Hello, everyone. I’m Ashe Armstrong and this is me guest blogging on Ed’s blog because he wants my book to succeed. Or he’s cleverly using me to boost his own sales by showing you all a horrible writer. Which is ironic considering I’m his unofficial hype man anyways (I have gotten him at least five sales, if not a whole six). I think it’s the success thing though. Because we love the Weird West and his Merkabah Rider books are the basis of our friendship. So, with my book, A Demon in the Desert forthcoming, and because he’s a stand-up guy, he offered me some space to try and sell you on my book so that I can sell you my book. Now, self-promotion is a weird thing, so instead of just going “blah blah blah, buy THIS AMAZING, LIFE-CHANGING PIECE OF LITERATURE,” I’d rather talk about interesting things around the book. First though…
What’s the book about? I gotta tell you this to get to the other points. A Demon in the Desert is about Grimluk, an Orc demon-hunter and gunslinger, doing his job out in the Wastelands in a mining town called Greenreach Bluffs. There’s madness, hallucinations, nightmares, the titular demon, elves, dwarves, hobbits halflings, ghouls, and orcs. Now I can get to the real meat.
Why an Orc? For one, because Orc protagonists are still lacking. And secondly, to be quite honest, Skyrim. I was playing lots of Skyrim. But let’s look at the landscape in fantasy. There are heroic humans abound. Elves dispensing wisdom and ass-kicking. Mixed race heroes born of elves and men. Dwarves with stoic faces and huge, fuck-off beards. Hobbits (and gnomes!), for fuck’s sake! And they all get to be interesting characters or, at the least, whirlwinds of death for the big bad. But Orcs? Orcs are usually brutal, savages, and written as fodder for our heroes. Orcs, as far as I’ve seen, have changed the least of the fantasy races. Even among fans of Orcs, they remain, at best, Noble Savages.
Thirdly, because when the idea hit me, it was a completely badass image and in some ways I am still a 12 year old. When Grimluk came into being, it was one of those moments of creation where you know, if you don’t use this idea right now, right fucking now, it’ll be gone forever. I started the book without even knowing it was gonna be a book. I started purely with a picture of Grimluk in my mind and started the night it appeared. This was last February (of 2014 for those of you who are reading from the future).
Weird Western? Hell yeah. Fans of Ed don’t need any explanation for why the Weird West is where it’s at. For everyone else, I will again break it town. Obviously the biggest reason is because I love weird westerns and it’s my story, I can do what I want, but I’ll give real reasons.
Because most of Fantasy is still set in medieval/middle ages analogs with castles and kings and peasants and Dark Overlords and powerful magic. And I like those things but time marches on. I wanted to see what would happen if, say, Middle-Earth or Tamriel’s technology and culture had progressed towards something like 1880s America. And, to a small extent (and it only really came to mind the more I’d written), what if Robert Howard had put Conan in the role of wandering gunslinger? And there’s more to those thoughts, especially regarding Orcs. Eventually, I’ll gather up my notes and organize them and post up a big history report. For now, it’s only important for me and the world building (and I’m avoiding world builder-itis, don’t worry). This thought process was the biggest inspiration though.
After that, I went a little farther. What if part of this world, already full of monsters and haunted by demons, had been transformed by some cataclysmic event that rendered part of it a barren Wasteland? A great big desert that’s filled with beasts no one had seen before. Lovecraftian terrors and a general increase in demons. The whole of the Wasteland being a beacon of horrifying things. I’m dying to go further into all that, but most of it is going to get a big ass explanation in a later book, as well as a big ass plot too.
So what influenced me? Well, like I said before, I was playing lots of Skyrim. I don’t remember why but I got it in my head to make an Orsimer and play it as a non-Dragonborn. But everything, the concepts, the basic idea of the wandering gunslinger fighting monsters around the land? The Dark Tower. I was in the middle of the series, both my first introduction to Stephen King and my first exposure to the Weird West since I was a kid (first exposure being Back to the Future 3 and The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.). And it grabbed a hold of me. I started working out an idea for a comic series with a lot of the concepts that have gone into Demon. That series, which ended up going from comic to prose, was set on Earth. An alternate Earth where Wizards had had a war centuries ago that had ravaged half the planet. Everything west of the Mississippi was scorched earth and monsters.
I wanted to use urban myths and folklore. Hellboy had gotten in my head too, so between that, The Dark Tower, and the sudden explosion of steampunk, I had all these ideas swirling around. I made notes upon notes, I started scripting, and then I started trying to work out prose. Then I discovered Deadlands and that had an influence on me too. But the story, the characters just never really came together, never really clicked. But last year, it did. It finally clicked. And at first, I thought the book was just gonna be a short story. And then it just kept going. And now I’m here.
Now, Ed recommended that I tell you more about the plot too, and that’s probably a smart idea. I’ve told you mostly about the who and the where, so, I guess, now for some what and why. Grimluk, Orc, demon hunter, all around nice dude, ends up in Greenreach Bluffs to hunt their demon. That’s the basics. Beyond that, I wouldn’t say I get super deep with the story. Maybe in pieces. Grimluk isn’t an anti-hero. He goes into every job with sincerity, genuinely wanting to help people. He likes to joke, buy folks food, try and take away a little bit of the badness in their lives as well as kill the monsters plaguing them.
Nightmares are a definite, central theme to the book though. Demons have strange effects on folks. Screw with their heads in a number of ways, and nightmares and hallucinations were the one I kinda latched on to. And a lot of the nightmares I include are things I’ve experienced, or things people close to me have. The very first nightmare in the story is one that plagued me for a long time. I kind of expanded it, to make it more mystical, but the way I describe it is how I felt when they happened.
I’m not sure what else to say to entice you with the story. I don’t want to give a whole lot away. It’s not just fights and horror though. I did my best to write real characters. Make them believable. There is a lot of violence towards the end, and I hope the nightmares sound as scary as I think, but mostly, I hope you love the characters. Especially Grimluk, cause he’ll definitely be back for more.
So, if any of that interests you, if your curiosity is piqued, you can check out the first chapter for free. If you want to just buy it outright, well, you’re awesome. Just follow the link. And hey, if you want to read new stuff from me on a regular basis, check out my Patreon and maybe consider becoming a patron. Two bucks a month gets you a whole mess of words.