I Am the Chosen King – a review

Over the next two or three weeks, I intend to review the seven books read in recent months. Some of these were on my list for my 2019 challenges, and all have counted towards my 2019 Goodreads Challenge.

First is a novel I won in a giveaway on the author’s website that I follow. As it is a thick book, I had some difficulty carrying it around in my old wheelchair. But over time, I found a solution and read the novel.

I Am the Chosen King

(Saxon #1)

by

Helen Hollick

Original Title when published in the UK: Harold the King

In this beautifully crafted tale, Harold Godwinesson, the last Saxon King of England, is a respected, quick-witted man both vulnerable and strong, honorable and loving-and yet, in the end, only human. After the political turmoil and battles leading up to 1066, we all know William the Conquerer takes England. But Helen Hollick will have readers at the edge of their seats, hoping that just this once, for Harold, the story will have a different ending.

Review 5 stars

This beautifully written novel was well worth spending time reading. In summary, I loved all the details and characters. Although I already opposed the Normans, Helen Hollick turned me into a fan of Harold Godwinesson. But I’ve never liked William the Conqueror – even when I discovered the Normans had Norse ancestors. The novel felt well-researched.

On a superficial level and the one I learnt at school decades ago, the story is straightforward. But the reality and the twists, intrigues and rivalry as it unfolds is complex. Helen Hollick captures all the nuances and fills in history’s gaps convincingly.

The settings in England and Normandy evoked a sense of what the 11th century was possibly like. Some of the places I glimpsed from my own travels. For instance, London and its environs were very different and yet the descriptions triggered images and memories in my imagination. I lived for a few years near Waltham Abbey, so could picture it as it was.

One negative could be the portrayal of the original Britons – the Welsh. Were the Welsh worse than other peoples around that period? Ruling England is a tough job, but does it mean all one’s enemies are violent savages? Or is that my Welsh bias?

Anyways, the Godwinesson family take centre stage, led by Harold’s influential father, Earl Godwin. Early on there are indications that sibling rivalry is inevitable, and as the story unfolds it becomes more intense leading to the fatal actions of one brother, Tostig. How the role of other family members weaves into this is well-portrayed and justified.

Then there is royal intrigue. Again, inevitable given the characters, a reluctant King, his powerful mother – Emma, Queen and wife of the late Cnut the Great – and then Harold’s politically astute father. Emma, who is the protagonist of Hollick’s next book in the series, The Forever Queen – chronologically a prequel – is reluctant to let her son, Edward rule as if he’s weak. But this ‘confessor’ is distracted by spiritual matters – until he tastes power.

I’m not going to accuse the author of treating her characters as black and white as others have. They take sides and few of them waver. Even the despicable William has his moments of introspection. So, the characters felt realistic, reacting and creating events. Some lived dangerously, wanting what others had and failing – or in William’s case succeeding.

Emma must teach Harold’s ambitious sister Edith about her duties as Queen when she marries Edward, becoming the next Queen of England. And what does power do when petty sibling rivalry plays its role? Hollick weaves that rivalry into the historical facts, and the tale unfolds as it did in 1066. Fortunately, Harold’s hand-fast wife, Edith Swanneck rises above this rivalry, and their love endures even when he has to marry another in the eyes of the church – another relationship well-portrayed.

When Edward dies and Harold is chosen as the King of England, other claimants emerge inevitably. One is Duke William of Normandy. Historically he claimed both Edward and Harold had promised him the crown, but the records are questionable enough for the writer to expand on the facts and give Harold justification for accepting the crown himself.

Result – invasions north and south. The pace builds as the ending unfolds that most English know from school. So, we know what happens in this timeline. Tostig creates tension and trouble with his Norwegian allies. And as made clear in the scenes of him securing his dukedom, William never gives up. History can’t be changed.

Damn that Norman bastard.

The tension of those final days gripped me as I marched up and down England. Hollick had me praying for an English victory. ‘What if’ kept playing through her words. But this wasn’t the clever alternative history collection, 1066 Turned Upside Down which Hollick contributed to. This was the actual year 1066 but crafted brilliantly and enjoyably.

Story – five stars

Setting/World-building – five stars

Characters – five stars

Authenticity – five stars

Structure – five stars

Readability – five stars

Editing – five stars

The List – flash fiction

I have been following and voting in WRITE CLUB 2019 and voting on the excellent final 30 entries in the Preliminary rounds. I plan to continue voting in subsequent rounds hoping my favourites win.

I submitted an entry – under a pen-name – but did not reach the standard of other entries. Re-reading my submission, I know why.

But what do you think? Should I have used this for the April WEP/IWSG Challenge, Jewel Box? All critiques and comments welcome.

THE LIST

by Zilarrezko Ezpata

Supercilious servants seldom deserve attention when they thrust a drab packet into my hands. Howsoever, this maid is incessantly thus. Why her mistress accepts her insolence vexes me. I accept the delivery but offer no acknowledgement and send the servant on her way, back to my sister-in-law’s house on Harrison Boulevard. My man can convey my response.

Locking out the oppressive heat behind the front door, I walk across the tiled hallway. The package is lighter than expected. Dreary plays my brother intends for his conjectured theater, or native artifacts I will capitalize? My throat constricts but my mind exalts.

I discard the brown paper as I carry the tawdry ivory-inlaid box contained within to the maple desk in my tranquil sanctuary.

Placed inside the ruby-red interior are ten jewelry cases that flush my body in warmth. A sealed message lies on top. The wax has an imprint, but somehow blurred.

Intentional? Never. Made in haste.

My heart beat rises. Profit beckons. My stomach flutters.

Fingers caress the soft vellum envelope. I falter at the unusual leopard-spotted variety but dismiss an irrational image. The perfume pervading the room banishes the remembrance. I break the seal.

 Only my love, Arantxa dabs Angel’s Trumpet on her missives.

A precious and profitable attachment.

My spirit soars on pounding beats, body burning.

Zigor

I return the gifts you used to seduce me, without success. Unlike base men such as you, I am neither a heart-cheater nor a soul-thief.

Herewith, the moonstone pendant. You promised a diamond as in the book, but that was beyond you. Why didn’t I take heed then?

The crude cameo locket that will never be me. Not even an old-fashioned eye portrait. My eyes are blue not black.

The Art nouveau enameled barrette affronted me.

One pearl earring shed like a tear, the other dust. You are the dream-crusher.

Did you intend the amethyst bracelet to enslave me?

The faux emerald and sapphire choker? Tighter than a scoundrel’s purse. My breeding detects peridot and topaz so as paltry as you.

The rough-cut ruby brooch that drew more than my blood. Why the deceit with a mere red garnet?

Perchance, the diamond necklace you locked around my neck meant aught. But never was I gulled by your growing falsehoods.

Can a lie-weaver ever repent? No, thus I spurned this silver band stolen from some naïve conquest.

Only overreached by the gold ring that never engaged my soul or eyes.

I am smothered by her two-faced words.

My head whirls, and my mouth burns. Confused, I stagger to my armchair. I read her last lines.

This blood-lined box that holds your cheap baubles, unfit to grace this lady.

Finally, the Palouse colt. Or what remains of him—the vellum produced from his skin.

And his gore spilled in your name.

Hark the Devil’s Trumpet as you perish.

https://www.ways2gogreenblog.com/2009/09/03/be-forewarned-about-the-datura-inoxia-devils-trumpet-flower/

**

Let me know what you like and dislike about this flawed piece of flash fiction, please.

Sleuthing Snowdon Shadows

Where is Detective Sparkle Anwyl of the North Wales Police heading?

Or rather where do I start her story? What comes first? The goth teenager or the quirky detective?

For the Blogging from A to Z April (2019) Challenge, I wrote a 19,000 word Sparkle story in twenty-six parts – Azure Spark. It is a standalone case that some readers have said I should publish as a novella. However, that throws up some complications.

First complication: although Sparkle & Co., resolved the Azure Spark case, an arson investigation was left ongoing – my ‘O for Obstruction’ post,  for the bi-monthly WEP/IWSG Challenge. April’s theme was ‘Jewel Box’ which became the name of the torched gift shop. Initially, I planned to continue the investigation with the June theme, ‘Caged Bird’ and then in the three subsequent WEG/IWSG posts, culminating with ‘Footprints’ in December. But that means holding back Azure Spark’. Doesn’t it?

Or I can write that arson case now as a ‘bonus’ incident.

Second complication: backstory. I can add a few pieces of backstory in ‘Azure Spark’ when I re-draft the story. What do readers need to know? Why did Sparkle become a cop? How did she meet her lover, Kama? However, all these incidents exist as short stories. Sparkle’s backstory unfolded as various shorts I developed as a collection with a framing investigation for NaNoWriMo 2018, titled “Fevered Few” – including a case I wrote for the WEP/IWSG Challenge last year.

What do readers want now?

Third complication: ‘Azure Spark’ references a key case in ‘Fevered Few’but in a way I hope gives all that the reader requires. Or does the case need more detail? How much detail is too much? Or should ‘Azure Spark’ be part of the collection?

Okay, my gut feeling is that ‘Azure Spark’ the novella is my starting point. Test the water/market with that, then continue with the other Sparkle Anwyl stories.

Do you, dear reader, agree?

I intended ‘Fevered Few’ to be the opening of Snowdon Shadows, a series of mystery novels set around Snowdonia in North Wales. However, in the beginning of that WIP, Sparkle doesn’t know she’s a policewoman – or Heddlu as the Welsh police are called. Amnesia is the antagonist blocking her memories of her first cases and more. So, ‘Fevered Few’ was the start of the series – before April 2019’s A to Z Challenge.

I also have three novels to complete in order: “Fates Maelstrom”, “Seeking A Knife”, and “Ruined Retreat”. I’ve drafted FM five times, SAK is still incomplete, and RR was my 2018 NaNoWriMo novel (draft one).

So how do I make ‘Azure Spark’ fit into the release schedule?

Does anyone want to read more?

#AtoZChallenge Reflections 2019

Have I really survived six Blogging from A to Z Challenges? According to my website, yes. Go HERE if you want to read more of my A to Z posts. As for 2019 all the posts were up on time, plus a compilation/edit in three acts – Act One here. However, that is not the end of the Challenge – next comes this Reflections post.

The Reflection post is a tradition at the A to Z Challenge. It gives all us participants a chance to look back at what worked, what didn’t, what we’ve done, what was learned, and where we hope to go from here. At the end of this post, I’ve added a list of direct links to other people’s Reflections. 

But wait. My theme reveal was my downfall. What hurtyn chooses to write a 26-part episodic short story that will read like a novella? Well me. And that was my first mistake. Second was when my keyboard died on me mid-March. Okay, I got all my posts scheduled in time – with a few days to spare at the end of April. But I’m now struggling in a quagmire of emails for fascinating A to Z posts.

Next year, I’m starting in February – or choosing a simpler theme than I’ve ever done – maybe.

Anyway, this year, in honour of the Challenge’s Tenth Anniversary, the brilliant A to Z Team produced a list of ten questions we could use for our posts. Here are my answers:

1. What did you love about the challenge this year?

First, the Challenge kept me writing – the commitment I made, plus the comments. So, there’s more tales to spiel.

Second, I read some great informative pieces [The Great Raven], amazing poems [Liz Brownlee] & [Life In Poetry], great facts [The Old Shelter], invaluable writing tips [Operation Awesome], engrossing tales [Tasha’s Thinkings] and folklore [The Multicoloured Diary], plus, so much more – like the theme I downgraded from ‘Music’ [Wolf of Words].

2. What would you change about it?

If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. And it isn’t. I’ve read one intriguing suggestion that we reduced the pressure and make it March-April – might help or increase/spread the stress. Even us that prepare badly.

3. What was the best moment for you during this year’s challenge?

Making my ‘O’ post for A to Z and the April WEP/IWSG post around the theme of ‘Jewel Box’ work, even though my overall theme had nothing to do with jewels. But it was Crime and the comments approved of the episode.

4. What is the best comment your blog got during the challenge, and who left the comment?

It’s hard to choose one, from those that persisted with my short story/novella – like Ronel Janse van Vuuren who looks forward to the Arson posts [WEP/IWSG Challenge] and Liz Brownlee, to those from sites I read consistently who were regular commentators – including the Ninja Captain, leader of IWSG. Okay, two made me blush and amp up my fiction writing:

“Wow, I don’t know if it just comes naturally or you did it on purpose, but I loved the numerous uses of D words, then C words, then B words creating a kind of reverse A to Z musical crescendo as the clues to the plot pile up !” Susan Rouchard

“Very interesting, Roland. I picked up on snippets of alliteration sprinkled here and there. (I love alliterative writing).” Michelle Wallace

5. Will you do the challenge again?

Can I stay away? Am I addicted? Of course.

6. Was it well organized and were the hosts helpful? (Did you fill out the after survey?)

Well organised as always. Hosts so good some dropped by to check my glass was topped up and I was enjoying the canapes. I didn’t need to hassle them once – even for some ink for my pen. And yes, I filled out the survey.

7. How did you and your blog grow, change, or improve as a result of this challenge? Did you find new blogs out there to enjoy?

I chose the wrong theme to attract many new followers, but I signed up for a few new sites. My writing has probably improved, but my site has only been tweaked – I may make changes/updates over the year ahead. But those new sites are expanding my horizons.

8. Were you on the Master List? (If you did the challenge last year, was it better this time without the daily lists?)

I was on the Master List but didn’t use it – so, I can’t compare it to last year. In fact, I’ve got a backlog of A-Z blog emails/sites to visit – apologies to those awaiting a visit and a comment.

9. Any suggestions for our future?

Not anything practical at the Team A to Z’s end. At mine – get organised earlier.

10. Any notes to the co-host team? A word of thanks to Jeremy for all his hard work on the graphics? A picture with your A to Z shirt, if you ordered one?

Congratulations and thanks to you all: J Lenni, Jeremy – I loved the badges and used them –  Jayden, Zalka and John, plus last but vitally they key, Arlee for making all this possible ten years ago and counting.

What have I missed/evaded? What questions do you have?

To find, and hop to, all the blogs officially participating in REFLECTIONS, click the following LINK TO REFLECTION LIST:
https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1BakdXuadi9VJE1JM3mcnR9H8ooleTRoX9JGHlF-OYy4

#IWSG – Language Power


C for Challenge but also for Creator and Captain. As in…

Created  and hosted by the Ninja Captain himself, Alex J. Cavanaugh, theInsecure Writer’s Support Groupmonthly blog post is here again – and so am I.

Except this is not the A to Z month even if I’m still recovering – INSECURE as I have a vast backlog of emails/blog posts (260+), reviews to write, WRiTE CLUB bouts to read, and fog like the Sargasso Sea.

Anyway, on to this month’s question.

May 1 question – What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?

Reaction 1 – pass. My brain won’t engage.

Response 2 – can I cheat? Latest? During Blogging from A to Z, one of my followers admired my alliteration – I had fun with repetitive use of the letters. And a review led me to buying a copy of Mark Forsyth’s The Elements of Eloquence – so more ‘unforgettable phrases’ to follow.

Rejoinder 3 – when I read J.R.R Tolkien’s work as a teenager. His use of language was phenomenal with deep roots. (Strange synchronicity as I’m sitting her listening to soundtracks from the Lord of the Rings movies). Anyway, I tried to emulate the Professor’s style, but my writing tutor, the late Roger Woddis, accused me of ‘purple prose’ – justified. With his guidance, I learnt to pare my effusive outpourings to create more power.

The awesome co-hosts for the May 1 posting of the IWSG are Lee Lowery, Juneta Key, Yvonne Ventresca, and T. Powell Coltrin! 

Purpose of IWSG: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Every month, we announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say.

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer – aim for a dozen new people each time – and return comments. This group is all about connecting!

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!

Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG.

Every month, we announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say. 


On a parallel track, I must thank all those that made my WEP April 2019 Comments Champion award possible:

The Joint Team at WEP: Denise Covey – Founder/Host; L.G. Keltner – Co-host; Nilanjana Bose – Blurbs; Olga Godim – Badges; at IWSG: Nick Wilford – judge; C. Lee McKenzie – liason IWSG/WEP; Pat Hatt – tweets and promo.

Plus, of course, all the participants without whose wonderfully, inspiring pieces, I wouldn’t have been able to comment. Your creations made my thoughts possible.