Dave Dobson

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Wheel of Time Review and Self-Indulgent Complaining – Episode 3

Wheel of Time Episode 3 analysis:

Note: pretty big spoilers for Episode 3 follow

D&D Theme for this episode: Don’t split the party. It’s confusing, hard to DM, and nobody gets a good story.

More ways that trollocs are a bad candidate for violent minions of the dark:

— When a fellow trolloc is wounded, they will drop everything, literally, including a perfectly edible unsullied human Wisdom, to eat a fellow trolloc’s entrails. I mean, having an army that encourages self-cannibalism is just a terrible liability.

— Trollocs apparently have terrible vision. We are given a shot of Trolloc-Cam™, which, given that we never see a deliberate first-person view from anybody else, is clearly an homage to the Doom movie starring the Rock. In this revealing insight into what it means to live as a trolloc, we learn that, unlike actual cows, who have a tremendously wide field of view, due to their role as, you know, prey, Trollocs apparently have hyperfocused forward-looking vision that gets dark and fuzzy around the edges. Hiring a faux-bovine murderous horde that can’t see their own elbows is just terrible Dark Lording, I tell you.

But maybe there’s just no other option:

— Apparently ravenous wolves aren’t a good backup evil horde, because just like Trollocs, they corner the Chosen Ones, and then, you know, just top moving and let them go. Unlike the trollocs, however, where there was always an excuse for the heavily-torched horde for stopping, in this case, the wolves were just like, nah, and nobody even tried to explain it.

Fun thing #2 – Times when the show was unintentionally a metaphor for itself:

— Metaphor #1: A sort of Czech Kenny Rogers gleeman gets up on stage in the bar, spends an inordinate amount of time preparing to play during extra-close camera shots, then gives a confusing and snarly performance that is like a verse and a half. Then he leaves, having played a set consisting of one song, and asks for money, which makes him just the laziest gig band ever. Here’s the metaphor part – his audience greets this overwrought performance with stunned silence and zero applause. Mining town dive bar patrons, you are me watching this show.

— Metaphor #2: Moiraine literally slept through the entire episode, not unlike some of its viewers

Speaking of this mining town:

— This is the kind of town where, when a stranger walks up, everyone gives them a five-second disgruntled stare. This happens a lot in fantasy movies, but I have only experienced it in real life when trying to order at a Taco Bell right before closing.

— This is apparently also the kind of town where half the people mine all day, and the other half day-drink and listen to melodramatic songs without applauding.

— The Chosen Douches are told, more or less verbatim, “If you steal, you will be run through our penal system, which consists of putting you in a cage, and afterward, shooting you with arrows.” (I know that is the sequence because the arrows stuck out of the bars). Just before this revelation, Czech Kenny has stolen money from Mat (AKA Douche #2), admits it to an audience of day drinkers, and is nonetheless not put in a cage and shot with arrows. Later on, Mat steals, twice, and he too is not cage-arrowed. That’s some bullshit.

— Also, putting somebody in a cage and then shooting them with arrows is redundant and a waste of both effort and arrows. Either penal solution will do nicely. Just pick one. And for the love of god, in a town with zero economy other than homicidal barmaiding or hard labor, take the valuable stuff off your ciminals either before or after cage-arrowing them.

— The Dark One’s plan apparently consists of hiring enough lovelorn barmaids with needlessly reinforced inn room doors, ensuring they receive intense A-level training in sword fighting, and then… leaving them as barmaids. Here’s a thought. If you have a massively lethal barmaid, just have her attack the Chosen Ones immediately, injure them, and tie them up. Do not go through an extended sequence of wood chopping, flirting, and drink service before doing this. Another idea: Use said massively lethal barmaids instead of Trollocs. At least it is likely that the barmaids can swim.

— Apparently, we are going to meet a race of violent gingers who are only violent when wearing black face bandanas and at no other times. Kind of a Westlands version of the Crips, but with a kerchief-related off switch. I would imagine this society gets very confusing whenever it gets dusty out.

Weird thing – The part with confusing physical geography:

— All of the Chosen Ones and their escorts leave the shattered city being slo-mo chased by creeping death mold.

— These escorts are the same ones who previously wanted only to find and escort the CO’s, and now are inexplicably quite content to have left them behind. Perhaps they know that whatever chases the CO’s will stop just before eviscerating them, because the water is deep, because my friend’s entrails look tasty, because I need a new torch, or just because.

— Physical geography observation: The way into the shattered city was a dense forest, like, with ferns and shit.

— Physical geography conundrum #1: One pair of Chosen Ones (the ones who thought riding a log to safety was a good idea) inexplicably emerges like an hour later onto a heavily weathered seacost-looking-place full of freeze-thaw weathered white boulders.

— Physical geography conundrum #2: Another pair of Chosen Ones (the ones who thought cliffdiving to safety in full heavy clothing was a good idea) end up like an hour later somehow in Siberia in autumn on a grassy plain, one that nonetheless has massive flint stones exposed at the surface.

— Physical geography conundrum #3: The escorts (the ones who just rode horses out of the city) end up like an hour later in a sort of forest/meadow biome.

— This last part is where we learn that bare-butt warrior guy feels all of Moiraine’s pain. This is asserted despite the fact that she’s been stabbed and poisoned by trollocs and is near death, and he’s just peachy and hasn’t even grimaced once. He leaves the Aes Sedai he is sworn to defend and maybe in love with LYING UNCONSCIOUS BY A TREE IN TROLLOC- AND WOLF-INFESTED WOODS while he goes and watches somebody pick flowers. Then the Wisdom tells him “this is going to hurt,” and it, like, totally doesn’t hurt. Not at all. And it’s over super quick. She’s like the opposite of the nurse who gives you shots, who says “just a quick little poke” and MOTHERF*$&ER that stuff hurts. Also, the Wisdom fled the trolloc horde, but apparently brought an entire home chemistry kit with her from her Fortress Of Solitude glowing geyser cave. Sure.

— In the Siberian autumn biome, where the wolves just give up, is a random band of benevolent jolly gypsies, who nonetheless surround their guests threateningly, demand answers to mysterious questions, and then tell them the answers. This is just obnoxious, and totally not how inquiry-based pedagogy works. And one of them totally looks like Sideshow Bob and I just couldn’t stop seeing that the whole time and thinking he had a tattoo that said DIE PERRIN, DIE.

As for ranking the Chosen ones, they all were kind of equally weaselly this time, which was disappointing. Mat, my main man from episodes #1 and #2, turned lazy and whiny, because I guess Rand is contagious or something. Rand wasn’t as bad, but I think that’s just because he couldn’t keep the Whine dial set at 11 the whole time. But his blue shirt was still totally annoying, as was his banter with the homicidal barmaid. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Chosen One with less game than he had, and yet homicidal barmaid was throwing herself at him.

We’re off until the next episode drops. This episode was actually marginally better than the first two, although I had to laugh when the Chosen Ones who had left Two Rivers following a cryptic person to the east and then ditched her finished the episode following a different cryptic person to the east. They must just station eastward-facing cryptic people all over the area here, like some kind of Aes Sedai WPA program.

Wheel of Time Review and Self-Indulgent Complaining – Episodes 1 & 2

My take on Amazon’s The Wheel of Time after two episodes:

(mild spoilers below, but nearly nothing has happened in two hours, so there’s not much to spoil)

Some observations:

If you ever find yourself a bone-faced needle-toothed oval-mouthed scream-enthusiast mid-level manager for a Dark Lord, do not employ Trollocs. They might look fierce, be OK at taking down a small village, and be too stupid to request dental benefits, sure, but consider the following:

— Your torch budget will break the bank. Seriously. Nearly every one of these dudes seems to need their own torch, even when just running through the woods. What do they do with them when the fighting starts? Is this a union rule?

— Every time they seem poised to capture the Chosen Ones, some technicality stops them. They can’t cross deep water. They won’t enter the shattered city. Tuesday is team-building day. Are these war axes fair trade? For beast-men, these guys are remarkably ineffective.

— They take bellowing breaks with alarming frequency. This time could much better be spent killing Chosen Ones, or even running through the well-illuminated woods.

— They have no situational awareness. They nearly exclusively target hapless villagers, not Chosen Ones, even in a town that’s like half Chosen Ones and their enablers.

Speaking of shattered cities, here are some observations:

— The build-up for the evil that overtook the city kind of oversold the reality, which ended up being creeping death mold that conveniently waits long enough to attack to build dramatic tension and allow for more brooding. A little Lysol would save your Chosen Ones and also spruce up the place.

— When your horse is being consumed by death mold, maybe start running then. The death mold can apparently ony move as fast as you can, which is admittedly pretty good for mold, but not really a threat. If you leave early, you’ll avoid many potential dangers.

— Mysterious sword-wielding gratuitous-naked-butt warrior dude told you to stay together and not eat anything you didn’t bring (although this sounds more like a Noom weight-loss strategy than a shattered city thing). That means if you find a glowing hissing dagger in a chest next to a dead guy, you should probably leave it there. Even in non-shattered-city situations, this is good policy.

Along those lines, if you have a deep trolloc-poisoned wound in your leg, and you’re traveling with an Aes Sedai, you should ask her to suck out the black goo. That’s literally all she can do that’s effective, compared to disassembling taverns, drowning ferrymen, speaking in riddles, and providing cool light displays for any needed raves. Having a wolf lick your wound in the woods is absolutely counterindicated, not FDA approved, and the wrong kind of homeopathy, even.

Also, I’m not clear on why the scenery-chewing bigot cult (1) has so many adherents, since they seem to kinda suck, (2) wears white in the woods, because that’s just stupid, and (3) thinks that the only armor you need is left-arm armor.

The main event: Here’s my ranking of the four Chosen Ones, in order of how much I hope they are not the actual Chosen One, which is also the order of how much I want them to die.

4) Mat (D&D Class: Thief) – bonus points for being funny, sort of smart about the situation they’re in, and actually seeming human through effective acting. Points off for being a total moron in the shattered city (see above), and for being Mat with one T.

3) Perrin (D&D Class: Fighter) – bonus points for tragic story and moments of quiet sorrow, and for being generally cool. Points off for not getting that leg thing looked at, and for ill-advised lupine alternative medicine.

2) Egwene (D&D Class: Magic-User, maybe? Still level 0) – bonus points for choosing career over loser boyfriend and for being smart in most non-romantic areas. Major points off for not actually dumping loser boyfriend after all and still caring what he thinks. Seriously, girl, just no.

[Huge step up in weaseliness goes here]

1) Rand (D&D Class: Rules lawyer. Rolled up bard, bought equipment for ranger, but wants to play barbarian regardless and wants everybody to deal with it) – No bonus points. Eesh. So horrible. No idea what the director said. Maybe “Remember Hayden Christensen in the Prequels? Go for that energy. People loved that.” This guy’s day planner is completely full, but all the entries are Brooding, Sulking, Whining, and Pouting. Seriously, even this guy’s lips make me angry, and I will never again think a sheepskin coat might look cool in the right situation. They should all just agree that there were actually only three Chosen Ones and find a convenient sucking river whirlpool to throw him in. If he’s the Chosen One, give me the Dark Lord instead.

And finally, if you are one of the snowflakes-who-call-people-snowflakes who are upset about the diverse casting, then you can bite the big one. It’s a fantasy world. Anybody can be there, and anybody should. If you’re not one of those snowflake people, but having a fantasy show without all white guys still seems wrong somehow, then congratulations, you’re feeling the faintest echo of what fantasy fans of color have been experiencing for decades, without the generous helping of actual discrimination and disempowerment that usually comes with it.

Looking forward to six more episodes of walking through the woods being emo while pursued by half-assed beast men, all while failing to deal with important own-goal issues like untreated wounds, taking the obviously cursed dagger, pouting so hard you dream of eating bats, and failed zero-chemistry teen romance.

NaNoWriMo 2021 progress

I’m doing pretty well on NaNoWriMo so far this year, with over 10K words in four days on my way to the 50K target. I’m trying a completely different kind of project this time, set in the modern world with a whisper of magic and/or sci fi, and with more of a sarcastic tone than I usually do.

I’m totally seat-of-the-pants on this one. I started a little after midnight early Monday morning with the barest hint of a concept, i.e. ‘an X, but it can sort of do Y,’ where Y is the magic/sci-fi part. No idea what I’m doing, but I’m keeping the pace up at least.

I’m also editing my epic fantasy multi-perspective Inquisitors’ Guild story at the same time, which is creating a little cognitive whiplash, but I’ll make it work. Probably.

A good month

It’s looking like August will be a good month for my very small literary endeavor. It’s looking like I’ll set a new record for Kindle Unlimited page reads, mostly on the strength of Daros. I’m not sure how much of that comes from the very successful free promotion I ran in early August, where I gave away about 3,100 copies of the book, and how much might come from other sources, like discovery on Amazon, participation in SPSFC, a giveaway I’m running on Goodreads, or just word-of-mouth.

Here’s how it looks. Most of it is blue, which is Daros, while the gold and red are Flames Over Frosthelm and The Outcast Crown, respectively. Daros came out in May, but it didn’t really catch fire until August here (where “fire” is relative to my previous success, nothing compared to the big leagues).

Page reads on Kindle Unlimited for the past 90 days

Note that it says “All 4 books,” but Traitors Unseen isn’t available on Kindle Unlimited, so it’s not included here.

Amazon rates my books at 550-580 pages for KU purposes, so this represents about 82 full reads, or 47,710 people reading one page each. Impossible to tell, except that some of the bars (particularly red and gold) are about 570 pages, which suggests that people are reading the whole book in a day.

I’ve broken 30,000 pages this month alone, and my previous high month was about 15,000 back in 2019, so that’s another way to put it in perspective. It might all crash in September, but I hope it keeps going.

Audiobook of Flames Over Frosthelm is available now!

I’m very pleased to announce that Flames Over Frosthelm is now available as an audiobook narrated by the wonderful Simon de Deney. You can hear a free sample and purchase on Audible.com, and the audiobook is also available via Apple Books/iTunes and on Amazon.

If you want to hear the free sample directly, I have it available below. This section is from the middle of the first chapter.

Flames Over Frosthelm retail sample

One night on west Battleground

A modern day Sisyphean tale

I arrive at Wendy’s. The drive thru line is long. Christina agrees to wait, mostly because her seat is heated, even though she will order nothing. I appreciate my wife’s forbearance.


In my cup holder, I spot a coupon for a free drink, any size, that I pulled off my last Wendy’s cup a few weeks ago.

When I finally make it up to the menu, I see that the coupon will only save me 20 cents off the combo meal. I honor my Depression-era grandmother and decide to save the 20 cents even though it will complicate my order.


I order a spicy chicken sandwich and fries and mention the coupon for a large Diet Coke. The man is dismayed by this. They have no large lids, he says, so the coupon won’t work. He only has medium lids.


The size doesn’t matter, I say. The coupon is good for any size. I’ll take a medium. He says OK. My order is accepted.


On the screen, my drink says “Medium Coke minus cherry.” I do not know what that means. Its epistemology is beyond me. I say I want a Diet Coke, not cherry. He says he’s got it, Diet Coke.


I slowly make my way to the pay window. The man is there. I pass him my credit card and the coupon.


He studies his screen. He is dismayed by my coupon. He says he can’t take it, because they have no medium lids. This discrepancy confuses me. Have they no lids at all? I say, I don’t need to use the coupon, I’ll just pay for whatever there is, it’s fine.


He says, no, I’ll get the manager, she can help. I realize I am become Coupon Guy, and the other ten cars in line will slowly grow to hate me. The manager appears. They talk. Buttons are pressed. My credit card is handed to me, then requested back. The manager leaves. Eventually he tells me it’s OK, but then his face falls.

He says wait, I’ll get the other manager. More time passes. All cars in front of me have departed. I dangle my arm out the window, hoping to indicate that even though I am Coupon Guy, there is nothing I can do, and maybe people will not hate me. I am sure this hope is in vain.

The other manager comes. They press buttons. She is reassuring to the man. She leaves. He looks at the screen for longer. Finally, he runs my credit card. A twelve-inch-long heat-printed receipt is produced for three items. Coupon Guy is at last free to go ahead to the food window.

My food is ready right as I come up, because of course it was ready probably eight minutes prior and waited in limbo while eleven cars idled in line.

The woman hands me my bag and cup. I don’t have time or interest to ask her to take back the plastic straw in favor of my reusable metal one, because I don’t want to be Straw Dork and Coupon Guy in the same transaction. My Depression-era grandmother is likely displeased.

I put my metal straw in the cup and take a drink. As I take the first sip, I know that I have been given a Cherry Coke, non-diet, and that I will not drink this insipid red-brown beverage. My face falls, and my Coupon Guy shame burns hotter.


I peel the new coupon off the Medium Coke plus cherry which I will not drink.

It offers a free drink, any size, with future purchase.

Review: God King Rising, by Jeffrey Kohanek

I’m trying a new thing my May 15 newsletter, one that I’ll continue in future newsletters, and I’m also posting it here to my blog. I’ve read a fellow indie fantasy author’s book, and I’m offering a review of it here. The book is God King Rising by Jeff Kohanek. Full disclosure: I am doing a newsletter swap with Jeff this month, and because his mailing list is a lot bigger than mine, I offered to review the book he’s promoting this week in addition to just providing a link.

Jeff is a very successful indie author, at least as far as I can tell from his online presence. He’s got four separate fantasy series, including Fate of Wizardoms (6 books), Runes of Issalia (3 books), Wardens of Issalia (4 books), and Fall of Wizardoms (3 books out now, 3 more planned this year), plus some stories and companion pieces. If I’m reading the dates right, he started with all of these in 2018, which puts him at about four times my pace so far. So, prolific and successful, with all but one of the books north of four stars on GoodReads. He’s also an active presence on various indie fantasy sites.

God King Rising, the first book in Jeffrey’s latest series, was a fun read. It follows multiple storylines in a world shattered by the death of its gods, whose power used to support wizard kings (a wizardom is like a kingdom). The societies are reassessing their leadership, rearranging their power structures and governments, and some new factions and leaders are seeing opportunities to seize power following all the upheaval. As we shift from storyline to storyline, we see different perspectives on these events, from a pirate queen and her warrior companion fleeing a sinister plot, to the plotters themselves, to a thief-turned-administrator betrothed to a newly-crowned benevolent queen, to a haughty wizardess overseeing a cruel and stratified society, one threatened by those she oppresses. There is a lot going on here.

I got some sense of Jeff’s world as the characters traveled through it, although that impression left me realizing that there’s even more complexity beyond what I saw. The bulk of the action takes place in four main cities or towns, although there are other locations along the way. These towns each have a society, a culture, a government, trade goods, and industries. Even though they differ, they’re often tied up in the fading of the wizards’ power and the upheaval of the recent death of the gods. There’s a good bit of description of these cities, including clothes, architecture, military factions, and a bit of the society, but not so much it’s overwhelming. 

Much of the action in the book is cinematic. There are fights, tremendous feats of derring-do, magic spells, poisons, curses, disguises, escapes, schemes, even a carriage chase. The action is fast paced. The characters are clear about their goals and their limitations, and you can follow them as they pursue their goals (and as their circumstances change). There’s a little bit of the superhero in some of the characters, which is fine – they’re the heroes of the story, after all, and it’s fun that they’re quite capable (often seemingly the best in the world) at what they do. This quality and this pacing doesn’t always leave time for introspection or for getting to know the characters, although we do get deep into some of them, and I suspect it’s a deliberate tradeoff to elevate the action and adventure parts. Something is nearly always happening.

With those powerful characters and their skills, the story sometimes seems a little like a very solid RPG campaign, with a highlighted set of diverse heroes facing a series of challenges and quests along the way. In each section, the focus never shifts from the party – we’re always following what they’re doing and thinking and planning. Of course, with so many perspective characters, it’s more like a bunch of RPG campaigns blended into each other. 

This RPG impression I got was furthered by other RPG-style elements. The characters mostly seem to have a class they fall into – thief, sorcerer, wizard, warrior – with a related set of skills. There are multiple magic items of power that play a role in the story, with many characters relying on those items for their power, for protection, or to augment their fighting style. There are some familiar races from D&D – dark elves, regular elves, dwarfs (never dwarves, although either plural is fine, I now know). I’ve been playing D&D since 1980, so this all felt quite familiar and comfortable for me.

The separate storylines blend as the characters interact, and there are several exciting set-piece scenes along with some good climaxes. The storylines all come to resolutions, and while these resolutions are satisfying, it’s clear that many of them are not final, and the adventures will continue in the future books.

If you’d like to give the book a look, and you’re reading this in mid-May 2021, you’re in luck! It’s on sale for the next few days for $0.99 on Amazon.

This was a really interesting chance for me to get a look at a well-developed world and the start of a new series by an experienced and successful indie author, one with a fairly different style of writing and characterization from mine. I learned a lot, and the perspective will certainly help me as I continue. 

The first draft of Daros is finished!

Woohoo! The first draft of my new novel, Daros, is done. I started it back in July 2016 while I chaperoned marching band camp at Page High.

I finished tonight, at 112,322 words, 88% of them written since last August.

I wrote 5,925 of them today, which is a new daily record for me.

Now for the rewrites, and to fix everything I’ve screwed up. But this feels pretty good.

Nearly there

I’m nearly there with the first draft of my sci fi novel, Daros, begun almost five years ago during chaperoning for marching band camp, then left to sit for four years. I always liked the opening few chapters, so I came back to it again this past August. November and December were a little rough, but I am back on track to get it finished soon.

Contrary to my usual style of not knowing what the hell the characters are going to do next, I’ve got a chapter outline for each of the five remaining chapters, plus the one I wrote tonight. I needed that scaffolding to bring it home safely and to resolve a bunch of plot threads in a way that makes sense and is satisfying. I hope.

“The End” will feel good, but it won’t really be done. Not even close. More like the version of done where you get to start the massive and daunting process of rewrites and edits. But a milestone nonetheless. I’m excited about what it’s become, and I hope others will enjoy it once it’s all knitted better together and polished to a shine. Also, mixed metaphors rule.

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