Steampunk & Synthesizers

The books and music of Ren Cummins

The official site of author Ren Cummins, information about his books and music, a place to find questions, answers, and more questions for those. Links and other internety things, in a sort of one-stop shop.  

The Girl of Winter Snow

It occurred to me, belatedly, that writing a "Who's Favo Carr?" blog was a bit silly in the big picture, as he's not even a major character until late in the original "Aesirium" series. Of course, the main character is Romany (Rom to her friends), and this realization got me thinking that, really, of all the characters her off the page origin story is the most interesting to me personally.

I'm a fan of Dungeons and Dragons - playing since the original core set came out - that little white box with the three stapled booklets. I didn't play for a span of about ten years, though, but several years ago decided to run a game with some friends. We chose a generic "D20" multiverse campaign, and I encouraged everyone to pick whatever D20 rules set they wanted to select from. My wife chose the "BESM" D20 rules - and wanted to play a "Magical Girl/monster hunter" character. She left the specifics to me, but said she wanted it to be something like Battle Angel Alita meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer. oh, and she needed to have an animal companion, just like CardCaptor Sakura

I did a bit of googling until I stumbled across a really amazing painting on Deviant Art (I won't show or link to the picture here, because I've never been able to contact the original artist and don't feel good linking without their permission) with an anime-like redhaired girl in a black lolita dress, parasol, with a white flying cat hovering about her shoulder.  I loved it instantly.

Thus the visual reference of Romany was born. She was a vampire hunter with a flying cat, wearing a lovely black dress. An entire character background unfurled before me, and I couldn't wait to surprise her with it all once the game got underway.

Unfortunately, as anyone who plays an RPG knows, reality happens. The group eventually fell apart somewhat short of the mark, and Rom's background - her full story, really - never got to be told. 

About a year after the group's collapse, two truly perfect conversations occurred. The first was in trying to explain to my daughter why the Harry Potter movies were not all about Hermoine Granger, as she was clearly the smarter and more magical of the heroic triplet. The second was in my expression of discontentment at not knowing where to put all my creative intentions. I felt like writing music, or writing another RPG campaign, but just doing it all myself so I could be assured I could finish the story. I mentioned that I didn't want to do another RPG because I was still frustrated from not having the opportunity to tell Rom's whole backstory. She asked, "well, why don't you write Rom's story, then?"

Frankly, I felt pretty stupid that it hadn't already occurred to me.

So there she was. Rom. Red-haired vampire hunter in a pretty black dress. She turned into a white-haired girl midway through the first draft of what was then called "The Return of the Twilight Gatherers", when I realized that her name should come from an old Aesirium word referencing fallen snow. And I took out the Vampires (and the title) when I heard of a little book called "Twilight" which had just come out and was getting a LOT of buzz. Two vampire books? Both with the word "twilight" in them? Crikey. So the vampires became monsters (though a gentle bit of a return to that original concept does appear in the later books as Sandmen), and the book became titled "Reaper's Return".

Her personality - her predilection for never thinking any further ahead than was absolutely necessary - came mostly from my wife and daughter, and I often looked to them when I didn't know exactly what Rom was going to do next. And on a side note, it's a lot more difficult to write a book about a whimsical character than you might think. Because even if she doesn't know quite why she's doing something, she really does know. Sometimes, she just doesn't want to tell you. 

The notion of a fearless monster hunter wearing lovely dresses is definitely from my daughter, though. She's the one who used to dress up as Snow White so she could play with her lightsaber. In her mind, the idea of indulging your pretty princess side is every bit as feasibly intermingled with kicking butt and taking names. And if you don't believe that, just sit down and play a video game with her. Her smacktalk is pretty epic.

Romany has become that character who will always follow me in my life, I suspect. As guardian angels go, you can't do much better. 


Romany is a character appearing in the 6-book YA Steampunk Fantasy series "The Chronicles of Aesirium", available through