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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My next novel

February 6th, 2022

You’re never quite finished. Not really. But in fact I have now finished writing my new novel and have edited and re-edited and cut it several times. Since I have a tendency to write very long books, but have been told that only a shorter book has any chance of being published by a publisher (Tolkien – despair!), I have put the sword to the manuscript.

I did three levels of shortened manuscript. Some of it really hurt. A reader would probably not miss what is now not mentioned, because they don’t know that it used to be there. Nevertheless, as the author I do miss some nice sentences or even chapters.

The first beta reader criticized that there was too little background ambience. Of course, that’s always the first thing that gets cut, because cutting bits of the plot might make the story illogical.
Now I have four different versions of the manuscript:

1. original
2. shortened once
3. shortened twice
4. very, very, very short – by my standards.

Only the 4th version meets the requirements completely. So if the publisher wants it that way, it will be this nibbled version that the readership will see. If I have to publish it myself, it will be the once shortened version.
We shall see. I’m hoping for a publisher.

So keep your fingers crossed!

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…and once again in English

October 12th, 2021

One by one I am publishing my books in English. The last one  published was „Jenseits des Karussells“ = „Beyond the Merry-Go-Round“. The book is the continuation of the stories that started with  „Das Obsidianherz“ = “Obsidian Secrets”  continued with with „Salzträume“ = “Dreams of Salt” (in two volumes, as it was too long for one).

“Obsidian Secrets” is set in 1865 in Munich, the capital of the Kingdom of Bavaria. King Ludwig II has just been crowned a year earlier and has barely begun to think about building all the wonderful castles we love to visit today – Neuschwanstein, for example. King Ludwig II is pretty much the most romantic but also the most controversial king Bavaria has ever had, and to this day people argue about whether his early demise in Lake Starnberg some 20 years later was an accident, murder or suicide. But His Majesty only appears once in the prologue of “Obsidian Secrets” and is only mentioned occasionally thereafter.

Salzträume“ = “Dreams of Salt”  is set in the same year in autumn, however in the mountains in Austria, which was ruled by Emperor Franz-Josef at the time. In Germany, everyone knows the Sissy movies, which show a romanticised picture of the love and life of Kaiserin Elisabeth. She, too, is not one of the main characters in the book, but – like King Ludwig in “Obsidian Secrets” – appears once briefly in the plot. Otherwise, there are those heroes and heroines who survived the “Obsidian Secrets” and a new heroine, an Austrian lady: courageous, intelligent and strong in character, but stuck in a really unfortunate situation. There is no lack of magic and fey either. They are distributed among the respective sides, and not everything that seems nice, is so. Treachery and crime make life and survival difficult for our warriors.

So now: “Jenseits des Karussells”   = “Beyond the Merry-Go-Round“. in English. Here the story returns to Munich. Two years have passed and the disastrous war of 1866 has changed everything. Bavaria and Austria lost the decisive battle against Prussia, and one of our heroes from “Das Obsidianherz” = “Obsidian Secrets” and “Salzträume” = “Dreams of Salt” is now also a maimed veteran. The real heroine of the book, however, is a young woman who does not realise that she is in any way special. Others, however, know it and plan to take advantage of this, regardless whether she can survive this or not. Then we also have a young painter, a junior magician who has started studying at the Arcane Lodge, a couple of inconspicuous ladies meeting for magical coffee klatsches in Munich, and – last but not least – a very peculiar ginger cat.

Currently I am working on the English version of “Wings of Stone”. Unfortunately, I’m making rather slow progress here. When the book was published in German back then, the publisher insisted on shortening it massively. Now that I’m republishing the book, I’d like to put at least some of the cuts back in. Not all of them. But one or two sentences or thoughts and the odd explanatory reference to what happened before in the other books. In any case, it is tedious work to first compare the old German manuscript with the abridged German manuscript and then to transfer everything again into the English manuscript. That will take a while.

At the same time, I am working on a new project that will also belong to this series, but is set 20 years later. More about that soon.

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“Weltendiebe” – my new book

May 24th, 2021

Weltendiebe“ (Thieves of the Worlds) has been published (so far in German only). It took me some time before I could bring myself to selfpublish it at BoD. But: neither I nor the book are getting any younger. Does that sound a bit frustrated? That may well be so.

I write books because I love writing books. Because writing fulfils and defines me. When I started out, I had no idea about the “book biz”, the book industry, which is just that: a frig*ing industry. I wrote stories because that was what I wanted to do. Because the story and its heroines and heroes were itching inside my soul and wanted to get out. I had the strength to give them life and that felt wonderful.

Very quickly I found out: The fact that you have written an exciting book does not mean that someone wants to publish it. Two different approaches collide here: the author writes a book with heart and soul that she thinks is interesting and entertaining. (Thank you Verlag Feder & Schwert for publishing my first books!)

The typical publisher has other concerns:

  1.  Is the book similar to a bestseller of the last ten years? In that case it could be published.
  2.  Is it simplistic enough for dumb readers to like? Publishers always assume readers are unintelligent. Authors don’t think that. They know their readership have brains and hearts.
  3.  Is the book thin enough to keep the production costs nice and low?
  4.  And finally, is the author perhaps a celebrity, already famous or – even better – infamous in film and television? (In that case it does not matter if the book is bad.)

None of my books have ever met these four critera.

Weltendiebe” is not similar to any book I know – be it a bestseller or not. Sorry. I have no time for authors who deliberately write copies of bestsellers, e.g. the hundredth school of magic. But of course it’s perfect for the typical situation in a bookshop. Mum, grandma or auntie (optionally also dad, grandpa or uncle) come into the shop quoting the time worn phrase: “My daughter/granddaughter/niece likes XXX. Have you got something similar?”

In the case of “Weltendiebe” they would have to ask: “Don’t you have an Urban Fantasy novel set in the here and now, but also in the early 50s – with war orphans and widows and stifling hypocritical morals. And can you please also include one or two post-apocalyptical characters who – coming from a cruel world – act as ruthlessly in our own.”

No one will ask that. And since I’m not a bestselling author, no one will ask, “Don’t you have anything new by Ju Honisch?” just as people ask: “Don’t you have anything new by Stephen King?”

That’s a shame. And it’s the reason why I self-published this book.

Here’s what it’s about:

From a distant future, a world thief leaps into the here and now. In his brutal post-apocalyptical world, knowledge and technology have been lost. Both commodities he wants to steal in our time. To do so, he seeks knowledgeable people whom he wants to abduct.

Anne has no idea that the entrance from another dimension lies in the cellar of her workplace. To Anne’s grandmother, however, terrible things happened back in 1952 in this very house. She remembers, but she keeps silent – until Anne’s younger sister disappears without a trace.

Using dimensional breaches for travel is a sacrilege, and so a murderous pursuer follows the first intruder into our world. His task is to preserve the integrity of the spheres, no matter the cost – even if the lives of the people in this world should have to be sacrificed for this aim.

Anne is determined to find her sister again, but she doesn’t know where to go. All she knows is that jumping from one dimension to another is a crime punishable by death – both here and there.

1952 – Now – Sometime in Somewhere

Here is a preview by my former publisher and current editor, the wonderful Oliver Hoffman, who back then had the courage to publish my first books even though they did not meet any of the above mentioned  industry criteria.

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Stay home and read a book

May 2nd, 2020

So. Since I don’t want to start each one of my entries with an excuse for not having posted anything for such a long time, I’ll start without further ado.

My polar bear was to be presented at Leipzig Book Fair, which unfortunately didn’t take place due to Covid19. “Elgar Polar Bear and Civilisation” . This somewhat episodic book describes the adventures of polar bear Elgar whose ice floe completely melted from under his furry posterior, and who – since he does not want to die out yet –has come to live in our human civilisation. In his endeavour to learn more about civilised urban life he watches and comments our civilisation from his ursine perspective.


I have been asked whether this is fantasy since it pretty much consists of satirical elements.

Well, it is satire,  and it is speculative fiction. Science fiction and  fantasy have always been close to satire. For these genres, you have to know reality in order to determine the strangeness, the otherness and its possible more or less hidden reflection on your own time and space. It is also not  new to have an “outsider” describe a civilization from their point of view. There is “Stranger in a strange land” by Heinlein or “Letters from the Chinese past” by Rosendorfer. Jonathan Swift’s “Gulliver’s Travels” certainly belongs to this group. Perhaps one can even add Tacitus’ “Germania”, as this fellow never had been in Germania and wrote his moralizing work less as a study of the Teutonic tribal life and more as a moral stimulus to a Roman civilisation that seemed to him just a trifle depraved.

But back to Elgar Polar Bear. Elgar is no longer small and cute. Both the polar bear and the manuscript are a bit older. The first chapter of Elgar was once spontaneously written on Livejournal. The rest was written later and adapted to the here and now. It was published too early to bite those people in the ass that ignore the dangers of a worldwide pandemic which remains blithely unimpressed when some social cowards wave their weapons about.

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New Stories

September 6th, 2016

So what’s new? I have done some readings, had a really great time at Feen Con in Bad Godesberg. I was at the FEST of Fantasy. There, too, I read from my stories. The FEST is always quite wonderful. Unfortunately, this year it was a bit rainy.

A new book has just been published: an anthology of short stories, called “Funtastik” to which I contributed a story. funtastik-cover The aim of the anthology was to present the funny side of fantasy. The stories are quite varied. After all, we all have a different sense of humor.

Another short story will appear soon. unfortunately I am not allowed to tell you any  more details. Soon, I promise.

My new novel “Seelenspalter” (=Splitter of Souls) will come out in Droemer Knaur early next year. It has a really nice cover, do take a look. It will be the first of hopefully many books of my new series called “Klingenwelt” (Blade World) And what is it about?


Seelenspalter can bei preordered here.

Maleni is harmless. Taryah is deadly. Together, however, they are but one single person, trained, moulded and soul sliced by the Assassin Order of the Xyi. Without ever being seen, this order guides the fortunes of the war torn Eight Realms of Predorenn. Taryah is a courtesan and hired blade without a conscience. Maleni is a nice, young woman who, while running away from her last deed, meets Umbert and Elgor, both of them travelling blacksmiths. Their knowledge is ancient and magical. They have their very own plans with Maleni who does not suspect this. Maleni must now fight against bloodthirsty pursuers, against the best killers of Eight Realms and against her own inner fighter. She cannot trust anyone, not even herself – and certainly not the mysterious fighter who shows up sometimes, only to disappear again into thin air.

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Love and other things

April 22nd, 2015

It’s time for: The LOVE scene. I can no longer put it off in the current book project. Somehow books can’t do without them. Love tends to be an integral part of the plot, at least in my books.Do I like writing love scenes? Not really. This is not because I have squeamish scruples, but rather has to do with the constant concern that one might stray from the extremely narrow path of good taste in favour of too blatant details on one hand or too flowery metaphors&similes on the other.

I still believe that the “pillow talk” between Cérise and Arpad “Das Obsidianherz” was the most successful love scene in all my books. Its first version was very long and it grew more exciting with every sentence I cut from it. What remained were just 25% of the original text. (Somewhere I still have the long version, but I will never ever show it to anyone.)

So now hero and heroine are getting down to business. And right after that: pirates.

By the way, I find many love scenes in books or movies quite unerotic. Again I do not think this is because of my prudishness, but sometimes you really want to close your eyes and complain: “Oh no, not like that!”. Did you ever notice that kissing noises in movies are always dubbed with the exact same squelchy smacking sound? All over the world, they are probably using this one single recording, a universal, DIN/CEN/ISO-certified squidgy slurp.

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The daily chores of a writer

April 14th, 2015

Patrick Süßmeier, a literary blogger who writes about speculative fiction, has asked a number of German SF/F authors about their “normal day”. A number of us already described their workday to him. I did – and so did Anja Bagus, Sandra Baumgärtner, Nadine d’Arachart, & Sarah Wedler, Markus Heitz, Ann-Kathrin Karschnick, Piper Marou, Henning Mützlitz, Nicole Schuhmacher. The list is stille growing.
So if you’d like to know what the gory details of writing are about, you can find the answer here.

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Short fiction – a list

June 26th, 2014

I am probably better known for my rather longish novels. But over the year I wrote quite a lot of short fiction for anthologies. The list (please see below) may not even be quite complete. But if you read German, these are the places where you will find my stories.


• “90 – 60 – 90” in: “Der Arsch auf dem Sessel“, DIANA Verlag, München

• ” Voll schlank” in: “Ich werde nie mehr auseinandergehen“, DIANA Verlag, München

• “Ein Menu aus Salzträume” in: “Die Köche – Biss zum Mittagessen”, Ulrich Burger Verlag, Homburg

• “Innovationen” in: “Geheimnisvolle Geschichten – Steampunk“, Verlag Saphir im Stahl, Bickenbach

• “Schöne Aussicht” in: “Geheimnisvolle Bibliotheken”, Verlag Torsten Low, Meitingen OT Erlingen

• “Nicht tot” in: “Dark Crime Anthologie”, Geisterspiegel/Romantruhe

• “Im Bilde” in: Exotische Welten” O’Connell Press, Weingarten

• “Aschenputtel” in: “Wahre Märchen 2: Elf klassische Märchen in neuem Gewand”, Feder & Schwert, Mannheim

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New projects

February 3rd, 2014

That last weekend I was busy writing. From morning to evening. And starting over after dinner right till Mr Sandman came by. I even had to decline a wonderful invitation to a a dear friend’s birthday party – no easy decision, believe me. But a deadline is a deadline, even if this particular deadline is a bit blurry, as I am still waiting for the contract. I certainly hope it will come soon, though. But just as musicians do not always know when and if there will be a next gig, and artists mostly cannot predict who will buy their the next picture – or when, writers, too, live in a sort of mire of uncertainty.

This would, of course, be different for the very famous writers, musicians or fine artists. Once you have acquired a certain threshold of fame, you can hardly “create” your art fast enough to cover the demand. If, however, you are what a dear writer-colleague from Canada once called a “middling author”, then you just have to remember your knightly virtues and be patient.

The good news: Soon there again a short story out by me – in an e-book with many other wonderful authors: “Exotic worlds”.

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Ju Honisch



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