Hey, y’all. I’m in pretty serious need of help with dental work and started a GoFundMe this weekend after my tooth started hurting Friday night. I managed to get into the dentist this morning and found out I have a non-draining abscess. I’ll be picking up antibiotics in a little while and I have an extraction set for next Wednesday. In the meantime, I could really use help getting the money together for all this dental work I need.
In 2010, I was made aware of a new book thanks to an old blog I was following at the time. The Weird West Emporium (which moved to Facebook but is far less active these days) had posted about the release of a book called Merkabah Rider: Tales of a High Planes Drifter. The concept hooked me immediately and, since I was really exploring the Weird Western at the time, I bought it and devoured it. That year, I’d also done a double review for the Emporium and decided I wanted to review this for the blog as well. This book was a starting place for several things in my life.
First, Ed saw the review and commented. I bought the second book and devoured it as well. When Ed released the third book, I was a fan-friend, asking him where would get him the most royalties. He offered to send me a signed copy for a little less than what I’d pay retail. When the fourth book came around, Ed was dissatisfied with the publisher, Damnation Books (a company that was later revealed to be utter garbage by a slew of other authors), and self-published it. By then, we were friends. Still are and I’m happy to know Ed. This was the beginning of my shift into the writing world, with a peer group of other writers.
Second, it crystallized some concepts I’d been chewing on for a series. In 2007-08, I was reading the Dark Tower. It had a profound effect on me and I knew I wanted to make a weird western story of my own. The first idea started off as a comic that didn’t go anywhere. The comic story shifted and I decided to try my hand with it in novel form. This, too, went nowhere. Reading Ed’s books made me realize what I could really do with a weird western. I’d also gotten into Lovecraft and Howard around that time, so by the time Merkabah Rider came along, I could see the things Ed was doing. I distinctly remembered thinking, “this is like Howard and Lovecraft had a baby.” It’s a description I still use. I’d had inklings from the Dark Tower but flat out injecting Lovecraftian entities into the setting clicked something in my brain.
In the very first Rider story in the first book, the Rider comes up against a demon. Later on, he meets a gaggle of them. He encounters several Lovecraftian entities, and even winds up using the modernish, star version of the Elder Sign to fight one of them. In another story, he comes up against the Crawling Chaos himself, in a scene that seared itself into my brain. It went on like that. And Ed sprinkled in various other references, including one that, to my knowledge, and to Ed’s knowledge, I was the only one to catch. By the end of the Rider’s journey, I had a lot of ideas cooking in the background.
The third thing to come out of all this came as I started working on writing more regularly in 2013. I tapped Ed for advice and he was happy to share. He gave me a bit of advice he got from Joe Lansdale. “One thing [he] told me is to treat your writing as if you’re exercising a muscle. Pick a certain time to do it and stick to that same time everyday, same amount of time, like two hours.” I’ve definitely not written everyday. But I made a schedule. I did my best to stick to it. I started off writing prose about my Skyrim play sessions (something I’ve shared before). In early 2014, I decided I wanted to write a swashbuckling orc story due to all the Skyrim…but there was a nugget of an idea sitting behind that. I talked ideas with a friend of mine, and he loved the swashbuckling idea but when I said I was also thinking about writing a gunslinger orc, he latched on to that. Suddenly Grimluk came into being. An orc who hunts demons with a six-shooter. I seized it and started work. Ed offered more advice, an especially critical piece of which was that when he felt stuck, he’d kind of block out bits of the plot to get going again. This turned out to be an immense help for me in the early days.
With those three things, I can say, without a doubt, that without the Merkabah Rider series, there would be no Grimluk. The ambience, some of the themes and tone, the entities. I took some ideas from my comic-turned-novel notes, and got to work on what would become A Demon in the Desert. I took inspiration from Ed as well. The Rider walks the lands, riding no horse but traveling with a donkey. Grimluk walks the lands, riding no horse unless it’s an absolute life-or-death emergency. One day, I’ll let him explain why. Grimluk, like the Rider, cares about people. True, the Rider seeks vengeance, but he has a heart. I don’t know how well I succeed at it but I’ve been shooting for that Howard/Lovecraft mixture that Ed has in the Rider.
If I hadn’t told him before, I’ll say it here for sure: Ed, thank you for writing what you did. Thank you for being a friend. Thank you for humoring my silly ass asking questions and the one or two critique requests. There are others that have helped me get to this point but you were the genesis, man. Thank you.
Some of you may be wondering if this post has anything else besides the word salad above. It does. See, I decided to do this as a means to help Ed. After all the fuckery of Damnation Books, Ed got the rights back to Merkabah Rider, five years after each was published. They’ve long since been out of print, but now? Now Ed has all the rights and is re-releasing them. The first book, retitled as just High Planes Drifter, just saw its return to print. Ed has new cover art, interior illustrations, and an extra short story. He’ll be doing the same for the other three books as well.
This series is a joy to read. If “Hasidic Jewish mystic seeking revenge against his former teacher for betraying their mystic order” doesn’t hook you right away, I don’t know what else to say. If you want some prime weird western action, I’ve yet to find better than this series. I’m fuckin STOKED to be able to hurl this recommendation at people again. Once again, I take up my mantle as unofficial Ed Erdelac Hype Man. And he’ll be guest posting on Friday!
Buy this book, y’all!
I have high hopes for 2018. At least, I do for my personal life. Some hope is creeping in for life in the US but it’s a cautious hope. There are still some major issues. Nici is transitioning to a new antidepressant and dealing with their thyroid issues. My car is still dead and I’ll be junking it soon (if you’d like to help with the car situation, click here or become a Patreon patron). There’s still a few other lingering healthcare needs we can’t afford to take care of. But things are looking up. As such, I decided I wanted 2018 to be a year of reclaiming things I’ve lost. On top of continuing to move forward with Grimluk, I’m planning on getting back into drawing and guitar.
Drawing and writing are my oldest creative endeavors and drawing was the oldest. As a little Ashe, you could give me paper and pencils and I would keep myself busy with doodles. I got pretty good, too, though at the age of 14, what I needed to get better was an actual, for real art teacher who could lead me in figure drawing and help me refine my skill. Unfortunately, 14 is also when Life started punching hard and by 17, I had given up drawing. By 18, I had thrown away my art supplies. Depression, and a lack of proper instruction, had utterly robbed me of the will to continue on. I tried again at 19, taking an art class in college but it was no better than my art class in high school and I once again gave up.
Guitar helped me weather depression some but there were still some issues and then I got my shoulder fucked up working a temp job. I got a repetitive stress injury that even pushed my collarbone out of alignment. The pain is way less these days unless I use my shoulder too much or in the wrong way. This meant that my endurance at playing disappeared and my desire to play started to evaporate too. I also had an amp that I hated and that contributed to my waning desire. The amp changed in 2012 when I found a used Carvin V3 2×12 combo for $500 at the Tulsa Guitar Center, an amp I had lusted after since it’s inception. I’ve never really gotten to give it a proper play. (A note for gearheads: I still lust after an original Peavey Triple XXX)
So a big part of reclaiming those things will also be reclaiming some of my lost physical health. As Nici’s health improves, I’m hoping that we can attempt to start doing DDP Yoga together. That will be contingent on the fatigue issues going away, but I’m hopeful.
So that’s what I’m after in my personal life. What about professionally?
Well, Grimluk is gonna keep moving forward. The Demons Within will drop in October and I’ll probably get back to work on Grimluk 4 later in the year. I’m hoping to find avenues of promotion, to get the word out in greater numbers. I’m sure I’ll come up with some other things as well. I’m also gonna take some time at some point and do up some plot skeletons for Grimluk 5 and some other ideas I’ve had churning away. I won’t start anything new until after Grimluk 5 though. Once that comes out, I’ll take a bit of a break, introduce a new project or two, and then start on Grimluk 6.
And in case it hasn’t been made clear yet, Grimluk is gonna go a long time. We’re going Dresden levels at the very least, if not Vampire Hunter D.
Orctober for 2018 will also probably be focused on the release of The Demons Within, with some extra guest stuff again as well. Always gotta have my fellow orc-writers show up. I’ll be planning that out in more detail in the spring, after I’ve sent Demons off to Laura Hughes for editing. If there’s anything anyone would like to see this year, leave a comment or tweet me or somethin.
Overall, it’s a pretty straightforward year, but if something big pops up, I’ll welcome it.
So those are my plans for 2018. I hope your own year will shape up well and I hope you find yourself in good fortune, friends and readers. You survived 2017 and that makes you mighty.
This year. This fucking year. What a dumpster fire. Mostly. It feels like this one year has lasted for five. And while the socio-political aspects of the year bear most of that weight, there was some good that happened as well. I want to take the time to talk about my own year as it’s be quite a roller coaster as well.
The beginning of the year saw my partner, Nici, and I waiting to move away from my parents and back here to Tulsa with their mother. In February, we started our first D&D campaign with some friends, which definitely helped ease the stress of Darth Cheetoh pretending to be president and my stepfather’s continued…eccentricities. On top of that, I was still hard at work on the first draft of The Demons Within. We finally got to leave in April and, on top of coming back home to Tulsa, I’m still pretty proud of the fact that I managed to not only drive a moving truck for the first time but also did it while towing my van. That was a long 14 hours and I never want to do it again.
April also saw me join forces with some other r/Fantasy regular authors, starting the Fools of Fantasy. We had a big sale for the month, which really gave me a big boost in visibility and sales. It was pretty rad all around.
Once back in Tulsa, we started working towards a few things. First up, healthcare. We found out about Morton Health and their sliding scale, which we qualified for. Our visits are only $30 for each of us AND they’re a comprehensive clinic, which means that I also got to go for an eye exam a couple of months ago. We got Nici on the path towards health over the summer by finally discovering that they have hypothyroidism. Which explained A LOT. Unfortunately, before May ended, my van died. The transmission started going out and my battery was corroding itself to death slowly. Thankfully, Morton offers free transportation, so we’ve easily been able to get to and from our visits as needed.
May saw me finish the first draft of The Demons Within, along with doing Patreon stuff. I also managed to get us on foodstamps, which has been immensely helpful. Cause food. I’ve continued doing a good job at managing my diabetes without medication and keeping my A1C under 7 and part of that is thanks to not worrying about affording food. After all of that, the summer was relatively quiet. I’d also promised Nici I would sing at karaoke if they got their blood drawn, so I sang at “Last Caress” by The Misfits at live-band metal karaoke. My buddy (and our DM) discovered it before we came back so that’s our big group activity. It was a lot of fun. The next time, in August, I sang “Electric Eye” by Judas Priest and fucked up the second verse.
August saw me begin work on Grimluk 4 and the second draft of The Demons Within and preparing the kickstarter for the latter as well. Things with our living situation grew a bit more tense. It seems impossible to escape family drama but we’re getting by. D&D has helped a lot (as well as when we switched over to play Changeling the Dreaming with another member of our group running the game). D&D makes for a weird sort of therapy.
I also spent the summer working on a Fighter subclass and a Fighter-based character sheet for D&D, as I wanted a sheet that I felt more comfortable with. The subclass/archetype was the Monster Hunter, based on the Unearthed Arcana archetype Wizards did. Both have been pretty popular (along with the Orcs overhaul I released for Orctober). You can find links and previews to all of that in the works section in the nav bar above.
October arrived, with the second draft of Demons Within finished and the launch of the kickstarter and Orctober. It was a lot of fun. I’m still disappointed that I wasn’t able to actually get the recording of our one shot done and up for everyone but technical difficulties are fun that way. I was sure the kickstarter wouldn’t fund but, goddamn, a whole bunch of big damn heroes came in during the last 12 hours and made it happen. I’m still floored by that.
I’d also decided to take a break from writing for a bit. I was a bit worn out between starting a new book, getting a second draft done, doing all the Orctober stuff, and life in general. November was kind of a blur, with Thanksgiving coming and going, and now Christmas is gone and we stand at the end of 2018. I spent these last two months doing some proofreading for a friend to help her prep for celebrating her 20th book release.
Now here I am, at the end of the year, feeling accomplished and hopeful. Nici’s doctor put them on a new medication for mental health that seems like it will be the Right One finally. And along with everything listed above, I’ve had some other things that cemented/revealed themselves to me. So I’m gonna finish out the year with a public announcement.
As I said above, D&D is a strange form of therapy. And what do you know, it worked something out for me. See, my character, Gorthos, a half-orc fighter, is both bisexual and polyamorous. The latter of which I’ve been thinking heavily about through the middle of last year. The former of which has been a creeping question about myself. It came up with someone I’d developed heavy feelings for quickly. Ultimately, she and I ended up losing contact but it was a big sign. Add to that another friend of mine that I’ve known for a good long while and can honestly, 100% I love them with those kind of feelings too, and yeah.
Then, continuing on, there was a story for the other side. Early in my relationship with Nici, I realized that if they ever wanted to transition into a man, I would stay with them. I can’t imagine not having Nici in my life. That was NEON SIGN number one. Then a couple of months ago, I had a dream about a dude friend and I kissed him in the dream. When I woke up, I thought, “oh, that was nice, I’d totally date them.” Neon sign number 2.
So, I guess what I’m saying is that I’m ending the year by saying this:
Hi, my name is Ashe, author of the only high fantasy weird western series starring an orc, and I’m bisexual and polyamorous. I lean more towards women still, but I have a non-binary gendered partner who I would still with no matter their gender identity and I can love more than one person at a time, and do.
Fuck you, 2017. We’re still here, asshole. The year’s been up and down, see a lot of change, a lot of destruction, a lot of outcry. It’s just the beginning. I think 2018 is gonna be pretty damn big.
Hey all. Just wanted to let you know that DMsGuild finally let me upload all the files last week, so I got a couple of things to share. Both are pay what you want, so you could get them for free or you could toss a bit of change my way.
First up is the Fighter’s character sheet I made. I love the fighter class and it’s what I’ve been playing this year, so I decided to make my own character sheet, organized how I feel it should be organized. It’s very clean and I’ve been very happy with it. I built it and slowly tweaked it over a couple of weeks of play until I got it tailored to what it is now. For the time being, it’s only really useful for Eldritch Knights and Battlemasters. Champions don’t really have enough going on to warrant a reference sheet and I haven’t figured out a good design for the Purple Dragon Knight archetype from the SCAG book.
Second up is my own take on the Monster Hunter archetype for Fighters from the Gothic Heroes Unearthed Arcana article from last year. In all the feedback I found, the UA Hunter was deemed underwhelming and most people didn’t like that it was like a weaker Battlemaster, making use of superiority dice. I wanted to go at it to be more robust and unique, with a few features as shoutouts to the UA. No superiority dice and I’m definitely happy with strong it feels while still looking pretty balanced. I also included a version of my Fighter sheet with it. Very proud of how it all turned out.
It’s been two years since I released A Demon in the Desert.
Two years, man. It’s wild. Now I’ve got the third book drafted and I’ll be starting the fourth soon as well, with a Kickstarter for book 3 happening in October. I’ve learned a lot in the span of two years. I want to thank everyone who’s helped me and made this possible. Everyone who’s backed me, everyone who’s reviewed me, sent encouraging words, everyone who’s taught me craft and business. You’ve all been amazing. Who knows where things will be by year five!
Before you run away screaming cause I’m posting something political (and I don’t think it’ll be the last time), this particular piece of our ongoing crisis in America is especially relevant to me at the moment, though it should be especially relevant to everyone who is currently alive. Fair warning, this is mostly a downer topic and I will be mentioning suicide and rape.
In September, I had a tooth removed after it cracked in half. The dentist informed me the one next to it would need to come out as well and that I would need a bridge. It’s now May and the gum is starting to erode. If it stays unchecked, the other tooth will likely continue on until it cracks as well, and all my teeth start drifting. I really can’t afford to pay any of that right now. And I have no one to help me.
My partner has needed their tonsils out for a literal decade. And their wisdom teeth are finally coming in. I’ve seen those tonsils and let me tell you, they look like a fucking Bloodborne boss. They look like Amygdala heads (or the tonsil stone, alternately, which just looks like a tiny head).
Connect this to the events this week, where the House voted on their Trumpcare bill and the threat it presents to millions of people, and we are clearly in need of real healthcare reform. The US is the only fully industrialized nation without universal healthcare. Yes, we have Medicaid and Medicare but those require age and specific economic hoops, they are not universal. On top of the severely private healthcare system, vision, dental, and mental health tend to be disconnected or (prior to the ACA) way more expensive to use. That presents a wealth of issues all its own.
I wear glasses. I cannot function well without them. Before my tooth cracked, I hadn’t been to a dentist since 2008. Not that it really mattered. I haven’t had insurance since I aged out of parental coverage at 26. I haven’t been able to afford it and if I’d bought a plan from the Marketplace, I’d have been paying for something I couldn’t afford to use either, without vision or dental included to boot. Which, sure, is a major flaw in the system. That’s one reason people have decried the ACA and one reason Republicans have championed getting rid of it: rising costs and unaffordable plans. Except that’s a little disingenuous on their parts, isn’t it? Especially given the provision in the Trumpcare bill to exempt Congress from the provisions.
Straight up, I lean way farther left than the Democratic party, so I’ve never really been in support of the party (or a two party system for that matter), but it’s been well documented that the ACA was basically the plan Mitt Romney implemented in Massachusetts and the Republican party fought Obama every step of the way on any of it. And look where this shit has gotten us. GoFundMe (and crowdfunding in general) is basically the defacto way to fund major medical expenses now. I see at least one fundraiser daily between Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook, and I just started one to fund my previously mentioned issues AND help me repair or replace my failing car (And I am, quite frankly, pretty damn desperate).
The US has dozens of examples for how to implement socialized healthcare on a national level, with Canada and the UK being the closest. And, surprise, given that insurance works by keeping a pool of money, it’s cheaper and more efficient to spread that pool out as far as you can. Of course, this would also require we close a lot of tax loopholes and fix how we do taxes (which is a whole other conversation in itself, especially when you look at small business owners like myself). Oh and also not give ridiculous tax breaks to people who absolutely do not need them.
Universal, comprehensive healthcare would solve so many problems for so many people it’s kind of fucking ridiculous. Being an author, I know a crap ton of authors, and you know what we all have in common? Barely being able to afford anything and/or several mental health issues. It is straight up exhausting worrying about health and finances all the time and it is immensely disruptive to the creative process. Regardless of that process though, there are millions of people worrying about whether or not they just should just kill themselves before they bankrupt their families. There are millions of sexual assault survivors worrying they’re going to lose healthcare for reporting their assault. And sure, Trumpcare doesn’t outright list sexual assault as a Pre-Existing Condition™, but it does allow insurers to give patients a big blast of “Fuck you” and that’s not any better.
And I’ll be real here, too, with the health stuff and my car dying like this, and having the financial situation I have right now, suicide has been floating around my mind. It’s really fucking hard for it not to. I’m mentally ill, with depression, anxiety, and ADHD. That is the perfect cocktail for this line of thinking. Chances are, if you haven’t had these thoughts a little, you know someone who has.
We desperately need to implore our elected officials to full support universal, comprehensive healthcare. Vision, dental, mental and physical health as well as prescriptions. God, prescriptions alone would do wonders for people, myself included but we need all of it. And for anyone who wants to bemoan Canada and its mythical “wait times,” you don’t wait for emergency care and you just pay for parking. I’ve heard in-depth discussions about Canadian healthcare because I know Canadians. Krista Ball has talked very openly on twitter (and in private) about her health escapades over the past two years, which included a breast reduction surgery that was fucking covered.
We need a change. Everyone deserves healthcare, yes, even Paul Ryan’s poor-people hating ass. Even the eldritch abomination that is Steven Bannon (even if he probably is a demon in a very poor disguise). Everyone deserves healthcare. Fucking everyone, period, no exceptions. We need help. We need our health. We have to fight for them both cause the people who are supposed to be our representatives are doing a fucking piss poor job.
If you made it this far, and you’re not part of the choir, do some research, think hard on this issue. It’s not about handouts or welfare queens, it’s just basic compassion and respect for life. Making America “Great Again” is gonna require some heavy changes. This is one of them.
I sincerely wish you, to combine references, long days, pleasant nights, and a long, prosperous life. Stay weird, be kind.