Sourcerer’s Eleven: Questions for Author Joshua Robertson

Welcome to round three of Sourcerer’s Eleven. An interview series where contributors within the site get a shot in the big chair. The Instigator-In-Chief, Gene’o interviewed Luther Siler, who then put me through my paces, so now it’s my turn *rubs hands together*. In the hot seat today is Joshua Robertson, author of Melkorka (Book 1: Thrice Nine Legends), and A Midwinter Sellsword (Book 1: Hawkhurst Saga).

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  1. You recently released Gladiators and Thieves, book two of the Hawkhurst Saga. Can you tell us a little about that series and how it came about?

You will have to forgive me if I momentarily nerd rage. The story of Hawkhurst was never intended to be in my collection of stories. Hawkhurst first began as a politically-themed RPG MUD (Roleplaying Game Multi-User Dimension) played through text on a web-based platform. I spent an entire weekend creating a complex city from the ground up – detailed with theological and political underpinnings – vibrant with unique shops, guilds, and NPCs. Unfortunately, the group of players only were able to engage in the game for a few weeks. I could not let the creation go to waste, so I started restructuring the themes of the plot into an engaging tale.

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The series is about Argus, the bastard child of House Madrin, who ran away from Hawkhurst years ago after being enslaved as a gladiator. Argus is tricked into returning to the underground city. He soon finds himself trapped and subjugated to the political games between the noble houses. In desperation, he is forced to trust old friends with hopes to escape again before anyone discovers his true identity.

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That’s a great origin story, and an extremely rewarding outlet for the nerd rage! For the plotters among us, it’s a dream come true – a whole platform with which to expand on. Those who know you, will be aware that you began crafting the world for your dark fantasy series Thrice Nice Legends in 1999. I really like the fact there’s a fan site for the series, and a TnL tabletop game. I’m going to leave the gaming element there for now. There are several contributors at Sourcerer who will be chomping at the bit to ask you questions so we’ll leave it for the thread!

  1. I had a great deal of fun on my visit into the world; Melkorka is a wonderful introduction to the series. I know the sequel Dyndaer will be released in January 2016. You’re also co-writing a standalone within the Thrice Nine Legends. How did that particular collaboration come about?    

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Ooo…there is a good question. You weren’t kidding about the hot seat! The TnL Game originated from a collaborative plan back in 2013, where my world was used as the primary setting. The game continues to be tweaked and play tested, but to answer your question – JC Boyd, the co-author to Anaerfell (the standalone novel) is also my partner in the TnL game. He and I developed an idea for a book in 2004 and Anaerfell is the final result of that original idea. Thrice Nine Legends will soon be better described as a shared universe (much like Dragonlance) with a series of stories taking place in the same world. Melkorka, Dyndaer, and the final book, Maharia (set to be released in 2017), will be a trilogy within The Kaelandur Series.

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  1. That is incredibly cool, it has to be said. I can see it now; novels, game accessories, films, audiobooks – a hugely exciting project in more ways than one! You recently set up your own company, a small press (Crimson Edge Publishing), specializing in Fantasy, Science Fiction, Dystopian Fiction, and Horror. That in itself takes considerable planning, not to mention the shared universe. What’s your secret when juggling all these projects (we can’t all have J.A.R.V.I.S) – is there a programme you use, a specific system, a container full of notes, an army of minions, how exactly do you keep everything straight?

That would be incredible. When I sell just one book, I’m like an 80s child discovering Q-Bert for the first time. If my stories ever made it to film, my mind would be blown! [And, I’d beg to be an actor in the movie.] As for keeping it straight, I wish I had something cool like JARVIS, but my budget only goes as far as sticky notes (the computer-widget kind). In all seriousness, I stick to a structured schedule for gym, writing, editing, publishing, marketing, family, and so on. I only deviate to fill the coffee pot.

  1. I have planners envy! I couldn’t stick to a schedule if it followed me around all day 🙂 I can totally appreciate the Q-Bert reference, and that feeling of excitement (though I was a Donkey Kong fan myself). But in all seriousness, when we writers dream, we tend to dream big…so I’m sure, if you don’t already have the full cast in your head, you have an idea of what your characters would look like on the screen. Do you have detailed character profiles, concept art, that kind of thing?

There have been several illustrators who have created rough concept art for Thrice Nine Legends, but there are no pictures of the characters found in the stories. I would be thrilled to have some fully framed, canvas images of the characters to hang up around my house. But, yes, I have files upon files of detailed character profiles. I have a short biography on each character that outlines their homeland, family and upbringing, major childhood events, adolescence and training, religion, romances, and motivations for the plot. The motivations are the most important! My kingdoms, cities, and other settlements are far more detailed than the characters, mirroring the same complexity as Hawkhurst. I have folders embedded in folders embedded in more folders that have been created over 15 years. However, despite all the information known about the world, a writer has to be clever in how the world is discovered with their characters. I once did a short interview on Building World and Story.

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  1. Thanks for providing a link to the interview. I enjoyed your views on the art of world building in fantasy, especially the section on inference. I also agree that a reader enjoys to learn with a character. We’ve established your admirable organisational skills (read the article, folks!) and it’s clear the worlds you create are as rich and diverse as our own. If you could bring one of your characters into this reality and teach them the ways of our particular universe, which one would you choose and why? Tell us about them – what job would they have and how would they adapt to their new surroundings?

I have to consider my main character, Branimir. He could not only use a little acculturation into the world of humans, but he would be the most appreciative of the experience. Branimir has a free spirit, rarely bound by any personal ambitions. He is extraordinarily blameless and kind, but he is also quite inquisitive. This would make him ideal in venturing through our world. I think his long life span and natural curiosity would set him up to be an archaeologist, a historian, or a world traveler.

  1. I loved spending time with Branimir, and as Melkorka was the first book of yours I read – I’ll probably always have a soft spot for him! We tend to be loyal to our firsts 🙂 And now I’m curious. Which fantasy character/s have stayed with you?

I would give most credit to Matrim Cauthon, who is a character in Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. Mat is a roguish guy who is all about women, gambling, and drinking! Today, I meet several folks that grew up with Harry Potter. Well, I grew up with this brazen kid from Emond’s Field and lived vicariously through him.

Other characters that have stuck are between fantasy and science fiction genres: Gandalf, Han Solo and Chewbacca, He-Man, Ender, and Spock. I know – some all-time favorites for many geeks in that line up. Beyond that, there are a handful of characters that I have played in Dungeons and Dragons for almost twenty years that are close to heart.

  1. I’d love to discuss some of those fine characters with you, but perhaps we’d better save it for the thread! Let’s bring it back to you. In terms of writing, what is the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

That is an easy one, Melissa. Keep writing! There are many tidbits out there to help a writer hone his or her craft, but the number one thing that any author can do is to keep writing.

  1. I actually have that printed on a t-shirt (I kid you not!) Keep writing. It’s important – as is reading. It should be in the induction pack – well, if there were such a thing. Okay, so we’ve discovered a lot about you in terms of your work, your tastes, and how you approach certain projects. Now tell us something you’ve never revealed before – one thing you enjoy. I’m not talking deep, dark secrets here, just something we don’t yet know.

The only thing that comes to mind are random facts, like I always order a 5-layer bean burrito when I go Taco Bell or I’m one of the two members of my family tasked to be the ancestral historian (very enjoyable!).

  1. We don’t have Taco Bell in the UK so I’m not going to lie, I googled the 5-layer bean burrito because my curiosity got the better of me. It looks delicious! And I love researching my ancestors – those nice little surprises that always seem to end up in a story (very enjoyable indeed!). Are there any writers in your family tree? Artists? Gold miners?

I have yet to find any writers in the long history of my “family tree”; we have oodles of farmers. However, we make up for it in my immediate family. My older sister wrote stories when she was younger. My younger sister is currently working on her first novel. And, JC Boyd is not only my best friend and co-author, but he is also…[drum roll]…my younger brother.

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  1. That is beyond cool! It’s so great that you get to share the journey together. The following two questions are unique to Sourcerer’s Eleven, so – first up: Give us your best pitch elevator pitch. In four sentences or less, why should we read your books?

Is there a restriction on the sentence length? Wait! Did that count as one?

There was a time when gods were gods and men were men. Before legends divided truth from untruth, love from hatred, or the righteous from the wicked, the world was nothing but a veil of myth and misconception. It is heroes who defied what it meant to be a man or a god, seeking a purpose for themselves and humanity. My stories are about those heroes and their legendary adventures.

  1. Sold! Though I didn’t need the pitch – I’ve already spent time in your fantasy world. Final question – If you could own one (and only one) piece out-of-this world technology or magical artefact, large or small – anything from the simplest magic wand to a Death Star — what would it be?

Besides the infamous Horn of Bubbles from DnD? 🙂 I choose the Ring of Gyges introduced to the world by Plato. The story explains that this ring gives the power of invisibility to its wearer. In addition, the owner may forever have whatever they touch as though it were their own. There is some speculation the tale of the Ring of Gyges was the inspiration behind Tolkien’s LOTR.

Thank you so much, Joshua. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed chatting with you, and I look forward to the conversation in the thread – I know people will have plenty of follow up questions from this engaging interview.

Arrow: Season 3, Episode 23 – My Name Is Oliver Queen

BannerIf I hadn’t already known Arrow would return for another season, I might have worried it was the end for Oliver and his friends. Driving off into the sunset, happy no less, is not how I expected the series to end. Not that I’m complaining, you understand. Olly deserves a little happy after everything he’s been through. But I’m getting ahead of myself as usual. There was a lot to love about the finale, so let’s reflect on what happened.

The show continued right where it ended last week, and after marrying Nyssa, Olly spent his wedding night on a plane with his father in law – bound for Starling City. With the bio-weapon packed and ready to go, Ra’s didn’t waste any time in moving forward with his plan.

Team Arrow in cell

Back in Nanda Parbat the team regained consciousness in their cell, clearly confused, though thankful they weren’t dead. Merlyn couldn’t wait to take the credit for their miraculous recovery. His betrayal last week was just another thread in the tangled web of deceit, and all a plan so Olly could prove his allegiance once and for all.

John Barrowman was at his best this week. He took control almost immediately, delivering the news that the group had been vaccinated against the virus. His smug line, ‘I believe the words you’re looking for are, thank and you!’ was classic Merlyn. But then he knew what was coming, and so did we given the teaser trailers. Enter the Flash! Barry was his usual entertaining self, disabling the guards as he came to the aid of his friends. It was a particularly nice touch when he referred to the Lazarus Pit as a hot tub! It was only a flying visit, but Barry managed to spread some of his cheer.

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One of my favourite scenes was undoubtedly the moment Olly stood up to Ra’s. Granted, he was on a doomed flight at the time, having sabotaged the plane, but it was still pretty great when he declared, ‘My name is Oliver Queen.’ I might have cheered a little! I didn’t even mind when Ra’s got away, because it was obvious the show couldn’t end there. Still, it was tense when Ra’s took the only parachute and left Olly and Nyssa to fend for themselves. The landing was a little rough, but they managed to touch the bird down.

The team made it back home too, converging in Ray’s lab to decide their next move. Merlyn continued to have fun, barking out orders to each member of the group, and standing his ground when they hesitated, ‘I’m sorry. Did I mumble?’ Diggle was the one to allow him the role of temporary leader.

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Not that it lasted very long. Olly and Nyssa arrived moments later. It was actually kind of sweet when she moved to protect Olly from the hostility. Diggle still got a punch in though, which was deserved. Olly was quick to explain why he sided with Merlyn, and though Diggle pointed out that sorry didn’t cover it, there were bigger things to deal with than hurt feelings (and broken trust).

Felicity was angry about the fact Olly would have sacrificed himself to take down Ra’s on the plane. But she too recognised the urgency and set to work. It was nice to see the team working together, even Malcolm. They learnt that Damian Dark was in the city, which meant Olly’s ascension wasn’t the only thing on Ra’s agenda. He wanted to take down his nemesis.

Team Arrow searching for Ra's

In a coordinated effort, they set out to confront Damian, and instead found one of his associates. The man himself was long gone, so that was a dead end. Ra’s couldn’t resist taunting Olly though. After putting an arrow in Damian’s associate, he ranted about releasing four vessels in the city; four instruments of death. It at least gave the team something to work at.

Laurel visited her father at the station, a memorable scene because it turned out Captain Lance had fallen off the wagon. She challenged him, made him face a few facts and left him to decide whether he wanted to hide behind the bottle, or help save the city.

Ray, in the meantime, was working to build and disseminate an inoculant, utilising his nanotech. The others were trying to determine the four probable locations.

Olly and Felicity

I’ve missed seeing Oliver and Felicity together, sharing a connection which has been lacking recently. In another favourite scene, Olly finally opened up. He spoke of his reoccurring dream, the one he’s had since leaving the mountain. It starts the same way, with Felicity begging him not to fight Ra’s. In the dream he agrees, and sometimes they even escape. In that version, it ends with the two of them driving away.

Throughout the season we’ve seen Olly struggle with his identity, and it’s clear he’s winning the battle. Felicity too believes he is someone else, something else, and that his heart is the key to defeating Ra’s. It was a powerful moment, especially when she asked him to fight to live.

The final scenes were great in terms of the cohesion between the team. We saw Lance rallying the troops, everyone take their positions on site, and Speedy arrive to join the fight. They quickly discovered Ra’s had turned his men into the weapon, and got to work disabling the threat as Ray continued to find a way to get the inoculation to the city.

Ra's and Ollie fight

Meanwhile, Ollie faced Ra’s again and the pair fought a fierce battle. This time, Olly was victorious, earning the position as the new Demon Head. Unfortunately, the police saw him as one of the enemy and opened fire. Olly took a few shots to the chest, before falling over the side of the dam.

Felicity saved him, wearing Ray’s suit, which was a really nice twist. It was like old times again when she told him she’d kiss him if she could figure out how to get the thing off. It’s the first time I’ve seen Olly smile in quite a while.

Felicity in Ray's suit

Perhaps the most surprising twist in the series, was Olly’s decision to leave the city, though as he said himself, there are enough heroes to watch out for Starling. Including his sister, who finally took her place as Speedy. Even Diggle may be getting a new identity.

Merlyn’s storyline ended on an interesting note since Olly gave up his title, allowing Malcolm to fill the Demon Head’s shoes. It will certainly be fun to discover what kind of leader he turns out to be, and what his plans are for the League.

Another story arc which will be thrilling to watch in the next season, or indeed if the spinoff happens, is the Atom. Ray’s last scene was explosive, literally. Who knows what’s in store for us now, or whether Felicity has just inherited her own company.

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Which brings us to the final scene. It was really moving when Oliver chose Felicity, a decision which must be long overdue for Olicity fans. As the pair drove off into the sunset together, Olly happy for the first time in who knows how long, I had to wonder what’s next for the Green Arrow. Maybe he’ll return in season 4 a changed man. We might see a happier, lighter Oliver Queen.

What did you think to the finale? Are we going to see Olly’s lighter side? Whatever happens, it is sure to be a thrilling season. We don’t have too long to wait, as the season looks set to return in October (if previous seasons are anything to go by). Until then, thanks for sharing your thoughts and I’ll look forward to joining you for Season 4.

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NB: Images used within this review are the copyright of The CW Network. All rights reserved.

Arrow: Season 3, Episode 22 – This Is Your Sword

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The penultimate episode addressed some of my doubts regarding the validity of Ollie’s alliance with Malcolm Merlyn. It never really sat well with me, but at least it makes more sense. Essentially, it boils down to the fact he understood how useful Merlyn’s knowledge would become.

But let’s look at the episode, and discuss the revelation that Ollie was faking it (not a complete surprises given the spoilers). The fact he decided to take on the League from the inside, cut all ties to his life and hurt those he loves is a little extreme, even for Ollie. He rarely takes the easy route, and he certainly knows how to punish himself, but if he continues to burn those bridges, there won’t be anything left to stand on!

The show opened with a flashback, but I’ll skip over that for a moment. It likely served to remind us of Ollie’s history with Maseo and their experience in dealing with the Alpha-Omega. As it turns out, Maseo gave Ra’s the virus. It’s certainly a powerful bargaining chip, given its destructive potential.

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Shortly after Ra’s made a speech about wiping the slate clean, and sending death to Starling City (on a plane), they moved to the subject of Ollie’s impending union with Nyssa, and had a rehearsal dinner. Well, okay, maybe it wasn’t strictly a wedding rehearsal, but they certainly talked about Nyssa becoming a wife and mother. Ra’s is seems, would like to become a grandfather!

Olly excused himself because, though he was no doubt genuinely unnerved by the topic, he had arranged to meet with Merlyn. The pair discussed Ra’s schedule, and given that things were moving at an alarming rate, Ollie decided to call in reinforcements. It was clear neither Olly nor Merlyn had thought the plan completely through.

When Ollie’s continued absence was noted by Ra’s, he sent Maseo looking for him (luckily Malcolm was gone by then). I liked that we got to see a glimpse of Maseo’s inner torment in the scene with Ollie. The fact Maseo is stuck inside a prison of his own making – which began with the death of his son.

Team Arrow

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In Starling we saw that Diggle and Black Canary were working to keep the city safe. They took down a street gang, with a little help from the Canary Cry (and Cisco’s modifications). The action was enjoyable, especially the way they worked together. It took a turn for the worse though, when Diggle lost the leash on his control. He is barely hanging on to his anger.

Merlyn only made things worse when he arrived to tell them that Ollie’s allegiance with the League is a charade. Since both Malcolm and Ollie anticipated their reaction, Malcolm brought Tatsu with him. It was a little odd, because they don’t know her, yet anyone stood a better chance than Merlyn at gaining their trust.

After hearing about the virus, they agreed to accompany Malcolm to Nanda Parbat, though there was more than a little resistance. They found the plane which was fuelled and ready to go. Felicity did her thing (remotely connecting to the on-board computer), as the others fought a group of assassins.

gang arriving

Ray joined the gang, coming to their rescue and blowing the plane from the sky. His timing was impeccable, given that Felicity’s equipment was damaged. It was a treat to see Ray fly in, though he might want to work on his landings – he literally crashed to the earth. It didn’t hurt his sense of humour ‘you should see the other guy’ was a nice touch.

In an earlier scene between Ray and Felicity she signed papers which turned out to be a transfer of ownership (not that she even looked at the document). I’m not sure what Ray’s plan is, but he’s definitely up to something!

Thea and Roy

Thea decided to go looking for Roy, and the reunion was incredibly sweet. The chemistry between them was reminiscent of their earlier relationship, so it’s a shame that their time together was short lived. Roy decided to cut the ties because he didn’t want to subject her to a life on the run. He left her with his suit (which she managed to get back via her father). It means we will likely see Speedy in action pretty soon.

Maseo and Tatsu

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The flashbacks this week were focused on the fight to save Akio’s life. When they realised the inoculation wasn’t working, Ollie and Maseo teamed up to locate a cure. It ended badly for all of them because, not only were they too late, and Akio died, they managed to walk into a trap set by General Shrieve.

Back in the present, Tatsu fought with Maseo as the team took down the plane. It was a difficult battle to watch, especially when Maseo gained the upper hand and was about to end her life. In the end they both lost. Though Tatsu killed Maseo, she did so at great personal cost. Maseo’s final words were poignant. He thanked her for releasing him from his prison.

Nanda Parbat

episode 22The scenes between Ra’s and Nyssa were disturbing. We rarely see him lose that icy control, but he certainly lost it this week – threatening untold horrors to his daughter.

His mood didn’t improve when he discovered Ollie’s friends in Nanda Parbat. It meant there was a traitor in his ranks. The plane had been a test, which was an interesting twist. Ra’s had the virus the whole time. Of course this put seeds of doubt in his mind about Ollie’s true allegiance, something Malcolm fed into by telling him about their plan. Why am I not surprised Merlyn double crossed Oliver to save his own bacon? In any case, it didn’t make a difference. Ra’s decided to give Ollie the benefit of the doubt.

After breaking the news that Ollie was to be married, he threw the gang in a cell. The look between Ollie and Felicity was heart-breaking – you could see the pain in Felicity’s eyes.

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It only got worse, because Ra’s released the virus in their cell. And still Ollie did nothing. Not even after Diggle told him he’d lost more than his friendship – he’d lost his respect and trust. He walked out of the cell, closing and sealing the door – and their fate.

So that leaves us with the cliff-hanger. As Ollie got married (he almost got stabbed by Nyssa, but he’s learnt a few tricks), the team could be seen in the cell. It was eerie, not because I believed them to be dead. It was more about the symbolism – that of a dying friendship.

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One thing is certain, it will be an emotional and action paced season finale. What do you think? Did you enjoy the episode? Do you have any predictions? I’d love to hear from you.


NB: Images used within this review are the copyright of The CW Network. All rights reserved.