An Author’s Monster Manual: Table of Contents

I’m a big fan of TTRPGs. I love the imagination involved in creating a story with friends and I love the memories that are made. I often find myself thinking about how cool it would be to include a creature I’ve loved in a fantasy book in a TTRPG setting. I’ve been lucky to have some amazing authors and bloggers share hypothetical Monster Manual additions over the last two weeks.

Here is a list of the awesome guest posts, in case you missed any.

I owe a huge debt of gratitude to the writers who helped make my idea an awesome reality! The amount of talent gathered here is incredible.

Table of Contents:

An Author’s Monster Manual

An Author’s Monster Manual Featuring Andi Ewington

An Author’s Monster Featuring J.E. Hannaford

An Author’s Monster Manual Featuring Geoff Habiger

An Author’s Monster Manual Featuring Rowena at Beneath a Thousand Skies

An Author’s Monster Manual Featuring Jonathan Nevair

An Author’s Monster Manual Featuring Dan Fitzgerald

An Author’s Monster Manual Featuring Rob Edwards

An Author’s Monster Manual Featuring Ryan Howse

An Author’s Monster Manual Featuring Sean Gibson

An Author’s Monster Manual Featuring Ricardo Victoria

An Author’s Monster Manual Featuring Jeffrey Speight

An Author’s Monster Manual Featuring Joshua Gillingham

An Author’s Monster Manual Featuring Luke Winch

An Author’s Monster Manual Featuring Virgina McClain

An Author’s Monster Manual Featuring Dorian Hart

An Author’s Monster Manual Featuring Rob Edwards

I am so excited about this blog series discussing book creatures as entries in an author’s Monster Manual! Each new creature is unique and so, so cool! Rob Edwards’ addition is no exception. His series, the Justice Academy, is excellent!

Art by Edward Bentley

Hey Jodie, thanks for having me back. I’m excited to talk monsters, even if you’ve had to stretch the rules a little bit to include me! 

I’m not a Rules Lawyer, but…

So, at first blush, it’s possible that my book, The Ascension Machine, was not a great fit for this blog series. Rules as written, “An Author’s Monster Manual” leans into a Dungeons and Dragons feel, and my books are sci-fi, not fantasy. Moreover, my books don’t really have monsters in them. Plenty of villains, several of whom are quite monstrous, but no actual bona fide monsters.

Fortunately, we can deal with both of these issues. As to the first, D&D recently released a 5e version of their Spelljammer setting, which lets you take the adventures to space (kind of, go with me here). So, for the monster I had in mind, I switched out their ray guns for hand crossbows, and we have problem one solved.

As for the monster part, I mean, when it comes down to it, what actually is a monster?

Well, according to the introduction of the 5e Dungeons and Dragons Monster Manual, in the section “What Is a Monster?”, “A monster is defined as any creature that can be interacted with and potentially fought and killed.” And if that doesn’t convince, it goes on to say, “The term also applies to humans, elves, dwarves, and other civilised folk who might be friends or rivals to the player characters.”

I think that pretty clearly includes the Brontom Clone Warriors, so we’re in the game!

Begin these clone warriors did 

I hadn’t originally intended to have the Brontom play a major part in my books. Originally, they were a throwaway gag in the opening scene. Our hero, Grey, tells a tall story about pretending to be a Brontom to fool an ATM. An unlikely story because Grey is not 7’ tall, green, and only has two arms instead of the Brontom’s normal four. But Brontom are all identical clones and the only way for an ATM to tell them apart is by scent, so you can fool them using perfume. Or so Grey claims.

It was a fun gag. 

But the idea of this clone race started to tickle my imagination. There was no choice, but I’d have to introduce a Brontom in the main plot. And so, we meet Brontom Clone Warrior 4,923,016,734. Seventhirtyfour to his friends.

Yes, we are all different

The idea of a clone warrior race is hardly unique, I grant you. Star Wars has its clone troopers, Doctor Who has its Sontarans, but it remains a fascinating idea. What are the differences between the clones? 

There’s a question of nurture versus nature here. Every Brontom is physically identical, receives the same training, goes through the same exercises, but even then, what happens to the clone who is always on the losing side of training exercises? The one who has an unlucky accident early on in their training, or a lucky one for that matter. How does that affect their personality, their outlook?

While they are all unique individuals, it’s conformity that is the Brontom’s greatest strength on the battlefield. They have been literally trained together since birth. They know what their squad mates will do, and how to take advantage of it.

Rating, challenged

And then there’s Seventhirtyfour, who is a mutant Brontom. He’s two inches too tall. For a human that may not mean anything, but for a Brontom every uniform, piece of equipment, every doorway is designed for someone exactly two inches shorter than you. You stand out. You probably hit your head a lot.

For some this could make you resentful and bitter. Not Seventhirtyfour. He rises to the challenge of leaving the barracks for the first time with a positivity that practically shines out of him. He makes friends quickly, and will defend them to the best of his considerable abilities, always.

The stat block in this article is not Seventhirtyfour, though, his abilities would be too spoilery to include. No, this is a standard Brontom Clone Warrior, right out of basic training and ready to crew a… Spelljammer ship. Sure, why not?

Multiattack

Each round, this post can make one link to the book, and one to a website for more information about Brontom and other facets of their universe.

About the author:

Rob Edwards is a British born writer and content creator, living in Finland. He writes about coffee, despite not drinking it, spaceships, despite being down-to-earth, and superheroes, despite everything.

His debut novel, The Ascension Machine was published in 2020. His short stories can be found in anthologies from Inklings Press and Rivenstone Press. A life-long gamer and self-professed geek, he is proud of his entry on Wookieepedia, the result of writing several Star Wars RPG scenarios in his youth.

An Author’s Monster Manual Featuring Jonathan Nevair

I am so excited to have Jonathan Nevair, author of the Wind Tide series, here to discuss his Mutant Bukki Tiger! Half amphibian, and half tiger, this is such an intriguing and intimidating monster!

And guess what? Jonathan Nevair has a new book releasing in December! Find out more about Stellar Instinct here or go ahead and pre-order it here (you know you want to; it’s going to be great).

Credit for the amazing art goes to Stephen Wood at https://stephenwoodgames.com/.

Half tiger, half amphibian, the Mutant Bukki Tiger is the tragic result of a radioactive accident interfering with nature. The Mutant Bukki Tiger is confined to a roughly five-thousand-kilometer grid of jungle on the planet, Hesh-9, known as the Red Zone. A nuclear waste carrier heading to the capital city of Hikesh, from the far side of the planet crashed, rendering the area off-limits until radiation half-life reached safe levels. Rumors of mutations to whatever survived the bloom added disturbing flavor to popular myths and folklore about the rainforest region. Travelers who dare to traverse the Red Zone risk crossing paths with this most grotesque and ferocious creature. 

 The Mutant Bukki has five cat eyes, two jaws complete with fangs, four good legs, and one-half leg sprouting out of its spine, held together by a slimy frog-like torso. It is a radioactive horror that contains high levels of radioactivity that make it a most frightening and potentially deadly encounter. Yet, there are tales of individuals with powers of persuasion (driven by compassion) who have been able to calm the beast and sympathize with its tragic circumstance. Those who do so, it is rumored, have come to no harm.

About the author: Jonathan Nevair (he/him/his) is a science fiction writer and, as Dr. Jonathan Wallis, an art historian and Professor of Art History at Moore College of Art & Design, Philadelphia. After two decades of academic teaching and publishing, he finally got up the nerve to write fiction. His space opera trilogy, Wind Tide (Goodbye to the SunJati’s Wager, and No Song, But Silence) was inspired by Ancient Greek texts and myths and released in 2021. Stellar Instinct, a standalone spy-fi space adventure, is slated to release in December 2022. Jonathan’s books explore speculative secondary worlds where language, culture, ethics, technology, and gender are reimagined to inspire human potential and growth (space opera sprinkled with a dash of hopepunk.) Find out more about Jonathan and his books at www.jonathannevair.com

To find out more about artist Stephen Wood: https://stephenwoodgames.com/

Pre-Order Stellar Instinct:
Amazon

Duckett & Dyer: The Mystery of the Murdered Guy by G.M. Nair

After their very public triumph over the sinister machinations of the Future Group, Michael Duckett and Stephanie Dyer’s accidental detective agency has become a household name. Practically overnight, they’ve cemented their place as the city’s go-to sleuths for solving the weird, oddball cases that would confuse and irritate anyone else.

Join them as they tackle the mysteries of a medically licensed vampire, a mysterious mad bomber, a genderfluid reverse werewolf, and the true meaning of Christmas – just to name a few. Meanwhile, an aging billionaire obsesses over his plans to achieve immortality, which could mean dire consequences for the world. But with Duckett & Dyer: Dicks For Hire on the case, what could go wrong?

If you said ‘everything’, you’d be correct. (Taken from Amazon)

The Duckett and Dyer: Dicks For Hire series is seriously funny. It takes being funny very, very seriously. It is intimidatingly funny. I would even go so far as to say it’s scary funny. Ah yes- and it’s brilliant.

In The Mystery of the Murdered Guy, Duckett and Dyer are back and in fine form. Stephanie Dyer continues to be the Energizer Bunny of disasters and Michael Duckett (at this point, I think his middle name is “Murphy’s Law”) tries his best to survive both Stephanie’s zest for chaos and his own inability to stay out of trouble. I always picture Duckett a little bit as Dante in Clerks (“I’m not even supposed to be here today”), but I think he secretly loves the nuttiness. This relationship between Dyer’s chaos incarnate and Duckett’s weary resignation is one of my favorites.

Dyer and Duckett balance each other out perfectly. Just like Costello isn’t funny without Abbott, Duckett and Dyer are an excellent pair. Michael Duckett brings just the right amount of normalcy to the book, which gives the reader enough time to pause and appreciate all the ludicrous things happening to the characters. And there is a lot happening: attractive Frankenstein’s monsters, gender fluid reverse werewolves, heists that aren’t, and run-ins with the Santa Slayer (my hat’s off to Stephanie for fixing his moniker) are only the tip of the iceberg.

I love this series so very much. Somehow G.M. Nair also has a through-line in the zaniness and characters that grow and develop from book to book. I honestly don’t know how he does it. He also keeps things fresh by changing up not only what’s happening, but how it’s being relayed. There’s even a story told entirely in court transcript, which had me cackling.

Do yourself a favor: don’t go to work, ignore your responsibilities, just go ahead and drop everything to read the Duckett and Dyer: Dicks For Hire series. These books are the best sort of disaster.

SPAAW- The Mystery of the Murdered Guy (Duckett & Dyer: Dicks For Hire Book 3) by G.M. Nair

Banner credit: Fantasy Book Nerd

Continuing on with Self-published Authors Appreciation Week, I am delighted to talk about The Myster of the Murdered Guy (Duckett and Dyer: Dicks for Hire #3).

After their very public triumph over the sinister machinations of the Future Group, Michael Duckett and Stephanie Dyer’s accidental detective agency has become a household name. Practically overnight, they’ve cemented their place as the city’s go-to sleuths for solving the weird, oddball cases that would confuse and irritate anyone else.

Join them as they tackle the mysteries of a medically licensed vampire, a mysterious mad bomber, a genderfluid reverse werewolf, and the true meaning of Christmas – just to name a few. Meanwhile, an aging billionaire obsesses over his plans to achieve immortality, which could mean dire consequences for the world. But with Duckett & Dyer: Dicks For Hire on the case, what could go wrong?

If you said ‘everything’, you’d be correct. (Taken from Amazon)

The Duckett and Dyer: Dicks For Hire series is seriously funny. It takes being funny very, very seriously. It is intimidatingly funny. I would even go so far as to say it’s scary funny. Ah yes- and it’s brilliant.

In The Mystery of the Murdered Guy, Duckett and Dyer are back and in fine form. Stephanie Dyer continues to be the Energizer Bunny of disasters and Michael Duckett (at this point, I think his middle name is “Murphy’s Law”) tries his best to survive both Stephanie’s zest for chaos and his own inability to stay out of trouble. I always picture Duckett a little bit as Dante in Clerks (“I’m not even supposed to be here today”), but I think he secretly loves the nuttiness. This relationship between Dyer’s chaos incarnate and Duckett’s weary resignation is one of my favorites.

Dyer and Duckett balance each other out perfectly. Just like Costello isn’t funny without Abbott, Duckett and Dyer are an excellent pair. Michael Duckett brings just the right amount of normalcy to the book, which gives the reader enough time to pause and appreciate all the ludicrous things happening to the characters. And there is a lot happening: attractive Frankenstein’s monsters, gender fluid reverse werewolves, heists that aren’t, and run-ins with the Santa Slayer (my hat’s off to Stephanie for fixing his moniker) are only the tip of the iceberg.

I love this series so very much. Somehow G.M. Nair also has a through-line in the zaniness and characters that grow and develop from book to book. I honestly don’t know how he does it. He also keeps things fresh by changing up not only what’s happening, but how it’s being relayed. There’s even a story told entirely in court transcript, which had me cackling.

Do yourself a favor: don’t go to work, ignore your responsibilities, just go ahead and drop everything to read the Duckett and Dyer: Dicks For Hire series. These books are the best sort of disaster.

Let’s Talk About: Self-Published Authors Appreciation Week

Banner Credit: Fantasy Book Nerd

If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you’ll know that I have been lucky enough to read many indie/self-published. I love the creativity and uniqueness often found in self-published books. Last year was the first ever Self-Published Authors Appreciation Week, during which I was joined by many amazing bloggers, podcasters, and Youtubers, all sharing their appreciation for great self-published authors. Well, guess what? We’re doing it again this year!

This year Self-Published Authors Appreciation Week will run from July 24th-30th. How can you get involved? Read self-published books, review self-published books, shout about great self-published authors. You’re welcome to use the above banner (created by the awesome Fantasy Book Nerd) and if you tag my Twitter @WS_BOOKCLUB, I will add your posts to a blog hub and share those posts on my Twitter. On Twitter, you can the hashtags #SPAAW, #SuperSP, and #IndiesAreAwesome.

For those of you who would like to see some of the amazing pieces published during last year’s SPAAW, you can find them linked here: Self-published Authors Appreciation Week Hub.

I hope it will be even bigger this year. Let’s shout about self-published authors!

Dusk (The Navigator series #2) by Matthew Samuels

Two years have passed since Kael and Alessia discovered Xirra, but despite providing an unexpected source of help, political tensions between Lyran cities have deepened. The Xirran philosophy of hope is causing rifts between the townships, and the two explorers unexpectedly find themselves at the heart of a controversial cult. Worse yet, one of the monstrous creatures from Carthusian, the ever-changing city-ship, seems to have been sighted in Vulpes, Lyra’s farming city.With new enemies coming from unexpected places, Alhambro is determined to understand how the thinnings link universes, dispatching Vega’s best car crews across space, commissioning Basteel and Slyph to investigate the strange creature in Vulpes. At the same time, Kael and Alessia embark on a vital mission to cross a forbidden asteroid, an abandoned planet previously home to a super-advanced race and into the unknown.
As a new, hostile species capable of traversing the thinnings emerges, it seems that the sun is setting on Lyra for the very last time. (Taken from Amazon)

Thank you to the author for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. Dusk is available now.

After enjoying Parasites, book one in The Navigator series, I was excited to see what happened next. Science fiction and I have an odd relationship: I need it to be complex and creative enough to pique my interest, but simple enough that I can follow the storyline. Once again, Matthew Samuels found the perfect balance of “technical stuff” and accessibility.

He started out brilliantly, bringing the reader up to date on everything that has happened since book one, but he did it organically as opposed to starting with an info dump. The characters had small scenes explaining what had happened to them and where things are for them now. These little glimpses of life and how it’s changed helped to both reintroduce the characters and put the focus on important events and changes.

Dusk jumps pretty much right into things, without a ton of setup or explanation. It moves along at a good pace, never dragging. The characters continue to be great, each one interesting in their own way. Basteel was my favorite in Parasites, but he was in danger of being replaced by Slyph in book two. She’s brusque and to the point and isn’t really all that concerned with social niceties. She’s also ridiculously smart. It was a fascinating combination to read.

The creativity Matthew Samuels exhibits as the characters explore different settings and deal with new problems is so much fun! There is never a dull moment. I loved seeing the new worlds and lifeforms that were created. The Navigator series continues to expand and feel bigger with each well thought out addition. I think the sense of wonder and adventure that these discoveries bring to the book makes it even more enjoyable.

The stakes are high, but Dusk is a hopeful story. Sometimes I need a break from emotionally heavy books and this series has been a highly entertaining breath of fresh air. I recommend picking this up.

Let’s Talk: Self-Published Authors Appreciation Week

Banner Credit: Fantasy Book Nerd

If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you’ll know that I have been lucky enough to read many indie/self-published. I love the creativity and uniqueness often found in self-published books. Last year was the first ever Self-Published Authors Appreciation Week, during which I was joined by many amazing bloggers, podcasters, and Youtubers, all sharing their appreciation for great self-published authors. Well, guess what? We’re doing it again this year!

This year Self-Published Authors Appreciation Week will run from July 24th-30th. How can you get involved? Read self-published books, review self-published books, shout about great self-published authors. You’re welcome to use the above banner (created by the awesome Fantasy Book Nerd) and if you tag my Twitter @WS_BOOKCLUB, I will add your posts to a blog hub and share those posts on my Twitter. On Twitter, you can use the hashtags #SPAAW, #SuperSP, and #AwesomeIndies.

By the way, the Self-Published Fantasy Blog Off contest is a great place to go for self-published book suggestions. Follow along with this year’s contest here. Here are a few self-published books that I recommend. I stopped myself at twenty, but there are so many amazing sp books out there! What’s the best self-published book you’ve read this year?

Jason and Rose Bishop- The Call (Storm’s Rising #1)

Lee C. Conley- A Ritual of Bone

Susanne M. Dutton- Sherlock Holmes and the Remaining Improbable

Jami Fairleigh- Oil and Dust

Jonathan French-The Grey Bastards

Sean Gibson- The Part About the Dragon Was (Mostly) True

 Bjørn Larssen- Why Odin Drinks

Randall McNally- Shadowless

Marcus Lee- Kings and Daemons

G.M. Nair- Duckett and Dyer: Dicks for Hire

Roland O’Leary- The Hand of Fire

Thomas Howard Riley- We Break Immortals

Kirstin Espinosa Rosero- Burn Red Skies

Patrick Samphire- Shadow of a Dead God

Matthew Samuels- Small Places

Emma Shaw- Sacaran Nights

M.L. Spencer- Dragon Mage

Luke Tarzian- The World Breaker Requiem

Keith Tokash- Iliad: The Reboot

M.L. Wang- The Sword of Kaigen

The Crossover Paradox by Rob Edwards

For March of the Sequels (a fantastic event created by Sue’s Musings), I’m excited to be reviewing The Crossover Paradox by Rob Edwards, book two in the Justic Academy series.

Return to the Justice Academy, the galaxy’s premier college for superheroes!

Back for his second year, Grey wants nothing more than to spend time with his friends and maybe take a class or two. A normal student life. Instead, Grey’s friends are all distracted by their own problems and somebody is trying to break his nemesis out of jail.

When tragedy strikes the Academy, Grey finds himself stuck between the roles of investigator and prime suspect. Chased across the galaxy and back, Grey must face a dark secret from the Academy’s past. Grey cannot hope to defeat it alone, but cut off from his friends, can he trust an unexpected crossover?

That paradox alone could kill him. (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to the author for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. The Crossover Paradox will be available for purchase on March 8th. I will do my best to avoid giving spoilers, but it is a sequel, so there is a slight possibility that something will sneak through. You’ve been fairly warned.

I loved The Ascension Machine, book one in the Justic Academy series. You can find my review for book one here. Book two continued on excellently, with new obstacles to overcome and even bigger danger. The Crossover Paradox raised the stakes and never let up on the gas.

The main character, Grey, is a roguish character who is trying to make a clean try after lying to everyone for the majority of the previous year. He is back at the Justic Academy, under his own name (well-not really, but that’s a mystery yet to be solved), ready to put the last year behind him. Unfortunately, someone has other plans. When someone is murdered, it is up to Grey and his group of friends to find the real killer- before Grey takes the fall for a crime he didn’t commit.

The story went in unexpected ways, keeping me invested and highly entertained. I loved seeing how smart Grey was, and the way his unconventional past aids him in the situations he finds himself in. He’s such a great character! For a mostly reformed conman, he has a strong sense of right and wrong which I loved. I’m all about the morally complicated characters, but I really do love a character who is more good than not. He’s an easy character to root for.

The Crossover Paradox introduces a few new characters, but some of the original group see less time. While I missed one of the characters (no names given), there was major setup for a future storyline involving him that I’m both excited and scared for. The rest of the supporting cast, so to speak, continued to elevate the book and take it in new directions. I loved that they were all important throughout the book and each character could offer something unique.

This book is meant for middle grade readers and did a great job of remembering that. While there is some violence and a bit of romance, it avoided going over the top with either. Instead, author Rob Edwards balanced each element of the book and tied it all together wonderfully. At the same time, there was a real sense of danger and no character was “safe”, which added to the enjoyment of the book. The Crossover Paradox is a fantastic continuation of the Justice Academy series, and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Remnants edited by Stephen Coghlan

Strange clouds on the horizon herald the coming of the swarm. The undulating masses of the hoard cannot be stopped. Terrifying creatures roam the Earth, seemingly with no aim but to devour all that stands before them. Experience the end of the world as we know it with these fourteen tales of horror, survival, and hope. The world ends in a frenzy of death and miasma of terror, but what will become of the remnants of humanity?
Fourteen tales of post-apocalyptic survival horror! (taken from Amazon)

Remnants is a collection of stories about a world ravaged and left for dead, with only a few leftovers- remnants, if you will. Instead of focusing on the horrific monsters that have violently changed life as humans know it, these tales focus mainly on how the few survive and who they become. The stories showcase tenacity, an unwillingness to lay down and die, and the best- and very worst- of humanity. Although, in some cases, humanity has long since left the building.

The concept behind Remnants is not a new one; post-apocalyptical stories like this have been created before. However, where this anthology is different is in its execution. Instead of full stories, there are short vignettes, brief glimpses in time. Some stories are touching, others incredibly brutal. Like humanity itself, the stories have a sliding scale of morality, with some unwilling to cross boundaries that other characters don’t even see as existing.

I found the examination of humanity to be fascinating. Like most anthologies, some stories worked better for me than others, but this was a collection that I consistently enjoyed. While some readers might wish for a little bit more focus on the monsters themselves, I really liked that following the survivors were the main event. Although in some cases, I could argue that not all the characters alive had actually really survived.

Each story added something to the overall atmosphere of the book. The first story, “Resistance” by Stephen Coghlan, set the tone for Remnants. It’s also a good lead-in, preparing the reader for stories that range from bizarre to emotional to disturbing or almost grotesque. The main storyline might be centered around one event, but the way each author tackled it was completely unique. I was never in danger of losing interest at all.

There were a couple of stories that were really unique in their telling. “Heatwave” by Aaron Lee takes a rather coldblooded look at the fallout, in which there is a blog that keeps tracks of death “statistics”, that the blogger utilizes to try to understand the nightmare that they’re living in. I thought this one was both fascinating and chilling.

“First Swarm” by J.D. Sanderson followed two photographers and their experiences, which left me mulling over whether viewing something through a camera lens helps expose truths otherwise denied, or if it allows the photographers to separate themselves from the reality of what they’re seeing. Short yet powerful, this was one of my favorite stories in the collection. The creativity behind both “First Swarm” and “Heatwave” are what elevated them above some of the other stories in this collection, although they were all well written.

Remnants is one of the stronger additions to post-apocalyptic fiction that I’ve read recently, with the grimdark and horror aspects working incredibly well. Thought provoking and just flat-out cool, this is not a collection to miss. I highly recommend it.

Review originally published in Grimdark Magazine, found here.