Battle Tactics: Wargaming, Warbeasts, and Five Simple Considerations

One of the reasons that I turn critical eye towards the battle scenes in Fantasy novels is that I really enjoy wargaming. Wargaming is a tabletop game where each player fields a little army and attempts to overcome the other in battle. My game of choice at the moment is Warmachine/Hordes by privateer press. Hordes is especially fun with the giant warbeasts having this Pokemon meets Heavy Metal Magazine feeling to them. I enjoy painting and assembling the little figures; I find the craft aspect very relaxing. It also takes me away from the computer, which is very important when I am deep in revisions and spend almost all of available time glued to the keyboard.

A Draconic Warbeast from Hordes (A wargame from Privateer Press)

Playing wargames gives you a sense of strange and exotic tactics. History and actual military theory give a better understanding of warfare, logistics, and tactics but wargaming puts you in the commanders chair and lets you game the outcome of your choices. It is an interesting experience. I feel it is one of the best ways for a Fantasy writer to experiment with introducing new elements to the battlefields and seeing how they could effect the tactics and outcomes of battles in your written work. Here are a few ways wargaming can help you understand how Fantasy elements can change warfare.

1) Exotic Powers = Exotic Tactics: Each wargame has a set of rules. Players will try to exploit the rules to maximize their advantages, often pulling off strange and amusing manoeuvres to give them an advantage over their opponent. In realistic wargames these exploits are often very close to real tactics. Snipers try to find vantage points that dominate the battle and so on. The moment you add unusual abilities to a wargame you start to see unusual tactics develop around those abilities and how players try to counter them. In Warmachine/Hordes several armies can harvest the souls of dead allies/enemies which can lead to all sorts of strange denial games where a players try to position soul collectors to maximize gain, deny the enemy, and so on. It adds an interesting level of detail, especially watching how others might exploit the element you introduce.

2) Visualization: Setting up a little army and gaming out your new fantasy element, be it a strange spell or wierd creature in the battle helps give you better a sense of the impact it might have.

3) Creating Consistency and Definition: Describing a fantasy element in such a way that the reader is enticed is good. However, it is also important to define how the element works and be consistent in your uses of it. If a magical sword can cut through a steel door in one scene and bounces off a shield in another, you might have some explaining to do. Wargaming forces you to create rules for your creation which will give it more definition in your mind.

If I wanted to see how a giant with an aura that freezes everything around it might effect warfare I would first write up a brief description of this creature and its powers. Then I would check and see if Warmachine/Hordes had a figure with similar powers. It turns out the Trollbloods army has a Winter Troll that has a set of abilities similar to what I’m looking for. Enemies that get too close to or strike  the Winter Troll can become frozen. Its a good starting point. Sadly the WinterTroll does not quite seem large or powerful enough to represent a mighty colossus striding the battlefield. So I take the powers of the Frost troll and tack them on to the stats of a bigger, stronger model like Mulg the Ancient, a gigantic troll (removing some of Mulg’s powers as I see fit). I can then fool around with my creation in a game I am familiar with and see how it distorts the battle field and how people react to it.

Frost Troll from Hordes Trollblood army

Mulg from Hordes Trollblood army

But I recognize that you might not wargame. In truth I just wanted to chat about one of my hobbies and litter my blog with cool pictures. So here are a simple set of considerations that I use when introducing a Fantasy Element to warfare. I will use Dragons as an example, to illustrate each consideration.

1) Power: how dominant is the element you have introduced. Power is the easiest consideration for a writer. You generally know how powerful you want the element to be or can get an idea of the power by sitting down and dissecting you descriptions of it. Keep in mind that power is relative. The power level of some fantasy elements are subtler than others. Summoning fog might seem like a weak power compare to throwing fireballs, but quite a few battles have been won by armies that use fog to ambush or gain a position advantage over their enemies.

In most fantasy worlds Dragons are extremely powerful. They have fiery breath that can kill many men. They have thick scales that make them hard to hurt. They are huge and strong. They can fly, which gives them a mobility advantage. Yeah, definitely powerful. If introduced to a medieval setting, the Dragon would dominate.

2) Versatility: Versatility is a little trickier than power. Does the element you are introducing offer a wide array of possibilities and advantages?

Dragons are fairly versatile. They offer advantages in mobility as well as brute power. The can act as mounts for other creatures. Most Fantasy dragons are intelligent as well, which is another form of versatility. They offer significant advantages in attack, scouting, transportation, and several options rarely seen in other units in a basic medieval battlefield. Having a wider variety of Dragons or Dragons that can use magic would increase the versatility consideration of this element.

3) Rarity: is it common, unique, or somewhere in between. If an element is rare in your world, people are less likely to be able to identify or react to it, or might just not consider it worthwhile. If an element is rare, it could mean that only one side of a conflict has access to  it. If it is common then everyone will know its weaknesses and are more likely to prepare for it.

Dragons are usually fairly rare. I could decide to make them common through breeding programs or even make it so than only one nation controls them. If the were too common then I would have to come up with a reason why they don’t displace all the races in my world with their scaly magnificence.

4) Limitations: Does the element you introduce have any significant weaknesses, drawbacks, vulnerabilities or anything else that might limit it.

Dragons are usually greedy and paranoid, which makes them less likely to band together. If their greed is compulsive, it might make finding allies difficult. They are large, so might have trouble getting into small areas and require lots of food which may lend new significance to supply lines or even create atrocities as they feed on enemy soldiers. A low birthrate might make them paranoid about dying. 

5) Reactions: This is the most difficult and most important consideration. How will everyone react to the element? If an element is extremely rare, people might not even bother to prepare for it. However if it is both powerful and fairly common it will warp the battlefield. Things to consider are weapons designed to overcome strengths or exploit weaknesses, how fortifications and supply are effected, and what sort of tactics will take advantage of the element or be used against it.

Since Dragons can fly, missile weapons are a good answer to them. Heavier missile weapons would be required to get through their heavy armour. Wings might be especially vulnerable to ballista shots and such. Since Dragons are huge, breathe fire, and fly Fortifications designed to counter them would have to be stronger, flame resistant, and have some form of aerial defence. Dragons are great at raiding supply lines, but also require a fair bit of food, this could become important elements in your battles. 

Bonus: Interactions (Combos!) Consider how will one element change another or enhance another.

Gunpowder is explodes when exposed to fire. Dragons breathe fire. This means that cannons are vulnerable to dragon attacks. It could also lead to all sorts of shennanigans with Dragon riders dropping powder bombs for the Dragons to light up.

These are just some simple guidelines. In the end them important thing is to sit down and consider how each element could change the battlefield and how the principle actors that you have created with act and react in accordance with that.

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Logistics in Strange Worlds

“Lembas. Elvish waybread. One small bite is enough to fill the stomach of a grown man.” – J R R Tolkien.

My sister works in the Canadian North, a defence attorney on circuit around the vast, rugged territory of Nunavut, which encompasses some of the coldest, roughest, and most remote places in our land. This week, as she ventured out on a new circuit for the first time, she ran into a cascading series of travel issues that resulted in her being late to court, missing baggage and clothes, and then stranded in a the small community of Gjoa Haven. While she was there she reflected on how different the inconveniences of travel made life in the North, especially for permanent residents. Here is an excerpt from her ruminations:

“In the South (In this case she is referring to southern Canada, Ontario to be exact), we have so much choice. So much cheap and abundant choice about just about everything, from where we shop to who we have as our dentists to how we wish to travel; plane train, or automobile. When I lived in Ontario, I lived in a small town called Shedden, west of London Ontario and more than 200 km from Crieff, where my parents live. To get home, I turned right on the 401 and then right again on Hwy 6 South. It took me about an hour and a half on good day, less on a really good day. I could pursue my profession where I wanted and still see my parents and grandparents regularly, all thanks to the ease and low cost of travel in the South.” – Deanna Harris.

This got me to thinking. Travel is something we take for granted in modern day, but often serves as a plot device and an integral part of world-building in Science Fiction and Fantasy. Magical and mundane methods of travel that differ from our can drastically alter the feel of a setting. If a science fiction setting does not include some method of faster-than-light travel then it will limit the size of any Galactic empires. Here are a few logistical considerations that I think are key in world-building.

1) Speed — How far can a person travel in an hour/day/month/year? This is perhaps the most important travel question in any setting. Towns and inns will often be set up along major routes at intervals based on a day’s travel by the dominant method of travel (or the dominant method of travel when they were founded) and where major routes cross. If you have instantaneous travel like warp-gates or planar portals you can bet your bottom dollar that the dominant powers will build some form of post to control travel there, if only to prevent their enemies from catching them by surprise. Even road quality can make a difference: the Roman Legions were able to exert control over such a large area partly because travel within the Empire was made easier and faster by their roads. These roads also encouraged trade because they were safe and faster than dirt paths. The legions were also disciplined enough to march for long periods which allows them to cover a much greater distance during the day than most armies at the time. Speed is essential to any narrative involves a lot of travel. If travel is slower it means that rare resources from distant places command even higher prices from those who need them. Slower travel also means greater regional variation between dialects, languages, and culture. It makes central education and control harder as well.

2) Cargo — A ship might be slower than a horse, and even have to take an indirect route to get to a particular destination, but it can carry a hell of a lot more. This obviously matters a great deal for trade. Extensive trade systems involve moving massive quantities of goods. In areas where ships are impossible it might mean a need for massive caravans. Caravans carrying precious cargo attract raids and need guards and so on. In the Terminator, the titular character is unable to bring anything back into the past when he travels, which means he has to search for weapons and clothing immediately. Lack of cargo capacity can make a big difference in construction: it is hard to build a palace out of imported marble if you can’t bring it in by ship or some other form of bulk transport.

3) Fuel/Limitations — Gas stations are a ubiquitous sight in modern day. Expect something similar for whatever fuel is required by your dominant modes of transportation. Helium and Hydrogen stations for Dirigibles. Fueling stations for certain kinds of space ships. Fuel, as we can see with oil and gas, can become a plot point in an of itself in narratives with large scale conflicts. This is true even of muscle-powered travel where food is fuel. Fuel can limit travel on extended trips, especially into areas where provisions are hard to come by; even foot travelers will have to carry more food while vehicles rapidly become useless if no fuel is available. Cargo can make a big difference in this case, as can means variation. Brandon Sanderson does away with conventional logistics of large medieval armies in the Way of Kings, with certain types of mage being able to conjure food if they have an uncommon, but easily portable type of resource in the gem-hearts. Other limitations, like a need for a landing strip for a plane or the difficulty of a magic ritual can alter a method of travel, and how it changes the world, significantly. A steamship has different limitations than a sailing ship, and so on.

4) Knowledge/Exploration — It helps to know where you are going. In some cases a map or special can be more important than a method of travel in a story. Treasure maps, knowledge of where the next oasis is in the desert, and even hints of what exists where you are going can really effect logistics. Language barriers also effect travel and while their effects on world-building may be obvious on other levels, it is not often taken into account with travel and trade. Knowledge is something we take for granted in the modern day, even in our well-mapped fantasies, but it posed a real challenge to people moving beyond the thresholds of their homelands in the ancient worlds.

5) Means Variation — Different people have access to different methods of travel. If one group has access to a form of travel that others cannot match it can give them a tremendous advantage. This advantage can create Empires: think of British Sea power, Druids traveling between stone circles, or Dragon riders: their mobility is as much or more of an advantage than brute force because it allows them to leverage their assets over a much wider territory. Those with access to special forms of mobility will almost always be in the dominant classes, either because they can afford that rarer form of travel or because they can use it to gain power or wealth. Just think of the advantages that a man with access to a horse or cart-oxen would have in the old days over someone who did not. The navigators in Dune have tremendous power because they control much of the means of travel (though not the fuel)

6) Local Variation — Local variations in travel will change the way a specific place feels. A crossroads town that sees a lot of traffic will be more worldly than a mining town. A port will pick up some of the customs of the sea and attract faraway travelers.  You are unlikely to find a cosmopolitan place that is hard to travel to. Variation often depend on local resources. Terrain itself is the most important local variation. A desert is hard to traverse because of lack of food and water, as well as the difficulty of travelling on sand. Thus there are few cities in deep deserts. Mountains and swamps pose entirely different problems. In Science Fiction this often represented as planets/places that have access to space travel and those that do not. In Fantasy magic can make a difference as well, with magical barriers isolating communities or strange riding beasts that only live in one area. I was particularly enamoured of the Stiltwalkers in Morrowind, huge creatures that could traverse the island very quickly.

Other issues of logistics are equally important as the travel question, Middle-Earth or Westeros may be cool but we’d probably miss indoor plumbing after a while (Among other things). Crossing a desert or a mountain pass are rarely arduous in modern day, but can easily be the focal point of an entire book in a medieval fantasy setting.

1) Communications — is communication faster than travel? Instantaneous communication is still changing the modern world. The impact of being able to share information across vast distances is staggering when you think about it. If communications aren’t faster than travel methods it makes detecting invading armies more difficult, which leads to things like castles and stronghold to keep a permanent foothold in important territory. There are plenty of unusual methods of communication in fantasy and sci-fi each with their own quirks which influence the setting. Astropaths in 40k are living beacons that help guide ships and communicate over vast distances, but their rarity and the danger inherent in their powers inform the setting, making it isolated and grim.

2) Food and Weather — even if food is not the primary means of fuel, it is still a necessity in long distance travel. Water is an important consideration as well. Almost no cities were built away from convenient sources of food and water outside the modern era. Ease of travel has alleviated this, somewhat. Weather is another consideration for travel and local custom. In Europe, warfare was nearly impossible in the winter months, and “General Winter” is still credited with many victories even as recently as WWII.

In Bloodlust: A Gladiator’s Tale the Chosen have access to many unusual methods of transportation. Steamships, magically enhanced horses, and even airships make an appearance. These methods of travel, combined with sophisticated communications, allow the Chosen to rule over a vast Empire. Gladiators are forbidden from using most of these methods of travel and communication because of lessons learned in past rebellions, which means they often have to travel by foot. The fact that the Gladiators have to travel with Grey-Robes also serves as a limitation. The Gladiators often feel out of sync and isolated from the rest of their world, and the limitations on their communications and travel are as isolating as the walls around the Gladiator’s quarters which separate them from the rest of the Domains.

The same is true for individual Domains in some cases. Chosen Eudora prefers to keep her Domain wild, which makes it very different than the rest of the Empire, and far less inhabited. Chosen Moltar’s Domain is isolated by cultural barriers and laws as well as mountains, very easy for men and women to travel to, but sometimes hard to leave. Because of their mystical prowess many of the Chosen are able to build and maintain structures in places that others could not, such as Brightsand Halls, raised on stone pillars,  Chosen Giselle’s garden fortress in the desert.

Overall the citizens of the Domains have an easier time getting from one place to another. The roads are excellent, and winter only limits travel for normal people in a very few places. Magical roads, steamships, and well organized trade routes make travel within the Empire much easier than in the world outside. Trade is very important within the Domains, and regional variations are such that goods are moved about with great frequency. I’d rank it as close to 19th century real world, but with much closer to the classical age in terms of contact with the outside lands and cultures outside the Empire. Other factors that influence travel are the dangers of the taint and frequency of attacks in any border area. One of the flaws of the first Bloodlust book is that I should have had an ambush or attack to demonstrate the occasional dangers of travel off the beaten path. Next book I guess.

In the timeline I am writing about the Domains are slowly adopting new technologies as the magic of artifice becomes more and more available. The Chosen are long-lived, which I have decided acts as a general hindrance to adopting new technology. However, they are now on the cusp of a revolution in travel with Steamships and trains and so on becoming not only possible for individual Domains but adopted by the people of Krass. The main effect of this will be to make it easier for the Empire to expand. New methods of travel make for better ways of bringing power to bear at distant borders. Of course, a new Chosen will need to carve out their own territory…

Edit: I have no idea why I originally wrote Brian instead of Brandon… oops.

There’s Something About D&D

Now that I have published my first book, I feel obligated to check out other writers in the same genre. I have read quite a bit of fantasy, but I rarely payed any attention to the author’s blurbs. In fact, I often felt knowing too much about the author might prejudice my reading of their work as I look for clues about how their influences show up. However, as a novice writer I seek out other writers to trade information with, and so I have been paying more attention to the actual writers. It does make me enjoy reading a little bit less, due to my tendency to over-analyze, but I often gain valuable insight into my peers. This is how I discovered that the ranks of modern fantasy writers have been infiltrated by tabletop RPG players (I used the term D&D in the title for name recognition, most RPGs could fill in)

I wrote a little blurb a few months ago about how I noticed while reading the Dresden Files and Codex Alera that Jim Butcher was quite willing to show off his gaming influences (Dresden even joins a weekly tabletop game in book 4, Summer Knight). It turns out that a large number of prominent fantasy others are RPG players. They may not be serious Grognards, but they certainly know what a d20 is (shorthand for a twenty sided die). Here is a link to a video of several of the best and best-selling fantasy authors playing D&D. Apparently you can win a chance to play with some of them, as part of a charity effort. Myke Cole (One of the long suffering GMs in that game, author of the Shadow Ops series and a longtime D&D player, has an excellent post on what it was like be at that D&D game.

I was a little stunned when I first saw this. I’m not sure why. My first irrational, visceral thought was where the hell were all these people when I was was trying to set up my last game. I guess I’m not really used to the idea of Geek Chic yet.

On further reflection. Duh. It makes quite a bit of sense that people whose interest in fantasy led them to RPGs and vice versa are now writing, in ever increasing numbers. It makes even more sense that an author would trumpet this fact now that nerdy things are kind of cool (I call it geek chic). Also on reflection Ed Greenwood, Margaret Weis, Tracy Hickman, and Steven Erickson all have some RPG background, so really I should not have been that surprised. Maybe I just miss my Saturday night game.

I think tabletop RPGs are very good for focusing and developing your imagination. Here are some of the ways in which RPGs have influenced my writing.

1) Action scenes. Combat is inherently chaotic and hard to describe. In many traditional RPGs (like D&D) the focus of the largest chunk of rules is break that mess down into easy to manage chunks, resolve what is happening, and then weave it back into the larger narrative. Because of my tabletop RPG background (Which also including some miniatures games, Battletech, Legions of Steel, Warhammer 40K, and Hordes which are also great for combat) I find it much easier to keep track of what is going on in a fight scene. Given that my first book is about Gladiators, this has proven especially useful.

2) Magic Systems. RPG magic systems are often more practical than creative and inspiring. However most of them are very, very consistent because the game has to set rules and limits for what magic and mages can do. (Some advanced RPF magic systems do not have set rules, but I did not have access to any of them as a kid) When I create a magic system I strive for consistency over originality. When I read a fantasy novel with a magic system that is coherent and consistent, I am very rarely taken aback when a character uses some new spell since it operates within the same framework as the others, if the system is not consistent new powers often seen Deus Ex Machina in the worst possible way. While RPG magic descriptions translate awkwardly at best, the idea of having a consistent set of mechanics for magic in your world is very, very useful and important even if it is never fully communicated to the readers.

3) World-Building. RPGs were the basis for my first forays into world-building. Every RPG needs a setting, and for some reason I was never satisfied with even the best of modules (Keep on the Borderlands, Undermountain, and the first Ravenloft are my favorites since they had more of a sandbox feel) or pre-generated campaign settings (Earthdawn is my favorite there, Birthright if it has to be a D&D world). RPGs and D&D in particular encouraged me to make up my own worlds. At first these fell apart after a few sessions as my players found and exploited the cracks in my creations. One of my early games allowed for enchanting and also incorporated futuristic elements like power armour and guns. The enemies were still orcs, bad equipment and all. Every encounter ended very quickly, in a hail of enchanted exploding elemental munitions that would have been cool and glorious if I weren’t countering it with feeble opposition. As time passed, my skills at making a more cohesive sandbox for my players increased. My ability to make a world evolved, and yet the my gang of players also got more skilled at finding the weak spots. We matured and our tastes changed, with players no longer interested in just interested in combat and direct conflict I was forced to flesh out backgrounds, histories, and characters to make the setting come alive. The skills help me tremendously when writing, to the point where with Bloodlust: A Gladiator’s Tale I have take the relatively limited and contrived idea of Gladiatorial combat, placed it at the centre of a setting, and built a story and a working world around it.

The players are another part of RPGs that could be helpful to writers. The Game-Master might create the world but each player wants to weave their own character into it, which helps expose flaws and brings a unique kind of feedback that can really improve any setting.

I could go on about this at length, but company has come over, so I shall end with a rough teaser from Bloodlust: Will to Power

A muscled, athletic ogress strode into the arena. At first Gavin could not make sense of her armour. As she strode across the fighting grounds he realized that he was seeing segmented metal plates, each individually pierced into her flesh. He saw blood around some of the blades, which cut into the Gladiatrix as she moved. The blood ran into clever channels on the plates, forming a decorative pattern that signaled some skill in blood magic. Her expression was add odds with the obvious discomfort of such a form of protection, serene and watchful. He felt a thrill of recognition. His opponent was the only true Disciple of Pain that the arena had produced in fifty years.

“Welcome Razorthorn,” said Mistress Chloe [The arena master in the Killer’s Circle, more on that later]. “You look sharp today. [Groan, I know, this may not make the final cut]”

Breaking Rules

There are tons of rules out there for new writers to follow. Many veteran authors and great writers are bursting with useful advice for curious up-and-comers. Some even try
to theorycraft entire schools of writing into existence, with varying degrees of success. Some of these pieces of advice become enshrined in the writer’s vernacular, getting
passed around from writer to author to neophyte to curious reader like folk lore. These are usually the simple rules that hold true, and a novice breaks at their own peril.

I am wary of rules, especially large systems of rigid conventions that come from deep theorycraft. I have encountered them many times in my working life, as a game designer,
tech writer, and even running games with my friends. These grand systems can become cumbersome and stifling to new blood, and many of the people involved mistake mastering
the system with mastering the actual craft that this system overlays. They cause people to agonize endlessly over place names, and key sentences, passive voice, and so on. It
is best to think of rules as guidelines, advice from the masters, and to avoid complex, constraining sets of rules that try to lock down every aspect of a craft.

Simple rules on the other hand often have great value to novices. There are handful of these, often framed in different ways depending on who is giving the advice, but they
generally hold true. Because of a certain persistent character flaw of mine, I tend view these with equal suspicion and make the mistake of ignoring them. I’m going to give
examples of a few rules from Bloodlust: A Gladiator’s Tale. In my defence, Bloodlust has a really unusual structure, jumping from place to place and following the main
character’s career on a match-by-match basis. Here are some of the rules I broke, why I broke them, and what I might to differently.

1. Skip the boring parts. As I mentioned Bloodlust follows every match in Gavin’s career, with a single match in every chapter. Time contracts and expands based on how far
apart the matches are. The Chapters vary greatly in size based on what else needs to be dropped around that match to drive the narrative. The second book, Bloodlust: Will to
Power (working title, and yes the reference is purposeful), follows the same structure, with some additional chapters (interludes) for key events. I skip the boring parts of
his life, for the most part, but I do not skip the least exciting of his matches. I break this rule because I like the structure, and because Gavin is not happy with his
life. If I skipped ahead and just included the exciting parts, he would seem whiny. I have to show how the life of a Gladiator grinds him, and I prefer to do it in a way that
precludes him just sitting around thinking or talking about it. I want to show it. What Gavin does is exciting to us, but fairly mundane to him, and I think going through
every match helps identify with his ennui. It also adds to the sports metaphor: true fans often try to catch every game of a team’s season, and players go to all of them.
(Show, don’t tell is another of those little writer’s rules so I suppose I’m breaking one to satisfy the others.). I’m not entirely sure how I would do this differently,
although perhaps writing it in in first person would have been better, allowed us to get in his head a little more.

2. A Memorable first line. Having a great first line is pretty universal advice. I wonder how many great works are left gathering dust because they have a dull first line or
how many books are never finished because of the writer agonizing over line number one until the whole thing breaks. My first line for Bloodlust isn’t brilliant, and the part that follows
is written in a slightly different style than the rest of the book. It could be stronger; I might get a few more impulse sales if it was. Still it sets the scene, and works
well enough. The first line acts as a strong hook for the reader, and many writers credit their success to polishing their skills with dynamite intro lines. I went with the
slower opening for Bloodlust because I was happy with it and got a very strong positive reaction from a few readers. I do get criticisms for it, but they mostly seem to be
from people outside the target audience. I would definitely refine it a little more in retrospect, but I can see myself slowly grinding the project to dust under the weight
of getting that memorable first line. It may be that I needed to move on quickly while initially writing the book and should have come back to polish it later. I could have
done better here, but I won’t lose any sleep over it at this point.

3. The Cover. My cover always elicits a strong reaction. People love it or hate it. Some detractors have compared it to pokemon, which amuses the crap out of me (Pokemon does
all right). The rule for covers is that you want to look like your book could be from a “New York publishing house”. I did not want to go with a painterly cover because
pictures of the characters often prejudice the readers. To be honest I also did not want to weather the inevitable attacks from people who look at sexy Gladiator gettup and
accuse me of pandering. Also I did not have 2.5k to spend on a good fantasy artist. But honestly even if I had the money, I would have gone with a similar cover. First off
the cover conveys some important ideas and elicits a strong reaction. The type of people who run away from my cover likely wont enjoy the book, I think. I think setting the
bar for self pubs as having covers as painterly as a book from a big publisher is as foolish as thinking an indy game should have graphics that rival Black Ops. In most other
industries proudly independent means something, indy rock labels and games don’t try to hide their origins, they flaunt them — why should self-published writers be any
different? its not like the readers are actually going to be fooled (or if they even care), especially in my case. Bloodlust is about fantasy gladiators, something that book
publishers have always avoided (Gladiator books should be historical fiction!). I am proud of the fact that I put this thing together with the help of some talented friends.
I think it stands up well. I want to show off the fact that it is indy. This is something I definitely would not change. In fact, I may start adding proudly independent since
2012 to the title in my books… This point deserves a bigger post actually.

Rules are useful guidelines. Breaking them likely hinders me in some ways, but I have good reasons for doing so. I would probably polish that first line a little more, but
I’d stick to my guns on most of the other rules I broke. In the end applying too many rules to creative endeavors just stifles them.