Monday, August 29, 2011

New Site Coming!

The new job has been extremely hectic and time consuming, with the extra hours of my life going towards the third and final book in the trilogy and physical therapy for a back injury that's plagued me for a solid year.

However, soon there will be a brand new site, dedicated to all things World of Aeria that serves a much better purpose than just this blog. Updates should be coming soon!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Thursday Fun Facts: Creatures, Monsters, and More

Today's fun fact (on a Friday though, my internet finally righted itself) is sort of a tie in to last week's, Magic. In the world of Aeria there are many strange creatures different from typical fantasy tropes, although there are a few familiar faces as well. So today, we delve into where creatures and monsters come from. Sure, there may be many folk tales and myths told from town to town, but not all tall tales are bound in truth.

As seen in Rogue's Bane, Arellia does have Orcs in a somewhat stereotypical, if not familiar and warm, facet and Trolls are mentioned as well. However, early on Talin battles fierce Gromoks, comes face to face with Manged Shriekers, and later even hears legends of great and mighty Dragons. Several other fearsome creatures big and small appear in Unearthed Destiny, the second book in the Arellia's Son Trilogy, but where they come from is another matter.

All creatures and monsters are either native to the world of Aeria, such as the case of the Gromoks or Manged Shrikers that obviously evolved their distinctive traits and mannerisms, or are twisted by the forces of Essentia or raw Essentia made manifest in the world. I wanted something different from the normal mythology of gods, titans, etc creating monsters, or them being the result of insane wizards or having just always been there in a Gygaxian Naturalism sort of way. Instead, I took a page from some of H.P. Lovecrafts ideas, where time and space and other dimensions exist. Within these strange dimensions reality is far different, and to me the Essentia was indeed another reality that bled out, permeated, and affected the essence of all things on Aeria. Going to the logical conclusion, when some entity or primal force from the Essentia is brought into a reality that doesn't mesh with what its current state of being is, it is changed and formed to conform to the reality it is brought into.

Thus, as is with Dragons, a raw, powerful entity in the Essentia is drawn forth, and on Aeria the end result is a Dragon. Other entities or motes of other-reality become different things, some more discernible as typical fantasy fare and others more strange or horrifying, even deadly. I even kicked around the idea that in some places Essentia can sort of "breach" Aeria through terrible catastrophes, and the seepage of the Essentia warps and twists creatures to be terrible, mutated versions of themselves.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Thursday Fun Facts Delayed

My internet has been on the haywire today due to a local power surge, so this post comes from my phone. I'm not really able to do a whole post off my phone so hopefully the fun facts for this week will come tomorrow night (Friday).

As a preview though, it will be on Creatures, Monsters, and More. Stay tuned!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Thursday Fun Facts: Magic

It's officially on Thursdays, but I really do need to come up with a better name (hur hur, writer can't write!). Anyway, this Thursdays topic is MAGIC! How it fits into the novels and Aeria, why I went about it the way I did, and some inspirations.

Magic is prevalent in almost all fantasy fiction, but it's been presented in just as many ways as there are names for those who practice it. One of my earliest memories of magic in fantasy was Gandalf in The Hobbit. He used it sparingly but when he did it was to great effect, always dazzling and mysterious. I vividly remember reading the part where he cast down a starfall-like spell, thinking just how cool that was. There's common magic in books as well, such as the Harry Potter series where everyone and their uncles slings around spells with magic words and wands, and very rare and unexplained magic like in the Conan books where mostly antagonists wield it thanks to dark pacts or maddeningly long rituals lost from ages ago.

One thing I wanted to make clear at first in the books was the source of magic. I didn't care for the Vancian method, where magicians and wizards basically locked the specifics rotes of the spells in their minds, compartmentalizing them until a final uttered word or ritual unlocked it, making the spell spent until a time of memorization. I also wanted magic to be accessible but not common, so it couldn't be on the opposite ends of the spectrum like Harry Potter or Conan. Instead I went with the source being from the very fabric of reality, a sort of seeping power that was in everything. Think of the Gaia model, where everything is intertwined and energy is shared. In that respect the power of the one practicing magic comes from their willpower, their innate abilities to control the essence of magic, and their own personal strength in the form of endurance. In a way, the source of magic comes from something's essence as Aldron explained to Talin in Rogue's Bane, and all of that essence came from a wellspring of magic, a place not of our reality but alongside it and part of it. Thus, someone with an affinity for the essence of fire is able to better seek out, control, and cast spells when near actual fire, since the essence is present; if no fire exists, there's no essence to draw on and cast the spell no matter how powerful they are. I played around with a few source names, one of which was Ether all the way until a few weeks before the beginning of the Kindle run, but I felt the term was too played out, so I played further with the idea of essence and settled on Essentia, the term for the place where everything's essence came from.

The other clear design goal I had was that both the protagonist and the antagonists should have access to magic, so the clear distinction that some people are better able to feel out the essence of things determined their ability to be a magic person was there. It also tapped into the point that to wield magic in Aeria one had to have lots of practice for better control and ability, as well as a solid fortitude as it took effort and focus. I wanted that to be a core point, because if there is no drawback to magic why not have the protagonist use it all the time? Magic works great, but if you're beat up, cut down, without sleep and in the midst of battle the character has to fall back on old tricks, quick wit, or other abilities or allies to help solve the problem at hand. There's nothing worse than a setting where magic exists and there's no clear explanation for why it just doesn't rule over everything. In Aeria there's that drawback of physical exertion to go along with limited essence. Translating it to the books it still allows tension and challenge despite the protagonist learning magic along the way, and I think it made for a good mix of what I was looking for in the end.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

New Month, New Record, New Contest!

Before I get into the fun contest I promised, I want to thank everyone who visits the blog, subscribed to my twitter @Rick_Ferraro, and most of all have bought and enjoyed my books. The month of July saw a little over 10 times as many copies sold for Rogue's Bane alone, with Unearthed Destiny picking up speed as well since it was released this month and folks are finishing up the first book. If you're one of those who just started Rogue's Bane or have finished it and are waiting on Unearthed Destiny, then this contest is for you!

What exactly is the contest for August? Awful Fan Art.
The awards? The top five winners will get a free copy of Unearthed Destiny!

Scanned drawings, mspaint art, photoshop, any medium you want, but it must be pertaining to Rogue's Bane. Feel free to pick a character, a scene, a new cover or anything else but try and make it as wonderfully awful as possible. I'm not just looking for stick figures fighting with each other, but straight up, well-done awful fan art, the goofier the better. Some examples of terrible fan art can be found here

Just submit your own contribution to this blog in the comments ( works well for image hosting, if you don't have your own), by Saturday, August 27 at midnight. I will select the winners by Sunday afternoon, with a new post detailing the winner's names and their art. Good luck everyone, and I hope we get some delightfully terrible submissions!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Dwarves: Not Grandpa Tolkien's Type, Dagnabbit

Today is the first installment of "Fun Fact Wednesdays", the name being a placeholder and the day changing to Thursdays starting next week (due to a new work schedule). The point of these articles are to present unique aspects of Aeria, the world in which the "Arellia's Son" trilogy takes place. I'll be going over what makes these aspects unique and fresh in the fantasy genre, as well as my design goals, decisions, and challenges along the way from initial thought to final product. Today's topic? Dwarves. The Aeria kind; a different kind.

When most people think of Dwarves, they think of the stereotype first presented in the lord of the rings. Those singing, stocky, heavy bearded ale swigging dwarves who lived deep beneath the mountains, loved to dig too deeply, and just loved being blacksmiths. This fantasy convention has saturated Dungeons & Dragons and roleplaying games of all types, even in World of Warcraft where the stereotype of a scottish accented, pudgy man with hammers and axes is ever present the same as its been in a million other fantasy settings.

When designed the World of Aeria, which began a small amount of time before Rogue's Bane, the first book, I hadn't given it much thought and it wasn't until the book had been printed through lulu and edited for the first time that I found I fell into the same stereotype. It was like every other setting where Dwarves were just ho hum and the same. I made a conscious effort to do something different, to help them stand out as I wanted all of the races to stand out and be much more personable, unique, and interesting for readers who were typical fantasy buffs.

When thinking of the Dwarves, my mind immediately jumped to the opposite of the usual stereotype. In most fantasy they have a scottish accent, live under mountains, are known for metalwork and stonework, and are generally distrusting of anyone not a Dwarf, keeping to themselves and their mountain homes. The opposite of that was an outgoing race of people, prone to expansionism, exploration, and priding true grit and survival on adventures and new frontiers where they could forge new alliances and expand their empire, focusing more on increasing wealth through finding it rather than creating it.

What immediately sprang to mind was the wild west of America's early days. Free spirits, new lands, and settling down new territories with an expansionist mindset was the perfect fit. The Dwarves of Aeria embrace all of these, and it shows in a few design elements that could help the reader feel the same way I did. I decided to place the Dwarves in the mountains in the southwest of Tanimor, a range that separates the verdant Greenway and forested areas with the mesas, desserts, and badlands of the the southwest corner of the continent. Putting my own spin on reasons for exploration, the Dwarves were forced to hole up in mountain homes (much like pueblo Indians) to hide from the war between the Elves and the Narshak and to eek out an existence in the harsh lands. Once the wars were over, they quickly expanded outward, settling outposts and striking out into the badlands to mark their territories and gain new resources. New lands were a frontier to the Dwarves, and they have an innate ability to survive in harsh conditions and confront hardships head on.

The Dwarves inherited a lot of stylistic elements as well. Instead of the scottish accent, another method to bring to mind the frontier spirit was to instead give them a bit of southwestern twang and slang. While typical fantasy Dwarves might inquire about a nearby town with "Aye lad, which way to the the bloody store? Ach, off I go then!", an Aerian Dwarf will instead speak out with "Reckon the store's over that way, eh? Best be gettin' over." Dropping the g's on a lot of words adds the slight accent from their western inspired grit, and some familiar words to readers like "Reckon, Ponderin', Right Proper", etc help to establish the image. While some of the bolder western elements stand out as cliche (although you'd not find me so bold as to have them lassoing cow creatures or having ho downs, because there is too much of a good thing), melding them with the fantasy genre helps to give them their own identity that I feel really combines the best parts of both. Chocolate Dwarves with Peanut Butter Wide Brim Hats.

While Aerian Dwarves are still short, stocky, and very thick in muscle and spirit, they don't lavish extravagantly braided beards. Instead you'll find them bearded or goateed, cut shorter and practical for the heat of the southwest climate. Aerian Dwarves aren't often seen in great metal armor, with shields the size of their bodies and master crafted hammers. Instead you'll more often find them in loose chainmail or leather suits of armor, both much cooler in the hot sun and readily available from the creatures that roam the mesas. Dwarves strike out, explore, set down outposts and towns and quickly move on much as ghosttowns and gold rushers did in early America, so well crafted goods meant for long term use aren't as highly prized as mobility and re purposing. Unlike traditional fantasy Dwarves, Aerian Dwarves might be surly but value skill, friendship, and someone to count on. When your life takes you through wild, unexplored territory and you embody the spirit of expansionism and frontier sensibilities, friends and allies are a well guarded resource.

All in all, the end result of Aerian Dwarves was a Dwarf that spoke differently, lived differently, saw the world differently and acted accordingly to all of these things combined, and I couldn't be happier with how they stand out.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Fun Facts Wednesdays

To spice things up and to get regular stuff going on the blog, I'll be starting to compile and write out some fun facts about the setting the "Arellia's Son Trilogy" is set in. There's a lot in these novels and in the setting that helps it stand out from traditional fantasy, and there's many unique takes away from old cliches and stereotypes to give the genre a fresh face.

This week? The Dwarves, and why they're nothing like Tolkien's (and majority of others) scottish accented, mountain dwelling, master crafting race. Stay tuned!