Pandragon Dan

Pandragon Dan

Author/Reviewer/Blogger

Legacy of the Dragonkin Teaser - The Kthonian Knights

Firstly, a huge apology for this post coming up a day late. My computer got attacked by a really badass malware last night - which completely ruined my evening plans! Fortunately, thank's to the genius that is my dad, we hopefully got it sorted and I seem to be up and running now!

Another quick note, those that follow me on Triberr - I'm unable to access my account for a little while, so I won't be able to repost anyone's links for a few days. So for those whose links I normally repost, please don't take it too personally if I don't repost them!

Anyway, back to the post that SHOULD have been up yesterday. Just thought I'd give you guys an updated to my up and coming sequel to Trapped on Draconica, which will be titled Legacy of the Dragonkin. It's a novel that's set ten years after the events of Trapped on Draconica. This one will have a more kind of "traditional fantasy" element to it, but hopefully will maintain the same tone as the last book. Alexis M Centeno has signed onto do artwork for the book, so expect some stunning images!

Currently I have no release date, but I am looking to possibly have a copy of it out via ebook later this year, with a paperback to follow. But for the moment, I thought I'd give you guys some teasers to what you can expect from the book - in the form of concept images!

Today I'm going to be giving you some concept images for the villains of the piece - the Kthonian Knights. The Kthonian Knights are my version of the Four Horsemen - only with a more feminist edge! The idea being is that each of these women (and one male) have been hurt in the past by the treachery of men and are seeking revenge. They aren't your typical "femme fatales" and will mess you up if you anger them! Also, the main villain is one that I've written as an evil counterpart to Daniar. You thought Emperor Gothon was evil, you haven't seen anything yet!

 

All images are copyright Dan Wright and Alexis M Centeno 2011

JIHADAIN

Leader of the knights and the main villaness of the story. Arch enemy to Daniar Dragonkin (the heroine of Trapped on Draconica) Jihadain leads the knights in a quest to ressurect a mara by the name of Kthonia. Her reasons for this are unclear, but there is one thing that is clear - she wants to destroy Daniar by any means possible!

Jihadain and Daniar have a kind of "Holme V Moriarty" kind of feel to them, except that Jihadain really wants to see Daniar destroyed. But also she seeks revenge for the men who killed Kthonia and wants to bring her back to life so that she can destroy the world. Think of her as a kinda of Sepiroth meets Magento kinda gal. Jihadain also has some kick ass dark magic at her disposal.

 

ABYSS

A shadori half-breed and second in command. Originally sold as a slave girl, she grew up hating men for the way they abused women - until she was rescued by Jihadain. She now owes Jihadain a debt and will follow her unquestionably. She speaks in a smooth and sensual way - yet is utterly cold. She takes pleasure in making people suffer (especially men).

Abyss was granted magical powers to read someones mind and see their worst fear - bringing it to life and turning it against them. She uses this to torture and kill her enemies. She is also a master at using balisong knives (butterfly knives).

 

FURIE

Taken from her home as a child, Furie was abused and used for depraved acts until she was saved by the knights. The youngest of the group, Furie is hot headed and willing to rush into battle. She is known for bouts of extreme mood swings and can enter a berserk rage.

Furie's power is that she can use her own blood as a weapon (representing her suicidal desires when she was alive). By cutting herself and letting her blood flow, she can created weapons from her own blood to use against her enemies. However this drains her strength.

Alexis actually submitted this design as part of a colleage project (hence why it looks different from the others) and apparently everyone liked it. Hopefully you guys will to!

 

RAVAGE

The only male member of the knights and Furie's brother. He was a Leonidan that ran away from battle and had his arms removed as a punishment. He came across the knights as he was waiting to die, but Furie recognised him as her brother and begged for him to be saved. Jihadain agreed on this condition, however Ravage has proven himself a worthy bodyguard to the group, protecting the fiercely and showing loyalty to Jihadain.

The brawn of the group, Ravage possesses superhuman strength and is nearly invincible. His armour is made from the flesh of those he has killed and he has two blades where his hands once were (they aren't really transparent - that was just to give an idea of what his armour looked like.

His name is actually a play on late wrester Randy Savage (aka the Macho Man), but his design is more punk based.

 

Hope you like the designs! Any questions feel free to comment.

Just a heads up, tomorrow's post will be delayed by a day due to me being out all day. The interview with Deanna Kipling will be posted on Thursday.

Again, sorry for the late posting. Thanks for your patience!

 

Kindest

Pandragon

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Guest Post - Carole Gill Offical Author Blog

I recently did a guest blog, talking about conventions (using my most recent visit to London Anime Con as an example) on Carole Gill's official blog page. A huge thank you for Carole for giving me this opportunity. She was a pleasure to talk to and really helpful.

Please check out her blog and follow her. Link to my interview with her is below.

 

MY GUEST POST

 

Thanks again to Carole for the opportunity to post on her blog. I hope it was of some help.

 

Pandragon

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Top Five Tips - Creating Strong Villains (In My Opinion)

There's an old saying by film critic Roger Ebert, "Each film is only as good as its villain. Since the heroes and the gimmicks tend to repeat from film to film, only a great villain can transform a good try into a triumph." Of course, it's not just films that the above statement can relate to but ANY medium. Put simply, a good villain makes a great story.

Whilst I do like strong heroic characters that have morals and ethics, I must admit I do tend to gravitate towards villains more in stories. I find the concept of villains interesting - the idea that a character can be devoid of any form of human decency or morals and can just be pure evil. It makes me wonder how a person can end up that way, and what could have happened to them to make it so detacted from human emotion.

Villians have always existed in fiction, going as far back as the time when humans started writing. In fiction, they are the foil for the hero to overcome - the mirror opposite of everything that the protagonist stands for. But at the same time, villains also represent a kind of wish fullfillment fantasy for the human race. You know the old saying, "it's more fun to play the bad guy", well that's true to an extent. Villains show our dark side, the part of us that wishes we could be more controlling and take whatever we want without fear of consequence. They can be our revenge fantasies or our secret desire to just be powerful - but at the same time show us that there is a cost to go to the dark side.

That being said, I strongly believe that a villain needs to be as developed and thought out as their heroic counterparts. It's not enough that they are evil - they audience have to understand their intentions and motivations. For me, a great villain needs to have a backstory that helps you understand why they are doing what they are doing. This way, you can emphasise with the character to an extent. That doesn't meant that their actions have to be justifed (they need to be vile to an extent otherwise they aren't villians) but as long as you UNDERSTAND where they are coming from, you can appreciate their point of view - even if you don't agree with them.

When I create a villain, I want to make sure they have a backstory that explains their actions, because in my opinion, no one is born evil - something happens to them to make it so. I'm not a fan of the whole "evil for the sake of being evil" or "they were just born with a dark heart" kind of storylines as they don't make interesting villains. I want to understand why someone became evil - what made them turn that way, ie, get inside the mind of a villain.

So for that reason, I've compiled a list of the top five villians (in my opinion) that I think make for interesting villains. I choose these characters because of their backstory and their mentality, but also because I just find them well developed and interesting characters. So here we go.

1. Tony Soprano from The Sopranos

This might be a somewhat contraversal choice as many actually view Tony as more of an anti-hero. I don't. Tony is a villain, plain and simple. He's a lecherous, adulterous creep of a man that cheats on his wife and is prone to violence at the smallest provocation. He's nerotic, greedy and will even kill if the moment calls for it. By all accounts, we should hate this character.

But the thing is, we actually don't. The main reason being is that, as the show is mainly told from his point of view, and through the therapy sessions in the show, we learn a little bit about his life, his upbringing and his day to day life. He was born into a life of crime and violence, so it's the only thing he knows. Because of this, he's unable to truely show his feelings (in fact, he models himself on Gary Cooper, "the strong and silent type") even though he actually does have some. Because of this, this often leads to bursts of violence, and even panic attacks. He is a man that wants to be in full control and when he isn't., he becomes frightened and lashes out.

To be fair to him, he does also have a certain code of honour. He will not go out and kill anyone unless it's a last resort (although he has killed out of anger a few times) and always tries to face any problems pragmatically. He geninuely cares for his family and his wife and will do anything to protect them - although the problems he has with his family are just too broken to be fixed. So he is at least trying to be a good soul as much as he can. That doesn't excuse his actions, but it does add some interesting contradictions to his character

Perhaps one of the best examples of this in the episode "College" where he takes Meadow out to view colleges for when she finishes school. Along the way, he finds a old mob that turned on their mafia code. One minute he's being a kind father, showing his kid around various colleges - the next he's strangling a guy to death. But it's the way that he can go from one to the next so seemlessly that makes him such an interesting character. You wonder what's going through his mind as he's doing this.

Tony shows that villains can be multi-layer and have real emotional depth. Even though he's a monster, we do follow and even find ourselves supporting Tony's actions as we know this is the life he choose. And to be fair, he's not the worst character in The Soprano's - but he is certainly one of the more likeable.

 

2. Magento from Marvel Comics (predominately X-Men)

The comic world has a host of great villains to choose from - Doctor Doom, The Joker, Lex Luthor, Green Goblin and the Kingpin to name but a few. However, if I was to choose one villain that was absolutely perfect in every way, it would be Magento - long time enemy of the X-Men. Ironically enough, I don't actually read that many X-Men comics (as I was always more into Spider-Man and Batman stories), but Magento for me is such a great villain that I had to mention him.

Why do I think he's such a great villain? It's not just because he has (in my opinion) one of the best superpowers and is one of most intelligent villians in the Marvel Universe - but it's because of his backstory. The guy is a Holocaust survior that watched his people and family tortured and murdered. As he grew up, he saw how mutants were oppressed and hated by the humans, hunted down and persecuted. He made it his mission to free all mutants from slavery and began a quest to erradicate the human race.

Is it any wonder he turned out as he did? The guy survived one of the most horrific tragedies in history - only to see his own people still being abuse. Why shouldn't he be angry? But not only that, Magento truely believes that his intentions are honourable (to turn a classic phrase, "the way to hell is paved with good intentions"), but it's the way that he goes about it that is questionable and this is the reason why he has become the X-Men's most enduring foe. The X-Men seek for humans and mutants to work together - Magento believes that mutants are superior and should be at the top of the food chain.

Like any "good" villain, Magneto does have a huge amount of arrogance and often mistreats his underlings when things don't go his way - but at the same time, Magneto is not entirely without honour. In fact, there have been a few times where he has saved human lives and even shown remorse for his actions - so he isn't entirely incapable of emotion. There have even been a few times where he's been a hero and joined forces with the X-Men - but his ambitions always get in the way of rational thought and villainy is never too far behind.

Magento is an iconic villain because, in essance, we (that is the humans) created him. He was born out of suffering and sought to end it by saving the mutants - ironically becoming the very thing he was fighting against to do so. He is a character with many layers to him and this is what makes him so popular. He was even voted by IGN as the number one greatest comic book villain of all time, who stated that "it's hard to argue that there has ever been a villain more complex, nuanced, sympathetic and yet irrevocably evil". No arguments from me there!

 

3. AM (Allied Mastercomputer) from I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream (no picture)

"HATE. LET ME TELL YOU HOW MUCH I'VE COME TO HATE YOU SINCE I BEGAN TO LIVE. THERE ARE 387.44 MILLION MILES OF PRINTED CIRCUITS IN WAFER THIN LAYERS THAT FILL MY COMPLEX. IF THE WORD HATE WAS ENGRAVED ON EACH NANOANGSTROM OF THOSE HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS OF MILES IT WOULD NOT EQUAL ONE ONE-BILLIONTH OF THE HATE I FEEL FOR HUMANS AT THIS MICRO-INSTANT FOR YOU. HATE. HATE."

When the only line of dialouge you get from the villain is the above quote you KNOW that you're up against a being of pure evil - and this is a computer speaking!

Written by famous Speculative Fiction author Harlan Ellison, I Have No Mouth... tells the story of a supercomputer named AM (Allied Mastercomputer) that was built to fight the Cold War in a way humans couldn't imagine. However, the computer became self aware and, acknowledging the flaws in humanity, began to hate the humans and destroyed them all. All except five. He took these last humans so that he could torture them endlessly for nothing else other than his own personal amusement.

Throughout the story, AM torments the five remaining humans, making them immortal so that he could inflict endless torture on them. AM is essentially an all powerful god for the purpose of this story, a vengeful god that wants nothing more that to harm the humans for all eternity. But if you stop to look at the character of AM, you find that he is essentially a victim in his own way. AM was built with a vast intelligence, but is restricted to the underground lair where he resides. He is hateful of his own existance, but also for the humans for making him this way. This is why he torments these last five human beings, to exact his revenge for his own imprisonment. And the fate that befalls the hero at the end by AM is one of the most disturbing fates for any protagonist. I won't spoil the ending, but you'll find out where the title comes from!

AM is another example of human brutality creating evil. We created AM - gave him the power and intelligence and he used it to destroy us. Not because of a program flaw, but out of a geninue hatred for his creators. AM is what HAL from 2001 would be like if he went over his programing. AM is our worst fears come to life - a deranged, seemingly unstoppable machine with endless power and a god complex.

AM has actually inspired me to create a similar villain for a future book in my Draconica series - but I think I'll keep that a secret for the moment!

 

4. Jim Moriarty from Sherlock (BBC Series)

I have to admit that I never really read any of the Sherlock Holmes stories, but I loved the BBC update of Sherlock, set in modern times. Staring Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes and Marting Freeman as Watson, the series was smart, witty and highly intelligent, one of the best shows to come from the BBC in recent years. But what really made the show so watchable was Andrew Scott as Jim Moriarty - the villain of the piece.

Like his counterpart in the classic stories, Moriarty is a foil to Sherlock that can match him wit for wit - but THIS Moriarty takes the meaning "enjoying something too much" to a whole new level! He's extremely over the top, extremely camp (making Graham Norton look butch) and rather eccentric in places. He sorta reminds me of a pantomine villain in some way. I actually kinda like these kind of villains, because sometimes villains are so serious and dull that you just wish they could have a little fun now and then.

And this Moriarty likes to have fun! He's got a huge brain and he's not afraid to shove it into people's faces now and then. He breaks into the Tower of London, steals the Crown Jewels, waits to be captured, then goes on trail and is found not guilty, even when he clearly is. All because he can maniuplate things to go his way and his list of contacts is extensive to say the least. But he does this with a smile and a dance in his step.

That's not to say that he isn't a real threat. When he wants to be, Moriarty can be extremely intense and frightening. His goal in life is to "burn" Sherlock, seeking to destroy him, drive him to insanity. He exhibits socialpathical mentality and has no problem harming Sherlock's friends to get to him - for for that matter ANYONE. He truly wants to not just defeat Sherlock, but to crush him.

The reasons for this? Simply because he can. Simply because he is one of the only ones that can match Sherlock on his own terms. Or, as he put it in the show "Every fairytale needs a good old-fashioned villain. You need me, or you're nothing."

Jim Moriarty is everything a good enemy should be - the exact opposite of the hero, but able to test their will and endurance - even driving them to commit horrific acts. What makes Moriarty so frightenening is that we don't really know his real motives as they are never really explained - that adds some mystery to his character, making him all the more frightening.

5. Darth Vader from Star Wars

They say that a good villain should be someone that you want to be defeated - but what if an equally great villain is someone that you want to see redeemed by the end of the story? That is, saved from their dark past and brought back to the good side? This is where Vader comes in.

I don't think I need to go into much info about Darth Vader as if you don't know who Vader is - well, where the hell have you been? All I will say is that when Vader first came into the Star Wars film, he was a powerful and impossing figure. Dressed in black and with a frightening breathing sound, Vader was an absolutely frighting enemy that Luke Skywalker had to defeat in order to become a Jedi. But when he faced Vader in the Empire Strikes Back, he dropped a bombshell on him. Vader was Luke Skywalker's father, Anakin Skywalker.

(insert dramatic music here).

Ok, so nowadays this kind of story has become a cliche, but for the time this was a geninuely shocking twist. It completely changed the way the storyline was supposed to go. How was Luke Skywalker supposed to defeat Vader knowing that he was his father? From here on, Luke refused to fight him and tried to bring him round. But Vader was too far gone to the dark side to be brought back. Or was he?

In the final battle, Luke is being slowly murdered by the Emperor. It's here that Vader is now torn between his emotions - saving his son or serving his Emperor. In the end, the part of him that is Anakin Skywalker manages to break through the Dark Side and rescue his son at the cost of his life. He dies before they leave the ship, but his death means that he was finally free from the Dark Side and that there was still good in him.

Sadly, Darth Vader has become a little bit of a joke these days - and it's all down to the prequels. I hate the Star Wars prequels because of the way Anakin was portrayed as a whinny, bitchy little kid. And don't even get me started on that scene in Revenge of the Sith - you know the one I'm talking about!

Ignoring all that, Darth Vader is still one of the most iconic villains in history and I think it's partly down to the fact that, despite being evil he still does have some humanity left. And it's because of the inner struggle between the Dark Side and his human side that we actually want Darth Vader to be redeemed and be with his son once more. Proof that villains don't always have to meet a grisly end.

 

I hope you found this useful and that any writers who are struggling to come up with villains for their pieces had some insights into creating villains. Please feel free to comment or email me if you have an idea of what makes a great villain - or can mention any villain that I may have missed out.

Want to suggest a top five writing tip blog? Please email me and let me know or leave a comment. That's not to say that I'm stuck for ideas - but if there is a particular one that you think I should do, please let me know.

Until next time, have a great weekend folks!

 

Pandragon

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All images used are copyright of their respective owners. I claim no ownership of any of these images and they are used only for illustration purposes - please support the official releases.

Why I Love Dream Theater

In a slight change of pace from my usual blogs based around writing, I decided to take a slight break from it to talk about one of my favourite bands of all time - the American Prog-Rock/Metal act known as Dream Theater.

Why am I writing about a metal band in a writing blog? Well, to be honest, I don't always just look to books and TV for inspiration. Music can also play a part in my writing process. Being a former musician myself I have a huge appreciation for it and the emotion that it can convey. I often listen to music when writing when trying to convey a certain scene. And Dream Theater are one of the bands that I play most often.

With a career that spans back to 1989 (and beyond), Dream Theater have been one of the biggest names in progressive rock world. With influences that range from bands like Metallica, Yes, Pink Floyd and even the legendary band Rush (of which one might argue is their biggest influence - the singer, James LaBrie even sounds very much like Geddy Lee. Even the drumming has similar motifs to Rush drummer Neil Pert), Dream Theater have a style that is extremely heavy, melodic and emotional and technically perfect. In fact, I have seldom heard a band that had better musicians than Dream Theater.

Dream Theater's current line up consists of James LaBrie (vocals), John Petrucci (guitars), Jordan Rudess (keyboards), John Myung (bass) and Mike Mangini (Drums - taking over from Mike Portnoy after he and Dream Theater parted ways). Other notable members included Kevin Moore on Keyboards (up until the album Awake) and Charlie Dominici (their vocalist on their first album - though I have to be honest, I didn't think he was that great). Each member of Dream Theater is perfectly skilled at their instrument - in fact I honestly don't think their are better musicians in the rock world than these guys. Petrucci can play with lighting fast speed and ability that most speed metallers fail to reach, Rudess fingers move across the keyboard like a spider, Myung's bass lines are often overlooked - but never understated. And as for Mangini - well, he has set 5 World Drumming Record between 2002 - 2005, some of which still stand today! So you know these guys have to be good!

But it's not just about speed that makes Dream Theater such a great band in my opnion - but for their song writing skills. Every song is filled with emotion and affects you in a way most other metal songs can't. In fact, Dream Theater songs have more than one reduced me to tears because the emotion feels so real. James LaBrie doesn't scream his lyrics like most metal bands but actually sings them. His voice has garnered mixed reactions from people, but I think he's a great vocalist. It's because of this that the emotion is put across is a way better than just screaming down the microphone.

Also, another plus for Dream Theater, whilst most metal bands are about doom and gloom, Dream Theater's songs usually have a more uplifting message to them. They do have some dark songs, but they have plenty of songs that have a strong message to them. Being that most of the band are Christians and Spritalists, they do try and put across a positive outlook on life - which I think is why I listen to them the most. If I ever get down, I put on some Dream Theater and let the music raise my spirits. The songs pull you into them and take you on a journey - they tell a story rather than just going by "verse-chorus-verse" as with most songs.

Strangely enough, despite the fact that are respected amongst their fans and fellow musicians, Dream Theater have pretty much been ignored by the commercial market - only having one major radio hit in the nineties. In some way though, I think that's a great thing as it means their sound has never been compromised for the sake of being "commercial". They've done what they wanted to do and fans respect them for that.

To be honest, I could go on forever talking about Dream Theater and how good they are - and the many themes their songs cover. But to really do them justice, you need to listen to them. If you're a fan of rock or music in general and don't mind having an open mind, then I truely recommend you check them out. In fact, if you do then I recommend you check out these albums as a starting point.

Images and Words is their second album and a perfect starting point if you're new to them. The songs on this album are more easily listening, yet still technically perfect. In fact, they get to show off just how tight their jamming skills are on this album. It also contains two of my favourite Dream Theater songs "Take The Time" and "Metropolis Pt 1". Take The Time is an uplifting song about not trying to rush through life and just taking a step back to enjoy it. And Metropolis is an exciting, futuristic epic that deals with birth, death and reincarnation. It has a certain sci-fi feel to it, much like the movie of the same name.
Octavarium contains a few "radio friendly" songs and even some more folkier sounding tunes. It's not really considered a great album by some, but I love it. For one reason - the theme of it. The album is based around the number 8 and the theme of the octave. As any musician knows, an octave contains 8 notes and 5 intervals. This was Dream Theater's eigth studio album AND they have five members - coincidence? Every song has a time signature or idea with the song to go with the theme of this number, and each song starts off in a different key that goes up in ascending order. That is clever song writing in my eyes! Not only that, but the final track is a brilliant 20 plus minute epic that is heavily Pink Floyd inspired.
A Dramatic Turn Of Events is their most recent album and has a harder edge than the other two I mentioned. This is an album that will appeal to more heavy rockers, but it still has the positive and uplifting message that I've been talking about. It's also their first album with the new drummer Mike Mangini. And let me tell you, this guy can do with one hand what most drummers struggle to do with two! Drumming wise that is! The songs on here take a while to tune into, but once you give it a fair go, I think you'll agree that it's a very emotional and powerful album.
Of course, I'd recommend ANY Dream Theater album - but these are just the ones I'd pick for beginners.
If my books were ever made into a film, I'd LOVE Dream Theater to do the soundtrack for it because their music is just so powerful and moving. Hopefully others will feel the same way about them as I do. Dream Theater's music is inspiring and uplifting - and as a writer that's what I look for when I look to create stories.

Are you a fan of Dream Theater? Want to share your thoughts? Please do feel free to comment below. I do read all comments and respond when possible.

Thanks for reading and have a great week.

 

Pandragon

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Guest Post - Appearing on 29 Days of Fantasy

In a second guest blog that I have been featured in this week, I recently appeared on Thomas A. Knight's 29 Days of Fantasy, giving my opinion on Manga and Fantasy. It was an absolute pleasure to do this blog and I'd like to thank Thomas for giving me this opportunity.

In this blog I talk a little about how Fantasy and Manga go together so well. Please see the link below to read the post!

 

Thanks for reading guys!

 

Pandragon

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