Background to the Dark Ages series
The Early Medieval period is famous for Dark Ages England, but the rest of the world still existed in the Dark Ages - and for some civilisations, it wasn't even the Dark Ages but a Golden Age.
Alfred is a very special English king.
Eclipses have been a source of fascination throughout history and this feeds into popular novels.
It was the first place in Britain to be designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in 1956, something not lost on the ancient peoples.
Now and again I stop to marvel at the wonder of the written word. The greatest gift, possibly, is the ability to read, hence to learn. Then I look at the funny little shapes that are letters and the meanings we put to them. It is easy to see how ancient peoples thought that these squiggles were signs from a divine power. None more so than the Norse runes.
There is a small hamlet in the north east of England, in Northumberland. At first, it doesn't seem so special. It is by a fertile valley beneath the northern edge of the Cheviot hills and is dominated by an Iron Age fort. But is a very special place indeed. It is arguably one of the most important Anglo-Saxon sites in the country.
Crime in society has always existed, but peace has always been the objective, even in the Dark Ages.
You risk being knocked over if you say "cheese" in our house. Our cat will run at great speed from wherever she is to steal the dairy product. A real cheese monster. But there is another story about cheese that is much more disturbing.
"Never before has such terror appeared in Britain as we have now suffered from a pagan race ... The heathens poured out the blood of saints around the altar, and trampled on the bodies of saints in the temple of God, like dung in the streets." (Alcuin, a Northumbrian scholar.)
June in England is supposed to be summer. And many English families take off to the beautiful countryside and coasts of Cornwall for their summer holiday. We all have great memories of Cornish holidays.
I don't know where I'd be without the Venerable Bede. He, along with The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, is one of the major resources for my Dark Age novels.
I have not yet visited East Anglia, that rotund bump on the east of England. I do want to. I have heard that it is very flat and as I prefer hilly and mountainous terrain, that puts me off a bit. But the draw is still there, because East Anglia - the kingdom of the East Angles - was home to one of the great seventh century Anglo-Saxon kings, Raedwald.
So I've grabbed my tassels and streamers and I'm ready for the pole dance. The May pole, that is.
Xi'an is a massive city half a world away from England. It seems bizarre to think that folk from the Dark Ages were connected. This ancient city's name means 'Peace in the West'.
Vortigern is one of the great legendary leaders of Britain. In true Dark Ages style, there is very little evidence about him or his achievements.
In my hall there is an oval frame containing a lace stork. It was a present from my mother that she gave us to commemorate the birth of our daughter. She bought it in the lace capital, Bruges, in Belgium.
When my daughter was small she was a little put out that her parents were married and living together. The reason being that many of her friends had two homes, two bedrooms, an abundance of grandparents and a stepmother. "You don't want a stepmother," I told her. "Stepmothers are wicked." God forgive me.
A little island in the River Trent, surrounded by trees and home to ducks, geese, herons and a host of other wild creatures.
The three-spired cathedral dominates this small city of Lichfield in Staffordshire. It stands in a cul-de-sac of holy buildings and is very tranquil. It's history is fascinating and is dedicated to Saint Chad.
For some unknown reason, the Anglo-Saxons kept well away from from Roman towns and buildings. It was as if the spirits of the centurions still guarded the city walls and stood by the gates, spatha swords unsheathed. And so it was with Canterbury.
Finan was a bit of a religious celebrity in his day, which was mid-seventh century England.
I am a Pisces. How does that make you feel? To some that makes me a dreamer, indecisive, creative and lazy. To others - a nutter who believes in mumbo jumbo.