Wordless Wednesday – Harlech Castle

I really miss going to places like this! For now, I’ll just have to live vicariously through Cathy Ryan of Between the Lines. Click through the link below to enjoy more images of this castle.

Harlech Castle

via #WordlessWednesday ~ Harlech Castle #Photography


Why We Like Stories by Adam at Write Thoughts

Discussing Why We Like Stories #AuthorToolbox (Part 1, The Unconscious)

Storytelling is a lifelong journey, full of unexpected detours; learning subjects that can include psychology, philosophy, history, and various scientific disciplines. We point to specific examples of stories and marvel at how they “do it”. Funny or sad, light-hearted or serious, simple or complex, but they’re all stories, which means on some level they share certain basic attributes. One of those attributes is what they do for the audience. I’d like to propose that all stories represent different ways of satisfying two basic desires: the desire to feel, and the desire to think…

Click the link below to continue reading this thought provoking article on why we like stories… https://writet.blog/2018/03/20/discussing-why-we-like-stories-authortoolbox-part-1-the-unconscious/

Medieval Monday: Pigeons and Dovecotes

Doves and pigeons were an important resource in the Middle Ages,  valued primarily for their meat, eggs, and feathers. Falconries used them as quarry, and their guano was a highly sought-after fertilizer. In southern Europe, it was spread on hemp fields and vineyards. In Northern Europe, it was said that pigeon guano was worth ten loads of any other type of fertilizer.

Until the 1600s, strict laws forbid anyone other than the nobility or monasteries from keeping doves and pigeons. Though some castles and manors had built-in nesting boxes, for the most part these birds were housed in freestanding structures called dovecotes. They were round, stone buildings with either a domed or conical-shaped roof. The round shape made it easier for people to collect young doves or pigeons (squabs) from the nesting boxes. Squabs were considered a delicacy.

The inside of the building had a large open space, with ledges or cubicles jutting out from the walls. Pigeons would enter and exit from openings just beneath the roof. The nests could be accessed with a ladder attached to a revolving pole called a potence.

There is some evidence that pigeons were also used for communication, but only after exposure to Middle Eastern practices during the crusades. For the most part Western Europeans had no concept of how birds migrated. (They thought that Swallows hibernated during the winter in the mud beneath ponds.) The use of homing pigeons to communicate over long distances didn’t become common throughout all of Europe until after the medieval era. However, those regions that continued to trade and communicate with the Arab world during and after the crusades began to build networks of homing pigeons. The Republic of Genoa was the most notable of these, and built towers for that purpose along the Mediterranean Sea.

Pigeons were able to deliver messages relatively reliably and quickly over hundreds of miles from their home. By feeding them in one location, and nesting them in another, they could be trained to fly back and forth between two locations. But more often, once they were released and delivered their messages, pigeons had to be transported back and forth by cart. This method of communication was not without its limitations, however. Any message sent by pigeon had to be very short, and the receiver on the other end would have to be literate enough to read it. Such messages could also be intercepted by trained falcons and hawks, or by archers.

Learn more about daily life in the Middle Ages by browsing previous posts in the Medieval Monday Index.

Medieval Monday: The Peasant (part 2)

In my last post I talked about peasants in medieval society. This week I am expanding on that, as their roles went far beyond the basic categories of serfs, villeins, and freemen.

While many peasants provided manual labor in the crop fields, not all of them were farmers. Peasants were craftspeople as well, whether working in a castle or manor directly for the nobility, or serving villages and towns. Peasant trades would have included millers, carpenters, blacksmiths, goldsmiths, shoemakers, cobblers, chandlers (candle makers), coopers (barrel makers), tanners, tinkers, potters, weavers, bakers, fletchers (arrow-makers), book-binders, masons, and many others. Some of these trades were tightly regulated by powerful guilds, particularly in the later Middle Ages.

Work, family, and home were integrated together. Peasants working a craft usually lived and worked in the same building. If they had a shop, it would occupy the first floor where the front of the building might be able to open into a vendor stall. The second floor would be living space for the family. Parents typically taught their children the trades they worked; father to son, mother to daughter. If a child did not learn a parent’s trade, they could be apprenticed to someone else to learn a different one.

We tend to think that women’s responsibilities were purely domestic, such as tending the home, children, animals, garden, and sometimes helping in the fields during the height of the harvest. However, there were also certain crafts that were commonly done by women, such as baking, brewing, midwifery, and every aspect of textile manufacture. Women were also known to help their husbands with their crafts, including but not limited to leather and metal working, or helping to run mills, taverns, and inns. Positions in convents were typically reserved for noblewomen, but some peasant women were able to enter as “lay sisters.” They would be given the most menial jobs that needed to be taken care of.

Some peasants actually held prominent, even powerful roles that brought them wealth.

A bailiff was hired to help run a lord’s estate. His job would be to delegate jobs to other peasants and hire the appropriate tradesmen as needed for different projects. He was also responsible for taking care of livestock and building maintenance.

A reeve was an assistant to a bailiff; an enforcer who was usually strong and intimidating. His job was to act as a go-between. He made sure that the peasant workers were doing their jobs and not stealing from the lord.

Stewards (or seneschals) were also extremely important, and well paid for their work. They were in charge of managing a lord’s affairs when he was away—taking care of both his property and his finances. A steward by necessity was someone that the lord could trust.

Learn more about daily life in the Middle Ages by browsing previous posts in the Medieval Monday Index.

Fantasy Art Friday

Get inspired with this week’s Fantasy Art Friday, where fun fantasy artwork is combined with a writing prompt to get your creative juices flowing.

Few have been to this pristine valley, its vibrant greens hemmed in by cold, white mountains that are nearly impossible to scale. Animals graze here, taking leisurely drinks from the streams. They’ve not had to learn the fear of hunters.

There are plenty of legends about this place–the kind told over frothy mugs in smoky taverns. How many of those tales are inspired more by ale than truth no one really knows. But on one thing all of the stories seem to agree; that this beautiful country is not as empty as it would seem, nor is it friendly to strangers. Any who attempt to settle here come to an unpleasant end, for the tall mountains conceal the homes of those who have lived beneath them for thousands of years…and they want to keep them concealed for thousands more. With their own hands they set the round stones in the stream. Giant hands, placing stepping stones for giant feet to cross from one side to the other. 

Are you content to swap tales in the safety of the tavern, mug of ale in hand? Or are you the adventurous type who can’t rest until you find out for yourself if the legends are true? Do you dare to venture across the giant stepping stones?


Title Unknown, by Roberto Nieto

Want to see more Fantasy Art posts? Find them here.



Tools of Medieval Wisdom Unearthed Beneath England’s Ancient Academic Hub

Archaeologists in England have unearthed in excess of 10,000 medieval artifacts in central Oxford and every single one of them is providing a clearer picture of day to day life at Oxford University, as it was seven centuries ago.

Oxford University has become England’s academic pulsing heart, but it began as part of a friary established by Franciscan friars in 1224, known as Greyfriars. The massive archaeological dig is being directed by archaeologist, Ben Ford of the heritage consultancy, Oxford Archaeology, who told reporters at The Independent, among the smaller finds were “writing equipment, refectory cutlery and even ceramic beer mugs used by students and teachers back in the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries.” They also recovered “Ultra-rare octagonal oak columns, possibly from the friary’s 13th century timber church,” and a “beautiful mediaeval tiled pavement from the friary… discovered very near the new Westgate shopping center in central Oxford, archaeologists told reporters.”

According to the archeological report the dig has unearthed the iron knives and spoons, for consuming potage and broth. The recent finds tell archaeologists that Oxford’s medieval scholars ate a very wide range of terrestrial sourced foods including “meat, eggs, cereals, mutton, lamb, pork, beef, chicken and geese.” Sea fish included cod, whiting, haddock, herring, eel, gurnard, conger, grey mullet, thornback ray, salmon and sea trout, and archaeologists reported that among the freshwater fish eaten were roach and dace. A microscopic examination of all the food remains and radiocarbon dating will begin shortly.

Read the rest of this interesting article on the Ancient Origins website.

Seven Ways to Market Your Self-Published Novel…

Congratulations! You’ve published your first novel (or maybe your second or your third) and now you’re ready to market it.

This can be a daunting moment. I think all of us secretly hope that our novel will be miraculously discovered and recognised as the masterpiece it truly is … but we know that isn’t going to happen without some sort of marketing.

The good news – especially if the very idea of marketing makes you shudder – is that there’s no single “right” way to let the world know about your book.  There are lots of different techniques you might try, depending on the type of book you’ve written, and the type of author you are.

I’m focusing on self-published novelists in this post. Many of these suggestions will work just fine for traditionally published authors too, but as a self-publisher, you have full control over things like the price of your book – and carte blanche to market in any way you see fit.

I’ve also kept this list short: seven ideas rather than the 50+ you might find on some sites.  I’ve come across some huge lists of marketing ideas for novelists … but often I end up feeling that most of the ideas aren’t necessarily all that workable or impactful.

While there are an almost unlimited number of things you could do to promote your novel, in this post, I’m going to focus on seven very common ones:

Read the rest of the post: http://www.aliventures.com/seven-ways-market-novel/

Shared thanks to Chris the Story Readin’g Ape’s Blog: Seven Ways to Market Your Self-Published Novel…