A Ritual of Flesh by Lee C Conley

by Justine Bergman

Only valour and steel can stand against the rising dead.

I have been waiting for this day to come and it’s finally here. You know when you read a book that it just SO GOOD, you desperately need to tell everyone about it? For me it’s A Ritual of Flesh by Lee C Conley. I already had a chance to shout about it from the rooftops last year when I got to read this gem of a book (you can check out my review here), but I’m thrilled I get to do it again.

Today I’m honored to be kicking off the A Ritual of Flesh Book Tour presented by Storytellers on Tour, and throughout this upcoming week we’ll be showcasing the second book in Lee’s Fantasy Horror series, The Dead Sagas. Ok, here’s my pitch: Like vikings and/or Medieval settings? Like zombies? YOU CAN HAVE IT ALL IN THIS UTTERLY HEART-WRENCHING TALE FILLED WITH COPIOUS AMOUNTS OF BLOOD AND GORE AND ALL THE FEELS. Guys, it’s so good. You need it. Stay tuned throughout the week, because a bunch of other people will be telling you the same.

Lee was kind enough to stop by for a chat about this dark story of his, some fun discoveries he made while researching for it, his hope to make people uncomfortable, what lies ahead, and more. So, keep scrolling to learn more about the book and author, read the awesome interview, and enter to win yourself a copy of A Ritual of Flesh!

We’ve enlisted a group of wonderful and talented bloggers and Bookstagrammers to help us feature A Ritual of Flesh. 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.

Whispers & Wonder (IG: @whispersandwonder)
The Swordsmith
Beneath A Thousand Skies
Out of This World SFF
Fantasy Book Nerd
OneReadingNurse (IG: @onereadingnurse)
Spells & Spaceships
Wyrm’s Worlds
Sue’s Musings
Queen’s Book Asylum

For more info, visit the official tour page at Storytellers On Tour.

About the Book

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.

A Ritual of Flesh by Lee C Conley
SERIES: The Dead Sagas (#2)
PUBLISHED: October 10, 2020
GENRE: Fantasy Horror
PAGES: 476



Meet 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 advanced guitar theory textbook The Guitar Teachers Grimoire, Lee turns his hand to writing fiction. Lee is one of the founders of Bard of the Isles literary magazine and is now also studying a degree in creative writing while working on his debut fantasy series The Dead Sagas, which includes the novels A Ritual of Bone and A Ritual of Flesh, as well as also generally writing speculative fiction and horror.

WEBSITE: www.leeconleyauthor.com

Welcome back to Whispers & Wonder, Lee! Since we already have your official bio, can we have the MC(s) from A Ritual of Flesh describe you in one sentence?

Ha, ha, probably as an evil vengeful creator who exists for their torment.

Can you share with us something about A Ritual of Flesh that isn’t in the blurb?

Certainly. Well it all hits the fan in this one. We get to see the folk of Arnar go up against the full on zombie horde, there’s lots of action packed horror and gruesome fighting. Also I was tempted to use this as a tagline in the blurb: Can a shieldwall withstand the horde of dead? But decided in the end not to use it, and well to answer that question, I guess folks will have to read it and find out. Another thing I was tempted to mention in the blurb is the fall from grace of some characters, their corruption and descent into madness and fear, and what becomes of them, all contrasted by those that stand firm, and with all of them feeling the choices they make are the right thing for them to do regardless of the outcomes.  

Was there any specific research you’ve done for this story of yours? And if so, did you learn anything really interesting?

Most of the research was background plot and world building research, for little minor mentions of things that have little consequence on the plot and characters but helped shape the background world they occupy. Most of it is based on the human condition, but many things like early medieval, or Norse, ships and armour, weapons and tactics, religious beliefs and social structures things like that—common fantasy or historical fiction author research fare. I enjoyed researching longships, the longest ever being 120ft, or 37 metres long, and needing as many as 90 oars to pull it. Cool!

I did find a few other cool things. I did some extensive research on the decomposition of bodies which was grim reading and viewing, but morbidly interesting. Obviously I wanted my rotting corpse anti-stars of the book to be realistically written. And, I consulted the archaeological work of a friend regarding early medieval combat wounds, combining this with my own medieval combat expertise I was able to write some accurate but exciting fight scenes.

What do you hope your readers take away from The Dead Sagas?

I hope they find some of the scenes genuinely unsettling or creepy. I think it’s hard to write a truly scary book, being a book that actually scares you, so if I can pull that off I’m happy. I also wanted to pay homage to the zombie genre, of films and books, there’s a lot of hat tips to various of my favourite films and books so I hope a lover of the genre would appreciate what I have tried to do and approves of my version of the monster. Another thing I’d like folks to take away is that sense of honour in the face of horror, that the character’s qualities, or lack of, shine through in such epic jeopardy.

Which was easier, writing your fantasy debut or its sequel?

That’s a hard one. Both were so different. The debut was my first venture into the uncharted waters of literary fiction, I had to learn so much and after the drafting and editing process, effectively taught myself the craft of writing as I went, using a bit of film like cinematography in its rendering on the page. But the writing of it was easy, it was pure pleasure to craft and create it a pure leisurely labour of love. The writing of A Ritual of Flesh was a lot more planned, and precisely crafted, it took a lot more effort to pull off. A Ritual of Bone was “pantstered” with a vague plan, it was cool to see what came out and where it went. But Flesh, was meticulously planned in certain places, still I let my characters and situations wander at times and discover how it goes down, but large events were very carefully planned and executed. A lot of loose plot threads had to be very carefully woven together. So I would say Flesh was the hardest, but also I think is my best work so it was worth it.

What can we look forward to in The Dead Sagas? I need the next book in my life, Lee, so when can I get my hands on it?

Well, it is coming. I’m plinking away at it regularly. It’s going to be another two books to finish the main series arc (there may be more standalone Dead Sagas stuff later too). I am working on it all at once, so the release of the final two books will be relatively close hopefully. I am hoping to have the next one finished sometime next year, but will have a substantial amount of the final book finished by then too. My thinking is, I want everything that needs to be in book three to be just right, and to do that I have to work on a lot of book four to ensure it all comes together and I don’t miss anything. I can’t go back and add things so it has to be right. There is some really cool stuff already in book three, so pretty epic scenes and goings on, I can promise it is has a lot of grim action already, so I am already excited about it, and I can’t wait for everyone to read the final two books, or the final concluding half of the Saga. Oh, I can reveal the third book will be titled A Ritual of Blood—so that’s exciting.

Have you read anything awesome lately?

I have read more this year than I ever have, so definitely yes! Right now I am really enjoying Steven McKinnon’s Symphony of the Wind, it’s excellent, like a grimdark steampunk airship epic kinda-military awesome fantasy. Loving it. I really enjoyed Jamie Edmunson’s Og-Grim-Dog books, they’re really funny and cool. Also if you haven’t check out The Ashen Levels by C.F. Welburn you really should, I loved the prose and the mystery of his world. Also, I read the ARC for a book called The Skin, an upcoming debut by J.E. Hannaford, it’s a nautical folklore style fantasy and it’s really quite beautiful, really worth checking out. I think it’s out this month, maybe next week actually. And if you like sci-fi, Damien Larkin just released the follow up to his military sci-fi Big Red, the second one is called Blood Red Sand and it’s stunningly brutal. There’s so many more, but those really stood out this summer.  

Thank you again for taking the time have a chat, Lee. Tell us what lies ahead for you!

Who knows what the future will bring, that’s the adventure! But likely, I’ll be writing The Dead Sagas alongside a few other projects, lots of sword fighting of course, playing guitar (as that is my real job), and finishing an English literature and creative writing degree, and so close to finishing too. It’s going to be a busy year so hopefully it all stays cool and I can sneak some awesome adventures in. 

Thanks for having me, it’s always a pleasure.

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