Latest News

Behind the Scenes II: Wolf of the North

Hey folks,

This week’s post is back to my ‘Behind the Scenes’ series, where I have a look back to the things that inspired the story. This week I’m taking a look back to my Wolf of the North series, which was first published way back in 2016. It really doesn’t seem that long ago!

I had the original idea for this story not long after I finished The Tattered Banner. I thought of using some of the ideas in the Society of the Sword trilogy, but decided pretty early on that it had enough to it to warrant an entire trilogy of its own.

Because of this, the first half of the first draft was set in Auracia, the country to the south of the Ostia setting for Society of the Sword. That would have placed it in a pretty familiar Renaissance Italy style setting, and I decided about half way in that it would be more interesting for the reader, and more fun for me to set it somewhere different within the story world I’d created, so I went back to the start and reworked the story to a new setting related to the area of history I was interested in at the time.

The ending was the part that came to me first, and creating the story was all about building the events that led to that moment. It’s because of that, more than anything I think, that I chose to end this after three books. I usually don’t like endings to a series I’m writing, but that was the scene I wrote first, and the part I really wanted to get to. In retrospect, I think I’d like to have written five or six books in the series, as I really loved the dynamic between the characters I had created. It’s something I’d perhaps like to revisit at some point, but I’m not really sure how I could make that work, considering that the ending to that particular tale has already been written!

Although this trilogy has a very Norse/Viking vibe, the inspiration for much of the setting came from the Great Migration era of Northern Germany and Scandinavia, rather than specifically the Vikings. I’ve always been interested in the power vacuum that was left behind by the Roman empire, and how the cultures and nations of Europe came to be, so I was reading a lot of books on this period.

The story follows Wulfric, an unlikely young lad, as he develops into the most famed warrior of his age, along with all the tragedies and triumphs he encounters along the way (along with the three supporting characters who are my absolute favourite to have written so far!).

If you haven’t read it already, you can check the books out here:

Adventures of the Wee Beasties, Part I

Since coming into the house, Poppy and Willow, our new ragdoll kittens, have well and truly made our house their home. Their toys are scattered liberally around the place, and little tufts of cat hair drift gently in the breeze.

Timid exploration has become more confident, and if something is in the way, or blocking their desired route, it gets moved. They’ve also taken a keen interest in television. I watched the Book of Boba Fett over the past few evenings, and Willow wanted to get in on the action.

This is definitely behaviour we’re trying to discourage, as I don’t really want my TV covered with little scratch marks!

Their curiosity extends to anything that gets left on the floor, even for only a few seconds. This covers shopping bags, and of course, boxes! I was breaking up some boxes for recycling and turned around to find this:

Of course, all of this activity doesn’t come without a cost, and eventually everyone has to pay the piper. Even little kittens brimming with energy:

Back to Mini Painting!

We moved house a few months back, which has given me the space to set up my painting table once again, something I’m really happy about. While I’ve never really done any wargaming, I’ve always found mini painting a really cathartic way to unwind, so it’s great to be able to get back to it in a more conducive environment.

My first efforts back at the painting table are sadly not so great! This is the first model I’ve painted since before Lockdown 1, and I was surprised by how bad my brush control was. Although it improved steadily as I went, at the start it was almost impossible to get paint where I wanted it!

I was reminded of two things very quickly: When you get paint somewhere you want it, it takes forever to dry. If you get paint somewhere you don’t want it, it dries instantly—long before you can get a clean wet brush to it for clean up on aisle 3!

By the end I produced something I was reasonably happy with. I’ve decided that now I’m getting back to painting more regularly, I want to make a big effort to tackle the things I’ve always wanted to be able to do, namely non-metallic metal, the good blends you need to make it work, and some limited freehand. Might as well start as you mean to continue, so I through the lot at this model!

To the photos!

I’ve had this mini out of the box since before Lockdown 1, so I’m afraid I can’t recall who made it, nor where I got it.

I’m falling between two stools on this paint job, with two blending methods I quite like – glazing and a layering style using a very dry brush and light touch. Ultimately, I’d like to have both in my toolkit, but I was half using one and half using the other and not doing either particularly well. I expect that to change with practice though! I hope!

I think the NMM looks slightly better in reality, but I definitely didn’t ‘push the contrast’ far enough to make it work either on camera or as it should be for a mini of this size. That’s something I’m going to try to address on the next mini.

As for the freehand on the shield, well, it’s less ‘lions rampant’ and more ‘rodents somewhat pissed off’ but great journeys begin with a small step, and the only way you get better at something is by doing it. Over and over. The fact that it’s fun makes it easier!

Anyway, I’ve already taken the lessons I learned on this one to the next mini, which I will post in a couple of weeks when it’s done (it takes me about a week to ten days of 30-45 min sessions to paint one as I’m more focussed on getting the mini as good as I can and learning as much as possible, rather than getting a lot of them done in the efficient time frame you’d need if painting an army!) Until then!

Behind the Scenes 1: Society of the Sword

Hey folks,

I hope you’re all keeping well. I’ve come up with the idea of doing a short series taking a behind the scenes look at the books I’ve published up to this point. This week it’s going to be my first trilogy, Society of the Sword, which begins with The Tattered Banner.

The Society of the Sword trilogy is where it all started for me. It begins with The Tattered Banner, a book that was featured on Buzz Feed’s Best Fantasy Novels of 2013. It follows a young man, Soren, with an incredible talent, but who tends not to question good fortune when he encounters it, which leaves him open to being taken advantage by those with fewer scruples. He’s a bit player in events far bigger than him, but everyone is the hero of their own story, and this one explores how getting caught up in all of that affects him.

At the time of writing, I was going through a classic swashbuckler movie phase (The Mark of Zorro, Scaramouche, Captain Blood, The Three Musketeers among many others!), and I think the book clearly shows the influence of that. I was then, as always, very interested in Renaissance Europe, so that heavily influenced the setting and the world building.

Combining the two, I came up with the idea of a story set in a school of swordsmanship in great Renaissance style trading city. My initial plan was to keep all of the events of the story within the city, but as is often the case the story, the events led me to places I had not expected, which involved me doing a lot more world building, and fleshing out many areas of my Middle Sea world.

I’d still like to write something contained entirely within the city. There’s more than enough variety in it to sustain a full trilogy, or even longer series, and the city of Ostenheim continues to be a place that fascinates and intrigues me whenever I allow my mind wander its streets to flesh out the neighbourhoods I haven’t visited yet.

The Tattered Banner being my first book, I had no idea if there’d be a second, so although I had a good idea of where I’d take the story if continuing with it, I had nothing substantive written before publishing it.

If you haven’t read it already, you can check the books out here:

And all three books in audio, narrated by Derek Perkins, here:

I hope you enjoyed this little peak behind the curtain! I plan to do one for each of my other trilogies over coming weeks, so stay tuned!

Introducing the Wee Beasties!

We’ve had two new additions at Castle Hamilton in the past couple of weeks. I’d like to introduce you all to Poppy and Willow, two sister ragdoll kittens.

Poppy (left) and Willow (right)

Poppy was very nervous at the start, while Willow was a bit braver and headed out exploring almost right away, finding a small hole above the kitchen kickboard that we unaware of even after a weekend of cat-proofing the house. They both disappeared inside for 6 or 7 hours during which we grew increasingly nervous that they were stuck in there, and went without dinner for fear of turning on the oven and unintentionally baking them in the process!

While going through my tool box to work out the least damaging way to remove the kickboard and cabinet spacer to fish them out, a little head popped out of the hole for a look around to see what was going on. Crinkling a plastic food pouch created a sound that was interesting to Willow (although they are both unbribable with treats – they’d do Elliot Ness proud!), so she emerged to investigate.

We quickly scooped her up so she couldn’t get back in, then proceeded to crinkle the pouch for about an hour until Poppy got lonely and followed her sister out. We blocked off the hole and spent another hour crawling around on the floor looking for any other holes we might have missed (that was the only one!).

They then spent the next two days hiding behind the couch, coming out only for food. By day three, they’d advanced to their teepee. At least for sleeping time.

They’re happily fully settled in now, playing with reckless abandon, eating, sleeping, and pooping (they produce an unbelievable amount of poop). I’ll be sure to post more updates on their adventures as they grow!

Wolf of the North Omnibus Out Today!

Just a quick post to let you all know that the Wolf of the North Omnibus edition is out in ebook format today!

The audiobook will follow next week, on Tues 9 August, narrated by Simon Vance.

I’ve had a few queries about paperback and hardback editions. Unfortunately, at over 1200 pages, this omnibus is too big for any of the printing options available at this time. If that changes, I’ll be sure to let you know!

I’ll also say I’m using a new blog editor, so apologies if this post appears a bit unusual! Hopefully it won’t!

Grab your copy now at the following links!

Wolf of the North Omnibus and News!

Hey folks,

I hope you’re having a good summer (or winter for everyone in the southern hemisphere!)!  We’re stuck in the tail end of a heat wave here, which is hopefully subsiding, as it caused quite a bit of devastation across Europe. If you’re in this part of the world, I hope you weren’t too badly affected by the heat!

As you can see from the title, I’m releasing Wolf of the North as an omnibus edition, but more on that a little later. First, some news and updates!

I’m currently working on the final part of the Blood of Kings trilogy, which is one part fun and one part slog. I always find the last part of a trilogy hard to write. It’s not because I don’t know what’s going to happen – this is usually the first thing I come up with. I’ve wondered quite a bit why this is, and the only reason I can come up with, is that part of me doesn’t want to write it!

Finishing a trilogy means saying goodbye to characters that I’ve spent two to three years with, have gotten to know really well, and have gotten used to having in my head. It always feels sad to be closing the door on that. In some cases (without giving anything away), it even means killing some of them off, and that’s something I really don’t enjoy doing!

I’m hoping to get this book out next spring, so stay tuned for more updates.

With my sci-fi hat (helmet?) on, I’ve got the second Alpha Protocol book at an advanced stage. It’s titled ‘First Officer’, and picks up where we left Jack Samson and humanity facing down the mystery remains of one alien race and potential of war with another one. I’m planning on getting this book out in the coming autumn!

The last bit of news I have is that I’m releasing an omnibus edition of the Wolf of the North trilogy. It’s been almost six years since I released the first book in that trilogy, which seems hard to believe. It really only feels like a few months ago that I was working through edits on it!

I’ve had some new cover art done up for the trilogy, which is in keeping with the series, but a little bit unique. It’s available for pre-order now, and will be out in both ebook and audiobook following along shortly afterwards. You can pick up a copy over on Amazon:

It’s by far my most popular trilogy, so if you haven’t read Wolf of the North yet, this is a great opportunity to get all three books at once and binge through it!

As always, the best advertising is word of mouth. If you’ve enjoyed reading my books, I’d really appreciate it if you have the time to leave a review, or mention them to your friends and in the online fantasy communities. It really helps me out!

This time ten years ago I was working hard to learn how to publish my first book, The Tattered Banner (although it didn’t come out until April 2013!). It’s been an incredible journey since then, and it’s hard to believe I’ve been able to make a career out of writing. None of this would be possible without your continued support and interest in my books, so thank you all! I appreciate it more than I have the words to express.

Duncan

The Banneret is Out Today!

Hello all!

I hope you’re all keeping well!

As the title suggests, I’m pleased to announce that today is release day for The Banneret – Blood of Kings Book 2. It picks up Conrad’s story a few years on from where the first book left off, just as the demon menace rears its ugly head once more. Things are going to get tense!

The ebook, and audiobook narrated by John Lee, are available now and the paperback will follow soon. You can pick up a copy today at the following links:

Amazon.com

Amazon UK

Amazon Canada

Amazon Australia

Amazon Germany

Here’s the back cover copy of The Banneret to give you a taste of what the book is all about:

Demons have been hunted to the verge of extinction. Those who know of the horrors lurking in the dark act as though the threat is long past. It has allowed Conrad to continue his education undisturbed, to work towards joining his friends as a comrade-in-arms rather than a child to be protected.

The appearance of two powerful demons changes everything. The creatures are back, stronger than ever, and the years of quiet are at an end. The Principality finds itself in need of demon hunters once again. Conrad and his comrades are the ones for the job.

The chain of clues draws them ever closer to what their unseen enemy desires, and they find themselves in a deadly race to stop it from regaining its former power.

Work on the third book in the trilogy is already well underway, so hopefully it won’t be too long a wait for the final installment! I hope you all enjoy reading The Banneret, and I want to thank you all for the support and interest you’ve shown in my work!

Best wishes,

Duncan

The Banneret Excerpt

Hey everyone,

I hope you’re all keeping well!

With the second part of the Blood of Kings trilogy coming out next week, I wanted to post a short excerpt of the story to whet your appetite!

A chill ran across Conrad’s skin. His hands were shaking when he looked at them. What was in that Ruripathian whisky? he wondered. In consideration of the day, they’d been drinking the good stuff—at least, that’s what Godfrid had said… He stared at his hands and tried to get them under control.

It took him a moment to reach far enough into his memory to understand why there was something familiar about this. His thoughts returned to a day he’d long tried to forget. The day his friend Henni had been killed. By demons. He was experiencing that same reaction to their presence. Here and now.

As if the chill on his skin was not already enough, it suddenly felt as though he’d been hit by an icy blast direct from the snowy peaks of the High Places. He looked around, his heart racing, and cursed for allowing himself to become drunk.

He had not seen a demon since that day in the small village in the east of Ruripathia. To the best of his knowledge, few had. He’d let his guard down. Grown complacent. He cursed again.

He looked around, feeling far more sober. It was odd what a moment of absolute terror could do for you. There were few people on the street at that hour of the evening, and most of them were either coming from or going to the Golden Belek.

A figure passed through the junction at the end of the street, a hooded cloak hiding its features. Every hair on Conrad’s body stood on end, and he was certain this person was the cause. He watched them pass out of sight, then decided to follow.

He moved as quietly as he could along the cobbled street, pausing at the corner and peeking around to make sure his quarry remained unaware of the pursuit. In the months and years that had followed Burgess Werner Berndorf’s mysterious death, things had gone quiet with regard to demons and demon magic. For a few months, royal troops had hunted and exterminated small groups of them, randomly roaming the countryside with no apparent aims, but that operation had not taken long. Now there were only infrequent sightings of the creatures, almost always alone and in isolated areas.

When one did appear somewhere—usually a remote village—it had to be dealt with, but they were comparatively rare events, and the creatures were always feral. Their more sophisticated brethren had disappeared. Gradually, the princess and her advisors concluded that, with Burgess Werner dead and his dabbling in demon magic stamped out, the threat had ended. Conrad had to admit that all the evidence supported this conclusion, but demons were not something he could ever forget, nor something he could fully believe would go away.

Until that moment in the street outside the Golden Belek, he had wondered if he was being a fool to cling to the past; if he was simply paranoid considering the horrible things that had befallen him and his family at the hands of the demons. Everyone else had given up on the idea, seeming satisfied that defeating Burgess Werner had been the victory. That only a little cleaning up remained. It was not an idea to which Conrad had ever been able to reconcile himself.

Aside from continuing to monitor the situation and search out artefacts and information that could better arm Crown agents against the use of demon magic, the Crown’s interest in demons had dwindled, and the resources made available to hunting them down had done likewise. Nicolo, Frantz, and Qenna were amongst the last few demon hunters still on the royal payroll, and as far as Conrad had heard, they weren’t at all busy.

Even though he might be fighting back the haze of alcohol, Conrad was as sure as he’d ever been that there was demon magic close by. Whether that meant this was an actual demon or a dabbler in the magic remained to be seen. Conrad wasn’t sure if he wanted to find out, but he felt compelled to follow. He knew the danger was great. If this was a demon, it was not one of the feral ones, which were motivated purely by hunger. If it was a user of demon magic, then this individual was powerful.

Conrad wondered if he was an idiot to follow the figure, if he was walking himself into trouble, but this was something he couldn’t turn his back on. Although he viewed the blood-debt oath he had sworn when he was a child as unrealistic, part of him continued to yearn for vengeance on the creatures that had killed his parents, and threatened to do the same to many more if they weren’t stopped. This could be a sign that the monsters were becoming active again. If so, then the palace would be very eager to hear about it.

The figure moved briskly down the street, forcing Conrad to risk making noise and being visible to keep up. He jogged along on the balls of his feet, doing his best not to create loud footfalls on the cobbles. The figure seemed too focused on its destination to waste time looking around, leaving Conrad unnoticed.

They were moving down toward the wharf district, from whence barges carried goods downriver to the coast. It was an ugly place, not at all in keeping with the standard of beauty of the rest of the city. The wharf district was a ramshackle of wooden and brick warehouses, and a web of wooden jetties that clogged up a section of the river bank.

A mist had formed over the river—a consequence of the warm spring sun in the day and the cold evening air, Conrad had been told. It gave the docks an eerie atmosphere. Even without the mist, Conrad knew this area wasn’t the safest place to be after dark. The mist shrouded each street corner, providing the perfect place for ne’er-do-wells to lurk, but it occurred to Conrad that, on this occasion, it suited his purposes perfectly. He could understand why cutpurses and thugs liked the district.

Conrad jolted to a halt when he saw that his quarry had stopped. The enshrouding mist was making it difficult to see exactly what the figure was doing. It had halted by the entrance to a warehouse, and seemed to be studying the door. The process took only a moment, but with his heart racing and every hair on his neck standing on end, it felt like an eternity to Conrad.

The figure stepped through the door and disappeared from view.


The Banneret is now available for pre order over at Amazon. You can find it here:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09V3GZPJM

The Banneret – Blood of Kings 2 – Cover Reveal

Hey folks,

I hope everyone is keeping well, and enjoying the slow return to normality!

I’ve finally completed the second book in the Blood of Kings series, which is titled ‘The Banneret’. It’s going to be released on 15 March, in kindle, paperback, and audio book. It picks up the story a few years later, with Conrad a little older and eager to make his mark on the world, while the demons are out in force as they seek to carry out their master’s bidding.

Now to the cover reveal! Once again, it’s been painted by the very talented Andreas Rocha, who has outdone himself in capturing a brooding sense of foreboding that matches the tone of the story.

Here’s the back cover copy:

Demons have been hunted to the verge of extinction. Those who know of the horrors lurking in the dark act as though the threat is long past. It has allowed Conrad to continue his education undisturbed, to work towards joining his friends as a comrade-in-arms rather than a child to be protected.

The appearance of two powerful demons changes everything. The creatures are back, stronger than ever, and the years of quiet are at an end. The Principality finds itself in need of demon hunters once again. Conrad and his comrades are the ones for the job.

The chain of clues draws them ever closer to what their unseen enemy desires, and they find themselves in a deadly race to stop it from regaining its former power.

If you haven’t had the chance to pick up the first book in the trilogy, The Squire, you can get it here on Amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B092X5896D

There’s still plenty of time to read it before The Banneret comes out on 15 March!

I hope you’ll all enjoy The Banneret as much as I enjoyed writing it!

All the best,

Duncan