Sunday 31 May 2015

Summer Sale! Get THE SERPENT SWORD for only 99p/99c!

The e-book of THE SERPENT SWORD is on special offer at a reduced price for limited time on both and If you have been putting off buying it, now is the time to snap it up!

The sale ends on 6th June 2015, so don't delay, or you'll miss out.

Don't have a Kindle? Don't worry - you can get a free app for your tablet, phone or PC.

After you've read The Serpent Sword, please stop by Amazon and/or Goodreads and leave a review. 

Thanks to all those who have already bought the book and left a review - it really makes a difference.

Thursday 28 May 2015

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Paul Fraser Collard

This is the first in what will hopefully become a regular author interview slot on my blog. In the interviews I hope to gain an insight into the motivations and inspirations of some brilliant writers. The interviews will follow a similar structure, with some longer questions, followed by a few quick-fire questions for a bit of a laugh.

Today I have the great pleasure to welcome the author of the popular Jack Lark series, Paul Fraser Collard. So, without further ado, sit back, put your feet up, and enjoy getting to know the man behind Jack Lark.

Hi Paul. When is your next release coming out? Tell us a little about it.

Next up is JACK LARK - RECRUIT, the second in the series of short stories set before THE SCARLET THIEF. This novella covers Jack’s first weeks in the British army, and I have to admit it was a blast to write, especially as Jack’s favourite sergeant, a certain Slater, returns to make sure that Jack understands who holds the power over the fledgling redcoats.

The fourth full novel comes out in November. This one is called THE LONE WARRIOR and sees Jack find his way to Delhi in the days just before the Indian mutiny erupts. Of all the novels this was the hardest to write as the events of the mutiny make for some disturbing reading. Both sides were guilty of dreadful atrocities and I have tried to capture something of the violence found in these early struggles between the two sides.

Tell us about the book you are writing at the moment.

Right now, I am working on the fifth Jack Lark novel, currently due to be released in July 2016. I seem to have hit my stride with writing Jack’s adventures and it really is hard to think of creating these stories as being any sort of work. Quite simply, I love writing them.

The fifth book will see Jack journey to Europe for the first time. A character from his past returns and sweeps Jack into the war between France and Austria that culminates in the huge battles of Magenta and Solferino. It has been fascinating to research these battles, as I can honestly say I had never heard of them, which is dreadful, especially as Solferino is one of the biggest battles fought in Europe prior to the First World War, and the resulting carnage played a key role in the creation of both the Red Cross and the Geneva Convention.

What writer or book has had the biggest influence on your work?

It really should come as no surprise that I have been hugely influenced by the work of Bernard Cornwell. He was the first writer of historical fiction that I read, and I think the Sharpe series is one of the main reasons why I became fascinated with the history of the British army. (Matthew: I expect that if I keep asking that question to historical fiction authors, I may keep getting the same answer!)

The day I found out that Bernard had agreed to supply a quote for THE SCARLET THIEF is pretty much the absolutely stand out highlight of my writing career.

There is one thing that I have wanted to ask you ever since I saw your name on your debut novel. Did you add the “Fraser” to your name as a nod to George MacDonald Fraser, or is it really your name?

It is really my middle name. We are descended from Frasers on my mother’s side and so many of us have Fraser as our middle name. When the time came to agree what name to write under, the publishers liked the Fraser part so much that they went with it.

I have to admit, I thought you'd added the name as some sort of affectation! I'm glad it is really your name. 

What are the best and worst things about being a writer?

The best thing about being a writer is hearing from a reader who has read and enjoyed your books. I really do see my job as being a storyteller, so reaching readers is what I am trying to do with everything I write.

I cannot think of any bad things about being a writer. I know how fortunate I am to have a publishing deal, and I try hard to never forget that. I suppose the worst thing about doing most of my writing on a train is looking on in envy at those writers who get to do it full-time, especially when I see their huge desks and enormous computer screen.

What is the best book you've read in the last twelve months?

Well, one of them happens to be THE SERPENT SWORD, but I won’t fluff your pillows too much.

You can fluff them all you like! I was delighted that you enjoyed it enough to endorse it. What else has stood out?

I just finished BURKE AT WATERLOO, by Tom Williams, which I also enjoyed a great deal. Generally I don’t read too much historical fiction, as I cannot help making comparisons! The last series I really devoured were the DUST books by Hugh Howey.

I have always enjoyed apocalyptic fiction and I am a sucker for stories like THE WALKING DEAD or THE WAR OF THE WORLDS.

I remember reading somewhere (in another interview perhaps), that you had not written anything before you wrote the first Jack Lark novel, The Scarlet Thief. What made you take the plunge into writing novels and what has surprised you most about the industry?

For the last sixteen years I have commuted to work by train. When my kids were babies it was a great time for catching up on sleep, but as they got older I used the time to read anything I could get my hands on. One day I thought it would be a great idea to see if I could write my own book. It took ages, and was much harder work than I ever imagined, but I had caught the writing bug and I now write every day.

I believe you have lots of Jack Lark stories mapped out already, but have you got plans for any other novels in other eras perhaps? Could there be a new long-running series in the offing or would you like to write a standalone novel?

I seem to be able to write books at a pretty rapid pace, so in between the last two Jack Lark novels, I have written what could be the first book in a new series. It is currently with my agent having gone through a coupe of re-drafts and I have high hopes for it! It is set in World War II and the protagonist could not be more different than my Jack. If everything goes as I hope, then one day I will be writing two books a year, one for each series. Now, that really would be fun.

As a relative newcomer to the publishing scene, what is your opinion of the surge in independent publishing of recent years? How do you think the face of the publishing industry will change in the next five years? Are you tempted to go down the indie route, or perhaps become a so-called hybrid author, where you have both traditional and self-published work for sale?

Independent publishing is great. It really does give everyone the chance to see their own book in print and available for sale. The problem with that is that the market place is now congested, so it can be very hard to know what is worth buying. That is why reviews and bloggers are so important, and I now buy nearly all of my books on recommendation rather than from random browsing.
I am sure that traditional publishing will retain its place in the market, but I am equally sure it will need to adapt to make certain that it remains relevant. Although ebooks are great, and I certainly buy my fair share, I think that traditionally published hardbacks will retain a very important place. I still love to buy a beautiful hardback book, especially one signed by the author.

As for my future, well I certainly would not rule out self-publishing. I have looked at it, but I am not sure that I have the energy and the drive needed, as it seems to take all my time writing and promoting my books without also having to devote a vast amount of effort in editing, proofing, copy-editing and cover design. So for now I shall stick with trying to be a traditionally published author and see where that takes me.

And a few quick-fire questions:

Tea or coffee?


Burger or hot dog?


Villain or hero?


Beer or wine?


Happy ending or tragedy? 


In the car, audio-book or music? 


Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions, Paul, and best of luck for the release of JACK LARK - RECRUIT on June 4th and LONE WARRIOR in November, and of course, for all the other books you'll write in coming years!

Connect with Paul and find out about all about his writing here:


Twitter: @pfcollard

Coming soon!

  • More interviews with fabulous authors.
  • Reveal of the title of Book 3 in the Bernicia Chronicles.
  • Competitions.
  • And lots more!

Sunday 10 May 2015

Seven things you might not know about me as a writer

Historical novelist, Judith Arnopp, tagged me in a game on Facebook where I need to share seven lesser known facts about me as a writer (I've expanded the remit to cover my books as well). It has taken me about a month to get around to this, but better late than never!

So, here goes:
  1. I knew next to nothing about Anglo-Saxon Britain before starting to write The Serpent Sword. The period chose me, and I just had to research to catch up.
  2. I designed the cover of The Serpent Sword. 
    The Serpent Sword cover
  3. The cover photo of The Serpent Sword is an original taken by living historian and reenactor, Matthew Bunker. He belongs to the group Wulfheodenas, and the helm, byrnie and sword are all authentic replicas of archaeological finds from the period of the novel.
  4. My dad edited The Serpent Sword, and also the sequel, The Cross and the Curse. I hope he will continue to edit book three of the Bernicia Chronicles and beyond.
  5. I started writing about Bebbanburg before Bernard Cornwell published his first Uhtred novel. But he beat me to the punch, and I then set the novel aside for nearly a decade.
  6. I failed history at school.
  7. I also failed English Literature!

Friday 8 May 2015

Writing, rock singing and Bernard Cornwell - Char Newcomb interviews me!

The talented author of Men of the Cross has interviewed me on her blog.

In the interview, I talk about when and how I write, what inspires me, singing in a rock band and how Bernard Cornwell almost scuppered my writing career!

Check out the interview here:

Sunday 3 May 2015

REVIEW: HILD by Nicola Griffith

HildHild by Nicola Griffith
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

For the last few years, I have been immersed in the history of early seventh century Britain. As I've researched and written my own books set in this time period, I have read a lot of non-fiction about it.

It is a period that is not that popular with novelists, but of course, I find myself drawn to the novels that are set in the same time and place as my own. One such book is Hild, by Nicola Griffith. I first found out about the novel whilst researching for The Serpent Sword about three years ago. Griffith has a blog where she discusses her writing and she was posing many of the same questions I found myself asking. Questions about language, beliefs, appropriate metaphors for the time, and more prosaic things like, where did people sleep?

For an author, setting your story in what is often called the Dark Ages, gives you a huge amount of scope. There are many gaps in the historic records, so you can use your imagination, and also, most readers don't know much about the period. The downside to this is that there are relatively scant resources for facts about historical figures. So, if you have read a lot about the royal and ecclesiastical characters of the time, you pretty much know what is going to happen to them in a historical novel that focuses on famous people.

For this reason, having most of the main characters of Hild (and of course, the protagonist herself) be real historical figures, did remove some of the tension that could have been there, if the characters were fictional. This will not be an issue with most readers, but I knew the fate of most of the main characters from the beginning.

Having said that, Griffith's writing is so powerful, so rich and languidly effortless at times, that I found the book often difficult to put down. She has a way with words that most writers would kill for, even if at times, she does seem to revel slightly too much in the arcane names of people and places, making some paragraphs a struggle.

The character of Hild is a strong and ever-present force in the novel as it tracks her early life. I found her believable and likable, even though I did think that some of the situations and roles Griffiths had her excel in seemed a little post-modern revisionist. I know Hild was a strong female character, but I do not believe that the male-oriented, warlike society of the Anglo-Saxons, would defer to a young girl in battle, even if they believed her a haegtes, or seer. Of course, that is merely my opinion. I was not there, and it certainly makes for a good story. And I think that is where the real strength of Hild, the novel, lies. It is based on real events, but with a world that is painted with enough depth and detail around the bones of the history to seem wholly real. In this, it has many of the traits of a great fantasy novel, and I can see why it has been compared to Game of Thrones. The world-building is excellent and the reader wants to know what happens to these characters. In my case, the ending was less satisfying than it would have been if I had not known the history, but I look forward to the sequel that I know Griffith is writing. If she can pull off another novel as laden with poignancy and a sense of time and place, it will be a must read.

4.5 Stars

View all my reviews