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Interview with Mary Anne Yarde – Saints, Standing Stones and an Ancient Curse

Dulac1I’m delighted to welcome Mary Anne Yarde to my blog today. Mary Anne is the multi award-winning author of the International Bestselling Series — The Du Lac Chronicles.

Did you envisage writing a long series when you started the first book, or did the idea grow? What made you want to carry on writing them?

The Du Lac Chronicles was meant to be an Arthurian romance, and it was meant to be a trilogy. It still has an Arthurian theme, but it is no longer a trilogy! I have in one of my many folders on my computer the first-drafts of the first three manuscripts of The Du Lac Chronicles that I had written over ten years ago — I never realised that two of them would never see the light of day. The joy of being an indie author is that you are allowed to change your mind, and I can remember reading over what was meant to be Book 2 of The Du Lac Chronicles and screwing up my nose with the realisation that this wasn’t the story I wanted to tell. So, I rewrote it, and I concluded that there was no way I was going to be able to tell this story in three books, and with that recognition, I felt free to indulge in my imagination and write the story that was begging to be written. 

What made me carrying on writing about those Du Lac boys is simply because I adore them, I adore the era, and I have had such positive feedback from my readers. I am always being asked when the next book is coming out, which certainly motivates me to keep writing.

Who is yDulac2our favourite minor character in the book, and why?

My favourite minor character is Saint Sampson of Dol, although he is not a saint in my books because he isn’t dead — yet! Saint Sampson was a character that I stumbled upon when I was still in the research stage for The Du Lac Devil: Book 2 of The Du Lac Chronicles. I had never heard of this Saint of Brittany before. I became compelled to find out more about him, and I discovered his life’s work overlapped events that happen in my book, so it seemed as if finding him was somehow predestined. Saint Sampson, even though he is a secondary character, has influenced the narrative of the story from the moments he makes his first appearance in Book 2. Through him, I have explored the influence of the Christian Church in Britain during this time.

Tell me about an object or place that is important in the novel and what it signifies.

A place that is really important to several characters in my series is the Standing Stones “The Hurlers” on Bodmin Moor, Cornwall. It is where Merton du Lac first encounters Tegan. Tegan is a seer and former knight of Arthur’s, and it is also the place where history and myths collide. During my research for The Du Lac Princess, Book 3 of The Du Lac Chronicles, I visited The Hurlers, and I knew I had to include them. They scream myths and legends.

Dulac3Your books are described as a mixture of historical fiction and myth. Do you think this reflects what you are trying to achieve in your novels?

The Early Medieval era or The Dark Ages as it is more commonly known, is a challenging period to research as it is the age of the lost manuscripts. The manuscripts were lost due to various reasons. Firstly, the Viking raiders destroyed many written primary sources. Henry VIII did not help matters when he ordered The Dissolution of the Monasteries. More were lost due to the English Civil War and indeed, The French Revolution, and of course not forgetting the tragic Cotton Library Fire in 1731. So, researching this era can undoubtedly be challenging, although of course, not impossible. The one thing we do have is Geoffrey of Monmouth’s, The History of The Kings of Briton, (first published in c.1136).   

Monmouth’s book was for many, many years considered factually correct, and I think sometimes we forget that. Of course, there is very little fact in it. Monmouth borrowed heavily from folklore. The history of oral storytelling in Britain fascinates me. Folklore is its own particular brand of history, and it is often overlooked by historians, which I think is a shame. You can tell a lot about an era by the stories that were told.

The Du Lac Chronicles is an Arthurian tale, and it is based upon the life of Budic II of Brittany. I discovered Budic, purely by accident many years ago when I was researching the origins of the legend of Arthur’s most infamous knight, Lancelot du Lac. Budic’s story fascinated me. There is not a great deal of detail to it, but I found out all I could about him, and there were tiny gems of information which I thought, hang on, I could weave this into a story, and that is what I did. Along the way, I encountered other historical figures, such as Cerdic of Wessex.Dulac4

When you are dealing with myths and legends such as the story of King Arthur, or Robin Hood, for example, there has to be a historical element to the story. It has to be as historically accurate as you can get it even though you are dealing with people who may never have lived. Hopefully, what I write reflects a world where historical fact and legends collide.

How important is the story of Lancelot, who the series is named after, to this new book and what you are writing now?

Lancelot’s story is incredibly important, although it is Budic II’s life that the series is following. In The Du Lac Chronicles series it is with Lancelot where the idea of a “curse” begins. It is also Lancelot’s actions in the past that trigger the events that his sons are left to deal with after his death. 

The actual origins of the story of Lancelot are not mythical. He was the invention of a 12th century French poet, Chrétien de Troyes, who depicted him in his great work Le Chevalier de la Charette, replacing Gawain as First Knight. Lancelot’s story, however, captivated a nation. There is this unspoken understanding that if Lancelot did not exist, then he should have done. Talk about the power of fiction. Lancelot has inspired many writers, myself included. Without his story, I would never have found Budic’s.

And finally, I asked Mary Anne, what are you currently writing?

I am currently writing a second edition of The Pitchfork Rebellion, which is an interim novella between Book 1 and Book 2. I am also just beginning the research for Book 6 of The Du Lac Chronicles.

Dulac6God against Gods. King against King. Brother against Brother.

Mordred Pendragon had once said that the sons of Lancelot would eventually destroy each other, it seemed he was right all along.

Garren du Lac knew what the burning pyres meant in his brother’s kingdom — invasion. But who would dare to challenge King Alden of Cerniw for his throne? Only one man was daring enough, arrogant enough, to attempt such a feat — Budic du Lac, their eldest half-brother.

While Merton du Lac struggles to come to terms with the magnitude of Budic’s crime, there is another threat, one that is as ancient as it is powerful. But with the death toll rising and his men deserting who will take up the banner and fight in his name?

BUY THE BOOK : Amazon UK  Amazon US

Connect with Mary Anne: WebsiteBlogTwitterFacebookGoodreads. 

I am currently reading Book One of this series, and was immediately hooked. It’s on offer at the moment, and its so good I bought the second in the series before even finishing the first. My review will be on this blog soon. If you like the myths and legends of Arthurian Britain you’ll love these.  Do go and check them out.

Dulac7

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Ailenor of Provence and Queenship by Carol McGrath #medieval

Carol for BlogsI’m delighted to welcome historian and novelist Carol McGrath to my blog today, to tell us about the concept of Queenship as it relates to her new novel The Silken Rose.

Ailenor of Provence and Queenship

Ailenor of Provence was married to twenty-eight year old Henry III when she was only thirteen and he was twenty-eight. It was a dynastic marriage. She was from the cultured Provencal ruling family, a princess who was precocious, intelligent, beautiful and elegant. The marriage took place in Canterbury in January 1236. Ailenor was crowned later that month in Westminster Abbey. Henry had taken her without a dowry and she took her role as Queen of England very seriously. Although she hailed from the impoverished court of Provence, her father instilled in her a sense of her aristocratic bearing. All her long life Ailenor was a queen through and through, not relinquishing her queenly signature after Henry’s death.

During the medieval era there was a subtle interplay between the image of the Virgin Mary and that of a secular queen. Marion symbolism occurred in sculpture, glass, embroidery and illuminated books. There was a huge trade in Marion reliquary such as fingernails and other odd bodily bits. Marion chantries and chapels abounded throughout Europe. The Cult of the Virgin was a High Medieval obsession. Mary was chaste and she was Christ’s mother. Marriage was for the begetting of children, not sex.

Carol HenrytretiThe coronation liturgy stressed the association between queenship and marriage. Ailenor’s job was first and foremost to provide heirs for the royal line. Henry III was so convinced that he possessed a sanctified ancestry from the line of David he had the tree of Jesse depicted on the window of Ailenor’s bedchamber at Windsor Castle. It showed marriage’s priority to beget heirs. Ailenor’s window at Clarendon Castle depicted her kneeling before the Virgin and child. Fecundity and maternity were particularly important to Ailenor’s queenship. When Edward was born in 1239 the celebrations in London were extravagant with wine flowing from fountains, pageants, gifts. Three royal girls and another prince followed.  They became a close family. Ailenor took royal motherhood hands on.

The queen was an authority figure and, without doubt, Ailenor enjoyed this role. The Virgin is often shown bearing a sceptre as the Queen of Heaven beside the figure of Christ. Ailenor’s figure on her first great seal shows her crowned and bearing a sceptre. She exploited her regal position on many occasions and frequently, though not always, was a power behind Henry’s throne, aided and advised by her clever Savoyard uncles.

The Coronation of the Virgin is a medieval image used in particular on embroidery, books, statutory and painted glass. This depiction shows Mary’s humility as she leans towards Christ receiving her crown and it became representative of queenly intercession.  Ailenor interceded effectually for victims with both Henry and her son Edward I.  She could soften Henry’s heart and on many occasions use intercession to influence policy towards the Church and Henry’s difficult barons. Just like Esther of the Old Testament, Ailenor considered she was directing the King towards good. Her enemies, however, perceived her as manipulative.

Carol eleanor-of-provenceQueens had their own household officers. In her heyday, Ailenor commanded around a hundred people- stewards, cooks, knights, a marshal, tailors, nurses, laundresses, grooms etc. She possessed a wardrobe (household administration) which never lost its special identity. Even so, daily accounts were rendered to officials of the king’s household. Ailenor and Henry were both into keeping up appearances and loved gorgeous clothes and ceremony. They were exceptionally extravagant. Queens had control of lands granted to them for their support for their husband’s lifetime and Dower lands to support them after their husband’s death. Queen’s Gold was a royal right, a levy of ten per cent on all fines over ten marks. It enhanced queenly power but for Ailenor this led to conflict. She spent it all.

During the thirteenth century, queens tended to witness writs rather than issue them in their own names. A queen could not be sued by courts of law. Any offence against her could dishonour the king’s dignity.  Ailenor also had the power of patronage, in particular, that of nunneries. She collected ward-ships of noble orphans and married her wards off with her own interests in mind, mostly to Provençals and Savoyards depriving the English noble marriage market of their orphaned heirs and heiresses, and importantly, their estates.

The Silken Rose Final VisualThe fact that Ailenor possessed her own power, lands, knights and household was a huge asset when her personal power was threatened by the arrival of the king’s Lusignan half-brothers. For a time conflict emerged during the 1250s between Queen’s Men and King’s Men, her Savoyards and the King’s Lusignans.

Want to know more?

Read about it in The Silken Rose which is currently on amazon kindle and available on amazon and in bookshops as a paperback on July 23rd.

Finally, Ailenor’s queenship was further challenged when the English barons threatened both the Queen and King during the 1260s. A new Barons’ War led by Simon de Montfort loomed large on England’s horizon. You can read about this in The Damask Rose which continues the She-Wolf-Queen Trilogy and will be published April 2021.

 Find Carol on her website: www.carolmcgrath.co.uk  or twitter @carolmcgrath

Thanks to Carol for her most informative post. I’ve read an ARC of this book and it’s stunning – full of lush historical detail and little-known snippets of medieval life. Don’t forget to BUY THE BOOK.

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July’s Recommended Historical Fiction

Now my next two novels are with their publishers I’ve had more time for reading, and so here are two books that are well-worth your time and money.

Tower 36337228._SY475_The Lady of the Tower by Elizabeth StJohn

I’ve a massive interest in the seventeenth century and have written nine books set in that period, so this was always going to be on my list. The novel is based on documents and diaries from Elizabeth StJohn’s family. As such, it could have been another dry memoir or lacking in drive and drama. But this is a well-structured book full of detail and interest. Each chapter begins with extracts from herbal recipes; recipes which relate to the events to follow, and set the atmosphere of the period well. Lucy Apsley was apparently a skilled herbalist who used her knowledge to treat those incarcerated in the Tower of London. Lucy is fortunate in that she moves in court circles and so those she encounters in her life inhabit the larger stage of the court. Here we see the influence of Buckingham on the King, the burgeoning unrest in Parliament, and the young men at court who see breaking hearts as a right and as a game. When Lucy’s own heart is broken, we see her as a woman who doesn’t buckle to fortune but has a certain degree of pragmatism, so that the difficulties that surround her never quite manage to sink her spirit.

My favourite parts of the book are the descriptions of life in the Tower of London. Elizabeth StJohn describes it in such vivid detail; the fact that although it is a prison, those of the upper classes still entertain in lavish style. Those living in the tower must witness the last days of those who are to be executed, and this is well-used in the novel with Walter Raleigh’s fate. All in all, this is a fabulous book, and essential for anyone interested in the Stuart period. The novel is beautifully written and produced, and those who meet Lucy will certainly want to follow her through the next tumultuous years of the Civil War.

Greenest 40331955._SY475_The Greenest Branch by P K Adams

Hildegard von Bingen was a remarkable woman for her time, and although we know she was put into a convent at an early age, gifted by her parents to the Church as many daughters were, we know very little of these early years. P K Adams has brought this medieval period to vibrant life, and made a convincing case for a plausible history of Hildegard’s early years – one which explains her love of music and the fact that she became so well-known as a physician. The ascetic tradition of St Jutta, which involves severe penances such as mortification of the flesh, is what was expected of new converts to the monastery of St Disibod. Hildegard escapes this stultifying atmosphere by finding a way out into the forest. There she reconnects with nature, and meets Volmar, a young man who will become increasingly important in her life, but also provide the greatest challenge to her vows.

Hildegard is thirsty for knowledge and becomes apprenticed to Brother Wigbert in the monks’ infirmary, using herbs gathered from the forest and garden rather than the traditional invasive treatments of bloodletting and surgery. Early success with her methods leads her to gaining more responsibility, especially as her mentor ages and becomes unwell. Hildegard has both friends and enemies within the convent – Prior Helenger does not want the fame of the women’s convent to overshadow that of the men. After Jutta’s death, when Hildegard is the natural choice to lead the nuns, Helenger is determined to stop her.

You may think that life in a convent would be dull, but PK Adams reminds us that monasteries were often targets for thieves who wished to take the treasures from the churches, and that bad relationships often fester within such a small community – leading to violent antagonisms.

In the 12th Century, where a woman who wished to become educated had few options, the contradictions of monastic life were many, and these were quietly explored in this thoughtful and well-written novel. This is a lyrically-written journey into a hidden world, and one I thoroughly enjoyed.

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The Troubadour Quartet by Jean Gill #recommended #HistFic

 

B51GRlQ4VJpL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_ (1) 51QQyWv2WNLThe first book Song at Dawn is set in the Narbonne in the 12th Century and is the story of Estela who starts the book on the run and hiding in a ditch, but soon is rescued and taken to the Court of Queen Alienor, (Eleanor of Aquitaine), who recognises her talent and extraordinary voice. From there she goes to the court of Ermengarde where she is taken under the wing of Dragonetz, a Troubadour. Dragonetz has a dream of supplying the world with paper to loosen the control of the Church over the populace, and his ambition to build a paper mill is a radical one and the cause of bloodshed and danger. From here the story takes off  into a tale full of court politics, dashing knights, and passionate song, all set aginst the heightened religious fervour and brutality of the Crusades.

I’ve read the beginning book, the end book (an ARC)and three quarters of Bladesong – the one in the middle, but wanted to highlight the series because the last book releases today!

61Irl5sQJhL 36397443 (1)

Here’s my review of Song Hereafter :

Jean Gill’s Song Hereafter, the final book in the series about troubadours Dragonetz and Estela is tour de force. Every character, and that includes the horses, dogs and hawks, is bursting with vitality, and Gill’s lush descriptions of Moorish palaces seduce you as they send you on journey full of treachery, adventure and romance.

At the heart of these books are the religious divisions that shaped that era, and so there are enemies aplenty, and real passions as each character crusades for their ‘true’ God and cause. I made the mistake of reading the first book and then the last in this series so I have some catching up to do! But I loved the characters and the settings – the chivalrous, courageous Dragonetz and the sweet-voiced Estela who is searching for a true place to belong. In this series, the places of twelfth century europe – the papermills of France, the wilds of Wales, the pilgrimage routes are all brought skilfully to life.

This is epic literary historical fiction at its best. Highly recommended.

Buy the Books UK  Buy the Books US

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Historical Fiction – recent excellent reads #GreatBook

My recent reading. Historical Fiction recommendations.

As you know, I read widely, and here are some books which are definitely worth your time. All are beautifully written. Click the title for the UK buy link.

The Anchoress

This is a contemplative book aimed at young adults. Its powers lie in the description of life as a nun, locked in a hermitage behind four walls, with only the nesting birds for company. This is a book that’s big on small detail, and evokes the medieval period through what is absent rather than what is present. We spend much of the novel inside Sarah’s head, along with her fears of heaven and hell, God and the Devil, sexuality and chastity.

(Bought this from the revolving book stand in Booths Supermarket – much more tempting than the fruit & veg stall)

Olive Kitteridge

Not strictly speaking a historical novel, though it has an old-fashioned aura about it, and covers 25 years of a marriage. Set in Maine, this tells of the small triumphs and disasters of the relationships in a small town in a series of linked vignettes. Each is a separate mini-story, with its own heart, and its own ending. Put together it creates a portrait of Olive Kitteridge – an ordinary woman in a small town – and does it with extraordinary insight and perceptiveness. If you’re curious as to what makes A Pullitzer Prize winner, then here’s your answer!

(Was lent this by a friend who thought I’d like it – I did!)

Plague

A rip-roaring historical crime thriller in which a killer is on the loose in plague-beset London. Not for the faint-hearted, this includes plenty of gore, gruesome descriptions of the plague, and an edge of your seat plot. The pace is relentless and our two heroes – Coke and Pitman must unmask the murderer before he strikes again, risking, of course, death at the hands of the butcher in the process.

(After being on a panel with the author, I ordered this from Amazon)

The Heart of the Night

Epic WW2 fiction spanning counties and continents. At heart a love story between two couples, but also a story of the enduring friendhip of two women. This is not an easy book to condense into a sentence or two, but it covers the fate of Russians in WW2, the occupation of Paris, and the fate of soldiers at the front. Tender and realistic, the writing is seamless and flowing, and the 500+ pages seem to fly by.

(picked this up from a charity bookstall in aid of our local village hall – cost me 50p and worth a lot more for its entertainment value)

None So Blind

A great historical mystery set in Wales in the Victorian era. This is a crime novel with a difference – with an unusual detective , a barrister who is losing his sight, and his sidekick who is a down-to-earth clerk of a very different class. The two both need each other and irritate each other in ways which are believable and feel real. Add to this an unusual case centred around the Rebecca Riots of the 1840’s & 50’s, and you have a dark mystery that’s well worth a read.

(Alis Hawkins, the author, was first published by Macmillan New Writing, as was I, and we’ve stayed in touch. She sent me this as an ARC before it had a publisher – now I’ve got the real thing as a paperback via my local bookshop)

I Stopped Time

Haunting portrait of the Edwardian era told through the idea of the ‘new’ art of photography. Set in Brighton and London, pioneer photgrapher Lottie Pye must apologize on her deathbed to her son James (who thinks she has abandoned him as a child) and explain the story that led her to lead her life without him. When James inherits her photographs they explain to him more than anything else what she felt for him. Fabulous characters, lovely detail, and an engaging plot.

(Read this as an ebook after taking part in a promotion where this author was featured. I like the Edwardians, so thought I’d give it a try, and I wasn’t disappointed. )

Do give some of these books a try.

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The Outlaw’s Ransom – the romance of Robin Hood

 

Outlaw's Ransom

I’m thrilled to welcome Jennifer Ash to my website today to talk about her new novella, The Outlaw’s Ransom.

Here’s a description of the book:

When craftsman’s daughter Mathilda is kidnapped by the notorious Folville brothers, as punishment for her father’s debts, she fears for her life.  Although of noble birth, the Folvilles are infamous throughout the county for disregarding the law – and for using any means necessary to deliver their brand of ‘justice’.

Mathilda must prove her worth to the Folvilles in order to win her freedom. To do so she must go against her instincts and, disguised as the paramour of the enigmatic Robert de Folville, undertake a mission that will take her far from home and put her life in the hands of a dangerous brigand – and that’s just the start of things…

A thrilling tale of medieval mystery and romance – and with a nod to the tales of Robin Hood – The Outlaw’s Ransom is perfect for fans of C.J. Sansom and Jean Plaidy.

Good to have you here, Jenny. What sort of books do you like reading? Could you share with us some historical novels you really enjoyed?

Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott, The Bishop Must Die by Michael Jecks, Kitty Peck and the Musical Hall Murders by Kate Griffin, A Conspiracy of Paper by David Liss, The Thief Taker by Janet Gleeson

I’ve only read two on that list, so I’ve some catching up to do! Tell me a little about how you first got interested in the medieval period, and the birth of this novella.

I’ve been a lover of all things medieval since I clapped eyes on an episode of Robin of Sherwood back in the 1980’s. Since then, I’ve had a fascination with the era; especially the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries which led to do a PhD in Medieval Criminology and Ballad Literature.

Despite five years of hard and intense study, my interest in the medieval legends continued, and when the chance came to indulge my passion in my fictional work, I grabbed it.

The resulting novel was Romancing Robin Hood; a part modern, part medieval romance and crime story.

Not only does the lead character in Romancing Robin Hood, Dr Grace Harper share my love of all things connected with the man in green tights (well, probably red hose actually), she also shares my love of the television show, Robin of Sherwood.  In fact, Grace loves medieval outlaws so much that she writes her own medieval mystery based on the life of a young woman called Mathilda of Twyford and her entanglement with an outlaw family called the Folvilles.

Mathilda’s story can be read within Romancing Robin Hood alongside the modern romance.

When Romancing Robin Hood was published so many people got in touch to tell me they wanted to read more of the medieval part of the story, that I decided to re-release it as a story in its own right.

Given the title, The Outlaw’s Ransom, Mathilda’s story was expanded a fraction, and published in its own right in 2015.

I’m delighted to say that Mathilda’s story doesn’t end with The Outlaw’s Ransom. I have recently finished writing the novel, The Winter Outlaw, which continues Mathilda’s adventures with the notorious Folville family. (Out Autumn/Winter 2017)

I can see the appeal of men in tights (!) but what appeals to you about outlaws?

Whether historical or fictional, there has always been something fascinating about these forced into- or who chose to adopt- the outlaw lifestyle. During the thirteenth and fourteenth century in England, there were periods of great political upheaval. As a consequence, many noble families took crime as a profession, and with it ruled their locality. Those outside the law often had more respect from the community than the representatives of the law did.

In fourteenth century Leicestershire, the Folville family had a mafia style grip on the county. But were they the good guys or the bad guys? Obviously it isn’t as simple as all that, the study of the exploits of this family- and those like them- is simply fascinating.

When you were writing the book, did you have a favourite ‘research moment’ ?

I have a small confession – I didn’t do any research when I was actually writing The Outlaw’s Ransom. My research was pre-done many years ago, between 1993 and 1999, when I studied for the aforementioned PhD on the correlation between medieval crime and the ballad literature of the fourteenth century.

It was during that time that I came across the Folvilles. There is a fairly convincing argument that this was family that the balladeers of the age – possibly- based their Robin Hood stories on.

Quite a few of the readers of this blog are writers too, I wonder if you would share a little bit about your method for writing a book? 

Left to my own devices I’m a panster. I much prefer handing control of the story over to my characters so I can let them dictate what happens. However publishers prefer (understandably), to have a guide that can give them an outline of the story they’ve just agreed to commission. As a consequence I tend to plot the first half out properly, and then wing the second half our in a much rougher plot form. Luckily my editor knows me well enough to know that the latter half of the plan I’m giving him will very probably change drastically by the time the story is actually written.

My writing career started 12 years ago when I started to write erotica as Kay Jaybee. In 2013 I became a contemporary fiction and romance novelist, Jenny Kane, as well. Then last year I took on the pen name Jennifer Ash- medieval mystery writer.

I try and write one book per ‘me’, per year. Two of these will be novels and one will be a novella, and then each different ‘me’ takes it in turns as to who gets the shorter work.

This year, Kay gets the novella, and Jenny Kane and Jennifer Ash get the novels!

Thank you to Jenny for sharing her thoughts with us, and now I’m sure if you’ve got this far, you’ll want to buy the book. Tap or click to download. US    UK

The Winter Outlaw which follows on from this book will be published in 2017. You can find details of all Jennifer’s stories at www.jenniferash.co.uk

Jennifer also writes as best-selling contemporary romance author Jenny Kane with books such as Another Glass of Champagne, Christmas at the Castle, and Abi’s House. (Accent Press) Jenny is also the author of quirky children’s picture books There’s a Cow in the Flat  and Ben’s Biscuit Tin (Hushpuppy, 2015) Keep your eye on Jenny’s blog at www.jennykane.co.uk for more details.

Follow Jenny on Twitter @JennyKaneAuthor or on Facebook 

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The Secret of a Welsh Medieval Manuscript

I’m delighted to welcome Mark Noce to my blog today, introducing his debut novel ‘Between Two Fires’, which is set in medieval Wales. I was particularly interested in this book because by coincidence I was just reading recently about The Black Book of Carmarthen, (Llyfr Du Caerfyrddin) which is the earliest surviBlack Book Daily Mailving medieval manuscript written solely in Welsh. It dates from 1250 and apparently has some of the earliest references to Arthur and Merlin. Now, researchers examining it with ultra-violet light have found that words and images erased by the scribe more than five centuries ago, can be seen lurking beneath the visible manuscript. See this article.

Professor Russell of the library believes a pumice stone was used to remove parts of the text in the sixteenth century. He said: “It takes off a slight layer off the surface, but the ink has penetrated a bit further so what we can do is use UV light to bring out that ink. On some bits of it you can’t recover anything as it has been rubbed so hard.” (BBC website) What is even more bizarre is that someone has a theory that these erased figures are actually aliens, and that there was a medieval conspiracy to cover up their existence. You couldn’t make it up. I suggest that if you want to know more about medieval Wales, you immerse yourself in Mark’s book instead.
Mark was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area of the US and is an avid traveler and backpacker, particularly in Europe and North America. By day, he works as a Technical Writer, having spent much of his career working at places like Google and Facebook. When not reading or writing, he enjoys listening to U2, sailing his dad’s boat, or gardening with his family. Find him at Marknoce.com or on Twitter/ Facebook

Noce

About Between Two Fires

Saxon barbarians threaten to destroy medieval Wales. Lady Branwen becomes Wales’s last hope to unite their divided kingdoms when her father betroths her to a powerful Welsh warlord, the Hammer King. But this fledgling alliance is fraught with enemies from within and without as Branwen herself becomes the target of assassinations and courtly intrigue. A young woman in a world of fierce warriors, she seeks to assert her own authority and preserve Wales against the barbarians. But when she falls for a young hedge knight named Artagan her world threatens to tear itself apart. Caught between her duty to her people and her love of a man she cannot have, Branwen must choose whether to preserve her royal marriage or to follow her heart. Somehow she must save her people and remain true to herself, before Saxon invaders and a mysterious traitor try to destroy her.

Amazon/ Amazon Kindle/Thomas Dunne Books

Lovely bookcover isn’t it?

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Blog Seventeenth Century Life

Fascinating old words for the historical novelist: ‘posnet’.

Whilst investigating something else entirely, I came upon an article in our local paper about the ‘Carnforth Posnet’. This apparently was a rare bronze vessel dating from medieval times. Amazing what sidetracks I end up on, when I get to our local library’s archives. (Side plea – save our local libraries!)

Carnforth Posnet

This particular object was found when a local woman was metal-detecting in a field close to Carnforth. Imagine that – digging up something so large and interesting, instead of the usual bottle tops and ring pulls. (Anyone watched The Detectorists?)

So what is a posnet? The word is first recorded in 1327 and derives from the old french ‘poçonet’ which means pot or vase. It is a cooking vessel with legs to stand over a fire, and a long handle, supported by a smaller hand grip. Ceramic versions of the same design become more common from the 14th century, and the word continued in use until the 16th century, disappearing by the Victorian era. So – early medieval until late Tudor.

The vessel is made from cast copper alloy and appears to have few signs of wear, so was probably buried new. (Why, one asks?) Apparently this is the second find of a metal cooking vessel from this area, as another metal cauldron was found in Skelton, Cumbria in 1999.

More information and original article here

The subject I was actually researching was about how the “Old Army” of the Commonwealth proved to be a sensitive issue even after King Charles II had been restored, and where demobilised veterans, injured and disabled soldiers and war widows (both Royalist and Parliamentarian) had  become a huge source of economic and cultural tension. My post on this will be later in the month on English Historical Fiction Authors blog. Meanwhile, you might like this:

The English Cavalier and His Stomach (food in the English Civil War)

Medieval Life in Pictures

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The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar – Kim Rendfeld

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Sometimes, what the primary sources don’t say attracts my attention.

In researching my first novel, The Cross and the Dragon, I learned of two grim realities:

  • In 772, Charlemagne ordered the destruction of the Irminsul, a pillar sacred to the Saxon peoples.
  • War captives often became slaves.

I could not explore those concepts in The Cross and the Dragon, a tale of a young Frankish noblewoman who must contend with a jilted suitor and the premonition she might lose her husband in battle, but I could not let them go either. I needed to write a second book, which became The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar, a story of the lengths a mother will go to protect her children after she had lost everything else – her home, her husband, her faith, even her freedom.

Perhaps, Ashes was borne from an instinct that came from my years in journalism, to give a voice to people who otherwise had none.

Few people in 8th-century Europe could write. In addition, the Continental Saxons, who ultimately lost the wars with Charlemagne’s Franks, lacked a written language as we know it.

So most of what we know about the history originates from Frankish primary sources. Although they offer the freshest perspective on what happened, the writers were biased and not afraid to bend the truth to fit their narrative. To them, the pagans were brutes, and they rarely mentioned peasants at all.

Yet the questions that rose in mind would not rest: What was it like for the Saxons to see a symbol of their faith destroyed? What was it like for peasants to lose their freedom? Historical fiction can provide possible answers.

My heroine, Leova, and her children are the products of my imagination. But sometimes the only way to understand an ordinary early medieval family neglected by history is to make one up.

 

Advance Reviews

“Carolingian Europe comes alive in Kim Rendfeld’s sweeping story of family and hope, set against the Saxon Wars. Her transportive and triumphant novel immerses us in an eighth century world that feels both mystical and starkly real.”  – Jessica Brockmole, author of Letters from Skye

“A captivating historical filled with rich detail, compelling characters, and a well-paced plot that keeps the pages turning to its very satisfying end. A true delight for fans of historical fiction. I couldn’t put it down.” – Susan Spann, author of the Shinobi Mysteries

The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar is refreshingly set in a less familiar medieval period – soon after Charlemagne has conquered a portion of today’s Germany and its people. The characters are refreshing also, common folk instead of the lords and ladies who are the usual inhabitants of historical novels, and how they adjust to their new condition is fascinating. Altogether, this book was absorbing from start to finish.” – Roberta Gellis, author of The Roselynde Chronicles

Available at:

Amazon U.S.  Amazon U.K.  Amazon Canada  Amazon Australia (Kindle)  Barnes & Noble  Kobo

Kim Rendfeld is the author of The Cross and the Dragon (2012, Fireship Press) and The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar (2014, Fireship Press). You can read the first chapter of either book, read excerpts of reviews, and learn more about Kim at kimrendfeld.com. You can also visit her blog Outtakes of a Historical Novelist at kimrendfeld.wordpress.com, like her on Facebook at facebook.com/authorkimrendfeld, follow her on Twitter at @kimrendfeld, or contact her at kim [at] kimrendfeld [dot] com.