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James Holdstock

James Holdstock

James Holdstock is a Medieval history enthusiast. He loves running around dressed up as a knight, squire or page, visiting castles and learning the martial arts of the Norman lords.

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Dark Steel

A Squire's Tale

Tom, an eleven year old boy in Medieval England, is squire to a great knight's son. Together, they must track an assassin to stop their family being murdered.

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Young Adult Historical Fiction
United Kingdom
70,000 words
25% complete
4 publishers interested

Synopsis

"I care not, how many you kill."  These words echoed around the large hall, carried by the evil intent behind them. The man that spoke them turned his fierce gaze slowly from the crackling fire, to the assassin. -

Tom is an eleven year old Saxon boy living in Medieval England. Last year (1199) he was at the local market when a galloping warhorse burst out of the Castle with the local lords son clinging on for dear life! For some reason, that Tom still does not understand, he made the split second daring decision to leap into harms way and managed to save William Marshal's son. William Marshal made Tom his son's page by way of thanking him.

Tom's life changed immediately as he was thrust into a world of riding, sword fighting, and court life, even meeting King John. Tom and the young William have become as brothers, as they play, explore, fight and have the run of the castle.

A very important meeting is to take place at Striguil castle as William Marshall tries to negotiate peace between England and Wales. Delegates from all sides are there and tensions are high. Suddenly, one of the Marshall's household, a grizzled old Saxon weapons master, is murdered and accusations are cast between the parties. The peace of the nations balances on a knife edge as they try to uncover the assassin. There is such distrust between the Norman lords and the Welsh prince, that only Tom and his young master are free to solve the mystery and prevent yet more deaths.

Tom is clever. He is observant and also has some skill with a blade from training hard this last year under the guidance of the now dead weapons master. But he is a Saxon, looked down upon by the Norman lords. Even if he can find out who is committing the murders, how can he convince the Norman lords to trust him, especially the Knights sent by King John or the suspicious Welsh princes who smell a trap already. What if the culprit has been sent by a Norman Lord or the Welsh prince to gain the upper hand in the negotiations.

Outline

This is the second story in the 'Squire's tale' series. There is a rich cast of characters that actually existed in England in 1200, the period of time building up to the famous signing of the Magna Carta that affects so much of today's politics in Britain and the USA. The story is fictional but is a fast action packed pace to keep the pages turning. Meanwhile, the reader learns about the challenges and life of people in Medieval times, and indeed what life was like before Magna Carta.

Warning: This book contains very exciting scenes involving riding, hunting, sword fighting, hiding, climbing, ambushing and of course there are several murders. A reader of this book may just end up following a path of righteousness, valour, bravery, hope and a fulfilling life. Just saying....

I have a chapter outline but as this book has been plotted but not yet written I need to leave it flexible. Whilst I am writing the characters may come up with new ideas and lead the story in a different direction.

Author

James Holdstock is a Medieval history enthusiast. He loves running around dressed up as a knight, squire or page, visiting castles and learning the martial arts of the Norman lords. He also loves a good murder mystery so has combined these elements in the Squire's Tale series, starting with 'To Murder a King'.

'To Murder a King' the first book in the Squire's tale series , was self published in 2016. it has received great reviews. It is a murder mystery story set at the Tower of London in 1199 as King John has just taken the throne.

Promotion

I have an author page on Facebook. I am also part of a medieval history group on Facebook on which I am able to advertise (from time to time) that has almost 60,000 members. Whenever I post on there I sell another book.

I am recording a guest episode podcast for a well known podcast that has a following of thousands that is about the Tower of London (setting for my first book). That should air within  a few months.

I am a keen role player and as such am happy to sell books whilst in full Medieval chain mail, a great experience for young people.

I have a blog on medieval heroes and am also planning on starting a blog for Scouts that are visiting London. A young adult guide to London so that they can learn about it for free and use the guide when they visit.

Competition

There is not much Historical fiction for young adult readers.
I have enjoyed Wayne Grant's book Longbow (that is doing well on Amazon). I enjoyed it. My book is different in that it features real historical figures and Tom (my hero) is intelligent and skilful but has his weaknesses too. He also suffers a bit from anxiety. Something that readers may not consciously pick up but may benefit from the ways he finds to deal with it.

Sample

(Unedited) Prologue -

"I care not, how many you kill."  These words echoed around the large hall, driven by the evil intent behind them. The man that spoke them turned his fierce gaze slowly from the fire to the assassin.

The assassin responded only by a nod of the head. Perhaps he did not even know the words with which to respond, being from a far away, foreign land. This did not worry the Lord that issued the orders, as he knew of the skills the assassin possessed.
The heat of the day had faded into the clear night skies and been replaced by the large flickering fire in the great hall. The Lord sat on an intricately carved, darkwood chair upon a dais at one end of the hall. The fire had been built for twenty people but only the Lord and the Assassin were present. Absolute secrecy had to be maintained.

"The more that fall," the Lord continued, a contorted grin creeping across his face, "the more money your order will receive. As much chaos as possible should be caused and the destruction not traced back to your order or, of course, me." The Lord sat back to let the words sink in. He had confidence in this assassin. Partly because of the reputation of their order and partly because he could not read anything from the assassins face or eyes.

The Lord had said almost all he needed to say.

"Most of all, the talks must not be a success".

At this, the assassin bowed to signify he had understood the orders, his agreement and that he would be leaving now to commence the destruction. Just as he was about to turn, his keen perception told him the Lord had one final thing to say.

"You are a devil bringing destruction. Make the Marshal suffer."

4 publishers interested
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