Monday, November 10, 2014

A character I've been exploring

This woman and her response to a horrific attack came to me while we drove through the dry, empty vistas of West Texas on our way to Big Bend last spring break. There are not many tales in contemporary western storytelling that show women decisively exacting violent revenge on their attackers--The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo comes to mind as an excellent example. And while I am sensitive to the point of feeling raw to the clichéd, lasciviously detailed and voyeuristic delight contemporary storytelling (both books and movies) takes in recounting gory, horrific attacks on women with grossly perverted sexual undertones and overtones and in-your-face-tones, I see no reason not to take a moment to ask, what if she survived and the story's gaze instead dwelled on the revenge she took, justly, for the atrocities committed against her? This question alone has several novels packed into it, enough to make a career on.

I give you Princess Ibdela.

* * * * *

Avignon, France
November, 1192

The first thing she noticed when she came to was a soft place near the front of her mouth where there should have been teeth. For a moment her mind flashed to a memory from childhood, golden sunshine and arms reaching for her as she proudly presented the tiny white miracle to her mother. Princess Ibdela tried to remember where she was and how she had gotten there. She laid flat on her back. A faint, chill breeze told her she was outside. Her head throbbed, and her mind offered no helpful thoughts or memories. One by one, she felt her senses return, like children that had scattered from a storm. She found she was able to open one eye, and she panicked for a moment in the darkness until she registered the faint glow of a smoldering fire off to her side. She heard the snores of men and something else: a man groaning nearby.

As the fog in her mind lifted, the pieces of her shattered memory surfaced and began to fit themselves together. But these images that formed in her mind could not be hers. She was a bride travelling with her new husband. After a twelve-day passage by ship and three weeks on land, their caravan was within days of his home in the Poitevin. They had been attacked—ambushed. Her husband was cut and lay dying nearby. The attackers had then beaten her senseless and made use of her. When they tired of that, they had kicked her broken body to the side and helped themselves to her husband’s stores of food and wine. She had finally lost consciousness. The men now lay soundly sleeping around the fire.

Starting with her fingers, she silently began a methodical inventory of what parts of her body were still useful. Left hand: broken. She flexed her right hand and found the grip sound and strong. The corner of her mouth lifted with gratitude for small miracles. She flexed her ankles. Her knees and calves were uninjured; she might be able to stand. She tried to turn her hips to roll onto her side and clenched her jaw to stop herself from crying out when a stab of pain dug in below her navel. She reached her right hand down and found the folds of her ruined gown plastered to the ground in a sticky pile beneath her. She could not remember if they had stabbed her or not. For a moment she was afraid she would slip into blackness again, and she bit the inside of her cheek hard to keep herself alert.

She was prepared the second time she tried to move, knew to expect the pain. Making no sound, she scooted over the ground on her back like one of the machines used to besiege fortresses—digging in her heels, shifting slowly, pulling with her good arm. She ground her teeth and pushed herself onto her side. Her hips were not broken or dislocated. All of the damage was to the softer tissues inside, important for the arts of love and bearing children. Like her left hand, their loss was now inconsequential.

She proceeded on all fours, making no more sound than a cat. She could see the outline of her bridal trunk where all of her silks and linens were stowed, standing open on the ground beside her husband’s cart. The men had seen the fine textiles and not thought to dig deeper, and who could blame them, she thought. Who would suspect that a dagger lay buried in the middle of a bridal chest?

As she made her way to the elaborately carved coffer, she recalled the evening that her husband had presented it to her, how his eyes had sparkled as he spread bolt after bolt of dazzling fabric across the bed before her. She, a princess of Abyssinia, had been rendered speechless by the display. Her husband had been well-compensated by his king for his service in the Christian crusade; he had enjoyed disregarding his usual reserve to stun his new bride with the careless display of wealth. As an afterthought, she had packed her dagger among the folds of textiles when they prepared to leave. The abundant fabrics her husband had chosen would now save her life, if not his.

She paused for a moment, struck by a realization. The man at the inn that morning with the greasy smile, that had encouraged her husband to leave their attendants behind for a day and take this less-traveled lane, had been a party to the attackers’ plan. Take your bride near the lake to see the geese, he had urged him; newlyweds should have a little solitude.

He would die too.

She noiselessly slipped her right hand into the trunk and wrapped her fingers around the hilt of her blade. She breathed a sigh. Ibdela turned her head to study the arrangement of the sleeping forms around the fire. Once she began there would be no time to think or decide. Every movement had to be planned in advance and executed perfectly. None of the men had stayed awake as a night watch; none wore their tunics of mail armor.
Her swollen lips formed a faint, dark smile. She rose slowly on wobbling legs. The first would be the easiest. After that, she would have to move quickly to finish the job. She took one last, deep breath, commanded the muscles of her legs to find their strength, and took a step forward.

She first approached the man who had slit her husband’s belly like a pig’s. This one lay on his back with his chin pointing to the stars, and he snored loudly. She crouched low, leveled her blade, and drew its razor edge firmly across his throat. The deep cut halfway severed his head from his body. She allowed herself a moment to watch calmly as he immediately awoke, unable to scream, and his hands flew to his neck. It was over in seconds.

The man’s movements caused the others to stir, and she turned and thrust the point of her blade into the chest of the man behind her as he began to sit up. She fell against the hilt of her dagger with her full weight and felt the tip punch through the man’s chest and against his spine. She twisted the knife forcefully to the side, pulled the blade out, and stood up.

She could hear the other three rising to their feet behind her. They shouted commands to each other in the graceless tongue that she recognized as English.

They had the reflexes of soldiers, and they had picked up their swords as they rose. Idiots, she thought again. These pale men of the North carried such huge weapons, meant to intimidate, but only useful on a battlefield. She was built small and light. What good were their big swords when she was pressed against them, her dagger between their ribs?

She muttered an Abyssinian slur about men compensating for their anatomical deficiencies, took aim, and threw her dagger. The blade tumbled gracefully though the air and sunk its point deep into the left eye socket of the nearest man. He dropped his sword, screaming, and pulled the blade out as blood poured forth from the wound. Princess Ibdela strode past him, lightly retrieving her dagger from his blindly flailing hand as she approached the next man. Without pausing she reached the man in three strides, easily ducked his blade, and plunged her knife into his chest. The man stumbled and dropped to his knees, and she sidestepped him, her stride unbroken, on her way to the last man. This last had some sense, she realized, because he had turned and run for his horse, his arms pumping as he sped away from her. She watched closely, gauged the distance, and raised her arm to throw her blade. Just as she snapped her arm back to let the dagger fly, the dying man behind her grabbed hold of her ankle. It was enough to send her dagger careening off into the night, far away from her target. She screamed at the injustice and kicked her foot free.

The man on horseback was charging toward her now, and she stooped to the breathless figure lying behind her, the fingers of her right hand making a quick search of his belt and waist for a weapon, even an eating knife—anything with a sharp edge. But as she stood up with a short hunting knife in her raised grip, the pounding hooves swept past her. The horseman paused only long enough to pull the half-blinded man up behind him, and then he spurred his horse away from her into the darkness. She considered for a moment chasing after them on one of their horses, but she needed two good hands for that.

She turned and walked to the tree where the attackers had propped up her husband, fatally wounded, to die with a full view of their repeated insults to his wife. She dropped to her knees beside him, but found herself unable to cry.

She had traveled north to Jerusalem at her father’s bidding, with a diplomatic mission to ensure safe passage for Abyssinia’s Christian pilgrims to their holy sites. She was the third daughter of the king’s fourth wife, a lesser princess of the great King Lalibela, but a presentable gift to the famous Saladin nonetheless. The Muslim chieftain had accepted her graciously, but he had no stomach for the strife that would have ensued if he had added a Christian wife, worse for her striking dark beauty, to his large family. This man leaning against the tree had offered Saladin more silver for her than could have been fetched for her sale at any bazaar. And then he had treated her as a queen and made her his wife.

Her husband’s face was as pale in the firelight as the marble in her father’s palace. His spilled entrails glistened darkly in his lap. He turned toward her, his eyelids drooping, and she leaned forward and kissed him for the last time on his brow, on the hollow of his cheek, and for a long moment on his lips, still warm. He had lived long enough to watch her take her vengeance on their attackers, and she saw his old soldier’s fierce pride in his last gaze. Wordlessly, he turned his head away and made a slight nod. She whispered a blessing to him, an Abyssinian funeral rite, in the warm French tongue that he had taught her, and thrust her blade quickly into his chest. His head dropped to the side. He was gone.

Princess Ibdela rose and walked to the fire and set the hunting knife on the ground by her feet. The sight of her breath frosting in the firelight reminded her that winter was near—a season that she had only recently heard of. She was pleased to find herself numb to the chilling cold. With her right hand she pushed the torn sleeve of her dress up her left arm to the shoulder and then she retrieved the blade. She laid its curved edge against her skin, adjusted its position, and made six even cuts in parallel lines across the top of her arm. Blood began to seep in dark droplets from the cuts as she looked upon her work with satisfaction. She raised the blade again and drew a small diagonal line crossing out the bottom three. This was to be the sum of the remainder of her life: six men; three dead, three more to go.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Learning Social Media for Authors

So much of my ability to do what I'm doing right now--self-publishing a polished and professionally designed novel with characters, plot, and branding all entire under my control--is possible only because of the platform for sales provided by Amazon and the platforms for networking provided by Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads. I have deliberately held back on a major marketing push until I have the sequel ready for release. I don't think it makes sense to invest much in marketing until I have more content to offer, just like it may not make sense to a reader to take a chance with their entertainment dollars on a new author who just has the one book so far.

Nevertheless, I do need to start to learn my way around the various sites now, so that I'm prepared when the time comes to really go for it. I've been on a forced hiatus from writing while the kids were out of school, and I tried to use some of the time to learn about social media and social networking. The rules and advice from the experts is what you would guess as good rules to live by generally: participate; find people who share your interests and values; take time to notice what other people are talking about; contribute to the conversation; don't show up just to promote yourself. I'm sure it's not coincidence that after spending time yesterday on Twitter going through the profiles of people who are following me to find interesting bits of theirs to promote and retweet--that I sold my first book in over two weeks.

I learn so much from the readers out there, and from the crowd generally. Do you remember when we used to call the Internet the "information superhighway"? I saw Douglas Adams give a talk here in Austin at the University of Texas, and he said that the popular name was incorrect; it was more of an "information soup". Of course, being Douglas Adams, he was completely right. I remember his words now, as I feast on all of the thoughts and ideas and inspiration available at my fingertips--more so now that my days are my own again. And I am grateful for every person out there adding their own spice to the soup.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Some Texas BBQ Flash Fiction to Whet Your Appetite

I'm assuming, since I haven't heard from anyone and the deadline's passed, that I didn't win the contest that I submitted this for--so it's fair game to post it here now. Apologies if it makes you hungry at an inopportune moment. Entries were limited to 500 words. I hope you enjoy!

* * * * *
If barbecue was the unofficial Johnson family religion, Eddie Johnson was officially an atheist. Four generations of men and women had lived, cooked, and eaten on the same alligator-infested river bank and been proud to call it home. Four generations of pit masters, all men, tended the fires that cooked the meat to the famous Johnson family perfection. But it was Eddie, the black sheep who gagged every time he got near a grease fire, who was the family prodigy.

Eddie knew brisket like he knew the inside of his girlfriend’s thigh: supple, firm, and dangerous. If he treated it with respect, coaxed it slowly and told it with his hands how utterly perfect it was, miracles happened. But Eddie was a vegetarian. He could spend days exploring the mysteries of his girlfriend’s thighs, but his own brisket had never passed his lips.

Every five years, Texas Living magazine sent its designated, full-time barbecue reporter out from Austin to scour the state and pronounce Texas’s Top 50 Best Barbecue Joints. This reporter, unsurprisingly, was a man. At six feet and three inches tall and two-hundred-forty pounds, Billy Watkins carried his barbecue credentials around his middle. It’s not that Texas lacked for women who could write about food in ways that made nutritionists cry, and who knew that black on barbecue was a good thing. But in Texas, barbecue was Men’s Work.

Billy never let the restaurants know he was coming. Some places fawned over him, bringing him the choicest samples, sending over the prettiest waitress to flirt even though it was known Billy was about as married as one man can be to another in Texas. It’s one of the reasons he looked forward to going to Eddie Johnson’s place. Eddie hardly noticed he was there. Billy was left alone for the transcendent experience of meat that melted, that revealed more complexities of smoke, texture, and flavor than the finest fifty-year Scotch.

Billy gave his order, then scooted down the line with the others to pick up his lunch, presented humbly on butcher paper, raw onions and jalapenos on the side, sauce available but frowned upon. After his meal, Billy leaned back from the table feeling a contentment that made even his insides smile. He would step around back, find Eddie, and congratulate him on a fine meal. He wouldn’t tell Eddie that this was the year he would win, finally, after fifteen years in the top twenty.

Billy rounded the corner and found the man he was looking for, squatting in jeans, baseball cap pulled down, watching the coals.

“Your brisket is superb. Again.”

The figure stood up and a blond ponytail fell into place. Billy stared, slack-jawed, at a petite blonde woman who looked to be the same age as Eddie. She smiled and thrust out her hand, self-consciously wiped it on her apron, and offered it again.

“Hi. I guess you didn’t hear. Eddie opened a bike shop. I’m Eileen, Eddie’s girlfriend.”

Monday, June 9, 2014

Guest Post on The Writing Desk

Tony Riches, author of Warwick, The Shell, and Queen Sacrifice, has a great little blog, The Writing Desk, and he very kindly invited me to write a guest post there. Tony, who lives in Pembrokeshire, Wales (color me green), suggested I discuss what inspires me to write. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, and I'm so, so grateful to Tony for all of the encouragement he's given me with links and resources as I start out as a budding author. I look forward to doing the same for others as I grow my audience. Thanks for the boost, Tony, and for showing me by example how easily authors can help one another.

Here's a link to my post in Tony's blog, and each of his book titles above are linked to their Amazon pages. His books are highly reviewed and the descriptions sound like exactly what I enjoy reading--so you might enjoy them too.

Saturday, May 31, 2014


I wrote this years ago during what I thought at the time was the lowest point of my adult life. I was wrong. That point came a few months later. I don’t know really where it came from, but it gave me strength to write it. I share it here in case it gives you strength, too.

* * * * *

You are a traveler on a difficult journey through a hostile land. You will be stripped of everything that you knew or thought you knew, and everything you needed or thought you needed will be taken from you. You will be reduced to your core. This is your mission.

An end to suffering does not mean an end of feeling; it means an end to your fascination with pain. Death continues; change and transformation is the only constant in our experience. You are not exempt from this law, no matter how special you are, how connected you are to the world around you, how filled with compassion you are, how clean your house is, how many books you have read, how many friends you have, or how well-adjusted your kids are. Your life will end, your identity will cease, and your history will be erased.

When you feel loneliness, you are experiencing your innate human longing for connection and love. It is possible to experience this longing in the midst of relationship and in the midst of a full life. The experience of loneliness is not a reflection of the success of your relationships, but the depth of your longing. It is an ache to experience yourself as loving, both receiving and giving back love that is in turn received. As we are all connected, all parts of the same living organism, it is by loving one another that we improve the health of the whole. Just as we thirst when our bodies need water, so do we long for love, for the nourishment of the greater being of which we are the living components.

Your emotions are as mutable as the seasons. At times they will seem to wash over you, like a powerful storm. They are like young children, demanding your attention, and you feel more alive when you identify with them, integrate them into your story, define yourself by their tendencies. This is like defining yourself by the weather. You will be lost to your birthright: that your lifetime is a blessed opportunity to be a brief, temporary, finite manifestation of the infinite universe that imagined, conceived, and birthed you.

There is no limit or boundary to love. You understand only a whisper of the power of love. Love transforms, love destroys, love is the source of all miracles. When love enters your life, it is like the swollen river after a spring flood, sweeping away the dead undergrowth. Love redeems. Do not turn away from love, or you turn away from the very force that gave you life. Love does not care for your attachments or your insecurities. Love requires you to be more brave, more vulnerable, more patient, more forgiving than you believe you can be.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Goodbye Smashwords, Hello Amazon

I received some reports of the Smashwords file not working properly on the Kindle, so I've removed Gwendolyn's Sword from Smashwords and headed over to Amazon. I have to say, the publishing process was much, much easier. I'm a little sad to leave Smashwords, because I like their moxie and I have always had a thing for the underdog. But I've had a good experience at Amazon, so I'll probably stay there. Hopefully no one's been caught off by the switch. Thanks for sticking with me, readers.

Onward to the next book!

Here's Gwendolyn's Sword on Amazon.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Published on Smashwords!

Oh, holy formatting, Batman!

Smashwords is a great, great site for independent authors. Mark Coker and his staff could not be more helpful in anticipating your questions and providing all the information you need to publish your book on their site. There's a lot to read from them, but my book made it through the conversion with no errors on the first try. TA-DA indeed!

I have deleted the free download link that used to be at the top right with a link to the Smashwords page for the book. You can still read the first 20% of the book as a free sample.

I hope you enjoy this story. I am thrilled to be continuing with the second and third books to the trilogy.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

TA-DA! The book cover design UNVEILED

I'm very happy with this. It gives a fair representation of the story to be found inside. Also, the days of the free download button at the top right of the blog are now numbered. When I am ready to publish the ebook (for a nominal price--I am just starting out, after all), the freebie download here will be reduced to the first three chapters only.

Without further ado:


Friday, April 25, 2014

Was Uthyr Pendragon the Result of an Error in Translation?

In researching Gwendolyn's Sword, I was faced with a fun challenge in determining how to address the legend of King Arthur. King Arthur's tale, like any enduring myth, has evolved with its retelling, and the layers of the centuries have brought with them new characters, events, and twists in the plot that reveal more about the time and the author who added them than about Arthur himself. But to treat the myth correctly and faithfully in my story, I had to piece together a snapshot of the state of the myth in 1193 England, and then also dig back to the original historical origins. It was this second endeavor that led me to Pendragon, by Steve Blake and Scott Lloyd, Welsh historians and founders of the Centre for Arthurian Studies at the North East Wales Institute. For those interested in the ancient Welsh origins of the Arthurian legend, Blake and Lloyd's account is both highly accessible and readable--and rich in historical detail and reference. That's a difficult combination to pull off, and I'm grateful that they accomplished it so well.

The authors' vast survey of the ancient Welsh source manuscripts for Arthur includes The Book of Aneirin (c. 1100 C.E.), The Book of Taliesin (c. 1325), and The Black Book of Carmarthen (c. 1250), wherein one finds The Welsh Triads, which preserve material not found in any other source. The years given for the manuscripts above are the approximate dates of the actual written document. Welsh mythology and literature, however, was an oral tradition, and many of the tales recorded in these manuscripts date back as far as the 6th or 7th c. C.E. It is not well-known that, among all of Great Britain and Ireland, Wales was the region most thoroughly occupied by Roman government, military forts, trade and, thus, culture. Much of the Roman economic and cultural infrastructure persisted in Wales, carried on by the elevated houses of Welsh families who had prospered side-by-side with their Roman counterparts, well after the Romans departed and literally abandoned their posts. John Davies' A History of Wales includes a telling map showing a well laid-out network grid of Roman forts and roads impressively criss-crossing the multiple elevations and climates of Wales. It was perhaps the remnants of this infrastructure that supported the ancient Welsh in preserving their unique culture, language, and mythology through the upheavals of the middle ages and into modern times. This is certainly a happy accident for students of Welsh history and lore.

As is the case with material deriving from an oral tradition, the source material found in the ancient manuscripts is written in lines of verse. One can easily imagine that the use of stanzas and rhythm would have aided the memorization of the bards of the time. It is not much of a leap to imagine that these verses also came with a well-known melody, the highs and lows and pauses serving both to aid memory as well as to enthrall the audience. Winter nights were long and spent in the cramped quarters of firelit halls and cottages. Long, entertaining songs would have helped to pass the night while also passing along to the next generation the values, wisdom, and ways of the ancestors.

Reviewing all of this material, Blake and Lloyd do indeed find mention here and there of Uthyr Pendragon, but none as the father of Arthur. The Arthurian poem Pa Gur? in The Black Book Carmarthen, mentions Uthyr thus:
Mabon am Mydron
Guas uthir pendragon
Mabon the son of Mydron
Uthyr Pendragon's servant.1

The authors note that Uthyr Pendragon is associated with Arthur, as are the dozen or so others also mentioned in the poem. However, Geoffrey of Monmouth, in his widely popular Historia Regnum Britanniae ("History of the Kings of Britain," c. 1135-ish), states unequivocally that Uthyr fathered Arthur with Eigr, and provides a rather salacious tale to describe the event:

"The king complied with the proposal, and acted with great caution in this affair; and when he had committed the care of the siege to his intimate friends, underwent the medical applications of Merlin, by whom he was transformed into the likeness of Gorlois; as was Ulfin also into Jordan, and Merlin himself into Bricel; so that nobody could see any remains now of their former likeness. They then set forward on their way to Tintagel, at which they arrived in the evening twilight, and forthwith signified to the porter, that the consul was come; upon which the gates were opened, and the men let in. For what room could there be for suspicion, when Gorlois himself seemed to be there present? The king therefore stayed that night with Igerna, and had the full enjoyment of her, for she was deceived with the false disguise which he had put on, and the artful and amorous discourses wherewith he entertained her. He told her he had left his own place besieged, purely to provide for the safety of her dear self, and the town she was in; so that believing all that he said, she refused him nothing which he desired. The same night therefore she conceived of the most renowned Arthur, whose heroic and wonderful actions have justly rendered his name famous to posterity."2
Given the absence of mention of Uthyr's paternity of Arthur, the authors pose the obvious question: " has to wonder where Geoffrey got his information from."3

It turns out that one line of the Welsh text juxtaposes the words "arthur" and "uthir", and Blake and Lloyd offer evidence that Geoffrey's idea for Uthyr's paternity may have found its origin is this one line and a (perhaps intentionally) faulty translation:

"Another poem in The Black Book of Carmarthen contains a line that may be the source of Geoffrey's identification, and is given in its original form below:
"Mab arthur uthir ig kertev
"The son of Arthur terrible in songs
"You will notice that 'arthur' and the word 'uthir', which in this context means 'terrible', appear next to each other in this line. Did Geoffrey come across this line or one very similar and read it as 'Arthur mab Uthir ig kertev', which would then translate as 'Arthur the son of Uthir in songs'? Did this line give Geoffrey exactly the hint he needed to make Uthyr Pendragon the father of Arthur? Although impossible to prove, this possibility has been put forward as a possible source for Geoffrey's description of Arthur's paternity. According to the Historia, Uthyr was the brother of Aurelius Ambrosius, but no other source confirms this point and the naming of Uthyr as Arthur's father must rest squarely on Geoffrey's shoulders."4

Why would Geoffrey have taken such license, one might ask. Geoffrey took license with many of the subjects of his Historia; such departures did not carry the same scholarly condemnation during his time as they would today, and although the Historia was widely circulated and read in the 12th c., today it is treated exclusively as a source of contemporary commentary and lore, with only incidental historical value. The scientific method, the separation of fact from fiction, of natural from supernatural, of reason from madness had not yet come about in the general worldview and epistemological consciousness of the time. Staying faithful to this very un-modern view of events and phenomena is one of the more common pitfalls into anachronism for the author of historical fiction. Moreover, Geoffrey was not drafting his magnum opus in a vacuum. He was writing for a Norman audience, recent invaders and settlers of Britain whose displacement of the previous British landowners and noble families wanted some popular, pseudo-historical justification. To boot, this Norman culture was decidedly patriarchal, whereas the Welsh culture that served as the nurturing soil from which the origins of the Arthurian legend sprouted were not, and in fact may have leaned more toward the matrilineal. Many lines of verse, for example, are given to Eigr, Arthur's famously beautiful mother, and her multiple offspring from more than one partner--none of whom were named "Uthyr." Perhaps Geoffrey presumed, and not without good reason, that such a lineage in a man that he meant to co-opt as a Norman-favoring hero would have been intolerable to the audience of his time.

It was a little sad for me, as an author, to be faced with the reality of having to abandon the great romance of the name "Pendragon" in my treatment of the Arthurian legends. On the other hand, because my tale is of a female heroine, and I attempt, among other things, to explore Arthurian legend from the perspective of a warrior who also happens to be a woman, the discovery of Eigr's ravishment by Uthyr as a fiction created by a man and intended to demote her from her original powerful presence in Welsh mythology is rather fitting. And perhaps more fertile for future writing than the more predictable, clichéd version set forth by Geoffrey.

1. Steve Blake and Scott Lloyd, Pendragon (2003, First Lyons Press), p. 84.
2. Geoffrey of Monmouth, Historia Regnum Brittanniae, trans. by J. A. Giles, ed. Six Old English Chronicles (London: Bohn, 1848), pp. 173-271, available at
3. Blake and Lloyd, p. 84.
4. Blake and Lloyd, p. 84-85.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Women Knights in the Middle Ages

It is not well-known that there existed in the 12th c. an exclusively female military order of knights in Catalonia, the Order of the Hatchet. These women successfully defended their town from an attack by Moors in 1149. In recognition of their feat, the Order of the Hatchet was created. They never saw combat after that battle, but they were never forgotten, either. The men of the town had been called away to fight, and it was left to the women to hold the town, and hold it they did.

You can read more about these and other fighting women from the Middle Ages here.

What I'm Reading

I'm terrible about having several books going at once. My nightstand is piled with books; sometimes the floor is, too. Savers sells them for about $1 ea., and I'm fortunate that my neighbors who donate to Savers happen to read a lot of what I like to read. To keep the support to the local Easter Seals flowing, I try to donate my books back, but sometimes I hold on to them. We're running out of bookshelf space.

I'm on the third book of the Attila series from William Napier; highly entertaining, unadorned prose with excellent battle scenes and dialogue. I'm also reading Tracy Chevalier's The Lady and The Unicorn and Veil of Lies by Jeri Westerson. And I've got Jane Austen's Emma on standby. I just finished Conqueror: Time's Tapestry Book II by Stephen Baxter. Just excellent.

It is undeniable. My writing is better when I'm also reading a lot. It is flat and unengaging when I'm spending my evenings catching up on "Modern Family" reruns with the family, followed by something crisp and dark like "Justified" after the kids have gone to bed. Not that I'm knocking watching some tv, especially when it involves belly laughs with the family. But I know I'll see and feel the difference in my writing later for it.

I've already read quite a bit of historical fiction and history from my own period, natch. Sharon Kay Penman, Elizabeth Chadwick are, for me, the two top writers for late 12th c. England. Do you have any other favorites in historical fiction from this period? I'd love to hear about them.