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.

Doctor Alana Hands, an Authority on Medieval Romance, previews ‘Mirrored Sword’ .

Hello! I am Alan Hands, the author of the book the good professor has just previewed. What do you think of her performance? What will you think of mine? I think the jury is still out on that one, because there is more to writing and publishing that just writing and publishing.

Writing a book and publishing it are monumental achievements, akin to building the Eiffel Tower, the Taj Mahal, and Sydney Opera House, but what use is a Sydney Opera House, Taj Mahal or Eiffel Tower if you don’t build the roads and bridges that bring the tourists?

I’m talking about marketing and advertising. It’s a steep learning curve for the novice, a roller coaster ride that you can’t exit whenever it pleases you, or your future as an author will be spectacularly short. It might be spectacularly short anyway, if you get it horribly wrong.

Has the good professor ruined my career with her impassioned devotion to my work? It’s a risk I must take. Consider the financial costs of self-promotion and set aside the cost to one’s reputation and dignity. On average, getting just one person to reach my blog costs about 60 cents in Facebook ads, or let’s say about $30 for 50 people. On average, only about one out of ten visitors will then click the link to my amazon pages and, of those ten, just one will end up buying one of my absurdly cheap books (gotta sell cheap to compete). So, we’re looking at $60 out for maybe one sale, amounting to a couple of dollars. How long can I keep bleeding money in this way? Hopefully long enough for word to spread that Mirrored Sword is a great story.

I’ve got great books to sell, great covers for them, and great reviews, but it is all down the drain if I can’t connect the road and bridges to this masterpiece. And now that I’m getting this stuff off my chest, let me have a word in your pearly shell about Amazon.

You might think Amazon would look after someone who spends his own money drawing people to their website. Instead, they provide my books with a Look Inside function which, being an online device, makes a mess of the formatting I took such care with. It doesn’t affect the books you purchase but it must give you pause for thought: is this book defective and is it worth buying? Worse still, Amazon advertises other books on my pages and, being Amazon, it knows exactly what sort of books you usually buy. So, if you are here out of mere curiosity, and you are still curious enough to follow the links to Amazon, the chances are you will see other books on my pages that look more like your sort of thing. Don’t be tempted by those outrageous flirts, the other books that Amazon parades about on my page, temptresses batting their eyelids at you, wiggling their hips! All I’ve got on my side is the good professor, Alana Hands.

Is it any wonder that I will try almost anything to market my books?

A Must Read! 🏆

He is a legend, she is notorious, and their clash is TITANIC. 

The review for Mirrored Sword Part Two is now live at Reedsy Discovery.

The characters were so real and so engaging that I was pulled into their world instantly and experienced all the highs and lows of the book right along with them … a must read for historical fiction fans – you will not be disappointed.

Amy Rodriguez @ Reedsy Discovery https://reedsy.com/discovery/book/mirrored-sword-part-two-allan-hands?utm_medium=email&utm_source=transactional&utm_campaign=mandrill#review

You need two legs to walk, two eyes to see, two ears to hear, and two books to develop perception in depth, especially in a story that represents different points of view. Mirrored Sword Part One viewed the turmoil of medieval England through the eyes of eight characters. Part Two strips down to the heightened senses of the hero and heroine, focussing on their battle with each other, alone together in their battle with the world. Alone? No, not quite. They are leading a small but troublesome party of siblings, friends, lovers and pets, all accompanying the English king and his Yorkist army north from London to Lincolnshire, in a long awaited showdown with the Lancastrian rebels, as the Wars of the Roses draws closer to its untidy and bloody ending.

Follow the BOOKS button above for a fuller preview of the Mirrored Sword series and for links to Amazon, where the two books are on sale as kindle and paperback. Amazon’s customer reviews (mostly the U.K. marketplace so far) highlight the excitement, adventure and fun of the series, the realism of the settings and the dynamic interplay of the characters. There is also a quirky review of Part Two at the OnlineBookClub, where the book is awarded 4 out of 4 stars https://forums.onlinebookclub.org/viewtopic.php?f=63&t=211131 . And follow the REVIEWS button above for reviews of Part One (also from Reedsy Discovery, as well as another quirky review from the OnlineBookClub.)

You need to read Part One before you can fully relate to Part Two. Part One is either free at Amazon as an online Kindle, or it costs next to nothing if you opt to purchase your own electronic copy. Paperbacks are priced to sell.