Swords & History

Now that the first three books in the Battlecruiser Alamo series have been completed (the third to be released around August 20th, and naturally it will be posted on this blog as soon as it becomes available) it is time for me to start work on my next project. There will be a fourth Alamo this year before Christmas, but I want to get started on my second book series. This one will not be science fiction, but following a term coined by Scott Oden, 'Historical Fantasy'. On the basic principle that if you go before a certain period – you are having to make up an awful lot of the world from scratch. This is especially true if you choose Dark Ages Britain.

I've been fascinated by 'Britain before the Normans' for a long time (to be fair, I've been equally fascinated by the Normans as well, not to knock the Conqueror and his offspring) and it seemed that this was a logical place to start. I knew that I didn't want to write yet another King Arthur/Merlin book – that topic has been done to death, in my personal opinion, and I couldn't honestly think of a new spin to put on that period. So that ruled out the most well-known part of the period...and then I knocked the Vikings out of the picture as well. Not that I don't want to write a Viking series at some point, quite the reverse, but again it tends to be the sum of the picture that people have when they think of the Dark Ages.

So, that left 'only' four hundred years to play with, and I knew exactly what I was looking for. I wanted a big epic story, one that sprawled across the lands of Anglo-Saxon England and beyond, filled with battles, bloodshed, intrigue, and adventure. There's an awful lot of it in this time. (Seriously, it's dripping with potential. I could write dozens of books in this sort of time frame and not run out of material; I'm mystified that it isn't swarming with writers.) I found what I was looking for in the 7th Century, in Mercia.

Mercia, the Saxon Kingdom of Central England, in this period exercised its power over much of the land, its king, Penda, able to exert control as far north as Northumbria, as far south as Wessex. The first ruler who could claim to control all England since the departure of the Romans. Then, in 655, that all changed with a massive battle, one in which many of the major powers of the day took part, and he was killed. Mercia was overrun, under Northumbrian control, until there was a revolt that threw the invaders out. That much is history. There are some scanty details, and naturally I don't want to give too much away – but the records are few in number and often contradictory.

It's going to be extremely interesting seeing how my practice of discovery writing goes along with writing historical fiction. I know the key 'beats' of the story, in the same way as with the Alamo stories, so that much is similar, and I'm reasonably familiar with the time – and will be a lot more so by the time I start writing the book. I got a tax rebate cheque in the post a few weeks ago, and let me simply say that it went towards a very worthy cause, augmenting my bookshelf with some more recent works. The plan is for me to spend August brushing up on the period, going through the primary source material to build a personalized encyclopedia of the time and the plot, as well as the writings on the specific period.

Naturally – I'm going to be chronicling the whole thing on the blog. I'll be writing the first book in a series of unknown length (at least three, probably more) in September, and this one is going to be longer. I think these are going to be well over 100,000 words, maybe as high as 150,000 – epics. As for the tone, well, I also ordered the Robert E. Howard 'Bran Mok Morn' collection. I've got pretty much everything in that book in old paperbacks, but I wanted to go over the original texts, and it was the only one of those I really wanted that I didn't manage to pick up. I've paid a little over the odds for it, but it will be worth it. This is 'Swords and History', if that's a term anyone has yet used. In the Howardian style...because it's what I know, and what I'm aiming to write. Now – to work.

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