A Bard’s Lament (Part 1)

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Part I

The resounding twang of the lute seemed to breathe life into the tavern. Upon the fluttering sounds of lute strings, nearby conversation quietened, like a dimming candle, as it always did when Ella played.

She plucked another two strings, anxiety building as her eyes flicked between the door, which was partly obscured by a swaying patron, and the barkeep, Gregor, who stood behind the bar. The bottles of local ales and exotic concoctions behind him reflected the lantern light. He caught Ella’s gaze as he cleaned a mug with a rag that had seen better days. His fixed stare was full of just one simple word: careful.

She watched as Gregor’s gaze moved to the table beside Ella; there sat Captain Sackle, an intimidating figure even without the usual glinting chainmail armour, sitting with two other off-duty guardsmen. He chuckled into his mug of ale at some unknown joke.

She’s late.

Ella plucked another string, prolonging the sonnet’s introduction for as long as she dared.

“You going to take up space all night or are you going to play?” asked Captain Sackle, throwing her a look of disdain. He drained his mug, crimson liquid spilling onto his greying beard. He didn’t wait for an answer, but resumed his conversation. Nervousness bit at Ella’s insides as bile that burned the back of her throat.

Where is she?

The stone felt cold beneath Ella’s thighs where she perched in her usual spot, inhaling the smell of ale and firewood. She swallowed, moistening her throat as she tried to steady her trembling hands. Then the tavern door opened with a scrape. Her heart leapt.

The cloaked figure sauntered between the patrons before she plopped her thin elbows onto the bar and ordered a lillenfruit ale. Relief flooded through Ella, and she smiled as she tucked some of her red hair behind her ear.

When she played the first few notes the gathering noise, which had resumed when Ella had stopped picking the lute strings, died down once more, save the odd cough or scrape of mug on wood.

The lute strings told a story of great history, fallen gods, and an empire descending into darkness. Ella’s voice seemed to melt away the gloom of the small pub, brightening the cobwebbed corners, filling the hearts of the patrons with faith and hope. The hooded figure at the bar gently tapped her slim, dark fingers on the wood, nodding to the tune. She hadn’t removed her hood, and the fabric rippled as her small chin bobbed, a single strand of midnight-blue hair visible from beneath the fabric.

“Through our fractured faith,
Evil and darkness reigned
Then, to save us,
The Dragons came.

Yuelif of the northern lands,
Lifa guards the southern sands
Eastern Dragon, Kelten, reigns
Brave Parrax of the western straits.

Bravely, the Dragons fought
The wicked Darkma plague
But evil did endure;
Parrax fell to their dark blades.

The Dragons paid the price
When we forgot who we are,
Parrax’s soul ascended,
Now she watches from afar.

We must regain our faith
Pray to the Dragonstone
And remember the four Dragons
Without them, we are alone

Now the Mages guide us
Strong, our faith will burn,
Waiting for the day
The Dragon Gods return.”

As Ella strung the final few notes, the buzz of conversation resumed as a few nearby regulars clapped. A few of them rose to deposit coins into her upturned hat, where they landed with a jingle. When the small crowd dispersed, the bard glanced back over at the bar, but the hooded girl was gone.

Read Part 2

A Bard’s Lament Cover Reveal!! Take a Look!

Day 27

Hi, everyone!

I just went to see Kingsmen 2: The Golden Circle (yeah I know it came out last year, but everything comes to cinemas months later in Japan). It’s awesome! If you enjoyed the first one, definitely watch the second if you haven’t already.

I finally found a cover for A Bard’s Lament! As some of you might know, I had a vote on three pre-made covers I found, but after someone honestly said they didn’t like any of them, I realised something important: neither did I.

I got approached by two very talented designers who made me a cover each. Both of them were great, but I ended up choosing the following:

What do you think? 😀

I’m personally very happy with it; it’s exactly what I had in mind and Maria Spada did an excellent job of bringing the concept I had to life. The other designer, Sanja Balan, also did a great job and I’m using the picture she used as promotional material.

If you’re an indie writer and you like the above design, definitely consider utilizing the skilled and very affordable Maria or Sanja, who were both extremely attentive, speedy, and helpful!

The release date for A Bard’s Lament is coming soon, so keep your eyes peeled! The blurb is below.

Ella and her sister, Lucinda, are doing what they can to survive in the wealthy village of Veilig. Though it is respected for its flourishing blackstone trade, Veilig has a dark secret that the nobles and guards protect, a secret known as “the Rathole” where captured Elf girls are imprisoned in a nightmare of drugs and prostitution. With debt hanging over her head and the captain of the guard keeping an ever-watchful eye over the village, what can Ella do to help? After all, she is only a bard…

Leave a comment and let me know what you think of the cover. See you tomorrow, and have a fantastic weekend!

The Queen’s Alchemist is Now Available in Paperback!

Day 23 [New Year’s Resolution]: The Queen’s Alchemist is Now Available in Paperback!

Hi, everyone! How’s your week going so far?

Though not my debut book, The Queen’s Alchemist is (so far) my only published book on Amazon. After several of my students asked me to give them paperbacks of it, I decided to publish it in print, not just as an ebook. That’s good news for those who prefer paper to ebooks!

AlchemistPrint copy

The cover was designed by the talented Victoria Cooper, who creates covers for thebookcoverdesigner.com. You can also check out her Facebook page.

The paperback is just $5.99, and it’s a great stocking filler, so give it a try! Don’t forget to tweet me if you decide to purchase it.

Get it on Amazon UK
Get it on Amazon US
Get the eBook

Time to Vote! Which Cover Do You Like the Best?

Day 17 [New Year’s Resolution]: Time to Vote!

Hello, children. I’ve almost finished my new story, A Bard’s Lament.

Veilig is a respected town, enriched by the blackstone trade. However, a dark secret lies underneath the village. Guards and nobles turn a blind eye as Elf girls are captured from the wars and taken to what Ella and her sister call ‘The Rathole,’ a prison of drugs and prostitution. With debt hanging over her head and the captain of the guard keeping an ever-watchful eye over the village, what can Ella do to help? After all, she is only a bard…

I hope you’re looking forward to the release as much as I am! There are just a few more details to sort out. I’ve narrowed it down to three covers. Ignore the titles for now, as they’re just examples by the designer. So, which do you like best?

cover vote

Please comment below or send me a tweet to cast your vote! I’ll post the results in a couple of days.

Thanks!

If We Could All Rediscover Our Love for Writing

Day 9 [New Year’s Resolution]: If We Could All Rediscover Our Love for Writing

If you’re a writer, you’ll probably be able to relate when I say that I’ve loved books and writing since I was a little kid. My mum read all the Harry Potter books to my brother and I, and my aunt gifted me a large collection of Jacqueline Wilson books when I was around seven or eight. I read a lot, and loved writing stories in school.

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When I was in Year 6, my teacher liked my story so much that he read it to the whole class, and then he wrote in my school report that I was gifted. Gifted. Me! I already liked writing before that, but that was the day I decided – I knew – this is what I was going to do.

My whole life was writing after that. I started writing the Fire Princess stories, scribbling on pages and pages of A4 printing paper. When I inherited my Mum’s old computer – big, heavy, bulky thing, it was – I’d sit and type for hours and hours and hours. By the time I was thirteen, I’d written three books. Not great books, mind you, but at the time that didn’t matter. I had no idea what the difference was between a good book and a bad book. I really, seriously believed that I would be a famous author by the time I was 20. That’s how easy I thought life would be!

I got the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook and sent my poor Fire Princess novels, along with a poorly-written cover letter, to a lot of people, but although some people replied, they weren’t picked up by anybody. It didn’t deter me, though; I just thought I wasn’t trying hard enough, and it would happen for me eventually.

 

Then when I was 17, I started writing a fantasy series called the Blood Scrolls Trilogy, and self-published it (with a hilariously horrible cover) in 2014. Then a year later I met the proprietor of a Greek start-up publishing house called Quest Publications and they re-published it with a new cover. I’d done it! I was going to be a successful writer!

Ha ha.

Quest Publications are HORRIBLE, by the way; do not go anywhere near them. They didn’t edit or proofread the book (and the sequel) before it was published – even the proprietor didn’t finish reading it, and he was supposed to be in charge of marketing – and they put no effort into selling whatsoever. They “forgot” to pay me my share of the profits and if I offered suggestions, I was either told off and insulted or ignored completely. In 2017, I ended up firing them and finally got the rights to my books back.

Speaking of bad companies, check out this article on how to spot fake publishers and agencies if you’re trying to get published.

Even though Quest Publications finally removed me from their website, the damage was done. Because I hadn’t got any professional editing, some readers spotted plot holes or mistakes that should have been fixed before release. I got badmouthed on Goodreads and my reputation was damaged.

I was heartbroken. Imagine thinking your dreams have finally become a reality, only to have it come crashing down and be back to square one. Worse, actually, because Goodreads and Amazon never completely delete out-of-print books, meaning negative comments are going to be online forever.

Now and then, though, I’ll rediscover that excited feeling I used to get when writing. And I’m not talking about excitement for fame and fortune. I’m talking about that sheer, raw joy of creation, the excitement of buying a notebook and scribbling all your ideas down, no matter how outrageous they were. It’s something that was lost while focusing on writing what people like.

The Fire Princess books were very flawed. I sometimes go through them and laugh at how ridiculous some parts were. But they’re pure like nothing else I’ve written. I wrote whatever I wanted back then, because I wasn’t afraid to fail. I miss that feeling. Can you imagine what we’d be capable of if doubt didn’t exist?

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I might go back and rewrite the Fire Princess books. Why not, right? “You weren’t put on this earth to win a popularity contest,” my dad always says.

Writing shouldn’t be a chore, not unless it’s your day job, I suppose. Writing a novel is recreating a piece of your soul, and I sure put all my soul into those books from my childhood. I’d really love to have that feeling again, of actually enjoying the writing, not toiling through it with the promise of having a product at the end of it. Maybe we’ll discover that passion again someday.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all enjoy writing again?

Short Story: The Queen’s Alchemist

As well as blogs and articles, I also love to write fiction. If you like fantasy, check out my short story, The Queen’s Alchemist, available now on Amazon! It’s free on Kindle Unlimited or $1.99.

The Giants War rages in the north, and Queen Cassandra fears threats from the neighbouring kingdom will tear her fragile empire to the ground. Inside the palace, however, greater threats lurk in the shadows under false promises of loyalty and in the slums, there are whispers of forbidden magic. These seven stories tell tales from the Kingdom of Atharron, the homeland of the Mage Lords.

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Get it on Amazon US
Get it on Amazon UK
Get it on Smashwords

Writing The Queen’s Alchemist was a lot of fun, and it’s a short introduction to the Mage Lords of Theldiniya and their origins. I hope you enjoy this short story and be sure to Tweet me if you decide to buy!