Tag Archives: Vikings

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 – my Western, part one.

Writing during the summer months usually finds me accelerating my output, embarking on new projects, finishing off old ones.

This year is no different, despite soaring temperatures causing the entire process to be an arduous one!

With July barely half way through, I’ve completed the final edits of my novella ‘Fallen Past’, and the first adaptation for a television serial of my book ‘Roadkill’. With both of these out of the way, I can put my energy into writing biographies for famous Vikings, which I’ve been invited to do for an artist friend of mine (more news of that when it is done) and starting a new novel, in a genre I have always wanted to try.

The Western!

I reckon (notice the easy way in which I slip into Western-like parlance!) I should keep a log of my progress, so here it is.

DAY ONE

Writing first few chapters. In a deadbeat town in the Utah of the 1850s, a retired army general is embroiled in a bank robbery and is shot. As he lies bleeding, his daughter is abducted. US Marshalls, summoned to find the daughter as our good general is a hero of the Mexican War, are waylaid and killed, possibly by Indians. The Pinkerton Detective Agency over in Illinois, charged with finding the missing girl, send Officer Simms  out across the Territory to find her. Simms knows the general, served with him in the War. He’s the perfect choice. He’s also a killer, which might help.

But he’s travelling to a violent, unpredictable land. An added terror is the land is gripped by the worst drought in living memory. This does nothing to lighten Simms’s mood. Soon, starving Indians, merciless bounty-hunters and other, even more despicable individuals punctuate his progress. But he can handle it. Simms is tough. The toughest there is. Utah may be about to find itself pitched into all-out war, but none of this matters one jot to Simms. All he cares about is the girl.

But will he find her alive?

Well, okay, I’ve put down 8,000 words so far, which is about a tenth of the way through, which isn’t bad for my first outing. I might have it done in less than two weeks at this rate! More of the same tomorrow, because when a story takes hold, there’s no way I can shrug it off.

I’m not sure if it will be successful. I don’t even know if a publisher will accept it. Westerns aren’t the most popular of genres, but I don’t care. I’m past all that now. I write for myself, what I enjoy. This used to be my benchmark, and so it is again. I’ve discovered in this business, publishers don’t really give a damn. Not many others do either, and I can’t blame them. It is impossible to make yourself known in this business nowadays, so what is the point in killing yourself in trying. That’s my motto now. I write, for me. If someone else likes it, that’s a bonus. The world is awash with books, a lot of them are pure bilge, and authors battle like demented insects around a light bulb, all of them jostling for the best position. I see it and read it all the time; Twitter and Facebook alive with adverts and posts screaming out why you should read such-and-such book. I steer clear of them all. I suspect people do the same with mine, because yes, I do indulge. One of my publishers tells me to, even though it’s all a bunch of crap. Anyway, I digress. This book is going to be great fun. Great fun to write, hopefully to read.

Next time, I’ll detail subsequent chapters.

Stay tuned and thanks for dropping by.

If you are in the least bit curious as to what I do, please visit my website where you can find out a lot more about me, my work and where to buy copies of my book! If you like spies, adventure and Vikings, you’ll like my books. I write thrillers, historical and contemporary ones, and now Westerns! Yeeha!!!

www.stuartgyates.com

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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 – two thoughts

Two items this month, which I hope interest you.
A few days ago, I received the final edits from my publisher of my latest novel ‘Whipped Up’ (the second in the Paul Chaise series, which began with ‘Burnt Offerings’) and it started me thinking about the whole editor/author partnership and how vital it is.
Nowadays, with the explosion of self-published books, an entire industry has surfaced, one which I assume has always been there, lurking in the deep shadows, but which now is everywhere to see. I am bombarded by emails, as well as adverts on Facebook, for book-publishing services, editors, gurus, marketing advice, videos and blogs telling me how wonderful it is to be self-published. I’m not going to get into all the pros and cons of that, I’ve said it all before, but what struck me are some very simple facts.
For a book to be even moderately successful, it not only has to have at its core a good story, it has to readable. This means fundamental aspects of grammar, syntax, spelling. No matter how good we might think we are, a second, or indeed third eye looking through our work, is essential. But nothing beats a good editor. Someone who has the knack to notice what you never did, even after the fourth draft. Stupid things like ‘an’ when it should have been ‘and’, or, what I am particularly guilty of, mixing up people’s names. My editor has such an eye; she asks such incisive questions, forcing me to think deep about my reasons for writing a particular line, or even using a particular word. Whatever your level, you need and editor, and a damned good one at that.
So, how do you find one? I have no idea. This is one of the many reasons why I steer clear of self-publishing. It’s a minefield. Do you put in a search, look out for recommendations, what? I read somewhere there are now almost as many writers as there are readers. You only have to go on Amazon to see the numbers. It’s mind-blowing, all the wannabees out there. And they’ll all be using these ‘services’, so the opportunity to make lots of money is so easy. The vast majority of self-pubbed writers will never write a second book, some will write more and they will be as dreadful as the first, and a tiny few will work hard, improve their craft, and make a modicum of success. This demands hard work, determination and, most fundamental of all, a love of writing. It’s not something you can be taught to do, not matter what the hype or the power-salespeople tell you. Read good fiction, not ‘How to be a Writer’. Be consumed with the desire, work at it, treat it as a job, and always carry a notebook. Write, write, and write some more. But please, don’t pay attention to the so-called experts. Ever wondered why they’re not writing fiction? How many great authors have written how-to books? I mean books, not articles. Stephen King, Elmore Leonard, a few others. But not many. Best thing, write your book as if your life depends on it and get yourself a publisher and with it, a good editor. It’s all free and that, in this mad, mad world in which we live, has got to be a good thing!

I’ve been writing a novel recently, one which explores the fascinating world of reincarnation, parallel universes and how our present is shaped by the past. I included some scenes from the reign of Richard II of England, the king who, at the tender age of fourteen, stood up to Wat Tyler during the Peasants’’ Revolt, lied and succeeded in maintaining his power. Well, he was much more than that. It appears he was easily led, may have been in lust with one of his favourites (how many times does that happen in history! My God, what a list it is, of kings having it away with their bosom pals!) and struggled ceaselessly with the nobility. He fell out famously with one Henry Bolingbroke and that, ultimately, was his undoing. When Bolingbroke invaded England to claim the throne from the deeply unpopular Richard, he had the former-king incarcerated in Pontefract Castle in Yorkshire. He was never seen again.
Shakespeare, in his play, had Richard murdered whilst imprisoned. Historians have cast some doubt on this, but the truth is nobody actually knows. In my book, I played around with this idea and came up with one of my own. And as I wrote, I gained quite an affection for Richard. A tragic figure who simply faded away. I teach history, and his story is never touched upon in school, but I see him just as worthy of investigation as William II’s death, or the mystery of the Princes in the Tower. One of the joys of writing historical fiction is we can play around with the facts. We don’t know everything and never will. It’s too long ago. And there lies the opportunity for our imagination to be let free! I love writing historical fiction and can’t wait to get my teeth into the third volume of my Hardrada series. My first volume is doing quite well, so why not check it out for yourselves over on Amazon. ‘Varangian’ is a fast-moving tale of double-crossing royals and generals, of fighting men and servant girls, all set in the magnificent city of Constantinople. The second volume, ‘To be King of the Norse’ is now with the publisher and should be out in the autumn. After that, I think I might just delve ever more deeply into the tragic world of Richard II. Sounds like a plan!
Thanks for stopping by and please, if you get the chance, take a look at my website for more information about my work. http://www.stuartgyates.com.
Keep reading everyone!

 

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