A land of speckled grey
A whisper in the mist
A hand of mottled clay
A shadow upon the grist
A bird at play amongst the skies
A figure in the shade
A child, one that dies
A darkness amidst the glade
All these things had clouded round
The village for to seek
A home, a hearth, a living speak
Yet buried upside down
Caper and dance, laugh and fall
The devil’s daily bread
Now slay them fast, now slay them all
And the leader you must behead
And piss upon his gravestone now
For tomorrow you’ll be drowned
Thanks to a couple kind readers, I now have a smile stapled to my face for the rest of the day. I was working away at the day job when a G+ notification email popped up. Not something I usually get, so, hey, figured I’d look.
This is what I saw.
The summary is question:
Bloodaxe thought he was in for a nice relax. He was, after all, dead.
And then some jumped up prick of a god told him he had to rescue a kingdom. His own kingdom, in fact. So Bloodaxe grabbed his, well, axe, and leapt back into the fray.
First, though, he had to be born. And learn not to crap his pants. Then he could get to the killing. Lots and lots of killing.
This is his story.
Last Friday, I was asked to write a guest post for Thomas Knight on fantasy architecture, for his 29 Days of Fantasy event. Writing it was a blast, and here’s an excerpt from it.
You’ve all seen Lord of the Rings, right? (If you haven’t, go watch all three, and come back tomorrow. You’ll thank me). Now, most people think about the story, the sweeping epic tale of victory through perseverance. I’m not going to talk about that. I’m going to talk about something a little duller: Architecture. Specifically, Fantasy Architecture.
In Lord of the Rings, it mostly lives in the background, created through the use of brilliant fantasy art and CG. And in fantasy stories, that’s all too often where it lives – the background. And if it’s not in the background, it’s architecture that looks Asian or European, architecture that draws on landscapes and vistas taken from the medieval world.
In both cases, the author is missing out on a wonderful opportunity to create a mood, a feeling that carries throughout the novel. Take modern architectural design – a well traveled person can look at a city and see exactly where he or she is. And that’s how architecture should be used in fantasy as well.
Here’s some fantasy art that conveys much of what I’m looking for. Yes, I know, it’s a boat, not a building. But it’s unique, and different, and I bought that book (and read it) based on just the cover. And while the architecture of your fantasy society might not sit on the cover of your book, once the reader turns to the first page, you can be damn sure it’s going to make an impression.
Okay, great, you’re saying. Architecture matters. But I’m not an architect and I haven’t got a clue how a building is designed. And it doesn’t matter. It’s called fantasy for a reason. The construction process doesn’t need to be described in detail, the building doesn’t need to pass contemporary safety codes, and the author shouldn’t let fine detail cramp a good story.
So, you want to do that. You want architecture that fits the story without taking too much space. First step – for each culture, pick one or two words or phrases that describe their architectural design. As an example, I’ll use ‘Open’ and ‘Windy’. (I’m cheating, by the way. I already built this culture). ‘Open’ – most contemporary architecture uses this to mean open plan, but think a little outside the box – remove walls. So every building has no exterior walls, aside from some grass mats that can be rolled down in a storm.
To read the rest, just click on through.
Update: Bloodaxe hit Kindle this morning!
I haven’t talked about Bloodaxe much on here, but it’s a new short story that will be released to Kindle Select in a week or so. I’m using it as a trial of the platform, and I’m hoping for good things after Breaking an Empire did 2,500 downloads in a single night.
The prologue of Bloodaxe is already posted on the website here. You might want to read it before getting to the fun below.
I felt like I was being squeezed through a rawhide bag by a former member of my personal bodyguard. The one who killed people by strangling them with an iron bar. Not wire. Bar.
After that, I got smacked around by a particularly ugly old crone, then cleaned up and handed over to a woman with enough gold cloth that she had to be a duchess. Not bad for a second time around. Much better than a peasant, although I had always liked dear old mum and dad.
I was small enough I figured it was better to be polite, so I said “Hello”. Turned out some of the connections weren’t working right, since all that came out was a squawk. And so it turned out I was going to have to go through a normal childhood, complete with all the annoying stages of growing up. Lovely.
Whichever god thought this was a good idea is going to wake up one morning with me standing over him with an axe. A bloody great one. And if I don’t find out which one it is, I’m going to start with Frethden, god of trickery, and work my way in from there.
I’ve been through childhood once, and it turns out the only reason I remembered it fondly was because I didn’t remember it at all. Learning not to crap your pants? I’m so very glad I now have complete memories of that.
Anyway, less faeces and deicide, and more storytelling. It turned out I had been born into the duchy of Trond, which was the smallest of the duchies that once made up my kingdom. Bigger than the three earldoms and two baronies that sat around it, but smaller than the other two duchies. Situated nicely in the middle.
Or not so nicely in the middle. The other two duchies didn’t like my new parents very much, and decided to do something about that. Specifically, they sent several assassins in the night, plus a rather large force of regular soldiers. And when you’re four years old, it doesn’t matter how many years of battle-hardened reactions you have, you still need to run and hide. At least being four meant I could hide in a tiny cubbyhole.
It turned out the gold cloth wearing woman who was my new mother was fairly skilled with a rapier. Significantly more so than my new father, who got himself skewered within moments. I’d have been sad, except I only ever saw him at a distance, or at state affairs. Not exactly a loving father-son relationship. So, new mum dispatches the assassins, including the one who got the duke, finds me, and decides to leg it, since there’s rather more soldiers around who belong to the other duchies than to ours.
She calls, I come, we’re whisked off through miles of secret passages and tunnels, and end up climbing out a trapdoor hidden in the back of the fertilizer shed of a local farmer. I liked that touch. Sneaky, devious. Gave me more respect for the duchess. What I didn’t like was the damage a shaggy pony can deal to four year old buttocks. I’ve acquired battle scars in less painful ways.
I also didn’t like the irony of the gods. Because my Mum and I ended up living in a peasant village. On a hillside. Farming. Yes, I was once more a peasant farmer. I hadn’t liked it the first time I was growing up and I didn’t like it now. And how the hell was I going to fulfil my destiny of returning to save Rudvic if all I had to work with was some dirt and the clots who ate it?