Romans in Africa, Africans in Rome

Druisius is a palace guard and a musician, and were my world real, he’d be of African origin.

We first meet my character Druisius in the last third of Empire’s Exile, when he’s assigned to guard the party of travellers from the lost West who have unexpectedly arrived in Casil. (If you’re new to my series or this blog, Casil is an analogue of Rome, in most ways.) Druisius is a palace guard and a musician, and were my world real, he’d be of African origin.

“I am different.” He was, of course, his dark skin making him stand out in Linrathe and Sorham. In Ésparias, where men from the southern coast and Leste served on the Wall, his appearance wasn’t remarkable, a matter of degree rather than sharp contrast.

Empire’s Reckoning

The Phoenicians, Greece and then Rome had traded with north and northwest Africa from about 900 BCE (Carthage was founded about 800 BCE) and among the trade goods were grain and salt, olive oil, gold and pottery. Rome controlled north Africa for about 500 years.

https://anthrogenica.com/showthread.php?705-Roman-Africa

But goods from further south were also brought to Carthage and other trading centres, and Rome, always looking for efficiencies, sent perhaps up to five expeditions into sub-Saharan Africa. (They also wanted, at one point, to circumnavigate the continent, but that appears to not have happened.)

In 21 BC, Lucius Cornelius Balbus, Proconsul of Africa, sent troops as far south as the Niger River (Manding: Jeliba or Joliba “great river”; Igbo: Orimiri or Orimili “great water”;  Tuareg: Egerew n-Igerewen “river of rivers“) in part to subdue the Garamantes people who had a nasty habit of disrupting trade caravans passing through their territories. Sixty or so years later, Suetonius Paulinus led an army across the Atlas range and possibly to the borders of modern-day Senegal. Two expeditions to Lake Chad occurred in the first century CE, and possibly one that travelled into modern-day Nigeria.

Roman military leaders kept detailed records (ok, Rome kept records of everything, pretty well) and much of what we know of these explorations comes from Pliny the Elder. But archaeological evidence also suggests that trade continued well after Rome declined as a world power. Analysis of copper-based objects in Burkina Faso shows the origin of the ore to be in the Eastern Mediterranean, and dating from the 3rd to 7th C of the common era.

So – back to Druisius. Rome was a cosmopolitan city; its colonies were, too, in part because one of its strategies was to send legions of young men far away from home, where they couldn’t lead rebellions against their land’s Roman rulers. Historian and archaeologist Anthony Birley, in his book Septimius Severus: The African Emperor notes that between 193 and 211 CE eight men of African origin commanded Roman legions in the north. Severus himself was of Libyan origin, and is portrayed in contemporary portraits as dark-skinned.  So there is nothing unusual about Druisius in my city of Casil.

Septimus Severus and his family. Tempera on wood. Acquired from Egypt in 1932 CE. from Roman Egypt c. 200 CE. It is on display at the Altes Museum in Berlin, Germany. Photo by Osama Shukir Muhammed Amin

But as my readers know, I build my world on detailed research. And in the work-in-progress (really, a work-in-planning) my characters return to Casil, and Druisius and his family will have a larger role. I know very little about early-medieval cultures of north Africa, and less about those further south. They may be Casilani traders now, but Druisius’s family would have mementos and traditions from their own culture, and I want those to be as reflective of reality as I can make them. So it’s time for a good chunk of research, made harder by the COVID-driven closure of my university’s library…but not too hard to work around that in this electronic age. I’m looking forward to learning something new.

The featured image is a bust of the Emperor Caracalla, Septimus Severus’s son. His mother, Julia Domna, was Syrian.

“I’m only a kid.”

In an early medieval setting, is it reasonable, historically, that a 14-year old boy would be chosen to lead a country?

“Welcome, Prince,” said Aslan. “Do you feel yourself sufficient to take up the Kingship of Narnia?”
“I – I don’t think I do, Sir,” said Caspian. “I’m only a kid.”
“Good,” said Aslan. “If you had felt yourself sufficient, it would have been a proof that you were not.”

~ C. S. Lewis

In my new book, Empire’s Reckoning, Ruar, the heir to Linrathe, the land north of the Wall, is proclaimed its leader when he is fourteen. While I call what I write ‘historical fiction of another world’, most of it is firmly grounded in actual history. Ruar isn’t automatically the leader (Teannasach) of his country; he’s chosen by a council of nobles, a process based on both the Witan of the Anglo-Saxon kings and the methods of choosing a king in early-medieval Scotland.

While Linrathe is based on Scotland, very few reliable records exist about very early Scottish monarchs. More is known of those who ruled in England. So it is reasonable, historically, that Ruar would have been chosen to lead? He has a couple of things going for him: he’s a son of the traditional ruling house, and, he’s fought in battle, so his nobles respect him. If we look at the kings of England (which wasn’t really all of England, but that’s another story) in the 10th C, here’s who we have:

Edmund I (ruled 949 – 946) was 17 or 18 when he was crowned, and like Ruar had fought for his country in a very bloody battle two years earlier. He died young, and was succeeded by his older half-brother, who ruled for nine years. But after his death, Edmund’s oldest son, Eadwig, succeeded: he was somewhere between 14 and 16.   Three or four years later, his brother Edgar succeeded him, also at about 16. Two even younger monarchs followed: Edward the Martyr, who was about 13 when he was crowned, and Aethelred, who was about 10.  They were all related; like Ruar, born into the ruling house. So, based on what we know about early-medieval kingship in Britain, it’s entirely likely Ruar would, indeed, be chosen leader.

Ethelred the Unready.jpg
Æthelred in an early thirteenth-century copy of the Abingdon Chronicle, a 12th C monastic history.

How much these young men ruled without regents or a council is a matter of debate, but then, neither does Ruar. Nor is this limited to pre-conquest Britain: Edward III of England was 14 when he was crowned, although his infamous mother Isabella and her lover Roger Mortimer were regents for him until Edward’s successful coup d’etat at 17 – the same year Edward’s first child was born to his slightly younger wife.

Which brings me to another subject – and a thorny one in historical fiction: the ages at which people were considered adult, whether it was for marriage or kingship or the inheritance of land. I’ll address this in another post; it’s a subject of discussion among my characters, too, but what happens in my world reflects what happened in Britain and Rome in the equivalent time period.

But, returning to my original subject, young leaders are not restricted to the far-distant path. Alfonso XIII of Spain, who had been king from birth due to his father’s death, took on all the rights and responsibilities of kingship on his 16th birthday in 1902. So perhaps, in a parallel world 1200 years previously, it’s not that unlikely that 14-year-old Ruar assumes the leadership of his land!

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Oraiáphon

I might have just left this story to the reader’s imagination, except three things happened.

Some myths are true

Orpheus with his lute made trees,

and the mountain tops that freeze,

bow themselves when he did sing:

To his music plants and flowers

ever sprung; as sun and showers t

here had made a lasting spring.

Every thing that heard him play,

even the billows of the sea,

hung their heads, and then lay by.

Shakespeare; Henry VIII

Without readers, where would writers be? We are storytellers, and while I like telling my characters’ stories to myself, I prefer telling them to other people. But some of those readers become highly invested in the characters, and want to know more.

The last book of the Empire’s Legacy trilogy ended on an ambiguous note, with an epilogue that makes things clearer (for most readers. Some truly didn’t get it, even then.) But between the end of the last chapter and the brief epilogue is a three-year gap, and some important things happened in that time. I might have just left them to the reader’s imagination, except three things happened.

One was that in beginning the next, related trilogy, I realized there were a couple of major backstory pieces that had to be explained, and two, quite a few of my readers begged to know what happened in those missing years. The third consideration was that I was switching narrators (I write in 1st person), and while readers knew my new MC as a supporting character from the first trilogy, I thought they needed an opportunity to get to know him a bit better.

So I wrote those loyal readers a story that I hope meets their wishes, explains the backstory, and moves the character Sorley from supporting actor to a leading role. It launches February 29th in all markets. Here are the links:

Amazon US

Amazon Canada

Amazon UK

Amazon AU

World-building through Historical Characters: Gnaius and Galen

My goal throughout the series has been to create a world that feels familiar to a reader brought up on the history of Britain and northern Europe, but has enough dissonance to make readers think about the questions raised by the conflicts with which the characters must deal, both personal and political.

“Exactly so,” Gnaius agreed. “May I say more? I have lived in many of Casil’s provinces over the years. A physician travels with the army, if he wishes to become a skilled surgeon.”

– from Oraiáphon: A Novella of the Empire, 2020.

In my Empire’s Legacy series and its sequels (both completed and planned), the supporting character Gnaius plays, and will play, an important role. Gnaius is a physician, erudite and highly skilled, who has held many positions with both the army and to the Empress of Casil. He is a product of my imagination, of course, but he is based on the historical physician Claudius Galenus, best known to the modern West as Galen.

Galen (public domain)

I want to talk about Galen not so much in terms of the historical person, but as an example of how, in my alternate-world historical fiction, I use history to inform my world without being bound by it. The city in my world, Casil, is physically based on 4th century Rome, but politically it’s a blend of Rome and Byzantium. However, many of the conflicts that occur are from later in Europe’s history, between about 600 and 1000.

Galen lived in the 2nd century of the common era, at the same time as the emperor Marcus Aurelius, who appears as a figure from the past in my series (under a different name, of course). But this doesn’t matter: I’m not writing history. What matters is that Galen did almost everything I wanted Gnaius to have done: travelled extensively, learned about surgery and wound treatment in the field, practiced medicine in the capital city and became the personal physician to Emperors. So I have, effectively, lifted Galen out of the 2nd century and inserted him into my world at a later date.

There are both pros and cons to doing this. Readers will fall roughly into three categories: those who know nothing about early-medieval medicine, and will assume I’ve made Gnaius up entirely; those who have some knowledge of Galen, may well recognize consciously or unconsciously that Gnaius seems familiar, or right for the times; and those who know a fair bit about the subject, and may object to him being dragged forward several centuries.

My goal throughout the series has been to create a world that feels familiar to a reader brought up on the history of Britain and northern Europe, but has enough dissonance to make readers think about the questions raised by the conflicts with which the characters must deal, both personal and political. The real-life Galen fits neatly into the world, he’s just in the wrong century. (Certain readers may throw the book across the room in disgust at recognizing Gnaius as more-or-less Galen, although if they are that wedded to historical accuracy, they’ve probably given up on the series long before Gnaius makes his appearance 2/3 of the way through the third book.)

By some combination of serendipity and synchronicity, I learned in my research trip to Rome last week that Galen had lectured extensively at The Temple of Peace in the Forum, and indeed had stored his writings there for safekeeping. This plays right into the plot outline for the book (#5) I was there to research…and then I learned a fire at the Temple destroyed a fair number of those works. I’d already considered a fire in that general location as a plot device; now I have a historical occurrence to build around. The fire is not just plausible, it happened, and the destruction of some of Galen/Gnaius’s writings may well feed part of the plot of book #6, which is now little more than a concept.

The Temple of Peace in 1749 (public domain)

Gnaius is a minor character, although an important one. But by using Galen’s life as the basis for his, the verisimilitude of setting, character and plot is strengthened. Reviewers frequently comment on the depth and quality of world-building in my books: this is one way I do it. What are your methods for creating believable worlds?

The (Successful) Book Launch

I crossed my fingers, ordered nibbles for twenty-five people, and hoped for the best.

Friday – yesterday, the day after my book launch for Empire’s Hostage – I was an exhausted wreck.  Partly dueme reading ebar cropped to only four hours sleep (more on that later); partly due to the adrenaline-overload aftermath.  The launch was beyond-my-expectations successful.  The room was full, the applause after the readings generous, and I sold a lot of books.

So how did this happen?  I put posters up in all the cafes downtown, and did lots of Twitter and Facebook promotions, which were generously retweeted and shared by a lot of people and organizations in our town. The local arts council put the event on their calendar, and did their share of advertising. The bookstore in whose upstairs bar the event was being held did their share with an in-store display and advertising on their website. And then I crossed my fingers, ordered nibbles for twenty-five people, and hoped for the best.

I had asked a couple of my writing friends, one a poet with a newly-published book, one an established writer of genre fiction, to read that night as well.  That broadened the appeal a bit, I hope, and provided some new exposure for both of them, as well. Anyhow…it all worked.  I could have ordered a lot more food; the beer and wine flowed nicely at the bar, people stayed for the whole evening.  I signed my name on title pages many times. It felt like a good night.

But I am not a night person.  I start falling asleep about 8:30 most nights, and struggle to stay awake till 10 pm. The first thing I’d done when arriving to set up at 6:30 was order a coffee.  It was quite a large coffee, and I drank it all.  So I was very awake for the whole evening…and the late evening….and the early morning…. Even the pint of beer I’d had after my reading didn’t help. I finally fell asleep about 2 am, and slept till 6 am.  Yesterday felt like the day after an overnight flight. I managed to send thank-you emails and twitters and facebook posts. I organized breakfast for my overnight guests (even baking muffins); I remembered our appointment with our lawyer to sign our wills.  I went grocery shopping (and didn’t forget anything).  And then I crashed. The day is a blur from early afternoon onward.

Would I do it again?  Definitely!  But next time (perhaps when Empire’s Exile comes out) I won’t drink a large coffee at 6:30 pm.  Mid-afternoon might be better….

Here’s the link to the books on Amazon.  The e-books are free through Sunday the 28th.

(The less-than-wonderful photo is a friend’s phone shot.)

Book Launch Night! and some freebies.

How do you spend the day prior to a book launch?  I practiced the excerpt I’m reading one more time. I packed bags with books and cash, raffle tickets, tape, pens, business cards, bookmarks, a receipt book.  That took maybe an hour.  Otherwise…

This evening is the official launch of Empire’s Hostage, Book II of the Empire’s Legacy spinesseries.  It’s being held in a bar downtown, one that is part of an independent bookstore/cinema/restaurant complex that hosts many cultural events, from book launches to indie bands to art shows to indie filmmakers. I’ve invited a couple of other writers to share the stage with me, a poet and a novelist. (I figured that way their friends would come too!)

So how do you spend the day prior to a book launch?  I practiced the excerpt I’m reading one more time. I packed bags with books and cash, raffle tickets, tape, pens, business cards, bookmarks, a receipt book.  That took maybe an hour.  Otherwise…

I went grocery shopping. I did laundry, and made beds. I cleaned bathrooms and bedrooms and the kitchen. I made cookies. Because I have family coming for the launch, and staying overnight, and needing dinner and breakfast. I’m not complaining….but I am curious.  Were I a male writer, would I be doing all this?  Share your thoughts!

And in honour of the official launch, the Kindle editions of both Empire’s Daughter and Empire’s Hostage are free on Amazon until Sunday, August 27th.  Grab them both while you can!

Meanwhile, I still have to figure out what to wear…

 

 

 

 

Walls in Empire’s Hostage, walls in history.

“…they did not find the conquest of the northern lands easy, for the inhabitants knew the hills and valleys, forests and caves well, and used them to their advantage’.

The advantage of writing historical fantasy is that it is fantasy – in the case of my Empire’s Legacy series, the fantasy isn’t the dragons and wizards sort, but the creation of a world loosely based on cultures, historical events, and people, all of whom existed.  But I have taken huge liberties with timelines, geography, and cultures, so while the setting and background of the books may seem familiar, it isn’t anywhere you really might know.

In previous installments of this occasional series, I’ve talked about various aspects of Lena’s world. (Lena is the protagonist of Empire’s Daughter and Empire’s Hostage, in case you are new to this blog).  In the newly-published Empire’s Hostage, Lena’s world expands to include the lands north of the Wall.  The Wall is based on Hadrian’s Wall, the Roman wall in the north of England built by the Emperor Hadrian in AD 122 to mark the dividing line between civilized Britannia to the south, and uncivilized (and unconquerable) Caledonia to the north.  It plays the same role in my books, dividing the ‘civilized’ Empire from the unconquered lands of Linrathe.

Linrathe, though, has another wall, further north, an earth-and-wood rampart called The Sterre.  Where did this come from?  Well, although it has a very different role in the world of Empire’s Hostage, it’s based on the Antonine Wall, another Roman wall – this one built by the Emperor Antoninus Pius, in AD 142, in an attempt to move the boundary of Roman occupation farther north.   In Empire’s Hostage, the character Perras, quoting a work of  history to Lena, tells her “… ‘they did not find the conquest of the northern lands easy, for the inhabitants knew the hills and valleys, forests and caves well, and used them to their advantage’. It is a wild land, Lena, and very difficult, and more so as you go north. But they did try; the Sterre, the other wall you noticed yesterday on the wall map: they built it, but could not hold it for more than a dozen years, if that. Their armies retreated south, and left these lands in peace, more or less.”  The Romans held the Antonine Wall for only eight years, before retreating back to Hadrian’s Wall, likely for all these same reasons.

Antonine_wall

Here’s a picture of what the Antonine Wall looks like now, nearly two thousand years after it was built.

In the next installments, I’ll be talking more about how early-to-late medieval Scottish history influences Empire’s Hostage.  In the meantime, if you’re intrigued, here is the link to the books!

 

Photo of the Antonine Wall  by: Excalibur [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

What may still lie between the mountains and the sea….

Interested in reading? Send me a message.

 

“…will you face east with me, and bow to that memory, and to what may still lie between the mountains and the sea?” 

Those enigmatic words seal a truce called in the fifteen-month war between the Empire and Linrathe, the country north of the Wall, binding the Emperor Callan, the Teannasach Donnalch, and their people. But in additional surety of peace, the truce requires hostages, children of the leaders. 

Lena is a Guardswoman on the Wall when this peace is negotiated, one of many women who rode north to defend their land. When the General Casyn asks her to take the place of one of his daughters as a hostage, Lena agrees, to learn that she will be sent to a Ti’ach, a house of learning, for the duration of the truce. Here, perhaps, she can learn more about the east, and what its place is in the history of the Empire.

 But not every student welcomes her, and Lena soon learns that the history of both the countries beyond the Wall and her own Empire are more complex, and more intertwined, than she imagines.  When circumstances take her even farther north, into lands of a people unknown to the Empire, all her skills of leadership and self-defense are needed to avert danger to herself, the Empire, and its fragile allegiance with Linrathe…at an ultimate cost beyond her imagining.

Empire’s Hostage, book II in the Empire’s Legacy series, is fast approaching release. It follows Lena, the protagonist of Empire’s Daughterinto a larger world and into greater danger, testing her loyalties once again.

ARCs will be available soon in either e-pub or mobi format.  Interested in reading, rating, and/or reviewing?  Send me a message.

Lena’s World: Sexuality in the Empire. Empire’s Daughter Backgrounder IV

Like most of the cultural structures in Empire’s Daughter, the sexuality is rooted in historical fact, although I do not pretend it is historically accurate.

This is the fourth in an occasional series on the history and geography that lies behind and informs my historical fantasy series, Empire’s Legacy.  Book I, Empire’s Daughter, is available on Amazon: Book II, Empire’s Hostage, will be released around June of 2017.

 

In Lena’s world, the world of the Empire, sexuality is varied and fluid.  This is, I hope, presented simply as part of the background and the culture of this world, but to some extent it is also based on history.

Sexuality is both innate, sexual preferences and gender identity something we are born with (and that do not necessarily conform to the gender identity we are assigned at birth) but the strength of sexuality as a basic human need can also mean that sexuality can be situational.  Men or women deprived of the company of their preferred sexual partners for long periods will seek and find sexual release and comfort where they can.  In the Empire, the structure of the society, where men and women live separately for all but a couple of weeks per year makes situational sexuality a normal and accepted practice in the lives of both men and women.

But of course, there is a wide range of sexual preference within this society, as there is in any, so the partnerships range from the men and women who prefer their own sex: Finn, the young officer; Siane and Dessa, at Tirvan; those who prefer the opposite sex: Tali, whose love for Mar keeps her living alone throughout her life; and those who are more fluid: Lena, the protagonist;  many of the women of the villages, many of the men of the army.  One or two characters may be construed as transgendered: Halle would be one.  My intent was not to define the characters by their sexuality, but let them be whatever they are, incidental, for the most part, to the story.

Where did this come from?  Greek and Roman societies were well known for accepting sexual love among athletes and soldiers of the same sex.  The Oxford Classical Dictionary, paraphrased on Wikipedia, states:

The ancient Greeks did not conceive of sexual orientation as a social identifier as modern Western societies have done. Greek society did not distinguish sexual desire or behavior by the gender of the participants, but rather by the role that each participant played in the sex act. (Oxford Classical Dictionary entry by David M. Halperin, pp.720–723)

The Sacred Band of Thebes was a 4th Century BCE troop of elite soldiers, comprised of 150 pairs of male lovers from the city of Thebes in Greece.  The troop, whose historical existence is accepted by most scholars, given its mention by classical writers such as Plutarch, was destroyed by Philip of Macedon (Alexander the Great’s father) in 338 BCE. Indeed, some military commanders of the classical era believed troops of lovers fought the hardest, because they were defending those whom they loved, not just the state.

Less is known about female same-sex relationships.  The Greek poet Sappho was head of a thiasos, an educational community for girls and young women, where same-sex relationships were part of life. The same may have occurred in Sparta.

Moving forward to the Roman era, many of the same attitudes regarding male to male sex continue, with the exception being within the military. In the Republican period (4th to 1st centuries BCE) soldiers were forbidden, by penalty of death, to have sex with each other, although sex with male slaves appears to have been acceptable. In the Imperial period, this prohibition may have been lifted, as marriage was forbidden to soldiers.

Hadrian, the Roman Emperor from 117 – 138 CE, whose British wall is the model for the

Wall in Empire’s Daughter (and the upcoming sequel Empire’s Hostage) had a lover named Antinous, one, likely, of Hadrian’s ‘harem’ of both male and female lovers.  But when Antinous drowned, Hadrian mourned him publicly, founding the Egyptian city of Antinopolis in the boy’s memory and having him deified, suggesting (strongly) that his attachment to him was deep and serious. In the British Museum’s exhibition marking fifty years since the decriminalization of homosexuality in England and Wales, the heads of Hadrian and Antinous stand side by side, honoring their relationship. (Hadrian’s the one with the beard.)

So, like most of the cultural structures in Empire’s Daughter, the sexuality is rooted in historical fact, although I do not pretend it is historically accurate. I write alternative history, or historical fantasy, (choose your category), not historical fiction!  But I also chose to honor the existence of these relationships in history, because so many books of this type seem to gloss over or totally ignore love that is not heterosexual, and that’s just not the way it was, or is.

For the previous installments in this series, click the links below:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

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