I wasn’t as inspired with this topic as much as I was to contribute a clever topic for an author whose series has left me dearly curious to READ. One of my bookish hobbies (as let’s face it, a lot of us have more bookish hobbies than non-bookish!) is finding new subniches of familiar genres and re-discovering why I love each particular genre by finding my route into a new hidden niche I haven’t yet explored – which is how I came to be featuring Mr William Ray!
Jorie’s topic for William Ray:
Top Ten Secrets of Surviving in the Verin Empire 📖🦎
Hallo, Hallo dear hearts!
I positively love Indie (Press and Publishers) and Self Published Speculative Fiction storycrafters who are giving me wicked good literary wanderings within Cosy Horror, Science Fiction and Fantasy!!
For this week’s #TopTenTuesday, I wanted to do something special and a bit different – which is why I decided to creatively come up with a fun topic for the author whilst hosting this lovely blog tour which is celebrating a rather uniquely interesting book series as I’ve been in conversation with the author, Mr Ray whilst setting up this featured guest post! I do not oft get the chance to have this level of collaboration with an author about a guest post and I must admit, it was the highlight of the past few weeks for me as I took ill for over a week after the sudden loss of my Cedar trees which was explained in a series of tweets within this *thread. The collaboration proved to be the best diversion to offset what was affecting me in the aftermath of having those trees forcibly removed.
Here’s the exciting bit: you see, his series, the Verin Empire *switches!* genres per each installment of the series – you will find my notes relating to which genre applies to which installment of the series shortly. Even more interesting to mention I felt is how these genre descriptions and interpretations apply to the Verin Empire as well!!
Let me explain:
(portions of this top anchour were pulled from my conversations
with Mr Ray and are being reshared on this post with permission of Mr Ray.)
When I enquried about “Blackpowder Fantasy” (as in all humbled honestly I can’t stop thinking about the franchise of films for Pirates of the Carribean as they loved using the stuff!) this is what the author responded by explaining to me where his story fits within the scope of this designation:
Blackpowder covers a huge technological range from
quasi-medieval to Victorian war story. I’m at the far modern end of what fits in it.
Whereas when it comes to whether or not his stories
are considered gritty or grim – he had this to say:
A bit gritty. I don’t think it’s super dark or anything…
but it’s a grimy 19th century cityscape with rampant corruption. Grimy, not grim.
And, of course, I had to ask if by gritty or grim if this was by any chance inferring explicitly graphic violence in ANY of the installments as I’ve been burnt before on how far writers can take their crime scenes, death scenes and you know, that side of the story:
I don’t think the violence is super explicit in Great Restoration. It gets a little heavier in the final chapters, but there are only a couple of key deaths along the way, and they’re not particularly gruesome (and both are off-page!). Gedund is more brutal with that stuff… but then, it’s a war story and I don’t think it’s particularly gorey for its ilk.
As you can see, this is a series which might have been considered outside the purview of Jorie’s readerly curiosities but then again, you have to take into account when the film Rango came out she was one of the first to feel inclined to give it a whirl and see what a wild ride *that!* kind of fantastical Western could present!! Somewhere in the story and throughout its adventurous tale Rango managed to worm its way into her cinematic heart! Seriously, how can you not LOVE ‘Rango’? I digress.
Through the illustrations (which Mr Ray kindly shared with me for this post and for a special post which will arrive during @WyrdAndWonder’s Year 4, May 2021) you can start to see the vision he had for this series as much as how this series re-sets a standard in what you can expect to find in your fantastical wanderings. I was most intrigued by what provided the bones of this series foundation – the inspirational routes the author took to find his own voice and style within Fantasy but also to write a fantastical and engaging series which re-shifts the reader into the curious realms of where Fantasy can take them.
The only warning signs I had this series might have its ebb and flow of caution for me as a reader would be when he broached where this series falls in regards to Fantasy classification terms and inclusions – thereby, if you have any similar sensibilities as I do as a reader, you might want to note them as you consider this series for yourself:
I shift things around a lot stylistically, so Gedlund has some brutal bits, but I tend not to indulge in garish gorey detail because that pushes further from the period feel. But it is heavier on horror elements and violence than the others, being about war. The detective stories aren’t about that though. As a sort of western, Shadow Debt is more violent than the detective stories, but it’s dime-novel stuff, not Grimdark.
Two of his main influences of inspiration are the stories of Sherlock Holmes and the collective works of JRR Tolkien – which is something I can relate to myself, as although I own the full Histories of Middle Earth and all the connecting stories within the Trilogy – I’ve only accomplished seeing the film adaptations in recent decades. I am thankful I could attend one of the midnight premieres as those are the kind of experiences you can easily take for granted now in this current world of pandemics and the issues surrounding large crowds at movie premieres. Thankfully during those releases things were a bit more innocent and tamer – where you could enjoy the film and the collective experience of being in the theater without the kind of worries which are on your mind nowadays.
Through seeing those adaptations and learning about the director’s process for bringing them to life – both cinematically and visually through Weta’s visual special effects, you can uncover a lot of Tolkien’s vision as well. In that regard, just the sheer breadth of Tolkien’s work is impressive enough and is one to be respected. And, when it comes to Holmes, is there a greater private detective who has captured our hearts, our minds and our natural curiosity to observe how he sleuths? I can definitely respect why each of those would provide a wicked amount of inspiration!
What endeared me though through our conversations is when he described his series as the following:
I don’t think Gedlund is Grimdark. It’s a bit dark, but it has a more hopeful edge… Grimdark usually emphasizes an implacable world full of dark things. Gedlund has more of an… incompetent world of dark things? The theme in all the Verin Empire stories is about the lingering darkness of the past, but implicit in that is an idea that things are improving. Arc of history bending towards justice and so forth.
So, for example, there’s this broad notion that magic is fading from the world… but as you get into the details of it, it turns out most of the magical world was kind of awful and people are better off that it’s gone. Most of fantasy features a struggle against a returning evil once defeated by a more virtuous past… I wanted to show a lingering evil at war with a more virtuous (but still far from perfect) newer world.
And, this is what re-gave me the hope of being able to read the series! *whew!* Whenever you are on the fringes of discovering a new subniche of a genre you love reading, it is wicked wonderful when you can ask the author direct questions and put your concerns about their stories to rest. Especially if you’re a sensitive reader like I am or if you know your limitations when it comes to Dark Fantasy elements, graphic violence (or any amount of violence and how its portrayed) or whatever else might concern you ahead of seeking out the stories for your own readerly consumption.
I was wicked thankful for his explanation because this was my initial takeaway after this was revealled: it’s a world in transition and a world choosing how it wants to be in the future and if it is ready to shift away from the past or if it wants to revisit those darker days (in some regards),…
As you can see, he has written a series which encourages you to consider the layers and the ways in which the stories are told to further understand the telling of how the stories reveal themselves. And, those are my favourite stories to find to read. They offer a lovely challenge because of what they encourage you to ruminate over as you’re reading them.
And, of course, once he said this – I mean, what more can you ask for in this series?
Exactly! A big part of what inspired Gedlund was that visual of this ‘modern’ army fighting an immortal lich king, stuck forever in the past. The world is still has that 19th century sort of mud on its boots, but it’s marching forward. There’s rampant sexism, but there are also murmurings of the battles for Women’s Suffrage. There’s classic aristocratic corruption, but the stirrings of democracy and more sensible management. Things aren’t perfect, but they’re moving forward. Fantasy worlds all too often feel like fixed things, and I wanted to write a world that was clearly moving through history.
I loved how Mr Ray rooted real world issues into the backbone of his world’s back-histories whilst he kept the world on its own trajectory as well. I look forward to one day tackling this series and finding my way inside the world once I do – ooh, for those who are curious, his short story is available in PRINT which is something I already celebrated finding out myself! Whilst at the same time, I requested my local library to purchase Gedlund and I am awaiting their response.
One blessing I’ve found as a book blogger and as a Joyful Tweeter is generally most authors are willing to respond to your enquiries and they are blessedly approachable when it comes to a reader who wants to ask more pointed questions out of the concern for how those stories might affect them as a new reader to either their style, their genre or the thematic of the stories they are writing. Never feel you cannot reach out to a #newtoyouauthor and ask the questions which are important to you.
Today it is an honour to host a new blog tour with Storytellers on Tour – a blog touring company whose championing Indie Storytellers and giving us all a lovely chance to feature their collective works. I am looking forward to working with them as oft as I can and to the conversations and features which hosting will inspire to bring to my readers on Jorie Loves A Story!
Brew yourself a cuppa and let’s find out more about the Verin Empire!
And, I hope you’re as entertained as I was with this wicked response from Mr Ray!
Subtitle: A Tale of the Verin Empire
by William Ray
Glynn Sorley is sheriff of Keat’s Field, a tiny settlement in an otherwise lawless frontier. With the discovery of diamonds, her town is flooded with fortune-hunters looking to strike it rich. It’s also a target for competing colonial powers, savage goblin tribes, and outlaws.
A rustler on the run from the law stumbles across his father’s mysterious legacy – a weapon of immense magical power. He uses it to ravage across the territory as the notorious outlaw Gentleman Jim.
But the weapon’s power comes at a terrible cost, and Keat’s Field may just have to pay the price…
This third Tale of the Verin Empire returns us to the world of Gedlund and The Great Restoration. It explores a frontier trapped between competing nations, where goblins reign and a lone sheriff fights to keep the peace.
Drawing inspiration from L’Amour’s Comstock Lode, Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, and our own late 19th century, Shadow Debt continues William Ray’s bold, critically acclaimed reinvention of classic fantasy in a world of memorable characters and unique perspectives, and features sketches from acclaimed illustrator Tom Parker.
Places to find the book:
Published by Self Published
on 17th September, 2020
The stories of the Verin Empire:
Illustration Credit for Book Covers: Ramona Marc
Connect with the illustrator Tom Parker via @papagaeio
Gedlund (book one) : Blackpowder Fantasy
A Case of Eager Heris (short story) :
Gaslight / Urban Fantasy | Private / Noir Detective
The Great Restoration (book two) :
Gaslight / Urban Fantasy | Private / Noir Detective
Shadow Debt (book three) : Weird West | Western Fantasy
Top Ten Secrets of Surviving in Verin Empire
by William Ray
Inspiration from Jorie for this Topic: a lovely list of things to be aware of as a new visitor to this world – cautionary things, odd quirks, small insights into the places or the people therein. A bit of a last grab list of things any new person to this world would love to have in hand before they went into the world without any knowledge of it and might get into a few pickles.
Author’s Response: As the creator of Tales of the Verin Empire, I’ve been asked to offer advice for any traveler intrepid enough to tour those storied lands. Frankly, I find this a huge relief! If I can just watch you fumbling around out there it will save me a lot of work in character and plot development. With that in mind, good luck, and thanks in advance!