Castèl de Menerba: A Closer Look

Minerve from the Bridge from Cathar Castles You can explore details of Castèl de Menerba, a key location in Trebuchets in the Garden (Book II), on the excellent Cathar Castles site.
The site also has an excellent new page on little-known Castèl de Les Cassés Vielh.

The pictures of Minerve from Cathar Castles (like the one shown on the left) give you a good sense of the natural defenses that the mayor and citizens of Minerve thought would protect them from the French invaders.

When the “crusaders” arrive at Minerve in the chapter “Cher Malvoisine,”:

At the cross-over moment in the morning, the squeak and chirp of the birds died away, replaced by the persistent fiddling of crickets as the sun heated the ground and the shimmer rose. The bird cries ended earlier and earlier each day: songbirds fled the plateau with the arrival of the men who laid siege on Minerve. The crusaders who arrived late had to work hard to find material for shelter, reduced to weaving mats of brush and thorny twigs to create shade in the sweltering June sun. Only the locusts, scorpions, and field crickets were content to ignore the thousands of invading crusaders.

The silky skies held no promises for the sweltering crusaders, not a puff of cloud or prayer’s chance of rain. The winds from the north remained too faint to ease the sweat from one’s brow, and the occasional gusts blasting across the plateau only stirred up the dust and drove it like powder into their tents and beds, under chainmail so it clung to the folds of their skin, and into their food supplies so every meal was a chore, with sandy dust in every bite.

Read more from Trebuchets in the Garden in the Amazon preview.

Notes for Accidental Heretics – free downloads

In response to requests from several readers, the second editions of Bone-mend and Salt and Trebuchets in the Garden include a glossary and maps.

If you read the first edition, you can read or download these notes:

Notes for Accidental Heretics - glossary and place names

Heretics Resource List – detailed list of references used in research for the Accidental Heretics series


WIP: Crux Lunata (Accidental Heretics #3)

I’m working on a third book in the Accidental Heretics series.

Following the timeline from when my heroes last escaped being burned as heretics, Tomas the mercenary journeys into the heart of Al-Andalus in advance of the Reconquista army.

I vowed (to myself) that for sanity’s sake that, unlike the first 2 in the series, this book would:
Reconquista battle
Continue reading

El Greco’s Gr-Gr-Gr-Gr…Granduncle

The British Library has a new collection of digitized Greek manuscripts, including one from 10th – 12th C.
What I learned today: The authorial Evangelists had scribes! They didn’t have to do all the composition and publication work themselves.
Here’s a page from Burney MS 19 showing St-John dictating to his scribe Prochorus.

Gospel of St John Burney MS 19, ff 165r-211r

From Trebuchets in the Garden: Continue reading

El Greco’s progenitor does doghouse flowers

In Bone-mend and Salt, Isabella’s grandfather Pèire and her would-be protector Tómas warn her not to be like the Queen of Jerusalem.

A post from the British Library on the Egerton MS — 12th Century Crusader States Psalter—speculates that it was a gift from Fulk to his wife Melisinde after he tried to steal the Kingdom of Jerusalem from her.  So: doghouse flowers?

The figures in the gorgeous illustrations are all elongated. My seventh grade art teacher, trying to get us heathens to draw the human form, explained that humans are 7 to 7.5 heads in height, but fashion illustrators add another 1 or 0.5 head’s worth of height to a model’s legs.
Egerton Salter

Continue reading

Call the Builders Back, the Walls are Wet

For Book 3 of Accidental Heretics, Crux Lunata, I’m working today on a scene in Girona. I need dark and dreary, weeping walls in the foyer—symbolic of the evil I want to describe for the family that inhabits the house.
House in Aragon 

For the setting, I’m thinking of a home I visited in Barrio Gotico in Barcelona. The apartment house dated from the 14th century (which, when viewed from July 2013, is close enough to 1212 for my purposes). The house was said to be haunted, and the owner had certified its bad feng shui. Continue reading

Heretics at the Beach? Holiday in the Languedoc?

Sitges Harbor
Last night, several readers told me they were packing Bone-mend and Salt to read on vacation. Two said they’d already read Bone-mend, and just downloaded Trebuchets in the Garden, eagerly anticipating the chance to read on the plane flight or first day in a beach chair.

So excited to hear that—because it’s why I wrote it. Over an earlier decade, I waited for the next installment of Dorothy Dunnett’s House of Niccolò series, or a new Outlander title, so that I could be immersed in another world on the first few days of vacation. Nothing like a fat adventure to get work out of your mind so that you’re ready to play.

If you read any of Accidental Heretics while on vacation, please let me know if the book performed as it’s supposed: Mind now empty of work? Senses filled with the Languedoc countryside?

– Annie Stewart