Posts tagged: Mongoliad

Siege Perilous Cover Reveal

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By , November 26, 2013

As cover artist Nekro noted on his Facebook page earlier today, the cover for Siege Perilous, the last book in the Mongoliad cycle has been revealed.

The book is scheduled to be released in late January, and it sees the return of those characters who weren’t accounted for in Katabasis. The long-form arc that has been in motion since Feronantus decided to take a team east will finally come to a close. We’ve been working toward this book for nigh four years now, and we’re pleased that we’re almost there. Below is the marketing teaser for the book.

Ocyrhoe, a young, cunning fugitive from Rome, safeguards a chalice of subtle but great power. Finding herself in France, she allies with the persecuted, pacifist Cathar sect in their legendary mountaintop stronghold, Montségur. There she resists agents of the Roman Church and its Inquisition, fights off escalating, bloody besiegement by troops of the King of France, and shields the mysterious cup from the designs of many.

Percival, the heroic Shield-Brethren knight consumed by his mystical visions of the Holy Grail, is also drawn to Montségur—where the chalice holds the key to his destiny.

Arrayed against Percival and Ocyrhoe are enemies both old and new who are determined to reveal the secrets of the Shield-Brethren with the hope of destroying the order once and for all.

Alive with memorable characters, intense with action and intrigue, Siege Perilous conjures a medieval world where the forces of faith confront the forces of fear. Choices made by characters in The Mongoliad reach their ultimate conclusion in this fifth and concluding novel—and all of Christendom is at stake.

This will wrap up our adventures in the Medieval Era of Foreworld. As you can see from the SideQuests and upcoming comics serials, there are still more stories to tell.

Storytelling: The Setting

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By , April 30, 2013

A good story needs a number of elements to work together well. Characters are a big part of this equation, since they are the reader’s way of experiencing what’s going on. Save for the occasional story written from the second person perspective (You will know one of these when you see it. It tells you what is going on much like this aside does. You may or may not like it, but they are effective because), the reader needs some sort of framing device to understand the scenes as they unfold.

Dialog and conflict are how this is usually done. But today I’d like to tell you more about where the action is taking place, rather than why.

The setting of a story is more than just scenery. It is a full-fledged character in its own right, one relying on different means of communication than language. The setting is one of the first things explained in a pitch or outline, as it must immediately transport the reader to the action. But time and place are just the beginning of the setting’s work. After all, it’s in every scene, and there’s only so many times a character can check their watch or the position of the sun before we’ll lose interest.

The Mongoliad is blessed with an abundance of fantastic settings, including the wide steppes of Mongolia, crumbling European castles, dark catacombs, rich capitol cities, and many more. The setting makes itself known, whether or not it’s introduced directly. When a group of Shield-Brethren rides in pursuit of an enemy, they rarely do so in non-descript white space. The hills, grasslands, rivers, mountains, forests, and towns they pass through each mark an important part of the journey, even if only mentioned once.

Like the other characters in the story, the setting can both help the plot along and hinder the achievement of goals. Nothing stops a cavalry charge quite as well as uneven, pitfall laden ground. A company of skilled archers loses all advantage when their target reaches the trees and disappears into the forest. Walls keep people both in and out of cities, though their construction determines for how long.

The more of the reader’s senses that can be engaged by the setting, the more they can believe the action. Theres no hard and fast checklist of environmental factors to fill out, but the smell of baking bread is something most people can relate to, as is the sound of a blacksmith’s hammer. Small details add up quickly, until the scene is as real as the world outside your window.

Case in point, the arena at Hünern. Even if you haven’t read the entire text of the Mongoliad yet (no spoilers, I promise), you already know something about the setting simply because of what it is. You mind is filling with images of gladiators, a sand-filled area where combatants fight to the death. Descriptions of the setting could end there, but the authors give us more.

Through a character’s eyes, we watch it being built. We know about the tunnels dug under the stands through which the fighters enter, but it’s not until later that we “see” the deep shadows inside them, and how in comparison the light of mid-morning is blinding when we arrive in the arena. At first we are told there is a grand pavilion from which the dissolute Khan watches the action, but once we’re in the arena proper we explore its sumptuous colors, and wonder as to just where the Mongol leader is sitting inside. We feel the heat of the sun beat down on our armor, hear the noise of the crowd as our opponent enters.

Or rather, our hero Haakon does. Since we know, really know the area ourselves, we can feel his heart beating madly as the fight begins. We dodge when he dodges, and wonder with him about what is behind the Red Veil on the other side of the field of battle.

Storytelling is an ancient art. At its core is the ability to make us believe in something we can’t see, and will likely not experience for ourselves. To hear the roar of the crowd, to watch a long fly ball cross the outfield wall with nothing but a voice on the radio as our guide to the action. We want to believe, want to run after that ball and climb the fence to catch it, and are either happy or sad depending on which side of the sword or bat our hero is.

It’s said that knowing where to fight is almost as important as when and how. For those of us on the other side of the text, knowing where the fighting is happening is everything. We’ll find out who wins in the end, but in that first magic moment when we step into the scene with our heroes, anything is possible.

And it’s definitely worth turning the page to find out what happens next.

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.

Art by Mike Grell

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By , August 22, 2012

Famed comic artist Mike Grell will be providing character illustrations for The Mongoliad deluxe editions. Each volume will contain upwards of twenty illustrations, done in black and white, of the numerous characters of the three-volume epic. Here, in fact, is his illustration of the Spaniard, Eleázar.

Mr. Grell has had a long career in the comics industry, doing seminal work on Green Arrow, Warlord, Starslayer, and Jon Sable Freelance. Over the course of his career, he brought such influences as late 19th / early 20th century pulps, Cold War era spy thrillers, and ecological and environmental awareness to the forefront of his work on these titles. Additionally, we understand the man knows how to throw a properly medieval-themed fête.

He has posted two more of his illustrations at his website.

Mongoliad Book One Review Roundup

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By , August 20, 2012

The first volume of The Mongoliad has been selling well, and we’re coming up on the release of the second volume (as well as the hardback release of both Book One and Book Two). This is as good a time as any to run through the reviews that were written about Book One.

  • Blogcritics: “The characters are intriguing, the plots interesting and complex without being convoluted, and the fighting and descriptions of battle scenes realistic and exciting while not shirking from describing the more brutal truths of the horrible things humans are capable of doing to each other. In other words this has all the characteristics of being a must-read series in the making.”
  • “Think Lord of the Rings without all that pesky fantasy. Group A tries to walk and ride from here to there. Along the way, interesting things happen. In this case, group A is an order of knights who are, perhaps, the best fighters of the European style. Here is Europe, and there is the seat of the Mongolian Empire. Why is to assassinate the most powerful man in the world. Along the way is a tremendously good read.”
  • Great Geek Manual: “. . . expect a long, richly detailed read fraught with nerd-worthy minutia, protracted exposition, and action sequences that read like they were shot in bullet-time. In short, this is historical fiction for geeks and nerds.”
  • io9: “The first book to come out of the app that Stephenson and friends created in 2010, this off-beat alternate history of Eurasia could be your new obsession.”
  • Kirkus Reviews: “The Mogoliad was born as a community-driven, enhanced serial novel set in the year 1241, when only a small band of warriors and mystics stood between Europe and the Mongol Horde. But don’t let its unconventional beginnings steer you wrong; this story is pure adventure, with much swordplay and swashbuckling.”
  • Locus: “As it stands, the book itself is a romp through this thinly fictional historic period, one that is full of well-described swordplay and richly imagined characters. The transitions between the voices of Bear, Teppo, deBirmingham, Bear (again), Brassey, and Moo is seamless. The Mongoliad: Book One feels like the start of a truly epic adventure.”
  • Publishers Weekly: “An outstanding historical epic with exceptional character development and vivid world building… In addition to the heroic battles—including swordfights, archery, wrestling, and martial arts—romance, political intrigue, and promises of betrayal and rebellion are suffused throughout this cinematic tale.”
  • Shelf Awareness: “. . . individual chapters crackle with a fast-paced energy, particularly the vigorous action scenes.”
  • “The pacing is taut throughout, and as befits the original serialized format, each chapter ends with a solid hook that pulls the reader along swiftly to the next part of the story. And unsurprisingly, given the book’s origins in the study of pre-Renaissance fighting techniques, the fight scenes in particular are written exceptionally well, with a clarity and subtlety missing from just about every other representation of medieval warfare in prose or on film.”

Speaking of the hardcover release, here is the final cover for Book One.

Well, almost final. It’s missing the mention that there are a dozen plus character illustrations by Mike Grell.

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