Where to Start?

I’m embarrassed to tell you exactly what hooked me into writing fantasy.

Embarrassed because, in retrospect, it’s shameful. Most writers will tell you immediately that they were turned by Tolkien, or someone very similar. While I feel such a start has it’s disadvantages, it’s definitely based in literature. And that’s good.

Because I got my start with J-RPG’s. Please, please don’t stop reading. I know, I said it and I’m sorry. I should’ve warned you. Well, warned you more. I just thought it was best to come out with it.

But it occurs to me that you may not know what “J-RPG” means and that’s great. Hold on to that. First,

Disclaimer: I’m not in any way married to the visual or narrative style of J-RPG’s. In no way is my writing just a vessel for convoluted plots that revolve around progressively larger weapons and star extremely pretty, teen characters with unfathomable hair.

That said, “J-RPG” stands for “Japanese role-playing game”, a genre of video games that’s only different from manga in two ways:

1. Manga is more often not set in fantasy worlds.

2. You can play J-RPG’s.

This poses an interesting question, I bet: How does such a start lead to a credible career as an American fantasy author? Alone, I would say it doesn’t. But following it up with plenty of sci-fi and fantasy literature creates a different perspective on things.

Yes, it is a bit embarrassing to have begun with J-RPG’s, but I often feel now that if I hadn’t, I’d be writing about orcs. The heroes in my stories would inevitably run into old mages who would send them on a 400 page long horseback journey. Not – and I stress – not that those things are terrible; dragons for example, are awesome, and someone like Brandon Sanderson can blow your mind with their approaches to magic. However, a basis in J-RPG’s can put everything on an interesting slant. Do there need to be dragons? Does there need to be that old wizard? Does my hero have to have a special power only he can pull off? But also, conversely, with tempering from American fantasy, do my characters all need unfathomable hair?

And, of course, such questions lead to more questions. Does my hero always have to win, unharmed? If my hero and his entourage win, will they be happy? Is it more believable for love to come out of nowhere or for it to, perhaps, be something my characters can – and do – miss?

The end result of all of this questioning and tempering is necessary, I think. At least it is to the kind of author I want to be. A different author, with the kind of style and visual artistry you would find in… oh… let’s say this picture.

Here, Ayami Kojima has rendered a stunning Alucard as he was in Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. Notice that he’s not simply wearing a doublet.

Now, this kind of style and a more serious, realistic tone?

Come on. You know you want it.

Starting a War

A Different Experience

From the beginning, my approach to story telling has been grounded in a desire to give readers something fresh. But I realized early on that different experiences go further for making stories fantastic than different worlds do; a novel set in a world full of dwarves, elves, and orcs gains strength from it’s familiarity and accessibility, no doubt, but it fails to be intriguing if the three races are engaging in another war for another magical relic, or fighting the same evil from the North.

How does this relate to War of Exiles? Simple – this first novel was a side project. Before, behind, and after it, I’ll be working on my masterpiece. However, I needed something to kick start my career – a debut that’s both familiar in appearance but truly fantastic in narrative. I believe Exiles achieves this. With deep characters, the unique, exiled setting of Ashiaden, and an interesting twist on the traditional quest narrative, War of Exiles gives readers something unexpected – a different experience.

A Different World

“And somewhere, in a direction he couldn’t discern and a distance he couldn’t fathom, there was a wasted continent where someone from his long-forgotten lineage had laughed, cried, fought, and at some point sacrificed themselves to ensure that his grandparents or their parents escaped, lived, and carried on the bloodline that eventually ended with him.”

I can’t boast that Ashiaden will be visually new and breath-taking. There will be barbarians – the Baerlungs. There will be short men somewhere far away who make weapons and tools that run on steam – the Steiners. There will be druids who can shape nature – the Ceudin. But these will not be orcs, dwarves, and elves. They are Ashiads, all human – their differences cultural, not racial – with a lineage that falls back to the unifying event of their exile.

About 300 years before the novel starts, the exiles touched down at Ash Landing. Having escaped the fall of an empire, the refugees settled there or escaped South, East, and North, only certain that this new land would be called Ashiaden, “ash home” in the Old Tongue, as the elders claimed. Centuries later, villages have expanded and fortified, but unified systems of law and rule have yet to be established. Baerlungs raid towns and rob weary travelers, bandits and the native creatures called Lessermen do the same, and the strongest bit of the Old Continent’s Magic exists only in Necromancy. Travel is dangerous, travelers rare – save for bards, who gain fortune from selling information whether through story or song and in truth or fabrication, and merchants foolish enough to gamble abroad.

Among the cities on this island is New Dawn, where the novel’s protagonist, Lethe Dega, is born. An austere rock just off the coast of the mainland, the veritable island fortress is as closed as any other city of Ashiaden, and kept that way by the sects of Sentinel and Rider.

Different Characters

Traditional character types are offset by unique personal situations. Lethe Dega, a Sentinel of New Dawn, is driven to rid Ashaiden of necromancers, despite how deeply it affects his relationship with his family – an already tenuous bond. Etalen, a druid of Clan Terra, finally decides to put her life on the line if it means she can escape her family’s intent to let her dwindle into obscurity. Semacien, one of the island’s bards, seeks a story he can live off of for years to come. And all of them and others grow and change  in ways that the strapping hero, plucky rogue, and wise old mage would not.

A Different Quest

Without saying too much, the adventure of War of Exiles takes a different approach that I’m sure will intrigue readers easily. When I decided to start off with a more traditional, familiar story, I knew that I couldn’t give my readers an adventure that spent hours on the road. Although authors like Robert Jordan and Garth Nix do well with such quests, I’d already heard enough of them that I couldn’t be satisfied giving another to my audience.

So instead, I looked at all the ways you could do a quest narrative without doing a quest narrative. In the end, I found an answer that could suit my needs, serve the plot, and give readers something unexpected, unfamiliar – different.

110%

I thought I’d start the day with a Word Press blog. And man, what a day it’s been, sitting at the computer, cycling through page after page of 110% confusion.

It’ll take some time, but I’m going to get a site for my writing career up and running or my name isn’t Louis Santiago.

Which it isn’t, actually. But–I mean–well… I’m gonna do it!