The War On Truth

This is political and anti-Trump.

Sometimes I worry about posting stuff like this. I don’t want to alienate any of my readers who are pro-Trump, whom I love regardless of their political affiliation, but we are living in a historical moment and I cannot pretend to be neutral.

Reagan and Nixon had the War on Drugs, George Bush had the War on Terror and this weekend President Donald J Trump started The War on Truth. It began over this photo:

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The thing is in 2009 President Obama drew a crowd of historic size (1.8 million), partly because of his popularity and partly because it was a historic occasion (first Black President). The next closest crowd size in recent memory was Obama in 2013 (1 Mil) and Clinton in 1993 (800K). Others rarely broke five hundred thousand.

Donald Trump is a divisive President, so he should have been happy with the relatively small, but still decent crowd size estimates, or just said “wait and see” until the facts were published. Instead he had his Press Secretary call a special press briefing to dispute the crowd size estimates and harangue the media, but offer little factual evidence in retort. The whole thing was the basically the press conference version of road rage.

The conference is worth watching, by the way, if only to see how it sets the tone for The War on Truth. I will link to a republican site for it, so you can read how Trump fans see it, but it is easy to find you own version on youtube if you don’t want to give them views.

Here is a nice summary of some of the ‘alternative facts’ aka lies that were said, with evidence.

The size of the crowds was still a theme later in the day when Trump himself spoke out, especially since it appears that the women’s protest against Trump the next day dwarfed the inauguration day crowds, but first a little background.

On January 11, 2017 President Donald J Trump tweeted this, after a round of new revelations about his connections to Russia and a possible blackmail tape:

He then went on to attack the outgoing director of the CIA and the agency’s record in general, and then ended his rant with a veiled accusation of them being the group that leaked the Russian revelations to the media.

Just ten days later President Trump gave a speech to high ranking CIA officers in front of the wall of honor, where stars are displayed for CIA officers killed in the line of duty whose names remain secret where he said this:

“But no, I just wanted to really say that I love you. I respect you. There’s nobody I respect more. You’re going to do a fantastic job. And we’re going to start winning again – and you’re going to be leading the charge.”

So there’s no one Donald Trump respects more than the agency he was attacking ten days ago. Reminds me of another Donald Trump quote about how no one respects women more than him, just after his famous pussy grabbing comments came out into the open. It is a pretty easy to follow pattern for him.

Finally, Kellyanne Conway, the woman who ran Trump’s winning campaign (or was that Comey?) defended these two rants in a media appearance. She said that Sean Spicer was just working with ‘alternative facts’, a rather impressive piece of doublespeak, and then threatened veiled retribution for hard questioning, saying she might have to rethink their relationship with the program.

The first weekend up the Trump presidency was a fight over crowd size. Just wow.

Even if the president thought he was being misrepresented, surely he has better things to do that correct a minor issue like this. The truth will come out over time regardless of initial estimates. Can you imagine if Obama had freaked out like this over his birtherism?

Trump has declared war on the media, the facts, and ultimately the truth because he wants to control the narrative of his presidency. Unfortunately, his own words are what trip him up the most, such as with his comments about the CIA.

I started off Friday sincerely hoping that I am wrong about Trump, because people’s lives are at stake. Now I am virtually certain that I am right, and it is not a pleasant feeling.

Still, the sheer size of the crowds at the women’s protest left me feeling buoyed, at least until I hear the ‘alternative facts’ about those…

Seeds of Ruin Cover

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This is the final cover for Bloodlust: The Seeds of Ruin (Domains of the Chosen 6), barring a little colour adjustment to the font. The whole thing is the work of Dan Barclay, as always. I am pretty damn happy with it.

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We thought a green font might be better for the title, given the themes of growth and flora, but it just does not ‘pop’ well.

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Here are some of Dan’s early sketches. The process is very iterative with lots of back and forth. We started with a stonehenge shape for the stone but mobed tp something with a little more presence, squat and monolithic.

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One of the more interesting ideas that we tried early on was to have a fetus at the heart of the Oathstone. I love this take, but the skull just attracts more attention.

A Taste of The Daeri

This is a little taste from Bloodlust: The Blades of Khazak Khrim. Like all of the Chosen, Sadira is allowed to field her own force, around half the size of a Legion. I often wish I had the art resources available to get pictures of some of these groups.

“SPEAR-GUARD!” bellowed Sassin.

“SPEAR-GUARD!” echoed Sadira, hearing Sapphire Kiss and others repeat the order further down the line.

Sadira had positioned herself at the front of the Daeri Homeguard. She longed to kill the Vvath, seeking redress for the loss of Azure Dream. As the Hundath marched out of the mists and began to assemble she drew Karmal and her blood boiled with fury. She would quench her rage in blood this day. Gavin might not approve, but his only thought for her now was care and caution.

The war-shouts of the charging Vvath were temporarily drowned out by the clatter of arms as the Daeri infantry snapped into position behind the first trench. The auxiliaries of her home city fought with oval tower shields and a light battle glaive that was as much sword as spear. They wore thick hauberks covered in leaf shaped metal scales, beautifully crafted from mithril steel alloy.

The Daeri were a military tradition kept alive in Krass during The Reckoning, when a large group of them had escaped their failing city. They had served on the walls alongside the fledgling Legions, leading the re-conquest of their home city as soon as they were able.

While most of the Daeri Homeguard served as auxiliaries, elite specialists that supplemented the strength of the Legion, a large group acted as defenders of their home city, which did not fall under the Domain of any Chosen. Sadira’s mother, who had great influence among the Daeri had procured almost a Legion of these warriors to act as her daughter’s personal guard. All Chosen were allowed to field a small number of soldiers, and these were hers, commanded by her uncle.

“BRACE!” bellowed Sassin.

The third wave of Hundath had weathered the cannon-fire, some of them carrying plank bridges that would provide a way across the spike filled trenches. Despite their irregular armaments and berserk fury, the slave soldiers of the Vvath moved with superb coordination, directed by the deadly Sword-bearers.

“BRACE!” echoed Sadira, stepping forward as a plank bridge neared the trench in front of her.

The Hugo Awards: The Money Angle

I wanted to write something about the Hugo awards, but I don’t really know enough about them to contribute meaningfully to the discussion one way or another. I have never been to Worldcon, and as a self-published author who flies well below the radar I don’t expect to see any of my book up there anytime soon, nor do feel bad about that. I’m just here to write and entertain.

Personally I dislike both the extreme right, and extreme left getting involved in this debate. North American directional politics, fed by the twenty-four hours “news” channels and the pundit blogs, is capable of very little other than bringing rage and ruin to everything it touches right now. I hate to think that in the midst of the massive boom in genre fiction that this ugliness could turn people off, and possibly even stunt the growth of SF/F.

What interests me most about the whole debate is that none of the articles that I have read about the whole Kerfuffle, most of which are very good, none cover the economic aspect of winning an award.

I would not buy a book simply because it was a Hugo award winner. However, if I was on the fence about a book and saw that it won an award, that would make me more likely to buy it. An award is an indication of quality, at the very least.

Perhaps more importantly winning (or even being short-listed) an award acts as additional exposure acts for both the work and the author. It will not push a niche intellectual work to bestseller status, to be sure, but I am confident that winning an award, especially a prestigious award, will expose a book to new readers and elevate sales in almost all cases.

Many authors are ego driven enough to value the award above the sales that it generates. Some writers, however, are far more motivated by sales figures and really don’t care how they get them. Attaching “Hugo” to their name and book will get those extra sales and so they have an economic motive, regardless of what ideology they might be espousing to justify their actions.

So while there is an ideological battle here, which is very sad, there is also the simple fact that by gaming the system the Sad Puppies have gained publicity and increased sales. The people who are outraged by their actions are not in their intended readership and I suspect that they, or their publishers, know it. The very nature of their very public campaign, and the amount of publicity it generates for their works, win or lose, demonstrates that at least some of them are motivated by sales as well as ideology.

Making money is not a bad thing, of course, but while winning an award increases sales, battles like this can damage how people view the award, which degrades the value of the endorsement that the award represents.

Unfortunately, it is a hard problem to fix. Every system can be gamed, and as George RR Martin brilliantly stated changing the rules to stop this behaviour only feeds into the narrative of a liberal conspiracy at the Hugos promoted by the Sad Puppies. Incidentally this will get like minded people to buy more of their books as well. Readers will often support writers they feel are being persecuted, as I found out when this happened. After I complained, readers picked up on the attack and sales increased.

Which means that there is also a possible economic motive behind complaining about being persecuted, which can get people on your side and sell more books… 😦

P.S: I don’t like identity politics, but people who form factions to promote their works based on not being part of a certain clique are only engaging in reactionary identity politics.

Teaser tuesday

Time for another teaser from Bloodlust: Red Glory.

Both Gladiatrices stood facing the crowd’s judgement.

Hummingblade was bruised and her body was covered in patches of black where the Frost had burnt her skin. She was bruised from several blows of the shield and her arm still bled from the cut that Diamond Frost had landed to end the fight.

Diamond Frost was bleeding from the wounds on her side and back as well as many smaller cuts from the Hurricane blade. The thrust into her chest in particular had been a telling blow, and it still bled freely. Hummingblade could tell that the Light-Elf was trying not to wilt from blood loss and fatigue. Would the audience notice?

Neither Gladiatrix spoke as they raised their weapons to salute the crowd.

Hummingblade closed her eyes while she waited for the verdict of the spectators. She knew Ravius was cheering. She could almost hear him. She wondered if Diamond Frost had people she loved cheering her as well.

Either way the crowd ruled, she was pleased with her performance. Diamond Frost was as skilled with the shield as she was with spells, having been able to weather the Hurricane Blade and pin the thrust to her side before it became lethal. She was proud to have stood against such a skilled adversary and remained standing.

One of the aspects of the arena that I wanted to explore further this time around was the role of the crowd. How easy is it for a Gladiator to salute the person they were just fighting, treating it like the handshake at the end of a hockey match all for the sake of propriety?

Scarmaker took a deep breath. Oh, she was a cunning one. He turned to the announcer’s box, signalling his desire to make a declaration. Gloria Bella Maxima advanced a step toward him, bright and bold, but he did not flinch. He knew the rules well enough.

“I declare Ut Nex!” said Scarmaker.

“Coward,” muttered Gloria Bella Maxima.

“Gloria Bella Maxima, do you accept Ut Nex?” asked Quintus diKrass. The audience was deathly silent.

Gloria Bella Maxima turned to the audience.

“WHAT SAY YOU?” shouted the Gladiatrix. “SHALL WE HONOUR THIS COWARD?”

Some of the Gladiators actively play the crowd in Red Glory, trying to ensure that they have an advantage in a show of thumbs or even other goals. The fury and fervour of the crowd actively help and hinders the various Gladiators, while behind the scenes various players work to ensure that they can offer their support in the form of filling the seats with partisans.

Darius roared Fiona’s name as the Gladiatrix finished her salute, his voice one with the rowdy crowd. Rose stood beside him, on her seat, brandishing her swords and shouting at the top of her lungs. His daughter’s expression was a mask of ferocious elation, a mirror of his own. It filled his heart with joy to share such a special moment with his child.

Both were flush with triumph as they left the arena, spilling out into the great Parade Ground amidst a sea of red. Fiona’s fans and other Red Faction partisans, cheering, laughing, and revelling in the wake of their win. Darius picked up Rose, and set her on his shoulders. She was too busy enjoying herself to take this action as an affront to her pre-teen dignity. It was good day. No, a great day.

Here and there Darius saw groups or individuals with dour faces, hurrying away from the crowds. These were the fans of The Weird, no doubt. Darius felt a momentary sadness for them, but their fighter never really stood a chance against a Gladiatrix of Fiona’s calibre. Their hopes had always been in vain.

Darius carried Rose all the way back to their little house, ignoring the ache in his shoulders, laughing and cheering all the way.

Of course, in the end the fans are there for the spectacle and the ritual. The character of Rose, a young fan, is meant to make the reader question the morality of the games, but not in a heavy-handed fashion. Darius is an honest fan of the games and a good family man, after all.

In the end Bloodlust: Red Glory is a book about a grand event, and the crowd are key participants as well as witnesses in the ceremony. In this way it mirrors similar events in the modern age, from superbowls and the Olympics to elections and protests in that the participation of the people is key. Of course, that also means that the people bear responsibility…

Glorious Cover Teasers, fourth edition.

With the impending release of Bloodlust: Red Glory, it is time for a cover preview. This time I am organized enough to walk you through the process with a series of draft mockups, courtesy of Daniel Barclay.

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I often like to represent the characters as icons on the covers. With Red Glory, having a larger cast of characters made that impossible (or rather, busy and ugly). On the other hand one way of looking at the book is that the central character is the Grand Championships. Following that line of thought the cover is made up of white sand, representing the fighting grounds and Golden Laurels, representing the coveted prize of the tournament.

I like the weight of the first option better. The Grand Championships dominate the lives of the people of the Domains and a heavier set of laurels conveys that better.

Dan thought the background was too bland, so we decided to work on that next.

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I really liked this one. The laurels streaming blood and staining the pristine sands. Quite an image, and highly appropriate for such a brutal event. We decided on a bit more texture on the laurel and thinner blood streams. I asked for the blue binding to be changed to royal purple.

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This is very close, but not quite there. Notice that Dan changed the Domains of the Chosen Tagline on the bottom to yellow so you can actually see it. Also of note are the filler bars on either side of –Red Glory–, which he added to kill whitespace.We decided to add a drop of blood and Dan added some special magic:

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I like it. It is gloriously overstated: grand, vicious, and bloody, much like the Great Games themselves. Once again, my thanks go out to the talented Mr Barclay, who can take a simple concept and really make it stand out. Certainly beats trying to stand out with another cover of a dude in a cloak.

Teaser Tuesday

I always enjoy describing the secondary characters in Domains of the Chosen. One of my goals for the series is to get it popular enough to see some artistic interpretations of my characters. Bloodlust: Red Glory has tons of “gear porn” describing the weapons and armour of the new Gladiators.

Iron Lioness awaited her in the centre of the fighting grounds. An ebon-skinned Shadow-Elf, she was not much taller than Sapphire Kiss, but noticeably broader of shoulder and powerfully muscled. Her most impressive feature was a thick mane, layer after layer of pure white hair, which framed her face like a noble lion.

The Lion motif extended to her armour, a heavy harness that protected her vitals with thick iron-grey plates, etched with runes and scenes of great cats hunting and fighting. Iron Lioness bore a broad bladed falchion in her left hand, made of a black-mithril alloy, with a gold and silver lion’s head for a pommel. Her right hand was a large gauntlet, the fingers of which curved into talons. She wore a rounded buckler over the gauntlet with bladed edges, etched with a sleek lioness in a hunting pose.

The gauntlet in particular caught Sapphire Kiss’s attention. It seemed to flex and move naturally despite being metallic, seeming more liquid that solid at times. She saw no signs of plating or chain links, and wondered at what it was made from. Gladiators often had access to unusual weaponry, always masterful in construction. It was best to treat an unknown weapon with respect.

Sapphire Kiss knew that Iron Lioness was fast and strong, with elemental magic and a strong offensive technique. She was famed for using a variation of the stoneskin spell that activated upon impact, which did not impeded flexibility as much as the regular version of the enchantment. In addition during the tournament Iron Lioness had demonstrated magics that made her buckler stick to an opponent’s weapon, likely some form of magnetic enchantment.

Iron Lioness sneered at Sapphire Kiss as she closed the distance, and returned her salute curtly. Twas better than Lord Peerless’s outright rejection, at least.

Sapphire Kiss is not well liked by her more serious minded peers. I wonder if she changes that.

Hummingblade was still considering her choices when Shagra the Bloodless was called into the arena. A broad-shouldered Orcish woman, dressed in dark green armour stepped into the arena carrying a large hammer. Shagra’s head was bald and smooth and her eyes were fearsome.

Despite her reputation for mayhem, Shagra was trained as a defender. Her main strategy was to outlast her opponents, and she used a combination of heavy armour, druidic magic, and incredible conditioning to survive. Unlike Rabid Edge, whom Hummingblade had faced earlier in the tournament, Shagra did not seek to attack relentlessly and overwhelm. Instead she seemed to endure her opponents until they made an error or she cornered them, then she struck them down with a well-placed hammer blow.

The hammer in question was large, and Hummingblade suspected that even a glancing blow from such a weapon could crush her. Shagra hefted it with the easy familiarity of a Master. She did not perform any tricks as she strode across the sands in front of the cheering crowd, stopping only to give her salute.

Up close Hummingblade could see that Shagra’s armour was made of ribbed plates that slid and moved as she walked.

Hummingblade returned Shagra’s salute. Their eyes met. Hummingblade saw a grim intensity in the other woman, but detected a surprising lack of arrogance or hatred. Without taking her eyes off Hummingblade, Shagra raised her weapon again.

Shagra is perhaps the most important of the Gladiators who is not a perspective character. She is my favourite of the Death Leagues fighters, grim and unrelenting, not really worried about what people think of her.

Sand Shark’s armour was a dull golden colour, highlighted with topaz. In form and function was a standard medium harness with breastplate, greaves, pauldrons, and bracers, but it also covered the outside of his dominant arm with a plated guarde. Toothy shark’s maws decorated the plates, disguising jagged edges on striking surfaces.

Sand Shark’s greataxe came up to the Ogre’s chest, making it level with Blue Hornet’s chin. Unlike most of the weapons made for Gladiators, this axe had a wooden haft. Ironwood, a rare and expensive wood from the forests of the Trapholds and near Dun Mordhawk, could be treated and laminated to have the strength and flexibility of steel. The head of the weapon had two long straight blades, both bearded, and was capped with a spike. The axe was plain save for the runes, but imposing for all its lack of decoration.

Sand Shark, basically a throwaway from an interesting fight. I often end up using characters like this in later works.

The Weird lived up to his name. Even his armour was unusual: he wore a hood, for one. Most Gladiators who covered their face did so with an armoured helm or a decorative mask. Admittedly, Fiona had considered wearing an executioner’s hood as part of her garb early in her career. Her red hair was too much of a crowd pleaser to hide, however.

Aside from the hood it was difficult to tell how much of The Weird’s attire was armour and what was clothing. Gladiator armour was strictly regulated in both coverage and weight, and the Deliberative checked each fighter’s armour and their weight before every match. The Weird’s clothing was made up of stripes of grey, brown, and black, woven with plates of dull grey metal that appeared and disappeared as he shifted.

The Weird’s staff was a hand longer than the quarterstaff Fiona had been practising with, but otherwise unremarkable at first glance. The man himself was like his weapon, tall and lean, though not so thing as a light fighter would be. He sized her up as she approached, dark eyes surprisingly human despite the hood and strange costume.

After she finished saluting the crowd, Fiona raised her weapons to The Weird. He returned her salute, raising his staff with one hand, showing proper sportsmanship.

The Wierd is my best concept fighter in the book, although also I introduce light magic, a shape-changer, and even a Gifted Fologi.