All posts by jmoellerwriter

The Year of the Horsetails, by RF Tapsell

This excellent historical novel deserves to be a classic.

It’s set in Iron Age eastern Europe, and concerns the age-old nomad cycle. If you’re unfamiliar with that, it was a pattern that played out time and time again in ancient and medieval history. The vast plains of Eurasia would give rise to a nation of horse-mounted nomads whose harsh lifestyle would produce hardy and cruel warriors. Eventually, a powerful leader would unite the nomads, an Attila or a Genghis Khan or a Tamerlane, and the nomads would go on a rampage of conquest, building a vast empire and destroying many of the sedentary societies surrounding their territories. Eventually the nomads would be defeated, or fall apart into civil war, and the cycle would begin anew.

In YEAR OF THE HORSETAILS, the nomads are the Tugars, who rule a vast empire surrounded by vassal states. Every year the supreme ruler of the Tugars, the Kagan, mounts an expedition to a neighboring state, destroying their towns and villages, stealing their crops and cattle, slaughtering the fighting men, and carrying off the women and children into slavery.

The protagonist is Bardiya, fleeing from the court of the Kagan after one of the Kagan’s officers murdered his wife. In retribution, the Kagan sent his men to kill Bardiya, who had no choice to flee to the uttermost edges of the Kagan’s realms. Bardiya is a Saka, one of the Kagan’s client nations, forced to fight in the Kagan’s army. Forsaken by both his own people and his Tugar masters, Bardiya flees over the mountains to the land of the Drevichi, an Iron Age Slavic people governed by a loose confederation of princes. Bardiya gains the trust of the Drevichi, and quickly settles in his new homeland.

Unfortunately, the Kagan’s annual campaign is coming up…and this time, the Drevichi are his next target.

What follows is an excellent historical novel of farmers struggling against nomads, as Bardiya aids his adopted homeland in its desperate struggle against the Tugar hordes.

Altogether an excellent novel, and THE YEAR OF THE HORSETAILS is highly recommended.


another MASK OF DRAGONS excerptI

In today’s excerpt from MASK OF DRAGONS, someone tries to help Mazael learn from his past mistakes:

“Disappointing. If you don’t get better at this game, Mazael Cravenlock, you’re going to lose.”

“And what game is that?” said Mazael, his patience wearing thin.

“Why, the same game your father played,” said the woman. “One of the games he designed. The game of gods. The game of dark powers. He won it, of course…but he’s dead now, and many of his opponents were very, very sore losers.”


DEMONSOULED reading order, so far

Someone asked about a complete DEMONSOULED reading list. Including short stories and novellas, it would be:

MASK OF DRAGONS (book 9, coming in March)


MASK OF DRAGONS short excerpt

Now 50k words into MASK OF DRAGONS! Time for an excerpt:

Mazael rolled his eyes. Sigaldra would have flown into a rage at Earnachar’s remark. Romaria only looked back at him and grinned.

“If you need a wolf’s nose to see a soliphage’s web,” said Romaria, “then you had best fall upon your sword now, for if you cannot see a soliphage then you are too impossibly stupid to live.”

Earnachar snorted again. “You Marcher women are bold. No Tervingi woman would speak to me that way.”

Romaria laughed. “I’ve faced the Old Demon and runedead and San-keth serpent priests, Earnachar. A bald barbarian from the middle lands is hardly frightening after all that.”

“Will you let your wife speak to me that way?” said Earnachar.

“You provoked her,” said Mazael.

“You should intervene,” said Earnachar.

“If I intervene,” said Mazael, “it will be to stop her from killing you, which would depend on my mood at the time. Now shut your damned mouth and watch the path.”


now starting MASK OF DRAGONS

I’m now starting MASK OF DRAGONS, the second book in the MASK OF THE DEMONSOULED trilogy and the ninth DEMONSOULED book overall.

Wait! That’s not quite right. I actually started MASK OF DRAGONS back in December, and worked on it from time to time while finishing FROSTBORN: THE HIGH LORDS. So I’m already on Chapter 6 of 20 for MASK OF DRAGONS.

It’s funny to think about. I’m writing MASK OF DRAGONS on a Surface 3, a computer that did not exist when I first started writing DEMONSOULED fifteen years ago in 2001. It’s running Windows 10, an operating system that did not exist in 2001, and I’m going to mention this on Facebook and Twitter, websites that did not exist in 2001. Additionally, of those of you who have read DEMONSOULED, I bet 99.9999% of you read it in ebook format, a technology that was only in its infancy in 2001.

A lot has changed!

More than that has changed. When I finished DEMONSOULED in 2001, I had my copy of Writer’s Market handy, and a list of agents and publishers to whom I planned to send the manuscript. When MASK OF DRAGONS is finished, I’m going to self-publish it right away without bothering with any of the vestigial structure of legacy publishing. In fact, at least one copy of a DEMONSOULED book (and usually more than one) sells every day around the world, with no help whatsoever from traditional publishers.

Thanks everyone! Odd to think that I’m still writing about Mazael Cravenlock 15 years on, but I suppose one cannot keep a good medieval warlord down!

If all goes well, I think MASK OF DRAGONS will be out towards the end of March.



I am pleased to report that FROSTBORN: THE HIGH LORDS is now finished, and I will start uploading it as soon as I finish writing this post.

Look for the new-release newsletter later this week! If you haven’t already subscribed to the list, you might want to do so – subscribers will get a free copy of the short story THE BONE ORCS when the newsletter goes out.

Subscribe to my new-release newsletter here.


introversion vs. extroversion in fiction

I recently read an interesting book on extroversion vs introversion, which made me think about extroversion and introversion in fiction.

Of my lead characters, I would say that Mazael Cravenlock, Ridmark Arban, Calliande, Annarah, Claudia Aberon, and Kylon of House Kardamnos would be extroverts, while Caina Amalas, Corvalis Aberon, Morigna, Lucan Mandragon, Nerina Strake, and Molly Cravenlock would be introverts.

Though Caina could pretend to be an extrovert for a very long time if necessary.

Nadia Moran would be an introvert, while her brother Russell Moran would be an extrovert, which is why Russell needs Nadia to drive him places so he can go be extroverted.

Morgant’s level of extroversion varies depending on how annoyed he is feeling at any particular moment.

The Old Demon is extremely extroverted, much to the regret of anyone who meets him.

Conventional models of psychology would not apply to someone like the Red Huntress.