Meet Sarovek. Knight. Monitor. A hunter. A killer. A noble daughter of a powerful house of Corvidia, the kingdom of sky-dwellers. If you’ve read chapter one of “The Animal in Man” then you know Sarovek leads the attack against the hyena the story’s hero Maxan had been shadowing through the streets and alleyways of Crosswall.
“A Corvidian knight in plates of polished armor plunged from the skies. Her legs and lower talons led her way, the tips of her hawk wings trailing high behind her, a long spear gripped tight, angled at the clustered hyenas. She fell like a meteor, inches from where the fox crouched on the walkway, then flapped her wings outward at the last possible instant to break her fall. The blast of air sent immense clouds of dirt rolling away. The knight’s spear sank through a hyena’s back and deep into the ground, an explosion of blood changed the dirt to mud.”
Sarovek is quite the badass. I believe she perfectly embodies the type of book I wanted to write. Her character, her choices, her choices all provide the type of experience I wanted to craft for my readers. I grew up reading action-packed stories of warriors gritting their teeth and swinging swords and narrowly escaping grave dangers with their lives. Sarovek may not be a barbarian, but she’s just as ferocious a fighter as Conan. She may not be a drow ranger, but she’s just as stoic as Drizzt.
If you haven’t heard of “The Animal in Man”... If you haven’t had the chance to really dive in and see what makes it so special, then go check it out. Spend a little time in my world.
I have some very, very exciting news to share with everyone coming up in the next update. Stay tuned, My Dear Animals! And as always, thank you for your support and patience!
(Immense thanks to artist Ellinsworth for his amazing sketch of Sarovek! Visit his portfolio for more awesome artwork!)
I got some numbers for you.
Do you know what this means?!?! I FINISHED EDITING MY NOVEL!!! It was quite a slog for me. I’m not one of those writers that can easily overlook the minutiae in order to focus on the bigger picture. My editor gave me some great notes calling for some big sweeping changes and clarifications, but even still, if I saw something on the page that bothered me (and gosh was there a LOT that bothered me), I had to change it. Staring at pages like these was how I spent what little free time I had for the past four months:
Look at all those revisions!!! Just to be clear, this is not the end of the editing process. It’s back with the Editor / Head of Story at Inkshares, Matt Harry, who’ll look over the changes and make further suggestions. (Hopefully I cleared the higher hurdles the first time around the track and the next lap is easier.) From there, somebody’s gotta clean up my terrible, awful, hideous, redundant word choice… Cover design conversations with the artist… Where is this all going, you ask?! Well, it means it will still be a wait. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a 2018 release, but I can’t say for sure.
In the meantime, I literally don’t know what to do with myself any more. If I’m not working on something, I’m getting ANTSY. While I wait for the Inkshares wheel to turn another notch in Animal in Man’s production track, I’ll be putting more words down for my next novel “The White Shadow”, which you can read the first few chapters of HERE. (I added a chapter to my website since the previous time posting about it, and I’m eleven chapters beyond that point in the writing.) I might even be putting up an Inkshares draft page for the book soon. Who knows.
To all of my supporters, all of you who’ve hung in there this long and longer: Thank you.
I forgot!! How could I…?!
A little over a month ago, I was featured on the Geek Questioner Podcast, Episode #66: Joseph Asphahani & The Replicant Vampire. (You simply CANNOT get a better title for a podcast, if you ask me.) I had a blast geeking out with host Charlie Hoover, covering my latest obsessions like getting to play Dungeons & Dragons after a decade-long hiatus, making ill-advised cosplay-like purchases of Blade Runner 2049 trenchcoats, and the glory that is the animated Castlevania series on Netflix. (Click here for a link to subscribe on their iTunes page.)
And of course, we discuss The Animal in Man a whole lot! Tune in for a teaser about how the story starts in what seems a typical Fantasy world, makes a hissing-grinding stop at Steampunk along the way, and ultimately rockets to the edge of the stratosphere as Sci-Fi.
I have a tendency to disappear sometimes. Actually, to escape. And at times escape so thoroughly that it’s like I can feel the whole Earth turning beneath me, forgetting it’s left me behind. ...but then I snap out of it, and I realize it’s really just my fault. I’ve been quiet a little too long. This reader update is long, long overdue.
As of this writing, The Animal in Man has sold 495 copies. As of months and months ago, that number was practically the same. I realized today I would very much like to see 500, and I’m asking all of those who have followed the novel recently to make a pre-order and help me achieve that goal. Of course, I’ve also been working on my sales pitch:
The Animal in Man is like Lord of the Flies, but instead of asking whether young men beguiled by the beast inside can ever be human again, the story asks if there’s something human already in every beast. Instead of stumbling, terrified, through a jungle of fear, they are born in a world of constant violence, perhaps designed that way by its creator. Are we so very different, I wonder.
The original description I typed years ago when I first launched the inkshares page are still true, perhaps more than ever before: The Animal in Man “is our story. The story of mankind." But if words alone aren’t enough to earn your pre-order, then consider these images.
When you read The Animal in Man, what you’ll see first is this:
But it’s really all about this:
It’s about why anyone would ever think violence could be the answer. It’s about my belief that all of us at some point in our life have heard that whisper inside our hearts that says this it might just be.
Which do you want first: the Good News, or the Good-er News?
Fine. Good news is I’ve finally had the epiphany I should’ve reached months ago (which, by the way, is why you’re receiving another update so soon after the last). I’ve decided to SPLIT THE ANIMAL IN MAN IN TWO. Yes, you’ve read that correctly. Fellow authors, publishing industry gurus, inkshares itself, close friends and relatives - all these folks had been asking me for so long “why not just split the novel? Honestly, my dear animals, working on The Animal in Man had become a lot like sculpting pottery: the wheel spins and spins at a constant, but the larger the pot I was trying to make, the more likely it was to start coming apart and ultimately wind up an unrecognizable ruin. I’d rather make something beautiful - keep the pattern intact - and I figured you’d rather read it that way.
So what’s the Good-er News?
I re-submitted the manuscript last week! This means the ball is now in the publisher’s side of the court. I’ve done a little research that should make all parties involved (including you and me) much happier: An author with multiple books develops a better readership. Trilogies sit better on store shelves and are more likely to be stocked & re-stocked by booksellers. Imagine you’re just Joe-Schmoe Bookreader at the B&N down your street, just browsing the Sci-Fi Fantasy section like you always do, and you spot book one, book two, and book three of The Animal in Man all side-by-side. You are more likely to wonder what you’re missing out on when you discover a trilogy for the first time.
Yes, I said “trilogy.” That, in fact, was the straw that broke this camel’s back. The original, monstrously-oversized Animal in Man ended on a the mother of all cliffhangers, and I’d originally intended to leave it as-is (frankly I like unfinished endings, like Watchmen or Inception). But the ideas just kept gestating in the dark, warm, moist recesses of my brain, fed by the questions. What would happen to so-and-so? Did so-and-so make it out alive, and if he did, what would he do next?
Stay tuned to find out. Because of the decision to split the book, it won’t be as long of a wait.
In the meantime, check out some of the AMAZING sci-fi novels burning up the leaderboards on Inkshares’ Nerdist Contest. The second I read the description of Jenny Graham-Jones “1000 Faces” I knew I had to have a copy. That kind of dystopian, bleak-future vision of our world - where everyone wears a mask and all is never as it seems - is my kind of jam. Take a look at the submissions, you’re sure to find something great.
Until next time, my dear animals.
My sincerest apologies, dear readers, because “The Animal in Man” hasn’t made it into your hands yet. I’ve only recently learned that its production was delayed due to the book’s length.
I’ve been chipping away at the word count as much as I possibly can, but between my familial responsibilities and my new high-school teaching gig, there’s not much time left in the day for editing. I’ve been tasked with cutting 42% of my novel, so it’s going to be some time I’m afraid. I’m slitting the throats of some characters I cared a lot for, but I’m allowing a few others to live a bit longer.
One of the main characters who will not be cut is Feyn, the white wolf. Twenty years ago, when the campaign to eradicate all the insect Thraxians came to its close, Feyn - a Leoran knight of some renown - set off for his homeland, eager to see his wife and children again. When he returned at last, he found his estate ransacked, his castle burnt to the ground, and his son butchered. And he found the butchers. They soon overpowered him, struck a fatal blow across his face, leaving a wicked scar from his mouth to his ear, and threw him into the ditch alongside his wife’s corpse. But Feyn did not die there. During the attack, Feyn’s body fell unconscious as its parasitic spirit inexplicably fled. He regained himself - his true self - down there, in the dark. Feyn became something else entirely that night. A true animal.
So Feyn stays in the story. He’s been dead once already, you see. It doesn’t suit him.
I commissioned the character sketch for Feyn from the ultra-talented Ronald Orrego. You can find more of his work here, as well as his contact info if you need him. Tell him Joe sent ya.
Stay tuned, dear readers.
Meet Saghan. A venomous viper, hailing from the distant swamps of Drakora. A slithering, green-scaled assassin with little care for life - whether those of his victims, or his own. A slave. A self-aware puppet who knows he can never break the invisible strings of the all-powerful puppeteer.
I commissioned this concept of Saghan about a month ago, and while I received a couple other pieces in the meantime (including this amazing one of Maxan, if you haven’t already seen it), I am so utterly impressed by artist Nic Morales’ interpretation of my character that I’ve sent him to the front of the line. Saghan serves as a foil to Maxan. Whereas Maxan makes choices informed by his sense of right, Saghan has no choice, and has given up on the idea of deciding his own destiny. And yet, we have a fox, and we have a snake... Both creatures known for their cunning, their guile, their deceptive natures. Maxan and Saghan are more alike than they know.
This right here… This portrait… THIS is EXACTLY what I saw in The Animal in Man. Make no mistake, this world is brutal, full of beasts, full of killers.
I truly wish I had more news in terms of the book’s publication date, but no movement has been spied on that horizon just yet. Please continue to be patient, as I am. And in the meantime, I will continue to post new pieces of concept art as they come in. Thanks as always for your continued support, my dear Animals.
May I present you Maxan - former thief, city guard, “Shadow of Crosswall,” and the hero of my novel “The Animal in Man.”
I tend to think of the creatures in Herbridia as having almost entirely animalistic features - fanned ears, fangs and claws, bushy tails, triple-jointed hindlegs, things like that - while the proportions of their bodies are almost entirely human - shoulders, waists, arms and legs, walking upright, the capacity for speech. There’s a reason this book isn’t 100% “Watership Down.” (Richard Adams, RIP.) There’s a reason that although the world and all its inhabitants appear as your typical ‘Fantasy’ expectations, the book is listed on inkshares as Science Fiction.
There’s always more than what there appears to be.
This brilliant work of concept art (the first entry in a series of visual aids I plan to flash in front of your eyes this year) was created by Paco Guidice. I’m so absolutely lucky to have stumbled across Paco’s work when I was searching for just the right artistic style to capture the vision I had in mind when I wrote The Animal in Man. I came across his portfolio site HERE. Fellow inkshares authors, you’d do yourself a favor to seek Paco out if you ever thought to commission art for your own project(s).
More art on the way, including everyone’s favorite Wolf Sorcerer Feyn (featured prominently in chapter one), and Hawk Knight Sarovek (also featured in chapter one, where she gets skewered on the serrated teeth of the hyena’s wicked sword).
Until next time, Animals.
“Exciting times are incoming.” No other more obvious statement has ever been made when one considers the horror that was 2016. With this update, I want to draw your eyes to what I’m seeing in 2017, and I think you’ll have a lot to be excited for. At least three things for sure:
First: “The Animal in Man” continues to lurk in the dark recesses of my brain. I’ve already been thinking of more monuments I can build in the violent world of Herbridia. Literally, a monument of bloodletting and death, a coliseum at the heart of Crosswall, the Leoran capital city featured in the novel’s opening chapters. And more - the ideas just never stop coming. I’m utterly in love with this world, and even while I chomp at the bit to get my production timeline put together, I’m already getting edits written down. Stay tuned for further news as soon as I hear it!
Second: “Hunger.” I took a trip in 2013 to attend my graduation ceremony at Full Sail University in Florida, and during the flight I managed to craft and tighten a pretty fine piece of writing, a little 10-page short film script focused on the struggles of a father and son as they starve in a post apocalyptic world. What would you do if it meant you could eat, and survive? What part of yourself would you give up? “Hunger” has caught the attention of some film-makers based in Sydney, Australia, and WITH YOUR SUPPORT my beautiful little screenplay can be professionally produced and shown on the silver screen! Please visit the project’s Pozible page (a.k.a. The Aussie Kickstarter) and pledge what you can.
Third: “The White Shadow.” My thesis as part of Full Sail’s Masters program was a full-length video game design document, a project I very lovingly pitch as Cyberpunk Soul Reaver, blending traversal through the realm of spirits with a futuristic cyberpunk Japanese setting, a world dominated by omnipotent Megacorporations, pervasive fear, and destructive technology. I put “The White Shadow” on the back-burner while work on “Animal in Man” progressed, but I couldn’t help myself from wandering back into its grimy rain-soaked streets. I decided to turn the story into a novel - MY NEXT BIG PROJECT FOR 2017! - and just finished writing the first chapter today. Please visit my portfolio page right here, and then tell me what you think! Should I turn this into a draft on Inkshares? The possibility has more than certainly crossed my mind…
2016 was tough. I’m glad to be turning my back on it. I’m excited to be turning toward 2017, and I hope you are too. We’ve got plenty of things to look forward to, my dear readers. Rest assured I will be keeping myself ridiculously busy refining old chapters of “The Animal in Man” and completing new chapters of “The White Shadow.” And, with your help, getting a real-world Screenplay-By Credit for "Hunger".
See you in the New Year, Animals. Lets have a Happier one this time.