All posts by Mark

By the Sword’s Edge (Stonehearted 1) Free eBook

As the Stonehearted series nears completion I have decided to make the first book in the series free to download as an eBook.

If you haven’t read it yet, you can now get this in Kindle or ePub format from most of the normal eBook retailers. More details below.

Other books in the series will now by 99c or 99p or equivalent in other currencies, so if you like the first book in the series it will be really easy and affordable to read the others.

By The Sword's Edge CoverBy The Sword’s Edge, Volume 1 of Stonehearted

Words: c. 17,000
Pages: 74 (print)

Get a free eBook at: Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk

And other Amazon stores!

Get a free eBook at: Google PlaySmashwords | Kobo | Nook | iBooks

By The Sword’s Edge is the first volume of Stonehearted, a serialized novel.

When the cut from the blade runs deep – You need a heart of Stone

In 1370 two families are thrust together by the harsh realities of war. Lady d’Aubray holds Sarbrook castle, but has sold nearly everything to pay the ransom of her husband, who was captured in France over a decade ago. Eolande d’Aubray, the missing lord’s daughter, is desperate for her father to return. She remembers little of him, but she does know that he is the only man who can rescue her from an unwanted marriage.

William Stone has bought much of the d’Aubray estate having made a fortune as a cloth merchant, and is looking forward to seeing his two sons move up in the world. For his eldest, Richard, he hopes to make squire to Sir Robert Knolles, commander of the English army set to invade France this summer, as long as he can pay the consideration demanded by Knolles. But when Knolles and his ambitious captain, Minsterworth, visit the Stone’s to agree their terms, a tragic series of events destroys the Stone’s world forever.

For Richard Stone there is only one place to find peace.

In war.

For a Heart Made of Stone Cover Image Reveal

I am really looking forward to publishing the fourth and final volume of the Stonehearted series – always great to finish something off and will be nice to have a complete series of books to promote as well. For those of you who have been following the story, I hope that you like the ending.

I will be posting a few bits and pieces about volume 4, For a Heart Made of Stone, over the next few weeks. But for now here’s the cover image I am planning to use. A different character from the story this time – can you guess who it is?

Getting Details Right in Historical Fiction

Getting the details write right in historical fiction can be challenging for so many reasons. For a start we often don’t know what life was like exactly in the past – or the facts themselves are up for debate. For instance is it really the case that people in the middle ages had bad teeth? They didn’t have toothpaste, but neither did they have food with as much unrefined sugar as we have today – so maybe tooth decay wasn’t so much of a problem!

However, there are some basic facts which it should be able to fact check and get right. One of my bugbears in historical fiction is where things that couldn’t be present or said appear. For instance I read quite a good murder mystery set in the mid-14th century recently. There was lots of good stuff on social conditions, labour costs etc that made me feel that the author really had done their research and got into the details of the period.

But then the characters started drinking Maderia wine, and Brandy.

What!

When I read that I was puzzled. I didn’t know for sure that this was wrong, but certainly alarm bells were ringing. From my knowledge of the Middle Ages the main drinks would be beer for the lower classes, or day to day drink, and wine for the better off. Now the types of wine might vary, but pretty much characters in 14th century England would be drinking wine, and probably red wine. I’d never come across brandy or Madeira wine being drunk in a book about the Middle Ages, or a work written in the Middle Ages. And with good reason.

The Island of Madeira wasn’t even discovered until Portuguese explorers started sailing south towards Africa in the 15th century.

And brandy also wasn’t produced in large quantities until the late 15th century.

This might be nit-picking, but for me those two errors cast doubts on the rest of the story for me. I still enjoyed the book – the characters and plot were entertaining, but the historical foundations of it feel a bit flimsy and lacking in veracity. The mistakes trivialized the detail of research in the other areas of the story, which was a real shame.

What are your thoughts on getting details right in historical fiction. Does it make your skin crawl when you spot a glaring mistake?

Time’s Arrow – Now Published!

Sorry for the delay in getting this out – there was a bit of a delay with some of the distribution channels, but Time’s Arrow is now available as an eBook globally!

In the far future Time Travel is a reality. A researcher uses it to go back in time to the Battle of Agincourt in 1415. William Chan finds much that he would expect—English archers raining arrows on the heads of heavily armed French knights, mood and blood. But there is an unexpected turn of events that have far-reaching consequences.

Time’s Arrow is a time-travelling short story with a historical fantasy theme.

Available to Purchase at:

Amazon UK | Amazon US | Other Amazon Stores
Smashwords | Kobo | Barnes & Noble | iBooks

Time’s Arrow – Free Excerpt

Following on from my posts about Time’s Arrow and the cover reveal, here’s a free excerpt from my new short story.

I hope you enjoy the read and if you do stay tuned for details about how you can buy a copy of the story.

Times’s Arrow by Mark Lord

William Chan punched the number 1415 into the time machine. And followed it with the month of October and the day was 25. St. Crispin’s Day, 1415. The Battle of Agincourt. He breathed deeply, feeling the blood pump through his veins. He looked down at what he wore. A leather jerkin with a white badge and a red cross sown above his heart, green legged-hose, leather boots, a buckler shield, arrows stuffed into his belt and held together by a piece of rope on his right hip and a sword in a scabbard on his left. He stepped forward onto the central plate in the chamber of the machine. He adjusted the helmet strap under his chin and pealed back the woolen sleeve covering his wrist. He kept his finger pressed on a small button on the small black device strapped there and waited until the L.E.D. showed the time he wanted. Nine o’clock. Just half an hour, he hoped, before the first French attack. That should give him enough time to get a good vantage of the battle from the cover of the woods.  

A green light flashed on the device, waiting for him. He pressed another button and held it down until the green light stopped flashing and was a solid green. 

# 

The G.P.S. should have placed him perfectly into the woods where he could watch undisturbed. But it didn’t. He was standing in a ploughed field behind a large mass of men. They were archers like him, like he was pretending to be. They were all facing away from him and most were busy with large stakes of wood, driving them with mallets or pushing them, getting their whole weight behind them so that they sank into the earth. They were building an impenetrable fence between themselves and the French mounted knights. A single line of stakes, William noted, not stakes in front of each man reaching in every ranks. That was one question answered. 

“Archer! Where’s your bow? Find it and get into the ranks.” 

William turned. Behind him was a grey-bearded man-at-arms riding a huge horse. He waved a rod at William and pointed towards the archers in front of them. 

“Deserters will be hung.” The man nudged the flanks of his horse with his plate armored heals and the beast moved threateningly towards William. Just then there was a blast of a trumpet and the man looked towards his right, towards the centre of the English army. 

William looked too. There he could see what he knew was a pitifully small number of dismounted men-at-arms. He couldn’t make them out properly across the flat field, but he knew that arrayed in the centre of the English army there would be three units, or battles, of men-at-arms; a mix of belted knights, squires and common soldiers, anyone with enough money to afford proper armor and the horses that were required. But the English men-at-arms hardly ever fought on horseback these days. Their usual strategy was to dismount and wait for their French enemies to attack. The English archers positioned on the flanks would pepper the approaching French hordes with arrows, breaking up their formations and then the English, hopefully fighting with the advantage of a hill or from behind some prepared defenses would break the enemy with their pole-axes, their cut-down lances and their swords. And here, near the small chateau of Agincourt, would occur the epitome of the English victory against the odds. Only a thousand English men-at-arms, with perhaps four thousand archers arrayed in support on the flanks, all hungry and tired from a desperate march across northern France and many suffering from the rigors of dysentery, their bowels opening without any self-control. This rag-tag of an army against the pride of French chivalry, over ten thousand men-at-arms on foot, drawn up in three great lines of attack with a thousand mounted men-at-arms on the flanks ready to disperse the English archers. But what should have been forlorn hope for the English was to be their greatest victory, with only 112 dead they would leave seven thousand French dead on the field and within five years Henry V, the English King, would have forced them into a peace that would hand him the crown of France upon the death of King Charles VI of France. 

William licked his lips. It was an amazing prospect, and no-one from the 22nd century had ever seen it before. 

The trumpet blared again and the man on horseback turned his horse to watch. William looked across at the banners. He could see one massive banner of cloth bearing Henry’s arms, the leopards of England quartered with the fleur-de-lis of France. He watched as the banner was raised up in the air and pointed forward. Battlefield signaling in action. Something else to add to his research paper. Another first for him. 

“For flip’s sake,” growled the horseman. “We’ve only just got the bloomin’ stakes in.” William’s universal translator earpiece not only parsed Middle English, Old French and Latin into modern English, but it also, annoyingly, took most of the fun out of the swearing. 

William was no longer important to the man on the horse. William watched him ride away, taking another mental note of the man’s arms that he could now more clearly on the back of his surcoat as he rode away from him towards the unit of archers. A green shield with a number of white blobs inside it –probably representing birds. Most likely, this was Sir Thomas Erpingham, charged with commanding both wings of archers. He would be a busy man that day. 

William had nearly been caught out. But now he could make his way towards the woods and a safe place to watch the action. It had never been his intention to stand with either of the armies (especially not the French)—much too dangerous! And besides, from in the middle of the melee, would he really see much of what was going on? But a soldier’s disguise would help him get near enough. Even if he was to pose as an archer in the ranks (perhaps the least dangerous role on the English side), he would soon be shown up—there were no yew trees left in the 22nd century and his upper body muscles were certainly not strong enough to use one of the great English war-bows. 

In front of him the archers were pulling their stakes out of the ground. They would march forward several hundred yards until they were in bow range of the French and plant their stakes again and then goad the French into attacking. And the rest would be history. William walked towards the woods on the western side of the field directly to the left of the formation of archers which faced the French army in the north. He didn’t run to get his position. There was too much to take in. It was not a simple task for the archers to pull-up the stakes they had just hammered into the ground and he noticed that many were giving up. He watched one man slip in the mud as the stake he was pulling came free. The archer landed on his backside. The men around him laughed and William couldn’t help but smile. 

But the man didn’t seem to notice his comrades laughing. As he regained his feet he was staring straight at William. 

“Oi! What are you looking at?” 

William looked away and started walking quickly towards the woods. 

“You, come here!” 

TO BE CONTINUED

Time’s Arrow – Cover Reveal

As recently announced, I am working on the publication of a new short story – Time’s Arrow.

I have now done a first draft of the cover. It may need some tidying up – but here it is!
In the far future Time Travel is a reality. A researcher uses it to go back in time to the Battle of Agincourt in 1415. William Chan finds much that he would expect—English archers raining arrows on the heads of heavily armed French knights, mood and blood. But there is an unexpected turn of events that have far-reaching consequences.

Time’s Arrow is a time-travelling short story with a historical fantasy theme. It’s about five and a half thousand words long, so should take about twenty minutes to read.

To follow soon will be an excerpt from the story.

Seamus Sweeney on the Radio: A Pseudo-Biography of Fr Noise

Seamus Sweeney, a previous contributor to Alt Hist, has been featured in a radio documentary for RTE the Irish broadcaster. Hes been involved in writing a pseudo-biography of Fr Noise. You can find the documentary at https://www.rte.ie/radio1/doconone/2017/1102/917047-a-man-out-of-time/. I encourage you to have a listen. It’s an interesting story and piece of pseudo-fact—you could call it Fake History perhaps?

Seamus has told me more about similar projects he has been working on:

And indeed having got a taste for this I began writing biographies of so-called “fake artists” on Spotify – basically on various playlists spotify seems to use artists with no presence anywhere except Spotify, the suspicion is they hire session musicians to reduce playing royalties. .. examples of my bios are here https://seamussweeney.wordpress.com/2018/02/06/the-lost-world-of-amity-cadet/ and here https://seamussweeney.wordpress.com/2018/02/09/the-lost-world-of-ana-olgica/ and https://seamussweeney.wordpress.com/2018/07/10/the-lost-world-of-enno-aare/

Time’s Arrow – New Short Story Coming Soon

I am putting the finishing touches to a new short story – Time’s Arrow.

Here’s some more information about it. I’ll post an excerpt and the cover of the story during the next week.

In the far future Time Travel is a reality. A researcher uses it to go back in time to the Battle of Agincourt in 1415. William Chan finds much that he would expect—English archers raining arrows on the heads of heavily armed French knights, mood and blood. But there is an unexpected turn of events that have far-reaching consequences.  

Time’s Arrow is a time-travelling short story with a historical fantasy theme. It’s about five and a half thousand words long, so should take about twenty minutes to read.

I am now on Patreon

Just to let regular readers of my blog know that I am now on Patreon! You’ll see a link in the sidebar and at the bottom of this post if you would like to support me. Here’s some explanation of what I am hoping to achieve:

I’m a part-time writer and tabletop gamer – I have a passion for writing fantasy and historical fiction and also dabble in science fiction too. Also I am really into tabletop gaming – so RPGs, miniature wargames and PC games as well and love writing about those as well – even creating some of my own content such as RPG adventures for instance.

Your help will keep me motivated to achieve my writing goals and also producing more content about tabletop games as well – for instance blog posts and other content. I don’t have a firm plan of what you’ll get as a patreon of my work, so I’m starting with a modest tier scheme at the moment – whatever you can contribute will help me on my journey to get my work out there to more people. In the future I might introduce higher tiers and for those I’ll include specific rewards – exclusive short stories or gaming content for instance.

The Best RPG and Wargames Podcasts (IMO!)

I enjoy listening to podcasts – they’re like a more interesting version of radio – and ideal if you’re doing something else that doesn’t take too much thought – for instance walking, commuting or working on fairly mundane task.

There’s quite a few podcasts out there that cover tabletop gaming in general and specifically for RPGs and Wargames – my main gaming interests. I’ve tried quite a few out over the last few years. I have found I am not that keen on the most common type of RPG podcasts – the actual play session. These are recordings of people playing RPGs. Much like watching someone playing Fortnite, I don’t really see the point – I’d rather be playing as well! I also find that they can be difficult to follow unless you’re concentrating on them. Having said that I have found The Enemy Within podcast from GM Noely to be quite good – partly because the campaign is so well-known to me. So I would recommend that one if you like Warhammer Fantasy Role Play. But I’m not going to suggest any others.

The type of podcast that works better for me tends to be where people talk about stuff to do with games. This can be in the form of an interview – e.g. someone interviewing Rick Priestley is always worth listening to – or just people talking about what interests them – the wonderful Grognard Files be a great example of that, but I also really enjoy Save for Half (a US Old School equivalent) and also the house podcast for the Wargames, Strategy and Soldiers magazine – the presenters of these are down to earth and have interesting things to say.

On the corporate side of things the Dragon Talk podcast is OK depending on the subject – there tends to be too much filler for me, and too many live streamer interviews, but the hosts are quite funny and it has great music – the Bing Bongs!

Also a new one is Stormcast – the official Warhammer Age of Sigmar podcast set-up to promote the launch of the new edition (but hopefully sticking around). As well as going over the new rules in a succinct way, it also offers some great tips on gaming and painting, and isn’t too cringily promotional.

One of my favourites though is Improvised Radio Theatre with Dice – two charming English gents chatting about RPGs in their garden somewhere in the home counties – RPGs are taken to a new cerebral level.

I’m not going to review each podcast I listen to, but here’s a list of my current favourites in no particular order:

Improvised Radio Theatre with Dice
Stormcast Podcast
Grognard Files
Save for Half
Warmaster Podcast
The Veteran Wargamer
Meeples and Miniatures
Cast Dice Podcast
Dragon Talk
The Enemy Within
Wargames, Strategy and Soldiers

Let me know what your favourite podcasts are!