Woo-hoo – I’m through to the second round of the NYC Midnight 250-word short story challenge 🙂
Tag Archives: Writing
To my great delight, it’s my turn today: but I would urge you to read the backlist and bookmark the page for future posts, because each story has been fascinating. I hope people enjoy mine as much 🙂
If this is the first you’ve heard of the Historical Writers’ Forum December Blog Hop – you’re missing out! We’re a group of authors writing across the historical fiction spectrum, who love to share our writing with our readers. There are new articles almost every day during December!
My offering is from my book Sheriff and Priest, and is a scene from the Feast of the Epiphany 1181. January 6th, the last day of Christmas, was one of the most traditional days to give gifts, and King Henry ll has put some thought into the most appropriate gift for everyone on his list. Except the Lady Ida, his long-time ward and mistress…
Henry drained his mead cup and leaned back in his throne, belching gently. Ah – good stuff! He rubbed his full stomach. How pleasant it is not to be at loggerheads with either my sons, or the Church. I must be slipping. He looked round the crowded hall for those of his children present at this feast – a task made more difficult as many of the diners grew sated, and moved around to chat to old friends seated in different parts of the hall.
Easy to spot was his one legitimate son; John was still eating, hunched over his trencher, clad in a fine lambswool tunic. On closer inspection, there was a dark stain on his sleeve, which was shorter than it should be. Henry shook his head. The boy was going through a period of growth, making him even more morose than usual, and clumsy as a puppy. Please God it be over soon.
Also still seated, a few places further than John, was his acknowledged natural son, Geoffrey, whom Henry had recently elevated to Chancellor. He too had pushed back from the table, and, goblet in hand, was surveying the room. Of all my children, he is the one who can be most trusted, and the only one who consistently uses his intellect to my advantage. What a shame he can’t inherit! But he is a magnificent servant, and will continue to serve his brothers. Henry smiled proudly, and looked again for the least of his sons.
It’s a shame that none of the girls are here – it would have been good to have them, and their children, as playmates for young William. Henry spotted the boy in a corner, teasing a wolfhound pup with a bone. He’s taller than I remembered – he must be, what, five? Perhaps six? Definitely time to take him from his mother and get him some decent tutoring. He was very like Ida in colouring. She was rarely far from him – yes, there she is, leaning against the table, watching the boy. Looking a little careworn. This, too, is in my service – she has been at my side whenever I’ve beckoned for many years now. I should make some better provision for her…
The thought of losing one mistress brought his Rosamund to mind. He was going to make another gift to Godstow Nunnery when he distributed presents shortly. He urgently wanted to arrange the best possible provision for her, body and soul, and to minimise her time in Purgatory with prayers around the clock. There was the Abbess – hah! With young Roger Bigod sandwiched between her and the Abbot of Stratford Abbey, a Godly man indeed, but a crashing bore; and to be another recipient of Henry’s generosity later.
Bigod looked as though he was bearing up well to the double onslaught of piety. No, be fair – he was making himself useful whilst waiting on Henry’s pleasure for his inheritance, witnessing charter after charter. In fact, he could witness the charters to the two religious houses. He is at least easier to spend time around than his father had been, and possibly more honourable too. Not that he was going to get his Earldom back, nor indeed the bulk of his lands, until Henry was a lot surer of him. Perhaps he was owed something on account, though…
Henry slapped his slight but growing paunch, and leapt to his feet. He used the momentum to swing up onto the table and over to the other side. Not bad for a man past the best flush of youth, my lad! The noise level dropped gratifyingly fast, and soon even the servitors were still, having topped up everyone’s drinks.
“My friends! We come to the end of another Christmas, and another year. And what a year it has been! We are at peace; reconciled with our Scottish and Welsh neighbours, and with Philip the new King of France. My son Henry the Young King is even now supporting Philip, and though we miss him greatly, it is an honourable task. My sons Richard and Geoffrey are firmly in control of their realms; my daughters all contributing towards the succession of their husbands.
I am blessed with three sons here with me tonight, and am surrounded by my friends. I would like to share some of these blessings, and distribute some gifts, as is my custom.”
He beckoned over the servitor with his small chest, and put it on the table.
“I start with the Church, as is proper.”
He took two charters from the chest, opened one, and laid the other on the table.
“Would the Abbess of Godstow please come here?”
The elderly nun bumbled up, and curtsied twice in front of the King. Henry bowed low, and handed her the charter with a smile.
“The lands, as promised, good Abbess. “
“We will pray for her, Sire.” she whispered.
Henry nodded formal acknowledgement, then returned to his task, a little subdued.
“The Abbot of Stratford!” The Abbot accepted his charter gratefully.
“And now, my beloved son John.”
John stood, a trifle unsteadily. Henry realised that he’d taken a little too much wine, and moved down the table towards him, rather than embarrass the boy. He turned back to the room.
“I thought long and hard about a gift for John. I rejected clothes; because he’s growing so fast that he’d need a new set next week.”
There was a ripple of amusement, and John blushed.
“I’d give him money; but he’d only ask for more. I’ve raised sons his age before.”
This time there was some outright laughter.
“Instead, I wanted to give him something to connect him to his heritage.”
He stripped off a ring from the middle finger on his right hand, and held it up to the crowd. The large emerald caught the light nicely.
“This ring belonged to my father, and to his father before him. I think John has grown into it now.”
He turned to his son, and slipped it on his finger.
“Wear it in good health!”
John bowed, looking a little underawed. Henry shook his head slightly, and went back to the chest.
“For my beloved Chancellor; a Book of Hours! Having just missed out on the Bishopric of Lincoln, he will need to sharpen his praying skills for his next attempt at the cloth…”
He lifted out a gorgeous book, wrapped in purple silk. Geoffrey took it reverently in both hands, and unwrapped it to reveal a gold and jewelled frontispiece.
“Sire! This is magnificent! My profound thanks!”
“And for my youngest son, William…”
William needed beckoning forward, this being the first time that Henry had singled him out in public. He watched with pride as the boy strode forward, carefully put out a foot, and bowed low.
“How old are you now, boy?”
“I am six, Sire.”
“High time you had one of these, then.”
Henry handed him a short dagger, snug in its own tooled leather sheath and belt. The boy crowed in delight, and strapped it on instantly. He looked round to show his mother. Henry followed his gaze, and bent to whisper to the boy,
“Go and fetch her.”
He ran across, and pulled her over; she arrived in front of Henry laughing and protesting, then dropped into a deep curtsey. He put a finger under her chin, and lifted her up.
“Not forgetting William’s mother, the Lady Ida; a length of that very expensive silk she loves so much.”
She blushed prettily, and curtsied again. Henry looked around for Roger.
“Stay here, my dear; Roger Bigod, step up, please.”
He waited until Roger had bowed and taken a place beside Ida.
“I am not yet ready to pass judgement on your stepbrothers’ claim to your father’s lands and title; but in recognition of your services these last few years, I am returning to you the manors of Acle, Halvergate and South Walsham.”
Roger bowed again, looking suitably grateful.
“And one other gift, greater than you know. The hand of the Lady Ida de Tosny, Royal ward, in marriage.”
There. A neat discharge of my obligations.
“Raise your cups, my friends! To Christmas cheer!”
I’ve always wondered how Ida and Roger felt about that casual gift – the marriage was fruitful, with many children, and I’d like to think they were happy together!
Both appear in the sequel to Sheriff and Priest, The Priest’s Son, which is available on pre-order now for release on Boxing Day.
This book takes us into the reign of that sulky prince, John, as Wimer’s adopted son, Jean, struggles to keep the Priory safe from land-hungry rivals and the King’s taxes; and the Pope takes an unfortunate interest in little Dodnash Priory.
I have been distracted from the 12th Century recently by a visit to a Suffolk church – or rather, by the intriguing single large stone opposite it. The stone looks for all the world like a Viking or early Christian hogsback grave marker, and has very clearly been shaped. But there are no hogsback stones in this part of the UK; they are only to be found clustered in the Northwest and Scotland. So what is it? And what’s it doing here? – the stone is not native, it’s been imported. This lovely blog post was of great help in researching that liminal phase as the Vikings became good Christians, for the short story that demanded to be written.
OS grid reference: NY 5165 3016. A short walk in an easterly direction from market Square and king street (A6) in the centre of Penrith is the ancient church of St Andrew, a Saxon foundation. At the north-side of the church stands a slight mound on top of which are two pillar-crosses and four hogback gravestones – collectively known as the Giants Grave. These stones are said to have been placed over the burial site of Owain Caesarius, legendary and heroic king of Cumbria during the early 10th century, who was said to have been a giant of a man. Also in the churchyard is the Giant’s Thumb, a damaged Anglo-Norse wheel-headed cross dating from 920 AD.
The two tall and slender pillar-crosses standing 15 feet apart are now heavily worn and it is difficult to make out the carvings on them, but they have been dated to around 1000 AD and are Anglo-Norse in…
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In case you missed it – the UK has had unusually snowy, cold weather this week.
My heating chose to show solidarity with my beloved Priory, and stop working! Brrr!
I have been peacefully plugging away at my current Work In Progress; a follow-up to my book Sheriff and Priest, working title Son of the Priest. It’s about the trials and tribulations – both literal uses of the words – that Wimer’s son Jean encounters, trying to defend Wimer’s legacy from some rapacious land-grabbers.
I’m now about 2/3rds of the way through, and have begun to be very worried indeed. You see, although I know how the book ENDS – and of course, how it begins – I have had, up until today, no clear idea of why history took the course it did, in my little corner of Suffolk. Slightly problematic, for someone who prefers to lean on the historical rather than the fictional balance of historical fiction…
Enter Monmothshire County Library, the fine building whose picture you can see. In 1969 they purchased a volume of W.A. Morris’ “The Mediaeval English Sheriff to 1300”; on 23rd May 1973 it was transferred to the Students’ Library, where students are sternly injuncted:
“If there is notifiable disease in the house, i.e. Scarlet Fever, Diptheria, Thyphoid Fever, Measles, or Chicken Pox, do not return your books to the library until the Local Health Authority has inspected the house.”
Mysteriously, despite the fact that it had been taken out on loan three times in May and June, it was taken off the shelves on the 28th June 1973. Perhaps Scarlet Fever intervened… In any case, I found it in around 2005, in the second-hand book shop in Sutton Hoo, I think. And as I had scarlet fever, measles, and chicken pox in the 1960s, I thought it was safe to buy…
Now I’d used it extensively in researching Wimer’s career for Sheriff and Priest, of course; but for some reason it hadn’t occurred to me to mine it for the solution to Jean’s woes. Well, Reader – I’m not going to give away any spoilers; but should you have a copy of the book in your posession, I am finding pages 153-161 MOST useful 🙂
Today I’m grabbing an hour to write in between other committments. 15 minutes ago, I wanted to know where the market might be in Ipswich in around 1190, give or take 20 years. It’s for a very small scene near the start of the book, setting up the antagonist – the Prior of Holy Trinity priory – as a baddie. I came across this, from just before the Conquest;
And now I want to know what the Thingstead was – maybe the local version of Parliament Square? What was built on it, and how much survived the Conquest? The red crosses mark potteries – good old dark grey Ipswich ware, that I find such a lot of in the field. I hadn’t realised they were in the centre of town – what did they add to the smells and sounds? I can feel my whole hour of writing being sucked into the black hole that is research – but isn’t it fun? 😀
Today is The Day!
Both paperback and e-book versions are available on all Amazon sites (and are even linked together, after a bit of fighting with dragons), and the ebook is trickling out onto the wider distribution sites – currently available on Kobo and Indigo but not a couple of the others.
We are GO!
There is so much you could do to help make the launch successful:
- Write a review! If you got a free review copy, please include text along the lines of “I recieved a review copy in return for a free and unbiased review” somewhere at the end.
- Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sheriff-Priest-Nicky-Moxey/dp/1999783204/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=
- Amazon.com: https://www.amazon.com/Sheriff-Priest-Nicky-Moxey/dp/1999783204/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=
- Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36221868-sheriff-and-priest
- Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/gb/en/ebook/sheriff-and-priest
- Rate a review! The algorithms that Amazon in particular uses to place a book depends on people’s interactions with it as much as its sales and reviews; and of course more exposure is likely to lead to more interaction and so sales – it’s a virtuous circle.
- At the bottom of each review is a “Was this review helpful? Yes/No” question. If you think a review is fair, please say yes; if you come across an unfair review, please say no 🙂
- It would be super-helpful if you did this again in a week or two, and rated any reviews that you haven’t yet seen. And if you did it again in a month – you’re my hero 😀
- Pass the word! If you liked the book, it would be wonderful if you told your friends about it. Easy links include:
- My blog https://nickymoxey.com/
- Wimer’s Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/WimertheChaplain
- The signup for this newsletter: http://nickymoxey.us3.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=4cee8a709672451ccf5ad39fb&id=8bf6adb97b
I’m very proud to have a story in here 🙂 There’s some fabulous tales.
Mine is about a Bronze Age girl on the threshold of womanhood whose world is ripped apart by an invading force. What future is there for someone who is only half-marked as a warrior?
“Gripping and thought-provoking stories of people, places and times past by writers from the Historical Novel Society.
A new anthology of nineteen award-winning and acclaimed historical fiction short stories.
Distant Echoes brings you vivid voices from the past. This haunting anthology explores love and death, family and war. From the chilling consequences of civil and world war, to the poignant fallout from more personal battles, these stories will stay with you long after the last page.”
Pre-order now via the link below. Publication is on Monday 25th September.