9th April BREATH OF GAIA PAPERBACK LAUNCH: SUNDAY 14TH APRIL!
Hurrah! At long last, Book 2 of The Lay of Angor is out in paperback - and in lieu of the cancelled Palm Sunday event last month, (where it was scheduled for launch), it's coming out into the world this weekend instead. I'm selling signed first editions for £5 at The Crooked Billet, Saxton, on Sunday from 12 noon - 4 pm in the Frei Compagnie camp on the field, where we're appearing as part of the Friends of Lead Church/Churches Conservation Trust Open Day. And if you're looking for a real bargain, you can buy Books 1 and 2 together for the knock-down price of £8 - saving nearly 50% of the RRP of £7.99 each! (If you can't make the launch, UK customers can email me to order a signed copy at £7.50 inc p+p... or overseas customers can buy direct from York Publishing Services.)
I'm really looking forward to it - it'll be our first event of the season, and as well as the book launch, we'll be setting up our usual little living history camp with medieval crafts, foods, costume, weaponry and have-a-go archery (the pic below shows Alex at 'Camp Doggett' at a previous Open Day event). There'll also be guided tours of St Mary's chapel, and kiddies' brass-rubbing - so plenty for the whole family to enjoy (not to mention the Billet's scrummy food!) - and the long-range weather forecast even suggests we might get a fine day...
Meanwhile it's been a busy time for Herstory on the writing front. The discovery of Richard III's remains in Leicester kicked off a lot of ideas; and as well as a couple of blog items on HelenRaeRants!, my piece on King Richard's associations with various sites in Yorkshire has just appeared in the April edition of Yorkshire Ridings Magazine. I also wrote an article for the Spring issue of the Towton Herald on Richard in life and death, which I've just shared on the Articles page... it includes a couple of the University of Leicester's copyright images of Richard's scoliotic spine and the horrendous injuries to his skull, together with my own reconstruction (based on watching the Frei Compagnie's swordsmen in action) of the possible sequence of events immediately prior to his death. My next assignment was another piece for Yorkshire Ridings Magazine, this time on the work of Towton Battlefield Society... and of course I'm still plugging on with Lay of Angor Book 3! I'm now up to Chapter 13, although it's progressing rather slowly at the moment - partly due to Henry Wowler, our solar-powered cat-pal, who is currently so full of the joys of spring that he keeps dragging me away from my crack-of-dawn writing sessions to play with him (just like he did as a kitten). But I'm also wrestling with a Really Important bit... the start of things reaching a major crisis point in Gondarlan, with plot-lines I sowed in Book 1 taking off in a big way. I'm finding it very exciting - I've had some of the impending scenes in my head for literally years and can't wait to finally commit them to keyboard... but nervewracking too, as I have to be consistent and make sure the time-lines all tie up correctly to fit with Breath of Gaia. Still, I'm getting there, slowly but surely... and hoping Wolfsbane will be out on Kindle at least by the end of this year!
Wind is tough to cope with on events... and I'm not talking about the consequences of the Friar Tuck's (sorry, I mean Frei Compagnie's) lavish feasting! Everything becomes much harder work when you're battling with blustery conditions - like we were yesterday, when our 2013 event season belatedly got under way at the Crooked Billet. At least the wind was warm... but that was scant consolation when, just as we'd finished setting up, it blew into such a gale that we had to hang on desperately to the kitchen awning to stop it flying away; and I didn't even have chance to photograph Stuart (Lord Clifford) Ivinson's lovely new pavilion before it got blown down altogether, scattering his freshly-laid-out display to be wetted in a (mercifully brief) lashing of rain. And then the archery net blew down. Tempers (and
tent ropes!) were starting to fray a little as we thought we were about to be defeated again by the wretched weather... but luckily the wind subsided enough for us to safely continue, the threatening clouds (see pic above) held on to their rain, visitors did come, and we had a very pleasant day - including raising £25 in have-a-go archery takings to donate to the Friends of Lead Church. We had a big team on site and a pretty impressive range of activities to show. As ever, the kitchen was a great focal point both for us and for the public - just look at that spread (below right)! Our authentic 15th-century recipes included
frumenty made with pearl barley, spinach and cheese tart, pork and raisin rolls and green salads, with new member Howard Atkin's freshly-baked bread and Alex's home-churned butter; and for dessert, egg custard and rice/almond tarts made by our lordly members Mark and Su Harrison, pears poached in wine syrup, hippocras, (sweet spiced wine), and dates stuffed with marzipan. All delicious stuff - medieval people who could afford it certainly ate well, and our table reflects the sort of higher status diet that the wealthier would have enjoyed. We also had plenty to offer on the military side with comprehensive weaponry displays, Des and Hannah (below centre) going bang with a splendid range of guns, and another newcomer to the group, artist and illustrator Wayne Reynolds, giving the first public airing to the magnificent kit he'd planned to show off at Towton - there he is below left, with Rob Atkin, and below right in his lovely shiny dent-free new armour. I'd hoped to give that a more 'lived-in' look by lobbing a few red-heads at him... but alas, the wind remained too strong to safely shoot at a live target! Needless to say, it dropped (and the sun came out) while we were recovering in the pub afterwards, and we emerged to a perfectly lovely spring evening (typical!)... so fingers crossed for equally fine weather for our next appearance: a multi-period celebration for St George's Day at the Rugby Ground, Scatcherd Lane, Morley, on Sunday 21st April.
Tomorrow, 23rd April, is St George's Day. St George was adopted as England's patron saint after Henry V's victory at Agincourt in 1415 - but he had been revered in this country and abroad for centuries before that. George is believed to have been born in Cappadocia (in what is now Turkey) c. AD 280, and to have served as a cavalry officer in the Roman army - where he established a reputation for valour and virtue - under the Emperor Diocletian. Having converted to Christianity, he bravely opposed Diocletian's persecution of Christians, and his defiance of the Emperor led to his own imprisonment, torture and ultimately his execution near Lydda in Palestine on 23rd April, AD 303. His body is said to be buried at St George's Church in Lydda, but his head was taken to Rome and preserved in a church dedicated to him, and he was subsequently beatified by the Roman Catholic Church.
St George is venerated in the Russian and Greek Orthodox Churches, but he was of course also an inspiration for English Crusaders, and the Order of the Garter created by King Edward III was dedicated to him (as well as the Virgin Mary and Edward the Confessor). So our patron saint occupies a great and noble place in English history, and yesterday the Frei Compagnie was honoured to celebrate his Day by taking part in the annual St George's Day Festival in Morley. The Festival is presented by the Royal Society of St George (Leeds Branch), a non-political organisation founded in 1894, whose objectives are to foster the love of England and its links with the Commonwealth by celebrating English history, traditions and ideals; to preserve the memory of everyone who has served England; to further English everywhere; and to ensure that St George's Day is properly celebrated - which is where we came in! Frei Co member Kevin Morley has organised the living history show at Morley's
Rugby Ground for a number of years, and this is the third time we've taken part in it - with our biggest, best team and show ever. We had the Battlefield Society merchandise tent; our usual sumptuous kitchen presided over by Alex; Des, Steve and Hannah with the armoury and big guns; master bowyer Dave with his impressive array of crossbows and other weapons, Lady Frances with her big posh pavilion; and Wayne, who (surprise, surprise) turned out to be a real crowd-magnet with his shiny new armour. Kevin (as usual) led the parade as St George on his white horse, followed by our squad of lads above who joined the British Army, veterans, cadets and re-enactors to march through the centre of Morley watched by an estimated 11,000 people! Then it was back to the field for an afternoon of exciting multi-period action with 14th, 15th, 17th and 20th century (WW2) re-enactors: a 14th century tourney; medieval equestrian skills, including a joust; Des's firepower show; Civil War and Second World war soldiers; and a very noisy, smoky battle finale between Allied and German troops (we won, naturally!):
L - R: Stuart Ivinson, Mick Doggett, Rob Atkin, Mick Weaver and Dave Moss prepare to march off for the parade
Kevin gets ready to joust... ...an Allied mortar squad in action.... ...and 'Crossbow Dave's' wares!
So it was a great day all round, and trememdous fun to take part in, with scope for plenty of inter-period amusement - on the right you can see Fran fraternising with sundry stormtroopers (trust her to pinch the Jedi's light-sabre!). We even had decent weather, with the obligatory pack-down shower holding off until everyone except poor Kevin had gone home... so I hope we'll be back again next year, and in the meantime wish you all a very happy St George's Day tomorrow.
On a different tack, if you're looking for something to do in Wakefield on Thursday night, why not come over to the new Wakefield One Library & Museum at 6.30? As part of World Book Week, I'm doing a talk on 'Women in the Wars of the Roses: Ordinary & Extraordinary Lives' to tie in with free give-aways of Philippa Gregory's new novel, The White Queen. I'll be selling copies of my books at discount prices, too! Email or phone 01924 305376 to book your place.