Review of W&R by San Francisco Book Review

Very nice review of The Wolf and the Raven. It’s a little bit different to the usual reviews, I enjoyed reading it!  I will be doing an interview with them too (an actual recorded interview you can listen to) so watch out for that.

Take a look at the review here:

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“The important point is that this is a story that can and will be enjoyed by all ages, as all good myths (did I say myths?) should.” -SF Book Review

Rise of the Wolf extract

Just a quick update: the next book is more than half finished and I’m hoping to get more time to write now so things can really start to kick on and I can get Rise of the Wolf out within the next few months. In the meantime, here’s a little (un-edited!) snippet featuring the jovial Friar Tuck who’s in a spot of bother:

“What can I do for you, my son?” he asked, smiling deferentially at the little man. “A blessing? Do you seek” –

“Enough, priest,” the robber growled, sidling over and standing to look up at the palfrey whose ears were back as it sensed something was wrong. “We need no blessings in Sherwood. What we need is silver and gold. And food. And judging by the belly you’re carrying around on you, you’ve got enough of everything to share with me and my mates here.” He raised the sword he carried, unusually, in his left hand, brandishing it menacingly, and Tuck noticed the man was missing more than one finger from his right hand. Punishment for being caught stealing before perhaps, although that method of justice had – mostly – been done away with years earlier.

Dangerous, but hopefully stupid.

The friar looked back across his shoulder to see a tall young man holding a longbow aimed directly at him. His hands were steady, but the expression on his face was one of distaste. Not at the clergyman, no…the big man’s eyes flicked to his leader for a moment and Tuck knew the youngster wasn’t happy to be here doing this.

“Aye, he’s got you covered, old man,” the robber leader grinned, showing a mouthful of surprisingly complete teeth. “And the rest of us’ll split you wide open – priest or not – if you don’t hand over what you’ve got. Including that nice horse.”

There was little point denying he was carrying money, Tuck thought. The robbers would know he’d need coin to pay for food and board as he travelled.

“Will you let me be on my way if I give you what I have?” he asked in a trembling voice, moving towards the small man and fumbling in his cassock. As he reached the robber, he smiled, remembering a similar scene a couple of years earlier when he’d first met Robin and the men.

“Here you go, have the lot!”

The two big robbers further back on the road stood in stunned silence for a moment as their leader collapsed in front of them. Tuck had whipped his cudgel up and into the jaw of the robber, then, as the man stumbled backwards, the friar brought it round in an arc into the side of the man’s neck, sending him flying across the road senseless.

Before anyone could react, Tuck jumped forward, ramming the cudgel into the man on the left’s face, feeling teeth crunch as his target reeled back and landed on his backside with a howl of pain.

By now it was obvious this was no normal priest and the final swordsman struck out with the battered old blade he carried.

Tuck had been fast when he was young, but now…he twisted sideways, lashing out with his own weapon which connected with the back of his opponent’s skull sending the man crashing to the hard earth of the road. He let out a breath of relief as he realised his flesh was unbroken – the robber’s blade had only torn his cassock.

The friar glanced back to the bowman and was relieved to see the youngster staring at the scene before him, mouth open in surprise, bowstring not quite fully drawn. Still with one eye on the archer, Tuck moved over to the man with the wounded mouth and kicked out at the side of his head, hard enough to send the man reeling.

“Where are you from, son?”

Look out for Rise of the Wolf, coming soon!

The Holy Lance review

The Holy Lance

by Andrew Latham

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As I’ve noted before, (in my Day of Fire review) being an author has its perks. Sometimes I’m asked to review books before they’re available to buy and it’s really nice to  read something before anyone else gets to see it. Andrew Latham, Professor of Political Science and reader of my own historical novels asked if I’d take a look at his debut The Holy Lance and, if I liked it, share my thoughts and maybe provide a strap-line for the cover.*

Now, it’s very flattering to be asked to critique someone’s work but sometimes it’s poor and it’s a chore to even finish it, never mind come up with an excuse not to review it. I’d rather not say anything than be hurtful after all.
I’m glad to report that, thankfully, Andrew Latham’s The Holy Lance didn’t need any excuses – it’s a damn good read!

A historical fiction adventure very much in the mould of Cornwell, Scarrow, Robyn Young et al, the book centres around a Templar Knight’s quest to retrieve a prized artefact: the titular holy lance. Michael Fitz Alan is an entertaining character, with all the leadership and martial qualities you hope for in a novel like this. Indeed, his violent exploits are often extremely visceral, with much blood spilled as he battles through the Holy Land on this, the first part of his quest.

The battle scenes really do stand out, being superbly written and bringing the action to vivid life in the reader’s imagination, but there’s more to the tale than just violence. Like Lord of the Rings, The Sword of Shannara or Bernard Cornwell’s 1356 our hero is after a powerful artefact that will turn the tide of war in his favour. Yes, it’s a theme that’s been explored many, many times over the years, but that’s because it’s a good theme!

The author doesn’t make everything as black-and-white as Tolkien’s hobbits vs orcs though. This isn’t a straight-forward tale of good versus evil – it’s sympathetic to both sides in the conflict which makes for a realistic and satisfying read.

Latham’s scholarship shines through in every page – indeed, I was writing my own Knight Hospitaller novella at the same time as I read this and I freely admit I learned a lot. Not only is it a great tale, you know the history has been thoroughly researched and, as in any top-class histfic title, it makes the book that much more enjoyable. It’s a balancing act between too much and not enough scholarship in this genre and The Holy Lance straddles the tightrope with ease.

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Andrew Latham

If I have a criticism it’s the fact that the chapters are quite long, with the first being almost 10,000 words. Obviously, this is a matter of personal taste, but I like a short, punchy first chapter that starts things off with a bang and drags the reader in by the short and curlies, whether they like it or not. The Holy Lance doesn’t have that and, I have to be honest, I feared the worst when it took me so long to finish the first few pages. It could easily put readers off which would be a real shame as things picked up after that and I was relieved to find myself really enjoying the story.

I’m probably not the best person to ask for a review if you’re on a timetable as I don’t have much time to read these days, but I finished this in just a few days and am very much looking forward to the next one. Which will probably be strange for Professor Latham to read, given this one isn’t even out yet!

Histfic fans will really enjoy this and I’m proud to have been one of the first people to read it. The future promises much for Andrew Latham…be sure you’re there when his first novel hit’s the shelves on March 24th this year.

Pre-order your hardback copy here (UK)

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Holy-Lance-English-Templars/dp/1910282413

or here (US)

http://www.amazon.com/Holy-Lance-English-Templars/dp/1910282413

Find out more at Andrew’s website:

http://www.aalatham.com/

* “Violent and visceral…. meticulously researched… superbly plotted…. The Holy Lance is historical fiction at its best!”

Hollywood interest in my books?!

I’ve never told any of you about this before but…a few months ago I was contacted by one of the biggest film production companies in the world, asking about the rights for The Wolf and the Raven. I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited in my life. You can probably imagine the £££ signs flashing before my eyes as I imagined the possibilities, not to mention the idea of some of the best film-makers in the world working on MY book!
I exchanged a couple of emails with them and they said they’d get back to me once the producer finished the book but I’ve never heard anything since so I guess that’s it.
The thing is, it was a seriously major player in Hollywood – they’ve made some of the most iconic movies in the past 30 or 40 years. I could not believe it when I was reading their email to me, it was surreal.
Obviously it’s come to nothing but who knows, maybe one day they’ll come back to me… :-)

In the meantime – who would YOU choose to play the characters in my novels? Here’s a page one of my readers set up, take a look and have some fun with it!

http://iflist.com/stories/wolfsheadtheforestlordbook1?r=1418553647#

Self-published/ indie authors? What do you think of them and what can we do differently?

Question for you all: self-published/ indie authors – do you read them (other than me, obviously!)?
I must admit, although I’m one myself and I like to think my books are alright, I DO still feel pleasantly surprised when I read something by another indie and find that it kicks ass and isn’t riddled with childish spelling errors. It’s a stigma that is hopefully being eroded as people like Kevin Ashman, Gordon Doherty and Mel Sherratt sell increasing amounts of books, gain more critical acclaim and in some cases win deals with the likes of Amazon’s Thomas & Mercer, but it’s still definitely an issue for authors like me.

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Mel Sherratt and myself at the London Book Fair in 2014.

I employ professional cover designers for my artwork and an incredible editor who’s worked with people like Jilly Cooper, Bernard Cornwell and Ben Kane to try and make my books good value for money but for every indie that does that, there’s certainly one or two that don’t think it’s worth the money (or simply don’t HAVE the money to employ professionals) and just put their books out in what’s essentially an unfinished state. It makes all of us look bad.

Things are changing though – even traditionally published authors are starting to put out books on the side that their publishers maybe didn’t have a place for. Glyn Iliffe continued his fantastic Odysseus series without a trad-publisher, Douglas Jackson put out his War Games by himself, and my favourite book of of 2014, A Day of Firewas self-published by the authors. It gives us all a real freedom to try things we might otherwise not have been able to (my own novella Knight of the Cross, for example, was a fun spin-off I’m sure a traditional publisher would have had no time for).

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

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

So…have you read any self-published books recently and if so – were they any good? Were they worth the money?
And most importantly…what can we, as authors, do to convince readers a self-published book is worth a punt?

Matt Groves!

I had some spare time today so worked on Rise of the Wolf – it’s coming along nicely.

I like to listen to music when I’m writing and editing (and doing just about everything else in my life) and I thought it’d be nice to share some of the stuff that inspires my writing.
Anyone that’s read the first two Forest Lord books will recognize the name Matt Groves (the bastard!).  Well, this is where I got the name. Fairport Convention featuring the immortal Sandy Denny (who sang with Robert Plant on Zep’s ‘Battle of Evermore’).

Enjoy!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uK_7AqH1VGQ

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Update on the new book

Just wanted to post a wee update on the next book, Rise of the Wolf. I’ve been struggling for spare (writing) time lately but I managed to come up with a nice new Friar Tuck scene last night and have plenty more things planned out ready to go. I’m still hopeful the book will be published early this year, so please stay tuned and continue to tell your friends if you enjoyed the first books!

Happy New Year 2015!

2014 has been one of the best years of my life. My small children (a son and a daughter) continue to make me the proudest dad in the world, while my writing has been a source of fun and very welcome income, not to mention the amazing week I had at the London Book Fair 2014 as part of the Amazon crew…Wow, just…wow, it’s been amazing! I can only thank you all, very humbly, for your support. You have no idea how much it means to me.

I was out working my day job today, New Year’s Eve, in the pissing rain, reading gas and electric meters around the outskirts of Glasgow, working out plot lines and ideas in my head for Robin, Little John, Tuck etc…. I am genuinely a working class man who’s been lucky enough to sell a few ebooks and it’s a dream come true – literally – and it’s ALL thanks to you, my readers!

I can only hope the next book, Rise of the Wolf, which will be out early next year, lives up to expectations and does as well as the other books.

I’ll raise a glass to you all for Hogmanay tonight, and again, thank you all sincerely for your support in 2014.

Have a great new year in 2015!