Lena’s World: MidWinter Celebrations (Empire’s Daughter Backgrounder 3)

While religion is a background element in Empire’s Daughter, not a component of the plot, its world would not have felt real to me without including some acknowledgements of how its culture marked the turning points of the year, especially Midwinter.

The Empire is a northern nation, analogous to Britain or northern Europe.  In common with its real-world cultures, Midwinter is a time of celebration.

“…Midwinter’s Eve being a traditional time of fun and feasting. I thought about the games and song and food I would miss tonight in the meeting hall at Tirvan. Even the littlest babies came, and toddlers fell asleep on benches or the floor as the night progressed.”

While religion is a background element in Empire’s Daughter, not a component of the plot, its world would not have felt real to me without including some acknowledgements of how its culture marked the turning points of the year, especially Midwinter.  The darkest days of the year and the rebirth of the sun – far enough north, that’s literally true, as the sun disappears for several weeks – have been marked by cultures around the world: by Jul, or Yule in pre-Christian Germany and Scandinavia; by Saturnalia in Roman culture, and in the cult of the Roman ‘soldier’s god’, Mithras, as the birth of the Unconquered Sun. It is this god that the Emperor Callan addresses when he says “The god of soldiers receive you, my brother, or I will know the reason why when I stand before him myself.”

So, both the women’s villages and the military celebrate Midwinter, although the women’s celebrations have more in common with Jul, and the military’s with Mithraic ritual.  The Empire’s tradition of making major proclamations at Midwinter, however, is based on the later Christmas Courts of the monarchs of England, when many political decisions (including coronations, notably of William the Conqueror) occurred (but not necessarily so formally as at the Emperor’s Winter Camp proclamations).

And here it is December 21st….at home in Tirvan, Lena would be partying at the Meeting Hall, eating and drinking, dancing and singing.  The Jul log, a massive root, would be burning in the hearth, the fire started with a piece of last year’s log.  Some of the women would stay awake until dawn, to greet the newly-born sun.

The military too has its Saturnalia: food and drink, dance and song, which Lena is happy to participate in, but somewhere outside the camp, a more secret ritual is taking place, acknowledging the birth of the soldier’s god. (This is neither mentioned nor described in the book, by the way, as it had no place in the story. But likely both Casyn and Callan are there.  Turlo?  Probably not.  I think he’s out on the hills with Pan, personally.)

Of course, Midwinter is a plot device, in that it is a turning point in the year, and a turning point in the story, for both the Empire and for Lena. The book begins roughly on May 1, May Day, Beltane, traditionally the day when young women can see their future husbands by various divinations (or, in the book, meet the man who will change their lives) and ends at Midwinter and the dawning of a new year.

The land has its rhythms and pacings, its periods of calm and its periods of change, reflected and acknowledged in the rituals and celebrations of pre-Christian northern Europe, which in turn provides the background structure to the action in Empire’s Daughter. Did I set out to do this, consciously?  No.  It seems that my own internal rhythms, which are set far more by the natural world than by the artificial calendar we have imposed upon it, simply insinuated themselves into the writing.  That doesn’t surprise me: so much of what we write comes from places inside us we barely know.

Blessed Yule, Happy Solstice, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Joyous Kwanzaa.  (If I’ve left your celebration out, it’s due to me not knowing about it, not a deliberate oversight, and I wish you joy.)

Sunrise photo: By Fabolu (selbst aufgenommen von Fabolu) [GFDL 1.2 (http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Lena’s World: The Social Structure of Empire’s Daughter

As to why there is this tiny, isolated Empire at the edge of the world, underpopulated and ring-fenced by the Wall, the mountains and the sea….well, to say more would need a big SPOILERS alert!

In Empire’s Daughter, men and women lead very separate lives, the women living together, primarily in farming and fishing villages, the men in mandatory military service.  Male children are taken at age 7 to begin military training; girls are educated in their own villages, and then apprentice to a trade.  Where did these ideas come from?

There isn’t one source, one society that I borrowed from.  The idea of male children being taken at seven into military training is from the social structure of the ancient city-state of Sparta, where exactly that happened.  Spartan boys were basically cadets until age 20, when they took on greater responsibility in the military; they could marry at 30, but did not live with their wives, but stayed with their military comrades in barracks….and that was the germ of the idea of the men and women living almost completely separate lives, except for a couple of weeks each year.

The Roman Empire’s military structure also influenced how I envisioned the lives of menroman_soldiers_at_rest2 in the Empire. Roman soldiers served 25 years in the military, and could not (officially) marry unless they were of officer class, although they often formed permanent relationships with local women.  But again, it was that sense of a primarily masculine life that influenced how the men live in Empire’s Daughter.

The lives of women were influenced by a number of sources: Icelandic and Viking women, for one, where women frequently were completely responsible for farming and fishing and all the other work woman_blacksmith_-_eng-_i-e-_england_loc_24225694456while the men were at sea, either fishing (Iceland) or raiding (Vikings).  The apprenticeship of girls at twelve to a trade is simply based on long practice throughout much of the world, for both boys and girls: even my own grandfather was apprenticed at age twelve to a coal merchant in England, in about 1896. (The photo is from England, c 1915-1920)

Now, as to why there is this tiny, isolated Empire at the edge of the world, underpopulated and ring-fenced by the Wall, the mountains and the sea….well, to say more would need a big SPOILERS alert.  You’ll have to read the books to find out!

Empire’s Daughter, book one of the Empire’s Legacy series, is currently available from Amazon in e-book format or paperback.  Look for book 2, Empire’s Hostage, around June of 2017!

Roman soldier picture: By Pablo Dodda (Flickr: Roman Soldiers) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Woman blacksmith picture:  Bain News Service; taken in England c 1915-20; courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.  No known copyright restrictions.

 

Freebies and Giveaways!

Empire’s Daughter asks hard questions about gender roles, the personal price of a stable society, and the demands of love and loyalty in a time of war. Download for free on Amazon until Dec 11, or enter the Goodreads giveaway for a paperback.

Empire’s Daughter is the critically-acclaimed first book in my Empire’s Legacy series. Set in a world inspired by Britain after the fall of the Roman Empire, Empire’s Daughter asks hard questions about gender roles, the personal price of a stable society, and the demands of love and loyalty in a time of war.  For a few days (Dec 7 -11) you can download  Empire’s Daughter for free on Empires cover 3Amazon.

If you’d prefer a chance at a paperback, enter the giveaway on Goodreads (Canada, US, UK and Australia only for this one, sorry!)

Lena’s World: Empire’s Daughter Backgrounder part 1

I started writing Empire’s Daughter with nothing more than an image in my mind, an image of a young fisherwoman, a fishing village, and the harbour and hills.

This is the first in an occasional series about the historic and geographic background to my historic fantasy series, Empire’s Legacy.

Lena’s world, in the Empire’s Legacy trilogy, is imaginary, but at the same time it isn’t: it is firmly rooted in the landscape and history of Britain and Northern Europe.  I started writing Empire’s Daughter with nothing more than an image in my mind, an image of a young fisherwoman, a fishing village, and the harbour and hills.  But the picture in my mind wasn’t imaginary: it was Anglesey, Ynys Môn, an island off the coast of Wales.

porth_swtan_or_church_bay_-_geograph-org-uk_-_414251

So, when I picture Tirvan, this is, more or less, what it looks like in my mind.(Remove the modern aspects!)  The fishing harbour would be where the beach is; the village houses close to the harbour (perhaps the cliffs aren’t quite so steep, at least in one area), and the meeting hall, the baths, the forge and the sheep-fields further up the hillsides.

This landscape isn’t unique to Wales; you’ll find similar coastal coves along much of the West Country of England, on both coasts, and throughout Scotland.  And I’ve only been to Anglesey once, but still, it was that landscape that began the book.

And likely influenced its development.  Anglesey was a holy island to the pre-Roman people of Britain, and associated with the resistance of these people to Roman rule, that resistance centred in their priests, the Druids.  In AD 60, the Roman general Paulinus attacked Anglesey, destroying sacred groves and shrines, and in folk memory driving the Druids into the sea. It took a few years (and a few more battles for supremacy within Britain) but by AD 78 Anglesey was firmly under Roman control, the Romans building forts, mines and roads on the island. (At least one road is still in use).

I knew all this, from various courses I’d taken and books I’d read. So, when Anglesey arose in my consciousness as the referent for Tirvan, it brought with it all these Roman associations…which in turn led to me modelling the Empire’s military on that of Rome, and indeed the basic infrastructure of the Empire on that of Britannia (Britain) during its time of Roman rule.

In further installments, I’ll talk about how other aspects of Roman military and non-military life influenced Empire’s Daughter, and where and why it deviates completely from any known history. (That is why I call it historic fantasy; there’s no magic, which the word ‘fantasy’ usually connotes, but it certainly isn’t history! Maybe I should call it ‘imaginary history’!)

Photo: Porth Swtan, by  Graeme Walker [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Empire’s Daughter and LGBTQIA Rights

I have added LGBT to the Amazon description (that’s all they offer), because I feel that I need to let young readers know there is a fictional world (another fictional world – there are plenty of others) here where they may see themselves, while the world around them may become more discriminatory and more hateful.

I’ve been meditating since early Wednesday morning…about 3 a.m., when I woke up, looked at the news feed on my ipad, said something unprintable, and went back to sleep, what my personal response to Donald Trump’s victory should be. First off, I’m Canadian, and some will think I have no right having any response.  But the election of a U.S. President resonates around the globe, and has implications for all countries…and all life, human and otherwise, on this planet.

I have enormous concerns, about environmental issues, about military responses, and most immediately about human rights.  I am straight, of Angle-Saxon heritage, and past reproductive age, but that doesn’t mean I can’t to some extent empathize with the experiences and the fears of those who are not.  I’m a writer, and that’s what we do, to the best of our ability.

When I wrote Empire’s Daughter, the fact that it was set in a world where sexuality is fluid and to some extent context-driven wasn’t even a conscious decision.  The structure of the society, based as it is loosely on the structures of Rome and Sparta, indicated to me that this would be the most likely evolution of sexuality in the world that offered itself to me. Love is love, and when my protagonist Lena loses her partner Maya to exile, her grief is as honest and deep and painful as it would have been for a male partner. Empire’s Daughter is a coming of age story, a story of discovery and loss of innocence, of mistakes and attempted redemption.  It is a human story, not a story unique to those who identify as LGBTQIA.

But now I have added LGBT to the Amazon description (that’s all they offer), because I feel that I need to let young readers know there is a fictional world (another fictional world – there are plenty of others) here where they may see themselves, while the world around them may become more discriminatory and more hateful.  “Do small things with great love,” Mother Theresa may or may not have said….this is one small thing from me, one tiny spark of light, I hope, offered with love.

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More Good News!

I’ve just learned that my local library has ordered Empire’s Daughter for its collection. That’s quite rewarding, really; it’s really nice to see the library supporting local authors.  So now it’s in three libraries – two public (the other one is my university’s library, as part of its Campus Author program) and one private (the library of the rec centre in the over-55 community in which I live.)

And I’ve finally worked out a thorny problem in the sequel, so it’s coming on a-pace!

 

 

 

A Dream Come True

Can you imagine how that feels?

For thirty-eight years–since I came here for university in 1978–I have frequented the aisles of an independent bookstore in my city, starting at its original location and moving with it to its purpose-built new home, which included a cafe, and after a few years, a cinema. I’m not exaggerating when I say it has been, and is, a cultural hub here, and is in part responsible for the fact that we have a small but healthy downtown, one filled with cafes and interesting stores, music venues and concerts, art shows, and summer markets. It’s been a labour of love from one family, into the second generation now.

I used to look at all eclectic books…and dream that one day a title of mine would join them. Delivered to them today, soon Empire’s Daughter will grace the Young Adult fiction shelves. I am excited, awed, honoured. Of all the places it can be bought, this is the one that matters to me. This is the one that validates me as a writer. This is the dream come true.  Can you imagine how that feels?

Arboretum Press presents….

July 30, 2016: Arboretum Press is pleased to announce the publication of

Empire’s Daughter, Book I of the Empire’s Legacy Series

by Marian L Thorpe

Empire’s Daughter, by Marian L Thorpe  

Empires cover 3

In a world reminiscent of northern Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire, this historical fantasy, meant for young and new adults, explores the meaning of loyalty and love in a rapidly changing society. Seventeen-year-old Lena must decide between her love for her partner Maya or her loyalty to her village, her people and her land.

…a lovely novel….” 

Mezzalily’s Teen Book Reviews

…easily one of the most intriguing books I’ve read all year…(an) indie-published gem….”

Writerlea Book Reviews

…this book is just something special….It was absolutely fantastic!”

Cover to Cover

…expertly done world-building….”

Creating Worlds with Words

 $13.95 CA + s&h

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