...in which I share some of my favorite medieval research resources and methods for the benefit of others interested in also writing about the Middle Ages

Friday, December 16, 2011

Giveaway: "The Legend of Camelot" calendar

I've just finished the final edits on the first half of my new medieval romance, Dangerous Favor, and to celebrate, I'm giving away a beautiful 2012 wall calendar called The Legend of Camelot

Calendar description: "The sumptuous, elegant, romantic paintings of the Pre-Raphaelite artists illuminate the pages of this 2012 calendar, which evokes the court and castles of Camelot, a time--however fleeting and mythical--when innocence and purity, honor and valor mattered above all."

To enter, visit my blog post Mathilde is holding ANOTHER giveaway on my JDP NEWS blog and leave a comment with your email address. Deadline is December 23, midnight PST. Hope to see you over there!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Winner: "Magic in the Middle Ages"

Congratulations to Meljprincess! Mel is the winner of my extra copy of Magic in the Middle Ages. Happy Halloween reading, Mel!

Thank you to everyone who entered. I've got a few more "extra books" up my sleeve, so stay tuned for future giveaways.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Norman Conquest Day 2011 - let's eat cake!

Okay, here's my annual "purely representative of the actual event" cake reenactment of the Battle of Hastings. Some day I'm going to track down some actual Norman and Saxon toy soldiers, but in the mean time, just use your imagination. 

Aside from the knights on horseback (Normans), this year's battle was so chaotic, even I couldn't tell who was on who's side! 


Clang! Clang! Clang!

Smash! Wham!

(That's Harold, going down. You can't see him, he fell off the cake.)

Click here to see a nifty Norman Conquest Day video I posted earlier today.

Click here to read/see all my Norman Conquest day posts

Happy Norman Conquest Day 2011!!!

Norman Conquest Day 2011

Happy Norman Conquest Day, everyone! I hope you enjoy this little animated reenactment of the Norman Conquest through the Bayeux Tapestry. Now I'm off to buy my annual Norman Conquest Day cake! :-)

To read some fun facts about the Bayeux Tapestry, click here.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Giveaway: "Magic in the Middle Ages"

I spent the weekend giving Medieval Research with Joyce a facelift. It literally took me hours, mostly because I'm so techie-illiterate. After all that hard work, my blog wants to celebrate, and it's no fun celebrating alone, so let's do it together!

Once again, my ill-luck is your good fortune. Yes, I've found yet another medieval research book that I already had a copy of in my collection. This one is Magic in the Middle Ages, by Richard Kieckhefer. Here's the back cover blurb. (Actually, it's the inside the front cover blurb. Sorry the book cover is so blurry. I promise it won't be blurry on your copy should you win!)

This text book deals with magic, both natural and demonic within the broad context of medieval culture. Covering the years c. 500 to 1500 with a chapter on antiquity, it investigates the way magic relates to the many other cultural forms of the time, such as religion and science, literature and art.

How can you win a copy of this book? Leave me a comment telling me why you want to win Magic in the Middle Ages, and INCLUDE YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS so I can contact you if you win.

For additional entries, you may do any or all of the following:

+1 Become a follower of Medieval Research with Joyce (Google Friend Connect), then leave me a comment letting me know. (If you are already a follower, leave me a comment letting me know.)

+1 Subscribe to Medieval Research with Joyce via the Feedburner subscription box in the right hand sidebar. You must confirm the subscription. Then  leave me a comment letting me know.

+1 Become a NetworkedBlogs follower in the right hand sidebar, then leave me a comment letting me know.

+1 Vote in my Who Is Your Favorite Medieval King poll, then leave me a comment letting me know you voted. (You don't have to tell me who you voted for unless you want to.) I've repositioned the poll right below the NetworkedBlogs box in the right hand sidebar so you can find it more easily.


Deadline for entries is October 17, midnight PST. I'll open this one up to International, as well as USA, entries.

(If for any reason you are unable to leave a comment on this post, you may email it to me at jdipastena@yahoo.com. Please type "Magic in the Middle Ages" in the subject line.)

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Medieval music - Troubadour love song by Arany Zoltán

Since the hero of my current WIP is a troubadour, I thought you might enjoy this little sampling of medieval troubadour music. (No, that's not my hero singing. Acelet is a tenor, not a baritone.) Aren't the pictures beautiful, too?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Perdonatz, se parla occitan?

Sadly, neither do I. Speak Occitan, that is. What is Occitan? It is a Romance language that was spoken during the Middle Ages in a region of southern Europe known as Occitania: southern France, Monaco, and parts of Spain and Italy. For the purposes of my current WIP, it was spoken in the duchy of Aquitaine during the 12th Century.

(Here's a map of Aquitaine and Poitou, where Occitan was spoken, when they were ruled by the kings of England, during the time period of my novels.)

Dante recorded the first known reference to lingua d’oc, the origin of the word “Occitan”. His statement in Latin, “nam alii oc, alii si, alii vero dicunt oil" ("some say òc, others say , others say oïl") referred to the word “yes” in three different languages: òc in Occitan, in Italian, and oïl in French.

Occitan was the language of the medieval troubadours, and since my hero is a troubadour, I found myself on a search this week to find a few Occitan words. I found two English-Occitan glossaries at http://www.occitania.online.fr/aqui.comenca.occitania/en-oc.html and http://tourisme.cevennes.lasalle.pagesperso-orange.fr/text/english/glossaire.htm.

These lists were helpful, but more limited than I had hoped. Then I stumbled across an incredibly nifty little device called the Occitan’s automatic translator: http://traductor.gencat.cat/text.do Unfortunately, to use this translator, I needed to know Catalan, a language to which Occitan was apparently closely related. Happily, however, there are websites that will translate English into Catalan, such as Google Translate: http://translate.google.com, and from there, I can go to the Occitan’s automatic translator and translate from Catalan to Occitan.

For example, in Google Translate, I typed in: “Excuse me, do you speak Occitan?” in English and asked it to translate into Catalan, which gave me: “Perdoni, es parla occità?” Then I hopped over to the Occitan’s automatic translator, copied and pasted “Perdoni, es parla occità?” and asked it to translate from Catalan to Occitan, which gave me: “Perdonatz, se parla occitan?”

See? Didn’t I tell you that device was nifty?

And here’s another cool tool. (Yes, I know that rhymes.) Forvo: All the words in the world pronounced. Here’s the link for Occitan: http://www.forvo.com/languages/oc/ Unfortunately, you can’t type in a phrase and hear it pronounced. But you can type in a word from one of the above glossaries, such as “bruch”, which means “noisy” in Occitan. (I may have a noisy character in my WIP, so “bruch” may come in useful.) Forvo only has 3386 Occitan words you can listen to so far, so you’re a bit limited, but it’s still cool.

To read more about the Occitan language, you can visit Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Occitan_language.

If you’re really ambitious and want to try to learn to speak Occitan, this site can direct you to some sources, though I in no way vouch for any of the links or resources: http://www.language-learning-advisor.com/learn-occitan.html

Here's a link to a map of Occitania: http://www.fchatzigianis.com/photos/uncategorized/2008/08/23/occitaniamap.jpg (I wasn't sure of copyright issues, so I couldn't use it on this post.) You'll see Aquitaine/Aquitania over on the left, and see how the area that covered Occitania fit between Franca/France, Espanha/Spain and Italia/Italy.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

How’s the Weather Out There? Or Another Lesson in Serendipity

So, what was the weather like during the Middle Ages? If you think the weather in England in 1066 was an exact reflection of the weather in 2011, you would be mistaken. And since we are all seeking authenticity for our historical novels, we don’t want our characters shivering through an extraordinarily warm winter, or reaping a rich harvest during a summer of drought, now do we?

The  problem is, of course, that it’s very difficult to know exactly what the weather was like on any given day during the Middle Ages. And some sources contradict each other.

All the information I’ve come across for medieval weather has happened by serendipity. You know, by accident while I was researching completely different topics. But every time I find a clue, I underline or highlight it and make a note so I can find it again.

For example, I stumbled across this sentence while researching the Norman Conquest (referring to the year 1066):

“For a long time, England had been colder and wetter than it normally is, but it was entering a phase which lasted two centuries when the summers were unusually warm and sunny and the winters mild.” (From 1066: The Year of the Conquest, by David Howarth, p 11)

Aha! thought I to myself. I’ve got a WIP set in England during 1213. Two centuries from 1066 easily covers my time period. Therefore, the summer was “warm and sunny” and the winter was “mild”.

Wasn’t it?

Then, while reading a biography of Henry II, I came across this:

“In Henry’s days, the winters were harsher, the summers drier.” (From Henry Plantagenet: 1133-1189, by Richard Barber, p 1)

Okay, so drier summers might well be compatible with the “unusually warm” summers cited by Howarth. Whereas Howarth offered no source information for his weather pattern, Barber refers to medieval “annals’” frequent reference to droughts, although his claim for the harsh winters relied on the fact that in 1142, the Thames froze in early December and no one remarked upon it as being unusual.

If I were setting my story in England during the reign of Henry II, I’d feel safe inflicting exceptionally hot summers upon my characters. However, unless that story was set in 1142, it might be a bit of a coin toss whether you want to go with the “mild” or “harsher” winter.

However, if you decide to set your story in the winter of 1204-1205, here’s a bit of reliable weather-related information you can use, discovered (and notated) during my recent reading of a biography of King John. “The rivers froze after Christmas and the Thames could be crossed on foot.” The ground was so hard frozen that it was March before ploughs were able to break the surface. Vegetables shriveled from the extreme cold of that winter. When spring finally arrived, corn sold “at famine prices. Oats fetched ten times the normal price, and men were paying half a mark for a few pence worth of peas or beans.” (King John, W.L. Warren, p 105)

Warren discovered this information in something called the Roll Series, which if you Google, you will discover is a major collection of British and Irish historical materials based on medieval English chronicles, which is as authoritative a source as you can find.

Oh, and the source for the claim that for the two centuries following 1066 “summers were unusually warm and sunny and the winters mild”? I did some Googling about that, too, and the answer? Tree rings. J

My reading (and therefore, my serendipitous discoveries) have not extended much beyond the reigns of King Henry II to King John because that’s the time period that my novels are set in. But if you have come across any other authoritative evidence for other medieval years, I would love you to share your information in a comment. Please include your source: Title, author, and page number, along with your information. (In case you haven’t noticed, this blog isn’t just about medieval facts. It’s about how we know those facts. So always cite your sources. Thank you!)


Saturday, June 25, 2011

Winner! Midsummer's Eve Giveaway Hop

Congratulations to Shelly, who won the copy of Gilded Spurs, by Grace Ingram,  in the Midsummer's Eve Giveaway Hop!

Thank you to everyone who entered. If you didn't win and would like another chance at a prize, my sister-blog, JDP NEWS, will be giving away a copy of my sweet medieval romance, Loyalty's Web, in the Freedom Giveaway Hop that begins on July 1st. Remember, that will be taking place over at JDP NEWS. :-)

Monday, June 20, 2011

Midsummer's Eve Giveaway Hop

Welcome to my first Medieval Research with Joyce blog hop! My JDP NEWS blog has participated in several previous blog hops, but this is new for Medieval Research with Joyce.

Under the brave leadership of Inspired Kathy of I Am a Reader, Not a Writer, over 200 blogs have banded together to offer book or book-related prizes to celebrate the longest day of the year...Midsummer Eve! (Also known as the 1st day of summer.)

In medieval England, large bonfires were lit on Midsummer's Eve to ward off evil spirits. Sometimes people jumped through these fires for good luck! (I suppose they considered it good luck if they didn't get burned!) Midsummer's Eve was the second favorite night of medieval fairies in England. Their favorite night? Halloween, of course! You can read more interesting medieval Midsummer's Eve trivia at English Medieval Calendar.

Now back to the blog hop. What am I giving away here at Medieval Research with Joyce? A copy of one of my favorite medieval novels, which sadly like many of my favorite novels, has gone out of print. I managed to find a good used copy to give away here, though. The book is Gilded Spurs by Grace Ingram. If you'd like to read a description of the book, click here.

Don't pay any attention to the rather juvenile cover art on the dust jacket. This is NOT a children's book. It's a novel geared to adults (though perfectly clean) and has a lovely cover on my old paperback version. I'm quite at a loss to account for the art work for this hard cover version. But I promise, you'll be well rewarded to look past the cover to the story that lies within!

Now, how how can you enter to win? First off, you MUST be a follower of Medieval Research with Joyce and you must leave me a comment telling me that you are a follower. AND don't forget to include your email address so I can contact you if you win!

To earn extra entries, you may do any or all of the following:

+1 Leave a comment telling me your favorite summer treat (yes, this should be a food or drink item).
+1 Become a NetworkedBlog follower (below the Feedburner subscription box in the right hand sidebar), then leave me a comment letting me know.
+1 Include the word "Huzzah!" in any of the comments you leave. (You only need to "Huzzah!" once. Extra "Huzzahs" won't earn you extra points.)


Deadline for entries is 11:59 PM EST/7:59 PM PST on June 24.

(If for any reason you are unable to leave a comment on my blog, send it to jdipastena@yahoo.com with "Medieval Research: Midsummer's Eve Giveaway Hop" in the subject line and I'll count it.)

All entered? Great! Now hop along to the next link posted below.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

My trip to the Utah Renaissance Festival

I just posted some pictures of my first trip to the Utah Renaissance Festival on my JDP NEWS blog. I'm too lazy to repost them all here, but if you'd like to see them, click HERE.

(Okay, okay, I'll post one picture. But if you want to see the rest, you've got to hop over to JDP NEWS. Here's a picture of Queen Elizabeth and some of her court.)


Thursday, April 21, 2011

Win a copy of "Loyalty's Web"!

The lovely EnglishRose has posted a review of my sweet medieval romance Loyalty's Web on her Clean Romance Reviews blog AND is sponsoring a giveaway for a copy of the same title. 

Enter by midnight CST May 6. 

Click here for her review

Click here for the giveaway.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Winner! : Hug a Medievalist Day Giveaway

The winner of our Hug a Medievalist Day Giveaway is petite, who would like to hug William Wallace. Petite has won up to $100-worth of products from Renaissance Costumes Clothing. Congratulations, petite! I'll be in touch with you soon with more information on your prize.

Thank you to everyone who entered. I had so much fun reading all your comments and finding out who you'd like to hug for Hug a Medievalist Day. (For the record, I would give Henry II a hug. :-) )

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Hug A Medievalist Day Giveaway! (Belated)

It’s a shame I didn’t know about Hug a Medievalist Day (March 31) until the day was already over. Because I’ve got a giveaway today that would have made an incredible party prize! Are you ready for this?

The online store Renaissance Costumes Clothing is offering one lucky follower of Medieval Research with Joyce up to $100-worth of the winner’s choice of products from their website!

Renaissance Costumes Clothing has a wide variety of Renaissance style clothing for men, women and children. You can put your own costume together with (for women) a variety of peasant skirts, corset bodices, or Renaissance dresses over a chemise, or choose a pre-themed costume such as Maid Marian, Lady Gwenhyfar, Elizabethan, and many more! Men, too, can assemble their own ensembles with Renaissance shirts, Renaissance pants, Renaissance vests, along with boots, hats and belts. Or they, too, can choose pre-themed costumes such as Robin Hood, a Crusader Knight, a Musketeer, or even a royal knight in armor! And don’t forget, they have children’s costumes, too!

So how can you win this belated Hug a Medievalist Day prize? Leave a comment with the name of the medievalist you’d most like to hug. It can be an actual figure from medieval history, a fictional character (like Robin Hood), a character from a medieval novel…don’t get mixed up and give me a Regency character now!...a favorite history teacher who taught or loved the Middle Ages, your favorite character at your local *Renaissance Festival, or even your favorite *RenFest day companion (husband, sister, brother, child, friend). Be sure to include your email address so I can contact you if you win!

Want extra chances to win? Do any or all of the following:
+1 Bonus: Begin or end your comment with the word “Huzzah!”
+1 Bonus: Become a follower of this blog, then leave a comment letting me know. If you're already a follower, leave me a comment letting me know!
+1 Bonus: Subscribe to Medieval Research with Joyce via the Feedburner box in the sidebar, then leave me a comment letting me know.
Facebook (+1 Bonus), Twitter (+1 Bonus) and/or Blog (+1 Bonus) about this giveaway (and leave a comment letting me know)

Deadline: April 17, midnight PST. Winner will be drawn by Random.org


(*Yes, I do know that the Middle Ages and the Renaissance were two different historical periods, but for the purposes of this contest, I’m stretching it a bit. The prize, after all, is sponsored by a Renaissance store.)

About the giveaway sponsor: RenaissanceCostumesClothing.com has quickly become a trusted source for Medieval and Renaissance costumes. With worldwide shipping, unique clothing, and a firm commitment to customer service, RenaissanceCostumesClothing.com is a great source for Renaissance costumes for women and mens Renaissance costumes that will make you fit in at faires and other historical costumed events.

NOTE: My hosting of this giveaway does not constitute an endorsement of Renaissance Costumes Clothing or their products.

Friday, April 1, 2011

International Hug a Medievalist Day!

I can't believe it! We completely missed International Hug a Medievalist Day! I missed it, anyway. How about you?

The New Yorker ran an article about it. You can read it by clicking here.

We're going to do better next year. I've marked the date (March 31) on my calendar so I won't forget. I'll try to plan a party or something. Mark your calendars so you'll remember, too!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Fans of Thomas Malory, I have two words for you: Chrétien & Marie!

So, as fellow medievalists, you may well scratch your heads at this post and wonder, “Why is she telling us this? We already know!” But I’ve had not one, but two, fellow writers make the same comment within a matter of days regarding an unpublished novel of mine I’ve asked them to critique. “The King Arthur legend started with Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur. I don’t think your heroine would know anything about King Arthur.”

Well, I’ve been obliged to gently point out to them that they are wrong. The true originator of the Arthurian tradition that we have become familiar with was a medieval poet named Chrétien de Troyes who lived in 12th Century France. Although Chrétien undoubtedly drew on even earlier sources, such as Geoffrey of Monmouth, it was Chrétien who fashioned these tales into the courtly romances that we know today and to whom we first owe such now classic Arthurian themes as Lancelot’s love affair with Guinevere, and the quest for the Holy Grail. In the romances of Chrétien we also meet Kay, Gawain, Perceval, Sagremor the Unruly (couldn’t resist sharing that one!), and of course, King Arthur himself. He even refers to an apparently lost work based on King Mark and Isolde the Blonde in his introduction to his poem, Cligés.

If you aren’t familiar with Chrétien de Troyes, you are missing a treat. You can read a simple biography of his life and works on Wikipedia.  You can find seemingly endless versions of his romances on Amazon, including a free Kindle version. For the purposes of my own research, I have greatly relied on the Penguin Classics edition, Chrétien de Troyes: Arthurian Romances. It includes an extensive introduction detailing what we know about Chrétien’s life and career, descriptions of his works, and his influence on romantic literature in general. Also a glossary of medieval terms, helpful notes on each romance, and a very nice select bibliography. (Oh, yes, it also contains five of Chrétien’s romances, so don’t fall into the trap of buying each tale individually unless you absolutely want to.)

Just for the record, Chrétien de Troyes wasn’t the only 12th Century French poet telling tales of King Arthur. The poetess, Marie de France, draws a rather unflattering portrait of Queen Guinevere in her lai, Lanval. Several of Marie’s poems make an appearance in my medieval romance, Loyalty’s Web. Her works are also easily found on Amazon (again, including a free Kindle version). The version I relied on was The Lais of Marie de France, translated and introduced by Robert Hanning & Joan Ferrante. This volume has an excellent introduction (important if you’re a writer researching Marie and/or her works for a novel) and I quite like the little commentary that follows each of the individual poems.

So the next time someone looks down their nose at you and tells you your medieval character couldn’t possibly know anything about King Arthur, you arch your eyebrows in surprise and reply, “Are you honestly telling me you’ve never heard of Chrétien de Troyes and Marie de France?”