Spotlight — Sheriff and Priest

Today the Book Ninjas are spotlighting Sheriff and Priest by Nicky Moxey!

In 12thC England, a poor Saxon boy should stay at the bottom of the social ladder. Instead, Wimer became one of the most trusted servants of Henry ll - at a price; he was excommunicated three times, twice by Thomas a'Becket, and once by the Pope. To save his soul, the only thing to do was to give it all up and found a Priory - but how? The wealth required is well beyond his grasp. Until a mysterious lady makes a gift...


Questions From the Ninjas

Ninjas must train in all sorts of things--one of us (who will go unnamed) is even a ninja at decorating cakes. What's your secret ninja skill?

Archaeology! I found this church roof tile in the middle of a meadow - and then needed to spend time in the archives to see if there was any record of any church there. And there I discovered this guy called Wimer, who founded a priory - and also built Orford Castle - and became sheriff of all Norfolk and Suffolk - even though he was a Saxon! A pretty cool guy. So I had to write his story :)

Do you have any ninja writing tricks you can share with our readers?

Love your beta readers - but don't insult their patience with too early a draft.


Excerpt

WIMER, AGE 9

DODNASH, MAY 1143

Wimer thumped the tree trunk hard, just missing a moss-stained pair of feet, scrawny calves disappearing into a homespun tunic. He sighed, and looked down at his own finery. Climbing up himself just wasn’t worth the risk, however boring it was down here. Well, not boring. He had plenty of cheerful scenes in his head to keep himself amused. Usually he felt completely safe in church, the one place where his brother couldn’t reach him; but today, there were so many things that could go wrong. Every time he thought about what would happen when the Bishop arrived, he had to swallow a fresh flood of spit. I will not be sick… What if he threw up in the middle of the service? Fainted from fright? Or dropped the Host? He swallowed, and looked up again.

“Anything?” he called.

“Oh, shut up, Wimer, you asked that about two heartbeats…” “There! Look! There’s the knight’s pennants!” The lowest boy’s reply was drowned by someone with a better view calling out the news they’d all been waiting for.

The whole flock of boys fell out of the trees, and started pelting down the road towards the church. Wimer started to walk after them, then his legs took over, and he put his head down and ran as hard as he possibly could. To his surprise, he was in the middle of the pack when they arrived, and feeling much more cheerful. Maybe today won’t be too awful after all…

Where was Hervey? It was always safest to spot him first. Not part of the big group of parishioners, just getting up from their gossip-session sitting on the church wall, their Sunday best clothes making a bright splash of colour in the shade. His mother caught his eye, and made little flicking motions down the front of her dress. What?… Oh! He got the idea, and brushed the dust off his long white tabard. She nodded and smiled, and he waved back.

Father Philip was alone in the doorway of the church, looking very smart in his best albe and robes, fussing with his sleeves. Huh – the Father's looking nervous too! Somehow that made Wimer feel more confident. He wasn’t being stupid, if Father Philip felt scared too! So where…

There he was. Talking to Will the tanner, who must be visiting his family, he’d moved to Ipswich just a few months ago. Standing surprisingly close, most people stood as far away from Will as possible. Maybe they were doing some business? Hervey looked up, pointed at Wimer, and said something. Will sneered, and said something that made Hervey go red and ball his fist. He visibly relaxed, and punched Will on the shoulder. Wimer suddenly knew what they were talking about. SURELY Hervey wouldn’t apprentice him to the tanner? To spend his life up to his waist in stinky pee, hauling hides for that horrid man? Please God, no.

He jumped as someone grabbed his arm.

“Wimer! There you are. Come on! We have to go to meet the Bishop NOW!”

Father Philip pulled him into position in the parade, next to the other altar boy. Wimer stood waiting, switching between worrying about the service, and being apprenticed, until everything was just one unhappy blur. I suppose I could run away… Finally they all started off.


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About the Author

I live in the middle of rural Suffolk, UK, and am owned by a slinky black cat who's far too clever for her own good.

In my spare time, I'm an amateur historian/archaeologist, and in non-work daylight hours am usually out on a field somewhere with a metal detector and/or a trowel. I've added quite a few things to the Heritage England Record and the Portable Antiquities Scheme; but what really fascinates me is the stories behind the artefacts.

My first historical novel, Sheriff and Priest, is about the story of a local boy made good - Wimer the Chaplain was born in Dodnash in Suffolk of a poor Saxon family, but made it to be a confidant of Henry ll, holding down the job of High Sheriff for all Norfolk and Suffolk. Then he gave it all up and came home to found a Priory... finding the original site of that Priory (not where it's shown on the map) is still one of my proudest discoveries.

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