INTERVIEW WITH STEPHANIE CHURCHILL ABOUT THE KING’S FURIES

Yes, this is actually a new blog by me; will wonders never cease?  But the good thing about being in Writer Limbo—between books—is that I actually have time to do some things I enjoy, and one of them is focusing attention upon books I think my readers will like.  The King’s Furies is such a book, with the added bonus that its author, Stephanie Churchill, is a friend as well as a fellow writer, so it is always fun to hang around with her.  Besides, Holly, my spaniel, may not worship Stephanie, but she is overly fond of the ground upon which she walks.

I can enthusiastically recommend The King’s Furies, the final book in Stephanie’s trilogy, The Crowns of Destiny.  Like me, I am sure that readers of the trilogy have come to care about the characters, and I think they will be pleased by the resolution of the series.   Casmir is a very appealing character in his own right, and it is interesting to get his perspective after seeing their world through the eyes of the sisters, Kassia and Irisa.

Before we begin the interview, I want to let readers know that Stephanie is offering a book giveaway and to be eligible, readers need only post a comment on this blog.  The winner will receive free copies of the first two books, The Scribe’s Daughter and The King’s Daughter; they will be in the e-book format and the contest is global, not limited just to American readers.   Now, let me welcome Stephanie Churchill.

SC: Thanks for letting me stop by, Sharon. I really just came to play with Holly, but we may as well chat as long as I’m here.

SKP: Holly would like nothing more than for you to feed her snacks.

SC: Which I have brought aplenty.

SKP: You’re about to publish your third book, The King’s Furies.   How does it feel?

SC: I thought you were going to ask me, “What are you going to do next?” And of course, the only answer to that is “Go to Disney World.” It feels somehow surreal that I’ve slaved away enough to write three books already. It seems like only yesterday you planted the suggestion in my head. Can that have been nearly eight years ago already? It doesn’t seem like we’ve been friends for that long, but we have.

SKP: I’ve told you before that you give me too much credit for that.

SC: Maybe, but sometimes ideas don’t take root except when suggested by people who have a certain amount of clout. Anyone else could have suggested that I try my hand at writing, but I wouldn’t have necessarily considered the suggestion credible. I figured you knew what you were talking about when it came to writing.

SKP:  I can think of at least one book reviewer who’d disagree with you about that, the one who ended her review of Sunne with the immortal words, “God has probably forgiven Richard III and He may in time even forgive the author.”    But let’s talk now about your Crowns of Destiny series. Your first two books were about two sisters. Your third book will be about a different person, Casmir Vitus, King of Agrius. What made you decide to give him his own book?

SC: I wasn’t planning to originally. I had already promised readers that I would write a prequel about Kassia and Irisa’s mother, Naria. I had a decent outline written up for that book, but then a couple of things happened. First, I wasn’t “feeling” the story. I’m not sure how to describe it except to say my heart just wasn’t in it. I had a tough time figuring out how to develop the themes for the book, and I had too many ideas about directions to take the various character involvements. So in part, there was too much I wanted the book to do, and I couldn’t narrow it down. Then, almost simultaneously, reviews were beginning to come in on The King’s Daughter. The most common piece of feedback I received from readers was that they loved Casmir. Looooooved him. It seemed natural to write a book for him. I hope to get back to Naria’s story someday, but I also need to move on to other things.

SKP: Why did people love him so much?  I know why I found him to be such good company, but I am curious about your perspective as his creator.   Tell us about him.

SC: I can’t speak for individual readers, but my guess is that he’s got a nice dose of charm. I admit to being more than a little influenced by some of your male characters when writing him: Llewelyn ap Iorweth, for instance. His combination of cluelessness with Joanna gave me some fodder for Casmir’s relationship with Irisa, and his leadership style of integrity, control, and a bit of restraint helped me figure out Casmir’s kingly style. I also injected some of Dafydd ap Gruffydd’s swagger. Another thing that I would guess readers found appealing was the mystery of his personality. Irisa often commented on Casmir’s seeming two-sided nature. He wears an unreadable court mask in public, but when Irisa was alone with him, she saw a warm, caring man. So for the reader’s benefit, I wanted to explore this a bit in his own book. I hope readers of The King’s Furies will get enough of Casmir’s backstory to understand his two faces a bit better. I also tried to inject some aspects of your favorite king, Henry II. Casmir is a bit of a workaholic, and he doesn’t always care too much for his personal appearance – or at least the extravagance that kings are afforded in their dress. He’s happier just being comfortable.

SKP: Without giving anything away, what is this book about?

SC: From a plot perspective, Casmir and Irisa are now secure on their thrones ruling Agrius. They have a child, and things seem to be perfect. Of course, as an author yourself, you know that authors are never happy when our characters are happy. I had to make their lives difficult, and one step at a time I turned the screws a little bit on their happiness. They made some choices in The King’s Daughter, and the outcomes of those choices aren’t working out so well. Those outcomes get progressively more complicated, and then some of the villains from the last books show up to further complicate things.

The theme of this book is two-fold. I wanted to explore Casmir’s character. What happens when he is tested beyond the point of breaking? What kind of choices will he make, and what does it say about who he is as a man? And secondly, I wanted to explore the marriage relationship after the first few years of marriage. It’s fun to write about new love, but what happens when daily life intrudes and outside forces work to muddy the waters a bit? At a really deep level, I want readers to see how I intentionally chose the title (for each of my books) and how it works to tell the story of what will happen to the main characters.

SKP: Do you have another project you’re working on now? What’s next?

SC: I have something completely different in mind, yes. I’ve already begun to plot the basics of it, but I have a lot of groundwork to cover before I begin the actual writing. This next series will be much more traditionally fantasy in that there will be some dragon-like creatures. Still no magic, because I’m not comfortable writing in that milieu since I don’t really read magic-based fantasy.

SKP: How will the books be different (besides the dragon-like creatures)?

SC: Well, from a story and setting perspective, I’m going to focus much less on creating a setting that feels historical. This time it will be purely fictional. Yes, it will have a vaguely medieval feel, but that’s about as close to feeling historical as I’ll intentionally get. Much of what will be different won’t be apparent to readers because the differences will all be in my process. Hopefully readers will “feel” the difference in the quality of the story, but it won’t be obvious to the casual reader. Oh, and my dragons will have some supernatural powers.

SKP: How could dragons not have some supernatural powers?   But how is your process going to be different?

SC: I’ve been reading and following the blog of Shawn Coyne who developed the Story Grid method. I won’t bore you with all the nitty-gritty details, but this method encourages developing what Coyne calls a “foolscap global story outline” before getting started. Basically, it’s setting up certain major building blocks (inciting incident, progressive complications, crisis, climax, resolution) for each of the major components of the book before beginning to write. I naturally do this in my head anyway and had done it for my first three books on a very informal level, but I’m forcing myself to write down each of the items so they will be thoroughly thought through. The other process difference is that I’m going to write all three books of the trilogy (in first draft form) before I publish the first one.

SKP: That sounds intriguing and a bit mysterious.  So how long will readers have to wait until they can read something new from you?

SC: No idea. It will take as long as it takes. But I think once my in-depth planning is finished, the actual writing will take far less time than my last three books since I’ll have signposts for what I’m going to write. In the meantime, I’m keeping a weekly writing journal for those interested in getting a behind-the-scenes look at my process. It’s on my blog https://www.stephaniechurchillauthor.com/blog/ and people can subscribe if they want to be updated about new posts. So far readers of this journal have said they love the glimpse of what authors do every day. I guess I take my own process for granted, but not everyone knows what we as authors do!

SKP: Anything else you’d like to add before you go take Holly for a walk?

SC: Yes, I thought I’d leave your readers with a little glimpse of both Casmir’s personality and a taste for what The King’s Furies is about.

From The King’s Furies, chapter 6:

“You are the assassin who finally brought down the slave rebellion’s leader.”

“You make it sound like a bad thing, my king,” Jachamin broke in, a slow smile hinting at the corners of his lips. “But I prefer mercenary if it’s all the same to you.”

“Your tactics were… heavy-handed,” I observed.

His eyes flashed at that, and the freedom I’d reveled in only moments before dissipated, melting away as easily as a sugared wafer on Sybila’s tongue. I moved my gloved hands over my face, partially to brush away the loose strands of hair which had fallen over my left eye, but also to give myself time to think.

“Casmir,” Wimarc broke in, annoyingly comfortable enough to use my familiar name, “Lyseby is a problem. In fact, you have many problems that defy conventional solutions.”

I shot him a hard look. “And you think that hiring an assassin… mercenary,” I corrected myself with a dismissive wave of my hand, “will fix these problems? We have only begun to try conventional solutions. I am not about to condone as common practice the murder of those who would oppose my rule!” I gave each of the men a cold, hard stare.

“Casmir, I only brought you here to hear him out.”

“Yes, because you know the palace walls have ears. You said as much. This was to make the ride and early hour worth my while?”

“Casmir, I…”

“You have mistaken me for another king — my father, or his hound Veris. I am not him, nor will I ever be,” I growled. “You have wasted my time.”

And with that, I made a savage jerk on the reins, wheeling Sevaritza around to leave the two men staring after me.

SKP:   We shall let Casmir have the last word, then, as kings usually do.   Thank you, Stephanie, for stopping by to spoil Holly and share your thoughts on The King’s Furies.  To purchase Stephanie’s books, see the links below.  And again, post a comment here and you’ll be eligible for Stephanie’s book giveway.

July 24, 2019

Links:

Purchase The Scribe’s Daughter: mybook.to/thescribesdaughter

Purchase The King’s Daughter: mybook.to/TheKingsDaughter

Pre-order The King’s Furies: mybook.to/TheKingsFuries

Stephanie’s website: https://www.stephaniechurchillauthor.com/

69 Responses to “INTERVIEW WITH STEPHANIE CHURCHILL ABOUT THE KING’S FURIES”

  1. Stephanie Ling Says:

    Yay! Thanks for letting me visit, Sharon. As I supsected might be the case, Holly wasn’t too keen on going for a walk with me. She just wanted to stay home with her mommy. I even tempted her with chicken. I hope your readers enjoy my books as much as I did writing them. I’ll be moving on to other projects next, but I’ll definitely be missing Agrius and all my wonderful characters.

  2. Kim Mitchell Says:

    The books sound very interesting! They will definitely be added to my list!

  3. Allia Zobel Nolan Says:

    Me! Me! Me! I’d love to be in the running for a Kindle version of Stephanie’s initial books. As you know, I have run through all of your books, and am in limbo until your next title pubs. So this would be heaven for me. I do hope you can consider my plight (not troth)…just plight. Thanks for the opportunity.

  4. Samantha Says:

    Great interview! How lovely to see two of my favorite ladies together. :-)

  5. Dee S. Knight Says:

    Gosh, I’m sorry I didn’t know about this series. The excerpt is wonderful. Thanks for sharing, Stephanie–and for that intriguing photo bomb with Casmir at Dover Castle, lol. He’s quite the cutie!!

    And Sharon, do we ever forget a bad review in spite of all the good ones??

  6. Cristina Beans Says:

    That’s wonderful Stephanie!!! Loved the first two books, can’t wait to read this. Plus dragons next time?! Awesime!!!

  7. Ann-Marie Baechler Says:

    I can’t wait to start reading this series. I love SKP and in the past I have loved the books she recommended.

  8. Jann Merchant Says:

    That is great news - my sister and I devour your books Stephanie - thanks to Sharon too for putting us in touch with them. Although I often wish I’d found them later, so that I could read them back to back instead of enduring the wait in between publishings!

  9. Eric Pratt Says:

    This sounds like a wonderful trilogy! I hope I can read them soon. Thanks Sharon for inspiring and befriending such a good author, and thank you Stephanie for introducing Sharon to me and helping a young teacher and his class get Sharon’s books on his shelves and make a good friend as well.

  10. Stephanie Ling Says:

    Thanks, ladies! What a day brightener!

  11. Judy Wiese Says:

    I haven’t read any of your books yet Stephanie but I have enjoyed hearing about their progress. Like many, I have an ever growing tbr pile! I wish you all the best for your future endeavours.

  12. Pat K Says:

    New author to me (sorry), but if Sharon recommends your writing, I’m definitely in. Can’t wait to read your books. Thank you.

  13. Mimi Morris Says:

    Thanks for this! An entirely different part of history to consider!

  14. Wanda Says:

    Congratulations on the publication! How very exciting! You are a new-to-me author; however, if Sharon recommends you, then count me in.

  15. Margaret Jean Tabar Says:

    I would love to explore these books. Sound good and if Sharon says they are - they will be. Thank you for the opportunity to win them.

  16. Jo Ann Says:

    Can’t wait to read your books, Stephanie!

  17. Jay James Says:

    I’ve never read this series, but it certainly sounds intriguing. I’m looking forward to sitting down with one of your books soon.

  18. Angela B Says:

    This spring was a great interview and the series sounds like a lot of fun

  19. Chloe L. Says:

    Thoroughly enjoyed this interview! Can’t wait for the next series…however long they take! I like the idea of dragons too. Will they talk? Will they protect a person or a whole kingdom? So many questions.
    Thank you, ladies for sharing. Oh, and Holly, I wouldn’t go for a walk with Stephanie either. She’s a hot weather lover and you’d surely melt!

  20. Pat McGuffin Says:

    i enjoyed the first two books (sigh, I think Casmir is positively swoon worthy,) and I’ve pre-ordered “The King’s Furies.” Can hardly wait to see what’s next!

  21. Linda Churchill Says:

    Dragons, really????? Must you???

  22. Cynthia MacDonough Says:

    I’ve read through your interview and the reviews of the first two books and this looks like it’s right up my alley! I’m excited about the possibility of adding a new favorite author to my life! Thank you so much for the opportunity to win the first two books.

  23. Cindy Milne Says:

    Wonderful, interview can’t wait to read the books.

  24. Margaret Skea Says:

    Interasting interview - and I’ll be really interested too to find out what Stephanie is planning on next. It’s a funny old time between books…

  25. Emily Wells Says:

    This is a shout out to SharonKay Penman for introducing her blog post readers to new and interesting authors. I’m on my way to Barnes and Noble to buy “The Scribe’s Daughter.” I’ll let you know if I love it too.

  26. skpenman Says:

    I am sorry to report that Penman Manor has been invaded by dragons again. One is relatively benign, a proof-reading dragon, but he was accompanied by the much more dangerous Deadline Dragon. The little guy is bringing another round of queries, mainly of a grammatical nature or for clarity, and the Deadline Dragon is here to be sure I get it all done by this coming Wednesday. Naturally they arrived just as some long-overdue house renovations and repairs are about to start. Dragons never have good timing.
    I was rooting around in my archives to find a post for Facebook. I have lots of material since so many dates of historical significance went unmarked in July; I hope to catch up with some of the more spectacular medieval anniversaries in August. I came across one that first saw the light of day in 2014, so enough time has passed that most of you have forgotten it.

  27. skpenman Says:

    Damn, it happened again. Half of the post was cut off. Will try again.
    I am sorry to report that Penman Manor has been invaded by dragons again. One is relatively benign, a proof-reading dragon, but he was accompanied by the much more dangerous Deadline Dragon. The little guy is bringing another round of queries, mainly of a grammatical nature or for clarity, and the Deadline Dragon is here to be sure I get it all done by this coming Wednesday. Naturally they arrived just as some long-overdue house renovations and repairs are about to start. Dragons never have good timing.
    I was rooting around in my archives to find a post for Facebook. I have lots of material since so many dates of historical significance went unmarked in July; I hope to catch up with some of the more spectacular medieval anniversaries in August. I came across one that first saw the light of day in 2014, so enough time has passed that most of you have forgotten it.

  28. skpenman Says:

    No, it won’t post. I will see if I have more luck copying and pasting only the old post about Eleanor and Wales. Wish me luck.

    Nothing to post about July 21st medieval happenings, but I do have a lovely story about Eleanor of Aquitaine told to me by one of my readers. She said that she’d visited Fontevrault Abbey about fifteen years ago and at the foot of her tomb was one red rose. She asked the guide, “Do you put them there?” He said, “Oh, no, Madame, we find them there.” I think Eleanor would be pleased and I suspect she might just mention to Henry that no one put flowers by his tomb.
    Some years ago, I visited the abbey ruins of Cwm Hir, where Llywelyn ap Gruffydd is said to have been secretly buried by the Welsh to keep the English king from desecrating his grave as he’d done with Simon de Montfort’s grave at Evesham Abbey. It was rather remote and not easy to find. There is a black slate plaque there in his memory, which I always found far more moving than the large monument to him at Builth Wells. On my first visit to Cwm Hir, I was touched to see that someone had been there very recently and left a bouquet of flowers on the memorial stone. Welsh friends have told me that flowers are often found on Joanna’s tomb in the alcove of St Mary’s Church in Beaumaris, too.

  29. lin heiberger Says:

    sounds wonderful. will need to do some quick catching up on the first two books of the trilogy — challenge accepted!

    look foward to it!

  30. skpenman Says:

    A hot humid day in my corner of the world and I’m not in the best of moods, having expended most of my energy fending of the Deadline Dragon and his smaller partner in crime. I am taking a brief break to reach out to the real world and was browsing my archive of Facebook historical posts to find one of interest. I came upon a post written back in 2012 that was quite critical of Edward I and reading it cheered me up quite a bit; it is always satisfying to get to do mini-rants about historical figures I do not like! Actually, I liked writing about Edward very much, for he was larger-than-life, intelligent, courageous, and could be good company; I especially enjoyed his barbed bantering with Davydd ap Gruffydd in The Reckoning. But that is the novelist at play. The historian and humanitarian in me remain very critical of the suffering Edward caused the Jews, the Welsh, the Scots, just to name three of his favorite targets. So, I invite you all to join me in calling Longshanks to account for his sins, with the proviso that I very much doubt he’d have cared tuppence what we thought of him.
    * * *
    We often are critical of Edward I here for sentencing Davydd ap Gruffydd to such a savage death, for imprisoning his two young sons, for turning the Welsh into second-class citizens in their own homeland, and for his abusive treatment of Robert the Bruce’s female relatives. But we ought not to forget what he did on July 18, 1290. The thirteenth century saw a steady erosion of the status and safety of medieval Jews, beginning with the Fourth Lateran Council when Pope Innocent III decreed that the Jews were to wear badges to differentiate them from Christians. The English kings reflected this growing hostility toward the Jews, Henry III and Edward I being much more anti-Semitic than Henry II and Louis VII of France. Edward did a practice run in 1287, expelling all of the Jews from Gascony, which enabled him to confiscate their goods and lay claim to the debts owed them. And on July 18, 1290, he issued the Edict of Expulsion, forcing all of England’s Jews to flee the country. Sadly, this edict was a popular one, for anti-Semitism was the ugly underside of medieval life. I’ve occasionally been asked about various historical figures I’ve written about, readers wanting to know if they were anti-Semitic. The answer would be yes, for this was a poison they all breathed in from birth, a bias sanctioned by the Church; the degree of that bias varied considerably, of course. We do not know the exact number of those affected by Edward’s expulsion; I’ve seen estimates ranging from 2,000 to 16, 000. They would not be welcome again in England for more than 350 years.

  31. skpenman Says:

    I am taking a brief Dragon break; I don’t smell smoke, so I assume they are taking their mid-afternoon naps. We still haven’t talked much here about the Game of Thrones finale, but I admit that if they’d killed off another dragon, I’d never have forgiven them. Same for Ghost. Sadly, human beings are more expendable—except for Tyrion, of course! Now, here is my historical post for today.
    You know how in those horror films you want to scream out to the teenagers, “For God’s sake, do not go down into the basement!” Well, something happened on July 29th, 1565 that elicits the same response. On this date, Mary Stuart married Lord Darnley. I am not even a fan of Mary’s and yet I want so much to have stopped her! I always thought this disastrous marriage was the handiwork of the fiendishly clever Elizabeth; I really believe she deliberately sent the handsome but vacuous Darnley to Mary’s court after first insulting Mary by offering her Robert Dudley as a husband, knowing Mary would take the bait. Her plan succeeded beyond her wildest expectations, for less than two years later, Darnley had been murdered and Mary was in free fall, taking her first steps along the road that would eventually lead to Fotheringhay Castle.
    On a more cheerful note, July 28, 1166 was the birthdate of one of my favorite characters in Lionheart, Richard’s nephew Henri, Count of Champagne. I loved writing about Henri in Lionheart and had hopes of doing more with his time in the Holy Land, but it has not worked out so far. Maybe I should consider writing a few short stories about certain dramatic events in a particular historical figure’s life. I’ve noticed that quite a few writers are doing that now, especially those who write a series that revolves around one character. Readers, what do you think? A good idea or a bad one?

  32. Juliet Stantz Says:

    So happy to read about the third book! Read #1 and now I can look forward th two more!

  33. skpenman Says:

    I am happy to report that the Deadline Dragon and his accomplice, the Proofreader Dragon, are preparing to depart on the morrow, for I expect to be able to send off the finished queries tonight. It has been a very hectic week, for they are doing some long overdue house renovations and that means my world is in total chaos. But all the inconvenience will eventually be worth it; at least, that is what I keep telling myself.

  34. skpenman Says:

    Well, my blasted blog is still censoring my posts. Here is the rest of today’s blog.

    Since I missed so many historical events for July, I have plenty to choose from now that I am able to spend time again with you guys. (Guys being a noun without gender, applying equally to men and women, young and old; it may be a Jersey thing.) Today I decided to revisit an old post from 2012, for it focuses upon what may be my favorite scene in all my books—when a desperate and despairing King Henry II swallows his pride and humbles himself before the Canterbury tomb of his beloved friend turned mortal enemy, Thomas Becket. Did Henry ever believe that Becket was truly a saint? I have him ask Ranulf that question in Time and Chance. Ranulf admits that he does not know, and Henry concludes their discussion with a sardonic observation, that in gaining martyrdom, “Thomas got the last word for certes.”

    Because my blog has been balkier than usual lately about long posts, I am going to post this first and follow it with my original post about Henry’s penance in Canterbury Cathedral, as written in Devil’s Brood.

  35. skpenman Says:

    Scene from Devil’s Brood, as explained above.

    Henry’s penance actually carried over from July 12th to the 13th, as he insisted upon kneeling all night long by Becket’s tomb. And he was to be spectacularly rewarded for his ordeal, for while he was doing penance, his forces captured the King of Scotland outside Alnwick Castle. Naturally, medievals attributed this to the intervention of the martyred archbishop, Thomas Becket. The Great Rebellion against Henry fell apart and within two months, his sons were suing for peace.

    Some scenes are innately challenging, and the scene in the cathedral was certainly one of them. I approached it with some unease, for if it fell flat, I feared it could adversely affect the rest of Devil’s Brood. Henry’s decision to do penance was so very medieval, after all, and it is not always easy for us to identify with the medieval mind-set. To my surprise and relief, it turned out to be very easy to write. I was even able to insert a few touches of humor into this highly charged, dramatic scene: Driven to distraction by a garrulous monk, Henry wonders, “Was there a way to murder Brother Benedict and make it seem as if he’d been smitten by the wrath of the unforgiving Thomas? A vengeful saint was surely a contradiction in terms, but he alone seemed to think so.” Brother Benedict, by the way, would later pen a history of the miracles he was boring Henry with. I searched diligently for a copy, and finally found one on-line in a Tokyo bookstore; I admit I loved the symmetry of that—an American author buying a book written by a medieval monk and translated by a Victorian historian from a Japanese bookseller.

    The trickiest part of the scene was Henry’s monologue after Brother Benedict finally departs. I wasn’t sure how I’d handle this, but Henry’s character chose to talk conversationally to his former friend, and I just followed his lead. He is by turns emotional, cynical, and challenging, calling Thomas a chameleon, denying that he wanted Becket’s death, and confiding “Did I grieve for you? No, I did not.” He accuses Thomas of craving martyrdom, points out the absurdity of Becket’s position that only the Church could punish its own, for it meant that he could take no action against the assassins, who escaped with a papal slap on the wrist, sent off on penitential pilgrimages to the Holy Land. Henry being Henry, he cannot resist sarcasm; “Come, Thomas, hold up your part of the conversation. You need not do anything dramatic, like loosing a thunderbolt or performing one of your miracles. But at the least, you could extinguish a few candles to show me you are paying attention.” He ends up confessing, though. “Do you know why I did not grieve for you when you died, Thomas? Because I’d already done my grieving. I trusted you, I had faith in you, I loved you more than my own brother.” He admits he does not understand how they came to this, and he truly does not, just as he will not understand why his marriage crumbles or his sons do not love him as he loved his own father. He waits in vain in the empty cathedral crypt for a response from the new saint, and finally entreats in desperation, “St Thomas, guard my realm.” I, for one, was very glad that St Thomas came through for him.

    I have a confession of my own; I think this may be my favorite of all the scenes I’ve written, for it shows Henry at his most human. After three novels with him, I miss writing about him very much, and while I did manage to give him a brief scene in Ransom, that only made me mourn his loss all the more. I’ve been able to write about some memorable characters over the years, but Henry is very close to my heart.

  36. Stephanie Says:

    Sharon caught a bunch of comments that were in “comment jail” so I’ve just had a chance to read them all. Thanks for all your kind words! I am happy to hear of so many new readers who are excited to dig into a new series and author. Thank you for that trust! It is indeed a unique series, but it should feel very familiar to those of you who read historical fiction. I look forward to hearing how you all like the books! (And Eric, your story stilll makes me smile!)

  37. Nancy F Lambert Says:

    Stephanie I haven’t read any of your books, I would love to read them..
    Thank you

  38. skpenman Says:

    I hope it will be a good weekend for all of my readers. I am going to be busy doing some de-cluttering in preparation for more home renovations on Monday. But de-cluttering is oddly therapeutic and I think I’ll have fun. Life in the fast lane—no wonder people think writers lead such exciting, glamorous lives! Below is an old post for historical happenings on August 1st, with some changes or additions.

    August 1st was a busy and bloody day in the MA. In 1192, Richard I fought and won the first battle of Jaffa, which I dramatized in Lionheart. It was a remarkable victory which did much to burnish the legend of the Lionheart. One military historian went so far as to describe it as the day that Richard rode into immortality! It seems to have been a lucky day for the Angevins, for ten years later, his brother John would have his one great military triumph on that same date.

    On August 1st, 1202, John swooped down upon his nephew Arthur and the leading Breton barons as they lay siege to Eleanor in Mirebeau Castle. It was a brilliant accomplishment, which I dramatized in Here Be Dragons. Sadly, he tarnished his triumph and his reputation by treating the prisoners very badly, which stirred up much resentment against him. It is generally believed that he was responsible for Arthur’s murder the following year; it was certainly the view of his contemporaries and he never fully recovered from that.

    But if August 1st was a good day for the Angevins, it was a disastrous day for the de Montforts. On this day in August, 1265, young Simon (renamed Bran in my novels to save me from ever having to write: Simon said to Simon) and his men were taking their ease at Kenilworth Castle, bathing in the lake and entertaining themselves with the prostitutes that inevitably flocked to a medieval army. His cousin Edward was warned of this by a female spy, and staged an unusual night march to take Bran by surprise. Edward then collected Bran’s banners and headed for Evesham. Simon was expecting Bran’s arrival and when he first saw the banners in the distance, he assumed it was his son. When he went up into the bell tower of Evesham’s abbey and realized that he was looking at his doom, he faced it unflinchingly, giving us one of history’s better exit lines: “We must commend our souls to God, for our bodies are theirs.” Meanwhile, back at Kenilworth, Bran collected what was left of his scattered army and raced for Evesham. He arrived too late; the battle was over. One chronicler would comment, “Such was the murder of Evesham, for battle it was none.” But Bran got there just in time to see his father’s head on a pike. Once again reality trumps fiction, for what writer would dare to make something like that up?

  39. skpenman Says:

    So what happened on August 3rd? I am sure Rania will cover the spectrum for us (thanks, Rania!), so I’ll confine myself to one event. It does not concern a historical figure I’ve written about, but his demise was unusual enough to deserve a mention. On August 3, 1460, the thirty-year-old King of Scotland, James II, was killed when a cannon he was attempting to load exploded. I can think of several earlier kings who’d have been unable to resist the urge to fire a cannon, saved only because artillery guns were unknown during their reigns. It is definitely something the Lionheart would have wanted to try, and I can also see a young Edward I or a young Henry V giving it a go. But as far as I know, James has the dubious distinction of being the only monarch blown to Kingdom Come by a cannon. If I am wrong, I am sure at least one of my readers will know who else was so unlucky! I can think of a few kings whom I’d have liked to be blown to smithereens by a cannon, but that is another story, isn’t it?
    PS Rania is a friend who posts fascinating Today in History commentaries on my various Facebook pages. I confine myself mostly to the MA, but Rania’s posts range farther afield, also covering ancient Rome, the Renaissance, etc.

  40. skpenman Says:

    I hope to get back later to catch up and to mourn the passing of a literary giant, Toni Morrison. I am about to head off now to see my own miracle worker, my chiropractor. But first I wanted to ask a favor of you all. Many of you share my pleasure in reading Priscilla Royal’s excellent medieval mystery series. She was alerted recently that Amazon is no longer offering an ebook version of her first novel, Wine of Violence. She contacted Amazon about the problem, with no reply so far. Unfortunately, other writers have told me that Amazon is notoriously slow to respond to author queries about their books. And since Wine of Violence is the first in the mystery series, it is essential that it be available as an ebook. So here comes the favor. I am enclosing a link to the Amazon page that offers the option of expressing a wish to read this book as a Kindle. If Amazon gets enough of a response, that may stir them to action. So Priscilla and I would be grateful if you could follow this link to Amazon and then click onto the option requesting Wine in the Kindle format. It is on the right-hand side of the screen, under the Product Details on the left, and says Tell The Publisher. That is all you need to do….vote with one click! And if you want to share this post with other book=loving friends, that would be truly awesome.
    https://www.amazon.com/Violence-Medieval-Mystery-Priscilla-Royal/dp/1781850003/ref=tmm_hrd_title_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1565119423&sr=1-1

  41. Joan Says:

    A very interesting & fun interview! It’s a pleasure to get a glimpse inside an author’s mind & method, & this was particularly informative. Congratulations Stephanie!

    Sharon, I love the cover of The Land Beyond the Sea!!! I am pumped!!
    Yes Yes Yes to “short stories” on a selection of your fave historical figures.
    Henry II at the tomb of Becket’s tomb, IMO, was everything you hoped it would be, Sharon. I had no trouble relating to the medieval mind-set as a result of some pretty medieval upbringing: confession & penance, praying on our knees, ghastly paintings in school corridors, “saintly” stone-faced nuns, you get the picture.
    You can rant any time you want about Edward I. I’m all ears!
    So much more to catch up on in this & last blog!

  42. skpenman Says:

    I will be back this weekend to start catching up on my Today in Medieval History posts. But first I would like to thank all of you who answered my appeal and went to Amazon to request that Priscilla Royal’s medieval mystery, Wine of Violence, be made available in the Kindle format. Wine is the first novel in Priscilla’s excellent series, set in 13th century England, and for years, readers could buy it as an ebook, hardcover, paperback, or audio book on Amazon. Suddenly, that is no longer the case for the ebook. Since I’ve been told by other writers that Amazon is very slow in responding to author queries about glitches like this, I hoped to attract their attention by having readers click the Amazon option, “Tell the publisher you’d like to read this book as a Kindle.” That option used to be prominently displayed; now it is tucked away at the lower right-hand section of the screen and is easily missed, so I am grateful that so many of you persevered until you found it. I will let you all know when the good guys prevail and Amazon restores Wine of Violence as an ebook.

    We lost a literary rock star this week and an extraordinary woman, the Nobel-Prize-winning author, Toni Morrison, at a time when we need voices like hers more than ever. I’ve never read a novel that lays bare the heartbreak and horror of slavery as powerfully and hauntingly as her Beloved does. Since her death, global tributes have continued to pour in. Here is one that I found particularly moving and eloquent, written by the film critic and author, Gene Seymour, and published on the CNN website. Below is the link. https://www.cnn.com/2019/08/06/opinions/toni-morrison-seymour/index.html

  43. Joan Says:

    Re requesting a Kindle version of Wine of Violence, I tried Amazon.ca today (where I purchase), not “.com” & the little box appeared.

  44. skpenman Says:

    I know Margaret Skea has an enthusiastic following on Facebook, so I wanted to pass along some good news. Her newest novel, Katharina Fortitude is now out and, even better, the Amazon mother ship is offering the Kindle version at only 99 cents. It is also available on Amazon.UK for 99 pence. This is the sequel to Katharina Deliverance, about the life of a very interesting woman, Katharina Von Bora, wife of Martin Luther, who is often called the Father of the Protestant Reformation. Margaret is also the author of the acclaimed Munro Scottish saga, a trilogy set in late 16th century Scotland: Turn of the Tide, House Divided, and by Sword and Storm. Below is the Amazon link for her newest book.
    https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07VQK6XHZ?tag=

  45. Sharon K Penman Says:

    Thank you all for the wonderful birthday good wishes. You always do so much to make my birthday special each year. I am sorry I could not get on-line until today, but I am hoping that life will settle down from now on, she says optimistically.
    How many of you knew Monday was World Elephant Day? I confess I did not. But this gives me another opportunity to thank everyone who signed my petition on behalf of Happy, called “the world’s loneliest elephant” by the New York Times; she has been kept in solitary confinement at the Bronx Zoo for more than a decade and animal lovers have been trying to convince the zoo to let her spend her twilight years with her own kind in an elephant sanctuary. Please let me know if any more of you would like to sign the petition and I will be happy to re-post it.
    Here is one of my catchups for my Today in History posts. I picked August 6th, not because anything dramatic happened on that date, but because I really miss writing about my favorite king, Henry II, and seize any opportunity I can get to bring him back on center stage, however briefly. That is why I so enjoyed writing the scene in A King’s Ransom when Richard is being held in harsh conditions at the notorious Trifels Castle and has a fevered dream in which Henry appears to show that he is still as snarky in the Afterlife as he always was.
    On August 6, 1171, Henry II returned to England for the first time since the murder of Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral. He did not linger for long. After paying a dutiful courtesy call upon the dying Bishop of Winchester, the scheming brother of King Stephen, who’d lost his sight and gained a conscience in his last years, and who was said to have lectured Henry for the part he’d played in Becket’s death, Henry sailed for Ireland, where he lay low waiting for the furor over Becket’s killing to die down. He would return to England in April, 1172, which also marked the beginning of Devil’s Brood.
    On August 6, 1195, Heinrich der Lowe—Henry the Lion—the former Duke of Saxony and Bavaria died. He was the husband of Henry and Eleanor’s daughter Matilda (Tilda in my books to avoid a surfeit of Matildas) and was buried at her side. Their daughter Richenza was a character in Devil’s Brood and Lionheart and again in A King’s Ransom, along with her brother Otto, both of whom were very close to their uncle Richard. I really liked Richenza and not just because she was the only Richenza in any of my books!

  46. skpenman Says:

    I want to thank all of you who asked Amazon to tell Priscilla Royal’s publisher that you wanted to read the first book in her medieval mystery series, Wine of Violence, as a Kindle. For reasons that still puzzle us, it was suddenly banished from the Amazon mother ship as an e-book. This is always frustrating for writers; I can speak from experience here, remembering how long it took for my novels to be offered as Kindles on Amazon.uk. But score one for readers and writers, for Wine of Violence is once more available as a Kindle on Amazon!
    Since I am so far behind in my Today in Medieval History posts for the month of August, I just picked a date at random for today.

    On August 14, 1040, King Duncan of Scotland was killed in battle against Macbeth, who would rule Scotland for the next seventeen years and would be unlucky enough to attract the attention of an Elizabethan playwright named Shakespeare. The result would be a great play, but not an accurate portrayal of the flesh and blood Macbeth. When the truth comes up against genius, the latter usually prevails, as the victim of another immortal Shakespearean play can testify.

    On August 14, 1473, Margaret Pole, daughter of George, Duke of Clarence, and Isabel Neville, was born. She would later wed the Earl of Salisbury and meet a gruesome death at the age of 68, brutally executed by Henry VIII’s axman on a trumped-up charge of treason. Her judicial murder was one of the darker stains on the Tudor record; she would later be beatified as a martyr by the Roman Catholic Church. Hazel Pierce has written a biography of this interesting woman, Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury, 1473-1541.

    And on August 14, 1479, Catherine of York, the sixth daughter of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville was born. She would later wed Edward Courtenay, son and heir of the Earl of Devon; widowed at 31, she took a vow of chastity and—unlike another king’s daughter, John’s daughter Eleanor (My Nell in Falls the Shadow)—Catherine would hold to hers, dying in 1527.

    Then, on August 14, 1561, Mary Queen of Scots left her beloved France for her alien homeland, Scotland. As we all know, this would not end well. I think Mary never met a bad decision she did not run to embrace, so she has never been a favorite of mine. But nevertheless, there is something sad about this date, as the young, naïve queen sails off to her new life, doubtless with a mixture of unease and excitement. I think Margaret George does a fine job of bringing Mary to life in her novel, Mary Queen of Scots.

  47. skpenman Says:

    I always write something about Richard III on the anniversary of his death at Bosworth. I owe Richard a great deal; if I’d not become fascinated with his story, I’d probably have continued to practice law until I finally cracked and ran screaming for the hills. I think yesterday was the first time that I’ve missed doing a Bosworth post, though I do have an excuse, another nasty flareup of back pain that has kept me off the computer this week. For many years, an In-Memoriam message was placed for Richard in the New York Times and the Times of London on August 22nd. I am not sure if this is still being done; does anyone know? Richard will never escape from Shakespeare’s shadow, but at least he has not been forgotten.
    Another historical figure who deserves to be remembered is William Wallace, who was put to death in the most brutal manner possible—drawn and quartered—on August 23, 1305, after being charged with treason by Edward I. And as if that were not bad enough, he’d later be played by Mel Gibson in Braveheart.
    And on August 23, 1358, Isabella of France, queen of Edward II, lover of Roger Mortimer, and mother of Edward III, died at Hertford Castle; she was 63 and had been in poor health for a while. She asked to be buried in her wedding mantle and with the heart of her husband, Edward II. Our Edwardian expert, Kathryn Warner, is one of those who have cast doubts upon whether Edward really died at Berkeley Castle as reported. I do find it strange that Edward’s half-brother, the Earl of Kent, tried to free him three years after his death had been announced, paying for that abortive rescue mission with his own life. So he must have believed that Edward was still alive. But I just don’t know enough about that era of British history to draw conclusions of my own.
    And the notorious St Bartholomew’s Day massacre began in Paris on the night of August 23rd, 1572; thousands of French Huguenots were slain before the madness stopped. My favorite French king, Henri of Navarre, the future Henri IV, escaped being murdered because of his new bride, Marguerite de Valois, sister of the ruling French king; Henri would later convert to Catholicism to gain the French crown and is famously said to have quipped, “Paris is worth a Mass.” Some historians have questioned whether he really said that, but it certainly sounds like him. If only I had nine lives like a cat, I’d have loved to tell Henri’s story. C.W. Gortner dramatizes the St Bartholomew’s Day massacre in his novel, The Confessions of Catherine de Medici, who was Marguerite’s mother.

  48. Sharon K Penman Says:

    I hope all of my American readers and friends are enjoying the Labor Day holiday and that it is a nice weekend in the UK, which I think is enjoying a bank holiday. Please pray for the people in the Bahamas, now experiencing the worst of Dorian’s wrath, and for others unlucky enough to be in its path. My chiropractor says my back injury should have improved enough to allow me to use the computer again this week. Meanwhile, I’ll cut and paste an old post about the historical events for tomorrow’s date.

    On September 2nd in 31 BC, the battle of Actium was fought in the Ionian Sea between the fleets of Octavian and Antony and Cleopatra. Antony’s crews were already undermanned because of a malaria epidemic and his chances were certainly not helped when one of his general s defected to Octavian with his battle plan. When Cleopatra fled, he concluded all was lost and followed. They both escaped, but they were already on borrowed time and I suspect they knew it. Octavian is one of those historical figures who seem to have had ice rather than blood flowing through their veins, but to his credit, he did his best to save the men on the burning ships. This is not at all medieval, of course, but who isn’t interested in the death throes of the Roman Republic and the enigma that was Cleopatra? Margaret George has written an excellent novel about Cleopatra and Michelle Moran has written one about the fates of Cleopatra and Antony’s children, Cleopatra’s Daughter.

    On September 2nd, 1192, the Third Crusade came to an end with a peace treaty between Saladin and Richard I. It was actually a truce, to last for three years and eight months, and Richard hoped to come back and fulfill his vow to retake Jerusalem. But he’d not bargained upon his German captivity. One of the first things he did upon regaining his freedom was to send a message to his nephew, Henri of Champagne, assuring him that he still intended to return, but it was not to be. He spent the last five years of his life in a bitter war with the French king, unable to leave his lands for another crusade. And of course peace in the Middle East was as elusive and ephemeral then as it remains today. But on that September day 820 years ago, there was genuine joy that the war was over. Baha al-Din, a member of Saladin’s inner circle, reported that “It was a day of rejoicing. God alone knows the boundless joy of both peoples.”

    And lastly, another non-medieval event—on September 2, 1666, the Great Fire of London started. It would burn for four days, and destroyed all of the medieval sections of the city. While the casualties were surprisingly light for a catastrophe of this magnitude, the damage was extensive. Over 13,000 houses and 80 parish churches were burned, including the great cathedral of St Paul’s, scene of some dramatic episodes in my novels. Human nature being what it is, the panicked people looked for scapegoats and there were lynchings of French and Dutch immigrants. The Museum of London has an inter-active scale model of 17th century London, showing the path of the fire, which broke out in a bakery shop. It also has a website devoted to the fire, but it is aimed at a student audience. Here is a link to a BBC radio program about the fire that is quite interesting. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00ft63q

  49. Sharon K Penman Says:

    I want to explain the reason for my latest disappearing act. A few weeks ago, I took a bad fall in my back yard. My motion sensor light had stopped working and I don’t do well in coal-mine darkness.

  50. skpenman Says:

    A quick note since I am still having to limit my computer time as I heal. Some of you were kind enough to alert me that my personal Facebook page was hacked, and yes, I put the curse of the cat people on the culprit. I have changed my password, of course, but I wanted to warn you all that if you get a friend request from me, delete it. Fortunately, you guys seem very savvy about such things, so I am sure that is what you’ve already done. And I have good news for those of you who share my love of David Blixt’s writing. David’s latest novel is a fascinating account of the life of one of history’s more intriguing women, Nellie Bly, and for this weekend only, you can buy the Kindle edition for only $0.99. Here is the link below. If you have not read any of David’s books yet, you are in for such a treat. But plan on letting real life come to a screeching halt while you are immersed in one of his fictional worlds. I was so engrossed in Master of Verona that I did not even notice when our plane encountered severe turbulence as we prepared to land at Denver’s airport. Most of the other passengers on board probably headed for the closest bar to steady their shredded nerves, but my main concern was having to tear myself away from medieval Italy, at least long enough to get to my hotel. So you’ve been warned!
    https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07K5QK6NR/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&linkCode=sl1&tag=blixt44-20&linkId=c7c00661e42013a42a6e9a6c70a8ea6d&language=en_US

  51. Teka Lynn Says:

    Get well soon, Sharon!

  52. Joan Says:

    I’m sorry to hear this Sharon. It sounds nasty. Best wishes for a quick recovery!

  53. skpenman Says:

    Thanks, Teka and Joan. I think I am finally on the mend. Here is my Facebook post for today.

    I am very happy to report that my chiropractor and I are finally winning the war against my recalcitrant body parts, mainly the hip and knee. I’ve really missed visiting you all on Facebook, and am optimistic about making much more frequent visits as the calendar turns to my favorite season and my favorite month. A quick note about The Land Beyond the Sea; I hope to be able to show you the British book cover very soon. They are perfecting it at the moment, so I have to wait till I get the okay from my editor at Macmillan. I can say it is very dramatic. I am so lucky that both of my LBS covers are ones I really like. Sadly, that was not always the case over the years. One day I’ll have to do a post about cover horror stories, both for me and writer friends.
    I am also about to renovate and update my website, which has been long covered in cyberspace cobwebs. I was wondering if you guys had any ideas about what you’d like to see on the new website. Are there any features you like on other websites that you’d like to see incorporated on mine, too? I’d love to get your feedback on this as we go forward with the renovations.
    I hope all of my friends and readers in the UK are not too badly affected by the current stormy weather. Photos of the flooding are very scary. Now I will close with one of my Today in History posts, which I’ve missed doing.
    A mixed bag for September 29th in history. In 1227, the pope excommunicated the Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick II, son of Constance de Hauteville and the unloved and unlovable Heinrich von Hohenstaufen. It was a bit embarrassing since he was on crusade at the time, but Frederick liked nothing better than embarrassing the Church; he was excommunicated at least four times if my memory serves and one pope even called him “the Anti-Christ,” which probably amused him greatly.
    And in 1328, Joan, Countess of Kent and future Princess of Wales was born. She would marry Edward, the Prince of Wales, and was the mother of a king, Richard II. She and her husband also have two of the coolest medieval nicknames: the Fair Maid of Kent and the Black Prince, although neither one was contemporary.
    In 1547, the brilliant Spanish author of Don Quixote, Miguel de Cervantes was born. Did anyone see the film with Peter O’Toole and Sophia Loren, The Man of La Mancha? It did not get good reviews at the time, but I really liked it. And in 1564, the love of Elizabeth Tudor’s life, Robert Dudley, became Earl of Leicester. I think another Earl of Leicester, Simon de Montfort, had a far more forceful personality than Elizabeth’s Robin, but Dudley did manage to banish Simon’s shadow from Kenilworth Castle, which now seems very much a part of the Tudor past.

  54. skpenman Says:

    Thank you all for the kind thoughts and sympathy in response to yesterday’s post. I am delighted to be able to reward you with good news—at least for my fellow Bernard Cornwell fans. He has a new Uhtred novel coming out! My British readers and friends will be able to get it on October 3rd, while in America, you’ll have to wait till late November. Unless you want to buy an audio book edition, for Amazon starts selling that on the 3rd, too. Here is the link.
    https://www.amazon.com/Sword-Kings-Novel-Saxon-Tales-ebook/dp/B07N7G4CHZ/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1569878476&sr=1-1

  55. Teka Lynn Says:

    I remember my first sight of Sunne in Splendour was the UK paperback in the British Museum gift shop. The cover is very romantic, but since I was sixteen that did not put me off in the slightest! I still think it has a lovely simplicity to it, with young Anne and Richard on the front and the lonely circlet crown stabbed by the sword on the back.

  56. skpenman Says:

    I will be back later to do a Today in History post; I would hardly ignore Richard III’s birthday, would I? But right now I wanted to share some good news. I will be interviewing Judith Starkston on my blog sometime this month about her new novel. That is the good news. The really good news is that her novel, Priestess of Ishana is free on Amazon starting today through October 6th, so it’s an excellent time to start on her award-winning series. Judith’s historical fantasy is based on a forgotten Hittite queen who ruled for decades over one of the most powerful empires of the world and came up against Ramses II–the Pharaoh in the Exodus story. https://amzn.to/2DXpdXt

  57. skpenman Says:

    Well, I am late in posting about Richard III’s birthday, but since Richard had to wait over five hundred years to receive a proper burial, I think he’ll cut me a few days slack. Actually, October 2nd is an important date on the medieval calendar for several reasons. On this date in 1187, the city of Jerusalem surrendered to Saladin after Balian d’Ibelin convinced him to agree to a peaceful takeover rather than to take the city by storm as he’d vowed to do—vengeance for the blood bath staged by the men of the First Crusade when they captured Jerusalem in 1099. Balian saved thousands of lives and spared thousands from slavery when he persuaded Saladin to allow the people to ransom themselves; he also contributed greatly to Saladin’s reputation by keeping the sultan from carrying out that blood-vow. Had Saladin massacred the city’s inhabitants, it is unlikely that his legend would have burned so brightly, for one of the aspects of that legend was his generosity to fallen foes. Balian really deserves considerable credit for what he accomplished via pleading and threats, but history has generally ignored him. Well, he did attract the notice of Ridley Scott, but the director did him no favor, transforming one of the most powerful lords of Outremer into an illegitimate French blacksmith.

    Getting back to the last Plantagenet king, the future Richard III was born on October 2nd in 1452 at Fotheringhay Castle, better known as the site of Mary, Queen of Scots’ execution—but not to Ricardians, of course.

    And on October 2nd, 1470, Edward IV and Richard were forced to flee England when John Neville switched sides, declaring his loyalty to his brother, the Earl of Warwick. It had to be a great shock for Edward, going from King of England to fugitive in one dizzying turn of Fortune’s Wheel. And for his young brother Richard, it must have added insult to injury that this day of such desperation was his eighteenth birthday. As they sought refuge in Burgundy, few in England expected them to return. But it was always dangerous to underestimate Edward of York, who was at his best in adversity. He would defy all odds by coming back to reclaim his crown, and Richard would be at his side through it all, sharing betrayal, exile, and then the battles that would restore the House of York to power.

    And on October 2nd, 1501, Catherine of Aragon landed in Plymouth, England, as the promised bride of the young Tudor heir, Arthur. She would, of course, be widowed early, and eventually become the queen of Arthur’s brother, Henry. Yet another of those moments in history when I wish there was someone there to whisper in the lamb’s ear as she went blithely off to the slaughter—“Don’t do it, Catherine. Stay on the ship and sail back to Spain!”

    Today’s actual date, October 3rd is a very significant one in medieval Welsh history, for it was on this date in 1283 that Davydd ap Gruffydd, the last Prince of Wales, was executed by Edward I in the most brutal way possible. I will return tomorrow to write more about this, for October 4th was a slow news day in the MA.

  58. skpenman Says:

    I have more good news; my back may not need an exorcism, after all. This is a huge relief, for chiropractors are not renowned for that ability. Unfortunately, My British publisher now needs me to proofread and return the page proofs for The Land Beyond the Sea by October 17th. These are the times when I wonder why in the world I want to write 700 page books. I’ll continue to make appearances here, but they’re likely to be brief ones until the page proofs are done.
    Below is a rerun, an account of the barbaric execution of Davvyd ap Gruffydd that I posted here three years ago. This was one of the most challenging scenes I ever had to write; others include Henry II’s penance scene at Canterbury Cathedral and Richard III’s death at Bosworth. On October 3rd, 1283, Davydd ap Gruffydd, Llywelyn ap Gruffydd’s younger brother, was put to death by Edward I in the most brutal way possible—hanged, then cut down while he was still alive, then eviscerated and drawn and quartered. Davydd is sometimes said to be the first man to suffer this barbaric punishment, but there were at least two other cases in which this horrific penalty was imposed. But in Davydd’s trial and execution, we have the origins of the state trial. Waging war against the king was not a crime in medieval England, not until Edward chose to make it one, classifying it as high treason. Even so, he ordered no executions after Evesham, probably because almost all of Simon de Montfort’s supporters died on the field with him, but also because Davydd was more vulnerable than the de Montfort partisans, with no one to speak up for him. The author of The Law of Treason in England in the Middle Ages pointed out that “The king could make an example of Davydd with impunity.” And after his death, drawing and quartering became the standard form of execution for those convicted of high treason. Readers of Sunne may remember that the Earl of Somerset was very relieved when Richard told him after the battle of Tewkesbury that he and the others charged with treason would be beheaded, not drawn and quartered; the fourth Edward did not share the first Edward’s vindictive nature. Davydd claimed the title Prince of Wales after Llywelyn was slain in 1282, but he was overshadowed even in death by his more renowned brother, who is known in Wales as Ein Llyw Olaf—Our Last Leader.
    Davydd’s dreadful fate posed a challenge for me. I did not want to dwell upon his dying agonies and I doubted that my readers did, either; moreover, my mother vowed that she’d never forgive me if I did that. So I chose to write about his last hours, confined to a dungeon at Shrewsbury Castle, knowing what awaited him with the coming of dawn. In a way, this was even worse, though, for the suffering of the mind can be even more intolerable than the suffering of the body.
    The Reckoning. Page 563
    * * *
    His last meal lay untouched by the door. They’d given him a double helping of some sort of fish stew and a full flagon of ale—execution eve charity. He’d brought the flagon back to the bed, and he reached for it now, swallowed and grimaced at the flat, tepid taste. The cell was damp and chilly, but his tunic was splotched with sweat; although he could not remember his dream, he’d wager it held a gallows and a grave. But no….not a grave. Passing strange, for he’d not wanted to be buried in England and now Edward had seen to it. Even the Saracens did not deny a man decent burial. Only the most Christian King of England would think of that.
    He’d never doubted his courage, not ever. Until today, it had not even crossed his mind that his nerve might fail him. But how could flesh and blood and bone not shrink from such deliberately drawn-out suffering? How could he be sure that he’d be able to face it without flinching?
    He was not accustomed to asking hard questions; that had never been his way. But he’d had three months and more of solitary confinement, time in which he’d been forced to confront the consequences of his actions, after a lifetime of evading them. There was no room to run in a prison cell.
    He’d always gotten his strength from his utter confidence, from his faith in his own abilities. What could he fall back on now? The Almighty was said to be deaf to the prayers of an excommunicate. Even though he did not believe that God was on England’s side, divine mercy might well be as scarce as Edward’s. Those charges flung at him in the Chapter House were crimes only in English eyes, not in his. But he had no lack of sins to answer for, a lifetime’s worth if truth be told. How could he be sure that God would understand? Llywelyn never had.
    Omission
    Reaching for the flagon, he drank again. Well, if God would not get him through the morrow’s ordeal, that left only pride. He smiled bleakly at that, seeing the twisted humor in it. For if pride was to be his deliverance, it had also been his downfall. If not for pride and jealousy, would the bond between brothers have frayed so badly? If not for pride, it might have held fast—and Wales with it.
    Leaning back against the wall, he made a careless move, almost knocking the flagon over with his chain; he righted it just in time. “I’ll admit it,” he said. “I got more than I bargained for. But fair is fair, Llywelyn. Even you cannot deny that it is also more than I deserve.”
    He could not remember when he’d begun to talk to his brother. It had been a joke at first, a self-mocking attempt to deny his pain, and perhaps, too, an expression of his hunger to hear a voice, even his own, to escape the smothering burden of silence, for he’d never been utterly alone before, not like this. But although he jeered at his own need—telling himself that confiding in the dead offered distinct advantages over confessing to the living—it had given him an odd sort of comfort, and he was fast learning to take comfort anywhere he could find it.
    Omission
    He lay down on the blanket again, closed his eyes. But sleep wouldn’t come, and he swore suddenly, savagely. “So I lied, Llywelyn! Mayhap I do deserve it. Is that what you’d have me say? You want me to confess my sins? For that, I’d need more time than I’ve got, much more…..”
    He was lying again, though. There was time. So be it, then. Wales, the greatest casualty of his war. Just as Llywelyn had foreseen. “We’d become aliens in our own land,” he’d warned, “denied our own laws, our own language, even our yesterdays, for a conquered people are not allowed a prideful past. Worst of all, we’d be leaving our children and grand-children a legacy of misery and loss, a future bereft of hope.”
    More than a prophecy. An epitaph for Wales, for Llywelyn’s doomed principality. Davydd knew it had never been his, not truly. He’d ruled over a domain in its death throes. But if he could not be blamed for losing the war, he could be for starting it.
    Omission
    Elizabeth, I’m so sorry, lass, so sorry….His eyes were stinging, his breathing growing ragged and hurtful. Where was she? Still held at Rhuddlan Castle? What would happen to her now? Would Edward convent-cage her like Gwenllian and Gwladys? Or would he think it safer to shackle her with another wedding band? Marry her off to a man of his choosing, lock her away in some remote English keep until the world forgot about her, and she alone remembered that she’d once been the wife of a Welsh prince.
    He’d known, of course, that if he fell into English hands, he was a dead man. But he’d not expected Edward to take vengeance upon Elizabeth or his daughters. He’d thought his sons would be spared, too, that their youth would save them, for Owain was only three and Llelo five. The worst he’d feared was that they’d be taken as hostages, reared at the English court as he and Rhodri had been. Merciful Christ, if only he’d realized what Edward had intended!
    Omission
    Edward would never let them go. They would grow to manhood behind the walls of Bristol Castle. They would not know the joys and dangers and temptations that life could offer a man. They would learn naught of friendship or the urgency and sweetness of bedding a woman. They’d never have sons of their own. They would never see Wales again, and as their memories faded, they’d forget the world they’d known before Bristol Castle. They would forget him, forget Elizabeth, and not even know why they were doomed to live out their days as prisoners of an English king.
    * * *
    Davydd was executed the next morning and even his many enemies acknowledged that he died with courage. For some reason, that reminds me of dialogue from my favorite film, The Lion in Winter. Richard, Geoffrey, and John have been flung into a dungeon at Chinon by their father and they are awaiting their fate. Richard declares defiantly that he’ll not beg for his life. Geoffrey lashes out, calling his brother a prideful fool and saying it does not matter how a man falls. Richard looks at him and says that it matters when the fall is all there is. The wording might not be exact, but the sentiment is one I think Davydd would have agreed with.

  59. skpenman Says:

    I am still hard at work proof-reading the page proofs of The Land Beyond the Sea for my British publisher, Macmillan. These are the times when I vow to write shorter novels, but we know how that always turns out. I probably will be doing these hit and runs on Facebook until the October 17th deadline. Today I wanted to tell my Jewish friends and readers that I am thinking of them and so sorry that there has been yet another act of terror fueled by anti-Semitism; somehow, it seems even worse that it would take place on Yom Kipper. And I want to tell my friends in California to hang in there as they face the possibility of days without electricity; for those who’ve not heard, several California utilities are taking the unprecedented step of shutting down power to avoid sparking wildfires when power lines are brought down by high winds. Lastly, I would ask people of good will and faith to pray for the Kurds, who’ve long been a steadfast ally to the US. If I am able to make some progress on the proof-reading, I will be back tomorrow with a repeat of an interview I did a few years ago with Ken John, my friend and fellow writer, who also happens to be an agent provocateur and one of the funniest people on the planet.

  60. Joan Says:

    I’ve been praying for the Kurds since this latest of the devastating, non-ending insanity escalates.

  61. skpenman Says:

    October 10th is another slow history day. The Black Prince did wed the Fair Maid of Kent, but since neither of them has figured in any of my novels, I can’t muster up much enthusiasm for doing an entire Note about them. It is like inviting perfect strangers to be my houseguests, usually not a good idea. And for me, October 10th matters most as the entrance upon the world stage of my friend Paula Mildenhall. Happy Birthday, Paula!
    Now, as promised yesterday, here is a repeat post going back to 2012 (yikes) about the problems of dealing with strong-willed and arrogant fictional characters. Not all writers have this problem, of course. I once read an interview that Vladimir Nabokov gave to the Paris Review in which he was asked about a comment by E.M. Forester that his characters sometimes took over and dictated the course of his novels. Mr Nabokov rather snarkily replied that he’d only read one Forester novel and disliked it; he then went on to dismiss the idea as a trite whimsy and bragged that his own characters were all galley slaves. (He probably scared them into submission) No galley slaves in any of my books and I do a lot of moaning and groaning whenever Richard or Eleanor or John give me a hard time. But it is not just me. When Ken John is not chartering arks or exercising his superb talents as an agent provocateur on Facebook, he is writing a novel about a very interesting medieval lord, and according to his recent comments on my blog, the chivalrous and good-natured Othon has become as contrary as the Angevins. I asked Ken if I could share this with our Facebook friends and he kindly agreed. And so here are Ken and me struggling to keep our characters from staging a mutiny, every historical novelist’s secret fear—except for Vladimir Nabokov, of course.
    * * *
    ken john Says:
    October 7th, 2012 at 8:39 am
    1. Othon is fine and sends kisses. He’s actually lying on his back on the lawn with his hands behind his head and a piece of straw between his teeth, having just panned my attempt to write the battle of Lewes in 1265. After the battle Edward and Henry were made captive by Simon de Montfort, but Edward ordered Othon to escape with his Lusignan uncles, ensure that his wife Eleanor was protected and make his way to France to help Queen Eleanor raise an army.
    I thought my account was pretty good having followed all the latest expert opinions on the course of the battle and what preceded it, but Othon seems to think I haven’t made enough of his part in it and particularly his fighting prowess. When I point out that none of the accounts of the battle actually mention the presence of an Othon de Grandson, so I only have his (not always reliable) account of his bravery and fighting skills, he got all uppity, said I was a rubbish writer and why couldn’t he have found a ‘proper’ writer like Sharon to write his story, instead of me?
    So, he’s just lying around and I, instead of writing, am reading 1365 by Bernard Cornwell. Now there’s a man who can write a battle or two! Maybe I’ll pinch a few ideas, or is there a name for someone who does that?
    2. Sharon Kay Penman Says:
    October 7th, 2012 at 9:53 am
    Ken, I thought only my pushy Angevins were the sort to give a struggling writer grief, never would have expected that from the soul of chivalry like Othon. Clearly this attitude of entitlement harkens back to their disdain for us as mere scribes. I should warn you, too, that it is contagious. One day it is just Othon and Edward jerking your chain. The next it has spread to Eleanora and other major characters. I am currently being scolded by Berengaria of all people, who felt that I was portraying her as too slow to realize something had gone wrong in her marriage. There apparently is no cure for character hubris, either. Master Cornwell has an advantage over us, for if his people get too uppity, he can always threaten to let them die prematurely or unpleasantly. But that only works, obviously, if the characters are fictional. If they actually lived, they just sneer, knowing we are not writing alternate fiction.

    3. ken john Says:
    October 7th, 2012 at 10:06 am
    Oh, Edward has already had a go at me and Dafydd ap Gruffudd thinks I’m a wimp and a goody-two-shoes! Please do post it, I think Stephanie will have some fun with it!
    * * *
    Since this post is so old, I am counting on no one to remember it. BTW, nothing has changed. Our characters continue to give Ken and me all sorts of aggravation. Of course, Othon does have a legitimate excuse since he is still waiting for Ken to finish his story. (We are, too, Ken….hint, hint.) Now I am going back to the 12th century and the proof-reading that sometimes has me wondering if it really was so bad to be a lawyer.

  62. Sharon K Penman Says:

    I am happy and relieved to report that I was able to finish the page proofs for my British publisher, Macmillan, and I should soon be able to share with you their book cover for The Land Beyond the Sea. Plans are going ahead, too, to renovate and update my website; one of the changes will be sending out newsletters much more frequently. Now on to Today in Medieval History.
    On October 2st, in 1449, George of Clarence was born. What can we say about Brother George? I don’t know that he was the worst king’s brother in English history. I think that was John, for he not only attempted to steal Richard’s crown, he did his best to make sure that Richard ended up in a French dungeon, where death would have been a mercy. But George certainly made an unholy pest of himself and gave so much grief to his family and others in his 28 years that it may have been a blessing if he’d been one of those babies who did not survive the perils of a medieval childhood.
    I cannot say George was fun to write about, as some “villains” are. For example, I love writing about John. But George took himself very seriously, a character flaw in and of itself, and was always on the lookout for grievances to claim and then to nurture. I think he was a narcissist, for he certainly displayed many of the traits of one. He was boastful, lacked any empathy for others, always wanted to be the center of attention, was jealous and easily angered and took pleasure in petty cruelties. Even today, this form of mental illness is not easily treated; in the Middle Ages, of course, it could not even be properly diagnosed. Eventually, George paid a terrible price for his bad behavior, but in the interim, he inflicted some severe wounds upon his mother, his siblings, his wife, and any others unlucky to incur his wrath. See Chapter 9 of Book Three, page 746 of The Sunne in Splendour to meet a particularly tragic victim of his paranoia and vengefulness. (If you don’t remember Ankarette Twynyho, say so here and I will post about her tomorrow.)
    On to other historical happenings on this date. On October 21, 1204, Robert Beaumont, the fourth Earl of Leicester died. He was one of the heroes of the Third Crusade, a character in Lionheart and Ransom, who was very loyal to Richard and seems to have been well regarded by all but the French king. His marriage was childless, though, and upon his death, his earldom passed to his sisters, opening the door for a young French adventurer named Simon de Montfort to stake a claim to it twenty-some years later. My new book, The Land Beyond the Sea, even has a de Montfort connection; one of them traveled to the Holy Land and wed Balian d’Ibelin’s eldest daughter.

    And October 21, 1221 was the day that Alix de Thouars, the Duchess of Brittany, died in childbirth. The daughter of Constance of Brittany and her third husband, Guy de Thouars, Alix was only twenty or twenty-one at the time of her death, there being some confusion about her birth date. The birthing chamber was as dangerous for medieval women as the battlefield was for their men. I’ve written a number of childbirth scenes over the years and readers have occasionally asked me which one I found the most challenging. That is easy to answer—the harrowing chapter dramatizing the ordeal of Ellen de Montfort, wife to Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, as she struggled to give birth to their child. The Reckoning, Chapter 32.

  63. Danae Mackessy Says:

    https://freepeople.tech

  64. Sharon K Penman Says:

    I love to be able to share good news like this; I always am delighted to learn that a book I am interested in reading is suddenly available for a bargain price. This is true now for Priscilla Royal’s newest medieval mystery, The Twice-Hanged Man. You can buy the Kindle on Amazon for the rest of October for only $2.99. I think it is also available at a reduced price on Amazon.UK but I cannot verify that since they are now instituting a very annoying policy. When I visit Amazon.UK, they show no information about Kindles, just a snippy message saying I can buy Kindles on Amazon.com. Anyway, I know for sure that you can get it for a bargain price on Amazon. I really liked this book. I always like Priscilla’s mysteries since they are set in the MA and she is as obsessive-compulsive about research as I am.

  65. skpenman Says:

    Here is the post that I was unable to put up last night. I wouldn’t have wanted to be married to the man, but he’d have made a very interesting friend. And writing about him gives me an excuse to post a scene about Henry and Eleanor; I do miss writing about them.
    October 22, 1071 was the birthday of Guillaume or William, the 9th Duke of Aquitaine, often called the Troubadour Duke; he was famous for his often bawdy poetry, and would in time become even more famous as the grandfather of Eleanor of Aquitaine. The following is a scene from Saints, set on Henry and Eleanor’s wedding night. They are having supper in bed after consummating their marriage and she has just revealed to her new husband that her parents had not been happy together.
    Saints, pages 645-646
    * * *
    “……I can understand why they were loath to wed. It had created enough of a scandal when my grandfather carried off the wife of one of his own vassals. But then to marry his son to that woman’s daughter—you can well imagine the gossip that stirred up!”
    Henry sat up so abruptly that he almost spilled his wine. “Did I hear you right? Your grandfather was having a tryst with Aenor’s mother?”
    “Not just a tryst, Harry. A notorious dalliance. The lady, who had the remarkably apt name of Dangereuse, was wed to a neighboring lord, the Viscount of Chatellerault. My grandfather always did have a roving eye, and he never seemed to see marriage as much of a hindrance—his or anyone else’s.”
    (omission)
    “But Dangereuse was different, not a passing fancy?”
    “More like a grand passion. My grandmother Philippa had put up with his straying as best she could, but his infatuation with Dangereuse could not be ignored, for after he wooed her away from her husband, he brought her right under his roof, settled her here in the Maubergeon Tower. When my grandfather refused to send Dangereuse away, Philippa left him. She retired to Fontevrault Abbey, where—as unlikely as it seems—she became good friends with Grand-papa Will’s first wife, Ermengarde, who dwelt at the nunnery whenever the whim took her. Imagine the conversations they must have had on those long winter nights!”
    “I’m still mulling over the fact that your grandfather was having an affair with his son’s mother-in-law!” Henry said with a grin. “It is not as if I come from a line of monks myself. My own grandfather could have populated England with all his by-blows. But I have to admit that this grandfather of yours seems to have had a truly spectacular talent for sinning. What did the Church say about these scandalous goings-on?”
    “Oh, he was often at odds with the Church, but it never bothered him unduly. In truth, Harry, nothing did. He liked to scandalize and shock people, but there was no real malice in him. As you may have guessed, I adored him. Most people did, for he had more charm than the law should allow. (omission) What I remember most is his laughter and I suspect that is what truly vexed his enemies, that he got so much fun out of life. He could find a joke in the most dire circumstances, as his songs attest. That shocked people, too, that a man so highborn would write troubadour poetry, but he enjoyed it and so what else mattered?”
    Henry brushed back her hair. “Tell me more,” he urged, and she shivered with pleasure as he kissed the hollow in her throat.
    “Well….Grandpapa Will painted an image of Dangereuse on his shield, saying he wanted to bear her in battle, just as she’d so often borne him in bed. He liked to joke that one day he’d establish his own nunnery—and fill it with ladies of easy virtue. And when he was rebuked for not praying as often as he ought, he composed a poem: ‘O Lord, let me live long enough to get my hands under her cloak.’”
    Henry gave a sputter of laughter. “Between the two of us, we’ve got a family tree rooted in Hell! Once Abbot Bernard learns of our marriage, he’ll have nary a doubt that our children will have horns and cloven hooves.”
    “The first one born with a tail, we’ll name after the good abbot.”
    * * *
    The rest of the scene is R-rated, as Henry and Eleanor found more interesting things to do than discuss their relatives. Now that we know Eleanor was actually born in 1124, not 1122, it is not likely that she had any memories of Duke William, as he died in 1127. But we know that her sons took pride in boasting of their notorious ancestress, the Demon Countess of Anjou, so I think we can safely say that Eleanor would have been equally proud of her scandalous, pleasure-loving grandfather

  66. skpenman Says:

    It is hard to think of medieval happenings when so many of our fellow Americans are under siege. I hope that all of my California readers are safe. So far, my friends seem to be okay, although several had to evacuate their home in Northern California yesterday for some scary hours. Each day seems to bring more bad news. Today they had to close part of the 405 freeway, which must have resulted in instant gridlock for thousands of unlucky drivers. The world-famous Getty Museum is threatened, too, although the museum people insist their artworks are safer where they are because of the high-tech protection. I so hope they are right. For those who want to help Californians who’ve lost their homes, the Salvation Army is usually a good choice. People who’ve never experienced anything like this cannot imagine how horrific it is. Here are some stunning, terrifying photos of the fires this weekend, which show yet again the incredible courage of firefighters.
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/the-scene-as-a-fast-moving-wildfire-ignites-in-northern-california-wine-country/2019/10/24/43b04934-f65c-11e9-ad8b-85e2aa00b5ce_gallery.html

  67. skpenman Says:

    Happy Halloween, everybody! Please keep sending your prayers and good wishes for our California brethren, millions of whom are still living under siege. I wanted to remind my readers that there is still time to buy Priscilla Royal’s latest medieval mystery, The Twice-Hanged Man, on Amazon at a bargain price for the ebook, just $2.99. But I think the bargain turns into a pumpkin at midnight. I also wanted to let readers know that Margaret George’s compelling second novel about Nero, The Splendor Before the Dark, is now available in paperback, too. And of course we have a treat coming at Thanksgiving in the US—the publication of the latest Uhtred adventure by Bernard Cornwell, Sword of Kings; it is already for sale in the UK.

  68. Sharon K Penman Says:

    Sorry for another long absence, but after months of reasonably good behavior, Mischief, my main laptop, has gone over to the Dark Side. She’s crossed that border before, but this time I think she plans to take up permanent residence. My other laptop, Miscreant, is strictly a backup and my fellow football fans know it rarely turns out well when the backup has to come off the bench and replace the star starter QB—unless, of course, that QB happens to be named Nick Foles. So I had to buy a new laptop, but they cannot set it up and transfer files, etc, till next week. I’ll muddle along with Mischief till then, though I think her name is probably too benign in light of her sabotage; Malice might fit better. That was my bad news. My good news is that I got the okay from my British editor to reveal their cover for The Land Beyond the Sea. I think it is spectacular. As you all know, I love the Putnam’s cover, too. Aside from a few memorable mishaps, I’ve been lucky with my book covers over the years. I hope you like the cover as much as I do. Of course, I cannot post the photo on Goodreads or on my blog page. I was hoping I could direct you to Amazon.UK so you could see it there, but they have not yet displayed the cover. So until they do, you’ll have to make do with my Facebook pages.

  69. Sharon K Penman Says:

    I am still fighting with my rogue computer, Mischief/Malice, and so far, she is winning; her latest ploy has been to sabotage the keyboard. Tuesday (and the new laptop) cannot come soon enough. I did want to stop by, though, hoping that those of you in the path of US and UK storms are dealing with them safely. And I also wanted to let Ricardian readers know Anne Easter Smith has written another book in her series about the Wars of the Roses. As many of you probably know, I do not read other writers’ novels about historical figures who are close to my heart, and that certainly includes Richard III, who saved me from having to practice law.

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