It’s not very often that I actually get to visit the places I write about. Very little of Saxon England remains as it would have been. But for Cragside, I could visit as often as I liked, and I did. I’m going to share some images of the interior of the house with you. These were either taken during December 2021, so might be a bit Christmasy, or were taken in August 2021. (apologises to people I’ve accidentally snapped).
Cragside: A 1930s murder mystery is now available in ebook, hardback, paperback and audio.
Today, I’m releasing the ebook, paperback and audiobook of Cragside into the wild. I loved writing this book, and I want to say that my narrator, Gill Mills, has done an amazing job of bringing the character of Lady Ella Merryweather to life. Thank you.
But, why Cragside?
Cragside is a National Trust property in North Northumberland. During Lockdown, it was one of the places that was allowed to remain open (the grounds were) for locals. What started as a single visit because it was just amazing to go somewhere that wasn’t home, or the walk down the road, became a regular weekly haunt. Every week, just about without fail, and no matter the weather, we walked around the estate, exploring places I’d never seen before. And what an absolute joy it was. Cragside, the house, is majestic, but it’s the estate and all of its wonderful nature that really called to me. It’s not unusual to see a deer on the vast estate, or to watch birds, ducks and even some fish, in their natural environment. And some of the ducks like to have a proper little scrap, which really echoes.
And the more I walked around the estate, the more I started to see possibilities for a new story. The basin tank, dark and brooding, seemed like a perfect place to find a body, and that was just the first of the thoughts I had about a potential new story. And, of course, I also made the decision to set the story in Autumn, because while the spring and summer are beautiful, I’m a huge fan of Autumn colours, and it’s not just because the estate tends to be quieter over the cooler months:)
My main character, Lady Ella Merryweather, developed along with my walks and I enjoyed crafting the story of a woman already suspected of murder trying to prove her innocence in the 1930s.
I hope you’ll enjoy my 1930s murder mystery inspired by my love of Cragside and Agatha Christie novels.
What better way to celebrate, nearly, two years of Coelwulf and his pals, than with a blog tour to showcase all of the books in the series (to date – I’m currently working on book 7).
What started as a bit of mad idea in The Last King has become a series featuring a cast of warriors (and horses) that my readers love reading about, and about who I love to write. Not to mention inspiring the prequel series – which begins with Son of Mercia – and tells the story of a very young Icel.
To celebrate all of this, I have three, yes three, paperback copies of the short story collection, Coelwulf’s Company, to giveaway to readers. They’ll come signed and dated, and to anywhere in the world. To enter, just follow this link to Rafflecopter, where it’ll ask you to follow me on Twitter, and you should be entered. I’ll get in touch with the winners at the end of the giveaway, which I hope is midnight on 18th March 2022 (if I’ve set it up correctly). Good luck with the prize draw and do let me know if there are any problems.
The historical setting of the Gods and Kings trilogy
It’s often assumed that we know very little about the men and women of seventh century Britain, and that’s not wrong, however, what is known makes for a compelling narrative.
The seventh century in Britain is more often than not, lauded as the Golden Age of Northumbria, the northernmost Saxon kingdom of England. Many will have heard of the magnificent fortress on Northumberland’s coast, Bamburgh, or as some will know it Bebbanburg (even though must of what stands to this day is a late nineteenth century addition). Many may have heard of the names Edwin, Oswald Whiteblade, and his brother, Oswiu. Many may know of their Celtic Christianity, of Bishop Aidan from Iona beginning his monastery on Lindisfarne and the explosion in art which seems to come to natural fruition with the works of Bede in the later eighth century. But there is much, much more than that.
The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle tells us of a series of great battles fought on the island of Britain during the seventh century, most, if not all of them, great victories for Northumbria’s royal family, or if not victories, then terrible tragedies. Edwin, the uncle of Oswald Whiteblade, slew his nephew’s father, and Oswald was forced to flee into exile, where he was introduced to Celtic Christianity. And yet, this was only a mirror of Edwin’s own life, when he too had been forced to flee into exile when Oswald’s father claimed the kingdom of Northumbria. And all of this is fascinating, but what of the other kingdoms, and their leaders?
And here, we encounter, Penda of Mercia, a pagan king, at a time when the Saxon kingdoms were slowly becoming converted to Christianity, either from the north and Iona (Bishop Aidan), or from Rome, with Bishop Paulinus. These two religions were to set up their own conflict for supremacy but for the three battles I’ve written about, it’s Penda and his paganism that creates the conflict.
Penda and his brother, Eowa, were to claim Mercia as there’s to rule. They seem to have originated from a royal family with their power base in the kingdom of the Hwicce, a part of Mercia centred around Gloucester and they were not happy with events in Northumbria.
Not once, not twice, but three times, Penda took on the might of Northumbria, in battles taking place at Hædfeld, Maserfeld and Winwæd, spanning a twenty year period.
It’s these three battles I offer a retelling of in the Gods and Kings series, and not just because there are these two kingdoms at loggerheads, Mercia and Northumbria, but because these battles brought into play every kingdom within Britain at the time; from Dal Riata and the kingdom of the Picts to the North, to that of the West Saxons and Dumnonia to the south and south-west. These battles were monumental. Great swathes of warriors facing one another with everything to play for, much to lose and even more to gain.
The Gods and Kings trilogy are now available from all good ebook and print book sellers. Follow the links above. Pagan Warrior is available as part of the BookBub deal on Apple, Amazon Kindle, Kobo and Nook in select marketplaces-UK, Australia, Canada, India and the US.
(For anyone who is confused, these books were previously released under the titles of the battles, Hædfeld, Maserfeld and Winwæd. Pagan Warrior and Pagan King have been comprehensively reedited, and Warrior King is currently experiencing the same treatment.)
I’m very excited to reveal the cover for my next foray into twentieth-century crime.
Cragside: A 1930s murder mystery is another of my Lockdown projects, inspired by my weekly walk around Cragside, a nineteenth-century country estate in North Northumberland.
But enough of that.
Here’s the wonderful cover, designed by Shaun at Flintlock Covers. And isn’t it amazing.
Here’s the blurb
Lady Merryweather has had a shocking year. Apprehended for the murder of her husband the year before, and only recently released, she hopes a trip away from London will allow her to grieve. The isolated, but much loved, Cragside Estate in North Northumberland, home of her friends, Lord and Lady Bradbury, holds special memories for her.
But, no sooner has she arrived than the body of one of the guests is found on the estate, and suspicion immediately turns on her. Perhaps, there are no friendships to be found here, after all.
Released, due to a lack of evidence, Lady Ella returns to Cragside only to discover a second murder has taken place in her absence, and one she can’t possibly have committed.
Quickly realising that these new murders must be related to that of her beloved husband, Lady Merryweather sets out to solve the crime, once and for all. But there are many who don’t want her to succeed, and as the number of murder victims increases, the possibility that she might well be the next victim, can’t be ignored.
Journey to the 1930s Cragside Estate, to a period house-party where no one is truly safe, and the estate is just as deadly as the people.
Cragside will be released on 14th April 2022 in ebook, paperback, and, also audio – I’m really excited about the narrator. I will share more details nearer the time.
Just a quick heads up that The Last King is currently free on Kindle for the next 5 days.
Please note, there are TWO versions of The Last King. There’s the original version – complete with lots and lots of foul language, and the Clean(er) version where the language has been significantly toned down for those who find a lot of strong language, not to their liking.
Today is the day. Son of Mercia is FINALLY released (I know it hasn’t actually been that long, it just feels like it).
I’m so excited to share it with fans and new readers alike.
If you’ve not yet heard about my new book (where have you been:)) then here’s the blurb:
Tamworth, Mercia AD825.
The once-mighty kingdom of Mercia is in perilous danger.
Their King, Beornwulf lies dead and years of bitter in-fighting between the nobles, and cross border wars have left Mercia exposed to her enemies.
King Ecgberht of Wessex senses now is the time for his warriors to strike and exact his long-awaited bloody revenge on Mercia.
King Wiglaf, has claimed his right to rule Mercia, but can he unite a disparate Kingdom against the might of Wessex who are braying for blood and land?
Can King Wiglaf keep the dragons at bay or is Mercia doomed to disappear beneath the wings of the Wessex wyvern?
Can anyone save Mercia from destruction?
And what’s so exciting about Son of Mercia is that it’s released in all the formats and over many, many platforms, today. Find the ebook, paperback, hardback, large print and audio version at your retailer of choice via this link.
Join the blog tour for Son of Mercia by following #SonOfMercia on twitter, or check back here, as I will be posting links to the blogs. Thank you to all the bloggers and to Rachel for organising such a fantastic tour to celebrate release week.
To keep up to date with news and information about book 2 in The Eagle of Mercia Chronicles, please sign up to my newsletter or the Boldwood Books newsletter. Thank you. I can confirm that book 2 is already up for preorder on some sites. )I’ll add more links as it appears elsewhere.)
Your book, The Coronation, sounds fascinating. What was the first idea that made you decide to write this story?
To begin this, I’d like to describe how I work, how I come at or conceive my novels. I didn’t know this on my first novel, but have subsequently discovered this about how best I work, and how I best like to work.
So, to start, I tend to conceive the themes I want to explore in a story. Then I find the setting – the plot, the characters, the place, and the historical period – that best allows me to explore those themes and the message I want to put across.
Before I talk about The Coronation, my third novel, I’d like to give a bit of background as to my own writing journey up to the time I conceived it.
My first novel, The Genes of Isis, was an epic fantasy set in Ancient Egypt, and a re-telling of the Biblical story of the flood. Its plot was loosely based on the myth of Isis and Osiris.
Then I wrote a historical fantasy, The Old Dragon’s Head. It’s set in the 1400’s in Ming Dynasty China on the far eastern end of the Great Wall, and explored the supernatural beliefs of the Chinese mindset of those times.
Egypt and China – two of the largest historical contributors to the mores of civilisation.
Then, towards the end of 2017, I conceived the idea of a third novel, The Coronation.
Looking back at my notes, I wanted one of the themes of the story to be about famine, not only physical famine but also the spiritual famine. I wanted to use physical famine as a metaphor for spiritual famine, such as we encounter everywhere in today’s world.
So, I had to find a period of history, or a setting, when famine was prevalent.
I wanted also to explore the Ancient Greek idea of Arcadia, of an unspoiled, harmonious living together of a people and the land, played out through custom and ceremony, poem and dressage, song and dance. And I wanted to find a recent time and a place in history when the Arcadian ideal was still alive and well.
So, I also had to find a period of history when this Arcadian ideal was still alive and well and prospering.
This led me to the 18th Century in Europe.
It was a huge change-over, from feudal times to the beginning of the industrial era. It was time when there were few large cities, when people often only moved around within a 10- or 20-mile radius of their place of birth in all of their lives. It was a time when, in Europe, society was structured according to the Sachenspiegel, the Saxon Mirror, in the same way that God had ordered the Universe, from the stars down to the moon, from kings down to the peasants. This was a fixed, static view. In other words, people had to stay in and couldn’t move out of their strata of society, otherwise there would be upheaval and revolution.
It seemed to me that the Industrial Revolution had much to do with engendering that spiritual famine, so I looked for its genesis.
It began with the so-called Newcomen Engine.
This was a rather inefficient pump designed by a Devon pastor by the name of Thomas Newcomen. It was used to pump water out of Cornish tin mines.
There’s a photo here showing a reconstruction of that engine.
That led me to research James Watt and the origins of his steam engine. I found that he didn’t invent the steam engine, but he simply improved on the existing design, i.e., the Newcomen Engine.
So, in the 1760’s, James Watt made his discovery of the improvement to the efficiency of the steam engine, and we now live in the results of that, that is, we live in an industrialised society. That’s what we have inherited, whether we like it or not.
But was that how it was meant to be? Because at the time, a time they now call the Great Enlightenment, there were great advances in science, in biology, in chemistry, and medical science. These helped dispel the mists of superstition enshrouding the people of the time, and which prevented further growth and development.
But were we, as a people, as a genus, meant to take the industrial route? Was there an alternative? It must have been there, so what was it, and why didn’t we take it?
So, what was the ‘coronation’ alluded to in the book title? It wasn’t the coronation of a king or a queen or an emperor. So, what was it? Was it to do with the coronation of mankind, and if so, what form did that take? What did it, or would it look like, if mankind was crowned? And what did it have to do with the eagle?
These were the themes which set me off researching Europe on the 18th Century, and the period of the Great Enlightenment. And if it really was just that, a Great Enlightenment, how come we aren’t living in a greatly enlightened society today? Why didn’t it progress and develop? And should that day ever come, what would it look like? And would we recognise it?
These were some of the questions I wanted to explore in the novel.
Thank you so much for sharing. Your inspiration sounds fascinating. Good luck with the book.
Here’s the blurb
It is 1761. Prussia is at war with Russia and Austria. As the Russian army occupies East Prussia, King Frederick the Great and his men fight hard to win back their homeland.
In Ludwigshain, a Junker estate in East Prussia, Countess Marion von Adler celebrates an exceptional harvest. But it is requisitioned by Russian troops. When Marion tries to stop them, a Russian captain strikes her. His lieutenant, Ian Fermor, defends Marion’s honour and is stabbed for his insubordination. Abandoned by the Russians, Fermor becomes a divisive figure on the estate.
Close to death, Fermor dreams of the Adler, a numinous eagle entity, whose territory extends across the lands of Northern Europe and which is mysteriously connected to the Enlightenment. What happens next will change of the course of human history…
Justin Newland is an author of historical fantasy and secret history thrillers – that’s history with a supernatural twist. His stories feature known events and real people from history which are re-told and examined through the lens of the supernatural. He gives author talks and is a regular contributor to BBC Radio Bristol’s Thought for the Day. He lives with his partner in plain sight of the Mendip Hills in Somerset, England.
The Genes of Isis is a tale of love, destruction and ephemeral power set under the skies of Ancient Egypt. A re-telling of the Biblical story of the flood, it reveals the mystery of the genes of Isis – or genesis – of mankind. ISBN 9781789014860.
“The novel is creative, sophisticated, and downright brilliant! I couldn’t ask more of an Egyptian-esque book!” – Lauren, Books Beyond the Story.
The Old Dragon’s Head is a historical fantasy and supernatural thriller set during the Ming Dynasty and played out in the shadows the Great Wall of China. It explores the secret history of the influences that shaped the beginnings of modern times. ISBN 9781789015829.
‘The author is an excellent storyteller.” – British Fantasy Society.
Set during the Great Enlightenment, The Coronation reveals the secret history of the Industrial Revolution. ISBN 9781838591885.
“The novel explores the themes of belonging, outsiders… religion and war… filtered through the lens of the other-worldly.” – A. Deane, Page Farer Book Blog.
His latest, The Abdication (July, 2021), is a suspense thriller, a journey of destiny, wisdom and self-discovery. ISBN 9781800463950.
“In Topeth, Tula confronts the truth, her faith in herself, faith in a higher purpose, and ultimately, what it means to abdicate that faith.”
Today, I’m excited to share the new cover for Pagan Warrior, the first book in a trilogy about the mighty King Panda of Mercia in seventh-century Britain. (Pagan Warrior was first released as Hædfeld in 2015). I’ve also given the book the once-over and edited and tidied it a little as I’ve gone. It’s reminded me of just how much I love the characters, the time-period and the story.
I’m also taking Pagan Warrior, and the trilogy, onto other ebook platforms – so, readers on Apple, Nook, Kobo, and other retailers, as well as Amazon, can now enjoy Pagan Warrior as well. The audiobook is also under production, and will be ready in the coming months. And the paperback is now available from retailers other than Amazon, and the hardback is available on Amazon:)
If you’ve not read Pagan Warrior yet, here’s the blurb:
Penda, a warrior of immense renown, has much to prove if he’s to rule the Mercian kingdom of his dead father and prevent the neighbouring king of Northumbria from claiming it.
Unexpectedly allying with the British kings, Penda races to battle the alliance of the Northumbrian king, unsure if his brother stands with him, or against him as they seek battle glory for themselves, and the right to rule gained through bloody conquest.
There will be a victor and a bloody loser and a king will rise from the ashes of the great and terrible battle of Hædfeld.
Find your ebook or paperback on your preferred retailers site here.
Today, I’m welcoming Griffin Brady to the blog to discover the journey that led to her writing The Heart of a Hussar.
For decades, I’ve wondered if I could write a work of fiction. I didn’t think I had a story in me, but I decided to challenge myself anyway and find out if I could pen a story at least two hundred and fifty pages in length (this was before I knew about word counts!).
I began with a story set in 1970s on a bleak island off of Nova Scotia. It was going to include some time travel elements, and I realized I needed to do some research on weapons of the 17th century. I don’t recall what words I typed in for my internet search that day, but several websites popped up, including one called “Bad*ss of the Week.” I clicked on the link and was led to a page about the Polish Winged Hussars. I had never heard of them, and I was fascinated!
I’ve always been a sucker for tales of chivalrous knights, and here was an entire category I never knew existed before. So I read, and I read, and I read, and inspiration swamped me. Soon I was downloading books and historian’s works, devouring every scrap of information I could find. A fire had ignited inside me.
One night as my husband and I shared pizza lots of beer at one of our favorite neighborhood restaurants, the story that would become The Heart of a Hussar and A Hussar’s Promise tumbled out of my mouth. My husband grew more intrigued as I laid out the storyline, which further fanned the flames inside me.
So I began to write, and write, and write. Before I knew it, my rough draft had swelled to over 1,400 pages. Thank goodness I had found a wonderful editor to help pare it down to a manageable level! The story is now a little over eight hundred pages long and is split into a duology.
Thank you so much for sharing. Isn’t is strange where our research takes us! Good luck with the new book.
Here’s the blurb:
Poland is at war. He must choose between his lifelong ambition and his heart.
Exploiting Muscovy’s Time of Troubles, Poland has invaded the chaotic country. Twenty-two-year-old Jacek Dąbrowski is an honorable, ferocious warrior in a company of winged hussars—an unrivaled, lethal cavalry. When his lieutenant dies in battle, Jacek is promoted to replace him, against the wishes of his superior, Mateusz, who now has more reason to eliminate him.
Jacek dedicates his life to gaining the king’s recognition and manor lands of his own. Consequently, he closely guards his heart, avoiding lasting romantic entanglements. Unscathed on the battlefield, undefeated in tournaments, and adored by women eager to share his bed, Jacek has never lost at anything he sets out to conquer. So when he charges toward his goals, he believes nothing stands in his way.
Upon his return from battle, Jacek deviates from his ordinarily unemotional mindset and rescues enemy siblings, fifteen-year-old Oliwia and her younger brother, Filip, from their devastated Muscovite village. His act of mercy sets into motion unstoppable consequences that ripple through his well-ordered life for years to come—and causes him to irretrievably lose his heart.
Oliwia has her own single-minded drive: to protect her young brother. Her determination and self-sacrifice lead her to adopt a new country, a new religion, and a new way of life. But it’s not the first time the resilient beauty has had to remake herself, for she is not what she appears to be.
As Jacek battles the Muscovites and Tatars threatening Poland’s borders for months at a time, Oliwia is groomed for a purpose concealed from her. All the while, Mateusz’s treachery and a mysterious enemy looming on the horizon threaten to destroy everything Jacek holds dear.
Griffin Brady is a historical fiction author with a keen interest in the Polish Winged Hussars of the 16th and 17thcenturies. She is a member of the Historical Novel Society and Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. The Heart of a Hussartook third place in the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers’ 2018 Colorado Gold Contest and was a finalist in the Northern Colorado Writers’ 2017 Top of the Mountain Award.
The proud mother three grown sons, she lives in Colorado with her husband. She is also an award-winning, Amazon bestselling romance author who writes under the pen name G.K. Brady.