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.

_________________________________________________________________________________
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?
_______________________________________________________________________________


“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.”

__________________________________________________________________________

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.
_______________________________________________________________________________


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.

___________________________________________________________________

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).