NaNoWriMo Day 1 - Sarah Woodbury

NaNoWriMo Day 1

November 1, 2010:

I sat up in bed morning, pulled my laptop close (hoping that my son wasn’t going to wake up quite yet) and started typing.  Now, with historical fiction, it doesn’t take very long before a need for research pops up, and I encountered the first after 3 sentences.  Why didn’t I do this research earlier?  Because I didn’t know what I needed until I’d written those three sentences.

This new book is a murder mystery, if I can pull it off, set in Gwynedd in 1143 AD.  In real life, Cadwaladr, Owain Gwynedd’s obnoxious brother, has Anarawd, Owain’s future son-in-law, murdered on the eve of his wedding.  It is over a land dispute, and Anarawd was ambushed on the road.  Once it is determined that Cadwaladr is to blame, Hywel, Owain Gwynedd’s bastard son, is sent to exact retribution from Cadwaladr for the death.

This book tells the story of how Owain Gwynedd discovers Cadwaladr’s treachery.  And the point of contention this morning at 6:50 am was exactly where this murder took place.  As the historical record is completely unhelpful, I get to put it wherever I want.  Since the wedding should have occurred at Aber Garth Celyn, then Anarawd must have been traveling in that direction, within one day’s journey perhaps, when Cadwaladr’s minions attack him.

So the thing to do is look at a map.  Usually I toggle between the Ordnance Survey and Google Earth, in this case of the area south of Aber:


Note the words ‘Roman fort’ in the center of the Ordnance Survey map–it’s not exactly clear where that is on the Google map, but it is wooded and secluded, near Swallow Falls.  There are a number of roads Anarawd could have used to get to Aber.  The first, this one, is to have come up from the Deheubarth to Dolwyddelan Castle, curving north-east to the Conwy River and then back west through the pass of Bwlch y Ddeufaen to Aber.  Second, there’s the possibility there once was a road directly from Dolwyddelan to Aber, but it’s not on any map that exists today.  The third possibility is for him to have ridden northwest from Tomen y Mur to Caernarfon and then east to Bangor and Aber Garth Celyn.  Any one of these routes would provide me with a nice, private spot for an ambush . . . but which to choose?

You can now get the satellite imagery at google maps (though you don’t get your bookmarks saved like when you download Google Earth) and the online ordnance survey maps are available at:

Word count November 1:  4338

2 Replies to “NaNoWriMo Day 1”

  1. Very cool story idea! I’m assuming your protagonist is Hywel ab Owain, the poet-prince. He’s definitely the most fascinating (and able) of Owain’s sons. Have you decided which route to ambush Anarawd on?

    1. Thanks! Yes, Hywel is one of the main characters. The ambush is taking place on the old Roman road heading north from the fort on the map towards Caerhun. Lots of narrow gorges and mountains to hide in 🙂

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