Final cover for Abbey of Death. Like it?

Thank you to all who voted on my new cover!

The response was really fantastic – the best I’ve had so far from you guys here and also on my mailing list, so thanks, I really appreciate your help with this. I honestly expected there to be a clear winner but in the end it was about a 50/50 split with many saying they liked the cleaner lines without the rosary, while lots really liked the interest the beads added.
So…I asked my designers to come up with something I hope will appeal to EVERYONE! Check it out below, I think it’s the ideal blend of both previous covers.

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On another note now, Wolf’s Head (book 1 in the Forest Lord series of course) is just 99c on Kindle USA for a few days, and the German edition of Knight of the Cross (Ritter des Kreuzes) is only €0.89 as part of the Amazon.de #indielesefestival promotion.

Cheers all!

Cover reveal for Abbey of Death – which is your favourite?

Here’s the artwork for the final Forest Lord novella…

I really love this art! It goes with the Will Scarlet novella, The Abbey of Death, in which he, disillusioned with a life spent as a mercenary and outlaw, becomes a Benedictine monk. Obviously, though, things don’t go quite to plan and soon he’s called back into action….

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A                                                                      B

 

The cover on the left was the first version (A), but I thought it might be a nice little touch to have some bloody rosary beads so my designers added them and came up with the cover on the right (B).

But I’m not sure which is best! I am thinking the simplicity of A is probably going to work well but I wanted to ask you guys, my most loyal readers, what you think? Please comment below and let me know what you think, it will be a great help.

The novella is finished (first draft), I just need my editor to go over it now and then tidy it up so I’m expecting it to be available for Kindle and paperback by March or April. Audio version will hopefully follow soon after although I’m not sure about that just yet.

My brand new book, The Druid (working title), is coming along and I’m really loving writing it. Still hopeful it will be ready to publish sometime around late summer/autum this year. I think you’re all going to love it!

Have a great weekend!

Steven

OUT NOW!

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Audible audiobook review roundup Jan 2017

Here’s a few short reviews of the audiobooks I’ve been listening to over recent weeks. Check them all out on Audible!

Dune Messiah by Frank Herbert

Read by Simon Vance although his name isnt listed first in the credits for some reason

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I enjoyed this but, let’s be honest – only the first book in this series is truly a classic. Herbert’s writing style is good and the narration is absolutely fantastic but the story here is only good rather than great. Paul Atreides is still here and so are many of the other characters we bonded with in Dune, but this is a shorter book.
Still highly recommended, but maybe only worth 4 stars rather than the 5 Dune deserved.

Children of Dune by Frank Herbert

Read by Simon Vance

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Well, you know I MUST have enjoyed Dune Messiah because I straight away moved onto this, the next in the series! Paul is gone (or is he…?) and we follow his children in this book. There’s not a lot of action but the politics and psychology of the tale are really well done and this is a worthy successor to Dune Messiah.

It’s still not as good as Dune though!

Another 4/5.

HP Lovecraft The complete omnibus vol 2 

Read by Finn J.D. John

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I bought this because the previous audio collections of Lovecraft I’d bought didn’t include certain stories for some reason. At the Mountains of Madness for example, which I really wanted to hear (bear in mind I’ve read all Lovecraft’s stories multiple times over the years).

The narrator here initially struck me as really good, to the extent I thought about buying volume 1 too. But for some reason, after a few hours listening, I’m not really drawn into this collection. It’s not the stories that are at fault because The Shadow Over Innsmouth and my favourite Lovecraft tale ever, The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, are included. These are really excellent stories but…I don’t know what it is. The narrator has a great voice, he acts out the parts very well and it should be great but, for some reason I seem to switch off completely when listening to him and before I know it I’ve missed half the story and need to replay it!

The previous Lovecraft collection I listened to used a variety of narrators and, at the time, I didn’t understand what the point was but now I think it may have been a good way to hold the listener’s interest.*(See my review of that collection at the foot of the page!)

I really don’t know how to rate this – the tales are fantastic, the narrator certainly seems good but I’m bored listening to it and it’s NOT spooky even when I listen to it on my own, in the dark, out in the middle of nowhere around Glasgow when I’m at work!

Weird tales indeed….

Mort by Terry Pratchett

Read by Nigel Planer

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I love Planer’s reading of Pratchett’s stories so much, he is perfect for them and this is no exception. As usual, the sound quality is horrendous, but other than that this is a good tale that will make you laugh (does anybody remember laughter? – I hope you read that in a high-pitched rock god’s voice). Death himself working as a cook in a greasy-spoon cafe is great as is the titular hero wondering WTF is going on as he slowly morphs into the grim reaper. Hugely imaginative as always with Sir P!

4/5

The Cross and the Curse by Matthew Harffy

Read by Barnaby Edwards

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Longtime friends and followers of mine might know that I endorsed Harffy’s debut novel, The Serpent Sword. That was a self-published affair which garnered enough interest and sales that Matthew was taken on by a major publisher, Aria, and this is the resultant sequel.

The tale is quite straightforward with love, action and beautifully written prose aplenty and, combined with a really good narrator, makes for a great listen. It gets especially nasty (in a good way!) about two-thirds in and things really start to come together there.

I felt a little as if this was a bridge between the first book and the next, setting things up for what’s to come for the rest of the series. That’s no bad thing and there is enough to keep your interest up throughout although I did miss a bit of humour. The events are dark and gritty and the characters know it – but it would have been nice to have a bit of childish banter between the men just to lighten things. As it is, the word I kept thinking of as I listened was “earnest”. The dialogue is earnest, the characters are earnest and the prose is too. I was wishing someone would fart or stand in a dog turd but sadly there’s no slapstick silliness here!

This series has been compared to Bernard Cornwell’s Uhtred stories (by me, actually, in that previously-mentioned endorsement!) but, although settings and time period are similar, the writing is completely different in The Cross and the Curse. Fans of one author will enjoy the other I’m sure, as both are absolutely brilliant.

5/5

Finally,

Ubik by Philip K. Dick

Read by Luke Daniels

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The narrator here sounds so much like the guy that did VH1’s “Behind the Music” that I kept expecting him to say something like “Dave Mustaine’s drug use spiralled out of control and left Megadeth in a state of limbo. When we return…!”

But he never did and, Googling the guy it seems he’s got nothing to do with “Behind the Music”. It was quite off-putting for a while but I got into it soon enough and I started really enjoying the narration. His voices are really good, nailing the 60’s hippy stoner in particular, and it leads to a great listening experience although it’s quite short.

The story is Dick’s usual mindf**k that leaves you scratching your head wondering if reality is as real as we’re led to believe, with twists and turns all over the place. Some of which don’t make much sense but you can forgive that because it’s such an interesting book.

It’s a slow burner but stick with it because by the end of it you won’t want it to stop! I still want to know what happened next!

5/5
Next time I’ll be listening to Bernard Cornwell‘s The Flame Bearer and the final two books in the Dune series so keep it here…Also, don’t forget the final book in my Forest Lord series, Blood of the Wolf, is now available from Audible, read by Nick Ellsworth as usual. Save a credit for it, it’s an incredible listen!

 

 

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*The Necronomicon by HP Lovecraft

Read by various. This review is one I posted originally on Audible.co.uk

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“Eldtrich and unspoken horror…no, wait!”

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Yes, I’ve loved it! I assume you already know Lovecraft if you’re looking at this so I’ll review it with that in mind.
The stories are well read and, although it’s not quite as creepy as reading them yourself, it’s still great and…come on, you get about 65 stories here, for ONE CREDIT?
That has to be (at the mountains of) madness!

What did you like best about this story?

I sometimes work at night and driving around the dark, wintry streets of Glasgow, often out in the sticks, with this audiobook playing in the background….brilliant!

Which character – as performed by the narrators – was your favourite?

Some of the narrators are great, some not so much.

Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

I locked the doors in my car when I was listening in the dark….who knows what lurking horror might have crept up on me?
Lovecraft is never terrifying or shocking in a 21st century way, but his writing is always creepy and sticks in your mind. This collection does a fine job of bringing that crawling chaos to life.

Any additional comments?

Considering I got this for one monthly credit I honestly can’t complain. There’s 60-odd stories, all professionally read and that is just great value for money. I’ve read the stories dozens of times myself over the years and yet still found myself wanting to listen more to this to see what happened next. And I’ve only listened to the first few stories so far! Can’t wait until I hear the likes of “Shadow Over Innsmouth” or “The Call of Ktulu” (oops, sorry, I’ve got Metallica on just now, got mixed up for a sec!).
Needless to say, if the quality drops I’ll edit my review but for now I just wanted to post my thoughts as there’s not a lot for other listeners to go on.
Trust me – if you’re a fan of HPL give this a go.

5/5

Historical Fiction Cover Winner January 2017

Didn’t win but check it out anyway!

Vintage Treasures

Do you love historical fiction? What makes you choose one book over another? For most of us, the cover is the first thing that attracts our attention. For me, the cover has to look professional and must convey genre and a hint of what the story is about.

Each month I will be taking a look at historical fiction covers and choosing my ‘Pam’s Pick’ for the month. Hopefully, you will be intrigued enough to look beyond the covers I feature and find your next favourite author. If a cover interests you just click on the image to learn more about the book and buy if you wish.

My first winner is The White Camellia, by Juliet Greenwood. When this cover landed in my inbox, I knew immediately it would be one of my top picks. The image is beautiful, romantic and delicate. If I saw this in a shop I would…

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Blood of the Wolf now on Audible and an extract from my brand new series!

Audiobook fans rejoice (or just mumble “woohoo” if you prefer)

The fourth and final Forest Lord novel, Blood of the Wolf, is now available as an audiobook from Audible and, I believe, iTunes. Read, as always, by Nick Ellsworth it clocks in at 12 hours, being the longest book so far by a fair margin.

Click on this link to go to your own country’s Amazon page or just use your Audible account to find it in the store.
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On another note, I have finished the first draft of my final Forest Lord novella – The Abbey of Death starring Will Scarlet. Look out for that around March/April with a cover reveal very soon. This will be the last book featuring the Robin Hood characters so it will be an interesting time for me.

Up next is my brand new historical fiction series, set in 5th century Britain, with the first book tentatively titled “The Druid” since it’s about, yes, you guessed it, a druid! I started writing it yesterday and it was so much fun to be creating an entirely new character after four or five years with Robin, John, Tuck etc. Very exciting indeed!
Here’s a short, unedited, extract, I hope you enjoy it. All being well this book will be out this year but I need to make certain it’s perfect as the first book in a series is the all-important foundation the whole thing rests upon. It will be worth it though, I’m sure…

As ever, please comment below and SHARE using the buttons for Facebook, Twitter etc etc!
Cheers!
Steven

Bellicus regained his stool which groaned under his weight as he relaxed, tearing off a piece of bread from the fresh loaf on the trencher before him and chewing thoughtfully as his light-blue eyes scanned the long hall, taking in everything and everyone. He had a special talent for understanding people. For accurately judging a man’s character from just his facial features and the way he carried himself.

His intuition was greatly valued by Coroticus and it had led to the young druid’s newly elevated position as the king’s personal advisor.

“Who better to have at your side,” Coroticus had smiled, “than a giant druid who can read a man’s intentions in an instant and fight like a centurion?”

Bellicus felt a warm glow, from pride at the remembered praise as much as from the beer which he raised now to his lips and sipped appreciatively.

It was true, he was a fine judge of character – a gift from the Gods which he couldn’t really explain himself. His martial prowess though – that was mostly down to hard work and the finest teacher this side of either of the Romans’ ridiculous walls.

Being taller than any other man he’d ever met was also helpful when it came to a fight although, as a druid, he wasn’t expected to form part of his lord’s shieldwall. That hadn’t stopped him trying it a handful of times though. The first time had almost turned his bowels to water but he forced himself to go through it again, and again, until one day he’d found himself nervous, rather than terrified, as he and his comrades faced down the charge of two-dozen Saxon marauders from the south-east.

After that, he’d given up the shieldwall. He’d conquered his fears and it had served its purpose.

Q&A with author Andrew Q. Gordon

I was contacted recently about hosting a guest post by law-enforcement official and writer Andrew Q. Gordon, author of fantasy and paranormal books like Purpose and Kings of Lore and Legend. Below is a Q&A with Andrew, I hope you take a look and enjoy it as much as I did! I’m filling in a similar Q&A that will be hosted on his website so look out for that in the very near future.

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  1. Welcome Andrew. Since this is your first time to the Steven A. McKay blog, tell the audience a bit about yourself.

You’d think doing this since kindergarten I’d have a pat answer at the ready, but it hasn’t gotten any easier in the decades since. My husband and I have been together 22 years and married for 3. Our daughter is 5. During the day I work in law enforcement (think the suit half of Law and Order.) I love baseball and am trying to teach my daughter the game by taking her to see the minor league team in our area. I’m also a life long soccer fan—I’ve played since I was 8, refereed since I was 25 and more recently started to coach.

Fantasy and sci-fi—books, movies, comics etc.—are my genre of choice, but I do like historical entertainment as well. Wine more than beer, whiskey over scotch, and coffee not tea. I’m a bit of a tech junkie but more of a second follower than a first adopter.

  1. How long have you been writing?

    I started writing in college. I gave it up when I went to law school. Started again by taking a writing course when I got my first job. Gave it up again when my husband and I moved. Took it up again about ten years ago by reconnecting with my writing teacher and have been going strong ever since.

  2. What was the first story you wrote?

    It was a dreadful fantasy story back in high school. After several years of English and writing courses in college, I wrote a much better one for a writing class. It was written on yellow legal pads and took forever to type using a correctible type writer.

  1. What is your favorite part of the writing process?

Typing “The End.”

Okay, so not really. I enjoy figuring out my characters and what are they like. Sometimes they are Athena, born fully formed from the mind of Zeus, others they are Darwin and take years to evolve. Finding what makes them tick, their quirks, and how they react to things is the fun part of writing. It’s like meeting new people and since I’m immersed in their development and their lives, they take on an almost best friend like quality.

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  1. What is your least favorite part?

I probably should say edits, but that isn’t really true. Rules. Specifically, following them. Use active not passive; don’t use autonomous body parts (I didn’t even know there was such a thing); avoid simultaneous actions; watch out for unintended perspective shifts. Yeah, I get it, doing all that stuff is detrimental to good writing, but why can’t it be easier?

  1. Tell the readers something interesting that isn’t in your bio?

    Not sure if this is interesting or not, but I have a collection of inexpensive yet very old books. My grandfather (for whom I am named after in real life) never went beyond 6th grade. He was the oldest of eight and he had to leave school and go to work in my great grandfather’s bakery to help support them. Despite that, he felt it was very important to keep learning. He used to go to yard sales and buy books so he could read them. He also never threw them out. When he died, he left me his books. Many of them were the equivalent of mass market paperbacks, many are not in good shape, but most are at least a hundred years old. They are in my home office in a hundred year old barrister bookcase.

  2. What have you read lately that most people haven’t read but should?

    I really like Greenwode, by J Tullos Hennig. It retells the Robin Hood vs. Guy of Gisborne tale with a twist. The old ways – druids and the like – haven’t been entirely stamped out and Robin is the new leader of those who follow the old ways. It’s really a well written and interesting take on the legend.

  3. If you could meet any writer, alive or dead, who would it be and why?

    Part of me wants to say J. R. R. Tolkein as he was my first favorite author, but I think if I only got one bite, it would be Roger Zelazny. There is a ton of information available on Tolkien, but Zelazny is really only well know among fantasy readers. Zelazny’s Amber Chronicles, specifically the first five that tell Corwin’s story, are wonderful. What I really loved about the entire series is how when they were written affect some of their content. The first five were influenced by the Sixties and Seventies. The second group, that tell Merlin’s story, was started in the Eighties, after the computer age started to take hold. Getting a chance to have coffee or a beer with Roger would be amazing.

  4. What’s a fun – non-writing – day for you?

Spending time with my daughter. It’s a cliché, but kids do grow up fast. Blink and they’ve moved beyond that toy, or phase. I’m trying to create memories for both of us, though I still could do more. I’m sure the day will come soon when she doesn’t want me around so I’m banking my time now to carry me through after she’s become more independent.

  1. Besides reading and writing, what else do you enjoy?

I enjoy watching baseball and soccer. Lately I’ve been more involved in teaching my daughter to play soccer, but I still like going to the games. I live close to a major university so we take her to see the mens and womens soccer matches when we can.

  1. Last question is all yours – feel free to talk about anything you want your readers to know about you, your book, anything at all.

As geeky as it sounds, I love to talk to other readers about fantasy stories. Which ones they loved or hated. Why they liked or didn’t a particular series. I especially enjoy talking magic. There are as many ‘systems’ as there are readers and its fun to see how different people perceive how magic should work. So feel free to email and we can chat about it if you are so moved.

Thanks for having me today.

Get book one in Andrew’s Champion of the Gods series free here. http://aqgsignups.getresponsepages.com

Andrew’s website – http://www.andrewqgordon.com/

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Footnote – nice little synchronicity I doubt Andrew or his PR people knew about: he has a place called Dumbarten featured in his novels. I grew up in, bought my first house in, and was married in the real, Scottish town, Dumbarton! I even worked as a steward in the castle. 🙂

Blood of the Wolf audio approved!

This morning I have approved all the audio files for the Audible version of Blood of the Wolf and it’s going through the ACX quality control process. All being well it will be available to download within the next couple of weeks!

I proof-listened to it twice, which can be a bit of a chore in a short period of time, but I enjoyed it greatly. Nick Ellsworth really does this final instalment in the Forest Lord series justice with his reading.

I hope you’ll check it out once it hits Audible (I believe it will be on iTunes too) and do let me know what you think of it. If you bought the Kindle version already you will be able to get the audio at a greatly reduced rate so bear that in mind.

 

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Steven A McKay: The Prisoner: A Forest Lord Novelette

A short and sweet review of “The Prisoner” by a histfic expert!

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Robin Hood authorAbout (in his own words)

My name is Steven A. McKay and I’m a writer from Old Kilpatrick, near Glasgow in Scotland, heavily influenced by the likes of Bernard Cornwell, Douglas Jackson, Ben Kane et al.

My first book in the Forest Lord series, Wolf’s Head, was set in medieval England and it’s a fast-paced, violent retelling of the Robin Hood legends. It hit the number 1 spot in the UK “War” chart, reached the overall Kindle top 20 bestsellers list and is available on Kindle, audiobook and paperback from Amazon here:  http://smarturl.it/2636

As I write, in October 2016, I’m just about to publish the fourth and final book in the series, Blood of the Wolf. I think my take on the Robin Hood legend is quite different to anything that’s been done before – check out the reviews to see for yourself.

In total, including my two novellas, Knight of the…

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Blasty – is it any good? Yes!

A few weeks ago I signed up for the new service called Blasty which promised to help authors “blast” websites which were sharing pirated copies of their books. If you’re anything like me you’ve probably searched for those sites and found loads of torrents and such. Trying to get in touch with the site owners is always impossible though, and it’s not like they’d give a flying f**k about some indie author who has no legal clout anyway.

In short, it was easy to find pirated, illegal copies of our books that were being shared around the internet but there was no way to really stop it happening.

Enter Blasty!

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I expect them to start charging for their service soon but I signed up to their beta version which was free and, well, let’s take a look at the results from the past couple of months.

First, how does it work? Click the images to see bigger versions…

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As you can see here, it’s as easy as clicking a button, adding a link from Amazon to your book (and a thumbnail if you like) and that’s it.

 

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Next, just click “Check Google Now” and the Blasty system will find, and analyse, various terms like “X book, X author, PDF, Free, Torrent, Audiobook” etc and bring up the list of possible targets.

 

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You can see from the list that one of the links seems fine to me, so I “whitelisted” it. One of the links is illegal so I’ve already “blasted” it and the system is working to have it removed. The second one in the list WAS sharing an illegal version of Wolf’s Head a few weeks ago but Blasty did their thing and the site has been removed completely from WordPress.

So is it worth it? Well, I never paid anything but the screenshots show I’ve already blasted 305 sites/links that were sharing my books illegally. You try removing just ONE of those links by yourself and it will soon become clear Blasty kicks ass! Let me be clear – you don’t need to check every site Blasty finds yourself. Some of them are clearly torrent sites from their visible address so you just need to hit the “blast” button on those. It is NOT a time consuming process at all. Yes, you need to manually review a few links but it’s not very often.

Presumably Google keeps track of all the people sharing blasted content too.

One disclaimer – I have no idea if any of those sites were really sharing my book or if they were scam sites just looking for people to sign up so they could take them for a ride in some way. Probably a LOT of them were. But I’m quite sure many of the links blasted were sharing torrents with my work for free.

Kindle versions of my books arent expensive at all, ranging from 99p to £2.99 so I’m not sure why anyone who enjoys my work would want to rip me off by taking it for nothing when it’s all cheap anyway. Hell, sign up for my email list and not only do you get a free short story I’ve written just for subscribers (I even paid my usual designers to make up a nice cover for it),

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but you also get regular chances to win signed paperbacks or audiobook downloads! I’ve literally just given away an entire signed collection of my paperbacks to someone as part of a giveaway. So I do try and reward my readers as much as possible. No need to rip me off!

 

Anyway, to sum up, if you’re an author, you need to sign up for Blasty. Do it now while it’s still free because I’m sure they’ll be charging for the service soon and rightly so.

What are you waiting for, do it!

https://www.blasty.co/