Today, I’m welcoming Raid of the Wolves by Donovan Cook to the blog

Here’s the blurb:

The only thing that kept him going were the voices of his ancestors, screaming for blood…

Ulf and his shield brothers are sent on a raid against an old enemy — Francia, a mighty kingdom to the south, now ravaged by civil war. During the perilous sea voyage, Ulf can only focus on one thing. He demands closure: to find the man who slaughtered his family — Griml.

A hidden enemy stalks Ulf and his warriors through Francia, striking mercilessly when they least expect it. Soon the hunters become the hunted. The Norse warriors must make the ultimate choice between defying the king or angering the gods. Both could end in fury.

But there is another threat lurking in the shadows. One that Ulf could never anticipate.

Ulf is not the only one who wants vengeance.

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Meet Donovan Cook

Even as a young child, Donovan loved reading stories about Vikings and other medieval warriors fighting to defend their homeland or raiding in distant lands. He would often be found running around outside with nothing other than a wooden sword and his imagination. 

Now older, he spends his time writing about them. His novels come from his fascination with the Viking world and Norse Mythology and he hopes that you will enjoy exploring this world as much as he did writing about it.

Born in South Africa but raised in England, Donovan currently lives in Moscow, Russia with his wife and their French Bulldog, where he works as an English tutor. When he is not teaching or writing, he can be found reading, watching rugby, or working on DIY projects. Being born in South Africa, he is a massive Springboks fan and never misses a match.

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Don’t forget to check out the other stops on the Raid of the Wolves blog tour with The Coffee Pot Book Club

The Winter Guest by W C Ryan. Book Review. Historical mystery. Highly recommended.

The drive leads past the gate house and through the trees towards the big house, visible through the winter-bared branches. Its windows stare down at Harkin and the sea beyond . . .

January 1921. Though the Great War is over, in Ireland a new, civil war is raging. The once-grand Kilcolgan House, a crumbling bastion shrouded in sea-mist, lies half empty and filled with ghosts – both real and imagined – the Prendevilles, the noble family within, co-existing only as the balance of their secrets is kept.

Then, when an IRA ambush goes terribly wrong, Maud Prendeville, eldest daughter of Lord Kilcolgan, is killed, leaving the family reeling. Yet the IRA column insist they left her alive, that someone else must have been responsible for her terrible fate. Captain Tom Harkin, an IRA intelligence officer and Maud’s former fiancé, is sent to investigate, becoming an unwelcome guest in this strange, gloomy household.

Working undercover, Harkin must delve into the house’s secrets – and discover where, in this fractured, embattled town, each family member’s allegiances truly lie. But Harkin too is haunted by the ghosts of the past and by his terrible experiences on the battlefields. Can he find out the truth about Maud’s death before the past – and his strange, unnerving surroundings – overwhelm him?

A haunting, atmospheric mystery set against the raw Irish landscape in a country divided, The Winter Guest is the perfect chilling read.

The Winter Guest is my first W C Ryan book, but it won’t be my last.

The Winter Guest is a little awkward to get into. The first chapter could perhaps be better placed elsewhere or left out altogether, but once past that point, and as the reader meets Harkin, we’re quickly drawn into his world. A man suffering from PTSD following the Great War and involving himself in the IRA, is a man on the edge, inhabiting a world filled with suspicion and shadows, where things that seem real, are simply not.

He is a sympathetic character and the reader feels. a great deal of empathy for him. 

The landscape he walks into is one bedevilled by atmospheric weather conditions – there is a great deal of attention spent on creating the image of a house on the cusp of ruin, a family in the midst of ruin and the weather conditions prevalent at the coastline. On occasion, it feels a little too much but the lack of electricity, the reliance on candles, ensures that the slightly other-worldly elements can never be forgotten. The flashback descriptions of life in the trenches of the Great War haunt the reader as well as Harkin,

You may have noticed that I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. I would put it on a par with last year’s The Glass Woman and The Quickening. A haunting story not to be missed. My thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for my review copy

Today, I’m delighted to welcome Kerry Chaput and her new book, Daughter of the King, to the blog

Today, Kerry Chaput, joins me on the blog to talk about her new book, Daughter of the King.

My first introduction to the story of the Filles du Roi (Daughters of the King) was while researching my husband’s French-Canadian ancestry. The Catholic records from Quebec are astounding. Detailed family trees, documents from the early settlers, and suggestions for further resources are just a few of the things I found. I discovered dozens of little fleur-de-lis symbols in his family tree and came to find out that these were the women responsible for populating what was then called New France.

I searched everything I could find on the Daughters of the King, early Quebec, the Protestant/Catholic struggle, and life in Seventeenth Century France. Videos of clothing from the area were especially helpful, as I didn’t know what a coiffe or a stay was. I scoured college bookstores and University libraries for books on King Louis XIV and French Canada. 

My favorite tool for this project was Google maps in street view. It allowed me to simulate walking through La Rochelle and Old Town Quebec. This helped me write action scenes and zoom in on details on the buildings, giving me the feeling of wandering the cobblestone paths.

I also recommend organizations devoted to your subject matter. The Fille du Roi societies keep lists of the women with dates and biographies. Various Huguenot societies provided helpful details of life and beliefs of the French Protestants. Not only is their data accurate, but they tend to provide a more intimate look into the lives of who you are researching. Big sites like online encyclopedias give more general overviews, but it’s the small details that make a story come to life. 

It’s easy to get swept up in the research, but the fun for me is putting that knowledge to work in your story. I continued to mix drafting and revising with online research. I’m a revision writer, so it gives me the freedom to pursue a storyline or plot idea first, sharpening the details later. I find it very helpful to write in layers, adding and trimming in multiple drafts. It’s tempting to spend three hours researching something like shoes or how candles were made, but you have to stop yourself from research paralysis and just write.

The benefit of writing historical fiction is how beautifully plot unfolds for you. History is full of fascinating and almost unbelievable stories. When you follow the research, sometimes it feels as if your story writes itself. It always amazes me that when you’re patient, little gifts land in your laptop. Sometimes exactly what you’re looking for comes up in an obscure memoir or interview. It’s hard not to see the magic in that. It feels like you are so connected to your story that history comes alive to show you what comes next.  

I think the key to writing historical fiction is finding the theme that bonds people today with those from another time and place. It’s difficult to choose a story purely because it’s interesting. You must have a deep connection to it. It needs to speak to you on an emotional level. I think Daughter of the King tugged at me because it is such an incredible story. Orphans, recruited from their dire circumstances and given power, money, and protection. Three hundred and fifty years ago, and these women interviewed potential spouses to choose their preferred husbands! It was so unexpected that it gave me chills. And knowing that my daughters are descended from over three dozen of these women made the story that much more important to me. 

I think this is why we read about people in history — to discover that humans are not that different from each other. Regardless of time or place, we all fight similar struggles. 

Thank you so much for sharing with me. Good luck with the new book.

Here’s the blurb

La Rochelle France, 1661. Fierce Protestant Isabelle is desperate to escape persecution by the Catholic King. Isabelle is tortured and harassed, her people forced to convert to the religion that rules the land. She risks her life by helping her fellow Protestants, which is forbidden by the powers of France. She accepts her fate — until she meets a handsome Catholic soldier who makes her question everything.

She fights off an attack by a nobleman, and the only way to save herself is to flee to the colony of Canada as a Daughter of the King. She can have money, protection and a new life — if she adopts the religion she’s spent a lifetime fighting. She must leave her homeland and the promises of her past. In the wild land of Canada, Isabelle finds that her search for love and faith has just begun. 

Based on the incredible true story of the French orphans who settled Canada, Daughter of the King is a sweeping tale of one young woman’s fight for true freedom. Kerry Chaput brings the past to life, expertly weaving a gripping saga with vivid historical details. Jump back in time on a thrilling adventure with an unforgettable heroine.

Trigger Warnings:

Violence, sexual assault

Read for free with #KindleUnlimited subscription.

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Meet the Author

Born in California wine country, Kerry Chaput began writing shortly after earning her Doctorate degree. Her love of storytelling began with a food blog and developed over the years to writing historical fiction novels. Raised by a teacher of US history, she has always been fascinated by tales from our past and is forever intrigued by the untold stories of brave women. She lives in beautiful Bend, Oregon with her husband, two daughters, and two rescue pups. She can often be found on hiking trails or in coffee shops. 

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Don’t forget to check out the other stops on the Daughter of The King blog tour with The Coffee Pot Book Club

I’m delighted to welcome Rosemary Griggs to the blog with a post about her new book, A Woman of Noble Wit

Your book, A Woman of Noble Wit , sounds fascinating. Can you share with me what the first idea was that made you decide to write this story? It might be very different from how the story ended up being, but I am curious, if you don’t mind sharing. And, if the story is very different, would you mind sharing the process by which you ended up with your current novel?

For example, my current book started off after watching an old Pathe TV show about making motorbikes and sidecars and has ended up as a 1940s mystery involving an unidentified body!

Retirement can be a wonderful thing.  If you’re lucky, as I am, it can set you free and give you time to do the things you’ve always wanted to do. Since I retired I’ve been able to indulge a lifelong passion for history and I’ve also been dusting off some long-neglected dressmaking skills. I started to research and make sixteenth century clothing to wear as a volunteer at a local National Trust property. That was where I first met Katherine Champernowne, the subject of my novel.  I now bring this remarkable Devon woman to life for audiences all over the county and use her clothes to open up conversations about how people like her lived.  As I learned how to make her clothes I found it wasn’t enough to just look all right on the outside. I wanted to construct my costumes as accurately as possible, layer by layer,  so that I could feel what it was like to dress as she did — to walk in her shoes.  

Rosemary in costume

In the same way, I wanted to understand what it felt like to live through those times as an educated well-born woman far from the Royal Court.  We hear a lot about the lives of King Henry and his Queens, but little about the largely unrecorded, unnoticed women, who stood behind other famous men who changed the course of history. I thought Katherine’s story deserved to be told. That germ of an idea would eventually turn into my novel. 

I read every book I could find on the lives of women in sixteenth century England.  I researched Katherine’s family and Devon’s Tudor history.  I spent many happy hours poring over old documents in the archives.  I visited the places she knew. I read biographies of her famous sons, amongst them Sir Humphrey Gilbert and, of course, Sir Walter Raleigh.

Picture from Wikimedia commons

Sir Walter was a prodigious writer.  His letters, books and poems reveal a lot about his character. His deeds as Queen Elizabeth’s favourite, as a soldier, sea captain, poet and more, are well recorded. There are even descriptions of him written by his contemporaries.  For Katherine herself and for some of the other people in her life there is much less to go on.

In 1538 Thomas Cromwell was behind a new law that required priests to keep a record of baptisms, marriages and burials.  One of his better ideas, I think.  But key events in Katherine’s early life fell well before the new system started. Record keeping was patchy at first and many registers have been lost or damaged, So tracking down the most  basic details of her life — the exact date of her birth, and of her two marriages —was very difficult.  We do know that she was laid to rest beside her second husband. In a letter Sir Walter wrote to his wife before his execution he said he wanted to be buried beside his parents “in Exeter church”.  It’s believed that Katherine Raleigh died in 1594, shortly after she made her will. But the page that would have recorded her burial is missing from the register of St Mary Major’s in Exeter, though Walter Raleigh senior’s burial is listed there in February 1580/1581. Nor can we read her will as it was originally written.  It was lost in a second world war bombing raid on Exeter in 1942 when the City Library, the repository of over a million documents and books, was completely destroyed.  Only due to the diligence of a nineteenth century scholar do we have a transcript of her last wishes.   We do, however, have an account of her courageous vigil in the prison cells beneath Exeter Castle with protestant martyr Agnes Prest. It was published during Katherine’s lifetime in Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, which says that Katherine Raleigh was “a woman of noble wit and godly ways.” That gave me my title. 

At first I thought I would write a fully sourced academic biography,  but I found that there were many gaps to fill, many areas of doubt.  Scholars even remain divided about the exact dates of birth of her boys.  My research fixes the birthday of only her eldest Gilbert son, John, with certainty, confirmed in his father’s Inquisition Post Mortem.   For her other children the dates remain uncertain.  Even the number of children she bore is open to question. For example, there may have been a second Gilbert daughter named Elizabeth, others may have died in infancy unrecorded.

I pieced together as much as I could from what was recorded about Katherine’s brothers, sisters, parents and other relatives, some of whom  had close connections to the Court. I recently published a blog post setting out the research that has convinced me that the other Katherine Champernowne, the one  who was known as Kat, later married John Ashley, and was governess to the young princess Elizabeth, was Katherine Raleigh’s sister. 

Photo of Kat Ashley from Wikimedia Commons

Another sister, Joan wife of Sir Anthony Denny, served several of King Henry’s Queens and is recorded as a close friend of Katryn Parr.  The careers of Katherine’s Carew cousins Sir George, who went down in the Mary Rose, and Sir Peter, feature often in  the record.   

Beyond that I started to look for clues from which I could develop plausible explanations for the missing pieces in the jigsaw of Katherine Raleigh’s life.  The personalities of people who played their part in her story started to emerge of their own volition.  I started to put flesh upon the bones of the bare skeleton the historical record had left me.   I felt I was really getting to know Katherine and her world. The more I discovered, the more I wanted to bring her to life; to explore how she might have become the woman who inspired her sons to follow their dreams.  So, my story of Katherine’s life started to evolve and take shape, a story that also did justice to the exciting events that gripped Devon in those turbulent years. Where I have found facts are backed up by reliable source documents I have respected them.  But I have sought to weave those facts together with fiction to create a believable and compelling story of one woman’s life in a changing world. 

Wow, thank you so much for sharing. That’s a fantastic story. Thank you so much for sharing your reasons for writing your new book. I think your Tudor dress is fantastic.

Here’s the blurb:

Few women of her time lived to see their name in print. But Katherine was no ordinary woman. She was Sir Walter Raleigh’s mother. This is her story.

Set against the turbulent background of a Devon rocked by the religious and social changes that shaped Tudor England; a Devon of privateers and pirates; a Devon riven by rebellions and plots, A Woman of Noble Wit tells how Katherine became the woman who would inspire her famous sons to follow their dreams. It is Tudor history seen though a woman’s eyes.

As the daughter of a gentry family with close connections to the glittering court of King Henry VIII, Katherine’s duty is clear. She must put aside her dreams and accept the husband chosen for her. Still a girl, she starts a new life at Greenway Court, overlooking the River Dart, relieved that her husband is not the ageing monster of her nightmares. She settles into the life of a dutiful wife and mother until a chance shipboard encounter with a handsome privateer, turns her world upside down.…..

Years later a courageous act will set Katherine’s name in print and her youngest son will fly high.

Trigger Warnings: Rape.

Buy Links:

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Meet the Author

Rosemary Griggs is a retired Whitehall Senior Civil Servant with a lifelong passion for history. She is now a speaker on Devon’s sixteenth century history and costume. She leads heritage tours at Dartington Hall, has made regular costumed appearances at National Trust houses and helps local museums bring history to life.

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Don’t forget to check out the other sops on the A Woman of Noble Wit blog tour with The Coffee Pot Book Club

Welcome to today’s stop on The Girl from Portofino by Siobhan Daiko blog tour

Your book, The Girl from Portofino , sounds fascinating. Can you share with me what the first idea was that made you decide to write this story? It might be very different from how the story ended up being, but I am curious, if you don’t mind sharing. And, if the story is very different, would you mind sharing the process by which you ended up with your current novel?

Thank you so much for inviting me as a guest on your blog. I’m thrilled to be here.

When I’d finished writing “The Girl from Venice”, I knew I wanted to write another book about a girl from the Italian Resistance. So, I started researching the areas in Italy where the Resistance was strongest and came across the bands of partisans in the northern Apennines. 

PASQUILIO, MONTIGNOSO / ITALY – JANUARY 2 2020 : American soldiers fight at the front climbing the steep green wild mountains of the Apuan Alps along the Gothic Line in camouflage uniform in the steep

I needed a well-known place in which to set the story and hit upon the idea of Portofino. I had no idea before researching what happened there during the war and cried out a resounding ‘yes’ when I discovered that it had been occupied by the German Navy as a headquarters for their coastal defences, the SS incarcerated and tortured political prisoners in a tower on the isthmus, the inhabitants of the village were forced to relocate when concrete sea defences were built, and the quaysides were mined for fear of aquatic landings. Portofino, known today as a mecca for wealthy tourists, became a target for Allied bombing after the Nazis built anti-aircraft and anti-naval batteries on the headland and the portofinesi lived in fear for their lives.

Portofino, italy, panoramic view

The series features girls from the Italian resistance. Gina, my heroine, is the daughter of a fisherman who joins the partisans to fight the Nazi-fascists in the mountains of the hinterland, leaving her twin sister, Adele, behind. When I wrote the outline of the book, I knew that Gina would read Adele’s diary, left behind during the war, and that Adele worked for the Germans. There is a secret which is revealed towards the end of the book. When I started writing, the characters of the twins leapt off the page and the more I wrote, the more the theme of the love between the two sisters developed.

Portofino, Genova, Liguria/Italy – December 9 2016: a view of Portofino at sunset

Thank you so much for sharing. Good luck with the new book.

Here’s the blurb:

In 1970 Gina Bianchi returns to Portofino to attend her father’s funeral, accompanied by her troubled twenty-four-year-old daughter, Hope. There, Gina is beset by vivid memories of World War 2, a time when she fought with the Italian Resistance and her twin sister, Adele, worked for the Germans. 

In her childhood bedroom, Gina reads Adele’s diary, left behind during the war. As Gina learns the devastating truth about her sister, she’s compelled to face the harsh brutality of her own past. Will she finally lay her demons to rest, or will they end up destroying her and the family she loves?

A hauntingly epic read that will sweep you away to the beauty of the Italian Riviera and the rugged mountains of its hinterland. The Girl from Portofino” is a story about heart-wrenching loss and uplifting courage, love, loyalty, and secrets untold.

Trigger Warnings:

The brutality of war, death, war crimes against women.

Buy Links:

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Meet the Author

Siobhan Daiko is a British historical fiction author. A lover of all things Italian, she lives in the Veneto region of northern Italy with her husband, a Havanese dog and two rescued cats. After a life of romance and adventure in Hong Kong, Australia and the UK, Siobhan now spends her time, when she isn’t writing, enjoying her life near Venice. 

Connect with Siobhan

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https://www.facebook.com/siobhan.daiko.

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Don’t forget to check out the other stops on The Girl from Portofino blog tour with The Coffee Pot Book Club

1066 Turned Upside Down is on the blog today – a collection of alt historical fiction stories about that fateful year

Today I’m featuring an excerpt from 1066 Turned Upside Down by author and Anglo-Saxon historian Annie Whitehead

A MATTER OF TRUST

by Annie Whitehead

Wearing the crown is one thing, but if Harold were to rule with any security and authority, he needed the support of the northern earls. At some point between his coronation and April 16th, he travelled north to try to secure that support. It has often been said of Earl Morcar that he ‘owed’ his earldom to Harold, who had endorsed him after his brother Tostig had been ousted. The Earldom of Mercia had once been a separate kingdom, and nationalist fervour had often caused problems for the kings of Wessex. Mercia had strong links with the neighbouring Welsh, and Edwin’s family had been close allies of Gruffudd of Gwynedd, whose death was engineered by Harold. Edwin and Morcar’s grandfather had been a political rival of Harold’s father, and the Godwin family had caused their father, Aelfgar, to be removed first from an earldom in East Anglia and then, briefly, from Mercia. These two families had ‘history.’

Late February – York

The message, when it arrived, had been simple. Edward dead, Harold is king. Come north. Riding to answer his brother’s call, Edwin had his grandmother’s words still ringing in his ears. ‘Our time has come, now. It is time to make Mercia great again.’ 

His gloves offered protection from the chilly air, a remnant of the winter that was slow to depart, but now he took them off, feeling the reins pressing into his palms while he stared at the leather embossing on his pommel. He had thought for a long time before setting out and was not convinced, even now, that he had done the right thing. They rode through the southern gateway of the erstwhile Viking kingdom of York, where the base of the stone watchtower was strewn with flowers, and had to slow their pace to avoid the press of people, brought out by the late winter sunshine and the presence of the King. The Godwins. Harold Godwinson was standing outside the Earl’s hall, with members of the northern nobility, among them Edwin’s brother, Morcar, the present Earl of Northumbria. Edwin dismounted and handed his reins to a waiting horse-thegn.

His younger brother came running to him, grinning wide enough to split his face. The afternoon sun shone on his hair. It had already left its mark on his face, where a band of fresh red covered his nose and the upper part of his cheeks. Despite the chill, he was in his undershirt. There was a slash in the sleeve; even today, Morcar had been in the yard, practising his sword skills. Edwin had not seen Morcar for some months, but Morcar wasted no time on such greetings. 

‘Edwin, you must agree to Harold’s kingship. Tostig was earl, and we threw him out. And when Tostig tried to take Northumbria back, Harold did nothing to help him. Think on it, he chose me as earl, over his own brother.’

Edwin sniffed. It wasn’t much of a compliment. It was no ill reflection on Morcar, but Harold had simply chosen his only available option, as a condemned man might choose life instead of the gallows. 

As if hearing his thoughts, Harold Godwinson moved away from the steps of Morcar’s great hall. Moustaches neatly trimmed, carmine tunic blowing in the breeze, he descended with his unmistakeable swagger towards the newly arrived nobles, but Edwin could detect the doubt: the tilt of the head, the slump of his shoulders when the nobles he walked past refused to bow, instead folding their arms across their chests.

Harold stepped toward the Mercians, giving a slight wave of the hand held at hip level, an involuntary betrayal of his thoughts; that the opinions of those on the steps mattered less than those of the men he was approaching.

What happens next? Does the Earl of Mercia accept Harold’s friendship? Find out in 1066 Turned Upside Down

Thank you so much for sharing an excerpt from your story. It’s good to see The Earl of Mercia featured.

Intrigued?

Here’s the blurb:

Have you ever wondered what might have happened if William the Conqueror had been beaten at Hastings in 1066? Or if Harald Hardrada had won at Stamford Bridge? Or if Edward the Confessor had died with an heir ready to take his crown? If so – here is the perfect set of short stories for you.

1066 Turned Upside Down explores a variety of ways in which that momentous year could have played out very differently.

Written by nine well-known authors the stories will take you on a journey through the speculative ‘what ifs?’ of England’s most famous year in history.

READERS’ COMMENTS

“1066 Turned Upside Down is the exemplar for how analytical counterfactual history should be done, combining the best elements of fiction and non-fiction to create an immensely impressive achievement.”

“As a collection, the quality of the writing is exceptional and the variety of possible outcomes presented is truly fascinating.”

“The collection is assembled in such a way that between the ‘alternatives’ are the related facts as they happened, as far as historians and archaeologists know – which still leaves room for these experienced writers’ imaginations.

“A book I will read and re-read. I heartily recommend it”

“The real joy of a collection of stories like this is, of course, that you are likely to be introduced to writers you may not have come across before.”

Buy Links:

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Meet the Authors

1066 Turned Upside Down is a collection of eleven alternative history short stories of a ‘what if’ nature imagined by nine well-known successful authors:

JOANNA COURTNEY Ever since Joanna sat up in her cot with a book, she’d wanted to be a writer and cut her publication teeth on short stories and serials for the women’s magazines before signing to PanMacmillan in 2014 for her three-book series The Queens of the Conquest about the wives of the men fighting to be King of England in 1066. Her second series, written for Piatkus is Shakespeare’s Queens exploring the real history of three of the bard’s greatest female characters – Lady Macbeth, Ophelia and Cordelia.

Joanna’s fascination with historical writing is in finding the similarities between us and them –with an especial goal to provide a female take on some of the greatest stories we think we know. www.joannacourtney.com

ALISON MORTON writes the award-winning alternative fiction Roma Nova thriller series featuring tough, but compassionate heroines. She blends her deep love of Roman history with six years’ military service and a life of reading crime, historical, adventure and thriller fiction. A ‘Roman nut’ since age 11, she started wondering what a modern Roman society would be like if run by strong women. She has recently branched out into a contemporary crime setting with Double Identity, the first of a planned series. 

www.alison-morton.com/

ANNA BELFRAGE Had Anna been allowed to choose, she’d have become a time-traveller. As this was impossible, Anna has authored the acclaimed time travelling series The Graham Saga, set in 17th century Scotland and Maryland, as well as the equally acclaimed medieval series The King’s Greatest Enemy set in 14th century England. Anna has also published The Wanderer, a fast-paced contemporary romantic suspense trilogy with paranormal and time-slip ingredients. His Castilian Hawk – returning to medieval times and her most recent release, The Whirlpools of Time, a time travel romance set against the backdrop of brewing rebellion in the Scottish highlands. Anna has won several awards including various Gold, Silver and Bronze Coffee Pot Book Club awards. www.annabelfrage.com

ANNIE WHITEHEAD is an historian and prize-winning author. Her main interest in history is the period formerly known as the ‘Dark Ages’. Her first novel, To Be A Queen, is the story of Aethelflaed (daughter of Alfred the Great), who came to be known as the Lady of the Mercians. Alvar the Kingmaker, tells the story of Aelfhere of Mercia, a nobleman in the time of King Edgar. Cometh the Hour goes further back in time to the seventh century, to tell the story of Penda, the last pagan king of Mercia. Annie has twice been a prizewinner in the Mail on Sunday Novel Writing competition, she won first prize for nonfiction in the new Writing Magazine Poetry and Prose competition, and was the inaugural winner of the HWA (Historical Writers’ Association)/Dorothy Dunnett Society Short Story Competition and is now a judge for that same competition.

Annie has had two nonfiction books published. Mercia: The Rise and Fall of a Kingdom (Amberley Books) has been an Amazon #1 Bestseller. Women of Power in Anglo-Saxon England was published by Pen & Sword Books in 2020.

www.anniewhiteheadauthor.co.uk

CAROL McGRATH is the author of The Daughters of Hastings Trilogy. Her fifth historical novel, The Silken Rose, first in The Rose Trilogy, published by the Headline Group, is set during the High Middle Ages. It features Ailenor of Provence and was published in 2020. The Damask Rose about Eleanor of Castile was published in 2021. The Stone Rose, Isabella of France, follows in 2022. Carol has also written Historical Non-Fiction for Pen & Sword.

www.carolcmcgrath.co.uk

ELIZA REDGOLD is an author and ‘romantic academic’. Her bestselling historical fiction includes her Ladies of Legend trilogy, starting with Naked: A Novel of Lady Godiva released internationally by St Martin’s Press, New York. Her historical romances are published by Harlequin Historical, London (Harper Collins). They include Playing the Duke’s Mistress, Enticing Benedict Cole, The Scandalous Suffragette and The Master’s New Governess. They have been translated into multiple languages including Italian, Polish, Czech, Danish and Swedish, and are available internationally.

www.elizaredgold.com

G.K. HOLLOWAY After graduating from Coventry University with an honours degree in history and politics, he worked in education in and around Bristol, England, where he now lives. After reading a biography about Harold Godwinson, he studied the late Anglo-Saxon era in detail. When he had enough material to weave together facts and fiction he produced his novel. 1066 What Fates Impose, a story of family feuds, court intrigues, assassinations, plotting and scheming, loyalty and love, all ingredients in an epic struggle for the English crown. www.gkholloway.co.uk

HELEN HOLLICK moved from London in 2013 and now lives on a thirteen-acre farm in North Devon, England. Born in London, Helen wrote pony stories as a teenager, moved to science fiction and fantasy, and then discovered the wonder of historical fiction. Published since 1994 with her Arthurian Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy, followed by her 1066 era duo. She became a USA Today bestseller with her story of Queen Emma: The Forever Queen (titled A Hollow Crown in the UK), and its companion novel, Harold the King (titled I Am the Chosen King in the U.S.A). She also writes the Sea Witch Voyages, a series of pirate-based nautical adventures with a touch of fantasy. Commissioned by Amberley Press she wrote a non-fiction book about pirates in fact, fantasy and fiction and a non-fiction book about smugglers, published by Pen and Sword.

Recently she has ventured into the ‘Cosy Mystery’ genre with her Jan Christopher Mysteries, the first of which is A Mirror Murder. She runs Discovering Diamonds, an independent online review site for Historical Fiction, primarily aimed at showcasing Indie writers.

She occasionally gets time to write. www.helenhollick.net

RICHARD DEE was a Master Mariner and ship’s pilot, now living in Brixham, South Devon.  His novels include Science Fiction and Steampunk adventures, as well as the exploits of Andorra Pett, a reluctant amateur detective. www.richarddeescifi.co.uk

Connect with the authors of 1066 Turned Upside Down

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Don’t forget to check out the other stops on the 1066 Turned Upside Down blog tour with The Coffee Pot Book Club

Coelwulf’s Company – Tales from before The Last King

Here it is – a little treat for fans of Coelwulf and his warriors.

Having given many hints as to how the motley crew got together, I decided to write some short stories, from different points of view, to see just what Icel, Edmund, Coelwulf, Pybba and of course, Rudolf, think of one another and how they came to be battling the Raiders in AD874.

The collection consists of 5 short stories, and also another short story which laid the foundation for Coelwulf and his warriors. (This short story is freely available on the Aspects of History website, but I added it just so readers who haven’t discovered it yet could see it. Do please check out my author platform on Aspects of History and all the other excellent authors on there as well.)

I hope you’ll enjoy it, and if you do, I can press on with writing more short stories, because it’s been a great deal of fun! And you know me, I do like to tell a story backwards:)

Coelwulf’s Company is available as an ebook from Kindle and can be read with Kindle Unlimited.

Ten Years an Indie

At some point in December 2011, and I don’t remember the exact date, other than it was before the schools broke up for Christmas in the UK, I indie-published my first fantasy book, then called Purple, and now renamed to Hidden Dragon. I’d spent years writing it (over three, but the idea had been with me for fifteen.) I’d sent it to just about every UK based agent that would consider fantasy, and I’d got precisely nowhere. Unsure what more I could do, I was convinced to put it on Amazon Kindle just to see what would happen.

I didn’t really know what I was doing at the time. (Some might argue I still don’t). But, that means that in December 2021, I’ll celebrate ten years as an indie author. And what a ride it’s been. There have been a few dizzying highs and primarily many, many lows. I would like to think that I finally know what I’m doing, but every so often, such as recently with IngramSpark, something happens that I realise I don’t know. Anyway, I think this anniversary allows me to reflect on the last ten years.

Firstly, I would say that indie publishing is just about unrecognisable to when I started. Yes, Amazon Kindle hasn’t changed in any way – it still offers writers an affordable means to publish, but the way books are ‘built’ and put on the service is very different, in a good way. The options are far more sophisticated, and indeed, I think every platform has undoubtedly changed for the better in the last ten years. I can only speak mostly about Amazon Kindle because while I’ve flirted with other platforms, I’ve only used Amazon Kindle for much of the last few years.

The way indie-writers approach their writing is entirely different. The options available in terms of editors, cover designers, advertising, printing paperbacks, accessing multiple market places has also changed over time. I genuinely pity anyone starting today because it is a minefield. It doesn’t have the quirkiness about it that it once did when anyone could try their luck, and success stories were built on it. Writers have higher expectations of themselves. Readers have expectations that exceed those of authors with traditional publishing deals. And authors with traditional publishing deals increasingly look to indie-publishing if they have projects that are rejected by their usual route. 

My journey has seen me pivot more than once. My desire to write fantasy that fans of ‘my sort’ of fantasy could enjoy (my influences were and remain, Anne McCaffrey, Katharine Kerr, Patricia Keneally Morrison, Melanie Rawn, Robin Hobb, Terry Pratchett and Robert Rankin), but this isn’t where fantasy is these days. (All hail grimdark – apart from Robin Hobb). I took to historical fiction when I discovered a historical character that needed writing about – Ealdorman Leofwine – but even then, it wasn’t a smooth journey. Once more, I went down the route of trying to find an agent and failed. And once more, I went indie. I will share the story of how I placed Ealdorman, as the book was then called, for pre-order on Smashwords for three months and got precisely no pre-orders – even though I stayed up until midnight on release day to watch them all flood in. It would be another three months until someone picked up that book!

I still toyed with fantasy, but I was increasingly finding my ‘home’ in historical fiction – a genre I didn’t particularly enjoy reading apart from five authors – Elizabeth Chadwick, Sharon Penman and Bernard Cornwell’s Excalibur trilogy, as well as Stonehenge and some Egyptian historical mysteries by Paul Doherty. I wrote different periods (but still in Early England). I tried different writing styles. I just didn’t stop because the only way to succeed was to write something that would be successful. 

I had a false start with The First Queen of England book, a novel I tried to write as a historical romance, but where the sequels pivoted towards the political (I mean, the poor woman’s husband died!) and which therefore landed me in trouble with my readers who didn’t want a romance, and with romance readers, who were unappreciative that the trilogy didn’t continue as a romance. But the success of the Lady Elfrida books did allow me to give up my part-time job to write full time.

I wrote some more fantasy. I wrote a modern-day/dystopian future mash-up under a different name and sold about ten copies. But all the time, readers were slowly coming. My pre-orders all made it beyond my zero for Ealdorman.

And then, one day, King Coelwulf came to me. He wasn’t very clear to start with, and he sat on the back burner for two years, and then, when I began to write him, he sort of exploded onto the computer screen. (I believe his character is so strong because of a character I’d written in one of my fantasy books, who isn’t Coelwulf but has some of his qualities, while the battle scenes have been built upon by my attempts to recreate the three famous battles of the seventh century and Brunanburh in the tenth). I also decided to ‘sod it’ and write a character the way I wanted to. That doesn’t mean that my other characters aren’t the men and women I want to portray, but I think there was some hesitancy in them and me. This time, I downplayed the history a little and upgraded the violence and the swearing. I brought the humour. I brought the peril, and I had a bloody good time doing it. And you know what, people loved it (or hated it), and Coelwulf connected me with an audience who had just been waiting for me to discover them. 

I’ve written 46 novels and one short story (15K) throughout the last ten years, which I published (not all under M J Porter), and a shorter short story in Iron and Gold with fellow Aspects of History authors. I have four further novels which aren’t yet published, which I’m writing – Son of Mercia will be published by Boldwood Books in February 2022 and is complete, the second book in the Eagles of Mercia Chronicles will be published by Boldwood in June 2022, the third, later in 2022. This means that after ten years as an indie, I’m becoming a hybrid author.

I have four series I’m currently writing (three set in Early England and one in 1940s Erdington), so more books will come, and I have many more stories to share. Whether I make it another 46 books in the next ten years, I genuinely don’t know. I can’t see I’ll lose the desire to write. To do that, I’ll need to stop attending history and archaeology talks which offer me so many new stories to tell. I’ll also have to stop reading because often, my ideas come from what I read. And that just isn’t going to happen. 

So, thank you to everyone of my readers who’s made the last ten years possible. You rock (well, most of you do – you know who you are:)) Let’s see what the next ten years bring. 

Competition time – enter to win a wonderful collection of historical mystery books including The Custard Corpses

There’s still time to enter the competition to win a set of historical fiction novels, including The Custard Corpses.

For full details, hop on over to The History Quill. (Open to UK and US entrants – please read full T & Cs).

You have until 3pm GMT on 16th December to enter. Good luck:)

The Only Living Lady Parachutist by Catherine Clarke Book Review – historical fiction

Today, I’m pleased to share my review for Catherine Clarke’s fabulous book, The Only Living Lady Parachutist. I was lucky enough to read this in beta with The History Quill and I absolutely loved it. I’m so pleased it’s now available for everyone to enjoy.

Here’s the blurb:

To test her courage, daredevil Lillian risks her life for fame and fortune by parachuting from a hot air balloon throughout Australia and New Zealand. But in the competitive 1890s era of charlatans, showmen, and theatrical hucksters, is she brave enough to confront the truth about her past? A story of courage and ambition, and the consequences of secrets and lies.

I really loved The Only Living Lady Parachutist. The author told a magnificent story that sucked me in, and I read it in three evenings. I was enthralled by the story of Lillian and her daredevil approach to life, and also by the wonderful reimagining of Australia and New Zealand at the time. (I’d not long finished watching The Luminaries so it tied it perfectly). The fact it’s based on ‘real’ people, as I discovered at the end, only added to my enjoyment of it, and I can appreciate how much fun the writer had in piecing together the story (and perhaps, how much heartache as well.)

The Only Living Lady Parachutist is available now on Kindle.

Connect with Catherine at her website or follow on twitter.

(this post contains some Amazon affiliate links).