CHARACTERS IN MOTION by Mercedes Rochelle

Hi Stephanie. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to ruminate on my favorite character Tostig, who does his best to justify his position in THE SONS OF GODWINE and FATAL RIVALRY.

The Sons of Godwine


Tostig reminds me, in a way, of Judas Iscariot, the perennial traitor. No matter what his motivations, our villain’s reputation is blackened forever by future generations. But like Judas, Tostig had his reasons for what he did, and once in a while a closer look might serve to mitigate the circumstances. This is why I chose to write these two volumes in first person. I don’t think there is any better way to interpret what is going on inside his head.

I think that from the first, Tostig grew up in the shadow of his older brother. They were only a couple of years apart, but it’s widely accepted that Harold was his mother’s favorite. And Swegn was his father’s favorite. Still, if you can believe Editha’s Monk of St. Bertin who wrote the Life of King Edward (Vita Edwardi Regis), Tostig was every bit the heroic figure that Harold was: “Both had the advantage of distinctly handsome and graceful persons, similar in strength as we gather; and both were equally brave…And Earl Tostig himself was endowed with very great and prudent restraint—although he was occasionally a little over-zealous in attacking evil—and with bold and inflexible constancy of mind…And to sum up their characters for our readers, no age and no province has reared two mortals of such worth at the same time.” As this book was completed after 1066—and before the death of Queen Editha—it’s hard to reconcile this description of Tostig with the traitor everyone loves to hate. Throughout his life, Tostig was apparently Edith’s favorite—and the king’s, as well. When Tostig was forced to go into exile, King Edward parted with him most reluctantly and loaded him with gifts.

Tostig really didn’t come into his own, so to speak, until 1055 when he was made Earl of Northumbria. By then, Harold had been an earl since c.1045. As we know, the Northumbrians were a tempestuous bunch and apparently old Siward, Dane though he was, ruled with an iron fist. Tostig was both an outsider and a southerner, and it’s amazing that he even lasted ten years. He was criticized for his own harsh rule, but the real trouble didn’t start until taxes were raised precipitously in 1065.

So what went wrong between the two brothers? By all accounts, relations between Harold and Tostig were civil until the Northumbrian rebellion of 1065. But I think there were other factors at play that might have caused stress between them. What about the Welsh campaign of 1063? Historians tell us that it was a joint invasion between Harold (who came by sea) and Tostig (who came overland). They met somewhere around the island of Anglesey and pushed south, driving everyone before them until they captured and decapitated Gruffydd ap Llewelyn. Many historians laud Harold’s genius and point to this successful venture, but who gives Tostig any credit? I can’t see how there was much plunder to be had, and indeed, it is suggested that the infamous tax hike was needed to pay for this campaign.

There’s another possible reason to explain the new taxes. Historian Peter Rex suggests that reform in the royal household in the 1060s extended to “a move, possibly inspired by Earl Harold, to require that the north pay more towards the upkeep if its own government.” Since the Witan was dominated by Harold, it “would explain why Tostig blamed Harold for the revolt and accused him of conspiring against him.” (Harold II, The Doomed Saxon King).

The Northumbrian rebellion precipitated a crisis in more ways than one. While Tostig was in the south hunting with the king, his disgruntled thegns banded together and totally wiped out more than 200 of the earl’s housecarls, raided his treasury, murdered his supporters, and declared Morcar, son of Aelfgar, to be their new earl. They then proceeded to march south, devastating Tostig’s lands on their way to confront King Edward with their demands. Harold was brought in to mediate, but the rebels declared they would never take Tostig back, putting Harold in an impossible position. Negotiations went back and forth as the rebels became more and more unmanageable. King Edward wanted to raise the fyrd and chastise the offenders, but Harold urged restraint, considering the time of year (October) and the difficulty of forcing Tostig’s rule on unwilling subjects.

And what of Tostig through all this? He must have chafed while his brother negotiated for him, and when it was clear that Harold was not going to support him, he flew into a rage and accused his brother of fomenting the rebellion. As the Vita Edwardi Regis said, “But Harold, rather too generous with oaths (alas!), cleared this charge too with oaths.” I doubt that Tostig believed him, especially as things went from bad to worse and the king was eventually obliged to accept the rebels’ terms. Not only did Tostig lose his earldom, the rebels insisted that he be outlawed from the county. Was that the best his brother could do for him?

King Edward took the loss of royal authority very badly, and he soon fell into a decline that precipitated his death two months later. By then, Tostig was long gone, nursing his wounded pride and probably contemplating the means by which he would return. I imagine he had every reason to assume that King Edward would find a way to bring him back. The king’s death must have been a terrible blow; Tostig may not even have realized he was ill. Once Harold took the crown, did Tostig assume his brother would finally help him? That was less certain, and once his brother married the sister of Earl Morcar, his hopes must have been dashed altogether.

So in reality, Tostig only had one option open to him: the same option taken by his father and his own brother in 1052—the option used successfully at least twice by Aelfgar, Morcar’s father. He would have to recover his earldom by force of arms. This was almost to be expected, and I don’t know why Harold was surprised when it happened. Was the new king so obsessed with Duke William that he forgot to consider Tostig’s claim? Or did he simply underestimate his little brother? Assuredly, Tostig’s aborted invasion in May of 1066 was easily repulsed; perhaps Harold thought he had dealt with this nuisance once and for all. Alas for him and all of England, he was sorely mistaken. Harald Hardrada and Tostig’s invasion of the north drew the king and his indispensable housecarls away from the coast they had guarded so rigorously. If only Harold could have found a way to compensate Tostig for his lost earldom, perhaps things would have been much different when William the Bastard landed unopposed at Pevensey.

About Author:


Born and raised in St. Louis MO, Mercedes Rochelle graduated with a degree in English literature from University of Missouri. Mercedes learned about living history as a re-enactor and has been enamored with historical fiction ever since. A move to New York to do research and two careers ensued, but writing fiction remains her primary vocation. She lives in Sergeantsville, NJ with her husband in a log home they had built themselves.

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Cover Crush: Hearts of Resistance by Soraya M. Lane

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I am not a cover designer but I can agree that cover layouts play an important role in the overall presentation of stories and I must admit, often times I first judge a book by its cover.

Cover Crush is a weekly series that originated with Erin at Flashlight Commentary.

Hearts of Resistance by Soraya M. LaneHearts of Resistance by Soraya M. Lane

At the height of World War II, three women must come together to fight for freedom, for the men they love—and for each other.

When Hazel is given the chance to parachute into Nazi-occupied France, she seizes the opportunity to do more for the British war effort than file paperwork. Alongside her childhood friend, French-born Rose, she quickly rises up the ranks of the freedom fighters. For Rose, the Resistance is a link to her late husband, and a way to move forward without him. What starts out as helping downed airmen becomes a bigger cause when they meet Sophia, a German escapee and fierce critic of Hitler who is wanted by the Gestapo. Together the three women form a bond that will last a lifetime.

But amid the turmoil and tragedy of warfare, all three-risk losing everything—and everyone—they hold dear. Will their united front be strong enough to see them through?

My thoughts:

This is a clean and simple layout really but nonetheless it appeals to me. Probably for the reasons. The premise is interesting as well.

Stephanie M. Hopkins

Other great cover crushes from my fellow book bloggers: 

Magdalena at A Bookaholic Swede
Colleen at A Literary Vacation
Heather at The Maiden’s Court
Holly at 2 Kids and Tired
Meghan at Of Quills & Vellum

Stay calm and support book bloggers

On Calton Hill

Previously published on L.A.P. it Marketing  

Today’s feature is a dual collaboration between WSM Photography’s photo of Calton Hill in Edinburgh, Scotland and a short story inspired by the photo written by Author Stuart S. Laing.

Edinburgh Scotland

“Britney Lourdes McKelvie! You better not be on your phone!”

I can always tell when Mrs Ossowski is angry with me, or anyone else in the class. She insists on using your full name. Getting labelled with Britney was bad enough but imagine going to Gorgie High School with the middle name Lourdes! My friends all know that it’s my mother’s fault for being mad keen on Madonna when she was kinda relevant, Madonna, not my mum, and before she turned into a ‘raddled auld trout’ (my gran’s description). I suppose I should think myself lucky when it comes to first names. Britney isn’t that bad compared to the Chardonnay’s, Mercedes’ and Porsche’s that can found on the class register. I’ve long wondered why folk that drive clapped out cars held together by masking tape and rust think calling their daughters after posh cars is a good move? And as for my mate Chardonnay, I know for a fact that her mum drink’s nothing but Buckfast. Imagine if she had been called that? ‘Haw Buckfast, yer dinner’s ready!’ I wouldn’t be surprised to hear there’s a lassie down in Leith called Fiat Panda, or a boy called VW GTi.

Slipping my iPhone discreetly back into my blazer I give Mrs Ossowski my most charming smile. “No,” I say sweetly. “I was just enjoying the view up here on Calton Hill.”

To be fair it is a cracking view. It’s like the whole of Edinburgh is laid out below you. The monuments, the castle. The Old Town and Princes Street. You can see why the tourists flock here. Personally the only place me and my mates go when we haul ourselves into town from Gorgie is to the shops on Princes Street. That’s more interesting than anything else.

Anyhow, back to what I was saying. There’s fifteen girls here listening to Mrs Ossowski talk about history. This is meant to be a learning experience for us (lucky us, eh?). A wee trip out the classroom, and all that. So we got crammed into the decrepit school minibus and driven across town to here. I can see the jannie who doubles as the driver having a fly fag behind the bus. Jammy sod. I don’t mean smoking. That’s bogging, but at least he isn’t listening to old kipperface Ossowski. Behind us is what she tells us is the national monument to the dead of the Napoleonic Wars. She mentions Waterloo but the ony thing I can think of is my gran belting out the old ABBA song at Hogmanay when she’s got wired into her Asti Spumante or Lambrini. When she turns her back and starts pointing out landmarks to her bored audience I take the chance and scramble up the tiers of the monument to get a photo of the haddies as they listen to her drone on.

When I stand on the top plinth between the dead tall pillars I’m surprised to find that there’s nothing behind it. I had thought it would be like a temple or something. It’s just a piece of land. Grass, bushes and old beer cans with a fair old drop if anyone was daft enough to fall off the back of the monument. Getting my phone out I quickly snap off a couple of photos feeling pretty smug that when I post them on Instagram and Facebook they’ll all wonder how I managed it without Ossowski going mental. Still, what she doesn’t know, doesn’t hurt me.

Actually the view is pretty impressive now that I take the time to properly look. I might as well take a proper tourist photo. My mum will love that. I just need to frame it properly in the screen. No, not quite right. I just need to take a wee step bac…..

I can’t believe I fell off the monument. God, it’s a wonder I didn’t kill myself. A wee check shows that nothing is broken (especially my iPhone) My mum would slaughter me if I broke this one. I only got it for Christmas and we’re not even out of January yet. Aye, Britney, don’t break the phone. Legs or arms are permitted, but not phones. With a groan I manage to get myself upright. My trousers have survived the tumble which is a surprise. They’re so tight I nearly panic every time I bend over in case the backside splits. Now I have to try and rejoin the others without anyone noticing I am missing. As I scurry around the corner of the monument I glance towards the minibus but it’s gone. That brings me to a halt. There’s a coach and horses standing where it was parked. And there’s another coming up the road to join it! It must be a wedding. Never mind that Britney. Have they gone back to Gorgie and left you here? My mum will go radge if they have.

As I get back to where the class had been standing I stumble to a halt. No class. No teacher. No tourists either. What there is though is a load of folk in fancy dress who are all staring at me. Good manners stop me from pointing out that I’m not the one dressed up like extras in Pride and Prejudice (we had to watch it in English), and anyway it’s rude to stare.

Britney, I hear a small, worried voice in my head say, never mind looking at the cast of Poldark, what’s happened to Edinburgh? I can hardly see the castle for the smoke belching out of every chimney and someone has stolen the Scott Monument. For everything that looks normal there is something that looks wrong. Princes Street looks almost normal but instead of cars, trams and buses all I can see are coaches, wagons and carts all pulled by horses. This is mad! Grabbing my phone I take photo after photo while men in tall hats and women in ridiculously wide skirts approach me nervously as though I’m the weird looking one. In my finest Gorgie tones I politely tell them to ‘get right tae…’ which produces much nervous fluttering of fans amid the women and looks ranging from amused to angry in the men. Sticking my phone back in my pocket I push my way through them all and run back around the monument to where I first landed. Now that I more aware of what is happening I notice it looks more like a building site with blocks of stone waiting to be put into place while workmen stare at me as though I have come from Mars. I need to get away from here. Feeling panic starting to grip me I turn again and try to run while I hear a man shout out a warning to be careful. Looking up I barely have time to register a large iron wheel on a rope swinging towards me. Duck Britney. Duc…

My head is banging like the big drum at Tynecastle on match days as I find myself lying on my back once more. I am almost too afraid to open my eyes to find I am back in the time of the dinosaurs.

“Britney Lourdes McKelvie! You stupid girl, you could have killed yourself!”

Nope, no dinosaurs then. Just a dragon.

With a groan I manage to sit up and find myself surrounded by my classmates with the red, angry face of Mrs Ossowski only inches from my own. “Listen,” I say urgently. “Something amazing happened. I think I travelled through time back to Victorian times!” (see, I do pay attention in my classes…sometimes)

Mrs Ossowski gives me the sort of look that normally precedes detentions and extra homework. I would shake my head but the pounding suggests this would be a bad idea. Instead I say, “I’m not lying. Look, I took photos on my phone. That’ll prove I’m not lying.”

“What? This phone?” Mrs Ossowki asks holding up the remains of my shattered iPhone.

My mum is going to kill me.

The End

 Story by Author Stuart S. Laing and photo by WSM Photography

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Book Spotlight: Heart Soul & Rock ‘N’ Roll by Janet Stafford

Heart Soul & Rock 'N' Roll A Mid-Life Love StoryAbout the Book:

Forty-year-old Lindsay Mitchell is an assistant minister at a church where she’s always been happy. But suddenly she misses her old college rock band. “I just want to rock one more time before I die,” she moans to friends Sue and Patti. When Patti invites her to vacation at Point Pleasant Beach, Lins meets Neil Gardner, front man for the Grim Reapers. The two have musical chemistry. But a whirlwind romance with a broke, agnostic musician who lives over a music store? That just might be more than Lins bargained for.

Book Excerpt:

The human mind is a funny thing. I was going to have dinner and a drink in a public place with a guy named Neil Gardner. We were going to talk music, which I adored. And yet all I could do was think of the many reasons why I should break the date.

“He’s not my type,” I complained over breakfast.

Patti poured herself another cup of coffee. “You’re supposed to have a good time, not marry the guy.”

“I don’t even know if I like him.”

“You have chemistry.” Patti took a sip from her cup.

“That was onstage!”

“Yes, it was. But two people don’t sing together like that without something being there.”

Song-sex again. I mushed my raisin bran down with a spoon. “It was just a performance, not…” I searched for the right words. “Some sort of mutual attraction.”

“I think the lady doth protest too much.”

I shut my mouth and vowed to say nothing further about the matter. I maintained my petulant silence all through the morning. We went to the beach. I slathered sunscreen on my exposed parts, put on a hat, wore my shades, and sat – rather huffily, I must confess – under an umbrella. Eventually, Patti coaxed me into the water. After jumping a few waves with her, my bruised feelings began to fade and I was my old self again. We laughed, swam, sunbathed, and had lunch. In the afternoon we took a nap and afterward walked around town.

However, as seven o’clock inched ever closer, my anxiety returned – especially when Patti suggested that she give me a makeover. Allow me to explain my unease. When we were in college Patti once had offered to make me over and I had agreed. When she was finished I looked just like a hooker.

“Um … maybe you should do my nails instead,” I suggested.

She shrugged and, in a few minutes, returned with a nail file, clippers, and about five different colors of polish. Sitting down, Patti took one of my hands in hers and considered it. “Hmm,” she said, “blue I think.”


“You said you’d let me do your nails, now be quiet.” She set to work. “I don’t know why you don’t polish and shape them.”

“Because I hate long nails and when I use polish, I end up painting my nails and my fingers.”

She smiled to herself. “I think it’s because you still play guitar and you know you’d only chip them up.” Patti plunged my fingertips into a small bowl filled with water. “Your cuticles are a disaster, you know.”

“I know.”

“We need more girly-time sleepovers so we can address these issues.”

I rolled my eyes. “Can Sue come, Mommy?”

“Of course.”

“And her three kids?”


I laughed.

Her brown eyes met mine, “Why are you terrified of this date?”

“I’m not terrified.”

“Really, Lins? Because I googled the word ‘panic’ this morning and a picture of you popped up.”

I sighed. “Since I’ve been a minister, the difficulty level of dating has gone way up.”

“How so?”

“Well, let’s take simple getting to know you chit-chat.” I watched as she pulled my right hand out of the water and dried it gently with a kitchen towel. “One of the first things you usually talk about is what you do for a living. Right?”

“Right.” Patti began to work on my cuticles. “How is that a problem?”

“Because it never goes well. When a guy learns I’m a minister he either runs away or wants to teach me the ways of the world right there on the table.”

“Men are such pigs,” Patti sighed as she began to apply screaming blue polish. “Stop moving your fingers. You’ll mess things up.”

“Let me get this straight,” I said. “Men are pigs so you set me up with one.”

Raising her head, Patti aimed a wicked smile at me. “I could set you up with a woman if you’d like.”

“No, thanks. Not even bi-curious.”

“Too bad. I know some lovely women.” Patti resumed the application of polish. “Well, then I guess you’re stuck with men. If it were me, I’d jump at a chance to go out with our Mr. Gardner.”

Her words conjured up the incongruous image of the perfectly coiffed and clothed Patti with a guy in a faded t-shirt and worn out jeans. “We are talking about the same guy, right?” I asked.

“Yes. I think he’s kind of cute.”

“Cute? He looks like he just rolled out of bed!”

“Well, cute in an unkempt, clumsy way. He’s perfect if you like a beta kind of man.” Once again she looked away from my fingers. “Which I recall that you do. Now no more complaints. I want you to relax and have fun for once.”

“I have fun,” I protested.

“Oh, tons of it – and all of it with church people. Then you complain that you want a change. Well, this is a change, Lins. Embrace it.”

About the Author:

Janet Stafford with dog

Janet Stafford is a Jersey girl, book lover and lifelong scribbler. She readily confesses to being overly-educated, having received a B.A. in Asian Studies from Seton Hall University, as well as a Master of Divinity degree and a Ph.D. in North American Religion and Culture from Drew University. Having answered a call to vocational, but non-ordained ministry, Janet has served six United Methodist Churches, working in spiritual formation, communications, and ministries with children, youth, and families. She also was an adjunct professor for six years, teaching college classes in interdisciplinary studies and world history.

Writing, history, and religion came together for Janet when she authored Saint Maggie, an historical novel set in 1860-61 and based on a research paper written during her Ph.D. studies. She thought the book would be a single novel, but kept hearing readers ask, “What happens next?” In response, Janet created a series that follows the unconventional family from the first book through three other novels and three short stories, all set in the traumatic years of the American Civil War. Janet also ventured into the contemporary romance genre, going closer to home (the church) for her source material. Heart Soul & Rock ’n’ Roll tells the story of 40-year-old Lindsay Mitchell, who led a rock band in college but for the past fifteen years has worked as an assistant minister. Besieged by mid-life crisis, Lins wonders if perhaps she isn’t called to something new. But could that “something new” be a relationship with Neil, a man with a messy life and a bar band called the Grim Reapers?

Interview with Janet Stafford HERE

Buy the Book at Amazon


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Cover Reveal: The Case of the Boarding House Murder by Norton Upson

The Case of the Boarding House Murder (An Upson PI Mystery Book 1) Kindle EditionProving someone innocent of killing a boarding house tenant was easy. Case solved. Time to move onto the next one. Or so we thought.

What Maggie and I didn’t count on, digging into a four-year-old federal trial. What made this one so interesting, for me at least, my father had been the prosecutor. When all his personal papers disappeared, we had to rely on the trial transcript. Except, we aren’t the only ones who wanted the testimony.

During the course of our investigation, Maggie and I discover the witnesses had been murdered even though the police reports had said otherwise. But, that’s not the worst. The body count will continue to rise if certain individuals aren’t stopped. But how? That we didn’t know.

Then, we uncover the secret these people are keeping. If they succeed their plan will have worldwide implications. Finally, the break we’d been looking for.

Where the money is coming from?

Can Maggie and I stop this global disaster from happening before we are murdered?

For Pre-order, go to Amazon


Norton Upson

Life’s full of hiccups on the road of life and I had my fair share.

Growing up I also knew what I wanted to be. A Special Agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. To start accomplishing my goal, while at UCLA besides my regular classes and ROTC I took several pre-law classes. My plan had been to do my military service then go to law school.

Then, the first hiccup came along. I was assigned to an Army intelligence group. From the very beginning I became hooked on the detailed work involved. Guess I must have gotten that from my dad who had been a federal prosecutor in Los Angeles. Anyways, instead of serving four years then go into the reserves I decided to stay in the Army.

Then, my second hiccup. July 7, 1937. I had been assigned to the embassy in China. When I was walking near the Marco Polo Bridge fighting broke out between Chinese and Japanese soldiers. I was shot in the leg and ended up getting discharged. With my injury becoming an FBI agent was out so I took what I learned in the Army and opened Upson Detective Agency.

Finally a great hiccup. I was walking down Rodeo Drive when I saw a familiar face. Maggie Neilson, my girlfriend from high school, walked back into my life.

To find out more about Maggie and myself you’ll have to read the Upson PI Mystery books as we solve some of the most baffling cases ever to cross a private detective’s blotter.
In conclusion, everything I’ve written about me is fiction. Or is it? You decide.

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Layered Pages interview with Norton Upson coming March 2nd.

The Mega Giveaway for Self-Publishers

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