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Discussion Starter · #1 ·


'Sharp as quivering hares are the Flecks. We've eyes and ears for things other folk miss.'

Much later, in the aftermath of Flodden, a young man finally understands his father's words.
The year: 1513. The place: North-East England.
Tom Fleck, a downtrodden farm worker but gifted archer yearns to escape his masters. He unearths two objects that could be keys to freedom: a torque of ancient gold and a Tudor seal ring. He cannot know how these finds will determine his future.
Rachel Coronel craves an end to her Jewish wanderings. When the torque comes to rest around the neck of this mysterious woman, an odyssey begins which draws Tom Fleck into borderlands of belief and race.
The seal ring propels Tom on a journey of self-knowledge that can only climax in another borderland, among the 'flowers of the forest' on Flodden Field.

'Tom Fleck' is on Kindle at $2.99
The first chapter can be read on my blog.

Best wishes to you all.

Harry
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Another morsel about 'Tom Fleck':

Inside introduction:
Here are Tudor kings and their nobles - their documented lives are rich material for writers - but now they play a minor part. This is the story of Tom Fleck, a penniless farm labourer, who shares his dwelling with cattle. He is fictional only because he leaves no record - his people live before the keeping of parish registers, so they make no marks on parchment and are lost to history.
We find his rare surname in the register of St. Hilda’s church at Hartlepool:
Baptisms 1596, September 19th : Christofer ye child of Willm. Fleck.
Perhaps William heard tales of how his great grandfather, Thomas, loved a strange woman and stood with the army on the terrible battlefield of Flodden. This story brings him to life.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Perry Aylen said:
I've read this and would thoroughly recommend it as an original and well written novel
Thank you, Perry. Hexult is interesting for me - I keep trying to mentally place your landmasses on the map as it is now.

A snip from chapter 4 of 'Tom Fleck':

The Swan jutted into the street an arrow-shot distant. Yellow light showed in every twisted window of the lopsided building. He tried to gather his thoughts on what he needed to do. The shepherd's taunts had made his heart pound and stiffened his resolve to break free of Thornaby Manor.
Sounds of raucous singing, backed up by a fiddler, poured through the entrance. He took a deep breath and strode inside, straight up to a row of barrels that lay between chocks on a long table. A stout man, resting his apron-wrapped belly against the table, nodded to him. Meg squeezed among drinkers' legs, sniffing for scraps of food, until she got into a fight with a lurcher. A jug of beer crashed against the stone-flagged floor and a voice cried out in dismay. Tom cleared his throat and asked for ale. A tankard and a slopping wooden jug thudded onto the table.
'There you are, young man, a quart of the town's best, passed by Northallerton's properly elected ale taster.' The innkeeper laughed at his own joke and a group of men at a nearby table groaned aloud. 'You lot can shut up! How long will you cuddle that ale? You spend a farthing and clutter up my inn for the rest of the night! And that's a farthing to you, me brave boy. Have you come far?'
Tom took a drink. 'From Thornaby way, to see the market.' He lowered his voice. 'I'm told you've a dealer lodging here, I want to talk to him.'
'Can you keep that dog in hand? I've a few dealers here - the Swan's full tonight.' The men at the table set down their tankards and stared. 'What are you lot gawping at?' the innkeeper shouted - then beamed at Tom. 'Take no mind of that lot - they're inbred half-wits from top o' Swaledale, where they all sleep in one bed.'
'He's a travelling Jew,' Tom muttered.
Meg, having come off worst, slunk across the alehouse floor and settled at her master's feet.
'Oh, him?' He leaned over and whispered, 'And what bright things have you fetched from the hills today?'
'Nowt, I've come to speak with him, that's all,' Tom whispered back.
'Oh, aye? Nowt, eh? Well, young'un - me and him have a business arrangement. He likes me to check things out afore I send folk upstairs to his chamber. Bonny stuff, is it?'

'Tom Fleck' is on Kindle at $2.99
The first chapter can be read on my blog.

Best wishes to you all.

Harry
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Lately, I been thinking about why I wrote 'Tom Fleck' and why the story is set in its particular time and place:

                            ‘Tom Fleck’.
            The story of an unknown man.

Do we ever wonder about our distant forefathers and mothers, those who lived before our great-grandparents, and even before their great-grandparents? What can we know of them? Beyond even our parent’s parents there is sadly just white fog - for most of us.
We can penetrate the fog a little. Family history research has never been more popular. Folk beaver away through the mass of data now on the internet. But what does it yield? Seldom more than the bare bones of names and the dates of baptisms, marriages and burials, and those only if you are lucky and persistent. Personality is not found; we don’t see tears or hear cries of joy, there are no flushed cheeks and beating hearts. No whisperings in the night time.
A few scraps of bone we might find here and there, as we search back through time – but then we reach a solid wall. That barrier is the darkness before the start of parish registers (in England, 1566). This is the end of the search for our ancestors - unless they were aristocrats or notorious rebels.
I’ve trodden this way, back to a mysterious ancestor: Lancelot Horsley (probably a fisherman). In 1573, he buried his first wife and two infants, then remarried and had two healthy sons. That is all I’ll ever know of him; his beginnings are on the far side of that barrier, so there is not a single mark on parchment to show that his parents ever existed.
But what if I write a story? A story about the life and times of people perhaps two generations before Lancelot? I can research how the ordinary folk of his district lived, how they spoke, what they believed to be true, and how events beyond their control swept them along. Why not? So I went for it!   
One rare name stepped forward from the Hartlepool records and caught my attention – a little family called Fleck. I imagined their great-grandfather as a Thomas Fleck, a humble farm labourer. He would be a young man in a formative year. 1513 was the year of the Battle of Flodden, a conflict that gave rise to the haunting Scottish lament: "The Flowers of the Forest are a' wede away". Fine – so how could I contrive a situation where the humble Tom Fleck would have to leave his kindred and re-discover himself in the midst of international struggles beyond his comprehension?
First, I built his world from scraps of social history and old maps, give him personality and a family, give him troubles and yearnings, give him turning points, cross-roads, loves and enemies - and hard choices. All this in order to try to understand how some of our ancestors might have walked the land.
It is done. A whole generation has come alive. They walk and run through the pages and I love them all - even the villains.

 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
For those attracted by wild border-lands, here is another snippet from 'Tom Fleck':

The commander growled to a captain, 'This sickens me! Why such savagery?'
'It's the Borders, Sir William; these are marginal lands. English reivers wrought havoc across the Tweed not two weeks since. This is revenge. There are blood feuds here that last generations. The Kerrs have seized their chance to settle old scores.'
Sir William called to the hunched figures in the churchyard, 'Those men still fit can work for me as scouts - they'll be paid. You will come to the camp and be fed, equipped and horsed -' He broke off at the sound of hooves as thirty riders entered the village from the north-east. Ravelled hair - red, blonde and grey - hung below the rims of iron helmets. Coats of quilted leather bulged around dented breastplates. Eight-foot lances stood upright and ready - socketed close to the right knee. Grim eyes scanned the husk of the blackened village.
The captain spoke. 'These men are Herons and Selbys from east of here, Sir William. This is a village of their kin.'
'Who did this?' a blue-jowled rider shouted.
The old man answered, 'About fifty of them came swaggering' in - mostly Kerrs. It was auld Baldy Kerr who fired the cotts with folk inside. He's chopped his way through here afore. He brought his mob again: one had a bad scar across his nose and another was without front teeth. I didn't get a look at the rest - the night was black.'
'They'll pay,' the rider said in a cold voice. He leaned toward William Bulmer. 'Ye have our service for two days only. Ride out wi' me to the sou'-west and I'll show ye a spot where a trap might be set.'

http://www.amazon.com/Tom-Fleck-ebook/dp/B004Z20AZ4/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&m=A7B2F8DUJ88VZ&s=digital-text&qid=1305743838&sr=1-1
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
On the last weekend I met two people for whom 'Tom Fleck' was their first historical read. The story of Tom, the Yorkshire bowman, has made converts of them and they are now readers of Bernard Cornwell et al.
Well I never . . .

The opening chapter of 'Tom Fleck' can be read on my blog: http://1513fusion.wordpress.com/

best wishes

Harry (gazing out of the window into a thin English mist)
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
    'There you are, young man, a quart of the town's best, passed by Northallerton's properly elected ale taster.' The innkeeper laughed at his own joke and a group of men at a nearby table groaned aloud. 'You lot can shut up! How long will you cuddle that ale? You spend a farthing and clutter up my inn for the rest of the night! And that's a farthing to you, me brave boy. Have you come far?' 
    Tom took a drink. 'From Thornaby way, to see the market.' He lowered his voice. 'I'm told you've a dealer lodging here, I want to talk to him.'
    'Can you keep that dog in hand? I've a few dealers here - the Swan's full tonight.' The men at the table set down their tankards and stared. 'What are you lot gawping at?' the innkeeper shouted - then beamed at Tom. 'Take no mind of that lot - they're inbred half-wits from top o' Swaledale, where they all sleep in one bed.'

The above is a fragment of 'Tom Fleck'. The first chapter is on my blog.
Best wishes to you all.
Harry
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Inside introduction:
Here are Tudor kings and their nobles - their documented lives are rich material for writers - but now they play a minor part. This is the story of Tom Fleck, a penniless farm labourer, who shares his dwelling with cattle. He is fictional only because he leaves no record - his people live before the keeping of parish registers, so they make no marks on parchment and are lost to history.
We find his rare surname in the register of St. Hilda’s church at Hartlepool:
Baptisms 1596, September 19th : Christofer ye child of Willm. Fleck.
Perhaps William heard tales of how his great grandfather, Thomas, loved a strange woman and stood with the army on the terrible battlefield of Flodden. This story brings him to life.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
For lovers of history and of how our ancestors might have lived, thought and loved - a story:
Inside introduction:
Here are Tudor kings and their nobles - their documented lives are rich material for writers - but now they play a minor part. This is the story of Tom Fleck, a penniless farm labourer, who shares his dwelling with cattle. He is fictional only because he leaves no record - his people live before the keeping of parish registers, so they make no marks on parchment and are lost to history.
We find his rare surname in the register of St. Hilda’s church at Hartlepool:
Baptisms 1596, September 19th : Christofer ye child of Willm. Fleck.
Perhaps William heard tales of how his great grandfather, Thomas, loved a strange woman and stood with the army on the terrible battlefield of Flodden. This story brings him to life.

Four years in the writing, it is on Kindle at a low price

Chapter 1 can be read on my blog.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
A new review has just appeared on Amazon. I'm always fascinated when a new reader comments:

By
C. Kirby (England) -
(REAL NAME) 
This review is from: Tom Fleck (Paperback)
I found Tom Fleck to be a very intriguing story and unlike anything I've read before. What a history lesson it would be for those who'd like to know just what it was like to be alive then!

Getting to know Tom Fleck was an interesting, surprising and absorbing journey. I discovered what it was like to live in the 1500s. The story brings to life the tastes, smells, joys, sorrows and hardships of the ordinary people as well as the nobles. The beliefs and prejudices, the food and deprivations, the work they did and the soldier's lives in and out of battle were clearly recreated. I found the conclusion surprising and very satisfying too.

That far back in history has always seemed to me so unreal that I could almost think they were aliens, by today's ways of living. Tom Fleck's story made me feel I was there walking in the same 'shoes' as the characters. Harry Nicholson, the author, has also done an amazing job of describing the bird and plant life, the remedies and so much else that has created the world of Tom Fleck. I really enjoyed it. I don't know how the author has managed to discover so many clever details and used them so magically.

For anyone looking for a story that is intriguing, informative and with a wonderful atmosphere that lingers after reading it I recommend this book very highly.

 

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"He is fictional only because he leaves no record."
What power we writers have!

Thank you, Harry, and congratulations on the novel.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Steverino said:
"He is fictional only because he leaves no record."
What power we writers have!

Thank you, Harry, and congratulations on the novel.
So we do - potentially at least, Steve. Your alternative history looks to be intriguing.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
'Tom Fleck' has had a compliment from one of my poetry tutors.

Mandy Sutter wrote:

Hi Harry, just wanted to say how much I'm enjoying Tom Fleck. It's a page turner, excellently paced, and all the characters are drawn with empathy and completely believable. I love the way animals (dogs, oxen, birds, horses, etc) have such presence in the novel. The language and the evocation of a life long gone are brilliant. Top stuff!
................

This is what nourishes an isolated writer.
Harry
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Here is a snippet from 'Tom Fleck' for those with a taste for Tudor stories:

Tom tries to find words for his bride:


  'You are the first gleam of dawn
  that swells the green linnet's breast,
  and throbs his heart with joy.
 
  You are the sun at Noon,
  that golds the barley, and pulls
  the bee to the ling on the moor.

  And in the evening, the friend
  of my hearth side, and lover
  - when the whaup falls silent.'
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
'Tom Fleck'
  Writing it was a four-year delight as the landscape of Northern England and the Scottish Borders came to life. It is set in 1513 and is an unusual Tudor novel - the nobles are background characters - it is the humble ordinary folk (our ancestors) who take centre stage in love and conflict.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
'Tom Fleck' - This historical novel is free until tomorrow 12 March. Help yourself to an unusual story.
'Tom Fleck' came, in part, as a response to what greets me when I walk into bookshops: glossy covers of historical novels that push jewelled Tudor cleavages at the reader - and within, yet more tangled intrigues of royal courts. I seldom feel an emotional connection with these great lords and their ladies. Where are the stories of the ancestors of ordinary people? I don't see any. So I've written a story of the life and adventures of forgotten men and women, people without heraldry, people who left no record except for the blood that, at least poetically, might still flow in our modern veins.
Harry Nicholson
 
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