Sunday, August 27, 2006

Daughters of the Grail update plus Christmas Shopping

As I've mentioned before on the blog, I recently received the opportunity to rework a novel I wrote back in 1992/1993. The version published in the USA was titled Daughters Of The Grail. It basically covers the same ground as The Da Vinci Code and Labyrinth, but it's all set in thirteenth Century Languedoc. I'd describe it as a historical novel with elements of fantasy, but not so dominant on the latter as to put it in the fantasy genre.
Preliminary feedback from The Bookseller (the UK's main industry mag for the bookseller trade) this last week has been promising. Sarah Broadhurst in her Paperback Preview for December says:
'December and the last buying rush of the year will be upon you. Knowing the reluctance to renew displays, knowing paperbacks take second place beside gift buying, and knowing the lack of in-store promotions, many publishers are reluctant to splash out this month. Transworld is publishing nothing at all, but there re exceptions and those tend to be sure-fire winners.......Daughters of the Grail: an Elizabeth Chadwick re-issue which I'd treat as new as they will sell a bucket-load.'
And then later on in the edition there's a picture of the cover under the heading 'Ones to Watch' with the info
'Thirteenth Century France and the direct descendants of Mary Magdalene have Simon de Montfort to contend with. Sounds thrilling and worth recommending to Labyrinth fans.....It's been rewritten and I believe it could do very well indeed.'
It will be interesting to see what happens. On its earlier outing, I believe it was the right book at the wrong time both in terms of audience and where I was in my career. On this occasion, the signs are more auspicious, but as always it's a case of watch and wait.

I was interested re the comments on paperbacks going by the board in December. How strange. I ALWAYS buy friends and family paperbacks as stocking fillers. It's that time of year when sometimes you want to cozy up with a drink and chocolates and a good book, or wallow in a nice hot bath with a rivetting read. What do others do? Do you buy novels as presents? Do you like receiving them?

Ottakers Loughborough

A quick note to thank everyone who came along to Ottakers Loughborough last Thursday night and made it such a successful occasion. I enjoyed meeting you all, and thank you to Fiona Ellwood for organising the event. I hope you all enjoy the novels and I'm sorry my handwriting isn't more elegant!

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Busy, busy, busy

This is just a drop by to say I haven't vanished off the face of the earth. I've been busy working on the new novel about John Marshal, provisional title Hammers And Anvils - although that might change when it comes to publication. It's going well but since it's my job, I have to keep up the word count. I've taken a couple of days off for various things, such as Regia at Castleton, seeing my agent and dealing with the usual domestic detritus. I've also been preparing some new material for my website which will be up shortly.
Next Thursday, I've been asked to give a talk at Ottakers in Loughborough. I'll be around from 6.30pm onwards, so if anyone's in the vicinity and wants to say hello, do drop by. I'm hoping to bring my sword and helm with me, also my piece of mail - part of a ventail belonging to one of Regia's craftsmen/warriors. In the meantime, here's a snip from the most recent remote viewing session, done on Tuesday with my agent present as an observer. For the context of what this involves, see my earlier blog post on this subject.

I know John Marshal and his father fought a duel over the Marshalsea. Checking my notes, I see it was against William de Hastings and Robert de Venoiz. De Venoiz’s father had once been a Marshal – Geoffrey the Marshal. Dare one think noses had been put out of joint?

My Friend: Puffing and panting in panic or exertion. I’m with the father. It’s a big thing for a man of his age to do. He’s pleased his son is a healthy young man. All the lessons, all the training have been worthwhile. He’s got a helmet on and he’s looking around. There are rows of people watching and a fence in front of them. He’s taking a mouthful of liquid – it’s water – and just spitting it out. John is there. He’s a lot cooler than his father about this. He knows he has to protect his father and keep his father behind him. The other people have got a different sort of armour on. It’s burnished and bronzey while John’s and his father’s is that blackened silver colour. I’m with John now. He’s sizing up the field and his tactics. He thinks he’ll go for the older man, head him off and finish him quickly because he’s the better fighter, and then he can run round and get the younger man. If the younger man goes for his father, his father’s bulk will be able to hold him off until John can get to him. John acts as if he’s still nonchalantly taking a break, but then he suddenly turns round and with a roar, attacks. The other two are taken by surprise by the swiftness of John’s assault. They think he’s going for the younger man, but he crosses over in front of the older one. He’s using a morning star flail in one hand and a dagger in the other – he’s going all or nothing for this. If he’s going to protect his father he’s got to fight for two of them. He’s using the morning star and he’s wrapped the chain round the older man’s neck. It’s not a killing blow, but it’s enough to bring him down, choking him and wounding his neck. He might not be dead but he’s out of the fight. The younger one has been stopped in his tracks by what John’s done and the sight of the older, better fighter down. It’s what John wanted. Now John gets out his sword and challenges the younger man. The younger man is swallowing after what he’s just seen. He’s a bit reluctant to take on John. He wanted the easier job of John’s dad. He has to face John….and he’s not doing it. He’s put his sword down – yes, he’s put his sword down. John is saying ‘Come on then, you coward, come on. He pokes him with his own sword. The other won’t rise to the challenge. The wounded man is being carried off the battlefield – it looks like a horse schooling field. The young man looks at all of this, seeing the odds. He keeps his sword down. The crowd are a bit disappointed. They’re shouting ‘Go on!’

John is so contemptuous that he turns half a shoulder to the other man and then fully turns his back just to show utter contempt. Then he suddenly whips round and shakes the blade at the other man in threat. This makes the challenger look even more stupid and the crowd starts laughing. John goes up to his father, puts his arm round him and they walk off the field to cheers, their position in the Marshalsea confirmed in public.

Stirring stuff eh?

Monday, August 07, 2006

A grand day out!

I spent the last weekend with the members of Regia Anglorum at Castleton helping to put on a show to the public at Peverel Castle, Castleton, Derbyshire, dateline 1080. I managed to grab a few snapshots before we opened to the public (taking photos whilst in kit is forbidden as it detracts from the authenticity...although I did sneak one of Lord William Peverel performing on his destrier!). To the left are a pair of squires preparing to limber up.
It was a glorious day - near perfect weather and the Derbyshire Peaks, including Mam Tor surrounded us in a sheltering bowl. Around 1,200 people visited the site over the weekend.
I was on cooking pot duty on Sunday and chose to make a spicy beef stew. First fry onions and beef in a little fat in the cauldron over a brisk flame. Add plenty of chopped squished garlic. Then add quantities to your taste of cumin, ginger and black pepper. Give it a good stir, add stock or water to cover the ingredients, bring to boiling point, then raise cauldron from the fire to a height where the contents will softly simmer away for a couple of hours. Result, a meltingly tender stew with a superb, almost curry-like flavour. It's a recipe of my own adaptation, but based on existing recipes and a study of various household accounts and pipe rolls (albeit slightly later than 1080). We also dined on a luscious custard tart, courtesy of another Regia member. Sundries included bread and butter (churned on site) and a large bowl of blackberries.
There are several strands to why I find re-enactment so rewarding. There's the vast, multi-layered depth of knowledge posessed by fellow re-enactors, many of whom are historians or archaeologists in their own right. To be among fellow enthusiasts and talk for hours about one's favourite subjects without glazed looks or incomprehension is a joy beyond price. Then there's the thrill of seeing and handling objects and artefacts that are recreated to museum standard. Ah, so this is what it looked/felt like. This is how that object worked. I strongly feel it helps put the '3D' into my writing to have access to this aspect of re-enactment. To wear the clothes, walk the walk and be among others similarly dressed, gives me a sense of atmosphere. This is what it must have been like...or as near as I'm going to get in the 21st century!