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!

Friday, July 22, 2011

(Short) Short Story: The Thief's Birthday

It's a dismal rainy day here so I figured why not sit down, take a break from writing the third book in the Arellia's Son trilogy, and put out a short story? This one's set in the same world as the trilogy, and comes in at 1800 words.

            Fame and fortune. Those two virtues were all that swirled about in the young thief’s head, a perfect storm of unlawful desires bearing down on what little convictions remained. A thin veneer of morals instilled by the orphanage over so many years to so little effect was being battered by the torrential downpour of promised riches he had only dreamt of. The young man’s hands were coated in sweat despite the cool salt-spray sea breeze wafting over the dockside district in the great seaside city of Port Fenton. A pair of focused blue eyes watered not from the fish mongers and incoming sailboats but from the pinpoint precision of anxious pupils staring down a sealed envelope clutched in the strong, meaty paws of the mark.
            This was the young thief’s moment. Tomorrow would be his seventeenth birthday, and he would celebrate by being the first one to be inducted into the local Guild of Shadows before that age. All he needed was to pass the test walking before him; simply filch the sealed document from the clenched fist of its guard, a striking man nearly twice his size and employed by the wealthiest, most cutthroat merchant guild in all of the great continent of Tanimor. The young man tried to calm his nerves, his narrowed eyes darting about in the bustling dock, plotting his plan of escape once the letter was his. He distracted himself by dreaming of what the contents held or what prize would be laid upon him by his cutpurse mentors and peers. Seeing the mark stop for a moment to look over a newly imported stack of crates, the young thief knew it was his moment.
            He stepped out from the dingy alley and walked confidently through the crowd, remaining poised and inconspicuous just as he had practiced a hundred times. His thin frame and narrow shoulders made it easy to pass between even the broadest of persons, like a ghost caught on the refreshing wind untouchable and unseen. A few steps remained to the mark, his grasp on the envelope loosened and his attention frayed among other important tasks. The moppy haired young boy stifled a beaming grin as he sidestepped the last of the walking obstacles. One foot passed behind the mark, swiftly and solidly planted down on the grimy cobble. The next crossed over, toes just lightly touching the earth in tandem with two fingertips grazing the yellowed paper. Looking one last time at the series of mazelike alleyways and makeshift shops to his right the young thief shifted his weight away from the giant brute of a man.
            The fingers pinched the envelope hard, yanking it free. Like a long practiced dance of the finest courtesans the young robber twisted his torso in tune, planting his full weight on his left foot and springing off. The momentum swiftly brought him back into the crowd, already three quick steps away before the envelope’s guardian spun around looking for the culprit. Six steps away now, the young thief thought, making sure not to look back and give himself away. He was almost to the first alley, a long stretch of filth and refuse even the homeless dared not wallow in. Ten steps now, only a few more and he was free from danger. It had been even easier than he imagined.
            “Hey! You little wretch, give that back! Thief!”
            The booming voice carried easily through the crowds, reaching what little courage the young thief had remaining and shaking him to the core. The hairs stood up on the back of his neck as the entire crowd seemed to halt to a standstill and bring all eyes to bear on him.
            “How stupid are you to…”
            There was no waiting for the statement to finish, no time to let the merchant guild guard let loose a flurry of words before a flurry of something far more painful. The young thief bolted away into the alley, diving into the shadows headlong as the docks sprang to life once again as if nothing happened. Rolling across a pile of discarded clothing he quickly rose to his feet and vaulted over a pile of rotting planks and building supplies before looking behind him. The enormous oaf was tossing people aside like children’s dolls, pushing and shoving his way to the alley’s dark entrance. Sweat poured down his face in rage and exertion, and he moved far faster than the young man thought possible. The fleet footed rogue wasted no time in bounding over another pile of trash, eyes constantly scanning the barely visible running path and looking for the next crossroads. Suddenly the alley curved right before opening up to two more yawning caverns of tight, urban design. He bolted through the right passage, the sounds of scattered debris and violent curses coming ever closer behind him. Looking to spy another means of escape he darted into the next tight corridor on his left. Though the alley here was clear it was much darker, with only five feet left open between the two towering brick buildings and a long sprint to the other end opening into the market. His eyes gazed skyward to the overcast sky, the silhouette of a clothesline between open windows helping him get his bearings.
            The sudden shout echoing to his ears caught the thief off guard. Standing at the entrance to the alley was the shadow of the mark, breathing heavy with flared nostrils and a quivering jowl overflowing with rage. The thief knew he could never beat the man in a straight out run to the other end of the alley, not with the speed he had displayed. A sinister laugh carried over the slick walls and stifling air, followed by a single storming footstep slamming to the ground.
            “I’m gonna’ get that letter back out of your hands when I’m done breaking both of them kid.” The towering hulk of a man bragged, taking another step closer to the boy. It was only then that regret entered the young man’s mind, the consequences of his actions up to now personified in a terrible, violent man hired for the very thing he was about to do. The thief’s throat was swollen, a loud gulp of nonexistent saliva doing little to spark the bravery that lied dormant in his heart. From above a seahawk cried out, bringing the young man’s attention skyward to view the beauty of nature one last time. The quivering fear subsided a bit, overwhelming him no more now that a plan had entered his mind.
            With a roar a fist the size of the thief’s head came rushing forward. Hairy knuckles felt only humid air as the thief ducked low, diving between the legs of the burly brute. Spinning about to grab hold of the trickster the mark grasped only air as the young man darted back, knowing full well another assault was coming.
            “Stand still and take your punishment like a man!”
            The letter’s previous carrier swung low this time, a jab easily dodged by the spritely target. Seeing an opportunity to rush in with a head full of anger and a fist filled with rage he followed up with a vicious uppercut, this time confident that there’d be nowhere to dodge the attack in the tight confines. The thief leapt forward, twisting his body to the side and grabbing hold of his assailant’s forearm as leverage to drive his body between the brute and the mold dotted wall. His left leg kicked out, connecting with the crotch of the brute and doubling the man over in pain. Without hesitation the young acrobat tightened his grip on the forearm and pushed his feet against the alley wall, tumbling over onto the man’s back and vaulting off skyward. Outstretched hands grabbed onto the clothesline, thankful it was secured tightly and could sustain his weight.
            By the time the shooting pain had subsided to a pounding, throbbing ache radiating into his abdomen the merchant guild guardian could only look up and see the young thief twist and squirm his way from the clothesline through the open window. Cursing the cowardly yet effective blow to his groin the man slouched down to the ground, a grin crossing his face despite his own failure.
            The young thief sat beneath the windowsill, panting as each sharp, deep breath waned slower and slower until he had calmed his nerves and was sure the bully couldn’t follow him up. He smiled to himself, leaning his head back against the plastered wall of the abode he had so nimbly escaped to. For once he wouldn’t be forced to tell a tall tale of his escapades, to embellish the story and make an epic saga out of the simple test. He couldn’t wait to show the letter to the Guildmaster of Shadows and be known as the youngest thief to pass the great test. Perhaps he would look inside the letter, just a peak to see what was so important he told himself.
            “That’s an interesting item you’ve got there young man!” A salty, commanding voice filled with sarcasm mentioned from the far side of the room. Looking up the thief’s eyes rested on a rotund fellow in rich red robes, a belt of golden silk resting below a jiggling paunch and more jewelry than existed in the great market itself hanging from a sweaty neck. On either side of the smiling stranger stood two rather violent looking men, each flexing their fingers and popping stubborn knuckles.
            “Mind if I see it?” The extravagant stranger requested, little choice emanating from his mocking demand as he lent an outstretched hand to the thief. A single ring wedged onto a plump sausage of a finger caught the light streaming in through the window, bearing the highest seal of the merchant guild. The young thief’s heart dropped, his stomach churning knowing the reason none as young as him had passed the test. Smiling to the man he held out the letter, eyes darting back and forth between the two hired muscle keeping their distance for the time being.
            “It’s my birthday tomorrow…” The young thief smiled wryly, a heavy sigh escaping his lips before finishing his statement.
            “…and I’m going to be sure to celebrate!”
            The young thief quickly pulled the crinkled envelope back, tucking it into his tunic and grabbing hold of the windowsill with both hands. In one deft move he lurched back and flung himself over the ledge and out the window, his momentum carrying him down to the original owner of the letter still sitting down and nursing his wounds. Without warning both the young man’s feet slammed down into the exposed groin of the once mighty threat, a howling yelp cut short by unconsciousness that befell the suitable landing pad. Rolling gracefully to the side the thief looked to the window one last moment before running off into the alleys, smiling at the stream of furious curses and frothing spittle ejected from the mouth of the merchant guild leader.
            Tomorrow would be a good birthday indeed.

Monday, July 18, 2011

End of Month Review Copies

Things are going well, with Rogue's Bane still climbing in sales each day. In an effort to get more out there and hopefully get some more reviews on the Amazon pages for the novels I'll be giving out 5 review copies to anyone who wishes them for their book review blogs, fantasy author blogs, etc. Just hit me up on twitter @Rick_Ferraro with a link to your blog and I'll choose 5 of the submissions to send out. On that note if you have bought Rogue's Bane and enjoyed it, please let the world know and leave a review at Amazon!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Weekend Sales, Contests, and Book 3

Hope everyone had a good weekend! Over this past weekend I've sold a few copies of Unearthed Destiny to those who've finished Rogue's Bane (and for those of you with the infamous Kindle-Backlog, it'll be here when you're ready), and I've actually sold a large number of Rogue's Bane as well, almost as much as the entire last month!

In celebration, I'll be holding a contest starting August 1st dealing with the first book, Rogue's Bane, with the prize being free copies of Unearthed Destiny and possibly some other stuff as well. Stay tuned to find out, but suffice to say it will be fun.

Lastly, I've had an few emails coming in excited that the second book was done so fast (really the first and second have been done for awhile in print form, they're just new to Amazon on the Kindle market) and people were wondering how long the third and final book in the trilogy would take. I am still working on the first draft of the third book, having actually just finished a very major, very large chapter that's sitting in the midway point for now. I hope to have the first draft finished by Christmas 2011, with edits and proofing done i time for a Valentine's Day 2012 release.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Unearthed Destiny Live!

Yes that's right, the second novel of the Arellia's Son series is now live on Amazon's kindle market! Click the link HERE to be taken to the Unearthed Destiny page at Amazon. Also if you'll notice the last post, there's been a small revision update to Rogue's Bane, so be sure to grab it HERE as well if you want the update. Now that I have two books remember you can always check out my author page at Amazon HERE which automatically updates with new blog updates and tweets from my account (Rick_Ferraro).

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Unearthed Destiny Cover Finished!

I just got the final revision of the cover for Unearthed Destiny, the second book in the series. I hope to make some final edits to the novel this week (mostly going through the hair-pulling task of formatting it for kindle's format) and it should be up. The goal is for Unearthed Destiny to be on the Kindle market by Friday morning.

In addition, some of you may have noticed two minor changes. First, after some thought and deliberation the old title for the series, the "Ranger's Destiny Chronicles" has gone to the wayside in favor of "Arellia's Son Trilogy", which fits the theme of the books and also marks it as a finalized trilogy. To everyone who has already bought Rogue's Bane, there will be a new version (version 2) that incorporates this fact into the initial page. In addition the new version fixes a formatting error, two small typos left over from editing, and info on the wonderful artist who did both of my covers, so don't miss out on downloading the new update!