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In Search of King Arthur: Tim Walker

I’m delighted to welcome Tim Walker back to my site today. On this visit he is sharing a little of his search for King Arthur.

Over to you Tim…

The search for a tangible King Arthur remains as inconclusive as ever due to lack of compelling, physical evidence, although some continue to try and convince us otherwise. There are many places in Britain that lay claim to have connections to a ‘real’ Arthur – Tintagel where he was said to have been conceived; Camalat (South Cadbury in Somerset), an impressive iron age citadel; Glastonbury Abbey where monks in 1190 claimed to have found his grave; Camelford – a village in Cornwall that claims to be the site of the Battle of Camlann, where Arthur was mortally wounded around the year 515 AD (a date arrived at through research by historian John Morris). Avalon, or The Island of Apples, where Arthur’s body was taken, is thought to be near Glastonbury – its proximity to Camelford lending support to the claims of this patch of the West country. There are other ‘Arthurian’ sites at various locations in Wales, at Birdoswald on Hadrian’s Wall, and north of the wall at Caledonian Wood.

At the visitor centre near Camelford at the aptly-named Slaughterbridge, I followed a path to a low cliff above the River Camel and look across to the meadow on which Arthur is said to have fought his last battle. On the muddy riverbank below lies The Arthur Stone – a granite tombstone dated to 540 AD engraved with Celtic runes that have been interpreted as stating ‘here lies the son of Arthur’, throwing up the intriguing possibility that it was not Arthur but his heir who fought and died on this spot some years after his illustrious father (or that both father and son fought battles there, as the keepers of the visitor centre would like us to believe). Legend has it that the victorious Saxons desecrated his burial site and rolled the tombstone down to the riverbank where it remains to this day. Hold on a minute, did King Arthur have a son? In Geoffrey of Monmouth’s account, Arthur is succeeded by his cousin, Constantine of Cornwall.

In the absence of something more substantial from historians and archaeologists, these remain theories in the realm of legend. One theory is that Arthur may not have been a king at all, but a ‘leader of battles’ a ‘Dux Bellorum’ or a hired sword, working for a group of tribal leaders, in the immediate post-Roman era. Bernard Cornwell’s excellent novel, The Winter King, adopts this point of view.

Another perspective is offered by historical fiction author Chris Flynn (The Bear, The Dragon and The Wolf) who argues the case for a Northern Arthur who is a cavalry commander, possibly drawing on the influence of Sarmatian cavalry units once garrisoned at Hadrian’s Wall, who organises resistance to the spread of Anglo-Saxons in the north-east (www. botrbooks.com/blog). Also in this corner is Alistair Moffat, who puts forward the case for Arthur being a warlord based in the Scottish borderlands north of Hadrian’s Wall in the years after Roman evacuation, in his book, Arthur and the Lost Kingdoms. His book builds a case based on literary sources, historical documents and interpretations of place names to build a compelling and intriguing case for a Scottish Arthur. Add this to the Welsh chroniclers’ Arthur, and you have a folk hero claimed by three home nations.

Clearly, it was a troubled time for the Britons, left exposed by the removal of Roman protection. However, there is no physical or archaeological evidence for who the leaders were, where battles took place and when. It has been suggested that the legend of King Arthur is a composite of the feats of a number of Briton leaders over a broad period stretching from the mid-fifth to the mid-sixth centuries, embellished by bards over the years until written down in 1136 AD by Geoffrey of Monmouth in his book, The History of the Kings of Britain.

Victories in as many as seventeen battles on British soil have been attributed to Arthur, plus his overseas adventures, giving credence to the notion that this was not the work of one leader but of several – collapsed together for the purposes of engaging storytelling by bards to make one great heroic figure who battled to preserve a Romano-Briton way of life.

Contemporary historian, Miles Russell (writing in History Revealed magazine), has re-examined Geoffrey’s claim that the inspiration for his work was based on an ancient book ‘in the British tongue’ and found that it may have some credence (despite the source text never having been found or mentioned by any other). To support his theory he uses as an example Geoffrey’s telling of the coming of Julius Caesar in 55 and 54 BC – an account that has similarities to the ‘official’ Roman version but differs in some details and is told from a British point of view. Geoffrey certainly did his homework, poring over source material as diverse as folklore, chronicles, church manuscripts, king-lists, dynastic tables, oral tales and bardic praise poems.

In Geoffrey of Monmouth’s ‘history’ we get a compelling story of a time of desperate struggle following the end of Roman Britain. He gives us a linage of Fifth Century kings – Constantine, Vortigern, Ambrosius Aurelianus, Uther Pendragon and then King Arthur.

Arthur becomes king at the age of fifteen and marries Ganhumara (‘Guinevere’) who is from a noble Romano-Briton family. Arthur forms an alliance with his nephew, King Hoel of Brittany, and they inflict defeats on the Saxons at Lincoln and Bath before crushing a combined force of Picts (Scots) and Hibernian (Irish) tribes at Loch Lomond. They then attacks Ireland, the Orkneys, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and parts of Gaul (France), forcing the people to pay them homage. He lays waste to fields, slaughters the population of these places and burns down their towns – the exact opposite of a chivalric king. Geoffrey’s Arthur is an arrogant, aggressive and brutal warlord who kills and takes what he wants.

But Geoffrey’s story does not end there – Arthur is summoned by the Roman Emperor to face charges of war crimes and responds by raising a large army, sailing to Gaul, and meeting the Roman army in battle, defeating and killing the emperor. Arthur’s mind is set on capturing Rome, but he is forced to return home at news that his nephew Mordred has taken his queen, Ganhumara, and seized the kingdom. In a bloody civil war in which thousands die, both Mordred and Arthur fall in battle – Arthur’s body is taken to the Isle of Avalon and he is succeeded by his cousin, Constantine of Cornwall.

This is a summary of Geoffrey’s account in his Historia, and it is an intriguing thought that he MAY have taken it from a lost manuscript. Later generations lightened the blood-soaked narrative, adding more sorcery, the romance of Camelot, chivalric heroes (the knights of the round table), the quest for the Holy Grail, an evil foe in Morgana, and a doomed love triangle involving Arthur, Guinevere and Lancelot.

Despite the fanciful tale of Arthur taking on the might of the Roman Empire, there is still the possibility that Geoffrey’s account was largely based on genuine source material that offers a glimpse of native Briton resistance to foreign invaders in the fifth and sixth centuries. Geoffrey’s King Arthur could not possibly have done all those things – he is most certainly a composite of several characters, including Ambrosius Aurelianus, who perhaps has better credentials as a noble leader who led the Britons to early victories over the Saxons.

Clearly, there was organised resistance to invaders, and tales of bravery told by chroniclers and bards from the Briton resistance point of view – and perhaps missing texts. Arthur is the embodiment of this oral tradition from the fifth and sixth centuries, offering us intangible glimpses of deeds in a period wedged between the gloating records of Roman and Anglo-Saxon conquerors.

*****

Uther’s Destiny – Blurb

In the year 467 AD Britannia is in shock at the murder of charismatic High King, Ambrosius Aurelianus, and looks to his brother and successor, Uther, to continue his work in leading the resistance to barbarian invaders. Uther’s destiny as a warrior king seems set until his world is turned on its head when his burning desire to possess the beautiful Ygerne leads to conflict. Could the fate of his kingdom hang in the balance as a consequence?

Court healer and schemer, Merlyn, sees an opportunity in Uther’s lustful obsession to fulfil the prophetic visions that guide him. He is encouraged on his mission by druids who align their desire for a return to ancient ways with his urge to protect the one destined to save the Britons from invaders and lead them to a time of peace and prosperity. Merlyn must use his wisdom and guile to thwart the machinations of an enemy intent on foiling his plans.

Meanwhile, Saxon chiefs Octa and Ælla have their own plans for seizing the island of Britannia and forging a new colony of Germanic tribes. Can Uther rise above his family problems and raise an army to oppose them?

Book three in A Light in the Dark Ages series, Uther’s Destiny is an historical fiction novel set in the Fifth Century – a time of myths and legends that builds to the greatest legend of all – King Arthur and his knights.

***

In my historical book series, A Light in the Dark Ages, I have attempted my own alternative history of the period starting with the departure of the Romans and building to the coming of King Arthur, putting flesh on the mythical bones of early kings Vortigern, Ambrosius Aurelianus and Uther Pendragon – lighting the way for the coming of King Arthur.

Book one – Abandoned! – http://myBook.to/Abandoned

Book two – Ambrosius: Last of the Romans – http://myBook.to/Ambrosius

Book three – Uther’s Destiny – http://myBook.to/Uther

Author website: http://timwalkerwrites.co.uk 

***

 

Great blog- thanks Tim.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny x

 


OUT NOW: The Winter Outlaw

I can’t quite believe it. This really is a dream come true. My very own series of medieval crime novels is becoming a reality!

Only a few weeks ago I proudly announced the publication of Book One in The Folville Chronicles- The Outlaw’s Ransom. Today I can announce the arrival of Book Two!

The Winter Outlaw is OUT NOW!!

 

Blurb

1329:  It is the dead of winter. The notorious Folville brothers are on edge. There are rumours of an unknown outlaw terrorising the Leicestershire countryside—a man who has designs on the Folville family’s criminal connections.

Determined to stop this usurper in his tracks, Robert Folville unearths a man hiding in one of Ashby-Folville’s sheep shelters. A steward from far-off West Markham in Nottinghamshire, the cold, hungry Adam Calvin claims he knows nothing of any threat to the Folville family. He has troubles of his own, for he is being pursued by vengeful sheriff, Edmund de Cressy, for a crime he did not commit.

Mathilda of Twyford, newly betrothed to Robert de Folville, believes Adam’s story, but with rumours about a vendetta against the family growing, the Folville brothers are suspicious of every stranger.

***

Ever since I did my PhD (on medieval crime and its portrayal in the ballad literature of the fourteenth century), I have wanted to use what I learnt to tell a series of stories. Although I’ve written all sorts of things between 1999, when my PhD finished, and now – I still wasn’t sure it would ever happen.  Yet, here I am! The first two novels – one short – one long – are out in the world!

Book Three of The Folville Chronicles, ‘Edward’s Outlaw’, is well underway. It should be published this coming winter.

In the meantime, I would love it if you took a peep at The Outlaw’s Ransom and the brand new, The Winter Outlaw.

“If you like medieval crime, a hint of romance, and fast paced adventure stories, then this series is for you.”

Buy Links –

You can buy The Winter Outlaw from Amazon and all good book retailers-

UK: http://ow.ly/RsKq30j0jev 
US: http://ow.ly/EvyF30j0jfk  

To help me celebrate my book launch I have a blog tour running from today- 2nd April.

AND

I am holding a triple book launch at the beautiful Liznojan Bookshop in Tiverton, Devon. If you are in the region, it would be great to see you there.

Happy reading,

Jen xx


Opening Lines: The Corner Shop in Cockleberry Bay by Nicola May

It’s Thursday – which means it is ‘Opening Lines’ day.

Today I’m delighted to welcome Nicola May back to my site to share the first 500 words (exactly) of her brand new novel.

Over to you Nicola…

Blurb

Rosa Larkin is down on her luck in London, so when she inherits a near-derelict corner shop in a quaint Devon village, her first thought is to sell it for cash and sort out her life. But nothing is straightforward about this legacy.  While the identity of her benefactor remains a mystery, the will states that the shop cannot be sold, only passed on to somebody who really deserves it.

 Rosa decides to throw herself into getting the shop up and running again. But can she do it all on her own? And if not, who will help her succeed – and who among the small seaside community of Cockleberry Bay will work secretly to see her fail?

With surprising and heartfelt results, Rosa, accompanied at all times by her little sausage dog Hot, slowly unravels the shadowy secrets of the inheritance, and also brings her own, long-hidden heritage into the light.

***

The Corner Shop in Cockleberry Bay – The First 500 words

‘Are you sure you’ve got the right person?’

Rosa took off her bright blue woolly hat and scratched the back of her head, causing her dark brown curls to become even more unruly.

The tall, pinched-faced solicitor nodded. ‘Yes, of course we have. Evans, Donald and Simpson do not make mistakes. You, Miss Larkin, are now the official owner of the Corner Shop in Cockleberry Bay.’

He handed the bewildered twenty-five-year-old a battered leather briefcase and pointed to a small combination padlock on its brass clasp.

‘Here. The will stated that you – and only you – can open this, using your date of birth.’

‘This is all very strange,’ Rosa said.  ‘And where exactly is this Cockleberry Bay?’

‘Devon, dear, Devon.’  The solicitor looked under his rimless glasses. ‘I take it you know where that is?’

‘I may have a cockney accent, Mr Donald, but I’m not stupid.’

‘Well, open it then.’ The solicitor was shifting from foot to foot in anticipation. He confided, ‘We’ve been wanting to know what’s in there for days.’

Showing no emotion, Rosa gazed at him with her striking green eyes and asked coolly: ‘Is there anything else I need?’

‘Er, no – but are you not going to . . .?’

‘I need to get to work.’ Rosa put her hat and scarf back on, zipped up her fur-lined bomber jacket and headed for the door. ‘Thank you so much for your help.’

And she was gone.

‘Rude!’

The solicitor peered crossly out of the window of the offices in Staple Inn and watched as the young woman, the briefcase in her arms, strode across the frosty cobbled courtyard and out into the bustle of London’s ancient legal quarter.

*

‘You’re late again, Rosa. This is a discount store, not a charity shop.’

‘Oh, turn that frown upside down, Mr Brown. I’m here now, aren’t I?’

But there wasn’t even a glint of the usual smile from her now reddening supervisor.

‘I’m going to have to let you go, Rosa. I need committed staff and to be honest, I don’t think you know what that word means. You’ve had all your warnings. I will speak to Head Office, and they will settle your final pay.’

Rosa sighed. ‘Really?’  When Mr Brown said nothing, she picked up the briefcase from the floor and added: ‘Whilst you’re at it, maybe you could tell them I’ve been wanting to stick this shitty, unfulfilling job right up their pound-coin-shaped backsides for weeks anyway.’

*

Rosa’s elderly neighbour was putting a holly wreath on her front door when she arrived at home, mid-morning.

‘You’re back early, dearie.’

Rosa murmured under her breath, ‘And Ethel Beanacre wins the award for the Nosiest Neighbour of the Year.’

‘What was that, love?’

‘Nothing, Ethel, just talking to myself.’

The sight of the worn briefcase secured further interest.

‘Robbed a bank, have you?’ Ethel’s awful cackle reminded Rosa of Catherine Tate’s ‘Gran’ character.

Rosa scrabbled for her key. ‘Don’t tell anyone, will…

***

Available from 9th April – you can pre-order your copy of The Cockleberry Bay here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Corner-Shop-Cockleberry-Bay-ebook/dp/B07B8KML35/ref=tmm_kin_title_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

 

Bio

The Corner Shop in Cockleberry Bay is Nicola May’s ninth novel. In 2012 she won Best Author Read at the Festival of Romance for The School Gates and again in 2014 for Christmas Evie. Nicola likes to write about love, life and friendship in a realistic way, describing her novels as ‘chicklit with a kick’.

Nicola May lives near the famous Ascot racecourse with her black-and-white rescue cat, Stan.  Her hobbies include watching films that involve a lot of swooning, crabbing in South Devon, eating flapjacks – and, naturally, enjoying a flutter on the horses.

Follow Nicola on Twitter: @nicolamay1

See her on Instagram: author_nicola

She also has her own Nicola May Author Page on Facebook

Find out more about her and all of her books at https://www.amazon.co.uk/Nicola-May/e/B004QUBKWW

***

Fabulous stuff. Thanks Nicola.

Come back next week to read the first 500 words from one of Kate Thompson’s novels.

Happy reading,

Jenny xx


Opening Lines: CRONE by Jeannie Wycherley

Welcome to my brand new ‘Opening Lines’ blog series.

Each Thursday an author will share a little about their work – and JUST the first 500 words of one of their novels – even if that means leaving things mid-sentence…

I’m delighted to welcome Jeannie Wycherley as my first guest of the series.

Over to you Jeannie…

Crone is my debut novel, set in and around Ottery St Mary and Sidmouth in Devon (the fictional Abbotts Cromleigh and Elbury of the novel). It’s a story that emanates very much from the landscape. The physicality of Aefre, whom we meet as she is being reborn in the opening lines, is actually drawn from the detritus of the forest floor.

Birth and death are central to the novel, and in between those events some of the intriguing characters, such as the enigmatic Mr Kephisto (also known as the Story Keeper) live extremely long lives. Crone is a dark fantasy novel, so as the author I was able to play with the longevity of each character’s existence, but at its heart it is actually a mystery with supernatural elements, and I have been contacted by many readers who start their email with the words, “This isn’t the sort of book I would normally read, but …” I am so thrilled that Crone has drawn such a diverse audience and appeals to such a cross section of readers.

It was vitally important to me to maintain truth within the supernatural, so yes, you have to suspend some disbelief as you do in any fantasy novel, but all the magic involved, among the elderly Guardians who are hunting Aefre for example, is ultimately feasible. I wasn’t interested in writing about sparkly wizards, and glittery unicorns. This is witchcraft with dirty hands and broken nails. It’s about real human experience. But ultimately, it is the age old story of a mother’s love for her child.

Crone Blurb

Heather Keynes’ teenage son died in a tragic car accident. Or so she thinks. However, deep in the wilds of the Devon countryside, an ancient evil has awoken … and is intent on hunting the residents of Abbotts Cromleigh.

No one is safe.

When Heather delves into a series of coincidental deaths, she is drawn reluctantly into the company of an odd group of elderly Guardians. Who are they, and what is their connection to the Great Oak? Why do they believe only Heather can put an end to centuries of horror? Who is the mysterious old woman in the forest and what is it that feeds her anger?

When Heather determines the true cause of her son’s death, she is hell-bent on vengeance. Determined to halt the march of the Crone once and for all, hatred becomes Heather’s ultimate weapon.

Furies collide in this twisted tale of murder, magic and salvation.

 

 

500 words – Opening Lines

Prologue

The cracking and snapping of dry bones reverberated through the stillness of the night. In the freezing air, at the very heart of the wood, in the slumped ruins of a long-forgotten dwelling, something dark began to manifest itself.

Little more than a mummified corpse, she unfolded her outer layer in a shower of dust and dry mould. Her skin, what remained of it, creaked like ancient leather and her flesh stretched taut over foul stringy innards. Then reaching, stretching, groaning, retching—she hauled herself upright. Once risen, she floated inches above the ground, while the mist—salty from the nearby sea—enveloped her like a pall and covered her foul nakedness.

She slipped out of her shack, and the wildlife in the undergrowth shrank from her black charisma, keeping their distance from her rancid stench, the stink of putrefaction.

In the treetops, caught out by her rapid manifestation, an owl blinked uneasily. Fearful, he observed her as she moved beneath him, then hopeful of evading her gaze he casually pivoted his head, pretended she was unseen and he was unseeing. But Aefre, even in her newly woken state, was both observant and deadly.

She was fast, lashed out at the owl, a missile of energy directed from her mind. His body exploded in a cloud of downy feathers. Her deformed claw-like fingers caught his remains as he fell from his perch, and she stuffed him into her mouth, whole. She chewed once, twice. Swallowed. A single line of blood dribbled from her chin, and the thinnest layer of fresh skin started to form a mouldering translucent veneer.

There was a halo of light to the east. Civilisation. For Aefre, the time was ripe. She was awake. It was time to bask in the thrill of the hunt. This time she would locate her sisters and join them in a merry dance of carnage.

First things first, however. She needed sustenance. She headed for town. She would find everything she needed there.

***

The boys tumbled out of the multiplex, blinking in the garish sodium lights of the car park, high on an adrenaline kick after enjoying the latest blockbuster. Max was grateful that James now had a driving licence and a car to go with it and they weren’t dependent on the non-existent bus service. It was hell being stuck in Abbotts Cromleigh with nothing to do.

Max was completing his A levels this year, and come September he would be off to University in a city where you didn’t need a car. Everything he needed would be on his doorstep. Live music venues, sporting facilities: Sheffield promised to be everything his small Devon home town couldn’t be.

He’d miss The Storykeeper though. Sheffield had bookshops, sure, but The Storykeeper was something special. It was housed in a higgledy-piggledy Elizabethan structure that had been added to time and again over the years, and thus appeared to stretch back and up endlessly. Shelves meandered like mysterious rivers throughout the building…

Buy link

Crone: myBook.to/CroneJW 

Jeannie Wycherley Bio

Jeannie Wycherley is the author of Crone (2017) and Deadly Encounters (2017) and numerous short stories that favour the weird including A Concerto for the Dead and Dying (2018). Crone is the recipient on an Indie B.R.A.G Medallion, and a Chill with a Book Readers’ Award. Jeannie’s next novel Beyond the Veil is due April 2018. Jeannie runs a gift shop with her husband in Sidmouth, adores her dogs, and make her evening meals in a cauldron. She lives somewhere between the forest and the sea in East Devon, England and draws literary inspiration from the landscape.

Social Media

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Thecushionlady

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

Website: https://www.jeanniewycherley.co.uk/

Thank you for such a fabulous blog, Jeannie. Intriguing first 500 words…

Next week, Opening Lines, will feature contemporary fiction/romance writer, Nicola May.

Happy reading,

Jenny

 


PRE-ORDER AVAILABLE: The Winter Outlaw

The Kindle edition of ‘The Winter Outlaw

(Book 2 of The Folville Chronicles)

Available for pre-order.

The Winter Outlaw

Blurb

1329: It is the dead of winter and the notorious Folville brothers are on edge. There are rumours of an unknown outlaw terrorising the Leicestershire countryside. Could this man be Adam Calvin, who is being pursued for a crime he did not commit?
Mathilda of Twyford, newly betrothed to Robert de Folville, believes Adam’s story. But after
an attack on the household’s trusted housekeeper, it falls to Mathilda to work out who can be trusted and who can’t… With the Folvilles’ past about to trip them up, it’s going to take a level head and extreme bravery if Mathilda and Robert are ever going to make it to their Winter Solstice wedding.

The Winter Outlaw is the sequel to The Outlaw’s Ransom.

***

Pre-order links-

UK-
US –

I hope you enjoy the second of Mathilda of Twyford’s adventures!

Happy reading,

Jen x

The Winter Outlaw


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