Category Archives: 1322

The Raven’s Wing characters, #5: Moss, the fire-dancer

Character visualisation sketch by Kit CooperSarcastic, manipulative, and with a mysterious past, Moss is a jongleuse, dancer, and mistress of fire. John first sees her performing at The Angel Inn in Northampton, little suspecting how tightly her fate will become bound to his.

John stared wide-eyed and gape-mouthed. The young woman was fiery in every sense of the word. The hair that tumbled about her bare shoulders was the colour of an autumn sunset. She danced nimbly, bare-footed, to the rhythm of the audience clapping, the nails on her toes crimson-painted.

The woman’s features were soft and attractive, yet dragged askew by a scar that tore down her cheek. But the scar was not what gave him pause. More startling was the eye beneath that scar. That it was false could not be in doubt, for a strange eye it was. It looked to be made of amber, or some other ochre-tinged material, and in the centre, where the pupil should be, sat a small black spider.

The Raven’s Wing, a medieval adventure set in 1322, is available in paperback (with free postage, in the UK at least) and Kindle here.

Other character posts (click to read):

John the MinstrelWynifreed, John's wifeRalf, the gongfermourAilred, the smith


The Raven’s Wing characters, #4: Ailred the smith

Character visualisation sketch by Kit CooperA black man of enormous beard and heart. The gruff Ditchford smith smells of hot metal and pie crust. The village gossips say that Ailred is descended from African nobility. He remains silent about such things.

“Hens!” shouted Ailred, waking suddenly. He sat up and looked around with a startled expression, resembling a bewildered owl in the orange light thrown up by the now merrily burning fire. Smoke swirled into the blackness of the roof. He scratched his black beard, dislodging a small bone, which he inspected closely. He descended into a fit of deep coughing. Eventually he achieved some sort of resolution with his lungs and spat copiously in the fire, which hissed a complaint. He threw the bone into the flames.

Ailred’s growing romance with the widow Rohesia provides a gentle backdrop to the growing turmoil of The Raven’s Wing.  One day I shall write his backstory.

“Kumis,” Aildred said. “Fermented mare’s milk with added honey.”
“I call it milk-mead,” Rohesia said. “And isn’t it just the tastiest thing? Ailred makes it.”
“Not often,” he said. “It’s not so easy to get mare’s milk. You can use goat, or cow, but the taste isn’t quite the same.”
“Apparently, it’s quite the thing back in Ailred’s homeland, and he learned to—”
“This is my homeland now,” Ailred said, squeezing Rohesia’s podgy hand.

The Raven’s Wing, a medieval adventure set in 1322, is available in paperback (with free postage, in the UK at least) and Kindle here.

Other character posts (click to read):

John the MinstrelWynifreed, John's wifeRalf, the gongfermour

The Raven’s Wing characters, #3: Ralf

Character visualisation sketch by Kit Cooper

A shock of red hair explodes from beneath a ragged wool cap, shading Ralf’s smiling eyes. John the Minstrel’s best friend is tall and clean-shaven. He is gongfermour for the village of Ditchford, which is to say he digs out and removes human excrement from privies and cesspits, disposing of it into the river below the village. He lives across the lane from Wyni and John, with whom he shares a horse, Molly.

The Raven’s Wing, a medieval adventure set in 1322, is available in paperback (with free postage, in the UK at least) and Kindle here.

Other characters: No.1 Minstrel John, No. 2 Wynifreed

The Raven’s Wing characters, #2: Wyni

Character visualisation sketch by Kit CooperJohn the Minstrel’s recently-dead wife, Wynifreed. She was thin, a result of growing up through the Great Famine, with brown hair in a short bob. She had thrilled John’s heart with a lopsided smile, joyful laughter and a love of nature.  “He remembered how beautiful she had looked the day that they had wed, a circlet of daisies about her brown head, her smile dazzling in the sunshine.” Perhaps surprisingly, she still has a lot to say for herself.

The Raven’s Wing, a medieval adventure set in 1322, is available in paperback (with free postage in the UK) and Kindle here.

Other characters: No.1 Minstrel John

The Raven’s Wing characters, #1: John the minstrel

Character visualisation sketch by Kit Cooper

Our handsome hero, Minstrel John, who plays a gittern and sings at fairs and festivals around Northampton. He is cheerful and inquisitive, and enjoys riddles and puzzles. His dream is to earn the patronage of the local lord, Baron de Leycester. Currently in mourning after the recent death of his wife.

The Raven’s Wing, a medieval adventure set in 1322, is available in paperback (with free postage in the UK) and Kindle here.

The Raven’s Wing extended 4-disc version

Book First LineMy Scrivener file for The Raven’s Wing is enormous. I’ve done so much research, spending a big gobbet of time making sure I get as many details right about 1322 as I can. One of the best things about research is the learning process itself, and this quest for accuracy is a lovely bunch of fun. How much do you know about the 14th century? No, nor did I until I began to write this book, but it’s an intriguing period. Did you know they didn’t have orange carrots yet?

I’ll pop a lot of the fascinating things that I’ve discovered into Author’s Notes at the back of the book, as usual, and you’ll perhaps be interested to learn that as with Fog, there will be a Raven’s Wing Special Edition. Think of this as the extended DVD version – the four-disc Lord Of The Rings type extended edition. It’ll be in hardback for a start, and will contain a lot more historical background information than the paperback.

There will also be “Deleted scenes” – chapters not in the paperback that cover events that happen ‘behind the scenes’ of the main plotline. There may also be a few versions of events written from a different character’s point of view.

Owl_Skull_Tattoo_Flash_by_DickStarrAdd to this the added graphics, medieval art, character sketches by Kit Cooper, maps, my drawings of locations – and perhaps, just perhaps, I’ll tell a backstory that cries out to be told; that of Moss, the one-eyed fire-dancer who hints at a secretive, violent past. FYI Moss is named for my author friend Sophie Moss. whom I’m pretty sure doesn’t have a shady past.

I only wish I could include a CD of all the songs that are scattered through the book (my hero is a minstrel after all), performed by me and Blondie, my uke. Perhaps I’ll post a series of YouTube videos. The book’ll be a few more months coming, but it’ll totally be worth it. It’s going to be FUN.

Why’d I have to go and make things so complicated?

The Raven's WingSo, I get back from the gym and I’m ready to start writing. The problem is that I can’t think of a sub-plot to delay my protagonist by a day underground while parallel plotlines 11B (Moss) and 11C (raven/reeve) reach plotpoint GAMMA. Were I less of a stickler for continuity I could just write the strands and sod whether they match temporally, but no. I’m a stickler for stuff like that, me. I stickle.

Or, you know, why can’t I ever just write a novel-length story that just goes in a straight line? Warren Peace had two parallel plots, chuntering on together in alternate chapters. In Fog I kind of folded Finn’s tale of mystery, weirdness and showers back on itself and plaited the strands (that was fun!). In The Raven’s Wing there are, let me see, at least four things going on at once in different places, all important to the tale.

Herein, though, lies the beauty of Scrivener. First of all it makes stickling easy by allowing me to look at parallel timelines by judicious use of keywords. In addition, I can actually leave John festering underground not caring what he’s doing while I write future chapters, secure in the knowledge I can come back to him at that moment later when a light bulb hits me about what he might actually be doing there.

Looks like I’m writing after all. Well played, Scriv.


Character sketch from The Raven’s Wing, coming this summer. Drawn for me by the talented @TheRogueHeart.


A taster

Here’s a little taster for those of you who’ve been patiently waiting since 2014 for The Raven’s Wing to take flight (looks at @ericafairs). You’ll find clues, but no spoilers, I hope. Click to see a larger version, if you’re lucky and WordPress doesn’t play silly buggers with resolutions again.

TRW Scrivener

The Raven’s Wing stirs once more

After spending far too long being distracted by short fiction in all its forms, I have today finally re-immersed myself in my medieval saga of blood, of magic, and of music, The Raven’s Wing. A happy three hours this avvy reacquainted me with the intricacies of the plot and characters, aided in no small part by the remarkable writing software, Scrivener. Tucked away in the rather large research section was this little gem, which may or may not make it into the final story. I thought you might like it, though.

Alonso Cano, The Miraculous Lactation of Saint Bernard, c. 1650The holy breast milk of the Virgin Mary was an extremely popular relic in the middle ages. An entire church was built outside Bethlehem on a rock which had miraculously turned white after coming into contact with the Virgin’s milk as she breastfed Christ. Another legend says that St Bernard was praying before a statue of the Madonna when milk sprayed from its breast into his mouth. Many vials of “breast milk” began to appear all over Europe. The French theologian John Calvin said:

“Had the virgin been a cow her whole life she could never have produced such a quantity.”

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