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Free Stuff! The Fantasy Epic Continues…

Greetings blog-readers! I’ve been traveling a lot this week, so I’ve included an excerpt from Shade 2: Kingsblood due out late 2012 or early 2013 as my blog entry this week. Our artist, Thom Scott, is hard at work on the cover as you listen to my mindless drivel! I’ve included only the first section of Chapter One in the blog entry to ensure the entry is not too long, but if you want to read the full chapter, check out the sparkling new link that contains the full sample chapter here.
Also don’t miss the Shade One free Giveaway!!!

Sorry I had to make that abundantly clear! If you haven’t already, don’t forget to enter the Waiting Game book giveaway at the Book Review Club.  Only 2 days left to enter!

So without further ado, the opening to the oddly anticipated sequel to Shade One–Kingsblood:


Chapter One:
A King Among Thieves

In the wee hours of the night, a man lay captive. His wrists and ankles had been tied to his bedposts. A shadow sat over him. The shadow’s face housed a pair of glowing yellow eyes that burned in the darkness. The two prostitutes who had tied the man up in a harmless game of lewder pleasures lay unconscious on the floor. The man was a handsome Shamite, a competent conman, a mere twenty-nine years of age. He had long curly blonde hair and a charming grin that had been the undoing of many maidens. His lips found no smile this night. He fought against his binds, but they would not budge. He opened his mouth to scream, but his tortured throat exuded nothing but an indistinct numb choking.

“Scream,” came a callous voice.

The man’s heart jumped.

“Scream,” the voice said again. The shadowy figure leaned forward from a chair beside the bed. Those piercing yellow eyes carved into the man’s soul.

The man tried to scream again, but it came out as nothing but a miserable muffled shriek. He trembled and stared at the door, eyes wild with desperation, but no one came. There was no escape. Not from the hands of this assassin. An Unseen killer whose very name had become intertwined with fear.

Shade grinned darkly at his latest victim. He leaned further in. “Your guards are right outside your door, Oisleean,” he whispered in the Shamite’s ear, “they could still save you if only they could hear you, so, scream.”

Oisleean struggled for words, for the familiar peal of sound off his tongue, but nothing came. The shadow of one of his bodyguards in the hallway shifted in the torchlight that shone from under the door. The man whimpered.

“What’s the matter, Shamite?” the Dark Elf mocked him, “Don’t you want to live? You can scream, can’t you?”

The Shamite thrashed his arms and legs, but his restraints held fast.

“Muffle Juice,” Shade said. He leaned back in his chair. He shook a half-empty vial of an amber-colored goo. “It’s a wonder back in my own dark country. Sprinkle a dash of freshly ground Mummel Flower in molasses and you have the world’s only known mute agent. It finds much use in the dungeons of Aaagdensool when our ears tire of our victims’ screams of horror.”

Oisleean yanked so hard at his binds he burned his wrists.

Shade watched him and chucked softly. His victim had not come to terms with the hopelessness of his situation. He supposed he could not blame the man. After all, few men understood the many secrets of Jui-Sae. Muffle Juice caused aphonia—a bilateral disruption of the recurrent laryngeal nerve, which supplies nearly all the muscles to the larynx. In layman’s terms, it strips the voice box of all sensation and motor function. Of course, he would not bore his victim with some dry old scientific explanation. The inability to call for help in the company of one’s executioner was terrifying enough.

“You really should hire better help, Oisleean,” Shade mused, “one of these days someone dangerous might come looking for you.”

Oisleean whimpered at the cold hard door.

“Oh don’t feel so bad,” he patted the man’s chest. He tucked the vial away and retrieved a dagger.

Oisleean watched in arrested horror as the assassin played the blade over his fingers. The razor edge flashed in the darkness reflecting off the moonlight that poured in through the window. The Shamite gasped.

“You see, I’m not usually so sophisticated in my methods of execution. Slide an acute piece of metal into a vital organ and the victim will die quick and without much fuss,” he continued as he rubbed the razor sharp edge against his thumb, “crude, but effective. Assassins have neither the time nor the creative vision to entertain so elaborate deaths as, say, your common serial killer.”

The man stared vacantly at Shade.

Shade leaned forward in the chair. He traced the tip of the blade across the man’s smooth features. The Shamite shook even more violently. The Dark Elf’s voice died to a hiss, “But I’m afraid your lifestyle has made it personal.” The assassin flicked the blade drawing a trickle a blood from the man’s cheek.

Oisleean breathed out a short hoarse soundless scream. He kicked and yanked at his binds, but he could not escape. He wept hot desperate tears.

Shade stood up and casually paced the room. “You see my father was quite an accomplished thief,” he said softly, but his voice had not lost its hard edge, “he acquired a mass of wealth before he died, just as you. He grew rich robbing the helpless, the blind, the foolish,” he paused and turned around, his glowing eyes ablaze with anger, “he too preyed on weak-willed women and fathered many orphans. He too surrounded himself with thugs and filled his bed with whores, but in the end nothing could save him.”

The Shamite blubbered like a pathetic wretch.

The assassin stopped and leaned over the bed. He brought the blade to the Shamite’s neck to ensure he kept the man’s rapt attention. “Do you know the difference between me and you, Oisleean?”

Oisleean flailed and kicked desperately at his restraints.

“I no longer prey on the weak,” Shade whispered in the man’s ear, “I have evolved, moved onto larger, more worthy prey. I am now the hunter of hunters, the killer of killers—the very top of the food chain.”

The Shamite shut his eyes tight. He held his breath and prepared himself for the killing blow. Two tears squeezed from his eyelids.

Shade traced the tip of the blade down the man’s neck and across his chest. He paused at the man’s ribs. “Arctavian sends his regards.”

The man shuddered and gasped.

“Tisk, tisk, Oisleean,” Shade whispered in the Shamite’s ear, “you could have gotten away it. A young naïve lovesick daughter. An only child. A perfect target. You could have swindled her out of her father’s inheritance, and left, moved onto to the next town, like you always do, but that wasn’t enough for you. Not this time. Instead, you had to murder her and dump her out on the streets like a common whore.”

The Shamite trembled with violent sobs.

Shade turned the blade suddenly. He drove it deep into the man’s spleen.

Oisleean’s eyes shot wide open. He opened his mouth and cried out in voiceless pain. He managed a faint indistinct scream, barely a whisper.

The assassin yanked the blade out. The Shamite would bleed out in a matter of minutes. The Dark Elf retrieved a long rolled up cloth from the back of his belt-pouches. He quickly unwrapped the cloth revealing a black rose native to his homeland. He laid the rose on the Shamite’s chest and closed the man’s fingers around the stem.

Oisleean shook violently as his life slipped away.

The Faelin turned his back in remorseless indifference. “Consider it his bride price,” Shade said coldly. He walked over to the window. He climbed up onto the windowsill and disappeared. Just then a bloodcurdling scream rang out loud and clear from the bedroom cutting deeply into the night. Shouts of alarm sounded as Oisleean’s bodyguards barged into the bedchamber. The Dark Elf grinned darkly. It appeared the Muffle Juice had finally lost its effect…

To finish the full chapter one excerpt of Kingsblood, click HERE!

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A Troll in the Kissing Booth…

That’s right! Line up ladies and try not to push in line! We’ve got a surprisingly winsome Troll in the kissing booth this week and he’s very, very rich…

So pucker up ladies…he’s got very nice, eh um, teeth? That’s it! One flash of those pearly whites is enough to bedazzle you! The Sewer King did not win his throne without showing off a bit of flash and flare. In fact, he can be quite charming once you get past his initial Trollish features. He’s the world of fantasy’s very first charismatic Troll. What does that even look like? Well, the Chronicles of Covent® would tell you it looks like Warlord Lewd.

Don’t let his name fool you! He has the most disarming smile and he really does have a perfect set of white teeth. If you were to sit down with him to discuss let’s say a hostile criminal takeover, you would initially cringe at your choice of a dinner party guest. But then you would admire his courtly bow and his well-mannered polish to which you would drop your jaw in amazement. After you picked your jaw up off the floor, he’d flash his perfect white teeth at you. You would catch the alarming brightness in the reflected torchlight and you’d undoubtedly flinch. You’d flinch because Lewd’s winning grin should compliment the face of a handsome prince, certainly not a hideous Troll. His wit and charm would befuddle you through the rest of the meal and by the end you would swear your allegiance. You would make sure he didn’t leave without a handsome tribute and the choicest of your subjects.

It appears all the ladies who originally fled are flocking back to the kissing booth. Again ladies, it’s not polite to push and shove in line!

Now before any maiden gets too carried away with the hopes and fantasies of marriage, I have to warn you about Lewd’s Palace. His kingdom is, well, a sewer. It may have a slight odor. Kurn is actually a very nice city on the streets above, well in the rich parts anyway. But as queen, you’d have to settle for living UNDER the nice parts. Lewd would certainly fashion you a throne and maybe a splash of red to go with his purple tapestries and royal runner. Although as soon as the décor was rolled out, it might make you sad since the mold and filth of the sewers is quite thick. That said you could always enjoy a leisurely stroll in the underground Black Markets, which are thriving with dark, monstrous races and other villainy (just bring a lot of bodyguards).

Warlord Lewd rose to power through a mixture of force and diplomacy.  He was a Trollborn child in the Kurn sewers when a Doelm fell in love with a human woman. Trollbreeds are ordinarily butchered at birth, since it is said a human and Doelm half-breed yield the most hideous race imaginable. The couple tried to flee the Kurn sewers immediately following the birth to protect the child. Lewd’s father was butchered trying to stop other Doelms from slaying his son.  Lewd’s mother hid with him until he was eleven years old in Karus Forest.  She sacrificed herself as a band of human cutthroats also tried to butcher the Trollborn child.

Lewd wandered the forest alone and learned to trust his wits to survive.  He befriended Kishrub and Zulbash who protected him, as he had a keen mind by which he kept them well fed.  He eventually led his own camp of forest brigands.  He earned the title of warlord in a Thieves War that united all the competing factions of Karus Forest. Lewd used this force to seize control of the real crown jewel of the underworld—the Kurn sewers.

The Kurn sewers had been divided by centuries of power struggles prior to Lewd’s rule. The Minolord, Tantarus, had a very shaky reign in which the wrath of the Minolord spawned an endless series of mob wars. Lewd eventually slew Tantarus with his dagger after Kishrub and Zulbash held the Minotaur down. Tantarus’ head and those of the other warring crimelords have been stuffed and mounted above Lewd’s throne. He thinks they look quite nice.

Gents, watch your step around the Sewer King. He warms up to a bit of well-buttered flattery, but watch what you say behind his back. Lewd has ears everywhere in the Kurn Sewers. You don’t want to wind up with your head stuffed and mounted above his throne or have Lewd’s Hand, which is his hand-picked assassin, make off with your tongue. Worse yet, you could be thrown into the Sharkgates. There is no way out of those gated off seaside corridors. Lewd has a shatter-proof viewing window in which he enjoys watching these amphibious monsters rip malcontents limb from limb. Nothing like a pack of Sharlak fishing you INTO the water by catching you with one of his roped spears and those rows of nasty teeth are quite hungry to tear you apart!Ladies and gents, you have but two lessons to learn to survive in the Kurn sewers!

1) Malcontent = chum chum
2) Kissy Troll = yum yum

Now enjoy another killer interior black and white illustration of Lewd’s throne room from Waiting Game. And this is how you lay the flattery on extra thick, ladies and gents!

“What a handsome smile you have, Warlord Lewd! What lovely décor you have! What smarmy flatterers you have! What fine wine and serving wenches you have! What bandaged brutes you have…my my how greatly Shade handed their butts to them, oh lowly Sewer King! Oh dear, now I have to run…”

For more do’s and don’ts on Lewd’s Syndicate and other factions go here:
www.chroniclesofcovent.com/factions.html

 

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Shade’s Kind of Town…

A lot of readers have noted that our towns possess as much character as our people. Jile is a seedy, remote swamp town located in the heart of the Ice Marshes. The men of Doljinaar have always stuck to the roads that wind far around the marshes, which transformed Jile into a breeding ground for criminals, night mortals, half-breeds and others in hiding.  Of course this makes Jile a very dangerous and undesirable place to visit. That said, if you can get past the thug filled taverns, the back alley thieves and the powerful drug cartels you would find one of the most rare cultures in all Doljinaar.

If you were lucky enough to go unaccosted down Jile’s dark streets, you would have quite the eye-opening experience. Jile is the only town in all of Doljinaar where night mortals live among men (well if you don’t count the stinky sewers of Kurn that have been converted into an underground black market).  Perhaps, we should rephrase: Jile is the only town in all Doljinaar where men and night mortals live side by side, house next to house, under the sun.

Under the moon might be a more befitting description. Jile has a thriving night life. Drunkards and thugs fill its streets; too much frosty ale burning in their bellies. Harlots acquire quite a lot of business by making catcalls off porches and balconies. Night mortals who cannot stand the burning glare of the sun creep out of their homes late at night. They make useful bodyguards and debt collectors, which hound the frivolous throngs of drunken ruffians.

But wait!  Before I move on let me give you what everyone came here for today…tourist information!

Jile offers a wide array of tourist attractions! For happy hour, don’t miss out on The Dragon’s Den Inn & Tavern! It’s the safest place to drink, provided you don’t stare too long at the hooded Dark Elven assassin in the back of the room. The Pig’s Trough Eathouse is the best place to eat in town, and don’t miss out on their infamous Mudcrab Medley! Drazel’s Goods and Wares is a great place to find souvenirs; especially recrafted trinkets made of trash and scrap metal that prove surprisingly useful. Oh, and if you want fireworks, get some scrolls from Mizban’s Tower of Magic, but you’ll have to sign a release form just in case a spell blows up in your face. Just don’t break any of the local customs or you’ll end up in the barracks or cartel dungeons where prisoners have been known to drown or freeze to death in the far too frequent backups of subsurface water.

As you can see, Jile is an old city. Jile is slowly sinking back into the Ice Marshes. Its walls and buildings are retreating into the mud. Many of the long winding roads to Jile have been swallowed by the marshes long ago. The sunken remains of wagons and the skeletons harness animals are at times the best indicators of an Ice Marsh road. The south edge of the city is being inundated with floodwaters. Poor families have been pushed to the uncomfortable mosquitoe-infested edges of town, and although many of them work reputable trades, they lock their doors come nightfall. Every window in Jile is heavily barred and every door is bolted with a minimum of four locks.

Now Jile isn’t all bad. The town has many diamonds buried in the rough. Jile has the strongest tolerance of all the great cities of Doljinaar. Here night mortals and half-breeds can live and work freely among humans. Many men and night mortals who seek refuge in Jile are runaway slaves. Slaves who can earn a large enough living to bribe the corrupt city guards, might even have a chance of staying if a bounty hunter ever bothers to come looking for them. Doelm runts who take asylum in Jile live better here than anywhere else in the world, as long as they don’t cross the rough and tumble Doelm Drug Cartel.

The Shamite Drug Cartel is the worst of the cartels and is backed by the powerful resources of the Merchant Guild. All of Jile’s drug cartels deal mainly in Stardust, which is a strong hallucinogen that can be harvested from the Ice Marshes. Stardust drug addicts are called Dustheads. They lean over steaming bowls of water mixed with Stardust, with towels over their heads, and inhale the fumes for a good high. Many Dustheads have been known to wander out of town under the influence of powerful hallucinations and suffer horrible deaths in the Ice Marshes.

Jile’s most unwanted population is the Dragols. Dragols are short hunched little rat-men with nearly bald scraggly heads and rat shaped snouts. They move quickly through alleys and sewers, making themselves immensely elusive and a general pain the neck. They are worse than raccoons and dig through garbage cans leaving behind piles of spilled trash. Dragols were once hunted down until the Shamite Drug Cartel discovered that Dragol agility enabled them to retrieve Stardust with ease. The drug is collected from the pollen of Starlilies that grow in the warmer months in the Ice Marshes. This has made some Dragols very rich, but of course, Dragols never lost their unquenchable taste for garbage. They can be found in the original Dragol overflow housing in the city outskirts or even paddling among the flooded south searching for fish and stashing treasure troves of garbage.

The Ice Marshes don’t live up to their wintry name in the warmer seasons. They become brown marshlands that bloom with ugly and thorny plants, but plant life nonetheless. This also awakens even more dangerous wildlife that hibernates through the long and harsh winters.  I originally got the idea for the Ice Marshes from Illinois, which is my home state, after I found out much of Illinois had once been marshland before it had been converted into farmland.

Shade, the infamous Dark Elven Assassin of Jui-Sae, has also come to call Jile home. Jile is the only town in all Doljinaar which permits him to walk its streets. Shade’s fearsome reputation in Jile is so well known by the locals that they often call it, “Shade’s Town”. He has a permanent room at The Dragon’s Den Inn & Tavern. Many of the locals come to drink at The Dragon’s Den since the fear of Shade’s presence delivers a sliver of law and order. The locals have grown smart enough not to cross Shade, so they can often drink unmolested at The Dragon’s Den.  You can read about The Dragon’s Den in Chapter One of the brand new sample section of this blog, which is an excerpt from Shade’s first book: Waiting Game.

Below is a picture of Shade walking through the streets of Jile. You can see the air of dominance he projects over all the locals. Two supposedly fearless drunken Braznian warriors grovel at his feet, begging forgiveness for blocking his way. A harlot and a witch still to quiet whispers as he passes by. Men stop at the doorways and thieves shrink back into the alleys. Corrupt Doljinaarian soldiers let him pass without a word. This is one of the killer black and white illustrations our artist put together for Shade 1 as a bonus for those who buy the book.

I will be posting chapter samples from Shade 2, which includes new scenes from Jile and the Ice Marshes as we get closer to launch.  For now feel free to explore many other great locales of Covent or enjoy the free chapter samples.

www.chroniclesofcovent.com/places.html

 

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To Orc or Not to Orc…

In ancient Gorgloth, Doelms war amongst the scorched ruins of their lost civilization. The crumbled remains of black nightstone buildings rise above the fields of bone and barren fields stained with centuries of old blood. The rivers run dry. The trees wither and die. The black ships have been long since broken on the shores. The Doelms squabble among the rocks for the fast dwindling resources and lost treasures of their ransacked kingdom. The chieftains led them to raid and pillage one another. Their axes grow red with the blood of their own people. The Doelms have tumbled so far back into the tribal eras the mere rumor of their once great society seems only a myth.
To Orc or not to Orc was a question my co-author and I struggled with for years. Originally, we began with Doelms, as you can see from the first picture below.  The first sketch was first penciled by J. E. back in high school in the mid 90s. Our initial vision was a steroid pumped muscle-head of an Orc that rose far above the squat representations found in Middle Earth or Heroquest. The muscle was piled on extra top heavy, their legs seemed like they could hardly support such a freakish mass. They were actually monstrously huge versions of Orcs bred by darker forbidden magic, except we called them Doelms.

The second picture was drawn a few years later when we were thinking about just calling them Orcs. At that time they were more simple traditional fantasy caricatures, your basic ugly evil race to counter your more comely Humans, Dwarves and Elves. However, they were more apish; prone to beating their chests and taking massive leaps like territorial bull gorillas. And then as we tweaked and over-perfected our world, vision after vision of Orcs flooded the market from World of Warcraft, Elder Scrolls and Everquest, not to mention books. Orcs appeared in commerce in every size and shape. We kept going back to the drawing board, trying to make our vision unique.

Ultimately, we felt the traditional vision of an Orc was very one-dimensional, even if you disguised it as a Trolloc or whatever. We didn’t want to follow the fantasy norm of having good and evil races. It seems if you’re born twisted, ugly or scary in a fantasy world you’re doomed to do nothing, but rape and pillage. However, if you happened to be pretty and run around with a fanciful gay smile, you could do no wrong. Nature is full of many fierce, but beautiful predators—the lion, the bear to name a few. Why should fantasy races be any different? And people are far more interesting when they’re not what they seem.  I love the horrible fair-faced monsters of Game of Thrones. And so we wanted Covent’s peoples to have the appearance of your standard races, but at times break away from the norm by showing the good in the darker peoples and the evil in the lighter peoples.  You’ll see what I’m talking about in Shade 3.

At this point we had decided not to Orc.
Now I’m always going to love Orcs and props go to Tolkien for the original vision, but we wanted to do something that had the potential for both good and evil, something darkly beautiful. The Orcs of Middle Earth were WAY too ugly and wholly evil for us. We wanted something you could both fear and admire, like a roaring bear raised up on its haunches. At the same time this deadly beauty is fallen, so Doelms became self-mutilators with long black fingernails. Doelms score their skin with claw marks which they wear like war paint to display their frightening toughness and ferocity. There’s nothing like a savage mortal digging his claws into his chest to let you know how fast he’s going to rip you apart.

Our artist put together an awesome concept sketch on the left side below. The Doelm’s tattered and ripped clothing are one of my favorite features. The worn shorts look like something a member of a once civil society once wore, like a pair of frayed jeans in a post-apocalyptic world. We also added a patch of fur on their backs and hair that ran down their shoulders to their hands. This brought them back to their apish dark humanoid roots. We thought it was a nice touch, but the real answer came in our Doelm women.

Please ignore the face under the red “X”, I think our artist was trying to conceptualize a Doelmess and this face looked far too human, but his next move was a stroke of genius. A Doelm’s deadly beauty is most heavily personified in a graceful Doelmess. We thought it would be interesting if Doelmesses were surprisingly beautiful. The challenge came in trying to design a Doelm that was terrifying in battle, but balanced out by a shockingly attractive counterpart. In this key features were multi-fold. The glowing yellow eyes of a Doelm, which look frightening at night for instance, look exotic on a Doelmess, accentuating her dark and alluring mystique.

Now this Doelmess is far more scantily clad than you’d ever see one in Doelmish society. If you were to catch even a glimpse of a Doelmess a Doelm would rip your heart out and shout, “You soiled her!” You see Doelms revere the beauty of their women and are very overprotective. Doelmesses are covered from head to toe and wear hoods over their faces to completely conceal their secret beauty. Doelms do this to keep their surprising appeal secret from other races. Only a Doelm husband may remove the robes and enjoy his wife in private.

For the most part Doelmesses are treated with dignity and are held in high honor. The savage heart of a Doelm melts over the beauty of a Doelmess, so Doelms treat their wives better than humans do.  A Doelm caught beating his wife is taken out and beaten publically by the tribe. Doelm warriors take multiple wives as trophies, but every wife is still treated with respect. Doelmesses see polygamy as a method of breeding a bigger, stronger tribe. They are considered warriors of the home. Childrearing, homemaking, gathering, crafting, making remedies and medicines are well respected and highly valued skills. Don’t ever suggest these are lowly roles to a Doelmess or she’s likely to kill you for the insult.

A Doelmess is looked upon as a “Shaka” or Life-Giver, which is a highly revered, spiritual place in the household. Doelmesses respect strength and so hostile takeovers by other clansmen and the changing of husbands does not spurn them like their emaciated or slain ex-husbands. However, a Doelmess will fiercely fight non-Doelms to protect children. Doelm males will give their last drop of blood to protect a camp. Although Doelmesses are capable, the ultimate shame of a Doelm is the failure to protect one’s family. Family takeovers are a part of Doelmish life and the strongest Doelm usually has won the most wives and therefore has the largest family. The family is a Doelm’s pride.

The Doelm women are the unsung heroines of the Doelmish world. During the Fall of Gorgloth, the men of Doljinaar sacked every Doelm city and slew the Doelm king. Men put all of Gorgloth’s armies to the sword. This widowed all Doelmesses. Doljinaar had originally attempted to wipe out the Doelm race. They went after the families, but the Doelmesses fought them back using savage guerrilla warfare. The casualties were too high after the long war and so Doljinaar essentially gave up, figuring the families would not survive in a ravaged country, but they underestimated the Life-Givers of Gorgloth. The Doelmesses saved the race and raised new sons, their only mistake was submitting to young reckless male leadership, which led to decades of civil war as chieftains fought endlessly for dominion over a now largely divided Gorgloth.

Size does matter in Doelmish culture. Doelm children are raised primarily by their birth mother. A father offers limited guidance since strong males head multiple wives and offspring. Like the ancient Spartans, Doelms live in a cruel warrior society. Doelms discard unshapely babies as well, but there is a second culling at puberty. Doelm children are torn from their mother’s breasts at puberty. The size of the teenager determines the Doelm’s class. Doelms can range from seven feet to a stunted four feet tall. Tall Doelms are bred to be warriors, and become the honored leaders of the clans, but short Doelms are forced to be Runts.  Runts get no respect and are used as nothing but grueling laborers.  Of course, a Doelm adolescent can take still make the warrior caste if he sprouts late and proves himself. If a Runt never spouts he is castrated in early adulthood to prevent the outspread of his weak genes. Female runts are scored in a similar way and serve as slaves to the Doelmesses.

Despite their tenacious strength, Doelms have had great difficulty over the past centuries seeing the massive flaws in their dying society. They remain on the brink of utter ruin. Their people starve and clash over the rubble of ruins long stripped of their valuables. Doelmish warfare has degenerated to such an animalistic level that the word Doelm has been compared by other societies to having a reckless and doltish disregard for one’s own life. The people of Gorgloth were the once proud Dolem, as they were called in their own lost language, now Gorgloth is but a long forgotten legend.

Doelmish desperation has grown so great that many Doelms flee Gorgloth and resettle in the western lands ruled by the iron fist of their ancient enemies in Doljinaar. Unable to stand against the world’s greatest superpower, these Doelms lurk in the shadows of its hides and great wildernesses. This Doelm, in the pictures below, is a highwayman who lives in Karus Forest. He preys on travelers on the rural northern roads and shrinks back into the vast forest. He lives in a thief camp and the sewers of Kurn is his idea of a palace, but many Doelms see the rogue life in Doljinaar as preferable to starving in their ancestral home. He has become a Westernized Doelm and will probably never return to Gorgloth.

I’m unsure we’ll ever shake the stigma of “that’s a blue Orc.” Doelms and Orcs certainly have a lot in common, although we hope readers will one day recognize the dark unique beauty of the Doelm race. The people of ancient Gorgloth have left behind many lost secrets that remain to be unearthed. Their dark arts run deeper than they remember. Doelms was also a fitting name in a large part due to the monstrous abominations this once great civilization birthed, who share similar names. Some say these abominations still walk the lands in dark places. You’ll see the first of such abominations as the Ooelm in Shade 2, which will be out within the calendar year. The many ancient secrets of Gorlgoth will be unlocked in due time.

I’ll conclude with this jaw-dropping new art-piece of a fully colored Doelm warrior. The darkly beautiful, brutish humanoid has never seemed so realized as in this picture. For more great races and details check out our website here:
http://www.chroniclesofcovent.com/races.html

New characters, races, creatures and places with be revealed with each new book!

 

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The Many Faces of Shade-Part Two

I’m afraid to admit that I am being held at knife point right now. Just a few minutes ago Shade broke into my home and is demanding I finish part two of last week’s blog or else! I’m not sure how he got out of the world of Covent and into the real world, but he’s here! There are no magic wardrobes or golden compasses linking our worlds together. I guess he was just that determined.

Shade says he didn’t appreciate me leaving him faceless last week. He’s been wearing this sack over his head all week and he’s none too pleased! So in the interest of me living—Part Two of the Many Faces of Shade. Last week we left our small, but faithful following hanging of the edge of a major cliffhanger. The Covent authors had widdled their final selection of artists down to two finalists who were about to square off!

Ouch!  Ok, ok!  I’m getting on with it!!!

The third artist we’ll call Mr. World of Warcraft. Now I gave him this nickname because this guy is an art machine. He has produced hundreds of major art pieces for top tier clientele like World of Warcraft, Clash of the Titans among a smorgasbord of other well known brands. We were quite surprised at his affordability, when compared to other major fantasy art names, given his legendary status. So we plopped down the money and sent the overseas art request along. We decided to go with a very simple cover concept this time of Shade emerging from the shadows like he was going to stab the reader.

We received sketch 1 about two months later and we were pretty thrilled. Although the armor looked different again, Shade had a good face and a very confident strut. We had pictured him emerging from the darkness, but the shining tunnel behind him was kind of cool. So we sent back a small list of requested tweaks: lengthen the grin a tad, shorten the dagger a smidge and add so more sheathed daggers. The sheer number of knives Shade wears on his person is one of his most intimidating features.

Another two months passed and I couldn’t believe the amount of artwork Mr. World of Warcraft could produce every day. Every day I’d watch in awe as he put out at least one full color art piece on Deviantart.com, but it seemed he never got around to us. I want people to understand I harbor no ill feelings against him, but I started to realize we were a very small fish in a giant pond. The trademark deadline was bearing down. After a brief discussion with Mr. World of Warcraft, I advised we would be using another artist for the 6 B&Ws because time was running out.

Mr. World of Warcraft sent us sketch 2 about two and a half weeks later. We thought it was very good. Shade himself jumped off the page, the hood and cloak had never looked better, but this picture wasn’t entirely accurate. The face looked very robotic; we had a few people asking if Shade was a cyborg? No one got that this picture was of a Dark Elf or even an Elf for that matter. Shade was using a sword rather than a dagger (this posed problems down the road since the crown prince of Jui-Sae, who is also a trained Unseen, actually uses a sword a lot like that one). And the background looked like one of my son’s cardboard cutout forts slapped together with Elmer’s glue (baring the exception of the slick lighting effects of course).

I’ll spare you the other details, but we basically let most of the issues go and requested a couple minor tweaks. We never received the tweaked image, hence the words “Not Received” above, but it was at that time that Mr. Thom Scott began to steal the show (that’s his real name BTW).

Now I want to be very clear that artist Thom Scott is not a new artist by any stretch of the imagination. He has also drawn professionally for Fantasy Flight Games, well known fantasy magazines and other book covers. Thom was fast and furious. He completed each B&W project in under a month, sometimes in mere weeks. Many pictures came with not just a concept sketch of each scene, but several character concept drawings and often a choice of scenes. Sweet!

Thom perfected his own version of Shade. Sketch 1 above is his original workup and sketch 2 is probably one of the most perfect full body sketches of Shade we’ve received to date. Thom completed Shade’s full color cover wrap, a rocking Elder Dragons color promoter image, the smoking color website template and 6 killer B&W interior sketches in the same time other artists finished just 1 or 2 pieces. He earned the words, “Featuring the Art of Thom Scott” on our cover and the full color cover itself after showing us he had the eye of the tiger! If you’d like to consider hiring Thom Scott, we highly recommend him! Visit him at www.ThomScottArt.com

Shade would like to thank Thom Scott for inking his final face and the assassin also wants him to know he put Thom Scott on his official “Do Not Kill List.” Thom started taking Shade’s face in the right direction in sketch 3. Shade’s face was finally dripping with confidence. The final color cover below pulled the Dark Elf’s features from the slight Lockjaw complex he was having in sketch 3 (for those of you old enough to remember He-Man). The final cover background is beautifully hand-drawn, the armor is darkly beautiful and finally Shade has been reunited with his frighteningly large arsenal of knives.

Visit us here if you’re interested in taking a gander at the final book showcasing more great art from Thom Scott!

 

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Fantastic map-maker, Jon Roberts, lands the George R. R. Martin contract to map out the fabulous world of Game of Thrones! I shudder for the hope one day I could hire a map-maker of Jon’s caliber.

 
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Posted by on April 4, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

The Many Faces of Shade–Part One

Shade, our main character in the Shade Chronicles, has been through many face lifts. Dragols and Fauns might say that’s what made him so grumpy, but they wouldn’t say it to his face. We went through quite a journey of artists when selecting the final artist for Shade One. I’d be happy to spin this tale for our small and faithful band of blog readers, but first let me tell you a little bit about the man in black himself.

First off don’t call Shade a man, not unless you want to catch a knife in the back when your head is turned. He is a Dark Elf from the black forests of Jui-Sae. He was trained in the legendary ranks of the Unseen, who are the most elite assassins in all Covent. You see Unseen live up to their fearsome reputation, and they can turn invisible, which is a nasty trick making them quite difficult to see them sneaking up on you. He also collects knives, lots and lots of knives and not the dull ones either.

Shade enjoys long solitary walks on the beach, just as long as those walks end with the bagging of his latest mark. He’s a Scorpio and he like all Scoprios has a fancy for pouring mud into his adult beverages (that’s a riddle you’ll have to read the book to solve BTW). Oh, and did I mention that he’s single! For any interested ladies, he’s rich, tall, dark and handsome, once you can get past his whole coldblooded killer wrap.

Now where was I? Oh yes, the pictures above. This was the first artist we hired. Names have been changed to protect the innocent. We’ll call him Billy. We were not very impressed with Billy’s first attempt shown in picture 1. Shade seemed stiff, wooden, more man than Elf. The armor also left a lot to be desired. Hard leathers felt all wrong, the knives in his straps didn’t feel reachable. I didn’t want to see this Shade stumbling awkwardly through a fight.

The background on the other hand was awesome! I love the bearded man drinking in the back. It kind of looks like they’re arm wrestling, but that’s just as cool. The Green Barrel, which is our cozy, quaint little sewer tavern is alive with barrels, cool lanterns and moldy sewer gratings. Brilliant! The problem is that the background is more interesting than the main character. This was a definite red flag, so we asked Billy to redraw it.

Months passed until finally we received picture 2. A stroke of brilliance! We were thrilled. Shade finally lit up the room, his armor was perfect, his pose far more interesting. He oozed with confidence. Finally after waiting another month we received the final black and white. We rejoiced! We danced around a bonfire like wild tribesmen! We sent additional requests for our logo and other projects, but Billy was in too high demand for us. Reluctantly, we were forced to start over with another artist.

Through a mutual friend we found the artist above. We’ll call him Willy. Willy’s finished works on his portfolio were rather nice, though admittedly he was more into drawing superheroes. Fantasy was new to him, but we gave him a shot. His first couple pictures came at lightning fast speed. A nice change from waiting on Mr. Billy before him, but the sketches left us searching for an art style truly befitting of the world of Covent.

The first picture was a complete sketch. I thought the ponytail was very cool. Our original vision of Elves related them to the far East, so the hair style seemed fitting. The armor was suitable, but was a bit too Dracula for me. Now Willy was very good at accepting feedback, a massive credit to his character. He sent us version 1.1 in a matter of days. We liked this piece much better than the last. That hood and cloak were quite good. The scene he was painting might work as an alternative cover, but once again we weren’t sold on the art style.

Willy sent us several other concepts and then we received version 1.11teen. Now 11teen is an old joke Josh and I shared back from our high school days. Version 1.11teen was a much stronger Shade than its predecessors. Shade had a strong face, strong eyebrows oozing with confidence, that awesome ponytail and another good hood and cloak. There was just one problem. Everyone who looked at it thought he was a character out of the Legend of Zelda. Meanwhile our trademark got approved setting a deadline for publication and so we had to canvass other artists.

We talked to names as big as Kerem Beyet, but they were all booked up or way out of budget, though I might add that Mr. Kerem Beyet is one of the most polite, professional and talented artists in the world today. After months of canvassing Deviantart.com we widdled our search down to two candidates. One had drawn for World of Warcraft, Clash of the Titans plus dozens of other major brands and the other for Fantasy Flight Games. They crossed paintbrushes and prepared to duel off. The final clash of artists had now come. Wham! Smack! Pow!!!

To be continued…

Will the caped killer ever find his true face? Will he have to spend the rest of his imaginary life wandering the lonely, white pages of an empty art canvas?

Find out next week on the exciting conclusion of the Many Faces of Shade. Same bat time! Same bat channel!

Or you can skip right ahead to the website and spoil next week’s blog if you wish by sneaking a peak at the final cover. Cheat and sneak a peek…

Cheat and sneak a peak…

P. S. from the mysterious intruder, “Hey J. L., the final cover is to the right over there  Up, up, up there!”

 

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