Friday, 29 June 2012

The City of Cologne

The historical background for my latest release, Carried Away, is a little known conflict that took place at the beginning of the 12th century between the Holy Roman Emperor, Heinrich V, and the citizens of Cologne.
Agrippina-Nero's Mother

Most people think of the famous cathedral when they think of Cologne, but it is a much more ancient city. The first urban settlement on the grounds of what today is the centre of Cologne was Oppidum Ubiorum, which was founded in 38 BC by the Ubii, a Germanic tribe. In 50 A.D. the Romans founded Colonia on the Rhine and the city became the provincial capital of Germania Inferior in 85 A.D. The city was named "Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensium" in 50 A.D. because Agrippina was born there.

Rudder of Roman boat

Considerable Roman remains can be found in present-day Cologne, especially near the wharf area, where a notable discovery of a 1900 year old Roman boat was made in late 2007. In Carried Away, the hero, Dieter von Wolfenberg, takes his heroine on a tour of the Roman ruins in an effort to win her over.

From 260 A.D. to 271 A.D., Cologne was the capital of the Gallic Empire. In 310 A.D., under Constantine, a bridge was built over the Rhine at Cologne. The imperial governors of Rome resided in the city and it became one of the most important trade and production centres in the Roman Empire north of the Alps.
What Colonia Agrippina might have looked like

Maternus, who was elected as bishop in 313 A.D., was the first known bishop of Cologne. The city was the capital of a Roman province until occupied by the Franks in 459 A.D. In 785 A.D., Cologne became the seat of an archbishopric.

Middle Ages

Relics of the Three Wise Men-Cologne Cathedral
During the time of the Holy Roman Empire in the Middle Ages, Cologne's location on the river Rhine placed it at the intersection of the major trade routes between east and west and was the basis of Cologne's growth. Besides its economic and political significance Cologne also became an important centre of medieval pilgrimage, when Cologne's Archbishop Rainald of Dassel gave the relics of the Three Wise Men to Cologne's cathedral in 1164 (after they in fact had been captured from Milan). Besides the three Magi, Cologne preserves the relics of Saint Ursula and Albertus Magnus.

The economic structures of medieval and early modern Cologne were characterized by the city's status as a major harbour and transport hub upon the Rhine. The efforts of Holy Roman Emperor, Heinrich V, to cut Cologne off from the Rhine prompted the rebellion which forms the basis of the plot of Carried Away.

Craftsmanship was organized by self-administering guilds, some of which were exclusive to women. As a free city Cologne was a sovereign state within the Holy Roman Empire and as such had the right (and obligation) to maintain its own military force. Wearing a red uniform these troops were known as the Rote Funken (red sparks). These soldiers were part of the Army of the Holy Roman Empire and fought in the wars of the 17th and 18th century, including the wars against revolutionary France, when the small force was almost completely wiped out in combat. The tradition of these troops is preserved as a military persiflage by Cologne's most outstanding carnival society, the Rote Funken.

World War II

During World War II, Cologne was a Military Area Command Headquarters. Cologne endured 262 air raids which caused approximately 20,000 civilian casualties and almost completely wiped out the centre of the city. During the night of 31 May 1942, Cologne was the target of "Operation Millennium", the first 1,000 bomber raid by the Royal Air Force in World War II. 1,046 heavy bombers attacked their target with 1,455 tons of explosives, approximately two-thirds of which were incendiary devices. This raid lasted about 75 minutes, destroyed 600 acres of built-up area, killed 486 civilians and made 59,000 people homeless. By the end of the war, the population of Cologne had been reduced by 95%. This loss was mainly caused by a massive evacuation of the people to more rural areas. The same happened in many other German cities in the last two years of war. At the end of 1945, the population had already risen to about 500,000 again.

In 1945 architect and urban planner Rudolf Schwarz called Cologne the "world's greatest heap of rubble." Schwarz designed the master plan of reconstruction in 1947, which called for the construction of several new thoroughfares through the downtown area.
St. Kunibert
The destruction of 95% of the city centre including the famous Twelve Romanesque churches like St. Gereon, Great St. Martin, St. Maria im Kapitol, and several other monuments meant a tremendous loss of cultural treasures. The rebuilding of those churches and other landmarks was not undisputed among leading architects and art historians at that time, but in most cases, civil intention prevailed. The reconstruction lasted until the 1990s, when the Romanesque church of St. Kunibert was finished.

Carried Away is Book One of a new series entitled The FitzRam Family, and is available from Amazon.

Monday, 25 June 2012

What's A Hovawart?

The Hovawart is a little-known German dog breed. The name of the breed means "an estate guard dog," which is the original use for the breed. The breed originated in the Black Forest region and was first described in text and paintings in medieval times.

In my latest release, Carried Away, the hero, Dieter von Wolfenberg, owns a Hovawart named Vormund (Guardian). Vormund is one of three dogs in the story, but  he saves Dieter’s life. I chose this breed of dog because my story is set in Germany at the beginning of the 12th century. The plot revolves around the rebellion of the citizens of Cologne against the Holy Roman Emperor, Heinrich V.

Readers of The Montbryce Legacy series will recognize the heroine of this book, Blythe Lacey FitzRam, daughter of Sir Caedmon FitzRam. She appeared as a newborn in A Man of Value. Now she’s all grown up and a lady-in-waiting to Adelaide, daughter of King Henry I of England. Adelaide married the Holy Roman Emperor, Heinrich V and that is how Blythe ends up in Germany!

The Hovawart is a medium dog. Male Hovawarts are 63-73 cm (25"–29") and females 58-65 cm (22.5"–26") at the withers. The weight is approximately 30–45 kg (65–95 pounds). The correct color descriptions are Black, Black and Gold, and Blond. Vormund is black and gold.

The Hovawart is an outstanding watch dog and somewhat reserved towards strangers. They make excellent family dogs as they are totally devoted to their family. They are a working dog breed, and require a consistent and loving yet strict training and meaningful activity throughout their lives.

Statue of Von Repkow
One of the first documented recordings comes from the year 1210 when the German castle at Ordensritterburg was besieged by Slavic invaders. The castle fell and its inhabitants, including the Lord, were slaughtered. However, the Lord's infant son was saved by one of the castle's Hovawarts. In spite of being wounded itself, the dog dragged the tiny child to a neighbouring castle and thus saved the boy's life. This young boy, Eike von Repkow, grew up to become a legendary figure in the history of German law. He later published the Sachsenspiegel, the oldest Code of Law to survive from medieval Germany. Not surprisingly, the Hovawart is mentioned with praise. The Schwabenspiegel, a law text published in 1274 and based on Eike von Repkow's work, lists the Hovawart among the dogs you have to replace and pay restitution for if they are killed or stolen.
By 1473, Heinrich Mynsinger described the Hovawart as one of "The Five Noble Breeds" and among its uses listed that it was useful for tracking the robber and miscreant. This along with references to the Hovawart in German law show that it was a readily identifiable breed and held in similar esteem to that of hunting dogs.

Following the medieval period, the popularity of the Hovawart began to decline. Newer breeds such as the German Shepherd slowly replaced the Hovawart as a guard and working dog until it had almost disappeared by the beginning of the twentieth century. Around 1915 a group of enthusiasts decided to try to save the breed. Predominant in this group was the zoologist Kurt Friedrich König. They started by looking for dogs in the farms of the Black Forest region. König then started a careful breeding program using these dogs and crossed them with Kuvaszok, Newfoundlands, German Shepherds, Leonbergers, a Bernese Mountain Dog and an African Hunting Dog. After much work the group was rewarded in 1922 when the first Hovawart litter was entered into the German Breeding Registry. The enthusiasts continued their work and in 1937 the German Kennel Club officially recognised the Hovawart.

All this work was almost undone with the outbreak of the Second World War. Because of their abilities many Hovawarts were used in the German war effort and perished. By 1945 only a few remained. Enthusiasm for the breed remained and in 1947, Otto Schramm and some fellow enthusiasts in Coburg formed a new club, the "Rassezuchtverein für Hovawart-Hunde Coburg" which is still in existence today. In 1964 the German Kennel Club recognised the Hovawart as the country's seventh working breed and around this time enthusiasm for the breed started to develop in other countries.

The Hovawart does exceptionally well in search and rescue, tracking and working dog activities. The females are generally lighter in build. In training and especially obedience work the trainer must keep positive reinforcement in mind all the time, as this mountain dog is not as eager to please as many other working dog breeds: it always needs some kind of motivation.

The Hovawart works with you and not for you. They have the ability to think and act independently. Their guarding instinct for example does not require any real training; it is inherentsomething they were bred for. The Hovawart may easily become reluctant if training is built only on punishments. The owner of a Hovawart should ideally have previous experience in owning and training a dog and as such the Hovawart is not usually suitable as a first dog.

Carried Away is Book I of The FitzRam Family trilogy.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Meet A Rebel Chieftain

99 cents on Kindle

Exclusive Interview with Rhodri ap Owain, Welsh rebel chieftain from ConqueringPassion.
Date: 1075
Place: The fortress of Cadair Berwyn, Wales

Henry Cavill (Tudors, The Immortals, Superman) is definitely the actor I would choose to play Rhodri.

The Normans are cursing you as a murdering troublemaker. What do you say to that?
I have spent my life making trouble for the Normans. They invaded my country and treat us like dogs. Many are starving while they live like kings.

So in retaliation you’ve kidnapped the wife of a prominent Norman nobleman, as well as her children?
We need the coin their ransom will bring us. Mabelle de Montbryce and her children will not be harmed if her husband pays what we demand.

But you’ve also captured two of her servants?
Yes, her maidservant and her healer, Rhonwen Dda. They were with her when we captured her.

Rhonwen sounds like a Welsh name. Why not let her go if she’s not a Norman?
I cannot. She is a mystical healer whom I’ve come to admire.

Was it you gave Rhonwen the amber beads she wears?
Yes. My mother crafted them.
Amber beads

But you’re betrothed to the woman called Morwenna, aren’t you?
I prefer not to speak about Morwenna...there are problems.

With the shifty Norman soldier I see lurking around with her?
You have the right of it.

Some would say kidnapping a pregnant woman is cowardly.
I did not know Mabelle de Montbryce was expecting a child when we took her.

Now that winter has set in, isn’t there a danger the child may be born here in Wales?
Again, you have the right of it.

It seems your simple plan to kidnap and ransom this woman has become more complicated?
Statue of Arianrhod, Goddess of the Moon and Fertility
I am a Celt, a believer in destiny and I’ve had a dream wherein the goddess Arianrhod revealed the future to me. All will work out in the end.
Definitely the right build for Rhodri!

    Friday, 15 June 2012

    Celebrity Warriors Visit Remote Welsh Village

    Date: Early 12th century   Place: Llanfarran, Wales

    We’re honoured to have those well-known patriot warriors, twins Rhun and Rhydderch, sons of the Prince of Powwydd, visiting our little village here in Wales. Tell us about the accident that brought you here.
    Rhun: Our brother Rhys and our brother-by-marriage Baudoin de Montbryce tumbled into a deep crevice. We’ve spent most of the day hauling them out.
    Rhydderch: It’s thanks to Rhun’s brute strength that we were able to get Rhys out.
    Rhun: But it was your idea of the conveyance we used to pull Baudoin up that saved his life.

    Were they injured?
    Rhydderch: Yes, Rhys has a badly broken leg and ribs, and a sprained ankle. Baudoin is still lying in a stupor.

    Baudoin isn’t a Welsh name. It sounds Norman. You’ve spent your lives fighting Normans.
    Rhun: We tire of explaining that our sister Carys is married to the Earl of Ellesmere.
    Rhydderch: My brother and I never understood why our father, Rhodri, allowed the marriage, though Rhys was in favour. Something he calls strategic alliances.

    You must be worried about their injuries?
    Rhun: Of course, but it turns out you have a capable bonesetter here. We expected a man, but found an enticing young woman.
    Rhydderch: And Glain is the embodiment of her name—a jewel.

    Sounds like you’re enamoured of her, Rhydderch.
    Rhun: Hah! My brother falls in love easily.
    Rhydderch: As if you aren’t in love with her too. I saw the way you looked at her.
    Rhun: It’s true I am attracted to Glain, but she’s not for you, Rhydderch.
    Rhydderch: What makes you say that?
    Rhun: She’s more suited to me.
    Rhydderch: I disagree.

    Nobles, it wasn’t my intention to start an argument.
    Rhun: We never argue. We’re twins.
    Rhydderch: We’re always in agreement.
    Rhun: We’ve shared everything since we were babes.

    But are you willing to share this woman?

    The Winds of the Heavens is part of a two-day blowout of books for 99 cents. June 15/16 ONLY. Find a list of titles here.

    Tuesday, 12 June 2012

    Free Partay -Are You Ready?

    For two days only, Free Partay will offer kindle ebooks FREE. June 13 and 14. Here's your chance to download my medieval romance, The Winds of The Heavens, for FREE.

    Kudos to designer Kate Sterling for the sexy new cover on this book.

    Click on the Free Partay banner above for a list of FREE ebooks, or click here to go directly to The Winds of The Heavens.

    Blurb: They had always shared everything, but could they share a woman?

    Saturday, 9 June 2012

    Interview with the Heroine of Conquering Passion

    Heartland's Cindy Busby

    Interview with Mabelle de Valtesse, heroine of Conquering Passion
    (I visualize Canadian actress Cindy Busby acing the role of Mabelle with no difficulty at all!)

    Date: October 1066
    Place: Montbryce Castle, Normandy
     We’ve just come from seeing off your betrothed, Ram de Montbryce, as the invasion fleet set sail for England.
    They have gone at last? Ram has been impatient to get the expedition underway. It has been difficult for him.

    He was very eager to go. Will you miss him?
    Of course, but above all Ram is a warrior and very loyal to his Duke. He must do his duty.

    Why did you not marry before he left?
    Ah, that is a long story. We were supposed to marry weeks ago. In fact I had already dressed in my wedding gown and was on my way to the chapel, but...

    Did something happen?
    Oui, but I prefer not to discuss it.

    Ram mentioned something about you having an unusual upbringing?
    He told you that? I did have an unusual childhood. My father is a difficult man. He did something unspeakably cruel to another nobleman. In retaliation we were exiled from our home. We wandered about Normandie for many years.

    Does she look like the type to be seen and not heard?
    Just you and your father?

    Perhaps that’s what your betrothed meant when he intimated that if you became his Countess...
    Oui, I’m afraid Ram doesn’t think I am suitably brought up to be his Countess. He believes women should be seen and not heard.

    So why did his father choose you?
    I sometimes wonder myself, but Count Bernard de Montbryce is a kind man who perhaps sees something in me that Ram does not yet see. I am glad the Count will be here, otherwise I would be very lonely in this big castle with all three Montbryce sons off to war.
    Did Ram say he would miss me?

    Conquering Passion is available for 99 cents for a limited time as part of the Booklovers' Buffet Vacation Getaway. 160 books, 120 authors. Check it out.

    Thursday, 7 June 2012

    Interview with Ram de Montbryce, hero of Conquering Passion

    Note: Montreal born French Canadian model, Gabriel Aubry, probably most resembles how I see my hero, Ram, though his eyes are the wrong colour and his hair should be darker! Ram has blue eyes.

    Conquering Passion will be available for 99 cents from June 8 to June 22 as part of the Booklovers Buffet Vacation Getaway. 160 titles from 120 authors, all 99 cents. 

    Date: October 1066
    Place: St. Valery, Normandy

    Milord, can you tell us something of your family background?
    Oui, I am the eldest son of Bernard, the Count of Montbryce. Ours is a noble Norman family descended from the Northmen who came to our shores generations ago. I have two brothers, Antoine and Hugh. Our family owns to a strong military tradition of cavalrymen. I myself joined my first battle against the Angevins at my father’s side when I was thirteen.

    In the feudal society that exists in Normandie, who is your overlord?
    William, Duke of Normandie (the Conqueror)
    We are vassals of William, Duke of Normandie. He is a great man who has brought power and stability to Normandie. We are proud to serve him. He has honoured our family by entrusting me with preparations of the fleet which will soon invade England.

    Why does William want to invade England?
    He has no choice. The throne of England was promised to him by his cousin, Edward the Confessor, but Harold Godwinson, Edward’s brother-by-marriage, has stolen the crown and proclaimed himself King of England.

    Preparing the fleet is a big responsibility.
    Oui, sometimes it has been difficult to maintain discipline among the more than 7000 men we have gathered, especially now we have waited weeks for the wind to change. They are anxious for glory and there are many factions among them. As well we have hundreds of horses ready to embark.

    You are taking horses on the longboats?
    Normans are expert horsemen and our horses are an important part of our battle capabilities. Both my brothers are in the Norman cavalry. Without my stallion, Fortis, I would not be as effective a warrior.
    Detail from the Bayeux Tapestry

    Does your wife worry about this imminent invasion?
    I am not yet married, though I am betrothed. It will be an arranged marriage. My father chose Mabelle de Valtesse as my bride.

    You don’t sound very excited about it.
    Mabelle is...well, let’s say she had an unusual upbringing. One day I will inherit my father’s title, and Mabelle is not... When she and I first met...well, there was a misunderstanding.

    There seems to be some commotion going on? I hear shouts. Something about the wind?
    I must find my Duke. Finally, the wind has changed and will fill our square sails. We must embark for England to regain the throne. William wants me to sail with him in his flagship, the Mora. I’m not a good sailor! I hope I don’t retch in his presence!

    You sound eager to get the invasion underway? Aren’t you afraid?
    A warrior does not let fear control him. Bravery is born of fear. If I serve the Duke well, I will be rewarded. When he becomes Conqueror of England, I hope to gain lands there.

    Will you miss Mabelle, your betrothed?
    Oui, but...

    Gabriel Aubry

    Monday, 4 June 2012

    Beware! It's addictive!

    I'm looking forward to participating in the Booklovers' Buffet Vacation Getaway from June 8 to June 22. The Kindle version of my juicy medieval romance, Conquering Passion will be available for .99 cents during this promo. Great value - a full length novel for less than one dollar! 

    But, beware! Conquering Passion is Book One of a four book series and it's addictive! You'll want to know what happens in the other three books!
    Click on the Booklovers' Buffet button at right to see a complete list of the fabulous books available for 99 cents during this blowout. Website opens June 5th.