Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Audio Book Review: Legionary by Gordon Doherty

Be sure to see below for giveaway info!

Legionary by Gordon Doherty, audiobook review


by Steven A. McKay
  


I'm sure many of you reading this are sceptical about audiobooks. When I read a novel I like to do it at my own pace, providing the narrator and characters with my own internal voices. The idea of someone else providing those voices, especially for a book I've already read before, didn't seem like a good one.


So, when Gordon Doherty released his excellent Legionary in audio format I decided to sign up to Audible and give it a try. I'd read the Kindle version a year or so before – it was, in fact, my first ever ebook purchase if I remember correctly – and I knew it was a good read, so I wondered how this Roman historical fiction would translate to the new medium.


I'm happy to say it works a treat.


The narrator, Simon Whistler, is good, reading at a natural, relaxed pace, building tension or bringing a light touch when it's required. I wasn't 100% sold on the dialogue, as some of it came across as a little old-fashioned or even twee but that's just me – I like my soldiers to swear like, well, troopers, but other people won't care or actually prefer the lack of earthy language. It's just a matter of personal taste.


The action moves from place to place and is most effective when the main character, Pavo, is around. The political sections without him can move a little slowly, as they did in the ebook, but there's always the option to speed up the reading so if certain parts aren't as exciting as you'd like you can raise the reading speed to x1.5 without losing too much of the atmosphere. 


Overall, this audiobook is a great listen. I do a lot of driving at work and sometimes I get sick of hearing Radio 5 Live or Slayer or Jethro Tull CDs, so it was a very welcome change of pace to have this on as I drove around the west of Scotland every day. It's also good value, lasting for quite a few hours, so don't let the price tag of these things put you off – a lot of work goes into this!


Whether you've read this book before or not, you won't be disappointed when you download the audio version. Give it a try. Doherty's writing has improved since this, his debut novel, so future audio versions of his books will be even better. I've just completed Legionary 3 – Land of the Sacred Fire and I'm looking forward to hearing it read by Simon Whistler, so...bring it on Gordon, we're waiting!


Gordon Doherty has so graciously offered a free copy to gift one lucky readerer, listener!! For your chance in the draw, simply comment below or at our associated Facebook thread.


Buy the Legionary audiobook here.


Steven A. McKay is the bestselling author of Wolf's Head and The Wolf and the Raven. You can find more about him at his Amazon author page and blog/official website

Monday, 28 July 2014

The Author by T.J Blake - Reviewed by Dr Babus Ahmed.

 See Bottom of post for details of a giveaway

T.J. Blake's The Author is a lurid tale about writer Ryan Milligan, who moves into a quiet cul-de-sac,Mulberry Lane, four years after the disappearance of his wife Tanya and his two children; daughter Sammy and son Alex. 



Tanya, Sammy and Alex disappeared without a trace one night from their family home, police found no leads on them at all after questioning Ryan and Tanya's parents. Since the trauma of losing them Ryan has been having nightmares for the duration that his family have been missing. He moves to get away from his painful memories and continue the search for them. He chooses to move into 2 Mulberry Lane as he feels a certain familiarity with the house



 Ryan becomes friends with Simon and Sandra Cann, one of his neighbours and soon after gives the manuscript of his new book Killing For Your Love to Simon for a first read while he is away for work to give Ryan feedback. However, things take a sinister turn when Ryan feels he is being watched, a number of blonde women are being attacked and killed by a suspected serial killer, he finds a dead fox strung up in his shed and things keep moving in his house. Plus the book he has written and given his friend to read is markedly changed from the version he is convinced he wrote. 



Ryan is made to feel paranoid, not knowing who he can trust and that he is losing his mind and I am mindful of not revealing too much in this review which would spoil reading The Author. The supernatural feel to this thriller keeps you reading an there are many suspenseful passages where you just want to hide behind a pillow:
“As I make my way to the kitchen, the door under the stairs catches my attention. It's standing ajar. It creaks and I stare as I walk slowly towards it. The handle is cool to the touch. I yank open the door and for a minute I could've sworn a shadowy figure appeared in front of me. It disintegrates into thin air.” 



Poor Ryan goes through a lot in this thriller even before the first big plot spiral occurs and you cannot help but feel sorry for this poor writer, who has already lost his family and finds settling into Mulberry Lane full of pitfalls and inexplicable meanderings. I thought the characters were well written and the writing sticks to the core themes without meandering, even when you aren't told how it all fits together. Just when you think you have worked this book out another big twist comes and blows your theory out of the water. Some of the dialogue is stilted but I think the book overall is chilling and far from predictable but to be devils advocate, there is an element of disbelief that surfaces at the conclusion of this psychological thriller, although most of the questions you have are answered at the end.  Perhaps a simpler plot may have made this story more remarkable and covered all points more fully.

I am sure the plausibility of the plot would make lively debate in many book clubs, but for me, an avid horror and psychological thriller reader, I enjoyed this book for the writing which was suspenseful and the plot twists which surprised me and kept me guessing. There were times I wish the author had taken his time over explaining certain things, and it could have done with a more thorough proof-read as I found a few errors whilst I read it, for example a psychiatrist is a Dr, not a Mr, although a relatively small thing is repetitive, but overall I liked it. I applaud T.J. Blake's ability to keep readers on the edge of their seat and keep them coming back for more and the concept of this unique premise for a book.


T. J. Blake was born in England, Guildford in 1993. He currently lives in Surrey and studies at Kingston University. T. J. Blake has had a passion for writing stories from a young age, and he has always dreamed of being able to release his material for people to read and enjoy.
Becoming a self-published author was his best option at this moment in time, whilst being a full time student at University.




Endurance is his first self-published book. 
He published it March 28th 2013, and then re-released in July 2013.
The book came around from a screenplay that T. J. Blake wrote in an A-level Film Studies class. He decided to write a mysterious opening set on the London Undergrounds. His screenplay was handed in as a comedy. 
November 2013, T. J. Blake decided to use the opening for a potential book he didn't know the name of. 

Beginning to edit the scene used for the screenplay and continuing to write the rest of the book, he came up with the name Endurance, to match the intensity of the fast paced story that he had planned out in his mind. He also came up with a new name for the main character. The protagonist in the screenplay Detective Williams, soon became Tom Williams for Endurance.

T.J. Blake can be found on 
 Twitter
www.tjblakeauthor.wordpress.com


The Author can be found  here on Amazon


For a chance to win a copy of this absorbing thriller, leave a comment on the blog below or on our Facebook page

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Sunday Wrap Up: Week ending July 27, 2014

Be sure to see below for details on this week's giveaway!

Above the Fray by Kris Jackson. A Review by Rob Bayliss

Part One – The Ascent  



Battle lines are being drawn as the Union and Confederacy square up to one another. A young Virginian telegrapher, called Nathaniel Curry, leaves his native Richmond to view a balloon flight in Washington. Without realising the implications, and with a youthful sense of adventure, he joins Professor Thaddeus Lowe aboard a balloon that rises to greet the dawn. As an experiment he transmits instructions and coordinates, inadvertently directing artillery fire on a Confederacy position. in his own country. When word leaks out that he was implicated in this attack he is denounced as a traitor and disowned by his own brother. Forced to leave his home, family and sweetheart he seeks employment with Professor Lowe who is putting together a Balloon Corps to assist the Union cause.

Part Two – The Descent





As the war drags on the Confederacy becomes more and more desperate. It becomes clear that they cannot win; the Union has more men, greater industry and better equipment but perhaps lesser generals.



Losses and shortages caused by the Union's blockade stiffens the resolve of the Confederacy.  Nathaniel Curry finds himself being drawn more into espionage, while the Balloon Corps struggles to retain its funding, looked upon by the military as an unnecessary financial drain. In the end it is forced to cease operations.


Above the Fray is really an extraordinary book. It is meticulously well researched from the science of ballooning to the topographic description of the Civil War battlefields. I found myself totally absorbed in the life of Nathaniel Curry. There is humour here and there, but it is the humour of the gallows, as the war brutalises everyone and everything it touches.

It is a wonderfully written story; the language so fully evokes the lost world of the Confederate States of America, that even I, an Englishman, could hear the different accents in the dialogue. I learnt much about the American Civil War that I never knew before. It almost reminded me of the film Forrest Gump (albeit a very much darker tale), the way young Curry lives through major battles, crucial events and the individuals he meets (even a young Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin). Being in the Balloon Corps surrounded by scientists he is even exposed to the science of the age, able to discuss Darwin's Origin of Species and its implications for religion. Through Curry's eyes we can see the old order being swept away as the modern USA evolves.


The story of Above the Fray will stay with me for some time. I can't reccommend it highly enough and I would urge that you should read it, too.

Like this excerpt? Like to get your name in the hat for a free copy? See the rest of the review!

*********

Louise E. Rule Interviews D. W. Wilkin for The Review's Author Interview

Welcome, David, I would like to thank you for taking the time to speak with me today.



For those who haven't yet read your book, Beggars Can't Be Choosier, would you like to give an outline of the story David?

Sure. Beggars is the story of the Earl of Aftlake who is born with a title, but with very little in the way of money. He has about 100 pounds a year which is near poverty for a titled lord. And it is the story of Miss Katherine Chandler who finds that society snubs her for the low birth of her father and his far too rapid rise to wealth and riches. She needs a husband with stature and Lord Brian needs an heiress. An arrangement is made, though not with a typical stipulation, and they are united. He can use the wealth to build a career for himself in politics and reacquire possession to all the properties of his family that have been mortgaged. She can find a place in society that will allow her to have stature and find perhaps some revenge against those who have snubbed her. As a Regency, though, when such a thing is arranged, the road that the two take to fall in love will twist and turn, but it is inevitable that they will fall in love.

Did you already have a title in place for your book, or is it something that evolved as you wrote the story?

Actually no. I considered it another of my Regency projects, but the title did suggest itself to me as more of the story developed. I started the first draft in April of 2010, so not sure when I actually titled it. I do like that I could play upon the words and take a common cliché, twist it a bit, and see that it worked.

Research is, of course, imperative for an historical fiction novel. How much research did you have to do, and did you travel to the UK to visit the places that feature in your book?

I've been to the UK several times. My grandfather was an Englishman, and had started the old Millet chain of what was first Army surplus and became better known as camping goods. the depression and marrying my American grandmother, had them do what I find many couples do, move close to the wife's family, and so we live over the pond. but with many English relatives, I have travelled often to the isles.

I do less research now on a Regency novel I am working on, than my earlier works. I have it in my veins now, but I still add to my research daily. I have a degree in history from UCLA, and add to my extensive collection of history on the era all the time. I also post every day a biography of a Regency era person at my blog: http://thethingsthatcatchmyeye.wordpress.com 

There's loads more to Louise's interview, so come check it out!

*********

Feature Post by Paula Lofting: An Investigation into the Parentage of Hereward (the Wake) 


As an author writing in the 11thc, at some point I knew that the heroic character of Hereward, wrongly known as "The Wake", would have to make his entrance upon the stage. So I wanted to sift through the information there is about him and separate the myth from the fact. Whist doing a book search about him, I came upon a recent work by Peter Rex that features Hereward and other English rebels who fought to retain their lands from the grasping Normans who had invaded in 1066. The first was The English Resistance: The Underground War Against the Normans by Peter RexThis book was a great starting point in learning the facts around the events that were the rebellion years. The Conquest only began in 1066; it took roughly more than six years before England was well and truly subjugated.This book included Hereward and his men along with many others such as Eadric the Wild, Earls Waltheof, Morcar and Edwin, as well as Edgar the Atheling. Then I got my hands on Rex's book about Hereward in which he seeks to discover who this man was and what the facts are that are known about him, plucking him out of the mists of legend and giving us the man that belongs to what is known about the history of the time.  Like the French resistance in the Second World War, the English fought back to rid their land of the invaders, unfortunately they hadn't bargained on the Conqueror's determination, or the ruthlessness of their overlords.  Still, the bravery of such men as Hereward and Eadric the Wild would go down in history and mythology. But just who was this man whose  'a brief life in history and a long one in romance' (Charles Plummer, Oxford Scholar)? Let's take a look at what the evidence actually turns up.

Have a look indeed~~let's go see what else Paula finds for us

*********

Louise E. Rule Reviews The Audible Version of Wolf's Head: The Forest Lord by Steven A. McKay


Audible Cover

In April of this year, Steven asked me if I would review his book, Wolf's Head, on the Audible format. I was very keen to do this as I had already enjoyed reading Steven's book very much. I try to get all my favourite books in paper/hardback as well as Kindle and Audible, if they are available. This is so that I can read/listen to my books wherever I am.





A narrator has to possess skills of reading a story without the listener being aware of the narrator him/herself. Some narrators, I have found, sound as though they are just reading out loud rather than telling a story, while others transport the listener within the very realms of the story, where it is possible to be submerged within it without being aware of its telling.

When one reads one gives each character a voice of their own, and the more the story progresses, the more permanent those voice characterisations become. This is why I think that it is important, no, imperative, that the narrator of an audio book should be well attuned to the story being read. For example, once a certain voice has been given to a character it must be maintained throughout the reading. It is only in this way that the listener can truly become engrossed in the story.


With this in mind, I was really looking forward to listening to the audio version of Steven's book.


With all my expectations, I had great hopes, but at first I felt a wee bit disappointed. I restarted the book several times because it took me a little while to get used to the narrator's performance. I felt that he needed to put more feeling, more humanity into it. As the story went on, however, the narrator settled into his stride, and then I enjoyed the performance more. He conveyed the female voice quite well, which must be difficult for a male narrator. Overdoing the female register can sound like the ubiquitous Pantomime Dame. There is an element of skill in getting this right so as not to reduce the authenticity of the story being read, and by so doing, carry the story forward without the listener being aware of the narrator.


Find out if Louse's experience with an audio book compares to your own by clicking right here.


Last week's Wrap Up.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Feature Post by Paula Lofting: An Investigation into the Parentage of Hereward (the Wake)


As an author writing in the 11thc, at some point I knew that the heroic character of Hereward, wrongly known as "The Wake", would have to make his entrance upon the stage. So I wanted to sift through the information there is about him and separate the myth from the fact. Whist doing a book search about him, I came upon a recent works by Peter Rex, that feature Hereward and other English rebels who fought to retain their lands from the grasping Normans who had invaded in 1066. The first was The English Resistance: The Underground War Agaisnt the Normans by Peter Rex. This book was a great starting point in learning the facts around the events that were the rebellion years. The Conquest only began in 1066, it took roughly more than 6 years before England was well and truly subjugated.This book included Hereward and his men along with many others such as Eadric the Wild, Earls Waltheof, Morcar and Edwin as well as Edgar the Atheling. Then I got my hands on Rex's book about Hereward in which he seeks to discover who this man was and what the facts are that are known about him, plucking him out of the mists of legend and giving us the man that belongs to what is known about the history of the time.  Like the French resistance in the Second World War, the English fought back to rid their land of the invaders, unfortunately they hadn't bargained on the Conqueror's determination, or the ruthlessness of their overlords.  Still, the bravery of such men as Hereward and Eadric the Wild would go down in history and mythology. But just who was this man whose  'a brief life in history and a long one in romance' (Charles Plummer, Oxford Scholar)? Let's take a look at what the evidence actually turns up.

There has long been a tradition that Hereward, the English rebel who lead a stance against the Normans in the Fens around Ely in 1070, was the wayward son of Leofric of Mercia and Lady Godiva of the naked horse ride fame.  Peter Rex has done extensive research in his book Hereward, the Last Englishman, which disproves this theory and sends old ideas of his parentage into the archives of myth and legend... Well it should do at any rate if Rex’s delving is anything to go by.  For me at least, his thorough analysis of the evidence produces a plausible and well argued conclusion  that Hereward was really the grandson of a wealthy Anglo-Danish magnate and dispels the other two main theories that had been followed for several centuries.

The  notion that Leofric of Mercia had fathered this much loved outlaw of legendary fame had been preceded by another Leofric, is nothing new.  Domesday  had shown that this other Leofric, Lord of Bourne did not exist and so it would be quite reasonable to assume that writers of chronicles in seeking to explain the confusion of the two Leofrics, concluded that the Mercian Leofric was the most suitable candidate. If we look at the major source for his roots, the Gesta Herewardi is one of the first where it mentions Hereward's parents as Edith of York and Leofric of Bourne, a supposed nephew of Ralph the Staller. This does not correlate with an account by Abbott John of Peterborough that states that Brand, Abbott of Peterborough was his uncle on his father’s side:

‘There died paternal uncle  of the said Hereward the Wake, to whom by the king’s choice there succeeded Turold’ –Rex (2005)

  Later writers later believed Hereward to be the son of Earl Leofric of Mercia, whose known son Alfgar was exiled more than once and by all accounts he was a difficult son who brought shame and embarrassment on his father. Contemporary records seem to omit Earl Leofric as having another rebellious son called Hereward and surely if Hereward had been born into such a notable family, there would have been some mention of it around the time of his existence, especially given the heroic activities he was later to have been purported to have been involved in.
Hereward was said to have been exiled to Flanders after his unruly behaviour and  the suggestion that he was a ringleader who encouraged the bad behaviour of others, had caused his father to request that he be exiled.   He was also said to have participated in military activity on the continent as a mercenary during this enforced exile. There is plenty of evidence to show that there was such kind of activity the like of which would have attracted mercenaries like Hereward between the years of 1060-70.  As the Gesta informs us that Hereward was exiled in 1054 at the age of 18, it would seem that the dates are out of sync with the military activity he is believed to have participated in. If the Gesta is to be believed and he was 18 at the time of his exile, he might well have been on the continent around the early 1060’s and returning home to England  some time after the conquest making him available to take part as a leader in the rebellion and siege of Ely 1069-70.
So why does this not make him son of Leofric of Bourne or Leofric of Mercia? Firstly, the Gesta  and  The History of Crowland Abbey both contain discountable errors. In Gesta Herewardi is described as being son of Leofric of Bourne, son of Earl Ralph, the Crowland version has him written down as  son  of Leofric, Lord of Bourne, nepos of Radin Earl of Hertford whose wife is Goda, sister of King Edward. I shall discount the mother as it is of no consequence here. In the first case of the Gesta account, Ralph is meant to be Ralph the Staller and there is not a shred of evidence to say he had a son called Leofric who was Lord of Bourne. In the latter account, Radin is a mistake for Ralph and Earl of Hertford is an error and is meant to be referring to Earl Ralph of Hereford, King Edward’s nephew who was son of Goda not her husband; she was King Edward’s sister. No evidence exists to support  a son called Ralph. He did, however have a son called Harold who would not have been old enough at the time to have fathered a man called Leofric, let alone be grandfather to Hereward.  Furthermore, there is no record of a Leofric of Bourne.  So where did the Bourne element come from? Well, who knows, perhaps another investigation is needed.
Ely Cathedral

 As for Leofric of Mercia, we can also discount him, as we know his son was called Alfgar and Alfgar’s sons were Burghred, Edwin and Morcar. There was never a contemporary record of a Hereward there and Leofric did not hold any land that was called Bourne.
So who was Hereward's father then?
It seems that the answer may lay with Brand the abbot of Peterborough, who, as stated earlier, was said to have been Hereward’s uncle.  Peter Rex, in his research has uncovered the truth about Hereward’s lineage and it would appear that if the abbot was indeed his uncle then Hereward’s father must be one of Brand’s brothers, Asketil, Siward, Siric or Godric. Their father was a man called Toki of Lincoln whose own father was Auti the Moneyer of Lincoln. They were an established wealthy family of Danish descent which would make  Hereward an Anglo-Danish hero like Harold Godwinson, but nonetheless and Englishman all the same. Rex, by careful elimination has pinpointed the brother that would have been his father: Asketil Tokison.
I have tried to be brief but concise in my explanation of why I believe Peter Rex’s theory. I have not covered every aspect of research that needed to be done to arrive at this conclusion. If you would like to learn more Rex’s book will give a more in-depth insight into the story.
What do you think? Do you think that the Leofric of Mercia myth has been dispelled? Or are you more inclined to believe that Leofric and Godiva were his parents?

Friday, 25 July 2014

Louise E. Rule Reviews The Audible Version of Wolf's Head: The Forest Lord by Steven A. McKay

Louise E. Rule Reviews an Audible Version of Wolf's Head: The Forest Lord 
by Steven A. McKay

Wolf's Head: The Forest Lord by Steven A. McKay
Narrated by Nick Ellsworth, Actor and British Voiceover


Wolf's Head: The Forest Lord is unabridged, 
and runs for 10 hours 31 minutes.


Audible Cover

In April of this year, Steven asked me if I would review his book, Wolf's Head, on the Audible Format. I was very keen to do this as I had already enjoyed reading Steven's book very much. I try to get all my favourite books in paper/hardback as well as Kindle and Audible, if they are available. This is so that I can read/listen to my books wherever I am.





A narrator has to possess skills of reading a story without the listener being aware of the narrator him/herself. Some narrators, I have found, sound as though they are just reading 'out loud' rather than telling a story, while others transport the listener within the very realms of the story, where it is possible to be submerged within it without being aware of its telling.

When one reads one gives each character a voice of their own, and the more the story progresses, the more permanent those voice characterisations become. This is why I think that it is important, no, imperative, that the narrator of an audio book should be well attuned to the story being read. For example, once a certain voice has been given to a character it must be maintained throughout the reading. It is only in this way that the listener can truly become engrossed in the story.

With this in mind, I was really looking forward to listening to the audio version of Steven's book.

With all my expectations, I had great hopes, but at first I felt a wee bit disappointed. I restarted the book several times because it took me a little while to get used to the narrator's performance. I felt that he needed to put more feeling, more humanity into it. As the story went on, however, the narrator settled into his stride, and then I enjoyed the performance more. He conveyed the female voice quite well, which must be difficult for a male narrator. Overdoing the female register can sound like the ubiquitous 'Pantomime Dame'. There is an element of skill in getting this right so as not to reduce the authenticity of the story being read, and by so doing, carry the story forward without the listener being aware of the narrator.

I have my favourite books read by my favourite narrators, and cannot imagine those books being read by anyone else. I have, however, listened to two series of books by an eminent author, making that 10 books in total. Several different narrators for those series have been used, and it has produced a disconcerting experience, especially as each narrator has managed to give different pronunciations to the ethnic names, achieving a jarring result and detracting from the overall story. With this in mind, I think that the author should make sure that the performance artist knows the pronunciation of any unusual names or words, etc., then this would eliminate the problem. 

I'm pleased to say that I found no such incidents of this in Wolf's Head, or rather, I should say that the narrator's pronunciations matched my own, right or wrong.

I am an Audible Member, so I buy books by 'credits' which are £7.99 each per month, which means that I am in the happy position of never paying the full price for an audio book. This said, Steven's book is priced, (at the time of writing this), at £16.18 - a fair price in my opinion, for ten and a half hours of entertainment, and if I were not an Audible Member, I would cheerfully pay this to engross myself within the exciting days of yore.


Steven A. McKay
Steven's book has stayed in the top of its ratings since being first published in July 2013, which is testament to the strength of his writing, and his story telling. it is my recommendation that you listen to the Audible version of Steven's book. The story is fast and gritty, the characters three dimensional, and the tension is palpable throughout.








Steven can be found on his Facebook Page
and you can read his blog here



Nick Ellsworth






Nick Ellsworth is an actor and voiceover, and has many credits to his name, and you can find out more about him here



Louise E. Rule is the author of Future Confronted
and she can be found on her Facebook Page 
Louise has a blog you can follow here

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Above the Fray by Kris Jackson. A Review by Rob Bayliss

Please see below for giveaway information!

Part One – The Ascent  



Battle lines are being drawn as the Union and Confederacy square up to one another. A young Virginian telegrapher, called Nathaniel Curry, leaves his native Richmond to view a balloon flight in Washington. Without realising the implications, and with a youthful sense of adventure, he joins Professor Thaddeus Lowe aboard a balloon that rises to greet the dawn. As an experiment he transmits instructions and coordinates, inadvertently directing artillery fire on a Confederacy position. in his own country. When word leaks out that he was implicated in this attack he is denounced as a traitor and disowned by his own brother. Forced to leave his home, family and sweetheart he seeks employment with Professor Lowe who is putting together a Balloon Corps to assist the Union cause.


The Balloon Corps are a civilian organisation, a motley collection of scientists and aeronautical enthusiasts, supplying valuable information to the army and revolutionising warfare. Yet despite this they are never being truly accepted by those commanding in the field and their contributions go unappreciated.


Following the campaigns and soaring above the battlefields we have an overview of the great events of the American Civil War. It is a war that foretells the horrors that Europe will endure some 50 years later, as technology and industrialisation conspire to create a brutal and bloody conflict of attrition. Musketry gives way to repeater rifles and Gatling guns, cavalry charges yield to trench warfare, while at sea Ironclads clash such as between the CSS Virginia and the USS Monitor at Hampton Roads in 1862.



Named as a traitor at home and suspected as a spy by both sides, Nathaniel finds himself caught behind enemy lines and has to don the uniform and persona of a Confederate soldier, as he attempts to escape back to the Union side. This doesn’t go unnoticed by the Union spy network and he finds himself being drawn into their web.


Part Two – The Descent


As the war drags on the Confederacy becomes more and more desperate. It becomes clear that they cannot win; the Union has more men, greater industry and better equipment but perhaps lesser generals.



Losses and shortages caused by the Union's blockade stiffens the resolve of the Confederacy.  Nathaniel Curry finds himself being drawn more into espionage, while the Balloon Corps struggles to retain its funding, looked upon by the military as an unnecessary financial drain. In the end it is forced to cease operations.


Nathaniel is caught between conflicting loyalties: slavery disgusts him yet he hates the damage being wrought on his country and family. He hates the immoral world of espionage and yet enjoys the thrill of it. In the madness of war killing loses its moral sting. Along the line he rubs shoulders with numerous Union generals, the Confederate General Robert E. Lee and even Abraham Lincoln, who encourages him to become a full time spy to hasten the end of the war.

An aptly named sequel, The Descent is altogether darker than the optimistic The Ascent. It maps the disbanding of the Balloon Corps, the fall of the Confederacy and the loss of Nathaniel’s morality and his near collapse into shell shocked madness.


Above the Fray is really an extraordinary book. It is meticulously well researched from the science of ballooning to the topographic description of the Civil War battlefields. I found myself totally absorbed in the life of Nathaniel Curry. There is humour here and there, but it is the humour of the gallows, as the war brutalises everyone and everything it touches.

It is a wonderfully written story; the language so fully evokes the lost world of the Confederate States of America, that even I, an Englishman, could hear the different accents in the dialogue. I learnt much about the American Civil War that I never knew before. It almost reminded me of the film Forrest Gump (albeit a very much darker tale), the way young Curry lives through major battles, crucial events and the individuals he meets (even a young Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin). Being in the Balloon Corps surrounded by scientists he is even exposed to the science of the age, able to discuss Darwin's Origin of Species and its implications for religion. Through Curry's eyes we can see the old order being swept away as the modern USA evolves.


The author doesn’t spare our 21st century sensibilities, the ever present evil, and the dehumanizing language of slavery is always in the background. Within these pages we learn the full implications of what “being sold down the river” means: this was when ruthless owners would sell aged slaves cheaply to be worked until death. A just war then, but a terrible one all the same. If only the great powers in Europe had studied the American Civil War in detail prior to 1914, they would have seen the full implications of modern industrial warfare and known it would never all be over by Christmas.


The story of Above the Fray will stay with me for some time. I can't reccommend it highly enough and I would urge that you should read it, too.

Above the Fray -  Part One The Ascent can be found here and Part Two - The Descent can be found here.


The author has generously agreed to offer a free ecopy of both parts. To enter please comment below or comment on this review's associated Facebook thread.

Kris Jackson is an artist and author based in Massachusetts. His website can be viewed at www.krisjacksondesign.com

This review was written by Rob Bayliss. Rob is currently working on his Flint and Steel, Fire and Shadow fantasy series. Part one, The Sun Shard is available at Amazon.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Louise E. Rule Interviews D. W. Wilkin for The Review's Author Interview

Louise E. Rule Interviews David W. Wilkin

for

The Review's Author Interview



David W. Wilkin is the author of Beggars Can't Be Choosier

Reviewed by Linda Root on 17th July 2014 



David W. Wilkin - Biography from amazon.com Author's Page

Award winning author, Mr. Wilkin is a graduate in history. He has been writing in various genres for thirty years. Extensive study of premodern civilizations, including years as a 
re-enactor of medieval, renaissance and regency times has given Mr. Wilkin an insight into such antiquated cultures.

Trained in fighting forms as well as his background in history lends his fantasy work to encompass more beyond simple hero quests to add the depth of the world and political forms to his tales.

Mr. Wilkin regularly posts about Regency history at his blog, and as a member of English Historical Fiction Authors. You can read that blog at http://englishhistoryauthors.blogspot.com/ His very first article was published while in college, and though that magazine is defunct, he still waits patiently for the few dollars the publisher owes him for the piece.

Mr. Wilkin is also the author of several regency romances, and including a sequel to the epic Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. His recent work, 'Beggars Can't Be Choosier' has won the prestigious Outstanding Historical Romance award from Romance reviews Magazine.



Welcome David, I would like to thank you for taking the time to speak with me today.


(From the front cover of the book)

When a fortune purchases a title,
love shall flourish, for a heart
that is bought, can never be won



For those who haven't yet read your book, Beggars Can't Be Choosier, would you like to give an outline of the story David?

Sure. Beggars is the story of the Earl of Aftlake who is born with a title, but with very little in the way of money. He has about 100 pounds a year which is near poverty for a titled lord. And it is the story of Miss Katherine Chandler who finds that society snubs her for the low birth of her father and his far too rapid rise to wealth and riches. She needs a husband with stature and Lord Brian needs an heiress. An arrangement is made, though not with a typical stipulation, and they are united. He can use the wealth to build a career for himself in politics and reacquire possession to all the properties of his family that have been mortgaged. She can find a place in society that will allow her to have stature and find perhaps some revenge against those who have snubbed her. As a Regency, though, when such a thing is arranged, the road that the two take to fall in love will twist and turn, but it is inevitable that they will fall in love.

Did you already have a title in place for your book, or is it something that evolved as you wrote the story?

Actually no. I considered it another of my Regency Projects, but the title did suggest itself to me as more of the story developed. I started the first draft in April of 2010, so not sure when I actually titled it. I do like that I could play upon the words and take a common cliché, twist it a bit, and see that it worked.

Research is, of course, imperative for an historical fiction novel. How much research did you have to do, and did you travel to the UK to visit the places that feature in your book?

I've been to the UK several times. My grandfather was an Englishman, and had started the old Millet chain of what was first Army Surplus and became better known as camping goods. the depression and marrying my American Grandmother, had them do what I find many couples do, move close to the wife's family, and so we live over the pond. but with many English relatives, I have travelled often to the Isles.

I do less research now on a Regency novel I am working on, than my earlier works. I have it in my veins now, but I still add to my research daily. I have a degree in History from UCLA, and add to my extensive collection of history on the era all the time. I also post every day a biography of a Regency Era person at my blog: http://thethingsthatcatchmyeye.wordpress.com 

It is very interesting how authors create and develop their characters, turning them into believable human beings. How did you develop your characters for Beggars Can't Be Choosier?

The idea came to me slowly about the arranged marriage. We have the thought in our research of the era that a man could live on a hundred pounds a year in London. But a thousand or more is what you need to really have a household. So I worked with that to develop the Earl of Aftlake. I also thought of Georgette Heyer's Grand Sophy, a little because it has been 20+ years since I read that. But a woman, maybe also like Becky Sharp, loud, large, a little brazen, and someone everyone would talk about.

I wanted to get into some issues, with the agreement between my hero and heroine, that would explore events that could bring them closer together, or break them. And so I went into looking at these topics that as a man, I could never truly relate or experience. I asked repeatedly every woman writer I've had a chance to, to give me feedback on the events I do raise in the book. The pregnancy and the other (which I shall keep secret for the readers to discover) and ladies can decide if I have done justice to the issue, or not.

When I start a story I find that the first chapter I either devote to the Hero or the Heroine, and the second is for the opposite character. While writing that chapter I try to reveal the back-story of the character so we can get that out as our base on which the story will be built. I generally will be bringing these chapters to life from a paragraph's worth of details, to a couple pages worth of information I have jotted down.

Covers of books are sometimes seen as an emotive subject; some think that covers aren't important, while others think that they are. I think that they are, as the cover can be a tempting precursor to what lies inside. How did you go about choosing your cover David?

First I have a collection of pictures from the period, or of the period that I can select from. the cover of Beggars is Edward Bretnall's Under the Mistletoe. He passed in 1902 and I, on my limited budget, currently search for inexpensive ways to create a cover. With an idea of what the book is about, as well as the genre, (for my fantasy series, Trolling, you might be able to discern that the close up of one of the Trolls is really me...) I select a picture and place that as my painting. Here, perhaps we have the sense that Brian wants to say something loving and Katherine is pulling away. After all, their marriage is a business arrangement. (Or will it always be such?)

The crucial process of proofreading and editing is very exacting work. Would you like to tell our readers how you go about this please?

Just this week a fellow writer posted on Facebook that they would rather edit 20 pages than write one. I am the opposite. This book went through four drafts, each draft having me edit it and correct it. I first started editing with a double spaced copy and wrote new material in between the lines and along the margins. Then I decided to shrink it to single space and 9 point fonts. I even edited one draft of Beggars during a cruise. Sea days are great days to edit.

After the fourth draft with Beggars, I asked for first readers and two gave me great edited copies back. I should love to be able to pay for professional copy editing, but at near $1,000 we need to sell more than 1,000 copies to make it worth my while to do so. If my sales do break out, then I will put a copy editor on speed dial, and issue more Regencies...

I always like to ask authors if they have a particular routine fore writing. For example, a particular place, time of day, or an aimed-for-word-count. What routine, if any, do you have David?

I aim for four sessions of 1500 words, (about 5) pages, every weekday. So about two or three of those before lunch, and then one in the afternoon. I write a couple bios for the website each day so I can have some backup, and then I can read. Which means reading for fun, or research.

You are a re-enactor, as are many lovers of history. So, would you like to tell our readers a little about your re-enacting life, and how you became involved in it, and does it help you to write your books?

Someone told me to go to this event and they had a girl for me to meet. I loved the event, but the girl and I only were ever destined to be friends. At the event there was medieval dancing, and I turned out to be good at it, and good at teaching it. So I did and have taught over 1,000 in our local Southern California area such dances. While re-enacting and dancing I met my wife at a ball. To woo her, and since it was a Regency Ball, I sent her pages of a Regency Romance, with of course, the main characters having our names. That has yet to be published, but perhaps one day...

Thank you so much for taking part in this interview with me. It has been extremely interesting chatting with you, David.




David W. Wilkin can be found on Facebook
and here










Louise E. Rule is author of Future Confronted
And can be found on Facebook here

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Sunday Wrap Up: Week ending July 20, 2014

Please see below for the four giveaways this week!


Stuart S. Laing Reviews: The Hanging of Margaret Dickson 

I approached this story thinking I knew the rough background to the legend of Half Hangit Maggie; indeed I have enjoyed a pint in the pub named in her honour on Edinburgh's Grassmarket, but Alison Butler has done a simply wonderful job of adding flesh, blood and bones to the story. Her writing breathes life into a fantastic array of characters who bring real colour and drama to the book, and it is easy to lose yourself in the rich reek of the harbour at Musselburgh as fishwives clean their catch amid the jumble of creels and nets, or the heady stink of Edinburgh where thousands live cheek by jowl in a city with little or no sanitation. 



I found myself being drawn deeper and deeper into the story by the skilful use of fact and fiction to create a satisfying whole. Butler's research and deep love of the story shines through and adds real depth to the book along with a plethora of details which just adds to the overall picture. Wonder no more why women go out on hen nights before their weddings! Or why sailors don't wish to be between the devil and the deep blue sea!

From Maggie's childhood, teenage years and her marriage, at the age of 17 which brings more disappointment than pleasure for the headstrong Maggie, we follow her life through its ups and downs. 


Please note this review comes with a giveaway! To read the rest of the review and comment to get your name in the hat for a gift copy of The Hanging of Margaret Dickson, click here

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Beggars Can't be Choosier by D.W Wilkin - A Review by Linda Root

It has been less than five minutes since I finished the first Regency romance I have read since I was in college, and my smile has yet to fade. I am still not certain whether I am in my desert lair or in a drawing room in London waiting for the sweetcakes and

champagne promised to the guests assembled there. It seems that I have been away too long. What a miracle that a gentleman who lives in nearby Hemet by the the name of David William Wilkin could so magically transport a colleague on the far side of Mount San Jacinto all the way to London and into a society where elegance and grace were the talismans, but title and wealth were everything.

It would be dishonest to say I was captured in the first paragraph, or even in the first few pages. But I did get the message that a main character in the story was an earl whose pedigree was more impressive than his bank balance, and who was striving to live within a very limited income while still fulfilling the social obligations of a peer. He is living in what we would call a rooming house and having his shoes resoled, but he still dines with a group of men appropriate to his station. And each and every one of them is hunting for an heiress. That revelation was not especially provocative or new. 


I can site a long list of famous men who were fortune hunters from France’s Henri II who married Catherine de Medici for her fortune, not her looks, and Scotland’s famous roué, James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell, who seemed to handfast or actually wed women he did not love whenever he was faced with mounting debt. At least in our group of drawing room bachelors, our protagonist Brian, Earl of Alfleck, is the least inspired of his friends when it comes to grabbing the first heiress who crosses his path. In fact, he is rather waiting in the wings for his childhood best friend Lady Sally to grow mature enough to appreciate him in a less platonic light than that of confidante and soul mate.
Enter Katherine.


Enter Katherine, indeed! What will happen next? You may get a bit of a clue at the review, where you can also make a comment to enter the draw for a free copy!


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Bad Boy: The Loving Husband and the Faithful Wife by Kit Power: A review by Anna Belfrage

This little book is too short to qualify as a novel, and given that it contains two stories, it doesn’t quite qualify as a novella either – instead, Mr. Power presents us with two very different long short stories (yes, I know; a contradiction in terms). 
Both stories are told in first person. Both have male protagonists – and that is where the similarity between them ends.

In the first story, we are introduced to a most loving husband. His wife’s every wish he tries to fulfil – preferably even before she has expressed it. He studies her facial expression, registers her tone and analyses absolutely everything she says and does so as to ensure himself he has understood her correctly before deciding on the appropriate action. He knows when she needs tea, when he has to buy her flowers. One gets the impression of a man living very much under his wife’s thumb, eager to please, always attentive.
The man is quietly successful as an accountant. He is promoted and receives a bonus. After some consideration, the man and his wife decide to use the money to build a conservatory. In retrospect, this was a most fateful decision. It will turn our accountant’s life totally upside down, but to say more would be to reveal too much of the plot. Suffice it to say that our accountant definitely has a ruthless streak in him when needed. Very ruthless.

The second story, "The Debt", is much darker. Our protagonist is a working man who has handled unwelcome pay-cuts by maxing out on his credit cards. Months of creative shuffling between one card and the next have resulted in a staggering amount of debt. Poor Del has no idea what to do, so he turns to Tel, childhood buddy, and asks for help. Only problem is, Tel deals on the wrong side of the law, and in Tel’s world there is no such thing as a free lunch. You want money, you deliver…something.

What that might be depends upon. . .something. Go see! Besides--there are TWO free copies of Bad Boy to be had, so comment at the review for your chance to win one of them!

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Last week's Wrap Up can be viewed here.