Of Shakespeare, History, and the Feasting of Neighbors

Of

For those of you who don’t know, last Sunday was the 6ooth anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt. What was Agincourt? Why was it important?

I’m glad you asked.

A Short History:

On October 25, 1415, a battle was fought at Agincourt, France, that Winston Churchill called “the most heroic of all the land battles England has ever fought.” England’s energetic young king, Henry V, was fighting a war of succession over the French throne, a claim handed down to him from his great-grandfather, Edward III, whose mother was a French princess. The English army, having spent more than a month in a hard-fought siege at Harfleur, was weakened and sick, but Henry decided to march them all the way across northern France to the coastal town of Calais, from which they could embark for home. They soon found their way barred by a French army of massive proportions. As one of Henry’s chaplains recounted afterward, “[We] raised our hearts and eyes to heaven, crying with voices of the deepest earnestness, for God to have compassion upon us and of His unspeakable goodness to turn away from us the power of the French.” But when one of Henry’s captains expressed a wish for ten thousand more archers from England, the king answered him, “You speak foolishly.  For by the God of heaven, on whose grace I have relied, and in whom I have firm hope of victory, I would not, even if I could, increase my number by one.  Those I have are the people of God, whom He considers me worthy to have at this time.  Know you not that God, with these few, can overthrow the power of the French?”
The result of the battle was astonishing: the French, so confident of victory that they spent the night before the battle gambling for the ransoms of the English lords they expected to capture in the morning, were crushed, and the flower of their nobility destroyed. By contrast, the English lost only a few hundred men, and the casualties among their nobles could be counted on one hand.
The English considered their victory a work of God, and ever since, St. Crispin’s Day—October 25th—has been remembered as a day of triumph and gratitude.

My interest in this period of history was first piqued when my mom showed me a film she and her mother had loved for years: Kenneth Branagh’s adaption of Shakespeare’s Henry V.  For fans of a well-made movie and a stirring rendition of the play, I highly recommend this film (with a couple caveats—there are a few pretty graphic moments). Branagh did an exceptional job interpreting the play, and for fans of Patrick Doyle (see my article about him here), this was his first film score, and it is stellar. After seeing the film, I was hooked on the play and the time period, and when the 6ooth anniversary rolled around, my family and I knew we had to do something special for it.

So we started two days early, watching Shakespeare’s Richard II and Henry IV Part One. The next night (the eve of the battle) we watched Henry IV Part Two and feasted, for as the play says, “He that shall live this day, and see old age, will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours, and say ‘Tomorrow is St. Crispin’s.'” My sister is an expert though amateur historian on the English Kingdom of France and the Wars of the Roses, and she had the brillant idea of having a period-correct medieval feast.

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The feast

We had five items for the night: A Bake Mete Ryalle (meat pie), Ymbre Day Tarte (onion and cheese pie), Sallet (salad), Sambocade (cheesecake), and non-alchoholic Wassaill.

By request, I am including some of the recipes. With their Middle English versions, because I love it when they call pie shells coffins. If you have no interest in medieval food at all, feel free to skip over this part. I won’t judge.

A Bake Mete Ryalle:

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A bake Mete Ryalle. Take and make litel cofyns, & take Chykonys y-soþe; oþer Porke y-soþe; oþer hem boþe: take Clowys, Maces, Quybibes, & hakke with-alle, & melle yt with cromyd marow, & lay on Sugre y-now; þan ley it on þe cofynne,& in þe myddel lay a gobet of marrow, & Sugre round a-bowte y-now, and lat bake; & þis is for soperys.

1 or 2 nine-inch pie shells

  • Boiled chicken, diced
  • Boiled pork, diced
  • Cloves (powder)
  • Mace
  • Cubeb
  • Marrow, diced or crumbled
  • Sugar
  • Marrow, one spoonful of diced or 1 med. sized chunk

DIRECTIONS:

For this recipe use either pork or chicken, or a combination of both. Combine meat with spices and diced marrow; add sugar to taste. Place this mixture in the pie shell(s). Place the additional marrow on the top middle then sprinkle sugar over the entire pie. Bake until crust is golden and the top has browned. Serve for an evening meal.

Ymbre Day Tarte

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Tart in ymbre day. Take and perboile oynouns & erbis & presse out þe water & hewe hem smale. Take grene chese [brede AB] & bray it in a morter, and temper it vp with ayren. Do þerto butter, saffroun & salt, & raisons corauns, & a litel sugur with powdour douce, & bake it in a trap, & serue it forth.

3 – 4 small onions, chopped

  • 2 bunches of parsley, chopped
  • 1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese (OR ½ cup unseasoned bread crumbs)
  • 8 eggs, beaten
  • 1 Tbs. melted butter
  • 1/8 tsp. saffron
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ¼ cup currants
  • ¼ tsp. sugar
  • 1/8 tsp. each cloves and mace
  • 1 nine-inch pie shell
  • optional spices – ½ tsp. each of any of the following type of herbs: sage, basil, thyme, etc.

Parboil or sauté the onions and parsley; drain well. Mix with all other ingredients and place in pie shell. Bake at 350° F for 35-40 minutes or until pastry is brown and filling is set.

Sambocade

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          We used Richard II’s recipe. Richard II’s real cheesecake recipe!!

Sambocade. Take and make a crust in a trap & take cruddes and wryng out þe wheyze and drawe hem þurgh a straynour and put hit in þe crust. Do þerto sugar the þridde part,& somdel whyte of ayren, & shake þerin blomes of elren; & bake it vp with eurose, & messe it forth. 

1 nine-inch pie shell

  • 2 Tbs. heavy cream
  • 2 Tbs. dried elderflowers
  • 3/4 lb. cottage cheese
  • 3/4 lb. ricotta cheese
  • 3 eggs
  • ¼ lb. butter
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • ¼ tsp. cloves
  • ¼ tsp. mace
  • 1 Tbs. rosewater (optional)

Combine all ingredients and blend thoroughly. (A food processor or blender will do the job nicely.) Pour mixture into pie shell. Bake at 350° F for 45 minutes to an hour, or until filling has set and the crust is a golden brown. Let cool and serve.

If anyone has questions about any of the recipes, shoot me an email at theherosinger@gmail.com!

On Sunday night, we finished our leftovers and watched the film that had started it all for us: Kenneth Branagh’s adaption of Henry V.  And finally, to finish it all off, we had a mass recitation of Henry V’s speech at Agincourt around midnight:

What’s he that wishes so?
My cousin Westmoreland? No, my fair cousin:
If we are mark’d to die, we are enow
To do our country loss; and if to live,
The fewer men, the greater share of honour.
God’s will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.
By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,
Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;
It yearns me not if men my garments wear;
Such outward things dwell not in my desires:
But if it be a sin to covet honour,
I am the most offending soul alive.
No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England:
God’s peace! I would not lose so great an honour
As one man more, methinks, would share from me
For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!
Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,
That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made
And crowns for convoy put into his purse:
We would not die in that man’s company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.
This day is called the feast of Crispian:
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when the day is named,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say ‘To-morrow is Saint Crispian:’
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars.
And say ‘These wounds I had on Crispin’s day.’
Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember with advantages
What feats he did that day: then shall our names.
Familiar in his mouth as household words
Harry the king, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester,
Be in their flowing cups freshly remember’d.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember’d;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.

It was certainly a celebration worth having.

Have you ever read or watched Shakespeare’s Henry V? What do you think of it?

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October Article Roundup

October Article Roundup

I have to admit I was so busy this month that I read fewer articles than I usually do, but of those that ran across my path, these stuck out as ones I really liked or found useful.  Number five isn’t strictly an article, but it’s a fantastic opportunity to nominate your favorite books published this year for awards, and it ends on the 31st. Number three is a list of books mostly for younger girls, but they are books that shaped me as a girl, and Pendragon’s Heir is on the list, so how could I resist?

1.  How To Organize Your Perfect Home Workspace

http://bibliocrunch.com/publishing-tips/infographic-how-to-organize-your-perfect-home-workplace/

2.  Writing Villages: Why You Need One, and How to Build It

https://spunfromink.wordpress.com/2015/10/22/build-writing-village/

3. 5 Books for Brave Girls

http://baehrlyreading.blogspot.com.au/2015/10/5-books-for-brave-girls.html

4. How to Write 5,000 Words in One Evening https://nesskingsley.wordpress.com/2015/10/12/how-to-write-five-thousand-words-in-one-evening/

5. The 2015 Blogger Awards

http://allisontheartofstorytelling.blogspot.com.au/2015/10/welcome-to-2015-blogger-awards.html

6. Writing VS. Everything Else Those Moments When It’s Not the Most Important Thing

http://www.raeoestreich.com/miscellaneous/writing-vs-everything-else-sometimes-its-not-the-most-important-thing/

Putting Together A Worldbuilding Notebook

Putting Together a Workdbuilding Notebook (1)

My current book that I am working on is fantasy, and with that comes the challenge of keeping track of my world on top of my storyline. Despite all the wonderful organizational tools there are out there for your laptop or phone or tablet, I find nothing beats the real thing. I like something that I can hold in my hands, that I can write out by hand, that I can craft, and that I don’t have to charge or hook up to the internet to use. So I made myself a worldbuilding notebook.

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The notebook. (Tabs closed to remain spoiler-free!)

What is in the notebook:

The Story

In here I have my synopsis, outline, a timeline (both in the Roman calendar and in my fictional country’s calendar), and summaries/elevator pitches.

The World

Here’s the hefty section. I have maps, general geographical information, notes on the culture, customs, language, trade, politics, food, clothing, and history.

Characters

I have all my important/complicated characters in here, with a picture (if I have casting in mind), a brief bio, some personal information (ie: where they were born, any quirks I mentioned in the book or thought up), a one-word description, and any interviews I may have done with them.

Inspiration

This section is far more general. I have in here just little bits of things that make me think of the story and get me excited. Like a Pinterest board.

Feedback

This section is mostly empty, save for a couple notes from my siblings (all wonderful people with great literary minds and opinions!), but when I send the story out to beta readers in a month or so, I will start adding their feedback as well so I can compare their thoughts.

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My nearly empty feedback section

How do you organize your work-in-progress? What would you add to a worldbuilding notebook?

Behind the Scenes Writing Tags

Behind The Scenes Writing Tag

I am back, everybody! It was a crazy (but good) weekend celebrating my Dad’s birthday, and now I am trying to get back to my normal schedule.

I was tagged for the Behind the Scenes Writing Tag by both Annie and Schuyler, and I was tagged for the One Lovely Blog Award by Clara. These girls run lovely blogs; I highly suggest that you check them out!

So first, the Behind the Scenes Writing Tag:

– Is there a certain snack you like to eat while writing?

Well, not one in particular, though I am never against sweets. Chocolate tends to be what I eat the most during writing, just because it’s a treat. If I could have Chinese Dim Sum every time I wrote, then that would definitely be my snack of choice.

– When do you normally write? Night, afternoon, or morning?

I write at all times of the day. I write best in the morning, but because of work and our family schedule it is sometimes hard to get that time. So really, whenever I can write, I do.

– Where do you write?

Nowadays, it is at my desk or on my bed. It’s my corner of the bedroom, so usually all my notebooks and references are there.

– How often do you write a new novel?

Define write! I probably get fifteen to twenty new ideas a year, but everything is carefully scheduled, so I finish on average two or three a year.

– Do you listen to music while you write?

I do. I always have playlists for my stories (sometimes two or three per). I am a musician, so to not have music would be strange for me. Now and again, though, it will distract me (usually because it’s too beautiful), and then I will write without it.

– What do you write on? Laptop or paper?

Both! My laptop is my workhorse, where all the heavy lifting is done, but sometimes for first drafts, or at times when I’m out all day and am on a strict schedule, I will write on paper. I like writing on paper better, but I don’t really like typing up, so there you go.

– Is there a special ritual you have before or after you write?

Ha. It’s called run down really fast, open the laptop, and write feverishly before somebody needs you. No, I’m joking, though sometimes it feels like that. If I can, I:

  1. Go and get myself a cup of coffee, tea, or the like.
  2. Take it to my desk and clear off anything unnecessary or distracting.
  3. Lay out any references I’ll need.
  4. Start writing.

For my most recent project, I have one song that encapsulates it, so I will often listen to it with my eyes closed before I start.

– What do you do to get into the mood to write?

Like I said above, sometimes it is listening to a song, other times it is a picture or a video, and sometimes it is looking at my plans or the story’s Pinterest board. All depends on the story.

– What is always near the place you write?

Me. And almost always a notebook or pencil. Other than that, it always changes.

– Do you have a reward system for your word count?

I do, but it changes with the story. I’ll usually think of something special for the end of the book, and then during the writing, I’ll offer myself chocolate or coffee when I get to a certain point in my daily writing.

– Is there anything about your writing process that others might not know about?

I often cast my characters, usually before I write them.

When my characters are cast, I must have pictures or better still, videos of them, or else they can lose the spark of life.

When I get an idea for a story, I go on Pinterest and randomly choose quotes or pictures to go with the storyline and characters. It keeps things interesting.

When I interview characters, sometimes I give them something to drink while we chat.

For the One Lovely Blog Award, you have to share seven facts about yourself, so I am going to share seven writing facts about myself.

  1. I once wrote seven possible suitors for my MC, building them up to a point where any one of them could have married her, then I prayed and chose randomly who got her. It was perfect, actually.
  2. I have fifty old story notebooks in storage, most of which will probably never be written.
  3. I have a list of over seventy-five current stories which are waiting to be written.
  4.  Some of my best writing happens during orchestra rehearsal (provided my standpartner is missing). Playing music in a group setting highly stimulates your brain, so when the conductor is working with another section, I whip out my notebook and write. Last year I would get half of my NaNoWriMo daily word count in during rehearsal.
  5. Before I wrote stories down, I told them aloud to my siblings. For about seven years, on a daily basis, I would tell of adventures that we and our many “friends” (who may or may not have included NASCAR drivers) had on the Oregon Trail, on the Amazon river, on a 18th-century sailing ship, with Robin Hood, fighting in the American Revolution, etc.
  6. If you tell me that it can’t be written, I will do it. Or try.
  7.  Most of my main characters are male.

I am leaving both of these as open tags, so if you haven’t been tagged already, consider this your invitation! If you don’t have a blog, feel free to answer any of the questions in the comments below.

A Brief Absence

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Hello to all my lovely readers!  Unfortunately, as is the case with living in the real world, there comes a time when life jumps on you all at once, and I find myself unable to do my normal blog post today. Between not being home long enough to do my post justice (it’s one that needs special attention), being needed by my family, and needing to finish an edit by tonight, I decided that it would be wise to simply give you my sincerest apologies and promise to be back to see you Tuesday.

The World of Writing Music Artist Feature: Michael W. Smith

HOLD ON

Today’s featured artist is well known as a  long-time writer and performer of Christian praise songs. Less well known are his forays into orchestral music.  Ladies and gentlemen, I present Michael W. Smith.

About the artist: Michael W. Smith grew up in the American south, playing piano and making up little songs to himself.  As he grew, so did his skill. After college he took up a job doing keyboard and vocals for a CCM group, and the rest, I suppose, is history.  During his career he has written two instrumental albums entitled Freedom and Glory, inspired by eras in American history, both of which have been beloved writing soundtracks to me for many years.

Why I recommend him: His music ranges from gentle piano melodies to epic orchestral pieces, perfect for a wide range of moods. The songs have an air of courage and reflection which I find very inspiring. He is fond of Uilleann pipes (which I love), and they make appearances in a few of his Freedom tracks.  (Note: For those of you who do not care for electric guitar, there are a few tracks in Freedom that incorporate it.)

What I use his music for:

-General playlist music

-Inspiring a specific emotion or tone in a scene

-Occasionally character theme songs

Favorite albums:

Freedom

Glory

Favorite tracks:

Freedom (Freedom)

Patriot (Glory)

Glory Overture (Glory)

Heroes (Glory)

The Offering (Freedom)

Carol Ann (Freedom)

Have you heard either of Michael W. Smith’s instrumental CDs? Which tracks are your favorites?

When New Ideas Strike (And They’re Not Supposed To)

We writers have a problem. Sometimes it is a very good problem, and other times it can be a very dangerous problem.

Ideas.

Some of my friends call them plot bunnies. I simply call them story ideas. Whatever name you put to them, their function remains the same: they pop up right when they shouldn’t and distract you.

So what do you do when faced with these? Ignore them? Embrace them? Lose your mind?

Today I am going to discuss the dos and don’ts of these little guys and then give you a couple exceptions.

Don’t panic. That’s a bad idea.

Don’t drop everything and chase after it. That’s also a bad idea.

Do write down the idea for a later time.

Do forget about it after you’ve written it down.

Don’t waste your valuable time dreaming about it.

Don’t give in to temptation to abandon your current work.

Don’t let it mess up your writing schedule or goals.

Do continue to work on your WIP. Give it special attention. Make yourself extra inspired to write it.

Don’t underestimate the usefulness of new ideas. Sometimes it fits beautifully into your current work.

Don’t quench all ideas. We want our brains trained to be creative and productive.

Do know how to control your brain. There is a difference between pointless wandering and disciplined trains of thought.

Now for my couple exceptions:

1. If I find that the new idea is a very good one, I will take a half hour, or sometimes even a day, if my schedule allows, and work on it. I will write out any ideas I have for plot and character arcs, I will cast some of the characters, I’ll write a brief synopsis and maybe a page or two of the actual book. Essentially, organizing anything I can pull from this nugget of inspiration to set the story up for success later on when I can actually get to it. Then I try to forget it as much as I can.

2. This February, I was working on one of my historical fiction books, the one that I had been intending for a couple years to be the one I published first. Progress was a little slow, but I was fully intending to finish it up and edit it for beta readers. And then I got A Very Epic Story Idea. Not my run-of-the-mill weekly story idea, but more like a once-in-a-lifetime idea. I talked with my sister about it, and with her blessing, I decided to pursue the new one in earnest, to publish it first. And in a month or so, I will be sending it out the first copies to beta readers.

There comes the rare time when the new idea is the one you’ve been waiting for. In those cases, don’t be ashamed of setting the current project aside in favor of the new one.

Do you have trouble with lots of unexpected story ideas? What do you do when you get a new idea?

Autumn TBR List

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Autumn is one of my favorite times to read. With the leaves turning, the crisp air, and cider and doughtnuts, I get this desire for new adventures.

A number of my friends were putting together TBR lists, so I jumped on the bandwagon and behold:

Moby Dick by Herman Melville

Swift Rivers by Cornelia Meigs

Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis

Regency Buck by Georgette Heyer

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne

Smith of Wootton Major by J.R.R. Tolkien

Christian Beliefs by Wayne Grudem

Some of these are brand new authors for me (Bronte, Verne, Heyer), and I am really excited to explore new territory!

Have you read any of these books? What books are on your TBR list?

When Things Don’t Go Your Way: Writing Goals Meet Real Life

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I realized yesterday as I was cleaning feverishly, with a full day ahead of me, that I had no blog post for today. No plans, no outline, nothing. I had the rest of October planned, but somehow today’s post had slipped my mind.

Story of my week.

My week began with much cheer and gusto, and I had a wonderful schedule for my book editing, with flex time built in, that was going to put me (most of the way) on track. I was going to knock this thing out of the park.

And then it happened. Unexpected needs, visitors, blog posts that wouldn’t cooperate, fighting a cold, and a broken well pump all piled on as the week progressed, and by Friday, my beautiful little plans (including the flex time) were thoroughly wrecked.

I tried to keep up. I threw out all extra activities on my list in the hopes of saving my big goal, but even that didn’t help. I was discouraged. I had so little time as it was; why did it have to be me swamped under a dozen things I couldn’t control? And then I remembered that these things, like them or not, were sent from God.

So I fixed my attitude. I decided that I would take on the rest of the week cheerfully, and make the best of what little I could do. I also realized that this would make a pretty good blog post.

And you know what? Despite the fact that I am going to have to scramble to maintain my goals, I have a blog post that I wouldn’t have had otherwise, and I’ve had a wonderful time examining the lessons I’ve learned through this.

So here are a few tips to keep in mind when life conflicts with writing goals:

Take a Deep Breath. The world is not ending, and neither are you.

Know that God is Ultimately Sovereign. He is the one who gave you writing in the first place, and there may be something you need to learn more than you need to finish that goal.

Prioritize. What extra things can get dropped off your to-do list until next week? What are the most important things that need accomplishing now?

Use Your Mental Time Well. Even if your hands are engaged, you can pick one plot knot or storyline and mull over it. When the time comes to write, you will have one less thing to worry about.

Reevaluate the goal. Can you rework the goal to fit in the same time frame? For example, doing five scenes daily instead of three? Is there any flex in your deadline?

Use Every Spare Minute. If you have five minutes of time free, use it to write. Jot it down on a napkin if you have to, but don’t let those little chunks of time add up to wasted hours.

Relax. In spite of my last point, don’t be afraid to take a couple minutes to clear your head and just rest if you need it. Sometimes a break here and there is far better than pushing through.

Take Joy in the Little Things. Laugh. Stop taking yourself so seriously. Enjoy the flowers outside, or the laughter of children, or just the fact that you are alive. Have an attitude of gratefulness.

Have you ever had weeks like this? How did you manage your goals?