Welcome to the Dark Age



 

As you know, I’ve been working on The Triumph of the Sky, the sequel to my first-published novel, The Bones of the Earth. And I thought I should familiarize you with this fantastic, yet historical universe so you’re ready to find you way around when the book comes out.

The Byzantine Empire

The setting is the Eastern Roman Empire, which most of us in the West call the “Byzantine Empire.” But to the people who lived in it, it was the Empire of the Romans.

The story of The Triumph of the Sky begins five years after the end of The Bones of the Earth, so that’s 603 CE. The Empire had just been through a particularly tumultuous period, even for the Roman Empire.

I learned in school that the Roman Empire fell in 476 CD, when Odoacer, a Germanic soldier in the Roman Empire, deposed the teenaged last Emperor, Romulus Augustus. A year later, Theodoric and the Ostrogoths killed Odoacer and conquered most of Italy. Other “barbarian” tribes took over Gaul, Iberia, Britain and most of the rest of the Western Roman territories.

But the Eastern half of the Empire continued for another thousand years. In the sixth century, its capital Constantinople, on the narrow straits that separate Europe and Asia, was the largest and wealthiest city in the world. With walls six metres thick and 12 metres high, sea walls and the natural protection of the Sea of Marmara and the Golden Horn on two other sides, it was considered unconquerable. Indeed, it would fend off all attacks for another 600 years.

An ancient drawing of Constantinople, facing roughly west, showing how the city was roughly triangular shape with water on two sides. On the right, northern side is the Golden Horn, a huge harbour. A heavy chain stretched across it at night or when the city was under threat, which would prevent ships from entering.

The walls of Constantinople: Wikimedia Commons.

The Eastern Roman Empire in 600 stretched from the Caucasus Mountains, east of the Black Sea, all along the southern Mediterranean coast to the Atlantic Ocean, and included Egypt, and as far north as the Danube River. Emperor Maurice, who ruled from 582 to 602, reconquered parts of Italy that had been lost to the Ostrogoths and Lombards.

The Roman Empire in 600 CE. Source: Wikimedia Commons

In 602, troops revolted against Maurice. Their leader, Phocas, butchered Maurice’s family in front of him, then killed the Emperor and took the throne.

Possibly a bust of Emperor Phocas

Phocas was especially brutal, even for a Roman Emperor. He used mass torture to rule, and became the object of many plots and intrigues. Eventually, he was deposed and killed by the next emperor, Heraclius.

During Phocas’ rein, though the Sassanid Persians attacked in the east, taking Syria and Mesopotamia, raiding Anatolia and even at one point setting up a military camp within sight of Constantinople. On the north, Avars and Slavs, or Sklaveni, were conquering deep into imperial territory.

This is the political and military situation that surround Javor and the other characters of Triumph.

The people of Constantinople

The people of Constantinople were cosmopolitan, with a great range of ethnicities represented at every social stratum—even the Emperor. About 30 percent were literate, far ahead of western Europe and the rest of the world at the time. There were renowned schools and universities in many of Rome’s cities.

The key to Constantinople’s wealth was trade. It was located at a crossroads: where the land route between Europe and Asia crossed the major sea trade route from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean. As a result, it had several huge markets, great ports and incredible numbers of people moving in and out all the time. Wealth brought about great demand in the city for art and other luxury goods.

The Christian Church dominated social life in Constantinople. The Emperor was the head of both the Church and the Empire, although the bishop, called the Patriarch, wielded a great deal of power.

Leo VI Prostrating before Christ, Mosaic c.900 CE, Hagia Sophia / Creative Commons

Byzantine Mosaic with Virgin Mary and Infant Jesus – Hagia Sophia (Istanbul) Justinian I and Constantine I present the Hagia Sophia and Constantinople to the Virgin and Child.

Even though the Church dominated social and moral life, there were still many slaves in the Roman Empire. At that time, most of them were prisoners of war, and their children. But another source was poor parents who sold their children into slavery to pay their debts and feed the rest of their children.

Politics: Blues versus Greens

The people of the city generally divided into two groups: the Blues and the Greens. This originated as racing teams in the Hippodrome, and like today’s sports fans, they could be fanatical. There were times after races when one team would massacre thousands of members of the other. The rivalry between the two sides reached a peak in the Nike riots in 532. I’ll go into that in more depth in a future blog. But the Blue-Green divide went far beyond the horse races: neighbourhoods could be Blue or Green, and there were social and religious divisions between them, too.

In short, the early 7th century in Constantinople was a complex time — arguably as complex as our own, in its way, with political intrigues, wars on more than one front, social divisions, and contradictions between religion, society, politics and money.

Till next time … keep your paddles in the water.

 

What I’m working on now: A new book



After publishing 10 books in the past two years (wow—I just blew my own mind), I am not slowing down, but I am changing direction.

I had a writing and publishing plan.e72b9-bonescoverfinalforweb

Two years ago in July, I published two books in two different Kindle Worlds: Torn Roots in the Lei Crime Kindle World, based on Toby Neal’s Lei Crime series; and Jet: Stealth in the Jet Kindle World, based on the bestselling series by Russell Blake.

Up to that point, I had published only three book-length titles:

  • The Bones of the Earth, book one of a planned Dark Age trilogy, a historical fantasy
  • One Shade of Red, a spoof of Fifty Shades of Gray
  • Army of Worn Soles, the first book in my Eastern Front trilogy, based on the real experiences of my father-in-law in the Red Army during the Second World War.

My plans at that point were to complete the Eastern Front trilogy (done!), then move to the second and third books of the Dark Age series. I also thought I might intersperse those projects by writing and publishing
stories that would tie together into a paranormal-occult-romance novel, Dark Clouds. I had written four chapters, publishing them on various platforms. A lot of people liked the first chapter, which stands alone as a story called The Mandrake Ruse. You can download it for free.

At that point, I had never even heard of Kindle Worlds, and never considered writing fan fiction.

Then Toby Neal diverted me.

Near the end of 2014, Toby Neal, bestselling author of the Lei Crime series and other books, and a prominent member of the BestSelling Reads authors group, selected a few authors to write for her brand new Lei Crime Kindle World. The idea was to publish a novella, something between 10,000 and 40,000 words, based on the characters and situations of her mystery novels.

I was excited and, to be honest, flattered to be one of the first invited to this project. And it also solved another problem for me. I had an idea for a light-hearted thriller with characters based on my family, but I could not make the plot work. When I got Toby’s invitation to write a Hawaii mystery, the plot, setting and characters fell into place.

However, there was one big problem: my main character was a geologist, and I knew nothing about the geology of Hawaii. I wasn’t getting the details I wanted from books or the Web. So I booked my next vacation to Maui, and what I experienced added a lot of realism to the book. And while I missed the first launch in April 2015,
I did manage to write a book, re-write it, get a cover, get it edited and proofread—and share a beta draft with Toby Neal herself—in time for the “second surge” in July.

While I was working on my first Lei Crime book, Russell Blake invited me (and several others) to write for his new Jet Kindle World, too. Its first deadline was the same as the second one for Lei Crime: July 31, 2015.

So, while Torn Roots was with beta readers, editors and proofreaders, I wrote a short, fast-paced thriller called Stealth, introducing two more characters based on people I know: Van Freeman and Earl LeBrun. And I met the deadline without cutting any corners.

My writing went fast in a new direction.

Since then, I wrote and published two more Lei Crime novellas and one novel. I was invited to another Kindle World, based on Emily Kimelman’s Sydney Rye series about a kick-ass woman detective and her giant dog, Blue. I’ve written two books for this series, both featuring Van and LeBrun.

Now, it’s time to get back to the original plan.

Don’t get me wrong—writing the Kindle World books has been a blast. I really enjoyed the characters and situations I created, and to judge by the reviews, my readers have, too. And I think I will find it irresistible to return to them, putting them in more impossible situations.

But I want to get back to the next book in the Dark Age trilogy. Last year, when I was waiting for medical attention after breaking my knee, I worked out the plot outline for book 2, The Triumph of the Sky. (Guess which song inspired that and I’ll send you a personalized, signed e-copy of The Bones of the Earth.)

The Dark Age trilogy is what I call “historical magic realism.” It’s epic fantasy, but set in a real time and place: the sixth-century CE Eastern Roman Empire, often known now as the Byzantine Empire. But the people there at the time called themselves “Roman,” even though most of them spoke Greek.

The Bones of the Earth, book 1 in the trilogy, was about Javor, a poor Sklavenic boy from beyond the Empire’s borders, who travels to Constantinople, the capital of the Empire, searching for answers about his parents’ death and his great-grandfather’s magical dagger. The second volume will tell the story of Javor as a young man, living in Constantinople with a wife and family, going on several adventures and contending with deep, supernatural forces. It’s based on a number, just as the first volume was. I’ve made some progress: two chapters written. In a future post, I’ll post some advance samples when I’m happy with them.

But don’t get too excited. Triumph is going to be a big book, like Bones was. But I’ll keep you up to date on progress, and I’ll have lots of contests and giveaways along the way. One of the first will be a giveaway to anyone who can deduce or guess which number figures prominently in the plot of The Bones of the Earth, and later another one for the number that’s the basis of The Triumph of the Sky.

See you soon!

#LeiCrimeKW Sneak peek: Echoes



It’s just two days until my next book comes out on Amazon, along with eleven others in the Lei Crime Kindle World. You’ve seen previews of Meg Amor’s Pele’s Revenge, Shawn McGuire’s Over Her Head, Rescue in Reno by Julie C. Gilbert and J.L. Oakley’s Volcano House. Today, I’m giving you another look at my latest, Echoes.

DiscoverLCKWMay17FB-2Echoes, Chapter 5:

Coming home again

2014

“The place is different,” Dylan said.

Vanessa agreed. The battered chain-link fence she remembered had been replaced by one made of faux-wood in a cheerful bright green, and the stucco of the house itself had been painted a terra-cotta color. She remembered how she had always thought the car port beside the house, an extension of the roof like a lean-to, was about to collapse. Now it looked freshly painted as well, and solid metal supports had replaced the splintered wooden ones of her memory. The windows were new, too, and the little bit of grass, browning in the Oahu heat, was neatly trimmed. Even the strip between the fence and street was short and neat.

In the car-port itself was a grey Toyota Tacoma that looked no more than five or six years old, and while it had its share of dings and dents from use, it looked in good shape.

“Your Mom has been looking after the place,” she agreed.

There was no step from the ground to the solid-slab front door. Dylan tried the handle. “Huh. Locked. Ma never used to lock the door during the daytime.” He reached into his front pocket for a key.

“You still have a key to your mother’s house? After fifteen years?”

The key would not even slide into the lock. “Wha? She changed the locks?”

Echoes - 529x800 V3“Now that I think of it, it looks like a completely different door handle. Wasn’t it a round knob back then?” Vanessa asked.

“She must’a been doing good,” Dylan said.

The door whipped open to reveal a short woman wearing a floral blouse, cargo shorts and an angry, threatening expression. She had large, dark brown eyes under heavy dark brows. Long dark brown hair was piled into a thick bun on top of her head. Her full lips were drawn into a snarl. She looked up at Dylan, eyes widening and jaw slowly dropping until her mouth described a circle. She jumped up to wrap her arms around Dylan’s neck and pulled his chest into her face. Then she kissed his face over and over, crying “Dylan! Oh my god, where have you been?”

She released him just as suddenly, stepped back and swung her arm to slap Dylan’s face so hard, he staggered to the side. Vanessa put her hands out to steady him. “Where have you been? Fifteen years and you never once came to see me, never once even called me. How could you treat your mother that way?”

“Ma,” Dylan groaned. “I wrote to you, didn’t I? Every month. Never missed.”

“Yah, with no return address, ever. You never even told me where you were. You just up and disappear one day with no explanation, nothing. You left me and your brother alone all these years, and now you show up at my door with no notice? Nothing? What are you thinking?”

“I’m sorry, Ma. I came back to help Cole.”

Dylan’s mother turned away, sighing. “Cole. Yes, he needs help.” She seemed to notice Vanessa for the first time. “Oh my god. Is this … Vanessa Storm?” Without waiting for an answer, she took Vanessa’s head between her hands and kissed her on both cheeks.

What is Echoes about?

“I am hopelessly in love with a memory. An echo from another time, another place.” — Michel Foucault

In 1999, the Kahuna was The Man on Oahu’s west coast. The coolest guy at the wildest parties, with the coolest posse, the best weed and the most beautiful girlfriend.

Then he disappeared.

Fifteen years later, that girlfriend is no longer a high school senior. She is FBI Special Agent Vanessa Storm, and she sees through every lie the Kahuna spins when he shows up again to beg her help.

How can she say no when the Kahuna wants her help not for himself, but to protect his little brother. Young Cole ‘Aukai is ready to set fire to the whole Oahu illegal drug trade—for revenge.

Echoes is my fourth Lei Crime Kindle World title, and they all feature Vanessa Storm. If you want to know more about her special character, check out:

Join the Three-Day on launch day



SKRW-fbimageThe Three-Way, my new Sydney Rye Kindle World thriller, launches on Thursday, April 27—with a party on Facebook.

Join me and other authors at https://www.facebook.com/events/1056089217869168/ where you can ask questions, learn more about your favourite Sydney Rye world characters and writers.

There will be prizes, too, including Amazon gift cards ($$moiney$$!) and other goodies that I can’t tell you about without spoiling the surprises.

So join us on Facebook. I’ll be on host duty from 7:00–7:30 Eastern Time, ready to answer all your questions about Sydney, Robert Maxim, and of course Van and LeBrun.

Save the date: April 27, 2017.

3-WayCover-FINAL-smaller

Cover reveal: Echoes, a new #LeiCrimeKW mystery



May 12 is launch day for a new crop of thrillers and mysteries in the Lei Crime Kindle World. And I have a book that will be part of it: Echoes. Since that’s one month from today, it’s time for a cover reveal. Once again, it’s designed by the unequalled David C. Cassidy.

Echoes - 529x800 V3

What’s Echoes about?

In 1999, the Kahuna was The Man on Oahu’s west coast. The coolest guy at the wildest parties, with the coolest posse, the best weed and the most beautiful girlfriend.

Then he disappeared.

Fifteen years later, that girlfriend is no longer a high school senior. She is FBI Special Agent Vanessa Storm, and she sees through every lie the Kahuna spins when he shows up again to beg her help.

How can she say no when the Kahuna wants her help not for himself, but to protect his little brother. Young Cole ‘Aukai is ready to set fire to the whole Oahu illegal drug trade—for revenge.

Echoes will be live on Amazon on May 12, 2017. Visit here to find it and all the new releases.

Book reviewers: If you’d like an advanced review copy, please email contact@writtenword.ca.

What is the Lei Crime Kindle World?

Echoes is the fourth book I’ve written in the Lei Crime Kindle World. It joins Torn Roots (July 2015), Palm Trees & Snowflakes (December 2015) and Dead Man Lying (2016).

Kindle Worlds is an Amazon initiative that allows authors to publish stories set in another author’s fictional universe. The Lei Crime Kindle World is based on the Lei Crime series, created by bestselling author Toby Neal.

A sneak peek and a big giveaway just for you



Do you remember songs that made you think, “This tells a story that would make a great book or movie”?

There are a few from my youth that made me think that. Songs with great music and lyrics that evoke a story that echoes in my mind for decades.

So I finally did something about it—I wrote Echoes, based on two of those songs from my youth, songs whose lyrics immediately gave me a plot and gripping scenes.

A new Lei Crime Kindle World novel—yes, this time it’s a full-length novel—featuring FBI Special Agent Vanessa Storm, Echoes will be published on Amazon on May 12.

And I’m giving you a free sample, and a chance to win not only the full book when it comes out, but all of the Vanessa Storm e-books:

Torn Roots by Scott Bury

PTAS-800x500 Dead Man Lying - 529x800

What it’s about

Echoes is different from all my other books. Yes, it’s another Hawaii mystery featuring Vanessa, several characters from Toby Neal’s Lei Crime series, drugs, crime and action, there are several chapters that describe Vanessa as a young woman in her senior year of high school, and her first serious romance and her coming of age.

How to get your free sample

All you have to do is subscribe to my email newsletter, which comes out roughly four times a year so you won’t be drowning in Scott Bury emails. To do that, fill out the form at the top of the right-hand column of this blog and Click Subscribe.

Once you confirm your subscription, you’ll get a link that will allow you to download the prologue and first chapter of Echoes in the format of your choice: .pdf, .mobi (for Kindle e-readers) or .epub (for all other e-readers).

Of course, you can unsubscribe at any time—even immediately after downloading the free sample. But then you won’t get advance information about my new writing projects before everyone else, nor new contests and giveaways.

How to win four free e-books

Read the introduction and deduce which two rock songs from the 1970s Echoes is based on. There are plenty of clues in the text. Some of it is in the descriptions of Vanessa at 17, some of it in the depiction of her boyfriend and his homies. And some of it is in the dialogue, interior and spoken, of the characters.

There. That’s enough hints. Want more? Read the introduction.

When you think you’ve figured it out, send your response to me by email: contest@writtenword.ca. Every correct entry gets the four free ebooks, and one will also win a signed paperback of my first novel, The Bones of the Earth.

And if you have thoughts or questions about some of the hints, leave them in the Comments section.

Good luck!

 

A new book walks closer



Cover-WOOW-500x800 (1)Walking Out of War, the third book in the true-story trilogy about Maurice Bury, the Canadian in the Soviet Red Army in World War two, launches in two days. I’m excited. It’s already received three excellent early reviews that you can read on Goodreads. and I’m giving you another free taste of what’s coming.

There are going to be several special online events on and around launch day:

  • Army of Worn Soles, the first book of the trilogy, is FREE on Amazon from February 21 to 25.
  • Under the Nazi Heel, the second book, is on sale at 99 cents for the same period.
  • launch event on Facebook will feature giveaways of electronic and print books from the trilogy as well as other works.
  • A blog tour will feature excerpts and images from Walking Out of War. Watch this space for details and links.

And now, your taste of Walking Out of War:

Donbass, summer 1944

“How did you learn to break down a rifle so quickly?” the drill sergeant asked.

“I grew up on a farm,” Maurice answered. “You have to have a gun on a farm.”

“A shotgun, yes. Not an automatic rifle. I come from a farm, too,” said the drill sergeant. He was a small man with a round face and earnest brown eyes.

Maurice shrugged, hoping the sergeant would not hear his hammering heart. “I guess I’m just a fast learner.”

The sergeant’s eyes narrowed, but he moved on to the boy beside Maurice, who was fumbling with his weapon. “Get that magazine back together in the next sixty seconds or you’re on double guard duty tonight!”

I have to be more clumsy. And more careful, at the same time, Maurice thought.

Compared to his experience as an officer three years earlier, this training camp for soldiers was brutal. In August 1944, the Red Army had reached the outskirts of Warsaw and was within sight of the Gulf of Riga. They had pushed the Germans out of Russia, Ukraine and Belorussia and were throwing every man they could find into the drive to destroy Hitler’s Germany.

In June, the Red Army had launched Operation Bagration. Two million men, thousands of tanks, heavy assault guns and airplanes, attacked in a coordinated series of attacks along a front that stretched from Estonia to Romania, accompanied by 220,000 trucks from the U.S., with tanks and guns from Britain, tonnes and tonnes of food and ammunition from the West. In two months, they pushed the Germans out of Belorussia.

The Soviets annihilated the German Army Group Center. Hundreds of thousands of German soldiers were killed, wounded and captured, including thirty-one generals—a quarter of the German strength on the Eastern Front gone in two months.

The Red Army’s losses, while not as severe, were still huge: 800,000 casualties, including over 180,000 killed and missing.

What Walking Out of War is all about

Ukraine, 1944: After the Soviets burned the Ukrainian city of Ternopyl to the ground to crush the stubborn Nazi occupiers, they rounded up every remaining Ukrainian man around for the Red Army’s final push on Germany. Maurice Bury, Canadian citizen, Ukrainian resistance fighter and intelligence officer, is thrust once again into the death struggle between Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s USSR.

Fighting across the Baltics in the autumn of 1944 is tough and bloody. Then the Red Army enters Germany, where they’re no longer liberators—they’re the long-feared Communist horde, bent on destruction, rape and revenge. The Communists are determined to wipe Nazism from the face of the earth. And the soldiers want revenge for Germany’s brutal invasion and occupation.

Maurice has determined his only way out of this hell is to survive until Nazi Germany dies, and then move home to Canada. But to do that, he’ll have to not only walk out of war, but elude Stalin’s dreaded secret police.

What the early reviewers are saying 

“Full of heart and indomitable spirit”—Joy Lorton 

Walking Out of War is a well-written and powerful read, and a difficult one. The violence and war crimes are startling, and Bury, being a master at his craft, effectively paints mental pictures. He doesn’t linger on vile acts, however; he isn’t gratuitous. But he is a vivid writer and skilled at choosing the right verbs and adjectives to bring his prose to life, where the reader can visualize scenes as if watching them on film. “—Elise Stokes 

“A very compelling read.”—Frederick Brooke 

You can pre-order Walking Out of War for a special price until launch day.