Category Archives: Reading

Games Workshop’s 2022 40k Narrative Event (Part 2)

In part 1, I talked about general experiences, what the GW Narrative event was, and all the broad strokes. This part of the After Action Review is going to dive more into my personal gaming experience and what I got out of it. If you haven’t read part 1, you can find it here.

First off, I brought my Space Wolves. I’ll caveat that by saying I spent probably three weeks deciding which 40k army from my collection to bring, what models to paint, and then I spent a solid month painting those models (with four straight days spent there at the end getting ready, because there is no minute like the last minute).

We could bring about 150 Power Level (3000 points) worth of units, and all the games were played at a smaller level so for the games I could have picked different units based off scenario or opponent. I didn’t do that, in part because I already had army lists done up and in part because it gave me an opportunity to field multiple units of Thunderwolf Cavalry (which if you don’t know what they are, think giant super soldiers in power armor riding on wolves bigger than Clydesdales). They are about as crazy a unit as you can find in the 40k universe, they charge across the table and they rip units apart in the name of the God Emperor of Mankind.

My units weren’t “optimized” and Lars, my Wolf Lord (modeled after the indomitable Larry Correia) is armed with an okay weapon set that looks cool but isn’t great against really big and nasty opponents. The TWC themselves are much more threatening, and I threw in a march of big stompy robots (Space Wolf Dreadnoughts) including ones with friendly names like Bjorn the Fell Handed and Murderfang.

All told, I own something like 25 Thunderwolf Cavalry models, though the most I can field in any game with the rules set is 20. At this event, I got to run 17 of them.

My first game went up against a neat Black Legion list and I had a good time talking with my opponent and playing through the opening scenario. At first he was bummed to play against Space Wolves as I guess his best friend plays them and he wanted something different. Apparently, his friend didn’t have any TWC and after three turns and piles of dead models on both sides, I eeked out a victory for the forces of the Imperium. I forgot to take any pictures in the hustle of getting started, but my opponent’s Black Legion looked awesome.

My second game was against a gun-line Tau army. My Space Wolves can do shooty, but I went heavy on theme and built them towards combat. So I spent the first few turns getting shot to pieces while trying to bring the Tau to honorable combat. As poor Wolf Lord Lars got shot off the table during turn 3, leaving me with only 4 models on the table, I was about to call it quits, especially as most of my opponent’s army was still on the table. I buckled down, though, and my token squad of Grey Hunters decided to wake up. In the bottom of round three, they shot, assaulted, and destroyed three squads of Tau Fire Warriors and took the head of a Cadre Fireblade as well. Turn 4, they managed to hunker in cover for a ridiculous quantity of enemy fire, making 16 out of 18 saves at one point and then 12 out of 14 saves, leaving me with two models left going into round five. The last round, I lost one more to enemy fire, then in my turn, overcharged the combi-plasma on my wolf guard pack leader and my last model died, which left the field of battle to my opponent. Unfortunately for him, since he had focused on trying to eliminate my last handful of irritating Space Wolves, he had not been able to complete his objectives and the net result to my extreme surprise was a victory for my Space Wolves (shocking to win with zero models left, but hey, victory for the Imperium!)

Games three and four happened on day two. In the morning, I fought against Necrons. My opponent had some issues and we didn’t get started until almost an hour and a half into the game. I found it a bit frustrating, to be honest, especially as my opponent seemed hyper-focused on winning the game versus playing and having fun. We only got through about full game turns, which I found disappointing.

Game four was an absolutely fantastic game with an Ork player, who had a ton of customized models and a fantastic paint job. The game was crazy fun with lots of units killed on both sides. At the end of the game, the Space Wolves left piles of dead greenskins and emerged victorious, though with horrific losses in the process. This was my favorite game thus far as my opponent and I laughed about some of the crazy dice rolls and for all that he had a ton of models, he had measures to make sure he could do his turns quickly. Hat tip to him for using movement trays for his scores of Ork boyz and for some of the really awesome customizations he had done. Hands down, this was one of my favorite games over the weekend. (I wish I had pictures of his army, they were really awesome to see on the tabletop, but my phone ate them)

The last day came and Game Five was a sort of choose your own adventure. The Imperial players tried to game the system by putting out a player and battlefield one by one, but the Chaos players had good choices about who to match against. In the end, I ended up against exactly the one army that I didn’t want to play against with my hyper-aggressive melee-oriented army… Death Guard of Nurgle.

If you aren’t familiar, think stinky, nasty, diseased super-humans in power armor, whose noxious plagues weakens your army when you get close. They are the ultimate answer to the Space Wolves and my opponent had the Daemon Prince Mortarian to boot, one of the most resilient and dangerous units in the game, especially at close combat.

My opponent for this game was awesome and he and I hit it off very well. There was so much back and forth with this game, which really came down to a nailbiter of a finish. At the end of it, my opponent had only three of his zombified models left on the table, but one of those was a key one he had to protect to score points (almost a thirty point swing on a 70 point game). Poor Wolf Lord Lars got ripped apart by mutated zombies early on and a misplay on my part meant that I left another of my characters out to get shot off the table by an enemy tank.

The MVP for that game was my Venerable Dreadnought, which until this game had generally gone down to enemy fire on turn 2. This game, he tanked enemy fire through all five turns, singlehandedlly cut down Mortarian, two fleshmower blight drones, a squad of death guard marines, and a sorcerer. I rolled two ones to wound with two meltaguns on turn 4 to fail to kill his last character, which led to that character’s survival in a game that was really down to the wire.

Overall, I was pretty happy with how I played, with 3 victories and 2 losses. The one loss, to Necrons, I think would have been a draw at worse if we had been able to play it all the way out. The loss to the Death Guard was in a game that was so back and forth that I can’t complain about it. I took a combat-focused themed army, with no psychic abilities, pretty much no shooting, into the teeth of two very nasty shooty armies and three equally shredding melee armies. Most importantly, I had a lot of fun and most of my opponents seemed to as well. There wasn’t any of the movement shenanigans or the “trade this unit for that” that I’ve seen with a lot of the competitive play at tournaments. Most of my opponents were there to have fun, to play out themed battles, and to get into the event.

New Release: Shadows of Valor

My newest book in the Star Portal Universe is now available. Shadows of Valor is a story about those left behind on Century after the events of Valor’s Stand. It features Alexander Karmazin and Ashiri Takenata and their trials and tribulations. https://amzn.to/3WnlEQi

Left Behind.

Ashiri Takenata has crashed upon the surface of Century, in the final minutes of the defense of the system from invasion. Alexander Karmazin is trapped in an underground prison cell while the renegade militia abandoned him. Their planet has been conquered by the alien Culmor Empire.

They have no means to fight back. The enemy can bombard or gas the planet at any time, with any provocation. The smart thing to do would be to give up. To make the best of things, to try and rebuild, and to fall into line.

Ashiri doesn’t have it in her to give up. She’s seen one world fall to conquest and rebuilt her life. Alexander Karmazin, a child of two worlds, isn’t about to let either of them disappear under a conquerer’s boot.

The pair of them will figure out how to fight back. They will get the word out to Century’s remaining defenders that there is still hope. They will find a way to get help from Admiral Armstrong, and if that doesn’t work, they will free their planet themselves.

Because sometimes valor has to fight from the shadows.

Kal’s Liberty Con 34 AAR

The latest Liberty Con is come and gone. I had a blast. For those of you unfamiliar with it, Liberty Con is a Science Fiction and Fantasy literary convention with a very high percentage of writers in attendence. It’s not uncommon to encounter NYT Bestselling authors in the hallway.

There are always interesting conversations to be had and many of the panels are awesome, with many authors, editors, publishers, artists, and other professionals. More, Liberty Con is like a family, with everyone being friendly & welcoming.

What made Liberty Con 34 even more special? For one thing, it’s been a couple years (due to lockdowns) that we could meet in person. I got a chance to see people I haven’t seen in quite a while. For another, it’s a distilled environment of all things science fiction and fantasy. I always meet new people and learn new things.

This year there was a lot of catching up with friends, meeting new readers and authors, and generally spending great deal of time talking and listening. It can be hectic and a bit frenzied moving from one end of the hotel to the convention center and back (especially when you’re like me and you inevitably left something and have to go back a few times).

The convention is amazingly well-run. For those who have attended a lot of conventions, you know how important that is. For those who don’t… well, believe me, a well-run convention will draw more and better writers and professionals and is supremely worthwhile.

The convention staff put a tremendous amount of effort into things and it showed in everything. I can’t stress enough how well everything worked.

For actual events, I was on two panels: World Building in Epic Fantasy, moderated by David B. Coe, with myself, Michael Falciani, Chuck Gannon, and DJ Butler. It was a fun discussion and the different views on world building, especially regarding how much is too much, provided a lot of discussion and fed into a lot of questions from the audience.

I moderated a panel, Train as we Fight, which was a discussion about the realities of military training and writing about it as well. I had Tom Kratman, Mike Massa, and Rick Partlow on the panel. All of them provided some great discussion.

Other things at the convention that I thought were fantastic:

James Schardt ran a miniature painting studio in the crafting room. As a gamer, I thought it was really awesome, and he 3D printed models, had brushes and paints, and infinite patience, especially with how many younger attendees swarmed him on day one. Really one of the best parts of the convention and I hope it happens again in the future.

The Con Suite, always amazing, was running on the 16th floor. Liberty Con serves actual food at their Con Suite, and the draw of good food & awesome people makes for a great setting. I had conversations there with script writers, aspiring authors, scientists, and others.

Many conventions have an Author’s Alley, the one at Liberty Con rotates through hourly, so there’s always new and different authors, every time you walk past. It is tremendously great to walk past, see friends and fellow authors, and to strike up conversations. As an author, it’s awesome to have the opportunity to pitch my books to prospective readers.

All in all, Liberty Con was a fantastic time. If you have the opportunity, I highly recommend attending. Tickets for next year go on sale 15 July of this year (getting tickets and a hotel are the hardest part, which tells you something).

A Note About Valor’s Inheritance

For those interested, I figured I would share some of the “behind the scenes” writing craft that went into writing the sixth Children of Valor book. Part of the delay in releasing Valor’s Inheritance has been that there are multiple stories I want to tell, especially as characters head in different directions.

For a while, I considered changing the format, switching to third person, which would have allowed me to write from the perspectives of other characters in the universe. That was the plan for a while, which is why at numerous times the next books were going to be a separate series (War of Valor). Instead, I chose to keep writing with Jiden Armstrong as the main character. These other stories I’m going to spin off in separate novels. I made a deliberate choice to keep the existing format as: a) it’s what the readers are familiar with and primary interest is in Jiden Armstrong (I would assume), and b) those other stories benefit from standing on their own and I can give the characters and stories more attention.

It was a difficult decision for me to make. I spent a lot of time outlining and weighing out the differences between the two. Honestly, it might have been a bigger decision for me, mentally, than mattered to my readers. But it was about determining the best way for me to tell the story, so in the end, I had to be mentally good with it.

What comes out of it is I already have essentially three series in the universe: Children of Valor, Forsaken Valor, and Rising Wolf / Fenris Unchained. What I plan to do is spin off individual novels with specific characters in addition to these existing series. The first planned one is already outlined and I’ve begun work on it, and focuses on some of the people left behind on Century after the invasion.

I have ideas for a few other spin-offs, but I don’t want to bog down the main-line stories too much. It’s going to be a bit of a balancing act, writing the three series in this universe, spin offs, and still managing to write my other universes (Eoriel Saga, Shadow Space Chronicles, and others).

But that’s the fun part of writing, finding the time to tell all the stories, right? *Sobs quietly into beer*

That’s all for now, thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed the insight into what went into writing Valor’s Inheritance.

Coming Soon: Valor’s Inheritance

I’m happy to announce that Valor’s Inheritance, the sixth book of the Children of Valor series is coming 17 June!

“Blood is inherited and virtue is acquired, and virtue in itself has a value that blood lacks.”

— Don Quixote

Jiden Armstrong has lost nearly everything. 

 Her home world and most of its people have been captured by alien invaders.  All too many of the cadets and personnel she served with have been killed in the defense of their planet.  The Century Planetary Militia’s starships and fighters thrown away by Admiral Drien to cover his cowardly retreat.

All that is left is a meager inheritance for the survivors: a handful of ships, off-world accounts, and refugees willing to give all they have to save their homeworld.  Multiple factions of survivors compete to control those resources.  Some, like Jiden’s grandmother, want to build up a force to liberate their planet.  Others, like Admiral Drien, want to gain the support of a stronger power and let others do the bleeding to save Century.

Jiden, as before, is in the middle of it all.  She will have to manage meager resources while she trains up new recruits to save Century.  Because whether they can acquire more resources or not, the Centurions are going to save their people.  Jiden knows that in the end: all the wealth and power of Century doesn’t matter; the true inheritance of Century is the willingness to shed blood to save it.

Hi there! A Moon Knight Review

So… what exactly did I watch?

You might ask yourself that very question as any given episode of Moon Knight wraps up, whether it is the first or the final one. For some perspective, take a mix of Deadpool, a mix of Venom, a heavy splash of the 1990’s The Mummy and The Mummy Returns.

There’s a lot in there, a lot going on. The show takes some hits from some people as being “slow paced” and not enough action. I’d counter that by saying that it is part of the way they are telling the story, which is meant to be a bit of discovery and the audience learning things along the way.

For some valid criticisms: it’s a disjointed, confusing mess. It’s done that way on purpose, sort of, but there’s a hefty dose of “well, this will blow the audience’s mind.” It’s not a standard superhero narrative. I had to read into the Moon Knight character (thanks to the various wiki sites) to find out that Moon Knight is borderline anti-hero, for innumerable reasons.

Without giving too many details away, their whole discovery storytelling would sort of fall apart if we watched the show chronologically (not to mention that a good chunk of the storytelling takes place inside the head of a character).

As far as actors, Oscar Isaac does a fantastic job, especially given just how chaotic the plot and shoots must have been. May Calamawy, the damsel not so much in distress does a good enough job, though there were a couple points where I could tell that they wished they could cast Rachel Weiss from The Mummy (yes, the similarities were that strong). I don’t think the writers quite had the chops to pull off Evelyn from The Mummy, which is a bit of what they were going for. Ethan Hawke makes an acceptable villain, if a bit too preachy at times, which is pretty standard for a Marvel villain.

Is it the best show ever? Not hardly. The afore mentioned disjointedness can be irksome. There are a number of missed tie-ins with mythology, and there are sections that they just leave hanging (only to try and cram a lot of it into the final episode, if they address it at all). It is entertaining and amusing with enough twists and turns to keep you coming back for more. The humor is fun, the transitions are bizarre, and the whole show feels like Moon Knight and Deadpool need to team up for a buddy cop antihero movie.

All in all, if you already have a Disney Plus subscription, it’s worth a watch.

New Release: For the Love of Death

Death has a crush on a mortal and there will be hell to pay…

Someone or something is killing musicians in a ritualistic fashion.  The FBI is investigating me because my cases dealing with magic and things that mortals aren’t meant to deal with don’t make for clean reports.  My old partner doesn’t trust me any more and my new partner isn’t read in on all the crazy magic stuff.

All that I could take, except my guardian angel is distracted by the killer’s latest target.  It gets worse than that, because that distraction might just be something more.  He’s falling for her, and if I can’t protect her from the killer, he might just Fall for real.  So I’ve got to buckle down and find the killer… for the Love of Death.

https://amzn.to/3BRwYJS

For the Love of Death: Snippet 1

Chapter 1

I knew I was in trouble when death walked into the bar with a big, shit-eating grin.

And boy do I mean that literally.  Samael, the Archangel of Death, stepped into the bar like he knew exactly what was going to happen and that he was going to love every second of it.  I’ll back up a bit by saying that Sam isn’t just the Archangel of Death, the sort-of designated sniper of the preternatural world, but he’s also on a special assignment as my guardian angel.

When I say that, most people would think I was crazy.  It gets worse, believe me, because my guardian’s role is to protect my mortal soul and my physical body, and he’s of the mindset that the best defense is a really good offense.  Most times that meant he settled for killing any humans or preternatural creatures that threatened me in imaginatively gruesome fashions.

But he would do that with a superior smirk, maybe even a jaunty grin.

I don’t know that I’d ever seen him this happy with himself.  Except, just maybe one time, in a distant, dusty mountain range when a couple hundred insurgents had been trying to kill me.

This is bad, this is really bad, I thought to myself.

The first thing I did was look over at my partner.  Special Investigator Amanda Ashburn was seated with the fence we were here in this particular crappy bar to meet.  Under other circumstances, we would have some kind of backup, both of us working for Colorado’s El Paso County Sherriff’s Department.

Unfortunately, we weren’t here on official business.  We had asked one of Amanda’s contacts in the Catholic Church to translate a list of names, they had asked us for a favor in return.  Something had been stolen from a church and a middleman had arranged to get it back.  The fence who had it was jumpy and the Church hadn’t wanted to set a precedent where they rewarded people for stealing from them, so they wanted us to acquire it and turn it over to them.

The fence in question had been looking for exits ever since Amanda sat down at the table with him.  His nervous darting glances had grown more frequent and I’d already had a sinking feeling as this had dragged on longer than a simple transaction should have taken.  Father Terrence, Amanda’s contact with the Church, had given us a substantial quantity of cash to buy the item back.  He hadn’t been too specific on what it was, just a small box, possibly locked, that was the prize.

I hadn’t dared ask what might have happened if someone had already opened the box and taken whatever was inside.  In just the past nine months, I’d seen all kinds of things that normal people would think were impossible.  There might be nothing in the box, the box might be what was valuable, or what was inside might be incredibly dangerous, melt-your-face-off like the Ark of the Covenant from the Indiana Jones movie.  At the time, it had seemed like a simple favor to go and pick it up.

Now I was wondering just how badly I’d screwed up by not asking for more information.

The supposed fence didn’t look like the typical scum-of-the-earth criminal type I would have imagined.  He was young, he wore trendy-looking sunglasses and designer jeans.  He had a gray hoodie up over his head and the sunglasses hid his eyes.  From this angle, I couldn’t get a good look at his face other than in profile in the shadows from his hoodie.

 I scoped out the room, not really certain what I was looking for, but knowing that there was something I’d missed.  The first thing I noticed was that the bartender’s entire demeanor was off.  Not only was he ignoring several patrons, but his attention was in the direction of my partner and the fence, rather than anywhere else.  No, not just there, but also on the far corner.

There was a group seated there, three men and two women.  They hadn’t stood out the first time I scoped out the room.  They looked similar enough to other bar patrons, except as I looked at them, their attention was focused anywhere and everywhere except on the table with my partner and the fence… or on me.  One was one her phone, another was reading a beer list.  The other three were ostensibly casually talking, but they all kept pausing as they talked, as if they weren’t keeping track of the conversation or weren’t focusing.

They were all remarkably fit and healthy for this sort of place, too.  Up north in the Springs, they could have passed for military, maybe, except for the fact that they all sported facial tattoos, which wasn’t allowed.  One of the women had some kind of spider web tattoo that ran up the side of her neck and onto her face with a remarkably life-like spider crawling up onto her cheek.

One of the men seemed to notice me looking at them and he said something in a low tone to the woman on her phone.  She didn’t look up, but I saw her say something in return.

Samael, the Archangel of Death, walked calmly over and sat down across from me, partially blocking my view.  “Ari.”

“Sam,” I tried to lean over to see around him, but in truly typical fashion, he managed to shift and block my view of the suspicious men and women without needing to move at all.  Sam outwardly looked rather plain.  He could have passed for my brother, if I wasn’t a family-less orphan, anyway.  To me he appeared tall, lean, with olive skin, blue eyes, and raven-black hair.  He looked to be dressed professionally, suit and tie, which should have stood out in a place like this.

I knew from experience that most people would be hard-pressed to realize there was someone at the table with me, and harder pressed to describe what that person looked like.  I also knew that his presence, like most of what he termed the preternatural, would distort electronic recording devices like security cameras and cell phones.

And, when he wanted to, his physical form could shift, despite his apparent size and stature, to be bigger or smaller or, in this case, to block my view of potential threats, just because it amused him.

“You seem happy,” I couldn’t help but begrudge him that.  The past few months had felt like everything and everyone were conspiring to irritate me.

“Some days I enjoy my job more than others,” Sam replied, just as I saw motion over by Amanda.  I looked over to see her set a black canvas duffle bag on the table and the fence reached down below the table and pulled something out of a similar black duffel bag.  His had a symbol of some kind on the side, it looked a bit like some kind of Japanese kanji, though I couldn’t see it well from where I sat.

It wasn’t a box.  At least, it wasn’t like any box I had ever seen.  It was some kind of big clay jar, about eighteen inches tall, maybe eight inches wide at the widest, and tapering at either end.  The fence set it on the table and it seemed to have far more weight than any object that size should, thumping on the table with a echoing thud that penetrated the far corners of the bar.

All conversation ceased.  The entire bar went still and I saw everyone’s attention had gone to the table.  The fence noticed and he scooped the jar back off the table and slid his chair back in a squeak that echoed through the still bar.  Amanda was looking at the jar in with confusion and curiosity.

“I’ve got a bad feeling about this,” I muttered.

Sam’s smile widened, “Sometimes, Ari, you can be remarkably perceptive.”  He stood up from his chair, shrugged his shoulders a bit in a motion akin to a boxer preparing for a bout, and his next words made my stomach sink, “And here… we… go…”

Amanda reached out to try and stop the fence and then all hell broke loose.

***

Kal’s (Belated) July 2021 Update

Hey everyone! It’s now late July. The past couple of months have been extremely busy for me, I’ve spent most of it doing not one but two military exercises as part of my day job. It’s been a lot of long days, but now that those are complete, I’ve opened up some more bandwidth to focus on writing once again.

The good news is that I’m prepping the next Angel of Death novel for release, currently looking at the end of August, pending edits, lining up a cover, and all that fun stuff.

Other things I’ve been working has been a general site overhaul. They’re relatively minor changes, just adding pages for some of my series and cleaning things up, with one exception. I’ve added a swag store to the site, with a few items as yet. Feel free to look around and I would love some feedback on the changes (or what readers would like to see).

That’s all for now, more coming over the next few days!

New Release: A Quiet Death

A dead man just ran away from his own murder scene.

Six months ago, that would be someone else’s problem.

My name is Ari, and after hellspawned werewolves tried to rip my soul out, I made this sort of thing my problem.  Now I am working the case, well, me, my sharp-shooting partner, and my guardian angel, the Angel of Death.

It’s a case that involves human trafficking, corrupt politicians, necromancy, sorcery, seduction, and a deal with the Devil.  You know, same stuff, different day.

Unfortunately for me, that’s only the beginning, because something evil has escaped onto our world.  I’ve got to take it down, before things get out of hand.  Because if things start to go off track too much, then the thing looking over my shoulder protecting me might go off like a tactical nuke.

But that’s part of life, right?  Who wants to die a quiet death?

A Quiet Death is now available! https://amzn.to/3vvOqzT