Writing update and a snippet from For King and Country

Nottingham Castle

Nottingham Castle

Title: For King and Country (Battle Scars II)
Current word count:  141,122 words

Revisions: I am at the 116,444 word mark in my 2nd round of editing the manuscript. A few weeks ago, I teased 3 readers with chapters 1-2 and received some positive feedback. Two beta readers have the first 71,000 words in their hands, and with luck, I hope to ship the 2nd half of the novel to them within the next 3-4 weeks. Then I sit back and twiddle my thumbs. (Don’t I wish!)

Snippet from the WIP
To set the scene: Robin (not yet the man of legend Hood) has recently befriended Much the miller’s son. Working undercover for Queen Eleanor (remember, King Richard is in captivity in Germany), Robin must infiltrate Nottingham Castle. 

St. Peter’s bell pealed Terce welcoming sunlight streaking through the clouds. The miller’s wagon appeared as it struck, just as Much had promised. It lumbered up Castle Road amidst Nottingham’s mid-morning bustle. Robin hopped onto the bench. The younger man wore a sheen of sweat. That, and the grain filling the bed, was ample evidence he’d had a busy morning.

“I’d have helped load the sacks,” Robin said, “but there’s no need to have your father asking questions.”

“You’re certain no one will recognize you at the castle? Might be a knight returned from the Holy Land knows you. And I’ve heard many a man from the garrison speak of serving the old king in Normandy. You might have fought them.”

“Do you expect any of those men will be in the kitchens?”

Much looked around warily to see if anyone was watching. “Well no, I suppose not.”

Robin smiled to himself. “All you’ll need do is show me the path to the tunnels.”

Much kept his voice low. “We shall not have much time.”

“Just get me inside and you may go on your way.” Robin felt for the hilt of his sword. He felt naked without it, but grain deliveries from town were not guarded, and peasants weren’t permitted to carry swords. He carried two daggers, one on his belt, the other in his boot. “If I am caught—”

“You’ll tell them the miller’s son led the way.”

“I would not,” Robin protested.

“If they torture you?”

“I will say I was lost. I was seeking a job in the kitchens and started to wander. My da’ always said I was too too curious for my own good. Dark stairways deserve exploration like a woman’s body. I was feeling my way along every crevice…” Robin paused to let Much’s mind fill in the details. “And suddenly, there I was, stumbling into a tunnel.”

Much pulled up on the reins. “A woman’s body?” He looked incredulous, yet mortified at the same time.

“I spin stories well, my friend. Look at this face.” He pointed to himself, twisting his head from side to side. “Have you ever seen such an honest face?”

Much rolled his eyes. “You could get lost down there.”

“One main tunnel with small alcoves, the third of which leads to a passageway. On the north wall, a door. Through that, the stairwell leads to a large underground chamber.” Robin scrubbed his hands.

“You remembered?”

“Of course!” Robin laughed. “Now all you must do is forget you ever saw me.”

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Photo of Nottingham Castle taken by me (2010). CC BY-SA 4.0

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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 Battle Scars, historical fiction, revising, teasers, works in process | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Interview with B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Author Charlene Newcomb

Char:

I am visiting with Stephanie Hopkins at Layered Pages today. Join us!

Originally posted on Layered Pages:

Charlene Newcomb-BRAG

Hello Charlene! I am so delighted to be talking to you today about your B.R.A.G. Medallion Book, Men of the Cross. Before we get started talking about your book, please tell me a little about yourself.

Hi Stephanie! I was born and raised in South Carolina, but left home at 18 to “join the Navy and see the world.” That “world” ended up being duty stations in Florida, California, Texas, and Maryland. My job as a communications technician led to a post-Navy career in academic libraries, where I’ve worked since the early 1980s. Somewhere in there, I had 3 children – now all grown and independent – completed a B.A. in U.S. History and a Masters in Library and Information Science, and moved to Kansas. I started writing in 1993 and published a series of short stories in the Star Wars universe. Due to life’s curve balls, I didn’t…

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are you stuck in the middle?

Char:

Pulling one from the archives…. But with an update: I never did set daily word count goals. I have found I make steady progress if I write/revise at least an hour a day. I rarely miss that goal. What about you? Daily word counts? Or writing time?

Originally posted on The Many Worlds of Char....:

red, yellow, green leavesThere is nothing more exciting than the moment when an idea invades your brain. Characters, settings, and scenes for that next story appear out of nowhere, or come in dreams, or when you’re sitting at a stoplight. (Why are those people honking at me?)

So what do you do? You jot down a few notes and start writing. Right? 30,000 words later, you’re stuck in the middle of the novel. Burnt out. You can’t find your way to the end. That doesn’t mean you don’t know how your story is supposed to end. You just can’t figure out how to get there.

I found myself in this predicament at the 40,000 word mark of a sci fi novel I started writing more years ago than you’d want to know. The manuscript got shoved aside for more than 3 years until I re-read it and decided I was ready to tackle it…

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Sunday Book Highlight

Char:

Look who!

Originally posted on Layered Pages:

Men o

B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree!  

War, political intrigue and passion… heroes… friends and lovers… and the seeds for a new Robin Hood legend await you…

Two young knights’ journey to war at Richard the Lionheart’s side sweeps them from England to the Holy Land in this historical adventure set against the backdrop of the Third Crusade.

Henry de Grey leaves Southampton in high spirits, strong in his faith and passionate about the mission to take Jerusalem back from Saladin’s army. Stephan l’Aigle’s prowess on the battlefield is well known, as are his exploits in the arms of other men. He prizes duty, honour and loyalty to his king above all else. But God and the Church? Stephan has little use for either.

Henry’s convictions are challenged by loss and the harsh realities of bloody battles, unforgiving marches, and the politics of the day. Man against man. Man against the elements. Man…

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York Castle in the 12th century

Clifford's Tower

Clifford’s Tower

Somewhere in the midst of plotting Book II of Battle Scars, For King and Country, I had a brilliant idea: Stephan l’Aigle must deliver a message to the Sheriff of York.

If you’ve been to York, you’ll recognize Clifford’s Tower. It is one of the few visible remains of York Castle.

A menacing keep on a motte overlooking the city – great for scene-setting, right? From my 2010 visit there and earlier research, I knew the Tower’s significance to Richard I’s reign. But I didn’t recall specifics about the dates of construction of the structure, so I put my research hat back on to hunt down the facts.

Like the gatehouse at Nottingham Castle, which I’d posted about last year, I discovered the current stone structure we know as Clifford’s Tower wasn’t built until the second half of the 1200s. For King and Country is set in the years 1193-94. Stephan would have seen a timber keep called King’s Tower atop the motte. In fact, most of York Castle would have been timber. Surrounded by a moat on all sides, the motte and its castle were built by William the Conqueror in 1068-69, destroyed during an attack by the Danes and rebellious Northumbrians in 1069, and then rebuilt by William.

But Stephan wouldn’t have seen the keep built during William’s reign. He’d have seen newer construction. Over £207 in expenditures were recorded in the Pipe Rolls for 1191 to cover costs to replace the earlier keep and other buildings. They’d been set ablaze during the massacre of Jews there in March 1190. Excavations of the site in 1903 uncovered charred remains of the fire and revealed the artificially-created motte had been raised to its present level (approx. 50 feet high) when Henry III ordered the construction of the stone keep. Over £2000 were expended in that thirteen-year project between 1245-46 and 1258-59.

For reference, the average annual income of a 12th century baron was £100-200. £207 for repairs was a hefty sum!

For a model of 14th century York Castle, see http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:York_Castle_diorama.JPG

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Sources

Clifford’s Tower photo taken by me in 2010.

Cooper, T.P. (1911). The History of the Castle of York. London: Elliot Stock.

York Castle. on Wikipedia.

Posted in historical fiction, research, revising, works in process | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

One more step… one more word…

2012.02.26 end of the road lava flows (49)

At times, the way ahead looks desolate, insurmountable, and foreboding.
We place one foot in front of the other
– or in the case of a writer –
we add one word after another.
We stumble.
We look at the blank page
and the page after that and wonder what words will fill them.
We look back over our shoulder and
wonder if the road ahead is worth the effort.
But we dream,
and the dreams drive us forward.
One more step.
One more word…

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photo by me: ‘end of the road’ lava flow
Volcanoes Nat’l Park, Hawaii
text originally posted Jan. 2013

Posted in life, writing | 3 Comments

My writing retreat

typewriter keysI have always dreamed of going to a writing retreat. Give me a place with a view – nestled somewhere in the mountains or on the Cornish coast. (See my blog header – I’ll take a little room in one of those old fishermens’ cottages in St. Ives.) Even a small attic room looking out into a garden would be lovely. Well, I didn’t get to go to any of those locations over the holidays, but I did have a writing retreat of sorts. I spent 8 days house- & cat- sitting. Huge house. Just me & the cat.

This wasn’t a typical vacation where I spent a day on a plane or in a car, did lots of sightseeing, visited family and friends, tried to squeeze in some writing, and then fell onto the sofa exhausted each evening. This was writing time!

My body doesn’t know the meaning of ‘sleeping late,’ so the coffee was brewing by 6am most mornings and I was writing – editing – by 6:45 or 7. I worked until noon. On 2 mornings, I went to a local coffee shop and had breakfast and edited. I spent more time on the manuscript some afternoons, though not every day. I started reading 2 new books: Knight of Jerusalem by Helena Schrader and A Rip in the Veil by Anna Belfrage. I had intended to get more non-fiction research done (reading Ward’s English noblewomen in the later Middle Ages), but didn’t do too well on that front. I escaped the house and saw 3 movies (Hobbit #3, Night at the Museum #3, and The Imitation Game) and went shopping. I highly recommend all 3 movies.

2014.12 oreo2I generally stayed away from social media except to check in with a few friends. I did little to no marketing or networking. It was a lovely break.

I could have taken the time off work and just stayed home. But it was nice not to be in familiar surroundings. There are too many distractions at home. I didn’t have to think about dusting, laundry or the mess I left on the kitchen table. I had cable tv (which I don’t have at home) and my usual Netflix & Amazon for streaming in the evenings and, by the end of the week, a lap (or sink?) kitty.

And, best of all, I made great progress on revisions to Book 2 of Battle Scars, For King and Country:

  • cut another 2,500 words
  • 38% through round 2 of edits (I was at 12% on Dec. 17.)
  • sent specifications for a map to my mapmaker Dennis, who did great work for Men of the Cross

Now I’m back to my regular work schedule, which means I get 1-2 hours of editing/writing time a day (except on the weekends). Sigh. I won’t even predict when I’ll finish this round. But when it’s done, I’ll ship it off to a few beta readers and get their input. You know the routine… lather, rinse, repeat.

Have you been to a writers retreat? Do you have a favorite place to write, or what would be your ideal writing spot?

Typewriter keys photo by Steven Depolo used under CC-BY 2.0.

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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 Battle Scars, life, works in process, writing | 4 Comments