Monthly Archives: February 2017

Longoss’ review of: Black Cross – ‘First book from the tales of the Black Powder Wars’ by J P Ashman

Welcome to another episode of WRITERS REVIEWING THEIR OWN BOOKS!

I’m not sure if JP Ashman suffers some of my own delusions, but it does appear that one of his characters has escaped to write the review for him. Some might view this as cheating, but I say expecting reality from fantasy writers is madness!

Take it away, Longoss!

Longoss’ review of: Black Cross – ‘First book from the tales of the Black Powder Wars’ by J P Ashman

“Erm, what am I doing? A review?” Shrugging, Longoss stares at the tome before him, turning it over in his meaty fists whilst weighing it as if it would solve his stalled start.

You have read it, haven’t you, Longoss?”

A flash of gold as the former Black Guild assassin smiles. “Course I have, mate. Course I have. It’s just not what I’m usually asked to do now, is it?”

Just start from the beginning, Longoss.”

“No shit. I’m not gonna start from the end, am I? And ye don’t need to keep saying my name, either.” With a grunt and a scratch of his scar-riddled face, Longoss nods, before taking a deep breath and beginning his review.

“Once upon a time…”

Really?”

A dangerous glance halted any more protestations.

“Once upon a time, not so long ago, a powerful wizard with good intentions fucked up big time by pissin’ around with arcane magic.” Longoss glances up. “That’s dark magic to normal folk like us. Anyhow, this wizard released ghostly… things, that flew about the city of Wesson, infecting nasty buggers left right and centre. Well, mostly in the shit district that is Dockside, but folk all over the city started to die off, all the same. Buboes spread across ’em, puking their guts up and spreading more of the same across the slums. The City Guard burnt hundreds of bodies, thousands even, and, well, the city went to shit, and royally so! I got fucked over by Poi bastard Son, one of the three masters of the Black Guild, my guild. I lost… the first person I’d ever truly loved.” You could have sworn you saw a glint of a tear in the big man’s sunken eyes. “Someone so innocent ye wouldn’t believe it; I had to gut a man good and proper for her, but it was all for nought in the end, what with Poi Son and his bastard mark on my head.” A deep sigh before he continues. “Anyway, I digress. Sergeant Falchion, the Orismaran lad who actually released the plague – for that’s what they called it – cottoned on to what he’d unintentionally done and had the wizard, and his gnome companion, hauled in front of King Barrison and his high lords. I hear the twat Will Morton was there too, Lord High Constable of Wesson, Duke of Yewdale and whatever other titles the tit goes by these days. Well, they saw fit to punish the wizard, Severun, good and proper.” Longoss barks a laugh. “It’s not like their prissy hands are clean of death and destruction; no noble’s hands are, if ye ask me. But, that’s not what’s happening here, is it? I’m to tell ye what happens in this fat book, not give ye my opinion on Altoln and its politics – of which there is a lot. Course there is, what with noble houses and guilds and gangs at each other’s throats from one week to the next.”

Clears throat.

‘Oh aye, the book. Right, well then, another noble enters the shenanigans at one point, stepping in for the captain of the guard, who got fucked over by the plague. This guy, the Constable of Wesson, well he’s not so bad, ye see. He takes a shit load of men and horses and… wait for it… rides on the Samorlian Cathedral of all places! He has a good ol’ scrap with witchunters and inquisitors, all because two guardsmen discovered the Samorlians were torturing innocents in the heart of the city. Which is all linked, but I won’t go into that. Can ye believe that though? Torturing folk under the noses of the City Guard and the Constable of Wesson all that time. No wonder he was pissed.

“Anyhow, I get caught up with the City Guard, or elements of them, and one thing leads to another. I make some unlikely allies and in a bid to kick the fuck out of Poi Son and his bastard assassins, end up meeting a lass I kind of knew previously, to run around Dockside getting up to all sorts of mayhem and violence.” Longoss grunts a laugh. “The book does that bit well, if I do say so myself. It paints me in quite the heroic light… not sure I deserve it, but it made for good reading. Exciting. Nail-biting. That sort of thing. Oh, there’s terrible magic and beasts; goblins and kobolds and fire-breathing men, and The Three knows what else, but it’s the brutal, gritty, in-yer-face scraps that I like! Up close and sticking folk with whatever’s to hand. The hot gush of blood over said hand. The sickly-sweet taste of it over my gold teeth…” He drifts off for a while, clearly reminiscing.

“Where was I?” Longoss asks, eventually. “Ah yes, the plague and the fighting and whatnot. Well, our mages in the tower, Tyndurris, didn’t seem to be able to do anything about this spreading plague. King Barrison quarantined the city and it took Sergeant Falchion, his elf friend, and some others, to escape the city and head on out across the fields and dales to retrieve the elves from Broadleaf Forest. Elves! I ask ye? Oh, I’ve seen one or two in my time, but they wanted a convoy-load of ‘em to come and fix the wizard’s cock up.” Another deep sigh and a twitch of the mouth before Longoss goes on.

“They were some rough times, I can tell ye. Rough as Sir Samorl’s hairy balls they were. I nearly corked it many a time. As did a lot of people, and some that I now care about, believe it or not. Changed me, did those events. Changed a lot of us. Most for the better, I like to think, but some for the worse.” Grunting yet again, Longoss looks up and taps the tome with his index finger. “I lost a lot through this, this book ye would call a story. I lost a hell of a lot, but I reckon ye might gain from it. I did, in some ways. In some damned good ways. But I reckon ye’ll gain a whole world, engrained into yer head it’ll be. A world full of people like you and me. Hard done by, some. Others not so. Vicious, some. Others not so. There’s as varied a folk in these pages, in my world, as there is in any. And you, my friends, get to delve into their heads and histories and antics. You get to see them at their best and worst, their most vulnerable and their most savage. There’s no holds barred. There’s no skipping past the grim bits, I’m afraid, for we had to live those times, and so should you!

“Now go on and fuck off, the lot of ye. I’ve got some bastards to mess up, even if I can’t kill folk no longer.

“I’ve been Longoss, and ye’ve been intrigued! See ye, for now…”

 

 

Black Guild – Second book from the tales of the Black Powder Wars is out late Spring/early Summer.

Find JP Ashman o Godreads

Website: https://jpashman.com

Buy on Amazon UK

Buy on Amazon US

Twitter: https://twitter.com/JP_Ashman

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jpashmanblackpowderseries/?ref=bookmarks

Michael R. Miller reviews Michael R. Miller’s THE DRAGON’S BLADE

And the AUTHORS REVIEWING THEIR OWN BOOKS series continues!

This week Michael R. Miller, author of The Dragon’s Blade books (The Reborn King, and Veiled Intentions), has popped in to review his first novel, The Dragon’s Blade: Reborn King.

Review of My Own Book for Michael R. Fletcher

The Dragon’s Blade: The Reborn King, reviewed by Michael R. Miller

Oh for fuck sake, not another dragon book. I’m serious, if these authors can’t think of anything better I may well give up on this genre. And yeah, I know the dragons are in humanoid form, and they’re fast and strong, and basically like a race of Captain Americas running around with swords, but big fucking deal. I see the word dragon and I smell the, well I don’t smell much because it’s bland generic, isn’t it?

Right, so now that’s out the way, you might be wondering what the whole ‘Reborn King’ thing is about. Darnuir is the titular king of the title, a dragon who is mortally wounded and only saved by being reborn. Literally. No nonsense here, a wizard literally reverses time on him. It heals him but reverts him back to being a new born baby. Handy that wizard was around I suppose. Well, the magic is quite well thought out. I’ll be fair. It’s called Cascade energy and comes from the world itself, a bit like lava, and seeps into the ground, the water and the air. Those who draw upon it gain great power but quickly become addicted. Cascade is poisonous and has to be drained away using a wizard’s staff like an external liver. Wizards who don’t attend their AA meetings regularly may find they overdose and ‘break’ – entering a state of totally psychological meltdown. Hmm, that’s a little bit grim… I’ll add a point on for that.

So, why the rebirth? What’s this author up to? IS DARNUIR ‘DRAGON JESUS’? Well, not really. He comes back and we see him grow up in a new environment and it’s interesting to see his attitudes change because of his new surroundings. Nurture vs nature and all that. Darnuir’s change is welcome because his attitude to humanity pre-rebirth was frankly appalling and just shy of suggesting they all get booted out of his big special golden city. Once he comes of age, the Dragon’s Blade returns to him and the mantle of kingship is forced upon our unsuspecting young man. Memories of his old life begin to awaken in him along with his old prejudices and personality. Two Darnuir’s begin to emerge, the old and the new, both within the one person. His struggle for identity becomes both external and internal as he struggles to bridge the links between the two races as a fledgling king, and within his own damned head. I began to find myself sympathising with the poor bloke… imagine having that happen to you? Pff, I thought, rolling my eyes. He does swing that big sword around quite a lot so he can’t be too upset.

There’s also something about a big dark demonic threat to the world but really Darnuir’s journey lies at the heart of this story. There are plenty of sub-plots, secondary characters, extra POVs and world-building to build the foundation for a solid trilogy. Yet another bloody trilogy…

I suppose if you like fast-paced epic fantasy novels which reinvent or twist many of the old beloved tropes and trappings of the genre then you could give The Dragon’s Blade a go. Word on the street is there is an audio version available so you wouldn’t have to put any real effort in. You could listen to it while doing the dishes, walking the dog or scrubbing the toilet.

Back Cover Copy:

Dragons once soared in the skies, but that was before the Transformation, before they took human form. Now, demonic forces stand to obliterate them. When left mortally wounded, Darnuir, the Prince of Dragons, can only be saved through a dangerous rebirthing spell. He is left as a babe in human hands.

Twenty years later, Darnuir is of age to wield the Dragon’s Blade. As the last member of his bloodline, he is the only one who can. He is plunged into a role he is not prepared for, to lead a people he does not know. Shadowy demons ravage his new home and the alliance between humans, dragons and fairies has fractured.

Time is short, for new threats and deadlier enemies are emerging…

Amazon UK

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dragons-Blade-Reborn-King/dp/1909122653/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1487505806&sr=8-2

Amazon US –

https://www.amazon.com/Dragons-Blade-Reborn-King/dp/1909122653/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

Audible UK –

http://www.audible.co.uk/pd/Sci-Fi-Fantasy/The-Dragons-Blade-Audiobook/B01MZ98YRB

Audible US –

http://www.audible.com/pd/Sci-Fi-Fantasy/The-Dragons-Blade-Audiobook/B01MS6VUZC

An Author’s Book Review – INISH CARRAIG by JO ZEBEDEE

I was at work totally working at not at all daydreaming when it occurred to me that it might be fun to host a series where author’s reviewed their own books. With my usual planning and foresight and deep contemplating of consequences I immediately began pestering several of my favourite novelists. Some agreed. Some wanted me out of their bathroom.

And so I bring you the first in a series of indeterminate length!

 

JO ZEBEDEE  Reviews INISH CARRAIG

This book confuses the hell out of me, on just about every level. It’s sci-fi, with not much sci-fi, it’s young adult, but it’s also adult. And half of it is written in a Northern Irish accent. This, I have to admit, intrigued me. I expected words like ‘eejit’ and ‘wee’, with the odd ‘ye boyo’ thrown in. Instead I got just about every swear word I’ve encountered before – 30 years of inventive language captured in around 150 pages. And this from an author of the fairer sex – she must have a serious potty-mouth.

Anyhow, to the plot. We have two sets of aliens with various unpronounceable names, and both want to take charge of Earth. One set are evil and invaded Earth – but might not be evil, really – and one set arrived later to help – but they might not be helping. In fact, because the author stays in her pesky characters’ thoughts the whole time, and because her characters know nothing useful, we end up as confused as they are. It has the unsettling effect of feeling like you’re the person in the sodding book. I read for escapism, not to end up glancing behind me in case the dog has turned into some sort of alien monster. (Hard to tell the difference on a bad day. All most unsettling.)

And then there’s the title of the damn book. Inish Carraig? What in the name of God does that mean? It’s not even syfy.

Turns out Inish Carraig is a bloody big alien prison (which was cool, I’ll give the author that) called the Irish for Rocky Island. How it escaped having a fucking in there for good measure I have no idea. From there, our hero has to escape and there are bots – at last, something scifi – and sisters on the run down spooky train lines and cops getting beat up by aliens. On top of that, it’s set in Belfast, but the city has been trashed (didn’t notice much difference, truth be told) and everyone’s fighting the aliens now instead of each other. (So, like, minus points for utter fiction there.)

Would I recommend this book? Only if you like alien shit and don’t mind dark scenes and dark humour. Oh and the most scarily creepy prison walls I’ve ever read (thanks for the nightmares, Zebedee.) Ignore it if you don’t like curse words and characters who remind you of real people you might actually meet. Cos, you know, fiction. If I wanted real life and real people, I’d get out more.

1 star. And that’s for the walls. They were pretty cool. Oh, and the babe who came into it near the end. More of her!

 

Back Cover Copy

Post-alien invasion Belfast. Earth has been defeated. Pity the locals aren’t listening. Teenager John Dray will do whatever he must to survive. When he’s offered desperately needed food in exchange for dispersing a mysterious compound over the city, he takes the job. The compound turns out to be lethal to the alien invaders and John is charged with xenocide. He’s sent to Inish Carraig, a forbidding prison, where he discovers a conspiracy that threatens Earth and everyone he loves. He has to unveil the plot. He just has to get out of prison first.

Buy INISH CARRAIG.

Ghosts of Tomorrow – The Evolution of the Art

When it came time to find an artist for Ghosts of Tomorrow, I immediately turned once again to John Anthony di Giovanni. He did an amazing job on The Mirror’s Truth and I’ve always loved the idea of my novels having a cohesive look.

I ‘d like to take this opportunity to share with you the kind of effort that goes into putting something like this together. It’s not quite as simple as “Hey artist-human art for me a cover that is awesome and captures the feel of my book.”

I’m going to walk you through each of the stages here. Keep in mind, I’m not sharing every single version Anthony sent me. These are just the changes major enough I figure they’re worth sharing.

The Roughs

We started by discussing the scene I wanted to show. As Anthony had already read the book he knew exactly what I was talking about and already had visuals in mind.

This is the first rough Anthony sent. I’m already at holy fuck this is awesome. But then we put on our business brains and discussed the merits of each.

A, B, and C have people dead and or dying. Word is Amazon isn’t cool with that. Also, I want parents to be willing to buy this for their teens. So, we decided with either the promise of violence, or maybe, you just missed mad violence. D, E, and F were all very cool, but I wanted more of the second set of arms. This dude ain’t human.


Next up we had two more roughs. H in particular had great potential, but neither pose quite grabbed us.


The third set of rough triggered the Oh shit, we’re close! moment. Smoking guns. Swords. Four arms. Duster coat snapping in the wind. Gritty as hell.

We knew we were close.


Next Anthony began playing with poses, moving the action around, experimenting with visual balance. There was neat stuff here, but the slight backward bend to the torso didn’t quite fit Archaeidae’s ninja perfection.



Yes! When I saw this, I was sold. Good pose. Promise of action. This had everything I wanted.


Next Anthony played with modifying the pose and the POV. The last one, including what Anthony informed me is a slight Dutch Tilt, was our baby. I wasn’t quite sold on the tilt thing, but the more I saw it the more it grew on me. It gave the feeling that he’d just shot you down and you were lying in the dirt staring up at him. After we decided on that, Anthony began working in details and colour.


Awesome! We wanted a little more grit and dust and a little bit of blood on the blades. Anthony also decided to play with the colour a bit and oh baby!


This is the final artwork. I’ve sent it off to Shawn King for typography and will share that when it’s ready.

 

Cool process, eh?

The Coolest Award Ever!

I want to take a moment and thank the awesome community at r/Fantasy for the amazing STABBY award. I have coveted this and glared daggers (muahaha!) at Mark Lawrence for years. To actually have one…it’s surreal.

I thought that when the dagger arrived in the mail, it would finally seem real. Well, I’m still not sure. Am I hallucinating? Are my delusions finally manifesting?

We know how dangerous it is to embrace one’s delusions.

I love my old Mac keyboard!

Thank you r/Fantasy!

And thank you to everyone who read and enjoyed my mad little novels.

Cheers!

–Mike