The official blog of Historical Fantasy Author, Mary Anne Yarde, and home to The Coffee Pot Book Club.
Come and join me on the hunt for everything mythological, as well as historical. Oh, and let's not forget the odd book or two! Grab a cup of coffee and enjoy...
next novel, Misfortune of Time (due out July 2018), takes place in 1055AD in
Ireland. Much of the first portion of the book is set in Clonmacnoise, among
the monks and priests that lived and worked in this large, bustling abbey.
this time, the priests and bishops of Irish and Scottish churches were more
likely to follow the dictates and rules of what was known as Ionan Christianity,
though we now mostly call it Celtic Christianity. These dictates differed from
the commonly accepted practices in Rome and the rest of Western Christendom in
several key points. While this was especially true in the 6th and 7th
centuries, before the Synod of Whiby, many traditions were still followed well
into the 12th century.
of the reasons for this dichotomy was who spread the Word. Some of the early
teachers of the ideals of monastic life in these areas were Saint Dubric in
Wales, Saint Columba in Scotland (who founded the monastery at Iona) and, of
course, Saint Patrick in Ireland. They had their own ideas of how to be a
Christian monk long before Rome decided on a common way. Saint Patrick had been
born in Wales and, presumably, raised on the tradition already in place there.
While Christianity had appeared in Ireland before the arrival of Saint Patrick,
he is credited with the widespread adoption of the religion. Saint Columba then
did a similar spread across the Scottish lands.
all these lands, but especially in Ireland, monastic communities rose
dramatically in the following cemeteries, each following a specific set of
rules for their order.
of the differences in various regions (not all) include:
calculation of the date of Easter
·The shape and
style of the monastic tonsure (shaving of the head for monks)
·The method of
private penance to a priest
isolation or hermitage (peregrination pro Christo)
for priests to marry and have families
views on fasting and corporal punishment (Rule of Columbanus)
The Roman Tonsure
addition to the differences between Celtic and Roman Christianity, there were
also remnants of the Gaelic Brehon Law at work during this time. Many of these
laws still held sway through to the Norman invasion of Ireland in the 12th
of the Brehon Laws included:
treatment of women, giving greater freedom, independence and rights to
property, rights later removed by Canon Law
·The right to
divorce on many grounds, including impotence or homosexuality
allowed and gave rules for polygamy (usually wives)
status of kings versus priests, and the ranks of each
did not typically distinguish between legitimate and illegitimate children
espoused payment for crimes in wealth (wergild) instead of capital punishment
law in medieval Ireland was an ever-shifting beast, and often what one chief or
bishop believed was different from what his neighbor believed. The dying
tradition of having a Brehon at each chief’s court, an expert on the law, meant
that more and more, the chiefs turned to the church as an expert on such
matters, and thus church law came into more and more use as the centuries wore
Christy Nicholas, also known as Green Dragon, is an author, artist and accountant. After she failed to become an airline pilot, she quit her ceaseless pursuit of careers that begin with ‘A’, and decided to concentrate on her writing. Since she has Project Completion Disorder, she is one of the few authors she knows with NO unfinished novels.
Christy has her hands in many crafts, including digital art, beaded jewelry, writing, and photography. In real life, she’s a CPA, but having grown up with art all around her (her mother, grandmother and great-grandmother are/were all artists), it sort of infected her, as it were.
She wants to expose the incredible beauty in this world, hidden beneath the everyday grime of familiarity and habit, and share it with others. She uses characters out of time and places infused with magic and myth.
Combine this love of beauty with a bit of financial sense and you get an art business. She does local art and craft shows, as well as sending her art to various science fiction conventions throughout the country and abroad.
Okay, I’m being slightly mischievous here
– my Author Inspiration has morphed into My Arthur Inspiration.
In fact, in setting out to write my Fifth-century historical series, A Light in the Dark Ages, I had more of
an Arthur problem than inspiration to address. Here it is: I wanted to write a
believable alternative-history of life in Britannia in the immediate years
after the Romans abandoned their province, but the Arthurian legend gets in the
410 AD is the accepted date for the final
separation from Rome, and is therefore a real historical fixing point. What
happens next is the subject of conjecture as little evidence survives, apart
from a few brief mentions of ‘turbulent times’ by monks Nennius and Gildas who
mention high kings Vortigern and Ambrosius Aurelianus by name, but with scant
reference to an Arthur (apart from by Welsh chroniclers). This is the problem –
the Arthurian legend, as finally laid out in detail by Geoffrey of Monmouth in
his History of the Kings of Britain,
written around 1136, stands squarely in the way of my planned alt-history. Did
Geoffrey have sight of a missing text when writing about Uther Pendragon and
King Arthur, or did his imagination run wild? This remains a source of debate
Further investigation gives a less murky
picture of a possible ‘Arthur’ – a king or ‘leader of battles’ - who came after
the two kings mentioned above, whom some historians believe was real enough to
have fought and died at the Battle of Camlann around the year 515. So, my
Arthur problem is this – assuming Geoffrey’s account is credible, and his
lineage of Fifth century kings is valid, then Arthur would have been born around
the year 470, and became king at the age of fifteen (as Geoffrey says) in, say,
485. Therefore, he would have been 45 years old when he died in battle.
now I have my timeline and Geoffrey’s narrative to build my story around:
410Romans leave, Archbishop Guithelin
appeals to the Christian King Aldrien of Brittany to come and claim the island
as his kingdom.
411Aldrien is too busy and sends his
brother, Constantine, with a small force.
Constantine is accepted by a
council of tribal leaders and becomes king.
420Constantine is murdered on the orders of
Vortigern, a sly noble.
Vortigern becomes high king and
invites Saxons to fight in his army.
440Constantine’s sons, Aurelius and Uther
return to Britain with an army.
They defeat Vortigern in battle
and Aurelius becomes king, taking the name ‘Ambrosius’ (The Divine One). He
unifies the tribal chiefs.
467Ambrosius is poisoned and his brother,
Uther, succeeds him.
Uther’s son, Arthur, is
raised in secret by Merlin.
485The teenage Arthur becomes king
following Uther’s death.
Over three books I’ve attempted to tell
this story (or ‘sell’ this story), with some embellishments, as an account of a
lost period in our history – The (early) Dark Ages. What really happened? Will
we ever find out? Until we do, it remains in the realm of myths and legend.
Whether I have succeeded in de-mystifying
Uther Pendragon and King Arthur by presenting them as ‘real’ historical figures
in the context of a constructed alt-history, is for my readers to judge. If it
wasn’t them, then it was other, similar, leaders - it is a safe assumption that
the Britons did organise themselves in defence of their island against the slow
colonisation of Angles, Saxons and Jutes over the ensuing three hundred years.
This is my contribution to the Arthurian
legend debate – to give credence to Geoffrey of Monmouth’s account and attempt
to present his kings as believable historical characters.
Tim Walker is an independent author based
in Windsor, UK. Tim’s background is in marketing, journalism, editing and
publications management. He began writing an historical series, A Light in the Dark Ages (set in the Fifth
Century), in 2015, starting with a novella set at the time the Romans left
Britain – Abandoned. This was
followed in 2017 with a novel – Ambrosius:
Last of the Romans, and the third installment, Uther’s Destiny, has just been released in March 2018.
His creative writing journey began in
July 2015 with the publication of a book of short stories, Thames Valley Tales. In 2016 his first novel, a
futuristic/dystopian thriller, Devil Gate
Dawn was exposed on the Amazon Scout programme prior to publication. Both
titles were re-launched with revised content, new covers and in print-on-demand
paperback format in December 2016.
In January 2017 his first children’s
book, The Adventures of Charly Holmes,
co-written with his 12-year-old daughter, Cathy, was published. In September
2017 he published a second collection of short stories – Postcards from London.
In the year 467 AD Britannia is in shock
at the murder of charismatic High King, Ambrosius Aurelianus, and looks to his brother
and successor, Uther, to continue his work in leading the resistance to
barbarian invaders. Uther’s destiny as a warrior king seems set until his world
is turned on its head when his burning desire to possess the beautiful Ygerne
leads to conflict. Could the fate of his kingdom hang in the balance as a
Court healer and schemer, Merlyn, sees an
opportunity in Uther’s lustful obsession to fulfil the prophetic visions that
guide him. He is encouraged on his mission by druids who align their desire for
a return to ancient ways with his urge to protect the one destined to save the
Britons from invaders and lead them to a time of peace and prosperity. Merlyn
must use his wisdom and guile to thwart the machinations of an enemy intent on
foiling his plans.
Meanwhile, Saxon chiefs Octa and Ælla
have their own plans for seizing the island of Britannia and forging a new
colony of Germanic tribes. Can Uther rise above his family problems and raise
an army to oppose them?
Book three in A Light in the Dark Ages series, Uther’s Destiny is an historical fiction novel set in the Fifth Century
- a time of myths and legends that builds to the greatest legend of all – King
Arthur and his knights.
1820 and London’s east end is dirty, overcrowded and crawling with disease.
Neither you nor your family have eaten in days. Desperate, you make your way to
Leadenhall Market and stuff a loaf of bread beneath your coat. You think no one
has seen you. But you are wrong.
punishment for this petty crime? Seven years’ transportation to the penal colony
of Van Diemen’s Land, Australia; a place too remote, too distant to comprehend.
six months you sit below deck of the convict ship, chained to the sorry souls
beside you. You dream of the family you left behind in England. A family you’ll
likely never see again. Once a week you are brought above for exercise. There
is nothing to see but ocean.
When at last the ship arrives in Hobart Town
you are assigned as a worker to a wealthy free settler. But you were not made
for a life of servitude. You break your overseer’s jaw with the shovel he gave
you to dig up his vegetables.
you are back at sea. Chained again and shivering in shirtsleeves as the ship
plunges and water seeps into the lightless hold.
land in a place unlike anything you have ever seen. The sea is wild, the bush impenetrable.
Purple mountains disappear into the mist. The men and women around you are wild
and angry, the guards unforgiving. This, you learn, is to be your new home.
Your task? Take to the monstrous pine trees with an axe and haul the wood back
to the settlement. No horses here, you learn. No oxen. All the work to be done
Sketch of Macquarie Harbour by Thomas Lempriere 1830, Utas.edu.au
desolate place is Sarah Island Penitentiary at Macquarie Harbour on the rugged
west coast of Van Diemen’s Land (present-day Tasmania). A place of secondary
punishment, it was the most feared of all Australia’s penal settlements. “You
must find work and labour,” the Lieutenant-Governor wrote to the settlement’s
commandant, “even if it consists of opening cavities and filling them up again
… Prisoners on trial declared they would rather suffer death than be sent back to
Macquarie Harbour.” 
Remains of Sarah Island Penitentiary ~ Photographed by Scott Davis en.wikipedia.org
the horrific conditions, there were few escape attempts from Macquarie Harbour.
Even today, the surrounding bush and mountains are almost inaccessible. In the
1800’s, it took an average of five weeks of ploughing through rough seas and
extreme weather to reach the harbour from Hobart Town— a distance of less than
200 miles as the crow flies.
on the 20th of September 1822, eight convicts took their chance. They
leapt into a boat left unattended by coal miners and planned to make their way
back to Hobart Town. But when the miners found the boat missing, they raised
the alarm; lighting signal fires on the shores to alert the settlement of
escapees. Forced to escape on foot, the men disappeared into the bush carrying
food stolen from the miner’s camp— along with a solitary axe.
fate of these men? You’ll find that out in my latest novel; Forgotten Places; a work of fiction
interwoven with these true events. Suffice to say, the story of these eight
bolters remains one of the most horrific in Australia’s history.
Standing Orders from Lt-Gov
William Sorrell to Lt John Cutherberston. 8th Dec 1821
Johanna Craven is an historical fiction writer,
pianist and film composer. After living in Melbourne and Los Angeles, she now
divides her time between London and the Australian bush. She loves
ghost-hunting, cooking (and eating) and plays the Celtic fiddle very badly.
Johanna released her first novel Music From Standing Waves in 2015 before signing with Endeavour
Media for her second novel The Devil and
the Deep Blue Sea.
Van Diemen's Land, Australia. 1833.
English settler Grace Ashwell flees an abusive
lover in Hobart Town, with six-year-old Violet in tow. In her head, escape is
easy: find work in the northern settlements and earn enough for passage home to
London. But the terrain beyond the settled districts is wilder than Grace could
ever have imagined. She and Violet find themselves lost in a beautiful but
deadly land where rain thunders down mountains, the earth drops away without
warning and night brings impenetrable darkness.
Deep in the wilderness, they find a crude hut
inhabited by Alexander Dalton, an escaped convict long presumed dead. Hiding
from civilisation in an attempt to forget his horrifying past, Alexander
struggles to let Grace into his world.
When Violet disappears, Grace's fragile trust in
Alexander is put to the test. And while she searches for answers, he will do
anything to keep his secrets inside. Inspired by the true story of the Macquarie
Harbour bolters; one of the most horrifying events from Colonial Australia's