Things I watched over Christmas

My Christmas viewing revolved around a few box sets and some stuff on Netflix. First off was an A/B session of ‘Borgia’ and ‘The Borgias’. Coming to the European-made Borgia from the US-made The Borgias was a bit jarring, and initially I wasn’t at all impressed with the former. I like Jeremy Irons as an actor, and think he’s one of those actors who has gravitas to burn. However, after a few episodes, I thought John Doman—despite an American accent I gather a great many viewers were put off by—was far better suited to the role of Rodrigo Borgia/Pope Alexander VI. As my esteem for him grew, so to did my opinion of Borgia as a whole.

The supporting cast were excellent, if they can be called that. Any of the major parts, from Cesare and Lucrezia to Alessandro and Giulia Farnese, could be considered leading players. Across the board, I thought the actors in Borgia were far stronger, and far better suited to the parts they played.

Both shows portrayed the period well, although once again I felt Borgia got it a bit closer to the mark. I like watching shows like this in an attempt to immerse myself into that atmosphere, as it is, broadly speaking, the period that the Middle Sea world is set in at the time of The Tattered Banner and The First Blade of Ostia. My inspiration files for weapons, clothes, and architecture are filled with pictures of things from the 1450-1650 period.

Overall, I think both series are worth watching, but if you only have time for one, I’d go with Borgia. This is the area of history that most interests me, and I can definitely see myself watching Borgia again in the not too distant future.

I also watched the new Netflix show ‘Marco Polo’ which I really enjoyed. We go from an area of history that I know quite a bit about, to one I know very little about. I’ve not made anything more than a cursory reading of Asian and Mongol history, which is something I’m going to have to rectify this year, as it really is fascinating. A very good show, with solid acting across the board—I thought Benedict Wong playing Kublai Khan was particularly excellent—and one which I’m eagerly anticipating the second season of.

I have the first season of the recent BBC version of The Three Musketeers next in the queue, which I’m looking forward to. I’ve mentioned before I think that The Three Musketeers is one of my favourite stories, so I’m interested to see what they do with it. From the bits I’ve seen, it looks pretty encouraging.

As a reminder, there are still signed copies of The First Blade of Ostia up to be won over on Goodreads. You can enter the competition by clicking here.

Well, I hope everyone had a great Christmas, and is having a very happy new year!

Advertisements

The First Blade of Ostia available in paperback!

The First Blade of Ostia is now available in paperback. I recently received my proofs and I have to say I’m pretty pleased with how it’s turned out. Of my covers so far, I think this one is my favourite.

IMG_0187As usual, I’ve included the paperback in Amazon’s matchbook program, which means if you buy the paperback, you get the Kindle version for free.

To mark the arrival of the paperback, I’m also running a giveaway over on Goodreads to win a signed copy. You can enter it here.

Don’t forget there’s still a giveaway running for signed copies of The Tattered Banner, which you can enter here.

Otherwise, I hope everyone is all set for Christmas, and you all have a really great holiday!

Ostenheim

Ever since I started imagining Ostenheim, I’ve been scribbling maps on scraps of paper, adding, deleting and altering as the stories developed and the city grew in my mind. I’ve wanted to get a proper map of the city made up for a long time, and now I have. Here it is:

Ostenheim(web)

(Click to enlarge)

The map was drawn up by the very talented Robert Altbauer. You can see more of his work at his website. I can’t express how delighted I am with his work – it’s a great experience to finally see the image that’s been in my head for such a long time. We chose a style similar to the Renaissance era city maps from books like Civitates Orbis Terrarum; something that looks like it was created at the time it is set in, rather than a modern map of an old city.

The map will be a great accompaniment to the series of posts about the city that is upcoming, and will make my job of explaining where all the important buildings are a lot easier!

Updates…

Ok, the Ostenheim blog series is taking a little longer than expected, as I’m juggling a few balls at the moment. For now, another photoshop teaser will have to do –

Old Book CoverI considered doing the whole thing in this style, but reckon it will be easier to read by putting them in regular blog posts.

It will also be delayed a little longer as I’ve something else coming down the pipeline which will be taking pride of place next week, but more of that anon!

 

Updates…

Tour Guide Cover

I mentioned in my last post that I was putting together a tour guide for Ostenheim. It’s progressing well, but still needs a little more work – I want to finish the whole thing before I start posting it up. I have however done up a cover for it, which I’m posting now. The first part should be online next week (I hope!).

I hope everyone’s well and enjoying the last few days of summer.

Review Time…

After two weeks of nail biting, the first review for The Telastrian Song is out. Waiting for the initial reception for a new book is a pretty miserable experience – like waiting for exam results but worse! Way worse!

The full review can be perused at your leisure over at the Fantasy Review Barn. Many thanks to reviewer Pauline M. Ross for taking the time to read it and write up her thoughts. As per my usual policy, I’ve picked out a couple of snippets that make me look good!

The descriptions of Ostenheim, in fact the whole of this world the author has created, are excellent, just enough to bring the streets and buildings into sharp focus without distracting from the action. It all feels wonderfully real, brought alive by scores of understated little details.

And on the ending:

…a wonderful and very fitting climax to the story. Being the end of the trilogy, I honestly had no idea how it would turn out, and the author had several nice surprises up his sleeve, not least the explanation for the title of this book. A terrific ending to a fine series.

Once again, the full review can be read here. Hope everyone’s enjoying the summer so far!

The Telastrian Song Cover Reveal…

This is always my favourite post in the run up to a release. What with having told you all the title, it’s time to show you what it looks like on the cover! I hope you like it.The Telastrian Song

The Telastrian Song Excerpt

In the penultimate of my Telastrian Song taster posts, here’s an excerpt from the book.

Although he needed no reminder of the villagers’ frosty welcome, Soren was greeted by it as soon as he walked into the cool shade of the tavern. For once, the coolness was not directed at him. There was someone else there, a stranger leaning against the bar. He was wearing dusty travelling clothes and Soren took him for a traveller passing through, for few came to Sejura with the intention of staying. It was why Soren had chosen the place.

The stranger glanced at Soren when he entered. He looked as though he had been trying to engage the tavern keeper in conversation before Soren’s arrival. Soren knew it was a wasted effort; he had never gotten more than a few words out of the tavern keeper, Suro, despite calling in nearly every week since they had moved to the area. The newcomer didn’t have a chance, if socialising was his intention.

‘Five bottles of lemonade, Suro,’ Soren said.

Suro nodded in acknowledgement and went into a back room. The stranger turned his attention to Soren.

‘Hello there,’ he said.

‘Hello there, yourself,’ Soren said, not meaning to be rude, but in keeping with the local habits.

‘Friendly bunch in this town,’ the man said.

Soren shrugged, still clinging to the disguise of a rural countryman leaning against the bar as he waited for his lemonade. The stranger hadn’t done anything to give Soren concern, but the look of him was unsettling. He carried himself with a bearing that Soren had seen many times in the past: straight, confident, proud. Coupled with his clothes, there could be no doubt that he had done some soldiering, and despite him not carrying a sword at his waist, Soren suspected he was a swordsman—a banneret. They were always easy to spot, and the stranger was a perfect example. Just like Soren. And just like Soren, he was not the type of man one expected to see in an out of the way place like Sejura.

Soren tried to maintain his disguise of a farmer and unfriendly local. He feared his own appearance was as much a giveaway as the stranger’s and forced himself to slouch a little more. Mercenaries and sell-swords on the job always had a sharp expression, and this fellow was no different. He was assessing everything that was going on. It was the look of a predator, but conversely it was also a look carried by prey—not a description Soren liked to apply to himself, but it was accurate—as they watched for threats. He tried to adopt the appearance of suspicious disinterest. If the man was hunting someone, possibly Soren himself, he didn’t want to look like a man expecting trouble.

Soren’s was a hard-cultivated fictional persona, but it still didn’t come easily to him. He had been called Ramiro ever since arriving in Sejura. Before Sejura, there had been another town and a different name, and before that another. Each time, both he and Alessandra had sunk a little deeper into their new lives—finally becoming Ramiro and Aldonya, a young couple from the other side of Estranza seeking a new life for themselves beyond the interference of their families. The habits of a lifetime were difficult to discard though. There were still times when it took him a moment to remember that he was Ramiro, the farmer from Estranza, not Soren, Banneret Swordsman who had spent much of his life in danger.

‘Many strangers pass through here?’ the man said.

Soren shrugged. ‘A few.’

‘Any recently?’

Soren shrugged again, but said nothing.

The man sighed. ‘Never mind, then.’ He muttered something under his breath that Soren couldn’t hear, but said nothing else.

Suro reappeared with Soren’s bottles of lemonade. He set them down on the bar one at a time, six in total, while Soren rooted around in his coin purse.

‘Beatriz said there was enough left to fill another bottle. Just pay for five,’ Suro said.

Soren nodded and smiled. It was the first friendly gesture that had been made toward him since he arrived in the region, and he suspected it was due to the stranger. Soren might be new, but he was more welcome than this blow-in. He paid for the bottles and put them in his leather satchel, all under the stranger’s scrutiny.

‘Enjoy your lemonade,’ the stranger said.

Soren gave him a curt nod and left him to Suro’s suspicious stare.

The Telastrian Song Back Cover Copy

As another taster of what’s to come, here’s the back cover copy for The Telastrian Song.

A remote farm and meagre crops are a far cry from Ostenheim and the life of a banneret, but they are not far enough. For Soren to be free of Amero, there is only one answer.

In Ostenheim, Duke Amero presides over a war-weary population and an empty treasury, but still he hungers for more.

An Intelligencier uncovers the disturbing resurgence of sorcery in the city, while an avaricious colleague sees the chance to prove his worth to the Duke.

Enemies and allies emerge from unexpected places as Soren must face his former patron and idol for a final reckoning.

The Telastrian Song follows The Huntsman’s Amulet and is the concluding part of the Society of the Sword Trilogy.