Monday, 17 June 2019

France 2019


June 15th, 2019
Travelled down to Folkstone on Tuesday 11th through terrible rainstorms between Northallerton and Cambridge. South of Cambridge, all was fine, so we had our usual walk in Hatfield Forest before heading for the tunnel, where there was some delay. Our 3.50 crossing was cancelled, reason unknown, and the 4.20 was half an hour late – again, no explanation given. This meant we were later to Abbeville than we expected, so we simply had dinner in the restaurant and then went to bed.
I slept well, but Bill says he did not. We didn’t wake up as early as usual, so it was 8 before we went to the park of the two lakes in Abbeville and walked Tim, and almost nine before we set off south. We had intermittent rain all the way down. However, we made it to the mill somewhere between 5 and 6pm. The weather was not very good and the house cold, so we lit the big woodburner and were soon toasty warm.

Thursday. We had sunshine until about twelve, when Tom came to check over the pool and “hand over” to Bill. From then on it was clouds and rain, so we lit the fire again. Temperature inside was 17 degrees. The phone kept ringing, but when we answered we got only crackles on the line so eventually, on Tom’s advice, we disconnected it.
Friday. Tim began his antibiotics today. The weather was fine, and our first task was to remove fallen tree that was partially blocking the track. Out came the tractor and we attached a tow rope and pulled the stump out and dragged it as close to the dump as we could get it. Two ladies were picking asparagus ten yards away as we did all this, but we exchanged no more than “Bonjour,” and some banter when Tim bounced across to see them. Later Farmer Eric appeared to ask if there was “a problem,” but language proved a barrier. Still, any problems we must contact him at L’Hermitage.
Since the tractor was out, Bill cut the grass, and then it rained again. Fire lit again!
Saturday. Temperature now 19 degrees inside and rain and grey clouds outside. Bill is painting, I have written a chapter of Viking Wedding.
Sunday. Now we’re talking. Cloudless blue sky and beautiful sunshine. Sat in the sun and came in at eleven as said sun getting too hot for exposure of white English skin.
Monday. The ladies from the farm were here picking asparagus before 8.30 in the morning and they were still here at 11.30. Backbreaking work, legs splayed, bending from the hip to cut the asparagus below the soil level. Very hot, approaching 33 degrees. Had my first swim in the pool, but water very cold still. Didn’t stay in long, then dried off in the sun. Bill drove to Vergt and stocked up on groceries.

Wednesday, 5 June 2019

Come and meet Byrhtnoth


Today I am taking part in something called a Blog Hop. Yes, I know, it sounds strange, but the Interview my Character Blog Hop should prove a thing of beauty for lovers of historical fiction. The basic idea is that I should interview a character! Not the author, but the character. Something I’ve never done before.

Further down the line, someone is going to interview a character from one of my books (look for it on 15th June), but let me tell you which character I have selected. His name is Byrhtnoth and so far he has two books chronicling his life. The first was Bright Sword in 2018 and Bright Axe arrived earlier this year. I understand there is a third in preparation – and since Byrhtnoth is barely eighteen at the end of Bright Axe, I feel he has a long way to go for I know that he doesn’t die until AD 991.

He also has a rather elevated opinion of himself, but I have a sneaking suspicion that perhaps he is typical of men back in AD 947!  Let me tell you that talking to a rather muscular young man over six feet tall, and with a shiny axe hanging from his leather belt, is a rather unnerving experience. Given the chance to ask him questions, my first was necessary for ease of reading his story; here is the snappy answer he gave me:-

Me: How do you pronounce your name? Who named you?

What a strange question. No-one has ever asked me that before. Are you a foreigner? Do people ask you how to pronounce your name?
Forgive me. My author tells me you live, like her, in a different time where the English tongue is spoken in a different way. She says the pronunciation is something like birrt-noth in your language.
Like most Anglo-Saxon names, it is made from two words. The first, Byrht, or Beorht – it can be spelt in many ways, means bright. Noth means bold, daring, courage. It is a good name for a warrior. I think my father, Byrhthelm (guess what that means!), named me well.

Me: Are you related to anyone famous?

I have connections to Lord Athelstan, Ealdorman of East Anglia, sometimes called half-king because he is second in power only to the king (some would say more powerful!) His wife fosters the younger son of the king; the late king I should say, Edmund died last year, his brother, King Eadred rules now.

Me: How old are you and how do you keep track of passing years?

I was born in the year 930, in the reign of King Athelstan. I had reached the age of seven years when my mother died, and I left my home. I was taken to Winchester to be trained with a group of other boys. That was shortly after the Battle of Brunanburh, when Athelstan defeated all the kings of Dublin, Alba, Strathclyde and a few others. I suppose that would make me close to seventeen years. I am a man, that is all that matters.

(H’mmm. I notice he didn’t tell me how he kept track, but I didn’t dare to probe further. Perhaps that axe at his waist has something to do with it.)

Me: Are you pagan at heart or wholly Christian?

I am a Christian, like most of the inhabitants of this land. Not that I think about it much, I go to church when I have to and complain at Lent and other fasting times – I have a dislike of smoked fish. My friend Wulfstan, who spent time in a monastery, tells me when I break the rules.
Some say that the old gods are better for a warrior to pray to. I know men who do so, it doesn’t bother me.

(Not an ardent Christian, then. Interesting.)

Me: What do you think of women? Should they have equal rights with men?

Don’t ask me about women. They are a complete mystery. I suppose it comes of being brought up in a gang of boys. I met a girl last year, very pretty. She smiled at me, I thought she liked me. I thought she would like me more when I rescued her from the Viking raiders. She didn’t, although that might have been because I nearly drowned her. They say she’s too good for me, perhaps she is; her sister was married to the king - the one who died.
Why can’t she be more like Saewynn? Saewynn was her maid, she travelled with us to rescue her mistress, but they had a falling out and Wulfstan brought her to the village.  I can talk to Saewynn, she’s like one of the lads. She’s good at sewing but, can you believe it, she wants to learn how to fight? She’s not bad at it, so why not let her have a bit of fun, before she grows up to marry and have children. She says she doesn’t want to get married, although the only alternative is to become a nun. I can’t see her as a nun, like my sister, Edith. As a nun she could run a nunnery, or even a monastery; some have more power than men.
Women have some rights, why would they want to be treated the same as men?

(Funnily enough, I’ve often thought that myself.)

Me: Were you taught to read and write?

Of course I was taught to read and write; the monks at Winchester tried to beat it into us. Some absorbed more than others. I can read well enough to understand a letter, and I can write my name. Wulfstan was the best scholar amongst us. Just as well. After he was injured, he was unable to become a warrior. Now he writes down whatever I need.  I understand he sometimes reads whole books, for pleasure. Can you imagine such a thing?

(I’m siding with Wulfstan on this one – and keeping a wary eye on that axe...)

Me: Do you find it difficult to travel the country when they are so few maps?

I don’t have a problem. It’s easy enough to tell North from South, from the sun. It rises in the East – or has that changed by your time? There are roads, the main ones were built by the Romans, many years ago. I have travelled between my home and Winchester sometimes via Lundon, where there is a bridge across the river. In fact, rivers, and the sea make for easier travelling. Most major towns are situated on rivers.
I have been as far west as the Severn river, that was when we were following the trail of those raiders, then I walked through Mercia, before making my way home. I followed the old road called Watling Street, then took a ship back to the Wash.
I spent Christmas at Lord Athelstan’s Hall at Rendlesham. That’s close to the coast and I have sailed from the river nearby. Soon we head north to fight in Northumbria. I hope I go by ship, it’s easier than walking, or even riding.

Me: Do you have a picture of the British Isles in your head?

I know the shape of the land. The monks at Winchester had a map. It was made in the time of King Alfred and copies were sent to other monasteries. We boys were learning to serve the king, to become the advisers of future kings. I studied it carefully, especially the sites of the old battles. We were taught how close we came to being overrun by the Danes who came from the lands to the East and how King Alfred divided the country into two. The kings who came after, took back the lands all the way to the border with the Scots and other barbarians, and even beyond.

I know how difficult it is to protect our land from foreign invaders. The Welch to the west are quiet for now. Beyond is Ireland, where some Norse kings have settled (that’s where those raiders came from!)

Beyond the sea to the south is Frankia and other lands. We are at peace with them, at the moment. King Athelstan married several of his sisters to kings there and monks travel to foreign monasteries, even to Rome. I met someone once who had travelled to Byzantium, I wonder if I will ever go there.

It is the North that interests me. You might ask where in the north, but I cannot answer. My father, the man who named me, left shortly after my birth and never returned. My mother and I thought he must be dead, but I have been told that he still lives. I swore a vow to find him, but where to search? I studied the old map and questioned anyone who had travelled that way. I know there are great mountains and many islands, scattered in turbulent seas. I must go, but my duty to my lord prevents me. Perhaps I will find news of him in Northumbria.

I hope your questions are now at an end as I have better things to do. I see Saewynn glowering at me from the door, I am late for training. That’s if I can move after sitting here so long. If I have missed anything, Wulfstan will help you. He has been scribbling down all my words and indicates he is running out of ink.

Or ask our author. She knows everything: past, present, and even our future. I wish she would tell me if I ever succeed in my quest. All she will say is that I live a long life and will be remembered in a famous poem.

Must go, my throat’s dry, anyone got any ale?
Written at Rendlesham, Easter 947 by Wulfstan, clerk to Thane Byrhtnoth.

   Me: Thank you, sir, for answering me so well. (Quite a character, our Byrhtnoth!)

Now for the books:

Christine Hancock - author.
Bright Sword, The Byrhtnoth Chronicles, Book 1
               
Bright Axe, The Byrhtnoth Chronicles, Book 2
Ebook: https://tinyurl.com/y5w2k3pq               
Paperback: https://tinyurl.com/y5w2k3pq

Would you believe Byrhtnoth has his own website? I imagine Wulfstan must have laboured long hours over it, so please take a look. 

Not content with a website, he (or Wulfstan) is on Twitter and Facebook!
Twitter @youngbyrhtnoth 

Saturday, 1 June 2019

Interview my Character Blog Hop

Something exciting is happening this summer!


Wednesday 5 June Jen Black  interviews courageous, Byrhtnoth, of the Byrhtnoth Chronicles by Christine Hancock
Saturday 8 June – Sharon Bennett Connolly interviews wild and beautiful, Eleanor Elder, heroine of the Rebels & Brothers series
Saturday 15 June Lynn Bryant http://www.lynnbryant.co.uk/blog/Interviews handsome, adventurous Matho Spirston of Jen Black’s The Scottish Queen trilogy
Wednesday 19 June Judith Arnopp http://juditharnoppnovelist.blogspot.com/ interviews the intriguing, fiercely ambitious, Edward Seymour of the Seymour Saga series by Janet Wertman
Saturday 22 June Derek Birks https://dodgingarrows.wordpress.com/ interviews the courageously defiant Nicholaa de Haye of Sharon Connolly’s Medieval Heroines
Monday 24 June Vanessa Couchman https://vanessacouchmanwriter.com interviews the wily, intrepid Saxon in a Norman’s World, Wimer, from Sherrif & Priest, by Nicky Moxey
Wednesday 26 June Nancy Jardine https://nancyjardine.blogspot.com interviews Paul van Daan, Lynn Bryant’s gorgeous young officer from The Peninsular War Saga
Saturday 29 June Stephanie Churchill https://www.stephaniechurchillauthor.com/ interviews Marie Therese, talented singer of Vanessa Couchman’s historical novel, Overture
Monday 1 July Christine Hancock https://byrhtnoth.com/Interviews Wulfhere,  flawed but heroic thegn of Horstede from Paula Lofting’s Sons of the Wolf series
Wednesday 3 July Paula Lofting http://www.paulaloftinghistoricalnovelist.wordpress.com interviews the conflicted, yet honourable, Prince of Agrius, Casmir, from Stephanie Churchill’s Crowns of Destiny trilogy
Saturday 6 July Nicky Moxey https://nickymoxey.com/ interviews General Gnaeus Iulius Agricola, determined soldier from Agricola’s Bane, Book 4 of the histfic saga – Celtic Fervour by Nancy Jardine
Monday 8 July Janet Wertman https://janetwertman.com/interviews steadfast and resilient Margaret Pole from Faithful Traitor by Samantha Wilcoxson
Wednesday 10 July Sarah Dahl https://sarahdahl.com/blogposts/ Interviews Geoffrey de Mortagne, a man torn between an oath and his duty, in Cathie Dunn’s Dark Deceit
Saturday 13 July Alex Marchant https://alexmarchantblog.wordpress.com/ interviews Joanie Toogood, the rough, tough, but kind-hearted street girl from Judith Arnopp’s The Winchester Goose
Monday 15 July Samantha Wilcoxson http://samanthawilcoxson.blogspot.com interviews the tormented and conflicted Munro from Turn of the Tide and the Munro Scottish Saga by Margaret Skea
Wednesday 17 July Cathie Dunn https://cathiedunn.blogspot.comInterviews Aldaith, the long-haired, muscular Viking Warrior from Sarah Dahl’s Viking saga The Current, Bonds, and Battles
Saturday 20 July Margaret Skea http://www.margaretskea.cominterviews Alex Marchant’s young loyal page to Richard III, Matthew Wansford, in The Order of the White Boar series

It is finally coming together.
What happens?
On 5th June I am going to interview a character created by author Christine Hancock. His name is Byrhtnoth. 

Tuesday, 28 May 2019

Social Media: is it any good?


Sometimes I think I waste my time on pointless social media activity when I could be writing more of the next story. But then I think I need Facebook and Twitter 'cos my readers are there. How else will they ever get to know about me? Without paying out good money I don’t know any other way to grow a readership for my blog and books, and paying out goes against the grain. If I were 25 and had a whole career ahead of me, then spending hard-earned money on promotion would be a good idea. But I’m not 25, so it isn’t.
(Note to self: read Chris Syme’s post: “Taming the Social Media Beast.”)
Social media is often useful. How else would I know the single dads and lonely widowers that proliferate on Facebook are scammers doing what is known as “catfishing?”
OTOH, the constant stream of words can get irritating, and that is a good time to take a break from both Fb and Twitter. I know I’ll drift back, but the rest does me good, and I get more writing done. And see more of my other half!
If readers want to friend me, I welcome them, but I don’t beg for “likes.” Authors often send out requests for me to like their page or book or whatever, but if the person and their work is unknown to me, then I don’t respond. If I have read the author and truly like their books, then I do.
“50 people who love your books and tell their friends about them are worth a whole lot more than 500,000 fake followers somebody bought from a click farm in Bangladesh.” (Until I read Anne Allan’s blog, which I dip into every now and then, I never knew about click farms anywhere.)
I often doubt that social media is any good for selling books. Endless “buy my book” Tweets, or repeated quotes from your books do not sell books anymore. I’ve often read that my social media should be 20% marketing and 80% interesting, friendly stuff that’s useful to my readers. So I try sharing funny memes, inspirational author quotes, and pics of my dog Tim; I’ve shared grammar jokes, tales of my hols in rural France, and pics of Aidan Turner and Rafa, but I’ve no way of knowing how much good it does me.
I’m told that if you Tweet that a book is free or on sale, people notice. I once had 19,000 plus downloads on a free book, but that was back in 2012, and I don’t think that sort of rush happens anymore. But maybe I shall try it and see what happens. I must admit it is a while since I tried a "free" week.


Sunday, 19 May 2019

How to handle the transition

Some time ago now I discovered Psychic Distance and mentioned it on this blog. Now I've begun a new story and I find I keep rethinking who is telling the story. Is it him? Or is it her? I still haven't truly decided, and that makes my Psychic Distance hard to evaluate. 

The heroine is proving hard to pin down, whereas the hero keeps dashing about and is really in the action. I'm also wondering if PD  can or should change with the character. I like the idea that I can go really deep with the hero/heroine but don't want to do that with every character. My initial feeling is that secondary characters can be less deep. But does the reader agree? 

I think that when the secondary character is doing or thinking something really pivotal to the character or the plot, they should be given extra prominence and then sink back to being,  well, secondary again, in the same way we don't mention all the boring detail of getting from one physical location to another - unless it is of vital importance.

The thing is, that this sometimes makes me want to change POV characters and that leads to the thought that the trick with all this is moving graciously from one character to another. I don't always want to end a chapter or have a total scene break, so how to handle the transition? Don't want to be accused of the dreaded "head-hopping!" 

If I go straight from the hero's thoughts to the heroine's,  without a scene break of any kind, I sometimes confuse myself when I read the chapter back, so it is more than likely confuse the reader. But there must be a way of doing it successfully. I wonder - if I can come out of the hero's deep thoughts and let him observe the heroine's actions and possibly guess her thoughts; would that work? If I do it with care to signpost the way, surely it is feasible?

Travelling from  the hero's thoughts and feelings to what he does takes us from him; then a comment on the heroine that might or might not be his takes us a little further. Perhaps then attention will shift to the heroine and we will learn something about her from John, but not from her. Then something the heroine knows, but the hero cannot know because we have finally stepped out of his mind. Now we are in her mind, and the next move is to give us her thoughts and feelings about what is happening. Obviously, in practice this would follow a more gentle progression from one character to the other, but basically ..... it should work, don't you think?
x

Friday, 17 May 2019

Which is the real me?


Victorian and regency romances, Tudor and Viking adventures – do they all sit happily together? I’ve been wondering that for some time. Which is my favourite? That would be whichever one I’m writing at the time. Which is closest to the real me? I cannot say but I think they all reflect part of me. If I could only write one, which would I choose? A dreadful question and happily one I do not have to answer!

In the greater scheme of things, does it matter? Not to me, but I wonder sometimes if it puts off readers. If they think I read soft romances, will an adventure story be up to the mark? You can turn that on its head for the other side of the coin. I think it can be done. Not by everyone, perhaps, because some people are only happy in one genre.

Crossing or writing in different genres certainly means more research, but I’m one of those people who finds research as much a pleasure as writing. Sometimes more so, because it is most rewarding to find something you’ve been searching for and struggled to find.

The other thing is that switching between time periods and genres prevents staleness. If I find the edge (of interest and enthusiasm) sliding down the slippery slope, then it might be time to consider writing an adventure rather than a romance. Then interest levels perk right back up, because it all seems so new.

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Good for him, good for me

It must be all the good weather that is making Facebook and Twitter so quiet. So many things to distract! I am watching the clay court tennis season and working hard on a new book - another Viking story set in Stornoway. So I am not putting anything much on Fb apart from a few pics I have taken recently.

The new book is layering up nicely. My plan for it was sketchy at the start but a fortnight and 13k words in and it is taking shape. If only I knew how it would end!

The weather has turned hot again, so I am walking Tim early in the morning when it is still cool. Good for him, and good for me. Makes for a longer day, and a chance to get much more done. Our garden is colouring up  with everything coming into flower. I haven't planned it, but we seem to have an early summer garden; probably comes of darting off to France in the middle of summer. After the end of July it is a case of restoring order and cutting things back after the riot of growth.

I'd like to get as much done as I can before we do go away. I'd also like to do another Mailchimp mail shot, but am wary because I have forgotten how to do it. I'm not sure it did any good anyway, but then, how would I know?

These are the opening lines of the new book:

Fritha learned to sew, cook and look after livestock before she was ten years old not because she wanted to but because she had to when her mother died birthing the youngest child. 

Maybe I shall add more in later posts. What is it famous authors do? Add lines of the day? Yes, maybe I shall do it too. If I remember, that is.




Saturday, 4 May 2019

Notes to self on Show and Tell

Show and Tell.
Showing is walking in the footsteps of the heroine, seeing what she sees, etc etc.
But how far should this go?
I read quantities of books that don't particularly use show at all.
I keep getting comments that say I should show more. Is it some glib comment tossed around for the sake of something to say? Can a book be written in nothing else but show? Is it ever useful? Are there times when it is not useful? I decided to do some research and came up with this article first time of asking - 

https://jerryjenkins.com/show-dont-tell/

I don't know who  he is, but his explanation is good and clear, so I will keep it to refer to to when the clouds of confusion set in. 

This is what he says: 
When you tell rather than show, you simply inform your reader of information rather than allowing him to deduce anything.
You’re supplying information by simply stating it. You might report that a character is “tall,” or “angry,” or “cold,” or “tired.”
That’s telling.
Showing would paint a picture the reader could see in her mind’s eye.
If your character is tall, your reader can deduce that because you mention others looking up when they talk with him. Or he has to duck to get through a door. Or when posing for a photo, he has to bend his knees to keep his head in proximity of others.
Rather than telling that your character is angry, show it by describing his face flushing, his throat tightening, his voice rising, his slamming a fist on the table. When you show, you don’t have to tell.
Cold? Your character pulls her collar up, tightens her scarf, shoves her hands deep into her pockets, turns her face away from the biting wind.
Tired? He can yawn, groan, stretch. His eyes can look puffy. His shoulders could slump. Another character might say, “Didn’t you sleep last night? You look shot.”
When you show rather than tell, you make the reader part of the experience. Rather than having everything simply imparted to him, he sees it in his mind and comes to the conclusions you want.
What could be better than engaging your reader—giving him an active role in the storytelling—or should I say the story-showing?
Examples
Telling: When they embraced she could tell he had been smoking and was scared.
Showing: When she wrapped her arms around him, the sweet staleness of tobacco enveloped her, and he was shivering.
Telling: The temperature fell and the ice reflected the sun.
Showing: Bill’s nose burned in the frigid air, and he squinted against the sun
reflecting off the street.
Telling: Suzie was blind.
Showing: Suzie felt for the bench with a white cane.
Telling: It was late fall.
Showing: Leaves crunched beneath his feet.
Telling: She was a plumber and asked where the bathroom was.
Showing: She wore coveralls carried a plunger and metal toolbox, and wrenches of various sizes hung from a leather belt around her waist. “Point me to the head,” she said.
Telling: I had a great conversation with Tim over dinner and loved hearing his stories.
Showing: I barely touched my food, riveted by Tim. “Let me tell you another story,” he said.
Yes, it’s a mistake to take show, don’t tell as inviolable. While summary narrative is largely frowned upon, sometimes it’s a prudent choice. If there’s no value to the plot/tension/conflict/character arc by showing some mundane but necessary information, telling is preferable.
For instance, say you have to get your character to an important meeting and back, before the real action happens. Maybe he has to get clearance from his superiors before he can lead a secret raid.
Rather than investing several pages showing every aspect of the trip from packing, dressing, getting a cab to the airport, going through security, boarding the plane, arriving at his destination—you quickly tell that this way:
Three days later, after a trip to Washington to get the operation sanctioned by his superiors, Casey packed his weapons and camo clothes and set out to recruit his crew.
Then you immediately return to showing mode, describing his visits to trusted compatriots and getting them on board.


Thursday, 25 April 2019

Only dimwits forget the market

Every so often I trawl through my documents file and get rid of stuff I don't need any more. Sometimes I find little gems - here's one, written a long time ago by Stephen King. I've shortened it a good deal  but you can find the original if you google it. The comments in italics are mine


Tips for writing from Stephen King
Type. Double-space. Use a nice heavy white paper. (I wonder if he does the equivalent on a computer?)
Be self-critical. (Sometimes I think I'm too self-critical)

Remove every extraneous word. (And by do they creep in....)
You want to write for money? Get to the point. And if you remove all the excess garbage and discover you can’t find the point, tear up what you wrote and start all over again . . . or try something new. 
Never look at a reference book while doing a first draft
When you sit down to write, write. Don’t do anything else except go to the bathroom, and only do that if it absolutely cannot be put off. 
Know the markets
Only a dimwit would send a tender story about a mother and daughter making up their differences on Christmas Eve to Playboy … but people do it all the time. If you write a good story, why send it out in an ignorant fashion? Would you send your kid out in a snowstorm dressed in Bermuda shorts and a tank top?
Write to entertain
Somewhere along the line pernicious critics have invested the American reading and writing public with the idea that entertaining fiction and serious ideas do not overlap. This would have surprised Charles Dickens, not to mention Jane Austen, John Steinbeck, William Faulkner, Bernard Malamud, and hundreds of others. But your serious ideas must always serve your story, not the other way around. (I think serious ideas survive in the UK fiction. Not that they are always an entertaining read.)
Ask yourself frequently, “Am I having fun?”
The answer needn’t always be yes. But if it’s always no, it’s time for a new project or a new career.
How to evaluate criticism
It doesn’t matter if you really liked that twist of that character; if a lot of people are telling you something is wrong with your piece, it is. If seven or eight of them are hitting on that same thing, I’d still suggest changing it. But if everyone – or even most everyone – is criticizing something different, you can safely disregard what all of them say.
An agent? Forget it. For now
Flog your stories around yourself. If you’ve done a novel, send around query letters to publishers, one by one, and follow up with sample chapters and/or the manuscript complete. And remember Stephen King’s First Rule of Writers and Agents, learned by bitter personal experience: You don’t need one until you’re making enough for someone to steal … and if you’re making that much, you’ll be able to take your pick of good agents.
If it’s bad, kill it
When it comes to people, mercy killing is against the law. When it comes to fiction, it is the law.


Thursday, 18 April 2019

An Ethnic Enigma


An Ethnic Enigma – Norse, Pict and Gael in the Western Isles Andrew Jennings and Arne Kruse
Introduction
What happened to the native people of the islands of Scotland when the Vikings appeared over the horizon? Were the men killed and the womenfolk bundled on to the ships, leaving the land empty and ripe for resettlement? Or did they survive the Viking visitation living alongside the newcomers and ultimately blending with them? There is still no consensus about which scenario best approximates to the truth, despite it being, for many decades, a topic of debate between scholars.

Busy doing my research - mugging up on facts about Viking life in the years around the first millennium. The above paragraph about sums up the position, but of course, people taken their own  and argue the hind leg off a donkey, as we used to say, to preserve their viewpoint. I haven't decided on my stance yet, but it is always good to know the parameters of an argument. In the Viking  books I've written so far - Far After Gold, Viking Summer and Magician's Bride  and of course Alba is Mine,I haven't really had to make a decision, but I have a niggling feeling I might have to this time. 

Tuesday, 16 April 2019

Is Ted H innocent?

Four daffodils still flower my garden, and soon they too will be gone. They were glorious in the sunshine. My one tulip is still a tight bud. (Every year I swear I will buy more to keep it company, and each year I leave it too late...)

I have one question about Line of Duty. If Ted H is innocent, why is he rushing his computer into a dodgy-looking shop that advertises erasure of pcs? Well, no, there is another question - what is he doing sleeping with the Bigelow creature? She is toxic all the way through.

The writer is doing an excellent even-handed job of making us think Ted is guilty and then thinking Bigelow and the insurance man Moffat are trying to frame him. One has to keep watching to see which will prove correct! If I'm right that two people are trying to frame him, then Ted must be innocent or why would they try?

But what about that computer? He  doesn't want his financial details known? or that he is facing divorce? Realises he is under threat and wants his private family life kept private? If so, he is too late because that man with the accent I can hardly make out has already discovered where his wife lives. John is a man under pressure, and about to crack. I thought he was about to shoot himself, and what a pity he didn't. One thing I notice: Steve Arnott is being sidelined to some extent. Except for saying S**t at regular intervals, Kate isn't doing much with her new promotion.


Monday, 8 April 2019

Binge tv

Never thought I'd say this but I've just binge-watched Line of Duty series 1-4. Three episodes per night was more than enough for my brain to keep up with, but tonight we reached the end of series 4. Now it is on to I-player and then the real live episode 5.

I remember the Steve Arnott character (Martin Crompton?sp) as the teenage chef late in the series of Monarch of the Glen. He hasn't changed much except his face might be a little chunkier. Then he was a cheeky chappy, but now I like his intensity in this production.

Watching has stopped me getting on with my editing and partaking in much chatting on Facebook. It has also stopped me promoting my books!

I am "attending" a webinar on Thursday night in the hope of learning better ways to promote. Does one "attend" a webinar? I don't know, but I've booked my place. I'll let you know what happens.


Sunday, 31 March 2019

Not a happy time

Frogspawn is in our mini pond again this year. Several weeks later than our next door neighbour - but then his pond is much larger and I think that is where the local stud frog resides most of the time. Some of the trees have greened up nicely this week, hawthorn, gorse  and some of the fruiting wild cherries are in bloom and I've planted out some primroses and Dianthus - so now the weather forecasts are predicting frost this evening. I hope they all withstand the sudden cold.

I wouldn't want to be a police officer these days; not that I ever did. The tv shows such ugly scenes with enraged people yelling at each other that the officers must feel their lives are in danger every time they show up for work.

I keep thinking of the research with rats that claims the creatures will live peaceably together in one habitat until numbers increase beyond an invisible line and suddenly they start squabbling with each other because they are overcrowded. Not that people are rats; but put too many people together in one place....with nowhere to go....is it a possibility? I hope not.

Developers put up netting to prevent birds nesting and presumably they think the birds can go elsewhere. Have they looked around them these days? Everywhere green spaces are being built on and the poor creatures have nowhere to live. I'm looking at my garden wondering if i can make it more bird friendly.


Friday, 22 March 2019

Do you talk like a character in a book?

Blossom is early in 2019
This interview with Phillippa Gregory interested me. She's talking about language in her books:

"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."

Some authors do attempt language as they thought it was spoken. Patricia Finney is one of them. I once tried her book  Firedrake's Eye, but didn't get very far with it. More of a struggle than a pleasure in my view, but of course, others love it. She "endows her players with a rich language--essentially modern English lightly laced with fanciful syntax and Elizabethan vocabulary."

On Nov 26, 2003 Roz Kaveney wrote in the Telegraph : "The books' language is a triumph. Finney finds a workable compromise between anachronistic slanginess and a verbose rhodomontade that would probably more accurately represent much of Elizabethan speech."

Now rhodomontade is not in my trusty dictionary, but rhodo means rose coloured. However, the internet tells me it means "pretentiously boastful or bragging." Still, it doesn't tempt me to go find the book and read it. Would you?