Sunday, 29 November 2009

Barnard Castle and Richard III

Barnard Castle. Friday. Lovely drive down to Teesdale into the market town, then a short walk and a scone and coffee in Penny's Tearoom opposite the Market Cross.
I enjoyed the day and took loads of pics, but it must have tired me more than I realised, for that evening I lost all the pics while trying to transfer them from the camera to the laptop - usually a simple operation. So instead of giving you my own pic of Barnard Castle, I've used this one taken from http://www.visitcountydurham.com
The castle was built shortly after the Norman Conquest but Sir Robert Bowes of Streatlam was beseiged there in the sixteenth century and had to surrender for lack of victuals. After that the castle fell into disrepair.
There is a plaque in a little rose garden near St Mary's church in memory of Richard III, who was lord of Barnard Castle from 1474 to his death in 1485. He did much for the town and they thought well of him.
I'm still wondering where my pictures went. Bill thinks they're lurking somewhere on my laptop, but I can't find them there, and they certainly are no longer on my camera. Still, let's look on the bright side - it's a super excuse to go and visit Barnard Caastle again!

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Publication of Till the Day Go Down

Author copies arrived this morning, so I presume it is safe to announce my new book!
I'm really pleased with the cover, which I left entirely to the publisher this time.
Here's the blurb - "Alina Carnaby lives a quiet life in the Tyne valley until Harry Scott saves her life, and reivers steal the family’s cattle. She discovers a body, her brothers blurt out a secret and her father orders Harry’s death. The name Scott is an alias. Why would Harry die rather than reveal the truth? Can she evade the marriage her father planned for her?
Standing at the altar rail, she has two men claiming her hand and neither will give way…
It's an exciting tale set in 1543, when theft, kidnapping and arson were a way of life on the borders between England and Scotland."
The title comes from a chilling little poem of the times:
But will ye stay till the day go down
Until night comes o'er the ground,
And I'll be a guide worth any twa
That may in Liddesdale be found.
The book is published by Quaestor2000, ISBN 978-1-906836-17-7 and available via Amazon, the Book Depository and all good bookshops.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Recuperation report

I must get back to taking pics again, though it is hardly the weather for it. Gales and rain do not tempt me out for walks at the moment. Yesterday we drove to IKEA and walked around the ground floor half of the store, and that was my exercise for the day.
Tired me out, too! What a weak and feeble creature I am right now. But I have to report that my scar is fading very well, and won't be at all obtrusive in a vee necked blouse. I lost a stone, but have already regained half of it back again, so it seems unlikely that I will retain that sylphlike 9 stone weight.
I give thanks every day for my writing. Without it I don't know what I'd do all day. Go mad, I expect. There are only so many re-runs of Monarch of the Glen I can watch in one day!
I expected to be able to report a new book out by now, but Till the Day Go Down is still up on Amazon only as a pre-order entry. Tomorrow I'll dig out the cover pic and announce it properly, regardless of its status. Call me impatient!

Monday, 23 November 2009

Clever novelist

I have to give Gregory credit for the ending of The White Queen. All the way through the book the hint of witchcraft is maintained and comes to fruition when Elizabeth Woodville and her daughter Elizabeth curse whoever killed the Princes in the Tower. They know it is not Richard, and suspect Buckingham and the Stanleys but cannot prove it. The curse decrees that the firstborn son of the culprit shall die through the coming generations until there are only girls left....well, we know who that pinpoints as the culprit, don't we?
So Gregory has avoided angering the Ricardians, found a novel way of stating the guilty party (no pun intended) and given the reader a flavour of the unease, uncertainty and distrust of the times into the bargain.
Good for her. But I still don't care for her heroine.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Floods

While Cumbria drowns we on the east of the Pennines suffer no more than a few rainy days. I suppose the east had it last year, when several places like Morpeth and Rothbury were almost washed away. It beggars belief how complacent we have become, building so close to waterways and rivers. Fine maybe in drought years, but what about the wet years? And the UK is predominantly a wet country, strung with rivers and canals, with a climate that is temperate and given to generous rainfall.
People talk of unprecedented levels of rain in 24 hours, but had there not been rain for days beforehand, the land would have soaked it up and drained it away. May as well blame the land, already full of water and unable to soak up more. Seems to me it's our old friend multiple causality again. The lesson to be learned?
Do not buy a house built on a flood plain. We seem to have forgotten what flood plains are, or why they were there. Better by far, if faced with a choice, to buy a house on higher land, out of reach of the river. The thought of sour-smelling river mud and worse creeping up through drains and catflaps while I sleep, coating every surface of my home, sends shudders through me. I don't know how the people caught this time will recover and begin again. I hope they will, with help from agencies and donations, and hope it will be somewhere safer.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

The White Queen

I'm still not enamoured of The White Queen, which is most odd, as I expected to like it. I buy very few books in hardback these days, but it was one of them. Nor can I say exactly why I'm not ripping through it at a rate of knots. There's something almost reported speechish, something quite passive about the voice in which the story is delivered, almost as if the main character is fatally pre-determined. Elizabeth and Edward share one of the most amazing love stories in history and yet there is no hot, fiery centre in the central figure of Elizabeth. She is cold, thinks herself related to the watery spirit Melusine and seems fuelled by hatred more than love.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

I'm doing a lot of work on my latest wip as I recuperate. There's not a lot of other things to cloud my attention, and my "straight historical" still flows easily enough to make me believe this is what I should be doing. Either that or I'm way, way off course!


I'm still in two minds about letting my hero and heroine come together in an "encounter of the bedroom kind" or whether to keep them apart, but that will sort itself out further down the line. What's nice is that I'm not trying too hard to make any of my characters likeable. They either are or they aren't. If I keep them apart, them I can't be accused of writing a sloshy romance again. But as a friend of my husband says, "Shagging sells!" So it has to be a consideration.


I've had The White Queen on my to be read pile for quite a while now, and dipped into the first few pages when I first came home from hospital.


It may be that it is too similar to Campion's book, which I finishd just before I went in, but TWQ did not grab me. It is written in the first person viewpoint of Elizabeth Woodville, consort of Edward of York, parents of the Princes in the Tower. The pervading tone is dismal and sadly lacklustre.
Now I'm willing to concede that this may be more to do with me than the book; but in my defence I have to say I put it down in favour of a little gem called the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (see my Books I'm reading list for the authors) recommended and sent as part of my birthday present from my daughter-in-law. An odd little book by any standards, compiled of letters between an author bereft of a story and a collection of Guersey individuals picking up the pieces of their lives after the German occupation in the 1940s - but a delight.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Die Hard 4

A wine cooler and a bucket have been pressed into service to hold the flowers that keep arriving. People are so kind!
More than usually at the mercy of the tv schedules these days, I recorded Die Hard 4 and sat down with high expectations to watch it.
It is hard to convey the growing sense of unease it gave me. The spirit of heroic adventure pervading the first John Maclean movie degenerated into a comic strip cartoon within the first few feet of film and I half expected the BIFF, BANG, KRUNCH explosions to litter the screen. I grow weary of 30-year old teenagers who rush into supposedly complex situations, size them up in a split second and start pushing buttons - the correct ones, mind you - to avert the catastrophic explosion that will blow them to kingdom come if they get it wrong. I worry for the state of society when it is OK for a determined cop to career down a motorway in a juggernaut hurling innocent road users to certain destruction but who demands that the entire united states airforce must be deployed to save the daughter of that same cop. Promise me! he cries, ramming another innocent victim against a motorway pillar. I despair of films that show villains bouncing off concrete buildings and falling out of helicopters without so much as a bruise, or leaping gymnastically (and impossibly without a springboard) around lift shafts and turbine rooms.
And surely jet pilots are trained not to blow up civilian infrastructure including motorways in case they kill hundreds in pursuit of one man? Let's hope so.
One has to wonder what films such as these teach young people today.
Certainly not kindness, nor selfless bravery to save others. I could possibly have argued the John MacLean of the the first film wanted to save his wife and the people with her. But this hard-bitten version of the hero went on a rampage and it wouldn't be going too far to say he caused more damage and loss of life than the villains.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Flower shop


I live in a flower shop at the moment. Because I've had an operation recently, friends have swamped me with flowers, which is wonderful and so very generous and thoughtful of them.
However, typing on one's lap without resting a heavy laptop on one's legs turns out to be well nigh impossible. And I can tell you that while taking painkillers is easy, the effect of certain painkillers on the body's natural system is less than good. Now I have to take laxatives, too! But enough of these woes.

Instead let me sing a hymn of praise to the UK's NHS, which has been absolutely wonderful. Let no one tell you anything different. There may be hold ups, but usually it is because someone, somewhere, is more ill than Iam and went in before me. Would you expect anything different? Surely not. I waited a month longer than expectation, but I have no complaints. Some of the people who went in before me were still there when I came out. The District Nurse has been in contact with my home, the Cardiac Rehabilitation team has already made an appointment for me in December.

Now I have to get on and make myself fit again. Already I'm up and about, doing bits here and there. I breathed the wonderful air in the back garden at lunchtime. Tomorrow, I'll maybe take a little walk. My school motto used to be Pas de pas...step by step one may go a long way. Seems appropriate, don't you think?

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

The nose of the beholder

Sometime this month my new book should appear on the shelves.
Till the Day Go Down by Jen Black. Since I don't have my publisher's permission to put the cover up yet, I've amused myself by playing with a painting of the heroine I did when I began the story, and a photograph of a castle that features in it.
I like to visualise my characters and painting is often a good way of getting a likeness - if a bit styalised and impossibly wasp-waisted - my husband's comment! But who cares? Heroines are never stodgy, are they? They don't have pimples or a sudden outbreak of zits at a crucial moment in life. Even in the most desperate of situations, their clear skin and beautiful eyes never let them down. Me, I get bags under the eyes from sleepness nights, and I get a lot of those when I'm worried.
Come to think of it, heroes never have bad breath or stink of horse manure. They always smell of male musk or some such enticing odour. I don't know about you, ladies, but a man who has been doing something active and energetic often smells sweaty and many times it is not a turn-on. Especially if it is more than a day old. But then perception is all. When I worked for a living my staff came to me with a complaint about a client in the library. His smell, they complained, made them feel sick, and the other students were leaving in droves. Upon investigation, their complaint was justified, so I had the unpleasant task of warning him that he must leave and not return until....all was well for a few days and then gradually the smell got worse again...I asked a senior member of staff to intervene. (ie get rid of him!) She came in, spoke to him, and told me she did not find his odour reprehensible at all. What can you say to something like that?