Sunday, January 20

The Curse of the Modern Writer

Okay. On Tuesday I finally received my ITIN from the US IRS at TX 78714-9342. I needed it for my W-8BEN but first I’d had to fill out my W-7 and send it to the IRS in the UK at W1K 6AH. This is necessary for getting exception 1d under Treaty Article 12. W-BEN then went to HSG at NY 10013. @mraffel will be pleased.
Meanwhile, I had to go to NW1 3ER to talk to someone about HMRC’s 64-8 and CWF-1. I needed to bring my P60 with me, as well as evidence of 656LM1, or maybe 581L. That relates to PAYE as well as NI. It also has to take account of LGPS. My WDAs and my AIAs will be sorted properly. Good. I don’t want a Section 9A. VAT isn’t an issue at the moment. Phew. My MW51’s CO2 will be high and so not beneficial. Boo. (But at least it passed its MOT). I’ll also need my IBAN.
All of this is necessary because @jgetzler sold my 100k MS to those lovely folks at L-2338, who are releasing it on their .com and sites. It is now known as ISBN-10: 1611099331 and ISBN-13: 978- 1611099331.
And you wonder why I’m happier in the medieval world? Over and out.

The Fifth Knight  is a medieval thriller. It's a #1 Bestseller in Action & Adventure and Historical on You can find it here or on here.

Tuesday, January 15

Aelred of Rievaulx

Aelred was one of the great monastic educators and teachers in early medieval times. His writings are still studied today and are widely available. And by wide, I mean Amazon has decided that he should have his own Author Page. (Understandably, Aelred hasn’t uploaded an author headshot.) But he is also Saint Aelred, although he was probably never formally canonised. Instead, he was one of the last western saints to be so recognised "by popular acclaim". Popular acclaim essentially means that people thought that Aelred was something very special, and his reputation ensured he was elevated to sainthood. He did indeed have a remarkable life.

He was born around 1110 into a good family with noble connections. When he was about fifteen, he was sent to the court of the King of Scots as part of the fosterage system. Aelred was hugely popular at court, rising to the position of dapifer suumus, a position which may have been a steward of the royal table, in charge of "feasts and entertainments".

Public Domain

Despite Aelred’s success and many friendships, he was privately struggling with court life. He wrote of it thus: "Those men around me kept saying, how lucky he is, how lucky he is. But they did not know there was evil in me…corrupting my soul with intolerable stench." There have been suggestions that Aelred may have been conflicted by his sexuality. But in his early twenties, while on a mission to York on behalf of the archbishop at the time, Aelred encountered a new monastery at Rievaulx in the county of Yorkshire. It was a pivotal moment in his life.

Rievaulx is in an isolated, cold, wet part of the world. But the isolation was a choice- the monks wouldn’t be distracted by the ways of the world. The land was good enough to yield food for the community, there was river both to provide fish and water and to carry away any nastiness.  After a night’s deliberation, Aelred offered himself as a monk at its gates.

Rievaulx Abbey
© 2014 Paul Fogarty - Private Collection

Aelred didn’t find the religious life easy. His work contains references to his "many temptations" as a young man. He took numerous cold baths to keep temptation at bay. There’s a record of him having 40 in one day. That, in anyone’s book, is quite a lot of temptation. It could also have been part of the medical treatment of the day. According to other chroniclers, Aelred suffered from kidney stones as well as gastric disease, passing stones "the size of beans." (Apologies, gents.)

Despite his challenges, Aelred proved to be a gifted leader within the abbey and it flourished under his abbacy. He presided over 150 monks and 500 lay brothers. Yet his guidance, best summarised with the title of one of his greatest works, Spiritual Friendship, was radical in the 12th century, to say the least.

© 2015 E.M. Powell 

Traditional monastic discipline as per the Rule of St Benedict, cautions monks to avoid "particular friendships". Aelred saw singular, tender affection for his monks as a way to experience God’s love. We read of him with a novice who had fled the abbey, persuaded by Aelred to return through "encouragement and compassion." The man died in Aelred’s arms in the infirmary many years later. When attacked by another monk "in the vilest disorder" and thrown on a fire, the by then elderly Aelred held no rancour and insisted the attacker must be ill and so cared for.

Aelred's Life of Edward the Confessor
Public Domain

While Aelred was clearly a deeply compassionate man, it’s intriguing that he was a great deal tougher on his sister. She was an anchoress- a reclusive nun. (I wrote a post for EHFA on the life of an anchoress here.) Aelred encouraged friendships in his monastery, but he repeatedly warns his sister against friendships with anyone at all- male or female. He insists on his sister’s purity, and it has been suggested that he did so to compensate for his own sins of the flesh as a young man. Either way, he was adamant that she live a very different life to him.

© 2014 E.M. Powell 

Also coming under Aelred’s fire were the aspects of monastic life that irked him. He didn’t approve of the Cluniac monks conducting lively services and inviting lay people to them. There are dark mutterings about "histrionic gesticulations, ridiculous dissipation" and people who have come "not to pray, but to gawk." He also took a dim view of cloister carvings: he is not happy with "filthy monkeys, harpies and striped tigers." The last straw for him is the cost: "Good Lord, even if the foolishness of it all occasion no shame, at least one may balk at the expense."

Public Domain

Aelred died on January 12th 1167, cradled in the arms of one of his heartbroken monks and surrounded by many more. He was deeply mourned. Gilbert of Swineshead, in his eulogy of Aelred, said it best: "What a honeycomb, how mighty and how rich a one, has passed in these days to the heavenly banquet."

It’s a wonderful metaphor for the life of a brilliant, intriguing, contradictory and complex man whose voice still echoes down the centuries. And he doesn’t even have a real Author Page.

Aelred of Rievaulx: Spiritual Friendship, Cistercian Publications Inc. (1977)
Encyclopaedia Saint Aelred of Rievaulx
Jones, Terry & Eriera, Alan: Medieval Lives, BBC Books (2004)
Kerr, Julie: Life in the Medieval Cloister, Continuum Publishing (2009)
Leyser, Henrietta: Medieval Women, Orion (1995)
And with thanks to Paul Fogarty.

Note: I updated my original post on Aelred for the English Historical Fiction Authors blog in March 2015.

Wednesday, January 9

The Next Big Thing

Happy 2013 all! Hope the title of this blog didn’t mislead you into thinking it was one of those January ‘How to be Less Lardy after Christmas’ articles. And even if you did click on it hoping for The Answer, stay around. This blog is far less depressing and if you don’t actually eat your reading device, it has zero calories.
The Next Big Thing Blog Hop is a chance for authors around the world to tell you what they’re working on. The author answers 10 set questions about their next book, and tags the person who first tagged them, plus at least 5 other authors.
I was lucky enough to be tagged by Dianne Ascroft, author of Dancing Shadows,Tramping Hooves: A Short Story Collection and Hitler and Mars Bars.
Dianne loves to lose herself in the past, particularly in stories set in Ireland and Scotland. Dancing Shadows, Tramping Hooves includes tales of outsiders who discover they belong, a humorous slice of life yarn, heart-warming love stories and a tale of taming fear. The shadows are on the wall, in the heart and clouding a woman’s memories while tangible foes tramp through the physical landscape. You can read Dianne's Next Big Thing Post here.
And now it’s my turn! Here’s my answers to the interview questions:
1) What is the working title of your next book?
The Blood of the Fifth Knight.
2) Where did the idea come from for the book? 
It’s the sequel to my current novel, The Fifth Knight, which is published by Thomas & Mercer. In The Fifth Knight, mercenary Sir Benedict Palmer agrees to help King Henry II’s knights seize the traitor Archbishop Thomas Becket. What begins as a clandestine arrest ends in cold-blooded murder. And when Fitzurse, the knights’ ringleader, kidnaps Theodosia, a beautiful young nun who witnessed the crime, Palmer can sit silently by no longer. He and Theodosia rely only on each other as they race to uncover the motive behind Becket’s murder—and the truth that could destroy a kingdom. (Note: The Fifth Knight can be found here on Kindle Serials. At this time, only US customers can purchase the serialized format. The book will be released in complete format by Thomas & Mercer in 2013).
3) What genre does your book fall under?
It’s a historical thriller with romantic elements.
4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition? 
I’ll aim high on this one. Jeremy Renner would make a great Sir Benedict Palmer, Scarlett Johansson an amazing Sister Theodosia Bertrand. That might sound a bit Avengers with chainmail but it works for me!
5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
The repercussions of Becket’s savage murder still echo- and the battle to save the kingdom is not yet won.
6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? 
I am represented by the peerless Josh Getzler at HSG.
7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
It’s in progress. I always complete a detailed outline and synopsis first, which for me is the harder part.
8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? 
If you like Robert Harris’s Pompeii, Ken Follett’s The Pillars of the Earth or any of the Shardlake novels of C.J. Sansom, you should like this. And of course, if you liked The Fifth Knight, you should enjoy this just as much!
9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I studied Anglo Saxon and medieval English at college. I’ve always been intrigued by the story of Becket’s murder and his power struggles with King Henry II. That forms the basis of The Fifth Knight. But there are plot developments in that novel (which I can’t share because of spoilers!) that mean there are new, more deadly challenges for Palmer and Theodosia.
10) What else about the book might pique the reader's interest?
The Fifth Knight has been very well received by readers. I’ve had comments such as: ‘Anyone who enjoys historical fiction …will be sitting on the edge of their chair awaiting the next instalment,’ ‘Stayed up WAY too late last night reading it on my Kindle!’, and ‘Exceptionally well written and absorbing.’
Readers also really like my hero and heroine. They’ve made comments like ‘I find myself thinking about the fate of Palmer and Theodosia long after I lay my Kindle aside’, ‘Men like Benedict Palmer are a rare breed’, and ‘Finding both Palmer and Theodosia very interesting and likeable. Can’t wait to see how their paths twist and turn as the story progresses’.
And some readers are already asking for a sequel even though the serialized version still has one episode to go! When they post comments like ‘Hope you continue writing books like this!!’ and ‘I’ll be looking for any other works you have published’, then what can a writer do but oblige?
That’s it from me. You’ll see below the links to a group of five bloggers who will be posting their Next Big Thing on Wednesday 16 January 2012. They’re a fascinating group, spanning continents (how cool is that!) and a diversity of genres and styles. They are also representative of what’s best in the writing community. Dedicated and hard-working individuals, who still find the time to be supportive of other writers - and avid readers, too. Make sure you check them out!

Krishnadev Calamur is a writer by day and an editor in the evenings.
His debut novella, Murder in Mumbai, was published by the Penguin Group’s Dutton Guilt Edged Mysteries, a digital imprint. He lives in Arlington, Va., with his  wife and their dog.

James Bicheno is the author of In the Shadow of the Gods, an historical novel set at the beginning of the Viking Age (hoping to be available in all good book shops one day.) He is a published poet and has dabbled in playwriting. James has studied Creative Writing with the Open University and the University of Portsmouth, loves history and finding out about the past. He enjoys travelling and is a member of the Historical Novel Society.
Twitter: @Jim_Bish

Kellyann Zuzulo writes romance fiction about genies. Her most recent book, The Genie Ignites, is Book One of the Zubis Chronicles from Boroughs Publishing Group. Book two, The Genie Smolders, will be released soon. An anthology to which Kellyann contributed, titled Seven Souls A Leaping, was selected by Joyfully Reviewed as one of the Best of 2011

Ebba Brooks is a writer and creative writing teacher based in Prestwich, north Manchester. A former journalist, she has always secretly written made up stuff too, inspired by her childhood on the rural east coast of Scotland. She got an MFA in creative writing from Antioch University, Los Angeles in 2005 and started blogging after the birth of her second child.

Alrene Hughes is the author of Martha’s Girls, a family saga set in wartime Belfast – the first book in the Golden Sisters trilogy.  Inspired by a scrap book, photographs and half remembered stories,  it follows the lives of four singing sisters who dream of fame and romance in a city ravaged by the hardships and dangers of war.  Alrene was born in Northern Ireland and now lives in Manchester. Her poetry and short stories have been published in several anthologies.

Twitter @alrenehughes
Facebook   alrene hughes    

- See more at: