A King’s Ransom Book Tour

The pneumonia dragon is still out on the porch, sulking, but my current strategy is to ignore him and try to get a new blog done between naps.   I am finally on the mend, but I’ve been warned there will be a lot of sleeping and self-pity and nightmares about deadlines and more sleeping ahead of me.    I’m trying to look at it as my post-pneumonia hangover.
Unfortunately, my doctor and I (at least the common sense part of my brain) concluded that it would not be wise to attempt two very demanding tours with just a few months in be-tween.  He doesn’t really need to remind me that I have “a compromised immune system,” but he does it anyway.   There is a dramatic difference between a book tour or travel tour and one in which I get to make the travel arrangements myself.   I can make sure that I will not be getting up at three or four in the morning to catch obscenely early flights or ride the whirlwind from dawn till dark and if I feel that I am about to crash and burn, I can always go back to my hotel and take a nap.
As I mentioned on Facebook earlier, we have had to cancel the Richard III tour scheduled for September, and I am so sorry that I’ve had to disappoint those who had signed up for it and the people at Academic Travel, too, who have been a delight to work with.     But there is another choice for readers who would like to take a medieval tour this autumn.   There are still some spots open on Elizabeth Chadwick’s William Marshal Tour.   Several of my friends took the last one and had a wonderful time.  As I said on that earlier Facebook post, Elizabeth probably knows more about William Marshal’s life than he himself did!    Here is the link to her website, which contains all the information needed about the tour, which is scheduled for October.
I’d originally planned to write at some length about the book tour, but the pneumonia dragon had his own ideas about that and in a clash of wills, the one who breathes fire usually wins.   So here is my brief blog, long overdue.
I had a wonderful time.  I have the world’s best readers and it is always exciting to meet them in person.  I feel as if I know so many of you from our Facebook interactions, so it was great fun to have so many of you show up at the readings.    I was awed, too, by the great distances some of you traveled to get to them.   A librarian drove from Maryland to Princeton.  I was also given champagne at the Princeton reading by a Facebook friend I’ve been hoping to meet for years.
The Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale is my favorite bookstore so I was very happy to get back there; it didn’t hurt that it was 80 degrees, either.  Here is the link to the webcast of my talk there.   http://new.livestream.com/poisonedpen/kings-ransom Houston’s Murder by the Book is another bookshop that I love, and visits there are always a highlight of my tours.  I’ve been to Nicola’s Books in Ann Arbor several times and I am always very pleased to find it on one of my tour itineraries.  Back to snow and ice again there, but I had a delightful surprise and got to meet a cousin I’d never met before; she drove all the way from South Bend, Indiana, too.  The reason I have cousins I haven’t met is that my mother came from a family of fourteen, and her brothers and sisters all had large families, too; so I am probably related to half of Kentucky, where they all put down roots, except for the South Bend contingent and my mother, who ended up on the East Coast.
In Seattle, I did a reading at Third Place Books in Lake Forest, and had a wonderful evening.   I was amazed that one of my readers flew in from Juneau, Alaska, and another one drove in from Vancouver, Canada.  I’d been alerted beforehand, so we bought them cupcakes, but they really deserved medals of some sort.
I’d done readings in the past at the famous Powell’s Book Store in downtown Portland, but this time it was held at Powell’s Books at Cedar Hills Crossing.   I really enjoyed it and was stunned afterward to learn that one of my readers had come all the way from Montana to Oregon.  She was so matter-of-fact about it too, explaining that she’d concluded that Putman’s was never going to send me to Montana, so she had to come to me.   And I have to mention my remarkable hotel in Portland.  All my hotels were very nice, but the Heathman Hotel was unique, for they have their own library.  Whenever a writer stays there, they ask the writer to sign a copy of his or her new book and it then joins the library, which is available to hotel guests.   They have thousands of books, and Ransom will be in very good company, for some very talented writers have stayed there over the years.  I loved the letter from the hotel librarian, too, politely asking me to return their copy of Ransom to the front desk if I declined to participate!   I tried to think of a reason why any writer would not want to take part in this, and concluded that the only explanation—assuming it ever happened—would be temporary insanity.
I had two days in the Bay Area, and was so happy to be back in San Francisco, my favorite American city.   I did my first reading at Book Passage in the city.  In the past, I’d gone to their mother ship in Corte Madera and fell in love with it, but their San Francisco store was one I’d gladly return to time and time again.  I left with beautiful roses (white, of course) and some very special memories.
The next evening, I did a reading at Books, Inc. in Palo Alto.  Another wonderful audience and a fellow writer flew in from San Diego for the reading, bringing me plantagenesta, the plant that was the origin of the Plantagenet dynasty’s name.   He has written several novels about Eleanor of Aquitaine, too.  As many of you know, I do not read other novels about those historical characters who are closest to my heart.  No Richard III novels by other writers.  None about the Welsh princes, even though I am a great admirer of Edith Pargeter, AKA Ellis Peters, and she wrote her novels about the princes thirty years before I did!   And after having the Angevins as roommates for the past 20 years, I had to deny myself the pleasure of reading Elizabeth Chadwick’s The Summer Queen, the first of her trilogy about Eleanor.   So I am not able to read Mark Richard Beaulieu’s series about Eleanor, either, but you can learn more about them by looking them up on Amazon.
I concluded the tour in Tucson, a city I’d taken to heart many years ago, for I attended the University of Arizona during my first year of law school, and I’ve long hoped to go back.  Of course I never get to see any of the cities on a book tour, but at least I get to breath their air.  The Tucson Festival of Books  was the best possible way to end the tour.  I was so impressed by the Festival and I highly recommend it to other writers and to anyone who loves books.   I had so much fun!  Unfortunately my schedule was so tight that I wasn’t able to attend the panels I wanted to see; I did get to briefly meet Spencer Quinn, though, whose Chet and Bernie mysteries are high up on my favorites list  I know most of you are animal lovers like me, so be sure to check out Spencer’s books on Amazon; Chet is unlike any dog we’ll ever meet, but utterly irresistible, a word that also applies to the books, too.
There were a few bumps in the road.  The worst was a boulder-sized one when I almost missed my flight from Houston to Detroit, thanks to the airline’s bungling.  I was already not a happy camper because I’d had to get up at 5 AM for a 7:15 AM flight, and you may have guessed by now that I am not a lark  My heart doesn’t even start beating before 8 AM,  so these early flights took their toll.   To add to the fun, when I realized I was likely to miss the Detroit flight, I tried to call my publicist, only to discover that my cell phone was missing.  So if any of you remember hearing a muffled primal scream echoing on the wind early in the morning of March 8th, now you know that was me.   I was able to replace the phone in Seattle, but until I actually held it in my hand, I felt truly bereft, which may be a sad commentary upon our need for constant connections.  But I don’t care; I just wanted my phone!    And then the car company that was to pick me up at my Seattle hotel and take me to the airport never showed up, but the hotel came to the rescue and I was able to make the flight to San Francisco thanks to the car they kept on call; their driver was a very interesting  man who’d been here for 14 years, having fled the bloodshed in his homeland, Ethiopia, where two of his brothers had been slain.  He told me he wakes up grateful every day that he is an American now.   So if the car company had shown up, I’d have missed a fascinating conversation with someone I’ll long remember.   Sadly, when I got to the airport, we learned San Francisco was fogged in, and by the time we finally got off the ground, I missed a scheduled radio interview.
But all in all, I think the tour went quite smoothly, thanks to my publicist’s deft way of dealing with unexpected problems.   I was able to meet a few writers at the Tucson Festival, to meet many of my Facebook friends, and to see friends of long standing in several of the cities.   It seemed like an appropriate way to bid farewell to the Angevins, who are now part of my past.   I will miss them very much, for they’ve been an important part of my life for several decades—or as Barbara Peters put it when she introduced me at the Poisoned Pen reading, “A King’s Ransom completes Sharon’s five book trilogy about the Angevins.”
And since I am really not ready to walk away from one of history’s more dysfunctional families, I feel very motivated now to resurrect Justin de Quincy, for if he gets off life support and once again becomes the queen’s man, I’ll be able to keep writing about Eleanor and Richard and John; who knows, I might even let Eleanor send Justin to Sicily so I could bring Joanna into the plot.   Sadly, Henry has to stay dead, although that did not stop me from giving him two scenes in Ransom!
Well, for what was supposed to be a brief blog, I’ve now spun off 4 pages.  Clearly, I do not do “brief” very well.   Thanks to all of you who came to my readings, and thanks, too, to all who’ve been generous enough to post on Facebook or write to me to say how much you’ve enjoyed Ransom.   Reader feedback like that means more than I could ever say, and as anyone who has read my books knows, I am not often at a loss for words.
April 28, 2014

38 Responses to “A King’s Ransom Book Tour”

  1. Mary McKinley Says:

    Dear Sharon,

    Happy I was was to read your blog about the tour, I am among those who feel compelled to warn you that you must not spring back into the saddle with that pneumonia dragon in the vicinity. I know two people who died (and I was very nearly a third one back in 2000) after being nearly-but-not-quite recovered from it.

    I’ll be back in Poitiers this July, mostly teaching and revisiting dear friends and places. From there I will finally begin the adventure I’ve been planning for years - walking El Camino de Santiago or as much as I can. I’m even trying to learn Spanish but keep slipping back into French. What a feeling to be the class dunce at 68!

    If you can wake Justin, we’d all be happy and if he *must* go to Sicily, let me know and I’ll be happy to introduce you to some excellent winemakers there, too!

    Be well and bisous!


  2. Jel Cel Says:

    Dear Sharon,
    So jealous of the ones who get your tours, but understand Australia is a land too far. I can understand why someone would fly from Alaska to look, hear and meet you.
    Delightful to read of the tour, so sad the pneumonia has gripped you for so long. I hope that your rest continues well.
    Yes, yes, yes, use Justin de Quincy to stay with the dysfunctional family. I would love that.

    Thanks for the pleasure of a good read.


  3. Kasia (Kate) Says:

    Dear Sharon,

    Thank for this glimpse of the tour. Although I couldn’t come to meet you, my friend Richard could and did, and thanks to you both I have my signed copy of Ransom, for which, with all my heart, I do thank you (to me and my family a signed copy of your book is a holy relic and it is going to be treated accordingly- similarly to a very special mousepad you sent to me some time ago ;-)).

    Take as much rest as you can and try not to think of anything else but your full recovery.

    Warmest regards from Poland,


  4. Sara Nell Bible Says:

    Dear Sharon,

    What a treat to hear all about your tour. I am one of your Texas fans but was sadly unable to attend the Houston event as I had done for LIONHEART. Though I seldom make comments, the Facebook banter of your fans is very entertaining and I do enjoy hearing about you through your posts. I just cannot wait to read RANSOM. It will be coming up shortly on my TBR list. Please take very good care of yourself and get healthy and vibrant once again. You have a vote from me for JUSTIN. Somehow, I find it sad that you are now through with the Angevins.

  5. Rutabaga the Mercenary Researcher Says:

    You made March the best month in 2014! It was wonderful to see you in action at the Tucson Festival of Books and remarkable to hear about all your dedicated fans’ travel to get to see you on the book tour.

    Please get well and kick that dragon in the arse - or call on Pellinore for some assistance - I hear he has a knack for that sort of thing.

    Much happiness,

  6. Joan Says:

    I second the above suggestion for that beast! What an interesting blog, Sharon, & what a fun time, despite the bumps & boulders. I love that you were given a sprig (or pot) of plantagenesta. And what a poignant vignette meeting the Ethiopian driver.

    Though I’ve known your dysfunctional Angevins for only 2 years, I’m feeling your loss very deeply & would welcome a reunion with some of them. They haven’t left you though, will always be close by.

  7. Kathleen Says:

    Please o Please bring Justin DeQuincy back!

  8. skpenman Says:

    Sorry I have still been off the radar again, but I suspect my post-pneumonia hangover is going to be in the running for making the Guinness Book of World Records. I’ll stop by when I can, and console myself that little steps toward recovery are still better than no steps at all.
    Meanwhile, the stories coming out of the states ravaged by these tornadoes and flooding are truly heartbreaking. The resiliency of the human spirit is awe-inspiring, as is the way people rally around their stricken neighbors. So much tragedy that I thought you might like to read one story that offers some hope. Here is the link to the story of a woman in Alabama who managed to coax 80 people into taking refuge in a tornado shelter. Three people whom she could not convince died, and the homes of the 80 people who did heed her were either destroyed or badly damaged. I have never understood why there are not more tornado shelters in that section of the US called Tornado Alley, but that is another discussion for another time. I learned something chilling today, though—that the US spawns more tornadoes than anywhere else on earth

  9. Cristina Says:

    I’m so happy to hear you’ve pushed away the Pneumonia Dragon far enough to let you write about your book tour! I hope you vanquish him completely soon!

    I would have loved to be able to attend one of your readings… but hopping across the pond is definitely not practical! :p

    I am in the midst of Ransom, and am once again lost in the magical web your words spin. I’ll be sad when it’s over, but oh so glad to have started down the path of your books when I first download Lionheart last July! It has been a glorious journey (with a very sweet moment at Christmas), and I can’t wait to read whoever’s tale you decide to share with us now that you’ve finished with those troublesome Angevins! If it just happens to be another adventure of Justin’s… well I definitely won’t complain! ;)

    Take care of yourself! Hugs from Spain!!! :)

  10. Jeanne Behnke Says:

    Really enjoyed reading about your “tour”. I wish I could have made the San Francisco stop. The thing that makes me happiest is that there is still hope for Justin! When I finish A King’s Ransom, I’ll have to reread my Justin de Quincy books!!

  11. Theresa Says:

    Cecily Neville and her daughter Margaret of York were born 3rd May. Cecily in 1415 and Margaret 1446.

    A Florentine public servant was born also, he would go on to compose a book that many kings and politicians probably keep under their pillow.

  12. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    I am just surfacing to assure you all that the pneumonia dragon, although still camped out on the porch, has been unable to sneak back in. Hey, who wouldn’t be intimidated by the fierce barking of a 23 lb spaniel? The news has been beyond heartbreaking in the past month, with tragedies around the world that will remained seared in our memories. So I thought you guys would appreciate a feel-good story, and this one delivers with panache. A family loses their dog during Hurricane Sandy, grieve for him, finally decide they are ready to adopt another dog. So they go to their local shelter and…..well, read the story. Amazing how often reality trumps fiction, isn’t it? Oh, and I got a wonderful review for Ransom from the Historical Novel Society, and I’ll try to remember to post it, too.

  13. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    May 4th is the anniversary of the great battle fought in 1471 which resulted in a total triumph for the Yorkist king, Edward. It was one of the most challenging battles I’ve had to write about, in part because so much was going on. And of course the chase itself was very dramatic as Marguerite sought desperately to cross the River Severn and Edward moved heaven and earth to catch her before she could slip away into Wales. It may sound strange to pick a “favorite” battle, but this one is mine, speaking strictly as a writer. It had everything—that mad dash for the Severn, a reckless gamble by the Duke of Somerset in an all or nothing throw of the dice, suspense, improbable plot twists, a stunning scene of vengeance that no author would have dared to invent; those who’ve read Sunne will know which one I mean. I meant to quote from a passage involving Edward or Richard, but I decided instead to give center stage to the courageous, honorable and doomed Edmund Beaufort, Duke of Somerset.
    Sunne in Splendour, page 477
    * * * * *
    The Sunne of York bannered the field, swept all before it. The heart had gone from the Lancastrian army. They’d seen their vanguard slaughtered, seen their leaders turn upon each other. Now men cast aside their weapons, sought only to save themselves, and Somerset alone tried to hold them against York.
    Devon was dead. So was Somerset’s brother, John Beaufort. Prince Edouard had long since fled the field, urged on by the bodyguards sworn to see to his safety. Somerset’s men drowned trying to cross the Avon, died trying to reach the sanctuary of the abbey. Somerset found himself upon a field with his dead and the exultant soldiers of the White Rose, and as he raged among them, cursing and sobbing, even death seemed to elude him, until at last he sank to his knees, had not the strength to rise, to lift his sword, watching through a red wavering haze the death of the House of Lancaster.
    * * * *
    On a thoroughly different note, May 4th 1929 is the birthday of the utterly unforgettable actress, Audrey Hepburn. It is much harder to pick my favorite Audrey Hepburn film than it is to pick my favorite medieval battle, but I think maybe it is the bittersweet Robin and Marian

  14. Malcolm Craig Says:

    Set at the turn of the 12th and 13th centuries, of course.

  15. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    I did not post on the death date of one of my favorite characters in Saints, Stephen’s queen, Matilda, who died on May 3rd, 1152, but I knew Rania would take care of it for me; thanks, Rania!
    I liked Matilda because she changed in the course of the novel. She was a traditional medieval queen and wife when the book began, but as their world was torn apart by war, she rose to the occasion magnificently, developing self-confidence and even boldness as she labored on Stephen’s behalf.
    Part of Matilda’s death scene, Saints, page 627-628
    * * *
    Matilda had always envisioned time as a river, flowing forward inexorably into the future, forcing people to keep up with the current as best they could. No more, though. Time had become tidal. Lying in the shuttered dark of an unfamiliar bedchamber, she could feel it receding toward the horizon, leaving her stranded upon the shore. As a little girl in Boulogne, she’d often walked along the beach, throwing back the starfish trapped by the ebbing tide. Now, forty years later, when it was her turn to be marooned by the retreating waves, there was no one to save her as she’d saved the starfish, but she did not mourn for herself. Dying was not so terrible, for all that people feared it so. She was in God’s Hands, a feather floating on the wind, waiting to see if He would call her home.
    “Stephen…..” Not even a whisper in her own ears, but he somehow heard her and leaned over, vivid blue eyes of their lost youth, awash now in tears. “Look after Constance….” But who would look after him? Surely the Almighty would, for even his worst mistakes were well-intentioned. Did this too-clever son of Maude’s have such a good heart? No….God would judge what mattered most.
    Stephen was kissing her hand, pressing it against his wet cheek. His beard was grizzled with silver, like an early frost. How old he seemed of a sudden. She wanted to tell him one last time that she loved him, to promise that she’d be waiting for him at Heaven’s Gate. But she could not catch her breath. She closed her eyes and when she opened them again, the room was filling with light. She could hear sobbing, but it seemed to be coming from a great distance. It grew more and more faint, until at last she could not hear it at all.
    * * *

  16. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    One reason why I so loved writing about the Angevins is that they had such improbable, dramatic lives, and writers are addicted to high drama. Just think of Henry and Eleanor’s marriage. Or those rumors that Henry had seduced his son’s betrothed. Or Eleanor’s rebellion. Or Joanna’s imprisonment, John’s treachery, Geoffrey’s tournament death. As for Coeur de Lion, his entire life was summed up by that great Johnny Cash song, “Partly truth and partly fiction.” What writer would have dared to invent the events of May 6, 1191 out of whole cloth? Not me! After Richard’s fleet was scattered in a storm, Joanna and Berengaria’s ship eventually ran aground off the coast of Cyprus, and they were soon in peril, not from the sea, but from the self-proclaimed emperor of the island, Isaac Comnenus, who saw them as valuable hostages.
    Lionheart, page 218
    * * *
    Their fifth morning at Cyprus dawned in a sunrise of breathtaking beauty, pale gold along the horizon, and a rich, deep red above as clouds drifted into the sun’s flaming path; for a timeless moment, it looked as if the earth itself were afire. Then as if by magical sleight of hand, the vivid colors disappeared and the sky took on the same brilliant blue as the foam-crested waves below, the clouds now gliding along like fleecy white swans in a celestial sea. Enticing scents wafted out into the bay, the fragrances of flowers and oranges and sandalwood, the sweet balm of land, almost irresistible to people trapped in seagoing gaols, ships they’d come to hate for the fetid smells and lack of privacy and constant rolling and pitching, even at anchor. This Sunday gave promise of being a day of surpassing loveliness and Joanna hated it, caught up in a sense of foreboding so strong that she could almost taste it. Something terrible was going to happen today.
    * * *
    She was right. Isaac’s attempts to entice them ashore having failed, he issued an ultimatum, that if they did not agree to accept his “hospitality,” he would have them taken off the ship by force. Joanna managed to buy them a little more time, promising to come ashore on the morrow. One of the chroniclers who accompanied Richard on crusade describes Joanna and Berengaria as gazing out to sea, despairing, when two sails were spotted to the west. Not yet daring to hope, the ship’s passengers crowded to the gunwale to watch the approaching two ships.
    * * *
    Page 221
    It happened with such suddenness that men were not sure at first if they could trust their senses. There was nothing to the west but sea and sky and those two ships tacking against the wind. And then the horizon was filled with sails, stretching as far as the eye could see. A moment of stunned disbelief gave way almost at once to pandemonium, and for the rest of their lives, there would be men who vowed they’d never experienced an emotion as overwhelming as the joy of deliverance on a May Sunday off the coast of Cyprus.
    The sharp-eyed sailors spotted it first. “The Sea-Cleaver! The king’s galley!” But Richard’s women needed to see it for themselves, scarcely breathing until it came into focus, looking like a Norse long-ship, its hull as red as the sunset, its sails catching the wind, and streaming from its masthead the banner emblazoned with the royal lion of England.
    * * *
    So many of the scenes I’ve written over the years cried out for an Author’s Note, an assurance to my readers that I had not gone hopelessly Hollywood on them, that what I’d described actually happened. The fog at Barnet. The mistake by the Earl of Oxford in attacking John Neville’s men. The Earl of Somerset taking such bloody vengeance upon Wenlock, the man he thought betrayed them to York. A savage storm breaking over the field at Evesham at the moment of Simon de Montfort’s death. The eclipse of the sun as Anne Neville died. The capture of Ellen de Montfort by pirates in the pay of the English king. But few scenes needed an Author’s Note mention as much as Richard’s eleventh hour rescue of his sister and betrothed on May 6th, 1191.

  17. Joan Battistuzzi Says:

    To read these events listed one after the other is pretty overwhelming. I would love to have witnessed the rescue…..that sudden vision of all those sails on the horizon!

  18. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    Not much of interest to medieval-focused types like me on May 7th. So here is a review for last week’s Game of Thrones episode. Massive spoilers, of course, so read with care. Also a good interview with the creators of the series, who explain they made a promise last season to stop reading the on-line comments about the show A very wise move on their parts; as one says, it probably saved their sanity.
    And for my British readers, Amazon.co.UK is offering the e-book version of my fourth mystery, Prince of Darkness, at the bargain price of 99 pence. So if you’d like to read it, now is the time to buy it.

  19. Anne Says:

    It was such a pleasure to see you at the Pen and I had a good laugh about her comment about your Angevin “trilogy” too. I was surprised how sad I was to see Richard meet his end. I kept thinking he’s lucked out of so many things, this couldn’t be it, right? I knew roughly what happened but had to promise myself I wouldn’t cheat and read his wikipedia page or something before the end. I am sad, too, that this is your last Angevin book but will have to content myself with rereading all the others and starting the de Quincy books for the first time!

  20. skpenman Says:

    Visiting the Poisoned Pen is always the highlight of any trip, Anne.

    I thought this was a perfect Mother’s Day story.


  21. Anne Says:

    What a sweet article and photo.

    I’m always glad to hear you like the Pen and hope that means you’ll come again. I found two more of your books in my bookcase the week after you came and they need signatures now! :) Have a great weekend!

  22. skpenman Says:

    Barbara is kind enough to invite me whenever I have a new book coming out, Anne, so I’m sure I’ll be back. If you’d like me to send you signed book plates, e-mail me via the Contact Sharon feature on my website and we can set it up.

    Well, May 12, 1191 was the date of the marriage of Richard of England and Berengaria of Navarre. I’ve said before that I was surprised to find that the marriage seemed to get off to a promising start given its sad ending, but they were polar opposites in so many ways and that rarely makes for a long and happy marriage. I had fun writing these scenes, though, as Richard ambushes the women with his nonchalant suggestion that he and Berengaria wed that weekend. In his best oblivious mode, he cannot understand why Joanna is so dismayed. When she demands to know how they could possibly pull off a royal wedding in just a few days, he casually counters,
    “How hard could it be? I assume Berenguela did not intend to get married stark naked, so she must have a suitable gown in her coffers. I thought we’d have her coronation at the same time.” Richard glanced over at his mute betrothed and smiled. “I daresay you’ll be the first and the last Queen of England ever to be crowned in Cyprus, little dove.”
    And in that, he was right. She was.
    Ironically, although I don’t think she found much happiness in marriage to Richard, he bestowed some of his own celebrity status upon her. Just as he is one of the best known medieval kings, she is better known than many of the other women who wed English kings. How many of them have a street in a French city named after them? Or how many were portrayed in a Hollywood film in which she snatches Richard’s sword and refuses to give it back as he is about to rush off to fight the Saracens? I have my friend Owen to thank for calling this to my attention, since I’ve not seen this epic for myself; he says she also scolds him as “Dick Plantagenet” and that alone would be worth the price of admission.

  23. Kasia (Kate) Says:

    Happy anniversary to Richard and Berenguela! I hope you are feeling better, dear Sharon! We all have caught a bad cold here, hence my belated note on a very improtant date in Polish history. On 12 May 1364 our only king known as “the Great”, Kazimierz III [Casimir III] issued the foundation charter of the University of Kraków [Cracow], today known as the Jagiellonian University, the second oldest university in Central Europe [after Charles University in Prague] and Poland’s most prestigous one. The curious thing is that we would have had our first university founded already in the 12th century by another Casimir [the Just], had the latter not died unexpectedly and untimely.

  24. skpenman Says:

    Very interesting post, as usual, Kasia. Casimir seems to have been a lucky name for Polish kings.

    Nothing medieval to discuss today, but there is always the gritty semi-medieval world of Game of Thrones. Here is the link to EW’s delightfully snarky review of Sunday’s episode. SPOILERS abound, of course. But I’ve heard that there are only 3 more episodes to go. Nine episodes for the season? What happened to the tenth one? If that is true, I feel so cheated. http://tvrecaps.ew.com/recap/game-of-thrones-recap-law-gods-men-tyrion-trial/

  25. skpenman Says:

    Here is a heartwarming story about a vet who served tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan and was badly wounded by a roadside bomb. He had a seizure this week and Major, his service dog, called 911 as he’d been taught to do When the police arrived, Major was waiting for them in the front yard and led them to the back yard where his master lay unconscious. He is fine now and says that Major is his lifeline. These service dogs can make such a difference for returning soldiers. Until Tuesday is the riveting story of an Iraqi vet with PTSD whose life changed dramatically after he got a golden retriever service dog named Tuesday.

  26. skpenman Says:

    May 14, 1264 was the date of the battle of Lewes, which ended with a dramatic victory for Simon de Montfort and a devastating defeat for his brother-in-law, the English king It began with what seemed to be a total triumph for Henry’s son Edward, for when he turned his knights against the citizen-soldiers of London, they could not hold and fled the field with Edward in hot pursuit.
    Falls the Shadow, page 445
    * * * * *
    From the heights of the Downs, the men of Simon’s army had watched in stunned disbelief. That the Londoners should break and run was no great surprise. But no one had envisioned a catastrophe of this magnitude. Not even the most experienced soldiers had ever seen a rout occur with such shocking speed. In what seemed to be the blink of an eye, it was over, their battle lost before it truly began.
    * * * * *
    Simon then shocked his men by sending his center and vanguard against Henry, while holding back his reserve.
    Page 445
    * * * * *
    “You would take the offensive? Christ’s pity, man, why? How high can a bird fly if its wing be broken? Edward just crippled us, Simon. You saw it.”
    “They saw it, too. Give them time to think about it and they’ll lose all stomach for battle. We attack and we attack now, ere Edward returns to the field and whilst Henry’s men are still in total confusion.” (omission)
    Hugh said something about too great a risk, but Simon was no longer listening. With his left wing destroyed, he could not afford the luxury of caution. He’d always been willing to take chances other men spurned; now, that willingness was all he had. He raised his arm, let it fall sharply. Their trumpets blared. The banners of Gloucester and de Montfort caught the wind, and the center and vanguard began their descent from the Downs.
    Simon swung away from the battlefield, turning to stare at the wooded heights of Offham Hill. A suspicion was stirring, one so improbable that only now was it infiltrating his conscious awareness. “Where is Edward?” He did not even realize he’d spoken the question aloud. Supposition was crystallizing into certainty. “The fool!” He whirled his stallion about. “Hugh, do you not see?” he demanded, eyes ablaze with sudden light, with a wild, surging hope. “I can scarce believe it, but Edward has left the field! If he were regrouping his men, he’d have been back by now. He’s still in pursuit of the Londoners!”
    They gazed at him in wonderment. But after a moment, Hugh shook off Simon’s spell. “Simon…Simon, what if you’re wrong?”
    “I am not.” Simon was smiling. “As God is my witness, Hugh, I am not!”
    * * * * *
    Simon then threw his reserves into the battle, too, leading them against Henry, who was not the soldier Simon was, or the soldier Edward would become. The royal line soon broke, and Henry fled the field, taking shelter in the priory, where he found himself trapped by Simon’s victorious men. By the time Edward stopped his slaughter of the hapless Londoners and returned to the field, it was too late, although he did not at once realize it.
    Page 452
    * * * * *
    They drew rein on the crest of the hill, where their first glimpse of the battlefield seemed to confirm Edward’s every expectation. The battle was over, part of the town in flames. Bodies beyond counting lay sprawled in the sun, some already stripped by looters. Men were searching the field for friends or gain, others tending to the wounded, still others chasing loose horses. Only to the south, beyond the priory, did sporadic fighting continue, and that flurry of action degenerated, even as they watched, into a rout..
    Edward laughed. “The dolts, they’re going to blunder right into the mudflats! Simon will lose even more men in that marsh than he did in the river.”
    “Do you think he still lives, Ned?” Hal asked hesitantly, for he could not imagine Simon dead, any more than he could the sun plummeting from the sky.
    “No,” Edward said flatly. “He’s not a man to be taken alive.” Turning in the saddle, he raised his voice. “We’ll give our horses a brief rest; they’ve been roughly used this day. But the sooner we get back to the castle, the sooner we can begin celebrating!”
    Some of them were ready to celebrate then and there, and wineskins were soon passing back and forth. It was left to Dayvdd, the outsider, to stumble onto the truth. Moving to the edge of the bluff, he gazed down at the battlefield. So many widows, so many orphans made this day. And not all the tears shed for de Montfort would be English. Llywelyn had suffered a defeat, too, lost an ally worth his weight in gold. His eyes shifted from the trampled meadows to the town. Blood of Christ! For a long moment, he sat motionless in the saddle, scarcely breathing. Could it be that he’d wagered again on the wrong horse?
    His sudden shout drew all eyes. Edward was moving toward him, though without haste. Davydd spurred his stallion away from the bluff. “If we won the battle,” he said tautly, “why is the castle under siege?”
    * * * * *
    Stunned, many of Edward’s knights sought to save themselves and fled. Edward refused to abandon his father, though, and forced his way into the priory where Henry had taken refuge. The next day, he and his father surrendered and Simon de Montfort became, for all intents and purposes, the uncrowned king of England.
    I have very vivid memories of exploring that battlefield. My friend Cris, her son Geoffrey, and I had followed a bridle path said to have been the same route used by Simon and his men the night before the battle. We almost turned back a few times, not sure if we were heading in the right direction, but Geoff was sure we were. And then we came out onto the Downs, and saw below us the town of Lewes, saw what Simon and his army would have seen as dawn broke over what would become a major battlefield of the Middle Ages.

  27. Theresa Says:

    Mary Queen of Scots made another one of her bad decisions (she was rather inclined to do these ) when she married her third husband, the Earl of Bothwell on May 15th 1567. Perhaps this may have even been her worst? I never understood why she felt the need to marry Bothwell, the only reason might be that she was still traumatised by the events surrounding Darnley’s death.

    Did anyone hear the story about the brave cat who saved a little boy from being attacked by a dog.


  28. skpenman Says:

    May 15, 1567 was the day that Mary Queen of Scots married James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell, but since that marriage did not end well for either of them, I’d rather focus today on what may be the most heroic cat in the western world. When a four year old boy was suddenly attacked by a neighbor’s dog, the family’s cat came to the rescue and chased the dog off. The boy still needed ten stitches to close the wound, so this could have been even more serious if not for their courageous cat, who’d been adopted by the family five years ago. In case there are any skeptics out there, the entire incident was captured on video. http://www.turnto23.com/news/local-news/amazing-video-cat-saves-boy-from-dog-attack-in-southwest-bakersfield-051414

  29. skpenman Says:

    May 17, 1443 was the birthdate of Edmund, Earl of Rutland, brother to the Yorkist kings, Edward and Richard. Edmund has the dubious distinction of being the first major character that I killed in one of my books. I was going to quote from the scene on Wakefield Bridge when seventeen year old Edmund was murdered by Lord Clifford. But that seemed like a very sad way to start the day, so instead I am going with a happier scene from Chapter One, with Edward, Edmund, and their little brother, Richard.
    The Sunne in Splendour, page 9
    * * *
    Edward was dismounting before the round Norman nave that housed the chapel named for St Mary Magdalene. He saw Richard as the boy bolted through the doorway of the solar and in three strides he covered the ground between them, catching Richard to him in a tight bone-bruising embrace and then laughing and swinging the youngster up into the air, high over his head.
    “Jesu, but you gave me some bad moments, lad! Are you all right?”
    “He’s fine.” Edmund had come through the doorway behind Richard, and now stood looking down at them as Edward knelt beside Richard in the dust. His eyes raked Edward with ironic amusement and a message flashed between them that passed, figuratively and literally, over Richard’s head.
    “He’s fine,” Edmund repeated, “but I daresay he’ll be taken severely to task for running off as he did. It seems he became lost chasing after that damned pet fox of his. But then, I need not tell you that, do I, Ned? After all, you were there.”
    “That’s right,” Edward said coolly. “I was.” His mouth twitched and then, as if on cue, he and Edmund were laughing. Coming lightly to his feet, Edward kept his arm warm around Richard’s shoulders as they moved across the bailey, murmuring, “Fox hunting, were you?”
    His voice was noncommittal and Richard nodded shyly, keeping his eyes upon Edward’s face.
    “Well….you might not be too good at keeping put, Dickon, but you’re very good indeed at keeping faith,” Edward said softly, and meeting Richard’s eyes, he winked and then grinned, and Richard discovered the joyful difference between being a sacrificial lamb and a trusted conspirator
    * * *
    Now isn’t that better than being on Wakefield Bridge with Edmund and watching helplessly as his life bleeds away into the snow? It is interesting to wonder, though, how Yorkist history might have been changed had Edmund not died on that bridge.

  30. Joan Battistuzzi Says:

    Edmund’s death was the saddest in the novel. I love the above excerpt, from “Well” to “conspirator”. I so enjoyed the family dynamics that you created in Sunne.

    I’m seeing the family from another perspective now through Anne Easter Smith’s “Royal Mistress”. Lovely novel.

  31. Joan Says:

    My “leave a reply” info keeps changing on me. Strange.

  32. Kasia (Kate) Says:

    Happy Wedding Anniversary to Eleanor and Henry! :-)

    PS And belated “Happy Birthday” to Edmund. Although I knew what was going to happen, I couldn’t come to myself after reading his death scene in Sunne. I needed to take a few-day break before I resumed the reading.

  33. skpenman Says:

    I must be a secret romantic at heart, for I love this story.


  34. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    Anne Boleyn was murdered on May 19, 1536. Whatever her faults–and she had many of them–she did not deserve this fate. My favorite Anne Boleyn novel is The Concubine by Norah Lofts and my favorite film about her is Anne of a Thousand Days. And here is a link to last night’s episode of Game of Thrones, with lots of spoilers. http://tvrecaps.ew.com/recap/game-of-thrones-recap-mockingbird/?xid=email-gameofthrones-20140519-mainimg

  35. skpenman Says:

    On May 20th, 1217, the second battle of Lincoln was fought, in which the French were defeated by our hero, William Marshal. John’s illegitimate son, Richard of Dover, a character in Here be Dragons, also fought in this battle, and the son of Richenza, Eleanor’s granddaughter and a character in Devil’s Brood, Lionheart, and Ransom, was slain. She was dead by then so at least she was spared that.
    I was too busy to post about Henry and Eleanor’s wedding anniversary on May 18, 1152, but several of my readers took up the slack; thanks! I was going to post some passages from their wedding night in Saints, but I’ve done that before. So I decided to do something different, and here is a scene from Devil’s Brood. Eleanor is Henry’s prisoner and she has sabotaged his grand scheme to rid himself of her by making her the abbess of Fontevrault Abbey. As the scene opens, Henry has just been confronted by his sons, Hal, Richard, and Geoffrey, who take Eleanor’s side, which naturally does not go down well with him. He now bursts in upon Eleanor to vent his wrath.
    Page 320.
    “I thought you’d like to know that your latest scheme was highly successful. Your sons gallantly rode to your rescue tonight, proclaiming themselves your champions.” (omission)
    “However little you like it, Harry, they are my sons. Is it truly so surprising that they are protective of me?”
    “What did you tell them precisely? That I was going to load you down with chains and haul you off to a nunnery in the dead of night?”
    “As a matter of fact, I did not mention your threat.”
    “You expect me to believe that? As if you’d pass up any chance to portray me as the knave and you as the innocent, sacrificial lamb, the damsel in distress!”
    “I did not tell them because I did not take your threat seriously. I know how you rave and rant when you lose your temper. I also know that once you cool down, you rarely if ever carry these threats out, so I saw no reason to share them with our sons, not unless you forced me to it. More strife is the last thing our family needs.”
    “St Eleanor of Aquitaine,” he mocked, “so wise and forebearing. It is rather difficult, though, to reconcile that angelic image with the woman who urged my sons to rebel against me!”
    “That was a mistake.”
    He stared at her in disbelief. “A mistake? You destroyed our family and you call it a mistake?”
    “Yes, damn you, a mistake! Are you going to tell me that you’ve never made a mistake, Harry?”
    “No,” he growled, “I made a great one on May 18 in God’s Year 1152.” And with that, he turned and stalked out, slamming the door resoundingly behind him.
    (omission) To Amaria’s surprise, the queen did not seem as distraught as she ought to have been after such a blazing row. Deciding, though, that they both needed wine, she went over without being asked and poured two cups.
    Bringing one back to Eleanor, she made an attempt to sound blasé as she said, “May I ask what happened on May 18 in 1152, my lady?”
    “Harry and I were wed in Poitiers.” Eleanor took a swallow of the wine before saying, “Usually he could never remember our anniversary.”
    Amaria did not know what to say, so she busied herself hunting in the floor rushes for the brush, which she’d dropped when Henry barged into the chamber. Eleanor drank in silence, seemingly lost in her own thoughts. When their eyes met, though, she smiled, a smile that somehow managed to be wry and rueful and bleak, all at the same time.
    “Harry and I have more in common than quick tempers,” she said. “We rarely make mistakes, but when we do, they tend to be spectacular.”

  36. Kasia (Kate) Says:

    I love this scene, Sharon! Just as I love the tavern scene that precedes it :-) Rare moment of brotherly camaraderie. Your Richard and Hal, so utterly different, are really funny when brought together… Richard so very serious and unimpressed (perhaps the only one unmoved by Hal’s proverbail charm) and Sir Bountiful chasing the poor man in the street and inviting all the tavern guests to drink at his expense (read at the inn keeper’s expense :-)). And there’s Geoffrey, of course. The clever one. Brilliant!

  37. Sara Buchanan Says:

    Wish I had made it to the murder by the book signing I live in Houston and found out about it to late. As much as I enjoy justin DeQuincy, I wish you would write about Edward the second-an openly bi medieval king! Or how about Richard the second? Or maybe Edward the third who was a truly great king? Then there’s Henry the fourth and the beginning of the war of the roses? Please please!!

  38. Mai Milburn Says:

    I don’t really like reading book tours but having been able to read your blog has opened my mind. Now I think that experiencing a book tour will stir interest to the reader. The book is really interesting and the book tour added so much popularity on the book that is why a lot of people are attracted to buying the book.