Wake Not the Warrior

Here’s a poem I wrote whilst writing my first solo fantasy novel, Usher’s Pass (The Arch of Sires, Book I).

 Wake Not the Warrior

Disturb not his slumber
He dwells half in troubled dreams
Shared with rolling thunder
That drowns the sound of screams

Wake not the warrior
His peace is razor sharp
He walks the path of the dead and gone
And stalks the living dark

Where the wraiths of vanquished enemies roam,
In the shadows and shivering wisps,
And only the warrior soul comes home
From beyond the velvet mist

Disturb not his slumber
Or face the warrior’s blade
Feel the kiss of sharpened steel
And join the drifting shades

Wake not the warrior
For if you do not fall
His blood flows in your veins and binds
You to answer the call


Best Man Speech

This speech went down quite well at my brother’s wedding so I thought I would share it. It is, of course, all completely true.

Matthew John Petunia Bolton was born on 1st August 1979 aged four years and two days.

Born to a plucky dancing pygmy and an old badger, he was a strangely mottled luminous hysterical boy who insisted he was a creation of his own dreams.

A highly strung bioluminescent young squit, Matthew’s orange glow was invaluable to our poverty-stricken family during power cuts. Father would hang him from the light fitting in the middle of the room and read to us from a crossword the size of a football pitch.

Matthew would dangle there, bathing us in orange light and foot odour, attracting myriad insects and the inevitable spiders and horseshoe bats that followed them. He spent much of his childhood covered in guano, which father would use as fertiliser for his vast white bouffant, or as he called it, his cryptic brain forest.

Later my dear mother became convinced Matthew was a German spy sent here as a beacon to light the way for a wave of bombers. She would chase him around all night swinging a cricket bat and shouting, “put that light out!” until they both fell into a fitful slumber.

When Matthew and I were both six, mother gave birth to a giant disembodied head. Jub was hung in a crude harness in the loft for ten years. You wouldn’t know it to look at him that his entire body is made of chipboard apart from his hands and feet, which are quite real.

Sadly, our dad, Ted, passed away last year. He told me was immensely proud of Matthew.

For those of you who were not fortunate enough to meet Ted, I’d like to recount a description of him given by his unpredictable fisherman cousin, Junior.

“I saw him with my own eyes. He resembled nothing I ever saw, before or since. He were more eyebrow than man! He lifted his densely wooded head, so that its canopy rose clear of the mainmast, jangled a king’s ransom in loose change with lumpen paw, farted and blamed his dog. Some say the scars on his forearms were remnants of battles with that infamous canine. Windsor, scourge of Illogan Highway, the most ferocious border-collie on the high seas.”

Matthew’s mortal fear of spiders began in his infancy. Gangs of the merciless eight-legged killers would follow him around at night, ready to devour any hapless moth that was lured to its death by his glowing head.

Consequently, he was afraid of the dark, for when night fell, he became a tragic walking arthropod menagerie. When the EU declared him a sight of special scientific interest and forbade him to wash, his life took a downward spiral. This was the precursor to an abhorrent infestation that blights him to this day.


The bears watch him night and day. Toying with him like some glow-in-the-dark radioactive lab rat. Masters of disguise, the bears are everywhere. Driving our buses, sweeping our streets, serving our drinks.

Matthew would phone me late at night, ranting. “They’re in the pantry, Martin! They’re tinkering with my precious miscellanea!” By this time, we were concerned for his sanity. No one believed him, putting his claims down to his known propensity for exaggeration and outright deceit. His wild assertions that he had invented the world’s first bionic eye lashes and had the ability to smell other people’s thoughts had irreparably damaged his credibility. But when I stumbled upon the tell-tale droppings in his cutlery drawer, I knew he was indeed plagued by the ursine illuminati.

His fragile psyche having finally cracked, Matthew sank into a hopeless abyss of despair and paranoia. Until one day, a shining light brought him hope.

Kisambard Kingdom Williams, referred to by her lazier friends as Kizzy, hauled Matthew’s reeking carcass from the void. Civil engineering, social work and zoology are just a few of Kizzy’s feverish pursuits, and she enthusiastically procrastinates at all three. Needless to say, Matthew is happier than I’ve ever seen him.

Matthew said that now our dad is gone, there is a special kind of gentleness that is missing from the World. He was wrong of course, because that gentleness is alive in him.

The World Apparent blog

David Pilling, my co-author and good friend and arch nemesis, and I have created a new blog cunningly titled The World Apparent.Epic Fantasy The Best Weapon

The focus of the blog is fantasy fiction and relevant subjects, as opposed to the random and sporadic musings of a sick mind  you enjoy so much on here. If it sparks your interest, please do take a look – the first post, written by Mr. Pilling, is a short article on Robert E. Howard, creator of Conan the Barbarian and Solomon Kane (among other characters). Comment on the post to enter a draw for a free copy of one of our fantasy novels, The Best Weapon or The Path of Sorrow!Fantasy sequel The Path of Sorrow

The Robert E Howard post will be followed up with a similar article, by me, on H.P. Lovecraft.

The Eyes of Mork Tyran – a 900 Club Short Story

The 900 Club's final edition

The 900 Club’s final edition

This month will be the final edition of The 900 Club. Our last short stories will be posted on new year’s eve. The collective marks three years of monthly short stories with December’s post and we have invited all our previous guest writers to join us for our swansong. So it’ll be a bumper edition with around ten short stories free to read at the 900 Club blog.

Simon Evans, an old friend and one of the most talented writers I’ve been fortunate enough to meet and share ideas with, started the experiment in January 2013. Since then it has been a fascinating journey and the 900 Club has been a great success. Sadly, all good things must come to an end and this unprecedented experiment has run its natural course.

The four remaining writers – myself, Simon Evans, Adam Stones and John Pilling – have found ourselves arriving at the same decision; that it is time to go our separate ways and pursue new writing challenges. We will of course stay in touch and share ideas and I’ll continue to take an interest in what they’re up to.

Epic Fantasy The Best Weapon

I will be concentrating on writing fantasy fiction novels with David Pilling and also writing my own short stories. We are currently working on the third World Apparent Tale novel which will complete the trilogy. More to come about that soon. The first two novels, The Best Weapon and The Path of Sorrow are free on kindle today and tomorrow.


Fantasy sequel The Path of SorrowMy 900 Club story for November is a sword and sorcery tale, I hope you enjoy. Please head over to the 900 Club blog to read many more short stories in all genres completely free.

The Eyes of Mork Tyran

by Martin Bolton

The prisoner stirred as an icy gust of wind caressed him, finding its way through his tattered rags and and probing at his thinly covered bones. The furs that hung in the cavern entrance were thrust aside. He counted the foot steps and could tell that a single man had entered.

A pregnant pause reigned as the heat from the cavern’s lava pit chased away the insurgent chill. The hiss of the newcomer’s sword sliding from its scabbard broke the silence. This was followed by a metallic clink as the warrior placed the sword’s tip on the stone floor.

“Who appears before the twin druids?”

“You do not know my name?” the stranger asked.

The druids hesitated a moment.

“A glamour… conceals your identity.” the twin druids’ malevolent voices momentarily betrayed a hint of trepidation. “Why have you braved the silken pass? No man has survived the journey since…”

“I wish to hear the story of the eyes of Mork Tyran,” the visitor interrupted his hosts.

The twin druids inhaled sharply and whispered amongst themselves.

“The eyes of Mork Tyran,” hissed the druids. “Gemstones mined from the Netherworld. Nothing in the living realm can resist their power, let alone destroy them.”

“Except the Inskolan Dawn Star,” replied the visitor.

“A myth!” the druids spat. “A legend invented by men to help them sleep soundly at night. Nothing more!”

“As you say,” said the stranger, “then tell me the story.”

“Thousands of years ago,” they whispered, “when men had barely crawled from the primeval ooze, a sorcerer known as Mork Tyran delved deep into the earth. His unfathomable burrowing uncovered two blood-red gemstones that blazed so brightly they burned his eyes to cinders. When he stopped shrieking, the gemstones spoke to him in the darkness. At their instruction, he placed them in his scorched eye sockets. Not only could he see again, but his powers were infinitely multiplied.

“One day, Mork Tyran descended from his mountain lair and went to a village in the foothills. He came upon a village woman collecting water from a spring. With one glance of his enchanted eyes, he seduced her. Having planted his diabolical seed in the woman’s belly, Mork Tyran returned to his high grotto, beyond the silken pass.” The twin druids snickered sibilantly.

“Nine months later,” they continued, “the woman gave birth to twin boys. When the babes were placed in a cot together, each reached across to his brother and tore out his eyes. The mother was horrified, but she bound their hands for their own safety and vowed to care for them.”

The druids’ voices became more excited, their brief trepidation now dead and buried.

“But Mork Tyran had plans for his sons, and ventured forth once more to reap what he had sown. As his eyes blazed upon the woman, her bone cage turned inside out and she died shrieking inwardly as he devoured her organs one by one. When he had finished his meal, he spirited away the blinded whelps to his lair.

“There he raised the two eyeless infants and taught them to control their powers that he might use them as weapons against men. He had the power to give them sight, but he kept it from them so they would remain his slaves and never find their way out of their high mountain cavern and across the silken pass, and thus return to the living realm.”

The druids tittered once more.

“But Mork Tyran underestimated the combined power of his unseeing progeny,” they continued, increasingly excited, “and he grew complacent. As the twins’ strength waxed, they plotted against their master. One day, when their powers had reached their zenith, they overpowered Mork Tyran and gouged out his eyes. One each, they took, that they might see again and add his power to theirs.”

“Where can I find these infernal jewels?” the warrior’s voice remained calm.

The twin druids chortled and the prisoner heard the rattle of bones as they stood.

“You see them before you now, stranger. Lift your hood, gaze upon them and die!”

The prisoner heard the sword’s tip slide across the stone floor and a faint rustle as the warrior threw back his hood.

The prisoner cried out as searing heat filled the cavern and burned his skin.

“No!” the druids shrieked, “The Inskolan Dawn Star exists! Father! You betrayed us!”

The twin druids shrieked and grovelled as they burned, until the prisoner heard the unmistakable sound of a sword taking two heads. He twitched his head from side to side, listening for movement over the sound of his pounding heart.

Foot steps approached.

The cage shook and rattled as the lock was smashed. The cage door swung open and the prisoner pitched forward onto the stone floor. He flopped weakly onto his side as a sword blade was pressed against his throat.

“Please,” he croaked, “a little water.” Water was poured into his open mouth. He gulped it down and gasped at its iciness.

“My… my eyes…” he reached out and felt a leather boot.

“Your eyes are no more,” confirmed the stranger.

The prisoner felt a strange relief at that.

“How many millennia I have spent in that cage, I have lost count. Will you set me free, stranger?”

“I will,” replied the swordsman.

The last thing Mork Tyran heard was the song of the blade before it took his head.

Fantasy Author Interview: David Pilling on Bail

Fantasy sequel The Path of SorrowI often get asked how David Pilling and I go about co-writing our fantasy novels, The World Apparent Tales. One of the things we do is we each take ownership of specific characters and write their whole story. This means we can really get into the mind of each character and ensure they speak with the same ‘voice’ throughout the story.

With that in mind, I asked David a few questions about his character Bail, a ruthless cut-throat who plays a prominent role in The Path of Sorrow. I’ve removed all the vile language and graphic death threats and posted David’s answers below:

What was your inspiration for the character of Bail?

He’s a sort of anti-Aragorn figure i.e. a mysterious, charismatic wanderer with a hidden past. The difference is there is nothing remotely heroic about him: he is vain, selfish, greedy and rather cowardly. Sometimes he will fight like a cornered rat, but only because he has to..I suppose there’s more than a hint of Harry Flashman in his makeup as well.

What would you think of him if you knew him?

I would think that he was an appalling man, if entertaining on occasion. We would probably end up blocking each other on Facebook, which is at least preferable to hitting each other with swords.

Bail appears on the surface to be interested solely in his own welfare. Is there any compassion there, deep down?

None, or very little. That is partly down to his nature, but also to his upbringing. Bail has been alone all his life, and had to fend for himself at every turn. It’s only natural he should think of himself first.

Do you think some people have a natural tendency towards good or evil, or is everyone a product of their environment?

I think everyone is different, and born with certain characteristics. It may be possible to change those characteristics to an extent as a person grows to adulthood. It very much depends on the person. Could anything have prevented Harold Shipman becoming a mass murderer for instance, or was the impulse to kill written into his DNA?

Bail seems to be so ruthless that he has more of a struggle justifying an act of compassion than one of total self preservation. Is it difficult writing a character who never engages emotionally with another character?

Not at all. That probably speaks volumes for my own character! I think there is too much emphasis on compassion and emotional engagement in fiction. These values are promoted in our lives, because this is the modern world and we are supposed to be a developing species. Bail exists in a horrifically brutal sub-medieval environment in which any display of weakness could lead to his violent demise. Wolves don’t deal in compassion.

Bail’s life seems to have been a constant struggle for survival, from one squalid, brutal episode to another. Is he destined for something better, or will he never escape his past?

I can’t really answer that without giving too much away! You’ll have to wait and see…he certainly has the ambition, nous and sheer willpower to better his lot in life.

Besides co-writing fantasy fiction with me, you are a successful historical fiction author. How much inspiration do you gain from history when writing fantasy characters and world building.

Quite a lot. Certain historical figures have influenced some of my characters in The World Apparent novels, as well as bits and pieces of historical wars and political events etc. I try not to make those influences too obvious, though.

What fantasy and/or historical works are you working on right now?

I’m currently writing the fourth book in the Leader of Battles series, my Arthurian saga. The latest tale is based on the legend of Tristan and Ysolde.

* * * *

You can read a similar interview with me on David’s blog. I’m answering questions about Captain Wade, a flamboyantly murderous pirate who terrorises the high seas of the World Apparent in The Path of Sorrow and will return in the third novel in the trilogy.

The first two novels in The World Apparent Tales are The Best Weapon, followed by The Path of Sorrow. Both are available on Amazon on paperback and kindle. David and I are currently working on the third.

Dream #7: White Dove Trapped in a Glass Egg

It was a sunny day. I was sitting in the living room. My mum was sitting in the garden by the pond. I could hear the trickling of the waterfall my dad built.

I looked behind me to the old antique sideboard where all the ornaments watched me.

The two bronze statuettes of strange semi naked women. One one of them was severely dented at the base. I always imagined someone’s head had been smashed in with it, but my dad assured me it had just been dropped.

The old carved cigar box my mum said was haunted.

The antique carving knife on its wooden stand that we weren’t allowed to touch.

The massive clock on the wall behind, it’s shiny brass pendulums hanging on long chains.

The silver trays full of matches and biros.

Right in the centre of the antique sideboard there used to be a little glass ship in a bottle. Now the bottle was egg shaped. Crammed inside the glass egg was a white dove. It had no room and was squashed up against the glass. It gazed at me pitifully.

“Mum,” I called, “why is there a dove in the bottle?”

“It has always been there,” she replied.

“It’s suffering,” I said, “can’t we let it out?”

“You’ll have to break the glass,” she said.

So I slid the antique carving knife from its varnished wooden sheath and took the glass egg carefully in my other hand. I began tapping the glass with the blade, trying to crack it without hurting the dove. The little bird just gazed at me through the glass.

Eventually the glass egg cracked and fell in two in my hands and the dove was free. But it had spent its life stuck inside the egg, so it couldn’t fly. Assuming the dove was hungry as it had never eaten, I took it outside to the garden where it could eat worms or insects.

Next to the pond, I discovered a mass of fat slugs writhing in the mud. I put the dove down gently and it began to devour them ravenously. Eventually it had eaten them all and doubled in size. It ran around the garden flapping its stunted wings in vain.

Then my dad turned up with two small white dogs, and they played in the garden with the fat, white flightless dove.