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The Squire – Blood of Kings Book 1 Cover Reveal

With the release of the first part of my new fantasy trilogy on the horizon, I thought it was beyond time I made some announcements!

The first of those is, The Squire, the first book of my new Blood of Kings trilogy, will be coming out on 27 April. We return to the Northlands to meet a host of new characters against the backdrop of a new and deadly threat to the good people of the Middle Sea world. If you’ve read my Dragonslayer trilogy, you may have a sneaking suspicion of where I’m heading with this trilogy, but that’s all I’m giving away for now!

The second item for this post is the cover reveal. I wanted to do something a little different with my cover this time, and spent hours researching artists before settling on one whose images I bookmarked over and over before realising they were by the same person. We worked together on the image for a couple of months (my involvement in the process was largely limited to saying ‘wow, that looks great!’). Below is the result of that work, a beautiful piece of art, and an awesome book cover that I’m utterly delighted with.

The painting was done by the incredibly talented Andreas Rocha. You can check out more of his beautiful work here: https://www.artstation.com/andreasrocha . Every single one of his paintings makes me want to make up a story about them, and I think this cover beautifully gives a sense of the energy and peril contained within The Squire.

I hope you like the cover! I’ll be posting some more details about The Squire in coming days, so stay tuned!

The Alpha Protocol out in Paperback!

Hey folks, just a quick post to let you all know that The Alpha Protocol is now available in paperback! Apologies for the delay, but getting proof copies has been a lot slower than normal recently, as they are quite correctly not considered high priority items for postage.

I hope you’ll think it’s been worth the wait! You can pick up a copy at the following links:

Amazon.com (US)
Amazon UK/Ireland
Amazon Canada
Amazon Germany

There’s still a bit more of a wait for the audio edition, I’m afraid. I really wanted to get Scott Aiello on this project, and as he’s one of the most talented narrators in this genre, that meant waiting my turn to get him. The audio will be out in July!

Finally, I’m still on track to release my new fantasy novel, The Squire, in early April. Keep an eye out for updates on that over the next couple of weeks!

Perfect!

David Gemmell is my favourite Fantasy author. A few others have come close with individual books, but fallen behind with others. Gemmell is perhaps the only Fantasy author who has kept me up into the wee small hours with every single one of his books. I can remember a number of late nights of reading where I turned the lights out when it was brighter outside than it had been in my room.

At some point along the way, I seem to have lost a few of my paperback copies of his books, and I just realised they were absent from my shelf. Off I went to Amazon to rectify that situation. This is what I discovered:

I sprayed an overly-ambitious mouthful of tea over my monitor when I saw that. To see my name there is, well, I don’t really know what it is. Exciting, satisfying, affirming, that warm, cozy feeling you sometimes get when incredibly happy…

Being able to make a living from writing always seemed like an impossible dream when I was younger. More than that – I was utterly convinced it was impossible. The end result of that is now that I am making a living from writing, I have to remind myself everyday that it is actually happening, because I still can’t believe it. Seeing my name up there makes it just that little bit more real.

Anyway, as it’s a new release week for me, I am obliged to plug my new release, and new genre venture into Sci-Fi, The Alpha Protocol. It’s a fun book that I really enjoyed writing. Even if you don’t read Sci-Fi, but have liked my Fantasy stuff, I like to think there’s plenty for you to enjoy in The Alpha Protocol!

To those who have already taken a chance on it, thank you so much! The book is doing much better than I hoped for with a new series in a new genre, so I really appreciate you following me on this adventure! None of this would have been possible without your support!

You can pick up a copy here:

Amazon US

Amazon UK

The first part of my next Fantasy trilogy will be coming out in April. We’re back to the Middle Sea world with some new faces, and some old ones! More on that soon!

Now, I’ve got to go clean up some spilled tea!

The Alpha Protocol is out today!

I’m delighted to announce that my new book, The Alpha Protocol, is out today. It’s a science fiction novel in the space opera style and is the first book in a new series. It’s set a few hundred years in the future, when mankind has spread out into the galaxy. In all the time we’ve been out there, humanity hasn’t encountered any trace of aliens. Until now.

The story follows a young naval officer called Jack Samson, as he and his crew make some breath-taking discoveries that will change everything, and definitively answer the ages old question – ‘are we alone out here?’

The eBook is out today! You can get your copy of The Alpha Protocol now at these links:

Amazon.com (US)

Amazon UK/Ireland

Amazon Canada

Amazon Australia

Amazon Germany

While this is a new genre for me, it is one I’ve always loved to read, and has been described by one of my early readers as just like my fantasy novels, but set in space! My ARC group readers – many of whom are new to sci-fi – have really been enjoying it, which bodes well for my masterplan to turn you all into sci-fi fans! The Alpha Protocol was a lot of fun to write, so I hope you’ll take a chance on it, and if you do, that you really enjoy it.

I’m particularly pleased with the wonderful cover art created by Fred Gambino, which far exceeds what I was hoping for:

Alpha Protocol 1 Cover eBook

Here’s the back cover copy to give you a little more flavour on what The Alpha Protocol’s about:

Naval Officer Jack Samson thought a posting to the frontier of human inhabited space was the death blow to his career. He couldn’t have been more wrong. A routine inspection of a small merchant vessel leads to devastating loss and the discovery of strange, fascinating objects.

As astonishing discoveries unfold, a mysterious and hostile ship proves that Samson has a competitor in unlocking the secrets of an ancient alien civilisation, and that humanity might not be alone in the galaxy after all.

Due to covid postage delays, I’ve only just received paperback proofs so the paperback will be available in a couple of weeks, once I’ve had the chance to go through them. The audio will be following in June, narrated by the excellent Scott Aiello, whose performance will bring a great additional dimension to the story. I’ll be sure to let you know when they are available.

If you enjoy The Alpha Protocol, and have the time, please consider leaving a review for it over on Amazon – it really helps me out.

As a final note, I have a new fantasy novel on the way, which I’m planning to release this coming April. It takes us back to the Middle Sea with some new characters (and old), and a terrifying new enemy. I’ll let you know all about that closer to the time. Until then, I hope you’ll give The Alpha Protocol a chance!

The Alpha Protocol out on 23 Feb!

With the arrival of my paperback proofs for The Alpha Protocol, I thought it was long past time to announce the release date! The Alpha Protocol will be out on 23 Feb! Just 2 weeks away now!

I’m really happy with how the final book has turned out. The cover art by Fred Gambino is truly breathtaking, and I find myself staring at it for way longer than I should. It definitely helps to fire up my imagination for book 2, and I’m really looking forward to collaborating with Fred again for the cover art on the next book.

Here’s the back cover copy for the book:

Naval Officer Jack Samson thought a posting to the frontier of human inhabited space was the death blow to his career. He couldn’t have been more wrong.

A routine inspection of a small merchant vessel leads to devastating loss and the discovery of strange, fascinating objects.

As astonishing discoveries unfold, a mysterious and hostile ship proves that Samson has a competitor in unlocking the secrets of an ancient alien civilisation, and that humanity might not be alone in the galaxy after all.

I’ll try to remember to put up an excerpt over the next few days. Until then, I hope you’re all keeping well!

Duncan

My New Writing Setup

I’ve been searching for a way to reduce distraction during my working day. I’ve always been someone to shoot off on tangents, particularly when ‘quickly’ looking up some research. This often involves crawling out of the wikipedia rabbit hole knowing a lot of things that I really didn’t need to know. I console myself with the fact that these little details might come in useful at some time in the future when I’m brainstorming out a new story, but…

That brings me on to my quest for distraction free writing. My requirements aren’t entirely straight forward. The main one is that I absolutely insist on writing on a mechanical keyboard. I prefer mechanical keyswitches so much more than the modern membrane style keys. Without wanting it to sound like a whinge, I used to get really sore fingertips after long writing days with these old keyboards, and I find them really unsatisfying to use for anything more than day to day tasks.

Blue switches – ones with an audible click and a firm ‘click’ when pressed are my favourite, although I’ve recently discovered their low profile version, which I think I like even more! The slightly lower amoung of key travel before the keystroke is registered seems to have really sped up my typing (which was already a reasonably speed – about 65 wpm on my regular blue switch keyboard).

Blue switches do make quite a lot of noise, so an alternative is needed for public spaces. I’ve not yet settled on this, but am investigating brown and red switches for the occasions when I might find myself writing in a cafe and don’t want to annoy the people around me. Death by teaspoon is not the way I want to go out!

I also use Macs, so there is a slight difference with some of the utility keys (option and command keys instead of win and alt keys). That’s not a deal breaker, but it’s definitely nice to have.

I decided that a full service computer was always going to provide an easy route to distraction, and that an isolated writing workstation might be the way forward. I quickly found some old tech that looked great – the Alphasmart Neo. However, it is old tech, and I just couldn’t get excited about it. The system offers broadly what I want, but not quite everything!

I found some more modern iterations, but they weren’t quite the right fit for me either. That brought me to the idea of making my own! I think you can see where this is going regarding moving away from distractions…

A Raspberry Pie in a 3d printed enclosure with an eInk screen (easy on the eyes and low power demand) and a mechanical keyboard of my choice built in seemed like it might be a good solution. However, what was intended to be an answer to my search for distraction free writing quickly turned into a very distracting project (albeit one that looked like it might be a lot of fun)! I moved on!

Finally it occurred to me that I was over-complicating things (as I often do), and that the solution was alrady easily available. An iPad, and a bluetooth keyboard. So we come to the elements in the picture above.

I’ve stripped away all the software on the iPad, so there is only a couple of writing apps on it (Scrivener and iA Writer). I’ve deleted email, messages, and bunged any apps I can’t delete in a folder that I have off the main screen. Habit and mindset is important here too. If I want to do something else like mailing or messaging, I force myself to move over to my desktop.

The keyboard is Cooler Master SK622 60% with low profile blue switches. I absolutely love typing on it, and the size is great, although the entire package is not quite perfect for my needs – although it’s pretty close – so I’m still searching for one that is.

When connected by bluetooth, I can’t get the software keyboard to drop off screen, which is not an issue I have with any of my other bluetooth keyboards. It seems the iPad doesn’t identify it as a hardware keyboard. If anyone knows how to solve this, please let me know! This a shame as I far prefer this one to type on this keyboard. I’ve found a workaround (having another bluetooth keyboard connected removes the software keyboard, while allowing me to type with this one).

Also, the small small shift key which you can just see in the right of the picture, and its proximity to the arrow up key has been causing me some problems. I’m sure I’ll get used to it, but I don’t think it’s a longterm runner for me, as I use several different keyboards, and prefer the larger right shift key. I may try their larger ten keyless version, which isn’t too much bigger but has the full size shift key, assuming it addresses the software keyboard issue I’ve been having.

Overall, I’m pretty happy. In the ten days I’ve been using this setup, I’ve put out the highest daily wordcounts I’ve had since all the lockdowns started nearly a year ago. The setup – the keyboard in particular – still needs tweaking, but this for me is pretty close to perfection!

The Alpha Protocol Cover Reveal (and news)

The Alpha Protocol cover

Although I’ve leaked this out elsewhere, I forgot to reveal the cover for my new sci-fi novel, The Alpha Protocol. Tada, here it is! I’m very pleased with how it turned out, so I hope you all like it (even if you aren’t a sci fi fan!)

I’ve set up a separate website for my sci-fi novels. It’s taken quite a bit of work to get up and running, but it’s finally live and functional (I think!). There’s a link up in the top right of the menu bar above, or you can click here to check it out:

dmhamilton.com

While I’ll post some updates about how that work is going here, most of the new information will be over there.

The Alpha Protocol is a space opera/military sci fi style, but is very much my usual writing style, but this time set in space!

With all that work done on the sci fi website, I’ve become painfully aware of how messy and dated this site looks. With that in mind, I’m planning to do a revamp of it over the next week or so. That means it will be a work in progress for a few days, so please bear with me on that. I hope to get it all done as quickly as possible!

Finally, I’d like to wish everyone a Happy New Year! With a little luck this year will see us all out of the crises the world finds itself in. I hope everyone is keeping safe, and staying healthy!

Duncan

The Squire – Blood of Kings 1

I’m finally ready to officially announce my next book, titled ‘The Squire’. It’s the first part of my new Blood of Kings trilogy. I sent it away for its first proof read today, so it’s pretty far along in the process!

I’m aiming for an April 2021 release for The Squire, and so far everything is on track for that. I’ve teamed up with Audible Studios to produce the audiobooks for this trilogy, and I’m really excited about working with them.

The story is set in my Middle Sea world. Although it’s a stand alone tale with new characters, it builds on the history of that world that has been established in my other books. It’s a perfect starting place for new readers, but returning readers will recognise quite a bit!

I don’t want to give away too much about it just yet, but will be making regular announcements here when I’ve something new to share!

I hope you’re all keeping well!

Duncan

The Story Behind the Books – The Tattered Banner

The Tattered Banner, Huntsman's Amulet, and Telastrian Song book covers.

After receiving a couple of questions on this topic, I thought I’d write up a series of posts about the inspirations behind my books. To start with, I’m going to talk about my first trilogy, Society of the Sword, and The Tattered Banner in particular.

At the time, I thought that The Tattered Banner would be the only book I ever published. It started as a piece of historical fiction, set around a made up military school set in early Renaissance northern Italy. At the time, I really only wrote historical fiction, and always hit up against the same obstacle. I wasn’t willing to take liberties with history to help my plot along.

I was fascinated by the changes in technology, art, and the rapid growth of the economies around the European trade centres of the time, and the changes that brought to society. Gunpowder was becoming a thing in Europe at that time, but that was something I wanted to avoid in this story. I wanted to keep the focus on swordplay. This is the society of the sword, after all! How to make this world seem plausible without one of the major technological advances? Easy. Magic!

That presented me with something else that might draw attention away from this society’s veneration for swordsmen, so I made magic illegal. That gave rise to all sorts of things, like the Intelligenciers, and also some of the major plot points for the two following books. I placed some aspects of magic into a bit of a grey area. They were things that this society grandfathered into legality as they were just too convenient for society to do without. It was a hypocrisy that intrigued me, and one that I think works well in a society that is mercantile and ruthless.

I wrote the book on and off over the course of about a year, circling what I knew was ultimately going to be a dead end. Then, one day, the I finally realised the obvious. If I make it a fantasy story, I can hold true to the history and societies that fascinate me, but create my own history and events to suit my story.

From that moment, things happened quickly. Starting over, I rewrote the story with a new fantasy setting, and did all the world building that entailed on my lunch breaks at work. I had my new manuscript complete in about six months. I then forgot about it for a while!

When I came back to read The Tattered Banner’s manuscript, I thought, ‘this is actually pretty decent’. I’ll never make the claim that I thought it was going to change the face of fantasy – that really isn’t what I set out to do with my stories – but I thought it could certainly stand with its peers. I bought a copy of the Writer’s and Artist’s Yearbook and started giving thought to querying agents.

At that time, self publishing was really taking off, and that started to catch my attention. I never thought I’d have a career writing, and I was working very hard to make a success of the career I did have, so the self publishing route became an ever more attractive option. In the end I decided to take that route, to get the book out there, tick it off the bucket list, and get back to my day job. I decided if I was going to do this, I had to be able to stand over every aspect, for it to be something I could be proud of. I researched editors, proof readers, and cover designers, embarked on that process.

The title came to me very late. Originally I was going to just call this book the Society of the Sword. While I was having the cover designed, a scene near the end of the book presented the perfect name, and the book became The Tattered Banner. In April of 2013, I finally published it on a Thursday evening. When I woke up on Friday, expecting not a single sale, I’d sold 12 copies.

Within 3 months, I’d covered my costs of putting the book together and was starting to think there might be something to all of this. I was starting to consider a career change at the time, from being an independent practitioner (barrister) to working in house in a legal department. I thought I could probably risk a year’s career break in between the move to see if the writing might take off.

Shortly before I made that decision, The Tattered Banner featured on BuzzFeed’s Best Fantasy of 2013 in early December 2013, and everything changed overnight. Literally. There were so many mentions and alerts on my Twitter when I woke up the next day, I thought my account had been hacked. What had seemed like a possibility now seemed dangerously like a reality. I made my choice, and didn’t return to work the following January. It was a bit of a risk, but I’d planned to make that jump the following May anyway, so this was more of an acceleration of an established plan than a leap into the void!

I’m not sure what The Tattered Banner would look like if I were to write it today. I’ve learned so much as a writer in the 8 years since I wrote it, so it would probably be pretty different. Nonetheless, I still feel like I achieved what I set out to do with it – create something I could stand over and be proud of, which I am. The Tattered Banner is the book that started me on this journey. The people who bought it and read it allowed me to stay on that journey, leading to all the books I’ve written since.