Teaser Tuesday

This week’s teaser hails from Bloodlust: Red Glory (Domains of the Chosen #4)

Red_Glory_5_Final

Sapphire Kiss is one of my favourite characters, although tough to write. The think I like most about her is her weapon, the flying headcatcher, a kind of chain weapon with a healthy dose of nunchucks (no, nonchucks, straight from 80s kids cartoons) and scythe blades. Basically it is the 80s love of ninjas in weapons form. It is a fun weapon to incorporate into arena scenes, dynamic and weird.

As a Gladiatrix Sapphire Kiss does not fit in with the other Grand Champions. After a rough early career, partly due to the difficulty of mastering the flying headcatcher, she turns to the Skyclad League, where the fighters wear ‘armour’ that leaves nothing to the imagination to regain her popularity. This league is frowned upon by other fighters, even though the Great Games are not exactly tame when it comes to objectification and crass sex appeal. Worse yet, the Chosen who runs this League, Silvius, seduces her and turns out to be a rather rotten relationship choice, abusive and manipulative, despite his ability to advance her standings.

Yet despite going through this and suffering through several epic humiliations in Red Glory, Sapphire Kiss manages to keep her head held high.

“Is our wager still on?” asked Sapphire Kiss, smiling at her opponent.

“I am going to mangle you so badly that even the Keystone won’t be able to save you,” sneered Lord Peerless. “I will expose you as the fraud that you are. The sands will glut themselves on your blood this day!”

“So you still think that you can tap me out in less than a minute?” said Sapphire Kiss, letting the audience hear the terms of their wager. “And if I last longer than that lady Flamina will dance Dockside?”

“You won’t,” said Lord Peerless. “You’re just a loser from the Skin Leagues, a curiosity marched out to excite the crowds. You have no business standing against me on the fighting grounds.”

“Prove it,” said Sapphire Kiss. “And remember, you’ve only got one minute, honoured Gladiator.”

Without another word Lord Peerless came at her like a falling mountain, an irresistible wall of flesh and steel, sword held high in a classic striking stance. As he moved he wove a spell, surrounding himself with an aura of flesh numbing cold. As Sapphire Kiss’s armour began to frost Lord Peerless swung, his greatsword tracing a swift, brutal arc. Sapphire Kiss was forced to dodge, and Lord Peerless anticipated this, dropping into a masterful lunge from his backswing.

To avoid getting skewered, Sapphire Kiss twisted away, tossing the blade of her flying headcatcher at her opponent’s face. Lord Peerless snarled and batted the projectile to the side, trying in vain to sever the flexible chain.

“Forty Five seconds left,” said Sapphire Kiss, grinning like a madwoman. She was in the arena now, baiting a giant, and all her cares had evaporated. She wove spells of regeneration and heart of the beast, enhancing her prowess.

Lord Peerless, who possessing quickness that seemed unfair for such a large man, lunged again. The cold around him intensified, and Sapphire Kiss’s skin began to burn. Sidestepping his attack, she found herself backpedaling to avoid a flashing follow up stroke. The third blow she deflected with the flying headcatcher. Such was his strength that it nearly drove the weapon from her hand.

Sensing weakness, Lord Peerless raised his sword for a quick slash aimed at Sapphire Kiss’s throat. This time she was swift enough to duck, but had to roll back over her shoulder to avoid the follow up attack. He was so swift and sure in his movements that the third stroke sliced into her forearm.

Ducking under another hard swing of the greatsword, Sapphire Kiss tossed her Flying headcatcher at one of his legs. The giant Gladiator stumbled as the chain pulled at his ankle.

“Thirty seconds!” shouted Sapphire Kiss.

Burning with rage, Lord Peerless stormed toward his enemy, his shining blade carving a bright arc as he tried to disembowel her. Sapphire Kiss shifted out of the way, countering with a toss of the flying headcatcher that sent it spinning like a saw. Lord Peerless swatted it away with a gauntlet, lunging at her, one-handed, with his greatsword. The blade nicked Sapphire Kiss’s side, drawing blood as she twisted away.

Seeing that his aura of cold was not working, the Gladiator Prime opted to weave a more direct attack. Channelling an enormous amount of power, he invoked a sudden twister that picked up the sands, causing them to fly through the air like tiny knives. The twister hit Sapphire Kiss with the force of a raging bull, tossing her through the air while the sand bit into her skin. As the twister dissipated, she fell to the ground, barely rolling to her feet as Lord Peerless charged.

Blood Rage (A Biased Review)

This review is biased because I know the designer well, so don’t expect any pretense objectivity here.

BLOODRAGE

Blood Rage is a game for 2-4 players where the goal of the game is to see which of you can lead your clan to the greatest amount of glory before Ragnarok comes to an end. It is sweet, viking-flavoured mayhem that plays out in ~90 minutes.

I love the game. My preference these days tends towards episodic role-playing games, but Blood Rage hits a sweet spot for me. It is swift and simple to grasp, but there is a decent depth of strategy here. It draws me back like only a few board games do — putting it in the company of Cosmic Encounter, Smallworld, and Katan.

The parts are awesome, with great art. The best part of the game are the amazing figures, ranging from viking warriors to epic giants and a sea serpent.

The game plays out over three ages. At the beginning of each age the players draft a hand of cards. Cards include monsters that will join your viking band, upgrades to your clan, quests that will reward you with extra victory points if you complete them (simple but strategic varieties) and combat cards that help you win or gain extra stuff from the game’s frequent battles. Drafting well is a key to victory, but is fairly intuitive and ensures that no player turtles on the same winning strategy every game.

The stakes raise from age to age with better cards and new strategies becoming available. Random chance plays a role (roll) in the form of what cards are in play and on the whims of Ragnarok which destroys a random province at the end of each age. Any viking sent to valhalla in that way die extra glorious deaths, earning their clan some nice VP.

Dead vikings and monsters return at the end of each age, ready too serve their leader again.

The game is won by the player with the most victory points. The thing is, there are many, many paths to getting those sweet VP. The sheer number of paths to victory means that players can find almost any activity rewarding if they are canny, even picking fights that you cannot win. The key to mastering the game is deciding which of the paths is going to win it for you based on your cards, opponents, and board position.

All in all, I would say that this is my favourite Eric Lang game , beating out Chaos in the Old World, which is damned impressive.

Next Serial

The second run of The Shadow Wolf Sagas, Red Fangs wrapped up last week. I am currently toying with what I want to do with serial night (Thursday is serial night). Here are a few thoughts. Feel free to comment if any interest you.

The Shadow Wolf Sagas: The Whores’s War

This is the most likely candidate; despite the racy title it will concentrate on the mechanics of power in Myrrhn a seen through the lens of a certain Nordan twiceborn. The conflict centers around who will take control of the Doxies’s Union, the organization that controls Myrrhn’s many pleasure houses. Ragnar is involved because his housemates, the enigmatic twins, are among the contenders.

I like this one because it involves politics, economic theory, and institutional conflict.

Space Action!

Ever since my first serial, Nomads, I have been considering how to get back into a serial that involves futuristic action.

I like the idea of massive nomadic fleets, scavengers, and soldiers controlling auxilliary drones.

Making an RPG

My final idea is to make an RPG, is serial, tackling systems and so on each week. I’m not sure if thos would appeal to anyone but me, but I am itching to make a new magicky/cyberpunky game since Shadowrun 5th is starting to feel like pulling the teeth (The system is weighed down by legacy, even if the world is still cool)

I like this idea because I like RPGs.

Tuesday Teaser

This week’s teaser hails from Bloodlust: The Shield Maiden (Domains of the Chosen #3)

Bloodlust TSM cover

One of the friendships that transcended factions and rivalries. Azure Dream saw people like Sadira as enemies on the field, but honoured them for the challenges that they represented instead of treating them like obstacles in her way.

This beginning is also one of the few times one of my books begins slightly before the final chronology of the previous book. I would not do that again if avoidable, since it can confuse readers. Better to handle the past through flashbacks as Vintia sails across the sea or something…

Azure Dream strolled into the arena. The Blue Gladiatrix knew how to play the crowd, smiling, her every strutting step radiating confidence. Vintia could not help but notice that the people cheered her ambitious opponent more loudly than they had her. She was disappointed, first in the crowd, and then in herself for being jealous of Azure, who was her friend, over such a trivial matter.

Azure Dream was tall with lustrous coffee coloured skin and an angular, noble face. A medium-weight, Azure’s armour was made of a blue material, ensorcelled to be titillatingly transparent. The plates and links looked as if it they were carved out of Sapphires or thick blue glass, edged with gold. Vintia envied that armour: it was striking, stylish, and even a little bit sexy.

The sabre halberd, Azure’s weapon of choice, was a complex instrument that only a few would dare perform with in the arena. The Blue skirmisher was a virtuoso with the weapon, and had humbled many of Vintia’s Reds this season. An earlier encounter had seen Azure triumph over her. Vintia had to admit that she was as cunning as she was confident.

Azure Dream winked at Vintia as she drew close. Vintia shifted uncomfortably. Azure’s perfect teeth gleamed in the sun as she smiled and snarled to the cheers of the audience. The trumpets sounded.

It was customary in this type of match to begin with banter. Vintia considered attacking immediately, cutting the exchange of words, but she hesitated. She didn’t want anyone to think she was afraid.

“I’ve been waiting for this,” said Azure. Her tone was conversational; Vintia was a friend as well a rival. “You’ve done a good job here this season Vin. Try as I might, I could not rally the Blues against you. I’m glad to have the chance to face you one on one: it will make for a great finale.”

Shadow Wolf Sagas: Red Fangs post mortem.

Hi all.

Last week wrapped up the latest installment of my Thursday night serial, The Shadow Wolf Sagas: Red Fangs. I would like to cap that off with some thoughts and a preliminary examination of what I will likely change for the final write up when I gather it all up in the fall.

Red Fangs begins with Ragnar in a depressing position. After book one, his friends/roommates/lovers, The Twins are embroiled in a conflict to see who runs Doxies’s Guild. Ragnar feels marginalized, since it really isn’t his show, and takes to drinking. Things get worse when his favourite waitress at the willing wench gets killed by vampires.

Right here we run into a few problems.

  • The Twins: Readers want to know more about The Twins. I found this out from reader feedback long after I started writing Red Fangs. I will have to write a bigger part for them, as I did with the final version of Blade Breaker.In this case I will also want to showcase the Whore’s War, who The Twins are up against, and why readers should actually care about who runs prostitution in Myrrhn. A good start would be adding in a little modern politics with one of their opponents wanting to kick out trans-gendered guild members or something like that.
  • Ragnar drinks normally as a cultural artifact. He needs to be more obviously melancholy, perhaps peeved that The Twins have hired security that isn’t him. Not whiny, but maybe feeling a little old. Perhaps a way to endear Delilah to the reader would be to have her explain that this security is a way for The Twins to keep Ragnar out of a bad situation because they care.

Soon we have Ragnar tracking down a mysterious Vampire who seems to be very active in the city’s slums.

  • I like the idea of Cinder, a semi-mythical Vampire who wants to cause a war between humanity and the bloodsuckers. I love the idea that this is really just a monicker taken up by other vampires to stir up trouble.
  • Early references to Cinder all need to be cleaned up.
  • Ragnar needs to bash more heads searching for the information.

The last half of the book involves the Vampire, Berkhilda, a woman who is not proud of her vampire half and really just want to be a viking. They capture Cinder by accident, and eventually discover that they have her. Hijinks and BLOODHYDRA ensue.

  • Berkhilda’s internal conflict needs to be clarified for the Reader. A scene where she feels revulsion after drinking blood would be good.
  • Ragnar and Berkhilda need to talk about Nordan culture more, not only is it a good way to world build, it also helps them better establish a relationship.
  • The Mercenaries that attack them should be tied to the Whore’s War.
  • Cinder and Berkhilda need to argue more.
  • Fights need to be more epic (EPIC!)
  • Delve in Ragnar’s relationships a little more.

Tuesday Teaser

This week’s teaser comes from Bloodlust: Will to Power, the second book in the Domains of the Chosen series.

bloodlust_wtp_cover2

The Cover for Bloodlust: Will to Power

When I first planned the series, Sadira was going to play a smaller role. She started off as a cross between a Kardashian and Drizzt, a perfect performer for the fighting grounds. Mosr of my readers reacted surprising well to her, which prompted me to give her more depth and a larger role.

Will to Power follows Gavin, but I managed to shoehorn Sadira into it with a series of interludes describing her match with her chief friend and rival, Karmal. On the whole I really like how it turned out, though it is a little messy. Here is a sample from the first of those interludes.

“Long time no see, Red Scorpion,” said Karmal. The flame-haired woman smiled, revealing her too-sharp teeth. “You’re a long way from the whorehouse. Having fun with those two little harlots you `rescued’ from Dregs? Do they fill the void now that little Lina’s worn out?”

Sadira answered with a rude gesture. A ripple passed through the audience. Looking into Karmal’s eyes, she found it difficult to force herself to see beyond past friendship and acknowledge the hatred burning within those emerald depths. Memory and reality clashed.

The crowd was intent on their words now, listening to the voices of the two Gladiatrices, amplified by magic. The trumpets would not sound until the verbal sparring ended; this was widely considered to be the best match of the Grand Championships, two lifelong friends turned bitter rivals, and none of them wanted to miss even the smallest nuance.

Sadira thought about putting on a show, returning Karmal’s taunt and concealing how she felt from the crowd; it would be easier that way. But she did not hate her former team-mate; instead she felt a deep sense of loss where their friendship had been severed. She spoke from the heart, not caring how the fans would react.

The Shadow Wolf Sagas: Red Fangs 2.56

I could smell it too. There was gold in Berkhilda’s blood. The oddness of such a thing baffled me; how could this be?

“Father always said I was his greatest treasure,” Berkhilda laughed.

I looked down at Cinder. She ginned up at me, her fangs showing beneath red lips. I suspect she might have thought herself seductive at that moment, she was certainly trying.

“What did you do to Berkhilda?”

“Her blood will turn to gold.”

“Not before your head is parted from your shoulders!” said Berkhilda. The giant Vampire reached for her axe, gleaming in the moonlight. She grabbed it with difficulty, but her eyes widened in alarm when she could not stand.

“My only complaint,” said Cinder, “is that the whole process is not nearly painful enough. You had every advantage Berkhilda, and yet you threw it all away to be one of them.”

“Ragnar…” said Berkhilda, looking at the gold on her hands sadly.

I met Cinder’s eyes. Her smiled vanished.

“Fix her.”

“I cannot. Nor would I, even if it was possible. Let it go Ragnar. I can ease your pain with riches beyond imagining.”

“All the gold in the world could never buy back the dead Cinder.”

“Perhaps, but it would help your lovers win the Whore’s War, would it not? Think of that before you act, Ragnar. If you kill me, she still dies. If you let me live, I will reward you. There are no other choices.”

“But there is. Your formula or spell, whatever it is that you use to do this… does anyone else know it?”

“No, it is a secret known only to me. Others have tried, only I can succeed.”

“Good. I know someone who likes secrets… SKYGGE, I CALL UPON Y–“

There was a movement in the corner of my eye. I heard a catch release, and ducked. The bold was not meant for me however.

Cinder’s eyes bulged as the quarrel pierced her temple. Our eyes met one last time and then her whole skull lit up like a paper lantern. Then I was holding nothing but dust.

“Garm’s bloody–” I turned to see who the assailant was. “Carmen?”

“Hello Ragnar.”

The young assassin was not alone. There were two more on the docks. I could see them, but not smell them.

“I did not miss, Northman. There was a contract out on this one; it was important.”

“I don’t care. She was the only hope of me saving my friend.”

“Ragnar, my father–” said Berkhilda, working her jaw with difficulty.

Glaring at Carmen, I stood. A figure seemed to materialize out of the shadows at her side, a masked man, small and old.

“There is a cure, look for the bottles of absinthe that she was hoarding. You wont have time to distill the active ingredient, she will have to drink four — five, to be safe. There is an open case in the forecastle, we will watch over her while you bring it for your friend.”

The case was easy to find. I brought a bottle to Berkhilda, and helped her drink the first few sips. She seemed to relax as I did, and after half the bottle was done she was able to grip it on her own.

I sat down beside her, taking a bottle for myself. Carmen was gone, but the little man remained.

“Care for some?” I asked him.

“No, thank you.”

I took a swig. It had a powerful kick, with a strange, sweet herbal taste.

“Who put out the contract?”

“Someone who has a very great interest in the price of gold remaining where it is,” said the little man.

“Of course. You followed us to identify her, yes?”

“Precisely.”

<>

We drank until dawn. I told her how I met Bull and Renoit, and she talked about her mother and father. I daresay that it was the first real hangover that I experience in over a decade. Berkhilda took shelter in the cabin of Cinder’s ship when the dawn came, after I hired a messenger to send word to her father.

Cinder’s secret died with her, at least as far as I know.

<>

And that concludes Red Fangs. I will write up a post mortem and collect all the links over the next few posts, then fix it up (it needs a lot of fixin’) and put it out in the fall…