Tuesday, 21 June 2022

REVIEW: Oath Bound (The Wolf of Kings series) by Richard Cullen

Oath Bound: A gripping historical adventure set in 1066Oath Bound: A gripping historical adventure set in 1066 by Richard Cullen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Richard Cullen's writing is as sharp as the blade wielded by Styrkar, the series' protagonist, who cuts a bloody swathe through his Norman enemies on his quest for vengeance. The books are fast-paced and packed with breathless action. Styrkar is a great heroic creation, and the Wolf of Kings series places Cullen in the top tier of historical action and adventure authors.

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REVIEW: The Guild of Salt and The King's Messenger by Robin Isard

The Guild of Salt and the The King’s Messenger (Guild of Salt, #1)The Guild of Salt and the The King’s Messenger by Robin Isard
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Robin Isard plunges us into a 12th century England riven with revolt and strife, where neighbours are suspected traitors and nobody can be trusted. With empathy and verve, Isard tells the tale of unlikely companions thrown together in a dangerous time of mistrust and violence. The Guild of Salt and the King's Messenger is a rollicking tale of high adventure, self-discovery, survival against the odds, and the forging of lifelong friendships.

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Saturday, 30 April 2022

REVIEW: The Bloodless Boy by Robert J. Lloyd

The Bloodless Boy (Harry Hunt Adventures #1)The Bloodless Boy by Robert J. Lloyd
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Set against the backdrop of a convincing portrayal of a wintry Restoration London, young Harry Hunt throws himself body and mind into solving the gruesome murders of young boys, which might be linked to a plot against the king himself. Lloyd's lyrical prose and believable dialogue drags the reader into the grimy streets of seventeenth century London, where danger lurks in every alleyway. A fantastic crime caper.

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Monday, 11 April 2022

Typical early medieval terrain

A walk with Blue uncovers an area of marshland near a river that would be just the sort of terrain all over Britain in the early medieval period (aka Dark Ages).



Wednesday, 16 March 2022

Interview with Suffolk Libraries

On 11th March 2022, I chatted with Lisa Brennan, a librarian from Suffolk Libraries, about my writing and my books. Watch the full interview here.



Monday, 14 March 2022

INTERVIEW: Peter Gibbons, author of the Viking Blood and Blade Saga

In the last year I've seen a new writer surge onto the action and adventure historical fiction scene, like a dragon-prowed longship cresting a wave on the Whale Road! Peter Gibbons published his first novel, Viking Blood and Blade in September 2021 and now, only six months later, he has just published the third in the series, Axes for Valhalla.

So, who is this new kid on the block (or Viking in the wic)? To find out, I invited him onto the blog to answer my questions.

First tell us about your latest novel, Axes for Valhalla.

Axes for Valhalla is the third book in the Viking Blood and Blade Saga. It's much more brutal than the first two books in the series, in that Hundr and his crew are faced by a merciless and implacable enemy. The scale of the book is also greater than the first two instalments, it’s set across Frankia and Ireland and is set seven years after The Wrath of Ivar, which was the second book in the series. A haunting voice from his past comes to Hundr seeking help, in what becomes his most dangerous adventure yet. A big part of the book is also set in Viking Age Dublin, which is very personal to me, having lived in Ireland for many years now.


How many books have you got planned for the Viking Blood and Blade Saga (great title, by the way!)?

I don't really have a firm number of books planned for the series, I'll see where the story takes Hundr and his crew. So far, they have survived the Great Heathen Army’s invasion of Saxon Britain, and met iconic Viking figures like Ivar the Boneless, Bjorn Ironside, and Haesten. That particular period of the Viking age was filled with war, as the Norse made their mark not only in Britain, but east in what is now Russia, and south past Spain as far as Constantinople. So there are lots of adventures for the characters to seek out yet, but they are dropping like flies at the moment, so hopefully they survive to experience the rest of that exciting world…

Where did you get the inspiration for the series?

I have always been inspired by the Viking Age, from being a kid watching the Vikings movie with Kirk Douglas and Tony Curtis (although it’s not very historically accurate!), to reading Bernard Cornwell’s Saxon Series. Also, I have lived in Dublin and Kildare in Ireland for the last 15 years, and Viking Age Dublin is still very tangible in the city. I travelled to Copenhagen to see the Viking Museum there, and the Viking Ship Museum just outside the city is amazing. The largest Viking Age warship in the museum was actually built in Glendalough in Ireland. That visit was really the catalyst to write the books, the history there is almost palpable.

Have you always wanted to write?

Yes, always. I am a ferocious reader of Historical Fiction, Fantasy, and Historical non-fiction books. Since I was a kid I have made up stories, but never had the courage to finish them off and show them to the world. It’s a strange thing to bring your passion to the notice of others, and have them read it. There is an element of fear and vulnerability in that process, but also exhilaration and validation to see that people enjoy what you have crafted.

What has been the biggest surprise for you since starting to write?

When I published Viking Blood and Blade, it was the fulfilment of an ambition to write, so to see that people actually liked the books was amazing, and humbling. But the biggest surprise is the engagement I have seen, particularly with readers. The reviews people leave are great, but it's amazing when someone has read and enjoyed one of the books, and takes the time to send an email or a social media message. It really makes all the hard work worthwhile, and is a great motivator.


One of the most popular pieces of writing advice is “write what you know” – what do you think about that?

I think that's OK in terms of how characters interact and human nature, which we all experience every day. But, what I love to read are books that take me into a different world, whether it's the Viking Age, the Roman Age, Ancient Sparta, or Middle Earth. So, my real enjoyment in writing is in creating a world and exploring it. I don't think anyone alive today knows the fear and brutality of the shield wall, or how it feels to trade blows with a heavily armed enemy who is a foot away from you swinging an axe at your head! Where “write what you know” applies I think, is in the human stories, or the relationships which take place in our fictional worlds.

Your output is impressive (three novels in six months!). What is your writing process?

I write very early every morning, and stick to a word count target. I also plan my novels and try to be as efficient with my time as possible. I spend a lot of time planning the story before I actually begin to write it, which then makes the process quite smooth.

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

It's hard to pin down one writer or book. As a kid I loved Tolkien, and would read Lord of the Rings once a year for many years. Obviously Bernard Cornwell is the pinnacle of adventure Historical Fiction, and I love the Sharpe series, and the Uhtred books. I do remember being blown away as a teenager reading Arrian’s The Campaigns of Alexander, the detail and descriptions made me feel as though I was actually in those battles and on that campaign.


What advice have you got for aspiring writers?

Just do it. You will never know if you can write unless you try. Self publishing is such a gift for new writers. At worst, you can fulfil your ambition and publish a book that nobody reads, but at best you could find that people actually enjoy your work, and seeing your story unfold on the page before you is an amazing experience.

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

Obviously anything by Matthew Harffy…(Ha! Of course!) but Steven Pressfield’s A Man at Arms was good, and Joe Abercrombie’s latest was a good end to that series. I’m reading the first Mistborn book by Brandon Sanderson at the moment, and the way he creates his fantasy worlds and magic systems is brilliant.

What is the most exciting experience you've had as a result of writing?

Actually just experiencing that people have read and enjoyed what I have written. As a new author, I had all the fears and doubts that everybody does, and to see people not only buying, but enjoying my work is a thrill.

What plans have you got for the future?

To keep writing, and bringing new characters and adventures to life!

And now for the quick-fire questions:

Tea or coffee?

Tea, two sugars, lots of milk. I drink too much tea, but it’s the answer to all life’s problems… 

Burger or hot dog?

Burger. I have an issue, in that whenever I visit a well known fast food outlet, I cannot purchase a burger without also buying a cheeseburger to go with it.

Villain or hero?

Villain (not sure what that says about me as a person!)

Beer or wine?

Beer, or more specifically, lager.

Movie or TV series?

Movie

Happy ending or tragedy?

Tragedy

In the car, audio-book or music?

Audiobook

Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions.

Thanks for inviting me to complete this interview Matthew, also thanks for your support. Hopefully we can bring new readers to each other into the future.

Connect with Peter:

Website: https://petermgibbons.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/petergibbonsauthor

Amazon page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/~/e/B093WPM877 

Sunday, 20 February 2022

INTERVIEW: Alistair Tosh, author of Edge of Empire: Siege

Today it is my great pleasure to welcome debut novelist, Alistair Tosh, onto the blog. His first novel is Siege, the first in the Edge of Empire series. It is a gripping action adventure story set in the tumultuous Roman Britain of the second century AD. I've been lucky enough to read it and I'm sure we will be seeing a lot more of Alistair in the future.


 First tell us about your debut novel, Edge of Empire: Siege.

Siege is an historical adventure set in the wilds of second century northern Britannia. At its heart is the relationship that develops between two men. Lucius Faenius Felix, an inexperienced Roman Tribune, of the patrician class, given command of the First Nervana, an auxiliary cohort. The other is a grizzled, veteran cavalry Prefect and warrior of the Germanic Nervii tribe. Their story will take them through bloody, terror filled battles against the tribes of the north. Lucius’s ordeals will ultimately transform him from callow youth to a battle-hardened war leader with dreams of recovering his lost family lands. Cai, feeling his mortality as his time with the Nervana nears its ending, seeks the love of the beautiful and strong-willed Alyn, widow of his childhood friend. But, as the fearsome Novantae tribe and their allies sweep across the land once more, threatening the province, both men must stand their ground in a final desperate battle that will mean victory for the Nervana or its destruction.


How many books have you got planned for the Edge of Empire series?

So far, there are three planned. The second is well underway and will be published later in 2022. However I have outlined sketches in my mind to take the story on beyond that. Possibly jumping to the next generation of characters who are currently children in the story. But I have also found to my surprise that characters often take on a life of their own and may drive the way events develop. It’s great fun.

Where did you get the inspiration for the series? 

I’ve had bits of the story in my head for years. As a lad growing up in Dumfriesshire I regularly visited Burnswark Iron Age hillfort on my bike. I saw the remains of the two Roman siege forts and the grass-covered mounds of the ballista platforms, called the Three Brethren locally. I wondered what it must have been like for the defenders in what must surely have been a brutal, terror filled, siege. But it was my research into the likely events at Burnswark, and the political backdrop to it, that really highlighted where the story was. 

What was the biggest surprise for you while writing Siege?

I originally envisioned that the battle for Burnswark, the Novantae’s sacred hill in the book, would be the climax to the story. But as I was writing events and characters took on a life of their own and I went in a different direction. Burnswark is now concluded in the book's first act. Weird eh? But, I feel the final battle is even more tense and bloody as a result.

One of the most popular pieces of writing advice is “write what you know” – what do you think about that?

I think I would rather say, write what you want to read. I enjoy reading a wide variety of fiction and non-fiction. But ultimately my true love is in the Roman and early middle ages historical fiction subgenres. I may, one day, write stories outside of these but it is where I am getting most enjoyment at the moment. Hopefully that shows in my writing.

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

That’s a difficult one. I think I have always been drawn to stories with some kind of journey or adventure at their heart. As a lad I didn’t read much other than comic books. But when I joined the Navy there were often long periods of boredom, particularly during night watches at sea. I remember clearly a mate giving me a dog eared copy of The Hobbit during one such watch. I read it cover to cover in no time. So Tolkien was definitely a formative influence. Looking at my own genre, probably someone like Anthony Riches has influenced me to a fair degree. He is the first writer I can remember able to articulate the language of the military and in particular the shorthand banter between comrades. 

This is your first book. Congratulations! I know how much work goes into getting published. What advice have you got for aspiring writers?

Invest in your writing. Do the creative writing courses. Attend writing conventions and speak with other writers. You may think you can write, and you probably can, but by the gods you can develop considerably as a writer in even a short period of time.

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

I recently reread Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff for the umpteenth time, it never gets old. I think the best new book I’ve read is Better Off Dead by Lee Child and Andrew Child, his latest Jack Reacher story. Sometimes you just want to see the baddies have their legs broken before they are brutally killed. 

What is the most exciting experience you've had as a result of writing?

Seeing my new book cover for the first time. It’s a simple but dramatic image that really encapsulates the sense of tension that fills much of the story. I was really blown away by it. 

How far are you into writing the sequel of Siege? What plans have you got after that?

I’m about a quarter of the way through the first draft of book 2. I hope to have it ready for my editor by early summer. I plan to take a short break after that as we are about to move house and we’ve got a couple of holidays booked in Spain and Portugal that will also enable me to do some final research for book 3. Is that a spoiler?

And now for the quick-fire questions:

Tea or coffee?

Coffee all day long

Burger or hot dog?

Burger

Villain or hero?

Hero. Of course.

Beer or wine?

Beer

Movie or TV series?

Movie

Happy ending or tragedy?

Tragedy

In the car, audio-book or music?

Music

Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions. Best of luck with the book and your future writing!

Thanks, Matthew, for inviting me onto your blog and giving me the chance to talk about my debut novel.

Connect with Alistair: 

https://www.facebook.com/alistair.tosh.10

https://twitter.com/alistair_tosh

Buy Siege:

www.amazon.com/dp/B09SLWHP8T

http://Amazon.co.uk/dp/B09SLWHP8T



Thursday, 3 February 2022

Interview with archaeologist and runner, Craig Huddart

Craig Huddart talks to me about my latest book, my writing and we discuss Craig's crazy charity running challenge - running 4225km in 2022 to raise funds for two amazing charities, the

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Thursday, 13 January 2022

REVIEW: COMMANDER by Paul Fraser Collard

Commander (Jack Lark #10)Commander by Paul Fraser Collard
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In Commander, the tenth book in the Jack Lark series, Paul Fraser Collard's melancholy hero faces the challenge of the untamed wilderness of Egypt and the Sudan. As if the heat, vegetation-clogged rivers, savage wildlife and vicious hunters were not obstacles enough, Jack Lark must once again confront something that proves much more difficult to vanquish: the darkness that drives him. The title of the novel could just as easily refer to its author as to its protagonist, for Paul Fraser Collard commands the genre of historical action adventure with as much aplomb as Jack Lark commands his troops.

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