Battles of Hastings

This time around, the decision was made not to release Wyrd Worlds III, the science fiction and fantasy anthology I was a part of the first two times. Instead, several of the authors involved in those anthologies are releasing short stories to coincide with the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings.

These stories are already up for pre-order, so you can make sure to have them in your collection on the day (14 October).

THE BATTLES OF HASTINGS, BY STEPH BENNION

The Battles of Hastings, by Steph BennionWho really won the Battle of Hastings? Eighteen-year-old Jane Kennedy, a twenty-first-century Chicago girl on her first field assignment, had expected a simple mission to gently ease her into the time-bending realities of her new job. Yet here she was, lying semi-conscious amidst the wounded and dying of a particularly gruesome battle, wondering what the hell she had let herself in for. In this novella based on Jane’s memoirs, follow her strange journey through multiple realities as her fellow time travellers each realise they come from a future with a different past. Is there a rogue on the loose out to change history? The Battles Of Hastings is a romp through alternate time lines in England 1066 to mark the 950th anniversary of the invasion that shaped Britain and Europe today.

PRE-ORDER NOW FROM SMASHWORDS

 

THEY MARVEL AT THE STAR – L J HICK

hastings-lj

Thomas is a member of the Fyrd and is recruited into Harold Godwinson’s army to confront Duke William II of Normandy. He is befriended by a blond-haired man called Kauko as they march to war. Thomas has no time for lords, kings or gods of any kind but Kauko seems to have a large amount of time for Thomas. Why is Kauko so interested in the welfare of a farmer’s son, and just what does he intend to do with him? As the relationship develops and the pair of them confront the stupidity and darkness of war, Thomas comes to realise that they did not meet by chance. In fact, Kauko has been preparing for this for a long time.

PRE-ORDER NOW FROM SMASHWORDS

 

NORMAN BLOOD – BARBARA G. TARN

hastings-barbNineteen-year-old Robert Malet followed William the Bastard to England to claim the English throne. The battle near the small town of Hastings is the beginning of the Norman conquest of England, but also of Robert’s second life.
A vampire in 12th century Europe traveling, fighting and meeting his siblings in darkness, changing names through the years when his mortal life is gone.
Follow Robert Malet, Brother Geoffrey, Robert Capuchon and Mercadier through the years. History and fantasy based on medieval chronicles for a Vampires Through the Centuries novella.

PRE-ORDER NOW FROM:

SMASHWORDS

KOBO

AMAZON

 

EADWEARD – A STORY OF 1066 – VICTORIA ZIGLER

hastings-victoriaIt’s October 14th 1066, and King Harold’s Saxon army is about to go in to battle against Duke William’s invading Norman army. Among the ranks of the Saxons are two boys who shouldn’t be there: Eadweard, and his best friend, Cerdic.
Daydreams of becoming great war heroes had the boys convinced to disobey their Fathers and go to war, despite the possibility of punishment if they were caught. Now it’s time for the battle to begin, and Eadweard is starting to wish he’d stayed home after all. But it’s too late to turn back now, and Eadweard finds himself witnessing the events of the battle that would later be called The Battle Of Hastings, and learning how different from his imaginings the reality of war actually is.
*Note: This is a work of fiction, which is based on actual events. It tells the story of the battle between King Harold’s Saxon army and Duke William’s Norman army, which took place a short distance away from the town of Hastings on October 14th 1066, in a place now known simply as Battle. Though this is a children’s story, the recommended reading age for this book is eight years and over, since it is a story that takes place on a battlefield, and therefore contains scenes of violence that are not suitable for younger, or more sensitive, readers.

PRE-ORDER NOW FROM:

SMASHWORDS

BARNES & NOBLE

APPLE iBOOKS

 

Reviews and Amazon Rants

It means a lot to get good reviews. It means quite a lot to get a good rating, though slightly less than a well thought out review. It also means a lot when Amazon decides ‘f*** you, we don’t like you having nice things, so we’ll delete your best reviews’. Though it means a lot in a different way.

They’ve been doing this for a while now on Amazon itself, and since taking over Goodreads, they’ve started doing it there. I’m certainly not the only one noticing the reviews disappearing – and only ever 5-star reviews, it seems. I can’t speak for the deleted reviews of others, but the ones that have disappeared from mine have been from review bloggers, writing detailed, unbiased reviews. Not family members raving about how the books are the best things ever.

Amazon has claimed before that they won’t allow authors to post reviews on books in the same genre as they themselves write. Aside from the fact that this is pathetically stupid and is pretty much censorship, it doesn’t seem to be enforced. My best reviews are written by a sci-fi author, and they’re still there.

Other authors have contacted Amazon to demand to know why this is happening, and Amazon claim ignorance. They say that it’s most likely because of the reviewers removing the reviews, accidentally reviewing the book – I can’t quite get my head around that one – or leaving the site (Goodreads). That doesn’t quite allow for the fact that I asked one reviewer if she knew why her review had disappeared from my book on Amazon, she emailed Amazon to ask why, they said they would put it back, and then never bothered. So what the hell are they playing at?

But that’s enough ranting about the somewhat disgraceful Amazon.

I received one such review just the other day, from The Review Hart. I requested the review months ago – just after I published Acts of Violence, in fact. She scheduled me for August, and I forgot about it. With terms like ‘haunting’, ‘spectacular’, ‘gripping’, and ‘fantastic’ dotted throughout, the review turned out to be very much worth the wait. And it’s a 4-star review which means A) people are more likely to pay attention to it than a 5-star, and B) it’s less likely to be deleted by Amazon.

In fact, reading the review kind of made me want to read the book!

In other news, we have a more definite date for the next anthology, Wyrd Worlds II: September 20-21. Mine will be the first story in the book, and is a sequel to Kira.

Days of Winter Guardians

I have left it so long since the last blog post that the whole layout of this New Post screen has changed. But anyway, it’s time to update the world on my goings on and allow you to unbate your breath.

The main, important things are that I have now finished my second short story featuring Kira. It is tentatively entitled ‘Kira Part 2’. Or ‘Horizon’. It will be first published in the sequel to last year’s anthology: ‘Wyrd Worlds II’. The exact date isn’t known just yet, but it will likely be as soon as this September! So I should probably get started on the cover.

The second important thing is that I’ve been writing a number of blog articles for Uproar Comics, hence why I’m even more quiet than usual here. I’ve been writing about a range of subjects, from the usual films, TV and games, to extraterrestrial life and the Mariana Trench. If you’re interested, which…why would you NOT be, they can all be found here.

And now for the all-important film update! I’ve watched several films in the past couple of months, some of them crap and some of them good.

Captain America 2: Winter Solder is good. Very good. Damn good. I think it’s tied for second place in my list of best Marvel films with Guardians of the Galaxy. The Avengers is better, I think. The only downside is that I guessed the big twist before the film was even released.

Guardians of the Galaxy is also good. Very good. I should probably say damn good, too, because it’s tied with Captain Freedom. It’s not the typical Marvel film, yet ties in with the Marvel universe well. I expected it to be pretty bad purely, simply, because of Chris Pratt. He seemed from the trailers to be an incredibly irritating…prat. But, in fact, he was pretty decent. Personally, I think Nathan Fillion would actually have been better in the role, but it doesn’t matter. It was damn good. And very funny.

X-Men: Days of Future Past was…actually a bit of a let down. Probably mostly because of how much people raved about it, and claimed it was the best Marvel film yet. It isn’t. There are several better ones in my opinion, including at least two previous X-Men films. But it was pretty good. Wolverine was in it, so that was good. But it didn’t feel like a superhero film at all. It was mostly talking, and shouting, and running around. The scenes in the future seem to be there more because they realised how boring the main film was in terms of action, so stuck them in there to keep people interested. And Quicksilver was pointless. But, good acting and a decent enough story. I’m not entirely sure what to think of it, so it’s just as well I’m not giving it a star rating.

Machete Kills. Surprisingly entertaining and amusing.

Amazing Spider-Man 2 was terrible. The worst Marvel film yet, perhaps. Not quite as bad as I’ve heard people say, but terrible. Electro, or whatever his name was, was a complete joke of a villain. Foxx played him well, but the character himself was just ridiculous. I can’t even be bothered to explain why. Plus, spoilers. The conclusion of the relationship with Gwen Stacy wasn’t quite what I expected, but it was ruined by the stupid ending.

So, that’s that. Look out for Kira in Wyrd Worlds II next month. Probably.

Felinity – BBB

Felinity

An Anthology Collected By

Sammy HK Smith

Felinity, noun, plural fel-in-ities. 1. The quality of being cat-like. 2. A divine being, a cat.

Felinity Cover

Grimbold Books is proud to present our first Kristell Inkling, a collection of feline inspired flash fiction stories written by authors from all around the world.

This collection celebrates what we regard as the most important factor when writing: write foremost for pleasure. The stories showcased in this book are full of laughter, grit, odd contraptions and a lot of fur, with a loud purring nod to our beloved genres of science fiction and fantasy.

From A.F.E Smith’s unique twist on Schrödinger’s cat, to Joel Cornah’s world-jumping old queen, from Clare Neilson’s steampunk creation to Tina Closser’s dragon fighting dreaming kitty, these alternate feline worlds are bound to delight sci fi/fantasy readers and cat lovers alike.

Kindle

Paperback

Interview With A Contributor

WILL MACMILLAN-JONES is a fifty-something lover of blues, rock and jazz. He presently lives in Wales, a beautiful verdant land of myth with a rich cultural heritage. He does his best to support this heritage by drinking local beers and shouting loud encouragement at the TV whenever Wales is playing international rugby.

He has just fulfilled a lifetime ambition by filling an entire wall of his study with bookcases, and then (over)filling the bookcases. When not drinking beer and watching rugby, he remembers to write the occasional horror book or to add to his comic fantasy series, The Banned Underground. Links to all his work can be found on his website:

www.willmacmillanjones.com

Hi Ross. I don’t think that I’ve been on your blog before. Nice curtains…are they fireproof? Just asking.

Where do you live and write from?

Although I was born in God’s Own Land of Lancashire, I presently live and write in Wales. It’s a lovely, verdant, land full of myth, mystery, excellent beer and sheep. And hills. I walk on the hills a lot with my camera: I haven’t met a dragon yet, but there’s always hope, you know? Although knowing my luck the dragon would sound more like that Cucumberpatch fellow than Joanna Lumley.

Do you have a specific writing routine?

I have a very specific routine, yes. I turn on the computer, open the current document – or whichever opus I have decided to try and ignore that day, look at the blank screen or in extremis the last few lines written the day before, raise my hands above the keyboard with the fingers poised…and see what’s on Facebook this morning. Like everyone else I’m too easily distracted.

Outliner or improviser? Fast or slow writer?

I must be in touch with my feminine side, as the answer to both questions, is… both. Some works I have carefully plotted in excruciating detail. Others I have just set my eyes on the longer for final page and just gone for it… It’s the same with the writing speed. My second book, The Mystic Accountants, was completed to first draft in a little over a month. There’s a work called The Picture which I hope to complete in a few weeks which has been a year in the writing. For me it’s very much a mood thing: I write what I’m in the mood to write. That sounds horribly indisciplined, but because I write in different genres I’m always in the mood to write something.

What genres do you write, and which is your favourite?

I write fantasy; YA fantasy; comic fantasy; dark fantasy/horror and childrens’s books. This is why mood is so important to my writing: if I’m in a dark place it isn’t easy to write pages of laugh-a-minute gags ( a bored American once calculated that one of my books hit 3.2 jokes per kindle page – now that’s funny, the idea of someone meticulously adding up all the jokes. I never do that myself) and conversely, if I’m rolling around laughing I can’t write something scary.

Tell us about your contribution to Felinity.

The Hunt. The Hunt was easy. I woke up at three am one morning with the whole story there. All I had to do was to write it down, originally at about 1800 words. I had it easy, didn’t I? Can you imagine trying to get all of Zanadu down, in that complicated rhythmic structure in one go? No wonder the poor bloke forgot the ending, is it? Anyway, that was The Hunt. A dream. I just caught it as it passed by.

Felinity is inspired, obviously, by cats. Was it easy for you to find feline inspiration?

Is this where I get the chance to be catty about my ex? No? Oh well, please yourselves then. Any resemblance between the characters and real people is purely co incidental. And imaginary.

I have trouble keeping short stories short, but this is flash fiction – do you find it difficult to write something that’s so short?

No.

7a. A bit more than that?

All right. I actually write quite a bit of Flash. I thoroughly recommend it as a good discipline for writers, many of whom are inclined to run off at the mouth for ever, without thinking of the poor reader left to follow on as best they may. It’s also a great way of breaking a block. If you are stuck on a story, open a new file and stare at the blank screen until something comes out. Very likely it will be rubbish, and you’ll throw it away: but I have several book projects that have started as a piece of flash fiction and then grown. I did win a respected national Flash Fiction Competition in 2013, so it’s always worth trying your hand in the field.

What other projects do you have in the pipeline?

I’m under contract to produce two comic fantasy books in my Banned Underground collection a year until we hit twelve books, so there’s always one or two of those on the go. Plus I’m now aiming to finish one horror book and one children’s book a year as well, so that’s why I’m always writing, and wearing out keyboards.

Give us your important links!

I thought you’d never ask!

Websites:

willmacmillanjones.com Where you can see the full range of stuff I write, and see a bit more about me.

thebannedunderground.com Where my major comic fantasy series hangs out. Gags, excerpts, reviews, trailers, all the usual stuff we authors put on these sites to pretend we are interesting. Plus loads of book links.

willmacmillanjones.wordpress.com The blog, where I talk to other writers and occasionally muse about stuff.

Try these then:

The Satnav of Doom The Banned Underground #5: a serious High Fantasy involving a dwarf Rock N Roll band, some accountants who are also Dark Wizards, dragons, and some mystical beings who have turned their Fairy Hill into an International Merchant Bank. And an anarchic SatNav.

Snort and Wobbles:

Dragons are not real. Everyone tells you that. So what do you do when you are eight years old, and meet a dragon living at the bottom of your garden? You have the adventure of your life!

When Wobbles and her family move into their new home, she is delighted to find that a green dragon is living in secret at the bottom of the garden. But Snort the dragon is not the only one: underground a gang of Goblins have also made their home, and when they capture Wobbles’ big brother Jeremy, it is up to her and Snort to save him: before the Goblins roast him on their barbecue.

Written for those children who are just becoming confident in reading for themselves, and for those parents who (like the author) are addicted to reading bedtime stories to their children and grandchildren, Snort and Wobbles is a thrilling, captivating adventure for 6 – 10 year olds.

Thanks, Will!

Anatomy of a Book Cover

As usual, a slightly misleading title. I’m not going to share my theories of what makes the perfect book cover. I’m going to share my process of getting a book cover. Because I don’t have anything better to do.

Step Uno

The first thing I do is think what I want the cover to be. Quite an obvious step.

Shadow of the Wraith, Kindle coverPaperback cover

For Shadow of the Wraith, I decided I wanted a stark space scene, with the almost-titular ship looming over a planet featured at the end of the book. I later decided that I wanted a different cover for the e-book version (I don’t really remember why). I decided that one should be slightly more informative, so I decided that it should show the ship heading towards an Earth-like planet (Orion), having just cut straight through another ship. I thought/hoped that would give an idea of the threat before people even read the blurb.

Temple of the Sixth Cover

For Temple of the Sixth, I wanted an image of the titular character (the Sixth) standing at the mouth of her ‘temple’, seemingly oblivious of the predatory animals stalking her. She had to be looking out at an eclipse. From within, a thin stream of blood was to trickle out. The first part was a scene from the start of the book, and the blood and eclipse were references to the supposed End of Days omens that start appearing halfway through the book. The blood stream ended up looking more like a crack in the ground though.

Kira Cover

For Kira, the cover seemed obvious to me. The ‘camera’, as it were, was to be looking down a street in the city. Cold, dark, scary. The end of the street was to open into a stark desert, with nothing in sight. In between the two, I wanted Kira, as though stuck between two worlds, both equally unwelcoming. She had to be looking out towards the desert, where her future was. But it’s bleak, empty, nothing on the horizon. Above, the sky was to be dark and stormy.

Wyrd Worlds Cover

Wyrd Worlds is a sci-fi and fantasy anthology by several authors. To be completely honest, I wasn’t fond of any of the covers other authors were putting forward, so I created my own. It’s very difficult to put together something that portrays both sci-fi and fantasy at the same time, and I think the others were trying to hard to accomplish that, so I decided on something that didn’t try. Something fairly plain that also clearly showed that it was an anthology. The books putter-togetherer created a poll and mine was voted the cover to be used.

Acts of Violence Cover

Acts of Violence was different to all the others. I had to work at it! For the others, the cover presented itself to me easily, but for AoV I couldn’t decide. I had a few ideas, mostly comprising rain and darkness. Eventually I decided on a scene from the book. I thought that having the main character, Jack Mason, sitting in a diner, staring across the road at a club, gun on the table, would convey some sense of what the book contained. It would be the small, subtle things that would make the difference.

Step Zwei

Now, my second step is simply emailing the artist to see if he’s available to do the cover. But I had to find the artist first.

For Shadow of the Wraith, that wasn’t too hard. I did the cover myself. Then I decided to have a different one for the e-book, so I had to find a proper artist. My first (and only) stop was deviantART. deviantART is full of artists of all kinds and degrees of skill. There are amateur photographers all the way through to professional oil painters selling their work for thousands. Quite a lot of concept artists for games and films have their work on there.

First, I trawled through page after page of art to find artists whose work I liked. Then I would send them a message to ask if they were interested in doing a commission, and if so how much they would charge. Most said no, or were too expensive.

Secondly, I went to the forums, where there is a specific section set aside for advertising your project to find an artist. I got a number of responses there, including one from Mark Williams. I told him some more about what I wanted, and he thought he could do it and quoted me a good price for it.

Since it was the first time, I wrote up a brief contract to specify what work was being done and how much I was to pay him and who had what rights and so on. I don’t do that any more, but it’s probably a good idea the first time you work with someone.

Kira came next, and Mark was unable to complete it, so a friend of a friend (Cui Yuan) did the cover for me. His style is just right for what I want in my covers, so I stuck with him for Temple of the Sixth too. He was unable to do Acts of Violence, so I went back to Mark for that. The picture of Juni was drawn by Mark too, as an apology for having to stop halfway through doing Kira’s cover.

Steppe The Third

Now comes the tricky bit: working with the artist. Artists are fond of doing their own thing, and it can be difficult to get them to do your thing! You have to find a balance between cementing the important parts of the cover, and leaving the artist to their creativity and freedom with the rest.

The first thing I do is put together a very rough and ridiculous looking example of the basic layout. Thankfully, I’ve deleted those from my computer, so I can’t show you. Then I write as detailed a description as I can, including quotes from the book/s if it’s a scene, or involves a character.

Temple of the Sixth Rough Draft

By Cui Yuan

Next, the artist does up a rough example of his own, to show me what his vision of the cover is. Sometimes, I draw a little bit over it to show what changes I want. Then it’s a process of more and more alterations and slightly more detailed previews until the whole layout and ‘camera’ angle and sizes and so on are correct.

The artist then puts in full detail and colours and shadows. Then it’s a matter of going back and forth to sort out little details.

Step Chetyri

Once we are both happy that the artist has finished, he sends me the full-size image (and I pay). Then I make my own little alterations to it. These may range from simply inserting the title and my name, to changing colours and the like. I have not yet employed the services of someone who can create the title and its font for me. So far, basic and fairly plain fonts have suited the covers well enough.

And that’s about it. Below, I’ll post some images from the process of each cover (though I don’t seem to have the process images from the e-book version of SOTW).

I always recommend against people doing their own covers (mildly hypocritical), as I have yet to see more than a handful of covers that the author has done themselves that are actually decent. People DO judge books by their covers, and it will always be the first thing they see of the book. It needs to look professional. Searching the internet for some stock images and shoving them together in MS Paint will not achieve this. That’s not to say that getting a good artist will result in a good, professional cover. Book cover design is an art in itself, in a way. But I’ve also seen a good deal of covers created by so-called professional cover designers that aren’t much better than those stock image ones I mentioned. So you simply have to shop about and make sure you see plenty of previous work by the person.

Hopefully this was helpful, or at least vaguely interesting.

Shadow of the Wraith – Me (E-book version by Mark Williams)

My first idea for SOTW

My first idea for SOTW


Second try

Second try


Hardback Cover

Hardback Cover


Paperback Cover

Paperback Cover

Temple of the Sixth – Cui Yuan

Cui Yuan, Coloured Update

Cui Yuan, Coloured Update


Coloured and Shaded

Coloured and Shaded


Final Version

Final Version

Kira – Cui Yuan

Cui Yuan, WIP 1

Cui Yuan, WIP 1


Yuan's Final Version

Yuan’s Final Version


My Final Version

My Final Version

Wyrd Worlds – Me

Original Idea

Original Idea


Wyrd Worlds Final

Wyrd Worlds Final

Acts of Violence – Mark Williams

I started this one myself before I knew the title. It was more to waste some time than a realistic effort to make a cover.

Rough Attempt 1

Rough Attempt 1


Rough Attempt 2

Rough Attempt 2


Rough Attempt 3

Rough Attempt 3


Rough Attempt 4

Rough Attempt 4

Then I contacted a professional.

Mark Williams, First Sketch

Mark Williams, First Sketch


First Update

First Update


Mark's Finished Version

Mark’s Finished Version


My Finished Version

My Finished Version

More Wyrdness

Just a brief update.

Firstly, here’s an interview I did a couple of weeks ago and forgot to tell anyone about. Oops…

Secondly, Wyrd Worlds, the free anthology of which I am part of, is now up on Amazon (UK and US). So that rounds off its availability nicely. Amazon, Smashwords, and many other large online retailers such as Barnes & Noble, iBookstore, Sony, WHSmith, Kobo, etc. All for free!

Wyrd Worlds Cover

Yes, I know the cover blends almost perfectly into my background.

Wyrd Worlds Anthology

Rather abruptly, I am a part of a science fiction and fantasy anthology called Wyrd Worlds and published by WyrdStar.

Wyrd Worlds Cover

A collaboration of twelve authors, Wyrd Worlds contains science fiction and fantasy short stories ranging from two or three thousand words to thirteen and a bit thousand words. Some are straight sci fi and fantasy, and some fall uder their various sub-genres (mine is steampunk). So, in order (I think):

TALES OF ERANA: THE BLUE PHIAL by Alexandra Butcher

THE QRIM CHIEFTAIN by Stan Morris

ANTIMATTER ME by Steph Bennion

EXPLAIN THAT TO A MARTIAN by Gary Weston

THE IMAGINARY INVASION by Ubiquitous Bubba

THE GUNS OF NAPOLEON by Peter Lean

CAUSALITY by Neil Shooter

NECROMANCER by Emma Faragher

KIRA by Ross Harrison (Me!)

IN THE LAP OF THE GODS by Steph Bennion

MONDAY IMPS by Alexandra Butcher

SEPARATE WARS ON THE SAME STREET by Josh Karaczewski

MESRIN STATION by L. L. Watkin

HALF-BLOOD by Barbara G. Tarn

Wyrd Worlds is available, absolutely FREE, from Smashwords in all e-formats. It will soon be in the premium catalogue as well, which means it will be available from a host of other vendors, such as Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, etc.