The dreaded “F-word” in historical fiction – what’s your opinion on it?

complete series

Okay, as you probably all know, I’ve finished off my Forest Lord series* and am now working on a new novel starring a warrior druid rampaging through post-Roman Britain. That will be the first in, I expect, a trilogy but who knows…?


Now, I remember writing my debut novel, Wolf’s Head, and wondering if I should leave in all the swearing. At that time I was particularly enjoying books by guys like Anthony Riches who uses the f-word rather a lot. It didn’t ruin the enjoyment of the story for me – quite the opposite in fact: it made the characters more realistic. I’ve spent a lot of time with groups of hard working class men and, trust me, swearing is very common. And the women often have even filthier mouths on them!


Chock f**king full of sweary words and stuff

Anyway, I messaged Anthony on Facebook and asked his advice (he’s a very approachable guy as well as a great storyteller). He told me to do what I felt was right, not to make a decision on what I thought would sell or what anyone else might want.


“Do what you feel is right. Now f**k off and leave me alone!”


So I left in the swearing, despite the fact my biggest influence was Bernard Cornwell who never uses the “harder” swear words like f**k or, God forbid, the dreaded C-word (I think I used that once in my entire series, to punctuate a particularly harrowing death scene).

Recently though, Amazon accepted a couple of my short tales into their Kindle Singles Program. I am really honoured to be in there (Friar Tuck and the Christmas Devil was the first, followed lately by “The Prisoner” and “The Escape”) but I started to wonder if maybe the audience for the Kindle Singles might be put off by the swearing. My Amazon contact thought I was probably right and so we agreed I’d take out the worst of the language. Anyone who read the original draft of “The Escape” which I gave away FREE to my Email List subscribers will see the difference in the version that’s now on sale as a Kindle Single.

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I didn’t really think toning down the language diluted the stories so I’ve stuck with it while writing the final Forest Lord novella, The Abbey of Death (publication date still to be announced).

The thing is, over the years, I’ve had a few 1-star reviews by people who say they liked my stories and characters but were so offended by the swearing that it ruined the whole thing for them. Now, my instinctive, defensive reaction to a review like that is to think, “Well, f**k you mate. Go and read a Hardy Boys story.”

But, is it really adding that much more to my books to have swearing in them? Like I say, Bernard Cornwell is the guy that made me want to write British historical fiction and the worst you’ll read in his books is a “turd” or “shit”. But his books, particularly the early Uhtred ones and the King Arthur trilogy, are fantastic and more than gritty enough.

I’m torn on this and I’d dearly like to hear your opinions on it.

Some people ARE turned off my books when they see the swearing and that’s the last thing I want. I want to reach the widest audience I possibly can and I want as many of them as possible to enjoy what they’re reading.

So – do you think my books would suffer if there were no f-bombs in them? Or would it not make much difference as long as the stories were good?


PLEASE – let me know! Leave a comment at the bottom of the page here or use the CONTACT button at the top or message me on Facebook or Twitter or whatever.

This is hugely important to me so do share your thoughts – you, the readers, are after all who I’m writing for…



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*The Abbey of Death is all finished, just waiting to find out what will be happening with it but it should be published soon. I put a LOT of work into this and early indications suggest it’s been worth it. I hope you all LOVE what I’ve done with Will Scarlet!




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.


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 #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….


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!



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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.

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!

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.

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.



12 Days of Christmas promo

Blood of the Wolf is only 99p on Kindle in Amazon UK’s 12 Days of Christmas promotion! Usual price is £2.99 so it’s a great saving if you haven’t already bought it. It’s sitting pretty at number 1 in the “Biographical Fiction” chart right now so I’m really happy in the run up to Christmas day. Thank you if you’ve bought it!

Get it here –

One of my readers just posted this on my Facebook page about the book and it left me speechless. I had to share it!

I thought it was amazing! I really liked what you did with the story and the ending, i don’t think I’ve ever read a novel which ended on such an interesting emotional rollacoaster. I’d honestly put your series up with the likes of Sharpe and James Bond in terms of action adventure novels. In terms of what you did with the Robin Hood legend I think you did a brilliant job of pulling the story apart and rebuilding it in your own image! I think you did a good job of creating a version of the legend thats faithful to the originals in many respects but also totally unlike any I’ve come across before. Good job Sir!”

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Sorry this promotion is only in the UK just now, I don’t have any control over what markets promotions are held in. Maybe if I sell enough books, or get lots of reviews in the USA Amazon will start pushing things over there too! 😉



Ye Olde Christmas Traditions

This post originally appeared on the English Historical Fiction Authors blog in 2015. Enjoy!


Christmas isn’t a new invention – it’s been around for quite a while, in one form or another, as you’re probably aware! Many of our favourite traditions are relatively recent additions though, such as the red-suited, white-bearded Santa with his elves, Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer and Slade with their annoying yet brilliantly catchy song.

Of course, winter has always been a time for people to celebrate, as the old year gives way to the new and we look forward to what the future will bring us. Medieval folk shared many of our customs and they had some interesting ones of their own that didn’t carry over to the present day.

With the passing of summer, things become bleak and drab so, at Christmas we decorate our houses to chase away the gloom. In the middle-ages they used evergreens like holly, ivy and mistletoe to brighten the place, a tradition stemming from the Roman festival of Saturnalia.

Icy holly by Liz West

Holly was thought to deter witches while men wore it to attract female admirers. Ivy also kept evil forces away but it was kept outside the home, while mistletoe – a plant venerated by the pagan Druids – was really frowned on by the Church but that didn’t stop suitors kissing beneath it as they do to this day.

Of course, the main evergreen we use to see in Christmas nowadays is the fir tree, with its fairy lights and shiny baubles. Medieval people didn’t have a tree in their house but a candlelit fir was displayed in London in the fifteenth century and, in general, it was seen as a Christian symbol, possibly to combat the pagan oak.

Many of those traditions originated in even earlier times, with the Vikings, who celebrated the winter solstice, their Yuletide, around the same time as we enjoy Christmas.

Our lovely, chocolatey Yule Log, for example, which is a cake nowadays but in pre-Christian days it  was an actual log or even a small tree, carved with protective runes and brought inside with great ceremony to be used as fuel for the household’s fire during December.

That should last a while!

Santa Claus takes many elements from the Viking legends. They believed Odin, or Old Man Winter, a white-bearded old man in a hooded robe who flew around the world on an eight-legged horse, gave out gifts to the good and punishments to the bad. He would even be invited into people’s homes with food and drink.

Yuletide was often referred to as “drinking yule”, which suggests drinking a lot of alcohol played a big part in the Viking celebrations, with feasting, games and songs. Which of course carried on into medieval times and nowadays…well, I’d imagine more booze is sold in December than any other time of the year. We certainly carried on that custom!

Getting back to medieval times, the people had various saints’ days which were celebrated throughout the winter, with some of them even carrying over after Christmas Day (which is still the case for those of Catholic faith).

December the 26th was St Stephen’s day and it saw sword dances and mumming plays which sound pleasant enough, but the animals were also bled (in those days, of course, bleeding was seen as healthy!) and in Wales, female servants would have their arms and legs beaten bloody by young men with holly branches! Ouch. Thankfully that tradition died out…

Odin/Father Winter

There was also Holy Innocents’ Day on the 28th, and Epiphany on January 6th, but most interesting to me was St Lucy’s Day, which was on the 13th of December and was a celebration of light. This is another feast day that has links to earlier, pagan times, with candles and processions. Of course, Lucifer, before he became synonymous with Satan, was known as the light-bringer, so it seems clear to me that St Lucy’s Day was actually a celebration of Lucifer (bear in mind, the Latin word lucifer was once even applied to Jesus)…

Which brings me rather neatly to my own little take on medieval festivities.

Friar Tuck and the Christmas Devil is my brand new novella and December 1323 is the backdrop for much superstition and fear. I greatly enjoyed writing and researching it and, who knows, maybe reading it each December will become as much a modern tradition as Scrooge and Noddy Holder/Mariah Carey! It’s available on paperback, Audible audiobook and Kindle as part of the exclusive Kindle Singles Programme. Also now available in German!

*2016 update* – I’m currently running a Goodreads giveaway HERE where you can win one of two signed copies of the book, so check it out, it’s free to enter!

To buy Friar Tuck and the Christmas Devil click HERE

To find all of Steven’s books on Amazon, click HERE 

Sign up HERE to Steven’s email list and get a FREE short story, “The Rescue”



Jackson, Sophie – The Medieval Christmas (The History Press, 2005)


Win personally signed copies of the entire Forest Lord series!

The series is finally finished and Robin is…well, you’ll have to read Blood of the Wolf to find out. It’s all done though, and it’s been an amazing journey over the past three years!


Four full length novels, all of which have been number 1s in the Amazon charts at some point, and two novellas, one of which – Friar Tuck and the Christmas Devil – was good enough to be accepted into Amazon’s exclusive Kindle Singles Programme while the other – Knight of the Cross –  is seen as my best ever work by bestselling author Matthew Harffy.



So who wants personally signed copies of ALL  OF THEM?! I have a full set to send out to lucky winners anywhere in the world and ANOTHER set to send out to people on my email list so sign up here if you’re not already on it. Hey, you get a FREE short story , “The Rescue” that’s not available anywhere else for joining so it’s not all bad.



It’s FREE and it kicks ass. Sign up here NOW!

I know some of you will have signed copies already, especially if you’ve signed up to that Email List, as I give them away regularly. But for those who don’t have any, here’s your chance to win a nice Christmas present for yourself or someone who loves historical fiction! And I will sign whatever you like in them.

Now, the nitty gritty….

To enter, all you have to do is post a NEW review of ANY OF MY BOOKS on Amazon and/or Audible or Goodreads. I’m not asking you to make up a 5 star review to get in on this, I want real, honest reviews even if they’re not that complimentary. You can post a long, detailed review or just a single line, it’s entirely up to you.

Post your review of any of my books on Amazon and/or Goodreads and tell me you’ve done it!

Reply to this message OR use the CONTACT button up top, OR email me at to let me know you’ve done it. If you are friends with me on Facebook or Twitter, just message me on there to let me know. Importantly, EVERY TIME YOU POST A NEW REVIEW YOU’LL GET ANOTHER ENTRY so post reviews for every single book and you’ll get SIX entries but don’t forget to let me know you’ve done it!

As an example, if you leave a brand new review for Wolf’s Head, and let me know about it, you get one entry. Post another review for Blood of the Wolf and that’s TWO entries. Add another review for Friar Tuck and the Christmas Devil, let me know, and you’ll have 3 chances to win etc etc with a maximum of 6 chances!

Go on then – get reading, post those new reviews and let me know you’ve done it!  A SHARE on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ etc etc would be nice too…








My small collection of historical and fantasy weaponry

I’ve been a fan of historical and fantasy fiction since I was a teenager so, when I got my own house as a nineteen-year-old  (twenty years ago) and I found a website called BattleOrders, I realised I could fulfil my fantasies and own all sorts of awesome swords and stuff. And at that time there were no legal restrictions, it was awesome!

I never really got into it much after that initial enthusiasm though, since I was just a young lad with a mortgage, then kids came along… I only have a small collection compared to guys like Ben Kane, Anthony Riches and Christian Cameron who you should badger to show you their stuff. It’s much better than my meagre lot. I’m quite sure many of you have lots of fantastic weapons and armour so please share it here with us!

The one thing I’d like to add would be a realistic replica of Dirty Harry’s .44 Magnum but that’s never going to happen in the UK. We’re not even allowed air guns over here which I have no argument with.

Anyway, here’s my small collection…


Sting, Excalibur, Sword of the Witch King, medieval arrows, SS Officer’s dagger, Roman Senator’s dagger.


Sting was, of course, Bilbo’s sword which would glow blue when evil Orcs or Goblins were around and he passed it on to Frodo who carried it in the excellent films. Mine never glows but it is a really nice copy of the short sword you can see in those LotR movies. Most replicas I’ve come across have a dull edge to the blade but this thing is razor sharp!



The Sword of the Witch King

This is the sword that belonged to the Lord of the Nazgul. This one is a massive piece, comes right up to my shoulders from memory. This was the first sword  I ever owned and my girlfriend (now wife) bought it for me. It’s an exact licensed replica of the one used in the LotR movies.




This is an exact replica of the real sword King Arthur was given by the Lady of the Lake.

Hahaha, nah, of course not, that would be ridiculous!

It’s an exact replica of the sword Arthur pulled from the stone around AD 480.






SS Officer’s dagger

Let’s just head this one off at the pass: I’m not a neo-Nazi despite my shaved head. I’m just bald, and the Nazis were pure evil.

A real one of these would sell for a lot of money (Lemmy owned a few)  but this is quite a crude copy. I don’t even think they sell these in the UK any more, presumably because people found them offensive which is fair enough. It’s not something I’d display openly. I’m sure Battle Orders used to sell these with gold or silver trim and I just bought this silver one because it was really cheap.




This thing was billed as a “Roman Senator’s dagger” but I don’t think that’s very accurate. It’s a nice little dagger that would do some real damage but I have no idea where the design might come from. Anyone got any ideas? Let me know!




Now comes the favourite – and pointiest – part of my small collection!

My Jackson Kelly guitar alongside the medieval arrows my friend Chris Verwijmeren made for me. Look at the size of those things! Imagine one of them fired from a warbow, slamming into your chest….I have to say, the guitar is amazing too – Megadeth fans would love it.


So, readers – do you have any weapons or armour? Are you a re-enactor with a load of nice kit? Share your links with us, either here in the comments or share your links to my Facebook page!


Blood of the Wolf – the end of a long journey

My fourth and final book in the Forest Lord series, Blood of the Wolf, will be published in just a few short hours. It will be flowing down your telephone cables, bouncing off orbiting satellites and being delivered by postmen worldwide!

This isn’t just the end of the series – this is the end of a most amazing chapter in my life. It seems like only yesterday that I sat in a street in Glasgow wondering what I should write about, only to settle on Robin Hood when I saw a house named “Sherwood”. Then, a couple of years later, when I published Wolf’s Head, I dreamt of seeing it  on my bookshelf as part of a full, complete series.

Tomorrow, October 14th, that dream will become reality and it feels fantastic!

All four books have been well received and early indications from reviewers with advance copies suggest Blood of the Wolf is a fitting, exciting end to the series. I hope you all agree.

Thank you for supporting me over the past three years or so and, if you’re planning on reading Blood of the Wolf tomorrow – ENJOY!

Get your copy here if you haven’t already ordered it:

And PLEASE, please share the news on your social media pages. There’s buttons at the bottom of this post where you can share it to Facebook, Pinterest, Google+ etc and, if you’re using Twitter, maybe use the #BloodOfTheWolf hashtag?