BLACKGUARDS: Tales of Assassins, Mercenaries, and Rogues
“A NAME HAS BEEN GIVEN.” Brother Jorg spoke behind Sim. He’d climbed the spiral stair on quiet feet.
“Which name?” Sim still watched the road, leading as it did back into the past. Sometimes he wondered about that. About how a man might retrace his steps and yet still not return to the place he’d come from.
And Brother Jorg spoke the name. He came to stand by the wall and set a heavy gold coin beside Sim. In a brotherhood all brothers are equal, but some are more equal than others, and Jorg was their leader.
“Find us on the Appan Way when this is done.” He turned and descended the steps. Assassination is murder with somebody else’s purpose. Sim reached for the coin, held it in his palm, felt the weight. Coins hold purpose, they bear it like a cup. A murder should always carry a weight, even if it’s only the weight of gold. He turned the coin over in his scarred fingers. The face upon it would lead him to his victim.
—An excerpt from Mark Lawrence's Blackguards tale, "The Secret"
09/23/2014 — SECRET STRETCH UNLOCKED! When the backers tally hit 1,100, you all unlocked BRAD BEAULIEU!
09/21/2014 — BLACKGUARDS BLACKLIST! The $30,000 Stretch Goal has been achieved! Now everyone at the Bung Nipper ($10) level and above will received an additional eBook collecting some of the top submissions we received for this incredible anthology. This has been a truly unprecedented campaign and I cannot express our thanks enough, so we'll do it with another eBook!
09/19/2014 — $30K STRETCH GOAL ANNOUNCED! See Stretch Goals (below) for details.
09/15/2014 — STRETCH GOAL #9 T-SHIRTS. Awesome. There Will Be Tees. The t-shirt add-on is now available. See the add-ons section (below) for details!
09/15/2014 — UPRIGHT MAN UPGRADED. Due to an oversight by Yours Truly, the UPRIGHT MAN reward tier will now include TWO (2) BLOOD COINS.
09/13/2014 — STRETCH GOAL #8 ACHIEVED! The SECRET stretch goal has been revealed. Give a warm welcome for author JEAN RABE to our company of Blackguards!
09/12/2014 — STRETCH GOAL #7 (750 BACKERS). Very good. That did not take long at all! The BLOOD COIN (available in certain reward tiers, as well as an add-on) will now be wearable, with a loop attached in such a way that it now becomes a cool Blackguards amulet-type collectable. People will be all like, "That is friggin' cool." And you'll be like, "Totally."
09/12/2014 — STRETCH GOAL #6 INCREASED PAY! Every author in our lineup just did a collective fist pump. They will now be paid NINE CENTS A WORD for their stories! Thank you all for making this happen!
09/12/2014 — NEW STRETCH GOALS ANNOUNCED. Scroll down to decipher them.
09/06/2014 — STRETCH GOAL #5 OPEN SUBMISSIONS has been attained! We will be posting a new update with all the pertinent info, so look for UPDATE #6 to post late Sunday or early Monday (Sept 7th or 8th)!
09/03/2014 — STRETCH GOAL #4 IS OFFICIALLY BUTT-KICKED. How sweet it is to say we surpassed $20k and PAUL S. KEMP is on the way with an Egil/Nix parfait! Yum! Haven't had lunch yet here at Ragnarok Central, but holy frijoles, $20,000 and 600+ backers?!? Are you friggin' kidding me? You're not? Well...dang, that is awesome! Thanks!
P.S. Shout out to my dad, Mike Martin, who turned 72 today!! Happy Birthday, Pa!
09/01/2014 — THE CROWDFUND BAR HAS BEEN RAISED. With our 555th backer, BLACKGUARDS has now surpassed the TOTAL amount raised in last year's Kickstarter campaign for KAIJU RISING. Thank you, all. This is truly a great thing. This kind of overfunding allows for so much more, for more content, more authors, more goodies, more flexibility for Ragnarok to operate! We're so happy to be able to bring this project to life, thanks to you!
08/31/2014 — AUTHOR ANNOUNCEMENT: Stretch Goal Author #2 is PAUL S. KEMP, who, in his own words, is a "bestselling speculative fiction author, creator of Egil and Nix, Erevis Cale, drinker of scotch, smoker of cigars, [and] amiable dude."
08/31/2014 — STRETCH GOAL #3 ACHIEVED! Each story will now have its own illustration by either DAVID ALVAREZ or ORION ZANGARA! NOTE: This makes the card deck add-on (see below) now available for purchase! To add it, you can go to your tier and Manage Your Pledge.
08/30/2014 — 500 BACKERS! Thank you!!
08/30/2014 — STRETCH GOAL #2 ACHIEVED! BLACKGUARDS will now include ANTHONY RYAN's 15k-word novella, "The Lord Collector," which takes place in his Raven's Shadow series.
08/28/2014 — STRETCH GOAL #1 ACHIEVED! Everyone at the FOOTPAD tier and above will now receive a 13" x 19" poster of the cover art by ARMAN AKOPIAN!
08/28/2014 — GOOOOAAAALLLL! Thanks, everyone! By day two Kickstarter noticed Blackguards and made it a Staff Pick, and now we've hit the $14.5k funding goal in a little over 64 hours. Stretch Goals, here we come!
08/27/2014 — The "FIRST DAY ONLY" promotion has ended and 308 backers took advantage. Those backers will receive a digital eBook of Michael J. Sullivan's #1 Best-Selling Time Travel novel, HOLLOW WORLD! Thank you all for being the ones to lift us to $10,875 in the first 36 hours! These will be emailed to those 308 backers within one week of the campaign's successful closing.
ROGUES. ASSASSINS. MERCENARIES.
Coin is their master, and their trade, more often than not, is blood. Something about these nefarious types appeals to the fantasy reader. Perhaps it is that they have abandoned the moral set that dictates what is socially acceptable in our world. In these tales, we live vicariously, intrepidly, and by our blades or our wits or a culmination of both to some degree. These are BLACKGUARDS.
What we at RAGNAROK PUBLICATIONS want to do is offer a premium collection of 20+ short stories by popular writers set in the worlds of their own making. The authors we've enlisted are all known for writing some roguish types in their respective series, and here we will be illuminating them just a bit more by dusky moonlight. We have Michael J. Sullivan's RIYRIA, Carol Berg's DUST AND LIGHT, David Dalglish's world of DEZREL where his SHADOWDANCE series is set, Mark Lawrence's BROKEN EMPIRE, and many more.
The great news is that I already have the first drafts of these stories in hand! And, even better, Ragnarok has already fronted some of the coin to pay for the cover art, so what we're seeking is the backing to pay the authors the professional rate they deserve—that being the SFWA-suggested 7 cents per word—and cover all the various costs of production and printing. We've produced a similar project before when we successfully funded and fulfilled the KAIJU RISING: AGE OF MONSTERS anthology, and the authors listed below have put their faith in us. We truly hope you will do the same!
On the inside, you will find a tour de force of authors known for penning tales of rogues in every lash scars and scab-red color:
- CAROL BERG, "Seeds"
- RICHARD LEE BYERS, "Troll Trouble"
- DAVID DALGLISH, "Take You Home"
- JAMES ENGE, "Thieves at the Gate"
- JOHN GWYNNE, "Better to Live than to Die"
- LIAN HEARN, "His Kikuta Hands"
- SNORRI KRISTJANSSON, "A Kingdom and a Horse"
- JOSEPH LALLO, "Seeking the Shadow"
- MARK LAWRENCE, "The Secret"
- TIM MARQUITZ, "A Taste of Agony"
- PETER ORULLIAN, "A Length of Cherrywood"
- CAT RAMBO, "The Subtler Art"
- LAURA RESNICK, "Friendship"
- MARK SMYLIE, "Manhunt"
- KENNY SOWARD, "Jancy's Justice"
- SHAWN SPEAKMAN, "The White Rose Thief"
- JON SPRUNK, "Sun and Steel"
- ANTON STROUT, "Scream"
- MICHAEL J. SULLIVAN, "Professional Integrity"
- DJANGO WEXLER, "First Kill"
- ANTHONY RYAN, "The Lord Collector" (novella)
- PAUL S. KEMP, "A Better Man"
JEAN RABE, "Rashida"
- BRADLEY P. BEAULIEU, Title Pending
And the entire grimoire will be edited by me, J.M. MARTIN.
For more about our authors, click the AUTHORS graphic below.
For added incentive, we're revealing our first six stretch goals:
ACHIEVED!!! $15,500 — POSTERS FOR ALL: Well, mostly all. Everyone at FOOTPAD (see rewards) and above will now receive a 13" x 19" poster print of the cover artwork for no extra cost. The poster will have no logo or words, just Arman Akopian's awesome artwork featured on premium gloss stock (note: it will be folded down to fit the mailers).
ACHIEVED!!! $17,000 — STRETCH GOAL AUTHOR #1: We have ANTHONY RYAN, popular author of the "Raven's Shadow" series (Blood Song, Tower Lord), waiting in the wings, perched and ready to let his talons fly. He has a 15,000-word novella set in the world of "Raven's Shadow" and it will become available in the pages of BLACKGUARDS! For more information about Anthony (and all our other authors) scroll down to the Authors section.
ACHIEVED!!! $18,000 — INTERIOR ARTWORK: Each story will have its own artistic accompaniment lavishly illustrated by one of two insanely talented individuals, either DAVID ALVAREZ, who does concept and environment design artwork for Ubisoft's ASSASSIN'S CREED, or ORION ZANGARA, Kubert School graduate—founded, in fact, by his grandfather, the legendary Joe Kubert—and concept artist for moviemaker Philip Gelatt (Europa Report, The Bleeding House), as well as currently illustrating a comic series with Paul di Filippo.
Below is a sample of Michael J. Sullivan's Hadrian and Royce by David Alvarez, and this is what you can expect once we attain this goal.
ACHIEVED!!! $20,000 — STRETCH GOAL AUTHOR #2: NYT Bestseller PAUL S. KEMP will be providing a tale of Egil and Nix — the brooding priest and thief, respectively — in their own original and roguish, sword and sorcery adventure entitled "A Better Man." Done deal. It's happening. Let's celebrate with pie!
ACHIEVED!!! $22,000 — OPEN SUBMISSIONS: We are opening for submissions! Editor J.M. MARTIN will choose the best 1-2 stories for inclusion in BLACKGUARDS and Ragnarok will pay the author the approved professional rate!! See Update #6 (forthcoming) for details.
ACHIEVED!!! $24,000 — INCREASED PAY RATE: We will increase the per word pay rate for all the authors from 7 cents/word to 9 cents/word. Update: You all did it! The authors are doing a jig because they just got a raise!
ACHIEVED!!! 750 BACKERS — BLOOD COIN UPGRADE: The Blood Coin will now have a loop attached so it can be worn beneath one's tunic (or atop one's chemise, if that's more your style).
ACHIEVED!!! $25,000 — STRETCH GOAL AUTHOR #3: You have access "Rashida" by JEAN RABE, prolific Forgotten Realms, Dragonlance ("Dhamon Saga", "The Stonetellers"), The Finest Trilogy, Spelljammer, DRAGON MAGIC and DRAGON MAGE with Andre Norton...gee, let's just say she's the author of 26 fantasy novels, more than 60 short stories, and edited 17 anthologies and counting...and now add one more short story in BLACKGUARDS!
ACHIEVED!!! $26,000 — T-SHIRT ADD-ON STRETCH GOAL: T-shirts featuring the spectacular BLACKGUARDS cover art by Arman Akopian are now available to order! See add-ons (below) for details.
ACHIEVED!!! $30,000 — BLACKGUARDS BLACKLIST: ANTHOLOGY COMPANION will be an eBook-only offering containing some of the top submissions from our Open Submissions tier. That's right. We're receiving a LOT of strong submissions, making it just too hard for me to decide on a mere one or two. EVERYONE at Bung Nipper ($10) and above will receive a FREE digital copy of BLACKGUARDS BLACKLIST!!
Add the following amounts to your tier and when you get the survey after the Kickstarter closes (there will be a section for you to fill in what add-ons you paid for).
• EBOOK UPGRADE (ADD $5) Want the RIGHT RASCAL tier rather than BUNG NIPPER with your pledge? Add $5 and get all EIGHT eBooks; that's BLACKGUARDS, all three of Tim Marquitz's BLOOD WAR TRILOGY, and all four of David Dalglish's THE PALADINS series.
• 2015 MAGNET CALENDAR (ADD $5 for each) A full color 5.5" x 8.5" calendar on durable magnet stock featuring the cover by Arman Akopian. Would look good adorning any lockbox.
• EXTRA POSTER (ADD $5 for each): If the $15.5k stretch goal is met, you can order as many extra 13" x 19" poster prints of the cover artwork as you like for $5 each. As above, the poster will have no logo or words, just Arman Akopian's awesome artwork featured on premium gloss stock (and will be folded).
• SILVER COIN (ADD $10 for each): A commemorative pewter coin stained with black verdigris—you have proof to show the bung nippers in your guild you were part of something special, aye.
• BLOOD COIN (ADD $13 for each): The blood-stained and looped collectable Blood Coin is now available for purchase as an add-on. Note that the silver coins are not looped, but both silver and blood will be the same coin design.
• EXTRA TRADE PAPERBACK (ADD $19 for each): Get extra BLACKGUARDS paperbacks for $19 apiece, which will save you at least $5 a book when these go retail after fulfillment of this campaign. International orders please add $5 per book for additional shipping.
• CARD DECK (ADD $20 for each): We will now make a printed deck of 24 (or 25) tarot-sized cards available, with each card featuring David Alvarez's and Orion Zangara's elaborate artwork. The cards will be 2.75" x 4.75" and printed on Metallic Ice Gold #110 cover stock.
• T-SHIRT (ADD $22 for one; ADD $40 for two; Backers pledging KNIGHT OF THE ROAD tier ($50) or above should add only $16 per shirt): These t-shirts feature the BLACKGUARDS cover art on your choice of black, white, stone gray, or red in sizes ranging from SM to 2XL. The post-campaign survey will ask you to select your color and size.
Risks and challenges
We've alleviated a major risk by having gathered the stories for this anthology from the authors. Everyone listed has already contributed their tale. We've also paid the cover artist, so he's taken care of and we have World rights secured for everything.
Additionally, we went through the bulk of our growing pains during the production phase of a previous crowdfunded campaign, so we have contacts, accounts, and resources in place now to make a smooth transition from funding to fulfillment—that means a much smaller delay in getting the book in your hands.
The only setbacks I foresee on my end would be unexpected health issues or some unforeseen act of theft or disaster. Otherwise, we've done all this before now and we know what to expect and how to meet the challenges ahead of us. We've even expanded our staff a little with contractors who are willing and eager to pitch in and help when needed, so the only other challenge would be if this is wildly successful and we end up with a thousand-plus backers, but that's a GOOD challenge and rest assured we'd handle it.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)