Thursday, February 14, 2013

FREE TODAY: The Pirates of Alnari by Dan Eldredge

Click Above to Visit the Book's Amazon Page
My good friend Dan Eldredge's debut novel is free today on Amazon. If you dig pirates, swordfighting, intrigue, sex and violence, this book is definitely worth your time. Allow me to copy the book's product description from Amazon:

 Martyn and Arycke are two young nobles forced into hiding after experiencing an act of unspeakable violence. They buy passage on the Isalian frigate Selene, but after a bloody battle against two pirate vessels, Martyn and Arycke find themselves shipwrecked castaways along with a beautiful young woman, her ever-watchful grandfather, and the rest of the Selene's crew.
Unfortunately for the survivors, they now find themselves stranded within reach of the pirate city of Alnari. In short order, Martyn and Arycke find themselves fighting for their lives, not only against marauding bands of savage pirates, but mutinous elements within the Selene's own crew.

The shipwrecked survivors are dragged into a maelstrom of vengeance and intrigue, as rival pirate lords maneuver against each other for dominance over Alnari. Martyn, Arycke, and the rest of the Selene's crew will need every ounce of courage, cunning, and strength they possess if they hope to escape alive...

The Pirates of Alnari is a gritty fantasy adventure story filled with bloody naval battles and vicious sword fights, combining the cutthroat political intrigue of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire with the dashing nautical adventures of Patrick O’Brian.


Thursday, January 3, 2013

NANOK Gets a New Cover!

Ander Plana, the artist responsible for the excellent new cover gracing Operation Arrowhead has now provided me with a cover for my pastiche Swords & Sorcery short story, NANOK and the Tower of Sorrows.

Although it was a ton of fun to write, and I think it's a great read for fans of Sword & Sorcery-style fantasy fiction, NANOK hasn't been selling very well, so I decided to make the investment and get a new cover. I think Ander's creation is pretty damn awesome - true to the classic pulp fantasy cover feel, but with a more modern styling. I think he also does a good job of making the cover unique while tying it in to the general layout seen in my Commando covers.

If you have a chance, head over to DeviantArt.com and check out Ander's work - some great stuff (and I'm not just saying that because my commissioned works are there.


Monday, December 17, 2012

Movie Review: The Hobbit - An Unexpected Journey (2012)

I went to see this movie with six other people, ranging from die-hard Tolkien fans to those who were tagging along mostly just to see a movie with their friends. At the end of this three-hour adventure, the impressions were unanimously positive, and I can't help but agree.

This movie is very clearly - far more clearly than the book, if you ask me - a prequel to the Lord of the Rings films. A lot of the added material, much of it events that are implied or could have easily happened off-stage in the original story, sets up the relationships between such powerful players as Saruman, Gandalf, Elrond, Galadriel, and even the goofy but nevertheless very wise Radagast. This is the prelude to war, even though the war doesn't come about for another sixty years, and you can see the cunning of Gandalf as he moves his chess pieces onto the board and begins to carefully position them for the battle to come.

I had been wondering before seeing the film how they were going to take a book that was shorter than any of the three LotR novels, and expand it out into three whole movies. I think ultimately they did a serviceable job, although it is clear in some areas that things were done for the sake of making a good show of the story, rather than sticking to the narrative. One good example of this is the battle between the storm giants. I think this was an okay sequence, but at the same time, it could have been skipped or just reduced to "this storm is too much for us, we need to find shelter!". The storm giants are mentioned in passing in the book, but that's it. For the most part, I think that's going to be what we see in the next two films - things mentioned in passing or just touched upon in the book are going to be expanded into their own complete scenes, and we'll have to judge for ourselves whether this is just Peter Jackson playing around in Middle-Earth, or if it ultimately adds to the story in a meaningful way.

One aspect of the film that did actually bother me was the reliance on CG for the orcs and goblins. In the first three films, while there was some CG enhancement and sequences (the huge fights, the Moria goblins spider-climbing along the caverns, etc.), When seen up close and personal it was clear they were extras in costume. In this film, there might have been a bare handful of costumed and made-up extras, but the vast majority of bad guys are either wholly digital, or motion-captured like Gollum. I think it took a little something away from the spirit of the film, but such is the reality of making movies in the 21st century.

Regardless of a few quibbles I have about such things, I think this was an impressive movie, and if the next two films can maintain the standard set by An Unexpected Journey, I think this trilogy will stand tall next to their older siblings.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Book Review: The Pirates of Alnari by Dan Eldredge

Click Above to Visit the Book's Amazon Page
Please pardon the forthcoming preface, but I think it's important to set this review in the proper context...

The indie publishing explosion over the last few years has given a lot of people the opportunity to dust off their "desk drawer novels". You know, that book you wrote back when you were in grad school, typed on your girlfriends Mac in the wee hours of the morning? As soon as you got a real job, you left your dreams of becoming a writer behind, figuring there's no way you had the time or connections to break into the world of big time publishing. But it's still there, a printout sitting in your desk drawer, a little battered and faded, but every so often, you take it out, thumb through it, and wonder about what it might have been like to be a "Novelist".

Well, thanks to new technologies such as tablets, ebook readers, print-on-demand services, and so forth, becoming a published author is well within the reach of anyone who has the time and energy to tackle the process. Of course "The Process" is a 600-pound Sumo wrestler, and he's pretty unforgiving. Those folks who just re-type that desk drawer novel and throw it up on Amazon expecting to reap the royalties from thousands of ebook sales are in for a rude awakening. Even the people who follow all the advice and recommendations they see online given by dozens of successful indie authors may well find themselves staring at the "brown bar of shame" - the colored indicator in Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing report page that shows no sales for the month.

Years ago, a college friend of mine mentioned to me that he'd written a few fantasy novels, and asked if I'd wanted to read them. at the time (probably back in the early 90's) he'd farmed the manuscripts out to the usual Sci-Fi / Fantasy houses, and hadn't had any luck. I gave them a read, and although they were the works of an amateur author, I still found them fun and enjoyable stories. But as time went on and we both grew older, not only did I give up my own notions of becoming an author, but so did my friend. These became his "desk drawer novels".

Flash forward more than a decade. After helping me as a beta reader, editor, and endless source of support and counsel regarding my own books, my friend Dan decided to take the best of his old novels, strip it down to its barest elements, and re-write the entire book from soup to nuts. This process took more than a year, and after the draft was written there was the editing, beta reading, discussions of plot and character, so on and so forth. "The Process" is a real bear under the best of circumstances, but Dan's a busy guy, with a full time job and two young kids who keep him on his toes 24/7, so taking the journey from desk drawer novel to a completely rewritten manuscript ready for publishing was especially daunting.

At the end of it all, however, the result is a damn fine book.

The Pirates of Alnari is a "hard fantasy" novel, meaning it is set in a different world, but there is no magic, no elves, no demons or wizards, dungeons or dragons. You could consider it an alternate reality or an Earth that never was. The setting is roughly analogous to 15th-16th century Europe, although there are elements that feel more 18th or early 19th century. Regardless, the level of detail and realism is such that you are quickly pulled into the setting, and any notion that this is a "fantasy" world falls by the wayside.

The story revolves around two young noblemen, Martyn and Arycke. The book begins with them having just participated in something horrible and violent, but the details are left hidden to the reader - this is important, because the mystery of what happened will be slowly revealed throughout the book. Needless to say, there is more than one side to the story. The two young men feel that they need to flee the country, and so travel to the nearest port city and book passage on the first ship that'll get them away. Their ship is the Selene, an Isalian navy frigate willing to take on a few passengers during her voyage. Martyn and Arycke have never taken a sea voyage before, and the experience is new and exciting - even more so, when a beautiful young woman is brought on board as another passenger, along with her ever-watchful grandfather. Arycke, who has an ever-roving eye, immediately begins pursuing the young woman, much to Martyn's annoyance.

The sea voyage quickly turns deadly serious, however, when the ship encounters a pirate vessel. Being a Navy frigate, it is the Selene's duty to deal with pirates wherever they are found. But the battle against the pirates turns into a much more brutal affair than first expected, and the Selene is badly damaged. The ship is eventually lost on a reef during a storm, and the survivors - about a hundred of the ship's crew and the passengers - are stranded along a foreign coast.

Unfortunately for the survivors, the coast they're now inhabiting is claimed by pirates. A whole city of pirates.

I don't want to give away any more of the plot. However, what progresses from this point on is a whirlwind of battles and intrigue, murder and revenge, plot and counter-plot. Characters have multiple agendas and not everyone is as they seem. The survivors of the shipwreck must struggle to avoid capture or death at the hands of different pirate factions, as well as the threat of mutiny among their own number. The pirates constantly maneuver against each other for dominance over Alnari, using any means - violence, sex, money, political influence - at their disposal.

The author holds the works of George R. R. Martin, especially his Song of Ice and Fire series, in high regard, and its influence on the book is evident by both the complex relationships among the characters, and the stark brutality of the combat sequences. The author is well-versed in swordsmanship and medieval combat, and this comes through in the many swordfights throughout the book. Limbs are sheared away, heads roll, guts spill, and blood is drawn by the bucketful. Not only are the battles violent and well-scripted, but it is clear from early on that no character is safe from the author's killing stroke.

Also evident is the author's knowledge of the Age of Sail. There are many details regarding ship navigation and operation, as well as the day to day lives of those aboard ships, and the organization of sailing navies and their military exploits. Although the setting is analogous to the 1400s and early 1500s, the maritime aspects of the book seem to carry the influence of master maritime novelist Patrick O'Brian, whose Napoleonic naval adventures are second to none. Fans of O'Brian's Aubrey and Maturin novels will feel right at home in this book, despite the otherworldly setting.

Overall, The Pirates of Alnari is a strong, exciting adventure and displays the author's skill as a storyteller. While this is Dan Eldredge's first published novel, I know we'll see more works from him in the years to come, and I look forward to reading them.

Currently The Pirates of Alnari is only available on Amazon as an ebook, but the paperback should be available in early 2013.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Awesome New Review for NANOK!

I really wish Amazon had a feature for authors that allowed you to be alerted when a new review was posted of your works, because this one's a few days old. However, I just have to share with you the following review for NANOK and the Tower of Sorrows:
One more sip of Michael Moorcock's too-absinthe-for-its-own-good Elric threatens to make you ill? Mix one part Marvel's old B&W Savage Sword of Conan with one part trash-talking Schwarzenegger action flick, add a splash of Lloyd Alexander's The Chronicles of Prydian and two splashes Sergio Aragones' Groo, shake violently to the consistency of frothy blood, and the resulting refreshing cocktail is Nanok and the Tower of Sorrows. Will there be a chaser Mr. Badelaire? 
Mr. Molesworth, there will indeed be a followup to NatToS. I know the broad-brushstrokes version of the plot, I just don't know when it will be written. Once I get COMMANDO: Operation Arrowhead out the door, I want to write a sequel to Rivalry, then perhaps the Nanok sequel, before I work on the next novel.

Friday, June 15, 2012

My Vigilante Revenge Thriller "Killer Instincts" is Now Available

After a two-year gestation, my vigilante revenge novel Killer Instincts has gone live on Amazon via Kindle Direct Publishing. If you're interested in checking it out, click on the link in the left-hand sidebar.

For the majority of you who've never heard or seen me talk about it...

Killer Instincts is the story of William Lynch, an upper-middle class college junior, whose parents and teenage sister are killed in a mob hit while he's in Paris during spring break in March of 2001. William's father is a hotshot DA in Boston, attempting to prosecute Pauly Paggiano, the son of a minor-league crime boss, for the rape and murder of a young college girl. In order to deliver a savage message to the eyewitnesses in the case - the only real evidence the prosecution has - the Paggianos kill William's family and burn their Providence home to the ground.

William is informed of the tragedy by his estranged uncle Jamie Lynch, a Vietnam veteran and former SOG Green Beret. Jamie leads a reclusive existence in Maine, where he owns a log cabin on the shore of Moosehead Lake and works in a sporting goods shop. William has only met his uncle a handful of times over the years; both of William's parents were against Jamie having much contact with their son, worried that Jamie - whose views on war and violence can be disturbing - would somehow "corrupt" their son into a warmonger.  Jamie was a soldier who thrived in combat, and after the war he spent a number of years participating in activities that can only be described as morally ambiguous...

Now, Jamie is the only family William has left. Meeting for the first time in years, Jamie reveals to William the reasons behind his family's slaughter; the court case against Pauly Paggiano, how the eyewitnesses have all withdrawn their testimonies or otherwise backed out of the case, and how the case against Pauly has been thrown out. Faced with the enormity of what has happened to him, William realizes that at 21, any hope he has for a normal life has been erased by this terrible act. Feeling he doesn't have anything to lose, since his future has been so horribly ruined, William decides he's going to find a way to avenge his family and destroy the Paggianos.  He begs Jamie to join with him in his crusade, but Jamie refuses, declaring that he can't go back to that way of life after decades of maintaining a civilized existence.  Seeing his nephew is committed to this idea with or without his help, Jamie begrudgingly admits that, although he's not going to help William, he knows someone who can.

Jamie introduces his nephew to Richard, a mysterious, eccentric Texan who made his living for decades as a professional mercenary. Although he's now retired from taking active assignments, Richard has a network of contacts and resources he'd be willing to provide to William, for a price. After some consideration, William decides that he wouldn't feel right contracting the Paggiano's destruction; he wants to keep the revenge personal. So, for a hundred thousand dollars (plus expenses), Richard agrees to mentor William through an intense, month-long training and indoctrination regimen out in the Texas desert.

What takes place next is the mental and physical transformation of a peaceful, white-collar college student into a bloody-minded vigilante killer. And then the fun really begins...

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Badassitude of Guin Saga

Since this weekend is the Anime Boston convention here in my fair city, I thought today's post would be appropriate. I'm not a huge fan of Anime in general, but there are a number of titles I really enjoy. People who say they "don't like Anime" always perplex me, because Anime is such a vast, wildly heterogeneous mix of visual and storytelling styles, that to declare you don't like "Anime" is pretty much like saying "I don't like Hollywood movies". If you're going to say that, you need to realize that your statement encompasses a massive body of work.

Anyhow, one of the series I've recently gotten into is Guin Saga. Originally a series of 130 "light novels" (a Japanese equivalent to Young Adult / Pulp Fiction paperbacks, quick, simple, easy reads), a portion of the Saga has been made into an Anime series. The main protagonist, a warrior named Guin, awakes in a mysterious forest to discover that he has the head of a leopard and an almost complete case of amnesia. Pretty whacked out, eh? Guin finds and rescues Remus and Rinda, twins and the heirs to the kingdom of Parros, a nation that had just been invaded and conquered by the rival kingdom of Mongaul. Remus and Rinda are hunted by the armies of Mongaul, and Guin becomes their guardian. The story then unfolds as Guin searches for why he has the head of a leopard and why he can't remember anything, while he protects the twins against the Mongauli hunting them down.

This sounds...kind of bizarre. But if you substituted "Conan" for "Guin", you'd have a sense of the sort of Swords & Sorcery badassery that goes on in Guin. It is not your Dragonball Z -esque fantasy anime series by any means. Considering the novel series was begun in the late 1970's, it carries with it a very vintage, Heroic Fantasy feel that those with more traditional sensibilities may approve of.

I found the opening trailer on YouTube:


For a taste of the story itself, this is where Guin meets and rescues the twins. Guin's strength is somewhat over-exaggerated in this fight; later battles aren't shown in such over-the-top insanity, but I think this was done to emphasize just how powerful a warrior Guin is compared to the "average" man.


Those of you who have Netflix can find and watch the entirety of Guin Saga there. Otherwise, you can buy the DVDs off of Amazon or probably any other major DVD/Anime retailer.

The first few "light novels" in the Guin Saga are now available in English. I hope to pick one up sometime soon and give it a read.