TKJ -Down but not Out -The writer cries ‘ENOUGH!’

You novelists out there may appreciate this and to all you readers here’s an insight into the trials and tribulations of a writer. Not just me but ALL writers.

Open on my laptop is a copy of The King’s Jew – Book two.

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I’ve been working on it most of the day – apart from a trip to my local coffee house for rest and recuperation! TWICE!

I’m sick of Book Two.

I’ve just about had enough of it. Though it started out as a labor of love and could have been sent out into the big wide world at least four months ago I made a fatal error.

An ERROR I hear you cry. What sort of an error?

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Well, a very tiny one – so it seemed at first. You see, I thought an additional chapter needed to be inserted. Not a very long chapter but one that would tie up a very small loose end.

BIG MISTAKE!

By setting out on that small modification things gradually got out of hand. The darn book took on a mind of its own and I found myself reduced to the position of slave locked in chains by the words not yet written.

 

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Writer in chains

 

This medieval historical adventure, mystery, love story, tale of companionship and honor was originally meant to be a trilogy. But guess what happened?

It’s turned into a quartet!!! That means I not only have to get all the I’s crossed and the T’s dotted (deliberate mistake for those who are paying attention) but I have to write another bloody book!

Oh, I could conceivably just keep it as three books but that wouldn’t tell the darn story properly and that’s what a real writer does, isn’t it? TELLS THE BLOODY STORY!

So why am I assailing you readers and writers with my troubles?

Because you need to know that the finished article/book/novel you have just read and enjoyed can sometimes be as hard as the labours of Sisyphus to produce.

 

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Will it never end?

 

That’s how I feel right now anyway and that is why I broke off to pen this little tirade.

Book Two is still lurking in the background of my PC and I know I have to get back to it but for goodness sake, I just needed a break.

Maybe, just maybe, when I open the window to view Book Two a miracle will have happened and some Deus ex Machina will have come down from above and – as if by magic – finished the thing for me. I’m not holding my breath!

 

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Deus ex Machina

 

In conclusion – this new work is due for publication in December and IT WILL BE DONE. After all, I had to get my art department to change the cover to reflect the changes inside. I had to keep putting back the publication date to reflect the extra work involved AND – last but not least – I have to say that apart from anything else I have enjoyed making these changes. It completes the work, adds not subtracts and I just hope all you readers out there enjoy it.

If you don’t then it’s not from any form of complacency on my part. I’ve done my best and if that ain’t good enough then write one of your own! Ooo that wasn’t very nice was it?

Oh, and if you want to get Book One whilst you’re in the mood then just click here The King’s Jew Book One.

Thank you for listening. Back to work now. I enjoyed the break. Much love from me and a kiss for the ladies and a beer for the men. Or whichever takes your fancy.

 

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For the ladies

 

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For the boys

 

 

In the shower with a writer

Greetings to my fellow authors, writers and readers.

You can read this and be sure that there are no ‘F’ words or profanity of any sort. Indeed, this is the cleanest piece of work I have ever written.

Why?

Because I just got out of the shower and am now squeaky clean!

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What has the shower got to do with writing I hear you ask?

Well, there are many little ditties that say: You know you’re a writer when –

Examples –

  • You know you’re a writer when – Deleting whole chapters in your manuscript is equivalent to repeatedly stabbing yourself in the chest.
  • You know you’re a writer when – You make random odd expressions to make sure you’ve described them correctly.
  • You know you’re a writer when – You talk about your characters as if they are real people, which of course they are!
  • You know you’re a writer when – A brilliant idea comes to you in the bath or shower and you’re unable to write it down.

You get the picture? Is that you?

So picture this (the squeamish of you may wish to avert your eyes) I’m in the shower luxuriating in the splish, splash, splosh of this relaxing time and my questing fingers find my ears. Nothing unusual in that is there? But here’s the rub. Suddenly my ears take on a different meaning (I’ve got Irish ears by the way. The sort that tells you when the English are coming to throw us out of our rude huts! Big ones – ears that is, not huts)

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Now then, there’s a character in Book One of The King’s Jew  his name is Thomas Fletcher who also appears in the soon to be published Book Two.

I’ve not read book one for a long time (why should I? I wrote it!)

To continue – I’m still in the shower fondling my ears remember – well, in this second book I endowed the aforementioned character with a special feature which was revealed when another character was remembering him.

And this special feature? Thomas Fletcher only had one ear. That is why Crispin Bowman remembered him after several years from just one brief meeting.

Sounds believable, doesn’t it? I mean to say, one-eared people are memorable, aren’t they?

 

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And you know who this is don’t you?

 

BUT – don’t forget I’m still in the shower – my mind then went back to the sequence in Book One when Thomas Fletcher first appeared AND the most important aspect of Thomas’s character in the book is that he has the capability to melt into the background whilst he follows his devious scheming ways.

If that were the case then the absence of an ear would stick out like a sore thumb, wouldn’t it? See what I did there?

SO still clutching my left ear, soap in my eyes and a glaring error discovered in Book Two I decide I have to go back to the relevant pages and alter the section referring to the baddies lack of ear.

The moral of this little piece – if you can bear to hear it – is that a writer never has any time off. The slightest thing, action, word, situation immediately drags the writer back into his or her fictional world.

Parental guidance warning – For Christ’s sake is there no peace! Must we remain at the beck and call of our characters all the time? Even in the shower? The bloody shower isn’t big enough for me Crispin, Thomas et al.

AND – The King’s Jew is set in the thirteenth century and they didn’t have showers in those days – waterfalls maybe.

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Anyway, I got out of the shower, grabbed a towel and guess what? Thomas and Crispin stayed where they were, in the shower. I gave them five minutes to enjoy themselves before turning the water off and bidding them farewell. But they never leave us, do they?

Have you ever been accosted by one of your creations in a strange place? Let me know if you have and maybe we can arrange a party for them – at the very least it will give us writers a brief respite!

In conclusion, I can hardly hear a thing now as I’ve got water in my ear.

BUT let’s look on the bright side – Thomas Fletcher has just got his ear back. Could we class this as a miracle? I’ll drop a line to the Pope and see what he thinks.

Bit of a Garden of Gethsemane moment don’t you think?

BOOK TWO to be published in six weeks –

TKJ. Shylock is Innocent OK?

 

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It’s Shakespeare’s death day today (died 23rd April 1616). This blog is NOT about Shakespeare. I’ll keep this brief – I write historical novels based in thirteenth century England. In 1290, the Jews of England were exiled by King Edward the First (274 years before Shakespeare was born in 1564). So there were, officially, no Jews in England when Billy Boy was born but anti-Semitism was still rife and so ‘The Merchant of Venice’ had to be set in Venice.

The reason I find the plight of the Jews so interesting stems from an English lesson when I was at school. We were asked to write an essay on the subject of “Was Shylock right in demanding a pound of flesh from Antonio?”

I wrote that Shylock had every right to enforce the terms of his loan. My English teacher went ballistic!!! Said I should not write such things and sent me to the headmaster to be punished! From that day to this I have had an affinity with the Jewish race. And so I wrote “The King’s Jew” series available here. Enough of this frivolity – TO THE BLOG and below is a brief synopsis of THE MERCHANT OF VENICE and my thoughts on the same.

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A young Venetian, Bassanio, needs a loan of three thousand ducats so that he can woo Portia, a wealthy Venetian heiress. He approaches his friend Antonio, a merchant. Antonio is short of money because all his wealth is invested in his fleet, which is currently at sea. He goes to a Jewish moneylender, Shylock, who hates Antonio because of Antonio’s anti-Semitic behaviour towards him.

  • Actually, Antonio was an out-and-out racist and abused Shylock whenever he could. To quote Shylock –

“Seignior Antonio, many a time and oft In the Rialto you have rated me about my moneys and my usances: Still have I borne it with a patient shrug, for sufferance is the badge of all our tribe.
You call me misbeliever, cut-throat dog, and spit upon my Jewish gabardine, and all for use of that which is mine own. Well then, it now appears you need my help: Go to, then; you come to me, and you say ‘Shylock, we would have moneys:’ you say so; you, that did void your rheum upon my beard and foot me as you spurn a stranger cur over your threshold”

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Shylock nevertheless agrees to make the short-term loan, but, in a moment of dark humour, he makes a condition – the loan must be repaid in three months or Shylock will exact a pound of flesh from Antonio. Antonio agrees, confident that his ships will return in time.

  • Note the reference to ‘dark humour’. To Shylock, it was more of a ‘jape’ than an actual threat!

 

Because of the terms of Portia’s father’s will, all suitors must choose from among three caskets, one of which contains a portrait of her. If he chooses that he may marry Portia, but if not he must vow never to marry or court another woman. The Princes of Morocco and Arragon fail the test and are rejected. As Bassanio prepares to travel to Belmont for the test, his friend Lorenzo elopes with Shylock’s daughter, Jessica. THUS a Christian stole his daughter (and she took his money). Now nothing will satisfy Shylock except the legal fulfilment of the bond. Bassanio chooses the lead casket, which contains her picture, and Portia happily agrees to marry him immediately.

  • Notice here that Shylock’s daughter is eloping with a Christian AND they STEAL Shylock’s money!

 

Meanwhile, two of Antonio’s ships have been wrecked and Antonio’s creditors are pressurising him for repayment. Word comes to Bassanio about Antonio’s predicament, and he hurries back to Venice, leaving Portia behind. Portia follows him, accompanied by her maid, Nerissa. They are disguised as a male lawyer and his clerk. When Bassanio arrives the date for the repayment to Shylock has passed and Shylock is demanding his pound of flesh. Even when Bassanio offers much more than the amount in repayment, Shylock, now infuriated by the loss of his daughter, is intent on seeking revenge on Antonio. The Duke refuses to intervene.

  • So Shylock is seeking ‘revenge’ well wouldn’t you? You’ve lost your daughter. Your money AND the 3,000 ducat loan is also lost.

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Portia arrives in her disguise to defend Antonio. Given the authority of judgment by the Duke, Portia decides that Shylock can have the pound of flesh as long as he doesn’t draw blood, as it is against the law to shed a Christian’s blood. Since it is obvious that to draw a pound of flesh would kill Antonio, Shylock is denied his suit. Moreover, for conspiring to murder a Venetian citizen, Portia orders that he should forfeit all his wealth. Half is to go to Venice, and half to Antonio.

  • Hmmm! It’s against the law for a Jew to shed the blood of a Christian but not against the law to destroy the livelihood and family of a Jew! AND Portia is pretending to be a man so – in my mind – this is a classic case of a legal-eagle acting under false pretences. She’s not even a lawyer!

 

Antonio gives his half back to Shylock on the condition that Shylock bequeaths it to his disinherited daughter, Jessica. Shylock must also convert to Christianity. A broken Shylock accepts. News arrives that Antonio’s remaining ships have returned safely. With the exception of Shylock, all celebrate a happy ending to the affair.

  • Note how Antonio gives the money back but it has to be then paid to Jessica who has ALREADY robbed her father. THEN poor old Shylock has to renounce his Jewish faith and convert to Christianity! THEN Antonio’s ships turn up safe and sound and we end up with one totally destroyed character (Shylock) and a group who have won everything by stealth, subterfuge, robbery and false pretences (Antonio and his fellow conspirators).

 

In Conclusion – Happy death day to Shakespeare and an official pardon to Shylock comes from me.

My book “The King’s Jew” features a main character that has a propensity to ‘help’ the Jews of thirteenth century England and I must thank my erstwhile misguided English teacher for planting the seeds of the novel in my mind so many years ago.

TKJ. Book Two. Cover Reveal

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Well, there it is folks – Book Two of “The King’s Jew” series.

This will be released on June 30th this year.

So hadn’t you better get a copy of Book One (if you haven’t got one already)?

Here’s a little video to tell you all about it and it’s narrated by me!!

 

Here’s an image of Book One just to refresh your memory (yes the character is the same – continuity eh?)

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Book One is on sale at a discount – just $2.99 or £2.10p BARGAIN for 400+ pages!

You can buy it in all the usual outlets by clicking HERE

Happy Friday to you all.

 

J.K. Rowling and Me. THE TRUTH!

Usually I bring all things medieval to your eyes yet it’s time to break with convention.

It happened like this – I turned the TV on yesterday afternoon (yeah, I know, I should have been finishing book three of “The King’s Jew” – or down the pub!) and what should be on the screen but a biopic of JKR.

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The movie showed all the trials and tribulations our Ms Rowling went through in order to get her first book published. It was then – cliché alert – like a bolt from the blue, that it hit me… I AM JK ROWLING!!! Well nearly. All I need is a sex change.

 

How so? I hear you ask.

Well, J. K. Rowling wrote her first book “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” and struggled to get taken seriously. Every agent in the land turned her down until she met up with Cristopher Little (her then agent). Hi Cristopher – I’m over here!

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So why do I think I’m J. K. Rowling? Well, the idea for the series’ first came to JKR as she was returning by train from Manchester to London. I LIVED IN MANCHESTER!!!! I’VE BEEN TO LONDON ON A TRAIN! You’re getting to see the similarities now aren’t you?

But is this simple Manchester connection the only thing me and JKR have in common? Not so dear reader – there’s more – read on!

 

When JKR began writing she knew she had a great story inside her – JUST LIKE ME.

When JKR received her first rejection from an agent she persisted because she believed in her talent – JUST LIKE ME.

JKR has lived a ‘rags to riches’ life story – Ok maybe we differ here as I’m still stuck in the ‘rags’ section! But I live in hope!

Rowling was a teacher – JUST LIKE I WAS.

She wrote in cafes – UNLIKE ME – I write in pubs (sometimes) – there are character traits in my novels that come straight from the saloon bar of a seedy pub!! Yes folks I like to frequent dangerous places – I’m not saying that Edinburgh cafes are dangerous places. I’ve been in a few and found them interesting (but not as interesting as the Edinburgh pubs (especially in Leith).

 

I can tell you’re not convinced, dear reader but let’s look at some other traits me and Ms Rowling share.

 

1 – We both worked hard on our book covers

2 – We let our writing take over our lives (sometimes to the detriment of personal relationships I’m sorry to say).

3 – We are both introspective and sometimes balk in the company of strangers.

4 – We have both taken part in radio broadcasts.

5 – We both found love in Portugal (not with each other I hasten to add!)

6 – We’ve both had movies made of our books – OK mine is just a video trailer for the book but you gotta start somewhere haven’t you?

 

7 – JKR got an OBE – I’ve got an OBOE! – What’s a circle / zero between friends? Giotto (the artist born in the same century “The King’s Jew” is set used to sign his name using a circle (a perfect circle!)

8 – Our eponymous heroine is the United Kingdom’s best-selling living author, with sales in excess of £238m – NOTE THOSE THREE NUMBERS – 2, 3 and 8 – my book is on sale for around £2.38.

9 – JKR supports charities such as Multiple Sclerosis Society of Great Britain – My book sales support Birling House http://www.mortimersociety.org.uk/textpage/index.php?id=13 and the Huntington’s Disease Association http://hda.org.uk/

10 – Last but not least – the sales of JKR’s debut novel under the name of Robert Galbraith (The Cuckoo’s Calling) rose by 4,000% when the news came out that she was the writer. An immediate 140,000 extra copies were printed. 140,000!!!! If I could sell just 140 copies of “The King’s Jew” in a bl**dy month I’d be ecstatic (my apologies for the expletive but I get a bit emotional at times!).

Maybe you could help me here dear reader – what shall I change my name to in order to have a surge in sales?

J.K. Stransky?

Darius Rowling?

Any and all suggestions gratefully received.

Thank you for reading this far and if you want some medieval reading just check out the other pages on the blog. Hang on – the phone’s ringing …

“Hello. Yes this is Darius. J.K Rowling? Is that really you? I beg your pardon! You’ll sue me if I put the above blog out there in the big wide world? How about a coffee instead? You will? Of course you can write your next book using the Stransky name. I’ll pick you up at eight.”

BLESS HER – I’D DO ANYTHING TO HELP A FELLOW WRITER.

IN CONCLUSION – It’s make your mind up time

Here’s a link to the impoverished but still smiling (through gritted teeth) and still writing, Darius Galbraith Rowling Stransky. http://authl.it/4a1

Here’s a link to the book pages of the multi-millionaire J. K. Rowling. I Must Be Mad – You owe me a beer for this Joanne!!

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Harry-Potter-Philosophers-Stone-Rowling-ebook/dp/B019PIOJYU/ref=la_B000AP9A6K_1_5?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1455796949&sr=1-5

TKJ – A brief history of prostitution in medieval times.

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Medieval Bath-house and ‘lady’ attendants.

“Fancy a good time, dearie?”

WINNER of THIS WEEK’S FREE BOOK IS CHRISTINE – thank you

Want to listen to an audio of The King’s Jew? Please Click here http://bit.ly/1nP8qdy

Last week we looked at medieval booze and now it’s time to lift the lid (maybe we should say ‘blanket’) on “The Oldest Profession.”

On the evening of Wednesday, September 9th. 1238. The Feast day of St Gorgonius. In Cheapside, London, we meet a lady of the night in book one of “The King’s Jew”. She’s sat in an inn when Sir Gilles de Burgh and his men come in for some entertainment. The prose goes like this –

“A middle-aged whore sat alone in a corner resplendent in the emblem of her trade, a striped piece of cloth sewn on her ragged outer garment. She eyed Gilles, as a ferret would a rabbit. …. She saw him looking. One grimy hand reached into her lice-infested clothing and emerged to reveal a …. Alas this courtesan was unaware that her charms had diminished as her age had grown, and the effect on Gilles was a wave of revulsion. His favourite hunting dog, Charis, had sweeter dugs than hers!”

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The ‘Working Girl’ and clients.

I have redacted certain elements of the text (don’t want to offend anybody!) but you get the picture? AND JUST TO SAY that there is another ‘lady’ who features in the novel who is strong and feisty and far removed from the pitiful creature you just met.

The thing to notice is that this ‘lady’ can be easily recognized by what she is wearing – The striped cloth in this case. Another oft-used device was a coloured shoulder-knot worn on the left-hand side.

Sumptuary Laws (laws mandating that prostitutes should dress in a manner different from other women) were passed in order to make whores immediately distinguishable from respectable women (sumptuary laws also applied to peasants and the nobility alike and not only for prostitutes)

Other clothing rules for our female entrepreneurs were: – striped hoods or cloaks, black and white pointed hats, and yellow dresses. These later evolved into armbands of a certain colour, or a hood cut in a distinctive shape. Fur, jewellery, and even embroidery were generally forbidden to prostitutes because such finery was only considered appropriate for respectable women (but it may also have been for the protection of the prostitutes themselves). Such visible wealth could have made them targets for robbery, and with no male guardians, they wouldn’t have had much legal recourse.

 

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Bath-house – note the bed in left of picture. Good clean fun eh?

In 747, Cuthbert, Archbishop of Canterbury, wrote that it was a great ‘scandal and disgrace’ that so many English women and nuns should be allowed to set out on the pilgrimage to Rome. For very few of them ‘kept their virtue’, and there was scarcely a city in Lombardy or Gaul where you could not find several of these English pilgrims turned prostitute.

In 1161, Henry II tacitly condoned prostitution and gave the brothels of Southwark a status and protection they were to enjoy for the next 400 years.

Then in 1176, Henry placed the Bankside Stews of Southwark under municipal control. The most respectable prostitutes worked in brothels, or “stews.” Most villages had one.

BUT WHAT was a ‘STEW’ I hear you ask? – A ‘stew(e)’ or bath-house was simply a synonym for brothel. It is thought that the fashion for bathing was brought back to England by returning crusaders who wished to recreate the Hammams (bath-houses) of the east. There is evidence of ‘estewes’ being located on the Bankside dating from c.1100.

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What the Crusaders saw.

 

In 1276 a law was passed that no whores be allowed within the London city walls.

In the early 1400’s there is a record of an Exeter prostitute, Emma Northcote, the majority of whose clients were priests.

In London, in 1401, there is a record of one Elizabeth, wife of John Waryn, who kept a ‘bordelhouse for monks, priests and others’.

In York in 1424 Elizabeth Frowe and Joan Skryvener were presented as procuresses for Austin Friars (Augustinian London Friars) and priests in general.

The importance of bawds, pimps and procurers in the sex trade of the late medieval period is underscored by the fact that they were often punished more severely for their actions than women accused of prostitution and if a woman engaged in her trade without the knowledge of her ‘handler’ then rough justice was meted out.

 

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Who’s been sleeping in my bed?

 

Prostitutes then, as today, were vulnerable to violence. The 1299 Coroner’s Roll for Oxford records the murder of Margery de Hereford. The coroner determined that an unnamed clerk had known Margery carnally and that when she demanded her fee the clerk stabbed her in the left breast.

The Church had laws about every aspect of sex. Adultery and fornication in some cases were sins punishable by death, but for a time the Church actually condoned prostitution, admitting that it was a necessary evil. Indeed, St. Thomas Aquinas, one of the sterner theologians, wrote: “If prostitution were to be suppressed, careless lusts would overthrow society.”

 

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Young St Thomas.

 

And in the early part of the Middle Ages, priests were actually allowed to marry and have children.

The areas where the ‘trade’ was practiced were suitably named and very suggestive – such as Gropecunt Lane and Popkirtle Lane, narrow byways running north from the St Pancras churchyard and intersecting with Cheapside just across from Mercers’ Hall.

Remember this is just a ‘blog’ a brief outline of the situation and if you want the definitive version then I recommend – Sexuality in Medieval Europe: Doing Unto Others by Ruth Mazo Karras (I haven’t read it myself but it crops up all over the place when researching the subject).

I’ll leave you with this image of a London ‘Stew’ – I particularly like the look of the ‘Jester’ standing in the doorway – you just know he’s dying to open his eyes!!

 

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I doubt that this is the debating society headquarters!

 

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