Benjamin Sperduto

Fantasy, Horror, & Science Fiction Author

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Cyberpunks and Reavers, Oh My…

Yikes, it’s July already? Time to catch up on news.

First and foremost, you can now pick up a physical or ebook copy of the Divergent Fates Anthology on Amazon. The anthology is a collection of stories set in Matthew Cox’s “Divergent Fates” world, the cyberpunk setting for his many novels (such as Virtual Immortality and the Division Zero series). Matthew invited several fellow authors to contribute to the collection and I’m very excited for my story “Sins of the Father” to be a part of it. If you enjoy the stories, be sure to check out his work for more cyberpunk and post-apocalyptic goodness. In addition to being a great writer, Matthew is also the most prolific author I know, so he has plenty of sci-fi goodness waiting for you.

On the upcoming front, my novelette “The Wolf Queen” is finally going to be appearing in print in Hammer of the Gods vol. 2: Ragnarok from Rogue Planet Press. This story has floated around in various ebook forms for a while, but if you want to snag a print copy, the anthology will be available on Lulu on July 10.

That’s all the big news for the moment. I’m going to be at Gen Con again this year, so I’m sure I’ll have something to share about that as we get closer to August. Unfortunately, 12/12 Project updates have been few and far between due to some erratic scheduling. Hopefully that will sort itself out in the near future. In the meantime, I’m considering rolling the 12/12 Project Podcast into a more general subject podcast, but I haven’t worked out all the details yet.

CLICK HERE TO GET A COPY OF THE DIVERGENT FATES ANTHOLOGY.

CLICK HERE TO GET A COPY OF HAMMER OF THE GODS II: RAGNAROK.

Mirona’s Law Now Available in Paperback!

It took a while, but Amazon has finally listed the paperback version of Mirona’s Law. You can click on the link below to order a copy. Also, be sure to leave a review if you enjoyed the book!

CLICK HERE TO ORDER A PAPERBACK COPY OF MIRONA’S LAW.

New 12/12 Project Episode for Cthulhutech

In an effort to make up for the long gap, I’ve  posted a two part 12/12 Project episode focusing on Cthulhutech from Wildfire Press. I’ve been waiting to play this game for several years, so Patrick and I sat down to discuss it in exhausting detail before our first session. We cover a lot of ground and have some strong opinions on many aspects of the game system.

I also recorded a lengthy discussion about gaming, movies, and general nerdiness that I’m editing down for a “bonus” podcast. Should be posted later this week, so keep an eye out for it!

Mirona’s Law Available Now!

The day is finally here! Mirona’s Law is available now in Amazon Kindle format. The paperback version should be following soon, so I’ll be sure to make an announcement when it’s available.

As the second book in the Chronicles of Rostogov series, Mirona’s Law picks up roughly one month after the events of The Walls of Dalgorod. Much of the action takes place in the city of Dalgorod as its leading families vie for political power, but the story also sprawls far beyond the city walls to reveal some of the ancient land’s darkest secrets.

Mirona’s Law also provides a completely new perspective on Rostogov by taking readers deeper into the Krovwood, the vast forest sprawling across the northernmost reaches of the realm, and exploring the culture of its inhabitants, the Idanlucht. Fans of The Walls of Dalgorod will know the Idanlucht better by the name Rostogovians have given them: the Dikarie.

As a teaser, here’s a special sneak peek at the opening pages of Mirona’s Law:

***

The southerner screamed when Cáel grabbed his hair and pressed the scian’s obsidian blade against his throat. A quick slash cut through the thin layer of muscle and sliced his windpipe open. Air hissed out from the wound before the blood gushed forth, pouring down the southerner’s face. His shrieking gave way to choked gasps as his lungs frantically pumped their remaining wind into the cold morning air.

A woman knelt beside the southerner’s suspended body, catching his blood in a trencher carved out of tree bark. She muttered incantations under her breath, mixing together the tongues of tribes both living and forgotten. Though young for a cailleach, she went about her grisly work with a practiced confidence.

Cáel stepped back from the dangling southerner. Most of the tribe had gathered to observe the ceremony, crowding in all around their saeglonn and the cailleach. A dreadful silence hung over their encampment, as if the forest itself dared not disturb the sacred ritual.

After the southerner’s blood filled the trencher, the cailleach stood and held it aloft for all the assembled tribesmen to see.

“We make this offering to you, Mother of Our Blood,” she said. “A token of our faithfulness, and a promise to be fulfilled. Accept our humble service, and give us your blessing.”

She stepped toward Cáel and extended the trencher to him. Faint wisps of steam rose from the dark liquid inside. He raised the bloody blade.

“May the Mother claim what is hers by right,” he said as he dipped the scian into the blood.

A chill swept over his skin. The cailleach blinked twice. Between the blinks, Cáel saw something different in her eyes, a presence that vanished as quickly as it appeared.

He pulled the scian out of the trencher. Not a trace of blood remained on its black blade.

The cailleach smiled wide enough to bare her pointed canines.

“Our Mother is with us!”

The tribesmen gathered around them cheered, thrusting their weapons into the air and howling in anticipation of shedding Rostogovian blood.

Cáel knelt before the cailleach as she dipped her fingers into the blood.

“Go now with our Mother’s blessing, Cáel, son of Nuadha, Saeglonn of the Idanlucht.”

She painted a symbol on his face with the southerner’s blood.

“May her fury guide your killing hand.”

When she finished, Cáel rose and turned to the crowd surrounding them.

“Make ready, brothers and sisters! Tonight we bathe in the blood of Rostogov!”

Another cheer went up, this one much louder. Cáel let them revel for a few moments before giving the signal to break camp and march to the edge of the forest. The Rostogovians would be waiting for them there, several thousand strong and supported by cavalry, but the southerners remained ignorant of the Idanlucht’s strength. Cáel’s carefully placed patrols intercepted every scouting party, and the morning’s heavy fog promised to help conceal his overall strategy.

The She-Wolf herself had made the long journey from Dalgorod to lead the campaign. If she fell in battle, the kneeling lords of Rostogov might well turn on each other, just as they did in the days of Cáel’s youth. With no one to coordinate the northern defenses, the Idanlucht would finally be free to retake the lands stolen from their ancestors so long ago. After generations of humiliation and defeat, vengeance was finally close at hand.

Their encampment stood about a mile inside the lightly wooded outskirts of the forest. Although the camp gave the impression of a single, unified force, every Idanlucht warrior recognized the distinct boundaries between the prominent tribes. Cáel’s Scathfaile tribe occupied the core of the encampment, serving as a barrier between the others. The Ilarcrobs camped on the northeast side of the Scathfailes, far from their longtime enemies, the Morbeithirs, who took up position on the opposite side to the southwest. Situated to the northwest, the Finnbrans made sure the rivals remained separated. Several small clans of tribeless warriors filled in the rest of the area surrounding the Scathfaile encampment. While the túathaches acknowledged Cáel’s authority as saeglonn and obeyed his commands, their tribes remained wary of one another.

The warband numbered around four thousand fighters in all. Cáel wished he could have rallied more to his cause, but the Cattridirean tribe of the eastern forest, so seldom united under a single túathach who might be amenable to such an alliance, proved intractable. It remained an impressive force nonetheless, certainly larger than any Idanlucht warband in living memory. Every man and woman there had some fighting experience, though not as part of such a large force. Most of their experience came from raiding settlements south of the forest and fighting the poorly equipped militias that defended them.

Cáel found Fiachra waiting for him outside his hut. Túathach of the Ilarcrobs, Fiachra came from a long line of proud warriors. His father and grandfather before him won great renown fighting the Rostogovians, and many tribal elders expected that he would be the one to unite the tribes once more. It came as a great shock, then, when Cáel bested him in single combat to assert his dominance over the Ilarcrob tribe. The last and most powerful of the túathaches to bend the knee, Fiachra proved a natural choice for Cáel’s deisred, the first among the subordinate túathaches and principal advisor to the saeglonn in all military and political matters.

Tall and muscular, Fiachra wore his long black hair in the traditional fashion among Finnbran warriors, braided into a single, ropy cord that hung down past his shoulders. He bowed his head slightly when Cáel approached.

“Saeglonn.”

All around them, warriors gathered their weapons and donned their armor. Once dressed for battle, they made their way to the southern edge of the encampment. Organization remained loose, with most of the warriors staying close to their kin and trusted friends. Family rivalries within the tribes ran deep, making it impossible for Cáel to reorganize his warband into a more structured fighting force. As much as he despised the Rostogovians, he greatly admired their military organization.

He glanced up at Fiachra.

“Walk with me.”

The deisred fell in beside him and the two followed the steady stream of men marching southward. Cáel waited to speak until Fiachra betrayed a sign of impatience, which manifested this time as a poorly stifled sigh.

“The southerners will expect us to come in strength.”

Fiachra grunted. “They will break, Saeglonn.”

A large group of warriors overtook them and called out Cáel’s name as they went past. Cáel slapped his fist against his chest in response, which made them shout with approval. Clad in hardened animal hides and armed with their wooden clolorgs, their fearsome appearance was sure to terrify the southerners.

But they were not gathering to attack a poorly defended village. Cáel wondered how many of such raids ended at the first sight of a well-armed garrison force.

“Some of them, maybe,” he said. “But not the She-Wolf. Not the Iron Bear.”

Fiachra scowled. “It makes no matter. Even they cannot stand against so many.”

Cáel stopped. Fiachra took another two steps before halting to look back at him.

“What does my deisred advise, then?”

Fiachra measured his reply, perhaps wondering whether or not the question was a trick to make him look foolish. Had he not been genuinely interested in the deisred’s opinion, Cáel might have enjoyed his discomfort.

“We must hit them fast, find some way to get behind them and cut them off.”

Cáel nodded. “Agreed. But what about their horsemen?”

Fiachra shrugged. “We have spears. If they charge us, we can—”

“They won’t. The horsemen will wait until we’re fighting, then run us down from behind and drive us into their army’s steel.”

“What then?”

Cáel surveyed the encampment. The thick fog showed no signs of dissipating anytime soon. Even on the open field beyond the forest, visibility would be severely limited. The southerners might even have difficulty making out the tree line from the far side of the field, leaving them slow to react to the warband’s movements.

“Have the Morbeithirs take position at the forefront. Tell them I’ve given them the honor of breaking the horsemen.”

Fiachra glared down at him. “Saeglonn, you promised me that my people would draw first blood.”

Cáel smiled.

“Promised” is a strong word.

“I have a better gift for you,” he said. “You will help me strike the killing blow. Gather your fighters to the right of the Morbeithirs, but keep well clear of them. I’ll place the Scathfailes to their left.”

The formation would leave significant gaps in their ranks. Fiachra bit his lower lip, plainly uncomfortable with the proposal. He had enough fighting experience to know that if the Rostogovian cavalry penetrated their lines, then the battle promised to end swiftly and bloodily.

“Bring the túathaches and their kinfolk to me when you’ve finished. When it begins, we must act as one.”

Fiachra went back to scowling. “Saeglonn, I don’t think it’s wise to—”

“That will be all, Deisred.”

Cáel glanced down at Fiachra’s clenched fists. He placed his hand over the clolorg dangling from his belt. “Unless you’d care to revisit what’s already been settled?”

He glared at Fiachra, his gaze stern and unblinking. Although the deisred outweighed him by several stones, Cáel knew a tiny, nagging sting of doubt festered in Fiachra’s mind. He waited for it to come to the surface, watched for the faint quavering of the eyelids that always accompanied the realization.

The doubt gave way to shame, and Fiachra looked away. “No, Saeglonn.”

“Good,” Cáel said. “Then carry my words to the túathaches before they think to strike out on their own.”

Fiachra nodded curtly and strode off, leaving Cáel standing near the edge of the encampment. He joined the horde of warriors marching southward and soon disappeared into the fog. Cáel wondered how frightened the southerners would be to see them emerge from the fog, weapons raised as they screamed for blood.

The thought made him smile.

But not so much as the image of a panicked Rostogovian driving a spear into Fiachra’s chest.

***

Mirona’s Law is available now on Amazon. If you enjoy this second installment of the Chronicles of Rostogov, be sure to take a few moments and leave a review on the Amazon page. If you missed the first book, The Walls of Dalgorod, now is a perfect time to get started! The first installment is available in both ebook and paperback format.

Mirona’s Law is Almost Here!

It’s hard to believe, but the big day is almost here! Mirona’s Law will finally be available this Tuesday (April 18).

As the second book in the Chronicles of Rostogov series, Mirona’s Law picks up roughly one month after the events of The Walls of Dalgorod. Much of the action takes place in the city of Dalgorod as its leading families vie for political power, but the story also sprawls far beyond the city walls to reveal some of the ancient land’s darkest secrets.

The ebook version will be available on April 18, with the paperback following shortly afterward. Here’s a special sneak peak at the cover:

12/12 Vision

Most of you are probably familiar with the “12/12 Project”, my big undertaking for the year to play twelve new roleplaying games in the span of twelve months (speaking of which, be sure to subscribe to the podcast chronicling the endeavor). It’s been an interesting ride so far, and I thought it would be worthwhile to share some initial impressions after the first two months.

Scheduling: Remarkably, this hasn’t been nearly as challenging as I anticipated. The idea of managing a weekly roleplaying game group terrified me when I first decided to commit to the project.  In the past, I’ve usually defaulted to running bi-weekly sessions, but I’ve actually found that it’s more difficult to schedule games that way. When you only play every other week, the prospect of missing a week can be rather damaging to the overall momentum of the campaign. It’s very easy to suddenly go three or even four weeks without seeing the rest of the group. If you’re playing weekly and you’re forced to cancel a session, everyone is still pretty much eager to go the next week. The regularity of the weekly schedule also forces everyone to understand what they’re committing to. Bi-weekly games really aren’t that much less of a commitment; they just sound like they’d be easier to schedule around. Very often, players (or GMs) agree to a bi-weekly game but then start missing sessions frequently because their schedule can’t actually accommodate playing in an ongoing campaign. Weekly sessions force them to be more honest with what they can handle.

Continuity: When I laid out the basic schedule for the “12/12 Project”, I anticipated running three sessions of each game as loosely connected “one shot” adventures. What I found out very quickly, however, was that this approach made it very difficult for players to feel any kind of narrative or character continuity. Given the time constraints, I have to get them to the action fairly quickly, which means the hours of character building roleplaying I typically incorporate into my games is getting left on the cutting room floor. While that’s all well and good when you’re trying to test out the mechanical aspects of a game system, it creates a big problem for social interaction and roleplaying. In many cases, the players just don’t have enough of an opportunity to develop their characters as living, breathing people with motivations and distinct personalities. I think this is a fixable problem, but it’s one I didn’t originally anticipate and it cause me a lot of headaches in the first two games we’ve run.

Adaptability: So far, picking up new games has been a relatively painless process. We’ve been helped out in this regard by the fact that I had some familiarity with the Warhammer 40k family of rpgs before we played Deathwatch. Furthermore, the second game we played, Dragon Age, has a fairly simple rules system that’s easy to pick up. Devoting an entire session to character creation helps this process a great deal because players get to see how characters are constructed and understand how their stats interact with the game’s mechanics. I expect some games later down the line will make this more difficult (looking at you, Cthulhutech), but so far this has been a welcome surprise.

Buy-in: One of the problems lingering in the back of my head as we embarked upon this journey was the fear that players wouldn’t like switching to different games just when they started getting the hang of the current game. In fact, one player I was hoping to include decided not to participate precisely because he didn’t want to have to learn a new game system every month. Fortunately, this hasn’t been an issue so far. Everyone enjoyed Deathwatch, our game for January, but they wound up liking Dragon Age even more. Now, there’s no guarantee this will continue. Sooner or later, we’re bound to play a game that isn’t as well liked as some, or maybe even any, of our previous games. But at this point, I think it was helpful for the players to see that there are a lot of great games out there and if you never give them a chance, you might be missing out on something awesome.

Unexpected Challenges: The biggest problem I’ve encountered so far have to do with striking the right difficulty balance as a GM. Most games provide guidelines for appropriate challenges for characters at various power levels, but there are a lot of things you just don’t know about setting up encounters until you’ve run the game several times. I’ve made a LOT of mistakes in this area so far, whether it was setting up encounters that were far too difficult for the players or failing to provide a meaningful challenge at all. In a long-term campaign, this isn’t much of a problem. As a GM, you figure out what players can handle pretty quickly and you can course correct provided no other factors change. When we played Dragon Age, however, we made the decision to play each session at a drastically different power level in order to experience more of the game system. The first jump, from level 1 to level 6 wasn’t too bad, but the jump from level 6 to level 16 was simply too much for me to compensate for as a GM. Had we played a long term game and gone through levels 1-15, it would have been pretty easy to anticipate what challenges would be appropriate for a party of level 16 characters. The ten level jump, however, left me guessing, and it wound up producing a situation that wasn’t all that difficult for them to deal with. Everyone had fun, but it definitely revealed one of the challenges of this approach to gaming.

We’re moving on next week to Exile Game Studio’s pulp adventure rpg Hollow Earth Expedition. It will be a fun change of pace after a far future sci-fi game and a medieval fantasy game, so I’m looking forward to running it. If you want to know more about the “12/12 Project”, be sure to join our Google+ page and subscribe to the podcast on iTunes. I’m looking to expand the podcast’s focus a bit in the coming weeks, so be sure to subscribe if you want to stay up to date.

 

“Distant Worlds” Short Story Collection

I’ve been meaning to do this for a long time, but this weekend I finally got around to compiling several of my published short stories into a single volume. Distant Worlds features seventeen complete short stories, including two exclusive, unpublished stories you can’t find anywhere else. The best part is that you can get this pdf collection for free simply by signing up with my author updates email list. In addition to the pdf, you’ll get updates on new releases and book events. You’ll also receive a free copy of Chronicle, a music sampler containing twelve tracks from the first six Morana’s Breath releases.

Sign up now for email updates to get your free copies of Distant Worlds and Chronicle!

  

“Lena’s Song”: A Short Story Reinterpreted

A few years ago, shortly after completing my first novel, I tinkered around with the idea of writing stories in the cyberpunk genre. I’d written mostly fantasy and horror up to that point, so cyberpunk seemed like a fun alternative. While I knew a fair bit about the genre, I wanted to try doing something a bit different. My first attempt was a story entitled “The First Price,” which appeared in the Dystopian Express anthology (Hydra Publications, 2015).  The story provided only the vaguest hints of a setting, but it intrigued me enough to write another story that took place in the same futuristic city. That second story, which followed the efforts of an ambitious young guitar player to impress the audience at her first gig, became “Lena’s Song,” which appears in Darkscapes, a new anthology from Curiosity Quills Press.

Since music plays such a central role in the story, I thought it would be cool to write a Morana’s Breath song that tied in with the story for the album I was working on at the time (the cyberpunk-themed Cybergothic).  A little less than a year ago, I tried to get a new band project off the ground by writing and recording about a dozen songs. The band never quite came together, but one of the songs had a great guitar part that really stuck with me. When I started throwing ideas around for a musical interpretation of “Lena’s Song,” I decided to include that guitar part in the new song. The original song (an alternative rock song entitled “The Cure”) featured all live instruments with the exception of the drums. To transform it into a Morana’s Breath song, I reworked the bass and rhythm sections around the guitar with electronic instruments and then added in a new synthesizer melody to give it more of a cyberpunk edge.

I think it turned out pretty good, capturing a lot of the spirit of the short story. If you want to check out the final results, I’ve posted a link below to view the song on YouTube. Feel free to leave comments if you enjoy and be sure to check out “Lena’s Song” in Darkscapes! You might also want to check out the Morana’s Breath album Cybergothic, which features not only “Lena’s Song,” but also a musical interpretation of my other cyberpunk story, “The First Price.”

Darkscapes Anthology Now Available on Amazon

Darkscapes, a new anthology from Curiosity Quills Press, was released on Amazon last week. It is currently only available in Kindle ebook format, but print copies will be available soon. The anthology features my short story, “Lena’s Song,” as well as stories by bestselling authors J.R. Rain and Piers Anthony. Here’s a full description from the publisher:

“Curiosity Quills Press explores yearning, regret, and fear with the Darkscapes Anthology — a spellbinding collection of dark fantasy, sci-fi, cyberpunk, horror, and detective fiction. Delve into worlds of terrible family secrets, unexpected doppelgängers, a home invasion on an alien planet, androids and assassins, places and people who aren’t as stable as they seem, frustrated musicians going to desperate lengths — and more.”

Darkscapes available now on Amazon Kindle

And if you’re fond of horror stories, be sure to also check out Dark Horizons, an anthology of dark science fiction from Elder Signs Press.

Dark Horizons available now on Amazon (Kindle and trade paperback)

12/12 Project Podcast Available on iTunes

I’ve posted elsewhere on the site about my new roleplaying game group and its effort to play 12 games in 12 months. We’re doing a podcast in conjunction with the endeavor and the first two episodes went live yesterday. Click on the link below to check it out! Be sure to subscribe and leave a review if you enjoy it. We’ll be trying to do at least one episode per week, but the format won’t always be the same.

Listen to Episode 0 and Episode 1 here!

If you have a technological or philosophical aversion to iTunes, you can listen to the same episodes on SoundCloud here.

I may try to get around listing them on another podcast service like Stitcher, but I’m sticking to what I know for the moment.

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