La Jolla fantasy authors launch fifth book, ‘The Curseborn Saga: Soldier Games’


The storytelling band of brothers behind the Curseborn Saga has had a remarkable year — and they show no signs of slowing down. They will release the fifth and final book in their first series “The Curseborn Saga: Soldier Games” next month. After that, they will jump right into writing the saga’s next series. And that is only the beginning. (Did someone say Comic-Con?)

The four creators behind the work include brothers Trevor Barber (pen name Elnath Shanks), Justin Barber (pen name Trowa Cloud), both La Jolla natives; and friends Peter Kolias (pen name Squall Ace) and Simon Sandoval (pen name Gatsu).

Their elaborate tale is told through story arcs, similar to how the Harry Potter story is broken up into seven story arcs told through seven books. The Curseborn Saga explores the myth of Eiendrahk, the never-ending war between the Goddess of Life and the God of Death, in a world of fantasy. “There are huge plans for the Curseborn Saga in the future. The Saga is by no means ending with these books,” Ace said.

A successful year

One year to the day before the release of the final Soldier Games book, the first one was released. Every three months after that (in June, September and December), another book in the series was made available to the masses. At the same time, the crew was developing their graphic novels and participating in conventions.

“We went to our first major Con (short for convention) — Anime Expo up in Los Angeles — where we had the smallest booth in the back on the left with all of our stuff and that was really cool,” said Shanks. “One man came to our booth with his son and didn’t say a word, just let his son ask us questions, and by the end of our talk, he wanted one of everything we had. He said ‘This is where you find the next big thing.’” Before Anime Expo was done, the creators had sold out of everything they brought with them.

Through conventions, social media and word-of-mouth, the Saga and its creators established a following, which calls themselves The Deathless. For each member, the term Deathless means something different. For Gatsu, it means failing over and over again, and still getting up to try again.

“We have mutual respect and support for each other and strive to accomplish something and we don’t let anything hold us back. Some of us have a full-time job and a family to support, but we are also putting time into this project, and we never quit,” he said. “Even when it seemed impossible, we kept going. None of us are afraid to fail; we are all willing to keep pushing. We’ve all hit rock bottom and kept going.”

To reward the loyal, the crew is also developing graphic novels, and plans to release them exclusively at conventions, and then take them off the market until a later date.

To give back to readers at large, the crew also donated 100 books to the San Diego Council on Literacy this year. “We talked about the content the council had and what they needed, and they had plenty of content for younger kids (ages 5-11), but not that much for teens. Our characters are teenagers, so we decided to donate some books,” Shanks said.

Going forward

To continue on the Curseborn Saga, the crew is developing the second series, called “The Grahf Arc,” but they don’t yet know how many books will make up the series or when they will be released. In “The Grahf Arc,” there is a great evil that is contained, but gets released.

Shanks explained, “It brings to life the question of ‘what is evil?’ Grahf truly believes in something and is willing to fight for it, but the majority of people around him don’t believe the same thing, so he becomes the villain. He just happens to be extremely powerful and deemed extremely dangerous.”

Comic-Con bound

The Curseborn Saga creators will have a booth at July’s Comic-Con International at the San Diego Convention Center, despite the typical waiting list that can span years. The mere mention of which generated palpable excitement.

“We’ve done street fairs and things that are not in our realm and we can talk to people there … but when you are at Comic-Con, we are there with people like us, with people that like what we like. At street fairs and things, you never know who likes what, but at Comic-Con, you know they like similar things to what you like,” Shanks said.

Gatsu added, “The thing I’m looking forward to most is the same thing I look forward to every time I go to an event or signing. There is great vindication when you are interfacing with hundreds of people and those hundreds of people are buying what you’re selling. At Comic-Con, there is a huge group of people, who are into the same things we are, in one place and we get to talk to those people. I want to tell them about our story, tell them why I’m excited for it and why they should be excited for it.”

Local events

Because brothers Shanks and Cloud grew up in La Jolla, they said they wanted to have local events, in addition to exhibiting at a Con that attracts thousands. On Saturday, Feb. 27 at 11 a.m., they will have a speaking engagement for aspiring writers at La Jolla’s Riford Library, 7555 Draper Ave.

“Anyone interested in writing fiction or science fiction, fantasy, romance, etc. or is in the process or aspires to try it is welcome,” Cloud said. “We will explain our process, what we think is important and how we built our way up. The whole aim is to try and help other people that want to do what we do.”

Following the Library event, the foursome will have their celebratory book launch for the final “Soldier Games” book, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday, March 5 at Warwick’s, 7812 Girard Ave. Local artists Digital Lizards of Doom and Embi M’Baye are scheduled to perform, and new posters and artwork will be revealed.

“A friend of ours, and an amazing artist, named Jon C. Poole paints all the book covers and he has been painting the book covers since the first novella,” Cloud said, adding that for the event, Poole will be in attendance from Paris to unveil large posters of the covers.

Said Ace, “He reads the books and finds his favorite scenes and sends us different renderings, anywhere from 20-60 different concept sketches, and we had such a hard time deciding on the ones we liked.”

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