Goodbye to 2017; The Year of the Vulture.

World's Greatest Asshole

In some ways 2017 is a hard year to parse. Donald Trump’s bumbling cruelty as he both made and reacted to news, created an endless feedback loop that made every week seem like a month and seemed to hit new lows on an almost daily basis.

Trump was certainly the dominant news figure of the year, but his accomplishments were all train-wreck for America no matter how much he trumpeted his ‘triumphs’. The biggest beneficiary was undeniably Vladimir Putin, who flaunted his unfettered access to Trump even as he continued to attack Democracy around the world.

But if you clear aside the tweets, the likelihood of collusion with Russia, and the constant erosion of decency and tolerance coming from this President, you might see a pattern in the Chaos of Trump’s wake.

While Trump lurches drunkenly between the path toward both autocracy and exposure of his criminal enterprises, those who he has rewarded with power are glutting themselves. His cabinet can be likened to Vultures circling the American Dream as it dies an agonizing death crawling toward the mirage of prosperity through the barren desert known as Trickledown.

I wanted to call this essay the Rape of America, but while the analogy is apt, it merits a defter hand than I can muster right now. So I went with Vulture, as in vulture capitalists, namely the oligarchs who are picking America apart.

But what else do you call a tax bill where over 50% of the benefits go to a tiny minority of very wealthy people, including a huge break for real estate developers like Trump?

What else do you call the actions of an FCC commissioner who openly mocks those who want to preserve Net Neutrality, lies, and then hands over unprecedented power to some of the most predatory companies in the US, who immediately turn around and start doing the very things that he said that they would never do?

If not Vulture Capitalism, then what is it when the Education Secretary cancels loan forgiveness and fraud relief for students, while enjoying the rents of her investments in the firms that control said Student debt. Imagine if an Obama cabinet appointee acted this way.

Those in charge of the EPA and FEMA are far more concerned with profits and balance sheets than lead in the water and hurricane relief.

It goes on an on, but the pattern remains the same no matter what the agency. These people, who earn their positions by supporting and grovelling for Trump, then turn around and enrich themselves and their friends at the expense of the American public. They pretend to be engaging in a curbing of government overreach based on conservative principles, but anyone who isn’t an eager Trumpist can see that they are just turning these agencies into tool of extraction and exploitation to make themselves rich. Suck up to Trump; get a license to steal from your fellow citizens…

Perhaps the clearest example of the is the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Since its inception in 2011, this agency has clawed back billions of dollars on behalf of US consumers defrauded by large institutions. It is unbelievably successful. When the director resigned Trump put Mick Mulvaney, a man who wants to destroy the agency, in charge. There is only one reason that can be behind this action; he wants to make it easier for the Vultures to get at their meal.

More than the lies and the other aspects of corruption and collusion, it is the unmitigated looting of America by these vultures and cronies that bothers me the most.

On a personal note, 2017 has not been a bad year for me. My boy, Ronan, is two now and a sometimes a handful, but he brings joy to everyone in the family. I have released two books, Bloodlust: The Sum of Hate and The Shadow Wolf Sagas: The Sword of The Fallen King. I have even come up with a cool RPG idea that I am testing out. Mom is recovering well from her hip surgery, and the family is happy and healthy. On a broader note I am happy to see real resistance to Trump and the Alt-Right. I am supremely grateful for all of this, and my amazing friends and fans, especially in a year where so many have been hurt.

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Sunday night teaser.

Had great fun at Toronto Comic Con this weekend!

Here is a teaser from my upcoming novel in the Domains of the Chosen series.

Yoka of Jaguar waited on the high bluff with twenty warriors. He could see above the treeline, and knew that one of his fellows was communication with the rest of the clan, using flashes of light from an enchanted stone. Soon it would be dark and the hunt would begin; Yoka would call forth the spirit of the river ripper and kill the outlanders. If he helped kill a Chosen, Gotka would reward him.

“I hear Riritaka is with them,” said one of his fellows.

“She is,” said another. “Gotka wants the traitor alive. She will enjoy the seven sufferings for her trespass.”

“That seems harsh, even for him,” said the first voice. “She acted according to tradition, and nearly bested him.”

“Do not let Gotka hear you say that,” said the second.

Yoka tensed, seeing strange movement in the jungle at the bottom of the bluff. It was unlikely that the outlanders would come here, but not impossible. Perhaps it was just a spider, watching to see if they were unwary, hoping for a meal. The movement was repeated, but nothing appeared. Yoka was about to call on his bound spirit and sound the alarm when a fat canopy spider crawled out of the underbrush along the path. It moved lethargically, but did not appear to be coming up the bluff. Yoka should have ignored it, and would have, but for the warning in the back of his mind.

There was something strange about that spider. He stared at the arachnid as it rested in the sun could not fathom why it bothered him.

He was about to sound the alarm when a figure appeared at his side, jamming a knife through his temple, bringing darkness. Yoka had found his quarry.

Sunday Teaser

Tis late and here is a teaser for my friends, from the first draft of my next Domains book.

With a reputation as a defensive fighter, the crowd did not expect Green Glory to be truly competitive with an offensive virtuoso like King Blade. They cheered as she adopted her risky strategy, trampling her way to the depths of the horde.

Scores of stitched surged into the fighting grounds, trying to overwhelm the Gladiators. They battered Green Glory mercilessly leaving deep gashes in her hide. She shook them off like a seabird drying herself, and kept pushing into them, stomping everyone she overpowered into the sands. Such was her fervour that she threatened to overtake King Blade’s impressive score.

King Blade swung his sword tirelessly. Such was the dance of his blade that none of the stitched got within arm’s reach. The crowd cheered his skill, but he could tell that they were swayed by Green Glory, who put herself in harm’s way in order to seek victory. Thus, the big charger redoubled his effort, paying less mind to his own safety as he cut down stitched after stitched.

Not all of the stitched wore furs and leather, and when Green Glory cut down one of the zombies that was wearing and iron breastplate, she saw her score jump by several points, briefly overtaking King Blade’s. As soon as this registered she started looking for metal-clad stitched and pushed her way toward the closest one. A mace handed stitched smashed her side as she pushed, but she sent it sprawling with a flick of her horn and then brought her axe down onto the armoured figure, cleaving through the helm and spilling its pickled brain.

Sunday Night Teaser

A little teaser from my WIP:

Tugging on his mustache to hide the expression of pride on his face, Hephus watched as Bastion performed a second kata for a crowded room full of Iron Faction.

“He is impressive,” said Publius, standing beside him. “A metal Legionnaire.”

“Aye,” said Hephus. “The men accept him as one of their own. I theorize that shared hardships increase the rate at which bonding between occurs between sentient automatons as it does between the rest of the Legionnaires.”

“Interesting,” said Publius. “Is Bastion as attached to his flesh and blood comrades as they are to him, then?”

“Yes,” said Hephus. “He will not execute orders that will harm his fellows.”

“What criteria do you use when making that judgement? Is it an absolute or do you follow some kind of utilitarian guideline?”

“It is organic, learned behaviour,” said Hephus. “He learns from watching the Legionnaires and analyzing their actions as you have seen, but he also learns their morals and virtues like a flesh and blood child would. Occasionally he has questions, which I help him with, but it is not a programmed response.”

“Some might say that you are simply relying on second-hand programming, then. If much of our behaviour is determined by heredity and instinct, and he learns from us, then isn’t he inheriting our programming?”

Sunday Teaser

A little teaser from my WIP.

Riritaka is always a character that I am trying to make better use of…

The report from the Legates was promising. While skirmishes were still common and traps were being set, there had been no large scale attacks or ambushes in more than a year. The Legions did not advance beyond the borders of Trial’s Watch, and The Pale did not attack them in force.

“What do you make of this Riritaka?”

“Some of the Tribes, especially those who have suffered greatly in the wars, want to have peace and time to lick their wounds and replenish their losses. If the Legions leave their territory they have less desire to fight. Some of the Tribes from further south and west will push for war, I think, because they have more to gain, even if The Pale suffer; the war is not on their territory and they can always seek respite when they need it.”

“Should we seek to ally with the closer tribes first then?” asked Gavin. “How would we even communicate a desire for peace with your people.”

“If The Pale are still sending out war parties to … skirmish, as you say, and make traps they will be watching this place closely. I can go into the Jungle and speak to them, or I can signal them.”

“Going into the jungle seems too risky,” said Gavin. “Why don’t we try to signal them first.”

“Ech,” Riritaka made a sour face. “I knew you would say that Gavin Chosen. It is much work. I must carve a spirit stick… a totem banner, you would say.”

“If you knew, then why haven’t you started Riri,” said Headtaker.

Riritaka rolled her eyes.

“Perhaps I can help with this,” boomed Chosen Brighthoof. “I and many among my rangers, are adept at that kind of carving.”

<> 

The Totem Banner was a carved wooden pole covered in animal shapes and the pictograms favoured by The Pale for quick communication. It was painted in vivid colours for the most part, although the carved animals tended toward more realistic colour schemes. Gavin thought it was impressive.

Chosen Brighthoof’s rangers dug it into the ground on a high hill between the jungle and Trial’s Watch, some distance away from both. Riritaka directed them to place various stones around the bottom, judging it like a master sculptor.

“What do we do now?” asked Gavin.

“We come back tomorrow and see how they have responded,” said Riritaka.

Sunday Teaser

I am going to skip the politics tonight. It seems that everyone is aware of what is going on, one way or another 🙂 Instead, here is a bit from my work in progress, which still lacks a working title…

In this scene we have Gavin speaking in favour of a political proposal by one of his peers, a peace mission to The Pale.

Gavin swept the room with his gaze, continuing.

“The Pale are much like us. They have loyalties, they can be reasoned with, and I can tell you with certainty that decades of bloody warfare in The Trials have worn them down as well. We have much to gain from finding peace with them beyond a secure. Goods from the lands beyond The Trials will flow into The Empire once more and our people will gain access to new markets for their wares in return. We will gain safe passage to the lands beyond The Trials, something denied to us by the pirates on Sudra’s Horn. The Domains will expand, gain new knowledge, and grow in power and prestige.”

While he could see that his words had much approval, Gavin could also see some of his peers muttering or frowning in disapproval. It was not hard to guess why; many of them hated the idea of outsiders immigrating to The Empire.

“To those of you who fear contamination of our culture outside influences, I have but one thing to say: history has proven time and time again that walls are the end of Empires. We must meet go forth and meet new friends and new enemies on our own terms. Our ancestors, and some of you in this room sought shelter during the harsh days of The Reckoning. At the time this was wise decision for the storms of The Reckoning were beyond even the strongest of The Gifted. The great walls of Krass kept us safe. And yet, when the storms passed did we remain here, content in our shelter? No, we did not. The Legions, the Chosen, and the pioneers of The Domains marched out to meet the world. Sometimes we conquered, but when faced with a difficult enemy, sometimes we sought peace. Are The Pale any more alien to our ways than The Trolls who now share our Empire? I say that they are not.”

Some nodded approvingly, while others made sour faces.

Sunday Night Teaser

Watched the latest episode of Sherlock tonight, so instead of a dissertation on some topic, I will leave you with a teaser from my upcoming book.

Still, Shagra was a master ranked Gladiatrix and a Grand Champion, and Chloe had to admire that the woman still fought here, risking death instead of retiring to a comfortable life as a trainer or joining the Masters League in the Capital. Shagra was set for life, as easy as a Gladiatrix could have it, and yet she continued to perfect her craft on what was the harshest fighting grounds in the Domains.

Chloe allowed a moment for the members to admire Shagra. The Gladiatrix remained motionless, stoic really, showing no sign of emotion other than a sense of predatory readiness.

When she judged the time was right, Chloe stepped forward.

“Members, for your pleasure, this Gladiatrix will face a beast that has killed a dozen Gladiators in the Supplicants Arena, a notorious beast that was once a murderous criminal, I give you Vespus the Living Hive!”

Vespus rose into the arena unchained. The beast knew the rituals of the arena well enough to sit still. It was large, easily twice Shagra’s height. Its mottled flesh was green, brown, and yellow all pooling into each other. It moved like a great gorilla, with massive forelimbs and shorter legs, but was hairless and with a wide mouth full of hooked teeth.

Of course Vespus the Living Hive’s most impressive feature was on its back, where a huge hump of tissue spread out like a howdah, punctured by innumerable finger sized holes. That hump was home to a unique species of wasp that Vespus controlled. In the beasts previous fights the Gladiators that it fought were either swarmed by wasps or were so busy destroying them that they lost track of the beast and were pummelled to death by its crushing fists.

Chloe hoped that Shagra had it in her to overcome the beast, but Vespus was one of the best monsters that they’d had in the Killer’s Circle in ages. It was best not to become attached to a Gladiatrix in the Death Leagues.

The trumpets sounded.

Shagra stood her ground, casting a series of spells to enhance her physical prowess. Vespus growled and thumped its chest. A hum came from the arena then, one that Chloe could feel to her very bones, and then finger sized insects began to shoot forth from the hive.

Some familiar faces there… but in what context is the question 😉