Blog her? I hardly knew her!

It’s been a while since I’ve done an actual blog post. If you’ve signed up for my newsletter, you’re already up to date but for everyone else, I’ll try to go through the highlights from the year so far and my plans for Orctober.

The By Demons Be Driven Kickstarter did not meet its goal because I launched it and then COVID descended upon us.

I finally got a new PC built and started streaming on Twitch over the summer. I’m halfway to my Follower goal to start working towards becoming an Affiliate. You should give me a follow. I’m streaming on Tuesdays at 5pm central right now.

I restarted my newsletter because a friend pestered me into it. I decided to try to make it positive on top of Ashe news and share cool stuff.

I kept slowly pecking away at the third draft of By Demons Be Driven because working this year has been fucking hard. I got it done though. I’ll be starting the fourth in the near future.

I posted a Grimluk short story over on Patreon. “Big Iron”, his first assignment as a full hunter, inspired by the song. You can read it for a buck, along with the current project: The Battle of the Bands. I recently decided I wanted to try my hand at DMing, thus beginning the process of building a heavy metal fantasy world. Thus far, I’ve posted a few Lore facts and a lot of the setting, including a very basic map shape. I’m pretty excited about what I’m building.

I have no plans for Orctober this year but I DID just drop a box set for all three Grimluk books in one handy package for a measly $9.99 at your preferred outlet.

I have FINALLY done a sleep study and gotten a sleep apnea diagnosis. I actually started using my CPAP two nights ago. My head doesn’t hurt nearly as much this morning and I felt alert faster. I look forward to seeing what this does for me long term.

I also started playing guitar again recently. I made a deal with my partner that if I practice at least three times a week, they’ll buy me an attenuator for Christmas. That’s a little device that will let me use my very powerful amp at apartment levels.

I think that’s everything. I will be relaunching the Kickstarter for By Demons Be Driven in March once more and HOPEFULLY I can get funded this time.

And I apologize for the lack of Orctober shenanigans this year but given the hell year, and the lack of any ideas (or new books), I didn’t really have anything I could pull out. Hopefully next year will have a book release!

So that’s been my 2020 so far. Been some other personal stuff that’s happened but mostly it’s been that. That’s it for now!

A Demon in the Desert Fifth Anniversary

A Demon in the Desert cover

It’s been five years since I published A Demon in the Desert. Some time after I put it out, I blogged about everything I’d learned from. Five years on, those things still hold true but I’m not taking active lessons from it anymore. It serves as a very mixed gateway into the life of Grimluk and his adventures, with some people loving it and a few thinking it’s garbage. It’s a first book. And I don’t know what else to say on it.

I could talk about how sometimes I think about rewriting it but my desire to let it stand, as its own thing and as a sign of where I started mostly wins out there. It will stand as it is.

I could talk about how my friend, Krista Ball, told me about the five-year issue. It takes five years before you really get anywhere. But my fifth year is also the year of COVID-19 and I still only have three books. By Krista’s fifth year, she had 12 books out (or, as she put it when I asked, “A lot, and probably not enough, but also way too much.”). In self-publishing, quantity DOES matter, at least more than in traditional publishing. It’s also not smart to compare my journey to someone else’s. While Krista’s level of success is where I’m aiming, I’m also not her and I don’t write what she writes. Also at least one of those was a non-fiction and those always sell.
 
The truth is…this doesn’t feel like a big deal to me anymore. I’ve written and published three books and written a fourth that just needs the money for editing, proofing, and artwork (along with another couple of drafts). Releasing a book is still a big deal. Releasing a book is a big, nerve-wracking event where I push another piece of my very silly soul out into the world for people to consume, come what may. But the march of time? Not really.
 
The biggest thing about having been doing this for five years now is that…I can’t see myself not doing it anymore. Paying for the publishing sucks and is the hardest part of this, followed by marketing, but I love doing this. I love writing. I love creating. I love entertaining and it still makes me feel real. So even with COVID-19 rolling around, and the US absolutely DUNKING on itself, that hasn’t changed. Sometimes I feel like I’m being frivolous writing Grimluk and not like, some politically-charged, current events commentary sci-fi story. Which is kind of silly considering Grimluk is politically-charged in a different way. Part of a recent review for The Demons Within read:
 
I also like how Ashe has pretty seamlessly incorporated queerness and gender diversity into these books. In that respect, I do actually think I’d recommend these as good fantasy for middle school age queer/trans teens and early high school age queer/trans teens. Though gender and sexual diversity aren’t the main focus, Ashe incorporates them in a way that makes them feel normal and a part of the world, rather than make those characters anomalies or always in danger of persecution and ridicule. Not many other fantasy series featuring genderqueer orcs or queer elven or dwarven couples as a normal and accepted part of the world!
 
And that is a huge thing for me with this. So, sure, it’s trash adventure stuff but I’m still putting myself and my friends into it. Even if I was just writing pure adventure trash, oh well, people need that sometimes.
 
I’m just gonna keep going. In another five years, I’ll reflect on a decade as an author. Hopefully I’ll find 2025 a more welcoming place. A more stable and secure place. Here’s hoping we all do.
 
Now, given that I wasn’t really sure what to talk about and have rambled, mostly, I’m happy to answer any questions anyone has. I know most of you don’t really read these, but if you do, and something pop up, leave a comment or tweet at me or whatever and I’ll compile them together in a Q&A.

Stay safe.

2019 Year in Review

This…was a weird year. Professionally, I have very little that happened. I finished the first draft of By Demons Be Driven around the end of November. Then Rachel Sharp put together the Gay Apparel anthology and I put a Bakhor-POV flash piece in there. That’s really about it. Book sales have been low in the later half of the year. October was the worst month I had when it’s usually one of my better. I think that came down to not doing anything for Orctober. I’ve got the second draft of By Demons Be Driven started now and I’m getting everything set for the Indiegogo campaign. If you’re curious why I’m switching from Kickstarter, it’s because of Kickstarter’s blatant anti-union stances. I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to finish in January and get it to some beta readers.

I shared some of my struggles getting this first draft done over on Patreon. Between Nici getting a new job, health stuff, sleep apnea, being unhappy with the ideas I was getting, it took me longer than I wanted.

Personally, I’ve been quite busy. February saw me run a GoFundMe for dental work, which was successful. I got a whole mess of fillings done, a tooth pulled, and then, finally, a partial denture. I ran another campaign for my partner, finally ridding them of their wisdom teeth. I also started going to yoga every week, which has been good for me. It’s a slow process though. I’m a bit of a mess. In July, I finally got a new bed. In September, finally got a new car. The new bed also, ironically, ushered in more issues with my sleep apnea, which prompted me to begin a third gofundme for that.

And over on r/Fantasy, I’ve been running a Dresden Files read-along. I managed to somehow pick the perfect schedule when I started in April. We read Dead Beat for October and now, with the Peace Talks release coming in July next year, we’ll be able to finish up Skin Game in June, read some of the short stories in July, and go straight into Peace Talks.

I also just celebrated my 7th anniversary with Nici. That’s wild.

And then there’s the unending hellworld bullshit that’s happened throughout the year. I can’t even remember everything that’s been in the news because of the sheer, ceaseless flow of it all.

That’s been my 2019, to the best of my memory. I hope your 2019 was good. I hope your 2020 will be amazing. Remember to take care of yourself and step away from the swirling vortex of terror that is social media and the news sometimes. I’m hoping my 2020 will be pretty damn good. June will be big. I turn 35 and it’ll be the 5th anniversary of A Demon in the Desert. I’m hopefully putting out a new one in October. I may get to do my first convention. Hopefully this will be a big year for all of us.

Big thank you to all my patrons and readers. Even the some of you who were friends to begin with. I’m incredibly grateful to have your continued support.

Take care of yourselves. And stay safe while partying!

Oh boy, GoFundMe Part 3

I said I was going to draw this month, and finish Grimluk 4 (that might still happen) but uh, I’ve been dealing with my sleep apnea a LOT lately. And by dealing with, I mean, it’s kicking my ass. So I started another campaign. I’ve needed to get my sleep fixed for a LONG time. It’s interfering with my ability to work once more so here we go again. As always, you can buy my books or become a patron as well.

Help Me Treat My Sleep Apnea

 

Dental Work GoFundMe

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.

Ashe’s GoFundMe

Retrospective: Edward M. Erdelac’s Merkabah Rider

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.

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The new cover for High Planes Drifter.

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!

Plans for 2018

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.

2017 Year In Review

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.

 

D&D Fun

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.