Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Styles of language

Looking back over my posts from 2008 I found this interesting snippet from  Phillippa Gregory. Talking about writing, language and languages, she says:

"In terms of styles of language‚ I deliberately took the choice to use fundamentally modern language‚ but quite pure and quite simple. So I don′t use slang and I don′t use modern idioms. This is to make it acceptable to a wider audience and to write as well as I possibly can without being limited by language. For example‚ if I was to write a novel set in France and there were French people speaking French to each other − I wouldn′t put that on the page in French‚ I′d put it in English − and the reader understands as it′s part of a convention of reading a novel‚ that when someone is speaking Russian or French you don′t get a page of Russian or French − you get it in English.

If someone said to me that the past is a foreign country‚ it seems to me that it speaks a foreign language. So in terms of any notion of thee and thus and thy‚ superfluous words‚ I tend not to use them as it′s so strange to the modern eye. You also gain nothing by using them and the chances of rendering them correctly are very slim.

In the case of early modern society we don′t know how they spoke‚ we know how people have written down Shakespeare plays‚ but we don′t know how people actually spoke or what they sounded like. We do believe however that Anne Boleyn maintained the French accent throughout her life as she believed that it made her a bit special‚ I mention this in the novel. But in terms of how actually people spoke‚ we don′t know‚ so I won′t even make a guess."

This seems sensible to me, and  maybe that is because it is the way i approach writing historicals, too. I allow some of the local Northumbrian dialect I hear around me every day to  filter in where it is appropriate for the character and some Scots that is used today by my neighbours/and or heard on various trips north of the border. This isn't to try and add a historical edge to the story, but to help with characterization. Wander around Newcastle's main shopping street - Northumberland Street - any day of the week and you will hear  refined BBC type accents rubbing shoulders with Geordie and all the stops in between. (Sorry, no pun intended)

Personally I dislike the accent that predominates in Eastenders and the one I find the hardest to "translate" is the Rab Nesbit Glaswegian. I hear echoes of Northern Ireland in Australia, and can hear differences in American speech without know where in the US the speech originates. The whole subject of language is a fascinating one.

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Age is just a number

Matfen Hall
Rain this morning, so we won't be going out for a while. There's always a chance the rain will clear away by eleven. So I shall continue with my final edits and hope to finish them today.

It will also be a weekend of tennis. There must be something in the air as we have the finals of the Australian Open this weekend, and in both male and females sides we have competitors who are over 30 years of age. Rafa, of course, is the baby of the group at just 30. Should be amazing to see Rafa and Roger take each other on again. John Lloyd puts it down to modern training methods and diet. Before he played a match he used to have steak and chips, but I gather it is mostly pasta - plain carbohydrates now. Australia is eleven hours ahead of us, so Serena may well have finished her match by now - must go and check!


Monday, 23 January 2017

Too much work!

My post on Solway Moss has done very well, which is why I left it up for a while, but now it is time for something new. Last night I seem to have set up a group on Facebook. Now I won’t scream and run for the hills, but truthfully I clicked on buttons because I wanted to find out more. I thought a group had already been set up, but didn’t see how that could have happened. This morning dh gave me a strange look and asked why I’d set up a group about me?

Well, it need not be about me, or at least, not only me. I’ll have to have a closer look at this new venture and see what I can make of it.


It could have happened at a better time, for I really should give The Matfen Affair its final read before going to Kindle. I’ve heard from DiscoveringDiamonds that I will be receiving a review for The Gybford Affair, and the helpful reviewer suggested that there were one or two little glitches I might wish to correct, so I’m doing that as quickly as I can. 

Before hearing about the glitches, I’d also discovered that I could change a PDF to Word by using Calibre, so I now have a word copy of Banners of Alba waiting to be re-edited. Given that it was my “first book,” certainly the first completed and published twelve years ago, there is a lot I want to alter. Not the storyline, but style. Seems like I shall be busy, busy for quite a while.

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Solway Moss

Battle of Solway Moss 24th November 1542

On the 18th November Sir Thomas Wharton, Deputy Warden of the English West March and Captain of Carlisle, called out the gentlemen resident within the West March to be at Carlisle with bows and spears by sunset on 22nd November. He planned a raid on Middlebie and Langholm with the aim of both annoying and confusing the Scots who were massing at Langholm.

He returned after supper on 23rd to the news from the Lord Warden, then Lord Hertford in Alnwick almost on the east coast that a great force of Scots, estimated at between 17,000 and 19,000 men, would descend on the West March on 23rd or 24th November.

Wharton had his deputies and commanders either with him or waiting for him at Carlisle and his spies were reporting almost hourly on Scottish movements from Langholm south toward the rivers Esk and the Leven. His forces, estimated at between 300 and 3,000 men plus 100 light horse, sometimes called “prickers” seemed like no match for the opposing Scots. However, the prickers, called into existence by the eternal forays of the Scottish Border, were probably the best light cavalry in Europe.

There are five contemporary reports on the battle: original letters from Sir Thomas Wharton, (written on 23rd and 25th November) plus one from Sir William Musgrave. Two more are “reports of reports” (Lisle and Tunstall (6th Dec) and Edward Hall’s “Chronicles,” published 1548. Lisle had taken over the Wardenship from Hertford on 1st December that year and might therefore be forgiven for not having a full grasp of the battle.

Communication was not easy in the sixteenth century. Wharton gives excellent detail of the entire battle, probably because he had his clerk with him to take notes.

A smaller battle took place at Akeshawhill, one mile east of Netherby, where Jac Musgrave, a captain under his brother Sir William Musgrave, led the company and later wrote notes which were later taken up by Lisle and Tunstall, who seemed mistakenly to believe that the skirmish was the main thrust of the battle. Lisle’s report to Henry’s Privy Council omitted all mention of Wharton.

On 24th November Wharton rode out with 2,000 foot and 1,200 horse to West Linton and observed Scots riders burning Oakshawhill. Lack of a guide, November weather and the notorious Solway Bore, often up to ten feet in height, dissuaded Lord Maxwell from bringing his Scots across the shifting quicksand of the Solway to Burgh on the English coast. Instead he chose to advance via the Esk Ford at Arthuret. Wharton and his prickers met them there.

Scots horse retreated to Arthuret Holme to warn the main body of the Scots army. The Border Horse pricked at Maxwell’s rear during their retreat.
The Grames chased Scots raiders from Oakshawhill to Arthuret and from Lyne to beyond Hopesikehill. Wharton advanced and set up his six standards in a flying formation ie with wings outspread to look as imposing as possible, on Hopesykehill.

As the Scots advanced, Wharton’s two hundred archers loosed off a volley of arrows. A trained longbow man can send off 10-12 arrows a minute, so the Scots advancing uphill faced a deluge of approximately 2,000 deadly arrows followed by a charge of the notorious prickers. Disorganised and believing themselves to be facing a much larger force, the Scots retreated.

Wharton overran the Scots foot at Hopesykehill and advanced to Howse to watch the Scots army floundering at the Myln dam. They attempted to regroup and fired light ordinance at the English. Maxwell dismounted at Sandyforde and attempted to rally the main army and protect the river crossing.


Wharton sent in prickers to harry floundering Scots who panicked and ran back to the river. The Scots retreated, ran from the battle, only to be harried by Liddesdale reivers. King James escaped capture by riding hard to Stirling and then on to Falkland where he died a few days later. A few days after that, his wife, Marie de Guise, gave birth to a daughter, Mary, on 8th December 1542. 

Monday, 9 January 2017

New tasks

The New Year is a good time to turn over a new leaf. (Isn’t it easy to fall into clichés?) I mean that I want to set up a good regime of work again, because if the Christmas holidays do nothing else, they seem to butt into everyone’s working habits. I’ve done virtually nothing for a fortnight now, but from today – things will be different!

So much to do. I’m learning all the time, and there are so many changes coming along that it is hard to keep up. This month my long time independent publisher Write Words, Inc will close its doors after 17 years and leave two of my titles homeless. 
I’m deciding whether to publish myself or canvas for a publisher for Banners of Alba and Dark Pool. How much do I want to re-edit them? They were my first books published, and I could probably improve them. Dark Pool in particular has never had much success, so perhaps a change of title and a new cover is in order there.


Certainly I shall do nothing with them until I have The Matfen Affair published, but other tasks will probably include trying to get Amazon to remove all traces of the old version, particularly the paperback of Banners – still for sale at the ridiculous price of £33. I’ll need to alter the book page here, too. There’s nothing worse than an out of date book page!

I'm also having another go at mastering Goodreads. In the past I have found it the most difficult website, but I really should have a presence there.

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

A long holiday...

It has seemed a long holiday this year and I for one am glad to get back to normal life. There were some days when I didn't do any writing at all, didn't check sales, didn't do anything to do with writing. I think the best film I saw over the entire holiday period was "What we did on our holidays" with David Tennant and Billy Connolly. Not only was it set in one of my favourite holiday places, but the children were amazing actors and the story line was at times sad and at others an absolute hoot - the scene where Bullimore is in the supermarket - never to be forgotten!

Ten minutes before the start I noticed that Pride and Prejudice (with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle) was running from 1pm to almost 6pm on New Year's Day so I immediately sat down and watched a good chunk of that and thoroughly enjoyed it.

I actually bought two paperbacks for Christmas reading. One was The Loving Husband by Christobel Kent and I finished it yesterday morning. I enjoyed and was annoyed by it at the same time. What was going on? So many things the wife didn't know about the husband, who is murdered on page 12. The rest of the book is discovering who killed him. The police characters believe she did it and if I am ever in this kind of trouble, Heaven preserve me from this most unpleasant pair of detectives.  

The story is told from the wide's POV, so what she doesn't know, we don't know and that was confusing at times, as were pronouns used where names would have been better. (I have sworn to be extra careful with my use of pronouns after puzzling over who was doing or saying what to whom in this story.) It was also a tad overlong (in my view) but I still recommend it to those who like crime.