Thursday, May 27, 2010

Great Little Known Music pt.1

To cheer myself up, I decided to post about some awesome music. Not just any great music (I could go on forever about wonderful music that you've all heard about already), but music that should be far better known than it is. Since there is so much of it, I will just start with a single album - Mer de Noms by A Perfect Circle.

I was really unsure what to think when I heard about this album coming out. I was a great fan of the progressive metal band Tool, but only the singer Maynard James Keenan was going to be a part of APC. The band formed when Maynard heard some of the music written by one of Tool's guitar tech's, Billy Howerdel. Billy wrote the songs with a female singer in mind, but Maynard loved them enough to offer to sing.

Maynard is perhaps the greatest musical genius of our times. He has a magical way with vocals - the ability to soar with choir boy beauty one moment and scream like nothing you've heard in another, but all in perfect timing and pitch for the needs of the music.

The funny thing about this first album was that I listened to some of it (basically the singles that were released to the radio) and wasn't impressed, so I put it on my 'to sell' pile. I actually had it in a pile at a yard sale when something made me decide to give it one more try. I'm so glad that I did, because it has become one of my all-time favorite albums. The problem was that the songs they chose to release as singles were just the so-so ones. Once I gave the other songs a few listens I was blown away by their beauty. I still cannot believe that I nearly gave up on one of the greatest rock albums ever.

The best song is 'Thomas', with a gorgeous mix of soft, pretty music and chorusing voices ramping up to some amazing grungy riffs. Also worthy of five stars in my iTunes are 'Magdalena', 'Thinking of You', and 'Sleeping Beauty'.

If you can get into heavy metal music performed by intellectuals, give both Tool and APC a chance. Listen to the songs a few times, as these ones need to simmer a bit. You won't regret it.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Hammer Falls

Those of us who know Nathan Bransford (and who doesn't?) know he has amazing turnaround times among agents. So it was no surprise to me that I got my rejection this morning. I did expect it, as I said before, since he has never taken on fantasy and his stated preference is for literary work. I'm not feeling too disappointed actually; I am encouraged that my query was decent enough to get me a partial.

With any other agent I won't post details, but Nathan is different. He is all about teaching us struggling writers how to do better, so I don't believe he will mind me posting my query letter to him. If there is anything that does disappoint me, it is that I got no feedback on where specifically I had some weaknesses in the query or first thirty pages of my narrative. Yes, I know how busy he is, so I don't expect that kind of feedback. But, just a nudge here or there on something that stood out wrong would have been awesome and would give me the opportunity to fix something. As it stands, I have no idea what I need to fix. I don't expect Nathan will read this (though he did once comment on this blog!), but I still want to thank him for being terrific!

For what it's worth, here is what I sent him. Please do leave me feedback on how you think I might be able to make it better.

Query letter #1

Dear Nathan,
I’ve been an avid follower of your blog for well over a year; you might recall me (knight_tour) as being the person who would have won your last March Madness Challenge had Butler won instead of Duke. I am seeking representation for my epic fantasy novel, The Shard, which is complete at 130,000 words.

Three years ago the minor noble Midas lost a son in an ambush by a troll. Now with his marriage crumbling and the Known Lands threatened by an invasion from a mysterious race of dragon men (called wyrmen), Midas is torn between his duty to raise his two remaining sons to be proper leaders and the insistence of his wife that he keep the boys safe.

He takes his sons to war, but hopes to shield them from the worst dangers. His intentions go awry when a seer involves them in a plan to defeat the wyrmen by finding a shard of a shattered magical relic, lost centuries ago in the lair of Kathkalan, a dragon so vicious it has turned the entire eastern region of the realm into an abandoned wasteland.

After surviving the dragon, cannibals, ice-wraiths that can kill with a touch, and a chase through an underground labyrinth, Midas and his companions find the shard and join the armies of the realm to confront the superior forces of the wyrmen, only to discover that the magic of the shard doesn’t work as expected. Midas is faced with the most excruciating of decisions -- save his sons, or save the realm and risk losing everyone that he loves.

George R.R. Martin has shown with his A Song of Ice and Fire series how hungry audiences are for realistic epic fantasy. I believe that the forthcoming movies based on The Hobbit will form a renewed bubble of interest in this genre. Though my novel can stand alone, I have begun a prequel and also outlined two other novels within the series.

Below are my first five pages. Thank you very much for your consideration.

That and my first 5 pages (which anyone can read if they wish by clicking the Authonomy link to the right) garnered me a partial request of thirty pages. The rejection was kindly written with a touch of personalization. The one element of sadness is that the best agent out there is now beyond my reach, leaving me with the prospect of querying all of the remaining agents who don't live up to Nathan's web presence. I'm sure there are many wonderful agents out there; I just need to go digging for them now.

Monday, May 24, 2010

First Query Success

Oh, I am so excited right now. On Saturday I sent out my very first query letter and first five pages. I expected auto-rejection, because what else can a person expect on their first try? I chose my dream agent, knowing full well that he prefers literary work and has never taken on adult fantasy. Anyhow, he requested the next 30 pages!

Don't worry; despite my being thrilled (and happy that my imperfect query letter was at least decent enough), I have no expectations. I know that there is very little chance he will take me on. However, I can at least keep dreaming for a short while longer before I have to start querying everyone else.

Friday, May 21, 2010

I Write For Me (And Hope It's For You)

I read my novel aloud to my sons once, both because they were interested in hearing it and because I wanted to pick up any edits I could find by hearing it spoken aloud. When I purchased a couple of hard copy versions of the book from LuLu in order to edit that way, my youngest son snagged a copy and polished it off in two days. The other night I found out that he was nearly done with a third read-through. That made me secretly proud. I never prompted this, yet he found my book good enough to add to the Percy Jackson, Harry Potter, and Wimpy Kid books that he rereads again and again. It made me feel that I am doing something right.

I wrote this first novel for myself, basically because publishers are not publishing the fantasy books that I really want to read. This is strange to me, since when they do publish Tolkienesque fantasy (see Sword of Shannara or the Iron Tower trilogy) it does very well, and I was under the apparently mistaken impression that publishing was about making money.

I read so much online about how derivative it is to dare to have Tolkien-style elves, dwarves, or wizards. Why do these people not understand that there are many of us out here who could care less about their 'artistic integrity'; we just want more fantasy books in the style we love best (but written well, of course!). Most of the readers I refer to grew up not just on Tolkien, but on Dungeons & Dragons (which clearly used Tolkien's fantasy as a strong baseline). Agents and publishers want to cast away anything with a hint of D&D attached to it. Why? There are hundreds of thousands of us who love D&D. True, the official D&D novels have been pretty unrealistic. So, why not try something new and provide us with gritty, realistic stories instead?

Publishers and agents who want to gag each time they see another elf, wizard or magical item should stop a moment and consider that book publishing is a money business. If there are a huge number of people who want good stories told within a comforting style of fantasy world, well then they should allow themselves to profit from that rather than denigrating our tastes.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Art for The Shard

I got a bit of nice feedback for my first query attempt, but I suspect it can be improved a lot more. Please see my last post if you might be able to help me!

I thought I might show the first piece of art I had commissioned for my book. Since I am a great lover of fantasy art, I decided I would love to have some artists try their hand at scenes from my book. That way if I ever gave up on getting published for real, I could self-publish my book with some cool artwork in it.

Naturally I dreamed of my favorite artist, Alan Lee, doing a piece, but of course that is pure fantasy (Hey, I'm a fantasy writer; I can dream). Mr. Lee doesn't have any web presence that I can find, so there was no means of asking him his prices. I guess he doesn't need to take on commissions anymore.

The first artist that responded to me was Shane Tyree    . He was nice and down-to-earth, so it was pleasant working with him. I found the process a bit frustrating, because it can be hard to make two different people have the same vision for something, but overall I am pleased with the result. The painting below fairly accurately depicts the scene the way I saw it in my head, especially the pose of the dragon. If anyone wants to try this for their own work, Shane is an excellent choice. Below the picture I will paste a bit of the scene from my book that goes with it.

The elf disappeared into the blackness of the tunnel. Midas could hear and see nothing. He counted his heartbeats. When he got to fifty he could no longer stand it. He carefully placed one foot in front of the other, attempting to move as silently as possible into the tunnel. He held one hand to the walls on either side. They were slick with moisture. He trailed his fingers lightly along the walls and felt some patches of moss. He saw nothing but utter blackness. It seemed to take forever to walk along the passageway. I should have at least brought Bjorn’s sword, he thought. How useless I am right now.

In a nearly imperceptible manner, the sound in his ears changed. He sensed that the blackness opened up wide in front of him. I’m there! I’m in the Great Hall.

He noticed a faint light off to the right and realized it must come from tiny cracks in the main gates. He halted and tried to let his eyes get used to the dim light. His nerves crackled. Where is Alvanaria? Where is the dragon?

He tasted salt. Sweat was dripping down his face from the slick hair under his half-helm. He was afraid to move. He still saw little. He thought he could see patches of lighter darkness, but perhaps it was just his mind playing tricks on him. Slowly he knelt down and touched the floor with his fingers. It was dry, polished stone, cold to the touch.

A bright pinpoint of light flickered ahead of him, and Midas had to bite back a yelp. The light brightened into a torch. What is she doing! Midas’s skin crawled; he felt death creeping up on him from behind. He stared wildly around, seeing nothing but more darkness, then looked back at Alvanaria. She stood on a glittering mound, rubbing her hand over a dark wall.

Midas couldn’t believe what was happening. He felt all sanity was draining from the world. He mentally shrugged and moved closer to the elf. His foot struck something hard but yielding, and there came a loud clinking sound as tiny objects scattered from his inadvertent kick. Midas froze again. In the faint light of the torch he now saw that the floor all around was piled with heaps of coins and other riches. His foot had struck a small pile of silver and gold pieces.

“Come on, Midas,” called Alvanaria softly. “It’s okay.”

Midas looked at her again. He could now see that she stood on a larger heap of gold and gems. He saw a gleaming chalice jutting from the pile. Alvanaria stood with her back to Midas, looking over her shoulder at him, her hand still on the dark wall in front of her.

Midas moved as quickly as he dared until he came to the foot of the mound of treasure upon which Alvanaria stood.

“What is it?” he whispered.

“It’s the dragon,” replied Alvanaria. “Look. It’s dead.”

Monday, May 17, 2010

Query Letter - first attempt

I think we all dread writing query letters, don't we?  I'd rather be doing this...

Yes, even that looks more fun the trying to condense my complex story into less than 300 words. Anyhow, this is my first attempt in a long time. I've never sent a query letter, so I have no feedback from agents. Perhaps some readers will help me out.

Naturally with such constrictions, I must focus the letter on just one of the main characters. I'll leave out the standard personalized intro and outro paragraphs and just post the meat of it here. I'm not thrilled with it, but it does at least cover the main ideas for this character's story arc.  Thanks for any ideas.

Query for The Shard, epic fantasy 130,000 words

Three years ago the minor noble Midas lost a son in an ambush by a troll. Now with his marriage crumbling and the Known Lands threatened by an invasion from a mysterious and deadly race of dragon men, Midas is torn between his duty to raise his two remaining sons to be proper warriors and the insistence of his wife that he keep the boys safe.

He takes his sons to war, but hopes to shield them from danger. His intentions go awry when a seer involves them in a plan to defeat the dragon men by finding a shard of a shattered magical relic, lost centuries ago in the lair of the most vicious dragon ever known.

After surviving the dragon, cannibals, deadly ice-wraiths, and a chase through a lost underground city, Midas and his remaining friends find the shard and join the armies of men, elves, and dwarves to confront the ultra-disciplined horde of dragon men, only to discover that the magic of the shard doesn’t work as expected. Midas is faced with the most excruciating of decisions -- save his sons, or save the realm and risk losing everyone that he loves.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Goodbye Frazetta

Everyone has done their tributes already to the great Frank Frazetta, but I thought I would say something about his influence on me. Naturally I came across him first with the Conan novels. His work brought Conan to life like no other artist could. I've mentioned a number of times in this blog that Alan Lee is my favorite artist, but Frazetta is absolutely the next in line.

I love so many of his paintings, but I will show only this one, called Dark Kingdom.

I not only love the piece itself, but this one influenced me in one chapter of my book. I was always intrigued by the skeleton that the warrior was walking over. It has clearly been there long enough to be fully decayed - what is the story behind it?

In my novel a group of characters escapes from a lost city within the mountains only to find themselves in a legendary haunted forest. They have no other way forward, so they are forced to enter. Legend says that a terrible battle took place in the woods five thousand years gone, and that as the losing side fled, the wizard that led them cast a curse on the place. Ever since, the leavings of battle - skeletons, armor, weapons - lie scattered through the forest, never disappearing with time like they should.

The group stalks carefully through the trees, trying to avoid rusty blades and sharp bones, and eventually they are forced to make camp when it grows too dark.  They find a clearing and remove all of the detritus, hoping that old bones and weapons are the only true danger. The main character awakes in the night, shivering from an unnatural cold, and finds that the two guards are frozen solid. The camp is surrounded by misty apparitions of the slain. Slowly the wraiths close in on the camp...

I'll leave it there. What I mean to say is a big Thank You to Frank Frazetta for inspiring so many lovers of fantasy and science fiction. Rest in peace, Frank.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Sci-Fi Potential Intro Chapter

I have been tinkering with how to start my prequel to The Shard, set on earth in the year 2138. I wanted to start with my main character, but couldn't figure out a compelling way to do this with the scene that was in my head. So, I typed out this one below. The feedback I got at Absolute Write was that the characters here are not sympathetic, so it left people cold. Well, these characters are not meant to be in any way sympathetic. So, now I am in a quandary. Does this work or not? I mean to follow this chapter with one in which the MC (Georgy's sister Zoya) is walking toward the building where she is supposed to be meeting her brother, only to see him fall to his death.

Another issue a commenter had was that the mobsters acted in a stereotypical manner. However, I had quite a lot of experience with the Russian mafia during the four years I lived in Moscow, including witnessing two mafia shoot-outs. From what I saw, many Russian mafiosi seemed to take pride in being exactly stereotypical! If I want to write a realistic story, I need to make these guys act the way they truly do. I always felt that they had watched too many western movies (Godfather!) and read too much about prohibition-era mobsters.

Moscow, June 2, 2138

Georgy blinked sweat out of his eyes and stared at the carpet, wondering why he had never noticed the delicate pink lines of the rose patterns in the thin matting. He knew he was going to die, but he wondered how painful they would make it and whether his sister might somehow survive.

“Tell us where it is, Georg, and we’ll make this quick for you.”

A strong hand grasped Georgy by his hair and twisted his head around until the salami breath of his inquisitor washed over his face. Georgy winced and glared at the man who, until today, he had thought of as a brother. “I don’t know, Tavik. Don’t know where it is. I swear.”

Tavik grasped Georgy’s face gently with both hands and smiled. He bent close and kissed Georgy hard, first on the left cheek and then on the right. The kind expression didn’t extend to his icy blue eyes. “Come now, my friend,” he whispered. “How long have we known each other? What? Four years? What made you think you could get away with this?”

Out of the corner of one eye Georgy took in the rest of the participants in this little charade. Sitting next to him on the worn tan couch was Sasha, barely out of school, a gang member for less than two months, and naive enough to have trusted Georgy. Now I have killed him, as sure as if I put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger. Sasha sat ramrod straight, panting and pale. Standing behind the couch nearby was one of the two goons Tavik had brought with him. The other stood a few paces back, holding an old .45 in one hand and looking disinterested.

Georgy met Tavik’s gaze again. “It should have been me, Tavik. Lev should have promoted me, and you know it.”

Tavik raised one eyebrow and slowly stroked his thumbs over Georgy’s cheekbones. “You did this for revenge? Something this stupid because you were passed over?” Tavik dropped his hands and straightened up. “That’s not like you, Georg. You were always smarter than that.”

Georgy turned his head away from Tavik, glancing around the apartment as he did so, searching for any means of escape. The door was not an option -- it was too far away and one of the goons had thrown both of the locks. The balcony door stood open, a gauzy white curtain blowing gently in the cool summer breeze. That wouldn’t do either; the apartment was ten floors up and the courtyard below was concrete. He knew this safe house well, having been the one who chose it.

He puffed out his breath. “Let us live and I’ll find it for you.” Georgy knew that this would never happen, yet he felt a strange compulsion to play out the scene, as if he were an actor in a bad movie. He heard the strain in his own voice, and more salty sweat trickled into his eyes.

Tears streaming down his face, Sasha said, “I knew nothing--”

The goon behind Sasha smacked the boy hard with an open palm and said, “We told you not to speak.”

Tavik leaned down onto the back of the couch and draped an arm over Georgy’s shoulder. “You know we can’t let you live. You know that.” Georgy felt Tavik’s head nodding near his ear. Then Tavik grabbed Georgy’s hair again and forced his head up and down, mimicking his nod. “You know that, right?”

Georgy said nothing.

Tavik let go of his hair and squeezed Georgy’s shoulder again. “I can let your family live, though. I can promise you that. You know you can trust me.”

Georgy had known this was coming, but still an icy blade of panic thrust into his gut. His mother and sister were all he had left in this shitty world. He shook his head. “I’ve seen you make those promises before, Tavik. You always kill everyone anyway.”

Tavik leapt up and clutched his hands to his heart. “Ah! Ah! You have wounded me Georg. You know how much I like your sister. And your mother - she always kisses me and makes me tea. I’ve no desire to harm them, I swear to you.”

Doubt crept into Georgy’s mind, a tremulous thread of hope. Would Tavik truly let them live? He knew Tavik lusted for his sister Zoya. He pursed his lips and shook his head again. It would never happen. Never. Tavik always took care of business.

“No?” Tavik said.

The silenced dragged out and Georgy tried to make his mind blank; tried not to think about what was coming.

The goon to Tavik’s right grasped Sasha at the neck and shoved him forward. Georgy looked over just in time to see the other thug step up and put the .45 to the back of Sasha’s head.

Sasha screamed, “No--”


Blood sprayed out across the carpet in front of the couch. Georgy saw gray bits of brain in the mess, and he choked back vomit. Tears mixed with the stinging salt in his eyes. “Dammit! You bastards! He only did what I told him.”

Georgy’s right ear rang from the sound of the gunshot. He knew no one had heard the blast, not out here in a deserted dormitory in Yugo-Zapadnaya.

Tavik chuckled softly. “Who cares about the kid, Georg?” Tavik sauntered around the end of the couch and crouched down in front of Georgy. He pulled his own .45 from behind his back, thumbed the safety, and jammed the nose into Georgy’s crotch.

Georgy burst into tears, pain and shame warring in his mind. Dying quickly was fine with him, but the thought of Tavik shooting him in the balls was too much. “I can get it,” he blubbered. “I swear! I’ll get it for you. I swear on my mother. Please!”

“You’re going nowhere, Georg!” Tavik shouted. “Tell me where it is right now or I swear...”

“My sister!” cried Georgy. At that moment he loathed himself more than he had ever hated anything. “Don’t hurt her, please!”

“She has it?”

Georgy tried not to nod, but found himself doing so anyway. He wept.

Tavik stood up. “Okay”

Georgy rocked on the couch, hearing one of the goons approaching round the end of the couch, but not caring. He just wanted it all to stop. Rough hands jerked him upright and propelled him forward and out the balcony door. Through his tears Georgy saw crumbling concrete, a flash of blue sky, and then he was falling.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Shard

I wrote my novel The Shard mainly because of the characters that I love so much, however introducing the cast would not be complete without mentioning the much cliched magical item that the group must find. I call it 'the shard' because it is a piece of crystal that is all that remains of a legendary magical item.

Around 5,000 years before my story begins there was a terrible war between elves and dwarves. After much death and destruction, both sides discovered that they had been set up by the arch-villain of my series, one of the scientists (now wizards) from earth, named Vladimir (also called Volodya or by his invented 'wizard' name Bilach). The two sides put aside their anguish and animosity and joined forces to defend against the onslaught of Bilach's armies. Eventually they were victorious. The surviving wizards, Xax and Dagur, suggested erecting a monument dedicated to peace between the elves and dwarves.

Over several years the two races labored to create an enormous pillar, called the Peace Spire. At its top was placed a huge magical crystal. It took a tremendous amount of work for the wizards to imbue the crystal with the magic that would help keep peace in the realm. They wanted something that would help 'good' and hinder 'evil', yet those are abstract terms, so they had to do something more concrete. They made the magic so that it would only affect those under great stress, i.e. when adrenaline is pumping. The magic was strong enough to project over vast areas of the land. It could seek out the emotions within one's mind. If one was generally filled with jealousy, rage, or other 'evil' emotions, the magic would fill the person with fear and weakness; conversely if one was generally empathetic, kind, giving, etc. then it would fill you with courage and strength.

The Peace Spire helped the lands remain at peace for more than four thousand years.  Eight hundred years before my story begins, Bilach found a way to cast protection spells on a terrible black dragon, which he then sent into the Known Lands to destroy the spire. The dragon only touched the spire, triggering another of the spells which caused the crystal to explode. The dragon proceeded to torch the Eastlands, wiping out the capital city and taking the dwarven city of Kaldorn as its lair.

The great elven hero Kathkalan later visited the destruction and discovered a single tiny remnant of the peace crystal. This shard contained only trace amounts of the old magic. Kathkalan next went to Kaldorn to attempt to slay the dragon. He vanished, and that is where my story comes in eight centuries later. Xax has no idea why the shard is supposed to be able to help the realm; he only knows that he is having visions that contain the shard and tell of a coming invasion by creatures he has never before seen. His visions are generally accurate unless someone actively works to thwart them, so despite his doubts he sets out to gather a group that may be able to survive the perilous journey into Kaldorn to retrieve the lost shard.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Shard cast - Alvanaria

Alvanaria is an important character in my novel, though not one of the POV characters. She is an elf, and due to the unusual connection the race of elves have with the magic of this world she is immortal unless slain. At the time of my story she is slightly more than forty thousand years old.

Elves in this world do not know just how long they have been around. They know that there was a point in history when they became 'aware', and the elders of their race are those who were alive to experience the coming of awareness. The elves witnessed various other tribes of semi-intelligent creatures migrate from the hot southern areas of the world. Some of those tribes went extinct, but others evolved over time and became the races of dwarf, troll, orc, goblin, and man.

Elves seldom have children. It is rare for an elven woman to bear more than a single child during her life. Such low birth rates cause the race of elves to shun war as much as they possibly can. Thus, when one tribe of men moved into what became the Known Lands, the elves withdrew into their forests and did not contest ownership of the realm. So secretive have the elves become that most men view them as mere legends.

Elves do not marry, and other than the bearing of children they do not differentiate between males and females with any roles. Alvanaria bore a child with the great elf hero Kathkalan, but then lost her lover when he attempted to slay the great black dragon that had destroyed the whole eastern region of the Known Lands. Kathkalan brought the magical shard with him, hoping it would aid him in his quest to slay the dragon. He was never seen again.

At the beginning of my story, the wizard Xax sends a message to Alvanaria to let her know that he intends to seek the lost shard. Alvanaria wants to know what happened to Kathkalan, so she breaks the laws of her people and departs the elf realm to meet with Xax and attempt to recover the shard. Although she is the only major female character in the novel (due to the fact that the race of men do not allow their women to be warriors), Alvanaria is by far the strongest warrior of the group.

In honor of the lovely Alvanaria (and since I posted pics of my sons in my last post), I will post a couple shots of my wife, the most amazing woman in the world. The first is in San Diego (smelling mint plants in Balboa Park) and the second on a cruise of the Bosphorus in Turkey (with our sons at the rail behind her). Happy Mother's Day, my love!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Shard cast - Geldrath

There is less to say at first about Geldrath, because, like most young people, his life has just started and his story lies in the future. He is sixteen at the beginning of my tale.

His father works as a tinker/carpenter in the tiny town of Kalinford in the southeastern part of the Known Lands, not too far from the Dwarven city of Suldorn. He has an older brother, who is away completing a two-year tour of duty as a soldier guarding East Gate.

Every healthy male in the realm who is not of the nobility must, upon turning sixteen, spend two years in the army, either at the capital of Pangalia or at East Gate. The boys of Kalinford traditionally go to East Gate. That is where Geldrath's story begins - he is off to replace his brother at East Gate.

An old dwarf merchant, named Valgorn, is a friend of Geldrath's father. It was Valgorn that took Geldrath's brother to East Gate two years ago, and now he is doing the same for Geldrath. This time, however, Valgorn has two other dwarves with him in his trader's cart. He won't tell Geldrath why he suddenly has two new guards. The old dwarf has a secret mission to attend to that will end up bringing Geldrath into the adventure of a lifetime. Geldrath has fewer skills than any other character in the story, but he ends up playing a key role in the fate of the realm.

In honor of the young fellow, I'm posting a couple of pics of my amazing, wonderful sons, just because I feel like it. The first is at Legoland in California, the second from our years in Zagreb, Croatia.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Shard cast - Sir Brindor

This time I will write of a minor character from my book. Sir Brindor is one of my sons' favorites, along with Orcbait. I am currently writing the following as a short story.

Nearly two decades before my story begins, Lord Havlin Tathis knighted Midas and betrothed his daughter Rina to him. He began to construct the small keep that Midas would call Welby once he was named a lord.

Midas was a gifted soldier but had never trained as a knight. Nevertheless, Lord Tathis took him to the capital of Pangalia for a great tourney. Sir Brindor was once the mightiest knight in the Known Lands. Midas was awed when he encountered Sir Brindor; he had heard many of the legends of the man's deeds. However, Sir Brindor looked down upon Midas, calling him 'Sir Fish', insisting that a poor fisherman's son could never be a true knight.

On the opening day of the joust, Sir Brindor took the field first and rode straight up to tap Midas's shield in challenge, spitting on the ground as he did so and openly insulting him to the crowd. After unseating Midas in the first pass, Brindor walked up to him as he lay semi-conscious on the ground. He leaned over, sneered in his face and said, "See what comes to fish out of water?" Brindor yanked off one of Midas's armored boots, lifted his foot, and stamped it hard onto Midas's leg, breaking it.

Later Midas awoke in the hospital, and to his surprise he found Sir Brindor in the bed next to him, his head heavily swathed in bloody bandages. Lord Tathis told him the story - in the evening melee the massive Duke Ord had accidentally struck too hard with his mace, and missing his intended target it had struck Sir Brindor in the side of his head. His skull was visibly broken; no one expected Brindor to live.

Two weeks later, as Midas continued to work on mending his leg, Sir Brindor shocked everyone by waking. His speech was slurred, and he seemed dazed at all times. He had no memory of his former life. His liege lord visited him, shook his head, and left him.

Midas was horrified at how quickly everyone dismissed the man who had been such a legend. As no one would have the broken knight, Midas decided to take Brindor home with him. Brindor continued to surprise everyone by swiftly regaining his strength; when roused from his stupor, he could still fight like a cornered lion. He never recalled his former antagonism toward Midas, but instead lavished love on him like a puppy to his master. At the time my story begins, Brindor is one of three knights who call Midas their liege lord.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Map for The Shard

I'm taking a break from introducing my cast to provide my map of the Known Lands. I am no artist, so this is about the best I could do. If I could afford it I would hire someone to do a much better map. I love the big wall map of Middle Earth that I have. The details and lettering are amazing. Some details don't come through in the image you see right now, but if you click on it you can see more, for instance the location of East Gate and Dryn Hador east of the great wall of the Hellisgaard mountains.