Longsword by David Pilling

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

The King Stag

The lovely folks at Musa Publishing are set to release THE KING STAG, first of a series of planned mini-sequels to Folville's Law, on the 13th January!

The King Stag is set five years after the events in Folville's Law, and picks up with the adventures of the young Edward III of England, chafing under the controlling influence of his mother, Queen Isabella, and her paramour Roger Mortimer. Since taking over England in 1326 Isabella and Mortimer have had a high old time, executing their political opponents right and left and indulging in a spot of large-scale corruption.

The dubious pair have reckoned without young Edward, though, no longer an easily manipulated child but a man grown, itching to tear away the reins of power from the grubby hands of his mother and her appalling bedmate.

While the struggle for power hots up, one lingering question remains in the troubled young man's head...what happened to his father?

http://www.musapublishing.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=8&products_id=157

Friday, 16 December 2011

The Might of Kings!





I recommend all readers of Norwegian to check out the following historical epic by Egil Moe...

Kongsmakt. (The Might of Kings).

Written by Egil Moe

Published 2010 by Sogesmia publishing. www.sogesmia.no


The Might of Kings is an epic historical saga set in the bleak, war-torn landscapes of the Isle of Skye, the Isle of Man, Bergen in Norway, and the Hebrides, and features the bloody Battle of Largs.

This 566-page novel follows the adventures of a young man, Torleif Haraldsson, and his struggle to survive after his father kills his own nephew, the King of the Sodor Isles and the Isle of Man, to claim the throne for himself. Travelling to Norway to swear fealty to his overlord, King Haakon Haakonsson of Norway, Torleif’s father is imprisoned for the murder and his son is left with the responsibility of ruling the kingdom.

Torleif finds himself surrounded by enemies as the Scots try to claim the Sodor islands, and the younger brother of the murdered king is crowned by Haakon Haakonsson. The young man is pitched into a deadly war between Norway and Scotland, and forced to fight for his life and his claim to the throne of the Isle of Man.'

Friday, 9 December 2011

Slag ende Stoot!


Something a little different today, because I like to keep things varied. Slag ende Stoot is a group of professional musicians based in Holland specialising in medieval and early 16th century acting and music.

Some rather splendid photos of them in action can be seen on their website below:

www.slagendestoot.nl

And you can see and hear more of them on Myspace, Youtube and Facebook!

www.myspace.com/slagendestoot
www.youtube.com/slendest
www.facebook.com/SlagendeStootenConsort

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

The Swords of Albion



Some very fine blades for you all to admire today, made by the talented folks at Albion Swords, based in New Glarus, Wisconsin!

Albion Swords is a small company in New Glarus, Wisconsin, hand-crafting what can only be described as “painfully authentic recreations” of swords – both historical and fantasy/film pieces.

Their recreations not only look like the museum originals, but function just like them as well, (when newly made.) They are far more expensive than the swords you see made elsewhere, but their customers agree that they are well worth the added expense!

Please see the links below if you would like to more about this very fine-looking company:

http://www.albion-swords.com/

http://filmswords.com/

Monday, 5 December 2011

Apocrypha!





Today sees the return of the rather wonderful Suzanne G Rogers, fellow Musa author, to this blog, to promote her rather wonderful-sounding new short story, "Apocrypha."

Suzanne, you have the floor...








Being dedicated to the diabolical doesn’t seem to satisfy Jem anymore. When the gorgeous demon poses for elderly artist Greer Richmond, the two form a connection. Greer senses good in her, but Jem rebels against the idea by going on a Vegas bender. After Jem gets word Greer is about to die, she inexplicably wants to make sure he gets to heaven—but her boss has other plans. As penance for her interference, Jem is assigned to take one of Greer’s descendants instead. Unfortunately handsome Dare Richmond awakens feelings in Jem a demon isn’t supposed to have. Will Jem be able to complete her task, or has fate dealt the demon an impossible hand?

Apocrypha…because sometimes, even for a demon, love is in the cards.

Excerpt:

“I’ve been experiencing a little job dissatisfaction,” I said.

It just popped out. I couldn’t believe I’d said it, but the old man had the sort of face you could talk to. He didn’t respond, however, and I flicked a glance at him to make sure he was listening.

“Hold steady, my dear,” he said. “After I get your mouth right you can tell me about it.”

I sighed and waited for the geezer to finish sketching my mouth. To be honest, I really did want him to get it right. I have a very nice pair of lips for a demon, even if I do say so myself. It was too bad he couldn’t just take a picture, but since demons can’t be photographed, we were stuck doing my portrait the old-fashioned way. I shouldn’t have called him a geezer, even though technically that’s what he is. His name is Greer Richmond and he’s older than dirt. Of course, I am too, but I look considerably fresher than he does.

“You were saying?” Greer prompted, a few moments later.

“Oh, yeah—well, when I started out as a young demon, it was all fun and games,” I continued. “I made a big splash with the whole missing Roanoke colony thing.”

“That was you?” Greer asked. “I’ve often wondered what the Lost Colony was all about.”

He was sketching my hair at that moment. I had to squelch the temptation to toss a lock of it over one shoulder. That took some doing—squelching temptation isn’t one of my strong suits. I’m usually better at egging it on.

“Yeah, Roanoke was one of my first projects. I really scored points with the Boss on that one.

"Lizzie Borden was another high point,” I gloated. “Those were the days.”

“What has changed?”

“A lot of up-and-coming newbies are total buzzkillers. It’s become a demon-eat-demon world, and a bunch of recent flashy ‘inexplicable’ events have made it impossible to stand out from the crowd,” I said.

“Don’t get me wrong—9/11 was impressive, I’ll grant you. But it seems as if demons are increasingly sacrificing quality for the quick thrill.”





Greer leveled a look at me that had nothing to do with the sketch. “Are you sure that’s all there is to it?”
****
As it turns out, no, that’s not all there is to it. What would be the fun of that? And to celebrate the twelve days of Christmas, Musa Publishing will release Apocrypha as a free read on December 7th.
Download Apocrypha through December, 2011 HERE. Happy Holidays!

Author Bio: In her former lives, S.G. Rogers was a lawyer and an actress, but she’s now grown up and settled down as an author. Drawn to fantasy literature, she’s lived in some of the most magical places in America, including La Jolla, California, Asheville, North Carolina, and currently Savannah, Georgia. She resides with her son, husband, and two hairless cats—which look and act quite a bit like dragons. When she’s not writing, she enjoys practicing martial arts. You can find S.G. Rogers at www.childofyden.com.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Medieval Mafiosos







Back on topic again, with the antics of James Coterel/Cottrill and his gang. James is another player in Folville's Law, a ruthless outlaw and accomplice to Eustace Folville, though he was also very much his own man.

The Coterel gang haunted the Peak District in Derbyshire and the northern part of Sherwood Forest from the late 1320s to the early 1330s, their high period being from about March 1331 to September 1332. Professor J.G. Bellamy of Nottingham University made a study of the gang and in 1964 published his findings in a paper entitled "The Coterel Gang: an Anatomy of a Band of Fourteenth-Century Criminals". His paper is comprehensive and contains all one might wish to know about this particular gaggle of charismatic medieval thugs.

Like his sometime partner in crime, Eustace, James was of minor gentry stock, his father Ralph Coterel having held a few small manors scattered about Derbyshire. Ralph died in 1315 and within a few years his fiery sons were making a nuisance of themselves. One of them, Nicholas, was an adherent of the rebellious Thomas, Earl of Lancaster, and received a pardon in 1322. In later years the gang were to work alongside the Bradbourn gang of Derbyshire, who had also been among the doomed earl's followers, suggesting that the Coterels were affiliated with those who opposed Edward II's catastrophic rule.

Whatever their political allegiances, the Coterels wasted no time in taking advantage of the collapse of Edward's government. Like the Folvilles and the various other well-heeled armed mafiosos roaming up and down the country, they enjoyed the profits of pillage, robbery, extortion, kidnapping and murder, though they weren't formally outlawed until 1331. By 1330 they had been accused of pillaging the estates of Henry, Earl of Lancaster (clearly their Lancastrian sympathies had evaporated by this time), were 'attached' (accused) of a spate of murders, and had formed alliances with other criminal fraternities.

Despite his long criminal career, James was never arrested. Shrewdly, he cultivated support from the nobility and the church, often by hiring out his violent services to them in exchange for cash and protection from the law. When the young King Edward III made a determined effort to stamp out the criminal gangs ruining his kingdom, James escaped arrest because he was warned beforehand of the approach of the justices by one of his hugger-mugger chums, the Prior of Lenton. The canons of Lichfield were also repeatedly mentioned as receivers (shelterers) of the Coterels and their wide network of followers.

Possibly realising he could not survive much longer as an out-and-out highway robber and murderer, James had the bright idea of eschewing actual violence and demanding money with menaces and blackmail. This has some correlation with the peculiar form of blackmail practised on travellers by Robin Hood in the medieval ballads, and like the famous ballad hero James Coterel would have had intimate knowledge of Sherwood. It's quite feasible that his career had some influence on the legend.

Such was his reputation and his links to the church and nobility, his victims usually paid up without him having to lay a finger on them. He also set to work currying royal favour, and managed to get his brother Nicholas appointed as bailiff of Queen Philippa's liberty in Derbyshire and Leicestershire. Nicholas later distinguished himself in this office by being hauled before the court on charges of embezzlement and corruption.

Having found a way of making outlawry a profitable business, James went on to purchase lands and properties and serve as a tax collector. At one point he was even entrusted with powers of arrest, though he was obliged to obtain a royal pardon for 'extortions, oppressions, receivings of felons, usurpations, and ransoms'. All in a day's work. In 1351 he received his pardon at the Queen's personal request, but his date of death is unknown.

So what's the moral of his tale? Crime does pay, unfortunately, providing you work hard at it!

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Jonny Alexander behind the camera!


A very different topic for this blog update, but I would highly recommend that everyone checks out my good friend Jonny Alexander's photography! Please click on the image to access the lovely images on his Facebook page :)

Sons of the Wolf!



Today I have a guest slot for Paula Lofting Wilcox, whose novel, Sons of the Wolf, is due to be released by Silverwood next February. The following is Paula's description of what sounds like a great historical tale:






1054, and pious King Edward sits on the throne, spending his days hunting, sleeping and praying, leaving the security and administration of his kingdom to his much more capable brother-in-law Harold Godwinson, the powerful Earl of Wessex.


Against this backdrop we meet Wulfhere, a Sussex thegn who, as the sun sets over the wild forest of Andredesweald, is returning home victoriously from a great battle in the north. Holding his lands directly from the King, his position demands loyalty to Edward himself, but Wulfhere is duty-bound to also serve Harold, a bond forged within Wulfhere’s family heritage and borne of the ancient Teutonic ideology of honour and loyalty.


Wulfhere is a man with the strength and courage of a bear, a warrior whose loyalty to his lord and king is unquestionable. He is also a man who holds his family dear and would do anything to protect them. So when Harold demands that he wed his daughter to the son of Helghi, his sworn enemy, Wulfhere has to find a way to save his daughter from a life of certain misery as the daughter-in-law of the cruel and resentful Helghi, without comprising his honour and loyalty to his lord, Harold.


Following the fortunes of his family, we meet Ealdgytha, his golden-haired wife, attractive, neurotic and proud. Her lust for success and advancement threatens to drive a wedge between her and her husband, while Wulfhere’s battle with his conscience and his love for another woman, tears at the very heart of their relationship.


Also central to the story are his children; Freyda, his eldest daughter, reckless, defiant and beautiful; Tovi, his youngest son, his spirit suppressed by the pranks of the red-haired twins, Wulfric and Wulfwin; Winflaed, a younger daughter, whose submissive acceptance of womanhood belies a stronger spirit and a longing to hold a sword in battle like her warrior father.


Sons of the Wolf is snap shot of medieval life and politics as the events that lead to the downfall of Anglo-Saxon England play out, immersing the reader in the tapestry of life as it was before the Domesday Book. With depictions of everyday life experienced through the minds of the people of the times; of feasts in the Great Halls to battles fought in the countryside, it cannot help but enlighten, educate and entertain.




Friday, 25 November 2011

Young Ned



Sandwiched between the warring factions in Folville's Law is young Prince Edward, eldest son of Edward II and Queen Isabella. The image is a contemporary likeness of him, done in his later years when he apparently sported a truly magnificent forked beard that should definitely come back into fashion. You have to love the massive sparkly hat as well.

Edward was later to become arguably the greatest monarch England ever had, but at this early stage in his life (he is just fourteen in the book) he was little more than a valuable pawn. His father, the increasingly embattled King Edward, needed to keep hold of his son and heir to prove that he was still in control and that the fate of the Plantaganet dynasty was in his hands. His mother needed to wrench the boy away from her estranged husband, thus making her and Mortimer look like deliverers rather than conquerors when they invaded England.

What did Edward make of it all? The pressures on his young shoulders must have been immense, but there is no way of knowing his inner thoughts. In contrast to the aggression and dynamism that characterised the high years of his reign, he was strangely passive at this stage, apparently willing to be used and exploited. His mother proved to have the greater influence on him, succesfully spiriting him away to France and keeping him there, despite the increasingly angry and pathetic letters his father sent demanding his return. At lat the King warned his son that unless he returned to England, his father would make a terrible example of him that would act as a warning to all faithless sons. The threat was hollow, and the prince stayed in Paris with his mother and the Flashman-esque Roger Mortimer, until the time came for the invasion fleet to gather in Hainault...

Friday, 11 November 2011

Released!

Folville's Law is released today from MUSA PUBLISHING! Exciting times :)

http://www.musapublishing.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&products_id=74

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Guest blog!

Medieval historian and expert on all things Hugh Despenser the Younger-related (as well as early 14th century England in general) has very kindly given me a guest spot on her blog!

Check it out below:

http://despenser.blogspot.com/

Monday, 7 November 2011

Folville's Landing!

So the release of Folville's Law is imminent. I'm very excited to have my first full-length book out, and very grateful to the professional care and support of Musa Publishing, as well as the support and encouragement of my family and close friends (you know who you are, yes you do...)

A link to the book purchase page on the MUSA website is below, available on PDF, Kindle and many more formats.

http://www.musapublishing.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&products_id=74

For those who do take the plunge and kindly decide to purchase it, many thanks, and any feedback or reviews would be very much appreciated :)

Thursday, 3 November 2011

New website!

Martin Bolton and I now have a shiny new co-author website - check it out!

http://www.boltonandpilling.com/

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Introducing Lizzie...




...Clinton, the heroine of Folville's Law.


When I wrote the story, I knew I wanted to include strong female characters, but ones that were believable in the context of the era. Women in the Middle Ages weren't generally supposed to lead exciting, independent lives, and the ideal noblewoman (in the eyes of noblemen) seems to have been a combination of breeding machine and useful political tool.

There were exceptions, of course, two of the most well-known being Eleanor of Aquitaine and Joan of Arc, neither of whom were any man's footrest.

Depending on circumstances, women could enjoy a degree of freedom, and there are examples of them managing their own affairs. In the famous Paston Letters from the late 15th century, for instance, Margaret Paston took an active role in the localised warfare that erupted between her family and the Dukes of Suffolk and Norfolk, who were greedy to get their hands on the Paston estates.

The tough-willed Margaret and other real-life medieval women like her were the inspiration for Elizabeth Clinton. When we first meet her Liz is widowed, childless and approaching thirty, which was well into middle age by the standards of the time: the average life expectancy for women was somewhere between twenty-eight and thirty-five. She does, however, own a great deal of prime real estate in Leicestershire that she manages without any male interference...that is, until John Swale comes along.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Dear John



To my right is Sir John Swale, knight of Cumberland, taking a breather from cracking skulls. The release date of Folville's Law is just a few days away, so I thought it worth blogging about the central character.

Unlike many of the other characters in the novel, John is entirely a figment of my imagination. He was born inside my head after I read an article by Nigel Saul, 'The Despensers and the downfall of Edward II"(published by the English Historical Review, 1984). The article concentrated on the reasons behind the collapse of the Edwardian regime in 1326, and why the Despensers were betrayed by most of the men they had promoted to official positions throughout England.

Saul goes into detail about the identity of the 'banner knights', the inner circle of knights and armed retainers that surrounded Hugh Despenser the Younger and his father. Then there were the lesser lights, minor knights who hung about on the outer fringes of the Despenser household, presumably doing what they were told and living off the scraps their lord deigned to chuck at them.

What were they like, these violent and ambitious no-marks, only distinguished from common thugs by their family pedigree? Physically they would have been rather different from the romantic image of dashing knights. To quote Alexander Rose's description of Henry Percy, a border baron and exact contemporary of Swale:

"Dentistry then being in its infancy, his teeth would have been ground down to the flat. His body would have exhibited the tell-tale ailments of the martially engaged. Falls from horses and the clatter of swords upon his armour left a painful catalogue of fractured ribs, stretched tendons, worn joints and sprains. His muscled right arm was longer than the other from wielding swords and lances since he was a youngster."

Swale roughly conforms to this description, and carries a permanent injury from a nasty encounter with a band of Scotsmen. As a man he is ambitious, taciturn, violent and not easily scared, with a touchy sense of honour. Honour and loyalty inform much of his character, for one has crippled the other. A schizophrenic with a sword, then, and not a man to cross.

Such is John Swale. Next up, Elizabeth Clinton...


Exciting times at Musa, where they have just announced the acquisition of the entire collected works of the impressively-named Homer Eon Flynt (1888-1924), the American pulp fiction author.

Homer is widely acknowledged as a pioneer of the speculative fiction genre and his works included The Emancipatrix, The Devolutionist, The Blind Spot, The Lord of Death and The Queen of Life. The manuscripts have been stored away for almost a century, and are only now seeing the light of day.

Sadly, the writer met with a violent and tragic end, apparently murdered as a result of his involvement in a bank robbery. However, Musa are keeping his memory alive and will be releasing this remarkable collection on a bi-weekly basis throughout 2012 via the Musa Gold Line on their Polyhymnia short fiction/collections imprint, so watch out for it!

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Tales of Old...


...when knights were bold, etc. Unusually for me, this particular tale, 'Nightingales', has nothing to do with knights and castles, but is a ghost story set in Wales during the First World War. Tales of Old, an online audio magazine for historical short fiction, have kindly put it up as a podcast.

World War I has always fascinated me. The old BBC comedy series, Blackadder Goes Forth, has stayed with me over the years, especially its depiction of British generals as arrogant port-brained buffoons who cheerfully sent their men off to be slaughtered in the trenches. This view has been challenged in recent years by historians such as Andrew Roberts, and certainly the German tactics were no wiser. Even so, I find it difficult to walk past the equestrian statue of Field Marshall Douglas Haig on Whitehall, without wanting to give it a kick.

Words don't come easily when writing about this subject, but the scale of the casualties inflicted on both sides during the 'Great War' still beggars belief. The Battle of the Somme, for instance, was considered a tactical Allied victory, even though 'we' suffered six hundred thousand casualties in just under five months.

Six hundred thousand.

Enjoy the story.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Guest blog!




I have a guest to blog here today, the very lovely and talented Suzanne G Rogers, a fellow Musa author. Her picture should serve to distract you all from my ugly mug, for a while at least.

Take it away, Suzanne...

Suffering For My Art

Alfred Hitchcock once said, “When an actor comes to me and wants to discuss his character, I say, 'It's in the script.' If he says, 'But what's my motivation?, ' I say, 'Your salary.'”

That’s practical advice.

As a writer, I have to ask myself what’s my motivation for writing? Artistic considerations aside, the unromantic and unvarnished response is, “To get published.”

So when the right publisher for my YA fantasy manuscript showed interest in my “unique and compelling” story, my ears perked up and my tail began to wag. Like a Hitchcock thriller, however, horror lurked on the other side of the shower curtain. The publisher wanted to see the novel rewritten from first person point-of-view to third before they would agree to acquire it.

Eek! Is that my blood I see, circling down the drain?

Oh, sure, I could have just checked out of The Bates Motel and headed over to the Holiday Inn…but what’s my motivation again? To get published. So I held my nose and got on with it.

Several challenges presented themselves right away. Things that were logical when told from a 16-year-old’s perspective didn’t fly when seen from a third person POV. Scenes had to be laid out differently in order to achieve a forward momentum. Additional dialogue was required to reveal information formerly contained in the inner monologue of the protagonist.

On the plus side, I seemed to have more clarity of thought this time around. Muddled action got mercilessly cut or shortened. The new dialogue presented more opportunities for wit and humor. The whole tone of the story became necessarily less introspective and more dynamic. The process was less tedious than I had originally imagined—although I wouldn’t say it was fun.

The rewrite took me a month. Three weeks after resubmitting it, I received confirmation that I was the newest author at Astraea Press. Approximately four months later my novel “The Last Great Wizard of Yden” became a reality.

Now I have to check back into The Bates Motel, because I have the two already-completed sequels to rewrite.

What’s my motivation again?

- S.G. Rogers

Blurb:

After his father is kidnapped, sixteen-year-old Jon stumbles across a closely guarded family secret--one that will challenge everything he has ever believed about his father and himself. A magical ring his father leaves behind unlocks a portal to another dimension, but in using it, Jon unwittingly unchains the forces of evil. A crisis develops when a malevolent wizard transports to Earth to kidnap one of Jon’s friends. With the help of some unlikely schoolmates, and a warrior princess from Yden, Jon embarks on a dangerous quest to free his friend and his father from the most vicious wizard the magical world has ever known. In the end, Jon will be forced to fight for his life as he attempts to rescue the last great wizard of Yden.

EXCERPT:

One moment Jon was sitting at his drafting table. In the next, he was sprawled in the middle of a dirt road, having fallen painfully on his behind. His wrist was still tingling, as if he'd stuck his finger in a light socket, and his nostrils burned with the unmistakable scent of ozone.

“Get out of the way!” a man yelled.

A wooden cart, pulled by a team of enormous horses, was bearing down on him. Jon rolled to the side as the cart rumbled past, its wheels barely clearing his head. The driver dragged the team to a halt. “I should report you to the cygards,” he snarled.

Before Jon realized what was happening, the driver’s arm recoiled and he let loose a bullwhip. The popper cracked mere centimeters from Jon’s face. As he scrambled to his feet, the cart moved on, raising a cloud of dust in its wake. Jon stumbled backward, coughing, but then the tail of a strange animal snaked around his waist. The beast resembled a stocky horse, but it had stubby horns and hard ridges where the mane should be. The tail was reminiscent of a small elephant’s trunk. Jon shuddered and twisted out of the animal’s reach.

A plump woman hurried toward him, parcel in hand. “You there! Step away from my puleden!”

Puleden?

“S-sorry,” Jon stammered.

When the extraordinary creature wrapped its muscular tail around the woman’s parcel, Jon gaped in amazement.

“What’re you looking at, vagrant?” the woman snapped.

Without waiting for an answer, the woman unhitched her puleden from a rough-hewn post and led it away. Jon narrowly avoided the road apple the animal left in its wake.

As he took in his surroundings, his mind refused to accept what his eyes were showing him. Somehow he’d traveled instantaneously to a village plucked straight from the pages of a medieval storybook. People were shopping at a busy open-air marketplace nearby, which consisted of rustic wooden stalls, booths, and tents. No cars were on the road, nor could Jon see any modern machinery of any kind. Women were clothed in long, coarsely woven dresses, while men wore cloth shirts and trousers with hide vests. Everyone over a certain age seemed to be wearing a hat of one sort or another. The vendors at the food booths wore the same kind of two-cornered hat oddly similar in shape to ones Jon had seen at fast-food joints.
When a light rain began to moisten his skin, Jon focused his attention upward. To his astonishment he saw not one but two suns in between the streaky, gray clouds. One was nearly overhead and the other, much smaller sun was on the horizon. The realization he was no longer on Earth began to sink in.

I’m on Yden.

The clouds parted and a sudden shaft of daylight blinded Jon for a moment. Buffeted by passing crowds, a sudden vertigo swept over him. He sank down on a nearby bale of hay. He hadn't counted on magical transportation being so disorienting.

“Is this real or is it a nightmare, Ophelia?” he murmured. “Somebody wake me up.”

At least the tingling sensation in his wrist had stopped. Jon took some deep breaths and tried to pull himself together.

“Okay…this is a seriously unplanned turn of events, but don’t panic,” he told himself, even as his hands were trembling.

The proprietor of the nearest stall removed his carhop hat and tried to shoo Jon away with it. His beefy forearms would have intimidated even Uncle Chaz. “Move along. I'll have no layabouts taking up seats meant for good paying customers,” he yelled.

Rudeness always brought Jon’s ire to the surface.

“I didn’t realize this bale of hay was reserved,” he retorted.

An elderly man sat nearby, sipping a bowl of soup. “Give the lad a break, Hafne. Can't you see he’s not from around here?”

“Stay out of it, Dorsit,” Hafne replied.

“It's okay, I'm going,” Jon muttered. “I wouldn’t want to get sick from your cooking anyway.”

Hafne's eyes narrowed as he peered at the cuff on Jon’s wrist. One of his enormous hands descended onto Jon’s shoulder. “That's a transporter cuff, boy. Which wizard did you steal it from?” he snarled.

Transporter cuff?

“I didn’t steal it. It's mine,” Jon said. He squirmed to free himself from Hafne’s grip. “Let go.”

Dorsit stared at Jon, his hood falling back to reveal his skeletal face. He set his bowl of soup down so fast some of it slopped out onto the table.

“Excuse me—”

“Oi, cygards, I've collared me a thief!” Hafne interrupted, gesturing to someone across the road. “Over here!”

“Hush, Hafne,” Dorsit whispered. “Don’t make trouble.”

Jon guessed “cygards” were some kind of policemen. “You’ve got to be kidding me,” he groaned.

But Hafne had caught the attention of a couple of huge, chainmail-clad brutes. They disengaged themselves from a booth selling ale and clanked in his direction. Jon’s mouth went dry. An overgrown carhop was pinning him down, and he was about to be arrested by two medieval enforcers for something he didn't do. From the unforgiving look of the cygards, Jon doubted he was going to be read his rights. His adrenaline surged and he buried a panic-driven fist into Hafne's gut. To Jon’s surprise, Hafne actually doubled over. His grip loosened, and Jon seized the opportunity to flee.

“Wait!” Dorsit cried, but Jon was already gone.

Darting through the marketplace, Jon searched for a place to hide. He finally took cover in a tent. The two cygards ran past, grunting, as they continued their pursuit. When his eyes adjusted to the dim light in the tent, Jon saw a boy crouched in the corner, watching him. He wore a black cap and was little older than Sela.

“Hey. Sorry to bust in on you, but I seem to be attracting the wrong kind of attention,” Jon said.

The boy eyed his clothing. “You're not from here.”

“No, and people don't seem to like me much.”

“In Mandral Territory, to be seen without your head covering is to be arrested as a vagrant. Unless your master speaks on your behalf.”

“I’m my own master,” Jon said. “Ever hear of a wizard named Efysian?”

“Good Solegra!” the boy exclaimed. “You'll be punished awful when he finds out you've run off.”

As Jon peeked through the tent flap, he was dismayed to see at least a half dozen more cygards had joined the search. “Yeah, well, it seems he'll have to take a number.”

The boy noticed the cuff on Jon’s wrist. “You've stolen Efysian's transporter cuff, too?” he gasped.

“No, it's mine,” Jon said, but the boy gave him a dubious look. “What's your name, kid?”

“Mozer.”

“Mozer, my name is Jon. Would you do me a favor and check outside for cygards?”

The boy didn’t need a second invitation. He darted past, shying away from Jon as if he were about to melt his face. Once outside the tent, he began to yell. “Help, Master Aeltin! Cygards! Thief! Help!”

“That’s peachy,” Jon said. “Thanks, kid.”

He fled into the marketplace again. Spotting a section of woods across a small pasture, he sprinted for cover. When he reached the trees, he discovered they abutted the steep rock face of a hill. His heart sank. With his back literally up against a wall, the only escape would be through an open field. Although Jon was motivated, whether he could outdistance the monstrous cygards or not was debatable.

From his hiding place behind a gnarled oak, Jon counted at least five cygards clanking toward the sound of Mozer's continuous shouting. Several other cygards were questioning a few people who had definitely seen Jon make for the trees, but each one shrugged his or her shoulders in response. Well, maybe the folks of Yden weren't all bad—or maybe they disliked the cygards more than they hated vagrants.
One of the cygards was nearly seven feet tall. He carried a big shiny ax in one hand, a metal prod in the other, and was the most menacing of the bunch. Mozer waved his arms at the towering hulk to get his attention and then pointed in Jon’s direction.

“What a little stinker,” Jon muttered.

Paul Bunyan’s evil twin loped toward the copse of trees, closing the distance more quickly than Jon would have believed possible. As he drew near, he could practically smell the cygard stench—unless what he smelled was his own fear. Before he realized what had happened, the other cygards had also begun to close in on his position, and his escape route was cut off.

“Ophelia, I need your help,” he managed. “I want to go home. Now.”

Ophelia's eyes flared. Jon was so horrified by the looming cygard he couldn't tell if the sensation spreading up his arms was electricity or terror. He saw a flash of light, and the muffled boom of thunder reached his eardrums at the same time the cygard swung his ax. Jon braced himself for the impact of the blade...and then he vanished.

####


Links:
http://tinyurl.com/3wfa6yk (Astraea Press)
http://tinyurl.com/3doybdm (Amazon)
http://tinyurl.com/3tev9ej (BN.com)
Twitter: @suzannegrogers
Blog: http://childofyden.wordpress.com/

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Don't speak ill of the dead...



...so they say, but in the case of Hugh Despenser the Younger (1286-1326), one is left with little choice. I previously blogged about Eustace Folville, one of the villains in my novel, and Despenser is another. Eustace was a thoroughly undesirable man, a career criminal and murderous gangster, but mere small fry by comparison to this unlovely monster.


The picture to the left is an illustration of Despenser's execution in 1326, a ghastly affair even by the standards of the time. His suffering was deliberately prolonged for as long as possible, though I won't go into details. The picture gives some idea of the tortures inflicted on him. Even so, it's difficult to have too much sympathy.


Hugh rose to power during the latter stages of the reign of Edward II, replacing the murdered Piers Gaveston and disgraced Roger D'Amory (among others) as that unhappy monarch's favourite. There were rumours of a sexual relationship between the two men, and it's perfectly feasible. Unlike the relationship between Gaveston and Edward, though, which had been one of mutual devotion, Hugh was concerned merely with the grabbing and keeping of power.


Along with his father, the slightly less repellant Hugh Despenser the Elder, Hugh set about abusing his position, and between the years 1318-1326 did his utmost to acquire lands, castles and titles, cheerfully twisting and breaking the law along the way. His thugs frequently intimidated rich heiresses, widows and helpless child wards into signing over their property, and had a rough way with those who refused. One lady who tried to resist him, a Lady Baret, was horribly tortured until she went insane. Along with the rumours that Hugh attempted to rape Edward's Queen, Isabella, it seems that a streak of violent misogyny can be added to the list of his vile character traits.


In the end, he simply made too enemies. Isabella seems to have had a particular grudge against him, and she and her lover, the Flashman-esque Roger Mortimer, conceived the torments that were inflicted on him at his execution. Much to their satisfaction, he is said to have uttered a 'ghastly inhuman howl' as the knives went into his body.


And that was the end of Hugh Despenser. Jolly good thing too, you might say. Like Eustace, he was a compelling man to write about...just not one I would care to meet.

















Saturday, 15 October 2011

The man himself...


The man in question being Eustace Folville, one of the villains in my novel, and the inspiration for the title. A fascinating character, albeit a deeply unpleasant one. A picture of his much-defaced tomb is attached.

Eustace and his brothers formed a criminal gang that terrorised Leicestershire and the Midlands in the 1320s, and the surviving court records list a whole series of robberies, murders, kidnappings, extortions and rapes committed by them and their many adherents. The law couldn't handle them, and various proclamations of outlawry did little to curb their illegal activities.

Part of the problem was that the Folvilles and their ilk were not commoners but of the knightly landowning class, and supposed to be the ones who safeguarded law and order. These criminal gentry gangs proliferated in the violence and disorder that characterised Edward II's appalling reign, and the Folvilles worked hand-in-glove with the Coterel gang of Derbyshire (who also appear in my book), the Bradburnes, and others.

Here, then, was the brutal reality behind the merry tales of Robin Hood and other fictional medieval outlaws. The history makes for grim reading, but is great raw material for fiction!


Thought I would kick things off properly here by talking about Musa, the new and dynamic e-publishers who will be releasing Folville's Law on 11th November. I have been very impressed with Musa, and the friendly, professional and efficient attitude of their staff, and look forward to continuing to work with them in the months to come.

Folville will be released as part of Clio, Musa's Historical imprint. Please follow the link below to see the other releases to come from this particular stable:

http://www.musapublishing.com/index.php?main_page=index&cPath=8

Musa have already built up a great team of authors and I expect them to achieve great things in the future :)

Friday, 14 October 2011

Welcome to...

...the blog home of my writings, specifically a home for the promotion and discussion of my novel, "Folville's Law", due to be released by the lovely folks at Musa Publishing on 11th November, and the series of mini-sequels that Musa are scheduled to release in the next few months.

It's all a bit basic here at the moment, but much will be added. Please feel free to join if you fancy checking out my work, or just having a bit of a history chat. I am a medieval history geek in the extreme, and proud of it!

David