When I finished my first novel, “A Roman Peace in Briton: Blood on the Stone”, I must admit that I was quite pleased with myself. Little did I know that writing the novel was the easy part. I quickly learned that marketing and selling the novel is where an author makes their hay, so to speak. A huge part of marketing in today’s publishing world, is convincing the more credible book reviewers to take a gander at one’s work. As one published author recently shared with me, “A book review is worth a thousand ads.”
To that end, about a month ago I sent out a stack of my books to willing reviewers. Of course, I didn’t expect immediate results as I know how busy reviewers can be, many juggling careers, writing their own novels, and writing reviews. Yours truly has his own stack of books that I intend on whittling down and churning out reviews on. Be that as it may, here is one of the first reviews to emerge of “A Roman Peace in Briton: Blood on the Stone”, by Dana Burgess of Let’s Book it.
Written by New York Times best selling author, James Rollins, The Devil Colony continues the legacy of Painter Crowe and his crack team of military veterans, patriotic scientists and intellectuals, all of which comprise The Sigma Force: a secretive, black-op organization who match brains and brawn with the enemies of freedom. Admittedly, I was a tad skeptical when publicist and media guy, Mike Farley, queried whether I was interested in reviewing the novel. Why was that? Because in my estimation, it’s generally difficult for an author to maintain quality momentum when writing a series, particularly a series that stretches beyond three or four books, regardless of how invested a reader becomes in the characters in the initial installment. You know of what I speak. Just ask fans of Anne Rice.
What started with a tantalizingly fresh rendition of vampire lore in Interview with a Vampire eventually morphed into tedious swathes of forced prose and stale, stretched literary concepts by the time her fifth installment in the Vampire Chronicles came to press. Reading Rice’s fifth installment, Memnoch the Devil, was much like watching Michael Jordan play basketball. I’m talking about the Michael Jordan who played for the Washington Wizards, not the legendary hall of famer who led the Bulls to multiple NBA rings. Jordan had lost a step or two by the time he laced up his sneakers for the Wizards in 2001 and as much as the NBA and its fans adored him, it became tiresome to watch him clang jumpers, complain to the refs and blame the slick floors for his lack of lift-off when taking it to the hole in the fourth quarter. (Sounds eerily reminiscent of Lebron James post-Cleveland departure to the Heat, doesn’t it?)
But as for my initial reticence regarding James Rollins’ newest installment in the Sigma Force series, I humbly stand corrected. The Devil Colony is a soaring, from the foul line slam dunk. Chock full of action and sweeping across continents and history, Rollins guides the reader back to America’s infancy and into the present, cleverly splicing legend, fact and myth into a breathtaking conspiratorial tale of what might have happened and what could be.
Beginning with the book inside jacket teaser, “Could the founding of the United States be based on a fundamental lie”, Rollins’ sixth installment in the series explodes from the pages with intrigue: strange artifacts, gold plates inscribed with semi-Semitic script and hundreds of prehistoric mummified bodies of Caucasian origin are discovered out west in a secluded mountain cave system sparking controversy as the U.S. government and the Native American Heritage Commission race to lay claim to the remains and more importantly, the artifacts. However, the U.S. government and the Native Americans are not the only ones vying for the strange artifacts. A secret society known as the Guild, with its enormous wealth, resources and protective cloak of anonymity, has also entered the fray, its objective to steal the strange artifacts and harness the artifacts’ power and mystique for their own purposes, and the Guild is not easily subdued. Manipulating America’s course since the time of the thirteen colonies, the Guild’s shadowy influence permeates every U.S. institution, showing itself to be more than a match for Painter Crowe’s vaunted Sigma Force.
That’s all the detail you readers will pull out of this reviewer. If you want more, you’ll have to read it for yourself. If you like your novels served action heavy, with a dash of true science and spiced with archaeology and history with a garnish of plausible fiction, then by all means read The Devil Colony.
Previously on Joe Unleashed, the world bore witness to how I felt about the state of the publishing industry and in particular, the fear and loathing in which I held it. I’m certain I’m not the first novelist or writer to harbor such sentiments. As a matter of fact, witnessing the proliferation of e-reader devices and vanity presses, I’m quite sure of it. But alas, nevermore shall I dwell on such thoughts. The die is cast and the proverbial Rubicon crossed. With very little peril, I may add. Very anti-climatic and not nearly as dramatic or performed with the same flourish as the late, great Julius Caesar when he originally coined the phrase.
Nonetheless, here is a peek at my debut novel,
Over two thousand years ago, in a vanished world in which gallant death and honor still holds sway, Gaius Julius Caesar is blitzing through Briton’s fierce, blue-painted warlords, exacting a heavy price in exchange for peace. News from Rome and word of rebellion in war-ravaged Gaul cut short Caesar’s invasion of Briton, leaving him little choice but to return to the mainland. Leaving for Gaul, Caesar entrusts a depleted legion to Cussius Caesar, and senior centurion, Marcus Rulus. With orders to further explore Briton and return to Gaul with the tribute, Marcus and Cussius find themselves in a remarkable quest to carve a future out of the land. A Roman Peace in Briton follows the lives of those left behind whose fates become bound to the people of the fabled, fog-bound lands of ancient Briton. Filled with dramatic scenes and abounding in fictional and historical personalities, A Roman Peace in Briton hooks with passionate storytelling and engulfs the reader in events of historical legend.
Still not enough? Then how about a brief excerpt randomly selected from deep within the book itself. Here it goes:
The knoll itself was a decent observation point from which to survey the countryside, including the surrounding hills. The hill slanted down gently and opened up into a small valley through which the stream they had crossed earlier meandered. The wheat in the fields had already been threshed and was now winnowing. In other fields, farmers had stripped the pastureland of its bounty, and all that remained was a thick carpet of waist-high grasses that swayed uneasily in the westerly wind.
“Enemy!” screamed an alert troop. Marcus pivoted in the direction of the pointing legionary. A short distance away, a figure emerged from the fading green of the forest. Behind the figure, mild hills sloped upward to verdant woods, deep with oak and ash. Marcus smiled grimly, for he knew the forest awaited the opportunity to spew forth its content of warriors.
The solitary figure stared upward toward the waiting Romans. Marcus could just barely make out the warrior’s features. He appeared to be very tall, with rippling muscles under clear white skin striped with woad. His hair glowed blond but not unnaturally so, and was thick and shaggy like a horse’s mane. He had a cloak fastened at the shoulder with a brooch that reflected brightly in the sun. He rode perpendicular to the forest edge, brandishing his sword and bellowing loudly, banging shield and sword together, his voice reverberating roughly within the natural acoustics of the small valley.
“He seems quite belligerent and full of himself now, doesn’t he?” said Marcus, eyebrow raised in calculation. “I can’t make out what he’s yelling. Is he directing that noise toward us?” he facetiously asked Leko, a playful smile on his lips.
Leko shrugged at the spectacle. “He’s putting forth his bona fides. He is Gymm of the Coritani, son of the King, and he’s boasting of the enemies he’s bested in combat,” he said for Marcus’ benefit. “He’s also challenging you to come out and fight him man to man, in single combat to the death.” He turned to Marcus, eager to see whether or not he would accept the challenge.
Marcus gritted his teeth and a predatory grin spread across his lips. Every fiber of his being tensed as the challenge branched its taunting tentacles deep within his spirit and a primeval surge hotly coursed his veins. Though just as enthusiastic to meet the challenge issued by the boisterous enemy warrior, he maintained the stony discipline emblematic of his rank.
“Nonsense,” he said to the skeptical Leko. “We fight together.” He noticed Leko’s expression of questioning disappointment. “I have greater responsibilities than charging out at a silly challenge issued by a half-naked barbarian. We will accept his challenge to fight, however,” he said. “Tell him so, but first offer him the opportunity to surrender. Promise him he will be treated fairly.”
Leko took a deep breath, filling his lungs as full as possible before yelling in the direction of the raging warrior. “My commander accepts your offer of battle, but he would rather not see brave warriors die needlessly. In an offer of friendship, he asks that you consider surrendering. No harm will befall you, and your warriors will be treated with honor. This my master has promised.” As Leko finished, he stole a glance at Marcus to see if anything further should be added.
The strutting warrior leapt off his horse, again clanging his sword and shield together loudly. Jeering, he pulled down his leather trousers, grabbed his privities and gesticulated crudely in the direction of the bemused Roman ranks. Marcus shrugged. He needed no interpreter to get the gist of that response.
That’s enough for now. Just enough to whet your appetite. If you want more, just skip over to Amazon and order a print version, or download the book on whatever e-reader platform you happen to be going with these days.
Determined to turn over a new leaf, I sprang out of bed this morning at 5 a.m., brewed a fresh pot of coffee and powered up my laptop. I will be the first to admit that sometimes my mind wanders. It’s not an unusual affliction. Many of you readers out there in Internet-land probably suffer from the same malady. As a matter of fact, I think the internet may be contributing to the condition. I mean, come on, the world at present is like one giant train wreck, with news of calamity, war, uprisings, natural disasters and failing world economies springing forth from one headline after another. It’s the virtual equivalent of rubber necking. You know what I speak of. How easy is it to surf from site to site until something snares your eye and manages to keep your attention for a minute or two, before clicking off and onto another site? It’s the same way with the television.
Kicked back in the lazy boy, bowl of popcorn on the lap and a stack of books piled on the end table, I sometimes find myself flipping through the 400 plus channels made available by my cable carrier. Personally, I really don’t think I need four hundred plus channels. I could probably survive with one or two of the cable news networks, National Geographic, the History Channel and Espn. But neither the internet or the television is truly indicative of my attention disorder. It still comes down to the books.
I literally have seven new (to me) books I picked up and received from various sources residing on my workstation table as of this past Monday. I finished the first of them by noon on Tuesday with the intention of immediately scurrying off to my laptop to churn out a review for JoeUnleashed. Alas, the best of intentions fall prey to the promising allure of another good read. So as of last night, I realized that I was reading three different books at once and still had not penned the review of the “Outlaw”, the book I started Monday evening and finished at lunch on Tuesday. It is now Saturday morning and I’m three-quarters of the way through the other three novels and still the review of “Outlaw” remains untouched. Ugh.
So, with new leaf freshly turned and the smell of strong coffee wafting in the air, I present Angus Donald’s “Outlaw”, a novel of Robin Hood. I will not waste time or print rehashing the saga and tale of Robin Hood. It’s one of the world’s best-known stories or mythologies and there are plenty of books and movies depicting the character. However, none of the previous renditions have presented the noble villain in quite the same light as Donald has in “Outlaw”.
All the stock characters remain; Robin of Sherwood, Little John, Will Scarlet, the Sheriff of Nottingham, and Friar Tuck and the fair maiden, Marie-Anne, Countess of Locksley. But as mentioned previously, this is not your parents’ Robin Hood, nor that of Kevin Costner or Russell Crowe. This is Robin Hood as seen through the eyes of fugitive peasant youngster, Alan Dale. Desperate, destitute and larcenous-minded, Alan runs afoul of the Sheriff of Nottingham when caught thieving a meat pie to feed he and his mother (his father had been dragged out in the middle of the night by the Sheriff and unceremoniously hung from an oak as a warning to others who may challenge the primacy of the local lord).
Faced with losing his hand for the thievery, Alan seeks the intervention and protection of none other than the Lord of Sherwood, Robin Hood. Hence begins an apprenticeship at the knee of Robin and an immersion into a world of violence, treachery, romance, drunken debauchery and religiosity, both Christian and pagan.
Fast-paced and descriptively presented, “Outlaw” had a familiar feel to it, but with a jolting liveliness that infused a new flavor into one of history’s most favored villains. In sum, Donald’s rousing yarn is well worth the time.