Monday, March 29, 2010

Quick update and interview

I am a bit behind on my blog just now as I catch up with my writing, and I'm away this week for two days - giving a talk at Southend Library with Alison on Wednesday and we have to stay overnight. I hope to have something soon, but in the meantime, here's an url to an interview I did with Sharon Kay Penman.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The thorny matter of endorsements.

I usually talk about medieval history or writing fiction about medieval history, but I have decided to digress for a moment and talk about the matter of endorsing novels.

When you are a writer, you need all the publicity you can get and some warm words of praise about your work from a fellow author are a very useful promotional tool to put on the jacket of your novel. It supposedly makes readers take notice and it's also good for the endorser because their name is given a prominent place on your book cover as well. Two for the price of one - What's not to like?
However, It does become noticeable very quickly in reading communities that certain authors seem to do the rounds of endorsing each other's work and put their names to anything that comes their way. Which might be good for marketing, but not for integrity and not always for the beleagured reader.
I'm an established author now and I get numerous requests to endorse novels. Editors offer me advanced review copies or ARCS. My own editors ask me to endorse other authors in their stable (not a bad thing to do at all, just standard practise), authors write to me, asking if I'll read and endorse their novels.
I LOVE reading. I was a reader before I was a writer, but I want to read things that I choose to pick up myself and at my own pace and then to be able to comment with an uncensored opinion. Being asked to endorse a novel almost immediately puts on me the expectation that I'm going to report back saying I love it (even if I don't). It also means I have to read to deadline, even if I'm not in the mood - so it becomes a chore rather than a pleasure.
So here's the deal. My marketing take on this is that if I endorse a novel, it will be because I have picked it up of my own accord and read it at my own pace. It will be a novel that I absolutely loved and couldn't put down. It will be a novel that I want to share with others and I will mean it from the heart. That's it. Plain and simple. Just wanted to say because it's been on my mind a while. (illustration is one of my endorsements).
Normal service will be resumed as soon as I get another medieval blog post written.

Winners of The Scarlet Lion draw

I suddenly realised I hadn't picked the winners for The Scarlet Lion prize draw - sorry!
I put all the names in my cauldron and got my youngest to do the picking as he arrived home from his shift work.

The winners of a copy of the Sourcebooks version of THE SCARLET LION are:

Kristie Dean


Gladys Paradowski (who e-mailed me as she couldn't get the comments section to work).

Congratulations ladies and if you want to drop me an e-mail at with a forwarding address, I'll get your copies sent out.

I will probably be running a prize draw on my website for the publication of To Defy A King at the beginning of May, details to follow.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Soundtrack for To Defy A King

Just a note in between main blog posts to say that I've put up the soundtrack for TO DEFY A KING at my sound tracks blog.

Notes on the soundtrack to follow after publication!

I'm also going to begin posting random pieces from the Akashic record that I've used in the writing of TO DEFY A KING. Starting tomorrow....

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Blog post How I do my research

This is just a quick note to say that Devourer of Books has a short article at her blog that I wrote about how I do my research. Thought it might of interest, so I'm positing the url here.

Monday, March 08, 2010

MEDIEVAL MONDAY - Nothing changes

I came across this quote from a farcial work of the 13th century titled La Riot du Monde. It's about why the author doesn't like children, and it could have been written today with a couple of minor adaptations. Just replace 'horses and carts' with 'cars'

'I have never cared for children, little, medium sized or big: the little one is hard to rear and does not let the people sleep at night; the middle-sized one runs down the street and must be kept from horses and carts; the big one battles with father and mother to get rich estates, and he has to be brought back continually from the taverns.'

It's us as we were then, and them as we are now, and that comforts me and makes me smile.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Medieval Monday: THE SCARLET LION - Publication Day

I'm combining my Medieval Monday post with a small celebration of the publication of THE SCARLET LION in the USA by Sourcebooks. This is the second stand alone novel about the life of the great William Marshal, THE GREATEST KNIGHT being the first, about his early life.
If you click on the images for the Sourcebooks front and back jackets, they will enlarge. I'm not going in for much of the trumpet blowing stuff here, I'd rather let the book speak for itself but I will say that I'm doing the blog tour thing and I'll be doing a guest interview tomorrow at Laura's Reviews There is already a review of the book up at this url.
I'll post continuing blog tour details at my News Blog and on Facebook and Twitter.
I'm also going to run a small giveaway for 3 readers to win copies of the USA version of THE SCARLET LION. Just leave your name on the comments post and I'll announce a winner a fortnight hence on the 14th March. Open to all wherever you are.

And now to the Medieval bit of Medieval Monday. I thought I'd quote a piece from the Histoire de Guillaume le Mareschal - William Marshal's biographical poem, in order to honour the great man. This is a sad piece, because it is taken from his deathbed, but it is also important in that it is taken from eye witness reports and it shows many things about the life of this great man, and his wife, about the mindset and belief of a medieval man, and about love, both the close one to one, and the wider ties of affinity.

So, we draw back the veil and come to William as he reveals a secret to his family as he lies ill at his manor of Caversham:

...the Marshal summoned his men and the countess once more, and he spoke these few words to them. 'In the name of God, my lords, hear me now. It is some time since I pledged myself to the Temple, and now I wish to become a monk in it, for I have no wish to delay further.' Then he said to Geoffrey his almoner: 'My dear brother,' he said, 'please go for me to the wardrobe, take my cloak from it, and bring it to me.' So much do I venture to tell you, that he had that cloak made for him a year before, keeping it in his possession without anyone else knowing of its existence. The earl, who was generous, gentle and kind towards his wife, the countess, said to her: 'Fair lady, kiss me now, for you will never be able to do it again.' She stepped forward and kissed him, and both of them wept. The good folk present there also wept out of affection and compassion; all those in the household gave vent to their great sorrow, showing pity at the sight before their eyes. The Marshal lost no time in having the cloak brought and laid out in front of him. His daughters who were present, stood around him in deep grief; nobody could speak words of encouragement to them which might offer them comfort. The grief there was so intense that they had to take the countess and her daughters outside.'

The above is only part of a much larger body of scenes depicting the final months of William Marshal's life, but while incredibly moving, it's not a downbeat or harrowing piece of work. In fact it's very uplifting and satisfying through the tears.

The composer of the Histoire says:

'It is the very truth that in this world the Marshal experienced many fine and splendid adventures. His dying was the best amongst them....All those of you who ever rejoiced in the great deeds you heard that he had done, will rejoice in that too...'

I have also put up a short piece in the random Akashic Records Posts on the right sidebar, about William in the run up to one of the most important battles in his lifetime.
You will find more details about the Marshals on my website too.