What Are My Favorite Fantasy Tropes?

In fantasy, you have a plethora of tropes that are reused; most of them never lose their charm. Everything from elves, dwarves, dragons, and halflings! In science fantasy, the scope expands to robots, cyborgs, aliens—the sky’s the limit.

These formulas represent time-tested values that readers adore. Personally, I have my own set of fantasy tropes that excite me. Below, I’ll discuss some of my favorite ones, not in any specific order. I’ll focus strictly on the fantasy elements, but they can be applied to sci-fi too.

Who doesn’t like elves? An elf—by general definition—is beautiful, slender, graceful, and powerful. Elves have played a large role in fantasy since the Tolkien days—and continue to do so. Usually as a force for good, elves help maintain the order of the world they live in, often living in cities that are in harmony with nature. There are also dark elves, or drow, which are an evil-aligned race.

Another favorite of mine, dragons are the epitome of power, feral beauty, and arcane mystery. While elves are usually good, dragons have played a multitude of roles ranging from villains, to advisors, and even heroes. Dragons are a wild card in how they have been used throughout all fiction, let alone cultures across the globe.

Magic is a whimsical topic—and a detailed analysis of such a trope is clearly beyond the scope of this humble article—that symbolizes the human imagination. Anything from fireballs, to teleportation, flight, or telepathy falls under this category. The price of using magic can be just as fascinating as what it produces. An author can conjure whatever he or she wishes via magic; that’s what makes it such an unpredictable and exciting trope. Brandon Sanderson does a wonderful job explaining it in his lectures.

Alchemy is the transmutation of an object into something else. Lead to gold is a classic example, but you can make other things like herbal elixirs too. In fantasy settings, authors often use alchemy as a profession characters use to make a living, a means to heal others via healing salves, or—even better—a plot device like in Mistborn. In other ways, alchemy can be a religion or way of life that shapes a character’s decisions.

I enjoy reading about the different types of civilizations in a fantasy story. An elven society may differ from one book to another, for example. How do the people function in said society? What roles does said society play in the plot? From culture and economy, you can derive things like currency, prejudice, personal values, and even a magic system.

Food heavily influences culture, reflecting how the world is assimilated by the protagonist and his/her society. Bonus points to authors with unique fruits or herbs with special nutritive properties. Like alchemy, food can play a big role in the plot. Those feast scenes make any reader salivate, and healing potions can change the course of a battle.

Who says a writer should stop at elves and dragons? How about a mix of the two with its own racial name, abilities, and cultural values? Creativity can work its own magic and weave beautiful fiction. Magical beasts can be ally or foe for the protagonist—and such creatures help shape the conflict of the plot, giving depth to the reader’s immersion.

In Blade of Dragons, I turned my protagonist into a mythical creature: a half-dragon with draconic abilities shunned by society. It gives my heroine depth and adds conflict, intrigue, and creative depth.

A fictional world is only limited by the author’s imagination. Each new story is a dive into untold depths. That’s one of the reasons I enjoy reading and writing fiction so much.

What are your preferred fantasy tropes? What are your thoughts on elves, dragons, and magic? I’d love to hear in the comments below.

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Aspectä rey’lief, fair reader, thanks for reading.
—Ed R. White

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Building a Fantasy Language—the Primeal

Language forms the crux of cultural values. From language, memes, traditions, and values emerge. The pillars of humanity. When I began Blade of Dragons, building a fantasy language that would aid me in developing the world of Atlas was vital. Enter the Primeal.

I’ll describe my experience with building a fantasy language, followed by tips from other world builders.

As a language used by the ancient Highborn on Atlas, the Primeal contains powerful phonetics and mantras. To use magic on Atlas, the practitioner must evoke words and hand gestures. Most of these I borrowed from ancient traditions here on Earth.

Objections Behind the Primeal

The Primeal has provided depth to Atlasian culture. It strengthened the world building, while heightening the immersion and character interaction. The mysteries woven into the Primeal reflect on the plot and character arcs too.

I got the idea of building a fantasy language from novels such as Mistborn, The Faded Sun Trilogy, Lord of the Rings, and others. Using this method, I borrowed from Latin and Hindu. The process was easier than I thought, as I wasn’t developing a language from scratch. The downside to this was that there was less of a unique feel, compared to other fantasy languages.

Vocabulary of the Primeal

Albeit, I took a relatively simple approach to my fantasy language than most. The Primeal is, roughly, a form of butchered Latin. Many of the words have similarities to Latin vocabulary, with some Hindu and English bits thrown in.

Examples of the Primeal Language

  • Aspectä rey’lief (Aspect-TAH-Rey-LI-eff): May the Aspects’ grace follow you (used as a friendly farewell).
  • Aum (AH-ooh-oom): Creation.
  • Egüs (Ei-gu-ah-sh): You, it.
  • D’wyrm (Di-were-um): Tongue of dragons.
  • Lumasil (Lu-MAS-sil): Light of hope.
  • Me’puläm (Me-Pul-LA-um): My love, my shining star (a title used among lovers).
  • Tal’draco (Tall-der-AH-co): Dragonite.
  • Tal’snak (Tall-sh-NAH-kek): An offensive slang for a half-Dragonite.
  • Sal’av (Sal-LA-of): Hello.

Magic Applications of the Primeal

Many of the words used in modern Atlas are crude dialects of the original language; yet they still carry powerful vibrations that can influence reality. The simple word, sal’av, can evoke good will and ease in another’s heart. Another word, tal’snak, summons fear and perhaps anger in others.

Weaving together strings of power words, an individual can produce complex spells and influence reality. This act of magical weaving, or Shifting, is widespread on Atlas. The reader gets a strong example of this starting from the first scene to the final chapter.

Things Left to Consider

The Primeal, to Earth human ears, may sound musical and otherworldly, but I haven’t nailed down the specifics. I’ll research fantasy languages more to add depth to the Primeal, the feel, the vibrations of the words.

That said, I discovered some resources useful for building a fantasy language.

1. The Zompist Language Kit

This fantasy language construction kit is perfect for conlangers and is ideal for fantasy and sci-fi writers. The page guides you through the basics, such as sound, grammar, syntax, usage, and any world building bits. It’s straight forward and free online. There’s also a word generator that produces a list of words, but you’ll need some Javascript experience to use it.

2. Lingvo

Lingvo is an excellent resource on real world cultures and languages. Everything from Germanic and Babylonian dialects are available. This resource is more beginner friendly.

3. Interactive IPA Chart

Here’s a page that is an invaluable reference for new and experienced conlangers. The page explains the sounds of human language and how they are pronounced. This allows world builders and writers to go a step further with their languages.

4. IPA Keyboard Bind

This module goes with the previous as it helps bind certain IPA symbols to a single stroke. I found it useful, but not essential.

5. Google Translate

Don’t hate me for this one, but Google has a decent language engine that can provide ideas or vocabulary for new writers. The quality of translation leaves room to be desired, though.

When designing the Primeal, I had to consider the following:

  • The sounds of the language
  • A glossary, or lexicon, of words
  • The grammar, syntax, and feel of speaking the words
  • The magical and cultural implications
  • How the alphabet is modified for cursive handwriting

Like other world builders, I borrowed from preexisting languages to make my job easier. This isn’t necessary, but it’s a proven method that does work. Even English language contains words borrowed, butchered, or stolen from other languages.

Final Thoughts

Building a fantasy language is a fun process, and it doesn’t have to frustrating or complex. It’s important to keep things simple enough for your readers, or else you risk losing them at the expense of your world building. Balance, as with all things in life, is what we artists strive for.


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Aspectä rey’lief, fair reader, thanks for reading.
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Maps in Fantasy Fiction: Tips and Tricks

Crafting a map for a fictional universe can be a handy resource for readers. Not every fiction has a cartographic reference, nor is it a requirement for good work. However, when done correctly, a map benefits both author and reader.

In this article, I’ll give an example of how I create my maps. You can take what you find appropriate and apply it to your projects. Hopefully, this tutorial will get you started. It may be a bit complicated and technical but bear with me.

Setting Up

You can use whatever media you want to design your map. I use a free program called GIMP. Set your image borders appropriately, and use a DPI of 300×300, in case you ever print out the map. Search under advanced settings for this feature.

Layer 1: The Background

When you have your blank canvas set up, first address the background. My personal preference is a basic fill tool. Your mileage may vary, depending on what kind of background your story needs. Most maps are continents, so they require an ocean or blue background.

Something like this:

AtlasMapTutorial1

I did a fill command in GIMP for the ocean backdrop here, then added some darker shades to indicate ocean depth.

Layer 2: Landmass

The next layer I work on is the outline and general fill of the land. Choose a yellow, peach, or brown color that resembles dirt or clay—or do whatever you want of course—for the land color.

AtlasMapTutorial2

You can use a pathing or pencil tool to create the black outline of the land, as shown, then use the fill tool. Most land isn’t perfect or smooth. Go for jagged edges along coasts or coves to simulate water erosion. You can also get creative and design fragment islands.

Layer 3: Land Color/Features

With the general land layer in place, you can focus on the more detailed facets of your map. Color coding. This step can be done in several ways, but in my example, I use pure color to indicate trees and mountains.

AtlasMapTutorial3

I used a light green to represent grasslands, dark green for forests, blue for lakes and rivers, brown for mountains areas, and white-brown for snow. Select all of layer 2 with a wand tool, so you don’t create color outside the landmass.

For the water masses, I went back to layer 2 and erased parts of it. Doing this allowed layer 1 to fill in where lakes and rivers lie.

Layer 4: Additional Land Details

This is another optional and flexible step, depending on what you want for your map. I added redundant mountain figures and then floating islands here. This gave the map more depth.

AtlasMapTutorial4

Here’s a tip: create one mountain figure and then use the clone stamp tool to easily replicate it. This makes it a lot easier! 🙂

Layer 5: Landmarks

Now that you have your land finished, it’s time to add landmarks! What do I mean? Cities, castles, special areas, and so forth. No, you don’t have to draw an entire castle—use symbols to represent them.

AtlasMapTutorial5

I used simple dots with minor details. You can certainly be creative with this and draw one small castle—then, using the clone stamp tool, replicate it wherever.

Layer 6: Map Legend

Every map needs a legend—a reference to tell readers what your landmarks mean. A north arrow or distance bar is also handy. You can make one yourself, or download a free-stock photo.

AtlasMapTutorial6

Position your legend so that it doesn’t overlap over map details. Choose a location where there is a lot of “empty space”; this will add visual balance to your map.

Layer 7: Captions

You need captions that specify major or minor points on the map. Include text for your legend, a title, and any additional information a reader should know. A small bit about who authored the map is also good.

AtlasMapTutorial7

In this example, broader or more critical areas have a larger font size, while minor or smaller areas have a lower font size. If I were to do this over again, I’d probably make the font size for cities a bit larger, but at the same time, I don’t want to crowd the other map details with text. On an ebook or actual copy, the text would scale larger, but in the thumbnail here, it’s smaller.

Also consider using New Times Roman, or Courier. You want text that is easy to read, not necessarily fancy ones like I tried above.

Try adding in a background behind certain captions to improve readability. Don’t make it too sharp, just enough to accentuate the caption’s letters. Notice the difference below:

Layer 8: Border Details

Try adding in some special effects to your borders. This will help your map stand out! Maybe mist or fading out of the ocean. I went with scroll parchment.

Other Things to Consider

You could also add in fantasy details like sea dragons swimming in the ocean, or maybe other mythic creatures that add an “ancient” feeling to your map. Clouds with shadows are nice too. Go wild! Remember, this is your map and fictional world.

Creating maps is a fun activity that adds important detail to your story. A map can be a wide variety of things—and the example above is just a few of them. Remember, there are thousands of ways to design a map, and it doesn’t have to be perfect.

I hope this article has helped get you started with the map making process. Cheers. 🙂


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The Hero’s Journey in Fiction

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Years ago, I read a fantastic book named The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell. In it, the author details the Hero’s Journey. This is a powerful story element that every writer, artist, or spiritual seeker should understand. It illustrates a protagonist’s adventures, from a safe haven to the darkest dungeon—be they literal or figurative.

The Hero’s Journey is a story mechanic of the protagonist’s journey through the various acts of the story. Typically, there are four acts for each journey.

The first act of the Hero’s Journey introduces the hero. The second and third act elaborates on their ordeals, and the fourth finishes round circle. You may notice certain tropes or definitions used in each act. These are minor plot elements that form the Hero’s Journey. Some are necessary to flesh out the story.

The Ordinary World

The story begins in the Ordinary World, a mundane realm that may be a safe haven or even a prison for the hero. Here, the audience learns about the hero’s life situation, his/her abilities, fears, flaws, and personality.

The Call to Adventure

From the Ordinary World, conflict arises that stirs the hero from complacency. This may be something serious like an assassination or a minor incident like a strange phone call. The hero now has a choice to pursue the source of the conflict and resolve the issue, or remain in his or her realm.

Refusal

Initially, the hero may be hesitant to leave the safe boundary of the Ordinary World. The hero sees the risks involved and what’s to gain if s/he succeeds. Some stories skip this step with a willing or reckless hero who jumps onto the quest immediately.

The Mentor

The hero encounters the mentor, a wise or experienced individual. The mentor trains and/or guides the hero, providing new knowledge about the nature of the quest. This character is more often an elderly person but can manifest as a younger individual or inanimate object such as a legendary sword.

Crossing the Threshold

The mentor guides the hero away from the Ordinary World to the first Threshold—or the point of no return. The hero’s commitment is tested, determining if the hero is ready for the quest. The Threshold is the gateway to a new dimension, far away from the Ordinary World.

Tests, Allies, and Enemies

Now in a world of mystery and danger, the hero learns more about his/her new adventure. This strange world brings a host of challenges, allies, and enemies. Every obstacle is a stepping stone to unearthing the hero’s personality and capabilities. Abilities are sharpened, and pain is endured. Temptations are met, and the hero struggles with his/her inner shadow self.

Approach to the Dungeon/Inmost Cave

The hero prepares to enter the Inmost Cave. Setbacks occur, but the hero endures, priming for the Supreme Ordeal—an inner crisis that demands change from the protagonist. The hero must analyze personal flaws and push forward to complete the quest.

Supreme Ordeal

The protagonist faces a dangerous challenge, often against the antagonist. The antagonist can also be a dark reflection of a father figure, such as with Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, with exaggerated flaws of the protagonist. The Supreme Ordeal is a highlight of the hero’s quest, and everything is at stake. The hero must draw upon all the experience from the journey to survive.

Reward, Seizing of the Sword

If the hero succeeds, s/he emerges as a changed person. The hero also receives an award as proof of victory; this might be a mythic sword, elixir, or artifact, signifying the change in the hero’s life. The hero now prepares for the last part of the quest.

The Road Back

With the quest completed, the hero begins to travel back to the ordinary world, which is the opposite of the call of adventure. Instead of worry or pain, fulfillment and satisfaction arise. The quest is not done, as the last challenge awaits the hero.

Resurrection

The hero faces a test or battle against the antagonist at the Final Threshold. This ultimate tribulation challenges the hero, requiring all the experience they’ve gained from their quest. Failure may result, leading to the hero’s death, a dearth of all hope, or even a severe injury that mars the hero.

The protagonist is reborn from the flames of demise, returning as a new person, transmuted into the true hero. Now cleansed of past flaws, the hero is equipped to end the adventure.

Return with the Elixir

The adventurer returns to the Ordinary World as a changed person—physically, mentally, and spiritually. Using the reward from the Final Ordeal, s/he improves upon the Ordinary World. A new era of peace and reflection results. The prize may be multifaceted, manifesting either as a damsel in distress, a powerful relic, or a shift in the climate of the realms.  At this point, the hero finishes the journey, but things will never be as they once were.

Others Variables in the Hero’s Journey

There are extra elements in the Hero’s Journey, such as sub-journeys that stretch throughout a trilogy. Sometimes, the hero cannot return to society as they are, instead choosing exile.

How The Hero’s Journey Relates to Readers

The Hero’s Journey occurs in every good fiction. It’s a retelling of human life, the growth of a person into a mature and wise individual. It is also a blueprint from which anyone can appreciate the heroic archetypes and make changes for a more prosperous, happier life.

Thanks for reading!


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Business Promotional ideas for Blade of Dragons

Hello, my readers, short post today. I had some interesting ideas to share with you today regarding my WIP, Blade of Dragons. As the manuscript reaches completion, I’ve been toying with the cover art a bit. Once I find a professional cover artist, I imagine it will look much better, but for now, I’m figuring out what I want.

I’ve brainstormed some nifty ideas to promote my novel. This post is mainly me organizing my thoughts and should give you an idea of where I’m headed.

Book Promotion

My main promotion will be either one or multiple short stories, free to read on this blog and elsewhere. The short stories will be preludes to the story to introduce readers to my world. Social Media advertising will be a thing, especially through Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and others.

Readers subscribed to my Mailchimp listing will receive free poetry filled with plot and character lore. Moreover, I’ll send PDF copies of the prologue stories upon publishing my novel.

Pricing

The book will be available on Amazon for around $3.99 to 4.99. I didn’t want to make it too expensive, but at the same time it is a 130,000 word story. I am considering Kindle Unlimited too, which makes the book free for Kindle subscribers.

Goodreads

Blade of Dragons will have its own Goodreads page, where I will convene with readers about story feedback, ideas for further installments, and gathering new fans of the series. It’s also a nice spot to make connections with readers and authors.

Betareader Invites

I am still looking for a few more readers on Betareader.io to polish my manuscript. If you’re interested, sign up and complete a brief survey to get started. Thanks a bunch!

Story Description

Whimsical Magic. Arcane Technology. Romance.

Can Pepper Slyhart use her father’s sword, a weapon with unfathomable power, to save her planet? With her childhood friend, Tarie, Pepper embarks on a dire quest. She enters a war against a dark goddess that has scoured grasslands, scorched forests, and devoured great cities.

Pepper unravels the terrible price of her sentient blade, a connection to the Ethereal Seals Gate, which powers technology and sustains her planet.
But her half-dragon heritage seeks to betray Pepper, and Tarie may be the only one who can save her.

Are they able to fight a war on both fronts, or will the Shadow claim their souls?

—”Exciting, hard-hitting, and exotic. Blade of Dragons is an action-packed adventure filled with vivid storytelling and a strong heroine that will hold you spellbound from start to finish.”

That’s all for now, my readers. Thanks again for tuning in and I’ll see you next time!


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Adventures of the Deep: A Fantasy Short Story

Hello, my readers, I hope you are well. I fashioned a fantasy short story for your enjoyment. I also entered this short story into a contest on Havok Publishing. Feel free to leave any comments below for feedback. Enjoy.


My heart rang in my ears. I glanced around, listening to the sound of footsteps from the corridor. That peculiar echo of bone and leather—it had to be goblins. I sighed and crept out from the shadows. Carefully. My trusty dagger groaned as I slid it from its sheath.

I sized my gloomy surroundings—the Fortress of the Ancients. It had taken me months to infiltrate this place. My cape flapped about my slender body as I tiptoed down the hall. I stuck to the shadows and listened to the drips of water echoing in the background.

Hold on, mom, I thought, I’ll find that elixir for you. I frowned. The last thing I wanted was to return home to find her dead from her illness. I had to move swiftly—silently.

My thief’s tools jingled at my belt as I moved. I tucked them into my pocket to muffle the noise. I paused as a doorway shimmering with silver jewels caught my eye. That has to be it! I hesitated, for two goblins guarded the doorway. One of the green monsters grunted and shifted its shoulders, causing its chainmail to clank together.

Murderers, I thought, noticing the stained blood on their axes. My nails ground against the hilt of my dagger, ready to impale the monsters. They were short, but well equipped and trained for combat. I was no more than a thief with a dagger.

I squatted in the shadows listening to their guttural noises. I may be able to kill one in an ambush. The other would be a problem, and what if it raised an alarm? I couldn’t afford to wait. My mother needed the medicine. Fear and urgency tore at my mind, the sound of water droplets counting down the seconds.

My brows lifted. There was the Songfire—yes, I could use that! Okay, mom, you taught me this song for a reason. I hope it works.

I cleared my throat and began to sing. At first, the Songfire was soft and melodious. The pointed ears of the goblins prickled. They grunted and exchanged looks before advancing towards my hiding spot.

My heartbeat pounded in my ears as if adding a drum to the melody. The cadence of my voice increased. Sharply. Then the tune of the Songfire turned coarse, like metal grating against metal. The goblins dropped their weapons and held their ears as they shrieked.

I saw my chance. My cloak flapped about my body as I rushed in. The first goblin squealed as my dagger pierced the exposed section between its chainmail. It collapsed with a thud. I turned to the second goblin, who had grabbed its weapons.

With a loud roar, it charged me swinging its ax. Our weapons clanked as we engaged in mortal battle. My heartbeat intensified in my ear. Using my long legs to my advantage, I landed a kick to its stomach. It grunted and tumbled backward, crashing into a brazier. I leaped into the air and drove my dagger into my foe.

It squealed, trying to fling me off. I let out a fierce roar and used both hands to twist the dagger deeper into its body. It gave one final shriek before it stiffened.

Breathing heavily, I studied my fallen opponent. I retrieved my dagger, and glanced at the green blood coating its surface. My dagger hissed as the ichor corroded its metal. I sighed and flung the weapon away.

Now I had only the Songfire and my wits to protect me.

Marveling at the silver door, I grinned. My thief’s tools jingled as I drew them out procuring a lock pick from the selection. I slid the tool into the lock, my ear to the door. I twisted carefully. Ping. That wasn’t it; I turned the pick a bit more. Ping.

I jumped as a goblin horn rang throughout the corridor. It was a shrill sound, distant, but still—someone had raised the alarm.

I broke into a cold sweat and leaned my ear against the door once more turning my pick. Ping. Footsteps echoed down the hall. Ping. My pulse pounded in my eardrum. Ping.

“Come on, you stupid door!”

Pong!

The door opened. I grabbed my pick and slid inside before slamming it behind me. Using my pick, I relocked the door. That should hold them for a minute.

I scanned the room that had but one window. A vial sat on a pedestal, sunlight from the window giving the liquid a shimmering quality. That’s it! It has to be! I rushed forward and grabbed the vial. The doorknob to the room twisted vainly. Guttural sounds echoed outside.

Thinking fast, I turned to the window. It was a drop more than fifty feet, but it would have to do. I had climbed higher than that from thieving castles.

I pounded against the glass, but it wouldn’t give. The doorknob to the room opened. Three goblins rushed in, their weapons flailing.

I licked my lips and began the Songfire. The song rose quickly. Sharply. The glass shattered from the noise, and the goblins dropped their weapons, squealing from the cadence.

Holy Jason protect me!

I threw myself out the window.

Air rushed through my ear as the ground approached. I raked my nails against the fortress’ stone hoping to slow my fall. To my success, my hand caught a cleft in the wall close to the ground. Hanging from one hand, I gritted my teeth as my other hand found another cleft. I climbed the last ten feet.

My boots hit the grass with a thump. I looked up at the goblins shrieking from the window fifty feet above. I grinned and studied the vial I held, hope filling my heart.

Don’t worry, mom; your son will be home soon.

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Blade of Dragons New Intro Idea

Hello, my readers, quick update. I hope you are all safe. After watching some of Brandon Sanderson’s lectures (which I highly recommended) I rewrote my intro to be more engaging. Here’s the new version. Let me know what you think in the comments below. Thanks


“I’m not a monster!”

Pepper held her ground against the shadowy figures encircling her. She caught the glint of darksteel under their cloaks.

“Yer a half-dragon,” one of the brigands said. He stepped forward. “An abomination at that.”

Pepper bared her teeth and gripped her walking stick. It wasn’t a weapon, but it would do against these thugs. Her other hand clutched a large, teardrop emerald.

“She’s Saul Slyhart’s daughter,” another brigand said. He scowled and spat to the side. “The daughter of a war hero. More like an aberration and a thief!”

“I’ve done nothing wrong,” Pepper said, shaking the emerald in front of her. “This heirloom belongs to the Slyhart family. You’re the ones who stole it.”

“And yer kind savaged my family. My wife and children…eaten to the bone.” His lip trembled, but his eyes were hard, filled with bloodlust.

Bile filled Pepper’s stomach, and her face softened. The horrible acts her kind had committed. “I’m sorry.”

His left arm whirred with machinery as the hand molded into the shape of an arm cannon.   “Aye, ya will be soon!”

Pepper’s eyes narrowed. Her stubby tail stiffened as the brigands closed in. A gust whisked her ponytail about. She scanned the forest, not a few miles from home. Her throat tightened as she counted her assailants. Four. One of them had an arm cannon implant—if she could just disarm him…

“Die, tal’snak!” One brigand cried, rushing forward. His fists glowed, fingers hardening with stone-like gauntlets. He pounded the ground. The earth groaned, exploding in a wave towards Pepper.

A Shifter, Pepper realized, avoiding the shockwave and closing the distance. Spotting an opening, she pulled a feint. The thug collapsed from a blow to his stomach. Two more thugs rushed her. Pepper danced around them, her staff hitting vital points. They crumpled to the ground. Fast. Pepper wheeled around as the brigand with the arm cannon fired his weapon with a zap.

She dodged the fireball but grunted as the shockwave threw her against a tree. Blood ran down her forehead and the world spun. She staggered to her feet and examined a cut on her forearm. The emerald had slipped out of her fingers, dirt on its surface.

She clenched her teeth, staring at her dirty heirloom. “Okay, now I’m pissed!”

Still dizzy, she charged the thug, her staff aimed out. He fired another fireball. Pepper dunked under it and rammed her staff into his face. The wood cracked as the thug flew backward ten yards.

Her opponents lay motionless on the ground. Pepper sighed with relief. She discarded her broken stick. and picked up the emerald. An itchy, crawling sensation came from the cut on her arm. Already the flesh had stitched itself together. She frowned at the amazing regeneration of her body, one finger stroking the healed gashes.

She wasn’t a monster, was she?


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Book Review: The Enduring Flame Trilogy

Hello, my readers, I hope you’re all doing fine during the Quarantine. I finished a fantasy series a while ago, and wanted to do a review while it was still fresh in my mind.

I did a review of the first book here. While I enjoyed the first installation very much, the rest of the series was disappointing. I’ll keep spoilers to a minimum.

Anyway, let’s dive in!

Premise

The first book of the Enduring Flame series started strong. There was plenty of worldbuilding, two heroes called on a wild adventure, whimsical magic, and horrible dangers lurking everywhere.

While the second book did a decent job elaborating on the first book, the third installation fell short. Resorting to mundane storytelling and cliche fantasy tropes, the book ruined everything that the first two books has built up.

By the end of the story, I was ready to shelf the book and forget about the series entirely.

Length

Each book is around 400 pages. Chapters can be long, but are broken down with several scene breaks that alternate between character perspectives. Personally, I enjoyed the many scene breaks, as it makes it convenient for taking breaks or stopping for the day.

Characters

The two main protagonists, Harrier and Tiercel, had a degree of charm. They acted as if they were siblings, always arguing in an amusing way. The third heroine, Shaiara, I found the most interesting, however, as her worldview is vastly different. This contrast in character perspectives added color to the worldbuilding and is one good thing that the series maintained.

Magic System

The magic is whimsical and unpredictable. This offered many fascinating scenarios throughout the book, but also created a variety of plot holes and asspulls from characters that seemed contrived. Overall, the magic system damaged the story by the end of the third book.

Conflict

The tension was steady and drove the prose well through the first two books. In the third book, the conflict became dull and tedious, though there still was an element of danger and risk.

The Good

The Enduring Flame Trilogy has excellent worldbuilding early on and sets strong tension with its initial installations. The characters are amusing and likable. Character’s magic is powerful and can lead to some jaw-dropping scenes, some which had me quivering with excitement. The antagonist has good backstory, weaving into the magical system.

The Bad

The prose is filled with excessive adverbs, fair dialog, mediocre characterisation, and a story that decays by the end of the third book. The magic system led to several plot holes and contrived scenarios that almost made me want to put the book down.

The Ugly

All three books have a lot of mundane “travel time” and inappropriate detours that take from the direction of the plot without adding to subplots or character growth. The main characters, while relatable, are sometimes snobbish or stupid—and not in a likable way.

The Enduring Flame series is a flower that wilted early in the season. Many of its fans from the first two books will be disappointed with the conclusion. All in all, the trilogy is nothing noteworthy, nor is it a piece of garbage that should never have been published. There are a few pearls within its pages, for those willing to look deep into the quest of Harrier and Tiercel.

Thank you for reading!


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Chapter 1 Excerpt from Blade of Dragons

 

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Hello, all! I’m getting ready to advertise my upcoming book, Blade of Dragons! Below is an excerpt from chapter 1 of the current manuscript. It’s undergone many changes in the past couple months after several revision passes and feedback from betas.

I’m excited that this project is finally reaching the next stage of its evolution, as I’ll be looking for an agent and maybe a cover artist within the next several months—provided that the Coronavirus situation has stabilized. I am looking for one more beta reader, if possible—let me know if you’re interested.

Anyway, without further ado, here’s the excerpt. I do hope you enjoy it!


 

Blinking at the brilliance of the Twins, Pepper tilted her chin up to bathe in the sunlight if only to forget her troubles. Curling her toes in the dirt, she allowed the earth to swallow her feet. The grasslands stretched into the horizon like a blanket of green along the Fertile Crescent, heightening her comfort. In the distance, a few egg-shaped barns situated next to her pyramidal house, set with gemstone spires. Winterwall lay along the horizon, its snowy peaks piercing the sky.

With the drone of insects in her ears, she closed her eyes briefly to allow a breeze to rustle her hair—the familiar smell of manure on the wind. The climate was humid but balanced with a gentle breeze—typical Springcrest weather.

Pepper dug into her pocket and withdrew a golden coin. Along the penny’s worn edges was the depiction of a gauntlet shrouded in vines. Underneath the design was curvy Atläsian cuneiform.

It was the Slyhart family emblem. Pepper rarely went anywhere without it, and in some ways, it was a reminder of who she was—a Slyhart, not some animal or pariah. She placed the coin to the ground.

“Check for messages,” she said.

The penny flashed in response. “Checking etheric archives now, please wait,” it whirred.

From the coin, a light shot up a few inches high. The image of her father appeared with his red hair tied in a long ponytail. He was indeed athletic and tall, a splitting image of Pepper. A red goatee jutted from his chin, and he wore a blue jacket with a sword strapped to his undershirt, a pistol at his belt.

A second image appeared—her mother, in a silver dress and a green braid. She bore a stubby tail and pointed ears like Pepper, but had the addition of leathery wings behind her that the latter lacked. She frowned and hugged the redheaded man. “We hope this message reaches you well, dear. We’ll be home soon. There’s extra food and a month’s worth of melkä coins if you need it. Please promise to stay out of trouble and watch over the farm.”

“Your mom and I will be home as soon as we can,” the man promised. “It’ll be safer if you remain home. We’ll see you soon.”

He smiled as his silhouette wavered with the woman.

Pepper sighed and her shoulders sagged. That was the third message this month. The farm needed daily attention—and Pepper had promised her parents that she’d do it. She was never one to break a promise.

Putting the coin away, she whispered to herself, “Don’t worry, mom, dad. I’ll take good care of the farm.”

From her other pocket, she pulled out a fist-sized crystal of aquamarine. The stone, cold and jagged, shimmered like water. She whispered a mantra, and mist spouted from the stone, drenching the rows of crops around her.

Smiling, she spread her arms while the droplets of cool water covered her body. The crystal shrieked with a flash upon completion. You could never have enough water for your farm—and only a hundred more plots to go for the day. She rolled her eyes and shifted her shoulders, eager to complete her chores for the day.

“I see you’re still enjoying the farm, Pepper Slyhart,” said a soft voice.

She turned her head and her jaw dropped…


 

The Ballad of Atläs

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Atläs, mother of all
Throughout the years watched us grow tall
For many years, Tiamat ruled this land
Her draconic legacies spread like sand
In the heavens, a star shone
Sending chaos onto Tiamat’s throne
Long we have witnessed the ravages of war
Of demons, giants, ogres, and more
We plenty have much to repair
Lest calamity once more brings her care
The Gate will see us through
Or break us until we relearn what we knew
Guide us, divine Aspects; show us the way
For only through ourselves will harmony stay
Plenty would Ronald’s avatar wail
But to observe the strength of Tiamat’s renewed tail
Still, she claws at hearts with her call
Through mortals, dragons, and bastards most of all
Now darkness gathers around, priming for evil to rebound
Yet a hero may rise to meet the temptress
To foil curse, shadow, pride; strong yet relentless
A divine blade will shine free
Guiding the hero towards destiny’s tree
Guide us, holy Aspects; brighten the past
For only through peace, will the future last
—Lily Hymnfoot