I still haven’t managed to sit down and start working properly on Book Two of the Harry Johnson Chronicles. I haven’t self-published Book one ‘By Hook or by Crooke’, so unless you’re about local to me, you wouldn’t know about that one. It’s a 350page (and a bit) literary thriller that’s set in my young stomping ground. I’m going to tout it about for an agent first.
It’s an odd little spot where it’s set.
In the south-east corner of Ireland, the Barony of Gaultier is one of the Baronies that make up the county. It has a very peculiar history. Ireland is made up of Baronies (it’s an old term for a district, not dissimilar to a ‘Hundred’ in England, or ‘Wapentake’ in Scandinavia).
The title of Barony sounds grander than it is, but ultimately is accurate as there was a kind of ‘lordship’. Gaultier also is an oddity to an English speaking ear. ‘Gaul’ ‘Gal’ ‘Gall’ or anything that sounds like a variation of any of those spellings, means ‘foreigner’ in old Irish. Whether that was because we were trading with the French (Gauls) from the fifth century onwards, and theirs was the first truly foreign tongue, seems to be uncertain. It’s almost Pythonesque … All French are foreigners, so … all foreigners must be French… it really could have been that simple. ‘Tier’ ‘Tir’ or ‘Tír’, generally means land or long in Irish too. The two match up here and name Gaultier as a foreign zone, and a relatively long thin strip of it, at that! Even the names in the district today have French sounds to them.
It was used as a landing zone right back to Henry II, the Norman (Anglo-Norman people say, but considering he rarely came out of France, never spoke English, and really never spent much time there, I think Norman is probably more accurate) King of England, and Duke of Normandy (as well as a bunch of other titles).
Essentially the Normans routed England and most of southern Wales. Back then the idea of primogeniture was still somewhat alien, and the Merovingian, Carolingian and even the later Avengian dynastic powers collapsed due to the inheritance system of ‘Gavelkind'(share it out amongst the surviving sons) more than any kind of war or rebellion. The Carolingians (Charlemagne and the lot before him) pretty much laid out Europe into what we can recognise as Germany-France-Italy, and Charlemagne gave one of each to his three sons. Like a Grimm’s story, each believed the other had a bigger bit of the pie, and so they all went to war.
I’ve gone off piste again! Once I start looking at Gaultier and thinking about it, it really is an odd spot. Prince John (Lackland, or Softsword) of Sherwood Forest fame (think Alan Rickman versus Kevin Costner) landed here after Henry, and although the local chiefs showed up to pay tribute, they subsequently ignored him. Richard II arrived a while later with the biggest invasion force ever to land in Ireland. All of them landed at Crooke (a village just beyond Woodstown), after navigating around the headland of Hook.
The reasons they came to Ireland are all twisted up in nonsense about papal directives, invites and duties, but really they came to have land. Gavelkind meant that expanding noble families needed more and more land. They recognised their illegitimate offspring then … the word hadn’t really gained ground as a significant drawback. Stick a Fitz before a name, and you have a recognised illegitimate royal. Henry I, had 23 on his own, and Princess Nest (a famous beauty from Wales, and possibly one of my Progenitors) seems to have shagged every noble man with potential who happened to cross the Welsh borders). Every noble born arse had to have a lump of land. And their offspring too … 7 steps from Kevin Bacon begins to make sense … the twelfth century Normans, springing as they did from the Franks (Germans of the time) needed ‘lebensraum’, and decided to go stomping across the islands on a major land-grab. They grabbed England, south Wales, and then sort of fell asleep half way into Ireland after a couple of hundred years, by which time, with all the to-ing and fro-ing, they’d all turned English and didn’t want to keep sending money back home to France, and the whole shit-shambles between the two countries kicked off in earnest.
I’ve distracted myself enough to ramble on with the story now, and will come back and ramble on here tomorrow …
Tomorrow never comes…
Three days later and I’m in a different mood altogether. I still haven’t managed to get back to book two in the Harry Johnson Chronicles (working title of course), but two short stories keep getting in the way. At least I think they’re two shorts – at the moment they seem to be two halves of one story. They’ve also crept up to 3500 words each, or thereabouts, and every time I peek back at them, more seems to come and an hour later I’m lost in them both.
Mustn’t grumble, as long as words keep coming I’m happy.
This time of the year is awkward though. My students, mainly second language learners, are all organising their breaks and this normally means them missing a class either side of the break. The classes are 3 hours plus, so it can be a chunk they miss, and when they come back, their English has normally regressed to a level they’d passed some months earlier. I’m teaching English, as you may have gathered from that, if I haven’t said it before. For those outside the UK it’s called Functional Skills English, which is exactly what it is: basic English for the workplace. I teach adults, and try to avoid the younger 16-18 year olds as much as I can. Adults are voluntary learners, and aware of their needs. Native kids requiring this teaching are generally coerced, unaware, oblivious of more or less everything, and have no interest in learning. They’ll all be back in the system once their own kids show up and they realise that they can’t help them with their homework. Most of these 16-18 year olds wouldn’t be able to help a seven year old as it stands, and could probably take both literacy and numeracy lessons from them.
Enough about work … I have to go there later, so it’s probably on my mind.
The Cook in the Books series https://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B01N65852X is at least beginning to tick. I relaunched the series by dividing it into three small books and one larger collection. That way it gives the reader a chance to perhaps have a decent look at the stories before deciding to get the lot. You can also read the first story of each book for free, so this might also give the reader a better taste of things. I’ve not done a social media ‘campaign’ for it, as I don’t have time this month, but I find the whole ‘buy my book’ thing tedious, and find I never go to the links myself for this kind of thing. I’m not under the cosh at the moment to produce or generate income of any significant size, so I think I’ll avoid all the kerfuffle and pressure that comes with trying to put a campaign of sorts together.
I also want to see what happens with the interest in By Hook or by Crooke, and don’t want to find I’m switching a horde of people off before I’ve even managed to get them interested.
Okay … back to work again. This does get in the way as much as the shorts, but once I’ve dumped here, I find it easier to forget about it and concentrate on what I’m supposed (by me) to be doing.