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P.G. Holyfield is the author of one of our original Wolfram & Hart stories, “Exit Strategy”. He’s also the creator of the free serialized podcast novel, “Murder at Avedon Hill“, which is an epic high fantasy murder mystery. And I do mean epic, or as Evo Terra infamously dubbed it, “the podiobook that never ends.” On May 21, 2009 after 42 episodes, “Murder at Avedon Hill” did finally wrap production. Not only was this story epic in scope and scale, but the sheer number of over 45 talented voice actors from many podcasts also lends to this grand tale.
“Murder at Avedon Hill” began its life in 2003 when P.G. started working on a gaming module for BioWare’s Neverwinter Nights, which is a licensed D&D video game. When the module itself did not become a reality, P.G. took the story ideas and non-player characters and created an interactive story that he shared with the Neverwinter Vault fan website. He posted chapters on a bi-weekly basis, about 23 chapters at the time, and ended each chapter with either a question or cliffhanger. He made the story interactive by getting input from the readers, not with a standard polling booth feature, but with a betting system for readers to bet on what would happen next.
Eventually, P.G. took all of the source material and crafted a manuscript for a novel, which he did shop around to some publishers. The cross-genre nature of the work meant that no one was interested at the time. He discovered Lulu.com and used their print-on-demand services to self-publish “Murder at Avedon Hill” as a paperback novel. Then along came podcasting.
On June 13th, 2007, chapter one went live at MurderAtAvedonHill.com and introduced us all to the Land of Caern. “Murder at Avedon Hill” has been described as “Brotherhood of the Wolf” meets “The Name of the Rose” or as Agatha Christie meets J.R.R. Tolkien. In the story, we follow Arames Kragen, an Aarronic Advisor, and his student, Arrin Perti, as they make their way to Avedon Hill.
Arames is a retired monk of the Aarronic Order, a brotherhood that has served the Land of Caern for centuries. He once served as an Aarronic Advisor to the Prince of Yew, Renoir Perti. Now, as a favor for Arrin’s mother, Arames has taken Arrin on as a student. They are en route to a conference and need to use the Olviaran Pass which starts in Avedon Hill to shorten their trip to Northern Grozh.
However, upon arriving at Avedon Hill, they discover that Lord Avedon has closed off access to not only the Olviaran Pass but also the town of Avedon Hill itself. At the town’s gates, they meet Cletus, the gatekeeper, who explains that Lord Avedon has done this because the manor’s Housemistress, Gretta Platt, has been murdered. No one is allowed to enter Avedon Hill, not only for the sake of the ongoing investigation, but also while he is in mourning.
Undeterred, Arames offers to help with the investigation, hoping that by solving the mystery he can convince Lord Avedon to open the Olviaran Pass for them. However, once inside the gates, and the investigation begins, Arames and Arrin learn that there are many mysteries within Avedon Hill. Not the least of which is determining whether or not a vampire is responsible for killing Gretta Platt.
For in the Land of Caern, we do find vampires and their masters, moonbeasts and their ilk, and the Children of Az. Az is the father of the gods, and his Children are the deities who can enter the Land of Caern under certain Constraints and live out their own lives, and affect the world they live in.
It will take all of Arames’ knowledge of prophecy, myth and legend, and his skills as an advisor, as well as his abilities to work with the “river of magic” that flows all around the Land of Caern, to learn all of the secrets of Avedon Hill. At the same time, Arrin learns more about himself, his gifts passed down from his mother, and discovers what he’ll have to face as he and his mentor solve the mystery.
For the podcast production, P.G. himself gave the narration and also provided the voices of Arames, Arrin, Cletus, Cousin Red, and Ollus Wenk. The story has a very large Dramatis personae so P.G. enlisted the help of a fine cast of voice actors from around the world of podcasting. Moreover, you can find that P.G. has given voice to characters in other podcasts as well.
He has portrayed “Auberon” for Chasing The Bard by Philippa Ballantine, “Franklin Rothchild” for Billibub Baddings and The Case Of The Singing Sword by Tee Morris, and “Kevin Darby” for Metamor City: Making The Cut by Chris Lester. He’s also had parts in Patrick McLean’s The Seanachai, Rick Stringer’s Variant Frequencies, Star Wars – Codename: Starkeeper by “Indiana Jim” Perry, and episodes of Buffy Between the Lines.
His current project is a short fiction anthology podcast set in the Land of Caern. This new anthology, “Tales of The Children”, began on 09/09/09, and features his stories as well as others from many of his fellow podcasters. Our own Tabitha Grace Smith is one of the authors in the anthology.
Due to the success of the podcast, “Murder at Avedon Hill” has been picked up to be published by Dragon Moon Press, and is expected to be released in late 2009, maybe early 2010. P.G. is hard at work on editing right now for this release.
This level of awesome has long been the focus of the bards of old, and as such, P.G. himself is the subject of another bard’s musical wit. Our own Kim “the Comic Book Goddess” Fortuner has a song all about the torment of his cliffhangers and waiting for each new episode entitled, “Damn You Holyfield”.
Finally, the podcast was nominated as a finalist for a 2009 Parsec Award for “Best Speculative Fiction Audio Drama (Long Form including Independents)”. It was also a finalist for the 2008 Podcast Peer Awards. P.G. is also one of the co-hosts of the Dead Robots’ Society writing podcast (which was also a 2009 Parsec Finalist for “Best Writing-related Podcast”).
I want to wish P.G. Holyfield all the best with his future projects, and I look forward to adding a print copy of “Murder at Avedon Hill” from Dragon Moon Press to my collection of books by authors I’ve discovered through podcasting.