Moar Teazers

The Rune will be back soon, followed by another round of Shadow Wolf, but…

The release date for Bloodlust: The Seeds of Ruin is rapidly approaching and I am giddy and apprehensive. While it seems unlikely that the series will conquer the mainstream without a much bigger investment in promotion, this book is getting some really nice reactions and I will be pleased to get it into the hands of loyal readers and discuss it with them.

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Soon…

“CITIZENS OF KRASS, YOUR CHOSEN GREET YOU!” Sadira’s voice carried across the arena, even above the intensifying cheers of the spectators. “We have returned to you victorious, but the glory of our mission belongs to the people of Krass! It was you who gave us your sons and daughters to fill our Legions! It was your toil that built the guns, the arms, and the ships that carried us through the day! It was your will and your law that we carried and enforced on distant shores and your open arms that welcomed allies who saw us through the worst of days. It was your choice that saw us and every other Chosen who fought in Ithal’Duin take up the mantle of duty, fulfilling the ancient Covenant.”

Sadira paused, drinking in the noise of the crowd, while a score of pages came forth bearing cloaks and laurels. She leapt down, flashing a smile at Gavin and together they all knelt to receive the golden Laurels and their cloaks to the thunderous cheers of the assembled people. After the shouting, Sadira stood, raising her arms once more.

 “Many of you wonder why I came to the fighting grounds instead of receiving the mantle of Triumph alongside the heroic Legionnaires of our beloved Ninth Legion. Firstly, we do not wish to sully this day for our heroes, as you will see. We have also come here to give back to the people who have given us so much. As you have no doubt heard, there will be games today; in honour of our victory the sands will run red today!”

The people roared. Gavin, for his part, hid his distaste for the idea. He did not like celebrating a battle with a slaughter on the arena, even if it would cement their position with the people. He allowed himself to be swayed by Sadira’s relentless pragmatism and his desire to strike back at his detractors. The people of Krass loved the Great Games.

“But that is only part of why we came here. The fighting grounds are the best place to start a battle. Since the covenant the Chosen have settled their disputes here, in the arena. We come before you, the people of Krass, on our day of Triumph, begging for justice.”

Title Change for Book Three

After much soul searching, more like agonized dawdling I suppose, I have decided to change the name of Warbound: The Shield Maiden to Bloodlust: The Shield Maiden. Many readers are not connecting Warbound with the first two Domains of the Chosen Books. This is entirely my fault, as most of my beta readers suggested that I keep the name Bloodlust for consistency. I should have listened, but I was focused on getting the book out and not thinking enough about branding issues.

Hopefully the switch does not cause any problems. Here is what the new cover looks like. It will release on the 16th. If you have the old cover, don’t worry about switching over, the book itself remains unchanged.

Not a huge change, but it is still a mistake on my part.

Not a huge change, but it is still a mistake on my part.

If this does cause a problem for anyone, let me know and I will send you a file in any format you choose.

 

A Teaser for Mother’s Day

For Mother’s Day, here is a teaser from my new work in progress, Warbound: The Shield Maiden.

“I agree with that,” said Gavin. “I saw it with Valaran. His idea of love could not encapsulate Sadira desiring me over him. When she rebuffed him, he did not re-examine his view of romance. Instead he kept pressing her. When that failed he tried to destroy me, blaming me for somehow standing in the way. He said I corrupted. Eventually that led to his downfall.”

“Indeed,” said Chosen Mazurin. “It is a form of mental laziness, I think. This is especially true of rulers, who are often insulated from the consequences of their decisions. A king who shuts down a hospice to fund his war is rarely the first to suffer when disease breaks out. If one never has to confront the failure of the idea directly it is easier for ideology to remain unchallenged. It is the same with the Gift. As Chosen we are so powerful that we are rarely forced to fix the flaws in our spell-craft.”

“So by teaching me to always seek a more refined solution in all things magical,” said Gavin. “You hope that I apply the same to learning governance?”

“Yes,” said the Chosen. “Methodology exceeds ideology.”

After joining the Chosen, Gavin is placed under the mentorship of Chosen Mazurin. Astute readers will recognize this character from quotes in Bloodlust: A Gladiator’s Tale and Bloodlust: Will to Power. The idea is that being a Chosen entails a great deal of responsibility and that Gladiators, who lead an insular life in the modern Domains require a period of adjustment, both to their increased magical power, and to the outside world.

Fantasy World Building: The Vvath

A Doom Reaver from Warmachine.

A Doom Reaver from Warmachine.

For this week’s post I wish to return to the subject of world-building. Much of Warbound: The Shield Maiden takes place beyond the borders of the Domains of the Chosen, following the Ninth legion as they travel the long route home. I am going to share some of my world-building ideas here. There is a long list of does and don’ts for fantasy world-building. If you are looking for direct advice I would try the worldbuilding and fantasywriters pages on Reddit. Patrick Rothfuss and Brandon Sanderson also have great podcasts and other material on world building. I’m not going to expound on those, but rather go through my own process, which is decidedly utilitarian.

Inspiration and Goals: The Vvath

With the Vvath I started with an idea stolen shamelessly from one of my favourite games; Warmachine by Privateer Press (with some influences via Michael Moorcock and others). In the Iron Kingdoms, one of the warring factions has unearthed blades enchanted with ancient dark magic, covered in gibbering faces. These blades turn the wielders into homicidal maniacs. Rather than recoil at the discovery, Khador decided to put these powerful, dangerous weapons to good use. The blades are given to convicts and condemned men who are then shipped off to the front and used as shock troops. What could go wrong?

The troops are called Doom Reavers, and they look more or less like a mystical version of a serial slasher from an eighties horror movie crossed with a decidedly evil knight. The idea of corrupt blades intrigued me, especially with the idea of the Reckoning, the great magical war that spiraled out of control and devastated the Domains and tainted the rest of the world. I can see these sort of weapons being created as part of the the war of the Reckoning and then becoming central to one of the new cultures that arose from the ashes.

  1. History [general goal] All of the civilizations in Warbound: The Shield Maiden must be juxtaposed against the Domains of the Chosen. For various reasons the Domains are a very familiar society, early America as settled by the Roman Empire if you will. The names are all easy, based around the Chosen, with only a few hints of the civilizations that existed before the Reckoning and the reconquest. The goal with the Vvath is to create a little blister of culture that helps define the Domains from the outside.
  2. Alien Flavour [general goal] The Domains are mostly free of the after-effects of the reckoning. The walls of Krass never fell before the wild magic or the hordes of tainted. The people of the Domains consider themselves the last bastion of civilization and have a very imperialistic past. I want the Vvath to be a harsher reflection of this — a society bent on conquest and domination.
  3. Dwarven Heritage [Vvath goal] I have always had a soft spot for dwarves in Fantasy fiction, and the idea of using a nation of imperialistic Dwarves as the basis for a set of antagonists really appeals to me. The archetypal dwarven penchant for smithing makes the blades an ideal weapon for them.
  4. Intelligent Blades [Vvath goal] The blades themselves have to be interesting, with a unique enchantment process and look. Obviously I don’t want to just copy the Doom Reavers; inspiration is one thing, outright plagiarism is another.
  5. All is not as it seems [Vvath goal] I want there to be something cunning and insidious about the Vvath.
  6. Ideology  [Vvath goal] The Vvath are a competing ideology to the Domains. They must present a view of the world that is at odds with the Krrassian Empire, yet understandable to the modern reader.

Outlines of the Vvath, the Sword-Lords of Khazak Krim

  1. History [general goal] Khazak Krim was once part of a larger Dwarven Kingdom. It was a border trade city overlooking the only land route between the continents of Sudra and Ithal’Duin. When the reckoning began the wealth of the Dwarves was a tempting target to the Gifted, and Khazak Krim quickly found itself cut off from the rest of the kingdom. Never numerous, the Dwarves of Khazak Krim realized that they did not have enough people The original blades did not originate from within Khazak Krim, but the Vvath saw their potential and used them to create an army which helped protect them throughout the Reckoning and expand afterwards.
  2. Alien Flavour [general goal] The Vvath believe in slave labour. All races are seen as inferior to the Vvath and Dwarves in general. Khazak Krim is a wondrous paradise that overlooks an empire of squalor where non-dwarves are, at best, seen as potential hosts for a Vvath blade.
  3. Dwarven Heritage [Vvath goal] Aside from the swords and totalitarian society the Vvath are very similar to a regular society of Fantasy dwarves. Slave labour does  make them less inclined to be miners, however.
  4. Intelligent Blades [Vvath goal] When a Vvath comes to middle age they craft a Vvath Blade. Their consciousness is transferred into the blade in a dark and crazy ritual which I have not thought up yet and possesses the living, but mindless husk of their own body or whatever body wields the blade. When the Vvaths original body is slain or destroyed, a new body is sought out. Obviously, this changes their psychology somewhat 🙂
    1. Soul Eating? I also toyed with the idea of the Vvath blades being able to animate the dead that they kill or to eat souls to heal the wielder. Not sure yet.
  5. All is not as it seems [Vvath goal] The Vvath hold contests in the far flung regions of their Domains and among their slaves. (Maybe even some Gladiators) The worthy are gifted with a Vvath blade. The blades have a reputation of making the wielder invincible in battle, gifting them with supernatural strength and toughness. Of course this is true, but the blades also erode the consciousness of the wielder and allow the Vvath in the blade to take control. Bodies that are possessed long enough start to take on the features of the Vvath — hence many of the hosts wear copious amounts of armour and masks to hide their growing deformities. At Khazad Krim host bodies wear a mask that resemble the original face of the Vvath.
  6. Ideology  [Vvath goal] The Vvath are a totalitarian society, ruled by ancient sword lords. The sword lords are the opposite of the Chosen in many ways, since the contest to choose new bodies is a ruse. The idea of slavery is one that readers will understand but generally find repulsive.

My Gencon 2013

I am a big fan of Gencon, Gencon is a huge gaming convention that takes place every year, currently situated in Indianapolis, Indiana. It is a great festival with loads of games, vendors, and geek culture. The main exhibit hall can only be described as a shopping mall for gamers and geeks, with half a city block’s worth of goods. It is amazing.

Sadly, I’ve missed out on the last few years while I try to get my life in order (writing these damned books!).  This year, however, my girlfriend convinced me me to go. It was her first time (to Gencon, get your mind out of the gutter, Grimdark…) and her enthusiasm was infectious. Since I signed on late, I had to scramble for hotel and badge, but Tommy Gofton, a local gamer and real life fixer in this case, came through for me and made it happen. Here are my impressions of the show.

1) Indianapolis, the host city: The city of Indianapolis continues to impress me as a host city for Gencon. Last time I was there was 2009, and the city is much improved as a host site since then. More of the local restaurants are showing their Gencon Spirit and the city is much more active during all con hours. The food trucks were brilliant. I felt very welcome, even with 40,000 bikers having a get together two blocks away! (I’m not joking, it was cool)

2) Man, that Vendor’s Hall: My Gencon experience centers around the immense vendor’s hall. It takes me several hours to get a feel for everything in the hall, excluding playing demo games and enjoying conversations with enthusiastic vendors and gamers. The vendor’s hall this year was as spectacular as ever. There were fewer “new” releases due to the prevalence of games releases over kickstarter, but the show always tended to overpower smaller releases anyways. The geek accessories were stunning and the booths were amazing. I overspent this year, and could easily have spent orders of magnitude more.

3) What, no Wizards Booth?: Wizards of the Coast did not have a booth in the vendor’s hall. There was a large area reserved for playing D&D in the main gaming hall and magic was, as always, omnipresent, but WoTC declined to put together a vending hall display. Perhaps they are saving up all their mojo for next year for the 5th edition D&D release?

4) The Gamers Movies (Zombie Orpheus Entertainment): So Tommy and his crew, as well as some of the people I drove down with (Todd and Monica) were in a gaming movie, working with Zombie Orpheus. Since I went with them I politely decided to tag along and watch Gamers III, Natural One, and Humans and Households. I wasn’t expecting much, despite having heard good things about The Gamers, Dorkness Rising. I find many shows about Geeks, like The Big Bang Theory, annoy me. The Gamers Movie that I watched (III) was awesome, striking the perfect balance between highlighting the oddities of gaming culture without belittling it, Made with love, I suppose. Even Raw and not fully edited I loved Natural One and Humans and Households. It takes quite a bit to get me to laugh like that, well done!

5) Shadowrun: This being the year of Shadowrun, the venerable RPG came out in its fifth incarnation. I was suitably impressed and decided to make that my big purchase for the con. The Catalyst booth looked as busy as some of the much larger players, like Fantasy Flight and Paizo, which is impressive. This combined with the success of the Shadowrun Returns computer game, really has made this a great year for a much loved series of games.

6) Author Pannels, Where did these come from?: So Gencon is frequented by Fantasy authors, many of whom are gamers and have worked for WoTC, or other game companies. R.A Salvatore, Tracy Hickman, Margaret Weis, and Ed Greenwood are hardly lightweights. But this year I was impressed to see juggernauts like Brandon Sanderson and Patric Rothfuss at the convention (who game, but are not affiliated with game companies). The author pannels were almost as good as the gaming pannels. This is another area that continues to grow and impress. I was particularly taken with Lucy A Snyder at the Dark Fantasy panel, her crisp command of the subject made for an excellent discussion. With a growing spate ofquality author events, I can only see this aspect of the con being more enticing in the future.

7) My Privateer: I went to the convention looking for a Typhon (pictured below) for my Legion army, for Privateer Press’ Hordes game. Man, I have been trying to get my hands on that beast for six months… I was disappointed that they were out at the Privateer Press Booth. However, after a day and a half of searching at the con, I finally found one up for trade! In addition to my hunt for rare models, Privateer also dropped the card game High Command, which I saw everywhere at the show, despite it not being on any hot lists. I played a demo of High Command, which is somewhat similar to deck building games like Ascension and Dominion, and really enjoyed it. I also had lunch at the Ram, which has a Warmachine themed menu during Gencon.

Typhon. Not my paint job…

8) Paizo, Fantasy Flight, and Boardgames: The biggest and most impressive booth seemed to be Fantasy Flight Games. They had lines all the time and several new products including a Star Wars RPG(?). Paizo apparently kicked ass with a thousand person game of Pathfinder and a great new card game. Boardgames were really strong at the con this year.

9) My Indy Pick: I always try to pick up an indy RPG at Gencon, This year it was Dungeon World, a product that was Kickstarted last year. Unlike many games I have picked up (indy and otherwise) this one seems worthy of play and really does live up to the hype of combining old school dunegoneering with some new ideas.

10) Cosplay is King!: The costumes were crazy. Even children were getting in on the action this year, Todd and Monica from our party cosplayed. So many costumes…

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Todd and Monica as Cortana and Fantasy Wolverine 

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Awesome Starcraft stuff 

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Some Bounty Hunters Cornered me

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An orc gives me a nice snarl

Biggest Dissapointments:

  • I missed the Evening with Patrick Rothfuss Event. Tickets were sold out 😦
  • I missed the 1000 person Pathfinder Game. Did not even know til afterwards. Damnit, why?
  • Took a picture of an awesome Dark Elf Samurai dude and my flash screwed it… I need lessons 😛

Best Game:

  • I played D&D at the WoTC Candlekeep event. It was my Girlfriend’s first time playing in 20 years or so. We grabbed a table with a father and son team from Saskatchewan and managed to survive the event. It was enjoyable despite a tired GM and a noisy play-space. I played a cleric. 5th edition looks to be shaping up well.

Headed to Gencon

I am headed to Gencon, in Indianapolis for the next few days… so, no updates. The convention is full of gaming, geek chic vendors, and all kinds of fantasy and sci-fi fans. It will be fun. Since I feel bad about not updating, I’ll leave this little teaser from my upcoming short story (very rough so far)

Predictably, Harlson strolled into their workshop at shift’s end. The third-quarter shift sub-foreman had it in for Darius ever since he’d intervened to prevent Kaz from being transferred to Harlson’s crews. Darius saw it as a favour to an old friend, Harlson saw it as interference. Now he too every opportunity he could to snipe at them.

The whip-thin man began inspecting their work. He knew what today meant to Darius, and thus took his time inspecting the barrel for flaws. Darius sent the rest of the crew to the showers, but dared not go himself. It would be harder for Harlson to find fault with him here.

The big man suppressed a snarl as Harlson ran his fingers along the barrel with a gloved hand. He felt like a man watching a stranger dance with his wife. He hated Harlson. The man knew how important today was to Darius. How could someone always be so clearn working in a place like this?

Eventually even Harlson had to give up and sign off on the gun.

He looked at Darius as he passed, flashing perfectly white teeth in a vicious approximation of a smile.

“[Blue Gladiator] hit twenty-eight points in singles today.” he drawled. “Think your Reds can take us?”

Darius forced himself to be calm. Harlson was slick, he did not want to be tricked.Twenty-eight points was impressive. “Maybe,” he said, hating how faithless he sounded.

“Care to make a wager?” said Harlson, eyes glinting. “A week’s wage?”

“No,” said Darius. He felt himself deflate. He could not afford a wager like that. He’d saved for two months for the tickets to tonight’s match.

Harlson smirked. “I didn’t think so.” he began to walk away, leaving Darius feeling frustrated and defeated.

“I’ll take that bet, sir,” said Kaz, shocking them both. The orc grinned, as he reached for his cap. “Can’t leave this behind.”

“Your loss workman,” sneered Harlson. “Now if you’ll excuse me ,I have work to do.”

 Darius made a point of thanking Kaz in front of the rest of the crew. He felt a little sick inside. Twenty-eight points was a big spread. Even [Red Gladiatrix] would have trouble matching that. He would pass some money to Kaz’s wife if the bet was lost…

Yeah, I’m not entirely sure who I want to use in the fight yet. Oops. The story revolves around Darius taking his daughter to her first arena match, It needs a fair bit of work.

Gencon Woohoo!