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The Readalong! > Tuesday 6th February - Barrowlands by Mike Shel

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message 1: by Benedict (new)

Benedict Patrick (benedictpatrick) | 34 comments As before, spoilers are welcome, feel free to post your thoughts on the tale after 6th Feb if you come to the Readalong late, feel free to ask any questions :)


message 2: by Mike (new)

Mike Shel | 17 comments Should anyone have any questions for me, I'll be in and out today: toddler duty at home, I'm afraid. Thanks in advance to all those who took the time to read my tale.


message 3: by Laura (new)

Laura Hughes (lauramhughes) | 12 comments I'm currently reading Mike's forthcoming debut novel, Aching God. Though I'm only a few chapters in, the Barrowlands have already been mentioned a few times as a place of danger and ancient mysteries. There's an ominous atmosphere surrounding them; one knows terrible things have happened (and probably will happen) there, and so just the title of this story makes me eager to delve in. Will return with my thoughts once I have!


message 4: by Timandra (new)

Timandra Whitecastle (goodreadscomtimwhitecastle) | 15 comments Hey Mike, given your Paizo writing chops, how much fun was it to write a little dungeon crawl going horribly wrong?


message 5: by Mike (new)

Mike Shel | 17 comments Thanks, Taya!

"Barrowlands" takes place before the events in Aching God and in fact, the mystery man is the protagonist of the novel. Hesk was created for the short story, but I suspect we may run into him again later in the Iconoclasts series.


message 6: by T.L. (new)

T.L. (tlgreylock) | 33 comments Mike wrote: "Thanks, Taya!

"Barrowlands" takes place before the events in Aching God and in fact, the mystery man is the protagonist of the novel. Hesk was created for the short story, but I suspect we may run..."


Ah, yes, I thought the mystery man might be the 'weary man' you were looking for for the cover! Description seemed right.


message 7: by T.L. (new)

T.L. (tlgreylock) | 33 comments Goodreads is eating comments....


message 8: by Mike (new)

Mike Shel | 17 comments Goodreads, she is hungry.

I'll re-submit an answer to Tim's question above:

Hey Mike, given your Paizo writing chops, how much fun was it to write a little dungeon crawl going horribly wrong?


Every adventure designer is a bit of a sadist, laying traps and doing their best to wreak havoc on players. And truth be told, players love hearing tales of terrible disasters, as long as it's someone else's player characters in the buzzsaw.

When I originally began writing this tale, its purpose was to create a reward for signing up for my mailing list. Those most familiar with my work are Pathfinder players, so I thought a dungeon crawl that goes awry would be a tasty treat for those folks. Hopefully it serves to draw others into my world as well.


Jennifer (bunnyreads) | 23 comments I really have to be in the mood for grim squishy visual reads so this was maybe not quite my favorite so far. Mr. Shel definitely has a knack for setting the tone for dark and grim though.


message 10: by Sandy (new)

Sandy | 21 comments Just finished the story and I really liked the interaction between the characters. I have never played Pathfinder so perhaps the reference was not clear to me.

I loved the dungeon crawl as you say and the fact that Hesk had two different characterizations in the story - good adventuresome noble man saving the mystery man and mercenary/thief wanting so much more.

I totally did not get the ending though - does it have a reference that I am missing because I am not a Pathfinder person? I really loved the story and the writing painted a great picture of all characters but the ending left me with...Say What?

I did think it was intriguing that he actually heard her talk. Does that mean that he too is mad because of his adventure in the crypt?


message 11: by Mike (new)

Mike Shel | 17 comments I hear you, Jennifer. Perhaps Grim Squishy is a new category?


message 12: by Mike (last edited Feb 06, 2018 04:31PM) (new)

Mike Shel | 17 comments Sandy wrote: "I totally did not get the ending though - does it have a reference that I am missing because I am not a Pathfinder person? I really loved the story and the writing painted a great picture of all characters but the ending left me with...Say What?

I did think it was intriguing that he actually heard her talk. Does that mean that he too is mad because of his adventure in the crypt? "


Sandy:

First, thanks for reading the story! Not being familiar with Pathfinder shouldn't be a handicap here, though there are some classic dungeon crawl tropes that a fantasy RPG person might get a kick out of that an uninitiated reader may pass over.

I'm curious to know exactly what threw you off about the ending. I fiddled with that closing passage a lot. The revelation at the end is that the severed head had really been talking to the alleged "madman" all along. The translation of the ring inscription, which Hesk assumed was an ancient wedding band, was a sentiment a bridegroom might have for his bride: "Hold tight, my beloved," or, put another way, "This is the beginning of our exciting journey." This is a coy wink both to Hesk, that his adventuring life is really just beginning, as well as to the reader who chooses to come along with me on the story I want to tell in my trilogy-in-progress.

Hope that helps, and I'm glad you enjoyed the story!


message 13: by Bryan (new)

Bryan | 20 comments Really enjoyed this one. The style drew me in from the start. Very descriptive and set the stage well. I liked Hesk, as well as his less than kind companions, in their own way. The mysterious stranger was interesting. I look forward to checking out Aching God when it comes out.

I'm with Sandy, though. The end left me a bit "Whaa?" I suppose I'm unsure of the significance of the inscription and what, if any, part it played in how the monster reacted when touched with the ring.


message 14: by Mike (last edited Feb 06, 2018 04:32PM) (new)

Mike Shel | 17 comments Bryan wrote: "'I'm with Sandy, though. The end left me a bit "Whaa?" I suppose I'm unsure of the significance of the inscription and what, if any, part it played in how the monster reacted when touched with the ring."

See my reply to Sandy above re: the meaning of the ending. Perhaps it was too coy...

As for Hesk's ring, you'll have to wait some time to find out why the monster reacted to it as it did.

Glad you liked the story!


message 15: by Bryan (new)

Bryan | 20 comments Mike wrote: "See my reply to Sandy above re: the meaning of the ending. Perhaps it was too coy...
"


Heh, maybe it says something about me that I never assumed he wasn't actually talking to the head, making the reveal that the head actually talks not hit me because I'd just figured it had been talking all along.


message 16: by Sandy (last edited Feb 06, 2018 05:45PM) (new)

Sandy | 21 comments Mike wrote: "Sandy wrote: "I totally did not get the ending though - does it have a reference that I am missing because I am not a Pathfinder person? I really loved the story and the writing painted a great pic..."

Maybe it could have been something like - "one joined journey" but then even that is not quite right. ;-) All I thought with the inscription was the mysterious warrior holding tight to the head and not letting it go. Maybe because that was emphasized so much in the story. I really liked the sentiment of the ending just got lost on the "hold tight" part.

The writing and painting of the characters and scenes - excellent - one to watch for...


message 17: by Fee (new)

Fee Roberts (feeroberts) | 5 comments I thought the ending quite clever. I just thought the Syraeic agent's mind was gone after a trauma. Had me fooled! Fantastic writing!


message 18: by Megan (new)

Megan | 7 comments I enjoyed this one though at first it seemed much too dark for me. I liked the writing and style though I have to agree that I have a ton of questions about the ring, the world, the monster which I guess is a good thing. Honestly with how dark it started I did not think I would like it, but I found myself intrigued and engrossed after a couple paragraphs.


message 19: by Harlow (new)

Harlow Fallon (harlowcfallon) | 8 comments Another great story. Loved the characters and their interactions with one another. Once again, it brought to mind similar scenes and characters from Joe Abercrombie's The Blade Itself because I seem to have that book stuck in my brain. I loved the ending!


message 20: by T.L. (new)

T.L. (tlgreylock) | 33 comments Mike wrote: "The revelation at the end is that the severed head had really been talking to the alleged "madman" all along. The translation of the ring inscription, which Hesk assumed was an ancient wedding band, was a sentiment a bridegroom might have for his bride: "Hold tight, my beloved," or, put another way, "This is the beginning of our exciting journey." This is a coy wink both to Hesk, that his adventuring life is really just beginning, as well as to the reader who chooses to come along with me on the story I want to tell in my trilogy-in-progress."

Really interesting, Mike. I think I sort of intuitively got all of this, though I don't think I could have said so in words.


message 21: by Mike (new)

Mike Shel | 17 comments Thanks so much to those who have already taken part in this conversation, and for your kind comments! Not sure if this is bad form, but for anyone wanting notification for when Aching God is released, or other info re: my work and that of other indies, please take a minute to sign up for my monthly newsletter:

https://mikeshel.us16.list-manage.com...

Once a month, no spam, I won't share your email address with anyone.

Keep the questions and comments coming!


message 22: by Laura (new)

Laura Hughes (lauramhughes) | 12 comments Just finished this one. Loved it! Given that I'm currently reading Aching God, I felt a little smug already knowing the identity (and recent trauma) of the Syraeic agent and his poor companion. Great timing for me, really. ;)

But yes. Well paced and pleasantly dark (though certainly not grimdark), I thought Barrowlands was a really fun read!


Queen Terrible Timy (queensbookasylum) | 22 comments Again, I'm late to the party. I'm going home tomorrow so I'll be able to catch up. I finished this a few days earlier but London and the people I met just drew my mind away.

This was my first read from Mike and pretty much liked it. Glad to know there is a full novel (or three) accompanying this short story. I would like to learn more about the mysteries and the Syraeic agents and the Djao and whatnot. I can't say I liked the characters (except the agent and Hesk) but then they weren't meant to be likeable people, were they? I think this story was neatly wrapped up, but I also was thrown off a bit with the translation of the ring. Reading the answer here from Mike it makes sense now though. I also thought that the agent madness kept him thinking he actually talked to a head but turns out I was wrong too. Nice twist btw.


message 24: by Kathryn (new)

Kathryn (tigrari) | 15 comments Apparently I will spend this read-a-long being a few days behind on everything. Sorry! Other things have been getting in the way I'm afraid.

Anyhow, on to the story! First, I wanted to compliment the opening hook to the story. Those first few lines told me I was going to enjoy this writer's style and I did.

I just took a wander over to the author's GR page and saw all the RPG modules and then the choice to do a dungeon crawl story made total sense. I really liked the little bit of the world we explored with this - hidden messages, puzzle-style crypts, traps, I love that kind of thing.

I actually thought the head talking at the end was A) a cute twist that told us the Syraeiac (spelling?) agent was not-so-crazy and B) gave us a bit more of a hint as to the necromancy-related magic of the Barrowlands/Djao people.

I'm glad there's a full novel being written in this setting, I'll be happy to read it!


message 25: by Mike (last edited Feb 09, 2018 10:27AM) (new)

Mike Shel | 17 comments Kathryn wrote: "I'm glad there's a full novel being written in this setting, I'll be happy to read it!"

First, glad you liked the story, Kathryn!

Second: Syraeic. Pronounced sur-AY-ik

Third: The novel in question is called Aching God and is in the capable hands of an editor for final proofing. The artwork and typography are done. Next is formatting by a skilled vendor of those services. With other i's to dot and t's to cross, I'm hoping the novel will be out before summer, perhaps before the end of spring. And it's the first of a planned trilogy entitled Iconoclasts.


Jennifer (bunnyreads) | 23 comments Mike wrote: "I hear you, Jennifer. Perhaps Grim Squishy is a new category?"

Haha! I think that would be a great name for it!


Tracey the Lizard Queen I've just started this one tonight, I'm super intrigued! I'm gonna have to stay up and finish it...


message 28: by Travis (new)

Travis (tctippens) | 21 comments Well, looks like I'm going to be finishing these read-along way behind everyone else.

I enjoyed this story a lot. It's enough to pique my interest in the setting—which brings to mind an organization of fantasy Indiana Jones-type characters—and doesn't require any background knowledge to fully enjoy.

I'll echo what others said a bit in that the ending didn't have quite the intended impact for me. I never once doubted that the stranger was actually talking with the head, so I was trying to figure out what the significance of the ring's translation was.

The dungeon crawl aspect was great. I knew something bad was going to happen to Hesk's companions (who were surprisingly likable), but the monster in the mirror was awesome.


Tracey the Lizard Queen I'm so far behind! I think this one is my fav so far. Love the darker stuff.


message 30: by Lieke (new)

Lieke | 5 comments I liked this story, especially the part in the dungeon.


message 31: by Benedict (new)

Benedict Patrick (benedictpatrick) | 34 comments I really dug this story - the mood of the Barrowlands and the interaction between the characters was a lot of fun. Here are my favourite bits:

The sun’s rays spilled over the horizon, illuminating a distant hill that had the look of a man who had rolled over to die.


He held an object under his left arm that looked like a muddy cabbage.
(Had to mention this - reminded me immediately of reviewer-extraordinaire Hiugregg!)

Looking forward to your first book soon :)


message 32: by J.M. (new)

J.M. (jmmartin) | 11 comments A way enjoyable dungeon-crawl fantasy. The style resonates dark pulp fantasy and calls to mind sword & sorcery tales by R.E. Howard, merc tales by Glen Cook and Joe Abercrombie, and a grotesque Lovecraftian horror in the Malazan-esque tones of Erikson and Esslemont. I definitely look forward to the Iconoclasts books. Well done, sir.


message 33: by Mike (new)

Mike Shel | 17 comments The first novel in the Iconoclasts series, Aching God, now has a GR page. It's scheduled for a cover reveal at The Fantasy Hive on March 13, 2018, and should be available for pre-order at Amazon on April 1, 2018, with its official release on April 9, 2018.

If you enjoyed "Barrowlands," I think it's safe to say you'll enjoy Aching God. "Barrowlands" is a prequel to the novel.


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