New Cover Art – Treason and Guile: Book One by David Pilling

The image on the right is my latest cover art, in ink and watercolour, for Treason and Guile – the historical fiction by David Pilling. A brief synopsis is below.

Book One of ‘Treason and Guile’, a historical thriller set in England in the year 1266, during the rebellion of the Disinherited. The reformist and popular hero, Simon de Montfort, is dead, killed at the Battle of Evesham in the previous year. Civil war is renewed when Henry III disinherits De Montfort’s surviving followers.

Hugh Franklin, a stonemason’s son turned soldier, comes to the attention of the crown when he captures the Earl of Derby, De Montfort’s replacement as the leader of the rebels, at the Battle of Chesterfield. Recruited as a spy and dispatched to gather information on the rebels in the north, he falls foul of the savage northern baron, Sir John Deyville, and a beautiful Jewess…one of the bloodiest episodes in medieval English history staggers onto the page in a welter of furious battles, high politics, doomed romance and low cunning.”

I am now working on the first short story in my fantasy fiction series called The Warrior’s Path, set in The World Apparent (the fantasy world of The Best Weapon and The Peace of Elias). It is a series chronicling the adventures of Colken, the fierce Djanki warrior born in the steamy tropical jungle south of The Girdle Sea.

The Moment of Silence: A Warriors’s Path Story, will be available soon on Amazon, complete with cover art by yours truly. So stay alert!

New Cover Art: The Half-Hanged Man 3: The Bull of Najera

SILENCE!

Here is my latest piece of cover art. This is for my fantasy fiction co-writer, David Pilling’s latest historical fiction, the final book in the Half-Hanged Man trilogy. All three books are now available on Amazon (all three covers done by yours truly) and come highly recommended.

The Half-Hanged Man 3: Bull of Najera

The Half-Hanged Man 3: Bull of Najera

I am now working on a cover for Treason and Guile, another historical novel by David Pilling, that will be finished in a week. As for writing, I have another short story in the pipeline, for which I will of course be doing the cover art. The other big thing to look out for is the first part of the sequel to our epic fantasy fiction novel The Best Weapon (available now on Amazon). The sequel is called Sorrow, and will be available soon from Musa Publishing, more to come on that, including an excerpt, very soon. And, of course, The Peace of Elias is FREE on Amazon for one more day, so download it now!

Fantasy Excerpt: The Peace of Elias

Fantasy Fiction The Peace of Elias

As I don’t seem to be able to get Amazon to do the “look inside” thing, here is an excerpt from my fantasy fiction short story, The Peace of Elias, which is FREE on Amazon until Friday 15 June only.

Negus Shahbaz waited at his desk. He was a patient man, all great leaders are, but today even his patience was being pushed to the limit. He stared stoically into the middle distance; his jaws clenched tight, his hands pressed palm down on the varnished desk to avoid fidgeting. I can’t stand fidgeting.

He took a deep breath, slowly brushed a manicured hand over his neat, cropped silver hair and brushed a non-existent speck of dust from the breast of his immaculately pressed black velvet doublet. Suppressing a twitch of his plucked eyebrow, he smoothed his red sash methodically from shoulder to hip and glanced at the clock at the opposite end of his office. His guest was late. Intolerably late. I can’t stand lateness.

Shahbaz had always been a calm, unflappable man, he had lived his life as a diplomat, an ambassador, and a successful one too. He had made many alliances in Western Temeria and, he felt, helped to make Arc-Stone and the surrounding country safe, peaceful and mostly prosperous. He had dealt with every kind of character he could imagine, some pleasant, some unreasonable, and he had always maintained good terms. But something about Cyrus enraged him. The man was arrogant, selfish, bad-mannered and, worst of all, his nephew. I can’t stand my own nephew.

Finally, Cyrus strolled into Shahbaz’s office, noisily chewing on an apple. Shahbaz bridled at the insult but, as usual, managed to contain his disgust.

“Cyrus, you are late,” Shahbaz brought his hands together on the desk in front of him, unconsciously forming two large fists.

“I had a late night,” Cyrus replied through a mouthful of apple.

Shahbaz sighed, “When I summon you to my office I expect you to be punctual. Sit down.”

Cyrus sat heavily in the chair across the desk from Shahbaz, slurping as he sucked the juice from the apple core, and glanced around the room for a place to discard it. Shahbaz shot him a glanced that would have ignited the drapes as Cyrus carelessly made to toss it on his desk. The young man hesitated, glancing down at his uncle’s white knuckles, and stuffed the apple core in the pocket of his dishevelled coat.

Shahbaz’s finger and thumb rubbed at his temples, then worked their way down to his tired eyes. “Cyrus, I promised your father, the Gods deliver him, that I would take care of you. Why must you make it so difficult?”

Cyrus’ face reddened. “I do not need you as my bodyguard. I am a man! I can take care of myself.”

“You are twenty years old,” Shahbaz spoke calmly and clearly, as though explaining to a child why they must not touch a hot stove, “you have a lot to learn. One day Arc-Stone will be in your charge. You are blessed with a life of luxury, a life many people can only dream of, and with it comes responsibility.”

“This again. I have heard it before. What is there that I could possibly learn that I do not already know? I am ready now. I could govern Arc-Stone tomorrow!”

“There is a lot more to it than you realise, Cyrus, every day people’s lives depend on my smallest decisions. I am trying to teach you, Cyrus, if you continue this way you will only-”

“Only what?” Cyrus snapped, tears in his eyes as he suddenly leaned forward, his body shaking with impotent rage. “End up like my father? Dead in a ditch?”

Shahbaz’s weakness was his sympathy for Cyrus, he had done his best to raise the boy as his own but since his father, Shahbaz’s twin brother Theebs, had been killed by a lucky punch in a tavern brawl, he had been unable to control his rebelliousness and petulance. That had been twelve years ago. Theebs had been somewhat of a live wire too, but he had possessed great charisma and intelligence with it. Sadly, Cyrus had inherited all of Theebs’ unpredictability and frivolousness but none of his wit.

“I just want the best for you, Cyrus, there’s no shame in your family looking out for you.”

“Like you looked out for my father?” Cyrus’ bottom lip began to quiver.

“What happened was a tragic accident, I was every bit as grieved as you, he was my brother as well as your father. Not a day goes by that I don’t wish I could have taken his place.” Shahbaz had been through this a thousand times, but he knew Cyrus would always blame him for Theebs’ death. “Now, I am sorry Cyrus, but I must enforce a curfew.” Cyrus stiffened but Shahbaz held up a hand for silence. “It is for your own good. I cannot have you out on the roads after dark. What were you doing outside of Arc-Stone at that hour?”

“I was visiting someone in Evestomb, a friend.”

“On your own? Have you learned nothing? The roads are too dangerous to travel without a company of armed guards. The civil war has left the wild country full of brigands! Desperate, masterless soldiers who will kill you for a few talents! I’ve no doubt you were porking some little tart. What’s wrong with your whores in Arc-Stone? You’re lucky you were discovered by Elias.”

Cyrus snorted, his grimace showing his disgust of the farmer and his overgrown son. “Lucky? It wouldn’t surprise me if they were involved in my attack. They’re probably up there now, laughing at us both.”

“Don’t be ridiculous, Cyrus. Elias is a simple, honest farmer. He lives in near poverty, although that is as much down to his frame of mind as the state of his finances. Since his wife died the poor man has barely bothered to wash.” Shahbaz sighed, it struck him that they had all been effected by loss, in different ways. He had become obsessively organised and introvert, Elias had lost the will to do anything other than survive and Cyrus had become angry, self-destructive and eaten up by his own hatred.

“I find it too much of a coincidence that they picked me up straight after I was attacked,” Cyrus continued, “that boy isn’t as stupid as he looks, I’d wager it is all a front. They’re nothing but common thieves.”

Shahbaz’s sympathy ebbed away as Cyrus’ arrogance once again rose to the surface. “Nonsense. Can you not see the good in anyone?”

“Not in common thieves. I’ve a good mind to take a few men up to that ridge and make an example-”

“You will do no such thing!” Shahbaz stood suddenly, pounding his fist on the desk, making the heavy wood shudder like a loose floorboard. Cyrus leaped back in fright, knocking his chair over and stumbling backwards towards the door. “You will not leave these grounds. Do you understand me? No harm is to come to the farmer!”

Shahbaz was shaking with rage, glaring at his nephew, his fists involuntarily opening and closing. Cyrus had never seen the man lose his temper before and it frightened him, which in turn made him angry. The young knight composed himself, smirked at his uncle, turned on his heel and stalked from the room, leaving Shahbaz to chide himself for allowing his normally solid composure to crumble.

Fantasy Short Story: The Peace of Elias

Fantasy Fiction The Peace of Elias

The Peace of Elias by Martin Bolton

The image on the right is the cover for my fantasy short story, The Peace of Elias. I used dot for this one as I wanted it to have a dream-like feel and I’m sick of sharpening pencils. The Peace of Elias is my first fantasy fiction short story and should be available for free on Amazon for five days from Monday 11 June.

So many fantasies are about great warriors, kings and queens, gods, demons – things of great power and significance – which is great, that’s I what I like to see in a fantasy. I wrote this story because I wanted to write a fantasy story from the point of view of someone who was “insignificant”; an ordinary man with no power, no strength, no courage.

Elias is a poverty-stricken farmer living on a ridge over-looking the town of Arc-Stone in far Western Temeria with his only surviving relative, his giant mute son, Zia. Living on the fringes of society, their dilapidated farmstead sits high on the ridge next a dark, tangled forest, reputed to be haunted and shunned by the people of Arc-Stone. Elias and Zia are regarded by the townsfolk with a mixture of fear and pity.

When they stumble across the unconscious form of Cyrus, an arrogant young noble, he accuses them of robbery and plots their deaths. But Cyrus underestimates the power of the bond between Elias and his son, and what Zia has been doing in the forest…