Excerpts from the diary of Captain Korus Fallenleaf of Overlund.
Fallenleaf. A strange name for Drow, the men often say. My family line can be traced back to the Greenleafs, a once proud family of Wood Elves. Overlund is a great city, built above ground in the Greypeak Mountains. Unlike other Drow cities, the sun and sky waits for us right outside our cavern. As I patrol the beach, I wonder if it is time to continue the Fallenleaf line. More than one wealthy lady has taken an interest in me, perhaps it is time to consider their offers.
The city has fallen. The light burst into the cavern from above, and rubble crashed into the lake below. Giant tools broke the rock, tearing an opening in the mountain like a vicious wound. The massive monsters poured in like rats, grabbing for anything they could get a hold of.
The men wanted to flee deeper into the mountain, into the caverns below. I ordered them into formation behind me, crossbows at the ready. I would not abandon Overlund. Our weapons were ineffective. A massive stone giant knocked me into the lake, where I nearly drowned. When I awoke, the men were dead, the city looted, my people gone. I should have ordered the men to retreat, so they could protect their families. Now all is lost. Their deaths were my fault. I could follow the survivors deeper into the mountain, but what will I say to the survivors? The giants destroyed Overlund, but I killed my men. There is nothing for me here now.
How many years have passed? The human family who lives on the edge of the forest have grown grey, has it been so long? The sun is so bright and it seems to be everywhere, overwhelming me, but at night I can survive. There are plants and animals to eat but the silence is destroying me. Every night I can hear the screams of my men and the echoing roar of the giants, laughing at me. There is a human city nearby, perhaps there I can drown out the noise in my head.
Yartar. I hate this city. The water of Firefly Lake was so clean and clear, here the stink reaches every part of the city. They drink it, bathe in it, then pour it right back in. This place is nothing more than a haven for pirates and thieves, but the is no shortage wine and no one asks any questions of me. If I drink enough of it, I can find some peace.
I am broke. Worse, I am indebted to a local conniver known as the Snail. After months of sleeping at the bottom of a bottle, I have picked up the sword again. The lure of human wine is strong, I will keep a sword in each hand so that a bottle cannot take its place.
The Zhentarim have offered me a place in their organization. In return my debt to Snail has been cleared, in fact I have gained his favor. I ride with six other Zhentarim mercenaries to a town known as Nightstone. Our leader is a man named Xolkin Alassandar, a paranoid racist who does not hide his disgust for me. It is sad times indeed that I have ended up in the company of such men.
It’s been a few months since I wrote anything for the blog. Since my last post, I rediscovered my love of RPG’s and I retired from writing. I was always setting up deadlines for myself and struggling to get through the editing phase of books and I realized I was carrying around all this baggage and stress and for what? I don’t know how many people actually read my books but it can’t be more than a handful. Why force myself to perform in front of an empty auditorium? I do plan on finishing some of the books I started, but as of right now there is no date or time for when I will do that.
I’ve never felt bad for failing to achieve my goals or reach an audience. I know it is difficult to capture the attention of the public and I accept the fact that not everyone can win. In any creative endeavor we undertake, we are competing against everyone else doing the same thing. In order for there to be a winner, other people have to lose. Being first requires that there be a second, third and fourth. I can accept that I was meant to be the loser so that other people could succeed, I am fine with that. What continues to bother me though is one particular question: “Why didn’t anyone like me?”
I finished a comic about Canadian superheroes, promoted it online, went to conventions and generally got positive reviews on it. Yet now with a blossoming Canadian comicbook industry led by homegrown heroes, it is like I never existed at all. I won the Top Cow Talent Search one year and got published, yet no one called me about work, no one noticed the book I did, I was never able to get another writing gig after that one. I know other winners who got offers, but I didn’t hear a thing from anyone. I even wrote books which I published through Amazon, I kept a Facebook page and a blog and generally tried to be as positive and creative as possible. Yet it all added up to nothing. Nobody followed the page or the twitter account, nobody sent me friend requests, no one in the world was discussing the stories or the characters I created. THAT is what really demoralized me, the echo of my own failure to create a fan base. I’ve come to accept my failure as a writer, but it is going to take a while before I can learn to live with the fact that people just don’t like me. Hopefully that wound WILL heal, in time. . . .
With this announcement, my comic career officially comes to an end. Congratulations to everyone who was accepted, except for that asshole from True Blood. 😉
I want to say thank you for Top Cow for giving me the opportunity to get published as well as their letter of support. Top Cow allowed me to pitch to them and kept the dream alive a little longer. They are the best in the business and you are missing out if you are not following their work.
Goodbye comics, it was as fun as a long airplane flight to nowhere, but they say all life is a learning experience and perhaps this was a lesson in humility.
You can check out the two comics I published myself on AMAZON or check out Top Cow for the Talent Search winning issue of the Artifacts I wrote.
Thanks to those who have been supportive over the last decade; Laz Novak, David Bovey, Anthony Hary, and all the others who wanted to see great things from me but never got to. I am sorry if I let you guys down. You guys know better than anyone how much I loved the format, but no door ever opened up for me.
A special thanks to the guys in the comic industry who supported me, even though I can be a disruptive pain in the ass. Thank you, Matt Hawkins, Jim Zub and Mike Baron. You guys were always inspirational and I will continue to enjoy and support your work both in and out of comics.
People will often say a group that they belong to is like “a family”. If that is true, I was always the bastard son of comics. It was not the family I was looking for, nor was I the child they wanted. I may seem a bit melancholy right now, it will take a few months to lift this chip off my shoulder and move forward, but I will. There is always something new waiting around the corner.
Mash-ups seem to be a hot topic these days. From Pride and Prejudice and Zombies to Alice Cooper VS Earth, Wind & Fire, today’s generation loves to take two distinctly different things and slam them together. In music, mash-ups have been going on since the creation of rock, but thanks to the digital era just about anyone can take two songs and smash them together. Whereas a remix takes a portion of a song and replaces it with another musical sound or beat, a mash-up will often the full parts of songs and weave them over or beside another song’s vocals or music. When a mash-up is done well, it creates a whole new song that becomes its OWN entity, greater than the sum of its parts.
Perhaps due to their monthly episodic nature, there have been more crazy mash-ups in comics than just about any other genre. From Superman & Spider-Man, to Doctor Who & Star Trek, there have been thousands of crazy comicbook mash-ups. At one point Dark Horse was putting out so many crossover comics with franchises they had acquired that it became a running gag. I believe their peak achievement was Buffy Vs Aliens Vs Predator VS Terminator.
Seth Grahame-Smith is without a doubt the current king of Mash-ups. Not only did his books capture the eye of the internet generation, but he was chosen as the Hollywood go-to guy for mash-up movies. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies managed to make it to #3 on the New York Times bestseller list, mainly due to public interest in the mash-up. Not bad for what is basically a re-write of a public domain novel. I’m not knocking the work, I did the same thing with GAME OF BLOOD . Creating a mash-up requires a whole different skill set than writing in your own words. You have to carefully balance the words of the original author with what you are putting in; if you do it poorly, it will be glaringly obvious which parts of the story were jammed in. Sometimes the material is difficult and requires major re-writes of large parts of the story; other times everything just falls together on its own. I had a lot of help with GOB because Bond was described as cold and inhuman in Fleming’s original novel. All I had to do was emphasize the traits that were already there. It was more difficult to change the villains because once they became vampires too, I needed to devise new ways to kill them off.
Hollywood has been making mash-ups since Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman, released in 1943. The biggest mash-up of my generation would have to be Alan Moore’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. The film didn’t have the drama or horror of the comicbook series, but everyone knew what it was and who the characters were in it. The way Moore depicted London, England, was a huge inspiration for LONDON UNDEAD. If you love mash-ups, London Undead features the cast of Dracula against a horde of zombies. Fighting both against and with them are the characters from The Phantom of the Opera (now haunting a theater in England) and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. A link to the book can be found at the end of this post.
If you are not sure what kind of story you want to write next, consider a mash-up. They can be fun to write and a great exercise for the brain. I loved writing the mash-ups I’ve done; they were great mental work-outs to get me prepared for writing my own original work. A mash-up might just be what you need to break through that writer’s block.
You can find the book here:
I made a few of these a couple years back but never got them colored or lettered. I am trying now to get them out. I have at least a half dozen of them, all parodies of pulp culture. It was a lot of fun coming up with an idea and then trying to bend the idea to the nine panel grid, as well as trying to explain the joke in the same space and word balloons as the original ads. I was warned by the Charles Atlas estate that I cannot sell these, but they are just two lawyers sitting in an office somewhere and have neither the power or the reach to actually STOP me from making a parody. Here is the first.
EARTH MAN is the first of three books focusing on the battle between Earth’s chosen protector, Danny Boyle, and the alien race known as The Growth.
In order to protect itself from an alien scourge, the planet Earth chooses a good-hearted Canadian to infuse with great power. Danny Boyle finds himself gifted with superhuman abilities and suddenly his simple life in Kelowna, British Columbia is turned upside down. Three monsters no bigger than a flea descend to Earth, burrowing into the flesh of the living creatures of the planet and changing them into the perfect hosts. Their hunger has taken the Growth across the stars and they have left a thousand dead worlds in their wake. Mankind has no idea that evil now walks among them and Danny must quickly learn to decipher the strange clues the animals and the trees are sending him. With the power of Earth’s animals at his command, Danny must find the hero inside of him before everything he knows and everyone he loves is lost.
They have consumed a thousand worlds. The Earth is next. As the planet’s chosen champion, Danny Boyle must learn how to use his power to mimic the abilities of animals to stop an alien species that can consume and mutate flesh.
Available now from Amazon for the Kindle and other devices.
The night was warm and damp, the moon nothing more than a crescent in the sky. Although spring was just starting the heat was beginning to rise in the Trenches. Teela flashed her crystal-light into the darkness, searching for an end to the chasm. Nestled behind an old launderettes, Teela and the half-goblin Grondell were hidden from view by the drying clothes hung across a dozen lines. She could hear the crowds moving up and down the steps, the swishing of water from inside the building, and she hoped that no one would would take an interest in their little alley.
“You see Miss Teela? Dark as forever and just as deep.” Grondell the half-goblin said as he shifted nervously from one bare foot to the next. The squat, green half-breed constantly looked over his shoulder, occasionally peeking out from behind the damp blankets to make sure they were not discovered. It was forbidden to tamper with the stone column which the wealthy city of Spira rested upon and doing so could bring the culprit a death sentence. The golden city overhead allowed the poor to build their homes and businesses on the steps that lead down to the Bay of Raygar, but they could not carve, cut, or alter in any way the stone support that the city rested upon. The geomancers who guarded the stone had the authority of the King and were not afraid to use it. The cliff-side city had stood for fifty thousand summers and was the center of commerce for all of North Borealis. The rich and powerful were afraid that the poor would tunnel it out from underneath their feet and so it was forbidden to alter the stone in any way.
Teela turned off the light and slipped it into her belt. She fished her fingers into a small pouch on her hip and pulled out a small bronze coin which Grondell caught, nodding his head and bowing fervently as he bit it with his gnarled teeth. He had no idea why he bit the metal coin. It was just something he had seem humans do in the market. Satisfied with it he placed it into a dirty pouch that hung from the rope tied around his waist.
“Thank you very much, thank you!” He said. Half-goblins were one of the most reviled half-breed species in North Borealis and they tended to be overly polite and subservient to compensate for the hatred they faced.
Teela had found Grondell while searching the pillar. He had been washing one of his offspring in a pool of water that had gathered behind the tent he lived in, down near the bottom of the steps. She had not believed him when he’d told her of the crack, but there it was.
“Is there anything else I can do for you?” Grondell asked.
Teela unclipped her breastplate and let it drop to the ground softly.
“You can have my armour if you wish; it will only be a burden.” Teela said.
She handed Grondell her ankle guards and he snatched them up, a wide grin spreading across his long face.
“Oh what a blessed day!” Grondell hiss quietly. His eyes glistened with greed and his long nose twitched like a rat. He snatched up the breastplate and used it to collect the other pieces as Teela took them off, piling them in his arms.
Teela Wayland was six foot tall with muscles as hard as steel. She was slim, but defined, and was even stronger than she appeared. Spira was where she had been born, but her skill and strength came from years of hard combat. Teela was a mercenary, a sword for hire and a good one. Until the rise of King Augustus De Pelentas there had been no shortage of work for the sellsword. Her blade had drank its fill of blood and although she had only seen twenty-one summers, she was ready to retire from the merchanary life.
The crevice was six feet high and no more than a foot wide and the crack in the stone was exactly what she had been hoping to find.
Teela stood in the alley in her leather boots and britches, with a white cotton top that clung to her sweaty skin. The night was humid and damp but the stone of Spira felt cold to her touch.
Grondell was barely visible under the pile of battered old armour in his arms.
“My children will grow fat thanks to your divine kindness, Miss Teela. Thank you! Thank you!” Grondell leaned forward to bow and almost lost the armful of metal. Teela held her finger to her lips to silence him.
“It is not a gift. It is a payment, in exchange for your silence. Tell no one else of this spot.”
“Why of course! Grondell has none to tell.” He said softly.
High atop the stone column, miles above their heads, sat the glistening city of Spira, capital of the three kingdoms. Elves from the East had built the castle overlooking the water long ago in antiquity. To transport material from the Bay far below, the Elves had employed giants. Over time the giants had built a staircase almost as big as the castle itself, which curved down on either side. The stone beneath the castle proper- the pillar upon which the castle rested- was where the ancient tales said the Elven treasure was buried.
There were geomancers, employed by the Council of Magic, whose sole purpose was to keep the pillar beneath Spira intact. Were they to discover the crack, they would quickly seal it. If Teela was inside, she would likely never make it out again or worse, she would be crushed to death when the fissure closed. She did not fear death but she would prefer to die with steel in her hand. However, she was experienced enough to know no wealth came without an equal measure of risk. Growing up in the Trenches, Teela had heard all the stories of Spira’s hidden secrets. The stories varied from the ludicrous (a giant slept within the stone), to the mundane (nothing more than rats and spiders). Yet every single myth shared one common element; every story spoke of riches beyond counting. Teela was not one to put much stock in tales told by drunken men, but on the road north back to Spira, she had met an Elf who had his own stories to tell. He was old, the oldest person Teela had ever met, older than many of the towns and villages of North Borealis.
“The stories are true.” He had said. “The Elven people never left Spira.”
It was believed that the human race, led by King Speoni, had driven the Elves out of the castle, back into the sea, back to the eastern realm known as the Wildlands. The old Elf was desperate to return to the Wildlands so that he could be laid to rest in the land where he was born.
“Oh it is true that many Elves escaped thanks to the superior speed and craftsmanship of our ships. But not all. Many remained, forced into hiding in the caverns below Spira.”
She shined the light into the crevice again, just to be certain nothing was hiding inside. Vagrants often slept in the cracks and she did not want be surprised in such a close space by a desperate, homeless creature. Teela had been exploring cracks and caves along the sea cliff since the day she learned to walk, but this one was different. This one went deeper than anything she had discovered before. Teela knew that something was hidden beneath Spira, she could feel it in her bones. The legends of lost riches were true and if she could find even a portion of that mythical wealth, she could leave the mercenary life behind her. Perhaps she might even bear children, she thought half-heartedly.
She took a deep breath through her nose, let it out slowly, than stepped her left foot into the crack.
“Good luck! I hope you make it back!” Grondell whispered.
“If I do, you’ll be richly rewarded.” Teela said as she slipped into the crevice.
“Then I wish you double the luck I wished you before!”
Grondell watched until the human woman disappear into the darkness. Then he slipped out between the hanging sheets, arms full of armour, down toward his home in the slums built along the Bay of Raygar. He hoped that Teela would return, but he doubted it. Grondell would never understand why humans were so willing to crawl into their own graves. He squeezed the armour tight with his scrawny arms, on constant alert for danger. In the city built on the stairs of giants, one had be on constant alert for thieves and murderers.