Leader of Battles (II): Artorius

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...

Friday, 17 October 2014

Thunder & Lightning, very very...(etc)

Followers of this blog may have noticed a howling silence in recent weeks - this isn't due to me running out of things to say (fat chance) but a massive storm that hit my part of the country about twelve days ago and burned out our broadband connection.

It was all very dramatic 'rage of the gods'-type stuff, and splendid to listen to from under a blanket in the downstairs cupboard, but has meant that I have had no internet for almost a fortnight. Thankfully we're now hooked up to The Matrix again, so watch this space for news on a revamp of my White Hawk series, and more...

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Leader of Battles reviews

The first two books in the Leader of Battles series are garnering some nice reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. I thought I would post a few excerpts of them on here, as well as an idea for the next sequel(s).



"Wow. This was good. Real good. I try everything out there that falls under the title "Arthurian" ' 90 percent of the time I am disappointed and stop reading. Exceptions being the Crystal Cave series by Stewart, Firelord by Goodwin, Rosemary Sutcliffe, and of course Bernard Cornwells trilogy. You can add Pilling to this short list. This book was awesome. I started it this morning after reading a few pages last night, and finished same day, because I could not put it down. Pilling excels here, and I can't recommend this book enough. If you are into literature in the King Arthur genre, then this will be the book for you."

"An interesting interpretation of a rather obscure period of England's history. Very plausible and descriptive. Something I always wondered about was how much of the Roman civilisation remained after the withdrawal of the legions and this book strives to fill that gap, quite successfully, I might say."

"Not a dull moment and so many discoveries to bring history and a hero to live again. Well done. Bravo."

"So good, so good. This is my favorite subject of historical fiction, done by my favorite author of historical fiction. I only wish it were longer. Pilling is a master story teller. Be done with all the lousy Arthurian garbage available out there, and read these instead. Cannot wait for the third, although I dread the end of this trilogy."

Encouraging stuff! As for future developments, I have in mind a mini-series of novellas titled Warriors of Arthur, linked to the Leader of Battles series but not part of the main trilogy. The novellas are intended to focus on each of Arthur/Artorius' most famous warriors in turn - probably Cei, Bedwyr and maybe Tristan or Drustanus - before I move on to complete the series with the third and final instalment of Leader of Battles. This way I can hope to 'flesh out' my version of Arthur's world and explore it thoroughly before coming to the inevitable end.

First, however, I am taking a break from the world of Post-Roman Britain and having a crack at the British/English Civil war...more details to follow soon!