Teaser Tuesday

This week’s teaser is from Bloodlust: Will to Power (Domains of the Chosen #2)

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An intense rivalry over the greatest prize imaginable.

“Why are you doing this Karmal?” said Sadira. Her body was battered, but she too was full of power. She saw now that Gavin and Giselle and Vintia and Cleothera had all been right; Karmal was no longer her fiery rival and fierce friend. She had become a monster, inside and out, a woman who had given up her friends, principles, and humanity to be the next Chosen.

“Because I am better than you,” replied Karmal.

They circled. This time, when Sadira’s eyes met Karmal’s there was no give in them, only hurt and defiance. Karmal saw this as a weakness.

“Why prove it in a Deathmatch?” asked Sadira.

“It’s all about power, you dumb bitch,” sneered Karmal. “You are the only one standing between me and my rightful place. Valaran is old news. He got soft and I took his place. You should have backed out when I declared Ut Nex. I’m the strongest now. I might even have saved a place for you and Gavin in my Hearthbound harem. But you stayed in my way, hogging the spotlight as always, all flash and no substance, and now I am going to FUCKING KILL YOU AND CARVE YOUR SKULL INTO A CROTCHPIECE…, and just so you know, I wasn’t exactly rooting for you, even back in Dreadwood.”

 

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Tuesday Teaser

It is Tuesday, and time for a teaser. This week I am going back to my second book in the Domains series, Bloodlust: Will to Power. In this book Gavin finds himself in a dark space, seeking revenge against a Gladiator who is considered to be well above him. He is forced to journey to the Killerès Circle, the heart of the brutal Death Leagues.

Bloodlust: Will to Power

Bloodlust: Will to Power

The Killer’s Circle surprised Gavin. None of the descriptions or rumours that he had heard about the Domains most notorious house of slaughter captured the essence of the place. The arena was much smaller than the Supplicant’s Arena, seating perhaps a thousand, all in luxurious private boxes. The arena itself was made from blocks of black stone, with tall fluted obsidian columns spaced five paces apart, with bases carved like screaming skulls and capitals carved into the likeness of grinning Gladiators. The fighting grounds were half the size of a standard venue, and cunningly built to maximize the sense of intimacy between watcher and performer. Even the sand seemed a little whiter than traditional, almost as if it had been bleached or perhaps carefully sorted for the purest colour, no doubt to better to show the blood that would be spilled. The entrances were ornately framed and all of the accessories were tasteful, gold, silver, black lace and burgundy velvet. Gavin imagined that it looked very much like the inside of well-appointed mansion.

The ceiling of the arena, however, was a forest of corpses hanging on chains, a grotesque mockery of a butcher’s cold room: the remains of those who had been killed on these fighting grounds. Rabble, Mon-sters, and Gladiators hung there, some whole, many in pieces; a constellation of gore. Gavin had been warned about it, but the sight still filled his throat with bile. If he failed, his body would join that ocean of quivering meat. It was no wonder that Valaran had been so disrespectful to Omodo’s corpse given that this was the league he frequented. Gavin looked away quickly, lest he begin to take in details better left un-examined, wounds and faces. What threw him most was the smell. Despite the forest of decaying corpses thirty feet above his head, not to mention the foul air of the city of Dregs, the Killer’s Circle smelled like crushed roses with a hint of strong, dark coffee and wine. The juxtaposition of savagery and decadence unsettled him; there was no pretence of sport here.

Tuesday Teaser

This week’s teaser is from Bloodlust: Will to Power (Domains of the Chosen #2)

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The Cover for Bloodlust: Will to Power

Omodo is one of my favourite characters from the whole series, and I know he has his fans. In some ways he is a another reader identification hero, as his struggles (acceptance, confidence) are far closer to those faced by most readers than those of Sadira (overconfidence, anger, lonely at the top). He has an interesting (cameo) role to play in the Seeds of Ruin, although he does not show up in person…

Neither fighter let up. Omodo drove Gavin back ceaselessly, smashing his shield with punishing blows whenever he caught him out of position. Gavin danced forward, landing a masterful lunge that caught an unarmoured side. The crowd cheered this, but Gavin’s triumph was short lived as Omodo hooked the edge of Gavin’s shield with the back spike on his own weapon, then pulled it out of the way before ramming his horn into Gavin’s chest.

Sadira winced. She had been on the receiving end of attacks like that often enough on the training grounds. Omodo was more comfortable with his body now and he used his horn to great effect.

Thrown backwards by the attack, bloody spit arced out of Gavin’s mouth. He rolled awkwardly to his feet, looking much the worse for the exchange.

Omodo charged. Gavin stood his ground, drawing his spear back for a throw, channelling power. He threw. The spear arced wide. Omodo crashed into Gavin’s shield, knocking him off his feet again. The crowd cheered as the Armodon raised his hammer. Sadira sensed, rather than saw, the burst of power that reached out from Gavin and swung the spear around in mid-flight redirecting it towards the Armodon. Perhaps Omodo sensed it too, or he might have anticipated the attack; with a slight flourish he turned, stomping a heavy foot down at Gavin while knocking the flying spear away with the haft of his maul.

It was deftly done Sadira had to admit.

Gavin avoided the bone-crushing stomp. He rolled to the side and came to his feet with a twist, his short sword was in his hand. He thrust at Omodo. The Armodon was attempting to strike him with the haft of his weapon as he turned back to face him. Both of them struck home. Gavin’s thrust drew blood from the Armodon’s thick hide. Omodo’s haft smashed into Gavin’s shoulder-guard and chin dislocating his jaw. The sheer power of the blow knocked him off his feet. He was standing up again, readying a thrust and a mental blast as the match-time ran out and the trumpets sounded.

Tuesday Teaser

This week’s teaser comes from Bloodlust: Will to Power, the second book in the Domains of the Chosen series.

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The Cover for Bloodlust: Will to Power

When I first planned the series, Sadira was going to play a smaller role. She started off as a cross between a Kardashian and Drizzt, a perfect performer for the fighting grounds. Mosr of my readers reacted surprising well to her, which prompted me to give her more depth and a larger role.

Will to Power follows Gavin, but I managed to shoehorn Sadira into it with a series of interludes describing her match with her chief friend and rival, Karmal. On the whole I really like how it turned out, though it is a little messy. Here is a sample from the first of those interludes.

“Long time no see, Red Scorpion,” said Karmal. The flame-haired woman smiled, revealing her too-sharp teeth. “You’re a long way from the whorehouse. Having fun with those two little harlots you `rescued’ from Dregs? Do they fill the void now that little Lina’s worn out?”

Sadira answered with a rude gesture. A ripple passed through the audience. Looking into Karmal’s eyes, she found it difficult to force herself to see beyond past friendship and acknowledge the hatred burning within those emerald depths. Memory and reality clashed.

The crowd was intent on their words now, listening to the voices of the two Gladiatrices, amplified by magic. The trumpets would not sound until the verbal sparring ended; this was widely considered to be the best match of the Grand Championships, two lifelong friends turned bitter rivals, and none of them wanted to miss even the smallest nuance.

Sadira thought about putting on a show, returning Karmal’s taunt and concealing how she felt from the crowd; it would be easier that way. But she did not hate her former team-mate; instead she felt a deep sense of loss where their friendship had been severed. She spoke from the heart, not caring how the fans would react.

Teaser Tuesday!

This week’s teaser is from Bloodlust: Will to Power (Domains of the Chosen #2)

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Flamina is a dancer for the Blue Faction. A Gifted who had dedicated her life to a less bloody, but still spectacular, form of entertainment than her Gladiatrix brethren. I like the idea of factions hiring the best performers and entertainers of all sorts, which is an idea I first encountered in Guy Gavriel Kay’s Sailing to Sarantium. Flamina’s personality is as outrageous and ostentatious as her dance…

There were blade-jugglers, painters, storytellers, image-magickers and more.

The most anticipated act of all, however, was Flamina, the famed Blue Faction dancer. The slender performer entered the room wearing a mask of living fire that cast her eyes in flickering shadows. Her sinuous body was studded with red gems which caught the firelight and made it seem as if her naked skin was radiating flames. The dancer’s movements were full of liquid grace and bold swagger, like a Gladiatrix taking to the fighting grounds before a roaring crowd.

Any simple arousal over flesh and form quickly turned to awe as a pipe began to play and Flamina danced. Her hips undulated to the music, slowly at first, her long legs seeming to glide effortlessly despite the wild gyrations of her body. Her head remained mostly still, her lips curving into a smile that was half invitation and all challenge. As drums joined the pipe her dance became more inflamed. She swayed and shook, her entire figure vibrating with the intensity of her efforts. Her hair became a wild halo, highlighted by flame. The music kept increasing in tempo, and the dancer seemed to blur, a constant wave of motion.

She kept dancing longer than any of those watching thought possible, faster and faster without losing any of her grace or her sensuous smile. Heat seemed to radiate from her now. The Gladiators and The Chosen watched, entranced by the performance. The musicians reached the limit of their tempo and held it. Flamina became a blur, as if they watched a tongue of fire dancing for them. The tempo held. Flamina danced, graceful and passionate.

When the music stopped, Gavin realized he had been holding his breath. Flamina wound down gracefully, swaying and gyrating, smiling all the while, proving that it was the musicians who had reached their limit and not the dancer.

When she swayed to a halt, her eyes fixed on Gavin and Sadira, for just a moment, and then she turned and gestured to a hulking figure, beckoning Valaran to her. The crowd closed around them, eager to bask in her glory.

Teaser Tuesday

This week’s teaser is from Bloodlust: Will to Power (Domains of the Chosen #2)

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The Cover for Bloodlust: Will to Power

In the next book of the series, the road to ruin/the seeds of ruin I am focusing once again on individual intrigues instead of huge battles. The basic ideas were introduced in the chapters featuring Master Sax and Ravius in Bloodlust: The Blades of Khazak Khrim. For those not familiar with my work, think of those chapters as James Bond meets Spartacus.

Anyways I thought it worthwhile to familiarize people with some of the side characters. Today we will feature Headtaker, one of Gavin’s Hearthbound, who is featured in Will to Power.

Gavin’s second opponent in the tournament was Headtaker, a towering human woman in heavy harness. Her silvered armour was thicker on her left dominant-facing side, complete with an ornate overguarde sheathing her left arm and shoulder. Her main weapon was a long-hafted great-axe with an elegantly curved crescent blade backed by a sledge for extra weight and topped by a long thrusting spike, like that of a halberd. Headtaker outweighed Gavin by at least a hundred pounds, all lean muscle, a physique that only a Gladiatrix could achieve. She was no doubt powerful and aggressive, and Gavin expected to have to weather an early blitz: axe fighters had a strong offence, but the weapon was not great for defence.

Headtaker is by far the most relaxed of the Hearthbound serving Gavin and Sadira. I wonder if it has anything to do with her powers informing her personality.

 “Sweet Ezuis,” Headtaker swore, eyes wide. To her credit she did not hesitate, but Gavin’s spell hit her as she swung, like a hammer-blow to the head. It was not truly debilitating to the hardened Gladiatrix, but it momentarily blurred her vision. Gavin parried her faltering axe-blow. Headtaker finally achieved the power need for her spell. Unable to unravel an enhancement Gavin opted to strike with another powerful mental blast, staggering her. Before she could fully recover he thrust his blade at her throat. She did not try to sidestep. He felt an explosion of power as an unfamiliar spell possessed her. His sword met surprising resistance as it slid off her neck. Her skin gleamed in the sun, shimmering with tiny metal scales. A small trickle of blood dripped from her throat where his sword point had stopped.

  “Ironskin,” explained Headtaker. “You’re not the only one with fancy spells, Lionfang.”

  The Gladiatrix grinned. She hefted her axe, throwing herself forward. She paid little heed to Gavin’s sword and razor-edged shield now; with skin as hard as metal and heavy armour she had little to fear from most of his attacks. She concentrated on attack, battering Gavin with vicious chops and quick slashes. The stalwart defender met every one of her swings, mindful of lessons learned defending against stronger opponents like Omodo. Meanwhile he kept up his mental assault, realizing that it was his only chance of doing real harm to her now. A metal shell did not protect her mind. His original plan, to mind-grip his spear once she forgot about it, would be of little use against her now.

It occurs to me that Headtaker’s signature power is very similar to my favourite x-man, Colossus (easily my biggest complaint about Deadpool). She is a powerful, reliable combatant, trusted enough that she is given command of several sectors of battle in The Shield Maiden and Blades of Khazak Khrim. In the next book we will learn more about her personality and motivations…

Teaser Tuesday

This week’s teaser is from Bloodlust: Will to Power, the second book in my Domains of the Chosen series.

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I am often asked where I come up with my monster ideas. This one is from the game Dwarf Fortress — a randomly generated Forgotten Beast that was like a flying spider of some sort that kept spewing shards at my poor dwarf militia.

Games like Dwarf Fortress are superb writing aids and wonderful stimuli for my imagination. There are no extensive visuals to the game (yet), only rudimentary tilesets or ascii characters, which spurs the player to fill in the details on their own. In that respect is a lot like reading a good book!

The beast was a gem-like blur of quickly moving limbs, made mostly of what looked like green glass. It had legs like a spider’s but more in number, each ending in a sharp curved claw with a jagged edge. Wings with beautiful green glass feathers jutted from its back. Eight eyes like shining black pearls, and a round mouth full of sharp glass shards completed its head. It was a startling sight, as beautiful in its symmetry as it was fearful and unworldly.

The creature stood in the sun for a moment, as if it were basking in the awe and fear of the crowd. Then it burst into motion, crossing the sand quickly, legs scuttling and wings fluttering.

Even as he fights it, Gavin has a hard time wrapping his head around the creature. It is entirely new to him.

The creature shook off his spell with an effort of will. It reared up, thrusting four leg-blades at him, like spears. He blocked three shots with deft movements of his shield. He ducked the last. Rather than back away, Gavin moved a step closer to the beast, pushing his shield in front of him. His nearness made it harder for the creature to angle its limbs for powerful thrusts. His spear rang off the glass carapace again, chipping it. No blood issued from the wound.

The lack of bleeding, couple with the fact that the wounds caused by the creature’s attacks do not heal make this a contest of endurance.

The thick glass-like carapace splintered against the wall with a sound not unlike ice breaking under-foot. He pinned it, crushing it into the stone with his shield. Leaning into the beast, he drew his short blade. Two spiky limbs lifted and speared at him as the creature tried to use its weight to topple him. Gavin swung his sword at one of the claws. The blade struck true, smashing the spindly limb. Shards rained down on him, threatening his eyes. He flinched. The other limb skidded off his thick shoulder armour. He felt something slice into his abdomen. He bellowed and pushed harder.

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