As you may know, the Kidwell-e Festival was a disaster, and a big disappointment for me. I imagine that established authors are happy to earn a fee for participating, but newbies like me, prepared to speak for nothing, depend on the opportunity to publicise ourselves.

I spent many hours preparing my talk, especially because the organisers asked me to talk about Kidwelly, which is mentioned once in the book, so I had to do a lot of research. My book, Alina, The White Lady of Oystermouth, is about Gower, a few miles down the coast, so they wanted my talk to link to something more local (I should have refused, I know). I worried over how many books to take and prepared publicity materials. And, of course, I got very nervous. All for nothing.

There has been a lot of traffic on my other blog, where I wrote about it here and here, and I even got interviewed by BBC Wales News. But the fuss is all about the non-festival, not about my book. Ah well, back to the drawing board.


Life in a Medieval Castle 2: Food

Most people lived in thatched houses made of mud or clay, in tiny hamlets or small villages.[i] Their diet consisted of dark bread supplemented with vegetables, with meat only on feast days when they could get it.[ii]

Bread was the main staple of the aristocracy’s diet also, but it was of better quality[iii] and supplemented with a far greater variety of foods. The main supplement was meat or fish, with fruit and vegetables[iv], cheese and butter. Eggs were used in great quantities, but only in recipes, not eaten alone.[v] The biggest difference was in the amount of herbs and spices used. Medieval meals were very heavily spiced, and this was another way to show the status and wealth of the household, as spices were very expensive. Along with rice, they were kept under lock and key and every portion documented.[vi]

Of course, the advantage of an estate was that a lot of these provisions came from your own land, either grown by your own labourers or paid as rent by your tenants. The land around Swansea and Oystermouth was fertile, and it had the advantage of being on the coast where fishing was plentiful. The river Tawe would have had fish too. For those familiar with Swansea, Orchard Street is where there was an orchard just outside the town gate, and Brynmill was indeed the site of a mill. The disadvantage of an estate was that the number of mouths to feed varied widely, sometimes from day to day. When the lord was present with his knights, the numbers would be very high, as each knight had his own servants. When other lords would visit, they would bring a whole retinue of people too.


[i] Labarge, Margaret Wade, Mistress, Maids and Men: Baronial Life in the Thirteenth Century (1965), p.71
Briggs, Asa, A Social History of England, p.91,100
[ii] Labarge, Margaret Wade, Mistress, Maids and Men: Baronial Life in the Thirteenth Century (1965),  p.71
[iii] Mortimer, Ian, The Time Traveller’s Guide To Medieval England,p.184
[iv] Mortimer, Ian, The Time Traveller’s Guide To Medieval England,p.184
[v] Labarge, Margaret Wade, Mistress, Maids and Men: Baronial Life in the Thirteenth Century (1965), p.71
[vi] Labarge, Margaret Wade, Mistress, Maids and Men: Baronial Life in the Thirteenth Century (1965), p.88
Briggs, Asa, A Social History of England, p.100

Planning for the Re-opening of Oystermouth Castle

As the Council’s event announcement says, on 16th June:

Celebrate the castle’s official re-opening with our spectacular medieval tournament and re-enactments. Let the children explore the castle and its grounds, complete with medieval sports, live music, fire juggling, storytelling and arts and crafts. Guided tours of the castle available.

The castle has had a £3.1 million conservation project, which has seen the Visitor’s Centre put inside the chapel, and a glass bridge constructed so that visitors can access the chapel top floor, but still have a clear view from below. Much restoration and conservation work has been done, including improvements to the grounds, and better access.

The chapel has been named ‘Alina’s chapel’, but until now there was no detailed information about who Alina was. My book, Alina, The White Lady of Oystermouth fills that need, and will be sold inside the castle. I have produced a poster linking the book to the re-opening, which will be distributed in the next week to all local outlets selling the book.

News and Reviews

I am shocked to find that I haven’t posted here for a month – my apologies if you’re following. It doesn’t mean nothing has been happening, but I have taken the opportunity to return to my sci-fi writing, before the next push.

The great news is that my initial print run of 200 has sold out! There are still books out in the shops, but I have only a couple of copies at home, so I have to work out how many to print on the second run. The major factor in this is the re-opening of Oystermouth Castle.

As reported on the council web site, Oystermouth Castle has had a major refurbishment, and will have a grand re-opening on 16th June, with a medieval tournament and re-enactment. I plan to be there and advertise the book to the public, and either sell copies, or point customers to the stall where they can buy it. Final details will be worked out in a meeting with the chairman of the Friends of Oystermouth Castle, Roger Parmiter, on 1st June.

I’m producing a poster to tie my book in with the re-opening, which I’ll distribute to the shops in the next week or two. I’ve also ordered postcards to hand out.

As for reviews: there aren’t any. I haven’t sold many ebooks, where people are likely to be prompted to review it, and the people who buy print books, aren’t necessarily ones who are web-savvy. So a plea to all my friends and followers – please review the book. I’m not asking for falsely good reviews – please be honest – but I hope you genuinely liked it, and it would be great to tell the world.

You can review the ebook on Smashwords.

You can review the ebook and the print book on Amazon.


Book Launch Night

Sorry I haven’t posted for a week, but it’s been all go. The book launch was on Wednesday night (day before yesterday) and it went better than I could have hoped.

My daughters made gorgeous cup cakes and cookies, and Carrie (the illustrator)’s mum made punch and brought some other nibbles. The shop was so packed that we ran out of chairs and there were people standing at the back.

Carrie’s family came down en masse, my family were there, my housegroup from church were well represented, and there were friends from my writers circle and a few others. David, the lecturer who put Carrie and I together, came, and so did Colin from the Historical Association, Swansea.

I was wearing my new T shirt with a picture of the book and ‘Ask me about Alina de Breos’ on the front and back, which went down well. I welcomed everyone and spoke about how I came to write the book and the beginning of the story, then Carrie spoke very well about the illustrations. Then it was everyone queueing to buy the book and have it signed by both of us, and Carrie sold lots of prints of the illustrations. She presented me with a print of the White Lady and we bought one of Queen Isabella on a horse, which seems to be quite a favourite.

I had my photo taken by the Evening Post the day before, as the photographer wasn’t free on the night, but I didn’t see the reporter on the night, and it’s not appeared in the paper yet. We’re keeping watch.

Retail Outlets for Alina, The White Lady of Oystermouth

The book is now available at the following outlets in Swansea and Gower:

Swansea Museum
National Waterfront Museum
Town Centre Tourist Information Centre
Uplands Bookshop
Mumbles Tourist Information Centre
Cover to Cover Bookshop
Shepherds at Parkmill
Gower Heritage Centre
Gower Kite and Surf Centre, Pitton Cross Caravan Park, Rhossili
Reynoldston Post Office
Crofty Post Office

I am also talking to these outlets, with a view to them carrying the book:
W H Smith

When Oystermouth Castle re-opens on 16th June, the book will be on sale in the Visitors Centre, in Alina’s Chapel.


The book came from the printer and we have delivered it to some outlets, the rest tomorrow. So the book is out there, finally. And two friends have already bought a copy from me. Doesn’t sound like much, but most people want to buy them at the launch event.

And the icing on the cake is that I was interviewed live on local radio today.  It was my first time, but I wasn’t very nervous and it went really well.

Once the books are out there, I can concentrate on my talks, which I have the material for, I just have to organise it. The next big thing is the book launch on 18th April.