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The Demon's Sacrifice on Sale until Boxing Day

My newest heroic fantasy novel "The Demon's Sacrifice" is on sale until Boxing Day 2019 (ebook version only). The paperback is $17.99.

The sleepy farming village of Millkrest has been attacked and their virgin priestess has been abducted, presumably to be sacrificed to the foul god Masexus at a shrine deep in the woods east of the village. The barbarian Wrathgar teams up with the wizard Soljargon, the half-elf priestess Helene, the skilled elf archer Gyburn, and the halfling sneak-thief Kaeto in order to rescue her. If sacrificed her life-force will be used to summon a demon prince...

But they are heavily outnumbered and teamwork is not their strong suit, and Wrathgar has been forced into a leadership role when he has no experience in leading others. Worse, Gyburn and Kaeto keep arguing, and Kaeto keeps getting into trouble. What will Wrathgar have to do to forge the group into a team? What will it take to rescue the priestess and prevent the demon prince from being summoned? What sacrifices will have to be made in order to defeat the evil brewing deep in the woods?

Meanwhile the Xarsian priest Mordechai is on loan to the Masexites and beholden to the High Priest of Masexus. Ostracized by his own dark church, he finds himself allied with murderers, rapists and criminals. Firm in his belief that Xarsius is the true god of evil and that Masexus is just some minor god Mordechai secretly seeks ways to fulfill his own bloodthirsty desires and find a new liege who has loftier goals than slaughtering a single farming village.


Reading Order of the Witcher Books

Back in the summer (2019) I purchased two of the Witcher books for my wife, who is a big fan of the Witcher 3 video game.

At some point I would like to read the books too, but I have a giant stack of other books waiting to be read so the Witcher books will have to wait. They are definitely on my To Read List however.

With the TV show coming out tomorrow (less than 12 hours from now) I thought I should make a list of all the Witcher books and their chronological order.

However just because they came out in this order doesn't mean you should read them in that order. Thus I have listed below the correct order you should read them in in parentheses.

1992 - The Sword of Destiny* (2)
1993 - The Last Wish* (1)
1994 - Blood of Elves (3)
1995 - Time of Contempt (4)
1996 - Baptism of Fire (5)
1997 - The Tower of the Swallow (6)
1999 - Lady of the Lake (7)
2013 - Season of Storms (1.5** or 8)

* The Last Wish and Sword of Destiny were published out of order, and they are both anthology collections of short stories. You should definitely read The Last Wish first.

** Weird thing about Season of Storms. It takes place after the short story 'Last Wish' and before 'Question or Price' within The Last Wish anthology. So if you really want to read them in the proper order then you need read the short story, then read Season of Storms, then read the rest of The Last Wish book, then you continue in the order.

HOWEVER, some people claim it is better to save Season of Storms until the last book on your reading list because it contains some spoilers for later books. So there is a strong argument for reading it last.


Alternative Spell Progression Chart for a High Magic Campaign

If you play 1st or 2nd Edition AD&D chances are likely you are already happy with the spells and the spell progression. But WHAT IF you wanted to play a game that allows wizards and other spellcasters to be more "High Magic"?

Note - The concepts below can easily be applied to other editions too, as House Rules.

Wizards and other spellcasters are already pretty OP (overpowered). So what is the benefit of making them even more high powered?

Well, it depends on how you do it.

If you give the PCs lots of magical items then eventually everyone in the party becomes OP. So by then it doesn't really matter.

But if you keep a firm lid on the availability of magical items (eg. they cannot be purchased and are very rare) then the only magic the party encounters is the magic of spellcasters and magical critters. But if you keep a tight lid on magical critters and spellcasters are rare, then you also can make that aspect of the game also rare.

So why do this? What is the benefit?

Flavour. It gives the world a very different feel if magic is both very rare, but also very powerful.

Imagine feeling like you are in a low magic game. You are fighting orcs, ogres, giants, and similar non-magical critters. Supernatural critters, undead and magical critters are all rare. Then you run into an ogre magi, but this ogre magi has magic that is more powerful and the DM plays the ogre magi as being very intelligent and battle savvy. The "Die Hard/Bruce Willis" version of an ogre magi.

Which makes the PCs the equivalent of Hans Gruber and his goons. And you are losing. And every time the ogre magi kills one of the PCs he shouts yippy kai yeah m***** f*****!

If the DM is like myself, they are running a deadly campaign. PCs will die. We will roleplay their funerals and the players will eventually take their revenge on the ogre magi.

Suddenly magic is so much mysterious and dangerous.

It sets a very different tone.

And to make it clear to the players that this increase in magical deadliness goes both ways - the monsters and foes are deadlier, but so are the spellcasting PCs you need a way to make the PC spellcasters more powerful.

Thus I present:


So what is the Fs for? Favourite Spells.

For each spell level category the wizard gets to choose 1 Favourite spell. That spell will be their favourite forever and it cannot be changed. It is essentially a bonus spell that they always memorize every day and they do not need a spellbook to memorize it. It is automatic. In the case of Specialist Wizards (illusionists, evokers, etc) their Favourite spell must be chosen from their specialist school. This essentially replaces and supersedes the bonus spells specialists usually receives.

You will therefore notice that level one wizards start play with one 2nd level spell, their favourite spell. However even though 2nd level spells are more powerful, this is tempered by the fact that their casting level is still only 1.

Likewise when the wizard reaches 3rd level they now could potentially choose Fireball as their favourite spell, but because their casting level is only 3 their fireballs only do 3d6.

So yes, wizards now gain access to higher level magic at lower levels, and yes they get more spells overall. This makes them more powerful, yes, but again everything is a balancing act. Enemy spellcasters are now more powerful too.

Magical monsters should have at least 1 of the following adjustments:

1. Raise their casting level by 4.
2. Magical poisons have a -4 on the saving throw. Or alternatively a creature that did not have magical poison, now has it and it is quite deadly.
3. The DM can sometimes give negatives on savings throws (-1 to -4) for magical effects from monsters because the particular critter is deadlier.
4. Magical critters may have access to higher level spells or abilities.
5. The DM might even invent new magical powers that make sense for the critter. Such as Air Elementals being able to cast Control Wind or other wind spells.

So yes, you make the spellcasters more OP, but you also make the monsters deadlier. Then, like all DMing, it is just a balancing act between deadly monsters and powerful heroes.

Some groups might only have the 1 OP spellcaster while other groups might be all or mostly spellcasters so how much the DM needs to balance will vary.

Now you might think "Why not just use bigger monsters?" Why not use the equivalent of a giant magi instead of an ogre magi? Yes, you could do that. But strategically this is about smart play vs DM laziness. An ogre magi should be played as being intelligent, and a DM wanting it to be even more awesome needs to take that up to the proverbial 11th degree of hardness. Adjusting the standard monsters to make them more unique is important to increasing the challenge.

Take for example the issue of magical weapons found in loot.

The skeletons guarding the treasure are using horrible rusty spears, but if they are in the actual treasure vault why not have them use the actual treasure. A skeleton wielding a +2 sword suddenly becomes a bigger threat. Especially if the skeleton is somehow smarter and hides above the doorway and has levels in Thief... Skeletons with Backstab and a +2 sword. There you go. A challenge that your players will not be expecting.

Another alternative to this...

Take the normal spell progression charts for all spellcasters and cut the number of spells in half, rounded up. Spellcasters suddenly becomes way more squishy because they have so few spells and have to choose between defensive spells and attack spells. The smart ones who are powerful enough will definitely want Teleport or Dimension Door for a quick exit.

A world where magic is both rare and magic users don't get that many spells... Sounds much more dire. And valuable. Suddenly people are murdering other people just to get a +1 dagger.

The point is that DMs have the power to make these house rules and subtly change the flavour of their world.

Storytelling

Story wise a DM could work this kind of rules change into their storytelling, and they could make this power upgrade only effect a particular type of magic. eg. Only arcane magic, as used by wizards and bards. The sudden shift in magical power could even be a "World Event" caused by some strange mystical event that causes all arcane magic users to become more powerful.

eg. All of the party, NPCs, everyone suddenly hears a thunderclap from the sky and a shockwave knocks them off their feet. By the time they get back to their feet the wizards can all feel it... their magical power has been increased. They don't know what happened, but suddenly their magical energies have increased... There could even be an atmospheric effect of the boost in magic, with Northern Lights appearing over much of the planet and lasting for X hours.

Afterwards the PCs have to figure out what caused this sudden shift in their magical abilities.

(Such a shift could also be used to explain what happens when PCs suddenly switch editions. Imagine you are playing 2nd Edition and suddenly a thunderclap happens, everyone falls down, and then it is now 3rd Edition. Tada! Not that I would do this, I would rather just start a new campaign. But in theory a group of players + DM could hypothetically do this if they want to keep the same characters and switch editions.)

Witcher 3: Wild Hunt Maps

Witcher 3: Wild Hunt Maps

I am going to have to post more Witcher maps in the near future. "The Witcher" TV show is coming out on Netflix in just 7 days, so expect a lot more Witcher maps and stuff about the Witcher in general.

My wife plays the Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and has two of Andrzej Sapkowski's books. I am waiting to read the books eventually after she finishes reading them. (I have a giant stack of other fantasy books I am reading and hope to review someday.)

We are both looking forwards to watching the new Witcher TV show.

The first map below doesn't include place names, but the other maps further below are clearly labeled.









Viking Slices and Kanel Snegl

Viking pastries are some of my new favourite things to eat.

The Danish Pastry House at the Eaton's Centre is conveniently close to where I DM my weekly Dungeons and Dragons games.

#1. Viking Slices


#2. Kanel Snegl


#3. Kanel Bread Loaves


If you are not hungry after looking at all 3 images, I pity you. There must be something seriously wrong with you.

Also...

D&D wise... Wouldn't it be fun to play a Viking Pastry Chef?

Croissant Dragons


Croissant Dragons???

Edible draconic pastries? Num num num!

Witcher Teaser Trailer



I am very much looking forward to this TV series. I need to read the books sometime too.

My wife plays The Witcher 3 and I have enjoyed watching her play the game.

The Demon's Sacrifice, a Heroic Fantasy novel by Charles Moffat

December 1st 2019

By Charles Moffat

My newest novel was released today. I arranged it for pre-order over a month ago.

The book in question has been on my To Do List for 12 years.

It has sat on the backburner many times during that 12 year period.

It went through seven rewrites. As in, start from scratch, rewrite the whole thing.

The final "official version" that was released today is basically version 7.4.

The painting on the cover art is also by myself.

I have decided that in the future I will be paint all my own covers. Part of the reason is because I find that when I hire an illustrator they have difficulty following instructions / completing the piece the way I want it done, thus if I want it done properly I should just do it myself.

And yes, there are definitely giant ravens in the book. :)

The Demon's Sacrifice - Available on Amazon Kindle for $8.99.

The sleepy farming village of Millkrest has been attacked and their virgin priestess has been abducted, presumably to be sacrificed to the foul god Masexus at a shrine deep in the woods east of the village. The barbarian Wrathgar teams up with the wizard Soljargon, the half-elf priestess Helene, the skilled elf archer Gyburn, and the halfling sneak-thief Kaeto in order to rescue her. If sacrificed her life-force will be used to summon a demon prince...

But they are heavily outnumbered and teamwork is not their strong suit, and Wrathgar has been forced into a leadership role when he has no experience in leading others. Worse, Gyburn and Kaeto keep arguing, and Kaeto keeps getting into trouble. What will Wrathgar have to do to forge the group into a team? What will it take to rescue the priestess and prevent the demon prince from being summoned? What sacrifices will have to be made in order to defeat the evil brewing deep in the woods?

Meanwhile the Xarsian priest Mordechai is on loan to the Masexites and beholden to the High Priest of Masexus. Ostracized by his own dark church, he finds himself allied with murderers, rapists and criminals. Firm in his belief that Xarsius is the true god of evil and that Masexus is just some minor god Mordechai secretly seeks ways to fulfill his own bloodthirsty desires and find a new liege who has loftier goals than slaughtering a single farming village.

The villagers of Millkrest are depending on this small band of heroes to rescue their priestess and avenge their fallen. Can Wrathgar rise to the challenges of leadership? Can his companions learn to work as a team?


Notes

"The Demon's Sacrifice" is Book II of the Adventures of Wrathgar. You do not need to read Book I (The Assassin's Trail - Ebook $2.99 / Paperback $6.49 USD) to enjoy Book II. Each book can stand on its own.

Yes, I will be releasing a paperback version of "The Demon's Sacrifice" soon. Probably within the next week.

All of the Wrathgar books take place in the fictional kingdom of Korovia, which is also featured in the Lilith Bloodstone Series, the Wulfric the Wanderer Series and other books.

I will be releasing a new Wrathgar short story on March 1st 2020: The Blizzard's Daughter.

Got any questions? Post a comment below or contact the author on Twitter or Facebook.


Facebook Advertising... No Good for Writers

I recently did an experiment with Facebook Advertising promoting one of my paperback books and have come to the following conclusions:

#1. You are basically paying 50 cents per Like and it will cost you a minimum of $10 just to experiment.
#2. There is no guarantee you make any book sales.
#3. It is time consuming to setup the ad to an audience that is more likely to buy your book and then you waste more time monitoring the results.
#4. You are better off using free methods of self promotion. Takes less time and money.

#5. Complete waste of time and money.
 
I have been sharing the results of my experiment on Facebook, Twitter and other sites using the following graphic.
 




Ahem.

The book I was promoting was my Lilith Bloodstone Omnibus, an anthology of nine dark fantasy short stories featuring the titular necromancer Lilith Bloodstone.

Included in this volume are:

  1. The Black Rose
  2. Rise of the Red Moon
  3. The Baby & the Village
  4. One to be Reckoned With
  5. The Night of the Dead
  6. On Death's Door
  7. The Emissary of Darkness
  8. The Astral Plane
  9. Out for Blood

The paperback is currently $6.99 USD on Amazon.com. Regularly $8.99.

USA
https://www.amazon.com/dp/1081864583

CANADA
https://www.amazon.ca/Lilith-Bloodstone-Omnibus-Charles-Moffat/dp/1081864583/

UK
https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1081864583


 

The Pros and Cons of Morally Ambiguous Characters

By Charles Moffat

One of my favourite characters I wrote about from the time when I was a teenager was a cutthroat named Pothax (pronounced "Poe-thaks", not to be confused with Pot-hacks or Poth-ax).

Ignoring the fan confusion about how to pronounce his name, Pothax is interesting because at the beginning he starts off as a Morally Ambiguous Character.


Moral Ambiguity is when a character or situation lacks clarity regarding whether the character(s) or the situation they are in is morally good or evil, often the result of the author being deliberately unclear about whether a character is good or evil.

SPOILER ALERT, IGNORE THE FOLLOWING PARAGRAPH IF YOU HAVEN'T ACTUALLY READ THE LAST HARRY POTTER BOOK.

So for example Severus Snape from the Harry Potter franchise is a Morally Ambiguous Character because for the longest time he appears to evil or selfish, and yet he has sided with Dumbledore and Harry Potter against the main villain Voldemort and acted as a spy for the goodies vs the baddies. It isn't until close to the end of the final book that it is revealed what Snape's true feelings and intentions were, so for 6.9 books he stays Morally Ambiguous and then upon his death we the readers finally learn why he was a spy and where his loyalties lay.

Spies in books often fall into morally ambiguous roles.

As do Assassins.

James Bond is a highly celebrated spy and assassin, and he is frequently morally ambiguous - largely due to a lack of back story until recent decades when new writers have started giving him more back story about his parents, his dead wife, etc.

And in Pothax's case, a cutthroat who becomes an assassin (sorry, no spoiler alert here) and later switches sides (again, sorry), his morals are questionable at best.

But that is just in the Paladin Assassin book. A book which is really about morality in many ways, as the name suggests.

By the second book Ice War and later the third book King Culprit the morals of this cutthroat character change over time. His goals become much more about friends and family. He goes from killing people for money to caring about other people over his own life.

It is a long transformation of his character from moral ambiguity to family man, and it takes three books to do it. (If it happened in just one book it would be rather unbelievable in my opinion.)

I should note that Pothax is just a supporting character in The Crimson Companions Trilogy. He isn't even a main character. He is an interesting supporting character, but he is not a main character. There are many other characters within the trilogy with varying degrees of moral ambiguity. Assassins, members of organized crime, corrupt leaders, leaders who have allied themselves with criminals because they are desperate.

Pros of Morally Ambiguous Characters

  • You can focus more on the action, less on character development. This makes the character(s) more exciting.
  • When you later focus on character development, the character benefits from having undergone a transformation.

Cons of of Morally Ambiguous Characters

  • Criticism from people who dislike Morally Ambiguous Characters, because they don't understand the point of characters who have little or no morals, or they are easily confused by characters whose morals are unclear or confusing. In other words, they are missing the point about morality. That is the point. The author is telling a story about morality using characters who either lack morals or have unclear morals.
  • It is also possible the author isn't actually telling a morality story. They might simply be telling a story about an action character, possibly one motivated by vengeance. The vengeance fueled action hero is a staple of Hollywood and pulp fiction, so this is normal.

In other news I recently changed the pricing of the Crimson Companions Trilogy of books. I wrote the books back in 1995-1996 and at some point I want to go back and update them to make a Second Edition version. (The links here are all for the First Edition / Classic Edition version.)

  1. Paladin Assassin is now $2.99.
  2. Ice War is now $5.99.
  3. King Culprit is now $5.99.

Or you can buy all 3 in The Crimson Companions Trilogy for $9.99.

Exact price may vary by country or region. So for example if you are in Canada you may get a better deal by purchasing via Amazon.ca as opposed to Amazon.com.

If you shop on Kobo you may also find a better or worse price there. I may at some point eventually remove the books from Kobo so if you are a fan of Kobo it is recommended you buy now before I make the books Amazon Exclusive.



Five Tips for Drawing or Painting Archers for Fantasy

Amongst those of us who are archers we have some serious pet peeves when it comes to drawings/paintings of archery in fantasy art (and also applicable to fantasy book cover art and fantasy movies).

Namely it is the often completely unrealistic drawings / paintings / depictions that really annoy us.

But at the same time we do recognize that the artist doesn't know anything about archery and that is why they are making such mistakes in the first place. (If only the artist took photos or used photographs of real archers as a reference point that would be at least a step in the right direction.


That said, here are Five Tips for Drawing or Painting Archers for Fantasy Artists


A Realistic Painting of an Archer
#1. Ideally, you should learn how to do archery yourself, so you have a better idea of what you should be doing so you can be accurate. The more you learn, the more you will understand better how and why archers do what they do.


#2. When possible, use a photograph or ask a friend who does archery to do some poses for you. This way you have references for what a proper archer does in terms of form. (Do not copy films, comic books or other fantasy sources... Such sources are frequently flawed and you could end up copying something that is just plain wrong.)

The sketch below is based on a photograph. It isn't a fantastic sketch, but it is a realistic depiction of a skilled archer shooting a Scythian horsebow.

Having photographs and realistic sketches handy during your creative process will allow you to make artwork that won't be mocked by the archery community.

And yes, we totally mock artwork and movies when they get it wrong.



#3. Pay attention to the details... The arrows, the shape of the arrowhead, the nock, the fletching, the bow string, how the bow bends more as the archer reaches full draw, the elegant shape of the bow, the position of the archer's drawing hand on their face (known as the anchor spot), the positions of their elbows and shoulders, the full draw with their bellybutton pointed 90° away from the bow, the three fingers on the bowstring (split finger style), and the relaxed grip of their bow hand on the riser handle.

For example there are many different kinds of arrowheads. Archers typically don't use "just one" style of arrowhead either. They might use many different kinds because each arrowhead has a different purpose. A broadhead might be good for hunting, but useless for shooting at someone with chainmail armour. A bodkin arrowhead slices through chainmail armour easily, but it would suck if used for hunting. An archer wouldn't want to use a broadhead for small game, for fishing, or hunting birds either... again, they would use the correct tool for the task they are doing.



#4. Don't add ridiculous things to the tips or limbs of the bow. The more weight bow limbs or tips have, the more sluggish the arrow is on release. An elegant bow is more powerful and shoots arrows faster (usually measured in FPS - feet per second). What archers do often add is dampeners to their bowstrings, little puffballs made of fur which makes their bow quieter (less twang noise).

The bow in the photograph below has dampeners made of sheepskin. They help to make the bow quieter, which makes it better for hunting or stealth.



#5. Don't copy someone doing Olympic style archery and give them a longbow or a traditional recurve, etc. That would be the wrong archery style for the wrong bow.

eg. In the Hunger Games films Katniss shooting Olympic style with a longbow = Ignorant Filmmakers. She should have been taught how to shoot a longbow or traditional recurve properly.

There 5 major styles of archery and each has different form, postures, release method, the use of gadgets, etc.

Traditional Recurve - North Anchor (on the corner of the mouth), split finger draw, rarely cant the bow. (Some archers also shoot "Three Fingers Under" instead of split finger, but that is more rare.)

Longbow or Flatbow - North Anchor, split finger draw, often with the bow canted and the archer leaning in to the shot.

Shortbow or Horsebow - Anchor Varies, split finger draw or thumb ring, the bow is always canted. When released they do a "horseman's release" to better balance themselves / prevent themselves from falling off their horse.

Compound Bow - Peep Sight, Sight, Stabilizer, Mechanical Release, zero canting.

Olympic Recurve - South Anchor (under the chin), split finger draw using a tab, Sight, Stabilizer, Clicker, zero canting.

Happy Drawing and good luck to anyone who decides to get archery lessons!

If you live in Toronto Canada I recommend getting archery lessons from www.cardiotrek.ca/p/archery-lessons.html

Samurai Jack meets Wong Fei Hong

Hello and welcome!

The video above (Samurai Jack meets Wong Fei Hong) was made on May 3rd 2004, at 12:25:40 AM. Just 25 minutes past midnight I finished saving the final version of the video.

At the time in 2004 I was living in Jeonju in South Korea, where I was teaching English, and I was studying Korean, archery and taekwondo. I was also spending a lot of time mountain climbing and visiting Buddhist temples. And fun fact, Samurai Jack was animated in South Korea, which is something you can even see in the landscapes depicted in the show and when touring the mountains of SK. So when you look at the landscapes in South Korea it felt like I was living inside the world of Samurai Jack.

While there I also watched an unusual number of Korean, Chinese and Japanese films - including Wong Fei Hong - so it was really just a matter of time before I sparked on the idea of combining the song with Samurai Jack. Does Jack actually meet Wong Fei Hong? No, of course not. It is just a figure of speech.

It wasn't until almost 3 years later, January 21st 2007, that I uploaded the video to YouTube. Prior to that I had been sharing the video on one of my websites. The fact that the video was so small also meant that it didn't eat a lot of bandwidth for sharing the file directly to people.

Now I made other videos obviously, but none of them became quite as popular as the Samurai Jack meets Wong Fei Hong video. It has since garnered 1.3 million views on YouTube (as of August 2019), despite having the sound removed a few years ago due to copyright issues with the music.

For those people who want to see the version with the music however they can find a copy of the file floating around on internet, or you can watch it here. Both works. The genie is out of the bottle on this one so it isn't going to go away. The video is too popular that the Chinese cannot get rid of it. So now in August 2019 I figured I might as well add it to my Nerdovore blog.

And to put that popularity into context, the video used to be the most popular Samurai Jack video on YouTube for many years - until the new fifth season was finally released - at which point 30 new videos shot up in popularity and surpassed SJMWFH. The new champ is the Samurai Jack Season 5 trailer with 5.9 million views (as of August 2019).



As a fan of both Samurai Jack and the Wong Fei Hong films I cannot help but enjoy the music video. I didn't make it for money. I made it for fun because I love the storytelling and genres depicted in both Samurai Jack and Wong Fei Hong.

So I share with the intention that other people will get to enjoy and appreciate the visual storytelling in the video.

And I hope that maybe the Chinese owners of Wong Fei Hong will stop caring about petty things like copyright over a song. We are living in a post-Napster world. Get used to it.

Writer Conferences

The Mysterious Globe
I think it would be interesting to go to maybe 1 writer conference per year and talk to other writers. For various reasons:

1. Other Genres

To see what other writers are doing within their respective genres. I usually only write fantasy, but it would be interesting to talk to writers who prefer mystery, adventure, romance, or other topics.

2. Networking

It doesn't hurt to meet other authors, make friends / new colleagues within the industry, and then later keep tabs with them. And this can be very beneficial.

"Networking is key. Almost every author I know—and certainly myself included—can trace their publishing success back to someone they met at a writers conference. If you want to get published, I can’t think of any better advice." - James Dashner, author of 'The Maze Runner'


3. Co-Writing / Collaboration

I would love to meet an author with similar tastes to my own and co-write a book together. Maybe not something like the Trillium Series - the infamous collaboration of Marion Zimmer Bradley, Julian May, and Andre Norton - as critics panned it for being poorly executed. Too many chefs in the kitchen in that one. But it would be nice to collaborate with one other author and see what we can cook together.

eg. If I met a mystery writer who enjoys fantasy perhaps we could work on a "fantasy mystery" together. The detective in the story could be a mysterious creature with special abilities that make it a better sleuth.

4. Meeting Publishers

Publishers are a tricky lot. Some of them are looking for specific things and thus reject anything that doesn't fulfill their preset criteria of what they are looking for. Meeting publishers in person you can ask them "Hey, what are actually looking for?" and they can just tell you. Then, if you're lucky, you can pitch them an idea you've had for a standalone book or a series and see how they feel about it.

5. Marketing

Sometimes other authors will spill on the marketing tips, especially if they know you write in a different genre. A romance author isn't going to care so much about spilling their marketing techniques to another author who writes horror.

6. Learn Something.

You will probably learn something. Not necessarily about the craft of storytelling, but also important details about the industry. You might learn the best way to get a literary agent, how to avoid book publishing scams (they take your money and make copies of your work, sure, but they also just took the rights to book, including film and TV rights). You might learn how easy it is to self-publish and skip the traditional publishing industry. You might learn how to build an author platform. And many more things that you could in theory learn online, but if you don't know what to search for how would you know what to type? Being at a conference would be a crash course in many of things you haven't even heard about.

7. Find an Agent

One of the things authors can do at conferences is to pitch their writing projects at agents. Normally this is done by email / snail mail, but at a conference it is possibly to sign up to get 5 minutes with an agent and pitch your book with them. If they like your pitch then they will request to see more of your work. With luck you could find yourself with an agent and later a publisher.



In Toronto Canada? Here is a few sites to check out:

https://www.dreamerswriting.com/creative/canadian-writing-conferences/

https://torontowritingworkshop.com/

https://festivalofauthors.ca/

The Lilith Bloodstone Omnibus Anthology

Greetings Dark Fantasy / Heroic Fantasy Readers!

The Lilith Bloodstone Omnibus anthology is now available for pre-order. Purchase the paperback for $8.99 USD and get the ebook for an extra 99 cents using Amazon Matchbook. This way you get BOTH the paperback and the ebook for just $9.98.

This omnibus anthology collection includes 9 short stories of heroic dark fantasy featuring Lilith Bloodstone, an intrepid young wizard who works to rid the world of undead and demons by hunting them down one by one. Included in this volume are:

  1. The Black Rose
  2. Rise of the Red Moon
  3. The Baby & the Village
  4. One to be Reckoned With
  5. The Night of the Dead
  6. On Death's Door
  7. The Emissary of Darkness
  8. The Astral Plane
  9. Out for Blood

Pre-order now to get your copy by August 1st.

Paperback $8.99
https://www.amazon.com/dp/1081864583

Ebook $9.99
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07VJB4WJF


And in related news, one of my other books, "The Assassin's Trail", featuring my axe and longbow wielding heroic fantasy hero Wrathgar is also currently available on both paperback and ebook. You can learn more about my other books that are available by visiting fiction.charlesmoffat.com

Paperback $7.99
https://www.amazon.com/dp/1095788663

Ebook $2.99
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B007L2LGTE


Is Writing a Trilogy a Good Idea?

Fun Fact - When making a movie trilogy, they are often not well received.

Below is a measurement of how well received various movies were within their respective movie trilogies.


So clearly, when it comes to movies at least, not all movie trilogies are a big success.

While the first film was a great success, the 2nd and 3rd films of The Matrix, Jurassic Park, Jaws, Planet of the Apes, and Batman were notably sub-par (below 50% on the meter). That is 5 out of 21 film franchises which are considered to be quite famous.

Meanwhile sometimes film franchises can have good showings in parts 1 and 2, and then be really poor in part 3. Superman, X-Men, Spider-Man, Blade, Godfather, Terminator and Alien all suffered from this. 7 out of 21. 33.33%.

A few stats...

23.81% of popular trilogies have 2nd and 3rd films which did poorly.

33.33% of them have a 3rd film which did poorly.

There is a 48% chance the 1st part of the trilogy will be best part.

There is a 48% chance the 2nd part of the trilogy will be best part.

There is only a 4% chance the 3rd part will be the best or equally as good as the previous films.

There is a 67% chance the 3rd part will be the worst part of the franchise.

There is a 52% chance the 3rd part damages the reputation of the trilogy franchise, causing it to possibly end.

So...

Knowing all of this, why would screen writers and movie producers bother to make a 3rd film?

Perhaps trilogies are not such a great idea after all, because even when you do make a "profitable film trilogy", the 2nd and 3rd parts of the trilogy so often are horrible.

It is a bit of a gamble to make a film trilogy where all 3 parts are considered to be great (or at least above par).

  • Star Wars
  • Indiana Jones
  • Star Trek
  • Lord of the Rings
  • Mad Max
  • Back to the Future
  • Die Hard
  • Rocky
  • Rambo

9 out of 21. 42.85%. Back to the Future and Rambo barely fit in to this category of "successful winners".

So it makes me wonder. Perhaps the best way is to only write 2 films worth of material. A first part and a second part. A beginning and an end.

Imagine if Blade had only been a 2 film franchise. Ended on a high note. X-Men, The Godfather, Terminator, Alien and other movie franchises could have done this too. Just make the two films and stop there.

Unfortunately, this also comes back to money. Many of these film franchises, despite having a shoddy 3rd film, also made oodles of cash by having a 3rd film.

So it does make financial sense, usually, to make a 3rd film. Even if the film bombs critically they usually make a tonne of money in the box office.

The 3rd Godfather film is the biggest loser on the list.

It cost $54 million to make.
It made $$66.6 million at the box office - and more later in VHS, DVD and BluRay sales.

So despite being the worst film on the chart above, it still broke even financially and later earned more money in VHS, DVD and BluRay sales, plus any other royalties.

SO WHAT ABOUT BOOK AUTHORS

Writing a book trilogy is a different matter. It is a very different market. Writing only 2 books in a series is very rare. Trilogies are the most popular format when it comes to writing a series of books.

Thus trilogies make good sense financially for writers. You get the readers hooked on Book 1 and then sell them Books 2 and 3.

After they've become better as writers they could even try selling a whole series of 5, 7 or more books. Ideally live longer to finish the series, unlike some writers who died before they could finish it.

Where problems can arise is when movie producers step in and wand to turn a book trilogy into a movie trilogy. Mistakes are made and the films can often do poorly, damaging the writer's career.

A writer being offered a juicy movie contract should consider all their options and keep in mind the following issues:

#1. Even if the writer gets paid, the movie producers might just sit on the movie rights and never make the films.
#2. The writer definitely wants a contingency so that they get paid even if the film doesn't get made.
#3. Ideally they should have contingency for what happens if they do make the films. Does the writer get a share of any profits?
#4. Are they paying the writer a consulting fee to make sure the film is good and accurate?
#5. How much is that consulting fee? Salary? Hourly Rate?
#6. Do the film rights go back to the author after X number of years so they can sell the film rights to someone else?

Many writers would be happy just to be approached about selling their film rights, but they should always be wary and cautious. You wouldn't want to do what some authors did and sell them to a company who barely know how to make a film, let alone make a good film.

List of Fantasy Book Reviewers

Meaningless Existential Image
A friend sent me this list (see below) of people who do fantasy book reviews. I might use it in the future, but for now I thought I would share it as it does look like an useful list that other fantasy writers (and readers) might use.

I assume that some of these reviewers are free and that some charge a fee for their services. I have no idea which is which. You would need to contact them to find out.

The various reviewers have their different preferred methods of being contacted, and the list is organized by their preferred method: Email, Twitter, Site Form.

If you know of other fantasy book reviewers, please post them in the comments section.


Reviewer

Email

Maria Harrison Maria.Harrison.CPA@gmail.com
Stephanie Pomfrett stephanie.pomfrett@gmail.com
Julia itsowlsreads@gmail.com  
Chelle chellesbookrambling@gmail.com
Satthiya Kandi vithragurl@hotmail.com
Shannanigans shanannigans.readsandreels@gmail.com
James R. Schmidt mightythorjrs@gmail.com  
Kerry Parsons bellaboobos11@outlook.com  
Susan Keefe bookreviewersusankeefe@aol.com
Larissa bookbosomedblonde@hotmail.com  
Rose darkrose04@gmail.com
Fantasy Book Review submissions@fantasybookreview.co.uk
B.B. Morgan BBMorgan16@gmail.com
tcr.request@gmail.com

muse@fantasy-muse.com

hinesandbigham@gmail.com
Jason P Crawford jnewmanwriting@gmail.com 
Big Al BooksAndPals@yahoo.com
Courtney Dion solacecai@gmail.com
Andi and Melanie fangfreakintastic@gmail.com
David J Garrett david@davidjgarrett.com
Amanda-Elizabeth Abend thewandererlitjournal@gmail.com
Aly Alysiaur26@gmail.com
Elena Linville elorenalory@gmail.com

booksontheknob@gmail.com
Anela amidtheimaginary@gmail.com
Craig all.hail.king.sparrky@gmail.com
Jim McCoy thatjimboguy@gmail.com
British Fantasy Society bfsjournal@britishfantasysociety.org
SciFiChick angela@scifichick.com
Fantasy Book Cafe kristen@fantasybookcafe.com
The Bewitched Reader addictedbookslover@gmail.com
Queen of Books portia.bro@gmail.com
Way Too Fantasy theunicornblues@gmail.com
Nadaness in Motion nadanessinmotion@gmail.com
Jeyran Main jeyranmain@gmail.com
Bookshine and Readbows bookshineandreadbows@outlook.com
Rather Too Fond of Books rathertoofondofbooks@gmail.com
Functionally Fictional functionallyfictional@gmail.com
Jessica Belmont authorjessicabelmont@gmail.com
Lauren Reading Writing and Me eadingwritingandme@gmail.com
Luna’s Little Library lunaslittlelibrary@gmail.com
Claire Knight aknightsreads@gmail.com
Lorna ljwrites85@gmail.com
Lizzie Manning LizzieBeth1095@sbcglobal.net
Sam Sattler samhouston23@gmail.com
Toni darkreads.blog@gmail.com


LIST OF REVIEWERS WHO PREFER TO BE CONTACTED VIA TWITTER

  1. Lys
  2. Rae

LIST OF REVIEWERS WHO PREFER TO BE CONTACTED VIA A FORM ON THEIR SITE

  1. Alysa
  2. Kayleigh
  3. TheGirlOnTheGo
  4. Colleen Chesebro
  5. John Mendez
  6. Alice
  7. Jessica
  8. Russell J Fellows
  9. Nell and Ivana
  10. Barbara
  11. A. Aaron
  12. Charlotte Maidment
  13. Evelyn Rainey
  14. JC Steel
  15. Allie Summer
  16. Various
  17. Brogan
  18. Derek Edgington
  19. Charlotte Maidment
  20. Barb Taub
  21. Bob Milne
  22. Dawn West
  23. CE Clayton
  24. Jacob Rundle
  25. The Fantasy Hive
  26. Fantasy Faction
  27. Readers Favorite
  28. SFF World
  29. Best Fantasy Book Series
  30. The Genre Minx
  31. Chris Pridmore
  32. The Strawberry Post
  33. The Most Sublime
  34. GripLitGirl
  35. Unseen Library
  36. Scary Mary
  37. Rose Point
  38. Book Fetish Site
  39. Allisa White
  40. Laura Buckley
  41. The Caffeinated Reader
  42. GirlMeetsBooks
  43. Sarah Lillian
  44. Bookish Whispers (Kayla)
  45. Amanda Christina
  46. On My Bookshelf
  47. Bibi
  48. Abigail
  49. Herminia
  50. Emma SCR
  51. Tasha and Megan
  52. Darlene
  53. Umut
  54. Hold Up In A Book
  55. Elizabeth – Booktube
  56. April Grace – Booktube
  57. Cal Turner
  58. Clair
  59. Anniek
  60. Celthric
  61. Wendy
  62. Christi
  63. Mehsi
  64. Whiskey Witt
  65. Verushka
  66. Ashley Bookish Realm

Jean Grey is a Horrible Character and Hollywood is Clueless

After the failure of X3 I would have thought scriptwriters in Hollywood would have learned their lesson: Jean Grey is kind of a boring character because her personality is so flat.

But no, they decided to try again for another film, following the same idiotic formula wherein she remains a flat 2-dimensional character.

So much emphasis is placed on her powers and her love interest(s), they always forget to develop her personality.

Oh and the producers... they conveniently forget about other female characters like Rogue who were historically more popular. Rogue was the focus of the very first X-Men film, but since then has been cut out despite being a fan favourite amongst comic book fans. Jean as a character was never particularly popular. The phoenix force was basically a crutch to make her character more interesting. You see this regularly with YA fiction... whenever a character is too boring writers just give the character a special ability to make them more interesting.
 
 
 
 
It is the reason why you see OP (over-powered) characters so much in the genre. The character is boring so the solution is to make them OP.

Oh and to give them a love triangle. Back in X3 it was the Jean-Scott-Wolverine love triangle that they tried to use, but they did a disappearing act on Scott early in the film so the love triangle bit became more one sided and fell flat.

So without the love triangle crutch and the dark phoenix crutch, what does Jean Grey have going for her? What is her personality? How does she grow as a character? Sadly her character is flat and there isn't much character growth, so is there any surprise the new Dark Phoenix film falls flat in the box office?
 
Dark Phoenix's Domestic Total as of Jun. 11, 2019: $39,190,534. Foreign: $103,743,621.

So $142,934,155... On a film that cost over $200 million to make. They are going to be lucky if they break even.

I am not surprised. It is the same shoddy writing they keep making to suck in teenagers, not realizing that the fans of the X-Men are mostly people in their 30s-40s-50s who grew up with the comic books.

So the producers have made a second error. They have forgotten who their real audience is. They should not be targeting teenagers. They should be targeting people in their 30s to 50s. This effects both how to write the story as a more mature story, but also how to market it to a specific audience.

Yes, X-Men is primarily about teenagers... but the fans of the X-Men are older. Younger audiences (teens and young adults) don't care about X-Men as much. The younger audience has already moved on to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and when competing against the MCU Avengers it is pretty obvious who is going to win.

Solution? This film might be the final nail in the coffin for the Fox owned X-Men Franchise... but there is good news. Disney bought them out. The whole franchise can be rebooted within the MCU five years from now. (We might finally get to see Wolverine and the Hulk working as a team.)
 
 
Hot Tip for any future actresses being asked to portray Jean Grey. Your contract should specifically state that there is no way in hell you will appear in any film portraying a 3rd version of Dark Phoenix. Hollywood should just give it a rest. The character is a flop regardless of whether you put a former Bond Girl in the role or whether you hire a former Game of Thrones star.

Fantasy Maps Vs Characters

I recently read the following post arguing about why characters in a fantasy book should rarely ever have a map of the region they are in, during which they make some valid points.

https://www.tor.com/2019/05/28/fantasy-maps-dont-belong-in-the-hands-of-fantasy-characters/


However there are exceptions.

#1. What if the character is a cartographer or navigator aboard a ship?
#2. What if the character is an explorer?
#3. What if the characters are discussing war preparations and need a map so they know how far away things are relative to each other?

And there are certainly more exceptions. A merchant for example might need a map to prevent getting lost when traveling through lands they are unfamiliar with.

Indeed the map could even play a central role in the plot, like in the case of a map to buried treasure.

The map could even be a magical artifact that allows people to teleport to a location of their choosing.

Or it could be a non-magical map which shows the locations of portals, artifacts or other items.

My point is that there are plenty of exceptions to why characters might need or desire a map of the region.

Now in fantasy video games it is a totally different matter... The map serves to help guide the player through the game to specific cities and regions for the player to explore.

And such a map might play an important role in the upcoming Witcher show on Netflix.

Below: Witcher 3 Wild Hunt World Map


One of my favourite maps from video games is the map from Kingdom Come Deliverance, which shows the relatively small region of Bohemia from the video game, but shows it in great detail. Plus the game itself is highly detailed and realistic, with some of the best graphics I have ever seen in any game, plus realistic swordplay and archery. I am definitely a fan.


The Silly Tropes of Bad Fantasy Writing


The Too Convenient Special Ability Trope

I blame the writers who write this nonsense. How can they sleep at night repeating the same tired tropes?

Giving a character special abilities right at the beginning, without having earned them, is far too convenient.

To me a hero's journey should be hard. It should be filled with challenges, some of which they fail at. If they are getting better at something it is because of months or years of practice/failure, and they should never be the equal or greater to any powerful villain(s) who has spent years or decades honing their skills.

It should never be the hero wakes up one day, discovers they have magical powers s/he never knew they had, and then masters their abilities in a few days/weeks/months. I have seen this trope in so many books, usually books aimed at young women, and it is utterly too convenient.

That doesn't mean it is just female lead characters either. Harry Potter also goes through this trope. He suddenly discovers he is a wizard, enters a secret alleyway, a secret train station, and goes to a secret school for wizards. Convenient? I haven't got to the part where he gains an extra powerful wand, is gifted an invisibility cloak, and is just conveniently really good on a broom. See? All too convenient. He even defeats the baddie at the end of Book 1 by simply touching him. Didn't even know he had that power. He just touches the baddie and the baddie ends up doing his impression of the Wicked Witch of the West melting.

Often the convenient hero also operates on a fate based plot... boring. So boring. Again, Harry Potter is guilty of this too, because of the whole prophecy thing. So basically he is fated to defeat Voldemort.
 
So why is this trope boring? Because you already know the ending. Once you learn that the hero is fated / prophesized to beat the villain, then it is now a foregone conclusion. You already know the ending. There wasn't really any surprise when Harry Potter finally defeats Voldemort in Book 7. That was the only possible ending.
 
At least Harry Potter had to go through 6 years of school before he was ready to face Voldemort, so at least his hero's journey was measured in years.

Instead in this trope what you often see is the following:
 
  1. Hero discovers they are special.
  2. Hero meets villain, magically survives the encounter.
  3. Hero masters their special ability in a very short period of time.
  4. Hero defeats villain in the 3rd act.
  5. The end.

So the hero somehow masters their special abilities in a short period of time and then defeats the main villain in Act 3, a person who has spent years or decades mastering their own abilities. Boring and unrealistic.

So how do you change this?

For starters, stop giving the hero special abilities.

Also don't give them a magical sword/etc when they first start out. (See the next trope further below.)

Example...

Years ago I wrote a book wherein the lead character is a half-demon. Guess what powers she got? None. She had absolutely no magical powers. She didn't even know she had half-demon blood. Her blood plays a role in the plot, but it has zero effect on her abilities. She is otherwise a normal human.

Now she does start with a sword that is reasonably well made, but it isn't magical. It is just a sword.

A plain hero with a plain sword. No powers. No magic.

That means she has to survive based on her skills and wits. Problem solving her way through dangers and challenges, not just blasting her way through problems with newfound magical abilities.
 
She also befriends some allies along the way, which also helps.

That makes a much more interesting story, in my opinion.
 
And because I follow the "Die Hard" approach to heroism, I believe my heroes should bleed. A lot. They should get injured and bleed. All sorts of things happen to them. I don't have them crawling through broken glass or air ducts, but the principle is there. If they are going to survive then they need to earn it.
 
And that to me is heroic. The hero who has no special abilities but is determined to survive and save the day. That is why John McClane is such a classic hero, precisely because he is an average joe type character who refuses to give up. (Now you might think, wait, if he is a classic, doesn't that make him a trope? No. A trope is overused and unremarkable because it has been done before, often poorly. A classic is memorable because it is done well and the storyteller knew what they were doing.)


 
The Too Convenient Magical Item Trope
 
Ever read a book where the hero finds a super powerful magical weapon in the first three chapters? Like Arthur pulling the sword out of the stone? Or Harry Potter gaining his extra powerful wand and later his invisibility cloak? Or Bilbo Baggins (or Frodo Baggins) gaining a magical sword and an invisibility ring?

This is another trope that bothers me.

Bilbo at least had to wait longer before he gained a magical sword and ring, Frodo didn't have to wait at all. He inherited both of them from Bilbo close to the beginning of LOTR.

I don't have a problem with characters gaining magical items later in the story, like halfway through the book or near the end, but right at the beginning is awfully convenient.
 
To me the trope of gaining a magical item at the beginning of the book is almost as bad as the hero discovering they have a special ability. Both are far too convenient.

If a hero gains objects or items along the way, they should be more mundane until at least halfway through the book.
 
Sometimes the item might not even usable by the hero, but perhaps goes to a lesser character, or worse, a villain gains possession of the item.
 
I did this several months ago when I was re-writing an upcoming novel. One of the lesser characters gained a magical item close to the halfway point in the book. It was a weapon the main character wasn't particularly skilled with, so it made sense the person who knew how to use it properly should get it.
 
And see? Isn't that more realistic?
 
The characters have skills, and often also lack certain skills. My main character didn't know how to use the weapon in question, but one of his companions not only knew how to use it, but was able to use it well.
 
That makes good logical sense after all. Not every magical item our hero finds he should automatically be able to use properly. Indeed, most weapons he finds should be alien to him. Does he know how to use a horseman's flail? Nope. Not a clue. A glaive? Nope, never even seen one.
 
It is one thing for a hero to pick up a sword and use it, a sword is still a sword after all. But that doesn't mean he is skilled with it. A fencer trained with epees should not be able to use a katana with the same measure of skill. They are two very different swords.

If the hero was skilled in a specific weapon, like harpoons, wouldn't it be awfully convenient if they just found a magical harpoon when they were not expecting to? It makes no sense.

And if you're like "But he was destined to find it!" then you are missing the whole point. Destiny and fate are also too convenient.


Conclusions and Exceptions

Fables and fairy tales. That is where these tropes belong.

If a writer wants to write using these tropes, they can still do so, but they should focus more specifically on writing fables, fairy tales and similar storytelling methods. Something similar to the Princess Bride would be okay too, as that is a swashbuckling fantasy/romance/comedy and comedies can certainly take advantage of silly tropes.

Because that is what they are. Silly.

So lets amend that list: Fables, fairy tales and comedies. That is where silly tropes belong.

And any writer who is writing a "fantasy romance" using the above tropes should be reminded that their book is a dime a dozen on Amazon, which has been flooded with fantasy romances so that their book does not stand out in the thousands of books with the same basic plot I mentioned further above with the following changes.

  1. Heroine discovers they are special.
  2. Heroine meets Boy #1.
  3. Heroine meets villain, magically survives the encounter.
  4. Heroine meets Boy #2. Love triangle ensues.
  5. Heroine masters their special ability in a very short period of time.
  6. Heroine defeats villain in the 3rd act.
  7. Love triangle ends somehow. One of the boys becomes a villain or dies. The other one later marries the heroine.
  8. The end.

There are literally thousands or tens of thousands of self-published books on Amazon with that same basic plot, all aimed at young women. (And you can often buy them for free due to promo deals. I know, I have gained quite a few for free and then discovered it was another poorly written love triangle disguised as a fantasy.)

Seriously, someone could use this plot, but make it a comedy and it would be so much better.

They could call it "Revenge of the Glitter Vampires" or something similar. Make it clear from the very beginning that it is a comedy. They could give ALL the vampires their own magical swords, so that they are all special in their own special way.

You know how in school these days kids are told that they are all special? All of them are special. Every one. I wonder if that social conditioning played a role in the desire for these young writers to want their main character to be "special" too? So is it millennials and centennials who are to blame for this trope? Quite possibly.

In contrast I was born in the 70s and went through the 80s and 90s. We learned the hard way that if you wanted to be special, you had to earn it. You have to strive for it. Nobody is going to hand you special abilities on a golden platter. You need to have a work ethic and a willingness to hone your craft.

Good night!

Study Archery in Toronto

So you want to study archery, but you are having difficulty finding an archery instructor who is local. However there is a solution. If you are willing to travel you can take a crash course in archery in Toronto, Canada. 10 lessons over a two week period will take you from archery novice to an experienced and capable archer.

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