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The Twelve Books of Christmas: Part Eight

December 20, 2018 12 comments

My eighth book of Christmas is another mythology title: Thor: Viking God of Thunder, which was my first title for Osprey’s Myths and Legends series.

Thor

The original sources for Norse mythology are surprisingly limited, so I had the space in this book to retell all of the major stories in which Thor takes part, and to mention those in which he is a secondary character. It was interesting to see how, in the Christian era, the myths were shorn of religious content and became, effectively, early superhero stories: Thor’s battles with the giants of Jotunheim read very similarly to the ’60s slugfests of Marvel and DC comics.

This comes as no surprise, of course, considering Thor’s success as a superhero in recent decades. Marvel was not the first publisher to use him in comics, but the Marvel Thor is the most enduring version. In addition, he has given his name to a radioactive element (Thorium), several Norwegian and German warships, and two American rocket systems.

Most notoriously, of course, Thor’s hammer has been adopted as a symbol by some neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups, following the swastika – a universal design which in Scandinavia represented one of Thor’s thunderbolts – which was co-opted by the Nazi Party in 1920. We would all do well to remember that these are stolen emblems, and those who use them have no right to them – and equally, that not all those who use them are racists or fascists.

Here is what some reviewers had to say about the book:

“If this book is any indication of the quality of this new series, readers are in for a treat.”
– Kirkus (starred review)

This book is a nice, concise, beginning look at the legends of Thor. All tales that include him are at least briefly mentioned here, though most are told in full with extra bits of information to add depth to the reader’s understanding.
– Goodreads

Like all Osprey titles, the book is gorgeously illustrated, and the plates by Miguel Coimbra are outstanding.

The book’s page on the Osprey web site is here. Links to various online retailers can be found on the My Books page.

Tomorrow, and every day until Christmas, I will be covering another title. If you’re not done with your Christmas shopping, or if you are expecting to receive some gift tokens, take a look: you might find something you like.

Click here for Part One: Colonial Horrors.

Click here for Part Two: Nazi Moonbase.

Click here for Part Three: Werewolves – A Hunter’s Guide.

Click here for Part Four: Theseus and the Minotaur.

Click here for Part Five: The New Hero.

Click here for Part Six: Knights Templar – A Secret History.

Click here for Part Seven: The Lion and the Aardvark.

Click here for Part Nine: Tales of the Frozen City.

Click here for Part Ten: Blood and Honor.

Click here for Part Eleven: The Dirge of Reason.

Click here for Part Twelve: More Deadly than the Male.

 

The Bundle of Holding

August 26, 2015 Leave a comment

The latest Bundle of Holding features seven titles from Osprey’s Osprey Adventures line: just $16.95 gets you all seven PDF ebooks with a retail value of $104.00. A couple of them are mine, and I’m in some very good company, including Chris Pramas, Phil Masters, and series chief Joseph A. McCullough. Here’s a link: take a look and I think you’ll be impressed.

Thor

Thor: Viking God of Thunder retells the Norse myths and covers Thor’s history from 6th-century Germany through the Viking Age to Marvel’s Avengers. Here’s a link to some of the great reviews it’s received.

Templars cover

Knights Templar: A Secret History is a roundup of history, rumor, and conspiracy theory surrounding the Templars and the Holy Grail. It even includes a brand new conspiracy theory that I made up, based on actual events and relationships, that could provide a great setting for all kinds of games. You can read more about it here: scroll down to the comments for links to reviews.

The Osprey Adventures line includes a lot of well-researched titles that are ideal as systemless sourcebooks for games. Take a look: you won’t be disappointed.

Thor Hits U.S. Libraries and Schools

March 20, 2015 Leave a comment

Rosen Thor Cover

I’ve just received a hardback edition of my Osprey Myths and Legends book Thor: Viking God of Thunder, published by Rosen Publishing in New York for the American schools and libraries market. It is available by itself or as part of the Heroes and Legends set, which also includes the Osprey volumes Dragonslayers, Hercules, Jason and the Argonauts, King Arthur, and Robin Hood.

The inside of the book is the same as the Osprey edition, but Rosen’s solid hardback binding makes it more durable, and it lies flat without breaking the binding and scattering pages everywhere. And Rosen’s cover design is great. It keeps Miguel Coimbra’s fantastic art of Thor battling the frost giants, but turns the god’s name into a stony logo wreathed in lightning. I’m very, very pleased with it, and it’s strangely appropriate that my comp copy should arrive on the International Day of Happiness – another thing I knew nothing about until this morning!

I enjoyed working on this book immensely, and I’ve posted about it before. Here are some links for anyone who is interested:
Rosen Publishing (Thor)
Rosen Publishing (Heroes and Legends series)
Osprey Publishing (Thor)
Early reviews (scroll down to comments for more)
A more recent review

A New Review of “Thor: Viking God of Thunder”

February 26, 2015 2 comments

Thor

Patrick Mahon over at SF Crow’s Nest in the UK just posted a very nice review of my Osprey Myths and Legends book Thor: Viking God of Thunder. Here’s a link.

I’m very happy with the reception received by both this book and its companion volume on Theseus and the Minotaur, and I hope to have the opportunity to write more books on myth and folklore in the future. They’ve been passions of mine since I was a boy.

Here’s a link to some more reviews of Thor. Every time I see a new review, I add a link to the comments. If you’ve seen any reviews that aren’t linked there, please let me know – I’d like to make this collection as complete as possible.

The Obligatory Black Friday Post

November 28, 2014 1 comment

Theseus and the Werewolves

September 7, 2014 6 comments

Wait, what?

It’s all right. I haven’t created a new contemporary urban fantasy franchise with sparkly Greek heroes battling emo lycanthropes in high school. But hold on while I just make a note of that….

No, this post is going to be about my next two books for Osprey Adventures. If you haven’t heard of Osprey Adventures before, the legendary military history publisher has been branching out with two new lines aimed – at least partly – at gamers and fantasy fans.

Osprey Myths and Legends does exactly what it says on the tin. This series presents the world’s greatest heroes (and monsters) in the classic Osprey format, combining well-researched text with lavish illustration and high production values. My first book in this series, Thor: Viking God of Thunder, was well received (click here for some links to reviews), so I was asked to write another – on Theseus and the Minotaur this time. It’s scheduled for release on November 18th and features some stunning color plates by Jose Pena.

index

I guess I was seven or eight years old when I first discovered this tale. I had become obsessed with Greek mythology after discovering a children’s retelling of Homer’s Odyssey in my school library and seeing a Saturday-morning rescreening of Ray Harryhausen’s 1963 classic Jason and the Argonauts on TV. Over a decade later, my first game of Dungeons & Dragons featured a fatal encounter with a minotaur. Along the way, I also read about Theseus’ early adventures on the road to Athens. But when I got stuck into the research for this book, I discovered something intriguing. Well, two things, actually.

The first is that Greek myths used the comic-book technique of “retconning.” After he became the Official Hero of Athens, Theseus began to pop up in the adventures of Hercules and various other heroes, usually in a minor role. He was one of the super-team that took part in the Hunt for the Calydonian Boar, along with his faithful sidekick Pirithous. He appears as a wise and compassionate King of Athens in the tragic tale of Oedipus. A few writers even tried to add him to Jason’s companions aboard the Argo, but some serious timeline problems prevented their attempts from sticking. He was too old for the Trojan War, but a couple of his sons were among the Greek troops in the legendary wooden horse.

The other intriguing thing is that the core of the Theseus myth looks like it could be an allegory. Theseus lived – if he lived – at a time when Athens was growing in power and throwing off Minoan and Mycenaean cultural and economic domination of the Greek mainland. It was developing its own distinctly Greek identity, which would become the template for Classical Greek culture. There is evidence for a war – or at least a raid – led by Athens in which the famous Minoan palace of Knossos was burned. And some ancient sources refer to a Cretan general with the name, or nickname, of Taurus, the Bull. Likewise, the six enemies Theseus defeated on his journey to Athens could be seen as symbols of the various independent city-states that Athens assimilated as its influence spread across Attica. There’s little if any definitive proof that the myth of Theseus is based on actual historical events, but the coincidences do seem to be telling a consistent story, and it made my dormant archaeological reflex twitch.

index

The second book, Werewolves: A Hunter’s Guide, is for the Dark Osprey line which focuses on horror and conspiracy, and follows on from earlier volumes about Zombies and Vampires. I collected werewolf legends and trial reports from across Europe and researched shapechanger myths worldwide to paint a picture of lycanthropy that expands upon what you will find in most movies, games, and novels. It touches on the standard fare – silver, the moon, Viking berserkers, SS werewolves, and so on – but I also uncovered a few surprises. Like, for instance, the fact that there are at least four distinct types of werewolf, each with its own unique characteristics. And the Greek tradition that a dead werewolf rises from the grave as a vampire. And the ancient werewolf cult that centers on Mount Lykaion in Greece.

Werewolves: A Hunter’s Guide
is scheduled for release in March 2015, and there are some interesting titles scheduled for both of Osprey’s non-historical ranges.

Osprey has also expanded into wargames with an interesting and growing range of rule sets presented in slim, affordable books. There are historical rules, of course, but they also cover mythology, steampunk, and Hong Kong action movies. My personal favorite is Of Gods and Mortals, a compact and tidy little skirmish game in which the gods of various mythologies can take to the battlefield as super-units, accompanied by mortal and monstrous followers. It has a very neat mechanic which makes gods and mortals heavily interdependent.

Osprey Publishing has a long-standing reputation for quality that is very well deserved. I’m very happy to see them expanding into these new areas, and even happier to play a modest part myself. Check out the links below. I’ll be very surprised if you don’t find at least one title that surprises and intrigues you.

Osprey Myths and Legends
Dark Osprey
Osprey Wargames

2013 and Beyond

February 10, 2014 Leave a comment

2014 is shaping up to be a busy year. Right now I’ve got four mobile games, two tabletop RPG books, and two nonfiction books at various stages of development, and I’m also trying to keep my promise to myself that I will write more fiction.

With all this going on, I haven’t had time to put together an elegant and well-reasoned thought piece or a vivid and fascinating memory of The Old Days for this update. However, there are a few bits and pieces that might be of interest:

Kingdoms of Camelot: Battle for the North is now in its third year, and still going strong. I’m currently helping develop a great new feature that I can’t really talk about, which will be released later in the year. You’ll see some familiar faces, and I think that fans of deeper Arthurian lore will be pleasantly surprised. That’s the intention, anyway.

In other KBN news, the game is ranked #10 by worldwide revenue in App Annie’s 2013 retrospective. A year ago, it was the iTunes Store’s #1 top-grossing app of 2012. And, of course, it’s also available for Android. I’ve been involved with KBN since the very start, and I’m delighted with its continuing success.

Another Kabam title I’ve worked on also did well in 2013, according to App Annie. The Hobbit: Kingdoms of Middle-earth ranked #8 by revenue in the U.S., #5 in the UK, and #6 in both France and Germany. Over the last year I worked on a narrative campaign feature that allows players to fight the Goblins of the Misty Mountains alongside heroes from the movies – and, in the most recent instalment, lets them take on the dread Necromancer from Mirkwood to Amon Lanc and beyond. Like all of Kabam’s mobile games, this is also available on Android.

Dragons of Atlantis: Heirs of the Dragon has just acquired a great little feature that allows your dragon to go exploring when you’re not using it in battle, and find you all kinds of interesting treasures. I wasn’t involved with that particular feature, but throughout the last year I’ve been working on new dragons, new troops, and various other expansions. More on those when I’m allowed to talk about them. Also on Android.

Beside these three, I’ve been working on localization editing for a whole bunch of games from China that are hoping to build on their success in that booming market and move into the West. Three projects down so far, and two more in progress: more when I can talk about them. There is some good stuff coming out of China, for sure, and many commentators have tagged it as a market to watch. Russia, India, and Brazil are also poised to become significant mobile-games markets in 2014, according to many analysts.

And finally in mobile gaming, I’ve been working on a new fantasy RPG for iOS. I can’t give any details at this stage, but I will say that the setting is interesting and I’ve been having a very good time developing the backstory and advising on some quite intriguing features, both in narrative and gameplay.

The two books I wrote for Osprey Adventures in 2013 have been well received, and I’ve signed up to write two more. Thor: Viking God of Thunder in the Myths and Legends line has been getting good reviews, and the new Templar conspiracy I laid out in Knights Templar: A Secret History has been well reviewed and has inspired both fiction writers and tabletop RPG designers. I’ve been contracted to write two more titles: Theseus and the Minotaur is due to be released in November this year, and I’m just starting work on a yet-to-be-announced Dark Osprey title.

I’ve also been indulging my love for historical fantasy in a few tabletop RPG projects.

Colonial Gothic, the game of horror and conspiracy at the dawn of American history, received a great boost from the release of the Second Edition Rulebook, and that was followed up with the release of the Bestiary in October.

Just open for preorders is Lost Colony, a unique two-period adventure that explores the mystery of Massachusetts’ ill-fated Popham colony in both 1607 and 1776. It is written by award-winning author Jennifer Brozek, whose previous credits for Colonial Gothic include the acclaimed Locations mini-campaigns and the groundbreaking e-book The Ross-Allen Letters, which blurs the lines between adventure and fiction.

I’m working on another Colonial Gothic supplement at the moment. I can’t talk about it yet, but it’s one that has been very long in the planning and it reunites me with a favorite collaborator from my Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay days. We haven’t worked together for more than twenty years, and this project promises to be a lot of fun.

As much as I love Colonial Gothic, I am occasionally tempted by other tabletop RPG projects. When author and roleplaying luminary Robin D. Laws was recruiting talent for his Hillfolk Kickstarter campaign, I was honored to be one of the people he asked to submit an original setting for this fascinating game. I pitched Pyrates as “Firefly of the Caribbean,” and it was a lot of fun to write.

British publisher Chronicle City ran a Kickstarter campaign for their version of the Steampunk classic Space: 1889 – a favorite of mine from the 80s – and I offered an adventure for a stretch goal that, sadly, was not reached. I still hope to write it someday. Their Kickstarter campaign for Cthulhu Britannica saw me contribute to their intriguing postcard-based adventure generator. I was especially happy to be involved with this project because my first commissioned work for Games Workshop, way back in 1985, came when they were developing A Green and Pleasant Land, the first ever British sourcebook for Call of Cthulhu.

Last year I wrote a couple of articles for Steve Jackson Games’ Pyramid magazine, both about obscure guns. The Puckle Gun, a repeating heavy musket, was covered in issue 3/52 (February), while the fearsome Nock volley gun appeared in issue 3/57. I’m planning to adapt both these weapons for Colonial Gothic in the near future, possibly in an unannounced supplement that I have on the back burner. Meanwhile, I have another article – not gun-related this time – being considered for a future issue of Pyramid.

Finally, 2013 was the year I discovered the Oldhammer movement. It seems that there are a lot of folks out there who remember the Games Workshop products of the 80s with great affection, and several of them asked me to give them interviews or to share my memories of working at GW during what some regard as that golden age. I have a couple more interviews lined up, but here are links to some that have appeared so far.

So that’s what 2013 looked like for me, and what 2014 is looking like so far. As always, I’ll be covering ongoing projects in more detail just as soon as I’m allowed to talk about them. But now I’d better get back to work – there’s plenty to do.