Category Archives: History

Posts related to Rob’s historical interests.

Random Musings of the Day

Today is 17 July, 2017.

I had a great birthday yesterday. My mom came up to Omaha, and she, Giulia, and I roamed around open houses. We all love house shopping, but I’ll admit I’m ready to find one and get a move on.

In 1453, the Battle of Castillon concluded, thereby ending the Hundred Years War, which of course lasted longer than 100 years (116 to be exact).

It’s hard to overstate how momentous that time was for all of Europe, especially since it includes the Black Death and the Fall of Constantinople (on 29 May).

One my personal favorite thoughts of the Hundred Years War is the time when I was walking through Monmouth Castle, which is where Henry V is born. I doubt I’m the first visitor to walk around the remains, which are not all that extensive, and recite the St. Crispin’s Day Speech loud enough to hear it echo off the stone.

I will also say I did *not* chip off a piece of the castle wall to bring a piece home. Nope, didn’t chip off a chunk.

However, I am geeky enough that if I ever go to Istanbul I’m likely to sing Istanbul, Not Constantinople as I walk through Hagia Sophia and the Imperial Palace area. And if I make too much noise, well, it’ll be nobody’s business but the Turks.

Back to yesterday. I really enjoy going through the Wikipedia daily pages where they list interesting events, birthdays, death days, and such things for each day.

Is it hubris to wonder if some day the 16 July entry will have my birthday on it? Probably, but I still do it.

There are some fun and interesting things that happened on 16 July, besides me entering this world. Joe DiMaggio hit safely in his 56th game in 1941. What’s really fun from my perspective is that streak started on 15 May, 1941. My mom was born on, you guessed it, 15 May, 1941. How cool is that?

On my first birthday, 16 July 1969, the Apollo 11 mission lifted off from Cape Kennedy. It landed on the moon on 20 July. My dad’s father, also named Robert Howell (but called Bob), was born on 20 July. How cool is that?

In 1862, David Farragut is promoted to rear admiral, becoming the first ever admiral in the US Navy. Of course, he’s famous in part for the “Damn the torpedoes” quote, which he uttered in the Battle of Mobile Bay. Currently, the USS Alabama, BB-60, is moored in Mobile Bay. When I was about six or so, my grandfather (the aforementioned Bob), took me to see it around my birthday. I have loved warships ever since. How cool is that?

As a Dallas Cowboys fan, I find it fun that Jimmy Johnson, former coach of the Cowboys, was born on 16 July in 1943. I loved watching him pound opponents game after game with Emmitt Smith, who is one of my favorite players ever. Obviously, he was great for the Cowboys, but he was born on 15 May, 1969, which was both a great and terrible date. On the one hand, he and mom shared a birthday. On the other, he was the first athlete who I consciously noted was younger than me.

But Emmitt was not my favorite running back of the time. That would be Barry Sanders, who was born on 16 July 1968 in Wichita, KS. I watched him play in high school because, shockingly enough, we were in the same class, though I went to East and he went to North. Still, how cool is that?

I suppose I should write instead of simply letting my mind wander, so I’ll just stop here. Have a great day.

 

Rob’s Update: Percolating

Week of 21-27 May

Greetings all

I am done with Where Now the Rider, except I’m gonna let it percolate over the weekend. I have completed all the edits I’ve been given and I like it a lot. But oddly enough, thanks to a quirk in scheduling I need to have it done on Tuesday, but not today. This weekend is ConQuest 48 and I could rush to put it up on Amazon and deal with all the details on CreateSpace, but instead, I’m going to read it one last time this weekend before putting it up on Tuesday. I doubt I’ll find much to change, but I’ll admit that I’ve never ever finished anything I’ve ever written, I’ve just released it into the wild.

Seems oddly comforting to have a few days to let it sit, though.

Anyway, I’ll be swamped over the weekend. Here’s my schedule

Friday, May 26
8:00pm:    Bheer! Glorious Bheer! (Moderator)

Saturday, May 27
10:00am:  What Gives Characters Depth (Moderator)
2:00pm:    Using History in Fantasy and Science Fiction
4:00pm:    Writing Fight and Combat Scenes
6:00pm:    Bars in SF (Moderator)

Sunday, May 28
10:00am: Fantasy in the Rest of the World
12:00pm:  Reading

The using history in fantasy and science fiction panel is the one I did at CoastCon on the spur of the moment. In it I go through the events of the Martin Koszta Affair of 1853 and show how those event can inspire me to write speculative fiction. It’s did well at CoastCon, though I only had 8-9 people. We’ll see what I get at ConQuest.

The beer panel should be interesting. I don’t know that I’ve mentioned it here, but I had a friend of mine brew a special ale for Ragnar. Yes, a real beer made by my fictional character. Sort of. Anyway, I brought a couple bottles for that panel. I may bring more tomorrow for the panel discussing bars in SF.

Quote of the Week

The convention hotel, by the way, is near the World War One museum, which I cannot recommend enough. It’s a great museum and well worth visiting when you can. I’ll swing by this weekend for Memorial Day, even though I won’t have time to visit the museum itself. However, my mom’s father served in WW1 and I arranged for him to be on a brick in the patio in front of the museum.

I hope everyone enjoys their weekend, but I also hope we remember why we don’t have to work on Monday.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

– John McCrae, In Flanders Fields

News and Works in Progress

  • Where Now the Rider done but percolating one last time
  • Brief Is My Flame, some plotting and 1k words written
  • Short stories, 2k written

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

Upcoming Events

Spotlight

A couple of my friends have a small publishing company. They’re great people, and if you’re looking for a small house to publish with, you might try Stonebunny Press. You can find them at http://www.stonebunnypress.ca/. I especially encourage all my Canadian writer friends to look at them.

Let me know if you have any suggestions on the website, this email, or cool story ideas at rob@robhowell.org. Especially let me know of suggestions you have for the Spotlight section.

Have a great week, everyone.

Rob Howell
Author of the Shijuren-series of novels

Currently Available Works
  • A Lake Most Deep (Edward, Book 1)
  • The Eyes of a Doll (Edward, Book 2)
  • Where Now the Rider (Edward, Book 3) Forthcoming 2017
  • I Am a Wondrous Thing (The Kreisens, Book 1)
  • Brief Is My Flame (The Kreisens, Book 2) Forthcoming 2017
  • None Call Me Mother (The Kreisens, Book 3) Forthcoming 2018

If you think you received this email incorrectly or wish to be unsubscribed, please send an email to shijuren-owner@robhowell.org

Where Now the Rider Annotated Snippet 2

Here’s another annotated snippet. It picks up where the first snippet, which you can find at http://robhowell.org/blog/?p=56 concludes.

As before, I’ll add occasional annotations indented and italicized.

Morning, 1 Hjerstmoanne, 1712 MG

I followed her to a long, low, rambling building running along a ridge around Achrida. It served as the primary home of the Mrnjavcevic family, the leading clan of the Dassaretae, one of the two tribes that had squabbled for control of Achrida for centuries.

The Dassaretae was an actual tribe in the Balkans. It’s not a particularly well-known one, though, and it seemed a cool name so I chose it as one of the tribes. The same goes for the Mrnjavcevic family. Even though I’m writing fantasy novels, I love researching history too much to not steal fun names and places.

The old woman who guarded the door had never liked me. The look on her face made it clear I remained unworthy to sully her honored halls, but she allowed me to enter without comment. Vukasin had probably told her to expect me. She led us through the labyrinth of rooms and hallways.

“How big is this place, anyway?”

This exchange is a bit of foreshadowing that becomes important later in the book. Readers of Where Now the Rider will see where it comes into play.

Piri gave me a sly smile, but otherwise ignored me. Eventually we reached and the polished oak door that led to Vukasin’s sitting room and office. The grim doorwarden, knocked and opened the door at his response, not quite lifting her nose up at me. Not quite.
Vukasin sat at his desk, his hands full of various papers. He was a short man, but wide and powerful. His eyes were the color of basalt, which seemed appropriate to me, as he was as strong and deliberate as the mountains. The Zupan of the Dassaretae needed such strength, I guessed.

The historical Vukasin Mrnjavcevic was a general and later the military governor of a part of modern Macedonia. Interestingly, Marko Mrnjavcevic, his son, becomes the Prince Marko of Serbian legend that I refer to often in these novels.

“Sevener. I expected you, but not so soon. Still, I’m told many things have happened.”

“Yes, Zupan. It seemed wiser to come sooner rather than later. I know I owe you a great debt, and I would not have you think I am not grateful.”

Zupan is an another historical term. An easy place to use something different besides leader or ruler. 

“I know you are not ungrateful. I would never have worked with you had I thought you were.”

“I appreciate your trust in me.”

“You’re welcome. Maja, pour us some water.” He waved at the chairs before his desk. Piri and I sat while Maja went to a sideboard and poured goblets of cold lakewater sweetened with pomegranate. I took a sip before beginning.

There’s a scene in A Lake Most Deep where Svetislav rows Edward out into the lake to discuss the Gropa Council. In that scene, Svetislav handed Edward a mug to dip lakewater out to drink. That actually happened to me in Ohrid. I took a short boat cruise into the lake and the captain handed out a couple of cheap mugs for us to drink from the lake. It was, in fact, delicious, and that’s why I make such a point of it in these novels.

“I don’t know entirely what you know, but here are the basics.”

He waved a dismissive hand. “I knew almost everything yesterday. The people who tried to intimidate Honker Harald and his family after his daughter found one of Gibroz’s thugs dead near Biljana’s Springs were led by Markov, one of Gibroz’s lieutenants.”

“I’m not surprised. You supplied all the people who got the information, after all.”

“Yes. And you used them well.”

I shrugged. “Markov was working for the Emperor.”

“I suspected that was the case.” Vukasin’s nostrils flared, but otherwise, he expressed no emotion at the news that his lord had betrayed him.

Obviously, this is my way of summing up The Eyes of a Doll. I hate exposition, and in some ways it’s not relevant to Where Now the Rider, however, it’s part of Edward’s character development, which I touch upon in the following paragraph.

In my homeland, thegns would have flocked to his banner to avenge that betrayal. My mind filled with memories of looking across the field at thegns who had done just that for Cynric when his son, Penwulf, my lord, had betrayed him. My father had fought under Cynric’s banner on that day, and I had killed him.

Vukasin cleared his throat and I returned to the moment.

“He wanted a war between Ylli of Lezh and Gibroz so that you could not have a base of power against him,” I said.

More foreshadowing, in a way. Let me just say I’m perfectly willing for you all to remember the Emperor’s paranoia. It could be a reoccurring theme. Could be.

“Or Vesela.”

“Yes, or her.”

Vukasin smiled. “This is Achrida. Things change. Yes, we Dassaretae are more prominent now, but never underestimate the Enchelei, even if it has only been a few months since you exposed Pal and his crime. Vesela may not have expected to take over as zupan so soon, but she helped lead the Enchelei all her life.”

The Gropa and Enchelei are, like the Mrnjavcevics and Dassaretae, historical.

I nodded, quiet again for a moment, then looking deep in Vukasin’s eyes. “I’m sorry for those who died.”

His black eyes turned even darker. “I know. I am too.”

We sat with our memories for a moment.

“You didn’t kill them, though,” continued Vukasin. “That was the Emperor’s people.”

“I suppose.”

“Welcome to the Empire.” Piri’s face bore that sardonic smile again.

“Thanks.”

“And today I think I know everything,” Vukasin said as he leaned back.

“What have you learned now?”

“I learned that you are prompt in paying your debts. That’s not an insignificant thing in this city.”

“I have no doubt,” I said sarcastically. “What else?”

“I wasn’t sure about Gabrijela.”

I looked at my hands. Eventually I added, “Yes, Gabrijela was helping the Emperor.”

“And her fate?”

“She’s gone. Sebastijan is taking her to the Great City.”

“We just watched them leave before coming here,” added Piri.

“So now what?” Vukasin stared at me.

“I think I’ll go back to the Faerie and get drunk.”

Vukasin chuckled. “While I agree that’s an excellent idea, I was thinking a little more into the future. You stopped in Achrida on the way to serve the Emperor. I got Piri’s message this morning that you’re not going to serve him now. Where will you go?”

“I wish I knew. I suppose I could go back to Ivan Yevgenich. He’s been dealing with Demmenkreisen for a year now. Or maybe somewhere else in the Kreisens. The Periaslavlans have noticed more than the usual raiding all along the Rueckenberge.”

“But?”

“His izba isn’t where I really want to spend the rest of my life, as good a man as he is.” I shook Raakel’s ghost out of my mind. “And in the Kreisens I’d have to serve some lordling raiding villages. I don’t know of a single one of them as worthy of my service as Penwulf, and he was an oathbreaker and a fool.”

This is an example of the synergy of writing I Am a Wondrous Thing. I actually really like these paragraphs. It lets me build a whole world around Achrida while still being focused on Edward.

It’s also an example of serendipity. When I started writing Wondrous Thing I had no intention of putting Edward into it. Then I realized I had already done so in A Lake Most Deep and he had to make a cameo. Even though I didn’t intend it, his appearance strengthens these Edward books.

Another note about Edward in Wondrous Thing. I actually struggled to write his part because I kept putting myself too much into his head, especially since I did not want him a POV character.

“The Old Empire? Or Matara? Take the trade route across the lakes and see fair Markanda and points east?”

“Perhaps.” I shrugged. “Vukasin. I just don’t know. After I get drunk I’ll talk with Piri and Zoe about it.”

Vukasin rested his dark eyes on me without saying anything. I watched dust float through a sunbeam sneaking through Vukasin’s shuttered window. Piri made no motion.

I intend for the Adventures of Edward Aethelredson to be a recurring series where readers don’t have to have read the earlier books to enjoy the story. And in general, I think I succeeded.

However, there’s no doubt that these first three are tied together for the reason that I detailed in the last snippet. Taken together, they will make Achrida Edward’s home.