Tag Archives: Art

Review of Hell has its Demons at SFcrowsnest

Hell has its DemonsThe wonderful SFcrowsnest has published a review of my historical fantasy novel Hell has its Demons!

Here’s an excerpt from from the review:

What I enjoy most about Mark Lord’s writing is that he manages to convey a sense of period without knocking the reader over the head with detail. His settings feel authentic without being manufactured. The dialogue of his characters is perfectly readable and feels natural, as do their actions.

Click here to read the whole review. And to check out Hell has its Demons go here!

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Free Historical Fiction – Stonehearted 2: Chapter 1

Readers of this blog may know that a while ago I published the first volume of a serialized novel, Stonehearted. The first volume is By the Sword’s Edge. The second volume doesn’t have a title yet, so I’m going to call it Stonehearted 2 for now. I started writing the second volume towards the end of last year and am making fairly good progress on it at the moment. I thought it would be fun to post here each completed chapter as I write them. They’re only drafts at the moment – no fancy editing, so probably riddled with typos and inconsistencies. Once I have finished this volume I’ll publish it in print and eBook format and announce it on this blog.

Other chapters from Stonehearted Volume 2 can be found by clicking here.

Chapter 1

Louis felt warm and comfortable with the sun on his skin and a few cups of wine inside of him it was a beautiful afternoon to take a nap in the orchard at the back of their house. If only Madelaine was lying next to him it would be just perfect. He could hear a gentle breeze swaying the apple trees behind him and somewhere he could smell bread being cooked for the evening meal. Above the sky was a perfect blue. Was it true that God lived there? Louis hoped idly that it wasn’t too warm in heaven nearer the sun. Those angel wings must get hot in the summer. And scratchy too. At least as a man he could strip down to his underpants, and he had done just that. Louis rubbed idly at the warm skin of his belly and twisted the small curls of hair that lay around his belly-button. He slapped the skin. A firm stomach, and he had some muscles too. This summer Madelaine would say yes, surely. He’d ask her to dance at the fête on Lammas Day and then …

Louis’s reverie was broken by the sound of trickling water and the strong smell of piss. Louis levered himself up on his elbows and looked over his shoulder. A man in a fur hat with a scarlet fur-trimmed cloak was urinating against one of the apple trees.

“Did I wake you?” said the man. It was his brother, Oliver.

“I wasn’t sleeping.”

“Oh of course not,” replied Oliver. The urinating came to a halt and Oliver shook his penis and replaced inside his pants and tied up his breaches. “There that’s all done. The cidre this year will have a fine taste to it I think. Mother will be proud of me. Don’t mind me though, go back to your dreams, little brother.”

“I wasn’t sleeping.”

“The watch never sleeps does it and that’s what we, the good citizens of Montdidier pay you for isn’t it.”

Louis shook his head and lay back down, hands behind his head. Perhaps Oliver would go away soon.

“Or perhaps,” continued Oliver, “you watch for enemies in the sky. Do the English sport wings now? I have heard wild tales that their king and his sons came like demons into our lands once upon a time. A nice fiction to tell for those who would waste the hard-won coin of honest working men.”

“Honest!?” Louis coughed out and shook his head. “You call usury and maintenance of unfair prices honesty?” Louis could feel himself getting angry. A common occurrence whenever he was within earshot of his elder brother these days. Oliver had returned a new man from his apprenticeship with a mercer of Rouen. Full of grand ideas of making the town and its people rich. Those people like himself, that was, who could afford to buy up in large quantities the pots, baked and glazed by others who had no access to the markets of the bigger cities. The town of Montdidier was blessed, as Oliver kept reminding them, with wonderful deposits of clay and over thirty householders who had their own pottery kilns, but they all competed against each other, and that drove down prices, and that, according to Oliver, was not good for business, not good at all.

The mercers of Rouen had certainly filled Oliver’s head with garbage and no mistake. Their family, the Cidrons as the name suggested were cider-makers by heritage, their farm stood on the edge of the town and just outside the walls now fallen into disrepair. They owned some land in the town – sold off fields to accommodate pottery workshops and their family homes – all in one constructions with the workshop below and the folk living above, all crammed in they were – they paid rent by the yard. That had been the Cidrons first mistake, Oliver had told them when he returned so grandly from Rouen, a new fur-hat on his head and that red cloak on his back. The land was an investment. They should have kept it and the rents that went with it. But now there were men who lived in Montdidier who lived just from the rents, and they lived very well indeed. They were the bourgeois and ran the town council for the most part, and made all the decisions. And what did the Cidrons get from the sales of their land. They paid for a new cider-press to be built, a new cart and horses to pull it. That was because their father was lazy, Oliver had said, and that’s when old père Cidron had said “enough is enough” and thrown him out of the house.

Père Cidron had died two months later. Oliver had come to the funeral and mère Cidron had rested her head on his shoulder afterwards and wept and had listened to all that he had to say and given her coin, their father’s coin, into his hands for his damned investments.

“And what work do you do?” said Oliver. “Do you call getting drunk on the your mother’s farm’s produce work?”

Louis licked the inside of his lips. Sharp tang of apples still lingered from the last cider he had drunk. He let out a belch that a bull-frog would have been proud of.


Louis felt a gust of air flicker the hair on his head as Oliver turned, pulling his cloak around himself in a great twirl. Ever the showman.

Louis smiled to himself. Words were Oliver’s only weapon. And what were they, only movements of the tongue and lips propelling sounds through the air to curl into the ears of foolish folk. Oliver’s words didn’t fool him. There was nothing to him. He was jealous most likely. Jealous of a real man like Louis, who owned a crossbow and a sword and knew how to use them (well the crossbow anyway).

A cloud appeared above in the sky and swept over the sun. Louis shivered. A few moments later he heard the slow, heavy clang of the tocsin bell.

Hot, sharp breath burnt at the back of his throat as he scrambled to his feet. He looked around expecting to see banners and lances approaching over the hedgerow of the orchards. But he could see nothing. Was it a false alarm? It sounded more like a funeral bell it was tolling so slowly. He could hear shouting from the other side of the farm, towards the centre of the town. Other men who had heard the bell and were hurrying to their posts, or hurrying to lock themselves indoors if they, like Oliver, were too cowardly to fight.

The Church of the friary of St. Michel was located not far from the farm. Located just off the main road that went from Amiens straight to Paris, any English army that approached would most likely come from this direction, but Albret d’Gascogne, the commander of the watch had also designated watchmen to be at all four parish churches to toll their bells as well in case word of raiders, or worse an army, was reported. So far, the only bell that Louis could hear was the single thrum of the friary church. Grabbing his cross bow in one hand and his sword-belt in the other, Louis jogged down the track from the farm to the main road. He could see the bell tower of the friary from here and the bell slowly moving back and forth. From the fields around the friary walls he could see men and women hurrying. They were servants of the friary, workers for their fields, or serfs of their lands, and anxious to get to the safety of her walls as quick as they could. Half a dozen came slowly down the road from the north on a two wheeled cart drawn by an oxen. The cart was half-full of hay they had been cutting and half-full of frightened peasants.

“What news?” Louis shouted as he came to the road and within shouting distance of the cart. The man leading the oxen shook his head. A dull expression of fear upon his face. Louis ran up to them. “What have you seen? Are the English here?”

The man looked at him and tugged on the rope of the oxen harder, trying to propel it to a faster pace. The peasants on the cart huddled together like fledglings in a nest, as if their shared body warmth could protect them. They looked as if they were shivering with cold, but it must have been the hottest day of the year, and Louis was sweating in just his shirt and braies. He looked past the cart. He wasn’t going to get any more sense out of them. There were no more peasants coming, they had all gone within the friary walls. And then he saw them, standing like tall pillars, two, no three, dark plumes of smoke reaching up into the blue sky, not half a mile away. It looked like they were near the friary’s farm and grange of St. Chappelle. The trinity of pillars of dark grey smoke rose up to form a single cloud high in the sky casting a shadow over the friary and Louis’s farm, blocking out the sun.

“The unholy trinity,” said a voice behind Louis. He turned. It was the mercenary. Wulf he called himself, and some said he was German, although Louis knew little of the man.

“The clouds of smoke?” asked Louis.

“Fire, death and the English,” Wulf replied in his heavily accented French.

“Where’s the rest of you?” asked Louis, thinking about the other dozen mercenaries the commune of Montdidier had hired a month ago when news of the English invasion had spread through the towns and villages of Picardy like the plague.

Wulf looked at Louis as if he was talking Moorish. “The smoke,” he began. “Where the smoke is, or half-way towards the town …”

Louis shook his head in confusion. “The other sellswords are at the grange of St. Chappelle already? But how did they know? Why wasn’t the alarm bell rung earlier?” And why aren’t you with them, wondered Louis.

Wulf grabbed Louis’s jaw and lifted him until he was on his toes. “Don’t even think any more on it, boy. Just forget what you heard me say, eh?” Wulf let go of Louis’s chin and brushed his hands against the front of his brigandine as if wiping them clean.

Are you drunk, was what he wanted to ask. But daren’t in case it provoke more erratic action from the old mercenary. Wulf was reckoned to be the best swordsmen of the men they had hired.

Wulf turned and started walking down to the road.

Louis hurried after him. “Where are you going?”

“Your commander of the watch set the town square outside the church of St. Sauveur as the muster point, so now we’re going to muster. It’s also next to the tavern of the Three Hearts, where we might find my fellows, whom you wanted to locate. Are you coming?”

Louis looked over his shoulder at the clouds of smoke. “I’m coming,” he said.


If you want to read the first volume of Stonehearted, By the Sword’s Edge, then click here.

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Naked Writer #11: Trickling

Frontispiece to chapter 12 of 1905 edition of ...
Frontispiece to chapter 12 of 1905 edition of J. Allen St. John’s The Face in the Pool, published 1905. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Only a few words since Saturday. Definitely seem to have a problem picking up the writing at the moment. I think it’s because with Dragon’s Above it is very much a blank canvas. I know where the first chapter is going to end, but that’s it.

Well I have finished the first chapter now, so that leaves the rest of the book. Rather than just wade into the next chapter, I decided I might be better motivated if I do a little bit of planning. Not a lot – just get to know something about the characters I am going to write about – or at least the main character of the next chapter. What I am trying to avoid is doing loads of outlining. Dragons Above is the short novel that I am writing to keep myself writing every day while I more thoroughly plan the next installment of Stonehearted, which as its a historical novel I need to do research on (to some extent at least).

So I have made some notes this morning and feel pretty happy that they give me some basis to keep moving forward, and what’s more I am quite excited with the ideas for the characters and setting that I came up. I don’t think they’re groundbreaking, but they’re of enough interest to me to keep writing.

First a little update on words. 109 since Saturday – that’s it!

Here’s the stuff I came up with for Dragons Above.

Dragons Above – Main Characters – their conflicts.

Snorri Halfaxe

Dwarven Gunner

Injured in dragon bombing attack


  1. Wants to get back home to Throfunar to marry his betrothed, Frea
  2. Do his duty for the dwarves – but not sure as to the point of the war.
  3. Technical interest in defeating the dragoneers

After his injury he becomes obsessed in engineering and how to come up with a weapon to defeat the dragoneers bombing.

He is crippled by the attack – wheelchair and partially deaf.

He thinks Frea won’t want him. Throws his energies into weapon design.

He’s a love-smitten technie nerd.

Maximilian Defluyt

Field Marshall of the Alliance. Currently appointed field commander of the Army of the North.

Responsible for protecting the borders of the Locked Kingdom and has been charged by the Garland Council with the ultimate defeat of the Lord of Despair and his armies.

Maximilian is a famous general, who in his prime was an undefeated leader of men – during the Wars of the Hundred Cities and the War of the Intercession, he never lost a battle. Called out of retirement by an Alliance sick of defeat after defeat, Maximilian has struggled to rediscover his lost successes. He is old, and his memory is not as good as it was. He wants to rediscover his lost powers of leadership and generalship, but he knows that he can’t.


  1. Against the effects of old age – he is proud and can’t let go and admit himself incapable. He is too hard on himself – he has something to offer, but the pressures of leadership are too great for him.
  2. To hold the Alliance of men, dwarves and elves together.
  3. To defeat the Hosts of Despair.
  4. To protect his son who is anxious for a field command.

Hosts of Despair

Religiously motivated, end-of-days militants who believe that the peoples of Midgard must pay for the offences to the gods with blood.

Armies consist of human, dwarves and elves who have lost hope or that are just cruel enough to love killing.

Lead by the Lord of Despair, an unseen warlock of unknown provenance – at least by his enemies. The Alliance spy services are intent on finding out more about the Lord of Despair and have attempted to capture high-ranking Host generals to question them and also to infiltrate into the Lord of Despair’s Headquarters, but without any success so far.

The Lord of Despair supplements his followers from the three main races of Midgard (humans, dwarves and elves), with other creatures – dragons and various other monsters of the northern mountains where his fastness is located. He also works in uneasy alliance with the enemies of the free people of Midgard – orcs and goblins, who now invest much of the Locked Kingdom. He sees these creatures as a punishment from the gods and sees no harm in encouraging them, although they are opposed to any alliance or control by him – as yet.

Other characters to develop later in the novel

  • Maximilian’s son
  • Lord of Despair
  • A mother character – mid-30s? Which side? What’s her role? Minding the castle/farm while her husband is at war?
  • A dragoneer
  • An orc/goblin junior war-chief


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Naked Writer #5: Summary of the last few days while away from the PC

I was away for the weekend and fairly busy on Friday getting ready to go away so didn’t have time to do a post. I did manage to do some writing, however. So here’s a quick summary:

Friday, 23rd August – 420 words on the start of a SF short story called Trial by Dream. I have a vague idea where this is going, the title is a clue, but otherwise I’m writing into the dark pretty much. But it’s fun!

Saturday, 24th August – nothing! We were out for most of the day, so simply didn’t have time

Sunday, 25th August – this was a travel day so actually did quite a bit of writing – nearly all of it in the car. I did a puny 55 words on Trial by Dream and 574 words on a new writing in the dark project called Dragons Above. The idea behind this one is that it will be a fantasy war themed short novel. The intro of the novel features a dwarf on Anti-Dragon Artillery duty. Loving writing this and looking forward to doing some more.

In total 629 words on Sunday, so a good day for me.

Monday, 26 August – still on holiday so things were fairly busy, but I still managed to get in 177 words – all on Trial by Dream. That’s the problem with writing two things at once – one project can slide a bit. I think I’m going to finish off Trial by Dream first (its going to be a fairly short short story) and then get into Dragons Above a bit more.

Tuesday, 27th August – another travel day, but less opportunity to write. This time did 279 fairly fun words on Trial by Dream – its interesting to see how the setting and the story is developing. I also did a bit of work on tinkering with prices and blurbs on some of my titles on Amazon and other platforms – Lulu, Smashwords and Kobo.

Should be more regular posts for the foreseeable future now!

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Naked Writer #3: Writing While Starving

Just to be clear this post refers to yesterday’s activity (21st August), but I’m writing it today (22nd!).

Things did not go as planned – and I blame blood sugar levels and the 5:2 intermittent fasting diet! It’s probably also my own stupid fault as well for not prioritizing writing new words and leaving it until later in the day.

If you don’t know about it 5:2 intermittent fasting, or the Fast Diet, is a diet where you eat normally on five days of the week and then eat a lot less on two days. I have done it occasionally this year and I do think it works, the only problem is that as you start to get into the afternoon the lack of food takes an effect and you feel pretty damn light headed! I didn’t do any writing until I took a break from work at around 2:30 p.m. and as a result only managed about 400 words – and gods now what type of words they are!

Anyway I’m nearer to the end of Time’s Arrow and I have learnt a lesson – do more brain-taxing stuff earlier in the day if fasting, or maybe have a smaller snack later in the day as well. I feel thinner today though, so can’t be bad.

Other stuff I did yesterday was to review a few submissions for Alt Hist. Still catching up with these a bit – the aim is to get back to people within 3 months, but it’s a bit more like 4 months at the moment.

Also I posted another chapter of By the Sword’s Edge on Wattpad

McMahon's illustration of Judge Dredd from 200...
McMahon’s illustration of Judge Dredd from 2000 AD prog 2, (1977) shows his early style, influenced by Carlos Ezquerra (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

. I’m experimenting with this site at the moment and posting a chapter a week.


Finished Sweet Justice – a very quirky collection of Judge Dredd short stories – and you really need to have been around in the 1980s to appreciate them – there’s one story that features Give Us a Clue for instance!

Slowly reading Feast of Crows and really loving it – also realised that I didn’t have the foggiest what had happened in the previous book so had to go back and remind myself via some online reviews of Blood and Gold. So now I know why Cersei is so upset!

Somehow the writing in Feast of Crows seems a lot denser and richer. I wonder if Martin spent a bit more time on some of the settings before writing, or perhaps was just feeling particularly inspired. One of my writing conundrums is always how much time to spend planning and how much to actually go ahead and write. I’m torn between the two at the moment, and I’m still working out the best approach. Maybe more on that another day.

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Free Preview of Robin Hobb’s Blood of Dragons

Blood of DragonsTor have posted a free preview of the prologue for Robin Hobb’s new novel Blood of Dragons.

Interesting to see that this is the fourth book in the series – usually Hobb does things in threes!

Years ago, the magnificent dragon queen Tintaglia forged a bargain with the inhabitants of the treacherous Rain Wilds. In exchange for her protection against enemy invaders, the humans promised to protect an unhatched brood of dragons. But when the dragons emerged as weak and misshapen hatchlings unable to fend for themselves, dragonkind seemed doomed to extinction. When even Tintaglia deserted the crippled young dragons, the Rain Wilders abandoned the burden of caring for the destructive and ravenous creatures. They were banished to a dangerous and grueling journey in search of their ancient dragon homeland, the lost city of Kelsingra, accompanied by a band of young and inexperienced human keepers, also deemed damaged and disposable.

Against all odds they have found the fabled city, yet myriad challenges remain.

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The Joy of Writing

Cover of "The Joy of Writing : A Guide fo...
Cover via Amazon

Sometimes you have to start hitting the keys to remember how fun writing can be. For some reason just getting to that point can be hellish and involves a ton of prevarication, but when you start putting one word after another you suddenly remember that it is not a chore and that creation is inspiring and joyful.

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The Court in English Alliterative Poetry, 1350-1450 – Free on Kindle for Five Days

My University thesis, The Court in English Alliterative Poetry, 1350-1450 is now available as a free download for Kindle for the next five days. I thought I would experiment with the new Kindle Select programme and see what happened!

Here’s a link to the UK version: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B003O86P40

And the US: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B003O86P40

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Starting the Editing Process for my novel Hell has its Demons

The last few weeks have been spent editing my historical fantasy novel set in the Middle Ages: Hell has its Demons. At present I am half way through reading the first draft. I am not making too many edits at the moment, unless I spot a glaring typo. This is my first time editing a full novel length story, and I wasn’t quite sure how to approach it. But I have found that the most valuable thing to do is to just remind myself of what happens in the novel, what I wrote, and to get an overview of the major things that need fixing. For instance I have realised that there are a number of inconsistencies in the middle of the book – chapters out of order etc. Also there are some characters I introduce early on that die away, so I need to make a decision about whether to keep them in and develop them further in the book, or to get rid of them completely, or at least minimize their importance.

I’m enjoying this phase of the process. It’s nice to read through what I have written again as a holistic exercise rather than just reading bits and pieces here and there to check what I should be writing next. The good thing (or perhaps the dangerous thing) is that I like what I have written so far!

My experiment with writing a novel from different first person perspectives – see the Vulture posts, lead me to realize that it would be a lot of work to do this for Hell has its Demons, and I think not necessary either. My reread so far leads me to believe that the three different third person POVs will work quite well. First person POV writing gives fiction a completely different flavour, especially over an extended piece such as a novel, but I hadn’t appreciated that fully until I started writing the Vulture as an experiment. Who knows maybe I’ll take the experiment further at some point in the future, but I know it definitely has helped inform my writing of Hell has its Demons.

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So You Want to Draw a Dragon?

Well now you can. I came across this amazing site the other day, Dragoart.com that shows you how to simply draw with step-by-step instructions a whole variety of different things, from cartoon characters to celebrities to fantastical creatures, such as a dragon!

If you have kids I heartily recommend this site, and also if you have a hankering to start drawing, but feel that you don’t have any skill or are put off by leaning drawing the proper way. The simple instructions on this site really get you drawing quite complex pictures quite fast.

Here’s an example of the sort of thing you could learn to draw:

And the first step to getting there:

The complete instructions for drawing this dragon.

Other fantasy creatures you can learn to draw include dwarves, elves, orcs, wizards and trolls.

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