4 June 2020

Blog Tour: Crusader's Path, By Mary Ann Bernal

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

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

Understanding the Mindset of the Times

Religion played a pivotal role in daily life. There would be no salvation without the Church. To avoid eternal damnation in Hell, one must confess one’s sins, satisfy a given penance, and receive absolution by a priest. Many a penitent embarked on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, seeking the Lord’s forgiveness.

Until the arrival of the Seljuk Turks in the region, the Islamic State had no problems with Christians and Jews living among their people, nor did they interfere with the pilgrims traveling to Jerusalem. The revenue boosted the Islamic economy, after all.

The Class System

Affluent people have a better standard of living than their inferior counterparts. The nobility craved power and wealth at the expense of the common people. Famine, contagion, and violence, affected everyone, but it was the peasant class who suffered the most. However, their unshakeable belief in salvation promised a better life in God’s kingdom.

One must not forget the Eleventh Century was a violent era, without an organized governing body. Members of the nobility argued among themselves, brother fighting against brother to sit on a throne. Conquerors subjected the conquered to tyrannical rule. Mercenaries wreaked havoc upon the countryside. Something needed to be done, and the Lord’s people looked towards the Church for assistance.

The Latin West

Pope Urban II succeeded Pope Gregory VII, whose clashes with the mighty Holy Roman Emperor, Henry IV, created the installation of the Antipope, Clement III. Pope Urban, unable to sit on the Chair of St. Peter in Rome, traveled the countryside, fulfilling papal duties while in exile, taking it upon himself to implement his predecessor’s changes. Pope Urban convened a synod at Clermont in the Duchy of Aquitaine to discuss Cluniac reforms.

The Greek East

Byzantine Emperor Alexios I had been fighting the Seljuk Turks for several years. He sent envoys to Pope Urban, requesting his aid to push back the Seljuk invaders and reclaim the city of Nicaea.

The Great Announcement

The charismatic Pope Urban, an astute politician and skilled orator, piqued curiosity when foretelling of a “great announcement,” given on the very last day of the synod before everyone returned home. Notices were nailed to church doors, and priests spoke of the upcoming speech from the pulpit. No one knew what the man of God would say. Expectations were high. The Pope spoke for God, and soon they would hear the Lord’s words.

While standing on an elevated platform, Pope Urban’s spellbinding sermon called for a Holy War to free the Holy Land from the infidel. Such wickedness must not prevail. His cunning words vilified the Seljuk Turks, repeating exaggerated tales of Muslim barbarism against the Christian Pilgrims in the Holy Land.

Pope Urban appealed to the crowd to take up the Cross as Soldiers of Christ. Christ’s warriors were to regain control of the Holy Sepulcher and return Christian rule over Jerusalem. The Vicar of Christ offered the atonement for their sins, whether they died on the journey or in battle. Salvation was guaranteed. They would spend eternity in Paradise.

The frenzied multitude, caught up in the emotional hype with adrenalin pumping, rose to the occasion. Someone shouted Deus Vult (God wills it), immortalizing a rallying cry that has transcended the ages.


Pope Urban sought to reunite the Latin West and Greek East, whose division stemmed during the ebbing days of the Roman Empire. By channeling the aggressive thirst for fighting against a common enemy, Pope Urban curbed the pillaging of the European countryside. However, a successful campaign would strengthen the Papacy, heightening dominance over the rule of kings.

Alexios I, the Byzantine Emperor, never expected such a vast Army to invade his lands. Alexios wanted an elite force of knights, a few hundred men, to fight with his warriors against the Seljuk Turks. Alexios demanded fealty from the Princes, which was honored after the fall of Nicaea. But the Princes retained control of the remaining cities, including Antioch, refuting their sworn oaths of allegiance.

The nobility took up the Cross for the honor and prestige of fighting for Christ, elevating their influence, commanding awe and respect. The promise of great riches beckoned the second and third sons of wealthy nobles who would not receive an inheritance under the current laws. These knights had no reason to remain in Europe, intent on plunder and glory. Aside from material gains, they needed salvation and what better way to satisfy bloodlust without fearing eternal damnation. The Sixth Commandment was ignored, killing the infidel because they believed “God wills it.”

Thousands of men, women, families, and entire villages took vows to join the campaign to save their souls. If one did not have the financial means, Pope Urban declared Divine Mercy would provide. The earthly journey was their ticket to Heaven. Unfortunately, Peter the Hermit led the Peasants’ Army. He was a spiritual leader, not a military one. Constant bickering, lack of provisions, and little leadership had the pilgrims pillaging the land, committing atrocities along the way, blackening a cause the Soldiers of Christ believed to be just.

Mary Ann Bernal

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About the Author

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. Mary Ann is a passionate supporter of the United States military, having been involved with letter-writing campaigns and other support programs since Operation Desert Storm. She has appeared on The Morning Blend television show hosted by KMTV, the CBS television affiliate in Omaha, and was interviewed by the Omaha World-Herald for her volunteer work. She has been a featured author on various reader blogs and promotional sites. Mary Ann currently resides in Elkhorn, Nebraska. Find out more at her website http://www.maryannbernal.com/ and find her on Twitter @BritonandDane

3 June 2020

Special Guest Interview with Christina Courtenay, Author of Echoes of the Runes

Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

When Mia inherits her beloved grandmother's summer cottage, Birch Thorpe, in Sweden, she faces a dilemma. Her fiance Charles urges her to sell and buy a swanky London home, but Mia cannot let it go easily. The request to carry out an archaeological dig for more Viking artefacts like the gold ring Mia's grandmother also left her, offers her a reprieve from a decision - and from Charles.

I'm pleased to welcome author Christina Courtenay to The Writing Desk:

Tell us about your latest book

My latest book is called Echoes of the Runes and it is a time slip (or dual time) romance set in Sweden, partly in the present and partly during the Viking era. It tells the story of Ceri, a Welsh noblewoman who is taken hostage by a Viking, the White Hawk. Back in the present day, an archaeological dig at her late grandmother’s home leads Mia to uncover secrets of the past which will influence her life in ways she could not have imagined. As the present begins to echo the past, and enemies threaten, they will all have to fight to protect what has become most precious to each of them.

What is your preferred writing routine?

I’m fairly disorganised about my writing, although I do try to write every day. If I’m feeling really inspired and enthusiastic about a story, I can write all day (and sometimes late into the night), whereas other times I might not write anything at all. I’ve learned to just go with the flow and I don’t set myself daily word count targets or anything like that.

What advice do you have for new writers?

To join organisations like the Romantic Novelists’ Association, the Historical Novel Society or the Crime Writers Association in order to find other authors to socialise with. These groups often run workshops and events which can be really useful for learning your craft and networking. It’s also important to have author friends because they understand the process so much better than for example family members. Their eyes won’t glaze over when you go on about plot, characterisation and settings. I would really recommend having a writing buddy/critique partner too – someone whose opinion you really trust and who you can exchange manuscript critiques with. And most of all – never ever give up!

What have you found to be the best way to raise awareness of your books?

Social media seems to work best – Twitter mainly, but also Facebook and Instagram. Publishers will help, of course, with things like advertising and Amazon deals, but I think authors have to do whatever they can to help: things like guest blogs, talks, library visits, and radio appearances if they are offered. It’s probably a combination of everything and just doing as much as possible.

Tell us something unexpected you discovered during your research

That sailing in a Viking longboat didn’t make me seasick (at least not in relatively calm waters) even though I normally turn green at the mere thought of going in a boat. I went on a short trip as part of a visit to the Roskilde Viking Ship Museum and it was a surprisingly smooth ride. Also, the rowing wasn’t as hard as I’d imagined because there were so many of us doing it at the same time.

What was the hardest scene you remember writing?

I think the hardest scene I’ve ever written was one where someone’s beloved dog was deliberately hurt by the villain of the story. I love dogs and hated having to do that to him! He did recover though, thankfully 😊

What are you planning to write next?

I have just finished proof-reading the second book in my Viking series (The Runes of Destiny published 10th Dec 2020 by Headline) and I am now working on a third one. I’m firmly stuck in the Viking world for the foreseeable future but I’m not complaining as it’s fascinating!

Christina Courtenay
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About the Author

Christina Courtenay writes historical romance, time slip and time travel stories, and lives in Herefordshire (near the Welsh border) in the UK. Although born in England, she has a Swedish mother and was brought up in Sweden – hence her abiding interest in the Vikings. Christina is a former chairman of the UK’s Romantic Novelists’ Association and has won several awards, including the RoNA for Best Historical Romantic Novel twice with Highland Storms (2012) and The Gilded Fan (2014). Christina is a keen amateur genealogist and loves history and archaeology (the armchair variety). Find out more at Christina's website
www.christinacourtenay.com and find her on Facebook and Twitter @PiaCCourtenay

2 June 2020

Audiobook: Katherine - Tudor Duchess, narrated by Ruth Redman

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US
Audible and iTunes

Attractive, wealthy and influential, Katherine Willoughby is one of the most unusual ladies of the Tudor court. A favourite of King Henry VIII, Katherine knows all his six wives, his daughters Mary and Elizabeth, and his son Edward, as well as being related by marriage to Lady Jane Grey.

When her father dies, Katherine becomes the ward of Tudor knight, Sir Charles Brandon. Her Spanish mother, Maria de Salinas, is Queen Catherine of Aragon’s lady in waiting, so it is a challenging time for them all when King Henry marries the enigmatic Anne Boleyn.

Following Anne’s dramatic downfall, Katherine marries Charles Brandon, and becomes Duchess of Suffolk at the age of fourteen. After the tragic death of Jane Seymour, and the short reign of young Catherine Howard. Katherine and Brandon are chosen to welcome Anna of Cleves as she arrives in England.

When the royal marriage is annulled, Katherine’s good friend, Catherine Parr becomes the king’s sixth wife, and they work to promote religious reform. Katherine’s young sons are tutored with the future king, Prince Edward, but when Edward dies his Catholic sister Mary is crowned queen. Katherine’s Protestant faith puts her family in great danger - from which there seems no escape.

Katherine’s remarkable true story continues the epic tale of the rise of the Tudors, which began with the best-selling Tudor trilogy and concludes with the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.

Listen to a short excerpt, narrated by Ruth Redman:

1 June 2020

Book Launch Guest Post ~ The Last Pilgrim: The Life of Mary Allerton Cushman by Noelle A. Granger

New on Amazon UK and Amazon US

The Last Pilgrim: The Life of Mary Allerton Cushman captures and celebrates the grit and struggle of the Pilgrim women, who stepped off the Mayflower in the winter of 1620 to an unknown world – one filled with hardship, danger and death. The Plymouth Colony would not have survived without them.

What was a woman’s life like in the Plymouth Colony? 

The Last Pilgrim will tell you.

Growing up in Plymouth, Massachusetts, I was steeped in Pilgrim history. Costumed in period clothing, I portrayed various girls and young women in the weekly reenactments of the Pilgrims’ progresses up Leyden Street, and at the Old Fort – Harlow House, I learned the goodwife arts of cooking on a hearth, making candles, and the washing, carding, spinning and dying of wool at the Harlow House. Then, after a year of studying for the role, I became one of the first tour guides at the re-creation of the early Pilgrim village at Plimoth Plantation.

While working there, I became disappointed by how little we knew of the women who came on the Mayflower in 1620 and the Anne in 1623. I promised myself that one day I’d tell their story.

I chose to focus on one woman, Mary Allerton Cushman, who was only four years old when she sailed from England. She held the honor of being the Mayflower’s youngest passenger until the birth of Oceanus Hopkins. Mary lived through the entirety of the colony’s history, first as Isaac Allerton’s daughter and then as Thomas Cushman’s wife. She lived to see her 83rd year (1699), as the oldest surviving passenger of the 1620 voyage. She was indeed the last Pilgrim.

I wrote The Last Pilgrim across the tapestry of Plymouth’s history – its leaders, economy and growth, interactions with the native populations, wars, disease and continuous threats to its survival. I’ve made every effort to stay true to the real events and surroundings.

I took a writer’s license in opening the book in Isaac Allerton’s voice, since Mary was so young – in order to make the unlikely survival of the Mayflower’s passengers and challenges of the colony’s first years more immediate and real. As times passes and Mary grows, the story transitions to Mary’s voice.

Mary’s mother died during the first winter. Only five married women – goodwives – and a few older girls survived to support the forty-one survivors from the Mayflower, as well to care for the children and the baby Oceanus. It occurred to me that as the youngest by two years of all the children, Mary might have been overlooked and frequently left to her own devices, without the instruction and care she needed. So I created Mary as a somewhat fractious child.

At that time, a common practice was to put children with other families, so they might grow in godly ways, without the ‘over-love’ of their parents. While boys were usually ‘put out,’ it seemed natural to me that Isaac Allerton, lacking a wife but with two other young children, might place Mary in the Bradford home to receive the instruction and discipline she lacked.

As for her marriage to Thomas Cushman, I decided to introduce an element of romance and love. So many of the Pilgrim marriages were based on immediate need and practicality, but Mary must have known Thomas for a long time before they married. I took the liberty of continuing her forthright nature in their relationship.

Another elaboration entails the acceptance into the Mary and Thomas Cushman’s household of a young Wampanoag boy, following King Philip’s War. This was not such a stretch since after the war, some of the orphaned native children were taken in as servants. I wondered how these children might have been treated. Knowing Thomas Cushman was a man of God, I decided that the child Samuel would grow up in a caring household.

The treatment of the native populations by the settlers in New England and New York was reprehensible to our way of thinking and sensitivities, and I found most of what I discovered about the Wampanoags and what happened to them ineffably sad and cruel. Nevertheless, my objective was not to rewrite history through modern eyes, and I therefore tried to maintain a balance in telling of the Pilgrims’ interaction with the tribes surrounding them. To any I might have offended, please understand this.

Disease and, above all, childbirth ranked as the major causes of death in 17th century New England. I feel fortunate to have found The Midwives Book, written by a 17th century midwife, Jane Sharpe. This allowed me to describe childbirth, and the role of the Plymouth midwife Bridget Fuller, in detail appropriate for the time. 

My husband, an obstetrician-gynecologist, was amazed at the correct procedures and detailed anatomy described by Mistress Sharp. With regard to herbal remedies and the treatment of injuries, I depended on many online resources and books. My introduction of laudanum to the Plymouth colony might have been a little premature. While its properties had been known for centuries, it wasn’t until the 1660s that English physician Thomas Sydenham marketed it as a cure-all.

By the way, the Pilgrims were not Puritans but a more severe offshoot of the Puritan sect called Separatists. They were not called Pilgrims until William Bradford, the second governor of the colony, called the Plymouth colonists ‘saints and pilgrimes’ in his book, Of Plimoth Plantation. The manuscript for his book was lost for two centuries and was only published in 1856, when the name Pilgrim was finally given to these intrepid people.

I hope my readers enjoy learning about the lives of Isaac Allerton, Mary Allerton Cushman and her family, and especially the women of the Plymouth colony as much as I did in writing about them.

Noelle A. Granger

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About the Author

Noelle A. Granger is a Professor Emerita at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine. After forty years of research and teaching undergraduates and medical students, plus earning her EMT licence, she decided to turn her hand to writing and created the Rhe Brewster Mystery Series. Having grown up in Plymouth, Massachusetts, the author worked as one of the first reenactors at Plimoth Plantation when it opened, which is where the idea of writing a book to honor the Pilgrim women took seed. This stayed with her over the years, resulting in The Last Pilgrim, the story of Mary Allerton Cushman, the oldest surviving passenger on the Mayflower. The author has also written for Coastal Living and Sea Level magazines and several times for the Bella Online Literary Review. You can find more of her writing and musings on her website: saylingaway.wordpress.com and on her author site: na-granger.com. She lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, with her husband and a Maine coon cat who blogs, and she spends a portion of every summer in Plymouth and in Maine, researching for her books. Find out more at Noelle's website  and follow her on Facebook and Twitter @NAGrangerAuthor

Guest Post by Linnea Tanner, Author of Apollo’s Raven (Curse of Clansmen and Kings Book 1)

Available at Amazon US and Amazon UK

Apollo’s Raven is the first book in the Historical Fantasy series, Curse of Clansmen and Kings, that weaves Celtic mythology into the historical backdrop of 24 AD Britannia and Rome. The epic tale begins when British tribal kings hand-picked by Rome are fighting each other for power. King Amren’s former queen, a powerful Druid, has cast a curse that Blood Wolf and the Raven will rise and destroy him. The king’s daughter, Catrin, learns to her dismay that she is the Raven and her banished half-brother is Blood Wolf. Trained as a warrior, Catrin must find a way to break the curse, but she is torn between her forbidden love for her father’s enemy, Marcellus, and loyalty to her people. She must summon the magic of the Ancient Druids to alter the dark prophecy that threatens the fates of everyone in her kingdom.

Universal Theme of Love vs. Duty

Apollo’s Raven is inspired by the legacy of Mark Antony and Cleopatra, except with a Celtic twist. The choice of love versus duty is a universal theme that I explore in Apollo’s Raven and throughout the series. In the first book, the protagonist, Catrin, is a strong-minded adolescent Celtic princess fraught with conflicting emotions about her mystical powers that she can’t seem to control. 

She struggles to do her duty despite her overwhelming blind love for a Roman hostage, Marcellus, put under her charge. Marcellus, the great-grandson of Mark Antony, struggles to rise above his ancestor’s legacy of betraying Rome for the love of an Egyptian queen. In the eyes of their people, Marcellus and Catrin are considered fools for their forbidden love affair. Their struggle to balance love and duty will be explored throughout the Curse of Clansmen and Kings series spanning from 24 AD through 40 AD, just prior to the Roman invasion and occupation by Emperor Claudius in 43 AD.

Research to Support Writing

I extensively researched Roman and Celtic history and visited archaeological sites in the United Kingdom and France so I could more accurately depict the landscape and ancient cultures in the Curse of Clansmen and Kings series. The research on the Celts was the most challenging as they left limited written records. Their history was told through the eyes of their enemies: Julius Caesar and Greek and Roman historians. Monks in medieval monasteries wrote down stories from oral Celtic traditions in Wales and Ireland, but the stories often reflected their Christian values.

Archaeological evidence puts a different spin on the Roman conquest of Britannia in 43 AD. Romans heavily influenced the politics of British kings after the military excursions of Julius Caesar in 55 and 54 BC. His invasion was not a momentary diversion from his conquest of Gaul. Instead, it was his effort to establish the dynasties of the most powerful tribes of southeast Britain who would swear their loyalty to Rome.

Caesar demanded tribute and hostages to be raised in Roman households. The acculturation of the British rulers’ children heavily influenced their adoption of Roman beliefs when they returned as adult to their homeland. Archaeological findings suggest that there was a Roman military presence in Britannia to protect the empire’s interests prior to Claudius’ invasion. 

Hence, the political situation for tribal rulers in Britannia was similar to Queen Cleopatra in Egypt. They were client rulers who enjoyed relationships with Rome that were essentially harmonious but unequal. In the Curse of Clansmen and Kings series, the struggle of Marcellus and Catrin to balance their forbidden love and duty will drive the political intrigue leading up to Roman Emperor Caligula’s ambition to conquer Britannia.

One of the most fascinating aspects of the Druids that I learned in my research is their belief that the soul is immortal and can transmigrate between different animal species. Julius Caesar wrote that Celtic warriors did not fear death because they believed in reincarnation and that their souls can occupy another body after death. I expanded the concept of the soul to explain Catrin’s mystical abilities to shapeshift, to enter a raven’s mind, and to summon forces of nature from the Otherworld—the world of the dead.

Future Books in Series

Dagger’s Destiny (Book 2) and Amulet’s Rapture (Book 3) in the Curse of Clansmen and Kings series have also been released. Skull’s Vengeance (Book 4) is anticipated to be released in 2021, followed by the final book, Raven’s Sacrifice.

Linnea Tanner 
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About the Author

Award-winning Author Linnea Tanner weaves Celtic tales of love, magic, adventure, betrayal, and intrigue into historical fiction set in Ancient Rome and Britannia. Since childhood, she has passionately read about ancient civilizations and mythology which held women in higher esteem. Of particular interest are the enigmatic Celts who were reputed as fierce warriors and mystical Druids. As the author of the Curse of Clansmen and Kings series, she has extensively researched and traveled to sites in the United Kingdom and France which are described within each book. To learn more about the author and her books, you can visit her website at https://www.linneatanner.com/ and find her on Twitter @linneatanner

31 May 2020

Book Launch: Living in Medieval England: The Turbulent Year of 1326, by Kathryn Warner

New on Amazon UK and Amazon US

1326 was one of the most dramatic years in English history. The queen of England, Isabella of France, invaded the country with an army of mercenaries to destroy her husband's powerful and detested lover, Hugh Despenser the Younger, and brought down her husband King Edward II in the process. 

It was also a year, however, when the majority of English people carried on living their normal, ordinary lives: Eleyne Glaswreghte ran her own successful glass-making business in London, Jack Cressing the master carpenter repaired the beams in a tower of Kenilworth Castle, Alis Coleman sold her best ale at a penny and a half for a gallon in Byfleet, and Will Muleward made the king 'laugh greatly' when he spent time with him at a wedding in Marlborough. 

One of the 93 pages of Edward II's last chamber account
(the author's main source for the book)

England sweltered in one of the hottest, driest summers of the Middle Ages, a whale washed ashore at Walton-on-the-Naze, and the unfortunate John Toly died when he relieved himself out of the window of his London house at midnight, and lost his balance. _

Living in Medieval England: The Turbulent Year of 1326_ tells the true and fascinating stories of the men and women alive in England in this most eventful year, narrated chronologically with a chapter devoted to each month.

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About the Author

Kathryn Warner grew up in the Lake District in the north-west of England, and gained a BA and an MA with Distinction in medieval history and literature from the University of Manchester. She is a specialist in the history of the fourteenth century and has been researching and writing about Edward II's reign since 2004, and has run a blog about him since December 2005. Find out more at Kathryn's blog and find her on Twitter @RoyneAlianore

See Also:

Blood Roses: The Houses of Lancaster and York before the Wars of the Roses, by Kathryn Warner

Guest Post by Crispina Kemp, Author of The Spinner’s Game Series

Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

The Spinner’s Child, Book 1 of The Spinner’s Game

Spliced with dark material, sprinkled with the mystical, Kerrid journeys through the timeless first days… and into the Spinner’s Web. Cursed, friendless and shunned, fraudulent seer Kerrid, born of a fisher-hunter clan, holds two beliefs. That in her psychic abilities and exuded light she is unique, and as Voice of the Lady she’s exempt from an arranged marriage. Both convictions are shattered when nine boats arrive from the east carrying the ancient Chief Uissinir who wants her for his wife, and five of his sons who emit lights and share tricks like her own. Forced to make an unwise judgement, a trail of death follows.

But questions plague her. Why does she dream of babies dying? Why does a voice in her head taunt her: Suffer the loss, suffer the pain? And what is she that no matter how lethal the wound, she does not die? What is she to kill with a thought?

The five books of The Spinner’s Game, set in the between-time, when hunter-gatherers turned to settled agriculture, when spirits and demons morphed to gods, takes Kerrid’s story across continents and weaves through ages fraught with floods and droughts to become the prototype of our most ancient myths.

Kerrid. In the Beginning

Kerrid as a concept was born way back in 2006 as the antagonist in an alternative narrative of the change from Neolithic to Bronze Age (The Hare and the Adder, still on back-burner). In the process of writing, I realised that Kerrid needed a backstory to explain her presence at the westernmost edge of Europe, her longevity and powers, and why she was set against the story’s MC. Thus, began The Spinner’s Game, to provide that backstory. It wasn’t intended as a five-book series.

In the Beginning, its first working title, grew from a single volume, to a trilogy. By then I’d realised that an unknown writer with a trilogy set in the mists of prehistory hadn’t a chance of acceptance by a traditional publisher, and as yet KDP was still in its infancy. In November 2012 I decided to post the trilogy, now renamed Feast Fables, to blog. Meanwhile I was writing additional stories set in the same milieu and sharing some of the characters.

It took three years to post that trilogy. And I still wasn’t content. It was ‘out there’, but it wasn’t widely seen. I took a deep breath and plunged into prepping for Kindle publication. In the process what had been the Feast Fables trilogy became the five-books of The Spinner’s Game – The Spinner’s Child, Lake of Dreams, The Pole That Threads, Lady of First Making and The Spinner’s Sin.

On the Matter of Names

Keen as I am on Celtic mythology, it’s no surprise that I named Kerrid for the Welsh goddess Cerridwen, and that before I created her story. Cerridwen has a Cauldron of Inspiration, which is also the cauldron of rebirth and immortality. It suits my Lady Kerrid.

As to The Spinner… I love word-play and have a passion for textiles. I liked that The Spinner might be a spider spinning its web or she might be the person who spins thread from the fleece. If the latter, that spinner spins a yarn… i.e. a tale. If the former, that spider spins a web to entangle, delay, hold captive, and ultimately to devour. I liked that the Spinner might be both creator and destroyer. The word ‘web’ too is loaded with imagery. The Spinner’s Game is woven through with this imagery.

The Mythological Framework for The Spinner’s Game

The entirety of The Spinner’s Game is a myth, taken apart, twisted, spun and woven anew. I enjoyed creating the fables that feature throughout, an amalgamation of many the myths I have read over the years, distilled to their essence and simplified.

What’s the difference between a fable and a myth? A myth is a story, a fable is something said at the time of the feast. At Christmas we talk of Santa, his flying reindeer, his helpful elves, but there is no story. At Easter, we say of the Easter Bunny hiding its eggs. At Halloween, we speak of witches and goblins and the awakening dead. While these have roots in ancient rituals and beliefs, they are not myths. They are feast fables. And so too with Kerrid’s people. Everyone knew the Lady’s sons had cut up their mother to make the world, but few knew the underlying myth.

Before the belief in the gods, there was a belief in an all-pervading ‘Spirit’, a belief that today is regaining ground in the West while it never really diminished in non-industrialised societies. For Kerrid’s people that belief includes the notion of agency in which Spirit, now coalesced into discrete entities, is able to act of its own volition. With the relevant gifts, these discrete entities – divines – might be made to act on the donor’s behalf. But who knows which gifts might oblige them? While knowledge of the more common gifts – e.g. a slop of brew for the Lady of the Hills will keep her sweet and not convulsing – anything out of the ordinary requires a specialist. Those specialists – call them shaman, witchdoctors, wisemen – while feared, were also revered. As The Spinner’s Child opens, Kerrid is acclaimed a Seer; this keeps her safe, for the alternative is she’s demon-possessed. And the role of a demon is to destroy. As Kerrid says, it’s what they do. They cause disease and rot.

Plans for the Future

As already said, there are five more books that share some of the characters from The Spinner’s Game, three are set in the same milieu, two are time-slip fantasies that move between medieval and contemporary setting. The first of the time-slips, Learning to Fly, is now with beta readers; I hope to publish in time for Christmas 2020. Meanwhile I’m revising Alsalda, a story which, along with another as yet untitled, replaces that long-ago Hare and Adder.

Crispina Kemp
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About the Author

Crispina Kemp says, 'Failing to find a place on the space programme – to boldy go – I turned my vision inwards to a study of psychology and exploration of spirituality. This encouraged an outward journey to explore this wonderful world, its peoples, its beliefs, but mostly its pasts. From the exploration I returned with the core of my writing. But, for the more mundane-minded: For a shy child with a speech problem, the written word came as a release, enabling me to express myself without being asked, ‘Eh? What did you say? Say again?’ I wrote my first ‘proper’ story when I was nine. A gothic offering to scare my friends. Since then, there has been scarcely a day when I haven’t been busy writing. Novels. The short story form doesn’t appeal to me, although over recent months I have posted micro-fiction on my blog. In my early teens, I visited Grimes Graves, the Neolithic flint mines in Norfolk. The following summer, I visited Stonehenge in Wiltshire. Thence began a lifelong interest in the archaeology of prehistory. The study of myths and legends seemed a natural progression, and from there to linguistics (despite my inability to pronounce the words). Resident in Norfolk (UK) where my roots dig deep, my regular rambles into the surrounding countryside provide balance to the cerebral… and ample subjects for my camera.' Find out more at Crispina's website https://crispinakemp.com and follow her on Twitter @crispinakemp1