Competition Time! Win ‘Swallows, Amazons and Coots’ by Julian Lovelock

Here at The Lutterworth Press, we want to give you a free book. We have a crisp new copy of Swallows, Amazons and Coots: A Reading of Arthur Ransome, by Julian Lovelock, just waiting to be sent to a good home. All you have to do is enter a simple competition and the book can be yours!

9780718894368_cover Swallows3.inddThe Book

Hot on the heels of the new Swallows and Amazonsfilm, we bring you a lively and engaging study of Arthur Ransome’s adventure novels, delving deep into the creative process and politics of their author.

Featuring a foreword by Sophie Neville, former actress of Titty in the 1974 film and president of TARS (The Arthur Ransome Society), this is the first critical book devoted wholly to the Swallows and Amazons series.

Competition Time!

So now that we’ve piqued your interest (go on, admit it) you’re probably wondering how you can…

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Short Story: The Exile of Amphitryon

Beginnings_hist_greece copy

This newest short story I’ve written, The Exile of Amphitryon, is taken from my interest and exploration of Greek myth and the first in a series I intend to do detailing the life and exploits of Heracles and trying to, where possible, to stick to the original stories (which in themselves are second-hand knowledge and folklore making this technically impossible). I won’t be running off on my own interpretation and will be trying to keep the stories educational, in mythological terms at least.

Of course I did a lot of researching to build up the finer details of the subject building on the knowledge I already have and consequently this first piece about Heracles doesn’t feature him at all, but is in fact about Amphitryon, Heracles’s father who surprisingly has some exploits of his own to share in the lead up to Heracles’s birth (Though he’s not the father shhhh… don’t tell anyone).

You can find the story in the menu left of here or simply click this link.

As I’ve already mentioned the myths are all folklore, passed on by oral tradition and scrabbled and scrapped together by historians and archaeologists from various different sources. Which means every story has different interpretations despite ultimately having the same results. As the writer of this story I’ve decided which versions to go with, usually based on what I consider the most interesting but for fun I’ve included below the other interpretations I haven’t included.

  • Instead of Anaxo, Electryon is also stated as being married to Lysidice or Eurydice, both daughters of Pelops. Regardless of who the wife is she gives birth to Alcmene and has little  more role in the myth, consequently this only affects whether Amphitryon eventually marries his niece or his cousin.

Red Hot Chilli Peppers

Here we are at last. Not only are my serrano chilli plants happy, healthy and producing ripened red chillis, they’ve been producing an absolute abundance of the things over the last month. I captured the first lot of little red monsters as they turned:

First Red Chillis

The first bunch of these little guys were a bit on the stubby side but as you can see in the picture they were soon followed by some much larger chillis. Very excited as I was I immediately plucked all of the dwarven red ones and had my first meal using homegrown chillis. As it happens I made some quick and impromptu spicy scrambled egg quesadillas.

Little Red Chillis Spicy Scrambled Egg Quesadillas

But that is by far the least of my chilli adventures since I began harvesting them. As I mentioned I have a veritable cornucopia of red and green chillis and have been trying my hand at all kinds of recipes from those made up on the spot, as I’m wont to do, to good old favourites and trying out exciting treats from cookery books. Including some recipes by Thomasina Miers, who’s restaurant the chillis originally came from.

Lots of Red Chillis

Since that first spicy scrambled egg I’ve made fajitas, enchiladas, an incredibly fiery salsa, guacamole, pumpkin ravioli, stir-fried chilli minced beef, radicchio risotto, chilli jam and the incredibly strange tasting tequila and white chocolate chillis (Which I had seen on BBC’s Sweets Made Simple.). I haven’t stopped there though and I still have no shortage of chillis. In the meantime I’ve strung up a few of the peppers to ripen up and dry out for later usage. I’ll be honest, they are almost guaranteed to end up in some chilli chocolate truffles!

Strung Up Chillis Later

Green Chilli Fingers


Having grown slowly and steadily over several months my chilli plants have undergone a large growth spurt. The tallest of the plants, Geoffrey, is now as tall as me, having spent the longest time trying to reach even just a metre in height. Most pleasingly, all six plants flowered, sprouting little, delicate white flowers and not long after began to grow chilli peppers. It is quite fascinating to see the peppers growing from within the flowers, eventually knocking off the petals as they grow and sometimes being left with a ‘crown’ created by the decaying remains of the flower on the chilli. The first flower and chilli of my plants I mentioned before. Now that solitary chilli child has dozens of siblings to join it, see below:


In the process of uprighting the chilli plants, they had begun leaning to the side with the weight of the serrano peppers, two peppers had fallen off and I took the opportunity to nibble on the end of one. I was surprised to find it not at all spicy and attributed it to the pepper still being young, and to only nibbling on the fleshy tip of the pepper and not the spicy source of the seeds and other inner workings. According to the great knowledge of the internet the peppers should turn red as they ripen, though it is perfectly acceptable to use them whilst they are green.

Short Story: The Trojan Legacy

This latest short story, on this page, is an amalgamation of three different mythological stories that also have historical elements to them. The end result is a bit of a mash up but I enjoyed the writing of it as it helped me to draw parallels between them.

The main inspirational draw comes from the Romance of the Three Kingdoms novel, a romantised version of the Three Kingdoms Period in Chinese history. This should come as no surprise to anyone who read my earlier post. Strong elements of the Battle of Chi Bi, a significant fight where two forces allied against a third, are included to create a battle that parallels it heavily. I chose to do this for a reason I will explain in a moment. First though, one of the more fascinating elements of the military history, or storytelling method of the book, is the way in which commanders and emperors had advisors for domestic issues and advisors for military issues. There were those who are taken to war and who must come up with advice for tactics and diplomacy, supporting their higher ups rather concocting an implementing schemes on their own. I wanted to take this element for a war council, and the concept of an emperor and transplant it into a far more European culture.

Which brings me to the second myth, King Arthur. This element is small in the story and that is because I have designs on writing a much more extended piece to accommodate my ideas. In the mean time however Arthurian legend has similar elements of strong heroes combating enemies in war like scenarios, and there are always suggestions of historical elements with this fictional King of Camelot. I here merged the two characters of Zhuge Liang, a famous tactician, and Merlin, the wizard, who both set about assisting their Lords in ruling a kingdom.

The third element is The Fall of Troy from Greek myth, the existence of Troy itself being a question unravelled by archaeologists. The chief parallel here is between the Trojan horse ploy, in which the Greeks fooled the Trojans in accepting a wooden horse into their city that was in fact filled with Greek soldiers. And a defection told in The Romance of the Three Kingdoms, in which Huang Gai falsely defects to Cao Cao in order to light his ships on fire. In both cases the the army is fooled by what appears to be a gift and ultimately becomes their downfall.

Enjoy the story, and share your opinions. Read it here: The Trojan Legacy

Romance of the Three/Four Kingdoms

My first taste of a Dynasty Warriors game was the fourth entry in the series. After that I avidly played and completed 5, 6, 7 and most recently I’ve gotten my hands on 8. I have a penchant for what I call unintentionally educational games, I’ve mentioned before that I enjoyed the Civilisation series and it’s thanks to them that I’m not completely lost watching historical documentaries when they mention places like Carthage. The Dynasty Warriors series is (loosely) based the Three Kingdoms Period in China. The characters and the actions are all based upon historical information and the heavily biased Romance of the Three Kingdoms novel, though they all receive a very ‘colourful’ redesign and interpretation. One wonders what the real life Zhang He would think of his modern day interpretation.

Jin WallpaperThe Three Kingdoms Period is so called, quite simply, because at that time China was divided into three kingdoms, Wu, Wei and Shu. The period ends when a new kingdom, Jin, emerges and conquers the land. In fact Wei finally conquers Shu, changes its name to Jin and then conquers Wu. The Jin kingdom was introduced into the game series with Dynasty Warriors 7 and curiously enough is composed of officers who served Wei, almost none of whom survive to see the creation of Jin. The reasoning is simple enough, Jin represents the end of the Three Kingdoms Period. The characters chosen for the Jin faction are selected because they assisted and created the foundations for what would eventually become the kingdom of Jin. Despite this it’s hard to imagine they felt a greater loyalty to the Sima clan (Founders and Rulers of Jin) than to their current rulers the Cao clan (Rulers of Wei).

The questionable connection to Jin along with the inherent fascination I have with the histories of these characters, and that others might be interested in, has prompted me to describe what I know of each one (from the Romance of the Three Kingdoms book and the internet). I’ll start with those who I feel have the least connection to Jin and move onto those with the most, meaning the Sima’s will be at the end of the list. If you’re interested in knowing who survived into the creation of Jin, it was started by Sima Yan in 265AD.

Guo HuaiFirst up, it’s Guo Huai. Portrayed in the game as permanently ill and sporting an arm mounted cannon to fight his enemies with, there seems to be no historical basis for the design, other than dying of illness which was actually a pretty common way to go despite the warring times. Rising up the ranks he ended up serving Xiahou Yuan and regrouped his forces after the latter was slain. He participates greatly in the battles against Shu on the Shu-Wei border with Sima Yi as commander. In the novel he is slain by Jiang Wei of Shu, in history he dies of illness in 255AD, ten years before Jin.

Deng AiNext it’s Deng Ai. Rising through the ranks and receiving the notice of Sima Yi, Deng Ai came up with a lot of intelligent ideas and tactics that furthered the Wei battles against Shu. He repeatedly defended Wei against Jiang Wei’s attacks and displayed a habit of predicting the actions of others. Ultimately responsible for the final defeat of Shu, Deng Ai was able to lead an army to Shu’s capital, Chengdu, and receive the surrender of the Shu emperor, Liu Shan. Shortly afterwards Deng Ai is executed due to the machinations of Zhong Hui, which I’ll go into more detail with in a moment, in 264AD. One year before Jin.

Zhong HuiZhong Hui. Like Deng Ai, Zhong Hui major contribution was in the final battles against Shu. His is represented as being an intelligent and talented man but one who created distrust amongst others with his arrogance. He also held a fierce rivalry with Deng Ai over the rewards for their efforts. After the surrender of Shu, Zhong Hui develops a friendship with Jiang Wei who is still intent on reviving Shu. Together the pair incriminate Deng Ai and steal his forces. Zhong Hui declares independence and at Jiang Wei’s suggestion intends to execute the Wei officers under his command. On discovering this the officers kill Zhong Hui and Jiang Wei, unfortunately Deng Ai is still executed when he attempts to return due to the officers fears of being involved in his incrimination. Zhong Hui died in 264AD, one year before Jin.

Zhuge DanZhuge Dan, suggested to in some way be a relative of Zhuge Liang, held a fair few important posts in Wei and was mostly involved in fighting against Wu, where he suffered a few defeats. He was invited by Wen Qin and Guanqiu Jian to join their rebellion but refused and assisted in subjugating them. However, as the Sima clan began to rise in power he rebelled against them fearful either of his life or for the future of Wei. He received assistance from Shu and Wen Qin. When he executed Wen Qin, Qin’s son Wen Yang returned to Wei. Zhuge Dan’s rebellion was soon defeated and he was killed in 258AD. Seven years before Jin.

Xiahou BaThe son of Xiahou Yuan, Xiahou Ba served Wei his family being long standing supporters of the Cao rulers. Like Zhuge Dan, Xiahou Ba’s actions are actually against the potential formation of the Jin kingdom, but in the same way help to highlight its imminent creation. After the execution of Xiahou Xuan by the Sima clan Xiahou Ba flees for his life. He is welcomed into Shu due to distant relations by marriage and ends up fighting Wei under the command of Jiang Wei. He dies in 262AD, three years before Jin.

Wen YangOne of the new characters and a playable officer that actually served Jin. Wen Yang as already mentioned was part of his father’s, Wen Qin’s, rebellion. He was said to be a great warrior, though the rebellion failed, he, his father and brother then joined Wu. They were ordered to assist Zhuge Dan’s rebellion and after the death of Wen Qin, Wen Yang defected back to Wei. He was saved from execution, due to his father’s rebellion, by Zhong Hui’s recommendation and went on to serve well under Jin rule. I don’t feel Wen Yang contributes to the rise of Jin but he certainly gets bonus points for actually being a Jin officer. He was executed in 291AD after an accusation from Zhuge Dan’s grandson. 26 years of service in the Jin dynasty.

Sima YiSima Yi is widely credited as laying the foundations of the Jin dynasty with his usurping of Cao Shuang as regent. Portrayed as having a rivalry with Zhuge Liang, Sima Yi was Wei’s strategist with several victories under his belt. Once he had installed himself as regent he set about removing supporters of the Cao clan and placing the Sima’s in position of power, particularly his sons Shi and Zhao. In previous Dynasty Warriors games he has been part of the Wei playable characters. The grandfather of Sima Yan, he died in 251AD, fourteen years before Jin.

Zhang ChunhuaThere’s not much to say of Sima Yi’s wife Zhang Chunhua, given the reduced role of females in history. Portrayed in the games as the woman behind the man, Zhang Chunhua was actually largely ignored by Sima Yi and starved herself in one incident where she had been reprimanded by him. Sima Yi apologised after being convinced by her sons. She gave birth to Shi and Zhao among others. She died in 247AD, eighteen years before Jin, but was posthumously named empress by Sima Yan.

Sima ShiFollowing on from Sima Yi, Sima Shi took over control. He furthered the Sima clans power and put down several rebellions in Wei. It was during his short period of power that many, including Xiahou Ba and Zhuge Dan, grew to fear the Sima clan. He Died shortly after quelling Wen Qin’s rebellion, 255AD. Ten years before Jin.

Sima ZhaoThe next Sima to assume control was Sima Zhao. He spent a lot of time building his power and preparing to usurp the imperial throne. Though never actually doing so, his intentions were obvious. Eventually the current emperor, Cao Mao, attacked Sima Zhao to stop him gaining the throne but was killed and replaced with Cao Huan. Sima Zhao was in charge of Wei during the conquering of Shu and it is his son Sima Yan that formed Jin. He died in 265AD, Yan founding Jin shortly after his death.

Wang YuanjiWang Yuanji, wife of Sima Zhao and mother of Sima Yan. She was said to have predicted Zhong Hui’s revolt. In the games she supports Sima Zhao and encourages him to take on the responsibilities his talents grant him. Like many of the female characters in the games Wang Yuanji doesn’t have a particular role and is often there just because. It’s the unfortunate combination of historical source material in which women were not considered equal to men and modern values which strive for some level of equality. I enjoy the inclusion of the female characters in the games though as they bring some much needed diversity. She died in 268AD as empress dowager, three years into Jin rule.

Jia ChongFinally we have another new character to the series, Jia Chong. Whilst the game does little to introduce him it does well to represent him as a behind the scenes manipulator who mentors Sima Zhao on the mercilessness necessary to cement rule. Jia Chong, aside from the Sima’s themselves, is the character who most supported the rise of Jin. He assisted Zhao well and predicted Zhuge Dan’s rebellion. It was his subordinate, Cheng Ji, who killed Emperor Cao Mao and he continued to politically serve Jin under Sima Yan’s rule. What I find most interesting is that it is his daughter, Jia Nanfeng, who would go on to be a primary cause of the next period of civil unrest, The War of the Eight Princes. He died in 282AD, serving Jin for seventeen years.

I find the whole period fascinating and thoroughly recommend reading Romance of the Three Kingdoms for yourself, which has a more romanticised approach than the actual histories but is correct enough for a passing interest. I also welcome any discussion about it so feel free to comment.

Fan Fiction: The River Skirmish

I’m calling this short story a fan fiction because I’ve based it on the Magic: the Gathering trading card game. I did it as a form of writing exercise, attempting to dramatise the game and describing everything that happens more as if it were an actual battle rather than a card game.

For any Magic fans out there they might be able to pick out the cards I was using, they’re all from the Kamigawa block. As this was something of an experiment I thought I would use my personal favourites and keep them thematically correct, i.e. all from the Kamigawa universe. Nothing happens that did not happen in the card game I recorded my notes from, though I did use some creative licence. For example; I chose not to include planeswalkers, as in the players, but felt it would be better to have the forces arrive on the battlefield rather than be summoned magically and follow orders without question or motivation. Consequently that meant whenever a creature attacked I described them as fighting another creature rather than hitting an invisible life total, so any fighting where a creature isn’t killed is an indication of a direct attack against the other player.

If you’d like to read it it’s right here, but be warned it is essentially just a large fight scene.