On the launch day for A Cup of Blood, the start of his latest dark fantasy trilogy, author Troy A. Hill lifts the lid on his thrilling tale of Celtic myths, shape-shifters and a heroine who just happens to be a vampire!
Arthur is dead…
Well, any Brit could tell you that. Heck. Even I, a Yank from Middle America, who got most of his British history from Monty Python reruns, could tell you that.
Yet, that simple statement is both the cornerstone of my new Dark Fantasy trilogy, and the beginnings of my long and sordid (well, only two years long) love affair with a place and it’s people. Wales.
When I had the idea for my stories, I thought: England, Camelot, Knights in Shiny Armour.
Boy, was I wrong. So wrong, I could hear the needle screech across the record… or the gasp of the bard as he stopped strumming the harp. I even thought Arthur was English. (Remember that record screech? Play it again. He’s Welsh. Or, rather, the myths of him are Welsh in origin.)
Let’s be clear off the bat: No, my stories are not about Arthur.
My original idea was What if a vampire went to visit Arthur…? Of course, I’m also a fan of Mark Twain. Why would I mix the two? Twain and Arthur, with my love of all things undead and blood-sucky?
But, the more I learned about Arthur, the less I wanted to write yet another story about the mysterious protector of Britain. His story has been told and retold, and then there were the retellings of the retellings of the retellings.
Enter Mabon. Or, rather, Lady Charlotte Guest, notably blamed for coining the name Mabinogion. Anyone intimate with British history has probably been exposed to the various tales of Mabon and the subsequent heroic tales of Geraint, Pwyll, Math, Bran, and, yes, Arthur.
What I did find in my quest for knowledge beyond the romances surrounding Arthur, was the Mabinogion. In particular, I found King Arthur and The Goddess of the Landby Caitlín Matthews. This was my siren song. The work that led me to dive into the myths of Arthur, and learn what his role had been, and how it had grown out of the Cymric ideals of protecting the homeland. Just like Mabon, Math, and Bran before him, Matthews shows how Arthur was an embodiment in the Mabinogi of the masculine role of protector of Britain.
That, of course, led me to learn of Modron, The Celtic Goddess of Britain. Mother of Mabon. Embodied by the mythical Lady of the Lake. The Lady. Later adopted by Christianized Britain as the Holy Lady, Mother of the Saviour.
I now had my theme for the story. Arthur is dead.
My story would detail the goddess and her choice of a successor to Arthur. One who will protect Britain in her greatest challenge. But who would The Lady choose as her new champion?
That is the situation I explore in the prequel novellas, Penllyn, Penteulu, and Cursed. These have been collected into one volumeThe Penllyn Chronicles. In that series, Arthur has been dead for more than a century. The goddess discovers an unseen enemy has been working against her champions. When the enemy reveals itself, the goddess is forced into a game for the sovereign power she alone grants to Britain’s champions.
The stories of The Penllyn Chronicles don’t focus on the final champion the goddess chooses, but instead, show the men and women of Cymru that will support the new protector in the battles to come.
In the early dark ages, Mercia is ascendant, Powys is in turmoil, and Gwynedd is targeted by the sons of Ida. In central Powys, one cantref sits as an island of sanity amidst the strife. Lord Penllyn and his heirs do not realize they stand at what will be the centre of the storm that will unfold in my newest trilogy: The Cup of Blood series.
One name stands out in these stories. Lady Gwen. Gwenhwyfar. The chosen disciple of The Holy Lady. The last keeper of the old Celtic ways. Her husband long dead, she acts as The Lady’s messenger. Calling those the goddess needs to serve.
Both the Penllyn Chronicles, and the Cup of Blood series will show the underlying character of the people of Cymru, of Britain, when their lives, their families, and all they hold dear are threatened. Bleddyn ap Macsen, his adopted brother Neirin ap Emlyn, along with Ruadh, from the highland Picts, as well as a cast of Britons of stout character, form the core of the forces the goddess calls in her game against darkness.
A young lord Bleddyn must marry, and the choice he faces for the next Lady Penllyn is bleak. Until the firebrand daughter of the Lord of Rhos enters his life.
Bleddyn’s brother Neirin watched Saxon raiders slaughter his first family. Lord Penllyn arrived too late for them, but took the tyke into his own family. Neirin learned weapons from an early age, his only desire: to protect his new family. But, when old rivalries flare, Neirin’s worst nightmares come back. He and Penllyn are forever changed.
Ruadh, the highlander, shares a curse with his father and brothers. But, he doesn’t share his brother’s ambitions. When his father, the Clan Chief, is murdered by one of his shapeshifting brothers, Ruadh knows his life is already marked. He must flee their treacherous claws, but where can he flee to find safety?
These are the people the Goddess calls to protect Cymru in what will be the darkest hour. But the champion? Can the goddess choose a mortal to protect Britain against the forces of death and destruction?
Maria has been dead for six centuries. She and her undead brothers live because they drink the blood of others. Maria shares the love of dance with Aemilianus. The dance of the blades. The dance of steel. The dance of swords.
The same dance that a young Neirin learned from Emilius. Aemilianus.
Who better to fight against the dark and destructive powers of Modron’s enemy, than death?
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It’s been a really exciting week and I’m delighted to report that the 21-stop blog tour for Crimson Siege has ended with a big bang. Three cracking reviews to finish with. And, added to the three corkers the day before, they’ve made me grin from ear to ear.
Kim at Nemesis Book Blog wrote: “This was fast paced, edge of seat, gripping, and sometimes disturbing, but in my opinion it’s not a good horror if you haven’t got something sick, twisted and disturbing lurking around.
“This is set in the time of werewolves and vampires in Transylvania. But definitely not in the traditional sense. Wonderfully written and didn’t hang around, you were quickly transported to the next scene and character.”
Dash Fan Book reviews said: “Crimson Siege hooked me in from the start, it’s fast paced and action packed. It’s a well written taut Gothic style horror. The plot was tense and engaging with flawed intriguing characters. “
That’s right. Three’s a dream. Tuesday proved to be a fabulous day in the Crimson Siege blogger road trip, attracting a trio of stunning reviews, and boosting the number of reviews on Goodreads to 22! (14 of these are 5-star beauties).
The first of the hat trick was from Kirsty at Over the Rainbow Book Blog who wrote: The tension in the second half of the book really holds you and encourages you to read faster to find out how the whole thing is going to play out. The action is great, it is bloody and gory but not unnecessarily so for this type of book. The story is mostly wrapped up but Jay has left plenty of avenues open for the further books, which I am really looking forward to.”
Next Rainne at Just Books wrote: “The characters were well-developed, and each had a unique and flawed personality. Crimson Siege is a well-written, action-packed Gothic tale with plenty of surprising twists and turns to keep you guessing. An entertaining and riveting read which, though it has its fair share of betrayal, brutality and blood, I didn’t find especially scary.
And last, but not – as they say – least, Andy at Pagefarer Book Blog said: “The writing is taut and well-paced, the world-building convincing due to its loose roots in history and playing on some of the vampire themes we know so well. There are a couple of truly horrific moments and I must warn that the book contains some adult themes, as befitting the genre (including swearing, sexual content and violence), but these are not overly dwelt upon nor included solely for shock value.”
Monday was surprisingly quiet in the Raven household – which gave me the chance to catch up on the last two episodes of the latest series of the excellent crime drama Unforgotten. I’d taped it and wanted to find out who the killer was before people started blabbing it all over social media.
Things, however, were much livelier on the Crimson Siege blog tour trail and I was lucky enough to receive two great reviews.
For the Love of Books! said the following:
“The action starts from the very first page and doesn’t let up until the end. It sucks you in from the start and is a real page turner. It’s full of twists and turns, people betraying each other and lots of blood. Excellent read and i‘m looking forward to reading the next book.”
“The pacing was really well done, the build up to the final chapters was done in a way that kept you anticipating what would happen but didn’t drag so you found yourself bored. I really enjoyed this book and the entire storyline. Jay has done a brilliant job with not only creating a convincing and entertaining plot but also fantastic characters.”
Now, I’ve been keeping score and by yesterday my Gothic horror debut novel had attracted 20 reviews on Goodreads – 14 of them 5-star dazzlers! So please forgive me if I’m looking just a tad pleased with myself.
If you want to read a sample chapter of Crimson Siege to judge for yourself, drop me an email and I’ll send you a pdf.
Normally I wouldn’t mention a “shout-out” – that’s where a book blogger doesn’t have the time to read a book and leave a review, so simply gives it a showcase instead. But yesterday, as part of the Crimson Siege tour, the Beardy Book Blogger did such a marvellous spotlight – filled with cartoons, vampire jokes, bloodsucker photos and film references – that it had me in stitches. And I really recommend you check it out. You’ll love it.
Simply click on the cartoon banner.
He did say he didn’t like the novel’s cover, which I found a tad surprising as no-one else has expressed anything but delight with it. But it’s interesting to get the feedback, and is something to mull over.
On the review front, Sean at Seansbookreviews wrote: “Having been a huge fan of vampire books I can say that I was getting tired of the same old style and that they just weren’t cutting it for me. This book was anything but the boring old routine of vampires. It’s set in Transylvania, which for a book with vampires is a bit cliche, but it worked.”
He adds: “This won’t be for everyone, especially if you are used to sparkly vampires who charm everyone they meet and are vegetarian. Sorry this isn’t that type of book and shows vampires for what they truly are. Soulless, merciless and completely devoid of the compassion towards anyone other than those they sired.”
And what an amazing day Saturday was. I received one of the most uplifting compliments I’ve had since the publication of Crimson Siege – and I’m still grinning about it 24 hours later!
Blogger Jessica Rachow has declared my historical vampire thriller one of her favourite reads of the year. Yeah!
She wrote: This is one action packed novel, that sucks (pun intended) you in from the beginning and keeps you until the very end. I could not put it down, and read it in one day. I loved the Gothic, historical writing style of Jay Raven. I loved the twists and turns, and I loved the creepy factor that stayed with me through the entire novel. I absolutely love when a horror novel is actually scary.”
My word! It doesn’t get much better than that…
If you want to read Jessica’s review in full click HERE.
AND IN OTHER NEWS
It’s my turn to guest on Junction Publishing’s in-house newsletter. In it, I reveal what truly terrifies me – and it won’t be what you think!
Great day on Friday (the second day of the week-long blog tour organised by Rachel’s Random Resources). Two bloggers reviewed Crimson Siege and gave it a huge thumbs up.
Jess at Jess Bookish Life wrote:
“With Crimson Siege, Jay Raven gives us a book full of excitement, action, horror, vampires and crazy moments that I can’t even describe because the book was so good.
It was so different from all the other vampire books I have read, and that made it refreshing to me. It’s that Gothic vibe that I quite enjoy in a vampire book with that touch or horror that just makes it scary and unexpected.And it made me remember the first time I read Dracula, and how wowed I was about it.”
As well as her kind words, she shot this marvellous picture. I love it.
Meanwhile, on Birdie’s Bibliotheca, Birdie wrote a very considered appraisal:
“This book was slow for me to get into. I think it was just me, though, because as I got into the meat of it…I fell in love. Vampire books are pretty common, but rarely do I find one where there is no clear good guy/bad guy. Vampires are either good guys (ethically taking blood without death) or bad guys (psychopathic killers). Jay Raven manages to make all the characters in his book human. NOBODY is perfect and everybody has a history.”
She goes on: ” The whole thing reads as literature and not popular fiction, delving deep and depending on personal conflict to move the story along. The tone is reminiscent of some of my favorite Russians.”
The other great thing that happened yesterday – although not directly linked to the blog tour – was that I featured in a fun, fast paced, Meet The Author slot on the Black Books Blog site. Many thanks to Simon for organising this.
Check it out HERE to find out why I’d love to have dinner with Mrs Beeton, where I get inspiration for my chilling historical horror novels, and what surprising career I’d be following if I couldn’t be an author.