo being a wing of the White House), and while touring it, I saw these windows along the halls that peered into the different cells.  Normally, in TV and movies, cell windows are either set into the door, or look outside (where our hero inevitably befriends a bird or stares up at the moon).  These windows allow guards to easily observe what was going on inside the cells (useful for determining if the prisoner is hiding beside the door with a shank, waiting for you to open it).  In ‘The Raven’s Cage‘ I used a cell window like these as a central point.


 Prison Graffiti 2 Prison Graffiti 1Prison Graffiti:  With nothing much to do , prisoners would carve very elaborate graffiti in their cell walls.  Some of it is actually quite impressive.  Like most graffiti today, there are quite a lot of penises.  I made mention of the abundant graffiti in ‘The Raven’s Cage‘ as a way to add atmosphere.



  There were of course many other things that caught my interest at the palace, several of which will appear in future stories.  But as of now, a single missed tour led me to a place that I can identify four different stories that benefited from our forgetfulness.