Saturday, May 30, 2009

Pot Pourri

This post is a mixture of all sorts - a bit like my dog!

1. The Time of Singing
2. Work in progress
3. A trailer for The Greatest Knight, Sourcebooks version USA
4. Akashic moment with William Marshal

With a week to go to paperback publication of The Time of Singing (Amazon are already sending it out) I thought I'd post a photo of the paperback cover (same as hardcover except for blurb) and the audio cover. Headless woman strikes again, but I do rather like it. I am busy writing a biography about Roger Bigod to put on my website and it should be ready within the next two weeks - hopefully earlier. There is already some material on the site referencing the Bigods and the novel. Click here:
More on its way.
Looking back to the time I first started writing The Time of Singing, I thought I'd repost this link to my blog archives. This was the moment I decided to write about Roger Bigod and Ida de Tosney.
Earlier, I had been considering doing the story of this Roger's grandson, but when I started exploring the characters, Roger II was the one who called to me and hi-jacked my muse - not least because of his wife, Ida. Her true identity has only recently been discovered by genealogists and she has been identified (before her marriage to Roger) as a mistress of Henry II and mother to William Longespee, future Earl of Salisbury. The Time of Singing examines the relationship between Ida and Henry, Ida and Roger, and the dynamics caused by Longespee's birth and what happened afterwards - although that isn't the entire story. In his own quietier way, Roger Bigod was a man just as dynamic as the great William Marshal (who claims several cameo roles as a secondary character in the novel).

Paperback cover

Currently I am hard at work on the sequel ready for next spring. It's now on the 3rd draft. Still no title, but we're getting closer.
I've written it 3 times on the PC and am now reading it as a paper draft - no hardship this afternoon, sat beneath the cherry tree in the garden in the glorious late May weather. You would think by this stage I'd be fairly set wouldn't you? Ummm... not a bit of it. Below is a one page sneak preview of part of the draft (click to enlarge). As you can see, I'm not entirely happy with it. Once I've read all the way through the script, it will be back to the PC to key in the alterations and re-read with a refreshed eye. Then print out, then read aloud to my husband, make notes, back to the PC and finally hand it in. All I can say at the moment is, that like the title, it's getting there!

Work in progress - 3rd draft and still plenty of work to do!
Click to enlarge if you want.

As I've mentioned, Sourcebooks in the USA will be publishing The Greatest Knight on September 1st. I've been indulging my whimsy by making a trailer as part of the promo - and hey, trailers are fun to make anyway and cost nothing except time. Here's my first effort. I may tweak some of the photos, but I think it's not bad.

On the odd occasion, I post Akashic moments. Here's an excerpt from a recent one connected with my work in progress about William Marshal's daughter. I asked to see William and his son having a good time (if there was one) after their reconciliation following the death of King John. It won't necessarily go in the novel, but it helps me to work on the characters. Here's what came through:

I asked Alison to go to William Marshal and William Junior after King John’s death and look at the best time together after their reconciliation.

Alison: I’m with William Junior. He’s very upright. He’s not a relaxed sort of person but he’s more stress free than usual and he has more of the same sort of energy going through him, rather than a strong energy in a particular place. He’s just upright. I saw dappled light or reflection. I am feeling a curved seat. I thought at first he might be on a horse, but it feels too wide to be a horse, but it’s that kind of saddle shape. It’s a red cloth with a plaited gold braid edge. I’m feeling him breathing out now. Sighing, relaxing. Settling down. He’s not so upright. Loosening up. Now he’s smiling. I seem to be locked inside his feelings rather than seeing what’s outside. I am seeing something that looks like thick greenish glass, curved again. I am seeing a diagonal line curved through or a cross. The diagonal line is a lance held by someone on a horse who has now stopped. The lance is at an angle to the ground and the knight is leaning over talking to someone at the side of the horse. William Junior is smiling. I feel as if William Junior is elevated on a platform or looking out of a window, which makes sense with the green glass. So that seat could be a window seat? Yes…yes that’s right. Spot on. The window is open and I can feel a breeze and a scent of hay. The man on the horse is William Marshal and Jnr. is happy to see his father happy. It feels like back to business as usual. I suppose it’s like when your dad’s at work, everything feels right in the world, and it’s that old childhood security. He’s longing for his dad to come back in the room, he’s waiting for that to happen. He wants to put his arms around his dad and ummmm….wrestle him. Roll about the floor and feel his muscles. There are actually young children playing about on the floor on mats. Go forward. What I’m seeing is William Snr coming off the horse. Dismounting? No, I think he’s falling backwards. He’s not hurt himself; he’s getting up and brushing off help. He’s saying ‘That’s it for today.’ He’s got a broad grin. He’s got stubble; he’s not clean shaven. He’s saying ‘Well done,’ to the youngster who’s unseated him. There’s a bit of back ache but he’s kind of wriggling himself so he can walk without any limp. He’s taking his equipment off and coming to the main room. I was wondering if one of the youngsters was one of his other sons, Gilbert or Walter? Alison asks if I want to find out. I say don’t go too far, but just out of curiosity. Well he does have love for this person and it feels the sort of love you have for your family, but I don’t know how I could find out who it could be. Intuitively I am feeling Gilbert but I wouldn’t like to say. Okay not important. I was just curious. Anyway, back to the main point. He’s coming up the stairs. Back to William Junior’s point of view. Alison laughs. This is really interesting. This is the first time I have ever seen William Junior with his dad’s sense of humour, and it really is just like William. He’s sitting in the window with his legs crossed and he’s fiddling with something (a walking stick we later suss) and his mute look is one of ‘I won’t mention it if you don’t mention it - but this walking stick could easily be a lance. His dad’s already saying ‘All right then, all right. You needn’t say anything. You weren’t there. You didn’t have a go.' There’s something about William Senior hinting that the the reason Jnr. wasn’t in the tiltyard was down to some spurious injury. 'If you hadn’t pretended you’d got this injury, you would have been there as well.’ It’s actually to do with Jnr’s upper right leg. He’s resting it. It’s a muscle thing. I am also seeing a blue vein. Perhaps he’s strained it or been cut or something. A scar? Yes, I think it’s something that’s healing and he can’t pull it because it might come apart. Back to Jnr.. Alison laughs aloud. Jnr.says ‘Come on then, come on then, try me! William Snr comes towards him, big, heavy, and WJ extends his walking stick in a ‘Touche!’ gesture. So then, William Snr (and this is really funny) puts his hand to his back and says ‘I’m injured, I’m injured!, and starts hobbling. Jnr. says ‘You’re no more injured than I am and pokes him in the shoulder. So then William Snr grabs the stick and he’s saying ‘You will not challenge me, you will not dishonour me’ or something like that. He grabs the stick and gets Jnr. round the neck. And then they are rolling about on the floor laughing and fighting which is exactly what Jnr. wanted. He can really writhe and put his elbows about and it’s not risking his leg. And because his dad is so much bigger than him and holds him firmly, it’s like being a child again and being held by someone who is compassionate but wants to play. Oh, they’ve actually rolled over now and William Jnr is holding his dad down and saying ‘Do you concede?’ Senior rears up and says ‘Never! Never!’ And he’s on top of William Junior now. Ah – Alison laughing hard now This is really funny. William Snr falls back and pretends to be dead. So William Jnr has to pat his face and try to revive him, but no, he’s dead. Then he gives this kind of great big snort like he’s snoring. Then there’s a bit more. They’re too busy laughing then. They both fall on their backs. Has anyone else been observing all this? Yes, the children, I was going to mention that.

Every so often, they’ve tried to creep closer, then backed off because they thought it might be dangerous, but when William Snr was feigning death, William Jnr was saying ‘Is Grandad all right?’ Aha! Then the children would be Mahelt’s children – Roger, Hugh, and perhaps little Isabelle, because these were the only grandchildren born before William Marshal’s death! Alison gets loads of shivers in response to this realisation and says it feels lovely. So, back to ‘Is Grandad all right?’ He’s pretending to be dead and the children are all a bit taken in by it and worried. William jnr’s going ‘Come one come on, wake up!’ And then the big snore.

And then it’s good fun for the kiddies to sit astride granddad, so of course he’s bouncing them up an down. William jnr is lying on the floor as well. He’s tickling their feet and tummies while they are sitting on top of granddad. Oh, it’s a very physical scene isn’t it, and very relaxed and natural. Writing up these notes it occurs to me that so often in historical fiction and in text books, you see the dry political facts, and even in reference books about daily life, you only generally see how people went about the business of doing things in their jobs or with artefacts. You seldom see this sort of close up, warm family interaction, which must have happened all the time. William Marshal may have been regent of England and a great magnate, but why shouldn’t he play with his family and bounce his grandchildren on his chest? (!). I think beyond the fun, it’s a moving reminder to take in all facets of a person’s life.

Friday, May 22, 2009


Sorry, about this, but I had to post this cropped guy from a 15thC painting by Matthaus of Kuttenberg. He's having a wash, having just been down the silver mine. Wouldn't look out of place on a modern beach would he?

The book in question is Goldsmiths. Medieval Craftsmen by John Cherry, published by the British Museum press.
This same painting even has a 'beach hut' and lifeguard tower for the guy.
The original painting is very similar to the 'Where's Willy?' (Waldo) story books of Martin Handford.

Below is the original painting. See if you can spot Speedo man! You can click on the painting to enlarge.

This is only an interim post while the author has a whimsical moment.
Normal service will be resumed over the weekend!

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Hometown castle and church.

The Biographical notes on my novels say that I live in Nottingham. Actually I live near Nottingham, but I do have another town on my doorstep and it's the one I visit most often because I do my grocery shop there. It's Newark On Trent, and it's still a fairly unspoiled, bustling market town with much of its history intact. In the Medieval period, it's famous as being the place where King John died. I'm always saying to my husband that I'll bring my camera on our next outing, and finally I remembered it! I'm not the world's best photographer, but I'm enclosing a few shots of the castle and the magnificent church of Saint Mary Magdalene.
Newark Castle stands on the banks of the River Trent. The first building there was a Saxon palace dating to the reign of Edward the Elder 870 -924. In 1073, Robert Bloet, bishop of Lincoln built a timber motte and bailey castle on the site. Fifty years later, bishop Alexander began work on a substantial stone fortress and this was again enhanced in the reign of Henry III.
In the 15th and 16th centuries the castle became more of a palace, but during the English Civil War in the 17thC, once more returned to military status. Following Oliver Cromwell's triumph, the castle was slighted i.e. reduced to a state where it could neve be a defensive fortress again. Today all that remains is the gatehouse, curtain wall and North West tower. There is a very pleasant riverside walk and a small attractive park attached to the castle. Whenever we drive into Newark intent on replenishing the store cupboards, I always take a glance at the castle as we drive past and wonder if one of those window remaining was once part of the chambere where King John died. He had arrived in Newark in a state of great physical distress. Earlier he had been borne on a litter because he was no longer able to ride a horse. The litter itself was made from willows cut from the side of the road by the swords of his knights, and with a horse cloth thrown over. For the entry into Newark, he forced himself back onto a horse, an 'ambling nag' (Kate Norgate, John Lackland) Here, at the castle, he lingered, dying, for three days, attended by the abbot of Croxton, who, despite his medical skills was unable to do anything. As John died at midnight on October 18th, apparently a whirlwind swept through the town with such violence that peope feared for their houses, and with the storm departed the soul of King John.
On the first picture, the two small arches in the middle of the wall at the base are latrine chutes. At one time the river would have come right up to the base of the castle wall.

A romanesque window from the time of King John

Taz investigates a mysterious dark hole in case there are rabbits!

The Church of St Mary Magdalene stands almost on the town square and is the third on the site. A previous Saxon church would have seen Leofric of Mercia and his famous wife Lady Godiva (presumably with clothes on!) amid the congregation. There was a late 12th century church, but very little of this remains. The existing church dates from the 1230's onwards. In 1227, Henry III gave permission for six oaks from Sherwood Forest to be felled for repairs to the church.
In 1310, another building programme was embarked upon and was to last 200 years.
Although not a cathedral, it is the size of one. The spire rises 236 feet and was built in several stages, beginning in the thirteenth century and continuing into the fourteenth. The trade guilds in the town each had a chapel dedicated in the church and at one point there were sixteen altars in additon to the High Altar. Each chapel would have been highly decorated and adorned with riches.
One of the remaining treasures of the church is an early sixteenth century pair of painted panels depicting the Dance of Death. One panel shows a young man in the prime of life, the other a skeleton holding out a carnation to him, the message being 'As I am, so shall you be.'

I will need to revisit for a more thorough look. My time was limited as I had to get my frozen stuff home and I had other appointments, but I'll be back. There's a medieval chest I didn't get a chance to look at, and I didn't have time for the misericords either (bum supports during long services, often with ornate carving beneath them). I also want a closer look at the chancel floor tiles.

Two ceilings in the church of St. Mary Magdalene Newark.

Newark is a great place to spend a few hours - historic, but modern enough so that you can buy most things. The history is right there with you every step of the way and there are plenty of good eateries and refreshment places too.

I apologise for the formatting. Blogger is having an idiosyncratic moment and the layout I see when editing is not the same as what appears on the finished blog!