The Abbey of Death finds a publisher!

That’s right, The Abbey of Death will be my first book that’s not self-published. Amazon Publishing liked it enough to offer me a contract so it should be out under their banner sometime soon.

Honestly, it will mean little to my readers but to me, this is massive. Not only will I be paid an advance for the first time ever, but it shows someone really believes in my work. Now, given my sales numbers (just about to push past 100,000) and the numerous lovely reviews on Amazon and Goodreads it might seem strange that I value this so much but I still haven’t even managed to snag an agent! So for a publisher as MASSIVE as Amazon to offer a contract for my final Forest Lord tale is a dream come true.

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I’ve had a great relationship with the people at Amazon since I first put out Wolf’s Head in 2013 – they even selected three of my short tales for the exclusive Kindle Singles Program – but this is the next step for me and hopefully opens more doors in future.

I don’t know if they’ll decide to use the cover my own designers came up with but, for now, this is it. My brand new series following Bellicus the warrior-druid should also be ready to go in 2017 so it’s shaping up to be my most exciting year yet as a writer. I hope you’ll all join me for the ride!

 

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Amazon KDP now showing all-time “historical” sales in the dashboard!

Is it just me? I logged into my KDP dashboard last night and noticed a new feature – “historical” sales. This is something authors have been crying out for so it’s brilliant that Amazon have listened. It’s also great for me because I was able to count up my all-time sales from back in 2013 and realised I’d sold a thousand more books than I’d calculated previously!

Up until now I’ve been adding up my monthly sales with a calculator and keeping track that way, or, latterly, using a service like Book Tracker or Book Report, neither of which worked that well for me personally. So to be able to have this information directly on my KDP dashboard is great.

Well done Amazon!

Check it out indie authors and let us know what you think in the comments section!

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A short guide to Robin Hood – pagan, Christian, nobleman, gangster?

Like King Arthur, Robin Hood seems to hold a special place in the hearts of all sorts of people. There’s something very romantic about a downtrodden normal man rising up and thumbing his nose at society’s corrupt rulers. Hundreds of years after the first stories of Robin were told, we can still identify with the concept – some things just don’t change…

No one is quite sure when Hood might have lived, with most authors following Sir Walter Scott’s lead in Ivanhoe and placing him around 1194 and the time of King Richard, although the original tales mention King Edward which would push the time-frame back a century or so depending on which Edward they meant.

There’s also some question over the religious aspects of the character – was he an extension of a pagan figure like John Barleycorn, Cernunnos or Herne the Hunter? Or was he simply a devout Christian as the early ballads suggest? The people of the middle-ages were certainly Christian, as the Crusades so violently testify, but they also held to some of the “old ways” – could a real man have taken on some of these pagan aspects and become the mythical figure we know today?

The Green Man represents nature and the seasons – more specifically the cycle of life, death and the rebirth in spring. John Barleycorn is similar, although he stands for autumn and the barley crop which would be used to make beer. It’s obvious this kind of archetype – of a symbolic figure that brings life (and beer!) to the common man while triumphing over the oppressive, killing cold of winter – fits nicely with the myth of Robin Hood. Indeed, in my own Wolf’s Head Robin brings ale, food and money to the starving people of Wakefield, foiling the ever-present medieval spectre of an early death.

Of course, the bold outlaw has been portrayed countless times in TV shows and movies – the hugely popular “Prince of Thieves” and Richard Carpenter’s wonderful fantasy-tinged “Robin of Sherwood” probably being the pick of the bunch, but the popularity of the recent BBC series and the Russell Crowe movie proves again how audiences continue to connect with the legend.

In novel form Robin hasn’t fared quite as well as the ever-popular King Arthur, who was, of course, immortalized in fantastic books by Bernard Cornwell and Marion Zimmer Bradley among others. Angus Donald has taken a refreshingly new look at the character in his successful Outlaw Chronicles, making Hood something of a medieval gangster, although the books are still set around the 13th century. David Pilling, Prue Batten and Parke Godwin are others who have explored the legend although I haven’t got around to reading them yet, simply because I don’t want to be accused of stealing ideas!

For my own novel Wolf’s Head I chose to follow the very first, original ballads by placing the action in Yorkshire, rather than Nottingham, and in the early 14th century. All the old characters are still there though, with the much-maligned sheriff doing his best to bring the “merry men” to justice. The second in the series, The Wolf and the Raven also sees the introduction/return of Sir Guy of Gisbourne…
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There are, of course, lots of other ideas and theories around Robin Hood. Was he really William Wallace? Was he a Templar knight as suggested by John Paul Davis in The Unknown Templar? Or the Earl of Huntingdon, rather than the yeoman of the early ballads? Did he really use a longbow or did that only come into use after Robin lived?

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We’ll probably never know the answers to these questions, and that’s the great thing about Robin, Little John and Will Scarlet, just as it is with King Arthur and Merlin: we can allow our imaginations to fill in the blanks, knowing no one interpretation will ever be “right” or “wrong”. For me, there was a real man – or more likely men – that the Robin Hood legend was based on, over a period of decades. Hard men – probably violent criminals that weren’t very heroic at all. But their exploits – stealing from the obscenely wealthy while evading the unpopular ruling class – brought cheer to the downtrodden peasants and commoners of the medieval period. The tales grew in the telling to include elements of heroism, paganism and romance until, eventually, Hood became a symbol for justice and, perhaps most importantly, hope.

But that’s just how I see it. How do you picture the legendary wolf’s head and his band of men? In the end, that’s all that matters!

This blog post originally appeared on the English Historical Fiction Authors website on November 22, 2014. 

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Blood of the Wolf US Sale!

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Good news, Forest Lord fans! The Kindle version of Blood of the Wolf, the final novel in the series, will be 99c in the USA for a couple of days. This is the first time the book has been on special offer so if you haven’t read it now’s the perfect time to grab your copy. Just click the pic below and feel free to hit that SHARE button too. 😉

Have a great week!

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

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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!

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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.

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“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?

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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…

Cheers

Steven

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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.

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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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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.

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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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 – getBook.at/BotW

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! 😉