Judging a blog by its cover

The nice people at the publishers have decided that it’s time to redesign the covers for the Medicus series,  so we’ll be raising the tone with a little classical sculpture. TABULA RASA has a view of The Weary Hercules – I’m sure that’s exactly how Ruso sees himself at times – clutching the golden apples of the Hesperides.

This is the sort of reference that cheers authors enormously because those same apples are mentioned briefly in the book.  It’s always flattering to think that the person who designs the covers has taken the time to read what’s inside them. (You might think this is a pre-requisite, but you’d be surprised – look what someone did to Henry James. And surely that’s not even a screw, but a nut?)

I’m not sure the actual cover is as bright as the picture here, which I have to admit clashes with the header of the blog. This may leave you wondering what right I have to be sarcastic about other people’s design choices. Meanwhile, let’s move on to the rather lovely new cover for the paperback edition of SEMPER FIDELIS:

Cover of Semper Fidelis paperback

Both of these should be available in the US and Canada in August, and in Britain in October.

At last… Semper Fidelis in the UK!

Cover of Semper Fidelis Finally, the untold story of Hadrian’s visit to Britannia is released in print in the province!  Read all about it here.

If your local bookshop doesn’t have a copy on the shelf, they should be able to order it.  As should your local library.

To the people who have been asking where it is – you know who you are! – thank you for your patience.   To anyone who’s thinking, “Shouldn’t that be ‘the previously untold…’?” – yes it should, but I’ve already had to ruin the flow of the sentence by putting ‘in print’ in there.  So now I’m off to drown my inner pedant with a celebratory cup of tea.


…is at last available in the UK, hooray! Apologies for the long wait, but it should now be downloadable from all good ebook “shops”.

Hardback print editions are not in the High Street yet but imports are available. I’m sorry about any confusion caused by the different release dates in different countries, but at least this book will only have one title. That may not be exciting for anyone else, but it cheers me no end.

Publication Day!

Cover of SemperFidelisDear friends of Ruso and Tilla in Britain – please excuse the cheesy grin while I celebrate the publication of SEMPER FIDELIS in the US and Canada. The quickest reader off the mark has to be Laurie, whose insomnia led her to discover a pre-ordered copy downloaded to her Kindle in the middle of the night. (She’s the one now dozing quietly in the corner.)

This is traditionally a nervous moment for authors – and not just for modern ones. Here are a few words from a writer anticipating his readers’ reactions some time before 63 B.C. …

“So ends the episode of Nicanor, and as, since then, the city has remained in the possession of the Hebrews, I shall bring my own work to an end here too. If it is well composed and to the point, that is just what I wanted. If it is trashy and mediocre, that is all I could manage. Just as it is injurious to drink wine by itself, or again water, whereas wine mixed with water is pleasant and produces a delightful sense of well-being, so skill in presenting the incidents is what delights the understanding of those who read the story. On that note I will close.” 
(2 Maccabees Ch 15, vs 37-39, The Jerusalem Bible)

It’s 2013! And the free books go to…

Happy New Year to everyone,  and thanks so much to all of you who entered last year’s draw to win a copy of SEMPER FIDELIS. Almost the final act of 2012 here at Downie Towers was the drawing-out of three names from a “hat” that looked remarkably like a bag.

The winners are:

Sian  – from Cambridge

Wayne – from Durham

Sue E. – address t.b.c.

Congratulations! You’ll be receiving a signed copy of SEMPER FIDELIS very soon.

Sorry to everybody who didn’t get one. I’d hoped to be able to tell you by now when the book will be published in the UK but I still haven’t got a date.  Anyway, as soon as I know what’s happening I will attempt to splatter it across the internet. (That’s when I’ve stopping dancing around the living room and shrieking with delight.)

Bettany Hughes invades Britain in the U.S., Semper Fidelis will be on audio, and…

Sorry about the title of this post but I couldn’t think of a cunning way to join up several completely disparate pieces of news. (It’s been a long day.)

Firstly – Thanks to Linda for getting in touch “to alert folks to the fact that Bettany Hughes’ television series “the roman invasion of britain” is currently showing in the U.S. I believe it was produced a few years ago… it’s a nice–if brief–overview of romanized britain, and…  she is an engaging narrator.”  Catch it while you can!

Secondly – several people have asked whether there will be an audio version of SEMPER FIDELIS and hooray, yes, I’ve just heard that there will be!
No news yet about when it will be released or who will be reading it, but it’s being produced by the company who did the previous US versions (Tantor)  so I’m sure it will be of the same high quality.

Meanwhile, a quick reminder to friends in the UK and Ireland that it’s not too late to enter the draw to win a free copy of SEMPER FIDELIS (see the 2nd post below), and for anyone who’s planning to celebrate the holidays in true Roman style, this great post over on Caroline Lawrence’s blog will give you plenty of ideas.

I think that’s everything. I’ll leave you with the traditional greeting of the season.  Io Saturnalia!



My Next Big Thing

And now, a change of pace. First, a big thank-you to Caroline Davies,  who tagged me for “My next big thing” longer ago than I care to admit. It’s a set of questions that one writer passes to another, giving each of us a chance to blather (sorry, tell the world) about our own current project.

Caroline is a poet. Now I have to confess that collections of poetry are rarely my thing. They tend to remind me of my efforts at wholemeal pastry – very good for you, but heavy going. Not so with Caroline’s soon-to-be published collection, CONVOY. The clue is in the title – it’s the story of one of the Allied convoys that battled across the Mediterranean to take supplies to Malta during the Second World War. I read a draft a while back and loved it. It’s vivid and exciting and humbling, and all the more impressive for being a true story. So that’s Caroline’s Next Big Thing. Here’s mine –

Cover of US edition of Semper Fidelis

What is the working title of your book?

It’s called SEMPER FIDELIS. Thanks to my astounding ignorance, I had no idea when I chose it that this is the motto of the US Marines. I hope they aren’t going to pay me a visit and complain.

Where did the idea for the book come from?

It’s the fifth in a series featuring a Roman Army medic serving in Britain. We usually see the Roman Army as full of tough highly-trained killers, but every one of them was somebody’s son.  I’m at the age where my friends’ cute little babies are donning uniforms, getting tattoos and being sent to countries where other people want to shoot them. Those of us who wait at home for news trust that their commanding officers will do their best to look after them, and it occurred to me that it must have been the same for Roman families waving their sons goodbye as they went off to join the Legions. But what if some of those officers didn’t have their men’s best interests at heart? Would mistreatment be dealt with, or would it be hushed up?

The series is now at the point in history where Hadrian visited Britain, and my characters are under serious pressure to put on a good show.

What genre does your book fall under?

Historical crime.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Someone who knows what they’re doing had better do the casting. Meanwhile I’ll be auditioning George Clooney and Daniel Craig over a long lunch.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Roman legionary medic is under pressure from his comrades to cover up a scandal, and from his wife to expose it.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

It’ll be published by Bloomsbury in the USA and Canada in January 2013. The UK shouldn’t be far behind.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

There are quite a few Roman crime series being published now, but as far as I know, the trend was started by Lindsey Davis and Steven Saylor.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I’m fascinated by the interplay between the occupier and the occupied in Roman Britain, and the fact that so much evidence still lies buried under our feet. I wanted to write the sort of personal stories that have slipped down the gaps of history.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Hadrian’s marriage was not made in heaven, and at about the time of the British trip, the Empress Sabina was involved in a mysterious disgrace. Only the flimsiest of details have survived in the records – but of course all is revealed in the book.

Tag time

And now I’m going to tag the Mysterymakers, three writers from the north of England “who love to talk about murder”. First up is a fellow-writer of Roman mysteries who will be familiar to regular readers of the blog – Jane Finnis. Look out for Jane’s Next Big Thing in the next few days, and through her we’ll get to meet the other Mysterymakers. After that – who knows?

More Ruso for less money!

Check your Kindle on 10 December!

For readers who have an account with Amazon.com (the American site)- PERSONA NON GRATA,  the third Ruso book, is scheduled to be the Kindle Daily Deal on Monday 10 December. Grab it while you can!

Win a copy of SEMPER FIDELIS!

As we  Britons won’t be able to access the Deal, we’re having a free draw instead. For  a chance to win one of three copies of the next Ruso novel, SEMPER FIDELIS, just let me know your email address on the form below (it won’t be passed on to anyone else) by 31 December.

Winners will be announced on the blog on 1 January.