Thursday, February 23, 2017

Detecting Magic Book Tour & Giveaway

Detecting Magic with Dick Hunter:
The Mort des Hommes Files
by A. Jarrell Hayes
Genre: Paranormal Crime Mystery

What begins as a routine missing person case for Seattle's best private investigator, Dick Hunter, turns into a personal vendetta against a cruel murderer. The murderer, Mort des Hommes, happens to be a hell spawn possessing powerful magic.
In order to solve the case and avenge a death, Dick Hunter has to take a crash course in magic from the angelic Amie, and gather magical animal familiars in order to battle and defeat Mort des Hommes.
** free on Kindle during the days of 2/21 – 2/25 !!**

Detecting Magic with Dick Hunter:
The Demonic Dozen 

Detective Dick Hunter is back!
Dick and comrades defeated Wicked Jinn Mort des Hommes in a climatic battle at the Gates of Hades. Though stopped of his ultimate goal of world domination, Mort was able to release twelve demons into the world--and Dick Hunter blames himself.
To put an end to the demonic threat, Dick Hunter and Amie--a former Pleasant Jinn and Dick's current lover--accompany an old friend, Pleasant Jinn Guy, across the country on a demon hunting spree. More action, adventure and wisecracks await in the next installment in the genre-bending, fourth-wall-breaking Detecting Magic with Dick Hunter series.
**Releases March 7th, 2017!**

Person. Storyteller. Work-in-progress. A. Jarrell Hayes began writing at a young age; his first books being handwritten and illustrated stories similar to the Choose Your Own Adventure titles he loved. In 2004 he published his first two "official" books, Heart and Soul of a Thinker (poetry) and Crowning of the Good King (fantasy). Since then, he has written seven poetry collections, four fantasy novels, three short story collections and a handful of chapbooks. His work has appeared in over 20 publications, online and in print. His visual art has been on display at the Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA) and the Eubie Blake Jazz and Cultural Center in Baltimore. He began publishing poetry under the name A. J. Hayes in 2013. A list of his published works is available here.
In 2013 he founded a small publishing press called Hidden Clearing Books, LLC (now closed). He has judged contests for the aforementioned press and for the Maryland Writer's Association. He is a freelance editor and book consultant (hire him here).

He currently lives in Maryland. He invites you to subscribe to his free eNewsletter and contribute to his Patreon.

Detecting Magic with Dick Hunter: The Mort des Hommes Files
By A. Jarrell Hayes

When I recall what I saw that day, I can scarce but wonder why I didn’t go insane. On the ground was the body of Mr. Hollis, bloody and torn but still barely alive and breathing. He was twitching on the grass like a chopped up inchworm. One arm was detached from the rest of his body, the hand clinched into a fist. Dangling freely from his torso was his intestines, pulled out from a huge gash in his lower stomach area. Blood flowed freely from many wounds. Blood splattered Mr. Hollis’ face, too; and by the looks of things, it was his own blood at that.
There was a man looming menacing over his tortured body: a white gentleman about a decade into AARP membership, slim and in good shape, with cold blue eyes and a tuft of white hair sticking out from under his smoke gray derby hat. He’s wearing a black suit with a white shirt and simple black tie, a long gray wool coat over his suit. He held a spear in his right arm, the tip of it pointed at Mr. Hollis’ forehead.
I couldn’t simply stand and watch the murder of a man without attempting to stop it, so I pulled out my sidearm and aimed it at the old man that looked like a reject from The Godfather movies. “Drop the spear!” I ordered.
The old man looked at me as if he hadn’t noticed that I was there beforehand. A sinister and arrogant smile formed across his pale face. He spread open his arms as he faced me—he was daring me to shoot him!
I wasn’t going to shoot him as long as he didn’t threaten me. I was hoping he wouldn’t, because that would be a heck of a lot of paperwork to fill out at the police station. I was hoping that he would let go of the weapon he borrowed from Fred Flintstone and allow me to apprehend him and call the police. But, of course, life’s never that easy, right?
The old fart turns and aims the spear at me, putting me in a tight situation. I have the more deadly weapon, so if I shoot and kill this old man, it might appear to be an act of abusing my gun privileges. If I don’t shoot, I’ll end up with a spear through my neck. I did the only logical thing I could do: I shot the old man in his shoulder.
The first shot seemed to do nothing to the old man. I had excellent aim, and I was close enough to the target that even if my aim sucked balls I still would’ve hit him. But there was nothing on the old man, not even a scratch.
I fired three more times, all with the same results as the first. It was as if the bullets, as they drew closer to him, ceased existing.
That’s when the old man gazed at me with his wicked smile, and, not even looking at his victim on the ground, rammed his spear through Mr. Hollis’ temple. He removed the spear with a jerk. Brain chunks and blood splattering everywhere. He winked at me and slowly turned to walk away. I fired two more rounds, without hitting him, until the old man vanished. That’s right; he vanished, like a specter or hologram.
My mind was having trouble making sense of the nonsense that just transpired. One thing I did know was that Benny-boy wasn’t in such good shape. I had to be quick. I dashed to the body and dropped to my knees. I stared at the corpse.
I shook my head at the dead body and whispered, “Why did you die? What did you die for, man?” I sighed and then walked over to where his arm lay. I lifted it up to rejoin it with his body. As I did so, a pebble and a pack of matches fell from his grasp. I placed the arm across his chest and retrieved the fallen pebble and matches. The matches were from some place called Amie’s House of Spirits; I placed both items in my coat pocket. That’s when I heard the police sirens and decided to disappear from the scene of the crime before I spent the rest of the night answering questions at the precinct.


Find out what happens next in Detecting Magic with Dick Hunter: The Mort des Hommes Files. Claim your copy at:

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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Guest Author, Chris Kennedy

I met Chris last month at Marscon. He monitored the most helpful panel I've ever been to on author marketing/promotion. I bought his book Self-Publishing for Profit: How to Get Your Book Out of Your Head and Into the Stores, which I discussed on my blog two weeks ago. As well as being a wonderful writer, Chris is an extremely nice man. I'm glad to have met him.

1.      Tell us a little about yourself?
I’m a former naval aviator and elementary school principal, now turned bestselling science fiction author, speaker, and publisher. I have 10 novels out, including stories in the "Theogony" and "Codex Regius" science fiction trilogies and the "Four Horsemen" military scifi series.
I am also the author of the award-winning #1 bestseller, "Self-Publishing for Profit: How to Get Your Book Out of Your Head and Into the Stores.” I’ve coached hundreds of beginning authors and budding novelists on how to self-publish their stories at a variety of conferences, conventions, and writing guild presentation.
My latest endeavor is as a small press publisher, having published six authors under various imprints of my Chris Kennedy Publishing house.
People have asked and it’s true…I don’t sleep much.
2.      Tell us something about how you write? i.e. are you a plotter or a pantser? Do you have any weird or necessary writing habits or rituals? 
I am a huge pantser. While I can see how plotting can be an effective tool for some people, part of the fun of writing is discovering what happens. Twice, I’ve been deep into a book, only to find that good guys were actually bad guys! No one was more surprised than me.
I love going different places to write. One of my favorites is Chik-Fil-A. I’ll have lunch and then write for a couple hours (and yes, I’ll get a soda or something so I’m not a complete freeloader.)
3.      Could you tell us a bit about your most recent book?
My book takes place about 100 years after First Contact with the Galactic Union. Unfortunately, the human race only has one thing of value—people who are willing to fight and die for money. As most of the races in the galaxy won’t fight, Earth’s citizens become mercenaries as a way to make a credit. The book, “Asbaran Solutions,” is about one of the leading mercenary companies.
4.      What is the biggest surprise that you experienced after becoming a writer?
My biggest surprise was finding out the more I learned, the less I really knew. When I wrote my first book, I thought it was great. I went back and read it a couple of years later and wondered how people could read it—it was awful! I’m a lot more humble now, and I try to work hard and learn more about being a better authorpreneur every day.
5.      Do you have a day job in addition to being a writer?  If so, what do you do during the day? 
I do have a day job, at least until my kids are out of college (I currently have THREE kids at George Mason University.) I manage all of the curriculum for sailors learning to maintain the Navy's F-18 Hornet. 
6.      What is your favorite writing tip or quote?
Most books don’t fail because they’re bad; most books fail because they’re poorly marketed, especially for first-time authors. That’s because first-time authors wait until the book is released to start marketing it; in reality, the best time to start marketing a book is 4-6 months prior to release.
7.      Tell us a little about your plans for the future.  Do you have any other books in the works?
I am about ¼ of the way through the next book in my military scifi series. This book is called “The Golden Horde,” and it looks at another of the mercenary organizations as the clouds of war gather for humanity…
Where can we find you online?
Website: (Get the free book, "Shattered Crucible," here!)

Asbaran Solutions

Nigel Shirazi was first in line for the chairmanship of Asbaran Solutions, one of the prominent “Four Horsemen” mercenary companies. First in line…until his drinking and temper caused him to fail out
of college and get disinherited by the family.

Now he leads the life of a playboy, enjoying a stipend from the family to stay out of the way. But someone is out to get his family, and Nigel is all that stands between the hidden enemy and the destruction of Asbaran Solutions and the Shirazi family.

Nigel will have to learn to control himself if he’s going to take the reins of the company, figure out who’s behind the vendetta against 
Asbaran, and work out a way to stop them. But they’ve taken his sister hostage, and that makes him a very, very angry man!


Hanger Two, Blood Drinkers’ Base, Bestald
Let’s go!” Mason transmitted as he waved his troops forward. He spared a glance at the group of Tortantulas as they skittered off to the left toward Hangar One and flinched as one of them launched a claw-held surface-to-surface missile at something it saw inside the hangar. The missile detonated with a ‘wumpf’ and blast of heat Mason swore he could feel from several hundred yards away. The Tortantulas chattered happily over their assigned frequency, and a second missile ravaged the interior of the hangar. The Tortantulas advanced, spraying fire indiscriminately throughout the hangar and joking happily over the radio. They seemed happiest when they were blowing things up.
Hey, Breetar, keep ‘em somewhat under control, would you?
They were promised wholesale slaughter,” the Flatar replied from his position on the back of Zzeldar. “I don’t think that’s going to be possible.
Well, do what you can, okay?” Mason shook his head and focused on his target, refusing to be distracted by the explosions that continued to the left. The command hangar was right in front of him. If they were going to find what they were looking for, it would be there.
Jammers on?” Mason asked.
Since we hit the ground, Top!” Sergeant Sam Bush reported. The platoon’s intel specialist, he ran both the jammers and electronic exploitation. “Jamming all frequencies except the ones we’re using.
Good, keep it up!” Still no movement in the hangar. Damn it. “Murph! Horsey!
Yes, Top?” replied Staff Sergeants Donald ‘Murph’ Murphy and Dean ‘Horsey’ Wynhorst.
Murph, take your squad around to the left of the hangar and look for a way in through the front. I think they must be setting up a welcoming party for us since they haven’t come out to play. Horsey, take your squad around the right side of the hangar. No one goes inside the building until I say so.
Got it, Top!” The two squads split off toward the ends of the hangar.
That left Mason with the XO and the 20 effectives from second platoon. As they approached the enormous hangar, he realized just how thin the force was and regretted sending the two squads from first platoon around to the front. He entered the shadow of the building and slowed to a walk to give the other platoon time to get into position.
Remember, there may be a human female here we’re looking for named Amanda Spivey, so make sure you mark your targets.
The hangar was nearly empty, which emphasized just how vast it was. A dropship was the cavernous building’s only occupant, located nearly a quarter of a mile to the left with its port engine partially disassembled on the ferrocrete next to it. Aside from the dropship, there were a few stacks of parts and some boxes scattered around, but very little other cover available. Mason could see why the Besquith weren’t waiting for them out here—they would be much better able to defend themselves inside the office space portion of the building…where they could also set traps for his men.
Mason wished they’d been able to bring the CASPers; if they had, the unit could have waltzed through the hangar as if they were at a Sunday dance. All of a sudden, his laser rifle felt woefully inadequate.
A trooper to the right fired, then all hell broke loose. He dove forward behind a large crate, looking for the target. Glass shattered in a number of places as it hit the floor to the front of him and laser beams scorched in from the sides. “What have you got?
Movement up high in the windows,” Sergeant Todd Salter replied. “There’s at least three or four of them up there!
Mason looked up from the shattered glass and saw a series of small windows about four stories up. There was no way for the humans to get up to them; however, they were also too high to make effective sniping platforms. Anyone who wanted to shoot down at them would have to lean way out the window, exposing themselves to return fire.
Nuisance fire from the right!” Staff Sergeant Jamie Howe reported. “Looks like two or three of them were hiding behind some pallets of shit, but they’ve run off.
About the same over on the left,” Staff Sergeant Jill Cox added. “Looks like three Besquith. Corporal Vitali is hit, but not bad. The Besquith we saw just took off; they’re gone.
Mason shook his head. He hadn’t even noticed the windows up there. He had been too busy looking for ambushes in the crates that he had forgotten to keep his head on a swivel. Damn, he was getting too old for this crap. What else could go wrong?
Hey Mason,” Colonel Shirazi transmitted. “Can you send out a couple of squads when you get a chance? We need help capturing the frigate.

You can buy his latest novel here:

And if you're an author, I again highly recommend Self Publishing for Profit.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Inspiration for The Bull Riding Witch

You may wonder why a college English teacher and overall fantasy fan decided to write a novel set in the rodeo. The inspiration for The Bull Riding Witch came when I went to a rodeo to help my husband sell concessions to raise money for a nonprofit he ran at the time. I hadn't been to a rodeo since I was a young child and had no interest in doing so.

But as I watched this rodeo, I found in fascinating, in a they-still-do-this-thing way. In The Bull Riding Witch, I talk about the Holy Trinity of Rodeo: "America, God, and Ford trucks." The announcer discuss each aspect of the Holy Trinity with equal gravity and seriousness; so much so, it seemed almost a parody of itself. I won't talk about the trucks, but believe, they were equally serious about them. I may have gotten the order of some of the following mixed up, but not the earnestness with which they are pursued.

They began the rodeo with an over-the-top patriotic display. While it is fairly typical to sing the national anthem at sporting events, none of the rest of what rodeo does is. None of the videos in this post are from a rodeo I attended because I've never taken one, but they are typical of what I've witnessed and demonstrate how seriously rodeo takes the Holy Trinity. They have a single rider holding a huge flag ride around the arena when playing a patriotic country song. Although the riders I've seen have always been women, this is otherwise typical, as is the announcement beforehand honoring veterans and asking them to stand to be recognized.

And since one big flag isn't enough, then comes the rodeo drill team in which all members carry smaller flags while riding in patterns, and patriotic country music still playing.

After the patriotic display, the announcer begins the rodeo with a prayer and a reminder that rodeo is the only sport to still start by giving praise and thanks to God. I wish I could remember the words of the prayer because it struck me as nearly ludicrous the seriousness he prayed for the rodeo performers and their bravery as well as extremely self-congratulatory that rodeo is dedicated to God. You can't make this stuff up.

The Holy Trinity did fascinate me, but it was the rest of the rodeo out of which Daulphina, the bull riding witch, was born.What impressed me was the incredible skill of the participants combined with the pointlessness of developing such a skill. This was particularly notable in the team roping event, in which one rider has to rope the head of the calf and the other the heel. Watch some of them doing it:

Think how incredibly difficult that would be to do and the hours and hours of practice and dedication needed to perfect this skill, but at the same time, why? What makes it worthwhile to stretch a calf out like that? I know sports don't have a practical purpose, but these seemed to harken back to an era that died 100 years ago.

Most fascinating of all was the bull riding, which always comes last in the rodeo. When you watch someone who's good at it, like Wiley Petersen, it may not seem so difficult. Wiley was my consultant on all things rodeo, but I'll talk more about him tomorrow.

You only have to stay on for 8 seconds, which may not seem like a lot, but at the first rodeo I went to as an adult, not a single one of the riders did it. As I've learned since, there is a lot more skill in staying on the bull than it appears to a novice. These are more typical of what I saw than Wiley's ride.

When you get bucked off these bulls, you have a 2000 pound animal crashing its hooves down around you. That weight coming down on a rider has killed far more than one bull rider. Notice also how often they get hung up with their hand stuck in the rope while the bull throws them around like a rag doll. Trying something like this is insane. The list of injuries bull riders get is impressively long, and they all get hurt. They say it isn't a matter of whether you get hurt, but when you get hurt. Often the injuries are extremely serious, and if it doesn't kill you, it can paralyze you. I couldn't imagine why anyone would subject themselves to this, especially for the few hundred dollars they could win at the rodeo I attended, and if you don't win, you don't get a dime. (At the PBR championships, you can win a lot more than a few hundred, but not at these local small time ones.) 

While I was watching the bull riding, Daulphina was born. I thought someone has to set a fantasy book in this world. This setting is just too good to ignore, and I've never seen a fantasy book set in rodeo. If you know of one, tells us about in the comments below. It took a few years for her story to take shape because I was working on other projects at the time, but The Bull Riding Witch will be available soon.

Remember, I am giving away two signed print copies and two ebooks of The Bull Riding Witch when it is released. I have added a grand prize of a $25 Amazon gift card. To enter the contest, subscribe to my newsletter (see the sidebar) or comment on any of the posts in my blog. Each comment equals one entry, and you can enter as many times as you like.

Tell us about your experience with rodeo or the inspiration for your latest book.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Bull Riding Witch Blurb?

I'm trying to write a blurb for my soon-to-be released novel, The Bull Riding Witch. I think I have fantastic cover art, but the blurb is driving me out of my mind. I will be my forever friend if you tell me what you think of what I've come up with. Would you read this book?

Waking up in a man’s body would ruin any princess’s morning. To make matter worse, Daulphina Her scheming bastard brother has always wanted to get rid of her, but he’s a magical weakling. In fact, she can’t think of anyone capable of magic powerful enough to send her across the void and into another person’s body.
isn’t in Asteria any more. She in the dumpy old trailer and hot body of Joshua Killenyen, a good ol’ boy in Alabama. But how did she get here?

All Daulphina wants is to get back home. But she soon learns she’ll have enough problems surviving where she is. To begin with, Joshua’s pantry is down to its last box of Frosted Flakes and his bank account is empty. In order to eat, she must take up one of his professions, shoveling horse manure or riding bucking bulls. She isn’t about to shovel horse manure, but bull riding, even with her magic, is certainly akin to suicide. Her problems multiple when a curse hits her hand causing her to tumble off the bull and nearly under its hooves.

Magic in this world of technology? Has a witch followed her from Asteria to finish her off? Or is there magic in Alabama after all, and the local witch wants her dead?

Savage Woods Cover Reveal

by Mary SanGiovanni

Genre: Horror

Pub Date: 9/26/2017

Bram Stoker award-nominated author Mary SanGiovanni returns with a terrifying tale of madness, murder, and mind-shattering evil . . .

Nilhollow—six-hundred-plus acres of haunted woods in New Jersey’s Pine Barrens—is the stuff of urban legend. Amid tales of tree spirits and all-powerful forest gods are frightening accounts of hikers who went insane right before taking their own lives. It is here that Julia Russo flees when her violent ex-boyfriend runs her off the road . . . here that she vanishes without a trace.
State Trooper Peter Grainger has witnessed unspeakable things that have broken other men.
But he has to find Julia and can’t turn back now. Every step takes him closer to an ugliness that won’t be appeased—a centuries-old, devouring hatred rising up to eviscerate humankind. Waiting, feeding, surviving. It’s unstoppable. And its time has come.

Mary SanGiovanni is the author of the Bram Stoker nominated novel The Hollower, its sequels Found You and The Triumvirate, Thrall, and Chaos, as well as the novellas For Emmy, Possessing Amy, and The Fading Place, as well as numerous short stories. She has been writing fiction for over a decade, has a masters in writing popular fiction from Seton Hill University, and is a member of The Authors Guild, Penn Writers, and International Thriller Writers.

Boy Books and Empathy

I really enjoyed reading Justin Larbalestier's blog ( about the hysteria over so-called "boy" books and the faulty assumption that boys only enjoy reading about boys, which, among other things, promotes the idea that all boys are the same and like the same things, you know, boy things--sports, etc.

What I like most about it was what he said about the importance of reading and the development of empathy:

Studies show novels teach empathy. But if someone’s only reading novels about white, middle class folks, well, I wonder. If you want boys to become more empathetic encourage them to read books by and about girls, about boys who aren’t like them, about transkids.

I recommend this for everyone. Especially white middle class folks like me. Truly, a steady diet of books/TV/movies/fakenews about folks like us is unhealthy and leads to disastrous election results.
Since I am both a novelist and an English professor, I'm sure it will surprise no one to learn that I read to my son a lot. He learned very young that if he wanted guaranteed mommy attention all he had to do was ask me to read. This request almost never met with a no. And I don't know how many times he was able to put off bed time by asking me to read just "one more chapter." I started out reading picture books to him, but we were on to chapter books when he was extremely young. When he was four, he saw me reading Harry Potter and asked me to read it to him. I decided to humor him, but I thought he was far too young and that he would quickly get bored. Boy, was I ever wrong. He loved it at four, and he still loved it at fourteen. Reading with my son was an intimate and special time for both of us. I did not look forward to the day that he would stop wanting me to read to him. Fortunately, it came much later than I expected. Although the frequency of him wanting me to read dropped off as he got older, it did not stop completely until he graduated from high school and went off to college.

Connecting to what Justin said, Jesse is one of the most caring, empathetic young adults that I know, and I'm not saying that just because I'm his mother. He truly treats others as he would like to be treated and seems to understand things from their perspective. I truly believe that much of this trait comes from having but put into the situation of so many people in the books I read him. Reading helped him to understand people and lives very unlike his own. The world would be a better place if more children experienced the wide world in the way that he did.

Read to children! Both they and the world need our stories!

Sons of Kings Book Tour & Giveaway

Shadow of the Raven
Sons of Kings Volume 1
by Millie Thom
Genre: Epic Fantasy

The life of Eadwulf, ten-year old son of the Mercian king, is changed forever when his family is betrayed to the Danes by his treacherous uncle. In a devastating Danish raid, his father is killed, his mother raped, and along with his tutor and childhood friend, Eadwulf is captured and taken to the Danish lands to be sold as a slave.

As a slave in Jarl Ragnar’s village, Eadwulf’s life is hard, his days unbearably long. But on the return of Ragnar’s eldest son, Bjorn, from his summer raids, his life begins to change. Eadwulf spends the next few years aboard Bjorn’s beloved dragonship, sailing to places he’d never dreamed of, trading and raiding. And although still a slave, he becomes a well-respected member of Bjorn’s closely knit crew. Yet through it all, the smouldering desire for revenge on those who destroyed his family refuses to abate.

Eadwulf’s story plays out against the backdrop of events unfolding in Wessex in the face of increasing Danish raids. Alfred, the youngest son of the Wessex king, faces family tragedies from an early age, losing first his mother, then his beloved sister when she is married to the new Mercian king: Eadwulf’s treacherous uncle. At his father’s court and the successive courts of his elder brothers, he learns the weighty art of kingship. And, like Eadwulf, he learns the harshest lesson of all … that a trusted kinsman can so easily turn traitor.

Pit of Vipers
Sons of Kings Volume 2

The ninth century story of King Alfred of Wessex and Eadwulf of Mercia continues to unfold against the ever increasing threat of Danish raids. After years as a slave to the Danes, Eadwulf has returned to his Mercian homeland and settles to a life of calm domesticity, marred only by his incessant desire for revenge. His frequent absences from his new home, connected to his past life, threaten to destroy the relationships he has fostered and alienate the family he has come to love.
In Wessex, Alfred, now a young man, has spent his childhood at the successive courts of his father and four older brothers, learning the skills of diplomacy and leadership. Before too long those skills will be put to the test…
The Danish invasion of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms is merciless and relentless. Every year more Norse ships come to join their comrades in a quest to plunder for wealth and gain control over the people. The Danes take kingdom after kingdom and Alfred and his brother Aethelred wait with baited breath for them to set their sights on Wessex. By 869, their worst fear is realised.
And Eadwulf follows vital leads to the objects of his revenge.

Millie is a former geography and history teacher with a degree in geology and a passion for the Anglo Saxon period. Since retiring a few years ago, she has been indulging this passion by writing her historical fiction trilogy, Sons of Kings, of which she is currently writing Book 3. Millie has also become very fond of writing flash fiction, something that developed from joining in with various challenges on WordPress. As a consequence, she has also recently published a book of 85 flash fiction pieces of 100 to 1,000 words, entitled A Dash of Flash.
Millie is the mother of six grown up children, and after living in a number of places in England, she and her husband now live in a small village in Nottinghamshire. When not writing, Mille enjoys long walks in the countryside and visiting historic sites and re-enactments. She is also an avid traveller, swimmer and baker of cakes! Originally from the seaside town of Southport in Lancashire, she still misses the smell of the sea.  

From Pit of Vipers
Preparing to do battle…
Alfred moved along his own front line, noting that most of the fyrd carried spears, though the pitchforks and staffs amongst them would not fare well against the heavy swords and battle axes of the foe. Body armour was light. Some wore leather jerkins, others thinly quilted gambesons, and most heads were protected by a leather helmet. Better than nothing, he thought grimly, acutely aware of the protective qualities of his own mailshirt and helm.
‘On my order, the front line becomes an impenetrable wall of tightly locked shields,’ he shouted above the clamour for the benefit of the new recruits. ‘Shields overlap, left over right.’ His arm swung round to the sides. ‘You five men at each end of the lines – and those at the back – will do likewise if need be. And should a man in the line in front of you fall, you step over his body and take his place...
‘You’ll be fighting for your lives, not mourning the dead!’ he snapped at the appalled faces, ‘as well as the lives of the men around you. Thrust and stab through the gaps between the shields with your weapons. Aim for exposed flesh – face, legs, even spaces between armour covering chest, belly, or groin. Your purpose is to kill or maim.’ He swept the men with a commanding stare. ‘We fight as an ordered unit, and no one leaves that formation unless the wall becomes irrevocably destroyed. Only then do we resort to individual combat. Is all of that clear?’
Alfred took his position at the centre of the front line, between two experienced warriors, Ealdormen Wybert and Unwine.
The racket abruptly ceased. Warriors stood rigid, muscles flexed for the opening strike, the onslaught of spears and javelins. But no missiles flew. Instead, the two men Alfred had identified as ‘kings’ stepped forward a pace.
‘So, great king, we meet at last,’ the less burly of the two yelled, his eyes scanning the Saxon forces to locate the Saxon king. ‘We were not introduced at Nottingham. Pity, I like to know the face of my enemy. Wherever you’re hiding in the midst of your piss-poor army, I urge you to look closely at what you confront. We are double your number and hold the higher ground. Surrender – or by nightfall your carcases will feed the scavengers!’