Goals for “The Flames of Prague”

Front-Cover-v3-For-WebI have only 7 more chapters to edit for The Flames of Prague, plus finish up my notes/bibliography. I’m on schedule to hit my goal of 80,000 words (which gives me wiggle room to cut some during future editing, leaving me with 70,000-75,000).

My goal is to finish my first round of edits on or before the end of January. Then I plan on taking the month of February to do some more research and do a second round of editing and formatting for print.

Then it’s off to the printer for a proof copy for my beta readers. They will need at least the month of March to read it and get back to me–maybe into April. If I notice any problems with the cover, I will make it while they’re reading the book. I will also try to finish up my book trailer during this down time.

April will be for making edits and corrections based on their suggestions. May will be for grammar editing and general proofreading.

I will probably order another proof copy in June because I like looking at multiple formats (computer, print, ebook) when I’m proofreading, because changing up the format helps keep your brain from becoming tired and glossing over the same errors again and again. So, June will be for reading the proof copy and then making any handwritten corrections to the computer copy.

In July, I will format the entire thing for ebook, put it on my Kindle, then proofread it again. (I save this part for last because it means every change I make will have to be made to both the ebook file and the print file.)

Which leaves me ready to publish in August, exactly one year after I published my first book. Mind you, I’m not making any promise that I’ll go to print in August. There’s a lot that could happen between now and then (hopefully a job and a move to Chattanooga). But I should definitely be in the clear to hit my outside goal of fall of 2013.

I’m relieved that I’m back on schedule with this book after feeling like I had been procrastinating with it too much. What’s more, I’m starting to think about making a third book, which would be set during the Hussite Wars.

The Hussite Wars are a very interesting time in Bohemia. People were calling for a reform of the church (this was 100 years before Martin Luther and the Protestant reformation). Jan Hus–who was the founder of the movement and who was executed fairly early into the two-decade civil war–was rumored to have a cordial relationship with Rabbi Avigdor Kara, and some have even said that some of Jan Hus’s ideas for reformation were based on theological conversations he had with the rabbi. (Apparently Rabbi Avigdor was quite the rabbi; he was also rumored to have had theological discussions with the king and other members of the clergy.) Of course this creates an opening for all sorts of political intrigue by my Crypto-Jewish family.

And, finally, you have the Hussite war wagons. I just don’t think I can go through life without describing, in action-packed, gory detail, the use of Hussite war wagons on the battlefield.

From what I have read so far, they effectively broke the back of the chivalry in Bohemia. (The English would do the same to the French knights at Agincourt in 1415 using longbows and light infantry.) The war wagons were defensive, but highly mobile. When a location was chosen for a battle, the wagons would be formed into a circle or square (or whatever shape the terrain demanded) and chained together. If time permitted, additional defensive measures, such as trenching and putting in stakes or caltrops, would be done.

As you can see from the recreation, there were “arrow” slots in the outside face of the wagon, but these were used for hand guns (a whopping 1.00 caliber proto-musket). The charging cavalry had no defense against the bullets and no way to break the line or outflank it. And even if the king’s army disengaged and tried to make a larger outflanking maneuver–to get between the Hussites and their supply line or base of operation or what have you–the entire wagon operation could be on the move within minutes (more like a couple of hours if they wanted to take their stakes and other camp equipment with them).

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10 comments on “Goals for “The Flames of Prague”

  1. Wallace says:

    I don’t know much about the Hussite war wagons, but just on first look, the first thing I’d do to fight them would be to have my archers kill the horses. That would pretty much immobilize them. I’d then have my archers shoot flaming arrows and oil pots on them to burn the wagons. Then, when they tried to flee the burning wagons, I’d ride them down with the cavalry. If they choose to stay in place behind the burning wagons, I’d just ride around them, cut off their supplies, and let them starve, surrender, or try to make a break for it. And then I’d ride them down with cavalry.

    • Keri Peardon says:

      They didn’t leave the horses hooked up to them. The horses were unhitched and put in the center of the wagon circle, where they were shielded. And you assume that the Bohemian nobility employed long-range archers. It’s my understanding that no one in Europe used longbowmen like the English did. There were the famous Genoese crossbowmen, but they didn’t have the range or the rapidity of fire that a longbowman did. They also weren’t employed in anything like the numbers.

      And how can someone shoot an oil pot with a bow? That’s the sort of thing you hurl with siege equipment, which is cumbersome to move and time-consuming to assemble. Siege equipment is for sieges, which this was not. And a flaming arrow against a thick piece of oak will do little damage. Nothing you can’t put out with a bucket of water tossed over the top. You wouldn’t even have to expose yourself.

      The French, at Agincourt, had few archers, preferring to rely on their cavalry. It’s my understanding that the opposing faction in the Hussite wars did the same. (The Bohemians were still big on imitating the French court and French ways at this time.) And when the French rode–in their hubris–against an enemy who had carefully selected the ground and who had long-ranged missile weapons (some 7,000 archers firing at a minimum rate of 10 arrows per minute, per archer), they died in staggering numbers. I think something similar–albeit on a smaller scale–happened when the Bohemian knights went up against the Hussite guns.

      • Wallace says:

        I had assumed they unhitched the horses prior to battle, only wagon trains in cowboy and Indian movies leave them hitched up, and then only when in a surprise attack. But they do have to get to the battle field and set up. They could easily have the horses shot while on the way to the battlefield or, as you pointed out, while re-hitching the horses to move to avoid a flanking maneuver. Sooner or later, they will have to re-hitch the horses and move the wagons, or wait helpless while their enemies bring up heavier weapons to just bludgeon them from a distance, rather like a castle siege.

        You are right that very few nations other than the English used the English longbow, but nearly every nation used some type of archer. I’m glad you mentioned the Genoese crossbow men since they were widely in use throughout Europe from the 12th C. till the 16th C. You are right that crossbowmen didn’t have the rate of fire as a regular archer, but it wasn’t that slow.

        A well trained archer could get off eight to ten shots a minute while a crossbowman could only get off two or three, but the crossbow made up for its slowness in three ways. First the crossbow had much greater power. While a well trained longbow man could pull up to 150 pound bow, a crossbow man could cock and hold a 300 pound bow and aim it carefully for the best target. A longbow man pretty much had to draw and quickly release when using the 150 pound war bow. This gave the crossbow better aim and much better penetrating power against armor.

        The second way is that a crossbow actually has greater range than a longbow. On a side by side shoot for distance, the crossbow will easily outrange a longbow. Plus, with a sturdier bolt instead of an arrow, it retains more impact power at the target.

        The third way a crossbow is better is in time to train. A good longbow man trains for many years to perfect his ability to pull and aim the war bow. Most men can’t even pull a 150 pound longbow, let alone pull, aim, and fire it. It takes years or even decades to get proficient. Even the skeletons of longbow men show the marked effect of this training with much thicker right arm bones with far bigger muscle attachment points than either their left arm or other non bowmen. With a crossbow it is much easier and quicker to train a man to use it. Simply put the right foot in the stirrup, use your back and both arms to cock it, put a bolt in the groove, aim and fire. Ten days of training with a crossbow and the archer is as proficient as ten years training with the longbow.

        The result in the field is, if you lose your archers, especially longbow men, it would take years to replace them and they would have to be trained and shipped in from home. With a crossbow man you can recruit the locals, give them a few days training, and replace your loses fairly quickly. You could, of course, replace your archers from the locals as well, but they could only use a much weaker bow, and hence have far less range and penetrating power, and their aim would be very bad compared to the professional archers they replaced. In any intense and long lasting war, crossbow men have a distinct advantage over archers.

        And as to numbers, crossbow men were deployed in as great if not greater numbers than archers. In the battle of Crecy, the English had about 5,000 to 7,000 archers of all types, tho most were longbow men. The French deployed about 6,000 Genoese professional crossbow men plus other archers and crossbow men of unknown ability. It would have been an archers battle for the opening except for two things.

        The first was there was a sudden shower right before the battle. The longbow men simply unstrung their bows and put them in their oiled waterproof cases. A crossbow can’t be unstrung and restrung very easily, and the French army was on the march before the battle so the Genoese couldn’t protect their bows and strings from getting wet. When the French arrived at the battlefield, instead of resting and attacking the next day, they immediately launched an attack. The Genoese, with their wet bows and bow strings were at a distinct disadvantage. The rain had allowed the strings to stretch, making the power of the crossbows far less than normal. When the crossbow men tried to engage the English, their bolts fell short or lacked the killing power needed while the longbow men could kill the Genoese with ease.

        The reason the longbow men could easily kill the Genoese was the second thing the French did wrong. The crossbow men customarily used a pavises, a large shield set in the ground especially carried by crossbow men to hide behind while reloading their crossbows. An archer can watch the field while quickly reloading while a crossbow man has to pay attention to what he is doing while reloading. The French, for some unknown reason, left the pavises in the wagon train when they arrived and sent the Genoese out in front of the mounted knights and men at arms to fire on the English. With no place to hide while reloading and outranged by the longbow men, the Genoese were totally ineffective in the battle. When the Genoese captain called a retreat to stop the slaughter of his crossbow men, the French knights took this as a sign of cowardliness on the part of the Genoese and the French King ordered them killed when they tried to retreat behind the lines.

        But getting back to the Hussite wagons. As I said, pretty much every army employed archers or crossbow men or both, so even the Bohemian knights would have a large contingent of archers with them. As you said, the Bohemians imitated the French, and the French employed thousands of archers in their armies. Flaming arrows have been in use for thousands of years, so the Bohemian archers would have easy knowledge and access to them. As to the oil pots arrows, that actually dates back to the ancient Greeks. It’s a simple substitution of a small clay pot, about two inches in diameter, that’s attached to the end of the arrow instead of a point. The pot is hollow, filled with oil, and bursts on impact, soaking whatever it hits with oil. It doesn’t have nearly the range of a normal arrow, but it could easily go a hundred feet or more. And with the archers firing from behind pavises, they could soak the wagons in no time, allowing the flaming arrows to set them on fire.

        As to putting out the fires, a bucket of water won’t put out an oil fire, it’ll just make it spread. And even having a bucket of water implies they thought ahead enough to bring buckets and a water barrel to fill the buckets from, something most unlikely unless they knew they would be shot at with fire arrows.

        Plus, a heavy oak planked battle wagon with high sides and a drop down plank skirt as shown in your picture would be very heavy. I doubt the two horses shown could pull it along at more than four or five mph. Add in the weight of the men and their hand cannons and their ammunition of iron or lead or stone balls and the powder to fire them and you’d need four or even six horses to move that wagon any distance with any speed at all. Add in the weight of buckets and a barrel of water and you’ve added 400 pounds or more just for the water barrel alone.

        And then there’s the problem of the horses. Once they’ve been unhitched, they’d either have to be led away to the wagon train some distance away, very impractical for a fast getaway, or corralled in the middle of the wagon train and be right in the middle of the battle. You said they could be protected, but there is no practical way to do that without building some sort of wall around them to protect them from arrows shot over the tops of the wagons. Plus you’d also need some sort of roof to protect them from indirect arrow fire falling from above.

        Even with two horses per wagon, that would be a lot of very heavy wooden shielding to carry around and a lot of work to set up and take down every time the wagons moved. Plus it would be even more weight to be carried in the wagons, meaning more horses to pull the wagons, meaning even more horse shielding to carry.

        And it would be certain that a lot of the oil pots and fire arrows would go over the wagons and hit the horses or their protection, setting one or both on fire. And we all know how horses act when their is a fire on them or even near them. The Hussites would be trampled by their own horses trying to escape.

        As to Agincourt, you’re wrong on your figures. The exact numbers are not know, but the best estimate of the French army was between 15,000 and 25,000. The makeup of the English army was know and only numbered 8,500 and was composed of 1,500 men at arms and 7,000 archers. The makeup of the French army was approximately 8,000 men at arms, 4,000 archers, and 1,500 crossbow men in the first rank with an equal number of each in the second rank. These figures may not be exactly right, but they do show the ratios of the French combatants with archers and crossbow men making up over 40% of the French forces. That they proved ineffective was due to how they were used.

        The French started with a cavalry charge that churned up the already wet and plowed ground and proved ineffective against the English, but blocked the French archers from shooting. The French then did a slow slog thru the mud with their men at arms, who did close with the English, but also prevented the French archers from firing. When the French men at arms finally closed with the English, the archers dropped their bows and had at the French with daggers and short swords. The French, being to tired after advancing thru mud in full armor, fell easy prey to the fresh and nimble English archers.

        In the end, it was the bad tactics of the French in both Crecy and Agincourt that resulted in their losses, not because of the nature of the fighting forces. Both sides employed heavily armored knights and men at arms and thousand of archers, it’s just that the English adopted strong defensive positions and the French stupidly threw themselves on them.

        An example of where the French used proper tactics was the battle of Patay in 1429, just 14 years after Agincourt. The English army consisted of about 5,000 men, mostly longbow men, while the French consisted of just 1,500 mounted knights and men at arms. The French did a frontal charge at the English while they were still trying to prepare their defenses. The cavalry easily rode down the English and slaughtered the archers who stood no chance against heavily armored cavalry. Any English who were mounted fled the battle while those on foot, mostly the archers, were all killed or captured.

        In an open field battle against armored cavalry, the English longbow men had no chance at all except when they were in a strong defensive position with sharpened stakes to keep the cavalry from simply riding right thru them. And even then they could be defeated if the French used their own archers first against the English longbow men who just stood out in the open amid their sharpened stakes. The Genoese crossbow men behind their pavises could have just shot down the English longbow men with impunity if they had been used properly.

        Interesting enough, the wagon shown in your picture is way to small to be a real Wagenburg from the Hussites. Their real wagons were much bigger, as shown by this description from Wikipedia. Rather than relate it, I’ll just post the pertinent section here.

        Start of quote.

        Depending on the terrain, Hussites prepared carts for the battle, forming them into squares or circles. The carts were joined wheel to wheel by chains and positioned aslant, with their corners attached to each other, so that horses could be harnessed to them quickly, if necessary. In front of this wall of carts a ditch was dug by camp followers. The crew of each cart consisted of 16-22 soldiers: 4-8 crossbowmen, 2 handgunners, 6-8 soldiers equipped with pikes or flails (the flail was the Hussite “national weapon”), 2 shield carriers and 2 drivers.
        The Hussites’ battle consisted of two stages, the first defensive, the second an offensive counterattack. In the first stage the army placed the carts near the enemy army and by means of artillery fire provoked the enemy into battle. The artillery would usually inflict heavy casualties at close range.

        In order to avoid more losses, the enemy knights finally attacked. Then the infantry hidden behind the carts used firearms and crossbows to ward off the attack, weakening the enemy. The shooters aimed first at the horses, depriving the cavalry of its main advantage. Many of the knights died as their horses were shot and they fell.
        As soon as the enemy’s morale was lowered, the second stage, an offensive counterattack, began. The infantry and the cavalry burst out from behind the carts striking violently at the enemy – mostly from the flanks. While fighting on the flanks and being shelled from the carts the enemy was not able to put up much resistance. They were forced to withdraw, leaving behind dismounted knights in heavy armor who were unable to escape the battlefield. The enemy armies suffered heavy losses and the Hussites soon had the reputation of not taking captives.

        End of quote.

        As you can see, the actual wagons were huge and contained over thirty men plus all their equipment. And in the end it was all for naught since the entire Hussite revolt only lasted about 15 years from start to finish and ended with the complete destruction of the Hussite army and their leaders at the battle of Lipany in 1434.

        Of course, this is probably way more than you wanted to know about longbow men, crossbow men, war wagons, Hussites, French and English battles, historical weapons, and whatever else I wrote about, but I had some spare time and thought I spend some of it on this.

  2. Wagons ftw!

    One question about the Flames of Prague cover — I know that you’re using a piece of classical art, but I’m slightly worried that the nude woman will turn off potential readers. And I don’t know if a book store/library would carry a book that showed a woman’s nude torso? I mean, I don’t care personally, but I worry for your sales.

    • And by “I don’t care personally”, I mean I don’t care about the nudity, not that I don’t care about your fame and success as an author ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Keri Peardon says:

      Given the popularity of erotica at the moment, I don’t think a naked woman on the cover is necessarily a bad thing. o.O (I will point out that my book is NOT erotica, but it is romance, and it is of the tastefully explicit variety–meaning having sex is not a major plot point, and there are only a couple of full-blown… wait… not the right word to use… and there are only a couple of fully-detailed sex scenes, but detailed they are. Think Jean M. Auel.)

      Also, I haven’t been paying for the CreateSpace expanded distribution program, which is what makes my book appear on distribution catalogs (like Ingram) where libraries and book stores shop. Why wouldn’t I pay for so obviously an awesome thing? Because libraries and bookstores still shun self-published titles and everyone I’ve read who has paid for the distribution (which is not expensive–I think it’s like $35.00) said they hadn’t even made their money back on it. So why pay for something that won’t generate sales?

      So, I’m not worried about it turning off bookstores or libraries, because there’s 0% chance I’ll end up in either, short of a major publisher picking me up. At which point the cover will be redone, I’m sure.

      One benefit to having a naked woman is that her clothes aren’t historically inaccurate. I can tolerate the fact that the man’s armor is 100 years too early for the book’s setting because it’s more or less accurate to SOME historical time period. But I can’t tolerate completely inaccurate medieval clothing like corseted ren-faire dresses.

      • Ahhh, I see. Well, fair enough ๐Ÿ™‚ Just thought I’d point that out in case you hadn’t considered it. But clearly you have, so I’ll keep my naked woman observations to myself from now on. Naked Woman Observations would be a good name for a band.

      • Keri Peardon says:

        Ya’ll are making me think about other options. I may tinker with Photoshop this weekend and a couple of other pictures.

        Mainly I just like tinkering with Photoshop. If I had a little more design training and a new copy of Photoshop, I’d probably be freelancing some covers.

      • Oh, I forgot! I got my mother’s opinion for you on Acceptance’s cover. She said she liked it, except that she says she would have left more space at the top (above the title). Food for thought?

      • Keri Peardon says:

        She’s quite right. I made a little error when I was designing it: I designed it while looking at the full picture–including the bleed sections. It looks great like that (that’s the image you see in your ebook). But when it was actually trimmed, it took off some of that top portion, making it look a little scrunched.

        If I redo the cover, I’ll fix that problem. When I designed the second and third book covers, I made sure to design with my trim lines marked.

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