History of Trick-or-Treating

From History.com:

Trick-or-treating—going from house to house in search of candy and other goodies—has been a popular Halloween tradition in the United States and other countries for an estimated 100 years. But the origins of this community-based ritual, which costumed children typically savor while their cavity-conscious parents grudgingly tag along, remain hazy. Possible forerunners to modern-day trick-or-treating have been identified in ancient Celtic festivals, early Roman Catholic holidays, medieval practices and even British politics.

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Querying agents, novel update

So I’ve recently gotten back on track with querying some agents again this year. I’ve queried just a few in the last several months. All have rejected the proposal, which I’m okay with. I just needed to make myself start the process again, which at times can be daunting. Over the course of the last two years, I’ve queried over a dozen agents. Two of them asked to see the full manuscript, which was exciting, but in the end they passed on my novel as well. Still, I was pleased to have two agents request the full manuscript. It at least gives me hope that I’m on the right track.

Most agents will require a query letter, a synopsis of your novel (usually 1-3 page novel summary, including spoilers), and possibly the first chapter or first ten pages of your novel or something like that. I’ve read varying opinions on this subject from authors as well as agents themselves, and while there is no absolute correct way to write a query — a lot of it is subjective — there are some commonalities in what agents seem to be looking for. Your query should include the title of your novel, the genre, the word count, along with a brief summary of the story. You should then add a brief bio about yourself. Stating your background and any writing credentials you may have can be beneficial as way of introduction to the agent.

The following is an example of my query letter and what has worked for me. I may actually drop the name George R.R. Martin from my query, since Game of Thrones has such wide mass market appeal now. I was using his writing as a comparison long before the series hit HBO, but now that it is so popular, I don’t want agents to perceive his name as arrogance on my part. While my writing may have flavors of Martin in style of how he approaches the fantasy genre, agents who have no idea who I am might think I am trying to oversell myself.


Dear <agent name>,

An ancient proverb speaks of destiny. The flames do not lie. Fate is unalterable.

The king of Aricin is dead, assassinated at the hands of an ambitious family. When a power struggle ensues over who will sit the throne next, Caelen, a minor noble, vows to destroy the usurper king. It is his destiny to fulfill the blood price, for the man who assassinated the king is also responsible for murdering Caelen’s father and brothers. For Caelen, justice and vengeance are the same. It is a man’s fate to restore his family’s honor. And sometimes the fate of one man is the same as another’s, for the usurper king also has a blood price to collect, one that can only be settled once he has destroyed the man who ruined his own family decades ago.

A New World Rising is a work of historical fantasy, complete at 108,000 words. Based upon hours of independent research in medieval history, the story derives much of its influence from the societies of England, France, and Scandinavia from the 11th through the 13th centuries. It is a blend of history and fantasy that will appeal to readers of Bernard Cornwell, George R.R. Martin, and Guy Gavriel Kay. The story stands alone, but I also have plans for a series.

In conjunction with fiction writing, I host a Web site, http://steventill.com, and Twitter account, where I openly share my passion for medieval history. Through a connection with my Web site, I reviewed a book for the Heroic Age, an academic medieval journal. I have also read and reviewed books at the requests of Wunderkind PR, Sourcebooks, and Plume, among others. My professional writing career includes articles written for Southern Living magazine and Health.com.

Thank you for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you.

Steven Till

Additional structures found at the site of Stonehenge

From the Washington Post:

Today, the word “Stonehenge” evokes an image of an eerie stone circle standing alone on a windswept plane.

But new digital maps show the prehistoric monument didn’t always look that way. Those 24-foot-tall, 90,000-pound blocks we still find so impressive were actually part of a much larger complex of shrines — including an even-larger “super henge” nearly half a kilometer in diameter.

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Reconstructing the faces of medieval Scots

From edinburgh.gov.uk:

A five-year project to analyse bodies discovered during an archaeological dig by the City of Edinburgh Council and Headland Archaeology has shed new light on Leithers of the past.

Forensic artists have now unveiled what the Medieval residents of the former burgh might have looked like some 500 years ago.

A team of experts from the University of Dundee (external link) carried out a painstaking process to reconstruct the faces of the 14th to 17th century remains, discovered near Constitution Street.

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Rome’s Colosseum a dwelling in medieval times

From Discovery.com.

Forget gory shows and gladiatorial combat. In the late Middle Ages, Rome’s Colosseum was a huge condominium, says the latest archaeological investigation into Rome’s most iconic monument.

Archaeologists from Roma Tre University and students from the American University of Rome unearthed evidence showing that ordinary Romans lived within the Colosseum from the ninth century until at least 1349, when the building was seriously damaged by an earthquake.

During a three-week excavation beneath some of the arched entrances that lead into the arena, the archaeologists discovered terracotta sewage pipes, potsherds and the foundations of a 12th-century wall that once enclosed one of the properties.

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New agency alerts

For those that are seeking agents, the Writer’s Digest new agency alerts is a good listing of agents seeking to build their client lists. The agents listed often are looking for debut authors.

I subscribe to this list, and comb through it from time to time just to see if anything fits with my novel genre. A lot of agents these days seem to be seeking YA, so if that’s your genre, then this list might be helpful.


Novel update

I’ve recently updated my website and migrated hosts, so I hope to start posting more content again regularly and working on shopping my novel again. The plan is to start submitting to literary agents again over the summer. In the past, these were some literary agencies I had looked at.

I am fortunate enough to say that after submitting to a dozen or so agencies last year, I had two requests to submit my full manuscript. Ultimately, they passed, but my hope is renewed to find an agent that will represent it.

I’ve posted chapter 1 and chapter 2, which can be also be found in the navigation under My Novel > Chapter 1 or Chapter 2. I will post chapter 3 at a later date, and beyond that, we will see. If I get a large number of reader requests to post more, I may oblige.

Happy writing to all aspiring novelists out there! Persistence is key.

The Pagan Lord by Bernard Cornwell

The Pagan Lord by Bernard Cornwell
Series: Saxon Tales
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Harper; Reprint edition (January 7, 2014)
ISBN-10: 0061969702

New York Times bestselling author Bernard Cornwell returns to his epic Saxon Tales saga with The Pagan Lord, a dramatic story of divided loyalties, bloody battles, and the struggle to unite Britain.

At the onset of the tenth century, England is in turmoil. Alfred the Great is dead and Edward his son reigns as king. Wessex survives but peace cannot hold: the Danes in the north, led by Viking Cnut Longsword, stand ready to invade and will never rest until the emerald crown is theirs.

Uhtred, once Alfred’s great warrior but now out of favor with the new king, must lead a band of outcasts north to recapture his old family home, that great Northumbrian fortress, Bebbanburg.

In The Pagan Lord, loyalties will be divided and men will fall, as every Saxon kingdom is drawn into the bloodiest battle yet with the Danes; a war which will decide the fate of every king, and the entire English nation.

Rating on Amazon: 4.5 stars

Read my reviews on the other novels in the Saxon Tales:

Once I read The Pagan Lord, I will post my review of it as well.