Sure, I hear you. However! The writing on “The Shieldmaiden’s Honour” has been going so well – so far – that I can already announce the pre-order going live today, as an Amazon exclusive. The tentative release date is December, which should give me plenty of time to polish the manuscript, but I may be able to launch it even sooner than that.
So head over to Amazon and click that Pre-order button!
All is not well in Britannia Prima.
Though Princess Madron had helped her husband Honorius defeat the four-year-long revolt, and was blessed with a second child – a son – dark clouds are still gathering over the Dux’s throne. The rebellious nobles remain unplacated, the borders are still aflame, and a new menace of the Gewisse Saxons threatens the lines of trade and communication with the rest of Britannia.
Worse still, the old DuxAmbrosius is dying. Before he leaves this mortal world, he wants to ensure his legacy, and secure the inheritance of his son, Honorius – and the newly-born grandson – against the rebels and barbarians.To this end, he agrees to an alliance with the Bishop of Lindocoln on the eastern coast – a coast ravaged by a mysterious, newly arrived pirate fleet.
Madron joins her husband and his warriors on a expedition to aid the Bishop – but as she ventures into the inhospitable marshes around Lindocoln, she’s about to discover a conspiracy of vast proportions, stretching far beyond the Narrow Sea, all the way to the Imperial Gaul and Frankia.
Return to the Britannia of the Arthurian Age, and travel to Frankia of the Merovingians, in this new adventure in the best-selling The Song of Britain saga – second book of the The Song of Madron.
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!
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
Today’s the day of another release in the Song of Britain saga – Book 5, “The Wrath of the Iutes” !
The long way back just got longer….
They were supposed to return home as heroes, basking in the glory and plunder of the victory at Trever… But fate decided otherwise for Octa and his band of Iutes. Chasing after Ursula’s captor, the renegade Haesta, they venture deep into the unfamiliar land of Armorica, where they unexpectedly discover an old ally seeking their help against a threat of invasion…
On their quest to help defend Britannia Prima, a province still ruled by the remnants of the old Roman power, Octa and his warriors will meet new friends, face new enemies and discover ancient mysteries, in this long-awaited second chapter of the Song of Octa: The Wrath of the Iutes.
It’s time for another of the “locations” post – I like to think of my books as much as a travelogue as action novels, and the travels of my characters in Book 5 take them to the very north-western edges of the Empire: from Armorica to Northern Wales.
An enormous, spectacular hill fort on Llyn Peninsula, used up to 5th century. The valley below, Nant Gwrtheyrn, is another place associated with Vortigern, who is said to have been buried somewhere in the area.
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.
With everything that’s been going on in the world – and personal life – it’s hard to believe I managed to keep to the 2020 publishing schedule I set for myself a couple of years ago. It helped that I had to quit my previous day job just in time for the pandemic, and after a short while I finally resolved to stick to writing full-time.
It’s going to be a bit less crazy next year. The schedule for 2021 includes only two books in the Song of Britain: The Wrath of Iutes and The Crown of Iutes – and a short novella set between them.
“The Saxon Spears” got a nice review in this month’s Historical Novels Review – Historical Novel Society.
The book is well-written, and the story gains in interest as Ash matures (…) The action grows swift and tense as the plot develops, and Ash is a dimensional, relatable character (…) an intriguing, textured world that readers will want to explore further.