Are there any two words that make an author happier (apart perhaps from ‘royalty payment’ or ‘publishing contract’) than ‘The End’? At least when written, at last, on the very final page of the first draft of their latest book?
A couple of weeks ago, while still wondering what to write for my contribution to this month’s Historical Writers Forum Advent Blog Hop, I wrote another blog post, celebrating five years since I wrote those special words for The Order of the White Boar and The King’s Man (see ‘Five Years Ago Today … Is it the End?‘). On that occasion, the end seemed to arrive very suddenly, though it had taken me two and a half years to reach that point. Yesterday the moment was long anticipated – and in fact, it was rather later than I had planned, owing to certain unexpected ‘obstacles’ in the final days…
But yes, again after more than two long years of preparation and writing, I have finally written those two magic words at the end of ‘King in Waiting’, the working title of the third book in the White Boar sequence. And, once again, I’ve sealed the fates of certain characters who have become old friends. It’s an emotional time on many levels.
It will, of course, be some time before the book is published. But, in the meantime, I have a little something to offer those of you who may have been waiting (patiently or less so!) for the book to appear – as well as for anyone reading this who may not yet have met Master Matthew Wansford and his friends in the time of the Wars of the Roses.
To fit in with the theme of Jolabokaflod – the wonderful Icelandic tradition of giving books as gifts on Christmas Eve – which is also the theme of the Historical Writers Forum Advent Blog Hop, I will be giving away FREE ebooks of The Order of the White Boar via Amazon for the next two days (Friday 4th and Saturday 5th December) – and, if your appetite is whetted by that, its sequel, The King’s Man, will also be discounted on an Amazon Countdown deal for the following week (5th to 12th December, priced from 99p/99c).
If you prefer a paperback, or wish to give copies as gifts yourself (maybe in children’s stockings – they are primarily children’s books after all!), both paperbacks will be available at a discount throughout December too.
But in addition to free and cheaper books, I thought I’d offer a small taster of the ‘King in Waiting’ to tide you over, and maybe as a little teaser…
I had thought to offer an excerpt suitable to the coming Yuletide festivities as I did last year (see: christmases-with-richard-plantagenet-1482-1485/), but a snippet from slightly earlier in the narrative seemed more appropriate. So here we have a journey in the early part of December, in which we meet again Matthew, late page to King Richard III, but now companion to another member of the Plantagenet family, and one or two of his friends whom you may (or may not) know…
Excerpt from ‘King in Waiting’…
It was a day of relative tranquillity as we sailed south within sight of the high stone walls and wave-dashed bastions of Calais – the literal calm before the storm. And when it came, it was a storm so immense that not a single man or woman or beast aboard escaped its dire effects. Those of us with no jobs to do could at least lie quiet in our bunks, our eyes closed against the surging and tossing of the timber walls and decks about us, where every object not tied up or lashed down was thrown about at each buffet of the wind, and no one had the heart or mind or stomach to chase about to secure it again.
Yet the sailors still had their tasks to perform, however their insides might churn or their heads roil with the gargantuan swell of the sea. I dared not dwell on how any could climb the rigging or furl the heavy canvas sails, or perform any of the other jobs required of them through those terrible, chaotic, storm-filled days.
In my delirium and nausea I lost count of the days and nights that passed before I saw anything or anyone beyond the four walls of the cabin, let alone glimpsed the sickly glow of the thundery sky or breathed the fresh salt air upon the deck. But at long last, one afternoon, the heaving of the world around me lessened, and I hauled myself up the narrow ladder and scrambled through the now-opened hatch, and stood once again upon the freshly scrubbed deck.
High above, black tatters of clouds scudded across the lowering sky and rain lashed at my still-feverish face. The storm whipped at the ship still, but it was clear the worst was past. About me, sailors, soaked through and blue-edged with the cold of the winter late afternoon, nodded to me as they went about their work. Their pinched faces told of their recent hardships with no need for words. It would be some time before snatches of song were the background to their tasks again.
Hours later, brands blazed against the black of the night sky and the gale no longer tore at the sails. Roasting meat spat and crisped above the coals of braziers close to the main mast, and the rich aroma brought the water springing in my mouth and the rumbles of hunger deep in my insides for the first time in what seemed a lifetime. Crew and passengers drew together to cluster about the approaching dinner, the murmur of conversation and scraps of laughter erupted again at last, and once-pale features and drained eyes reflected the colours and glints of the flames. The lilting notes of a sailor’s pipe drifted across the growing gathering, and for the first time in many months, I wished that I had my old lute to hand. After the trauma of past days, it would have been fitting to offer up a song of thanks for our final deliverance.
It was only when the trenchers of succulent mutton had been passed out, and my teeth had torn wolfishly at my first food for some days, that Alys at last emerged from the captain’s quarters. She had been the honoured guest there, with her maid, since our first evening aboard. The captain, who had taken instead a hammock alongside his men, greeted her courteously and led her through the parting waves of his sailors to warm herself by a brazier. Her smile when her eyes alighted on me was slow and wan, not the usual quick flash, and her cheeks were pale and thin.
I collected another hard biscuit and slab of roasted flesh from the sailor tending the nearest fire – himself a boy younger than I, with huge dark eyes in his wasted face – and made my way across to where she stood, hunched beneath her thick fur mantle. She murmured her thanks as I passed her the steaming food, and then again when I returned from a brief search, bearing an empty barrel for her to use as a stool.
“How are you, Alys? I’ve not seen you since the storm began.”
“I’ve felt better,” she said, as she perched on her makeshift seat, something of her normal manner returning. It would perhaps be a while before her colour did, for all she was now tearing at the meat as I had a few minutes before. She swallowed a mouthful or two before raising her eyes to me again. “It’s good to be out of that foetid cabin at last. Not that I was not grateful to be in there, with only two of us to think of. How is Edward? And Lord Francis?”
“Well enough, I thank you,” came his lordship’s voice from the darkness behind her. His tall, lean figure emerged into the pool of light cast by the nearest brand. Beyond him, two smaller shapes, also swathed in cloaks, were making their way back towards our cabin. They were trailed by a sailor bearing a tray of meat and wooden cups from which pale plumes streamed into the night-time breeze. I recognized the two Burgundians as they dipped down beneath the deck. I turned back towards the fire, and caught Lord Francis watching me.
“Edward, however, is not so well,” he said. Then he raised his hand as I moved to leave. “No, do not go to him, Matthew. Stay and rest a while. He is but a little melancholy again. The sea sickness and foul air and lack of food have taken their toll. Their excellencies are taking him meat and drink, and I’m sure that will help.”
He squatted down by the brazier and rubbed his hands towards its glow as the captain bustled up with a hunk of roast mutton for him and cups of mulled ale for us all. As we supped and ate and supped again, and the voices of two or three sailors joined the pipe in a wistful song, Lord Francis spoke again.
“I think we must all be watchful in the days and weeks to come. Our young king in waiting is steadfast in his aim, but when adversity strikes… well, it may be that his confidence can be shaken. If he remains determined to pursue the throne, then we must do our utmost to help him steer the right course – or he may lead us all into dangerous waters.”
And don’t forget to sign up to my blog to get advanced warning of when ‘King is Waiting’ will be published!
And don’t forget –
The Jolabokaflod Historical Writers Forum Advent Blog Hop will be continuing right up until Christmas Eve, with a gift with every post. The rest of the Hop is as follows:
Dec 3rd Sharon Bennett Connolly; Dec 5th Cathie Dunn; Dec 6th Jennifer C Wilson; Dec 8th Danielle Apple; Dec 9th Angela Rigley; Dec 10th Christine Hancock; Dec 12th Janet Wertman; Dec 13th Vanessa Couchman; Dec 14th Sue Barnard; Dec 15th Wendy J Dunn; Dec 16th Margaret Skea; Dec 17th Nancy Jardine; Dec 18th Tim Hodkinson; Dec 19th Salina Baker; Dec 20th Paula Lofting; Dec 21st Nicky Moxey; Dec 22nd Samantha Wilcoxson; Dec 23rd Jen Black; 24th Lynn Bryant
Alex Marchant is author of two books telling the story of the real King Richard III for children aged 10+, The Order of the White Boar and The King’s Man, and editor of Grant Me the Carving of My Name and Right Trusty and Well Beloved…, two anthologies of short fiction inspired by the king, sold in support of Scoliosis Association UK (SAUK). A third book in the ‘White Boar’ sequence, King in Waiting, will be published in 2021.
Alex’s books can be found on Amazon at: