So the blog hoppers from the Historical Writers Forum have come together this December joined by the spirit of the Icelandic tradition of giving books away. So now its my turn and here is a little about me and my books.
Before I start, If you would like a copy of Sons of the Wolf as part of the Jolablokaflod Christmas giveaway, please pop over to Amazon via this link and download a copy for free! Get it soon, though, because it is only free for a week!
You can see the past and future blog posts if you follow this link
I am Paula Lofting and by day I am a psyche nurse and in my spare time I like to write and blog about a particular century that totally fascinates and intrigues me. I love all things historical but my period of interest is the eleventh century, in particular the epoch that saw the tide turn for the early pre-Norman Conquest English. I am also a re-enactor of what is notably referred to the Dark Ages which although a delightful hobby, I take as seriously as I can! My one biggest insistence that I carry into my books and writings is that I aim to be as accurate as I possibly can both in facts and the world in which my characters inhabit and whilst I make it my mission to ensure the narrative of the period is as factual as possible, I want my readers to feel as immersed in eleventh century England as they can be from a thousand years away.
Some years ago, but later in my life, I decided, at a time when I had gone through a lot of difficulties, that I could sit back on my laurels and wallow in my misery, or I could pick myself up and make a life for myself that was far less ordinary. I would not wait for fortune to find me, I would make of my life what I could and I went to college, then to university to study mental health nursing, and it was at this time that I rekindled my love of reading and writing, which had always been my biggest love.
To cut a long story short, and not to be boring you with drawn out details, I became inspired by a re-enactment of the Battle of Hastings and two books. One was written by Ms Helen Hollick called Harold the King, the other was by famous historian, David Howarth. Hollick’s book gave ne the impetus to write about this period, though not solely about Harold Godwinson, but more focussed of the period as a whole and through the eyes of a semi-fictional character named Wulfhere for whom I have created a narrative of what might have happened to a family caught up in the turmoil of the times. The idea was for the reader to get to know them, invest themselves in them emotionally and then hit them with the barbaric conquest that comes to tear their lives apart so they can experience the devastation of what happened to the English people after the invasion.
And so the first book, Sons of the Wolf, was first published with the help of Silverwoods Assisted publishers in 2012, and then I decided I wanted to go it on my own and revised the cover and the contents using my own imprint, Longship Publishing, in 2016 and that was when I published the second book in the series which has since recently been also been revised and streamlined to a less drawn out tome. I did this without changing the structure of the book I might add, The Wolf Banner is still, and will always remain, the same story.
A bit about Sons of the Wolf (book 1) – which is also the name of the series.
The story begins in 1054 as Wulfhere a king’s thegn, ambles home from warring in the north with his righthand man, Esegar. King Edward sits on the throne, content to leave the running of his kingdom in the capable hands of Harold Godwinson,the Earl of Wessex, whilst he enjoys more pleasurable pursuits such as hunting, story-telling, music, and praying.
When Wulfhere’s daughter strikes up an illicit love affair with Edgar, the son of her father’s arch enemy, Helghi, it rekindles an old bloodfeud that threatens to spill over the county. In order to dispel the feud, the Earl of Wessex, orders that Wulfhere’s daughter, Freyda and her lover, Edgar, be betrothed to bring peace between the two families.
But Wulfhere, although he reluctantly agrees, fears that Freyda will suffer at the hands of his enemy and has to find away to extricate himself from the bargain without compromising his honour and loyalty to his Lord Harold.
And so, Wulfhere has to navigate the machinations and intrigues of the court and the hell of the battlefield as well as look out for the enemy at home.
Here is an excerpt from Sons of the Wolf
Wulfhere is alerted to a fire over at the steading of his enemy Helghi and reluctantly takes his men to help them put it out.
Despite his loss of vigour, Wulfhere saw that Helghi fought like a mad boar for his home that night. Everyone in the village capable of hauling a bucket full of water was there, both young and old. Wulfhere suspected, with humour, that the prospect of having their lord as a house guest was enough to inspire the villagers to do their best to save the hall. Helghi was a surly man at the best of times. At his best, even, he was a cruel drunk with a head full of resentment for anyone and anything. He would not make a pleasant guest.
Wulfhere move towards him nervously. In front of him, flames lit up the early morning sky. He paused with some distance between them. He was unsure about the response his presence would provoke, or from any of the others for that matter. So far, there had been a lot of mixed reactions. Some were stunned to see the men of Horstede there; some silently accepted their presence unquestioningly; a few others asked what had alerted them, but none had made any objections. Most likely all were relieved and too busy with the task in hand to concern themselves with their mysterious arrival.
For a moment he stood almost enthralled, as Helghi fought like a mad bull to save his hall from the fire. He summoned up the nerve to approach. Around him was chaos. Men were yelling as they ran from burning houses, salvaging what they could whilst their women chased the livestock here and there to safety. As Wulfhere edged tentatively closer to his neighbour, he was suddenly aware of a woman screaming, somewhere near to the far end of the hall. It was bloodcurdling; he had heard the like before in Dunsinane.
A dishevelled middle-aged woman, her hair uncovered, ran toward him. She grabbed him desperately. “Come help us, good sir,” she cried and then exclaimed, “Oh Lord, save us! What are you doing here, Lord Wulfhere?”
“I and my men have come to aid you,” he reassured her gently.
“Then help my lady save her child!” the woman gasped.
He followed her as she ran around the side of the hall to where a group of women were restraining a younger woman he knew to be Mildrith, wife of Helghi. She was on her knees in the grass, screaming as her women prevented her from running into the burning hut.
“My baby!” she screeched, her hands clawing her face and hair. Every time she made to break free, they held on to her fast, sobbing and begging her to cease struggling. Looking at the hut, Wulfhere assumed that some embers from the byre, fuelled by the wind, had fallen onto the roof of the building and set it aflame.
“Why did I think it would be safe to leave her in there?” Mildrith was crying. Her shoulder-length hair was matted, her face tear-streaked and dusty. “I should have known that the hut was too close to the hall.”
Wulfhere shook his head and looked at the distraught women. He knew instantly that he had to do something. If he walked away and did nothing, he would never forgive himself for leaving a child to burn. “Get me a blanket or something doused in water,” he shouted at the woman who had brought him there. “Your cloak will do!”
The woman nodded and dashed off to do his bidding. The other women looked at him, their mouths dropped open in surprise as they recognised him. Wulfhere reassured Helghi’s hysterical wife that he would get her baby for her. He grabbed her shoulders, put his face close to hers and spoke earnestly to her. She seemed to look right through him and Wulfhere realised there was great fear for her child. He glanced round at the hut and saw why. The fire had taken hold with a firm grip, and the chances of the building collapsing in on him were ominously high. Just then, the woman returned with the cloak doused in water, and he threw it over his head ready to enter the burning hut. For a moment, he marvelled that only two nights ago, he’d returned home after surviving a bloody battle with the Scots; now, here he was, risking his life to save the child of a man whose hatred for him rivalled any enemy he had ever met on the battlefield.
He said a quick Paternoster, and gazing upwards, added, “I hope you reserve a nice comfortable seat for me up there, oh Lord!” Then he kicked the door of the hut, which came away easily, and entered, gingerly.
The intensity of the heat was overpowering. His eyes streamed and stung with the smoke. He was coughing and spluttering and smoke-blind, fearing he could not go in but when he heard a baby’s whimpering, he knew he could not give up.
Flames burned on the front right side of the hut. This was the area of the little building that was nearest the hall. As he tried his best to focus, he heard the child choking from a corner of the hut somewhere behind the flames. He had to get there quickly, for the flames were growing and if she wasn’t burned to death, the smoke would fill her lungs and kill her. As he peered tentatively from underneath the protection of the cloak, he could just about see her outline; the baby was bouncing in fear, and his heart lurched. She was a little thing of no more than a year or so, same age as his Drusilda. She was pressing herself against the wall. Her piercing wails broke his heart as she cried out frantically in her cot. Within seconds, the flames had moved closer to her. Through the smoke, he tried to see another way round. Above was a loft, the floor of which had just started to burn. He hoped that the timbered base would hold out until he could get to her, for he knew they would be done for if it came down. He thought about running back out for water, but the thatch on the roof in the middle was beginning to burn and he knew there was no time.
“Stay with me, God, and help me,” he prayed. “Lord, if you let me live today, I promise to do more good deeds.” He crossed himself, kissed the little iron crucifix that hung about his neck, and lunged forward.
His outstretched hands felt for her, but he could barely see because of the flames and the smoke. Behind him, he heard something crackle and collapse, and he tried not to think of it. What mattered most at that moment was what was before him. He managed to grab the screaming infant and tucked her under his right arm. With his free hand, he drew the cloak closely over them both. When he turned to get out, he saw that the way was now blocked by the blazing thatched roof which had collapsed into the interior. He felt the heat searing toward them and the smell of burning oak was almost suffocating. The little girl clung to him, smothered against his heart, whimpering with terror. He had to find a way to get her out.
And here are some reviews to wet your appetite!!
“Paula Lofting transports us back to 1054 England, to a time of political upheavel and warrior kings, religious interference and hero’s. We are introduced to the family of Wulfere, Thegn of Harold Godwineson and father of six. Through this inperfect but loyal subject, we are shown a colourful and vivid picture of life in medieval England, from struggling family life at Horstede to the clash of the political heavyweights of ancient europe. We find wonderfully real characters and family members who feel like our own, to the giants of european history both woven into a rich and vibrant story. With a deep knowledge of the time, Paula leaves no stone unturned, you can feel the atmosphere and smell the changing seasons. Clever sub plots intwined with historical knowledge and a perfectly timed splash of old English help to paint a picture thats trully believable. Having already enjoyed this book twice i find myself drawn to a third adventure whilst writing this, if only to catch up with Wulfere,s twins. i cant wait for the second installment in the series to check what mischief and mayhem Wulfric and Wulfwin will cause, bravo Paula a real gem and the nicest feeling cover i’ve ever held.“
Showing a comprehensive knowledge of pre conquest Britain, Paula Lofting has taken historical fiction to a whole new level, skilfully interweaving factual and well recorded events with the fictitious lives and loves the thegn Wulfhere and his family, neighbours and affinity. Wulfhere and his neighbour Helghi were real people who appeared in the records. Although the lives they led is unknown, Ms Lofting’s accounts of the family relationships – the marital problems, the bickering between the children, the tantrums of a teenager in love – are all so clearly described as to show a true understanding of human nature throughout the years. The book is carried smoothly by vividly realistic conversations and wonderfully picturesque descriptions which add greatly to the sense of time and place. The reader feels inside the book with the characters, living and breathing and seeing what they experienced. Ms Lofting’s knowledge of the history of the era is as comprehensive as her knowledge of the early language, yet never does the reader feel as if they are reading a lecture. I liked the personal nature of the story and its focus on Wulfhere and his family and their struggles amidst war and personal feuds. Wulfhere also takes part in actual historical events whilst in service to the King.The characters feel like real people, with complex human emotions.
The book itself is beautifully presented with a wonderfully designed eye catching cover and helpfully includes pronunciation and place names guides, as well as a glossary of unfamiliar terms, which is very helpful.
Sons of the Wolf is the first in a series of novels about the Norman conquest of England. I enjoyed this book very much and found it a delightful read. The wealth of historical detail keeps it from being a lightweight. I look forward to reading the next in the series!”
4.0 out of 5 stars A good read – and real life beats fiction. Reviewed in the United States on 3 August 2013Verified Purchase
“Set in the 11th century, a decade or so before the battle of Hastings, the Sons of the Wolf tells the story of Wulfhere, thegn of Horstede and his family. That Horstede had a thegn named Wulfhere is established fact as per the Domesday Book (a very nice touch in my opinion), but the author makes it very clear that apart from the name and the location, her Wulfhere is a fictional hero, however involved he is in the actual events of his time.
The novel has a substantial amount of cameo characters, most of them based on real people. Harold Godwinson, Edward the Confessor, Gruffyd of Wales – they all make an appearance in Ms Loftings novel, and in general I think the author does a very good job in breathing life into these long dead people. In particular, Ms Lofting has done an excellent job depicting the Godwinson brothers – and their sister, Queen Edith. The historical context is rich and well-described, and I was particularly impressed by the description of the Battle of Hereford – Ms Lofting succeeds in conveying the grime, the blood, the sheer terror of fighting hand to hand.”
5.0 out of 5 stars Trouble at home and on the battlefieldReviewed in the United States on 11 November 2014Verified Purchase
Sons of the Wolf brings us into the turbulent eleventh century where violence is just a breath away and can come from any direction. Wulfhere, our protagonist and thegn of Harold Godwinson, has recently come back from the Battle of Dunsinane in Scotland when he faces his own battles at home. In a Romeo-and-Juliet-style romance, his daughter Freyda has reawakened a generations-old feud between Wulfhere and his despicable neighbor Helghi. In an attempt to keep the peace, Earl Harold insists that the wayward lovers should marry in order to put the feud to rest. Alas, it is not so easy for Wulfhere and matters go from bad to worse as he watches his family fall apart.
At the same time, we are drawn into the troublesome quarrels between Harold and his siblings, and a new conflict arises with Earl Aelfgar, whose resentment of the Godwinson clan boils over. Aelfgar oversteps himself and is outlawed, which drives him to join forces with Gruffydd ap Llewelyn, King of Wales. Together, these new allies descend on the important border town of Hereford. Once again Wulfhere must fight for Harold, and we see the dreadful battle at Hereford where England’s first attempt at cavalry fighting comes to an inglorious end.
Paula Lofting’s historical narrative is gripping, and she effortlessly pulls the reader into the midst of the action. Her characters are well-defined and compelling, and we come out of the novel with an enhanced understanding of just how destructive a bitter feud can be.
So I hope you will avail yourself of a free download of Sons of the Wolf book 1 I can guarantee that you will be in for a real historical ride! And if you are hooked, I am giving away a paperback edition of The Wolf Banner anywhere in the UK all you have to do is leave a comment here on the blog or on the post on our Facebook Blog hopper’s page
And if you enjoy both books, coming soon, the third in the series is coming soon in the new year!