Publication Day.

Well, I couldn’t not post today! The biggest day of my (writing) life.

How does it feel to be a published author? At the moment, somewhat dazed, or is that the hangover? Not that I’ve had much to drink, but I’m not used to Champagne (OK, Spanish Cava) at eleven in the morning.

I stayed up last night, to “see” the moment that my book was born. About a month ago, I set up a useful WordPress Widget to count down the days. It’s that box on the right (or elsewhere if you’re reading this on a smartphone) that says “Bright Sword is published!”. As I sat there, in a draughty hall, I found that the final hour counted down in minutes, then the final minute in seconds. It was just like New Year, but without the fireworks!

I checked Amazon and there it was – In Stock and ready to “Add to Basket.” Sorry it’s not expensive enough to warrant Free Delivery. I checked for reviews – none yet, but early days, people have got to read it first! Actually there is one review on the Ebook edition, which crept out a few days before the paperback. 4 stars, so not a bad start. Thank you M J Porter.

I tweeted the good news to the world and sat there a while. I wanted to remember the feeling. I imagined huge lorries thundering through the night, filled with copies of my book, to deliver to readers queued outside bookshops – I’m a fiction writer – I’ve got a vivid imagination! It was emotional. I could have cried, but didn’t. Then I went to bed.

I woke up this morning, and like New Year, nothing had really changed. Breakfast, check e-mails etc, a couple of people had “liked” my midnight tweet.

Later I went to visit my mother. I took a signed copy of the book and the Bubbly. I had dedicated it to her. If she hadn’t encouraged me to read, taken me to join the library at an early age, I would never have discovered books and eventually write one myself. I’m sorry it took so long. Her eyes are now too bad to read it and if she could, she wouldn’t remember what she had read. But this morning she knew what I had done and was pleased. By coincidence, 28th January was my father’s birthday. He died fifteen years ago. I hope he would have been proud too.

A bottle of Byrhtnoth’s Mead

This afternoon I was going to write, not book three, I have a deadline for a family history article, but somehow I wasn’t in the mood. I have a book signing next Saturday (3rd Feb, 11.00-2.00, at Hunts Bookshop in Rugby – if you’re in the area. I have promised Anglo-Saxon Warriors and a Mead Tasting. The autumn before last I made some mead, I wrote about it here. I have tasted it occasionally, to toast the progress of my writing, it is quite drinkable – and alcoholic! It was time to bottle it. Then I decided it needed a proper label. By then, there was not much time to write, except this blog post.

What with everything else I managed 1627 words on Monday, then nothing else. I’m not sure when I’ll continue. I really should get back to editing book 2.

I can’t stop now, I’m a published author.

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How I started to write.

This is one of my first posts on this blog. It was written two years ago, in January 2016. I’m glad I wrote it for it shows me how far I have. Now, on the eve of publication, it reminds me of where it all started. Thank you to everyone who has helped me along the way. I hope your enjoy my book – Bright Sword

 

 

 


I discovered recently that I have been blogging for four years – it was my blogoversary (if that’s the right word). Obviously not this particular blog. This one has only been going five months and this is only my ninth post.

I started, on 3rd January 2012, with a blog about my family history research. Especially my One Name Study of the Madder surname and in particular about Captain John Madder. John Madder was hanged as a pirate in 1705. I have discovered rather a lot about him. And his brother, George. And his daughter Isabella. In fact I will be posting about my latest finds on that subject on the original blog  shortly.

So why am I writing a historical novel about an Anglo-Saxon, Byrhtnoth? Why aren’t I writing about my endlessly fascinating pirate? The thing is – that is what I had planned.

I wanted to write a (non-fiction) book about John Madder. It was hard work and I set up the blog to practice writing, as well as keep tabs on my research. I was not a writer, never thought about being a writer. I’m afraid I’m not one of these writers who started scribbling stories in my cradle. Reading, yes. Writing, no.

Anyway, three years ago, at Christmas 2012, I had a bright idea. I had been spending so much time with John Madder he had become one of the family. I would talk to him – sometimes he would reply, but only when we were alone. I would write a story for the readers of my blog. I thought about it for a long time, then tried to write it down. It just wouldn’t work. Why not? I was confused. I had been writing all these chatty blog posts, about 40 in that first year, why couldn’t I write fiction rather than fact?

Then I picked up the spring term brochure for the Percival Guildhouse, a local adult education centre. This is the home of the Family History and Local History Groups I belong to. I have helped to teach family history classes there and sometimes attended painting classes. A class was advertised “Writing Fiction”. There was space on it, so I signed up. I have been attending ever since.

I wrote in an earlier post about some of the exercises we did recently but I remember exactly how I found Byrhtnoth – or perhaps he found me!

There was an exercise to describe a landscape we knew, zoom in closer, then closer still. For some reason I chose Maldon and the modern statue of Byrhtnoth – you can see it in the picture at the top of this blog.

A bit later, it might have been the following week, we talked about the characters in well-known books. Our homework was to take a character and write a scene of their life outside the book. Byrhtnoth was still hanging about, so I wrote about him on the eve of the Battle of Maldon (Yes, I know it’s a poem rather than a book, but our tutor allows us a lot of leeway, so long as we write something!)

I had started wondering where this person had come from, what made him into the man in the poem. There was another exercise. Imagine a door, describe the door, send someone through the door and describe what’s on the other side. If you read my earlier post The Prologue you will recognise this scene – it is the start of my book. (If you haven’t read that post – not many people did, or if they did they didn’t take part in the poll – I hope you enjoy it.) I now have nearly 70,000 words and (I hope) am getting towards the end. I am starting to think about a sequel. I’ve come a long way from that first attempt at writing.

And if you’re wondering, I did eventually write that problematical story – it appeared on the original blog the following Christmas (2013). If you want to read it, you can find it here

Perhaps, one day, it will be the start of another book. After all John Madder still talks to me. He asks why I am neglecting him for that young Anglo-Saxon boy!

Inspiration

A blog post from 2015. Not an interview with a character, but how I was inspired to invent one – Byrhtnoth’s dog.

Where do writers get their inspiration? The initial idea can come from anywhere. Something said. Something seen. A book you read and think “I could do that better.” Once you start, details creep in from everywhere – sometimes it’s not until later that you realise where they came from. At other times you know exactly.

Autumn means that the Writing Fiction class is back. This year there were a few new students, but most of us have been there longer. For the benefit of the newbies, we started with a few basic exercises.

Out came the box of postcards – pictures of people and places, paintings and photographs. Chose one of a person and one of a place.Write about that person in that place. Perhaps one picture will spark an idea. I grumbled a bit – I don’t want an idea, I just want to carry on with my book. But a painting of a medieval lady on a horse chasing wild animals reminded me of a hunting scene I had been thinking about. Result – another scene written.

The next week we were asked to bring in three objects that meant something to us. We talked about them. We wrote about one of them. We talked about the emotions they produced and we tried to turn the memory into fiction. Some amazing stories emerged.

Greyhound statue on the mantalpiece

Greyhound statue on the mantelpiece.

One of my objects was a small bronze statue of a greyhound. It was a memorial of a dog we used to own. She was not a greyhound but of mixed parentage, from a rescue home. Her shape was lean and she loved to run. Her name was Poppy. She died many years ago, a few months after my father, so the emotions were of love, protection and loss.

For the hunting scene I had written I had looked up (good old Wikipedia!) information about Anglo-Saxon hunting dogs. It appears they were similar to greyhounds. Everything came together. My main character had acquired a dog!

For anyone who has been to The Hurst, which I mentioned in my previous post, you may have noticed two similar stone statues of dogs guarding the front door – no wonder I felt so at home there.

Inspiration is attacking from all directions and my book has reached 63,000 words. As I write, new scenes appear. I am racing ahead. Like a greyhound?

Poppy

Poppy

 

 

 

Interviewing my Character – Eadric

Today I meet a minor, but as he tells us, important character:

Q : Would you like to introduce yourself – who you are, what you do?

A : I am Eadric, a servant. Long ago, I served the hearth companions of Lord Byrhthelm, father to Byrhtnoth. I looked after their weapons, cooked their food when they were on campaign – everything. They are dead now and I am steward in the hall that now belongs to Byrhtnoth. I am getting old, but I have a task to complete before I can die.

 

Q : Where and when are you? Are you a real historical person or did your author create you?

A : My author created me. I am a minor, but important, character in Byrhtnoth’s story.

 

Q : In a few brief sentences: what is the novel you feature in about?

A : I don’t know what happens to Byrhtnoth when I’m not there. My job is to guard Byrhthelm’s sword until I decide his son is worthy to receive it. I showed it to the boy, long ago – he was angry he could not have it. Only I know where it is – he will not have it until I think he should.

 

Q : How did your author meet up with you?

A : I am always lurking in the background, ready to serve.

 

Q : Tell me about one or two of the other characters who feature with you – husband, wife, family? Who are some of the nice characters and who is the nastiest one?

A : I have no family. I serve the sword, she is beautiful. Nothing else matters.

 

Q : What is your favourite scene in the book?

A : That will be the moment that I take the sword away from the young Byrhtnoth – you should have seen the look of loss on his face! Then, for once, I had power.

 

Q : What is your least favourite? Maybe a frightening or sad moment that your author wrote.

A : After Lord Byrhthelm went, Lord Toli looked after us all in the village. He was ill for a long time. I kept him alive, but he died. I blame Byrhtnoth for that.

 

Q : What are you most proud of about your author?

A : I don’t know about proud. I like to shock her sometimes with what I say – I think she is afraid of what I will do.

 

Q : Has your author written other books about you? If not, about other characters?
How do you feel about your author going off with someone else!

A : No other books. I don’t care about other characters – I know my place.

 

Q : As a character if you could travel to a time and place different to your own fictional setting where and when would you go?

A : I want to go back to when I was young, serving my lord as he fought with King Æthelstan, creating the kingdom of England.

Do you think, if I’m nice to her, my author will write a prequel?

Interviewing my Character – Saewynn

Today I am interviewing another of my characters. This time it is a woman, well a girl really, she’s only about 12 or 13 and very shy.

Q : Would you like to introduce yourself – who you are, what you do?

A : Why would you want to know about me? I’m not important.
All right, my name is Saewynn. I am a slave, servant to the Lady Elfflaed. Her sister is married to the King, so she’s very important. Are you sure you wouldn’t rather talk to her?

 

Q : Where and when are you? Are you a real historical person or did your author create you?

A : I’m in the same book as Byrhtnoth. Isn’t he wonderful? I fell in love with him the first time I saw him. Not that he noticed me, with my mistress making eyes him. No one else notices me and no one would dream of recording my life, so I suppose my author made me up

 

Q : In a few brief sentences: what is the novel you feature in about?

A : It’s all about Byrhtnoth of course. I’m just there to get rescued, then they dress me as a boy to protect me. That was fun – I think I could get used to that. Men have so much more fun than girls.

 

Q : How did your author meet up with you?

A : I’m just a minor character, but I think she felt sorry for me.

 

Q : Tell me about one or two of the other characters who feature with you – husband, wife, family? Who are some of the nice characters and who is the nastiest one?

A : Apart from Byrhtnoth, you mean? Well there’s Wulfstan, he’s nice, he looks after me when Byrhtnoth is busy doing noble deeds. I like riding his horse, he’s very clever – the horse that is – well Wulfstan is as well.

I don’t like Elfgar. That’s my mistress’s father, well I suppose he’s my master. He can do anything he wants, and he likes young girls. That’s why they dressed me as a boy. I’ve managed to stay out of his way so far.

 

Q : What is your favourite scene in the book?

A : That was the day Byrhtnoth rescued me. I tried to hide when the Vikings attacked and got stuck under a thorn tree. He came along and got me out. It was just me and him. When I remember him carrying me to safety, I go all shivery.

 

Q : What is your least favourite? Maybe a frightening or sad moment that your author wrote.

A : He went away. I don’t know why, something political I think. I don’t know whether I will ever see him again.

 

Q : What are you most proud of about your author?

A : I’m glad she thinks about me. And the other women that live in my time. All those big violent men ignore us and what we have to do to survive.

 

Q : Has your author written  other books about you? If not, about other characters?
How do you feel about your author going off with someone else!

A : No more books yet but she says I might have a bigger part in the next one. Just as long as I can be with Byrhtnoth sometimes.

 

Q : As a character if you could travel to a time and place different to your own fictional setting where and when would you go?

A : My author says that most women don’t have much of a life in any other time or place, except where she lives. She says women there can dress like men if they want. And men can dress like women, although I don’t know why they’d want to. Byrhtnoth wouldn’t. I wouldn’t mind seeing him without his clothes though. Oh dear, I shouldn’t say that. Please don’t tell him. I think I’d better go now.

 

Thank you Saewynn.

 

 

Interviewing my Character – Wulfstan

Today I am interviewing Wulfstan. He is a very important character, Byrhtnoth’s friend. I thought I had invented him, every hero needs a friend; a contrast, someone to talk to, to give advice, even to argue with. Byrhtnoth is tall, fair and a warrior. Wulfstan is small, dark and… what?

Preparing this I had one of those strange coincidences that I have encountered while writing the book. I knew that there were many people about in this period named Wulfstan  (It means wolf stone – a good solid name for a boy.) I knew that there was someone of the name, an Archbishop of York, who is buried near the remains of Byrhtnoth in Ely Cathedral. I looked him up.

This Wulfstan was consecrated Bishop of London in AD996. He became Bishop of Worcester and Archbishop of York – at the same time! He was famous for his writing and died in 1023. Nothing is known about his youth or his life before 996 – five years after Byrhtnoth’s death!  So did I invent him? Let’s see what MY Wulfstan has to say.

 

Q : Would you like to introduce yourself – who you are, what you do?

A : My name is Wulfstan, failed warrior, nearly monk. But more important, friend of Byrhtnoth

 

Q : Where and when are you? Are you a real historical person or did your author create you?

A : I live in the Monastery at Ely, where my friend was buried after the Battle of Maldon in AD991. My author thinks she created me – someone to tell the tale of Byrhtnoth. I have written two introductions for her, but I suspect she will discard them.

However she has allowed me access to the teachings of your time, a document written by scholars that she calls “wikipedia”. There is a Wulfstan listed there amongst the Bishops of London and Worcester and Archbishops of York. It is said that he was consecrated Bishop of London in AD996, so it seems I might have more work to do. That Wulfstan is buried at Ely. His bones lie close to those of Byrhtnoth, so perhaps…

 

Q : In a few brief sentences: what is the novel you feature in about?

A : If you have read the previous interviews, you will know our book is about Byrhtnoth. We meet, as children, on the very first page. He is bigger and braver than me and we become friends for life.

 

Q : How did your author meet up with you?

A : As I have said, she needed me. Every hero must have a friend, a sidekick, it is sometimes called.

 

Q : Tell me about one or two of the other characters who feature with you – husband, wife, family? Who are some of the nice characters and who is the nastiest one?

A : Like others I have no family. I had a sister once, when I was young, but she died. It was my fault she died. They say I could not be blamed but it haunts me still.

I have met many nasty people, but the first was a man called Egbert. He was there at the first; one of the group of boys. Later I beat him in a competition. I humiliated him, for which I am sorry, but it was fun at the time. He took revenge, I nearly died and things changed forever.

 

Q : What is your favourite scene in the book?

A : I suppose that must be the competition with Egbert. It was on horseback. I rode Sleipnir – and before you ask, he doesn’t have eight legs! Sleipnir is not a pretty horse, but very clever. We ran rings around that Egbert, and when his horse..     but I mustn’t say too much.

 

Q : What is your least favourite? Maybe a frightening or sad moment that your author wrote.

A : When I nearly died. I don’t remember much and I don’t want to.

 

Q : What are you most proud of about your author?

A : She has stuck with us. We have all encouraged her to keep at it. I keep remembering events for her to write about. If there are any mistakes you can blame my erratic memory.

 

Q : Has your author written other books about you? If not, about other characters?
How do you feel about your author going off with someone else!

A : I have started feeding her new ideas, so I hope there will be more books. After all, we have only got to AD 946 or is it 947? So long ago! Forty years or more until he dies.

 

Q : As a character if you could travel to a time and place different to your own fictional setting where and when would you go?

A : Such a difficult question. Byrhtnoth is happy in his own time, but I have always questioned thing, wanted to know more, about the past and the future, and foreign lands. Your time appears interesting – so much information, so much ease of travel. Perhaps my author will let me tag along with her occasionally, in exchange for my knowledge about my time, about my adventures with Byrhtnoth.

 

 

Remains interned in the 10th century Saxon church, reburied in the present Cathedraland moved several times. Byrhtnoth is on the far right and Wulfstan on the left.

Remains interned in the 10th century Saxon church at Ely, reburied in the present Cathedral and moved several times. Byrhtnoth is on the far right and Archbishop Wulfstan on the left.

Interviewing my Character

A couple of years ago, in 2016 I  read some interesting posts on Helen Hollick’s blog Let us Talk of Many Things

She interviewed characters from other writer’s books  – see the full list here

What an interesting idea this was. You can learn a lot from questioning your characters – putting them in an unusual situation or asking them to explain themselves. I decided to have a go.

I sat Byrhtnoth down with a horn of mead to get him relaxed, but everything got out of hand, so I abandoned the interview until the next day. This explains some of the grumpy responses.

 

Q : Would you like to introduce yourself – who you are, what you do?

A : My name is Byrhtnoth. I am a warrior – at least that is what I was trained for. I did something very bad. I don’t know what I am now.

 

Q : Where and when are you? Are you a real historical person or did your author create you?

A : At the moment I am living in a small village in the English fens, near Ely. It is the year 946 or thereabouts. I am a real historical person – my author says they wrote a poem about my glorious death in battle that is still sung by the scops in your time.

 

Q : In a few brief sentences: what is the novel you feature in about?

A : It’s all about me. My mother died when I was young, I don’t really remember her. I was sent to the King’s court to train as a warrior – that would be King Athelstan, grandson of King Alfred who you call “The Great”. I grew up with the other boys. Some became my friends. Others I thought were friends, are not. I am sixteen now, a man. I have killed Viking raiders and rescued women – the usual things warriors do. And I am searching for a sword – it belonged to my father. I need to discover if he still lives

 

Q : How did your author meet up with you?

A : I was very crafty. She had no idea what she was doing, searching for a subject to write about. I dropped her a few subtle hints and before she knew it, she was hooked.

 

Q : Tell me about one or two of the other characters who feature with you – husband, wife, family? Who are some of the nice characters and who is the nastiest one?

A : As I mentioned above, I am an orphan. No wife, not even a girlfriend, although there is this girl I really fancy.
My best friend is Wulfstan, we meet right at the start of the book. I have to look after him, he is smaller than me and nasty things happen to him – he’s much brighter than me, but don’t tell him I said so!
Elfhere was another boy in our gang. Very friendly to start with, but he changes. He’s a bit posh – he has relatives, unlike the rest of us. He is good at fighting, but not as good as me. I’m the best. You’ll have to wait until the end of the book to find out what happens to him.

 

Q : What is your favourite scene in the book?

A : That has to be the scene when I discover a relative. It’s good to have friends, but suddenly to find family, after thinking you are alone in the world…

 

Q : What is your least favourite? Maybe a frightening or sad moment that your author wrote.

A : I was alone and injured; lost in a dark forest. Death seemed certain. I don’t remember much about it, but I’m sure there were monsters in the darkness.
My author decided my life was too easy – she really laid on the misery!

 

Q : What are you most proud of about your author?

A : She’s not bad for a woman. She does what I tell her to, even if she does think the ideas are hers. Sometimes she suspects I’m in charge, but I tell her how brilliant she is and she soon calms down.

 

Q : Has your author written  other books about you? If not, about other characters?
How do you feel about your author going off with someone else!

A : This is my author’s first book. She has started planning a second one about me, perhaps it will be a trilogy. I’m still young and apparently I have a long life before that glorious death. How many books has that Bernard Cornwall chap written about Uhtred? His character got onto television (whatever that is) as well. Uhtred is getting old – it’s time for a younger, better looking Anglo-Saxon warrior.
I sometimes catch my author thinking about someone else. A pirate called Jack (not that one!). He’s probably a Viking and we know what to do with those, don’t we?

 

Q : As a character if you could travel to a time and place different to your own fictional setting   where and when would you go?

A : It would be interesting to go back and find out more about those Romans who left so many ruins scattered around the land. They must have been giants.
I think though that I’d better jump ahead eight hundred years and get rid of that pirate chap – don’t want him distracting my author.

If we’ve finished now, can you pass the mead?

 

Look out for interviews with some of my other characters. Perhaps even Jack!

(Not if I have anything to do with it! – Byrhtnoth)