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8 October 2018

1066... Turned Upside Down

Running from today until next week a series of 
all things 1066

A good few years ago now I wrote a novel called Harold the King. Originally published by William Heinemann and Arrow paperbacks, due to poor to almost non-existent marketing it was eventually dropped along with most of my other books, so I reclaimed the rights and went Indie with them (probably one of the best choices I've ever made!) 

It was then picked up by US publisher Sourcebooks Ltd and re-titled I Am The Chosen King for the US market (same book, different title) and both versions have been selling well and steadily ever since.

Back in 2015 author Joanna Courtney and I were at the annual re-enactment of the Battle Of Hastings at Battle Abbey, Sussex, and we got talking...

"What if things had turned out different in 1066?" 
"What if Harold had not accepted being elected as king?"
"What if Harald Hardrada had won at Stamford Bridge?"
"What if William's ships had  been destroyed?"
"What if the battle had been a day later - the 15th not the 14th - more men would have arrived to support Harold?"
"What if William had been killed on the battlefield?"

A few months later, Joanna contacted me; "We could produce an e-book of short 'what-if' scenarios. One story for each month."

And so the idea took root. 
1066 Turned Upside Down was the result.

We had nine authors collaborating to produce eleven stories 
from L-R : 
top row: Joanna Courtney, Anna Belfrage, Helen Hollick, Alison Morton
next row : 
Eliza Redgold, Richard Dee, Carol McGrath, Glynn Holloway, Annie Whitehead
and a foreword by C.C. Humphries.

the clever award-winning cover was designed by Cathy Helms of 

Yes, we know the helmet is not
right for the period...
we've used artistic licence
Included with each story is a brief historical outline and a few suggestions for discussion topics for book groups or schools - and since it's publication in August 2017 1066 Turned Upside Down has rarely been out of Amazon's Top 150 ranking!

Here's what readers have said about it: (I'm being honest - a few indifferent ones are included!)

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Thought-provoking alternatives By Amazon Customeron March 10, 2017
As a history-addict, I’ve been fascinated by alternative histories for decades so when I saw this collection was being released, I had to read it. However, I delayed delving into this until my own alternative history had evolved. I was not disappointed with any of these tales as they all took different approaches and in their own styles.
In most cases, the characters were based on the historical records, although those sometimes disagree so there was room for subtle variations – as well as believable fictional creations. Sometimes the background characters in the historical panorama have the most interesting tale to tell. As I’m part-British, I kept rooting for Harold and disliked William so cheered when the Normans were thwarted by their enemies.
However, I must admit to having a Viking bias so my favourite tale was Joanna Courtney’s ‘Emperor of the North’ about King Harold Hardrada, closely followed by Anna Belfrage’s ‘The Danish Crutch’ – never discount a ‘cripple’ (or else I’ll run you over with my wheelchair).
But there were moments when I laughed as well as cried, and all the stories had me nodding with enjoyment and reading avidly. There is even an amusing and clever science fiction/time travel spin in Richard Dee’s ‘If You Changed One Thing’, and I must mention Alison Morton’s ‘A Roman Intervenes’ when her own alternative Roma Nova world impacts on events.
The collection is assembled in such a way that between the ‘alternatives’ are the related facts as they happened, as far as historians and archaeologists know – which still leaves room for these experienced writers’ imaginations. After each tale, there are interesting points of discussion to make the reader pursue the thoughts raised.

In many cases, I now have a list of books to keep me historically entertained for months – if I don’t just keep re-reading this collection of five-star tales.
Thought-provoking alternative that is fascinating

Image result for image 5 star rating Brilliant premise! By Lanky Ladyon August 29, 2016
The premise of this anthology intrigued me enough to buy it. The various authors have all looked at the events leading up to, and after, the Battle of Hastings, using an alternative take on those events. What would have happened, for instance, if Harold Godwinson hadn’t become King? Or if all Duke William’s ships had been burned before they ventured on to the Narrow Sea? Or perhaps someone went backwards in time to change events? (Loved the twist in the tale in this one!) Or if the Bayeux Tapestry was actually subversive (having seen the tapestry, this theory is very credible!) There are nine stories in all, and I would thoroughly recommend this to devotees of historical novels. Fascinating!

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What if....? By littleangelicrose on August 21, 2016
This volume is a collection of short stories by nine well-known authors that all concern the same theme – the intriguing ‘What if?’ of the events of 1066.
1066 has been declared one of the two memorable dates in English history and we all know what happened in the October of that year. This volume not only explores what else of great significance happened that same momentous year, but each story examines what might have been.
As a student of the Norman Conquest, I am well versed in the histories that these short stories challenge and they present the most tantalising glimpse into what England could have been had things happened differently. We could now be ruled by Danes, by Anglo Saxon descendants of Harold or Edgar the AEtheling. We see what happens if just one tiny thing changes, the butterfly effect of time travel, and we meet some wonderful characters as we go.
One story is set entirely in the present /near future, one has the potential to have been entirely true because we do not know enough to argue that it couldn’t be. The rest are glorious re-imagining by their authors, revelling in doing what I think most students of the era want to do – dispose of William of Normandy. And let’s face it, if in the Game of Thrones you either win or you die, any revision of those events is going to lead this way so I don’t think I’ve given the game away!
In those moments when the injustice of the Norman victory on that blood-soaked field of Senlac grates, at a distance of nearly a thousand years, even a descendent of one of William’s soldiers can pick up this volume and retreat back into ‘What if…?’ and indulge in a world that might have been.

Reviewed initially for the Histrical Novel Society and so good I have to tell everyone.

Image result for image 5 star rating A seamless collaboration By Pinkyon August 2, 2016
All good fiction begins with a ‘what if?’ and these writers have certainly embraced that idea. Who hasn’t thought, ‘if only that had happened’ – even if about a washed out picnic, a road not taken – one moment that changes all.
In history – important history that still affects our lives – how might things be changed?
If you enjoy history and adore good writing, this collection will entertain – and make you think, just for a moment, what if…?

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If you love history and are fascinated by the ‘what ifs’ that ... By Clive Barclay on December 29, 2016

If you love history and are fascinated by the ‘what ifs’ that could have changed key events in history to re-orientate the future, then ‘1066 Turned Upside Down’ is a must read. The authors have come up with some intriguing short stories set around key events during that epic year but with alternative outcomes. The stories leave you wondering what life would be like today if any of these had become part of British history.

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Fantastic alternative stories! By Marsha on August 4, 2016
1066 Turned Upside Down is a collaboration between nine historical fiction authors each bringing their own spin on an alternative happening of that fateful year in England's history, 1066. The nine authors are Joanna Courtney, Helen Hollick, Anna Belfrage, Richard Dee, G.K. Holloway, Carol McGrath, Alison Morton, Eliza Redgold, and Annie Whitehead.
Each month of that tumultuous year is featured with the subjects covering such momentous occasions as King Edward the Confessor dying and King Harold Godwinson being crowned, King Harald Hardrada's invasion of England, the comet seen in April, the Battle of London Bridge, and the stitching of the Bayeux Tapestry just to name a few. These topics are all written with a twist to the actual history and with each author bringing their own fabulous touches to weave an alternative tale.
I greatly enjoyed each story and reading each author's imaginative take on the events of 1066 and how while using quite a few actual facts of the time each author brought a totally believable tale of events.

Image result for image 5 star rating A Superb Collaboration By Inge H. Borgon December 2, 2016
This interesting alternative history of England’s tumultuous year 1066 is a collaboration of nine authors, each a successful writer of his/her own historical fiction novels: Joanna Courtney, Helen Hollick, Anna Belfrage, Richard Dee, G.K. Holloway, Carol McGrath, Alison Morton, Eliza Redgold, and Annie Whitehead.
In 1066 Turned Upside Down, each writer envisions a fascinating “what if” version about that fateful year in England's history. And with each outcome, modern man would have inherited a much different world, in some instances giving rise to my notion of “too bad it didn’t happen that way.”
I must confess to not knowing much about this time in England’s long history. However, having read James M. Hockey’s excellent “Edith Fair as a Swan: Tales of Bowdyn 3” (an excellent series, by the way), I was at least familiar with King Harold’s “common wife Edith.”
Because of this, and the excellent Foreword by C. C. Humphreys, I enjoyed the “what if” scenario in 1066 even more.

Image result for image 5 star rating The events of 1066 re-imagined. History with a twist. By J.E. Crockeron November 10, 2016
Since there's a variety of stories here, I can't just say the mood is one thing or another: they vary. I do enjoy seeing how things could have turned out differently with these twists.
Alternative history at it's best! Great read and a brilliant idea for a book

Image result for image 5 star rating Brilliant book By David Bairdon August 1, 2016
What a brilliant book this was. I just love the idea that the authors have taken a period in time and let their creative juices flow. 1066 is a fascinating period to read about and to have these authors explore the “what if” was refreshing
I’m a big fan of collections like this, I find then fun to read. Not only do they flow easily since they are self-contained short stories but you also get introduced to some authors you might not previously have heard of. I’ll admit I’ve only read books be three of these authors.. that will soon change.
The book starts with a forward by C.C Humphreys. I’m the first to admit I’ve never really understood the need for these in a book but this one has changed my mind. This forward was witty and fun and perfectly set up the book for me as a reader
Each author tackles at least one story, they each take an event that happened and twist it.. they explore the possibilities that might have occurred if things went differently.
After reading other books I’ve always wondered about the “what ifs” Such as what would have happened if Harold had waited before going to war on that fateful day.. what would have happened if the rest of Harold’s army had arrived in time to engage in the fight..the outcome could have been so different
One of my favourite stories had to be the tale by Richard Dee, the perfect mix of science fiction and historical fiction, where the butterfly effect is explored and that if you could travel back to the past even the slightest change could mean big changes to the future
It was really good to see Annie Whitehead take part in this book also. If you’ve read my reviews you’ll know I’m a fan of hers and her story was particularly enjoyable to read. Her tale focused on the Battle of Fulford where Morcar and Edwin were defeated by Harald Hardrada.. what if this was the other way around??
Each story was well written and allowed the author to play with the events of history and I enjoyed every one of them. I also really liked at the end of each story the reader is given discussion suggestions which raise some interesting thoughts
This book was a gripping read and it’s opened my eyes to more wonderful authors.. I’ll be sure to add some of their books to my TBR list… some i already have:)
Any fan of the period who likes the idea of exploring the endless possibilities of what could have happen will enjoy this

Image result for image 5 star rating 1066 but not as you know it.. By jaffareadstooon August 2, 2016
I'm fascinated by historical fiction written by authors who wade way through dusty history books and ponder long into the night about the minutiae of the lives, and times, of historical figures, always maintaining historical accuracy, so that no-on can ever accuse them of changing, or of rearranging history. It must be a temptation though, on occasion, to have the opportunity to rearrange events to give a voice to that little mischievous murmur that whispers ever so softly… what would have happened, if only..
In 1066 Turned Upside Down, nine talented historical fiction authors , all at the top of their game in terms of historical fiction, have taken the facts, as we know them, about the tumultuous events of the year, 1066 and have given us their alternate versions of events. All of the eleven stories have an air of authenticity and each combine historical facts with a delightful twist. All of the stories are readable in short snippets , little bite sized stories, which you can comfortably read in one sitting, but which, ultimately, offer a fresh approach to a time in history that most of us feel we know really well.
Whilst I am familiar with some of the authors who have contributed, others are new to me, but what convinced me about the combined quality of this book was just how seriously these committed authors take their craft. They make history come alive, and with real conviction turn fact into fiction and fiction into fact, cleverly manipulating events so that everything you read becomes totally convincing and in some cases you wish it had happened just so..
I’m not going to single out any one story as my ‘favourite’ as each one brings something different to the feast and I think the stories should be looked at as a collective whole rather than singletons, however, it must also be said that each story is complete within itself and stands proudly alone.
It’s a great idea to take something as momentous as 1066 and turn it completely on its head but in this 950th anniversary year of the battle of Hastings, it’s refreshing to look at events in a totally different way and I commend these fine authors for their inventiveness and obvious enthusiasm for their chosen genre.

Image result for image 5 star rating A fascinating collaborative opus By Blue Dolphinon August 1, 2016
Format: Kindle Edition
An ARC of this book was offered to me for review purposes. What a very unusual concept. History was never my first love in school, and our Italian curriculum focussed on the ancient Greeks and Romans, so I came to this with a completely open mind and no recent memory of the events that made 1066 such a pivotal year for the fortunes of what is now known as Britain, and consequently for the rest of Europe. Britain and France have a lot of shared links, conflict and alliances. In the year 1066, when King Edward died without issue, his brother-in-law was elected in his place. Harold Godwinson, Earl of Wessex and the second most powerful man in England, had for many years been his chief military commander, a man eminently capable but not in the royal line of descent. William, Duke of Normandy, claimed that he had been promised Britain (in what were, at best, suspect circumstances), so he started to amass a mighty invasion naval force. Harald Hardrada of Norway also saw an opening for his ambition to take over the rich lands so near his own domain.
In this precarious moment in time, many things could have happened as King Harold's initial stunning victories augured well but something went terribly wrong at Hastings. To mark the 950th Anniversary of the Battle of Hastings, a group of contemporary historical writers have provided their distinctive take on “what might have been”. The fascinating part of this exercise is that we have nine very different voices unleashing their individual imagination in eleven fictional accounts (two writers provided a double) loosely based on what meagre historical facts we have, taking all sorts of liberties, but generally staying true to the flavour of the times.
For me as a reader, it was a stimulating and demanding exercise to move from one piece to the next, because one had to erase the previous stories from short-term memory, and essentially start fresh with each one. I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge and, given the vast diversity of styles and approaches, I think anyone interested in this slice of history will find something to like. Naturally, I had my favourites and some that I did not care for, but the collection as a whole was very interesting. My hands-down favourite was the story involving a Roma Novan character, not surprising as I have enjoyed every single book of that whole series by Alison Morton. A close second was the re-imagining of the Battle of Hastings by Joanna Courtney, where the human element is touchingly explored. Even if you are not a history buff, the writing styles are all very approachable and generally enjoyable. All you need is a curious mind and the willingness to follow each of these nine creators in their singular pursuit.

But just to balance a little....  some 3 stars

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 It was ok. By Pat R.on September 2, 2018
I didn't enjoy this book as much as I thought I would and I would recommend you know quite a lot about the year 1066 and William the Conquerer. I thought I did but I was mostly confused. This is no fault of the authors, really, but each different story seemed to be like a chapter out of the middle of a book - I didn't know what came before.. However, if you love that period in history, you may find this book quite a lot of fun.

Worth the read for the cost By Robin on September 27, 2017
It appears that another group of authors has attempted to do what the H Team has done in compiling short stories from each author on a major event in history, except this group is doing it with an alternate history twist. These short stories explore how things would have gone down in 1066 England if Edgar was crowned instead of Harold, or if William of Normandy had lost at Hastings, and several other "what if" speculations.
It also differs from the H Team's books because these are truly individual short stories. Each tale has nothing to do with one another (apart from being based on the events of 1066), which in itself is not necessarily a bad thing. There are plenty of unrelated short story compilations out there which people really enjoy. But it's disappointing when you also consider that most of the stories are so short that you really don't get an idea of how history would have been radically different if these "what if" scenarios had happened. I felt like it posed more questions than it answered. I would have liked each story to not only present an alternate event, but also show us how the succeeding events thereafter would have been different as a result. Don't just show us how the Battle of Hastings would have been different if Harold had won, show us what would have happened after that - how would it have changed England? If they had done that, I wouldn't have minded each story having nothing to do with the next, as it allowed more than one alternate history scenario to be explored.
There were author's notes and discussion suggestions that attempted to explore the resulting events a little bit, which were informative and enlightening, but it just wasn't the same, and wasn't what I was expecting. I did enjoy them though, and actually wound up thinking this might have been a better project had they just approached it with academic essays instead of trying to make them into fictional short stories.
Don't get me wrong, the writing quality from all these stories is very good. But to me, the short stories felt like something that was just quickly thrown together to make each author a few extra bucks on the self published ebook sales, and give them some more exposure. I guess I was hoping for something a little more in depth. However, for only $1.99, it's probably worth the read for those really interested in this topic.

well, you can't please all the people all the time!

Buy from an Amazon near you - click here

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  1. The first thing that struck me was the fact that 9 different authors could come up with stories that were new, so very different and yet remained plausible. A fantastic achievement by all....

  2. Great to be reminded of a clever collection of 'what ifs' - and you kindly included my wordy review - but also be reminded of all the historicals that I have yet to enjoy. Thought-provoking alternatives indeed.

    1. Thank you Roland - for leaving a comment here and on Amazon!


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