Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Almost there...

Completion for Flight of the Hawk is getting closer and closer. I've finished what I hope will be my last editing pass, the covers are done and uploaded, I've got the ISBN, and I'm tinkering with the map (or maps - can't decide). Still planning on an official release date around November 1, but I may make it available sooner on Lulu for the impatient. And then there's the October promotion...

Photoshop and I are becoming well acquainted. I've got Elements 5, and I like it --the Missing Manual helps a lot. So does my background in technical illustration and AutoCAD. After I get Flight of the Hawk published, I'm going to do a revision on Storyteller to make the cover more what I actually wanted instead of what the contractor delivered, and fix a few other minor glitches at the same time.

After that, on to the the next book: The Ash Spear. But that's a post for another day.

Monday, August 27, 2007

About that cover image...

In attempting to replace the earlier cover concept for Flight of the Hawk with the final on the sidebar, I've run into some sort of technical glitch - the image loads, but it's stretched horizontally. I think this is Blogger's fault, but for the moment, no cover picture. It *will* be back!

To Start the Week...

A riddle:
from five flakes
of argent hue
red as blood
so I grew
five fold star
in me still
till my golden
blood you spill
Answer on Friday.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Writing Progress

I'm still on schedule with Flight of the Hawk. The front and back cover are done, and I'll be working on the maps today. I'm also on what I hope will be the final editing pass for the manuscript. So things are looking good!

In the meantime, while I was out of town last week, I was mildly surprised to find ideas popping up for the next book. This one will be titled The Ash Spear, and will start about six months after Hawk ends. The title has a double meaning, which I'll explain presently.

I'll also be doing a special promotion in October - but that's a subject for another post.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Reference Book of the Week

Today's pick: Warlords and Holy Men: Scotland AD 80-1000, by Alfred P Smyth. First published in 1984; most recently reprinted by Edinburgh University Press in 2003. The author is a reader in Medieval History at the University of Kent.

This book won the 1985 Spring Book Award for Literature from the Scottish Arts Council, and one can see why. A wide-ranging, enthusiastic and scholarly work, it covers a great deal of ground with a surprising amount of detail for its size. Although some of the archaeological conclusions have changed in the intervening thirty years, this is still a good introduction to the period and good value for money at $24.00. Topics include: Roman Britain, the Picts, St. Columba, Adomnan, Vikings, the orgins of medieval Scotland, and the conquest of the southern uplands.

The author shows an impressive ability to look at the larger picture while not losing sight of details, an ability which allows him to combine seeming isolated facts into interesting combinations. Whether or not you agree with all of his conclusions, you will find many that are thought-provoking. An example is his dating of the final collapse of the British kingdom of Rheged by the series of entries in the Irish Annals of Ulster regarding the presence of roving bands of British warriors in Ireland between 682 and 709. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

still slow...

So this week I'm stuck out of town on business without the internet access I expected. With luck, though, I'll at least manage that next book review before the end of the week. In the meantime I'm taking a break from writing and editing Flight of the Hawk and actually reading someone else's fiction (gasp!).

No worries, though -- Hawk is still on schedule for its November release!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

yes, I'm slow

Slow getting started at the blog again, anyway, although I've been busy in the background. I'm trying to come up with a way to make chapters of Storyteller available though links on the blog, but so far have hit a few technical glitches. Coming soon: a website at Alder Tree Books, where I can offer that sort of thing.

More soon - in the meantime, keep reading; there is lots of material in the archives!


Thursday, August 16, 2007

More thoughts on wool

My fill-in blogger Rowen has agreed to do a semi-regular post on medieval fabric matters. Here's her second column. (BTW, we're trying to think of a snappy name for this feature - suggestions (via the comments mechanism) are welcome!)

Rowen again. . . .

I know I said, next time, linen, but I've been having a few more thoughts on wool.

Over thirty-some years of historic re-creation, I've heard many folk say things along the lines of, “ugh, wool, itchy!” or, “I just can’t wear it – I’m allergic!”

Well, a person in the Middle Ages who was genuinely allergic to wool would indeed have had quite a problem, but I wonder, how many people *really* were?

I used to think I was. I have uncomfortable memories of wool skirts worn to school as a child, and frantically itching from the waist-bands. Wool jackets, wool slacks, wool sweaters. . . all of these caused discomfort & scratching. I’d about given up wearing wool at all, until one day about 25 years ago, when I mentioned this to a co-worker. “Allergic to wool?” she said. “Nonsense!” And then and there she whipped off her handsome hand-knitted sweater (she was wearing a shirt under it) and handed it to me, saying, “try this.” Now, her sweater had been made from the fleece of ‘Fred the Sheep’ – some friends of hers kept a flock for wool, and every year she purchased ‘Fred’s’ sheared fleece, which was a lovely charcoal grey, and washed, spun, and knitted the wool herself. No weird chemical dyes, no dry-cleaning, no commercial processing. So I clapped ‘Fred’ to my stomach, expecting an itchy reaction – and didn’t get one. To shorten the tale, it turns out that I wasn’t allergic to wool – I was allergic to dry-cleaning fluid! Nowadays, all of my woolen clothing, whether modern or medieval, is cold-water washed and air-dried. No itching, no problems. (Admittedly, there *are* some folk now, and doubtless were a few then as well, who *do* have a genuine allergy to wool, lanolin, etc., and are simply going to have to avoid it.)

But consider – medieval wool was washed, yes, and often dyed – but never dry-cleaned, never treated with any amount of the chemical substances currently used somewhere along the path between the sheep and the shirt. True, ascetics often wore wool without linen under it (linen inner garments were considered upper-class, and maybe just a bit decadent in the 6th and 7th centuries in Britain) and fine soft wool was always to be preferred over coarse or hairy wool, but I doubt very much that there were all that many folk in medieval Europe suffering from itching – or at least not from their woolen clothes. But that’s a thought for another day.


Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Back Home Again

Got back last night from Pennsic War after two days and 1475 long miles of driving ... now to unload the truck. Actually, we got the tent out and draped it over the clothes line last night so it can dry properly, but there are still a lot of bins to shift, gear to clean and repack for storage, etc, etc. Probably won't do another camping event until February and Estrella War, but it's never to soon to start planning and preparation.

Why do it? I asked in my last blog. For love. For seeing friends you wouldn't otherwise have met, let alone seen again. For sharing songs and stories around the bardic fire. If you're a fighter, for the fighting. And for most of us at some point, the shopping. But mostly for the people we love, and with whom we share a dream.

More tomorrow, when I've caught up on my email / unpacking / rest.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Pennsic is almost over

Pennsic War is almost over for the year, and tomorrow I start the long drive back to Denver. I should be blogging again as usual on Tuesday, so the silence here will end. Thanks to Rowen for providing the guest blog on textiles, and I hope she will be contributing again from time to time.

As to Pennsic War itself - why would any semi-sane individual drive two days (or more) at current gas prices in order to camp for two weeks in a (frequently) soggy field in Western Pennsylvania's heat and humidity along with 11,000+ other people?

That will be my next blog post!

Monday, August 6, 2007

What were they wearing? : some thoughts on wool

Rowen here, filling in a bit (yes, I borrowed the sign-on.)

More specifically, what fibers were Gwernin's people using to make cloth & clothing? And where were they getting them? Archaeological evidence for 6th c Britain gives us two main fibers, wool and linen, and very, very rare bits of silk. Just now I'm going to talk a bit about wool.

Woolen fabric, for the most part, would have been locally produced, and a great deal of it worn in "sheeps'-color", i.e. the shades of the natural fleeces. This does not mean that folk would have all been wearing the same light grey-brown; sheep that have not been specially bred for *white* fleeces can produce a wide range of cream, charcoal, pale grey, russet, or rich brown wool. Wealthy folk, however, would have had specially-dyed, possibly imported, fabrics for their better garments. (Wealthier folk would also have had more than one or two sets of clothing, as well, but the idea of a new outfit for every occasion is quite a modern one!)

In addition to dyed or natural colors, garments could have been – and were – decorated with stitchery or embroidery, contrasting bands of fabric or tablet-weaving at the neck and sleeves, or enhanced by the pattern of the weaving: a broken twill or herringbone, or diamond-twill pattern took more time and skill on the part of the weaver than a simple tabby (basic over/under) weave. Deep, rich colors were more time-intensive to dye, and might call for (expensive) imported ingredients. The easiest and most common local dyes produced a range of yellow/gold, brown, and greenish shades, but some herbs and lichens could produce astonishing purple, cerise and orange tones.

Modern taste often leans toward the irregular weave or dye-lot as looking “more hand-made,” but in a world where every single thread of every single piece of fabric – a queen’s coronation gown, an infant’s swaddling bands, sails for ships or sheets for beds – had first to be spun on a drop-spindle before it could be woven, the smoother thread and the even weave or dye-job were a sign of greater skill, and produced an object of higher status.

Next time: some thoughts on linen.