Time is Running Out!

The Rafflecopter giveaway for my newsletter subscribers will be coming to an end very soon. Don’t miss your chance to win an autographed copy of Into the Shadow Wood, a companion book to Journey to Aviad.

Not subscribed yet? Feel free to take a look at my last newsletter.  In this edition, the feature article “It’s Not Easy Being ‘Clean,'” talks about the difficulty I have finding “clean” entertainment, and how my own works are viewed by others because they lack adult content. There is another author update and links to a couple of giveaways for LOTS of free books. When you  sign up for my newsletter, you’ll also get a free e-copy of Book 2 in my series, Ancient Voices: Into the Depths. You can unsubscribe at any time, so really you’ve got nothing to lose!

Want the chance to win an autographed copy of Into the Shadow Wood?

Step 1: Subscribe to my newsletter and download your free ebook
Step 2: Enter the giveaway

That’s it! The winner will be announced in my September newsletter. Good luck!


Enjoy an Excerpt from Into the Shadow Wood

Our weather-worn tents were nestled into a small clearing, like growing things that had sprung up out of the ground. There were so few of us left…so few. Remaining were the stubborn, the desperate—those who, like me, simply couldn’t let go. Something was still driving us to fight—to hope—in spite of the brutal truth that we had lost. What are we still doing here? This decision to go on is folly. Alaric’s words echoed in my mind. They rang no less true now than they had in the heart of the Shadow Wood.

Though I had escaped the confines of its borders, the Wood had not released its hold on my mind, and my nights continued to be filled with its dark torments. I slept fitfully, with a knife in my fist and my bow close at hand…just in case. The Shadow mocked my inner pain, whispering words of despair to my soul; I would never be free. Each morning I bathed in a nearby stream, scrubbing my skin nearly raw, shaving my face, and grooming my hair. No matter how vigorously I washed, I could still feel the slick residue of the Wood’s filth, and my lungs were heavy with its thick air. When I caught glimpses of my reflection in still pools, the face looking back at me seemed not my own. And it was not only my looks that startled me. At meal times, despite my best intentions, I ate like a crazed, half-starved animal. My brethren no doubt saw me as such judging by the cautious looks I caught from the corners of my eyes. So far, none of them had dared to ask about my journey into the abyss—they seemed afraid to know what could have possibly reduced me to such a state.


Book Description: Into the Shadow Wood

Once a proud member of the Sovereign’s prestigious personal guard, Einar has lost everything: his home, his Sovereign, and his purpose. Most of his closest friends have either been killed in battle or executed. His friend Nevon died trying to fulfill a dangerous oath…one that Einar disagreed with, but now feels honor-bound to take up in his stead. The quest plunges Einar into the depths of the dark and twisted Shadow Wood, testing the limits of his strength, his beliefs, and his sanity. What he finds in the Wood is far more ominous than anything he’d expected. If he’s not careful, Nevon’s fate might end up being his own.

 

Medieval Monday: Solar Eclipse

Have your eclipse-watching glasses ready? Or maybe with all the warnings about faulty viewing glasses, you’re just going to hide from it and watch the event on NASA TV. Either way, today’s rare celestial event is fascinating; something beautiful and awe-inspiring…for us. But how did our medieval counterparts feel about it?

This might largely depend on who, and where, you were at the time an eclipse occurred. There were some, like an Anglo Saxon scholar named Bede, who understood that a solar eclipse happened because the moon was passing between the sun and the earth. In one of his scientific texts, he described how “a solar eclipse occurs when the Sun is hidden by the intervention of the Moon, and a lunar eclipse when the Sun, Earth and moon are aligned with Earth in the centre.”

But not everyone would have been knowledgeable about astronomy, and for those who weren’t, the darkening of the sky in the middle of the day would have been a frightening and ominous event. Even if they hadn’t read it for themselves, they would have been taught stories from the Bible concerning periods of darkness, such as during the ten plagues of Egypt, or when Christ died after being crucified. Apocalyptic accounts associated the darkening of the sun with the end of the world. “The Fifteen Signs before Doomsday” was a Middle English text which described the first sign of the apocalypse. The “Sun will give no light and will be cast down to Earth – while you now see it [the Sun] as pleasing and bright, it will become as black as coal.”

It didn’t help that these negative associations with eclipses, and the superstitions people held about them, seemed to be supported by significant events throughout medieval history. Louis of Bavaria, who was Charlemagne’s son and a great Emperor, died shortly after experiencing an eclipse. It was said that he died of fright. Adding to the distress of the Emperor’s death, his sons began a three-year dispute over his succession, which eventually led to the division of Europe into three large areas: Germany, Italy, and France.

The Anglo Saxons later linked an eclipse to a Viking invasion that occurred in 879.

Another solar eclipse happened on August 2, 1133, which could be seen in England and Germany. For both countries, it turned out to be a particularly bad omen. In England, the eclipse could be seen the day after King Henry I departed, and in fact he died in Normandy shortly after. The Germans blamed the same eclipse for the sack of Augsburg and the subsequent massacre of its people by Duke Frederick.

In 1140 William of Malmesbury wrote, ‘There was an eclipse throughout England, and the darkness was so great that people at first thought the world was ending.  Afterwards they realised it was an eclipse, went out, and could see the stars in the sky.  It was thought and said by many, not untruly, that the king would soon lose his power.”

An eclipse was even blamed for the fall of Constantinople in 1453, though in truth a postern gate had been carelessly left open, allowing Turkish soldiers entrance to the city.

There was also an element of inconvenience associated with the darkness of an eclipse. In the 11th century, one observer wrote, “the Sun was obscured for the space of three hours; it was so great that any people who were working indoors could only continue if in the meantime they lit lamps. Indeed some people went from house to house to get lanterns or torches. Many were terrified.”

I wonder if in the Middle Ages they knew to protect their eyes by not looking directly at an eclipse. Even now with all our knowledge, it is reported that about 100 people in the United States go completely blind each time there is an eclipse, and even more sustain damage to their retinas. I can imagine that having even a small number of people go blind in a medieval village or city after an eclipse occurs would only add to the sense of dread that fueled existing medieval beliefs and superstitions.


Want to know more about the Middle Ages? Check out the Medieval Monday Index for additional topics.

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.


This small tower blends into the landscape as though it has always belonged here. But who lives inside? Someone who likes their privacy, that much is for certain. Maybe a hermit, who just wants to be left alone, or a monk who has vowed to to live a solitary life of study and prayer. It could be a wizard, who needs peace and quiet for his craft. Impoverished knight? Rogue outlaw? It’s possible that no one lives here at all, and the place is abandoned. It’s pretty overgrown, after all.

Are you bold enough to sneak up and look through the windows, or even go right up and knock on the door? Just remember there’s no help anywhere close by, so I’d be wary of going inside if I were you. 

(Title and Artist Unknown)

Tackle your TBR pile in September – Sign up now!

A little something for both readers and writers, shared from Chris the Story Reading Ape’s blog. Join the Read-a-thon, or if you’re also an author, host your own giveaway or challenge.


September 11th to 24th sees the fifth TackleTBR Readathon, thanks to Tressa at Wishful Endings.

The goal you set is entirely up to you – maybe you don’t even want to set a goal.  

Apart from reading books to shorten your list, though, the read-a-thon includes challenges from participants (with prizes to enter for), activities to join in, and general fun and mayhem.

Read all about it at Wishful Endings and sign up at any time through to 20th September.

I’ll be doing a Goals post on the first day of the Readathon, so you’ll see what I’m planning to read then.

I’ll also be setting you a challenge on 19th September, for which I’ll be giving a prize.

Sign up now to reduce the length/size of your reading pile.  

Source: Tackle your TBR pile in September – Sign up now! ~ Jemima Pett

Medieval Monday: Fire! Fire!

Fire was crucial to survival in the Middle Ages. With electricity and gas-powered devices still far into the future, open flame was the most common source of heat for cooking, industry, and protection against the cold. Fires were a bit more difficult to set in an era before matches, particularly if everything was wet. Fire-steels, flint, or pyrite (struck against iron to produce a spark) might be carried in a leather pouch along with tinder. Tinder could be dried brush, straw, birch bark, rotten wood, pine needles, wood shavings, small twigs, or char-cloth. Char-cloth was made by briefly catching a bit of clean linen on fire, then putting the fire out. The resulting bit of blackened fiber could be saved for later and easily caught fire. Once a fire had been successfully lit, the resulting coals were protected with fire covers or other means. It was more convenient to revive a fire from still-hot coals than to start one from scratch.

As much as fire was a necessity to life, it was also a significant hazard in the medieval world. Stone and brick were prohibitively expensive building materials for the average person. Most buildings were made of wattle and daub with thatch roofs, and straw beds were often pulled close to hearth fires—all of these materials burned quickly once lit. In cities, the buildings were also built very close together, so if one building went up in flames, those near it would likely burn down as well. Many towns throughout Europe were at one point or other devastated by fire, whether by lit by accident, invaders, or even lightning. After 1213, London forbade thatch roofing in favor of shingles and tile, though other towns were slow to do the same.

Cook houses and kitchens were sometimes built separate from other structures because they were such a common fire hazard. Brewers and barbers were tightly regulated for the same reason. They were all required to have their buildings whitewashed and plastered, both inside and out. Fires posed not only a threat to people and livestock, but to the longevity of the community if large food stores and other structures or supplies vital to survival were destroyed.

Imagine trying to fight a large fire with no hydrants, hoses, firetrucks, extinguishers, or any other modern equipment. In some cities access to water was already at a premium, and even with a large water source close by, there was no fast delivery system. Firefighting equipment of the day was buckets of water, firehooks to pull down thatch and compromised buildings, and lots of manpower. Each home was required to have a full container of water ready and waiting outside the front door, and every citizen was obligated to assist when a fire broke out.

While stone buildings were safer, they were not impervious to fire, and even castles could be destroyed by it. Starting fires was often a tactic used by those laying siege to a castle or keep. Catapults could fling flaming objects over the stone walls in the hopes of catching something flammable on the other side. Once started, such fires were very difficult if not impossible to extinguish.

On a personal note, I once visited a still-habited castle in Germany (sadly, I cannot remember its name) which burned in modern times much as structures would have burned in the medieval era. A fire was started on a cold winter night when embers from an untended fireplace lit a rug on fire. There were no hydrants or sprinkler systems—the firemen had to draw water from the river below the castle. But it was so uncharacteristically cold that the water was freezing in the hoses on the way up. Like ancient times, citizens were called upon to try to save the castle by bucket-brigade.

I remember seeing aerial photographs immortalized on informational plaques at the site, showing the sections that had burned. The original walls remained standing upright, but everything inside of them was gone, right down to the bare earth below. The owners had spent many years after (along with a small fortune) restoring the castle, though countless irreplaceable pieces of history had been lost forever.

It has been close to 30 years since I visited that place on a leisurely afternoon, and enjoyed piece of Black Forest cake in the café just below it. But it obviously made a strong impression on me, as sights and tales of fires would have made an even stronger impression on those so vulnerable to them in the medieval era. Such events were in fact one of the ways medieval people marked the passage of time before watches and calendars were commonplace items. Everyone would remember the year the river flooded, or lightning hit the church steeple…or the local castle burned to the ground on a frigid, winter night.


Want to know more about the Middle Ages? Check out the Medieval Monday Index for additional topics.

Fantasy Art Wednesday

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


Beautiful, yet forlorn, this place is slowly succumbing to the ravages of time. The lonely figure walking this crumbling corridor is determined to remain its companion to the very end. It was a glorious place once, built by a wealth and power that has long ebbed away. But while this structure was new, and whole, it gave the lives of those within it meaning and purpose. This robed figure has not forgotten, even though its noble arches are now draped in vine, and the crows brazenly come and go as they please. There is writing etched deep into the stones beneath the pillars. Each word is a plea from the past; a silent but unyielding voice that demands a place in the present. The robed figure knows what they say. Do you?

Crows’ Abbey

Want to Win an Autographed Book?

I’m doing another Rafflecopter giveaway for my newsletter subscribers. This time I’m giving away an autographed copy of Into the Shadow Wood, a companion book to Journey to Aviad.

Not subscribed yet? Feel free to take a look at my last newsletter.  In this edition there is a character spotlight on Alaric from Into the Shadow Wood, along with some author updates and links to a couple of giveaways for LOTS of free books. When you  sign up for my newsletter, you’ll also get a free e-copy of Book 2 in my series, Ancient Voices: Into the Depths. You can unsubscribe at any time, so really you’ve got nothing to lose!

So, back to my original question:
Want the chance to win an autographed book?

Step 1: Subscribe to my newsletter and download your free ebook
Step 2: Enter the giveaway

That’s it! The winner will be announced in my September newsletter. Good luck!


Into the Shadow Wood

Once a proud member of the Sovereign’s prestigious personal guard, Einar has lost everything: his home, his Sovereign, and his purpose. Most of his closest friends have either been killed in battle or executed. His friend Nevon died trying to fulfill a dangerous oath…one that Einar disagreed with, but now feels honor-bound to take up in his stead. The quest plunges Einar into the depths of the dark and twisted Shadow Wood, testing the limits of his strength, his beliefs, and his sanity. What he finds in the Wood is far more ominous than anything he’d expected. If he’s not careful, Nevon’s fate might end up being his own.