Roses for a Dinosaur

Selling books to the public is like feeding roses to a dinosaur. Individual people are smart, canny, sensitive creatures, endowed with an olfactory nerve that sniffs out bargains and treasures from miles away, but the public is a different critter. Massed together as a crowd, people feed as one, think, feel, move in the manner of a primeval beast of the forest, ponderous, slow to advance, governed by habit. The networks of synapses that flash signals along the individual’s spinal column and cerebral cortex in only microseconds, enabling homo sapiens to adapt to new circumstances in rational leaps of the imagination, so that you and I can evade the snapping jaws of a predator almost at the same instant as we skewer dinner for tonight (and your synapses have already worked out that I am exaggerating your abilities in the wild) – these rapid connections just don’t happen in the public’s nervous system. It lumbers along the paths it has always followed, generation after generation, never really varying ancestral routines, feeding where it always fed, seeing what it always saw, thinking what it always thought, or, if it does change, it is only in externals and only by imperceptible degrees, inch by inch, aeon by aeon.

Thus we always find ourselves reliving history.

“Stop the world!” you often say. “I want to get off.”

 Sorry but there is no getting off this ride, at least not while you can still contemplate the possibility. It is your fate to be dragged along in the public’s wake from the moment you are born to the moment you die, an insignificant molecular cell in a long, long, long tail, neither known, nor loved nor mourned by the enormous host you are part of. It is the tragedy of being you, and the comedy too.

“But what has all this got to do with books?” I hear you complain, because your synapses can’t help firing on all cylinders, you inquisitive little creature.

So I’ll tell you.

Books are the foliage that the dinosaur devours, the same leaves, the same stories, with just a few differences between, a slightly serrated edge here, the suggestion of an interesting colour there, a minutely raised vein on this side, something like a polished surface on the other – it is all one to the dinosaur. A rose might be a rose by any other name but it’s just greenery to him. Ten miles down the track, it’s poo.

“So, you are an author!” you say.

Does it show?

A Healing Story for Broken Times

Deadly epidemics, rampant crime, wars and rumours of wars – sound familiar? That’s right, it’s the year 1471, and life struggles amid the ruins of better times, as political divisions and dynastic struggles leave the authorities corrupt and powerless. Yet these are also times of renewal.

Mirrored Sword is a story of the living past and it will keep you smiling through the rage and fury you might feel today, on the verge of a world that seems to be coming apart. It is, in a nutshell, a tragicomic story of lovers and other buffoons getting their lives together as they guess, blunder and barge their way towards something like victory, freedom and release, with pets, friends, servants and family coming along for the ride.

The story is told in two parts or as a complete whole, and you can mix and match eBooks and paperbacks to suit your tastes and budget. It includes a feast of talking points that you can share with those near and dear to you, or those in the way of becoming near and dear, as you work your way through the twists and turns of the plot, every I-knew-it opening onto an I-don’t-believe-it, and every What-a-man or What-a-woman crumbling into Stop-it-while-you-still can-You-Fool! Then there are all the How-dare-they moments, and I-daren’t-turn-another-page! Chances are you’ll read it again and again, and each time you’ll discover something you hadn’t realised before. It’s a BIG story.

And it is available now at Amazon Books. I’m the author, Allan Hands. You are welcome to poke about my blog for more info, or Shop Now.

Australian Author Captures Medieval England – Singlehanded!

Allan Hands is a self-published Australian author who single-handedly captured medieval England in a two-book series titled Mirrored Sword. The reviews are rapturous so far, highlighting how well he caught the people, places and times with a story that is not only thrilling and realistic but witty also. Even the English (usually a grudging mob) admit that they have been won over, as shown by the customer reviews on the UK amazon pages. Allan wears all his reviews as proudly as medals, and you can find them on this blog by clicking on the Reviews button.

“But you are Allan Hands, aren’t you?” I hear you complain.

No, Allan Hands is a pen name. I’m too modest to brag, so I do it in Allan’s name instead.

“But why the bravado, this nonsense about capturing the sceptred isle singlehanded? You’re no hero.”

Certainly not! I have lived in a country and at a time when most people have never had to fight for anything, unlike my grandfathers, Allan McPherson and Claude Hands. Ring a bell? Yes, my pen name is borrowed from them. Allan Hands is an easier brand to remember than my own name, Ross McPherson, but it is also a tribute to family. All history, one way or another, is the history of families. So let me tell you something about the family.

Claude and Allan lived through two world wars and the Great Depression. Here on the left we see Claude and his brother Norman (seated) in their uniforms as volunteers in the Australian Infantry, circa 1917. Norman came home with a Military Medal on his chest (something about capturing a machine gun and turning it on the enemy – the usual story) but Claude returned with only some shrapnel in his shoulder. Allan, a dour Scottish immigrant, enlisted with the Australians and returned to Oz with a steel plate in his head, covering a hole also courtesy of Kaiser Bill.

Claude spent the first nine years after his return from the Front working hard and saving money to bring out his war bride, a girl from Manchester with rosy cheeks, whom he first met on furlough. We see Claude and Marion enjoying the Australian sunshine together. Sadly, she died prematurely after 15 years marriage, courtesy of a mosquito bite and the encephalitis it caused. Claude married a second time, very unhappily, but Allan married once only, in 1922, and both he and Thelma lived to a ripe old age.

And here we see my parents, Judith Hands and Colin McPherson, a gorgeous couple, enjoying life in post-war Australia. They divorced after about 25 years marriage but I dedicated my first book to Judith and my second to Colin, thus reuniting them in spite of everything. Both became victims of Covid hysteria in the last two years. Judith was residing an aged care home when it was suddenly locked down out of an abundance of caution, as they say. By the time we were allowed in, she was in a coma and died without ever regaining consciousness. Colin also died alone in an aged care home. His children couldn’t visit him because the state border was closed, also out of an abundance of caution.

So, you can’t say that Allan Hands is just another damned Australian who knows nothing about medieval England, with all its wars and plagues. It is etched in family memory, as it is for millions of others.

Fancy a Tour Through Medieval England – with pets?

Spalding, Bourne, Fotheringhay, Huntingdon, Royston and Ware here we come! Throw in Waltham Abbey, Southwark, London and the Lincolnshire fens, just for good measure, and bring along some pets, such as the spoilt mule-cum-donkey, Lady Lorna Blakeney, and Wakefield, the Welsh terrier (aka Dog, the poacher’s friend), and how could you forget Mary of Reading, the hired horse with the manners of a best friend! There you have Mirrored Sword, a tour you could fall in love with.

Oh and add some villains (common run-of-the-mill thieves, opportunists, cut-throats, machiavellian nobles, warring factions and rival armies), rough accommodation, overgrown and rundown roads, and companions you wish you had left behind, above all fool relatives and self-serving servants – and there you have Mirrored Sword again, an adventure combining fun, suspense, thrills and humour.

Oh and did I forget to mention romance?

Check out the books by clicking on the BOOKS button above.

One of the Best Historical Fiction Novels Ever?

You be the judge.

Reedsy.com is undoubtedly one of the premier sites for self-published authors, connecting them with professionals in the book trade able to give manuscripts a winning finish (one of their artists designed the cover here). The site regularly issues a newsletter, featuring recently reviewed books. Issue #143 (December 10 2021) opened with a couple of intriguing paragraphs:

“Did you know that Hilary Mantel is the first woman to have been awarded the Booker Prize twice? Best known for her fictional trilogy about Thomas Cromwell — the first two books of which won her the aforementioned prize — Mantel has undoubtedly written some of the best historical fiction novels of this century — or any other, for that matter. 

If you’re a fan of Mantel, or generally enjoy historical fiction with absorbing Tudor settings, you’ll want to keep an eye out for the debut duology I’m recommending this week. It’s not only rich in historical detail and character portraits, but a witty read to boot!” 

The newsletter then introduces a list of featured books, the first for Young Adults, the second for Historical Fiction, and I quote:

“Allan Hands’s historical fiction novel Mirrored Sword, Part Two continues the epic story of Susanna, an ambitious painter in love with the Yorkist king, and Tom, a fighting Lancastrian. Set during the Wars of the Roses — a series of civil wars in 15th century England — the novel brims with nail-biting political drama and is packed with both adventure and romance. Fans of Hilary Mantelwill not want to miss this sharp story and its incredible cast, though I do recommend starting with Part One.” 

So, is Mirrored Sword one of the best historical fiction novels of all time – which is how I understand the newsletter – or is the write-up merely encouragement for a first-time author?

You be the judge: read the book.