Monthly Archives: November 2011


Happy Thanksgiving!

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Categories: Research

I have a houseful of people today, for which I am very thankful.  In celebration, I have new book covers for Footsteps in Time and Prince of Time.  I am so excited to have them updated.  It will take some time for them to populate through all the outlets, but hopefully the paperbacks and ebooks will soon be in sync!


Vortigern? Who was he again?

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Vortigern was a King of the Britons who is remembered for welcoming the Saxons into Britain during the dark ages and then being unable to get them to leave.

This site: would very much like to rehabilitate Vortigern.  He has extensive information on this site.

Our knowledge of Vortigern comes from some early sources.  Gildas, who wrote a moral history of Britain, states, around 540 BC:  “At this meeting, the council invited the Saxons in three keels from Germany, as a counter to the threat from the Picts in the north. This is followed after some time by a conflict over the annona (payment in kind), after which the Saxon federates devastate the country. Vortigern, who may have been named by Gildas, is not portrayed by Gildas as a sole ruler, or a High King if you will. He rules together with a Council, which Gildas blames equally for the disastrous policy concerning the invitation of the Saxons. Maybe looking at him as a ‘first among equals’ would be more fitting his actual position at that time. In all, Gildas’ view of the Superbus Tyrannus is almost positive; though he is judged careless and lacking foresight, he is called infaustus (unlucky), which is very mild considering Gildas’ views on the Saxons and the hindsight he had on the disaster that resulted from the Tyrannus’ policies.”

From Nennius, writing in the 10th century:  “The Historia Brittonum recounts many details about Vortigern and his sons. Chapters 31–49 tell how Vortigern (Guorthigirn) deals with the Saxons and Saint Germanus of Auxerre. Chapters 50–55 deal with St. Patrick ; Chapters 56 tells us about King Arthur and his battles; Chapters 57–65 mention English genealogies, mingled with English and Welsh history; Chapter 66 give important chronological calculations, mostly on Vortigern and the Adventus Saxonum.”

“To the old monastics, Vortigern and his Saxons were viewed as yet another scourge inflicted upon Britain.  Worse than Arianism, Pelagianism, and persecuting pagan emperors, his reign was the crowning point of the ultimate evil let loose upon the Britons, i.e. the Saxons.  These Saxons persecuted the people and devastated the church, far more thoroughly than any previous Roman Emperor!  Ironically enough, it was the veryoffensiveness of his crimes that caused the old chronologers to record and preserve records of his rise to power and the coming of his Saxon mercenaries!”

It’s hard to get a handle of the man beyond this.  From the other side, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle mentions Vortigern.  It “provides dates and locations of four battles Hengest and his brother Horsa fought against the British in southeast Britain, in the historic county of Kent. Vortigern is said to have been the leader of the British in only the first battle, the opponents in the next three battles variously called ‘British’ and ‘Welsh’—which is not unusual for this part of the Chronicle. No Saxon defeat is acknowledged, but the geographical sequence of the battles suggests a Saxon retreat and the Chronicle locates the last battle, dated to 465 in Wippedsfleot, the place where the Saxons first landed, thought to be Ebbsfleet near Ramsgate. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle presents the year 455 as the last date when Vortigern is mentioned.”

There is some thought that Vortigern might be mentioned on the Pillar of Eliseg, found near Dinas Bran in Wales:  “. . . the monarchy . . . Maximus . . . of Britain . . . Concenn, Pascent, Maun, Annan.† Britu son of Vortigern, whom Germanus blessed, and whom Sevira bore to him, daughter of Maximus the king, who killed the king of the Romans.”


Sharing numbers redux . . .


Categories: Research

Last August, I posted my sales numbers for Amazon US through July, and thought now was the time to share more.  I released two new books in September:  The Pendragon’s Quest, the sequel to The Last Pendragon and The Good Knight, my medieval mystery.  The only reason my numbers are holding up is because I’ve sold hundreds of copies of The Good Knight in the last two months.

Other than The Good Knight, my sales numbers for total books, and the subsequent rankings for all my books, have been down this fall by as much as two-thirds.  I want to reiterate the importance of writing more books.  My big seller since March had been Daughter of Time, which was selling up to 50 books a day at times.  Down to 14 a day now, with the commensurate slow downs for the other books in the trilogy.  I am not complaining!  But I don’t want anyone to think this journey is something other than that . . . a journey with ups and downs and detours and sidetracks where you feel you might have lost your way at times.

And as Joe, David, Dean, and Kris have said numerous times, this is a LONG journey, not a sprint.  I am incredibly blessed to be on this path at all, to have had great success in a short amount of time, and to love the work.

The following are my sales and income for Amazon US over the last 10 months:

January: 22 books sold; income:  $35.64

February:  50 books sold; income:  $53.68

March:  272 books sold; income:  $163.84

April:  2038 books sold; income:  $1254.84

May:  2937 books sold; income:  $4198.09

June:  2225 books sold; income:  $3054.45

July:  2908 books sold; income:  $3413.22

August:  2812 books sold; income:  $3680.30

September:  2423 books sold; income:  $3527.25

October:  2471 books sold; income:  $3775.76

Total books sold on Amazon US:  18,158


Viking Raids

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Last year a story came out about 51 headless Vikings unearthed at a site in Weymouth, England.

“On Friday, officials revealed that analysis of the men’s teeth shows they were Vikings, executed with sharp blows to the head around a thousand years ago. They were killed during the Dark Ages, when Vikings frequently invaded the region.”

Researchers have dated the remaines to the period between 890 and 1030 AD, postulating that it was a raiding party that was executed once it was caught too far from its boats.

During this period, the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms were well established in England.  Weymouth would have been in Wessex, one of the primary and most powerful kingdoms at the time.

Kings of the period include Alfred the Great (871-899), Edward (899-924), and Aethelstan, credited with being the first King of England.

The Anglo-Saxons themselves had a long history of raids, which is how they settled in Britain in the first place.  Britain was relatively free of raids from 600-800 AD, once the Anglo-Saxons conquered all but Wales and portions of Scotland.  A new wave of Vikings (from Sweden, Norway, and Denmark) began with the raiding of Lindisfarne, England in 793 AD, however, and continued up until the Norman conquest in 1066.

One of the reasons that King Harold Godwinson lost to William the Norman was because he’d had to fight off a raid by Harald Hardrada (Norway) at the Battle of Stamford Bridge in late September, and then had to march his exhausted men to Hastings to face William, who’d landed unopposed on September 28.

It is important to note that the Normans (or ‘Northmen’) were also Vikings–just ones that had settled for a generation or two in Normandy after conquering it in the 10th century.




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Stonehenge is one of many rings of standing stones built by the ancients in Britain, begun sometimes between 3000 and 2500 BC.   More is known about Stonehenge in particular than other stone circles, in  part because they are so well preserved, and also because real archaeological work has been done around it.

“The first Stonehenge was a large earthwork or Henge, comprising a ditch, bank, and the Aubrey holes, all probably built around 3100 BC. The Aubrey holes are round pits in the chalk, about one metre wide and deep, with steep sides and flat bottoms. They form a circle about 284 feet in diameter. Excavations have revealed cremated human bones in some of the chalk filling, but the holes themselves were probably made, not for the purpose of graves, but as part of the religious ceremony. Shortly after this stage Stonehenge was abandoned, left untouched for over 1000 years.”

“Around 2100 BC the Preseli Bluestones were brought from West Wales and erected in a circle (the X and Y Holes) also aligned to the summer solstice, and a widened approach was constructed. Around 100 years later, this first Bluestone circle was dismantled and work began on the final stage of the site. The Bluestones were rearranged in the horseshoe and circle that we can still see today. The next phase of Stonehenge saw the arrival of the Sarsen stones which were arranged in an outer circle with a continuous circle of lintels. On the inside of this five trilithons were placed in a horseshoe arrangement, part of which we can still see today. Since that time, Stonehenge has been systematically destroyed and recreated by various peoples throughout history. The most recent reconstruction took place as late as the 1960s. The only way an accurate picture can be visualised of a complete Stonehenge is through the plan of the holes in the ground.”

Stonehenge appears to have been a burial ground and as it is oriented with the soltice. It is also likely that it was some kind of ceremonial site for the people of the time.

More recently, archaeologists have uncovered evidence of  33 homes approximately 2 miles from the site, giving them some idea of the people who lived near it:

The article states:  “The discovery suggests a striking new portrait of Stonehenge as just one part of a broader, interconnected religious site devoted to honoring ancestors and celebrating the cycle of life and death symbolized by the seasons. Durrington Walls, the archeologists said, was a place for the living, and is littered with animal bones from midwinter feasts. From there, they suggest, people may have walked to the river Avon on the stone boulevard, traveled down the river, and then up a similar boulevard to Stonehenge, whose great blocks probably served as a permanent memorial to those who lived before.”

I’m third from the left 🙂

Heritage key has created a virtual tour of the site here:

Or, you can buy your own desktop version from ThinkGeek:


Gerald of Wales


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Gerald of Wales was born in in Manorbier Castle, Pembrokeshire (Dyfed), South Wales in 1145 or 1146. His father was a Norman Knight, William de Barri. His mother was Angharad, granddaughter of Princess Nest, a princess of Deheubarth.  She was the half Welsh – granddaughter of Rhys ap Tewdwr, Prince of South Wales (on her mother’s side) her father being a Norman Knight Gerald of Windsor.  Consequently Gerald was three quarters Norman, one quarter Welsh.


One of the primary reasons we remember Gerald of Wales is for his journey through Wales with Archbishop Baldwin in 1188 AD, during the reign of King Henry II of England. On one hand, in his numerous writings, he spoke of the Welsh as evil, sinful, incestuous, and dishonest (and definitely didn’t have good things to say about the continuance of a Welsh law, separate from English law), but at the same time, he supported their continued quest for freedom from England.  Over the centuries, the Welsh  have had very few supporters in that regard.

Gerald of Wales, Giraldus Cambrensis, Gerald the Welshman, Gerallt Cymro, he is called: Master Gerald de Barry, Gerald the Marcher, Gerald the Archdeacon, Gerald Bishop-elect of St. Davids, he more often called himself. His many names reflect the long and multi-faceted career of one of the most fascinating figures of the Middle Ages. Descended from Norman Marcher barons, and Welsh princes, Gerald was by turns scholar, churchman and reformer, courtier, diplomat and would-be crusader; Marcher propagandist, agent of English kings, champion of the Welsh church, hunted outlaw and cathedral theologian. He was also a naturalist, gossip and indefatigable traveller, but above all a most prolific writer and a tireless self-publicist. From his seventeen surviving books, therefore, we know a great deal about this determined, irascible, self-righteous and utter fearless man; more, in fact, than about any other inhabitant of early medieval Wales.”

During the period in which Gerald wrote, Wales was recovering from the death of Prince Owain Gwynedd, one of the most powerful princes in Welsh history.  The Prince had been at odds with King Henry II of England since 1157, when Henry had invaded Wales.  The disputes continued until Owain’s death in 1170, at which point his lands were fought over by his children, of which he had at least 13.  By 1188, his lands were split between his sons, Dafydd and Rhodri, and it wasn’t until his grandson, Llywelyn ap Iowerth (child of Owain’s eldest, legitimate son) took the throne of Wales that the country was united under a single ruler again.

From the “Description of Wales“, Gerald has this to say about their perennial quest to throw off the English yoke:

“The English are striving for power, the Welsh for freedom; the English are fighting for material gain, the Welsh to avoid a disaster; the English soldiers are hired mercenaries, the Welsh are defending their homeland. The English, I say, want to drive the Welsh out of the island and to capture it all for themselves. The Welsh, who for so long ruled over the whole kingdom, want only to find refuge together in the least attractive corner of it, the woods, the mountains and the marshes. . . .

An old man living in Pencader . . . who had joined the King’s forces against his own people, because of their evil way of life, was asked what he thought of the royal army, whether it could withstand the rebel troops and what the outcome of the war would be. ‘My Lord King,’ he replied, ‘this nation may now be harassed, weakened and decimated by your soldiery, as it has so often been by others in former times; but it will never be totally destroyed by the wrath of man, unless at the same time it is punished by the wrath of God. Whatever else may come to pass, I do not think that on the Day of Direst judgment any race other than the Welsh, or any other language, will give answer to the Supreme Judge of all for this small corner of the earth.'” (p 274)


How did Latin get into English?


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It was the Romans right?

Well, ultimately, but not necessarily because they conquered Britian in 43 AD.

The Romans controlled Britain from 43 AD to when they marched away in the beginning of the 5th century.  During that time, they built roads, towns, forts, and established a government.  Upon their departure, the ‘dark ages’ consumed Britain, with the assistance of several invading groups (Angles, Saxons, Jutes, plus Picts, Scots, Irish).

The people who lived in Britain at the time were Celtic and spoke a language that eventually became what we know today as Welsh.  As the story goes, these invading groups pushed the Britons into Wales until a real wall (Offa’s Dyke) permanently created a barrier between them.

Latin had been spoken by the Romans, of course, and had entered the Welsh language as a result.  “These borrowed words are usually for things foreign to the British before the conquest, such as ‘pont’ (in Latin ‘pons’, a bridge), ‘bresych’ (‘brassica’, a cabbage), and ‘eglwys’ (‘ecclesia’, a church).”

Percent of contribution of other languages to English

Latin had been the language of writing.  With the departure of the Romans, that also abated, until the coming of the Christian Church (first) and then the arrival of the Normans in 1066 (second).  The Normans were descendants of the Vikings but had adopted French as their language.  Thus, when William conquered England, he brought the language with him.  French is a ‘Romance’ language–a language derived from Rome, and thus, Latin.

For several hundred years afterwards, French was the language of the nobility, laid over a Saxon peasantry.  The Saxons spoke “English” (though interestingly, the Welsh still refer to the English as ‘Saxons’).  Over time, the Saxons adopted French words (and thus Latin words) into their vocabulary.

The French words didn’t necessarily replace the English ones, but coexisted alongside the Saxon ones or were adopted whole cloth:  “A lot of basic French vocabulary will look familiar to you: le restaurant (restaurant), la table (table), l’âge(age), lefruit (fruit),  l’hôtel (hotel),  l’animal (animal),  and so on. However, don’t be fooled by some words that may look or sound exactly the same as an English word, but don’t have the same meaning. For example, le collège is roughly equivalent to middle school in the United States, not university. Also, sale in French means dirty, and has nothing to do with discounts, and blessé(e) means wounded, not blessed.”

30% of English words have a French origin with another 30% from Latin.  The borrowing from Latin (and Greek) is clear.  From a rap song I found on line:

“aqua” means water, “ami” means love
“bio” means life, “hemo” means blood
“geo” means earth, and “vita” means life

“pre” means before, and “fix” is to attach
“anti-” means against, “inter-” means between
“poly-” means many, while “homo-” means the same
“pseudo-” means false, and “trans-” mean across

“-ology” means study of, “-ism” is belief in
“-cide” means killing, and “-or” and “-er” mean demonstration
“-phobia” means fear of, “-kinesis” means movement

The Saxon, however, endured too.  For example, we have two words for ‘eat’:  ‘eat’ which is Saxon, and ‘dine’ which comes from the French word ‘to dine=diner’.  Another example is ‘go’, obviously Saxon, and ‘voyage’ from French.  “Many [Saxon] words had a single syllable, and compounding was a common practice. Most words with more than one syllable were characterized by a stress accent on the first syllable.”

Here is a list of English words of Anglo-Saxon origin:


The Wild Boar in Britain


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Four hundred years ago, wild boar officially became extinct in Britain.  A wild boar is a creature that weighed upwards of two hundred pounds.

Range: green; introduced range: blue

“The wild boar is a member of the pig family, Suidae, and is an even-toed ungulate or artiodactyl. It is a large mammal, with an adult male weighing up to 200 kg., or occasionally more, and with a head and body length of up to 2 metres. The tail, which is usually straight, is about 25 cm. long. Female boars are about two thirds of the size of the males, although both stand about one metre in height.

A prominent feature of the wild boar is its coat of short, thick bristly hair, which can vary in colour from brown and black to grey. In western Europe, boar generally have brown coats, while in eastern Europe black coats are more common. A line of longer, upright hair grows along the spine of the boar, and this has led to their common name of razorback in the southeast of the USA, where feral pigs have given rise to a wild boar population.”

Wild boar has the widest natural range of any ungulate, or hoofed mammal, in the world. It originally occurred from Britain and Ireland throughout all of Europe (except Scandinavia), in the Atlas Mountains in North Africa, in the Middle East and the Caucasus Mountains and through most of Central Asia to China, Taiwan and Japan. It is also found in South and Southeast Asia, from India across to Vietnam and the Indonesian islands of Sumatra and Java.”

“The wild boar, Sus scrofa, is a native British species. It probably became extinct as a wild species at the end of the 13th century (Yalden 1999). After this date wild boar were maintained for game and as a status symbol by introduction of new stock from France and Germany and through hybridisation with domestic and feral pigs. By the 17th century no wild boar were found in Britain, suggesting that the medieval reintroductions were not successful, possibly because of hunting pressure.”

“A variety of habitats, from tidal marshes to mountain ranges, are suitable for wild pigs. They prefer cover of dense brush or marsh vegetation. They are generally restricted to areas below snowline and above freezing temperatures during the winter. Wild pigs frequent livestock-producing areas. They prefer mast-producing hardwood forests but will frequent conifer forests as well. In remote areas or where human activities are minimal, they may use open range or pastures, particularly at night. During periods of hot weather, wild pigs spend a good deal of time wallowing in ponds, springs, or streams, usually in or adjacent to cover.”

Boar hunts were the realm of kings in the middle ages, but not quarries to be taken lightly.  “A charging boar is considered exceptionally dangerous quarry, due to its thick hide and dense bones, making anything less than a kill shot a potentially deadly mistake. Hunters have reported being butted up into trees by boars that have already taken a glancing shot.”

“Unlike the Romans for whom hunting boar was considered a simple pastime, the hunting of boars in Medieval Europe was mostly done by nobles for the purpose of honing martial skill. It was traditional for the noble to dismount his horse once the boar was cornered and to finish it with a dagger. To increase the challenge, some hunters would commence their sport at the boars mating season, when the animals were more aggressive. Records show that wild boar were abundant in medieval Europe. This is correlated by documents from noble families and the clergy demanding tribute from commoners in the form of boar carcasses or body parts. In 1015 for example, the doge Ottone Orseolo demanded for himself and his successors the head and feet of every boar killed in his area of influence.[5]

In this period, because of the lack of efficient weapons such as guns, the hunting of boars required a high amount of courage, and even the French king Philip IV died from falling off his horse when charged by a boar.”



National Novel Writing Month 2011

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Categories: Research

Today is November 1 and National Novel Writing month begins!

If you’ve never heard of it, this is an opportunity to write 50,000 words in one month on a new book.  Here’s the official site:

Here’s my novel link:

Feel free to be my buddy 🙂

Starting today, Nov. 1, I’m going to be doing a full court press for the second Gareth and Gwen medieval mystery.  I even have a cover!


And maybe, just maybe, I have a plot.  I have a three page outline, single spaced, which for me is incredible.  I try not to be a pantster, but outlines have never really been meaningful for me.  Until now!  We’ll see how it goes.

If you think you’ve got 50,000 words in you, come join me for NaNoWriMo (thirty days and nights of literary abandon)!

So far I have three published novels that were born during NaNoWriMo:  The Last Pendragon (2008), Cold My Heart (2009), and The Good Knight (2010).  I can’t wait to see what 2011 brings …