Friday, 28 July 2017

Traitor’s Prize – out now

Traitor’s Prize, the sequel to Kingdom Asunder, is out today.

Both books are discounted until 5 August (KA is just 33% of the usual price, TP 60%), so now’s the perfect time to buy.

If epic and dark fantasy is your cup of tea, if you like medieval bloodshed, treachery and political conniving, you can get just under 200,000 words for less than half the price of a cinema ticket (and no adverts to annoy you for the first half hour).

UK Amazon
US Amazon
Barnes and Noble


Thursday, 27 July 2017

Ethnic diversity in history/fantasy

I read an interesting tweet the other day regarding this, and racially homogeneous societies/worlds in fantasy being justified by historical reference. This little ramble will look at how things were historically, and how/whether this should affect fantasy writing in an ancient/medieval setting.

First off, a disclaimer on my own approach. My serious fantasy all occurs within the same world within which every book has multiple races (mostly of human), skin colours etc. The comedy of Sir Edric doesn’t ever actually refer to human skin colour (he’s white on the cover because he has to be a colour, though I can’t recall if I actually specified that to my artist). There’s also elves, Ursk (tall, red-skinned carnivores), feathery chaps, gnomes, dwarves etc.

In a given farming village, in England in the medieval world, travelling would happen. Every so often the nearest market town (walking distance) would be visited to either sell or buy. More infrequent travel to a larger town or city (NB ‘city’ in this context might just be a settlement with a few thousand people) would happen to attend court or for other serious business. The population of the village itself would not change substantially in terms of people leaving or newcomers arriving. The largest churn would be marrying people from a nearby village.

Jumping from that to the opposite end of the spectrum (sticking with England, for now), London was the largest city by a mile. Smaller than several continental capitals, it still drew in people from the surrounding area (especially true after the Black Death which also threw the feudal servitude system up in the air). Not only that, but merchants from continental Europe and further afield were constantly coming and going. On a more permanent basis, there were embassies from foreign powers, and establishments set up by prosperous foreign merchants.

Leaping perhaps a few centuries back, and a few thousand miles away, we have Byzantium. Or Constantinople. Or Mikligard, if you’re feeling Viking. Or, as it’s currently known, Istanbul. Now, you might think a capital city at the heart of the Eastern Roman Empire wouldn’t have many Englishmen. And you’d be wrong. Basil II, who was a great military leader but whose treatment of prisoners is about as far away from the Geneva Convention as you can get, is emperor. He establishes the Varangian Guard, a bodyguard for emperors made up of non-Byzantines. Initially, it’s largely composed of Anglo-Saxons, irked at the pesky Normans who have conquered England. Later, it gains a more Viking flavour as Scandinavians prefer getting paid a small fortune for guard duty to raiding.

Under Basil II (and his co-emperors/predecessors Nicephorus “White Death of the Saracens” Phocas and John Tzimisces), the city has been enjoyed continual military triumphs. The city is bustling with merchants from the rising Italian commercial powers of Genoa and Venice. Soldiers are largely drawn from Anatolia, modern day Turkey.

In short, scale and geography determine to a substantial degree how homogeneous or diverse a settlement (or story) is. Before mass transit and easy travel, getting to the Shetlands was quite a slog. If you set a story there you could, depending on the period, credibly feature Picts, Scots, Scandinavians. But if you put Saracens and Byzantines there it would feel a bit odd.

Similarly, if you wrote about the Eastern Roman Empire it would be odd to paint Constantinople as a city of one people only. It was effectively the global (or at least continental) capital, at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, and drew in a correspondingly cosmopolitan population.

However, we should be wary both of imposing our own norms on the past, or of neglecting/misunderstanding those of history. It’s easy to overlook the prevalence of religion in medieval history (and they were addicted to philosophical religious debates in Byzantium). Similarly, the terror of disease or urban fire (arson in ancient Rome was reckoned a crime second only to parricide). There were, particularly in large continental cities, substantial populations of minorities (often same race, different country) but not on the scale that we see today.

What about a pure fantasy land? An island could legitimately be mono-cultural. And, of course, you can gerrymander the rules of science and nature as you please. Personally, I think that could feel quite odd, particularly if your story happens in major cities on a large continent. More importantly, different cultures and races also present opportunities for conflict which can help drive stories.

Although a game rather than book, I was not impressed when some people bleated about The Witcher 3 having no black people in it (it has white humans, elves, dwarves and halflings. And the odd troll). Does it come across as unrealistic because of this? Absolutely not. The world has a great backstory and lore. Just as it seems ridiculous to me that some criticised Idris Elba being in Thor (did amuse me some people were happy with a magic rainbow bridge that threw almost invincible demi-gods across the universe, but thought a black guy being in charge of it was unrealistic), it’s not right to condemn a fantastic game because it’s deemed to have committed the sin of being ‘too white’.

Ultimately, it’s down to the author’s own whim. I don’t think other people should be trying to constrain creative freedom and dictate that their own personal perspective is The Only Way To Do Things.


Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Debuting. Again. (guest post by Jo Zebedee)

My 5th book is out next week - yet I'm getting to use the #debut headline all over Twitter. Why? Because my first four books were science fiction, whereas Waters and the Wild is my first (but not my last) fantasy. Which means I get to have all the fun!

There are challenges to writing both genres. Not all fans of my military-esque Space Opera books will want to read my fairy-fuelled roadtrip through the Antrim Glens of Northern Ireland. To counter that, however, a lot of people who might have wanted to try out my writing find science fiction, as a genre, less appealing than fantasy and are looking forwards to reading one of my books for once!

I thought I'd explore what I love about writing the two genres, where I struggle and where I intend to go with this weird assortment of books.

What I love about writing fantasy.

Firstly, no physics. I am not a scientist. I manage okay with plants and the biology side of thing (I have a gcse in there somewhere, and an A level). But physics, chemistry and I parted company very happily at age 14. Which means sf research hurts my brain but fantasy is easier - not least because I worked in a 12th century castle for a few years. As soon as I decide to use a castle as a setting that will be very useful, I'm sure....

Playing with mythology. A lot of what I write is based in Ireland - particularly the frozen North of the island. Now, Irish mythology is wide and interesting, and not averse to being played with. I really love that. In Waters and the Wild I play with changeling mythology, bring in the legend of Ossian and Tir-na-nog, and adapt all that to the modern world. I use landscapes that haven't changed in years, that carry the feel and knowledge of the land, and rip through them with my contemporary story. And I can do that because mythology is just that - stories that have been passed down. Like the recipe for Irish stew there is no right and wrong, just one way or another.

Being really, really spooky. Fantasy is great for creeping fear. It's fabulous for slow build and dark shadowed corners. And I love that sort of writing. So, for general creepiness and the delight of knowing a reader might want to leave the light on for a while, fantasy is huge fun to write.

Which isn't to say my sf isn't scary and dark. The metal walls of Inish Carraig, that mould around to imprison people, are pretty memorable. But it's a different sort of darkness: my fantasy has things that can barely be seen in the corner of your eye; my sf your worst fears made real.

So, why, then, if I like fantasy so much have I written lots of sf (and intend to write more)?

Sf is huge fun. It is escapist. It is visual. It has no limits (if you ignore the physics). It is bold and loud with blasters and space ships. For sheer shove-the-story-down-and-have-a-blast there is nothing better.

Which brings me back to my first musing. Will readers who have liked my sf enjoy my fantasy?

That's the worry and challenge.

Mostly, I think they should. There are certain things standard across both genres for me:

Expect characters who feel real, and expect to be held close to them. Not just the lead characters, but the secondary ones too. Expect them to have their dysfunctional moments, and for the narrators to not always be honest.

Expect to walk on the darker side of life. I don't do fluffy bunnies and sparkly unicorns. Waters might be the darkest book I've written to date (hard to tell!) in feel and tone, if not horrific events. Whilst not full-on grimdark, it should cause the odd shudder in the reader.

Expect to have questions. As in Inish Carraig my characters don't entirely know what is going on around them and I don't step back to tell the reader the wider world. If that wrong foots people, I'm not sure it's a bad thing. For sure, it's the thing that I do.

Above all else - Waters and the Wild is as much a Jo Zebedee book as any of my sf is. The feel, the pace, the cadence - they all complement my earlier work. If you pick up a copy, I hope you come away with that sense that, otherworldly as opposed to spaceworldly though Waters might be, it's still my world, in my words, and in my style. I do hope readers enjoy it.

Jo Zebedee writes sf and fantasy, sometimes in her space opera world of Abendau, sometimes on the streets of her native Northern Ireland. She blogs at and has a busy life with work, kids, pets and, somewhere in the chaos, a long suffering husband.

Waters and the Wild can be found at:

Friday, 14 July 2017

Traitor’s Prize discounted for pre-order!

In quite literally fantastic news, Traitor’s Prize, the second book in The Bloody Crown Trilogy and sequel to Kingdom Asunder, is available for pre-order now.

It’ll come out on the 28th of July, and in the pre-order period (and for the first week of release) is priced at the monkishly humble pittance of US$2.99. Less than a coffee, less than bus fare, but brimming with lashings of bloodshed and treachery, backstabbing and betrayal, brothers-in-arms and family loyalty (or not, perhaps).

The story follows immediately on from the events of Kingdom Asunder, which, if you don’t already have it, has had its price slashed to just 0.99c (but only during the pre-order period of Traitor’s Prize, so now is the perfect time to snap it up).

The plot twists and turns like a pole-dancing anaconda, and is as dark and menacing as a psychopathic honey badger.

Traitor’s Prize purchase links: 

I’ve sent out some feelers for reviews already, and if you’re interested in an ARC do get in touch (@MorrisF1 on Twitter) and I’m sure we can arrange something.


Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Traitor’s Prize cover reveal

Traitor’s Prize, the sequel to Kingdom Asunder, will be out later this month. It’s the second part of The Bloody Crown Trilogy, and follows immediately on from the events of the first book.

As you can tell, I have gone for maximum subtlety on the cover.

The story is the middle portion of the ruthless, bloody and sly battle for the Kingdom of Denland, warred over by the rival Penmere and Esden families. Treachery abounds, nobles manoeuvre for advantage, and armies line up to wreak carnage upon their enemies. But it’s the smiler with the knife who makes the nobles tremble...

If you haven’t bought Kingdom Asunder yet, now’s the perfect time as (prior to the release of Traitor’s Prize), the price has been reduced to 0.99.

There will be an announcement of pre-order very soon, so keep your eyes peeled. During the pre-order period, Traitor’s Prize will be available at a substantial discount.


Thursday, 6 July 2017

SPFBO 2017

Apologies for the slight hiatus from bloggery and blogcraft. Due to the aligning of the stars, I had a lot of formatting for not one but two books. Traitor’s Prize and Sir Edric’s Kingdom will hopefully both be forthcoming in the next few months.

The Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off (SPFBO) was created a few years ago by Mark Lawrence, author of The Broken Empire Trilogy, amongst other things. It’s a Ronseal title, as between 250 and 300 self-publishing fantasy authors submit their books and are brutally torn to pieces/lavished with praise and adulation by 10 elite and very attractive bloggers/reviewers. Each reviewer/judge-overlord starts with a list of 25 to 30 and whittles that down to just 1.

The final 10 are then all read by every Supreme Selector and rated, with just one being pronounced the winner.

In short, there’s a 96% chance or so of losing out at the first round, and a 99.7% chance of not winning outright. However, the SPFBO is still an excellent contest, and I hope you do pay it some heed (just check the hashtag on Twitter for more).

It’s a great way for publicity-starved self-published writers to get on the radar of potential readers, and to do so in a way that depends on the quality of their writing rather than paying for marketing. Not only that, it’s a great way for readers to find new books they otherwise might not have seen. Those who win, or even come close, may well end up with traditional publishing deals.

So, it’s bi-winning, as Charlie Sheen might say. It’s also now an annual contest, so if you have a self-published fantasy, keep your eyes peeled for next year. And who knows? Maybe you’ll win.

For myself, I’ve entered Kingdom Asunder, the first part of The Bloody Crown Trilogy. Its sequel, Traitor’s Prize, will hopefully be out soon.