Worldkiller #6

Worldkiller #6

mountain-peak-stock

Dura’s frail fist trembled as he punched at the gusting breeze ahead of them, but it struck with the power of the mightiest hammer. Any of the razor shards of ice flying across their path were obliterated, smashed to the smallest slivers. The howling winds on either side seemed to buckle and balk when his reed-like voice cried out in the old speech. An avenue of calm opened through the whirling maelstrom.

Elph dashed forwards, hearing the others’ feet crunching on thickly frozen snow as they raced along the ridge. Once they were safe  on the bare rock at its far end, where sharp ridge met sheer mountain, the bowman turned to see what they had come through. The old magicker, Dura, panted at Elph’s side. His hands were still and his tongue had ceased yelping enchantments.

A mere few paces behind them, a wall of rippling silver stretched from earth to sky, thousands of blades of jagged ice spinning and flying in the highland gale, shredding the blanketed snow and throwing it up to the clouds.

“There’s no going back that way.” Elph muttered.

“That’s a shame and no mistake.” Dura responded. “I’m not optimistic about what lies ahead.”

Find my Kindle author page here.

Palmyrian Night #2

Palmyrian Night #2

Palmyra tower

“If you want to understand today, you have to search yesterday.” – Pearl Buck.

Bardisan stood at the centre of the towering tomb’s black interior. The darkness swaddled thick and heavy around him, so dense that it felt as though his ears were humming with shadowed whispers. There was a chill in the night air, a cold wind sighing through the cavernous maw of the tomb’s doorway and pricking the hairs on his neck.

The master thief’s knees shook, but not from the chill of a desert eve. His eyes were transfixed by the large stone coffin in front of him. It was a dark stone, smooth as marble but infinitely finer. He could not place it, but knew it had to have been brought many thousands of leagues over shifting dunes and bleak mountains.

It would have been beautiful, he thought, if it hadn’t been broken. Someone had obliterated the sarcophagus’ lid in their desperation to get at what lay inside. Now the contents were gone and the black coffin seemed to know it had been emptied, its dark void calling out into the night with a voiceless yearning.

On tiptoes, Bardisan leaned forwards and peered into the bottom of the black stone bin. A hollow face stared back up at him. The master thief pressed a spool of thread into the cavity where eyes had once stared out from now withered sockets. He knew better than to take without giving in return.

Hoofs thundered on the dusty plain beyond the doorway and he heard leather harnesses creaking, saddle ornaments and spurs jangling against each other with a metallic ring. Bardisan let out a panting breath, a robber’s silent scream, and fell back into the shadows.

Read the latest Palmyra news here (BBC) and click here (Sacred Destinations) to find out more about the city’s fascinating history.

For something similar, and an excellent read, check out Emperor and Prophet on one of my favourite blogs (John’s Life and Travels)!

My Writer’s Arsenal (aka What I’m Reading)

I realise that a lot of you will be at most only mildly curious about what I’m reading right now, so I’ve decided to mix things up a little. These are three books that I’m hacking through right now and I think they make a good representation of a literary grunt’s arsenal.

Inspiration

Falcon throne (2)

This is the most obvious thing that you need to have before starting a writing project. Not this book in particular, though it is a good read so far, but a source of inspiration. Most of you will already have a wealth of stories, characters and places rolling around in your heads.

Inspiration can come from somewhere you’ve visited, a TV show you watched, a film or even a conversation you overheard on the train. I’ve chosen a fantasy novel for a number of reasons. It looked like a good read, the genre will provide broad sources for ideas and the fact that it’s a novel means I can learn from an author who’s already made it!

 

Research

Rubicon

This choice was only half for fun. I’m a big fan of ancient Rome and have been since childhood, reading historical fiction like I, Claudius (if you haven’t read it, you should certainly give it a go).
But this is also research for a project I’m writing at the moment, about the members of Rome’s lowest social class at a time of far-reaching upheaval.

I had to hunt to find this title because most bookshops mainly stock histories of the emperors and that famous chap, Julius Caesar was it? Whereas I’m fascinated by the  Roman Republican period after Hannibal and before Spartacus, when Caesar was toddling around in whatever Romans used for nappies.

The Basics

How to

It’s my first time buying this kind of book, let alone reading one. Previously, I’d seen the sharp covers with their slicked-back hair and gaudy knock-off watches, and promptly looked the other way. I’d dismissed them as easy ways to con aspiring writers.

And it’s partly true. You can’t learn how to write well from a book. But what it can do (or so I hope) is help you to learn the rules and know which unexpected pitfalls to avoid. Once you know what the general laws of writing are, at least you can break them while knowing you’re doing it.

Palmyrian Night #1

Palmyra tower

“If you want to understand today, you have to search yesterday.” – Pearl Buck.

Bardisan woke up with a groggy haze filling his heavy head. His conscious mind struggled to find a sensible thought among the jumbled fog of sleep and bleary-eyed laziness. Meanwhile, his instincts seemed to be screaming inside his own skull.

“Someone knocks at the door!” The voice in the back of his head screeched. “It’s night, get up!”

Focusing his gaze with teeth-clenching effort on the oil lamp beside his bed and the sputtering, murky orange glow of its flame, Bard was able to clear some of the mist from his eyes. Now he clearly heard the hard knuckles rapping against the cracking wood of the door.

He leapt to his feet, snatched a sword from the headboard, drew the small blade and flew across the room in a great lunge. At least, that was what he intended to do. However, the room was barely larger than a slave’s cell. The door would only open halfway before it struck the edge of his bed.

Bardisan’s arms became tangled in the bedsheets, the sword tearing them to ribbons as he unsheathed it. His great leap sent his shoulder jarring into the far wall, his shins cracked against the cedar chest where his most prized possessions were kept and the tall man crumpled in a moaning heap on the floor.

The door creaked ajar and met his dazed head with a dull thud. An elderly woman’s voice called through the opening.

“Bard, you asked me to wake you at sundown. Where are you? He’s not here? Well, I shan’t be waking him again. Taking all the time forcing my weary bones up those stairs.” Her voice slowly faded into a soft mutter as the landlady shuffled away down the corridor.

As he was already up, or rather down, Bardisan decided he would head off without further ado. Kicking on a pair of tattered sandals, the straps hardly more than frayed leather threads, he hoisted his body up to the narrow window and slithered out into the cool night air.

He crept down dusty alleyways between tall sandstone walls, slunk along streets ranged with high marble columns, and finally arrived on the outskirts of the city. Behind him, Palmyra slept peacefully beneath an endless black sky picked out with tiny points of brilliant starlight. From a distance, it seemed like a sort of paradise, white-walled houses and brightly painted temples nestled in a broad green oasis at the desert’s fiery heart.

“Not now, Bard.” He whispered to himself, turning away from the city.

Ahead of him, a towering oblong structure rose like a jutting finger from the sand-whipped earth. Its sides were sheer and a single black doorway gaped at its wide base. It was a tomb.

Bardisan slithered closer on his belly, careful not to let his sword rattle in its scabbard. His keen eyes had already detected a man’s figure standing guard at the foot of the tower. The soldier’s cloak flapped around him in the nocturnal breeze and his thick armour gleamed dully in the starlight. But he was asleep, hanging on the shaft of his stout javelin like it was a crutch.

The master thief stood and tiptoed up to the slumbering sentry. He began to fish around inside his pockets, fumbling at a wooden button, a small amulet and a spool of thread. Finally, his fingertip brushed against something hard and cold. It was a small nub of iron, an ancient coin worn down to a pea-sized, misshapen lump by centuries of use.

He was so close to the other man’s face that he could feel hot breath on his cheeks. But he knew the Roman wouldn’t wake. Bardisan was more silent and subtle than a skulking adder when night had fallen. It was as if darkness embraced his being, enveloping him in its shadowy stillness.

Bardisan reached out a deft, steady hand and deposited the lumpen metal inside a fold of the soldier’s tunic. He was better than a common thief, knowing as he did that nothing was free and a price must always be paid, but he never passed up a bargain.

Over the Roman legionary’s shoulder, the cavernous blackness of the doorway seemed to yawn wider, drawing Bardisan towards it. He faltered, knowing that what lay inside had a value beyond counting, beyond imagining.

Its worth was greater than the imperial treasury, less than a grain of salt, truly priceless.

Read the latest Palmyra news here (BBC) and click here (Sacred Destinations) to find out more about the city’s fascinating history.

For something similar, and an excellent read, check out Emperor and Prophet on one of my favourite blogs (John’s Life and Travels)!

The First Covenant Teaser

The First Covenant Teaser

True cover

Here’s an extract from my fantasy novel, now available on Kindle.

Lin turned his head sharply. A tangle of wiry black hair sitting on top of an angular, sneering face protruded from behind a nearby boulder. Two small hands with stubby fingers groped their way out of the shadows. Seeing that they were empty, Lin let his own hands drop to his sides.

“What do you want, Col?  Have you come for more talk?”

“If it pleases you to talk, I will.” The man-like creature crawled up to perch on top of the boulder. “You know, we could use a man like you in the warrens. You have strong arms and a long reach. You would be useful when men come to hunt us and axes swing.”

“I’ll never join you in those pits you call a home, Col. I see no reason in living when all life brings is days of sneaking through dark holes, stealing sheep away from shepherds’ flocks.”

“You stole a sheep yesterday, Silvering. I was watching. You ate part of it as well. Don’t pretend to be too noble for common theft.”

He had to admit that the skulking creature was right. Lin was as much of a thief and an outlaw as Col was. Perhaps he should have taken some of the fresh mutton to share with the people in the warrens. But he quickly dismissed the thought. Col’s folk were not people, they were sick animals.

“I ate a leg of mutton, yes. Now I’m beginning to wonder how many of your creatures it takes to carry away a sheep’s carcass while you distract me.”

“It only takes two.” Col said with a smile. Lin turned and took a step away from the edge of the outcrop. “And three more ready to cut your neck if you try to stop us.”

“You’re a snake.” Lin spat.

“We’ll keep the meat fresh for you in the tunnels, Silvering. Don’t worry; we have women there to keep you warm. You won’t need to spend any more nights singing to the moon.”

A dry chuckle sounded from just below the lip of the outcrop. Lin booted a loose stone in the direction of the noise. He bent and picked up a larger rock, but when he turned to throw it at Col’s shrivelled head, there was no sign of the creature.

You can find the full ebook here!

New Covers!

Earlier this week I made a post asking for help designing a book cover. The feedback I received was so great that I thought I’d show you what I’ve come up with. Let me know if I’m on the right track or missing the point completely!

Cover 2

Vikingr is a historical novel about a medieval Norse explorer. I chose waves for the background because a lot of the narrative involves sailing around the land of the Rus’ and Khazar Khaganate.

True cover

The First Covenant is a fantasy novel about a woman who makes a great sacrifice in order to gain the power to have revenge on a cruel tyrant. I chose a grassland fire for the background because flames burn throughout the story and fire is the element on which the book is based.

A minor point about how the author name appears on the cover. Having my name recognised doesn’t really concern me too much, unless you think my name will draw the reader in somehow? And the subtitle is really just to fill space. My main concerns are how eye-catching the cover is and whether you can read the title.

But if everything I have just said shows how much of a self-publishing newbie I am, please don’t hesitate to tell me!

Warlock #13

Warlock #13

Pocket watch

The note was dropped on Owen’s desk by the Spanish teacher at the end of his final lesson of the day, just as the bell rang out through the school. It was written on thick paper with sharp, neat edges. The words had been written in dark blue ink, likely with a fountain pen, and they seemed to dance across the page.

It took Owen a moment to decipher what it said. When he had finally read and re-read it, he realised with terror that he had been invited to go see his school housemaster. He doubted that it was an invitation he could refuse.

Owen had never met his housemaster, but the man had a fearsome reputation around school. Common room gossip held that he had a doctorate in ancient history and travelled to warzones in the Middle East or Latin America to carry out archaeological digs. Someone even said that he had been attacked by a Mexican cartel, killing four gunmen in self-defence at the site of an old Aztec temple.

He threw everything on his desk into his battered backpack and dashed out of the door. The note hadn’t specified a time for the meeting, but Owen had no desire to be late and end up skewered on the end of an antique sabre.

Panting for air and drenched in sweat, Owen reached the office on the top floor of the classics building. A muffled command sounded from inside.

“Come in.”

Owen pushed the door open and saw a tall, thin man sitting behind an ornate mahogany desk, his hands clasped together on its surface. It was the professor from the train, the one who had killed two men in front of Owen’s eyes.

Find my historical and fantasy novels on Amazon Kindle by clicking the links below:

The First Covenant Release!

True cover

Exciting news! The First Covenant is now available on Kindle. It is a high fantasy novel set in an imagined world drawing on influences from Europe, Asia and medieval/prehistoric history.

I’ve already written an introduction to The First Covenant here, and you can find teasers here or here. So I won’t give too much away.

My favourite aspect of writing this book were the characters. There is a diverse cast of personalities, people with different traits and flaws. You can expect to find powerful heroes and twisted villains, with the distinction between the two sometimes becoming blurred.

Follow this link to find the novel on Kindle.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0149J3O0K?*Version*=1&*entries*=0