Reading 2017: Importance of Book Covers (from the IndieBRAG Cover Contest Series)

A few months back I visited with Stephanie, who at that time helped organize indieBRAG‘s cover contest. It was another opportunity for me to chat about book covers and the role they play in my reading and blogging, and it was a lot of fun!

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Book cover layouts play an important role in the overall presentation of stories, and often times readers first judge a book by its cover. This year indieBRAG has put together a cover contest of books chosen by the indieBRAG Team. These covers were chosen based on several factors including; 1) professionalism 2) visual appeal 3) creativity and 4) fit with the story/genre.

This week we have asked the ladies of the indieBRAG Interview Team to discuss with us the importance of book covers, what they like, want to see more of and so on. Today Lisl talks with us about this.

Lisl, on the scale one to five, how important are book covers to you?

I’d probably say in between four and five. Though I add the caveat that there have been books with solid color covers I’ve enjoyed. If a work’s premise appeals to me, I won’t not read it because of a dull jacket, but it is so that such a cover lessens the chances I’ll be drawn closer and discover the richness between the pages.

Why are they important to you?

A fantastic cover often draws me to a book, even from across a room (or stack). It will make a statement or offer some insight or perspective to the story, or even provide food for further thought that wasn’t necessarily addressed in the book, at least not directly. Sometimes it’s just beautiful or striking in a way that makes me want to experience the pleasure of simply taking it in.

What do you not like in book covers?

Despite my comment above about solid covers, I really don’t care for them. They’re bland and don’t provide any kind of visual peek into the world the story’s characters inhabit, which I really love. I can understand an author preferring not to have images of characters; some want to leave that visualization up to reader interpretation, and I respect that. However, not to have any image, pattern or design detracts from the experience of reading a book—reading the cover is an integral part of the event. The lacking even strikes me as a bit lazy.

What would you like to see more of in covers?

Hmmm … I wasn’t really sure how to answer this at first, so I did a quick examination of five covers I especially like. One, for 1066: What Fates Impose, by Glynn Holloway, is fairly straightforward, with minimal but forceful design that takes a stand, replicating the martial tone threaded throughout the novel. The image on Sarah Bruce Kelly’s Vivaldi’s Muse is the partial reproduction of a Lefebvre painting, which in particular sets a tone, with its creative beauty and expression, and absolutely spot-on colors, that exactly matches the personality of the historical character portrayed within—plus it’s a picture not often seen within the reproductive market (greeting cards, coasters, books, etc.) The other three show images with lots of detail and space for commentary on the themes: Anna Belfrage’s A Rip in the Veil’s girl walking away from the viewer is surrounded by a host of detail meaningful to the theme, as is the warrior on Paula Lofting’s Sons of the Wolf (first edition). And finally, Annie Whitehead designed a magnificent cover for Alvar the Kingmaker that reflects—literally even, what with items mirrored in a crown’s arch—contemplations of the past and present for the people involved, as well as their future and that of others: strands of life that touch multiple lives, including those yet to come, in this world and the next.

Despite the various styles these book covers all have, it’s easy to recognize that the statements made by or the reading of them provide strong and meaningful links to what happens within the narratives. The characters might even recognize themselves or something close to their identity within the images, and if that’s the case, then surely it is all the more striking for a reader. Moreover, the various styles of these covers indicate that there are many ways to achieve this intimacy and insight. 

So I suppose the short(er) answer would be that I’d really love to see covers with more connection to the people and places that populate the books. Their lives and events depicted meant enough to put them to paper, so why not go all the way?

How many books have you read this year thus far? 

Well, 34 to be precise, though I confess I haven’t even looked at one portion of my goal (sci-fi), which focuses more on genre this year than numbers.

Do you participate in cover contests by voting for your favorite? 

I would if I knew about them! I love examining and interpreting covers, though it is true I haven’t been online quite as much recently as in the past, so I’m sure I miss a lot. Which is why I was so excited to learn about indieBRAG’s contest—even as an observer.

When writing a book review do you consider the covers to be part of your rating the book?

Truth be told, I’m not in love with star ratings, and don’t use them (except within online social cataloging sites that make me, in order to post reviews). My reviews tend to be non-linear and contain a touch of the analytical; how much I enjoyed each work can be determined by my words. But as a more direct answer, I typically don’t talk about covers, at least not at great length. This is partly because my entries are a bit longer than many other reviews, and adding too much more might on occasion become a bit weighty for some readers. Also, for better or worse, not all books have covers that bear much discussion.

How much do you blog per week and how much do you talk about book covers?

Also for better or worse, my blogging has to be scheduled around my family and work, so I don’t have a set number of entries per week, though I try to do at least one. (That doesn’t always happen!) I have done a couple of cover crushes, after the practice initiated by a fellow blogger and indieBRAG reviewer, and would love to do more. Sometimes I make mention of covers in reviews, though for the reasons stated above I don’t always.

It’s been great chatting with you, Stephanie, about book covers—and as always, I thoroughly enjoyed the get-together!

A pleasure, Lisl! Thank you for visiting today.

Link to another interview with Lisl here.

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Well, my book count has increased since this interview originally published, and you can see what I’ve read here (and what I’m still reading, here). I do confess, however, I remain behind in my sci-fi ….

Also, you won’t want to miss: Stephanie’s blog, Layered Pages, and her fun new endeavor, Novel Expressions, a Facebook page that in January shall be expanding into a blog well worth marking your calendar for. She’ll be partnering with Erin, whose own blog, Flashlight Commentary, is birthplace of the cover crush spoken of above. 

Previous entries in the Reading 2017 series:

Readers’ Chat with Stephanie Hopkins

Origins of the Challenge

Reading Challenge 2017

New Genre Library (True Crime): Murder in Greenwich

The Importance of Book Covers (Book Blogger Group Chat)

New Genre Library (Graphic Novel): The Metamorphosis

New Genre Library is a three-part spinoff series of Reading 2017

Upcoming:

New Genre Library (Science fiction): Title TBA

And a fun entry to round out the year!

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950: 1066 Remembered, Interview: Glynn Holloway

1066: What Fates Impose is a recipient of The Wishing Shelf Book Awards Gold Medal 2014 (click image for more about the author)

Nearly a thousand years ago today—951, to be exact—a battle took place at Stamford Bridge at East Riding of Yorkshire, between the English King Harold Godwinson and Norwegian Harald Hardrada. Though the Norwegian was aided by the English king’s brother Tostig, the victory went to Harold. Icelandic historian, mythologist, poet and politician Snorri Sturluson writes that before the battle a lone man rides up to Harald and Tostig with a message that the latter could re-gain his lost earldom if he turns against Hardrada. Tostig asks what King Harald would gain from this. “Seven feet of English ground, as he is taller than other men,” comes the reply. Impressed by the now-departed rider’s fearlessness, Hardrada asks Tostig who the man was. Tostig tells him this was Harold Godwinson himself.

Harald and Tostig are both killed in battle and the Norse lose with such severity that only a couple of dozen ships out of their original fleet of some 300 are needed to transport survivors back home. Today author G.K. Holloway, who writes in 1066: What Fates Impose of King Harold in the time leading up to this fateful year, is off to re-enactment of the famous fight which, despite Harold’s win, influenced how the next battle in his struggle to save his country would turn out.

Glynn Holloway joins us today as we look back in time and discuss motivations of Harold as well as William. Why should we remember this era? What happened before and after Harold’s shipwreck? What drove William despite the law standing against him, and the others affected by all this: soldiers, civilians, families, survivors, those who came after? What did it all portend for them, for us? Holloway’s novel portrays both figures, as well as others, thoughtfully and with great care to the reality of how various events affected each other. He speaks today of Anglo-Saxon achievement and what they set out for us before their end, why they matter and how our remembrance of them gives them some justice. I posed some challenging questions, and Holloway takes them up, as in 1066: What Fates Impose, with both sensitivity and passion, the strength of his convictions shining through as he speaks for a people who can no longer do it for themselves.

Welcome, Glynn Holloway, and thanks so much for spending a bit of time again with us as we approach the end of our year-long observance of the 950th anniversary of 1066. It’s been a time of introspection, hard thought and contemplation, remembering all the people who lost their lives at the Battle of Hastings, and who survived – or didn’t – its aftermath. Your fantastic novel, 1066: What Fates Impose, really brings so much of that home for the modern reader, as well as what led up to it all.

Your bio mentions being gifted Ian W. Walker’s The Last Anglo-Saxon King, which inspired you to research and write about the time yourself. Had you learned about it before and wanted to delve deeper? Or was it a cold call, so to speak, in terms of titles?

When my wife, Alice, bought me Walker’s book I had no more idea than the average person about what was happening in England before the Norman Invasion. Walker’s book opened my eyes and made me want to know more. The more I researched the more I wanted to know. Eventually, I thought the end of the Anglo-Saxon era one of the most interesting and exciting epochs ever. I was amazed no one had made an epic film or book about the period. So, I decided to do it myself. 1066: What Fates Impose is the result.

In writing about historical figures, what cautions did you come up against, from yourself and others? What are the ethics of writing about people who really lived?

My main concern is keeping as close to what is known of the facts as I can. No one knows everything about events that led up to the Battle of Hastings. We know quite a lot, the approximate number of soldiers on each side, whose army was filled with professionals, whose was not, who had archers, who did not, etc. Where the history becomes foggy, and there’s quite a bit of fog in the eleventh century, are places like Harold’s reason for journeying to Normandy, how he became shipwrecked, what were the circumstances of his oath swearing to William. This is where the fiction comes in but even so, I tried to keep the story within the bounds of reality. Keep the story real and balanced. If your subject is genuinely exciting, you shouldn’t need to ‘spice it up’ too much. Portray the characters as accurately as possible, even the villains deserve that, and the story should be better for being more ‘real.’ And finally, on a different note, I feel that writers of historical fiction owe it to their readers to present the history as accurately as they can otherwise we’re in danger of obscuring real events and characters and if that happens, then we won’t know what really happened in the past and it follows from there that we won’t know who we are or how we got here.

Whether writing about them or not, do you feel we owe something to Harold Godwinson and the others he fought with and against?

Memorial stone & plaque commemorating the Battle of Stamford Bridge, September 1066. The memorial overlooks the site of the Stamford Bridge battlefield, at the end of Whiterose Drive, a modern residential street, by Æthelred [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons (click image)
Do we owe something to Harold Godwinson? Well, he laid down his life for his kingdom and his people. A cynic would perhaps say, well, he owned a massive chunk of the country, so he was only fighting in his self-interest. For the following reasons, I don’t believe that to be true. William offered Harold his daughter’s hand in marriage, she would be Harold’s queen and their descendants would rule after them. This would mean Harold would have to betray/disinherit his family with Edith Swan-neck but he and his descendants with William’s daughter would continue his dynasty. But Harold didn’t take up the offer.

What convinces me of Harold’s sincerity, is his eagerness to get into Sussex in 1066 when William and his army arrived. He took his responsibilities as lord and protector seriously. He left London too early because he felt he’d let down the people on his estates and wanted to defend them. His brother, Gyrth, wanted to implement slash and burn tactics around Hastings to starve out the Normans. Harold would have none of it. He saw it as his duty to protect his tenants, not destroy their livelihoods. Naturally, my respect goes out to Harold’s followers but as to those he fought against, the bulk of them were just out to feather their own nests and this they did with zest.

Is there anything you think Harold could have done or not done that might have changed the outcome of the Battle of Hastings? What helped William the most?

I think Harold’s biggest mistake was not to wait a day or two longer before setting out from London. Having just travelled up to Stamford Bridge, battled against the biggest Viking army to land in England, before returning south, exhausting his forces in the process. If he had waited just that couple of days, Earls Edwin and Morcar would have marched down to Senlac with him, his men would have had a little more rest. That probably would have swung it for him.

What helped William the most? Luck. I don’t say that lightly. William’s first attempt at invading England came sometime around 12th September and ended in disaster. A storm had blown up in the Channel and blown his fleet onto the shores of Ponthieu. It could easily have been worse and his armada might have ended up at the bottom of the sea.

What I will give William credit for is his organizational skills. Putting the army together, building a navy to carry it across the sea is quite a feat, as is supplying his forces for a month while he waited in Dives for a favourable wind to come along. He also had political guile. Gaining the support of the Pope was a master stroke and helped draw additional support for his campaign from many countries north of the Alps.

Knowing Harold and William as you do, what do you think each would have thought of your portrayal of him?

I don’t think William would be too pleased. I portray him as cruel. There are some people who would tell you, this is in the medieval period, things were barbaric but for the harrying of the north alone, and by harrying, I mean genocide, he was more barbaric than any other king of England. I’d point to this for those who say William was no worse than the rest and don’t forget, his contemporaries thought him cruel, so he must have been cruel, even by the standards of the time.

Was he honest or a liar? He had no claim to the English throne. Under English law, the king had to be of royal blood, legitimately born and elected by the Witan. Under Norman law, the title was inherited by primogeniture, i.e. down the male line. William wasn’t eligible under either law, but he claimed the throne anyway. Why?

I think he may have been offered it by someone. If may have been King Edward or perhaps Archbishop Robert de Jumieges. Whoever it was, it wasn’t theirs to offer. But I think William thought he was in the right. He wouldn’t much appreciate me pointing out his error.

I think Harold might well like my depiction of him. He comes across as what he was, handsome, courageous, intelligent, a great leader of men and a good king. He is also not without faults. According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, he had a tendency to ‘dally and he was too liberal.’ So, not too bad then.

A king and his Witan – from the eleventh-century Old English Hexateuch [British Library] (click image) An entire system of succession and society existed long before the Normans.
If given the opportunity, would you agree to meet with Harold in life? What about William? What would you say to them, and what do you reckon they might say to you? Would you be interested in an encounter with Harold’s ghost? (I don’t think it would be at all like William’s, as portrayed in 1066: What Fates Impose!)

It would be fascinating to meet with Harold in real life. I’d ask him all those what if questions. Where he thought he went wrong. What would he do differently if he had the opportunity? As for William, I think that would be a bit scary but I’d love to know why he really thought he was entitled to the English crown.

Do you think it would matter to either one that we know their history (even long before 1066), or that we believe in the rightness of what either of them did?

I think they would both want to be seen as doing the right thing and be recognised for doing so. I think Harold would be particularly keen to know what we, 950 years after the event, thought of the oath he swore to William and if anyone thought it binding.

What about the ordinary people, combatants and non-combatants alike? Do you think it would matter to them that we know what happened and how they suffered? What considerations do you feel they are entitled to?

Nobody likes to be forgotten and to suffer and have no one know or care would be hurtful in the extreme. I think it would matter to them we know and care. It’s as close as they’ll get to justice.

Do you believe enough Anglo-Saxon history is taught in schools today? What would you say to people unconvinced that this history is worth learning about? (Or to people overwhelmed at the thought of studying this period?)

No, I don’t think enough Anglo-Saxon history is taught in schools today. I wouldn’t be surprised if more people know about Anglo-Saxon history from reading Bernard Cornwell’s novels, or TV adaptations, than anything taught in a classroom. Anglo-Saxon history, to many, is the Dark Ages. The Romans left, the lights went out, then the Normans came and switched them on again. While the lights were out the Vikings took advantage, and robbed the churches from the feeble Anglo-Saxons who did nothing much to defend themselves.

The Anglo-Saxons laid the foundations for England and established a proto-democracy with a first-rate administration to back it up. Their society was relatively wealthy and cultured. All this is passed by. You can buy wall charts in England with all the Kings of England represented, starting with William in 1066. I can’t tell you how annoying I find it.

Do any of the characters or historical figures speak to you?

No, they don’t. I can visualize them easily enough and imagine them interacting with each other quite clearly. But no, they don’t talk to me. Heaven only knows what they’d say if they did.

Do you think one could be an effective writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?

I think a writer is most effective when writing about what they know. So, if you don’t feel emotions strongly, it’s going to be difficult to write about them. My book is historical fiction. It’s all very well researching the history but for people to really engage they need to feel the fear, lust, love, hate, sympathy, etc. A lot of people have told me when they were reading 1066, in the final battle at Hastings, they really wanted Harold to win, even though they knew how it would end. I think that’s, in part, because I feel passionate about the era and what went on and that is conveyed in the story telling.

How do you balance being reader and writer friendly? For example, how do you know or decide how much background information to add and how, so that readers are not put off by either a perceived sense of being “spoon fed” or left hanging by lack of information?

You’ve asked me some interesting questions and this is the most difficult. All I can say is I write what I’d like to read. I can be quite certain my readers would like to know some details about the history, clothes, jewellery, weapons, etc. They wouldn’t be reading historical fiction if they felt otherwise. But where to draw the line? I try to weave things together so I’ll try and merge a scene, say, in a mead hall, with the customs, the kind of food and type of dance by presenting a single scene and not a series of mini lectures. Hopefully, if I’ve done my job right, while the reader learns a little about Anglo-Saxon life they’ll read an interesting scene which moves the story along.

Do you perform all your research before putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard, as it were)? Or do you periodically dip back in the archives? Do you go on research trips?

I do the bulk of my research before I start typing but then I’ll come across something that I feel needs flushing out or is more interesting than I first imagined, so then I’ll research around the topic. In 1066, it was herbal medicine, horn dances, sword manufacture, falconry, Anglo-Saxon horse breeding and pagan wedding ceremonies, to name a few.

Research trips, for me, are essential. All the places I’ve written about, I’ve visited, except Norway, and that was because my wife became ill the day we were due to leave. I know they’ve changed a bit since the eleventh century but you get a feel for the places and the lie of the land, whether it be Falaise Castle in Normandy, or Bosham in Sussex.

Why did Harold go to Normandy? Had Edward promised William the throne? Was he now rescinding the offer? Was this an attempt to rescue Wolfnoth and Hakon? Scene 1 of the Bayeux Tapestry. King Edward the Confessor sends Harold Godwinson to Normandy. By Myrabella CC0, via Wikimedia Commons (click image)

What is one thing you would give up to become a better writer?

Twitter.

What does literary success look like to you?

My experience of literary success, if you can call it that, is some great reviews. Someone telling me my book is brilliant (yes, it has happened and more than once). In a word, recognition.

When not writing what do you like to read? What is your favorite underappreciated novel? Nonfiction?

I switch between novels and history books. My favourite underappreciated novel is The Boy with No Shoes, by William Horwood. It’s a beautiful evocation of a boy’s tough childhood in 1950s/60s England.

A few fun questions:

What’s your guilty pleasure?

Pies! I love them.

Are you a morning person?

These days I am but I never used to be.

What do you find difficult to throw away?

Lots of things but I have noticed I have a boundless collection of socks, most of them are full of holes.

What song would you listen to on a loop?

Van Morrison, “Have I Told You Lately?”

Do you prefer dogs or cats?

I like dogs but prefer cats.

Thanks so much, Glynn, for taking time to chat with us and I hope we will see lots more of you!

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Mark your calendar for these events with author Glynn Holloway:

Remainder 2017

Book signing at The Bookshop in East Grinstead on 30th September

Book signing at the Morley Arts Festival on 7th October (10:00 – 4:00).

2018

Hawksbury Upton Indie Lit Fest, Gloucestershire, 21 April 2018 (10:00 – 5:30).

Llangollen Red Dragon Festival, Wales, 18/20 May 2018.

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Per Glynn Holloway, Summer of 2018 should see the publication of the sequel to 1066.  You can sign up for the author’s newsletter at his blog, and keep up with new dates added to his calendar, as well as news about his upcoming sequel. Also,  follow him on Facebook and Twitter. 1066: What Fates Impose is available for purchase at Amazon and Amazon UK. He is also a contributor to 1066: Turned Upside Down.  

Author Glynn Holloway writes …

gk-hollowayI’ve always liked stories ever since I was a kid and not fussy about what format they came in; whether it be stories read out loud on the radio, TV, comics, books or films, I still get great pleasure in listening to people telling me their own stories, whether it be at a bus stop or some heart to heart conversation, whatever. When other people get bored or impatient at the supermarket checkout, I find myself picking out other customers and working out their back stories or develop a character in a novel. I just love stories, so, I suppose, it’s only natural that I tell stories as well as listen to them. The only people I didn’t listen to were teachers – unless they taught history, literature or Bible stories.

Being dyslexic, I never really read much, until, at the age of eight, I ended up in hospital with appendicitis. Lying in a hospital bed is pretty boring and as there was no TV in hospital wards in those days, I read through all the comics I could get my hands on. So my Mum brought me in a couple of books and that’s what got me into reading. In my teens I progressed through every Biggles book ever published to Penguin Modern Classics and most of what they had to offer.

After leaving school I became a compositor on a local newspaper; trained in a job that should have seen me set for life. Along came photo-film-setting and I watched as printing changed overnight and saw a machine doing the job of half a dozen men in a fraction of the time they could. I knew this was just the beginning of the end for me and decided to get myself an education and a different career. Studying O Levels and A Levels part-time at the local technical college, I went on to take a history and politics degree in Coventry.

air-detectiveFrom Coventry I went to Bristol, studied to be a Careers Officer, worked in Gloucestershire in schools, colleges and Adult Education, before becoming a Student Welfare Officer.

What made me write? My wife, Alice, bought me a book for Christmas, which I just loved. It was called Harold: The Last Anglo Saxon King, by Ian W Walker and it shone a light into the dark recesses of history I knew little about. I found the whole period so fascinating I just read more and more about it. In fact, I found the whole era so exciting I couldn’t believe it hadn’t been covered more in films, TV, books, etc. (think Tudors). ‘Somebody ought to write a novel about this,’ I thought and decided that somebody ought to be me. Fortunately, things worked out in such a way I was able to realise my dream. The rest is historical fiction.

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Click here for my review of 1066: What Fates Impose, and here for links to previous entries in our “950: 1066 Remembered” series. Stay tuned for our closing entry coming in October.

 

950: 1066 Remembered, Excerpt: 1066: What Fates Impose

Welcome once more to “950: 1066 Remembered,” our series commemorating the year of the Norman Conquest, 950 years ago. This year of three kings saw King Edward the Confessor die in January, succeeded by the Witenagemot-elected Earl Harold Godwinson, styled Harold II. Harold reigned until bitterly defeated at the Battle of Hastings on October 14, following which Duke William of Normandy, leader of the invasion, fought resistance to seize the crown and ascend to the throne on this day of that fateful year in English history.

There’s no doubt 1066 was a year jam packed with events, large and small, that contributed to a year of turmoil for all involved, even long after Christmas Day, when the foreign invader was crowned at Westminster Abbey. So it is not difficult to understand how one episode, the death of William the Bastard 21 years following the invasion, impacted those of the era.

In today’s excerpt award-winning author Glynn Holloway gives us a personal view to a close encounter illustrating how William himself may have been affected by his own actions in the field and as the king he became, or rather, that he created. Especially given his historically reported words of regret, it isn’t a stretch to imagine he may have been afflicted with a doubt that hung over him until his death. Or was this really his own conscience?

bayeuxtapestryscene37
Bayeux Tapestry, Scene 37: The Normans prepare for the invasion of England. (Wikimedia Commons) (click image)   

From 1066: What Fates Impose by G. K. Holloway

Wishing Shelf Book Awards Gold Medal Winner for 2014

Rouen, Normandy 1087

In his bed, the king who can never be killed lies dying. The old hag was right after all; he would not die on the battlefield. So, here he is, white haired and corpulent, waiting for fate to find him, while his courage deserts him and terror creeps through his being. He has made his confession and now makes the following pronouncement.

‘Having gained the throne of that kingdom by so many crimes I dare not leave it to anyone but God. I appoint no one as my heir to the Crown of England but leave it to the Eternal Creator, whose I am and who orders all things. For I did not attain that high honour by hereditary right but wrested it from the perjured King Harold in a desperate bloody battle.’

william-at-hastings
Bayeux Tapestry panel depicting Duke William at the Battle of Hastings; here he lifts his helmet to show that he is not dead as his troops had feared. (Wikimedia Commons) (click image)

He feels none of the expected relief from the burden of guilt that weighs him down, just remorse. Long forgotten memories buried deep in his mind, revived by guilt and foreboding form familiar characters; wretches who parade mockingly through his semi-conscious. In his delirium he watches a parade of aberrations. They jeer at him waving handless arms, some hobbling about on the stubs of their legs, their feet hacked off long since. With perverse delight the miserable creatures beckon him towards them, greeting him with rotten tooth smiles. Something about their diabolical welcome is irresistible to him. He cannot help but stare. Tears flow down his face. This is his first display of emotion since his coronation twenty-one years before, when he sat newly crowned on the throne at Westminster, trembling before the eyes of God.

Still fearful, still full of dread, he lies there in his hot damp bed breathing sour air, hoping for what exactly? He does not know. He is convinced the fate he has dreaded since childhood now awaits him. He will go to hell and burn there for all eternity.

He has made amends, adhered to the Christian faith and built fine churches. What more is he supposed to do? What he needs is a sign; a sign from God to tell him all is well, that he has forgiven him his transgressions. Is it too much to ask?

With the last of his strength he raises his head to look around the room. There are his sons, his brother, the bishop and . . . ‘Oh God, oh God Almighty. No not him! Not now!’ His voice rasps in his constricted throat and his eyes bulge as he is gripped by terror. Before him, unseen by the others, stands a warrior, tall and proud as an oak. Fresh from the battlefield, his lank and sweat soaked hair hangs down his shoulders, his once handsome face made ugly by an eyeless socket. More blood runs from a wound to his throat and another to his chest. As though to steady himself he leans on his battle-axe, resting his hands on its iron head. He stares impassively at William, with his single eye, blue and deep as the ocean, a stare made all the more intense by its singularity.

William has seen him, or thought he had seen him, a number of times over the years. Glimpsed in crowds or spotted in enemy lines but never before has he seen him so clearly, so close and for so long as he does now.

‘Have you come for me?’ he asks.

A trace of a smile appears on the face of the apparition, who turns swinging his axe over his shoulder, before stepping silently out of the room.

Hopelessness descends on the king and his temperature rises. Is he like a pagan king of old to be consumed by fire?

Then all is hot, black and silent.

what-fates-impose

To see my review for 1066: What Fates Impose, click here. For an exciting excerpt detailing the Battle of Stamford Bridge, click here.

We are also so pleased to announce that there is indeed a sequel for 1066: What Fates Impose in the pipeline, and it is slated for summer release. Keep your eyes peeled!

About the author ….

I’ve always liked stories ever since I was a kid and not fussy about what format they came in; whether it be stories read out loud on the radio, TV, comics, books or films, I still get great pleasure in listening to people telling me their own stories, whether it be at a bus stop or some heart to heart conversation, whatever. When other people get bored or impatient at the supermarket checkout, I find myself picking out other customers and working out their back stories or develop a character in a novel. I just love stories, so, I suppose, it’s only natural that I tell stories as well as listen to them. The only people I didn’t listen to were teachers – unless they taught history, literature or Bible stories.

Being dyslexic, I never really read much, until, at the age of eight, I ended up in hospital with appendicitis. Lying in a hospital bed is pretty boring and as there was no TV in hospital wards in those days, I read through all the comics I could get my hands on. So my Mum brought me in a couple of books and that’s what got me into reading. In my teens I progressed through every Biggles book ever published to Penguin Modern Classics and most of what they had to offer.

After leaving school I became a compositor on a local newspaper; trained in a job that should have seen me set for life. Along came photo-film-setting and I watched as printing changed overnight and saw a machine doing the job of half a dozen men in a fraction of the time they could. I knew this was just the beginning of the end for me and decided to get myself an education and a different career. Studying O Levels and A Levels part-time at the local technical college, I went on to take a history and politics degree in Coventry.

From Coventry I went to Bristol, studied to be a Careers Officer, worked in Gloucestershire in schools, colleges and Adult Education, before becoming a Student Welfare Officer.

What made me write? My wife, Alice, bought me a book for Christmas, which I just loved. It was called Harold: The Last Anglo Saxon King, by Ian W. Walker and it shone a light into the dark recesses of history I knew little about. I found the whole period so fascinating I just read more and more about it. In fact, I found the whole era so exciting I couldn’t believe it hadn’t been covered more in films, TV, books, etc. (think Tudors). ‘Somebody ought to write a novel about this,’ I thought, and decided that somebody ought to be me. Fortunately, things worked out in such a way I was able to realise my dream. The rest is historical fiction.

glynn-at-stsamford

You can sign up for Glynn Holloway’s newsletter at his blog, and follow him on Facebook and Twitter. 1066: What Fates Impose is available for purchase at Amazon and Amazon UK.

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950: 1066 Remembered, Excerpt: 1066: What Fates Impose (With Giveaway)

Today Glynn Holloway, author of 1066: What Fates Impose, graces our pages with a passage from his novel–and a tense moment he shows us. In remembering the cataclysmic events of 1066 we look back at the day King Harold, having left troops guarding the English coast against invasion from the east, rushes north to stave off another one there. Harald Sigurdsson, King of Norway, has defeated York and the two monarchs are about to face off. It is September 25, 1066 and as the armies are about to meet at the Battle of Stamford Bridge, Harold also faces his brother Tostig, who has allied himself with the foreign king. He keeps his wits about him, and somewhere along the line is mentioned the promise of “six feet of English earth.” If Harold prevails, where would it take him next?

See below for your chance to win a signed copy of this gripping, thrilling novel of a year like no other. 

Congratulations to Joanne Larner, winner of a free signed copy of G.K. Holloway’s 1066: What Fates Impose. The author has been notified and your book shall be on its way quite shortly!  

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At Stamford Bridge

A 19th century illustration for Harold Hardrada Saga, Heimskringla by Wilhelm Wetlesen (Wikimedia Commons) (click image)
A 19th century illustration for Harold Hardraada Saga, Heimskringla by Wilhelm Wetlesen (Wikimedia Commons) (click image)

In  the Viking camp by the side of the river, the Norsemen were in good heart, enjoying a glorious summer morning. The scene was bathed in a golden light that lifted the spirits. The earth was still dry and cracked, even so late in the year. Most of the men had finished breakfast and were waiting for the hostages to arrive. Some of the soldiers were playing board games, some idly chatting and exchanging banter. A small group gathered on the riverside were throwing stones at a washtub, which had jammed itself in some reeds on the far riverbank, upstream from the bridge.

‘King Harald, after we have the hostages, what do you intend to do?’ asked Tostig, chewing on the last of his bread.

‘We’ll take them to Riccal, and then we’ll go to London.’

‘When you’ve . . .’

‘What’s that,’ Harald interrupted, ‘on the ridge up there?’

Tostig looked across the river to the top of the valley. There on the skyline, underneath a cloud, he could see bright flashes and glints.

‘Does that look like ice to you, Tostig?’

By now, most of Sigurdsson’s soldiers could see what their king was looking at but none could make it out.

‘No, it’s sunlight catching on something,’ said the earl.

‘It looks like ice.’

‘It can’t be; it’s much too hot. It’s metal. It’s the sun catching on metal.’

‘That cloud is dust. That’s the dust kicked up by an army. The sun must be catching on their swords and armour. This means trouble, Tostig.’

‘Well, it might mean trouble but then again, it might not.’

‘That’s not very helpful, Tostig,’ growled Sigurdsson, glaring at him.

‘It might mean some of my kinsmen have come to welcome you. The word must be out that York fell easily into your hands; perhaps they’ve come seeking mercy and friendship.’

The Viking camp looked full of statues as everyone stopped and stared at the horizon; as they did so the vision on the ridge grew bigger.

‘King Harald,’ said Tostig, looking concerned, ‘I think that’s the English army. Why don’t we retreat to the ships at Riccal?’

Battle of Stamford bridge (Wikimedia Commons) (click image)
Battle of Stamford Bridge (Wikimedia Commons) (click image)

‘I didn’t come all this way just to run away at the first sign of trouble. We can handle this lot. What we’ll do Tostig, is send three men on our fastest horses to Riccal to fetch help. It’ll be the Englishmen who’ll have the biggest surprize of the day.’

‘It’s your decision,’ Tostig said. ‘I’ve no wish to retreat, either.’

Sigurdsson gave him a cutting look, then ordered three men to ride to Riccal and a dozen more of his finest berserkers to cross to the York side of the river to defend the bridge. While his men donned their armour, Sigurdsson planned to cross the river to pay King Harold a visit.

The horses were brought up and Tostig mounted effortlessly; Sigurdsson lost his footing in the stirrup and fell to the ground with a thud. Embarrassed but unharmed, he rose to his feet and with his second attempt climbed into the saddle. With a small troop behind them, he and Tostig made their way across the bridge and rode boldly to where the English army lay poised on the ridge.

On his side of the River, Harold saw Sigurdsson fall from his horse.

‘Does anyone know who that man is, the one in the blue tunic, wearing the fancy helmet?’

‘That’s Harald Sigurdsson himself,’ answered the ealdorman.

‘He’s certainly a big man,’ said Harold, ‘but I don’t think this will be his lucky day.’

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Author Glynn Holloway is so generously gifting a signed copy of 1066: What Fates Impose to one lucky winner. For your chance to win the contest, simply comment below OR at our Facebook page, located here, and your name will be entered into the drawing. Good luck!!!

Drawing November 15

(Please be sure to leave contact info in the event you are our winner!!)

To read the review for 1066: What Fates Impose, click here

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Author Glynn Holloway also writes …

gk-hollowayI’ve always liked stories ever since I was a kid and not fussy about what format they came in; whether it be stories read out loud on the radio, TV, comics, books or films, I still get great pleasure in listening to people telling me their own stories, whether it be at a bus stop or some heart to heart conversation, whatever. When other people get bored or impatient at the supermarket checkout, I find myself picking out other customers and working out their back stories or develop a character in a novel. I just love stories, so, I suppose, it’s only natural that I tell stories as well as listen to them. The only people I didn’t listen to were teachers – unless they taught history, literature or Bible stories.

Being dyslexic, I never really read much, until, at the age of eight, I ended up in hospital with appendicitis. Lying in a hospital bed is pretty boring and as there was no TV in hospital wards in those days, I read through all the comics I could get my hands on. So my Mum brought me in a couple of books and that’s what got me into reading. In my teens I progressed through every Biggles book ever published to Penguin Modern Classics and most of what they had to offer.

After leaving school I became a compositor on a local newspaper; trained in a job that should have seen me set for life. Along came photo-film-setting and I watched as printing changed overnight and saw a machine doing the job of half a dozen men in a fraction of the time they could. I knew this was just the beginning of the end for me and decided to get myself an education and a different career. Studying O Levels and A Levels part-time at the local technical college, I went on to take a history and politics degree in Coventry.

what-fates-imposeFrom Coventry I went to Bristol, studied to be a Careers Officer, worked in Gloucestershire in schools, colleges and Adult Education, before becoming a Student Welfare Officer.

What made me write? My wife, Alice, bought me a book for Christmas, which I just loved. It was called Harold: The Last Anglo Saxon King, by Ian W Walker and it shone a light into the dark recesses of history I knew little about. I found the whole period so fascinating I just read more and more about it. In fact, I found the whole era so exciting I couldn’t believe it hadn’t been covered more in films, TV, books, etc. (think Tudors). ‘Somebody ought to write a novel about this,’ I thought and decided that somebody ought to be me. Fortunately, things worked out in such a way I was able to realise my dream. The rest is historical fiction.

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(My favorite part of that: “That somebody ought to be me.”)

You can sign up for Glynn Holloway’s newsletter at his blog, and follow him on Facebook and Twitter. 1066: What Fates Impose is available for purchase at Amazon and Amazon UK.

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This post was updated to include blogger introductory corrections from final draft and date of drawing.

950: 1066 Remembered, Book Review: 1066: What Fates Impose

1066: What Fates Impose by G.K. Holloway

The Wishing Shelf Book Awards Gold Medal Winner 2014

what-fates-impose
1066: What Fates Impose is a Gold Medal winner for The Wishing Shelf Book Awards (2014) (click image)

Mention the year 1066 and most people, even if unaware of actual events, seem instinctively to know that something of great consequence happened. Having learned about it at school, I myself knew the basics but after that did not read much about it until several years ago. Still, seeing the cover of G.K. Holloway’s 1066: What Fates Impose stilled the moment a bit: resolutely straightforward, not unlike a steely glare, it communicates great import with such details as a Saxon shield and somber implications of a decided destiny.

The gist is this: while the new year dawns, King Edward the Confessor’s twilight looms, and being without an heir creates a considerable problem for England’s future. There is no shortage of contenders for the throne, though this decision—according to English custom and law of the time—is in the hands of the Witan, the king’s council. They choose Harold Godwinson, son of the late Earl Godwin of Wessex, and his coronation takes place on January 6, one day after Edward dies.

Across the channel in Normandy, Duke William is enraged. He claims Edward promised him the crown and that Harold pledged an oath to support his ascension. Vowing to take the throne, by force if necessary, William commences preparation for full invasion of England, further supported, though indirectly, by Norwegian King Harald Hardrada’s assertion that a treaty secures the crown, in fact, for him. Though King Harold emerges victorious in late September’s Battle of Stamford Bridge, where the Norwegian is killed, his army, distracted from forces gathering in the south, is spent. Nevertheless, they head toward William’s position, engage, and Harold falls on October 14.


In the clear black summer sky the stars and the golden moon shone brightly. On the breeze, the chords from someone’s lyre floated on the night air; the music mixed with the sound of the gentle breaking of the waves, forming a lullaby to send the warriors to sleep. 


It was no easy victory for William the Bastard. The Saxons put up a determined fight and are said to have menacingly chanted “Out! Out! Out!” at William’s forces as they faced the formidable Saxon shield wall. The duke had also had to secure support for the invasion, which came via Pope Alexander II, an endorsement that attracted forces in great number. As the year draws to a close, he ascends to the throne and is styled King William I, history later remembering him as William the Conqueror.

Though he was to face a series of rebellions in following years, 1066 covers these only in reference, albeit a powerful one. Holloway opens his novel at the end, depicting William pronouncing his deathbed confessions, owning up to ruthless slaughter of a magnitude most couldn’t imagine for its horror. Nearby stands the bloodied, battered apparition whom in life he last saw 21 years earlier, and who has haunted him ever since.

bayeuxtapestryscene52a
Battle of Hastings (Wikimedia Commons) (click image)

The author then brings us back in time to 1045 and the tale moves forward in linear fashion, point of view changes allowing us a clear pathway to characters’ perceptions and motives, with Harold Godwinson as the central figure. Holloway has a sharp and succinct manner with words, couching his phrases within passages that reveal strong observation and experience with human nature and its attendant habits.

Godwin looked thoughtful and a silence descended on the room. Over the years he had learned to be on his guard at the sight of Harold’s huge grin; it was genuine enough most of the time but his son had learned how to use it to disarm any reaction to bad news.

The author also crafts his dialogue in such a way that readers get a fuller sense of what others in various scenes often are missing: a glint in the eye, ever so slightly tilted head, raised eyebrow, knowing glance or sarcastic tone. This technique brings his characters’ words into sharper focus, gasp-inducing realization coming to the reader before it does to characters, creating a suspense hanging on the imminent revelation as well as the observation of a person unaware of the situation’s full extent.

As William and his 700-strong armada make their way across the channel, the duke outpacing his support, it is

… the warm morning sun on his face that woke him; that and the sounds of activity on deck.

 ’Good morning,’ he called to his comrades, over the sound of the gulls, the sea lapping the ship’s sides and the gentle wind slapping the sail.

 ‘Good morning,’ echoed the replies.

 ‘She’s a fine craft, the Mora, isn’t she?’ the Duke said to no one in particular.

 “Very fine, my Lord,’ replied Odo, with some obvious discomfort.

 ‘I see you’re feeling seasick too.’

 ‘It’s not that, my Lord. It’s just that I feel a little uneasy.’

 ‘Why do you feel uneasy? It’s not like you.’

 ‘It’s the fleet.’

 ‘What about the fleet?’

 ‘Where is it?’

 Holloway engages us in this playing with of various characters, but also teases it out to create another effect, this time with us, and in dual fashion. This particular scene lulls us to a calm rising indicated by the soothing sounds of water against the ship, the sun’s warm rays, admiration of the wonderful vessel the duke’s party sails in. The understanding we gain just before William does jars our perception, chilling the moment.

Additionally, we know the story of the historical Harold, and that William’s approach brings the king closer to his last day on earth. As events unfold, however, Holloway provides us with glimpses such as these that cause doubt to arise—perhaps Harold can make it after all. How, we might wonder, could someone who can’t keep track of his own ships hope to conquer an entire nation? It is a testament to the author’s storytelling expertise that in his hands the entire account is more than merely a series of episodes written out. For brief moments we feel we can believe that somehow he finds a way to alter the outcome; our hearts can remain unbroken.


‘I’ll not, at any price, deliver up my country and its people as a result of an oath obtained by trickery and deceit.’


Throughout the novel, though, this impression duels with the running theme of fate and free choice in opposition, perhaps best illustrated by the circumstances of Harold’s official marriage. He plans his actions deliberately and accordingly, but is still ensnared in a condition that seemed to already have been decided. Will the forces who control his destiny continue to steer him to that awful, fateful day?

As he tells his tale, Holloway relates events in a manner that could be identified as neutral, but which also play into the sense of suspense as we speculate as to who he is gunning for. At the Easter feast in 1053, table conversation perilously turns to yet another accusation from Edward regarding Godwin’s culpability in the death of his brother Alfred. In defiance Godwin cries out that if he is guilty, God would choke him; a moment later he smashes a piece of bread into his mouth, collapses and dies several days after.

It has been asserted that this account of Godwin’s death is Norman propaganda, and its inclusion points to Holloway’s method of relating events from both the English as well as Norman perspective, continuing our journey through the year uncertain as to how we will reach the end. It is a neutrality lending the story greater grip as it manages to keep us on the edge of our seats.


What Pomeroy relished as much as violence itself was the knowledge that inside his victims’ terror lived the faint, foolish hope that complete submission might lead to their lord sparing them. How little they understood his sport.  [W]hat delighted him most was the feasting of his eyes on his victims’ faces as they realised they were about to die and the fascinating fading away of the light in their eyes as their life drained from them.


Perhaps the best part of 1066: What Fates Impose is the dialogue. Lively, morose, revealing, engaging, informative and at times waggish, it brings characters to life and links them to others as well as us. The novel covers over two decades within which a rather extensive cast of characters appear. Owing to their numbers and familial links as well as contemporary attitudes dictating responses to events and the actions of others, a great deal of information is presented, and Holloway pulls it off succinctly and in an accessible manner. It is entertaining in its robustness and I would highly recommend it to anyone, naturally, interested in the Anglo-Saxon era or this most important year in English history. I would also, however, enthusiastically name it as a dramatic saga of passion and intrigue, fear and depravity, ego and ambition that just about any reader could get hooked into.

The conclusion of 1066 implies a sequel, and though I have ideas where Holloway might go with it, one really can’t be sure, though that is, as examined above, part of what makes this book so riveting. A brilliant portrait of a fascinating era that ended nearly a thousand years ago, Holloway’s ability to bring us there is all the more wondrous, and I look forward to reading more from this author—and hopefully very soon.

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Author Glynn Holloway writes …

gk-hollowayI’ve always liked stories ever since I was a kid and not fussy about what format they came in; whether it be stories read out loud on the radio, TV, comics, books or films, I still get great pleasure in listening to people telling me their own stories, whether it be at a bus stop or some heart to heart conversation, whatever. When other people get bored or impatient at the supermarket checkout, I find myself picking out other customers and working out their back stories or develop a character in a novel. I just love stories, so, I suppose, it’s only natural that I tell stories as well as listen to them. The only people I didn’t listen to were teachers – unless they taught history, literature or Bible stories.

Being dyslexic, I never really read much, until, at the age of eight, I ended up in hospital with appendicitis. Lying in a hospital bed is pretty boring and as there was no TV in hospital wards in those days, I read through all the comics I could get my hands on. So my Mum brought me in a couple of books and that’s what got me into reading. In my teens I progressed through every Biggles book ever published to Penguin Modern Classics and most of what they had to offer.

After leaving school I became a compositor on a local newspaper; trained in a job that should have seen me set for life. Along came photo-film-setting and I watched as printing changed overnight and saw a machine doing the job of half a dozen men in a fraction of the time they could. I knew this was just the beginning of the end for me and decided to get myself an education and a different career. Studying O Levels and A Levels part-time at the local technical college, I went on to take a history and politics degree in Coventry.

air-detectiveFrom Coventry I went to Bristol, studied to be a Careers Officer, worked in Gloucestershire in schools, colleges and Adult Education, before becoming a Student Welfare Officer.

What made me write? My wife, Alice, bought me a book for Christmas, which I just loved. It was called Harold: The Last Anglo Saxon King, by Ian W Walker and it shone a light into the dark recesses of history I knew little about. I found the whole period so fascinating I just read more and more about it. In fact, I found the whole era so exciting I couldn’t believe it hadn’t been covered more in films, TV, books, etc. (think Tudors). ‘Somebody ought to write a novel about this,’ I thought and decided that somebody ought to be me. Fortunately, things worked out in such a way I was able to realise my dream. The rest is historical fiction.

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 You can sign up for Glynn Holloway’s newsletter at his blog, and follow him on Facebook and Twitter. 1066: What Fates Impose is available for purchase at Amazon and Amazon UK

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A copy of 1066: What Fates Impose was provided to the blogger to facilitate an honest review. 

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This post has been updated to accommodate a new image from the Bayeux Tapestry with added caption

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