Tag Archives: Constantinople

I don’t know about you – and most people don’t agree with me, get upset and throw me in the bin (I’m sure they’d like to literally) – but, I’m really disillusioned over this whole social media business. Using it as a promotional tool, I mean. Does it work? I’m not convinced. Let’s be honest, often when I go on Facebook I see quite a lot of promotional stuff, covers of books, people telling me how great they are, and I simply delete them. I do think a lot of authors get carried away, that they believe social media is working, so they are afraid to stop. Unfortunately, by dominating the pages the way they do, it feels almost as if they are spamming. I like to go on FB to interact with people, usually people I know personally or have a strong connection through the site. I myself do use it to occasionally promote my work, but this is purely because I feel pressurised to do so. But it doesn’t work.

And then there is Twitter. Twitter is now simply a promotional site, with so many screaming headlines about ‘my wonderful book’ or ‘the latest from best-selling author bla de blar’…I’ve often wondered, if they are best-sellers, why are they still promoting their book in this way? I still feel word of mouth is the best recommendation, with browsing in a bookshop coming a close second. I love that about Waterstones, where the members of staff write down their own recommendations. I’ve bought quite a few books this way. I remember many years ago going into my local W’s and finding a recommendation card, written in a spidery hand, spouting off about a little known Swedish author called Henning Mankell. I was so won over by the recommendation that I bought the book and, from that moment, bought every other thing Mankell has written!

Wow…to get a book on the shelves of Waterstones…

That’s my ambition, my dream…

I know most of you will scream in derision, but I do not believe I will not have ‘made it’ as a writer until I see one of my books in there.

Anyway, the thing is, what to do. I don’t know, is my answer. Just keep plugging away, I suppose. But I am sick and tired of reading about other people’s books on social media, so I am sure people must be sick of reading mine. I try to keep all my author stuff on my FB author page, with links to my website where I usually try to put some excerpts from my books. I’m going to try not to put much on my personal FB page. And I’m culling my list of ‘friends’ as a lot of them have ideas that are totally contrary to mine. I actually feel a lot better for this.

I remember when I first started buying books, for pleasure. Agatha Christie, Sven Hassel, Ian Fleming, they were the big three. I read every book Sven and Fleming wrote, but I’ve still got some way to go with Christie. But here’s a thought – I never once thought I’d like to meet the author, interact. For me, an author was like a god-like figure, distant, all-powerful. Their words, their creations were enough for me. Now, we are bombarded with interviews, webinars and all sorts of stuff. I never read them. I’m not convinced they serve any purpose, I’m really not.

Well, I have good news. My dystopian thriller ‘Tears in the Fabric of Time’ is about to be published and I can’t wait. This has been a labour of love for me for many years. I loved writing it and now it is going to be published! The cover looks cool and the first chapter is available on my website, so go and have a look.fabric-of-time-cover

Also, Varangian Volume 3 – HARDRADA – is out soon too. This has been a long haul but we’re almost there. Some people have asked me about Hardrada (YES, on social media…wow!), so here is a little taster about Volume 1:

2 books

His name was Harald Sigurdsson, but the world knows him as Hardrada. Having fought his first battle at fifteen, where he watched his brother, King Olaf, die, he fled south to the fabled city of Constantinople. Here he enrolled in the legendary fighting unit known as the Varangian Guard. His love for the Empress Zoe is legendary, but Harald seeks more than mere love. To regain his birthright drives him forever onward. To be the King of Norway. The year is 1042 and Harald is imprisoned, betrayed. The first volume of this great Viking king tells of his attempt to flee the great city and return north. It is a violent, uncompromising tale of murder, deception and depravity, for the Emperor is the lust-filled Michael V, and he wants Hardrada’s head. Hardrada, the very name means ‘Hard Ruler’, but how can he ever rule unless he can escape. And to escape he must forge allegiances with some of the most despicable men in the entire empire.

HERE is a link to the Amazon page for Varangian.

My website: www.stuartgyates.com for further information.

Thanks for dropping by and thanks to those of you who have bought my books. I hope you like them.

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Adventures in Writing – Hardrada novels

VARANGIAN – the background story to the greatest Viking of them all, is the first in my Harald Hardrada series. novels.

Very soon, the second in my proposed five volume series of historical novels based around the life of Harald Sigurdsson, the last and greatest Viking of them all, published by Rebel-e, will be available.

The first volume, entitled ‘Varangian’ is receiving very good reviews. It is available from Barnes and noble, Smashwords and HERE, on Amazon.

The cover for my historical novel 'Varangian'.

The cover for my historical novel ‘Varangian’.

I thought it might be of interest to many readers to give some background to this amazing man, a living legend in his own time, a man who is still honoured and celebrated in Norway even to this day.

We all know the Vikings, or at least we think we do. The recent television series ‘The Vikings’ has used the historical figure of Ragnor Luthbrok as its vehicle to launch a re-telling of this amazing man’s journey across the sea to England.

Luthbrok was a real figure. It is to him that history has forever linked the terrible atrocities perpetrated at Lindisfarne in 793 AD, when the defenceless monks in that isolated monastery were put to the sword and their holy relics and treasures looted. The Vikings had arrived, and for the next 360 years they raided, settled and ruled the land we now know as England.

Ragnor Lodbrok, one of the first Vikings to raid Britain

Hardrada’s story is similar.

Born in Norway, around 1014, he was the half-brother to King Olaf II, who was canonised a saint soon after his bloody death. My fictional series begins with Harald languishing in a prison cell, in the great city of Constantinople. How he got there is the subject of my thirds volume. The in-betweens are dealt with it the previous two volumes. ‘Varangian’ sets out how he manages to make good his release. Already a commander of the fabled Varangian guard, he is employed by the holy patriarch Alexius to help the great city defend itself against the excesses of its own emperor, Michael V. Depraved, drunk with power, Michael attempted to usurp power for himself, ignoring the army and his adopted mother, the magnificent, beautiful and sensual Empress Zoe, whom Hardrada was once a lover. Well, all that is over now. Zoe found our hero in a clinch with a young girl and has taken her revenge by throwing him in prison. But the patriarch wants him free, to muster the Varangians, stationed in the north. Without them, the entire empire will fall under the clutches of the mad, perverted young emperor.

That’s the plan at least.

The problem is, there are others who want the throne for themselves. Top of the tree is General George Maniakes, the greatest Byzantine general ever. He has fought alongside the ferocious Hardrada in Sicily. He knows what the man is like, and he will do his utmost to undermine him at every opportunity.

And so the story continues, the palace intrigues, deceptions, murders, all contributing to make for a fast-paced and exciting series of books.

Of course, Hardrada was to fall at Stamford Bridge in 1066, a victim of his own ambition. Not content to be honoured as the greatest Viking who has ever lived, he strove to succeed in one last, great achievement – to be king of England. He destroyed the Army of the North at Fulford Gate, but fell at Stamford a few days later, not expecting Harold Godwinson to react so quickly.

The Battle of Stamford Bridge, September 25th, 1066

 

Two hundred and fifty ships brought the Vikings to England, only twenty were needed to take the survivors home. It was the last roll of the dice, the Vikings never again gaining a foothold in England.

Hardrada was an amazing man. His adventures and sheer force of will to have his named stamped in the annals of history, set him towering over his contemporaries. Poet, lover, warrior, read of his exploits in my books and get to know the greatest Viking of them all – Harald the hard ruler, king of Norway and man of legend.

You can learn more about my books and what I do by visiting my website, www.stuartgyates.com.

Here you can read some extracts of my books and find about current and future projects.

The images used in this blog are supplied under license from ‘Look and Learn’, and apologies for the Vikings wearing horns on their helmets – something they never did!

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Adventures in Writing… a slight deviation from the usual

Hi, I thought this month I’d do something a little different.

You may have followed my tale, of not so many months ago, of the problems I was experiencing with a publisher. The sequel to Burnt Offerings was written, but the publisher decided British writers were not selling in the USA, so ‘goodbye’. Not sure if he’d ever heard of J.K.Rowling, but never mind. Well, to cut a long story short, my other publisher, Rebel-E, who have published my most successful book to date, ‘VARANGIAN’, offered to send it out into the world. ‘Whipped Up’, a contemporary thriller featuring Paul Chaise, who first appeared in Burnt Offerings, will appear sometime this summer/autumn, which is wonderful news for me as I think it’s a good story.

Well, to help you all decide, here is an exceprt. Chapter One. The opening you can read at the end of Burnt Offerings, so here’s what happens next …

.varangian and burnt

CHAPTER ONE

He stood at the top of the aircraft steps and took a moment to look around. The grey sky matched his mood, and the fine drizzle didn’t help either. Not for the first time he wondered about the rightness of his actions. Coming back home. There was Linny, of course. She figured large in the decision. Even more so than the coercion perhaps. Being told what to do was not something that came easily to Paul Chaise.
The air stewardess touched his arm and smiled. She beckoned him to continue; some disgruntled passengers wanted to disembark as quickly as possible. Lost in his thoughts, he hadn’t noticed. He gave a nod of apology and descended. Overhead a plane soared into the sky, all around the noise of jet engines and the smell of kerosene invaded his senses. The steel steps clanged under his shoes, each one sounding like a death knell. Back home. Blighty. He sucked in a breath, hating it as much now as he ever did.
He’d been in the Costa del Sol for a long time, building up a comfortable little niche for himself selling real estate to the ex-pats. He’d done well, managed to earn enough to buy a lovely villa, which Linny loved. Life was good, at first. Everything came tumbling down when he became involved with gangsters and drugs. None of it of his own making, but that didn’t prevent Linny from leaving him.
She was sick of the lies, she’d told him. Sick of the way he kept his past so secret. She’d never understood, how could she? He’d created a protective layer of deceit, and for a few years it had remained intact, with no hint of who he really was.
Nothing about his life as a covert killer in Iraq, the follow-up operations in Bahrain, Kosovo, Pakistan. He couldn’t reveal anything. He’d signed the papers, and the men in grey suits had him under their thumbs.
The shit hit the fan in Spain, when he’d killed one of their own. Since then he had become an undesirable, a threat. They’d recalled him, leaving few options other than to acquiesce. The alternative meant death – his own.
He went through the various exits and down an endless stream of corridors. When he finally arrived at the check-in – or should that be check-out, he wondered – he felt tired and hot. Some idiot had put the heating on.
A smiling security guard in navy blue uniform guided him towards one of the queues. Hundreds of people milled about. Britain, gripped with paranoia over terrorist activity, had up-graded its passport controls. Chaise couldn’t work out whether it had more to do with illegal immigrants rather than bomb threats.
The politicians vied to hit the right nerves; preventing anyone not ‘British’ from trying to enter the country was always worth a few votes. Eastern Europeans in particular blamed for the nation’s ills. Strange how all the hotheads kept quiet when a ‘white Anglo-Saxon’ committed an outrage. None of them grasped the simple truth that good and bad resided in everyone, regardless of colour or creed.
He took a breath, sick to the back teeth of such thoughts. He’d never been able to get inside the heads of racists, nor did he wish to. His own troubles monopolised his time now, chief amongst them being how to get in touch with Linny.
Finally, his turn arrived and he stepped up to the little cubicle. Chaise presented his passport and the customs officer scanned it. She stopped, pulled a face and studied her monitor. He knew what was coming next. He watched her turn to a colleague standing with arms folded some way behind her. She motioned him to approach. An exchange of whispered comments, followed by a quick glance towards Chaise. The colleague stepped away and pulled out his mobile.
Chaise stood and waited, his breathing shallow and controlled. This was what he’d expected, but it irked him nevertheless.
After a short while, two more uniformed men arrived. These were a different species. They were big, serious looking, with automatic rifles strapped across their chests. Another brief exchange and they came up to him, one on either side. “Can you come with us, sir?”
Stupid question. Chaise shrugged, accepting there was little gain in taking the men apart. He nodded to the customs clerk, and went wherever the men with guns wanted to take him.

He didn’t know how long he sat in the tiny, clinically-clean room in which they’d deposited him. Before leaving, they’d taken his watch, trouser belt, wallet and passport. He wore slip-on shoes, otherwise he felt sure they would have taken the laces from them as well. Now, alone, he sat and waited. There was no window, the room claustrophobic, with nothing but a small table and the strip light for company. In the corner, high up, a security camera. A little green light blinked underneath the lens. Did that mean it was operating, or not? Chaise didn’t really care. He closed his eyes and slept.
When the door flew open, he woke with a start, turned around. Two men came in, one of them moving behind the opposite side of the desk. He sat down, dropped a manila file on the top and leaned forward on his knuckles. He didn’t look happy. “My name is Commander Mellor,” he said.
If this revelation was meant to impress Chaise, it failed. He merely gave Mellor a blank stare.
The Commander scowled, somewhat put-out by Chaise’s lack of reaction. “I have a message,” he said. “From London.”
“Where are my things?”
Mellor blinked. “What?”
“My things. My passport, my watch. Why did you take my watch?”
Mellor shook his head. “Didn’t you hear what I said? I have a message for you, from Control.”
A heavy silence descended. Chaise looked from Mellor to the other man and back again. “And?”
“You’re a surly sod,” said the man positioned against the wall. Chaise gauged the distance and knew he could be at his throat before anyone could react fast enough to stop him. He noticed the man had a gun in a hip holster, and he filed it for later. It might be needed.
“Don’t waste your breath, Simms,” said Mellor, his eyes narrow. “Our Mr Chaise doesn’t like authority, do you Mr Chaise?”
“Why don’t you just tell me what the message is, then give me back my things.”
“We keep the passport.”
“Like fuck you do.”
“Listen, Chaise, you’re here on the behest of Her Majesty’s Government. You don’t make the rules, Chaise – we do.”
“So tell me what the rules are.”
“We have a flat for you. Simms here will take you, help you settle in. Someone will be in touch. Until such time, you stay quiet, keep your nose clean. You crossed the line over in sunny Spain, now it’s time for you to toe it.”
“Jesus, where the hell did they find you?”
“I told you, Chaise. I’m a Commander in the Royal Navy. You’d do best to remember that.”
“And you’d do best to remember that I am also a commander … at least I was, last time I checked.”
“London wants you to stay at your flat, keep low. They will want to talk to you about a few things. In particular, why you killed Embleton.”
“He was about to rape my girlfriend.”
“Well, that’s as maybe, but London will need to get it all straight, with no misunderstandings on either side. Until then you do as you’re told.”
“I need to find her. Linny. My girlfriend. She left. That’s the only reason I’m here, not to answer questions or kiss the arse of anyone from Control.” He stood up. “Now, if you’ll give me my passport, I’ll be on my way.”
“Sit down, Chaise,” said Simms, sounding bored. “You heard what the Commander said; you’re coming with me to your new flat.”
“No,” said Chaise and looked deep into Mellor’s eyes. “Tell London that I’ll be in touch, when I’m ready, not before.”
Mellor straightened and tapped his finger on the cover of the manila file. “It says in here you can be difficult.”
“Did it really. Where’s my passport?”
Mellor reached inside his jacket. Chaise spotted the gun.
The passport fell to the desktop. “I’ll do a deal,” said Mellor. “You can keep the passport, if you go to the flat.”
“I’m going up to Liverpool,” Paul said quietly. “Find Linny.”
“London won’t allow that.”
“London can kiss my arse.”
Simms moved, reached for the gun at his hip. He probably thought it would intimidate Chaise, cause him to rethink his approach, but he thought wrong.
The elbow hit Simms under the chin, snapping his head back, stunning him. In one easy movement, Chaise twisted behind him, locking Simms’ arm, wrenched the gun free, and pointed it directly at Mellor, who sat and gaped, everything happening too fast for him to react.
“Now,” said Chaise, applying more pressure on Simms’ wrist. The man squealed, Mellor closed his eyes and sighed. “I want you to put all my things on the table, then take off your trousers and shoes, whilst Mr Simms and I go for a little drive.”
“You’re being bloody stupid, Chaise.”
“It’s in my nature. So is killing people who don’t do what I ask.”
It only took a few moments for Mellor to comply. With his few belongings secured, Chaise left the airport with Simms. In one hand he held his suitcase and Mellor’s bundled up clothes, in the other the trim Walther automatic relieved from Simms. Simms himself didn’t appear too happy and spent most of the stroll across the car park rubbing his swollen looking wrist.
When they reached the car, Simms handed over the keys and Chaise hit him very hard in the solar plexus. The man folded and fell to his knees, groaning loudly. Chaise pushed him aside, opened the car door, threw his bag in the rear seat and slid in behind the wheel.
On the way out, he saw Simms in the rear-view mirror, still down on his knees, taking time to recover. For a moment, Chaise thought that perhaps he should have killed him. The man would almost certainly come looking for him. But it had been a bad start to the day. Chaise didn’t really want it to become so much worse.

Unfortunately, as Mellor later discovered when he phoned in to Control to tell them what had happened, it already had.

Well, I hope you enjoyed this opening chapter. Keep an eye out for when the book is released, which shouldn’t be too long I hope. But the publishing world is slow, slow, slow, so we all have to be patient. Keep visiting my webpage, http://www.stuartgyates.com where I shall post more information.

Thanks for dropping by and…keep reading!

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Adventures in Writing … the best is yet to come!

Just this week we said goodbye to a really great bunch of students at my school as they went off on their study leave. They are wonderful young adults, hard workers, determined but filled with fun and excitement as they look forward to the rest of their lives. Despite their relief and joy at taking the final step which would see them leaving school behind forever, their farewells were tinged with sadness.
I remember when I left school.
I was fifteen. As I walked out of the main gate, everyone was throwing their ties into a makeshift bonfire. Yes, we used to wear ties back then. My mother had warned me not to do anything to my tie, as she had already sold mine to our next-door neighbour’s son who would be starting at my school in a few short weeks. I hated school. Every single second. I used to lie awake on Sunday nights, unable to sleep, in a cold sweat at the thought of spending yet another week in that most ghastly of places. From first light on Monday morning I would pray for it to be Friday evening.
What a waste.
All those years, tramping along the street on my journey to and from school, wishing to God I was anywhere else.
And now I’m a teacher.
Ironic, yes?
About the only things that got me through were my friends and my writing. Even back then I’d write lots; scripts for plays, novels, a comedy magazine. I never had any real plans, no ambitions as such, but I always knew one day I’d be a best-selling author. I don’t know why. I have an in-built gift I believe for observation. I listen, learn, think. I store away a huge amount of information which I can return to whenever I’m dreaming up situations and characters. I’ve also experienced a fair bit, been through the mill, loved, lost far too much, and met the most amazing people.
Experience is what makes a writer, and the ability to put those experiences into words. All the books, boot-camps and seminars can’t teach you any of that. You look into your soul, deeper than deep, and you trawl up the hurt and the pain, the joy and the love. You cannot write about something you do not know. Yes. I’ve experienced. And my gift is to be able to relay it in the books I write.
I’ve learned by writing, and reading damned good books. I’ve listened to my editors, revisited author’s words to see if they did the same things. I’ve seen how the great writers break all the rules, and I’ve learned that intuition is the greatest weapon to bring to the keyboard. Believe in yourself, in what you want, in your words, your message.
Those students left my school with regrets probably, knowing they had left one of the most wonderful periods of their life.
I left school knowing the best periods were still to come.
I have received a number of mesmerising reviews for Varangian over the last few days, one which brought tears to my eyes. Here is the link, simply click on the image and then scroll down the new amazon page and you’ll see it:

http://www.amazon.com/Varangian-Byzantine-Histories-Stuart-Yates-ebook/dp/B00FEJDF3G/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1398971667&sr=1-1&keywords=stuart+g+yates

 

Something like this makes everything worthwhile. The countless hours I have spent tapping away, and all those years I wasted wishing it to be Friday.
Because now I know the best period is almost here.
Keep reading!

 

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Adventures in Writing…my debt to the good Doctor

After watching the BRILLIANT 50th Anniversary Dr Who, I am reminded of the tremendous debt I owe this iconic show.
I was six years old and the weather outside was bleak. In our living room, the black and white television flickered away in the corner, Grandstand having finished, and ‘Tomahawk’ gracing the screen with yet another great episode. When it ended, I got up to get ready for my tea and a strange, unworldly sound invaded my senses. The TV screen blurred and changed, mystical white shapes ebbing to and fro as music the like of which I had never heard before drew me in. The opening credits of the very first Dr Who. From that moment I was gripped.
Some years later, with everyone at school still buzzing with the wonder of the time-traveller’s adventures, a competition was launched to write a storyline for the Doctor. At the core of this tale was to be a new monster, to test our hero to the upmost.
Well, I wrote a story and from that point, with my imagination soaring, I became a writer.
I was eight.
I can’t remember what happened, or even where the story is now. I think I have some drawings I made of the monster, in the bottom of a box somewhere, but I can’t be sure.
For me, writing enables me, like the Doctor, to travel to new worlds, to populate stories with characters and events that did not exist before I put down the words. Creating, utilising my imagination, this is what gives me purpose and direction. I’m bombarded as I look through all the various social network sites about how to do this, how to achieve that; advice, seminars, books all about ‘how to’ write, ‘how to’ achieve success. The keys to marketing, the secrets of becoming a best-selling author. I used to read some of these. Not any more. Now, I scan over them all, not taking a blind bit of notice. Why is that?
I don’t know.
I’m not convinced by all the hype. Never will be. The screams of the self-published, that traditional publishing is dead, that paperbacks are a thing of the past…Well, I don’t believe it. None of it. Sorry, maybe I too am a dinosaur. E-books are great fun, and it is so easy to browse through the pages of Amazon picking out something new. To then download it (often free!) and have it sitting there, ready to read in a matter of minutes. So convenient and, in many ways, exciting. The anticipation…something akin to wandering inside a sweetshop and choosing the most delicious confectionary to devour with glee.
Mmm…
I buy books, Of course I do. However, almost 90 percent of them are paperbacks, especially non-fiction which I buy regularly to aid in my research.
I do use social networks, I do TRY to promote, because to have strangers – even one – reading my books, the feelings generated by that knowledge is beyond words. I am honoured people enjoy my work and say such lovely things about my stories. It humbles me. But I’m not seduced; I do not make many sales and am nowhere near to becoming ‘known’ and won’t be until I manage to break through into the world of traditional publishing. Because it is only there that success (awful word) will be achieved. That’s my opinion, and I’ll stick with it.
E-books? Yes, they are wonderful, and they do wonders for the environment…I think. Most of my books are e-books, as well as being in paperback. Varangian is receiving good reviews, as indeed are my others.
The cover for my historical novel 'Varangian'. Roadkill_Cover

The problem is, unlike sweets, most of those ‘books’ we download stay in the e-reader unread. How many of us have dozens, perhaps hundreds of free books simply lying there unlooked at? I myself have a number, but I’ve stopped now. What is the point? I’d rather have a book I know I will read. I also like books on shelves. I have all of George Martin’s in paperback, and I wouldn’t swap them for anything. I think, in all honesty, once all the hullabaloo has settled, we will do what we have always done. We will buys books, and read them. Both as e-books and paperbacks. We are not about to witness the demise of traditional books. No way. What will happen is we will be presented with choice. And that has to be a good thing.
But writing itself, the constant striving to succeed? Well, I write because I love it, not to make millions. I won’t be a best-seller, I won’t ever walk into Waterstones and see my books gracing the shelves. There are millions of authors out there, hawking their wares. I am lost in the digital universe. Depressing? Perhaps. But the joy of creating keeps me going and every time I finish a book (and I have written well over thirty) my mind conjures up a new adventure. Because that is what it is – an adventure. My adventure. And, thanks to Dr Who, the journey has been one full of wonder.
Thanks for dropping by, and please go over to my website to check out some news, and read a few sample chapters of Varangian.
http://www.stuartgyates.com
Keep reading!

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Adventures in Writing…an excerpt from my novel VARANGIAN

At present I am working on the sequel to my historical novel Varangian. I’m about half way through the first draft, and the research is taking up a lot of my time. This is the essential part of writing historical fiction, in my opinion. If we are to be true to the period, then we need to get the details right. But it’s not all history; fiction means ‘made up’, and imagination plays as important part as fact. I’ve included here an extract from my book to illustrate this. The characters, Alexius, Partriach of Byzantium, and Zoe, the empress, were real people. But this conversation never took place, or if it did I doubt it progressed in the same way. But that too is the beauty of historical fiction – we know a lot, but we don’t know it all. Especially conversations.
I hope you enjoy this extract. The book is available from Amazon and Barnes and Noble. It is also available for all e-readers from Smashwords. It’s a story layered with intrigue and mystery, love and death. In fact, everything you had ever wanted!
FIVE
Looking up from his studies, Alexius smiled as Zoe stepped through his door. Of all the people in the palace, she alone was allowed to enter unannounced. That might soon change now that Michael had begun to assert his authority. A new emperor, a new regime, perhaps a new set of rules. The patriarch stood up.
“My child,” he said and opened his arms to embrace her.
Zoe hesitated. “Where are your guards?”
The old patriarch frowned, somewhat taken aback by her unexpected question. “My guards? I don’t understand …”
The empress swept forward, taking him by the elbow and steering him back into the room, a huge space, dominated by an enormous writing desk. Lined with shelves, heaving with ancient scrolls and other texts, the light diffused from a dozen or more sputtering candles, it provided a quiet inner sanctum where learning could flourish. Alexius, the most educated man in all of Byzantium, kept this area for himself, allowing no one to peruse his collection of tracts. He guarded it jealously and his guards kept him – and the room – safe. Or, at least, that was what he assumed.
“My guards have disappeared, yours too, by the look of it.”
His frown deepened. “What are you saying?”
“Listen. I received a visitor, bearing news. We are to be arrested, my old teacher.”
“By whom?”
“Who do you think? Michael, of course.”
“He wouldn’t dare. My bodyguards—”
“Your bodyguards are either dead or have been bribed to leave their posts. I should have known this would happen as soon as Michael moved against Hardrada.”
“The Varangian Norse? This is connected with what happened to them?”
Zoe brought her knuckles up to her mouth and bit down hard into the flesh, “God´s teeth, I should have expected this. By removing us, Michael will become the absolute power in Byzantium. He has moved without hesitation, his plans well worked out in advance. We’ve been out-flanked, and there is nothing we can do about it!”
“Don’t be so sure,” said the old man. “Your popularity knows no bounds. If he is so stupid as to think he could overthrow you … the people would rise up against him.”
“Without leaders, they would be helpless against Michael’s troops.”
“So, we will lead them!”
Even in that dim light, she could see how flushed his face had become. “We cannot do that if we are dead.”
Her words hung in the air like lead weights. Alexius thought for a moment, then gathered his robes about him. “I have a secret passageway that leads out beyond the city walls. We will make good our escape, move to the outer reaches of the Empire, gather supporters …” He stopped, catching something, her mood perhaps, which remained stoic. “What is it?”
“I cannot leave.”
He gaped at her. “If what you say is true, that Michael has moved against you, then your life could well be in danger – you cannot stay here.”
“I have no choice. This is my home and the people would never forgive me if I abandoned them.” The old man went to speak, but she silenced him with a raised hand. “You, my teacher, you must go. Do what you say, travel to the north, muster support and return.”
“But child,” Alexius reached out, took her face in his hands. “He may kill you.”
“He would not dare.” Her hands closed over his whilst he still held her face. “Trust me. Go, gather forces. The Varangian mercenaries who fight in the north will be easily bought and then march on the city. The people will rise up and we will reclaim the throne.”
“You are sure of all of this.”
“I am not sure of anything anymore.” She smiled, gently pushing his hands away. “Go, before they discover what has happened.”
He hesitated for a moment, nodded and went over to his desk. He gathered up some papers and then moved into the far corner which lay deep in shadow. Zoe heard the wheezing sound of something being opened, perhaps a secret door set in the wooden panels of the wall. Alexius’s voice, as kind and concerned as it ever was, came to her out of the darkness, “I love you, my child. Stay safe. And stay alive.”
The panel closed again and Zoe was left alone.
As she stood there, in the murky half-light of that enormous chamber, she thought she could make out the sound of approaching feet. She cocked her head and listened.
What she feared most was about to happen. Michael´s Scythian guards were coming, perhaps to murder her.
She turned and stood facing the door of the chamber and waited, all her years of training making her appear strong and resolute, back straight, chin up. Inside, she felt none of these things.

More extracts to follow, and please visit my website for more details. http://www.stuartgyates.com
Happy reading!

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Adventures in writing – inspiration, a few thoughts.

Wow, I’ve just gone through two little surveys on Facebook, one on how many of the ‘greatest’ films ever made have I seen, (http://www.listchallenges.com/imdb-top-250?ref=share) and how many of the ‘greatest’ thrillers have I read. I did okay with the films, but the thriller one was dreadful. I think I got 24 out of 100. Appalling for a writer, wouldn’t you agree?
This got me thinking, as this sort of thing always does. My last blog I wrote a little about influences, but inspiration is a totally different animal.
We can be inspired by all sorts of things. I often, for example, become inspired when I listen to music. Often, when I’m down or fed-up (I’m loath to use the word ‘depressed’; unhappy, disillusioned, just plain ‘pissed off’, they’re fine as handles, but not depressed…That’s far too heavy and serious to even contemplate! How can I be depressed when I’ve got the best medication there is – writing? Immersing myself in fantasy worlds…now there’s the perfect therapy!) listening to music helps. It transports me to another time in my life when optimism was my by-word. Yesterday, there I was, at my desk in school ,planning out a lesson – yes, I do plan out lessons – and feeling somewhat lost (primarily because I’ve got a story blowing around in the empty streets and highways of my mind) when I slipped on a CD, and an old ‘Genesis’ song came through the speakers. It was 1978 again, a time when life was filled with promise and sunshine. Youth. Ah, that fleeting period when the world is a vibrant and wondrous place, filled with possibilities…And I suddenly thought, ‘what the hell am I doing? I’m actually becoming all the things I hate! When I first heard this song I truly did have optimism and hope and I wanted to do something, create stories filled with real characters doing extraordinary things.’ And, do you know what? My vacant mind became filled with the noise of creativity and imagination. I wrote down ideas and before I knew it I planned out an entire novel, from beginning to end, with plots and sub-plots, twists and turns, scenes and happenings, characters… The whole thing. It took me perhaps ten minutes and I felt so good when it was done.
Fulfilled.
So, I’m not longer fed up. I have been inspired, by one tiny piece of music from another age when I was another person, living in a different universe. But it helped.
Tomorrow, it might be a film I watch, from that list or maybe not. Or a book I read. Why are there no Harlan Coben, or Elmore Leonard books in that list? I’ve read lots of them. They inspire me, sometimes. Or is that influence. I don’t know, I just feel that now I have been inspired and I’m ready to get writing another book…When I’ve finished the other three I’m already working on that is!
So what inspires you? Beethoven took walks in the forest, maybe you do the same. Is it music, or a painting, a piece of writing, or is it the people around you? Perhaps it is a mix of all of these things. Let me know, it really is a fascinating topic.
My latest book, ‘Varangian’ is available in paperback and for e-readers from Amazon and Smashwords. If it’s a story full of passion, suspense and intrigue you want, please check it out…and enjoy! http://www.amazon.com/Varangian-Stuart-G-Yates/dp/0615883486/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1381479437&sr=8-1&keywords=varangian+stuart+g+yates
Happy reading everyone.

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