Archive for 'Rogue Angel'

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009 by Joe Nassise
What the heck is a Spirit Banner anyway?

The Spirit Banner3My Rogue Angel novel, THE SPIRIT BANNER, hits bookstore shelves later this week and I’m looking forward to seeing how fans react to Annja’s newest adventure. I’m a history buff and getting the chance to work on this series -which effectively combines history, archeology, and a touch of the mystical – was a real pleasure for me.

This time around, Annja is hired to help locate the long lost tomb of the man who seemingly did the impossible by uniting the many tribes of the Mongol steppes and leading them to become one of the most feared warrior nations on earth, Genghis Khan.  The Great Khan, as he was known, was a cunning leader and a brilliant strategist.  I enjoyed learning more about him as I conducted my research for the novel.

For my post this week, I wanted to give our readers here at Genreality a sneak peek inside the book.  I’ve chosen an excerpt from chapter six in which Annja is hired by multimillionaire John Davenport to locate the Great Khan’s tomb.   She, of course, finds the entire notion ridiculous…

Once the help had withdrawn, Davenport continued.  “I’m considering putting together an expedition to find the Khan’s lost tomb.”

“Don’t bother,” said Annja, without even glancing up from her drink.  Because she didn’t do so, she missed the quick flicker of surprise that flashed across Davenport’s face.

“Why not?” he asked.

“Because he more than likely didn’t have one.”

Davenport laughed, but when Annja glanced at him without joining in he looked at her expression more closely.  “You seem pretty sure of yourself.”

“I am.”

“Why is that?”

“Because the Mongol people didn’t believe in tombs in the first place.”  Annja paused to gather her thoughts and to figure out the best way of passing on what she knew without seeming to preach at him. “Remember that the Mongols were a nomadic people, both before and after Genghis united them as a single political body.  They had few cities and those they did have were more oriented toward storage of war booty rather than for any community-minded purpose.”

Davenport nodded.  “Go on.”

“Because the Mongols moved from place to place, their religious beliefs evolved very much along similar lines.  They considered the natural world to be full of spirits, much like the animists of feudal Japan. For instance, they were forbidden from bathing in rivers or streams because such places were considered the life blood of the earth itself and doing so would have been a horrible affront to the land.

“A Mongol warrior’s greatest possession was his Spirit Banner, or sulde, made from tying strands of hair from his best horses to the shaft of a spear.  Whenever he made camp, the warrior would place the Spirit Banner outside the entrance to his tent to show his presence and to stand as a perpetual guardian beneath the Eternal Blue Sky that the Mongols worshipped as god.  The banner would soak up the power of the wind, the sun and the sky, transferring that power to the warrior.  When he dreamed, the banner would show him his destiny.  Over time, the union between the warrior and the banner became so strong that upon the warrior’s death, his soul was considered to reside in the banner and not the body.”

“But Genghis was not just any warrior,” Davenport protested.  “He was the spiritual father and warlord of the Mongol people.  Just like people today, they would have wanted a place to remember him.”

Annja shook her head.  “They had one – the Spirit Banner.  It rode with the Khan’s descendants until 1647 when it was placed in the Shank Monastery for safekeeping.”

Davenport seemed fascinated with her story.  “So you’re saying the Mongol people didn’t need a tomb because Genghis Khan’s very soul rode alongside them wherever they went?”

While it wasn’t a perfect explanation of Mongol religious beliefs, it was close enough that she nodded in agreement.

“Interesting,” said Davenport, sitting back and watching her for a moment before continuing.  “What if I told you that the legends were true, that the Mongols did build a secret tomb for their Great Khan?  That they filled it with an amazingly diverse treasure trove, loot from the hundreds of cultures he conquered?   And what if I said I had in my possession the journal of a man who had intimate details of the burial process itself, a journal that contained a map to the location of the tomb itself?”

Annja couldn’t help but smile.  “I’d say you’d better hire someone to authenticate the map and the writings pretty darn quick, because whatever you paid for it, it was too much.  You’ve been had.  Hell, I’d be happy to do it for you myself, just to prove to you the ridiculousness of the very idea.”

Davenport smiled.  “Good.  Then that’s settled,” he said with a laugh.  “You can start first thing in the morning.”

Annja stared at him blankly for a moment and then it dawned her that she had been neatly led right where Davenport had wanted her to go.

Well, she’d just have to take the job and show him how wrong he was.  After the events of earlier in the week she knew that the dig was all but finished for the season; she’d simply give them a call and let them know she was going home early.

A map to the tomb of Genghis Khan?  Ridiculous!

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009 by Joe Nassise
A Much Needed Reminder

I spent most of the day yesterday out at my local coffee shop, trying to put the finishing touches on the second book in the Jeremiah Hunt trilogy.  It was a tough day – one of those days where the words don’t want to cooperate and your thoughts are easily sidetracked.  Definitely one of those days when you throw up your hands in the middle of it all and wonder why you ever got into this crazy business in the first place.

I finally called it a day and went home.  I spent some time with my wife and kids and after dinner realized that I hadn’t looked at the day’s mail.  A package had arrived in the afternoon while I was out and I discovered that it contained several books.  I got myself a cup of post-dinner coffee, grabbed a book out of the box, and settled down in the living room to read with my six dogs lounging around my feet.  (Yes, I said six, and no, they aren’t little dogs by any stretch of the imagination, but that’s a post for another day.)

I read for about an hour, which at my reading speed was enough to get through about half of the paperback in my hand and by the end of it, I remembered why I suffered through work days like the one I’d had earlier.

See, the books in the box were the author copies for my first Rogue Angel novel, The Spirit Banner.  I’d written it more than a year ago and in between I’d written three other novels, so the story wasn’t so fresh in my mind and I came to it almost like an outsider picking it up for the first time.  Even though I knew what was going to happen, the time between finishing the work and having it arrive in my mailbox had been long enough to allow me to appreciate it from a perspective different than the one I’d had the day I’d mailed it off to my editor.

I’ll be the first to say it isn’t perfect.  Nor is it going to win any awards.  Truth be told its nothing more than a cinematic popcorn style adventure with lots of action and a beautiful sword wielding heroine getting into trouble time and again.

But reading it again for the first time in more than a year, I was transported from the confines of my living room to the distant plains of the Mongolian Steppes, racing along with Annja Creed and her companions as they searched for Genghis Khan’s long lost tomb.  Simply put, I was entertained.

And isn’t that what it’s all about?  Entertaining our readers?  Taking them away, if only for a little while, to somewhere else?  Letting them experience life through a different filter or set of circumstances?

Opening that box made my day and the enthusiasm I felt after spending time in Annja’s world made getting up this morning and wrestling with my manuscript again just that much easier.

The Spirit Banner3

(If you’re interested in joining Annja for a trek across the steppes yourself, THE SPIRIT BANNER is available for preorder and goes on sale January 12, 2010.)

Saturday, October 17th, 2009 by Joe Nassise
Excerpt: “The Spirit Banner”

THE SPIRIT BANNER – Coming in December

The Jungles of Mexico

The Present

Annja Creed was knee deep in sacrificial victims when the shooting started.

At first there was only a single gunshot, which was easy enough for her to ignore.  After all, isolated gunfire was relatively common at a dig site this deep in the jungle.  Someone fired off a weapon at least once a week.  The reasons for doing so varied, but they usually had something to do with the local wildlife.  Just last week Martinez had found a twelve foot python in his bed and had fired off four shots before he even managed to hit the thing.  A few days before that, the cook, a guy by the name of Evans, had used his shotgun to try and drive off the howler monkeys that he’d caught raiding the food larder.  The monkeys still managed to get away with the Snickers bars he’d been hording.

But when the first couple of shots were followed by an entire volley of gunfire from several different weapons, Annja knew something was seriously wrong.

She had to get out of the hole and see what was happening above.

For the last three weeks Annja and the rest of the dig team working on behalf of the Bureau of Cultural Studies had been carefully excavating the ruins discovered at Teluamachee, about a hundred and fifty miles outside of Mexico City.  A recent earthquake had cut a swath through the jungle, knocking down trees and natural earth formations with equal abandon, exposing a set of long forgotten ruins hidden in a narrow valley deep in the jungle.  A scout for a local logging company had discovered the site and, thankfully, had enough respect and admiration of his heritage to report the location to the Bureau rather than selling it on the black market.   The Bureau had wasted no time in assembling a team of experts that it had worked with in the past, including Annja, and asking them to come down and take a look at what they had found.

Annja had been in-between assignments when the call had come in and she’d wasted no time in agreeing to join the team.

The main site consisted of a large, three-story temple complex in the standard step pyramid formation, with several smaller buildings lining the east and west sides of the courtyard extending south from the base of the pyramid itself.

A few hundred yards to the west of the main structures was the site’s cenote, a deep, water-filled sinkhole that the Mayans considered a link to the rain gods, or Chaacs.  Sacrificial victims and precious objects had been tossed into the sacred well as offerings during the site’s heyday as a way of protecting the populace and bringing good fortune.  To the dig team’s delight, the earthquake that had uncovered the primary dig site had also drained the cenote, exposing its secrets to the light of the sun for the first time in centuries.  Annja was down in “the hole,” as they had come to call it, erecting a grid made of nylon rope and stakes across the entire area.  This would allow them to record the precise depth and location of every object they removed from the muck-covered bed at the bottom of the sinkhole.  That information would then be fed into a 3-D simulation program that would provide them with a computer model to work with in analyzing the artifacts.

It was important work, which was one of the reasons Annja had volunteered to do it, despite the ankle deep puddles and stinking muck that covered the bottom of the cenote.  From where she stood she could see the skeletal remains of at least five different individuals and more than a handful of ceremonial objects such as knives, bowls, and statuettes.  The items they recovered from the cenote would probably tell them more about daily life at the site than the ruins themselves.  It was like a window into the past, one she looked forward to peering through.

But right now she needed to forget about the past and focus on the present.

She looked up toward the rim of the cenote, expecting to see Arturo, her partner for the afternoon, peering over edge and frantically signaling for her to come up, but there was no sign of him.

Had he run off?  Gone for help?  She didn’t know.  Thankfully, the rope she’d used to climb down into the hole was still where they had left it, hanging against the interior wall of the cenote.  It was tied off at the top around a nearby tree trunk and so Arturo’s help wasn’t necessary for her to get back to the surface.  It would have been helpful, but not necessary.

She slogged over to the far wall, being careful not to step on any of the remains scattered about her feet, and took hold of the rope.  Planting one foot against the pockmarked limestone that made up the interior wall of the cenote, she began to pull herself up hand over hand, walking her feet upward as she went.

She hadn’t gone more than a few steps up the wall when a shadow blotted out the setting sun above.  Startled, Annja looked up.  She was just time to see Arturo’s body hurtling down toward her, his arms and legs flailing wildly, his mouth open in a silent scream.

Annja let go of the rope, dropped the few feet to the bottom of the cenote, and the flattened herself against the wall, trying to make herself as small as possible.

Arturo’s body missed her by mere inches and then hit the bottom with a loud, mud-filled splash.  His sightless eyes stared back at her, accusing.  So, too, did the bullet hole in the center of his forehead that was leaking a thin stream of blood into the muddy water in which he lay.

She could hear voices above, shouting in Spanish.  She couldn’t make out everything they said, but the word cenote came through loud and clear a few times and she knew they were headed her way, either to see if Arturo had been alone or to be certain he was dead.

If they looked in and caught her here…  Annja didn’t even need to finish the thought to know she was in deep trouble.  She had only seconds to find a place to hide.  Any moment now someone was going to stick their head over the edge and see her.

Her chances of surviving for even a few minutes after that were slim to none.

Without hesitation she took a deep breath and threw herself down into the water at her feet, burrowing into the mud and muck beneath and throwing it over her body, trying to cover herself up as much as possible.  There wasn’t anywhere else she could hide.  The dark shorts and top she was wearing would help, she knew, as would the deep shadows accumulating with the close of day near the walls of the cenote itself.  If she could just stay out of sight for a few moments, she should be all right.

For the time being, at least.

She kept one ear turned to the side, listening, and just as she suspected she heard two voices talking together somewhere above her.  They argued for a moment, voices rising and falling rapidly, and then fell silent.

Annja didn’t move from her place of concealment.  She was unable to tell if they had left or not and didn’t want to take the chance of being caught unexpectedly in the open.

Her caution saved her life.

Bullets suddenly thumped into Arturo’s unmoving form and it took all she had for Annja not to flinch as the gunshots echoed around the enclosed confines of the cenote.  The rope she’d intended to use to reach the surface was thrown down a few moments later.  Laughter drifted down from above and then moved off until she couldn’t hear it anymore.

Annja pulled herself out of the muck and took a deep breath, not only to fill her lungs with air but to keep her startled wits about her as well.  It wouldn’t do anyone any good if she lost it now.  There were too many innocents in the camp above depending on her to rescue them.

And that was precisely what she intended to do.

She reached out and placed her fingers tips on Arturo’s throat, checking for a pulse, wanting to be sure.  She would have been highly surprised if he’d survived the fall, never mind the gunshot wound to the head, but stranger things had happened and she didn’t want to leave without being certain.

In the end it turned out to be wasted effort.

Arturo was dead.

Gently, she brushed the side of her palm down over his eyes, closing them, and then stood up.  A glance upward told her she was still alone and she suspected it would remain that way.  By now the handful of people working the dig site had either already been rounded up or slaughtered as Arturo had.  There was no reason for the assailants, whoever they were, to examine the “hole” a second time.

Especially since they thought they had taken care of the only means of getting back up from the bottom.

But Annja wasn’t about to let the lack of a rope hinder her.  She had friends up above, friends who were clearly in trouble, and she’d go through hell and high water to get to them.

The walls of the cenote were formed from limestone and, thanks to the constant erosion of the water that had filled the hole, were pockmarked throughout, providing all sorts of hand- and footholds for those who knew how to use them.

Having done her fair share of rock-climbing, Annja was one of those people.

She grabbed a hold and started climbing.  Those unfamiliar with the sport often try to pull themselves upward using the strength of their arms alone.  This causes lactic acid to quickly build up in their muscles, cramping them, and tiring the climber quicker than is necessary.  Annja knew better.  With more than a hundred feet to go, she had to be sure to conserve her energy, which meant using her hands primarily for balance and doing the majority of the work with her legs.   She was careful where she put her hands and feet, knowing that the pockets of eroded rock might still be damp or even full of water.  Without a rope, one slip could be fatal.

Slowly, carefully, she worked her way to the top.

Once there, she cautiously peeked over the lip of the cenote and then, not seeing anyone nearby, pulled herself up and onto solid ground.

As silently as a stalking cat, she rolled smoothly to her feet and slipped into the thick foliage of the nearby jungle.  The sun had set during her assent of the sinkhole, something for which Annja was thankful.  The darkness would provide additional cover for her as she moved through the dense undergrowth in the direction of the dig’s main encampment.

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2009 by Joe Nassise
Playing in Someone Else’s World – Rogue Angel
Warrior Spirit

Warrior Spirit

A little over a year ago, I picked up the first novel in a new action adventure series featuring a female archeologist named Annja Creed as the main character.  I had noticed them while poking through the SF/Fantasy section of my local bookstore.  I’d never heard of the author before, one Alex Archer, but the story looked interesting and on a whim I decided to give it a shot.

That simple little act actually turned out to have a rather large impact on my career.

I enjoyed DESTINY, the first book in the Rogue Angel series from Worldwide Library very much.  The story was an interesting mix of adventure, action, and mysticism, with the main character, Annja Creed, stumbling upon a shattered sword that once belonged to Joan of Arc.  The sword resembles itself before her eyes and bonds to her in some mystical way, allowing her to draw it out of nothingness whenever she has need of it.  Of course, being the bearer of the sword is no picnic, as Annja soon realizes when she finds herself drawn into situation after situation that forces her to play guardian for the innocent and unwary.


The Forbidden City

Intrigued, I went out and bought the next several books in the series, whipping through them fairly quickly.  By doing so, I discovered a couple of things.  Each volume was, in fact, a stand alone product.  You could pick up any book in the series and still be able to figure out what was going on.  You didn’t feel that you were at a disadvantage for not reading the prior volumes, which I thought was a nice touch.  (I found out later this was a specific requirement for the writers working on the series, which makes total sense from a marketing standpoint and a good move by the publisher.)  I also discovered that Alex Archer was, in fact, a pseudonym for the team of writers putting out the series.

At the time I began reading them, the Rogue Angel books were being written by three individual writers.  If you read them closely, you could tell the difference between volumes – one writer tended to be more circumspect in his fight scenes while another seemed to enjoy the blood and guts of a good sword fight, little things like that – but as a whole they were remarkably cohesive given the situation.  I was impressed that three different people could write the same characters with such a similar voice and wondered if I could do the same.

As I pondered that, the desire to write for the Rogue Angel series began to grow in the back of my head.  I was under contract to write a couple of original novels of my own over the next few years, but something about the series – be it the characters, the setting, or the tone – made me want to try my hand at it.

After some heavy thought, I got in touch with my agent and told him I wanted to send in a proposal and give it a shot.

To make a long story short, a couple of months later I was holding a contract in my hands to write THE LOST TOMB and YIN & YANG, my first two novels in the Rogue Angel series.


Gabriel's Horn

The writing time on each was rather short, only a handful of months, and I quickly discovered that writing in someone else’s world was tougher than I thought.  Not only did I have to get the background details right, but I had to find the right tone for the character and the right combination of theme and tone for the books themselves.  The product had to fit in seamlessly with the volumes that had come before and still be original and entertaining.

But I can honestly say that when I turned in that first volume, which focuses on Annja’s search for the legendary tomb of the Mongol warlord, Genghis Khan, I was pretty damned satisfied.  Writing for the series was everything I had expected it to be – both challenging and entertaining at the same time.

This week I’m putting the finishing touches on my second book for the series, YIN & YANG.  I’ve also submitted a proposal to write several more books featuring Annja Creed, which was greeted with enthusiasm by the publisher.    Looks like I’ll be sharing adventures with Annja for at least another year, maybe more and I couldn’t be happier.  Taking that chance has helped me discover another outlet for my creative endeavors, has helped put food on the table and money in the bank (which is always a nice thing) and has allowed me to stretch my writing talents to show that I’m capable of fitting into an already established universe as seamlessly as those who had gone before.

And that makes all the effort worthwhile.

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