Can you name all of the characters who have served as inspirations for Vykers?
It's that time again -- time to scrounge every penny I can beg, borrow or dig out of my couch to fund the cover art for my next book. You might think I could fund it myself from the vast profits off my first three books...and you'd be mistaken. Every penny -- and I do mean every penny -- goes back into marketing (per Shark Tank recommendations!). And often it's just not enough. The Immortal Treachery series is getting enormous traction online, as you can tell from the wonderful reviews we're getting from fans and critics alike. But we haven't quite reached critical mass.
So, here's a fun way you can participate and show your Vykers pride! There are already over fifty proud owners of these awesome hoodies, and now you can have one, too!
They're cozy, they're eye-catching, and I've literally been stopped in the street by complete strangers, wanting to know all about them!
The most challenging part of being an independent author is the marketing, and not just because it takes time away from writing, but also because it seems to offer frustratingly little benefit.
In my three years of marketing Steel, Blood & Fire, I have tried just about everything a cash-strapped teacher can manage. I’ve purchased flashy bookmarks and given them away at various Cons. I’ve handed out attractive, custom hoodies. I’ve advertised on Google, Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and others. I’ve promoted my book(s) on those same platforms, along with Instagram, Pinterest, G+ and others. I’m almost desperate enough to buy space on Farmersonly.com or womenbehindbars.com! Within all these platforms, I’ve purchased services from various groups that promise a dramatic increase in visits to my website (hasn’t happened) or improved sales (nope). Results have been poor, to say the least, even when I follow directions to the letter.
Perhaps it’s my books, then? Well, that was actually my first thought. But reviews have been great and some downright stellar. Despite the old adage (that shall not be repeated here), it occurred to me that my covers might be the problem, but, with the help of friend Shay Roberts, I’ve gone to great lengths to ensure my covers are as captivating as budget will allow.
So, what the heck is it? What’s the secret? How DOES one get the word out to the intended audience? Why is it so danged hard?
I think one of the issues is that there are well over 400,000 fantasy books on Amazon. In that sea of books, there is some very successful garbage and some shamefully unknown brilliance, and it seems at times that readership and recognition are almost arbitrary. It is nearly impossible to make noise in such a large group.
There is some good news, though. Groups like the folks at BestFantasyBooks.com can be very supportive if an author is willing to invest the time and express an interest in the genre beyond mere self-promotion. For me, though, and I suspect most authors, the most successful factor has been word-of-mouth. When readers love a book and share that with friends, it does more for sales and spirits than the most artful Twitter campaign ever designed.
Remember that when you find a book you love; you may be its greatest, its only champion.
I had the opportunity recently to beta-read two separate novels-in-the-works about vampires, werewolves and other beasties of the night. Both are fantastic, but in today’s blog post, I’m going to discuss the first to be published, and I’ll cover the second at a later date.
Heartblaze: Secret Soul, by Shay Roberts, is the first in a planned series about a young woman, Emma Rue, who discovers she’s lived a previous life. The story then exists on parallel timelines – past and present – in which Emma discovers supernatural allies and enemies in the form of vampires, werewolves and more. Indeed, Emma learns that the love of her lives might just be one of these creatures, and this raises a number of questions about her own nature and purpose in life.
This book is chock full of action, thrills, romance, humor, and even a healthy dose of meticulously researched and recounted history in which, it turns out, Emma may have played a not insignificant role.
Heartblaze: Secret Soul is what the Twilight series might have been if Stephenie Meyer had a bit more imagination and skill; it’s what Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles might have been if Rice had a more-evident sense of humor. I fully expect this series to be huge, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. Check it out on Amazon!
With his naturally pale visage, jet-black hair, sparkling blue eyes and full lips, actor Tobias McCurry (his real name!) looks like either a dark elf or the son of Dracula, and his larger than life charisma belies his diminutive frame. He may be on the smallish side, but he’s getting bigger every day, as folks in the LARPING industry will attest.
What’s LARPing, you ask? LARP stands for “Live Action Role Playing,” and Tobias is on the cutting edge, metaphorically speaking.
Tobias and I got together recently in person and online to chat about his contributions to and participation in the fantasy genre.
Is it okay if I refer to you as a professional LARPer?
Absolutely! I do a lot of travel for LARP and put a lot of work and effort into it. I am head of marketing / new player coordinator for Dystopia Rising: WA, as well.
How did you get into it?
I got into Live Action Roleplaying at Seattle’s first steampunk convention (rest its soul) Steamcon 1, I believe six or seven years ago. I was brought into a steampunk LARP called Rise of Aester. I, being into theatre, was very excited to be handed a role and run with it. The community I found there was incredibly inclusive, welcoming, and friendly, so I stuck with them and kept playing!
You’ve told me in the past that you have various “kits.” Can you list them again and tell us what they’re for?
I do a lot of costuming based on genre, and not characters. And I make my costumes rugged. Though while most of them are my work, I don’t do it all. (See: sewing.) But because of their multifaceted use beyond just costuming, I refer to them as kits. They’re used for anything from walking around conventions and events, to LARPing out in the woods for three or four days straight.
I have a several steampunk kits, a post-apocalyptic kit, several variations on pirates, formal Victorian, and probably several in my closet that I’m just currently forgetting about.
Have you ever been injured whilst LARPing and/or what was the worst injury you’ve seen?
I personally have never suffered any major injuries, but it can be a physical sport. And as such, everyone runs some risk of injury. I have seen several concussions occur, because running around in the woods at night can be hazardous. But overall, I haven’t seen many injuries whilst LARPing.
You mentioned there will be a Dystopia Rising gathering this spring that might include as many as six or seven hundred people. How can folks learn more?
Dystopia Rising’s flagship game in New Jersey will be holding Downfall, an event where people from DR games across the nation rendezvous to play an extended 4 day game in which they work to survive the zombie apocalypse! I’ll be trying to make it!
You recently appeared on GSN (Game Show Network). What can you tell us about that project and do you anticipate being involved going forward?
Yes, I appeared on Steampunk’d on GSN. (It airs Wednesdays 10/9c) It was a very interesting experience in which I got to meet amazing artists and incredibly talented individuals while working alongside them to Steampunk a room in a competitive environment. I don’t know what the network has in mind for any future participation, though! They keep the cards close to their chest.
You go to a lot of conventions. Some of that is on your own dime, but others are sponsored, no? About what percentage is sponsored?
I have only recently begun being sponsored or hired to work at conventions, actually! I just worked Gencon and PAX as a booth representative, otherwise known as a booth babe, booth bro, board game beefcake, or hall hunk.
For Gencon, I worked for a steampunk airship board game called Incredible Expeditions, and that was a wonderful experience. For PAX Prime, I worked representing a violent parody platformer PC game dubbed Apocalypse Cow!
So really, most of my conventions are either through connections or my own dime. I will be a featured guest at Steamposium in Seattle though! I hope to see you there!
I also will have a very big announcement about another convention I will be guesting at soon, so keep your eyes on my social media!
What kind of deal/sponsorship, etc., will it take for you to reach full-time employment in this field, and is that something you’re aiming for?
I genuinely have no idea what it would take to reach full time employment. I love to go to these events, meet people, talk about what I do, or what I’m passionate about. It doesn’t feel like work for me to promote something I enjoy. Would I like to make a living in the field of LARP / Nerd Stuff / Art? Hell yeah.
Besides yourself (wink wink), who are the really big names in your industry?
I don’t have a very defined industry, but in the world of Steampunk you have people like Kato and Thomas Willeford. When it comes to LARP, with Dystopia Rising specifically, you can look at Eschaton Media’s CEO Ashley Zdeb, and their content creator Michael Pucci. Otherwise, what is my industry?!
What are your favorite board games?
I actually don’t play too many board games or table top games, but I do thoroughly enjoy them when I get the chance. I am of course biased about Incredible Expeditions, as I’m in it. Though I’ve also been known to partake in Dungeons and Dragons campaigns and the like, as I am an avid role-player.
I sometimes feel as if we’re in a golden age of cable television with Game of Thrones, Vikings (my favorite), Penny Dreadful, Walking Dead, The Strain and others. Do you watch any of these and do you have favorites?
I definitely don’t watch TV much, as I’m often busy with a project or putting on an event, but I occasionally get the urge to binge watch entire seasons of shows if I’m interested. I’m clearly a pretty big fan of The Walking Dead, though my zombie-oriented background might suggest that I’m biased. I also thought that Star Wars: The Clone Wars series was actually amazingly well done.
Do you have groupies?
I wouldn’t say I have, like, people with my face on their shirt. (Though that would be hilarious to have that Captain Hammer-style. Cosplay idea, guys.) But I definitely have people who follow what I’m doing, which has been kind of weird and awesome. Having people walk up to me at conventions and stuff who I don’t know is pretty cool, mainly because it opens the door to meet new and awesome people who share the same interests as I do!
Where do you see yourself in, say, ten years?
I have no clue. Life is full of amazing opportunities, and it’s all about what I have the ability to seize. Doors are opening often these days, and I am an extremely lucky and fortunate individual to have the support of family, friends, and fans. Hopefully I’ll be doing a lot of work at events and conventions!!!
So, we met at the Great Horror Campout, Seattle edition. What was that whole experience like for you and how do you see that company developing?
The Great Horror Campout was awesome! Stay up all night in a really badass costume bein’ spooky? That’s my jam! I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to act in such a unique environment, and this crazy doctor character in the area next to mine was pretty cool, too. --Oh wait, that was you.
As for that company developing, I actually don’t know a ton about their projects beyond what they did here. I assume they’ll make it back up this way someday, but from what I understand they’re primarily based out of LA and are therefore going to hold most of their events in the Southern California region. It was fun working with them, though.
Finally, awesome weapon or magic power?
Magic is almost always superior to physical weapons. Though I always have a terribly hard time having to pick just one power. While I’m a big fan of the usual invisibility, I’m just saying I’d save a lot of money on travel if I could teleport...
For more on Tobias McCurry, follow him on Twitter @TobiasMcCurry
Grimdark, as it has been defined by folks more in the know than yours truly, is both a genre and a style of narrative that is, well, grim, dark, gritty, and slightly dystopian. You’ll also find the words “amoral,” or “hopeless” attached to it. But it is sometimes easier to identify in its manifestations than its qualities. For example, it is generally agreed that George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones is grimdark. But things get murkier after that. Is Joe Abercrombie grimdark? How about Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner? Is Cormac McCarthy’s The Road grimdark? Or just effing grim?
I certainly aspire to it in my books, but the optimist and former stand-up comedian in me can’t resist the occasional flash of unwarranted absurdity. Sue me. Whether my works qualify or not, though, that thing we call “grimdark” has been around a good deal longer than its name.
Take Macbeth. If you feel anything but lousy after seeing or reading it, you either didn’t understand the text or you watched a bad production. Macbeth getting his comeuppance isn’t supposed to be satisfying. It’s a rusty dirk to the gut. Macbeth was the good guy in the beginning, the golden boy. But he runs afoul of some witches (including his wife!) and his own ambition, and all that potential is washed down the drain with a river of blood. The guys who come after him? The debate’s still out on those weasels.
Have you read or seen Titus Andronicus? It makes Game of Thrones look like something you’d see on Teen Nick. Maiming, decapitations, rape, murder, cannibalism. And that’s just in the ticket line.
And the real tragedy of Hamlet is that he lives in a world without sanity, reason or hope. What could be more grimdark than his line:
How stand I then,
That have a father kill'd, a mother stain'd,
Excitements of my reason and my blood,
And let all sleep? while, to my shame, I see
The imminent death of twenty thousand men,
That, for a fantasy and trick of fame,
Go to their graves like beds, fight for a plot
Whereon the numbers cannot try the cause,
Which is not tomb enough and continent
To hide the slain?
And I could go on and on about Othello and Lear as well. The point is these flavors have been around for centuries, at the very least. That we’ve only just gotten round to naming them is our bad.
One of the slipperiest issues in popular fiction is that of grammar. If you’ve read my books, you know I take tremendous license with the established rules. For example, there’s an age-old standard that we’re not supposed to begin sentences with ‘but’ or ‘and’. I do it frequently.
I wouldn’t consider myself an authority on grammar, but I do teach it for a living. Most of the ‘mistakes’ I’ve made are mistakes of choice (I am aware there’s a dangling modifier about two-thirds of the way through my first book, and I need to find and fix it!). I’ve tried to create a narrative voice that sounds like a story, rather than a work of literature. I’m not sure I could create literature even if I wanted to (‘never end a sentence with a preposition’). Mine are popcorn stories; they’re beach books and stormy weather sagas.
When I first encountered Stephen King’s work in middle school, I was instantly enthralled. As I grew older, I got a bit jaded. I became tired of his one-word sentences and paragraphs that seemed to defy everything I’d been taught. But I continued to mature, and now I adore him again. Stephen King writes with unmistakable voice and panache. And, after all, why should he follow rules that Joyce and Faulkner flout?
But on top of all this, I come from the stage. One of my readers observed that my work is very dialogue-heavy. Mea culpa. What else would you expect from a Shakespearean actor and former stand-up comic?
My work will never be analyzed in The New Yorker. And I’m okay with that. I just want to tell a ripping good yarn.
How are the NFL and Epic Fantasy related? Two words: Beast Mode. Or, for those of you less familiar with professional football: Marshawn Lynch. Lynch is what you’d get if you put a helmet and shoulder pads on Tarmun Vykers – a man whose actions speak louder than anyone’s words, a man who is, to quote Lynch, “All about that action, boss.”
It’s not unusual for a running back to be both fast and strong, or strong and elusive, or fast and possessive of great vision, or graceful with soft hands. What is rare, however, is when you’ve got someone who is all of that and more. Lynch plays sick, hurt, or frustrated with his salary. He just plays. And it takes an army to tackle him. Think I’m exaggerating? Go to YouTube and watch Beast Mode highlights. Or listen to seasoned NFL veteran and broadcaster Steve Raible call it for the radio: http://www.seahawks.com/videos-photos/videos/Raible-on-the-Call-Beast-Mode-79-Yard-Touchdown/873ebd9a-53ed-4e95-86f5-1c9fb908d517
Even when you know he’s coming, you can’t stop him.
And the thing is, Lynch is not some character dreamed up by an author with an overactive imagination. He’s real! If you think the feats accomplished by Tarmun Vykers or Conan the Barbarian or Elric of Melnibone are far-fetched, how do you explain the out-of-this-world magnificence of the Beast Mode? Put a sword in that man’s hand, and there’s no kingdom he couldn’t conquer.
I don't normally post reviews -- especially non-professional reviews. But this reader, Captain "My Other Car is a Boat," really understood what I was going for, really connected with my books. I love what he's written so much, I have to share!
"And it's a debut! I'm finally writing my review after reading this more than a year ago because I just finished the sequel, As Flies To Wanton Boys, which is just as good. The anti-hero, Tarmun Vykers, is the baddest guy in fantasy, even more so than the Bloody Nine. The writing is superb, and you get to know the characters like close friends. Somewhat reminiscent of Black Company as far as camaraderie goes, but far more action. The ultimate battle is the best and biggest this side of Coltaine's Chain of Dogs march or those in The Ten Thousand/Macht trilogy.
And now I see it's not available, even for Kindle, which is how I bought it and the sequel. It would be a shame if more people don't have access to this great book. Wonder what's going on. Buy it used if you have to but buy it."
Tom Petty must have been talking about book sequels when he wrote “The waiting is the hardest part.” And, indeed, waiting for George R. R. Martin or Patrick Rothfuss to release the next book can be excruciating. While I’m not in their league, some of you have even groused at me about the length of time it’s taking to release my third book and/or re-release books one and two. All I can tell you at this juncture is that these things are coming.
In the meantime, I can recommend some authors and books that I’ve enjoyed immensely.
One of my current favorite authors is Joe Abercrombie. I was lucky enough to stumble onto him on his first book, The Blade Itself, and I’ve been happily devouring his works ever since. Joe’s books are chock full of black humor, violence, betrayals and sex, (not necessarily in that order, and often all at once) with the occasional hint of the supernatural. You won’t find any elves skipping merrily through the daffodils here.
Tad Williams is a fantastic writer who knows how to write epic fantasy and bring it all together into an equally epic climax. He’s also one of the first authors I ever encountered who was willing to reinterpret elves in a way that truly made them and their desires utterly alien. You might start with The Dragonbone Chair.
Glen Cook is often credited with having instigated a sea change in the way we approach epic fantasy, and his Tales of the Black Company is not to be missed, particularly in regards to the manner in which he handles military types in a fantasy world.
Steven Erikson’s Malazan Book of the Fallen was a healthy obsession for a good many years, as the former archeologist knows how to build worlds in ways that leave most of us in the dust (I suspect there’s some kind of pun there, but I’ll be damned if I can find it). Erikson admits to having been inspired by Cook, but he takes his ideas in amazing and unpredictable directions. Most noteworthy of all, Erikson knows how to wrap up each novel in a way that is as fulfilling as it is unforgettable. I could wax poetic, as Shakespeare might say, “For whole volumes, in folio” about other aspects of Erikson’s work, but I’ll leave it to you to discover them.
Years ago, I was looking for a new series when I stumbled upon Magician, by Raymond E. Feist. He quickly became my favorite author at the time and for a decade or more afterwards. His books are a little more straight Dungeons & Dragons than anyone else on this list, and, after reading through some thirty or so of them, I’m a little exhausted. Still, the man’s a master and doubtless inspired countless others in the genre.
You can’t really call yourself a fan of epic fantasy unless and until you’ve read Michael Moorcock’s Elric Saga, starting with Elric of Melnibone. I’m doing Moorcock an injustice, here, in even attempting to describe his work, but suffice it to say that Elric is essentially an albino elf sorcerer with a dark, sentient greatsword – and perhaps the inspiration for Erikson’s Anomander Rake?
Patrick Rothfuss is the much ballyhooed author of The Name of the Wind, the first book of the Kingkiller Chronicle. After a lengthy wait, I’m happy to see book three is coming out near Halloween. Anyway, Rothfuss’ protagonist, Kvothe, is part Bard, part Warrior and part…Harry Potter. Yes, yes, I know how that sounds, but Rothfuss pulls it off with incredible aplomb. I’m leaving a lot out, but that’s because I don’t want to spoil it for you! And his writing is simply beautiful.
R. Scott Bakker is another whose works I thoroughly enjoy. Like his friend Erikson, Bakker does away with many of the traditional trappings of epic fantasy and/or reinterprets them in ways that make them almost unrecognizable. The Thousandfold Thought is a great place to start reading Bakker.
George R. R. Martin – well, if you aren’t already familiar with the man and his work, I don’t know how I can possibly save you. There’s a reason Martin “doth bestride the narrow world/Like a Colossus, and we petty men/ Walk under his huge legs and peep about/To find ourselves dishonourable graves."
But fantasy’s not all I read.
I also enjoy Michael Connelly and his Harry Bosch and/or Mickey Haller novels.
And I learn something every time I read Stephen King. Every time. His son, Joe Hill, is quite talented, too.
So, you ought to be able to find something here that’ll keep you occupied until Tarmun Vykers returns to the fray. And he will return, because, if you remember rightly, he was extremely pissed off the last time we saw him…
Too many ideas, not enough time!