The Photograph – Flash Fiction

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The Photograph

Dearest Papa,

I hope this letter finds you well and you continue to enjoy teaching the piano to your eager pupils. Yes, praise for your skills and patience in this pursuit has spread far beyond Mayfield.

As you see, I have sent you a photograph, which I found whilst inspecting the contents of an old chest that had been stored, forgotten, in my attic these past ten years. I hesitated to send it for some weeks for fear of causing unwanted memories to surface, but my darling Arthur assured me that your memory of my mother’s death would have diminished after almost fifteen years, and the photo of the three of us may bring you joy.

I remember that evening so well, Papa. Mother sang like a nightingale; your piano playing enthralled and the applause from the audience made me proud to be your daughter. Later that week Mother broke your heart.

You never believed I didn’t know what Mother intended to do, but it was true. None of us knew she had a lover. My heart was broken two-fold when we found her letter after she’d fled to Brighton. To see you so distraught caused me far more grief than Mother’s absence.

Rest assured, Papa, my lips remain sealed regarding your journey to Brighton on the day Mother was stabbed in her apartment. Even Arthur knows nothing of that. Mother’s murderer was never found and her lover simply disappeared. Though the man was never located, the police drew the obvious conclusion…

I chose to believe that the knife concealed in your dresser was simply an unwanted gift. I’ll take that belief to my grave. As you will, doubtless, take your secret to yours.

Your loving daughter,

Dottie

*****

I must thank my daughter, Louise, over at An Enchanted Place for the use of her photo, which is one of many taken on a lovely day out we all had to Warwick Castle a few years ago. (I scrounged a photo from Lou because her pics are SO much better than mine!)

I am currently in the middle of putting together another 85 stories for A Second Dash of Flash and hope to publish it later this year. This is one of the stories I’ve already written for the book – which, like Book One, A Dash of Flash, is an eclectic mix of stories of varying lengths and genres. It will make a nice change from writing historical fiction for novels for a while.

King of the Anglo Saxons

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Sons of Kings: Book Four

Following Guthrum’s crushing defeat at Edington, Alfred’s kingdom is enjoying a rare period of peace. Alfred is ageing. Bouts of his old illness are increasingly frequent, and he prays that his final years will be free of Viking raids, allowing him to concentrate on expanding his kingdom’s boundaries and improving its standard of learning. Scholars are summoned from near and far, amongst them a certain Welsh abbot named Asser.

Ongoing peace is no certainty, however, and Alfred continues to improve his defences. An attack on Rochester proves that Wessex is still far from safe… whilst also confirming the effectiveness of Alfred’s newly fortified towns and mobile armies. The arrival of a huge Norse army puts those defences to the test. Its devious leader does not easily give up and the conflict becomes a trial of will and wits between him and Alfred’s staunch ealdormen, one of whom is Eadwulf’s son, Aethelred.

While Aethelred pursues his role as Lord of the Mercians, Eadwulf settles back in Aros. Old friendships are rekindled, new ones are formed, and a situation in al-Andalus takes Eadwulf, Bjorn and their comrades on another dangerous quest across the sea.

But will this new life be enough to stop Eadwulf missing his children and friends back in Mercia?

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5 star review for King of the Anglo Saxons

  • For those, like me, who have followed the story of these two men from the beginning, this final volume is a very satisfying tying up of all the threads. Ms Thom’s knowledge of this turbulent time in history shines through and her characters, as always, come across as rounded, real people. I was very sad to say goodbye to them but their story arcs have all been completed perfectly. Alfred’s reign was not all about the Danish wars and we see again the man, not just the king, as he interacts with his growing family. A fitting end to a fine series. ~ Whitey, Amazon Reviewer

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Happy to be Back!

It’s been far too long since I wrote a post and I’ve really missed doing so. Unfortunately, sometimes life gets in the way, and/or other things must take precedence. Last year was not a good year for my family. We had so many illnesses to deal with, some of them worryingly serious. All in all, I got little writing done at all, either on my books or my blog. So this year has been a mad rush to get Book 3 of my Sons of Kings series finished, edited and formatted and published on Amazon. And, at last, this is it:

It was uploaded onto Amazon a couple of weeks ago, so I can now start to relax a little and get back to writing a few blog posts. Well, that’s the plan… On the other hand, Book 3 didn’t finish either of my protagonists’ stories, so I am now writing Book 4. My trilogy has become a series (or perhaps a quadrilogy).

All three of my Sons of Kings books will be 99p/$0.99 until July 31st. After that, Book 1 (Shadow of the Raven)  will be 99p for a little longer, Book 2 (Pit of Vipers) will be $1.99 and Book 3 (Wyvern of Wessex) will be $2.99, the usual price for each of the three books.

My book of short stories and flash fiction pieces will be still at its usual price of £1.49/$1.97. Amazon won’t allow it to be any lower because of the number of coloured images I’ve included. I had intended this book to be permanently 99p!

*****

Wyvern of Wessex

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Sons of Kings: Book Three

Eadwulf is back  on the Sea Eagle with Bjorn and his crew on a quest to discover if Eadwulf’s father, King Beorhtwulf of Mercia, is still alive after twenty years as a slave. Bjorn’s great dragonship carries them down to the searing June temperatures and strict laws in the Moorish lands of al-Andalus. But searching for Beorhtwulf proves more difficult than they’d expected, causing them more trouble than they’d bargained for…

In Wessex, King Aethelred is now dead, leaving his twenty-one-year-old brother, Alfred, to succeed to the throne. Though his succession was agreed by the witan, Alfred must now prove himself worthy of the kingship, or lose it. But Wessex is in turmoil, besieged by Viking Danes intent on subjugating the kingdom – and knowing that the new king is young and inexperienced. Alfred must use all his wiles if he is to outthink and outmanoeuvre Guthrum, the Dane who nearly becomes his nemesis.

Alfred’s victories and defeats take him on a journey of learning, during which he gains experience and strength. We share his highs and his lows, and how he rises from the depths of despair to save his beloved kingdom from total conquest.

And at his side in his greatest time of need is his new ally and friend, Eadwulf of Mercia.

Wyvern awards

Here are some of the 5 star reviews for Wyvern of Wessex:

    • As an avid watcher of The Viking series on TV, this series was an awesome fill in. Very well-written and kept my interest throughout the entire series. I sure hope there will be another book to tell of Eadwulf’s next phase of his life. ~ Amber Carrow Amazon.com
    • I have fallen in love with the characters in this book. Ms. Thom breathes life into these great people from our past. The different cultures coming together at this pivotal point in history is fascinating. ~ Sonora, Amazon.com
    • Sons of Kings Books 1, 2 & 3 are very well put together. Following the life of Alfred the Great, Millie has added history with fiction into 3 good reads. I liked the Norse/Mercian connection and enjoyed them so much I read one after another and looking forward to Book 4. Talented author and excellent compiler of historical & fiction. ~ Howard Riach Amazon UK
    • A very well written and researched book series. I thoroughly enjoyed and can’t praise the author enough. The amazing journey from Book 1 to Book 3 just keeps you reading! ~ Mark Evans Amazon UK

 

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Researching for Historical Fiction

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Historical fiction is something I love to write. The reason…? I simply love history, any time period and any setting. At present I’m concentrating on the Viking era in the mid-ninth century as I finish the third book in my Sons of Kings trilogy. The first two of these are in my sidebar over there, and the third will be titled Wyvern of Wessex. After that, I have plans for several other ‘histfics’, but not set in the Viking era.

So what exactly is historical fiction?

Well, until recently, most definitions told us that stories set fifty or more years ago could be classed as historical fiction. Recently, however, I’ve seen various sites that have reset that definition to twenty-five years. For someone of my age, twenty-five years ago seems just like yesterday and that definition does little for my self-image. I’m already feeling like an old fossil.

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Twenty five years only takes us to the early nineties. So a book set in 1991 is now classed as historical fiction. Oh my…! But when I think about it, even yesterday is history… one second ago is history. I suppose past times, no matter how recent, are all ‘history’.

As for actually writing historical fiction, just what does it involve?

For starters, like several other genres, it involves the writer doing a lot of research (unless he or she a hugely successful author and can afford to hire people to do it for them). Fortunately, doing research is so much easier nowadays than it was years ago when the only place for doing it, other than buying your own text books, was the good old library. But now, authors have the Internet and access to numerous informative sites, including those about history.

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Having said that, I would never, ever, dismiss the value of good books about the period and historical characters I want to write about. I have some excellent texts that have been invaluable. But online sources can give us lots of interesting – and different – information. And, of course, there’s still the library.

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Exactly what you research can include anything from dates of characters’ births and deaths, to dates of important events of the time. But details about everyday life are important, too. We need to know things like building types, foods (and how and when they were cooked and eaten) clothing and general customs and attitudes. All add to the authenticity of the story – but must be ‘fed’ carefully and intermittently into the story.

Getting details about the period wrong is definitely not a good idea, as there will always be at least one reader who’ll notice. Several years ago I read an article in a Writing magazine by an editor in the US. In this article, he quoted what he called the ‘worst example of historical inaccuracies’ he’d ever come across. It was in a book about Mary Queen of Scots, who was beheaded in 1587. (The author’s name and book title were not divulged, of course). He quoted a scene between Mary and her husband, Lord Darnley, which I’ll re-quote as closely as I remember it. Mary supposedly says:

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Darnley, honey, let me fix you a chicken sandwich.

I’ll leave you to pick out what’s wrong with that one – but I found it hilarious!

For my trilogy there were two main things I had to focus on. The first was the life of King Alfred the Great, one of the two main protagonists. This is one of the two statues erected in his honour (both in Victorian times as you can probably tell from the photo below). This one is in the Market Place in Wantage, Oxfordshire (formerly Berkshire), which is believed to be where Alfred was born.

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I also had to focus on Viking ships and voyages as well as everyday lifestyles of both Vikings and Anglo-Saxons in the mid-ninth century.These are a few ‘photos of photos’ we took in Denmark, so I apologise for the poor quality of them. They were taken at Lindholm Høje in northern Denmark. Some are from inside the museum, others are of the very famous Viking burial ground there.

The Jorvik (pronounced Yorvik) Viking museum in York (Yorkshire, UK) was also excellent for information about Viking life. The museum succumbed to floodwaters when the River Ouse flooded in December 2015 and won’t be open again until spring 2017. Fortunately, most of the exhibits were saved.

All in all, the research kept me busy for quite some time. But, we visited some wonderful historic sites and museums in both England and Denmark as part of it. So that can’t be bad, can it? The visit to Denmark really helped with the parts of the books set there – a lot of Book One in particular, which is mostly about my second protagonist, Eadwulf of Mercia. Although he’s a fictional character, the main events in my book that take place in his kingdom, are not.

We still love to visit historical sites related to all periods of history. Reenactments are a particular favourite at the moment, and we’ve been to a few this year. These photos are from a battle between Alfred and the Danes staged at Corfe castle in Dorset in May.

And these are from the Viking Village at Murton, near York. I wrote a post about this in April this year.

‘Bear’ is really quite something, and he was very helpful in explaining all about his unusual helmet and why few Vikings ever adopted that style. All ‘grist to the mill’, as they say.

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Book Promotion!

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This is definitely the shortest post I’m likely to make for a while. I just wanted to let people know that Book 1 of my Sons of Kings trilogy, Shadow of the Raven will be free on Amazon for three days, starting on April 3.

Anyone who enjoys a Viking adventure tale may be interested in this book. I had another great review on the Amazon.com site only yesterday. The review was headed by the phrase. ‘Well written historical fiction from a rising star.’ I owe huge thanks to that person, whoever it is. It’s no one I know, from WordPress or anywhere else.

Reviews are so important to writers, not just to inflate their egos. They help the writer see what they are doing right, or wrong, as well as helping to get their books noticed. Needless to say, if anyone out there downloads my book this weekend, a review would be soooo much appreciated! Of course, it’s certainly not obligatory. Just downloading it would be of enormous help to me.

Well, that’s it from me for the moment. I’d better get back to writing Book 3 …

Shadow of the Raven (Medium)

Mapping The Story

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The trilogy I’m working on is historical fiction. I now have the first two books on Amazon and have just started writing the third.

I’ve made too many mistakes along the road to publishing, promoting and marketing my books to talk about – and I still have a long way to go to do things effectively. I won’t go on about my bungled start because I did a post about it earlier on: here

One of the things I didn’t do regarding the actual books was to add a couple of much-needed maps to the beginning of each. And it’s not that I didn’t know they were needed! I just didn’t know how to do them, and I didn’t have Photoshop. When a couple of reviewers said that maps would have been useful, I knew it was time to so something about it.

Readers of both fantasy and historical fiction novels rely on maps to allow them to visualise the areas in which the story is set. In historical fiction, we may be dealing with no longer existent territories or kingdoms, such as the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms in my books. In fantasy, there may be entirely new worlds created.

With more than a little help from one of my daughters, my two books now have two maps apiece. In Book 1, much of the action takes place in the various Norse/Viking lands, and I knew that few readers would know where most of the places were.

I chose to keep them as simple as possible and just pinpoint the key places visited in the stories.

These two maps are from Book One, Shadow of the Raven:

Anglo Saxon mapMap of norse lands 

The next two are from Book Two, Pit of Vipers:

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book 2 map 2I’ve deliberately made these maps very large to make them readable. On the Kindle they’re much smaller but, of course, they can easily be enlarged. Any comments or suggestions about them (preferably constructive!) would be gratefully received.

Pit of Vipers

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Sons of Kings: Book Two

The lives of Alfred of Wessex and Eadwulf of Mercia continue to unfold against the ever-increasing threat of Danish raids. Now back in his homeland, Eadwulf sets out on his determined quest for revenge, whilst Alfred’s leadership skills develop at the courts of his successive brothers. Before long, those skills will be put to the test.

The Danish invasion of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms in 865 is merciless and relentless. Every year more Norse ships come to join their comrades in a quest to plunder for wealth and gain domination over the people. The Wessex king is now Aethelred, Alfred’s last surviving brother, and Alfred becomes his trusted second-in-command. Whilst the Danes take kingdom after kingdom, the brothers wait with baited breath for them to set their sights on Wessex.

By 869 their worst fear is realised.

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Some of the 5 star reviews of Pit of Vipers:

    • If you like Bernard Cornwell’s Uhtred series, you’ll like this … BJ Kitchen, Amazon.com
    • If you like spellbinding historical fiction with plenty of grueling action, you’ve got to read Pit of Vipers. Fans of the Dark Ages and The Vikings will love this book. Highly recommend! N.N. Light Amazon.com
    • Anyone interested in the time of the Vikings and their addition to the creation of the English will thoroughly enjoy this book. For those of us who enjoy Griff Hosker, Bernard Cornwall and Jerry Autieri, try this new series by Millie Thom…Excellent! ~ Sue Merritt Amazon.com
    • A great find for historical fiction fans … SPR editorial review

 

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A Dream of Flight

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Dreams about flying seem to be quite common. Perhaps it’s the fact that we humans simply can’t do it without the use of an aeroplane that causes them. We simply envy the birds, and in our dreams we allow our innermost desires to come true. I don’t know, but I’m sure there are people who could explain it! Anyway, here’s a short dream sequence from my book:


Ulf seemed to be flying. He laughed as he glanced at his outstretched arms, a joyful sound that welled up from somewhere deep inside before rushing from his lips to be carried away on the wind. This must be what total freedom felt like. Beside him a flock of starlings swooped and spiralled in their exotic ritual, and he shared their sheer delight of the open skies. Then uncertainty hit, and he squinted into the blindingly blue expanse beyond the hazy, translucent clouds. Why was he flying? Was he now dead, not a solid body at all, but a spirit rising towards heaven? A woman’s voice reached his ears, passing by in its ascent. ‘Do not grieve for me. I am free of the cares of this world now.’

Far to the west the sun was sliding behind the Welsh hills, splashing shades of vermilion and purple haphazardly across the blue. Above the landscape he soared, over fields of grazing cattle, corn ripening with the season’s warmth, and winding blue streams. Soon he was hovering over the edges of a dense forest and instinctively he knew that it was Bruneswald. This beautiful, green land was Mercia: his home.

Then he realised it was not summer at all and he was not home. His mind grew angry and cast the scene away.


This sequence is really a continuation of the post of a couple of weeks ago, To sleep, perchance to dream . . .  In my book, Shadow of the Raven, this dream comes only a few minutes after the last. Eadwulf (Ulf at this stage, and still a thrall/slave) has been seriously concussed, knocked senseless by Bjorn – for his own good, as is revealed in the story. Following the period of concussion he falls in and out of dream-filled sleep. This one takes him to his beloved homeland across the Northern Sea – the Anglo Saxon kingdom of Mercia.

To Sleep, Perchance To Dream . . .

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This week I’ve been following a discussion on The Online Book Club regarding whether or not dream sequences should be used in novels. As with most things, opinions vary greatly. Some people see dreams as a useful method of imparting additional information about a character or events, whereas others proclaim they should be avoided at all cost.

In my novel, Shadow of the Raven, I have one short scene in which my protagonist, Eadwulf – Ulf at this stage in the book – experiences a great tragedy in his life. The dream is a result of events too traumatic for him to bear. Here it is:


Ulf was aboard the Sea Eagle, sailing north towards the beguiling Lofoten Islands. The heavy sail flapped and seabirds wheeled and screeched, guillemots, gulls and kittiwakes amongst them. Waves slapped the hull, sunlight glistened on the blue-grey water and the salty breeze ruffled his hair. Coastward, the green-swathed Norwegian mountains, intersected by steep-sided fjords, almost took his breath away. Colonies of black and white puffins with brightly coloured beaks perched on their nests along the cliffs and cormorants stretched, drying their wings in the sun. A sea-eagle swooped to inspect the ship to which it had given its name before plucking a fish from beneath the brine. Whilst seaward, foam-white sea-horses played on the water’s surface and whiskered seals bobbed. The massive bulk of a silver whale shot great spouts of water high into the air, to cascade down again, rainbow colours of light dancing in their midst.

Somehow Ulf knew he was dreaming; yet he refused to wake up. His mind was cushioned by this sense of peace, taking him to where he wanted so much to be: this place out at sea with Bjorn and his crew, where he was valued, respected for what he was. He inhaled deeply, savouring the aroma of salty air. But the smell gradually lessened, evolving into the sharp tang of spices, mingled with the earthy smells of vegetables.

His eyes shot open . . .


Any opinions regarding the use of dreams in fiction would be very welcome.