Saturday, 18 August 2018

Sorting the Wheat from the Chaff

For the historical novelist, primary sources are always a bit like finding your way through a maze. We are, in effect, looking back and reading what we would reasonably expect to be accurate. But, of course, this isn’t always the case. The old adage says that history is written by the winners and, for the most part it is, even today. Just look at the non-reporting of some events such as demonstrations and especially the number of protesters, against the policies of a sitting government.

When it comes to the mediaeval period, primary sources are not abundant. In the first of the new Gideon Rooke series, Loyalty in Conflict, I am writing about the events in March 1470 surrounding the most obscure of the battles in the Wars of the Roses, the Battle of Empingham, sometimes called the Battle of Losecote Field. Despite spending almost a year researching this book (and being side-tracked quite a lot) it was only recently I found out the battle allegedly lasted a mere 45 minutes with Edward IV overcoming the Lincolnshire rebels led by Sir Robert Welles. This despite the king having less than 8,000 people in his army whereas Welles was leading a force of just under 15,000.

It is at times like these that reading the various sources, primary and otherwise can lead to utter confusion. More than one source says only Sir Richard Welles (Robert’s father) was beheaded whilst kneeling between the two armies, so that Robert could see Edward IV meant business. However, in the contemporary account Chronicle of the Rebellion in Lincolnshire 1470 edited in 1847 by John Gough Nichols, it clearly states that Sir Richard Welles and Sir Thomas Dymoke were both executed whilst kneeling between the two armies. Other accounts have Dymoke being executed in Stamford, but they are not written by the man on the spot at the time.

So I will go with this unnamed chronicler, who, although he is unashamedly on the king’s side and calls Edward’s traitorous brother that weak and worthless prince, George, Duke of Clarence, was there at the time. His account also tells of a servant of the worthless Duke of Clarence being found dead on the battlefield with a convenient casket of letters confirming the treachery of Clarence and the Earl of Warwick (usually known as Warwick the Kingmaker). What a convenient find.

More recent accounts throw doubt on whether the casket of letters ever existed at all and assert that it was propaganda for Edward to prove the treason of his brother and his cousin. And in the intervening 548 years, we have only to think of the Hitler Diaries, the casket letters of Mary, Queen of Scots, and the diamond necklace letter to Marie Antoinette, to know that this kind of propaganda still prevails.

The dilemma of trying to wade through thousands of words to get to the truth may at first glance be a cause of difficulty to the writer who wants to keep the history as true as possible, but it also provides that lifeblood called what-if? This is one of the most enjoyable aspects of planning a novel. The oooh moment: if he does that, I can make X do this. And, if you can cite a source that confirms your assertion, so much the better because it might just have happened the way your novel plan wants it to have happened. If it doesn’t, the answer to critics is But it’s fiction.

So, gentle reader, if I decide to accept one account and not another, you will have to accept that if my fiction meets your fact, my fiction will win.
 
April Taylor


You can find out more about April Taylor here: Twitter  Amazon UK  Amazon USA

Sunday, 24 June 2018

Holiday or Research? Down into Grime's Graves

 
Holidays. Some people laze on sun-drenched beaches. Linda Acaster ventures down Neolithic flint mines. 

Collect your hard hat and join her and hubby as they fight their way through Thetford Forest, Norfolk, to descend 30 feet into Grime's Graves - or at least "Pit 1" to view the narrow galleries where black flint was prised free with the aid of antler picks. And a lot of sweat.


Saturday, 19 May 2018

Early Summer eBook Promotions

Kindle image from Free-Photos ex Pixabay.com under CC0 Licence
The sun is out, the sky is blue(ish), so drag out the lounger, settle yourself in a sheltered spot, and read.

What? Run out of ebooks? How could you?!

Today on Linda Acaster's blog is just the place to stock up your Kindle, and each title is only 99p / 99c. 

No, not just her own, but a whole field of Romance in all its sub-genres, and so much Fantasy & Science Fiction you'll need a whip and a chair to keep it all at bay. 

Why bother? Just buy a few, reach for a long, cool drink, and turn off the phone for the weekend. You know you'll feel better.

Sunday, 22 April 2018

Pointers from #History

Life-size Terracotta Warrior and horse, Qin Dynasty, 200+ BC
Writers usually research history to gain an insight into a particular period because they are writing a novel set in that period. 

Yet this is a narrow view of history, especially when considered within the context of contemporary fiction. History repeats. Not only does it always repeat, like a virus history repeats with a slight mutation.

Writing about the future using a lens from the past creates firm foundations. Rulers may start intending to provide a better life for their followers, but the ends tend to start justifying the means; power corrupts and nay-sayers are replaced by yea-sayers. Leaders who start believing their own hype soon become despots.

Excavated Roman funerary plaque beside how it would have appeared.
Speculative Fiction sub-genres, particularly of Fantasy and Science Fiction, are fertile soils in which to sow the seeds. But where to locate the seeds?

Cultural exhibitions can be a source, as Linda Acaster recently found visiting Chester to view its Roman funerary plaques and excavated amphitheatre. But the further from a writer’s own cultural background and writing the more likely images or snippets of information will fire the imagination, as she found visiting Liverpool to attend an exhibition on “China’s First Emperor and the Terracotta Warriors”.

Writers who concentrate only on the period and the people they are writing about can seriously limit their horizons.

Saturday, 14 April 2018

#WritersResources : Competitions, Names, Websites

Member Stuart Aken, author of many a title including the Epic Fantasy trilogy A Seared Sky and Sci-Fi Mars trilogy, keeps a mean website worth a look.

Included in his Resources page is an on-going and continually updated Competitions page, a list of First Names from around the world (10k+), and a selection of websites of interest to writers and to readers.

Let there be no calls for inspiration!

Saturday, 7 April 2018

Farscape, FantastiCon and Hornsea Writers



There is usually good representation from Hornsea Writers at the annual sci-fi convention, FantastiCon, and we hope that this year will be no exception. But as yet there is no insider knowledge on whether any Hornsea Writer has a book to launch there. The usual suspect would be Stuart Aken who has launched both his Seared Sky trilogy and the start of his Mars series at the event over the past few years. I guess we’ll have to wait for further announcements.

All being well, the cast of Farscape will be shipped over from Los Angeles not only to take part in the convention but for Gigi Edgley and her brother to perform the final event of their Wanderland World Tour at the live music evening on Saturday night.

FantastiCon this year will be held in Cleethorpes at the futuristic leisure centre on the first weekend in September: 1st and 2nd. Tickets are now on sale via Kickstarter. CLICK HERE for further information on the event and the venue. 


Saturday, 31 March 2018

Research: Mapping Our Way To Understanding

Mappa Mundi, c1300, from Hereford Cathedral
Linda Acaster is fascinated by maps, particularly the Ordnance Survey maps of the United Kingdom. 

By the use of very simple icons each map accurately places every milepost, lighthouse, and electricity pylon; distinguishs between pits of gravel, sand, landfill and quarry; delineates contour lines and vegetation types, and also manages to classify archaeological and historical remains in the landscape.

So what did people do before the first of these maps were commissioned in the late 18th century? 

Can an Early Medieval (Dark Age) "map" still be used today? 

Linda answers these and other questions on her blog HERE. Go visit!

Mappa Mundi image reproduced via Creative Commons licensing.

Saturday, 24 March 2018

An insight into the lives of...

I’ve been lucky enough to interview some fascinating writers over the years. Counting back I find that five of them are fellow Hornsea Writers.


Click on their names for some surprising insights into the writing and lives of:












Saturday, 17 March 2018

Sharing the research


One of the most captivating areas of fiction writing is the research. Many writers will tell you that they get so engrossed it becomes a real wrench to close the research file and get on with writing the actual book.

An upside to this, for both writers and readers, is that all that background provides more topics for short pieces that can be shared. And some fascinating facts emerge in all sorts of areas.

Ever wondered how people got natural light into their houses pre 17th century, without letting in the cold and everything else that can climb through an opening in a wall? Check out Linda Acaster’s blog Glazing Without Glass

Interested in quirky facts about horses? Try out Melanie Trudeaux’s blog for snippets on A Horse’sTeeth or find out what horses see out of those huge eyes in Seeing the right colour




Saturday, 10 March 2018

For Students Struggling with Dissertations.

“Cutting Through The Academic Crap: An Informal Guide to Writing Your Dissertation”

Why did I feel the need to write this short, no nonsense guide for students? Read on.

There used to be a joke, which turned about to be the truth regarding an EU directive about cucumbers. It amounted to a terrifying number of words when compared to the American Bill of Rights. Scary when you consider that the first deals with a salad vegetable and the second the rights of a nation’s individuals.

My mother’s generation always believed in the value of long-winded pomposity over short, clear and to the point writing. These people still exist and a lot are in academia.

I wrote this short, clear guide because so many students - intelligent, articulate students - get either no clear instructions about what they need to write the dissertation or conflicting information.

The incredibly intelligent and talented son of a friend was working himself into a nervous breakdown over his dissertation. Had he been given guidance by his tutors? Yes, but they kept changing their minds. The saddest thing was that he knew exactly what he wanted to say, but nobody had told him in plain uncomplicated language how to say it. Worse, they hadn’t even hinted at how much knowledge of how to manipulate the word processing software he would need. We spent a weekend sorting his notes and, using my guidance, he wrote his dissertation. He came out of university with a first-class honours degree.

Cutting Through the Academic Crap covers not just how to put a dissertation together, but how to organise your notes, how to use your time effectively, how to manipulate Word and what to do if it all goes wrong. If this guide saves just one student from the hell my friend went through, I shall be delighted.

April Taylor. Cutting Through the Academic Crap. 


You can learn more about April Taylor here: