A Warm Welcome 14/01/20

Hello, and welcome to my website.

This site is dedicated to my writing. I am not new to the world of writing, having been an avid reader for many years, and been writing stories for six. 2020 is the year I’ve finally decided to self publish my historical series, The Legend of the Cid.

As well as information on the books themselves, you will find articles on the world of the Cid and the tumultuous period of late eleventh century Spain, as well as reviews of books I have recently read.

Book Spotlight: The Scots of Dalriada by Rowena Kinread

Today, I welcome Rowena Kinread, where we are showcasing her newest novel, The Scots of Dalriada. Read on to discover more about this fantastic new novel!

The Scots of Dalriada by Rowena Kinread

Fergus, Loarn and Angus, Princes of the Dalriada, are forced into exile by their scheming half-brother and the druidess Birga One-tooth.

Fergus conceals himself as a stable lad on Aran and falls helplessly in love with a Scottish princess, already promised to someone else. Loarn crosses swords against the Picts. Angus designs longboats.

Always on the run the brothers must attempt to outride their adversaries by gaining power themselves. Together they achieve more than they could possibly dream of.
Fergus Mór (The Great) is widely recognised as the first King of Scotland, giving Scotland its name and its language. Rulers of Scotland and England from Kenneth mac Alpín until the present time claim descent from Fergus Mór.

Full of unexpected twists and turns, this is a tale of heart-breaking love amidst treachery, deceit and murder.

Rowena Kinread grew up in Ripon, Yorkshire with her large family and a horde of pets. Keen on travelling, her first job was with Lufthansa in Germany.

She began writing in the nineties. Her special area of interest is history. After researching her ancestry and finding family roots in Ireland with the Dalriada clan, particularly this era.

Her debut fiction novel titled “The Missionary” is a historical novel about the dramatic life of St. Patrick. It was published by Pegasus Publishers on Apr.29th, 2021 and has been highly appraised by The Scotsman, The Yorkshire Post and the Irish Times.

Her second novel “The Scots of Dalriada” centres around Fergus Mór, the founder father of Scotland and takes place in 5th century Ireland and Scotland. It is due to be published by Pegasus Publishers on Jan.26th, 2023.

The author lives with her husband in Bodman-Ludwigshafen, Lake Constance, Germany. They have three children and six grandchildren.

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B0BS78THF3

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0BS78THF3

Amazon CA: https://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/B0BS78THF3

Amazon AU: https://www.amazon.com.au/gp/product/B0BS78THF3

Website: https://www.rowena-kinread.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/RowenaKinread

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/rowena.strittmatter

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/rowena-kinread-6b054b228/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/rowenakinread/

Author Interview: Micheál Cladáin

Today I welcome author Micheál Cladáin, with an interview about his new release, Hammer. Read on for a fascinating interview with a fabulous author!

Tell us about your latest book.

Hammer is a tale that combines Irish mythology with Romano-British history. It comprises two POVs, Genonn the seeker (once a druid) and Agricola, a banded tribune seconded to the staff of the governor of Britannia, Gaius Suetonius Paulinus.

It is 60 or 61 years after Christ was born, about twenty years after the Battle of Gairech, where Queen Medb of Connacht and King Conchobar of Ulster fought over the Brown Bull of Cooley. I cover the story extensively in Milesian Daughter of War, August 2020. Boudica is about to rebel in the east of Britannia. The druid Elder Council on Mona (Anglesey) tasks Genonn with delivering the hammer of the Gods, Lorg Mór, to the queen to aid the warriors of the rebellion. Few believe the hammer is magical, but the Elders believe in the power of its symbology. To protect Genonn, the council leader Fedelm, Genonn’s wife, sends the warrior Oengus with him. Oengus is wanted for murder, but Fedelm believes him innocent.

Roman Cavalry at the fords of Pwll Ceris:

On the other side of the fords at Pwll Ceris, Agricola is suspicious of his commander’s behaviour. They suspect an uprising is imminent, but Suetonius orders the Fourteenth Legion west, away from where the rebels are likely to strike.

What inspired you to become a writer?

I was always going to be a writer. My first inclination was when Mr Sutherland, my English teacher, used to commend my stories and poems. I started dabbling after spending a week in bed with the mumps when I read The Lord of the Rings from cover to cover. Early dabbling could be considered storyboarding because I pencil sketched scenes from stories I was developing in my head. I submitted my first full manuscript when I was in my early twenties. It was a monstrous tome of 200k words (not only hideous in terms of size).

What was the biggest challenge in writing/releasing the book? Did you manage to overcome the challenge, and if so, how?

When the developmental edit came back, I found my editor had dismantled the story from beginning to end. Reading between the lines, it soon became apparent that they took umbrage at my treatment of Boudica and her army. I based Boudica and the Iceni warriors on their behaviour, as recorded by Tacitus and Cassius Dio. The later romantic ideas of the queen and the uprising contradict their accounts.

As soon as the classical historians accepted a female warrior, they described Boudica as neither a good leader nor much of a tactician militarily. There were two reasons for this. Convinced she would win, Boudica failed to sow crops for the harvest, expecting plunder to feed her people. This overconfidence was despite a heavy defeat suffered by the Celts of Anglesey, who had overwhelming odds in their favour but were beaten anyway. Furthermore, her army was out of control, sacking three cities and torturing seventy thousand inhabitants to death.

After the uprising was squashed, the Iceni and Trinovantes suffered from famine because they had no grain, a direct result of Boudica’s strategy. She broke all tactical doctrine by assuming she would win the battle at Watling Street. She blocked off her army’s retreat with wagons and chariots so her people could witness the enemy’s defeat. This action led to the massacre of eighty thousand warriors. Sun Tzu wrote, “hope for the best but prepare for the worst” (paraphrasing), which is the mantra of any great military leader.

None of that makes for particularly good reading when the anti-hero is somewhat of a national treasure.

I took a long time to decide how best to fix the issue. If my editor took umbrage, then others would too. Almost everyone has heard of Boudica and – especially the English – consider her a hero of the Romano-British era. Few of them would have read the classical accounts of what happened. Despite being a classicist, I am a novelist, and it behoves me to entertain my readers. Which is more important, accurate accounting of the historical facts or not upsetting my readers?

In the end, I decided to compromise. Suppose I made the queen and the uprising a backdrop to my story. In that case, I could ignore the writings of Tacitus and Dio to a certain extent without impacting the main thrust of Hammer. It required a rewrite, but what the heck, here we are three months later with the book on the shelves.

If you could spend a day in the setting of your novel, would you likely enjoy it or hate it?

To a certain extent, every historical novelist yearns for time travel. Writing about pre-Christian Ireland and (now) Romano-Britain is a time machine. It allows me to immerse myself in life as it was back then. I often sit in the National Heritage Centre in Wexford, soaking up the atmosphere.

Would I enjoy it? I am not sure I would. Often romantic ideas of what life was like back then are just that, romantic. Seldom do we think of the squalor, the barbarity, and the constant threat of death. Destruction in pre-Christian Ireland was usual. Clans often raided neighbouring clans to steal cattle and sell their people into slavery. Rape was considered a prize of battle. King Conaire, known as Conaire the Great, tried to stop it and lost his head because of it. Would I enjoy living there? No, I don’t think I would.

Can you tell us a little bit about your typical writing day?

I am a full-time writer, so I treat my day as though I am at a nine-to-five job in Dublin. I leave for the office at eight in the morning, kiss the wife goodbye and pat the dogs on the head before a gruelling five-second walk to the office.

I go over what I wrote the previous day. Take a break and then spend five or six hours writing new material or planning a new book. I take a one-hour lunch break where I go to the gym and spend the last couple of hours each day either researching or trying to plug my books.

If you novel were to be turned in to a TV series/film, who would play your main character?

Brendan Gleeson for Genonn. An ageing Irishman. Seemingly world-weary but also an excellent actor. For Agricola, a young James Purefoy, who was outstanding as Mark Anthony in the BBC series Rome.

What future projects do you have planned?

I am working on Iron, the second book in The Iron Between trilogy (Hammer, Iron, Anvil). I am in the planning stage. The only thing I know so far is that it all starts with Agricola catching sight of a woman through a foggy morning in Rome who he thinks is Clíodhna, Genonn’s daughter.

Do you have any advice for aspiring novelists?

I am often asked this question, and my answer never varies. Do not give up. Other cliches are associated with it: read a lot, write a lot, and the Urban myths, like Tolkien submitted The Lord of the Rings 129 times before he got a publisher. Today’s publishing world differs entirely from when Tolkien fought to be heard. I was at a Nielsen conference recently, where the presenter gave us the stat that 60 000 books are published each week globally. That news is a sobering thought.

How can anyone compete in that market?

One answer is to stand out from the crowd. Have a USP. In today’s market, quality is a unique selling point. Most of the novels released today are not edited. I am not restricting that statement to self— and Indie-published works. I read several traditionally published books in 2022, most of which had not been edited, even by reputable publishers like Penguin Random House.

So, my top tip, get your books edited by a professional. That will make sure they stand out.

We writers need to be aware that self-editing does not work. I am a professional editor and still have my books edited by someone else. The reason? The mind reads what it expects to see and not what is written. This is true of all reading but exaggerated when reading your own works. We’ve all seen those texts where the letters are anagrammed with the statement, “if you can read this, you’re a genius”, which is nonsense. What is happening is your mind is deciphering the words and giving you the answer. This occurs whenever we read.

Hammer by Micheál Cladáin

Genonn’s tired and dreams of a remote roundhouse in the Cuala Mountains.

However, sudden rebellion in Roman Britain destroys that dream because the Elder Council task him with delivering Lorg Mór, the hammer of the Gods, to the tribes across the straits of Pwll Ceris. Despite being torn between a waning sense of duty and his desire to become a hermit, Genonn finally agrees to help.

When his daughter follows him into danger, it tests his resolve. He wants to do everything he can to see her back to Druid Island and her mother. This new test of will means he is once again conflicted between duty and desire. Ultimately, his sense of duty wins; is it the right decision? Has he done the right thing by relegating his daughter’s safety below his commitment to the clans?

Hammer is available to read on #KindleUnlimited.

Universal Link: https://books2read.com/u/bzKZWz

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B0BMLQML9J

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0BMLQML9J

Amazon CA: https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B0BMLQML9J

Amazon AU: https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B0BMLQML9J

Micheál has been an author for many years. He studied Classics and developed a love of Greek and Roman culture through those studies. In particular, he loved their mythologies. As well as a classical education, bedtime stories consisted of tales read from a great tome of Greek Mythology, and Micheál was destined to become a storyteller from those times.

Social Media Links:

Website: www.philhughespublishing.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/cladain_m

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PerchedCrowPress

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/mickcladain/

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/stores/Miche%C3%A1l-Clad%C3%A1in/author/B07BGWK6BD

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17189173.Miche_l_Clad_in

Author Interview: Anna Belfrage

We’ve not done an author interview for a while, so I am delighted to welcome the fabulous Anna Belfrage to talk about her new book, Her Castilian Heart, and life as a writer in general.

Tell us about your latest book.

Her Castilian Heart is about a woman who is as protective of her man as he is of her. It irks Robert FitzStephan, experienced knight that he is, that his much younger (and smaller) wife Noor, is as ferocious as a lioness when she feels her loved ones need defending. After all, it is his job to keep them safe!
But when a man has a greedy and borderline insane half-brother to handle as well as a very disgruntled royal, well, then he needs everyone he can get in his corner.
Noor and Robert’s adventures are set against the backdrop of the historical events of 1287-1290. King Edward I is trying to broker peace on the continent while rebellion flares in Wales. Queen Eleanor is ailing—but does her best to hide it. Noor and Robert have plenty of challenges, and when things come to the crunch, it may very well be the knight who needs saving!

What inspired you to become a writer?

I think most writers start off being readers. And the more you read, the more your imagination is triggered, the more you start thinking up your own stories. That’s when I began to write, and I have notebook after notebook filled with the stories I started penning when I was very young. And no, none of those stories will ever see the light of the day because writing is a craft, something you get better at the more you do it. This is probably why I groan out loud on those few occasions when I pick up one of my first efforts.

What was the biggest challenge in writing/releasing the book? Did you manage to overcome the challenge, and if so, how?

My challenge always lies in pruning back the story which has a tendency to go wild and crazy, with multiple little side stories. I have become quite good at brutally hacking off the limbs that suddenly veer off in an unwanted direction. What I do, is that I save all these potential stories in a separate file, hoping I may be able to repurpose them in a future book.

If you could spend a day in the setting of your novel, would you likely enjoy it or hate it?

If it was only a day, I’d love it! Imagine walking IRL through a medieval palace or manor, strolling through the streets of a medieval town (while keeping a constant lookout for yucky stuff on the cobbles). I imagine I’d be a bit overcome by the scents: medieval people were not as dirty as we think—bath houses were common well into the sixteenth century—but a bath more than once a week was probably rare. Plus the gutters acted as sewers, there’d be the smell of recently slaughtered animals, of garments worn well past their laundry date.
But if you’re suggesting I travel back to medieval times to stay there permanently, my answer would be “no way!”

Can you tell us a little bit about your typical writing day?

Hmm. I don’t really have a typical writing day, as I have other professional obligations that take up big chunks of my time. But in the initial phase of a new book, I tend to write as much as I can per day, at least three to four hours. The story just pours out of me and I write and write and write, knowing full well that when I return to review this first draft I’ll be cutting out somewhere between thirty and fifty percent.

If you novel were to be turned in to a TV series/film, who would play your main character?

This is not a question I really want to answer. Yes, I have some vague idea as to which actor/actress best resembles my protagonist, but I want readers to do their own visualisation.

What future projects do you have planned?

Well, I need to finish my Castilian series, so I’ve started working on the fourth book. We’re going back to Wales where there is a new rebellion brewing, and this time it seems that some of my characters won’t make it through to the end.
I also have a number of other WIPs: There’s a time travel story set in the 18th century, a historical set in 17th century Sweden and one in 19th century USA. Plus, I’d really, really like to write a new contemporary suspense/paranormal series.

Do you have any advice for aspiring novelists?

Write what you’d want to read!
Never, ever skimp on the editing – if you expect people to pay, they should get a product that is professionally edited.

Her Castilian Heart By Anna Belfrage

Blood is not always thicker than water…

At times a common bloodline is something of a curse—or so Robert FitzStephan discovers when he realises his half-brother, Eustace de Lamont, wants to kill him.

A murderous and greedy brother isn’t Robert’s only challenge. He and his wife, Noor, also have to handle their infected relationship with a mightily displeased Queen Eleanor—all because of their mysterious little foundling whom they refuse to abandon or allow the queen to lock away.

Eustace is persistent. When Robert’s life hangs in the balance, it falls to Noor to do whatever it takes to rip them free from the toothy jaws of fate. Noor may be a woman, but weak she is not, and in her chest beats a heart as brave and ferocious as that of a lioness. But will her courage be enough to see them safe?

Is your book on Kindle Unlimited? YES

Universal Link (if you have it): http://myBook.to/HEART

Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/3cj9TIq

Amazon US: https://amzn.to/3dVZuCE

Amazon CA: https://amzn.to/3KfqvgF

Amazon AU: https://amzn.to/3AIBfks

Anna Belfrage

Had Anna been allowed to choose, she’d have become a time-traveller. As this was impossible, she became a financial professional with two absorbing interests: history and writing. 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 which is set in 14th century England.

Anna has also published The Wanderer, a fast-paced contemporary romantic suspense trilogy with paranormal and time-slip ingredients.

Her Castilian Heart is the third in her “Castilian” series, a stand-alone sequel to her September 2020 release, His Castilian Hawk. Set against the complications of Edward I’s invasion of Wales, His Castilian Hawk is a story of loyalty, integrity—and love. In the second instalment, The Castilian Pomegranate, we travel with the protagonists to the complex political world of medieval Spain. This latest release finds our protagonists back in England—not necessarily any safer than the wilds of Spain!

Anna has also authored The Whirlpools of Time in which she returns to the world of time travel. Join Duncan and the somewhat reluctant time-traveller Erin on their adventures through the Scottish Highlands just as the first Jacobite rebellion is about to explode!

All of Anna’s books have been awarded the IndieBRAG Medallion, she has several Historical Novel Society Editor’s Choices, and one of her books won the HNS Indie Award in 2015. She is also the proud recipient of various Reader’s Favorite medals as well as having won various Gold, Silver and Bronze Coffee Pot Book Club awards.

Find out more about Anna, her books and enjoy her eclectic historical blog on her website, www.annabelfrage.com

Social Media Links:

Website: www.annabelfrage.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/abelfrageauthor

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/annabelfrageauthor

Instagram: https://instagram.com/annabelfrageauthor

BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/anna-belfrage

Amazon Author Page: http://Author.to/ABG

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6449528.Anna_Belfrage

Book Spotlight: The Wolves of Wagria by Eric Schumacher

Today I welcome Eric Schumacher to my blog, where we showcase the release of his new novel, Wolves of Wagria. I will be posting a review of the book within the coming weeks, but to discover more about the latest release, read on!

Wolves of Wagria (Olaf’s Saga Book 3) by Eric Schumacher

Three kingdoms. Two friends. Only one way to survive.

For fans of Bernard Cornwell and Conn Iggulden comes the tale of Olaf Tryggvason and his adventures in the battle-scarred kingdom of Wagria.

It is AD 972. Olaf Tryggvason and his oath-sworn protector, Torgil, are once again on the move. They have left the Rus kingdom and now travel the Baltic Sea in search of plunder and fame. But a fateful storm lands them on the Vendishcoastline in a kingdom called Wagria.

There, they find themselves caught between the aggression of the Danes, the political aspirations of the Wagrian lords, and the shifting politics in Saxland. Can they survive or will they become just one more casualty of kingly ambitions? 

Find out in this harrowing sequel to the best-selling Forged by Iron and Sigurd’s Swords.

Eric Schumacher discovered his love for writing and medieval European history at a very early age, as well as authors like J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Bernard Cornwell, Jack Whyte, and Wilbur Smith. Those discoveries fueled his imagination and continue to influence the stories he tells. His first novel, God’s Hammer, was published in 2005.

You can follow Eric Schumacher on Amazon or by joining his newsletter at https://www.ericschumacher.net/readers-club.

Website: www.ericschumacher.net

Twitter: https://twitter.com/DarkAgeScribe

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/EricSchumacherAuthor

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/eric-schumacher-91b80b/

Book Bub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/eric-schumacher

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Eric-Schumacher/e/B001K8G4YW/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/399517.Eric_Schumacher

This book is available to read on #KindleUnlimited.

Universal Link: https://mybook.to/wolvesofwagria

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B0BFG9N26K

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0BFG9N26K

Amazon CA: https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B0BFG9N26K

Amazon AU: https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B0BFG9N26K

Book Spotlight: The Du Lac Chronicles, by Mary Anne Yarde

Today, I am delighted to welcome the founder of the Coffee Pot Book Club, Mary Anne Yarde, who is showcasing the first book in the fabulous series, The Du Lac Chronicles. Set a generation after the legend of King Arthur, it is a fascinating twist on such a well known tale. Read on to discover more and find out where to pick up a copy!

The Du Lac Chronicles (Book 1 of The Du Lac Chronicles) By Mary Anne Yarde

A generation after Arthur Pendragon ruled, Briton lies fragmented into warring kingdoms and principalities.

Eighteen-year-old Alden du Lac ruled the tiny kingdom of Cerniw. Now he half-hangs from a wooden pole, his back lashed into a mass of bloody welts exposed to the cold of a cruel winter night. He’s to be executed come daybreak—should he survive that long.

When Alden notices the shadowy figure approaching, he assumes death has come to end his pain. Instead, the daughter of his enemy, Cerdic of Wessex, frees and hides him, her motives unclear.

Annis has loved Alden since his ill-fated marriage to her Saxon cousin—a marriage that ended in blood and guilt—and she would give anything to protect him. Annis’s rescue of Alden traps them between a brutal Saxon king and Alden’s remaining allies. Meanwhile, unknown forces are carefully manipulating the ruins of Arthur’s legacy.

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Du-Lac-Chronicles-Book-ebook/dp/B01CDK2MK0

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Du-Lac-Chronicles-Book-ebook/dp/B01CDK2MK0

Amazon CA: https://www.amazon.ca/Du-Lac-Chronicles-Book-ebook/dp/B01CDK2MK0

Mary Anne Yarde

Mary Anne Yarde is a multi-award winning and bestselling author of Historical Fiction, as well as an award-winning blogger. She studied History at Cardiff University and went on to study Equine Science at Warwickshire College.

Mary Anne is a passionate advocate for quality Historical Fiction and founded The Coffee Pot Book Club in 2015 and became a professional Editorial Reviewer in 2016.

Mary Anne’s award-winning series, The Du Lac Chronicles, is set a generation after the fall of King Arthur. The Du Lac Chronicles takes you on a journey through Dark Age Britain and Brittany, where you will meet new friends and terrifying foes. Based on legends and historical fact, The Du Lac Chronicles is a series not to be missed

Born in Bath, England, Mary Anne grew up in the southwest of England, surrounded and influenced by centuries of history and mythology. Glastonbury—the fabled Isle of Avalon—was a mere fifteen-minute drive from her home, and tales of King Arthur and his knights were part of her childhood.

Social Media Links:

Website: https://authormaryanneyarde.blogspot.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/maryanneyarde

BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/mary-anne-yarde

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Mary-Anne-Yarde/e/B01C1WFATA

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15018472.Mary_Anne_Yarde

Book Spotlight: A Turbulent Beginning, by Paul Bennett

After a long break from blogging, I am delighted to welcome Paul Bennett to my blog today. Paul’s series, The Mallory Saga, is celebrating the launch of the fifth novel. Keep reading for details on the book and series, and how to pick up a copy!

Book 5 – A Turbulent Beginning

The Revolution is over, and a new nation has emerged from the ashes of war. The new government, leery of a powerful central government, learns quite quickly the folly of state legislatures controlling military operations, abandoning The Articles of Confederation to write The Constitution.

More lessons are learned by this second attempt when they discover that the indigenous tribes along the Ohio were more than a match for militia troops. It is time for President Washington and his War Secretary Henry Knox to come up with a better plan to pacify the warring tribes.

The Mallory clan is spread out from the Congaree River in South Carolina to the Wabash River in the Northwest Territory. The desire to be together again is stronger than the fear of traveling through a war zone. They are once again in the middle of the storm…Can they survive?…Can they make a difference?

The Mallory Saga Series

Follow the Mallory family as they attempt to live a peaceful life on the PA frontier in 1756. They face tragedy and loss as they become embroiled in The French and Indian War – Clash of Empires. In Paths to Freedom, the colonies are heading to open revolt against King George III, and the Mallory’s are once again facing the spectre of war. Crucible of Rebellion continues the Mallory story through the early years of The Revolutionary War. Book 4, A Nation is Born completes the Revolution and The Mallory’s have played their part in the victory. In book 5, A Turbulent Beginning, the nascent nation finds it hard going to establish a peaceful existence. The Natives of this land resist the westward expansion of white settlers.

Trigger Warnings: violence and battle scenes, mild sexual content, and profanity.

This series is available to read for free with #KindleUnlimited subscription.

Series in order:

Clash of Empires: https://books2read.com/u/m2eDQo

Paths to Freedom: https://books2read.com/u/47YyVE

Crucible of Rebellion: https://books2read.com/u/mg7xPz

A Nation Is Born: https://books2read.com/u/bPgpNx

A Turbulent Beginning: https://books2read.com/u/m2eDQd

Paul Bennett

Paul was born in Detroit when the Big Three ruled the automobile industry, and The Korean Conflict was in full swing. A lifelong interest in history and a love of reading eventually led him to Wayne State University where he majored in Ancient History, with a minor in Physical Anthropology. However, to make ends meet, those studies were left to the realm of dreams, and Paul found himself accidentally embarking on a 50 year career in computers. A career that he has recently retired from in order to spend more time with those dreams….7 grandchildren will help fill the time as well.

He now resides in the quaint New England town of Salem, Massachusetts with his wife Daryl, just a few minutes’ walk from the North River, and the site where the Revolution almost began.

The Mallory Saga is the culmination of Paul’s love of history, and his creative drive to write stories. With Nightwish and Bruce Cockburn coming through his headphones, and many cups of excellent coffee, Paul hopes to carry the Saga into the late 19th century, bringing American History to life through the eyes and actions of the Mallory family.

Social Media Links:

Website: https://clashofempires.wordpress.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/hooverbkreview

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mallorysaga/

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/paul-bennett-49b4b626/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/hooverpar/

BookBub: https://partners.bookbub.com/my_books

Amazon Author Page: https://author.amazon.com/home

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/dashboard?ref=nav_profile_authordash

Update 22/05/22

It has been quite a while (nearly six months in fact!) since I last did any sort of post, so I thought I would update everyone on matters of writing and life in general.

I must admit the past few months have been difficult writing wise. First and foremost, writing is a part time venture for me, and my day job and family life always take priority. Not long after the New Year I had planned to really knuckle down with the writing and get book five finished towards the middle of the year. However, the chance to do a training course through my job came up which was too good to turn down, and so over the next three months, all the time I had set aside for writing was eaten up by this new workload. I still managed to chip away at the book and jot down any ideas that I had, ready to use when the time came. But when I finally finished the course and opened up my manuscript once more, an unexpected feeling crept over me. I had lost the will to write.

Now this is totally different to writer’s block. This is not the feeling of not knowing what to write, where you type a few words, delete them and repeat time and again until you find some new inspiration. This was the temptation to pack the whole thing in. Simply put, I couldn’t be arsed to do it any more. Looking back on it now, I think it was because I put a hiatus on the writing right in the middle of a chapter which was quite open ended with where it could go, and so when I came back to writing it, I had to back track to see what I had written and try and decide where to take the characters, and just could not get going again. This carried on for several weeks, but after wallowing in self pity for that period, I’m glad to say I am firmly back on track. Book five of the Cid, which hasn’t got a name yet, is more or less close to being half done, and if I can pick up the pace with it I am hopeful to finish and publish well before Christmas. It is still a long way to go, but at least I am enjoying the writing process once more!

The first three of the Cid books have now surpassed over a hundred reviews and ratings on Amazon, and Master of Battle is not far behind. Sales were strong for the first few months of the year, but now are slowing starting to dip. This is perhaps down to my lack of activity online, so I cannot complain too much, but generally sales since Master of Battle came out have been good, and people are still buying the first book then the sequels, so the series is attracting new readers. One thing that has irked me slightly is bad ratings; not so much receiving them, but those who give them not stating why they thought the book was so bad. Negative reviews are part and parcel of being a writer, because not everyone will be a fan of the book for one reason or another, but stating the reason for the negative review can help a writer develop. Thankfully, the reviews for all four books have generally been positive, so I will take the bad with the good.

As well as cracking on with book five of the Cid, I have had a couple of ideas for short stories set within the time period of eleventh century Spain. These have been inspired by Steven McKay’s side stories he has done with his Robin Hood characters, and provides an extra insight to events not described in the books in too much detail, whilst allowing for some extra character development. I have only jotted down a brief outline of these stories, but dare not try and venture into them until book five is close to completion!

Hopefully in the coming weeks you will see me online more, trying to mingle in with the writing community and putting my name out there. I will also try and get a few new blog posts written, for those who enjoy the books and the world of the Cid. For now, thanks for reading!

Update 15/11/21

It has been a while since I last did a blog post, so I thought I would let everyone know I am still alive, and provide an update on writing.

It has been around two months since Master of Battle came out, and the reaction to it has so far been very positive. It has sold well, and sold faster than the others books had done in the first few months, and the reviews and ratings have been very positive. The only real bad review of it has come from a 1* Amazon rating, which appeared on the day of release; it is frustrating that there was no reason why it was 1*, as those who post negative reviews tend to point out why they did not like the book. But still, it has received mainly 5* across both Goodreads and Amazon, so I am ecstatic with the reaction up to now.

Speaking of reviews, Blood Feud is featured in this month’s edition of the Historical Novel Society Reviews, and joins Rise of a Champion on there. Both have generally favourable reviews, although it seems I may have to tone down the swearing a slight bit, according to the reviewer…Still, I am happy with them, and will be looking to get both The Fall of Kings and Master of Battle on there before long as well. You can find the reviews for both in the link below:


And Amy McElroy’s recent review of Master of Battle can be found here:

Sales for the other books have been generally good as well. Those who enjoyed Rise of a Champion are picking up the rest in the series, and even the first book continues to attract new readers, despite me not marketing the book at all. Perhaps the increased rating value on Amazon is tempting people to try it out. Maybe having four books in a series out already tempts people to commit to it. The sales may not propel them up the sales charts and make them best sellers, but at least people are buying them! I am also looking in to how to increase sales and find a wider audience, perhaps through a marketing scheme like Bookbub. I have read other writers who have gone down this path, and reported massive spikes in sales, so it will certainly be worth a venture; the only drawbacks are it can involve quite a hefty fee, and it is like a lottery to be chosen to have your advert feature in one of their emails. Perhaps I will pluck up the courage to give it a go soon…

In terms of the future, I am working on book five of the Cid series. It began as a very slow slog, as I was not quite sure how to begin it, but I am starting to make progress, and I am looking to complete the first part by Christmas. In terms of other writing, there is not much to report, except I have delved in to the art of Sports Writing! It is not a serious venture in truth. My son plays U7s football, and his coach jokingly said, as a writer, I should write a match report for the games. So I did, and he loved it, and now every Sunday I make loads of notes (whilst trying to watch and enjoy the match), then write up the main events a la Sky Sports style to the team’s Facebook group. In all seriousness, I love doing it, and intend to make a little scrapbook with the match reports for their presentation evening at the end of the season. They may not appreciate it now, but they might have a laugh looking back at it in ten years’ time.

I am also looking at options for more blog posts. I did intend to do book reviews on a regular basis, but I haven’t had the chance to write my own series, let alone pick up a book and enjoy it. In terms of other posts, one of the ones I have had in my draft folder for nearly a year is a look at Amazon’s El Cid series, how it compares with history, and how it holds up against other historical series on the box. Since I started writing it, series two has been released, so I will have to update it to include the more recent events…

Thanks for reading, and hopefully it will not be too long until you hear from me again!

Master of Battle Cover Reveal and Pre Order 09/08/21

I am delighted to finally reveal the cover for book 4 of Legend of the Cid, Master of Battle!

Legend of the Cid Book 4: Master of Battle

Peace reigns in the Kingdom of Leon-Castile, and Antonio Perez returns to his native Asturias to discover the fate of his remaining family. Whilst there, he reconnects with Jimena, his childhood companion and the girl he once loved. But when his closest Rodrigo and Jimena fall in love, Antonio is consumed by jealousy. As the wedding of two of his closest companions approaches, Antonio must battle his enemies and his inner demons, lest it lead to the ruin of all he holds dear.

Having secured his borders, Alfonso VI of Leon-Castile pushes south against the Moors. When a raid by the Moors threatens Castile, Rodrigo leads his men on a daring campaign of vengeance. But with the venture a credible threat to the uneasy peace Alfonso has brokered with the taifa kings, Rodrigo’s bravado could have dire consequences to himself and the security of the kingdom. With enemies old and new circling, will Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar find greatness on the battlefields of Hispania, and cement his reputation as one of the most feared warriors in the land, or will his actions lead to his ruin?

Master of Battle is the exhilarating fourth instalment of the Legend of the Cid.

The ebook is available for pre order below, and will be released 10/09/21, as will the paperback (not available to pre order).

UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B09C4KLW8Y/

US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09C4KLW8Y/

Australia: https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B09C4KLW8Y/

Canada: https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B09C4KLW8Y/

Let me know what you think!

Book Extract – Tracy Warr

Today I welcome Tracy Warr to my blog, where I will be sharing an excusive extract from her new novel, Conquest: The Anarchy. Scroll down to read a passage from what promises to be an intriguing read!

Chapter 8 – Gisulf’s Box

Haith found Gisulf’s house on the edge of the city, close to a stinking and clogged ditch in the vicinity of Smithfield. Haith wondered at the choice of location. This place was as far away as it was possible to be from the royal palace and administrative offices at Westminster where Gisulf’s duties as royal clerk had lain when the king was in residence. From the outside, the house had an air of neglect. Haith banged on the door, which quivered on loose hinges beneath his fist. The person on the other side of the portal took their time opening up. Haith regarded the door with scepticism. It was so badly maintained and flimsy that a quick kick would have easily collapsed it, despite the barrage of locks that he could hear being unlocked and the bolts being slid back.

The door opened a crack and the hostile gaze of a very fat and slovenly looking woman scoured Haith from head to foot. Finally, she asked him his business.

‘I am on the king’s business, madam,’ Haith told her. She looked alarmed. ‘I am required to collect all papers belonging to Gisulf the clerk, who formerly lived here.’

‘We don’t want no Flemings here,’ she blurted, voicing the prejudice of many Londoners against the foreign traders and especially against the numerous Flemings. ‘Get away.’

She began to close the door and Haith inserted a boot in the gap. ‘I told you, madam, I am on the king’s business. I am one of his sheriffs.’ Haith neglected to mention that his shrievalty was far away in south-west Wales.

‘Master Gisulf told me that he held this soke from the archbishop of Canterbury himself and no writ, not even the king’s runs here. Get away or I’ll be calling the reeve on you.’ Her words were bold, but the fear in her face told a different story. She must have been holed up here for the last year, since report of Gisulf’s drowning would have reached her, just waiting for the day when an official of some sort would knock on the door and turf her into the street.

Gisulf’s burh was a defensible walled house, and during his lifetime it would have been staffed with guards and well-nigh impossible to breach but Haith had the impression that following her master’s death, this slatternly woman was the only person remaining. Gisulf’s other household staff would have long since left when the payment of wages abruptly dried up.

‘I know the law,’ she went on. ‘No one can be arrested in their house in a soke. It’s protected, private property. Only place you can arrest me is standing in the middle of the road.’

‘Well, perhaps you would care to step out and join me here, then,’ countered Haith in exasperation. ‘What are you defending woman?’ He tried another tack. ‘Your master is dead. I have been instructed to search his papers in case he has left bequests for his retainers that must be honoured before his affairs are wound up and this very soke is returned to the jurisdiction of the archbishop.’

She heard the twin hint of something in it for her and the threat of eviction and gaped at him for a long moment, perplexed. ‘Master Gisulf didn’t want anyone knowing he was secreted away here,’ she complained, ‘but, true enough, he’s dead now.’ She opened the door to allow Haith over the threshold.

‘Indeed,’ Haith said, impatient in his hope that this run-down residence might give him a crucial piece of the puzzle of The White Ship.

‘He kept his paperwork all upstairs,’ she said, ‘but there’s nothing there now.’

‘Lead the way, please.’

The woman turned her broad back upon him and led him up several flights of narrow, precipitous stairs to the attic room. ‘This was his writing room,’ she said, throwing her arm wide as if she had led him to a palatial chamber rather than the sorry little room he was looking at. ‘I haven’t touched anything.’ Haith raised an eyebrow at her. He strongly doubted that. ‘I didn’t take in any tenants in respect for poor Master Gisulf.’ Haith ignored the hint that she might like some remuneration for her delicacy.

‘Leave me, mistress. I will let you know when I am finished here.’

She humphed, turned on a heel, and eased herself back down the creaking stairs.

Haith looked around him. A narrow bed, a desk, and chair. A candlestick on the desk. If there had been a candle, the woman had taken that long ago. A sliver of light came in through a skylight. More low beams for Haith to avoid. And these beams were rough and splintered and of many differing widths and woods, as if they had been collected in the forest and leant against each other, temporarily, to hold up the roof, rather than being carefully dressed and knit in place by a master carpenter. That was probably exactly what had happened. It gave the room the appearance of a kind of treehouse. Haith wound his head carefully around the treacherous beams to look at the desk. There was nothing on or under it. He sat on the chair and regarded the empty room. The woman would have ransacked its contents long ago. He rose up again, gingerly, to avoid braining himself on the ‘treehouse’ structure. He moved slowly and quietly down the stairs in search of the woman’s quarters.

He heard her chopping vegetables at the board in the kitchen. She had her back to the open door to the kitchen. Haith moved past the doorway to the next room, which appeared to be her bedchamber. There were clothes strewn around the room. He dropped to all fours to look under the bed and fished out a small chest. He sat back on his heels regarding it. It was a good quality waxed canvas coffer strapped with leather. It did not look like the possession of the woman next door, but rather more like something Gisulf himself would have used to store parchments and carry about with him. It had a stout hasp and was locked. Haith tested the weight of the coffer. Whatever was inside was not heavy. He could carry it. Better to take it back to his own quarters and break it open there, rather than sit here hammering at the lock, and dealing with the woman’s resistance. He hefted the chest to his hip, draped his cloak about it and made for the door, calling out a cheery goodbye and thanks when he was clear of the threshold and closing the door behind him.

The Anarchy (Conquest, Book 3) By Tracey Warr

Unhappily married to Stephen de Marais, the Welsh princess, Nest, becomes increasingly embroiled in her countrymen’s resistance to the Norman occupation of her family lands. She plans to visit King Henry in the hope of securing a life away from her unwanted husband, but grieving for the loss of his son, the King is obsessed with relics and prophecies.

Meanwhile, Haith tries to avoid the reality that Nest is married to another man by distracting himself with the mystery of the shipwreck in which the King’s heir drowned. As Haith pieces together fragments of the tragedy, he discovers a chest full of secrets, but will the revelations bring a culprit to light and aid the grieving King?

Will the two lovers be united as Nest fights for independence and Haith struggles to protect King Henry?

Author Bio:

Tracey Warr (1958- ) was born in London and lives in the UK and France. Her first historical novel, Almodis the Peaceweaver (Impress, 2011) is set in 11th century France and Spain and is a fictionalised account of the true story of the Occitan female lord, Almodis de la Marche, who was Countess of Toulouse and Barcelona. It was shortlisted for the Impress Prize for New Fiction and the Rome Film Festival Books Initiative and won a Santander Research Award. Her second novel, The Viking Hostage, set in 10th century France and Wales, was published by Impress Books in 2014 and topped the Amazon Australia charts. Her Conquest trilogy, Daughter of the Last King, The Drowned Court, and The Anarchy recount the story of a Welsh noblewoman caught up in the struggle between the Welsh and the Normans in the 12th century. She was awarded a Literature Wales Writers Bursary. Her writing is a weave of researched history and imagined stories in the gaps in history.

Tracey Warr studied English at University of Hull and Oxford University, gaining a BA (Hons) and MPhil. She worked at the Arts Council, Institute of Contemporary Arts, Chatto & Windus Publishers, and edited Poetry Review magazine with Mick Imlah. She also publishes art writing on contemporary artists, and in 2016 she published a future fiction novella, Meanda, in English and French, as part of the art project, Exoplanet Lot. She recently published a series of three books, The Water Age, which are future fiction and art and writing workshop books – one for adults and one for children – on the topic of water in the future. She gained a PhD in Art History in 2007 and was Guest Professor at Bauhaus University and Senior Lecturer at Oxford Brookes University and Dartington College of Arts. Her published books on contemporary art include The Artist’s Body (Phaidon, 2000), Remote Performances in Nature and Architecture (Routledge, 2015) and The Midden (Garret, 2018). She gained an MA in Creative Writing at University of Wales Trinity St David in 2011. She is Head of Research at Dartington Trust and teaches on MA Poetics of Imagination for Dartington Arts School.

Social Media Links:

Website: https://traceywarrwriting.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/TraceyWarr1

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/traceywarrhistoricalwriting/

LinkedIn: https://uk.linkedin.com/in/traceywarr

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/tracey.warr.9/

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Tracey-Warr/e/B0053YDVPE

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/series/192570-conquest

The Daughter of the Last King (Book 1) – https://geni.us/LPF1

The Drowned Court (Book 2) – https://geni.us/ddAFsas

The Anarchy (Book 3) – https://geni.us/274ZX

Writing Update 23/07/21

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these!

For all of my loyal readers (excluding my mam and dad) who have followed my career thus far, I thought I would give a quick update on how things are going.

Unfortunately, life has hit my writing schedule pretty hard in the past couple of months. I had hoped that at this point I would be talking about the upcoming release of book four of the Cid series. All progress has halted because of the so called ‘pingdemic’. I should have had a nice week off recently to finish doing the various bits and bobs and planning a blog tour, but because of nearly all of my colleagues being pinged by the NHS Track and Trace app, I had to cancel the time off and have instead worked every hour required of me. All plans have been knocked. The light at the end of the tunnel vanished. The muse inside of me lamented!

I had hoped to have book four of the Cid series, titled Master of Battle, just about ready for release, but it simply hasn’t worked out that way. The final draft is just about finished, and it is currently out to beta readers, so I will be hoping for some feedback soon. But I have a couple of things to finish off, mainly some maps and the historical note, then it will need formatting for Kindle and paperback editions. I hope to have a front cover reveal soon, and it is usually a month after the reveal that the book comes out, so early September seems like the best bet.

Sales have been steady over the past couple of months. There was a lull in June where I didn’t sell that many, and only KENP pages read on Amazon kept the royalty numbers up, but July has been a lot better, which is certainly encouraging. Sales of paperbacks have kept pace with ebooks for the first time this month, which I am buzzing about, because I like the idea of people investing in a proper book and having my name on their bookshelves next to more esteemed, established authors. I also hope the impending release of the next book will drive a bit more interest.

Progress on book five has ground to a halt. I had made a promising start on the first chapter and liked the way it was going, but like I said, life got in the way. The plot is all mapped out, and there are some sequences I am very eager to write, but I have to keep remembering its a marathon and not a sprint to get it finished! I think there will be a fairly long wait between the release dates of book four and five, but I am not too worried about that just yet!

Elsewhere, it is great to see series two of Amazon’s El Cid finally released. I enjoyed the first series, and had planned a little blog post exploring the differences between the series and the real life Cid, but life got in the way. Once I get series two out the way, I may revisit it and share my thoughts on a great watch.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you are looking forward to Master of Battle. I’ll have an update, cover reveal and release date soon (hopefully!).

Author Interview – Zenobia Neil

Today I welcome the wonderful Zenobia Neil, who will be talking about her latest novel, Ariadne Unraveled: A Mythic Retelling. I have always enjoyed Greek Myths, so I am sure this book will be fascinating!

Tell us about your latest book.

Ariadne Unraveled: A Mythic Retelling was born from my deep love of Greek mythology and my interest in portraying history from different points of view. It’s the story of Ariadne, Dionysus, Theseus and the Minotaur from a Minoan perspective. It’s a diverse, feminist look at a myth where Ariadne is usually portrayed as a side note. It’s also a response to the idea that history and mythology is recorded by the victors and in this case, the Athenians were the victors. They recorded the tale about their Minoan enemies, like that the witch-queen of Crete lusted after a bull and gave birth to a monster and that monster, the Minotaur devoured Athenian youths until Theseus came and saved the day.

Ariadne Unraveled is also a love story between Ariadne and Dionysus—an interpretation of the many contradictory myths about both of them. It is also a bit of a coming-of-age story of the last Olympian god.

What inspired you to become a writer?

I’ve always loved to learn about other people and other worlds. Reading and writing is the best path for me to travel outside myself and experience different times, places, and people.

What was the biggest challenge in writing/releasing the book? Did you manage to overcome the challenge, and if so, how?

Ariadne Unraveled was challenging to write for a several reasons. It takes place thousands of years ago, there are so many conflicting myths about Ariadne and Dionysus, and we know some things but not a lot of other things about the Minoans. The hardest part was figuring out how to make the myths match the story and create the characters in a cohesive way.

If you could spend a day in the setting of your novel, would you likely enjoy it or hate it?

I would love it! I went to Crete a few years ago to research this book. Crete is now my favorite place, but I also got to write about Naxos, Lemnos, Mount Olympus, and the Underworld (I wouldn’t enjoy being there so much.) I loved looking at images of the Aegean islands and imagining being on the sea.

Can you tell us a little bit about your typical writing day?

These days my writing really revolves around my kids. When my son’s in Zoom school or playing video games in the other room, I write in his room. When he’s in his room, I write at the dining room table. Right now, it feels like there isn’t very much that’s typical about my schedule.

If your novel were to be turned in to a TV series/film, who would play your main character?

This is such a hard question for this book. I’ve asked a few readers and one suggested Rege Jean Page for Dionysus—only with really long hair. And for Ariadne I’d go with Jessie Mei Li from Shadow and Bone.

What future projects do you have planned?

I’m working on a prequel to my last novel, The Queen of Warriors: Alexandra of Sparta Book One. My new novel will take place in Sparta and Asia Minor 50 years after the death of Alexander the Great and focus on how my main character, Alexandra, managed to become the Queen of Warriors.

Do you have any advice for aspiring novelists?

Write what you want. Discover your genre and read a lot. Make connections with other readers and writers. It’s a long, difficult, amazing journey, but keep going and find your stride.

Ariadne Unraveled: A Mythic Retelling By Zenobia Neil

Ariadne, high priestess of Crete, grew up duty-bound to the goddess Artemis. If she takes a husband, she must sacrifice him to her goddess after no more than three years of marriage. For this reason, she refuses to love any man, until a mysterious stranger arrives on her island.

The stranger is Dionysus, the new god of wine who empowers women and breaks the rules of the old gods. He came to Crete seeking vengeance against Artemis. He never expected to fall in love.

Furious that Dionysus would dare meddle with her high priestess, Artemis threatens to kill Ariadne if Dionysus doesn’t abandon her. Heartbroken, the new god leaves Crete, vowing to become better than the Olympians.

From the bloody labyrinth and the shadows of Hades to the halls of Olympus, Dionysus must find a way to defy Artemis and unite with his true love. Forced to betray her people, Ariadne discovers her own power to choose between the goddess she pledged herself to and the god she loves.

Zenobia Neil

Zenobia Neil was named after an ancient warrior queen who fought against the Romans. She writes historical romance about the mythic past and Greek and Roman gods having too much fun.

Visit her at ZenobiaNeil.com

Social Media Links:

Website: http://www.zenobianeil.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ZenobiaNeil

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/zenobianeilauthor

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/zenobia.neil/?hl=en

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/zenobianeil

Book Bub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/zenobia-neil

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Zenobia-Neil/e/B01KY86Q46

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15661007.Zenobia_Neil

Author Interview – Eric Schumacher

In today’s guest post, I have an Author Interview with the fantastic Eric Schumacher. Read on to discover some more information about Eric’s forthcoming release, Sigurd’s Swords, the latest instalment in the Olaf’s Saga series.

Tell us about your latest book.

First of all, thank you for having me on your blog! The latest book is the second book in my series about Olaf Tryggvason, who is one of the more colourful Vikings of the 10th century. The first book, Forged by Iron, tells the story of how Olaf was driven from his home in Norway by the treachery of his kinsman. Sigurd’s Swords recounts Olaf’s time fighting by his uncle’s side in the kingdom of the Rus (which we know today as Russia, Belarus and Ukraine). It is a tumultuous time in that area of the world and Olaf and his oath-sworn friend, Torgil, must use all of their cunning and all of their skill to stay alive.

What inspired you to become a writer?

I have been writing since I was a boy. After school, I would come home and pen short stories. While I am not exactly sure what originally inspired me to pick up a pen and start writing, I do know that it is a passion and pursuit I could not live without.

What was the biggest challenge in writing/releasing the book? Did you manage to overcome the challenge, and if so, how?

For me, the biggest challenge with any book is editing it. I love doing the research and writing the story, but editing is more of a grind to me. Even though I have an editor, I still read and re-read the story for factual accuracy and flow, and in the process, labour over the smallest items because they matter to me. But I would be lying if I said it wasn’t a challenge.

If you could spend a day in the setting of your novel, would you likely enjoy it or hate it?

Great question. I woud love it, but I don’t think I would survive that among Vikings. If I could be invincible and simply take in the sights and sounds and smells of the period, that might work.

Can you tell us a little bit about your typical writing day?

Ah, I wish I had a typical day. Since I still have a day job, my writing happens when I can find the time. Usually at night or on the weekends. I suppose the common thread, though, is that I need about two to three hours of quiet, uninterrupted time. Any longer and I find my writing starts to go stale. Any shorter than an hour and I feel like I haven’t had time to get into a groove.

If your novel were to be turned in to a TV series/film, who would play your main character?

My novel is narrated by Olaf’s friend and oath-sworn protector, Torgil. I think a young Michiel Huisman (Daario from Game of Thrones) would be a perfect Torgil.

What future projects do you have planned?

Next up for me is book 3 in Olaf’s Saga, which will place Olaf in Northern Germany fighting for the German king, Otto II. I’ve already begun the writing and hope to release it late next year (2022).

Do you have any advice for aspiring novelists?

Sure. First, keep writing. Writing is a craft, and the only way you improve is by writing more. Challenge yourself. Don’t be afraid to write different things. Poems, songs, scripts, short stories, or whatever you fancy. It all feeds into your creativity and your voice as a writer. Get feedback from people outside your friends and family. And lastly, find a good editor.

Sigurd’s Swords (Olaf’s Saga, Book 2) By Eric Schumacher

From best-selling historical fiction novelist, Eric Schumacher, comes the second volume in Olaf’s Saga: the adrenaline-charged story of Olaf Tryggvason and his adventures in the kingdom of the Rus.

AD 968. It has been ten summers since the noble sons of the North, Olaf and Torgil, were driven from their homeland by the treachery of the Norse king, Harald Eriksson. Having then escaped the horrors of slavery in Estland, they now fight among the Rus in the company of Olaf’s uncle, Sigurd.

It will be some of the bloodiest years in Rus history. The Grand Prince, Sviatoslav, is hungry for land, riches, and power, but his unending campaigns are leaving the corpses of thousands in their wakes. From the siege of Konugard to the battlefields of ancient Bulgaria, Olaf and Torgil struggle to stay alive in Sigurd’s Swords, the riveting sequel to Forged by Iron.

Eric Schumacher

Eric Schumacher (1968 – ) is an American historical novelist who currently resides in Santa Barbara, California, with his wife and two children. He was born and raised in Los Angeles and attended college at the University of San Diego. At a very early age, Schumacher discovered his love for writing and medieval European history, as well as authors like J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. Those discoveries continue to fuel his imagination and influence the stories he tells. His first novel, God’s Hammer, was published in 2005.

Social Media Links:

Website: http://www.ericschumacher.net

Twitter: https://twitter.com/darkagescribe

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/eric.schumacher.71/

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/eric-schumacher-91b80b

BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/eric-schumacher

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Eric-Schumacher/e/B001K8G4YW

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/399517.Eric_Schumacher

Author Interview – Mercedes Rochelle

Today I welcome Mercedes Rochelle to my blog. Mercedes was very kind enough to host a blog post when Rise of a Champion came out and I was just beginning my journey as a writer, so I am delighted to be able to repay the favour in hosting her for an Author Interview today. Read on to discover a bit of background about her and her new novel, The Usurper King.

Tell us about your latest book.

Henry Bolingbroke is The Usurper King, which is Book 3 of The Plantagenet Chronicles.

I start the book by backtracking a bit back from the previous volume (which ends with King Richard’s imprisonment), because this is Henry’s story. It really begins during his exile. I found him to be a sympathetic character—at least at first. He was wrongfully deprived of his inheritance and chose to go back and reclaim his patrimony with the enthusiastic support of the Percies and other northern barons. His glorious (and practically bloodless) revolution catapulted him to the throne, but almost immediately Richard’s supporters launched a rebellion. Repressions led to more discontent and Henry’s early idealism degenerated into bitter retribution. To make matters worse, even after King Richard’s funeral, the dethroned king was rumored to be in Scotland, planning his return. The spectre just wouldn’t stay down and the malcontents wanted him back.

What inspired you to become a writer?

I was an English major in college, so the spark must have been already there. However, I actually remember the very day I decided to become a writer. My then boyfriend, who was a journalist for a small newspaper, suggested we write a book together. It seemed like a fun project and I wanted to explore a link to my favorite Shakespeare play Macbeth. We both wrote a first chapter and I immediately recognized that we had totally incompatible approaches. By then I was on fire; I took the story into my own hands and wrote was to become “Heir To A Prophecy” (years later). I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was learning how to write historical fiction. BTW, he forgave me.

What was the biggest challenge in writing/releasing the book? Did you manage to overcome the challenge, and if so, how?

Sorry, I can’t tell you. It would give away my best secret! Something about Richard II.

If you could spend a day in the setting of your novel, would you likely enjoy it or hate it?

I love medieval England and in my mind the setting is so pastoral and beautiful the nostalgic part of my brain would be in heaven. However, London is another matter! Can you imagine the incredible cacophony of odors? Open sewers, from the Fleet to the Thames. People throwing their garbage and night soil into the street—or at best in their backyards. Mud and horse manure everywhere. Rotting corpses in the churchyards during time of plague. I guess everyone who lived there was used to it, but I wonder how folk from the country reacted?

Can you tell us a little bit about your typical writing day?

I don’t really have a schedule but I tend to do my marketing/blog/platform-building during the day before I start writing late afternoon. I seem to be at my most productive in the early evening. I have two computers side-by-side: my desktop for my “work” and my laptop (standing up) for my writing. I have to force myself to stand up, but it seems to keep the juiced flowing. Hemingway taught me that!

If you novel were to be turned in to a TV series/film, who would play your main character?

Since this is make-believe, I would cast most of my characters in the same role I found them: in the BBC production of Richard II from way back in the ’80s. Derek Jacobi was Richard. Jon Finch made the perfect Henry IV for me; I even keep a picture of him on my desktop— in armor. If I had to pick live actors, I know I would use Hugh Jackman as my Harry Hotspur; he has the perfect mix of innocence and exuberance. I think I’d like to see Robert Downey Jr. as Henry IV; he has the most eloquent eyes.

What future projects do you have planned?

I have decided to take my Plantagenet Legacy to the end of Henry VI’s life since he’s the last Lancastrian king. This will encompass at least three more novels, possibly four. After that, I’m inclined to jump across the Channel and take up the French royal family in the same period. A mad king, an unfaithful queen, murder and feuding in the royal family—how can I go wrong?

Do you have any advice for aspiring novelists?

Don’t do it for the money! Write to follow your own muse, or you may be eternally frustrated.

The Usurper King (The Plantagenet Legacy, Book 3) By Mercedes Rochelle

From Outlaw to Usurper, Henry Bolingbroke fought one rebellion after another.

First, he led his own uprising. Gathering support the day he returned from exile, Henry marched across the country and vanquished the forsaken Richard II. Little did he realize that his problems were only just beginning. How does a usurper prove his legitimacy? What to do with the deposed king? Only three months after he took the crown, Henry IV had to face a rebellion led by Richard’s disgruntled favorites. Worse yet, he was harassed by rumors of Richard’s return to claim the throne. His own supporters were turning against him. How to control the overweening Percies, who were already demanding more than he could give? What to do with the rebellious Welsh? After only three years, the horrific Battle of Shrewsbury nearly cost him the throne—and his life. It didn’t take long for Henry to discover that that having the kingship was much less rewarding than striving for it.

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B08YLFMVPZ

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08YLFMVPZ

Mercedes Rochelle

Mercedes Rochelle is an ardent lover of medieval history, and has channelled this interest into fiction writing. Her first four books cover eleventh-century Britain and events surrounding the Norman Conquest of England. The next series is called The Plantagenet Legacy about the struggles and abdication of Richard II, leading to the troubled reigns of the Lancastrian Kings. She also writes a blog: HistoricalBritainBlog.com to explore the history behind the story. Born in St. Louis, MO, she received by BA in Literature at the Univ. of Missouri St. Louis in 1979 then moved to New York in 1982 while in her mid-20s to “see the world”. The search hasn’t ended! Today she lives in Sergeantsville, NJ with her husband in a log home they had built themselves.

Website: https://mercedesrochelle.com/

Blog: https://mercedesrochelle.com/wordpress/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mercedesrochelle.net

Twitter: https://twitter.com/authorRochelle

Book Bub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/mercedes-rochelle

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Mercedes-Rochelle/e/B001KMG5P6?

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1696491.Mercedes_Rochelle

Author Interview – Faith L. Justice

Tell us about your latest book.

At it’s heart, Dawn Empress is a love story. A sister’s love for her brother, a saint’s love for her church, and an empress’ love of power. Aelia Pulcheria Augusta was a 5th century Roman Empress, sister to Theodosius II, and is a saint in both the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches. She led a remarkable life as a political prodigy and as a woman in a time when women—even imperial women—had little control over their lives. Her accomplishments in, taking control of the Eastern Roman Empire at the tender age of fifteen, acting as Regent for her under-age brother, and profoundly influencing the doctrine of the early Christian Church rank up there with later powerful female rulers such as Elizabeth I of England. It wasn’t all smooth sailing, but in the end, Pulcheria set the stage for the dawning of the Byzantine Empire.

What inspired you to become a writer?

I’ve always been a voracious reader. In my 30’s, a run of uninspired, repetitive fantasy novels sent me to the keyboard screaming, “I can write better than that!” Of course, I couldn’t—then. I had come to fiction writing after years of non-fiction, academic and business writing in my various jobs. I had to learn a whole new way of telling stories. Most of my early work is short science fiction/fantasy/dark fiction. That got me started, but—in spite of a couple of minor awards—I realized my heart wasn’t really in that genre. I liked reading it but not writing it.

What kept me writing was switching to historical fiction. I fell in love with a 5th century woman named Hypatia, the Lady Philosopher of Alexandria who was also a mathematician and astronomer. I wanted to tell her story in an entertaining way that allowed the reader to learn a little something about history. In doing the research for my first novel (Selene of Alexandria, in which Hypatia is a major character), I discovered the Theodosian women and their remarkable contributions to history. I hit the treasure trove with their stories and have plenty of material to keep me writing for years.

What was the biggest challenge in writing/releasing the book? Did you manage to overcome the challenge, and if so, how?

Making my protagonist Pulcheria at least relatable, if not likeable, for the modern reader, posed my biggest writing challenge. The primary sources by church historians praised her for allowing the destruction of synagogues and purging her brother’s government of pagans. As a modern secular person, I found these actions repugnant, but typical of the times. I had found it easy to like and sympathize with Placidia, my protagonist from Twilight Empress. So I was surprised with myself when I admired Pulcheria’s accomplishments, especially her dedication to making the lives of ordinary people better, but didn’t like her much. I couldn’t connect with her. As a writer, I had to overcome my own biases, before I could write about Pulcheria in a sympathetic and honest way.

I decided to focus on the possible motivations that turned Pulcheria toward the church, fueled her fierce protectiveness towards her brother, and drove her lust for power. Little is known of her childhood, but it must have been lonely and frightening after being orphaned so young. Pulcheria was obviously a prodigy. She knew her histories and it wasn’t promising for underaged rulers. With no adult champions, she had to grow up quick and take control. Her childhood fear and

insecurity gave me the hook I needed to create the character of a complicated, remarkable woman, who faced enormous odds with intelligence and skill. In the end, I understood and sympathized with her plight. I hope that came through in the story, but the readers will have to let me know for sure.

If you could spend a day in the setting of your novel, would you likely enjoy it or hate it?

I could probably tolerate 24 hours in the 5th century Constantinople court for the novelty, but would hate to live in it for any significant length of time. The overt piety of the times coupled with the formality of the court are the opposite of what I enjoy. That bias shows in my writing when I have Theodosius complain about the court ritual and Pulcheria anxious to get out of her itchy formal regalia.

Can you tell us a little bit about your typical writing day?

Writing is my job, so I treat it like one. I get up, feed the cats and myself, and am at my writing computer no later than 10 am. I write (new words only—no rewriting!) until 1 pm. Not all new writing is on novels. I have short stories, reviews, blog posts, free-lance articles, etc. I’m trying to up my time on novel writing, however, because I have so projects. I also fiercely protect these three hours—no phones, no internet, no family. I take a full hour lunch break and usually watch the monologues from a couple late night comedy shows. Afternoons are for miscellaneous publishing projects: rewriting, proofing, marketing, interior layout, and research. I try to knock off by six. Sometimes I write on the weekends if I’m on a roll, but with nice weather, I spend more weekends gardening than in my office.

If your novel were to be turned in to a TV series/film, who would play your main character?

Tilda Swinton. She has the face, bones, and acting chops to freeze Roman generals in their place and bend stiff-necked nobles to her will.

What future projects do you have planned?

I have a prequel novella to Twilight Empress and my second middle-school Adventurous Girls book almost completed. Both need a polish and final edit. I’ve started on the third Theodosian Women novel which is Athenais’ story. I hope to have a first draft by the end of the year and published within the next two years. I also have a sequel to my gladiatrix novel Song of the Gladiatrix started and outlined, but I don’t think I’ll get back to it until next year. When I get the next two novels out, I think I’ll do a series of novellas about some of the next generation Theodosians, but a lot happens in three years, so we’ll see. So many stories, so little time!

Do you have any advice for aspiring novelists?

Natural “talent” is nice, but writing is a craft and can be taught. There are aisles full of good how-to books on writing in bookstores and libraries, but the one thing any writer—fiction or non-fiction—needs to master is storytelling. How do you develop your characters, plot, and setting in such a way that it draws the reader in and keeps them turning the pages. A good

storyteller can get away without sparkling prose, but the opposite isn’t true. If you don’t like learning from books, take classes or join a critique group.

Also persistence and a thick skin help. I’ve known several people over the years who (I felt) were wonderful writers with original voices and compelling stories, but they gave up after getting a couple of rejections. Write your story or novel to the best of your ability, put it out there and keep putting it out after every rejection, and move on to the next. All writing is practice and useful. Someone once said you need to write one million words before you get good. Rewriting the same sixty thousand over and over doesn’t count.

If writing is important to you, show it. Create a writing schedule and stick to it, even if it’s fifteen minutes on the subway, or one page a day before you go to bed. (365 pages will net you a book in one year.) If you are fortunate enough to write full-time, then treat it as the profession it is. Whether you feel creative or not, put butt in chair and fingers on keyboard. Set realistic goals and go for it.

On a final note, I want to say “Thank You!” for hosting me on this tour and allowing me to speak to your readers. It’s been a pleasure.

Dawn Empress: A Novel of Imperial Rome (The Theodosian Women, Book Two) By Faith L. Justice

Audiobook narrated by Kathleen Li

As Rome reels under barbarian assaults, a young girl must step up.

After the Emperor’s unexpected death, ambitious men eye the Eastern Roman throne occupied by seven-year-old Theodosius II. His older sister Pulcheria faces a stark choice: she must find allies and take control of the Eastern court or doom the imperial children to a life of obscurity—or worse. Beloved by the people and respected by the Church, Pulcheria forges her own path to power. Can her piety and steely will protect her brother from military assassins, heretic bishops, scheming eunuchs and—most insidious of all—a beautiful, intelligent bride? Or will she lose all in the trying?

Dawn Empress tells the little-known and remarkable story of Pulcheria Augusta, 5th century Empress of Eastern Rome. Her accomplishments rival those of Elizabeth I and Catherine the Great as she sets the stage for the dawn of the Byzantine Empire. Don’t miss this “gripping tale” (Kirkus Reviews); a “deftly written and impressively entertaining historical novel” (Midwest Book Reviews). Historical Novel Reviews calls Dawn Empress an “outstanding novel…highly recommended” and awarded it the coveted Editor’s Choice.


Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/0917053265

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/0917053265

Amazon CA: https://www.amazon.ca/dp/0917053265

Amazon AU: https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B089J6R3YZ

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/dawn-empress-faith-l-

Waterstones: https://www.waterstones.com/book/dawn-empress/faith-l-

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/dawn-empress-a-novel-of-imperial-

Apple Books: https://books.apple.com/us/book/dawn-empress-a-novel-of-

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1020223

Books A Million: https://www.booksamillion.com/p/Dawn-Empress/Faith-L-

Scribd: https://www.scribd.com/book/460186605/Dawn-Empress-A-Novel-of-


Audible: https://www.audible.com/pd/Dawn-Empress-A-Novel-of-Imperial-

iTunes: https://books.apple.com/us/audiobook/id1549846649

Nook Audiobook: https://www.nookaudiobooks.com/audiobook/1028557/dawn-empress

Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/audiobooks/details/Faith_L_Justice_Dawn_Empre

Kobo Audio: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/audiobook/dawn-empress

BingeBooks: https://bingebooks.com/book/dawn-empress

Chirp: https://www.chirpbooks.com/audiobooks/dawn-empress-by-faith-l-

Scribd: https://www.scribd.com/audiobook/491435814/Dawn-Empress-A-Novel-of-Imperial-Rome

FAITH L. JUSTICE writes award-winning historical novels, short stories, and articles in Brooklyn, New York where she lives with her family and the requisite gaggle of cats. Her work has appeared in Salon.com, Writer’s Digest, The Copperfield Review, and many more publications. She is Chair of the New York City chapter of the Historical Novel Society, and Associate Editor for Space and Time Magazine. She co-founded a writer’s workshop many more years ago than she likes to admit. For fun, she digs in the dirt—her garden and various archaeological sites.

Website: https://faithljustice.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/faithljustice

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/faithljusticeauthor/

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/faith-l-justice-53974719/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/fljusticeauthor/

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/kindle-

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3268206.Faith_L_Justice

Writing Update 12/04/21

Well, it feels like an age since I last did a blog post like this. You might have seen me posting bits and bobs, or the occasional tweet, but the writing life has been on the backburner for a while. The simply answer as to why is lockdown. Some have found it a blessing, but me not so much.

Writing in Lockdown

I’ve seen quite a lot of writers say how much they have achieved during the year of lockdowns, having extra time to simply sit and write; and I have also heard of the tales of woe where some writers have achieved hardly anything, having their time sapped by home schooling, or the muse abandoning them for long periods of time. Now I cannot complain too much, as in the past year I have managed to self publish the first three Cid books, which included editing them, creating the covers, converting them to Kindle and Paperback format, and marketing them. But in terms of actual writing, where I sit down and put the ideas from my head on to paper (or the screen), I must admit progress has been quite pitiful really.

Whilst many have gone through the misfortune of being furloughed or even losing their jobs, I have gone in the opposite direction. I work at the local port authority, and when the pandemic hit, I gained a promotion and went on to a 24hr rota, which I had not done before, and ended up working longer hours and even night shifts. Having to juggle a full time job and home school children was not a good combination, and although I am happy to say my family managed the new norm quite well, I had almost no time to actually write. Even on the rare occasions where I had the house to myself, I have had literally zero motivation, which is quite sad because I used to love getting my laptop out and bashing out a thousand words a day or so. Thankfully, life is slowly starting to return to some sort of normal, so when I get back in to a routine, hopefully the quality and quantity of my writing sees a drastic upturn.

Despite the lack of writing, I have at least kept active. The Fall of Kings, the third Cid book, came out at the beginning of February, and I recently signed up to be a host for the Coffee Pot Book Club. If you are not aware of it, it is a platform set up by the incredible Mary Anne Yarde where authors can promote their work in a whole manner of ways, usually in the form of blog tours with articles like Book Spotlights, Author Interviews and Book Extracts. I have used this platform in the past and it certainly boosts exposure for a book or article, simply because of the sheer amount of people who share it on social media far and wide. Have a look further down my blog for examples of what sort of articles they do (I personally like doing Author Interviews – it’s always interesting what inspires a book, and discovering quirky little bits of information about an author).

The Legend of the Cid

So it is approaching a year since Rise of a Champion came out, and I must say I am extremely happy with how it has performed. In all honesty I would have been happy with a hundred sales, but in terms of sales, KENP reads and free downloads, it has shifted almost five times that. It has never been at the top of any sales charts, and as an author in the first year of his career I am not bothered about that. The first book was meant to create exposure and get people in to the series. Blood Feud and The Fall of Kings both continue to sell steadily, so the first book must have made enough of an impression to get people to buy the sequels. And in terms of reviews and ratings on Amazon and Goodreads, Rise of a Champion has (barring duplicates) close to fifty ratings, the majority of which are 4/5 stars.

As I said above, progress on book 4 has been slow, but I will be looking to really push on and finish the first draft – it is around three quarters done, so another month or two solid writing should do the trick. Then I’ll leave it around a month then start with some serious rounds of rewriting and edits; in that time, I already have book 5 plotted out, and have started to think about the first chapter and which direction I want to take it. After a slog in writing book 4, I am hoping book 5 will be smoother and quicker. I am certainly looking forward to writing it, as it will take Rodrigo and Antonio in to totally new territory.

On a final note, if you have not already seen it, I would highly recommend the El Cid series which is on Amazon Prime. It came out December, and I did have plans to put up a little review of it and how historically accurate it is, but guess what? Christmas and Lockdown = zero time or motivation. In a nutshell, it is very good, though it is all in Spanish, so you will have to watch it with subtitles and/or English dubbing – a lot of people are put off by this, but I do not mind. It roughly covers the early years of Rodrigo, before he was a knight. It makes little difference when the quality of the program is there. A second series is planned, but because of Covid restrictions, who knows when it will grace our screens?

Author Interview – Len Maynard

In today’s Guest Blog Post, as part of the Coffee Pot Book Club, we have an Author Interview with Len Maynard, who will be discussing the second in his DCI Jack Callum Mystery novels. Without further ado, lets discover what A Dangerous Life is about…

Tell us about your latest book.

It’s set in 1959.

A body of a man wearing theatrical make up is found hanging from a tree on Norton Common in Hertfordshire. He has been tortured and his throat has been cut.

DCI Jack Callum, a veteran policeman with his own rules for procedure, heads the investigation into this puzzling crime. The clues lead him close to the answer, but the solution remains elusive.

Why was the man killed?

What were the victim’s links to London’s gangland bosses?

When an unsolved murder is uncovered that appears to be connected to the case, Jack realises he must use his team to their full strength to separate the innocent from the guilty.

Jack also faces a challenge he never expected as he is accused of an improper relationship with a young Detective Constable on his team, Myra Banks.

In a breathless climax, Myra puts her own life on the line to deal with a figure from Jack’s past, who has now become a lethal threat in the present.

What inspired you to become a writer?

Naivete. I came to book reading late in life. I was about eighteen when I started reading the Pan Books of Horror and the Alfred Hitchcock mystery anthologies. When I had to give up my dreams of becoming a rock star and had settled for a life of domestic tedium, I still needed a creative outlet. So, at the age of twenty I decided to become a writer. How difficult could it be? I thought. After all the books I had read, I thought with some certainty and not a little arrogance that I could write as well as those authors. As I say, naivete. I couldn’t and it took several years of plugging away until my writing was just passable.

What was the biggest challenge in writing/releasing the book? Did you manage to overcome the challenge, and if so, how?

The biggest challenges of writing any book are discipline and belief in what you are doing. With regards to this book, I have written and had published over fifty books so those challenges were being met years ago. The challenges now are more to engage my imagination and to get it firing on all cylinders. If it’s any consolation to your readers believe me when I say that facing a blank screen or blank sheet of paper is as terrifying now as it has always been. There is always that little voice in your head that tells you that past successes were just a fluke and that really you’ll never be a ‘proper’ writer. And you have to say, ‘Shut the f*** up, little voice. Of course I’m a proper writer.’ Then you have to go on a journey of self-delusion and flat-out

lying to yourself until you quell that little voice and all the others that are all too ready to sap your self-confidence and send you spiraling down into a pit of inertia. Just understand and believe that you are not alone and even Charles Dickens and Shakespeare were plagued by those same insidious voices.

If you could spend a day in the setting of your novel, would you likely enjoy it or hate it?

To go back to 1959, knowing what I know today, would be something akin to heaven for me. I am no lover of modern society. I hate the influence that the mainstream media and especially the various social medias have on us these days. Which was what lead me to write about Britain in the late 1950’s. I’m old enough to remember a much simpler life, where you would see, and often knew by name, your local bobby who would patrol the streets on his bicycle and who would give you a ‘clip round the ear’ if he caught you misbehaving. And if you told your mum or dad what had happened, you’d receive another clip from them as well.

Can you tell us a little bit about your typical writing day?

I don’t really have typical days. When I was working 9 to 5 it was different. Then I would get on the train in the morning, write for the forty or so minutes until I reached Kings Cross and the reverse the process in the evenings. These day I have the luxury of being retired from work so, effectively, I can write whenever I like. The hardest thing now is to actually do it. A writer friend of mine bought me a set of Procrastntion pencils for Christmas with useful tips on them such, ‘Go on, have another cup of coffee.’ And ‘Go on, take me for a doodle.’ ‘Just chew on me and look thoughtful for a bit.’ The message wasn’t lost on me.

If your novel were to be turned in to a TV series/film, who would play your main character?

I’ve always said that Jack would be played perfectly by Roger Allum (Fred Thursday from Endeavour) And to a certain extent I still believe that, but I’ve come to realise that the two characters are too close for comfort. I know that Jack Callum was created and first appeared in print, a good year before Fred Thursday hit the screens but there are a number of similarities between the characters and their story arcs. I suspect it’s because both Russell Davis (creator and writer of Endeavour) and myself are drawing from the same, or similar, wells of research resources, so there is bound to be an element of cross over. I don’t really mind. I’ve written six books in my series. If something then appears on Endeavour sometime in the future, I will put it down, as I always do, to happenstance. So maybe not Roger Allum. Perhaps that would be pushing happenstance a notch too far.

What future projects do you have planned?

I’m working on the Gilded Cage, the seventh Jack Callum mystery. I am toying with writing a fourth book in my series of adventure mysteries set in the Bahamas. I help run a local writing group and edit a publish a yearly anthology for them as well as organizing monthly zoom meetings, and I’m re-activating LMP, my part-time publishing imprint to bring another worthy local author to print.

Do you have any advice for aspiring novelists?

I’ve answered this question many times in the past, and my advice has always been, read, read, read, and write, write, write. But there is one piece of advice that outshines that stock answer and that is to believe in yourself. I left school at the age of sixteen with no qualifications. Apart from basic grammar, spelling and punctation, I had nothing but an insane, inexplicable desire to tell stories and write books. That belief sustained me and fed me, even through what I now laughingly call my ‘wilderness years’, a period of twenty years when I couldn’t get arrested, let alone get published. Now, as I sit at my computer, some forty-eight years since penning (and I do mean penning) my first story, with over fifty books looking down on me from my shelves, I can say to all the nay-sayers and doubters who have plagued me since my schooldays, ‘See, I told you I could do it.”

A Dangerous Life (DCI Jack Callum Mysteries Book 2) By Len Maynard


A body of a man wearing theatrical make up is found hanging from a tree on Norton Common in Hertfordshire. He has been tortured and his throat has been cut.

DCI Jack Callum, a veteran policeman with his own rules for procedure, heads the investigation into this puzzling crime. The clues lead him close to the answer, but the solution remains elusive.

Why was the man killed?

What were the victim’s links to London’s gangland bosses?

When an unsolved murder is uncovered that appears to be connected to the case, Jack realises he must use his team to their full strength to separate the innocent from the guilty.

Jack also faces a challenge he never expected as he is accused of an improper relationship with a young Detective Constable on his team, Myra Banks.

In a breathless climax, Myra puts her own life on the line to deal with a figure from Jack’s past, who has now become a lethal threat in the present.

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dangerous-Life-Jack-Callum-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B08DW5BHXJ

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Dangerous-Life-Jack-Callum-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B08DW5BHXJ

Len Maynard

Born in Enfield, North London in 1953, Len Maynard has written and published over forty books, the majority of them in collaboration with Michael Sims. Ghost story collections, the Department 18 series of supernatural thrillers, stand-alone horror novels, the Bahamas series of action-adventure thrillers, as well as a handful of stand-alone thrillers. As editors they were responsible for the Enigmatic Tales and Darkness Rising series of anthologies, as well as single anthologies in the horror and crime genres. The DCI Jack Callum Mysteries are his first to be written under his own name.

Connect with Len:

Website: https://lenmaynard.co.uk

Website “The DCI Jack Callum Mysteries”: https://jackcallum.com Twitter: https://twitter.com/Len_Maynard Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/len.maynard Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/len.maynard.96

Book Extract: A Sword Amongst Ravens, by Cynthia Ripley Miller

Today, I am delighted to welcome Cynthia Ripley Miller to my blog, and present to you an extract from her new novel, A Sword Among Ravens.

Excerpt from Chapter XI: Two Are Better Than One

AD 455: PALAESTINA, Jerusalem

HE (Nemesis)

He sat alone. On the tree branch above him, a tribe of sparrows twittered. Their lush, rust-brown feathers and freedom struck him as beautiful. He often wished he could catch a bird and keep one. When he was a boy, he once held a she-dove. The tranquil bird cooed softly. He had contemplated the dove’s lucky existence but immediately felt sad. Soon his sorrow turned to envy. Anger filled him, and a sudden and powerful urge overcame him. What right did the dove have to be at peace—when as children, he and his younger brother were made slaves to a patch of farmland as fickle as the weather and the world around them? His father, mean and ornery, spending what little they had on drink. His broken mother, taking her husband’s beatings, letting him beat them. Why should anyone feel happy when his life reeked of misery? Twist the dove’s neck, shut her up, a voice whispered in his head. And Nemesis obeyed. Snap. An unexpected satisfaction glowed inside him. It had been so easy.

He met a girl when he grew older. She also had a beauty about her; she reminded him of the dove. Soft with milky skin, her hair smooth and fine. He first noticed her on one of his trips alone to market. She stood behind a table, filling a basket with apricots from a sack at her feet. As he pushed his cart laden with turnips and leeks past her family’s fruit stand, he stole a glance and was smitten. That was a glorious summer.

Each time he returned to the market, he would look for her and nod as he passed by. A pink flush on her cheeks, she always smiled back. After selling his produce, he’d stow his cart behind a stack of boxes, not far from her father’s stand. Hiding, he watched her, sometimes for hours—as he did the birds. Her fragile bones and glowing skin, the way she turned her head on a long, slender neck, her vulnerability and innocence all consumed him. He wanted to speak with her, hear the soft tones in her words.

But people and merchants surrounded and kept her from him. Bitterness found a pit in his stomach. His heart seethed in the hollow of his chest. Once, he followed the girl home and hid in a line of bushes near a window. When night settled, he peered through the lighted opening. Her parents and brothers sat around her with happy looks on their faces. Envy smoldered in him, and he hurried away. Here was not the time or place. He would wait and watch.

One sultry morning, when she tended the fruit stand alone, Nemesis stopped and spoke to her. He acted the customer and bought her figs—no point in being noticed. But when she placed the fruit in his basket, he whispered that she should meet him outside of town, later in the afternoon when most everyone rested.

She blushed, her eyes shining, and nodded her acceptance. She met him as planned, and he talked to her sweetly and held her hand. He told her he had a secret place with a view beautiful enough to melt a heart. Would she see it with him? She agreed, and he brought her to the tall juniper tree at the top of a ravine where a river ran below.

The day glimmered with light and heat. The sky reflected the blue in her eyes. He made a blanket of ferns cut with his knife from the bushes around them. They spread out like a willowy fan. “My lady?” he said, smiling, offering her a hand. She giggled and cooed, “My lord,” and wrapped his fingers in hers.

They sat, and he pressed his mouth to hers. Her lips were warm and full, almost sweet to the taste, and she smelled of figs and brought him peace. She kissed him back.

But the memory of the dove rose in his mind.

His heart, a moment ago so full and open, snapped shut. Fear and desperation filled him. Nemesis grabbed the girl tighter. She squirmed against him, but he fought to hold her—to possess her and her tranquility. She twisted harder. Anger flashed through his body and throbbed at his temples. The voice inside whispered again. What right does this farmer’s daughter have to refuse you? He frowned. Why would she deny him a moment of joy found in his brutal world? A worldsunk in poverty and ruled by a cruel father.

A dark and primitive growl rose in his throat. The blood in his veins boiled. Nemesis desired the farmer’s daughter, and he would have her. This time, he’d be the strong one. Dominate, possess something of his own—even if only a girl. 

She clawed and fought against him. He grabbed her wrists and subdued her. The gentle dove cried out, but he pushed to his feet and pulled her fragile body with him. She almost struggled free, but he grabbed her from behind. Wrapping an arm around her neck, he locked her against his panting chest. A plaintive, agonized wail burst from her lips upward toward the sky.

He hesitated and took a breath. Resist! He thought. Stifle your anger—find mercy. Fight the voice inside. Let her fly away this time—and not die like the dove.

He dragged her to the edge of the cliff. As his arm grew tighter around her neck, she choked. He thought he heard her gasp, “Noooo . . .” It didn’t matter. Her savior, he lifted her like an offering, and with all his strength, he tossed her into the air. Nemesis waited for her to soar upward and glide on the wind. Instead, she plummeted downward like a wounded bird. Her arms stroked the air, her long, brown tresses rippled behind her. He turned away.

In a few seconds, a splash vibrated on the breeze. He kicked at the ferns, destroying their nest. A brooding disappointment welling in him, he walked back toward town. He had lost another dove.

A Sword Among Ravens (The Long-Hair Saga) By Cynthia Ripley Miller

In a grave, on the edge of a Roman battlefield, an ancient sword has been discovered. Legend claims it belonged to King David of Israel and carries a curse—those who wield it will tragically die—but not the chosen.  

AD 455. Arria Felix and her husband, Garic the Frank, have safely delivered a sacred relic to Emperor Marcian in Constantinople. But now, Arria and Garic will accept a new mission. The emperor has asked them to carry the sword of King David of Israel to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem where Arria will dedicate it in her murdered father’s memory.

As Arria and Garic travel into the heart of the Holy Land, they face many challenges and dangers. Their young daughter is missing then found in the company of a strange and suspicious old monk. A brutal killer stalks their path. And a band of cold-blooded thieves is determined to steal the sword for their own gains. But when Arria confronts the question of where the sword should truly rest—old friendships, loyalties, and her duty are put to the test like never before. At every turn, Arria and Garic find themselves caught in a treacherous mission wrapped in mystery, murder, and A Sword Among Ravens.

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Cynthia Ripley Miller

Cynthia Ripley Miller is a first generation Italian-American writer with a love for history, languages, and books. She has lived in Europe and traveled world-wide, holds two degrees, and taught history and English. Her short fiction has appeared in the anthology Summer Tapestry, at Orchard Press Mysteries.com,and The Scriptor. She is a Chanticleer International Chatelaine Award finalist with awards from Circle of Books-Rings of Honor and The Coffee Pot Book Club. She has reviewed for UNRV Roman History, and blogs at Historical Happenings and Oddities: A Distant Focus and on her website, www.cynthiaripleymiller.com

Cynthia is the author of On the Edge of Sunrise, The Quest for the Crown of Thorns, and A Sword Among Ravens, books 1-3 in her Long-Hair Saga series set in Late Ancient Rome, France, and Jerusalem. Cynthia lives outside of Chicago with her family, along with a cute but bossy cat.

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Book Spotlight: Blood Libel, by M Lynes

Today, I am delighted to welcome M Lynes to my blog, with a post about his new novel set in 15th century Spain, Blood Libel. As someone with an interest in Spanish history, this book really stands out for me, and I cannot wait to pick up a copy.

The inspiration behind Blood Libel – M Lynes

I have always been fascinated by periods of history when people from different cultures and religions lived together. Mughal India from the mid 16th to mid 19th century is one era that I’m interested in. But after a visit to Seville in 2013 my attention was drawn to the period from 711 to 1492 when southern Spain, Andalusia, was ruled by Muslims. Catholics, Muslims and Jews developed a rich, cosmopolitan culture that saw society flourish. However, Blood Libel is set in the final part of that period which marks the end of Medieval Europe and the beginning of the Renaissance. It was a time dominated by religious suppression and globalisation as Spain’s trade with the Indies accelerated its economic and social development. Tensions between the three religious groups spilt over into widespread bloodshed and created long lasting enmity.

The title comes from the anti-Semitic slur of blood libel. It started as a superstitious accusation that Jews ritually sacrificed children to use their blood in making matzo, unleavened flatbread. It first emerged in medieval Europe in around the 12th century. One of the most infamous early instances was Simon, who was two years old when he was found dead in a cellar in the Italian city of Trentino at Easter 1475. The Jewish community was immediately accused of murder and of using the blood of children for ritual purposes. Fifteen Jews confessed – under torture – to the murder and were executed. The Catholic Church venerated Simon as a martyr.

Simon of Trent

I learnt about the story of Simon of Trentino whilst spending time with Moisés Hassan-Ansélem in Seville. He showed me around the most well-known former Jewish ghetto in Seville, Barrio Santa Cruz, the fabulous Real Alcazar, and La Giralda. These are all locations that feature prominently in Blood Libel. He is knowledgeable and passionate about the little-known history of the Jewish quarter of Seville. I was fortunate that Moisés read the book and offered invaluable advice. I used the stories that he told me as a starting point to imagine what it would have been like for a family of conversos – Jewish converts to Catholicism – to try and survive that period.

La Giralda

The Christians took back Seville in 1248 from the Muslim rulers who had held it since the 8th century. At this point the Jews were warmly welcomed and a vibrant community of merchants, accountants, artisans and doctors flourished. The Black Death changed everything when it arrived in 1348 and Jews were blamed for poisoning wells and creating poverty. This reached a peak in 1391 when almost half of the Jews in Seville were massacred. The blood libel re-emerged in Europe and the Middle East in the late 19th century. The most infamous case of the 20th century was that of Mendel Beilis who was imprisoned for two years in Kiev for ritual murder, but he was eventually acquitted. The blood libel was also used by the Nazis in the 1930s as part of their propaganda.

I wanted the novel to explore what happens when institutions in our societies choose to believe in ‘alternative facts’, or lies. I tried to show the impact of lies and suspicion on a specific family. There are clear parallels with our contemporary concern with establishing a shared understanding of the truth. How do we know what is true in the age of ‘fake news’?

The novel is a mystery but at the heart of it is a family drama. We experience at close quarters how the Inquisition sets families and neighbours against each other. We see how the terror affects individuals and tears families apart. I was concerned that the violence would be a little off putting to some readers, but early reviews have put my mind to rest. One said, “I was afraid that the horrors of the Inquisition would overwhelm me but the story centred more on how ordinary people suffered through the uncertainty of the times.”

I am currently working on Book 2 and 3 of the series that I intend to publish over the next year. Book 2 will focus on the Mudejar community – the remaining Muslims – and will introduce an important new character and will see Isaac travel to Granada and Northern Africa. I’m not exactly sure of the plot yet but it will certainly involve more jeopardy for the Alvarez family, political intrigue and a mystery to solve.

Blood Libel By M Lynes

Seville, 1495

The mutilated body of a child is discovered behind a disused synagogue. The brutal Spanish Inquisition accuses the Jewish community of ritual child murder – the ‘blood libel’. The Inquisition will not rest until all heretics are punished.

Isaac Alvarez, a lawyer working for the royal estate, is a reluctant convert to Catholicism who continues to secretly practice Judaism. When his childhood friend is accused of the murder Isaac is torn between saving him and protecting his family. Isaac is convinced that solving the murder will disprove the blood libel, save his family, and protect his faith.

As the Inquisition closes in how far will Isaac go to protect both his family and his faith?

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M Lynes

Michael is an author of historical mysteries who writes under the pen name of M Lynes. He has a particular interest in early 16th century Andalucia. He is fascinated by the interplay between cultures, globalization and religious intolerance of that period in Spain’s history. The ‘Isaac Alvarez Mysteries’ are set against this rich background. He won a prize for his fiction at the 2020 Emirates Literature Festival and is an alumna of the Faber Academy’s Writing a Novel course.

His debut novel ‘Blood Libel’, the first full-length Isaac Alvarez Mystery, was published in January 2021. Isaac, a lawyer working for the royal estate, must solve a brutal child murder to protect his family and his faith from the Spanish Inquisition.

Michael is hard at work on the second novel in the series and planning the third. He is originally from London but currently lives in Dubai with his family.

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Book Spotlight – M J Porter

The Danish King’s Enemy (The Earls of Mercia) By MJ Porter

Every story has a beginning.

Leofwine has convinced his king to finally face his enemies in battle and won a great victory, but in the meantime, events have spiralled out of control elsewhere.

With the death of Olaf Tryggvason of Norway, England has lost an ally, and Leofwine has gained an enemy. And not just any enemy. Swein is the king of Denmark, and he has powerful resources at his fingertips.

In a unique position with the king, Leofwine is either honoured or disrespected. Yet, it is to Leofwine that the king turns to when an audacious attack is launched against the king’s mother and his children. But Leofwine’s successes only bring him more under the scrutiny of King Swein of Denmark, and his own enemies at the king’s court.

With an increase in Raider attacks, it is to Leofwine that the king turns once more. However, the king has grown impatient with his ealdorman, blaming him for Swein’s close scrutiny of the whole of England. Can Leofwine win another victory for his king, or does he risk losing all that he’s gained?

The Danish King’s Enemy is the second book in the epic Earls of Mercia series charting the last century of Early England, as seen through the eyes of Ealdorman Leofwine, the father of Earl Leofric, later the Earl of Mercia, and ally of Lady Elfrida, England’s first queen.

The Danish King’s Enemy is only 0.99 for a Limited Time Only, is free to read with #KindleUnlimited subscription.

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M J Porter 

I’m an author of fantasy (Viking age/dragon-themed) and historical fiction (Early English, Vikings and the British Isles as a whole before the Norman Conquest), born in the old Mercian kingdom at some point since AD1066. 

I write A LOT. You’ve been warned!


Author Interview – Christopher D Stanley

To kick off the new year, I present to you my first post as a host for the Coffee Pot Book Club Blog Tour. Today, I have an interview with historical fiction debutante, Christopher D Stanley, who will be speaking about the first two novels in his upcoming A Slave’s Story trilogy. If I read Roman fiction I tend to read things with a solid military setting, but having read the blurb of Christopher’s books, I will certainly be picking up a copy. Read on for a fascinating interview with an academic who certainly knows his Roman history.

Why would an academic historian decide to write historical novels?

This series began with a question from my wife a dozen or so years ago.  As a lover of historical fiction, she startled me one day by asking out of the blue, “With all of that historical research that you do, why don’t you write a historical novel?”  The idea of writing fiction had never crossed my mind until that moment.  My other books and articles are all highly technical works targeted at academic scholars.  Apart from one textbook, I had never written for a popular audience.

“I don’t know how to write fiction,” I answered, then quickly put the idea out of my mind.  The next day, however, an intriguing opening scene (the Prologue to book one in the present series) crept like a daydream into my consciousness.  I shared it with my wife, and she thought that it sounded promising.  Over the next two weeks, a broad outline of what was to become the first two books in this series took shape in my mind.  I narrated each new plot development  to my wife, and she continued to find the story engaging.  But I still didn’t know if I could turn this outline into a full-scale novel.

Later that year I was hiking in the U.K. between speaking engagements at a couple of British universities when the novel popped suddenly into my head.  As I strolled along a hilly ridge, a word-by-word narrative of the opening scene began to frame itself in my mind.  I carefully rehearsed and memorized the words as they came to me, then e-mailed them to my wife when I got back to my hotel.  “You CAN write fiction!” she replied soon afterward.  “This is as good as many of the historical novels that I’ve read over the years.”

The rest, as they say, is history.  Encouraged by my wife’s support, I began the time-consuming task of writing what turned out to be over 800 pages of printed text.  The process extended over several years as it had to compete with my academic writing and my ongoing teaching duties.  A substantial amount of research was also required to ensure that every detail was historically accurate.  But it was truly a labor of love.  Often it seemed as if the characters were living out their lives before my eyes and I was simply recording what happened.  Sometimes they truly surprised me, taking the narrative in directions that I had never anticipated.  I’m thrilled to be able at last to bring their story before a modern audience.

What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

As an academic scholar, I’ve spent the last thirty years doing research and writing about the social world of the early Roman imperial period, with special attention to the religious life of the era.  As a result, I was already very familiar with the historical background for A Rooster for Asklepios and A Bull for Pluto before I ever imagined using fiction to draw people into this world. 

As a social historian, I knew that if I was going to write historical novels, every detail would have to be as accurate as I could possibly make it.  I had no interest in following the well-worn path of making historical characters “relevant” to readers by showing them thinking, speaking, and acting like modern people rather than as citizens of a bygone era.  I wanted my readers to experience the truth of L. P. Hartley’s famous dictum, “The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.”

As I began developing the story, however, I quickly realized that there was much that I did not know about the daily lives of ordinary people in Roman Asia Minor.  If I truly meant to ground my stories in historical reality, I was going to have to do a massive amount of research to find answers to questions that had never crossed my mind.  I also needed to become more familiar with the specific sites where the stories take place.  To do this, I had to travel to Turkey. 

In my two visits to that beautiful country, I drove the entire route that my characters follow as they travel from Pisidian Antioch (central Turkey) to Pergamon (near the west coast) and back, pausing along the way to study and photograph the archaeological excavations at the various places where they stop during their trip.  These travels, together with additional research on the history of the region, gave me the material that I needed to paint a detailed and realistic portrait of the people, places, and experiences that my characters might have encountered as they made their way across central Turkey in the first century AD.

As I progressed in my writing, however, I kept running into additional questions about details of social life in ancient Asia Minor that I could not immediately answer.  As a result, I had to stop often and conduct yet more research.  I was also teaching full-time as a university professor, so I had to do most of my work during school breaks.  The consequence was that it took me several years to complete the two books of my historical trilogy that are currently available to readers. 

A brief overview of some of the questions that I had to stop and research during the course of my writing will illustrate the depth of my concern for historical accuracy.

  • What exactly was said and done during the ritual greeting of the gods that was performed every morning in a Roman household?
  • How did ancient physicians diagnose and treat abdominal troubles?
  • What kinds of rituals were performed in a Roman theater at particular festivals?
  • What was the bureaucratic procedure for liberating a slave?
  • What was it like to travel long distances in a Roman carriage?
  • How did Roman travellers ensure that they had enough money to pay their expenses as they moved from city to city?
  • At what hour were wheeled vehicles allowed to enter a walled Greek or Roman city?
  • What exactly did one experience when visiting a Greek oracle?
  • What precise words were used in prayers and songs to Greek and Roman deities?
  • What was it like to spend a night in the sleeping chamber of an ancient healing center in search of a healing dream from the gods?

Answers to these and many other questions about daily life in first-century Roman Asia Minor are scattered throughout my novels.  Readers who want to know more will just have to read the books!

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

For these books, the answer is clear:  the trips that I made to Turkey to study the places where the story takes place.  Being on-site enabled me to apply what I already knew about Greek and Roman cities to the specific places where my characters lived and travelled in my novels.  As a result, I was able to situate my characters in specific streets and buildings that one can view at excavated sites today, or at least to get the physical setting right in cases where the state of the excavations did not permit such specificity.  Driving through the countryside likewise enabled me to describe accurately what my characters would have observed as they travelled from Antioch to Pergamon and back.

Traveling to Turkey also led to a major revision in the plotline of my story.  I had not originally intended for sickness and healing to play such a prominent role in my novels.  But as I dug into the details of what my characters might have seen and done as they travelled across western Asia Minor to the healing sanctuary at Pergamon, I came to see how many other temples and healing centers there were in the region where people could go to receive treatment in cases of illness or injury.  This in turn led me to dig deeper into what is known about sickness and healing in the ancient world, which in turn enabled me to paint a vivid and realistic portrait of this neglected aspect of life in the Roman provinces.  It also gave me plenty of material for an academic book on the subject that I am currently engaged in writing.  So those trips were definitely worth the money!

What was your hardest scene to write?

It depends on what you mean by “hard.”  Describing the landscape and scenery of some of the rural areas that my characters traversed was hard because of the amount of time and labor that were required to figure out the lay of the land for each day’s travels, how far they could have travelled on a given day, what they might have seen at various times during the day, what the weather would have been like at that time of year, etc.  Most of this work is invisible to my readers, but it helps to lend vividness to what might otherwise have been a dry travelogue.

Other scenes were hard to write due to the sensitivity of the material.  One of my two principal characters has an abdominal condition that makes it increasingly difficult for him to control his bowels.  I struggled at times with deciding how explicit to be when describing bodily functions that many modern readers find distasteful.  Conversations with a colorectal surgeon also made me aware that as my character’s condition grew worse, he would inevitably experience awkward incidents in public that would have to be narrated for the sake of my story.  Figuring out how to describe such experiences without turning off my readers was a constant challenge.

Finally, there were scenes that were hard to write because of their effect on characters that I had come to know and love.  An example of this can be seen in my lengthy account of the treatments that Lucius endures at the Asklepion in Pergamon, which left him so weak and dispirited that he was ready to end his life.  One hesitates to inflict so much pain and suffering on one’s characters, but it’s impossible to avoid such experiences when one of them has a serious and potentially fatal illness.

What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?

I would say that it’s my perfectionism, which makes the writing process painfully slow at times.  I’m not one of those people who can rattle off page after page of vivid and engaging prose with little effort and write several books in a year.  Writing for me is a painstaking craft that involves equal doses of creativity and self-criticism.  I have a vision for how a scene should develop, but bringing that vision to fruition requires a lot of trial and error.  I’m constantly re-reading what I’ve written and trying out new phrasing until I think I’ve gotten it right, then coming back the next day and revising it again. 

For me, writing is like the work of a sculptor who knows in broad terms what he or she wants to create out of a block of stone, but has to keep chipping away at it patiently using finer and finer tools in order to realize that vision.  Just as a sculptor sometimes has to adjust his or her plan to account for unanticipated variations in the stone, so I find myself at times moving in different directions than I had intended as I observe my characters in action.  In fact, my characters truly surprised me on occasion with what they said or did!  I often felt as if my characters were living out their lives in the past even when I wasn’t writing about them and that my job was simply to record what they were saying and doing.  That was one of the most pleasant aspects of working on these books—I’ve never experienced anything like this when writing academic books and articles.  For me, the creative act carries its own intrinsic rewards that more than offset the struggle that is involved.

A Rooster for Asklepios (A Slave’s Story Trilogy, Book 1) By Christopher D. Stanley

Marcus, a slave in the household of Lucius Coelius Felix, enjoys a better life than most slaves (and many free citizens) as the secretary and accountant of a wealthy aristocrat.  His master is rising in the civic life of the Roman colony of Antioch-near-Pisidia (central Turkey), and his responsibilities and income are growing as well. If this continues, he could soon earn enough to buy his freedom, set up a small business, and even marry.

Then misfortune strikes, and his master falls into a deep depression that is exacerbated by a nagging illness that his physician is unable to cure.  The future looks bleak until the physician receives a dream from the healing god Asklepios calling Lucius to travel hundreds of miles across western Asia Minor to his sanctuary at Pergamon for treatment and, he hopes, a cure.

Accompanied by Marcus and his new wife Selena, Lucius embarks on a long and eventful journey in which both master and slave encounter people and ideas that challenge long-held beliefs about themselves, their society, and the world around them.  Values are questioned, loyalties tested, and identities transformed in a story that brings to life a corner of the Roman empire that has been neglected by previous storytellers.

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A Bull For Pluto (A Slave’s Story Trilogy, Book 2) By Christopher D. Stanley

After a lengthy and eventful stay at the sanctuary of Asklepios in Pergamon, the time has come for Lucius and Marcus to return to Antioch.  Selena had been sent home earlier when Lucius learned that she was pregnant, and the impending arrival of the winter snows could soon make it impossible for them to reach their destination before the child is born.

To Marcus’s surprise, Lucius announces that he plans to stop for a while in Hierapolis to bask in the healing waters of the city’s renowned hot springs.  Here Marcus meets a young woman named Miriam who challenges him to embrace his long-hidden Jewish ancestry.  Marcus is torn between his budding love for Miriam and the cost of heeding her advice.

A tragic decision by Lucius seals their fate, as their full attention must now be devoted to preserving Lucius’s life.  They reach Antioch in time to learn that Lucius’s son Gaius has failed miserably in his management of the household while his father was away.  If Lucius should die, Marcus, Selena, and her unborn child will be at the mercy of this tyrant.  To fend off this danger, Lucius must tell Marcus the full truth about his past, a truth that will ensure Marcus’s future at the cost of his master’s honor.  Can he bring himself to act before his inevitable end?

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Praise for A Rooster for Asklepios and A Bull For Pluto

This compelling and enjoyable story offers the reader a superb ‘insider’ view of life in the first-century Greco-Roman world. I enjoyed traipsing around Anatolia with Lucius and Marcus!”
-Dr. Terence Donaldson, Academic Dean and Professor of New Testament, Wycliffe College, Canada

“The realism of this story reflects the author’s deep first-hand knowledge of the landscape and culture where the narrative takes place.”
-Dr. Mark Wilson, Director, Asia Minor Research Center, Antalya, Turkey

“This well-researched book really brings the Roman world to life!”
-Dr. Alanna Nobbs, Professor of Ancient History, Macquarie University, Australia

“The amount of research, imagination, and effort involved in crafting this story earned my admiration, and stirred my curiosity, too.”
Dr. Mark Nanos, Lecturer, University of Kansas, USA

CHRISTOPHER D. STANLEY is a professor at St. Bonaventure University who studies the social and religious history of the Greco-Roman world, with special attention to early Christianity and Judaism.  He has written or edited six books and dozens of professional articles on the subject and presents papers regularly at conferences around the world.  The trilogy A Slave’s Story, which grew out of his historical research on first-century Asia Minor, is his first work of fiction.  He is currently working on an academic book that explores healing practices in the Greco-Roman world, a subject that plays a vital role in this series. 

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Writing Year in Review 2020

Firstly, hoping you all had a Merry Christmas, and despite the awful conditions we find ourselves in, managed a few days of good food, drink and company. It has been nice to sort of forget the awful state of the world for a bit, to spend time with those we love and help kids unbox every present they received in the space of 30 seconds so the house it an absolute bomb site (wouldn’t have it any other way!). Now the madness has abated somewhat, I thought I would do a quick review about how my first year as an author has gone.

After five years of writing the first three Cid novels, it was a great feeling to finally get the first two out in to the world. I previously had an agent and he tried to sell the first novel to publishers, but alas could not find an interested party. I parted company and eventually self published Rise of a Champion, and could not have been happier with the reaction and reviews it received. Four months later Blood Feud came out. To be honest I had higher hopes for this one, and whilst some of the reviews have been fantastic, it seems to have fallen a little short in comparison to Rise of a Champion.

A proud moment for any author, holding your debut novel for the very first time

In terms of sales, I am very happy. Combining actual sales, free downloads and and copies read on KindleUnlimited, Rise of a Champion has passed the 350 mark, and Blood Feud is over the 100 mark (though Blood Feud did not have a free giveaway). It might not be a lot to some people, but to me it pays a monthly bill or two, so I’m happy with that! Once I got another one or two novels out there, I’m hoping the popularity will increase and start bringing in good sales, but we will see how that goes.

As for the future, The Fall of Kings, book 3 of the Cid series, will be out at the beginning of February. I’m putting together the last few bits and pieces, then it will be in a position to go out to reviewers; look out for a blog tour to support the release. After that book 4, provisionally titled Master of Battle, is close to completion, but I think a thorough rewrite is in order because I’m not too happy with the first part of it. I’m looking at publishing this one in the second half of 2020, perhaps September or October. And when book 4 is finished I’ll be cracking straight on with book 5, which is already plotted out and ready to go. No rest for the wicked!

I am aiming to review some more books in the year ahead, as my target in 2020 fell dismally short, and I have also signed up to be a host for the Coffee Pot Book Tour, so look out for promotional posts for new and established authors throughout the year.

I would like to thank each and every person who has either bought the book, hosted an article as part of a blog tour, left a review, or supported it by sharing my posts and tweets to reach as far as possible. I could name lots of people, but I’m sure you know who you are. And I wish everyone the best for 2021. I’m optimistic it will be better in so many ways thank 2020 was. Have a good one!

Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year!

The Fall of Kings Except 2

To celebrate the release of Amazon’s new El Cid series, which I cannot wait to get stuck in to, I thought I would post another excerpt from my forthcoming novel, The Fall of Kings.

To give a bit of background to the novel, it centres around the conflicts between the sons of Fernando in 1071-1072: Sancho of Castile, Alfonso of Leon, and Garcia of Galicia. War is inevitable between the brothers, and Sancho believes he has gained the upper hand by dispatching his champion Rodrigo Diaz to capture Garcia as his kingdom crumbles around him. He intends to use Garcia as leverage to force Alfonso to bow to his demands and install himself as the rightful ruler of all his father’s former lands. But Alfonso has not been idle, and will not so easily submit to the will of his elder brother. As tensions between Leon and Castile reach breaking point, war in the only option, and Rodrigo Diaz will be called upon to lead the armies of Castile to glory or ruin…

Click below to read the excerpt:

The Fall of Kings will be released on 05/02/21. The ebook is available to pre order now; just simply click on the cover below.

Blood Feud (Legend of the Cid Book 2)

A fab review of Blood Feud by the well read Pail Bennett!

Always have a little chuff on when kinds words such as Paul’s are said about one of my books.

Historical Fiction reviews

byStuart Rudge

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The clouds of war gather over Hispania, and Antonio Perez continues on his path to knighthood, under the watchful eye of his lord, Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar. A peculiar invitation sees Antonio and Arias in the den of their nemesis, Azarola, where they discover the truth of his marriage to Beatriz, Arias’s sister, and the years of suffering he has inflicted upon her. Arias vows to deliver Beatriz from the clutches of Azarola and restore his family’s honour – even if it means betraying Rodrigo, defying his king and threatening the future of his country.

Fresh from his victory over Navarre and Aragon, King Sancho of Castile sends his champion Rodrigo to Saraqusta, to treat with amir al-Muqtadir. His mission is to secure an increase to the parias tribute from the Moors and hasten preparations for a war with Leon. But an unknown evil stirs in…

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Notes on Self Publishing: One

It is now nearly six months since I self published my first book, Rise of a Champion. I crossed a personal milestone recently selling the hundredth copy, which I am absolutely buzzing about. When I set about becoming a self published author, I honestly expected to sell perhaps a book a week, so to sell an average of twenty a month to this point is a real boost to my confidence as a writer.

Having neglected this blog because of a hectic ‘normal’ life, and having learned a thing or two about the publishing world so far, I thought I’d share my experiences with you all.

The Writing Process

Writing as a self published author is both easy and difficult. It is easy because you are your own boss, you don’t have anybody above you telling you to shorten chapter two and add more to chapter seven, and you can write at your own pace. The first three books in the Legend of the Cid series took around three and a half years to plan, research and then write. I took a break before ploughing on with book four, in case I made some big changes in the previous books. Then when I broke off from my agent at the time and decided to self-publish, I dove straight in to designing my own front cover, map and everything else within the book, and honestly enjoyed doing it.

But that is the thing about self-publishing; when you are done writing the manuscript, you have to do everything else yourself. I have not got the budget to hire a professional editor to comb through the final draft and check for grammatical errors, consistency with names and places and any other words which are not picked up by a spellchecker, so I have to rely on my own keen eyes. I will be the first to admit there will be an error or two still in there, just because my eyes will not pick everything up. And though I enjoyed designing the front cover, it took ages, just because I am a perfectionist and will constantly tweak to the point I am happy with the design…then tweak some more, because why not? And another thing which I hated and I wished I could pay someone else to do…marketing.


So I finished the book and put it on Amazon at the beginning of April with a release date for the end of the month. How do you get people interested? Well, I thought I had a decent grasp, but it turns out I didn’t really do it properly. I had started to build up a social media presence, particularly on Twitter, as well as creating this website and a Facebook Author page. Then I started interacting with other writers, to the point some of them must have been sick of seeing my mug popping up on their notifications, liking their posts and being a nuisance. But it worked to a point, as when I was tweeting about my own book, people were becoming interested and sharing them with their own followers. And over on Facebook I did the same with some Historical Fiction writing groups, making myself known to others. I even had a few pre orders, undoubtedly from my posts being shared with others, and when the book came out it began to sell quite modestly, but it sold nonetheless.

For a book to be successful, it needs reviews and ratings

One thing I did, but perhaps did not do enough, is get reviewers involved. Reviewers usually offer to review your book for free in exchange for a review on Amazon/Goodreads, and usually on their own blogs. One thing I have found is that a book with more reviews on these platforms perform better. If loads of people have read it and given it 5* reviews, it must be good, right? So whilst I did send Rise of a Champion out to reviewers, and got some really good reviews at that, I should have searched high and low for more. I think I managed to get around 4-5 back; in truth, I wish I had gone for at least 25.


When you self-publish a book on Amazon, you get the option of enrolling it on KindleUnlimited, which means you can only sell it through Amazon for the first three months, but people can read it for free if signed up to the program. I didn’t know if KindleUnlimited would be worth it when I signed up the first book, but I would say it totally is. The way it works is that there is a global fund for all books signed up to KindleUnlimited, and you get paid for each page of your novel which is read based on how much is in the fund for that month. From my experience, I have been getting about 0.3p per page; if someone reads the full book, at 488 pages, I end up with around £1.63, which is better than paperback royalties, and slightly less than an ebook. And because people aren’t actually buying the book, they are more likely to at least give it a try, and if they like it, they will probably end up reading the full thing. When sales of ebooks and paperbacks dry up for a short period, I have found KindleUnlimited sales have slowly dripped in to boost the royalty pot.

KENP Pages Read for Rise of a Champion in the first two months, which equated to nearly ten copies of the book


I have already touched on Twitter, but I’ll give a few more of my findings. First, it is a great place to connect with the writing community and like minded people. In the early days, I would post links to my book almost daily, sign up to retweet groups where we would all share each others posts, in an effort to share the post far and wide and bring in dozens of people to buy the book. Or that is what I thought.

Unless I am doing something wrong, in my experience Twitter is a bad place to try and market a book to sell. Getting exposure for it is no problem; all it takes is a few retweets from people with lots of followers for people to reach a wide audience. Yet I have noticed a lot of the followers of people who share my posts are writers themselves, who follower other writers to boost the follower count. There are a few real ‘readers’ who follow writers and comment on their posts because they are fans, but I have yet to see many thus far (although this may simply be because I have no fans!).

So that was what I found out about the self-publishing world with the release of Rise of a Champion. In the next post, I will look at what happened when I published book number two, Blood Feud, only four months later…

Blood Feud Blog Tour Posts

With the release of Blood Feud, I did a blog tour with several fellow historical fiction writers. Below are links where you can read each post:

Author Interview with Tony Riches: https://tonyriches.blogspot.com/2020/08/guest-interview-with-stuart-rudge.html

Book Feature and Excerpt: https://dodgingarrows.wordpress.com/2020/08/31/book-feature-blood-feud-by-stuart-rudge/

The History Behind Blood Feud: https://alexmarchantblog.wordpress.com/2020/09/04/guest-post-from-stuart-rudge-the-history-behind-blood-feud/

Building Islamic Zaragoza: https://earlofmercia.wordpress.com/2020/09/04/stuart-rudge-author-of-rise-of-a-champion-and-blood-feud-joins-me-for-a-look-at-building-islamic-zaragoza/

Blood Feud is available from Amazon in paperback, ebook and on KindleUnlimited: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Blood-Feud-Legend-Cid-Book-ebook/dp/B08DRBSQLP

Book Review: Camelot

Rating: 5 stars

Platform: Audible

I loved Lancelot. It is one of my favourite reads of the last few years. Giles did a terrific job of taking a character usually slated in myth as an adulterer, and a contributing reason for Arthur’s downfall, and giving his actions justification. At the end of the book I did not expect it to have potential for a sequel, so when I saw the announcement for Camelot, I was absolutely buzzing.

The story opens with Galahad, the son of Lancelot, and a young novice in the Brotherhood of the Holy Thorn on Ynys Wydryn, who is preparing to be fully accepted in to the Brotherhood. But then he gets in a spot of bother and is saved by a mysterious, fiery haired woman name Iselle. And then things take another turn when Gawain, one of Arthur’s legendary horse lords, turns up and tells Galahad he is leaving with him, for some unknown purpose. A reluctant Galahad initially refuses, but the arrival of a Saxon raiding party changes everything…

Galahad is a brilliant protagonist. He is haunted by the memory of his father, notably his reputation as the greatest warrior in Britain and his decision to ride to Arthur’s aid against the Saxons and leave Galahad in the final sequence of the previous book, who was only five years old at the time. But as he meets more and more people who knew Lancelot, he begins to warm to the idea of following in his footsteps and celebrating his father’s memory and achievements. Coming face to face with Lancelot’s old armour was a touching scene; how he thinks he sees his father alive before him, and the way his fingers trace over the gashes in his armour which delivered the killing blows.

Galahad’s relationship with Gawain is complex, a reluctant, almost father-son scenario playing out, as Gawain’s plans for the novice monk are slowly revealed. The grizzled veteran has high hopes for both Galahad and Britain, and his frustration shows as it seems at times he is the only one focused on the quest at hand. Iselle’s character is equally as intriguing, and her twist later in the book is wonderfully played out. Some old characters from Lancelot make appearances, and one or two of them are complete curve balls which you would never have guessed. Giles does a brilliant job of showing how age changes a man (or woman), and the fires which once consumed them are reduced to smouldering embers, yet the appearance of Galahad, Iselle and Gawain are the sparks to reignite the old memories of the dream of Britain.

One of my favourite parts of the book was the quest to recover the Cauldron of Annwyn. As a lover of Greek and Roman myth, for me this journey was akin to something from Jason and the Argonauts, or Perseus’ attempt to claim Medusa’s head. Giles takes the classic formula of the band of brothers (and a fearless woman), puts them on a perilous quest for a treasure of immense power, includes a terrifying enemy, then introduces a crazy twist with the character of Taliesin. For me, it was absolutely brilliantly done, and I would love to see it on the big (or small screen).

As a final point, instead of buying it in book form, I decided to pick this up on Audible. For me, this is where Giles’s writing flourished. The combination of wonderful, flowing prose, and the talent of narrator Philip Stevens, makes for a truly special experience. I have since picked up another two books on audible, and look forward to giving them a whirl. And I will be sure to pick up the third book in the trilogy on Audible as well (because there will be a third book, won’t there Giles?!)

Both Lancelot and Camelot are two excellent retellings of the Arthurian Myth, perhaps on par with Bernard Cornwell’s Warlord Chronicles. If you haven’t picked up either, go out and buy them both, and enjoy!

The Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa

When I decided to write about a momentous occasion in world history, I admit I struggled to settle on a single event. There’s just so darn many. So in the end, I decided to write about something closer to the period I have been writing about with my own books; the Reconquista of Spain. Looking at the period as a whole, a single event for me stood out as the defining moment in the long and bitter war that raged on the Iberian Peninsula. Read on to find out why the Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa is so pivotal to the Reconquista.

Nineteenth century portrayal of the Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa
Source: Wikipedia

The History behind the Battle

The date of the beginning of the Reconquista of Spain, the fight by Christians to take back the lands once ruled by the Visigoths from the invading Muslim armies, is somewhat hazy; what we are sure of, is that the twelfth and thirteenth centuries saw an intensity to the conflict, and several decisive moments which tipped the balance in favour of the Christians. One of these came in a battle in southern Spain in 1212, after a string of defeats at the hands of the Almohad Caliphate. On the plains of Las Navas de Tolosa, the course of the Reconquista of Spain changed forever.

Before we look at the battle itself, it is important to understand the events which led to this fateful day. The Moors had been masters of al-Andalus, their name for the Iberian Peninsula, since the eight century, when an army of Arabs and Berbers under Tariq ibn Zayid defeated the Visigothic King Roderic and collapsed the Visigothic administration. Over the next few centuries, with the conquest of almost the entire peninsula complete, al-Andalus flourished. The Hispanic population, the descendants of the Romans and Visigoths, was slowly converted to Islam, and great cities like Cordoba, Toledo, Granada and Seville sprang up to become places of learning, culture and prosperity.

Yet a small enclave of Christians held out in the north, amongst the mountains of Asturias. Under a king named Pelayo, they defeated an invading Moorish army at Covadonga in 722. It is believed by some historians that the Reconquista of Spain began here, though I do not believe the small kingdom of Asturias had designs to reconquer the entire peninsula at that time. Survival and expansion of its borders within the immediate vicinity were the most likely courses of action. But over the next few centuries the Christians took small pockets of territory back from the Muslims, and soon other kingdoms and counties sprang up; Leon, Castile, Navarre, Aragon and the Catalan counties centred around Barcelona. It was under Fernando I of Leon-Castile and his son Alfonso VI that the Christian dominance took hold. With the fall of the Caliphate of Cordoba in 1035 and the rise of the taifa kingdoms, translated as “factions”, the kings of Leon-Castile bullied the taifas in to paying them parias tribute in exchange for protection against other Christian kings and Muslim emirs, whilst occasionally conquering or extracting new lands to expand their kingdom. But in 1085, Alfonso’s conquest of Toledo changed everything.

The taifa kings of the south panicked, and called for aid from the Almoravids of the Maghreb. Under Yusuf ibn Tashfin they defeated Alfonso at the battle of Sagrajas in 1086, bringing a halt to the Christian push to the south. More defeats were felt at Consuerga in 1097 and Ucles in 1108, a battle in which Alfonso’s only male heir Sancho was killed, creating a dynastic crisis. In fact, the only man to defeat the Almoravids in this time was El Cid, when he famously crushed the besieging army of his city of Valencia at Cuarte in 1094, proving that the neigh invincible Almoravids could be beaten. Yet for all these defeats, a stalemate ensued, with only small pockets of territory being exchanged in the coming decades. The Almoravids were eventually usurped of power in Spain and North Africa, and replaced with the even more fundamentally religious Almohads. They made Seville their capital and made gains throughout the peninsula, and inflicted a crushing defeat against Alfonso VIII of Castile at Alarcos in 1195. Things were beginning to look bleak for the Christians. Yet Alarcos would not be the undoing of Alfonso VIII.

Spain, c.1212 AD
Source: http://www.festivaldelmedioevo.it/portal/las-navas-de-tolosa-il-declino-degli-almohadi/

Fighting between Christians and Muslims was not the only conflict to rage on the peninsula. For almost as long as the Reconquista had been coined, the various Christian kingdoms and principalities had been rivals looking to exploit each other. In the late twelfth century, the most prominent of these were the kingdoms of Castile, Leon, Aragon, Navarre and Portugal. The closest the Spanish had come to a unified kingdom to that point had been under Alfonso VI of Leon-Castile, when he ruled Leon, Castile, Portugal, Galicia and parts of Navarre, but problems with successions and infighting led to the creation of these five kingdoms. After intense negotiations, Alfonso managed to convince Pedro II of Aragon, and Sancho VII of Navarre, to join his cause. He even had the Archbishop of Toledo petition the Pope for assistance; Pope Innocent III promptly called a crusade against the Almohad Caliphate, and knights from France and the Catalan counties took up the cross, as well as the knightly orders already established in Spain at the time, like the Templars and Knights of Santiago. Though the kings of Portugal and Leon openly refused the invitation of Alfonso VIII, owing to personal grievances, contingents of volunteers joined the great host. It was a formidable coalition, and one which Alfonso felt confident in bringing the might of the Almohad Empire to heel in a single, decisive battle.

The Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa

The Almohads were ruled by a caliph named Muḥammad al-Naṣir, and he presided over an empire which included southern Spain and most of North Africa, centred on Marrakesh. In 1212 he had crossed the Straits of Gibraltar with a huge army, and began a campaign of his own against the southern reaches of Castile. In response to the gathering of crusaders at Toledo, he moved his army to the city of Jaen, then fortified the mountain passes at Baeza, confident that if the crusade tried to cross the treacherous terrain, they would lose a great host of men. But akin the role of Epilates at the battle of Thermopylae, a shepherd came to the crusaders and told them of another path through the mountains, which would bypass the fortified defences which faced them. A forced march through the night brought the coalition to the plain of Las Navas de Tolosa, in clear sight of the enemy camp. There was no other choice but battle.

Three kings made up the Christian forces, drawn from a multitude of kingdoms. The crusaders numbered anywhere between five and seven thousand men, with a great many of these being seasoned knights who had taken up the cross and were willing to die for the cause. Men from Castile, Navarre, Aragon, the Catalan counties, France, Portugal and Leon put aside their differences and united in the name of God. Opposing them, the Almohad forces were greater in number, somewhere between fifteen and twenty thousand, and equally as international; they consisted of Almohad Berbers and other Berbers from north Africa, Arabs, Andalucians, Kurds and the black slaves of the caliph’s personal guards. There were even contingents of Christian knights within their ranks, disillusioned by the Christian kings of the peninsula, and selling their services to their enemies.

The King of Navarre’s decisive charge
Source: https://www.abc.es/cultura/libros/abci-navas-tolosa-guerra-201207050000_noticia.html

In the centre of the Christian lines sat King Alfonso VIII of Castile, whilst the left wing was commanded by King Pedro II of Aragon, and the right by King Sancho VII of Navarre. The rest of the Crusaders were interspersed along the lines, with the majority of knights in the second rank behind the levies, skirmishers and light cavalry. It was a similar deployment for the Almohads, whose own levies stared down the Christians, and the more elite cavalry formed their own second ranks. According to sources, Nasir was in the third rank, and had set up his tent on a hill overlooking the battlefield, surrounded by his Black Guard who would fight to the death for him. Alfonso and Nasir ordered the main body of levies on their centres to advance, then the contingents of knights and Almohad cavalry eventually engaged in a bloody fight. Both sides knew the stakes and consequences of defeat, yet neither would yield ground. With the battle threatening to become a stalemate, it was the King of Navarre who swung it in favour of the Christians. A gap had opened up in the battle lines, allowing a clear charge at the caliph himself. Gathering his best warriors, he roared and led a devastating sortie towards the caliph and his Black Guard, shattering them and sending the caliph himself scampering for his life. What followed was a massacre of the Almohad army. Despite being outnumbered, the crusader coalition carried the day.

The aftermath and impact on the Reconquista

The battle was truly decisive. Almohad power in al-Andalus was shattered, and it opened the door for the rich and powerful cities of the south to be snapped up by the victors; in the immediate aftermath, Alfonso took the cities of Baeza and Ubeda, killing many Moors and enslaving more. Ferdinand III succeeded Alfonso as King of Castile, and after unifying Leon and Castile once more in 1230, set about conquering the rest of the Moorish lands; most notably Cordoba in 1236, Murcia in 1243, Jaen in 1246 and finally Seville, the former crown of the Almohad territories, in 1248. Such gains even gave rise to the idea of taking the fight to mainland Africa, but Ferdinand’s untimely death in 1252 halted such a scheme. Elsewhere, Peter of Aragon’s heir James I managed to wrest control of the Balearic isles in 1232, and then Valencia in 1238.

By the middle of the thirteenth century, only Granada held out against the Christian onslaught. It would remain like this until the fall of Granada at the hands of Ferdinand and Isabella in 1492, which signalled the true end to the Reconquista. Yet, were it not for the decisive victory at Las Navas de Tolosa and the shattering of the Almohad power in al-Andalus, the course of the Reconquista may well have taken a different path.