Author Spotlight | @MillieThom, bringing history to life, one story at a time... #bookish #hisfic #f
Hi, I’m Millie Thom, and I’m delighted to be featured on N.N. Light’s fabulous Book Heaven Website. Many thanks to both of you.
To start with, perhaps I should be ‘upfront’ and say that Millie Thom is my author/pen name, chosen as a tribute to my parents, Millicent and Thomas (Millie and Tom) who sadly passed away before I had the time to start writing. My real name, i.e. my married surname, is much too boring to use, so I’ll keep that to myself. My real forename, Patricia, always reminds me of some of my teachers many years ago who would bawl out my full title (instead of the usual Pat) with that certain tone, whenever I did something wrong – which was often. Mind you, in those days that could be something as simple as smudging the ink of my work or just turning my head to glance sideways!
I’ve lived in many areas of England and currently, my husband and I live in a village in Nottinghamshire midway between Newark and Lincoln. Our six grown-up children have all flown the nest, so for most of the time life is nice and quiet – until birthdays and holidays come around and we’re inundated with people expecting to be fed! Of course, we love them all to bits really, and their various partners and offspring.
The combination of bringing up six children along with having a teaching career is the reason I was late coming into writing. Like so many people nowadays, writing was ‘something I always wanted to do’, but in my case, it was put on hold until I eventually retired. Since then I’ve self-published four books, three of which are Books 1-3 of my Sons of Kings series, ‘Shadow of the Raven’, ‘Pit of Vipers’ and ‘Wyvern of Wessex’. I hope to publish the final book of the series, ‘King of the Anglo Saxons’, later this year. My fourth published book is tilted ‘A Dash of Flash’, an eclectic mix of eighty-five flash fiction pieces and short stories of lengths ranging from one hundred to a thousand words. Around two thirds of them are accompanied by coloured photos or images.
The books in my historical fiction series follow the lives of King Alfred of Wessex and Eadwulf of Mercia, the fictional son of the real-life King Beorhtwulf. I first became interested in King Alfred’s long struggle against the invading Danes when we moved down to live and teach in Wantage, Oxfordshire, in the 1970s. Wantage is, reputedly, where Alfred was born, a fact illustrated by the statue of him in the Market Place in the middle of the town. The first two of our children were born while we were in Wantage, the other four following when we moved further north again. At that time even teaching became impossible for me, and it wasn’t until our sixth child started school that I returned to my career, albeit part-time for a while.
I became interested in writing ‘flash’ after responding to various challenges on WordPress. In fact, I became totally hooked on the genre, my obsession partly being responsible for the lengthy gap between the publications of Books 2 and 3 of my Sons of Kings series. I regret the gap now – but I still love writing flash and will probably return to it once I’ve finished ‘King of the Anglo Saxons’. I already have around forty pieces and would eventually like to include them in another book. That doesn’t mean, of course, that I’ll be abandoning historical fiction! Oh no, I have several possible stories in mind for my next historical novel – but I intend them all to be ‘one-offs’.
Title: Shadow of the Raven (Sons of Kings Book 1)
Author: Millie Thom
Genre: Historical Fiction
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, 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 dragon-ship, 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 escalating 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.
Excerpt from Shadow of the Raven:
A shudder of dread shot down Eadwulf’s spine. Without doubt, Halfdan had spun some highly incriminating yarn.
‘What have you to say in your defence?’
‘My defence of what, Mistress?’
Aslanga’s sharp slap sent him reeling. ‘Don’t dare give me your insolence! I’ll have you flogged for using that tone with me. Get up. Now.’
Not trusting himself to speak, Eadwulf obeyed. His face stung and he knew Aslanga would not believe anything he said.
‘Let’s start again. Explain, if you will, why you attempted to push my son into the river. Yes, you may well shake in your boots. Your actions will not go unpunished.’
‘But I didn’t–’
‘Didn’t what, exactly? Didn’t expect to be seen? Didn’t expect to fail? Perhaps you did expect to push Halfdan into the river and run off before he could see you?’
‘Mistress, it was me who was pushed into the river.’
‘You’ve certainly been in the river!’ she snapped, eyeing Eadwulf’s sodden clothing with contempt. ‘And I know just how you came to be in there. Halfdan avoided your intended push by darting aside, after which you slipped on the wet bank and landed yourself in the water, precisely where you’d meant my son to go.’ Aslanga shook with outrage and indignation. ‘From the moment I set eyes on you, I could tell you wouldn’t make an
Eadwulf could barely contain his own indignation at the sheer injustice of this. He’d done nothing but obey Aslanga’s orders. That wretched boy, Halfdan!
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Millie Thom is a former geography and history teacher with a degree in geology and a particular passion for the Anglo-Saxon and Viking period. Originally from Lancashire (UK) she is a mother of six grown up children and now lives with her husband in a small village in Nottinghamshire, midway between the town of Newark and the lovely old city of Lincoln. When not writing, Millie enjoys long walks and is a serious fossil hunter. She is also an avid traveller, swimmer and baker of cakes.
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Title: Pit of Vipers
Author: Millie Thom
Genre: Historical Fiction
In Pit of Vipers, the second book in the Sons of Kings trilogy, the lives of Alfred of Wessex and Eadwulf of Mercia continue to unfold against the ever-increasing threat of Danish raids. Now back in his homeland, Eadwulf sets out on his determined quest for revenge, whilst Alfred’s leadership skills develop at the courts of his successive brothers. Before long, those skills will be put to the test . . . The Danish invasion of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms in 865 is merciless and relentless. Every year more Norse ships come to join their comrades in a quest to plunder for wealth and gain domination over the people. The Wessex king is now Aethelred, Alfred’s last surviving brother, and Alfred becomes his trusted second-in-command. Whilst the Danes take kingdom after kingdom, the brothers wait with baited breath for them to set their sights on Wessex. By 869 their worst fear is realised. In the meantime, Eadwulf pursues the objects of his revenge.
Excerpt from Pit of Vipers
Eadwulf and Olaf were ushered inside and the door closed behind them. High in the far wall a missing stone served as the only window through which sunlight streamed onto the cell’s sole occupant huddled on the straw-strewn floor. The features that met them were unmistakably Ragnar’s, though the weakened body bore little semblance to its former robust form. His ragged clothes hung loose, encrusted with food and dried mud, and stone-grey hair and beard clung greasily to his face, spiked with musty straw.
Ragnar dragged himself to his feet, the jangling wall-chains attached to his ankles preventing him from moving forward. But his eyesight had not yet failed him.
‘You,’ he snarled. ‘That guard said . . . For one glorious moment I thought Bjorn had come for me. But it’s you, the runaway thrall!’ He shot a gobbet of spittle at Eadwulf’s feet. ‘I’ve naught to say to a traitorous cur.’
Olaf eased a little further into the cell. ‘Do you know me, Ragnar? It’s been some years, but we had some good times together.’
‘I know you, Olaf, even without your hair, though I might have wished our last meeting to have been under more favourable circumstances.’ He gestured round the filthy cell, the movement rendering him unbalanced and he staggered a little. ‘Welcome to the hall of the Great Ragnar,’ he said, his tone heavy with self-mockery. ‘They tell me that today will be my last. Well, death I can accept; it finds us all eventually. But to be barred from Valhalla!’ He hung his head, a pitiful whimper stemming from his throat, like a dog cowering beneath a cruel master’s lash. ‘If I’d been conscious when they found me on that beach, I’d have taken a few of them down with me, died a true warrior. But now Valhalla’s doors are closed to me forever.’
‘I know,’ Olaf murmured, his fingers raking through imagined hair on his smooth scalp. No words of consolation would be enough. ‘But raiding again, Ragnar? If you’d stayed in Aros you’d not be in this predicament.’
Ragnar gave a thin smile. ‘Couldn’t let my sons get all the praise. I was jealous, simple as that; wanted to be a warrior again, just one last time.’ His attention suddenly focused on Eadwulf. ‘Tell me, Olaf, how do you come to be with this Mercian dog? Watch him carefully, my friend, he’ll betray any trust you put in him.’
Olaf shook his head. ‘You’re wrong about that, Ragnar. It was Ulf who brought me to you now. He was no traitor to anyone – just a man desperate to return to his homeland, as you or I would have been in his position. Bjorn understood that, the reason why he arranged for Ulf to sail with me.’
‘You lie!’ Ragnar strained against his fetters to hurl himself forward. Bjorn would not have done that . . .’
‘I swear by Odin I speak the truth. Bjorn owed Ulf his life and felt the need to repay the debt.’ Olaf beckoned Eadwulf to stand next to him. ‘And Ulf worked hard for me for over a year before we parted. I’d trust him with my life, as did your own son. And you’ve never had cause to question Bjorn’s judgement before.’
Ragnar sank to the floor, the effort of standing suddenly too great, and rattled the heavy manacles in frenzied frustration. ‘Curse these shackles. If not for these I’d have struck the guards with my bare hands; death beneath their swords may have won Odin’s approval.’ He hung his head, struggling to control his ragged breathing. ‘Why tell me this now, Olaf?’
‘Tomorrow you will die, Ragnar; I see no way of preventing it…’
Universal link to Pit of Vipers on Amazon:
Title: Wyvern of Wessex
Author: Millie Thom
Genre: Historical Fiction
Eadwulf is back in the Sea Eagle with Bjorn and his crew on a quest to discover if Eadwulf’s father, King Beorhtwulf of Mercia, is still alive after twenty years as a slave. Bjorn’s great dragon-ship carries them down to the searing June temperatures and strict laws in the Moorish lands of al-Andalus. But searching for Beorhtwulf proves more difficult than they’d expected, causing them more trouble than they bargained for…
In Wessex, King Aethelred is now dead, leaving his twenty-one-year-old brother, Alfred, to succe to the throne. Though his succession was agreed by the Witan, Alfred must now prove himself worthy of the kingship, or lose it. But Wessex is in turmoil, besieged by Viking Danes intent on subjugating the kingdom – and knowing that the new king is young and inexperienced. Alfred must use all his wiles if he is to outthink and outmanoeuvre Guthrum, the Dane who almost becomes his nemesis.
Alfred’s victories and defeats take him on a journey of learning, during which he gains experience and strength. We share his highs and his lows and how he rises from the depths of despair to save his beloved kingdom from total conquest.
And, beside him at his greatest time of need is his new ally and friend, Eadwulf of Mercia.
Excerpt from Wyvern of Wessex:
Halfdan glowered at Guthrum as they rode at the head of their exhausted army. The new arrival was not a happy man, despite their victory over the Saxons at Wilton. It was Guthrum’s idea to head back to their stronghold at Reading to plan their next move, and none of the leaders seemed inclined to argue with him, least of all Halfdan.
As though feeling the heat of Halfdan’s glare, Guthrum suddenly twisted in his saddle to face him. ‘I think we’ve got more than we bargained for with the West Saxons,’ he said, before twisting himself forwards again.
Halfdan inwardly fumed. Guthrum had a habit of dropping the odd thought, observation or criticism then clamming up, leaving his listeners to figure out his point. By Odin, the man had only been in Wessex for a couple of weeks, but it was more than enough to make Halfdan take a dislike to him. Besides, Guthrum was steadily asserting himself as overall leader, just like Bagsecg had done before the fool got himself killed, and the men seemed happy with that. Guthrum certainly had an air of authority that let everyone know he wasn’t a man to be messed with. His dark-haired good looks and pleasant smile could rapidly turn into a venomous glare that could wither a man of lesser standing than Halfdan.
And Halfdan already had his own opinion to add to this particular remark. ‘It’s not the Saxon scum themselves we need to worry about but that young king of theirs. There’s more to Alfred than meets the eye.’ He let the thought hang, smiling to himself. Two could play at Guthrum’s game.
But Guthrum nodded. ‘I think that’s true. I could tell his men were right behind him. He must have done something in the past to win their approval, young as he is.’
Halfdan cringed, remembering his army’s humiliating defeat at Ashdown. And it was Alfred who had killed that bull of a man, Bagsecg. He reached to touch his bandaged thigh. The gash was deep and he’d lost a lot of blood, but at least he was still alive.
He could sense Guthrum watching him and refused to make eye contact, but it didn’t deter the man from speaking his mind. ‘The young king can fight, too. I’m told few men could inflict a wound on you, Halfdan.’
Halfdan wasn’t sure whether that was praise for him or for the whippersnapper of a king. He had a sudden longing to have Ivar here beside him. Guthrum wouldn’t be trying to rule the roost if his strange and powerful brother were around. Ivar could put any man in his place.
‘Alfred doesn’t lack confidence either, and makes a good show of himself in front of his shieldwall,’ Guthrum went on. ‘But he’s still much to learn as a leader in the battlefield.’
After another long, infuriating pause, Halfdan eventually asked, ‘Why do you say that?’
‘Look at our army, Halfdan. What do you see?’
Halfdan glanced back, beyond Oscetel and Anwend riding behind them. ‘Exhausted men, wounded men – but all look happy enough that we won and we’re all still alive.’
‘But that’s just my point, Halfdan. We’re not all still alive. We’ve lost well over a third of our army in a battle against a force little over half the size of ours to start with. The Saxons fought well today, and very nearly won. If we hadn’t used that old trick of retreating, they just might have done. Our shieldwall had begun to collapse and the Saxons knew it. Any longer and we would have been fleeing for real.’
Halfdan sighed and nodded. He’d known that himself, but could never have forced himself to openly admit it. ‘So, we head back to Reading to give our army time to recover and hope that a few more shiploads of men soon arrive up the Thames.’
Guthrum just grunted.
Universal link to Wyvern of Wessex:
Title: A Dash of Flash: A Collection of Very Short Stories
Author: Millie Thom
Genre: Flash Fiction
Eighty five ‘wee gems’ in a single book … A Dash of Flash is an eclectic mix of stories with both contemporary and historical settings, plus a few fairy tales and ghost stories added for good measure.
Step inside and join the many and varied characters at their times of joy or sorrow, remorse or loss. Laugh at their foibles, commiserate with their grief and indulge with them as they reminisce. Or simply smile at the fantasy of the tale.
Glimpse them all for but a mere flash in time…
Free to read on Kindle Unlimited