Category Archives: Art

Inspiration Tuesday: Scouting Party by Aaron Miller

When I saw this Scouting Party piece by Aaron Miller, I instantly thought about an NPC from an old D&D campaign that was quite the hit with my players. Some disliked him, but they paid him for his guide services through The Wet Forest.

While I enjoyed the character, this is the first time he has ever peeked his head out in my fiction.


 

Another bead of sweat found its forerunner’s path and ran down Swampy McGee’s cheek. As much as he wanted to wipe it, and the others beads, he remained statue still. His fae friend Wal did, too.

A raiding party comprised of torteeze, gator-folk, and lizard men had just rounded Tristan’s Knee and were heading up east past Kellen’s waterfall. All three races of the Wet Forests’ vision were primarily movement base and Swampy didn’t want to catch their eye.

An ancient hate among the reptilian races normally kept them at each others’ neck. That rift was what kept their populations low enough for his guild of explorers get a toehold in the former elven lands.

The pinch of shredded jerky Swampy had in his cheek had lost all of its cherry-fly spice and had become bland horse meat. He resisted finishing it.

The raiding party was close enough to the waterfall that they wouldn’t hear much of anything beyond their near radius, but they were oft to glance around and it’d be a bloody shame if his chewing jaw is what sent their spears his way.

What could unite, them ‘onters? Realization made his eyes flutter. Steeling himself from excess movement, Swampy focused on getting back to being statue still. They all have similar arms and armor. Whas’sat mean? They an army? Whose der leada?

Man, the blood of his forefathers—scouts unequaled—itched. He could go back with word of what he’d seen, but he wouldn’t have all the answers.

The last of the raiding party rounded out of site.

Wal piped, “We have to spread word.”

“Of what?” Swampy chewed his jerky and looked at the small wingless fae on the back of his swamp raven mount. “They walk ta’gether. Got the same gear. And what?” Swampy swallowed. He wiped his face. “Der’s a whole-lotta more ta know and a whole-lotta more ta tell.”

“No Swampy.” Wal shook his small head. “We’re not going to trail them.”

“You mean, you ain’t.” Swampy grinned. “You run and tell what you know.” He clicked his tongue twice. His strad-lizzard mount eased down into the water. “I’ma go find out mo’.”

 

© Ezekiel James Boston


the_scouting_party_by_aaronmiller-d52f6x7©2012-2016 AaronMiller
You can find more by Aaron Miller at:
http://aaronbmiller.com/
http://aaronmiller.deviantart.com/

Inspiration Tuesday: Forsaken by Jonas De Ro

Taking in all the detail, I studied this image from Jonas De Ro for about ten minutes. I wanted to write something from within the scene and what I ended up with is something that’s going to show up in one of my science fiction stories. Jonathan will probably be a primary character with Jamaal working for an underworld kingpin.

This is 100% explore the concept. I’ll have to work in a hack scene or two prior to this that delves into this war torn setting.


 

Jamaal Miggs couldn’t make sense of it.

Through the years, he had dream-hacked hundreds of speculators, refuges, and work-seekers traveling in suspended animation to extract info he could use or sell to his contacts who would make the most of the exploit.

During most dream hacks, Jamaal would guide the temporarily unsuspended yet still deeply tranqued, traveler to various places during a typical galactic standard day. From transactions at banks during the daylight to secret indulgences under nightfall. He would find what captured their interests and what vices tempted them the most.

But this sleeper—this Jonathan Doughberg—just wouldn’t crack.

Jamaal tried all the prompts he knew to get Doughberg to actually go through his thoughts and all recreations—every single one—started with a battle-worn city. Vehicles riddled with bullet holes, buildings damaged by shellfire. Destruction and discarded furniture lined the side of the road and peppered the sidewalks: rubble, casings, casted off possessions… But the war torn streets were clear.

Hell, Doughberg wasn’t even present. It was Jamaal, alone on the streets. And for some damn reason, he was a kid.

This Doughberg conundrum had vexed him for months. A couple times a week, he hacked into Doughberg’s domicapsule to try again and again only to find himself standing in the same annihilated city.

Fuck, Jamaal actually had a dream of his own where he stood in the same spot; looking at the same shit.

He drummed his fingers on his leg. The Prism Corp neural interceptor that he bought for a hefty sum—and used without incident—weighed lightly on his hair. The Corp’s psychiatric unit used these devices to piggyback onto their deep space crews’ recollections.

Instead of merely being able to observe whatever random thought sleepers had during transport, the mods Jamaal built into the syncpads allowed him to guide the sleeper. To manipulate the sleeper. And–in some cases–even control the sleeper.

And it had always worked.

Until this guy.

“Shit.” Jamaal’s voice came back to him and it sounded weird. It sounded all growed up and he had used a dirty word. “Whoa!”

Jamaal flung the neural interceptor from his head. Its pendulum mount squeaked as it rocked back and forth. He was an adult and he used profanity all the fucking time. He wiped his face. Something about that scene had twisted his thoughts up enough and regressed him so that he actually thought from the point of view of his own youth when shit was the dirtiest word he knew.

He eyed the helmet of thin wires.

There was something new in the dream. He hadn’t noticed it until he ripped out, but there was a red ball. A red ball right as his feet. He was going to pick it up.

Jamaal bolted out of his chair to pace the narrow walkway in front of Doughberg’s domicapsule.

That damn red ball was going to haunt him for days. But there was no way he was going to go back into Doughberg’s sleep. While he hadn’t come across anything like this before, something at the edge of his conscious understanding warned that while he was trying to hack Doughberg; somehow, someone was hacking him.

© Ezekiel James Boston


jonasdero_forsaken©2014 www.jonasdero.be
You can find more by Jonas De Ro at:
http://jonasdero.deviantart.com/
https://www.facebook.com/jonas.dero

Inspiration Tuesday: Magic and Jordan by CG Felker

With automation being the future, there will probably be one or or two things humans will still want/need to do themselves… And that’s only because it’s tied to your survival as a species.


Since this inspiration is based upon real people, I’ve decided to remove it. You know, just to be on the safe side.–EJ–

magic_and_jordan_by_cgfelker-da662e1©2014-2016 ianllanas
You can find more by Ian Llanas at:
http://ianllanas.com
http://ianllanas.deviantart.com
https://www.facebook.com/IanLlanasArt

Inspiration Tuesday: Water Elemental Redux by Ian Llanas

This is the ‘now’ part of a then and now challenge completed by artist Ian Llanas. The challenge is to take a piece of art done several years ago and “redo” it with your current skill level.

The idea behind the challenge is solid and brings to mind a story I wrote a few years ago about a bound air elemental. That was then. Let’s do a now.

**Okay. So the plan got away from me. Before I could start, I had to understand the elemental’s point of view. After a few hundred words, I discovered its motivation and now I’m off to write the story.


 

There were centuries of nameless beings flowing together in a realm that held only one element: water. Without the air, there was no horizon. Without the earth, there was no muck, mud, or grit.

The one that ripped him from that blissful state of being was named Tabbo Treespeaker.

Tabbo Treespeaker was nothing like It had seen before. It could sense the water in Tabbo, but the water was diluted. Mixed. Not pure. Though mostly composed of water, Tabbo’s form never switched. Some kind of casing kept everything and in a fixed flesh form.

It was willful with a wild spirit. Tabbo broke both and named It Warden. Told It to form itself like Tabbo; a man. Told It that Its duty was to keep all men who weren’t Tabbo from delving deeper into Tabbo’s swamp. And it had done so faithfully—even using the name Warden—while Tabbo was alive.

It could feel two-leggers, men, wading through wastes high swamp water, and they were coming Its way. It used to keep men out because that was what Tabbo wanted. Now, It killed men because every single one of them looked like Tabbo.

And It could never kill Taboo enough.

© Ezekiel James Boston


water_elemental_redux_by_ianllanas-d6qgkzp©2014-2016 ianllanas
You can find more by Ian Llanas at:
http://ianllanas.com
http://ianllanas.deviantart.com
https://www.facebook.com/IanLlanasArt

Inspiration Tuesday: Temple Lagoon by Jonas De Ro

With what is going on in my life right now, I need to go with something a bit more serene. Temple Lagoon by Jonas De Ro has everything I’d look for in a place to unwind: beauty, water, and hints of a simple life amid a small community.


Inspiration removed for use in my fiction. Sorry. –EJ–

jonasdero_temple_lagoon©2014 www.jonasdero.be
You can find more by Jonas De Ro at:
http://jonasdero.deviantart.com/
https://www.facebook.com/jonas.dero

Inspiration Tuesday: Patience by Ian Llanas

In honor of the tax season that just passed, I present to you Patience by Ian Llanas. Having known a couple of people who had issues with their taxes, I advocate knowing the rules and playing by them.


 

I became a made man so I had ‘made’ tattooed on my hand. Every time I wanted to open my mouth about what I’d done to earn my stripes, to keep my stripes, prove my stripes, I glance at the ink.

It gives me pause.

It makes me think.

Think about freedom. Think about choice.

Think about what I would say if I had a voice.

They took my tongue, blinded me, and threw me in an off-the-books cell. Not the cushy kind where Dons and billionaires lounge. The kind that mind you wish that had just placed you in the ground.

To get me to talk, they cracked my face, but I’m a made man and I know my place. Here I only know vague light and pure dark. For every week that goes by, I make a mark. Because after ten years, the day will come when the magic in the ink will be undone.

I will still keep my vow of silence.

But I’ll completely shatter the one against violence.

© Ezekiel James Boston


patience_by_ianllanas-d6vqmlz©2014-2016 ianllanas
You can find more by Ian Llanas at:
http://ianllanas.com
http://ianllanas.deviantart.com
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Inspiriation Tuesday: Dragon Poachers by Jonas De Ro

Work had been rather busy, but this piece by Jonas De Ro washed the real world away as Jerus Dragonfriend–at a later stage of life–popped into my head. I’m not so sure of him as a main character, but he definitely has all the qualities of being a story’s catalyst.


 

Aduk snatched the halved silver coin from Xul and sized up the rotund drunk face down at the nearest table. Stone asleep, the codger had a death grip on what remained of a turkey leg. His loud snores came in spats and he reeked of soured wine. Aduk shook his head and stashed the coin.

“Hey!” Xul whispered, “That’s mine. Give it to him and ask.”

Aduk shook his head. “That guy wouldn’t know that turkey bone in his hand from his own pecker.”

“That is The Great Bard Jerus. I’d give him the fee, but he knows me and hates my order.

Aduk brandished the half-coin at Xul. “If he pukes on me, you bleed.”

Xul nodded. “More than fair.”

“Witch tits.” Regarding his companion, Aduk stood. “You talk me into dumber shit…” He sat next to the mess of a man. The oder made the fine dinner of venison and rice almost rise. Aduk swallowed hard to keep it down. “Jerus, here’s pay. Tell me of the Taumil Dragon Slayers.”

The snoring stopped. Jerus’s plump hand released the turkey leg and rotated palm up.

Taken aback, Aduk dropped the coin in the center of the fat hand.

Jerus closed his hand. He slurred, “Ssso, The Taumil, hmmm?” Forehead still on the table, he rotated his head to face Aduk. His words became amazingly crisp. “Their last run was against Flamesage the Red.” He opened his hand again. A full gold coin with the perfect edges the Taumil were famed to make sat on the doughy flesh.

Aduk licked his lips. To the right buyer, that coin–that relic–would fetch a lord’s ransom.

Jerus cleared his throat. “You can either hear about the Dragon Slayers or take this coin.”

Aduk rubbed his chin. He and Xul already had a map that led to the Slayers treasure hoard. The only need a Taumil coin to judge distance.

Xul would be pissed, but Aduk made his decision. He said, “Give me the coin, old man.”

“Take it then.” Jerus rested his cheek back on the table. He slurred. “Be gone and let an old man shleep.”

Aduk snatched it and rushed back to show Xul. “Look.”

Xul hung his head. “You dolt.”

“What?” Aduk turned the mint gold coin over in his hand. He checked around for thieves only to find Jerus sleeping and the tavern man peeling potatoes. He still chose to keep his voice low. “It’s an Taumil coin. Exactly what we need.”

Xul thumped his worn leather map case on the table. “Don’t let me stop you.”

Without a word, Aduk snatched it up and rushed from the tavern.

Xul hurried across the room to slip out the back. It wouldn’t be long before Aduk stopped and opened the case to compare the coin to the map. The dullard would be doubly pissed to find that he had an empty case and the same half silver Xul had given to him.

Minding his path on the loose cobblestone roads of Lomka, Xul wondered how’d he missed Jerus casting the illusion; hell, the man had barely moved.

© Ezekiel James Boston


I was a little surprised that Xul (from here and here) made an appearance. Puzzle pieces are coming together as well as a timeline. This is Jerus as an old man while the other piece had him as a young man heading out from home. And, this would be just before Xul met up with Carmen and company.

jonasdero_dragon_poachers©2014 www.jonasdero.be
You can find more by Jonas De Ro at:
http://jonasdero.deviantart.com/
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Inspiration Tuesday: Kobald Dogs by CG Felker

Not sure why, but I’ve always like gnolls. LIke so many other DMs, I sued them to fill in the ranks in lower tiers of armyies without giving them much of their own agenda. Perhpas it’s the atypical hyena look that gnolls typicall have… Don’t know.

Though this piece by CG Felker is called Kobold Dogs, I feel it breathes a bit of new life into the usual worn rolls that gnolls fill.


“Barron Talis!” Barely able to keep up with his feet, Rex burst into the main hall. “They’ve taken Fort Dawn.”

Rex caught a quick glimpse of the Barron’s large pink and lilac chair. Empty. He doubled over, rested his hands on his knees and huffed. His lungs burned. The newly earned longsword on his hip pulled him to lean more on his left, but the weight of the weapon was nothing compared to the suit of chainmail and large shield on his back. For a brief moment, he wished he hadn’t been promoted from runner to guard.

The scent of roasted turkey, scalloped potatoes, and corn registered sweetly. Whispers and utensils on dishware filled the small gaps between his heartbeat pounding in his ears. He managed to bust in during Barron Talis’s afternoon respite. This perceived violation would be worth the month in the kitchens.

“And?” Disdain dripped from the Barron’s sole word.

“And the Dogs of War–” Rex gulped air. Reflexively, he stood to counter the stitch growing in his stomach. He knew better than to lean over, but the armor was so damned heavy. “They’ll be–“

Barron Talis opened his hand to let his silver fork fall from his slender fingers. Fingers that had never known dirt or the hilt of a sword.

Shit. Preparing for the stitch to take hold, Rex grimaced and bowed as customary. The stitch bit hard and kept him doubled. He fought through it to stand at attention.

The Barron dropped his frilly napkin onto his plate. “And tell me, if you know…” The Barron flicked his ear.

Rex had seen the motion several times before. The Barron was going to ask him three questions and expected accurate answers. Every I do not know would equal jail time. Three insufficient answers meant execution. Why’d he have burst in?

“If you have a brain, use it now — since you didn’t use it a moment ago.” The Barron raised a finger with each question. “Who is Barron over the land that Fort Dawn occupies? How many times has said Barron spread false information? If your report is accurate, to whom do these so-called dogs of war owe their allegiance?”

Rex knew the first, had a good guess for the second; he bit his lip. Barron Talis would never believe reports of independent gnolls.

© Ezekiel James Boston


1601-cgfelker-kobald_dogs_by_cgfelker-d5rddca©2015 cgfelker
You can fine more by Clinton Felker at:
http://cgfelker.deviantart.com/

Inspiration Tuesday: Entombed by Jonas De Ro

Talk about your epic fantasy… This piece by Jonas De Ro establishes so much about the world in which this kind of formation grows. As soon as one thinks about how it came to be, a true exercise in world building begins.


Jerus Dragonfriend stopped at the crest of Aver Hill. The giant iron oaks that formed the forest line were rumored to be old forest guardians from a time when trees ruled the land. A time before man mastered the crafts of fire and magic.

True or not, he had made a spring tradition of coming to the forest line to sit in its cool shade to breathe in the sweet air full of blackberries and honeysuckle. With the calls of the emerald parrots echoing each other, he would stare at Bark Bones; the colossal testament to Oulst’Dar the Ancient Gold Dragon, The Last Great Dragon of Knowledge.

Having taken winter lessons from his great grandfather’s specter on this very spot, habit made him turned to take in Bark Bones one more time. It might be years before he could return. What would his great grandfather’s spirit do without a student?

“A piece of history for you, Marco.” Jerus motioned his head to Bark Bones. “Ten generations ago, my ancestor made Bark Bones from Nar’Dast’s remains.”

“Blood of a dragon slayer, huh?” Marco Direwind turned mid-stride to look back. “Tend tell me great boaster of deeds no one can verify, how did your family come to be Dragonfriend?”

Jerus smiled. “They’ll be time for that story any many more–“

“Spare me.” Marco cast his eyes skyward. “Just to be clear–” He leveled his gaze upon Jerus. “I’m not here to be your friend or earpiece. I’m being paid to take you to the Suntouched Stronghold and that’s it. I don’t need your tales of old. I don’t want your sagely reflections. I only want the purse offered for delivering you.”

Jerus mouth gaped open. How dare he?

Marcus moved past him into the iron oaks. “And save your indignation. You have the spark, but you aren’t a mage, kid. Not yet. So, do us both a favor.” Marcus strode ever deeper into darkening the woods. “Shut up and keep up.”

© Ezekiel James Boston


1512-jonasdero_entombed©2014 www.jonasdero.be
You can find more by Jonas De Ro at:
http://jonasdero.deviantart.com/
https://www.facebook.com/jonas.dero

Inspiration Tuesday: Soulslumber by shende-bende

I went looking for a heroine and found this piece by shende-bende. While not exactly what I was searching for, the art sparked a scene with Chuck Garcia, an undead enforcer of sorts.


Like the Syrup and Butter private conference halls attached to The Big Biscuit Night Club, the Gravy hall was large enough to comfortably hold a five hundred person event or—if the center tables were removed to make a dance floor, mosh pit, or whatever—it could hold a thousand in a standing room only fashion.

The Gravy hall still sported the wedding set up from the night prior. White folding chairs crowded where left around round white wine-stained satin bunted tables. White lace strewn from the rafters in a complex braid and the white trestle, also braided with white lace, still stood on the wooden platform at the front of the room.

Standing door guard at the green room North Lord Maze was using to hold private meetings, Chuck Garcia kept steady watch over the fifty-three vampires still in the main room. Most gathered together in small clicks peering at the other small clicks.

Chuck sneered. Their posturing was like that of “cool kids” trying to out cool the others.

A few younger vampires, no more than a decade dead, tried to curry favor by running messages between the clicks as they power-played in innuendo; jockeying to control what part of the city Lord Maze declared public.

The only sound breaking up the whispers came from an obese, newly turned vampire. Oblivious to the others, she went around the tables desperately clanking lids away from plates with remaining food. Feeling starvation, she kept trying to eat. No matter how finely she chewed the food, right after she swallowed, she’d heave it back up, and would move on to the next plate or the next table.

Chuck had done similar when he was turned, but having been a raging alcoholic, it was booze for him. He couldn’t keep anything down and now, could only get a drunk-buzz by drinking from someone with a .4 BAC.

Any sympathy Chuck would’ve had for the woman unable to scratch her jones had been lost hours ago when the waft of uncovered day-old fish permeated the room. Her regent, a slightly larger man standing near two other rotund vampires, kept a lazy eye on her like a jaded parent would a toddler exploring a child-proofed house.

The smell didn’t bother the sloths, but everyone else—too cool to cover or throw away the spoiled food—spoke through crinkled noses.

Chuck would’ve done it, but he was on door duty.

For someone of Chuck’s prowess and skills, it was a simple job really. Don’t let anyone in that North Lord Maze didn’t specifically call for. A battle-tested veteran, he could single-handedly beat away any of these sissified cliques if they tried to force their way in. But, when Carolynn Crimson walked in, if Chuck could still sweat, he would’ve.

© Ezekiel James Boston


shende_bende-soulslumber_by_shende_bende-d6pvdkl
©2013-2016 shende-bende
You can fine more by shende-bende at:
http://shende-bende.deviantart.com/

Inspiration Tuesday: Nightmare by Ian Llanas

I came across this pieces by Ian Llanas on hist page at Deviatart.com. In the description, he wrote, “Fresh portfolio piece just in time for GenCon. This was targeted specifically at M:TG. Cheers! If you have a cool name for this dude, drop it in the comments. Right now I’m going with my working title, “nightmare”, but it’s lacking I think. Thanks!”

Well, I thought I would try to give it a name. I mean, why not. Once the name came, a backstory came a-knockin’…

Name: Kuæstoroth (Ku-ahs-toe-roth), the Jealous Guardian


 

Before Prince Abu Patel tricked the demon Kuæstoroth into believing it could ascend, dying in your sleep—passing in peace—increased a soul’s chance of moving on to become a higher being.

A brash apprentice to a great vizier, Abu would often sneak into the Nether realms to smuggle out forlorn souls in a lantern the vizier claimed to have been in his mystic line for longer then any earthly empire.

On the mortal realm to harvest a soul, Kuæstoroth felt one of his captives in the Nether break its bonds. This had happened before, but he had always been in the Nether and the souls always made it out before Kuæstoroth could reach the edge.

Not this time. Kuæstoroth hid.

A living mortal, Abu, crawled from the Nether Rift. In his hand, a lantern, and—in the lantern—the soul Kuæstoroth captured some three years prior.

Kuæstoroth fell on Abu before the man could raise any defenses.

To save his own life, Abu shared how he would take the soul in the lantern into the Ether Rift where he would be exalted for his deeds.

Kuæstoroth eye’s blazed when Abu said, “Anyone bringing a soul from the Nether is offered a chance to ascend.” Abu bartered for his life. He gave Kuæstoroth the lantern and guided the demon to an Ether Rift. Kuæstoroth let Abu live.

Everything Abu said seemed true. Believing he would either become a more perfect demon, or be set loose inside the gates of heaven to wreak havoc, Kuæstoroth leapt in.

There, bathed in Light from above, searing pain peeled his skin away from his muscles, agony unraveled his muscles from his bones, and his bones disintegrated. Everything went dark. The lantern—

The lantern glowed.

The lantern…was still in his hand.

Awareness of his other hands came to Kuæstoroth. He explored what remained of himself only to find his skull, horns, and rib cage.

Days passed in the darkness before The Light from above lit again.

Kuæstoroth flinched away, but this time The Light didn’t bring pain. It lit a soul far below him rising from a colorful dream-land. Coming up through the darkness to The Light.

Upon closing, the soul shrank from Kuæstoroth.

Extending the lantern, Kuæstoroth reached out to capture it. “If I cannot ascend, neither will you.”

Once in the lantern, Kuæstoroth understood the being he capture had passed in her sleep. While she hadn’t been perfect, she had been good. She hadn’t been chaste, but she’d been clean enough. She had earned passage into above, and her promised eternity would be spent in his lantern instead of The Light.

Thousands of souls and seven decades later, Kuæstoroth met Abu for a second, and final, time.

© Ezekiel James Boston

While Ian enjoyed my quick draft, he didn’t adopt the name. Too bad. Would’ve been pretty cool.

nightmare_by_ianllanas-d7upatn
©2014-2015 ianllanas
You can find more by Ian Llanas at:
http://ianllanas.com
http://ianllanas.deviantart.com
https://www.facebook.com/IanLlanasArt

Inspiration Tuesday: The Den by Jonas De Ro

When compared to the other art I’ve feature during Inspiration Tuesday, this piece (The Den) by Jonas De Ro seems kind of bland. However, there was nothing bland about the hacker/activist scene that I set here.


Inspiration removed for use in my fiction. Sorry. –EJ–

08--JonasDeRo_the_den
©2014 www.jonasdero.be
You can find more by Jonas De Ro at:
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Inspiration Tuesday: Blood Magic… by Nebezial

I sat down to write a bit more about Carmen, Xul, and their adventuring gang. Given that they would be heading toward an area once ruled by undead, I started to give thought to what kind of problems they would run into there.

Once ruled by undead lends itself to “no longer ruled by undead.” Besides, there probably wouldn’t be much in the way of surprise for the adventures if they got there and *mock gasp* they have to fight vampires, mummies, or what-undead-have-you.

Browsing for inspiration, I cam across this piece by Nebezial aptly titled Blood Magic (or So I Started Drawing a Head).

Yes. This is the kind of baddie I’d been looking for. Something that is physically akin to vampires with blood, and magic, and a dragon. A caster without fangs, but with obvious bite.

This fantasy world is starting to flesh itself out nicely, and is getting really fun to practice in.


07--Nebezial_blood_magic____ooor___so_i_started_drawing_a_head__by_nebezial-d68ad7c
©2013-2015 nebezial
You can fine more by Nebezial at:
http://nebezial.deviantart.com/

Inspiration Tuesday: Greed by JasonTN

Last November I saw a piece that inspired me to write about Carmen. In writing about her, I imagined a group of adventures that she had banded together to brave perilous dungeons for riches.

This art by JasonTN pulled that party of adventures right back to mind as this looks exactly like the kind of treasure room that they would doggedly try to find the location of and–naturally–go.

Oh, as a forewarning, this one got away from me.


 

Xul chewed what remained of his portion of sage rabbit with rapidity as he settled down cross-legged upon the oak stump in the clearing where the group had set camp. He wiped the tasty grease from his lips with the back of his hand.

With care only reserved for priceless scrolls, Xul opened the narrow tome covered in crushed maroon velvet. Gently working his usual marker ribbon, the aged vellum pages parted to where he had last left off. “Ah, here.” As though the others sat around the stump could see, Xul pointed to where he had left off on the page of ancient Rak’ri text blocks. “The Chalice of Life…

 

And so King Arnac, now the Master of the land to which he had been born a peasant, Ruler of an empire that spanned all known realms hemmed in by the oceans, snatched up the Chalice of Life with his right hand for his left held the power unequalled Orb of Time. Deftly, working the Chalice–the ruby encrusted, beaten bronze heirloom of the Dragon Slayers riveted with gold–with quick thrusts as though it were a living dagger trying to stab at his heart, King Arnac kept the tiniest of droplets from breaching the wide brim. The sun danced on this golden breastplate as his ghost dragon mail whispered promises of death into the minds of those bearing witness to the great King’s legerity only found in the ancient–believed ended–linage of the Twok Fire-Sword Giant-Fist, the Grim Wyrm Slayer.

The sun had all but left the sky before he quelled and controlled the very Chalice of Life said to contain the last remaining crimson of the thrice cursed Grim Wyrm. Then, and only then, did he allow himself to take rest in the great oak throne of the vanquished Master Vampire to wait for the coming dark. Those subjects bold enough to stay to see if the threat from the grave had truly been ended took up positions behind the mighty throne. The bare few there took up totem and performed rituals said to ward off the undead — rituals that no one had ever lived to lend credence to. With shaking knees and quivering lips, Arnac’s soon-to-be Ten Dukes waited.

When the sun had gone beyond the ocean, and all the formerly subjugated vampires rose, they found their minds and actions unhampered by the sole will controlling them for so long. Greedy as only goblins were thought to be, the ivory skinned dead rushed to the throne room to establish their new master. There, they found King Arnac with the Chalice of Life in hand, waiting for them; for it was the Chalice of Life, not the will of the Master Vampire, that held sway over them. Undead as witness, the King told his Ten Dukes to take one of his then daggers back to his realm and stake out the land they would real in his stead. The King then set vampires will for them. Tirelessly, as only the dead can be, they had spent the following months of nights spreading word of the King’s decree while retreating all of the riches they had amassed through their curse-extended lives. Then, once their coffers were empty, King Arnac had the vampires wait with him to greet the sun.

Decades later the last of the Ten Dukes, old and infirm, returned to the throne room with the ten daggers to ask who should be heir to the one realm that had been broken into ten and, because of time, had become one again. The Last True Duke said he did not see movement in the Kings resplendent armor. He did not see eyes or a mouth in the King’s Helm, yet, he heard Arnac’s voice as clearly as the armor’s threats almost a lifetime ago. The King commanded The Last True Duke to return the daggers to their realms. Anyone who could hold one of the daggers without everyone wanting to kill them would become the new Duke and, so then, the dagger and title should be passed on. The Last Duke did as the King commanded adding that the King had renounced his title. Arnac, the peasant, will sit upon the Dead Throne among blood, time, dust, and gold waiting until the ten realms–once again–needs his help and ultimate guidance.

 

A shiver ran up Xul’s spine breaking the words spellbinding effect. The night’s chill had crept on him, yet that wasn’t what shook him. Kelmer, the barbarian who never met a book he liked, held his lantern over Xul’s shoulder. Again fear, not cold, racked him. Had the big man finally listened to a story? Worse, did he also know? If so, could they keep it between them?

The barrel chested man shirked off one of his furs and draped it over Xul. “Those Rak’ri scholars-folk sure do know how to tell boring stories.” Kelmer raised the lamp to show the rest of the party fast asleep. “No fighting.” Kelmer grunted his disgust. “And no blood besides what was in that dumb blood-cup thing. And even that didn’t spill nothin’.”

Xul pulled the prickly fur tight. “I know and–“

Tapping his dagger, Kelmer raised his voice just loud enough to overpower Xul, but not so loud as to rouse their companions. “How about we put that little, stupid, old book away for tonight?”

Xul nodded and did. That tapping motion of Kelmer’s had proceeded several books being ripped from Xul’s hands before the musclebound dolt destroyed them.

Kelmer stalked off to patrol.

The fur helped Xul’s body, but did nothing for the icy chill building deep in his core. This tale held the last clue. King Arnac’s final resting place was on the Master Vampire’s throne. Xul fished his maproll out, flipped to Hembe’s overview, and let his eyes lock on the desolate Black Cliffs.

Xul spoke to himself. “Has to be. It’s the only place that would fit the various references to tales of the undead holding land.” Xul bit his lip. If he told his friends, they’d all want to go. Xul whispered the rest of his thought, “But King Arnac isn’t dead and resting. He’s waiting.”

© Ezekiel James Boston


05--JasonTN_greed_by_nosaj7541-d62k0nx
©2013-2015 JasonTN

Jason asked for three other pieces to be previewed here and–least to say–I’m absolutely thrilled to comply.

05--zzangel_knight_by_nosaj7541-d81fe9q 05--zzspin_by_nosaj7541-d7r29v8 05--zzangel_of_time_by_nosaj7541-d6ke50w 

The title of these pieces are: Angel Knight, Spin, and Angel of Time. You can find a whole lot more by JasonTN at:
http://jasontn.deviantart.com/

Inspiration Tuesday: The Smoking Hedgehog by shende-bende

So I have a writer-friend who thoroughly enjoys Lewis Carroll’s Alice tales. This smoking hedgehog, not to be confused with a hookah smoking caterpillar, looks like it could be right at home in that universe. Well, not there precisely, but somewhere in my imagination that is not very far from there.


 

Drawing a puff of the delectable seven-leaf Wonderland blend, Germaine clamped down lightly on her lucite pipe stem and smacked her lips around it. First drag in. Nodding appreciatively at the subtle larkspur undertones, she almost smiled at the tendrils of rainbow smoke braiding themselves.

Shortly after leaving Wonderland, she cultivated a sense of time. Never–in the decades since–had she missed the land more.

There…

There were colors. Powerfully radiant colors that could almost reach out and poke you in the eye and, if you weren’t careful about it, would. …not that anything unwelcomed could ever get through her spectacles. There, Germaine’s glasses kept her from becoming lost in the aching beauty of everything.

Here…

Here in the silent Blandlands, color proved to be the most elusive of creatures. The wide prairies of crabgrass that ran out into the featureless horizon beneath the equally drab sky? Cold shades of light gray. The rare paperback maple trees peelings had the most range with their somber medium gradient deepening to charcoal in the pockets of shadow.

Germaine had search far and long to find a spot to place her home.

Eventually, when all of the color faded, the house just stopped walking and settled down among a patch of trees. She–for her part–took out her stool and simply sat to wait for the house to raise back up.

She puffed again. Had it really been decades?

The tendrils of rainbow smoke, in typical Wonderland fashion, curled and bent to form a cursive answer. Yes.

Thinking back on the fast-talking traveling salesman in his disheveled hundred dollar suit–the one who foisted this amazingly fine tobacco on her–Germaine caught a kiss of color. Where the smoke had ran across her snout, the pink and lavender of the fur there had returned.

© Ezekiel James Boston


04--shende_bende-the_smoking_hedgehog_by_shende_bende-d5u74is
©2013-2015 shende-bende
You can fine more by shende-bende at:
http://shende-bende.deviantart.com/

Inspiration Tuesday: Pirates Age Card by Clinton Felker

I recently wrote a short story about an islander taken as a slave to a city on the edge of a large continent. While the tale did well as a stand-alone, I’ve wanted to do more with the character. Just to be clear, I don’t mean as a sequel to the resolved storyline.

You know, just another adventure in the same lifetime.

Since the character wouldn’t leave me alone, I figured it will happen sooner or later and this piece by Clinton Felker has provided just enough of a hint about the possible story that I’m starting to feel a little excited. Not enough to write quite yet, but enough excitement for the concept to start gaining weight. Something about a cursed ship or a ghost ship…

Not enough just yet. Plus, I’ll have to research nautical terms and actual boats to learn what kind of “ship” it was in its former life.


03--cgfelker-pirates_age__card_game_illustration__by_cgfelker-d5qak3o
©2014 cgfelker
You can fine more by Clinton Felker at:
http://cgfelker.deviantart.com/

Inspiration Tuesday: Mogmurch by Ian Llanas

In scanning around, like I do, I went back to see what else Ian Llanas has and found several excellent works that characterized goblins. I’ve always had a soft spot for goblins. Not so much a “Hey, I want to play in a PC goblin campaign.” More of a “Boy do I have a campaign for you guys…”

This little guy speaks volumes to me. A coming-of-age competition among want-to-be goblin bombers. Several goblins juggle bombs to show they’ve got what it takes to handle booms and this fella is wearing his lucky human-skull cap. And that’s not all. Something about one of the competitors out shining him several times in the past; including a particularly embarrassing episode during his very first pairing ritual.

I’m actually a bit fearful to start a character piece on this one for it might not let me stop until the novel is done. And, sadly, I don’t have time for that right now.


mogmurch_by_ianllanas

©2014 Ian Llanas
You can find more by Ian Llanas at:
http://ianllanas.com
http://ianllanas.deviantart.com
https://www.facebook.com/IanLlanasArt

Inspiration Tuesday: Solace by Jonas De Ro + Update

Another piece by Jonas De Ro. This one is entitled Solace and, upon seeing it, a scenario popped in my head.


 

The distant hiss-squawks of azure ravens registered on Okatu’s ear over the gentle flow of the Akira River. These reclusive birds only nested in the mountains around the Tanaka monastery where he had grown up.

When ranging, he’d often dream of their sweet sunset songs as he settled down for rice and jerky, but there was no beauty in their calls this afternoon. They’d been disturbed by distant rumblings–rumblings of war machines–that could be felt through the worked smooth stone beneath his bare feet.

The ravens, quick glints of flapping blue, circled above an area that’d be about a half a day’s walk north toward Moku.

Whatever dark army marched their way, did so while the winds washed the salt of the ocean northward to keep their smell from being sucked south during the evening gusts. A tactically sound move. Very strong. If not for the azure ravens, the monastery would have wrote the rumblings of to Nakabi, the nearby unquiet volcano, and would have been overrun before it could mount a defense.

Because of the raven, monks scurried to make preparations to defend the crown prince. Uncles, fathers, and brothers alike still gave Otaku’s sword a disdainful glance, but they had greater things to worry about now…

© Ezekiel James Boston


solace_by_jonasdero
©2014 www.jonasdero.be
You can find more by Jonas De Ro at:
http://jonasdero.deviantart.com/
https://www.facebook.com/jonas.dero


Update:
How embarrassing. I’ve been making posts to this page every other week and none of them showed. Turns out that I had two things wrong. 1) The posts were set to private. 2) A bit more troubling, the years were set for 2016.

If I were the kind of person who blushes, my cheeks would be full of warm crimson. I’m not, but you get the gist.

So, as not to flood my page, I’m going to be revising the posts and getting them up. I should also have an update on The Adventures of Benjamin Baxter: Yuletide’s Yield on Monday.

—Zeek (EJ)

Inspiration Tuesday: C9rcle by Ian Llanas + Update

This piece entitled C9rcle by Ian Llanas of a raving nightclub hit the same target as Payoff from last week. Thanks to this work, I now know that there will be at least one pivotal club scene in the hi-tech science fiction story brewing on the back burner.

Here’s to hoping the story doesn’t start percolating before I’m ready to capture the contents.

c9rcle_by_ianllanas-d5k7bbq
©2014 Ian Llanas
You can find more by Ian Llanas at:
http://ianllanas.com
http://ianllanas.deviantart.com
https://www.facebook.com/IanLlanasArt


Update:
#1 — ABB:Samhain Shenanigans has gone out to my Alpha Readers (I believe they’re worthy of capital letters). Which means we’re about two weeks from launch! My apologies for not hitting the February publication date. It’s been a tumultuous new year.

#2 — My publisher just relayed that they’ve hit a snag with the ABB:Yuletide Yield cover art. They still have the same plan to get an artist for the next three covers and assure me that I’ll have a cover to drool over by mid April. They don’t my saliva is acidic! Unless they read this. Then they’ll know… And they’ll have it ready… Right, EP?

—Zeek (EJ)

Inspiration Tuesday: Payoff by Jonas De Ro + Update

So, I’ve had this hi-tech science fiction story pinging around my head for the past few years. While I have a solid grasp on the main character and conflict, I haven’t moved forward with it because a time travel element kept trying to force its way in. Thing is, the main idea doesn’t need time travel, but–without it–I kept hitting a wall on how to layer the subplots that spark the main conflict.

This piece entitled Payoff by Jonas De Ro made the story come ringing back with a small twist… The time travel seed didn’t handcuff itself to force me to think about it too. Now I see that a few key subplots can be explained through a character (the kind of character with the misfortune of ending up with a gun pointed at their head, quite often).

Now, I have to do some groundwork to discover who this character is and figure out why the trigger wasn’t pulled that very first time…

JonasDeRo_payoff
©2014 www.jonasdero.be
You can find more by Jonas De Ro at:
http://jonasdero.deviantart.com/
https://www.facebook.com/jonas.dero


Update:
#1 — The site has been redesigned to get away from the heavy use of black. While I thought it looked stellar, I noticed the few sites that I go to with a similar look tend to be a good deal darker than the stuff I get into. Brightening the site made quite the difference in the feel and allows for the art I feature to pop on it’s own instead of struggling up from the background.

#2 — With ABB:Samhain Shenanigans moving toward publication, my publisher has started to look into getting the cover art together for ABB:Yuletide Yield to close out the first trilogy. One sentence got me hyped up. “We are going to shop…to have the same artist for this project onboard for the next cycle of Baxter novels.” (I’m hoping this comes to pass as I’d love the covers to have a consistent art style to them.)

—Zeek (EJ)

Inspiration Tuesday: Imperial Throne Room by Clinton Felker + Update

In honor of the upcoming trailer of Star Wars: Episode VII coming out this weekend, I present Clinton Felker’s take on the Imperial Throne Room if the scene (or franchise) were set in Feudal Japan.

When I stumbled upon this piece, I (shamefully) didn’t see the Star Wars connection. My eyes soaked in the set up of The Emperor’s Royal Guards and equating them to golems, then traveled to Vader (who I didn’t recognize as Vader), then to The Emperor, and it wasn’t until I focused on the symbol on the throne that the entire piece snapped together. After feeling wowed, then silly, I retraced the path my eyes took through the work and enjoyed it again.

The three of them, tirelessly standing guard, painted a scene…


 

Holy Gods! The lock popped!

Carmen dropped the lock picks. She worked the thin, rough edge of the barely cracked open, dark wood door. Her fingers, used to more delicate work, ached. Inch by inch–have to get in–it opened just enough. Scraping herself badly on the wood, she wiggled through, and forced it shut behind her.

I can always buy more tools, but can’t unkill myself if the temple guards best Ragan and Kelmer. She tried not to think of the men fighting in the outer room. “I’ll let them in if they call out.” Her brow knotted. Her conscious called her a liar. Carmen patted her back-up tools and, trying to ignore the sting of betraying her remaining friends, she kept her shoulder pressed into the deep grooves of the door—oak and smoke?—and flicked the switch to drop the latch. Why does it smell like smoke?

Forced pounded into the door.

Like when she had twisted to avoid the minotaur’s sharp, old-blood stained horns only to have its wide, flat head plow into her sternum, Carmen flew away. She gripped at the snapping pain in her shoulder. Reflexes tucked her head, rolled her, and put her back on her feet facing the door to see the new horror chasing her.

Decades of dust puffed from the oak. Amazingly, it held.

She groaned. What in Kolity hit the door? The cloud leant a holy air to the wood. “Dear Gods of Oak, save this soul.” She stifled a moan, scrambled to it, and managed to get the crossbeam to engage. An angry wail screamed down the hall. She jumped back.

Another slam rung against the wood.

Another puff of dust filled the air. This one lighter, as though the door could yawn at whatever was trying to break it down.

Her gaze went to the white-steel hinges. They didn’t even rattle. Xul’s—the group’s Jack of all languages, master of none, not even his own—translation of the script on the map came back to her. “And the door of brimm-oak, before the three statues, leads to the treasure.” Ready to see what most of the party had died for, Carmen turned.

The large statues, set in platemail of their age, stood sentry around a smaller door, a door like the one behind her, one they could never enter. The statues… They’re looking at me and—impossible—breathing!

© Ezekiel James Boston


cgfelker-imperial_throne_room_by_cgfelker-d5prjdz
©2014 cgfelker
You can fine more by Clinton Felker at:
http://cgfelker.deviantart.com/


Update:
Okay, I didn’t change the visibility of my inspiration posts scheduled to post while I was on vacation and getting Birthday Bedlam ready to go. This means the posts went up, but, only I could see them… And I didn’t know that everyone else couldn’t.

So, um, sorry about that.
—Zeek (EJ)

Inspiration Tuesday: Grand Widow Faerlina by GENZOMAN

So far, while doing Inspiration Tuesday, I’ve only used worked that has inspired me on a personal level that felt like they were pried from my own brain (though we all know thats not possible (right? (right?))).

This week, I’m adding a piece I came across playing Hearthstone. Grand Window Faerlina proved to be a challenging match. Though her clothes are a little tight in this piece, playing against her influenced future character design of a contagonist.

hearthstone___grand_widow_faerlina_by_genzoman-d7s38jk©2014 GENZOMAN

You can find more by GENZOMAN:
http://genzoman.deviantart.com/
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Genzoman
http://genzoman.tumblr.com/

Inspiration Tuesday: Temple Ruins by Jonas De Ro

Discovered another piece by Jonas De Ro. While the House of Spikes proved perfect brain candy for ABB #6 (currently being outlined), this’ll serve as inspiration for a different nearby location.

Will Ben go here? Don’t know. Maybe. Might be too soon…

#8 on the other hand… Yeah, almost a given.

JonasDeRo_temple_ruins
©2014 www.jonasdero.be
You can find more by Jonas De Ro at:
http://jonasdero.deviantart.com/
https://www.facebook.com/jonas.dero

Inspiration Tuesday: Tough Runt by Adam Connolly

I’ve always been a huge fan of art and have found my imagination spinning out of control when masterful work is found.

…and so continues Inspiration Tuesday.


Inspiration removed for use in my fiction. Sorry. –EJ–

tough_runt_by_aconnoll-d7k6vbp tough_runt_topview_by_aconnoll-d7ke3iy tough_runt_black_edition_by_aconnoll-d7kb1ys 
©2014 aconnoll
You can find more by Adam Connoll at deviantART (links below):
aconnoll.deviantart.com/art/Super-7-sideview-413148307 aconnoll.deviantart.com/art/Zombie-Grader-7311-426401302 aconnoll.deviantart.com/art/Long-John-454234502

Inspiration Tuesday: The House of Spikes by Jonas De Ro

Discovered this piece by Jonas De Ro… which is precisely what I needed to see to establish the next main setting for–soon to brainstormed–ABB #6. There is so much I would like to say about this piece, but (to bottle my creative lightning) will have to let it stand on its own fantastically eerie merit.

JonasDeRo_the_house_of_spikes
©2014 www.jonasdero.be
You can find more by Jonas De Ro at:
http://jonasdero.deviantart.com/
https://www.facebook.com/jonas.dero

Inspiration Tuesday: Skeletal Champion by Scott Purdy

Something about this skeletal champion really speaks to me as a lead villain. Perhaps it’s the rich purple robe and almost lich like qualities.

I’ve used this piece for reference during a short story and plan on coming back to it in a few months to fold it into a larger project. As noted by the copyright below, this is art for a Paizo monster, but don’t let the white background limit your imagination…


 

The reek of death–rot unchecked by time, unstirred by wind–thickened as George moved into the hewn stone cavern. Not content with only clogging his nose, the funk pooled in his mouth and worked toward triggering his gag reflex.

He stopped where the long strands of sunlight, which had warmed his skin minutes ago, drew a hard line. A warning line. Safety stops here. George eased back to keep the toes of his new hiking boots an inch inside the retreating light. Why the Hell did I volunteer to take my little brother, and his creepy D&D pals, camping? As though to answer, his hand squeezed the ten twenty dollar bills his parents paid him. One step closer to owning my own car. That’s why. He shuffled back a little to stay on the lit ground. “Angelo?”

Thunk. Metal on stone. Then something heavy being dragged like bags of flower in their parents bakery.

If that nut-job Jake jumps out at me, I’m going to knock his ass out. At least I hope I do. So far, he’d fought back the gag, but the scream warming up in the batter’s circle of his throat would be another matter. “Come out you losers. We gotta finish making camp.”

Soft airy laughter–exactly something Jake would do–danced from the absolute darkness.

A chill ran George’s spine. His skin broke out in goosebumps. Screw this! “Tell ya what. I’ll be outside, comfortable, eatin’ dinner when you asses decide to stop clowning around.”

That airy laughter preceded a raspy, hollowed voice. “Oh, we’ll come out for dinner too!”

A full shiver racked George’s back. What. The. Hell? He stumbled backward and retreated toward the setting sun behind him.

Beating his pace, the dragging sound drew closer.

© Ezekiel James Boston


ScottPurdy_SkeletalChampion
© Paizo Publishing
Click to enlarge.
You can find more by Scott at:
http://scottpurdy.deviantart.com

Inspiration Tuesday: Barnstormer by Claybeast

Since I’ve started this blog for my fiction, I’m going to follow a bit of advice to include stuff that interests me and might intrigue my readers. Well, I’ve always been a huge fan of art and have found my imagination spinning out of control when masterful work is found.

…and so this marks the beginning of Inspiration Tuesday.


 

This wonderful piece brings to mind the various totems, knickknacks, and tchotchke that can be found in a great many spiritual stores across the country. Barnstormer, though, seems to be a special piece pulled from the far corner of a dark and acrid basement in a great-aunt’s gothic house out in the countryside.

Yes, eccentric Aunt Ellabrie with her wide brim hats, countless jangling bangles, and Paco Rabanne perfume. She always sends a birthday card with a number of single dollar bills equal to your age… all printed the year you were born. Every year. Without fail.

Upon waking, the world felt off. Heavier.

For some odd reason, a fleeting thought–sure hope Ol’ Aunt Ella is well–goes through your head before discovering this statue sitting next to the coffee maker.

© Ezekiel James Boston


Claybeast_barnstormer1 Claybeast_barnstormer2
Claybeast_barnstormerback Claybeast_barnstormerfront
©2014 Claybeast
You can find more by Claybeast at:
http://www.claybeast.com
https://www.facebook.com/claybeast
http://www.artsyshark.com (Brian Somerville featured)

Update + Art

With Project 1 (Working Title: Baxter’s Birthday) in the hands of my first readers, I’ve cracked open Samhain Surprise (Formerly Project 2). This will be a direct follow up to Baxter’s Birthday and, even though it continues with the same character, will stand on its own.

In other news, James Artimus Owen–the cover artist for One Horn to Rule Them All–has released a mostly inked version of his WIP. Really looking forward to getting this hot anthology in my hands and reading the other stories… particularly the ones by Peter S. Beagle and Todd McCaffrey. Only one more month!

PS. James has hinted at possibly selling prints. I’ve got my fingers cross, wallet ready, and a space picked out for it on my wall.

PUCover2
Click to enlarge.

You can find more by and about James at:
http://coppervale.livejournal.com
http://www.heretherebedragons.net