Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Answering Review Request: TitanBorn

Rhett Bruno asked me to review his novel "TitanBorn". It is a post post-apacolyptic, space science fiction, buddy cop story. I will examine Plot, Characters, and Polish before assigning a grade.

PLOT

I like the prologue. The prologue has good foreshadowing and the characters create this sense of impending conflict. It also sets up the Ringers/Titan Born as sympathetic by providing their POV first thing. Without this first piece, the conflict would be less grey and the climax and resolution make less sense.

The main narrative is also good. I generally don't like first person narratives because they come off to me as awkward or self-conscious without a frame narrative. In here, Malcom Graves starts his narration by talking about the ultimate result of the mission, which makes this whole story basically a flashback and then he narrates further flashbacks, including a transition sentence between the two layers of flashback. I thought it was clumsy, but then I reached the ending, and that's when I discovered the frame narrative. With that discovery, my opinion of the first person narration improved.

The plot is basically a Buddy Cop story, but IN SPACE! One is a veteran who works on experience-based intuition and the other is a fresh graduate who works on data-crunching logic. They have been assigned to work together by the head of their company to track down the organization that both bombed and stole something from New London. Naturally, they butt heads and bicker all the way, but their boss thinks they can make a fantastic team.

While I think some aspects of this setting are ridiculous, it is generally well put together. For instance, cities on Earth are all built in a line instead of a sprawl because this is supposed to keep things scattered and less vulnerable to another meteor. I think this would be impractical to live in, and difficult to maintain. I just ignored it. On the other hand, the constant push to spread humanity to other planets and moons of gas giants makes more sense, given that this society has developed the necessary technology centuries ago. It also ties into the plot's conflict; the underpinnings for it.


Like Star Trek, it has a "future racism" sort of thing. The kind of discrimination going around in the 21st century is no longer relevant. Instead, the most significant form of social intolerance is between those born on Earth and those born in other places, particularly those as far away as Saturn. Those born there are referred to as "ringers" by others, and they take this as a slur. They prefer "Titan Born", but Malcom at least sees this as the sign of superiority over others given their attitude.


When I neared the end of the book, I didn't think Mr. Bruno would be able to close it without a cliffhanger or something open ended. I was incorrect. This is a great ending. It is both resolved and unresolved at the same time.

CHARACTERS

Malcom Graves is a veteran "collector" which is what this story calls "bounty hunters". He is cynical, slovenly, sarcastic and has been busting heads for Pervenio Corp for decades. He's the oldest collector to do so for two reasons: 1.) he's good at what he does and 2.) he's a thrill seeker. At the start of the story, his boss gives him a vacation as a punishment.
Aside from a collector, Malcom is a father. The flashbacks universally include or refer to his daughter Aria and how he messed up their relationship. On the one hand, he clearly loves his daughter and tries his best to prepare her for adult life, but on the other hand, he's a single dad and his only skill set involves tracking people down and killing/arresting them.

Zhafft is a fresh graduate from the Cognent Initiative. This is an academy Pervenio runs for unusual individuals. It trains them to maximize their natural strengths while ignoring their handicaps. Zhafft, for instance, is heavily implied to be on the Autistic Spectrum. He doesn't understand sarcasm, metaphors, and typical human relationships but he does understand deduction reasoning, mission parameters, and numerous forms of combat. He's also a living lie detector.

It's a Red Oni/Blue Oni partnership.

As stated in the grey morality at the top, there is no Big Bad. In fitting with Malcom's cynical mindset, what we have here are anti-villains fighting each other. Only one person in this story has a motivation other than "follow orders", "follow the money" or " Revenge!" and that person enables this plot's starting conflict.

POLISH

I found maybe one typo. The book looks good.

Trickster Eric Novels gives "Titan Born" a B+

Click here for the next review request: Plaint for Provence

Click here for the previous review request: Sky Ghosts

To read the review for the sequel, "From Ice to Ashes", click here

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Sassy Saturday: Tiza the Tank

Welcome to another week of Sassy Saturday at Trickster Eric Novels.  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: Her Majesty’s Ordercraft Security and Compliance Team

The context for this post: An S-class monster (think "kaiju" like Godzilla) has attacked Roalt in the middle of the night and Eric runs out to make sure his friends are ok. Then one of them makes a heroic appearance.

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Fireballs fell from the sky and peppered the road all around them. The only place of safety was the small circle created by Eric's barrier.

“Pay! Definitely pay!”

“Then keep your mouth closed and hold on!”

The Tazul shook itself and spread a hailstorm of scales all over the city. Each one was bigger than a human and heavier than an orc. I can't dodge all those! Eric looked for any kind of cover. The Arsenal Lodge was just up ahead. It was built like a fortress. He pushed himself faster as the scales fell; one to his left, one to his right, one in front that he swerved around only to find himself running straight into a fourth!

“DYNAMIC ENTRY!”

Boom! A leg of steel kicked it just hard enough to divert its path away from his head and into a cart behind him, which shattered instantly. The knightly figure landed and fist bumped itself. Eric was about to thank them when it grabbed his arm and pulled him inside the Arsenal Lodge.

“Stop gawking, Dimwit!”

The forge was undamaged in every way. Although the scales fell all around it, none of them so much as scratched the glass. Ax Arsenal himself was playing chess with his son at the register counter. Both of them were decked out in the best equipment he had in stock.

“Stay here,” he said without looking away from the game. “You'll be safe.”

“There's an S class outside!” Eric shouted.

“I have faith in my merchandise.”

“But it’s –”

I have faith in my merchandise.”

“But thoow! Did you have to do that with a gauntlet?”

“You would have splattered without me, idiot!”

“I was worried about you! Where's Nolien?”

Tiza opened a compartment above her pteruges and pulled out a scry. “Where else would he be?” Eric rushed back out the door, but she grabbed his tunic collar before he could build momentum. “Slow down, Leroy Jenkins. You need more than orc toenails if you're going out there.”

Eric appraised his armor and realized that he wasn't as quick as he thought. The armor, as tough as human bone, was chipped in places, cracked in others, and all over scorched by the fire. Reluctantly, he decided to wait while Tiza picked out replacements. She walked the aisles and picked up the highest quality and most expensive armor off the shelves.

“By the way, what's that thing on your arm?”

Eric lifted his arm and the kid rose with it like a leech.

“A thief I found on the way here.”

“Okay.”

Tiza set the armor on the ground and nonchalantly began to disarm him.

“Hey!”

“Hold still. This won't take long.”

After taking off the ruined armor, she snapped, laced, and buckled the new armor in place. She was remarkably efficient. It was the same practiced movement as a squire. Didn't ladies in the Grisly Tales do this for their knights...? Tiza’s more like a knight herself…

“Done!” She looked over her shoulder at the blacksmith and his son. “You don't mind, right?”

Ax moved a piece. “No. Go ahead. Bring them back when you're dead…done.” His son fidgeted. “I meant ‘done.’”

“Okaayyy.” Tiza placed the frozen-with-fear thief off to the side and secured him by bending a spear about his waist. “On that cheery note, let's go!”

The two mercenaries ran outside with Tiza taking point. Eric followed Tiza as she led the way to the Heleti General Hospital in Healer Town where they would find Nolien. She brushed aside fire and debris alike in her mighty armor. It not only protected her from attack but also amplified her mana reserves and focused her power. Eric wore the same set and it made him think he could wrestle a Cecri or blow away a xethras.

As they ran down the street, they spotted civilians threatened by the monster’s rampage. There was a man pinned in place by a fallen cart and children trapped in a corner by a meteor’s flame. The two shared a glance and went to work.

 Tiza grabbed the wrecked cart and hoisted it over her head. The man crawled out from underneath and Tiza tossed it down an alley. Then she hoisted the man himself onto her shoulders. All the while, she told him that it was Tiza Sprial, Dragon’s Lair warrior, that was saving him.
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Looming Shadow, and the rest of the Journey to Chaos series, is available for purchase at Amazon

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

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Sassy Saturday: Her Majesty’s Ordercraft Security and Compliance Team

Welcome to another week of Sassy Saturday at Trickster Eric Novels.  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: Forged by Fire into a Queen

The context for this post: Eric has been attacked in Roalt Castle by someone using animated armor as flunkies. After Kasile's sentinel defeats him, she sends in a team of specialists to investigate the armors.

Anyone who can tell me what their names refer to gets a digital hug.
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The sound of five pairs of boots distracted Eric. A group of five young women tore down the hallway and into main hall. They wore light armor made from silver-grey metal and studded with red-gold emblems. Their chest plates, gauntlets, and greaves were decorated with the royal Ataidar Crest. Around their waists were segmented skirts made of four plates with each plate representing an animal from the Avatar Alliance. Around their foreheads was a circlet bearing an Eye of Order crossed out with red-gold. Each of them had a different hair color, yet all of them had strands of silver-grey mixed in; they reminded him of Kallen's strands of golden-brown. When they saw him, they stopped and said, “Trickster's Choice.”

He slouched. “Yes...What about these guys?”

One of them stepped forward. Eric assumed she was the leader by her more ornate armor. She also had the least grey hair among the five and the rest was a shade lighter than the golden-brown of elves. It was shoulder length and covered by a transparent red veil held in place by the circlet. She produced a badge that depicted the Eye of Order imprisoned in the claws of Ataidar’s Crowned Tiger.

“I am Kimberly Johnson, leader of Her Majesty’s Ordercraft Security and Compliance Team. Please step aside and allow us to perform our jobs.”

“Sure.” He turned around and Kimberly spoke up again.

“Please stand by because I will need to debrief you. Also, don’t try to cloak yourself because I will still be able to see you.”

“Sure.”

Kimberly turned to address the other four. “Taylor Jones, Daniela Cranston, Thuy Kwan, and Jasmine St. John, you know your specialties. I want to know everything about these armors in five minutes. Understand?”

“Yes, ma’am!”

They dispersed to check each body. They ran a scanning device over them and jotted down the readings. They traced with their hands and eyes for reasons that Eric could only guess. Only sparingly did they use the eldritch light of Order. When they finished with one suit, they switched to another. The fifth kept watch over Eric. She sized him up with a mixture of suspicion, curiosity, and disappointment.

“Your hair is solid red.” Not sure what else to do, Eric nodded. “He'll change that soon enough.”

Tasio wants to change my hair color?

An ethereal hand descended on his shoulder and another settled on his head. Shadow Dengel stood behind him and his shroud draped over him. I have figured it out. You never will.

Order's power leaches the color out of their hair as it does everything. Eric answered to remind himself and not because an arrogant figment of his imagination challenged him to. Chaos' power stains what it touches golden-brown because that's what chaos looks like inside a world fruit. Kallen has it because she was in the Siduban Chaos Explosion.

The four ordercrafters consulted with each other, then stood and returned to their leader's side like planets orbiting a sun.

The black-haired one, Taylor Jones, stepped forward. Eric noted that her hair was unusually long for a soldier, down her back. He also noticed that her bangs were as even as a ruler, and two side locks came down to her shoulders. She saluted and said, “This humble one traced the metal to a mine in Anich and it was likely processed in Liclis before being shipped elsewhere. There are no identifying marks other than the runes.”

The redhead, Jasmine St. Jones, stepped forward. Her hair was short enough to be a crew cut. She saluted and said, “I determined the runes to be standard ordercraft for creating automatons with extra for deflecting or negating mana. Absorbing runes are not present. If someone wanted to make anti-mage weapons, these would be effective.”

The brunette, Daniela Cranston, stepped forward. Her hair was in a braided tail. By now, Eric was putting a puzzle together. This was the fourth distinctive hairstyle and hair color. She saluted and said, “As for me, I can’t find any trace of necro or soulcraft. They’re purely automatons. The only thing animating them was their control crystal. It is unlikely that anyone has worn any of these suits.”

Is it deliberate? Let’s see…Ordercrafter means Order philosophy which means….

The blunette, Thuy Kwan, stepped forward. Her hair was in a bun. She saluted and said, “My evaluation can confirm that because I sense no hostility in these suits. Nor do I not see a connection to Epideus or his lieutenants. They were either enchanted by an impersonal force like Latrot’s Grand Obelisk or an unregistered and stoic ordercrafter.”

 “I see,” Kimberly said. “The fact that a common thug had access to this technology will assist Her Majesty and Abbott Tolis in their media war against King Epideus. My thanks to you all.”

They put their hands over their hearts and said, “We only seek to fulfill Her Majesty’s will.”
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Looming Shadow, and the rest of the Journey to Chaos series, is available for purchase at Amazon

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

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Print Version Reflections on A Mage's Power

As of this writing, I am 147 pages into the print version error checking of A Mage's Power. This is out of 476, so I've got a ways to go left. I'm just looking for technical errors; anything that might have been missed in the proofing or stylistic things (Painting the Fourth Wall) that were removed.  I have to restrain myself from content errors.

A Mage's Power is the first novel I ever wrote in addition to being my first piece of original fiction. Naturally there are mistakes content-wise because of this. I did not have the experience to see that issue with pacing or this issue with character development etc. nor was I aware that I needed beta readers to provide prospective. Now, several years and two books later (three if you count Journey to Chaos book 4), I see things that I didn't earlier. For example,

During Eric's first mission, he tries to light a fire by clanging rocks together instead of using a fire spell that was in one of the early chapters of his spell book.  As it is now, the event is one more thing for him to berate himself for. There is plenty of that already; I over did that point. With time and distance, I see the merit of reviewers who found Eric annoying. Instead, I could have had him succeed at lighting the fire as a small confidence boost. It wouldn't have changed the plot but it would have made his character arc a little smoother.

 Instead I made up something later about how his staff didn't like fire magic because it was made from a drought plagued tree. This fact only comes up again twice and once as a joke. This means Eric can't use his staff for fire magic ever and while it serves the purpose of forcing him to work without "training wheels" sooner, this plot point is poorly developed.

I would like to make these changes but doing so would mean adding first draft quality material into the polished product. It would take a lot of time and potentially money if I had to order more professional proofing, formatting etc. I might not like the changes when they're done, which would put me back where I started.

Thank you for listening. Now I return to error-checking.

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A Mage's Power, and the rest of the Journey to Chaos series, is available for purchase at Amazon. Right now only ebooks are available but in time all of them will have print versions.

To learn more the Journey to Chaos series, visit its Tvtropes page.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Sassy Saturday: Forged by Fire into a Queen

Welcome to another week of Sassy Saturday at Trickster Eric Novels.  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: This is Deathkiller Bow

The context for this post: Kasile has summoned Eric and his team to her castle in order to give them special missions. After a separation lasting months, Eric sees how she has changed now that she is a queen instead of a princess.
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Basilard approached the throne, dropped to one knee, and bowed his head. The novices followed suit, except for Tiza, who preferred to stand. The area immediately around her suddenly became stifling and she became so faint her knees buckled, at which point the temperature dropped.

 “Team Four of the Dragon's Lair, Your Majesty. How may we serve you today?”

Kasile indeed looked majestic. On her head was a crown of gold with a ring of star-white pearls orbiting a ruby the size of a grapefruit. Her brown hair shimmered like silk and the streaks of fire red gleamed in the sunlight. Her gown was tailored to her form from the high neckline to the bodice and full skirts; the bottom of her throne was swamped by them. It was a rich red in color and outlined with gold thread at the hem, waist, sleeves, and neckline. A royal blue slash with the royal crest was bound to her waist. Her hands were adorned by white gloves that reached to her shoulders where they disappeared into the gown’s sleeves. These overlapped the gloves and tapered to a point that resembled a tongue of fire.

 More than her clothes, her demeanor had changed. She sat straight against her throne, hands clasped in her lap, looking slightly down at them. Eric didn't remember her being so...regal. Princess Kasile always had a twinkle in her eyes, but the eyes of the queen were cold. They flickered like the fire of someone burning at the stake.

There was a lot of cleaning up to do when a coup failed. He would know because she told him all about it last night. After she prevented Selen’s power grab by force of arms, she hunted his accomplices. With Siron’s help, she arrested, tried, and punished all of them. That sort of trial-by-fire hardened her into a woman who would order executions without hesitation or doubt. At the end of the week, many of the upper echelons of Ataidar's government were empty.

She's no doubt monitoring their replacements.

“I have a special mission for each of you.” Even her voice was different. It was a clean and beautiful blade unlike the cutesy-but-proper tone she affected before. “Mr. Bladi, your mission is in the Research Tower. The Royal Mage has need of a consultant for his latest project. He claims it will lead to a breakthrough in the treatment of mana mutation. Your clan specializes in a related field, and so I hope you will be able to advise him in the proper path he should take.”

“I'd be honored to assist such an esteemed mage.”

Her gaze turned to Tiza and the girl stood a little straighter. “Ms. Sprial, the new recruits have been complaining about training in the increasingly cold weather, so I want you to pass out hot chocolate to ease their burdens.” Before Tiza could protest, she continued, “You may use any other means you find necessary to encourage them to take their training seriously.”

Tiza grinned like a maniac. “You know me too well, Princess Tent Burner.”

“That's Queen Tent Burner!” Nolien hissed, then paused, then face-palmed. “What am I saying!?” Eric and Tiza chuckled, but Kasile didn't curve a lip.

“Mr. Heleti, I –” Kasile began and, to the shock of all, Nolien interrupted her.

“Forgive me, Your Majesty, but my surname is 'Iteleh.' I was only born on Heleti lands.”

Kasile arched a fine eyebrow. “I assumed it was a typo. Heleti spelled backwards, as if The Trickster altered the registry.”

“That must be it, Your Majesty.”

 Kasile smiled like the tiger on her sash. “It would explain why the heir to one of Ataidar's Four Pillars is in a mercenary guild. The Trickster loves having fun with us, doesn't he?”

Nolien stiffened and seemed to shrink under her words. “Yes, Your Majesty.”

“You are the team's healer, correct?”

The tension lifted and he replied again. “Yes, Your Majesty.”

“Good. It would be embarrassing for both of us if you weren't. The Royal's Healer's assistant is absent today and so he needs you to fill in. Can I depend on you?”

“Yes, Your Majesty.”

“Mr. Watley. Your mission I must discuss in private.”

An adviser stepped forward. “Your Majesty, I must object to this! Alone with a mercenary –”

“That defended the Crown.” She turned her face in his direction and her eyes narrowed into silts of fire. “I hope you are not implying something about Mr. Watley's character.”

The man paled and kowtowed. “No... Your Majesty.”

Good.” Her eyes returned to normal. “I'm glad my adviser is showing respect for guests.”

“Thank you, Your Majesty.” The human returned to his place in the entourage.

Kasile arose from her throne and beckoned Eric, who arose from his kneel and followed her into a private chamber. Two guards closed the door behind them and the instant she was out of sight, she clutched Eric. It wasn't a welcome-back hug. She buried her face in his neck, exhaled, and tension evaporated by the bucket. It was a needy hug. All her royal dignity was gone; she was just a girl that that needed a hug. Eric held her as long as she wanted. Her body was warm against his own, very warm. Being queen must be harder than she thought.
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Looming Shadow, and the rest of the Journey to Chaos series, is available for purchase at Amazon

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