|November 23rd, 2010|
MEDIEVAL YEAR IN ENGLAND:
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.
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
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).
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.
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
|November 26th, 2010|
THE MIDWIFE'S TALE - KINDLE EDITION
"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!"|
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
the midwife may calm the tortured soul... or give birth to a bitter
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.
|November 30th, 2010|
A PLAY OF PIETY - CHAPTER 1
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.
A PLAGUE OF DEATH...
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.
PLAY OF PIETY
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.
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
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
“Any thought on where they’ll be by the time I reach them?” Traveling players never being long in any one place.