Lexie Conyngham's Blog: writing, history and gardening.

Saturday, 18 August 2018

Two months to Tomb for an Eagle - let's have a cover reveal!

I've never waited so long from end of writing to publication day for a book, and it's trying my patience! But I needed a certain number of ducks to be in a row - and anyone who read the blog post about the Ballater Duck Race will know that's not as easy as it sounds.

So anyway, exactly two months to go till launch day, one month till (with a following wind) the pre-order ebook is available, and now for those who aren't on the mailing list, here, at least is the cover of Tomb for an Eagle! I think Helen Braid at www.ellieillustrates.com has done a fantastic job.



A man lies under the tawny earth, hands still clutching the knife that killed him.
Thorfinn Sigurdarson, Earl of all Orkney and Caithness, has made a mistake, and he won’t let himself forget it. Now rumours have started in the Norse lands that he might be getting a second chance – but should he take it, when it means that dead men are walking?

Friday, 17 August 2018

Indie author for August - Kath Middleton



Now here’s an author I’ve mentioned a few times before, including a note of the work she’s done collaboratively with Jonathan Hill. Kath Middleton is not a writer who likes to stick herself in a rut: you never quite know when you pick up her next work whether it will be a short story or a novel or something in between, or whether you’ll get history, fantasy, crime, comedy, the supernatural or simply an observational piece. It doesn’t matter, they’re all good. A great deal of her strength lies in her characters, who are ordinary people dealing with odd situations in a way that the reader can really sympathise with: they are people we feel we know. The real trouble is that because her work is so varied, it’s extremely difficult to pick out a few favourites. So here, without (much) apology, is all I’ve read and reviewed of her work so far!


Ravenfold
Highly skilled at drabbles (100 word short stories), Kath moved on to longer works with Ravenfold, an imaginative and gripping novella set in mediaeval England. There was plenty of enthusiasm for this well rounded plot with its interesting characters and convincing setting, and a couple of real gory bits! 
 
Message in a Bottle
Next came Message in a Bottle. After reading Ravenfold and her short stories, I expected a dark twist, but instead it is very heart-warming. She portrays the confusion of grief and bereavement beautifully, as well as the intricacies of friendship of different kinds and with different histories.

Just when everyone thought they had pegged down her style, she came back with Top Banana


Top Banana


Bananas and spiders, the greatest risks to the life of the dedicated greengrocer. Steve leads a miserable life, in a deadend job and at the receiving end of his mother’s unrelenting criticism, until the time he is bitten by a spider and slips on a banana. The result is a step on to the steeply curving path of improvement and his life turns around, in a witty comedy with a wonderful feelgood ending. There are some hilarious situations and apt descriptions: I particularly like ‘like eleven gallons of anger trying to fit into a ten gallon bucket’. 

Stir-up Sunday


Then for a winter treat we had Stir-Up Sunday, one of her quicker reads, and spot-on for the time of year when the fire is glowing and the night is thick with frost. As always she is right inside the head of ordinary people to whom odd things happen, and her descriptions are lightly done but so apt. There were just the right number of shivers up my spine!
 

Long Spoon

Then we have Long Spoon. Rather against Kath's usual style (even when I’ve said she keeps changing it!), the main character in this book is thoroughly unlikeable, and we're carried through the book more by the two secondary characters, Paul and Rose, and by a desire for Ed to receive his come-uppance. Whether he does or not I shan't say, but the ending was definitely satisfactory, and the writing and plotting well up to standard. 
 

Beneath the Ink

Beneath the Ink, too, tweaked our expectations again. It took me a little while to get past the cover on this book! But once I did I was intrigued. It was not the horror plot I was expecting but a kind of espionage thriller, full of tragic coincidences and the kind of human interactment that Kath always does so well, along with a bleak view of what could happen to our country through one small accident far away.
 

Souls Disturbed: Three Supernatural Tales

Souls Disturbed saw a return to shorter works. This is a beautifully written set of three spooky tales, involving a haunted mirror, a case of apparently inherited insanity, and an ancient well. All will send chills up your spine, but there is more to them than that. The stories see into the minds of ordinary people facing crises on various scales, hoping, dreaming, fearing and grieving, with a gentle and often humorous understanding that brings the words to life.

The Novice's Demon


The Novice’s Demon is a creepy little story with some horrible touches - or was that just my imagination being teased? Though it was short, the characters came across strongly and I'd like to see more of them, if Kath ever does a sequel to any of her stories.

Her latest work (though I suspect there’s more imminent) is to my mind her best so far – The Flesh of Trees. While she is highly skilled at humour and at supernatural suspense, this is the first I’ve seen from her such rich descriptive writing in which the reader can simply submerge themselves. The plot is neat and relatively simple, combining the oft-told story of the little man against the greedy entrepreneur with the mystery of what happens to the village children who wander into the wrong part of the forest. The characters are entirely natural, sympathetically drawn and real.


The Flesh of Trees


Kath describes herself as retired, but she certainly keeps herself busy. She is also immensely supportive of other writers, beta-reading, reviewing, and editing the collections A Splendid Salmagundi and A Goodreads Gallimaufrey. You feel that if you have Kath on your side, things will go well! But if you’re not intending to write, or indeed if you are (for there is much to learn) then go and read her publications. You’ll find plenty to enjoy, and plenty to think about.

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Book Tour - Storm from Taxila


~ Book Blitz ~
Storm From Taxila by Shreyas Bhave
15th to 17th August

About the Book:  
BHARATVARSHA, LAND OF THE ARYAS: 270 BC
Bindusar, the Samrat Chakravartin of all the Aryas, ruler of the Indian subcontinent, is dead. Chaos rules across the empire. The royal succession turns upon intrigue, dark coalitions, violence and death. The realm stands divided and civil war ensues.
In Vidishanagri: Asoka kills his brother’s Ashwamedha stallion and marches to Patliputra with his army. The ancient Brahminical order rises in his supports, awaiting his entry into the capital. Have they made the right choice?
In Taxila: The rightful heir, Sushem, raises an army to meet the challenge posed by his ambitious and gifted brother, Asoka. He prepares to march to the capital and seize the throne by force. Will history repeat itself; will Sushem achieve what his grandfather Chandragupta did 50 years ago?
In Junagarh: Guild Master Hardeo sets out on a private mission to acquire the great salt pans of Sindh. Will he succeed in his secret enterprise?
In Vidishanagri: Radhagupta travels to fulfill the task allotted to him by the Order. Kanakdatta, the Buddhist, stands up to stop him. Will Radhagupta fail in his mission?
The winds of war howl over the sub-continent, blowing every last person one way or the other. Blood will be spilled, secrets revealed and men ruined. History shall be made.
In Book II of the epic Asoka Trilogy, the storm approaches; the harbinger of death and destruction. When the dust finally settles, the great question will be answered: Who is the next Samrat of the holy Lands of the Aryas?

Book Links:


Read an Excerpt:

For many centuries the holy books of the Aryas have preached everything from eternal unity of one’s own kind to selfless service to one’s family and society. But aeons after they were written, we still cannot practice what we preach…
Our lands lie fragmented, divided by everything from regionalism to tribal sentiment and the petty selfishness of individual rulers. Our Rajas had fought over everything from women, to land and pride; so much so that wars with their neighbours has become a habit. And every time some powerful Arya rises above these squabbles and seeks to unify our lands, he turns out to be an evil monster rather than a rightful Samrat. Be it Jarasandha of yore or the tyrannical Nandas of our times, those who have tried to unify our lands have
It is not that the learned men of our society have accepted or become resigned to this state of affairs. They have always attempted to stand against these evil rulers. Be it Lord Krishna of a thousand years ago, or I the humble servitorof my people in these unsettled times.
My name is Arya Chanakya, though I am known as Kautilya these days. Few are privy to my past so take heed of what I say; then hold the words sealed within your breast.
I was born eight decades ago in the northwest of our subcontinent, where the Land of the Aryas ends and those of foreigners like the Mlechhas and the Yavanas begin. For my entire youth I strived for only two things - to accumulate knowledge of our world; and unite our race as a single entity.
People considered me foolish and stubborn. The Rajas laughed at my advice and continued to fight meaningless wars for worthless reasons. For three decades of my life my efforts were in vain as I tried and failed to instill the virtues of unity and service in our rulers.
Then, everything changed. I recognized my mistake. I had been counting on changing the mindset of our people from within. What I should have realized long before was that change of such proportions can only be brought about by a powerful external force. Fifty years ago, that powerful force arrived at the boundaries of our Bharat, armed with insurmountable power. His name was Alexander, and he came from beyond the seven seas, from the lands of the Greeks. His objective was simple – to conquer the whole wide world. And our lands were next – the doorway to the far East.
The Rajas of the northwest reacted as I had expected. They made deals with this foreign foe in order to destroy the enemies of their own race. Even Raja Ambhi of Taxila, did so. Only one man refused to succumb to Alexander. His name was Puru, the mightiest Raja of the region.
But even Puru’s might was no match for Alexander’s tactics and deceit. On the banks of the holy Jhelum, everyone gasped with horror as Puru lost the battle to the Greeks – everyone except me; I just smiled.
As Alexander spent time consolidating power in the northwest, I travelled east to the greatest city of the known world – to Patliputra, ruled by the Nandas. My plan was simple: to ask the Nanda Maharaja to take his army northwest to defeat the Greeks. The people of the northwest were disgusted by the unmanly conduct of their Rajas, almost all of whom had surrendered without a fight. If The Nandas fought and won against the Greeks, the people of the northwest would accept them as their saviours, thereby uniting the subcontinent, north and south, east and west.
But my plan had a serious flaw. While everyone knew the Nandas had the largest standing army in the world, what few people beyond their borders knew was how they used it. I discovered that the army was used to terrorize their subjects. The Nandas were tyrannical kings who ruled with the force of an equally tyrannical army. I witnessed and experienced their tyranny first hand. I was imprisoned and tortured by Nanda lieutenants in Patliputra.
But I was rescued by an Ancient Brotherhood that had dwelled in the tunnels below the city for five centuries. Since its founder, Maharaja Ajatshatru, had laid down its mission, the brothers of the order had zealously safeguarded the interests of the Arya race, secretly. They rescued me from prison and inducted me into their ranks. They bestowed upon me their mission: To bring down the evil Nandas from their thrones.