Friday, 26 December 2014

Sword and Scimitar by Simon Scarrow

Sword and ScimitarSword and Scimitar by Simon Scarrow
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What an excellent read. Scarrow has a very nice style of writing and at times is very creative. This was a great story set in a pivotal moment of history. It makes you appreciate how lucky we are that a few brave souls chose to defend Malta. The plot has more to it than the defence of Malta and there is a nice sub-plot. The characters are believable and work together well to create an interesting read. Not a period of history I am familiar with so this was a delight to read. I would recommend this to historical fiction fans.


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Monday, 22 December 2014

Great Review for Drachar's Demons, Thanks Lisa

This is a very heart felt review, read it all at http://www.amazon.co.uk/product-reviews/B006F63352/ref=cm_cr_pr_top_recent?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=0&sortBy=bySubmissionDateDescending

"This book has to quite honestly be one of the best Fantasy books that i have read in a long time! I'd definitely recommend..." Lisa


Empire of the Moghul

Raiders from the North (Empire of the Moghul, #1)Raiders from the North by Alex Rutherford
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I saw someone reading this on a train and liked the look of the cover. Also, being historical fiction attracted me to this book. An interesting period in history with a descendant of Genghis Khan, Babur, trying to forge his own empire. Barbur's path is not plane sailing and there's plenty of downs as well as ups. That makes an interesting tale and at times you wonder what drove him on. I preferred Conn Iggulden's books on Genghis Khan but Empire of the Moghul was still good. It didn't quite capture the people in the way Conn Iggulden's books do, but it's still a good read. It's worth understanding how one man never gave up on his dreams after many setbacks. The period is also interesting as cannon start to creep into the tale.


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Friday, 19 December 2014

Awesome Review and Many Thanks from a Grateful Author

I reread this review and what a moving review it is. Read the complete review at http://www.risingshadow.net/

"Prophecy of the Kings Trilogy is an exciting, easily likeable and fast-paced fantasy adventure, which is difficult to put down once you start reading it. Fans of adventure stories will be delighted by how easily the author keeps the story flowing and delivers plot twists along the way (if you're looking for an enjoyable fantasy adventure, this trilogy will offer good entertainment for a few hours). I can recommend this book to readers who enjoy reading traditional epic fantasy stories, because it's among the best new traditional fantasy books published during the recent years."


ExtendedVersion of the Desolation of Smaug. Awesome


What an excellent film and the extended parts make it even better. I loved the book and oddly the extended parts were brilliant and made me reminisce about the book, especially Gandalf introducing the dwarves to Beorn. I had an argument with my son - I said this is the best of the trilogy but he argues for the last film.

He is wrong.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Battle of the Five Armies - Terrific Film



Well, this is why I love fantasy and this is what it's all about. The Hobbit films have been excellent and a great tribute to the book. The Battle of the Five Armies was good, but could disappoint as it's mainly battle scenes. It does entertain and is a terrific ending to the film trilogy. The opening sequences with Smaug is amazing and takes you there, to a world populated by dragons, albeit the last one.

I loved the films and what an excellent tribute to Tolkien.


Sunday, 7 December 2014

Creative Writing Courses. What Should I Expect?

My comments are based on the course I attended which was via Kent Adult Education. This type of course is useful as they are usually local and they are also face to face with the tutor and other writers. Of course there are on-line courses but losing that face to face aspect is a limitation in my mind. These courses are typically £120 for a 10 week course which is not bad value. Juts Google Creative Writing Adult Education Course and then your town.

So what goes on? I personally was hoping for a steer on my writing and what I was doing right or wrong. The course was some way from that. In the first week we were given an assignment and then asked to read it at the next meeting. People then commented on the story. 

Comments were, for example, primarily around developing characters and had you thought to add something about a particular character. There was also a discussion on the direction of the tale and suggestions on extending the plot or, more usually, asking where the author felt the plot would go next. There was little or nothing about grammar or style.

A disappointment was that the tutor selected who should read an assignment and I found that several weeks went by where I wasn't asked to speak. That made the homework a little pointless. 

The course aimed at getting people writing regularly which it certainly achieved by setting assignments. It also explored different writing such as short stories, poetry and plays, so if you are interested in novel writing then this is only one aspect and may make the course less interesting to you. The course I attended covered poetry and I am dreadful at poetry and could only think of limericks. I found that quite embarrassing and was the lowlight of the course for me.

The highlight was meeting other authors. This is a useful aspect as you meet others who may be able to help by discussing ideas after class. Getting folk to the pub afterwards is not a bad idea.

Overall, the course was helpful to an extent but also disappointing as I was really interested in developing my writing and time was too limited for that. The plus point was meeting others. For the price it is worth considering.


Saturday, 29 November 2014

Great Film. Can you guess?


I thought this was a terrific film. First time I saw it I didn't like it and oddly it grew on me. Bit like this tree! Hee hee.

Friday, 28 November 2014

Mockingjay Part 1


I was warned in the paper that it was slow because it's one book split into two films. This seems to becoming the norm (apart from the Hobbit being 3 films of course).

I quite enjoyed the film nonetheless. It's quite moving and I was not sure what the story line would be outside of the arena as it were. Katmiss's character is handled well and I think the story line work well. Peeta is a bit annoying. Not sure about the actor in that role and in this film his character grates even more. Fortunately he's not in it much.

I still prefer the first film which had a shocking aspect about it that made it stand out from other films of this genre, warriors battling to the last man. The land seemed so bleak and that comes out even more in this film. Fortunately the action jolts you out of morbidity.

Overall I enjoyed it but be warned it is slow in parts. Looking forward to part 2 as it's building up to a climatic ending -- I hope.
http://mockingjay.net/


Saturday, 22 November 2014

Fantasy Appeal, the Modern Age and Links to Mythology. Or, Why I Love Fantasy :)

I wrote about choosing a genre in my Writing a Book Tips and clearly fantasy is one of these, but what is the appeal?

Fantasy is nothing new and in Saxon/Viking times Beowulf was clearly a favourite tale. But, what was Grendel? Was he a troll and was this the start of fantasy writing? But is this the start of fantasy, sitting around log fires in a long-halls, telling tales in the hush of the night? Probably not. For years dragons have been the basis of many myths and legends. Some suggest that dinosaur bones may have prompted these beliefs. Dragons certainly seem to go back centuries in both China and India.

Just like in Beowulf, if there are monsters, then there will be heroes; no doubt riding to the rescue of some damsel in distress. Is folklore then the start of fantasy? Tolkien certainly relied on folklore to write the Lord of the Rings. Looking at Scandinavian folklore Dwarves, Elves and Trolls certainly existed in these tales and there are many more strange creatures such as a Mare, Pesta (grim reaper type creature) and a Nokken (water creature).

Every country seems to have its own folklore and lists of fantasy-type creatures. These creatures were probably created to explain or the many strange goings on the world; the bumps and thumps in the night. It may also be useful to explain away theft, disease and much more. And where there is folklore no doubt there are tales to go with these strange and beguiling creatures, otherwise why would they exist? People interacting with Sprites, Goblins, Fairies, Demons and the like.

If you look up a list of folklore creatures you will be surprised by just how many these are and how widespread these tales are. There are literally thousands of these tales spreading to all corners of the globe. So you  see, fantasy is an ancient and widespread phenomenon. It is in our genes- so to speak.

So how novel (pardon the pun) is modern day fantasy and who started it? I suppose it was the first to print across the wider community and Edgar Rice Burroughs certainly wrote early books, more on Sci Fi than fantasy but the sword and sandals were certainly present with tales of heroics, demonic creatures and women in distress. Tolkien undoubtedly made fantasy popular and you could argue that with all this folklore abounding it was only a matter of time. Perhaps what Tolkien did was make it respectable. However, for mass appeal the Greeks and Homer was probably the very first mass-market writer of fantasy. The Odyssey and the Iliad for example has lots of fantasy type creatures with its tales of Gods, Cyclops, Harpies, Sirens, Nymphs and any more creatures. It even has its own Dark Lord in Hades, the King of the underworld. .

One issue behind fantasy is that science and travel have made mythology less believable and yet deep-rooted within many of us is the desire to hear tales from the darkness. Tell anyone that you read fantasy and there is less kudos than reading thrillers, historical fiction etc. And yet historical fiction about Rome, Egypt and Ancient Britain is just fantasy set many centuries ago, for the people lived their lives believing in gods, the underworld and a whole plethora of mythical beasts. If you write about historical fiction, your characters must believe in the world around them. He/she probably wouldn't cross a river without laying out a charm or leaving an offering to appease the river sprites.

To my mind -- fantasy is king. I love these tales of good versus evil. If you are writing then fantasy is a great arena to play out your creation, For a great list of fantasy creatures, check out Harry Potter and just see how many of these creatures link to ancient mythology. There are some great new additions, but that is the beauty of fantasy - like a Mandrake -- it just keeps on growing.

My Experiences Creating a Book Plot
My Top Writing Tips for Authors
How to Start writing a Book



Interesting Read: Alchemystic by Anton Strout.

Alchemystic (The Spellmason Chronicles, #1)Alchemystic by Anton Strout
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Not my usual read. It's fantasy but modern day Gothic so not sure what heading that comes under. It's not a page turner all the way through and I found myself picking it up and reading a few pages at a time. It's nicely written and the central characters make the story readable.

The premise is odd; a flying gargoyle (not sure that's a spoiler as he's shown on the front page and mentioned in the blurb). The scientist part of me was less understanding - flying stone, but then again a live Gargoyle? Disbelief is what fantasy is all about and it's the skill of the author to make it believable.

Anton Strout does a good job here and the story moves along nicely. There's a lot of chat and the action comes in bursts. I reached the end of the book and did want to follow the tale which makes it worth 4 stars in my view.


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Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Cool Dragon Tables
















These are great. The one on the left looks grumpy and no wonder, carrying a table of wine and not being able to reach it.

Gorgeous Fairy Artwork

This is lovely. OK it's a bit soft of me saying lovely, but it is good.


Sunday, 16 November 2014

Writing a Book - My Self Publishing Experience and Advice


I have offered advice in a number of articles, see below, and thought it might help to put this in context with how I started and some of my initial pitfalls. I would like to start by asking a question – why self publish? Many folk refrain from self publishing in the hope of a publishing contract. That’s very sound, but my advice is to try both routes. Develop a novel that you are happy to self publish and see how it goes. The publishing route is incredibly difficult as we all know, but clearly not impossible as many people do manage that route. Some self-publishers also achieve that route (Michael Sullivan for example). 

Initially, I sent an enquiry letter to quite a few publishers and literary agents in both the UK and US and received many rejection letters for my efforts. Months passed before I received any responses and as time passed I set about improving my novels. Over the years, the first sample chapters I sent off probably bear little resemblance to the final versions. You cannot kid yourself though; the quality of the sample chapter, blurb and synopsis has to be incredibly high if you want to go via a publisher. Any spelling or grammatical errors will put the publisher/literary agent off. You need to engage with a good editor from the start. Paying someone over the Internet can be a recipe for disaster. Most folks are in this business for the money and will do as brief a job as possible. Not all people are like that, but editing is a time consuming business so it can be expensive. Ideally a friend or family member can make this process cheap, but will they be up to the task?

I had an interesting experience over the phone with a literary agent. It went like this:

Me: High, I have a manuscript and was wondering whether you would read it?
LA: Hello dear. Are you an established author?
Me: No.
LA: Then it will be rubbish, dear.
Me: My friends and family enjoyed it.
LA: They would say that. Wouldn't they dear?

She had an interesting point. You really should not ask family members about your work. It is unfair and puts them in a difficult position. It also raises your expectations. Be advised that editing your book may help improve the grammar and spelling, but you need to check that it really is helping. Some editors will correct what you give them, but pay little or no attention to the storyline and characterisation. If both are poor from the start, then they will remain poor unless an editor is prepared to advise you on those. Clearly that will require multiple edits and so will raise the cost. But, as I have said, the quality of your work has to be very high, for both published and self published work.

I wrote my manuscripts a long time ago and have spent the time since converting them from hand written forms to computer documents. I have also spent much of this time revising the books (I wrote a trilogy which for a first effort is a bad mistake as it triples all your costs). I also learned a lot about self publishing and as you will see, I did that literally.

I initially submitted my manuscripts to the local library. They put out a call for local authors to do this. My manuscripts were in folders at the time and I put a picture on the cover. Other authors submitted something similar so I was not alone in my quality standards. It was at this point that I had a revelation – no one was taking any of the folders out, possibly due to being embarrassed about taking out a manuscript in a binder.

This made me interested in real self publishing, i.e. producing my own book bound copy. I spent a while perfecting this. I used cloth soaked in glue as the initial spine and had a one piece cover made. I built a wooden frame which could compress the book via various clips. I learned to print A5, double sided so that my paper costs were optimised. I actually made some very serviceable books and they almost looked the part.

Back to the library I went and to my relief the books started to go out. It was a marvellous feeling; the books had their own reference number and docket so I could check once in while. The books were definitely being borrowed and as often as any other in the library. That was a great feeling. One day I was behind a chap in the library queue and I overheard him asking for the third book in my trilogy. The library didn’t have a copy as it was out, so I raced home and got him a copy. The chap was very pleased.

For a while this was great, but I wasn't getting any feedback. My books were in the library for about 4 years and I even had to replace worn out copies. So you can see that time can fly. The only justification I had that the books were OK was that all three were being borrowed and that at least made me feel justified as an author. It was at this stage that friend mentioned LULU, a new (or at least new to me) self publishing business.

My next steps were a real learning process. I didn't want to commit too much money to the task, as I was an unknown author and I knew that my books may not appeal. It was becoming more of a serious hobby though. To keep costs down I used old photos that I had taken in part for a historical re-enactment group I belong to – Regia Anglorum. The photos had a distinctly fantasy feel to them so I though they would do the job. I had to get ISBN numbers (the self publisher supplies these now) and register as a publisher.

Within 6 months I had the next generation of novels available for sale and again what a terrific feeling that was. However, Lulu (at the time) was a little strange in that they were meant to be a US company, but the costs of selling the books in the US was prohibitively expensive. They simply took the UK costs and converted this pro rata to dollars, which at the time was crazy. I then found Createspace (Amazon based company) and published books with them as well, with a slight variation in the title. This was great as Createspace books sold realistically priced in the US and LULU similarly in the UK.

Things were really moving, but book sales were sluggish. Several more years passed and for my latest novel I went to a graphic designer to get a really good book cover made. I also spent money with two editors, receiving a passable effort from one and a really dedicated effort from the other. At this stage I was truly self published. My greatest breakthrough was Kindle. Last year I averaged 100 e-book sales a month; over a thousand books in the year.

My reviews were increasing and I won a Gold Award on one website and my books achieved book of the month on another, which really helped my confidence, but strangely did little to help sales. However, I was finally gaining credentials.

In the present day, by far the hardest issue now remains marketing. Google frequently changes how it ranks websites. For a while my ranking was good, but has recently and mysteriously dropped. I now spend far more time marketing than writing. Like the synopsis and blurb, marketing is yet another talent area. You may have noticed by now that there is a propensity for costs to escalate. You must be very careful who you go to, to help with editing, marketing, publishing and there are a lot of Internet sharks waiting to take your money. That is the subject of another article I wrote, Internet sharks and the FBI[1].

Finally, in hindsight should I have gone the self publishing route? I should say that over the years I have read a few published books that quite frankly were dreadful. You cannot fault the English and grammar, but the story lines... Some were so dreadfully dull that I gave up on them, which is rare for me. Don’t get me wrong that this is frequent, but it does show that the published route is not perfect.

I am pleased to be gaining a pedigree, which helps to show the self publishing route is not a complete loss. Even though there are dreadful books that are self published, there are also gems. Where my books fit on that scale, I do not fully know. I know where I would like to think they are, but you must be very careful in making that assumption.

As to advice; as you can see from my experience patience is a great virtue. It has taken years to get to this point. Self publishing companies are making huge strides in making this process far easier than the route that I took. Neither Lulu nor Createspace charge, other than for their distribution channels. I would suggest that you shouldn't have to pay too much to self publish, but do not expect an instant hit and massive sales. Even published books sometimes do not make it. Bookshops have limited space and many published books go on their shelves for only a brief period and then are removed if they haven’t proven themselves.

Self publishers should refrain from asking family and friends to write reviews, especially when they haven’t read the work. It is fairly obvious when this happens as the language is far too complimentary. You also expect to get some poor reviews, after all not everyone will like your work.

There is a great deal of gratification from producing a book. There is also potential for heartbreak. Writing is not a route to instant success or riches. I have heard of some people leaving their jobs to write. Having sold a thousand books in a year – my reward? About $500 so you can see that you are unlikely to become a millionaire. I do wish folk success though, and for the few that do become millionaires? Well done! Well done indeed!

David Burrows









[1] http://ezinearticles.com/?Trials-and-Tribulations-of-a-Self-Published-Author---Internet-Sharks,-the-FBI-and-Reviews&id=6919278

Friday, 14 November 2014

Gnome Home Hell; a Fantasy Short Story by David Burrows


“Dad, the gnomes are back,” Charlie said, running towards Mike, with a dirt-smeared piece of paper clutched in his hand.
Mike’s heart sank and he groaned, “Again? How do you know they are back, Charlie? You were wrong last time, don’t forget.” Mike’s home had been invaded before and at that time they had relied on the council to get rid of them. It had taken months, as the waiting list was huge. A few weeks ago Charlie had said the gnomes were back, but fortunately he was mistaken.
Charlie was innocently unaware of all the havoc that gnomes created, as he grinned up at his father. A seven year old had no real concept of the cost that gnomes could cause a family. Mischief glinted in his eyes as he handed the paper over to his father. “I found this, dad.”
“Did you let them in, Charlie?” Mike demanded, his voice suggesting uncertainty whilst his face looked horrified that Charlie might have actually been stupid enough to actually do this.
“Of course not, dad,” Charlie sulked. “I know how angry you get when gnomes get in.”
Mike studied his son’s face for a moment. The look of mischief was gone, replaced with a look of concern. He hated being told off.”
Mike took the paper and unfolded it. It was a child-like scribble and briefly he glanced at his son to see if it was his joke after all. In a way he wished it was, but again his son looked genuinely concerned by his father’s obvious anger. His gaze returned to the paper and another groan escaped his lips.
“They’ll be in the cellar,” he said, crumpling the paper in his fist, his eyes staring into the distance. How much would this cost him this time? He regretted not buying the GnomeZapper, the home protector trusted by thousands of sensible homeowners. The radio advert ran through his brain; a mantra that every family hated for it made you think of gnomes and the damage they wreaked. The device was very expensive, but possibly not as expensive as the repairs from an invasion. Mike stormed towards the cellar door, his son following on his heels.
“Can I come down, dad?” Charlie asked.
For a moment Mike considered saying no, but his son’s presence might be just what he needed. The worst thing to do was to lose you temper with a gnome. If threatened, the gnomes hid and the problems trebled. “Yes, you can come down, but be quiet and don’t encourage them. If you show kindness we are doomed.” His son looked genuinely shocked at this and for a moment Mike regretted being so brutal in his assessment, but his son had to understand the truth.
Mike opened the door and then reached behind it for the cellar light switch, “Please be here and not in the attic,” he mumbled. A friend at work had once had gnomes in the attic and before he realised that they were there, the roof had collapsed.
Mike and Charlie descended the narrow stair and almost in front of where the stairs ended was a hole in the ground. Mike stifled a swear word.
“Suger, eh, dad!” Charlie offered, looking sympathetic. Amongst the damp and smell of old bricks was the scent of freshly dug soil. Not only were the gnomes there, but they were already fairly deep. To one side of the tunnel was another hole in the wall; bricks had been removed haphazardly, leaving a jagged maw leading into darkness. A couple of pieces of wood leaned in the hole in a child-like attempt to shore up the wall and stop it from caving in.
“Go get me a torch, Charlie” Mike sighed and he listened as Charlie’s feet slapped on the steps on his way up. “The big torch!” Mike called up as an after thought. He knelt by the hole in the wall and peered in. That there were two holes was a very bad sign. He unfolded the paper in his hand and tried to make sense of the wavy lines. This was probably their equivalent of an architect’s plan. Not that a plan would help. Gnomes were dreadful builders and they caused havoc wherever they went.
His musing was distracted as Charlie, hovering by his side, thrust a large torch into Mike’s eye line. Mike jumped. He hadn’t heard his son return. He took the torch and fumbled for the switch, nearly blinding himself by the powerful beam.
“Shit!” he said before he could think.
“Sugar, dad,” Charlie scolded him. Every time the “s” word was used, Cathy, Mike’s wife always interposed sugar instead.
At this point Mike just didn’t care. He shone the beam into the tunnel. There were already side tunnels; some slanting up and some down. Bricks had been used to make doorways. They never used cement and it was purely a mimicry of the buildings they invaded.
Mike went to the hole in the floor and shone the beam into that. How the hell did they get through cement? To one side of the hole and across the back of the cellar was a growing pile of broken, brick, cement and earth. Looking back down the hole it descended a few feet and then seemed to divert under his feet in the direction of the same wall as the other hole.
Mike shook his head.
“Master Builder,” he shouted into the hole in the ground. He then repeated the phrase calling into the tunnel in the wall.
“Why are they called Master Builders, dad?”
“That’s what they like to be called, son. It’s usually the head of the household.” It was a nicety Mike could have done with out. He wanted to scream come out here you useless shits, but that was a certain road to failure in negotiating with these small freaks of nature.
“Maybe they’ve gone,” Charlie said hopefully, in a child’s naivety that at Christmas was cute, but now was just annoying.
“No, the little s...sugars are still here. Once they’re in you can’t get rid of them.”
“Then how...”
Charlie’s question was interrupted as a small, creature stepped through the hole in the wall, a hand held across its eyes, shielding them from the glare of the torch. Mike switched off the torch and studied the creature. He had seen several moles and wondered how they seemed so clean whilst burrowing under ground. Gnomes had no such finesse. This creature stank of soil which crusted his hair, beard, mouth, fingernails and nearly everything else about the creature. Its clothes were probably stolen, but were as badly engrained with dirt as the creature’s beard.
“Welcome to my home, Tall Person,” the gnome intoned politely.
The phrase my home rattled through Mike’s brain and he sucked in a deep breath, looking at Charlie to calm himself. His son’s eyes shone with wonder. He’d never seen a gnome before and meeting something smaller than himself who was probably thirty years older was probably a defining moment in his life.
“Master Builder,” Mike snarled, pausing to still the beating of his heart and prevent himself throttling the small creature. “This is your plan,” he said holding up the piece of paper. “You must have dropped it.” The thought had sprung to Mike’s mind and desperately, he thought how to develop the train of thought.
The gnomes eyes lit up and he reached out his hand. “You have my thanks. I was wondering whether the left turn was right or up instead.”
Mike withdrew the map marginally, making it clear he was not about to give it up. His mind raced for ideas.
“Your tolerances are wrong,” Mike snapped. Your design is flawed and your home will collapse, bringing mine down along with it.
The gnome growled deep in its throat. “Tolerances are good. I know how to build.”
“Look,” Mike said pointing at a scribble on the page. “That’s off by a good hands’ width. If you don’t get it right to a finger’s width then you know the consequences.”
Mike hadn’t got a clue what he was saying, but criticising a Master Builder for his trade seemed sensible, given he held his plans.
The gnome tried to peer at the map, but Mike held it back.
“Know how to build,” the gnome said, fumbling in a pocket with a dirt encrusted hand. It pulled out another piece of paper and proudly held it up. “Look, new map and tolerances clearly marked.”
Inwardly Mike swore. A door banged upstairs and he heard Cathy’s shout of hello.
“Wait here,” Mike said to the gnome. Turning on his heel he took the stairs two at a time. Cathy came around the corner just as he came out from the cellar doorway, a look of shock on her face.
“Mike, what the hell...you made me jump out of my skin.”
“We’ve got gnomes!” he blurted and was gratified to see that his wife’s face fell, sharing his horror.
“In the cellar?” she asked, nodding towards the door.
“Damn right and they’ve started two holes.”
“Two? We’ll never get rid of them. Do I call the council?”
“No point, they take months. Remember the last time! You know your collection of milk bottle tops you have...the old ones?”
“Yes, of course,” she replied looking suspicious.
“Get them for me. The gold ones.”
Cath’s face fell once again. “My mother collected those.”
“Do you want gnomes?” Mike hissed through gritted teeth.
Cath took an intake of breath and went to find the milk bottle tops. They were simply gold coloured foil of course, but Mike was desperate. Cath reappeared moments later with a transparent plastic bag full of shiny foil.
“Brilliant,” Mike said snatching the prize and storming down the stair with his wife following behind.
The gnome and his son stood looking at each other. Neither spoke which was probably a good thing. With mounting horror, Mike realised he should never have left his son alone with the gnome. Gnomes were harmless, but invite one for dinner and you instantly became a long lost cousin.
“Master Builder,” Mike started. “You have done a fine job of building. Your holes are the best I’ve seen.” Mike held the bag of milk bottle tops behind his back. The negotiations were just starting after all.
The gnome puffed itself up with pride. All gnomes thought that they were fine buildings, but no one ever told them that, so this must have been a first.
“I would like to buy your home from you. I’ll give you gold,” he said. The your home really stuck in his throat.
The gnome’s eyes shone and Mike trembled. If the gnome knew about metal foil then his plan was doomed.
“Where we go, if you buy my home?” the gnome grumbled.
“I’m sure you will find somewhere. With the gold you will be able to buy a new home,” Mike suggested, finally taking the risk of producing the gold painted foil, which shone brightly in the cellar light. The dwarf’s jaw dropped, revealing stumps of teeth in assorted array, looking like gravestones in an abandoned cemetery.
“S...so much gold...,” the gnome stammered, a tear appearing at the corner of its eye.
“You and your family must leave though,” Mike growled, barely suppressing his anger.
“And never come back!” Cath suggested.
The gnome’s attention was fully on the bag. “Agreed,” it huffed. Looking back over its shoulder it shouted, “Others! Come, we leave.”
“How many are there of you? Cath asked. Mike smiled his gratitude. They had to ensure they all left otherwise any that remained would simply let the family back in.
“More than three,” the gnome said and Mike groaned. Gnomes counting went, one, two, three and more than three, so that could mean any number at all.
Calling his bluff, Mike said, “We will count you all and make sure that you all leave.”
One by one, grubby creatures of assorted height came blinking into the light. Which was the wife and children was difficult to tell. Mike counted nine in all. He was taking a risk, “More than three,” he agreed nodding. The gnome nodded in reply.
“You will get the gold when you are outside the house,” Mike announced.
“I am outside my house,” the gnome grumbled. The others behind him were fidgeting and talking amongst themselves as though this was a normal event in a normal day.
“Outside of my house,” Mike answered.
“Where’s your house?” the gnome asked, its eyebrows narrowed in confusion.
Mike sighed, knowing he could never explain this concept. “Follow me and I’ll show you.”
He led the gnomes in a procession up the stairs and to the front door which he flung open, revealing a dark night with puddles of rain water reflecting the light from the surrounding street lamps.
“Awe, poor things,” Cath said, and Mike shot her a dark look. Don’t you dare, he stared at her. She must have caught his intent and her eyes became downcast and she fell silent.
The cold gusted in, but Mike reasoned gnomes were immune to the cold, given they lived in tunnels.
“The gold,” the gnome said holding out its grubby paw.
“Outside,” Mike nodded.
The gnome’s shoulders visibly sagged as it stepped over the threshold. The others followed and once again Mike counted them. Nine. They were all out; or at least he hoped so. He was tempted to slam the door shut, but gnomes were quick and he had a promise from the creature that they wouldn’t come back. He threw the bag of foil at the gnome and then shut the door, sagging against it in relief.
“What if they’ve already tunnelled outside somewhere and just get back in?” Cath asked.
Mike shook his head, “Let’s hope not. I’ll call that builder fellow, Zack, and get an estimate on repairs first thing in the morning. He’ll block up any entrance and hopefully shore up the house.”
“It will cost us,” Cath said, her eyes brimming with tears. She had been talking about a holiday away somewhere and this could use up all their savings.
Mike was fuming. “I’m going to buy a GnomeZapper tomorrow as well. I should have bought one months ago.”
“But friends say that they don’t work,” Cath said, seeing their savings dwindling further.
“Anything is worth a shot,” Mike grumbled. “It’s cheaper than getting the house’s foundations repaired each time!”
“I liked the gnomes, dad,” Charlie added looking up at his parents. “Can’t we get one for Christmas?”
“No. And never let one in, Charlie!” Mike snapped. “We’ll get a dog. How about that? A puppy, to help see off the gnomes when it grows up.”
Cath cast him a withering look, gnomes ate dogs so there was little deterrent there. It was also an additional cost that they could now ill afford.
Mike was pleased though. At least the gnomes were gone and the house was still standing. He knew of people far worse off. What a dreadful day, but finally he felt he could relax.

The gnome stood on the doorstep holding his bag of painted foil. “This very good gold,” he said to his family. “Very light. Easy to carry.”
A light drizzle caused him to look up; his face becoming streaks of dirt as the water did in moments what a lifetime wouldn’t otherwise achieve. Leading his family, he trudged up the road. At an alley a “pssst”, caught his attention and he led the others into the partial shelter.
“That was quick,” a voice said. A figure stepped from the shadow, an umbrella held over his head. “What went wrong?”
“Greeting Tall Person,” the gnome answered sullenly. Tall Person was not polite sometimes.
“It’s Zack, you idiot. My name’s Zack. Now, why are you out of that house so quickly?”
“Tall person give gold,” the gnome said, clutching his prize defensively. His family gathered around him, looking at the foil in the bag in obvious awe.
“That’s not gold!” Zack scoffed.
“Must be gold. Man bought good home with it,” the gnome said sharply, an ugly scowl on his face.
Zack could see in the gnome’s eyes that we wasn’t going to be persuaded otherwise and inwardly he cursed. Then Zack shrugged his shoulders. He gave the gnome a torn piece of paper with 27 written on it. “See that shape. Look for that on a door more than three doors up the road,” Zack said, pointing in the direction he wanted them to go. “They have a cat-flap at the back door. You can let yourselves in that way.”
“Cat,” some of the gnomes muttered, licking their lips.
“Cat-flap,” Zack repeated, mimicking a cat flap opening and shutting with his hand.
The gnome nodded and grasping the paper he led his family from the alley.

Inwardly Zack was seething. That the gnomes had been bought so easily with metal foil was very, very annoying. If people found out about that trick then his house repair business could be out of work within weeks. Then again there was always his GnomeZapper. That was earning him a small fortune and the only threat to those sales was from do-gooders who felt the gnomes were being harmed in someway. Zack growled his anger. The GnomeZapper was completely useless of course, but he would still send gnomes to the do-gooders homes to silence them, if he could found out who they were.
He was becoming a wealthy man, but he trusted no one. He could easily afford a limousine and a chauffer, but to keep his secret he would walk home. No doubt Mike would phone him in the morning and on his way home he could start thinking about how much to charge him. The last time, he had charged Mike a lot, but given the gnomes were in the house for less than a day he may have to cut his costs. Still, he loved gnomes. But, he was the only one that did. He wondered where he cold find some more to grow his business.



Sunday, 9 November 2014

Initial Marketing Steps Having Written a Book: Giving a Presentation.



Once you have written a book and published it you will want to turn your thoughts to marketing. Giving a talk at your local library is one way of promoting your work. Above is a presentation I put together describing the process I went through as a self-published author and some of the pitfalls.

If you have read some of my blogs on Writing a Book, you will recognise many of the issues I raise, but it is fun putting it into a presentation and talking about these to an audience.

You will need to take copies of your books with you and put them on display. People will buy your books at these events. My audience was about 30 people and I sold about 5 copies. I am very honest and I did caution them that my books were fantasy and only to buy them if that was their preferred genre.

Giving a presentation can be daunting. I took my family with me and that helped to have friendly faces in the audience. Do not worry though, as the audience is usually very friendly and enjoy hearing about other people's experiences.

Try to add humour to the presentation. I added photographs and told how I was caught out by an unscrupulous literary agent and the FBI contacted me about them. That certainly generated some interest. I also told them about how I made my own books and had an example with me. I put the home made copy in a library and it was taken out on a regular basis, which was a great achievement for me.

Overall - it was fun and I would recommend doing this.

Saturday, 8 November 2014

New to Smashwords - Drachar's Demons, fantasy by David and Andrew Burrows

Smashwords allows many download types so I have recently published Drachar's Demons there. Please give it a a try and let me know what you think.

I enjoyed reading Drachar's Demons. It's one of the most enjoyable fantasy books I've read this year. Drachar's Demons is excellent and fast paced entertainment for fans of traditional fantasy books. If you like well written traditional fantasy with plenty of magic and action, you'll enjoy this book very much..  RisingShadow.net


https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/491179

the top 31 Tattoos for Fantasy Fans - Must Haves

This site has listed the top tattoos for fantasy fans.

 Personally I like number 4 -- One Ring Inscription :)

What's your favourite

http://s3-ec.buzzfed.com/static/2014-10/17/11/enhanced/webdr11/enhanced-2998-1413561376-3.jpg

Official Trailer - The Battle of the Five Armies

The trailer looks absolutely amazing. This is what fantasy is all about and it looks terrific. Roll on December!



http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2310332/


Friday, 31 October 2014

Legacy of the Eldric -- Low Price $0.99 #Smashworlds

Legacy of the Eldric is now available in several download formats from Smashworlds: Low price of $0.99

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/291263

In Legacy of the Eldric he has certainly achieved his aim; the characters are memorable and the plot is fast-paced and exciting. It is an opening chapter in a series that I look forward to reading the mid and end parts to. This is solid fantasy; exactly what a fantasy doctor would order for those looking for an enjoyable escape from reality, fans of Tolkien, Hobb and Moorcock will love what they find here. Definitely recommended. 7.8 out of 10 http://www.fantasybookreview.co.uk/



Saturday, 25 October 2014

New Low Prices on Kindle Books

My Kindle ebooks are available at a new low price. Check them out here for UK customers. Or for US customers, click here.

"...a sweeping tale of high fantasy that will keep you hooked until the very last page." 


Two Fantasy Tree Houses


These really fire the imagination. I love the top one especially. Nice artwork. http://vasylina.deviantart.com/art/Lodge-in-the-wood-455555070

Fairy Fantasy Art.

Gorgeous fantasy artwork from FairyGodMother. Have a look at the original full sized. It's brilliant.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Fantasy Dreams: Castles

Bedzin Castle, Poland. I particularly like this for the artistic shot. Farming the sun and with the trees either side it looked more like a painting than a photo. Looks particularly vulnerable to me though, being in a valley. I wonder if you could fill it with water. Sounds like one of my fantasy genie jokes

Film Review: Fury


Excellent film but not for the faint-hearted. Lots of gore but very well contrived film and plot. As to the gore - it is second world war and tanks. Brad Pitt is excellent in this as a war-weary sergeant tackling yet another mission. The newbie support driver is well cast and plays the part well and gives the other side of war. It's loud and dangerous both inside and outside the tank. Even protected by a hull of thick metal there's lots to be afraid of, especially with Tigers on the prowl. Overall, well worth seeing and very moving.

Spoiler



A little like The Beast  towards the end of the film so if you enjoy this film then look out for that one.

Fantasy book review: Landmoor by Jeff Wheeler

LandmoorLandmoor by Jeff Wheeler
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Some good ideas -- I liked the concept of Everoot and the characterisation was well handled. For some reason the use of Bandits and Bandit chiefs grated. Not sure whether I am just being picky.

Having said that, it was readable and kept me entertained. I was influenced  a little bit by having read two other good fantasy tales, so the competition was high. I get the feeling though that this tale was about to start and would improve in the next book. I may get it to see if that is the case.


View all my reviews

Photos from US Visit

Here are a few photos from my US visit. Washington and Phoenix on this occasion. Washington was really good and the photos are from the Great Falls Park. The weather in Phoenix was spectacular with blue skies and temperatures in excess of 90 degrees F. Brilliant.


 Spot the snake!



Saturday, 11 October 2014

Legacy of the Eldric, a fantasy book by David Burrows

On Amazon UK

Writing a Book - Creating Character Names

Ok, this issue really applies mainly to fantasy and sci-fi authors. It is an important issue and can be quite a challenge. From a reader’s perspective, there’s nothing more off-putting by names that don’t quite roll off the tongue, as it were. For example -- Gragle, Rambalin, Dfrolph are names off the top of my head Surely the reader expects and deserves a little bit more than this. Some names (the latter one) are impossible to pronounce or even imagine, so what does make a good name? I think it’s some sense of familiarity, but not too familiar to be in a fiction novel. Odds are if you liek teh sound of a name, it should work. (I actually quite like Graggle. Hmmm, perhaps another time).

For a great name, I am reminded of a Dragon Lance book which opened with Flint Fireforge. He’s a dwarf of course, but the name is brilliant. It immediately conjures up a character without actually writing much else. Of course it’s great to have a description, but get a name right and that’s half the battle. This reflects the power in a name.

So where did I get my inspiration for names. Initially it was easy, but then later as the character list grew I had to resort to a few tricks. These tricks may or may not suit you, but the way I went about this may inspire other thoughts so bear with me.

I used several different approaches. I wanted names that were familiar to us, but different. The following methods formed the backbone of my naming convention:

  1. Changing names I was already aware of.
  2. Making an anagram of someone’s name
  3. Looking at maps and other sources for names for ones I liked.
  4. Shortening a common name.

Changing a name is easy and that immediately sounds familiar. Steven can become Stefan. Jonathan became Chanathan. The familiarity of the name made them acceptable in my view. If the name is still too familiar then try the next suggestions.

I needed the name for a witch in book 2 of my trilogy. My mother-in-law is called Moira and so I used the letters of her name to make up another. It wasn’t quite an anagram, but it was close. I came up with Ariome. This name and character has grown on me over the years and, like many of my characters, I cannot now see her named anything else. My worst mistake though was mentioning her to my mother-in-law. A lot of creeping on my part and I am just about forgiven.

The third suggestion on the list proved interesting. I looked at a map and then settled on names I just liked the sound of. Dalamere was one and Dalamere the third just seemed to leap from the page. He became a historical figure who caused another figure great angst. Dalamere had an ability to detach his spirit from his body and he used this ability to spy on people and then to blackmail them. Again, Dalamere is another character that I couldn’t imagine being called anything else. A purist could point out that a mere is a small mountain lake and some folk may even know of  the place, but again familiarity makes it immediately acceptable, in my view.

Another name I liked was Chanteal, and I used that as a mountain range, which I think it was on the map. Chanteal is probably not a well known name and I am relying on that unfamiliarity to help me gain an acceptable name in a book.

For the last suggestion on the list I liked Nathanial as a name (I have several great grandparents and great great grandpa etc called that) so I shortened it to Nate. It’s a familiar sounding name, but not too common so could easily feature ins a fictional novel. This character was a simple soldier and helped me to give the perspective of my land from a low born person. Nate is a simple name and seemed to work, in my mind.

I also used some naming conventions. In Scotland mountains are called Bens (Ben Nevis for example) so I used Kin for forests (KinAnor, KinKassack) and Ban for mountains. (BanKildor). I admire authors who take the time to make names of different races similar. For example in Poland everyone seems to have ...ol at the end of their name. For Russian it seems to be ...ov. Adopting a naming convention may help to make your characters sound as though they are regional. I think that would be incredibly difficult to do. I didn’t, so please treat this suggestion with caution.

A pet hate is when people start a book with a string of names and place names. For example Gragle, Rambalin, Dfrolph were travelling to Front, a city at the heart of Kronk Empire.

It’s very difficult for a reader to pick up several new names in one go, especially when they are unfamiliar. Making the names more familiar would help, but don’t throw them at a reader like a handful of grit cast so carelessly aside. You need to nurture the name and the character in the reader’s mind. Introduce them singly and get the reader familiar with them before introducing more characters.

Further sources of names that you could play with are historical names. You could use these immediately as they are familiar in some sense, but again not too familiar. Have a look at Appendix:English_surnames_from_Old_English 

I liked Buckley which immediately sprang out. Then you can start playing with that name, Bruckley, Brackley...etc, Then there’s variations on an anagram theme e.g. Rubley. I am not suggesting these names are good, but I am showing a process of how to generate names.

A tip someone else gave me was to make each character memorable. Bruckley may have an eye patch, so when you describe him several pages on you can remind the reader which character you are referring to by mentioning, Buckley adjusted his eye patch, a habit more than anything else... Finally, keep a character list with their mannerisms, dress sense, hair and eye colour etc as you may need to refer back to this several times. Don’t skimp and a page per character is probably sensible.


The important thing is that you are the author. Have fun and play around with names. If you like the sound then it is likely your readers will as well. Good luck.

Monday, 6 October 2014

Help needed with my blurb - sounds like an affliction :)

Anyone help me out to improve this please??

"In a heart-pounding adventure Kaplyn must find the whereabouts of the Eldric and more importantly their sorcery. Demon activity is on the increase and only sorcery can defeat them. However, the Eldric mysteriously disappeared soon after the Krell Wars many years ago and no one knows their fate.

An Eldric city holds the key, but its ghosts are reluctant to give up their secret. Vastra, a self professed sorcerer claims to know about demons and the Eldric, but he is arrogant and manipulative. He also harbours a secret for which he will kill to protect.

The scene is set and the enemy are not idle. Summoning demons is fraught with danger. However, a gateway to the demon world would release untold power at little cost. The race is on to stop the demon hordes and countless lives … and souls are at stake."


Many thanks in advance

David

Who Needs Fantasy Creatures When we Have This...


Imagine a six foot one of these coming at you!! Shiver. I'd want a 12 foot spear and a bloody big axe. A couple of mates with bows would also be quite useful of course. It's a naked mole rat. Probably quite loveable -- perhaps to its mother.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Gorgeous Castle - Could be Straight form a Fantasy Tale.

Le ch√Ęteau de Ross

This castle is stunning and I love the reflection. It could be straight from some fantasy novel. Imagine the thoughts of some enemy commander having been sent to destroy the castle as he espies it for the first time. Very tall walls, an outer defence and a lake or at least a wide moat. No tunnelling under this monster. Ballistas and trebuchets would gain struggle due to the range. time to make a cup of tea (or some fantasy equivalent drink) sit back and decide whether to go home or not. Brilliant.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Apprentice Swordceror by Chris Holloway

Apprentice Swordceror (Blademage Saga, #1)Apprentice Swordceror by Chris Hollaway
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I read this after reading The Heresy Within and there was considerable contrast between the two books both in style and story. While Heresy Within was action packed and gritty, with a blunt writing style, Apprentice Swordceror was a much simpler style and easier to read. Some folk reviewing it have said it's standard fantasy, but I found it to be very easy to read and quietly enjoyable. There are Orcs, but their introduction heralded and interesting type of creature and threat. Magic is different to other books I've read and perhaps more similar to that found in fantasy games such as Diablo, with scrolls and staffs of a particular magic type.

The main character develops well with an interesting mix of magic and swordsmanship. Apparently the two shouldn't go together and the author leaves you guessing why this might be and promises a tale for the future.The tale holds a lot of promise and I enjoyed the first book and will certainly read the next.


View all my reviews

The Heresy Within by Rob J Heyes

The Heresy Within (The Ties That Bind, #1)The Heresy Within by Rob J. Hayes
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Wow, I struggled initially and some of the writing put me off but then I was gripped. it's the wild west set in Africa with a fantasy edge. The characters slowly grow on you and then grip you. Arbiters are witch hunters and one man - Black Thorn seems out to kill as many as Arbiters as he can. His face is burned from one confrontation, but that doesn't stop him trying.

Thanquil Darkheart is an arbiter on a quest and of course his path crosses Thorn's but the tale is not obvious and there's plenty of twists. It's a dark fantasy with some interesting female leads. The writing is gritty and to the point. It is not always easy to read, but it is well worth the effort. I'm definitely buying the next volume. A good read with memorable characters.


View all my reviews

Sunday, 28 September 2014

New Low Price - Whilst Stocks Last

The nice folk at Amazon have kindly dropped the price of Legacy of the Eldric. Check it out here whilst stocks last - Dragon Rider - Low Price  It was only £4.14 - slashed from £6.99 when I looked.


Lots of FREE Fantasy Reading

On my website there are 2-3 chapters from each of my books, free to read.


These books comprise the Prophecy of the Kings saga

Also, I have a free book downloadable in PDF, Kindle, Nook and other formats. It's primarily short stories and some further extracts from my books that are stand-alone reads.

Download your free copy here https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/430719

If you are on Wattpad then these short stories are here DavidBurrows

Saturday, 27 September 2014

How to Make a Book!

Before I found Lulu and Createspace I made a few home-made books to put in my local library. The quality was OK but not as good as Lulu etc.

A trick I found was in using A4 without waste. I printed two columns with the A4 paper in landscape mode and the columns left and right running down the shortest side. This way I had page 1 on the left and page 2 on the right. What I did next was print off an entire book and then I turned the paper over and printed the book again, on the unprinted side. I then used a guillotine to cut the paper in half. If you get it right (you need to practice with a few sheets first) you get page 1 one side and page 2 on the other side and two copies of this (both A5 size - half of A4). 

To make the book I used wood glue (PVA) and some linen, which was cut to the length of the book and wider than the spine. I built a book press. You can do this with two pieces of flat wood and two G-clamps (see picture).


Figure 1 G-Clamps

The G-clamp was OK to make one book, but I wanted a production line. To make several books at one time I used three pieces of wood; with one being thin and simply used as a spacer. Drilling holes through the wood I used butterfly nuts and bolts (see photo) to clamp several books together in one go.


Figure 2 Three books ready to be clamped

In figure two I should have shown the side with the butterfly nuts protruding. You could use a screw driver this way up but the butterfly nuts make it much easier and one tool less.

Figure 3 This shows the side with the butterfly nuts





Figure 4 This shows the view form above with the system upright.

Figure 4 is useful as it shows how the final product should look and where the books go. You can see the bolts running through the home made book press and it’s a better view of the butterfly nuts.

I simply printed a book cover of the appropriate size but used photographic quality paper. That is quite tough and makes quite a good cover. You can get gloss or matt as well. Your choice.

The next picture shows the final products. they are a few years old now so not as good as when I first made them.


Figure 5 Three final products

If I open a book you can see the linen poking through that I used to glue the pages together. The linen is slightly yellow. I can’t remember whether I painted glue onto the spine directly or into the linen. You have to glue both sides of the linen as you are sticking the cover on. I seem to remember that the cover is glued to the side of the linen rather than to the spine itself. That gave more flexibility when you open the book.


Figure 6 Book open showing the linen used to glue the paper together

As I said, I made several copies and used these in the local library to gauge how well the books were received. I had to have permission from the library of course. The books were borrowed reasonably regularly and so my home-made version seemed to do the job. It was fun learning how to do this and even more fun to get a book from the process.