Book Review: A Ritual of Bone

Ok, so I’m gonna get right to the chase here. This book was fully awesome.

There is a lot to like about this book. A lot. But almost more than anything, I would say the style of writing made me fall in love with it. Conley has an easy, graceful way about his work. This is especially delightful given the subject matter: plague, vomiting blood, undead eating the alive, cannibalism, and other such dark and violent shenanigans.

The main POV’s we follow are equally engaging (often hard to do, and as an author of multi POV, I really respect what Conley has achieved). The setting well sculpted, the dialogue crisp and real. The violence, although graphic, was not overplayed.

As an indie author, I’m a big supporter of our ‘slice of the pie’. There are a great many excellent indie books out there that merit attention and respect. This is certainly one of them, and easily one of the best books I’ve read* this year. If not the best.

*I listened to the audio version, narrated brilliantly by R.J. Bayley, it swept me up and was just so much fun.

Book 2, A Ritual Of Flesh is out tomorrow (10th October). I for one will be getting it! You should get on book 1 it’s incredible!

Too Cold To Bleed – released into the wild!



2018 is a big year for releases in our household! First comes the book, and secondly the baba.

I figured it best to get the book finished, out, and screaming into the world, before baba does, and so I am delighted that today 18 months of hard work culminates with the publication of Book 2 in The Red Season Series, Too Cold To Bleed.

If you fancy picking a copy up, and spoiling all this fine summer weather with an oppressively cold setting, then you can pick up a copy here:

Too Cold To Bleed (

Too Cold To Bleed (

Books Books Books

A lot of blood, sweat, and tears goes in to writing any book. TCTB was no exception. From October 2016, until March 2018, the vast majority of my time away from my day job was focused on writing this book. So to all my friends and family, when you were talking to me, and it looked like I wasn’t fully engaged, I was probably hearing circus music and wandering about a snowy, hell-hole in my mind. Yeah. Sorry about that.

All joking aside, writing is a fairly solitary, selfish pursuit, and it would be remiss of me today not to extend a special and heartfelt thanks to my family and friends for their encouragement and support. I may have missed out on certain events over the last year and a half, or perhaps not been in contact as much – for that, you have my apologies and my thanks! The greatest of thanks must go to my wife, who has only ever given me her most earnest support – she is an absolute hero.

Lastly, I want to thank the awesome team of professionals who have helped mould TCTB into (what I hope) is a stronger book than Red Season Rising. John Anthony Di Giovanni, Shawn T. King, and Laura M. Hughes (Cover Art; Cover Design; Editing respectively) – you three have been incredible.

If you haven’t already picked up Book 1, Red Season Rising, then you’re lucky (not because you haven’t had to subject your eyes to it), rather, today Red Season Rising is on sale for 99p/c!

Red Season Rising (

Red Season Rising (


Red Season Rising is One!



Today Red Season Rising is One!

birthday boook

One year has passed since I, with nerves jangling, took my first steps to achieving one of my life-long personal goals: to make a living from joining up words and making sentences.

Although I’ve not updated my webpage as much as I would have liked, I thought it would be fitting to reflect on the year since publishing, and say a big ‘thank you’ to all my family, friends, old and new, and readers who have supported and encouraged me over these last twelve months.

Red Season Rising got off to a flying start. Out of the blocks sales were good, and before long it was at #3 in both Low and Dark Fantasy categories, and only just missing out on breaking into the top 1,000 in the Kindle Paid Store (UK).

I remember I barely slept those first few weeks, such was the level of excitement I felt at RSR being out there and selling. Actually bloody selling!

I tried my best to learn the ropes of marketing, but it was soon evident that with only one book to flog, investing in and running adverts was not the right option for me. Instead, I found that the best marketing was in engaging readers, writers, and other professionals in the literary world.

After some detailed number crunching tonight,  I’m pleased to say that Red Season Rising has sold nearly 2,000 copies. For new authors, weighing up tying themselves to KDP, or going wide, I think it is important to hear how others are doing. For me, just under half of my writing income comes from KNEP i.e. pages read of books borrowed from the Kindle library. It may not be a long-term preference, but when starting out, the additional reach is worth considering.

RSR has also received some pretty positive reviews, the highlight of which was when I received a review from Pornokitsch, the British ‘geek culture’ blog:

“A very solid read, with an appreciation for tactics and messy battles. There’s an Abercrombian vibe that comes from the characters’ honest and realistic outlooks. In fact, much of Red Season Rising’s combination of tropes and storylines feels familiar, but that’s no bad thing. For Gemmell readers.”

Having mention of two of my favourite writers in such a review was fantastic, and a real confidence booster, however one cannot get carried away on the back of positive reviews!

RSR has received a couple of more critical reviews. For all the highs that come with receiving a 5 or 4 star review, there are also the lows of a 1 or 2 star review. But that’s the game. You win some, you lose some. I’ve learned that the trick is in wearing the negative reviews as badges of honour. Or ignore them. I mean, I don’t even read my reviews anyway…

Also this year, I decided to try and double-down on writing. I aimed to complete the follow up to RSR within the year (titled Too Cold to Bleed). Aiming at around the 150,000 words mark, I set about writing TCTB in October. Since then, I’ve written just over 140,000 words. In addition to that, joining up words has seen me produce:

  • a 4,000 word short for’s forthcoming Art of War Anthology (coming in 2018, and you do not want to miss it. Sorry for all the cussing in my story).
  • around 5,000 words on a non-fiction book on the great (and shamefully forgotten) Orkney-born arctic explorer, Dr John Rae.
  • shy of 8,000 words on a small literary (it probably won’t turn out that way) book about West Coast of Scotland and how the love of the land never leaves you. No matter how shite the summer is.

So, in total, my word count for the year is around the 157,000 word mark. I’m pretty pleased with that, given I write mainly at night, and only when I’m not utterly smashed after a prolonged effort at my day job.

Another of the major plus points for the year has to be the fantastic community of readers and writers who seem to be there to support and promote each other’s work at the drop of a hat. A big shout out must go to the great and the good of the following Faceboook Groups: Grimdark Fiction Readers and Writers; Fantasy Buffet; Fantasy Faction; and the Self Published Fantasy Blog Off Group. Altogether, everyone’s enthusiasm, wisdom, and craic has been a constant positive this year.

Finally, on reflection, this year has taught me that no matter how tough it may seem being knee-deep in plot-knots and grammatical cluster-fucks, it is only a matter of time and effort before everything works out.

Shamefully, however, I still don’t have frigging clue how Goodreads works…







Too Cold to Bleed cover teaser

So, when publishing Red Season Rising in Sept ’16, I set myself a target of getting book 2 out by June ’17. Needless to say I’m running a little behind, with delivery now looking to be around the Autumn/Winter ’17.

However, as the book edges closer to completion, so does the cover art! Thanks to John DiGiovanni and Shawn T.King, the creative powerhouse duo, who have worked on the art and design respectively, I’m pleased to say the cover is looking awesome!

Here’s a teaser!

Indie author laments self-imposed deadline…

Blog_thinkingBack in September 2016 I published my first novel. It had taken me a long time to write Red Season Rising (henceforth known as RSR because I can’t be arsed typing it all). Nothing of that wailing mess made it through to the final product, barring a name here and there. Ultimately, I kicked off writing RSR in earnest in 2005, not long after leaving University, and whilst trying to forge a career in the world of the ‘day-job’ at the same time.

Over the course of eleven years, three companies, six jobs, three house moves, one engagement and one wedding, I somehow managed to string together enough combined time to write, edit, re-write, throw a tantrum, throw away chapters, and finally complete RSR. With cover art, formatting, and all the other administration that surrounds being an independent author completed, I got ready to pull the pin and toss my book-baby into the world.

But not before I got (understandably) whipped up in excitement at being about to publish!

Riding that sweet, giddy high, I decided, starting in October 2016, to give myself the ambitious target of writing and publishing the follow-up book by June 2017. Nine months. Loads of time. In fact, the most acceptable gestation period we as humans recognise.

It is, however, in looking back at RSR’s development, that I realise the howling error in my ambition! Sure, I was never going to take another 11 years to write book 2 (he says with a slight tremor of fear), but perhaps, nine months was a tad foolhardy!

The market share for indie fiction continues to grow, and is holding its own against ‘traditional’ publishing. This is down to the hard work of many excellent authors, who drum away on their keyboards or wield their pens in the moments harvested between full-time careers, family, and other life commitments. There is a colossal effort applied in continually feeding the beast – the need to write.

The great thing about the indie fiction community is that there is a real sense of camaraderie, and helpfulness about it. Many other authors have spoken openly about setting themselves deadlines, only to find that date slip by and fade off into the distance. But at the end of the day, as indies, we set our own deadline, and work our asses off to meet it. But as I said, sometimes, the deadline reluctantly comes and goes.

I am perpetually frustrated by the lack of time I believe I have to write. Working sixty hours a week leaves me with 108 hours. Factor in sleep (God, I love sleep), leaves me with 59 hours. Hudson needs walking, so I lose 14 hours, leaving 45 hours. Cooking, eating, cleaning (home and my decrepit carcass), exercise, reading, and most importantly of all, spending time with my beautiful and patient wife, leaves me with, urm, around about an hour(ish) a day. By that rough calculation, I should write every day. Shave off a few hours of sleep (*slaps face* don’t be silly), and I could even have more time to write.

So why then am I likely to miss my June deadline? Well, sometimes, you’ve just got to take the foot off the pedal, and ease up. I’m often reminded that I can be quite hard on myself, and sometimes take on too much. Over the course of the last couple of years, I realised that I yield no benefit from staring at a screen, lamenting my inability to join up words and make sentences. I just end up getting wound up and giving myself a hard time. So, with that in mind, I decided to have patience (not 11 years of patience), and let book 2 find its own way.

I’m not a neglectful or inattentive book-daddy, but instead, I have created the skeleton, and when the book is ready to apply flesh to the bones, then I sit down, and I write. That has resulted in fewer writing session, but with a much greater yield. Ultimately, a hectic work schedule and a busy home life, has meant I’m moving at a slower pace than I’d like, but casting my mind back to the development of RSR, reducing my book writing time from 11 years to anything close to 9 months is nothing short of a miracle!

At this point, book 2 is in the final furlong of its first draft, and is likely to clock in around the 150,000 words mark. Cover art will soon be developed, and before long, I hope to have a polished draft off to the editor. But it ain’t making it for June, that’s for sure! For those who may be awaiting book 2 (I hope I’m not speaking into the void here), my apologies for any delay!

I suppose in summary, this post has been me offering up excuses for missing my self-imposed deadline. But in writing it, what I have reminded myself of is how good it feels to be part of the indie author community, in that there are so many quality authors, with outstanding books out there, all of whom are supportive of their fellow authors, and offering wise words. Thanks to the motivation I yield from readers and other writers, I am now pretty comfortable with  saying that book 2 will not be with you in June, but it will be with you as soon as possible afterwards.

Now, time to get that scene written…what’s that Hudson? You need a walk?


Mythbusters: Paternus, by Dyrk Ashton

At long last I’m finally getting around to writing some reviews of books I’ve read over the recent months.

Now, in the interests of full disclosure, due to the fact that I, urm, don’t read so good (I jest, it’s my writing that lets me down), this particular book entered my consciousness via my ear-holes, courtesy of Dyrk Ashton’s audio version of Paternus.

I enjoy a good book when on long drives, and can very quickly determine if I’ll make it all the way to the end. In the case of Paternus, it does start a little slowly, but it builds, and it builds, and it builds. So stick with it!

I normally don’t read contemporary or urban fantasy, and have a pathological aversion to anything that sparkles, or even hints at being a Twilight type affair. Fortunately, Paternus kicks that notion into the long grass, and forges ahead as a thoroughly entertaining  mytho-fantastical romp.

From the depth and complexity of the cast, it’s clear that Ashton spent a considerable amount of time researching Paternus (probably the understatement of the age). He has cleverly woven together myths and legends from across the globe into one single tapestry, and so vividly realised. After a bit of  a slow start, things really start to come together for this story, and before long, legendary creatures, heroes and gods all make their way into the piece, causing mayhem for our protagonists. In particular, the hospital scene is excellently realised! Throughout the course of the story, there are some excellent reveals of familiar heroes (and villains) of ages past, and I found myself at several times giddy with happiness at their appearance!

There are bits and pieces about this book that would normally put me off, for example, the first person omniscient point of view took a little getting used to. But in audio, it made things easier to transition for my peanut brain courtesy of the excellent performance by Nik Magill. One other aspect that slightly bothered me was that Zeke didn’t quite fill out as much as I’d have liked, instead becoming something of a six-foot Wikipedia page of every mythical being that came to life before the eyes of our protagonist. But these are small concerns, and they are consumed and forgotten by the expanse of the story.

On the whole, I found Paternus to be a triumphant act of imagination, research and adventure, in which Ashton kicks off what promises to be a very innovative series.

For the sheer breadth of imagination, Paternus merits its place as a SPFBO 2016 Finalist. I tip my hat to Ashton on an excellent advertisement of all that is good in the world of Independent Fiction.

The Roast of Red Season Rising

Tonight over on r/fantasy, the good folks have set up a post wherein authors can roast their own books.


The repressed catholic in me couldn’t resist. If you want to check out the full thread, follow this link:

So without further preamble, here it is:
Yay! An opportunity to self-flagellate! Lemme at it…

Red Season Rising is a total TURD of a book. No, not Red Rising by Pierce Brown, by all accounts that is the sh*t! No, this roast is directed to Red Season Rising, by that turd-peddling, trope-churning hack D.M. Murray.

By my understanding, this guy spent the best part of 11 years writing this ‘book’. What a lazy b*stard he must be. I bet he sat about in a dark study, listening to Enya, and pretending he was a tortured (f)artist, whilst celebrating every scene he managed to club to death with his crushing lack of imagination and poise as if it were the most innovative work since [insert innovative work of choice] (told you, crushing lack of imagination).

So, speaking of lack of imagination, Red Season Rising starts well, in that it has a beginning. It farts its way through the usual tortured hero crap, in the much abused winter landscape, with nightswatchy types being all beardy and gruff (this Murray chap seems to think GRR hacked his dodgy old Toshiba from eons back and copied the Jon Snow character, and you know, he would say that. Just to drum up attention). 

These gruff bearded types seem to be gruff and beardy for about one-third of the book, and then, FINALLY, a female shows up. What a sausage party. It’s as if this guy can’t identify with women or something… Ahm…”what’s that, honey?”

There appears to be the usual questing type of events going on, for some mcguffin or another. I dunno, really, I sleep read it, as the voice in my head was that of the author, and it was really monotone. Zzzzzzzzz.

The multiple POV made for a varied sense of time and place, but it may also have been the copious amounts of caffeine and sugar I had to consume to make it past the first act, in order to get to the POV split. 

Speaking of which, I couldn’t wait to get past the lead character’s scenes. That guy is a d*ck. I wanted to slap him a bit. My favourite character is that one that died after 30 pages, he was the lucky one. Unlike me having to read on to THAT ending. I mean, COME ON!

All in all, if you liked reading classic old fantasy, and are a fan of greats like Eddings and Feist, then go and read Eddings and Feist. This guy has just ripped them off, and then took the ripped off turd of a story and smashed it into the face of the Grimdark sub-genre in the hope it would come out looking grizzled and warry (it’s a word) as f**k. Instead, it just reeks of someone who just wants to get their Fantasy works finished so he can write Scottish romantic fiction, and dino-erotica, and basically adds up all the tropes he can get his grasping hands onto.

Ahhhhhhhhhh – that was great! *Pats self down looking for a cigarette*

Well, if that doesn’t kill the sales, I dunno what will!


Book Review – The Heroes

The Heroes – Joe Abercrombie


5 Stars out of 5


This book is f******g awesome!

The Heroes is one of those books that changed me. For the better, or for the worse, I’m not sure yet.
When I first picked this book up I was initially drawn to the cover – great artwork!

I began to read it in bed, on my phone, with white text on a black screen. This was for the express reason I wanted as little light as possible so I could fall asleep quickly.

Yeah, that didn’t work out! Within minutes I was bolt upright, light on, and disgusted.

Disgusted by the language. It was, it was, it was f******g awesome. I’m Irish, swearing is like Mother’s milk to us, we get our first dose early in life.

Now when I say it changed me, I mean that I had never before read a book that was so unapologetically real. As a writer myself, I was always brought up to believe that crude language would age, and would limit your book. Well, I think The Heroes takes these rules, and s***s all over them.

Now, we start this book with Curnden Craw, a Northman. We meet this secretly cowardly battler as he fumbles his way up a steep, grassy hillside in the Valley of Osrung. He’s making his way to the top where he will find an ancient ring of stones inhabited by other Northmen. Only these Northmen fight for the Union, which is South. Simple. Craw fights his way up the hill past the awesomely phrased ‘bullying wind’, and so begins the tug of war for this simple hill in the North.

The premise is so crushingly simple it hurts my tiny little mind. Two sides, three days, lots of bastards, they win some, they lose some. But what happens in the midst of all this swearing and sharp metal, is that we see Abercrombie weave a tapestry rich in characters so gleefully flawed, that it’s hard to care what happens to them one way or another, because no matter what happens to them, it’s bloody (BLOODY) entertaining. I take that back for Craw, I really gave a damn about him.

We meet some real dicks in this book. Prince Calder – the superbly realised Cock of the North. He’s such an amusing character that I snorted with laughter so loud at his first verbal assault of Broad Tenways, that I woke my wife. Needless to say, I didn’t explain in full florid detail Prince Calder’s choice words. He’s a prick, but you’ll love him.

There is also Bremer dan Gorst. A self-loathing, shrill voiced human-tank. I’ve read this book several times, and every time, I find myself liking Gorst less and less. This is brilliant as he is complex, layered, sympathetic and frankly terrifying. Not one to get stuck in a lift with.

Black Dow, the ‘King of the North’, a man so evil he’s killed ‘more men than winter’, is again, an evil bastard, yet I found myself quite amused by him, so good is the dialogue. His hand gestures made me laugh aloud aplenty also.

There is a supporting cast full of some of the most memorable and amusing characters about: Caul Shivers (actually, he’s the one you don’t want to be in a lift with), Whirrun of Bligh (wielder of the father of swords and inventor of the cheese trap), Wonderful, Beck (Red Beck to you), and my personal favourites, Corporal Tunny, and the ruthless pairing of comic gold that is Deep and Shallow.

If salty language does not offend you (let’s face it, if it did, you’d have stopped reading a while ago), and you are not queasy at the rendering of blood on a page, then this my friend, is the book for you!

Abercrombie stands a simple premise of a war of attrition on the shoulders of outstanding characterisation, heart-pounding real action, and dialogue that will have you s******g with laughter. You probably wont give a flying s**t for the lives for most of the cast though, they are all so corrupted that any potential demise is probably deserved, and let’s face it, they’ll probably do it in manner so blackly funny it will be worth it.

5 Stars is the least it deserves. Get the Audio book too – Steven Pacey was born to read The Heroes – he masters every character and gets the darkly comic tone perfectly.

Read this book. Not tomorrow, today.


Book Review – Blood Song

Blood Song – Raven’s Shadow Book 1

5 Stars out of 5 – Bloody Awesome


Bleak. Foreboding. Breathless.BS.JPG

I’ve read, listened to, read again, and re-listened to this book. It is excellent. I could just end my review there, and hells, you should read it, but I’ll go on…

When I started to read Blood Song for the first time, I was initially a little put off by the introduction. It features the initial sequence of an exchange between the lead, Vaelin and the Imperial Chronicler, Vernier. I think, perhaps, I was just not prepared to emotionally invest in a historian as the principle lead. “Hissboo”, you say, “what of Indiana Jones?” Technically, he was an archaeologist.

I’ve been reading fantasy for the best part of twenty-five years, and so, I’ve read a lot of good, bad, and ugly. What really defines a quality book, in my opinion, is how much do I care for the characters.

In Blood Song, we are treated to outstanding cast of well realised characters, and some fantastic, original plot work to boot. After an initial way-laying by Vernier (he is well worth his place), we are introduced to a sullen young boy, ‘abandoned’ as he sees it, to a militaristic institution by his famous warlord Father. Amidst the cold, cruel and frankly brutal college-for-killers, our lead gradually finds his fortitude, friends, ferocity, and female interest. It is in this journey to manhood that Ryan fantastically weaves a story rich in characters and mystic (and threat, oh so importantly, threat) that readers cannot help but become deeply invested in the characters. And I mean all of them. There are poor bedraggled souls amongst his tight-knit group of comrades that may (or may not – no spoilers here) make it back from the various tests of The Order. It is testament to great writing that we end up caring for these bit part players.

The landscape of the world is vivid: the description of ghostly woodlands, cold, briny rivers, and isolated mountainous lands is superb, and they really help to bring the dark and foreboding plot to life. You can almost smell the mossy, rotting woodland of the Urlish as young Vaelin struggles through his Test of the Wild.

The threats arising from the manipulations of the King, Janus, and the Void, as well as the fractious relationships between the six orders, keep the tension and unease bubbling along nicely. All the while you are wondering, “why is Vaelin sat on a ship, in chains, with a historian? And who or what is ‘The Hope’?”

I have not, for a long time, felt so connected to characters. Not since in David Eddings’ awesome The Elenium Trilogy, have I been so worried about the well-being of the cast! Anthony Ryan manages to weave a fantastic, rip-roaring story amidst the growth of characters who’s moral and physical constitution you will be breathlessly concerned for.

Absolutely worthy of 5 stars.

And if you haven’t already, check out the Audio Book version – Steven Brand’s narration is moody, gritty, and brings the bleak excellence of the book to life.

Book Review – Night Falls on Ardnamurchan

Goodreads review


“Night Falls on Ardnamurchan: The Twilight of a Crofting Family”
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is truly a hidden gem of Scottish writing. The poet, Alasdair Maclean, writes with such emotion and description that it almost feels like music rather than a deep, personal story. Ardnamurchan is the most Westerly point in mainland Britain. Located in Scotland, about halfway up and all the way West, it is a stunningly beautiful, remote, and wild place. I picked up this book at the Ardnamurchan lighthouse shop when spending a week near the little township of Portuairk, near Sanna Bay. It was early June, and the weather was stunning. I read this little book on Sanna Bay, in the dunes, along the cliffs and whilst bobbing in the sea on my packraft.

Portuairk Sunset.JPG

Maclean describes the history of Ardnamurchan, the people, and the way of life as a crofter living in such a remote and isolated place. As an accomplished (though little known) poet, Maclean delivers writing that will make you laugh out loud, and even in places, bring a tear to your eye.

Ardnamurchan is a part of the world everyone should visit, and they should read this book when they are there! You will be intoxicated by them both, and afterwards, as you walk the streets in whatever urban landscape you occupy, you will not help but smell the summer honeysuckle, hear the crash of the Sanna waves, or smell the briny air.

A truly beautiful, personal, and educating read.