Research gems: not everyone liked Richard the Lionheart

We know Richard the Lionheart had any number of detractors and outright enemies. In this case, I’m not talking about King Philip of France, Henry VI, Holy Roman Emperor, John, Count of Mortain (Richard’s brother, the future King John of Magna Carta fame), or other contemporaries of Richard. As I work through through final checks of For King and Country, I’ve been reviewing my notes, following up on some 12th century Lincolnshire history, and discovered this little tidbit. I couldn’t resist sharing this ‘gem’ with you.

Richard the Lionheart

Richard the Lionheart

Mr. Medcalf doesn’t have any kind words about Richard in Lincolnshire in History, and Lincolnshire Worthies, published in 1903:

“But every excuse must be made for the Plantagenets. They claimed to live on the heroic principle of doing what one likes with one’s own, and this realm of England, with all its belongings, including such trifles as Lincoln City and Castle, was of course their ” own.” They had a sort of hereditary family trouble in the way of financial ” shortage,” and had to bend their Royal minds in a certain magnificent style to some vulgar means of “raising the wind.” Besides, Richard was a very pious person, and went a good deal into crusading and getting himself shut up in foreign prisons, with troubadours loafing around and encouraging his melancholy by chanting favourite melodies under his window with a kind of vamp accompaniment on the harp. You couldn’t tell a minstrel in those days to ” move on ” under a county council bye-law, and Richard had to endure it, but it no doubt added much to his well-known irrascibility on his very infrequent visits to the country he was supposed to be governing.” –p.81-82

Do you detect a bit of contempt there?

See other research gems.


Get swept away to the 12th centuryMen of the Cross
Sweeping battles, forbidden love, and 2 knights fighting for Richard the Lionheart
A 2014 B.R.A.G. Medallion honoree and Readers’ Favorite
Get it for Kindle & Nook and at Smashwords.
Book II of Battle Scars: For King and Country
will be published in 2015.

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The manor house in 12th century England

A few months ago I posted about the non-fiction I was reading, including works on housing in the 12th century. The locations in For King and Country vary from the small village of Greyton with its manor house to Castle l’Aigle, Sir Stephan’s boyhood home, from the town of Nottingham and its impressive castle, to peasant wattle and daub cottages.


Boothby Pagnell

It was in the book The English Mediaeval House where I stumbled across the 12th century manor house in Boothby Pagnell, Lincolnshire. Further reading in Manorial Domestic Buildings in England and Northern France led me to additional information about the two-storey chamber block house there. Archaeological evidence published after these two books indicate there was a structure – a massive one, maybe a great hall, dating to the 11th or 12th century – built of stone and attached to this building:

It is now assumed that the ‘Manor House’ was part of a larger complex which would have included a ground floor hall. Resistivity survey has detected a large rectangular outline to the east of the Manor House, shown by a small excavation in 1996 to belong to a massive stone building, either of the late 11th or early 12th century. The surviving building would now more correctly be defined as a chamber block and adds further weight to a changing view regarding the story of the evolution of the English House.¹

So, dear readers, imagine a hall to the left, remove that stairwell to the upper floor – the main doorway would have been into the hall. There you have Greyton manor, the home of Henry de Grey.


¹ From Boothby Pagnell Manor.

Photo of Boothy Pagnell used under public domain,


men of the cross - quote

My novel, Men of the Cross, Book 1 of the Battle Scars series is available in print and for Kindle on Amazon & Amazon (UK) and other Amazon sites worldwide, for Nook via Barnes & Noble, and via Smashwords in multiple formats. * a 2014 IndieB.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree *

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An excerpt from For King and Country


Lincoln Castle

Title: For King and Country (Battle Scars II)

Beta readers have given me 2 thumbs up. I’ve revised the manuscript and addressed their comments – nothing earth-shattering, thank goodness – fixed typos they spotted. I have a few “last checks” and then I’ll turn the whole 141,000+ words to my editors. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this snippet from the book. Stephan has returned to Yorkshire to seek help from the brother who threw him out of Castle l’Aigle before he’d left on Crusade a few years earlier…

Excerpt from the work-in-progress
Stephan crossed the aisled great hall, fondly remembering Geoff lying on the floor to study and then draw pictures of the stone arches high overhead. The late-day sun flooded the room with light. The sight of the l’Aigle crest hanging above the dais made him swallow hard. He could almost hear his father’s voice engaging the manorial court or celebrating the harvest. Gil’s wedding feast had been here, too.

“I’d thought to fill this place with children’s laughter.”

Stephan turned abruptly to the voice. Gil stood at the door of the solar, his face shadowed and unreadable.

“God has not sought to bless me.” Gil’s voice cracked. Despondent or angry, Stephan couldn’t tell. Gil took a step back. The light revealed a face drawn with deep lines, aged beyond his thirty years. He gestured Stephan to follow. His step was lively, his body fit, just as Stephan remembered. Sitting in a high backed chair near the window he raised his arm, the azure blue silk of his wide sleeve billowing as he snapped his fingers. A young servant filled two goblets with wine and then hurried from the solar without a word.

Stephan approached his brother and tipped his head. Sweat tickled his neck. He was glad the windows were thrown open to the breeze.

Gil retrieved one of the goblets and held it out to him. “Drink. Sit.” He waved Stephan to the other chair.

Stephan met his brother’s gray eyes. He noticed how pale Gil looked. “I wish you’d written of your loss. I am sorry. I remember Mylla.” Home for a brief time before he joined Richard’s mesnie, Stephan had met her shortly before his seventeenth birthday. His special day had been forgotten when Gil’s wedding turned l’Aigle upside down.

Gil looked at him for a long time. “Is that so? I do recall you attended my wedding.” His face reddened, his voice black. He swallowed his wine and poured another. “I am surprised you saw anything other than the tanner’s son falling into your bed. Christ! Thank God Father did not know and Geoff was away at Southwell.”

Lincoln Castle © Copyright Jo Turner and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence
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Andrew Latham – The Holy Lance

holy lance cover copy
Andrew Latham shared an advance copy of The Holy Lance with me, and all I have to say is “When will book 2 of his English Templars series be released?”

The Holy Lance, first in this trilogy, is a gripping historical adventure set during the Third Crusade. Latham’s protagonist is brutal killer and pious monk, a soldier of God. Latham provides enough historical detail without overwhelming the reader. His vivid portrayal of characters, place, and time will leave the reader captivated.

Visit his website, or go Amazon or to get your copy now!

The year is 1191. A daring counterattack against the Saracens’ last-ditch effort to relieve the besieged city of Acre has not only saved the Christian host from a fatal defeat; it has also brought the leader of that counterattack, English Templar Michael Fitz Alan, to the attention of King Richard the Lionheart.

In the days that follow, the king charges Fitz Alan with a life-or-death mission – to recover the Holy Lance, a long-lost religious relic widely believed to be responsible for the near-miraculous success of the First Crusade.

The ensuing quest leads Fitz Alan and a hand-picked band of Templars on a journey deep into enemy territory, where they battle Saracens, Assassins, hostile Christians and even a traitor within their own ranks as they seek to return the Holy Lance to Christian hands and thereby ensure the success of the crusade.

“If you’re looking for an historical adventure soaked in blood…  The Holy Lance delivers….  Latham shows a welcome attention to the complexities of the Crusader world and to the details of Templar life.  A satisfying amount of blood is shed as Michael Fitz Alan and his Templar troops battle their way towards their goal.  And the book offers a rousing conclusion, with the promise of more to come.  Bring it on!”
— Jack Hight, author of The Saladin Trilogy.

“A tense, atmospheric page-turner….  medieval historical fiction at its very best.”
— S.J.A. Turney, author of the Marius’ Mules and The Ottoman Cycle historical fiction novels.

The book launch has been scheduled to take place at Common Good Books, Garrison Keillor’s bookstore in Saint Paul, MN on 29 April, 2015 at 7:00pm.

Andrew A. Latham is an award-winning professor of International Relations who regularly teaches courses in medieval political thought, international relations, and war.  Trained as a Political Scientist, Latham has spent the last decade-and-a-half researching political violence in the Middle Ages.  He has written scholarly articles on medieval war, the crusades, jihad, and the political thought of Saint Augustine and Saint Thomas Aquinas.  His scholarly work includes the non-fiction book entitled Theorizing Medieval Geopolitics: War and World Order in the Age of the Crusades.

Latham is a member of the Historical Novel Society, the Historical Writers’ Association and De Re Militari: The Society For Medieval Military History.

Find him on his website, on Twitter, and on Facebook.

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I’d rather be writing… A story of beta readers and taxes

IRS 1040 Tax Form Being Filled Out I’m working on taxes this week.

Normally I’ve completed this task by mid- to late February, but I wanted to get to “THE END” of For King and Country before I dove into the tax forms. Yes, round 2 of edits on the novel are done!

I should have done the taxes last week, but then the first round of comments from my British beta reader, Julie, arrived via email. I had to know…  I could have been satisfied with the general comments in her email: “There was plenty of action and drama, as well as a few tense moments, and some lovely interplay between [snip snip].”  But I was weak and immediately dove into the details and found, to my great relief, she did not note any major concerns or plot holes – at least in the first 75,000 words.

I had just finished tweaking the manuscript based on Julie’s comments when I received the marked-up manuscript from beta reader #2, Jen. I’ve looked over Jen’s comments, but haven’t started on edits yet. I thought I’d be safe when Julie’s part 2 comments arrived on Friday. I’ve been good. I haven’t looked at them…yet.


Medieval Torture

Most writers recommend distancing yourself from the novel before starting on revisions. I know I should do that and let the story rest. But this is torture. It’s worse than facing the tax forms.

May your week be torture free, my friends!

Tax forms shared  as CC BY-SA 2.0
and linked to for attribution as  requested
“Streckbett”. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons –


Get swept away to the 12th centuryMen of the Cross
Sweeping battles, forbidden love, and 2 knights fighting for Richard the Lionheart
A 2014 B.R.A.G. Medallion honoree and Readers’ Favorite
Get it for Kindle & Nook and at Smashwords.

Posted in life, revising, writing | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Me as a writer: 7 facts

keyboardI was challenged by Lynne Provost to write 7 facts about me as a writer. I’ve been interviewed about my historical fiction elsewhere, so I’m going back to my writing roots here:

1. I didn’t pen many stories when I was young – the ones I wrote down were required for school. But my imagination was my playground. I had stories of the past, present, and future—of real people and imaginary ones. Apparently I had the Partridge family on Star Trek… And an original character from the future who ended up in the American West of the 1880s and 1890s.  Somehow I’d managed to forget that Partridge Family idea until an old friend recently reminded me of it. (You’ll probably want to forget it too.)

2. I have never taken a creative writing class.

3. The first short story I wrote and submitted was accepted for publication in a role-playing game magazine licensed by Lucasfilm, Ltd. in 1994. Artist Mike Vilardi did an exceptional job capturing the look of my original main character Alex Winger.

4. I get a little upset when people refer to my Star Wars short stories as fan fiction. My stories were vetted by an editor at West End Games and by content editors at Lucasfilm. Though my inexperience as a writer shows in those works, someone saw a glimmer of hope. :)

5.  After publishing several short stories in the Star Wars Adventure Journal, I worked on my first original novel, a SciFi story. I wrote about 40,000 words and got stuck in the middle. I didn’t write another word for almost 6 years. Family came first, and work exhausted my creative energies. I finished a first draft of that SciFi novel around 2005. It’s still sitting on the hard drive. I re-read it a couple of years ago and hope to resurrect it some day.

6. In retrospect, I wished I’d received more constructive criticism on those short stories. Fortunately, I have 3 wonderful ‘teachers’ in the writing group I joined in 2009. I still have a lot to learn, but I feel my writing is improving.

7. Dialogue is my strong point. The first drafts of my 2 published novels were written in what I’d describe as a screenplay format with very little narrative. Once I had the story down, I went back and revised, adding the descriptive elements. I struggle with narrative and description., but as I mentioned in #6, I feel like my writing is improving.

Bonus #8. I got to “THE END” of Book II of Battle Scars, For King and Country. The manuscript has been sent to 2 beta readers.

Keyboard photo taken by me. CC BY-SA 4.0


Get swept away to the 12th centuryMen of the Cross
Sweeping battles, forbidden love, and 2 knights fighting for Richard the Lionheart
A 2014 B.R.A.G. Medallion honoree and Readers’ Favorite
Get it for Kindle & Nook and at Smashwords.

Posted in interviews, star wars, writing | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

12th century gems

“…there is none of the above stock [i.e., livestock] there now except for the 2 plough-teams. John, the clerk, who was at that time Thomas fitz Bernard’s steward, transferred 40 hoggets [i.e., 2-year-old male sheep] to the vill of Whitfield at the feast of Saint Martin (11 November) and unjustly took as many good ewes for them at Easter together with their lambs.” — Walmsley, p. 45

[The bracketed words are mine (based on the editor/translator’s footnotes & text), added for clarification.] The quote is from Widows, Heirs, and Heiresses of the Late Twelfth Century and goes on to say that John took many casks of beer and an ox. I wonder what became of John the clerk… Now you’re wondering why I’m perusing this tome, right? I stumbled across it via a footnote in another book. Widows didn’t turn out to be what I expected, but it is a fascinating resource: a translation of a primary text published in 1185, the Rotuli de Dominabus et Pueris et Puellis. The entries in the original rolls reflect a report of 4 itinerant justices gathering information on widows and wardships in 12 counties in England. A king must know what his subjects’ lands and properties are worth to have an “adequate flow of income and services from royal and non-royal sources.” (Walmsley, p. ix.)  And a writer of 12th century English historical fiction must understand what widowhood meant to a woman. Widowhood, of course, was preceded by marriage. :) Marriages were often arranged when the prospective bride and/or groom were children. In the second half of the 12th century, the Church decreed that consent was the basis for a marriage. Whilst a girl and boy might be contracted to marry by their parents, the age of consent was reasoned to be 12 for girls and 14 for boys. However, this didn’t mean children weren’t married:

“Richard Neville was aged six when he married Anne Beauchamp, the daughter of Richard, earl of Warwick…” –Ward, p.13

Once married, a girl/young woman went from her father’s house to her husband’s and was subject to his will. Medieval women may have run their estates, but they had no legal  rights in the eyes of the law. If widowed, that changed:

“…the widow…was regarded as an independent figure able to plead in the courts and act as head of her household and estates.” –Ward, p.34

On a widow remarrying:

“According to the 1225 issue of Magna Carta no widow should be distrained to remarry while she wished to live without a husband, but she had to give security that she would not remarry without the king’s consent if she was a tenant-in-chief or without the consent of the lord of whom she held her lands.” –Ward, p. 40

While the law might reflect one thing, politics, land, money, or other reasons were at issue and some women were forced to take a second (or third, etc.) husband. There are also tales of women abducted by prospective suitors!  Once remarried, the former widow relinquished her rights and her new husband took over responsibility for her property, and he would hold them if she died.

Fascinating, isn’t it? And ladies… aren’t you glad you live in the 21st century?

======= Sources Walmsley, J. (2006). Widows, Heirs, and Heiresses of the Late Twelfth Century. Aldershot: SCOLAR. Ward, J. C. (1992). English noblewomen in the later Middle Ages. London: Longman.


Get swept away to the 12th centuryMen of the Cross Sweeping battles, forbidden love, and 2 knights fighting for Richard the Lionheart A 2014 B.R.A.G. Medallion honoree and Readers’ Favorite Get it for Kindle & Nook and at Smashwords.

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