Tuesday Teaser

Its Tuesday somewhere still…

To calm her nerves before the match Sapphire Kiss picked up her Flying scythe and began some warm up movements. Starting with a series of simple cuts, slow at first but gaining speed, she tossed the scythe, watching it flash silver as it passed through a beam of sun slicing down from a high window, and jerked it back. Then she flowed into a more aggressive stance, whirling the weapon around her faster and faster, weaving patterns in the air. She lost herself, leading the Flying scythe in an intricate dance, leaping over the whirling blade and swinging it wide. It helped her forget her troubles.

“You look succulent when you dance, my pet,” said Chosen Silvius, flat eyes staring at her from the doorway.

Sapphire Kiss caught her weapon and snapped into a bow to her patron. Silvius was a man who demanded respect, despite his flippant exterior. Besides, the bow would help hide her sneer. She hated the way the man looked at her now, his eyes roaming her body like they were young lovers, or perhaps the way a butcher looks at a cut of meat. It was not proper.

“I came to bid you good fortune,” said Chosen Silvius. “And to make sure you were warmed up.”

“Thank you, patron,” said Sapphire Kiss carefully.

Sapphire Kiss is one of the more complicated characters that I have tried in the Domains of the Chosen series. On the surface she is a determined charismatic fighter, but early stumbles in her career forced her off the beaten path. To grow a fan base she turns to the Skyclad (naked) League and Chosen Silvius. Thus while she is pleased to make it to the Grand Championships, she carries a lot of baggage with her.

I put this character through a lot of humiliation, some of it makes me cringe to think about. I was unsure if I was on the right path, but early response to Sapphire Kiss has been very positive.

On the fighting grounds Sapphire Kiss uses the flying scythe, a weapon similar to a kasurigama. This gives her a very unusual, flowing style with a lot of surprises…

The Flying Scythe (well, kinda)

The Flying Scythe… kinda

Sunday Evening teaser: Fiona The Executioner

Fiona the Executioner is a familiar face to anyone who has read my short story, Bloodlust: The Great Games. In that work she is a an up-and-coming protege, who wins great acclaim by taking a big risk to win a Faction Challenge. Fiona primarily uses Necromantic magic, and has sort of a punk rock stage persona, all swagger and snarl, mixed with celtic knotwork for visual embellishment. The weapons on the cover of Bloodlust: The Great Games are hers.

The Gladiatrix was sure that her blow was accurate, but the whirling colours fooled her yet again. The silver arc of her weapon narrowly missed The Weird’s head as he fell back, rolling over his shoulder and coming to his feet.

By now Fiona had conjured two more of the screaming skulls, which hovered menacingly above her shoulders. Undaunted The Weird went on the attack, leaping forward, then lunging at the Gladiatrix. His long lean form, combined with the dizzying patterns of his attire, made it difficult for Fiona to judge the blow. She opted to simply sweep the staff aside, instead of trying to sidestep or deflect.

There was a flash of power as The Weird wove a spell, and Fiona found herself off balance as her weapons swept past the the staff, which seemed to be warping, twisting in the air. She pivoted, but the attack caught her just above the hip. The tip of the staff was blade now, and she felt it bite into her unarmoured flesh.

Fiona’s story is about the weight of expectation. She is lucky enough to be mentored by Chosen Marius, one of the most distinguished men in the Empire, and really wants to live up to this.

Waiting in her arming room, sweating from her pre-match warm-up, Fiona had trouble calming her nerves. She tried to remember that she had fought in this arena many times, while the Weird had not. She also had the Capital advantage; the crowds here knew her and loved her. If it came to a show of thumbs she would most likely carry.

Nonetheless, Fiona wanted to show her fans that she was worthy of their support. The weight of expectation, both hers and others, was upon her. At times she felt unworthy: the people of Krass, a Chosen for a Patron, the Gift itself. She was lucky, and felt the need to make the most of it. 

Despite the snarl and the swagger, Fiona is the most approachable and normal of the six Gladiator I chose to follow in Bloodlust: Red Glory. She is good to her fans. She respects those who help her. She is also the only one who does not contemplate engaging in shenanigans outside the arena to better her chances at winning.

Will the Golden Laurels fall to her? We shall soon find out…

 

The Shadow Wolf Sagas 1.41

Once again tis time for the adventures of Ragnar Grimfang and his merry band!

This is my weekly serial, the first post can be found here.

Last week’s post can be found here.

A helpful guide can be found here.

“Of course,” said Git, reaching into the apron he habitually wore when he expected trouble. A long sweeping garment made of drakescale and reinforced with metal plates, Git’s `utility apron’ ranked among the ugliest pieces of clothing that someone has worn more than once. The drakescales were a patchwork of varying sizes, in varying condition, and from various breeds of drake. There was no discernible pattern to the colours and shapes, and it was covered with pouches, buckles, and buttons. According to Git the drake scales protected him from the elements, and Git always seemed to be able something useful its many compartments.

Git pulled a small globe of white liquid from his pocket.

“Stand back,” he said, rather unnecessarily. “Be ready with your hammer Ragnar.”

Then he tossed the globe against the door. It shattered and the liquid splashed against the metal and wood. I felt the rush of wind, as if from a an explosion, followed quickly by a precipitous drop in temperature. Frost crept outward from the impact, chased by ice. I could hear the frame warping, as if in protest of this violation. Git looked at me expectantly and I stepped forward, raising my hammer.

“Wait!” said Murith. “We don’t know what is on the other side. Let me use my crossbow so you aren’t standing right in the open.”

I nodded and stepped to the side. Murith was right, I would have been easy prey for a line of archers on the other side. Her arbalest twanged. The bolt hit the door with a sound like river ice breaking in spring thaw, along with the screams of metal. Sure enough a volley of bolts lanced through the doors. I wasted no time in charging through the door, figuring that all of the enemy had loosed their weapons.

An armoured figure, big as a half-giant, loomed over me before I could get to the bowmen. I felt that little tingling feeling in the back of my head that signaled the presence of another ascended. I stepped out of the way of a swipe from his two-handed scimitar.

“Lord Torvul, I presume,” I raised my chin defiantly at the Devout Leader.

“You shall not have the honour of meeting our lord in this life,” said the figure. “I am called Varm.”

“I am Ragnar Grimfang, exile of the Shadow Wolf clan,” I returned.

“It is good to know who I am to kill,” said Varm.

As Varm and I circled, Sildus somehow slipped in. I saw the assassin in the shadows as one of the archers fell. A throwing knife perhaps. I was forced to defend myself before I could make sense of it. Varm charged. He was stronger than me, and larger. His armour looked thick. Given time I could wear him down, but time was not on my side.

I ducked to the side, hooking his leg with my pick. Varm tripped, falling toward the tile floor. He did not smash into the ground as I expected, however. Have you ever seen a man in full plate armour roll? It is a simple enough manoueuvre, but made exceptionally difficult by the weight and lack of flexibility of such a suit. Varm managed it, rolling to his feet and sending jumping back with a swipe of his sword before I could close.

“A worthy attempt, northman,” said Varm, his voice jovial. “Only the strong.”

Behind me, Varm’s archers were panicking. I heard a body fall. The twang of Murith’s crossbow. I heard a scream from deeper in the halls. I looked around for a way past Varm.

“Leave him to me Ragnar,” said Renoit, stepping past me.

“You’re sure?” I asked, looking from the duellist to the armoured giant.

Renoit shrugged. “Go!”

Teaser Tuesday

Tuesday again, and time for a teaser from my next book, Bloodlust: Red Glory.

“As you have no doubt heard by now, there will be a Grand Championship Tournament held soon,” said Chloe diSilk, announcer at the Killer’s Circle, gazing down at the finest Gladiators and Gladiatrices in the Death-Leagues. “After some discussion, the members have decided to offer all of you the chance to win their support. This support will guarantee the best of you a place in the Grand Championships, you may be assured.”

Twenty Gladiators, all master ranked or close to it, looked at each other. Some of them could not help but compare their situation to a rabble match.

“The rules are simple, elegant, really,” said Madame diSilk. “You will fight until only four of you remain standing. Let the games begin!”

Spells began to fly almost immediately. A fireball scorched half a dozen fighters before the echo of the trumpets died. None of them fell, however, and the Gladiators broke into knots of action.

Chloe diSilk is a character from Bloodlust: Will to Power, a woman who bootstrapped herself off the streets of Dregs to become the Arena Master of the most important Death League in the Domains.

I fished her out of the backstory to use as a foil for one of the new characters in Red Glory and to show how an influential outsider can try to alter the course of the games.

Of course, where there is a Chloe diSilk, there is also a Baron Bones…

Digital Video Content and Modern Fantasy: A Better Fit?

I'd love to see this as a series.

I’d love to see this as a series.

I keep hearing that we live in the Golden Age of television. It is an interesting notion, and much has been written about it. Personally I believe television has quietly been supplanted by digital content. Certainly the traditional pattern of Televison watching has been mostly supplanted by the digital age pattern of consuming media. If my friends miss Game of Thrones or Vikings they store it as a file and watch it when they want. That they cannot legally watch it from their computers or phones in some cases is the vestige of old TV culture, while the pattern and content fits something newer. Of course, much of Digital Content evolved out of TV in many ways, so it is hard to separate the two.

Regardless of whether you agree with me or not that Digital Content is the man in the iron mask, the way we now consume our video media is much better for Fantasy series. Here are a few salient points as to why:

  • Digital Consumption: Fantasy requires more investment. The rules of a particular world require that the audience take the time to learn them. With old media it was often hard to get difficult concepts into a show because of the episodic nature of consumption. If I introduced a complex notion in one episode and then used it in another episode, there was no guarantee that the viewer would have seen it, so I would either have to explain it all over again or risk them not picking up the important points. Since exposition is often dull, this can create problems. Obviously some shows worked around this limitation, but now it isn’t a limitation at all.
  • Serial Format: The Serial has become the dominant form of video content. While it has its roots in mini-series and the early serials from the pre-millennial years serial television came into its own under digital consumption patterns. The fact that we can watch these shows when we want to, often on whatever device we have available, save our place, go back to check things, and so one makes complex serials possible. This serial format is brilliantly suited to Fantasy, which often proceeds at a stately place that is at odds with a movie and impossible in episodic TV. Epic Fantasy, in particular, works better as a serial revolving around a long plot. It still requires adaptation from book form to fit the highs and lows of one hour episodes, but that is becoming easier and easier especially as obstacles like commercial breaks are often absent in digital shows.
  • Cheaper, Better FX: Rome was cancelled after two seasons because of the enormous expense of the show. Game of Thrones pushes the envelope of what is possible on a TV show of any budget. Both would have been impossible prior to the digital age. FX are becoming better and better in nearly every way. Even amateur youtube videos often have better special effects than the TV series that I grew up with. Meanwhile we are reaching the point that a TV series with a modest budget can actually afford to emulate super heroes and magical powers and not come off as cheap or cheesy. This is great news for fantasy fans.
  • The Audience: As formats align and costs come down, it becomes easier to make a profit satisfying a niche audience. With the enormous competition between a multitude of channels it often pays to cater to a niche that has a large ready-made fan base. Not every show can expect to break through into the mainstream, like Game of Thrones, Vikings, Rome, and so on but if we are not yet at a point where a decent Fantasy serial can be made for a niche audience we will be very soon. Of course, as modern fantasy matures and branches out, there are more and more fans willing to watch shows about elves, orcs, magic, and the fantastical and take them seriously. Additionally those who are curious, but not used to the nuances of a particular niche, can easily find online guides and communities willing to help them “get it”.

In short, I believe that the consumption pattern, sophisticated audience, and simple possibilities of the digital age is better for making a Fantasy “TV” series. I hope to see more soon.

The Shadow Wolf Sagas: Blade Breaker 1.40

The first dusting of snow twinkles like a field of secret diamonds under the streetlights and I set about envisioning the foggy streets of Myrrhn.

This is Shadow Wolf, my weekly serial. Follow this link for the first post.

Watch to catch up by reading last week’s post. Try this link.

Here is a helpful guide.

Sildus did not meet us on the way to meet Madame Glorianna. This worried me somewhat, but Myrrhn is unpredictable, and The Guild doubly so. Who knows what the masters of the Obsidian Spire would think of the assassin’s tale. They might simply cast him down for his impudence, rather than believe foolishness about the Devout and Elemental summoning bracelets that doomed the wearers. Power can cloud the mind, especially against the threat unaccounted for.

We shouldered, stared, and cursed our way through the crowded streets to the Doxie’s Union stronghold. I noted the presence of additional security as I strode up to the front gate. Big men, all scarred.

“Ragnar Grimfang, here to see madame Glorianna,” I said.

“She is currently indisposed, mr Grimfang,” said an enormous Ogre. It was then that I noticed that none of the men were ones that I recognized.

“Of course she is, brothers,” said I, holding up one of the rings we had pilfered from Stazz and Sons. “Hope you saved some for us. Only the strong.”

The guard smiled and the gate swung open.

“Only the strong,” he said. “Glad to see you arrived so soon, brethren. Lord Torvul is within. We have not quite subdued of the whores and their simpering protectors yet. Needless to say you can keep what you conquer.”

“Excellent,” I said, stepping past the Guard.

I nearly made it to the front door before he made us.

“Wait, you’re a Nor–” he began. The rest of his words were drowned in blood as the point of Renoit’s elegant blade blossomed underneath his chin. Of course being a disciple of the Devout, the enormous ogre did not die that easily. Instead he flailed about, trying to get at Renoit, who simply kept behind him. T’would have been grimly amusing if it were not for the fact that the rest of the courtyard exploded into action.

Murith’s crossbow twanged, taking a man off his feet. Git tossed a glass globe on the ground that shattered, spreading a rapidly expanding gel on the cobbles. Several men slipped and fell as they tried to cross the greasy stuff.

Meanwhile I shouldered into one of the Devout running toward us from the other direction. I was armoured and he was not, but my impact had little effect on him. As he sneered and tried to bring his weapon to bear, however, I swung my hammer up, smashing it into his groin. The fight left his eyes and he fell to the ground as surely as any man would. Another pair were upon me before I could triumph, pushing me back ferocious swings of their heavy swords.

Renoit leapt into the fray beside me, His blade danced, slicing open the eye of one and stabbing the other in back of the knee. I finished the latter as he stumbled, bringing my hammer down on the back of his neck and sending him crashing into the ground. I heard Murith’s crossbow twang again, some shattering glass and a whoosh of flame, then I saw a shutter open above us.

I was about to shout warning when I realized that it was an allie. A woman firing a bow of her own in defence of the Doxie’s Union. One of the unarmoured Devout went down as she shot him in the back and then in the head. Renoit finished the last one with a swift jab to the heart.

Then the Ogre fell down.

I looked at the group. Everyone was fine.

“Git,” I said. “The door with be barred from the inside I wager. Got anything that will get us in without setting the whole place ablaze?”

“Of course,” said Git.

 

Teaser Tuesday

A teaser from Bloodlust: Red Glory, my next novel.

Sadira and Gavin arrived, the smell of the sea still clinging to them, just in time to see Fiona begin. They were ushered into the private box without ceremony. Chosen Marius turned to them, eyebrow raised, but Sadira stopped before she could speak, staring down at Fiona, lost in memory.

Gavin felt a pang of sorrow from Sadira as flame-haired Fiona entered the fighting grounds, moving with the grace of a predator and the swagger of a born performer. The Chosen knew what his beloved was thinking, and would have known even without their mystic bond.

Sadira gripped the hilt of the monstrous war-cleaver at her side, knuckles going white around the hilt: adamantine wrapped in long strands of hair so much like Fiona`s. That hair had once belonged to her rival and friend, Karmal.

I wonder if it is barbaric or touching that Sadira wraps the hilt of her sword in the hair of the woman who once wielded it.

This passage, from the beginning of the book, serves as a bridge between Bloodlust: Red Glory, and Bloodlust: The Shield Maiden. The death of a Chosen serves as a catalyst for events within the Empire…