The Border – Part 7

Hurray for another installment of The Border!

Hello everyone! Welcome back! I hope your holiday season is off to a smashing start, I know mine is! To break up my monotony and get my brain working on different angles for Steel Praetorian, I decided to catch up on my short story – The Border – so here is part 7 for your enjoyment. If you forgot everything that was going on, here’s a link to Part 1 to enjoy the story from the beginning.

Also remember, you can get Iron Tribune on Sale now through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords! My latest novel is packed full of action, adventure, assassination and political intrigue (Or AAAP, for short!) Get it now, and be sure to subscribe to my blog and follow me on facebook as well to get all the latest updates on my novels and other fascinating topics.

Continue reading “The Border – Part 7”

Finalizing Iron Tribune + A Kickstarter Update

Iron Tribune Updates Plus a Kickstarter Illustration Reveal!

Hi everyone,

Sorry for the delay in posting but I wanted to have a lot to share! Below you’ll find a sample illustration and the final cover and back cover illustration/artwork. I’m really excited to share these with you. Kickstarter backers have access to almost all of the illustrations as well, which come as a perk of being a backer!

With these done, and the maps being finalized, all that remains is for me to double check all the formatting and illustration locations, receive the final files and upload them to the Amazon, B+N, and Smashwords book sites. With that done, I can order proof and final copy print books and prepare to send them out to all my backers and then place them up for general sale! Without further ado, here’s the illustrations.



Can’t wait to share the entire book with you!

Oh, and did I mention there’s a good chance I’ll be getting The Steam Empire Chronicles translated into a different language? I’m in negotiation with a company to license and distribute my book in Portuguese. We’ll see where it goes, but I’m excited to explore this opportunity!

The Border, Part 5

Part 5 of the Border is now ready for your enjoyment! Also, read to the end to learn about the next step for Iron Tribune! Don’t miss this update!

Salve! Part 5 of the Border is here for your reading enjoyment. With the Quadi close to escaping, Perula leads his men on a series of desperate charges. But can they stall the barbarians long enough for their allies to reach them? Not sure where to start? Read Part 1 and Part 2 now to get the low-down.

Be sure to read to the end of this part, as I’ve some extra information on Iron Tribune You’ll be interested in hearing!

Continue reading “The Border, Part 5”

The Border: Part 4

Salve! Part 4 of the Border stands ready for your attention. Odiscus leads his Easterners to save his allies. As the first clash of battle begins, will the Romans emerge victorious?

Salve! Part 4 of the Border has arrived, and features the first clash of arms between our makeshift Roman defenders and their surprised barbarian adversaries. Enjoy! Continue reading “The Border: Part 4”

Short Story Series: The Border, Part 1

Part One of the Border, the beginning of a short story set in the late Roman Empire.

So while I wait for the kickstarter, cover art, editing, and everything else to fall into place, I found myself inspired by some miniatures that I’ve been working on. This story doesn’t fall into the world of the Steam Empire Chronicles, but maybe I can blend it in later (depending on the response).

Let me know what you think below! All commentary is welcome.  Continue reading “Short Story Series: The Border, Part 1”

Trains in the Steam Empire Chronicles

Trains in a Roman Alternate History? Learn more about Steam Trains in the Steam Empire Chronicles!

By Daniel Ottalini

Steampunk is a genre of imagination and creation. Nowhere is that more apparent than the majestic steam train. Harkening back to an era of opulence, industry, hard work, and elegance, the chugging steam train kindles the joy of machinery and a love for transportation. As a small child, I was famous in my family for not only building long, winding, one lane traffic jams of Hot Wheels cars, but also for creating extravagantly huge sets of train tracks and monopolizing the entire living room for hours at a time.

Continue reading “Trains in the Steam Empire Chronicles”

Other Notable Cultures in the Steam Empire Chronicles

Curious about the other cultures in the Steam Empire Chronicles? Read on to learn more about the Nortlanders in the first part of this mini-series!

[a man walks up to a podium and taps on the microphone. There is a slight squeal, then the audio levels out]

Greetings all, and welcome to my brief lecture on the other cultures and notable political entities in our world today. Before I begin, please take note of this map – as you can see, it has been heavily modified and shaded in by yours truly, but it should give a good indication of some of our… less friendly… neighbors.Rough Draft of Map

So as you can see, our exceptional empire is bordered by Nortland, the barbarian collective of raiders, miners, and other uncivilized tribes. It was believed that their forces were behind the invasion of Brittenburg and the assassination of the Primus Imperio in Rome.

As you can see, my map does not reflect the recent Roman invasion of Nortland, where our gallant forces crushed their Nortlander opponents. It is good that we have forced these barbarian savages into peace, for our other enemies have decided to take advantage of our northern focus to attack us from the east.

Yes, you heard me, the Mongols have unified once more and are pushing east from their bases in Bactria and Persia. The scattered rebellions of their Persian subjects that so aided us in our last war with them have been crushed. Whilst I have little love for our former neighbors, their sacrifice helped ensure our ability to hold the eastern half of the empire.

But before I broach that topic, let us turn back to the Nortlanders.
Savage and cruel, with a streak of cunning hiding beneath their gruff exteriors, the Nortlanders have secretly emulated us Romans for centuries. Consider their own mechanical creation, the Mechwolf. Quite obviously, they stole the idea from our own mechaniphant. But what good is a copy when faced with the real thing? I have heard that an unnamed chronicler was able to illustrate part of a battle between our own warmachines and those of the northerners, but you shall have to check out Copper Centurion in order to access those drawings.

In battle, the Nortlanders pride themselves on their hit and run tactics, preferring to strike and flee rather than face our brave soldiers in a stand up fight. Only when pushed back into a corner will they turn and strike, like a wounded bear. They are great lovers of the raid, and have, in times past, raided as far south as the lands of the Gauls and Britannia.

Their government is a hybrid of monarchy and tribalism, with Wardens serving as sub-kings over smaller tribes in the four cardinal directions, bowing to the overall king reigning in Midgard, or House of the Winter Gods, as the Nortlanders say. Of the Warden positions, those of the East and South are the most important and powerful, with the East Warden facing off against the Mongolian Khanates of Rus and the South Warden dealing with the Romans.

Technological wise, they are capable of adaptation and modifying stolen technology. Nortland culture does not have a ready place for scientists or engineers, and have imported or captured Roman or even Mongolian specialists for specific work. They have built and designed capable warships able to match our standard and imperial sized warships. However, they are very limited in their ability to maintain or service their fleet with the limited number of support staff. Thus, their ships are prone to breaking down, particularly in the harsh northern weather. Weapons wise, the Nortlanders favor stone over bolt throwers, and have minimal amounts of gunpowder weaponry. One piece of technology that they do have is the chain-axe, a mechanical saw attached to the standard war-axe form. When activated, the teeth of the chain axe allow it to tear through shields, armor, and flesh with relative ease. Chain Axes are even capable of damaging both our own Ostrichines and Mechaniphants. Rest assured that our own Roman engineers are looking at ways to modify the technology for our own use as we speak.

Tune in soon for our next chat on the Khanates of Rus and the East. Be sure to subscribe to the blog above, and follow me on facebook and twitter, so you can keep up to date on the latest news about the Steam Empire Chronicles!

Guest Post: Alison Morton

Read this guest post by author Alison Morton on creating a realistic and plausible Alternate History world in your writing!

How to build a Roman future

First of all, thank you so much, Daniel, for swapping blogs today. It’s lovely to be hosted by another ‘Roman nut’. But my vision of an alternate Roman state is a little different…

Setting a story in the past or in another country is already a challenge. But if you invent the country and need to meld it with history that the reader already knows, then the task is doubled.

Unless writing post-apocalyptic, the geography and climate must resemble the ones in the region where the imagined country lies. And no alternate history writer can neglect their imagined country’s social, economic and political development. This sounds dry, but every living person is a product of their local conditions. Their experience of living in a place, and struggle to make sense of it, is expressed through culture and behaviour.
Norman Davies in Vanished Kingdoms: The History of Half-Forgotten Europe reminds us that:
…in order to survive, newborn states need to possess a set of viable internal organs, including a functioning executive, a defence force, a revenue system and a diplomatic force. If they possess none of these things, they lack the means to sustain an autonomous existence and they perish before they can breathe and flourish.

I would add history and willpower as essential factors.

So these are the givens. How do writers weave them into their stories? The key is plausibility. Take a character working in law enforcement. Readers can accept cops being gentle or tough, enthusiastic, intellectual or world-weary. Law enforcers come from all genders, classes, races and ages and stand in different places along the personal morality ruler. But whether corrupt or clean, they must act like a recognisable form of cop. They catch criminals, arrest and charge them and operate within a judicial system. Legal practicalities may differ significantly from those we know, but they must be consistent with that society while remaining plausible for the reader. But a flashing light and an oscillating siren on a police vehicle are universal symbols that instantly connect readers back to their own world.

Almost every story written hinges upon implausibility – a set-up or a problem the writer has purposefully created. Readers will engage with it and follow as long as the writer keeps their trust. One way to do this is to infuse, but not flood, the story with corroborative detail so that it verifies and reinforces the original setting the writer has introduced.  Even though my book is set in the 21st century, the Roma Novan characters say things like ‘I wouldn’t be in your sandals (not ‘shoes’) when he finds out.’  And there are honey-coated biscuits (Honey was important for the ancient Romans.) not chocolate digestives (iconic British cookie) or bagels in the squad room.

In my novel, INCEPTIO, the core story of a twenty-five year old New Yorker who faces total disruption to her life when a sinister government enforcer compels her to flee to her dead mother’s mysterious homeland in Europe could be set anywhere. But I’ve made New York an Autonomous City in the Eastern United States (EUS) that the Dutch only left in 1813 and the British in 1865. The New World French states of Louisiane and Québec are ruled by Gouverneurs-Généraux on behalf of Napoléon VI; California and Texas belong to the Spanish Empire; and the Western Territories are a protected area for the Indigenous Peoples. These are background details as the New World is only the setting for the first few chapters. But as J K Rowling knew with Harry Potter’s world, although you don’t put it in the books, you have to have worked it all out in your head.

INCEPTIO_front cover_300dpi_sm

So, how to do this?

1. Decide on your Point of Divergence [POD] from real timeline history.

Research this to death; know the political set-up, religion, customs, dress, food, agriculture, geography, economy, legal background, defence forces, cultural attitudes, everyday life of all classes and groups. These are the building blocks for your alternate society.

Illustrating this with Roma Nova:
In AD 395 [fixing the POD], three months after the final blow of Theodosius’ last decree banning all pagan religions [political/legal set-up], over four hundred Romans loyal to the old gods [religious background], and so in danger of execution, trekked north out of Italy to a semi-mountainous area similar to modern Slovenia [geography]. Led by Senator Apulius at the head of twelve senatorial families [political/class background], they established a colony based initially on land owned by Apulius’ Celtic father-in-law [cultural – intermarriage with non-Romans]. By purchase [land-management], alliance [politics] and conquest [normal Roman behaviour!], this grew into Roma Nova.

2. Know how you want your society to be and develop it with historic logic.

If your story world doesn’t hang together, you will break a reader’s trust. You can have a fantastic world, such as Romans and steampunk 😉 but it needs to have reached that place in a plausible way. Writers need to provide motivation, whether personal or political or just forced by circumstances from outside. In my modern Roma Nova world, women are prominent.

This seems a long way from the ancient world where Roman attitudes to women were repressive [starting point]. But towards the later Imperial period [moving time on] women gained much more freedom to act, trade and own property and to run businesses of all types [social and economic development]. Divorce was easy, and step and adopted families were commonplace [standard Roman social custom].

Apulius, the leader of Roma Nova’s founders, had married Julia Bacausa, the tough daughter of a Celtic princeling in Noricum. She came from a society in which, although Romanised for several generations, women in her family made decisions, fought in battles and managed inheritance and property [non-Roman values introduced]. Their four daughters [next generation] were amongst the first pioneers [automatically new tough environment] so necessarily had to act more decisively [changing behaviour patterns] than they would have in a traditional urban Roman setting.

Given the unstable, dangerous times in Roma Nova’s first few hundred years [outside circumstances], eventually the daughters as well as sons had to put on armour and carry weapons to defend their homeland and their way of life [societal motivation]. So I don’t think that it’s too far a stretch for women to have developed leadership roles in all parts of Roma Novan life over the next sixteen centuries.

3. Keep some anchors to the readers’ pre-knowledge.

Creating a story should be fun for the writer and the result rewarding for the reader. Although most writers like to encourage the reader to work a little and participate in the experience, writers shouldn’t bewilder readers.  I mentioned plausibility earlier and how to inject corroborative details into the world being created. Anchors are equally important. For example, if you say “Roman legionary” most readers have an idea in their head already.

Taking Roma Nova as an example:
Roma Nova’s continued existence has been favoured by three factors: the discovery and exploitation of high-grade silver in their mountains [luck!], their efficient technology [historical fact], and their robust response to any threat [core Roman attitude]. Remembering their Byzantine cousins’ defeat in the Fall of Constantinople [known historical fact], Roma Novan troops assisted the western nations at the Battle of Vienna in 1683 to halt the Ottoman advance into Europe [known historical turning point]. Nearly two hundred years later, they used their diplomatic skills to help forge an alliance to push Napoleon IV back across the Rhine as he attempted to expand his grandfather’s empire [building on known historical person’s story].

4. Make the alternate present real.

Writers need to imbue their characters with a sense of living in the present, in the now. This is their current existence, for them it’s not some story in a book(!). Character-based stories are popular; readers are intrigued by what happens to individual people living in different environments as well as taking part in major historical events. Sometimes it’s more interesting to follow the person’s story than the big event itself…

5. Go visible.

Obviously, an imagined country is pretty hard to photograph. If you can draw, then you have the tools literally at your fingertips, but if like me your artistic skills are limited to turning out sketches of pin-men, then it’s back to the camera.

Images suggest tones, possibilities, and elements on which to base your ideas. Roma Nova is situated in the middle of Europe. I’m a European and have visited most countries, including a trip to Rome and Pompeii last year, so I have an idea of the countryside and cityscapes I’m looking for. The results are here; I refer back to them if I’m finding it difficult to visualise my characters in a particular location. Readers have loved them as well so it’s a double benefit.

In summary, alternate history gives us a rich environment in which to develop our storytelling.  As with any story in any genre, the writing must create a plausible world, backed by meticulous research, but the writer is, of course, the master of their universe.

IMG_3906_sm(from Daniel) Alison Morton is the author of Inceptio, an alternate history novel showcasing the continued existence of a small fragment of Rome’s once great empire in the modern age through the eyes of undercover cop Karen Brown. I heartily recommend you check it out! Be sure to hop over and check out my blog posting on using steampunk in your alternate history world at her blog!





Following up on the Kickstarter…

A Brief Update on the Kickstarter rewards and an invitation to check out my Facebook Page!

Hi everyone!

Roma de noche. Via del Fori Imperiali.
Roma Central – Old School Style


So for today’s posting, I’m sharing what is happening here at Roma Central within the Kickstarter department. So far, we’ve got several things happening…


  1. The thank you post cards have been stamped (some still need special stamps to go to special places!)
  2. I think I have enough books on hand to deal with those people who wanted paper backs, but I need to do one final count.
  3. As for the posters, I have enough of them to send to people as well! I just have to make sure they can all fit into the same box!
  4. Work on Antioch Burns – featuring characters designed by your fellow readers – is progressing slowly but surely.


So as you can see, I haven’t left my kickstarter friends in the dark! Their rewards should definitely be done pretty soon, and thus will be sent out way ahead of the August due date.


By the way, did you know I have a facebook page? Please go there and ‘Like’ me to get more updates, cool pictures and illustrations, and more! Also, I plan on running a mini-competition to get some more ‘likes’ very soon – with a cool, as yet unreleased, prize!

Oh, and there may be a new kickstarter in the far future for Iron Tribune. Copper Centurion is doing much better than I’ve expected, getting pretty low in the rankings chart (i.e. 7th place, 12th place, etc) But Brass Legionnaire has been 2nd place in the Greek and Roman books page for the last few weeks! Yippee!


Check out the novels already!


Ten Things to Know about Writing Historical Fiction (Guest Post by Hazel West)

Ten Rules to follow when Writing Historical Fiction – A Guest Post by Author Hazel West

Hi all,

As part of her blog tour for her new novel, By Blood or By Bond, Author Hazel West is joining us to talk briefly about the world of Historical Fiction, something similar (but not the same) as my personal favorite genre – alternate history. Plus, I’m a sucker for a good Roman History novel. Enjoy!

Ten (Unnoficial) Things You Should Know About Writing Historical Fictionbutton

1. First off, it’s fiction. That means you can bend the truth a little bit if you want to. So if you can’t find that info you need, make it up. Or add a little alternate history or steampunk if you want.

2. The awesome things you have the chance to try out. Think of it: reenacting epic battles in your back yard (scaring the neighbors), playing around with swords, (and don’t forget jousting with your bicycle and a broom handle!) trying Roman recipes, a medieval feast, or having a traditional posh English tea. The possibilities are endless.

3. You get to write about all your favorite historical figures if you so choose! Think of it: your words in the mouth of such as George Washington, or Hannibal! Okay, that might be a daunting thing at times, but if you just go for it, I find it works out a lot better.

4. You’ll get to clear the library out of all the books on your topic, thus making everyone else very annoyed, probably. Just remember not to hurt your back carrying them all out of the library.

5. Read some historical novels about the same time period. No, not to copy other author’s work (that’s plagiarism!), but to get a feel for how things are described or how you might go about it. Smells, sounds, sights, of the time period. Also, it’s a good excuse to get a few fun reads in while you’re supposed to be doing research.

6. If possible, check out the historical sights you are writing about. If this isn’t possible, then watching documentaries or travel videos works too. Just don’t put too much faith in Hollywood, because most of the time historical films are NOT filmed on site.

7. Okay, I won’t lie, you’re probably going to butt heads with people who say your books aren’t accurate. If this happens, direct them to Number One.

8. You’ll have to do copious amounts of research. There’s going to be a lot of every day things you won’t know about when writing historical fiction. Obviously, your medieval peasant can’t just pop open a package of Poptarts for breakfast, and if you think they can, you have a lot of research to do. 30% of writing historical fiction is coming up with a story and characters, the other 70% is research, research, and more research! Do not neglect it, even if you don’t use it all.

9. As with every novel, you are going to have to do multiple edits and possibly even re-writes. But with historical fiction, comes the further fact checking. Maybe if you’re lucky, you can find a fellow writer or reader who knows a lot about your book subject too to read it over for you and tell you if everything is good and historically sound (within reason, that is). If they complain about that crucial, irreplaceable part of your book not being accurate, remember to refer them, once again, to Number One.

10. As with every book, Have Fun! Historical fiction is probably the most fun genre to research next to mystery writing (unless you do historical mysteries, of course!). I can’t tell you how many stories I’ve come up with while researching for one book and finding other things that would make fantastic novels. It might be harder work than writing something from your own time period, but I guarantee you, it’s an adventure all on it’s own and very rewarding in the end!

About the Author:DSCN1548

Hazel West lives in Florida where she spend a good bit of time writing historical fiction about brave men and women who have graced the pages of history, trying to bring more light to their legacies so readers of all ages will enjoy them.

Hazel’s favorite things/hobbies: Writing obviously, listening to and playing Irish and Scottish folk music, practicing with all eras and types of historical weaponry, GOOD COFFEE, reading of course, dark (dark) chocolate, sketching/painting, hats, scarves and boots, collecting little old-fashioned things of all kinds, buying books, and don’t forget dressing in period clothing!

You can find Hazel on her Blog, via twitter @artfulscribbler, or on Goodreads

Click onward to read a description and teaser of Hazel’s new novel, By Blood or By Bond.

Continue reading “Ten Things to Know about Writing Historical Fiction (Guest Post by Hazel West)”

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