Today marks the official kickoff of the A Ritual of Bone Book Tour presented by Storytellers On Tour! Throughout the week we’ve got a great lineup helping us feature Lee C Conley’s Dark Fantasy/Horror debut, A Ritual of Bone, in celebration of its recently published sequel, A Ritual of Flesh. I’ve read and thoroughly enjoyed both of these books, the latter being one of my favorite reads of this year. I’m very much looking forward to hearing what our hosts have to say in the coming days, so be sure to keep an eye out for some awesome posts!
Read my reviews of A Ritual of Bone and A Ritual of Flesh.
Lee was kind enough to stop by to discuss the inspirations behind his The Dead Sagas series, so keep scrolling for all the juicy details, as well as the tour schedule, more info about the books, and an international giveaway!
We’ve enlisted a group of wonderful and talented bloggers and Bookstagrammers to help us feature A Ritual of Bone. This is what we have going on, so make sure to check out each and every one throughout the week for some brilliant content, including reviews and more.
OCTOBER 18TH–THE WELCOMING
Whispers & Wonder
Beneath A Thousand Skies
Out of This World SFF Reviews
One Reading Nurse
Spells & Spaceships
Book Steff’s Bookish Blog
The Book Loving Pharmacist
OllieSpot SFF Book Review
OCTOBER 24TH–THE ENCORE
For more about this tour visit Storytellers On Tour.
On the Inspiration Behind The Dead Sagas
by Lee C Conley
Justine from Whispers & Wonder has invited me here to write a guest post as part of the Storytellers On Tour blog tour for my novel, A Ritual of Bone. So, I thought I would take the opportunity to discuss some of the things that inspired me to write The Dead Sagas books.
Let’s start with the world the books are set in. I have always had a passion history, and I often—rather geekily— spend a lot of time researching various periods of history just purely out of interest. The period that influenced the writing of The Dead Sagas the most was undoubtedly Early Medieval Britain, commonly known as Dark Age Britain, that particular time period has always been a great interest to me. It was a time when Britain was not long released from the grip of the mighty Roman empire. These islands and its people found themselves in the empty shell of an advanced civilization that crumbled around them. When the Romans left they took their knowledge with them and their impressive stone buildings slowly fell into decay or were re-purposed by lesser artisans. It was a time when the pain of that yolk was still fresh, and by way of giving a middle finger to their previous occupiers, and in a sense, an attempt to regain some sense of identity, the old ways and religions of Bronze Age/Celtic Pre-Roman Britain came back into the minds of the people. The Roman’s had of course brought Christianity to Britain, and many kept the new faith. Religions clashed, Christianity alongside pagan beliefs, both indigenous beliefs and those brought by new invaders who came to fill the void left by the Romans. Violence and war were common, it was the time of warriors and heroes. It always felt to me like terrible and exciting time in our history. This time period was a huge inspiration to the setting of The Dead Sagas, and no doubt those of you who have read the books will notice the particular elements I just described have all made their way, in one way or another, into the books.
I wanted Arnar to have the feel of ancient Britain, with its dark forests, foreboding hill forts and megalithic stones, its mist shrouded lands and wind battered coasts. The cultures my characters are based on also come from this period of history, a blend of the Norse invaders and the indigenous Celtic Britons and Saxons, all mashed together to make the people of Arnar. The Vikings were a particular inspiration to my writing, these Norse warriors and conquerors have held and certain romantic fascination for over a thousand years. I wanted their longships, their armour style and weapons, their round shields, all to make an appearance in my books, so there is a very definite Norse feel to many of the warriors in The Dead Sagas. I mean come on, Vikings are cool as fuck! And the image of Norse style warriors battling to survive against undead zombie hordes was too good to ignore.
Let’s quickly discuss some of my writing influences too, as I am pretty sure some of them have been equally captivated by the same period in history. I am a big fan of historical fiction, as well as fantasy and horror, one of the writers who inspires my own work—and who is one of my favourite writers—is Bernard Cornwell, in particular his Warlord Chronicles. Everything about the historical setting of Saxon Britain in those books is awesome, and had a feel that I wanted to capture in my own writing. Other influences on Arnar are Rohan and Gondor in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, but yeah I know in one way or another he has had a huge influence on the fantasy genre, so no small surprise there. I am a big fan of Steven Erikson also, the main influence his writing has had on mine is his use of multiple POVs, something I have also employed, and also the sheer epic scope of his setting and history in the Mazalan books is staggering—a huge influence on me. Since writing the first Dead Sagas book, I discovered the excellent John Gwynne as several reviewers have compared my work to his, and I must say he is amazing so going forward I’m adding him to my list of influences as his writing is beautiful and the feel of his books and culture is not a million miles from my own tastes. I think the main similarity people noticed was probably the settings, although they are both different, we both have a similar feel to our cultures and I dare say a shared love of Dark Age history. Speaking of comparisons, I’ve heard a few people say my books have given them a Skyrim feel, again I think this boils down to the setting and culture, but it was a comparison I was happy to have because I love the feel of that game.
Okay, so let’s talk about horror, The Dead Sagas series is after all a series of horror books that are set in a low fantasy/grimdark setting. Now I love horror, I have always loved horror, but the main influence on me has been through films. I find it hard to find a book scary but films seem to do it no problem. As I said in another piece recently, it is hard for a book to capture fear in the same way as a film, and a book that does it is an excellent horror book, as I think it is the hardest emotion to invoke in a reader. This is in part why I write horror, constantly seeking the holy grail of writing something that is actually scary. Anyway, as I was saying, my main influence in the horror genre is film. I wanted to capture the cinematic fear that is achieved in horror films and try and put it in a book through the medium of the readers imagination rather than film or television, but as far as horror influences go, I love spooky ghost stories, and I love occult and demonic possession themes and I have sprinkled a little of that into the series. I actually did a fair bit of research into the occult and ritual magic and now currently possess a number of antique, probably banned, possibly illegal, ritual magic texts (one of which someone at some point attempted to burn!) and they’re full of some really gnarly stuff. Funnily enough the cover of my guitar book The Guitar Teachers Grimoire has a photo of one of the books open on my coffee table as the front cover. My wife is also very knowledgeable in the field and practice of witchcraft so I drew on her knowledge and this research for certain scenes in the books. So yeah I love horror and all manner of spooky ghostly things, so I tried hard to work those elements into the low fantasy setting.
So let’s talk about the zombies, I wanted to pay homage to the zombie genre in The Dead Sagas generally. Some of the big zombie influences are; The Evil Dead (I really love the concept of The Evil Dead and it blatantly shows I think), The Walking Dead too, both the comics and the series. The Walking Dead is probably the biggest thing in the zombie genre in the last twenty years, there are just so many amazing plot devices they have used which has certainly been an inspiration. I also really love all the old 70s and 80s zombie horror films, there’s just so much fun and horrible gore in those films, and those scenes have always stuck with me. The use of gore was something I wanted to work in to my books in homage to the genre. I wanted slow classic walking zombies for certain, but more modern takes on the zombies grabbed my attention, The Cursed Ones were very much inspired by the running zombie, or the infected, from films like 28 days/weeks later. I also really loved the series The Kingdom on Netflix recently, and the whole Korean zombie film genre that is emerging have these terrifying running zombies, just look at Train to Busan *shudders* — they are terrifying! So they were definitely going in to, that way I had the best of both worlds, the slow shambling classic zombie and the terrifying running ones too. You’ll have to read my books to discover exactly how I pulled that combination off, but I’m quite happy with how I did it—so check please do check it out. *Sighs happily* Gotta love those zombies!
One last thing I’d like to mention is the myriad of references and subtle Easter eggs littered throughout my books. Some people have asked about it and yes they are there as nods—well spotted those that found them. It was something I really enjoyed about Nicolas Eames’ books with all the music references, I wanted to pay homage to all my favourite things too, all the books, films, TV shows, music and writers that inspired my work, so throughout The Dead Sagas this is what I did. There are a whole bunch of little references and nods to all my heroes and favourite things, from Star Wars to Lord of the Rings, from The Evil Dead to The Walking Dead, keep your eyes peeled for those references as I really enjoyed hiding them in the text.
Anyway, that’s all from me, but thank you to Justine here at Whispers & Wonder for inviting me to write this article and for hosting this book tour for A Ritual of Bone via Storytellers On Tour. Thank you to anyone who is reading this for taking the time, and I hope you found my ramblings interesting.
The first two books in The Dead Sagas, A Ritual of Bone and A Ritual of Flesh are out now (links below). If any of my work sounds of interest, please do dive into the world I have created, but if you do, remember… Fear the Dead!
About A Ritual of Bone
SERIES: The Dead Sagas (#1)
PUBLISHED: June 17, 2019 (Self-published)
GENRE: Dark Fantasy, Horror
“Only valour and steel can stand against the rising dead”
Arnar is a land of warriors, its people as stalwart as the stones themselves. In a land of dark forests and ancient hill forts, a forgotten evil is awoken by curious minds.
The Great Histories and the Sagas say nothing of this evil, long passed from the memory of even the studious scholars of the College. For centuries, the scholars of Arnar have kept these records and preserved the knowledge and great deeds of a proud people. The story of these peoples forever chronicled in the Sagas of the Great Histories.
But now the evil spreads and the dead walk in its wake, terrible creatures roam the night and even the spirits are restless. The Dead Sagas could perhaps be the final chapters of these great records.
Many threads entwine to tell this Saga, interweaving the tales of those who played their part in the search for answers and ultimately their fight for survival. Amid plague, invasion and terror, the inexorable rise of the dead sends a kingdom scrabbling to its knees.
This Dark Fantasy Epic combines dark malign horror and gritty survival adventure as the Dead Sagas unfold in a world where honour and renown is all, where beasts and savages lurk in the wilderness, and where sword, axe and shield is all that stands between the living and the grasping hands of the dead.
About A Ritual of Flesh
As evil ravages the north and the dead walk, all eyes fall to Arn… The apprentice journeys south, home to the College, unaware of the dark events that transpired in the High Passes after his departure. His leg in ruins, and haunted by watching shadows, the College council in Arn awaits him, but he does not travel south alone.
Arnulf and his warriors must travel to Arn also, with tidings for the king of the risen dead and the terrible curse which has destroyed all that he knew. Arnulf seeks vengeance upon the College, but must choose wisely if he is to save his son.
Meanwhile in the west, Bjorn and his strange Wildman companion report back to High Lord Archeon at Oldstones with grim news of cannibal Stonemen encroaching from the Barrens, but is embroiled in news of war and invasion as Archeon requests his service once more.
In the capital sickness awaits them all, Nym has fled to the city and must now continue her struggle for survival on the plague ridden streets of Arn, keeping all who she cares for safe from the halls of Old Night.
The many threads of this Saga converge on the city of Arn, but amid plague, invasion and terror, a greater darkness is looming. Dark forces are seeking to unleash evil upon Arnar, honour and renown is all, and sword, axe and shield is all that stands between the living and the grasping hands of the dead.
SERIES: The Dead Sagas (#2)
PUBLISHED: October 10, 2020 (Self-published)
GENRE: Dark Fantasy, Horror
About the Author
Lee is a musician and writer in Lincolnshire, UK. He lives with his wife, Laura, and daughters, Luna, and Anya, in the historic cathedral city of Lincoln. Alongside a lifetime of playing guitar and immersing himself in the study of music and history, Lee is also a practitioner and instructor of historic martial arts and swordsmanship. After writing his successful advanced guitar theory textbook The Guitar Teachers Grimoire, Lee turns his hand to writing fiction. Lee is now studying a degree in creative writing and working on his debut fantasy series The Dead Sagas as well as also generally writing speculative fiction and horror.
If anyone would like to sign up for occasional (once or twice a year) email of news and updates on Lee’s work, with the occasional competition or giveaway too, please sign yourselves up to Lee’s mailing list. Sign up to Lee’s mailing list!
Got a huge (mostly international) giveaway going on for this tour!
Grand Prize: A Signed Hardcover of A Ritual of Bone (International)
Runners-Up: Choice of A Ritual of Bone Audiobook (US/UK) or Ebook (International)
Ends 10/26 at 11:59pm EDTa Rafflecopter giveaway
That’s all I got for ya! Be sure to keep an eye on the official A Ritual of Bone tour page over at Storytellers On Tour (https://www.storytellersontour.online/2020/09/16/tour-schedule-a-ritual-of-bone-by-lee-c-conley/) to see what the other bloggers and Bookstagrammers have to say!
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Such in-depth research and awesome inspirations. Cornwell is a master at his art, one of my favorites too. Now I’m even sadder I had to miss this tour :p
It was definitely a wonderful post. And it’s never too late to jump into the series, Arina! It’s an amazing one.