Review: Gonji: Red Blade of the East by T.C. Rypel

Samurai Adventure of the Highest Quality

This book is a great read! It’s rare that you come across a truly effective action adventure heroic fantasy for adults. Gonji contains elements that are going to evoke memories of many great Samurai and heroic fantasy adventures, but mixes them up in a way that’s totally original. This is a book that’s going to leave you wanting more, and you’ll have hardly closed the cover on this volume before you start reaching to crack open the sequel.

The novel follows the adventures of Gonji who is also known as “The Red Blade from the East,” as he makes his way through medieval Europe. The setting is perfect, and I enjoyed how the author sprinkled in words and phrases from foreign languages (particularly Spanish and German) to help create a realistic atmosphere. As a result of his travels, Gonji has picked up a functional grasp of a dozen languages, which was presented in a realistic way that I felt rounded out the character nicely.

Gonji is a Samurai born of a Japanese father and European mother. This mixed heritage leaves him semi-conflicted as he essentially picks the cultural behavior most likely to best ensure survival in whatever particular situation he gets into. I liked his constant dialogues about what “his father’s half” of his conscience tells him to do versus “his mother’s half.” This narrative device is a great stepping stone for the author to make some wider reaching philosophical comments, but Rypel is too talented to be at all obvious when he does so.

The writing is first rate. The action scenes are told with quick, effective sentences, but in moments of leisure the constructions become more complex and poetic. Rypel is capable of putting some marvelous thoughts into a short arrangement of words, but he picks his moments and when he does go into full “poetry mode” the phrases are emphasized nicely.

I suppose I was most reminded of “Yojimbo” as I read this, although with the Samurai motif that comparison was inevitable. Towards the end, Gonji does play a brief game of “both sides against the middle” but this is hardly the focal point of the novel. A more apt comparison for the whole book would be Robert E. Howard’s Conan. Gonji is a wanderer/mercenary. He gets work where he can, but his moral compass leads him to cast off comrades when they reveal themselves to be of lesser quality. He tends to align with the underdog and there is an amusing reflection where he is tempted to side with the more powerful group just to find out what it’s like to be on the winning side for a change.

There is a certain element of magic in this story, but its at the right level. It’s not the all-encompassing component, but is rather a seasoning that adds a bit of flavor.

This novel is very episodic, but there is an overall quest that is driving the narrative. There is plenty to be satisfied with in every fully contained and professionally written chapter. This novel is a must read for all fans of heroic fantasy. Gonji is on the short list of characters who can stand with Tempus Thales or Conan and be among equals rather than peers.  Get your copy here.

Words With Scott Sandridge, Editor of "Hero's Best Friend"

Can you tell us a little bit about "Hero’s Best Friend: An Anthology of Animal Companions?" 

The idea came up when I asked myself, “Where would Gandalf be without Shadowfax? Or the Vault Dweller without Dogmeat? Or how far could the Beastmaster have gotten without all the animals that had helped him?”

Hero’s Best Friend is an anthology of short stories where the animals take center stage instead of just being the mere sidekicks of the heroes. The majority of the stories fall within the Sword & Sorcery and Heroic Fantasy genres, but many genres are represented—including Dark Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Cyberpunk. There is also a diversity of animals represented from housecats (normal, magical, and even genetically modified) to tigers, dogs and wolves, birds and eagles, snakes…even an undead armadillo. 

What's your background with writing? 

I currently have twenty-seven published short stories, about half a dozen published nonfiction articles, and as far as the reviews I’ve done since 2005 I stopped counting after sixty. I’ve also written a couple columns: Give it Meaning and Elements of Storytelling; SpecMusicMuse was also a column for a brief time before I moved it back to my blog. I was also a slush reader for Ray Gun Revival from 2006-2007 and the Managing Editor of Fear & Trembling from 2007-2010. I’ve currently edited three anthologies for Seventh Star Press: A Chimerical World: Tales of the Seelie Court, A Chimerical world: Tales of the Unseelie Court, and of course Hero’s Best Friend: An Anthology of Animal Companions. As far as I know I’m the only editor who was ever insane enough to edit three anthologies simultaneously.

Who are your inspirations/influences? 

Edgar Allen Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Margaret Weiss, Tracy Hickman, J. R. R. Tolkien, Algiss Budrys (who back in 2001 told me my work was publishable), Eugie Foster (who is also the best managing editor you could ever work for), Paul Levinson (who along with Eugie I think of as mentors), Bill Snodgrass (an awesome writer and editor who purchased my first short story), Johne Cook who to this day I still see as the epitome of modern-day Solomonic wisdom, Orson Scott Card, and Stephen Zimmer (one of the hardest working writers I’ve ever met). I’m sure there are a few names I can’t currently remember. Oh, and Stephen King. Can’t forget about the King.

What was it like working with Seventh Star Press

One of the best small presses you can ever work with. Seventh Star Press has as part of their business philosophy the radical notion that authors and editors helping out each other, via through promotions, etc., also helps themselves. In a lot of ways I feel like I’m working with an extended family, which is a feeling I doubt a large press could give. Not since my time with Double-Edged Publishing have I felt at “home,” writing-wise and editing-wise.

Who was responsible for the cover/book design? 

Enggar Ajar Adirasa was the cover artist. I gave him a couple ideas for the artwork, including showing him a Fallout 3 pic of the Lone Wanderer walking off into the sunset with his trusty canine, Dogmeat. That pic inspired the cover that you see, with the lion and the female warrior. The lion looking back toward the audience was his idea of showing that this anthology was about the animal companions taking the main stage instead of the heroes.

What are you doing in terms of marketing/publicity? 

I plan to do my usual convention appearances, including book signings. A blog tour is also planned, which will involve reviews, interviews like this, guest posts, maybe even a couple giveaways. We did some release day promotions a couple months back, and HBF hit the Top 40 in Amazon sales within the first couple hours of release, and that was just on the ebook version alone (we also have paperback now). There’s been a lot of good feedback over it. So, I’m very hopeful that this will sell well.

Do you have any stories from book signings/radio interviews/etc.? 

One time I discovered the hard way that signing a book while intoxicated is not a good idea, because there’s a good chance you might misspell the person’s name. 

The first time I did a book signing was at Context back in 2008. I didn’t get one single bite. The guy coordinating the con, Nick Winks, found out, so he personally came over to me, bought a book, and had me sign it for him before the convention ended. He made my day that day. 

I’ve never been on radio, but I have done interviews on podcasts before. My first podcast interview was on Snark Infested Waters, hosted by Taylor Kent, aka the “Snarky Avenger.” Suffice it to say, being my first time getting interviewed, I was pretty nervous, but I had a lot of fun. Of course, that was also when I discovered that I sound like a country hick with a permanent headcold. Lol!

What is the name of your blog and what can readers expect to find there? 

A Work in Progress. There you can find my old SpecMusicMuse blog-turned-column-turned-blog-again: reviews of books, movies, music CDs, interviews of authors and musicians, and an occasional article or two about the co-inspirational effects that music and storytelling have with each other. And every now and then I might talk about the story elements within video games as well. 

I also do the usual shameless self-promotion there, too. ;)

What projects do you have planned for the future? 

I’m often hesitant about talking about future projects anymore because my best laid plans tend to get kicked in the ass by Murphy’s Law. A lot.

But, so far it looks like one of my short stories will be reprinted in a vampire-themed anthology coming out soon (from a different press). 

And there’s been talk of possibly “franchising” the Hero’s Best Friend and A Chimerical World anthologies, in that there might in the future be more anthologies coming out with those two main titles on them (for example: Hero’s Best Friend: Mythical Creatures).

No promises at this point, though. 

Is there anything else about you we should know? 

Other than me being a Gemini with an Evil Twin in my head? Nothing much….

Nine Heroes: That is the moment when: Cas Peace

Hello, one and all. The Nine Heroes anthology has been released and we here at the Heroic Fantasy Group couldn’t be happier how it turned out! In celebration of this we came up with an idea that will help readers get to know our authors a little better. So with this in mind we shall be doing a series of blog posts known as ‘That is the moment when’. These blog posts are about a certain experience each author has had in their lives that helped influence the way they write and tell stories.
Today’s blogger is Cas Peace. Despite being a fantasy author in her own right, Cas doesn’t have a short story in the anthology. She is also, however, a freelance editor and was our copy-editor for Nine Heroes. Here she talks about her writing and the moment she decided to offer editing services to fellow writers.
Hi, everyone! Although I’m the author of the triple-trilogy Artesans of Albia fantasy series, it might surprise you to know that I never intended to become an author. Or an editor, come to that. The whole process has come as a bit of a shock. It all began in the 1990s, through having to give up my job of thirteen years when my husband was asked to work in Italy for a while. This was a big thing for me, as I’d always worked to pay my way. Now, I was to be a ‘kept woman’ with no income and no career, and it was a pretty scary thought. Still, the warm skies, beautiful countryside, delicious food, and fascinating history of Italy beckoned and I couldn’t refuse the chance to explore.
We lived in Italy, just outside Rome, for three years. During that time I learned to speak Italian (after a fashion!) and got to accompany my husband on his frequent trips to either Milan, or to the south of the country where his company were exploring for oil. We also traveled on our own behalf, determined to see as much of this lovely place as possible.
Eventually, though, our time in Italy came to an end and we returned to our little cottage in southern England. We acquired two dogs, meaning I could not go back to work full time, and so I had time on my hands. This is when I began exploring my interest in writing.
I have always loved reading, and fantasy was my genre of choice. Among my early favorite authors were Anne McCaffrey, Elizabeth Goudge, Peter S Beagle, C S Lewis, Lord Dunsany, Peter Morwood, Tolkien, Barbara Hambly, and Joy Chant. Although when I was reading them I had no idea I would be publishing my own books one day, I’m sure they have all influenced my own writing.
I often used to scribble out little stories when I was a kid, and English lessons were always my favorite at school. I won a few poetry and essay competitions, and often contributed little articles to school magazines. But that’s as far as it went until quite a few years later. It took a doomed marriage to bring out my literary talents, as I used the process of trying to write a children’s story as a way of escaping my boredom and mild unhappiness. Like the marriage, that story came to nothing, but I still have it. Maybe I’ll dust it off one day and try again!
Real success, however, came as a result of a very happy second marriage, the one that led me to Italy and back. Having returned to England but not to full time employment, I found that my brain needed something to get its synapses into. At that moment there surfaced a little scene from a 1970s kids TV program that had been persistently knocking about in the recesses of my mind all those years. I decided to try writing it out - and therefore opened floodgates within me I never knew existed.
In a completely unexpected, and often quite scary way, an entire fantasy novel came pouring out of my mind. I simply couldn’t stop writing, and when I was forced to stop - for meals, sleep, and the like - the ideas kept coming, clamoring to be written down before I forgot them. I found I grew desperate if I didn’t have pen and paper beside me, and I even bought myself a small recording device because these great ideas had the hugely annoying habit of presenting themselves when I was in the middle of the woods walking the dogs. Even now, some thirteen years later, different spots in those same woods will evoke the ideas that came to me at that time.
Having acquired feedback that led me to believe my work was worth the effort required to find a publisher, I found myself flung into the world of agents, publishers, authors, and editors. It was a steep learning curve for me, especially as the Internet was at an early stage and I had no idea how to work a computer. I managed to allow myself to be scammed by a rogue “agent” who lured me into parting with a substantial reading fee in return for a full critique, but who then absconded with my - and other hopeful writers’ - money. A valuable lesson learned!
Fortunately, my work also received much praise and encouragement, and my persistence paid off when I eventually secured a publisher. I had also formed an earlier connection with another writer who had a website that showcased other writers’ books. He had accepted King’s Envoy, my first novel, onto his website some time before, but now he decided to become an indie publisher. I offered to help him read and select books to publish from the submissions he received, and because so many of them needed work to make them of a publishable standard, this offer evolved into my first editing job.
Those hopeful submissions opened my eyes as to the wealth of writing talent out there. But it also showed me that the ability to write an exciting, or captivating story doesn’t go hand in hand with the ability to spell, or punctuate, or structure a sentence. I knew, from the experiences I’d gathered and the many blogs, magazines, and web articles I’d read on the subject that far too many good books were being passed over for publication purely because of poor (or no) editing. I thought this was a huge waste, and a crying shame.
When I looked into the fees some editors were charging, however, I began to understand why many writers didn’t employ them. Like me with my wasted “reading fee”, these writers could ill afford the large amounts of money necessary to have their manuscripts professionally edited. When I then came across a motivational piece in a writers’ magazine encouraging writers who had a good general knowledge of the rules and mechanics of writing to become editors, the proverbial lightbulb flashed in my mind. That was the moment I realized I could help other writers, and that’s when I decided to offer my Cas Peace Writers’ Services to a wider audience than the showcase website where I started.
Since then, I have worked with many clients and am building up a nice Testimonials section on my website. Some of my clients have been writers who are friends, some came through Facebook, some through recommendations from satisfied customers. Because I am still working on my own books and writing, I cannot take too many clients per year. I keep my fees as low as I reasonably can, and prefer to tailor my fees toward what a client is happy to pay, rather than having a fixed pricing table. I edit for enjoyment rather than to earn a living. I will work on almost any genre, although I’m not keen on explicit erotica. And I refuse to handle anything racist or abusive. I was thrilled to be asked to edit the Nine Heroes anthology, and can thoroughly recommend all the stories within its cover. I encourage you to go and buy a copy right now, and enjoy them for yourself!
Cas Peace  

 Nine Heroes is available in both kindle and Paperback: