Gold of the Jaguar: Now Available!

“Through jungles, across the ocean, and in an ancient city forgotten by time, Ethan’s loyalty to family and his code of honor will be pushed to the limit, setting him on a collision course with an old accomplice.

Are you ready for another globe-trotting adventure with Ethan Chase? Yes, he’s back in Gold of the Jaguar! Now available to download wherever you get your ebooks, and with paperbacks coming soon! The Amazon link is here, or you can go to the book’s official page on Evolved Publishing and right here and find links to other book sites.

This book was a bit of a challenge to write, even more than its predecessors, but it was also a delight to once again be at Ethan’s side, dodging bullets and dashing through jungles, all while on the trail of a legendary treasure lost to time. All in all I enjoyed writing this one and I hope you enjoy reading it.

And if you do enjoy reading it, please leave a rating on Amazon! Apart from actually buying an author’s work, giving it a star-rating on Amazon (or whichever site you get it from) is the most helpful thing you can do for an author.


Book Review: ‘The Saxon Stories’ by Bernard Cornwell

I finally did it. I read all thirteen books in The Saxon Stories, and I’m ready to say my final word about the story as a whole.

First off for those who don’t know, The Saxon Stories is a work of historical fiction, telling the epic tale of Uhtred of Bebbanburg (allegedly the distant ancestor of the author). His story spans the reigns of King Alfred the Great of Wessex, King Edward the Elder, and King Athelstan, the first true King of the English.

As a boy, Uhtred’s family is slain in battle by Danish invaders. His uncle claims lordship of the castle of Bebbanburg despite it legally falling to Uhtred, and then he is kidnapped by a Danish warlord and raised like his son. Throughout his life, Uhtred’s singular goal stays the same: reclaim what is his and kill the usurper, his uncle.

Cornwell is an incredible author. He writes with authenticity and emotion, bringing characters to life. You can almost hear the clashing of swords and the screams of dying men, see the flapping banners of kings and chieftains, in his battle scenes. The tension is palpable in scenes in which the pagan Uhtred stands before a Christian king or lord, his fate laying in their hands as they are told by some to exile or execute him for his sins. All in all I really enjoyed his books.

My only real complaint comes from the length of the series. Thirteen books is a lot to read, and eventually minor characters and places start to blend together. In the last couple of books, some characters die whose names I remember, but I can’t exactly remember their relationship to Uhtred so the emotional punch falls flatter than it might. As Uhtred meets younger warriors who tell him how they fought beside him at this or that battle, I struggle to remember which battle it was.

***Spoiler alert in the next paragraph***

And my biggest complaint has to be how Uhtred manages to recapture Bebbanburg before the series actually ends, at the end of book ten. As a result, the last three books didn’t have anywhere near the tension of the first ten because, well, the overarching storyline was already complete. Uhtred was lord of Bebbanburg again! He’d finally done it! Throughout the first ten books, as it seemed that Uhtred was about to die, I’d think, Oh no, and he never got to reclaim his lands! After that, as death approached Uhtred, I met it with more of a shrug. Meh, at least he got to rule Bebbanburg again.

I’m just not a fan of these extended stories, series that are ten, thirteen, fifteen books long. I just don’t think any story needs to be that long. I can think of four or five of these books that could have been cut and you’d still have an epic tale.

But as I said above, this was overall an excellent work of historical fiction that I enjoyed tremendously. I highly recommend it to fans of the genre. For others, maybe give Book 1 a try. I will say the writing style is told in first person from the point of view of a 9th century Saxon, and the writing can feel a bit… blunt at times. It’s kind of hard to describe, but it’s noticeably different from other books. At least, I felt it was.

There’s also the Netflix series available to watch, which is a fine show but I much prefer the books.

New Job!

Some personal news today, but this week I started a new job at work! It’s a step forward in my career path and also something totally different from what I was doing before. For the next three weeks I’ll be in training, learning how to handle the position and its responsibilities. Which of course means I’m going to be feeling pretty dumb until I start to master the role.

I do apologize for the extended hiatus from blogging, it’s been a couple of weeks. There’s been quite a bit going on in the Martuneac household, from the new job to kids now playing in sports leagues. We’re also getting new flooring installed in half the house, so things have been a little hectic!

Gold of the Jaguar, the third Ethan Chase book, is still in edits. When it gets closer to completion I’ll be able to give y’all a tentative date on when you can expect to see it available. Just know that it is coming and I’m really excited for the completed version!

I also haven’t done any book reviews because I’m powering through the rest of Bernard Cornwall’s The Saxon Stories series. I have three or four more books to go and once I’m finished I’ll review the entire series as a whole. I’m aware that there’s also a feature film based on the books coming to Netflix soon, one that will tie up all the loose ends from the conclusion of the Last Kingdom series, and I’ll probably review that one as well.

Lastly, in an update on vanity, Mandate of Heaven is up to four reviews on Amazon, and all are for five stars! If you’ve read that one or Solomon’s Fortune, please consider giving it a rating on Amazon. My fellow authors and reviewers know this, but it truly is so helpful to get reviews and ratings there, even a negative one.

That’s about all I have for you today. Again, I apologize for not blogging much recently but I have tried to keep up with all of your blogs in the meantime! As always, a big ‘thank you’ to all of you reading this!

When to Say Goodbye

The year 2022 has seen the end of two long-running TV shows: The Walking Dead and Grey’s Anatomy. Technically, Grey’s Anatomy is still going but with the departure of the titular character how much longer can it really play? You can’t have The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air without Will Smith.

I never watched Grey’s Anatomy growing up, but I did watch the first three seasons of The Walking Dead. Long enough to first become fully invested in the protagonists and then completely over the use of essentially the same, recycled storylines. I honestly forgot either show was still playing until the major announcements came this year.

Anyway, these shows got me thinking about an old blog post of mine that asked the question: have we forgotten how (or when) to say goodbye? Is that why we allow these television shows to run on and on years after they last commanded national attention, like a bad party guest lingering well into the post-party cleanup?

Maybe it has something to do with the advent of texting, because there’s never really a ‘goodbye’ in a text conversation. Eventually, one person sends a text that is clearly meant to be the end of the conversation, and the receiver is supposed to understand that. There’s no Alright Fred, have a Merry Christmas and I’ll see you next week. Bye now!

It seems a great disservice to fans of popular media, to the characters, and even to the actors and actresses that portray these beloved characters to simply allow them to wither away in relative irrelevance. Where’s the closure? You can’t bid a proper farewell to a friend if you’re simultaneously begging them to leave.

Seinfeld had the right idea. The final season was the #1 ranked show and could have gone on for years longer, but Jerry Seinfeld turned down an extension deal. Much as the fictional version of himself advised George Costanza, he felt it was best to end the show on a high note.

That’s where I find myself when it comes to writing books. I probably could have given Zach and Abby several more zombie adventures, but I stopped with three books. Hell, I didn’t even intend to write more than one book for them at first. Throughout the entire series, I felt like I owed it to the characters to tell their story faithfully, and then to let them leave when the time was right. It pained me to do it, but I said goodbye to my first two protagonists. I felt that both were able to go out with their heads held high.

In my new Ethan Chase series, it would be even easier to carry on ad infinitum, given the more open-ended nature of the genre. But I’m not going to turn it into a cash cow. When the time is right, the series will end, and we’ll have to give Ethan a proper goodbye. It will end on a high note.

This post has become a bit rambling and is getting long, so I’ll take my own advice and end it before I get too sanctimonious. The point of it all is to say that authors, filmmakers, TV producers, should all figure out how they want their story to end and then stick to it within reason. People who fall in love with artistic creations deserve the very best from beginning to end, and that includes a proper goodbye.

Book Review: ‘The Andromeda Strain’ by Michael Crichton

A deadly new virus that kills infected people within seconds is discovered in a remote desert town. A team of scientists are now working around the clock to figure out what it is, how it works, and, most importantly, if they can stop it.

A friend of mine at work lent me his copy of Sphere by Michael Crichton, and I really enjoyed it! So when I was done with that he let me borrow Crichton’s first novel The Andromeda Strain. I read it in a single day.

I’ve only read two Michael Crichton books, but I noticed some striking similarities between Sphere and The Andromeda Strain. First, the protagonists are a group of scientists assembled by the government to investigate something strange from outer space. Second, the protagonists are set in an environment in which they cannot operate as they normally would (in Sphere they are in an underwater station, and in the other they’re in a sterile lab environment working with a virus they don’t dare go near without full hazmat suits).

Lastly, and most oddly, in each book there’s one scientist who, for one reason or another, does not actually partake in the mission. In Sphere, one of them had a panic attack in the submarine that would have taken him far below the ocean, and so remained on a ship, and in this book one of the scientists was in a hospital recovering from a surgery.

I’m not sure why Crichton does this, and I’m not sure if he does it in other books, but I thought it was odd at first to include a character that abruptly exits (for a reason that has nothing to do with the plot, nor does their absence end up effecting the plot) and then it happened again in another book. Just odd.

Anyway, the story itself was thrilling. As I said above, I shot through the entire thing in one day. I did find the ending to be a tad abrupt, however, and a little messy. I don’t think Crichton tied up all his loose ends in a satisfactory way as he did in Sphere.

Also throughout the book it is mentioned by the narrator that the scientists were asking the wrong questions, ignoring valuable data, headed the wrong way, etc. But when the big reveal about the virus is made… it didn’t seem like it was something they could have ever deduced until the moment of the reveal. It just felt weirdly anticlimactic to me.

But it wasn’t a terrible ending by any means. This was still an exciting thriller that I was happy to read, and I would highly recommend it if you haven’t read it already!