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Month: April 2016

Ask the Author

20160421_174340_resizedWant to know more about your favourite characters?  To find out about their journeys and other adventures? Or maybe ask about where the characters and the plot came from? And what do you think is going to happen next? Why don’t you ask the Author ( though she might not answer the last of these questions, as you’ll find out in the next book ).

If you would like to speak with Julie Anderson, the author of ‘Reconquista‘ you can do so, face to face, on the afternoon of Friday, 6th May at Omnibus Arts Centre, Clapham Common North Side, Clapham, South London SW4. She will be at ‘Readers’ Afternoon’ along with four other writers, to talk about their books and answer questions.  Book clubs are welcome, as well as individuals.  Bring a long your copy of ‘Reconquista‘ and Julie will be happy to sign it for you.

Or come along on the evening of Saturday 7th May to the launch of the book at hatena-1184896_1280Clapham Books, 26, The Pavement, Clapham, London SW4 0JA.  Julie will be reading from the book.  Both events are part of the programme for ‘Omnibus Edition’ Clapham’s Literary Festival.  All events are ticketed (though some, including the launch, are free) so go to omnibus-clapham.org for tickets.  But don’t delay, already there are only twenty six left for the Saturday event.

dfw-ja-r-cover-3d-nologoIf you don’t live in London, but are a member of Goodreads, ask Julie a question via her Goodreads Author Page. She regularly checks her messages there and will be happy to respond.

Julie has discussed writing ‘Reconquista’ in a number of interviews with book bloggers and the press in recent weeks.  Check out her on-line interviews with Coreena McBurnie in Canada, with Wayne Turmel a Canadian living in the US and on US book blog site Waking Writer. That interview will appear on 18th May, as will the interview for Creativity@Work.  Her Smashwords interview can be found here although that doesn’t have a lot of detail about ‘Reconquista‘ in it. If you live in South London you might also see her interviews in Aspire magazine and SW Residents Journal.

Once the Festival is over she will be gathering together all the questions and answers and putting them all in one placequestions-1328466_1280. You will be able to read the questions and answers from both the Readers Afternoon session and the book launch here on this site. Look out for it and, if your question wasn’t asked, why not ask it using the Contact box at the foot of this article to get your question included. Or just ask it anyway?

You can always contact Julie to ask her a question on Twitter @jjstorybazaar or message her Facebook page.  Or just watch this space.

The other four authors appearing on Readers Afternoon at the Clapham Literary Festival are John Taylor ‘Departing Vienna‘, Leila Segal ‘Breathe‘, Roz Morris ‘My Memories of a Future Life‘ and Elizabeth Buchan, the novelist, who will be the host for the session and whose books are too numerous to mention.

fe_breathe_coverDepartingVienna_resizedMy Memories of a Future Life by Roz MorrisReconquista_Cover_for_Kindle

Searching for a Past

I’ve recently returned from Jerez de la Frontera, the setting for ‘Reconquista‘ where I’ve been searching for remains of the Moorish period of the city.

PictureTranche2May12 050As readers of the novel will know, the story starts on October 9th, 1264, when King Alfonso X of Castile and Leon is about to storm and take the city. We know that the siege and the fall of the city happened.  We also know that Alfonso and the churchmen who followed in his wake, set about establishing Christian churches and institutions to replace those Muslim ones which already existed.

This included the church, now Cathedral, of San Salvador, the four ‘churches of the JerezJuly4Evangelists’ and the church of San Dionysio, all within the city walls and the Monastery of San Domingo just outside them.  But what is there to be seen, if anything, of the Muslim predecessors of these buildings?  And what other evidence is there of the city’s Muslim past?

cadizpanorama3One of the largest, most obvious Moorish monuments is the Alcazar or castle, found at the south western corner of the old walled city. Its walls, which you can see now, are twelfth century, built by the Almohads, a Berber tribe who took over Al Andalus once the Caliphate of Cordova had fallen.  Within the castle archaeological excavations have uncovered earlier walls and other structures, relating to the Ummayads and Almorovids, the first and second wave of invaders from the south.

It also contains the only surviving mosque within the old city walls, which became a chapel, the Cappella de Santa Maria, after the city was captured. Its minaret becameJerezView4 a bell tower, but the octagonal prayer hall remains and the fountain courtyard where ablutions would be carried out before worship.

The other major relics which cannot be ignored are the twelfth century city walls.  Although certain sections of these have disappeared completely, much of them remains – along the street known as Mura or Walls in the north and on the street called Porvera in the East. Here you can see the old battlements protruding from the backs of modern houses.  The people who live in the houses use the walkways as private gardens ( though they are also responsible for their up-keep and a twelfth century wall can be quite expensive to maintain ).

JerezCloisers3There are architectural relics of Moorish times within some of the Christian buildings which Alfonso sponsored construction of.  Like the monastery of San Domingo. This twelfth century foundation was built just outside the south-eastern walls on the site of a Muslim religious institution and, inside the cloisters which are open to the public, you can see the remains of a typically ‘Arab’ archway which belonged to the earlier building.

Sometimes the floor plans of the new churches give away their previous function; the cross-shape being superimposed on the underlying structure of the Muslim foundations.

What of relics within private dwellings? Many of the grand houses in Jeerz are palacio virey de laserna003much later than the twelfth century, though there are one or two. The Palace of the Viceroy Laserna, for example, which stands near the Alcazar, is recorded, under a different name, in King Alfonso’s Repartamiento, the book which lists who got given what after the defeat of the town. Now the ancestral home of the Duke of the Andes, its lower floor contains tile-work from the pre-Christian period.

So it is still possible today to find plenty of evidence of the Moorish city of Xeres.

If you enjoyed reading this article you might also enjoy             School’s Out              Jerez de la Frontera until the Christian period

Read Chapters One and Two FREE

If you think that you might like to read ‘Reconquista‘ but you’re not sure that it’s for you, try out the first two chapters for FREE. They can be found here. Or begin reading below.

The ‘Reconquista‘ paperback is currently on sale at Amazon, Smashwords and other online retailers at a special price for the Clapham Literary Festival of £7.99. From the end of May onwards it will revert to its original price of £8.99. So buy your paperback copy at the cheaper price now before it goes back to the original price. The ‘e’ book of ‘Reconquista‘ will remain at its current price of £2.10 or $2.99.

Chapter One

Besieged

‘Take cover!’

Nathan spun round to try and see who had shouted, but it was impossible to tell.

In the narrow city street people were running, darting into shops and houses, hurrying down alleyways. Doors and windows thudded shut. An ironmonger hastened to lift his wares from their hooks and retreated inside his building.

Nathan was buffeted aside as a large man ran past, tripping over a frightened, yowling cat. Nathan fell forwards, knees hitting the cobblestones.

‘Ow!’

Ignore the pain. Get to safety.

Soon the burning firebombs would rain down. His home was streets away. He’d never get there in time.

Shutters were closing.

He scrambled to his feet, looking for a place to shelter. There was a recessed doorway in a house at the side of the street. That would be better than nothing. He hurried over to it and pounded on the wooden door.

‘Let me in! Please! Is anyone there?’

The door remained closed.

Leaning back to look up and down the lane, Nathan saw it was empty, even the cat had disappeared. All it’s doors and windows were closed and shuttered tight. There was nowhere else for him to go.

Small for his fourteen years and slightly built, he pressed himself against the stone upright of the doorway underneath its wide, stone lintel, his shoulder against the door. He looked up at the sliver of blue sky between the tall buildings, watching out for the smoke-trailing bombs.

Then the earth shook.

The stone reverberated with the shock and Nathan staggered. Dust rose from the cobbles and fell from roof tiles and sills.

‘What….? What was that?’ A voice came from somewhere down the street.

‘The big gun.’ An answer came from the shuttered window above Nathan’s head.

The cannon.

The massive metal machine had arrived outside the city several days before, dragged into place by long teams of horses. The people of Jerez had watched its arrival from the walls, anxious and afraid of the havoc it could wreak.

This was the latest attempt by the King, Alfonso X of Castile and Leon, to end the siege. The King led the Christian army from the north, come to regain the rich southlands of Al Andalus from the Moors.

Only yesterday Nathan and his friends, Juan and Atta, had climbed onto the battlements to view the cannon. From their high vantage point they looked down between the stone crenellations at the army camp, set out less than half a mile away. There were lines of tents, stacks of pikes and lots of bustling leather-clad figures moving about the camp. The smell from the many cook-fires made Nathan’s mouth water.

‘There seems to be even more of them,’ Atta said.

Over the months of the siege the army had grown. This war seemed to have been going on for as long as Nathan could remember.

‘My father says the King’s summoning all his lords and barons,’ said Juan. ’Though maybe that’s to stop them plotting behind his back.’

Banners fluttered in the breeze and the rearing claret lion of Leon and the golden towers of Castile were prominent amid the pennants and flags of his vassal lords and cities. Large, caparisoned horses carried armoured knights practising their skills. They could hear the clash of their swords and shields ringing out across the plain.

The giant wooden skeletons of catapults, giant trebuchets and mangonels lay still. Hung about with ropes and pulleys, they waited for the next attack. The huge stone counter-weights poised atop their frames towered over the men around them. Yet even these machines were dwarfed by the cannon. Nathan had heard tales of such mighty guns, but had never seen one.

‘What’s it made of?’ Juan asked.

‘Metal,’ Atta replied.

‘Yeah,’ Juan gave him a sarcastic look. ‘Bronze or iron?

‘Bronze, I think,’ Nathan answered. He knew about metals. ‘Less friction than with iron.’

‘It’s aimed at the Alcazar,’ Atta said.

Three pairs of eyes followed the trajectory from the cannon’s mouth towards the city.

Yes, the Alcazar, the ancient fortress at the highest point of the city walls – that would be its first target. The old citadel was by far the strongest point of the defence.

The Alcazar.

As he sheltered in the doorway, the hairs on Nathan’s skin rose. Hadn’t Juan been headed for the Alcazar?  Taking a message for his father, Don Carlos, who commanded the town’s militia there.

Had the cannon shot hit the Alcazar? Had his friend been caught in the explosion?

Read more.

Front Page

This article tells you about the reconquista.online web-site, what is already here and what is planned for the future.

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  • Maps and diagrams of the various journeys of the characters. You can find a map of Al Andalus on the Maps & Charts page. There is also a map of Jerez city, which is also at the front of the book. A chart of the voyage of the Hebe on her way to the near east, and of the Teresa, will follow.
  • Questions & Answers with the author, especiallypuzzle-431568_1280 from questions asked at Readers Afternoon of Clapham Literary Festival and other events. If you have any questions send them in using the comments boxes and I will endeavour to answer them.
  • Articles on the history of the city and the area around it, which has a rich and intriguing past. The Maps  Charts page leads you to a Brief History of Jerez before the Christian Era.
  • Pieces on studying the history of the period, especially as there has been a recent, and controversial, re-interpretation of the primary sources. Did King Alfonso really enter, victorious, into Jerez on 9th October, 1264, as has been believed for centuries? It seems that this may not have happened as everyone thought it did.
  • Articles about the origin and development of the book, including ‘out-takes’ and sections of the stories which didn’t make it into the final version. What is the story behind ‘Reconquista‘ the book?
  • A Gallery. There are photographs of Jerez city today, showing those parts of the town which survive from the thirteenth century and which visitors can still find. In addition, some of the original illustrations intended for an earlier version of the book, but not included in the final version.
  • Artefacts belonging to the characters, such as Rebecca’s diary entries, 20151016_172105Nathan’s star charts and the Captain’s log from the Teresa.
  • Articles on daily life in 13th century Al Andalus. What did people eat?  How did they travel? What were their daily lives like?  There is already a blog post about going, or not going, to school in 13th century Jerez. See it here.
  • Tasters from the follow up book, currently entitled ‘Convivencia‘ ( which means ‘Living Together’ in Spanish ).

JerezEaster20142And reconquista.online would like to hear from you, the readers of ‘Reconquista‘, about what you think of the story, who your favourite characters are and what you think is going to happen next. We plan to provide chat and discussion spaces.

Would you like to try your hand at writing?  There will be competitions, with the winning entries published on reconquista.online.  Perhaps from the point of view of other characters who appear in ‘Reconquista‘ or its follow-up ‘Convivencia‘?  Or describing how would you have reacted if you were in some of the tough situations experienced by our heroes?  Watch out for the competition announcements.

Until there is more to see on reconquista.online you might like to look at these articles on The Story Bazaar website                    Visualising ‘Reconquista             Reading a book by its cover….                The Wrong Saint

Fifth and counting

race-941732_1280First is best, second is good ( but second best ), third is not so bad. And taking part is what it’s really all about. Seeing how good you can be at something is what’s important.

One way of measuring how good you are is by comparing your performance with someone else’s. So, today we celebrate ‘Reconquista‘ hitting fifth position in Amazon’s best selling charts for Young Adults in the Historical Fiction, Medieval category. That’s fifth out of nearly eight hundred books. It is also up to thirty-first position in the Young Adult, Historical Fiction category. That’s thirty-first out of nearly nine sport-938792_1280thousand books. Fifth and thirty-first don’t sound that wonderful, but it’s a good start.

Reconquista‘ was only published last week, whereas other books have had time to gather more sales. Though it’s usual at launch time that a book sells quickly, this is the time when people who know about it want to buy it.  The author’s friends and family, neighbours and casual acquaintances. Later, unless the word about how good it is spreads, the numbers fall. This is always a problem for books from small publishing imprints like The Story Bazaar, which don’t have the funds to buy entry into book read-book-club-med-753891_1280shops front windows, or ‘Best Books’ tables, how do you get the book out there in front of people, your potential readers.

One of the ways in which to spread the word is by book reviews and there aren’t any reviews of ‘Reconquista‘ yet. If you have purchased a copy of ‘Reconquista‘ and have already read and enjoyed it, please write a review on Amazon ( both at Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk if you can, please) and on Goodreads, telling other potential readers about it.

Another way is to recommend it to friends. ‘Word of mouth’ is certainly what makesread-book-795943_1280 a book sought after – people tell each other what they are reading and enjoying and other people want to read it too. If you enjoyed reading ‘Reconquista‘, please tell all your friends, school friends and colleagues. tell them about this web-site too.

Share your views on-line, on the various sites, like Goodreads, Richard and Judy, the book club forum or the more locally based on-line groups. If you belong to a Book Club why not propose that you all read it. If you are in a book club and live in south London, come along and discuss it at the Clapham Literary Festival, on Readers Afternoon, on 6th May at 2 o’clock in Omnibus, 1, Clapham Common North Side. If you would like to do so, please contact Omnibus at www.omnibus-clapham.org or 0207 498 4699 or contact the author.

bookopenAsk for the book at your local library. Suggest that your class at school reads it ( though check this out with your teacher first ). Nominate the book for Book of the Month at Waterstones or W H Smiths. There are lots of ways in which readers can help a book to become more widely known. If you enjoyed reading this book, start helping others to find out about it so that they can enjoy it too.

School’s Out

None of the main characters in ‘Reconquista‘ go to school.

board-597190_1280This may seem strange now, but, in the thirteenth century, most young people didn’t. They learned skills from their parents or relatives and were expected to work by the time they were ten or twelve, tending animals or helping in their parents work. Many couldn’t read or write, but then, neither could the adults.

Our male heroes were lucky, in that they lived in a city and in more settled times they would have attended a school. Nathan’s school would have been attached to the synagogue, which he would have attended with teenagers and slightly younger children.  We know this because he speculates that, given the exodus from the city, there wouldn’t be enough young people left to make up a single school class.  We horsehead-nebula-894256_1280also know that he used to bring his lessons home, to share with his cousin. They have studied the stars together, from the attic window in the house in Plateros.

Rebecca, as a girl, would not have gone to school at all. Girls didn’t. She is very unusual, for that time, in that she can read and write, most girls weren’t taught to do either. Only the daughters of the wealthy were taught at home with their brothers. All young women were expected to learn needlecrafts and cooking and how to run a house and a home, usually from their mothers. By the time a girl was fifteen, as Rebecca is, she would usually have been married for a year or more and probably have at least one child of her own.

Atta would also have attended school, not the same one as Nathan, but probably the madrasa, run by the Imams at the mosque. It was common in those times for educational institutions to be attached to religious ones.

As the son of a nobleman, Juan and his elder brother, Miguel, would have been educated at home, by a tutor or tutors. They would have learned Latin as well as the local languages.  Miguel, as the Delgado heir, would have to study how to manage the family estates, though it’s clear from what Juan has said about him that he spent quite a lot of time trying to get out of the more serious aspects of being the heir to enjoy himself in the less salubrious parts of the city. He is, we learn, well practised at playing dice and gambling.

knightMiguel also did military training, as did Ben Isaacs. The period was an unsettled one, with ongoing wars between the Christians and the Moors, local skirmishes between different city states ( called Taifas ) and repeated invasions from Africa. Young men would learn how to ride and to use a sword and a dagger, especially if they were from a noble family or a family with money.

So teenagers were never idle. They worked, or attended school and, even with the city under siege, they were required to play their part in the defence. Atta helps his father at the Hospital, Juan and Nathan act as messengers and Nathan helps in the forge. Rebecca has been looking after the Calamiel family since she was much younger.

It was a busy time for teenagers in 1264.

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