An Argument of Blood by J.A. Ironside & Matthew Willis

 

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It is my privilege to be part of the Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tour for An Argument of Blood. First, a brief summary of the story:

William, the nineteen-year-old duke of Normandy, is enjoying the full fruits of his station. Life is a succession of hunts, feasts, and revels, with little attention paid to the welfare of his vassals. Tired of the young duke’s dissolute behaviour and ashamed of his illegitimate birth, a group of traitorous barons force their way into his castle. While William survives their assassination attempt, his days of leisure are over. He’ll need help from the king of France to secure his dukedom from the rebels.

On the other side of the English Channel lives ten-year-old Ælfgifa, the malformed and unwanted youngest sister to the Anglo-Saxon Jarl, Harold Godwinson. Ælfgifa discovers powerful rivalries in the heart of the state when her sister Ealdgyth is given in a political marriage to King Edward, and she finds herself caught up in intrigues and political manoeuvring as powerful men vie for influence. Her path will collide with William’s, and both must fight to shape the future.

An Argument of Blood is the first of two sweeping historical novels on the life and battles of William the Conqueror.

And the review:

An entertaining tale of William the Conqueror (or Bastard, depending on who’s talking), as a young man shaken out of his young man’s revelry and into the harsh reality of life as a Duke.  It is also a tale of Godwin’s youngest daughter, Aelfgifa, the unlovely, yet extremely intelligent girl who finds herself a player in the game for the English throne of the heir less Edward.  The authors have combined to deliver an intriguing look at how these early years led to the eventual history making/changing year of 1066.  The characters come alive, the youthful exuberance of William turning into a fierce determination, the misjudging and dismissal of Aelfgifa are perfect examples, and by no means the only ones.  It was a strange time and everyone who has the slightest link to the throne gets involved, and while this is all historical fact, it takes a good fiction writer, or in this case fiction writers, to take that history and piece together a tale that falls into the realm of believable possibility.  We all know the outcome awaiting William, but it is still an intriguing take on the path leading to his destiny, and an intriguing look at the easy to overlook woman who played an important part in that destiny.  4.3 stars and am looking forward to the sequel.

About the Authors

J.A. Ironside (Jules) grew up in rural Dorset, surrounded by books – which pretty much set he up for life as a complete bibliophile. She loves speculative fiction of all stripes, especially fantasy and science fiction, although when it comes to the written word, she’s not choosy and will read almost anything. Actually it would be fair to say she starts to go a bit peculiar if she doesn’t get through at least three books a week. She writes across various genres, both adult and YA fiction, and it’s a rare story if there isn’t a fantastical or speculative element in there somewhere.

Jules has had several short stories published in magazines and anthologies, as well as recorded for literature podcasts. Books 1 and 2 of her popular Unveiled series are currently available with the 3rd and 4th books due for release Autumn/ Winter 2017.

She also co-authored the sweeping epic historical Oath and Crown Duology with Matthew Willis, released June 2017 from Penmore Press.

Jules now lives on the edge of the Cotswold way with her boyfriend creature and a small black and white cat, both of whom share a god-complex.

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Matthew Willis is an author of historical fiction, SF, fantasy and non-fiction. In June 2017 An Argument of Blood, the first of two historical novels about the Norman Conquest co-written with J.A. Ironside, was published. In 2015 his story Energy was shortlisted for the Bridport short story award.

Matthew studied Literature and History of Science at the University of Kent, where he wrote an MA thesis on Joseph Conrad and sailed for the University in national competitions. He subsequently worked as a journalist for Autosport and F1 Racing magazines, before switching to a career with the National Health Service.

His first non-fiction book, a history of the Blackburn Skua WW2 naval dive bomber, was published in 2007. He now has four non fiction books published with a fifth, a biography of test pilot Duncan Menzies, due later in 2017. He currently lives in Southampton and writes both fiction and non-fiction for a living.

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During the Book Blast we will be giving away a signed copy of An Argument of Blood


To enter, please enter via the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on February 7th. You must be 18 or older to enter.

– Giveaway is open INTERNATIONALLY.

– Only one entry per household.

– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.

– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

Enter the giveaway here

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Sheriff & Priest by Nicky Moxey

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It’s been nigh on 90 years since the Normans came to stay and to rule, and it was a tough time to grow up a Saxon.  Wimer, though is made of stern stuff and survives the second class treatment meted out by the Norman elite.  His intelligence and adaptability such that he can rub shoulders with and become friends with the future Henry II.

Once again, I found myself immersed in a period of time that I’m not that familiar with.  A time of Sheriffs and the fiduciary demands of the King and the Church.  Ahh, the Church, a subject that at once fascinates and infuriates me.  Wimer is caught up in the fervor of reaching heaven, not only for himself as a priest but for those he cares for in that capacity.  An unfortunate set of circumstances and a bitter feud between Henry and his Archbishop Thomas a’Becket has dire results for Wimer and culminates in a decades long search for peace of mind and soul.

The author has crafted an intriguing tale based on the scant historical evidence of Wimer’s life, and has with meticulous care provided a believable picture of 12th century England.  Well researched and shot through with creative story telling, the reader can feel the weight of emotions and the pulse of the countryside; the absolute hold of the church on every facet of life and the cruel backlash of falling afoul of either secular or spiritual rulers. I am certainly looking forward to the sequel.  4.3 stars

Carina by Alison Morton

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Having read and thoroughly enjoyed the entire Roma Nova series, I eagerly opened up the new installment, Carina.  This installment takes place between the first two books of the series and finds Carina tasked to apprehend an alleged traitor in Quebec and return her to Roma Nova.  A straightforward task for a member of the elite Praetorian officer corps.  However, things turn out to be a bit more complicated and she is  plunged into a web of deception and intrigue.  The author has given the reader another gem of a tale with her usual fast paced style, believable scenarios and the real sensation that Roma Nova could exist in the modern world.  When I started reading Carina, it was with the thought that I would take my time with this novella, as I was also reading a couple of other books that had review deadlines looming.  Hah! I was so engrossed and taken in by Alison’s skillful creative abilities, that I finished Carina in two sittings.  So, dear readers, help yourself to another 5 Star entry to the Roma Novan catalog.

The Last Legionnaire by Paul Fraser Collard

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Ahh, home sweet home.  Jack is back in London; back with his mother; back to Mary.  Settled in and working at the gin joint owned by his mother, life has taken a turn for the good for Jack – or has it? The part of London Jack inhabits has it’s own problems, ones that Jack cannot overcome; ones that drive Jack back to The Devil. If you have followed along with Jack Lark, you know that there is one thing that he is good at, killing.  In The Last Legionnaire, Jack finds himself in another war, ostensibly to find a man and get him out of harm’s way and back to England.  A simple enough mission.  Yeah right.  The author has once again crafted a fast paced, emotional drama that had me pulled in by the end of chapter one.  The horrors of war are laid bare in this French versus Austria/Hungary tussle.  The methods of battle that Jack is used to have been changed by the rifling of musket barrels and cannon.  Massive destructive power now enhanced and much more deadly.  Jack is back in his element, though the price is steep; mentally and physically.

A superb tale full of surprises, and certainly entertaining awaits you dear reader. 5 Stars

The Centurion’s Son by Adam Lofthouse

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Albinus, the son of a retired, and much revered First Spear Centurion of the 14th Legion, is ill equipped to be the man and soldier his father plans for him to be, and yet through the vicissitudes of life on the wild frontier along the Danube River, he strives to achieve his father’s hopes.  Set against the backdrop of the Marcomannic War in 167 A.D. and the rise of the Glycon Cult started by Alexander of Abonoteichus, the author has crafted a compelling debut novel.  An emotionally charged, action packed tale of revenge, rebellion, survival, and heart rending losses.  Mr. Lofthouse is a self proclaimed lover of the ancient world and this is readily seen throughout The Centurion’s Son; most especially in his descriptions of the Roman legions.  The camaraderie between the legionaries of the 14th’s !st Century is a definite highlight in this wonderful tale.  Hoover Book Reviews highly recommends this intriguing and well plotted story, and looks forward to the sequel.  4.2 stars

Cover Reveal for VOICE OF THE FALCONER & FORTUNE’S FOOL! by David Blixt

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Feast your eyes upon the new covers for Voice of the Falconer and Fortune’s Fool, books #2 and #3 in Blixt’s Star-Cross’d series!

Based on the plays of William Shakespeare, the poetry of Dante, and the history of Italy, the Star-Cross’d Series is a tale of wars won, friendships lost, and conspiracies both mortal and stellar, an epic journey into the birth of the Renaissance that recalls the best of Bernard Cornwell and Dorothy Dunnett.

Voice Of The Falconer (Star-Cross’d #2) by David Blixt

Publication Date: July 6, 2010
St. Martin’s Press
eBook & Paperback; 496 Pages

Italy, 1325. Eight years after the tumultuous events of THE MASTER OF VERONA, Pietro Alaghieri is living as an exile in Ravenna, enduring the loss of his famous father while secretly raising the bastard heir to Verona’s prince, Cangrande della Scala.

But when word of Cangrande’s death reaches him, Pietro must race back to Verona to prevent young Cesco’s rivals from usurping his rightful place. With the tentative peace of Italy at stake, not to mention their lives, Pietro must act swiftly to protect them all. But young Cesco is determined not to be anyone’s pawn. Willful and brilliant, he defies even the stars. And far behind the scenes is a mastermind pulling the strings, one who stands to lose – or gain – the most.

Born from Shakespeare’s Italian plays, in this novel we meet for the first time Romeo, Juliet, Tybalt, the Nurse, as well as revisit Montague and Capulet, Petruchio and Kate, and the money-lending Shylock. From Ravenna to Verona, Mantua to Venice, this novel explores the danger, deceit, and deviltry of early Renaissance Italy, and the terrible choices one must make just to stay alive.

“For anyone who has not yet read one or more of David’s novels, you are about to hit the literary lottery. Yes, he is that good. In his hands, history comes to bright, blazing life.” -Sharon Kay Penman

“Dante’s Italy and the internecine, blood-feuding struggle of the dominant families of the northern city states. This story of corruption and the quest for power is as compelling as Mario Puzo’s Godfather and as thrilling as any of Rafael Sabatini’s historical adventures.” -Peter Tremayne

Fortune’s Fool (Star-Cross’d #3) by David Blixt

Publication Date: April 23, 2012
Sordelet Ink
eBook & Paperback; 576 Pages

Italy, 1326. While the brilliant and wily Cesco is schooled in his new duties at the hand of a hard master, Pietro Alaghieri travels to Avignon, current seat of the Papacy, to fight his excommunication and plead for Cesco’s legitimacy. He doesn’t know an old foe has been waiting to ruin Pietro’s life and seize control of Verona for himself.

Back in Verona, separated from everyone he trusts, Cesco must confront his ambitious cousin, a mysterious young killer, and the Holy Roman Emperor himself. A harrowing series of adventures reveal a secret long hidden, one that threatens Cesco’s only chance for true happiness.

Inspired by Shakespeare, Dante, and Petrarch, full of Renaissance intrigue and passion, this third novel in Blixt’s acclaimed Star-Cross’d series reflects the heights of drama, exploring the capricious whims of lady Fortune, who has her favorites – and her fools.

“This is one of the most exciting, and satisfying, reads that I have immersed myself in for a long time. David Blixt is a gem of a writer.” -Helen Hollick

The 10th Anniversary Edition of The Master of Verona is now available in eBook, Paperback, & Audiobook!

For additional reading on the Capulet-Montague feud, The Origin of the Feud is out November 28th!

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About the Author

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David Blixt‘s work is consistently described as “intricate,” “taut,” and “breathtaking.” A writer of Historical Fiction, his novels span the early Roman Empire (the COLOSSUS series, his play EVE OF IDES) to early Renaissance Italy (the STAR-CROSS’D series) up through the Elizabethan era (his delightful espionage comedy HER MAJESTY’S WILL, starring Will Shakespeare and Kit Marlowe as inept spies). His novels combine a love of the theatre with a deep respect for the quirks and passions of history.

Living in Chicago with his wife and two children, he describes himself as “actor, author, father, husband. In reverse order.”

For more information, please visit David Blixt’s website. You can also find him on FacebookTwitter, and Goodreads.

Cover Reveal Schedule

Monday, November 27
Passages to the Past

Tuesday, November 28
The Writing Desk

Wednesday, November 29
What Is That Book About

Thursday, November 30
The Never-Ending Book

Friday, December 1
Svetlana’s Reads and Views

Monday, December 4
A Bookish Affair

Tuesday, December 5
Historical Fiction with Spirit

Wednesday, December 6
The Book Junkie Reads

Thursday, December 7
Dressed to Read

Friday, December 8
WS Momma Readers Nook

Monday, December 11
Book Nerd

Tuesday, December 12
Locks, Hooks and Books

Friday, December 15
Historical Fiction Reviews

Giveaway

During the Cover Reveal we will be giving away a $25 Amazon Gift Card! To enter, please enter via the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on December 15th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open INTERNATIONALLY.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

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Direct Link: https://gleam.io/4BRA6/david-blixt

Thank you!

The King’s Daughter by Stephanie Churchill

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Some Queens are content with being the Royal Consort/breeder of heirs/alliance maker, some refuse to accept the situation as nothing more than duty, and some welcome all facets of the job including the role of a ruling Queen; a seat of power and influence.  Irisa, daughter of a scribe, or so she has always thought, is suddenly thrust into a world she does not understand; the world of princes and kings.  The irony of her situation (which I will not divulge) is cunningly wrought, and the solution Irisa arrives at is… well, you’ll have to read the book.  🙂  In masterful storytelling fashion, the author brings to life a fantasy world, brings to life the inhabitants of that world, and brings to the reader a tale of discovery, a tale of power seeking skulduggery, a tale of loyalty and love.  A tale replete with surprises, as well as a few hints about book three – yes, my peeps and fellow travelers, book three is in the works.  4.7 stars

 

Stephanie was gracious enough to submit to being interviewed by yours truly.  Thank you, Stephanie, for braving the unknown. So, without further ado:

What is it that prompted you to start writing?

That’s a really great question, and one I’ve been forced to think a lot about in the last several years.  As I’ve pondered the question, I’ve come to realize that the desire has always been there.  I just didn’t recognize it.  It’s kind of embarrassing, really, to think that I had been so oblivious to my abilities my entire life!

I was a consummate daydreamer as a child.  I’d spend hours wandering the countryside around my grandparents’ Nebraska farm, daydreaming and telling myself stories or pretending I was the protagonist in a live-action adventure.  Didn’t every kid do that?  My freshman year of college, my creative writing professor used to use my stories as examples for the other students of what to do.  I’d shrug my shoulders and wonder why it was a big deal.  Early in my adult life my sister and I would swap story writing, adding the next chapter to the other sister’s story then passing it along for the other to add the next chapter.   These were just things I did without thought, purely out of enjoyment.  Everyone does that, right?  It never occurred to me that I was any good at it or that it was an unusual hobby.

The signs were all there.  It just took someone with the weight of “authority” behind their name to point it out to me.  Enter historical fiction novelist Sharon Kay Penman.  To this day she minimizes her impact on my writing career, saying that I’d have come to it on my own eventually.  I vehemently disagree.  Clearly I’d been woefully oblivious throughout my whole life already, why would I suddenly change course?  I had been a rabid fan of her novels so wrote a review of one of her books for her.  It was something about that review that caught her attention, causing her to pen the fated question in an email: “Have you ever thought about writing?”

It was that question that prompted me to start writing with a goal towards publishing.  It also started a mentoring relationship with my favorite author as well as a lifelong friendship.

Why this particular genre?

Another question I’ve had to think long and hard about in the last several years.  I didn’t really start off considering genre when I began my first novel.  It just sort of wrote itself organically — the settings, characters, and plot, all taking shape on the page of their own accord.  I simply wanted to tell a story, and I didn’t need any history to do it.  My focus was on characters and their motivations, their pains, their passions, their circumstances.  Because I have read so much historical fiction, the world of historical places and people is so seeped into my consciousness that it couldn’t help but come out.  Ms. Penman urged me early on to write what I love, not what I thought readers, publishers, or the market might want.  The idea being that if you don’t love what you are writing, why write it?

Looking back at things, I chose a hard route.  My books are not truly historical fiction and they aren’t truly fantasy.  Not in the traditional senses anyway.  They are kind of a hybrid that echo elements of each genre without being true to either.  This makes marketing quite difficult, and it’s hard to target a particular reading audience.  I have been told that readers of historical fiction should find enough familiar in my books to make them feel at home, thus prompting me to adopt a sort of tagline of “fantasy that reads like historical fiction.”

Were there any influences that helped you create the world of Kassia and Irisa?

The first scene I wrote in The Scribe’s Daughter came about because I re-imagined a scene from the animated Disney movie Aladdin.  In this particular scene, Aladdin’s monkey friend Abu steals an apple from a market merchant.  So as not to get caught, Aladdin runs away to escape the pursuit of the local authorities who want to cut off his hand for stealing.  I simply eliminated the monkey and made my protagonist a girl.  That was my first glimpse of Kassia, and the more I got to know her, the more intrigued I became.  Her spunky reckless nature and her caustically sharp tongue were hard to ignore.  So she got her own book!

Part way through writing the first book, Kassia’s older sister, Irisa, began to tap me on the shoulder.  “Excuse me, scribe?” she asked very politely.  She is like that.  “I don’t mean to interrupt, but I have some really important things to share.  Kassia wasn’t the only one to go on an adventure.  And since my experiences will have a significant impact on my sister, I’d like to share what has happened to me.”  And so The King’s Daughter was born.

I can think of several authors who very specifically influenced my writing of these books, primarily for style, but some for plot and mood: Sharon Kay Penman (of course), Stephen Lawhead, Juliet Marillier, and Bernard Cornwell.  The authors that have proven to be the most helpful to me in terms of mentorship are Sharon Kay Penman (of course), Elizabeth Chadwick, and Michael Jecks.  Each of these are fabulous writers in their own way, but each of them is humble and extremely helpful to other authors.

 

What books, genres, authors do you read when you’re not writing?

Lately I’ve been reading multiple books simultaneously, one non-fiction and one fiction.  The non-fiction is all history, particularly 13th century British history.  In the fiction world, I made a decision about a year ago to read primarily from within the world of indie authors.  It has been FABULOUS, and I am utterly amazed at the amount of talent, particularly from within my circle of author friends.  I’ve still got a long, long way to go to get through their lists!  I know some very prolific authors, apparently!  There are a few mainstream authors whose books I’ll buy sight unseen as they come out: Sharon Kay Penman (of course), Elizabeth Chadwick, Bernard Cornwell, and Stephen Lawhead.  I also enjoy a break from history and historical fiction now and then so will read murder mysteries, black ops political thrillers (Brad Thor, Vince Flynn); and now and then a literary work that has been recommended.  The most recent was A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman, a Swedish comedy-drama that a friend of mine recommended.

 

Who do you turn to for advice or encouragement when the Muse is a bit reticent in supplying inspiration?

Am I one of the few who has never experienced the dreaded writer’s block?  Because honestly I can’t say I’ve ever been so stuck I’d felt I lost my muse.  There have been times in plotting when I am not quite sure what the next step will be for my characters, but usually I just need to keep pondering.  And it’s usually when I am not thinking too hard about it that ideas come to me.  My best ideas always seem to come in the shower or when I’m out in nature walking my dog.  In those moments I’m not really “working” but just allowing my mind to wander, engaging in free association.  I find that my mind tends to solve its own problems without me trying to help too much.  If I do need outside help, I’ll go to my mentor Sharon every time.  She has been an amazing source of wisdom because her experience is so long and deep.

 

I know from my own experience as an author how frustrating it is knowing you have written a good book, are getting positive feedback and reviews and yet sales are slow.  Does that ever make you question why you do it?

Absolutely!  Weekly!  Sometimes daily.  If something specific has prompted my despair, I’ll allow myself time to wallow, but at a certain point I tell myself enough is enough.  Then I just get on with it.  I am not writing to become rich or famous, but it certainly is easy to get caught up in the desire without realizing it’s happened.  Success looks different for every author.  I will constantly pursue perfection, or at least improvement.  So as long as I’m making progress as an author, I’m heading in the right direction.  Learning contentment with where I am right now is a good lesson, and one I learn every day.  My husband and I constantly remind one another to “compare down” rather than look at those who have more than we do.  We’ve done it all 20 years of our marriage.  This philosophy basically means that it’s easy to think you don’t have enough.  It’s when you look at those with less than you that you realize how much you have to be grateful for.  The same applies to writing.  There are many other authors who struggle more than I do, either because of certain challenges or because they are newer to it than I am.  Rather than make me arrogant, it humbles me.  I’ve been given a lot, and I’m grateful for all of it.  I’m not on this earth to live a selfish life, so if things don’t seem to be going as well for me as I’d want, I look outward and see how, if at all, I can help other authors.  Why not make the load lighter for others?

What is next for Stephanie Churchill?

Until I am able to install a shark infested moat around my house, I am struggling to write book three, as of yet untitled.  Life is continuing to get in the way, so it’s been quite a fight.  This book will combine the stories of both Kassia and Irisa and their respective families, tying in loose threads from both previous books.  I had finished off The King’s Daughter alluding to the story of Irisa and Kassia’s mother, intending to write a prequel next.  I got a fair way into planning that book but hit some walls for various reasons.  And then the whispering began again, this time from Casmir, one of my main characters from The King’s Daughter.  He said his unresolved issues take much more precedence.  Many readers of The King’s Daughter were fascinated by him, he argued.  Give the reading public what they want, he said.  A bit of an ego, huh?  He is a king.  What was I supposed to do?

About Stephanie

I used to live my life as an unsuspecting part of the reading public.  Spending my days in a Georgetown law firm just outside downtown Washington, D.C., by all outward appearances I was a paralegal working in international trade and then antitrust law.  I liked books, and I read them often, but that’s all I was: a reader of books.
When my husband and I got married, I moved to the Minneapolis metro area and found work as a corporate paralegal, specializing in corporate formation, mergers & acquisitions, and corporate finance.  Again, by all outward appearances, I was a paralegal and a reader of books.
And then one day, while on my lunch break, I visited the neighboring Barnes & Noble and happened upon a book by author Sharon Kay Penman, and while I’d never heard of her before, I took a chance and bought the book.  That day I became a reader of historical fiction.

Fast forward a dozen years or so, and I had become a rabid fan of Sharon Kay Penman’s books as well as historical fiction in general.  Because of a casual comment she’d made on social media, I wrote Ms. Penman a ridiculously long review of her latest book, Lionheart.  As a result of that review, she asked me what would become the most life-changing question: “Have you ever thought about writing?”  And The Scribe’s Daughter was born.
When I’m not writing or taxiing my two children to school or other activities, I’m likely walking Cozmo, our dog or reading another book to review.  The rest of my time is spent trying to survive the murderous intentions of Minnesota’s weather.

Books can be purchased at Amazon, iBooks, Google, Kobo, along with other online retailers.  Here are the Amazon links:

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