Tech of the Town: Airships

            Hi, everyone, and welcome to another instalment of Tech of the Town! In the world of The Star-Runner Chronicles, magic and technology are tightly intertwined. Nowhere is this more evident than in air travel technology. So, sit back, relax, and get ready to learn all about airships!

Early Air Travel

            The first attempts at air travel were made during the Age of Coal and Oil, circa 790 P.W.D. Everyone and their mother knew that hot air rises and a cloth or paper bag-like object that fills with hot air floats. This knowledge had been used to send Starlight Festival lanterns up into the heavens for millennia. However it wasn’t until this time that someone crazy enough to try and use it to get a person airborne had come along.

            This crazy individual was Harley Wrenchworthy, a gremlin scientist absolutely obsessed with flight. Her initial attempts at manned flight had included a hang-glider (which flew for a little while before she crashed into a windmill) and a primitive helicopter-like device (which never got off the ground because the engine was too heavy and the technology did not exist to make it any lighter). Then, one Starlight Festival, she was watching the lanterns as they ascended into the sky and the idea struck her to construct a hot air balloon!

            Oh, sure, everyone laughed at her and thought she was nuts…until she actually got the thing off the ground and was able to make a successful, crash-free, trip in it from one end of town to the other. After that, she had people lining up to take a ride in her miraculous flying machine and investors riding in from far and wide to get in on the action. Harley Wrenchworthy became an overnight celebrity…but her invention never made it past the novelty amusement stage. As it turned out, making a hot air balloon which would be big enough to serve as mass transit was just not feasible.

            Luckily for the history of flight, however, human chemist and alchemist Dr. George Kenner had been doing research into lighter-than-air gasses. Most people thought that his research was nice, but not particularly applicable to the real world…well, until Miss Wrenchworthy’s hot air balloons came along.

            In the summer of 810, when the dream of hot air-based lighter-than-air flying machines started to fall apart, Dr. Kenner got into contact with Miss Wrenchworthy to illuminate her on his own research. He managed to spark her interest and the two began working closely together on the very first helium-based airship not much later (they had considered hydrogen at first, but scrapped the idea due to its flammability problem). Their invention, the Wrenchworthy-Kenner blimp, started out with a small prototype consisting of the gas bag, a gondola which could comfortably seat six, a rudder for steering, and twin gasoline engines for propulsion.

            The blimp was a success…such a success that it spawned many imitators. Most of these imitators just used the same or almost the same design as Wrenchworthy and Kenner, but others actively added new features and improvements on the original design. The very first dirigibles—or rigid airships, so named for the metal framework within the balloon—were born of this very wave of imitators, as a matter of fact.

            Lighter-than-air ships never ran into the problem of helium scarcity thanks to the ability to use alchemy to manufacture the gas as needed. In fact, the only real changes to lighter-than-air craft from the early days to the present have been the replacement of gasoline with magicels and the introduction of the use of air magicels in order to prevent gas loss due to natural airbag leakage.

Sailing Ships in the Sky

            With the advent of the magicel, many new experimental aircraft designs began to appear. The most popular gasless design type among these is the flying sailing ship. The first of these, the Sky Schooner, appeared in the 940’s. Powered by two 56 inch air magicels, this ship was the very first machine to use magic to defy gravity. Of course, the magic to make an inanimate object fly or hover already existed, but no one had the power to make anything any heavier than a carpet or a broom fly for any useful length of time at a decent speed. Only with the power of magicels was it finally possible to lift an object as heavy as a wooden sailing ship fully loaded with cargo, passengers, and crew into the sky and propel it at speeds of up to ninety miles per hour.

            Considering the speeds and altitude—they are perfectly capable of sailing above the clouds—at which these sky ships travel, special considerations had to be made to keep passengers and crew onboard comfortable. In this case, special air shield spells are used to keep the air at an appropriate thickness for comfortable breathing and filter the wind speeds on the exposed decks down to a pleasant breeze. Another special set of shield spells is used as a safety measure to keep people from falling overboard…because, you know, that’s just a lawsuit waiting to happen otherwise. Like normal ocean-going vessels, they also have fully functioning life boats so that passengers and crew can escape safely in the event of an emergency.

            These days, most sailing ship-type airships are made of metal instead of wood and range from small clipper ships to luxury cruise vessels measuring nearly five hundred feet (one hundred and fifty two point four meters) in length. While some models use sails and masts to channel the air magic which powers them, others use rune-covered wheels or arches, wings (flapping or stationary), and even oars in their propulsion systems. People love watching these ships as much as they love riding them because the different companies make it a point to make them as decorative and colorful as possible. Some ships even have special lights which flash different colors or leave color trails behind them as they fly, panels on the side which flow slowly from one color to the next, and even gears and wheels that are good for nothing at all except looking cool by constantly moving.

Today

            Today, airships are the dominant form of air travel overall and the only form of mass air travel in the world. Though airplanes, autogiros, and helicopters all tried to make a mark in the late 990’s and early 1000’s, the fact that they become veritable deathtraps if their engines fail turned lots of people off when they compared them to the relatively much harder to crash dirigibles and the much more failsafe-heavy sailing ship-types. No doubt, someone from the world of The Star-Runner Chronicles would think that we in our world were completely nuts for having chosen the airplane over the dirigible just because of one horrible freak accident in two decades of safe operation, even though airplanes crash much more frequently than dirigibles ever did…

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            Well, that does it for this week, folks. I’ll be very busy with personal stuff in the coming weeks, but I’ll be back as soon as possible with another great blog post! Until then, go on ahead and check out The Star-Runner Chronicles at Amazon.com (print and ebook), Smashwords (ebook in .epub, .mobi, .pdf, .rtf, .lrf, and html formats), Barnes & Noble (print and ebook), Kobo (ebook), iTunes (ebook), and other fine online retailers or ask your local book store about the paperback edition! Also, if you liked this article, be sure to check out others under the Tech and History sections.

            If you enjoy my books or my blog, make sure to spread the word to your friends…and don’t forget to drop a rating or review on Amazon, Smashwords, Goodreads, or any other site where good books are rated and reviewed!

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Tech of the Town: Magi-Ammo Guns

            Wow. It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these, hasn’t it? Not since the gunblade thing…Anyway, let’s get this show on the road!

            In the world of The Star-Runner Chronicles, magic powers technology in a number of ways. From the elemental battery properties of magicels to devices which only work if the user pours his or her own magical power into them. Magi-ammo guns take advantage of just about every single way that magic can possibly power or augment technology. But, where did they get their start…?

Early Magi-Arms

            People have been enhancing weapons with magic for thousands of years. From mystical enchanted swords to staves that can summon ice storms, magical weapons—or magi-arms as they’re often called—have been used to win wars and strike down monsters since those first mages discovered how to infuse inanimate objects with magical power. Some of those weapons, like the indestructible holy sword Lavilkia, have become legendary.

            But, early magi-arms were few in number due to the sheer difficulty of enchanting them. The process of infusing a weapon or piece of armor with elemental magic or a specific spell can take days, weeks, or even months of hard and very delicate work. Extreme focus and attention to detail are required, and even the tiniest slip of the tongue while reciting an incantation or unintended scratch while carving runes into the object can either infuse it with the wrong spell or cause the whole process to fail entirely.

            Because of this, magi-arms were never used in anything approaching mass quantities until 1 W.D.—the second year of the War of Destruction. It was in this year that the wizard Xavier Tillins developed a runic inscription which, when engraved into a weapon, allowed the wielder to cast spells through it using his or her own magical power. The inscription still needed to be carefully hand-engraved, however, which made such weapons so expensive that they were reserved for high-ranking officers. Still, it was a start.

The Rise of Magi-ammo guns

            In the 850’s P.W.D., firearms were finally beginning to gain popularity. Their long range, ease of use, and cost-effectiveness made them attractive to people from all walks of life—especially military leaders looking to reduce the amount of time and effort required to train new recruits. The earliest firearms actually dated back to the 720’s, but they were crude, hard to aim, complicated to load, and prone to backfiring. By the 850’s, however, most of these problems had been solved and firearms had become even easier to use than crossbows.

            Firearms in those days still had disadvantages, mind you. If something went wrong when firing or the weapon wasn’t loaded properly, the gun could jam up. Also, a wet firearm is generally much less effective than a dry one…and then there’s the whole “running out of ammo” problem. These were the days before interchangeable clips, when every model had to be re-loaded by hand—thus, making running out of bullets really, really annoying.

            Meanwhile, a new process of engraving runes and other magical symbols into weaponry—which made weapons enchanted in such a way more affordable and easier to produce—had just been developed. This technique, called spirit stenciling, uses a stencil made of aluminum to focus the magic and prevent unwanted nicks or typos during engraving. Of course, spirit stenciling was only cheap because the dwarves had just recently perfected a cheap and easy method of extracting and smelting aluminum a few years beforehand. Before then, it was even more expensive than platinum.

            Spirit stenciling not only made traditional enchanted weapons easier to produce, but also enabled the creation of the very first magi-ammo guns. The earliest, the Blue Herron, was developed in 854 P.W.D. by enchantress/weaponsmith Quincy Deluth. Her inspiration had come from a customer who had come into her shop looking to have his revolver enhanced with air magic so that, should he run out of bullets, he would be able to use the weapon to cast a wind lance spell with it until he could reload.

            Unfortunately, even with a spirit stencil, the enchantment failed because the pistol simply had too many moving parts and not enough uninterrupted surface area to carve the necessary runes on. Still, the experience sparked the idea in Deluth’s mind to create a gun specifically designed to use spells for ammo. Thus began her work on the Blue Herron—a rune channel gun which, when the wielder squeezed the stationary trigger prong, drew from their magic reserves to cast an armor-piercing wind lance spell at the target.

            Deluth shared her innovation with her colleagues, who spread her techniques throughout the weaponsmithing community and improved upon them. Soon, rune channel guns capable of shooting spells of almost every elemental type were being developed. The only drawback to these guns—other than the fact that they were still more expensive than firearms—was that they could only be inscribed with two elemental spells at a time, which had to be of either the same element or complimentary elements or the gun would either not work at all…or explode.

            While one camp of weaponsmiths worked out the bugs to try and make rune channel guns more elementally versatile, a second camp emerged in the early 920’s who saw the potential of magicels as a power source for magi-ammo guns. After all, magicels could be swapped out or loaded up revolver-style to make elemental swapping easier, and 3.5 inch magicels were so cheap that they could easily be purchased on a child’s allowance. With cheap ammo and much better potential for mass production thanks to not requiring specialized engravings like the rune channel types, cel channel guns soon became the more affordable option. Also, because they drew their power from magicels instead of the user’s own magic reserves, they were an ideal fit for fighters lacking in raw magical power.

            The best known and most successful cel channel gun was the Wonder Shot A-31. This weapon could be equipped with seven magicels at a time and could switch elements between shots in the blink of an eye. However, unlike modern magi-ammo weapons based on its design, it was unable to combine elements. In addition, although it was very powerful, it shared also the same design flaw as all other early cel channel guns—it drained magicels like the Atari Lynx drained batteries.

            Between the expense of the rune channel guns, the poor energy efficiency of the cel channel guns, and the fact that firearms were not only very efficient on their own but also becoming easier to reload thanks to the invention of the ammo clips in the late 920’s, magi-ammo guns never really got their chance to shine. Instead, they remained sort of a niche product for the about the next hundred and fifty years. It wasn’t until the gunblade revolution of the 1020’s that magi-ammo guns began to gain some prominence in the weapons market.

Today

            Today, magi-ammo guns and gunblades of all shapes and sizes exist. Although magi-ammo guns are still pricier (ten percent more expensive for cel channel models and fifty percent more expensive for rune channel models on average), magi-ammo gunblades tend to hover close enough to the price range of their live ammo equivalents that they are just as commonly seen. The energy efficiency of these cel channel types has become much better as well, thanks to the perfection of a mechanism for setting the power output to preset or custom levels ranging from “Stun” to “Kill”…or “Overkill” on models which use 7 and 10.5 inch magicels.

            Magi-ammo guns are also gaining popularity as main cannons on both air and seagoing battleships. These models use 21, 24.5, or 28 inch magicels to deal massive damage to targets. Rumor has it that some are even being developed for use with 56 inch magicels (for perspective, a 56 inch magicel contains enough magical energy to power a small town for about a year…or blow up an area of about seven city blocks in one shot)! Seeing as how there has not been a major war since the end of the Age of Coal and Oil, though, that is probably just a rumor.

~

            Well, that does it for this week. Join us next week for another Tech of the Town special on my personal favorite tech from this world…AIRSHIPS!!! Until then, you can social media stalk me on Twitter and Pintrest, buy the paperback and Kindle editions of the Star-Runner Chronicles books on Amazon…Or, you can get in on the August, 26th Smashwords launch! (Note: I know it’s going down on a Wednesday, but it’s my birthday, so I’m throwing a party.)

            Use the promo code SL69V for The Rebirth and Awakening of Wolfie Star-Runner or BN33W for Wolfie Star-Runner Plays with Hellfire when pre-ordering or purchasing the books at Smashwords through August 30th to get them 50% off! Smashwords provides the books in .epub, .mobi, .pdf, .rtf, and .lrf formats for your reading pleasure. Post-launch, you’ll also be able to find The Star-Runner Chronicles in ebook format at the following fine online retailers: Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple iBooks, Oyster, Scribd, Baker & Taylor, Inktera, txtr, Flipkart, and OverDrive! We’re goin’ global, bay-bay!

            So, until next week, thanks for reading…And don’t forget to review the books after you read them and spread the word to your friends if you enjoy my books or my blog!

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Star-Runner Chronicles Monster Manual Entry #4: The Wingfish

            There are many species of monsters which stalk the lands of The Star-Runner Chronicles world. Some are plausible and workable, while others are just plain bazar. One of the strangest creatures is the wingfish which, true to its name, looks like a big fish with a pair of bird wings stuck on it. It doesn’t have to make sense. Monsters rarely do.

Behold, the Blue Wingfish in all its glory!  (Yes, I know it's not my usual pixel art, it's colored pencil. Still pretty, though...)

Behold, the Blue Wingfish in all its glory! (Yes, I know it’s not my usual pixel art, it’s colored pencil. Still pretty, though…)

Wingfish Fast Facts

Creature Type: Fish
Elemental Type: Air/Water
Elemental Weakness: Electricity
Size: 4 to 6 feet long, 4 to 6 foot wingspan
Weight: 90 to 120 pounds
Defense: Medium
Strength: Medium
Speed: Medium
Magic: Medium
Habitat: Forest, Desert, Grassland, Mountain, and Wetland
Diet: Just about anything organic
Subspecies: Blue Wingish, Skybass, Cloud Tuna, Cypress Salmon, Jungle Perch, Sand Bass, Sharknado, Desert Guppy, Mountain Mullet, and many others
Most Applicable Tropes: Flying Seafood Special, Jack of All Stats, Airborne Mook

 ~

            Everyone loves fish…well, almost everyone. Some like to eat them, some like them as pets, some like them for their own moral and political reasons. Yep, fish are great…unless they’re dive-bombing right at you with the express purpose of trying to eat you. Then they suck. It is in this very spirit of “that would suck” that the wingfish were created. Come along with me, and I will explain.

Appearance and Anatomy

            Wingfish are enormous fish ranging anywhere from four to six feet in length with bird-like feathered wings with a wingspan which matches their body length. Their scales are dry instead of being coated in mucus like normal fish, and tough enough to require considerable force to pierce with a metal blade or projectile. Their feathery wings and fishy tail fins propel them through the air, while their large pectoral, pelvic, and anal fins are used to steer while in flight.

            Wingfish have large eyes which can see roughly as well as those of any bird of prey, and their noses are nearly as good as any bloodhound’s. They have a horrible sense of hearing, however. How bad is it? Well, think of when you get water in your ears while bathing or swimming, then cut that auditory capacity in half. That’s how bad their hearing is. So far, there seems to be no reasonable scientific explanation for the bad hearing, but some mages believe that Origia or one of the other gods may have placed a powerful curse on their ears for their own personal reasons.

            Oddly, although the various wingfish subspecies are named for various species of fish, they all look like enormous koi with mouths full of sharp, pointy teeth and long, elegant fins. They come in a variety of colors and patterns from green camo and sandy yellow to hot pink and rainbow striped. The brightly colored varieties are typically the least likely to go after people, and some have even been domesticated as pets and guard monsters. The ones which are duller in color or meant to camouflage into their environments—such as the deadly, color-shifting, high-flying sharknado—however, should be approached with extreme caution and avoided whenever possible. Those are the mean ones.

Diet

            Wingfish are opportunistic omnivores. They will eat anything from tree leaves and cactus to orcs and minotaurs. Whole schools of them have been known to swarm battlefields to feed on the flesh of the dead, and in hard times they sometimes descend on farmers’ fields and orchards like a hoard of locusts and devour everything in their path. In fact, the only living thing that wingfish absolutely will no eat is each other.

            In trial after trial wingfish have been placed in enclosures where they have no food and only other wingfish to interact with. Every time, the wingfish allowed themselves to die of starvation rather than eat another one of their own. This has even occurred when wingfish of different subspecies have been thrown together and cases where a lone wingfish was left with a dead wingfish instead of a live one. Most people either find this strong instinctual aversion to cannibalism touching or stupid.

Habits

            Wingfish live and travel in schools of anywhere between eight and twenty individuals. A school has no social hierarchy, but instead follows instinct and established habit in search of food. Because they’re not very smart on their own, they rely on the combined wisdom of the group to get by…which isn’t always a great thing when it’s a group of creatures who aren’t particularly bright. Sometimes their group think makes them insanely efficient hunters, and sometimes it sends them flying mindlessly at the engines and cockpits of airships.

            When it comes to breeding, wingfish are the masters of elaborate mating rituals. Each subspecies has its own elaborate aerial display of grace and agility, with each partner taking turns showing off their moves to their potential mate until they either mess up or successfully complete the final dance and move on to the fun part. After a good thirty-second quickie, the female wingfish will incubate her young inside of her body for about a month before giving birth to a brood of fifty to seventy offspring.

            Because wingfish don’t raise and nurture their young, that initial brood of fifty or so is whittled down to only two or three by the end of their first year. Defeats during hunts, predation, and just plain bad luck take a heavy toll on these creatures during their lifetimes in the wild. While wingfish in captivity can live to be nearly thirty years old, wild wingfish are lucky to reach the age of five.

            Wingfish are still formidable opponents in battle, though. With their tough hides, swift flying, and sheer numbers, they’re already a challenge. Add their water cannon spell into the equation, and you get a monster which most adventurers can’t defeat without at least two or three companions in tow.

~

            That’s it for this week, folks! I’ll be taking next week off, but join us the week after that for yet another exciting article! Until then, be sure to check out The Star-Runner Chronicles on Amazon.com (print and ebook editions available) or Smashwords (release date is 8/26/15, use promo code SL69V for The Rebirth and Awakening of Wolfie Star-Runner or BN33W for Wolfie Star-Runner Plays with Hellfire now through 8/30/15 to get the books half-off), peep in on my tweets on Twitter, learn about me at a glance on Pintrest, or just archive binge around here for a bit (if you liked this piece, make sure to check out my three-parter on werewolves or any of the articles under the “Magic” or “Monster Manual” categories).

            Already read the books? Don’t forget to drop a review on Amazon, Goodreads, Shelfari, or any other book review site that you may be on (even if you can only give a super short review and/or a star rating, every bit helps), and spread the word about the books and blog to your buddies in real life and online! Take care, and have a great week!

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The Magic of Light and Darkness: By Guest Contributor Inferno Bendis

            Honestly, allow me to begin by stating that I am extremely nervous about writing this article. However, Danielle ended up with a terrible case of Writer’s Block in terms of blog material this week and begged me to fill in for her.

            “Well, you are the team’s Smart Guy,” she said, looking at me with that darn sad puppy look on her face. “I’m sure that you can think up something to share with the readers in my world. Pleeeeease, Inferno?”

            I attempted to decline, but then she began tearing up and, well…I don’t do well with crying women. So, it seems as if I have been roped into this entire endeavor with no hope of escape. I will attempt to make the best of it, however, and take the time to impart you all with some magical knowledge which is just a little bit more advanced and in-depth than Danielle’s own two-part magic lesson a few months back.

A Bit of Background: Complimentary Elements

            As you all learned in the piece on elemental magic, all people have a certain fixed elemental alignment. Mine happens to be fire. As such, I am most adept with fire spells and least adept with water spells. But, in order to strengthen my fire magic, improving my skills with water magic is required. This elemental yin-yang balancing act may seem tedious and roundabout, but it is actually the easiest and most efficient method by which a mage may grow in power and achieve greater magical skill.

            The study of magic in one’s element and its direct opposite can only get one so far, however. In order to master elemental magic as a whole, one must also study what are called Complimentary Elements. A Complimentary element is an element which accompanies or mixes well with another element. Earth and Herb are complimentary elements, as are Heart and Spirit, Water and Air, and Fire and Light.

            The Complimentary Element to one’s own elemental alignment is always the second easiest element to learn to wield. In order to achieve greater skill and power with that element, however, one must also study its Opposing Element. If one truly wishes to fully master elemental magic, then one must enter into a cycle of studying multiple Opposing and Complimentary Elements in conjunction with each other. This method of study is referred to as “The Web of Knowledge” and is used and recommended by all of the greatest wizards and sorcerers in the world.

            I, myself, have been using this method for the past ten years and it has allowed me to excel to the point where I am now able to cast several advanced spells within my own element. This includes the powerful Incindia Greivosa and Helio-Flash spells. They take quite a bit out of me to cast at current, but it’s still quite an achievement for a human to be able to wield such power as early as his late teens.

            My studies have also led me in the direction of higher level Light spells—and with them, higher level Darkness spells. Because Light and Darkness are two of the most complex elements to master, I still have much to learn. However, I do know just enough to teach you about the different types of spells that each element is capable of being channeled into.

Types of Light Spells: Illumination, Illusion, Hard, and Gummy

            Light magic is split into four categories of spells: Illumination, Illusion, Hard Light, and Gummy Light. Each spell type has its own properties and uses.

            Illumination spells utilize light in its natural state. Most Illumination spells do nothing more than alter the color of light in a room, allow one to see things only visible under certain wavelengths of light (warning: not to be used in inn rooms or public restrooms), or conjure up a light source to brighten up a dark space. There are also weaponized spells of this type, however. These range from a simple flash-bomb spell to the devastating Lumina Cannon—a spell which shoots a beam of light so concentrated that it can burn through solid stone. Because these spells only require one to conjure up light or perform minor wavelength manipulations, they are actually the easiest to learn.

            Illusion spells are the next most complex. Illusion spells fool the eye into seeing solid-seeming objects that are not actually there. Because doing so requires a strong knowledge of how light behaves and how different wavelengths of light reflect off of different surfaces and substances to create color, highlights, and shadows, they require a lot of practice to pull off properly. Not only do high-level illusionists have a solid knowledge of optics, but they also possess an artist’s eye for detail, a decent amount of acting skill, and strong enough powers of concentration to manipulate multiple illusions at once. Conversely, you can tell a mediocre illusionist by the fact that their illusions never look or move quite right…usually to the point of being unsettling and creepy. (Case in point: mine.)

            Hard Light spells create solid objects out of pure light, such as blades, shields, and spears. This is done by concentrating and compressing the light until it is dense enough to behave exactly as a solid substance would. These spells are quite difficult to master, but also quite useful. My personal favorite is Hard Light Spell Number Seven, a.k.a. “The Happy Fun Ball.” It is a variable power spell which relentlessly pummels its target until either the target is destroyed or the spell times out. Unfortunately, I cannot yet cast this spell at non-lethal strength unless my magic has already been sufficiently depleted…but, I’m working on it.

            Gummy Light is technically a sub-set of Hard Light which creates flexible objects such as whips, rope, et cetera from pure light. These spells are the most advanced simply because creating flexible objects from light requires much more finesse and a steadier mind than creating hard light objects. In order to master Gummy Light spells, one must thoroughly understand the very essence of light itself…which, of course, means gaining a deep understanding of darkness.

Types of Darkness Spells: Shroud, Bind, Pierce, and Crush

            Like Light magic, Darkness magic is also divided into four types: Shroud, Bind, Pierce, and Crush. Unlike with light—where creating flexible objects is the most difficult thing to master—it is the spells which generate solid shadows which are the hardest to become proficient with.

            Shroud spells are the easiest Darkness spells to master. These spells allow one to envelop oneself in a shroud of shadows or generate a smokescreen of pure darkness to beat a hasty retreat or impede a foe’s accuracy. Shroud spells can also be used to envelop one’s opponent in darkness, blinding him and making it easy to take him by surprise or escape the battle. Ninjas are masters of Shroud-type spells, and many of the best ones were actually developed by them.

            Bind spells are the next step up. By concentrating shadows into a semi-solid state, Bind spells allow one to ensnare an opponent with the surrounding shadows…or his own. One excellent example is the Shadow Trap spell, in which the caster first attaches the target’s solidified shadow to its feet, then pins the shadow to the floor or ground with a dagger. Then there is the Shadow Hold, a spell which allows the caster to pin their target to a floor, wall, ceiling, et cetera, using either the target’s shadow or any shadows which may exist within the surrounding environment. The latter spell is extremely useful when doing battle in dark or dimly-lit environments.

            Pierce spells allow the caster to generate spears or blades of darkness to cut or impale their target. Despite the brittle nature of these solid shadows, they are flung at the target with such force as to be just as painful and potentially deadly as icicles or broken glass. Some pierce spells, such as the Shatter Box and Obsidian Grenade, are even built upon the concept of breaking into multiple shards of razor-sharp shrapnel which are sent forth at high velocity and lacerate and/or impale the target. Very useful for taking out or disabling large enemy groups…if I could only stop casting duds!

            Last, but not least, there are the Crush spells. Crush spells work by generating objects of super-concentrated shadows so dense that having them dropped on, flung at, or swung at you would easily break a bone…possibly all of them. Among these is a spell called “Anvil of the Abyss,” which generates a giant anvil of pure shadow so dense that any man hit with it dead-on from above will be smashed into a puddle of shattered bone and mashed flesh in one blow. Needless to say, I have not yet reached the level where I can even cast a simple crush spell, let alone that one.

~

            I hope that you’ve found this brief run-down of the types of Light and Darkness spells enlightening and possibly entertaining. Danielle will be back next week with a Monster Manual article detailing the biology and habits of the wingfish. Until then, I recommend that you spend a bit of time here reading up on other magical subjects, follow me on Twitter at @InfernoBendis (and Danielle too, since she’s around more often), and make an effort to read up on these strange misadventures that I have been dragged into in The Star-Runner Chronicles. The books are available now at the online store Amazon.com, and will be in stock at the Smashwords shop on Augusta 26th. I’ve been told to remind you that you can pre-order or purchase on release week from Smashwords using the promotional code SL69V for The Rebirth and Awakening of Wolfie Star-Runner or BN33W for Wolfie Star-Runner Plays with Hellfire to receive the books at half price.

            Oh! And don’t forget to review! And make a TVTropes page! And a Wiki! And fan art! And a mountain of fan fiction where I defeat the likes of Harry Potter, Harry Dresden, Ghaleon, Lina Inverse, and that Natsu guy from Fairytail in an all-out magic battle royal! And make sure that I get a cool one-liner when I defeat them. You know, something like, “According to my calculations, you’re finished.” That would be awesome…

            (Note: Inferno’s ramblings about wikis and fan fics do not reflect the author’s actual opinions. Please remember that he is a nerdy seventeen-year-old boy and, like many nerdy seventeen-year-olds, is prone to getting carried away with himself. See you next week!)

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Star-Runner Chronicles Monster Manual, Entry #3: The Pipsquirrel

            There are many species of monsters which stalk the lands of The Star-Runner Chronicles world. Some are large and fearsome, some are stealthy and adept at hiding in plain sight, but the pipsquirrel has a different specialty entirely—thievery. So, come along as we take a peek into the secret life of this fuzzy little bandit!

Klepto Squirrel!

The Common Pipsquirrel, the forest’s little kleptos!

Pipsquirrel Fast Facts

Creature Type: Beast
Elemental Type: Wild/Light
Elemental Weakness: Fire/Heart
Size: 1 to 1.5 feet long
Weight: 1 to 2 pounds
Defense: Low
Strength: Low
Speed: High
Magic: Medium
Habitat: Forest
Diet: Nuts, Fruit, and Sunlight
Subspecies: Common Pipsquirrel, Brown Pipsquirrel, Green Pipsquirrel, Blue-Hooded Pipsquirrel (sometimes called the Rocky Pipsquirrel), Iron Pipsquirrel, Black Popsquirrel
Most Applicable Tropes: Metal Slime (Iron Pipsquirrel), Fragile Speedster (all other subspecies), Outside-the-Box Tactic, Bandit Mook, Impossible Thief, Self-Duplication

~

            Getting robbed is a big deal. No one wants to look up and notice that their wallet, or their keys, or their kidney is suddenly missing! But, robbing people is just what the pipsquirrel does…and quite spectacularly, I might add. These tiny forest-dwelling monsters seem to absolutely live for the activity! But, what exactly is a pipsquirrel…?

Appearance and Anatomy

            At first glance, a pipsquirrel looks a lot like any normal squirrel that you would find darting through the trees and underbrush of any old forest. On closer inspection, however, you will notice its three pairs of eyes along with the fact that it possesses two pairs of ears and two tails! The extra eyes extend the pipsquirrels field of vision to nearly three hundred and sixty degrees, while the dual tails are used for steering and balance. The two sets of ears may at first seem purely decorative, but research has shown that each pair of ears is connected to a separate set of inner ear organs tuned to separate auditory ranges—one for sub-sonic to the middle range of human hearing and the other one for mid-range human hearing through super-sonic sound.

            Most pipsquirrels have very soft, fluffy fur in colors and patterns which make them blend very easily into their surroundings, but afford little protection from physical attack. The exceptions are the blue-hooded or rocky pipsquirrel and the rare iron pipsquirrel. The blue-hooded pipsquirrel’s coat is all gray except for its distinctive cap of blue fur, which covers almost the entire top and back of the head aside from its ears. Meanwhile the iron pipsquirrel is endowed with both great speed and a pelt made of a special steel alloy which deflects most attacks physical…even bullets! The iron pipsquirrel’s unique pelt is very valuable, since the alloy that it’s made of is difficult and time-consuming to create, but makes exceptional armor and weapons.

Diet

            Pipsquirrels live on a hardy diet of nuts, seeds, fruit, and sunlight. They can eat their weight in plant foods every day, but unless there has been a long stretch of dark, cloudy days they prefer to eat just half that and then bask in the sun at the tops of trees for the rest of their daily nourishment.

            They absorb sunlight through special hairs located on their backs and tails. The energy gathered through these hairs is used to aid in digestion—helping them to more thoroughly break down the plant matter and get the most possible nutrition out of the food they eat—and to fuel their magical abilities. Consequentially, a pipsquirrel which has been kept in a dark enclosure for a week with just fruit, nuts, and seeds to eat will exhibit much weaker magical capabilities than a pipsquirrel which has been kept in an enclosure which gets a normal amount of sunlight each day.

Habits

            For such naughty little troublemakers, pipsquirrels are actually some of the most peaceful monsters in the world. When they swiftly dash out of hiding to jump upon and steal from the bags and pockets of unwitting travelers (which takes no more than a second, even when stealing undergarments right off of the victim’s body), there is absolutely no malice or killer intent behind their actions. They steal because they enjoy the challenge and adrenaline rush which comes from it, and they stay to taunt their victims and incite them to chase after them because they just see it all as one great big game!

            Pipsquirrels decorate their lairs—hollows in trees and rock formations called “apartments”, which they typically share with two to three other pipsquirrels—with the spoils of games well-won and seem to always be trying to outdo their buddies. Showing off their thieving prowess is also a very important step in courting a mate for both males and females. Their breeding season is every-other winter, and a female will usually have a litter of three to four young the following spring. When two breeding pairs share the same apartment, they even share child-rearing responsibilities. Because they are such social creatures, they are also among the few monster species which will spontaneously form friendships with people.

            They are picky about the people that they associate with, however, and seem to show a preference for thieves, pirates, spies, ninjas, and illusionists—likely out of respect for their skills in stealth, trickery, and theft. In fact, pipsquirrels never attempt to steal from people whom they sense to be especially skilled thieves as a weird sort of “professional courtesy.” Once they befriend someone, pipsquirrels are very loyal companions and some have even been known to sacrifice their lives for their cross-species companions.

            When backed into a corner by a predator or unhappy victim of their larceny and unable to use their speed to escape, pipsquirrels use light magic to make a quick get-away. Their spell of first resort is one which creates anywhere from ten to fifty holographic clones meant to confuse the enemy. If their opponent can easily find their real body with their sense of smell or by sensing their thoughts, however, then their next trick is to cast a flashbomb spell and escape while their opponent is blinded. In this way, pipsquirrels rarely have to get into a physical fight and almost always escape danger without a scratch.

~

            That’s it for this week, folks! Join us next week for more fun! Until then, be sure to check out The Star-Runner Chronicles on Amazon.com (print and ebook editions available) or Smashwords (Coming August 26, 2015, so pre-order now!), peep in on my tweets on Twitter, learn about me at a glance on Pintrest, or just archive binge around here for a bit (if you liked this piece, make sure to check out my three-parter on werewolves or any of the articles under the “Magic” or “Monster Manual” categories).

            Already read the books? Don’t forget to drop a review on Amazon, Goodreads, Shelfari, or any other book review site that you may be on (even if you can only give a super short review and/or a star rating, every bit helps), and spread the word about the books and blog to your buddies in real life and online! Take care, and have a great week!

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Star-Runner World Interviews Series: River Bendis

Warning: May contain spoilers for those who have not yet read The Rebirth and Awakening of Wolfie Star-Runner.

            The sweet scent of flowers hangs heavy in the air as the chubby, brown-skinned young woman makes her way to the little teahouse nestled in the center of the botanical gardens. As she reaches the door she pushes up her black, pseudo-cat-eye framed glasses and straightens her T-shirt—a brand new white one with a picture of Chewbacca holding up a “Free Hugs” sign. Then, she walks through the door of the cozy, cottage-like establishment and looks around for the person that she is to meet.

            There, at a booth next to one of the wide windows over to her left, sits a young woman with long brown hair. Her hair is done in a neat but fashionable style with a single red, rose-shaped hair clip pinning it back on the left side of her forehead which creates an elegant asymmetry, and she is wearing a simple string of pearls and a matching pair of earrings as well. Her blue, ankle-length dress is decorated with bands of white lace on the skirt, white lace trim around the sleeves and hem, and a red silk rose embellishment at the center of the just-above-bust neckline. Her low-heeled leather shoes are the exact same shade of blue as her dress with white bows the exact same color as the lace, and her semi-sheer stockings sport white and blue vertical stripes—again, perfectly matched to her dress. Around her right wrist is a charm bracelet bearing gold, silver, and glass charms in the shapes of kittens, rainbows, ponies, hearts, and stars. This is River Bendis.

            She looks up at the chubby, brown-skinned young woman and beckons her over with a polite wave and a sweet smile. As soon as the interviewer is seated, the two women begin the interview.

Quick Facts about River Bendis

Name: River Bertha Bendis
Age: 24
Birthday: Maya (May) 22, 1019 P.W.D.
Height: 5 feet, 6 inches (167.6 cm)
Hair: Dark Brown
Eyes: Green
Weapon of Choice: Semi-automatic assault rifle
Favorite Color: Powder Pink

~

Danielle Freeman: It’s good to see you, River. I love your outfit.

River Bendis: Thank you very much. I bought the dress just for the occasion…but then I realized that I didn’t have a matching pair of shoes, so I got these *turns her foot to show off one of her shoes*. They were half off when I bought these adorable red boots. And then I saw this hair clip and I just had to have it…and these stockings were on the rack right beside them. *giggles and blushes* My apologies for rambling on like that. I admit that I can be…a bit of a shopaholic sometimes…

D.F.: It’s no problem. I’ve heard my fair share of shopping stories from my sister, so your little detour didn’t bother me one bit. Shall we begin the interview?

R.B.: Yes, I am ready to start.

D.F.: Good. So, to start with, which of you is older—you or Flood?

R.B.: I am the elder sister by one minute and twelve seconds. I know that it technically should not matter, but the fact that it makes me the eldest of all of our siblings means that in times when our elders are not available, I am the de facto Head of Household. It is a very big responsibility, and I take it very seriously.

D.F.: And are there any times when you have had to take on that responsibility?

R.B.: Yes. There was one time when we were children when Mother and Miss Amersbey were both bedridden with a terrible cold and Father was away on business. In that case, it fell on me not only to ensure that my brothers and sister stayed out of mischief and did not skip out on their training, but also to make sure that the household staff did not take Miss Amersbey’s illness for an excuse to slack off. Quite a bit of work for a single ten-year-old girl, but luckily I was cute enough that the adults behaved themselves just because I was the most adorable boss that they had ever had. My siblings, however…*sighs and shakes her head* As they are now, they were quite a handful to deal with. Silver was attempting to sneak between meal snacks every time that I turned my back, Inferno half-destroyed the upstairs parlor with a fireball spell gone wrong, Wolfsbane got his head stuck in the stair railing…Oh! And Flood was the worst! Seemingly every ten minutes she was attempting to battle me for the right to assume command! Thank the Gods that I was only in charge for a week before Mother was finally well enough to take over again…

D.F.: So, has there been any time when you’ve allowed Flood to take the helm and taken on the role of second in command?

R.B.: *nods* Usually, I allow her to take the lead in combat scenarios and in situations where mischief is needed more than diplomacy. She is a very cunning strategist and is excellent at concocting brilliant plans and schemes on the fly. My strengths, on the other hand, are more rooted in negotiation and public relations. You could say that I am the face of our team, but she is the fist.

D.F.: But you’re no slouch when it comes to fighting yourself. In fact, you’re quite the expert with a rifle, correct?

R.B.: *smiles coyly* I wouldn’t call myself an “expert,” but I will admit that I am a pretty good shot. I prefer to fight at a distance, so an assault rifle and the occasional fire spell are all that I usually use in combat. Though, if I truly must resort to close combat, I can hold my own in a fist fight and am somewhat capable with a rapier. Luckily, I rarely have to.

D.F.: And have you ever had to fight…say…Helga Mir?

R.B.: Well, I hate to speak ill of the dead, but…Yes. Once I did end up having to do battle with that despicable woman—may her eternal slumber be fitful.

D.F.: And how did that happen, exactly?

R.B.: Once, several years ago, Flood and I walked into the Hunters’ Station in Bevelle. Ren Ascot’s team just happened to be there, and that dreadful woman was taunting Wolfsbane—who was only thirteen or fourteen at the time—by pressing his face into her bosom.

Wolfsbane has always been terribly shy with girls, and her harassment was very clearly causing him distress. He was trying to pull away from her, screaming for her to stop…but she just continued her abuse.

Naturally, Flood and I went over to rescue Wolfsbane and request that she stop her shameful behavior immediately. Flood pulled our brother out of that…horrid woman’s chest, and I went about attempting to resolve the matter civilly. However, despite my asking her politely and attempting to speak with her on the terms of being two mature women, she became very belligerent with me.

D.F.: Belligerent, how?

R.B.: Invading my space, shoving, poking, swearing…Whenever I would back away from her, she would just move forward again and again until I was backed against a wall. The only reason why Flood did not intercede in her usual manner is because I had told her to stay with Wolfsbane and allow me to deal with Miss Mir.

Once I was against the wall, I tried to side-step her. However, she blocked my path with her arm. When I asked her one last time to back away so that we could talk things out like adults, she grabbed me by the hair and threw me to the floor.

 Once again, I had to tell Flood to stay back and take care of Wolfsbane. I was not down for long before Miss Mir came over to kick me…but, I caught her foot before she could hit me and pushed her to the ground. As soon as we were both up, she lunged at me and I caught her by the arm and threw her across the room. It was thankfully a very short confrontation, because she was knocked unconscious when her head hit a chair.

D.F.: And what happened after that?

F.B.: Flood and I evacuated Wolfsbane to our inn room and filed a formal complaint against Miss Mir for lewd conduct and sexual harassment, along with a request that our brother be removed from Mr. Ascot’s team. Unfortunately, due to the foolishness that is the female-on-male sexual harassment double-standard, the higher-ups dismissed the charges and our request. They even had the nerve to suggest that that woman was only giving Wolfsbane “what every boy that age wants anyway!”

If that…that…jezebel had been a man shoving a young teenaged girl’s face into his groin, then the incident would not have been pushed aside so cavalierly! But a woman shoving a young teenaged boy’s face into her breasts? Totally excusable. They get away with a written apology and a fifty krown fine. It’s an outrage! *her face is relatively calm, but there is a terrifying look in her eyes by the end it it*

D.F.: Alright…let’s change the subject to happier things, like your relationship with Valin.

R.B.: *her expression softens* Yes, Valin. The love of my life. Some days, I still find it strange how we even ended up together.

D.F.: As I understand it, you and Flood met him on a job and from there made him a permanent member of your team. How exactly did you end up falling for him afterward?

R.B.: Honestly, I was neither trying to gain his attentions nor looking for a new boyfriend. It all sort of fell into place quite spontaneously. Valin has many good qualities—he has a strong sense of justice, he is chivalrous and respectful, kind and gentle, incredibly brave…if, at times, a bit thick-headed. The fact that he is good-looking and a skilled warrior are only the icing and sprinkles on the cake, really. I fell in love with the person he is, without even really realizing it until the day that we were at the park together. I half-tripped and dropped my ice cream bar, he caught it before it was even halfway to the ground, he handed it to me, our fingers met, our eyes locked, we moved in closer…and then so did that ice cream bar, right on my favorite white coat! *giggles* I usually would have been annoyed by that, but instead I just couldn’t stop laughing. That is when I knew that I had fallen for him. After all, getting chocolate stains out of white wool is usually nothing to smile about.

D.F.: *giggles* Aw! That’s sweet! And the fact that he is a werewolf never acted as a buffer against your being attracted to him?

R.B.: Absolutely not. After getting over the initial shock of seeing him change back to human form the first time, I have not really been bothered by his being a lycanthrope. Actually—and this is a bit embarrassing—I think that he is quite fetching in his werewolf form. That platinum blonde coat, those brilliant crimson eyes…and those adorable ears! I know that he thought that I was strange the first time that I asked to touch them…but I couldn’t help it! He just has the cutest wolf ears of any werewolf ever!

*regains her composure and clears her throat* Anyway, I have always accepted his lupine qualities as simply part of his personality, nothing more. Although he is sometimes a bit self-conscious about such things as occasionally getting distracted by steaks in a butcher’s shop window or how snappy he gets when he is injured, I find those things just as endearing as any of his other traits. *giggles* I wouldn’t have him any other way.

D.F.: And yet, you asked him to stay out of town until after the full moon when you came home for Silver’s birthday.

R.B.: Only because I feared for his safety. I knew that Mother and Uncle Falcon would be alright with Valin being a lycanthrope if they found out, and I thought that Inferno would likely be uncomfortable for a little bit before his curiosity got the better of him…But Wolfsbane, Silver, and Father? Father and Silver have never liked any of my boyfriends to begin with, and finding out about Valin’s true nature…I feared that they would kill him without hesitation if they knew.

And Wolfsbane? He had been terribly conflicted in his feelings toward werewolves since Father’s extreme “corrective intervention” fifteen years ago. I was afraid that at worst he would kill Valin and at best…he would never speak to me again. But, it seems that Shogga had planned to be kind to us.

It is not just Wolfsbane finally being dragged back to his rightful self that I am talking about, but how everything ended up coming together. Though, I did have to deal with Valin for jumping the gun and ending our magic mirror conversation without hearing me out…even if it was out of concern for my safety. After all, if one does not lay down and enforce solid ground rules in a relationship, it will not survive.

D.F.: One final question before we finish up: If you could have picked between being a werewolf hunter and any other occupation, what would you be?

R.B.: *thoughtful pause* Hmm…I suppose that I would have chosen to be a traveling musician. I love to play the harp and the piano, and I am not too bad of a singer. Plus, even if the money is not always very good, I would get to make people happy for a living. Alas, I suppose that fighting to protect other people’s happiness and their right to be happy will have to do.

D.F.: Well, that does it. Thanks for the interview.

R.B.: You’re very welcome. Oh! While we’re here, would you like to enjoy some tea and cake with me? I know that I am supposed to be keeping my sweet tooth in check so that I can fit into my wedding dress, but…this teahouse has the very best chocolate-chocolate chip cake!

D.F.: Well…I’m on a bit of a diet myself, but…Oh, what the heck! I love chocolate!

            And so, the two young women enjoyed some tea—and probably a few too many slices of cake for their own good—together before parting ways.

~

            That does it for this week, folks. I’ll be taking next week off to refuel the old idea machine, but join us on Sunday the 26th for more Star-Runner World fun. In the meantime, be sure to check out The Star-Runner Chronicles on Amazon (print and Kinde ebook versions available, ebook coming to Smashwords in August), archive binge around here for a bit (there’s lots to see, and if you liked this article then you may want to check out others in the “Interviews” category as well), spy on me on Twitter and Pintrest, or check out my Fan Works Spot for some of my leisure writings (especially if you like Sonic AU fics…). Make sure to spread the word if you like the books or blog, and drop a review on Amazon, Goodreads, or anywhere else good books are reviewed if you’ve read the series (your reviews=lots of help for me). So, until next time, thanks for reading and have a great week!

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Star-Runner World Interviews Series: Flood Bendis

Warning: May contain spoilers for those who have not yet read The Rebirth and Awakening of Wolfie Star-Runner.

            The chubby, brown-skinned young woman walks into a gym that is alive with the sounds of a rowdy crowd. She sees the source of the excitement as soon as she looks up: A fit, attractive young woman with long brown hair slung back in a ponytail is in the ring boxing with a big, muscular bald man…and kicking his butt pretty hard!

            The man is on the ropes and barely able to stand, but still somehow finds the strength to stand on his own again…probably thanks to the power of his opponent’s taunts. He is walking right into a trap, however. The chubby woman makes it to the side of the ring just in time to see the brown-haired young lady land a solid right cross-uppercut combo and send the bald man crashing to the mat like a ton of bricks. The reff counts off the seconds, but the man stays down, drooling bloody spit in a puddle under his open mouth. It’s a knockout, and the brown-haired woman raises her arms triumphantly as the crowd cheers.

            The victor then looks down at the cheering crowd and spots the chubby, brown-skinned woman. Casually, she gives one more wave to the crowd, then climbs out of the ring to greet her and the two find a quiet place where they can talk. Thus, the interview begins.

Quick Facts about Flood Bendis

Name: Flood Bernice Bendis
Age: 24
Birthday: Maya (May) 22, 1019 P.W.D.
Height: 5 feet, 6 inches (167.6 cm)
Hair: Dark Brown
Eyes: Green
Weapon of Choice: Combat Hammers, Metal Knuckles, and plenty of dakka
Favorite Color: Army Green

~

Danielle Freeman: It’s nice to finally get a chance to talk with you, Flood. Honestly, I didn’t think you’d want to come to this interview…You know, since you don’t get all that much pagetime compared to your sister or brothers and all…

Flood Bendis: What? You think I’d care about a stupid thing like that?! Look, unlike some of my siblings who shall remain nameless, I don’t really mind being a supporting character. After all, I know the first thing that would happen if I got any fanboys would be that some perverts would start writing and drawing stuff about me and River being gay with each other! Do. Not. Want.

D.F.: Ooookaaaay…Well, first question: You really like to get physical when you fight, often using metal knuckles and combat hammers in battle. Has that had a real negative affect on your ranking as a werewolf hunter?

F.B.: Phtt! Like I care about my stupid ranking! So long as the asses that need kicking get kicked, the lives that need saving get saved, and the job gets done, what do I care about what some pencil-pushers with kooshy office jobs think about my performance? You know how I count my ranking? By how well I fought and how many people I was able to put at ease. Most days, I rank myself at an X-4 or X-5.

D.F.: And what is a typical job for you and River?

F.B.: A typical job? Well, usually we stick to the higher level jobs—Level 4 through Level 6.

D.F.: And, for the folks at home, what do the levels mean?

F.B.: Oh. Well, Level 1 jobs involve suspected werewolves with no human or domestic animal fatalities, Level 2 jobs are sighted werewolves with possible or confirmed domestic animal fatalities, Level 3 jobs involve sighted or suspected werewolves with confirmed domestic animal fatalities, Level 4 jobs are sighted werewolves with confirmed domestic animal fatalities and one to three human fatalities, Level 5 jobs are confirmed werewolf sightings with more than three human fatalities and possible forcible transformations, and Level 6 jobs…that’s where you find your psycho serial killers, your raging ferals, your rogue packs terrorizing people for fun and profit…That stuff. Level 4 and up are the jobs where human lives are most in danger, with Level 5 and 6 being most likely to involve straight-up criminals, so that’s what me and Riv chose to specialize in. Level 1 through 3 jobs usually involve innocents who just need a bit of help and guidance. We do those too sometimes—a bit more often now that Valin’s with us—but…let’s just say, we don’t exactly follow the rules.

D.F.: So, you’re saying that you and River are codebreakers?

F.B.: *Smiles proudly and nods* Absolutely! Look, the Code is full of bullshit. Killing innocent men, women, children, and unborn babies just because they’re werewolves? If they’re not murderous psychos or batshit crazy ferals—if they’re just normal people just trying to get by and live their lives in peace despite being what everyone around them would consider a monster or a freak—then killing them is no better than straight-up murder. There’s no honor in that. So, River and I follow in the footsteps of Mom and Aunt Osprey—helping the innocent no matter who or what they might be and doing a damn good job of hiding it when we do break the Code.

D.F.: Hiding it? How, exactly…?

F.B.: Let’s just say that accidental werewolf kills are reeeeal easy to pin on feral dogs. We’ll leave it at that. With Valin along with us, he can teach a werewolf having trouble with their powers how to handle their wolf half and everything. Before then, we had to bring a knowledgeable friend along to help.

D.F.: “Knowledgeable friend?” Does that mean that you and River are on good terms with one or more werewolves besides your sister’s fiancé?

F.B.: Not naming any names, but yeah. After rookie squad, Aunt Osprey hooked us up with a few contacts. She was cool like that.

D.F.: So, with the way that you and River work, learning that your younger brother Wolfsbane is a werewolf wasn’t that big of a shock to you, was it?

F.B.: Nope. Actually, I don’t know about Riv, but for me, seeing Wolfsbane running out of the house to meet us was really a huge relief. I…Not to get all mushy and stuff or anything, but…I was really heartbroken when I saw his name posted on the Death List in Candella. And “Self-Termination” as his cause of death…Dammit, I was sad and pissed! I mean, he started out wanting to be a werewolf, and for him to go down killing himself to prevent that…? It wasn’t supposed to be that way. Thank the gods that River and Caroline were there, because if I had been alone…I would’ve burned that hunters’ station to the ground then went to hunt down Ren Ascot’s sorry ass and beat him within an inch of his worthless little life!

D.F.: Does this mean that you’re happy for Wolfsbane?

F.B.: Sure I am. I mean, let’s face it, the little dweeb was always a wild animal anyway. One time, when he was two, we were playing hide-and-seek and I found him in Daddy’s closet chewing on his brand new boots like a freaking puppy! He was totally miserable after Daddy destroyed all of his wolf stuff and started ramping up his training and making him act more “normal.” But, when I saw him that day when he ran out into the rain to meet us…I could tell he was happier than he’d been in a long time.

Don’t tell Wolfie this, but after I got to my room, I cried a little ’cause it was kind of an emotional thing—going from thinking I would never see my little brother again to seeing him happier than I’d seen him since he was a little kid. For a couple of days, I kept worrying about waking up to find that it was all just a dream, you know? That he was really dead and I was only dreaming what I wished was true…Again, don’t tell him that. Wolfie’s too sensitive. If he knew I cried for him and shit, he’d get all mopey and emotional. That’s why putting him with that douchebag Ren was such a bad idea.

D.F.: That’s right, you’re not very fond of Ren Ascot either.

F.B.: Hells no! I hate that guy! He’s such a stuck-up, smarmy, bullying jackass! It’s like, every time I see that guy, he’s picking on someone for no reason at all! Calling little girls homely and flat-chested, taunting eight-year-old boys about their slingshot aim…and it seems like Wolfsbane always got the worst of it! If he had one hair out of place or his bootlace came undone, Ren would lay into him like he just flashed his cock for the world to see! Then there’s the fact that he liked to smack my kid brother around if he caught him eating beef jerky for a between-meal snack or something. One time, Ren tried that shit around me and I socked him right in the face! Personally, I hope these rumors floating around about him ruin his rep so bad that he never works again.

D.F.: Ouch…Alright, Flood, here’s the question you knew was probably coming: What about your love life? River has found her one-and-only, but what about you? Is there someone special in your life right now as well?

F.B.: Yeesh! No, I don’t have—or need—a “special someone” in my life right now. I’m too busy with my career to be thinking about that kind of stuff! Riv’s the romantic one. Before Valin, she’s had three other boyfriends…all of them useless fops! I’m so glad she finally found herself a real man. As for me, being single suits me just fine.

D.F.: And if there was a special someone in your life, what would he be like? What kind of man fits your idea of your dream guy?

F.B.: O.K., first off, he’s gotta be a strong fighter. Preferably, he should be able to either beat me or at the very least battle me to a draw in a one-on-one fight. That’s because I don’t need a man who’s dead weight, you see. I need a guy who can back me up in battle, a guy who makes good reinforcements and a challenging sparring partner. So far, not a single guy who’s tried to step to me has fit that bill. Either they’re all wimps or they keep holding back because I’m a woman…So annoying!

D.F.: And what else? What about his personality?

F.B.: Personality-wise? He can’t be a douchebag. He’s got to respect me and the people I care about, and know how to treat a girl like a lady. Some guys have tried to treat me like just another dude, thinking that just because I’m a tough girl and can hold my own without a man, that means they don’t have to try. Well, they do! I hate men who think I’ll be an easy one-nighter or just want to be “hump-buddies.” I ain’t that desperate for some tail.

He should also have a healthy appetite. I love to cook and I’m damn good at it, so I want a guy who loves to eat. Not a fat tub-o-lard who does nothing but eat, mind you. He’s gotta be active and keep himself in shape, but not one of those annoying “my body is my temple” guys who eat nothing but fucking salad and shit! A man who’s in-shape but knows how to enjoy a good greasy burger or some chocolate chip pancakes!

Oh! And funny! He’d better be funny! Not necessarily “could make people laugh for a living” funny, just “entertaining enough that he can make me laugh when it counts” funny. Making me laugh when he didn’t intend to is a bonus…Oh! And he should have a cute mad face…That’s really it.

D.F.: So, on your scale of male attractiveness, how do you rank Falor Danek?

F.B.: *Raises and eyebrow* You’re kidding, right? Look, he’s cute, funny, and appreciates a good meal, but first off he’s too young. I don’t even consider guys more than two years younger than me as dating material. Secondly, he’s just as big a doofus as Wolfie. That smooth, charming player act doesn’t fool me one bit. Sure, he’s a little more mature and self-confident than my brother, but I bet he can’t say “tufted titmouse” without melting into a fit of uncontrollable laughter.

Don’t get me wrong, he’s a nice guy and I’m grateful to him for what he did for Wolfie. But, date him? No way. I do hope that if he ever really falls in love, she returns his affections and doesn’t break his heart, though. I’ve kind of come to care for him like a little brother…But don’t tell him that.

D.F.: Alright, one more question before I go.

F.B.: Shoot.

D.F.: If you had been given a choice between being a werewolf hunter and any other career path, what would you have chosen to be?

F.B.: *thoughtful pause* Hmm…Well, I guess I would have chosen to be a bounty hunter. The pay’s not always the best, but I’d still get to kick people’s asses for a living and there wouldn’t have been a two-year orientation where I’d have to kill innocent people whether I wanted to or not. Plus, you get to fight giant monsters way more often. A pack of rogue werewolves is a challenge, but that’s nothing compared to a ruk or a hydra…Ooh! Or a jabberwak! I’ve always wanted to take one of those badboys on!

D.F.: Maybe you will someday. Thanks for the interview, Flood.

F.B.: Don’t mention it.

            And so, the two said their farewells and parted ways.

~

            Well, that does it for this week. Join us next week for an interview with River Bendis. Until then, check out The Star-Runner Chronicles on Amazon.com (print and Kindle ebook editions available, coming in August to Smashwords), feel free to spy on me on Twitter and Pintrest for randomness and project updates, and check out my Fan Works Spot for some of my more casual writings. If you enjoyed this interview, you might want to check out other articles under the “Interviews” category. If you enjoy my books or this blog, be sure to tell your friends all about it…Oh! And if you’ve already read the books, don’t forget to review them on Amazon, Goodreads, or any other site where good books are reviewed (even if all you can do is give a star rating or write a few short sentences, every review helps and is appreciated).

            So, until next time, thanks for reading and have a great week!

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