Hi-Tech and Lo-Tech in Peaceful Coexistence

JRPG Tropes I Love

(Theme song — sung to the tune of “The Daves I Know” by Kids in the Hall):
These are the tropes I love, I love
These are the tropes I love
These are the tropes I love, I love
These are the tropes I love

Welcome to the debut installment of The JRPG Tropes I Love, a series in which I celebrate my favorite recurring themes, elements, and outright cliches from Japanese role-playing games. Today’s trope:

Hi-Tech and Lo-Tech in Peaceful Coexistence

Before there even were Japanese role-playing video games, there was Dungeons and Dragons, and its worlds were decidedly lo-tech. Like the works of Tolkien which inspired it, the development level of D&D’s worlds was medieval at best. In the early days of computer adventure games, you had lo-tech King’s Quest and hi-tech Space Quest, but the two tech levels remained strictly segregated.

phantasy_star_boxAnd then Sega released Phantasy Star. An 8-bit masterpiece — soon to be re-released on the Nintendo Switch — the American box art made it seem the game was pure sword-and-sorcery. It sported heroes clad in medieval armor, brandishing swords, and fighting bats and skeletons and wizards. But turn the box over and read a little more about the game:

  • The story takes place across all three planets of a distant star system
  • Spaceships will take you between those worlds, and you’ll cruise over them in a futuristic SUV
  • You’ll be fighting robots and aliens along the way
  • And if you’d prefer to put down your ax, you can pick up a laser gun

Phantasy Star wasn’t the first story in the world to combine medieval fantasy and science fiction — see the John Carter stories of Edgar Rice Burroughs for a much earlier example — but it was one of the first JRPGs to do it. And after it paved the way, the floodgates were opened.

Phantasy Star II went all-in on hi-tech with a storyline featuring an artificial intelligence Big Bad. Final Fantasy VI broke with that series’s medieval traditions and featured a steampunk environment. The image of Final Fantasy VII‘s Cloud Strife armed with a giant Buster Sword and riding a motorcycle is practically an icon for this trope. And back in the analog realm, even the original RPG — Dungeons and Dragons — got in on the lo-tech/hi-tech marriage with 1989’s Spelljammer campaign.

My first fantasy novel, Yesterday’s Demons, is part of a trilogy I’ve often said is my love letter to JRPGs and their epic, unforgettable stories and characters. Yesterday’s Demons is set on the planet Verde, a world with a technology level and society much like that of the American Wild West. However, two hundred years before, it was a hi-tech wonderland only a few decades ahead of where we are now. Verde lost all of its technology in the Blackout, but some relics have been restored and repaired. Siv McCaig will need all of it he can find, plus a healthy dose of magic, to save Verde from destruction.

“Trope” doesn’t have to be a bad word. While there are certainly some that should never again see the light of day (I’m looking at you, women in refrigerators), others are like good friends whose presence never grows wearisome. I like Middle-Earth, and I like the Matrix. But give me both at the same time, and I’m in love.

New lower price for Yesterday’s Demons

Yesterdays Demons Cover Final (Small)My first book, Yesterday’s Demons, has been on sale for almost two-and-a-half years now. I recently lowered the ebook version’s price to $2.99. At the time of this writing, all sources except Wal-Mart now reflect the lower price. (So much for always low prices — always!)

Yesterday’s Demons is the first book in a fantasy/SF trilogy called The Verdant Revival. It’s the story of Siv McCaig, who has spent his young life in fear after a boyhood encounter with a monster. When that monster inexplicably returns, Siv needs answers. Where did it come from? What is it? And will it ever come back again? His search for answers becomes a journey across the world and a battle for planet Verde’s survival.

If you like anime-inspired role-playing games like Final Fantasy, Phantasy Star, Skies of Arcadia, or Wild Arms, I think you’ll love Yesterday’s Demons. It’s my love letter to those kinds of games and their immersive, unforgettable stories. It’s appropriate for both adult and teenage audiences.

Finally, now is a great time to pick it up Yesterday’s Demons because its sequel, Tomorrow’s Shepherd, will be out later this year so you won’t have long to wait for the follow-up.

The ebook is available from:
Amazon | Barnes and NobleiBooks | Wal-MartKoboSmashwords

Happy Bookaversary, Yesterday’s Demons

Yesterdays Demons Cover Final (Small)
My Yesterday’s Demons page contains a sample chapter, character introductions, and purchasing links.

This month marks the one-year bookaversary of Yesterday’s Demons! My debut novel was published in eBook on April 12, 2016, and the paperback edition followed on April 22, 2016.

I’ve mentioned many times before how the publication of my novel was a dream come true. Even one year later, it’s just as thrilling as the first day I saw my book — my book, you guys, omigosh I wrote this — listed on Amazon.com.

If you haven’t read it yet, visit my Yesterday’s Demons page for a sample chapter, character introductions, and purchasing links. If you like YA-friendly fantasy or JRPGs like Final Fantasy and Phantasy Star, you’re going to love it.

And since a bookaversary is grounds for a celebration, I think it’s time to hand out a little treat. It’s been a long time since I dropped any hints about the next book in The Verdant Revival trilogy, Tomorrow’s Shepherd, and according to my Project Tracker, the second draft of that book is now 21% complete!

ProjectTracker-2017-04-14

Besides the book’s title, I’ve previously mentioned that the book would focus not on Siv (the protagonist of Yesterday’s Demons), but on Siv’s friend Fritz. The Verdant Revival features three main characters — Siv, Fritz, and Cassie — and the three of them take turns being the main character.

It’s time I dropped some new information about it, so here goes. On Twitter, when I reached the 100,000-word milestone during the writing of the book’s first draft, I mentioned the 100,000th word was “gravity.” What I didn’t mention was… that’s sort of a spoiler, albeit one you can file under “When I read the book I’ll look back on this and say, ‘Ahh OK I get it now!'”

But to be more specific and less annoyingly coy, I’ll also say that “Defying Gravity” from the musical Wicked is a big, key number in my personal soundtrack for Tomorrow’s Shepherd. So many of the lyrics apply to the story of Fritz and his efforts to learn how to wield his power of hyper-intuition, especially:

Something has changed within me
Something is not the same
I’m through with playing by the rules
Of someone else’s game
Too late for second-guessing
Too late to go back to sleep
It’s time to trust my instincts
Close my eyes and leap!

(Lyrics by Stephen Schwartz)

That’s all the hinting I can give you for now. I’m only 21% done with the second draft, after all. But I can’t wait to get this one into your hands.

Deus vobiscum.

Yesterday’s Demons Giveaway

Yesterdays Demons Cover Final (Small) Want to win a free paperback copy of Yesterday’s Demons? I’m giving away five copies via a Goodreads.com giveaway.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Yesterday's Demons by Michael Ripplinger

Yesterday’s Demons

by Michael Ripplinger

Giveaway ends February 15, 2017.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

It is proving to be a more popular giveaway than I’d expected. If you already own the book, but you know someone who’d be interested in receiving a free copy, please let them know about the giveaway and ask them to enter. I can’t wait to send out these free books.

The giveaway ends on February 15.

Toasters of Tomorrow

In chapter two of Yesterday’s Demons, Fritz describes the ludicrous amount of technology planet Verde once had before the cataclysmic Blackout tossed the world into the Dark Ages:

Well having chips inside everything was great for when you just had to turn on the toaster with your mobile, which I guess people must have needed to do back then. … [But the] excessiveness of it all is really a bit embarrassing.

toast-1077984_1280
Photo by Frank Oschatz

Pre-Blackout Verde is not too far from where we are today. We have smartphones, smart homes, and smart appliances. When I wrote the lines above, I tried to think of the most absurd “smart device” I could imagine. To succinctly describe a complete technological overdose, what’s something that, at least in our world, would almost certainly never be “smart”?

I thought toasters were a pretty safe bet, because how is your phone ever going to put a piece of bread into one? But it turns out I was oh so wrong.

A “smart” toaster, complete with an app for your phone that communicates with the toaster over Bluetooth, is on its way. It is a nifty solution to the problem of burning your bread to a crisp because you toasted it without realizing the previous hungry person to use the device had set it to 11. But… it’s a toaster! Are we really so lazy we now have a toasting app?

The point: I clearly stink at trying to dream up the ridiculous.

2016 Year-End Status Update

At this time last year, I posted a 2015 recap of the progress I’d made on that “become a published author” project I’d been working on. With the new year now upon us, it’s a good time for me to reflect back on 2016 and see how similar Plan and Reality ended up. Here’s what I had planned for 2016, followed by when I checked the item off my list… or when I didn’t.

Complete the final draft of Yesterday’s Demons
Done on March 5.

Publish Yesterday’s Demons in ebook
The pre-order went live on March 10, and the book was released on April 12. There’s really nothing else that I can consider my professional highlight of the year. This was a dream come true. If you haven’t bought it yet, check out the shopping links in the sidebar or on this page.

Publish Yesterday’s Demons in paperback
On April 22, newsletter subscribers were the first to learn this was now available. At this point, I exclusively read ebooks. But I learned that plenty of folks still prefer books made out of atoms instead of bits. And as my friend William Munn recently put it, he’s come to see a dead tree copy of a book as a collectible. So this was also a big milestone, and a true highlight of the year. For purchasing links, again see the sidebar or this page.

Complete the first draft of Tomorrow’s Shepherd
After releasing Yesterday’s Demons in ebook and paperback, I spent the remainder of 2016 head down writing its sequel. I had hoped to have a near-final draft of that book in the hands of my editor by the end the year, but life got in the way. I transitioned to a new day job, which was great for my mental health but bad (for a while) for my productivity. But the biggest problem I had in finishing by my self-imposed due date was that I struggled with the book for a while. I don’t know if I’d call it “writer’s block” so much as I’d call it “writer’s doubt.” For a while, I just wasn’t certain I was writing something that was Not Crap.

In the end, everything came together into something I’m proud of and excited about. This is the news that newsletter subscribers got earlier this week: on December 31, I completed the first draft of The Verdant Revival, Book 2: Tomorrow’s Shepherd.

As is my tradition whenever I finish a novel draft, I celebrated with a bowl of cereal:

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This time I chose a bowl of Frosted Flakes with some fresh strawberries and blueberries and, because it was Christmas and because my wife is an amazing Italian, I garnished it with some struffoli on top.

SPOILER ALERT: The final word of the book is “ours”! (Gah! Why did I give it away?)

Complete the second draft (with beta reader feedback) of Tomorrow’s Shepherd
and
Submit Tomorrow’s Shepherd to my editor
These are the two items that were on my 2016 checklist that I did not accomplish. At some point last year, I opened my 2016 annual plan notes, found the “finish the first draft” item, and added in red ink: “This seems wildly unrealistic.” Sadly that turned out to be true. But though I didn’t get as far as I hoped, I ended up with a work I’m wildly enthusiastic about. I’m an artist; I’ll take quality over deadlines any day.


So what’s next? I’m still formulating my complete 2017 plan, but I can say my number one goal for the year is to have Tomorrow’s Shepherd on sale by the end of the year. I’m going to work hard on that one, because I can’t wait for you to read it.

I’ve mentioned that each of the three books in The Verdant Revival will feature a different main character: first Siv, then Fritz, and finally Cassie. What I haven’t mentioned before is that each book also has a different theological virtue at its core. Yesterday’s Demons was about love, the opposite of fear. The finale will be about faith. And Tomorrow’s Shepherd is about hope. So while I wish I would have finished the book’s first draft sooner, there was something special about completing it during the Christmas season — the ultimate season of hope.

Thank you to all of you who helped make my 2016 so wonderful. A lot went wrong in the world last year, but I’ll always remember 2016 fondly as the year I became a published author. And as the year the Cubs finally won the World Series. #FlyTheW

Merry Christmas! Here’s a new short story

Yesterdays Demons Cover Final (Small)On April 12 of this year, I released Yesterday’s Demons, and all of you have shown me so much support by buying the ebook and the paperback and by leaving reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. Y’all have made me feel like George Bailey on Christmas Eve.

So today I have a holiday treat for you: a holiday-themed short story prequel to Yesterday’s Demons. You can read “The First Lenerstelen Without You” on this site right now.

I wrote this story in December 2014. That month, my writing group’s monthly prompt was “holiday story.” I tossed a few ideas back and forth, but I couldn’t find one I really liked. (Although I know I have a Santa Claus story in me, I just haven’t come up with the idea yet.) That December, I’d been listening to a lot of Sixpence None the Richer’s Christmas album, The Dawn of Grace, and I was particularly enamored by “The Last Christmas Without You.” The song is a beautiful letter from a mother to her unborn child in which the mother sings to her baby about this last Christmas she is about to experience before her baby is born.

But its opening guitar riffs have a haunted quality that felt a little out of place with the joyful nature of the rest of the song — and those riffs are the ones I kept humming over and over. Those melancholy melodies and a title idea inspired by the song’s title gave me the seed of a story. I realized I had a chance not just to describe a holiday on planet Verde, but to explore Siv’s youth and some of the choices he made that made him into the man we meet in Yesterday’s Demons.

So Happy Holidays and enjoy! Please be sure to tell me what you think of “The First Lenerstelen Without You.”

#My5: The Verdant Revival

my5logo_blackWhen you become a Goodreads author, a few “Ask the Author” questions are automatically placed in your queue. Two of them are “How do you get inspired to write?” and “Where did you get the idea for your most recent book?” I think this is because people are fascinated with writers’ imaginations. Everyone wants to know if that character is based on a real person, or what prompted the author to make the story take place in the 1700s, or OMG how in the world could you have let that happen to my hero?!

You can read my answers to the questions above on Goodreads.com, but I’d like to go more in-depth on this topic because I love talking about it… and because a friend and writing group colleague of mine, KM Alexander, has started #My5 — a familiar format for authors to share their inspirations.

So without further ado, here are five influences on my first novel, book 1 of The Verdant RevivalYesterday’s Demons.


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Phantasy Star

Before Phantasy Star, I liked fantasy, and I liked science fiction, but there was a line between the two. To my 13 or 14-year-old self, fantasy was about swords and sorcery and medieval times, while science fiction was about laser guns and spaceships and the future.

Phantasy Star destroyed that line. It featured heroes who wielded both swords and laser guns. In it, I traveled to castles in the sky and to distant planets. Some obstacles were overcome with magic keys; others with high-powered, high-tech ice diggers.

It might not have been the first story to blend these worlds. It might not have even been the first console RPG to do it. But Phantasy Star was the first time I experienced this kind of mash-up. That innovative mix didn’t just hook me from the start, it became my favorite kind of world to escape into. It is no mistake at all that Yesterday’s Demons takes place in a world with a similar mix of genres.


Wild Arms box
Wild Arms

Final Fantasy VII is rightfully remembered as the most popular RPG of the late 1990s, and I liked it a lot. It probably would have been the sixth item on this list if this were My6 instead of My5. But it wasn’t my favorite RPG of that era. That honor goes to Wild Arms.

Ahh, Wild Arms… how I love thee!

In the late 1990s, my beloved Phantasy Star series had come to an apparent close and I was in search of new games to fill the void. From the first day I saw it on the Vidpro wall at Toys “R” Us, Wild Arms filled that void, built a home, and tunneled its way into a very special place in my world. It has all the heart and soul, and fantasy and science fiction, that I loved about Phantasy Star. But it also added a new element: an Old West-style world, complete with gunslingers and ten-gallon hats. I can directly attribute the Western-like setting of Yesterday’s Demons to my love of Wild Arms and its planet, Filgaia.


JRR Tolkien
JRR Tolkien

Yeah, yeah, a fantasy novel was inspired by Tolkien — how shocking. But it’s actually not what you might think. Tolkien’s influence on Yesterday’s Demons does come from his status as the godfather of fantasy, of course. But Yesterday’s Demons was also influenced by the one-two punch of Tolkien’s dislike of allegory and his Catholic worldview.

It is well known that Tolkien wasn’t a big fan of the Narnia books by his friend, CS Lewis. Among other objections, Tolkien didn’t care for allegory. He felt Aslan was a too-on-the-nose stand-in for Christ. I suspect he’d be amused that in modern times I’ve heard Aslan described on the Internet as “the Jesus lion.”

But while no one would call Frodo Baggins “the Jesus Hobbit,” Frodo’s role as the Ring-bearer parallels Christ’s role as the sin-bearer. There are shades of Simon of Cyrene in Samwise Gamgee, especially when Samwise helps a beaten and exhausted Frodo bear his burden for a short time. And the OneRing was destroyed, and evil thoroughly conquered in Middle-Earth, on March 25, the day on which Christians celebrate the Annunciation of the angel Gabriel to Mary — the day on which Christ was conceived in His mother’s womb.

Tolkien’s Catholic faith was deeply important to him, and it was impossible for him to separate it from his work. He didn’t use allegory, yet his stories were inevitably and undeniably infused with Catholic morals and a Catholic worldview. And that’s pretty much exactly what I hope people will say about my own work.


unsolved-mysteries1
Unsolved Mysteries and other true crime TV shows

How in the world do old “true crime” TV shows from the 1980s like Unsolved Mysteries and Rescue 911 influence a fantasy, SF, Western novel?

Some of my grandmother’s favorite shows were what we’d now call “true crime TV.” I watched many of them with her, even though they often scared the pants off of me. I was afraid to visit the restroom during an Unsolved Mysteries  commercial break for fear that a criminal or alien would be standing at the window watching me. Rescue 911 gave me recurring nightmares that someone had broken into my garage. And when the annual Unsolved Mysteries Halloween episode aired featuring ghost stories? Whoa no! I didn’t sleep for days.

Fast forward to my earliest thoughts about the story that would become Yesterday’s Demons. I knew I wanted to write a fantasy, SF, Western novel. But I also knew I wanted it to be about fear — how fear controls us in ways both good and bad, how it can be both healthy and maddening. And you know what they say: write what you know! Thanks to all those paranoid fears and nightmares brought on by my grandmother’s true crime TV shows, I knew old friend fear far too well.


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Every Texan I know

I moved to Texas in 2007 and I’ve never looked back and I never will. I love it in God’s country. Since Yesterday’s Demons was published, friends have told me they saw some of our mutual friends in the book’s protagonist, Siv McCaig. And they’re right… all of them, no matter which mutual friend they mentioned by name. In many ways, Siv is an amalgamation of every Texan I’ve met since living in the Lone Star State.

I have a good friend who laughs the loudest at his own jokes. I have a pair of mentors who are brothers who always refer to their father as “our father”… except when they’re talking to each other, in which case he’s always “Daddy” — and these are big, tough, barbecuing Texans. Siv wears boots and jeans and when he’s planning to do something, he says he’s “fixing” to do it… just like every native Texan I know.


Yesterdays Demons Cover Final (Small)So that’s it… or rather, that’s the big five that came to mind the fastest. If you like any of the items listed above and you haven’t yet given Yesterday’s Demons a try, I think you’re missing out.

And if you liked this, check out #My5 from other authors:

Yesterday’s Demons is on sale now!

Yesterdays Demons Cover Final (Small)Today’s the day! Yesterday’s Demons is available for immediate download from your favorite ebook retailer. If print books are your thing, bear with me a little longer. The print edition will be here I hope (crosses fingers) by the end of the month. And my fingers were crossed in a good luck way, not in an “I’m lying but it’s OK because I crossed my fingers” way.

Here’s a quick round-up of some of the articles I’ve written leading up to this day:

After you read it, please write an honest review of it on your preferred platform. Amazon and Goodreads are great places for that. If you didn’t like it, tell me why. If you did like it, well I know for a fact the Internet needs that information.

But don’t worry, you’re going to love it.

Yesterday’s Demons on sale tomorrow

Yesterdays Demons Cover Final (Small)I admit it: the day I was first able to search Amazon for my name or my book title and have an actual honest-to-goodness product come up in the search results, available for pre-order, was pretty cool. Tomorrow it’s not a pre-order anymore. It’s live!

Langston Hughes famously asked what happens to a dream deferred? My dream of being a published writer was deferred for a long time, mostly because I thought the odds were against me. I thought no one would be interested in my work. I thought I’d end up a starving artist, unable or barely able to provide for myself, let alone a wife and family. I let other interests take over my attention and my heart.

To answer Hughes’s question, my deferred dream waited patiently and kept reminding me it was there. One day I finally listened. The first fruit of that decision goes on sale tomorrow.

I’ve spent the last month chattering about this book’s pending release. I’ve let you know every spoiler-free thing I could. (And believe me, that has not always been easy because this book has a lot of spoilers.) There’s probably only one thing left to say.

I think Yesterday’s Demons is such a cool story, and I think you’re going to love it, and I hope you’ll stick around for more of my stories.

April 2016 Status Update

Just a quick update this month, since I already mentioned my biggest news – Yesterday’s Demons is done and will be released in ebook on April 12 – in my previous update. I spent the rest of March making sure it will be available from lots of ebook vendors, writing the various articles posted here about the book, and working on the print edition. I don’t have a firm release date for the print edition yet but if it is not available by the end of April, it will be available in early May.

ProjectTracker-2016-04

It’s just about time for me to get to serious work on Book 2 of The Verdant Revival and I can’t wait. There is so much that excites me about that story and I really want to get it out of my brain and into the world. That effort starts in earnest very soon!

By the way, Book 2’s title is revealed on the final page of Yesterday’s Demons. I’m going to leave it there for now as a treat you get for finishing the book – or for scrolling ahead to the last page. I think maybe next month’s status update will be a good time to reveal it here.

In the meantime, if you need me, I’ll be back in Verde writing about the continued adventures of Siv, Cassie, and Fritz.

Deus vobiscum.

Meet Fritz Reinhardt

This article is the third in a series about the main characters from Yesterday’s Demons. The planet Verde is yearning for revival, and although these men and women don’t realize it yet, they’re the ones who are going to make it happen. Today’s article focuses on Fritz Reinhardt.

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If Yesterday’s Demons were a movie, Joey Bragg would play Fritz. I’d make the casting part of the deal. (Source)

Fritz is 24-years-old and is the older brother of Cassie. Remember how Cassie is highly intelligent and fiercely determined, so much so that she holds a bachelor’s degree from the university though she’s only 20? And how next she’s going to medical school?

Fritz is just like that in some ways. For example, he’s so smart he can do something no one on Verde has been able to do for two hundred years. Two centuries ago, Verde was rocked by an event called the Blackout. Overnight, three things happened: the planet’s magic-wielding defenders, the Mantissa, disappeared; monsters took their place; and every piece of chipware on the planet broke.

As a result, parts of Verde are littered with junk. Hunks of steel that were once cars sit where they crashed or fell out of the sky the moment the Blackout occurred. Old cities like Harbrucken have sparks lines strung between the buildings, but now they’re just used to hang banners or drying laundry.

But Fritz knows how to repair chipware. He knows, from a technical perspective, what happened and how to reverse it. When Fritz starts traveling from town to town repairing chipware and spreading knowledge about how to fix it, daily life on Verde is going to change very rapidly. Mobiles will replace the post, parking garages will replace stables, sparks-powered bulbs will replace candles. Food won’t spoil as quickly. Heating and air conditioning will be possible again!

But remember how I said Fritz is like his sister in some ways, but not others? Where Cassie is fiercely determined, Fritz is… not. He realizes that restoring Verde’s chipware would bring about amazing changes and that he’d become the most sought-after man in the occupied territories. But that’s precisely why he won’t do it on a scale beyond personal tinkering.

At one point, considering he still lives on his parents’ farm and has no job, Cassie calls him a shiftless layabout. (“I mean that with nothing but love, of course, Big Brother,” she adds.) But Fritz isn’t lazy. He just doesn’t have time for anything except working on ancient chipware. Also, he’s just a little shy and a whole lot introverted. He rarely looks people in the eye. Considering he’s 24, he’s definitely a late bloomer. It’s not that he doesn’t want to share his abilities with the world. It’s just that the world would then want to talk to him about it. And that sounds tiring. He’d really rather not.

He does have one friend: Siv McCaig. When Fritz needs custom casings and parts for his repaired chipware and other inventions, he makes the journey from Hondo to Gorman to visit McCaig and Son’s because he feels Siv’s products are superior to those made by Hondo’s smith. And one day, he hires Siv not for his smithing skills but for his muscle. There’s a cave out in the unoccupied territories where Fritz found his weapon: a pre-Blackout laser gun. But a side passage is blocked by rocks and Fritz needs help getting past it to find what treasures might lay beyond. Siv agrees to go with him.

What Fritz finds in that cave sets off a series of events that will change Verde forever.

Finally, one meta note about Fritz. Not all of the book’s beta readers had a single character they called their favorite. But among those who did, every single one of them chose Fritz.

Fritz

Meet Cassie Reinhardt

This article is the second in a series about the main characters from Yesterday’s Demons. The planet Verde is yearning for revival, and although these men and women don’t realize it yet, they’re the ones who are going to make it happen. Today’s article focuses on Cassandra “Cassie” Reinhardt.

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If Yesterday’s Demons were a movie, Melissa Benoist would be a pretty good choice to play Cassie. Photo copyright Red Carpet Report on Mingle Media TV / CC-BY-SA-2.0. (Source)

Cassie is 20-years-old and lives in Harbrucken, the town that is home to Verde’s last remaining university. That’s where she just obtained a degree in biology. She’s not done with her education, though. She’s going to medical school. See, Cassie has a plan. And in her case, it might be better to capitalize that: she has a Plan.

She is quick to clarify that it is not a checklist. “It’s a plan,” she says. “There’s a timetable associated with it and that schedule must be maintained.” The Plan includes becoming a doctor at the age of 24. Working as a village doc for a few years. And then curing cancer.

You know, no big whoop.

But the thing is, Cassie is determined.  She’s serious. And she’s smart enough that she just might do it. (Meta note: the Germanic surname Reinhardt means “wise and strong.”)

Her intelligence and passion have some side effects. She doesn’t suffer fools. She can be very impatient with people who aren’t smart enough to keep up with her, or who she perceives as being in her way. It’s frustrating, but her biggest frustration is that since she was a teenager, she’s had a suspicion that a truth about Verdant society is a lie. Now, thanks to her university studies, she can prove she’s right. But getting anyone to listen is another story…

It can be hard for Cassie to take the time to focus on anything but her studies, but when she does, she enjoys any kind of outdoor activity. Since she was a little girl, she’s enjoyed hunting with her father. It’s how she became proficient with bow and arrow. And she loves horse riding. She owns a six-year-old mare named Mandolin whom she considers God’s equestrian gift to the world.

That’s pretty much it about Cassie. Except I feel like I’m forgetting one thing. Something important. Oh! That’s right.

She has a really big secret.

Cassie

What is Yesterday’s Demons?

I have been writing a lot about Yesterday’s Demons, book 1 of The Verdant Revival, which goes on sale in ebook on April 12. You can pre-order it now. If you follow this blog you probably already know all that, you’ve seen the cover, you’ve read the first chapter…  but today I’d like to tell you about it from perspectives other than plot.

Yesterdays Demons Cover Final (Small)

Audience
Yesterday’s Demons is a young adult novel, but its main characters aren’t teens, they’re 20-24. That makes it more “new adult” than young adult, but I still call it young adult because it’s definitely the kind of book I would’ve wanted to read when I was a young adult. And content/rating-wise, it lines up with that group as well.

Genre
Yesterday’s Demons is an epic fantasy. But it has Western elements, too — horses and six-shooters and such. It also has a healthy dose of science fiction. One of the characters carries not a revolver but a laser gun, for example.

Theme
Yesterday’s Demons is a story about fear. Fear has so much control over us in ways both healthy and not. We save money out of fear for a “rainy day” when we have none. We wear seat belts when we’re in a car for fear of reckless drivers. We set two alarm clocks for fear of not waking up for work on time. But we also push people out of our lives out of fear they might hurt us. Politicians make careers by exploiting our fears of people who are different than we are. We do stupid things to prove we’re not afraid when deep down, we’re really afraid. Fear can cripple us and render us unable to leave the house, or it can drive us to change everything and make the world a better place.

Tribute
Yesterday’s Demons is my love letter to the Japanese role-playing game genre. My love of fantasy was born by playing video RPGs, and many of them remain my favorite fantasy stories. The Phantasy Star series, Wild ARMs, Final Fantasy VII. Skies of Arcadia! By design, Yesterday’s Demons celebrates many of the tropes that make this genre beloved. Here’s a few spoiler-free ones:

  • It’s an epic story about heroes who rise from obscurity to save the world
  • Along the way, these heroes make new friends,  unlock old secrets, and awaken ancient enemies
  • Both magic and technology play a part
  • Saving the world requires a long journey across it
  • That travel is interrupted by encounters with monsters
  • The group starts with two members and new members are picked up along the journey
  • High-tech weapons like laser guns exist side-by-side with low-tech weapons like swords and bows and arrows.
  • But no two members of the group use the same weapon type
  • One member of the group is physically strong but possesses no magic
  • Another member wields incredible magic but not much physical combat ability
  • The way the ending… oh, wait, spoilers

The Start of a Series
Finally, Yesterday’s Demons is the first book in a trilogy called The Verdant Revival. But it is also a self-contained story with a beginning, middle, and end. I love series of books, but I feel each installment also has to be its own story — no “overgrown prologues” as my editor would call them. Yesterday’s Demons gives you a complete story but also will leave you wanting to read more about planet Verde and the young heroes who live there.

You’re going to love it.

Meet Siv McCaig

This article is the first in a series about the main characters from Yesterday’s Demons. The planet Verde is yearning for revival, and although these men and women don’t realize it yet, they’re the ones who are going to make it happen. Let’s start with the guy on the cover, the book’s protagonist, Sivrin “Siv” McCaig.

Yesterdays Demons Cover Final (Small) Siv is 24-years-old and works as a blacksmith at McCaig and Son’s in the village of Gorman. He’s usually found wearing jeans that were once blue and a sleeveless shirt that once was a lovely, bright color before sweat and dust from working at the forge, as well as repeated washings, made both faded and gray.

His laugh comes quickly – usually at his own jokes. He owns a four-year-old stallion named Tobias whom he considers God’s equestrian gift to the world. Speaking of God, Siv never misses Sunday worship, and the scriptures are one of the topics he and his father like to discuss while shoeing horses and making weapons and furniture. But he’s not a saint. When not at work, he can be found in the village saloon enjoying a cold beer and a game of cards. At night, he sits on his father’s back porch and watches the stars. When he has the time, he enjoys hunting. His two weapons of choice are a shotgun and a sword he calls the Dragon Slayer.

And then there are his fears…

When Siv was six, his family woke in the middle of the night to find their house both on fire and occupied by a monster. His father managed to kill the intruder but lost his left arm. Their house was a total loss along with the rest of Breckenridge village. But before they escaped, Siv came face-to-face with the monster. He smelled and felt its foul breath. He saw the glow of its red eyes. And though he would never tell another living soul, it spoke to him.

Ever since Siv has lived a life of fear. Nightmares interrupt his sleep. His bedtime ritual consists of a series of checks for monsters: outside the windows, under the bed, up the chimney, inside the wardrobe, repeat five or six or ten times as necessary. There are five locks on his door, and Siv considers this to be barely enough.

Just when Siv was about ready to tell himself he’s just a paranoid, he encounters the monster again. He doesn’t know why it isn’t a pile of bones and ash. Is it a second specimen? Did his monster belong to a species? He doesn’t know how that could be because the monsters of Terrascorcha are supposed to be random poison-driven mutations. Maybe it’s not something from Terrascorcha after all? Maybe his house really was invaded by a demon from hell?

Will another one show up at his door again some night?

If Siv ever wants to have any peace, he’s going to have to seek some answers.

Siv