Some tunes for the apocalypse

Got 20 hours or so to spare?

Yeah, I’m still working on the next book. Sorry its been so long on updates. My motivation is next to nothing. Pandemic is seriously dragging me down. Megan has type 1 diabetes and a compromised immune system, so we basically can’t go anywhere or do anything until there’s a working vaccine. You’d think that would speed up writing, but mostly its just making me depressed as shit. It would be nice if my fellow humans could engage in the basic decency of social distancing and wearing a mask, but no dice there, especially not in Montana.

As usual, music is driving what writing is happening. Started putting together a playlist for my brother of things I thought he might dig, and it has now exploded into 20 hours of music. Maybe there’s something here you’ll like, or something that will appear on the listening playlist for the next book? If you’ve got nothing to do for the next full day, give it a listen.

Stuck inside? Check out the best tabletop RPGs for families and kids

Need to keep the family busy during the coronapoclaypse? These pen and paper RPGs are all family-friendly and easy for little ones to grasp.

As it turns out, keeping a 3-going-on-4 year old occupied when we can’t go to the park or the mall or the children’s museum (or anywhere…) is a good deal of work. We’ve done art projects, baked goodies, watched a silly number of episodes of Boss Baby, and played a ton of video games, but there’s still more time to pass.

Since the kids can’t go to school and need something fun to pass the time, this is a great opportunity to introduce them to tabletop roleplaying to work those math and problem solving skills while having fun with fantasy or sci-fi worlds.

While most pen and paper RPGs are geared towards adults, there are quite a few specifically aimed towards (or adaptable to) an audience of toddlers to teens. Here’s a few of the best ones, as well as a bunch of RPG-themed coloring books released for free you can easily print off at home!

Toon: The Cartoon Roleplaying Game

TOONWay, way, way before PJ Masks, way before Spongebob Squarepants, even before Rugrats, Toon was there to capture the feel of ’70s and ’80s cartoons.

This is the perfect tabletop roleplaying opportunity to be silly and let the game go off the rails on purpose. You don’t need to worry about keeping a group of adventurers on track for the story, because cartoon characters don’t really need to abide by any rules.

Best of all? No one dies. If you run face first into a fake wall where a roadrunner has slapped on a giant painting of a tunnel, or get blown up by a martian trying to take over the Earth, you just fall down and show up again in the next scene.

Getting yourself a copy of Toon can be a bit tough these days though, and the physical edition is sadly your best bet at this point. The major online digital retailers don’t have any of the Toon lineup, although Steve Jackson Games does sell a PDF of the core book here. It’s a scan of the last print edition though, and not a direct transfer of the files.

There have also been some other attempts at similar cartoon-based pen and paper roleplaying games that made it to sites like DriveThruRPG though — take a look at what’s available here.

Hero Kids

Hero Kids - Cover 3 Land - ResizedThe grown ups done fucked up, OK? They got kidnapped by goblins, or let Christmas get cancelled, or did something really stupid like stealing a mama dragon’s egg. Its up to the kids to set things right in this tween-focused take on the fantasy roleplaying genre.

Sort of like the Warhammer Adventures books, Hero Kids is basically the young adult version of D&D, with simpler rules to match. The game assumes a party of roving good guy paladin types always on the lookout for evil to vanquish and villagers to help.

The real draw of Hero Kids is that there’s a ton of supplements and adventures to keep kids occupied for a long, long time if they get into roleplaying. If your kids need extra structure to keep them engaged instead of just engaging in pure imaginative roleplaying, both the core book and the various add-ons include a ton of cards, maps, and character / monster tokens to print on card stock and cut out.

The folding character tokens in particular are a great idea, because it lets you jump into using minis during a roleplaying session without having to actually shell out the money for figures and paints.

Grab a PDF super cheap of the main rulebook here, and you can also find reasonably priced bundles of all the various supplements at the same site.

Kids On Bikes

KoB_Standard_PaperbackMock_1R+(1)Less aimed directly at kids and more at adults who want to roleplay kids getting into trouble in suburbia or rural America ala Stranger Things, Kids On Bikes is still a great choice for families or mixed groups with older and younger players.

The system is fairly rules-light, and has a big focus on making sure everyone at the table is comfortable with whatever is happening.

There are some published books of adventure hooks to kickstart either a campaign or a series of one shot scenarios, and the publisher releases free content on Fridays for various game systems, including Kids On Bikes. See the latest adventures and supplements released for free here like a recent free adventure set in a high school for kids who may be missing their time away from home.

Personally, I’ve been hankering to run a mashup of Stranger Things and Dream Daddy with the Kids On Bikes rules where all the players take on the role of eligible single dads solving strange mysteries after the kids go to bed. So far there have been no takers from my regular stable of gaming folks 😦

No Thank You Evil

71Xux40QPxL._AC_SL1125_The Monte Cook Games tabletop systems like Numenera and The Strange already use a significantly stripped down RPG system that’s much easier to learn than the rules-heavy systems like Pathfinder or D&D 3.5.

No Thank You Evil takes it a step further than that, going even more simplistic for younger kids to play. While the rules are incredibly light, there are maps and tokens included for tactile sensation and to keep little one’s occupied.

The basic character setup remains very similar to Numenera however, using the style of making a sentence like “I’m a [blank] who [blanks]” to create a character. The benefit there is letting kids come up with a wide range of character types that match their imaginative leanings by plopping words into the blank spots in the sentence, rather than sticking to a specific class like mage or rogue.

Check out the core No Thank You Evil set here.

Feast of Legends


Hold up now, is that BAKED POTATO with a wizard’s hat sitting between two potions you see there?

Yes, yes it is.

In one of the most bizarre twists of our nutso timeline you never could have predicted, the Wendy’s  restaurant chain released a full fledged tabletop RPG modeled around D&D, complete with high quality fantasy artwork.

The weirdest part of Feast Of Legends is that its actually a really solid product and could easily sit on the shelf of a serious gamer. If your kids love fantasy, weird humor, and fast food, it worth giving a shot — especially since the PDF is totally free!


91pzqWay5ALModeled around a series of stellar graphic novels, Mouseguard is sort of a more serious version of Redwall but with less long, flowery descriptions of all the food.

Mice still need to do what’s right though, upholding their virtues and honor while protecting woodland creatures from various threats.

The rules in the RPG adaptation of Mouseguard are more complicated than many of the others on this list, but there is an upside in that you need to print off sheets of card stock and cut them into squares to really make the combat work. Kids will love that part — as well as the artwork!

Due to the production values and connection to a graphic novel series, I’d recommend buying this one physically if you can.

Coloring Books

duckofdoomGot some real little ones who aren’t quite ready for the rules of a tabletop RPG yet?

The tabletop roleplaying community still has you covered during the coronavirus pandemic, and has seriously stepped up to help fill an entertainment void.

A truly stunning number of publishers and game developers have launched totally free coloring and activity books you can print off at home to keep the kiddos occupied.

armorWhether you’ve got a teen into the Cthulhu mythos, a kid who likes the idea of teddy bear warriors, or a kid-at-heart papa who wants to color a scene from a Shadowrun adventure, there’s a coloring book here for you.

While some of these are rather short, that’s not always the case. The Battletech and Runquest books are both a whopping 58 pages!

Clearly these developers aren’t skimping on the content since they know you are stuck at home with kids who need to be occupied. Here’s some of the latest free RPG coloring books to get you started:

What tabletop games are you playing with your kids to keep sane while under quarantine, and have you tried any of the systems listed above? Hit me up with your thoughts and recommendations!

My Top 6 Albums Of 2018

From Zeal & Ardor to Barren Earth and beyond, check out my top picks in prog, black, sludge, and more!

2018’s almost over, and for the first time in a decade I don’t have dozens of top picks to whittle down to find my favorite releases over the course of the year!

Plenty of my old haunts like Amorphis, Between The Buried And Me, Haken, Chrome Division, and In The Woods all released decent to great albums, but they didn’t quite hit the best releases of the year for me.

Instead, I’ve got six albums that all combined very different sounds in unexpected ways, from prog to depressive black metal to sludge. Let’s dive in!

Zeal & Ardor – Stranger Fruit

zealVery few albums out there will equally appeal to fans of Norwegian avant-garde black metal and Childish Gambino, but here it is.

Zeal & Ardor hooked me hard with the Devil Is Fine album, which was supremely scatterbrained and bizarre, but had enough knock out hits among the misses to become one of my favorites.

The big draw here is the concept — what if old African American spirituals were re-imagined with black metal influences?

The sort of “storyline” behind the whole concept is to imagine what might have happened if American slaves had worshiped the devil instead of accepting the Christian religion of their owners.

That’s an idea ripe for all sorts of amazing storytelling, and they really nailed the combination of the two ideas on that first album. The second goes in new directions, adding in some radio-friendly elements but still keeping the black metal edge.

Highlights for me are Gravedigger’s Chant, Built On Ashes (a song that is bleak to an apocalyptic degree and is basic the personal anthem for poor Fenton from my upcoming sequel to Light Dawning), and Waste.

Of course, there’s also a song drawn from Jordan Peele’s breakout horror hit Get Out, simply titled Coagula.

Tribulation – Down Below

tribulationOne of the highlights of writing for a metal site over a long span of time was watching certain bands grow and mature over time.

Sadly I don’t get that as much as its now been more than a year now since I parted with Metalunderground,  but there are still a handful of bands I follow closely on my own time.

Tribulation is one of those bands that’s been steadily improving and experimenting over every single release, changing radically from 2009’s The Terror to 2013’s The Formulas Of Death and onto 2015’s Children Of The Night.

With the Down Below album this year, Tribulation continues to see a wide range of styles and influences converging for unexpected results.

There’s a lot going on in this album, but the best way I can think to describe the overall sound is to say this could be what Nachtmystium might sound like with a sober Blake Judd who was more into ’70s prog rock.

Behemoth – I Loved You At Your Darkest

behemothDespite the group’s cult status, Behemoth didn’t really hit my radar or pique my interest until the 2009 album Evangelion with that video for Alas Lord Is Upon Me.

For the anti-religious crowd, Behemoth was firing on all cylinders there, and it only got even better with The Satanist in 2014 after Nergal shrugged off leukemia and gave the middle finger to his home country of Poland when they tried to lock him for violating blasphemy laws.

I Loved You At Your Darkest can be seen as the natural extension of those two previous albums, with a solid mix of standard blackened death metal like Wolves Of Siberia and more distinctively Behemoth styled stuff that’s more experimental such as Bartzabel or Ecclesia Diabolica Catholica.

I’ll have to admit I had a bit of an unintentional laugh at the line “Love me orgasmically, fuck me ecstatically” in Sabbath Mater, but other than that this is pure solid gold and a must-hear if you liked the previous few Behemoth albums.

Shining – X Varg Utan Flock

a0893421577_10Swedish group Shining (not the Norwegian blackjazz group of the same name) grabbed me really, really hard in 2015 with the album IX – Everyone, Everything, Everywhere Ends.

In the midst of a suicidal depression, that bleak blending of sounds stuck with me, so it made sense I’d have to hear what would happen with the follow-up.

X – Varg Utan Flock offers more of what made the previous album such as powerhouse, with darkly melodic song structures punctuated by sudden bursts of black metal violence.

Life is terrifying, shitty, and suddenly awful, and this music reflects that.

Of course, with Shining, there’s an element to take into account here and a hurdle that every metal fan has to deal with at some point — separating art from artist.

Whether its racist scum like Varg Vikernes or black metal bands that turn out to be spouting NSBM garbage, there’s always someone who has to take it too far and piss in the punch bowl.

With Shining, its the antics of band mastermind Niklas Kvarforth. To be fair, Niklas is legitimately mentally ill, but by all accounts he’s also just an extreme asshole apart from his illness.

While his particular blend of sickness and personal human failings create music that speaks to me on a visceral level, i can’t imagine I’d ever want to meet him or go to a show and be subjected to his abusive behavior. C’est la vie.

Barren Earth – A Complex Of Cages

Barren-Earth_A-Complex-of-CagesBarren Earth is another one that’s been through major changes over the years, most notably with a vocalist swap a few years back, and its been a pleasure to hear how the Finnish group’s sound has evolved since breaking onto the scene in 2009.

I think debut album Curse Of The Red River will always be the band’s magnum opus for me, but 2015’s On Lonely Towers and now latest release A Complex Of Cages both come pretty close.

What I dig about Barren Earth is how the group took a base of the death/doom that the individual members were known for but threw in a melodic and progressive touch that you don’t get with the originating bands.

In A Complex Of Cages, you get everything from folk music to  soaring melodies, soothing atmospheres, harsh and clean vocals, and an undeniably metal sound.

Mantar – The Modern Art Of Setting Ablaze

a0655511429_10This German duo is one I haven’t paid a lot of attention to over the years despite posting a fair share of news about the band in my Metalunderground days.

The Modern Art Of Setting Ablaze has changed that, and I’ll definitely be going through and giving the back catalog another listen now.

If you couldn’t tell from the picks above, I’m a big fan of any metal that blends together different styles so its not just one sound.

Mantar does that exceedingly well here, with an excellent grasp of how to work groove and melodic rock elements into extreme metal.

In some ways, The Modern Art Of Setting Ablaze reminds me of a slightly sludgier take on Melechesh.

If you liked the combination of sounds and styles on the Enki album but prefer a bit of groove-edged doom and sludge in there, you’ll fit right in here.

Now that my inbox isn’t flooded with a dozen new albums a day I’m probably missing quite a few killer releases, but of what I heard this year, these were my top 6 albums of 2018! What did you think of my picks, and what made your list?

Light Dawning on The Friday 13

Jesse Teller delves into characters, writing, and more in this new interview!

Fellow grimdark author Jesse Teller was kind enough to have me as a guest for his Friday 13 column discussing the craft of writing and delving into characters from Light Dawning and across the literary world.

We discussed everything from getting drunk with Tyrion Lannister to advice for new writers and a character from Light Dawning who made me feel very dirty to write. Excerpts from the interview follow:

JT: What character from your book fills you with hope?

Ty: Hah, yeah, that’s sort of the opposite of the point in Light Dawning. Not many characters have hope in a better tomorrow in this story, and those that do are usually shown the folly of their misplaced faith. If I have to pick a character who gives me hope, its probably Tala, because she has what it takes to endure any hardship, and she has the strength of will to do what needs to be done, even if it hurts.

JT: What character from your work frightens you, makes you feel dirty to write?

Ty: Probably Myrr, because he’s all of my worst qualities reflected into a craven character in a violent, low fantasy world. For some reason several reviewers have pegged him as the main character, but he’s absolutely not intended to be. He’s not necessarily a bad guy, but he will let down those who rely on him, and in the end anything good or noble he does will mean nothing.

JT: What is the most fascinating thing about your main character?

Ty: It would be easy to say that Tala being infested by insane whispers from a reality beyond ours – constantly struggling to keep them from escaping her mind and breaking into the physical world – is the most fascinating thing about her, but that’s not actually the case.

Tala sort of exemplifies the struggles of all women throughout history and in the modern day. She’s expected to be so many different things at once: a worker, a mother, a guardian, and more, and while she can’t expect any praise for when everything clicks into place and works, she will be vilified and damned in those moments when it goes off the rails and she falls short of expectations.

JT: If you could change any one thing about the writing industry, what would it be?

Ty: This may not endear to me to certain people reading, but honestly I’d get rid of the publishers. While I’ve met some great people who work for publishers that I consider my friends, on the business side I’ve never had anything close to a positive experience working with a publisher.

All you have to do is go to any writing group on Facebook and you’ll stumble over dozens of writers who haven’t been paid in months (or longer), whose publishers are breaking their contracts in various ways, who aren’t getting their books promoted with any level of actual effort, etc.

While there are plenty of lackluster self-published books out there in desperate need of editing or re-tooling, I am consistently surprised at the high level of storytelling and polish I find while discovering new indie authors. There are totally unknown people out there who are frankly much better at this than anybody hooked up with the major publishers in the fantasy and horror industries, but they don’t get nearly the exposure.

If you are only reading Stephen King and Brandon Sanderson, do yourself a favor and join a reader or writer group on Facebook or Goodreads and get to know the indie authors. I guarantee you will find someone who will blow you away who has been soundly ignored by big name publishing companies.

JT: What piece of art, that is not writing, moves you?

Ty: I’ll have to say music, specifically of the heavier variety. When hearing the opening notes to the Celestial Violence track off Ihsahn’s Arktis album, I immediately see Tala coming up out of the cellar, carrying a precious bundle and preparing to make her way through a sea of uncaring humanity. When Peccatum’s Parasite My Heart from the Lost In Reverie LP hits, I’m immediately outside the Lambent Chapel, watching Tala make a choice and trying not to scream at her to stop. Outside the realm of metal and more on the rock side, anytime I hear I’m A Believer by The Sheila Divine, I’m instantly taken back to the time when I first heard the New Parade album. I could name a hundred other tracks that have defined my life and give me that rush of brain chemicals people chase after in religious experiences or at the bottom of a bottle.

While it is clearly connected to writing, I’ve found that some visual depictions of specific concepts in graphic novels manage to provoke an emotional response better than words alone can. There’s one scene in particular from Mouse Guard, where Liam is about to face off against a snake with the phrase “It’s not what you fight, it’s what you fight for” barely visible in the background, that just gets me every time. That panel so perfectly encapsulates its idea that you forget this is a story about mice and genuinely start to feel something for the characters.

Check out the full interview here and be sure to leave a comment for Jesse about his awesome questions! Jesse’s novel Song can be found at Amazon.


Unlocking the mystery of They Remain


Haven’t been able to stop thinking about They Remain since watching it last night. I haven’t read the short story it was based on, but instead came into this based on the apparently Lovecraftian vibe and the presence of William Jackson Harper (Chidi from The Good Place).

It was hypnotic and mesmerizing — but exactly the sort of arthouse, pointless bullshit I’d normally hate for being too ambiguous and atmospheric at the expense of telling the actual story. Based on the reviews, it seems like most people ended up feeling that way… except that I think I figured out what it was all about, and now I kind of love it.

they-remainAt the beginning a voice says “You already know how this story ends,” which seems to be the big clue that whatever answer you come up with as a viewer is the correct one.

Here’s what I think happened:

The world was essentially ending. The orgy of lustful violence that started with the cult had spread to the whole world and society was in full on collapse.

This company the two main characters work for clearly had some inkling of what was going on and knew that both eldtritch and scientific means would be required to pull the world back from the brink, so they were sending two-person teams back in time and space to where it all started.

Their goal was to figure out what was causing the madness to spread (rather than stay localized around the horn) which is why they are focused on studying the wildlife. Its clear the infection wasn’t just hitting humans and was even affecting the insects.

4e9709_45661ea326f448c1bd6f21a19d592c68_mv2The problem is that they were stuck in a time loop, performing the experiments over and over and over, until it was breaking their brains. Chidi clearly didn’t know for instance that he found the horn out in the wilderness and dragged it back to camp, and neither of them realized he was the one whispering “where’s your friend?” and knocking on the door.

When they found the horn, the researchers became infected just like the cult did, first just getting sex crazed and then eventually becoming violent. The discussion about the cult “fucking to the sound of flutes” and the nature of the horn make it seem like a clear reference to the demonic piping that surrounds Azathoth.

hornThis had clearly happened a bunch of times before – both with this group and previous research teams.

The ending is where the difference comes in. Chidi stands at the door for a super long time, then lets out a ragged, nearly-crazed laugh before finally going into the wolf’s den. His partner asks him at the end “did you come to join us?”

It seems like they are asking us to decide if he laughed because he went nuts and was joining his fellow colleagues in madness… or laughed because he figured it out, and was bringing the answer to them.

We know he believed they would never find it, frequently talking about how the universal is fundamentally unknowable, so his insane laugh may have been his worldview breaking down as the truth came to him.


HeroForge Mini Challenge

Decided to try out that HeroForge challenge that’s been making the rounds on social to create your book characters into minis. Here’s (pre-horrible mutilation) Casterly, Tala, Myrr, Father Erret, and Fenton.

What do you think – did they end up something like you say the characters in your head?

Wanna try it out yourself? Head over to HeroForge and start building your team of grimdark heroes!


Where are you on the Goodreads challenge?

We’re five months into the annual Goodreads reading challenge and I’m chugging along, having hit 13 out of my goal of 21, so its safe to say we will probably surpass that number before year’s end.

What did you set your goal to, and how far along are you? Cruising along or need to pick up the pace? Here’s the 13 books I’ve read so far this year:

conanConan – Adventures In Age Undreamed Of

2d20 RPG Campaign Setting

Modiphius Entertainment


Read my review here!



1Xas Irkalla

Original System RPG

James Vail


Read my review here!



devilsnightDevil’s Night Dawning

Dark Fantasy Novel

Damien Black


Check it out at Goodreads




Save Worlds RPG Campaign Setting

Melior Via


Read my review here!



uncagedUncaged: Faces Of Sigil

Planescape RPG Accessory



Read my review here!



51nM0L2MRvLThe Eighth God

Dark Fantasy Novel

Paul Lavender


Read my review here!



fiascoFiasco / Fiasco ’10 Playset

GM-less cooperative RPG / Adventure Set

Jason Morningstar

2009 / 2010

Read my review here!



gurpsmarksattacksMars Attacks

GURPS RPG Campaign Setting

Steve Jackson Games


Read my review here!




Earthdawn RPG Supplement



Read my review here!



wraithWraith Knight

Dark Fantasy Novel

C.T. Phipps


Read my review here!




Dark Fantasy Novel

M.L. Spencer


Check it out at Goodreads!



Exalted_Second_Edition_Core_BookExalted 2nd Edition

RPG Campaign Setting

White Wolf


Check it out at Goodreads!


Xas Irkalla: Black Metal Insanity In RPG Form


Did you see that image above and think it was a logo for a black metal band? Yup, me too, and I think that’s exactly what what the designers were going for with this ultra bleak (and ultra awesome) new tabletop game.

In a nutshell, Xas Irkallla is the RPG equivalent of the terrifying esoteric oddity of a Deathspell Omega album colliding with the blackened violence of any given USBM band. Its dark and grim and mind bending and unpleasant, like being trapped in a Gustave Doré painting.

1Rather than your typical d20 open game license entry, Xas Irkalla features a unique ruleset, and it is woven very well into the fabric of the game.

The rules are simplified and fairly easy, but show off the theme quite well. While a good deal different than players may be used to if they stick to Pathfinder or a system like Modiphius’ 2d20 rules, the mechanics here are easy to pick up and flow well.

Loads of character advancement options are available that reflect the dark insanity of the setting, but don’t get too attached, because characters are going to die frequently and messily. You are squishy like a Call Of Cthulhu character, and in a universe that’s more actively deadly, like an even more horror-focused Warhammer.

2While there are a couple of minor nit picks in the layout and formatting where you can tell this is more of an indie affair, overall I’m pretty impressed with the quality of everything on display, from the art to the design concepts.

Xas Irkalla is an incredibly disturbing version of roleplaying, and that can’t be said enough. As a vast intersection of wildly different worlds and realities pulled together by the dreams of dead psychics, things get deliciously weird.

You might have a qliphotic, tentacled sorcerer in a wheelchair next to a spear-wielding gladiatorial slave next to a soldier from an ultra-advanced space-faring society next to a mischievous trickster god in the party.

4The setting is just relentlessly grim. As someone who writes apocalyptically bleak grimdark fantasy novels, I’m down with that, but obviously a group who wants to play the heroic paladins saving the peasants from evil will not be on board with this setting.

What you get here is a radically different experience than the typical RPG. Xas Irkalla ends up somewhere at the cross section of survival horror, esoteric U.S. black metal, the Cthulhu mythos, a nightmare wrapped in an acid trip wrapped in a sweat lodge hallucination, and even darker, more dreadful things.

After a successful crowd funding campaign, Xas Irkalla is now available digitally, but this is the sort of game you want to hold in your hands, and I’m eagerly looking forward to a physical edition landing soon.


Spring Into Fantasy!

A celebration of dark fantasy with 18 books for 99 cents each!

Prolific fantasy scribe M.L. Spencer–author of Amazon #1 best selling series The Rhenwars Saga–has teamed up with 16 other authors to kick off spring with dark visions of vile necromancers, hardened mercenaries, mad kings, foul-mouthed orcs, and eldritch madness.

A host of the best new voices in the dark fantasy scene have banded together to offer a stunning lineup of epic fiction for an exhilarating–and occasionally terrifying–ride out of the darkness of winter and into the dangers of spring.

From April 10th – 14th, all 17 novels (and a bonus anthology) are up for grabs for only $0.99 a piece, filling your to-read list to the brim with new worlds to explore throughout the whole year.

Spring Into Fantasy features stories from such luminaries as Andy Peloquin, Rosalyn Kelly, Frank Dorrian, Ty Arthur, Jesse Teller, Michel Baker, Damien Black, Paul Lavender, Angel Blackwood and many more. This grab bag of epic stories is now on massive sale to celebrate the return of spring:

▪ Light Dawning – Ty Arthur
▪ The Thousand Scars: Counterbalance Volume 1 – Michael R. Baker
▪ Steel, Blood & Fire – Allan Batchelder
▪ Devil’s Night Dawning – Damien Black
▪ Kindling – Angel Blackwood
▪ The Shadow of the High King: The Weaving Shadows Book One – Frank Dorrian
▪ The Dead God’s Due – Matt Gilbert
▪ A Wizard’s Forge – A.M. Justice
▪ Melokai: In the Heart of the Mountains Book 1 – Rosalyn Kelly
▪ The Eighth God – Paul S. Lavender
▪ Devil of the 22nd – Richard Nell
▪ Hellscape: The Fifth Horseman – Samantha Nocera
▪ Exile: The Nandor Tales Book 1 – Martin Owton
▪ Traitor’s Fate – Andy Peloquin
▪ Darkmage: The Rhenwars Saga Book 1 – M.L. Spencer
▪ Song: The Manhunters Book 1 – Jesse Teller
▪ The Hiss Of The Blade: The Celestial Ways Saga Book One – Richard Writhen
▪ Ragged Heroes: An Epic Fantasy Collection – Anthology


Telling Time In A Fantasy World

“High Noon” and “7 o’clock” don’t exactly exude a fantasy feeling….

Coming up with names for fantasy characters is a struggle all its own, but that’s only part of the battle when building a new world from scratch for a book series. Deities, countries, landmarks, seasons, and even days of the week all have to be taken into consideration.

Like with the main character naming conventions from Light Dawning, I knew I wanted the way in which people distinguish time to veer away from modern words and phrases, but at the same time I didn’t want it to go completely into the overblown high fantasy side of the equation. Light Dawning is a low fantasy novel with a strong horror flavor, so the names also needed to run towards the darker side.

The hours of the day needed to give a distinct feel so that you know this world is different from others, while still making sense at a glance without having to look up terms in a glossary. I want to draw the readers into the world more with little details like this that constantly remind them where they are, and that Cestia is very much not the same as their home on Earth.

Rather than using the standards like “8 AM” or “High Noon” or “Midnight,” I came up with my own system of daily time that gets included in each chapter heading, along with the location where the chapter takes place, to give a frame of reference to the reader.

The daily time segments from earliest to latest are:

  • Light Dawning
  • Morningtide
  • High Sun
  • Aurora
  • Radiantfall
  • Dimmet
  • Eventide
  • Twilight
  • Gloaming
  • True Night
  • Stars Fading

The time slots aren’t necessarily exact or consistent across the seasons (since water or mechanical clocks aren’t commonly available in Cestia during the occupation, and Radiantfall or Dimmet is likely to come earlier in the day during the winter season).

In general though, each time slot is roughly around and hour and a half, and has three versions: early, mid (marked just by the base name), and late. So for instance, it might be early Radiantfall, Radiantfall, or late Radiantfall as the time slot progresses. The TOC below shows you how the time progresses over the days in which Light Dawning takes place.

How do you feel about changing up the times, names of days, and seasons in fantasy and horror novels? Do you prefer something that sticks to the standard modern day systems, or like a little more originality for flavor?