Fantasy, mystery, thrillers, horror, historical. . .I write it all, and review it too!

Apr 29, 2011

Schedule for Week One of the virtual book tour for Roots Run Deep

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I'm starting a virtual book tour for my fantasy novel Roots Run Deep. I plan to be on a different blog or website each weekday in May. Most places have already been filled, even some extra weekend days! It's been nice to see how much support the writing community gives to a newbie author like me. Thanks everyone! Here's the schedule for the first week:

Monday, May 2: I'll be doing a special Medieval Mondays post on leather armor for the Midlist Writer. Sean McLachlan, the famous midlister, will be doing a guest post here the same day on his latest book: Medieval Handgonnes: The First Black Powder Infantry Weapons.

Tuesday, May 3: I'll be the guest writer for the Writing and Publishing Yahoo group.

Wednesday, May 4: I'll be joining A.J. Maguire for a roundtable discussion of magic systems in fiction.

Thursday, May 5: I'll be posting on Pete Newarski's blog about goblin cuisine in Roots Run Deep, including mule meat soup and fried rat. Yum!

Friday, May 6: I'll be over at Buried Under Books talking about how much real-world culture should or shouldn't be put into fantasy writing.

Please join me, and check out these great blogs for other interesting posts!

Apr 25, 2011

Real crystal balls from the Middle Ages

We tend to think of crystal balls as the stuff of legend and fairy tales. In reality, though, crystal balls were the height of fashion in the early Middle Ages. Little crystal balls are found in many rich graves as items of personal apparel. They're mostly found in women's graves, worn on a strap from the belt and hanging in front of the pelvis. Often a golden or silver spoon hung from the same strap. Many of these spoons were perforated like a tea strainer. Most crystal balls are found in female graves, but some men were buried with them too. They could also be worn from the neck like a pendant.

These aren't the giant county fair crystal balls you get your fortune told from, but rather small objects of jewelry usually less than an inch across. Starting in the 7th century they were popular from Anglo-Saxon England all the way east to Hungary and south to Lombardy in Italy, and were especially popular in Germany.

So what were they for? Nobody knows! People have been gazing into crystal balls to tell the future since ancient times, so archaeologists assume they were for scrying. Another possibility is that they were crude magnifying glasses to help people read the tiny writing in personal Bibles or missals. Contrary to popular belief, most of the upper class, even women, were literate in the Middle Ages, and people understood some basic optics. Nero has a carved emerald he used to help him read.

Thanks to Kotomicreations from Flickr for this great shot!

Apr 21, 2011

Starting a virtual book tour

Well, my first novel is out and it's time to do a virtual book tour! Every weekday in the month of May I plan to be at a different blog or website doing interviews, writing guest posts, and whatever else my hosts ask me to do (within reason, no naked webcams).

I sent out a call for hosts two days ago on some of the writing discussion groups I subscribe to, and I already have half the dates filled. You have to love the support you find in writing community!

Fellow author Marian Allen also supplied me with some helpful links for the novice virtual book tourist, including this excellent article on virtual book tours.

I know I still have a lot to learn about this business, and perhaps you do too, so when I get some insights into what works and what doesn't I'll be sure to post here. It's not just Medieval Mondays here at Genreauthor! If you have any advice, I'm all ears. If you want to host me, I'm all gratitude.

Apr 18, 2011

The peasants are revolting. No, really, they are!

Peasants tend to be overlooked by writers and fans of medieval history. They're generally fobbed off as dirty, uneducated, miserable victims of the nobility. Yet at times the peasants struck back. Starting in the 14th century there was a wave of peasant rebellions across Europe. Partly this was due to the effects of the Black Death in the middle of the century. This plague killed about a third of the population, leading to a labor shortage that helped the peasants ask for higher wages, fewer duties, and even more freedom. The nobility pushed back, enacting laws that tried to limit the peasants' gains.

While this was the broad background of the struggle, there was always a specific spark that set off a rebellion in a certain place. During the Hundred Years War in France, the peasants were robbed and abused by both sides and were unimpressed when the French knights were defeated at Poitiers. When these same knights commanded the peasants to protect their stately homes, the peasants rose up in revolt in 1358. The revolt was crushed, as you can see in the picture above courtesy of Wikipedia, but more revolts happened in 1382-5 in response to increased taxes to pay for the war effort.

England had one of the most serious revolts in 1381, in which the rebels took the Tower of London and almost the capital itself. This was in response to a new poll tax and a lack of confidence in the regency government for the boy-king Richard II. Germany was especially prone to revolt. At this time it was a patchwork of different states and the lack of a strong central ruler and army may have encouraged the peasants. There were more than 60 rebellions between 1336 and 1526. The biggest was the German Peasants' War of 1524-6, in which an estimated 300,000 peasants took up arms against their rulers.

In general the peasant rebellions were quickly crushed. Peasant armies lacked the weapons, armor, and training to take on trained soldiers and knights. A major exception was the Hussite Wars of 1419-36. When Bohemian religious reformer Jan Hus was assassinated at what was supposed to be a peaceful religious debate, his followers rose up against what they saw as a corrupt church and German aristocracy.The Hussites, as they called themselves, actually fought off the local nobles and the Holy Roman Empire by the clever strategy of constructing "war wagons"--armored wagons that functioned as mobile fortresses that could stop a charge of knights.

While these were truly "peasants rebellions", other people joined in too. Impoverished townspeople, merchants, and even a few sympathetic (or opportunistic) aristocrats supported many of the rebellions. These episodes make for fascinating reading and can create an interesting backdrop for wargames, RPGs, or fiction.

So don't abuse that peasant too much, mi'lord, otherwise he might use his sickle as a can opener and see what's inside all that armor!