Interesting Articles, Scotland, The Northumbrian Saga

First world blogging problems

I have reached a bit of a dilemma this week. Many of the ideas I have had for posts have been a bit heavy on the information side. They have been interesting (well, to me at least), but after writing a few of these posts ahead of time, I am starting to sound a little preachy. It’s a tad boring. So my first thought was to re-post a number of articles that other people have written and which I thought were pretty cool.

But then a number of people I know have recently published their books, or else I have made some new discoveries, and I also wanted to share this with you all as well…

… but what about those articles? What was I to do?

Well, post them all. This is my blog, I can do whatever the heck I like!

So first up, my reading list

The War Wolf – Peter Whittaker
Peter was one of the first people to start following my website and over the last few months we have shared a few of the experiences and nerves of first time writers, publishing our books only a month or so apart. Now before you all start thinking that this is a shameless plug for a friend, let me reassure you it’s not. If you don’t believe me it’s as simple as visiting his website or downloading a free teaser from Amazon of The War Wolf. Let his writing speak for itself. Peter really does have a natural gift with words which admittedly I am a little jealous of, and I honestly think that this series will be a hit with readers.

The series follows the different players in the lead up and immediate aftermath of the Norman invasion of England in 1066. This isn’t just another rehash of the battle of hastings though. This series starts with The War Wolf, an introduction to the feuding Godwin family and younger brother Tostig’s betrayal in calling on the services of the Viking ‘War Wolf’, Harald Hardrada. It is also a story of Coenred and his allegiance to cousins Earl Morcar of Northumbria and Earl Edwin of Mercia as they try and get rid of the scheming and evil Tostig, and then of course later, Hardrada. The First book deals mostly with the events of the battle of Fulford Gate, and I am assuming that the next two installments will deal with the epic battle of Stamford Bridge and of course Hastings and William the Conquerors wrath. Having done a little research into the events of 1066 before, I was really excited to see how The War Wolf would pan out. Happily I wasn’t disappointed.

Love the subject, love the style of writing, the characters are really likeable and realistic (even the bad guys) and the storyline is really compelling. Do yourself a favour and try it out

Dragon Osmund– Michael Leggett

Michael is another Author who I have stumbled upon, or who rather stumbled upon me. Dragon Osmund is by Michael’s own admission a retelling of the classic of the same title by Rev.  Charles Watts Whistler. Having never read the original I can’t really comment on how well Michael has done this, but as a story it is really good. The tale starts at the court of King Athelstan (grandson of Alfred the Great), and a scene in which he finds his young half-brother has been conspiring against him… or has he? The young prince is perhaps wrongly forced to flee the court with another young friend, the Osmund of the title, and what follows is more treachery, death, and hopefully redemption with the culmination of the story at the battle of Brunanburh.

I haven’t yet finished this book, i’m probably about a third through, but so far A LOT has happened and I am really interested in how Osmund in particular survives. Michael is also in the beginning stages of writing his next novel so feel free to check out his progress at his website.

The Norseman trilogy– Jason Born
Jason Born has been around for a while now and has a substantial and dedicated following of readers, with good reason. Born’s Norseman trilogy follows Halldor and his friend Leif Ericsson as they find themselves exiled with their step- father and father to Greenland, then as young men to Ireland after being framed for murder. Their adventures take them to England and then back to their ancestral home in Norway and if you know your American or Viking history, you will already know where the famous Leif Ericsson ends up. The story is entirely believable and well written, very well researched, and if I were to compare it to anything I would say this is the closest novel I have found to Bernard Cornwell’s Saxon Series. It’s a great adventure and even though I am still in the middle of the second book (Paths of the Norseman), I am already eager to start his next series, The Wald, which follows the German ‘Barbarians’ at the time of the Roman Empire.

The Dark Garden– A J Sefton
A J Sefton is a bit of a Dark Ages fictional writer like myself, but with a focus more on Mercian history instead of Northumbrian. I think it’s great learning about ‘the neighbours’, even though the enemy more often than not are the Northumbrians themselves (I nearly said us then, maybe i’ll make myself an honorary Northumbrian, lol). I haven’t read Gylfyrian yet, but the Dark Garden is a cool little serial that follows King Pybba and his scheming family in the 7th century.

Ragnar the murderer– Lily Byrne
And if you want a little romance and sexiness in your story, then try Ragnar the murderer. There’s good old fashioned romance and a bit of adultery amongst the king’s court in 10th century Mercia (the Danelaw to be exact), which leads to treachery and a murder… with a twist. There are two more books in the Ragnar series, and Lily also has several other books out from different historical periods, so you are sure to find something you will like on her website.

Now for something a little different, in case I am boring you with historical novels.

Joanna Penn
Joanna is a bit of a writing idol of mine. Years ago she was working as an IT consultant, traveling the world and even living in sunny Queensland at one point. Sounds great doesn’t it? well Joanna hated it (the IT part, not the traveling). So what did she do? Well not only did she quit her job, but she wrote a book about it, which she has recently renamed ‘Career Change’. I haven’t read this book, but if the other books and her website are any indication, i’m sure it’s pretty darn good. But its this website and books that I want to tell you about. Joanna loves reading but never thought she would be good enough to write her own novels (sound familiar?). She gave it a go anyway and now, over five years later, she has an amazing website which I still visit religiously, on all aspects of writing/publishing/and marketing. She has just released an ebook called ‘How to Market a Book’ which puts all of these articles and more into an easy to read and ordered package, and she has 5 fiction books out there as well. I have read all three books in the Arcane series (Pentecost, Prophecy, and Exodus ) which are adventure/ thrillers in the same vein as the Da Vinci Code with a little bit Indiana Jones/Lara Croft thrown in. One day in Budapest is a novella tie in between Exodus and the next Arcane book (to be released). There is also ‘A thousand fiendish Angels’, a collection of short stories which were an initiative with Kobo as a lead up to Dan Brown’s new release, Dante’s Inferno. And lastly, not only is there another Arcane book being written (Yay) but Joanna is also writing another series all together, with a more thriller/horror bent than the Arcane series!

For more information go to her Fiction site at JF Penn and definitely check out her non fiction site if you want a bit of inspiration or advice on writing … or quitting your job!

Elizabeth Wheatley
When I first stumbled upon Elizabeth Wheatley’s webpage I thought, aw this chick seems sweet. In no way do I mean that in a patronising way, she just seems like a really nice person who loves her fans, and I thought I would give one of her books a go, Fanged Princess. I’m not really a huge vampires and werewolves and witches kinda person. Well I guess I was a bit when I was a teenager (go Buffy and Charmed) but I haven’t read Twilight and after watching the movies, I doubt I will. But I gave it a go and I am SO glad I did. Fanged princess is really good. Really well written. But I was just so happy that it wasn’t another angsty vampire romance. This one actually has a story line and in my humble opinion a really good one. Of course there is a little romance between vampire, Damian (and heir to the throne) and his human girlfriend, but the story is told by his sister, Haddie as she tries to help them escape her pretty pissed off father and uncle. Not only that, but a family of ‘huntsmen’ are also trying to hunt them down as well. As I said before, yes there are romantic elements (Which don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy, I really am a romantic at heart), but happily they are not pushed in your face, rather they complement the cross country escape that is the real heart racer. Plus I love Haddie’s witty and often very sarcastic humour. I would rather her be a role model to girls than Bella. I cant wait til the next installment and would gladly try her other series’ as well Argetallam Saga and Mender Trilogy (coming soon).

Lucy Cavendish
And if you are only wanting something short to sink your teeth into, then my last recommendation is Jack and Jill. A really intriguing contemporary story told from the innocent eyes of a young child named Jill, who tries to make sense of her mute brother and the secretive adults in her life. It kept me guessing all the way through and like Jill, I had an inkling of what the conspiracy was, but the true answer was just tantalizingly out of reach until the end. Really enjoyable and like I said, its a short story so it can be easily read on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

And now the posts. Well first up I have to say that the original post I was thinking of using was actually a choice between three… but happily they are by the same person, Katy. I have used one of her posts previously because other than just liking her writing style on Bones Don’t Lie, I love the way she looks at the archaeological record as well as the historical. So, my recommendation is to look at the whole site, but if I had to choose, then debating Anglo-Saxon migration, I’m so hungry I could eat a horse and slaves as grave gifts for the vikings would be the three I would check out.

For the next blog, again I would recommend people looking through the whole site, as Heart of the Kingdom by Tim Clarkson is a great resource for early medieval history with a particular emphasis on Govan in Scotland. Centres of power looks at … well, the centres of power… at the time of the Battle of Brunanburh. His other site, Senchus, is also a great site to visit and focuses on the history of Scotland in a broader context.

This next site is one I have really enjoyed following. I am just so bummed that I couldn’t make it to Sydney to see the exhibition. The Australian National Maritime Museum is currently hosting an exhibition on the Vikings and their history, and as part of the lead up to its opening, they have kept an online diary on their efforts to bring to life the Jorgen Jorgensen replica of the Gokstad ship.

The Bamburgh Research Project follows the Archaeological excavation season at Bamburgh Castle and surrounds. One of their projects is the Bradford kaims, an excavation site on a farm at Bamburgh and there are three short videos about the project and what archaeologists do. The whole site and project is geared towards the general community and involving them in the history and archaeology of the area and is another great site everyone should check out. From my own personal perspective, its pretty cool watching these videos and seeing the country where Aethelwin’s family might have visited (and where her brother eventually lived) in The Northumbrian Saga.

Geeze, that’s it. Finally made it to the end! That should give you all something to do for a while.

If anyone else has any recommendations for books they have been reading (doesn’t have to be Hist Fic), or websites about medieval history and vikings, feel free to share

See you next week,

A H Gray

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