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Reconquista_Cover_for_KindleReconquista‘ has been long-listed in the prestigious Children’s Novel 2016 competition.

Organised by the magazine ‘Mslexia‘ to encourage new writing by women, this year’s competition received over a thousand entries.  The long list, of the top one hundred books will now be read by a panel of judges, including former Children’s Laureate and award winning novelist Anne Fine, literary agent Claire Wilson and the Children’s Editor of ‘The Bookseller’ magazine, Charlotte Eyre before being whittled down to a twelve novel short list.  The short list will be announced at the beginning of December.

The list will be further shortened to the five finalists, who will be invited to a special mslexialogo_whitebackgroundevent in London with literary agents.  The five finalists and the eventual winner will be announced in Mslexia magazine in Spring 2017. The winner will receive £5,000. Winners in recent years, of this and its sister prize, have gone on to win major publishing contracts.

So fingers, and toes, crossed for ‘Reconquista’ and watch this space.

 

Sunshine & Flamenco Guitar

On the hottest weekend of the year so far, the ‘Reconquista‘ launch party took place in the garden of Clapham Books. Friends of the author and fellowIMG_4113 writers gathered, as well as members of the festival going public, to celebrate the publication of the first novel in the Al Andalus series.

The garden was decorated, courtesy of Nikki, the book shop owner, with Arabian Nights style lantern lights beneath the large gazebo and  ‘Reconquista‘ themed ‘bunting’ was strung through the trellises.Illustration1 001 (2)  Photographs of Jerez, particularly of the locations which feature in the book, like the Alcazar and Plaza Plateros, attracted much attention as did the reproductions of the original line drawings for the very first iteration of the book.

Flamenco guitar music sounded beneath a low hum of conversation, as folk sipped chilled fino and amontillado ( or wine for the non-sherry drinkers ) and tucked in to Andalucian tapas, like delicias arabes, or ‘Arab delight’ – dates stuffed with goat’s cheese and rosemary and wrapped in jamon.  Luscious pastel de santiago was tempting and particularly appropriate, with the traditional decoration, of the sword of St James, on its surface reflecting the sword on the cover of ‘Reconquista‘.

The author was introduced by novelist Elizabeth Buchan, who asked questions about the novel’s genesis and the writing of it.  Then it was over to the audience for questions from the floor, of which there were far more than the author had been anticipating.  People were interested in the history and drew parallels with today – refugees fleeing wars which were driven, ostensibly, by religion and religious differences.

The pitfalls of writing historical novels provided some light relief ( see The Wrong Saint? ) as did the author’s trepidation when she discovered that the President of the American Academy of Research Historians of Medieval Spain, Professor Simon Doubleday, was currently reading it.  He wrote a very well received, recently published book on King Alfonso X, called ‘The Wise King‘ and he and the author have correspondedSketchJerezTorre 001 (2).

There followed a reading – from chapter four, when Nathan and Atta visit Plaza Mercado, after having rescued the birds from the aviary.  This prompted yet more questions and discussions.  Fellow author, John Taylor and playwright, David Armstrong, were in the audience.

The flamenco music resumed and the general merriment continued, with recourse back to the tapas and sherry, while the author signed copies of her books and dusk gradually fell. The book shop had, most thoughtfully, displayed not only Illustration2 001 (2)Reconquista‘ but also ‘The Village’, so that publication also attracted interest ( and sales ).

Folk drifted away, some going on to see Julie Myerson at the Arts Theatre – the next item on the Festival Programme – others going off to eat or meet friends on a warm Saturday night and then, perhaps, take part in the Literary Pub Quiz.  The author and her party repaired to a local restaurant where the conversation continued.  ‘Reconquista‘ was well and truly launched.

If you enjoyed reading this article you might also enjoy                          The Last Lap          Place & the Writer           In the Garden        Readers Afternoon

This post first appeared on The Story Bazaar web-site on 14th May 2016.

Read Chapters One and Two FREE

If you think that you might like to read ‘Reconquista‘ but you’re not sure that it’s for you, try out the first two chapters for FREE. They can be found here. Or begin reading below.

The ‘Reconquista‘ paperback is currently on sale at Amazon, Smashwords and other online retailers at a special price for the Clapham Literary Festival of £7.99. From the end of May onwards it will revert to its original price of £8.99. So buy your paperback copy at the cheaper price now before it goes back to the original price. The ‘e’ book of ‘Reconquista‘ will remain at its current price of £2.10 or $2.99.

Chapter One

Besieged

‘Take cover!’

Nathan spun round to try and see who had shouted, but it was impossible to tell.

In the narrow city street people were running, darting into shops and houses, hurrying down alleyways. Doors and windows thudded shut. An ironmonger hastened to lift his wares from their hooks and retreated inside his building.

Nathan was buffeted aside as a large man ran past, tripping over a frightened, yowling cat. Nathan fell forwards, knees hitting the cobblestones.

‘Ow!’

Ignore the pain. Get to safety.

Soon the burning firebombs would rain down. His home was streets away. He’d never get there in time.

Shutters were closing.

He scrambled to his feet, looking for a place to shelter. There was a recessed doorway in a house at the side of the street. That would be better than nothing. He hurried over to it and pounded on the wooden door.

‘Let me in! Please! Is anyone there?’

The door remained closed.

Leaning back to look up and down the lane, Nathan saw it was empty, even the cat had disappeared. All it’s doors and windows were closed and shuttered tight. There was nowhere else for him to go.

Small for his fourteen years and slightly built, he pressed himself against the stone upright of the doorway underneath its wide, stone lintel, his shoulder against the door. He looked up at the sliver of blue sky between the tall buildings, watching out for the smoke-trailing bombs.

Then the earth shook.

The stone reverberated with the shock and Nathan staggered. Dust rose from the cobbles and fell from roof tiles and sills.

‘What….? What was that?’ A voice came from somewhere down the street.

‘The big gun.’ An answer came from the shuttered window above Nathan’s head.

The cannon.

The massive metal machine had arrived outside the city several days before, dragged into place by long teams of horses. The people of Jerez had watched its arrival from the walls, anxious and afraid of the havoc it could wreak.

This was the latest attempt by the King, Alfonso X of Castile and Leon, to end the siege. The King led the Christian army from the north, come to regain the rich southlands of Al Andalus from the Moors.

Only yesterday Nathan and his friends, Juan and Atta, had climbed onto the battlements to view the cannon. From their high vantage point they looked down between the stone crenellations at the army camp, set out less than half a mile away. There were lines of tents, stacks of pikes and lots of bustling leather-clad figures moving about the camp. The smell from the many cook-fires made Nathan’s mouth water.

‘There seems to be even more of them,’ Atta said.

Over the months of the siege the army had grown. This war seemed to have been going on for as long as Nathan could remember.

‘My father says the King’s summoning all his lords and barons,’ said Juan. ’Though maybe that’s to stop them plotting behind his back.’

Banners fluttered in the breeze and the rearing claret lion of Leon and the golden towers of Castile were prominent amid the pennants and flags of his vassal lords and cities. Large, caparisoned horses carried armoured knights practising their skills. They could hear the clash of their swords and shields ringing out across the plain.

The giant wooden skeletons of catapults, giant trebuchets and mangonels lay still. Hung about with ropes and pulleys, they waited for the next attack. The huge stone counter-weights poised atop their frames towered over the men around them. Yet even these machines were dwarfed by the cannon. Nathan had heard tales of such mighty guns, but had never seen one.

‘What’s it made of?’ Juan asked.

‘Metal,’ Atta replied.

‘Yeah,’ Juan gave him a sarcastic look. ‘Bronze or iron?

‘Bronze, I think,’ Nathan answered. He knew about metals. ‘Less friction than with iron.’

‘It’s aimed at the Alcazar,’ Atta said.

Three pairs of eyes followed the trajectory from the cannon’s mouth towards the city.

Yes, the Alcazar, the ancient fortress at the highest point of the city walls – that would be its first target. The old citadel was by far the strongest point of the defence.

The Alcazar.

As he sheltered in the doorway, the hairs on Nathan’s skin rose. Hadn’t Juan been headed for the Alcazar?  Taking a message for his father, Don Carlos, who commanded the town’s militia there.

Had the cannon shot hit the Alcazar? Had his friend been caught in the explosion?

Read more.

Front Page

This article tells you about the reconquista.online web-site, what is already here and what is planned for the future.

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  • Maps and diagrams of the various journeys of the characters. You can find a map of Al Andalus on the Maps & Charts page. There is also a map of Jerez city, which is also at the front of the book. A chart of the voyage of the Hebe on her way to the near east, and of the Teresa, will follow.
  • Questions & Answers with the author, especiallypuzzle-431568_1280 from questions asked at Readers Afternoon of Clapham Literary Festival and other events. If you have any questions send them in using the comments boxes and I will endeavour to answer them.
  • Articles on the history of the city and the area around it, which has a rich and intriguing past. The Maps  Charts page leads you to a Brief History of Jerez before the Christian Era.
  • Pieces on studying the history of the period, especially as there has been a recent, and controversial, re-interpretation of the primary sources. Did King Alfonso really enter, victorious, into Jerez on 9th October, 1264, as has been believed for centuries? It seems that this may not have happened as everyone thought it did.
  • Articles about the origin and development of the book, including ‘out-takes’ and sections of the stories which didn’t make it into the final version. What is the story behind ‘Reconquista‘ the book?
  • A Gallery. There are photographs of Jerez city today, showing those parts of the town which survive from the thirteenth century and which visitors can still find. In addition, some of the original illustrations intended for an earlier version of the book, but not included in the final version.
  • Artefacts belonging to the characters, such as Rebecca’s diary entries, 20151016_172105Nathan’s star charts and the Captain’s log from the Teresa.
  • Articles on daily life in 13th century Al Andalus. What did people eat?  How did they travel? What were their daily lives like?  There is already a blog post about going, or not going, to school in 13th century Jerez. See it here.
  • Tasters from the follow up book, currently entitled ‘Convivencia‘ ( which means ‘Living Together’ in Spanish ).

JerezEaster20142And reconquista.online would like to hear from you, the readers of ‘Reconquista‘, about what you think of the story, who your favourite characters are and what you think is going to happen next. We plan to provide chat and discussion spaces.

Would you like to try your hand at writing?  There will be competitions, with the winning entries published on reconquista.online.  Perhaps from the point of view of other characters who appear in ‘Reconquista‘ or its follow-up ‘Convivencia‘?  Or describing how would you have reacted if you were in some of the tough situations experienced by our heroes?  Watch out for the competition announcements.

Until there is more to see on reconquista.online you might like to look at these articles on The Story Bazaar website                    Visualising ‘Reconquista             Reading a book by its cover….                The Wrong Saint

Fifth and counting

race-941732_1280First is best, second is good ( but second best ), third is not so bad. And taking part is what it’s really all about. Seeing how good you can be at something is what’s important.

One way of measuring how good you are is by comparing your performance with someone else’s. So, today we celebrate ‘Reconquista‘ hitting fifth position in Amazon’s best selling charts for Young Adults in the Historical Fiction, Medieval category. That’s fifth out of nearly eight hundred books. It is also up to thirty-first position in the Young Adult, Historical Fiction category. That’s thirty-first out of nearly nine sport-938792_1280thousand books. Fifth and thirty-first don’t sound that wonderful, but it’s a good start.

Reconquista‘ was only published last week, whereas other books have had time to gather more sales. Though it’s usual at launch time that a book sells quickly, this is the time when people who know about it want to buy it.  The author’s friends and family, neighbours and casual acquaintances. Later, unless the word about how good it is spreads, the numbers fall. This is always a problem for books from small publishing imprints like The Story Bazaar, which don’t have the funds to buy entry into book read-book-club-med-753891_1280shops front windows, or ‘Best Books’ tables, how do you get the book out there in front of people, your potential readers.

One of the ways in which to spread the word is by book reviews and there aren’t any reviews of ‘Reconquista‘ yet. If you have purchased a copy of ‘Reconquista‘ and have already read and enjoyed it, please write a review on Amazon ( both at Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk if you can, please) and on Goodreads, telling other potential readers about it.

Another way is to recommend it to friends. ‘Word of mouth’ is certainly what makesread-book-795943_1280 a book sought after – people tell each other what they are reading and enjoying and other people want to read it too. If you enjoyed reading ‘Reconquista‘, please tell all your friends, school friends and colleagues. tell them about this web-site too.

Share your views on-line, on the various sites, like Goodreads, Richard and Judy, the book club forum or the more locally based on-line groups. If you belong to a Book Club why not propose that you all read it. If you are in a book club and live in south London, come along and discuss it at the Clapham Literary Festival, on Readers Afternoon, on 6th May at 2 o’clock in Omnibus, 1, Clapham Common North Side. If you would like to do so, please contact Omnibus at www.omnibus-clapham.org or 0207 498 4699 or contact the author.

bookopenAsk for the book at your local library. Suggest that your class at school reads it ( though check this out with your teacher first ). Nominate the book for Book of the Month at Waterstones or W H Smiths. There are lots of ways in which readers can help a book to become more widely known. If you enjoyed reading this book, start helping others to find out about it so that they can enjoy it too.

Reconquista on sale today!

dfw-ja-r-cover-ebookReconquista‘ is launched today on Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble Nook, Kobo and other on-line retailers.  The three hundred and eighty page novel costs

£2.10 per  ‘e’ book and

£7.99 per paperback print on demand.

The £7.99 price is until 9th May only, up to and for the duration of the Clapham Literary Festival. The paperback will be available in bookshops at the beginning of April at £7.99 ( until May 9th ).

The ‘e’ version has been available for pre-order on the Kindle Store since before Easter. The first Smashwords sale took place less than twelve hours after the book was made available on-line.

The first in the Al Andalus series follows the, sometimes harrowing, and often dangerous, adventures of Nathan and his friends as their city falls to the invading army of King Alfonso X of Castile and Leon. It is suitable for twelve year olds and above.Pre-launch review readers (of all ages) have given good feedback and reviews. Some examples are –

  • Excellent. A real page turner.’
  • Reconquista is brilliant. It vividly brings the past to life. ‘
  • The story rattles along and I often didn’t know and couldn’t guess what is coming nextI read it at one sitting.

I hope that people enjoy it as much as some of my pre-publication readers have.

Reconquista will officially be launched on Saturday 7th May at Clapham Books as part of ‘Omnibus Edition‘ the 2016 Clapham Literary Festival.  This is a ticketed, but free, event in the garden marquee, with sherry and flamenco guitar. In the run up to the Festival and during it, ‘Reconquista‘ will be available at the special price of £7.99.  Clapham Books is ‘official’ bookseller for the Festival.

And ‘Reconquista‘ is also one of the books for discussion at the ‘Readers Afternoon’ festival event at 2.00p.m. on Friday 6th May in the Omnibus Arts Theatre.  This session, chaired by celebrated novelist, Elizabeth Buchan, engages with local book clubs, asking them to read the books then come and discuss them with the authors. The selection of books includes short stories, thrillers and ‘Reconquista‘. All the authors involved live and work in Clapham or very nearby.  Ticket price £7 ( and £6 concessions ).

The Festival will be publicised by The Story Bazaar web-site as well as through Omnibus and much publicity can already be found across south London, the Press Release and Programme is here. Local radio stations and Lambeth Libraries are taking part. We hope to generate a buzz on social media, with the hashtag #claphamlitfest on Twitter.  A live twitter feed will be running through-out the Festival shown in all three venues.

If you want to know more about ‘Reconquista‘, its genesis and development try reading the following articles                    Reconquista.online                 Entitlement                   Reading a book by its cover

 

Coming soon……

dfw-ja-r-cover-ebook30th March 2016

Reconquista‘ will be available on Amazon, Smashwords, ibooks, Barnes & Noble Nook and other on-line retailers from 30th March 2016.

The ‘e’ book is priced £2.10  and the Kindle Store is already taking pre-orders. It is available in both e-pub and mobi versions.

The paperback (380pp) is priced, for six weeks, at £7.99.

From early April the paperback will also be available in all good bookshops.  For six weeks only it will have the special price of £7.99, as part of the 2016 Clapham Literary Festival taking place from 3rd to 8th May.cadizpanorama3

Travel with our heroes, Nathan, Atta and Rebecca, as they battle, with their friends and allies, against villains, bandits, pirates and war-lords and survive the sea and the mountains in Winter. Most of all, they have to overcome their own fears, as each of them finds their own way to freedom.

It is October 1264. Outside the city an army awaits the signal to attack.

Within the city walls, fourteen year old Nathan, his older cousin, Rebecca and their friend, Atta, face an uncertain future. On this fateful day, the city they have always known is about to be torn apart. Friends and family are about to be scattered far and wide. Each of them has a vital decision to make. Each has a journey to undertake.

In war-torn Al Andalus King and Emir vie for supremacy. Bandits and pirates roam land and sea in their wake, as our heroes set out on their desperate journeys to find freedom and safety. If they are to succeed, they must first face down their fears and decide what sort of people they want to be. All of them have to grow up.

Not all of them will make it home.

Book 1 in the Al Andalus series

Pre-launch readers (of all ages) have already given feedback and reviews.

  • Excellent. A real page turner.’
  • Reconquista is brilliant. It vividly brings the past to life. ‘
  • The story rattles along and I often didn’t know and couldn’t guess what is coming nextI read it at one sitting.’

At reconquista.online readers can see their Amazon and/or Goodreads reviews, or can send in reviews to the web-site through the comment boxes.

PictureTranche2May12 052If you belong to a book club in SW4 or SW11 why not purchase your paperback copy from Clapham Books, The Pavement, Clapham, the official bookseller for the Clapham Literary Festival? Then register with Omnibus and come along to the Readers’ Afternoon at 2.00 p.m. on Friday 6th May to Omnibus Arts Centre to meet J.J.Anderson and a group of other authors.  Entry costs £7 per person (£6 concessions ). She will be signing copies of ‘Reconquista‘ and talking about the book.

Join the journey.

If you want to read more about ‘Reconquista‘, the origins and development of the book ( in gestation for over a decade ), or the history behind the story and Jerez, the city in which it is set, there are a selection of articles at www.thestorybazaar.com  particularly

The wrong saint?                               Reading a book by its cover                    Entitlement                   Story of a Journey

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