Month 5 of Dispatches from the home coffee shop

This retirement life is busy! I published Echoes of the Storm last month, and have to thank members of my Launch Team and others who have posted some positive reviews. It is always a huge thrill – and a relief – to hear readers enjoyed my novel. I know it won’t be everybody’s cup-of-tea, but when it is, that’s just awesome.

I should be thinking about packing for a long-planned September trip to the UK. Not surprisingly, that isn’t going to happen. Here we are, five months into the COVID-19 lockdown. I would be attending a writers/readers conference in Southampton, spend a couple of days relaxing in the Cotswolds, and then do a mini-research trip to Newark-on-Trent before meeting up with a friend from North Carolina in London. We had a 19-day tour planned. *sigh*

Okay, I’ll stop whining now.

Time to get back to the medieval

Since mid-May, I’ve been on a break from Rogue, my Robin Hood novel. Now it’s time to head back to the 13th century.

“Break” didn’t mean I wasn’t thinking about Sir Robin and his friends Henry, Stephan, Tuck, Much, and Little John.

I realize I haven’t blogged much about the premise of this story, though if you’re familiar with the legends of Robin Hood, you’ll know that many take place during King John’s reign. I used Battle Scars I-III to create a backstory for my own version of the legendary outlaw and his gang. By the end of that series, you see the beginnings of the gang, but the characters go off to lead their lives, with one exception.

Do I need to read Battle Scars?

No worries – you will enjoy Rogue without knowing the details of that series. Here’s my mini working draft blurb for this story:

King John has a civil war on his hands and the French have invaded England. In Sherwood Forest, Allan a Dale has been arrested for robbing the rich to give to the poor. Will Allan’s old friend Robin come rescue him? Will Robin have to make a deal with the devil, er King John, to save Allan’s neck from the noose?

The year is 1216. For the last 17 years, Robin has been leading a quiet life training squires at Castle l’Aigle in Yorkshire. He has stayed under the radar all these years. But Allan a Dale, once Robin’s squire, turned full-time outlaw/merry man in Sherwood Forest when John became king.

What is King John up to?

I did some some digging to track John’s whereabouts during the time the novel is set (Aug/Sept 1216).  

Facts

  • By mid-June of that year, Prince Louis of France has invaded England and made it as far west as Winchester (on the inset map below, that’s south central, just north of Southampton).
  • Prince Louis and rebel barons have occupied London. (Remember, these rebels were ones who forced John to sign the Magna Carta in 1215.)
  • King John fled west, and on August 2 (in Kingsmead) he turned south, staying in a dozen towns before arriving in Sherborne on August 23. He arrived in Oxford on September 3, and then ended up in Reading on September 6.

Here’s my little map I created as a reference to trace his journey in August and early September. This is based on data from The Itinerary of King John & the Rotuli Litterarum Patentium. I also keep a spreadsheet with distances between towns. I can’t have King John traveling from Kingsmead (top left) to Nottingham (pointed out with the red arrow on the left) in a day. That’s about 70 miles, a hard two-day ride on horseback in the 13th century. 

The rebels also hold the town of Lincoln – but not the castle. When I realized John was nowhere near Nottingham – where most of the action occurs – I had to figure out if that was a good or bad thing! Do I move the story timeline closer to September 22 when John is known to be in Lincoln?

You’ll have to wait and see!


Charlene Newcomb is the author of the Battle Scars series, 12th century historical fiction filled with war, political intrigue, and a knightly romance of forbidden love set during the reign of Richard the Lionheart.

Char also writes science fiction. Echoes of the Storm was published in July 2020.

Download the free short story, A Knight’s Tale, when you sign up for Char’s Newsletter. You’ll also be first to know about book news before everybody else, and take part in giveaways and special offers.

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