Monday, October 29, 2018

Excerpt of The Highest Power - Danger of Chaos/Hypocrisy of Order


This is a sample of the first chapter of the final book in the Journey to Chaos series. Right now it is in the beta-reading phase. This here is kind of rough.

It has gone through Microsoft's spell check and the Grammarly program but, right as I was selecting the sample, I found another error. It was a simple one that both of them should have caught but neither did. Anyway, it is more correct than it was before.

            "Good, because we're this close to becoming Lady Chaos' avatar. All we need to do is..." The air in front of her shimmered.

            It became a square and then it further developed into a door. It swung open to reveal a tall human man. His robe was dyed golden-brown, same as Annala's, and cinched at his waist with a rainbow cord. His hair was shaved into a tonsure. In his hand he carried staff crowned by a spear blade at one end and an infinity symbol at the other.

            "Omnias!" The four shouted. Annala brandished her staff. 

            "What are you doing here?" she demanded. He raised his own staff and declared,


            He sidestepped while drawing his staff low across the gate. A figure in a silver-grey tunic and same colored pants stepped forward. A hood concealed their head. Stepping between Kallen and the chaos cleric, the figure reached up and threw back their hood.

            Eric was floored. With her long and silky green hair, large eyes, flawless skin and heart-shaped face, her beauty rivaled Annala. However, it was a colder, sharper beauty. His girlfriend was full of warmth and friendliness. This girl, with her narrow grey eyes, monochrome robe, and tightly braided hair, called to mind polished obsidian at the tip of a spear.   He heard Kallen gulp.

            "Ariel? Is that...really you?" The other girl nodded.

            "It is good to see you again, big sister."

            As if from a spring, Kallen launched herself forward and latched around Ariel. The glomp made her take a step back. Kallen squeezed her, stroked her hair and babbled incoherently.

            "Wow! You're...You've... I've been working all...look at you! It's amazing, you're amazing and..." She pulled back and took another look. She just noticed the same thing that everyone else on the pillar already knew.

            Her sister was human again despite living in Latrot all these years. The outfit she wore was a field version of that worn by clerics of Order. Her posture was rigid. Her eyes were cold. Silver-grey streaked her green hair. "How are you like this?"

            "I appreciate the phrasing, dear sister." Ariel's eyes sharpened. "You didn't ask 'why'."

            "I know why! Order brainwashed you, but it's not a problem. We, that is, Dnnac Ledo, we're very good at deprogramming, especially lately so..." She trailed off when she saw the eldritch light radiating from Ariel's right hand.

            All forms of magical and spiritual ability gave off light because they were powered by mana. It was mana and its higher forms (kon-life energy, paku-spiritual energy, and chaos itself) that composed the world and everything in it. Depending on its nature, the mana's color would change but there was always a color. The only exception was Order.

             Standing in contrast to Lady Chaos and her creation, the power of Order had no color. Like a black hole, the best mortals could perceive was a bizarre non-color resembling silver-grey. For this reason it was eldritch and there was only reason it could be coming from Ariel's hand.

            "I, Ariel Selios,  swear by all things holy, both orderly and chaotic, that I am not brainwashed, blackmailed, or being overtly controlled in any other way other than which is typical of ordercrafters and that I began serving Lord Order of my own free will because it is the desire of my heart and mind to do so."

            "Order does not abide lies..." Kallen recited. She shook her head. " There must be something that    "

            "This has been a long time in coming," Ariel said, holding her hands together at her waist. "I sought Order's shelter long before the Siduban Chaos Explosion. Did you forget the Tale of the Two Sisters? "

            "Did you forget? Lunas caused that explosion! He killed our parents! He's the reason we mutated!" Just saying the word caused it to happen, and Kallen's true form leaked through her human guise. The following words were spoken through four mouths. "Thousands died because of him!"

            "Lunas saved the world that day," Ariel replied, calmly and firmly. "I came here to explain that to you so that you may see the Orderly Truth through the lies of Chaos."

            "What? can't mean..."

            "Yes, dear sister, I have come to deprogram you." Kallen backed away and slipped back into her false human form. "Please listen, otherwise I'll have to enslave or kill you."

            Kallen looked back forth between Ariel and a random patch of ground. "This...This can't....can't...this... sister...this...can't...can't...can't can't CANT'!"

            Eric stepped forward and grasped her hand. At once the peace and tranquility of her soulmate flowed into her mind and soul, then spread through her body. It didn't dissolve her stress; not entirely. She looked into Eric's eyes and he saw her pure confusion and raw panic.

            "I'm sure we can talk this out," Eric said, soothingly for Kallen's benefit. "There's no reason for fighting."

            "Indeed, Mr.Watley," a second new voice said. A second figure stepped out of the teleportation door.

            He was dressed the same as Ariel and then he threw back his hood to reveal two differences. The first was his purple hair and its stripe of black, and the second was the silver-grey circle on his forehead. "I told you before that I would rather we be friends than enemies."

            "LUNAS!" Eric shouted with the voice of a grendel and his hand became metallic claws.

            "Ariel and myself were sent here to neutralize the threat you pose to this world," the prince of Latrot said. "It doesn't matter how we do it as long as it is done."

            "The threat we pose?" Eric asked. "You have some nerve saying that after the stunts you pulled in Roalt and Dnnac Ledo!"

            "I will direct your attention to Sueno as a counter-argument," Lunas said. His tone was as cold and piercing as Eric's claws. "My country's attempts at politics-through-violence is nothing compared your girlfriend's reality crash. She endangered this whole world fruit with her recklessness and willingness to use violence to get her way." Annala stared at him with venom in her eyes.

            "Book of Zatos Volume 1 1:1 'Woe to you princes and enforcers! Hypocrites all!' You know full well the damage you do to the fabric of reality. Your Grand Obelisk rips and tears it every second of every day. Sueno was a mistake, yes, and I deeply regret it but it was also an accident born of desperation." She pointed her finger at him. "Your damage is methodical and deliberate!"

            Her finger moved to Ariel at his side.

            "Even your claims of truth and lawfulness are shams and abominations. Your god's servants kidnapped the girl at your side and warped her mind."

The previous excerpt is from later in this book, and features a battle with a tree monster!

To learn more about the Journey to Chaos series, you can visit Tvtropes at

The Journey to Chaos series is available for purchase at Amazon:
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).

Thursday, October 25, 2018

My first experience with D&D

Do you recall that blog post some time back when I mentioned finding a place to play Dungeons and Dragons? I realized I never said what happened. Here it is.

So I found this café that has a weekly D&D night. The full place fills up with players in their own campaigns. I started at what is basically "beginner hour", the hour before this happens. The Dungeon Masters were already there and hanging out, waiting for new players like me to drop by. One of them helped me create my creature.

I couldn't decide between a dwarf paladin or a gnome ranger so I asked the dice. It decided on the former. So I made a dwarf paladin, and specifically a Hill Dwarf paladin because it had better specs than the mountain one in regards to paladins. Then we got further into backstory and starting equipment. I decided on a War hammer as primary and a mace as a back up (I would come to regret not choosing the throwing spears). Then I choose metal working and leather working to be skills, because I wanted this dwarf to be able to maintain his equipment or make upgrades. This might have influenced my decision to chose Guild Artisan as his profession, which enabled me to choose a bonus language and some other stuff.
The DM I worked with talked up the fifth edition as one where the character's backstory contributed to game mechanics instead of just being fluff. He didn't ignore it entirely (referring to the skills as "what did dad do?" to justify my character having them) but I still noticed a distinction. For instance, there is the Character Traits and Flaws section which he seemed far less interested in than other aspects of character creation (specifically, I think he referred to them as being optional) but he was still helpful there. On a humorous note, we came to a part that he said was "the hardest part of all" and something that "the guide couldn't help me with", naming the character. I smiled because I already decided on Kagen Holystone.

It turned out to be a VERY full night. For a while, I was afraid I wouldn't get to play at all. See, there is a sign-up page on the cafe's website and they had little room for walk-ins like me. Ultimately, the DM that helped me with character creation got a table and pulled together four other players. One was a new player like me, a third was more experienced as was the fourth,  and I think the fifth might have been another DM.

We played what I think was a pre-built scenario. It involved goblins raiding a country farm. The DM set the stage and I was ready for roleplaying but there wasn't much there. I had to ask for clarification that all our characters had already met and were traveling together. He skipped over that so I only got one person's character name, and none of the player's names. I remember them by their classes: another paladin, two rangers, and a bard.

On the other hand, there was still a fun moment where the party stopped by the farm in question and heal those who were injured.  My character, Kagen, and a ranger did medicine rolls on two of the family members and I used Lay On Hands to make sure the second would survive.

Then we went into the forest. At the entrance, the other paladin did this "come out evil spirits!" challenge from his horse, which was cool. Then we ventured inside. One of the rangers had a favored territory of "forest" which meant he couldn't get lost. The DM was really mad/frustrated about this because it was an obstacle that was auto-removed, and thus unavailable.

At the first encounter I showed my noob-ness. We found goblins on the other side of a river. I ran across the bridge shouting "DIE GOBLINS!" It took all of my movement to get to them so I couldn't attack that turn. The others kept their distance with ranged attacks, and even the other new player made good use of Faerie Light to aid the others. I, on the other hand, got knocked out on a critical hit. Fortunately, our bard healed me before I died. The battle ended in our favor and we continued.

The next encounter was at an old campsite. We were attacked by plant creatures over night. I double-teamed with the DM ranger to hack one of them up ("You've got firewood" as the DM said). We rested the night and arrived at the final location in the morning.

It was more goblins and a hobgoblins. This was the climax and it was fun. There was an added element of danger in the poison the hobgoblin was cooking up because he would throw it at us. The DM ranger got poisoned immediately but I/Kagen used Lay On Hands to cure him just as quickly. The other paladin moved to attack, the bard used music magic to make some of the goblins flee and the ranger used more Faerie Light.

Learning from my previous mistake, I advanced cautiously. I moved only half the distance instead of all of it and ended my turn in a defense posture (the technical word is "dodge). This granted me Advantage against all attacks until my next turn. Caution rewarded me by seeing me through unscathed.
Oh yeah, I forget to mention that these goblins exploded when killed. Part of this scenario was the hobgoblin experimenting on the other goblins with the poison and it made them explode, which required a dexterity saving throw to avoid damage. I don't recall any of us dying from it; even Kagen made a saving throw. I was surprised because he is a dwarf, in mail, with dexterity as a dump stat.

The Café was closing soon so the DM had to cut the game short. By this time we had killed or routed all of the goblins (I killed the one that was hasted) and we were still in good shape so defeating the hobgoblin was likely. He skipped forward to the reward phase.

There were potions of healing and a magic item that granted a bonus on saving throws. We rolled for that and I think the other new player got it. I was given a potion of healing because I used one recovering from my initial stupidity. Kagen also levelled up, which means he can use 1st level spells in his next campaign.

I left the café at 10:00 PM or so. Because of "beginner hour", I was there all afternoon and evening. I wasn't expecting to be as noisy as it was. I had trouble hearing what the DM was saying at times. Regardless, I had fun.

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

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Answering Review Request: Misaligned

Armen Pogharian asked me to read their novel "Misaligned". I previously reviewed his story "Poisoned Princess" but this is a different beast entirely. I will examine Plot, Character and Polish and then assign a grade.


From a very high level view, this is an Alien Invasion plot, but the nuts and bolts are not that at all. The experience of the story is much closer to Slice of Life. I didn't place a premise in the introduction like I usually do because I can't decide upon this book's genre. Rather, I don't know if it can decide because it includes a lot.

On one hand, it is very much a Fantasy style book. The protagonist has special powers because her parents conceived her When The Stars Align (basically) and she is trained in how to use these powers by an old wise man and his raven familiar to fight supernatural monsters in defense of her town and world.

On the other hand, it is a Science Fiction book. The old wise man makes clear that these are not magical creatures but aliens from another dimension or misunderstandings between time-displaced humans. The magic powers are just application of physics that she happens to be able to personally manipulate. He even compares them to the research that the protagonist's parents do at the local science institution.

On a third hand, it is Slice of Life. Both the Fantasy/ Science Fiction/Scientifically-Understandable-Sorcery/etc. are concentrated into a small number of scenes. The bulk of the story is ordinary school life, such as Penny training for and then competing in a school swim race, or preparing for a class presentation about Babylonian law codes, or a holiday dinner. None of these are related to the plot. I think of them as filler.

There is a fourth genre here, cat-and-mouse style Crime fiction. See, the story takes a digression to focus on one of the story's two villains, who basically becomes a villain protagonist, complete with their own hero antagonist in a detective. This lasts several chapters and doesn't include any of the previous story elements.

There's even a little Urban Fantasy when Penny and Duncan go to a magician's performance and they realize that this magician has all the same powers and knowledge as Penny, and he uses them in his act.

The villain can only try to make their evil plan a success at certain times of the year, so the gaps between major action make sense. However, the heroes don't do much that is plot relevant between these times. Penny even takes a break from training after one of them. There is little sense of long-term urgency that can connect the scenes together. That is what leads to, in my personal opinion, a feeling of disjunction.

Aside from the plot, I like this setting's world building.  There is much lore about the druids of this verse and their history with the powers and aliens that the main characters deal with in the present day. There's also a brief overview of how the extra-dimensional beings became the gods and monsters of folklore and pagan religions, and why they disappeared.

Personally, Mr. Myrdin's backstory sounds like a more exciting story than what he is doing now with Penny.

Its ending has a good rising action and climax, leading to a satisfying ending.


Penny is our story's protagonist. She is "misaligned", which means she is slightly out of synch with her home dimension and thus capable of accessing higher and lower dimensions. Basically, this means she has such stock super powers as Teleportation, Thinking Up Portals and (in a sense) Super Speed.

She is a nice girl who can adapt quickly. After the plot triggering event, she had just enough skepticism to sound mature and rational but then she was on board with the supernatural conflict stuff. It is with a grounded and moderate attitude that she accepts her role as protector of Piper Falls against dimensional monsters. It is a remarkable attitude, I think.

She is neither overly enthusiastic (Jumped at the Call) nor does she bury her head in the ground and let the problem get worse (Refused the Call). She doesn't even complain or angst about her new duty and the new constraints on her time (Resigned to the Call). Her pair of mentors discuss how the news neither made her feel special nor cursed, just lonely.

Mr. Myrdin is an interesting case. He is definitely the wise old mentor in how he looks, acts etc. but he also still a student under Master Poe (who is a raven, by the way; yes, the joke is intentional). The double dynamic is what I find interesting. When it is time for Mentor Occupational Hazard, he is more devastated than Penny. I also like his sense of humor.

Simon is adorable, clever, and brave. After all, he is Cat Sith.

Duncan is a smaller and more monolithic presence. I don't see much to him other than "Penny's friend and self-appointed protector". Although, he does have this Big Eater tthing hat comes up a couple times.

Of the book's two villains, the human side one is better developed. She gets this minor digression to herself where the reader can see her thoughts and motivations. Her Evil Plan is quite sympathetic, or rather, it would be if didn't lack empathy for its aftermath.


There is a glossary that the start of the book that translates the Welsh used in the book, as well as information for some things like Cat Sith.

Trickster Eric Novels gives "Misaligned" a C+

This has been a free review request. The author asked for an honest one so I provided it.

Click here for my next book review (for fun): Dungeons and Dragons Monster Manual 3.5E

Click here for my previous book review (for fun): The Sword and the Mind

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