The Shieldmaiden’s Pride – Map Reveal

“The Shieldmaiden’s Pride” – Book One of the new trilogy, The Song of Madron – is now in the final editing and proofreading stages, with the release scheduled for July 1st – but I can’t wait to show off the maps that will be in the book. Keen-eyed readers will recognise I used one of the earliest maps from Saxon Might as base for this one, but with added detail and some changes in political geography in the 25 years since the period of that book.

BARBARIAN SETTLEMENT IN BRITANNIA, 475 AD

The Crown of the Iutes – Map Reveal

In 10 days, on Christmas Eve, “The Crown of Iutes” will be released on Kindle. It is time to reveal the main map for the book: Northern Gaul, comprising of the Domain of Gauls, under Syagrius, and the lands of its neighbours – the Franks, the Armoricans and the Goths of Tolosa.

The Crown of the Iutes – locations

Yes, it’s that time of the pre-publishing cycle when I write a post about all the locations used in the upcoming book, The Crown of the Iutes.

A large part of the Crown takes place in the already familiar corner of Britannia – Londin, Cantiaca, the land of the Regins. But the central story takes our heroes, and the reader, back to Gaul – and to the new, to them, lands beyond the River Liger (Loire).

AURELIANUM – Cenabum, Orléans

Having started as a major river port and crossing point over Loire for the Gallic tribes, Cenabum was razed and massacred by Julius Caesar and left in ruin for centuries, until Emperor Aurelian rebuilt it into a heavily fortified hub of trade and industry, and gave the city his own name – Urbs Aurelianorum – which would later transform into “Orléans”.

PICTAWIS – Limonum, Poitiers

Another ancient Gallic oppidum transformed into a Roman town, Limonum, later renamed Pictavium or Pictavis, was a large and prosperous city, with a large amphitheatre and several bath houses, before reducing in size behind the new walls in 4th century. Taifals, a mysterious tribe of barbarian riders, were stationed around Pictavis at the end of the Imperial presence, their traces remaining to this day in the names of local villages.

CAINO – Cainon, Chinon

Château de Chinon | Monument Chinon

Nothing remains of the Roman castrum built on the shores of the Vienne, where now a medieval castle rises upon the grey cliffs. In 5th century, Mexme, a disciple of St Martin’s, established a hermitage here, which soon expanded into a monastery around which the new town grew.

ANDECAWA – Iuliomagus, Angers

1. Vue générale du spelaeum, emmarchement, base des dadophores et d’un autel, les banquettes et en fond le podium supportant le socle du bas-relief.
Before it became famous as the seat of the powerful Counts of Anjou – the progenitors of the Plantagenet Dynasty which would rule both France and England – ancient Angers was another walled-in river city, like Pictawis sporting an amphitheatre, baths and a mithraeum. When the rivers of Gaul turned into borders, Angers turned into a border fortress between Armorica and Frankia.

NAMNETES – Condevincum, Nantes

File: Gallo-Roman enclosure Nantes detail.jpg
The last – or first, depending which way you’re going – harbour and crossing on the Mouth of Loire, Condevincum was at first growing in the shadow of its larger neighbour on the left bank of the river, Ratiates (Rezé). In its heyday, it was one of the ports of the Roman Navy, before it was handed over to a Breton garrison that would keep it safe from the Saxon pirates.

ALET – Aletum, St. Malo

File:Map Saint-Malo.jpg
St Malo started out as a small Saxon Shore fort on the Armorican side of the English Channel. By the 5th century, the fort, having to defend itself from both the sea raiders and Bacaud bandits, was abandoned, and the settlement moved south, to where a Welsh Saint, Maclovius, later established a monastery.

DOL – Deols, Chateauroux

The Abbey of Déols

An ancient ford, with a small village and a temple attached, would have likely remained anonymous until the establishment of the medieval abbey if it wasn’t for the battle fought between Euric’s Goths and Riothamus’s “Britons”, part of the tumultuous events of 470-472, the final Roman attempt of securing Gaul.

BREDANNA – La Brenne Marsh

Tourisme.fr: vacances dans la Brenne avec les offices de tourisme de France
The immense marshes of Brenne, between Chateauroux and Chatellerault, remained untamed for centuries, until medieval monks created strings of ponds for fishing and milling.

The Song of the Tides – locations

Tomorrow is release day of the Song of Octa novella – or Book “5.5” of the Song of Britain – “The Song of the Tides“. The entire story takes place in Armorica – today’s Brittany.

LAUREA – Ile de Brehat

Aerial view of the island of Bréhat in Brittany
A sparsely inhabited island in antiquity, just off the northern coast of Brittany. Other than as the place of disembarkation of several legendary saints arriving in Armorica, there is little mention of it before the Middle Ages.

WORGIUM – Vorgium, Carhaix-Plouguer

Centre d'interprétation virtuel de Vorgium
Capital of the Osismes, and an important cross-road town in Western Brittany. In its heyday, the largest city in all of Armorica. Its modern name comes from “Caer Ahes” – the Fortress of Ahes.

GESOCRIBATE – Douarnenez

Remains of an ancient Garum factory, from Gallo-Roman peri… | Flickr
Gesocribate is only mentioned in Tabula Peutingeriana, as the last stop on the road from Vorgium. Though many historians identify it with the city of Brest, there is also possibility that it refers to the harbour of Douarnenez, famed for its garum factories, as seen above.

CAIR INIS – Ile Tristan

Douarnenez. Un exercice incendie en cours sur l'Île Tristan -  Brest.maville.com
A small tidal island in the bay of Douarnenez. Inhabited since ancient times, long associated with the legend of Sunken City of Ys, and the romance of Tristan and Iseult. It is said that the tomb of the two lovers is somewhere on the island.

France in Mali: the End of the Fairytale

Excellent summary of the internal situation in Mali.

Africa is a Country (Old Site)

Whew, Mali. French air raids against Islamist positions in Mali began Thursday night, and the dust hasn’t settled yet. The news is changing fast, but, three things emerge from the haze. First, fierce fighting in the North and the East, with French forces in the lead, will open up a whole new set of dangers. With Islamist forces on the attack, foreign intervention was necessary, and many Malians at home and abroad welcomed it enthusiastically. Still, this remains a dangerous moment all around. Second, while the latest crisis might not break the political deadlock in Bamako, it has already changed the dynamic. And third, despite the sorry state of mediation efforts to date—both within West Africa and beyond—savvy diplomacy is needed now more than ever.

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1994, M6 on the cable, all’s right with the world.

A friend’s post on Google+ today worked on me like a Proust’s madeleine, throwing me out on a YouTube journey in search of the French pop music of 1994.

I don’t really remember what was so special about 1994 in my life. I was in the middle of high school, so not my best period. The details are a little hazy. I did listen to a lot of new music back then, that’s for sure.

It was definitely an important year in music. Nirvana Unplugged and Kurt Cobain’s death, of course. The Britpop Wars reach a climax with “Definitely Maybe” and “Parklife”. Bernard Butler leaves Suede. Bristol Sound begins with “Dummy” and “Protection”. “Ill Communication”, “Return of the Space Cowboy”, “Mellow Gold”. “7 Seconds” starts out fun and manages to turn everyone crazy by the end of the year. “Zombie”. “Lion King”.

To me, it was the year I discovered European music outside MTV’s English-dominated scene. I must’ve been spending a lot of time at home, in Warsaw, watching cable TV. It was the heyday of cable: we had all the European channels, MTV Europe, Viva, TV5, RAI, some Spanish and Portuguese stuff I don’t remember that well… the best of those was M6 – and not just because it had certain late night shows of particular interest to 16-year old boy 😉 but because it showcased the best of French music at the time – and what music that was!

I don’t know enough proper musical terms to tell why French pop music was so different from anything else I knew at the time – whether it was a difference in phrasing, use of different instruments, or simply another tradition – but to my ears it was a shock comparable only to my later discovery of J-Pop. It was also the year after my return from school trip to Paris – my first journey “to the West”, so maybe I was just ready to be enamoured with anything French, whatever it was. That one year, 1994, spawned songs which will remain with me for the rest of my days.

And here are some of them:

Alain Bashung – Ma Petite Enterprise


(“Les lobbies en Libye” is a brilliant bit of lyrics to this day)

Enzo Enzo – Juste quelqu’un de bien


(this was for a long time my favourite song of the first half of the 90s. Here’s a brilliant version with Suzanne Vega)

Kent – Allons z’a la campagne


(the first French song I got most of the lyrics of)

Les Rita Mitsouko – Les Amants


(personal note: the girl in striped shirt looked like my French language teacher at the time 🙂

Mylene Farmer – Que mon cœur lâche


(directed by Luc Besson, in case you’ve wondered. I had no idea what this song was about.)

Mano Solo – Allo Paris


(what a video!)

EDIT: Oh, just remembered another one! Francois Cabrel – La cabane du pecheur

And one more from Cabrel – the most beautiful one: