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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A little teaser for a lazy Sunday night.

I’m beat and still digesting some the discussions from AFKCON this afternoon, so I figured I would share something from Bloodlust: The Blades of Khazak Khrim. This passage is from early in the book, and should be relatively spoiler free.

The two excruciators came at him slowly, locking shields in the slender tunnel, chanting under their breath.

Not wanting to lose track of the chest, Blue Hornet charged them. As he neared, channelling power and weaving a spell, the Excruciators tensed and attacked. He leapt, unleashing a wave of bitter frost that sapped the heat from them. He slammed a fist spike down through a helm and vaulted up and over the shields of his adversaries. The dwarves at the chest managed to swing their swords at him once before he kicked one into a stack of barrels, splintering wood and bone and then cut the throat of the other with a swift, arcing slash of his fist spike.

Impressively the Excruciator did not fall.

“Khazakrim!” he gurgled, barreling into the Chosen.

Once, such an attack might have knocked Blue Hornet from his feet. Instead, he shifted his weight to his rear leg and brought his armour elbow down on the Dwarf, sending him crashing to the ground.

Steps alerted him to the final excruciator coming up behind him. Even with three of his comrades so easily dispatched the man’s thoughts were on duty and not self-preservation. A foolish gesture in this case, serving as a reminder than the greatest strength of the fanatic was also his greatest weakness.

Blue Hornet caught the Excruciator’s blade with his left hand-buckler, swiped his shield aside with a chop, and then thrust his fist spike into the man’s belly. His hand blurred as the blade darted, puncturing the dwarf a half dozen times in the blink of an eye. The Excruciator’s eyes blinked and his mouth worked, as blood dribbled from him.

“Your prayers won’t save you now,” mocked Blue Hornet, tossing the twitching dwarf aside and turning back to the chest.

Supernatural reflexes and the enhanced mobility of airdance were all the saved him from being skewered. He skipped aside as a blade flashed through the air, followed closely by another. A Sword-Bearer, wielding two blades with liquid precision, was upon him. The man’s attacks were not as swift as Blue Hornet’s own, but his attacks seemed to anticipate the former Gladiator’s counters and Blue Hornet found himself giving ground, trying to avoid tripping over corpses and debris.

Here we see two characters from previous works encounter each other. Neither one of them are particularly heroic, although I expect most people would cheer for Blue Hornet over Twin-Swords. Part of the fun of getting more than half a million words into a series is having enough interesting characters that they are bound to encounter each other. leading to wonderful little “what if?” moments for me as I write 😀

Bloodlust: The Blades of Khazak Khrim should be out July 17th (not counting approval time from Amazon, which is usually same day, but who knows?”

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.

Red_Glory_1

Red_Glory_2

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.

Red_Glory_3

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.

Red_Glory_4

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:

Red_Glory_5_Final

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.

Nearly finished the first draft of Bloodlust: Red Glory!

I am on the final stretch for my next book. En lieu of a more complex post, here is a teaser:

Goldfin felt the pulse of excitement flow through her as the crowds flowed through the streets toward the Grand Arena. While she regretted becoming involved in such dangerous business, she could not help but feel a surge of pure adrenal joy as her plans came to fruition. The shiver of pleasure at the thought was wonderful, reminding her of that moment when she’d loosed the crossbow bolt that ended her father. This was a moment worth savouring, even if was one that she had been too impulsive in seeking.

In payment for her services, Goldfin had demanded a number of items from Chosen Ylith, mostly expensive looking jewelry, gems, and small valuable items. One of them was a bejewelled ring that acted as a key to one of her father’s hidden places. She was worried that Chosen Ylith would connect her to her past life, but then again she suspected that the Chosen would betray her on principle.

Note that this is in draft form and will be re-written. I enjoy the second pass and tend to add a lot before editing begins.

Goldfin is an alias used by a character from Bloodlust: The Shield Maiden. She is both familiar and unfamiliar in this book, having undergone a transformation of sorts. Like everyone in Krass she has been caught up in the Grand Championships called to find a replacement for Chosen Brightloch. In Goldfin’s case she cannot help but try to meddle, which lands her in an interesting position.

Bloodlust: Red Glory follows a handful of Gladiators and a handful of fans, citizens, and profiteers over the course of a single tournament. Everyone tries to get something from the tournament and the events surrounding them, and these goals conflict, clash, and ultimately reshape the games and what follows.

After I do a second pass, I will be looking for some extra beta readers. Message me if interested!

Image Change: A New Cover For Bloodlust: A Gladiator’s Tale.

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving! I am full of Turkey and pie, and generally pretty zonked. Domains of the Chosen Book Four is moving along nicely, and in preparation for wider release Dan and I decided to redo the cover of Bloodlust: A Gladiator’s Tale to match the more popular style of Bloodlust: Will to Power.

Domains of the Chosen Book One. Original Cover.

Domains of the Chosen Book One. Original Cover.

This is the very first cover that Dan designed for Bloodlust: A Gladiator’s Tale. It is a little blurred out because of a custom re-size, but you can see the important details. The cover works quite well, especially on trade paperback. At the time we were happy with it. It is distinctive, it does not prejudice the reader with images of the characters, and it conveys meaning to anyone who reads the book.

Some people like it, some people did not.

For Bloodlust: Will to Power I let Dan have a freer hand. This is what he came up with.

The Nearly Complete Cover for Book 2. Points to anyone who can spot the differences.

The Nearly Complete Cover for Book 2. Points to anyone who can spot the differences.

This style is less metallic/shiny, and more grainy. Lookt at the lines on the Lion’s mane and the Scorpion. It is one of the Woodcut styles that Dan has developed over the years. People really loved the final version of this cover. Most importantly it looks good as a thumbnail, a full size image, and a physical image on a paperback book. After some thought, we decided to change the cover for book one to emulate this style.

The Retouched Cover for Bloodlust: A Gladiator's Tale.

The Retouched Cover for Bloodlust: A Gladiator’s Tale.

Not only does this cover emulate the style of the Bloodlust: Will to Power cover, it also has a few changes for clarity.

  • The sub-title has expanded. A Gladiator’s tale is now bigger and more readable.
  • Domains of The Chosen: Book 1 is now on the cover, clearly calling out that the book is part of a series.
  • The texture of the cover is more visible. Dan was disappointed that black leather texture he used did not pop on the original cover. He added a digital light source to make it more visible at the top, fading down into black at the bottom.

Not bad, eh? If you prefer the new cover and have an ebook, just update the version via amazon (why it does not prompt you to update is beyond me).

Cheers, and happy Turkey day for my Canadian friends.