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The Last Pendragon … Free until 4/30/2014

In memory of my father, who died two years ago and would have been 71 this month, I’m giving away The Last Pendragon for free at Smashwords, coupon code TK29T until April 30, 2014. It was his favorite book of all the ones I had written up to then. Help yourself! https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/25340

The Last PendragonWhat if the myths and legends were once real?  What if gods and demons really walked among us?

He is a king, a warrior, the last hope of his people–and the chosen one of the sidhe …

Set in 7th century Wales, The Last Pendragon is the story of Arthur’s heir, Cadwaladr ap Cadwallon (Cade), and his love, Rhiann, the daughter of the man who killed Cade’s father and usurped his throne.

Born to rule, yet without a kingdom, Cade must grasp the reins of his own destiny to become both Christian king and pagan hero.  And Rhiann must decide how much she is willing to risk to follow her heart.

The Last Pendragon is a 98,000 word (430 page) tale of the supernatural set in Dark Age Wales.

________
And if afterwards you feel inspired to leave a review on Amazon, I would be grateful, though please, in no way feel obligated. This is a gift <3.
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Was King Arthur real?

Whether or not King Arthur was a real person is an either/or query.  He either was or he wasn’t.  Many scholars, researchers, and Arthurophile’s have strong opinions on this topic, both for and against.  Because of the paucity of written records (most notably, Gildas fails to mention him), much of the academic work has come down on the side of ‘wasn’t’–or at least if Arthur was a real person, his name was not ‘Arthur’ and he possible wasn’t even a king.  In another blog (here), I list the original sources that posit the existence of King Arthur.

Obviously, since I’ve written a novel about King Arthur, he’s very real to me!

Wikipedia has a remarkably thorough analysis of the subject:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King_Arthur

For now, I’d like to point to two aspects of the ‘wasn’t’ camp that I find particularly interesting, as they have to do with the development of Welsh myth and the transformation of Wales from a pagan culture to a Christian one.

One theory about King Arthur was that his stories were originally not about him at all, but about Gwydion, one of the sons of Don and a chief character in the Four Branches of the Mabinogi.  In these tales, Gwydion, while evident through much of the Mabinogi, is completely absent from the stories that include Arthur, implying that the ancient poet did a global ‘find and replace’. This theory was originally posited by Sir John Rhys, writing at the end of the 19th century.

The second curious aspect of the development of Arthur, which parallels the Gwydion relationship, is the way in which the character adopted not only the characteristics of Gwydion, but of Cadwaladr ap Cadwallon, the last ‘King’ of Wales (died 682 AD).  Included in the books of Taliesin are not only poems about Arthur, but also about Cadwaladr.  It is Cadwaladr whom the Welsh tales describe as sleeping in a cave on Mount Snowdon, and whose return the Welsh await (see my post on The Great Prophecy of Britain).

I would love for Arthur to have been a ‘real’ person, but I find the discovery of the way in which myth becomes ‘real’, as well as the ‘real’ becomes myth fascinating.  It is almost a parallel process:  many scholars of celtic myth believe that the stories of the Don or Tuatha de Dannan (in Ireland) were once ‘real’ to the people who told them, but with the coming of Christianity, their tales were either adopted and transformed into Christian parable, or faded into the realm of fable.  Similarly, Gwydion (a mythic character) or Cadwaladr (a ‘real’ one) might have had their stories blended into the tale of King Arthur–for Gywdion, the stories were sanitized and made palatable for Christian audiences, and for Cadwaladr, his story was submerged into the tale of an already more famous and reknowned hero and thus made more ‘mythic’.

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William de Braose and The Red Wedding

In the Game of Thrones, ‘the red wedding’ (not to ruin it for anyone) is a massacre of epic proportions. While the author, Martin, says he based the scene on real events in Scotland, Wales had a similar incident, sad to say, this one on Christmas Day.

Here is the entry from Wikipedia which is accurate as far as events go: “In 1175, William de Braose carried out the Abergavenny Massacre, luring three Welsh princes and other Welsh leaders to their deaths. His principal antagonist was a Seisyll ap Dyfnwal, of Castell Arnallt near Llanover in the valley of the River Usk near Abergavenny, whom he blamed for the death of his uncle Henry. After having invited the Welsh leaders to a Christmas feast at Abergavenny Castle under the pretence of peace and the start of a new era at the end of the year (a traditional time for settling outstanding differences amongst the Welsh), he had them murdered by his men. This resulted in great hostility against him among the Welsh, who named him the “Ogre of Abergavenny”…

Gerald of Wales was an apologist for him, since he apparently became religious later in life, but this act colored relations between the Welsh and the March for generations. Given that hunted down and killed Seisyll ap Dyfnwal’s surviving son, Cadwaladr, a boy of seven, he had a lot to apologize for.

As William Camden, the 16th-century antiquary, writes about Abergavenny Castle: it “has been oftner stain’d with the infamy of treachery, than any other castle in Wales.”

 

 

 

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Bird by Bird by Leslea Tash

bbtash

 

My friend, Leslea Tash, has just published her debut novel, a romance called Bird After Bird.

Here’s the blurb:

Dear Birdy, Princess Birdzilla von MuffinStuff, Keeper of Dreams, Lover of our Fine Feathered Friends, queen of my life and light of my world, I hope this letter finds you well. If you are reading this then I am gone, and sweetheart, I am so sorry.

Chi-town professional Wren Riley is 25 and a rising star in the business world. She can eat a man alive and laugh about it to her girlfriends in seconds flat–and she does, on the regular. Behind the power suits and the flashing, flirty eyes, however, Wren has a secret, vulnerable side. Following a devastating loss and the discovery of a bird journal she and her father made together years before, Wren sets out to seek peace, closure, and something she just can’t name. Is that something tied to the little paper cranes she keeps finding along the way?

Laurence Byrd grew up a lanky Hoosier kid with the good/bad fortune of having the same name as the state’s perennial basketball legend. With a better affinity for dogs than sports or school, he ends up in the Army instead of the Chicago art school of his dreams. Still, his service to our country is something he can be proud of–until an argument with the girl who means the world to him results in a series of events that blows his life apart. With no one left to understand him, black sheep Laurie pours out his heart into letters and drawings he never intends to send–then he folds them into paper cranes that he leaves behind like messages in little winged bottles. He never dreams someone might be finding them.

God damn it, Sylvia, for a few moments I tricked myself into feeling really alive. I cut it off before anyone got hurt, but just for a moment or two, I really thought I might feel something again–something like trust. Something like love. Not the kind of love we had, but something new. Something like hope.

Spoiler alert: Wren and Laurie are going to meet. And when they do, their lives are never going to be the same.

From Amazon: “Bird After Bird is a sweet, romantic journey from hometown, to Chi-town, and back again. It’s a charming romantic romp and you don’t want to miss it.

I’d recommend it to anyone who loves to feel a swell in their chest and a tingle of love on their skin.”

Don’t miss the giveaway!

 

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Ashes of Time is here!

The eighth novel in the After Cilmeri series, Ashes of Time, is here! It is available at Amazon US and all Amazon stores, Barnes and Noble, the Apple iBookstore, and in paperback (coming soon to Kobo).

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November 1291. Meg and Llywelyn gather their family at Rhuddlan Castle to celebrate their seventh anniversary and David’s twenty-third birthday. But the joyful reunion goes grievously awry when an old enemy raises the banner of rebellion, followed immediately by an even more catastrophic betrayal by an old friend.

Meanwhile, facing war at every turn and still haunted by his decision to leave Cassie and Callum in the modern world, David chooses a dangerous path forward, one that will either change the course of the future forever—or burn his world to ashes.

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The Welsh Dragon

The Welsh flag dates at least back to Cadwaladr ap Cadwallon (reigned 655-682 AD), when he flew what has come to be known as “the Red Dragon of Cadwaladr” as his banner as King of Gwynedd.  Today, it is known as the ‘Welsh dragon’ and the the Welsh flag looks like this:

 

Within Welsh mythology, the story of the two dragons, one red (for the Welsh) and one white (for the Saxons) fighting beneath Dinas Emrys dates back to Geoffrey of Monmouth, writing in the 12th century.

The coat of arms of the Welsh princes in the 13th century was actually this:

With the death of Llywelyn ap Gruffydd and the complete suppression of everything that had belonged to or symbolized the Princes of Wales, this banner disappeared from royal heraldry.

Henry Tudur (Henry Tudor/Henry VII) of England, in a quest for legitimacy, both to the Welsh and the English, took the Red Dragon and made it his own.  He claimed that he was a direct descendent of Cadwaladr.  In creating the banner, he laid the dragon over the green and white colors of the House of Tudor.  Henry then marched through Wales on his way to seize the crown on 22 August 1485 when he defeated Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field.  The flying of the flag was very deliberate.  For the Welsh, it was Cadwaladr, not King Arthur, who was to ‘return’, to save the Welsh from their enemies.   Henry Tudur very deliberately took up that mantle.

In an interesting twist, Henry’s first son was named ‘Arthur’.   He died in 1502, however, and was succeeded by his brother, Henry (becoming Henry VIII) as the heir to the throne.

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Life Expectancy in the Middle Ages

How long did people live in the Middle Ages?

That, of course, varied according to diet, climate, location, relative wealth, etc., but the answer is surely not as long as we do now. For starters, infants and children died at a horrific rate (some say up to 1/3 of all died before the age of 5) and a significant percentage of women died in association with childbirth: 5% perhaps from the birth itself, often dying with the child, and a further 15% from childbed fever–the infections that followed a poorly managed delivery (by our standards).

Following that, if a person made it out of childhood, they could be expected to live into their middle forties, provided they maintained good health and weren’t killed in war.  http://www.hyw.com/Books/History/Fertilit.htm   Both those, of course, are big ‘ifs’.

Below is the recorded birth and death date for the adult royal family of Wales and associated Marcher relations, beginning with Joanna (the daughter of King John of England) and Llywelyn Fawr (Llywelyn the Great, the Prince of Wales).  Eliminating individuals who died before adulthood completely, from the dates recorded below, the mean life expectancy for women was 43.6 years, with a median of 42/43; for men, it was a mean of 48.7 and a median of 48/49.

Please be aware that these people are of the highest class of society at the time, granting them (possibly) an easier life and longer life spans.  I have indicated in parentheses the cause of death when it wasn’t old age or disease.

Joanna:  1190-1237 (daughter of King John of England; wife of Llywelyn Fawr) (47)
Llywelyn Fawr:  1173-1240  (Prince of Wales) (67)
Tangwystl:  1168-1206 (mistress of Llywelyn Fawr) (38)
Gwladys:  1206-1251 (princess of Wales) (45)
Ralph Mortimer 1198-1246 (husband of Gladwys) (48)
Gruffydd:  1196-1244 (Prince of Wales) (fell from a rope while escaping the Tower of London) (48)
Roger Mortimer:  1231-1282 (51)
Maud de Braose:  1224-1300 (76)
William de Braose:  1198-1230 (hung by Llywelyn Fawr for sleeping with his wife, Joanna) (32)
Eve Marshall:  1203-1246 (43)
Dafydd ap Llywelyn:  1208-1246 (Prince of Wales) (42)
Isabella de Braose:  1222-1248  (wife of Dafydd) (26)
Eleanor de Braose:  1226-1251 (25)  (childbirth)
Humphrey de Bohun:  1225-1265 (40)  (war)
Edmund Mortimer:  1251-1304 (53)
Margaret de Fiennes:  1269-1333 (64)
Humphrey de Bohun:  1249-1298 (49)
Maud de Fiennes:  1254-1296 (42)
Llywelyn ap Gruffydd:  1225-1282 (57) (war)
Elinor de Montfort:  1252-1282 (30)  (childbirth)

http://www.wonderquest.com/LifeSpan.htm states:  “Anglo-Saxons back in the Early Middle Ages (400 to 1000 A.D.) lived short lives and were buried in cemeteries, much like Englishmen today. Field workers unearthed 65 burials (400 to 1000 A.D.) from Anglo-Saxon cemeteries in England and found none who lived past 45.

Kings did better. The mean life expectancy of kings of Scotland and England, reigning from 1000 A.D. to 1600 A.D. were 51 and 48 years, respectively. Their monks did not fare as well. In the Carmelite Abbey, only five percent survived past 45.”

Several sources on the internet argue that if a person could get through childhood and early adulthood, he could expect to live into the 60′s or even 70′s.  That claim is not substantiated by the data I’ve found.  It also seems like a specious argument to say that a person could live to be 64 IF he didn’t go to war, she didn’t have a baby, and nobody got sick.  Each of those conditions was endemic to life in the Middle Ages.  A calculation of average—whether median or mean—life spans HAS to take this into account.  That’s like saying “all the men in my family would have lived to be 91 if they hadn’t all died of heart attacks at 63”.  It also implies 1) that children aren’t ‘people’; and 2) that ‘people’ aren’t women—since pregnancy and childbirth were unavoidable for women in that era unless they were barren or nuns.

To see the life expectancy of the family of King Edward I: http://www.sarahwoodbury.com/sick-kids/

To see the family tree of the Royal House of Wales see:  http://www.sarahwoodbury.com/family-tree-of-the-royal-house-of-wales/

 

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The Little Ice Age and the MWP

We all realize that temperature is not a constant.  It’s hard enough to imagine what life was like in the Middle Ages, without adding in differences in temperature.  As it turns out, many of my books falls directly into the ‘medieval warm period’ of 950 to 1250.

medieval temperature

“The Medieval Warm Period (MWP) is generally thought to have occurred from about AD 950–1250, during the European Middle Ages.[9] In 1965 Hubert Lamb, one of the first paleoclimatologists, published research based on data from botany, historical document research and meteorology combined with records indicating prevailing temperature and rainfall in England around 1200 and around 1600. He proposed that “Evidence has been accumulating in many fields of investigation pointing to a notably warm climate in many parts of the world, that lasted a few centuries around A.D. 1000–1200, and was followed by a decline of temperature levels till between 1500 and 1700 the coldest phase since the last ice age occurred.”[14]  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medieval_Warm_Period

Not only should this chart put to rest any notion that global warming doesn’t exist, but it calls attention to two different climate periods in Europe:  “The Medieval Warming Period”, which began around 950 AD and ended around 1300 AD, which was followed by a “Little Ice Age” which lasted until the middle of the 19th century.

On the NOAA web page:  “Norse seafaring and colonization around the North Atlantic at the end of the 9th century indicated that regional North Atlantic climate was warmer during medieval times than during the cooler “Little Ice Age” of the 15th - 19th centuries. As paleoclimatic records have become more numerous, it has become apparent that “Medieval Warm Period” or “Medieval Optimum” temperatures were warmer over the Northern Hemisphere than during the subsequent “Little Ice Age”, and also comparable to temperatures during the early 20th century” before the temperatures started to rise precipitously.

The warming period, followed by the cooling period affected the climate and population of Europe (and for my purposes, Wales).   Wales is mountainous and rocky, and the warmer air ushered in a period of prosperity in which the population doubled between 950 AD and 1350 AD, when the population was decimated by the Black Plague.   The population of Wales didn’t exceed 1350 levels again until the 16th century. (see my post here)

Glacial Ice began expanding in 1250 AD, but did not seriously impact much of Europe until the mid-1500s. Mann writes:  “In the Chamonix valley near Mont Blanc, France, numerous farms and villages were lost to the advancing front of a nearby mountain glacier. The damage was so threatening that the villagers summoned the Bishop of Geneva to perform an exorcism of the dark forces presumed responsible.”   (Little Ice Age) Unfortunately for the villagers, the attempts were unsuccessful :)

 

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Welsh Idioms

To understand a language’s idioms, is to be fluent in the language.  Maybe this isn’t entirely true, but it’s close.

When I lived in England, I remember being stumped by the phrase, “it’s like money for old rope.”  I didn’t know if that meant: 1) someone had given me money for old rope–in which case, that was a good thing; or 2) I was paying money for old rope–meaning I was getting ripped off.  As it turns out, the saying “originates from the days of public hangings. It was a perquisite of the hangman to keep the rope used to hang his ‘customer’. The rope, however, was popular with the macabre crowds, so the hangman used to cut the rope up and sell it.”  That still doesn’t tell me whether paying for it a good or bad thing :)  This site tells me “if a job is money for old rope, it is an easy way of earning money.”

Welsh, then, has idioms too, many of which are undoubtedly impenetrable to an American as the English ones.  Many are the same or similar, which isn’t terribly surprising given that Wales was conquered by England 700 years ago.  Here are some that are similar to English and yet different:

Take care lest you buy a cat in a sack / = pig in a poke in English. (Cymerwch ofal rhag ofn i chi brynu cath mewn cwd.)

It’s raining old ladies and sticks / knives and forks / = cats and dogs in English. (Mae hi’n bwrw hen wragedd a ffyn / cyllyll a ffyrc.)

They were tight like herrings in the salt / = sardines in a tin. (Roedden nhw’n dynn fel penwaig yn yr halen.)

My son was the candle of my eye / = apple of my eye. (Cannwyll fy llygad oedd fy mab.

I opened the door with my heart in my throat / = heart in my mouth. (Agorais y drws a’m calon yn fy ngwddf.)

The old woman always talked fifteen in the dozen / = nineteen to the dozen.  (Siaradai’r hen wraig pymtheg yn y dwsin bob amser.) 

The dog was as dead as a coffin nail / = as dead as a doornail. (Roedd y ci cyn farwed â hoelen arch.)

http://www.madog.org/dysgwyr/gramadeg/gramadeg3.html

And then others that are nothing like English:

He rushed into the house with his breath in his fist / = in a great hurry. (Rhuthrodd ef i’r ty^ ‚’i wynt yn ei ddwrn.)

I’m ready to put the fiddle in the roof / = to give up. (Rwy’n barod i roi’r ffidil yn y tô.)

My grandfather’s in the fords of the river / = on his death bed. (Mae fy nhad-cu yn rhydiau’r afon.)

I’ll give my head for breaking / = I’m absolutely certain / they’ll get married. (Mi rown fy mhen i’w dorri y byddan nhw’n priodi.)

She talks like a pepper mill / = talks non-stop. (Mae hi’n siarad fel melin bupur.)

I’m looking forward to lighting a fire on an old hearth / = renewing an old love. (Rwy’n edrych ymlaen at gynnu tân ar hen aelwyd.)

She is the eye of her place / = totally correct in her opinion. (Mae hi yn llygad ei lle yn ei barn)

These idioms appear in Llyfr o Idiomau Cymraeg by R. E. Jones, published by Gwasg John Penry. The same author has also produced a second volume, Ail Lyfr o Idiomau Cymraeg.

And there’s more:  http://www.britannia.com/fame/fame.html

A horse in front = in the spotlight (ceffyl blaen)

Comes the sun to the hill = things will get better (daw haul ar fryn)

Like killing snakes = very busy (fell lladd nadroedd)

No Welsh between them = they’re not speaking to each other (Dim Cymraeg rhyngddynt)

The wheel has turned  = times have changed. (mae’r olwyn wedi troi)

 

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Happy St. David’s Day!

Ashes St. David is the patron saint of Wales and his feast day (and possibly the date of his death) is March 1.  The Welsh spelling of his name is ‘Dafydd’.

St. David “died in the year 589. His mother was called Non, and his father, Sant, was the son of Ceredig, King of Ceredigion. After being educated in Cardiganshire, he went on pilgrimage through south Wales and the west of England, where it is said that he founded religious centres such as Glastonbury and Croyland. He even went on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, where he was made archbishop.

He eventually settled at Glyn Rhosyn (St David’s), in south-west Wales, where he established a very strict ascetic religious community. Many miracles have been attributed to him, the most incredible of which was performed when he was preaching at the Synod of Llanddewibrefi – he caused the ground to rise underneath him so that he could be seen and heard by all. How much truth is in this account of his life by Rhigyfarch is hard to tell. It must be considered that Rhigyfarch was the son of the Bishop of St David’s, and that the Life was written as propaganda to establish Dewi’s superiority and defend the bishopric from being taken over by Canterbury and the Normans.”  http://www.museumwales.ac.uk/en/275/

“By the 9th century he had gained the name Aquaticus because he and the monks of his establishments were supposed to have drunk only water. His earliest Life* appeared around 1090 and was composed by a son of Sulien, bishop of St. David’s. The aim of this work was to promote the independence of the Welsh church. The Life tells us that St. David founded ten monasteries (including Glastonbury) and that the monks were vegetarian. Their regime included manual labour, study and worship.”  http://www.data-wales.co.uk/st_david.htm

“March 1, the date given by Rhygyfarch for the death of Dewi Sant (St. David), was celebrated as a religious festival up until the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century. In the 18th century it became a national festival among the Welsh, and continues as such to this day. The celebration usually entails singing and eating, which may mean a meal followed by singing, or much singing followed by a Te Bach, tea with teisen bach and bara brith. Y Ddraig Goch, the Red Dragon, is flown as a flag or worn as a pin or pendant, and leeks are worn, and sometimes eaten. In schools in Wales the boys take leeks to school, status being given to those who bring the biggest leeks, and eat them earliest in the day.”  http://www.davidmorgan.com/stdavid.html

“Many Welsh people wear one or both of the national emblems of Wales on their lapel to celebrate St. David: the daffodil (a generic Welsh symbol which is in season during March) or the leek (Saint David’s personal symbol) on this day. The leek arises from an occasion when a troop of Welsh were able to distinguish each other from a troop of English enemy dressed in similar fashion by wearing leeks.[15] The association between leeks and daffodils is strengthened by the fact that they have similar names in Welsh, Cenhinen (leek) and Cenhinen Pedr (daffodil, literally “Peter’s leek”).”  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_David’s_Day

One year, the Google search engine acquired a castle, a flag, and a dragon.  Let’s see what they have in store for us this year :)

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Maps of Welsh Castles

To say I love castles would be to considerably understate the case.  But how to find a castle without a map?  Here are several great resources . . .

A map of castles in SW Wales:

This castle shows both the native castles and the Welsh ones.  Some of them are obviously close together, and this indicates a vassal/lord relationship among the barons, or just the passage of time, when a castle was destroyed, a new one was often built close by (if it wasn’t built right on top).

Native Welsh castles from the Castles Wales site (http://www.castlewales.com/native.html):

From the Welsh government site (cadw.wales.gov.uk):

Neither of these maps show the Edwardian castles that were either built right next to a destroyed Welsh castle or on top of one.  Neither shows Aber Garth Celyn either, which was Llywelyn ap Gruffydd’s seat, but wasn’t rediscovered until very recently.  For more about that, see:  http://www.sarahwoodbury.com/?p=1088

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Welsh Names and Places from the Books 0

 

Aberystwyth –Ah-bare-IH-stwith
Bwlch y Ddeufaen – Boolk ah THEY-vine (the ‘th’ is soft as in ‘forth’)
Cadfael – CAD-file
Cadwallon – Cad-WASH-lon
Caernarfon – (‘ae’ makes a long i sound like in ‘kite’) Kire-NAR-von
Dafydd – DAH-vith
Dolgellau – Doll-GESH-lay
Deheubarth – deh-HAY-barth
Dolwyddelan – dole-with-EH-lan (the ‘th’ is soft as in ‘forth’)
Gruffydd – GRIFF-ith
Gwalchmai – GWALK-my (‘ai’ makes a long i sound like in ‘kite)
Gwenllian – Gwen-SHLEE-an
Gwladys – Goo-LAD-iss
Gwynedd – GWIN-eth
Hywel – H’wel
Ieuan – ieu sounds like the cheer, ‘yay’ so YAY-an
Llywelyn – shlew-ELL-in
Maentwrog – MIGHNT-wrog
Meilyr – MY-lir
Owain – OH-wine
Rhuddlan – RITH-lan
Rhun – Rin
Rhys – Reese
Sion – Shawn
Tudur – TIH-deer
Usk – Isk