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!

 

 

Wolf’s Head is FREE on Amazon Prime

Amazon Prime member in the USA? Get Wolf’s Head completely FREE then!

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I am a Prime member in the UK, hoping Amazon roll this out in the other countries as well.

Furthermore, my next Kindle Single short story, “The Escape” should be out within the next few days so look out for that! The cover art is really atmospheric.

Forest Lord birthday cake, check it out!

It was my 40th birthday a couple of weeks ago and, as a very cool surprise, my wife had this cake made for me. Just thought I’d share it with you all, I was really chuffed with it!

 

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And look out for my latest Kindle Single, the short story “The Escape”, which should be out within the next week or so! Some of you might have read an earlier version of this, but for the rest of you, here’s the blurb. I expect it to be 99p/99c. Cover reveal in a few days!

All he wanted was a quiet drink…

It’s spring, 1323 AD, and John Little, notorious outlaw, seeks to forget his troubles in a Barnsley alehouse. He didn’t count on the place being packed to the rafters with drunk, belligerent, Scottish mercenaries though.

The locals all respect – even fear John – but the strangers from the north only see in him the chance to claim a great bounty.

When the hard stares and furtive whispers turn into explosive violence the chase is on. Without any of his famous friends to help him, will it mean the end for the giant outlaw?

This new stand-alone Forest Lord tale sees one of England’s favourite sons in a battle for his very life that will hugely entertain all lovers of action and adventure!

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! 😉

 

 

New Forest Lord short stories!

Beer Booty!

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I’m having a little celebration tonight because I can tell you Amazon’s exclusive Kindle Singles Programme will be publishing two of my Forest Lord short stories! (Friar Tuck and the Christmas Devil was of course in the Singles Program). First out is “The Prisoner”, a novelette which features Robin and Little John taking a rapist to Nottingham for the sheriff’s justice with, of course, a little twist. That will be out sometime this month.

The second, “The Escape” is about Little John getting into a bit of bother with (ironically!) some drunk Scotsmen and should be out early next year.
I’m also just finishing up the final Forest Lord novella which is titled “The Abbey of Death” and sees Will Scaflock as an unlikely monk. The title will give you an idea that things aren’t as peaceful as he expected when he left behind his farm in Wakefield to become a clergyman…Look out for a cover reveal soon.


Don’t forget, you can get another FREE short story, “The Rescue” by signing up for my email list.
https://stevenamckay.com/mailing-list/

Cheers all! I’m off to enjoy some Robin Hood ale! Have a great weekend.

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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: getBook.at/BotW

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?

 

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Blood of the Wolf now available to pre-order!

The fourth and final book in my Forest Lord series is now available to pre-order on Amazon Kindle. Paperback and Audible versions will also be ready soon.

Click HERE to go directly to your own country’s Amazon page for the book.

Publication date is October 14th!

Available to pre-order now!

Blood of the Wolf blurb and…delayed (but only a little!)

I just wanted to bring everyone up to date with what’s been happening and why the new book isn’t out yet. I know a few of you are really looking forward to it as you message me often, which is amazing. I honestly expected Blood of the Wolf  be ready by now but a few things have meant there’s a little bit of a delay in publication.

Firstly, this has turned out to be the longest book I’ve written so far. The previous three novels were all around 90-100,000 words but Blood of the Wolf is at almost 109,000 and I’m still adding little bits as I edit!

Speaking of which, my editor was really busy during July and August so took longer than expected to go through the book and give me her feedback. I’m on it now, though, and it’s all coming together nicely.

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Me, feeling apologetic for the delay.

There’s also been a hint – just a hint – of some amazing PR opportunities centred around the publication of this new book. I’ve not heard anything about it in the last week so it might turn out to be nothing but that would have involved another delay. In terms of my career though, it would have been well worth it. Fingers crossed on that…

The main issue for me – and I’m sure most of you will totally get this point – is the lack of hours in the day. I still work a full-time day job and have two young children so it can be hard when I come home at night to find the energy to sit at the laptop and work. However! To address that problem I’ve just bought a cheap, small little laptop which I can carry around with me and bring out when I have ten minutes to spare. Waiting on my daughter to come out of her theatre class last night, for example, I managed to get a little proof-reading done. Today, on a break, I typed up a Q&A and am now writing this post you’re reading.

Hopefully, by doing this sort of “admin” during the day I’ll have more free time at night/weekends to work on the actual writing and editing.

Don’t know why I never thought of getting a little super-portable laptop sooner actually.

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My new laptop. It’s so portable!

In general, I get quite stressed about the release date of a new book – it feels like I’m letting my readers down if I don’t publish it as soon as possible. There’s always a slight fear people will get so angry about waiting that they’ll either forget me or stop buying my books! Which seems ridiculous, if you think about it logically. As a reader I’ve never become annoyed at Bernard Cornwell or Terry Pratchett, for example, for not bringing out a new novel every year exactly when I expected it. I forget all about it until I see it’s available then hurry to read it (time allowing!).

And yet, as a writer, I get quite stressed about pushing back a publication date by a month or two. I suppose it keeps me on my toes and working hard.

Still, the good news, for those who ARE getting annoyed with me is that Blood of the Wolf should be out within the next few weeks. I’ve already finished about half my editor’s suggestions and know exactly what to do with the rest. The extra tweaking will be worth it and hopefully lead to an exciting, worthy end to the series.

In the meantime I’ve been buoyed – stunned in fact – to see the other books, particularly Wolf’s Head, zooming right back up the charts on both sides of the pond. That one actually reached number 628 in the overall UK chart last week, which is probably higher than it’s EVER been, outwith special offers or promotions. I have no idea what’s pushing those sales but I’m very happy about it.

Thank you readers, new and old for continuing to buy and review my books!

As a tiny thank you for your loyalty, I’ll give away a signed copy of the new book (with shiny bookmark – woooo!) to a couple of people. Just add a comment here, or email me using the CONTACT button up top, or message me on Facebook/Twitter and let me know you’d like your name in the magic quiver…As always, this is open worldwide.

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Coming soon – Blood of the Wolf. Promise! And to whet your appetite, here’s the blurb I came up with for the back cover.

I’m still tweaking it (literally, I just spent half an hour working on this before I make it public here!), so let me know what you think please.

Cheers!

ROBIN HOOD RETURNS!

And this time the legendary wolf’s head is working for the sheriff…

After winning his freedom in Rise of the Wolf, Robin – with his faithful lieutenant John Little at his side – now spends his days travelling around northern England dispensing King Edward II’s justice.

When a new band of outlaws appears in Barnsdale, Sheriff Henry de Faucumberg sends Robin and John to deal with them. Before the lawmen can track them down though, Will Scaflock is attacked and another of their old companions brutally murdered in his own home by the outlaws whose leader has only one thing on his mind:

Bloody vengeance!

Will Robin’s reunited gang be enough to defeat this savage new threat that seeks to wipe them out one by one? Or will another old foe provide the final twist that sees England’s greatest ever longbowman dead and buried?

This stunning conclusion to the bestselling Forest Lord series will delight and entertain readers looking for action packed historical fiction in the mould of Scarrow, Kane and Cornwell!

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No, really – coming soon!

The Arms and Armour of Robin Hood

by Steven A. McKay

(this article originally appeared on the English Historical Fiction Authors website on August 14, 2013)

Picture this:

You’re a well-to-do medieval clergyman quietly making your way from Doncaster to Pontefract, minding your own business, rubbing your hands in glee at the thought of all the money your brothel in Nottingham is making you. Suddenly, almost like magic, from the trees around you half a dozen heavily armed men appear.

Outlaws!

It’s a familiar image. One we’ve seen in countless TV shows and movies. How realistic are the celluloid depictions though? What would you actually see if you were suddenly stopped by the “real” Robin Hood? What were his clothes like? His armour, if he wore any? His weapons?

In the movies he’s normally depicted as a dapper, dashing gentleman with an easy smile, but what was the reality like? Was Robin Hood scary?

The clothes a medieval outlaw such as Robin wore would have been green and brown – not the bright, gay, freshly-laundered shades seen in the 1950’s movies, but more natural, earthy, downright dirty hues. Which is why you didn’t notice such large men concealed amongst the foliage until it was too late. Leather boots, simple hose and woolen tunic, possibly a hood and, of course, armour.

In a full-scale pitched battle, soldiers, if they could afford it, would have worn chain or plate-mail, but hiding out in Barnsdale Forest, trying to stay one step ahead of the law, heavy armour was completely inappropriate — you try running away from the sheriff or swinging from a tree onto the back of a horse wearing a suit of 20 kg plate-mail! Instead, Robin and his men would have worn a lighter and much cheaper gambeson, which was like a long linen vest or cuirass, padded, and with plates of material – metal, cloth or maybe horse hair – riveted underneath to offer basic protection while still allowing freedom of movement.

The outlaw might have carried a basic steel sword in a wood and leather sheath, and a dagger. Some might have favoured the oaken quarterstaff which, in Little John’s case, could have been over 9ft long!

There was no quiver to carry their arrows as these weren’t developed until much later. Instead, the missiles – perhaps as many as eighteen of them – would have simply been stuck in the outlaw’s belt, ready to be drawn and fired quickly.

Gloves and leather bracers would have protected their hands and wrists when using the bow.

And what about that bow? Well, the type Robin Hood would have used, in my opinion, would have been a longbow. In most versions of the legend, usually set around the end of the 12th century, longbows were not widely used in England, but, by the time of my own novel – the 14th century – they were quite common.

The longbow would have been roughly the same height as the man wielding it, made from yew with a hemp string. It was utterly lethal in the hands of a trained archer, offering much more power and range than previous designs.

Capable of firing up to twenty arrows in a single minute, you can imagine what even half a dozen robbers, concealed in the bushes and armed with these weapons could do to an unsuspecting party of travelers…

Firing such a powerful bow even once, never mind multiple times, took an enormous amount of physical strength though. Boys usually began training with the bow from the age of seven, but often they were even younger. By the time they were adults, these men had developed hugely muscled shoulders and arms – particularly the left arm which took most of the strain. You don’t see that in the movies – Russell Crowe or Errol Flynn roaming around the Greenwood with one arm like Popeye’s and the other like Olive Oyl’s!

So…you’re a medieval clergyman, suddenly surrounded by these hugely muscled violent criminals, some carrying 9 ft quarterstaffs and some aiming bows as big as themselves at your face…What do you think?

Was Robin Hood scary?

Robin Hood meets Odysseus!

Here’s a fun new Q&A between myself and Odysseus author Glyn Iliffe on the Edinburgh Book Review website, take a look!

http://www.edinburghbookreview.co.uk/news/steven-a-mckays-interview-with-glyn-iliffe

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Glyn Iliffe, author of the excellent Adventure of Odysseus series.