The Best Weapon

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

The Best Weapon

A few years ago I co-wrote a novel with my good friend (and then work colleague) Martin Bolton. In a change of gear from my usual historical meanderings, it was a fantasy tale roughly in the traditional style of Tolkien/George RR Martin etc, but with a few twists. It was called THE BEST WEAPON and published by Musa Publishing, garnering a few nice reviews and spawning a series of mini-sequels.

Our contract with Musa has now expired, so we are re-releasing the book under our own steam via Amazon, and have plans to compile and release the sequel (provisionally titled SORROW) as a single volume. The story takes place in a made-up universe named The World Apparent, a physical dimension much like our own world, but one that may or may not exist entirely inside the heads of gods and demons. Below is a map of the world as Martin, a skilled artist, recently drew it.

The Best Weapon focuses on the trials of two young men, Fulk the No Man's Son, and Naiyar, a teenager raised in the steamy jungles of the distant Southlands. While the world threatens to collapse around them, they are drawn together by forces beyond their control or understanding...

THE BEST WEAPON is now available in paperback and for pre-order on Kindle, with a release date for the latter of 19th February. Below is the link, with the shiny new book cover, to the Kindle edition on Amazon, along with some reviews of the previous edition kept for reference.

Monday, 12 January 2015

Who gets to meet Robin...?

...and the answer is...

...Alison Bahmuller!

With thanks to everyone who entered their names. A free Kindle edition of the novella, The King's Pardon, Part IV in my Robin Hood series, will be winging its way to Alison just as soon as its ready! I'm currently about a quarter of the way through it, and with luck and a following wind Robin should be springing back into action next month.

Alison, say hello to Robin
Apologies to all for my silence over the Christmas and New Year period - I was busy with family 'stuff', as many people were during the festive season, and suffered another loss of my internet connection: that's the price for living out in the wilds of West Wales!

I have lots of plans for 2015, including the re-release of The Best Weapon, the fantasy novel I co-wrote with my good friend Martin Bolton, the rest of The White Hawk series, and a (very) long-delayed sequel of sorts to The Half-Hanged Man...

Happy 2015 everyone!

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Robin Hood IV

I've had a few queries lately about my Robin Hood series, and when the next installment is due. I've been busy with other projects recently, but will soon be starting work on Part IV of the series, provisionally titled Robin Hood (IV): The King's Pardon.

I've also decided to offer readers a (small) part in the story - just leave a comment under this post and you get to appear as a character! No name is too bizarre, I'll fit you in somewhere :)

You also win a free copy of the book when it's ready: paperback or Kindle, it's your choice.

Leave a comment, and get to meet this man...
I'll choose a winner after Christmas to join The Hooded Man in his next adventure - and in the meantime, happy holidays!

Monday, 1 December 2014

Folville's Law reboot

The very first novel I had published with Musa back in the autumn of 2011 - how long ago it seems now - has just been returned to my hot little hands after the contract expired. I've decided to repackage and re-release the mini-series - as I'm in the process of doing with The White Hawk - as two complete novels, instead of one novel and a series of episodic sequels.

Below is the spanking new cover, as ever designed by the grand folks at MoreVisual, the blurb as a reminder of the plot, and a link to the new edition on Amazon. I also have some ideas for book prize competitions in the pipeline. Sir John Swale rides again!

England in 1326 stands on the brink of civil war. Due to the incompetence of Edward II's government, the north is virtually overrun by the Scots, while an invasion fleet is massing across the channel, led by Edward's estranged queen, Isabella, the 'She-Wolf of France'. 

The first book in the Folville's Law series follows the adventures of Sir John Swale, knight of Cumberland, as he investigates a murder that threatens to bring disaster to Edward's failing kingdom. Along the way he clashes with Eustace Folville and James Coterel, two of the most notorious and brutal outlaws in England. 

As the death toll mounts, it remains to be seen who will survive and who will perish in the savage game of war and politics.

'Folville's Law (I): Invasion' is a new edition of the first part of the John Swale Chronicles.

Friday, 14 November 2014

Leader of Battles (III) - Gwenhwyfar

"Arthur said, 'Though you do not reside here, chieftain, you shall have the gift your mouth and tongue shall name, as far as the wind dries, as far as the rain soaks, as far as the sun reaches, as far as the sea stretches, as far as the earth extends, except my ship and my mantle, and Caledfwlch my sword, and Rhongymiad my spear, and Wynebgwrthucher my spear, and Carnwennan my dagger, and Gwenhwyfar my wife..."

So said Arthur to Culhwch in the medieval Welsh tale Culhwch ac Olwen. His passing reference to Gwenhwyfar (who he appears to rank below his weapons in terms of value) is reckoned to be the earliest known reference to his wife, better-known from later stories as Guinevere, his adulterous queen who brings about the ruin of Camelot through her affair with Sir Lancelot. 

Guinevere should be familiar to most from any number of recent films and novels. Depictions of her vary wildly, from Kiera Knightley's, erm, interesting turn as a Pictish warrior princess with a Sloane accent and a leather fetish costume in 2004's King Arthur, to Angel Coulby's more decorous Gwen in the BBC Series Merlin: Coulby was also the first black actress to play the role. 
Howard Pyle illustration of Arthur and Guinevere

Gwenhwyfar - with the original Welsh spelling intact - is the central character of Part III of my Leader of Battles series. Parts I and II were dominated by male figures, Ambrosius and Artorius, and I wanted to do something different with the third book.  I also wanted to try something different with the character of Gwenhwyfar, drawing on the older Welsh tales of her background and upbringing rather than the well-known medieval French/Anglo traditions. 

This was easier said than done, since the Welsh traditions (as usual) are both fragmentary and contradictory. In one of the Welsh Triads concerning Arthur, there are no less than three separate Gwenhwyfars, all of them married to Arthur. Two other Triads deal with only one Gwenhwyfar, but mention a sister, Gwenhwyfach. The sisters argue, and their dispute causes the fateful Battle of Camlann, where Arthur and his war-band perish: Triad 53 talks of Gwenhwyfach slapping Gwenhwyfar, and this being one of the 'Three Harmful Blows of the Island of Britain', since it leads to Camlann. Triad 54, on the other hand, talks of the villain Medraut (the original Mordred) breaking into Arthur's court at Celliwig and dragging Gwenhwyfar from her chair. This insult to Arthur's wife and dignity leads to the strife of Camlann. 

Angel Coulby as Gwen in Merlin
Keira Knightly as Xena...I mean Guinevere

On the face of it, all these tales would appear to stem from entirely different traditions. None of them mention Lancelot, a character invented and dumped into the story by later French romancers. However, even in these early tales there is a suggestion that Gwenhwyfar was unfaithful to her husband. Caradoc of Llancafarn writes of her being abducted by (or eloping with) Melwas, a prince of the mysterious Summer Country. Arthur has to give chase with his army and storm Melwas' fort to get her back.  

I decided to mix and match some of these elements, and throw in some others to come up with an original - or as original as I can make it - take on the character of Gwenhwyfar. In Part III of the series (still a work in progress) I portray her as the eldest daughter of Ogyrfan Gawr, the King of Powys, the lord of a mighty fortress called Caer Ogyrfan. The remains of this fort can still be seen today at Old Oswestry in Powys, a massive hilltop stronghold covering some forty acres of land. Gwenhwyfar is just sixteen at the beginning of the story, and has a younger sister who she doesn't get on with - shades of Gwenhwyfach, though I've changed her sister's name to Heledd to avoid any name confusion!

Aerial view of Caer Ogyrfan today
The Gwenhwyfar of the Welsh tales is a somewhat mysterious figure, very much in the background, though perhaps not as passive as she was to later become. Apart from her violent row with her sister in the Triads, an old Welsh folk rhyme casts her in an intriguingly negative light:

"Gwenhwyfar ferch Ogrfan Gawr,
Drwg yn fechan, gwaeth yn fawr."

"Gwenhwyfar, daughter of Ogrfan Gawr,
Bad when little, worse when great."

Part III of Leader of Battles begins in the year 481, just two years after Artorius' signal victory over the Saxons at Mount Badon, and two years into his reign as High King over what remains of free Britannia. How Artorius and Gwenhwyfar meet, and their trials as man and wife - well, I'm still working on that...

Thursday, 6 November 2014

The White Hawk pre-order

Book One of my rebooted series, The White Hawk, is now available for pre-order. The book will be released on Kindle on November 9th, and in paperback shortly afterwards. Just click on the link below the cover image to place your order! 

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

The White Hawk reboot

I have plans for The White Hawk, my series following the fortunes of a family of Lancastrian loyalists during the turbulent years of The Wars of the Roses - or The Cousins' War, as it is more fashionably called these days (thank you Philippa Gregory...).

First I aim to re-release new and improved versions of the entire series, with the first two books combined into a single volume. I already have a great new cover for it, again designed by the talented people at More Visual Ltd - see below!

The original series will now be condensed into a trilogy, and Book Three will also include a new short story called The Devil's Due, which acts as a lead-in to the next chapter in the series: I intend to write a whole new series about the Boltons set during the period of the English (or British) Civil War between Charles I and Parliament.

More details on all this to follow shortly. For now,  I shall leave you to gaze on the sumptous new cover...