5 resources for history of the Dark Ages Britain

1. CPNRB – Celtic Personal Names of Roman Britain.


https://www.asnc.cam.ac.uk/personalnames/category.php 

The database of all Briton names confirmed in sources and found in inscriptions in the Roman period, from 1st to 5th century AD. Divided by period, location, tribe. Invaluable for coming up with real-sounding secondary characters.


2. DARMC – Digital Atlas of Roman and Medieval Civilizations.


https://darmc.harvard.edu/maps 

This one has everything. Roman roads, settlements – named and unnamed, bridges, passes, temples, fortresses, villas… the most comprehensive map of Ancient Rome on the internet.


3. ORBIS – Stanford Geospatial Network Model of the Roman World.


http://orbis.stanford.edu/

Calculator of distances and travel times for the Roman Empire. Google Maps for Ancient Rome, using main roads and sea routes.


4. PASE – Prosopograhy of Anglo-Saxon England.


http://pase.ac.uk/jsp/index.jsp

Similar to 1., a database of names but this time for the Anglo-Saxons. Covers all of Middle Ages, divided by locations, periods, occupations and more.


5. Rural Settlement of Roman Britain. Another detailed map of every archaeological find from Roman Britain.


https://archaeologydataservice.ac.uk/archives/view/romangl/map.html

An even more detailed map of Roman archaelogy than 2., but dedicated solely to Britain, rather than all of Empire. Down to single coin finds.


Quick update – busy, busy

  • italian94981232-176-k350955No time to write anything substantial on the blog lately. Busy writing the new book!
  • On that note – 80k words on the first draft of the “Proud Tyrant“. At this pace, the final count will be well over 120k. And I worried it wouldn’t be long enough!
  • Reminder: The Year of the Dragon, 5-8 is now available for sale at all online retailers… as are all the other books in the now-finished series.
  • The Italian translation of the “Shadow of Black Wings” – “L’Ombra del Drago Nero” is at long last available on Amazon and in other places, if you’ve been longing to read it in Italian 🙂
  • Over and out.

Writing Inspirations, 2 – Podcasts

Right, so here’s the second installment of my “writing inspirations” series. This time it’s the podcasts I listen to on my headphones. Continuing last week’s theme, these concern artists and artistry – in particular, once again, comedy and comedians.

The one I’ve discovered first, and probably because of that my favourite, is RHLSTP (RHLSTP!) – catchily-named Richard Herring’s Leicester Square Theater Podcast, which originated out of Herring’s Edinburgh Fringe interview podcasts.

People of my generation, of course, remember Richard Herring from his 90’s double-act with Stewart Lee; his further career – and he’ll be the first to admit – had its ups and downs, but at some point he moved on to internet-kickstart-podcast presence, which was a great decision for everyone involved, as it gave us, by now, well over a hundred interviews, plus additional podcasts, sketch shows like AIOTM (*aiotm!*) and more.

If you know Herring, you’ll know the kind of humour to expect at first – but among the questions about a 6-foot dick and hands made of ham, it moves subtly towards discussions about creativity and comedians’ life in general.

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The other podcast, despite having “comedy” twice in its title, is much more serious. Stuart Goldsmith’s Comedian’s Comedian tends to be much further on the “sad clown” spectrum. Stuart doesn’t shirk from controversial subjects and guests; the interviews are more serious and heavy. My definite favourite is his conversation with Shappi Khorsandi (who’s one of my favourite people anyway) – touching deeply on such subjects as depression, self-harm, bullying and racism, all painted with a contagious optimism.

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The last podcast I have to mention is Sitcom Geeks: a long, ongoing conversation between  James Cary and Dave Cohen about the art of writing and editing – sitcoms, in their case, but most of it is applicable to any sort of writing.

Writing Inspirations: Netflix

As you might otherwise know, I have recently went through an episode of typing faster than any I’ve ever experienced: 100,000 words in less than two months, to finish the first draft of THE LAST DRAGON KING – the final volume of the Year of the Dragon saga.

I don’t like silence when writing, odd as it may seem, even more so when I have to write plenty and fast. A typing marathon like that requires more than just a random radio station (always BBC R4 or R4 extra 🙂 or TV switched on in the background – it requires something that stirs the muse – something that reminds me of what it’s like to do art. I already wrote about the kind of mangas I like to read – this time it’s about shows I watched and listened to.

Comedians and musicians are, to me, the ultimate artists: the contact with the audience, the instant feedback, the improvisation talent. This is as far from writing as it gets, and perhaps this is why I’m so drawn to stories about them lately.

Netflix’s HIBANA is another one of those quirky Japanese stories about the travails of being an artist – not unlike Bakuman, except about comedians rather than mangakas. It tells the story of a manzai duo – the kind of centuries-old Laurel&Hardy double-act that might seem a bit old-fashioned in the West, having died out with the likes of Morecambe & Wise. But the (semi-autobiographical) story of the main hero’s struggle is as contemporary as it gets – and one that I’ve heard told many times by artists of all walks of life. To go the commercial route, or the esoteric? To aim high or low? How long to wait for the break through – and how not to give up when it doesn’t come? All this told in the cool, brilliantly cinematic manner, with the back streets of Tokyo playing a role equal to the three main characters.

Note of caution: as Japanese stories tend to, it gets really weird at the very end. If you skip the final episode, you will still have a decent, contained story of the SPARKS duo. If you continue, you’ll be taken for the kind of ride that only Kamiya-sensei can take you.

The other Netflix series, the GET DOWN, is very much on the opposite side of the spectrum from Hibana: it’s loud, it’s brash, it’s a made-up, hyperbolic fantasy of a story with at least as many downs as it has ups. It wasn’t well received by the critics and the audience – but I enjoyed it for what it was, a musical fairy-tale about finding your inner artist and sticking to it no matter what. I’m not normally a fan of having to turn off your brain while watching something, but the Get Down had enough going for it otherwise for me to watch it all the way to the end, where all the disparate plot threads meet for an uplifting finale.

And of course, I binged Stranger Things, but then you’ve all seen it by now.

Next week in writing inspirations: Podcasts.

The Journey’s End – Final Chapter!

The evening breeze carried with it the scent of fresh peat and dew on wet heather.

In this somewhat clumsy way, six years ago, started the first draft of the first volume in what would later become “The Year of the Dragon” saga. Last weekend, I put the last sentence of the first draft of its final volume to the digital purpose – thus, at last, finishing the story.

Six years. Eight volumes. Seven hundred thousand words, give or take a few thousand. It’s been a long journey – the longest I’ve ever undertaken. And now I’m at the final stretch. All that remains is a couple months of editing and redrafting. Some details may change, some bits may be rewritten, but there will not be any major changes to the plot. That means that the history of Bran, Sato and Nagomi is complete. I finally know how it all ends. And in a few months – by Christmas, if nothing unforeseen happens – you will know too.

In the meantime, I’m slowly beginning work on a new project – one that, for the first time in six years, will have nothing to do with dragons…! Stay tuned for more details – and don’t forget to subscribe to my newsletter here – I’m hoping to get it a bit more entertaining over the coming months.

 

 

 

Finale Reveal – Title and Cover!

Well, here it is. The cover of the final volume of the Year of the Dragon saga.

I went for something special with this one, to commemorate this being the last volume cover in the series: I hired the services of the wonderful Collette J. Ellis of Flying Viper Illustrations. You might recognize the style from the cover of Vol. 1-4 Bundle. I don’t think there’s anyone who draws Asian dragons better, so she was a natural choice for this cover – and you’ll see why as soon as you scroll below.

With the cover, there’s also the reveal of the title of Book Eight: “The Last Dragon King”. I leave it to you to guess who’s on the cover this time – and who’s the Dragon King.

The manuscript is far from finished… This one is big: I’m already at 80,000 words and I expect to add at least a third more. I still aim at a Christmas release, though, so have just a little bit of patience! We’ll get there in the end.

And so, without further ado, here it is – the cover for the grand finale, “The Last Dragon King”.

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BREAKING: Book 7 Preorders are Go!

Big News time!

The Shattering Waves, Book Seven of the Year of the Dragon, is now ready for pre-order on Amazon Kindle!

It is the time of Darkness, as prophesied by the priests and soothsayers. Armies clash, cities burn. The sparks of hope are few and scattered.

The Kiheitai, leaderless and purposeless after the disastrous Battle of Heian, flee to the harbour city of Naniwa. Hiding among them, Bran and Nagomi plot to release Sato from the clutches of the Serpent. In the South, Dylan, Gwen and Edern assist the rebel army marching against the Taikun, just as the Gorllewin dragon riders begin to have second thoughts about their alliance with the Fanged. 


The release date is set for May 15th. It will be available on Nook and Kobo around that time as well. Click these links to pre-order your digital copy from Amazon:

Amazon US | Amazon UK | DE | IT | FR | ES | JP | CA | BR | AU

This is the penultimate book in the Year of the Dragon saga, with the last volume planned for end of this year.

The great cover for this volume, showing Gwenllian ferch Harri in full battle mode, is by Olga Kolesnikova, or IcedWingsArt.

Plotting the Finale -Volume 8

Yes, you’re right, Volume 7 of The Year of the Dragon is not quite out yet – it’s in final redrafts now, hoping for a May release if all works well. But I’m already writing Volume 8 – the grand finale.

Since this is the last volume of the series, the plot structure departs from my usual “trees with many roots and branches” jumble. I have to wrap things up. Threads are joining together, number of POVs is being reduced as characters fall out of the plot one way or another, all leading to a climactic (hopefully) conclusion.

It’s not going to be too much of a spoiler to say that it looks like I’ll have a distinct three-act structure to this volume, with a pivotal moment in the middle. At least, that’s the plan. How it’s going to pan out in the months to come, remains to be seen.

My ambition is to release Volume 8 before the end of this year, together with a bundle of volumes 5-8. We’re at the end of March now. I have about 20k words of the first draft done, I’m going to need probably a hundred thousand more to fit everything in one book.

This could be an interesting year.

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