Category Archives: The Flame Before Us

Half Sick of Shadows and a giveaway…

Kindle Cover - Half Sick of Shadows
Kindle Cover – Half Sick of Shadows

Tomorrow (May 1st 2017) is the release date for the Kindle version of Half Sick of Shadows, to be followed by the paperback version in a couple of weeks once the final details are sorted out.

For reference, here are the preorder links, which should still continue to redirect to the final purchase links as soon as the book goes live!

Who is The Lady?

In ancient Britain, a Lady is living in a stone-walled house on an island in the middle of a river. So far as the people know, she
has always been there. They sense her power, they hear her singing, but they never meet her.

At first her life is idyllic. She wakes, she watches, she wanders in her garden, she weaves a complex web of what she sees, and she
sleeps again. But as she grows, this pattern becomes narrow and frustrating. She longs to meet those who cherish her, but she cannot.
The scenes beyond the walls of her home are different every time she wakes, and everyone she encounters is lost,
swallowed up by the past.

But when she finds the courage to break the cycle, there is no going back. Can she bear the cost of finding freedom? And what will
her people do, when they finally come face to face with a lady of legend who is not at all what they have imagined?

A retelling – and metamorphosis – of Tennyson’s Lady of Shalott.

And to celebrate the release, I am running an Amazon reduced price offer on all my previous books, science fiction and historical fiction alike, timed to start on May 1st and run until May 8th. So you can stock up for the reduced cot of 99p / 99c for all of these. Links are:

Far from the Spaceports:

Timing (Far from the Spaceports 2)

In a Milk and Honeyed Land

Scenes from a Life

The Flame Before Us

Enjoy the whole experience!


Kindle Countdown offer – historical fiction

Cover - In a Milk and Honeyed Land
Cover – In a Milk and Honeyed Land

I was nearly set up to start a series of blogs on Kindle formatting, having been reading a lot about that recently. But those aren’t quite ready yet, so instead I am just advertising that a Kindle Countdown offer is now running on my historical fiction series.
So all this week, up until Monday 12th, you will find the following books at reduced price on the Amazon UK and US stores;


In a Milk and Honeyed Land

Scenes from a Life

The Flame Before Us


Timing now available on preorder

Timing Kindle cover 480x640
Timing – Kindle cover

Well, Timing, the sequel to Far from the Spaceports, is now available on preorder from Amazon stores worldwide. Release day is October 14th so there’s not long to wait. Paperback copies will be available at round about the same time but I don’t have an exact date yet.

It’s set about a year on from the end of Spaceports, and begins out at the group of asteroids called the Scilly Isles. But there’s more solar system travel this time around including, as the cover would suggest, a trip to Mars and the larger of its two moons, Phobos.

Preorder links are:

To celebrate this release, all my previous novels are going on Amazon countdown offer from 14th. The length of time varies for each depending on Amazon’s rules for such things – but on 14th you can get not only Far from the Spaceports, but also the historical novels In a Milk and Honeyed Land, Scenes from a Life, and The Flame Before Us all at reduced prices.

Meanwhile, here are links to an author reading on YouTube (and Daily Motion in case the You Tube one has not yet distributed). It’s the same reading at both sites but more will be uploaded before too long…


Reviews and a guest blog

Replica of Ferriby boat being sailed (
Replica of Ferriby boat being sailed (

Not much new here this week, since my blogging effort has mainly gone into a guest blog at Antoine Vanner’s Dawlish Chronicles, on the subject Prehistoric Seafaring along the Atlantic Coasts. Normally Antoine’s blog deals with 19th century naval issues, but on this occasion he was kind enough to let me take his readers back into the Bronze and Neolithic ages.

On to reviews. The Flame Before Us has just had a very pleasant 5* review on Hoover Book Reviews. “From the noble, nose in the air, Egyptians to the settlements of peasants to the nomadic clans, we have a tale of loss, hardship, and hope as cultures collide and times change.  Kudos to the author for a most enjoyable series.  I look forward to more.” And in time, hopefully there will be more.

And finally, for those who haven’t yet seen it, here is a review of Far from the Spaceports. This review is by Ian Grainger, who regularly produces my covers. Science fiction is much more his cup of tea than historicals…

Samples and downloads

Over the last few weeks I have been working to get all my books into a place where free sample downloads are available in a variety of formats. So for downloads of all different kinds you can check out the downloads area of the Kephrath site, or Goodreads, or Leanpub, or Kobo books – everything on Kobo is at 50% off until Jan 31st, so long as you use the discount code JAN1650, which in my case includes In a Milk and Honeyed Land and The Flame Before Us – or Google Play, or the iBook store. To read online check out my Issuu listings – also there are links to the individual publications from several of the pages on this blog or the Kephrath web site. All in all, I have put out sample material in a lot of different places and formats!

Along with that, I have widened the distribution of The Flame Before Us to include several ebook stores as well as just Amazon, and for simplicity am in the process of making the Kindle and ePub price of all of my historical fiction books the same. That is not quite finished yet, but will be before too long.

In a Milk and Honeyed Land - new cover
In a Milk and Honeyed Land – new cover

Finally, I have released In a Milk and Honeyed Land under the Matteh Publications banner now, so after a suitable pause you can expect to see the listings change slightly at various online bookshops.

Oh yes, there’s also a short radio advert going out for Far from the Spaceports on the Christian radio station KATZ – here’s a link to the ad, at offset 33 minutes and 46 seconds.

Exciting times for a new year!

Back in the past – the first known use of end-rhyme

Horus in Roman Costume - British Museum picture
Horus in Roman Costume – British Museum picture

I thought for today I would jump back into the past, and in particular writing. I recently visited the British Museum’s “Faith after the Pharaohs” exhibition. This is well worth a trip if you get the opportunity – it is on display until February 7th, so there’s a bit of time left yet.

Now, among other things I noticed a fragment on display from the Cairo Genizah. This is regarded as the world’s most important and comprehensive store of historical Jewish documents, and consists of around 300,000 fragments. It is a vast and perplexing mix of overtly religious material, together with secular works and everyday documents, and so has illuminated many different aspects of Jewish middle eastern life.

Now, some of the fragments – and in particular the one I saw – were written by a Jewish poet called Yannai. He is variously said to have lived in the 5th, 6th or 7th centuries CE (AD) and was a highly creative innovator in the field of piyyut – Hebrew or Aramaic poetry composed either in place of or as adornments to Jewish statutory prayers. His innovations include:

  • He was the first Hebrew poet to sign his works (albeit with an acrostic rather than direct name)
  • He was one of the first to write for regular weekly services rather than specific religious events
  • He took the practice of payyetan from a very broad-based set of loose constraints into a tightly structure art-form in several innovative ways, and

– the thing I found most immediately interesting –

  • he was the first to use end-rhyme as a poetic device.
Lieber on Yannai - Hebrew Union Monograph cover image
Lieber on Yannai – Hebrew Union Monograph cover

So he not only used traditional devices like alliteration, parallel word pairs, and the like, but also introduced end-rhyme to help structure the poem as a whole. His rhymes were frequently not just the final syllable, but extended over complete words at line ends, and added the possibility of word-play in addition to the rhyme. Laura S. Lieber, one of the major authorities on Yannai, says “As literary works, his poems are as dazzling as they are complex, rich with sound and play, allusion and linguistic beauty.”

Unsurprisingly, his work influenced Hebrew poetry for generations after his death, starting in the Middle East but eventually shaping the way Hebrew poets in Spain created their work as well. So it was very pleasing to see this fragment of his writing on display!

Also back in the world of ancient writing, it’s the time of Scenes from a Life and The Flame Before Us to have Goodreads giveaways. At the time of writing they are pending approval by the Goodreads team, but check out the page links above to find out more, or navigate to the Goodreads listings at Scenes from a Life  and The Flame Before Us to enter, once they go live on January 11th.

Scenes from a Life cover The Flame Before Us cover

Covers – Scenes from a Life and The Flame Before Us

Next week – back to the theme of elements necessary for life, and the subject of Air.


A busy few days

It has indeed been a busy time, with all kinds of things going on. Monday evening saw a lively Facebook event celebrating the launch of Far from the Spaceports, with a lot of people joining in, and a lot of questions, comments, and general good humour. The paperback giveaway is still up for grabs as nobody has yet answered the challenge! There’s still time, so if anyone wants to have a go, here are the questions. All answers can be found in the Amazon ‘Look Inside’ feature, or in the slightly larger free sample downloads available at the Kephrath site.

Scilly Today interview picture
Scilly Today interview picture
  1. What is the name of the main computer at Mitnash’s workplace on earth?
  2. What London underground station did Mitnash use after being recalled to the office?
  3. What did Mitnash assume that the duty porter meant when he talked about parakeets?
  4. What snack did Mitnash treat himself to on arriving at St Mary’s
  5. What did Slate mean when she talked about Plan B?
  6. Name 4 of the 5 main asteroids/islands in the Scilly Isles

Talking of giveaways, I am experimenting with one on Goodreads next week, so if interested pop over to the Goodreads site and add your name., on or after December 15th .

After that, I spoke with Radio Scilly and they turned our chat and some extra blurb into an article. That was a lot of fun, though naturally after we had finished I thought of all kinds of other things I might have said.

I am still following up on contacts arising from that, and hopefully will be for some time to come.

Over in the world of ancient history, the countdown special offers are still going for Scenes from a Life and The Flame Before Us. They run out after the weekend so don’t miss the opportunity. Navigate to Amazon and search by name…

One of the questions that Radio Scilly asked me was what features of the real Islands had proved difficult or impossible to incorporate into the asteroid version. I thought about it, and decided that it had to be the effect of running water. This has been – still is – a hugely critical factor in the real islands, but has never been an influence out in that part of space. To be sure, ice has turned up in all sorts of places in our solar system, but hardly ever in liquid form. So that has prompted me to think of a series of articles on the influence of the elements through history – water, air, light, heat, and so on, in the past, present and future. More of that next week.

NASA image - near the south pole of Saturn's icy moon Enceladus
NASA image – near the south pole of Saturn’s icy moon Enceladus

A historical offer to match the science fiction release

Blog readers will know all about tonight’s Facebook celebration of the release of Far from the Spaceports: a Facebook launch event for Far from the Spaceports, 7pm-9pm UK time (banner below).

But alongside that I have set up Amazon countdown offers on the Kindle versions of Scenes from a Life and The Flame Before Us, so that historical fiction readers can enjoy the season too. Prices are at 99 pence / 99 cents just now, and slowly rise until getting back to normal price in a week’s time.
Cover - The Flame Before Us

Links are:

Facebook event banner
Facebook event banner


Interview – Labayu

Cover - The Flame Before Us
Cover – The Flame Before Us

Here is the next in the series of character studies from The Flame Before Us, presented in the form of interviews.

Today’s interview is with Labayu, a Kinahny man who grew up in Kephrath, but until recently was living among the northern tribes of the Ibriym, in the Galil region. He has recently moved back to Giybon, largest of the Four Towns.

I had been directed to one of the houses in Giybon, but Labayu was not at home. His wife, Ashtartiy, makes me welcome with mint tea and some raisins, and then settles me outside. The corner of the house shades me from the afternoon sun, and a spreading rose curls above the door lintel. Ashtartiy’s mother is inside, and two children, but it is clear that I am not to join them. Domestic conversation floats intermittently out of the door, and I drift on an autumnal reverie.

Finally I see Labayu approaching from the town gate. He strides up to me, welcomes me enthusiastically, and sits beside me. One of the children runs out to hug him, watching me covertly before dashing in again.

“Have you been here long, sir? I was setting snares along the ridge north from here and forgot the time.”

“Not long, and I have been made welcome.” I remember just in time that in his tradition, the house belongs to Ashtartiy rather than him. “Your lady wife has shown me the hospitality of her home. I was not sure if I would find you here. They told me in Shalem that you were often away from the town for weeks on end.”

“Not so much just now. Until early this year I was living north of here, in Ramath-Galil, west of Kinreth. I led a band of men who protected the northern borders of the Land. The Sons of Anath, they called us.”

“Your family were there as well?”

He nods.

“But Ashtartiy hated it. The Ibriym tribes up there have no respect for our customs, and refused to give her honour as mother of the house. As soon as we heard the first rumours of trouble she came back here to her mother’s house. I persevered and stayed longer, but now here I am, as you see.”

“The trouble you mention: that was when the Sherden and their fighting cousins first came into the land?”

“No, no, it was before then. The king of Hatsor heard news of their approach before we did, and set out to scour the land for men to force into his army. Little good it did him, though, for the newcomers swept his troops away with all the rest. But Ashtartiy left at that early stage, in case I needed to escape in haste out into the wilderness.”

He paused, thinking back. Keen to keep the conversation going, I rush on.

“But when these newcomers arrived you were away from that village, I hear.”

“Yes indeed. The headman, Pedayah was his name, he led his people south to avoid the fight. I stayed there to scout what was happening. And because Abiy’el, the warleader of the Ibriym at that time, he wanted me to see if a covenant treaty might be cut. We had no idea who they were, you see, and we had no idea that they were made up of different tribes themselves.”

“Were you able to make peace?”

“Not then. Not ever, with some of their tribes. But we came to an agreement with the Sherden, after a while.”

He pauses, apparently wondering if he should continue, and then rushes on.

“I was the one who was first able to come to peace with them. It was in Shalem. I had pursued a small group of them there with a handful of my men, thinking that they were the enemy. But the people I met wanted peace, and a place to settle quietly on the other side of the River. I spoke with them, and realised that we could find common ground with them. But as for their distant cousins, who fought the Mitsriy along the Sea Road and settled on the coastal plain: with them I fear there will always be hostility.”

“At the village cistern they told me that your men did not all agree with this treaty.”

“They did not. That covenant cost me the friendship of a man I had known all my life. Shimmigar, he was called. He could not forgive these newcomers for an act of cruelty, and he will not accept that they are not all alike. He has not spoken to me since the day we cut the covenant with the Sherden. He stayed in the north of the land, to carry on the fight. I hope he still lives.”

He falls silent for a while, and his face shows the grief of the broken companionship. I let him reminisce for a while before I speak again.

“Tell me of the Sons of Anath.”

“Oh yes. It was Abiy’el’s idea in the first place. He wanted a band of hunters who would protect his people on the fringes of their settled land. North, south and west towards the sea. Not so much east, as many of his kindred still live there. But so few of the Ibriym had any of the necessary talents to fulfil such a task, and so it fell mostly to Kinahny men who were their allies. He called this band the Sons of Anath, so that we would feel that it was our heritage as well as his. I was a hunter and trapper, and my father before me, and he chose me to lead the men in the north.”

“But here you are back in Giybon.”

He grins, and waves a hand at one of the passing village men.

“And very glad to be here. Ashtartiy grew to hate Ramath-Galil quicker than I, but I was not far behind her. It is no place for a man or woman raised in the Four Towns. But that aside, the Sons of Anath had been Abiy’el’s idea, as I said. Now that he has lost his place as warleader, the Ibriym do not know whether to keep the tradition alive or not. Some say one thing and some another, and until they are of one mind I have returned to my traps and snares. And the home of my wife, which I came to miss very greatly in that time out in the wilderness.”

“Would you do it again, if they asked you?”

He pauses for a long time. His two children bring us each another beaker of mint tea. The sun slips down towards the wooded ridges. I look around, knowing that Shalem is away in the distance ahead of me, but unable to see any part of it.

“I maintain my friendship with the Sherden, you know. It was Towanos who first spoke with me, that day in Shalem. I had gone to that room all ready to be their enemy, and to arouse the king of Shalem against them. My heart was changed there by all that I saw and heard. Towanos was the first of the Sherden to take the time to speak with me. We found that we shared a great deal in common.”

We fall silent again. Finally he returns to my question.

“I think not. I was willing to try it for Abiy’el, because I respected him. And he respected us. But the Ibriym cannot agree amongst themselves just now, and I do not know who will emerge as their warleader. We are their covenant allies, and at need we will fight beside them. But just now, I do not think that I would go out into the wilderness again as I did before. My place is here, I think.”

“So these last few months have changed you?”

“Beyond measure. Beyond anything that I imagined at the time. When I was roaming in the north of the land, looking for these strangers who seemed to be invading our land, then when I was rushing south to find Abiy’el and saw the tents and camps of the Ibriym who had fled their homes, something changed for me. There was one night when we saw the signs of a town on fire, my men and I. It was near to Shalem; we feared it might be our homes here in the Four Towns. In fact it was a small village of Shalem, set alight by desperate Ibriym men, and nothing to do with the newcomers. But after that night I decided that I would not leave my home town again except for the most severe need.”

He glances in to where Ashtartiy had come to the door to watch the two of us.

“I am content here, in a way that I never was before. But see, my wife has finished preparing our meal. You will join us, I hope?”

We get up and go inside the house, ducking under the limbs of the rose, heavy with the season’s hips.

This is the last of the current series of interviews – later in the year I hope to do some more with other characters.

Amazon Countdown Deals

Cover - The Flame Before Us
Cover – The Flame Before Us

I am running an Amazon ‘Countdown’ deal on both The Flame Before Us and Scenes from a Life!

The deal is available on both books from Saturday August 8th up until Thursday August 13th, at whatever time of day Amazon sees fit.

Cover - Scenes from a Life
Cover – Scenes from a Life

In both cases the price starts at £0.99 or $0.99 and increases up to the normal price of £2.39 or $3.25 in increments.

As you would expect, you need to buy earlier in the time period in order to get the books at a cheaper rate.

Meanwhile, if you have enjoyed the series of character interviews (which is not yet finished) then you can have your very own kindle or epub versions, available as free downloads from I will be uploading the mobi and epub versions to other sites in time – for the moment leanpub is the only place they are available.