This is UK author Tim Walker’s monthly newsletter. It can include any of the following: author news, book launches, guest author profiles, book reviews, flash fiction and poetry. Are you an author or a poet? If so, then please contact me for a guest author or poet’s corner slot in a future newsletter: firstname.lastname@example.org
CHARLY IN SPACE is the third Charly Holmes adventure story from father and daughter writing team, Tim and Cathy Walker – out in e-book and paperback from Amazon on 1st September! You can pre-order the e-book for a modest £1.77/$1.99 HERE
13-year-old schoolgirl Charly’s inquisitive nature once more gets her into trouble, and leads her to another exciting adventure. But this time it is the ultimate adventure of going into space and visiting the International Space Station. Not only does she go to Space, but she has the opportunity to prove that her theory about alien dogs is true!
This book is suitable reading for children aged 9+ and is the third book in a series, following on from The Adventures of Charly Holmes and Charly & The Superheroes.
This month, I’m delighted to welcome fellow historical author, Allie Cresswell, to Guest Author Focus.
Allie Cresswell began writing fiction as soon as she could hold a pencil. One Christmas she asked her parents for a stack of writing paper as a gift. Not surprisingly, they were happy to oblige. Allie wrote copiously – but not very legibly – until the gales of laughter at her high-octane thriller based in London’s seedy underground (possibly she meant underworld) sent her into the closet. She was about eight years old. After that time, writing was secret, earnest and angst-ridden. In 1992 she began her first novel – Game Show. With no encouragement from anyone, it took ten years to finish, its completion impeded by the school-run, the village flower and produce show and the ancient computer that regularly failed to ‘save’ any progress that might have been made.
Nine more novels followed. Allie writes contemporary fiction as well as historical fiction. Her best-selling saga, Tall Chimneys, spanning the twentieth century, tells the story of a woman and her strange, isolated, dilapidated house in Yorkshire. Currently Allie is working on the first of a series of prequels to Tall Chimneys. The first of these, The House in the Hollow, due to be released at Christmas, is set during the years of the Napoleonic war. This is a period where Allie is comfortably at home. Her Highbury Trilogy is set in the Regency. Inspired by Jane Austen’s Emma it imagines the little town in Surrey thirty five years before Jane Austen’s fourth novel begins. The first two books follow the fortunes of the Bates family. Then, turning the focus of Emma forty-five degrees, the third book explores the characters of Jane Fairfax and Frank Churchill whose childhoods and meeting in Weymouth are hinted at but never fully explored in Emma. Allie’s writing has been compared to Alice Munroe and Barbara Pym as well as to Jane Austen. She is the recipient of two silver medals and an Honourable Mention in the prestigious Readers’ Favourite competition, as well as the coveted One Stop Fiction Five Star award and a Pink Quill award.
Thirty years before the beginning of Emma Mrs Bates is entirely different from the elderly, silent figure familiar to fans of Jane Austen’s fourth novel. She is comparatively young and beautiful, widowed – but ready to love again. She is the lynch-pin of Highbury society until the appalling Mrs Winwood arrives, very determined to hold sway over that ordered little town. Miss Bates is as talkative aged twenty nine as she is in her later iteration, with a ghoulish fancy, seeing disaster in every cloud. When young Mr Woodhouse arrives looking for a plot for his new house, the two strike up a relationship characterised by their shared hypochondria, personal chariness and horror of draughts. Jane, the other Miss Bates, is just seventeen and eager to leave the parochialism of Highbury behind her until handsome Lieutenant Weston comes home on furlough from the militia and sweeps her – quite literally – off her feet. Book two is The Other Miss Bates Book three is Dear Jane
Considered a troublesome burden, Evelyn Talbot is banished by her family to their remote country house. Tall Chimneys is hidden in a damp and gloomy hollow. It is outmoded and inconvenient but Evelyn is determined to save it from the fate of so many stately homes at the time – abandonment or demolition. Occasional echoes of tumult in the wider world reach their sequestered backwater – the strident cries of political extremists, a furore of royal scandal, rumblings of the European war machine. But their isolated spot seems largely untouched. At times life is hard – little more than survival. At times it feels enchanted, almost outside of time itself. The woman and the house shore each other up – until love comes calling, threatening to pull them asunder. Her desertion will spell its demise, but saving Tall Chimneys could mean sacrificing her hope for happiness, even sacrificing herself. A century later, a distant relative crosses the globe to find the house of his ancestors. What he finds in the strange depression of the moor could change the course of his life forever.
This month, I’ve chosen a summery poem by a well-known author – Robert Louis Stevenson
Robert Louis Stevenson was a Scottish novelist, poet and travel writer, most noted for Treasure Island, Kidnapped, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, and A Child’s Garden of Verses. He lived to the age of 44. Born in Edinburgh in 1850, he moved in London’s literary circle and travelled widely, before living out his last four years in Samoa, where he died from bronchial pneumonia is 1894.
Great is the sun, and wide he goes Through empty heaven with repose; And in the blue and glowing days More thick than rain he showers his rays.
Though closer still the blinds we pull To keep the shady parlour cool, Yet he will find a chink or two To slip his golden fingers through.
The dusty attic spider-clad He, through the keyhole, maketh glad; And through the broken edge of tiles Into the laddered hay-loft smiles.
Meantime his golden face around He bares to all the garden ground, And sheds a warm and glittering look Among the ivy’s inmost nook.
Above the hills, along the blue, Round the bright air with footing true, To please the child, to paint the rose, The gardener of the World, he goes.
MONTHLY NEWSLETTER This is UK author Tim Walker’s monthly newsletter. It can include any of the following: author news, book launches, guest author profiles, book reviews, flash fiction and poetry. Are you an author or a poet? If so, then please contact me for a guest author or poet’s corner slot in a future newsletter: email@example.com
New Book Launched on 1st June – ARTHUR REX BRITTONUM
From the decay of post-Roman Britain, Arthur seeks to unite a troubled land
Arthur Rex Brittonum (‘King of the Britons’) is an action-packed telling of the King Arthur story rooted in historical accounts that predate the familiar Camelot legend. Britain in the early sixth century has reverted to tribal lands, where chiefs settle old scores with neighbours whilst eyeing with trepidation the invaders who menace the shore in search of plunder and settlement. Arthur, only son of the late King Uther, has been crowned King of the Britons by the northern chiefs and must now persuade their counterparts in the south and west to embrace him. Will his bid to lead their combined army against the Saxon threat succeed? He arrives in Powys buoyed by popular acclaim at home, a king, husband and father – but can he sustain his efforts in unfamiliar territory? It is a treacherous and winding road that ultimately leads him to a winner-takes-all clash at the citadel of Mount Badon. Tim Walker’s Arthur Rex Brittonum is book five in the A Light in the Dark Ages series, and picks up the thread from the earlier life of Arthur in 2019’s Arthur Dux Bellorum. E-book available on KINDLE and iBOOKS, KOBO, NOOK Or order the PAPERBACK
This month, I’m delighted to welcome fellow historical fiction author, Mary Ann Bernal, and her thrilling new book, Crusader’s Path.
Mary Ann Bernal attended Mercy College, Dobbs Ferry, NY, where she received a degree in Business Administration. Her literary aspirations were ultimately realized when the first book of The Briton and the Dane novels was published in 2009. In addition to writing historical fiction, Mary Ann has also authored a collection of contemporary short stories in the Scribbler Tales series and a science fiction/fantasy novel entitled Planetary Wars Rise of an Empire. Her latest endeavour is Crusader’s Path, a story of redemption set against the backdrop of the First Crusade.
From the sweeping hills of Argences to the port city of Cologne overlooking the River Rhine, Etienne and Avielle find themselves drawn by the need for redemption against the backdrop of the First Crusade.
Heeding the call of His Holiness, Urban II, to free the Holy Land from the infidel, Etienne follows Duke Robert of Normandy across the treacherous miles, braving sweltering heat and snow-covered mountain passes while en route to the Byzantine Empire.
Moved by Peter of Amiens’ charismatic rhetoric in the streets of the Holy Roman Empire, Avielle joins the humble army of pilgrims. Upon arrival in Mentz, the peasant Crusaders do the unthinkable, destroying the Jewish Community. Consumed with guilt, Avielle is determined to die fighting for Christ, assuring her place in Heaven.
Etienne and Avielle cross paths in Constantinople, where they commiserate over past misdeeds. A spark becomes a flame, but when Avielle contracts leprosy, Etienne makes a promise to God, offering to take the priest cowl in exchange for ridding Avielle of her affliction.
Will Etienne be true to his word if Avielle is cleansed of the contagion, or will he risk eternal damnation to be with the woman he loves?
I’m delighted to welcome fellow Innerverse poet and wit, Rick Warren, to Poet’s Corner. Tell us a bit about yourself, Rick…
My name is Rick Warren and I enjoy writing stories and poems, mainly for my own enjoyment and as a way of trying to make sense of the world. Having stopped work last year to attempt a thriller, (way harder than I imagined), I’m now writing and compiling poems and stories, hopefully putting out a book by the end of the year, to follow on from my first collection of poems “The Path to Redemption” which I self-published on Amazon under my pen name Lyrick. I have always enjoyed the brevity and concise nature of poems, with their ability to distil sometimes complex thoughts and issues into a succinct and manageable format. Sometimes funny, sometimes not, the process of using fewer words to say more is challenging and one I really enjoy. You can see some of my work HERE
So, What did you do in the Pandemic, Grandad?
One day we will look back, and our grandchildren will say, “What did you do grandad, to make the virus go away?” We’ll sit them down and in reverent tones speak of our incarceration, When toilet paper became currency, and panic gripped the nation, We will speak of all the hardship and of our deprivation, The lack of pasta alone nearly ended in starvation, No restaurants, pubs or cinemas, no golf and no football, Just as well for Arsenal who were not playing well at all,
Well, we watched TV and we tidied our homes, We washed our hands right down to the bone We landscaped our gardens, did our shopping online, We all learnt how to conference call, that helped to pass the time, Some took up baking and making their own gin, The most important thing that got us through was all of us stayed in, Except for those too selfish, or too stupid to realise, Every unnecessary journey was a chance that someone dies, Books were read, box-sets streamed, conspiracy theories abounded, Celebrities (with no scientific knowledge at all), expounded the unfounded,
Boris got sick and went to intensive care, With the cuts, he was lucky that they had a bed to spare, The staff, who were working without proper PPE, Saved our new Prime Minister, and the likes of you and me, So now you know of the hardships we faced, Vaccines were created and Trump got replaced, (hopefully) So now your world is a far better place…
A COCKEREL CROWING its defiance to rivals always marked the start of his day. Shifting uncomfortably on a straw-stuffed sack, he turned away from the damp wall to see how far the first fingers of daylight had stretched across worn paving slabs. But the cockerel’s call was distant, muted and distorted – filtered through a narrow opening high up in his cell, making his first waking thought a cruel reminder that he was no longer in the sanctuary of his parents’ farm. Absent were the homely sounds of dogs barking, birds fighting, workers busying themselves, and the fountain splashing an invigorating melody.
Artorius sat, scratching at his woollen garment, then pushed aside the filthy blanket and ruffled his long, tangled hair, freeing some strands of straw. The rattle of keys interrupted his woeful reflection, signalling the entry of his jailor, Ahern, with a bowl of weak gruel and a pewter mug of water. He was a sullen, wordless giant who expressed himself with grunts and kicks.
“You are a happy man, Ahern, for you have found your true calling in life,” Artorius muttered, receiving a snarl in reply. Three months in his narrow cell had afforded him plenty of time to reflect on the words of Merlyn that had led to his arrest. Merlyn had exposed him to a cheering crowd as the true heir to his father, Uther Pendragon, and had showed him how to pull the sword of Ambrosius smoothly from the cleft in a rock, made possible by the removal of pressure due to Merlyn and Varden’s subtle easing back. A trick to fool an expectant crowd. No sooner had he entered the royal hall than the doors were barred behind him, and Caradoc, the army commander, had him arrested. Merlyn too, and Gawain the knight who had supported his claim. But not Varden, the ex-soldier and Merlyn’s bodyguard. He was at large and represented his only hope of rescue.
“But my destiny as the son and heir to Uther, if indeed I am, has proven to be a false calling,” he moaned to the closing cell door. He had received no visitors or news from the outside, but the fear of execution had receded as the weeks had passed. They had locked him away and would no doubt parade him or dispose of him once the reign of the new king was bedded in – the boy-king Mordred, whose mother had tried and failed to free the sword on his behalf. He gloated over the memory of Morgana’s desperate and unsuccessful struggle.
Left alone with his thoughts, he shouted his anger and frustration at the impassive stone walls. “It was a conjuror’s trick that landed me here! It was YOUR ambition, Merlyn, not mine!” He had practised it over and over. This is what he would say to the mysterious healer should they ever meet again.
THE BEST PART of Ygerne’s day was the hour she was allowed to spend in her enclosed garden in the company of her daughters, Morgaise and Anne. They would tend to the roses and dwarf apple trees, and collect vegetables and herbs for their evening meal. They had been confined to their rooms since that strange day when Merlyn had unveiled Ambrosius’s sword. Ygerne had been shocked by his revelation that the youthful Artorius was the baby she had believed dead, although Morgana had once revealed her suspicion that he had been stolen. But that was typical of Uther’s mischief-making daughter. Morgana’s long investigation had revealed nothing, so the baby remained officially dead, despite a faint maternal flutter that tugged at her heart, the vague feeling that maybe the child still lived. She had experienced it during Uther’s victory parade in Corinium, as if her son’s eyes were on her.
The widowed queen invited the squabbling girls to sit beside her on a stone bench and be still whilst she shared her thoughts with them. “Could it be true?” Ygerne asked her daughters, not for the first time.
Anne, a girl on the cusp of womanhood, answered first. “I think so, Mama. I have always felt that I have a brother, and have often imagined playing with him. When I saw Artorius, my heart jumped.”
“You are Uther’s daughter, without a doubt,” Ygerne laughed, “impulsive and firm in your belief.”
The older Morgaise, daughter of Ygerne’s first husband, Chief Gorlois of Cornubia, scoffed at the suggestion: “It was all a trick by Merlyn to place a farm boy on the throne so he could rule this land.”
“And yet, I would look into that boy’s eyes and decide for myself,” Ygerne replied. Her worn face, lined by thin strands of greying hair, was troubled.
“I would like to try and visit the cells to talk to him,” Anne said, making a curved line with the pointed toe of her slipper in the gravel at their feet.
“They will not let you,” Morgaise replied sharply. “And besides, it would be interpreted as plotting by Caradoc and Morgana, who rule over the boy-king. They would have your pretty head on a spike.”
The sisters glared at each other. Ygerne reached out and held their hands, silencing them. “I am less inclined to do nothing, as time goes by. Let us apply our minds to thinking of a way to contact Artorius. Perhaps, sweet Anne, you could find a way to go to the dispensary where they are holding Merlyn and try to talk to him when his guards are not looking?”
Morgaise’s face lit up at the prospect of something to do to quell their dull routine. “Yes! And I can go with her to distract the guards. But what should we ask of him, dear mother?”
THE FOLLOWING MORNING, Morgaise reported to their guards that Anne was sick with stomach ache and urgently needed to be taken to the dispensary to see a healer. The guards were visibly alarmed by the sight of Anne rolling on the floor, groaning, with white foam dribbling from the corner of her mouth. Caradoc himself appeared, some minutes later, wearing Uther’s purple cloak edged with gold, Morgaise noticed, and a silver medallion bearing an eagle’s head swinging on his chest.
“Carry her on a litter to the dispensary. Hurry,” he tersely commanded the guards.
“May I accompany her as I know her diet and history of ailments?” Morgaise asked innocently.
Caradoc nodded, then promptly turned his back and marched out.
They had not been outside of the enclosure of royal apartments in three months, and now Morgaise enjoyed looking about her at the passing traders and market stall women who turned away from her stare and stilled their chatter. Where the cobbled street ended, a dirt track took them to a row of wooden thatched huts that clustered around the dispensary, a large stone building standing apart from the more typical rows of townhouses and livestock pens.
They entered through a wide archway and were greeted by the women who tended to the sick and injured. The two guards and two litter-bearers were directed through a door and out into an airy and light courtyard where a fountain dribbled spring water into troughs from which servants collected fresh drinking water in jars for the patients. Morgaise followed the litter-bearers into a room smelling of herbs and was soon face-to-face with Merlyn. The ageing healer was still an imposing presence and easily the tallest man there. Her keen eyes noted his long grey hair tied neatly behind a black gown; his narrow features and tattoo swirls were partly hidden by a closely cropped beard.
Merlyn’s brown eyes flitted from Morgaise to Anne lying still on the litter, and he pointed to a table laid out with a white cloth.
“What ails the young woman?” he asked.
“She has eaten something that does not agree with her delicate stomach,” Morgaise replied.
“Stand outside,” he commanded the guards and litter-bearers. They hesitated, exchanging looks, before silently withdrawing to guard the door. Morgaise sniggered at his authority over his jailors.
“I may be a hostage, but I remain a valuable resource to them. This is my dispensary, developed over many years under Uther’s reign. I preserve here the skills and knowledge of Roman physicians now long departed.” He looked at Anne’s tongue and touched the back of his fingers to her forehead, whilst Morgaise looked around her. Glass jars contained plants and body parts, and assorted clay pots with symbols scratched on them occupied the shelf space around the room.
Merlyn, once satisfied that Anne was in no danger, indicated a woman, who stood by the stool where a boy sat grinding a pestle into the mortar hugged to his ribs. “You can trust Pryderi, who assists me. The guards do not know she is my wife, so please keep this a secret.” Turning to the quiet woman he said, “My dear, may I introduce Queen Ygerne’s daughters – Morgaise and Anne.” If Pryderi was shocked or surprised, she didn’t show it. She bowed slightly to the royal princesses and busied herself on a nearby workbench.
By now Anne was sitting up. Merlyn asked Pryderi to bring a potion to ease stomach pains. “What did you take to make you unwell?” he asked her.
“I crushed up some fennel and dog wort from the garden and made a potion with sheep curd. It gave me stomach cramps and produced foaming of the mouth,” she cheerily quipped.
“Indeed, it would,” Merlyn replied. “Now drink this to settle your stomach,” he said, as Pryderi handed over the remedy.
Turning to Morgaise he asked, “Pray tell me, what it is that you have come for?”
The confident young woman faced him and held his gaze. “Our mother is concerned about the fate of the youth, Artorius. We are not convinced that he is the son of Uther, as you claim, but we would like to help rescue the boy from what may yet be an unfortunate end.”
“Have you heard that Caradoc has plans to kill him?”
“No, but our mother has a feeling that once the people are more accepting of Mordred as king, then he will be disposed of.”
Merlyn took the pewter vessel from Anne and passed it to Pryderi. “You should start to feel better now, my lady,” he said, smiling. She managed a half-smile in return. “I also am of a view that the young man needs rescuing, and soon. I had not expected allies from within the royal enclosure, although I’m pleased that you have come.” He bowed slightly to Morgaise.
“We are so bored imprisoned in our rooms that we are ready to do anything for some excitement.”
Anne coughed and added, “But I have long harboured a feeling that I might have a brother, and would welcome the chance to meet with Artorius and question him.”
Merlyn kept his thoughts to himself. A jailbreak would almost certainly be followed by a swift escape for all involved. There would not be much time for a family reunion. “I have six men or more camped in the woods who are in readiness to act. But first we need to plan his release. Can you draw me a diagram indicating where he is held on this wax tablet?” Merlyn turned to a table and handed a curved stick to Morgaise. Anne joined her and together they made a crude sketch of the interior of the underground chambers beneath the king’s hall.
“Is this the only entrance?” Merlyn asked, pointing to the sketch.
“Yes,” Anne replied. “It is guarded day and night by two guards. It can be reached from the kitchens at the back of the hall. If I know when you are coming, I can let you in through this door.” She indicated a gap in the outer wall of the enclosure.
“I know the place,” Merlyn said. “The moon will be at its brightest two nights from now and will help with our escape. We shall come to this door when the moon reaches its highest point in the night sky. I shall knock like this.” He rapped his knuckles on the table in a broken beat.
“Then one of us shall let you in,” Morgaise replied.
“We can do no more than that,” Anne added, “and must return to our rooms before the alarm is raised.”
Merlyn hesitated before speaking, “You may only have the briefest of moments with your brother, you must realise.” He did not want any words left unsaid on their plan. “But I shall send word to you where he can meet with you and your mother once we have made good our escape. That is all we can do. Remember this boy, Ulla, for it might be him who brings you news.” He ruffled the dark brown hair of the quiet boy in the corner.
Anne nodded, knowing this was the best that could be expected from a midnight jailbreak, whilst harbouring the faint hope of a snatched moment with her brother.
MERLYN LED HIS gang through the streets of sleeping Venta, beneath the glow of a pale moon. He glanced about for any signs of movement before rounding a corner, where he came face-to-face with a large, growling dog, its bared teeth and arched back indicating a readiness to strike. He held an arm up to indicate his followers should stop and dropped to eye level with the dog. He whispered in a soothing tone and slowly pulled a piece of roasted boar skin from inside his tunic and offered it. The dog approached, sniffing. Merlyn carefully patted its head and was relieved to see its tail wagging. “Come on,” he urged his followers, allowing the dog to tag along beside him.
They avoided a watchman’s tower at the corner of the wooden stockage that housed the royal buildings, and lined up in the shadow of a warehouse opposite the doorway to the kitchen. Merlyn checked both ways and studied the parapet above the wooden barrier across the street before running across to the door. He rapped the code and waited for a response. Sure enough, he heard bolts being withdrawn and he stood back, gripping his staff in both hands, ready to strike.
Morgaise’s face peered out from under a hood and he smiled with relief. “Come quickly,” she whispered. “The guards are drunk and sleeping.”
Merlyn waved for his men to follow and then entered the compound. Once all eight were inside, Varden, their leader, detailed one man to watch the doorway and two others to scout the yard and be in readiness to cover their escape.
Merlyn turned to Morgaise and asked, “Do you know where the sword of Ambrosius is?”
“The one Artorius pulled from the stone? Yes, it hangs on the wall in the Great Hall, behind the throne and under Mordred’s banner.”
When Varden returned to his side, Merlyn conveyed this information in a whisper. With a nod from Merlyn, Morgaise led them into the kitchen and out into a passageway that connected the hall to the sleeping quarters. She met Anne halfway along the narrow hallway, who indicated they should take a left turn. At the top of a circular stairwell Anne whispered to Merlyn, “At the bottom you will find the jailor sleeping on a wooden bed, but the night watchman is awake. He has the keys to the cells.”
Merlyn nodded. “Anne shall lead us down and Morgaise shall remain here to keep a look out and wait for our return. Varden will go to the hall and get the sword.”
“No,” Morgaise whispered, “the hunting hounds sleep in there by the hearth. They will attack him.”
Varden and Merlyn were confounded by this information. “Barking and snarling hounds would wake the guards,” Merlyn said, deep in thought.
“I sometimes feed the hounds,” Morgaise hissed. “They know me. Let me go there with a plate of meat from the larder and pick the sword on my way out.”
“Will they attack you in the dark?” Varden asked.
“Not if they smell the meats on offer,” she replied.
“Then let us try it,” Merlyn said, not wishing to delay further. “Varden will stand by the door with two men, ready to come to your aid if the hounds are restless,” Merlyn added.
Morgaise led Varden back to the kitchen to raid the larder for joints, whilst Merlyn and the rest of the men descended the stairs behind Anne. At the foot of the stairwell was a chamber lit by a solitary torch glowing from a bracket on the stone wall. To their right was a wooden bed on which slept the large form of Ahern, the jailor, snoring on his back. Anne crept forward towards the row of cells and bumped into a startled watchman, holding a lantern in which the candle had died.
“Oy, what are you doing here?” he growled. Merlyn and his companions shrunk back into the shadows, leaving Anne to answer him.
“I… followed my cat down the steps. Have you seen him?”
“No, I have not…” was all he managed in reply as Merlyn stepped forward and banged his head with the ball at the end of his wooden staff. The young gaoler fell to the floor, unconscious, and they checked whether the sleeping man had been disturbed by the clatter of the lamp on the floor. Ahern grunted and rolled over, facing the wall. Anne picked up the keys from the stricken man and passed them to Merlyn. They moved cautiously down a flight of a dozen steps to a tunnel lined with locked doors. A burning torch fixed to the wall lighted their way. Anne plucked it from its sconce.
Merlyn led the way to the first cell door with Anne following behind. The second key clanked in the lock and Merlyn pushed the door open, peering into the gloom. He moved towards a hunched figure lying on a bunk with his back to him. Merlyn put his hand on the sleeping man’s arm, and rolled him onto his back. The light from Anne’s torch fell on Artorius. He woke with a gasp and Merlyn put his hand over the young man’s mouth. He ceased to struggle when he heard a familiar voice by his ear.
“Merlyn!” he croaked through dry lips.
“Be quiet, my boy,” Merlyn whispered. “The jailor still sleeps.”
Merlyn led Artorius, whose heart galloped now, to where he saw a young woman staring at him. “This is your sister, Anne,” Merlyn said, stepping back. Artorius stood, mystified, but Anne stepped forward and looked closely at his face.
“I believe there is a resemblance,” she said, and then hugged the bemused youth.
“We’d better get going,” Merlyn whispered, looking around.
“Wait,” Anne replied, “there are two knights held here. Perhaps they are friends of Artorius?”
Merlyn looked to the hunched youth who shrugged his thin shoulders. “Then let us quickly look to see who they are and if they are worthy of our help.”
They combed the dungeons, finding some stray wretches, and soon identified Gawain and Percival, held in separate cells. Gawain could stand, bruised but otherwise unhurt, but Percival cried out in fear as they approached, in the voice of one who has endured a terrible torment. It soon became apparent that he was in much pain and couldn’t walk, his leg badly broken.
“What of these other wretches who are unknown to us?” Gawain asked, indicating three reed-thin men.
“Let them follow us out of here, then they can decide if they wish to come with us or escape to the forest,” Merlyn replied.
Whilst Artorius and Gawain briefly hugged, Merlyn called up two men to help the lame knight. “Let us hope you don’t have to make a run for it,” Anne whispered to Merlyn as they made their way to the stairwell.
At the top of the stairs Merlyn paused to peer in the direction of the hall. “Anne, lead them out through the kitchen door. I’ll follow soon.” With that Merlyn strode into the gloom towards the hall, leaving Anne and Varden’s men to escort the shuffling escapees towards the exit.
Merlyn found Varden and his two companions hiding in a recess in the wall, daggers at the ready.
“She is still inside with the hounds,” Varden whispered.
“We have rescued the prisoners and now must get away from this place,” Merlyn muttered, the tension apparent in his tone.
“You go and lead them to safety. I’ll wait for Morgaise and the sword,” Varden replied, his eyes shining with resolve in the dim glow of an oil lamp. Merlyn paused for thought. Ideally, they should all leave together. Just then, the hall door creaked open and Morgaise slid out, shutting it behind her. They gathered around her as hounds whined and scratched at the closed door. With a triumphant smile, Morgaise produced the unsheathed sword from a fold in her skirt. Varden took it from her and Merlyn gave her a gentle hug around her slender shoulders.
“Let us make haste, for our luck will soon run out,” Merlyn whispered, turning to lead them back towards the kitchen. They passed out into the cool night air, finding their fellows hiding in a shadowy porch. Clouds shrouded the moon making it much darker than before, causing Merlyn to sigh his relief. The biggest man was able to carry Percival on his back, and they filed out through the open door and into the night. Artorius and Merlyn were the last to leave, exchanging hugs with the two young women. Morgaise was hurriedly introduced to Artorius, to add to his wonder of the events still unfolding.
Anne sniffed back her tears as she kissed Artorius on the cheek. “I hope we meet again soon, dear brother, together with our dear mother who longs to hold you once more.”
Merlyn pulled Artorius away and they melted into the night. “Let us not tempt the fates by delaying, Artorius,” he whispered. “Our horses are outside the town’s walls. It is but an hour to sunrise.”
Artorius started at the sight of a large guard dog emerging from the shadows. His alarm soon turned to bemusement as it wagged its tail and lolled its tongue at Merlyn who bent to pat its head. The beast trotted beside them to the unguarded gates and watched as they slipped out into the night, leaving the sleeping town behind.
April proved to be a good month for Arthur Dux Bellorum, book four in A Light in the Dark Ages series. It has been well-received with
positive reviews on both Amazon and Goodreads, and two book awards from notable
sources. Here are the awards citations:
The Coffee Pot Book
“Following in the footsteps of the great Arthurian authors,
Walker has penned a story that is as rich in historical detail as it is in all
its mythological traditions. Drawing on the works of Monmouth, Nennius and
Welsh folklore, he has presented a hero who has to desperately fight a
seemingly invincible foe to win his throne and take his place in British
Walker’s compelling narrative caught my attention from the
opening sentence. The author’s careful blend of mystery, treachery, deceit,
war, honour, and the knightly code made this book unputdownable. The skilfully
described battle scenes were so real in the telling that I could almost taste
the terror and the chaos as our intrepid hero fought for not only his life, but
for the throne and the kingdom which was rightfully his. All of which is set
against a very believable historical backdrop.
The forces of good and evil run through the heart of this
book. Morgana’s desire for power is as seemingly unstoppable as the tide. She
is determined to secure her son’s throne. However, one could surmise that it is
not in Mordred’s interest that Morgana is so despotic in her ambition to
vanquish her enemies, but in her own insatiable lust for power. Morgana is
often portrayed as the anti-hero in the story of Arthur, but I thought Walker
brought a refreshingly new take on the character. She is deplorable, but at the
same time she drives this story forward, and I found myself holding my breath
as she continued to plot and scheme to thwart her adversaries.
In comparison to Morgana, her half-siblings, and in particular Artorius (the young Arthur), came across as level headed and for the most part compassionate. Artorius does struggle with some of the things he has done, particularly in the heat of battle, which I think gave his character a tremendous depth, and made him very believable.
Likewise, Merlyn was a character I enjoyed reading about. His ingenuity and his use of the tools available to him made his story compulsively readable. I enjoyed following his progression throughout this wonderful book.
There are several secondary characters that fans of
Arthurian fiction will be familiar with — Gawain, Percival, Bors and Tristan —
all of whom Artorius looks up to for advice. I thought these characters were
well fleshed, and I look forward to reading more about them in the next edition
of this remarkable series.
Like a heroic poem from times of old, Tim Walker’s Arthurian
saga continues to mesmerise. A must read for those who love everything
Arthurian, but also for those who have a keen interest in the Dark Ages. I
Review by Mary Anne Yarde The Coffee Pot Book Club, April 2019
One Stop Fiction Book
“This is a very well written reinvention of the myth that
portrays Arthur not as a superhero but as a sometimes-conflicted young man. He
is not quite sure that he is meant to be king but is led by Merlyn to accept
his role. He questions his paternity, is often disgusted by the brutality he
witnesses, and yet becomes an inspirational leader of men.
Many of the familiar characters are present in Arthur Dux Bellorum: Merlyn, Gawain, Percival, Geraint, Gunamara (Guinevere), Morgana, and Mordred. Mainly these characters are fleshed-out to be well-defined and human.
It would be interesting to see what the author would do with the later Arthur and Gunamara story as well as with the legend of the Round Table.
The story moves at a fast pace with several battle scenes
that were marvellous to read. The narrative switches points of view between
Arthur and his mother and sisters who are living in the shadow of Morgana and
Mordred. This alternation serves well to highlight the attempts to unify the
British tribes under one rule.
One of the best aspects of the novel is the picture it
paints of Britain after the Romans had left. This is a divided and beset land,
subject to invasion by outsiders and by wars between rival tribes. It was very
interesting to learn that parts of the Roman legacy remained in surviving towns
and forts and in military tactics. The conflicts between the old and new
religions, between warring chieftains, between Britons and the foreign invaders
were all beautifully set out.
As an American reader, I often found myself wondering
exactly where in England the story was taking place. For authenticity, it is
important to use the names of towns as they were at the time. However, it was a
bit difficult, even with the author’s list of place names at the beginning of
the novel, to follow the movement of Arthur’s company. Because of that, I would
strongly recommend that anyone who reads this read it in a hard cover or
paperback edition and not on an e-reader. Readers who like to follow the plot
with maps of the area should avoid will find it impossible to read the maps
that appear on the e-reader edition.
This is a small complaint, but it is nearly impossible to
find anything to dislike about this book.
The author is to be applauded for making yet another
re-telling of the Arthurian legend fascinating and suspenseful. I would very
much like to see one more book in the series to bring the rest of the legend to
life. Arthur Dux Bellorum is a highly recommended book and winner of the One
Stop Fiction Book Awards.”
By Kathleen Lance, Book Reviewer, onestopfiction.com
Welcome to Poet’s Corner, Richard Tyner
One of the Herschel Arms Poets, Richard
was born in the boondocks outside of the town of Westport, Co Mayo, Ireland. He
has very fond memories of growing up in Ros Beg and indeed the first eighteen
years of life in rural tranquillity.
Richard does not see himself as a poet and if pushed describes his work as that of a rhymer. It has long been his ambition to write songs. As he said they were just rhymes, until my talented friends gave them tunes.
One of his collaborators has uploaded two of the songs to Soundcloud. Search for them under the names of Bogman and Ian Brown UK.
Thinking back his first writing was in
the years 1972 to 1976. First date is Marriage, second date birth of first
child. In true fashion he put aside foolish activities and concentrated on
career and family.
He is pleased to report that hardly any of his rhymes from back in those days have survived. The memory of living in Ireland is forever in his heart and in order to maintain his accent he visits there whenever he gets the chance.
In 1967 his Mother took her 8 children
to Peterborough England. Richard started work as a computer operator, then,
after ten years, moved to Shell Oils. Closure of the local office necessitated
a change of career, this time resulting in a management role in a publishing
house. He was head hunted by the TSB to work in Norfolk as an investment
advisor. Two years later he became self employed and continued as an IFA until
the onset of Parkinson’s brought about early retirement. He has since then been
busier and happier than any other period of his life.
Married forty-seven years he counts
himself lucky and is still trying to figure out why his wife is still with him.
Cheryl has been heard to say, “that he would trouble the patience of a saint”.
He loves music across all genres but admits his guilty pleasure is Country music citing the likes of Waylon and Willie. Townes van Zant, Hank Williams. He is a mean quizzer specialising in songs and bands of the 60’s and 70’s. He likes travel and wishes he had rhythm, balance and a bigger pension.
OK, I’ve changed my mind. I admit it. In March I published book three in my historical series, A Light in the Dark Ages – Uther’s Destiny – with the announcement that me work was complete. The series was finished. I had intended to join the end of Roman Britannia to the coming of King Arthur. Uther’s Destiny ends with the boy Artorius drawing the sword from the stone in a cunning plan devised by Merlyn.
Well, seven months on, I’ve decided to continue the series and write a fourth book. I had initially baulked at the prospect of writing a King Arthur story (oh no, not another one!) but, having mulled it over and done some further reading around the subject, have found a way in – a glimmer of a storyline. So, I’m heading in – wish me luck! I’ve also decided to follow the same plotting and writing plan that led to Uther’s Destiny last year. This involved researching, writing a plot outline, character lists and a first half chapter plan in October, and then crashing out a first draft (or at least the first 50,000 words) in November, using the framework of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).
My novel title is: Arthur Dux Bellorum and I’ve even found a picture I’d like to use for the cover. I found this on a site called DeviantArt and tracked down its owner. I have agreed a fee with him to use it for commercial purposes, and have sent it to my cover designer, Cathy Walker, to see what she can do with it. Here’s the picture…
NaNoWriMo – www.nanowrimo.org
National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing. On November 1, about 400,000 participants from all over the World began working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 PM on November 30. November is a bit of a nothing month – wedged between the end of summer and the start of the madness of Christmas – so perfect for putting aside the 2-3 hours a day that is required to maintaining an average of 1,666 words a day to hit the 50,000-word target (evenings and weekends take most of strain).
Valuing enthusiasm, determination, and a deadline, NaNoWriMo is for anyone who has ever thought about writing a novel. Mr. NaNo says: “Our experiences since 1999 show that 50,000 words is a challenging but achievable goal, even for people with full-time jobs and children. This is about the length of The Great Gatsby. We don’t use the word “novella” because it doesn’t seem to impress people the way “novel” does. We define a novel as “a lengthy work of fiction.” Beyond that, we let you decide whether what you’re writing falls under the heading of “novel.” In short: If you believe you’re writing a novel, we believe you’re writing a novel, too.”
Pep Talk From Neil Gaiman
From the NaNo Archives, I’ve found this inspirational Pep Talk from bestselling author, Neil Gaiman…
Dear NaNoWriMo Author,
By now you’re probably ready to give up. You’re past that first fine furious rapture when every character and idea is new and entertaining. You’re not yet at the momentous downhill slide to the end, when words and images tumble out of your head sometimes faster than you can get them down on paper. You’re in the middle, a little past the half-way point. The glamour has faded, the magic has gone, your back hurts from all the typing, your family, friends and random email acquaintances have gone from being encouraging or at least accepting to now complaining that they never see you any more—and that even when they do you’re preoccupied and no fun. You don’t know why you started your novel, you no longer remember why you imagined that anyone would want to read it, and you’re pretty sure that even if you finish it it won’t have been worth the time or energy and every time you stop long enough to compare it to the thing that you had in your head when you began—a glittering, brilliant, wonderful novel, in which every word spits fire and burns, a book as good or better than the best book you ever read—it falls so painfully short that you’re pretty sure that it would be a mercy simply to delete the whole thing.
Welcome to the club.
That’s how novels get written.
You write. That’s the hard bit that nobody sees. You write on the good days and you write on the lousy days. Like a shark, you have to keep moving forward or you die. Writing may or may not be your salvation; it might or might not be your destiny. But that does not matter. What matters right now are the words, one after another. Find the next word. Write it down. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
A dry-stone wall is a lovely thing when you see it bordering a field in the middle of nowhere but becomes more impressive when you realise that it was built without mortar, that the builder needed to choose each interlocking stone and fit it in. Writing is like building a wall. It’s a continual search for the word that will fit in the text, in your mind, on the page. Plot and character and metaphor and style, all these become secondary to the words. The wall-builder erects her wall one rock at a time until she reaches the far end of the field. If she doesn’t build it it won’t be there. So she looks down at her pile of rocks, picks the one that looks like it will best suit her purpose, and puts it in.
The search for the word gets no easier but nobody else is going to write your novel for you.
The last novel I wrote (it was ANANSI BOYS, in case you were wondering) when I got three-quarters of the way through I called my agent. I told her how stupid I felt writing something no-one would ever want to read, how thin the characters were, how pointless the plot. I strongly suggested that I was ready to abandon this book and write something else instead, or perhaps I could abandon the book and take up a new life as a landscape gardener, bank-robber, short-order cook or marine biologist. And instead of sympathising or agreeing with me, or blasting me forward with a wave of enthusiasm—or even arguing with me—she simply said, suspiciously cheerfully, “Oh, you’re at that part of the book, are you?”
I was shocked. “You mean I’ve done this before?”
“You don’t remember?”
“Oh yes,” she said. “You do this every time you write a novel. But so do all my other clients.”
I didn’t even get to feel unique in my despair.
So, I put down the phone and drove down to the coffee house in which I was writing the book, filled my pen and carried on writing.
One word after another.
That’s the only way that novels get written and, short of elves coming in the night and turning your jumbled notes into Chapter Nine, it’s the only way to do it.
So keep on keeping on. Write another word and then another.
Pretty soon you’ll be on the downward slide, and it’s not impossible that soon you’ll be at the end. Good luck…
Welcome to Tim Walker’s monthly newsletter covering all things books – news, reviews, guest authors and poets. No guests this month as Tim is on holiday.
The third and final book in A Light in the Dark Ages series, Uther’s Destiny, was published In March 2018. I then returned to book one, Abandoned, and extensively revised and extended it, re-launching in July 2018 as a second edition. I can now kick-back and enjoy summer knowing that the series is finally complete.
SUMMER READING LIST
I’m enjoying a summer break with my teenaged daughter (and co-author), Cathy, and visiting my parents in my annual time for rest and reflection. If you’re looking for an e-book or paperback to read this summer, why not try one of these?
I have recently uploaded a revised and extended version of book one in my historical series, A Light in the Dark Ages. It’s in desperate need of new reviews on Amazon, hence the low e-book price of just 99p/99c for the summer (Paperback £5.99/$6.99).
Shortly after the last Roman administrators and soldiers abandoned their province of Britannia, Bishop Guithelin, guided by visions from God, embarked on a perilous journey to a foreign land to seek assistance for his ailing country. From this mission an adventure unfolds that pits a noble prince and his followers against tribal chiefs who see no need for a leader – and ruthless Saxon invaders who spill onto the coast in search of plunder.
Heroes emerge, including half-Roman auxiliary commander, Marcus Pendragon, who looks to protect his family by organising the defence of the town of Calleva from a menacing Saxon army, who are carving out a trail of murder and destruction across the south coast. Through the turmoil, Britannia’s first king in the post-Roman period emerges – Constantine – who takes on the difficult task of repelling invaders and dealing with troublesome rebels, until…
Abandoned is book one in a three-book series, A Light in the Dark Ages, that charts the story of the Pendragon family, building to the eventual coming of their most famous son – King Arthur. There is a black hole in British history, known as The Dark Ages. What happened to the Britons after the Romans departed around the year 410, never to return? There are few surviving records and therefore much speculation. Whilst some Britons may have viewed this as liberation, others would no doubt have felt a sense of trepidation once the military protection of the legions was removed. Abandoned speculates on the anxieties of some and opportunism of others, as Fifth Century Britannia slowly adjusted to self-rule.
POSTCARDS FROM LONDON
Prefer reading engaging and humorous short stories whilst reclining on a lounger? The city of London is the star of this collection of 15 short stories that reflect the past, mirror the present and imagine the future of this incredible city of over 8 million souls. The Romans were the first men of vision who helped shape the city we see today. Turn over these picture postcards to explore the author’s city through a collage of human dramas told in a range of genres.
e-book is £1.99/$2.99 and the paperback £4.99/$5.99.
DEVIL GATE DAWN
Worried about Brexit? Then get comfortable with this humorous, dystopian thriller, set in post-Brexit Britain and crazy Trump America in the year 2026. Affable retired railwayman, George Osborne, is planning his retirement when his pub is blown apart in a terrorist bombing. Understandably angry at the untimely death of his close friend, he forms a vigilante group to track down those responsible. Against a backdrop of civil unrest and under the quixotic rule of King Charles III and his Privy Council, George must somehow protect his family whilst he is unwittingly being drawn into the hunt for kidnapped King Charles that ultimately leads to a showdown at Devil Gate Dawn.
e-book £1.99/$2.99 and paperback £5.99/$6.99 http://myBook.to/DevilGateDawn
The city of London is the star of this collection of fifteen engaging stories from author Tim Walker. Drawing on the vivid history of the city where he has both lived and worked, Postcards from London celebrates the magnificently multi-faceted metropolis that is home to 8.8 million people.
Imagine Iron Age fishermen, open-mouthed to see Roman galleys, rowed by slaves, dropping anchor at their village – a place the Romans would turn into the port and fortified town of Londinium. These Romans were the first of many men of vision who would come to shape the city we see today.
London’s long and complex history almost defies imagination, but the author has conjured citizens from many familiar eras, and some yet to be imagined. Turn over these picture postcards to explore his city through a collage of human dramas told in a range of genres. See the tumult of these imagined lives spotlighted at moments in London’s past, present and, who knows, perhaps its future.
Each postcard on the front cover relates to a story inside the book…