Category: Releases

Marshal vs the Assassins

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By , November 21, 2013

In 1197, the Marshal—Sir William the Marshal—stormed a French castle single-handed. He was fifty years old.
 
A respected commander, past his best as a combatant, the Marshal had stood by and watched while King Richard Lionheart hurled his men at the ramparts. Two knightly storming parties weathered a rain of arrows, stones, lumps of wood, hauled themselves to the top of their ladders, took on the flails, forks and spears of the defenders. One of the ladders broke. Thousands of pounds of men and maille thudded into the ditch.
 
The other party retreated, all except for Sir Guy de la Bruyere, trapped at the top of the ladder—the defenders had him hooked by his maille. He could only keep his shield up while they hammered at him with flails, and archers peppered his armour.
 
The Marshal draws his sword, leaps down into the ditch, slithers through the mud. Shafts buzz past, ping off his helm. Long-limbed, he takes the ladder like an iron-skinned spider.
 
King Richard—the man who led the beach assault at Jaffa, crossbow in one hand, Danish axe in the other—wants to go after him. His advisors hold him back; Leave the crazy old knight to his fate, they tell him. We need to regroup and attack properly, or not at all.
 
The Marshal reaches Sir Guy, climbs over him, vaults onto the battlements. A single greybeard, outnumbered, out-of-puff, surrounded by a mob of men with spears and flails. How will this end?
 
Badly for the defenders.
 
The Marshal strikes to the left and the right, clears the parapet. He stands in the midst of the carnage, gasping for breath. He’s too old for this game.
 
Sir William de Monceaux, the young constable of the castle, sees his chance to win fame.  He charges over the blood-slick wall walk and lays into the greybeard. The Marshal cleaves his helmet with a single blow. The blade passes through the maille and padding beneath, shears into the scalp, throws the young knight unconscious to the stones.
 
Tired now, the Marshal sits on the downed man and waits for the rest of the army to join him.
 
#
 
And that was the Marshal at the age of fifty. At seventy he led the charge into Lincoln, carved his way through the bodyguard of the French captain. What must he have been like in his thirties when he went to the Holy Land?
 
More to the point, what did he get up to while he was there?
 
His rollicking contemporary biography, The History of William Marshal gives us a blow-by-blow account of his career. He’s pretty much a posh William Thatcher from the movie Knight’s Tale, working his way up from nothing via the tournament circuit (only with more fatality and less Rock and Roll). Then in 1183 his patron died, and the Marshal took ship for the Holy Land. All the History tells us is that he stayed there for a couple of years and did great deeds.
 
What great deeds?
 
The Marshal arrived too late for the main 1183 campaign—no glorious battles, that one anyway. By 1187, he’d been home for at least a year, so was not there when the Crusaders rode out to their doom at the Horns of Hattin.
 
However, we have a record of one feat of arms for the very end of 1183. It was the kind of crazy stunt only the Marshal could have pulled off, and therein lies the genesis of M. Harold Page’s new SideQuest, Marshal vs the Assassins.

This standalone SideQuest is out now via 47North.

Tyr’s Hammer

By , October 25, 2013

This is the time of year for spooky stories, and the medieval version of the camp fire story was always tales of the Wild Hunt. Michael “Tinker” Pearce and Linda Pearce return to Foreworld SideQuests with Tyr’s Hammer, a story about the origins of the cold fortress in the north.

tyrshammer_cover

In this quick-witted and action-packed addition to The Foreworld Saga series, the leader of the Shield-Brethren has dispatched two of his men northward to secure land for a new citadel. When Tyr and his companion come upon the perfect spot, they discover that it is owned by Voldrun, a northern king with a questionable sense of justice. Although he welcomes the travelers, the king’s true motives eventually become clear. Determined to be compensated for his hospitality, Voldrun subjects the duo to several challenges, culminating in a game more dangerous than either warrior could ever have imagined. Steadfast and brave to the end, Tyr must draw upon all of his considerable skill and cunning as he endeavors to outwit the sly Voldrun and strives to secure a bright future for the order.

You can get yours here.

Symposium

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By , October 24, 2013

Did we mention we’re getting into comics? We are. The Amazon publishing team has launched a comic book imprint called Jet City Comics, and we’re happy to note that the first of several Foreworld Saga serials is available for your digital comic reading. There will be a trade edition bind-up later, for those (like myself) who like to put things on shelves.

The first serial is called Symposium and it is written by Christian Cameron and illustrated by Dmitri Bondarenko. Both hail from Toronto and have extensive backgrounds in the Western martial arts, though as you’ll see from the story, these two go back a ways from the Middle Ages. Symposium is the origin story of the Shield-Brethren, and it takes place in the 5th century BC when a group of disenchanted soldiers, having returned from Xenophon’s long march, start to talk of founding their own city . . .

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ISSUE 1: As the soldiers of Greece return from war with Persia, they are greeted not as heroes but merely more mouths to feed. Athens is overflowing with the poor and desperate. For some of the former soldiers, this life is not why they fought. They crave adventure. They need money. More than anything, though, they long for purpose. One man may hold the answer: Plato. Not only is he versed in the art of philosophy, but he is no stranger to the art of martial combat. He believes there is a way to combine the two arts, creating a new way of life for the former soldiers.

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ISSUE 2: While the conservative ruling powers of decadent Athens arrange to have them watched, four young men go to a dinner party with Plato—Xenophon, the king of Macedon; a pair of Spartans; and the most beautiful woman in Athens. The question on everyone’s mind: What form would an ideal city take?

The answer is a quest, and a dream . . .

Issues #1 and #2 are out now, and issue #3 will be out later this winter.

German Version of The Mongoliad

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By , June 12, 2013

The first volume of The Mongoliad is now available in a German language edition (click on the cover below if you’d like to visit the Amazon.de site). They’re sticking with the same cover art, but the insides&emdash;oh, the insides, they are quite different.

The German edition joins the Spanish translation (done by RBA). There will also be Turkish and Polish translations later this year (and into the next).

Katabasis – Coming Soon

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By , June 11, 2013

We’ve turned in Katabasis, and given that it has a product page on Amazon now, I guess I can stop writing the name in all caps (the standard format for books that are still in code name status). And yes, it looks like Katabasis will be the title. I’m very pleased about this. I know it’s not exactly a word that rolls off the tongue, but we wanted something a little different. Katabasis, which will be the fourth volume of the Medieval Cycle of the Foreworld Saga, will out in time for Halloween this year.

Prior to that, the first volume of the SideQuest Adventurs will be out (late August, in fact). It collects three of the Foreworld SideQuests: The Lion in Chains, The Shield-Maiden, and The Beast of Calatrava. This will be the paperback version (though there will be an ebook edition too), which means those who have been waiting for the SideQuests to come out in print will be able to get a Foreworld fix prior to Katabasis in the fall.

There is one more volume scheduled for the Medieval Cycle, and it will land early next year. We have a number of other SideQuests still scheduled, and one more media type to launch this summer. Discussions continue with other media types, in the endless sort of fashion that they do. We’ll keep you posted.

Hearts of Iron released!

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By , May 15, 2013

It is the summer of 1035 AD and three sons of Tancred de Hauteville are in ambivalent service to Guimar, Prince of Salerno. The three men, who have been trained by their father in the art of war since childhood, spend the sweltering afternoons practicing swordplay, trading barbs, and thinking of how many men they would need to take the prince’s poorly fortified castle for themselves.

But when a mysterious agent asks the prince for the brothers’ services in obtaining a gilded chest, eldest brother William sees an opportunity to strengthen the Hauteville legacy. When he assembles a crew of skilled mercenaries, loyalties are tested and truths revealed. Among the group, there is a traitor, a spy, and the carrier of a long-held secret. The trust William places in each of his men will decide the future of his family.

Written by Scott James Magner, HEARTS OF IRON shows a different side of the middle ages, but with all the deft-sword play, historical accuracy, and political intrigue you would expect from the series that brought you The Mongoliad.

Hearts of Iron is out now from 47North. Get your copy here.

Release Day Round-up

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By , February 26, 2013

It’s a big day for the Foreworld Saga. The Mongoliad: Book Three is out, rounding out the adventure story that began last year. This is a big one, nearly as long as the previous two volumes put together.

Also, Seer—the latest of the SideQuests—is out today as well. This time, we follow Andreas on an adventure in the Pyrenees shortly before the events of The Mongoliad.

Over the last few weeks, we’ve been busily prepping a bunch of PR material. Here’s a quick list of those articles and where you can find them.

Cooper Moo and Erik Bear on “The Twelve Steppe Program” [via Boing Boing].

We love gallows humor — the darker the better. Bonus points if you have the presence of mind to wisecrack in the face of certain death. You may recall this most excellent exchange on the eve of the Battle of Thermopylae:

Native of Trachis: “The Persian arrows are so numerous they block out the sun!”

Spartan Dienekes: “Good. Then we will fight in the shade.”

It’s not that we make light of situations we “can’t handle”. Rather we are accepting the challenge while giving fate the finger. Gallows humor is a perfectly legit tool for dealing with death, divorce, and all manner of dereliction – even addiction.

Joseph Brassey on the “Nine Most Memorable Fight Scenes In Literature” [via Huffington Post].

There’s a quote in an old fighting manuscript from the fifteenth century fencing master Fiore de Liberi that my first instructor liked to drill into me over and over and over. It goes, roughly; “Train slow, because anger will give you speed in the fight.” My first teacher drilled me with it so often because like any enthusiastic student with a sharp, pointy thing in his hand, I was prone to energetically trying to replicate what he was showing me at light-speed. That’s not really conducive to learning how to do anything properly. Learning any sort of physical motion effectively requires you to calm down and understand the pieces of the movement, then practice them until they’re programmed into muscle memory, then you should be able to replicate it effectively when you’re in the adrenaline-driven insanity of fight or flight mode. It’s also a good way to avoid cutting your own ear off.

There is another lesson I took from this quote, however: Sword fighting, and its pursuit, is about passion.

Ben Rhodes interviews Cooper Moo [via Fanboy Comics].

BR: The thing that most impresses me with The Mongoliad is that you guys have made the Mongols and the Shield-Brethren sympathetic and interesting characters. Was this a conscious decision or a result of writing in groups?

CM: Thanks for the compliment – this was a conscious effort. History is written by the winners. No doubt the Mongols felt they were destined to rule the globe, just as every other world power thinks at some point. To write something more interesting than basic “black hats vs. white hats” or “east vs. west,” we needed fully developed characters on both sides. This way the reader gets invested in both story lines and has to wrestle with their own internal conflict at the end of the series.

Nicole Galland is interviewed at Night Owls Review [link].

To be honest, my “difference” was only partly about gender; it was equally that I was not practicing Western Martial Arts with them, that I was 3000 miles away and had never met any of them in person for the first 6 months I was involved. Even when I went out there and we all worked in the same room together, the difference was less about male-vs-female and more about tone, specifically martial-vs-anything-other-than-martial. The guys created the project specifically IN ORDER TO write the martial-prowess material. For me, those bits are a lot of work, but relationship-oriented scenes, especially involving humor, come naturally.

Nicole also offers a piece on the delightful inventiveness of secret histories [via Suvudu].

After staring at a blank piece of paper for quite a while, I decided there wasn’t much of a difference. History is full of secrets, so what does it matter if the secrets of any given story are far-fetched or not? I was ready to argue that The Mongoliad is every bit as “truthful” as any historical novel you’ll ever read. (In some ways, more so, because we’re honest about how much reality we are inventing.)

Then I realized that such thinking is a terrible disservice to the magic inherent in “secret history.” I don’t mean that a secret itself has to do with magic – there is no overt magic in The Mongoliad, for example (although Book 3 hints at certain mysteries to come). It is the very existence of a secret – any secret, really – that opens the trapdoor for magic to slink in.

Mark Teppo talks about “Building the Library of Violence” [via io9]

Wildly inaccurate portrayals of sword fighting in the media are nothing new. Recently John Clements dropped by io9 to debunk modern sword fighting, and Martin Page and Guy Windsor talked to IGN about the problems with sword fighting in video games. These guys know sword fighting. Me? I’m just a writer, trying not to embarrass himself on the page when it comes to a bit of the hack and slash. I’m the showrunner for The Foreworld Saga, a secret history of the Western martial arts, and one of the writers of The Mongoliad. I’ve been party to writing a few sword fights, and I’ll let you in on a little secret: they are an incredible pain in the ass to write.

UPDATE: Joe and Cooper interview each other for Fade into Fantasy [link].

Cooper: This sword-fighting group eventually included most of the authors for The Mongoliad – including you, obviously – and the rest is history. Alternative history, in fact. So the answer to the question how did I come to be an author on The Mongoliad is — writing & fighting. And blind-ass luck.

The Beast of Calatrava

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By , January 29, 2013

After a brief break for the holidays, we’re back with a new Foreworld SideQuest. This one is called The Beast of Calatrava, and is available today from 47North.

After a battle left Ramiro Ibáñez de Tolosa’s face terribly disfigured, the knight of the Order of Calatrava abandoned his sword for a pastoral existence. But his beastly appearance horrifies all those who cross his path—with the exception of his adoring and pregnant wife. Can he keep Louisa and their unborn child safe from the war that is coming to Iberia?

As Ramiro prepares for his child’s birth, Brother Lazare of the Cistercian order searches for a means to inspire men as he travels with the crusading Templars. He seeks swords of legend—named blades carried by heroes of old–believing such symbols have the ability to rally men in a way no king could ever accomplish. But when he learns of the stories told of the mysterious monster that haunts the Iberian battlefields, he wonders what sort of power this new legend might contain—the legend of a man whose scarred face and cold demeanor cannot hide his heroic soul.

Written by our resident work-horse, Mark Teppo, The Beast of Calatrava kicks off 2013 with a bang. This is our fifth SideQuest (check out the releases category of the blog for the rest) for those who are keeping track. 2013 is going to be an exciting year for the Foreworld Saga, and we hope our readers enjoy the steady stream of content that we’ve got planned.

In fact, let’s celebrate the new year of Foreworld stories. The ebook versions of Book One and Book Two are on sale for $2.99. If you haven’t started in on the epic story, now is the time. Book Three comes out in less than a month.

Shield-Maiden

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By , November 27, 2012

The next Foreworld Sidequest, The Shield-Maiden, is out today via 47North.

Sigrid is a Shield-Maiden who yearns to break free of the restrictions of her father’s home and join the Sworn Men in an actual raiding expedition. When a small diplomatic party that includes members of the Shield-Brethren lands at her family’s holding on Göttland, the party’s second in command, Halldor, sees in Sigrid a vision of beauty and power that might challenge—and even destroy—many men.

And when bloody chaos ensues at a nearby Viking fishing village, Sigrid proves she has more than mere talent: she has Vor—the fate sight—an astonishing focus in fighting that sets her apart from nearly all who have ever lived and puts her in the rare company of the finest Shield-Brethren.

But as Sigrid and her family confront her otherworldly ability, will it prove to be a gift to be celebrated, or an affliction to be cured?

This one is written by the husband-wife team of Michael “Tinker” Pearce and Linda Pearce.

Lion in Chains

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By , October 30, 2012

The next Foreworld SideQuest, The Lion in Chains, is out today via 47North.

Many were displeased with the “peace” King Richard of England brokered in the Holy Land, and his return from the Crusades wasn’t greeted with cheers, but rather shackles. Now a “guest” of the Holy Roman Emperor, the Lion-Hearted is being held for an exorbitant ransom…so much money that it seems unlikely that the silver will make its way from Britain to Germany. For converging on the caravan are a number of groups with very different motives: French troops who want the silver to continue their war with the English, mercenaries intent on causing chaos, English longbowmen looking to protect their country’s future, and Shield-Brethren hoping to ensure King Richard’s freedom. With a surprising cast of characters, The Lion in Chains is a Foreworld SideQuest that illuminates a decisive moment in European history in an unexpected way, revealing another secret in the long-reaching narrative of the Shield-Brethren.

This one is written by newcomer, Angus Trim, one of our resident sword makers, in collaboration with Mark Teppo, one of The Mongoliad writers.

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