07/7/17

SCARLET DEVIL Is Available Now in Kindle & Paperback!

It’s been a long wait, but SCARLET DEVIL is finally here. I hope you enjoy it. I certainly enjoyed writing it. It required a lot of research, and it takes things in a new direction. I had no desire to write the same book a fourth time, but I’m pleased to bring Kate back with a vengeance. I put her through the ringer this time, but she’s a resilient heroine. Hopefully she will forgive me.

Official Synopsis:

As agents of the Crown hunt the last pirates of the Caribbean toward extinction, Captain Kate Warlowe and the treacherous crew of the Scarlet Devil search for an uncharted island where a fabled lost city supposedly yields limitless fortune. What they find is far more terrifying than a walk to the gallows. The haunted people of an ancient civilization linger in the shadows, led by a mysterious man with a forgotten destiny. Separated from her crew and fighting for her sanity in a place where nothing makes sense, the intrepid Captain Warlowe must keep her wits if she is going to survive the dangers lurking around every corner.

GET IT NOW:

AmazonBarnes & Noble

04/7/17

Scarlet Devil Arrives 7.7.17!

The wait is almost over! Scarlet Devil arrives on Kindle and paperback July 7th, unveiling a dangerous new chapter in Kate’s sordid saga.

Pre-order the Kindle edition today: Amazon

Synopsis:

As agents of the Crown systematically hunt down the last pirates in the Caribbean, Captain Kate Warlowe and the treacherous crew of the Scarlet Devil search for an uncharted island where a fabled lost city supposedly yields limitless fortune. What they find is far more terrifying than a walk to the gallows.

08/24/16

The Devil Is On Her Way

It’s been a while since I’ve updated this blog, mostly because I’ve been very busy. After many delays and restarts, “Scarlet Devil” is finally coming, although you’re gonna have to wait just a little longer. The book will arrive in the first half of 2017. A release date will be announced as soon as pre-orders are available. Hold fast until then! In the meantime, here’s a look at Kate, several years after the events of The Devil’s Horizon. Cover art by Nicole Cardiff. I wanted a different style for this cover, since it mostly stands on its own, and is a different kind of story.

SCARLETDEVIL_ART

 

And here is the official synopsis for Scarlet Devil:

The Golden Age of Piracy is over. The Scarlet Age begins…

As agents of the Crown systematically hunt down the last pirates in the Caribbean, Captain Kate Warlowe and the treacherous crew of the Scarlet Devil search for an uncharted island where a fabled lost city supposedly yields limitless fortune. What they find is far more terrifying than a walk to the gallows.

11/17/15

A Devil’s Fire Short – The Golden Age

The following short takes place during the first Devil’s Fire novel, with a story thread that figures in the upcoming fourth novel, Scarlet Devil. Enjoy!

-Matt Tomerlin

THE GOLDEN AGE

A hideously scarred face passed through a drunken fog, observing Jack Rackham with a contemptuous glower. “Is this man ill?”

“Ish the rum,” Jack slurred as he aimed a fist at the terrible apparition, preparing to strike.

Captain Woodes Rogers slowly stood and moved away from the table. The six redcoats that accompanied him started forward with their muskets, but Rogers halted them. “Violence won’t be necessary. He can’t even stand.”

Rackham placed his palms on the table, heaved upward with all his might, and felt his ass slap the bench before he realized gravity held more sway than his feeble arms. He gave up the impossible task of standing and reached for the near-to-empty jug of rum instead. “A minute, if you please.”

“I can arrange for my physician to have a look at you.”

Even through his drunken stupor, Rackham knew Rogers’ concern was feigned. “You mock me,” he concluded. He was struggling to make sense of all this. His forehead felt as though it had been cleaved by a boarding axe, with a granado crammed in his skull for good measure. His last plunder had afforded his crew a long holiday in Nassau, and he had been drinking for six days straight. He’d heard rumors of the Crown’s imminent arrival, but that was nothing new, so he hadn’t taken them seriously. Now, as he looked over the town from the upper balcony of Sassy Sally’s tavern, he saw redcoats instead of pirates. They had filtered through like ants, lining the main street and setting up camp in the old fort. Many of the citizens had retreated to their shacks or tents. Half of the ships had fled the harbor when the two frigates arrived.

“I intend no offense,” Rogers flatly replied. His attire was as plain as his personality, the antithesis of the colorful and varied garb found among the pirate inhabitants of the island he had invaded. He wore a tan leather coat, a brown waistcoat, white breeches, and a black tricorn hat. The only thing truly notable about him was the scar that cratered his left cheek, where he had apparently been struck by musket shot. “I offer peace, not violence, which is more than you have granted your numerous victims, pirate.”

“Don’t riddle at me. Speak plain Engsh . . . Engelsh . . . lish.” Continue reading

04/29/15

Movie Review: Avengers: Age of Ultron

The villainous Tony Stark

The villainous Tony Stark

There’s quite a lot going on in Avengers: Age of Ultron, yet all of it starts to blend together about an hour in, which is around the time that I realized this was the exact same movie all over again, with twice the action and half the attention span.

I don’t know much about Ultron’s comic origins but it HAS to be better than this. There is maybe two minutes of development, which is just enough to prove that Tony Stark is about as intelligent as your average toddler shoving his finger in a light socket to see what happens. Based on this movie, I have no idea why Ultron is so popular. James Spader’s dialogue was occasionally funny (there’s a great exchange between him and Andy Serkis), but mostly he’s just promising death and destruction and all the other scary stuff we’ve heard from every Marvel villain so far. In the words of Janosz from Ghostbusters II, “I know, you told me all this.”

I didn’t understand Vision’s origin at all, even as it was being breathlessly explained after he randomly materialized. I’m sure someone more invested in the character could tell me what it all meant, but no amount of #marvelsplaining is going to fix the movie’s basic storytelling flaws. A movie should never rely on knowledge of the source material to be enjoyed.

The plot continues to depend on the lazy “character gets hypnotized by magic” device to pit allies against one another, because we didn’t get enough of that in the first film apparently. Even when they’re not entranced by Scarlet Witch or by Loki’s scepter, they’re bickering needlessly. There’s one almost interesting sequence where we see the Avengers’ fears and regrets come to life, but none of these moments have room to breathe. This felt like a small remnant of that more personal Avengers movie Whedon claimed he wanted to make.

The Natasha/Banner romance is odd. We’re suddenly expected to believe they always had smoldering chemistry. There’s some really silly flirtation between them at a party early in the film. There’s a scene where Natasha is wearing nothing but a bath towel and Banner doesn’t even seem tempted, which doesn’t exactly warm me to him. I get that he’s afraid of Hulking out during sex, but his whininess makes him hard to root for. Captain America and Black Widow had much better chemistry with far less dialogue in The Winter Soldier. And then there’s the totally pointless admission from Natasha that she can’t get preggers, and the sad way she pretends she doesn’t care about that. Would it be so bad if she truly didn’t care? It’s depressing to see her reduced to this cliché after such a strong turn in The Winter Soldier.

I liked Hawkeye this time around, as he had some of the best lines and he felt more like an everyman than anyone else on the team. Scarlet Witch was visually cool, and Elizabeth Olsen’s Eastern European accent is perfect. There’s just not enough of her, and she could easily sustain her own movie. Quicksilver gets the least screen time of anyone, but Aaron Taylor-Johnson makes the most of what he has.

The banter between Stark, Thor, and Captain America is where the film shines. The debate about the physics of Thor’s hammer had me cracking up. There’s a funny line of dialogue practically every sixty seconds, but once in a while Whedon drops an eye-roller like, “Sometimes exactly what I want to hear isn’t exactly what I want to hear.” What?

This movie is bogged down by its transparently petty need to show Man of Steel how much more “responsible” it is (since Marvel fanboys decided to fixate endlessly on the mass destruction at the end of Man of Steel). Way too much time is spent showing the Avengers saving the civilians, who, ironically, they put in danger in the first place. The greatest villain of the picture is Tony Stark, who started this whole thing by sticking his finger in that light proverbial socket. It didn’t shock him, just everyone else. He gets some flak from the team, but not nearly as much as he should (and they’re all such jerks to each other it’s hard to tell when they’re actually angry). He should have been kicked out immediately.

There are some cool action sequences, but nothing tops the siege on a Hydra castle in a snowy forest at the start of the film, where the skirmish moves along like the panels of a comic book in an unbroken shot, reintroducing each Avenger. The Hulk vs. Hulkbuster fight is fun, but it feels like it was thrown in just because “HULK VS. HULKBUSTER!!!” and there aren’t any major consequences because of it.

After that first hour, the action becomes cynical in its waves of CG explosions and debris-scattering repetition, as though Whedon resented the bloated, mindless movie he realized he was making. The climax is a retread of the first movie in a less interesting setting, with the heroes mowing down hordes of generic CG enemies like a video game (first faceless aliens, now faceless robots). I was never worried for any of the Avengers. I never for a moment thought Ultron would win. It was all very familiar, and very exhausting.

“I’m in a loop,” yells Bruce Banner in a bout of frustration, after events have become too repetitive even for him. “I’m caught in a time loop.” I get the impression Whedon snuck in that line late in the production, shortly before he informed Marvel he would not return to direct a third.

03/27/15

Black Sails Season 2 Finale “XVIII” Review

“Everyone is a monster to someone. Since you’re so convinced that I am yours, I will be it.” 
-Flint

Warning: Here be spoilers

Captain James Flint is just one of many monsters who have come into their prime in the second season of Black Sails, but he is by far the most compelling. The completely unexpected reveal of his homosexual love affair was not a gimmick, but a moment that brought glaring clarity to every action he has taken. The reserved, tortured, and seemingly one-dimensional villain of season one retroactively became interesting, and this facet of Flint’s character must have always been part of the plan. I applaud the restraint of the writers for not revealing it immediately. There have been perhaps too many Treasure Island prequel novels detailing Flint’s exploits, but Toby Stephens’ interpretation has become, in my eyes, the definitive version of this character.

There are so many big moments this episode, so much fan service, I’m going to have to watch it again very soon to make sure I didn’t miss anything. Seeing Charles Vane fight alongside Flint was thrilling. This version of Vane is more of a dark force of nature than a character, and I’m fine with that. Vane is the quintessential pirate, with no regrets and an insatiable appetite for death and destruction. He’s a fitting contrast for the nuanced Flint. I’m not sure how long they can last as partners, but they now have a common goal. It’s an understatement to say Jack Rackham and his gang are going to have a difficult time keeping their freshly-acquired treasure. And of course we know they can’t.

The gradual transition of John Silver from inspiring spinster to feared man who accidentally commands murder with nothing more than a dark glance has been fascinating to watch. In Treasure Island, Long John Silver was the only man Flint feared, and as of “XVIII” we see Silver closer than ever to becoming that man, even in his diminished state. While Vane is in Charleston attempting to free Flint, Silver’s dealings with the latest ambitious-but-thick-witted pirate to sit in the captain’s chair reveal a far more confident man who is falling into his new role, and maybe enjoying it more than he realizes. And then things go awry, and he’s literally hacked back into reality, bringing us that dreaded moment we all knew was coming. I’m surprised it came so soon, but relieved they didn’t draw it out like the Crispin Glover gag in Hot Tub Time Machine.

The attack on Charleston is glorious and horrific, with quick glimpses of what a cannon ball does to a human’s body. The effects are movie-quality, a marked improvement over the somewhat flawed CGI of season one. Sound design is top notch as well, with constant pistol and musket shot whizzing past, swords clanging, and the poor townsfolk screaming in terror. The slaves helping Flint kill one of their captors was a great detail, and a reminder of why so many became pirates when given the opportunity. The framing of Miranda’s coffin in the background of another big scene was perfect; Flint’s last tie to civilization forever lost as the structures of Charleston crumble around him. Black Sails can be a bit too talky, but this was visual poetry at its finest.

Jack Rackham and Anne Bonny basically bookend this episode, with nothing inbetween, but their journey is crucial, setting high stakes for season 3. One of my few complaints this season was the treatment of Anne Bonny, who spent most of it moping around feeling sorry for herself. But it was great to see her killing Jack’s attackers in the previous episode, and even better to see her finally where she truly belongs, on the deck of a ship, and I’m curious where she goes from here. I’d be fine with Black Sails recreating her capture and trial, but given the sudden death of Ned Low, it seems anything can happen.

No sign of Eleanor this episode, but I have a feeling her trial in London will be key. When pressed for information, she could be a valuable asset in undoing the pirates of Nassau.

The second season of Black Sails has improved on the first in nearly every way (characters, writing, and production in general). The only problem Starz faces now is topping this season. Casting Ray Stevenson as Blackbeard is certainly a step in the right direction. The wait is going to be painful.

09/18/14

A Short Update

As you can see, mtomerlin.com has a new design. Still working out a few kinks, but hopefully it’s a little more pleasing than the last. I intend to do more updates in the coming weeks, as I’ve been entirely too neglectful of this blog. Look for more irritable reviews of big movies and big television shows. Gotham is coming to Fox next week, and if that doesn’t blow my skirt up there will be hell to pay.

Scarlet Devil (or The Scarlet Devil… the “the” comes and goes, depending on how I feel from day to day), is coming along nicely, but is still a ways off. I’m not rushing it as I did the previous two books, which somehow, against all odds, turned out fairly decent. I’ve made a lot of changes to the first draft. It continues to evolve. Some new developments should make Devil’s Fire fans very happy. Though I maintain that this is a standalone story that could be read with no knowledge of the previous books, some loose threads from The Devil’s Horizon will pay off in this novel.

I’ve also started dabbling in Mojave Shadow again, my elusive horror western that was on its way, and then wasn’t. It’s not dead. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, check out K.M. Aleena’s stunning review of The Devil’s Tide, which brought a tear to my eye.
http://kmalleena.wordpress.com/2014/09/19/the-devils-demise-the-devils-tide-by-matt-tomerlin/

07/15/14

Sci-Fi Blockbusters: When Did Humans Become So Boring?

The summer movie season of 2014 has been filled with charismatic monsters, robots, apes, and aliens… and a wealth of slack-jawed humans to gawk at them while offering nothing resembling a personality. If you’d never seen Bryan Cranston or Ken Watanabe in anything else, Godzilla certainly wouldn’t cause you to scan their IMDB pages. Cranston plays an obsessed father who dies rather stupidly (on a falling bridge, like Captain Kirk) early on, leaving his son, played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Kickass) to carry us through the remainder of the movie. Taylor-Johnson is one of those magical military types who just happens methodically through every major plot point (despite the story taking place across half the planet) and seems to be the only character with the powers of perception. He can command fellow soldiers with nothing more than a convincing speech. Of course, the titular monster does not disappoint, and the movie soars whenever he shows up. Godzilla obviously can’t talk, and thus can’t explain to the audience who he is, but it becomes clear through his actions. By the end of the film, Godzilla is a far better character than the humans who marvel at him. Perhaps that’s as it should be, but we spend much more time with the bland humans. Continue reading

05/4/14

MOVIE REVIEW: THE AMAZINGLY BLOATED SPIDER-MAN

(Spoilers contained within. Ye be warned.)

Name's Electro. The "DERP" is silent.

Name’s Electro. The “DERP” is silent.

Thanks to Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone, the Amazing Spider-Man 2 doesn’t entirely suck. It only kind of sucks. It really sucks whenever Electro (Jamie Foxx) is onscreen, and composer Hans Zimmer, who apparently had one shroom too many while writing the score, insists on generic dubstep with a repetitious chant (“You used me! You lied to me! You are dead to me! Spider-Man is my enemy!”) evidently meant to echo the voices in Electro’s head. Unfortunately, the voices in Electro’s head are morons, and so is the character.

Before he becomes Electro, Foxx plays the under-appreciated Oscorp worker-bee Max Dillon with a nerdy passive-aggressiveness far too reminiscent of Jim Carrey’s Edward Nigma in Batman Forever. In a scene ripped from another Batman movie, Max is wandering down the very same street that Spidey happens to be battling an angry Paul Giamatti (I’ll get to him later), carrying a bundle of blueprints, which he of course clumsily drops, because that’s what Selina Kyle did in Batman Returns. Spidey saves Max’s life, because that’s what Batman did in Batman Returns. In a new development that the screenwriters came up with all on their own, Spidey notices Max’s name on his name tag, and addresses him by name while basically mocking him and his silly comb-over. Max is immediately smitten, overjoyed that Spidey has acknowledged him, and too stupid to realize he’s being mocked by a superpowered hipster in spandex. Continue reading

01/18/14

Black Sails Review: Exciting and Authentic Pirate Action

The-Black-Sails-gangBlack Sails immediately captures the brutality and theatricality of pirates with an opening that is as fearsome as it is breathless. The action is smartly portrayed from the perspective of the victims, as their ship is mercilessly set upon by vicious pirates. This exciting opening sparks a plot that is intended to lead directly into Treasure Island.

Black Sails is a stunning, lavishly detailed production, blurring the lines between big budget film and television. Bear McCreary provides a stirring score that isn’t overly piratey. The acting is surprisingly solid from a cast that is generally a little too good-looking. I’m not yet sold on this interpretation of John Silver (Luke Arnold). His charming rogue-ishness seems a little forced, and is one of the few genre cliches to be found. Of course, this is a younger Silver, before the loss of his leg. Captain Flint (Toby Stephens), on the other hand, is a very interesting character, and has some fun interplay with his quartermaster.

The dialogue (particularly Hannah New as the hard-as-nails Eleanor) seems to be trying a little too hard to be Deadwood at times. Poetic vulgarity is difficult to pull off, though Black Sails gets props for trying. There’s room for improvement here, but even the finest shows have spent much of the first season finding a specific voice and tone. This one starts out more confident than most, but it still needs a little work. A bit more humor wouldn’t hurt.

As a rabid fanboy of historical pirates, I appreciated much of the detailed authenticity of the setting. Real historical pirates make an appearance, including “Calico Jack” Rackham (Toby Schmitz) and Charles Vane (Zack McGowan). They’re only shown briefly in the pilot, but I’m looking forward to more. The only historical element I was put off by was the portrayal of Anne Bonny (Clara Paget). By all accounts, Bonny was attractive, brash, and Irish. Black Sails gives us a fetching (even though they try to hide it) but mousy tomboy with what sounded like a British accent. This characterization would be far better suited to Anne’s partner in crime, Mary Read. Still, we get a brief glimpse of a potentially fun and formidable female character.

The show appears to use CG for the longshots of ships at sea, which took a little getting used to. I’m sure there’s no other way, given that filming actual ships at sea is probably way too expensive for a TV show. The establishing shot of Nassau, however, is utterly breathtaking. Everything on deck is very convincing and appropriately grimy.

I like that, apart from Silver, it’s not treated as a self-referential pirate story thus far. It’s all very gritty and realistic. There’s a brutal sword fight at the end of the episode that Neil Marshall (The Descent, Centurion, and an episode of Game of Thrones) directs with his usual bloody fanfare.

There’s a lot to like here, but these characters will need to evolve in subsequent episodes to keep up the momentum. It’s certainly a better start than Spartacus had, and that show turned out great. Time will tell, but this is a promising first episode in what looks to be an exciting show, and I can recommend it on the production values alone.

Black Sails premieres on Starz on Saturday, January 25th.