I wish I didn’t have to begin my very first blog with bad news–that we’ve had to cancel my book tour for Devil’s Brood. The problems began in August when I was stricken with what I came to call my MM, my Mystery Malady, for despite an endless battery of tests, the doctors were unable to diagnose my illness. I remained confident, though, that they’d be able to do so before the start of my book tour; for better or worse, I am a natural optimist.
But in September, I added fever and chills to my list of symptoms, and I was forced to acknowledge a most unwelcome truth–that I was not going to be physically able to do the tour. My publishers were very understanding, although I knew they were disappointed. I certainly was.
I did not have much time to deal with my disappointment, however. After an urgent call from my doctor, I found myself in the hospital; a blood test had indicated the presence of bacteria in my blood. Now this naturally made me think of septicemia, the illness that probably caused the death of Henry II. I’ve always been known for identifying closely with my characters. But even I thought this was going a bit too far!
As it happened, I was much luckier than Henry. The blood test was inaccurate and I did not have septicemia. While I was in the hospital, however, the doctors finally determined what was wrong with me. It is an idiopathic ailment, medical-speak for not knowing the cause. Fortunately, though, it is quite treatable. Just not in time for the book tour.
I’ve been out of the hospital for more than two weeks, feeling much better and very thankful that I live in the twenty-first century, not the twelfth. I’ve often thought about this when I’ve been researching one of my books. A simple scratch could be a death sentence if it became infected. In Devil’s Brood, Henry tells William Marshal that his pain started in his heel, spread to his legs, and “now my whole body is afire.” By then he had just two days to live.
Of course it can be argued that it was his son John’s betrayal which delivered the true death blow. There is no doubt, though, that Henry’s physical suffering in the last weeks of his life was intense. His confession of pain to Will Marshal is an actual quote from the biography written soon after Will’s death, the Histoire de Guillaume Marshal, a treasure-trove of medieval riches that is finally available in an English translation.
In my Author’s Note, I promised a further discussion about the tangled relationships of the Angevins. My unexpected illness has played havoc with my timetable, but I still intend to follow through on this. And I’d be happy to respond to any specific questions you all may have about this most dysfunctional of families. I will also be posting a list of medieval research books as promised. And now that I am finally on the mend, I will be working on Lionheart, with an eye toward a publication date in 2011. For those of you who may not have read my Author’s Note for Devil’s Brood, I am continuing the story of Eleanor, her sons Richard and John, and her daughter Joanna—as well as the man who’d become Richard’s most bitter foe, the French king Philippe Auguste, Geoffrey’s widow Constance, Duchess of Brittany, and a fascinating cast of characters involved in the Third Crusade.
It is my understanding that blogs are free-floating, driven by impulse at times, a more personal means of communication which is also interactive. I find that very appealing, am looking forward to future blogs about the Middle Ages, but also about books and films and family pets and the scary state of our world today. And above all, I am looking forward to feedback from you, my readers, who share my love of reading and my passion for the past.
I’d planned to end the blog with the above paragraph, but I got good news from my publisher yesterday, too good not to share. Devil’s Brood is #16 on the New York Times bestseller list. Naturally I was very excited, but Henry and Eleanor took it quite calmly, as their just due.