Monthly Archives: March 2014

Steven A McKay: The Wolf and the Raven (Review)

Author

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Biography

My second book, The Wolf and the Raven will be released on April 7th, get your pre-order in now and come meet me at the London Book Fair between April 8-10!I was born in 1977, near Glasgow in Scotland. I live in Old Kilpatrick with my wife and two young children. After obtaining my Bachelor of Arts degree I decided to follow my life-long ambition and write a novel.Historical fiction is my favourite genre, but I also enjoy old science-fiction and some fantasy.

Bernard Cornwell’s King Arthur series was my biggest influence in writing “Wolf’s Head”, but I’ve also really enjoyed recent books by guys like Ben Kane, Glyn Iliffe, Douglas Jackson and Simon Scarrow.

I play lead/acoustic guitars (and occasional bass) in a heavy metal band when we can find the time to meet up.

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Book Description

In the aftermath of a violent rebellion Robin Hood and his men must fight for survival with an enemy deadlier than any they’ve faced before…

1322. England is in disarray and Sir Guy of Gisbourne, the king’s own bounty hunter, stalks the greenwood, bringing bloody justice to the outlaws and rebels who hide there.
When things begin to go horribly wrong self-pity, grief and despair threaten to overwhelm the young wolf’s head who will need the support of his friends and family now more than ever. But Robin’s friends have troubles of their own and, this time, not all of them will escape with their lives…

Violence, betrayal, brutality and death come to vivid life in The Wolf and the Raven, the brilliant sequel to Amazon’s “War” chart number 1, Wolf’s Head.

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Buy the eBook

Review

I’m always intrigued by a series starring Robin Hood, there haven’t been too many worth while series in recent years, but then along came Angus Donald with his brilliant series with the style godfather meets robin hood, i was hooked again. Out of the blue another new name appeared, admittedly self published but for me that’s never an impediment, in fact with some of the latest awesome writers, SJA Turney, Gorden Doherty and now Steven A McKay can really write, easily as well as those historical fiction authors being represented and published by the big mainstream publishing houses.

Steven was kind enough to ask me to beta read this book, which for a frustrated writer like myself is a wonderful insight into the writing process. It also meant much less of a wait between books. Book one saw the building of a new world, a different Robin Hood, a Robin Hood those in Nottinghamshire (where i live) would point and shout thief! As he moves Robin Hood away from the boundaries of his fabled home, north into Yorkshire. He manages to pull this off with some considerable style and makes it believable, which is key to this type of book.

Book two The Wolf and the Raven takes Robin Hoods band of men to the next stage, they are still on the wrong side of the law, but now worse they are on the wrong side of a rebellion, and there is a new name hunting Robin and his men. Guy of Gisbourne, and Guy is not the blonde clumsy wally from the TV series of the 80’s this Guy is a black clad killing machine with a devious scheming mind.

I’m not going to say that this is the complete novel, but it is a great fun read, Its well researched, well thought out and has a really fun interesting plot that carry’s you from first page to last with a fairly rapid pace its well worth paltry £2.26 that is the cover price.

So if you’re looking for something to whisk you back to medieval times for a journey around the woodlands dodging soldiers, living off the land, robbing the rich to live and giving back what you can, some classic Robin Hood mixed with some realistic wolf’s head exploits, then this is a series you need to read.

I feel there is a lot more to come from this series and this writer.

recommended

(Parm)

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Filed under Historical Fiction, Steven A McKay

Dean Crawford: Apocalypse (Review)

Author

crawford

Dean Crawford began writing after his dream of becoming a fighter pilot in the Royal Air Force was curtailed when he failed their stringent sight tests. Fusing his interest in science with a love of fast-paced revelatory thrillers, he soon found a career that he could pursue with as much passion as flying a fighter jet. Now a full-time author, he lives with his partner and daughter in Surrey.

Author Web Site

Buy the book UK

Buy the book USA

Book Description

appo

The future has changed its course. In the notorious Bermuda Triangle a private jet vanishes without trace, taking with it scientists working for world-famous philanthropist Joaquin Abell. In Miami, Captain Kyle Sears is called to a murder scene. A woman and her daughter have both been shot through the head. But within moments of arriving, Sears receives a phone call from the woman’s husband, physicist Charles Purcell. ‘I did not kill my wife and daughter. In less than twenty-four hours I too will be murdered and I know the man who will kill me. My murderer does not yet know that he will commit the act.’ With uncanny accuracy, Charles goes on to predict the immediate future just as it unfolds around Sears, and leaves clues for a man he’s never met before: Ethan Warner. The hunt is on to find Purcell, and Ethan Warner is summoned by the Defense Intelligence Agency to head up the search. But this is no ordinary case, as Warner and his partner Nicola Lopez are about to discover, and time is literally everything.

Review

Apocalypse is an interesting thriller, the basic premise revolves around the abuse of time by the “Baddie”. Standing in the way of said bad guy(s) are Warner, Lopez and Bryson… can they stop world domination?

As ever the best heroes are the unlikely ones, the author creates likable slightly flawed heroes which to me is important, no one likes a perfect hero (superman is a pain in the butt). When you couple the clever witty characterisation with the splendid twists and turns  and a bad guy who just stops short of saying *ah Mr. bond* in his style, you do get a bit of cliché but most of all you get a fun enjoyable read.

Among its only real sins in the book, were poor female characters and technology that i just didn’t believe, even in a book where I’m suspending belief. But the fun and the twists carried me through, along with the authors devil may care kill anyone attitude.
The best compliment i can give it is that i will be reading the next one, and i will be looking for growth.

a perfect holiday read.

(Parm)

Other Books

Ethan Warner
1. Covenant (2011)
2. Immortal (2012)
3. Apocalypse (2012)
4. The Chimera Secret (2013)
The Eternity Project (2013)
CovenantImmortalApocalypseThe Chimera SecretThe Eternity Project
Holo Sapiens Saga
Holo Sapiens (2013)
Holo Sapiens
Novels
Soul Seekers (2013)
Eden (2013)
Soul SeekersEden

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Miles Cameron: Fell Sword (review)

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Author:

Miles Cameron….AKA… Christian Cameron

Christian Cameron was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1962. He grew up in Rockport, Massachusetts, Iowa City, Iowa, and Rochester, New York, where he attended McQuaid Jesuit High School and later graduated from the University of Rochester with a degree in history.

After the longest undergraduate degree on record (1980-87), he joined the United States Navy, where he served as an intelligence officer and as a backseater in S-3 Vikings in the First Gulf War, in Somalia, and elsewhere. After a dozen years of service, he became a full time writer in 2000. He lives in Toronto (that’s Ontario, in Canada) with his wife Sarah and their daughter Beatrice, currently age seven. He attends the University of Toronto when the gods move him and may eventually have a Masters in Classics, but right now he’s a full time historical novelist, and it is the best job in the world.

Christian is a dedicated reenactor and you can follow some of his recreated projects on the Agora. He’s always recruiting, so if you’d like to try the ancient world, the medieval world, or the late 18th century, follow the Link to contact him.

Fell Sword

Fell Sword

 

THE RED KNIGHT was one of the most acclaimed fantasy debuts of 2012 – and now he rides again. Prepare for one epic battle . . .

Loyalty costs money.

Betrayal, on the other hand, is free

When the Emperor is taken hostage, the Red Knight and his men find their services in high demand – and themselves surrounded by enemies. The country is in revolt, the capital city is besieged and any victory will be hard won. But The Red Knight has a plan.

The question is, can he negotiate the political, magical, real and romantic battlefields at the same time – especially when intends to be victorious on them all?

Review

This is a book that has taken me longer than any other to read this year so far, not because its a bad book, very much the opposite. This book contains some of the most involved, imaginative and impressive world building i have seen, right up there with the depth and passion of lords of the rings.

This is book two in the series following on directly from the fabulous debut that was the Red Knight, once again following the mercenary band headed by the Red Knight, the Captain. A man who is both a fighting Knight at the peak of his prowess, but also a magister (a sorcerer) very powerful and growing in skill all the time. Unlike many books we don’t just live the story from the point of view of the hero (the Red Knight) we get a Multi POV, we see the opinion and perspective of all, and as such get to see what the individual see’s, themselves a hero, or in the right. This multi POV is very encompassing, so  much so that there are times it becomes hard to keep all the threads and all the names straight, hence the length of time needed to read the book.

The world of the Red Knight is HUGE, made more so by the depth of detail, history and politics. This world encompasses much of the real world just with a twist. Outwallers that are native Americans for example, countries that resemble Canada, Great Britain, France, an empire that bears a striking resemblance to a decaying Byzantine empire, the fantastic Nordikans, who more than resemble the Varangian guard. All of these people and places imbued with the authors rich depth of historical knowledge. Miles Cameron being the highly renowned Historical Author Christian Cameron, a writer who imbues all of his work with not just literary research, but with physical research, hours spent in armour and training with weapons. Walking the wilds of Canada wearing the garb of a true knight, all of this detail is powered into his books to stunning effect.

Does Fell sword bring a better book with more satisfaction than Red Knight? yes and no, i found the ending more satisfying than Red Knight, but i think that may be because Red Knight had so much hard work to do with regard to world building, it was only the latter quarter of book one that truly showed the excellence of his writing talent. Fell Sword was a much more immersive encompassing tale, one that carries the reader into the depth of the wilds to learn more of the creatures who dwell there, more of Thorn and what drives him, or more importantly who. Most important of all it takes the reader into the depths of the politics of the world, a truly dark murky, back stabbing politics, politics fueled by ambition and magic. Most interesting is that Fell Sword reveals the true darkness from the wild, we now know what is coming, we just don’t really know why. Its exactly what a middle book should be, if not more, many middle books are a pause, this is anything but. Next year 2015 will see the third book in the series The Tournament of Fools, i highly recommend getting a Pre-Order in, i feel its going to sell fast.

Its a book i highly recommend you read in large bites, not small. But most of all its a book i Highly recommend to all readers, not just fantasy of Historical fiction.

(Parm)

Other books by this author

Traitor Son Cycle
1. The Red Knight (2012)
2. The Fell Sword (2014)
3. The Dread Wyrm (2015)
The Red KnightThe Fell Sword
Tyrant
1. Tyrant (2008)
2. Storm of Arrows (2009)
3. Funeral Games (2010)
4. King of the Bosporus (2011)
5. Destroyer of Cities (2013)
6. Force of Kings (2014)
TyrantStorm of ArrowsFuneral GamesKing of the BosporusDestroyer of CitiesForce of Kings
Long War
1. Killer of Men (2010)
2. Marathon: Freedom or Death (2011)
3. Poseidon’s Spear (2012)
4. The Great King (2014)
Killer of MenMarathon: Freedom or DeathPoseidon's SpearThe Great King
Tom Swan and the Head of St George
1. Castillon (2012)
2. Venice (2012)
3. Constantinople (2012)
4. Rome (2013)
5. Rhodes (2013)
6. Chios (2013)
CastillonVeniceConstantinopleRomeRhodesChios
 Novels
Washington and Caesar (2001)
God of War (2012)
The Ill-Made Knight (2013)
The Long Sword (2014)
Washington and CaesarGod of WarThe Ill-Made KnightThe Long Sword

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Filed under Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Miles Cameron

The Parthenon Enigma by Joan Breton Connelly

About the author
Joan Breton Connelly

Joan Breton Connelly is Professor of Classics at New York University.She has held visiting fellowships at All Souls and New College, Oxford, at Harvard University and at Princeton. She is the author of Portrait of a Priestess: Women and Ritual in Ancient Greece.

Book Description

parthenon

A radical new interpretation of the meaning and purposes of one of the world’s most iconic buildings.

For more than two millennia, the Parthenon has been revered as the symbol of Western culture and its highest ideals. It was understood to honour the city-state’s patron deity, Athena, and its sculptures to depict a civic celebration in the birthplace of democracy.

But through a close reading of a lost play by Euripides, Joan Connelly has developed a theory that has sparked fierce controversy. Here she explains that our most basic sense of the Parthenon and the culture that built it may have been crucially mistaken. Re-creating the ancient structure, and using a breathtaking range of textual and visual evidence, she uncovers a monument glorifying human sacrifice set in a world of cult ritual quite alien to our understanding of the word ‘Athenian’.

Review
I don’t often step outside my comfort zone of fiction, but every now and again there is something that is just too tempting to resist.
Thanks to the fantastic fictional author Christian Cameron i have developed a passion for things set in ancient Greece, i strive to learn and know more, but often struggle for time.
What this means is that i can enjoy the history of something like The Parthenon Enigma and how it explores something new as a concept, but not because its a new concept, just for the history, i don’t know enough about the Parthenon to know the old and extrapolate the new ground.
What i can say is that for anyone who loves history, be they serious historians or interested travelers in time like me, this book is a great read. For non fiction that i normally peruse through over a period of months, this book sped by in a matter of days. Maybe that’s the love of Greek culture and maybe its the style and content of the book, it is for the individual reader to decide.
What i can say is that this book stands out from the pack, both in cover and content and is well worth the time and money to read.
(Parm)

 

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Giles Kristian: God of Vengeance trailer film shoot (Behind the scenes)

God of Vengeance: Trailer shoot, Day 2

GoV

 

Sunday morning 6am alarm clock wake up, not so bad…except when you got to sleep at 1am.

So with much yawning and sneaking around the house to avoid waking the wife and Granddaughter, I finally got my bad ready, weapons stacked, food and drink ready and filled the boot. Leaving the house to a now awake family…The Granddaughter doesn’t like to sleep much past dawn. (double yawn).

A quick easy ride to Lincoln, I approached the point where I’m thankful for a SatNav, coming up the ring road towards Lincoln, The Cathedral and Castle rose out of the morning mist in the early morning sun. I was so lost in the power of the scene and how, apart from the houses cluttering the foreground, that iconic misty scene had been seen by people for hundreds of years, that i missed the turning and then had a quick play in Lincoln’s one way system.

Finally back on track i followed the directions to their conclusion, pulled up at a farm house, and decided the damn thing had got me lost again.

So a quick potter back up the road, and a call the Phil Stevens director extraordinaire from Urban Apache Films .

Change of meeting point, to the offices of Urban Apache in the center on Lincoln, and I’m a little pleased, who doesn’t want to see where some of the magic happens?

Another quick fight with the satnav, trying to make me drive through central reservations and up one way streets, and I’m there. Phil arrives soon after…looking….well, lets say worn around the edges. Most of the cast and crew only got to sleep after 3am, so coffee, McDonalds and what ever they can get to wake up is on the cards. All of this makes me shut up about my lack of sleep very fast.

The next hour is filled with some very tired people being made up by the happiest, nicest people of the day, makeup and wardrobe, the ladies organising and creating with quiet competence and humour despite their lack of sleep.

My first chance of the day to be useful came in the form of finding a hand dryer in the gents, The outfit for Floki (William Clayton) was still wet and muddy from the previous day, so to save Floki from a very damp arse and and uncomfortable morning on set, I spend the next 20 plus minutes blasting as much hot air as possible through the material (thank god for asbestos hands). (wonder if Phil will get told off for the state of the muddy toilet)?

Running about an hour behind the call sheet, which was pretty good going considering the walking dead that had arrived at 7.30am. A short 40 min drive, once again at the whim of the SatNav gods, who actually found the set, a quarry in the middle on who the hell knows where in Lincolnshire, I admit… I was impressed.

There must be something about Film shoots with Giles Kristian, this is the second one i have been lucky enough to go on, the last one Bleeding Land Shoot was also a beautiful sunny day. Even at 9am the sun was warm enough to ditch jumpers.

The first action of the day was a walk up to the film site, following a long winding path through the quarry and a decision for everyone, Do you want to drive your car around that winding path up to the site of the shoot?

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Immediately I heard the wife’s voice in the back of my head…NO… so that saved me worrying about that.

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Time to suit up…Not me, one day if there is a HUGE crown scene they might be daft enough to let me the wrong side of the lens, but for now I’m happy enough snapping away behind me little camera and pretending I know what I’m doing.

Time for the weapons to come out, cue Giles pulling out his huge chopper…. ok so I had to get that line in there…. His axe will feature in the filming.

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Having enjoyed this process before I was more prepared for the walk through, scene setting, practice and generally trying to get everything right before the camera rolls.

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One thing from the day that I wasn’t expecting was a second camera crew, a group of young lads doing a “making of” film for the God of Vengeance shoot. …. I think that meant i was doing the making of the making of GoV,,,well at least according to Giles.

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Another reason for not being in the shoot (aside from not being an actor, too old etc..)…. Look at the flipping size of these guys! (of course im way more toned that that…. Honest)

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The main thrust of Day 2’s filming, is the scene from the book where Floki is chained at the weeping stone, and must fight all comers.

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This is where the skill of the make up and wardrobe ladies really started to show, the amazing attention to detail that’s so easy to miss, the way the drape and texture of something is delivered to the camera if left at just the right angle. I even got roped into helping build a Viking bivouac/ lean to.

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That thing would still be there now we built it that well. (spot who was overly pleased to have contributed something that will be on film.)

Finally after several hours of prep work and camera set up its time to actually film something, and to some this may seem a bit tedious, but for me the time flew past. I’d have happily started building a cabin if we had needed too.

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Giles is everywhere now, making sure people are happy, included, that the scene matches his writing.

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This scene in God of Vengeance is one of the most iconic, a real blood and guts introduction to a key character, in the book its stunningly written so Phil has his  work well and truly cut out trying to reproduce this on camera.

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Each scene is walked through before the shot is actually taken, the below are shots of initial attack on Floki, where everyone learns…. well… read the book , watch the trailer, you’ll see.

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What you don’t often see in the final product are the down time moments, the mix of the modern and the ancient

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The demand for consistency in a film that’s minutes long but takes a day to shoot. The chasing of the light away from the quarry walls, the reflecting of light with a large piece of polystyrene. All filmed with the skill and technique that means none of that movement will ever been seen by others.

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The skill of many on set in stunning, with Phil and Lewis clearly standing out of the pack. Phil, while the director, is also one of the actors, and also clearly along with Giles the driving passion on the day, he not only understand the shots the angles, the drive and desires of the characters, but he also has a clear confidence in the filming and more importantly the weapons and their use in front of camera. Its no easy thing to swing a sword or axe at some one, or have it swing at you. The trust must be total.

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More shots of that pesky fella with the small musculature (cough ….what a wimp)…just for the ladies.

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The Star of the day though had to be Floki, not only facing off against all the big fellas, having to kill the boss, but also being the main focus nearly all day, and that chain, i didn’t know until the end of the day just how heavy that thing was. Not once did he complain about it.

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The close up fighting was where the skill and ingenuity of Lewis came to the fore, every problem that cropped up he could over come with a little idea, always delivered in such a way that it was a group decision to use it. How to fall, how to look like he had received an axe to the guts for the camera. Blood made from (if I remember) corn syrup, and mashed banana for that gory consistency.

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The light is really starting to chase us across the quarry now, its gone 4pm, we have been here since about 9am.

One of the really amazing parts of the day was being allowed behind camera to watch the playback, to see what it would look like when finally shown. I did this once and having just watched it being shot, the buzz of seeing it on screen still gives me a little thrill.

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More gratuitous shots of topless Viking holding Giles chopper… (yup there’s that pun again…) Sorry, there are quite a few ladies who read this blog…. target audience.

This is also the scene i got to watch back on camera.

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Sun is now gone from the early shoot site…our camera man and Phil have a “discussion” about this and the need to more again..Phil wins as usual.

Its late in the day, but we are only a couple of scenes from the end of the day now, Floki is now liberally covered in blood. Its time to gets some still of the little bad ass.

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Now for one of my favorite parts of the day, the death of the big Viking (yes ladies more photos) , the problem is how to get arterial spray, how to project it, and how to time it just right.

It might sound simple, but the more you watch the complexities, the more difficult it gets. The timing being the hardest. Floki pulling the Ax, Phil hidden behind spraying the blood at just the right time.

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Final Scene of the day….Catwalk Viking….Check out the camera poses!

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When Floki finally gets his hands on him, well… its how to choke a Viking.

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…… So sorry if this was all a bit of a tour through my holiday snaps, but the only way to do justice to this amazing day is with pictures.

The amazing people i met, and learned new things from (Thank you)

Phil Stevens… you sir are an inspiration, and i honestly enjoy every minute you allow me to experience on set so thank you.

and Giles… one of the most disgustingly talented individuals i know, but he tempers it with being one of the nicest people i know. Thank you for being kind enough to let me come along again.

The reason for all of this… The upcoming God of Vengeance published on the 10th April 2014

Norway 785 AD. It began with the betrayal of a lord by a king . . .

But when King Gorm puts Jarl Harald’s family to the sword, he makes one terrible mistake – he fails to kill Harald’s youngest son, Sigurd.

On the run, unsure who to trust and hunted by powerful men, Sigurd wonders if the gods have forsaken him: his kin are slain or prisoners, his village attacked, its people taken as slaves. Honour is lost.

And yet he has a small band of loyal men at his side and with them he plans his revenge. All know that Ódin – whose name means frenzy – is drawn to chaos and bloodshed, just as a raven is to slaughter. In the hope of catching the All-Father’s eye, the young Viking endures a ritual ordeal and is shown a vision. Wolf, bear, serpent and eagle come to him. Sigurd will need their help if he is to make a king pay in blood for his treachery.

Using cunning and war-craft, he gathers together a band of warriors – including Olaf, his father’s right hand man, Bram who men call Bear, Black Floki who wields death with a blade, and the shield maiden Valgerd, who fears no man – and convinces them to follow him.

For, whether Ódin is with him or not, Sigurd will have his vengeance. And neither men nor gods had best stand in his way . . .

Buy a Signed copy from Goldsboro Books

Is it any good?

Well my review will be up a bit closer to release… but lets just say : This is the book where the bloody legend of Sigurd is born, given voice not just in swathes of blood and violence, but also in the living breathing Norse world that comes to life on every page, as Giles weaves his tale like a master skald from the past. (so yes that means its going to be one of my top 5 reads for 2014 without fail)

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Filed under Giles Kristian, Historical Fiction

E.J.Swift: Life after publication (Guest post)

EJ Swift image colour

Biography

E. J. Swift is the author of Osiris and Cataveiro, the first two volumes in The Osiris Project trilogy. Her short fiction has been published in Interzone magazine, and appears in anthologies including The Best British Fiction 2013 and Pandemonium: The Lowest Heaven. She is shortlisted for a 2013 BSFA Award in the short fiction category for her story Saga’s Children.

Buy: Osiris: The Osiris Project (Osiris Project 1) [Paperback]

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Buy: Cataveiro: The Osiris Project (Osiris Project 2) [Paperback]

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Author Web site

Life after publication

It’s sometimes strange to reflect back on the time before having a book out in the world, when writing was simply a file on my computer: a purely creative process which I worked at in the hopes of one day being published – but ultimately something I did for myself. Because I always had, and because I couldn’t imagine it not being a part of my life.

As I discussed in a previous post, it took time to get a book deal for Osiris. In a way, it was useful to have gone through the submissions process years before with a different agent – it helped me to manage my expectations. But however prepared you think you are, nothing beats the joy and delight of hearing that someone is going to publish the book you have spent so much time and energy lovingly crafting, probably over years, dreaming of it becoming something more. You start thinking excitedly about cover designs, seeing your novel in bookshops, holding a finished, physical product in your hands.

You don’t think so much about what happens next.

What hit me hardest in the first year was deadlines, and promotion. I’d completely underestimated how much time it would take to do things like emailing bloggers, requesting reviews (and in the early days, trying to get a handle on who I should be contacting – I knew one person in the genre community, and that was my agent), writing posts and keeping my own website up-to-date, not to mention factoring in events like conventions (I’d never been to a convention either). Most writers have a day job, so the time you have to work on your actual writing doesn’t increase – it grows ever more stretched. I’d had years to work on Osiris. I had one year to produce Cataveiro, and it had to be better.

The production process was another steep learning curve. Your manuscript goes through multiple stages on its way to becoming a book – editing, copy-editing, type-setting, page proofs, cover design and so on. These things take time, and mistakes are almost inevitable. The first time something goes wrong – even the tiniest error – it does feel like the end of the world. It feels personal, which of course it isn’t, and most things can quickly be resolved. This is also where I’ve found it immensely useful to be able to talk to other writers. Comparing experiences puts your own into perspective, and sometimes it just helps to have an understanding ear.

I’m now approaching the deadline for the third book in the series, and I’ve had plenty of sleepless nights over how the second one will perform. At this stage, too, I know I need to start thinking ahead. Where do I want to take my writing after this? How do I want to progress, to push myself?

What I have to remember is this: my books are out in the world now. They can be read by people, and I have to let them go; they belong to me, but they don’t belong to me. But ultimately, writing is still something I have to do for myself. Because I always have, and because I can’t imagine life without it.

Many thanks to E.J.Swift.

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Nick Brown: (Author of Agent of Rome Series) Q&A

Author

Nick B

Bio

Nick was born in Norwich in 1974. A keen reader from a young age, he graduated from Enid Blyton to Douglas Hill and JRR Tolkien, and from there to Ian Fleming, Tom Clancy and Michael Crichton. After three years studying in Brighton, he travelled to Nepal where he worked at an orphanage and trekked to Mount Everest. After qualifying as a history teacher in 2000, he worked for five years in England before taking up a post at an international school in Warsaw.

Nick had completed a few screenplays and a futuristic thriller before being inspired to try historical fiction after reading C.J. Sansom’s Dissolution: “Researching the Roman army and life in the third century was a fascinating but time-consuming project and the book went through many drafts before arriving at its final form. I had always intended Cassius to be a somewhat atypical protagonist and when I came across the research about the Roman ‘secret service’, I knew I’d found an ideal vocation  for my reluctant hero.”

Recently, most of Nick’s spare time has been spent on the fourth Agent of Rome novel, but if he’s not writing he might be found at the cinema, in a pub or playing football.

Author web site

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Hi Nick, how are you? Thank you for taking some time away from your busy schedule to answer some questions.

Tell us about your series, and its characters?

My pleasure, Robin!

 The Agent of Rome series is set in the 3rd century AD and follows the adventures of reluctant imperial agent Cassius Corbulo, his ex-gladiator bodyguard Indavara and his Christian servant Simo. So far their travels have taken them to Syria, Cilicia, Rhodes and Africa.

Looking back at you as a writer, and why you became one… 

When and why did you begin writing?

I always liked creative writing as a child but my first real crack at it was after university. I was looking for a job and decided to try a screenplay. It was a contemporary thriller about two American assassins sent to kill each other. I got an agent in L.A. but unfortunately never sold it. Around the year 2000 I started a sci-fi project which again didn’t really get anywhere. I began the first Cassius book in 2005 and it took a long, long time to get right! As for why – I have always loved stories and it was probably inevitable that I would eventually try my hand.  

What inspired you to write your first book?

It’s hard to remember, to be honest. I think I just wanted to see if I could do it and I always have loads of ideas popping around in my head. Although the first two didn’t really get anywhere I learned a lot and proved to myself that I could get to the end of something. That’s the first hurdle really.

Is there a message in your novels that you want readers to grasp?

Not really, though I do try my best to capture something of the reality of the times. We can never really know of course but I research as much as I can to understand what life in the third century was like. My main goal is to create convincing, three-dimensional characters and place them in compelling, varied stories.

How much research is there involved in each book?

Quite a bit – I refer back to all the notes I’ve assembled over the past nine years and also get some new texts. Once I know the location I usually start with that – the geography, economy, political situation etc.; then I move on to what might have been going on there in the 270s. But it’s also the case that the books I’ve bought recently suggest story lines to me. For example, I read ‘Corruption and the Decline of Rome’ by Ramsey Macmullen in 2012 and it informed much of the plot of ‘The Far Shore.’

What books have most influenced your life?

I think anything I really rate probably affects my work in some way at some point. The writers who I’m very conscious of having influenced me include Ian Fleming, Tolkien, Tom Clancy and Michael Connelly. ‘The Lord of the Rings’ is my favourite book and made me appreciate the importance of intriguing, compelling characters. Clancy I loved as a teenager and although he’s not everyone’s cup of tea I think the way he built his plots was fantastic. My dad introduced me to Bond at a young age and Fleming has ensured that I cannot write about a meal without describing exactly what was eaten!

Do you have any advice for budding writers?

I think the main thing is to enjoy the process because making a career out of it is not easy. I always say it’s important to have your story straight before you really commit because you can end up wasting a lot of time otherwise. I would also say try to read the type of thing you want to write and learn from it. What you really need is something you just cannot wait to write – without that type of commitment you’ll struggle to get anything done.  

Finally: Open forum, sell Far Shore to the readers…Why should they buy this book. (oh and what’s next?)

Well I hope it’s a novel that transports you back to the 3rd century and lands you in the middle of a mystery that then leads to a sea voyage and finally a confrontation between my heroes and an exceptionally nasty piece of work! It has been the most well-received of the books so far and there are certainly plenty of twists and turns.

 Next is ‘The Black Stone’ which finds Cassius and Indavara off to Arabia on the trail of a sacred rock. 

Agent of Rome

1. The Siege (2011)
2. The Imperial Banner (2012)
3. The Far Shore (2013)
4. The Black Stone of Emesa (2014)
The SiegeThe Imperial BannerThe Far Shore
Novellas
Death This Day (2012)
The Eleventh Hour (2013)
Death This DayThe Eleventh Hour

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Filed under Historical Fiction, Nick Brown