Saturday, August 26, 2017

Sassy Saturday: Final Showdown with Gruffle


Sassy Saturday!  Every week will be an excerpt from one of my novels showcasing a kick-butt heroine. If you want read about the original blog hop the link is here.

The previous Sassy Saturday post can be read here: Young Blood vs Old Spirit

 The context for this post: Gruffle has gone One-Winged Angel. It's time for the final boss fight. Eric's party members include Annala, Kallen, Perrault and [[ SPOILER! ]]]

Special note: This will be the final Sassy Saturday until I publish another book. I'm thinking about doing a different excerpt series. This one will be about magic in fiction having rules, i.e. it is not a story breaker concept if an author thinks it through. Instead of just excerpts, I will use those excerpts to illustrate the point of a specific rule. 
If you like the sound of this, please let me know in the comments.  

Second special note: Outside of anything to do with video games, there is something here that references the inspiration for the scene. Can you find it?

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Annala intercepted him with a jab to the stomach, and just as quickly, he flew in the opposite direction. Then she turned and blocked Samael’s Reaper Cleave. The Right Hand of Death pressed down with all her divine might, and Annala grunted with the effort required to hold her back. Her body trembled but ultimately held firm. Samael and Gruffle disappeared, and she and Perrault became golden blurs as they fended off attacks too swift for mortal eyes to follow. Five seconds later, all four reappeared and Annala was only slightly winded.

“I just shared a special moment with my boyfriend, no, my fianc├ę,” she declared. “My love amplifies the divine chaos within me, which has already been amplified by direct contact with Lady Chaos herself. It would take a million reapers to challenge me now!”

Gruffle snarled. “A million? A million! A MILLION! A MILLION! A MILLION!”

He raised his scythe high and it fired a necrotic beam into the sky. At its highest point, it stopped and sent out a pulse. Then it fired a new beam southeast. There it connected with the Grand Obelisk in Latrot’s capital.

“Execute Reaper Command: Royal Rite of Annual Decimation!”

“Wish Reaper Gruffle!” Samael shouted. “You are not permitted to use such authorities until you have formally been sworn in as this world’s resident reaper. Either refrain from this action or renounce your Final Wish. Persisting on this path will violate your probation.”

Gruffle didn’t look at her. He didn’t acknowledge her. He only had eyes for his scythe and the action he had primed it for.

REMOVE ONE-TENTH OF THE POPULATION!

The Grand Obelisk released a pulse that combed the country. Every city, town, village, farm and hermitage was analyzed to account for every living thing within its borders be it animal (human or otherwise), plant, spirit, or bacteria. It calculated how much each area could lose before its local stability was affected. Then one-tenth of them fell dead immediately. Their kon and paku traveled to Gruffle and flowed into his scythe. From the scythe, it coursed into Gruffle himself. The look on his face was euphoric.

“Mom!” Kallen shouted.

Nunnal stepped out of Albatross IX. “Yes, sweetie?”

“Grab Emily and fly as fast as you can. She will not survive being near this fight.”

Nunnal nodded. Transforming herself into a dragon, she grabbed both Emily and the wrecked airship and flew away at the speed of sound. The sonic boom she created rattled the stone pillar, and a bigger wave was incoming.

The numerous lives augmented Gruffle’s power far beyond anything he’d ever dreamed of. The total number of stolen years reached the thousands. The teeming souls melded with his own spiritual body and transformed it.

It grew fourteen times bigger. It grew more limbs in more places and all of them as rotten and decayed as the original pair. It grew more wings, each as ratty and bat-like. It grew two more heads; one at the front center of mass and one in the back. Gruffle roared like a monster and his Divine Presence rippled through the area on seven planes of existence. The monstrous reaper faced down the trio of chaos warriors, who braced themselves against its power.

[[[SPOILER! ]]]

Tasio played a brief tune on his ocarina. “Final Boss Fight: Gruffle the Rogue Reaper!”

By the time Tasio finished speaking Gruffle had regrown all his limbs, and this time, each of them was curved like his scythe. With them, he attacked all four of his enemies at once.

They dodged, deflected, and blocked, but the sheer number of attacks made completely avoiding injury impossible. They took damage at an alarming rate. If this continued, then, godhood or not, all of them would die.

“Annala!” Eric shouted. “Medic duty in the rear!”

“Got it!” She dashed to the far end of the platform away from Gruffle and prayed for the good health of her companions. Immediately, their wounds healed and their stamina rebounded.

Eric thrust forward his right hand and created a dark fire wall to burn away limbs that tried to entangle him and then flew away from Gruffle’s scythe combos.

“Perrault! Cover me!”

“If you insist...” She reverted to her wolf form and watched for attacks on Eric instead of opportunities to strike Gruffle. Spotting seven, she lunged so quickly she appeared to teleport as she bit through them.

“Kallen! Attack from the other direction to split his attention.”

“So this is teamwork...” she muttered as she teleported to Gruffle’s back side. Once there, she alternated between white fire blasts and mana bolts tainted with chaos. She kept her distance so she would have plenty of room to dodge his counterattacks.

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Transcending Limitations, and the rest of the Journey to Chaos series, is available for purchase at Amazon as an ebook. The series is also available in Kindle Unlimited. The paperback format is available at Amazon and also at Createspace.

To learn more about the heroines of Journey to Chaos, visit the Tvtropes character sheet.

Brian Wilkerson is a independent novelist, freelance book reviewer, and writing advice blogger. He studied at the University of Minnesota and came away with bachelor degrees in English Literature and History (Classical Mediterranean Period concentration).

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Read for Fun: How To Cheat Your Friends At Poker

I picked this up on a whim a bookstore one day. I thought it would be about harmless tricks to prank one's friends during a friendly game. I couldn't have been more wrong. See, the title is not accurate. This book isn't about "cheating" but "making money", it doesn't involve "friends" but "con marks" and it doesn't really have much to do with poker either. Poker just happens to be the medium that the first two work through. I would call this book "How to make money by scamming strangers who play poker".

Pen starts this book by talking about the book's supposed real author, "Dickie Richards" who is a professional poker con artist. Whether this is true or a literary agent hypothesis I do not know for sure but either way it definitely shows that Pen, who usually embraces controversial topics with enthusiasm, felt a need to distance himself from this book's subject matter. It is easy to see why.

The first section written by "Dickie Richards" is called " You Are Not Playing A Game". This is part of his refreshing frankness that is maintained through most of this book. There is no romanticism or rationalization in this first part and it sets the tone for the rest. This book is about stealing money from people through poker tricks. He calls himself a cheat, a crook, and other things. At one point, he even advises aspiring poker crooks that if they can steal the game's money box or a player's wallet then they shouldn't even bother playing; just grab the money and run.

This is likely why the book doesn't actually teach any poker tricks. Indeed, Dickie Richards refers those looking for the nuts and bolts of such tricks to another author. Instead, this guy talks about the other parts of his craft - how to find marks, how to get invited to their games, how to hide one's cheating, when to "burn a game" and what to do if caught in the act of cheating. However, this book is more than just instructions, it's also an exercise in ego stroking.

Dickie Richards brags about how much money he makes. He compares himself to a god in how he controls the poker table. He regularly reminds the player that he doesn't have to work a "real job" because he has poker cheating. He even brags about how he seduces the wives of the people he scams and then has the audacity to say he improved their marriage by making the wife feel guilty. I suppose this makes for more lively reading but it has its flaw. Namely, it is a contradiction of the real author's "I am a crook" frankness.

There are sections where he complains about people looking down on him because he cheats. He argues that controlling the table makes for more interesting hands, rewarding people who had bad days, punishing jerks, and generally making the evening more fun for everyone. He even says that taking someone's money teaches them a lesson about not playing with money they can't afford to lose, which is something he specifically debunked earlier in the book. This makes him sound like a hypocrite trying to have it both ways and thus also makes him sound pathetic.

One more thing: there is a section where he gives tips on how to make one's poker game cheat-proof. Then he says he included that section just to appease the publishers and goes on to say how all those tips are either useless or helpful to cheaters. Ironically, he does actually advise how to make one's game cheat-proof. He talks about how much work it is find games and get himself invited to them, and also how much time goes into practice to make his moves seamless. Because of these factors, he says that as much as 200 dollars "isn't worth bending over to pick up". Thus, the method to make your game cheat proof is simple; don't play for stakes. If you do, keep them low or make them something that a nomadic card shark can't use, like I.O.Us. Dickie Richards specifically said he doesn't like those.

Bottom line: treat it like a work of fiction (like it just might be anyway) and it is an entertaining read.

Trickster Eric Novels gives "How To Cheat Your Friends At Poker" an B+


Click here for the previous book review (also for fun): The Italian City Republics

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Brian Wilkerson is a independent novelist, freelance book reviewer, and writing advice blogger. He studied at the University of Minnesota and came away with bachelor degrees in English Literature and History (Classical Mediterranean Period concentration).

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Short Story Submitted!

I just submitted my short story to an anthology. It is Dragons, Demons and Djins, organized by Rhonda Parish (you can read about it here). It was a fun and strange experience to write in short story format because I'm used to going much bigger. The limit was 7,5000 words. My piece ended up as than 7,000 words and fit within 12 pages.

There are four characters in the entire cast (five if you count the golems as a collective character). Everything takes place in one or two locations, although there are several areas within one of them. There is very little exposition about magic or the local society. I could definitely expand it if I had a mind to but the initial conflict has been resolved.

Now I wait to see if it will be accepted into the final project. That's another reason it is an unusual experience. Being an independent author, I don't have to worry about approval periods. Amazon's KPD, Smashwords, etc. accept anything that doesn't violate their policy standards (not getting into that debate right now) so when I submitted it I only had to wait for to appear on the site.

As for my main project, I am on chapter 12 of the first draft.

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Brian Wilkerson is a independent novelist, freelance book reviewer, and writing advice blogger. He studied at the University of Minnesota and came away with bachelor degrees in English Literature and History (Classical Mediterranean Period concentration).

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Read for fun: The Italian City Republics

This is another textbook I kept from a college course. It was about Europe's Medieval Cities and specifically about the development of urban cities in one part of it. "The Italian City Republics" was one of them. It focuses on the "communes" developed in Northern Italy during this period.

Subjects are their origins, how they functioned, how they developed over time, and how they related with other governmental entities in comparison to their own inner discord/harmony. The last chapters focuses on all the vulnerabilities that ultimately lead to many of them failing in one way or another.

I found this book to be quite useful and informative. It has a focus on the structure and function of the various forms of governments (consul, podesta, Captain of the Pololo, etc.) and provides much in the way of details and examples of them. Other areas, such as the social or cultural aspects of the communes are only included insofar as they effect and are effected by the government

The organization of the book itself is well thought-out. For instance, putting a chapter about "External relations" back-to-back with one about "internal Divisions" was useful for easy compare/contrast. This, in turn, aids understanding and retention for the next chapter, the tendency for communes to fall. After reading about all the points of failure, the sharp rivalries and general commotion that could take place, the reader is primed to learn how fragile the communes could be.

Much of the information is pulled from historical documents and official government stuff, which is certainly relevant. However, there is also helpful input from another angle. For instance, several lines from Dante's "Divine Comedy" are used to illustrate Florence's habit with re-writing its constitution.

Photographs of buildings, locations, paintings and statues are also included. I enjoyed looking them over and relating them to the subject, such as the fortified towers that were built by factionalism and conspicuous consumption.

I'm definitely keeping this as reference material.

Trickster Eric Novels gives "The Italian City Republics" an A+


Click here for the next book review (for fun): How to Cheat Your Friends at Poker

Click here for the previous book review (for fun): The World of the Shining Prince: Court Life in Ancient Japan

Brian Wilkerson is a independent novelist, freelance book reviewer, and writing advice blogger. He studied at the University of Minnesota and came away with bachelor degrees in English Literature and History (Classical Mediterranean Period concentration).

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Sassy Saturday: Young Blood vs Old Spirit

Sassy Saturday!  Every week will be an excerpt from one of my novels showcasing a kick-butt heroine. If you want read about the original blog hop the link is here.

The previous Sassy Saturday post can be read here: "I don't want to hurt you" Mutual Threat

 The context for this post: Zettai has come into conflict with Omnias, an immortal cleric has spent thousands of years gaining power and combat experience. How does she win?
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“I know what you are planning, little girl,” Omnias said, “and it will not work.”

“Oh? Why not?” Zettai asked without lifting her eyes from the pages.

“Because I could kill you before you finished.” Omnias kept his eyes and spiritual senses on the Dragoness. She could kill him if he let his guard down for even a moment.

“I’m not worried about that.” Zettai still didn’t stop reading to reply. She used one hand to turn pages and the other to form the magic gestures pictured on them.

“Oh? Why not?” Omnias asked in deliberate mockery.

“Killing a necro penitent is itself a death violation. With Neuro’s blood on my face, my entire person is inviolate. You don’t want to dodge reapers forever, and especially when you are this close,” she held up her thumb and pointer finger for emphasis, “to reaching your goal.”

She gripped Neuro’s scythe with her right hand and placed her left flat on the Book of Death. She closed her eyes and began to chant. It wasn’t smooth and it wasn’t steady, but Omnias recognized death speech when he heard it.

“Here’s what’s going to happen,” Zettai said with her eyes closed. “You are going to leave us all alone and you will do so empty handed.”

“Why would I do that?”

“Because you are afraid of death.” A necrotic aura bloomed around her. “As of this moment,” she opened her eyes and pointed her finger at him, “I have become death.”

A tiny sliver of necrocraft generated in Neuro’s former scythe and fired at Omnias. He used Chameleon Leap to avoid it, and in the process, gave up his position at Eric’s throat. Ridley dashed into the void he left and her guarding stance was not something Omnias dared to test.

“Just like I thought,” Zettai said, smiling smugly. “Immortals fear death just like everybody else. No, they fear it even more, because for them, death is something avoidable. They’ll do whatever they can to keep it away. It would take years of constant effort for me to kill you with necrocraft.” She laughed. “I might die of old age before I drained it all, but you still couldn’t let it touch you.”

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Transcending Limitations, and the rest of the Journey to Chaos series, is available for purchase at Amazon as an ebook. The series is also available in Kindle Unlimited. The paperback format is available at Amazon and also at Createspace.

To learn more about the heroines of Journey to Chaos, visit the Tvtropes character sheet.

Brian Wilkerson is a independent novelist, freelance book reviewer, and writing advice blogger. He studied at the University of Minnesota and came away with bachelor degrees in English Literature and History (Classical Mediterranean Period concentration).

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Read for fun: The World of the Shining Prince - Court Life in Ancient Japan

"The World of the Shining Prince" is a book I kept from a college class. It was a history course about the Far East. Between all the reading assignments, I didn't have time to read all of it (or even most of it) so I kept it. Only recently did I finish it.


This is a broad look at the Heian Era of Japan, and specifically, the court life at the capital. It covers many subjects from the structure and function of the government, religion, literary culture, taboos and superstitions, relations between men and women and, of course, the history of the period and some other things.

This is not a novel so I cannot use my usual method of critique. Interestingly though, one of its major sources is indeed a novel, "The Tale of Genji" by Murasaki Shikibu, one of the capital's court ladies in the tenth century.


It's interesting stuff. It starts with an argument about how creative and sophisticated Heian high culture was, not a copy of something else. Rather, that after a period of importing stuff from China, it spent another period, for lack of a period word, "Japanizing" it to create something new that worked for them. The author argues that this is a parallel to a more recent copy-and-transform period that took place after WWII.


The following chapters give focus to the areas mentioned earlier. The source of this information is primarily literary records and other written works. Murasaki's "Tale of Genji" and her diary are the most prominent. Second is the "Pillow Book" by Sei Sh┼Źnagon and many others are quoted or referenced. Indeed, the author states that Japan's Heian Era has unusual riches for the historian when it comes to written records, but certain sectors of the society are much better covered than others due to most of the writers being court ladies.  This reliance is balanced with evidence from other sources and a mindset that makes allowances for poetic license, exaggeration, etc.


One of my favorite sections was about the Fujiwara family and the methods they used to stay in control through the period. This included the many ways they used imperial power such as making the emperor himself a figurehead and making their own offices the only ones with de-facto power. It is my favorite because I find it interesting, it contrasts with the government in place in my time and country, and also because it had the side-effect that the imperial family outlasted the period and became one of the longest reigning "ruling families" in the world because they didn't actually rule.


I enjoyed reading this book and I found it informative. I don't have any other book on the period to compare it to and its methods seemed sound to me. That's what I'm judging it on.
 

Trickster Eric Novels gives "The World of the Shining Prince" an A+


Click here for the previous book review (for fun): The Book of Wizardry

Click here for the next book review (also for fun): The Italian City City Republics

Brian Wilkerson is a independent novelist, freelance book reviewer, and writing advice blogger. He studied at the University of Minnesota and came away with bachelor degrees in English Literature and History (Classical Mediterranean Period concentration).

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Sassy Saturday: "I don't want to hurt you" Mutual Threat

Sassy Saturday!  Every week will be an excerpt from one of my novels showcasing a kick-butt heroine. If you want read about the original blog hop the link is here.

The previous Sassy Saturday post can be read here: Supernatural Guard Duty

The context for this post: Coming off the last excerpt, the next threat to Eric's life comes from his own mentor, Basilard Bladi. This poses a challenge to Annala beyond the man's power and experience.
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Meanwhile, deep within Mt. Fiol, Annala and Perrault sat in the tunnel playing tic tac toe. Omnias left some time ago and Gruffle was rounding up more spirits to send her way, so for the moment, she had nothing to do. At the sound of footsteps, she flipped her hood up and jumped to her feet. When she saw Basilard, she didn’t relax.

 “Hello,” he said casually. “I’m here to visit Eric.”

 “Sorry, but you can’t,” Priestess said.

A little more nervous, he said, “I’m his mentor. Surely it would be okay.”

Priestess’s stance was tranquil, but Perrault raised her hackles. “No one can see him until his ascension is complete. That includes you. This is for his safety. Please understand.”

“Annala, let me pass.” Basilard gripped a sword he kept in reserve. It wasn’t as good as BloodDrinker, but it would do. “I don’t want to hurt you.”

This made her crack up laughing. “That’s who you think stands in your way? Annala Enaz, the teenage schoolgirl and novice cleric? Allow me to correct you.”

She pounded her staff on the ground and the clack of wood on stone echoed in Basilard’s soul. She unfurled her spirit and made his knees buckle. She looked him in the eyes and inspired in him the Universal Dread.

 “I am a veteran cleric in the service of Lady Chaos. For five years, I have wandered the Veins of Noitearc, and I have never met my equal. I have killed monsters, demons, and fiends. Reapers avoid my path and sowers seek my aid. The power of ordercraft fades in my presence. I am Priestess and I will not let you pass.”

“You told me to be honest!” Basilard bellowed.

“I what?”

“In Sage Hearth, you told me to be honest with my actions. I did and now you’re stopping me from doing so!”

“I’ve never said anything of that nature to you,” Priestess protested. “I haven’t even been to Sage Hearth! I’d love to read its records and its authors because they don’t allow copying and so... maybe I haven’t yet. My life hasn’t been linear since the Latrot raid.”

Basilard unfurled his own spirit. She didn’t react. He released his full power. It made the tunnel shake and the air vibrate, but she mimed yawning. He fired off disabling spells from sleep to petrification to paralysis. She deflected all of them with her staff, then pulled down her eyelid and stuck her tongue out. He charged, but she kept him away with a mana beam that ignored his barrier. She cut it off as soon as she pushed him back to where he started.

“Basilard, go away,” Priestess said mockingly. “I don’t want to hurt you.”

“I can’t. The safety of my family and the future of my daughter depend on this.”

“I know and I don’t care. Eric’s importance to me and to the future of Tariatla outweighs that of your clan and your daughter.”

“Not to me!”

He ran forward and made a downward slash, but she blocked it with her staff. He bore down on her with his greater height and muscle mass. She forced him away with her greater spirit power. Once again, they were separated by five paces.

“I could have shapeshifted and forced you away physically, but I don’t need to.”

“You will!”

He attacked again and alternated between the physical and magical at a break-neck speed. Priestess negated both seamlessly. She never exploited openings or pressed advantages; just stopped him from advancing. She didn’t even sic her familiar on him. Hours passed this way and he got desperate.

“Bladi Empowerment: Adrenaline Overdrive!”

His muscles bulged, veins and nerves popped forward, and a red aura highlighted it all. Shouting a battle cry, he rushed Priestess again. She stood her ground and blocked his wild strikes; once, twice, thrice. Then he slipped past her guard and plunged his sword into her chest. She screamed and Perrault lunged.

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Transcending Limitations, and the rest of the Journey to Chaos series, is available for purchase at Amazon as an ebook. The series is also available in Kindle Unlimited. The paperback format is available at Amazon and also at Createspace.

To learn more about the heroines of Journey to Chaos, visit the Tvtropes character sheet.

Brian Wilkerson is a independent novelist, freelance book reviewer, and writing advice blogger. He studied at the University of Minnesota and came away with bachelor degrees in English Literature and History (Classical Mediterranean Period concentration).

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Read for Fun: The Book of Wizardry

This is a book I bought a long time ago at a bookstore on a whim. I started reading it soon after but I stopped for reasons that I will explain in the review itself. I finished reading it last month or so. Yes, this book's review is much delayed in coming. It is not a novel so I can't use my usual criteria. Instead, I'll just write my impression in a couple paragraphs.

This book is basically arts and crafts + choose your own adventure with a frame narrative to pull everything together. An
elder wizard, Cornelius Rumstuckle, has been chosen by the Wizard's Guild to teach anyone who picks up the book how to use magic. The bulk of the bulk is written as lessons for the trainee/reader and the last bit is the "Wizard's Journey" which serves as a test for the trainee/reader.
 
It is written so that it sounds as though the elder wizard is talking to the reader instead of sounding like a schoolbook, such as Cornelius anticipating questions and responses. Of course, this is a work of fiction so that's not actually happening but it is remarkable how it keeps up the act. After making the four magic tools, for instance, he says that the trainee/reader is not going to be taught how to use them for anything until they have "joined the guild", that is, finished the book.
It is the magic tools that made me pause reading the book for a while. One of them is making a fan from bird feathers and they have to be found on the ground (gifts from the birds, as Cornelius puts it). Not only is that time consuming (and possibly unhealthy via disease) but it can be difficult in some areas. Combine this with how the trainee/reader is not supposed to read lessons out of order, and you have a recipe for someone putting the book away and forgetting about it.

There's also the "magic" of astrology, where a wizard can look up connections between activities and constellations and/or planets and do a little ritual which supposedly helps in mundane tasks, like finding a rare music CD. Yeah, the magic is doing things the non-magical way with invisible and unnoticeable back up.  At least there's still the "you'll be taught the big stuff later" thing as with the magic tools.

However, at some points, the author doesn't try. Like the magic method of memory, which is the Memory Palace method started up by an ancient Greek who the author says was never magical.

The "Wizard's Journey" at the end is a choose-your-own-adventure thing. Out of all the lessons from earlier in the book, only the astrology stuff is really necessary. I find it annoying because of the numerous fake outs. The ending, where the trainee/reader finds the entrance to the Wizard's Guild tells the trainee to send a letter to the publisher saying as much. I haven't done that because this is an old book so whoever was responsible for responding is probably not doing it anymore.

Bottom line is that this is a fun read. It is certainly better at the "I want to be a wizard" wish-fulfillment angle than any novel due to its frame narrative.

Trickster Eric Novels gives "Book of Wizardry" a B

Click here for the next book review (for fun): World of the Shining Prince

Click here for the previous book review (request): Gothon's Campaign

Brian Wilkerson is a independent novelist, freelance book reviewer, and writing advice blogger. He studied at the University of Minnesota and came away with bachelor degrees in English Literature and History (Classical Mediterranean Period concentration).