The College of Mithria


Varsania, a fantasy world currently under construction…

The College of Mithria’s red stone walls rose above the squat stone terraced villas and shopfronts of the city. Its bloody façade standing out in contrast with the emerald and topaz haze of the sprawling Muthril Delta.

It drew Kogur like a rag-winged moth to a quivering flame. The steeples, domes and jutting finger of the clock tower shimmering in the ponderous humidity. Hawkers spat at her feet when she passed, as if her grubby, shuffling presence was enough to drive away their custom. You think it’s easy being a slave? she imagined challenging them in her frail voice. I’ll wait until enemy hordes come and drag you from your home… See how you like the kiss of the lash. 

The skeletal alleyways of Mithria held no secrets from her. She threaded her way between rag-and-bone beggars, slaves with hollow skin sagging from their cheeks and the blundering girth of gluttonous citizens; the clock tower was a constant compass point guiding her bare feet in their weary pursuit.

Sanctuary, the word was a beacon drawing her on. What if the gates are locked? she thought, steeling her heart against the anguish which accompanied doubt. I can’t walk forever. I won’t be free much longer. The master will come for me… His guards, his snapping hounds, the dreaded lash. 

Somehow, the college seemed to hear her voiceless words. It wavered into existence through a pall of dust kicked up by feet tramping down the main street, petitioners making their way to the imperial palace under a weight of injustice and expectation.

There were thousands of them; their bodies formed a swift-flowing moat standing between her and the promise of sanctuary. Hope turned to despair as hobnailed boots clattered down the alleyway behind her. The coarse yelps of the master’s hounds as they caught her scent chilling her blood. Kogur ran and abandoned herself to the marching throng.

Follow the links to find my books on Kindle: VikingrServants of InfamyFirequeen

The Cannibals


-The beginning of something new?-

The corpses lay one on top of another in a grisly tower of butchered flesh and twisted limbs. Shadowed echoes of their screams seemed to chill the surrounding air. The topmost man had been decapitated, a deer’s head sewn onto his neck, mouth open in a grotesque imitation of human surprise. Eldris staggered back and fell against the trunk of a tall pine. His bowels loosened in fear and he felt a damp warmth spread down his legs. The fragrant scent of the pine needles which carpeted the clearing wasn’t enough to stifle the sickeningly appetising smell of flesh roasting over a cooking fire. Human flesh, he realised.

Continue reading “The Cannibals”

Hilda of the Salt Marsh


‘Can you hear it, girl? Or are your senses dulled by that shiny trinket?’

The whispered words of the spirit weren’t hissing with venomous threat as they had been before. There was a pitiful, keening note to their song. Hilda strained her ears and listened closer. It was a mournful howl. Spinning around her on the wind. Where was it coming from?

Whatever the sound was, it died in a series of sorrowful yelps. She notched an arrow to the string of her bow and carried on through the morass. Ears and eyes straining through the screen of long grass.

‘Are you deaf, child?’

There it was again. A bark of fright and a rustle in the thick shrubs to her right. Hilda turned and dashed towards the noise. Drew the string back to her ear and loosed an arrow into the shadows. A wet thud and a heavy splash. One last howling moan.

Got you!

The seal was only a pup. It still hadn’t lost some of its soft white down. Hilda straddled the plump grey mound and sawed through its belly with her knife. Blood stained her hands crimson as she worked them into the wound. Feeling through layers of hot flesh. Fingers probing for the prize within.

Hilda almost shrieked in surprise as her hands grasped the seal pup’s heart. It was still beating. A faint tremor. Her shock subsided to joy and a smug pout played on her lips. One hand retrieved the knife and worked it through the cut, feeling for and slicing away the tubes which fed blood into the trembling muscle.

It came free in her hands. Hot, wet, blood dripping from its bulbous sides. She bit into it and savoured the thick, iron taste. Felt juices wash down her chin. Savoured the smell of it and the contented feeling in her gut.

Thank you, spirits. Praise you, Allfather.

Follow the links to find my books on Kindle: VikingrServants of InfamyFirequeen

Byrnsword Prologue


And now it has a prologue!


The toll of the monastery bells rang out over sea and land. An harrowing clang which roused the people of the mainland from their beds. Nothing could be seen in the deep black of night. No fires burned on the Holy Island. All was dark and silent save for the ringing of the bells.

Six horsemen rode down onto the tidal flats, their horses’ hooves sending up showers of sand and spray. They were tall men, fierce men. Bundled in thick furs against the evening chill with broad shields on their backs, spears in hand and swords at their waists. Men ready to confront whatever demons had brought death to the island that night.

There was only one thing the bells could mean. Their noise rolled on and on without pause. Each booming clang was a word. The same word repeated over and over. With it came a command.

‘Death. Warriors of Christ, come to the aid of the faithful. Death stands at the doors of God’s house. Death.’

Their leader swung down from his mount and lifted his shield. Glanced back at the men behind and saw the fear in their eyes. He couldn’t blame them. Ahead stretched an endless rolling expanse of black before the grey hump of the Holy Island. They were God-fearing and Christ-loving men. But even a fanatic would shudder to cross the causeway by night. Sea and sand became one beneath the moonless sky.

‘It’s not safe,’ one of the men said, sounding for all the world like a coward. His leader knew better. He had seen each of them earn their scars. They were loyal men and brave. But even brave men feared to walk out into the unknown. ‘Whatever ails them can wait ’til morning.’

Continue reading “Byrnsword Prologue”



I came up with this first chapter for historical fiction set during the Viking invasion of Anglo-Saxon England.

What I want to know is would you like to read more of Hilda’s story? If so, let me know your thoughts and I’ll keep writing it!

Chapter 1

Hammer on anvil. The crash of heavy iron striking immobile stone. One blow after another, each one followed by the roar of sparks showering the air. Howling wind from the blacksmith’s bellows. A deafening, pounding rhythm of crash, roar and howl.

Hilda sat up and threw the sealskin cloak from her face as the thundering beat throbbed in her ears. ‘Curse you, Woden Allfather,’ she spat. ‘Can’t you let me sleep?’

She stood in the entrance to her perch and lifted her face to the sky. A dark mass of clouds had gathered, stretching to every horizon. They consumed the sun, tearing its light from the heavens. Only a trickle of dawn’s warmth reached the narrow crevice in the high granite bluffs where Hilda made her hunting den.

If it weren’t for the din of the waves striking the rocks and sending walls of salt spray into the air around her, she might have slept for hours. The gods responded to her hissed profanities with the booming impact of a tidal surge against the broken cliffs below. She felt the tremor in her feet.

I won’t lodge here again. This cave might not be here when I return, if I hear the spirits rightly.

They spoke to her through vibrations in the rock, the sweep of foaming waves and the swirling clouds above. She called it the Otherworld, but it had many names. What did names matter? Spirits had no use for them, so why should she?

It was a whisper which could always be heard by those who chose to listen. Now its voice was loud, shouting an insistent warning in her ears.

‘We’re coming. We’re coming to drag down your walls of rock. We’re coming to drown your houses of stone. Your bones will be crushed to bloody meal beneath our might.’

Continue reading “Byrnsword”

A New Historical Fiction Release!


At long last, it’s here! Servants of Infamy is now available for purchase on Amazon Kindle. I realise I’ve been yammering on about this ex-work-in-progress for a while now, so you may have forgotten what all the fuss is about!

You can find the introduction, premise and blurb in this post. Extracts are available here and here. There’s also a pre-prologue which I wrote exclusively for readers of this blog, Darkness Approaches.

Download the free sample on Kindle and let me know what you think. If you enjoy it or think someone else might, recommend it to a friend, family member, colleague or arch-nemesis.

I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!

You can find it here on Amazon US:

And here on Amazon UK:

Darkness Approaches…

Oswald had tilled the fields around his home for almost five decades. Over those long years of honest toil he saw his home grow from a pitiful hamlet to a prosperous village. There was always a flock of newborns each year, their squalling cries disturbing his sleep.

But Oswald did not mind. His family was old Saxon stock, they had been warriors in their time. As far as he was concerned, his ancestors tilled the fields for their descendants to enjoy the bounty they produced. He was an honest man and a strong man.

Even so, his blood chilled in fear when he heard the garbled cries of the lad running through the village. It was the depth of night when even the wolves retreated to their dens. The cries rose again, carrying swift and far on the silent, still air.

‘Murderers! Villains! Help!’

He raced out of the cottage, leaving his ageing wife with a swift kiss on her pale cheek. The village had emptied onto the small common of green pasture, grey in the midnight darkness. Every man among them was armed with hoe, scythe, hammer and axe. They were many, but each showed terror on his face.

There had been foul rumours touching the fringes of their small village these past days. Rumours of wickedness, the Devil’s minions at large in the country.

‘What is it, boy?’ Oswald asked, cornering the babbling youth who they had set to watch the fields by night. ‘Is it thieves, bandits, Frenchmen?’

The lad gasped for breath and snuffled, wiping away loose tears with the grimy sleeve of his tunic. ‘Yes, mister Oswald.’

‘Yes to which?’ He slapped the boy and the youth wailed in shocked pain.

‘All of those, mister, and worse. It’s them!’

‘Who, you damned fool?’

But he knew before the boy even spoke the name. Oswald felt it in the chill which sapped the strength from his broad shoulders, saw it in the slithering arms of grey mist creeping through the village. Terror wrapped their homes in its bitterly cold embrace. The Devil’s work.

‘It’s the Black Two,’ the boy said, his voice falling to a hushed whimper.

Mutters of fear, shouts of anger. The crowd erupted around him and voiced their terrified rage. Oswald held up his muscular arm for calm and the villagers fell silent. Not one of them met his eye, every glistening orb fixed on the far end of the common.

Oswald turned and saw them. The Black Two. A pair of indistinct shapes stalking out of the mist and darkness. Their bodies wrapped in black leather, chainmail shining on the breast of a tall warrior. Cruel weapons held firm in their hands.

‘They’re coming,’ Oswald whispered as the last trace of trembling courage fled from his body. ‘God help us.’

Coming very soon…

Cover Wars!

Recently, I have been very focused on covers. There are a few reasons for this: a minor copyright fracas (which you can have a nose at in the comments of this post), general feeling of “not quite right” and the need for a new cover for an upcoming book.

Firequeen True cover

This was the subject of my little copyright mishap. I foolishly used a royalty-free background image for the original cover (left). There’s nothing wrong with doing so, until it turns out that the webpage advertising it as royalty-free doesn’t own the copyright!

Particularly embarrassing if you happen to be a law student (who should know better!). But I prefer the new version (right) and the image is from Kindle’s stock collection so if there’s a foul, Kindle will be the one getting a red card.

Continue reading “Cover Wars!”

Have An Infamous Christmas


As an early Christmas gift to you, here is the latest chapter from my current work-in-progress, Servants of Infamy!

After stewing in their disease-ridden camp, the marshland their idle feet had made of the Kent Downs, John Mortimer’s rebels marched northwards. He rode along their scattered column and harangued his truculent followers, reminding them of how the king’s officers stole bread from the mouths of their children, how his court grew fat through the betrayal of Kent’s honest landowners and labourers.

His tongue whipped them into a fast march and the head of the column arrived outside the market town of Dartford at sunset on the second day. Their spirits set to soaring heights as the common men caught sight of the wide channel of the River Thames.

Mansford’s expression grew dark and webbed scars twitched at the corners of his eyes. It became real in that moment. Until then the men around him had been no more than a disorganised rabble, stumbling through a waking dream with their gaze fixed on the distant fantasy of marching into London.

But there the rebels were, close enough to throw a stone into the same river which fed Mansford’s home city. The thought of Kentish boots tramping over its sluggish channel and into his city brought another spasm tugging at his jaw.

Jack spared the Thames a brief glance and turned his gaze back to the road. The river had never held any significance for him. He had seen the bounty of the Scottish lochs, the raw power of the Irish Sea in storm and the terrifying size of the endless expanse of waves which lay beyond the Channel’s western mouth. They had only been glimpsed as his grandfather hurried him south to France, but they lay as glittering pools of a hundred shades of green and grey in his mind’s eye.

The men of Kent could drink the Thames dry and piss it back out for all he cared. It was half a sewer already. Moreover, it was a great wall of water standing between him and the chance of battle. English soldiers waited for them across that river of filth. With John Mortimer’s help, he would see them drown in it.

A shout went up from the front and the column halted its advance. Jack cursed Mansford’s slow gait for bringing them away from the foremost ranks. All around them men were dropping their packs and sitting on the grassy verge to strip away their mud-soaked wool hose. The sickly caseic odour of feet wedged into hard leather shoes and marched raw over broken roads for two days hung damp in the air.

“If half these men ain’t got the rot, I’ll be an archbishop.” Mansford said, clamping forefinger and thumb over his nose.

Jack wondered at the man who could spill blood without thought, but who flinched at the smell of stricken flesh. His mind groped for a clever rebuke to throw at Mansford. Before one came to mind, Jack heard a frantic rush of feet coming towards them.

A young lad raced past, sprinting between the discarded packs and wailing in terror as he bolted for the rear of the rebel column. His waving red hair was already some way into the distance before Jack could make sense of his cries, now being repeated in low mutters by the men around him.

“The king’s come! He’s come to hang us! The king’s come with an army!”

Jack once more cursed Mansford’s reluctance to be at the front and wished John Mortimer had taken the time to bring order to the men who followed him. The rebels were scattered back along the road for over a mile, with some still marching in ignorance of the halt. If it were not for the terrified lad’s warning, those in the middle and rear would never have known an army blocked their path.

Just in front of Jack there was a low hillock around which the road snaked. It cut of all sight of John Mortimer’s vanguard. For all they knew, the battle could have been fought and lost with them being none the wiser.

They would know either way soon enough, Jack thought, when the king’s knights rode down over the hillock and hacked them apart where they stood.

“What are you waiting for? Get up there and see if it’s true, Jock.” Mansford said. He had a tremble of panic in his voice and Jack saw the cutthroat’s hands were still, keeping well clear of his dagger. It would be of no use against armoured knights on horseback and Mansford was ready to run at the first hoofbeat he heard.

Jack jogged up to the crest of the mound. Every step felt like an ordeal, as if fear had taken hold of him by the midriff and was hauling him back towards the safety of the Kentish rebels.

His knees were weak and he was bone weary by the time the slope evened out. Jack settled into a crouch to stop his legs from shaking, and to make himself a smaller target. As he crept towards the summit, he cranked back the string of his crossbow.

Why not run? Jack knew he could survive if he made it back among the crowd lining the road. Many of them were still barefoot. They would be too slow to avoid a charging horseman, but he, on the other hand, might get away free if he could get down off the hillock.

Mansford came up beside him, crawled ahead a few paces to peer over the top of the rise and stood upright.

There was a cold slackness in Jack’s gut, threatening to loosen his bowels, but he clamped his jaw shut and rose behind the cutthroat. A long breath hissed out between his clenched teeth.

Three hundred yards from where they stood, a stream cut a straight path across the bare meadow. The steep ditch through which it ran was spanned by a narrow bridge of dark, uneven stone.

Beyond the meadow, Jack could see a cluster of dwellings. There was Dartford. It seemed so near over the expanse of green that Jack almost overlooked the enemy.

Several hundred footmen stood in untidy ranks on the far side of the bridge, armed with billhooks and pikes wavering in the breeze. A solitary banner hung limp on its pole at the centre of their line. The thousand or more men of John Mortimer’s vanguard faced them across the meadow.

“Bloody Christ.” Mansford swore. He turned to call back to the men waiting behind them. “That ain’t the king. It’s the Sheriff of Kent and whatever bullyboys he could cobble together on short notice. They’re stamping their feet like frightened hens.”

Jack could see the sheriff’s men shifting in their ranks, irregular ripples of movement passing to and fro along their line. Ten trained men-at-arms might have held the bridge against an army, but even a fool could see the sheriff’s men lacked the stomach for what was to come.

“Aye, looks like the sheriff is even more of a coward than his men.” Jack said, pointing towards a shadow of movement in the distance.

His eyes followed a lone rider as he spurred his mount away from the sheriff’s levies. The king’s officer rode hard across the meadow, leaving the rebel army and the town he had sworn to protect behind in a trail of dust which scattered in the wake of his horse’s hooves. The host of hired footmen seemed to shudder as heads turned to watch his flight.

Mortimer trotted his own mount in front of his vanguard, five other landowners of Kent riding behind him. The traitor’s fat body wobbled as he stood in the saddle, his loud bellow carrying clear to Jack’s ears on the quiet breeze.

“That town you see yonder is Dartford.” he began, heaving his thick torso around to gesture over the stream. “It is a hallowed place for we men of Kent. Wat Tyler, a goodly man who led the honest people of our county in revolt not seventy years ago, was born in that place.” A furious cheer went up from men whose grandfathers had marched behind Wat Tyler and knew how the king’s officers had betrayed him. “Brave King Henry, whose son now wears the crown, walked this road on his way to Agincourt.” Another deafening cry met the name of the place where the Kentish men’s fathers had bent bows and sent death raining down on the flower of French nobility. “He, too, has been betrayed. Those men you see before us, barring our path, are loyal to the Sheriff of Kent.”

“And I’m the Duchess of York.” Mansford said in a soft, bitter murmur. “They’re loyal to the two silver groats the sheriff paid them.”

“The sheriff,” Mortimer continued, wheeling his horse to face the bridge. “Is abed with Queen Margaret who seeks to poison our king’s mind against his honest subjects. Those soldiers trample our livelihoods and rob our babes of food to keep them well through the winter. Let us show them justice, Kentish justice, and sharpened steel!”

Mortimer’s thick legs kicked back at his horse’s flanks and the animal plunged forwards onto the uneven stones of the bridge. His companions galloped after him, drawing their swords and thrusting the bright points into the air above their heads.

The vanguard gave a shout which seemed to shake the earth beneath Jack’s feet and they were flowing like a surging tide into the steep ditch.

Air whipped past his face and Jack was hurtling down the slope. His feet scarcely touched the grass as the meadow drew nearer. He lifted his gaze and saw the footmen close ranks at the head of the bridge. Their pikes stuck up towards the clouded sky like upright reeds on the edge of a river.

Had the Devil taken their senses from them? Their only chance of holding against horsemen was to lower pikes and stand their ground. Even as Jack sprinted the last hundred feet to where the rebels were struggling up the far side of the ditch, he saw the sheriff’s hired army take a faltering step back.

These were not knights or soldiers blooded in the wars with France. Mansford had been right. They were farmers and apprentices called to the sheriff’s banner and offered a silver groat or two to carry a hook or pike.

Mortimer’s horse hit the first rank like a hammer striking glass. Men reeled away and were kicked to the ground by thrashing hooves. Wickedly sharp steel sliced through the air at unguarded heads and necks.

The rebels rose out of the ditch to find their enemies towering over them, but not one man in the meadow owned a shield to defend against a cut from below. Scythes, axes and clubs lashed out at the legs of the men above and the footmen dropped, shrieking in agony.

Jack could not see the sheriff’s banner any more. It was like watching a forest being hacked to kindling. Pikes trembled in the air before toppling down onto the heads of those nearby, dropped as the footmen sprinted away from the howling terrors clambering up the stream’s steep bank.

He was too late. Jack was panting and gasping for air as he watched the rebel vanguard set off towards Dartford in pursuit of the two groat army.

His foot lashed out and kicked the bloodstained stones of the bridge, sending a flash of white hot pain up his leg. Jack bent double and moaned in agony. Then he straightened his back and let the fire wash through him, burning away his frustration.

Only one thing mattered to him now. The road to London was clear. Its streets would soon run with fresh-spilled blood, or his name was not Jack Cade.

He turned and saw Mansford walking with a slow, measured tread towards him. His eyes were narrowed and his mouth was set in a grimace of unease. Scarred flesh bunched into deep grooves across his brow.

“By the Virgin, I never thought they’d get this far.” he said, his voice a hollow whisper.

More extracts:

Vikingr Update

New cover

I decided to give you all an update on how Vikingr is doing in the Kindle store. Thanks to a couple of free giveaways via KDP Select and a kind reviewer, it is now rising to prominence in the niche of Russian historical fiction.

Before anyone gets excited, this applies to only the Kindle UK rankings. I have discovered that there are far fewer books self-published on Amazon UK, so it is easier to get a foot in the door. Vikingr is around #27 in Kindle US for Norse & Icelandic.

Either way, eat Erikr’s dust Dr Zhivago!

Dr Zhivago