In Search of the ‘Voice’ of a Book

The ‘voice’ of a book…? Call it voice, call it style. Call it meter or rhythm. Every book has its own shape, uses its own literary palette; a language specific to the author or work in question. It’s part of what makes a book unique.

Mind you, finding your own ‘voice’ is not an easy matter for an author. So once it’s found most writers do tend to stick to that singular delivery. If it works, use it. Though, of course, there are many ways to deliver a story, and I’d like to use my own work as an example.

When I’m working on a book that requires me to tell the story from the point of view of someone watching the action – in other words when I’m writing in third-person – the style and delivery I use is my own, personal storytellers ‘voice’. I’ve written three books in this manner, among which THE BRUGAN is a good example. It’s a humorous fantasy adventure for older children, but with a particularly sad underlying theme… that of personal loss. In the early planning I did consider allowing the central character to narrate her own story, but decided that, to help soften the emotional blows, I should tell the story on her behalf, in third-person. Here’s how THE BRUGAN begins:

Sarah Lemming? What is there to say about Sarah Lemming? Her name gives nothing much away.
Sarah Lemming is as thin as string, with granny knots for knees. Her face is as pale and lumpy as a plate of yesterday’s cold rice pudding. She’s got this wild frizz of bright red hair that’s about as easy to comb as a roll of barbed wire fencing – it makes her look as if she’s in a permanent state of shock. And you should see her on the move; it’s like watching a mistimed explosion of fireworks. She’s all gangly arms and legs, jerky fits and starts and streaks of red hair. About as graceful as a broken stick thrown for a dog!
No, Sarah Lemming is not a pretty sight. The gawky stage, her mother calls it. Plain ugly, say the boys at her school.
She’s the kind of girl who gets left standing on her own in the school yard at break times. You’ll know the sort. Twelve years old and as dizzy as a teapot lid. The original loopy-loo who should never be listened to! Or, at least, that’s what everyone’s always telling her – even the grown-ups.
Why? Take your pick.
It’s on account of her being mad. It’s on account of her having just far too vivid an imagination. It’s on account of her seeing things she should not see. You know. Things that nobody else can see. Things that don’t exist. Things that aren’t really there.
Like what?
Well, like the Brugan.
The Brugan?
Ah yes, the Brugan. The Brugan was a . . . The Brugan is a . . . The Brugan . . . (Forgive the hesitation. It’s just that it’s not always easy to explain the seemingly impossible.)
Put it this way. When was the last time you met a creature so flighty he could stop the whole world from turning, stop it dead, and for no better reason than he felt like it? A creature so wild, so dangerous, he could switch off the sun – click! Who could take your school (for example) and turn it into a medieval castle, change his mind and turn it into a supermarket, change his mind again and turn it into an overgrown tropical rain forest. And do it all in a single draw of breath!
And this is no joke. This is serious stuff. For real, and meant. Every word of it.
Of course, even Sarah Lemming didn’t really know who or what the Brugan was the first time she met him, or understand his truly awesome power. If only she had done—!
Ah, but wait. There’s no point in us getting carried away with the Brugan . . . not just yet.
This will not be making a lot of sense to you, not be sounding at all likely, perhaps? And maybe you’re already thinking, Sarah Lemming must have made the whole Brugan thing up, just to make fools of everyone? Either that, or else she really is as mad as they all say. Yes, well . . . that’s not her fault. And you’d do well to give her the benefit of the doubt, to take what you’re told the best way you can.
First off, her story does not begin with the Brugan. You might almost wish for her sake that it did. But no. Sarah Lemming’s story begins, sadly, with a death . . .

So, there we have me, the author, telling a tale in my natural storytellers ‘voice’. However, when I’m writing a book in which I want a narrator to tell their own story – in other words when I’m writing in first-person, from the point of view of the narrator – my approach and delivery changes. I create and allow the narrator to write in a voice and manner that is unique to them and their own particular set of circumstances. So the delivery of the story is quite different each time; in written language, in rhythm, and in literary palette. I’ll give you two examples:

My very first book, SPILLING THE MAGIC, was written for older children, and is told ‘first person’, from the point of view of a bright, imaginative but largely uneducated young lad from the North of England (where the beginning of the book is set). I wanted him to speak in his local everyday language; to bring a sense of immediacy to the tale. His descriptions are inventive, if he’s not too concerned about his grammar… The book begins:

Want to know a secret, a big’un? Well, do you? I was never much good at keeping secrets. Not whoppers like this.
What can I possibly know worth telling, I can almost see you thinking? Well, I know . . . I know that pigs can fly. I know that real dragons are vegetarians. I know that lots of things aren’t what they seem to be, and that proper magic works. And, I know that you can help save a whole world from being snuffed out to nothing, without even knowing that you’re doing it.
Yeah, go on – laugh. Daft fairytale stuff. Well, do you know something? I couldn’t care less whether you believe me or not. And if you’re still interested you’re just going to have to get on with it. Start right at the beginning. The summer before last, the day I was sent with my sister, Mary to stay with The Stringers.
You see, if we hadn’t been sent to stay with the Stringers, there would have been nothing to tell . . .

*

It was a stinking hot morning. The kind that sends buckets of sweat dribbling down the inside of your shirt. And the air was too thick to breathe. I had to chop it up into little bits and suck it between my teeth just to swallow it. Well, nearly.
The rotten bus had dropped us off at the bottom of Lemington Hill. We – Mary and me – we wanted to be at the top of the hill. Some holiday this was going to be.
‘I still don’t see why they couldn’t have taken us with them,’ Mary said. She was sulking. She had been sulking ever since leaving home. I swear, if I hadn’t picked up my suitcase and walked away, I would have thumped her.
‘I don’t want to hear it again, Mary,’ I said, and attacked the hill with giant steps. Row after row of tiny red-brick houses and grubby little corner shops crammed the hillside. Windows and doors were slung open all over the place – it was so hot even the buildings were panting for breath.
Dad had said their holiday was a sort of second honeymoon – for Mam. ‘You know Billy, after her bother and the hospital and that.’ He had given me one of his knowing looks that was meant to explain everything, but didn’t. ‘The Stringers are canny enough. And you won’t mind not going with us just this once – will you?’ Another knowing look, and a touch of his nose with a finger. I ignored his fib about the Stringers, pretended to understand, shook my head and touched my nose. Grown-up stuff.

Many years later, when I came to write GRAYNELORE – a fantasy novel for grown-ups – I once more found myself wanting to use a narrator to tell the tale. But, in contrast to the young lad of SPILLING THE MAGIC, this time around the narrator is a grown man and a very different proposition. He’s a killer, a thief, a liar and, as we come to discover as the story unfolds, he’s also fey… a faerie. More than that, his world is the imaginary fantasy world that is Graynelore. The rhythm of the narrator’s speech, his rich, sometimes complex use of language, and the other-worldliness of his descriptive tone are all deliberately used to reflect this. Here’s how GRAYNELORE begins:

I am Rogrig, Rogrig Wishard by grayne. Though, I was always Rogrig Stone Heart by desire. This is my memoir and my testimony. What can I tell you about myself that will be believed? Not much, I fear. I am a poor fell-stockman and a worse farmer (that much is true). I am a fighting-man. I am a killer, a soldier-thief, and a blood-soaked reiver. I am a sometime liar and a coward. I have a cruel tongue, a foul temper, not to be crossed. And, I am – reliably informed – a pitiful dagger’s arse when blathering drunk.
You can see, my friend, I am not well blessed.
For all that, I am just an ordinary man of Graynelore. No different to any other man of my breed. (Ah, now we come to the nub of it. I must temper my words.)
Rogrig is mostly an ordinary man. The emphasis is important. For if a tale really can hang, then it is from this single thread mine is suspended.
Even now I hesitate, and fear my words will forever run in rings around the truth. Why? Put simply, I would have preferred it otherwise.
Let me explain. I have told you that I am a Wishard. It is my family name… it is also something rather more. I say it again, Wish-ard, and not wizard. I do not craft spells. I do not brew potions or anything of the like. No. My talent, such as it is, is more obscure. You see, a Wishard’s skill is inherent, it belongs to the man. You either possess it or you do not. (Most men, most Wishards do not.) It cannot be taught. As best as can be described, I have a knack. Rather, I influence things. I make wishes, of a kind.
Aye, wishes… (There, at last, it is said.)
Forgive me, my friend. I will admit, I find it difficult, if not tortuous, to speak of such fanciful whimsy. Make what you will of my reticence; measure Rogrig by it, if you must. I will say only this much more (it is a caution): by necessity, my testimony must begin with my childhood. But be warned: if I tell you that this is a faerie tale – and it is a faerie tale – it is not a children’s story.
Please, humour me. Suffer Rogrig Wishard to lead you down the winding path and see where it takes you. There is purpose to it. Else I would not trouble you.

There you have it then. I hope you can see that as I strive to give each of my books their own identity, the search for the correct ‘voice’ is an essential part of my creative process. The rhythm of the words, the vocabulary, the very punctuation, are not simply perfunctory tools used to carry the tale but are always an integral part of the telling of the story.

Books referred to in this blog:
Fay by Stephen MooreSpilling the Magic by Stephen MooreGraynelore by Stephen Moore

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In Search of an Other-World?

How do we get to an Other-World? We chase a white rabbit down a hole. We climb through a looking-glass. We step inside a wardrobe. We receive a letter enrolling us into wizard’s school. We sprinkle faerie-dust. We fall asleep and dream. Or perhaps, just perhaps, we turn the first pages of a book and find ourselves already there.

And does this Other-World have a name? It seems it has so very many names. Is it Wonderland, or Narnia? Is it Middle Earth or Hogwarts? Is it Earthsea or Gormenghast? In my own GRAYNELORE, the narrator – one, Rogrig Wishard – becomes enamoured of the fey and finds himself in search of the Faerie Isle; an Other-World within an Other-World…!

Whatever we choose to call our favourite Other-World, so many of us – authors and readers alike – are fascinated by the very idea: of that space, that secret place, that Other-World that surely exists, must exist, just out of sight, just on the other side of our imagination, where adventure is to be found, truth spoken and all our questions answered… if only we can find a way to get there.

It’s safe to say that the use of an Other-World is a staple tool for most fantasy writers; it is certainly one of mine. Look upon my written canvas, listen to my song, turn the pages of my books, read on… beguiled by the Other-Worlds created for you there. Let me show you things that cannot be seen in any other way. Reach beyond the far corners of the universe. Let me attempt to explain the unexplainable, answer the unanswered question. Let me help you to make sense of it all… when we live in a world that so very often makes such little sense. Let me show you the inside, the other side, the makings of my mind. Let me draw you my emotions. Let me help you to escape, or to find your way home again…

Some of the Other-Worlds referred to in this blog:
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis CarrollThe Chronicles of Narnia (Chronicles of Narnia, #1-7) by C.S. LewisThe Lord of the Rings (The Lord of the Rings, #1-3) by J.R.R. TolkienHarry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Harry Potter, #1) by J.K. RowlingThe Earthsea Trilogy by Ursula K. Le GuinGormenghast (Gormenghast, #2) by Mervyn PeakePeter Pan by J.M. BarrieGraynelore by Stephen Moore

Where can you buy the cheapest copy of Stephen Moore’s Graynelore?

The title of this blog might sound like blatant advertising. But judging by the number of questions I receive, the cost of books is a subject very close to the hearts of many readers. The most common being, Where can you buy the cheapest copy of GRAYNELORE? Closely followed by,Why does GRAYNELORE cost so much? And adversely; Why does GRAYNELORE cost so little? If the answer to these last two questions is, paradoxically, the same: GRAYNELORE comes in two editions, a paperback (which is relatively expensive) and an ebook (which is relatively cheap).
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When I first became a published author – that was twenty years ago, and before the advent of ebooks – the cost of a book was fixed by the publisher and printed on the back of the book. At that time, in the UK, there existed an industry-wide agreement, snappily entitled ‘The Minimum Terms Agreement’, whereby all book retailers were obliged to sell books at the price they were marked. So, if the price printed on the back of the book was £6.99 that’s the price everyone paid no matter which book retailer you bought it off. The ‘Minimum Terms Agreement’ was there to protect the income of the author, who typically received between 7.5% and 10% of the retail price. Sadly, the ‘Minimum Terms Agreement’ was revoked a long time ago, and the price of books has been left to market forces ever since. In effect meaning book retailers charging whatever they see fit… which is why the price of a book can vary so much between retailers. Incidentally, it’s also why we now see so many cut-price and three-for-two deals in many of our high-street stores, which I accept is great for the reader, but not so great for the author.

All that said, I’d better answer the question… Where can you buy the cheapest copy of Stephen Moore’s GRAYNELORE?

Well, in the UK, the RRP for the paperback is £13.99, while the ebook is currently just £5.24, which means, wherever you shop, the ebook is always going to be the cheapest option if you don’t mind which format you read. (In the US, the paperback currently retails at around $11.53 while the ebook is just $3.99.)

However, for those readers who prefer ‘real’ books the best deal I’ve found is in the UK, where the online retailer wordery.com is currently selling Graynelore in paperback for just £9.28 (including delivery).

So, there you have it. Of course, GRAYNELORE is available from all good book retailers, so if you’ve paid less, I’d love to know about it, and I’ll try to keep this blog updated.

I wish you all a happy Easter, and happy reading.

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Graynelore

Graynelore is published by HarperVoyager (paperback and ebook). Available from all good bookstores including:

Amazon.co.uk  HarperCollins  Barnes & Noble  Amazon.com

wordery.com

“Graynelore” Paperback Publication Day! (Stephen Moore gives a reading)

Digital StillCamera

I’m so very pleased to announce that today my fantasy novel GRAYNELORE is published in paperback! (HarperVoyager Publisher). I’ve been a children’s author for many years. Finally, here is my debut novel for all you grown-ups… in paperback!

As you may well know, the ebook of GRAYNELORE has been out for quite a while now, but I must admit, there’s nothing quite like holding a brand new paperback…

To celebrate the event I’ve recorded my first public reading from the novel. I hope you enjoy it:

 

 

How might I best describe GRAYNELORE?

GRAYNELORE is a brutal, lawless world, where a man’s only loyalty is to his grayne (his family). Murder, blackmail, theft and blood-feud are all part of daily life. Faerie tales are myths, strictly for the children. Why then does Rogrig Wishard – a hardened fighting-man – suddenly start hearing voices and seeing faeries for real? What makes him embark upon a seemingly ridiculous quest to restore a Faerie Isle to the world? Is he mad or simply faerie-touched…?

It’s a story of divided loyalty. It’s an epic fantasy, a blood-soaked mystery, a grown-up faerie tale. And, in its own twisted way, a kind of love story…

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Graynelore

Graynelore is published by HarperVoyager (paperback and ebook). Available from all good bookstores including:

Amazon.co.uk   HarperCollins   Barnes & Noble   Amazon.com

wordery.com

Music that has inspired my fantasy novel ‘Graynelore’ (1)

“Can you tell me where my country lies?” said the unifaun to his true love’s eyes.”

These enigmatic lyrics are the first line from the song, ‘Dancing with the Moonlit Knight’, a track on the 1971 Genesis album ‘Selling England by the Pound’. (A personal favourite of mine, it has accompanied me for most of my adult life.)

My influences, as a fantasy author, are many and varied, and are just as likely to come from art, music, or popular culture as they are to come from any literary or imagined source. This particular song lyric has always intrigued me. Images of folklore and faerie abound in the early prog-rock music of bands such as Genesis. But what on earth is a unifaun and where did it come from? As far as I’m aware there is no unifaun in any existing story or traditional folk tale. I have always assumed that the lyricist (Peter Gabriel) was simply playing with words, and brought together, unicorn and faun to create a new word of his own making: unifaun. It’s a wonderful creation which has stayed with me ever since I first heard the song. As a fantasy author, I have been waiting for the day when I might include a unifaun in one of my fantasy worlds, and that is why you will find unifauns in GRAYNELORE…

In fact, two of my most favourite characters in GRAYNELORE are my unifauns; Sunfast and Fortuna. They are glorious fey creatures, who, in human form, are sensual beauties in the extreme. Instinctively a pair, in their natural state they have cloven hooves, a main of finely braided goat’s hair, and a single golden horn. Their story – not to give too much away – is poignant, and essential to the central plot of the book.

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Graynelore

GRAYNELORE, published by HarperVoyager. Available from:

Amazon.co.uk   HarperCollins   Barnes & Noble   Amazon.com   wordery.com

Who were the real Border Reivers?

In my fantasy novel GRAYNELORE I took the historical world of Sixteenth Century Border Reivers, twisted it to my own ends and used my fictional version as the background to my tale. Subsequently many readers have asked me to tell them something more about the real Border Reivers. So:
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In the Borderlands that lie between Scotland and England there are many families who can still claim direct ties to the original Border Reivers. Surnames such as Charlton, Armstrong, Elliot, Graham, Fenwick, Robson, Bell, Kerr (my own link), Milburn, Forster, Douglass, Riddel… oh the list goes on and on! (So please forgive me if I haven’t included yours in my example.) These were family groups who lived in the region, roughly between the Fourteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (historically unsettled times in Great Britain). Their allegiance was first and foremost to their families and their surname, rather than to their kings or countries. And their lifestyle was one of constant raiding and blood feud. In essence, theft, kidnap, blackmail, pillage and murder were all considered just part of their daily lives. Their strongholds were Castles, for the rich few, Peel Towers, fortified tower houses [see above] and Bastle Houses, simple fortified farmhouses [see below] many of which can still be seen today.
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How had this strange state of affairs come about?

In late Medieval Britain a big political power struggle was played out between the Crowns of England and Scotland. The issue of sovereignty finally coming to a head in the Sixteenth Century with the dispute between Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots. In a sense, while the Crowns were embroiled upon their endless bloody conflicts it suited both sides to have the borderlands of their kingdoms in a state of constant lawlessness. The area was a kind of buffer zone or no-man’s-land that made government, by either side, extremely difficult.

Politically the Borders were divided into Marches and there were Wardens who were meant to keep the law, but it was an obvious breeding ground for trouble. When their world around them was constantly at war and their lives an endless struggle, who could blame the Reivers for trying to get by the only way they knew how? The Reivers preferred to settle their own disputes and lived out their lives by their own bloody rules.

What became of the Border Reivers?

In truth, the Border Reivers were not a major part of political history (one reason so few of us have ever heard of them). Rather, theirs was the largely unwritten history of ordinary men; a fate, sadly, I fear most of us are condemned to. When the Crowns of England and Scotland were finally unified after the death of Elizabeth I, having a lawless borderland no longer suited the politicians… During the course of the Seventeenth Century many of the Reiver families were effectively neutralised. By rule of law, death sentences, deportations; and that old political trick whereby some of the more influential families became a part of the ruling political establishment.

But theirs is an important story. It’s part of my family history and maybe yours too? There are many reminders of the Reivers. On the ground, you can still find good examples of their stone Peel Towers and Bastle Houses. While the list of Reiver family names goes on and on… and can be found worldwide! Then there are the words they popularised in our dictionaries: notably, blackmail and bereavement! Oh, and let’s not forget their unbridled, if sometimes misguided, freedom of spirit!

Hadrian's Wall

Where can you find out more about the Border Reivers?

Let me say emphatically, I am not a historian. I’m a writer of fantasy fiction. Mine is only a personal reflection on how I see the Border Reivers! If you want to know more about them, why not visit the borderlands of England and Scotland for yourself, with their museums and amazing historical sites? [see above] For further reading I recommend two books: my favourite, The Border Reivers by Godfrey Watson and The Reivers by Alistair Moffat. Oh, and let’s not forget the amazing Reiver tales to be found in the original Border Ballads, famously collected by Sir Walter Scott.

Graynelore by Stephen MooreThe Border Reivers by Godfrey WatsonThe Reivers The Story of the Border Reivers by Alistair MoffatThe Complete Poetry of Sir Walter Scott The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, The Lady of the Lake, Translations and Imitations from German Ballads, ... Harold the Dauntless, The Wild Huntsman... by Walter Scott

Where did the Idea for “Graynelore” come from?

Graynelore is a brutal, lawless world, where a man’s only loyalty is to his grayne (his family). Faerie tales are myths strictly for the children! Why then does a hardened fighting-man, who likes to solve his problems with his sword, suddenly start hearing voices and seeing faeries for real…?
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I’ve just dipped your toes into the world of my fantasy novel Graynelore. But where, exactly, did I find the idea?A few years ago I had a most revealing conversation with my mother about her family roots. I discovered, to my amazement, that my ancestors include infamous 16th Century Border Reivers.

Who? The Border Reivers were inhabitants of the English/Scottish Borderlands; family groups who considered theft, kidnap, blackmail, murder and deadly blood-feud as all part of their day job. While the crown heads of England and Scotland were engaged in endless bloody conflict over sovereignty that reduced the borders to a virtual no-man’s-land, ordinary folk were effectively left to get by as best they could. And if that meant turning up on your neighbour’s doorstep and beating the hell out of them to take whatever little they possessed (up to and including their lives) then so be it! Reiving, as it became known, was a way of life for close on three hundred years.

What’s my connection to the Reivers? Well, my mother’s family name is Kerr, and they originally hailed from the Scottish Borders. Let’s be blunt. The Kerrs were notorious Reivers back in the day! With blood-feud a speciality! If one fact about them tickles me: unusually, the Kerrs were left-handed. It meant they fought with their swords left handed and built their defensive tower houses with left-handed spirals to their staircases. It just so happens I’m also left handed. I like to think it’s in the blood.

You’ll not be surprised. I was instantly intrigued by my infamous ancestors. What author worth their salt would not want to write about them? And so, the idea was born…! I only had to find the right story to tell.

I took the historical world of the Border Reivers; their way of life, their society, their homes, their landscape, their goods and their chattels. In true Reiver fashion I stole it all, misused and abused it and made it my own. I like to think of it as twisting history. (And, with my own family links, I’m just a little bit proud of that.)

However, there was an issue to overcome: I’m an author of fantasy, not historical fiction. To satisfy the writer-within-me I had to combine the two; fantasy with my own version of Reiver society the bedrock to stand it upon.

Where did my fantasy storyline find its birth? I’ll tell you. One hot summer’s day I was sitting in a beautiful garden overlooking the Welsh coast. In the middle distance, out upon the sea, I could see the Isle of Lundy. There were warm currents of air rising off the sea, twisting and turning, and as is the way on hot summer days, they slowly obscured the scene, until at last Lundy Isle disappeared. There was only the sea, and the endless blue sky. Of course, it was a simple trick of the eye. But in that moment I knew I’d found the idea I was searching for. This wasn’t Lundy Isle at all, but the Faerie Isle. Sometimes there, sometimes not, ever moving…

And so began a long and winding journey of research and creative adventure that ultimately lead me down the path to my novel, Graynelore.

Mind you, at the outset I had to make one further inspired leap of faith. You see, up until this point, all of my books had been written for older children (and I’ve been writing for almost twenty years!) However, I knew that if I was going to write authentically about Reivers, the story might well be a faerie tale, but it could not possibly be for children. A Reiver’s world is naturally brutal, sometimes cruel, and often graphically blunt. Graynelore had to be my first novel strictly for grown-ups. And so it is.

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Graynelore

GRAYNELORE, published by HarperVoyager (paperback and ebook):

Amazon.co.uk   HarperCollins   Barnes & Noble   Amazon.com   wordery.com

The Voice Behind Graynelore

Graynelore largeThere are many ways I could introduce you to my fantasy novel Graynelore. I could explain the birth of the idea that brought me to write it. I could describe the nature of its twisting fey storyline. But I would prefer to begin with the man who narrates the tale. A man who not only lends his very distinctive voice to the story but who is also the sole source of our knowledge concerning the world of Graynelore… Without him there would be nothing to tell.

You see, Graynelore is narrated by the central character of the story. The book is graphically written in his unique turn of phrase and coloured by his very individual way of thinking. Who is he? Well, I can do no better than to let him introduce himself in his own words:

“I am Rogrig, Rogrig Wishard by grayne. Though, I was always, Rogrig Stone Heart by desire…. I am a poor fell-stockman and a worse farmer (that much is true). I am a fighting-man. I am a killer, a soldier-thief, and a blood-soaked reiver. I am a sometime liar and a coward. I have a cruel tongue, a foul temper, not to be crossed. And, I am – reliably informed – a pitiful dagger’s arse when blathering drunk…. You can see, my friend, I am not well blessed.”

In short, Rogrig Wishard is a typical man of Graynelore. Once you’ve met one, believe me, you’ve met them all!

The world he grew up in is lawless, and dominated by its graynes, its feuding families. It’s a world where everyone who isn’t family is an enemy. A world where, theft, blackmail, kidnap, murder and pillage are all considered an acceptable part of daily life. And do you know what? Rogrig Wishard likes it that way. He’s used to settling arguments with his sword. Everything is so clear cut that way! When his Graynelord tells him to fight, he fights. It’s a world he understands.

His father was murdered in a blood feud when he was a child. He is used to cold-blooded killing and he’s used to death. His grayne is his family. Man or woman, they’re his friends, his work mates, his right hand in a fight, his drinking partners and his bed-fellows. Indeed, to put it none too politely, they all piss in the same pot. Just don’t talk to him about love, and leave faerie tales to the children!

Mind you, if Rogrig Wishard was only the callous, stone hearted reiver described here, there would be very little story to tell. Fortunately, he’s a more complex character than initially meets the eye. There’s another side to this man. If it’s a side he’d rather not have, and certainly would never discuss. You see, Rogrig Wishard is faerie-touched. He has ties to a forgotten fey kin that can only be found outside of his grayne. And there are fundamental parts of his true nature that can only be fully revealed by him turning his back on his old family, and finding a new cause to fight for; one he could never have foreseen; one that includes faeries!

So, he’s a fighter then, and an opportunist; a stubborn thief and a mischievous liar… A man, more than a man, very much at odds with himself! Might the revelations, the insights, the unlooked for personal journey he’s forced to take, finally melt the heart of the reiver who would prefer to call himself, Rogrig Stone Heart? Well, I guess that’s to be seen. Graynelore is a truly twisting epic fantasy.

And there I think I must stop! I’ve told you enough about the man who gives his voice to Graynelore. And I want to leave it to him to tell you the tale…

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Graynelore

GRAYNELORE, published by HarperVoyager (Paperback and ebook). Available from:

Amazon.co.uk   HarperCollins   Barnes & Noble   Amazon.com   wordery.com

“Graynelore” Publication Day!

Graynelore largeI’m excited and extremely pleased to announce that today is publication day for my fantasy novel GRAYNELORE (Publisher: HarperVoyager). I’ve been a children’s author for many years. Finally, here is my debut novel for all you grown-ups!

 GRAYNELORE is a brutal, lawless world, where a man’s only loyalty is to his grayne (his family). Murder, blackmail, theft and blood-feud are all part of daily life. Faerie tales are myths, strictly for the children. Why then is Rogrig Wishard – a hardened fighting-man who solves his problems with his sword – suddenly hearing voices and seeing faeries for real? What makes him embark upon a seemingly ridiculous quest to restore a Faerie Isle to the world? Is he mad or simply faerie-touched?

If he’s going to make any sense of it he’s going to have to go right to the source – the faeries themselves. But that’s easier said than done when the only information he has to go on is from bards and myth.

How might I best describe GRAYNELORE?

It’s a story of divided loyalty. An epic fantasy. A blood-soaked mystery. A grown-up faerie tale. And, in its own twisted way, a kind of love story…


Graynelore large

GRAYNELORE, published by HarperVoyager (paperback and ebook).

Suggested Readership: Grown-ups

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IN CONVERSATION: Fantasy Authors Nancy K. Wallace and Stephen Moore

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As part of #VirtualVoyager – a week-long celebration of Harper Voyager’s digital authors and their books, I had the good fortune to talk with my fellow author, Stephen Moore, from across the pond, in England.

[Q] StevStephen Mooree, you and I both write for children and adults, does the inspiration for books for those audiences come from different places or activities?

[A] That’s a great question, Nancy. You know, for me, the ideas come first. From there I can usually see the path the resulting story will take and the audience it might best be aimed at. Which means, essentially, the inspiration for books for what are very different audiences – children and adults – comes from very different places. For example, the inspiration for Graynelore came about when I discovered I have a direct historical family link to the infamous 16th Century Border Reivers. Family groups who lived…

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Graynelore: The landscape of the book

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With the publication of my new fantasy novel GRAYNELORE less than two weeks away I’m excited, and I wanted to tell you a little bit more about it, but without giving too much away. I thought the landscape of the world I’ve created was a good place to start.

I remember reading a comment made by Robert Louis Stephenson explaining just how important he considered a map to be, when he was writing a story. It gave him a visual way of making sense of the fictional landscape he wanted to describe. It’s why you’ll always find a version of his map at the front of Treasure Island.

I guess I feel the same way about GRAYNELORE. In my imagination I can clearly see the landscape I’m writing about in the book.

What does Graynelore look like?

In the novel, Rogrig Wishard – the narrator – gives us a unique description of his world and I close this piece with that extract. However, what I want to do here is give you my own personal impressions of the landscape of Graynelore. The images I can still see in my head, even now.

In my mind’s eye, Graynelore is made up of two major islands – a mainland and a Faerie Isle. The greater landmass is an island perhaps the size of Wales, if not the shape! Rather, its outline best resembles a kind of broken cheese scone. It’s generally oval, but very irregular and badly misshapen. Can you see where I’m going here? The second island – the Faerie Isle – is very small in comparison. If the Graynelore mainland really was a cheese scone, then the Faerie Isle would be the small knob of butter that went with it!

As to their actual physical detail, then of course the mysterious Faerie Isle should rightly remain shrouded in secrecy. Whereas the mainland, where the majority of the book’s action takes place, is more easily described. I can clearly see the Blackheaded Mountains; the sprawling mountain range that sits at the very heart of Graynelore, neatly separating the North from the South of the country. The North beyond the mountains is almost entirely taken up by a vast void, a wasteland, named simply The Great Unknown. It’s a region of little importance to this story. (Mind you, who knows about the future and things still to come, eh…?) Rather, it is the South of the country that requires my description.

The Men of Graynelore have split the South into four regions, called Marches, each loosely belonging to the principle Grayne, or family, who live there. Powerful men live in great Peel Towers. While poor men live in small Bastle Houses scattered about the countryside. There are no actual borders marked on the ground. No walls, no fences. In fact there’s hardly a man among them who truly knows where one March ends and the next begins. (Nor do they care!)

The majority of the land is broad rough fell-land, and rudely exposed rolling lowland hills (reminiscent of my favourite English county, Northumberland). And it is endlessly dissected, across its entirety, by the countless streams and tributaries that make up the River Winding. In fact the River Winding is so extensive its name is used to describe all running water throughout Graynelore.

In the central lowlands you’ll find the treacherous Mire; a huge area of swampland and boggy fen, where no road is permanent, no footstep assured, and no man safe. While off to the north east, below the mountains proper is a large expanse of woodlands called The Withering; a woeful, poor and sickening landscape.

Finally, where the long coastline of Graynelore meets the Great Sea, its cliffs, its rocks and beaches, are cut, bruised and battered, crudely shaped and rubbed smooth by an eternal pattern of wind and rain and storm.

And if my rough description seems to describe an overly terrible or desolate place, I beg to differ. It’s the perfect landscape for my grown-up faerie tale.

Here’s Rogrig Wishard’s description of Graynelore:

To look at, Graynelore was always something of a paradox. It was a beautiful land and yet ugly. It was often glorious and yet as often vague and unimpressive. The Great Unknown in the far north was a world set apart. While the black-headed mountains, at Graynelore’s heart, stood up like the spokes of a great fallen wheel, with the hard fought summit of, Earthrise, the hub, at their centre. The burden of time may well have blunted their edges and reduced their heights but they were no less a formidable adversary. It takes a brave man, or perhaps a fool, to attempt to scale their heights. Looking to the south, where the mountains fell away, and the wheel was broken, there was a great vista, a broad open plateau, only hindered by stretches of feeble, withered woodland – The Withering – that chequered and fringed the otherwise, seemingly endless landscape. Beyond this, came the more gentle rolling hills and shallow vales of the southern marches. And if the lowly hills could not hinder you, if the trees did not stand in your way, there was always the mud, the clarts of the stinking bog-moss to stop a man’s progress, the mire to swallow up the unwary horse and rider. Or else the never ending waters, the countless threads of the River Winding that cut the great open lowland fells and moors into uneven pieces across the majority of its face. To my mind, it was always a lonely, endlessly wind-scarred earth. A difficult land to love; it left no easy place for men or beasts to hide or find welcoming shelter. Yet it was mine by my birth. And if I were to admit that my heart’s meat has always been divided, then surely that land must take its due share.


Graynelore by Stephen          MooreStephen Moore’s GRAYNELORE. Published by HarperVoyager (paperback and ebook.)

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Judging a book by its cover: Graynelore

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This week marks HarperVoyager’s (my publisher’s) official reveal of the cover for GRAYNELORE my new fantasy novel for adults. What better way to celebrate than to tell you something more about the cover’s creation. For if every book has its story, then surely, so too does every book cover.

GRAYNELORE is a brutal, lawless world, where a man’s only loyalty is to his grayne (his family). Murder, theft, blackmail and blood-feud are all part of daily life. Faerie tales are myths, strictly for the children! So why then is Rogrig Wishard – a hardened fighting man who prefers to sort out his problems with his sword – suddenly hearing fey voices and seeing faeries for real? GRAYNELORE is a strange world indeed.

And how best to capture that on a book cover…? If my books are akin to my children, then their covers are akin to the faces of my children, can there ever be a perfect image? This cover for GRAYNELORE was designed by the talented Cherie Chapman, part of the design team at Harper Collins, and she’s done a great job!

Let me describe it to you. We can see an armed man, Rogrig Wishard, creeping tentatively through a very murky and jaundiced-looking woodland glade. And he is moving in company with a strange band of crows. The designer has deliberately scratched and defaced the overall image emphasising the gritty, truly eerie fey-like nature of the scene portrayed. It’s a wonderfully moody and brooding other-worldly image. Perfect for a grown-up faerie tale! Whatever the designer’s exact intentions, I see it as representing a particular moment in the book; one where Rogrig and his company are travelling through a forest called, The Withering. In The Withering danger lurks at every turn. The men of Graynelore are up in arms and attack is not only likely but imminent – and from any quarter. More so, as neither Rogrig nor his companions are quite what they seem to be. You see, they are fey… faerie-touched in a world where their discovery would bring about certain death.

I will leave my description there, for you to ponder…


Graynelore by Stephen          Moore Stephen Moore’s GRAYNELORE. Published by HarperVoyager (Paperback and ebook.)

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Why, when it comes to the written word, is property not property?

Accuse me of thinking too far ahead, but, how can it be fair, that in the 21st Century landed gentry can still earn income from land inherited from a distant 13th Century ancestor and yet, the descendents of an author looses the right to any income from that author’s work only 70 years after the author’s death?
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Why should the descendents of say, Charles Dickens or Robert Louis Stephenson, to name but two, not benefit from the work of their ancestors? (After all, the publisher still benefits; the booksellers too; and the tax man.) Because an author decides to plough the written word, rather than plough the fields of England should not be to their disadvantage.
Now, the laws of all countries surely differ, and I can only speak as an English layman. But I still cry,unfair!
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No doubt someone will attempt to persuade me of my ignorance. Land is, after all, land…physical property. A book is just…a series of ideas that have been written down, thus…intellectual property. I say, if there is a difference between these examples, there is also an obvious similarity; they are both property. So, I cry again, unfair!.

Oh, I’m forgetting, for us airy-fairy, pie-in-the-sky creative types our work is our vocation. (Isn’t it amazing how often that word, vocation, is used to excuse poor reward for ever so many jobs and professions…?) Writers are, surely, only interested in leaving an artistic legacy to their heirs…?

Fay by Stephen          Moore

Book Giveaway of Stephen Moore’s ‘Tooth and Claw’! (First Edition)

2015 marks the publication of my first fantasy for adults, GRAYNELORE (HarperVoyager August 13th) also making it my first new published work in any category for several years. As part of the celebrations, throughout the coming year, I will be offering a series of Book Giveaways from my back catalogue. This Goodreads* Giveaway is the very first.

What am I offering? Well, these are nice prizes. I am giving away TWO copies of TOOTH & CLAW, my best-selling title to date. So there are two chances to win. These are perfect, collectable, FIRST PRINTED EDITION copies (Hodder, April, 1998), from my own private collection, and they will be SIGNED by the author!

TOOTH & CLAW is a compelling epic animal fantasy. Mankind has gone from the city, abandoning their pet animals to fend for themselves. Leaving arch-rivals – the cats and the dogs – to fight with tooth and claw! The laws of Men are no more. And in the wild there is only one law… survival!

This Book Giveaway is live until 4th September 2015. To join in, simply follow the Giveaway links below and enter. And the very best of luck to everyone!

ENTER GIVEAWAY at Goodreads.

Tooth & Claw0022Suggested Readership: Young Adult

Not a Goodreads member? Missed out this time? Don’t worry, between August 13th 2015 and August 13th 2016 I will be offering similar exclusive Book Giveaways via my website. So keep a look out.

Stephen Moore’s ‘Graynelore’: A book’s journey towards publication

If writing a book isn’t difficult enough, once written, a book’s journey towards finding a publisher, particularly a traditional publisher, is surely a dramatic story all in itself. I thought I’d share some of my experiences as I approach the publication of my first fantasy novel for adults, GRAYNELORE.

Let me amuse you with a little historical detail. I began writing children’s fantasy books in the early 1990’s. (That would be the ‘olden days’ to many of you, and it makes me sound like a dinosaur!) Firstly, it must be said: getting a book published has never been easy. I remember the odds when I started writing were something like one hundred to one. That’s one book published for every one hundred books written. Mind you, the publishing industry was a very different animal back then! Most of the large publishers were still independently owned and to approach a publisher you simply wrote them a polite letter, informing them that you had written a book, and asking if they’d care to take a look at it.

In this way my very first book, ‘Spilling the Magic’ ended up on the slush pile of Hodder Children’s Books and, in due course, was accepted for publication. (A process that perhaps sounds far easier than in fact it was.)

I published books with Hodder for several years. Though in that time the industry went through a fundamental change. The large independent publishers began to buy up one other, until eventually a handful of parent companies came to own almost all of them. A situation we still find ourselves in today. And, as the publishing houses became corporate bodies, the very way they did business altered. The major publishers largely stopped accepting unsolicited work direct from authors, instead relying on agents to bring new work to their attention. To land a major publisher authors now had to first find themselves a good agent (no mean feat in itself). Indeed, my last children’s book (to-date) was finally published by a small independent Scottish press in 2006.

In the following years the publishing industry was in for yet more major upheaval with the arrival of the online retail giants, such as Amazon, and then later, the revolutionary ebook. Large chains of traditional bookshops began to disappear as online retailers took an ever greater share of the market. And authors found themselves suddenly faced with a new choice: self-publishing! This heralded the rise of indie-published authors who began to compete with the traditional publishers, and a state of market you are probably very familiar with.

That is, no doubt, a simplified and potted history, with many omissions (all of them mine). Anyway, it was in early 2008 that I began to have ideas for a new work, which finally became a completed manuscript called, ‘Graynelore’ in late 2010. (The writing of the book is another tale for another day!) As you can imagine, I found myself faced with a very different publishing world to the one I had last dealt with. If in the end, I decided to continue down the traditional publishing route. I spent almost a year approaching agents with my manuscript: writing letters, providing synopsis upon synopsis… and in return receiving rejection upon rejection. To be fair to those agents we must remember; they have to earn their living on the backs of the author’s they decide to champion. It’s all a gamble! It’s all educated guess work! And they don’t always get it right. Agents are looking for books that they believe have a chance of becoming best sellers, not simply books that are good enough to be published. (The difference is crucial.)

After a solid year of rejections, I – as a relatively successful published author – was beginning to think that I’d maybe penned myself a stinker! I was even toying with the idea of calling it a day as a writer… Then, in 2012 the publisher HarperVoyager (the fantasy/scifi imprint of HarperCollins) decided to open a short window of time in which they would accept unsolicited manuscripts from un-agented authors. Something they had not done for almost a decade. There were very strict guidelines to follow and only two weeks in which to make a submission. Which I duly did…

Time passed. The date by which a decision was to be made on my submission came and went. The publisher had made it very clear: if I heard nothing by this date then I was to assume that my submission had been unsuccessful. Oh dear… Another rejection!

Or so I thought…

More time passed. Actually a very long time passed. It was in early 2014 that I received an email from HarpVoyager. They were, after all, very interested in publishing, ‘Graynelore’. If I was still interested in being published by them!

Why the huge delay? It is remarkable: in that short two week time window for open submissions, way back in 2012, the publisher had received almost five thousand manuscripts. Five thousand! With the very best of intentions, they had landed themselves with the monster of a task!

Out of those original five thousand manuscripts, to my knowledge, they found a total of just fifteen that they wanted to publish. And so, cutting a long story short, a deal was finally made between us. And very soon now, I will have a brand new book out!*

As I come to the end of this tale, it’s worth taking a second look at those submission figures… Of around five thousand submitted manuscripts only fifteen were finally accepted. I make the odds of success something in the region of: three hundred and thirty to one. That’s one book to be published for every three hundred and thirty written. It makes you think…

*Stephen Moore’s GRAYNELORE (published by HarperVoyager in papaerback and ebook).

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Stephen Moore’s ‘Graynelore’: publication dates confirmed!

It’s been a very long time coming, and I’m ever so excited! I can now reveal the publication dates of my new fantasy novel, ‘Graynelore’.


‘Graynelore’, the ebook will be published by HarperVoyager 13th August 2015.

‘Graynelore’, the paperback will be published by HarperVoyager 16th February 2016.


And just in case you can’t wait to know what it’s all about, I’ll leave you with this little teaser:

Rodrig Wishard is a killer, a thief and a liar. He’s a fighting man who prefers to solve his problems with his sword.

In a world without government or law, where a man’s only loyalty is to his family and faerie tales are strictly for children, Rodrig Wishard is not happy to discover that he’s carrying faerie blood. Something his family neglected to tell him. Not only that but he’s started to see faeries for real.

If he’s going to make any sense of it he’s going to have to go right to the source – the faeries themselves. But that’s easier said than done when the only information he has to go on is from bards and myth…

Amazon.co.uk   HarperCollins   Barnes & Noble   Amazon.com   wordery.com