Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Is It Truly Love?



So can we just stop with the meaningless romance that seems to have invaded every sub-genre of fiction now in existence?
   
   What? Who doesn’t love a good love story? I’m glad you asked, because the truth of the matter is (and it might be a little hard to swallow) a surprising amount of people don’t like love stories! These peculiar individuals live among us, going about their day-to-day lives, yet becoming increasingly frustrated with the worthless cuddles and feels that so many writers feel the need to inject into an otherwise decent (unless, of course, it was already bad) story! (Before we go any further, it must here be stated that I neither claim to be nor deny to be one of these individuals. And I will furthermore say that I liked the story of Aragorn and Arwen, didn’t mind the puppy love of Meg Murry and Calvin O’Keefe (FROM THE BOOK, NOT THE MOVIE), and am quite fond of a certain short-story titled “They Met Under the Glinting Stars” (ahem). Now then…)
   
   There is a set of people who are tired of the stupid, senseless, and totally unrelatable “love” that has managed to seep into almost every story—books and movies alike. It’s no secret that this is basically all that the YA genre is now. (To those worthy authors out there who still write good YA, I mean you no disrespect, but know that you are in a minority.) From the idiotic half-crush half-WHAT? of books like “Uglies” (good gosh!), to the sudden and absolutely unformulaic “romance” found in “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” to the literal eye-burning attempted cliché-bender in “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” and “The Battle of Five Armies.” What is wrong with the world?? What happened to romance that built naturally between the characters, that was understandable, that was relatable? What good is a cliché bender if it’s rubbish? What good is a kiss snatched under the moonlight if the readers or audience are just left rolling their eyes?
   
   I fear that we, as a society, have lost touch—or perhaps patience—with true love. Wow. That sounds really bad, but humor me. How many books or movies that were written or produced within the last five years do you remember to have told a true, a natural, and really relatable love story? Lots of folks are tired of the same old, “hateful-and-petulant-and-selfish-and-under-eighteen-year-old-girl catches the eye of dark-or-green-eyed-muscle-bound-but-quiet-and-secretive-probably-troubled-and-also-under-eighteen-years-old-guy, they both meet in an academy or something, exchange a couple sentences, and three chapters down the road they both just totally neeeeed each other.” Enough!

   Now in the interest of ensuring that this post is informative—instead of just, I don’t know, some kind of unhinged rant—I would like to list a couple (or maybe three) things that matter, ACTUALLY MATTER, when putting romance into a story. 

#1. Romance can’t be forced.
   Sounds like a no-brainer. But seriously, people need to stop thinking that it’s daring to just shove two characters who have no chemistry whatsoever together because…plot. It’s not daring, it’s annoying and unbelievable.

#2. It has to be both relatable and realistic.
   Do you remember the names of all those lovers and such that the Greek and Roman gods had? Of course you don’t, because who cares about the love-lives of the Greek and Roman gods?! In order to appreciate romance between your characters, your audience/readers must first feel for the characters themselves, and then be able to imagine themselves or someone they know in the situation you’re presenting, or at least believe in total absolution that your characters really are in love and not just smooching because…plot.

#3. A hateful character, or a character that doesn’t belong where they are, always ruins the feels. Always.
   I don’t think I really need to go into this one all that much. Suffice it to say that there is a certain red-headed elf that appeared in a certain movie concerning a certain hobbit whose presence therein—and lack thereof in later installments—can never be either explained, nor forgiven. I mean it.


And that’s all I have to say on that for now. Maybe somebody will actually briefly consider what I had to say (ha!), or maybe not. But I said it, and even as true love doesn’t repent over its existence, neither shall I repent over these words. But I’d like to know what you guys think. Let me know!



Keep Strong!

Saturday, June 2, 2018

AT LONG LAST!!

Days went by; I labored long. Weeks became months; still I labored. Months stacked into years; I labored the quicker.

   Now at last, at long, long last, I have done it. I have finished it. I HAVE DELIVERED.


TOILS OF THE VALIANT
BOOK TWO OF THE CHRONICLES OF VRANDALIN









The epic conclusion to the widely-loved adventure of Strife of the Mighty! 


DOOM COMES. FAITH WAVERS. HOPE HANGS IN THE BALANCE. 

The battle for Darfrandor is over, but there is neither time nor mood for celebration. Having received word of the approaching power of the Dread Palace, time is yet again in short supply for Brandegan, Allon, and Merch—and all of Vrandalin with them. 

Heeding lessons learned from before and during the battle with the Morkathleam, Brandegan decides to leave Darfrandor without delay. Though he renders a stark warning to the people of the capital that there can be no victory in the fight against Ezirg Haur without the intervention of the Ayestærè, he begins to feel in his heart that the Vellneranians will never again have faith. Urging them to flee south on a desperate journey to Krandarmain Ilse, he leaves them to their choice. Yet the journey south will present Brandegan himself with hard choices to grapple, and force the silver-haired man to confront not only perils of the future, but burdens of the past. 

For Allon Bracken, the way forward seems both clear and clouded. His will knows that he is not the same man that fled Varalel, yet his heart will soon discover that some wounds remain tender long. He must come to terms with both shortly, for in this time of final deeds, the hurting and the lost, the fearful and the hopeless, commoner and noble alike, will need someone to lead them. 

As for Merch Provender, his difficulties come in many forms. From the worry over his home village, to the increasingly constant necessity to kill or be killed…to the often withheld thoughts and feelings of a new traveling companion. Yet all these difficulties must be overcome, for the clock is counting, and ale won’t last forever. 

But for Parma the healer, leagues to the south in the proud city of Mariz, darkness has already arrived. Only newly loosening the grip of cold policies enacted against the southeasterners by Governor Parfidy, she is forced to push back against the malice of mysterious bandits who threaten the lives of those she protects. But in doing so she discovers a sinister plot against Mariz itself, and soon finds herself fighting the ghosts and foes from a past wrought with heartache. It will cost her bitterly. 

Sacrifices are made, bonds are broken, and the powers of the realm are shaken in this kingdom-rending conclusion to the tale that began in Strife of the Mighty. Let the faithful keep strong.



*Sniffle* It's so beautiful....

   You guys have waited long for this one, and so have I! As promised, the tale that began in Strife of the Mighty concludes here...whether in good or evil. I did not split up the story into a trilogy. To celebrate this momentous occasion, I'm putting the Kindle versions of both Toils of the Valiant and Strife of the Mighty on sale for $0.99! To grab your copy of Toils of the Valiant click here! (Or here, if you prefer paperback.) To grab Strife of the Mighty, click here! (Here for paperback.)

   Thank you all for bearing with me through all of this. I strove extra hard to make the story extra gripping, extra meaningful, and extra awesome! Tell me what you think! 

Oh, almost forgot: I've released a new design in the Lael Marketplace!  Check out A Wilder Shape! This particular design was wrought especially for Toils of the Valiant. (And yes, it comes in men's styles, too.) I'm working very hard for you guys (really). 

Happy reading! Happy wearing!


Keep Strong!

Monday, May 7, 2018

Contest Winners!

Hey, everybody.

   So, as you all know, I recently held a contest to celebrate the opening of my new t-shirt shop. Well, today we announce those lucky three! Thanks to all who entered!





Coming in at third place is........... Barri!





























Coming in at second place is...........April Turner!!






And taking home the first place grand prize.............Christian Calhoun from Oklahoma!




Let's hear it for our winners! Information for prize collection will be sent out shortly. Thanks again to all who entered.

Keep Strong!

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Surprise! (And a contest!)

Ahoy, ahoy! Right, so, if folks have been paying attention to some of my previous posts and tweets (wait, you haven't?.....) then they'll know that I've been saying that I'd have some surprises for everyone early this year. Well, I'm here to deliver them! I'll get right to it:

   #1.   Book two of the Chronicles of Vrandalin is finished and as we speak going through editing. Things were pretty tight with this one, so that shouldn't be too long a process. I know that its completion was later than expected (I'm sorry, alright!), but believe me when I say that I have gone above and beyond to tell (and conclude) an engaging, heart-pulling, originally designed story. The wait is nearly over.

   #2.   This one's a biggie. (Well, to me it is.) Here goes-- I have just opened *drum-roll* my very own T-shirt shop! Yup. Complete with totally original and eye-catching designs wrought with Vrandalin (and the world of Lael) in mind! I'm rather proud of this achievement, and I hope that you guys will drop by and give it a look here (in case you missed the first link).  Now, there are a couple things to note: Right now, if you drop by and order a shirt, you'll get FREE shipping with the code FS18. The free shipping promotion only lasts for a few short days, so if you're interested now's the time! The other thing to note is.... Well, that fits into my other surprise. But first, here're a couple pictures of a couple of my designs!







































Huh! Huh! First off, I just want you all to know that these models were hard to get a hold of. They were all booked up till summer, and I had to call in a favor. Professionalism and good looks are in high demand! Secondly, these are only three of my designs, but there are more to choose from, and the shirts are available in multiple different styles and colors, long-sleeved or hoodie, so yeah. Now, for my last announcement.


#3.   I'm hosting a contest! Yes, sir (or ma'am) a contest! Here's what's up for grabs: One first place winner will receive a signed, paperback copy of both Strife of the Mighty, and the soon to be released sequel thereof! One second place winner will receive a mystery t-shirt, the design of which was wrought especially for the second book! And one third place winner will receive an ebook copy of the sequel to Strife of the Mighty. Sounds good? (Wait, did you just say no?) Okay, here's what you have to do to enter: Drop by my t-shirt shop and grab yourself a shirt sporting your favorite of the designs listed (remember, shipping is free for the next few days with the code FS18). When your shirt arrives, snap a photo of you (or it can even be of a friend if you're camera shy) wearing your new garb, and send the photo to juliusb333@gmail.com. What I'll need from you in the email is the following:

   #1. Name of entrant (and state of residence, if you want).
   #2. Permission to post and/or feature your photo on this blog, my Twitter, and/or Facebook.
   #3. Your shirt size.

   That's it! If you're a winner, you'll receive an email of congratulations, along with a request for the address you would like your books or shirt to be shipped to. The most important thing with this contest is to have fun and be creative! Entries will be judged based on their artistic expression. If your photo doesn't show your face that's fine. If you're doing a hand-stand, that's fine. If you're sipping coffee in front of a wall made of noodles, that's fine. Snap with your own artistic eye. And have fun with it! The contest is open today, and submissions will be accepted through 4/29/18. Winners will be announced by 5/7/18.

   Well, that's all for now.


Keep Strong!



Thursday, March 1, 2018

Fantasy Stereotyped

I know, I know, this might rub a few people the wrong way, and for that I’m sorry (I guess), but it’s something I’ve kinda been thinking about both previously and lately. So here goes:
 
    Fantasy is great, ain’t it? Ain’t it grand? The wondrous escape that it provides to our desiring psyches, while at the same time (if done well) presenting viewpoints and/or troubles that we face and question in our own world in a thought-provoking manner, simply can’t be beat. So many, many, many (many many many) different fantasy tales have been written and told through the passing of the years, that it is truly impossible to keep track of them all. However, all follow a common thread or two—or five or six, depending on the author. This is all well and good; I mean, after all, there’s nothing new under the sun, right? But (there’s that word again) there is something—one of the threads I mentioned, if you will—that rather bugs me from time to time: The generic uses of certain fantasy races along with the “stereotypical” actions and attitudes thereof.
 
   What do I mean, you ask? I mean that so many people who write fantasy often—not always, but often—conform the races that inhabit their worlds to the usual depiction. For instance, elves are likely hands-down the most often used race (besides humans) in fantasy tales. How many books have you read wherein the elves that were part of the story were physically superior to humans, so veeerrryyy much more beautiful and elegant than humans, and so much wiser and more skilled in magic than humans? More often than you can remember, I doubt not.
 
   This is great for some stories, and even more than some if the story is still good enough, but when this becomes the norm, the allure of having a new race involved in your story is diminished almost at once. Just how many times are we gonna read the wise elf—always older than our protagonist (and more beautiful)—lecture and lecture about how violent and uncouth humans are, while simultaneously doing a backflip and firing four arrows off a longbow??!! This kind of thing gets repetitive, and done without or with little skill, it’s just downright annoying.
 
   Obviously, it is no small thing to stand out and be separate from the crowd, yet this is what needs to happen more regularly in fantasy with regards to fantasy races. Now, there are some folks who have done some interesting things and broken off the beaten path; in my experience, it seems to be indies who do it most. To my most recent memory, author Michael J. Sullivan had what I thought was a most welcome original concept for the elves in his story. (I know that there are others, people, he’s just the one I could readily remember.) His elves were not as strong and beautiful as elves so often are, and they were, get this, slaves to the uncouth humans of the land for some time. A nice historical background that was. By the way, now might be a good spot to mention that it isn’t elves alone who fall victim to this problem. Dwarves, dragons, gnomes (meh), and, yes, even humans, have, and are still being, what I like to call fantasy-stereotyped. (That is now copyrighted. You can’t have it.)
 
   My fellow authors, it is a struggle to be original, yet it is our lot to struggle to be as original as we can be nonetheless. You know, there was a time that I thought that fantasy writers should just ease up on using elves and dragons and dwarves for a while altogether. Give them a break and use humans or something else. Yet I have since progressed to the reality that, while it still might be a good idea to give these creatures (especially those pretty-pretty elves) a break, it is not necessarily necessary. Just use them originally. It doesn’t even have to be totally originally, just make them different somehow. Make their ears point downward instead of upward, give them dark skin (and not just so that it can make them an outcast/oddity to the other elves), make them mutate into four-foot tall frogs with rabbit ears whenever they eat the peanut-butter soup of our protagonist. Just do something different that will stand out to the reader. You don’t know how huge a favor you’ll be doing to your readers, and to all elves, dragons, dwarves, gnomes, and other victims of fantasy-stereotype out there.



Keep Strong!

Friday, January 26, 2018

A Poem For Your Pleasure

Right. So, I've been trying to decide what to post for you guys this month, and while I have decided to do a Batman/Superman post, it's not ready yet. Sorry. But (there's that word again) I do have something else for you to sink your mind into for a bit. As some of you may know, I do garner some enjoyment from sharing my work with you, and I do try to drop some of it here and there so as to give you a look at some of the other tales and whatnot that I work on when I get the time. The time has come to do that again!

   The following poem is one that I wrote a while ago, but didn't share because, well, I didn't want to.    Okay, not exactly. In truth, though I like it, I don't consider it to be one of my best works (don't get any ideas though; I'm not saying it's rubbish!), and I don't want to share stuff with you guys that is below caliber. I reread it recently, and I've decided that it's suitable to share. Huzzah! Now, mind you, it is a little lengthy (I've decided to go ahead and post the whole thing at once instead of break it up into two parts as I've done before), but it tells a full short-story. So it's not just a bunch of rhyming that doesn't go anywhere. (I'd never do that to you!) Anywho, I've rambled long enough so, without further ado, here it is!

(Oh, one more thing; it has no title. If any of you have any suggestions, feel free.)



There was once a house upon a lane
Which, to all who looked, appeared quite plain
But within had many secrets dark.
So to this tale I bid you hark.
A wandering fellow who dared to dare,
And enter into that secret lair
Once took his luck and tried his fate
And entered through that house’s gate.

At noon’s height he entered in
But when the door shut behind, it was dark within
And soft scuttlings, as from unseen spies,
He heard beyond the reach of his eyes.
Yet forward he went, refusing to be cowed,
And entered the dining room, where it seemed a cloud
Had settled. But it was not so,
For there sat five, silent figures in a row.

Four men there were with faces forlorn,
And at their head sat a woman with eyes of scorn.
But the stranger at once felt sick and trembled,
For he could see right through the bodies of the folk assembled.
Their faces grey, their raiment white,
Shifted and shuddered before his sight.
And he perceived that these were no mortals true
But phantoms arrayed. Three and two.

Then at once the woman looked his way
And in her eyes arose a spark of play,
And from her chair she gave a gesture.
A wordless command from a silent specter.
At once the four men sprang each from his seat
And came at the stranger, never once touching their feet
Upon the ground. Their teeth turned fangs, their nails turned claws,
And hideous cries leapt from their maws.

Then the fellow gave a cry of his own
And ran back the way he had come alone.
But now the house revealed its will. The way out of that secret lair
Was gone. Instead now a stair
A stair was before the fleeing man.
And up it went to an unknown span.
But with things so fell and swift behind
He took hold of the banister and began his climb.

Four flights up he fled the wights
Till he discerned the presence of flickering lights,
And, coming to the door from which they glowed,
Dared to enter another secret abode.
Nine candles lit a dusty room,
Attempting to resist a clinging gloom.
But waiting not, he shut himself inside
Seeking respite and a refuge to abide.

At a whispering voice he spun around
And saw a maid-child sitting on the ground.
In one hand she held a written note,
And in the other the quill with which she wrote.
“You escaped,” she said without looking his way.
“Others would have been caught at once from they
Who chased you up the stair.”
“What place is this?” he asked. “What lair
Lies truly at the heart of this shrouded house?”
At that she stood, ruffling a velvet blouse.

“If you truly wish that answer to know
Then come with me. We shall walk below.
And as for your mistrust, written from eye to eye,
I swear to you to tell only a single lie.”
Then waiting not for an answer given
She walked over to a space wherein the wall was riven
A little cleft. Her little hand she stuck inside
And forthwith a hidden door opened wide.

It opened to blackness, and he shrunk back.
Said she, “If you will not dare to trek this track
Your life will be delivered to the ghouls outside.
For they cannot enter this room only as long as I abide.”
Then forward she went and was lost to sight.
And he followed after, being governed by fright.
His eyes were useless in that lightless hall,
And his ears heard almost no sound at all.

Yet one thing he did hear, if only so fleet,
And that was the sound of her walking feet. 
Just before him she walked, but no comfort gave
In that lightless place like a closing grave.
Down they went for an unknown span,
A silent girl and a wavering man.
Suddenly, her voice came like falling stones.
“Should your life be in danger, you may use my bones.”

Before he could venture to ask of her why,
He gasped and released a shouting cry.
The ground beneath him had disappeared,
And down he fell and blindly veered
Toward an end unseen.
The end came soon, and the pain was keen
As he struck a patch of sandy ground
And discerned a new and dreadful sound.

A growling rose all around
And looking up he saw many a slavering hound.
Their hide was black, their eyes flamed red,
And gleamed in torches overhead.
To his hands and knees he softly rose.
But the hounds at once began to circle and close
About him. As despair took him, all alone,
He felt his hand brush against a bone.

Glancing toward it to see what the hounds had torn
He saw the velvet blouse that his guide had worn.
Beside it sat a pile of bones and a skull
That glared at him with sockets dull.
Now he realized her grim meaning.
Up he snatched her bones as the hounds, now springing,
Rushed upon him with bays of death,
And filled the air with the stench of their breath.

At once he threw them, bone by bone,
And heard the hounds’ baying change in tone.
From him they turned with greedy yaps,
And fought over those bones as dogs will over scraps.
But as he was about to cast the skull it cried,
“No! You will need me. Now circle wide
Around the hounds while they tear my bones,
To a door that will lead away from their growls and groans.”

Quelling the fear that flamed inside,
He did as she bade him, and circled wide
Till he came to a door of blackened glass,
And there he halted, despairing to pass.
But the skull he held in his trembling hand
At once spoke a hissing command
And the door opened silently.
And through it he went, speeding to flee.

Up now they went, the skull and he.
First two flights, then another three.
Then suddenly she bade him stop,
Though no sign was there that they had reached a top.
“Toss me ahead, then follow behind.
For in the gloom before us you will again be blind.”
Then gladly he cast that skull away.
But himself hung back. Loathing to go or stay.

She called to him in his uncertainty,
And a moment later, most innocently,
The maid-child that he had before seen
Came near to him with dark eyes keen.
He drew back from her, his own eyes wide.
“Truly,” said he, “hidden inside
This house’s walls are many a devilish host.
And you are among them. Why do you help me, ghost?”

The child looked upon him. “The answer,” she smiles,
“Is that I am the wandering spirit who beguiles.
I have no power but what is given to me
By desperate men who seek to flee
From the many horrors of this haunted abode.
From you I now have all the power that I was owed.
For every time you heeded my command
Your life was given little by little to my hand.
Now you are mine. And that, I fear,
Will be worse than all else you faced in here.”

“But the lie!” he stammered, his heart going cold.
“The one lie that you ought to have told,
Where was it?” From ear to ear her grin now burst.
“The lie was the thing I said second to first,
When I bade you follow me to escape the ghouls.
You could have fought off those wispy fools.
But fear had such a hold on you
That it seemed wise to do all I bade you do.

“The hounds as well you could have defeated.
Had you challenged them they would have retreated.
But far better it was, thought you in your dread,
To use the bones of one already dead.
Had you only stood firm and quelled your fear,
A way to escape would have made itself clear.”
And so saying, no longer a child she seemed.
Claws she had, and sudden fangs gleamed
Beneath a now skinless face.
A leering skull now took its place.

Then upon him the creature leapt without a word,
And his cries and screams went on unheard.
And if ever you pass by that house,
Wherein lurks the ghost-child in the velvet blouse,
You will know it by the half-imagined sound
Of a young girl’s laughter underground.




Keep Strong!

Sunday, December 31, 2017

New Things To Come.

My. How time flies.
   
It seems such a short time ago that I was posting about the Thanksgiving of the previous year. Now, we're about to hit 2018. And I do mean “hit it.” *Sigh* I wish time would slow. I mean, literally every year that passes is a year closer to the grave. I don’t like the grave. 2017 was…some year, wouldn’t you say? So much happened here and around the world, it’s almost enough to make one’s head spin. Through it all, I have remained observant, and I will tell you that I have learned more this year than perhaps any other year of my life (2016 is close, though). How was your year? Did you learn anything? (Hey, you better have! A year’s a long time!)

   *Ahem* As most of you likely guessed some time ago, the sequel to Strife of the Mighty will, unfortunately, not be making it to publication this year as planned. (I weep even now.) I know that some of you will be disappointed, and many of you may even now despise me (I’m sorry?) but, as I said, 2017 was some year. I wanted so badly to release the sequel this year, which, as promised, will conclude the story; no trilogy for this one. But (there’s that word again) numerous, dastardly circumstances would not see it done. And so, it’s release will now have to be early (early, I say!) 2018. And I shall release it. You have my word. As I said, the cover is done, the designs of the story are at their completion, and the book is being edited. It is about a third longer than Strife of the Mighty, so the editing is going to take a little longer than the first book, but hear me when I tell you that the story only gets better.

   I know that I have been gone for a while, and for that I apologize (did I mention that 2017 was some year?). However, I intend to make it up to you guys. First off, I have some surprises in store for you guys this year! I can’t release all the details just yet, but it’s a project that I am working on and partnering with a few designers to complete. I will post about it here when it’s ready (which should also be some time early next year.) Secondly, I am going to have a no-strings-attached giveaway when book two comes out. I will be giving away two (count ‘em) two paperback copies of the sequel to Strife of the Mighty. I am looking for ways to make it fun for people though (y’know, like maybe guessing something about what happens in the second book, and the first two to guess right wins. Something like that,) so if any of you have any ideas, do let me know! (Seriously, do!)

   Well, that’s all that I have to say in this post. With the turning over of the year I shall be taking up posting on a more regular basis (I know; the torture of my words). Expect them to range from any number of things (what, you weren’t already?). I’ve watched some pretty good (and not so good) movies lately, so I might rant or rave on them a bit. I may lament over the fact that I still haven’t found a decent hat that screams me or I may go into a deep thesis on how Batman is so much better than Superman. We’ll see. But for now, I shall leave it with a simple message:



Happy New Year!