Edge World: Beastmaster

The second Edge World Origin story has been released!!

“Beastmaster: An Edge World Origin Story”

Once upon a time, the world was a place where superheroes and supervillains were characters reserved for comics, books and blockbuster summer movies. At 1:46 pm Eastern Standard Time on July 6th, 2017 that changed.

This is the story of Benjamin Tubbs a 9 year old boy who discovers that on Edge Day he has been gifted an unusual power that opens up a whole new world for him.

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Inside the writer’s mind: 1st Draft Freeze Tag

Freeze Tag: the 4th story in the Edge World Origin series has been completed! Well, the first draft is done. Here is a little secret into the world of a writer. When we write a short story, novella or novel we actually end up writing it multiple times. For example, Peacekeeper went through 3 iterations before I let it go. I don’t think it is complete and I will most likely update the story with a 4th iteration, I can rewrite like a fiend sometimes which is why it took my wife pushing me to “just publish it already”.

Anyway, back to Freeze Tag. The first draft is done and I am looking away for a little while before I start editing and 2nd drafting. In the meantime, I will be working on Purgatory the 5th Origin short story, it is time to add a new villain.

Be on the look out for another announcement tomorrow… I do love it when a plan comes together.

 

Cheers!

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Inside the Writer’s Mind: Change begets changes

As my lovely wife has indicated on more than one occasion I should be writing a running blog about the situation our little family has been enduring since about August. Honestly, it is a very long story with many twists and turns with more drama than anyone should be put through. I have been toying with the idea, I have even started once or twice; however, at the end of the day I feel like the train has left that station and to be fair writing it down is kind of like I am reliving it all and I do not need to experience this bucket of crazy again… once was more than enough.

What does all of that mean? Well it means that I am thinking about torturing myself because my wife thinks it is a good idea!

The hints of all the mess behind the scenes is really just me setting up the excuses for why Freeze Tag has taken so bloody long to write. It shouldn’t (and doesn’t) tale me 20+ weeks to write 8k words. Yippie for excuses!

So, where is Freeze Tag?  How does it effect the release schedule for the Edge World Origin Stories? What do you think of the 2018 Olympics? So many questions….

First, Freeze Tag was supposed to clock in at about eight thousand words… An hour ago I passed eight thousand one hundred and nine words, so Ciara tale looks to be a bit bigger than estimated. I think I have about two thousand words left before I can put her through the first round of editing. Due to the long time between start and finish I think there will be a more extensive second draft.

Release schedule for the next Edge World Origin Story is on track, Beastmaster will be landing on Amazon on March 1st – more to come on that by the way.

Olympics? sorry been too busy working, writing and being dad and husband…

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Inside the Writers Mind: Just Do It!

There comes a point in everyone’s life where they are confronted with their own fear. Maybe it is self-esteem thing, though there are some interesting thoughts on what self-esteem is and whether or not spending time on it is a good thing or not, maybe it is just fear of rejection or failure.

In my day job, there has been some steady messaging about not being afraid to fail, to take risks and learn from the fallout. I was having a conversation with my loving wife and explained the latest all-day session of “Becoming Comfortable being Uncomfortable” and she mentioned applying these insights to my writing hobby.  I thought about it for what felt like weeks.

I have been aware of Amazon’s KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) for years, I have read many KDP books and short stories enjoying more than not. The polish is not the same as an AAA Tor novel, but my imagination and life are better for having read the stories, polished or not. Maybe my standards have changed. All of that said I have flirted with the idea of using KDP to release my stories into the wild.  But I have always been caught between the “does using KDP make me a failure” and “I’m not good enough in the first place” that very weird and often depressing place has kept me frozen and cycling through rewrites of stories.

In short, I have been afraid of failing, and being afraid of failing has translated to not doing anything at all. I write piles of stories, sharing them with a couple of readers, rewriting them over and over again looking for perfection, and ultimately shelving them on a flash drive.

So – all of this babble boils down to I have learned a lesson from my day job. I am going to be releasing my latest stories (written in the previously mentioned Edge World) as Short Stories on KDP.

The plan is that each story will be released as an eBook for as cheap as Amazon will let me. After the Origin Stories are complete I will compile them into a single paperback (CreateSpace perhaps). So — check back for the official release.

 

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What is Edge World?

Edge World is our world, our reality, our history at least until July of 2017. That is where the break takes place, so to speak.

July 2017 in the Edge World, specifically July 6th, reality, time and to a degree space shifts just enough to create a whole new reality. Some super smart scientists (or S4) have expressed the possibility that we (the real us not our Edge World doppelgangers) live in a universe that is just one among many – for comic book fans it works out to a scientific theory that the multi-verse is a real thing. Many of the theories treat these extra universes as representations of the infinite choices that impact our lives. For example, one universe where you decided to read this blog post and one where you did not.

The Event of Edge World which takes place on July 6, 2017, gives reality super-humans, normal people with superpowers. Eventually, those superpowered folks are labeled Edges. Eventually, normal people figure out the score and react in fairly typical ways… panic, fear, interest, awe, the whole gambit of emotions.

Like in our world, after all, it was born of our world the Edge World is made up of good people, bad people, and people just trying to get by.  Which results in Edges being good (heroes), bad (villains), and neither.

Starting with the Origin Story series you are invited to take a peek into the Edge World.

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Coming Soon

I’ve been away, distracted by a whole mess of life stuff. I will be filling readers in on some of the chaos in the coming days.

 

 

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NaNoWriMo (2015) – My Experience

nanowrimoThe month of November is not only known as the month that kicks off the holiday season but it is also National Novel Writing Month. What does that mean? In short it is a month where writers sit down with their ideas and try to produce 50,000 new words for their novel. 50K words in 1 month is not an easy task, or at least it isn’t for me. The whole exercise is a challenge for me because I can not self edit during the writing process. I tend to write the same sentence over and over until I “get it right”, this is a slow a aggravating process that burns me out before I have written two or three chapters. I am not really sure why I fall into that style of writing, it clearly doesn’t work for me. NaNoWriMo forces me to just keep writing over the speed bumps.
This year was my third year taking on the challenge. My first year I completed the first draft of a 51k word novel, to be honest it wasn’t the best work I have ever done but it was a novel with a beginning, middle and end. It even had a pretty good story. It needs a second draft and I am remiss to admit that I have not gone back to it. The second year I was all gun-ho, I had an idea that was pretty good and was ready for November 1st to roll around. I admit I was over confidant. After all the previous year I finished with a handful of days to spare. Within three days the wheels flew off the car and I was completely stymied. I couldn’t write a sentence, it was more than just writer’s block it was as if the ability to write was stripped away from me. I gave up before week one was even over.
I was so discouraged that I wasn’t interested in trying again and it wasn’t until my wife stepped in that I settled myself in to try again. This year I was able to blow it out of the water, I finished the month with over 60k words! Here are things that I did different this year that really made a difference.

  • I spent the month of October getting my Scrivener project set up. That means more than just creating a new project. I explored the application tips and tricks to find out what really worked for me and set up the project to reflect what allowed me to get the most out of the tool.
  • I also created (in Scrivener) an outline of the entire story from beginning to end, and allowed myself the room to change that outline during the challenge.
  • I spent time writing character sketches for all the major characters and one sentence summaries for most of the minor ones.
  • Then on October 31st I looked at a calendar and based on work and family commitments I scheduled time allotments for each day. I was realistic with each day, some days I was able to set aside a few hours and there were days where I could only set aside 30 minutes. But every day had some writing time. My wife was great and understanding when it came to my writing time, she even allowed me to squeeze in a few extra hours here and there.
  • Because I am a bit of an analytics geek (day job influence) I created an Excel Spreadsheet to track writing session rates and metrics that actually made it a bit of a game for me, I even built in rewards for every 5k words written.
  • Each day when I wrote, I found a quiet place to write where I could stay focused.

That looks all fine and good but at the end the reason I was able to write so much in such a short amount of time was that I really became attached to story and the characters. I spent a lot of time getting to know them during preparation, I knew where I needed the story to go and was invested in the journey.

Now for the sad part. While I finished the challenge with a rate of just over 2k words per day, I was unable to keep up the pace and when November ended I fell off the writing train. My manuscript has sat for a month and a half almost untouched. I am now trying to set up a new calendar (just like I did going into the challenge) and a new spreadsheet that can keep the game going. I am kicking off in February with a goal of another 30k words (estimated to complete the first draft), I just need to get a rate of just over 1k words a day.

 

If you are interested in learning more please check out the official NaNoWriMo site

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Top 10 Board Games for Family Game Night

I am a big gamer, board games, card games, role playing games, miniature games, video games, computer games love them all. My kids are big into game too. So, I am putting a list together of games that are worth unplugging for, turn off the TV and laugh, joke, bond during a Family Game Night.

10. Hedbanz

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I have a love hate relationship with Hedbanz, I am including it on the list because it does bring the family together and we do have fun playing it. The game play is simple (you wear a card band displaying a card to the other players and you have to guess what you are). My angst comes in when trying to coach younger players on the types of questions to ask. I get it that the game is approaching critical thinking and forcing players to really use their gray matter. With young players (under 8) it can be very frustrating for them and make the whole experience difficult and trying. Playing with the 8 and ups works well and we end up having a great time with loads of laughing and silliness.

9. King of Tokyo

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Okay, this is a silly one. Players take on the part of monsters attacking Tokyo (think Godzilla) and using cards and dice they earn point destroying the city (or each other). A lot of fun and things can get silly if you bring a little imagination to the table.

8. Munchkin

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Okay, not a board game (though the deluxe addition does have a board with tokens to track levels) but I will include it because it is so much fun. Warning — there are some risque cards that will go over the heads of younger players but your tweens and older WILL get it and might become a tad red faced while playing. Example: Kneepads of Allure (which depending on the edition has been taken in and out of the game… I believe the most recent edition includes it). The game is funny and easy to play and loads of fun.

7. Catan

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A strategy game that forces players to be both competitive and cooperative at the same time. There is a trading element to the game that encourages players to negotiate, and that is a great skill to teach a kid! The rules are pretty easy to pick up. It is best played with 4 players (unless you get the expansion that allows 5-6 people to play). Recommended ages are 8+, Amazon says 10+ but an 8 year old should be able to understand and follow the rules. Not your typical board game but a ton of fun.

6. Smallworld

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I am placing Smallworld on the list instead of Risk because Risk just doesn’t fit into our typical family game nights and our players are not quite old enough to keep their attention on a whole game. Smallworld is a fantasy setting that has straightforward rules (once you get playing. I recommend doing a YouTube search for a Smallworld play-through because the manual isn’t great at explaining some of the finer details). The artwork is neat and safe for younger players. We really enjoy playing Smallworld… this does tend to be a longer play so you will need to make sure you have plenty of time to invest.

5. Sorry

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This is another family favorite that is a quick play (a good 15-20 minutes before the dreaded bedtime is good). It is a classic that has stood the test of time and with variants (Sorry Sliders) it is kept pretty fresh. Sorry is a great game to introduce board games to younger players.

4. Clue

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I have a soft spot for classics what can I say. While this game encourages critical thinking because the variables are fairly narrow in scope younger players are not as intimidated as they are with something like Hedbanz. There can be some laughs through out the game but you have to bring them to the table yourself.

3. Monopoly – Star

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This version just came out and I am including it as a separate game because it isn’t just a renaming/branding of the classic game. There are rule changes and the layout of the board is actually different. The game play is smooth and the rules are easy to grasp from the beginning. The Star Wars theme is great and even though there is no Rey token (Hasbro!!???) the game is really fun and on a typical game night we can play twice in the same time it takes to play the classic game once.

2. Life

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Usually, I am a classic game is the best game kind of person; however, the electronic banker version really makes this game easier to play. Our house loves this game and we usually play it once a week (at least). There are enough funny activities and events that come up that usually has the whole table laughing and smiling. We have found that even our thinest skin player doesn’t have an issue with the outcome of games and because so much fun has been had that there is almost no gloating.

1. Monopoly

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We’re talking the classic here. I will caution though there is the potential for some really vicious competition with this game and as a parent you might need to step in and mediate conflict — don’t change rules just use it as an opportunity to teach your younger players how to resolve conflict and to deal with loss.

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Football for Newbies

footballIt is that time of the year, sure the regular season is over but this is the really season, when favorite football teams are heading into the playoffs and the “Big” game is looming and taking over the news and TV. If you are a fan of the sport it is like Christmas and you can’t get enough football. If you are not a fan but you have been pulled into the all consuming gravitational pull of the sport by friends or relatives, I am offering a little primer so that you can attend the parties and enjoy actually watching the game.

First lets talk about the NFL and how it is structured and what all this playoff mess means. The NFL as we know it has been around since 1966 when the legacy NFL merged with an upstart league(AFL). Now we have a single league (ignore what is happening in Canada) that is broken into two conferences, each conference is broken into 4 divisions and each division has 4 teams. Which means that there are 32 teams in total (for now) and each year the play games to determine who will represent their conference in the Championship game at the end of the season.

How all that works can be messy and I will have to write something else to cover that. For now lets look at the game itself.

A game is played between two teams. A the beginning of the game the captains flip a coin to determine who will get the ball first. The team with the ball is on the offensive and the team without the ball is on the defensive. There are 11 players allowed on the field for each side of the ball, if one side has more than 11 then they will get in trouble.

The goal: score more points that your opponent by:
Scoring a touchdown by bringing the ball into the opposing team’s end zone. (6pts)
Kicking the ball through the upright posts in the opposing team’s end zone. (3pts)
Kicking the ball through the upright posts in the opposing team’s end zone after you have scored a touchdown (1pt)
Bring the ball (catch or carry) into the opposing team’s end zone after you have scored a touchdown (2pt)
Tackling a ball carrier in the their own end zone — called a safety — (2pts)

The offense moves the ball down the field and given 4 plays to move the ball in 10 yard increments, each play is called a “DOWN”. The Offense can throw the ball (pass) or run the ball (rush).

Each player has a specific role or position that they are filling. Here are some of the important offensive positions:

Quarterback – The Field General to typically hands the ball to a runner or throws the ball to a receiver. The call the play on the field and can change the play if they think the defense is doing something that will prevent the original play from working.

Receiver — runs down the field and catches the ball

Running Back — takes the ball and runs down the field.

(group) Offensive Line — Protects the Quarterback or clears the defense out of the way for Running Backs.

Here are some of the important defensive positions:

(group) Defensive Line — Get through the Offensive line to tackle Quarterback before he throws the ball – and prevent runners from carrying the ball. (Term: Pass Rush — get to quarterback before he throws the ball).

Line Backers — Covers the middle of the field making sure no one catches a ball there or runs through the Defensive line.

Corner Backs — Runs with receivers to prevent the catching of the ball (if they catch it, then their team gets to keep the ball).

Saftey — Typically the last line of defense.

Keeping up so far? Good because from a basics perspective that is all there really is, sure you can go deep and learn about the different types of offenses (beware the Wild Cat — a popular college formation that coaches in the NFL keep trying with usually bad outcomes). If you are really feeling energetic you can hunt down more info on defenses (my favorite part of the game).
At the end as a football newbie remember this one bit of advice and you will fine. The zebras (referees) are always wrong and the commentators are always idiots and the puppy bowl is more entertaining than a Coldplay halftime show.

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(My) Top 10 Epic Fantasy Series

I love lists. They are all over the Internet and most are click-bait for bloggers trying to make a few bucks with advertisers. I love lists but I hate clicking NEXT to get little bite sized bits of what could have been interesting information.
So, I decided that I would make my own lists of purely subjective information. I also promise to not break up the list into pages with next buttons in a lame attempt to drive up clicks.

So the first list…

My Top 10 List of Epic Fantasy Series

First off I am going to bring up a couple of “series” that I am intentionally leaving off the list. First Lord of the Rings, Tolkien’s epic while one of my favorites was never meant as a series and should be viewed as a single novel. I might someday come up with a list of Epic Fantasy novels and that will be number 1. Also, I am not including George R. R. Martin’s “Song of Ice and Fire” not because it is not a series or epic but because I am afraid that the author has grown bored with the writing of the series and might abandon it before it is complete. I could be wrong but that is my opinion until I see otherwise.

So, one with the list.

10. “Book of Words” by J.V. Jones

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J.V. Jones’ series the “Book of Words” contains The Baker’s Boy, A Man Betrayed and Master and Fool. It is structured like a typical fantasy trilogy and seeing that it was published in the 90s (before the onslaught of series 8 books or longer) the books blended into the shelf pretty well and can been seen as a decent stepping off series for those new to the genre. You could say that they are a good series to introduce to someone new to fantasy and not be afraid to scare them off. The classic tropes are all there, “farm boy”, “out of reach love”, “evil wizard” and “evil prince/king” and to make things even better for the fantasy newbie the majority of the names are pronounceable. I mean one of the protagonists is named Jack, easy to bridge that gap with Jack.
The fact that I would consider the series approachable is not the only reason that it is on my list. There is a rich world to be found within the pages of this well written series. The characters are well developed and the writing style makes it an easy and enjoyable read.

9. “Belgariad” By David Eddings

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This five book series, containing Pawn of Prophecy, Queen of Sorcery, Magician’s Gambit, Castle of Wizardry and Enchanters’ End Game, is a classic story published in the 80s. A modern reader might find the story a tad cliche and there is a good reason for that, Eddings was one of the first to the table with farmboy hero stories that follows the classic mythology hero journey template. Cliche doesn’t always mean bad.
There are five books but they are very quick reads while still having a deep story that is engaging. Each book is an independent journey for the characters while pulling a common theme of “saving the world”.

8. “Mistborn” by Brandon Sanderson

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This series (for me) is all about the magic system. Sure there is saving the world from an evil centuries old tyrant with a twist here and there; but the magic system is why it is one of the best epic fantasies. The idea of people ingesting flecks of metal that impart magical abilities is pure genius as far as I am concerned.
There are three books in the main thread of the series (The Final Empire, Well of Ascension and The Hero of Ages), Sanderson has been writing more books in the same universe but the original series are the ones to start with. What also makes this series special is that the main protagonist is female. While there are other series that have main characters that are female, those girls are usually secondary to the “chosen ones”, but here Vin is the key to the story and the other characters are there to support her.

7. “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn” by Tad Williams

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Technically a trilogy (Dragonbone Chair, Stone of Farewell and To Green Angel Tower) but today it is sold in four volumes. When I read them the final book To Green Angel Tower was published in a single hard cover, when it was published in mass market paperback the publisher split the book into two. The ebooks follow the paperback model.
Of the series so far this is the first truly dense story. Williams built out a complex world that feels familiar while very foreign. Simon one of the protagonists grows up over the course of the series and goes from pitiful to heroic without it seeming forced.
Taking on this series is not for the faint hearted, this is a long ride (worth every moment) so be prepared to dig into these for a long read.

6. “Lightbringer” by Brent Weeks

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A newer series that is still in progress, as of this writing there are 3 books: The Black Prism, The Blinding Knife, and The Broken Eye. The series has a great magic system that is tied to the color, frequency of light that the wielder can see. There is also a bit of romance that has an interesting twist with a Man in the Ironmask like plot line.
The writing style is approachable and the world building is excellent and in someway very unique.

5. “Prydain Chronicles” by Lloyd Alexander

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A true classic. The tale of Taran the assistant pig keeper is not as long (in terms of word count) as the others on this list but it is no less magical. There are 5 novels that make up the core of the series, The Book of Three, The Black Cauldron, The Castle of Llyr, Taran Wanderer and The High King. Each book holds its own plot while allowing the reader to continue to follow beloved characters. There is a grounding in the series that is unique across fantasy, the main character grows into being a hero, nothing is handed to him, he is required to walk a very long path and realize that heroes are forged through adversity.
The target audience are younger readers but that should not scare away adult readers (come on you know you read Harry Potter). My son started reading these in 2nd grade, he even dressed up as Taran for Halloween that year.

4. “Farseer Trilogy” by Robin Hobb

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A great assassin, save the kingdom, and heart wrenching story. I grew so attached to the characters in these books that I found myself having to put the book aside because of emotional twists. Kind of a magic lite world/setting but there was enough to have it feel “fantasy”. Great, great characters and easy writing style makes this a fun read.
The trilogy contains the following novels: Assassin’s Apprentice, Royal Assassin, Assassin’s Quest. I am especially fond of the ending where there is real lose and not the happily ever after that one might expect.

3. “Demon Cycle” by Peter V. Brett

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Demon’s rule the night and mankind is forced to hide behind magic that is until someone figure out how to fight back and through the world in chaos. That is the story that is on going with this series. Currently there are 4 novels: The Warded Man, The Desert Spear, The Daylight War and The Skull Throne.
Within the series there is a unique system of magics and characters that are driven by their own wants and desires that might not always be what you think they are. There are betrayals that are heart wrenching and yet they fight on.

2. “Riftwar Saga” by Raymond E. Feist

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Have you ever played a role-playing game, like Dungeons and Dragon, and had a campaign so rich and alive that it feels like you are playing a novel itself? Well this series is that game! Some people will scoff and look down their noses at the idea of reading somebody’s “game night”. The novels: Magician: Apprentice, Magician: Master, Silverthorn and A Darkness at Sethanon are deep and detailed adventures that draw the reader into a world that is both familiar and different, that magic is not just a silly deus ex machina.
Go to the bookstore and buy these books and read them. You owe it to yourself.

1. “Wheel of Time” by Robert Jordan

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A fourteen novel series that was almost not finished due to the untimely death of the author. Luckily, Robert Jordan planed well and there was enough material that Brandon Sanderson was able to finish the last three books and thus the best epic fantasy series ever written. It is not as bloody or “real” as Game of Thrones and the modern reader might struggle with the innate goodness of some of the characters. There is though an incredibly deep and complex plot that is played out in great detail.
There are those that complain that the books are too long and that the series is too long or artificially bloated. I will admit that some of the novels are not as strong as others but together they make a series that has no rival in scope.
It is a classic good vs evil story with a strong sense of mythology. If you have not read the series or finished it go out, get the books and start reading.

Here are the books in the series:

  • The Eye of the World
  • The Great Hunt
  • The Dragon Reborn
  • The Shadow Rising
  • The Fires of Heaven
  • Lord of Chaos
  • A Crown of Swords
  • The Path of Daggers
  • Winter’s Heart
  • Crossroads of Twilight
  • Knife of Dreams
  • The Gathering Storm
  • Towers of Midnight
  • A Memory of Light
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