Orctober Approaches

As October 1st barrels toward us, I figured I’d share some plans for the month. What with the Orctober celebration and release of Demon Haunted, I’m putting together some weekly stuff to celebrate. I need to get a few folks still but the plan is for Mondays and Fridays to showcase a different orc-centric or orc-heavy creator. I have several fellow writers lined up, including the granddaddy of orc protagonists, Stan Nicholls, author of the Orcs series.

I’ll also be reading and reviewing two books by two of my peers. Amalia Dillin’s second Orc Saga book, Blood of the Queen, and James Jakins’s Jack Bloodfist: Fixer. I really liked the first Orc Saga book, Honor Among Orcs. It’s a romance heavy adventure and it was a lot of fun. Looking forward to Blood. And Fixer looks fun too and has an amazing cover. After that, Wednesdays will see me sharing factoids about Grimluk and his world. Outside of that MWF stuff, I haven’t decided on what else I’ll do but I’m happy to take suggestions or share things folks want to show off.

The Countdown Begins!

It is September first, and the countdown for Demon Haunted has begun! That’s right, folks, digital pre-orders are up and running. Unfortunately, paperbacks will have to wait until October 1st, as Createspace has yet to implement a pre-order feature. Quick reminder for Indiegogo backers: you’ll be getting your copy + rewards on or after October 1st. For the rest of you, you can find this lovely thing at the following places:

Amazon   Smashwords   Kobo

And if you want to add it to Goodreads, I got ya covered. Click the button!

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On top of that, I’ve released a new cover for A Demon in the Desert, that is completely live already. I liked that first cover but after Bob just utterly knocked it out of the park with the art this year, I thought it might be a good idea to make the art consistent between titles. So the promo piece of Grimluk became the new cover. So, anyone with the old cover, I guess you could argue you have a collector’s edition now! Jump on it!

New Stories!

Bit of an update to go with these new stories as well. I’ve shut down my Patreon. After the security breech, and the fact that I’ve only had one patron, I figured I should just put it on the back burner for now. In the meantime, I’ll be uploading everything I posted there and then occasionally adding new pieces as well. The most important two, however, are the ones I’ll be linking below, as the first was going to be a part of this month’s postings, and was a request from said patron, and the second is the short story I had submitted for publication and was so excited for over the summer. Happy reading, y’all.

“Sadie’s Kitchen”

“From Tusk Til Dawn”

Patreon and an Update

While I haven’t gotten tons of writing done this week, I did get more plotting done for the second Grimluk book, which will help. The book’s coming along at near 15,000 words, almost a fifth of the 80K goal. And in only a month a half, that beats the hell out of my pace for the first book.

In other news though, it’s Friday and September so it’s time for a new story. “From Tusk Til Dawn” is now up on Patreon. Part of me kind of hates doing this because I really really want folks to read this story and realistically, putting it as backers only means few people will, buuuuut I’m also trying to be a professional here. So, for those who haven’t heard, this story is about a lady orc wanderer who ends up having a close encounter of the fanged kind.

https://www.patreon.com/ashearmstrong

A Demon in the Desert Reviews – Some Favorite Snippets

I figured that with a combined total of 8 reviews between Amazon and Goodreads that I’d share some of my favorite pieces of each. All but two at the moment are from kickstarter backers, but I’m still excited that anyone has taken the time to review at all. I’m giving a name, whether they were a backer, and where the review came from.

Steph Lehenbauer was nice enough to do a review for her column over at Rock and Hill Studio (and posted a short version on goodreads and Amazon). My favorite bit from her review says, “Grimluk, the main character, is an intriguing guy. He’s an orc, but a nice one. A friendly giant. I always love these sorts of characters. (Hagrid springs to mind.) He’s also plenty bad-ass. Early in the book is a scene in which he pistol whips some zombies, always good fun. He has a very honorable sort of character that I enjoyed; he’s kind of the anti anti-hero. He’s Captain America in the Hulk’s body, which was a fun combo.

“The supporting characters are a fun bunch, and you get a good feel for their different personalities and a bit of their backgrounds. I really enjoyed reading it, and the final battle had me with goosebumps and giggles (as an avid D&D player, I was picturing my group and I in the same situation and it was magnificent).” – Samantha, kickstarter backer via Amazon

“I have to say I found this a fun, action-oriented, pulpy read that’s great brain candy. It features a diverse cast of interesting weirdos, and the underexplored weird west genre is celebrated fully within it’s pages. I’m excited for the further adventures of Grimluk!” – Pope, kickstarter back via Amazon. This was also his entire review haha.

“This is Ashe’s first novel, and it’s a very promising first effort. I love the Grimluk character, and I love the setting. It’s a post apocalyptic wasteland loaded with monsters and demons. This fits into the ‘Weird Western’ genre, as it’s basically a western storyline. However, it’s also loaded with elves, orcs, and magic, so there are fantasy elements too. There’s also horror, so we get a blending of several genres.” – Quentin, backer via goodreads.

I can’t remember reading any Westerns before, but I’m glad that my first one was a Weird Western. The concept of this book grabbed me the moment I heard about it, so much so that it became the first project I ever backed on Kickstarter. Nice deconstruction of fantasy tropes. There’s orcs, humans, dwarves, and elves, and yet each of the characters felt like they had personalities of their own, independent of common fantasy race characteristics.” – Ariel, backer via goodreads.

Another aspect of the novel that I enjoyed was its general tone and subtle/dry sense of humor. No, it’s not a “comedy,” but there were some spots that garnered chuckles from me. I think my favorite line is still (the understated),”I hate ghouls. They’re so…tedious.” And I have to say that I can see that as being the truth, and I’ll probably consider that every time I see a ghoul in a story from here on out.” C, backer via goodreads (and better known as wilburwhateley for tumblr folks).

I really enjoyed the fight at the end. I was hoping there was something big to happen to warrant the amount of time spent on investigation. Ashe certainly delivered on that. I also really liked how everything was connected in the end and even though the ‘battle’ was won in the end, there was so much tragedy that it didn’t really feel like they had. I really like when books do that, because the ‘everything worked out and everyone is happy’ type of ending get a little boring sometimes.” – Heather, backer via goodreads.

The protagonist was likeable and interesting, being a Hellboyish “big scary guy with enormous gun that is actually very nice once you know him”. All the action scenes were cool and the little horror stories through the book were deliciously creepy.” – Felipe, via goodreads.

Most of the reviews have been 3-star, and I’m pretty pleased with that (couple of 3.5s, a 4, and a 5 as well). The full reviews were very constructive and I appreciated it a lot. I actually ended up talking with Heather more in-depth after she volunteered on facebook to read the short story I was working on for submission to a magazine and some of the perceived harshness of her full review was altered. The biggest thing I’m happy about is how well received the characters were and that, despite what could be counted as a rough start, everyone seems to be fully on board for seeing more of Grimluk.

And boy oh boy, you’re gonna see a lot more of him in the next one.

IT’S RELEASE DAY

cover imageFEAR RELEASE DAY, MORTALS.

That’s right. A Demon in the Desert is done and up for release. For my kickstarter backers, you will be getting your digital copies within the next 24 hours, and the paperbacks will arrive next week. I’ll get to work signing them and shipping them as soon as I have them.

For everyone else, well, you have several choices. For paperbacks, there’s the Createspace store, which nets me the most royalties.  Then, there’s Amazon, which has the advantage of Kindle Matchbook, which means you can get the Kindle version for free to go with the paperback. Word of warning at the moment though, the formats are still in the process of merging so if you order as soon as you see this, it might take a day or two to claim the digital copy. I’ll try to make sure everything’s aligned this week.  Your final option for purchasing a digital copy is Smashwords and the avenues they distribute with. So, for instance, you could find the book on Apple, Kobo, Scribd, and (sometime after this posts) Barnes & Noble. Some places are still getting set up.

Hopefully, for my European and International readers, Book Depository will have it fairly soon. That will ultimately be the best option for anyone outside of Europe because of their free international shipping. It’s also one of the venues I don’t have any control over.

I’m proud and a nervous mess but hopefully I wrote a story you’ll enjoy. And I guaran-damn-tee the next Grimluk will be bigger and better. In the mean time, if you’re more interested in shorter stories, check out my Patreon. I’ll be running a promotion this month too. The first 5 patrons for level 1 can claim a request for a flash story (max of 1000 words) for any topic. The first 2 patrons for tier 2 or tier 3 can request anything they’d like for a longer story (max of 5000 words).

Happy reading everyone!

Snippet #5 – Spacial Terrors

We come now to the end of March and snippets from A Demon in the Desert.  I hope you’ve enjoyed the little excerpts and background info.  April should see me busting my ass at a new level with the help of Camp Nano.  I’m almost done with rewrites and then the serious editing can start.  I’m hoping to have the thing as close to done by May as I can.  I’ll probably post Camp Nano status reports, maybe weekly.

Anywho, I was trying to think of a last snippet to post and I think I’ll go with another nightmare.  This one in particular is very near and dear to me as it will be one of the nightmares/hallucinations that I suffered from.  They lasted a long time too.  I didn’t really stop having them til I was 25.  I call them “spacial terrors.”  In this scene, Grimluk is talking to a local Halfling named Thomas and asks him to give him an idea on what things have been like in Greenreach Bluffs through Thomas’s story.  As always, this is not the final edit.

“I guess the best place to start is to say that I never had any sleep problems before all this. Occasionally, you eat somethin’ that don’t sit well and you have a weird dream but that’s normal. Natural even, right? I didn’t even notice the dreams at first. Figured it was just somethin’ I ate. Shrugged ’em off. Now…” He downed half his pint and belched. “It’s like the world goes wrong. Sometimes I see things while it’s happening but mostly, it feels like reality’s been pulled inside-out and gone tipsy. Everything, and I mean everything, goes far away but not. You ken it? The whole world skinny, stretches leagues away. It’s all still close enough to touch though. And touching, gods.”

A small moan escaped Thomas’s throat.

“The size of things goes wrong. If you were near when I had one of these, you’d be my size but you’d be so much bigger too. Like you’d shrunk but grown to the heavens all at once. All wrong. And everything feels that way. A splinter feels as big as a the biggest tree. A pebble would sit in my hand and feel like I was holding a mountain. The only thing that seemed to fight it off is light. So I’d light my lamp back up. Or try to. Some nights, it’s all too much and…and…I just lay there. I use to scream at it. The madness of it.

“It’s all worse now though. I avoid the bed but that’s just making it worse. I said I see things sometimes and I do and the things is worse. I think I see glowing eyes sometimes. Or some sort of light. It’s so hard to tell but sometimes it feels like something’s watching me. Sometimes, when everything stretches out to eternity, I can see…gods damn it, things. I don’t know what to call them but things. I can see them in the dark edges of everything.”

Thomas sighed heavily. “Fuck,” he croaked. “It’s so much worse than I thought. Sayin’ it all like that, out loud.”

He swallowed hard and for a moment, it looked like he would start crying. Grimluk remained silent. He wanted to let Thomas catch his breath. Everything had tumbled out of him like the rush from a broken dam. The Halfling laid his head down against the table and sucked in a deep breath.

The Sliver stood silent save for the sound of the wind that slipped through the windows every so often and the sound of light snoring coming from behind the bar. Grimluk and Thomas sat in the quiet and drank their ale.

“Thank you,” Grimluk said when he felt Thomas had recovered.

Snippet #3 – Monster threatens to eat backer’s kid

Two snippets down, three to go.  This week’s snippet involves one of my kickstarter backers.  Mr. Somma, with his very generous backing there at the end, requested I name a character after his son, who wanted to be an Elf.  Somehow, I got it in my head that I needed to model the character after his son as well.  It actually worked out, as Ajay is Indian and I had originally written in a family of Elves with dark skin.

I actually combined two ideas for the section.  The first was a series of nightmares my mother told me she’d had as a kid, about a man in a red coat chasing her.  The second, was The Grundel, from Extreme Ghostbusters.  If you read the Grundel page, you’ll see some controversy about the dialogue sounding like a pedophile.  Given the subject, it’s a little hard to avoid even in my version.  I just wanted to put that out first.  I’m going to be editing the scene further once I finish the current draft though, so that potential angle will be cut down quite a bit.  Enjoy!

The pair’s second stop was a father and his son, Rhim and Ajay. Elves, brown-skinned with shaggy mops of black hair falling over their pointed ears. Rhim’s honey-brown eyes were bloodshot. Ajay refused to look anyone in the eye. They were quiet and polite but short with Grimluk. Rhim was visibly hesitant to speak with the hunter. His body language told Grimluk he was wound up enough he wanted to bolt. Sadie saw she needed to step in, as the hunter had known all too well, and persuade Rhim to talk.

She was surprised when her simple confirmation that Grimluk was there to help allowed Rhim to relax some. The man clearly needed some sleep but he relaxed enough to talk.

Most of what they’d been through had happened fairly recently. They had paid no mind to the cycle of nightmares at first but at some point, the nightmares refused to stay in their dreams and invaded their waking lives.

Rhim had jolted awake from a particularly disturbing dream involving a man in a red coat luring Ajay away. When father had went to check on son, his heart had frozen. Ajay was gone. The window was open. Rhim took off for the Watch. Despite the night Watch’s best efforts, he had demanded that Trilgor inspect the scene personally. Trilgor followed him, armed, ready, and very much wanting to know where a teenage boy could disappear to in such a small town.

There was no disappearance though. Rhim and Trilgor scared Ajay half out of his skin. The window was closed and the boy had clearly been sound asleep.

A few days later, it all started back up though. This time, Ajay woke in the middle of the night to the man in the red coat tapping at his window. Ajay had told his father that it looked something like a man-sized ogre. The face was long and gaunt with a huge and grotesque jaw. Rotten teeth filled a huge mouth. Orange eyes locked onto the boy’s. A sonorous voice beckoned Ajay to come with him.

Ajay screamed. The whole building bolted awake.

Ever since, the thing in the coat had been torturing them both. If it wasn’t tapping at Ajay’s window, it was appearing at the foot of Rhim’s bed to tell him of how he would feast on the boy. Flesh and soul consumed in a banquet of eternal pain.

Grimluk let himself out as Rhim broke down into tears. A few minutes later, Sadie joined him, her own eyes looking watery, like she was going to cry as well. She sighed deeply.

“Is this what you always have to deal with?” she murmured.

“Yes.”

“How?”

“By finding the thing causing it all and stopping it. When you’re ready, we can continue.”

Sadie looked up at the hunter. Concern shown back. Her chin quivered but she held the tears back.

“You’re a good man, Grimluk.”

A small smile crept to his lips. “I try.”