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‘Vanguard Prime: War Zone’ Full Cover Reveal

The title for this post pretty much says it all, huh? I mean, there are times to be ambiguous and, clearly, this is not one of those times.

You may have noticed that the banner image above has changed. And if you haven’t seen the image before, allow me to very proudly say that it’s the artwork from Vanguard Prime: War Zone. As with the previous books in the series, illustrator Chad McCown has delivered a beautiful, energetic piece of wraparound artwork which this time features the Vanguard Prime team on the front battling it out with the [unnamed mysterious bad guys] on the back.

You can see the finished product for yourselves when War Zone is released on August 29, but in the meantime you can enjoy the full cover image by clicking below;

Pretty awesome, huh?

Pretty awesome, huh?

But that’s not all! I also have Vanguard Prime: Red Alert news! Penguin has now set up a landing page for the eBook, which means you can find links to it in all its various formats in one handy spot. Click here now to check it out.

If you haven’t had the chance to read it as yet, I highly recommend it as it’s a bite-sized adventure featuring the whole Vanguard Prime team, as well as a variety of new, exciting villains. This is in addition to the first two books in the series available in digital formats at $4.99 – a bargain if ever I saw one!

What else has been going on? Well, for one thing I participated in the pop-up library that Werribee Plaza set up for Book Week, where I got to read one of my favourite picture books (Instructions by Neil Gaiman, if you’re curious) as well as talk with the kids in the audience about writing and storytelling. I’ll make sure to post some pictures when they become available.

I mean, how often do you get a picture of yourself sitting on a giant storybook throne?

‘Til next time.

eBooks, Advance Copies & Kittens – Oh My!

 

After last week’s post about its release, Vanguard Prime: Red Alert contines to pop up all over the Internet. That includes Amazon, where you can download it free for your Kindle right now. But in addition to that, you can now also purchase the digital editions of Vanguard Prime: Goldrush and Vanguard Prime: Wild Card for the princely sum of $4.99 each! (Or $4.71 on Amazon, which I believe is US dollars, so the difference is negligable). 

Phew. That was a lot of links.

In more Vanguard Prime news – if you follow me on Twitter you may have already seen this image;

 

vanguardprime-warzone

Yes, I’ve received the advance copies for Book 3, War Zone, which looks amazing. But more than that, this is probably the Vanguard Prime book that I’m happiest with; it has the shortest word count but the most amount of story. I know for a fact that it’s certainly got the most amount of characters.

In addition to meeting the VP universe’s Japanese superhero team, we’re also introduced to the Resurrectionists, a shadowy group of neohumans whose leader has a mysterious connection to Agent Alpha. The book is still a few weeks away from release (official release date is August 29) but I’m confident that Vanguard Prime fans will love it.

I hope.

If all of this hubbub wasn’t enough to keep me busy, last weekend my wife and I adopted two kittens. Yes, two. The theory was that they’d be company for each other while we’re out. And that’s how we’ve ended up with Joanie (named for Christina Hendricks’s character on Mad Men) and Edgar (the name the animal shelter gave him that’s stuck…despite my wanting to call him ‘Ziggy’).

Joanie never stops moving, and Edgar is so cowardly he’ll dart away the second you try to photograph him, so it’s rare to get a picture of them at the same time. This is one of my many vain attempts;

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That’s Joanie in front, bullying up to the camera, while Edgar cowers in the background by his water bowl.

We’ve basically sacrificed our back spare bedroom to these two little balls of claws and fur. I’m covered in hair, scratches…and love. In fact, I’m currently writing this with Joanie on my lap (and my right thigh throbbing from where she’s clawed it). I’ve not yet tried writing a novel in this position, but I get the sense that I’m going to have to get used to it pretty fast.

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She won’t take ‘No’ for an answer.

Money for Nothing and Your eBooks for Free!

It’s here! The moment has arrived!

After what feels like months of promising that it’s on its way, you can now download Red Alert, the free Vanguard Prime eBook that tells a whole new story featuring Goldrush and the whole Vanguard Prime team!

redalertcover

‘As Vanguard Prime takes the field… I wonder how I come across to all the soldiers gathered around us, dressed in the black-and-gold V-suit that looks as if somebody skinned a Lamborghini and made a lightweight spacesuit from its pelt.

Do I look like the others; a seasoned superhero ready to take on the world? Do I look like Sam Lee, AKA Goldrush, super-speedster extraordinaire? Or do I look like how I feel; a kid who’s swallowed a crate of fireworks and is counting down to the horrible moment when they explode?’

In this exciting free novella, the perfect introduction to the series, Vanguard Prime is responding to a Red Alert: a multi-billion-dollar research think tank has just been stormed by a supervillain strike force headed by the Red Death.

Each level of the centre is booby-trapped with bombs and the Red Death has handpicked an arch-rival (aka murderous psychopath) to neutralize each member of the VP team. But this is just the maze that Vanguard Prime has to run to find out what’s really at stake, where Red Death himself waits for an enormous machine to warm up on Sub-Level 4…

We’re currently putting together a page on the Penguin website to host the file, but in the meantime you can find it in the iBooks store (just search for ‘Vanguard Prime in iTunes and it should come up) or you can download it directly by clicking here and selecting the red ‘Slow Download’ option on the left.

It’s currently available only in ePub format, though most e-readers (if not all of them) should be able to open it. And if you don’t have an e-reader to load the file onto, try downloading Adobe Digital Editions to read it directly on your computer. If you have any problems accessing the file, let me know and I’ll pass the info onto Penguin.

I’ll also make sure to update you guys as more download sites come online. But in the meantime, I hope you enjoy reading this brand new adventure as much as I enjoyed writing it!

And if you’re a new reader to the Vanguard Prime universe – welcome aboard! You couldn’t have picked a better time as the third book in the series, War Zone, is set to be released in just over a month…ao watch this space as the updates will start coming thick and fast!

Happy reading.

UPDATE: A ‘Giveaways & Competitions’ page has been added to the website where you can now download Red Alert in PDF format. Enjoy!

The Ideas Shoppe: The Making of a Superhero (Part 3)

The wait is over! Vanguard Prime: Wild Card will be released tomorrow, 27th February, and to celebrate I thought I’d return to a series of posts that haven’t been featured here in a while; the Making of a Superhero. And given that Vanguard Prime: Wild Card heavily features the Knight of Wands, what better time than now to take a look at the team’s resident man of mystery?

So mysterious you may not know that's him on the left...

So mysterious you may not know that’s him on the left…

Previously, I’ve discussed the process behind creating the two junior members of the team – Goldrush and Machina – but I knew that the senior members would be a challenge unto themselves.

I wanted to create characters that felt interesting and dynamic enough that they could very easily be the protagonist of their own book. The examples I had in mind of these stemmed from comic books, of course, where the Justice League and the Avengers were traditionally populated by characters that were already established in their own series.

This was in opposition to teams like the X-Men and the Fantastic Four, where the characters were created to be part of a team, and as interesting as they may be in their own right, they still work better as part of that team structure.

I wanted the “Big Three” of Vanguard Prime to be much like the Big Three of the Avengers and the Justice League. Just as Captain America, Thor & Iron Man and Superman, Batman & Wonder Woman all have their own supporting characters, antagonists and personal lives, I wanted to come up with characters that felt as established as that…without the benefit of 70 or so years of continuous publishing behind it.

I started in the place I was most comfortable with, drawing on the ‘Self-Made Man’/’Mortal Amongst Gods’ elements that Iron Man and Batman share, while also focusing on the ‘Dark Avenger’ archetype originated by characters like Zorro and the Shadow, their legacies continued to this day by the aforementioned Dark Knight Detective.

It wasn’t the first time I’d used the ‘Dark Avenger’ template to create a character; when I was 10, I came up with a spoof superhero called Penguin Man, who eventually mutated into “Nighthawk” when I was 12.

But with my new story, I didn’t want a Batman rip-off. I didn’t want to just transplant Nighthawk from my childhood into the present day (not least because there’s already more than one comic book character that’s taken that name).

So I looked back at the characters that intrigued me when I was younger; not the characters I loved, like Batman or Spider-Man, but the characters that seemed slightly goofy or “off”, but still stuck in the brain. Characters like Steve Ditko’s Blue Beetle and the Question, or Jack Kirby’s Mr Miracle. Strange, colourful characters that immediately capture your interest with how quirky they are.

I’ve spoken before of the need for a memorable superhero to have a strong thematic element; something that elevates them from the mundane to the iconographic. As an example; Batman and Spider-Man draw on the animal kingdom, with those two animals informing many of the elements that make those characters unique, such as Spider-Man’s web-slinging or Batman’s Batcave.

It’s hard these days, after so many thousands of superheroes have been introduced to the world, to come up with a unique theme for a new character. What I ended up drawing from was the memories I had of my mother practicing divination with her tarot card deck. I never put much stock in the fortune-telling side of it, but I always found the names and the illustrations of the cards themselves fascinating.

So bearing in mind the off-beat features of the Ditko and Kirby characters, I was immediately drawn to the “Knight of Wands” card, combining as it did aspects of the warrior and the magician under one, evocative name.

Storytelling is the art of posing questions and then answering them. The first question I posed to myself about a character called “the Knight of Wands” is why would he take that name? Especially when you consider that there are two decks in the tarot; the major arcana and the minor arcana, with the Knight of Wands belonging to the minor arcana. Out of all the cards in the deck, why would someone pick that one?

And that’s when it occurred to me; he’s named himself after a character from the minor arcana because there’s a villainous organisation called the Major Arcana that he’s working to bring down.

That’s where the next question comes into play; why? Why is he fighting this organisation? And it’s from there that I developed the Knight of Wands’ back story, fleshing out the Major Arcana as an organisation of superhumans that the Knight’s father founded but that has been overtaken and corrupted by his older brother.

This idea had a certain Shakespearean flavour to it that really appealed to me at the time; it’s only in retrospect that I also see the influences of films like Infernal Affairs and anime series like Cowboy Bebop as also having a fair amount of influence.

Using the tarot deck also provided me with ideas for the Knight of Wands’ paraphernalia, including his method of transport; his “Batmobile” wouldn’t be a car, it’d be a supersonic scramjet stolen from the Major Arcana, named after “the Chariot” card.

Originally, I had the Knight carrying a flaming sword, but that felt off given that he was meant to be a knight of wands. An off-hand comment someone made about Doctor Who’s sonic screwdriver being the Doctor’s “magic wand” gave me the idea of giving the Knight a similar high-tech wand, albeit as a collapsible quarterstaff, which is where his “laser-lance” comes from (though I called it a “photon rod” at first).

His real name – Ethan Knightley – came from two separate sources; Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt from the Mission: Impossible franchise (not that I’m a major fan, but it was always a name I thought was cool) and Mr Knightley from Jane Austen’s Emma. I imagined the Knight to have been a Scottish aristocrat, born and bred to continue on his family’s legacy, only to end up a beggar knight errant.

This would be a Batman with no fortune, forced to do things on a budget, and just as the Knight of Wands card represents improvisation, he’d work from his gut and off-the-cuff rather from than any grand plan or comprehensive system of preparation.

Unlike the other characters I created for Vanguard Prime, the Knight’s creation came quickly. By the time I was done, I had a character that I was very fond of and just as interested in exploring, which is why I decided to make Book 2 his spotlight story after keeping him in the background of Book 1.

That affection has also led this post to being much longer than I intended it to be, but I wanted to give you a sense of everything that goes into creating a superhero character…especially as it seems to be one of the things that people Google that brings them to my website!

And if all this rambling has somehow intrigued you about the Knight of Wands, this is where I remind you that you can read all about him and the Major Arcana in Wild Card, Book 2 in the Vanguard Prime series. You’ll recognise it on the shelf; it’ll be the only one where a hooded figure is wielding a flaming laser-lance…

Note: Do not attempt this at home.

Note: Do not attempt this at home.

‘Til next time.

“Vanguard Prime: Wild Card” Cover Revealed

For those of you who missed it, the cover for Vanguard Prime: Wild Card (aka Vanguard Prime Book 2) was revealed at Inside a Dog, including a behind-the-scenes peek at what goes into producing the artwork for a book jacket. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get Inside a Dog’s blog system to link to a high-res version of the image, so I thought I’d post it here for you to see in all its glory (click for high-res).

Click for high-res version.

You can see a few new characters surrounding the Knight of Wands and Goldrush, but I’ll save details about them for the future. In the meantime, head over to Inside a Dog to see the creation of this image step-by-step!