Kindle Book Preview of Hell has its Demons

Sorry not to post for a while – I’m blaming Christmas holidays and also bouts of illness too!

I’m trying out a new marketing tool from Kindle Publishing today – a Kindle Book Preview. Here’s one for Hell has its Demons:


It looks pretty slick so may add them to all my product pages – although obviously this drives people to prefer a purchase via Amazon than other retailers – all my titles are also available from other retailers and many in print as well. The one hassle about this preview is that it is Amazon country specific – so this one is just for the UK site, but should give readers a good preview of the book anyway I hope.

Anyway, I would like to wish everyone a belated Happy New Year!

Field of Glory 2 – Ancient and Medieval Battle Game

I’m a big fan of Slitherine’s Field of Glory game that allows you to refight ancient and medieval battles – and recreates very nicely the look and feel of a miniatures wargame (I think in the original game the artwork were actual photos of miniatures!). So I was very excited to see that they have now released a Field of Glory 2!

The game follows on from their Battle Academy and Pike and Shotte games engines and replaces hex based movement with squares – and the graphics are 3d animations rather than 2d sprites, so visually it looks great. I also really like how they have changed some of the game dynamics and made things much simpler to control so as a player you can concentrate on strategy and tactics instead.

Field of Glory 2 starts off firmly in the ancients setting, and specifically with the Rise of Rome era, but I am sure they will be adding army as per Field of Glory 1 to add medieval battles and armies and also other areas of the ancient world. Here’s a great trailer from Slitherine for the game:

For a Life Forgotten – Cover Image Reveal

I am working on editing and production of the 3rd volume of my Stonehearted series, which will be called For a Life Forgotten. The story will follow the fate of Eolande as she looks for her captured father in France. If you are new to the Stoneheared series then take a look at the first two volumes, By the Sword’s Edge and By Fire and Sword.

I have now found an image for the cover. See below. I’m looking forward to seeing this volume published – after that there should be another couple of volumes to complete the series.

Mystical portrait of meditative Knight with sword,selective focus, very creative color retouching and hard lighting to underline the ancient medieval time,vignetting and possible noise,low key

Enemy Within Miniatures and a Heroic Fighter of the Known World

Got a new lightbox yesterday, so here’s some early attempts at photos with some basic scenery thrown in.

The photos are just via an iPhone 6 so nothing special, but I think they have come out fairly well.

The first one includes two figures from the Death on the Reik scenario pack for the Warhammer Fantasy Role Play Enemy Within campaign. Joining them is Ulrik Ulrikson, one of the Heroic Fighters of the Known World. It looks like I gave him a new shield design related to his worship of Ulric. Werner from Death on the Reik on the left sports heraldry of Karl Franz, the Emperor, while the sergeant of the Castle Wittgenstein guard has heraldry that I think must have been inspired by the scenario or appeared in a White Dwarf – I can’t find a source though! All of these figures were painted about 25 years ago, but with bases redone this year.

Oldhammer Photo - Death on the Reik and Ulrik Ulrikson

Anyone interested in the wonderful Death on the Reik adventure – you can see a copy on Scribd.

My Writing Projects – Short Story World Building and Revision

For those of you interested in my fiction writing, I thought I would post an update on what I am currently working on.

At the moment I am focusing a bit on short fiction. As you might have seen from a previous post, I have gone back to a story I started a while ago, but didn’t finish – and I’m trying to work out how to best revise that.

I am also working on the background of another short story – a fantasy piece about an old Wizard who has forgotten his spells. For this story, I decided to really invest in doing more world-building and character development than I might normally do for a short story. I am almost treating that side of as if it was a novel – although it won’t have as many characters as a novel and some aspects of the world don’t need to be as fully fleshed out – for instance I am only focusing on one country and two main cultures. A lot of the work so far has been working out the magic system – as that’s the main crux of the story.

That’s meant I have made much slower progress than I might normally when writing a short story – I’m probably spending about an hour a day on it and its taken me a few weeks so far just to get most of the world-building done! But I have enjoyed it and I am interested to see if the work I have done adds richness to the story – will it all have been worth it?

I also have to get on and edit the 3rd part of Stonehearted. Hopefully that should be out for the autumn. Check out  By the Sword’s Edge and By Fire and Sword for the first two installments. If you like medieval action and adventure, I think you’ll really like them.

That’s it from me – I’m also writing a one player D&D adventure for a friend – might post that online at some point too!

(The Picture above is Witchcraft (Allegory of Hercules)  by Dosso Dossi (1490-1542).

Lost Mine of Phandelver – a Critique 

First a disclaimer –this isn’t a detailed review of the Lost Mine of Phandelver adventure module that comes with the new D&D 5th Edition Starter Box set, but rather a bit of a critique of it based on my own expectations for new Dungeons & Dragons 

What I’m saying is that I won’t offer a detailed analysis of the adventure or go into a lot of the details of what it’s about – so you if you want that have a look elsewhere – but rather I’m going to offer some views on why the adventure, although well produced, doesn’t work as I wanted it to – and how I think it could do more.  

So a bit of a moan really! Here’s the problems I had with it: 

  • It’s still pretty much a Dungeon bash. Although there’s some links between the different locations – finding Gundrun and looking for his brothers, once there the PCs just move from room to room and fight whatever they come across. There’s no sense of something actually happening.
  • The plot is a bit weak – sure help out Gundrun and there’s someone who wants to do bad things. But actually what has the Black Spider got planned? What will he do if the PCs can’t defeat him? We don’t really know. If they knew he was going to destroy Phandalin or Neverwinter, then I think that would add to the sense of drama – and the motivation to do something about him. As it is, the plot revolves around helping some dwarves get stuff – just facilitating greed at the end of the day! The lack of plot driving and adventure has always been a problem with D&D from what I can see, and this adventure really enforces that feeling for me – Warhammer Fantasy Role Play has always done a much better job of making players feel like they’re part of an actual story – and encourage roleplaying. 


Lost mine of phandelver

Here’s what I Iiked about it: 

  • Great production values and art – lovely maps 
  • Good tips for new DMs and how to help players get started 
  • The pre-generated Player Characters are well balanced and have some good motivations that link to the locations in the adventure – but I think more could have been made of that in the actual adventure itself – as the DM might forget about the links and could be reminded by some help text in the adventure.  
  • The encounters, monsters and fights are fun for starting adventures – some classic monsters are included, which allows new players to enjoy D&D as it should be.

I hope this critique doesn’t put people off actually getting the D&D Starter set though – it’s a great set, has a wonderful summary of the rules. I just wish I’d taken the time to add a bit more to the adventure to make it more plot driven and exciting!

Fixing a Broken Story – Helix Intercalculator

I am sure most writers have stories kicking around that they have either not finished or are not happy with publishing. Something about those stories went a bit wrong – the premise was not exciting enough, the characters didn’t engage the writer, and the story just petered out – or if you struggled to the finish, you thought “hmm – this ain’t right – I’ll do something else”.

I have some stories like that. One short story that I was writing set in my fantasy world of Ladmas, had quite a few words written – over 5,000, so in theory should have been pretty much written, but in reality the first draft was far from complete. So I went back recently to take another look at it to see if I could just get it done, edited and then submitted for publication.

The story in question is called “Helix Intercalculator.” The weird title isn’t relevant to this post, nor is the detail of the story so I won’t explain it here – perhaps one day it will be available for publication!
But I thought it might be helpful for other writers for me to explain how I went about trying to fix the story – in fact I’m only in the early stages of that – so I think this will be part one of two or more posts looking at how that process went.

Here’s what I did

1. I read the story again.

Pretty simple! But how you read a story when editing is quite important. It really depends on what kind of editing you need to do. To start with I wanted to remind myself of what the story was about and try to work out what I needed to do to finish it. To start with I didn’t realise that it was a bit broken as it was.
I started making corrections of word-choice and typos as I read, but I decided that I actually wasn’t engaged in the story – there was something wrong with it. So I left the red pen for making other comments instead rather than replacing words.

2. Thought about the story as a reader

Once I got out of detailed editing mode this was a bit easier. I thought about the story from the point of view of a reader. Did the story make sense – what was missing? Did I engage with the characters? Was it boring or exciting? If so which bits of the story fell into those categories.

3. Making decisions on what’s wrong with the story

This is really all about judgment and I think quite important to getting revision right. Some people will say just write and don’t worry about revision. Others will apply lots of different methods to revising and editing a story – I think as a writer and editor you have to pretty decisive about what you feel does and doesn’t work in your story, and then figure out some simple ways to fix that. Sometimes if the solution is too complicated it might be better just to start again with a new story!

What I decided was wrong with my story

I picked up on a number of issues with my story:

• Slow start – the more exciting scenes were later in the story – perhaps I should start with those.
• Too didactic – the story was trying to make a point – which involved two characters talking over an issue – this in itself was a bit tedious – I decided to show not tell a bit more and make the theme more implicit in the story – although the characters would still have strong points of view on the subject.
• Too much background exposition – again use of show not tell, and also I should cut out irrelevant or long-winded background.
• Foreshadowing would help with background and also removing the need for too much boring discussion – hopefully I could weave this into my story.
• The structure was wrong – again the start was dull and there was too much chatting. I looked back at my notes and I hadn’t really outlined. I quite like writing without a plan as it’s fun, but when I do I tend to have problems finishing stories! Looks like a plan is needed with this one!

So next I am going to go back and look at the structure and try to rewrite the story – I think mostly it will be a radical rewrite, with perhaps some of the description of more exciting scenes left in. Hopefully that will work. I’ll aim to report back in a few weeks time on how I get on.

Holiday in Orkrania (Oldhammer Fiction) Part 12 – A Better Prize

The concluding part of my Oldhammer fiction novella – Holiday in Orkrania! I hope you’ve enjoyed reading it as much as I have enjoyed writing it. If you don’t know what I’m on about – go back to Part 1 to read more about the story and Part 1!

I’m planning to turn this into an eBook – just need to edit it and find a suitable cover image, but for now here’s the concluding section of the story:


“Let them in?” spluttered Drew. “Are you mad?”

One of the dwarves standing behind Gundrun nodded violently.

“Not mad—experienced. They’ll hack down the doors sooner than later. But if we time it right and surprise them—we’ll have the upper hand.”

Drew nodded. He could see the wisdom in the old dwarf’s words. “OK—let’s do it.”

The dwarf archers that had been picking off goblins and orcs from the upper windows came down to the courtyard again. The halflings stayed where there were and tried to pick off enemies whenever they could—no sense giving them a respite or cause for suspicion.

There were eight of them. They all loaded their crossbows and stood waiting just inside the gate. On either side the rest of the miners—forty in all stood ready with axe, pick and hammer.

Thud, thud went the axes of the orcs. The door was strong and the progress of the orcs was slows, but they would get there in the end—they’d already stopped sending their boyz over the wall—each time they were simply fodder for the dwarves axes as the clambered over.

Gundrun nodded to the two dwarves who held the heavy wooden bolt in place behind the gate. They heaved on it, pushing it up from below and then leapt back as the gate sprung open. Two large orcs, stripped to the waist stood looking surprised with axes raised high above their heads as the doors opened. Their green skin was slick with sweat.

Behind them stood a mob of heavily armed orcs—dressed in chainmail and carrying shields. But they didn’t expect to be hit by a volley of crossbows. The dwarves let fly. Both of the semi-naked axe orcs went down and at least four behind them sank to the ground as the bolts went home. Helpers passed the dwarves each another loaded crossbow and a second volley hit the orcs—barely giving them any time to get over their shock and raise their shields. Another six went down. The dwarf miners shouted their war-cry and rushed out of the gates attacking the decimated ranks of the orcs. The fight was brutal, and a number of dwarves died, but after a few short minutes it was brutal. The orcs were fleeing, leaving at least thirty—half their number on the field dead. Their long limbs carried them further and quicker than their pursuers and some discarded their armour to make their flight swifter.

A huddle of goblins on foot and a scattering of wolf-riders gave the dwarves pause, but Gundrun ordered them to close ranks and brought up his crossbows again. Two swift volleys broke the goblins as well and the wolf-riders covered their rout.

“That’s enough,” said Gundrun. “They won’t come back in a hurry, and besides we’d never catch them.”

“Well done,” said the tall aristocratic human. Two large dogs were at his side.

Gundrun’s lip curled—they were those shapeshifters—the cause of part of the dwarves trouble. He had no idea who this man was, and didn’t care to know.

Gundrun turned away. “Time to bury our dead,” he muttered and strode away to look at the bodies of his fellows—hoping to find some of the fallen still alive.

“Hmm, a bit rude wasn’t he,” said Hardlee to the large Doberman at his side. “I think it would be time to leave though—never know—they might come back. Where’s Shilby anway—he was the man you bit on the leg. Not like him, running off.”

The Doberman shook her head, but then the ears pricked alert. It looked back towards the inn and growled low. Hardlee turned to look. A large orc, helmeted and bearing a huge axe was striding towards them. In the distance on a rocky crag above the inn a man and a female figure stood embracing next to the body of a large winged creature. Hardlee wondered who they were—that thing, the wyvern had been clutching Meagana in its claws, and then Shilby had run off hadn’t he. Was it them?

But there were more pressing concerns. The large orc was closing on them, and at his back a mob of goblins scurried to keep up with him. The dwarves were reforming their ranks and marching back to the inn. There would be a final engagement—the orcs and goblins were not done yet.

“We should go, fast, don’t you think,” said Hardlee. “Never mind Shilby.”

The orc broke into a run. The Doberman and the pitbull barked at him as he came. Hardlee trembled. There were no dwarves nearby—they were about to close with the goblins. The sword was still at his side. He drew it—it flashed even though the sunlight was dimmed now by the clouds. It was an old sword-magical they said and always worn by the heir of Hyperia ever since the orcs were driven from the kingdom.

For a moment the orc chief paused. He pointed at the sword and shouted—“that’ll be mine,” and charged now down the hill at Hardlee, his axe raised above his head.

Hardlee held out the sword—hoping that it would protect him. He raised it to parry as the orc swung down at him. He actually closed his eyes at that moment. There was a barking and growling, and swearing in orcish and then a whimpering of canine pain. Hardlee opened his eyes to see the orc with the one dog biting at each leg. He hacked at the pit-bull with his axe, snapping its spine, and then produced a cruel, serrated dagger and lashed at the Doberman, cutting her deeply on the shoulder. She let go her jaws’ grip and wimpered away.

The orc turned on the dog and raised his axe. The dog was too injured to move fast out of the way. But then there was a noisy yapping and from the forest a dirty haired poodle ran onto the field. It flung itself at the orc’s mid-riff and caused him to stumble and let go his axe as he swung it—it flew about twenty paces away. The orc batted the poodle away from him. The dog scampered over to the Doberman and the two animals made their way to the woods. Hardlee held out his sword. He wanted to run as well.

Grim Bearit looked at the man holding the ancient sword of Shinee, something that he had dreamed of owning since ?? and looked at his own dagger. “Not a fair fight is it. Let me get my axe.”

But then there was a blast of a horn. And up the road came marching a unit of royal guard all in shining mail with halberds shouldered and a banner flying.

“What’s this?” shouted the orc. He turned back to the inn to see how his gobboes were doing. The answer was that they were done. The dwarves had killed a few with no loss and now the goblins were running to the hills—joining the rest of Grim’s army.

He roared into the sky. “A wyvern, a wyvern, my kingdom for a wyvern.” But nothing answered his call.

Holiday in Orkrania (Oldhammer Fiction) Part 11 – Beauty and the Beast

The penultimate part of my Oldhammer fiction novella – hope you have been enjoying it! Go back to Part 1 if you haven’t read any before.

Hardlee took a step back as the fierce Doberman growled. “Shilby, I need you. There’s two of them. I’m sure you can finish them. Look one of them hasn’t even got any clothes on. Shilby?”

Arfur Shilby was staring up into the sky.

“Shilby!” shouted Hardlee. The naked man sprang towards him and waved his knives at him. Hardlee stumbled backwards and fell over a bench that had been left out in the courtyard. Dazed for a moment he heard the screeching of bones and flesh and the whimpering of a dog. He opened his eyes and lifted himself to a crouch. The naked thug pushed him hard and he fell to the floor. The man stood over him. Hardlee for some reason couldn’t get his eyes off what was dangling over him. He gulped, not sure if he was more afraid of being killed or the man’s well-developed appendage.

A tall long-haired woman joined the man. Hardlee with relief turned his full attention to her. She also had no problem with nudity and her form was lithe and muscular and very attractive.

“I can pay, pay you,” he stammered.

“We know,” said the woman. “How much?”

“What?” Hardlee replied. Surprised that his offer might work. “Anything. Well within reason. I am sure my father will pay. And I have my own estates. Jewels. Name your price.”

“Hmm, yes all of that. An estate would be good—we like our privacy. But also money. Jewels are an efficient way to carry wealth so we’ll have those. In return, we’ll make sure you get out of here alive.” She looked around. “There seems to be a few complications with this job.”

She offered her hand to Hardlee, and after a moment’s hesitation he took it and she pulled him to his feet—her grasp was powerful and strong—he felt himself pulled towards her as he stood and for a moment his clothed body toucher her naked one. He sprung back quickly, but she kept a tight grip on his hand.

“We have an agreement?” she said. Her strong brown eyes fixed his. She was nearly as tall as him.

He nodded. “Yes. Absolutely.” He grinned. “That’s a relief, Shilby, eh? Shilby where are you?”

But Shilby was not paying his prince the least bit of attention. He was staring up at the wyvern. He shaded his eyes and he could see more clearly than the others that the wyvern clutched a figure of a woman in its claws. It was the prince’s girlfriend, Meagana.

Hardlee came over to him and looked up as well. “By the gods, has that creature got Meagana?”

Shilby nodded.

“Hmm, well that’s sad. A shame, a real shame. She was a lovely girl, elf-girl, whatever. But all good things come to an end. Not much we can do, eh? Mama didn’t approve after all, she’d much rather I settle down with a homely duchess—and maybe she’s right. Much too much excitement just recently.”

Shilby shrugged.

“Now, these dogs/people, whatever they are. They’re not going to kill me. In face I think they may even protect me and help us escape. So how about you and they work out a way to get me to the safety of the woods or the road, and we can get out of here?”

But Shilby ignored his prince. Nearby there was a dwarven crossbow, dropped by a miner who’d been skewered by a goblin archer. Shilby picked it up and loaded it and made for the stables.

“Hey, Shilby. What are you doing?” called Hardlee. But Shilby ignored him.

He stood on a trough and clambered onto the roof of the stables. On that side of the inn there weren’t any orcs or goblins—yet anyway. A few wolf-riders stood in the distance forming a cordon—to stop anyone escaping, he assumed. He looked up. Still the wyvern circled. He could hear Meagana’s voice crying for help. He raised the crossbow and shot high at the wyvern. He saw the rider dodge out of the way as the bolt fizzed past. The wyvern stuttered in its flight as the rider pulled hard on the reins. Even though the wyvern was several hundred feet away, at that moment the orc rider and Shilby locked eyes. Shilby could see the rider’s rage. It was only matched by his own, and the sense of outrage he felt at Hardlee’s abandonment of his lover. She didn’t deserve that.

The wyvern descended in tight arcs and came to land on a small crag of rock a hundred yards to the north of the inn up the slope of the valley. Shilby had already jumped from the stable roof over the wall of the inn and was striding purposefully up the hill through soft springy tufts of grass.

The orc-rider jumped from the back of his beast and the thing released Meagana fro its clutches. She looked fairly unharmed. Shilby couldn’t see any blood. But as she scrambled to get away, the creature hissed at her and waved a huge claw at her. She shrank behind a boulder to avoid the attack.

But the orc, a large figure, with huge muscles and thick plate armour and a wicked helmet with cruel spikes adorning it was coming at a jog to meet Shilby. Shilby dodged the first attack from the orc’s two-handed axe. He jabbed with his sword, but it glanced harmlessly off the orc’s breastplate. The orc raised his axe again and brought it down hard. Shilby managed to dodge again, but this time he slipped and he was on the ground. The orc smiled a slavering evil smile and raised his axe again, confident that the human could not slip from his grasp again.

A rock slammed into his helmet from behind. He turned and roared towards where Meagana was standing behind a boulder. Another rock was in her hand—she threw it and it hit the orc on his nose, he stumbled and fell to his knees, there was blood. Shilby dashed away and towards Meagana. Next to her the wyvern lay on the ground, it’s head curled back next to its tummy.

“You killed?” he said, incredulous.

“An old Elvish charm,” she replied. “It sleeps only.”

“Let’s go,” said Shilby, “before it wakes.”

“Not yet,” she said. And she took his arm and pulled him towards her and kissed him.