Hello everyone,

Research is a constant, ongoing process while writing historical fiction. Sometimes a fascinating tidbit surfaces that might be of particular interest beyond its use in a novel. As I continue to work in the historical fiction field, I will post those occasional points of interest here. Occasionally I muse on the writing process as well along with news to keep readers informed of what's going on with my books and other writings.

Please feel free to post comments--I'd love to hear from you.

The photo above is of Snowdonia in North Wales, which plays a large part in the setting of the Macsen's Treasure Series.


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Thursday, February 24, 2011

A New Journey

I’m heading out on a new journey! No, not a vacation—I wish! Having finished my fifth century Arthurian series, I am in search of a new adventure to write about.

Where to start?

Photo of torque
courtesy of
Canadian Museum
of Civilization

Many historical novelists take up a new story related to others they have already written. For example, say an author has written a novel about Eleanor of Aquitaine. Since the research done for the Eleanor book would also touch on many of the queen’s relations, alliances and enemies, an author is very likely to choose one of those folks as the subject of the next book. Makes sense—it shortens the time needed for additional research and the author already has more than a good sense of the time and place.

In writing the Macsen’s Treasure Series I discovered a lifelong love of Celtic history, especially as my ancestry hearkens from Wales and Scotland, so most of what I write has some connection to Celtic heritage. Research for the series also put me in contact with many of the theories that swirl around the idea that the legendary King Arthur may have been based on some other historical figure’s exploits and the stories raised his status to something out of proportion from reality. One of those theories claims that Arthur was actually a Roman military commander in the second century AD assigned to a post in northern Britain, and that he and the men he led may have originally come from the Eurasian steppes. Allegedly, the folklore of these Eurasian men created the essence of Arthur’s legend—including the grail story, the round table and so on.

Personally, I do not buy into this theory—doesn’t fit the historical evidence—but the authors mention the nomadic Scythians of the Eurasian steppes as having been predecessors of the men stationed in Britain. (actually Sarmatians, who conquered the Scythians around 300 BCE.)

The Scythians, indeed, are an intriguing bunch. In the last few centuries BCE, around the fourth and third centuries BCE, they moved westward into eastern Europe, particularly in to the Hungarian plain, Transylvania and the Balkans. A few of their artifacts have been found even farther west in Germany. During this time, the Celts expanded eastward into the Balkans, the Danube basin and even beyond with some settlements established in the Scythians’ main homeland of the steppes north of the Black Sea.

Here comes the most exciting part. Both the Celts and the Scythians are known for their artwork, the Scythians primarily for their fabulous gold decorative pieces that adorned both themselves and their horses’ trappings. In particular, animal figures were most prominent. The art that the Celts began to produce during this period, called La Tène, indeed not only incorporated similar figures, but animal figures that very closely resembled those of the Scythians. Having studied art, this thoroughly captured my attention.

Certainly there is a story to be discovered here. While the contact between Scythians and Celts is well established, as I go forward with research, I plan to take this a few steps further and dig into how this influence was transmitted. I have already discovered that itinerant goldsmiths moved about in this region. There was also a tremendous slave trade, as well as the ever present and inevitable war and quite a number of other possibilities. The more I research, the more ideas come to me for characters and plot. What a fascinating time and place on which to hang a new story!

Hmm—a vacation back in time—right now it’s the only kind I can afford…

Canadian Museum of Civilization


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