Tag Archives: Varangian

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…westerns at 84

Okay, so this month, I’m off to the UK for a well-deserved holiday. Well, that’s how I see it. I’m worried about the heat. It is 40 degrees here in Spain (that’s about 110 degrees Fahrenheit), but I see on the news temperatures are hitting 35 over in Blighty! Maybe it will be like the time I went to Berlin, thinking it would be so much cooler. So much so, I didn’t pack any shorts. And boy did I regret it! I’ve known such heat. Anyway, this time I will pack some, as I will be visiting Parkgate and, as you all know, that is an infamous place for getting burnt, so I’ll pack the sun cream too.

Well, here I am getting all excited and just before I go, I have read an interesting post from Simon Kernick about his struggles with his latest book. Simon is a great writer, with a list of truly fantastic thrillers, so the thought of him battling over a book, reaching 20 pages and abandoning it, kind of gives me some hope.

Well, I say that, but having just entered a writing competition, I’m not so sure.

This competition was supposed to be therapy for the state of the publishing industry at the moment. I am becoming increasingly frustrated at the speed with which they work. I want my books out there, but no…I have to wait. And I’m very impatient. I’m old. I am running out of time and I’m trying to make up for all those years I’ve lost being a pratt. I write like a lunatic, but the publishers don’t care. They go along at their sweet merry rate. Snail-s pace that means. No wonder so many opt for self-publishing. Anyway, that’s beside the point. I entered this competition to prove I have lots of other books waiting, waiting, forever waiting. But I was hoodwinked into believing this had something to do with writing. It hadn’t. It was a popularity competition and, as I know full well, I’m not very popular. I didn’t realise this until my good friends began to vote. Five votes. The leader had 50. I had no chance, so I withdrew.

So now, I’m totally pissed off.

I had thought about giving it all up. I still might. Maybe when I’ve completed my Hardrada series. I’m going to write the fifth volume, then perhaps jack it all in. When I’m…around 85 maybe. That seems like a good time.

We’ll see.

Until then, I have tons of books to write. I believe my best one hasn’t been written yet.

But I’m not going to be put off because people don’t buy my books, or support me, or anything else. Well, I say no ne. That’s not quite true. A lovely, lovely friend at work bought my first Varangian book and she was so amazed I almost burst into tears. Sometimes, people say and do the most amazing things.

I’m going to keep going, keep writing. I have the sequel to my don Luis book to complete AND, as a little tonic, I have decided to write a Western. And, do you know what, I love it. You never know, this just might be the one.

But it won’t be until I’m 84 before I know it.

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Adventures in Writing … bullying for authors

One of the great things about being an author is, you are your own boss.

You don’t have anyone breathing over your shoulder, checking up on what you’re doing, making the criticisms, making your life feel worthless.

Well … if you’re a full-time writer that is.

The problem is if you still have to hold down a job to pay the bills, as writing simply doesn’t give you that luxury. I wish it did. Maybe one day it will for me, but not right now…

So, I juggle between the two. I work and I write, mainly at weekends, but also during holidays (when I become fanatical!).

And here is my focus this month … bullying.

I’m a teacher. We spend a lot of our time talking to the students about bullying, how to fight against it, how to do our best to stop it. But human nature is what it is. There will always be individuals who will try to impose themselves on you. And that is bullying. Simple.

I was bullied at school. The problem with me was, the bullying took place AFTER school. They would stand beneath my bedroom window and jeer at me for going to bed early, or they would come and knock on my front room window as I sat and had my supper. I never told my parents. Don’t ask me why. I just never did. And then, when I was out, they would stalk me, and push and shove, call me names, and once, the most awful time I can remember, they grabbed me by the ankles and held me over the edge of a cliff. They shouted and jeered, demanding I say ‘Don’t drop me, don’t drop me, PLEASE’. Instead, I said, ‘No.’ I wasn’t going to give into them. They had nowhere to go, their threats had failed. So they pulled me back and from that moment, they never troubled me again.

I’m not tough. I’m not that hard. Okay, I can trade punches, but my life has taught me there are better ways to sought out differences and this is what I teach my students.

Fighting, violence … it is never the answer.

So now, I have a situation. I’m being bullied again, only this time it is at work. The asshole I work with has decided my desk is too untidy, so he has taken it upon himself to clear away all my papers. In fact, he’s done this more than once. I took a few days off sick and when I came back, everything was gone. The problem is, I don’t know where.

So … what do I do?

Do I ask him, politely and meekly, where have my things gone, or…

Do I stand up?

Enough is enough, I feel.

There comes a point when you simply have to say ‘No.’ I may be the untidiest person in the world, the most disorganised, but that is still MY DESK. How dare he, or anyone else, pick up MY things and move them.

Enough.

So tomorrow, I stand up. I tell him, ‘you have no right to move my things’ and I’ll see what he says. And if he wants a ruck, I’ll give him one. I used to be pretty good, but I haven’t traded punches for at least 20 years. But, I know a few things. I reckon I could break his nose before he even knows what time it is.

Mm, seems to go against everything I’ve just said. But, do you know what, sometimes … well …sometimes. I wish I was like Hardrada. Bury my battle-axe deep in the asshole’s head.

The great thing about all of this, I can use the entire scenario in a book. Now there’s the joy of being an author. Experience. Writing the truth.

Amen to that.

I’ll let you know how it all pans out.

The GREAT news is, my latest book is now published! Varangian, King of the Norse is the second in my Hardada series, and I’m hopeful. I think it is better than the first, and the first has received plenty of amazing 5-star reviews. So, get out their guys, and buy yourself a copy. Christmas is coming, so why not buy them both! You know it makes sense.

Find the new book HERE.

Thanks for dropping by, and keep on reading!

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Adventures in Writing … interview with Cat

I’ve recently had the good fortune of being interviewed by one of Rebel-E’s wonderful and successful authors, Cat Connor. (Check them out HERE). She is quirky and great fun and seems to have a healthy obsession with zombies, which is cool. I’m watching ‘The Walking Dead’ a TV series of which Stephen King, no less, is a great fan, and it’s great. Not because it has zombies in it, but because it just a great story. But, I digress. One of her questions was the perennial, ‘why do you write?’

I have trouble answering this question.

I’m a natural rebel (maybe that’s why I submitted to RebelE? Who knows). I hate being told what to do. I don’t follow the crowd, never have. This has sometimes resulted in me getting into hot water, but there’s not a lot I can do; it’s the way I am.

So … not wishing to insult anyone, as far as I can see there are two main reasons.

One, people write to make money;

Two, people write because they love it.

I guess some of us fall into both categories, but if you write because you love it, the monetary gain is a wonderful by product of our desire, our need to tell stories. And it is wonderful to make some money, of course it is. But it’s not my main motivation, not by a long way.

I’m a story-teller. I simply love conjuring up new tales to write. I don’t know how I do it. I sit down and write. There’s no mystery, as far as I’m concerned, but I am aware that this something of a thin, possibly unsatisfactory explanation.

I’ve tried to analyse why I do it. It causes all sorts of problems for those around me. It impacts on my social life (of which I have none), and it makes me seem self-centred, selfish, even boring. Whilst others – colleagues, friends, loved-ones – go about their lives, all I do is sit down at my desk and bash away at the keyboard. If you’re not a writer, how can you possibly understand? It’s the downside, I guess, to writing. BUT, if you are creative, you have no choice. If I do not write, I am tetchy, unfulfilled, short-tempered, I stomp around like a big bear brought out of hibernation too soon. More than anything, I feel guilty.

I’m not sure if those who write for money have the same emotional response. And what happens if they don’t make any money? They stop, give up, and latch onto something else. Writers who do it because they have no choice write another book. Then another.

Well, to help me answer Cat’s question, I turned to others for some inspiration. George Orwell put down four reasons why, and his words rang so true for me. I won’t go into all of what he said, but the idea of us longing to have our opinions heard has a lot to be said for it. All too often, I am ignored, not listened to. My opinions don’t count for much. Those around me are far more vociferous than I. I’m not good in social gatherings. I’m too self-conscious, too shy. I’d rather sit in silence, than air my own thoughts. And we are surrounded by so many armchair experts who spout off constantly about what they know. The internet, Wikipedia, the Discovery Channel, have made everyone an expert. It’s also closed people’s minds to the possibilities of formulating one’s own judgements. Sheep.

I’m not a sheep.

I get into trouble because I do not believe the BS.

But I write. And that’s me, my way to give voice to what burns inside.

Perhaps I should have said that in answer to Cat’s question. I’m not sure if I did. Ho hum…

 

I’m working on my website!  Woohoo! I’m adding all sorts of things to flesh out my stories. I’ve already put in some background interest, and extended extracts, so why not call in and have a look HERE. It’s all building to the release of the second in my Varangian series, which should be available very soon.

It’s all very exciting! So keep reading.

 

 

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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 … some news so far

Wow, what a difference a month makes!

This month everything has changed quite dramatically, in terms of forthcoming publications, etc.

For a long time, 2014 has been somewhat dormant. I’ve been writing, editing, planning, all the usual stuff that a writer is required to indulge in, but for a very long time none of my work has appeared in print or on e-book.

Well, all that has changed!

My agent sent me some good news. It seems that the revised and extended version of ‘Ogre’s Lament – a Don Luis Story’ has been accepted for publication! This is great news for me, as I think this is a good story. I’m already well into the second book, so I’m extremely excited about the whole thing! For those of you who don’t know, the novel is a historical murder/adventure, set in the mid’17th century. All of the stories involve a young man named Luis who is something of a celebrity – he can read! He lives in a remote Spanish village and the first story sees him maturing into a resourceful and fearless young man as he faces down a bunch of blood-thirsty mercenaries on the hunt for gold! The ogre is a legend, developed by the mercenaries to keep the curious out of the mountains where the gold is buried … or is it a legend? As the story develops we soon realise that not everything is at it first appears.

I wrote a story some time ago entitled ‘Fallen Past’. It was a smaller book, one which I found very moving to write as it is so very personal. It languished on my memory-drive as I wasn’t at all sure what genre I could place it in. So, I went back to it, developed it, changed a lot and added a lot more. What I ended up with was an even more moving tale! Then I came across a publisher who wanted to publish ‘feel-good books’! Well … I couldn’t resist, so I submitted ‘Fallen Past’, and it was accepted! It should be out in the spring of 2015. Quite a wait, but I think it will be worth it. A young boy is on a collision course with an old, embittered man … but the more they meet, the more a grudging respect develops between them. In the end, they become friends. They have a shared sense of guilt over what they have done in totally unconnected acts in the past. This is their link. Their bond. I won’t tell you about the end, but I think you’ll enjoy it.

Further to the above, ‘Whipped Up’, the 2nd in the Paul Chaise series will be out soon. And following that ‘King of the Norse’ will be published, which takes Harald Hardrada’s story to the next level. Of course, I have to write the 3rd volumes for both. I’m about 32,000 words into Hardrada’s story, but poor old Chaise only has the first chapter.

And then, as if that wasn’t enough, I’ve submitted a contemporary thriller entitled ‘Overstretched’ and I’m working on an extended version of ‘Sallowed Blood’ which will be in two parts so that Daniel’s story is developed into the most spine-tingling direction imaginable.

All very busy and all very exciting. A writer should never stop writing. One project should lead onto the next in a never-ending stream. This is what it means to be a writer. As if to underline the point, as is typical with me, I’ve had an idea for a story and it will not leave my head. So, I might be putting all my efforts into that!

All details are on my web-site (which is about to be extended, to include more news and more extracts) so please pop along and have a look.

www.stuartgyates.com

Thanks for visiting this blog and remember, carry on reading!

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Adventures in writing … thoughts on those how-to guides

Coming to the end of what has been a great summer holiday, writing is proving somewhat difficult. It’s too hot, my head is still firmly stuck in Cumbria, and I have so much to do I don’t know where to begin.

I’m waiting on a book to be finalised, cover chosen, printed, etc. I sent it out to some beta-readers (whatever that means) and they picked up a few tiny problems. The editor said this would happen, that the more people who read it the better. Anyway, all being well, it should be out by the end of September 2014.

Two different publishers have accepted two other books of mine for publication. So, I’m happy. Of course I am. It doesn’t mean I’m Lee Child, but at least I’m getting out there. All being well, another three books published by the end of this year will see my tally growing to 18 published works.

Then I receive an email and all of this euphoria is dashed.

It was one of those junk-mail things; you know the ones I mean, the same sort that used to come through your door in the days before the Internet, or which were stuffed inside the Radio Times. Well, it’s the same thing. A host of stuff you simply have no interest in whatsoever. This one was a little more interesting, but extremely annoying.

It was from Kindle. You may have heard of them. They ambushed me with a long list of books and every single one of them offered me the chance to ‘Write a mystery book that sells’, or discover ‘The Easy Way to Write Fantasy’, and even, ‘Make money through writing fiction!’.

Okay, I know there is a whole army of people out there now who want to write a book. So they do. And Kindle gives them all the tools. And now, here we have every guide known to man, written by established authors, all of whom want you to achieve great success and earn heaps of money.

Whoo-hoo!

Mm…Okay, let’s just backtrack a little here.

First, there is nothing wrong with wanting to write a book. In fact, it’s great. I am forever encouraging people to write. The mechanics of writing means, simply put, hard work. To write 100,000 words takes a lot of graft. BUT, if you want to do it, you can. However, you need to know one or two painful truths. One, I do not believe story telling can be taught. WRITING can, but not story telling. Anyone can write. Anyone can learn grammar, syntax and all the rest. Cool. But is that creating stories which make your jaw drop to the floor, which have you crying like a baby into your pillow, or laughing aloud like a hyena on crystal-meth? No. I do not believe anybody can be taught how to tell a good story. It’s not just about structure, the snowflake, starting from the middle or the end, or from wherever you want to start from. It’s something, which lives inside you, something which will not let go, which dominates every waking moment of every single day. If you can’t tell a story, there is no point in picking up a how-to book. So, if you do have the knack, if you can hold people’s attention with tales of daring-do, why not pick up one of these guides?

Because they don’t work.

Because they all say the same things.

And it makes my blood boil, because there are probably thousands of people out there buying these things. And they are selling more than I am, and that hacks me off too.

No, I believe the only way to learn how to write is…to write. Write and read. Then read some more. Get a publisher who believes in you, and an editor who can fix the stupid grammar bits you missed. I’m forever getting mixed up with past and passed. And I’ve been told off more than once for using ‘started to’ or ‘beginning with’. So, I’m not going to use those again. But my editor doesn’t tell me how to plot. She doesn’t order me to change scenes and characters, etc. The reason they accepted my book in the first place was because the story was damned good. The grammar was okay, but that is easily fixed. A bad story can never be fixed.

I looked up some of the authors of these guides, see how they were doing with their own books. Well, one or two were doing fine, but most were not. And the reviews they were receiving left a lot to be desired. So, have they written these guides to make money, to prey on the dreams of aspiring novelists, by offering them the ‘Teach yourself How To Be An Author’ way to fame and fortune?

Of course they have. And people buy these things! Why not join a writing club, get down to your library, read your stories to kids, or even adults, sign up to Authonomy or YouWriteOn? Get some feedback, do the leg-work, learn the craft.  And when you’ve written one book and you’ve submitted it, write another. And keep writing! That’s the key, not a secret to be found in the pages of a 75 cent guide that is shooting up the charts all because so many have swallowed the bait.

I keep saying it; writing is not a get-rich-quick scheme. But it seems as if not many prospective wannabe Harlan Cobens out there have quite come to terms with this fact yet.

For news of my latest books and when they are available, keep checking out my website. www.stuartygyates.com

Thanks for dropping by, and don’t worry, I won’t be writing any guides to getting published…not now, not ever.

Keep reading!

 

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