Since last posting an update to the Naked Writer series at the start of October, I have made some more progress getting my research sources ready for the next section of Stonhearted. I have now sourced pretty much everything I was hoping to source – including a copy of an Anglo-French chronicle that I needed to get on inter library loan. The last couple of weeks have probably been the busiest of the year for me work wise – especially last week, so hardly any writing work got done. Now I’m back from that and hopefully ready to get on track again.
The next few weeks will consist of a lot of reading through sources, which will include transcribing and translating some. It should be fun and I’m looking forward to seeing what I will find out.
I am also in the process of typesetting the next issue of Alt Hist ready for copy-editing. That’s a lot of fun as well and I am really looking forward to seeing it out before the end of the year.
So this week since the last post I have been concentrating on research rather than writing. I decided that I need to commit to getting the sequel to By the Sword’s Edge out at some point soon – and the only way to do that is to firm up some research on the Pontvallain campaign of 1370, which is the stories setting.
And the other major part of the research programme has been to look up some of the primary sources for the campaign so I can get to grips with some more of the detail. I have used Jonathan Sumption’s Divided Houses as a starting point to get primary source references. Again I’ll probably post a list of these and their availability at some point as well.
That’ it. Will probably post more infrequent – perhaps a couple of times a week.
Not a great deal to report unfortunately for the last few days. I did a couple of hundred words on the 11th and another couple of hundred on Friday, 13th – getting into a new character in Chapter 2 of Dragons Above. I’m enjoying writing the new character – an ageing Field Marshall – but simply had a lot on my plate with work at the moment – not necessarily time-sucking, but more mental energy sucking, I think!
I’m hoping to get into a better routine with writing next week – I think I just need to commit a certain amount of time from my day to make it habit forming. The problem with grabbing a few words here and there – which I have been doing recently – is that sometimes those short moments of time dry up, or if work is intense the last thing I can think of is writing. So I think that’s where having a firm time and schedule can help get things done. I’m also getting back into running at the moment, and I’m following a training plan to build up my stamina – and because I have a firm schedule I tend to commit to doing the runs that I might otherwise decide I can’t be bothered with.
Perhaps I need a writing training plan to keep me on track?
After the disastrous (but if you’re a Total War freak completely predictable) release of Rome 2 Total War, you might be wondering how to get your fix of Roman action? Well there’s lots of great Rome based fiction around, and you might even consider going back to the first incarnation of Rome Total War – you might even like to try my short story The Honour of Rome – it’s short, only a 1,000 words – but you also get another short story, Chivalry, included. So about 6,000 words in total.
Rome 2 Total War looks great, but unfortunately I and a lot of other fans can’t play it yet because it just doesn’t run on a lot of PCs. I am confident it will get fixed at some point, but not that soon.
I think I might have to check out Shogun 2 instead – or at least the demo, and Napoleon Total War, while I wait – just on the Egypt campaign at the moment, and haven’t done any of the historical battles of the Europe campaign, so lots of fun to be had yet!
I have been reading The Scourging Angel by Benedict Gummer, which is an account of the Black Death in Britain. The books is well worth a look if you are interested in this period of history during the Middle Ages. One thing I came across that I didn’t know is what happened to Jewish populations in Europe when the Black Death began to sweep across the Continent.
Medieval Europeans didn’t know why the plague was upon them. Many Churchmen put the blame on man’s sin – it was God’s divine punishment. But lay people however had more down to earth suspicions and decided that there were being maliciously attacked. Rumours spread that wells were being poisoned by enemies. And enemies in Medieval Europe usually meant the Jews, who were seen as outsiders and subject to myths such as the blood libel (the murder of children), the murder of Christ and well poisoning. The stresses of the Black Death turned people’s attentions to people who were seen as outsiders living amongst them and as the plague spread so did the attacks on Jews.
The Church did try to stop this – indeed Jews were protected by Papal order, but these orders were ignored (the Church was not all powerful in the Middle Ages).
In scenes chillingly similar to what would happen under the Nazis whole populations of Jews were slaughtered. For example in Strasbourg the burning of Jews lasted for six days. This was not just people attacking Jews opportunistically where they found them, but an organized slaughter of every Jew that the city authorities could get hold of.
According to a report on a new study in the Guardian the Black Death was not spread by rats, and there’s even some debate about whether it was plague at all. The evidence against rats (in London at least) is the lack of rate skeletons found. Barney Sloane says that you’d expect to see lots of dead rats in excavations too, but they aren’t there!
Here’s an extract from the article about why rats weren’t to blame:
Mortality continued to rise throughout the bitterly cold winter, when fleas could not have survived, and there is no evidence of enough rats.
Black rat skeletons have been found at 14th-century sites, but not in high enough numbers to make them the plague carriers, he said.
In sites beside the Thames, where most of the city’s rubbish was dumped and rats should have swarmed, and where the sodden ground preserves organic remains excellently, few black rats have been found.
I have just been reading some old Nemesis the Warlock stories (one of my favourite 2000 AD characters when I was a kid), and I’m also reading Dan Simmons’ Endymion at the same time. I suddenly had a moment of clarity and readlised that I had been picturing the Shrike as looking a lot like Nemesis the Warlock ever since I started reading the Hyperion Cantos. Without the sword and the cape though!
It’s funny isn’t it how you can use visual cultural references to visualize characters from text-based fiction. Another way of seeing the Shrike might also be the alien from the Alien films. Although for me the Shrike is a bit more spikey and less slobbery than Ridley Scott‘s alien, so perhaps Nemesis works better?
Someone has actually created an image of the Shrike. This is from Wikipedia, and was created by Nojhan:
A big relief I am sure. I for one really appreciate Wikipedia as an easy way to get quick information and to start research into an area of interest. As Cory Doctorow wrote recently, it’s “facts about facts”
Can Wikipedia be relied upon in the future as a serious source of information? Although I think you always need to check facts and references, Wikipedia in the past has always been a sound source of information. But, if, as reported, 49,000 editors have been lost, then surely the site is not going to stay as current as before.
What will happen? Is there a replacement waiting in the wing? Perhaps more focused sites will appear? Or perhaps Wikipedia will change its policy to encourage more participation again?
But maybe it’s just reached a plateau – there’s already a lot of content in there, so to add new stuff requires new events or deeper research.