Writer’s Digest awards an Honorable Mention to For King and Country

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For King and Country

awarded an Honorable Mention
in the Writer’s Digest Self-Published Ebook Awards

How cool is that?

Writers Digest award

Go get your copy now! For King and Country is currently Amazon exclusive, available in print and ebook formats. Kindle Unlimited subscribers can read for free.

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Charlene Newcomb is currently working on Book III of Battle Scars, 12th century historical fiction filled with war, political intrigue, and a knightly romance of forbidden love set during the reign of Richard the Lionheart. There will be more to come, so sign up for Char’s Newsletter. It will be used – sparingly – to offer exclusive content and and to let you be the first to know about special offers.

Swords of the King – work in progress update

Château_Gaillard_(Les_Andelys),_vu_du_ciel
Chateau Gaillard, one of many   locations of Battle Scars III

Apparently back in September I promised monthly updates on Battle Scars III: Swords of the King.

Whoops! Is it really the middle of April? Looking back, I see I told you about awards & accolades for For King and Country. I wrote about research for Book III based on my visits to Lincoln and Nottingham, my experience as a ‘supporting author’ at GRL in Kansas City and the Big Gay Fiction Giveaway. And in March and early April I highlighted some significant events in the life of Richard the Lionheart.

So, what is happening with Swords?

I am closing in on “the end.” Three weeks ago I told a friend I had 5 ‘chapters’ noted in my Scrivener outline. Well, one of those turned into 3 chapters. I’m at 94,000+ words and those remaining 4 could add another 10,000-20,000 words.  A broken truce, numerous engagements between Richard’s army and the French, the big climax and aftermath — Henry, Stephan and Robin will be in the thick of the action.

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Chateau de Gisors

At Gisors, Philip of France takes a dunk in the River Epte when a bridge collapses in September 1198. (A true story.) And the pace won’t let up in the pages that follow. Richard’s brother, the evil John (you know, King John of Magna Carta fame), does not forget how Henry, Stephan, and Robin thwarted his efforts to overthrow Richard in Battle Scars II.

It seems like the research never ends. I think I have read everything I need to, and then discover I want more detail about a particular place or event. Check/cross-check more sources. Am I missing some piece of information? I certainly hope not.

Snippets from Swords of the King

If you follow me on Facebook you will have seen these short snippets. Then again, given Facebook algorithms, maybe you haven’t! Enjoy…

John sniffed at his drink. “Interesting that you defend Lady Elle, Henry. She ignored her brother’s wishes when she did not marry you. She chose that landless, penniless squire. Quite the story there, even my own mother involved. So many secrets, plots and intrigue.” John’s eyes grew icy as he brought the wine to his lips and swallowed a swig. He clamped a hand on Henry’s shoulder and scrutinized Robin. “But as they say, the truth always outs.”

* * * *

A wrinkled map covered the table in the king’s tent and tallow candles made the air stale with smoke. The men hovered over it like a pack of wolves. Snarling, Richard whisked out his dagger and stabbed Paris. “So Philip consorts with Flanders, Ponthieu, and Boulogne. Where will they strike?”

* * * *

“Watch out for the rats,” Allan said.

Edric groaned.

“Give him the torch,” Henry said. “The path is uneven, and I for one don’t want to carry Weston if his foot catches in a hole.”

“Or slips in the pigeon shite,” Allan added as he handed the torch to Edric.

“Is that what smells like an overripe privy?” Edric had slowed, lowering the flame to inspect the sandstone.

“I thought that was you, Weston,” Robin said and increased his pace uphill.

* * * *

Just as Henry started after Robin, curses flew at the front of the room. Stephan scrambled atop the trestle and the curses weren’t the only thing in flight. He landed on Edric Weston and both men disappeared from Henry’s sight.

Chairs toppled, wine and food bounced into the air, and men clambered to get out of the way. Stephan and Weston rolled across the floor, knights cheering, definitely more in Stephan’s favor than Weston’s from the shouts Henry heard. King Richard was on his feet spurring them on, but one quick glance at his wife and at Queen Eleanor, and he immediately ordered them to stop.

For King and Country News

For King and Country is Amazon exclusive until early July, available free on Kindle Unlimited. Do check it out!

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Image credits

Château Gaillard – by Sylvain Verlaine (Own work), CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Chateau de Gisors, France – by Nitot (Own work), GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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men_full-sideCharlene Newcomb is currently working on Book III of Battle Scars, 12th century historical fiction filled with war, political intrigue, and a knightly romance of forbidden love set during the reign of Richard the Lionheart. There will be more to come, so sign up for Char’s Newsletter. It will be used – sparingly – to offer exclusive content and and to let you be the first to know about special offers.

Talking about the book: Under the Approaching Dark by Anna Belfrage

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Title: Under the Approaching Dark
Author: Anna Belfrage

A tidbit about the author
As a child she wanted to be an Arctic explorer, a crusader or Richard Lionheart’s favourite page, and of course, a writer, and she couldn’t imagine a 9 to 5 job. “I was going to be a free spirit, an impoverished but happy writer, slaving away in a garret room. Life happened…” —from Anna’s website

The story
Adam de Guirande has cause to believe the turbulent times are behind him: Hugh Despenser is dead and Edward II has been forced to abdicate in favour of his young son. It is time to look forward, to a bright new world in which the young king, guided by his council, heals his kingdom and restores its greatness. But the turmoil is far from over… —Amazon description

The scene that made you laugh out loud or cheer
King Edward III has tired of Scottish incursions and wants to teach the Scots a lesson. His advisors try to calm the impetuous, battle-naive youth in this scene:

“I dare say you’ll find the Scots are mostly like us, my lord,” Mortimer put in. “They eat, they shit, they swive, they fight and bleed, they die.”

“They are savages!”

“There are men of honour among them—their king for one, and Black Douglas is another true knight.” Mortimer pointed at one of the banners. “St George is a fine saint to follow into battle, but do not commit the mistake of underestimating your enemy—or denigrating him. And St George wasn’t English to begin with, was he?”

“As good as,” the king retorted. “England breeds the finest soldiers in the world.”

Thomas laughed. “Really, Ned, what nonsense is that? England is a land of sheep farmers and wool merchants.”

Lord Roger and the king looked equally displeased, making Adam bite back a smile.

The place where you wanted to throw the book across the room

Oh Kit, oh Kit… why in the world did you decide to meet Godfrey. Bad move, Kit. Stupid girl. (Sorry, can’t say more without spoilers!)

A memorable line (or two)

“I am but the puppet, am I not?”
–King Edward III to Adam de Guirande

“Men,” Kit muttered. “It’s only hair.”
Adam leaned towards her. “My wife, my hair. The matter is closed, Kit.”
–after Kit decides to follow the queen’s latest fashion, i.e., no veil, and her husband sends her back to get properly dressed!

My verdict – ****5 stars****
Ms. Belfrage has done it again. Under the Approaching Dark is book 3 in The King’s Greatest Enemy series, and it has passion, intrigue, and politics to keep the reader turning pages. If you aren’t familiar with England in the 1320s, never fear. Plunge into this book and you are introduced to the major players – the fictional Lady Kit and her husband Adam and the actual historical figures Edward II, Edward III, his mother Isabella, her lover Roger Mortimer, and others. We aren’t overburdened with backstory: it is woven in bits and pieces where needed. Ms. Belfrage draws us into the 14th century for a taste of life of the ordinary man, the minor baron and his wife, and of the royal family. It is easy to picture towns and manors, magnificent castles and minsters. And after visiting Lincoln last year, I was enchanted by Ms. Belfrage’s description of that medieval town, cathedral, and bishop’s palace. It took me back – it all feels authentic.

The novel brims with treachery, treason, and romance. Battle scenes, torture, and love scenes – some may be too graphic for the squeamish, but they are well written, full of emotion. There are great threats from rebellious barons. There is tedious everyday life and plenty of tension – between Adam and Kit, between Adam and the young king, and between Adam and his former lord, Mortimer. But I think what I most enjoyed about this novel is our window into the world of the young King Edward III. He becomes king when his father is deposed, and is a pawn of his mother Queen Isabella and her lover Roger Mortimer. Edward is bright. He is politically astute (most of the time). He knows – and resents – the control his mother has as regent. But he is also a vulnerable. This reader is rooting for him and greatly anticipating Book 4 in the series to see Edward as king in his own right.

Disclosure: I received an advanced copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.

#OTD 6 April 1199 – Richard the Lionheart dies

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Richard was crowned king in September 1189, succeeding his father Henry II. He ruled less than 10 years. Histories written in the 19th-20th centuries complain he spent only 6 months of his reign in England, but Richard was a man of his times and should be judged according to 12th century standards. His realm stretched from the Pyrenees to the Scottish border and there were major issues that kept him away from England:

1) He took the Cross in 1188, answering the Pope’s call to free Jerusalem, which had fallen to Saladin’s army and was on crusade from spring 1190 – October 1192; and

2) He was captured by Leopold of Austria in December 1192 and subsequently imprisoned until February 1194 by Henry VI, Holy Roman Emperor, on his way back from the Holy Land.

3) King Philip of France took advantage of – even encouraged, along with Richard’s brother John – Richard’s imprisonment, by attacking and capturing many of Richard’s holdings on the continent. Richard had to deal with rebellious castellans in England in March 1194, and then returned to Normandy to take back and defend his lands.

Richard was a warrior king who fought on the front lines. He appointed capable administrators (for the most part) who kept England running during his absence. The last 5 years of his life were spent defending his birthright on the continent against King Philip. He died during the siege at Chalus-Chabrol after being struck by a crossbow bolt 10 days earlier.

His contemporaries thought well of him, as seen in this tome from the 13th century biographer of William Marshal:

But Fortune, ever quick to bring down
good men and raise the fortunes of the bad,
had no wish to let things rest for so long;
she overwhelms and destroys
everyone in a trice.
King Richard . . . went straight to the Limousin,
where the viscount was launching an assault
on his castles. What a pity they were ever built!
… Richard went to Lautron and laid siege to it,
but he had not been there very long at all
when a demon, a traitor,
a servant of the devil,
up there on the top of the castle walls,
fired a poisoned bolt
which inflicted such a wound
on the best prince in the world
that his death was the inescapable outcome.
That was a source of grief to all.
…the noble King Richard died,
a man of high enterprise, a conqueror,
who had he lived, would have won for himself
all the renowned going in this world. . . 
Marshal was on the point of retiring. . .
when the news arrived,
news which struck him to the quick.
He was in a state of violent grief. . .

Sources

Gillingham, J. (2002). Richard I. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Holden, A.J., ed., (2002). History of William Marshal [L’Histoire de Guillaume le Maréchal. French and English]. London: published by the Anglo-Norman Text Society: Birkbeck College.

Image credit

Effigy of Richard I at Fontevrault Abbey – by Adam Bishop – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17048652

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men_full-sideCharlene Newcomb is currently working on Book III of Battle Scars, 12th century historical fiction filled with war, political intrigue, and a knightly romance of forbidden love set during the reign of Richard the Lionheart. There will be more to come, so sign up for Char’s Newsletter. It will be used – sparingly – to offer exclusive content and and to let you be the first to know about special offers.

#OTD 29 March 1194 – Richard the Lionheart visits Sherwood Forest

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The siege of Nottingham ended, so what’s a king to do? Relax! Go hunting in Sherwood Forest. 

“On the twenty-ninth day of March, Richard, king of England, went to Clipston and the forests of Sherwood, which he had never seen before, and they pleased him greatly; after which, on the same day, he returned to Nottingham.” 
–from The Annals of Roger de Hoveden

Stretching north from Nottingham to Yorkshire, 12th century Sherwood Forest covered about 100,000 acres. The visitor today must drive about 20 miles north of Nottingham to see Sherwood’s 1,000+ acres. It is extremely lovely and serene, well worth the visit.

Sherwood Forest is frequently associated with Robin Hood. Did King Richard meet Robin there? Did King John have the Sheriff of Nottingham chasing Robin and his band of Merry Men through the greenwood? No – Robin is just a character in legends, though most agree Robin may have been based on a real man or men. But the fictional tales of Robin continue to delight us. Not all stories take place in Sherwood. I use Sherwood and Nottingham in my novel, For King and Country, but many place Robin in Barnsdale Forest in Yorkshire during the reign of Edward II in the 14th century.

KJPSE

Clipston (i.e., Clipstone) is the home of what we now call King John’s Palace, a site that first appears in records during the reign of Richard’s father, King Henry II. Twenty pounds was spent on work there in 1164, possibly on the building of a hunting lodge. In the 1170s, Henry spent £500 on the site, a huge sum. By the mid-14th century, the large complex was referred to as the King’s Houses and dozens of buildings occupied over 7 acres of land.

King Richard visited Clipstone twice – the day after the siege ended (March 29), and again on April 3 when he met with the Scottish king William the Lion.

Image credits 

Sherwood Forest photos by me, from a visit in 2010. CC BY-SA.

King John’s Palace ruins by JPWarchaeology – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16741588

Sources

Wright, J. A Palace for Our Kings. Triskele Publishing, 2016.

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men_full-sideCharlene Newcomb is currently working on Book III of Battle Scars, 12th century historical fiction filled with war, political intrigue, and a knightly romance of forbidden love set during the reign of Richard the Lionheart. There will be more to come, so sign up for Char’s Newsletter. It will be used – sparingly – to offer exclusive content and and to let you be the first to know about special offers.

 

 

 

 

 

#OTD 26 March 1199 – Richard the Lionheart wounded at Chalus

Richard the LionheartRichard I of England had been at war with the French since his return from the Crusades and his captivity in Germany. While a truce had been signed with King Philip of France, Richard marched south to lay siege to the Viscount of Limoges’ castle at Chalus-Chabrol and to others at nearby Nontron and Montagut. This area of Aquitaine had been an ongoing source of rebellion against Richard as Duke of Aquitaine and Viscount Aimar of Limoges was a supporter of Philip’s. That fact appears to have been overshadowed by stories that Richard only went to Chalus to claim a treasure of Roman coins that had been unearthed nearby. (No treasure ever surfaced.)

Several days into the siege, Richard ventured from his command tent without his armor to inspect progress on the undermining of the castle walls. Chroniclers claim that a defender on the battlements who was using a frying pan as a shield took a shot at the king. Richard supposedly applauded the man, but did not move quickly enough – he was struck by a crossbow bolt to the shoulder.

Chateau_Chalus_Chabrol

Roger de Hoveden writes

“…the king of England and [Mercadier] were reconnoitering the castle on all sides, and examining in which spot it would be most advisable to make the assault, a certain arbalister, Bertram de Gurdun by name, aimed an arrow from the castle, and struck the king on the arm, inflicting an incurable wound. The king, on being wounded, mounted his horse and rode to his quarters, and issued orders to . . . make assaults on the castle without intermission, until it should be taken; which was accordingly done. After its capture, the king ordered all the people to be hanged, him alone excepted who had wounded him, whom, as we may reasonably suppose, he would have condemned to a most shocking death if he had recovered. After this, the king gave himself into the hands of a physician . . . who, after attempting to extract the iron head, extracted the wood only, while the iron remained in the flesh; but after this butcher had carelessly mangled the king’s arm in every part, he at last extracted the arrow.”

(FYI… I’ve seen both 25 March and 26 March as the date in biographies of Richard.)

Image Credits

Richard the Lionheart – by Merry-Joseph Blondel – [1] The original uploader was Kelson at French Wikipedia, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=79279

Chalus-Chabrol – by Fonquebure – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5716785

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men_full-sideCharlene Newcomb is currently working on Book III of Battle Scars, 12th century historical fiction filled with war, political intrigue, and a knightly romance of forbidden love set during the reign of Richard the Lionheart. There will be more to come, so sign up for Char’s Newsletter. It will be used – sparingly – to offer exclusive content and and to let you be the first to know about special offers.

#OTD 25 March 1194 – Richard the Lionheart arrives at the Siege of Nottingham

Nottingham Castle
Nottingham Castle, circa 1250

King Richard I, the Lionheart, had taken the Cross and journeyed to the Holy Land in 1190. He led his army of approx. 15,000 men to within 12 miles of Jerusalem, but did not re-take the holy city. After a truce with Salah-al-Din, Richard attempted to return home, but was faced with enemies on his path. He was captured by Duke Leopold of Austria outside Vienna around the 20th of December 1192, and by early spring 1193, had been turned over to Heinrich VI, the Holy Roman Emperor. The emperor demanded a huge ransom of 150,000 silver marks – more than twice the annual income of England!

Richard was kept imprisoned while his brother Prince John plotted with King Philip of France – the two of them offered the emperor monies to keep Richard in prison for another year! Despite their subterfuge, Richard finally was freed from his German prison in February 1194.

Prince John’s supporters in England capitulated on hearing this news, with the exception of the castles at Tickhill and Nottingham. However, when word spread that Richard had landed on English soil in early March, the castellans at Tickhill verified the story and then surrendered. Nottingham was a different story…

“The garrison, however, of the castle of Nottingham did not send any of their number to meet the king. The king, being consequently much exasperated, came to Nottingham . . .with such a vast multitude of men, and such a clanger of trumpets and clarions, that those who were in the castle, on hearing and seeing this were astonished, and were confounded and alarmed . . . but still they could not believe the king had come, and supposed that the whole of this was done by the chiefs of the army for the purpose of deceiving them. The king, however, took up his quarters near to the castle, so that the archers of the castle pierced the king’s men at his very feet.”
–The Annals of Roger de Hoveden

For Richard’s incredible journey back from the Holy Land see my post on the English Historical Fiction Authors (EHFA) blog, Richard the Lionheart’s Ordeal, October – December 1192. A second contribution on EHFA details the siege of Nottingham.

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men_full-sideCharlene Newcomb is currently working on Book III of Battle Scars, 12th century historical fiction filled with war, political intrigue, and a knightly romance of forbidden love set during the reign of Richard the Lionheart. There will be more to come, so sign up for Char’s Newsletter. It will be used – sparingly – to offer exclusive content and and to let you be the first to know about special offers.