Latest Posts

Coming up on the site soon! Game of Thrones!

Coming up on the site soon!

Recently, I have been writing quite a few posts on historical fiction, so I think it is about time I turned my attention back to fantasy.  A while back I discussed the importance of The Lord of the Rings to the fantasy genre, and the impact that both the books and the films made.  This week I will be addressing the other hugely successful fantasy series that now is rivaling Middle Earth in popularity.  I am of course talking about George R R Martin’s magnificent Game of Thrones.  The first post coming out later this week, will concern the novels in the series.  I will discuss what made the Game of Thrones books so popular and how George R R Martin managed to create such an exciting and vibrant world.  The following week I plan to write a post on the impact of the Television series, how this may affect the legacy of the novels, and how the fantasy genre could now be viewed differently thanks to the overwhelming popular success of the series.


News on my novel Roman Mask.

Sales have continued to be good for my novel Roman Mask, and I’m pleased to say it continues to be well received by the public and reviewers alike.  The latest reviews came from two websites, the first one being Onlygreatbooks.

“In Roman Mask Thomas M.D. Brooke has mastered historical fiction bringing it to life in a way that will make you forget what century you actually live in.”

“The characters in this story are rich and filled with personality. The battle scenes are well written and detailed, full of action and emotion. I found myself invested in the outcome of every conflict of these characters. This book is an easy read that keeps a steady pace and holds the interest of the reader, paragraph after paragraph.”

You can read the full review here.

The second review came from the blog of the author Richard Tongue, who writes the Battlecruiser Alamo series.

“Once I finished my work for the day, I sat down to read it. I looked up an hour – and eight chapters – later. Without quite realizing how much time had passed. It’s less and less often these days that I read a book in a single sitting, but with this one, I made an exception.”

“Suffice to say that I’ll be eagerly waiting for more works from this author. This one is a real page turner, and I highly recommend it.”

You can read the full review here 



The Coming- Part 2 by Alan R Lancaster

A couple of months ago, Alan R Lancaster kindly submitted a post for this site, that described the coming of the Vikings into the British isles. In this post he continues his history, and sets the scene for the later invasion of William the conqueror in 1066.  So over to Alan….

Thomas M D Brooke



On Eadward’s accession he called Earl Godwin to task about the killing of his younger brother Aelfred a few years earlier when Harold Knutsson held the throne as regent for Harthaknut in 1036. Godwin had intercepted Aelfred on his way via Guildford to see his mother Emma, then in Wintunceaster (Winchester). Aelfred was taken from Godwin by Harold’s men, blinded and then murdered. To atone for his part in Aelfred’s fate Godwin had a ship built, decorated and manned at his expense to give to Eadward.

           The king accepted the gift, grudgingly. Next Godwin had his daughter Eadgytha married off to Eadward, who assented to this dynastic connection, although also grudgingly. So Eadward found himself linked to the ambitious earl. Godwin had been made earl by Knut, who trusted him because had had not so readily changed his allegiance from Aethelred and his son Eadmund ‘Ironside’, unlike Ealdorman Eadric ‘Streona’ of Mierca (Mercia) who had wavered, ‘hedging his bets’. Eadric was executed by Knut, beheaded because he did not know whether the man would change sides again – against him. Godwin had gone with Knut to Skaane to fight against an alliance led by the Svear (Swedish) king Anund Jakob in AD 1025 that included the Dane Jarl Ulf Thorkelsson. As a reward for his support Knut gave Godwin one of his younger sisters, who may have died in childbirth. To make up for his loss Godwin was offered the hand of Knut’s sister-in-law Gytha Thorkelsdatter, who bore him a brood of warrior sons and the daughter, Eadgytha who would be Eadward’s queen. Knut had replaced the earlier ealdormen with earls, a version of his Danish jarls, who each ruled one of the former kingdoms, Godwin being given his homeland West Seaxe (Wessex) under direct orders from Knut. So Godwin now held West Seaxe from Eadward. He would serve Aethelred’s son as he had his father and half-brother.

           Then – trouble. Godwin’s eldest son Svein, hitherto a reliable Earl of Hereford who had thrown back various Wealsh attacks, took it on himself to have the abbess of Leominster abducted. He seduced her and fathered young Hakon on her. He was sharply reprimanded and punished with the loss of some of his lands. At the time Gytha’s nephew, the Dane Beorn Estrithsson had come over and had been given the earldom of East Aengla by Eadward. Svein took Beorn sailing one day off Wiht (Isle of Wight) and tried to persuade him to give up the earldom to him. Beorn refused, after all Eadward had awarded it to him. He would be in trouble with Eadward. In a fit of rage Svein murdered him and heaved his body overboard. He was not just deprived of his remaining lands – he was made nithing by a council of his peers. In AD 1051 Eadward used this to try to be rid of Godwin, and with his brother-in-law Eustace of Boulogne engineered an incident at Dofnan (Dover), the upshot of which was Godwin should punish the men of Dofnan. Godwin refused. A confrontation in Lunden resulted between him and his sons on one hand, and the king with Earl Sigeweard of Northanhymbra and Earl Leofric of Mierca on the other. Many of Godwin’s men would not think of fighting the king, so he and his family left Aengla Land. Godwin, with his sons Tostig and Gyrth went to Flanders with the women and younger offspring to gain support from Count Baldwin. Harold and Leofwin went to Dyflin (Dublin) to seek men and ships from King Diarmuid of Leinster. Meanwhile Svein went to the Holy Land to seek absolution for his sins.

           The following year Harold with Leofwin and the Dyflin Danes raided in the south and west toward Wiht, whilst Godwin, Tostig and Gyrth raided from Sandwic (Sandwich) westward to Wiht where they joined forces. The following weeks saw Eadward yield, Eadgytha was returned from the nunnery to her former power, Godwin restored to power, and Sigeweard and Leofric looked to their own futures, unsure they would not have followed Godwin into oblivion. The following year Godwin died suddenly at the king’s Easter Feast in Wintunceaster, Harold was given his father’s lands (and the next son Tostig was given the earldom of Northanhymbra following Sigeweard’s death in AD 1055).

           Eadward’s Northman courtiers left when Godwin was restored to power in 1051. The Northman Archbishop of Cantuarebyrig, Rodberht of Jumiege fled, taking the hostages – Hakon Sveinson and Wulfnoth Godwinson – given by Godwin in 1051 as surety. He also took the lie. Spitefully he told Duke Willelm that Eadward had promised him the throne of Aengla Land when he died. As Eadward died without a direct heir – his cousin Eadward’s son Eadgar ‘the aetheling’ was too young and barely known outside Wintunceaster and Lunden – at the end of AD 1065 Harold took the throne. A year earlier his younger brother Tostig had been ousted by the Northern lords from his earldom, to be replaced by the callow Morkere, younger brother of Eadwin, Earl of Mierca – grandson of Leofric. Tostig blamed Harold – as did Eadgytha, who favoured her younger brother – for not siding with him and the loss of his earldom. So now Harold had two mortal foes, one of whom .would bring a third party, the giant Harald Sigurdsson, ‘Hardradi’, who also thought he had a claim to the throne.

           The rest you may know. Try reading the ‘RAVENFEAST’ saga series, about Harold’s fictional (or is he?) kinsman, the Dane Ivar Ulfsson. Use this link to look into the background of the era: and a view of the books available in the series so far.

Savour the read,

Alan R L


A very merry Christmas to you all!

I hope readers of this blog all have exciting plans for the Christmas season.  I’ll be spending Christmas day with my family, and then straight after, I plan to travel north, to my cottage in Northumberland.  The reason for this trip is to work on the sequel to my novel Roman Mask.  I’m really excited, and have lots of plans and ideas to develop.  It’s really important for my writing process to get off to a good start. Several days with just me and the (new) dog in the Northumbrian hills is just what is needed to start the long journey.

In celebration of Christmas, I have decided to reduce the price of my novel Roman Mask until the December 31st.  After this date, the price will revert back to its normal pricing structure, so get it cheaply now whilst you still can!  Unfortunately this offer only extends to the kindle version as changing the price on the paperback is impossible (without me losing money!) as the margins are so tight.

Links to Buy!

Have a fantastic Christmas and I look forward to sharing posts with you on historical and fantasy novels throughout 2016!


“The classical world is brought vividly to life in this novel by Brooke, a new voice in the crowded chorus of historical fiction. Set at the height of the Roman Empire’s power, Brooke’s writing brings us both the decadence that eventually undermined and destroyed the seemingly invincible Romans, and the merciless military action that won Rome its mandate to rule in the first place.” Daily Mail, UK National newspaper

“I read Roman Mask in one sitting; it was that powerful, that mesmerizing and that well-written. Thomas M.D. Brooke is a master storyteller as he brings the glory and the shame of war to life in a time long ago when Rome thought it was its right to rule the known world. Vicious battles, brave soldiers, bloody battlefields and the brutality of hand to hand combat when one misstep means certain death.” 5 StarsTome Tender

 Rome AD 9

Augustus Caesar rules Imperial Rome at the height of its power, as the Roman Empire stretches across the known world.  Cassius, son of one of her most powerful families, is the personification of Rome’s imperial strength: wealthy, popular, a war hero with a decorated military career – none of Rome’s fashionable parties are complete without him – except, he hides a secret.

After his nerve is broken in Germany, the thought of genuine armed combat is enough to send him into a cold sweat of fear and shame.  But this doesn’t dissuade him from living off a false reputation so he can continue a life of casual affairs, wine, and parties, as he is seduced by the many vices of Rome.

However his scandalous life is soon upset by a summons from the Emperor’s wife.  It ends his happy decadent life and returns him to Germany to assist the Roman legions in their greatest ever trial, and the events that will resound down in history, in the dark forests of the Teutoburg…

“I loved this book. There’s no other way to say it. Filled with action and adventure, Roman Mask will keep you on the edge of your seat. Focused on a time that doesn’t always get a huge amount of attention in the historical fiction genre, author Thomas M.D. Brooke does such a fantastic job in drawing a picture of ancient Rome that when you look up from the novel you’ll wonder where your tunic is.” 5 Stars –

 “The book is exceptionally researched and very well written. I was drawn in from the very first page. Ancient Rome comes to life in all of its glory and menace. It’s a weighty book but one that read quickly because it is one of those books where you just get lost in the story and time flies by. Despite the dark subject matter and the gore – war is gory, there is nothing to be done about that – I didn’t want the story to end. I just love books that bring a world to life like this.” 5 Stars –

The Gladiator!

Ancient Rome’s gladiators have both fascinated and horrified generations of historians in equal measure.  The concept of the gladiator came from the funerals of rich and powerful, where slaves were forced to fight as a funeral gift for the departed shade.  Ambitious politicians, such as Julius Caesar, realised what a powerful tool these fighters could be in gaining popularity from the masses, and the gladiator was born.

The Romans loved to match gladiators with different fighting styles against one another, in order to produce the most dramatic and exciting contests.  Therefore there were a number of different types.  Here are ten of them:

Thraex “The Thracian” Relatively lightly armoured, the Thraex carried a curved blade, small round or square shield, and helmet.  He was given small leg greaves as well, but the rest of his body was otherwise unarmoured and therefore a tempting target.  The Thracian needed to be light on his feet and be able to rely on his dexterity to survive in the arena.

Murmillo “The Sea Fish”  Often matched against the lightly armoured Thracain was the murmillo, a heavily armoured opponent.  Accompanying the stylised large helmet with sea fish crest, they would have a long arm guard of overlapping metal plates called a manica and tall oblong shield similar to that of a legionary.  The murmillo fought with a short Roman sword called a gladius and represented a formidable opponent.

Retiarius “Net fighter” To try and net the fish, the murmillo often faced a retiarius who was armed with net and trident.  If you are a fan of the film Spartacus, you probably think this a good number, but in reality only the most highly trained and proficient of fighters could make this unusual combination of weapons work for them – one for the specialists.

Hoplomachus “The armed fighter” Similar to the murmillo, with a manica arm guard of overlapping plates, and large helmet this time plumed with feathers.  The main difference this time was that his shield was much smaller, so to make up for the lack, he was given an extra weapon – a spear to throw at his opponent before closing in to engage his opponent with his gladius.

Secutor “The Pursuer” Okay, this is when the Romans started to get nasty.  To even the contest between the retiarius and his opponent, they gave the net fighter’s “Pursuer” a helmet that restricted his view to two small eye-holes.  This was to offset the advantage he held with his heavy armour (same as a murmillo).  If you think that the secutor’s lot was bad however, it was nothing compared to the poor andabatae who was only given one eye-hole.  He needed to be guided to the place of combat as his view was so restricted.   Then he could be beset upon by more agile fighters whilst he flailed about in vain trying to keep off his unseen attackers.  However, the andabatae wasn’t considered a true gladiator, more an amusement for the crowd.  Hilarious, I’m sure.

Bestiarius “The beast fighter” The gladiator’s didn’t only fight each other.  A lot of the most popular contests involved gladiators fighting lions, tigers, bears, or any other fearsome animal they could induce to put up a fight.  The thought of killing such beautiful creatures seems abhorrent now, but to Romans, nature was seen as something brutal and threatening, so they were proud to show they held mastery over it.

Cestus “The fist-fighter”  Bored of gladius and trident?  Why not a good old fashioned fist-fighter.  Except that this being Rome, the fist-fighters wore boxing gloves with spikes on the knuckles – you couldn’t expect the Roman crowd to go without at least some blood.

Gladiatrix “female Gladiator” The gladiators were not all male, you could find female variants of virtually all types.  Initially, they were used as a novelty item to amuse the crowd, but later became more popular.  Of particular interest was having a female gladiator fight wild beasts.  The use of female fighters became associated with indulgence and opulence on behalf of the benefactor staging the show, and as there is evidence of some of the female gladiators being forced to fight topless, there was almost certainly an erotic glamour to these fights.

Dimachaerus “Bearing two knives” I couldn’t resist putting one of these rare gladiators in my own novel Roman Mask.  The Dimachaeri fought with two curved swords (siccae), one in each hand, and therefore needed to be genuinely ambidextrous.  Due to his offensive capabilities he was only likely armoured, with only a light helmet, leather arm guard and leather leg greaves.  Due to their rarity, they’d not be matched against one another, but matched against a Thraex or the more heavily armoured Murmillo and Hoplomachus.

Eques “The Horsemen” Battles between men on horseback could make a spectacular show, as horsemen from the furthest edges of the Empire fought.  They would be armoured in scale armour, or later with a manica, and small shield.  They could use a variety of weapons, but most commonly a lance, throwing spear, or long sword named a spatha.   Among those who made an entry, was the essedarius who fought in a British war chariot after Julius Caesar brought them back to Rome after his campaigns there.

Graham Clews – Eboracum!

It is always nice to meet someone who shares my passion for the ancient world and it is why I am always delighted to showcase other authors work on my site.  Today I am delighted to introduce Graham Clews who made contact with me and told me about his trilogy on Eboracum, set in ancient Roman Britain.  I have attached the description to the first novel of the trilogy, ‘The Village’ and underneath Graham has written a few words about the series, and why he felt impelled to write it.

Thomas M D Brooke


From the time Cethen Lamh Fadha and his sharp witted wife Elena see a Roman ship slam into their village dock, to the clash of arms that takes place almost two years later as a result, their life is an uprooted trail of turmoil. Led by a Brigante king who, at times, seems to be an affliction that rivals that of the Romans, the couple find their paths reluctantly crossing that of Gaius Sabinuis Trebonius, senior tribune of the Ninth Hispana Legion. 
Gaius himself is no more pleased than Cethen and his wife by their chance encounters. With a sometimes erratic Governor overseeing command of the Ninth, and his own wife doing more harm to his career than good, he finds himself snared in his own tangled web of troubles and intrigue, Gaius’s fate is, nonetheless, firmly tied to that of the Brigante chieftain and his wife, often at great cost to both body and soul.

With historic characters in the background such as the cynical Vellocatus, former shield bearer to Venutius and the man who married the aging king’s divorced wife; and Cartimandua, a pragmatic but very human queen, the story moves quickly. Along the way the reader meets others far less known; Criff, the bard, who subtly keeps his feet in either camp, in more ways than one. Morallta, a Carvetti warrior whose lust for battle and rude distain is matched only by her odd pleasures; Cian, a brother whose brash temperament injures himself more than others; and Titus, the Ninth’s veteran primus pilus, who sometimes should know better, just to mention a few.

A note from the Author, Graham Clews on why he wrote the Eboracum trilogy.

Eboracum is the name for the ancient city of York. It’s where I grew up. It’s where I biked to school on streets first laid down by the Romans. It’s where I walked medieval battlements built atop the ruined walls of the Roman fort. It’s where a school history class might take place in the York museum, itself. The history of York is the history of England, and as I grew older I wanted to write about it; not only about the city, but also the people who lived there.

The Eboracum trilogy covers the first thirty-five years of Roman occupation. Beginning with Eboracum, the Village and ending with Eboracum, Carved in Stone, the series is a saga. It follows the fate of two families: that of the Roman engineer responsible for the original timber fortress, and that of the minor Brigante chieftain, who fled the site. Their story begins in A.D. 71 with the rebellion of Venutius (Book I); it moves to Agricola’s drawn out campaign that ended in the Grampian Mountains circa A.D. 83 (Book II); and concludes with the major uprising of the northern tribes in A.D. 105  (Book III). The three books are populated by every day believable characters to whom we might relate even today—warts and all. People who are simply living in a far harsher time.  The background is well researched; the action, including the romance, is hard and convincing; and the story itself is laced with dark humour, the foibles of everyday life, and a down-to-earth realism.

You can buy this novel here

Thinking of writing your first book? This is my writing process.

Recently a friend of mine sent me an email.  She told me how much she used to enjoy writing, but over the years she had let her passion fall away.  She told me that the release of my novel rekindled her desire to write, but was unsure how to start.  She wondered if I could help.  I wasn’t sure if I could, as I have absolutely no idea whether my method of writing could be of any use to anyone other than myself.  But I figured it couldn’t hurt to try, so I sent her a breakdown of the process I use in constructing a novel.  There are no big secrets here, so if anyone else is interested in how I write, this is it.  I must make it clear that different writers, have different methods, and I don’t pretend to have all the answers. This is just the process I use when writing.

Please forgive the informal and personal tone of this post, remember, it was written in the form of a letter originally.

Thomas M D Brooke


Stage 1. Story and plot.

Firstly, you need your story.  What’s the story you’re going to tell?  This is possibly the most important part of this process, but unfortunately it is also the part where I can help you the least.  Often the idea behind a book or story will come from just one idea or moment of inspiration.  Sometimes, a simple conversation, or an article you read, will trigger something in your mind which you can develop into a story.  And it might not necessarily be a pleasant event or thought that gives you the idea.  For example, for my novel Roman Mask, the idea came about after I was mugged on my way home one night!

Quite possibly you already know the story you want to tell, and have been thinking about it for quite some time.  If so, great! That’s given you a lot of time to think your story-line through.

Always write about what you love, don’t get hung up on what you think will be successful or sell well in the marketplace.  If you’re going to write a good novel, it is going to be a long project and fill your thoughts for large amounts of that time – this is much easier if the subject you write about is one you love.  Sometimes I hear of authors who choose a period of history or subject because they thought no one else had written about it before.  That’s all very well, but it’s not even a criteria I consider.  The best way to make your novel unique is through its characters, the emotions you explore, and the story’s plot – the period you set it in is immaterial.

Stage 2. Research

The next stage is the research you will need to put in before you start writing.  The amount will depend drastically upon genre you choose, but some amount of research will always be necessary.  I write historical novels, so before I can even think about writing a word, I need to read several (Non-Fiction!) books on the subject.  I normally spend an entire summer reading up on a subject before I start writing in the autumn, but others will have different ideas on this.  For me, historical research is something I really enjoy, so it is no hardship.  Think about taking a holiday to where you novel is set, this can help you later when you start picturing scenes.  If you hate the idea of studying history, possibly this genre isn’t for you.

For fantasy novels, you may think you have the easier ride, but you’ll be wrong.  You’ll need to develop your world, its races, religions, and at least some of its history before you start. For more modern fiction writers, you’ll have an easier job, but you still want to make sure you have researched the town or city you are setting your book.  The key for whichever genre you choose, is that your writing comes across as authentic and believable.  If this slips in any way, the reader’s immersion in the story will be shattered.

You don’t have to know everything at this stage, but you want to have a thoroughly strong and clear understanding of your subject matter.  Along the road, you will be doing research to make sure you have every aspect correct in your novel.  If you don’t know something, don’t guess.  We are lucky enough to live in an age where information is easily accessible and research has never been easier. There are no excuses not to research your subject properly.

If you are worried about grammar, punctuation, etc. there are plenty of short books which explain the basics.  Don’t be proud.  You can use a small pocket version and refer to it as you go along if you like.  It will be a lot easier getting the grammar right at the beginning rather than at the end – that part is hard enough as it is.

eyes from

Stage 3 Characters

This part is the most undervalued aspect of writing, but for me personally is the MOST important part.   On my blog, I have a post which explains the process I go through creating my characters.

I don’t want to repeat everything, but in essence you want the following characteristics for your characters: Appearance, traits and oddities (if any), strengths and weaknesses, back story, and overall impression.

Please don’t ignore this part of the process, your characters are the most important part of your story.  By the end of your novel you want to know them as well as you know yourself or any of your friends and family.  That is not possible this early in the process, but the more time you spend now imagining their personalities the more real they will be able to become later.

Stage 4. Rough outline

Next, I break down my story into (very) rough chapters.  With about a sentence or two explaining each chapter. For example.

Chapter 1. Meet main character.  Dramatic scene with him saving child from passing card to catch reader’s attention.

Chapter 2.  Meets best friend down the pub, tells his friend what happened that day.


Chapter 18 Main character cannot hold back feelings any more, he kisses girl.

Chapter 19 Girl has row with him about toying with her feelings.


Okay, now don’t worry about putting too much detail into this framework.  These chapters will change as you go along, you will add in new ones, take out stupid ones, etc.  It is just a framework to get you started, so you know where you are going (otherwise you can drift aimlessly which must be avoided at all costs).

Now we have a good grip on the story we want to tell, the characters we want to use to tell this story, and the basic framework for the novel.  We can start thinking about writing the first chapter.

But again, we need to break this down a bit further first.  Make a few notes on the scenes you want to set, the conversations you need to happen, any dramatic ending to the chapter.  This section can be quite detailed, but don’t go overboard – I find it important to still keep this a rough outline, so my writing has a free rein.  You don’t want to stifle your creative spirit by being too much of a control freak.

Chapter 1

  • Main character is walking down the main high street of his town.
  • He is complaining to himself, shivering from the cold.
  • Description of the weather that day, and the dark clouds that are beginning to threaten rain.
  • Chat with local store owner. Show character’s grumpy nature.
  • Store owner tells character about circus coming to town soon (something very important later in story).
  • ‘Did you return the shovel you borrowed last winter to my friend Bill’
  • ‘No, because Bill owes me $100’
  • ‘That was for a bet that he said he never made.’
  • ‘Well he’s a liar!’
  • Character leaves store. Grumbling as he leaves.
  • Hears a car coming, turns to see it is a hot-rod sports car.
  • Spots child slipping out of mother’s grasp.
  • Child runs into road, character doesn’t have time to think. Runs into road saving child.  He gets clipped by car himself.
  • Chapter ends



Okay, so now you start writing, right? Well no.  Or at least I don’t.   Now I go for a walk.

Most people think of writing as spending hours upon hours in front of a screen.  Well, I’m sure lots of people write that way, but I don’t.  When I think of writing, I think of the endless walks I used to do with my dog Fergus, thinking through every aspect of the chapter I was writing.   My office became Richmond Park, or the Northumbrian hills I used to go to write.  I know it is difficult to find the time, especially if you also work full time (I know, I do too) but you can find ways of incorporating it into your normal daily routine.  I started walking to work each morning rather than driving.  It gave me over an hour each morning to think through every part of my latest chapter, running through conversations in my head, picturing certain scenes, drawing inspiration from the world around me.  By the time I sat down to write, I knew what I wanted to say.



Okay, now you’re back from your walk, you can start writing. Whoop!

Don’t worry if your writing isn’t fluid to start off with, it will get easier.  I normally struggle to find a rhythm at first, but the more I write, the easier it gets.  Chances are you will later go back and rewrite chapters 1 – 3 (I always do) so don’t worry overly if it doesn’t come out how you’d like it at first.

From your framework, just concentrate on one chapter at a time.  You are not writing the entire book in one session, you are just trying to get from one point to the next in your framework.  Each chapter will be around 4000 -5000 words, so for me that is 4 writing sessions, but each writer is different.  Just think of the 4000 words of a chapter like a project or essay at collage\university.  Then it is a case of one step or project at a time.  I think of each chapter as getting from one point to another, a bit like joining the dots together.


As you develop your story, you will start getting new ideas to develop your characters, new roads you can take them down etc.  It really is fun.  Have somebody you really trust (I used my sister for my first book) to read your work after you have written the first 4 or 5 chapters.  They might be able to suggest new ideas, or highlight things your book is missing. You don’t want someone who will be unnecessarily harsh at this stage (like my dad) he comes in later.  You want somebody who is 100% behind the project.

Try and work on your novel every week.  If you need to stop and do some research, do so.  I periodically have to stop writing to research a topic I need more information on.  That’s okay, because you’re still working on the book.  What you want to avoid, is letting it slip altogether.  If you stop for a few weeks, its very hard to get back your initial enthusiasm and drive.  I’m not saying its impossible, but its very hard and this is the reason why most books are never completed. 

When your book is coming along well, maybe when you are over half-way, then you can start opening it up to other people to get their feedback.  Possibly somebody who will be a harsher critic.  As this is your first book, I’d wait until you are well into the book before you do this – it is so easy for self-doubt to creep in, so you don’t want negative people putting you off.

Okay, that should get you going.  Finalising the book, editing etc. will still need to be done, but let’s get to that later.  You need to write your first draft first…




Shades of Time. A new novel by Sandra Dennis

What is it that connects us to the events of the past? We can certainly learn history through literature or other forms of media, but sometimes the connection goes much deeper than this.  This is especially the case if we have a local or family connection to those same events.   Is it through the memories passed down the generations? Or Possibly through items left behind,  such as pieces of jewelry or family heirlooms?  Or maybe it is the land itself which forms an intrinsic bond with those who live in its hills, fields, and forests – a link that remains over the centuries?
This is the intriguing subject of the new novel ‘Shades of Time’ by Sandra Dennis.  She has very kindly offered to write a guest post on her novel and why she felt compelled to write it, so I’ll pass you over to her…
Thomas M D Brooke



The discovery of an Anglo-Saxon brooch brings forth spirits from the past in search of revenge…

I had to write ‘Shades of Time’, there was no getting away from this story which was inspired by real people living in the same nearby community as I do over a thousand years ago.
When I moved to the Cotswolds 10 years ago I found out that there had been a large and significant Anglo-Saxon community and burial ground in the town of Lechlade-on-Thames. This seemingly small, rural town was once a settlement for the Anglo-Saxons, where a very different way of life would have been lived than today, on the banks of the River Thames in Gloucestershire. The more I discovered about the archaeological dig that had taken place, the more curious I became…Who were
the people that had lived there? What was it like in Lechlade in the 5th Century? Most importantly of all – who was the woman, whose body was buried in a grave full of very valuable items – including that of a rare, square-headed, bronze brooch. Was she a ‘princess’ as they had thought?
Having moved from Kent to Gloucestershire, I was interested in discovering some of the local history; a deep interest of mine. The local library had a small booklet about the dig and not much more.
Another coincidence was when I took a trip to the museum in Cirencester, a nearby town which was known as Corinium in Roman times. To my astonishment I found that they had an exhibition dedicated completely to the finds they had discovered in Lechlade. Before me lay the reconstructed body of the Saxon woman who inspired me to write her story…however fictional!
Therefore ‘Mildryth’ was created: a young woman who had lived in a Cotswold, rural community nearly fifteen hundred years before me; her family, her friends – her enemies.
Mildryth’s story didn’t end in the 5th Century, something prevented that from happening and it took from then until the 21st Century for the conclusion to be reached – Shades of Time is a time-slip novel in which the ties of family and community are never really severed and how our ancestors are all part of our own story, whether we like it or not.

Sandra Dennis


Also available from the Corinium Museum in Cirencester: Website

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Sandra Dennis

Sandra Dennis lives in the Cotswolds with her family, two cats and mad spaniel.
Having read English and American Literature at the University of Kent, she gained an upper second-class degree (with Hons). After this, Sandra went on to teach English for many years before becoming a full-time writer and private tutor of English and Creative writing. She has just launched her debut novel ‘Shades of Time’ after having success with short stories and historical articles.
Sandra enjoys the outdoors: running, cycling, walking the dog; theatre; history; reading and writing; good food and wine.

Eight alternatives to swords

A great swordsman is a wonderful asset to any historical or fantasy novel, but it would be a pretty ordinary literary world, if the only weapon we ever came across in such literature was that versatile and elegant weapon.  Variety is a virtue in itself when it comes to writing, and just as the Roman’s discovered in their gladiatorial contests, sometimes matching opponents with contrasting weapons and skills often made for the best shows.  Take for example the unarmoured Retiarius armed with net and trident, matched against the heavily armoured Murmillo with sword and shield.  I have no tridents in this list, but I have a few options to arm your literary characters with.

The Mace. In the Dark ages, only the richest of warriors could afford chain mail, and therefore it was relatively rare.  However as we approached the 11th Century this form of armour became more common and therefore protagonists often found that more damage was inflicted by heavier concussion weapons rather than penetrative or edged weapons such as swords.  The mace could break an opponent’s bones, provided it was wielded with enough strength, whether they were armoured in mail or not.  Blades were later added to the mace, to make the impact that much more effective, and also being useful at breaking links in chain mail.

The Morning Star. From blades on the side of a mace, it was then only a small step to turn those blades to spikes.  A sharpened spike could force its way through the links in mail and inflict a cruel wound to their opponent.  The gruesome site of such weapons, also must have held a physiological advantage that shouldn’t be underestimated.

The Flail.  The morning star was then developed further into the flail, with a spiked ball attached to a shaft by a link of chain.  Not a weapon of finesse, but still effective in a crowded melee.  The German King John of Bohemia, who was blind, apparently favoured this weapon because he could swing away in battle to either side without worrying about seeing his opponent.

viking hand axe



The Hand Axe. A simple weapon at first site, a well-honed blade that can be used to chop and hack at an opponent, however also surprising versatile. The one shown is of Viking design and could be used with shield in a tight shield wall, and therefore a common weapon of choice.  However, the hand-axe if well balanced and thrown by someone of considerable skill, could also be an effective projectile weapon.

The Battle Axe. You can’t beat a battle axe for pure ferocity.  Wielded two handed, it is capable of breaking the opponents shield to splinters, or caving in the strongest of armour.  Not a very effective weapon to parry or block with, so the wielder will rely on pure aggression to carry him through his enemies.  Best exemplified by the Viking Berserkers, who would work themselves up into a battle frenzy that they felt would make them impervious to harm and as such be able to smite anyone standing in their path.  The battle axe can come either single headed or double headed, so that the wielder can strike enemies on their backswing.

The Pole-Arm. Pole-Arms evolved in many different cultures and societies and held the advantage of a long reach, as well as being able to be used like a quarterstaff, before delivering a lethal blow from one of the many heads they can be equipped with.  In Europe the weapon first came about through the use of the Bill-hook (a farming tool) that proved to be a very effective weapon on the battle-field.  From that was developed the Halberd, and then many other forms of lethal blades and axes attached to their ends.

The Pike.  If length of reach is what you are after, none has more than the pike.  Useless as an individual weapon, it becomes incredibly effective in a large unit of men, being able to effectively pin other units.  It was also invulnerable from cavalry attack, although it fared less well against archers and was vulnerable over broken ground if the unit lost cohesion.

The Warhammer.  The mace and morning star were very effective weapons against chain mail, but as we approached the medieval period knights were more often armoured in full plate mail that could protect the defender from all but the most accurate and strongly delivered blows from a traditional concussion weapon.  What was needed was a weapon that could punch through the solid plate armour.  They came up with the Warhammer that was a weighted hammer with a spike on the end.  The spike would be delivered with such force that it would punch through the strongest armour into the skull, bones, or body of the unfortunate knight underneath.

Sunday update! Sequel, great review, and a give-away.

Sunday update! I’ve started work on a sequel!

It’s been a while since I’ve had some news on my own writing, so I am delighted to tell you that I have now started writing the sequel to Roman Mask.  It will obviously be a long project, so don’t expect anything soon, but at least it is on its way now.  You may be wondering why it has taken me so long before even starting this book, but before I could begin, I needed to do mountains of research for this particular story.  I will keep the story-line to myself for now, but rest assured that Cassius will be back and I hope that this novel is as exciting and as well received as Roman Mask.  I still plan to be just as committed to this blog as you have come to expect, so you can still look forward to weekly posts on historical and fantasy novels. 

Speaking of Roman Mask, I received an excellent review for my novel on the website Tometender last week.  The reviewer very kindly gave me five stars and I’ve posted part of the review below.


I read Roman Mask in one sitting; it was that powerful, that mesmerizing and that well-written. Thomas M.D. Brooke is a master storyteller as he brings the glory and the shame of war to life in a time long ago when Rome thought it was its right to rule the known world. Vicious battles, brave soldiers, bloody battlefields and the brutality of hand to hand combat when one misstep means certain death. Mr. Brooke does not argue the rights of one country over another; he presents a tale of war, of one man’s battle within himself and his chance for personal redemption and honor.

There is tentative romance, heroes falling to the blade as the villain survives. This is war at its worst and best. Heroes will rise, as will the strong and the very lucky, deceit will be uncovered and inhumane torture will turn your stomach, but war is to the death, to the victors go the spoils. Through it all, one man distinguishes himself for the sake of his countrymen, but will he be rewarded if he survives or will knowing he has done the best he could under the worst of circumstances be the only acknowledgement he needs? Powerful reading that should be on everyone’s shelf.

You can read the full review here 

The reviewer liked my work so much that she has offered to run a give-away contest for the paperback version of the book.  You can enter it just by going to her site and runs from tomorrow until the 7th December.  Here is the link, although it won’t be live until tomorrow as that is when the give-away starts.   ‘Roman Mask give-away’ 

Visions of Zarua by Suzanne Rogerson, Released today!!

This is very exciting, Visions of Zarua has just been released today by Suzanne Rogerson, who is a reader of this site.  She has very kindly agreed to write a post on the background to the novel and the process she used in producing the book.  (Thomas Brooke)

Visions of Zarua MY COVER

Log line
Two wizards, 350 years apart. Together they must save the realm of Paltria from Zarua’s dark past.

An ancient darkness haunts the realm of Paltria.

Apprentice wizard Paddren is plagued by visions of a city on the brink of annihilation. When his master Kalesh dies in mysterious circumstances, the Royal Order of Wizards refuses to investigate.

Helped by his childhood friend, the skilled tracker Varnia, and her lover Leyoch, Paddren vows to find the killer.

The investigation leads Paddren down a sinister path of assassins, secret sects and creatures conjured by blood magic. But he is guided by a connection with a wizard from centuries ago – a wizard whose history holds the key to the horror at the heart of the abandoned city of Zarua. Can Paddren decipher his visions in time to save the Paltrian people from the dark menace of Zarua’s past?

Visions of Zarua now from  kobo  itunes  nook 
2015 author photo 2015
Background to Visions of Zarua, by Suzanne Rogerson.

The process of finishing Visions of Zarua has taken over ten years. I started when my son was a baby, scribbling away during his nap times. Then I put it aside and wrote another novel while attending evening classes and correspondence courses. A couple of years ago I decided I’d learnt enough to revisit that first draft.

Originally I intended to tell the story in two books. The first would’ve been Paddren’s story as he tried to decipher his nightmarish visions. Each chapter started with a diary extract from the past that tied in with his visions. The second book would’ve been a prequel novella telling Jago’s story of what happened in Zarua 350 years before Paddren’s began.

Somehow things weren’t working, so I used the Writers Workshop critique service.

The editor gave lots of helpful suggestions, including combining the two timelines into one book.

I removed the diary entries and instead integrated Jago’s story throughout, slotting it into the book every third chapter – starting at chapter 4. The new format has really brought both Paddren and Jago’s stories alive. I’ve loved writing Jago’s chapters using the first person viewpoint, which also helps set his scenes apart from Paddren’s.

Rewriting and editing this novel has been such a big part of my life that it’s hard to let go. I feel like a nervous mother watching her toddler go off to nursery for the first time.

It’s overwhelming to realise my childhood dream; it still doesn’t seem real.

And now that my first book is finally out there, I can’t wait to get my next book finished.

Biography of Suzanne Rogerson

Suzanne lives in Middlesex, England, with her hugely encouraging husband and two children.

She wrote her first novel at the age of twelve. She discovered the fantasy genre in her late teens and has never looked back. Giving up work to raise a family gave her the impetus to take her attempts at novel writing beyond the first draft, and she is lucky enough to have a husband who supports her dream – even if he does occasionally hint that she might think about getting a proper job one day.

Suzanne loves gardening and has a Hebe (shrub) fetish. She enjoys cooking with ingredients from the garden, and regularly feeds unsuspecting guests vegetable-based cakes.

She collects books, loves going for walks and picnics with the children and sharing with them her love of nature and photography.

Suzanne is interested in history and enjoys wandering around castles. But most of she likes to escape with a great film, or soak in a hot bubble bath with an ice cream and a book.