I’ve spent a few weeks working with the Owen Archer novels to be re-released in eBook 28 July, and in trade paperback a month later. The tasks have seemed endless—writing fresh “flap copy” for each book (what do you call it when it’s also used to describe e-books, which, of course, have no “flaps’?), spot checking the text files to make certain that I’d updated my own files with the copyedit and final proofreading corrections—in some cases trying to reconstruct this from years ago, finding old errors that can now (happily!) be fixed, suggesting major symbols from each book for cover copy. A busy time, and, although I’ve been surprised by how much I’ve enjoyed going back over the books, I’ve felt overwhelmed. Until a friend’s comment helped me shift my attitude.
She thought it an incredible opportunity that few people have, to read back over my career, appreciate what I’ve accomplished, see where I’ve been. Few people have careers that are, essentially, written down and saved.
She’s right. Along with the work, I’ve been visiting old friends, some I’ve not encountered in a long while.
“Wulfstan believed that if he obeyed and did his best, he could not fail to win a place, though humble, in the heavenly chorus. To be at peace in the arms of the Lord for all eternity. He could imagine no better fate. And rules showed him the way to that eternal contentment.” Brother Wulfstan, infirmarian at St Mary’s Abbey, The Apothecary Rose
“A woman loves a poet’s praises, the promise of fame and immortality in his songs. But she lusts for a soldier and marries a man of property.” Dafydd ap Gwilym, bard, A Gift of Sanctuary
Others who continue to be much on my mind.
“I see. Either way, I am to lose you. Pity. I liked that you hated the work. It is what keeps a man honest.” Archbishop Thoresby to Owen Archer, The Apothecary Rose
“I have spies all over France and Brittany. And spies spying on the spies.” Archbishop Thoresby, The Lady Chapel
“All our mortal lives we totter at the edge of a bog, Archer. The higher we sit, the deeper we sink when we lose our footing.” John Thoresby The Lady Chapel
“Magda Digby once forgot that her gift as a healer was for all folk, not only those she thought worthy folk. She forgot that her opinion must count as naught, that she must step aside from herself. I is not for a healer.” Magda Digby to Archbishop Thoresby in A Vigil of Spies
And characters about whom I’d completely forgotten, such as Brother Florian, Thoresby’s chief clerk who’d expected to replace Jehannes as Thoresby’s secretary when Jehannes is promoted to Archdeacon of York. Florian resents Brother Michaelo for this.
Brother Florian arrived at Windsor on the third afternoon of Thoresby’s visit. He was soaked through, having shared a barge with a group of jongleurs who had contrived to fill the enclosed area with their gear and persons before the clerk boarded, forcing him to make the trip as unprotected as the bargeman. Fortunately the sleet of the previous few days had subsided to a chill mist and occasional drizzle, but it was enough moisture to weigh down Florian’s cloak and his mood.
“Might one ask, Your Grace, why these papers could not be entrusted to Brother Michaelo, your secretary, who sits so cozily in your chambers in London? Can he really have so much to do with the ordering and shipping of supplies to York that he could not be spared for this journey?” Brother Florian, white-haired and confident from years of experience, was not one to mince words.
“You have asked, Brother Florian, and I am happy to answer.” Thoresby smiled. “I do not entrust the papers to Brother Michaelo because I cannot be certain that he will not trade their contents for some of the luxuries he finds irresistible. Whereas Michaelo is very good at the tasks to which I have set him because he knows that he will share in the enjoyment of these items if they reach my houses in Yorkshire. It is all actually quite tidy. Do you not enjoy being indispensable?”
Brother Florian snorted. “Had I been truly indispensable, you would not have passed me over when looking for a secretary to replace Jehannes, Your Grace. It is no doubt Brother Michaelo’s Norman wealth that is truly indispensable.” Florian raised his cup to his lips, discovered it was empty, and thumped it down with a growl.
And then Florian seems to vanish from the books. Hm… I wonder what he’s been up to?
Owen Archer’s men Alfred and Colin first appear in The Lady Chapel—I thought their debut was in The Nun’s Tale. My, how Alfred changes over the years.
At some point I stopped Magda’s amusing practice of referring to people as the animals they resemble, except for a few—Thoresby is Old Crow, Owen is Bird-eye.
When I was experimenting with a new book last year I wondered whether Brother Michaelo had ever been on horseback in the books. I’d forgotten all about his playing messenger between Windsor and York in The King’s Bishop. And, of course, his journey to St. David’s on the west coast of Wales is largely on horseback.
Yes, I’ve been far busier than I’d imagined I’d be in high summer, but how can I resent spending time with such dear old friends?