Cover Contest

They say not to judge a book by its cover but I need you to do just that. If you liked the cover of my book, Og-Grim-Dog: The Three-Headed Ogre (Me Three Book 1), please vote for it for the Cover of the Month contest on AllAuthor.com!

I’m getting closer to clinching the “Cover of the Month” contest on AllAuthor! I need as much support from you guys. Please take a short moment to vote for my book cover here:
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What is a weapontake?

My fantasy series is called ‘The Weapon Takers Saga’. The general meaning of the title references the quest that the heroes take on, to find and ‘take’ the seven weapons of Madria. I thought it might be enlightening to explain what the word ‘weapontake’ means in a more specific, historical sense.

I begin the final book of the series with an epigraph from Tolkien’s Return of the King:

‘The king with his guard and Merry at his side passed down from the gate of the Burg to where the Riders were assembling on the green. Many were already mounted. It would be a great company; for the king was leaving only a small garrison in the Burg, and all who could be spared were riding to the weapontake at Edoras.’

The meaning Tolkien uses here is derived from a Viking term – vapnatak – for a meeting where weapons are taken. This could be seen as a muster of the fighting men from a particular region; or perhaps a meeting where the brandishing of a weapon entitles you to have a vote or say in the outcome of a legal dispute.

The term survives to this day as a unit of administration in those parts of England that were heavily influenced by Viking settlers and rulers – Yorkshire and the Five Boroughs, known as the Danelaw. In this region, counties were subdivided into wapentakes, whereas in the rest of England the term used was hundreds. Whether in wapentake or hundred, the people of the area would gather at a local landmark, such as a river crossing or large tree. Here they would discuss issues that affected them and be addressed by the representatives of the government of the day – be it Viking warlord or English bishop.

Well, I hope this little lesson is of interest to those who enjoy language and history, as well as helping readers of my series understand the use of the word, and the reason behind my choice of epigraph.

Introducing Lothar ‘Stiff’ Sauer

When the editor of Beyond The Shadows gave the writers some direction for the anthology, he suggested a ‘grimdark’ tone. If you’re new to this term, this is used to denote the relatively recent crop of books whose characters can be described as ‘morally grey or ambiguous’; which forego the traditional good vs evil storylines of fantasy for worlds which are more realistic, or cynical, depending on your outlook. Some of the most well known writers awarded this label are GRR Martin, Joe Abercrombie and Mark Lawrence.

While my current series has some elements of grimdark, it sits more squarely with the traditional fantasy blueprint of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. So my story for the anthology, Stiff’s Standoff, introduces an entirely new scenario with new characters. The main character, Lothar ‘Stiff’ Sauer, isn’t trying to save the world. He’s the leader of a small mercenary group (four of them, including himself) trying to make some money, competing against better leaders with bigger crews.

‘Come on, Stiff,’ said Peter. ‘There’s seven of us here. All professionals. We’ve been preparing for days. What have you got? A fat archer, a psychopath, an old man supping too much beer, and you’ve somehow blundered into a score. You’ve always been sensible. Known when to take a risk and when to back off.’

Patronising shit, thought Lothar, feeling himself rile up. Since when do I take advice from him?

‘I’ll give you 50 pieces for your trouble, Stiff,’ said Anke, making it sound generous. ‘You turn a tidy profit for a day’s work, everyone gets to leave with their reputation intact.’

Now she was doing it. Trying to buy him off for spare change. But Lothar knew something was up. He knew Peter and Anke plenty enough to tell that. Both trying a little too hard to appear nonchalant.

Fantasy characters can tend towards the heroic and the invincible. Lothar is neither – he is an ordinary man in an unpleasant world. He’s just trying to survive in it.

‘What a shithole,’ he murmured, looking around.

He saw a collection of wooden shacks, leaning against each other, on either side of the two roads that met here. The only substantial building was the church, set in its own grounds on the north-east edge of the village. He smiled to himself bitterly. Poor fuckers the world over kept themselves poor by giving all the spare money they had to the Church. It was the ultimate long odds gamble of the desperate and the hopeless.

Footsteps behind. He knew them to be Mirko’s.

‘Shithole,’ said a gravelly voice.

Lothar nodded. He considered the wooden shacks and the people who lived inside.

‘What possesses someone to decide to live their life in a place like this?’ he asked.

‘Because the place they’ve left is worse.’

To survive in this world, Lothar has developed a personal motto. Don’t get into something you can’t get out of. When temptation comes his way, will he stick to his motto and survive another day? Or will he get dragged into a situation from which he can’t escape?

Beyond The Shadows is set to be released on 5th January, featuring 15 short to mid-length stories.

Toric’s Dagger Launch

It’s been another busy month, but it’s about time I posted some reflections on the launch of my first book, Toric’s Dagger.

Overall, it was a success, with a number of promotions, plus help from friends and family, getting the book in front of readers. I’m sure that the initial 0.99 offer also helped to close a few deals. As well as people buying the book, it has had quite a few page reads on Kindle Unlimited (KU) on Amazon. Members of this scheme get to read it for free, and as the author I get a little compensation for each page read. I now have readers, not only in the UK and US, but in Canada, Australia, Germany and the Netherlands. That’s a great feeling.

This initial group of readers has now converted into some ratings/reviews, which are so important for authors. On Goodreads, the book now has 6 ratings, averaging 4.67/5. It also has its first review on Amazon, where it was given 4 stars. Finally, the book also got a great write up on Readper, which you can see here. It’s nice that the initial reaction has been so positive, with no reader yet giving it less than 4/5 (yes, I know it’s early days!).

Of course, I want more readers and reviews, and I will post some news on this very soon.

As for the follow-up, Bolivar’s Sword, I will need to give myself a window to do another round of editing on it before it is ready to go. Then, there is all the publishing that needs to be done, especially the cover design. I will keep posting updates on this process here.

Many thanks for following the blog!

Jamie