Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Straight Outta Fangton excerpt

Chapter One

“Who ever heard of a vampire working at a goddamn 7-Eleven?” I muttered, standing there fiddling with the Slurpee machine.

Technically, it wasn't a 7-Eleven. It was a Qwik & Shop, which basically amounted to the same thing and was the fifth sort of this business in this location. You'd think the owners would have clued into the fact this particular road thirty minutes off the highway wasn't the best place to put such a store.

I was dressed in a green apron and doing double duty restocking the shelves and working the counter since my partner, David, was doing approximately jack and shit to help me. David Treme was a reasonably good-looking blond-haired Caucasian man who was presently doing his “Randal from Clerksimpression by reading a porn magazine as I did his job for him. This was doubly ridiculous because he was technically my slave.

Heavy on the “technically.”

“Hell, Peter, who ever heard of a black vampire?” David said, not bothering to look up.

I stopped struggling with the Slurpee machine. “There have been plenty of black vampires.”

“Name four.”

“Eddie Murphy in Vampire in Brooklyn, Aaliyah in Queen of the Damned, Blade, and Blacula.”

“Blade is a half-breed; he doesn't count.”

“Hey hey, can it with the racism,” I said, frowning. “Some of us started as half-breeds.”

David lowered his magazine. “Speaking of which, when are we going to seal the deal?”

I grimaced. “Could you not call it that?”

“What? You'd prefer I term it something more erotic? I thought all vampires were bisexual.”

I blinked once. “No, David.”

“Well, that's disappointing.”

I sighed. “Well, we're all learning new things about our condition, aren't we?”

When Thoth had approached me about the possibility of becoming a vampire, he'd more or less made it sound like becoming undead would be one long party. Since the Great Economic Collapse when the Vampire Nation had bailed out the country, vampires had moved back from friendly body-glitter types to ruthless sexy badasses again. Thoth, who lived a life between Jay Z’s and Dracula’s, certainly made it work.

Thoth might have mentioned I was expected to work his way up from the bottom and make my own fortune, though. Honestly, there were times I regretted his making me a vampire. I didn't have any problem with the liquid diet, vulnerability to sunlight, or occasional homicidal urges, but being his servant had come with the perks. Now I was back to the same sort of work I'd been doing before Iraq, especially since my exile from New Detroit.

“I'm just saying, I'm ready for the next step.” David shrugged his shoulders. “How long have we been friends?”

“Too long by my estimation,” I said, giving up on fixing the Slurpee machine.

“So maybe it's time you made me undead.”

“You've only been my servant for a few months, David.”

“That's long enough.”

I rolled my eyes and went back to the cash register, biting my tongue about how I'd been Thoth's servant for four years. David knew that and didn't care. I decided, instead, to point out the systemic concerns. “It's a bit more complicated than just changing whoever I want. Population control is a big thing among the undead. After the explosion following the Bailout, they've seriously been cracking down on the creation of new vampires. Any one of us who changes a mortal without the local voivode’s permission gets killed.”

“Isn't that illegal?” David said, finally paying attention. “I mean, we’re United States citizens and all.”

“The half of the Supreme Court owned by vampires holds the rights of the VN sacred while the other 
half approves of anything that gets more vampires killed.”

I turned to the seventy-year-old across the counter who'd been waiting for her Slurpee. “I'm sorry, but the machine is busted. Can I get you anything else?”

The woman sniffed the air before grabbing her handbag. “You realize you're going to Hell.” It was statement rather than a question.

I paused, wondering if I should respond to the old bat. “Yes. Yes, I do.”

The woman stomped out, forgetting her debit card.

I picked her card up and slipped it into the lost and found, not bothering to go after her. “Can you believe that?”

“Speaking as a bisexual man, yes,” David said, shrugging. “Don't take this the wrong way, but I'm actually kind of glad you guys are the new target for the Religious Right.”

“And you still want to be a vampire.”

“I figure immortality and the ability to fly would make up for it.”

“I just kind of float,” I muttered. “That's another thing they don't mention. It turns out all of those awesome powers you see in movies take time to develop, as in centuries, and aren't nearly as cool as you’d think.”

“Floating is cool.”

“Hypnosis would be better.”

“Isn't that like rape?” David asked, tapping the Slurpee machine and making himself a Green TurboblastTM.

“What?” I said, appalled.

“You know, hypnotizing women into letting you drain their blood.”

“Hell no! I mean, yes, but I wouldn't do it for that. I mean for, like, uh, convincing people to give me money or sending away my creditors.”

“Isn't that like theft?”

“You're a real killjoy, David.”

I was spared further conversation by Steve, the other useless employee at the Qwik & Shop, who was coming back from the bathroom. He was a six foot one, thin, pale man with long black hair, sunken eyes, and bad teeth who dressed like he'd raided Russell Brand's closet and not washed for a month. Steve Emerson was a werewolf, something I'd only found out a month into working here when he'd dropped dead for three hours before spontaneously reviving as the police were carting him off.  Apparently, resurrection was their thing unless it involved wolfsbane. Though Steve was testing it  with every conceivable illicit substance known to man.

“Hey,” Steve said, walking up to us and staring at us.

David and I exchanged a glance.

A few moments passed.

“Uh, Steve?” I asked.

“Yeah?” Steve said.

“You want to move on down?” I asked, not caring where he went as long as it was away from me.

“I have something to tell you,” Steve said.

I really hoped it was that he was quitting, but suspected he'd forget even if he did. Then again, it wouldn't make sense for him to quit since he was my boss. Yes, Steve was the manager, and not me. Goddammit, how far had I fallen that I gave a shit about that? I was actually starting to miss Baghdad.

“What is it?” David asked.

“Don't encourage him,” I said. “He's on meth right now.”

“Heroin, cocaine, bath salts, PCP, and several new pharmaceutical concoctions,” Steve said, smiling. 
 “It's a well-balanced mixture all canceling each other out.”

“Jesus,” David said. “How are you not dead again?”

I flinched at the name Jesus, which was awkward since I was still nominally Christian and hadn't taken the whole “vampires are damned before God” thing all that seriously. It had also altered my swearing, as I could take the Lord’s name in vain but not actually call to him. “Actually, I'd be more concerned about how Steve is able to afford all the shit he puts in his system.”

“I'm a millionaire,” Steve said. “My great-great grandmother was Betty Crocker.”

“I'm pretty sure Betty Crocker wasn't a werewolf,” I said. “We’d have been able to taste the difference.”

David, however, bought it hook, line, and sinker. “Why are you working here, then?”

“Because I spend all my money on drugs,” Steve said, shrugging. “Anyway, you and David are like gay vampires, right?”

“You're about half-right,” I said, remembering another reason why I disliked Steve.

“About the vampire or the—” Steve started to say.

“Just tell us what you wanted to say,” I said. I wondered how much of Steve's addled-drug-user act was just that—an act.

Steve stuck his thumb over his shoulder and gestured back at the bathrooms. “There's a dead girl in the bathroom.”

I blinked.

So did David.

“You might have opened with that,” I said, pulling out my cellphone to call the cops. “Any sign of how she died?”

“Well, she's getting back up,” Steve said, shrugging. He grabbed a candy bar from the front rack and started eating it in front of me.

I stopped dialing my cellphone. “Are you going to pay for that?”

“No,” Steve said, chewing as he talked.

“So she's a werewolf?” David asked, all too fascinated by all this.

“No, she's one of your kind,” Steve said. “That's why I brought it up. I figure when she wakes up, she's going to probably kill whoever goes in the ladies room, so we should probably lock her up until daylight and then then drag her out into the road.”

“You can't do that!” I said, horrified. “That's murder.”

“Can't kill what's already dead,” Steve said, finishing his candy bar and dropping the wrapper on the ground. “No offense.”

“Quite a bit taken,” I said, appalled.

I tried to think of who could be so horrifyingly reckless and stupid to turn a mortal in the bathroom and then abandon them to whatever fate awaited them. Vampires tended to awaken extremely hungry, Steve wasn't wrong about that, and the local police had a “shoot first, never ask questions” policy when dealing with the undead. It was like being black with a little more black. Believe you me.

Searching my memories of the customers who'd come in the past couple of hours, I couldn't think of anyone who particularly stood out. Then again, that was kind of the point of being a vampire—we didn't look any different from anyone else. The inhuman beauty and pale skin thing was another invention of Hollywood, one for which I was very grateful.

“David, I need you to get all the security feeds for tonight,” I said, taking off my apron and getting the spare key for the women's bathroom.

“You sure I should be—” David started to argue.

“Do it!” I snapped and exercised my will.

David's eyes widened and he immediately went to work, following my command. I immediately felt guilty about doing that to my friend, but this was a situation where it was justified. I hadn't been kidding about vampires and population control. It was generally agreed that there should only be one vampire for every hundred thousand humans, and given New Detroit had about two thousand Undead Americans, that wasn't exactly working out.

The Old Ones in the Vampire Nation, as a result, had made a not-so-unofficial decree that there was to be some serious population pruning. Anyone not over the age of a hundred was to be killed for the slightest offense. It had worked, after a fashion, since this had immediately resulted in the majority of people my age plotting ways they could off the Old Ones. I’d even fought in the Network Riots that had gotten a lot of my friends killed—I’d also fought on the Old Ones’ side. None of that boded well for the girl in the bathroom's survival.

“Hey, are you just going to abandon your post?” Steve said as I walked past him.

“Yeah,” I said. “Yeah, I am.”

“Well, consider yourself fired!” Steve called back after me.

“Can you imagine someone else actually giving a shit about working here?” I called back, reaching the bathroom door. The newly reborn vampire inside hadn't ripped the door off the hinges, so that was a good sign.

Steve paused. “Shit, right, you're rehired.”

“Yeah, well, I'm going to need the night off,” I muttered. “I'll make it up, though.”

“If you say so.” Steve had already started eating another candy bar.

As I started to unlock the door, it occurred to me it was very strange Steve knew about a dead woman being reborn in the bathroom. The thought abandoned me as soon as I had it, though, because I could hear sounds of feminine agony and torment from the other side.

It was a sound that reminded me of a roadside bomb that had gone off while a bus full of mothers bringing their children home from a soccer game had been passing us. That had been another reason why I'd been glad to become a vampire.

Vampires didn't dream.

Opening the door, I peered inside the room and saw that water was starting to pool on the white tile floor where the newly created vampire had ripped out a sink and tossed it to the side. The mirrors were smashed and had little bits of blood from where her fists hadn't fully transitioned into the rock-hard granite they would later become.

The Qwik & Shop women's restroom had three green stalls and a scent of haphazardly applied bleach and disinfectant coming from everything. It didn't entirely eliminate the smells of humans going about their business, but weirdly, vampire nostrils didn't register that sort of thing as innately bad. It wasn't good, mind you, but our entire brain chemistry was rewired to smell and hear things differently.

The newly reborn vampire was currently on the ground in the fetal position with her arms around her legs. She was a pretty, frizzy-haired black woman who reminded me a bit of Nathalie Emmanuelle, the actress who played Daenerys’s assistant on Game of Thrones. The woman was dressed far too nicely for this place with an expensive leather coat and business suit dress. Both of which were getting drenched now.

Steve hadn't been lying. It was obvious she was going through the beginnings of the rebirth. I still remembered my experience with it and how utterly painful it had been. That had been when I'd had my creator with me to suppress the agony of my transformation as well as feed me fresh blood. Without your creator or enough blood to make the transformation go smoothly, it was damned near impossible to survive the event with your sanity intact.

The worst cases became draugr, what most people thought zombies were. They were mindless creatures that craved the flesh of the living. The few cases of families getting ripped to shreds and eaten had done wonders for the undeads’ reputation in America, I can tell you that. Whoever had abandoned her like this was a monster.

Lifting my hands, I approached her slowly. “OK, I don't know how to do this, but I'm going to do my best. Don't be afraid, you're just becoming a vam … OK, that's terrible. Listen, I'm going to get you some blood and it's going to be A-OK. Just stay calm and try to—”

I was interrupted in my speech by her screaming as her fangs burst through from where her canines had been.

“Ouch, I hate that part,” I said, taking a moment to think about where I could take her.

The hospital was a horrible choice, as many people had found out when they'd taken hungry vampires to places filled with vulnerable prey that triggered all of their predatory instincts.

An idea hit me.

“OK,” I said, reaching down to take her arm. “We're going to go for a ride. I'm going to—”

The woman interrupted me by leaping up and sinking her fangs into my shoulder, tearing into my flesh to drink my blood.

Ah hell.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Vampire: The Masquerade 5th Edition review

    VAMPIRE: THE MASQUERADE 5TH EDITION is a book I never expected to see. I was a huge fan of Vampire: The Masquerade in the nineties. I was about as big a Gothic Punk as a tabletop roleplaying gamer could be in the South with no Goths around him, no black clothing in his wardrobe, and a restrictive Catholic high school. I loved pretending to be 8th generation Elder Lord Sirrius of the Ventrue and Erasmus Von Prague the Tremere Knight. It was a game inspired by INTERVIEW WITH A VAMPIRE, LOST BOYS, and BRAM STOKER'S DRACULA. I traveled from the seedy streets of Chicago to Prague during the Dark Ages to the end of the world before the line ended in 2004.

    Its difficult to overstate just how influential Vampire: The Masquerade was in a post-Twilight era when vampires have so much shade thrown on them. Ironically, it's in part because of the tabletop roleplaying game that the undead became so over-saturated. BLADE, TRUE BLOOD, UNDERWORLD, and other works all drew from the lore of the game. There was a badly made Aaron Spelling TV series that I still have a fondness for and a couple of awesome video games. It was an influence on my STRAIGHT OUTTA FANGTON and I WAS A TEENAGE WEREDEER books and I can name many other urban fantasy authors who had some experience with the game.

    The premise of the game is extremely simple: you are a vampire in the modern world. At some point in the last fifty years, your character was a normal human being transformed into one of the undead. You are part of an undead society that exists behind the scenes and must maintain a constant vigilance so humans cannot find out about your existence. This is the titular Masquerade. Nightly unlife is a constant struggle against the vampire nobility, vampire hunters, werewolves, and your dwindling humanity. If you give into the killing urge too often, you'll eventually degenerate into a mindless beast that has to be put down.

    The 5th Edition of the game opens up with thirty pages of in-universe fiction that is designed to appeal to the now 30 and 40 year old fans of the game who played it in high school. The opening story is a letter from Mina Harker, a real person in the setting, who is addressing one of her descendants she's Embraced (turned into a vampire) out of loneliness. Other fiction talks about how the Camarilla (vampire society) has fallen and a Second Inquisition of ABC agencies globally has started a massive purge of the undead. Yes, the Masquerade is partially broken and now vampires have to fear drone strikes as well as thermal-vision equipped Special Forces.

    The idea of the government knowing about the undead is probably the only way you could believably do the Masquerade in the 21st century. In an age of cellphone cameras, cloud servers, instant global communication, and satellite networks--it's slightly more believable the intelligence communities want to avoid a global panic from the revelation the supernatural is real. I also like how the gameline says humanity is kicking the collective asses of vampiredom. Setting juggernauts like the Tremere Inner Council and Camarilla's leadership are wiped out to remind people why the Masquerade is so important.

    Previous editions were criticized for overly relying on their metaplot. So much so that the 20th anniversary edition of Vampire: The Masquerade (4th Edition by my count) actively removed all references to it. However, while the metaplot was overdone, I think it's one of the chief reasons to upgrade to a new edition. Seeing how old favorites and characters you had an attachment to growing up is something worthwhile. I've already heard they have plans for a 5th Edition of Chicago by Night and I'd enjoy discovering what the characters within have been up to for twenty years.

    Gameplay-wise, the biggest change is the focus of the game is shifted. Previous editions were a power fantasy where the majority of focus was on your disciplines. Many characters were built like Connor Macleod with a trench coat, a katana hidden underneath it, and a bunch of awesome superpowers. Now, the game greatly broadens the focus on hunger and feeding. Many pages are spent discussing how a vampire feeds, what they feed on, and how they feel about who (or what) they eat. There's also a change to Humanity in order to make what a character cares about and how they stay sane more varied.

    Fans of all thirteen clans may be disappointed to discover the book contains descriptions of only the original seven clans, Caitiff, and Thin Bloods. There's some light revisions to them like the fact the Gangrel's flaws are no longer as severe and the Malkavian's insanity is not related to any "real" mental illness (as they had previously been depicted as tricksters and doomsaying prophets--not really things you want to associate with the mentally ill). We also get updates to Disciplines (vampire powers), which are much more versatile. Perhaps the best rules revision is that its much harder to feed on animal blood or blood bags if you're a vampire of power. Vampires also become more powerful as they age in terms of Blood Potency.

    Fans of the Sabbat, Followers of Set, Giovanni, Ravnos (they exist, or so I hear!), and Assamites will wonder why they didn't do all thirteen clans. Also, why there was no focus on the Paths of Enlightenment that serve as alternatives to Humanity. While I imagine part of this is a space issue, I think it's actually a thematic issue. The above clans are the most inhuman of Kindred and they're really beating the drum of V:TM as a game about coping with the horror of one's condition. Besides, they have to get you to buy the supplements somehow. That's good business and I'm not just saying that because I leave cliffhangers in my books for the exact same reason (bwhahahaha!).

    The book has beautiful artwork spread throughout, using photos and touch-ups to give impressions of how the gameworld looks. Some of the artwork isn't great, like the Nosferatu look like poor college students and runaways than horrifying monsters in their Clan write-up, but most of it is incredible. The game is clearly intended for an older, more mature audience. This is a good thing as we finally get straight answers on everything from whether Kindred can have sex (High Humanity vampires can) to how to make a Herd of mortals.

    The general tone of the book is dark and edgy in a deliberately overdone style that implies Kindred are selfish monstrous creatures at every turn. One of my favorite pieces of art is a Ventrue debutante with her slave sitting underneath her as she wears a slit dress while posing over the city. Beside her, she has a little speech about how being rich made her life a party but being undead has made the world her bitch. There's some questionable choices but the general sense is the game is trying to be politically aware in a time when punk is feeling out of fashion but never so relevant. Whereas the original books were Gothic Punk written for sixteen-year-olds, this feels more like it was written for people who watch HBO and FX.

There's some bad decisions in the book, I think. For one, there's a short story about how the Sabbat tried to claim credit for 9/11 despite having nothing to do with it. It's an attempt to refute the "vampires behind everything" of previous editions but I don't think anyone really needed a story about in the first place. I'm also not sure how Thin Bloods, a bunch of almost human vampires in the modern age, ended up making their own path of alchemy. The absence of a opening adventure like Gencon's Rusted Veins was a mistake, IMHO, as that was incredible. I also think making rules about how nice a vampire has to be to have sex is a bad decision.

    Gameplay mechanics-wise, I think 5th Edition suffers a bit in design. The Predator types, basically how and what you feed on, are a major part of the new game. However, they aren't very well described and sometimes the mechanics doesn't make sense for what you're eating. For example, one kind of vampire only feeds from other vampires but it doesn't explain how you do that--especially with the Blood Bond being a thing. Some players will also object to the changes to favored clans like the Tremere who have gone from the Clan which everyone is Blood Bonded in to the Clan which can't do Blood Bonds period. The absence of Paths and Sabbat clans feels wrong, especially as they have a role as both antagonists as well as players. Given the Lasombra have supposedly joined the Camarilla, their presence is sorely missed.

    Still, I think the game is fantastic. Vampire's 20th Anniversary Edition was great but it didn't feel sufficiently distinct from Revised. Every game is going to carry a heavy bias on "how you should play it." I think this manages to improve on Vampire: The Requiem, which also wanted to bring gamers into deeply personal horror stories but I feel failed in the fact it didn't provide a strong enough direction on how to do that. 5th Edition feels like it not only knows what it wants but is capable of showing gamers how to do it.


Thursday, September 13, 2018

Kings of Paradise (Ash and Sand #1) review

    KINGS OF PARADISE by Richard Nell is one of the favorites to win the Self-Published Fantasy Blog Off (#SPFBO). It is a story which has been recommended to me over and over again. I was surprised by this because the fantasy fans I hang around with are a very cynical bunch. If one liked THE POPPY WARS, then the next disliked it. I was a huge fan of 1000 SCARS but others were iffy about it. Here? Just about everyone who read this novel had nothing but praise for it. They said it was the best grimdark they'd read since THE GREY BASTARDS or WHERE LOYALTIS LIE. So, i decided to check it out.

    What did I think? Kings of Paradise is really solid fantasy. I didn't like it quite as much as the aforementioned books but it's definitely something that both earns its moniker of grimdark (which I define as "dark, gritty fantasy for adults") but also is just good fiction in general. The characters are interesting, the twists are actually unpredictable, and world-building is solid. This is one of those books for people who don't like their fantasy to read like Dungeons and Dragons but more like George R.R. Martin or Joe Abercrombie.

    The premise is centered around three characters: Ruka, Kale, and Dala. Ruka is a deformed cannibal savage who may be the son of a god but is certainly the son of a witch. After being raised with love by his mother, he is cast out of civilized society by a corrupt priestess--which causes him to decide that it his destiny to destroy the old world. Kale is the spoiled prince of an island nation is that is one part England and one part Polynesia. Dala is a beautiful farm girl who grew up on a impoverished farm with an abusive father, when a chance encounter with Ruka results in her deciding to join the upper-crust priestesses on what she believes is a mission from her goddess.

    Ruka is an interesting character and reminds me a bit of Kratos from God of War crossed with Caliban from The Tempest--not exactly a very common pair of team-ups. He's a genius with the face of a monster and his rage is all-consuming. He's not quite as sharp as he thinks he is and his only real move is "burn down everything that ticks him off." It's an effective move, though, and it's interesting how his partners keep trying to screw him--only to realize they've brought down holy hell on their heads.

    Kale is a character I want to punch in the face and that's a good thing because it's what the author obviously intended as a reaction. Kale reminds me strongly of Jezal from THE FIRST LAW TRILOGY and his romance with Lala is not too dissimilar to said character's romance with Ardee West. That isn't to say the characters are identical but they have arcs of privileged individuals discovering their privilege comes with severe costs and have left them helpless once outside their comfort zone. The fact he discovers he has an incredible talent that can change the world struck me as a bit annoying but I am interested in where it takes him.

    Dala is probably my favorite character in the story and I was saddened her role wasn't bigger. Dala is a seemingly sweet poor girl with a story which wouldn't be too out of home in a Disney movie, right before it goes in a bizarre and horrifying direction. When confronted with women who are going to kick her out of the priesthood and destroy her life solely because of her impoverished background, she assembles an army of assassins from the lower classes. It shows a woman with a keen sense of survival and who is every bit as dangerous as Ruka.

    I like Kings of Paradise and recommend it for people who want to see a big complicated story with multiple interlocking parts. The book is divided into three parts and really does feel like reading an entire trilogy in one sitting. That's more bang for your book, though, and I'm interested in where the story goes from here. I think readers will enjoy the care and detail Richard Nell has put into his masterpiece and I'll certainly be picking up the next installment.


Friday, September 7, 2018

Staked by J.F. Lewis (Void City #1) review

    Vampire novels are incredibly overdone but that's a bit like saying superheroes, Westerns, and police procedurals are incredibly overdone. Yes, there's a deluge of them but there's always some new diamonds to be found in the rough. The simple fact is they are a never-ending source of fascination and that's not just because I wrote STRAIGHT OUTTA FANGTON. No, sir. That's not an influence at all. Ahem.

    STAKED by J.F. Lewis is a vampire novel which I'll probably rank among the better examples of the genre. I think it's because the author managed the careful balance between the fact Eric is both simultaneously completely unlikable as well as being thoroughly fascinating. His repellent qualities are part of why you want to read more about him as they make him unpredictable. It's also a book which nestles nicely in the R but not X-rated demographic of writing for adults. There's sex, violence, horror, and humor throughout.

    The premise is Eric, our vampire co-protagonist, is the owner of a strip club in the supernatural-filled Void City. Eric is evil, there's no doubt about that, but he's evil in a reluctant manner. At one point, driven by hunger, he kills an innocent woman in an alleyway then goes about his evening--upset mostly about his lack of control than a human life being ended. He has serious anger issues and kills those who provoke him as well. He's also a terrible boyfriend who freely feeds from his employees who desperately want to become vampires themselves.

    The co-protagonist and future vampire herself, Tabitha, is a vampire wannabe and stripper. Deeply in love with Eric because of the fact he's undead and her boss (because his personality sucks--no pun intended), she begs him to turn her. Tired of her begging, Eric agrees and turns her. He knows this will destroy their relationship as he has no attraction to his fellow undead. Indeed, he immediately sets his sights on her still-living sister.

    If the book was entirely from Eric's POV, it probably wouldn't be nearly as entertaining, but the narration frequently switches over to Tabitha. Tabitha gets an arc from being a somewhat naive and besotted woman who Eric disrespects to a powerful vampire in her own right. While not the sharpest set of fangs in the city, she learns a great deal in a short amount of time which increases both her observational skills as well as her confidence. She also maintains a conscience, unlike Eric.

    The main plot for the majority of the book is Eric's feud with a pack of religious werewolves. I wasn't a big fan of this because, well, Eric is a scumbag so I was hoping the wolves would put him down. He doesn't even know if he's guilty or not of what they're accusing him of since he has rage blackouts on a regular basis. Still, that's more than made up by the evolving relationship between Tabith, Eric, and their acquaintances at the strip club.

    Despite Eric's dark side and his horrible treatment of Tabitha, he's never not engaging to read about. His clear dissatisfaction with being a vampire while not being remorseful about all the people he's killed is an interesting contrast to more reluctant monsters. Vampirism is awful because it prevents him from lasting relationships and being with the woman (now an old woman) he loves rather than the hundreds of people he's killed. He also has a string of failed relationships (mostly turned into monsters themselves) that highlight his selfishness but also his pain.

    Good book and I picked up the sequels immediately after finishing.


Sunday, September 2, 2018

Lucifer's Star Book Bub sale: 99 cent ebook!

Hey, LUCIFER'S STAR which is a dark space opera with proton swords, rebelling robots, starfighter battles, treachery, lies, and politics. I hope people will check it out. It's been called an R-rated Star Wars and I certainly agree. For this week only, it's available for 99c. You won't find a better deal for a massive epic!

BookBub Sale Page

Cassius Mass was the greatest star pilot of the Crius Archduchy. He fought fiercely for his cause, only to watch his nation fall to the Interstellar Commonwealth. It was only after that he realized the side he'd been fighting for was the wrong one. Now a semi-functional navigator on an interstellar freight hauler, he tries to hide who he was and escape his past. Unfortunately, some things refuse to stay buried and he ends up conscripted by the very people who destroyed his homeland.

LUCIFER'S STAR is the first novel of the Lucifer's Star series, a dark science fiction space opera set in a world of aliens, war, politics, and slavery.

"If you're into big intergalactic epics where your heroes are just as sharp with the banter as they are their guns (in the spirit of Han Solo) this is for you." - Kenny Soward, author of Galefire and GnomeSaga

"C.T. Phipps knocks it out of the universe with his sci-fi debut." - Tim Marquitz, author of Demon Squad, The Blood War Trilogy, and Excalibur

"LUCIFER'S STAR is a space-going romp through the star-speckled back streets (on several worlds), and I'm actually quite looking forward to more novels in this series, and this universe." - Shawn P. Durnin, author of Keep Your Crowbar Handy

"The plot is very complex, with many twists and turns, betrayals, double and even triple crosses. It seemed everyone in the book had at least one secret, and many of the characters had multiple secrets. As always, even when dealing with very dark subject matter, CT Phipps manages to inject some humor and snark into the proceedings, keeping this from turning into Grimdark Game of Thrones in space." - Steve Caldwell, author of The Bookwyrm Speaks

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Destiny 2 review

    I picked up DESTINY 2 as soon as I finished DESTINY. This was despite the fact DESTINY barely had a plot and narrative has always been my favorite part of video games. This was resolved toward the end of its lifespan with THE TAKEN KING expansion but even that was a bare bones "Dark Lord invades, we kick its butt" plot.

    So, what's the plot of DESTINY 2? Well, "Dark Lord invades, we kick its butt." However, it's not the plot which matters but the execution. In this case, the invasion of the Last City by the Cabal's leader, Ghaul, is well done. Ghaul manages to come in strong, defeat the entirety of the Guardians, and then proceed to kick you off the side of a building.

Space Marine Bane! Best villain ever! Okay, not really.
    The Cabal were sort of the runts of the litter in the original Destiny campaign, losing to the Vex and being a very unmemorable sort of enemy. Seeing them get fleshed out into becoming something akin to a nonhuman version of Warhammer 40K's Space Marines and being the primary antagonist of the main story is a big boon.

    Ghaul is also a character with a certain amount of depth, especially if you're religious. He's a guy who is interested in the Traveler not just because he's a living example of God (or a a small g god). That intrigues Ghaul and gets him to want to bond with the spirit, to achieve a sort of spiritual union that transcends his militant life. You know, despite the fact he can't do this because all Ghaul knows is murder and death.

    I also like how we got all of the Guardians from Destiny fleshed out. The original story only had Cayde-6 as having any sort of personality and I can't help but wonder if Nathan Fillion wrote his own lines since he's the archetypal Nathan Fillion character. However, this story expands on Zavala, Ikora, and the Speaker. We also completely drop the boring plot of the Exo Stranger that amounted to absolutely nothing.

Beautiful graphics as always.
    There's also a decent amount of newer characters added to the story. They're not exactly overrunning with originality but I liked Osiris in the Curse of Osiris Expansion, Sagira in the same, as well as Ana Bray in Warmind. We even get some world-building in-universe with the fact the regular people of the Last City have issues with the godlike Guardians who rule over them.

    So what are the downsides? Well, to be frank, this game feels like it only managed to repair what was wrong with Destiny and is completely free of innovations. This isn't a sequel to Destiny, it is Destiny only without a decent skill tree. It feels like a reboot of the franchise in the same way Assassins Creed II was from Assassins Creed. Which isn't a criticism, per se, but it is still murdering the exact same enemies you were before.

Osiris is a somewhat underwhelming character.
    The game and level design is fine, the gameplay is still Borderlands, and there's a bit more tweaking to the loot system so you can divide your weapons properly. The flame vs. cold vs. void set of fighting techniques are important as some work better against shields that explode if you use the right combination. Even so, there's nothing particularly original here and that wasn't what they were going for either.

    Of the two seasons of material so far, both have been reasonably well done. The Curse of Osiris isn't great but it isn't terrible either. Osiris, the most controversial Guardian in the setting, is trapped in a constantly shifting maze run by the Vex and needs you to destroy one of their leaders before he calculates a way to destroy humanity. The problem with it is it's a very underwhelming series of levels that don't have much in the way of interaction with Osiris himself. The Warmind expansion revives the Rasputin plot of the original game while also having you fight some Hive gods. This felt like overkill and a rehash of the previous game. Still, I had a lot more fun with it than with The Curse of Osiris

    So, what do I think of Destiny 2? It's okay. It's an entirely fun product that I got my money's worth but I can't say that I was immensely pumped for it either. It's an improvement on the last game but it also should have been much more.


Saturday, August 25, 2018

AGENT G: ASSASSIN is now available on Kindle

AGENT G is a series I've really enjoyed writing. At present, I have it set up for five books with the third book in the series, AGENT G: ASSASSIN having recently been released on Kindle (and for Kindle Unlimited).

From the best-selling author of THE RULES OF SUPERVILLAINY:

Agent G, now going by the name Case, thought he'd won. He'd exposed his former employers, shared Black Technology with the world, and killed the man who'd started it all. Unfortunately, history slows for no man. After a volcanic eruption decimates the United States, G spends the next decade witnessing humanity rebuild itself into a corporate-run dystopia.

Preferring to the be the boot rather than the ant, Case has become a powerful executive in the new cyberpunk world. Unfortunately, that doesn't mean he's immune to his past. Contacted by the only woman he ever loved, Case finds himself once more embroiled in a conspiracy to take what little the public has left. Now he has to decide whether to save what remains of the world or rule it.

Available for purchase here