martes, 29 de noviembre de 2016

Hakone: The Neon Genesis Evangelion Reality Tour

While by itself this post isn't directly related to An Ominous Book series but as a person that grew up watching 1990's anime it was really fun to visit the place in Japan where Neon Genesis Evangelion takes place in real life: Hakone.

I initially had no plans to visit this adorable city because of the anime. In reality I wanted to see the koyo autumn leaves in the mountains and have a slim chance of spotting Fuji Mountain without being too much of a hassle traveling by Tokyo. Hakone offered me all three pros and the fact that there are hot springs was like icing on the cake.

Getting there however was probably one of the only really bad things about my first trip to Japan. I was probably just unlucky and got an unusually disgruntled ticket seller in the Shinjuku JR terminal. There is supposedly a Shinkansen train that can take you to Odawara (there are no direct trains that take you to Hakone as such as far as I know) and also a very kitshy tourist romance car. But the salesman didn't sell me either ticket. What did I get? The super slow motion local train that took almost 2 hours. I didn't even save any cash because I had already activated my JR Rail pass earlier that day. I will say that is was funny how a japanese salaryman that was probably in his early 20's was snoring on my shoulder and magically woke up right on time for his stop.

Reaching the city somewhat later than I would have preferred, there isn't all that much to see in Odawara except a nice castle with some cool antiques. I'll probably write another post about that sometime because I don't have those photos on my external harddrive. My guesthouse was in Hakone as such meaning you must get there by bus. It's fairly straightforward to reahc the right bus. Odawara JR station has a great tourist help center and they sell you a 2 or 3 day all you can travel pass. While I rode on the bus a super friendly elderly japanese woman was eager to engage in freiendly conversation with me. I can only speak very basic japanese but I showed her a few photos of Mexico and she seemed eager to give me free lodging in her house! She told another lady in the bus that she was worried about me because it was dark outside and my stop was still a bit far away but I tried to reassure her I would be okay. There is one interesting thing about Japan, young men will run away from you even if you speak decent conversational japanese but old people don't feel ashamed and just want to brefriend you no matter what language you speak.

I can't remember my stay in the gesthouse very well, I drank too much sake and literally passed out on my futon with the tv on all night. :S I sadly missed my alotted 30 minutes to enjoy the complimentary onsen at the place to boot. Dammit!

The following day I set off for a mega trip on the Hakone tourist circuit. Sure it's touristy but it was fun as hell! I first went to a cool garden with lots of maple trees that were changing color. However given this post is to focus more an the real Evangelion sites I wanted to show photos of scenes of the Hakone circuit you might spot in the actual anime.

The first stop?

The elevated train to Gotemba. I can't recall which episode it was in Eva but in the show they refurbish these vehicles with super rifles that shoot at angels. They look so harmless in real life.

The japanese locals were going bananas with these things. Sure it's fun as hell to ride them but they have a halfway stop between the top of Hakone as Gotemba that gets clogged with people to ride a second train. However the outside views were spectacular.

The clogged stop is in Owakudani. And yes,. the photo below is Fuji Mountain. Some people might be disappointed but considering many tourists never get to spot the mountain at all at least I can say I saw it from afar.

If you are familiar with Evangelion you will recall Shinji constantly runs away from Misato's apartment for whatever silly reason and in the episode after he fights the 6th angel he runs off to Owakudani. Those are not clouds BTW, its sulphur that spews from the rocks. In the anime it makes you think they are just regular clouds. Apparently in one scene Shinji stands in a balcony where people jump to commit suicide in real life although I'm not fully sure which place would it be. The tourist hiking path has plenty of steep balconies to jump from.

One of the most interesting tourist foodie attractions of Owakudani are the black hardboiled eggs. Basically they are fully ordinary white eggs that they boil in the hot springs and the chemicals in the water turn the eggs black. The water gives them a really awesome flavor. Curiously enough I tried hardboiled eggs in Yudanaka which also contains sulphur but the eggs don't change color.

After you take yet a third elevated train down to Lake Ashi which appears in dozens of scenes of Evangelion you bump into this pirate ship. I don't know why they carry tourists in a boat taken out of a Sponge Bob movie (and yet these ships never appear in the anime) but the locals were going ape crazy.

I would have wanted to stick around Hakone for another day and actually enjoy the hot spring but I had to reach Kyoto as soon as possible. Once I returned to Odawara station I decided to wander around the shops and squealed at the sights.

Yes, that is a real life size Rei Ayanami mannequin. I'm actually taller than her which surprises me because I'm barely 5'1.

It's a shame most of the awesome sotres were closed and I discovered much to my chagrin that the "post offices" in Japanese villages are tiny malboxes inside of ordinary 7-Elevens. Sadly the ATMS don't accept my mexican debit card and I was running anemicly low on cash. Note to myself: withdraw extra $$$ when in Tokyo.

sábado, 26 de noviembre de 2016

Japanese food is not just sushi

I feel fortunate that I grew up in Mexico in the 1990's when anime was running on primetime public tv and it was actually worthwhile to get up on a Saturday at 7 am to record Revolutionary Girl Utena on my vhs player on Unicable before the show got cancelled before showing the final 7 episodes (I guess someone never told them Utena isn't a kid's show). And just like every weaboo I had dreams of going to Tokyo and visit Akihabara because every anime fan has to visit the mecca of anime at least once during their lifetime. However to be honest I had never eaten Japanese food as a teenager. Dragon Ball Z, Ranma 1/2, Sailor Moon and Caballeros del Zodiaco were always primetime draws but Mexico didn't offer anything else about the country.

And then I turned 18.

I decided on my 18th birthday that I wanted to eat sushi for the first time. Cold raw fish lumped into balls of rice? Really? My parents were not too ecstatic with my paltry decision but we went to a reputable restaurant that still stands today called Mr. Sushi in the Zona Azul and the quality of the food albeit not 100% authentic easily overcame any previous misconceptions.

Sushi is now easily available in any major mexican city and every time I visit Playa del Carmen on a Tuesday or a Thursday I always try to visit the Sushitlán joints (there are two of them at walking distance from eachother downtown) and order the mango roll or the strawberry roll taking advantage of the 2x1 discount. I wonder what do Japanese tourists think of that.

Sushitlán's locally famous Strawberry rolls

Quite arguably my favorite chum from this joint, the Sushitlán special roll

However once you actually visit Japan, you soon realize you won't find sushi nearly anywhere. Visit the ubiquitous Family Marts and the 7-Elevens and you will find dozens of brands of sugar free green tea, bizarre alfalfa water without a tint of sugar (tastes really good once you get used to it), Kitkats and Onigiri Balls.

If you grew up watching Sailor Moon you would have seen Serena Tsukino eating those things all of the time. Basically they sell these lumps of steamed rice around a random filling and cover the side with a huge slice of seaweed. On my first day in Tokyo to eat something quickly while the sunlight was still in the sky I opted to buy one of these things and they taste okay. Nothing spectacular, just a rice ball with canned tuna in the middle, but it was cheap, like 15 MXN at the time. Try to find something that cheap in NYC.

You never know what to expect with food in Japan. Most of what they eat is steamed and pickled vegetables. One of the rules of wisdom when traveling abroad is to enter the restaurants where a lot of locals frequent. Japan is definitely no different and there are some killer restaurants down in Shibuya that have the most addictively good pickled cucumbers I have ever eaten.

Good Lord those pickled seed sprouts tasted so good.

If you are ever in Japan you might be lucky and visit a restaurant that serves Hoppy. And no, it's isn't beer. Quite frankly I have no idea what in the hell it is but trust me, it doesn't even remotely taste like beer and despite appearances it contains no alcohol. In my opinion the drink tasted awful, like some sort of dirty plant root with mineral water but after WWII ended the Japanese civilians had few other cheap food options and they survived on Hoppy among other things.

Visiting bakeries in Japan is also a mind-blowing experience. I seldom eat bread, or tortillas.. no wonder I'm so scrawny. However be kind, save for Pastelerías Maqui I don't know a lot of good bakeries in Mexico. Mexicans just don't know what they are missing and while some of the bread they sell in japanese bakeries are bizarre they taste really, really good.

Yes, that is a piece of bread with the shape of a pumpkin. And the roasted pumpkin filling was... well if you are ever near Asakusa Shrine in the back avenue on the opposite side of the nearest subway station there is a really, really good bakery. It's just a street or two away from a Fugu joint on a corner. If you are there try out the crystallized soybean pastries, I wished they could sell this stuff in Mexico.

What about American food?

Oh yes, the infamous I'm tired of eating all of this insanely healthy stuff that lacks sugary fattening goodness and I want a taste of home. Luckily at least the big cities have McDonalds type joints everywhere. I almost never, ever eat at McDonalds because the food tastes like plastic but they really up their game in Japan. Insanely expensive yes, but their morning mcMuffins are cooked right on the spot, no defrosted processed crap at all and they taste spectacular. I was in Tokyo in 2014 before Halloween and Burger King launched a thematic black bread mini whopper. Bizarre to say the least but the meat was nothing to write home about. More of a curiosity than anything else.

I love coffee, I probably drink too much of it according to everyone I know. I've even ended up hospitalized in the observation rooms of my job at least once from acid reflux from it. And unfortunately if there is one thing stopping me from moving to Japan it's the coffee. I feel for them because it tastes awful. Not even Starbucks saves itself from this curse. The Starbucks in Shibuya doesn't even remotely taste like the stuff you can buy in Mexico. Overpriced, watered down and bland. The worst of the worst I've tried so far goes to Bose coffee.

Ever heard the rumors that there is a vending machine literally in every corner in Japan? It's rather quite true and a lot of them sells Bose coffee. Heck, I've seen ads in downtown Tokyo of Tommy Lee Jones advertising that stuff (I doubt he has ever tried it). The kindest way to describe the beverage is that it's a fowl tasting motor oil with some chemical that dissolves paint. If that wasn't bad enough, try to realize people in Japan just don't like sugary drinks at all for some reason and they sell a presentation of this nastiness 100% black. I wished someone had been there to take a photo of me when I tasted that stuff without a tint of sugar or cream. I love black coffee but it was so bad the only reason why I drank the entire bottle was because it cost me 15 MXN. Hahahaha, not one of my most memorable memories of Japan.

In  Yudanaka I even found a vending machine that sold a mystery beverage. Silly Japan.

You will even see in Tokyo anime inspired drinks if you are lucky. One of the things that surprised me about Japan is that the Coca-Cola owned vending machines don't sell Coca-Cola, they sell bottled water and sugarless green tea. There you go, the secret to why Japan is free of the obesity epidemic. They never eat deep fried food and drink water. Give me my nobel Medicine prize please.

Now what about gourmet Japanese food is it worth it?

I had a Kaiseki dinner in Yudanaka as part of the hotel hospitality deal they offer to all guests and it's a cool experience. I wouldn't say the food tasted insanely awesome but it sure is flashy. They give you 20 different random bite size meals in little dishes and you sort of clean the table. The small pot was filled to the brim of rice that you self-serve and they give you complimentary water. As a mexican where complimentary water is like some sort of oxymoron it was kind of strange. Quite personally I would have preferred a beer to go with my meals but wearing a yukata with one of those comfy vests on top in a private room was awesome.

Other gourmet options? Kyoto has an overabundance of good ways to part with your money. As a tourist trap (still a very nice city BTW but not my favorite place in Japan) that every year seems to get flooded with increasing amounts of foreign tourists Kyoto is indeed expensive. Go visit the Gion area and while the famous Geisha district seems sort of lifeless with shuttered (and eeerily quiet) restaurants that are too prohitively expensive for a budget tourist like me there are other places in larger avenues that are more affordable.

The rule of thumb is to always follow where the japanese salarymen go to get their grub. The only downside is the huge clouds of cigarette smoke that billows the air but the food will not disappoint you. I went to this place that was packed with locals and the sashimi with edible flower petals was a nice touch. I simply loved the roasted lotus root, you can't find that vegetable in Mexico. I loved it so much I briefly mentioned it in a scene of my 5th book.

Shabu shabu gets mocked in Bill Murray's film "Lost in Translation". Okay so they charge you 30 dollars to cook your own meal, I get it. I went to a place with an all you can eat sort of deal for 3500 yen. The low price was because despite being a buffet they didn't serve you the best Kobe cut but man was it good. Basically they sit you in front of a stove in a booth that boils a pot of water. They then give you a bowl of veggies, cubes of tofu, slices of kobe beef and then three bowls of soy sauce, some kind of tasty peanut cream and I have no idea what was the last thing. You use a pair of tongs to toss everything in the boiling water until it looks sorta cooked, grab long hashi, dump everything in whichever sauce suits your fancy and chomp away. Once you clean the plate the remaining water is poured by the waitress into a bowl and you drink it up. Leaving soup for last seems kind of odd but hey, this is Japan, you go here for the sole purpose of being awed.

I'm poor! What can I eat in Japan that won't break the bank?

That would suck. I mean, you save 900 USD for a plane ticket and endure a grueling 16 hour flight just to eat pocky sticks. You can find cheap hostels and ryokans in Japan even as a solo traveler (the most expensive one night I ever spent in a hotel in Japan was 3000 MXN and it was a special treat in an expensive tourist retreat with few cheap options). I just think if you are going to visit this country once in your lifetime couldn't you forfeit daily starbucks, fancy cellphone gadgets and clubbing for a few months?

However if you insist, there are cheapo places for dinner and the food is quite good. Shinkansen trains serve boxed lunches for 100 MXN that sometimes come with a bizarre thread you pull that magically heats the food instantly (Japan is so awesome).

The food isn't spectacular but it's convenient and always stylish. Japanese have perfected the art of making food desirable to eat. They could make hospital food look like a 5 star Michelin joint. Izakayas are everywhere and while food options are limited they are fast, authentic & cheap. You don't even need to speak an iota of Japanese to go to one. You stand outside and locate the vending machine/menu, stare at the photos of the dishes that look somewhat appetizing, press the button, deposit the yen and a ticket is printed that you present to the cook inside. Within a minute they serve you your dish. You can order beer for extra or drink complimentary water.

Yoshinoyas are everywhere and the grub is really good. It's fast food but don't let the cheapness deter you from visiting one. I wished there was a Yoshinoya in Mexico.

If you are ever in Tokyo you will be committing a major sin if you don't visit the Ramen Museum. Trust me, it isn't expensive and you will be grateful you took the 40 minute train ride to the suburbs to visit it. The slices of bacon are to die for.

Indeed I believe this has been my longest ever post on my blog. I really love Japanese food and think people have wrong ideas about it. Sake is dirt cheap in Japan, just 5 USD a large wine sized bottle. Before I go I wish to show a photo of the most bizarre thing I have ever eaten in Japan while I visited Hakone. To this day I have no idea what in the hell it was.

jueves, 24 de noviembre de 2016

Translating a 100,000 novel is a pain in the rear

I decided to give it a go because a close friend of mine urged me to translate my novels to Spanish and given the XMAS season is coming I decided to release a translation of the first novel before getting the official copyright certificate which should be arriving shortly anyways.

It seems like I have at least some curious onlookers to say the least.

And why not? While more native English speakers grow up in countries that emphasize reading books from a young age or to say the least English is a language that is spoken all over the world it's still a double edged sword because most other writers like to write in this language. English language fantasy novels indeed abound.

However even though there are hundreds of millions of Spanish speakers out there very few of them like to write fiction novels even though Spanish translations of popular fantasy books like The Hunger Games, Harry Potter and Divergent sell well.

I do have however one small qualm with a lot of Spanish translations. For starters a lot of them are translated in the Spain Spanish way. Don't get me wrong, the overtly polite proverbs in a Tolkien novel are most suitable but overdoing vosotréis in novel written with a more colloquial English wants me to smash my head against a wall.

There is a reason why I gave up on reading the only copy of The Portrait of Dorian Grey in my university because I couldn't stand the awful translation.

However I can understand the conundrum of many monolingual authors that don't dip into the ocean of translating their novels. Not only would I have to fork a small fortune to find someone to translate my 100,000 page novel that will actually do a decent job and not steal the translation for him/herself but then you have the issue of what to do with royalties.

Would you hire a ghostwriter translator?

Even if you find someone willing to lose the glory and does an honest job of translating your work without stealing your ideas would you really publish it without crediting anyone? What if you are in the radio and a caller starts blabbering you in that translated tongue? Reading a foreign language is the easy part, it's expressing yourself that can be a pain in the butt and they will catch you in a jiff.

In the possible scenario you decide to translate your novel and find someone reliable that either demands a hefty translation fee and/or a huge royalty for a certain amount of years will they preserve the jokes of your novel? The feeling?

I disliked the translations of the first 3 Harry Potter novels, I just feel like something was missing. Later books had a better translation but even if someone hits the grammatical aspect of the text well it's far harder to grasp the slang. In a way I feel glad I took the huge annoyance of spending 3 weeks translating 99,000 words of my first novel and trying to retain my way of speaking in the process. The book feels like it was written by me even if it's in a different language.

I didn't retain word by word at 100% because some of the text would look silly and/or redundant but I still made an effort to keep both versions as close to each other as I could.

Will non Mexican Spanish speakers like it that I used Mexican slang?

In the least I hope they don't detest it. At any given case I'd rather write something I know well than trying to write English like a British speaker without having ever been to England and making a fool out of myself.

Is there even a Spanish speaking market out there?

With over 30% of the US population self-identifying as Hispanic and millions of Spanish speakers I hope some of them enjoy fantasy novels. Even though Mexicans don't seem to show any interest in reading books which is a shame I was surprised that in Santiago de Chile there are book lending stands in the subway. I was left utterly speechless.

Given I had some curious onlookers borrowing my 1st Spanish translated novel just a few hours after making it live means there's at least a certain degree of curiosity. I wasn't planning on translating more novels because it's really tedious work but I've decided to give it a chance and I'm translating Separation right now. I hope I'll have the draft ready in 10 days tops.

miércoles, 16 de noviembre de 2016

My first amazon ad campaign

I will admit it. I'm totally new to self-publishing. I have owned a Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 for over 3 years now (I have to take off my hat to Samsung because I use that machine all of the time and it still works awesomely well) and it was only until very recently during an Amazon Prime day sale that I decided to hire KU and try out the Kindle app that automatically came included in the tablet.

While after self-publishing An Ominous Book merely one month ago I had a few bumps on the road mainly because PDF files end up converting awfully in the Kindle because nobody I personally know self publishes books (heck, more like almost nobody in Mexico reads books much less actually takes the annoyance to write them). I am in unchartered territory and learning on the way. I quickly learned how to use Calibre and find the software to be nifty albeit the italics of my books unfortunately don't appear in Android. Hopefully a new version of the software will someday fix that problem.

I don't have a marketing background but I cannot deny that Amazon's ad campaign is helping me get my book series out to more people. In just around 10 days I went from initially everything in 0's (indeed the fact that the US Elections finally ending and XMAS shopping season starting helped) to over 1500 impressions with 15 clics. The fact that I am getting a 1% clic to impression rate is really good and I hope some people will give the first book a chance.

All in all I have been insanely busy these past few weeks reuniting bundles of documents and interviewing at the hospital I will hopefully do my residency someday so sadly it's a bit hard to focus all of my time to advertising but the fact that over 1000 people in just a few days now knows my book series exists gives me hope more people might wish to buy it.

Right now I have a problem with my laptop cable that seems to have finally died but I'm hoping to find a compatible cable in the boonies so that I can draw the artwork of the back cover and release a paperback version of An Ominous Book as soon as possible. My spanish translation of An Ominous Book seems to be almost fully complete and I hope to get the copyright in 2 weeks tops because most of my aquaintances cannot speak english very well.

At any rate I decided to take a quick look at my 4th book Diaspora and felt glad that my Ominous Book add popped up.

If you are also curious about my fantasy book series clic here for book 1.

Likewise when you visit the first book the add for the 4th book also appears. Nice!

jueves, 10 de noviembre de 2016

5th book of An Ominous Book series "A Calamity" is out!

While it's indeed true that an author should drop all of the eggs of their basket due to the inevitable reality I'm going to change my job and possibly move to a new city I will not have sufficient free time in the near future. It is important for me to publish as many books as possible or else I might never get anything finished.

Curiously enough I wrote A Calamity in less than one month albeit editing the book over and over again took a much longer amount of time than that. Of all of the books from my series this is the one I enjoyed to read & write the most. In a way I feel like this is Damantin's personal voyage of self discovery. When I began to write the book I had a few rough ideas and then things just simply fell in their place one by one.

I wanted to exploit the drama with Lord Garain's distrust of Damantin's unusually enough innocous intentions but it wasn't until I surpriginsly typed in the tale that Garain's actions nearly caused Damantin's death that I realized I opened a huge thing in the story: Harlequin elves depend on continuously drinking fresh blood in order to survive.

I've always felt deeply fascinated with dark elves but fantasy stories usually fall short with them. Either they never really explain why they physically look different from the average fair elf or just paint a brush and claim they are all evil. The Grey Clan however is different.

In the 4th book of my series Diaspora we discover that the only pureblood elves that escaped the kingdom from certain death were all male. After the harlequin clan that temporarily housed them in Outambila were slaughtered and evicted from their homelands they were left with no other choice than to breed with each other to keep both clans alive. By fusing their blood and culture a completely new clan evolved into the current Grey Clan.

While all harlequins shed their skin every few years the blood disease that affects all hybrids harlequin elves is an important aspect of the story and culture of the clan.

In all aspects I love Damantin's character and while a part of me feels remorse that Richard's importance in the plot became a second priority I have found a character that I simply love to write about.

I love Japanese ceramic dishes!

I have to admit it, I love old school Japanese ceramic dishes. I started to be fond of them when I visited the Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC when I went there for the first time in 2001. Between the usual souvenirs in the gift shop stood a nice array of Japanese plate sets that despite insanely expensive piqued my interest immediately. I didn't plan on visiting Japan at the time (not that the average teenager without a job would be able to afford such a luxury for starters) but I knew I wanted to own genuine Japanese ceramic dishes someday.

On my first trip to Kyoto in 2012 I had a most pleasant surprise. Beneath Kiyomizu-dera temple stands a huge array of shops selling Japanese candy and all sorts of awesome nick knacks. Some stores sell really cheesy stuff, others sold genuine used kimonos at insanely good prices (I bought a violet kimono but I haven't had a chance to use it yet). Among some of my favorite stores are a handful that sells all sorts of Japanese plates and cups.

When I went to Chichicastenango on market day in the Guatemalan highlands I wanted to buy everything. The same thing happened to a lot of these stores and just by looking at the photos it's hard not to agree with me.

Cat lovers galore! If you always dreamed of getting a morbidly obese beckoning cat ceramic curio this is the place to be! At the end I purchased a lovely pair of two kitty ceramic tea cups but given I don't drink tea that often and sake is prohibitively expensive in Mexico I haven't used the cups all that much. If you wish to visit Japan to buy cute ceramic cups that are genuinely made in Japan it's rather easy to bump into these shops in Kyoto. Just visit Kiyomizu-dera and wander along the huge crowds of people. It won't take you very long before you bump into one of these little shops.

domingo, 6 de noviembre de 2016

The Äimite guard, a Game of Thrones ripoff?

Before I get bombarded by dozens of furious fans of GoT that read my series for some time I wanted to write a brief recap about some things about the Elf King's personal elite army. The first thing is that when I started to write my series I wasn't even thinking about the Night Watch (I haven't read any of JRR Martin's books and have only watched up to the 4th season of GoT).

I'm a huge fan of the samurai and their bushido code. Last year when I first visited Santiago de Chile there was an amazing exposition of samurai armor in Palacio La Moneda that to top things off I could enter the museum for free because I showed up before noon. While I had already written several books and was in the process of editing I was simply marveled at the gorgeous decoration of the dozens of armors that adorned the exhibit. Some armor had distinctive clan symbols that were engraved metal of varying colors.


I had visited Japan previously and while I visited dozens of all sorts of places both modern and ancient I didn't visit the famous National Museum because nearly everything is a copy and the only samurai armor I got to see up close when I visited the country was in a samurai's private residence that was transformed into a museum in the city of Kanazawa. Therefore getting to visit this exposition in Santiago was a very pleasant surprise (and even more because I had no idea the presidential palace in Chile rotated public expositions with artifacts from all over the world).

Getting back to the topic of this post while it is true the Äimite guard 
 are obliged to never desert the guard and when they are mingling with civilians must wear a completely black uniform most of the similarities stop there. For one even though common criminals can join the guard the majority of the army's members are law abiding elves that were either raised as nobles from reputable families or in the very least former rangers with an exceptionally good work ethic. It is later revealed that the nation's Secretary of Defense Harvinha performed the initial Äimite training but he failed due to an outburst of anger and punched a drill sergeant in the face.

Entering the guard is highly competitive in part because a citizen cannot send a form to join. Whereas in Game of Thrones Jon Snow asked a recruiter to join in An Ominous Book that would never happen. The Äimite guard presently only has 4 different military ranks and potential applicants can only be invited by captains or guards of even higher rank. It is revealed that even though Harvinha isn't a guard and cannot directly invite exceptionally talented rangers he has confessed to send recommendation letters to high ranking guards that invite the candidate in his name at least once.
  • What are the drawbacks to joining the guard?
For starters once you sign the letter and pass the initial training you can never desert the guard or risk being beheaded. In that sense it is just like the Night Watch. The ubiquitous black robes of Äimite guards are also similar. However unlike the Night Watch Äimite guards wear a nearly identical looking military uniform where silver markings in the neck collar determine rank. Even guards that are off duty that are spending time with their families have to wear the official uniform at all times. If they get caught wearing something else or altering the uniform to their taste without permission they end up getting flogged as punishment in a guard post, far away from view of the general public. Unlike the Night Watch when guards are resting in their private grounds they can wear a second uniform with a silver shirt and black pants.

This is another thing I heavily stress in my series which is the social importance of distinguishing clans by their heraldic colors. While in Spain it is very common for families to decorate their homes and some personal belongings with their elaborate family crest (I have Basque ancestry and my family crest is rather beautiful looking) in Japan they push things a little further and instead of using handwritten signatures everyone stamps official documents with little signet stamps that have the kanji of their surname. When you wander around cities in the country you will eventually bump into a store that sells these family kanji stamps that are on display in the street. In ancient Japan many families of noble rank wore robes with heraldic colors which is something I like to emphasize in my series.

While each of the 36 clans have specific colors (Trevilin's clan oddly enough alternates black with green) the Elf King and the guard share opposing heraldic colors that represents a complementation of their balancing powers. Whereas the Elf King is represented with gold and white that signifies purity and regalness the guard on the other hand is marked by silver and black. The black in the uniform represents the darkness of their missions where from the start of their training they learn to kill even innocents without question and silver because they are not only immediately beneath the king in social rank but when the occasion merits it they can temporarily have more political power than the Elf King himself. While the Elf King is the guide of the nation the guard immediately follows. In the elvish tongue of my series Äimite is represented by the elvish verb äimitar which means "to submit". They not only submit to every order of their king but they submit the entire populace to maintain societal order.
  • How do Äimite guards live?
Unlike Game of Thrones the guard doesn't necessarily live in horrible bunks in the frozen wastelands that are far away from society. In the Ominous Book series they live all over the nation overseeing the rule of law in every major city to keep everything in order. In the capital they walk around everywhere and given guards are always dressed in full uniform while they are in public it's impossible for civilians to know if the guard they see wandering in the streets is on duty or not. Some of them work in undesirable posts in the uninhabited eastern wastelands next to the Evenian River that oversees parts of neighboring Outambila and the Garardmarjin territories whereas there are a few posts in the northern polar regions. While the conglomeration of rural posts are ruled by high ranking guards of good repute many soldiers that are stuck in the bitterly miserable rural posts are usually guards that are being punished with being lodged in undesirable posts. The most coveted posts are obviously the ones that guard the king's palace but all guards are rotated across the country at varying intervals.

When an elf joins the guard they are soon taught that they are no longer allied with their clans or blood relatives. The guard is now their new true family and they answer to nobody except the higher ranking guards and the Elf King. Unlike Game of Thrones the Äimite guard has both male and female guards. It is revealed in the 2nd book that Seiran herself was once invited to the guard but she declined because she preferred to someday become a clan leader.
  • If there are female members of the guard, how many are there in the army?
The Äimite guard has approximately 4000 members and only 8% of the army is female. The army has at the most 350 female guards and they are all both very formidable warriors and proud to the degree of utter arrogance.

  • A small child in Game of Thrones joined the Night Watch can children join the Äimite guard?
Elves mature at a different rate from humans and reach full adulthood at age 50. In the kingdom elves reach politically accepted adulthood when they turn 20 although they still retain the bodies that are equivalent to a 14 year old human. No matter how talented a child elf is, it is against the law for them to be invited to the guard until they turn 20. That same age is also the bare minimum to be awarded clan leader status or apply for the Ranger Academy Entrance Exam. As for this question, the child in the tv series would have been too young to join the guard and even if he was old enough to join the Äimite would have only invited him if he was already proficient enough in combat to be considered.
  • How are elves invited to the guard?
Unlike Game of Thrones where the contract is initially verbal in An Ominous Book a captain or higher ranking guard writes a consideration letter to a senior guard to oversee the potential candidate. If the potential candidate is approved Lord Froylan as the commander of the guard writes an elegant invitation letter and the guard that made the suggestion personally meets the potential candidate to invite him or her. The decision doesn't have to be immediate. The most common scenario is for guards to grant the candidate a handful of months to consider the decision and they will either sign the letter to perform the initial training or decline to join. In usual circumstances a candidate that declines to join is never invited a second time. In order to join the candidate signs their name on the letter along with their associated clan.

When a candidate signs the letter they are not yet bound by any oath and perform an initial training that lasts approximately 4 months. The guards assess the general health of the candidate, competency in magic and fencing along with their temperament. In Harvinha's case while he was a talented warrior his immaturity that spurred a temper tantrum deemed him unfit. The guard assesses that candidates are capable of following orders even if they utterly dislike them. Lord Garain states in the 4th book that some candidates initially look very good on paper but they either have crippling injuries or have poor control of their sorcery under stressful conditions. In some cases candidates can fail the training on purpose to avoid being forced to commit to the oath. Once a candidate passes the training with a signed letter they are obliged to dress themselves in the silver colored apprentice uniform and perform the oath.
  • How long does the training last?
On average it takes an apprentice 10 years to complete the training. During the last 2 years of training apprentices are sent to random posts all over the nation for on the job training under the tutelage of their superiors. It's unknown if an apprentice must complete a specific kind of examination to be awarded their black uniform.
  • When can guards become captains and what are the selection criteria?
A guard must complete a minimum of 10 years as a normal low ranking Äimite before being awarded captain status. Senior guards usually assess the combat skills of the elf and award a more elaborate ring to the newly appointed captain.

A handful of guards become awarded Senior Guard status that carries even more political power than a clan leader. They need to be a fully trained guard for a minimum of 50 years and only the Elf King awards senior status as a symbol of utter loyalty. In some cases this status is awarded to exceptionally powerful captains or guards that prove a loyalty beyond exceptional circumstances. Some guards are awarded this status as compensation because their bodies have ended up maimed beyond repair from cruet battles. In the 4th book we are introduced to Senior Lord Einman that ended up losing a leg, several fingers on one arm and partially paralyzed after a particularly devastating battle.
  • What happens to mortal guards that become elderly or badly injured?
Being an Äimite guard is a double edge sword. While youthful mortal elves can join the guard once you become one you are never allowed to desert it. Mortal elves inevitably become elderly and even though they have to wear their uniforms till the very end of their natural lifespan they are granted pleasant office jobs that require very little effort and enjoy a comfortable retirement until they perish of natural causes. Guards that end up severely maimed from battles either end up with important senior positions such as Einman performing various tasks that are limited by their badly injured bodies, remain as low ranked guards that do administrative tasks or spend their time in long-term infirmaries that are run by guards. In some cases it isn't unheard of for guards that are badly maimed to commit suicide to avoid being a burden.
  • If being a dual element mage is so exceptionally rare was Spaulding ever invited to the guard before the beginning of the series?
King Salman knew about Spaulding's ability of using water sorcery at an unknown time before the beginning of the series. It's highly likely Spaulding performed water sorcery during the Ranger Academy Entrance Exam. Unlike the average ranger that is a civilian elf Spaulding is the clan leader of the nation's smallest clan in population and there are no other direct members of his bloodline that are nobleelves. The only explanation why he was allowed to become a ranger was because King Salman approved of his petition in the hopes that Spaulding would eventually become an Äimite guard.
  • How did I come up with the colors of the Äimite guard?
Simple, because they are the colors of the fur coat of my dearest cat Ardilla and she was the inspiration that made me choose the black and silver heraldic colors of the guard. ;)