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.


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.