The immortal knight, Sir Richard of Ashbury, hunts his nemesis through centuries of war…
AD 1190, England. A young knight’s family is slaughtered. As the lords of Europe seek to retake Jerusalem from the mighty Saladin, Sir Richard swears an oath of vengeance against Earl William de Ferrers, who has returned from the dead with an insatiable thirst for violence.
Richard stalks William and his savage knights across Europe to the Holy Land, fights in the crusades’ bloodiest battles alongside Richard the Lionheart and unearths a secret of great evil under the hills of Palestine.
Vampire Crusader is a thrilling novel for fans of historical fiction and action-adventure — the kinds of novels by authors such as Bernard Cornwell, Conn Iggulden, Simon Scarrow, and Giles Kristian. This is the start of a series spanning 800 years from the 12th century to the present day and featuring the most exciting and the darkest periods of English and European history.
If you love action-packed historical fiction then get Vampire Crusader now.
Below is a short extract from early in the draft of Vampire Khan book 3 of the Immortal Knight Chronicles. I have chosen this brief scene because it gives little away of the plot but teases the content of the story and the characters. Even with scenes such as this where there is a lot of information unloaded, I always ensure there is character development. The brief character interactions are helping to set up future events.
Please do bear in mind this version has not been through line editing and has not been proofread so there will be errors. The final version of this scene will be better in the published book. (who knows, it could also end up being cut entirely…)
Bearing that in mind, I would be interested in knowing what you think!
I hope this is of interest to you and hope it will help tide you over a few more weeks. I would like to post more extracts but do not wish to give too much away. When we are closer to release perhaps I will publish the opening scene.
We arrived then in Soldaia in late May. The city stood at the apex of the triangle that is the Crimean Peninsula, on the south side, and it looks across the water towards Sinopolis. It was a trading centre at the extreme borders of dozens of lands. Thither came all the merchants arriving from northern countries, and likewise those coming from Russia and the northern countries who wished to pass into Turkia. The latter carried vair and minever, and other costly furs. Others carried cloths of cotton or bombax, silk stuffs and sweet-smelling spices.
The city was subject to the Tartars and every year had to pay a great tribute to Prince Batu, else their thriving city would be destroyed by the barbarians. However, they paid that tribute with false but prompt enthusiasm and so were left alone to do their trade, and to become wealthy even in spite of the payments they provided to their overlords. As far as I knew, the city prefects were more than pleased with the arrangement, despite being Christians under the rule of pagan savages.
Although some citizens were Genoese, others were their enemies the Venetians, and many more still were Rus and the like, those unpleasant folk with squashed features and cold-ravaged skin. There were Greeks in their hundreds, or thousands for all I know, and Bulgars and other people from the diverse lands all about us. Who the natives were I have no idea, although it was probably the Greeks, as they had founded so many places on the Black Sea just as they had on the shores of the Mediterranean.
Others there, living as well as trading, were the Saracens. Chiefly, those that were Turks but also those from Syria and other far off lands. And amongst them, and over them too, were the peoples who were from the steppe. Advising, guarding, and taking stock of all that went on there, with their cunning eyes and their tails of bowing scribes who made certain that the Tartar lords were not being cheated or plotted against.
“This is a strange land,” I said to Eva as the ship bobbed outside the port. “Strange people.”
“This is what you want,” Eva pointed out. “Always seeking what is over the horizon, never settled in one place. You revel in strangeness.”
I shrugged, uncomfortable with her accusations. “I go where William’s trail leads.”
She scoffed. “You go where your heart leads.”
Reaching along the rail, I took her hand and peered into her suspicious eyes. “My heart leads only to you.”
“I know what part of you leads to me,” she said, lowering her voice. “And it is not your heart.”
Nevertheless, she held on to my hand.
Looking around, I saw the man I wanted. “Abdullah,” I cried. “Come here.”
The scrawny man came forward along the deck, his bony shoulders bent inward. He was a young man, or young enough, but it had taken me days to realise the fact. He had the appearance of an ancient creature, beaten down by the regular blows of disappointment. Thomas had purchased him in Acre and claimed that, for all the man’s obvious misery, his ability with languages was second to none. He was said to have detailed knowledge of the lands of the Tartars, their languages, and their customs. He also claimed to have once been a famed scholar at a great house of learning so he was likewise clearly a great liar.
“Abdullah,” I said. “Why are you dawdling so, man?”
He cringed with every word and Eva leaned in close to me. “Speak softly, Richard. He is close to being a broken man.”
“Oh, for the love of God,” I muttered. But you should always obey your wife, other than those times when you do not wish to. I spoke to him with a courteous tone. “Abdullah, you wise young Saracen, come here and converse with me.”
He shuffled over, look out from under his long black eyelashes as if he was a coy princess. “How may I serve you, lord?”
“They tell me you have knowledge of the lands here about. I hear that some of the cities and kingdoms resist the Tartars and are not subjected to their rule. Will there be people from those lands in this city of Soldaia which lays before us?”
He frowned, unsure of why I was asking. I did not explain it to him but, in truth, it was simple. You never know who might one day be your allies, and who may be your enemies. And my main reason was that I wanted already to plan my escape from the Tartars.
Should it ever come to that.
“Yes, lord. Beyond this city, unseen to the east, is Zikuia, which does not obey the Tartars. And to the east of there are the Suevi and Hiberi, who also do not obey the Tartars. After that, further around the coast of the sea but to the south, is Trebizond, which has its own lord, Guido by name, who is of the family of the emperors of Constantinople, and he obeys the Tartars.”
I waved my hand. “I know about Trebizond,” I said. “That is on the other side of the sea from us entirely, you bloody fool. What about the other way?” I pointed to the west. “Who in the north and the west is there who is not subject to the Tartar rule?”
Instead, Abdullah pointed to the north east. “From the city of Tanais,” he said, and began to sweep his hand across from east to west. “All the way to the Danube, all are subject to the Tartars. Even beyond the Danube, lord, towards Constantinople. Do you know of Wallachia, which is the land of the Assan and Minor Bulgaria as far as Sclavonia? All of them pay tribute, lord. All. Even more, they say that the Tartars, as you call them, have taken in the past years from each house one axe and all the iron which they found unwrought.”
I had heard that the Tartars had subjected many lands but hearing it again when I was on the edge of their territory, was greatly disturbing. A barbarian, savage people, who had conquered and subdued so many. Wherever we ran to, should Eva and I need to run, we would be travelling amongst people who would hand us over to the Tartars in order to save themselves from their wrath.
Eva intruded into my thoughts with a question for Abdullah. “What you mean when you say, as you call them?”
“My lady?” Abdullah asked.
“You said the Tartars, as we call them,” Eva said. “We call them Tartars, yes indeed we do. But what do you call them?”
He bobbed his head, eyes wide. “A simple slip of the tongue, my lady. My lord. My French is truly woeful. I beg your pardons for my stupidity and ignorance.”
“Your French is bloody disgusting,” I said. “And your false obsequiousness is revolting, I command you to stop that nonsense. But if you do not tell me the truth about the Tartars, I shall be forced to rip out your tongue entirely and toss it to the dogs.” Saracens have an almost spiritual terror of dogs. I have no idea why. But it often does the trick.
Bobbing his head, he explained. “The Franks and Latins call them Tartars. They name themselves Mongols.”
“Then, who in the name of God are the Tartars?”
“Some other tribe, lord. Barbarians, like the Mongols. In fact, there are a great number of tribes from the grasslands, stretching back into Asia and all of them have been subjugated by those that call themselves Mongols.” The young Saracen grew ever more confident as he spoke. His voice became clearer and louder until it was almost as though he was preaching. “The Cumans are now the westernmost people who we call Tartars and these are the lands of the Cumans who we must cross to reach Batu, in the north beyond them. The Cumans fled the Mongols, and the Hungarians gave them sanctuary. But something went bad. It was all a trick, perhaps. The Cumans attacked the Hungarians, and the Mongols subjugated the Cumans. Further into the east, tribe after tribe is subject to the Mongols. The Uighurs, whose script the Mongols use for writing in their own language, for they were the most barbarian peoples of all the tribes.”
I stopped his babbling, confused by everything he said but that last point most of all. “Do you mean to say the Mongols were the most barbaric of all these savages and yet they conquered them all?”
“The Mongols, so it is said, were so impoverished, lord, that they lived in the worst land in all Tartary, in the harsh mountains. And they had to sew together the skins of field mice to make their cloaks. But there was one amongst them, many years ago, named Chinggis, who became the leader. A giant, so they say. And he was so strong in the art of war that he conquered all, and none could conquer him in turn. And now they rule from Cathay, in the east, to Hungary in the west. All the tribes fight as one, now. They have armies of tens of thousands and even a hundred thousand or two hundred thousand horsemen.”
I burst out laughing. “What utter nonsense.”
He frowned and winced, and began to protest. But I cut him off and sent him on his way.
Eva was displeased. “You should listen to him.”
“He is a fool,” I said. “Armies of a hundred thousand men? Two hundred thousand? A fool indeed. But I am the bigger fool for asking him. Listen, if we need to run, we will simply go west. Back into Christian lands. To the Kingdom of Hungary or the Kingdom of Poland.”
Thomas’ voice spoke over mine. “You mean to run, do you, Richard?”
The sneaky old Templar bastard had crept up on me like a cat.
“Of course not,” I said, not attempting to hide my irritation. “Yet it never hurts to make preparations for any eventuality.”
“Unless I release you,” Thomas said, “there shall be no running anywhere, at any time. Do you understand me, Richard?”
Eva placed a hand on my forearm.
She was right, and I swallowed my anger.
“I swore no oath to you, Thomas,” I said, with as much calmness as I could muster. “Nor to Friar William. Not even to the King of France. But I shall do as have said, which is to travel with you to the court of Prince Batu, and there challenge William to a trial by combat. Between now and then, I shall protect you. From the Tartars. And also from other threats.” I nodded over the Templar’s shoulder.
We watched as Bertrand and then Hughues climbed over the side, down into the little barge which would convey all of us in turn to the busy shore while our ship awaited its berth in the harbour.
“He means to be first ashore,” said Thomas. “Even though Friar William and Friar Bartholomew are the ones who demanded the barge, so that they could arrange our onward transport without delay.”
“Aye,” I said. “That Bertrand is a strutting bloody old cockscomb. His arrogance will make further trouble in the north.”
“His arrogance, yes.” Thomas cleared his throat, managing to convey disapproval with the sound. “I trust that you will both remain on your finest, most courteous behaviour from now onwards.”
I looked across the shimmering water at the city of Soldaia. It was the last outpost of civilisation before we crossed into the steppe and placed ourselves under the rule of the savages.
“Bertrand may be a prideful brute,” I said, “yet he is a wealthy lord, and a Christian. And yes, you are right that I also am arrogant, Thomas. As Rubruk says, my sins are many. I am filled with wrath. But we stand here at the edge of the world and what lies beyond is all darkness. Bertrand is not my enemy. My enemy is out there, and he is the greatest sinner that ever walked the Earth.”
(I used a website called Lumen5 to make this video. It is super easy to use and you can create videos literally in a few minutes. They offer it for free but of course for the full service you have to pay the subscription fee. But worth checking out if you want to make a video really quickly. Honestly, it’s so easy. (No I am not being paid by them!) ).
Hey folks, here is my video Q&A. Thank you all for your great questions.
I would like to do more videos where I talk about specific points, perhaps at length. For example, moments in history or analysing the story telling in certain books and films, or discussing scientific developments.
My priority now has to be writing fiction but perhaps I could take a day to two per month to make a video. Let me know if you would like something like that, and if so, what topics would be of interest to you.
I haven’t done videos before so please forgive my awkwardness. I’m sure I will improve as I do more!
The immortal knight, Sir Richard of Ashbury, hunts his nemesis through centuries of war… AD 1190, England. A young knight’s family is slaughtered. As the lords of Europe seek to retake Jerusalem from the mighty Saladin, Sir Richard swears an oath of vengeance against Earl William de Ferrers, who has returned from the dead with an insatiable thirst for violence.
Orb Station Zero: Galactic Arena book 1 (Kindle version) is on sale today for 99¢/p:
Every thirty years, humanity sends a single champion to fight for our future. Until now, every one of our finest heroes has been torn to shreds. This is the final chance. Win humanity’s future. Or lose the Earth itself.
Please also pick up one of my paperbacks as gifts for friends and family – there is still just enough time to get them delivered before Christmas.
Cheers all – and a very merry Christmas to you and your family!
I am currently writing Vampire Khan. An early scene takes place in Constantinople, and so I have had to research what it was like in the 13th century. As you would expect, there is an enormous amount of information available, from long and detailed descriptions to art work.
This video is a slideshow of some really quite beautiful architectural-style drawings reconstructing many of the principle monuments and buildings. What a truly stunning city it once was, epitomising classical architecture. The order and harmony of the design stands in opposition to the chaos and disorder of the world beyond the empire. This is what civilisation looks like.
Vampire Outlaw, the second book in the Immortal Knight Chronicles was released way back in March 2016. I get messages every week asking me a fair question: Where is the third book in the series?
What is taking so long?!
When I set out to become an indie author back in 2014, I knew it would a long, hard road and so I had a plan. In my notebook of story ideas, I had over fifty concepts, ranging from a single sentence to structured plots. I picked out four ideas that I thought would each make a good, commercial series. And I ranked them in order of which ones I thought would be the most commercial; the ones that would sell the best. The plan was to start with the least commercial and work my way through to the most commercial.
If that sounds like the wrong way round to you, then you might be right. But I knew enough about independent publishing to know that I didn’t know very much and I wanted to learn the ropes with low-stakes ideas. Saving the best for last. By the time I got to the fourth series*, I knew my writing would be that much better, and I would understand the marketing and everything else.
I made a lot of mistakes. An awful lot. But I learned from them and kept going. I put a lot of work into each book and into all the other stuff I had to do, from cover design to advertising. And to do all of that, I have had to give up a lot.
When do I write?
With a full-time job, and a family, I can only write in the evening. Specifically, after dinner and before bed. I started publishing these books when my first daughter was a year old. By then, I had already long given up drinking but I also had to stop playing video games and watching so many movies.
People talk about needing inspiration, and motivation but getting anything worthwhile done is about self-discipline, and dedication. Other than illness and vacations, I haven’t had a night off from writing or publishing in almost three years. I even write on Christmas Day and New Years Eve (which is only possible because I don’t drink…).
It’s not easy. In fact, I find it difficult to stay alert enough to write with any efficiency, and to help me out on that front I developed an energy drinks and skittles habit. I have also sacrificed an hour or two of sleep a night (or more) for years. But I have worked consistently, putting in the hours and not giving myself a break.
In less than three years, I have published nine novels, totalling 750,000 words. That’s about 250,000 words published a year.
My pace has slowed in 2017. Why is that?
We had another baby this year. I’m not sure I need to expand on why that impacted my spare time and energy level but perhaps I should say that my family is the most important thing to me, and I work hard to ensure I spend as much time with my daughters as possible, morning and evenings and weekends.
Also, the energy drinks, sugar and lack of sleep made me fat and unhealthy. So I gave up the energy drinks and skittles, which meant I could not stay awake for as long, or write as much. A few times this year I have fallen asleep in front of my computer, in the middle of writing. More than a few times. So that means fewer words per day on average. On the plus side, I am exercising again and so I hope I will live longer…
I also spent a long time this summer changing the covers for all my series, and getting the paperback versions for half of my books done. Paperback formatting took over my life for weeks and weeks.
Advertising and marketing has also taken up a lot more of my time this year. Many a night, all I can do is adjust ads, or organise a promotion.
Why has there been such a gap since the last Immortal Knight Chronicles?
Yes, Vampire Outlaw came out in March 2016. It is now October 2017. What’s going on? Well, I had this series in mind for years and wrote the first book very quickly, and I loved it and was very pleased with it and proud of it. The second book was twice as long, and far more complicated and it was – and still is – the best thing I have ever written.
I put my heart and soul into that book.
But no one bought it. Hardly anyone bought either book, and I couldn’t even give it away. I ran free promos and tried ads and everything I could think of and no one wanted to know. I knew potential fans were out there, I just could not break through the mass of Twilight, and the Vampire Diaries and so on. There were not many books like mine that I could emulate. I thought the Casca series and Necroscope fans would like it but how to reach them? Nothing seemed to work. I don’t know if I even sold 100 books. Just couldn’t crack it.
So I moved on to my next planned series – my scifi series. Orb Station Zero sold really well, with the Kindle Unlimited borrows included, it was about 5,000 copies. My first success, by a long way. So I committed to that by writing the two planned prequels and then the first sequel.
I have published 338,000 words over those 4 scifi novels since Vampire Outlaw was released.
And it was only since my scifi series took off (relatively, of course), that the Immortal Knight Chronicles also started to find an audience. I ran a lot of successful Facebook ads which kickstarted the process. It was no.1 in the Vampire category in the UK Kindle charts for weeks, and I have sold thousands in the UK and US, and the reviews have been fantastic and I get emails, Facebook messages, and comments from readers every week. Reviewers often mention they need the next book, immediately.
This has made me very happy.
I love this series. I love writing it. I never gave up on it but now I have even more reason to be excited about writing the rest of the books.
I am writing Vampire Khan now. To prepare, I have had to research mid-13th century Constantinople, Karakorum, Alamut, and Baghdad. I have read books on the Mongols, the Assassins, and the Abbasid Caliphate. That has taken time.
People have asked me why I bother doing so much research for a vampire novel. I am sure it might seem absurd to aim for accuracy and authenticity in a fantasy / horror / action novel but I hope that readers who have enjoyed the series so far understand what I am trying to do with it.
Likewise, it would be easier if I made the books shorter and simpler. And it would be a reasonable thing to be less ambitious, at least until I can write full-time. But I want to be ambitious, with this series at least. The whole series is ambitious – I am writing a story spanning 800 years of real history, inserting an immortal knight – and a lot more – into actual historical events. And history is my biggest passion, so I want to do it justice and give it the respect it deserves – even if it is for a vampire book with a silly title.
I write quickly.
I plot the books quickly, I write the first draft quickly. I do not hesitate and don’t believe in writers’ block. Revising and rewriting comes easily and I do not agonise over decisions and am not precious over beta reader and editor feedback. Writing is easy for me, and enjoyable. Thrilling, even.
A few times, I have taken a week of leave from work in order to write. Other times my wife takes the kids out for a day at the weekend. It is different to writing at night, when I am fighting to keep my eyes open. On those daytime writing days, when I can write for hours at a time without interruption and so get into the zone, into a flow state, I will write around 5,000 words a day, and have done more than that – over 8,000 once.
My goal is to write full-time.
I therefore know I can write a first draft in one month, and then take another month to rewrite and publish. So, when I can transition to full-time writer, I will release a book every two months, or six a year. Doing that, and paying all my bills and supporting my family, I will be living my perfect life.
Until I reach my goal, I will have to keep on writing every night, for an hour or three, peering at the screen with one eye open so I’m not seeing double.
Everyone who buys my books helps me to reach my goal. Every single review on Amazon helps me. All the comments on my Facebook posts – especially the adverts that I run (it helps the algorithms) – help me, too. All the people who recommend my books to their friends and family help me enormously. Thank you to everyone who has supported me so far and continues to support me. I will, of course, only get to where I want to be only with your help. And when I get there, I will provide you with many, many books for you to enjoy…
I am really enjoying writing Vampire Khan. And I hope that you will enjoy reading it.
Writing this post has been on my mind for weeks now but I did not want to give up a night of writing the story in order to write a blog post. I do intend to keep you updated as best I can with progress and I hope you understand now why it has taken so long to get here.
My release schedule to date:
White Wind Rising – Dec 2014 – 65,000 words
Dark Water Breaking – June 2015 – 80,000 words
Vampire Crusader – Sept 2015 – 62,000 words
Green Earth Shaking – Dec 2015 – 65,000 words
Vampire Outlaw – March 2016 – 135,000 words
Orb Station Zero – Aug 2016 – 115,000 words
Inhuman Contact – Oct 2016 – 47,000 words
Onca’s Duty – Jan 2017 – 54,000 words
Earth Colony Sentinel – July 2017 – 122,000 words
Vampire Khan – December?? 2017 – over 100k words… almost certainly.
*I mentioned my fourth planned series in this post but never mentioned what it was. My idea is for a straight up historical fiction, set in the ancient world. It is a full on Bernard Cornwell style adventure. I have a cracking protagonist. I have a 9-book structure set out. It is going to be brilliant.
I apologise for the delay, I know it has been a long time coming but the new artwork delayed the release. And then the original paperback size was over 600 pages and so to keep the cost down we have got it down to 500 but this change also delayed things. Still, it’s here now and I think it looks great!