Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A Glimpse into the Life of My Hero

Imagine for a moment that you are Mudarra González. You’ve just come of age, having been raised in tenth-century Medina Azahara among splendor the world hasn’t seen for a thousand years. You’ve met Christian travelers before, but they all seemed kind of dumb to you because they walk your palace city with mouths agape. Now you’re traveling in Christian lands, having to interact intimately with Christians for the first time, and a woman who claims to be your new mother takes you across an icy bridge to a small stone chapel, the likes of which you never imagined you’d see inside.

It’s as dark as night, with only a few candles before the altars and tiny windows letting the smallest bit of winter light in. A priest comes from some dark corner to greet your “mother” briefly before drawing back a curtain.

In the gloom, you can make out the shapes of a painting very much like this one:

I went to the local art museum this weekend. The place is impressive in the context of this area, and only makes sense when you consider that it was established during the city’s industrial heyday. It holds remarkable treasures from every corner of the globe. Of course, I’m partial to the medieval galleries. They even transported a chapter house and reassembled it just off the main atrium, complete with medieval stained glass windows. (My fondest hope is to make a presentation of Seven Noble Knights in that setting once it’s published.)

The painting above resides in the darkest gallery in the building. When I came upon it, I felt as if I had been transported into my own novel!

It’s a Catalan altar frontal from the late eleventh century (about 100 years in the future of Seven Noble Knights). It shows the ascension of Jesus, while in Seven Noble Knights I had imagined a dynamic portrait of a "Moor-slaying" saint. But the colors, the cartoonish outlines, and the presence of crosses and gesturing hands are exactly what I had in mind. Mudarra finds the red and yellow garish, but I recognize these shades as the favorites in northern Spain for hundreds of years. The serious expressions and outstretched hands are the dramatic expressions of a visual story, meant to instruct anyone, whether or not they could read, whether or not they’d had previous instruction.

I wanted to take this piece of art with me because it accomplishes in an instant what I’m attempting to do with more than 100,000 words: it brings anyone who sees it close enough to my characters to imagine themselves in their shoes.

Friday, August 22, 2014


Burgos gets ready for the wedding of the tenth century
In tenth-century Spain, a brave Christian knight—the youngest of the seven noble knights of Lara—singlehandedly lifts a siege, but it is his uncle who is rewarded with a bride. Lambra, the beautiful young noblewoman in question, accepts the marriage out of obligation, but her humiliation truly begins when her powerful new nephew accidentally kills her adored cousin right before her eyes.
Desperate for revenge, Lambra sends her page to hurl a blood-soaked cucumber at her nephew. While his brothers laugh off the incident, the youngest nephew becomes enraged because he understands that the cucumber symbolizes a dagger in his heart. He slays the page who threw the vegetable.
In retaliation, Lambra’s husband sends the nephews’ father, Gonzalo, to Muslim Córdoba with his own death warrant, then leads the nephews into a military ambush, where they struggle valiantly for two days, but ultimately perish.
Their heads arrive in Córdoba, where Gonzalo must identify all seven of his sons. The chamberlain, taking pity on Gonzalo, sends his stunning sister to comfort him, and love blooms in prison. When Gonzalo is released, he returns to his home and his wife, leaving the chamberlain’s sister pregnant with his last son and half a ring by which to identify him.
Fifteen years later, the son, Mudarra, has grown up to be a warrior. His mother explains that he must take the half ring and go to his father. Uneasy, but curious, Mudarra sets off with three hundred soldiers and a guide who explains that Mudarra’s fate is sealed: he must kill Lambra’s husband to take revenge for the evil he wrought against his father and the brothers Mudarra never knew.
Mudarra is welcomed with great joy. He promises revenge for his lost brothers, although in the new environment he feels like an outsider. When everyone else heads to the capital, Mudarra detours to Lambra’s estate, where he meets and falls in love with her daughter. He wonders what the revenge has to do with him, but Mudarra’s guide convinces him to return and fulfill his fate. Lambra’s daughter finds out that Mudarra intends to kill her father and she runs home, distraught.
After a weeks-long chase, Mudarra and Gonzalo corner Lambra’s husband and meet on the battlefield. Mudarra recognizes his beloved in Lambra’s husband’s face, but with the help of the ghosts of his half brothers, he defeats his foe and brings him to Burgos for execution.
Lambra’s husband dies under a hail of projectiles. Mudarra refuses to watch the execution of his beloved’s father and is too overwhelmed with his failures to enjoy his successful revenge. Hope emerges again when Lambra comes to the capital with her daughter and maid to ask the Count of Castile for mercy. When the count turns her away, Mudarra follows the women and speaks with Lambra’s daughter when no one else sees. She admits she loves Mudarra, and he plans to run away with her, but one day, he wakes to find that Lambra’s daughter and the maid have fled.
Mudarra takes their escape as a mandate to carry out the last part of his predestined revenge. He brings Lambra to be burned at the stake, where he becomes disgusted and alienated. He slips away and heads in the direction he believes Lambra’s daughter has gone.

Feel free to let me know whether this description makes you want to read the book! And if it does, check out the trailer with amazing drawings and music.