The Northumbrian Saga follows the life of Aethelwin, a fictional niece of King Osbert of Northumbria and Aelle the usurper of the Northumbrian throne. Whilst these two men were real figures in Northumbrian history, there is one more member of … Continue reading
As part of my plans of outlining aspects of early medieval life I was going to write a post on Trade. In The Northumbrian Saga, Leodgar and Aethelwin are both traders of Anglo-Saxon Northumbria and with the invasion of the Vikings comes a whole new orbit of trade and trade partners, including Thorstein. As usual I ended up with more information than I knew what to do with and when I re-read my notes that I had made from the amazing Regia Anglorum site, I realised that I would be saying pretty much the same thing. So instead of plagiarising and copying word for word what has already been written, I have added a short extract with a link for further information. It really is a great site so check it out.
In the early middle ages, as in other periods of history, trade was an important part of life. If a farmer had a surplus of livestock or produce, he would take it to the nearest market and exchange it for any one of the many things that would be needed around the farm: iron, salt, lead, hone and building stone, wine, fish, flax, antler, etc.. Common sense shows us that many commodities were unavailable on the ‘average’ estate, whether it was in Britain, Ireland or Scandinavia. Some of these things could only be found in a few areas. A class of professionals soon appeared who would carry these commodities from their place of origin to the markets – the merchants.
Some of the commodities traded in the early middle ages did not have to travel far, for example fish. Most had to make a longer journey, such as the iron mined in Kent and the Forest of Dean, the lead mined in Bristol, or the salt obtained from pans in Droitwich and Cheshire. More ‘exotic’ items came from overseas, including quern-stones from the Rhineland that have been found in York…
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Welcome to Part two of the history of Lindisfarne. If you have missed the first part in which Lindisfarne was founded and became a religious, cultural and scholarly mecca, you can read the article here. Unfortunately for Lindisfarne, its rise … Continue reading
In the early 7th century, the death of King Edwin caused the kingdom of Northumbria to split amongst rival groups. This weakened state made it easier for Cadwallon the King of Gweynedd (northern Wales) to attack the land and under … Continue reading
Summer, twilight, 1890: A man paces through an English seaside town. His long legs move briskly, alive with the thrill of the new discovery that propels him homeward to his writing desk. Bram’s mind ran through the scene he had … Continue reading
After covering farming and domestic buildings, royal estates and halls, this month we will move on to Churches and Monastic complexes. Many of the towns and cities all around England started either as religious centres or else satellite villages and … Continue reading
Whilst most of you are in the northern hemisphere enjoying blissful days of summer sunshine, here in Australia it is decidedly arctic. Well, for me it is anyway and I know a few of my friends feel the same. Winter has arrived and I have spent the better part of the last few weeks spending my evenings rugged up on the couch with a blanket and a hot cup of either tea or coffee. I even saw a photo from a friend in the south west whose children had built a mini “frostman” on the bonnet of her car, complete with twig arms and eyes. Now it doesn’t actually snow in Western Australia (with the rare exception every few years of Bluff Knoll in the Stirling Ranges down near Albany), and the lowest night time temperature for my area of the world has been -4 (for like an hour or so). Mostly it averages 18 degrees celsius during the day (a balmy spring day for you?) and today it is around 14 degrees. I know I am whinging, I have spent three winters in the northern hemisphere (one even in Mongolia and Siberia) so I know what cold feels like, but it is still too cold for this Aussie! Cold enough to sit inside all rugged up with my laptop and my writing.
So, The Captive King novella is around 18 000 words at the moment, which i’m OK with. It is still growing slowly and I think I am still on track to get this finished before the end of the year but my main goal at the moment is to get the TNS sequel up to standard.
TNS2 is doing a lot better at 72 000 words. I think in the last week or so I have had a bit of a break through with it and I can start to see the light at the end. Only a few chapters to go (I am so close to only having three chapters left to fix) and I can start getting into the major edits again. Story arcs and characters are beginning to be more cohesive and make more sense now so that has encouraged me a bit too. I guess it has taken a bit of a stumble since I decided to cut the book in half and add more major scenes to what I had hoped was the first draft, but that is the name of the game I guess and the major reason why I wanted to self publish in the first place. Being able to tell the tale that I wanted as well as having the luxury (because it really is a luxury) to spend more time writing and editing than would be allowed with a traditional publisher is very important to me. I’m pretty sure if I was traditionally published they would want me to be doing the final line edits by now and would even be having some serious doubts about signing me on for book 3 (let’s be honest, they probably wouldn’t sign me up at this rate). I just have to keep telling myself that this is not a race, that if I really want to improve my writing and do the best job I can possibly achieve, then I should take my time.
In other news of the writing kind I have joined in with another very fun blog tour about our main characters. I have enjoyed hearing about what people have thought about Aethelwin, the main character in TNS1, and I thought that this would be a good opportunity to write my own thoughts on her. I have a bit of a soft spot for Aethelwin and I guess a lot of that comes from her being my own creation, but I also really like her as a character. As I explained in the post she is NOT your typical heroine. She is strong and very opinionated and at times even I was a bit worried that she was treading too fine a line between being likeable and being a misguided … brat. But to me that is what I find fascinating in a character; realistic flaws that go beyond black and white. Strength comes in many different forms and with Aethelwin I wanted to find out when strength or fighting for something you believe in starts to turn sour and makes you into a villain. That isn’t to say she is a villain necessarily, but like the rest of us she makes mistakes and wrong choices. She also makes a small come back in the sequel and I have actually just finished a scene with her in it. It’s been a tough ol’ life for Aethelwin and I think she has finally come to terms with her demons.
And if you are a regular to the blog you will have also noticed that since the beginning of the year I have been posting a bit about Anglo-Saxon buildings and architecture. From the houses of the farmers to the great halls of kings I have tried to find out as much as possible from my own books and on the internet in order to give you a little idea of Aethelwin’s world, and in the process show you that despite being called the dark ages this time period is far from barbaric or rudimentary. This month I have posted a few examples about early churches and monasteries and in next week’s post i’ll go a little into the building of these. Next month I hope to have the last few posts on Anglo-Saxon buildings up, including defensive burhs and trading wics. I also have a few other articles all ready and waiting to go up such as King Alfred, the Viking King Guthrum (baptised as King Aethelstan of East Anglia), and their pact of peace which would eventually lead to the creation of what historians now call the Danelaw.
The history of Jedburgh especially in the middle and late Medieval period and beyond is fascinating. Being only 12 miles north west of the present English border, like many towns in the borderlands it has found itself caught up with the constant fighting between England and Scotland. The tug of war between the two sides is a well known topic of history that is still felt keenly even today. I don’t have the time or space to go into an in-depth look at Jedburgh’s history during this period and I don’t pretend to know more than the basics anyway, so hopefully you will all forgive me for glossing over this time period quickly. My main interest after all is the Jedburgh, or more accurately the two Jedburgh’s of the 9th century. Continue reading
This week I am involved in another blog tour, this time looking at the main character of my novel. I was invited to join by Edoardo Albert, author of many fiction and non-fiction books including “Northumbria: The Lost Kingdom” which … Continue reading
Scottish Gaelic: Maol Ros Melrose Abbey is one of those beautiful medieval monastic ruins that bring to mind images of Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights. Or perhaps it is this Scottish abbey’s long association with Robert the Bruce and Sir … Continue reading