Gaye Mack’s Blog

DIGGING UP THE BONES-‘INTERESTING’ MEDIEVAL DISCOVERIES

Posted on by Gaye Mack in Ancient Legends of Great Britain, Gaye's England, Scotland & Wales, Worth the Read, Writer's Work 3 Comments

Several archaeological projects with the potential of revealing answers to some of England’s medieval mysteries have  been in the news and are worth mentioning here for my fellow medieval history buffs and writers. 

Earlier this fall I posted a piece on medieval mortuary chests and the project I witnessed that’s underway in Winchester Cathedral.  As I posted, this project is focusing on assigning  specific identities to the bones of Wessex’s early monarchs and bishops; remains that were carelessly ‘dumped’ into assorted chests by Oliver Cromwell’s troops. No easy feat for present day archaeological detectives!

 As this project proceeds, up north in Leicester a major ‘accidental’ discovery hit the news just as I was returning from England in mid September.  In late August, while working on a dig under a city car park, workers discovered skeletal remains with spinal abnormalities and a “cleaved-in skull.” Archaeological authorities called in from Leicester University ‘suggest’  these remains could be those of King Richard III, the last of the Plantagenet kings, who died in 1485 during the battle of Bosworth, England’s last of significance, in its ‘War of the Roses’. 

 Prior to his demise at Bosworth, Richard’s climb to the throne is a story full of complexities, family rivalries, evil doings and political maneuverings, not the least of which are suspicions that he ordered the murder of his two young nephews in the Tower, thus eliminating any rival claims to the throne.

 As a defeated enemy of Henry Tudor, founder of the Tudor dynasty, Richard was given a low-key burial in the Franciscan friary of Greyfriars.  Although demolished in the 1530’s, there’s evidence that his burial site survived.  If DNA testing against descendants of Richard’s family confirm the current archaeological theories, this would be a remarkable discovery.  Additional  controversy has also surfaced regarding a suitable burial place for the remains, should they be Richard’s.  Earlier this week after various news reports concerning this issue,  it was revealed that should speculations be confirmed, Richard’s remains would be interred in Leicester’s cathedral…but that was this week.  We shall see.

 And, although not as recent as the discoveries in Winchester and Leicester, there’s more.  In 2005 the London press reported that along with the discovery of  13th and 14th century royal tombs,  work using radar in London’s Westminster Cathedral, pinpointed the original tomb of King Edward the Confessor,  one of the most revered of British saints and one of the last Saxon kings, who died months before the Battle of Hastings in 1066.

Until this discovery it was assumed that Edward’s tomb was placed near Westminster’s current high altar as implied in medieval records.  However, further research revealed this was not the case.  In 1269, King Henry III had  a shrine built to honor and contain Edward’s remains.  He also had the altar moved and with it, Edward’s tomb which he had placed it under the shrine.  Today, the shrine rests approximately ten feet behind the  present high altar.   Edward as a king does not hold a high place in history as some of his more famous peers, but nevertheless, his presence has endured.  Although made long after his death, the main royal crown is called St. Edward’s Crown and the Coronation Chair is sometimes called St Edward’s chair.

 His family was of the Wessex dynasty and when his half brother, Hardecanute, died in 1042, Edward was named king. He was then succeeded by Harold, killed in the Battle of Hastings, which then ushered in the reign of William the Conqueror and the Normans.  After Hastings, Edward’s reputation for piety grew…Pope Alexander III canonized him in 1161 and for four hundred years he was considered the patron saint of England until 1415 when this status was replaced by St. George.

 Happily the advent of 21st century technology is allowing us fascinating peeps into the ancient past with the prospect of solving mysteries that have mystified many of us for years!

Inquiring minds want to know:  what is your favorite medieval legend that remains unsolved?  Is it Arthur, the ‘Princes in the Tower’ or perhaps…???

 

 Floor Plan of Westminster Abbey and Edward the Confessor’s Tomb and Shrine

 

Recommended historical fiction readings re:  War of the Roses

  • The Kingmaker’s Daughter-Phillipa Gregory
  • A Dangerous Inheritance-Alison Weir

 

YOU CAN FOLLOW ME ON: http://www.facebook.com/gayemackauthor OR http://www.twitter.com/gayemack

 


AS SATURN TURNS DIRECT WE CAN EXHALE AND PERSEVERE IN WRITING MODE SURVIVAL WITH THESE REMINDERS

Posted on by Gaye Mack in Worth the Read, Writer's Work Leave a comment

After five months of pure slog, Saturn, the ‘old Devil’, the task master in everyone’s chart, has finally finished his retrograde motion, Stationing Direct as of today.  When Saturn turns retrograde, his energy commands us to review, rethink and redo, sometimes over and over.  So if life or particular efforts have seemed stuck or full of chronic frustrations in a particular area since early February, making it seem as if you’ve been walking up the down escalator; this is no accident.  Most likely it’s the energy of this retrograde with specific purpose in mind and our best interests at the heart.   As I’ve said in prior posts, the energy of a planet’s retrograde is to encourage us to go inward, to contemplate, consider, revise.  In other words, a course correction. 

Highly respected evolutionary astrologer, Steven Forrest, identifies among Saturn’s ‘jobs’ as representing development of self-discipline, self-respect, faith in our destiny AND making peace with solitude.  I can’t think of any other phrases that hit the nail on the head when it comes to  critical characteristics required in the perseverance of writing, regardless of whether we are speaking about writing fiction or non-fiction.  I may have mentioned this in a prior blog, but it bears repeating here, I think.  Years ago, I had a very well-known astrologer and author tell me, ‘writing is the loneliest, hardest, work you will ever do.  Nearly forty years later I have to agree, this is as true today as it was  when I was just starting out as an undergraduate.

Ironically, as if right on time, this morning I received a blog posting notice from Susan Lakin’s ‘Live Write Thrive’ blog on which she posted an article from her guest, Brian Feinblum who blogs at Book Marketing Buzz.  The title of this post is, 16 Tips on How to Survive and Thrive as a Writer.

Brian’s article is excellent and incredibly timely for those of us who ‘write to thrive’  within Saturn’s recent energy framework over the last five months.  What follows is Brian’s brief introduction and his first five points of how to survive as a writer.  However, I encourage you to read his full article at Susan’s blog.  It’s ‘well worth the read’!

Today, people believe they can social network their way to the top, that they are one witty tweet or one viral video away from making millions. They want to be on a reality show, they want to blog their way to fame, they want to create the next Facebook—but they fail to put in the hard work that is needed.

Those involved in book publishing seek to cash in their lottery ticket. Everyone who writes a book has the hope—even the expectation—that they will have a best-seller on their hands. Who is there to give them a tissue box when their Book Scan numbers don’t register beyond a blip of sales? But, reality aside, here’s the pep talk all writers will need at some point in their careers. Put aside the need for hard work, luck, connections, great writing, hiring professional help, etc.

 The 16 Tips for Thriving

  • Always believe in yourself. You have something to offer others, something worth sharing, something unique and special.
  • Know the experts are not always right. There is rarely one singular way to do anything. Find your own style and way to do what you need to do to succeed.
  • Never accept defeat. Change course, yes. Give up, no. Admit you made an error or mistake but don’t throw in the towel.
  • Learn from others. Copy the habits of successful people when it suits you but don’t be just like them. The world needs you—not a replica of someone else.
  • Realize you can improve every aspect of your writing, editing, publicity, marketing, sales, distribution, etc. Push the bar higher and keep reaching beyond your comfort zone.


NIGGLY MARS AND DREAMY NEPTUNE IN THE LITERARY EDITING SALON…WHO WOULD HAVE THOUGHT?

Posted on by Gaye Mack in Karmic and Self-Discovery Astrology, Worth the Read, Writer's Work Leave a comment

That fiery warrior  Mars has been putting all of us to a hard time this winter and spring, first with its retrograde action that began in mid-January slowing EVERYTHING down, not to mention Mercury’s retreat mid-March, messing up communication and things having to do with communication!  And, just when we thought we could see the light at the end of the tunnel when both of these planets changed direction moving forward…

We forgot that action minded Mars, now in detail minded Virgo is also in opposition with dreamy Neptune,  which is in its home sign of Pisces–‘opposites’ being the operative word here.  In astrological oppositions, there’s just ‘no way around’ it, not like squares where, despite the friction, there’s room for negotiation. With oppositions, you have to live through the transit, do your best and contemplate the lesson; it sort of like the ‘builds character’ thing, although I must admit that I’m anticipating the separation of this opposition in mid-May with glee. 

When in balance, Mars is all about action, take charge, move on, chop-chop, while Neptune contemplates mysteries of the Universe, imagination and harmony in the collective.  Out of whack, Mars can be a bully, self-focused and dictatorial; Neptune can totally lose it in fantasy, escape and addictions…let’s not even go there.

So where in the realm of writing does this astrological evaluation come in with editors and the editorial process?  Despite grumbling about this process as it relates to my own projects from time to time, editors are too often misaligned and scape-goated.  At the end of the day, for those of us who aspire to being published, a good editor is worth her/his weight in gold, there to make us and our writing Stand Out.  At its best, good editing is altruistic.  Several weeks ago as if Divinely timed, an author friend of mine posted a wonderful article on her Facebook page about editors from Salon.com, entitled, “Let Us Now Praise Editors, by Gary Kamiya…it’s a wonderful read if you’re interested.

Nevertheless, despite knowing all of this intellectually, I’m sure I’m not the only writer who’s been grumbling during this current Mars/Neptune opposition that can manifest as a rewind of passages, chapters, essays, query letters…you name it, at the gentle(or not so gentle) mercy of the editorial blue pencil, pen or in my case, my editor’s yellow highlighting in Word! Bottom line:  revise, revise, revise. 

However, as I mentioned a few paragraphs ago, there is light at the end of the tunnel…the energy of Mars’ action butting heads with Neptune’s imagination will soon ease off at which point hopefully those of us who write can look back and admit that we’ve gained some wisdom in the process.


AGENT PENDERGAST UNPLUGGED(ALMOST) IN NEW PRESTON & CHILD’S “COLD VENGEANCE”

Posted on by Gaye Mack in Worth the Read Leave a comment

The Preston/Child  Pendergast series is just one of those threads of  stories you can’t get enough of.  That is,  if you like elusive and complex protagonists immersed in tales that are intertwined .  I was first introduced to FBI Special Agent Aloysius Pendergast in ‘Relic’ , back in (good lord), 1995 and was immediately hooked….eleven books later, details regarding his eccentric(to say the least), personal and  family history continue to be excruciatingly metered out by the authors…a good way to keep you wanting more– never mind that inquiring minds want to KNOW!  Despite his profile (listed on  Wikipedia), you still aren’t sure there isn’t some little morsel waiting in the wings of a future story that will shock you…Pendergast does have that way about him!

The latest yarn, Cold Vengeance gives us insight into prior events involving his wife’s murder which now fires Pendergast’s desire for revenge(and no one pursues this task better or more intensely).  And then there is the small issue of shock(some would call it betrayal) when widower Pendergast discovers ‘Helen’ had secrets of her own, unknown to him while they were married!  The plot thickens.

 Could it be that my fondness for this particular story is that it opens on the Scottish moors in the proverbial mists (where I’m headed in a few weeks, by the way?), or just that I’m hopelessly hooked?  Who cares?  

If you love to read stories that will keep you guessing, with characters who will keep you guessing wrapped in page-turning  high tension set in exotic and familiar locations, these are stories for you!  The authors tell you that while the initial books, Relic, Reliquary, The Cabinet of Curiosities, Still Life With Crows and The Wheel of Darkness don’t necessarily have to be read in succession, the following trilogy, Brimstone, Dance of the Dead and The Book of the Dead, introducing Pendergast’s ‘interesting’ brother, Diogenes, is probably best read in sequence.  

Fever Dream and now Cold Vengeance take us into the realm of Helen’s murder and Pendergast’s hunt for revenge that leaves him presumed dead…I can’t wait for the next one!

 

Photography©Gaye F. Mack, Inc.


ANTICIPATION BUILDS FOR RELEASE OF PHIL RICKMAN’S LATEST MERRILY WATKINS BOOK

Posted on by Gaye Mack in Worth the Read 6 Comments

If you like thrillers set within real situations  that come with a paranormal flavor based on established legends… and are curious about a female protagonist who doesn’t fit the mold of a  single mom turned parish priest and (reluctant, skeptical?) Diocesan exorcist,  then  British author, Phil Rickman’s ‘Merrily Watkins’ series is for you!  I discovered Merrily, her daughter Flower and assorted friends  several years ago while in the UK and was instantly hooked.  Now I am eagerly awaiting the September release of  Rickman’s newest Merrily“The Secrets of Pain”, on Amazon.  

Rickman’s skill in creating sense of place is brilliantly matched with a sense of other that is addictive.  He doesn’t write horror(and confesses that he doesn’t like horror) and yet his stories are haunting.  Before launching the ‘Watkins’ series, he authored four ‘stand alone’ novels, equally eerie, the first of which was Candlenight (1991).  

Last year(2010) he introduced a new series with ‘Bones of Avalon’, set in my favorite legendary Glastonbury, based on  Queen Elizabeth I’s famous and much maligned personal astrologer, Dr. John Dee.  However, no matter which of his books you choose, they are all ‘worth the read’.

 

 

 Photography ©Gaye F. Mack