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.

Look what arrived in the morning post…

With release day for the final part of the Dragonslayer trilogy now less than a month away, on Tuesday 10 March, the nearness of it all hit me today when these two beauties arrived all the way from Tor in the US.

The covers always look a little different in the flesh than they do on the screen, and the green background is a bit darker than I was expecting, but looks even better than I’d hoped for. I’m really pleased with how the covers have turned out for all three books in the series, and it feels hard to believe that I’m almost at the end of the road with this trilogy. The last couple of years have gone by so quickly!

Dragonslayer Christmas Sale!

Dragonslayer

A little news first! Dragonslayer in ebook is on sale for a few days over Christmas, reduced to only $2.99 and the equivalent in other currencies. The sale runs until 29 December. If you haven’t already got one, you can pick up a copy at the following links!

Amazon.com

Amazon.co.uk

Snowman

Finally, I want to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas, Happy Holiday, or whatever you do or don’t celebrate! Thank you all for your support and encouragement over the past year – it’s always very much appreciated. I hope you all have a relaxing few days, and the opportunity to spend them with people who matter to you!

Over the holiday, I’m planning to paint my way through a box of space marines I bought a recently, while working my way through the nice bottle of whiskey I’m hoping my brother’s going to give me for Christmas! Hopefully I’ll have some photos to post of my efforts in the New Year!

There’ll also be plenty to look forward to in the New Year on the writing side of things. The final part of the Dragonslayer trilogy – Servant of the Crown – comes out in March, and I have a few new projects on the production line that I’m very excited about, and am looking forward to telling you more about soon!

Duncan

Dragonslayer out in the wild, and weekend promotion!

As you may or may not have heard, Dragonslayer is now out in the wild, available in ebook, hardback – which is new for me, paperback, and audiobook which is once again narrated by the awesome Simon Vance. You can pick up a copy in a format of your choice at the links below:

Amazon.com

Amazon.co.uk

To mark Dragonslayer’s release, and to shamelessly attempt to fill your summer reading pile with my titles, I’m giving away the kindle edition of The First Blade of Ostia, a swashbuckling fantasy adventure with tons of swordfights, for free this weekend. You can pick up your copy at the following links:

First Blade – Amazon US

First Blade – Amazon UK

Finally, if you enjoyed Dragonslayer, and have a moment to spare, I’d really appreciate it if you could leave a review over on Amazon, at either of the two links above. Aside from buying an author’s book (thanks!), the best thing you can do to help them out is leave a review!

I hope you all have a great weekend,

Duncan

Twas the night before… new book release

So, it’s the night before Dragonslayer’s release. It’s a feeling similar to the night before Christmas excitement, but with a liberal dose of anxiety added into the mix! Actually, it’s more anxiety with a little excitement added. Or perhaps just anxiety partially masquerading as excitement. This being my 8th book release, you’d think it’d get easier. It doesn’t…

It’s always something of a relief to get some positive feedback at a time like this, so I was delighted today to see Dragonslayer feature on Barnes & Noble’s Best Sci Fi and Fantasy for July, and on the Verge’s Sci Fi and Fantasy to check out in July. You can take a look at the snippets here:

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/blog/sci-fi-fantasy/the-best-science-fiction-fantasy-books-of-july-2019/

https://www.theverge.com/2019/7/1/18680132/science-fiction-fantasy-books-recommendations-july-kloos-clarke-del-toro-tremblay-wendig

Finally, there are still a few hours left to preorder Dragonslayer, and be eligible for a copy of The Drake of White Peak. It’s a great short story that I’m particularly proud of. All the details of how to get it, and some preorder links, can be found here:

https://read.macmillan.com/promo/dragonslayerpreorder/

Dragonslayer 3 Cover Reveal!

It feels a little odd revealing the cover for Book 3 in the Dragonslayer trilogy before the first one is even released, but with the quick release schedule (a little less than 6 months between each book) all these things get front loaded a bit! So, here is the cover for the final part of Dragonslayer trilogy, titled ‘Servant of the Crown’.

All three covers are magnificent pieces of art in their own right, and you can rest assured that I’ve worked extremely hard to make sure the interior content lives up to the exterior!

I also wanted to remind everyone that there’s a preorder bonus for Dragonslayer, an original short story called The Drake of White Peak, that introduces the reader to some of the old dragonslayers of legend. With Dragonslayer coming out on 2 July, there’s only a little over a month left to preorder and secure your copy!

All you need to do is proved the good people at Tor with your proof of purchase (and, unfortunately, reside in the US or Canada – apologies to anyone who doesn’t!), which you can do at this link, where you’ll also find all the details of the promotion, along with preorder links for Dragonslayer.

https://read.macmillan.com/promo/dragonslayerpreorder/

You can also use these links to preorder a copy:

Amazon

Apple iBooks

Indie Bound

Dragonslayer 2 Cover Reveal

I realise Dragonslayer isn’t out yet, but this has worked its way out into the internet, so I thought I’d do a quick title and cover reveal for the second part of the Dragonslayer trilogy.

First up, the title – Knight of the Silver Circle.

I was going to call it Chevalier of the Silver Circle, for reasons that will be obvious when you read Dragonslayer (or The Frontier Lord, which you can get a free digital copy of if you sign up for my newsletter here), but it took up too much space on the cover (and obscured too much of the truly magnificent cover art) so I wanted to go for something a little more compact. And so ‘chevalier’ becomes ‘knight’. I bet you didn’t think that was how the naming process works!

So, without further ado, here is the cover!

I’m also delighted to announce that Knight of the Silver Circle is already available for preorder! You can grab a copy here:

Amazon US

Amazon UK

I hope everyone (in the northern hemisphere) is enjoying the lengthening days, and the improving weather!

Duncan

Dragonslayer Excerpt

Hey folks, hope you’re all keeping well!

Tor have released an excerpt for Dragonslayer, so if you weren’t lucky enough to get your hands on an ARC, you can read a little chunk of it over on Tor’s website. Here’s the link:

I will be running some more giveaways over the next few weeks, so stay tuned if you haven’t bagged a copy. Sadly, for various reasons, GRDP in Europe being one of then, it is impossible for me to run giveaways outside of the US and Canada at the moment. Being based outside of the US and Canada myself, I realise how frustrating that is, but unfortunately it’s beyond my resources to get around this, so please accept my apologies!

Dragonslaying in MagicXMayhem!

Tor have just released a free sampler book, MagicXMayhem. It contains a chunk of Dragonslayer, along with chunks of some other great fantasy stories that are upcoming this year. As well as my own wonderful self, you can find excerpts from Sarah Gailey, Seanan Maguire, and JY Yang, among others. You can download a free copy by clicking on any of the images in this post, or at this link:

https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250249425

Dragonslayer Giveaway on Goodreads

Hey everyone! We’re running a giveaway for some advance copies of Dragonslayer over on Goodreads at the moment. If you want to get your hands on a copy in advance of release, this is a good way to try! You can find the giveaway entry page here:

https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/289766-dragonslayer