A number of my stories take place during the Hundred Years War between England and France. I thought it might be cool to run a series of blog posts revisiting some of these. So here’s the first of that series of blog posts on Hundred Years War Fiction.
Stand and Fight: A Tale of Richard Stone
Montmal Castle, the Duchy of Aquitaine, 1374
A large French army is at the walls of Montmal castle. Bertrand, the Gascon commander of Montmal is ready to surrender despite his vow to defend castle in the name of Edward, Prince of Aquitaine and the eldest son of Edward III of England. Richard Stone, the sole representative of the English government of Aquitaine is horrified at Bertrand’s duplicity. But the French commander has a grudge against Bertrand and will under no terms accept his surrender. There is no choice for the garrison but to stand and fight.
“Stand and Fight” is a short story set during the Hundred Years War between England and France.
My short story, Bird Talk, is currently free on Amazon.com. It’s not free on Amazon.co.uk – you have to pay the princely sum of 99p for it there, but might be worth picking up if you have some spare cash or even zero cash in the US! It’s one of my earliest short stories, but I’m still proud of it. It gave rise to the two protagonists from my novel Hell has its Demons.
What do you do when you have accused the woman you love of necromancy?
Roger Draper suspects that a necromancer is at work in a small medieval English town. But rather than uncovering foul magical deeds he manages to implicate the women he desires in accusations of witchcraft. With only the town drunk to help him, Roger must untangle the mess he has created.
Be prepared for a heady concoction of gritty medieval life, humour and magic.
I’m really excited to tell you about a new short story that I have just published as an eBook on Kindle.
The Dragon of Borvoli is all about a young boy who’s the only inhabitant of his village to fight the ‘dragon’ that has been terrorising his village. The story is set in a Dark Ages world – probably something similar to Cornwall – St Michael’s Mount certainly features for instance, but the setting isn’t very specific. What I was going for was more the atmosphere of the Dark Ages where belief in monsters – think Beowulf – was still strong.
Here’s the blurb for the book:
It takes a lot of bravery to fight a dragon. So imagine how brave the nine year old Boult is when he takes his father’s sword and enters the barrow near his home where tales say the dragon lives—the dragon that has been terrorising their village.
Yet not all is as it seems in this atmospheric historical fantasy short story. Boult meets Gustinus, a Christian priest, who promises to help him in his quest to slay the dragon. But Boult discovers that men can be worse monsters than creatures of legend.
Its currently available for just £0.99/$0.99 or 0.99 Euros from Amazon:
If you have read my latest novel, Hell has its Demons, then you might be interested to find out more about one of the main characters: Jake Savage.
Here’s the character history I wrote for him while I was planning the novel. Hope you enjoy it! The cover of the book might be Jake – you never no – it’s not only hell that has demons – Jake does too.
Jake’s family moved to St Brett’s when he was 11, a year after the Plague first struck in 1348. His young sister died, but otherwise his family was relatively unharmed. The village where they lived all but disappeared though. His father sold the small plot of land they held and left the village before their lord could demand the fine payable for villains leaving his manor. They arrived in St Brett’s and found that they were able to get a burgess plot on the cheap – the abbey desperate for money with half the town’s tenants having died.
As a child Jake was entranced by stories of knights and seeing them go past in their armour, with their fancy ladies – visiting the abbey for instance or coming into town for the fairs that happened three times a year. He was taken in by the romance of these stories and the pageantry of the knights he saw. He would later bitterly resent the wealth of these nobles and his own foolish hope that he might become a knight too.
His father earns a living through a variety of enterprises, becoming most successful at brewing and running a tavern. John is a shrewd businessman and also sees opportunities for speculating on the trade of cloth manufactured in the town. He encourages others to invest capital into ventures, thereby avoiding risk, but takes a good share of the profits. He uses his son, Jake, to ensure the shipments reach their destination safely – Jake is physically intimidating and also John trusts him. Jake is party to occasional deception of John’s business clients. Jake travels to London and ports in East Anglia on business.
From the age of 16 to 17 John is able to send his boy Jake to the grammar school briefly. Jake learns quickly but can’t stand the discipline of study and the hypocrisy of the monks. He is expelled for a prank on the teacher – who will later be an obedientary or abbot?
The Abbey observes the success of the cloth exports from St Brett’s and the lack of income it derives and seeks to impose levies on St Brett’s merchants – whereas previously it could tax merchants coming to fairs at St Brett’s to buy produce.
These taxes affect John and his associates – a group of wealthier burgesses who control the cloth trade and regularly drink in his tavern. In 1361 when the abbey imposes these tolls the burgesses rebel and the abbey’s tax-collector is murdered.
His Mother died during second coming of the Black Death in 1362.
In 1363 when the abbey bring in local gentry to support their collection of the tolls there is street-warfare. The abbey is briefly besieged. The Abbot promises to withdraw the new tolls, but asks instead for increased tolls for use of the Abbey mills. John is happy with that – he has organized house fulling mills in the workshops of his suppliers.
Jake is supportive of all this activity and helps his father – they are always seen together and effectively control what happens in the town.
Jake is a keen sportsman, football, archery and poaching in the Abbey’s forest.
Jake has some of his own money now and plans to set-up on his own. He buys his own tavern.
Jake marries in 1365 a girl called Edith. She died in childbirth as did the child. Jake has given up on being a father now. Is it worth bringing a child into such a world?
Jake’s tavern is struggling to make a profit. He has become more distant from his father. He no longer represents him on business trips – he doesn’t have time – he is running his own business now, but also morning his dead wife and child.
The conflict with the abbey has died down. The abbey still demands its rights and seems to exert more control – but only over the lesser people of the town – John and his cronies have come to an arrangement. In 1367 they form a new fraternity and pay for an endowment to the abbey. Jake has offended his father by going off on his own and rejecting his advice – his father is quietly cutting him out of his dealings and making him suffer for going against him.
Jake finds Margery and her mother camped out on his doorstep one cold morning early in 1369. He is ready to turn away the two beggars who have appeared from nowhere, but something stops him. He lets them in and cooks them some hot food. His housekeeper, who has taken a shine to him which he hasn’t realized, immediately takes a dislike to them – witch she calls the old woman, who mutters superstitiously under her breath. Jake allows them to board at his house. The old woman does not last the winter. Jake and Margery become lovers, the housekeeper is sacked and Margery lives with Jake (in sin). She has a hold over him.
His father is jealous of Jake’s romantic success and plots against him, first having others accuse him in the abbey’s canon court of fornication. Jake promises to marry. John tries something else, pointing out Jake’s poverty to Margery.
Jake leaves St Brett’s in 1369 (when he was 31) after his father marries Margery (when she was 27). Jake tried to kill his father and Margery shortly before he left in an angry confrontation.
Jake joins a retinue being assembled to support the Black Prince’s forces in Aquitaine. From 1370 to 1374 involved in chevauchées, sieges and skirmishes in various parts of Western France. Involved in war crimes – but this is part and parcel of being a soldier? Jake has become cynical – life has dealt him a cruel hand so he feels it is alright for him to take it out on others. He has realised that only get what you can take in this world.
In 1374 effectively becomes an outlaw in France with a gang of other unpaid soldiers. They capture Roger and some other clerks on their return from Avignon. They plan to ransom the priests for money. But for Roger their plan fails, the other priests are worth something, but not Roger. The other soldiers plan to kill Roger and take his stuff. Jake protects him and saves him. They part. Jake returns to England, but ends up in gaol. Roger hears that he is in gaol and helps secure his release if he will become his servant. Roger is on his way to Oxford to take up a post as Master of Astronomy at the University.
If you would like to read some free fiction from me then the Prologue and first two chapters from Hell has its Demons are now available – see the links on the Free Fiction page, or go to the page for Hell has its Demons.
You can also read the first two chapters of By the Sword’s Edge for free as well – again check out the Free Fiction page or the page for By the Sword’s Edge.
Regular readers of this blog will also remember that I am posting early draft chapters of the second volume of Stonehearted online – the sequel to By the Sword’s Edge. You can find a link to those chapters on the Free Fiction page and also by clicking here.
What I enjoy most about Mark Lord’s writing is that he manages to convey a sense of period without knocking the reader over the head with detail. His settings feel authentic without being manufactured. The dialogue of his characters is perfectly readable and feels natural, as do their actions.
Click here to read the whole review. And to check out Hell has its Demons go here!
I think that I may have a problem as a writer. Hopefully not in the quality of what I do, but in the choice of one of the genres that I like to write in. I do write mostly historical or fantasy fiction, and quite often what I enjoy most is to write historical fantasy. However, I think there’s a problem with that.
The problem is that Historical Fantasy (note switch to capital letters – to provide some more gravitas) is a slippery genre to define. If you check out the listings at online retailers or on places like Goodreads – or reader discussions online – then you realise that Historical Fantasy means different things to different people – and don’t get me started on Wikipedia.
The issue is that my definition, I believe, doesn’t match with that of some others. For me Historical Fantasy should be a piece of fiction actually taking place in an historical setting. So for instance, for my Hell has its Demons story, the setting is Fourteenth Century England. I then add in fantastical elements – basically demons and magic in my story are real.
Yet it seems for other people – and for those genre listings on online retailers particularly – the genre is in fact anything that has a vague historical tinge to it. So you get books by Tad Williams, G R R Martin, Brent Weeks, Michael J Sullivan and Joe Abercrombrie all appearing. If you then look at the sub-genre of Medieval Fantasy – which I think I’m writing in, then you get pretty much the whole Epic Fantasy genre. I just can’t understand how those books muscle into my ghetto and claim historical/medieval definitions!
But another issue with the genre, even if you take a stricter view of it, is that it is a bit of a mash-up. There’s no Historical Fantasy section in traditional bookshops or libraries. There’s actually not that many well known authors/books in the genre. I would say a handful really still writing – Gabaldon, Novik. Susanna Clarke – who wrote what I would say is the defining book of recent Historical Fiction – doesn’t seem to be producing anything new at all, which is a great shame.
So in a sense I am writing in a genre without much of a real fan base. But hey, maybe that’s a good thing! I think there is a desire for this kind of fiction, and it would be great to see it better defined and promoted by the big retailers – kick out the second-world fantasy that includes armour and swords please!