Character self-determination

There’s one of those little graphics floating around Facebook that says: Main Characters: You do everything you can to raise them right, and as soon as they hit the page they do any damn thing they please.

Yes, fellow writers, we can all grin at that because sometimes our main characters do go off and do something that we hadn’t originally planned for them to do. However, if we’ve raised them right, i.e. drawn all aspects of their character well enough to make them a fully functioning, three-dimensional person, then whatever they do should arise from the character we’ve created. Their actions and exploits will be in character. And if they aren’t, we need to go back to the drawing board.

Characters should have not only basic traits but quirks and flaws – consistent ones – and they need vulnerabilities to make them interesting. No one is going to root for a hero who gets it right all the time. A character’s bad decision is often what makes for a good story as long as you follow it through to its logical conclusion.

Empire of Dust

Empire of Dust – Cover

In Empire of Dust (DAW 2014), the first book in my Psi-Tech trilogy, Cara Carlinni makes a bad decision – possibly the worst of her life – before the book opens, and she spends the rest of the book trying to get out of the mess she’s created. Why did she make that decision? What drove her then and what drives her now?

It took me a while to sort that one out in my head. I knew Cara as a character, all the many different aspects that make her, for me, a real person, but it took listening to a John Tams song (from his fine album, Unity) to suddenly crystallise a central point. Everything was there in the character I’d already drawn, but I hadn’t joined the dots. When I heard the line I had an ‘Oh, of course,’ moment.

The line is: ‘I must be getting easier to leave.’

Of course! That was what drove Cara.

Her parents had split up when she was a child. She’d shuttled between them until her father died suddenly and she was dropped back in her mother’s lap. Her mother had a series of new projects and new men, each one more important to her than the little girl who was always being left behind. Cara grows up and gets a job which sends her scuttling off for long periods (to the other side of the Galaxy, but the character motivation isn’t dependent on the SF setting) and in one traumatic incident she loses a lover, i.e. is left again. So when she’s offered something that looks like stability she grabs it. She puts her trust in the wrong person.

It’s the wrong decision, but getting out is not an option until it becomes the only option. What happens in the rest of the book follows on naturally from that one bad decision.

Ross Partial

Ross Tremayne, from Winterwood.

Sometimes what a character wants is to get out of the situation she finds herself in through no fault of her own. In my Rowankind novels, Ross Tremayne is backed into a corner by events in her family’s past. She’s given a quest, which she tries to ignore. She’s bounced around by fate (on land and at sea) but it’s not until she accepts the responsibility that’s fallen to her that she becomes proactive and takes charge of her own future. Ross doesn’t want the quest, but she needs it, and it changes her life (eventually for the better).

The problems often occur when a supporting character tries to take over. That happened to me when I was writing Empire of Dust. Max kept trying to get more page time. I liked him as a character, but his antics were distracting me from the forward thrust of the main story (Cara’s and Ben’s). I had to cut out about five chapters of Max’s shenanigens. You really have to keep a tight rein on some of the characters. They can so easily run away with a story.

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Writing New Series Vs. Sequels – A guest blog by Gail Z. Martin

HawthornMoon1Readers ask, “What do you like better, starting a new series or writing another book in an existing series?”
That’s like asking, “What do you like more, going to visit old friends or taking a trip somewhere you’ve never been before?”
I like both, but of course, they’re very different. Writing a new series is exciting, because it’s very much a trip to uncharted territory. Whether the setting is somewhere in the real world, or in a place I’ve made up, there’s so much to learn before I feel like a ‘native’. I need to get immersed in the history, landmarks, geography, and magic system, as well as getting to know the main and secondary characters. Until I really understand the characters, they won’t feel real to the reader.
TangledWeb_500Then again, writing a sequel in an existing series is like going to visit old friends, or coming home. I already know the people and the territory. I can slip into it like a comfortable pair of sweats and write with confidence, because I know where I’m going, and the characters whisper in my ear in familiar voices.
Building a new series requires a lot of research, delving into history, geography and folklore/mythology to build the world. Or if the series is set in the real world, getting my details right so people who actually live in that location won’t call me out! I’ve got to think through the characters, their personalities and motivations, their hopes and fears and insecurities, so that they come alive for the reader.
This summer, I’ll have sequels out in both the Darkhurst series and in the Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures. And we’ve just recently brought out Tangled Web, the third book in the Deadly Curiosities series, as well as Deep Trouble, the third Mark Wojcik Monster Hunter novella (co-written with Larry N. Martin).
FC (Vengeance)Vengeance is the second Darkhurst book, a sequel to Scourge. When undertaker brothers Corran and Rigan Valmonde became outlaw monster hunters and fled beyond the walls of Ravenwood, they thought they had defeated the source of the abominations that killed so many of their friends and loved ones. But the more successful they become at destroying the creatures, the more they realize a greater evil is at work – larger and more monstrous than they ever could imagine…
Darkhurst is a sprawling, complicated world and the plot has a lot of moving parts. What seemed like a fairly straight-forward problem in Scourge turns out to be much bigger and more dangerous now that Corran, Rigan and their friends understand the true scope. I had a lot of fun with the storyline, although it’s definitely one of my darker reads, and I think the big battle is one of my favorites that I’ve written.
DarkRoadThe Dark Road is the second book in the Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures, a prequel series to the Chronicles of the Necromancer. It takes us through Jonmarc’s years as a mercenary, the massive betrayal that makes him a wanted man with a royal death warrant on his head, and his years as a Nargi fight slave, and later as a bodyguard and smuggler. By the end of the book, we’re about five years out from when Jonmarc meets Tris Drayke in The Summoner. I plan to write more about his smuggling years at some point to bring Jonmarc’s story up to right before he meets Tris and the others in Ghorbal. (Both The Shadowed Path and The Dark Road are collections of previously published short stories and novellas that make up two serialized novels. This is the first time the stories have been collected and available in print as well as ebook.)
Tangled Web is the third book in the Deadly Curiosities series, set in Charleston, South Carolina. It’s so much fun to be back with Cassidy, Teag and Sorren—as well as their awesome friends and allies—battling big evil in the Holy City! Then in Deep Trouble, Mark Wojcik tackles vengeful spirits, the pissed off ghost of Revolutionary War general ‘Mad’ Anthony Wayne, the Pig People of Radio Tower Hill and a hungry dragon lurking in the ruins of an abandoned amusement park. It’s snarky, sarcastic comedic horror!
On the new stuff….I’m working on Sons of Darkness, a brand new dark urban fantasy set in Pittsburgh, PA. I lived in Pittsburgh for ten years, and it’s a perfect city for a demon-hunting ex-priest and a former Special Ops soldier to team up against the forces of evil! Assassin’s Honor, the first in the new Assassin’s of Landria series, is a buddy flick epic fantasy, sort of like if Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid were medieval assassins. Expect it to be a little lighter and not as sprawling in scope as my other epics, more of a high adventure. Look for those new books this fall.
Stay tuned—there are a lot more new adventures coming up!
Enter for a chance to win a $25 Amazon gift certificate in my Hawthorn Moon Blog Tour giveaway!

Gail Martin, Dreamspinner Communications

About the Author

The Hawthorn Moon is the annual summer blog tour for Gail Z. Martin, and features guest blog posts, giveaways, surprises, excerpts and more on a number of blogs worldwide. Find the master list of posts and goodies at
Gail Z. Martin writes epic fantasy, urban fantasy and steampunk for Solaris Books, Orbit Books, and Falstaff Books. Series include Darkhurst, the Chronicles Of The Necromancer, the Fallen Kings Cycle, the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga, and Deadly Curiosities. The Mark Wojcik Monster Hunter series and Iron & Blood in the Jake Desmet Steampunk series are co-authored with Larry N. Martin, along with the related Storm and Fury Adventures. She also writes urban fantasy MM paranormal romance as Morgan Brice, including the Witchbane and Badlands series.
Vengeance: A Darkhurst novel, is the second in a new epic fantasy series. Her Deadly Curiosities urban fantasy series set in Charleston, SC has a new novel, Tangled Web, and a new collection, Trifles and Folly 2. The Mark Wojcik Monster Hunter series includes Spells, Salt, and Steel, Open Season and Deep Trouble in a new comedic horror/urban fantasy series (Falstaff) and the Iron & Blood universe has the  Storm and Fury Adventures collection of short stories, and an upcoming new novel, Spark of Destiny.
Gail is also the author of Scourge: A Novel of Darkhurst, Ice Forged, Reign of Ash, War of Shadows and Shadow and Flame in The Ascendant Kingdoms Saga, The Chronicles of The Necromancer series (The Summoner, The Blood King, Dark Haven, Dark Lady’s Chosen); The Fallen Kings Cycle (The Sworn, The Dread) and the urban fantasy novels Deadly Curiosities and Vendetta. Gail writes three ebook series: The Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures, The Deadly Curiosities Adventures and The Blaine McFadden Adventures.
Her work has appeared in over 35 US/UK anthologies. Newest anthologies include: Clockwork Universe: Steampunk vs. Aliens, Gaslight and Grimm, Hath No Fury, Journeys, #We Are Not This, The Baker Street Irregulars, In a Cat’s Eye, and Afterpunk: Steampowered Tales of the Afterlife.
Find her at, on Twitter @GailZMartin, on, at blog and on Goodreads She is also the organizer of the #HoldOnToTheLight campaign
Gail Z. Martin
Proud Member: SFWA, Broad Universe
New in 2018
Vengeance: A Novel of Darkhurst
Trifles and Folly2: A Deadly Curiosities Collection
Tangled Web: A Deadly Curiosities novel
Storm & Fury: The Collected Stories
Salvage Rat (new space adventure by Larry N. Martin)
Assassin’s Honor: Book One in the Assassins of Landria
Plus all-new novellas in the Spells, Salt & Steel universe and several new series!
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Make me Immortal with a Kiss

SecondRoundFrontCoverRightZombies Need Brains press ran a Kickstarter in 2017, to fund a set of three themed anthologies. Each anthology has New York Times bestselling authors alongside authors who’ve just made their first professional sale. One of the anthologies in this batch is SECOND ROUND: A RETURN TO THE URBAR, which is a follow-up to a previously released anthology called AFTERHOURS: TALES FROM THE URBAR. Here, Gilgamesh bartends a time-traveling bar where history mixes with a touch of magic. For thousands of years the immortal Gilgamesh has presided over the legendary Ur-Bar, witnessing history unfold from within its walls. Some days it is a rural tavern, others a fashionable wine shop. It may appear as a hidden speakeasy or take on the form of your neighbourhood local. For most patrons it is simply a place to quench their thirst, but for a rare few the Ur-Bar is where they will meet their destiny. Anchor authors include Gini Koch, Juliet E. McKenna, C.E. Murphy, Kristine Smith, Kari Sperring… and me.

I was delighted to be invited to contribute a story to this, but I confess my knowledge of Gilgamesh was a little thin, so it was great to get some guidelines. The bar can pop up anywhere at any time and it displays the ancient recipe for beer on a clay tablet Gilamesh himself is immortal but can’t leave the bar. He can (but doesn’t always) offer his own special drink which might just serve to give the drinker what s/he wants (or maybe what s/he needs which is not always the same thing).

children book cover final 2Those of us who were invited were allowed to choose a time period, so that we didn’t duplicate, so I got in early with my choice: 1916, the eve of the Battle of the Somme, the bloodiest action in the First World War. I’d just written THE HORSE HEAD VIOLIN, another First World War story about Belgian refugees in 1914 for Alma Alexander’s fundraising anthology CHILDREN OF A DIFFERENT SKY, so my head was still in that particular time period. I’d set THE HORSE HEAD VIOLIN in Leeds and included a few real characters and incidents, so I continued that theme.

I have two main protagonists, one, Alastair Gaunt, a lieutenant in the Leeds Pals, one of those regiments comprising young men all from the same area. The other lead character, Amelia Pentney-Knowles, is a volunteer nurse who’s left a sheltered place with her family, and has had to grow up very quickly as she’s faced with the horrors of injuries and illnesses incurred in the trenches.

And so MAKE ME IMMORTAL WITH A KISS grew into being. A doomed love affair mitigated by a moment of resolution, courtesy of Gilgamesh. No, I’m not going to give away the story. Please buy a copy of the anthology. It’s out in mid June and it’s got some fantastic stories in it. I will say that one of the early readers tweeted:
Damn. @JaceyBedford just made me bawl with her story in the new @ZNBLLC antho #SecondRoundReturnToTheUrBar

I must admit to a few salty tears while I was writing it.

This is the real world background.

The Leeds Pals Regiment was raised in 1914 by volunteers. They trained in Colsterdale, North Yorkshire, and in 1915 deployed to Egypt to guard the Suez Canal against the Turks. They were shipped to France in March 1916 to join the British build-up for the Battle of the Somme. On the first day, the battalion casualties numbered 24 officers and 504 other ranks, of which 15 officers and 233 other ranks were killed. Private A.V. Pearson, a survivor, later said: “We were two years in the making and ten minutes in the destroying.”

Victor RatcliffeLieutenant Victor Ratcliffe, who has a walk-on role in this story, was a real person, a minor war poet and nephew of Edward Allen Brotherton, Lord Mayor of Leeds in 1913-14, one of those responsible for raising and equipping the Leeds Pals regiment. Victor also died on the first day of the Battle of the Somme, killed in action at Fricourt. He was twenty-nine years old, and left behind a fiancée, Pauline.

Private Tommy Bennett was very loosely based on my grandfather who volunteered and joined the KOYLI in 1914 (Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry – not a Pals regiment). The songs in the story are the ones Grandpa sang snatches of all the time. He survived the Somme but was invalided out at Passchendaele in 1917 with half his calf shot away.thomas bennett It bought him a ticket home, but he was a year in various hospitals undergoing a long slow recovery. He always walked heavily on that leg and when pressed would roll up his trouser leg and show you his ’empty’ calf and his middle toes that crossed over each other as if wishing for luck. Like many soldiers who’d been through the trenches he rarely talked about it, but I gleaned enough to have some idea of what it was like. Once he was fit again he returned home to life underground in a coal mine which may not have been a lot better, but at least no one was shooting at him. Despite the trenches and the coal mine he lived to his mid-eighties, married his sweetheart and raised a daughter – my mum.

All that background was in my head, though I couldn’t get it all on the page because what mattered was the love affair between my two protagonists under almost impossible circumstances.

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What times we’ve lived through.

Annie Shaw

Grandmas Annie Shaw circa 1918

My grandma’s house was a miner’s cottage in Mapplewell, probably built in the mid to late Victorian period. It was red brick, two up, two down with a toilet in the yard. There was a cellar with a freshwater spring in it, forming a little well, which may have once been the water supply, but by the time Grandma and Grandpa moved in, there was running water to the kitchen sink. Though it was a tiny house they hardly ever used the front room except when there were visitors. The back room was always referred to as the ‘house’ and was the only room that was heated regularly using the coal allowance from Grandpa’s job as a miner.

My parents’ house, the one I recall from my childhood, was a few miles away in Athersley, on the outskirts of Barnsley. It was probably built in the 1920s/1930s, a two up, two down semi with an indoor bathroom. We lived in the back room during the day – a combined kitchen, living room and dining room, with a coal oven and two gas rings on the sink draining board. Outside was a gas street lamp – replaced by an electric one when I was very young, but I can still just about remember it.

What times we have lived through! From black lead fireplaces and gas street lamps to personal computers the size of a slim paperback book.

I’ve spent the last few years, off and on, researching family history, going back (through some lines) to the 1600s.

Clifford's postcard 1925 front

You won’t find any lords of the manor or toffs of any kind in my family tree – certainly no royalty or nobility. We’re a boring lot. As far back as occupations are recorded we’re mostly miners with a few nailmakers thrown into the mix – a job, in its own way, almost as dangerous as working at the coalface, at least for the children of the family who often played around the family’s forge while both parents worked.

I’ve done quite a lot of history research for my Rowankind books which are set in 1800, 1801 and 1802. It’s the period of Regency romances (though strictly speaking the Regency didn’t begin until 1811).

Duke and II love Regency Romance. It’s my guilty pleasure. Though sometimes I wonder how many dukedoms have been invented by authors writing in the genre. Pretty debs in Regency romances always have to find a rakish duke, or at least an earl or a viscount they can reform into good husband material. The aristocracy has never been so populous.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love reading all that kind of stuff, especially if it’s written with wit and a touch of humour. (Julia Quinn’s books come to mind! And, of course, Georgette Heyer.)

Winterwood front cover

Winterwood by Jacey Bedford, published by DFAW, Feb 2016.

Northern working class folk didn’t mix with the likes of the ton, so I’m happy to write books set in that era where the ton is never mentioned at all. The heroine of my Rowankind books, Rossalinde navigates through life on the outskirts of polite society. Ross’ family is firmly middle class. Her father was a sea captain, and she took to the sea herself when she ran off with her first husband (who features in the trilogy as a jealous ghost).

My Great-Great-Great-Great-Grandmothers  were born around the same time as my fictional heroine, Ross. Ann Wyatt in Somerset, and in Yorkshire, Sarah Pollard and Ann Auckland. Ann was born in 1774 and lived to be 78 years old. She married Reuban Hargreaves and they had at least eight children. Mary Fleetwood was born in Staincross in 1774. She married Timothy Crow and proceeded to pop out nine children at approximately two year intervals. That (and looking after them) is hard work! You can bet your bottom dollar that she never aspired to travel to London, and never had a voucher for Almacks.

Though Timothy Crow’s exact occupation is unknown, he’s listed as a labourer. His father, Robert, was a blacksmith, a respectable profession for a working man. Timothy’s grandson, George, was a coal miner, living in Mapplewell, a pit village in the West Riding of Yorkshire.

george & eliza crowe

George Crow and his wife Emma. He was a coal miner. She was from a nailmaking family.

George Crow is the son of Timothy’s youngest daughter, Mary, born in 1838, two years before her marriage to Charles Pickering. George’s siblings are all Pickerings. As to whether Charles is George’s father I’d hazard a guess that he’s not. None of the indicators are there. It was common for bastards to have the surname of their father as a middle name, but George had no middle name. Also, if Mary and Charles were going to get married after George’s birth, it’s not likely they’d have waited two years. Neither George’s birth certificate nor his marriage certificate name a father, so I draw my own conclusion.

Unlike my characters I don’t think there would have been much magic in my ancestors’ lives.

Now that I’ve finished writing the Rowankind trilogy, and my next book after that is written, my mind is turning towards writing something new. Am I going to stick to the past or travel into the future? I’ve got a few interesting characters in my family tree such as Fletcher Fletcher who was a colliery engine wright and whose third wife, Ann Randle, was listed as a schoolmistress on the 1861 census. There’s Moses Lockyer, born around 1600 in Radstock, Somerset, who married Mary Wiles, had nine children and lived through the English Civil War.

Inspiration for a story? Maybe. It’s certainly worth looking into my family history a little more closely while I’m contemplating my next book.

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Rowankind Delivered

On Friday night I sent off the final edited version of my upcoming novel ROWANKIND.

Let me say that again because it never gets old. On Friday night I sent off the final edited version of my upcoming novel ROWANKIND.

Jacey Office 4It’s the culmination of seven months of work, five months to write the first draft and deliver it, a gap of a month while my editor (Sheila Gilbert at DAW) went to work on it, and another month of (structural/story) editing.

Of course, work on the book isn’t finished yet, but most of my work is. From here it goes to my editor for a final check. I’ve gone through one edit with Sheila already, and made the changes she suggested, but if there are any issues she still needs me to address, of course, she can send it back to me and I can do more edits.

Once Sheila is happy with it, it goes to a copy editor who changes my British English to American English, and checks my prose for clunky sentences and bad punctuation. (Americans use a LOT more commas than we Brits, do for starters. And don’t get me started on the Great Oxford Comma debate. Sometimes Oxford commas are necessary, and sometimes not.)

Rowankind_coverI get to see the book again after the copy editor has worked on it, and I can make any necessary alterations (or query what the copy editor has done in specific cases) before it goes to the typesetter. My final view of the book will be the page proofs, which I like to do on paper (though I send any resulting changes to my publisher by email). Once it gets to the page proof stage I can only make small changes. Trying to add or subtract substantial chunks will make more work for the typesetters.

Before it comes out in it’s final form DAW will produce ARCs, advance reader copies, which will be sent out for review, hopefully so that published reviews will coincide with publication.

DAW’s publicist (DAW is part of Penguin Random House) will do some work on getting the book some promo, but it helps if I can do some of that, too. Setting up a blog tour is something I can help with, i.e. writing guest blogs for anyone who will host me on their blog. Sometimes I get to write an opinion piece, or something about the nuts and bolts of writing, and sometimes I get to answer interview questions. I’m happy to do any of those types of posts.

Do contact me if you can either offer to review ROWANKIND or host a post on my blog tour.

Ross PartialCorwenROWANKIND is the third and final book in the Rowankind trilogy which began with WINTERWOOD and continued with SILVERWOLF. It continues the story of Ross (Rossalinde) and Corwen set in 1802, in a magical Britain. The Fae are threatening magical retribution if the newly enfranchised rowankind are not protected from the Mysterium, Corwen’s shapechanging brother is a constant source of trouble, and an unexpected peace treaty with Napoleon’s France brings an old enemy back to England’s shores. Can Ross and Corwen protect Britain’s magicals without sacrificing themselves? Expect adventure on land and sea, an unexpected encounter with a pirate, magical creatures on the loose, some politicking with a guest appearance by Mr. Pitt the younger, and a desperate final struggle against Walsingham.

I’ve been incredibly lucky to have had some input into the selection of a cover artist for the trilogy. Larry Rostant has done a marvellous job of bringing my characters to life. I absolutely adore his artwork. The cover of ROWANKIND features Ross and the rowankind Charlotte with Corwen in Silverwolf form. The book is due from DAW on 4th December 2018. It’s available for pre-order on both sides of the Atlantic from the folks named after a South American river.


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The Reading Conundrum

When I got my first publishing deal back in 2013 I found that when I was writing to a deadline it was difficult to keep up with my reading. This reading conundrum is something many writers suffer from…

  • When I’m writing I’m always slightly worried that if I read books in the same genre that they will subconsciously influence me.
  • Yet all authors are advised to read widely in order to keep up with what’s being published.

To address these difficulties I made sure that when I was writing fantasy, I read science fiction, and when I was writing science fiction I read fantasy or historical novels. That kept me happy for a few years, but gradually I’ve eased up on my own self-imposed rule. There are too many great books out there to limit what I allow myself to read.

GollanczSince 2009, I’ve blogged every book I’ve read, not on this blog (where I mostly blog about writing) but on my Dreamwidth blog at This has several advantages. Firstly it introducers people to books they may not have considered, and secondly it forms a database to help me remember book details. I so wish I’d done it decades ago.

I’ve always been a science fiction and fantasy reader. I my teens I read (from the local library) everything I saw which had one of those Gollancz yellow jackets. Oh boy, I do wish I’d been doing writeups then. I read a lot of the classics (which I was probably too young for at the time) but sadly very few of them have stayed in my brain.

Battersea BarricadesSo my advice is not only to read, but to keep track of what you read and even if you don’t do reviews, jot down something which will jog your memory five years from now; ten years from now. Go on… you’ll be glad you did.

Having said that, though I’ve been reading, I’ve had a lapse and I now need to catch up with this year’s book blogging. My reading is fifteen books ahead of my blogging. I promise to catch up soon. My random 2018 reading includes historicals by Julia Quinn, Ella Quinn, Danielle Harmon, and Sheila Walsh, a couple of delightful St Mary’s offerings by the wonderful Jodi Taylor (one novel, one short story), Patricia Briggs’ latest Alpha and Omega novel, the first Lindsey Davis Falco novel, and a couple of history books (non-fiction) by Peter Ackroyd.



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Cover Reveal Rowankind

Cover reveal: Rowankind, the last book in the Rowankind trilogy is due in November from DAW. Need to read the first two? They are Winterwood and Silverwolf in that order.  The cover illustrates Ross (Rossalinde) with Corwen the wolf shapechanger and Charlotte, the young rowankind housekeeper we met in Silverwolf, and who also appears here in Rowankind.


The artist is Larry Rostant who illustrated the first two books in the trilogy, too. I love his work. Here’s his website: He mixes photography and digital artwork to get amazingly natural results.


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