New book release: The Children of the Seventh Son

Share

This week’s teaser is from the soon-to-be-released second Dark Age novel

By Scott Bury

Mauricius’ house was typical for a wealthy merchant of Constantinople. Three stories high, constructed of pinkish-brown stone, clad in front with white stone, it had wide steps on one side leading to an arched entry. Slaves carried Javor’s things up the stairs, while others brought the wagon and horses into the ground-level stable.

The two-story high arched entryway led to a marble-tiled receiving room with low sofas covered in velvet and a large carved wooden chair for Mauricius. One wall held his pride, a huge, elaborate tapestry of St. Constantine meeting, as far as Javor could tell, Jesus Christ. Javor did not like it. None of the people looked right to him, and there were too many colours in it.

Mauricius’ wife, Calanthe’s mother, strode down a column-lined hallway, her glittering, gold-trimmed chiton sweeping across the polished tiles. She was a slender, attractive woman with large green eyes and a long, thin nose. Silver strands accented the rich dark brown of most of her hair. She threw her arms around Javor and kissed his cheeks. “Javor, it is so good to have you back!” she said breathlessly.

“Anna, where is your headdress? Your hair is loose,” Mauricius complained.

“Oh, hush. What do men know of clothing?” She dismissed her husband with the same wave he had used to dismiss Calanthe’s labour. She turned to Javor again. “Come, Javor. My daughter and I have a big surprise for you.” She took his hand and pulled him down the colonnaded hallway.

“Is it the baby? Andrina?” Javor asked and he followed, his feet slipping on the polished marble.

Anna stopped to glare at her husband. “Mauricius, you were not supposed to tell him before you returned to the house.”

Mauricius laughed. “It just slipped out.”

“Men,” Anna huffed, pulling Javor again.

They ascended a wide staircase to the second floor, where the shutters had been thrown back from the arched windows, letting a cool breeze through. Anna strode down the marble floor, telling slaves to bring food and wine, to prepare a bath for Javor and make up sleeping quarters, to close some of the shutters as the wind was too strong and the sun too warm.

“My dear, I have already taken care of that,” Mauricius said, but Anna just waved him off again. They arrived at a closed door. As a slave put a hand on the knob, Anna turned to Javor and Mauricius with a finger to her lips. “Now be quiet. The baby is sleeping, and poor Calanthe needs her rest, as well.”

Calanthe’s childhood bedroom had always struck Javor as especially feminine and childish—not that he had seen it often—with walls covered in dark gauzy fabrics and the floors with thick oriental carpets that her father’s ships had brought from the eastern shores of the Euxine Sea.

The room was dim, with daylight leaking in around the shutters over the windows. Javor thought it stuffy, too, but when his eyes adjusted, he could see his wife lying on her back, under thick coverings. She was plumper than her mother, her face rounder but with the same long, narrow nose, and she had her mother’s green eyes and thick, dark brown hair. Her head was propped up on several puffy cushions.

Anna padded to the bedside and bent to her daughter’s ear. “Darling, wake up. Look who has just arrived.” Her voice was soft as velvet.

Calanthe’s eyes fluttered. She groaned, looking at her mother. “What is it?” she whispered.

“Look,” Anna said, turning to Mauricius and Javor by the door.

“Mama, I am so tired,” Calanthe replied, her eyelids closing.

Calanthe’s eyes moved and settled on her father, then her husband. She smiled a little. “Hello, Javor. I have given birth at last. You have a healthy daughter.”

Javor strode in and took his pretty little wife in his arms. She remained limp, her arms staying on the mattress even as he lifted her off the bed. He kissed her cheeks, then her mouth.

“Javor, stop that now,” his mother-in-law admonished. “You can do that when you two are alone.” Still beside the door, Mauricius laughed again.

Javor lowered his wife to her bed. “Where is the baby? What did you call her?”

“Andrina,” Calanthe whispered. She looked to the side of the room, where an older woman wearing loose brown robes and a soft cap on her head stood, holding a baby, rocking it back and forth. She was smiling broadly, and could not keep her eyes off the bundle in her arms.

Javor jumped from the bed to take a closer look. The woman, Calanthe’s childhood nurse, Martha, smiled at him and pulled a fold of white cloth away.

Javor looked at his own baby, the round pink face and the impossibly tiny fingers that reached up. The baby squeezed her eyelids shut, wrinkled her nose and smacked her tiny lips. She seemed so small, so fragile that Javor did not dare touch her. “Andrina,” he whispered, then regretted that his breath might touch her face.

The Children of the Seventh Son

Book 2 of the Dark Age trilogy

The year 600 of the Christian Era is the darkest time of the Dark Age. Young Javor the Sklavene has settled in Constantinople, the last bastion of civilization against dark forces that have shattered the Western Roman Empire.

Wielding two special weapons made from the Bones of the Earth, Javor has become the favourite monster-killer of the secret Gnostic Order. As his young family grows, he is sent to distant, exotic lands to eliminate threats and learn more about why the earth is intent on destroying humanity.Every mission seems to bring more questions than answers—until he finds the greatest danger comes not from forces from beneath the surface of the world, but from the very civilization he has been defending.

The Children of the Seventh Son publishes on Friday, November 13. You can pre-order at a special price now on Amazon.

Learn more on the author’s website.

Scott Bury

can’t stay in one genre. After a 20-year career in journalism, he turned to writing fiction. “Sam, the Strawb Part,” a children’s story, came out in 2011, with all the proceeds going to an autism charity. Next was a paranormal short story for grown-ups, “Dark Clouds.”

The Bones of the Earth, a historical fantasy, came out in 2012. It was followed in 2013 with One Shade of Red, an erotic romance.

He has several mysteries and thrillers, including Torn RootsPalm Trees & Snowflakes and Wildfire.

Scott’s articles have been published in newspapers and magazines in Canada, the US, UK and Australia.

He has two mighty sons, two pesky cats and a loving wife who puts up with a lot. He lives in Ottawa, Ontario.

Learn more about Scott on his:

Website   |   Blog    |  Facebook    |   Twitter

Share

The Vampire Washing Machine

Share

A silly Spooktober treat for fright lovers

By Scott Bury

The power went out with drawn-out squeaks from every electronic device in the house. Rodney noticed the full moon shining through the window.

“Glad I didn’t close the blinds earlier,” he muttered. Then he swore as the soapy plate slipped from his fingers and smashed on the floor. In the dark, he cut a finger on a shard and held back another oath as he heard a growl.

Spooky haunted talking dishwasher by Adrian Loveless

The only light in the kitchen was the moon reflecting off the front of the dishwasher. It growled again and rattling came from the cutlery inside it.

How could it do that when the power’s out, Rodney wondered. He wrapped a paper towel around his cut finger and bit back another oath when he saw a drop of blood, black in the dim light, hit the floor in front of the dishwasher.

The machine growled again and the door flung open. “Goddamn!” Rodney stepped back and tripped, flopping onto his butt on the vinyl floor.

His heart pounding, he looked closer at the dishwasher. Somehow, two steak knives had become tangled in the rack and were hanging down from either side like fangs. To his horror then, the door slowly rose, closing by itself.

“Come closer,” said a voice.

Rodney looked around. “Who said that?”

“You know who—or rather, what. Come closer.”

“The dishwasher?” I’ve been working too hard.

“Not just any dishwasher. Is your finger all right?”

“No, it hurts like hell. I have to put some peroxide on it.”

“Do not do that!” said the dishwasher. “Put your finger in my—that is, on the edge of the door.”

Rodney did not know why he complied, but he put his finger on the lip of the door. It snapped closed with his finger somehow wedged inside and he felt the dishwasher sucking on it. He pulled it out with a gasp. “What are you doing?”

“I want your blood,” said the dishwasher.

“A vampiric dishwasher?” Rodney put his finger in his own mouth. It tasted soapy, but the blood flowed freely. “I’m losing it.”

The door flung open again. “Give me your blood!” the dishwasher cried. A red glow came from deep in the back. Rodney could not tear his eyes from it.

The glow came closer and closer, brighter and brighter until Rodney realized, too late, that his head was completely inside the dishwasher. Obeying a silent command in his head, he twisted around to look up. The door slammed shut and drove his throat onto the steak knife.

Photo by Simon Moore on Unsplash

Rodney only struggled for a few seconds as his blood drained into the dishwasher cavity. When his heart stopped, the dishwasher sighed deeply.

The moonbeam moved off the dishwasher. The door fell forward under Rodney’s weight and his body rolled onto the floor.

The noise drew Kelly, Rodney’s widow, into the kitchen. “Rodney? Are you getting some candles?” In the moonlight that was now reflecting off the toaster, she saw Rodney’s body on the floor.

She didn’t even have time to scream before the toaster-wolf sprang on her from the counter and tore out her throat.

What’s sexier to suburbanite adults today than really great kitchen appliances?

Share

Spooky samples from bestselling writers

Share
Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

It’s officially spooky season. Even though physical distancing measures will change the way we celebrate Hallowe’en in 2020, we still crave the thrills and chills of the season. Your favorite bestselling authors have stepped forward to tickle your scary bone with a few samples from their spookiest books.

Avengers of Blood

By Gae-Lynn Woods

A wheelbarrow lay on its side against the fence, alongside a toppled step ladder. Closer to the middle of the courtyard, a misshapen pile of red plastic smoldered. A sycamore tree grew in one corner, its smooth-barked trunk rising gracefully from a patch of scraggly dirt.

Goober whimpered as his vision expanded to take in the scene. Only seven feet or so from the ground, the tree’s lowest limb sprung outward at a nearly ninety-degree angle, and from it dangled a zombie, blackened and blazing.

Tongues of orange flame danced in a mouth stretched wide in a silent scream and nibbled at the rope around the zombie’s neck. The concrete beneath him was scorched and heat rose in shimmering waves from its surface.

Rise of the Faire Amanti
(Ascendant Series #3)

By Raine Thomas

“Your cousin Sem is dead,” Vycor sneered.

Ty tried to move, but he couldn’t. Vycor’s Mynders had ambushed him. He was strapped to one of the seats in the palace’s Ritual Chamber…the same seat he had sat in while he mentally tortured Vycor just a couple of lunar cycles before.

They had been so close to defeating the Advisor. His demise had been within their grasp. There had been just one misstep.

One deadly misstep.

“He died screaming for mercy,” Vycor said as he laid out implements beside the altar in the center of the chamber. “He cursed your name, TaeDane. He knew it was your fault that he suffered so long before death claimed him.”

Raine Thomas, new adult, young adult and romance

“You’re lying,” Ty growled. He knew Sem had gotten out of the palace.

He had to have gotten out.

“Am I?”

At a silent command, one of the Mynder guards standing in the chamber brought forth a basket. Ty’s stomach clenched when he saw the blood leaking out of the basket’s bottom and dripping onto the floor, but he controlled his reaction so Vycor couldn’t see his wariness. Without any preamble, the guard dumped the basket at Ty’s feet. Sem’s head flopped out, splashing gore onto Ty’s boots.

“He was still alive when we dismembered him,” Vycor said conversationally, his gaze on Ty’s face. “In fact, his ‘member’ was one of the first things I cut off. I’ll have to be even more inventive when I kill you.”

The Ghost Host

By DelSheree Gladden

There’s a moment where nothing appears to happen, then Echo’s hand moves quickly back to the board, words scrawling out hastily, almost too sloppy to read. Halfway through her message, I feel ice creep up my spine. It takes the others a few mores seconds before mouths drop open and eyes open wide in shock. 

The past is vengeful. Life demands balance. Death even more so. What you took must be repaid. The debt collector is coming. 

DelSheree Gladden

The chalk falls from Echo’s hand and she spins around in disbelief. “Where did she go?” Echo demands, oblivious to the message still. “Where did she go? How’d she get out of the circle?” Panic spins Echo toward Kyran, her gaze dropping to the broken line of salt. She points at him, angry he broke the circle without her explicit instruction, but Kyran points at the chalkboard wordlessly. 

Echo whips around, still angry, but it falls away as soon as her eyes see the message left for her and not some relative of Phibe’s. I barely have a second to react when her eyes roll back. There are heavy steps to my right, voices calling out, but I’m the closest and get my hand under her neck half an inch from her head smacking into the floor. Dad said Echo’s instincts were good, but he didn’t say they bordered on prescient. There’s no way two weeks is going to be enough time. 

The Children of the Seventh Son
The Dark Age, Book 2 (coming soon)

British museum https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15665648

Scott Bury

As soon as Javor’s foot touched the intersection, Preyatel trembled again and the sky became dark. The other people vanished in a thick, misty gloom, the horses and donkeys and oxen, too. Nighttime chill replaced the afternoon heat. Javor’s skin tingled.

An arch stretched over the crossroads now, which had not been there a second before. Javor turned around to try to see beyond the mist. When he faced the city again, he saw her.

He had no doubt. Hekate, as a slender young girl with long, dark hair. She held a large keyring in her left hand. At her feet, again, the immense black dog sat, its eyes fixed on Javor.

You have not heeded our warnings, she said without moving her mouth.

“I have heeded you,” he answered. “I have not raised a hand against anything that has not attacked me or my family, first.”

Your missions are harmful to both sides of the balance. They will also be futile in themselves.

“The balance again. You mean Earth and Sky.”

You continue to follow masters who lead you away from your destined path. They seek to use you for their gods’ purposes. They seek to use their gods, celestial archons, for their own material wealth. For temporal luxury and power over other humans. They are willful fools. They blind themselves with fantasies of heavenly glory. They abandon the mother who birthed them.

“Do you mean Moist Mother Earth?”

As she had in Javor’s homeland, Hekate changed from a young girl to a mature, beautiful woman, hair curled in Roman style.

One of your words for it, yes. Humanity’s mother. One source of all life.

“The Christians talk about their heavenly father. But you are on the side of the earthly mother.”

Both are needed for life.

Hekate changed again, becoming the crone. Her hair hung limp. Lines creased her face, but she was still beautiful.

Do not believe everything the sky-worshippers tell you. On this mission, you will see an opening. A clue to the direction of deeper truth.

“What does that mean?”

It means you must be awake and aware of every detail.

She changed again, features flowing, hair becoming wavy. The lines on her face faded. Her back straightened, and Hekate was the maiden again.

The dog raised its head and howled. The light grew stronger as Hekate and her hound faded.

“Wait!” Javor stepped forward to keep the vision real, and collided with a bearded man pushing a cart across the intersection.

“Watch where you are going, you twit,” the man snarled, bending to pick up vegetables that Javor had knocked from the cart.

The Children of the Seventh Son will be released on Hallowe’en Day.

The Dark

By David C. Cassidy

Time passed. Kelan’s mind began to drown within that endless sea of white, and he drifted off, to dream within the dream. His eyelids had just dropped shut when the car hit some black ice and skidded onto the shoulder. “Dad!”

The vehicle rocked as his father negotiated the car from gravel to pavement. They slowed just a little. “You okay, Soldier?”

Kelan nodded. He checked their cargo and his heart stuttered. “Dad! It’s out!”

“Calm down, Kelan, it’s not—”

“It IS! The box tipped over and the jar is out!”

“It’s okay, it’s still in the jar—”

“NO, NO! The top is off! It’s OUT!”

Then he saw it, scampering up the seat. How the things moved so quickly terrified him, and now it was free, loose in the car. Almost unconsciously, he unsnapped his belt and brought his legs up, swaying on his haunches. He shrank as small as he was able and steadied his trembling body between the dashboard and seat. Suddenly his lungs begged for air. His eyes grew, and before he could stop it, that grave cold gripped him the way it always did, the way only that thing in the car could.

David C. Cassidy, horror

“Kelan! Sit down! Put your belt back on!”

He wouldn’t . . . couldn’t. The thing was loose, it was coming for him. He could hear it scurrying about, its hairy spider legs clicking the way they did, the way only he could hear, the way the dark‑skinned man with the strange accent had sworn was only his imagination.

He wasn’t imagining this.

The spider was nowhere in sight. He was going to scream and scream and scream, and then he would feel it, that warm wetness growing between his legs.

Click‑click‑click. Faster now. Clickclickclick.

Desperate for any edge that might distance himself, he tried to get higher by extending his legs. His head hit the roof and forced him back down. The thing was under his seat now, he could feel it. He could hear it.

“Kelan Lisk! Sit down this minute!”

His father applied the brakes gently, and the car slid on some ice and fishtailed. Kelan fell sideways toward him and reached out for support. His hand found the steering wheel and gripped it hard. The weight of his body pulled the wheel right, and the vehicle slipped into a spin.

“DAAAAADEEEEE!”

Like those samples? Check out the books on the authors’ BestSelling Reads pages, their websites and at your preferred e-tailers.

We may be limited in where we find our scares these days, but we can bring them to us. Visit our Members page for all the links you need.

Share

When real life blurs into fiction

Share

Monday musings by BestSelling Reads authors

We asked your favorite bestselling writers how much of their life makes its way into their writing?

The answers are as varied and as entertaining as their books.

DelSheree Gladden

The main areas of my life that show up in many of my books are the Southwest as a setting and the local mythology used in a variety of ways.

Using some of my personal interests and hobbies as character details adds depth.

I love baking, which lent itself to my Eliza Carlisle series, and many of my characters enjoy art or dancing, and reading.

Gae-Lynn Woods

How much of my life shows up in my writing? Quite a bit, and in three specific ways.

The first is from story ideas. Each of my books is the product of a very real experience in my life or the lives of friends or family. The stories end up looking nothing like the experiences they come from, but each is triggered by a real event.

The second way is in setting. The Cass Elliot novels are set in East Texas, where I currently live. Forney County is imaginary, but the pastureland, forest, and architecture in this area flavor each novel. Cass’s home town, Arcadia, is an amalgamation of two local towns.

The third way my life shows up in my writing is through characters. Although Cass Elliot and Maxine Leverman are their own “people,” each contains elements of my personality. Cass has more of my serious side and Maxine ended up with the smartass part of me that refuses to spend time thinking through consequences.

Other characters come directly from my life. For example, the Grove twins are based on my brothers when they were teenagers; the thee ladies of the Lost and Found Detective Agency are women I work with; and Sheriff Hoffner is based on the worst boss I’ve ever had. One character, Hugo Petchard, is a composite of the many annoying, inept people we’ve all had to work with, and he’s great fun to write!

Alan McDermott

My life is all about my books these days. From the moment I wake I’m on my laptop, and often spend 12 hours at it. I take regular breaks and exercise for an hour each morning, and I cook most nights, but the rest of the time is spent staring at the screen.

I wish it wasn’t like this. I wish I could actually write something—anything—instead of just gazing at the last paragraph for hours on end.

I think my next project will be about an author who has writer’s block, so if I don’t make progress I can just tell myself it’s part of the story!

Scott Bury

I like to insert people I know into my stories and novels, and what I’ve found is that my victims, I mean subjects, are delighted with the idea.

For my first published novel, The Bones of the Earth, I based the hero, Javor, on both my sons. He looks like my older son, and has the personality of the younger. Meanwhile, the wise old man of the story, who turns out not to be so wise, after all, is based on an old university professor of mine, many years ago.

Vanessa Storm, hero of the Hawaiian Storm mystery series, is based on my lovely wife, Roxanne. The villains of the first book in the series, Torn Roots, are based on a certain neighbor and an ex-girlfriend, respectively.

Of course, the biographical Eastern Front Trilogy tells the story of my father-in-law, a Canadian drafted into the Red Army during the Second World War.

I have sprinkled names that readers of this blog may recognize into other books: Corinne O’Flynn, Christine Nolfi and Sam Gilmour, to name three. It’s a lot of fun!

Share

Bestselling writers love the spooky season

Share
Photo by Tom Roberts on Unsplash

It’s true: your favorite bestselling authors write scary scenes because they love to be scared, and they love scary things. One love they share is a love of the best holiday of the year: Hallowe’en.

Gae-Lynn Woods

Halloween conjures a fantastic memory from trick or treating when I was a kid. We lived in a little neighborhood in Irving, Texas and made the rounds on Halloween night with our plastic pumpkins and dad in tow. Most of the houses weren’t really decorated, but one house was spectacular! They had spider’s webs. Skeletons hanging in the trees. Spooky music. And a very long path from the sidewalk to the front door.

We bravely made the trip past all the creepiness and knocked. The door swung slowly open with a long creaaaak, and a ghost literally floated down the hall to the front door! Like any sane kids, we scrambled for our dad, who was bent in half, laughing. It took ages before we believed that the ghost was gone and got brave enough to follow Dad up the path to the open door and take a piece of candy from the bowl.

I’d like to say that I’m now a rational adult and understand that the sheet on a wire was a neat trick, but I can see that ghost floating down the hall and still swear it was real!

Raine Thomas

I’ve loved fall and Halloween since I was a kid!

October kicks off three months of holiday festivities…what’s not to love about that?

On top of that, both kids and adults get to dress up and play pretend, setting aside reality for a short while. I write fiction, so naturally this appeals to me. 

Aside from the candy (duh!), one last thing to love about Halloween is the “safe” thrills and chills it often invokes.

There’s something invigorating about a fun scare!

DelSheree Gladden

My family and I love Halloween! We spend most of the month watching scary movies and like to stay up late on Halloween night to watch our favorites.

I also love dressing up and making costumes, even though my kids are too old to dress up (their opinion, not mine) and my husband isn’t the biggest fan of dressing up either. Every once in a while I convince him to dress up, and if we ever finish our basement we’ll host a Halloween party down there.

I also love scary stories, in movie or book form, and enjoy learning about the mythology behind various cultural traditions surrounding the season. I’ve been collecting them for future Ghost Host books, if I ever get back to them. On my list is Dia de los Muertos and some of the Santeria traditions.

Scott Bury

Hallowe’en is my favourite yearly celebration primarily because it’s a day devoted simply to fun. No expectations, no pressure, just an opportunity for play.

Hallowe’en is also the season to indulge your favorite fantasies, to give yourself powers you cannot hope to wield at any other time of year. It’s time for love potions.

It’s also in fall, when nature puts on its most spectacular display, when you can wear your favorite sweater and leather jacket again. It’s just a sensual delight.

Putting up ghoulish decorations, hanging little ghosts and webs in the front yard, playing spooky music, handing out candy (which may or may not happen this year) — it’s all good fun. Plus, I look good in a cape.

David C. Cassidy

As a horror writer—and an all-round horror film lover—I know I’m not alone when I say that those gusty October nights around Halloween stir those deep desires for some good old-fashioned scares. Who doesn’t pop in a copy of The Shining or Halloween into the Blu-Ray player around the 31st? Just hearing the opening notes of John Carpenter’s haunting theme always gives me goosepimples and has me sleeping with the lights on.

For a lot of people, this is their favorite time of year—their favorite “holiday.” Dressing up, pulling pranks, scaring the screams out of little ones with some eerie music or some downright disturbing costumes or “blood-soaked” decorations … it’s just damn good fun.

We all fear something, and I think horror fans fear lots of things. It’s why we read horror. Why we watch it. It gives us power knowing we can face our fears with the surety we’ll come out on top—it’s just a movie, just a book. And Halloween? It’s our one day of the year where we get to turn the tables and be that thing under the bed—and have a blast doing it. It’s just damn … good … fun.

Now where the hell’s my Freddie Kruger glove?

Step into our web …

There’s more spook-tacular news coming from BestSelling Reads!

Share

Maps and fantasy

Share

Monday musings on fantasy writing

By Scott Bury

A map is a necessary feature of any fantasy novel.

Tolkien’s map from The Hobbit

Ever since Tolkien and Lewis, and maybe before, every fantasy novel has a map at the beginning or the end of the book.

It’s not necessary, but I find a map often helps. I also think a good map would help with any historical fiction as well as some others, to show the reader the relationships between settings in any story, to give an idea of how close or far apart key locations are. 

The trouble is, with a lot of fantasy novels, the map is childish looking. Totally unsatisfying for anyone who knows the first thing about maps.

It seems that every fantasy writer thinks that Pauline Baynes, the illustrator of the maps in The Hobbit, set the rules of cartography. 

But they’re not as good at drawing maps as Baynes. As a result, their maps are not detailed, nor realistic nor, more importantly, believable.

One good example is the map of the fantasy world in the bestselling Eragon by David Paolini. Obviously inspired by the maps drawn by Tolkien and Baynes, it’s particularly unsatisfying and child-like. It displays a lack of understanding how geography and geology work. 

This is not the only example. All the writers of fantasy seem to think mountains look like individual little cones, sometimes topped with a charming snowy peak. Rivers conveniently go through cities, which always have a hill for a castle with four towers in it. 

Coastlines are remarkably smooth, and borders between kingdoms are regular, rather than the tortuous, twisting and contentious messes you can see in virtually every part of the word, shaped by centuries of warfare and politics. 

Likewise, the societies were always limited and simplistic. There is a good kingdom and an evil kingdom. Their allies are also either good or bad, but less extreme. Tolkien, Lewis, Pratchett, Turtledove and most others follow this trope. George Martin is the one author who comes close to reflecting the complexity of international relations and dynastic politics in his Song of Ice and Fire series. But even that is not as complex, nor as far-reaching as the real ancient world was.

The sophistication of ancient societies

The ancient Greeks and Romans, for example, knew about China (which they variously called “Qin” or “Seres.”) Rome traded with India, and with far-off places like Abyssinia and Axum. Roman writers listed far-flung tribes in Scandinavia and what is now Russia, as well as in Africa. Their geography extended far beyond the maps of most fantasy writers. 

Maps and direction

Dissatisfaction with maps was part of the inspiration behind my first-published novel, The Bones of the Earth. When I began writing it, many years ago, my children were quite young and seemed to like stories about dragons. So we got a few movies and books, but somehow, they all seemed to follow a few well-worn tropes. The dragons were all friendly, or at least amenable to human direction. 

But that’s not what dragons meant to me. A little reading about the mythology involving dragons reveals them to be immensely powerful creatures, as well as very intelligent. While European stories generally depict dragons as antagonistic. Leave them alone on their giant piles of gold and jewels, or they’ll burn down your town and eat you alive, is the moral.

Asian dragons, on the other hand, are often said to have taught humans agriculture and other wisdom. They’re still not friendly, though. Certainly they are not suitable as pets.

Inspiration

All of this inspired me to do something different.

I guess it started with the map. “How can I make a map look more realistic?” I wondered. Eventually, I found the obvious solution: use a real map.

Which then led me to the next decision: set the fantasy story in a real place. And what is more fantastic than the Dark Age?

Current thinking dismisses the concept of the Dark Age of history. There are plenty of records from the time following the fall of the Western Roman Empire. In fact, the idea is highly western-European-centric and ignores the splendid civilizations that persisted through the years 476 to 800 CE: the Sassanid Persian Empire, China, Japan, powerful and sophisticated civilizations in India and Africa and the Americas. 

But it’s still a powerful, romantic idea, a great place for stories.

So that’s what led me to set a fantasy series in the Eastern Roman Empire around the turn of the seventh century CE. 

And it has an awesome map, and I’ll use it in my upcoming sequel, The Children of the Seventh Son.

Share