Tag Archives: history

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.


Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Adventures in Writing … the month so far!

An exciting time for me so far this month, and we’re not even half-way through!
It began with the tussle I had with one of my publishers over the publication of ‘Whipped Up’, the second of my Paul Chaise thrillers. They said they were reluctant to accept anymore work from European writers, which I found bizarre to say the least, but my other publisher thought differently and they accepted it. Whipped Up will be published sometime soon. Here’s some background to the story:
‘Paul Chaise is a former operative in the SBS – the Special Boat Service – but has been ‘retired’ for over ten years, living a quiet life in Spain, following a career as an estate agent, selling villas to the ex-pats seeking a new life in a new country. Everything is going very well until he inadvertently gives a hitchhiker a ride and his life begins to spiral out of control. This is the premise for the first book ‘Burnt Offerings’. At the end of the book, with his girlfriend fleeing to the UK, and his former employers incensed that he has emerged from his ‘cover’, he too is summoned to return.
‘Whipped Up’ sees Chaise trying his level best to make something of a life in the UK, taking up employment in an East Anglian estate agents. His old ‘employers’ are not convinced and they have him followed. He becomes embroiled with the problems of a customer who is being harassed by some particularly nasty Eastern European types who want to take over the running of this man’s houses. It all spirals out of control when this man is murdered and his wife tortured, her mutilated body left in Chaise’s flat as a warning to back off. Naturally, this has the opposite effect and the body count soon begins to mount up as Chaise goes on a one-man crusade to bring these Europeans down.
When the S.I.S in London gets wind of this, they decide to rein Chaise in, and that’s when it becomes really nasty!
A contemporary thriller set in the sordid world of human trafficking; this second in the series pulls no punches and will appeal to anybody who likes their thrillers violent, fast moving and with lots of twists.’
The first book, ‘Burnt Offerings’ is available through Amazon, on the Kindle and in paperback:
I really enjoyed writing ‘Whipped Up’, and as soon as it was done, I turned my attention to another thriller entitled ‘Overstretched’, and I’ll give more details about this next time. Of course I had other concerns too. The second in my Harald Hardrada series was completed, and I was working feverishly on the re-writes. Entitled ‘To Be King of the Norse’, it too has gone to the publisher. I am hopeful it will be released sometime in the autumn. ‘Varangian’, the first in the series, has been receiving some amazing reviews lately on Amazon. Here’s a sample:
‘This was one of my favourite historical-based books that I’ve read in ages, mainly because it blended reality and fiction so perfectly. Fictional characters mixed with actual figures from this time period, and I found myself flipping back and forth between search engines and my reader to try to decipher which parts were based on fact and which were just the creations of Yates’ imagination. It was a seamless and well-thought out story that had everything someone who loves 300, Rome, Game of Thrones, and dozens of other historical/fantasy/intrigue sources of entertainment. There was violence and sex and betrayal and power-hungry madmen who would stop at nothing to retain their control.’ Such wonderful words from somebody I do not know. This is what writing is all about, for me. Creating a world in which strangers can visit and enjoy.
See other great reviews, and the details of how to buy Varangian here:
So, it has certainly been busy, as I said at the start. Soon I shall turn my mind to the third in the Paul Chaise series (I have some ideas, of course) but as for Hardrada, well, I am already 25,000 words into the third part. I envisage it going to at least four volumes, possibly five. His is such a fascinating story. Some have compared it to Game of Thrones, but apart from the intrigue and the killing – oh, and the sex – there really is little to compare. George R.R. Martin’s word is episodic and brilliant in its breadth, an awesome achievement from a superb writer. I am humbled to be compared to his majestic talent, but Hardrada is no fantasy figure. What he did was real. A giant in Viking history and a man who, for far too long, has been buried away under the piles of literature written about William, Duke of Normandy. Everybody feared Hardrada, including the Duke. I wonder what would have happened if Hardrada had prevailed at Stamford Bridge…? Now, there’s fuel for thought … and possibly a damn good book too!
Thanks for dropping by, and keep reading!

Leave a comment

Filed under fiction writing

Adventures in Writing…thoughts and dreams about being a writer

The cover for my historical novel 'Varangian'.

The cover for my historical novel ‘Varangian’.

Making life as a writer.
Wow, wouldn’t that be something?
I’ve always dreamed of this. I remember watching a documentary about Val McDermid, and how she gets up in the morning to ‘go to work’, which is essentially a beautiful little annexe on the side of her house. She stays in there all day creating. Wow. The thought of that. To be ‘your own boss’, to have the time, the opportunity to devote oneself one hundred percent to writing…that would be something.
I’m not talking about best sellers, or busting your balls to make a sale, I’m talking about the sheer pleasure of being consumed by your own creations.
That for me is the goal.
I don’t suppose it is ever going to happen though. Everywhere you go, everything you read, it’s all about how the publishing world is changing, how the opportunities for being published have multiplied beyond imaging, how the big publishers only want you if you’re a celebrity, or Harlan Coben. And now, I feel, a lot of people are put off reading ‘new’ writers, from indie publishers, because of the amount of utter tripe there is out there. We really do need a form of quality control. But I have no chance of cutting through all of it, no chance at all. So, it is pretty gloomy and depressing.
I know some writers who work hard all day every day, and dream of having time to go and do normal things, like walking or shopping! They graft away at their ‘job’, but do you know what,. I’d do the swap. I’d work all day writing and give up my day job, and I’d do it in a flash.
Wishful thinking? Well yes, of course it is. I’m never going to be a bestselling writer. How can I be? Even if my books were as good as anything Joyce or Dickens or Hardy wrote. Like I mentioned earlier, it’s just not going to happen. There are simply too many people writing and publishing now, so the dream will have to stay as it is – a dream.
But it’s a lovely one nevertheless, and I’m not going to give up on it, no way!

Please visit my website for links to my books, and extracts from my latest book VARANGIAN, which I hope you enjoy.
Or follow the link for Amazon.com…HERE

Leave a comment

Filed under fiction writing

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!
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!

Leave a comment

Filed under fiction writing

Adventures in writing – the birth of a book; how I developed the story of Harald Hardrada, the VARANGIAN.

The problem with writing – perhaps the biggest problem – it is totally addictive. It is a strange phenomenon, but by nature I am normally a patient person until it comes to writing… Something happens and the opposite becomes the case. When a story is in my head, I write like a demon. Possessed…Perhaps that’s a bit too strong, but certainly I would call it an addiction. But a good one!
Take my latest novel, ‘Varangian’. A historical novel based around the life and times of Harald Hardrada. This first volume tells of his time serving the emperors of Byzantium, or New Rome as they themselves called it. I’m currently working on the second instalment, as this is what I want to talk about this time. How I went about researching the story, plotting it, and then…ah…the addiction! Because half way through the sequel I had the crazy notion of writing a prequel. Yes, that’s right. Two volumes to be written, perhaps at the same time…madness? Let’s see.
I’ve been a teacher for many years, and my interest in history has always been deep, so it was natural for me to study the subject at university and help me gain entry into my chosen career. Twenty-two years later, I still love my job. Every year I teach the extraordinary events surrounding the momentous year, 1066. How three great men fought for possession of the English throne. We all know that only one prevailed, but what a story it is. And for me, the greatest and most fascinating of those contenders for the crown was Harald Sigurdsson, or Hardrada (the Ruthless) as he is better known.
Every year I’d stand in front of a new class of students and enthral them with stories of this incredible character, trying to give them a sense of his drive, his ambition, his desire to be remembered as a worthy and great man. As I embroidered the story with snippets from his earlier life it slowly dawned on me that here was a book that needed writing, in such as way that would make it accessible, interesting and, above all, entertaining.
Two years ago I began serious research and read everything I could about his time in Byzantium. I’ve always been a keen wargamer and so the military side of things took precedence. But the more I discovered, the more I realised that here was a tale, not only of blood and battle, but of intrigue, duplicity, betrayal…and sex. Lots of sex, because Hardrada was the lover of the empress Zoe, and when he began to take a shine to her niece, she threw him in prison. An interesting woman in her own right, it was rumoured that Zoe had more than a little to do with the mysterious deaths of her two previous husbands. There was never any proof of course, but in that hot pot of wagging tongues called Constantinople, there were many who voiced their suspicions loud and clear, fearless of Zoe’s wrath and disgusted by her brazen exploits. Zoe loved being empress, and all the trappings that went with it, both in and outside the bed-chamber!
Hardrada escaped, and we do not know how. Some accounts talk of a mysterious woman – the niece perhaps – who brought him the key to the cell; others that he flew away out of the window, others that he made some sort of a deal. He was rich, having accumulated a secret horde of treasure from his many exploits right around the Mediterranean. But how would Zoe react to his escape, and what would the new emperor, Michael V, do? A debauched individual, helped to the throne by Zoë herself, his legacy is not a good one. He almost single-handedly brought the Empire to ruin, a man concerned more with the pomp and glory of being emperor than the massive responsibility it entailed. Like the worst of the old Roman emperors, he wined and wenched his way through his reign, pointedly ignoring the religious aspects of his crown. Not as famous as Caligula or Comodus perhaps, but certainly on a par with them, his fall from power, when it came, was swift and merciless. This was what spurred me on, embroidering the history with my imagination and my book was born. Varangian. The story of Hardrada’s time in Constantinople as the leader of the elite Varangian Guard, soldiers from the Norse, fabled for their prowess in battle they had a fearsome reputation. And the greatest of them all was Hardrada himself, a legend in his own lifetime, a man who had songs and sagas written about him. A man who wrote poetry, and cleaved heads. What a character!
The book, once accepted for publication by Rebel-E publishers, begged for further instalments; there was still so much to tell. So I set to planning out the sequel. This would take Hardrada’s story to the next stage; his seizing of the Norwegian throne. But I have interwoven the continuing intrigues of the Byzantine court, to follow Zoë’s story, and those of the men who flocked all around her. I have invented various other characters to move the narrative along and, hopefully, to invest it with a fair amount of plot twists to keep the readers guessing.
We all know how this story will end, for that is no secret. But I intend to make it surprising nevertheless. For that, however, we will all have to wait for volume three. And this brings me back to my initial point. The more I researched, the more fascinated I became with Harald, and as I closed Varangian and began to work on the second instalment, I realised too that there was much still to be written about his youth. How did he become who he was, what led him to the Byzantium Empire? So I embarked on more research, looked again at the original sagas and have unearthed a thrilling story that simply cries out to be told.
Of course my publishers know this. But what will they do? Shall we go with the second volume, and continue Harald’s life, or shall we turn back time and discover the reasons why this man became one of the greatest heroes of his age, a man who came within a breath of becoming King of England and changing the entire course of history.
Now, wouldn’t that be a story!

The cover for my forthcoming historical novel 'Varangian'.

The cover for my forthcoming historical novel ‘Varangian’.

VARANGIAN is to be published in October, 2013 and will be available from ALL online bookstores , in paperback and for all e-reader platforms. Visit my website or my Facebook page for further updates: http://www.stuartgyates.com. I hope you enjoy reading the book as much as I did writing it. It’s not a pretty story, but it is a fascinating one and has something for everyone.
Thanks for dropping by, and keep reading.

Leave a comment

Filed under fiction writing

Adventures in writing…a personal journey by Stuart G Yates: back on track!

The main difference between writing a work of historical fiction, as opposed to what could be termed ‘ordinary’ fiction is, of course, the research. The facts have to be correct. There’s no getting away from this if the story is to be authentic, and not a fantasy piece. I have always longed to write historical fiction and some of my Young Adult works have been well grounded in research. My first published work, ‘Cold Hell in Darley Dene’ dealt with the immediate post-war years, and the aftermath of what happened during a bombing raid on Birkenhead in 1941. I knew the story, but I still had to check up on the facts. However, it was during the writing of ‘Death’s Dark Design’ that I seriously took up the mantel of research. This involved labouring through masses of literature, weaving all the numerous threads that would bind the story together. It was set during the civil wars in England between Henry VI and Edward IV (which became known as The Wars of the Roses), and I had to link this into what was happening in Eastern Europe at the same time. Because, of course, my villain was a vampire, and had to meet up with Vlad Tepes (whom some of you may know as Dracula). It was fascinating, and my own work of fiction grew as a consequence and became, for me, one of the best things I have done.

When I began to turn my mind away from paranormal fiction, I wrote a historical pierce set in Spain in the Seventeenth Century. ‘The Story of Don Luis’ grew out of what was happening to a boy in my school. He was being relentlessly bullied and was becoming ill because of it. I couldn’t do very much, being a lowly teacher, but I told him I would show everyone what a great person he was, that he was better than any of those who were making his life a misery. I would write a book, and it would be about him.

That summer, I did just that. ‘Don Luis’ deals with a young boy who is hounded by the local toughs. They make every day hell for him, because he is ‘different’. He can read. I poured my heart into it, and produced a story that showed that strength of character and love can conquer all. cover

When he saw the book, Luis burst into tears, but they were tears of joy. It is one of my fondest memories about writing. How books can change lives. Wow, that saying has never been more true than when it came to Luis’s reaction. It helped him, I believe, in realising that he has so much to offer, and is a far better person than those who attempted to hurt him.

I researched that story, got everything right. One day, I will write the sequel. I have ideas for a series of books about ‘Don Luis’, but they will have to wait, because now I have the bug gripping me about William ‘Rufus’. More about that, next time.

Until then, I’d like to wish everyone a very Happy Christmas. I love this time of year and I sincerely hope that love and peace visits you all at some point over the festive season. As Dickens says, ‘God bless us, everyone!’

You can visit my websites to read about my books and where to buy them

For Young Adult paranormal books (including Death’s Dark Design) go to www.glennstuart.co.uk

For adult and ‘cross-over’ works, including ‘The Story of Don Luis’, go to www.stuartgyates.com

Thanks for reading.



Filed under Uncategorized