Award-winning Author of the Sister Frevisse Mysteries and the Joliffe Player Mysteries 


November 2010

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November 23rd, 2010


This is a gray and glooming month, known for its rain and wind and fog, with hardly nine and a half hours of light to the day at the month’s beginning, and less before it ends.  To the Saxons it was Wint monath – the Wind month – or else Bot monath, the bloody month for slaughtering the winter meat.

Nov. 1 is the Feast of All Saints, called All Hallows Day.  Grown out of pagan celebrations to honor the dead as the year enters its own death, it is one of the four great feasts of the Church year (the others coming in February, May and August – Candlemas, Whitsuntide, and Lammas)  All Hallows  Eve, the night before All Hallows, may be riotous but the day itself is solemnly religious.

Nov. 2 is the Feast of All Souls, celebrating the memory of all who have died, particularly those in Purgatory.  Poor folk go a-souling for the day, singing carols from door to door and begging for Soul Cakes.  During the day church bells toll and services are held, and in some places lighted candles are placed in windows to comfort the dead.

Nov. 11 is St. Martin’s day, called Martinmas.  An unseasonable spell of warm weather around now is known as St. Martin’s summer.

The winter planting if it runs this late ends now, and if the frosts are not too deep in the ground yet there may be some plowing of fields in preparation for early spring planting.  But the month’s main work now is the slaughtering of all the animals that cannot be kept over the winter, including pigs fattened in the woods last month.  With the slaughtering comes the salting down of the meat, and the tanning of hides for leather, and soap- and glue-making, and whatever else can be had from the carcasses.

Now is also the time for repairing buildings against winter weather; for cleaning chimneys to prevent fires; for clearing privies and taking their refuse to bury in trenches in gardens for fertilizing.  Threshing – prepared for at harvest’s end – begins now, though only grain that is immediately needed is threshed since unthreshed grain is thought to keep better.  Smiths will be sharpening horses’ shoes and fixing the spurn bar across them to prevent the horses’ slipping on the ice to come.  But it is said that

             If there is ice in November that will bear a duck
             There’ll be nothing after but sludge and muck.

For hunters, roedeer and hare are still in season (since September) and bird-netting continues (to Candlemas).

On Nov. 30 is St. Andrew’s day.  The dairy work of milk, cream, butter, and cheese-making that has gone on from April ends now so that the cows can be freshened for Spring calving and next year’s milk.

About now, on the Sunday closest to St. Andrew’s day, Advent begins, turning attention from the year end’s work toward the great midwinter holidays of December.

November 1439

- Margaret

November 26th, 2010


The Midwife's Tale

"The Midwife's Tale", another of the Dame Frevisse short stories, has been released for the Kindle, which means its available for the whole suite of Kindle Reading Apps: iPad, Android, Windows PC, Mac, or Blackberry.

"Sisters! Come back! Please don't leave us yet!"

Cisily Fisher has died in childbirth and now the village of Priors Byfield is held in a grip of fear. Can Dame Frevisse find the root of misery behind a murderer's sin before the next lethal blow falls? Or will the village be lost in a hue and cry of terror? The gentling touch of the midwife may calm the tortured soul... or give birth to a bitter death.

Buy Now

This special Black Friday release of "The Midwife's Tale" is the first in the second batch of my short stories to be released on the Kindle. These are doing rather well, and I'm currently in discussions to get the early books in the Frevisse series released as e-books, too.

I'm rather partial to the cover for this one, but I suspect that's because I favor purple generally.

- Margaret

November 30th, 2010


A Play of Piety will be released on December 7th! If you just can't wait to crack the cover, then you're in luck. Over the next week we'll be serializing the first three chapters here on the website, starting with Chapter 1 today.



While his troupe leader recovers from grievous injury, Joliffe is forced to find work in the treacherous world of a medieval hospital. Plagued almost to despair by the endless complaints and imaginary ailments of the elderly widow Mistress Cisily Thorncoffyn, the erstwhile spy and theatrical player is almost relieved to discover that patients are dying from more than their illnesses. Care for the sick and elderly in both body and soul is a sacred and holy duty, but Death's cruel scythe can always use a helping hand... 

Now, with Mistress Thorncoffyn loudly proclaiming that someone is trying to kill her and swearing her wrath on anyone who allows it to happen, Joliffe has no choice but to find the sickening anger which has claimed so many lives before more of the innocent ill are afflicted with a final rest.


Chapter One

It was the golden time of year, the wide fields of ripened grains standing tall under the hot August sky or already turned to golden stubble where the harvesters had passed with sickle and scythe and soon the geese and cattle would be turned to graze, to fatten for Michaelmas and winter.

After three years of failed harvests and the dearth that followed, with hungry winters and starving springs, those golden fields under a cloudless sky would have been enough to raise Joliffe’s heart high as he long-strided along the summer-dusty road, but besides the hope of a fat winter, he was free for the first time in more than half a year from lessons, from being taught and tested and then set to learning more.  He had forgotten, in the years since he had been a boy and a scholar, how good it felt to be let out from school, but he was remembering it now.  He had, in truth, enjoyed much of these past months’ learning and some of the work that went with it, but this was better – to be on his way toward somewhere he had never been, with the sun warm on his back, coins in his belt pouch, and no one wanting him for anything.   

Time was that he would have added, along with all else to the good, that no one in particular knew where he was, but anymore he had to doubt that was true, and somewhere far down in his mind he knew how little he liked that thought, but there was nothing he could do about it.  Last year he had said certain words to a powerful man, and eight months ago, in answer to those words, he had been summoned out of his familiar life.  Now, feeling crammed to the crop with new knowledge and new skills, he was on his way to rejoin the wandering company of players that had been his life and livelihood for years.  There had been good times in those years, and some very bad times, and for the past two years -- since the wealthy Lord Lovell had made the company his own and under his protection – increasingly good times.  

Through all of them, Joliffe had never been away from the company for any time long enough to be worth counting, until last winter when he was summoned away.  He had been told then that when time came for him to rejoin them, someone would know where they were.  That had proved true enough, which was both a comfort and a discomfort.  It was good to know where to find the players again, a discomfort to know some manner of watch was being kept on them at the order of someone whose heed they might well have been better without.  

“Report is they’re at place called Barton, about three days easy travel from here,” Master Smith had said.  Although Joliffe doubted “Smith” was truly his name.

“Any thought on where they’ll be by the time I reach them?”  Traveling players never being long in any one place.

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