Get your free Labyrinth of Souls Wallpaper

I've spent the last couple days working on an idea for a new cover for Labyrinth of Souls. What do you think?

I love the new cover. It is more exciting, and show Raih, Jodhaa, and Sathi. It will take a couple days for it to filter through the Amazon machine, but I didn't want to wait so I created some wallpapers for your computers and phones to celebrate.

As I continue to write The Raven's Song, I am starting to think about how I can do a similar cover for it so every book in the series feel good together. If you have any suggestions, I would love to hear them.

Never did I ever think I would be so proud of art, I made. This world has brought me to life in an exciting way. I hope you are enjoying the stories as much as I am. Just writing this post, I have the biggest grin on my face. Me smiling... It is a good feeling.

If you need a different size, let me know. There are so many phone and tablet sizes, it is hard to find out what sizes to make. If you need a different one, let me know.

What kind of magic is in the Labyrinth of Souls

When Unen Anchin contracted with the Vazra to construct the Labyrinth of Souls he stationed many adepts throughout the cave to monitor their work. 

The aether in the cave was thick and full on account of the Fox Warren within. So many spirits in one place calls the aether to it like metal to a magnate. 

Three Vazra entered the center of the chamber: one in red robes, another in blue, and the last in black. The color of the Vazra's robes may or may not have anything to with the arts they practice or if it is a mere whim, but none of the white clad specters entered the cave.

Their rite began with a red robed Vazra lighting a stone brazer in the shape of a dragon's head with flames gathered from the great wyrm Galyn Surgalt. As the red Vazra gathered the aether above the flame, a black robed Vazra chanted a Bibliothecary incantation for secrets to be revealed.

Twenty-four Vazra in total wove their enchantments into the stone of the cave. Noble metals of ever type were brought into the cave and wrought into the mechanism at the heart of the labyrinth.

Kitsune, tanuki, and all manner of spirit and yokai entered and left the cave in the six days it took them to build their magical wonder. Some believe they added their magic to the construction, while others think they simply looked about to see what the Vazra were doing.

In the end, only the Vazra know for sure, and they refuse to share their knowledge with any so none my devise a method to circumvent their discernment.

Other than the magic to read the hearts, minds, and spirits of the students, the labyrinth has produced the weapons and magical implements they would need to pursue their education. Something of the artificer's art must be built into the labyrinth for it to manufacture the equipment it leaves to those who find them.

Many who spent time in the labyrinth claim that it spoke to them in their dreams. While many of these stories are undoubtably apocryphal, the idea that the labyrinth is alive persists. Some have even claimed to see it wander the warren in the form of a ghostly blue lady.

In time, we many learn what secret arts produce such wonders. Until then, our pale speculations will have to suffice.

Announcing The Raven's Song, the second book in The House of Blood and Flames

The very last thing I expected to do an Friday was start writing a new book, but Percy weighed heavy on my mind and wanted his story to be told so I started writing.

Unlike the follow up I still have planned, The Raven's Song begins over a year before the events of Labyrinth of Souls and tells the story of how Percy ended up at Sunsuulyn Academy.

I thought his story would be told in flashback and memory, but now that I've started writing it, I can't imagine it being told in any other way.

Like so many in the World of the Ash Dancer, Percy's story is filled with tragedy and adventure. The pains he suffered forged him into the man he will become. 

As I have done with the last two books, I will post the draft chapters to Wattpad as they are written if you would like to follow along with the writing. If you want to wait for the final draft, I will let you know when the book comes out. 

Are you ready for this tale of piracy and lies? Join me as we explore the amazing early life of Percy Waldron.

Announcing the House of Blood and Flames

House of Blood and Flames Logo.png

When I started writing Labyrinth of Souls, I knew it would be an introduction to a series about life at Sunsuulyn Academy, but I didn't expect to announce the name of the series so soon. 

House of Blood and Flames

The House of Blood and flames, also known as the Silver House, is the residence hall at the Academy where our characters will live.

Students began to call the Silver House the House of Blood and Flames after the inscription over the door which reads, "In the End, all we are is blood and flames."

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The inscription was the motto of the Silver Khanzada Khotyn Od who endowed and supervised the construction of the building. In the original Nadibhasha, the words Blood and Flames are related to Courage and Honor. 

Residents of the House are carefully chosen. I don't want to say anymore about that just yet it might be seen as a minor spoiler of events in future books.

I hope you enjoy this series, and I can't wait to hear your thoughts about it.

How the Labyrinth of Souls was made

When Padishah Dakhin Torokh commissioned the construction of Sunsuulyn Academy in 773 ME, Unen Anchin, the school's first Grandmaster, knew they needed a way to quickly discern the calling of the new students so imperial funds weren't wasted instructing in all twelve branches of magic until a student's natural talent and temperament revealed themselves.

Arriving on the Mount Atma, Unen discovered a Kitsune Fox Warren running between the Mt Atma and Mt Ulaan. He humbly invited the spirits of the Warren to aid in the task.

The Vazra agreed to help. They constructed a labyrinth infused with the essence of each of the aetheric arts. One by one, students would enter, and the labyrinth read their soul as they walked down the passage into the first room. It would then configure itself for each student with a series of tests designed to test their aptitude for the arts best suited to them.

It was a controversial decision to allow the Vazra to have so much influence over each new class, but in the debates between the original faculty, no valid reason was ever given for why they shouldn't take them up on their offer.

Twenty-four Vazra built the labyrinth in six days. The Grandmaster and the original faculty were the first to walk the labyrinth. Each completed in a different amount of time.

Only the Vazra know the mechanisms at work with the labyrinth, and continue to maintain it to this day.

Many have theorized about the true nature of the structure. Some believe it is a series of rooms, one for each student, that morph and change as the tests progress. Others believe it is a portal to construct in the netherworld where the tests are conducted. Various sages have attempted to test their theories, but none found evidence to prove or disprove their ideas.

The Labyrinth of Souls is one of the true marvels of the magical world, and regardless of how it was constructed or how it determines the tests, the resulting proficiency of the adepts who passed through it cannot be doubted.


 

Join Raih and Jodhaa on their journey through the Labyrinth of Souls as it tests a new class of Sunsuulyn students.

 

What mysteries await in the first novella in the World of the Ash Dancer?

Shine Like Thunder is coming to the World of the Ash Dancer!

I am thrilled to announce that my novel Shine Like Thunder is coming to the world of the Ash Dancer! This book has long been a fan favorite, and I always felt like there was something wrong with it. After a series of discussions with Brian, we have decided to make a new edition of the book to bring it into the World of the Ash Dancer.

What does that mean?

The vast majority of the story will remain intact, while certain elements will be enhanced and others will be altered to bring the story into this epic fantasy world. 

Most of changes will be the names of empires and places, but the one I am most excited about is that Izumi's story will be brought out in a fresh new light.

If you have any questions about this new edition, I would love to answer them. Drafts of the second edition will be posted on Wattpad as usual. This is just the beginning. More exciting news is coming soon.

How do you share a new world?

How to share a world.png

Ash Dancer is a beautiful world  that has lived in the back of my mind for over a year now. The deeper I dig into the world, the more I fall in love with it. The real question is:

How do I share this world with others?

Of course, I know that the books are a good place to start, and I am excited to say, I have written two of them. The first, Labyrinth of Souls will be out on Monday. Yes, that is a great place to start, but no story can share all of the richness of a living world within its pages.

This is why most major franchises produce sourcebooks and guides to show all of the elements developed during the creative process. Many of these are cash grabs to make more money off their fans, but some are genuinely interesting stories.

I don't want to do things just to get more money from my readers, I just want to share these stories with as many people as I can.

In the past, I have theorized about how to share these incidental stories, and I've already started posting some of these to this site and I have more to come, but I found myself having strange qualms about sharing on Twitter and Facebook but why?

Why is social media so difficult?

My primary social media is on Twitter, and it's not the 280 character limit that troubles me. For some reason, I have a strange nervousness come over me when I try to talk about my work. Why?

I wonder if it has something to do with how personal these stories are so personal to me that I find it hard to talk about the stories in the same place I share anything personal on Social Media.

While I know many people who have met me will challenge me on this, but I am a very shy person. I don't share much about my life at all. In so many ways, my stories are more personal than the details of my life. I have to get over this issue.

Telling a story online

I am sharing these feelings with you because I am trying to be more open than I have. Maybe I am going too far in the other direction, but eventually, we will find a sweet spot.

I don't want the posts to be just a series of "BUY MY BOOK" posts. Those are annoying, and I don't like to see them on my feed, so I don't want to do that with you.

The idea of flash fiction and very short stories (#vss) is interesting and probably the path I will take.

What do you what to see?

What kind of posts do you want to see? Please let me know. I would love to share stories that you want to read.

Why I'm writing Labyrinth of Souls (LoS)

Labyrinth of Souls is one of those stories that you don't intend to write, and then you realize you are doing it.  

While I was working on the back stories for several characters and groups, I just started writing more and more about them and their back stories.  At a certain point, I realized, I was really making an outline for a series about them and their history.  It had all of the drama and twists and turns I like to put into a story, so I asked, why don't I just write this real quick?

It hasn't been easy to set Dragon in the Snow aside while I write this novella, but they will both benefit from the project.

With Labyrinth of Souls, I'm testing out a few new ideas about how to tell the story and especially how I want to get into the characters themselves.  The result has thrilled me, and I hope you enjoy it too.

Jodhaa is one of those characters who has wandered around in the back of my head for years. I've tried to find her story for all that time.  When I started work on Dragon in the Snow, I knew this was the story for her.

So Why write Labyrinth of Souls?

Raih and Jodhaa are such fresh characters for me.  They each have qualities I admire, and that scare me a little.  Most importantly, I haven't read anything with characters like them. They are more vulnerable than the typical fantasy character, and have such different personal histories. That makes them even more interesting together.

My biggest concern about writing this story is that I cannot stop comparing Sunsuulyn Academy to Hogwarts, and since I am making those connections, I know other people will too. Magic in Ash Dancer is so different from Harry Potter, as is the history of the world. That makes these two magic schools so different from one another. That comparison falls apart quickly.

The real reason I chose to write Labyrinth of Souls is that I love to write, and I want this world to be so much bigger than just a novel, or series of novels.  So many stories are swirling around in my head, and I want to tell them all.  That isn't realistic, but I want to tell as many as I can.

This world is so full of life, I only hope I can do it justice and bring it to life in a way that people will enjoy reading. Welcome to the world inside my head. Let's have some fun.

You can read Labyrinth of Souls as I write it on Wattpad.

Is Decopunk separate from Steampunk?

The problem with genres based on aesthetics is knowing where to draw the lines.

Decopunk is considered a subgenre of Dieselpunk set in a more 1920's diesel powered world.  The problem comes in trying to get to the definition of what actually defines a genre.  

I know I am obsessed with literary theory, but these are important questions if we are going to define a genre.  In November, I resolved on a working definition that I am going to use to define steampunk as a literary genre.

A literary subgenre of fantasy featuring a neo-Victorian industrial world where steam and clockwork are the primary sources of power. Technology is retro-futuristic, with a special focus on Repurposing items for uses other than their original intended use. Romanticism and Mysticism form the basis for art, religion, and social values.
No, Seriously, What is Steampunk?

The question is, if steam and clockwork mechanisms power the world, but it has an Art Deco style, does that invalidate a work as steampunk?

Since there are so many pieces of Steampunk Art Deco art on the net that have not met with a cavalcade of criticism and hate, I am inclined to believe that they are aesthetically compatible at least in the way steampunk is drawn.

That is the real problem with trying to pin down this genre.  When something is primarily visual, it is like reading tea leaves to pull out the qualities that would make a story steampunk.

Beyond that, steampunk has been adapted to many visual styles such as Art Nouveau, but yet again, we are looking at the mode in which art is produced rather than the qualities that make it one genre or another. This problem keeps peaking up at me, and makes me question exacting what makes something steampunk.

While steampunk was born out of a neo-Victorian aesthetic, to limit a fantasy subgenre to a terrestrial time period feels overly artificial and pointless.  An art deco building or a flapper girl in a steam powered speakeasy feels as steampunk to me as an adventurer in a bustle, but maybe that is just me.

Taking time to make maps

I've taken the last month to work on a world map.  While I am not sure all the rivers and lakes are in their final positions, it is finished enough for me to move forward on the next phase: a push in on the main story location.

I am so excited about how this has turned out.  So much of this map is hand sculpted and painted.  I didn't expect it to take so long to get to this point, but the world kept revealing little secrets to me from the Ashkelon desert to the great salt seas.  I really feel like I understand the world better than I would have if I hadn't taken the time to make the map.

While none of them are marked on this version of the map, many of the nation states have resolved themselves too.

Building this world is different from others.

Ash Dancer isn't the first world I have built, but it has been a very unique experience so far.  I feel less like I am crafting a setting than I am recording a world.  It is a strange experience.  I can't really explain it all too well, but it feels like they want their stories told.

I fell in love with this story when it first jumped into my head, but I have never experienced anything like this in all my years of writing.  I have read accounts of other writers who have had this sort of thing happen to them.  I never thought it would happen to me, though I have always hoped that it would.

This story is so near and dear to my heart.  I can only hope that I can share it in a way that you love too.  More draft chapters of the book should be posted soon.  Let me know what kind of features and story elements you want me to explain more.  Together, we can bring this world to life.

No, Seriously, What is Steampunk?

So the story and world have taken an interesting turn in the last couple weeks.

I want to make sure I am doing respect to the genre of Steampunk, only to discover that there really isn't a genre, only an aesthetic... so if I am going to do this right, I feel like I need to define what I mean by steampunk so I have a guide for myself.


Steampunk

A literary subgenre of fantasy featuring a neo-Victorian industrial world where steam and clockwork are the primary sources of power.  Technology is retro-futuristic, with a special focus on Repurposing items for uses other than their original intended use.  Romanticism and Mysticism form the basis for art, religion, and social values.


The above definition takes in many of the definitions of steampunk, Victorian era, and neo-Victorian I have found in my research.  When  written together like that, they make a basic genre definition to keep me on track.  While I tried to keep the definition open enough to include as much steampunk as possible, I am not actually trying to promote this as the only definition available.  I am just trying to give myself some guidelines to follow, a lens to focus my creativity through.

This definition is open enough to accommodate the music of Abney Park, The Pillars of Reality books by Jack Campbell, and even the applicable Final Fantasy games.  That is a pretty wide spectrum, while being distinct enough to do its job.

I chose to say it is a subgenre of fantasy rather than science fiction because science fiction would require the technology to be feasible or at the very least not to violate known science.  That is not a required element of the genre as I have experienced it, though there may be some who write that way.  I am not an engineer, so I cannot do that.

What do you think of that definition?

I wanted to include elements of gothic fiction, which hit its heights in the Victorian Era, but didn't because while a story may include those qualities, it isn't a requirement of the genre.

Did I miss anything?  Should I add anything?  Let me know in the comments.

Meet the Mage Tyrese the Seer

I always wanted to write a story with a character named and inspired by Tiresias from Greek Mythology.  When I started writing Dragon in the Snow, Tiresias popped up again.

I've never used Tiresias because the name is not an easy one to fit into a story.  That is when the character stepped forward and Tiresias became Tyrese, the Blind Mage who sees more than anyone with sight.

Tyrese is a member of the Order of Nabu Saa.  I really want him to be a different kind of wizard, and that is going to be a challenge in execution as much as concept.  We've all read so many different stories about magic users, and I want to try something else with him.

What will that look like?  I'm really not sure, and that excites me.  I have a few ideas about where I want this to go, but I will say the there are two songs I can't get out of my head when I think about Tyrese and the Mages of Nabu Saa.

If you haven't heard Eppic and TeraBrite's version of Dark Horse, listen to it.  Eppic rewrote the rap and made it a more prominent part of the song.

I would love to get your ideas about what you would like to see.  Remember, the book is still taking shape.

When a story sneaks up on you, write it

I didn't expect to be writing today, but here I am.  The idea was a simple one, Wuxia King Arthur with Dragons, Magic, and a Twist.  That idea was so high concept that I didn't expect it to start crystalizing as fast as it did.

Test image to try to inspire more story.

Test image to try to inspire more story.

Throughout the day, I probed the idea and even made a test cover to see if I could find any inspiration in what I can only call a notion.  That is a very generous way for me to describe this wisp of an idea that I had by midnight.  But I really wanted to write something, anything.

At about 1 am, I sat down in my office to start writing and the words and images started flowing.  The characters and world came alive to me.  I can't remember a story that flowed out of me so easily.

This isn't the book I was planning on writing.  This isn't even the setting I thought I would be writing in, but the story presented itself so aggressively I had to give it a try.

Fascination is more important to me than than inspiration.  I really need to be captivated by an idea for the images to form easily.  I can write when I am not in love with a story, but the stories are harder to do, and I find it hard to get into the character's head.  Fascination is a funny beast.

I hope Dragon in the Snow continues to flow this easily, but I know it will have challenges like every story does.  The best part is, I don't know how the book will end, but I have a funny feeling it does.  

If you want to read along with the draft, check it out here.