The Amazon set up is all done now. The paperback of Og-Grim-Dog is for sale already and the eBook is on pre-order in all stores, with a release date of 15th June.
The book is also entered in the SPFBO6 competition, which is an exciting addition. I’m looking forward to meeting other authors and finding great indie reads through that.
Reviews from my ARC readers are also mostly in now, with a lot of positive responses. There are already 9 reviews of the book up on Goodreads, a great way for potential readers to get a feel for what the book is like.
As for the rest of the series, my beta-readers have had a look at the second book in the series, Og-Grim-Dog and the Dark Lord. That will get a final edit over the next few days. I have asked Andrey, the same artist who did the first cover, to work on the cover for book two. We have agreed on a design and I think it’s going to look awesome! Meanwhile, I have begun to write book 3 of the series, Og-Grim-Dog and The War of The Dead.
So in other words, it’s getting pretty busy right now!
Art by Andrey Vasilchenko, typography by Kelly Blanchard Dale.
The cover got its reveal over on Fantasy Focus the other day. I’m so pleased with the way it’s all turned out and I can’t wait for people to meet the characters that Andrey has portrayed so well on the cover. Although I think the covers for The Weapon Takers Saga series are epic, I was really keen to get illustrations for the new series and I’m glad I did!
I’ve set release day for 15th June so all systems are go!
Great news! This has been a bit of a wait, but the audiobook of books 1-3 of The Weapon Takers Saga has finally been released. It’s available on audible.com, audible.co.uk & Amazon – and I believe will go to the itunes store too.
In these strange times, my daily schedule is relatively untouched, though I do now have my children at home with me as the UK self-isolates.
I’m excited to introduce the character design for Og-Grim-Dog. I think the artist has done a fantastic job of bringing the brothers to life. At the moment he is working on the cover for book one, so I hope I will have news on this for you before too long.
I like the fact that the fantasy community is still active online during this period – it’s nice to be able to interact with other people in this way. In that vein, I’m letting you know about an online reading festival I’m involved with over on Fantasy Sci-Fi Focus. It’s on virtually all day (especially if you’re in North America) this Saturday, so make some time to check it out!
Where Loyalties Lie by Rob J. Hayes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Making a conscious effort to read some of the ebooks on my ipad and went for this one which I’ve wanted to read since it won spfbo3 which Toric’s Dagger was entered in.
The story follows ‘grimdark pirates’ struggling against one another and the local empires who would like to see the end of the pirates. The characters – Drake Morass, Keelin, Elaina Tanner and more are mostly piratical types who, let’s say, have their own moral code. Certainly a morally grey grimdark (TM) style of novel here. I found them convincing and entertaining. They are at each other’s throats – the question is, are they capable of uniting to save their skins?
I am 99% sure the book is set in the same world as most of Rob’s other fantasy books – there are some references to other parts of the world here and there but you certainly don’t need to read anything else first. The author does the whole pirate thing – from the descriptions of the ships, to the characters’ speech – incredibly well, and for me this makes it stand out enough to earn a 5***** rating. Mr Hayes must have done some significant research and given some serious thought to the world, plot and characters, but writes the story so smoothly that you don’t see any of that. The fantasy and magical elements are low key and woven in with the gritty world of pirating very well and it makes for an original and distinctive read.
The story is certainly adult in every respect and people looking for a YA read about pirates need to go elsewhere. I’m not a massive fan of pirate stories per se but I really enjoyed this. By focusing on such a small scale (relatively, for fantasy) I felt like the writer was able to take his time with the story, giving the pirates the centre stage, when often (in fantasy) they get a bit part and it has a slightly gentler pace compared to the average frenetic fantasy read.
I certainly recommend this one, especially for those wanting something a bit out of the mainstream.
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First of all, an update on the writing. I have sent book one of the new series to my beta readers and received feedback so that is due another final edit before it’s ready. I have also made a decent start on the first draft of book two, so I am still hoping for a late spring/ early summer release of the new series.
Meanwhile, I’m running a limited time promotion on The Weapon Takers Saga. You can get Toric’s Dagger free from the 2nd-6th March on Amazon with reductions in all territories on books 2 & 3 (the price varies on this). This has been a good way to attract new readers in the past, so spread the word if you can!
Valour by John Gwynne
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
There’s no doubt that John Gwynne is delivering for fans of epic fantasy with this series, hitting many of the tropes we have come to expect from the genre.
His main achievement, I think, is in creating a work of breadth and depth, with a substantial number of character povs, while keeping a frenetic pace. The book is well plotted and full of action scenes, with individual fights and large scale military engagements occurring regularly. The author knows his stuff when it comes to medieval warfare. Altogether, this is no mean feat.
Of course, all of which means other elements are, almost inevitably, less sharp. The characters are all solid and likeable but there are few that climb above their fantasy standards: the prophesied young hero, his sword mentor, the wise woman, the gang of loyal family and friends. I’m not criticising – all the characters serve their purpose, they carry the storyline and have allowed Gwynne to finish what is an epic story. We have an overarching good v evil storyline, with an interesting range of characters on the ‘bad’ side. The worldbuilding is developed but the author hasn’t bitten off more than he can chew. We have human kingdoms and giant kingdoms, all quite similar, creating a believable Dark Age style world without the need for more complexity. Magic is a half way house between being mysterious and having a system: perhaps not totally pleasing either ‘camp’ but probably not putting off many either.
So I guess I’m saying that so far, this series doesn’t try to do many new things. I’m not sure I’d give any one element 10/10. But nor would I give anything less than 7 or 8. Readable, exciting, fast-paced, huge in scale, diverse characters, a believable fantasy world – for this reader and I would have thought most fans of the genre – Valour delivers.
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This is a nice moment to look back and forwards at my writing plans.
Publication of my first series, The Weapon Takers Saga, is drawing to a close. All paperbacks and eBooks are released, including the boxset of books 1-3 which has hit the Amazon bestsellers ranks over the last 2 months. The release of the audiobooks will also be finished soon. Greg and Bridget have completed production of books 3 & 4. The Jalakh Bow audiobook is already released, and The Giants’ Spear is signed off and should be available on Amazon and Audible over the next few days.
Writing such an epic series has been a gargantuan effort for me. It’s been exciting to think about what other projects to turn to next. I’m not short of ideas. But I decided I wanted to write something a bit different and less complex, while staying in the fantasy genre. I’ve therefore decided to go for a series of shorter, humourous novels, centred on the character of Og-Grim-Dog, a three headed ogre. I’ve finished the first draft of book one. It will need some work doing to it, but the story feels more or less there. I would also like to finish the first three to four books in advance and then release them within a short time frame of each other, rather than have readers waiting ages for the next one. I will post updates on progress when I have them.
Meanwhile, there are two days left of my competition to Win all the paperbacks of The Weapon Takers Saga – enter over on KingSumo.
Well, that’s it for now, I’m looking forward to 2020 and I wish you a great year ahead.
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.
It’s release day for the eBook of The Giants’ Spear, which means that The Weapon Takers Saga is finally complete.
It’s been a huge journey, dipping my toes into the world of publishing back in 2017, and finally completing my four-book series this year.
The box-set of books 1-3 is doing well so far, hitting the top of Amazon’s hot new releases charts in several categories.
It’s not the end, either. I have plans for a new series next year. But for now I think I need to take a moment and appreciate what I’ve achieved. Writing my own fantasy series has been a long held ambition. At last, I can say mission accomplished.