The Shieldmaiden’s Pride – Release Day!

The third trilogy in the Song of Britannia saga – Madron’s story starts here!

Madron knows she’s destined to fame and renown. In her veins runs the blood of Wortigern, the great Dux of the eastern Britons, and of Eobba, the mighty warchief of the Iutes. Wars have been fought for her hand. Her union with the western Dux’s son brought peace to the divided land. Their child is the hope for the entire nation’s future.

But there are many who don’t want to see that future. Bands of paid warriors strike at her and her husband, forcing Madron to seek safety in the place she left many years ago, but still calls home: the greatest city in Britannia, Londin. Here, she will stumble upon an even greater conspiracy – one that threatens not only her family, but to engulf the whole island in flames of a new war.

And her only clue to discover who’s behind it all is one half of a golden solidus…

A new heroine – a new band of comrades – a new mystery – and a whole brand new story in the best-selling series The Song Of Britain – The Song of Madron!

I admit I’m a bit worried about how this one will be received. It’s my first time writing from a woman’s POV – never an easy task for a male writer – and it’s the first book in the saga that is less focused on war and battles – though there still are some! – and more on a kind of detective, introspective work, a sort of Dark Age-Noir story. We’ll see how it goes – too late to stop now, I’ve already got half of the next book plotted out! I like it – hope you will too!

– James Calbraith

The Shieldmaiden’s Pride – locations

It’s two weeks until release of “The Shieldmaiden’s Pride” – the adventures of a young half-Iute girl in eastern Britannia at the fall of the Empire… It’s been a while since I spent such a significant amount of story time in Londin and its immediate neighbourhood. All the familiar places and faces are coming back – some, perhaps, for the last time…? But with so much focus on Britannia Maxima, I can dive into this part of the island in more detail, and visit some regions that until now have only been mentioned in passing.

WERLAM – Verulamium, St. Albans, Hertfordshire

The capital of Catuvellauni, and a city which at times wished to rival Londinium for primacy over the entire province. It grew to renewed prominence when relics of St Alban were ‘found’ here by Germanus of Auxerre, and the modern town grew around the mighty cathedral that holds them.

DORCIC – Dorchester-on-Thames, Oxfordshire

A tentative name, one of the few proposed for the fortified town guarding an important crossing on the upper Thames, future Dorchester’s main claim to fame is that it’s purported to be the original settlement of the Gewisse tribe, who would later come to rule Wessex, and eventually all of England. It boasts some of the earliest Saxon settlement remains outside the coastal areas.

SPINIS – Speen, Berkshire

Now a tiny village in Berkshire, it was once the place where the Ermine Way, the main highway from Corinium to Londinium, met the road from Aquae Sulis.

DUROLIPONS, DUROBRIWA, DUROWIGUT – Duroliponte, Durobrivae, Durovigutum – Water Newton, Cambrige, Godmanchester

A confusingly similarly named cluster of settlements in what is now Cambridgeshire, strewn along the road to Lincoln astride the borders of Britannia Maxima and Britannia Secunda.

BELGIAN WENTA – Venta Belgarum, Winchester

Once a capital of the Belgian civitas, it suffered severe decline after the end fo Roman rule – only to be rebuilt as the capital of Wessex, and the heart of Anglo-Saxon England, centuries later.

CLAWSENT – Clausentium, Southampton

We last saw Clawsent when young Ash visited it searching allies against Aelle, in the Saxon Might. It hasn’t changed much since then – still a backwater harbour, dreaming of its ancient glories. It will remain thus until the Saxons build a new market town of Hamtun, on the other side of the estuary – later renamed Southhampton.

LEMAN – Portus Lemanis, Lympne

A Saxon Shore fort, a navy base, and the second largest harbour of ancient Kent after Dover, though the current village of Lympne has little in common with its predecessor except the name.

CORIN, GLEWA, SULIAN WATERS – Corinium, Glevum, Aquae Sulis – Cirencester, Gloucester, Bath

The three great cities of Western Britannia, surviving the longest against the Saxon onslaught of later centuries. We know they were sometimes grouped together as one powerful cluster, since they are recorded to have all been lost to Ceawlin’s West Saxons after the Battle of Dyrham in 577.

PRE-ORDER LAUNCH: THE SHIELDMAIDEN’S PRIDE!

Today’s the day!

When I first started jotting down plot ideas for this book, the main event in the news was the refugee problem on the Polish border, so I set up some of the plot around refugees fleeing from a distant conflict. Little could I suspect that by the time I start writing the manuscript, the crisis will be replaced by an actual *war*, and a refugee catastrophe of proportions unseen since the 2nd World War…

It’s not an easy time to write any book, but perhaps especially one that is so distant from what’s happening around us. Escapism is difficult when reality is chasing you down, pins you to the ground and demands to be heard from. When checking Twitter and news sites replaces all other activity. Still, work can’t wait. Books won’t write themselves, despite the progress in artificial intelligence!

So, here it is. Only a month behind schedule, but going strong. The first novel in the new trilogy, the Song of Madron. A lot is going to be different this time – not least of which is an attempt to write a female heroine. I’m happy with how it’s going so far – hope you’ll all be happy too, when it’s finished!


Madron knows she’s destined to fame and renown. In her veins runs the blood of Wortigern, the great Dux of the eastern Britons, and of Eobba, the mighty warchief of the Iutes. Wars have been fought for her hand. Her union with the western Dux’s son brought peace to the divided land. Their child is the hope for the entire nation’s future.

But there are many who don’t want to see that future. Bands of paid warriors strike at her and her husband, forcing Madron to seek safety in the place she left many years ago, but still calls home: the greatest city in Britannia, Londin. Here, she will stumble upon an even greater conspiracy – one that threatens not only her family, but to engulf the whole island in flames of a new war.

And her only clue to discover who’s behind it all is one half of a golden solidus…

A new heroine – a new band of comrades – a new mystery – and a whole brand new story in the best-selling series The Song Of Britain – The Song of Madron!

The Song of Madron, Book One – Cover Reveal

These are not easy times, for anyone. But somehow, between bouts of plague, frantically refreshing Twitter for news of war, and general mental chaos of it all, I’m managing to keep only a month behind shedule for the next book. I’m hoping to put a pre-order in motion in a week or so – so it’s time to reveal the next book’s cover and title.

It’s a beginning of a new trilogy, the third in the saga, and a different type of story this time, which is reflected in a slightly different title style. Think more Sharpe than Uhtred; more secret missions, conspiracies and subterfuge than battles and grand campaigns… Can I pull it off? Who knows, but I’ll give it a damn good try!

Introducing: The Song of Madron, Book One: The Shieldmaiden’s Pride

(photo credit: Yuriy Seleznev, via Shutterstock)

Keep safe everyone – and long live free Ukraine.

My drafting process, explained.

As I delve into the editing stage of the draft manuscript of “The Wrath of the Iutes“, I thought I’ll reveal a little bit of the draft writing and editing steps I take to create one of my novels. It took me nearly a decade to hone the method, from the early days when “The Shadow of Black Wings” took 14 drafts and two years to write, to now, when an average novel in the “Song of Britain” series takes me little less than six months from plot outline to publishing.

Step 1: Plot Outline and chapter structure

I start with writing down the general plot; for convenience and speed, already at this step I will have the plot divided roughly into chapters, though most of them will not have titles. I tend to make this outline vague enough so that I can keep to it throughout the entire manuscript without changing too much. The biggest change that may occur between this step and the finished manuscript is splitting the novel into more parts than originally envisioned, as the story grows.

Step 2: Draft_0 – rough draft

What others call “First Draft” I keep in the file named Draft_0. This is the first version of the complete story, from start to finish, but with gaps in between. These are scenes, or sometimes whole chapters, that would bog me down too much if I tried to write them down at this stage, or that I haven’t yet fully invented. I leave brief comments in the outline, in places where I intend to go back in future drafts and fill the gaps out.

For a novel of about 100,000 words, it takes me about 3 months to outline the plot and finish this first draft. At this point I also have a rough estimate of the wordcount and chapter titles.

Step 3: Draft_0.5 to Draft_1 – fleshing out

By the time I reach Draft_1 – sometimes with a preliminary stage of Draft_0.5 – all the gaps are filled in. The new set of comments refers to things I picked up during the first re-write of Draft_0: scenes that need buffing up, plot points that need expanding upon, characters that need fleshing out, and plot holes and mistakes that need fixing. The end of Draft_1 is the stage at which nothing else needs to be added to the plot and character development.

This stage takes about 4-6 weeks, and is probably the slowest in terms of value added for time taken – but then, this is the bit where the rough stone turns into something resembling a diamond!

Step 4: Draft_2 to Draft_4 – text-to-speech rewrites

For the final couple of rewrites, I use a neat little free Word add-on called WordTalk. It uses Windows text-to-speech library to read the text in Word, using a selected voice – I prefer Hazel. In essence, it turns manuscript into an audiobook, which I find the best way to spot any roughness, errors and typoes in the text. I usually do two run-throughs like this, unless I feel things are still looking harsh enough to warrant a third one.

This stage shouldn’t take me more than a month, if I properly sit down to it.

Step 5: Draft_5 – Spellcheck, grammar check and PerfectIt

The very final stage of drafting is running the manuscript through Word’s checks and another plugin called PerfectIt – I had this one recommended by my copy editor, and I’ve been using it ever since. It’s not free, and not very cheap, though if your editor charges by the hour, it will pay for itself in no time, since it saves a lot of mundane work in checking things like spelling consistency, punctuation, and house style.

This stage takes less than a week – shouldn’t take more than a good weekend, really.

Draft_5 is the one I sent to my copy editor for the final read-through, and Draft_6 – with all of the editor’s corrections applied – is the one used to generate the actual ebook file for Kindle.

So there you have it – six months from start to finish, which means that “The Wrath of the Iutes” will be on your Kindles in the summer, and should be followed in winter by “The Crown of the Iutes”, the last part of Song of Octa trilogy.