Monthly Archives: December 2011


One Year Ago Today …


Categories: Research

One year ago today, I uploaded my first book to, The Last Pendragon (not, however, with my beautiful new cover :)).  I had decided to take the plunge into indie authordom, after nearly five years of writing and querying and being rejected by publishers large and small.  I have a wonderful agent, Jacques de Spoelberch, who did his best for me, but no publisher wanted to take a chance on historical fantasy set in Wales.

I had been giving the book away for free at other sites up until then, but two things happened the last week in December 2010 to change my perspective: 1) my writing partner, Anna Elliott, sent me to Joe Konrath’s blog; and 2) a reader sent me an email asking about the sequel and said, “Just for the record, I would happily have paid for the first book and hope you do not give away the second one.  You deserve to earn your living too!  Thanks again for a very good book!”

So I put The Last Pendragon up myself.

In January, it sold 13 copies.  Truthfully, that was a triumph in and of itself.  It changed my life to know that people besides the handful of family and friends who were interested in my work were reading my book–and willing to pay for it.

Then, in a fit of recklessness, I went back to the After Cilmeri series, the books I’d devoted most of the last five years to, but which had never sparked the imagination of any editor.  I cut 15,000 words out of Footsteps in Time, reworked Prince of Time so the flow was better, and uploaded them at the end of January.  I sold five Footsteps and four Prince of Time’s in the last week of January, and I know for a fact that eight of those nine were bought either by me, my mom, my daughter, or Anna.

In February, I hit the big time … not only did I sell 50 books overall, but my husband bought me a smart phone so I could tweet and facebook and do all the rest of the marketing author-type things I needed to do, even when not at home.  I’m sure he regretted this gift immediately, as I was glued to it from the start 🙂

One of the very best things about being an indie author, however, and what the smart phone represented, is the opportunity to connect with other authors.  Facebook, the Writer’s Cafe, Twitter–they all have brought me in touch with people doing the same thing I am, the vast majority of whom take the view that we’re all in this together.  I have dozens of friends I didn’t have a year ago, and am richer for it.

The best thing about being an indie author is, of course, my readers.  That I have sold over 35,000 books this year is mind-blowing–and humbling.  I’m not writing for myself anymore, or for my kids, but for all the people who have loved my books and taken the time to tell me about it.

Going from 50 books sold to 35,000 didn’t happen over night.  It began when I uploaded Daughter of Time, the prequel to Footsteps in Time on March 19th.  It sold 75 copies in the last 11 days in March, and then 869 in April.  And for those of you who’ve read it, I have to tell you that I wrote it on a whim, because I wanted to know Meg and Llywelyn’s story, and then published it because I really liked it.  I’m glad so many people have liked it too 🙂

Even after the publication of Daughter of Time, my agent was still trying to sell Cold My Heart, and then later in the summer, The Good Knight.  In the end, I decided not to spend the fall waiting for editor responses, and published the latter as my seventh book in September.  All signs indicate this is the right path!

Thank you all for making this journey with me.



Surprise Holy Day Attack!

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Categories: Research, Tags: , , , , , , ,

One of the most famous instances of one army attacking another on a holiday was when George Washington crossed the Delaware on Christmas Day:  “During the night of December 25, Washington led his troops across the ice-swollen Delaware about 9 miles north of Trenton. The weather was horrendous and the river treacherous. Raging winds combined with snow, sleet and rain to produce almost impossible conditions. To add to the difficulties, a significant number of Washington’s force marched through the snow without shoes.  The next morning they attacked to the south, taking the Hessian garrison by surprise and over-running the town. After fierce fighting, and the loss of their commander, the Hessians surrendered.”

This attack gave Washington a much needed victory and gave his troops a reason to reenlist for 1777.

Five hundred years earlier, on the morning of 22 March 1282, Palm Sunday, Welsh insurgents attacked the English castles at Hawarden,  Flint, Rhuddlan, and the borough of Oswestry.  Three days later, on the Feast of St. Mary’s, Aberystwythe Castle fell.  J. Beverley Smith writes:  “Gruffydd ap Maredudd, acting in association with Rhys Fychan ap Rhys ap Maelgwn came to the constable and invited him to dinner.  The constable could hardly have been aware of the happenings in the north-east [of the country] and accepted the invitation, only to be taken captive by his host while a force of Gruffydd’s men took possession of the castle” (Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, pg. 452).

The desperation that drove the Welsh to attack during the Christian Holy Week was similar in many ways to what drove George Washington to violate the peace of Christmas.  Unfortunately, for the Welsh, Edward I took their violation as evidence of their barbarism and his divine right to rule them.

Other notable Holy Day attacks include:

6 October 1973–Egypt and Syria attack Israel on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar.

7 December 1944 (8 December in Japan)–Attack on Pearl Harbor by Japanese forces.  This was not a holy day to Americans, but it was to the Japanese, as the day on which Shakyamuni realised the Way.  For this reason, it had been a day for commemorating the liberation of humankind in Japan.

31 May 1918–German long-range bombers attacked Cologne, France on Corpus Christi Day, which is/was a very, holy day in the Roman Catholic Church, prompting outrage on both sides of the Atlantic.

It has become fairly common in recent years for terrorist attacks on both Islamic and Christian Holy Days.


A Child’s Christmas in Wales

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Dylan Thomas wrote A Child’s Christmas in Wales in 1954.  It begins:  “One Christmas was so much like another, in those years around the sea-town corner now and out of all sound except the distant speaking of the voices I sometimes hear a moment before sleep, that I can never remember whether it snowed for six days and six nights when I was twelve or whether it snowed for twelve days and twelve nights when I was six.  All the Christmases roll down toward the two-tongued sea, like a cold and headlong moon bundling down the sky that was our street; and they stop at the rim of the ice-edged fish-freezing waves, and I plunge my hands in the snow and bring out whatever I can find . . .”

For the full text:


Pixel of Ink today!

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Categories: Research

Footsteps in Time is being featured on Pixel of Ink today!

As always, it’s available everywhere 🙂

Buy at:  Amazon

At Apple Ibooks:  Footsteps in Time

At Barnes and Noble:  Footsteps in Time

Amazon UK:  Footsteps in Time

For international customers:




The Invention of the Chimney

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Maybe this seems like a strange topic for a blog post, but I’m sitting here by my nice warm fire, typing into my laptop, while it’s about 15 degrees outside (F).  I am not a medieval person, but I hate being cold and get grumpy if my house is below 68 degrees (and with the fire, I can get it a lot warmer than that).

Saxon huts did not have chimneys.  They had fire pits in the center of the room and a hole in the roof for the smoke (ideally) to leave.  In the winter, then, people lived and worked in smoke-filled rooms, with a fire that constantly had to be stoked and was also a danger to the whole household.  Can you imagine raising a toddler in a hut like that?  Or the constant danger of a spark lighting the thatch?  “Buildings were square, rectangular, and round in plan. A central fire pit provided warmth and light, with smoke making its imperfect escape through a hole in the (typically) thatched roof above.”

Typically, the Romans did have the knowledge of chimneys (for baking), and otherwise had a hypocaust venting system. “During the Roman era, some houses were warmed with interior pipes laid under floors and within walls, and bakeries had flues that piped smoke outside the building.”   They also used braziers, which could be moved from room to room and to which you could sit closer than a real fire.

“With the Norman Invasion (in 1066) came a new concept: two-story houses. An upstairs meant that you couldn’t have a fire in the middle of the floor anymore, and you needed to draw the smoke outside instead of straight up, so the fire was moved to a niche in the wall. (In stone houses, walls were so thick that the excavation of a fireplace did not effect the external appearance at all.) At first, holes were poked in the exterior wall to allow smoke to escape; eventually, flues were constructed to help control the downdraft. During the Gothic era, up to the end of the 14th century, some grander homes installed stone hoods to facilitate ventilation.”

The first chimneys were constructed in castles.  The first one we know of is from the 12th century.

“If the later Middle Ages had made only slight improvements in lighting over earlier centuries, a major technical advance had come in heating: the fireplace, an invention of deceptive simplicity. The fireplace provided heat both directly and by radiation from the stones at the back, from the hearth, and finally, from the opposite wall, which was given extra thickness to absorb the heat and warm the room after the fire had burned low. The ancestor of the fireplace was the central open hearth, used in ground-level halls in Saxon times and often into later centuries. Such a hearth may have heated one of the two halls of Chepstow’s 13th-century domestic range, where there are no traces of a fireplace. Square, circular, or octagonal, the central hearth was bordered by stone or tile and sometimes had a backing of tile, brick or stone. Smoke rose through a louver, a lantern-like structure in the roof with side openings that were covered with sloping boards to exclude rain and snow, and that could be closed by pulling strings, like venetian blinds. There were also roof ventilators. A couvre-feu (fire cover) made of tile or china was placed over the hearth at night to reduce the fire hazard.

When the hall was raised to the second story, a fireplace in one wall took the place of the central hearth, dangerous on an upper level, especially with a timber floor. The hearth was moved to a location against a wall with a funnel or hood to collect and control the smoke, and finally, funnel and all, was incorporated into the wall. This early type of fireplace was arched, and set into the wall at a point where it was thickened by an external buttress, with the smoke venting through the buttress. Toward the end of the 12th century, the fireplace began to be protected by a projecting hood of stone or plaster which controlled the smoke more effectively and allowed for a shallower recess. Flues ascended vertically through the walls to a chimney, cylindrical with an open top, or with side vents and a conical cap.”


A Thank You and Book Give-Away!

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Categories: Research

The 28th of December will be my one-year anniversary as an indie author and to express my thanks to all of my readers, whether of my books, my blog, or both, I’d like to give you a gift of a free book!

Between now and January 10th, you can download a copy of Daughter of Time or The Last Pendragon from Smashwords for FREE!

Click on the book cover for the Smashwords web page for Daughter of Time: 


Coupon code for The Last Pendragon:  GN59S




The Wildwood — the lost forest of the UK


Categories: Research, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Imagine all of the UK covered in a thickly wooded landscape, much like portions of the western United States. 

I just spent the last 1/2 an hour looking up native plants in Wales, trying to come up with a couple that would have reliably flourished in Gwynedd in the 13th century.  My sister-in-law is a botanist, and she agreed that agrimony and juniper would good choices.  What has been difficult to determine, as with the Roman and ancient roads, is what the landscape looked like in the Middle Ages.  England was mostly denuded of trees by then, but it is possible that wasn’t the case in Wales.  So when we see these broad lanscapes in the uplands with no trees, was that what they looked like eight hundred years ago?  How do we find that out?

According to scientists, only 1% of The Wildwood, the vast expanse of forest that once covered Britain, remains today.  “‘The Wildwood’ is the scholarly though dramatic name introduced by Oliver Rackham, author of the History Of The Countryside, and today used by historical geographers to refer to Britain’s dominant type of landscape when there were as yet no separate, named (and soon to be ‘managed’) pockets of ‘greenwood’ like Robin Hood’s refuge, Sherwood Forest. There was only one great uncultivated, completely wild mass of trees and bushes, stretching almost from coast to coast, which was, in a famous historian’s remark, enveloped in a silence broken only by the singing of innumerable birds.”

“By the time the Romans disembarked on these shores, their predecessors had cleared perhaps half of the forest and many of the hills and Downs were as bare as they are now.”

Most of the forests in Wales have been planted within the last century, but given that the trees grow, it’s possible that at one time, the forests grew across the entire region where there is now only moorland.  The question remains, when were they cut down?  Gerald of Wales makes two comments:  “It is a country very strongly defended by high mountains, deep valleys, extensive woods, rivers, and marshes;” and  “North Wales is better defended by nature, is more productive of men distinguished for bodily strength, and more fertile in the nature of its soil; for, as the mountains of Eryri (Snowdon) could supply pasturage for all the herds of cattle in Wales, if collected together . . .”

Edward I, in his conquest of Wales, had teams of hired laborers and soldiers clear a path for him across Wales so that he could not be ambushed from the trees by archers.

A similar practice occurred in Scotland:  “The Wildwood was deliberately broken up and burnt off also to get rid of outlaws and wolves. The very last known British wolf was killed in Scotland in 1745, about the time of Culloden. All forest cover has disappeared from vast areas due to clearance projects done for one reason or another, as in the Highland Clearances, in which the woods were first burnt off to drive out wolf and outlaw alike, the land unable to return to forest because of the Great Cheviot Sheep and later the deer herds kept for stag-shooting.”

This has prompted the Carrifan project, begun because of a 6000 year old yew bow found in a bog.  It’s discovery prompted a quest to determine the biodiversity of the area in the past.   The mission now is to:  “re-create in the Southern Uplands of Scotland an extensive tract of mainly forested wilderness, with most of the rich diversity of native species present in the area before human activities became dominant.”