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Friday, 14 July 2017

Historical background to WIND SONG (Book #2: The Kingdom of Northumbria)

I'm now hard at work on Book #2 of The Kingdom of Northumbria. This novel is a Historical Romance, but like all my others set in 7th Century Britain the story is based on real historical events and historical figures.

WIND SONG – to be released later this year – is set in the later period of the 7th Century – when the Northumbria King, Ecgfrith (Oswiu’s son) takes on the Picts, and loses.

First up, here's a few facts about the Kingdom of Northumbria, to give some historical context:
  • Northumbria – ‘Northanhymbre’ in Old English – has always been a frontier land. The Romans built Hadrian’s Wall there to mark the northernmost edge of their empire, for they were never able to conquer the Picts. The Anglo-Saxons after them had similar difficulty in ruling the wild lands to the north.
  • Northumbria was one of the most important kingdoms of Anglo-Saxon England, lying north of the River Humber. 
  • During its most flourishing period it extended from the Irish Sea to the North Sea, between two west–east lines formed in the north by the Ayrshire coast and the Firth of Forth and in the south by the River Ribble, or the Mersey, and the Humber.
  • Its military strength was greatest in the 7th century, when the supremacy of three of its rulers, Edwin (616–632), Oswald (633–641), and Oswiu (641–670), was recognized by the southern English kingdoms. 
  • Northumbria was formed from the coalition of two originally independent states—Bernicia, which was a settlement at Bamburgh on the Northumberland coast, and Deira, lying to the south of it. 
  • The kingdom probably reached the west coast by the mid-7th century, and it also rapidly expanded northward, at one time extending as far as the River Tay. To the south, the power of Mercia checked further expansion of the kingdom.

















WIND SONG is focused on a pivotal historical event: the Battle of Dun Nechtain – the Picts vs the Northumbrians
  • The Battle of Dun Nechtain (or Battle of Nechtansmere as it was known in Old English), marked a turning-point between the Picts and the Anglo-Saxons. The battle ended with a decisive Pictish victory which severely weakened Northumbria's power in northern Britain.
  • The battle was fought between the Picts, led by King Bridei mac Beli and the Northumbrians, led by King Ecgfrith on 20 May 685. Relations between the two kings had been worsening for years, especially since Ecgfrith saw the Pictish king as a sub-king rather than an independent ruler. During the battle, the Picts pretended to retreat and drew the Northumbrians into a bloody ambush at Dun Nechtain near the lake of Linn Garan.
  • Ecgfrith was killed in battle, along with the greater part of his army. The Pictish victory marked their independence from Northumbria, who never regained their dominance in the north.

Bridei mac Beli is the hero of WIND SONG. Here are some facts about him:
  • Bridei mac Beli – Bridei son of Beli was king of the Picts from 672 until 693. He ruled the Kingdom of Fortriu, in Southern Pictland (today southern Scotland).
  • His father was Beli, King of Alt Clut, and his mother was an Angle – possibly a daughter of King Edwin of Deira. 
  • Bridei spent most of his childhood living at Bebbanburg, under the charge of the Northumbrian king
  • Bridei would have left Northumbria as a young man and returned to his father’s lands
  • He was based at Dundurn, a hilltop fortress in southern Fortriu.
  • Bridei was an expansionary and active king – he led violent campaigns throughout Pictland, claiming new lands and taking back old ones for Fortriu.
  • The relationship between Bridei and King Ecgfrith of Northumbria was strained – Ecgfrith likely saw Bridei as a ‘sub-king’ rather than an independent ruler, and Bridei would have chafed under what he saw as the yoke of an Angle overlord
  • Their worsening relationship led to the famous Battle of Dun Nechtain in 685, in which the Anglo-Saxon army of Ecgfrith was annihilated
  • Bridei's death is recorded as the year 693.
There are no records as to whether Bridei married, or had any children, so in my story (WIND SONG: Book #2: The Kingdom of Northumbria – to be released later this year), I create a romance between him and a young Anglo-Saxon woman, Hea. Bridei and Hea are childhood friends during his time fostering in Bebbanburg. However, when they meet again years later, their relationship changes dramatically…

Find out more about WIND SONG: www.jaynecastel.com/coming-soon 

Sunday, 18 June 2017

What I learned about the Picts?

Researching BLOOD FEUD was great fun. The Isle of Skye is a fascinating setting and the history and culture of the Picts was one I loved immersing myself in. 

As well as gaining a lot of info online, I got out library books on the history and culture of the Picts. A friend also loaned me a book on Pictish symbols, which she'd bought during a visit to Aberdeen. All helped me add depth and color to my story.

Here are some of the discoveries I made about the Picts (specifically those who were likely to have lived upon the Isle of Skye in the 4th Century):

  • The early Picts were a tribal society, formed by hunting (boar and stags mainly), fishing and farming (sheep, goats and cattle). They were also a warrior people and their would have been a number of feuds and battles between tribes. Ironically, the only time the Picts ever truly united together was against a common enemy: the Romans.
  • The Pict chieftains lived in fortified stone forts (duns) upon headlands—the heart of the fort would have been a brochs: a stone round-tower.
  • Pictish houses tended to be dug into the earth and circular in shape with alcoves around the edges for sleeping. They had cone-shaped thatched roofs, giving the inhabitants room to stand up inside. The dwellings would have been built in this way to make them warmer and protect from drafts during the cold winters.
  • The clan (the word comes from 'clanna' which means 'children') came much later in Scottish history. Instead, the early Picts could have easily been grouped according to animal names (according to the many animal symbols they used). i.e. the People of the Eagle.
  • The word 'mac' meant 'son of' so a warrior's name: Galan mac Muin meant 'Galan son of Muin'.
  • Many historians believe that Pictish chieftain descendency came down through the female, rather than male line. There is some debate about this, but the fact remains that Pictish women enjoyed considerable independence and rights (compared to some of the later British cultures). Pictish women were also warriors, and could be as formidable as their menfolk in battle.
  • The Picts didn't wear kilts or tartan (that came centuries later)—however, it's likely they would have worn clothing (leggings or skirts) made of plaid.
  • Despite the cold climate the Picts often went barefoot, and the men barechested. What clothing they did wear would have been minimal, with leather foot wrappings to protect their feet during the coldest months of the year.
  • They bore blue (woad) tattoos on their bodies (depicting the tribal markings and symbols of their people) and would have painted their bodies for special occasions and before going into battle.
  • The Picts took pride their appearance, the men and as well as the women—they wore beautiful jewellery and hair accessorys, and both sexes generally wore their hair long.
  • They were a pagan people, who would have believed in more than one god—rather a host of gods and goddess to represent different times of the year and different stages of life.
  • The passing of the year was celebrated by a number of fire festivals (as with all Celtic peoples).
  • The Pictish were highly artistic—they left behind a number of symbols and carvings on standing stones, buildings and jewellery.
  • They were a culture that believed in magic and superstition—they believed in fairies (called the Aos-si or 'Fair Folk') and in magical creatures such as selkies (half man, half seal), kelpies (water horses), brownies (a type of pixie) and wulvers (men with heads of wolves). 
  • Druids were an important part of Pictish society, and highly respected.
  • When the Picts wed, they did so barefoot and standing outdoors in nature.
Those were just some of the bits and pieces I gleaned during my research, and which I wove into my story. 

Piecing together Pictish culture when we have so little recorded history on them means that an author has to fill in a lot of gaps herself! As there is no existing map to show us what 4th Century Isle of Skye would have looked up, I have delved into the realms of fantasy and created my own—complete with four warring tribes: The People of the Stag, Wolf, Eagle and Boar. Here's the map which appears in BLOOD FEUD.


Intrigued?

Grab the first three chapters of BLOOD FEUD for FREE off Instafreebie and see what you think!

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Goodreads giveaway contest: BLOOD FEUD

She has only ever known war. Now she must make the ultimate sacrifice for peace. 

Enter for a chance to win one of two paperback copies of BLOOD FEUD (Book #1: The Warrior Brothers of Skye—a Scottish Historical Romance set in Dark Ages Isle of Skye! Just click on the banner below to enter.



Goodreads Book Giveaway

Blood Feud by Jayne Castel

Blood Feud

by Jayne Castel

Giveaway ends May 28, 2017.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter Giveaway

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

BLOOD FEUD is available on Amazon!

Book #1 of The Warrior Brothers of Skye has been released on Amazon.


Welcome to 4th Century Isle of Skye—a world of feuding tribes and forbiddable warrior men, and women.

What's BLOOD FEUD about?

They come from warring tribes—but can their love overcome generations of hate?

Dark Ages Scotland, the Isle of Skye. Far north of Hadrian's Wall—beyond the shadow of the Roman Empire—the daughter of a Pictish chieftain prepares to wed her enemy. To forge peace, Tea's brother has promised her to the leader of a neighboring tribe that killed their parents.

Dark and brooding--but committed to peace—Tea's new husband isn't what she expects. Unlike her, Galan mac Muin is determined to end decades of bloodshed between two warring tribes, even if it means sacrificing his own happiness.

Tea isn't what Galan expects either. A statuesque, embittered beauty, she hates him and his people. Yet neither of them can deny the powerful attraction between them. Together, Galan and Tea have the chance to forge a new future--one that will ensure lasting peace--if only they can only let go of the past.

BLOOD FEUD is the exciting first book in THE WARRIOR BROTHERS OF SKYE series. Follow the lives and loves of three warrior brothers: Galan, Tarl and Donnel. Fans of Historical Fiction, Scottish Historical Romance and Historical Action & Adventure, and those who enjoy Kathryn Le Veque, and who loved Donna Fletcher's Pict King series, should enjoy this series set in Dark Ages Scotland.

Take a journey into Dark Ages Scotland

Read the Prologue and first three chapters for FREE on Intafreebie.

Or get your copy on Amazon!

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Teasers from BLOOD FEUD - new release


BLOOD FEUD is now available for preorder on Amazon—and will be released on May 18 2017.

In the pre-release period for the novel, I'd like to share some of my favorite passages from the novel. Hope you enjoy them!

















































Monday, 1 May 2017

BLOOD FEUD - new release!

I've wanted to write a novel set in Dark Ages Scotland for ages—so here's the first in my new series set amongst the mist-shrouded mountains, wild shores and desolate moors of the Isle of Skye. 

These books delve into the history of the Picts, an enigmatic warrior people who were the predecessors of the Highland warriors.

If you're into bare-chested, tattooed Barbarian heroes, lots of action and adventure, and some steamy romance, BLOOD FEUD (Book #1: The Warrior Brothers of Skye) is for you! The series follows the lives and loves of three Pictish warrior brothers: Galan, Tarl, and Donnel.

Preorder BLOOD FEUD now for the 18 May 2017 release!




Thursday, 13 April 2017

Book review: Silver Hammer, Golden Cross (Book Six of The Circle of Ceridwen Saga) by Octavia Randolph

A sweeping, epic novel that picks up around a decade after Ceridwen and Sidroc's story. This is the tale of Ceric (Ceridwen's son) and Ashild (the daughter of Aelfwyn and Yrling). Like the earlier books in this saga, Octavia Randolph uses real historical events to bring her story to life. The peace forged by King Alfred and Guthrum has ended, and war sweeps across England once more.

The characters are great - well rounded with flaws that make them feel like real people. I particularly loved Ashild. A young woman of independent spirit, she struggles with the role that she must play; to marry to strength alliances and wealth. She and Ceric are childhood friends, and both their families wish them to wed. However, despite her attraction for him she wishes to choose her own fate.

Likewise, Ceric is a young man coming to terms with his own place in the world as he reaches manhood and must fill the gap left by his uncle.

Unlike the earlier books in the series, this one is told in third person narrative (rather than first person). This creates quite a different tone - less intimate, more epic. We move from Four Stones (in what is now Lincolnshire, I guess) down to Kilton on the south coast of England, and then across the water to Gotland in Scandinavia. Ceric and Ashild are the main POV characters, although we also spend some time again with Ceridwen and Sidroc, which I enjoyed.

What I love most about Octavia Randolph's books (apart from the memorable characters) is the way she brings 9th Century Anglo-Saxon England to life. She has done vast amounts of research and it shows, not in an 'info-dump' way but in a rich, detailed tapestry. She really brings you there. I particularly loved the descriptions of the food!

The story also highlights the conflict between the paganism and Christianity at this time, hence the title of this book. Ashild carries the silver hammer of Thor from her father, Yrling, and a golden cross from her mother, Aelfwyn, around her neck.

There are quite a few battle and fight scenes in this book that were really well done. There are some great action scenes toward the end of the book - but I'll say nothing about those as I don't want to spoil the story for readers!

I look forward to reading the next installment in the Ceridwen saga - highly recommended five-star read.

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Buy a copy of Silver Hammer, Golden Cross on Amazon.com

Thursday, 6 April 2017

My favorite Historical Romances list

I read (almost) as much as I write—and there have been a number of historical romance novels over the years which have inspired and enthused me. I thought I'd share my list of absolute favorites here. Some you'll recognize, others might be new to you—some new books for you to discover! 

Of course, I read far more widely than historical romance. I love historical epics, fantasy and the classics. Although I haven't mentioned them above Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, George R.R Martin's The Song of Fire and Ice, Jean M. Auel 's The Clan of Cave Bear,  Ken Follett's The Pillars of the Earth, Stephen King's The Stand, and Bernard Cornwell's Warlord Chronicles/Saxon Chronicles, have had a huge influence on my writing (and life!).

Back to Historical Romance though... 

In no particular order, here are my keepers:












The Conquest
Elizabeth Chadwick

This is one of Elizabeth Chadwick's earlier books - but easily one my favorites. It's actually two love stories, set at the time of the Nortman Conquest. Poignant, and at times very sad, this isn't a traditional romance, but it's well-worth the read. Chadwick brings this time to life so vividly you feel as if you're there with her. It was after reading this novel that I decided I wanted to set my novels in the Anglo-Saxon period!













Daughter of the Forest
Juliet Marillier

This book is actually Historical Fantasy Romance but I had to add it here. A beautifully written story of courage, strength and slow-burning love, Daughter of the Forest is a compelling tale.

Read my review of Daughter of the Forest on this blog.












The Warrior's Game
Denise Domning

Get past the awful cover and discover an exciting story set at the time of King John and the Magna Carta. The characters in this story—a fiesty English widow and a sexy French mercenary—is what made this novel a keeper for me. This well-researched story really brings the 13th century to life. It's the third in a trilogy (although they can all be read as stand-alones), and my favorite of the three.













The Wolfe
Kathryn Le Veque

Kathryn Le Veque has written a huge number of door-stopper epic romance novels set in the Middle Ages. Her earlier works are definitely my favorites; they're page-turning adventures with exciting characters and lots of intrigue. My other favorites by Le Veque are: The Dark One, Spectre of the Sword and The White Lord of Wellesbourne.

Read my review of The Wolfe on Goodreads.












Outlander
Diana Gabaldon

This series needs no introduction. It has everything, romance, adventure, intrigue and real history—with a bit of time travel thrown in. Jamie Fraser is the ultimate romantic hero, who can blame Claire for falling for him!













Circle of Ceridwen Saga
Octavia Randolph

This is a fabulous series of books set in 8th Century England and Scandinavia. Randolph draws you right into the period and brings it to life so vividly you can almost smell the burning peat, the crunch of rushes under your boots and the jingling of chain mail! Not a traditional romance, the love-story is a slow burn through the first four books, with a stand-alone fifth book. I'm now half-way through the sixth book which tells the story of the next generation. A fabulous historical epic that I can't recommend highly enough!

Read my review of the first book in the series on Goodreads.












The King's Man
Elizabeth Kingston

A fabulously gritty historical romance about a brutal English soldier and a wild female Welsh warrior. Kingston is an original voice in this genre. She writes realistic stories about flawed characters. The second book in this (Welsh Blades) series is also excellent.

Read my review on this blog.












A Knight in Shining Armor
Jude Deveraux

Before Outlander there was this book. This is the original historical romance time-travel novel—the story of a frightened and insecure young woman on holiday in England and a young, arrogant Elizabethan lord, whose paths cross across time. A compelling, fun read that's really well researched. A first read this book many years ago but recently re-read an updated version—even better than I remembered!


Sunday, 5 March 2017

New projects on the go!

2016 was a very busy year writing-wise - and it looks as if 2017 is shaping up much the same. Not that I'm complaining. I'm at my happiest when immersed in my stories. 😊

I've currently got three writing projects on the go - two Historical Romances and an Epic Fantasy Romance. I've just begun a new series set in Dark Ages Scotland, and embarked on Book #2 of the Kingdom of Northumbria. My fantasy novel is now being line edited so I'm working on the maps for it. Read on to find out more about each project - and get a sneak peak at the covers - below.

Historical Romance

BLOOD FEUD

THE WARRIOR BROTHERS OF SKYE — BOOK #1
A DARK AGES SCOTTISH ROMANCE

CAN THEIR LOVE OVERCOME GENERATIONS OF HATE?

Autumn, 366 AD—The Isle of Skye

Far north of Hadrian’s Wall—beyond the shadow of the Roman Empire—the daughter of a Pictish chieftain prepares to wed her enemy.

To forge peace, Tea must marry the leader of a neighboring tribe that killed her father.

Dark, brooding and sexy—Galan isn’t what Tea expects. But, unlike her, he’s determined to end decades of bloodshed between two warring tribes—even if it means sacrificing his own happiness.

Tea isn’t what Galan expects either. A statuesque, embittered beauty, she hates him and his people.

Yet, together, Galan and Tea have the chance to forge a new future—one that will ensure lasting peace—if only they can only let go of the past.


Historical Romance

WIND SONG

THE KINGDOM OF NORTHUMBRIA—BOOK #2

HE RULES THE NORTH
BUT SHE RULES HIS HEART

Northumbria, Britain—684 AD

Hea isn’t like other women. The feisty daughter of a seer, she lives alone in the fort of Bebbanburg and survives by tending the sick and selling herbs and potions. However, she has also inherited her mother’s gift—and when King Ecgfrith requests her skills she can’t refuse him.

Ecgfrith, the ruler of Northumbria, is having trouble with the Picts, the warlike people to the north. He needs a seer’s guidance in dealing with them. The Pictish king, Bridei mac Beli, once fostered at Bebbanburg—but now he’s demanding freedom from his Saxon overlord.

Hea and Bridei have history.

They grew up together and he once saved her from being raped. Hea has longed for him ever since. Eight years later they meet again, and sparks fly. Arrogant and ambitious, Bridei is used to getting what he wants—and Hea discovers he’s the only man she can’t refuse.

Yet he’s a Pict and she’s a Saxon. Bridei will do anything to win back his people’s land from Northumbria, and Hea has sworn her loyalty to a king who treats her more like a daughter than a servant. As the shadow of war looms, it seems any chance they have at love is lost … or is it?


Epic Fantasy Romance 

RULED BY SHADOWS

In a land ruled by shadows, the fate of all lies in the hands of a girl who is afraid of the dark.

Lilia is afraid of the shadows, so when her own one starts behaving strangely, she can barely cope—especially when it starts threatening her.

It all starts the day she meets Saul of Anthor. Handsome and darkly mysterious, he leaves a charm-stone in her safekeeping. Only, what appears to be a humble Hag Stone—used by folk to ward off evil spirits—is in reality a powerful talisman. One that a secret brotherhood has spent a thousand years searching for.

Perrin is Lilia’s best friend. He has spent his life avoiding responsibility and hard work—but now he becomes her unlikely ally. When Saul of Anthor reappears, Perrin suspects his motives. Robana, a healer with a mysterious past, also believes Lilia is in danger—although from those far more dangerous than Saul.

The shadows are deepening and an ancient evil risks being unleashed upon the world. Lilia embarks on a journey into danger, discovery and ... love.  But she must face the darkness, and her own fears—or there will be no going home.




Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Get a chance to win a Kindle Fire and +45 Historical Fiction novels

Today, I have a fun surprise that I’d like to share with you. 

I’ve teamed up with +45 fantastic Historical Fiction authors to give away a huge collection of novels, plus a Kindle Fire to one lucky winner!  You can win my novel NIGHTFALL TILL DAYBREAK plus books from authors who write similar novels to mine.

Enter the giveaway here.























Good luck, and enjoy!


Sunday, 5 February 2017

THE BREAKING DAWN is a semi-finalist!


Exciting news - I've just learned that THE BREAKING DAWN (Book #1: The Kingdom of Mercia) has reached the semi-finals of The 2016 Chatelaine Book Award.

The CHATELAINE Writing Competition Book Awards recognize emerging new talent and outstanding works in the genres of  Romantic Fiction and Women’s Fiction. The Chatelaine Awards is a division of Chanticleer International Novel Writing Competitions.

Check out the shortlist - congratulations to all the other finalists too!

What's THE BREAKING DAWN about?

Set in 7th Century England and Wales, THE BREAKING DAWN is the story of Merwenna and Cynddylan: a Mercian Village girl and a Welsh prince. Set against a backdrop of war, treachery and ambition, this epic romance is about two people from different worlds, and the power of destiny.

Monday, 30 January 2017

Book Review: Fair, Bright, and Terrible (Welsh Blades Book 2) by Elizabeth Kingston

A realistic, emotionally powerful historical romance set in a turbulent past. 

This novel was a surprise for me. It's nothing like the first book in this series, THE KING'S MAN (which I also really enjoyed). This story is one of 'second chance romance'. A man and woman, both around forty years of age, who rekindle their relationship 18 years after it ended. It's certainly not a tale for those who prefer lighthearted romance, but if you're ready to tackle a few heavy topics, and deal with a embittered heroine bent on revenge, it's a really rewarding story.

Elizabeth Kingston writes beautifully. She captures the regret, bitterness and hope of Eluned and Robert. One of my favorite quotes in the book was this one - it sums up the conflict between the hero and heroine perfectly:

“To love you was the making of me. But now it is only my undoing.”

I love bittersweet moments.

Eluned isn't an easy woman to like. She's proud, manipulative and scheming. She had an affair with Robert many years earlier when her husband was away but is forced to give up her lover when the realities of life intrude on their private world. The author does a really good job is showing the moment Eluned turns bitter. The heroine can't accept the fact that life isn't hers for the taking, that she cannot have everything she wants - and as a result shuts down her feelings and focuses on political ambition, in schooling her daughter to fight for the Welsh cause.

In contrast, Robert is a truly good man. However, he doesn't let Eluned boss him around or manipulate him. I enjoyed the scenes when he stood up to her. After their marriage - organised by Eluned's son - he is shocked to discover that the carefree, fiesty young woman he remembers is gone. He has spent years loving a woman who only existed in his memory.

The novel is well researched, and gives you a real sense of the political turmoil of the Welsh Marches, and how the Welsh would have felt after years of persecution and bloodshed. It's an intense read, and I believe many women of Eluned's age (which I am!) can relate to some of what she struggles with. Many women (and men!) never get over the disappointment that life hasn't worked out as they had hoped - and Elizabeth Kingston portrays this theme bravely and realistically.

___________________________________________

Buy a copy of FAIR, BRIGHT, AND TERRIBLE on Amazon.com.


Sunday, 29 January 2017

Get a chance to win a paperback copy of THE WHISPERING WIND

Enter to win one of three first edition paperback copies of THE WHISPERING WIND on Goodreads.

Contest closes on February 5 2017 — so make sure you enter soon! Just click on the banner below. 

Good luck! 😊


Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Whispering Wind by Jayne Castel

The Whispering Wind

by Jayne Castel

Giveaway ends February 05, 2017.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter Giveaway

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Five stars for THE WHISPERING WIND

I don't often post reviews about my novels on this blog—however, this one for THE WHISPERING WIND was so good that I couldn't resist.

It's always a delight when readers 'get' what I was trying to achieve with a novel, when my characters, setting and story resonate.

I'm pleased, and humbled, when a reader takes the time not only to review one of my books, but to put the time into a thoughtful review like this one from a reader on Amazon.

Enjoy!

--

5.0 out of 5 stars Captivating Dark Ages manhunt with emotional impact

This is an official request for historical romance readers to move out of their Regency-era and Scottish Highlander comfort zones. Author Jayne Castel had me completely immersed in her Dark Ages world of Northumbria. I could feel the rough clothes abrading my skin, see the poverty of the monks, thrill to a knife battle deep in the woods, and wonder at the power and depravity of an immoral king. This book also packs an emotional punch, since I actually teared up as I read about the desperation of Leofric and Aelfwyn. If you enjoy an emotional, eventful story framed around authentic history (the foreword, afterword and maps are fascinating), then I suggest you pick up books by Jayne Castel.

In the blurb for The Whispering Wind, the reader is informed that Leofric, a monk, finds a woman, Aelfwyn, washed ashore near the impoverished monastery where he is living. The hows and whys of Leofric's exile to the monastery play a key importance to both his personality and the plot. Castel has crafted a character in Leofric that has shades. He is impulsive and vain, kind and thoughtless, cheery and impassioned, proud and stupid. I didn't know what to think of him, and that is what made his character, and his character's journey, so engaging. However, once Aelfwyn enters his life he starts to become a worthy man. I love that he doesn't get it right all of the time, either.

Aelfwyn is a sweet girl marred by tragedy and personal abuse. Her emotional fragility is overwhelming in the beginning, but as the story develops she becomes stronger and more resilient. In the end, she is brave to the point of selflessness, with deep emotional impact on the narrative.

"Her ordeal at Bebbanburg had stripped away her illusions about life, but in doing so it had forged her anew. He [Leofric] noted the iron resolve in her and decided he liked it."

For most of the novel, Leofric and Aelfwyn are being hunted. It adds a desperation, and then a weariness, that even as a reader sitting on a couch I began to feel in my muscles and bones. Although much of the book is devoted to this aspect, it never feels repetitive. The interaction between Leofric and Aelfwyn was appropriate to how strangers in a strange circumstance would act. Adding to the stress is the fact that neither lead character is from the ruling class. That means food, money and loyalties are difficult to come by, and the absence of all three impacts choices. I learned a lot about Northumbria and the vagaries of a Dark Ages class system while Leofric and Aelfwyn were fleeing. Optimism, followed by crushing hopelessness, plagues them. I was enthralled to the thrilling end.

--

Intrigued?

Get your copy of THE WHISPERING WIND on Amazon!

Amazon.com
Amazon.co.uk



Monday, 23 January 2017

Get THE WHISPERING WIND for just 99 cents!

Great news! THE WHISPERING WIND (Book #1: The Kingdom of Northumbria) has been released on Amazon.

As a special Early Bird offer, the Kindle edition of THE WHISPERING WIND is available for the next 48 hours for only 99 cents (or 99p if you're in the UK),

After 48 hours, it's going up to its regular retail price of USD3.49, so make sure you don't miss out!

Get your copy (Kindle and paperback editions available)

Here are the Kindle edition links to the Amazon stores:

Amazon.com
Amazon.co.uk

__________________________________________

Getting a novel ready for publication is EXHAUSTING!

Every book is a labor of love—also since I'm an indie writer, the work doesn't end once the editing and proofs are done. I organize cover design, e-book and paperback formatting, uploading, marketing, and then manage the entire launch myself. By the time it's all over, I feel in need of a week lazing on the beach!

I'm really pleased with the final version of THE WHISPERING WIND. This novel is not just a romance, but also an exciting adventure story. Leofric and Aelfwyn are easily my favorite hero and heroine so far. He's a likeable rogue and she's kind and big-hearted. It was sad to say good-bye to them at the end. I'm really proud of this story and hope you all enjoy it.
__________________________________________

Please consider leaving an honest review on Amazon or Goodreads

As many of you will know, I'm an indie author. This means word about my novels spreads one reader at a time! If you'd like to help other readers find my work, please consider leaving an honest review on Amazon or Goodreads. I would really appreciate it.

When you've finished the book, just click on one of the links below to leave a review:


Leave a review on Amazon.com
Leave a review on Amazon.co.uk
Leave a review on Goodreads

 

Thanks for all your support. :-)

Monday, 16 January 2017

Sneak preview of THE WHISPERING WIND

Exciting news! THE WHISPERING WIND (Book #1: The Kingdom of Northumbria) will be released on Amazon on 25 January 2017.

This novel tells the story of Aelfwyn and Leofric—two young people who are forced to run from their old lives and forge a new one together. Set in 670 AD, in Anglo-Saxon England, Aelfwyn and Leofric's romance is set in a world dominated by the warrior and the sword. It's a story about redemption and courage.

Find out more about THE WHISPERING WIND

Listen to an introduction to Book #1 of The Kingdom of Northumbria and a reading of the Prologue (recorded by yours truly). Enjoy! :-)



Saturday, 7 January 2017

Review: Daughter of the Forest (Sevenwaters, #1), by Juliet Marillier

What a beautiful book - one of the best I've ever read.

Where to start ... Juliet Marillier is a wonderful writer. The way she evokes the time and place of the novel is nothing short of spectacular. As this is a historical fantasy romance you don't really know exactly when the story is set but judging from her descriptions of the various cultures and politics of the time I'd say late Anglo-Saxon times, possibly just before the Norman Conquest. It's set in Ireland and Northern England - a world that the author brings to life beautifully.

Sorcha is a strong female lead - the seventh child of an Irish family with six protective elder brothers. First person narration can be tricky to get right but Marillier takes us on a long journey with Sorcha and I never tired of her voice. Her courage, even at times of horror and pain, had me in tears a few times during the book.

Red is possibly my favorite hero of all time. The author takes great care in bringing him to life - and it's difficult not to fall in love with him. He's sexy, strong and kind - what's not to love! If Sorcha has one fault is that she is 'too strong' - and risks isolating herself with her need to prove she can deal with everything on her own. However Red understands this about her. His flaw is pride - he doesn't find it easy to express his deepest feelings, and this almost ruins his own chance at happiness as a result.

 I can't believe I've only just discovered Juliet Mariller now - I'm going to enjoy diving into her other works. I also discovered that we're from the same city in New Zealand and studied at the same university!

I can't recommend this book highly enough. If you love historical fiction with a bit of fantasy thrown in - and a powerful love story that will have you reaching for the tissues - don't miss this one.

Buy a copy on Amazon.

Monday, 2 January 2017

Take a tour across 7th Century Anglo-Saxon England

https://it.pinterest.com/source/handmademaps.com
https://it.pinterest.com/source/handmademaps.com

My current 'work in progress' (THE WHISPERING WIND —Book #1 of The Kingdom of Northumbria) is now with my editor. 😊

I've been stuck into writing over the past couple of months—with two manuscripts on the go—but have wanted to write a blog post to give some background about the setting of my upcoming novel.

In THE WHISPERING WIND my characters do a lot of travelling! 

Aelfwyn and Leofric set off from the northeast of England and travel down the Yorkshire coast to Whitby and then on to Lincolnshire. They finally travel back into Yorkshire to what is now York. Only the towns, villages and landmarks they visit are nothing like modern, or even medieval, England—as such the photos below only depict what these places look like now!

Britain in Anglo-Saxon times

So far, I've written six novels and a novella set in Britain's exciting 7th Century. My novels have focused on three kingdoms in particular (East Anglia, Mercia and Northumbria) but others such as Powys, Kent and the East Saxons also crop up in the stories. The Anglo-Saxon place names I use in my novels are far different to the modern names of towns, villages and landmarks. Not only that but the spelling varied hugely. For example, the Anglo-Saxon name for York was spelled Eoforwic, Eoferwic or Eoforīc—depending on the source.

Let's take a look at what England looked like all those years ago...

The tour: from Bebbanburg to Eoforwic

Bebbanburg (Bamburgh)
Today the mighty red stone fortress of Bamburgh looks out to sea from a high rocky headland. In the 7th Century it was called Bebbanburg—named after Bebba, the wife of the Northumbrian king, Æthelfrith.

In the period of my novel (mid 7th Century), Bebbanburgh looked nothing like today's fortress. Instead it would have been a great fort, built mainly in wood with gate houses at each corner. Inside the fort there would have been a large village of timber and wattle and daub dwellings, workshops and stables.

 'My' Bebbanburg (which first makes an appearance in Book #2 of The Kingdom of Mercia - Darkest before Dawn), also has a 'great tower' made of the same red stone as the rock upon which the fort stands. There's no evidence to suggest that Bebbanburg had a 'great tower'—however when I visited Bamburgh Castle I discovered that these great towers were precursors to Medieval keeps. So I decided to include one in Bebbanburg.

Lindisfarena (Lindisfarne)
Holy Island as it's now known has long been a setting I've wanted to include in one of my books. There's something incredibly mystical about this windswept island that's only accessible via a tidal causeway.

Lindisfarne is one of the United Kingdom's most iconic spots of religious pilgrimage—and the place the Vikings first came ashore.

Lindisfarne priory was founded in 635 AD by King Oswald. My current story takes place in 670 AD, so around 35 years after the priory was built. The monastery became the religious heart of the Kingdom of Northumbria until the Vikings sacked it in 793 AD. After that, the surviving monks fled and the monastery wasn't rebuilt until 300-400 years later.

I deliberately set this book at this time so that I could include Prior Cuthbert in the novel. Saint Cuthbert is one of the most important saints of Medieval England. After his death many miracles were attributed to him. Cuthbert only appears for a handful of chapters, I really enjoyed bringing him to life.

Read more about what Lindisfarne would have been like in my recent blog post.

Streonshalh (Whitby)
In 657 AD, King Oswiu of Northumbria (the father of the king in my upcoming novel) founded the abbey at Streonshalh. Today this location is the beautiful seaside town of Whitby. At the time, the abbey would have perched on the cliffs above a tiny fishing village.

Like the buildings in the locations above, the abbey would have looked very different to the ruins visible today. It would have had a wooden perimeter filled with a collection of buildings that included a great hall, a refectory, a weaving shed, the abbess's lodgings, an orchard—as well as a collection of huts where the nuns lived. Also, in early Anglo-Saxon times, monks as well as nuns dwelt at Streonshalh—the division of the sexes did not come till a bit later in history.

THE WHISPERING WIND begins around 13 years after Streonshalh Abbey's founding, at the time when Abbess Hilda (or Hild) lived there. She was the founding abbess and, like Cuthbert, was one of Medieval England's most important saints.

Lincylene (Lincoln)
I was born near Lincoln (in the market town of Louth) so this setting is very close to my heart. Lincoln was founded as a Roman fort called 'Lindum Colonia'.

Lincylene was the seat of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Lindesege (Lindsey). The King of Lindesege in THE WHISPERING WIND is called Eatta. He appears in the list of Anglo-Saxon monarchs for the kingdom although I could find no details about what kind of man he was. As such, my depiction of him comes entirely from my own imagination.

The settlement I describe in my novel is surrounded by a surviving town wall that was constructed by the Romans. The spot which currently has Lincoln's magnificent cathedral, housed the king's Great Hall and an early church built of wood and stone.

Eoforwic (York)
This town was an important hub during Anglo-Saxon England. Sitting on the confluence between two rivers: the Ouse and the Foss, Eoforwic was accessible by river to the coast (something the raiding Vikings later found very useful).

Like Lincoln, York has Roman origins. The city was founded in 71 AD, when the Ninth Legion conquered the Brigantes and constructed a wooden military fortress on flat ground above the River Ouse close to its confluence with the River Foss. Later it was resettled by the Angles in the 5th Century.

High wooden ramparts would have surrounded the town and there would have been a number of boat building and fishermen's huts along the banks of the Ouse. Like Lincoln, I placed the Great Hall and the town's church at the highest point overlooking the town. And like Bebbanburg, I created a low gate—through which you enter the town—and a high gate that houses the Great Hall.

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Looking forward to immersing yourself in these settings?

I should have a release date for THE WHISPERING WIND soon—so watch this space! 😊