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Wednesday, July 3, 2013

"Launching The Shadow Campaigns" blog tour - Django Wexler

We are honored to be the first stop on Django Wexler's book tour for his debut military historical fantasy The Thousand Names. He will talk about different elements of creating this fantasy in six stops.

Recruitment: Introducing the cast of The Thousand Names
Every good story is carried by its main characters. Here’s a little introduction to the three at the heart of The Thousand Names, Book One of The Shadow Campaigns.

Captain Marcus d’Ivoire

“Sir,” Marcus said. He’d dressed in his best formal blues, and his salute was parade-ground crisp. Only the darkness around his eyes betrayed any hint of a sleepless night.

If the colonel was similarly troubled, he showed no sign of it. He didn’t even look up at Marcus’ greeting, merely waved a hand for the captain to take a seat.Only after a few seconds, when Marcus remained standing, did he raise his head.

“Captain?” he said. “I would value your input, if you don’t mind.”

“Sir,” Marcus said again. He reached into his breast pocket and withdrew [the notice of resignation], which he placed in the center of the map.

“Ah,” Janus said. “Is this from Captain Roston?”

Marcus closed his eyes for a moment. “No, sir. From me.”

It was the first time that Marcus could recall seeing Janus look surprised. The expression flickered across his face for a split second, only barely visible before iron control slammed back into place. Still, somehow, it was gratifying. At least he can be surprised. Marcus had half expected to find Janus waiting for him with a court-martial.

The colonel, his expression once more a mask, reached for the note and flicked it open. It wasn’t long, just a few lines. A moment later he tossed it aside and looked back up at Marcus.

“Would you care to explain, Captain?”

“Sir. I don’t believe it requires—”

“Captain.” Janus’ voice cracked like a whip.

Marcus swallowed. “The charges against Adr—against Captain Roston. Your original order was relayed to him through me, and I was the officer in overall command. Therefore the failure is mine, as are the consequences. If you required Captain Roston’s arrest, I could not in good conscience refrain from submitting my resignation.”

“I see.” Janus tapped his index finger on the desk. “I assume you’re aware that I can reject this?”

“Yes, sir. And I can refuse to recognize your rejection.”

“And since we are engaged in an active campaign, that qualifies as desertion,” Janus said. “I see.” The finger tapped again. “You agreed with me that Captain Roston was not the best man for the job.”

“Yes, sir.” Marcus hesitated, but there was no going back now. “That doesn’t make it right to remove him like this.”

When The Thousand Names opens, Marcus is the acting commander of the Colonials, a regiment made up of the dregs of the Vordanai Royal Army destined to serve out their time in obscurity in the dusty colony of Khandar. But the Khandarai have risen in rebellion against their Vordanai-backed ruler, and Marcus’ force of a few thousand men is huddled on the edge of the desert, hoping for evacuation. Instead, they get a new commander, in the form of Colonel Janus bet Vhalnich.

Marcus has been around since the very first drafts of The Thousand Names, and he serves a couple of roles in the story. He represents the stolid, ground-in traditions of the Royal Army, in contrast to Janus’ brilliant, mercurial inventiveness and Winter’s unorthodox approach. He gives Janus someone to explain himself to, a character role I think of as “The Watson.” But Marcus’ story goes beyond that, too. He stands for the notion of loyalty that is at the crux of the book, and it pulls him many ways at once—towards Janus’ offered friendship, and his authority via the chain of command; towards his fellow officers, especially Captain Adrecht Roston, his oldest friend; and towards the men under his command, and his responsibility for their safety.

Marcus stands at the very center of the Colonials, and ultimately all its officers and men look to him for guidance. When these different loyalties start to point in different directions, it’s ultimately his choices that decide the fate of everyone involved.

Winter Ihernglass


Winter looked across the dusty scrap of land that was serving as the regimental drill field. … A dozen companies were currently occupied in various exercises, being put through their separate paces according to the whims of their officers. Winter watched one lieutenant berating his men as though they were disobedient mules, and inspiration struck.

“Right,” she said, turning on her heel. Raising her already ragged voice, she managed, “Company, quarter-right!”

The men, who’d been watching her with some apprehension, gave a kind of collective sigh and straightened up again as best they could. 

“On my signal,” she said, “march pace, forward. Align on me. March!”

The drums started again, slower this time, and the column shuffled into motion. … She found what she wanted, a hundred yards away. Another company, in the usual three-rank line, was practicing the Manual of Arms while a sergeant barked orders. A lieutenant stood beside them, looking bored. Their backs were to her and her men.

Winter led the column in that direction, glancing over her shoulder occasionally to make sure her company was still in good order. There was a moment’s hesitation as they closed with the other company. She took the opportunity to step sideways, out of their path, and shout, “Forward! Charge pace!”

The drums thrilled faster. The men in the front ranks, when it became clear what they’d been ordered to do, went to it with surprising gusto. No one in the other company noticed until it was far too late. There were a couple of startled squawks, and then the long column collided with the rear of the line at a dead run. Winter’s men bowled through, knocking the others sprawling, until someone in the opposing company started fighting back. A punch was thrown, somewhere in the press, and a moment later the whole of the two companies was a mass of fistfights and roughhousing, going at it with all the sudden energy of discipline released.

Winter, standing at the edge of the melee with the horrified drummers behind her, looked over her handiwork with a satisfied expression. The lieutenant of the other company, a fat man with a scraggly beard, bore down on her while his sergeants tried in vain to restore order. Winter saluted and forced her face to assume a blank expression.

“What in all the hells do you think you’re doing?” the lieutenant said, vibrating with anger.

“Sorry, sir. Following orders, sir!”

“Whose orders?”

“Lieutenant d’Vries, sir! Said to keep the men at it. Didn’t mean to run into you, sir!”

The lieutenant eyed her, uncertain of what attitude to take. He settled on contempt. Winter struggled to maintain her facade of amiable idiocy.

“Well, you’d better sort this out,” he said. “If your damned men aren’t out of my company and off this drill field in five minutes, the captain will hear of it, do you understand?”

“Yes, sir!” Winter spun back toward the mess she’d created. “Corporal Forester!”

The boy had extracted himself after the initial rush, wriggling eel-like to the edge of the press, and was looking on nervously. At the sound of Winter’s voice, he whirled and snapped to attention.

“Let’s get these men off the drill field!” She gestured at the lieutenant behind her. “Right away, he says!”

She could tell he was having trouble suppressing a smile, too, as understanding dawned. “Yes, sir!”

Winter starts the book in a very difficult position. A woman masquerading as a man, she’s successfully maintained her disguise for years, but keeping her distance from the other soldiers has singled her out as a social pariah. Her spiteful sergeant tries to get rid of her, only to find her promoted to command a company of her own. With responsibility forced into her hands, Winter has to discover capacities she never knew she possessed, both to win the respect of her men and keep them alive.

I wrote Winter to provide a perspective on the Colonials “from below,” so to speak, as opposed to Marcus’ view from the top. She’s much less traditional than Marcus, if only by virtue of her own unusual circumstances, and unlike him she has no special attachment to the Army or great store of patriotism to motivate her. Winter addresses the question of loyalty from a different angle—it grows in her, all unwillingly, in response to the friendship and trust of those around her.

Her past, and her unorthodox nature, also make her tend to poke into dark corners. As the campaign progresses and suspicions swirl around the new commander, this curiosity will take her into strange territory indeed.

Count Colonel Janus bet Vhalnich Mieran


In the rear of the column, far below, a lonely figure struggled after the last of the marching companies under the burden of two heavy valises. … [Marcus] wondered idly what was so important that it couldn’t be brought up in the oxcarts with the rest of the baggage.
“The colonel did say he was coming up, didn’t he?” Marcus asked.

“That was the message from the fleet,” the lieutenant said. “Perhaps he’s been delayed?”

“I’m not going to stand out here all day waiting,” Marcus growled. Even in the shade, he was sweating freely.

He waited for the porter in black to approach, only to see him stop twenty yards away, set down both valises, and squat on his heels at the edge of the dusty path. Before Marcus could wonder at this, the man leaned forward and gave an excited cry.

Balls of the Beast, he’s stepped on something horrible. …. Marcus hurried down the path, Fitz trailing behind him. The man in black popped back to his feet like a jack-in-the-box, one arm extended, holding something yellow and green that writhed furiously. Marcus pulled up short.

“A genuine Branded Whiptail,” the man said, apparently to himself. He was young, probably younger than Marcus, with a thin face and high cheekbones. “You know, I’d seen Cognest’s illustrations, but I never really believed what he said about the colors. The specimens he sent back were so drab, but this—well, look at it!”

He stepped forward and thrust the thing in Marcus’ face. Only years of army discipline prevented Marcus from leaping backward. The little scorpion was smaller than his palm, but brilliantly colored, irregular stripes of bright green crisscrossing its dun yellow carapace. The man held it by the tail with thumb and forefinger, just below the stinger, and despite the animal’s frantic efforts it was unable to pull itself up far enough to get its claws into his flesh. It twisted and snapped at the air in impotent rage.

It dawned on Marcus that some response was expected of him.

“It’s very nice,” he said cautiously. “But I would put it down, if I were you. It might be dangerous.” Truth be told, Marcus couldn’t have distinguished a Branded Whiptail from horse droppings unless it bit him on the ankle, but that didn’t mean he wouldn’t give both a wide berth.

“Oh, it’s absolutely deadly,” the man said, wiggling his fingers so the little thing shook. “A grain or two of venom will put a man into nervous shock in less than a minute.” He watched Marcus’ carefully neutral expression and added, “Of course, this must all be old hat to you by now. I’m sorry to get so worked up right off the bat. What must you think of me?”

“It’s nothing,” Marcus said. “Listen, I’m Captain d’Ivoire, and I got a message—”

“Of course you are!” the man said. “Senior Captain Marcus d’Ivoire, of the First Battalion. I’m honored.” He extended his hand for Marcus to shake. “I’m Janus. Most pleased to meet you.”

There was a long pause. The extended hand still held the frantically struggling scorpion, which left Marcus at something of a loss. Finally Janus followed his gaze down, laughed, and spun on his heel. He walked to the edge of the path and dropped the little thing amidst the stones. Then, wiping his hand on his black robe, he returned to Marcus.

“Sorry about that,” he said. “Let me try again.” He re-offered his hand. “Janus.”

“Marcus,” Marcus said, shaking.

“If you could conduct me to the fortress, I would be most grateful,” Janus said. “I just have a few things I need to get stowed away.”

“Actually,” Marcus said, “I was hoping you could tell me where the colonel might be. He sent a message.” Marcus looked over his shoulder at Fitz for support.

Janus appeared perplexed. Then, looking down at himself, inspiration appeared to dawn. He gave a polite cough.

“I suppose I should have been clearer,” he said. “Count Colonel Janus bet Vhalnich Mieran, at your service.”

Colonel Janus bet Vhalnich, who arrives to take command of the Colonials by order of the Ministry of War, is an enigma to Marcus and the others. While a member of the hereditary nobility, he doesn’t stand on ceremony, and the breadth of his knowledge and studies proves impressive. But Marcus is shocked when Janus tells him he intends to recapture all of Khandar with the Colonials, in spite of a five-to-one inferiority in numbers compared to the rebel forces. As the campaign progress, Marcus starts to think Janus just might be able to pull it off, but he begins to wonder about the Colonel’s real motives.

While none of the book is told from Janus’ point of view, he is in many ways the driving force behind The Thousand Names. It’s his ambition that starts the Colonials on their campaign, and his energy and brilliance that pushes them ever onward. But Janus remains an enigma, and the others worry that the Colonel’s talents may not be a match for his ambition. And, eventually, they begin to wonder if his ultimate goals are really in the service of the crown…

The Thousand Names (The Shadow Campaigns #1)
by Django Wexler
Enter an epic fantasy world that echoes with the thunder of muskets and the clang of steel—but where the real battle is against a subtle and sinister magic....

Captain Marcus d’Ivoire, commander of one of the Vordanai empire’s colonial garrisons, was resigned to serving out his days in a sleepy, remote outpost. But that was before a rebellion upended his life. And once the powder smoke settled, he was left in charge of a demoralized force clinging tenuously to a small fortress at the edge of the desert.

To flee from her past, Winter Ihernglass masqueraded as a man and enlisted as a ranker in the Vordanai Colonials, hoping only to avoid notice. But when chance sees her promoted to command, she must win the hearts of her men and lead them into battle against impossible odds.

The fates of both these soldiers and all the men they lead depend on the newly arrived Colonel Janus bet Vhalnich, who has been sent by the ailing king to restore order. His military genius seems to know no bounds, and under his command, Marcus and Winter can feel the tide turning. But their allegiance will be tested as they begin to suspect that the enigmatic Janus’s ambitions extend beyond the battlefield and into the realm of the supernatural—a realm with the power to ignite a meteoric rise, reshape the known world, and change the lives of everyone in its path.

Check out the rest of Django Wexler’s blog tour for the inside scoop on: The Thousand Names, Book One of The Shadow Campaigns!

July 3: Recruitment -about the characters
July 5: Deployment -about getting The Thousand Names published and it's many incarnations
July 9: March to the Sound of the Guns! Napoleonic phrase meaning for a subordinate commander to march his troops towards the sound of cannons to get in on the battle.
-This post would be about one of Django's pet peeves, when nothing is happening in a fantasy book (the waiting period). He'll be writing about maintaining forward momentum in books.
July 10: The Day of Battle -about writing battle scenes, keeping them visceral and in the moment
July 11: The Pursuit -Planning for a series
July 12: The Butcher’s Bill Famous description of the casualty lists by the Lord Nelson -A post about "killing your darlings"- including a deleted scene.

About the Author:
Django Wexler graduated from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh with degrees in creative writing and computer science, and worked for the university in artificial intelligence research. Eventually he migrated to Microsoft in Seattle, where he now lives with two cats and a teetering mountain of books. When not planning Shadow Campaigns, he wrangles computers, paints tiny soldiers, and plays games of all sorts. Visit him online at


  1. I'm intrigued...this sounds like an interesting book. I love history and will add this book to my wish list.
    Thanks :-)

    lorih824 at yahoo dot com

  2. Wow, what a novel! Sounds intriguing.

  3. forgot my e-mail address


  4. I absolutely loved this post. Thank you so much for sharing some insight into the process and storyline. It sounds like quite a complicated and meaty read. I have a feeling Winter and Marcus are going to be some of my favorite characters if these snippets are any indication of what is to come.

  5. I'd like to read this. Send me a message via Facebook at if I am to be the winner. (It's my birthday! Does that help my chances? ;-) )

    1. lol, if the dryer gods are with you it will. try and figure out what that means!

  6. Very cool excerpt and I am happy to see that someone that worked at Microsoft has an imagination, everyone else I meet from there seems so jaded.

  7. The characters sound interesting

    bn100candg at hotmail dot com


  9. Fascinating book! Will be adding The Thousand Names to my wishlist. Thanks for sharing the excerpts.

  10. OMG!! I LOVE Fantasy stories!!! This one sounds SO SO GOOD!!! I am so looking forward to reading this one!! I'm definitely crossing my fingers! :)))
    Thank you so much for this AWESOME giveaway!!!

  11. I find the title very interesting along with the lovely cover :)


  12. awesome cover! looks amazing!