Tuesday Teaser

This week we have a throwback to Bloodlust: Will to Power.

The Cover for Bloodlust: Will to Power

The Cover for Bloodlust: Will to Power

One of the part I enjoyed about the book is the rivalry between Karmal and Sadira, and how it boils over, turning friendship into hate. It was fun to write, especially when the insults became personal and vicious, and remains a highlight of the book for me.

“I lived in your shadow for years,” growled Karmal, runes on her war-cleaver flickering; Sadira could sense ripples of magic from the weapon, as well as the patterns of the some more exotic disciplines taught to Karmal which she measured as they talked. “I never really realized how much you were using me until you cost me that ranking match in Brightsands.”

“We won the match, remember?” said Sadira, a touch of icy impatience creeping into her voice. “You just failed the ranking part. I passed it. Does that not tell you something?”

“It tells me that you are a spoiled little slut who gets what she wants because everyone wants to fuck her,” snarled Karmal, hands tightening on her blade, muscles heaving with anger.

Both Karmal and Sadira are classic ‘alpha’ characters with very bold, direct personalities and extremely competitive natures. Originally I was not going to give either of them a major role in Will to Power, but fans demanded more of Sadira and Karmal made the perfect foil…

A snap of power from Sadira sent green tendrils surging from the sands, grasping greedily at Karmal’s legs. She was used to this tactic and avoided tripping as they held her. Sadira charged. Karmal ripped her foot free. She screamed, swinging her war-cleaver in a broad horizontal arc. Sadira sprang as she came close.

Catching Karmal’s blade with one of her own, Sadira flowed with the momentum of her opponent’s strike, rather than parry. In effect, she rode Karmal’s swing. The spectators cheered this difficult manoeuvre. The powerful motion flung Sadira into the air. She landed gracefully, rolling as she struck the sands, flowing into the Razorwing’s flight dance as she came to her feet. She whirled and slashed, attacking, while Karmal tried in vain to turn and face her. Her swords came away bloody. Sadira whirled way, laughing cruelly.

“Face it Karmal, you don’t have the finesse to beat me,” taunted Sadira. “Why don’t you…”

Her words were lost as the scent of blood filled Karmal. Changes in her body had made her acutely aware of such things. Her vampiric desire for blood. Her berserker rage. Her demonic hatred. All of her disciplines gave her great strength and destructive power but eroded her self-control. Power raged through her as the blood and pain whipped her into a frenzy. She wove a spell directing that power at Sadira, so swiftly that it took the Shadow-Elf by surprise.

Fire erupted from Karmal and the crowd gasped as it washed over Sadira, engulfing her entirely and turning her words into a frenzied scream.

Pick up the book to find out what happens next…


Another Sunday Teaser

Once again I am a little swamped with re-write work on Warbound: The Shield Maiden, the third Domains of the Chosen novel (Out July 17th) so instead of an insightful blog post, I leave you with a little teaser.

“That’s her,” said a voice. “The new Chosen.”

“Red Scorpion,” said another. “In the flesh.”

“Are you sure that’s her man?” said another. “He don’t look like much.”

“Quiet!” said another. “I’ve seen him kill with a thought.”

Most kept quiet. Sadira savoured the reaction that her unexpected presence caused among the workers, soldiers, and engineers. She almost wished she were dressed in her arena armour. The men and women parted for her as she walked towards the fortress. She smiled at those she passed, hoping to set them at ease.

Sadira wore her full battle regalia for this occasion. Her lustrous black hair was shaved at the sides, around her graceful ears, pulled back at the crown and pulled roughly into braids, twined with chains and spikes. Unlike Gavin she did not modify her arena armour for the battlefield, but instead commissioned a new suit. A thick breastplate, closely fit to her figure, mithril silver with a scorpion made of tiny red rubies set over her heart, was worn over a suit of double-mail so fine that it clung to her like a second skin, loose only at her hips where it formed a short loincloth. Her pauldrons were oversized and spiked, black and red, rising to protect her neck while her gauntlets and boots were strong studded leather, both stylish and brutal.

“Sadira, Chosen!” said a weathered sailor she passed, falling to his knees. “I saw you fight in Dreadwood.”

The Warbound Arc does not focus on style and the crowd nearly as much as the Bloodlust books. Nonetheless, I felt compelled to inject  little bit of Sadira’s latest style (shown in green) into the book, partly to help transition from the arena onto the field of battle. Note that she still isn’t wearing a helm, and that her assembly is likely too heavy for most warriors to wear and nearly priceless. It pays to be Chosen, I suppose.

The adulation the common folk have for their newest Chosen is also evident. Everyone knows who she is, and many worship her.

Teaser Tuesday

Since it is Tuesday, here is a teaser from my upcoming book, Warbound: The Shield Maiden

“Bastard!” snarled Sadira, desperately parrying Gavin’s war-spear as she backed away.

Gavin chuckled, pressing his advantage.

Gripping Karmal, Sadira felt a rush of anger as Gavin’s spear sank into her shoulder. The crowd roared at First blood. Spurred by her sword, Sadira loosed a piercing war-scream. The blazing blade arced down. Gavin turned, bringing his shield up. Karmal smashed into his shield, denting the nearly unbreakable metal and driving him to his knees. The crowd roared.

Grinning, Sadira followed up with a series of rapid, powerful blows, trying to pummel Gavin into the ground. Her elation was short lived, however, as Gavin recovered and knocked her blade to the side. Karmal plunged into the sand and Sadira felt Gavin’s Spear graze her throat.

“Are you ok?” asked Gavin as she backed off.

“I’m fine, just feeling a little reckless,” said Sadira, brushing off his concern. She reined in her fury and attacked again. This time, after a brutal exchange, Sadira faked an attack, forcing Gavin to over-commit and Karmal left a line of blood and blisters across his side.

The fought until the trumpets called. The crowd awarded Sadira the victory, leaving her wondering if she deserved it. Gavin just smiled. 

I just added this scene today, in response to an early reader who wanted a little more action and less exposition in the early chapters of the book. In this case I heartily agreed.

Another Teaser, how shocking.

After another evening of re-writes, I am too beat to write a coherent blog post. Instead, here is a teaser for my newest book, Warbound: The Shield Maiden.

“Death greets you, dog,” said Sadira, raising her sword.

She did not understand the sword-bearer’s answer, nor did she care. Sadira flowed into the Scorpion dance, seeking to over-whelm her enemy with off-angle strikes. She began with a diagonal uppercut, sword sweeping in low aiming to cut him from waist to shoulder. The Sword-Bearer knocked her blade away with his shield and thrust, aiming to puncture her throat. Sidestepping, Sadira brought Karmal down. The Vvathi, trusting to his size and strength raised his shield to catch the blow. It would have been a winning gambit in another fight, but the Sword-Bearer underestimated the Chosen’s supernatural power. Sadira screamed, putting all her power into the hit. Her foe crumpled under the unexpected force of the attack. She did not give him time to recover, kicking his shield aside and ramming Karmal through his breastplate. He gurgled and died.

Sadira kicked the body aside, deciding she did not have time to deal with the sword. She pushed into the excruciators line, cutting down two more Dwarves through their shields. Cassius let loose another spell while Razorthorn and Azure Dream drive into the lines. The Sword Bearers cut into the Phalanx, but Sadira began to fight her way toward them. The Vvathi lines began to buckle.  

In this new installment, we not only move beyond the Domains, we get to see how the Chosen and the Legions of Krass make war. Enjoy!

Teaser Tuesday

“Red Scorpion, I presume?”

Sadira turned to find herself face to face with a tall, white-haired man with bright eyes and a broad smile that showed perfect, glittering teeth. Despite his hair and patronly features he seemed to be one of the Gifted. A stunning woman dressed in butterfly wings and a matching mask and little else hung off his arm. He looked familiar.

“I am. My friends call me Sadira,” she said, smiling. She noticed several passersby turning to watch the exchange. “Have we met before?”

“I am Gaius Gerald White,” he said. His voice got louder as he announced his name. “My reputation precedes me, no doubt.”

“It does,” said Sadira, stiffening in anger. Gaius Gerald White was a commentator and publisher who owned the famed Arena Post; his paper frequently and gleefully reported baseless rumours of Sadira having affairs with other Gladiators; debasing herself at orgies in Chosen Giselle’s palace. It was not the nature of the accusations that angered Sadira, she wasn’t embarrassed about sex, it was that they were lies. She was proud of her love for Gavin, and proud of her self-control in staying true to him. “Are you here to apologize?”

“Oh, meow,” said White, laughing as Sadira’s eyes raked him. The woman on his arm however, sensed the anger of the Gladiatrix and paled. “If you wanted to stay out of the public eye you should have become a vassal.”

“Really?” said Sadira. “If vassals were exempt from your drivel, then why did you publish that crap about Lina? You should be ashamed of yourself.”

This is a little scene I wrote up today, filling in a problem area that originally looked something like this

Sadira confronts GGW. Highlight rumours and her frustrations with them. (Actually highlighted in yellow, but you get the idea.)

I write these when I’m stymied or want to move on to other parts of the story, then come back and fill them in. I find it is a good technique when I need to “discover” additional parts of a sub-plot before filling everything in.

The rest of the scene is fairly obscene with GGW and Sadira arguing about some very graphic accusations, until the argument gets broken up. It takes place a the Veteran’s Masquerade, a huge party where high ranking Gladiators seek patrons for the Grand Championships. It is like a high society political event crossed with a major league sports trade deadline… The backdrop is a converted Dragon’s Lair 😀

Reviews, Thoughts on Sadira

I just finished reading Michael J. Sullivan’s Theft of Swords. I posted my review on Amazon and will out it up here in a separate post as well. Great story.

One of the things that jolted me into writing a review was going through the process of getting reviews myself. On Sunday someone dropped by and called the book boring, giving it 1/5 stars, saying there was too much combat and I use an insane number of superfluous adjectives. I was somewhat devastated for a day or two, then sucked it up and moved on. After a few days I got some supportive and positive reviews, and some interesting semi-critical reviews as well.  Some of these were actually helpful, letting me know what I should improve when writing the second Bloodlust Book.

Personally I only review a book if I feel strongly about it. For the most part I only feel strongly about it if I enjoy it; I tend not to bother finishing if I don’t like it. I also recognize that my tastes aren’t everyone’s tastes, so I don’t feel the need to downvote things just because I don’t like them or agree with the philosophy of the author. Now that I am in the arena myself, writing heavily critical reviews of other author’s works strikes me as a facetious act of self-aggrandizement. This sort of thing plagued the early years of the indy RPG scene, with people hammering each other with supposedly objective critiques that were nothing more than blatant, destructive attempts to smear the competition and promote one style or school of gaming by making all the others look like crap. Not something I really want to get into in the much larger and potentially nastier world of writing.

One of the Reviews, written by my friend Holger gave me a 3/5. Once I got over my initial reaction I realized he had written a useful review and was simply following the proper ratings guidelines given by Amazon, where a 3/5 is a book you enjoyed but not a masterwork. (As an aside the x/5 ranking system needs to change, the most common reviews are 1/5 and 5/5, much like meta-critic and a descriptive system would be better). Interestingly one of the things Holger really disliked was Sadira. He felt she was over the top, one-dimensional, and stole Gavin’s place in the limelight. I found this comment very interesting.

Sadira strikes me as a lightning rod for criticism, so Holger’s criticism did not really surprise me. Originally she played a smaller part in the first book, and barely appeared again until the end of the second. But when my first batch of readers went through Bloodlust, many asked for more Sadira. I had to struggle to put her in more scenes and figure out how to give her a strong presence in book two. She is a tough character for me to write because she is so strong, confident, and skilled that she risks becoming boring. As we were talking, waiting for the bus today, Jer M told me that he wanted Sadira to be the one that becomes Chosen, not Gavin. When pressed, he said it was because he admired her. Christa at work said she identified with Sadira. I found that comments just as interesting as Holgers.

In the end I think Sadira may be one of those characters like Drizzt Do’Urden, Achilles, Lancelot, or Conan who take on a life of their own. Some people see them as tiresome Mary Sues, who drag a story down because they are so much larger than life. Other readers love them because they never falter, never give up, and be they bad or good, bloodthirsty or chivalrous, they are always worth emulating in some way. I look forward to hearing more about what people think of her; I may have done a better job than I thought with Gavin’s better half…