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You know that:

Sequels are never as good as the first installment.

Second acts are just place holders.

You can’t recreate the magic of a first impression.

All of these things are true, most of the time.

But not always….

This is the exception that proves the rule.

The first book of the series (Mistborn) felt like a rehash of Sanderson’s debut novel, with only enough twists to keep it interesting but not enough to make it stand out.

This book is nothing like that. The characters are far more interesting, the twists are more interesting, the stakes are even higher.

For the first time in a long time I stayed all night to finish the book, devouring page after page just to see what happened next.

I found the relationship between the principal characters, Vin and Elend is well done, believable and, dare I say it, endearing. Above all else you want these two to succeed, not simply at their individual goals but as a couple. And their character growth is well done, eschewing the typical power curve found in most fantasy stories and instead focusing on personal growth.

I was disappointed somewhat about something that happened with Elend, but I won’t spoil it for you and it is not enough to derail my enjoyment of the story.

Suffice it to say that I have the third installment in hand and will read it as soon as I can and this time I will do it on a Friday night so as to be able to read until Saturday morning! 😀

——-

And now some music by Armin van Buuren which fits Vin and Elend perfectly- Going Wrong:

Or power groups. Many stories have them, they make for the perfect foil and introduce an element of villain cooperation as well as an army of faceless mooks for the hero to fight. SuD has several, most of the fictional but some real (or modeled after real organizations) such as:

  • Yakuza: Ethan meets the leader of the Yokohama Yakuza family. Just like their real life counterparts, they deal in corporate extortion, smuggling of narcotics/weapons, local politics, prostitution and gambling (legal or otherwise). Although honorable, they are criminals and ruthless to the core.
  • Red River: A PMC or Private Military Contractor/Company, i.e. a mercenary company. Three guesses on which real world company they are modeled after, and the first two don’t count.  Corporate and government security, cover operations (including wet work) and intelligence.  Their rank and file come from the best the world’s military forces  and intelligence services can offer (for the right price). Came into existence at the close of the Cold War but have familial links dating back to the filibusters of the mid 19th century America. They are often the muscle for,
  • The Syndicate:  An organization that protects, expands and furthers the interest of the Nephalim on the mortal realm. They use “secrecy in the service of survival” that is, using a series of front companies to allow their members to live in style and feed the “Hunger” without fear of retaliation from mortal authority.  Sometimes allied to,
  • The Cabal: A group of necromancers which trace their origins to the pre-Christian times, these are humans that trade/use spirits/demons from the beyond to further their ends. Their stated goal is to reverse the influence of demons on the mortal realm and make humanity the master of the forces of The Beyond. Most often opposed by,
  • Order of the Temple of Solomon: Better known as the Templars. A multi-denominational group (members come from every sect and branch of the Abrahamic religions). They exist to search and protect ancient knowledge connected to said religions. Mostly scholarly in their pursuits but knights pledged to the service of the Order are powerful exorcist and users of religious arcane lore.  The knights are recruited from existing knightly orders such as Knights Hospitalier/Malta and Papal Orders of Chivalry (although individuals are recruited from all available sources).
  • Bureau of Special Investigations: U.S. government organization created by President Wilson to deal with “paranormal” activity. They police the U.S. for dangerous mystical threats and deploy special forces augmented by individuals with “special” powers to deal with them. They international presence has diminished as other nations/power blocks have created their own forces to deal with said phenomena.

Of course you also have the U.S. Armed Forces, various governments (and government agencies) plus the Catholic Church. Makes for an extremely complicated cast of characters.

That is all for now.

——-


Well, this was not suppose to happen, but it did.

The book launched a rebellion and won!

A bit of explaining is in order.

Originally SuD was meant to be 3rd person close. At least that was the plan. But no plan survives contact with the paper. I thought that was what I did when I wrote it under the feverish pitch of NaNo ’08. That’s what I thought.

Boy was I wrong!

Apparently my writing voice knows better, because it went all 3rd person omniscient on me. Oh, I thought I could fix it in the re-write, at least that’s what I kept writing on the margins with my Pilot G-2 0.7 (Red).

Did I mention that I was wrong about that?

Sorry, must have forgotten about that.

To recap, I WAS WRONG!

So eighty pages in I gave up and embrace what was already there. Might as well run with it, because it works.

Now the MC is a bit of the strong, silent and homicidal type. That I can fix. More emotion, more clarity, same amount of heroic bloodshed should do it.

But the weird thing is, that even with all the back and forth (between me and my writing voice)  about the POV, the more I read the story, the more I like it. Weird, ain’t it?

——-

And now for some Dash Berlin- Man on the Run:

As much as I don’t like writing prompts, I do like to write up shorts around new RPG characters concepts. They sort of serve as writing prompts in their own right. I’s a way to for me to flesh out a character beyond the numbers and rule set. Give it and the world/universe he inhabits some life, not to mention a perfect excuse to write. I’ve already posted one about my current character in our group’s Freeport campaign, and this one deals with a new char for an upcoming Marvel/Mutants & Masterminds superhero campaign (not a crossover, just using the 2E rules). This one is on the Darker and Edgier side of the scale. It is in the near-dystopian future after Marvel’s Civil War with elements from Marvel’s Ultimates universe thrown in as well (and a bit of Prototype/inFamous).

It also contains violence and adult language.

—–

Sgt. Jacob Plum Martin moved down the ruble strewn main street of Wounded Knee, South Dakota. At either side of the street, burning buildings lighted the summer night’s darkness. Most of the town’s inhabitants had fled up the hillock, to the monument that marked another massacre more than a century ago. Behind them, lay the ruins of a museum that had taken thousands of man-hours to build and millions of dollars in donations to keep open.

The stone crosses that made up the monument provided little cover from Martin’s unit eyes in the sky, several recon drones and an armed helo. He and his men walked slowly, with a shark nosed Stryker between them. Five other squads did the same, closing the circle around the hilltop. The plan was simple, once they reached their objectives at the base of the hill, direct and indirect fires would finish off the defenders. A mix of CS/White Phosphorous rounds from the battalion mortars and cannon fire from the Strykers. After that, it was a simple matter of sweeping the top of bodies, and sending them to the portable ovens.

No need to send prisoners to the detention camp in Pine Ridge so they could mix with college kids protesting the government’s “abuse of power”, and no need to worry about the “embedded” press either, they were dutifully reporting this as an attack by native extremist on federal law enforcement. Jacob had done this a dozen times before, in Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and in Somalia. “Sweep and Burn” the troops called it as in “sweep the battlefield” and “Burn the bodies”. No mass graves left behind to embarrass higher ups, no abused prisoners to damage political futures.

The unit came to a halt. He swept the hillside with his enhanced night vision lenses. He could see the huddled masses of the natives taking whatever cover the terrain offered. They formed a tight oval, armed men in the outer perimeter, women and children in the center.

The bastards shouldn’t have brought kids into the fight. They should have taken the money. I mean five-grand apiece is more money that they would ever see. But no, they had to protest against the uranium mine. And their sheriff got shot when the BIE officers showed up to break up the protest. Not to mention shooting at us two days ago and setting up an IED that took out one of our Strykers. When will they ever learn that a few idiots with AKs are no matched against well trained troops with armor and air cover. If I had a dollar…

“Bravo 1 checking in!”, the voice that blared through his ear piece pulled him out of his revelry. He checked the terrain before him. The virtual map overlay synchronized  with the terrain before his eyes. A floating dot told him that they had reached their assigned map point.

He keyed in his mike, “Bravo 2 on point!”

‘Bravo 3 we are good to….”

The radio went dead. No static, no sound whatsoever, note even a click. His map overlay froze. From experience he knew that happened when it stop receiving updates from the battalion battlenet. He depressed the button, channel surfing through the assigned frequencies but nothing happened.

A bad time for the net to go tits up.

He heard the whine of twin turboprops overhead. The chopper was making a final run before pulling back to a safer orbit. Airspace deconfliction. He had to double check, lest the mortar start pumping rounds down range and end up showering the wrong targets, i.e., he and his men, with explosives. A flash of light to his left got his attention.  Something had blown off the helo’s tail and it crash-landed on top of Bravo 1 troops, exploding in a fireball that consumed men and machine alike. The turret of his own Stryker exploded, showering the men around him with shrapnel. More bolts from the sky hit the other vehicles in succession. Martin hit the deck and lifted his gaze from the hard packed soil to see Pvt. Simmons chest explode. Whatever was happening, the gunmen on the hill took it as a sign to open fire down at their tormentors. Another flash of light, this time behind him and a plume of white smoke, highlighted with what looked like bright red fireworks rose into the sky. The other mortar section began to fire, but in their confusion launched their bombs far too short. Tear gas shells and white phosphorus rounds pounded the ground around him, mixed with more bolts from the sky. The mix of gas, heated smoke and dry dust chocked his throat, forcing him into a tear soaked coughing spasm.

He screamed into his headset, “STOP FIRING DAMMIT! STOP FIRING! PULL BACK INTO TOWN!” but heard no reply. He ran back down Main Street, looking for some kind of cover from friendly and enemy fire. He skidded to a halt in front of the high school, a red brick affair. Then a nearby car exploded. The shock wave lifted him off his feet. He saw the world spin around him until he landed on his back, the wind knocked out of him. Martin felt his neck sting. He clutched at his throat and found a sliver of metal had pieced the skin, but done no significant damage. He pulled it out with bloody fingers. His body armor had absorbed most of the fragments. The earth shook beneath him. He turned around, saw, and armored figure approach him. He pulled out his 9mm and fired, each shot in synch with the enemy’s heavy footfalls.

One…two…three…four…five….

One hand seized Martin’s wrist, reliving him of his pistol, the other lifted him up from the ground though his armored vest. Martin tried hard not to piss himself, however or whatever this was had just wiped his battalion. The hand that disarmed him, pointed at the flag sill flying on the school’s flag post. A deep, metallic voice  filled his ears.

“I pledge allegiance to flag of these United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation under the Faith of Our Fathers, Indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for ALL!”

The armored figure threw Martin back to the dust, “To the Patriots, the Time has Come to set aside our Differences and Fight for the Republic. To the Citizens, The Time of Fearing One Another is Over, and to All Americans, regardless of Color, Race or Creed, it is Time to Take Our Country Back!”

With those words, the armored figured rocketed into the night sky, leaving Sgt. Jacob Plum Martin, of the 1st Internal Security Brigade ™ Incorporated, choking in the dust.

——

And now for a cool little vid, which in its own way reflects some of the themes expressed above. In Japanese.

Love is War:

This is my entry for the February’s Fight Scene BlogFest.

Enjoy!

——–

The afternoon sun beat down on Hadrian’s exposed skin. The harsh light glinted of the naked steel of his sword. The roar of the crowd washed over him. He was their favorite, their champion. He ignored it all by counting the clanks as the portcullis rose before him. Each metallic bank of the hidden wheels counting down to the engagement. Each one bringing him closer to the fight.

Clank

“If you want her, you will have to buy her,” said the jealous lover.

Clank

“Five hundred talents at least, my boy.  Enough to make your dreams come true,” exclaimed his manager.

Clank

“Yes, I will leave with you, where ever you want to go my love. Beyond the mountains where the summer’s are cool and the winter’s quite,” said the woman he loved.

Clank

“Not this time. This time you will meet your match. My beast will feast on your bones,” exclaimed the exultant rival.

Clank

“Make it a fight for the ages, and your debt to me will be repaid in full,” said the petulant Duke.

Clank

All the reasons why he was here. One way or another this would be his last fight. Hadrian walked into the arena. He felt the sand between the toes of his sandals. The Duke sat high above him across the oval, surrounded by guards and war wizards. His girth a product of his opulence. He kept the bread and gave his people circuses instead.

And for the last ten years, Hadrian was the main attraction.

No wind blew this summer day. The red main of horse hair on top of the gladiator’s round helm lay limp.  Droplets of sweat came down his arms racing down highways of nicks, muscle and cuts. He reached the center of the arena and bowed to the Duke. The fat man smiled back and raised his hand in salute. The motion quieted the crowed. The Duke stood from his bejeweled chair. “Ladies and gentlemen, it is my honor and pleasure to present to you the Champion of our glorious city, Hadrian the Unconquered!”

The crowd exploded in wild adulation. Hadrian raised his arms, punching the air with steel sword and bronze shield.  “In this most glorious of days, the day our our city’s birth, Hadrian has consented to face his most dangerous foe. A great beast of the North, a Lyndwyrm!”

A hush descended upon the crowd. Once slaves battled beasts but gladiators fought other men. The Church tried to outlaw the games but they only managed to “reform” them. Gladiators rarely fought to the death and fighting animals was rare. Fighting such a dangerous beast could very well mean Hadrian’s death, and they did not want to see that. Not their beloved champion. But Hadrian bowed once again to the Duke and when he raised his head he gave the crowd a wide smile a smile that hid the fear that consumed his thoughts. Faint cries of “No” turned to screams of adulation.

The Duke smiled in turn. “Let the match begin!”

A panel slid open on the arena floor. A gigantic worm slithered from within the bowels of the arena with lighting speed. It’s beaked head raised to the heavens. It gave a ear splitting screech. Hadrian stared his at the dun colored, slime covered opponent.  “Not the brightest idea you ever had,” he said at loud.

The beast turned down toward Hadrian. It’s beak like maw split open, spitting twin streams of viscous liquid that met in mid air. The gladiator raised his shield in time to block the attack, but saw in horror as the sun came though the wholes left by the corrosive spittle.  He dropped the disintegrating shield just in time to see the wyrm descend upon him. He rolled to his left. The razor beak snapped in the air, spraying sand everywhere.

Hadrian stood with a kick stand, just to be battered by the powerful stroke of the wyrm head. The strike sent him flying against the masonry wall of the arena.  Hadrian shook his head, trying to clear his clouded vision before the wyrm’s beak snapped him in two. He danced around the wyrm, using his size to stay under the wyrm body. But his attacks had little effect. The combination of the slime and the beast thick hide turned body piercing stabs into glancing blows.  He drew thick, putrid smelling blood where the sand clung to the underside, neutralizing the ooze. Yet each strike only made the lyndwyrm angrier. Hadrian ducked and weaved careful not to slip in the trail of slime left by the wyrm. He ran until he reach the wall beneath the Duke’s seat. The wyrm charged him. At the last second Hadrian moved out of the way. The stadium shook with the impact. The beast reared it’s head, then spit anew. A pair of war wizards gesticulated wildly over a burning brazier. Columns of fire intercepted the acid raining down on the crowd.  A guard stepped forward, crossbow in hand. The Duke glanced at him. The guard stepped back but kept the crossbow at the ready.

Hadrian traced the slime path way back to the wooden door from which the wyrm entered the arena.  Once he felt wood underneath his feet, he angled his sword to catch the sunlight. The reflection shone on the wyrm’s black eyes. Enraged it dove down on Hadria. He rolled to his right. The worm struck the door, destroying it in a shower of splinters. It thrashed in sheer desperation. Hadrian crouched nearby waiting his chance. As the beast liberated it’s head, Hadrian slashed at the exposed eye. The dark eyeball exploded on contact with Hadrian blade.  The beak missed Hadrian’s head by mere inches.  Hadrian moved back and forth, taunting the creature by darting away at the edge of its damaged vision. It came down, again and again until Hadrian saw his opening. On the last attack, he rolled on his back and the jumped, holding his sword in an overhead two handed strike. This time the blade sunk deep into the wyrm’s head. The creature tried to pry his tormentor by shaking its head from side to side. Hadrian held on as much as he could. Then he slid down on the wyrm’s back.  He landed with a thud on the ground, covered in blood, sand and slime. He turned in time to see the lyndwyrm collapse in a heap a feet away.

He calmly walked to the beast, retrieved his sword and raised it defiantly. The crowd went wild. “Hadrian! Hadrian! Hadrian!”

Every bone in his body ached, but he had won. He would miss the adulation and the excitement, but not the fear.

Undefeated.

Unconquered.

And for the first time in ten long years, unchained and unafraid.

——

Well that’s my entry. I hope you like it.

 

All-Hallows Eve.

I’m not a big fan of Halloween. I don’t hate it, but like St. Valentine’s I consider it an over hyped holiday. I think one of the reasons why I am not particularly fond of this day is the insistence on fear. I don’t like scary movies. I don’t go to the theater or play a game to be scared.  Fear is an unpleasant emotion I could do without unless absolutely necessary.

That doesn’t mean I avoid stories of things that go bump in the night.

Oh no….

But I like my stories where the hero(s) get to bump back.

Less horror and more urban fantasy. For every vampire a vampire slayer, for every demon a demon hunter.

I liked Jaws, and Aliens. Not only were they proper horror movies (never show the monster in the trailer) but the heroes get to fight back. They are not reduced to screaming, running piles of human flesh waiting for their killer to strike them down at their whim. They fight back. They win the day. At a cost, but they win.

Rippley blasted the nasty xenomorph through an airlock.

The shark got blown to smithereens with a well place rifle shot.

Fake blood and gore cheapens real life horrors. Reality is far scarier than anything dreamed up by Hollywood, and far more shocking.

Give the heroes a chance to win and win their bitter-sweet day in the sun.

Commune with the spirits of the dead, draw comfort from those that have come before and confront those that stand between you and your future.

Now that is a story I can sink my teeth into.

And now for some music from Orbital: