Review of "Blue Eyes at Night" (Book II of the Crusader Series)

Thoughtful and Engaging Dark Fantasy

I read J.P. Wilder's "Blue Eyes at Night" without having read the first book in the series, and I can assure you I'll be going back to check out "The Crusader" (Book I) at my earliest opportunity.  The reason I read "Blue Eyes" first was because I saw it was being offered for free as a promotional giveaway and I took advantage.  Even though this book is a sequel, it is truly a stand-alone work.  I never felt like I was lost, or lacked information because I haven't yet read the first book.

The book is written in a very intense first person style that, for me, evoked the Edgar Allan Poe story, "The Cask of Amontillado."  I do mean that as a compliment, although I don't want to unfairly raise expectations from such a comparison.  The storytelling in "Blue Eyes at Night" isn't as richly lyrical as Poe, but there are moments when I felt myself transported into the mind of the protagonist in the same way you get from "Cask"...and that mind isn't a particularly safe environment to inhabit.

The storytelling perspective of "Blue Eyes" makes it quite a bit different than the other fantasy works I've been reading lately.  There are certain limitations from being so close to a single character.  The character in question is a crusader/assassin named Aaron.  When we meet him in "Blue Eyes" he's in the midst of a emotional crisis, and he defends himself (and takes lives) more out of habit than any real desire to live.

Assassins going through bouts of conscience are always interesting characters.  For somebody to become an assassin you'd have to assume they have an emotional make-up that allows them to exist without remorse.  However, everyone starts a new profession with confidence that the debilitating effects manifested in other practicing professionals are somehow not going to befall them.  The thing that makes Aaron appealing is that he's not wandering around groveling and begging for redemption like a weepy child.  He's got a certain amount of acceptance that the suffering that's been thrust upon him is justified, and he endures it with a kind of warped nobility.

I guess there's just something to be said for a character that is perhaps too aware of his or her own flaws.  We live in a world where people are constantly attempting to present themselves as more than they are, so it's nice to see a character who is honest about his transgressions and cognizant of the fact that he probably deserves a terrible death.  In "Blue eyes at Night," Aaron eventually accepts a mission that he understands is probably going to get him killed.  It's a suicide attempt for a person who is too much of a survivor to ever fall on a sword or fashion his own noose.  The other interesting thing about a situational suicide attempt is that it could potentially produce the opportunity for redemption.

I also like how he apparently got Mila Kunis for the cover!

Pick up your copy of "Blue Eyes at Night" here.

Revisiting “The Fisher King,” RIP Robin Williams

I’ve been finding myself reflecting on Robin Williams since the news of his tragic suicide broke a few days ago. It’s always moments like this when you start to appreciate what is lost, and when you seriously examine Williams’s work, it’s instantly apparent what tremendous talent the man had. As an improvisational comic, Williams was without equal. The man was lighting fast, and could instantaneously invent comedic routines far superior to the ones other established comics refined and revised for years. I imagine Williams’s mind started to run hot as he hit the full stride of his stream-of-consciousness mania; his words came out so loud and fast that it got almost to the point of being intimidating. However, no matter how crazy his commentary became it was always clear that there was a sincere humanitarian at the controls – and he never descended into insulting individuals or generalized groups. Williams found enough absurdity in the human condition, and though that does seem like an eternal wellspring of inspiration, it’s surprising how many comedians have to cheat to get attention.

In many ways, Williams’s talent didn’t exactly mesh with the silver screen, but he had so much obvious ability that you had to find a way to use him or you weren’t being true to the concept of art. In some films he gives tremendous reserved performances such as in “Good Will Hunting,” but I think that unless directors can utilize the mania, they really aren’t taking full advantage of what Williams can do.

“The Fisher King” turned out to be a pitch perfect project for a guy like Williams. In it, he plays a regular man who has his life torn apart by tragedy. The tragedy transforms him from a mild-mannered professor to an indigent who lives in a junkyard, dresses in rags, and claims to hear the voices of fairies. The character’s name is Parry, and he seems to constantly be in the throes of a desperate good mood which his obviously nothing more than a cracked mask intended to cover up his spiritual torment (you can see why Williams would be convincing in a part like this).

Parry thinks of himself as a knight, and he patrols the city streets in a personal quest to help those in need. As long as he is able to live in his illusion, he is more or less a functional person. However, if something happens which allows him to settle down and remember how regular people behave (falling in love for example), he is tormented by a vision of a red knight which chases him back to insanity.

“The Fisher King” is a lovely story of redemption and healing. The title is from Arthurian legend and Parry (his name should evoke Percival—or Parcival depending on the translation you read) tells the story of the Fisher King in one of his moments of lucidity. Parry inherently knows that he needs the grail to be healed, so the film becomes a grail quest narrative.

“The Fisher King” was directed by Terry Gilliam, himself the most manic member of Monty Python, and I think he was the perfect director to work with Williams. The performance Gilliam gets out of Williams is manic, but restrained, and hits all the right notes. I could see how other directors might be intimidated by Williams and not give him a “safe” environment in which to create – but Gilliam clearly knew what he was getting with Williams, and the pairing is inspired.

It really is a beautiful film, and I especially love the urban fantasy element. There’s a reason that fantasy remains such a popular genre in the age of cell phones, the internet, and laptop computers. The image of an armored man riding a horse in defense of good or as an emissary of evil is powerful, and Gilliam manages to explore the impact those images have on our collective psyche. The visual side of the film is stunning, but “The Fisher King” achieves its power thanks to Robin Williams through whom the audience perceives terrible torment inflicted upon tremendous humanity – just like in real life. Go watch “The Fisher King” or watch it again if you’ve already seen it. It’s a fitting tribute to a great talent, and it will make you happy...a little sad too...but mostly happy, which is good.

Robin Williams will be missed.

Get a copy of "The Fisher King" here.

Review of "The Peacemakers" by Jim Roberts

The Gang’s All Back For Another Military Adventure

I’m very impressed with the work of Jim Roberts. This is a writer who has identified a very marketable literary niche and is doing a good job carving out a readership for himself. In “Olympus Rises” Roberts introduced us to a cadre of fascinating characters and he’s brought them all back for more in “The Peacemakers.” Joe Braddock is the main focal point, but I’m getting the sense that Danny Callbeck is kind of taking these novels over. In “Olympus Rises” Danny came into the possession of a technologically advanced battle suit which turns him into a cross between Batman and Ironman. It’s interesting that modern warfare has progressed to the point where what would be called a “superhero” costume only a few decades ago is now an entirely reasonable piece of equipment soldiers might take into battle. Essentially all you’re talking about is body armor and heightened optics (Danny’s suit has some mechanical enhancements as well), and the way technology is advancing it’s pretty reasonable to assume that this is the way war will look in another decade or so.

“The Peacemakers” starts out with a mission that doesn’t go according to plan and which puts the team on probation. This allows for Roberts to give us a bit of “down time” with the characters which includes a hunting trip – which I enjoyed. With the Peacemakers out of action, the terrorist organization Olympus is allowed to advance their schemes unopposed.

The thing that makes these books great is their sense of purpose. This isn’t a series that has inflated aspirations. The goal is to tell a good military story, effectively convey the emotions of the central characters enough to make them appealing but not so much that they’re mushy, and to blow a lot of stuff up in as cool a way as you can imagine. On all levels, the mission is fully accomplished.

That being said, there are some Easter eggs thrown in there for more literary readers. I’m reminded quite a bit of Tom Clancy with these books, although with a tactical rather than analytical analysis. There is a tremendous delight in the brotherhood and sacrifices of the armed forces that would make this book an ideal selection for a 4th of July present. It’s a quick, fun, adventurous read that anyone with an interest in guns, the military, hunting, or human drama will greatly appreciate.

Get your copy here!

Words with Tracy Falbe, author of "Rys Rising"

Can you tell us a little about your Rys Rising series?

It’s a 4-part epic made of the books Rys Rising, Savage Storm, New Religion, and Love Lost. The rys are the magical race I created for my world instead of just using off-the-shelf elves. The Rys Rising series tells the origins of the rys that were created by the older race known as the tabre.

The tabre are not happy with the outcome of their experiments, so they hide the rys away in a mountain colony called Jingten. The rys don’t have any contact with other regions, not even Nufal where the tabre rule as religious masters of humans. Nor do the rys visit the Tribal Kingdoms where only humans live, but that’s about to end.

Onja is a very powerful young female rys. Upon reaching maturity she slips away to the Tribal Kingdoms and saves the life of a young man, who will become her greatest warlord Amar.

Throughout the series she and Amar will conquer the Tribal Kingdoms, install her as the Goddess, and raise an army to take against the tabre.

But human armies are not enough to challenge the magic masters of the tabre. Onja needs to seduce Dacian, another rys prodigy but unfortunately a bit of boot-licker to the tabre ruling order. He has the highest ideals. He wants to prove the greatness of the rys so that they will be accepted as cousins within tabre society.

He wants to free his kind peacefully and contribute to civilization. You can imagine how well that goes…all the way to the torture chamber.

Because it’s a big fat series about 18,000 other things happen too.

Rys Rising isn’t a series for readers who like to only follow one or two characters. I deck out vast ensembles led by major characters. As two civilizations clash, I weave together their stories into an unforgettable ending of mythological scope.

You can read about the Rys Rising series and download the first book for free at Brave Luck Books.

Whew! Next question.

What’s your background with writing?

Little girl went to grade school and was taught to read and write English.

Loved it.

Teenage girl reads Tolkien and writes two novels. She decides they are most likely juvenile drivel, puts them in a drawer, and decides to have a social life.

Twenty-five-year-old woman starts writing what will become Union of Renegades: The Rys Chronicles Book I. She’s been writing novels ever since.

Oh yeah, and I went to college and got a journalism degree from California State University, Chico so I can at least make the case that I can write for public consumption. 

Who are your inspirations and influences?

Obviously like many before me, J.R.R. Tolkien caused me to fall in love with the fantasy genre. I also really loved my brother’s Conan books by Robert E. Howard. As for writing style, I’ve been most inspired by Frank Herbert and his Dune books. As a teen, I fell in love with the scope of his world. The details about religion, politics, and culture dazzled me, and I thrived on the multiple points of view.

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

I’ve been attending comic and anime conventions to promote and sell my books. I sold a copy of Werelord Thal to a man at one convention, and he returned to my table at another convention a few months later. He bought The Rys Chronicles from me and then mentioned that his daughter had also read Werelord Thal. In fact, she had even used it for her book report in English class and got an A.

I’m still trying to come to terms with the fact that I was someone’s homework.

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

Since 2008 I’ve maintained the blog Her Ladyship’s Quest.

In addition to announcements about my novels and ebook sales, I highlight other authors, host blog tours, write movie reviews and book reviews. There’s a big archive of posts since 2008.

I recommend people browse these tags:

What projects do you have planned for the future?

Right now I’m editing Journey of the Hunted: Werewolves in the Renaissance 2 and planning on a fall 2014 release.

The hero of this tale is Thal Lesky, a notorious werewolf in 16th century Bohemia. The story opens with Thal emerging from hiding to begin the journey to Hungary where his father the sorcerer Sarputeen lives. Thal hopes to find sanctuary here because he has a fresh bounty on his head for his recent killing spree in Prague. Both the Roman Church and Ferdinand Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire want him for the crimes of shape shifting, service to the Devil, the killing of Jesuits, and the slaughter of the jailers of Prague and the Magistrate.

Thal had good reasons for what happened.

Renaissance-era Bohemia, Moravia, and Hungary offer a nearly perfect playground for the writing of historical fantasy. I draw upon the folklore and hysterical propaganda of the time. These rich herbs brew a potent potion of witches, werewolves, sorcerers, knights, lords, ladies, musicians, and the fext.

What’s a fext? It’s legend from the 16th and 17th century Bohemia about a magical undead. A fext can be made in a variety of ways, often involving his original placenta. Sometimes a fext rises from the dead. Sometimes they are created and then become impervious to death. The inspiration comes from the horrors of the Thirty Year’s War when some officers were declared undead because they kept surviving mortal wounds.

And because I’m a fantasy novelist, the fext is pretty much what I say it is in the book. His name is Janfelter, and he is created by the sorcerer Tekax, the great rival of Sarputeen.

To get to know more about Thal’s back story and the events prior to Journey of the Hunted, I recommend reading Werelord Thal: A Renaissance Werewolf Tale

Is there anything else about you we should know?

I’m an Aquarius. I talk to trees. I adore dogs and cats, especially together. I grow food in my yard. I like long walks on the beach. My favorite color is purple. I often go boating. I like horses…and unicorns. I like baking. I know Han Solo shot first. I was cosplaying Doctor Who way before it was cool. I drink coffee with sugar and milk or cream, but I’ll take it black if needs must.

And that’s not even scratching the surface. I like to think that what I imagine for my novels is much more interesting than me. 

Thank you for the opportunity to talk about my novels. 

Sincerely, Tracy Falbe

Words with Brae Wyckoff author of "The Orb of Truth"

Tell us a little about yourself

I have been married to my beautiful wife, Jill, for over 20 years, and we have three children and one grandson. I have been an avid RPG gamer since the 80’s. and my passion for mysterious realms and the supernatural inspired me to write The Orb of Truth, the first in a series of fantasy action adventures. I am also a radio show host on Broadcast Muse blog talk radio.

Tell us your views on authors using violence and/or sex in their writing? Is this part of the heroic tradition in your view?

I don’t mind the violence or the sex but for me it just doesn’t work when I write, the sex part, not the violence. I thought about bringing the sex element into my writing but quickly realized that 12 year olds were enjoying my first book so I couldn’t do it. Perhaps another tale to be told down the road. I do think that it can be unnecessary and forced by authors and suggest a warning when heading down that road to really ask yourself is this necessary and does it bring depth to my story?

What are your definitions of a ‘hero’?

To me it is something that can be achieved by any given person. It symbolizes an inner destiny that calls to each of us in real life and then as an author into our characters. We choose our path, we choose our personality, and we choose to be good. Events in our lives shape us to who we are today but the future is not set by our past. A hero heeds the call in their heart and steps into something more than themselves and more than what they thought was possible. 

Why do you think fantasy continues to be so popular? 

People love a good adventure. We love the escape into a new world and this is what is most appealing to readers. Ultimately, as long as your characters are developed, will grab hold of readers, but fantasy has a special look and feel to it. I want to hear the ring of swords clashing, the shields thud taking the impact of another's weapon, and the villain bent on destruction of all that is good because his/her mother never said they loved them. 

What fantasy creatures/races do you use in your worlds? Why did you choose these? 

My books revolve around a Dungeons and Dragons look and feel in most regards. The creatures you will see in Ruauck-El are combinations of things and or what you would imagine them to be even at name value (ex: Unicorn). Races are human, dwarf, elf, Halfling (ordakian in my world), gnome, orcs, goblins, etc. Very classic but with some of my own insights to add to them while not distracting you from the nostalgia of D&D.

How much research do you do for your books? What sources do you prefer?

I grew up playing Dungeons and Dragons so my research is almost engrained into my DNA. I lived and breathed adventures since 9th grade and even now I can envision some of the amazing times we had together gaming in garages, dining rooms, and game stores all hours of the night while munching on cold pizza, twinkies, ding-dongs, chips, and drinking soda…good times.

Can you remember the first fantasy book you ever read?

I believe it was Isaac Asimov but the one true fantasy series that really got me going was RA Salvatore’s Icewind Dale Trilogy. His ability to weave an interesting story captured my heart and mind. 

Tell us about how you promote your work. Which strategies do you find useful? Which do you think are least effective?

Well, for starters, authors should hire the services of a social media manager. They do the heavy lifting for you by getting you votes, getting your page likes up on facebook, more twitter followers, blog interviews, radio show interviews, and more. My manager is Aileen Aroma and you can find her on facebook. She represents several authors and truly builds a strong community and is well worth the price to help get your name out there. Remember, you are contending against a million other authors. It takes time and dedication to build your resume and you can’t do it alone.

Other strategies are not to post “buy my book” on your social media sites everyday. It is okay to do it once in a while just as a reminder, but if you do it more than that then you just become annoying. I learned the hard way so listen to this advice. Be creative with your posts on facebook especially by using clever pictures with your book in it such as Golem holding your book and saying, “My precious.” People like that and then it becomes fun and not like an advertisement. 

What are your opinions on authors commenting on reviews?

I think that an author should only comment on a review in a positive manner and never in light of a negative review posted. You can’t please everyone and the minute you try then you are doomed. For some reason, authors like to defend their work, but it only creates arguments that in the end you will never win. I have read comments left by authors on their reviews and it is quite scary to see it because not only did you ultimately lose that person who left the review but you also put a bad taste in others who are reading reviews. My advice is to just let it go and for the author to focus on their craft. I realize some comments by readers can be very offensive and hurtful but it is best to be quiet and just move on. I think more people respect that in the long run.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Best advice that I can give is to write what you know and then make up the rest. Be blessed everyone and in the words of my red-bearded dwarf, Dulgin of the Hammergold Clan, "Kawnesh di lengo ki belko vekoosh. May your light shine bright and blind your enemies." 

Pick up your copy of "The Orb of Truth" here!

Thanks to Brae for being on Heroic Fantasy, here is some more information on Brae and his writing:

Brae Wyckoff is an award winning and internationally acclaimed author, born and raised in San Diego, CA. He has been married to his beautiful wife, Jill, for over 20 years, and they have three children. He has a beautiful grandson named Avery. Brae has been an avid RPG gamer since 1985. His passion for mysterious realms and the supernatural inspired him to write The Orb of Truth, the first in a series of fantasy action adventures. 

In addition to writing the Horn King Series, Brae is the host of Broadcast Muse blog talk radio program, featuring interviews with authors such as William Paul Young of The Shack, artists—American Idol contestant MissLadybug and Christian Hip-Hop singer Nomis, and world changers, Bethel Healing Director Chris Gore and others. Brae and his wife, Jill, are the founders of the International ministry called The Greater News, where they report on miracles from around the world. He is also the CEO of LR Publishing, a one-stop publishing service provider geared specifically for the growing genre of Destiny Action-Adventure Fantasy, which brings life, purpose, and ultimately a message of hope. 

The Orb of Truth won Best Christian Fantasy Award for 2013 and has been voted #1 in several categories, including Best Indie Fantasy Book, Epic Fantasy Worth Your Time, and Fantasy Book That Should Be Required Reading. 

His sequel, The Dragon God, is making waves. It was voted "BEST New Epic Fantasy" and rated "TOP Fantasy Book" for a series. 


Radio Show Host of Broadcast Muse

Facebook Author Page 

The Greater News 

Orb of Truth book #1 synopsis: 

In the hundreds of years since the Holy City disappeared, darkness has fallen over the land. Human kingdoms have seized control of the realm, scattering the other races into hiding. 

Bridazak, a skilled thief, and his friends, a Dwarf and a fellow Ordakian, have dared to remain within the human communities and live relatively quiet lives, until they discover a mysterious, magical artifact. The three friends are thrust into an adventure that will challenge their faith, their purpose, and their destiny as they chase a forgotten and lost prophecy across the realm of Ruauck-El, where they hope to discover the origins of the strange item and their place in its history. 

An ancient, unknown enemy threatens the completion of their journey at every turn. Bridazak is about to face the biggest adventure of his life, one that may change the known realm, and answer the questions he has carried all his life. Will they unlock the truth? 

The Orb of Truth is the first book of The Horn King Series... 

The Dragon God book #2 synopsis: 

As the heroes of Ruauck-El emerged triumphantly in The Orb of Truth, the first book in the Horn King series, they could not have imagined that an even greater evil still lay ahead of them. Raina has discovered a new threat to the realm, and teleported King El'Korr—against his wishes—to the West Horn King's capital city, Tuskabar, in hopes of thwarting an evil Mystic's plan to acquire the five dragon stones. Each relic harbors an ancient dragon spirit, and, if combined, would unleash a multi-headed deity beyond imagination, to begin a reign of terror upon Ruauck-El. 

Meanwhile, Bridazak and friends are in search of Spilfer Teehle's missing family. Their quest leads them to visit old enemies, travel through beautiful but deadly locations, and will ultimately take them on an adventure of new discoveries of themselves. Each group is on their own mission, but as destiny would have it, their fates are more entwined than they could possibly know. 

Internationally acclaimed author, Brae Wyckoff, brings a new depth to fantasy storytelling in The Dragon God.