Fantasy – Stealing from History by Jacey Bedford

November 23rd, 2022

I was never very good at history in school. Maybe it was the dry way it was delivered, or maybe I simply wasn’t ready for it. We never seemed to take history as a whole. We always ended up studying specific periods which were not connected to the period immediately before or after. So school history was a series of snapshots, not a continuous stream. Louis XI of France followed by the industrial revolution is a big disconnect.

My interest in history came long after school. It started with local history. The village where I live is not really old. There’s a farm with a door lintel dated 1642, but most of the houses, and the mill that provided work, date from around 1800. The mill had a water wheel which was fed from a mill pond, which in turn was topped up by an upstream pond which was (still is) the first industrial use of water on the river Dearne. The water then runs down the valley to a second mill in the next village, owned by the same people. And suddenly the industrial revolution makes more sense. I like history now.

I began writing in my teens, though the world will be very relieved to note that my first book (all six chapters of it) never saw publication. It was a teen dystopia peopled by characters who were thinly disguised versions of my favourite pop stars.

I never chose writing science fiction and fantasy. The genre chose me. It was what I read, so writing it seemed natural. Writers who have a massive best seller with their first book are few and far between. My first published book (Empire of Dust, a space opera) came out in 2014 but I wrote it back in 1998, so my overnight success took sixteen years. I now have seven books available, all published by DAW in the USA even though I’m a British writer. They consist of two trilogies, (one is science fiction and the other is historical fantasy) and the most recent book is another historical fantasy – this time a stand-alone called The Amber Crown.

I enjoy stealing from history, though I’m not averse to changing things to suit my story. My Rowankind trilogy (Winterwood, Silverwolf, and Rowankind) is set in Britain in 1800 – 1802 and follows history with a few alterations. Britain is at war with France. Napoleon is rampaging through Europe. King George III is going steadily mad (though I have a magical reason for that). There’s a servant-race, called the rowankind who were once helpmeets of the fae, but, for some reason no one seems to remember, they were called into the world of humans and are stuck. Witchcraft is strictly regulated and any practising witch who is not registered is summarily executed.

That’s just the background, the story is about Ross (Rossalinde) Tremayne, an unregistered witch, who captains her own privateer vessel with the help of a bunch of barely-reformed pirates and the jealous ghost of her dead husband. A deathbed visit to her estranged mother leaves her with a half-brother she didn’t know about, and a task she doesn’t want. The story continues on through all three books, but Winterwood can be read as a standalone.

People ask me if it’s difficult switching genres between science fiction and fantasy, but I don’t find it so. My books are character-led. I’m writing about people and it doesn’t really matter whether they are on a two-masted schooner in the middle of the Atlantic, or a star-spanning space ship out on the galactic rim. I like to mix adventure and mystery with a little romance and characters who are (I hope) real in the mind of my readers.

My most recent book, The Amber Crown also steals from history, though I’ve taken a lot of liberties. Rather than being set in Britain, it’s set in a fictional Baltic country called Zavonia, which is an analogue of Latvia/Lithuania with a lot of Polish influence in costume. I have, for instance, incorporated the Polish Winged Cavalry, hussars who went into battle with huge iron wings strapped to their backs, and who were the pre-eminent cavalry of Europe for the best part of 200 years. My writers’ group thought it unbelievable and thought I’d invented it, but it was real.

Again, The Amber Crown is really about the characters and it’s told through three viewpoints. Valdas is the captain of the king’s bodyguard who is in deep trouble when the king is killed. (That’s not a spoiler, it happens on the first page.) He’s accused of the murder and goes on the run, determined to find the real killer. Mirza is the witch-healer of a band of travelling refugees who is given the task of helping Valdas by the ghost of his dead king. Lind is the clever assassin who is beginning to regret taking the job, especially since the person who hired him seems to be a practitioner of magic. The three start out separately and come together to confront an adversary steeped in blood magic.

I’m a visual writer. My books play out in my head like a sprawling full-colour movie (though I don’t cast my characters from known actors). I have a lot of Pinterest boards which hold images from which I take inspiration. If you take a look here:  you’ll find boards for Georgian history, which helped me to visualise the world of Winterwood, and boards dedicated to the ‘Baltic story, general research, costume, and even a board for the Polish Winged Hussars.

You can catch up with me at my website  There’s more information about the book, and about my short stories, plus a link to my blog, and a contact page where you can sign up to my mailing list. Don’t worry, I won’t bombard you with spam. I’m always happy to hear from readers, writers and reviewers.

I’d like to thank Ju for inviting me to write for this fine blog.

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Reading in Berlin

November 14th, 2021

This weekend I’ll be in Berlin. I have a reading there on Friday evening at Kulturbremse, Jagowstr. 29 in Berlin Moabit. I’m sharing the reading with Bernhard Stäber. The organiser has called it the “Welten” (=Worlds) reading, because our books each have the word “Welten” in the title.

Ju Honisch „Weltendiebe“

In the cellar of an old villa in Munich there is an interdimensional weak spot. Every few decades, nefarious world-jumpers seek to open it from the outside to steal into our world. The last opening happened in 1952, and just now it has been opened again.

Anne’s grandmother is horrified when she finds out that her granddaughter works in the very house where she experienced unbelievably terrible things back then. She remembers, but won’t speak.

So Anne has no idea how dangerous the men are who suddenly appear in her life. Only when her sister Ev disappears and ominous strangers pursue Anne does it become clear that there is more behind Granny’s silence than the odd mood of an old woman.

Anne is determined to find her sister again, even if she doesn’t know where. She only knows: jumping into a strange, alien world is a sacrilege that is punishable by death in every dimension. The enforcers of dimensional integrity know no mercy.


Bernhard Stäber „Wächter der Weltenschlange

After the death of her mother, 17-year-old Malin spends the summer holidays with her younger brother Rune at their grandfather’s house in southern Norway. When Rune takes his boat out on Lake Seljord despite a storm warning, fate takes its course: Rune capsizes and is rescued by the water spirit Nyk ‑ but at a high price. He must bring the last egg of the world serpent Jormungand into the Arctic Ocean. Should he fail, he will die. Together, the siblings set out for the North Cape. But their long journey through Norway quickly turns into a deadly chase through the Disen, for ever since the Norns disappeared, the Nine Worlds have been in turmoil. It is said that the serpent in Rune’s egg will cause the world to burn. Torn between their own destiny and that of the world, Malin and Rune have the adventure of a lifetime in the realm of the Norse sagas.

Two very different books. So it won’t be boring!

Of course, we are worried whether the plague will even allow the event to take place. We can thank a certain section of the population, which in my opinion is completely antisocial, for the fact that the number of people falling ill is shooting up like crazy again.

But we haven’t given up yet.


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Dungeons and Readings

May 27th, 2014

Last year, the Meissen Literature Festival had to be cancelled due to flooding. East Germany and parts of Eastern Bavaria were submerged in rather too much water in places where water was not at all welcome.

This year the festival will (hopefully!) be held again. And I’ll be reading there again. I last read in Meissen four years ago, but I remember how pretty and nice everything was. I am sure it still is. This time it is even more thrilling, because this time, Feder & Schwert Publishing has been granted a special event, the “Fantasy Night of Feder & Schwert”: Oliver Plaschka, Oliver Hoffmann, Oliver Graute and I read from our novels. – And even though my name is not Oliver, I shall be there. The Fantasy Night will be held on Friday, 06 June 2014. The entire festival runs from Thursday to Monday.

I am particularly thrilled with the location, the Meissner Obscurum, a vaulted cellar – well “a real dungeon”, which will certainly provide a wonderful setting for works of speculative fiction. So come and listen – and have fun at this very special evening.

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May 18th, 2014

Last weekend I was invited to read in Ilmenau at the local Technical University. Phantopia organised this. They are a quite wonderful club that invites authors regularly and spoils them rotten. It was my second reading there. And again it was thoroughly enjoyable. I went home happy, fed and with some lovely gifts and I hope to be able to read there again someday. Simply wonderful hosts!

Fresh out of the – well, not press but pixel machine – is the e-book “Exotische Welten” (Exotic Worlds) published by O’Connellpress. It’s a wonderful collection of very different stories that fit this topic, from SF to fantasy. My story takes the reader into late 19th century London and from there into a world that is a poem in every sense of the word. Here you can order the e-book directly . It is, of course, in German.

And in June we expect the release of the next story book. It is called ” Wahre Märchen 2 ” (True Fairy Tales 2) and is a wonderful photo book with photographs by Annie Bertram showing a world of dark gothic romanicism. These deep and eerie photographs set the stage for a collection of modern fairy tales by Markus Heitz, Christian von Aster, Julia Becker, Oliver Graute, Diana Kinne, Lea Melcher, Iris Meyer, Björn Springorum, Isa Theobald, Rona Walter – and me. Images and stories intertwine to make this book a work of art. I’d like to say something like that never happened before, but it is already the second volume of this project. Whoever loves the dark romance of our time – this book is just right for you.

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… and the winner is … me …

March 18th, 2014

And what was it like? It was great. Exhausting, but quite overwhelming.

Last week, I went to Leipzig Book Fair. I only tend to go to big fairs, when I have something to do there. Just strolling from booth to booth would be a little too tedious for me. But this year, I really could not complain. Four readings. A Meet & Greet with literary bloggers at the Heyne (Random House) stand. An interview with a nice blogger couple. And several visits to my agent, who this time had his own booth.

The big news, however, is: I won the SERAPH – Best Book 2014 !


Together with Oliver Plaschka , who was also was nominated, I sat in the audience and waited for the decision. I really did not believe I would win the award. Accordingly, I was pretty speechless when “Schwingen aus Stein” (Wings of Stone) was announced to be the winner. A book set in the Bavarian forest – that was a bit weird and unusual, but it may just have helped to make “Schwingen aus Stein” the winner.
I probably spouted a lot of nonsensical blather as I accepted the trophy handed over by Kai Meyer. I truly don’t remember what I said. At least I did not shed any tears, but I truly hope my ramblings will not make the rounds on YouTube.

Anyway, I was happy and overwhelmed and – ah – not speechless although I somehow wish I had been. The pretty statuette now lives on my shelf together with the Deutsche Phantastik Preis (German Speculative Fiction Award) which I got back in 2009 for ” Obsidianherz” (Obsidian Heart), flanked by a SAM and a Pegasus Award, which I got for filk songs I wrote.

The award for the best newcomer novel went to Catherine Hartwell “Das fremde Meer“ (The alien sea).

After the ceremony we went into the city. The special Seraph reading was to take place at the Stadtwerke Leipzig, who had sponsored the newcomer award. It took us a long time to get there after the show because there were traffic jams all around the fair. I was scared that we would never get there. But we somehow managed and the event was very enjoyable. I was rather tired – if you get up at 04:30 clock , travel and run around all day at the show, you are no longer fresh as a daisy – but sleep is for the weak and sickly.

There was a second SERAPH winners’ reading on Saturday morning at the fair. Here we had a really humungous amount of listeners, a fact we probably have to thank Kai Meyer for, who was on before us and sort of shared his numerous fans with us (they were waiting for the signing). Thank you, Kai!

The utter disinterest of the “traditional” press was not precisely a surprise. They either completely forgot about the event or decided not to grace it with their culturally superior attendance. The so called “quality journalism” only reported about those events they predictably feature every single year. NEWS looks much better when it is a little dusty and people know what to expect.

My last reading was at the RPG Exhibitors’ Party. The RPG people always offer gaming rounds at the Leipzig Book Fair. The party was held in the premises of a very cozy student pub – in Leipzig readings are always distributed all across the city. Very nice people. I read from “Die Quellen der Malicorn” (The wells of the Malicorn). I believe the role players liked it.

On the way home on the train on Sunday, I really wanted to work on my new book, but I fear I was wrestled down by Mr. Sandman who had rather convincing arguments.


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Steampunk reading in Frankfurt

February 19th, 2014

Yesterday, there was a Steampunk reading on at the FAB (Frankfurt Art Bar ) in Frankfurt. The event was great fun. The following authors read from their Steampunk ( or 19th century gothic novel) books:

– Oliver Plaschka: Der Kristallpalast (The Crystal Palace)


– Judith & Christian Vogt: Die zerbrochene Puppe (The broken doll)

– And I: Schwingen aus Stein (Wings of Stone)

The FAB is a wonderful culture and music pub in Frankfurt and Janice, the landlady, had kindly let us loose among her clientele. There were many steampunk friends, some in Steampunk costume. The Feder&Schwert Publishing had sent a donation of books for us to hand to the winners of the costuming competition and these beautiful Steampunk novels now all have found a good steampunky home.


We enjoyed the evening immensely and so, I think, did the audience. A similar event featuring the same authors is scheduled for April 11 in the Drachenwinkel , a book shop (dragon nook book shop)

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