10/10/13
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Nostrum Episode 8 and a Deleted Scene

** Warning: This post contains spoilers for episode 8. Ye be warned ***

And so we come to the end of another book in Edward Dallingridge’s quest to recover the woman he loves. I enjoyed writing Nostrum very much. It was a lighter book, with more outright humor than the first, and I laughed a lot while tapping at the keys. I want to thank all of you, once again, for the tremendous support you have given me while  writing this volume. Your comments and encouragement keep me going, and encourage me to make each episode better than the last.

Book 3, if there is a book  3, will return a bit to the grittier tone that was set in the first book, although Tristan will make sure (as he always does) that the book does not become too dark.

So, what did Edward accomplish in episode 8? Um, just about everything. He drove off a hundred peasants, tried to kill the alchemist, dabbled in alchemy, escaped from Sir Gerald in the foulest of manners (one of the most enjoyable scenes to write *ever*), slays a dragon, takes a fortified monastery with an army of lepers, and, oh yeah, finds the cure to the demon plague of 1385.

So which of those do we want to discuss? None of them. I want to talk about Belisencia. Who is not Belisencia at all, but Elizabeth of Lancaster. For those of you familiar with medieval history, you know the Lancaster family and it’s role in a little bit of English domestic violence involving the York family. Some call it the War of the Roses. I call it rich literary farmland. And Elizabeth was around when the first volley in the war was fired. I won’t get into too many specifics because I hope to touch on some of that in the next book.

Okay, so, when Edward and Tristan escape from St.Benet’s, they sail off on a boat down the River Bure. Because of the length of the episode, I had to cut a scene at that point. It dealt with Sir Gerald’s propensity for getting shot every time the knights met him. I thought it would be fun to include that scene here. It hasn’t been edited for content or copy, so it’s a bit raw.  If you find a mistake, I’ll refund the money you paid for this scene.

“We can’t leave Belisencia,” Tristan says.

“We don’t have a choice,” I say. “We’ll come back for her.”

“Sir Gerald won’t be happy,” he replies. “He’ll get tortureful with her.”

“Not a chance,” I say. “She’s King Richard’s cousin and she’s married to Sir Brian’s brother. Even if Gerald dares to cross Richard, he won’t cross his new ally.” I shrug. “The worst they’ll do is piss on her symbolically.”

“That’s not funny,” he replies.

I laugh. “Did something finally offend Tristan of Rye?”

“Alright,” he says. “It was a little funny.”

I laugh again. It has been many years since I sailed on a ship. The wind whips my robe. I smell the river brine and think about my days serving the earl of Hereford. I sailed with him in a naval campaign against the French, and by God, I loved every moment. Has it truly been fifteen years since that campaign?

Six servants at the oars paddle against the current, pulling the cog forward slowly. Daniel and another servant unfurl the square sail. Figures approach the abbey from the south. Maybe ten of them. Lurching slowly through the swamps. More and more plaguers are being drawn to St. Benet’s.

“So, Gerald will look for us in Norwich while we head to Bure,” Tristan says. “A good misdirection.”

“It’s not a misdirection,” I say. “We’re going to Norwich first.”

Tristan studies me for a long moment. “Gerald knows we’re going there now, Edward. I don’t think you’ve quite mastered the concept of strategy.”

“I’m done running from him,” I say. “It ends today.”

We pass the single tower on the abbey walls just as Sir Gerald, Sir Brian, and six other riders sprint from the gates. They ride as close to the river as they dare. Sir Gerald wears no helmet and even from the river I can see the twisted, pocked skin that covers half his face; A result of the gun explosion. A bald streak high on his forehead marks the spot where a deflected bullet from another canon tore through part of his scalp.

He screams something but with the whipping wind I only catch the word “limbs.” I shrug and wave at him. He stops his horse on the bank ahead of us and glares. Two of his men dismount and wind crossbows, so I step behind the main mast and tell the others to duck low. Tristan does not listen. He draws the single-shot hand cannon from the sack at my shoulder and uses the clay pot to light a firing cord.

“What are you doing?” I say.

“Can you get a little closer?” he asks Daniel.

The ship drifts closer to shore. A bolt buries itself in the side of the hull. The second slams into the mast inches from me. Tristan aims carefully and lights my cannon. The blast makes the stomach-punching sound of a giant block of sandstone dropped to the earth from a castle tower. The servants at the oars duck low as a jet of white smoke billows from the gun. Soldiers on the riverbank scurry, but not before we hear the sound of metal striking metal. A terrible clang that echoes across the river. I look closely. Sir Gerald holds his arm and winces. The gunstone blew the steel bracer off his arm. Tristan cheers.

“What are you screaming about?” I ask. “You didn’t hurt him.”

“I didn’t think I would,” he says. “I just wanted to shoot him. If we lose our traditions, Edward, then we lose our humanity.”

That’s all for now! Thanks very much for your support with the Scourge books. Keep checking back here for news about a possible third book soon. Questions or comments about the episode? Please leave a note for me here and I’ll respond. Cheers!

09/2/13
Norwich Cathedral

Nostrum: Episode 6 Released!

I’m busily hammering at keys, continuing Sir Edward’s journey, but I wanted to take a moment and show you a few images of the things Edward, Tristan and Belisencia might have seen when they traveled to Norwich. Mostly a photo montage here. The interior shots of the castle are not mine.

Thanks again for your continued support! What did you think of episode 6? Feedback is always appreciated, and helps me understand what readers like and what they did not.

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08/1/13

Nostrum: Episode 4 Released

So, episode 4 was released on Tuesday and I’ve heard from a few readers that they have already finished it. I’m always impressed by how fast people read. I’m a slow reader. I think part of the reason for my slow pace is the fact that reading, while immensely pleasurable, always holds a little bit of work for me. I’m always looking to learn what a writer does to interest me and keep me reading on. The fact that I read in bed when I’m exhausted doesn’t help much, either.

I’m happy that some readers get through the episodes quickly, though. One of my greatest fears as a writer is that readers will be bored by what I write. And when it comes to serials, that fear is magnified a thousand times.

**Spoiler alert** Minor spoilers about episode 4 below this point.

Dancing with the Saints. Could country-western line dancing be a direct descendant of St. John’s Dance? Discuss.

But enough about me, eh? In this episode, Edward and Co. found out what those crazy dancing people were all about. I mentioned in the historical notes that this was a very real phenomena in the Middle Ages, and it was.  St. Johns dance, (sometimes called St. Vitus’s Dance after the patron saint of dancers (nice irony there)), is associated with the modern disorder, “Sydenham’s chorea,” a sickness where the afflicted person experiences uncontrolled movements and emotions. They are not the same thing, these two disorders, despite the similarities. The medieval version was completely different. It was an actual dance and the afflicted could be quite violent if interfered with. St. John’s Dance was also contagious, although apparently in a psychological way. The disorder has been called a mass psychogenic illness, which means, basically, that lots of people suffer the same delusions at the same time. This fits in quite well with the theme of the Scourge books. After all, isn’t zealotry just a form of mass psychogenic illness?

So, tell me what you think about Nostrum so far. Why do you think Hugh the Baptist didn’t bite Belisencia? What do you think about the relationship of Tristan and Belisencia? Do you think our heroes might actually be in purgatory? And what’s up with the ending of this episode? A dragon? Really? Is this writer on crack? I’m interested in hearing your thoughts!

07/22/13

Nostrum: Episode 3 Released

 

*SPOILER ALERT* The post below contains minor spoliers for Episode 3. Read at your own risk.

Another second Tuesday means another episode of Nostrum. In this episode, Edward, Tristan and Belisencia have their minds blown by a medieval televangelist, but does King Matheus really believe what

he preaches? That’s the question, and it’s a question I didn’t want to answer just yet. What do you guys think? Does he really think Judgment Day has come? Or is he profiting from the plague? I’d like to hear your thoughts on it.

Robert Daniels, one of my readers, asked about the tapestry that Matheus showed to Edward, Tristan and Belisencia. He wanted to know if it was a real tapestry, and my answer to that is: 42. *grin*

The Garden of Earthly Delights, a triptych by Hieronymus Bosch.

The tapestry is *realish*. It’s quasi-real. It’s Pamela Anderson after she took out the breast implants real. There was no prophet named Joseph the Devout who had visions. I made him up. But when you look at medieval artwork, a stunning amount of it is devoted to depictions of hell and purgatory. There are many famous depictions of Judgment Day and the netherworld. In fact, this sort of macabre painting school has its own name: Doom Painting. The artist Hieronymous Bosch was probably the most famous, although he wasn’t around until the 15th century. But his paintings were the ones I was thinking of when I wrote about the tapestry. Most of the doom paintings are quite gruesome; their painters were encouraged by the church to be as graphic as possible, to scare Christians straight. Many of the elements I spoke about in the tapestry are elements that I took from real works of medieval art. So, is the tapestry real? 42.

The crumbling remains of a spiral staircase leading to the top of the gatehouse at Bodiam Castle. Why did Edward build them clockwise?

In the episode, Edward notes that the stairs of the church tower spiral anti-clockwise. That is, anti-clockwise when going down the stairs. This allows defenders coming down the stairs to swing their weapons freely, while attackers will have difficulty swinging because of the spiraling wall of the staircase. Edward also mentions that he overruled Elizabeth, and that the stairs in Bodiam Castle would be similarly anti-clockwise. But  he relented a little (Elizabeth might have cried), because there are two sets of clockwise staircases in Bodiam. One is on the servants quarters (possibly so that servants could not revolt and hold part of the castle) and a second above the main gates of the castle.

Why would Edward want stairs going clockwise to the top of the castle gatehouse? He had a very sound reason. A free signed copy of The Scourge to the first person to post the correct answer in the comments.

That’s all for now. Hope you are enjoying episode 3 and that you continue to enjoy Nostrum!

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06/18/13

Nostrum: Episode 1 Released Today

The first episode of Edward’s continuing adventures was released today. Really nice to see Edward back in the saddle (so to speak), and to hear from readers and friends again. For those of you that bought Nostrum, I hope you find it as enjoyable to read as I did to write.

I thought I would post a few images of the abbey ruins in what is now known as Bury St. Edmund’s. It was Edward’s destination in The Scourge, and it is his starting point in Nostrum. Sadly, there isn’t much left of the abbey. Just ruined husks of stone that jut upward like decaying teeth. Whatever you may think of Henry VIII, he was responsible for the destruction of more architectural artwork in England than any other monarch. His war against the Catholic Church (a massacre really) left rubble across the kingdom and toppled some of the most magnificent buildings in the world. Asshole.

The cathedral in the background of the above picture was part of the original abbey (although the spire was added recently). As large as the cathedral is, it was a stubby little thing compared to some of the other buildings of the monastery. Evidence! I hear you cry. Show us evidence! And evidence you shall have. Above is a model of what the abbey looked like back in Edward’s days. The model was erected in the beautiful abbey park and stands among the ruins of the monastery. I have labeled it for clarity. See the arrow pointing to the “cathedral?” That little building in the model is the massive church you see in the background of the first picture, up above. Yes, the colossal building that you can see from just about anywhere in the town. It’s just a tiny little part of the model. Can you imagine now, my friends, what the Abbey of St. Edmund’s Bury must have been like? Fuck you, Henry VIII.

This is what Henry VIII left us. This, and a slew of books, movies, TV shows and dead wives. And the song Greensleeves, apparently. Despite the shambles that the abbey is in, I highly recommend a visit if you are in the area. There is still a power and grandeur here. A nobility and a peacefulness that I have to admit seems almost supernatural. And I’m not the only one. On my last visit to the monastery, I saw a half dozen people holding dowsing rods and searching for energy fields among the ruins. I am not making that up. I actually asked one of them what they were doing, and that’s what they told me. I wonder what Sir Edward would have thought of that? Better yet, I wonder what Tristan might have said to them. Not that I should poke fun at them. It’s quite possible they know something I don’t.

The English Heritage has done a brilliant job in maintaining the monastery grounds. Gardens bloom every spring and summer, walking paths wind though the various ruins, and a large playground and discovery area sit on the edges of the abbey park.

Many of the gatehouses, like this one (the Abbey Gate) still stand, thick and tall as castle keeps. You can still tour the Cathedral of St. Peter and the Church of St. Mary (both magnificent structures). You can still see the walled Abbott’s Bridge over the River Lark. The walls of the monastery holdings still meander through the town, visible for long stretches then disappearing into history’s oblivion. The bones of the monastery still gird this ancient market town. And I hope they always will.

That’s all for now. I thank you for your interest in my books and my historical ramblings. I truly hope you enjoy Nostrum and look forward to speaking with you in the coming days.

Moo.

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06/17/13

Great Helms

On the cusp of The Scourge:Nostrum release date, I thought it might be helpful to provide a few details about the helmets that Edward and Tristan wear (or should I say, the helmets that Edward wears and Tristan is always losing).

A Germanic great helm.  No “none shall pass” jokes please.

Both Edward and Tristan wear great helms. Edward’s, I imagine, is something like the example to the left. In the late 14th century, Great helms like these were slowly being phased out by bascinets and sallets. The great helms were clunky, provided poor visibility, and the visors couldn’t be raised. Even worse, the flat tops were catastrophically bad when struck by warhammers or the spikes on polaxes. But Edward was an old-school knight. And he would have shunned the new styles for as long as possible.

Many knight helmets of this period had crests on them, and we know from historical records that Edward’s bore a unicorn. (I’m not certain he would have worn the crest while questing, but I thought it added more personality and detail.) Knights wearing these sorts of helmets occasionally wore a bevor or gorget as well. This was a metal or leather collar that would protect the throat, although a chain mail coif was probably more common.  Below are some examples of what Edward and Tristan’s helmets might have looked like when new.

This one has a rounded top and a little more flash. Tristan would be more likely to wear it than Edward.

The helmet I displayed at the top of the page might have looked more like this when it was newly forged, although I doubt the air holes and cross would have been so cleanly cut.

The decorative fabric on this helmet looks nice, but is the last thing you want when facing a horde of clutching plaguers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A nice side view on a short great helm. I like the squatness of this helmet. It doesn’t seem quite as cumbersome as the others.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That’s all for now, but I’ll be back (hopefully tomorrow) to talk about the release of The Scourge: Nostrum tomorrow. If you buy it, please drop me a line and let me know what you think of the first episode. I hope to see all of you on the Amazon Discussion Forums!

06/11/13

Cover Reveals: Scourge and Scourge: Nostrum

Hey there,

So, big news on the artistic side of things. 47North has given me two birthday presents on this fine June 11. They finalized the cover for The Scourge:Nostrum (Book 2 of The Scourge), and they have re-released The Scourge (book 1) with a brand new cover. Can I just say that 47North is the best publisher in the world? Yes I can! And I will! They worked with me tirelessly on the Nostrum cover, accepting suggestions and re-designing over and over again until we reached something that both the publisher and I liked. Big thanks to my editor, David Pomerico, for his tireless work on this.

First up, The Scourge: Nostrum (release date June 18):

This cover clearly shows what the book is about. The knight in the foreground is, ostensibly, Edward. Nice dynamic pose with suitably battered and weathered armor. Flailing hands in the background indicate to the viewer that this is not a typical historical fiction. Blood-spattered environment tells readers that this might have some gore and violence. The helmet on the knight is not a greathelm, but I think we can live with it. I can, at any rate =)

 

 

 

 

The Scourge (book 1) underwent a facelift as well. Those of you with the print version might notice that the background image for this is basically the same artwork from the back cover. Although I truly love the first cover, and prefer it artistically to this one, this design has a certain elegance and mood that I like. The cover also clearly depicts what the book is about: Three knights on a journey, with supernatural enemies standing between them and their destination. I think this will more clearly define the book for shoppers and steer the novel into the hands of the people who will love it most.

Big thanks to everyone at 47North!