Showing posts from 2007

Guest blogging I'm blogging over at the address above this week, so pop over and have a look. It's all about the "behind the scenes" aspects of writing.


Here's a wintery picture for you, taken a few days ago on one of our walks south of Stocksfield. The frost has relented a little since then, but it is still cold. Now it is damp, too. Personally I'd rather have the frost. How many of you are on LinkedIn? Here It began in 2002-ish and it is aimed at professional people. My daughter-in-law put me on to it, but to be honest I found the initial page difficult to complete since I am no longer working for a living. It is also hard to find anyone else connected to the writing world. It seems that writers don't consider themselves to be a business, which is a shame. Perhaps I should start spreading the word! Less than a week to Christmas, and as usual everyone is scurrying around Getting Ready for Christmas. Lots of time for writing, I tell myself. And I have been good. I did my quota today and I will critique Rosemary's chapter just as soon as the effects of the cava we had with dinner wear off. Well, you have to get into t


I read, courtesy of Donna Alwards blog, that there is an article in the Spectator on writing, so I flicked through to read it. You can check it out Here The article claims that authors of bestsellers write because they are driven to write by Passion. On the whole, I have no argument with that. Well, a little quibble, maybe. Because, of course, bestselling authors do not always write books of the same quality, but they may well have written them with the same passion. Dan Brown is a case in point. So is Harold Robbins, James Clavell. I don't know if J K Rowling wrote with passion, but she certainly wrote with dedication. Some of the best bestsellers have been one-offs, like Gone with the Wind, Forever Amber or To Kill a Mocking Bird, (Stops to wonder if either of them were bestsellers of their time - probably not) which would argue that the passion was of short duration. It also seems to me that without dedication and sheer dogged persistance, passion is as nought. Time is vital


The first line of a well known poem springs to mind - "season of mist and mellow fruitfullness..." But really, this is not autumn, this is winter. The hard frost continues. The ground is like iron, the puddles remain frozen into inch thick slabs of ice and yet is is beautiful. We went for a walk and made sure we stayed in the sunshine as much as we could. We are running a bird-feeding station in our back garden. One beautiful little finch arrived on a twig as we looked out of the kitchen window, and a minute later, fell to the ground. The crow who stands guard over the garden flew down, plucked it and ate it. It would be still warm. Life is hard for birds when the weather is like this. I don't know how they survive the long, cold nights. My favourite Gethin is out of Strictly . I reckon Matt got in on a sympathy vote. Fancy voting for the boy and letting the man go. It's a bit like the Robin-Guy of Guisborne argument. It might have worked better if Gethin had not be

Oddities of writing

I'm up to 20,000 words and already I'm altering the synopsis to keep up with the way the story is going. Is this bad? I don't know. I read on a lot of blogs that authors use ennegrams, horoscopes and strict character analysis prior to starting a work while others just sit down at their computer and think, "Let's see what happens today." Some say you have to know your character in detail before you begin, because they drive the story. I agree with the second half of the sentence, but not necessarily with the first. I start with a rough outline in my mind of where the story will go and who the characters are, but beyond that, they (and I) discover each other as we go along. Hence the changes in the synopsis. Sometimes the characters just don't react the way I thought they would, and rather than force them into a mould they obviously don't want to go, I feel happier bending the synopsis around them. The changes are not huge. The goal will still be met; bu

Bits and Bobs

I know I said I thought Letitia Dean woud depart Strictly last week, but I was only a week out. She went on Saturday night because Matt, who mucked everything up, got the sympathy vote. He forgot the routine halfway through in both dances. Gethin was terrific again. My new wip has reached Chapter Five in 17,000 words. Not bad. I got to thinking how many stories I've actually written, and it sounds good until I confess not all are published. Banners and Dark Pool are, of course; Shadows was, suffered a hiccup and is on offer again. The Viking story is still on offer as a full ms with HM&B, the Victorian story as a partial with them. My Tudor story is going through the critique group, and the new one is set somewhere around 1800 so I'll call it a Regency . So I'm on with my seventh. Oh, and I forgot the Canadian one , which is on offer with PsF. So that makes eight. Amazing. Now all I need to do is sell some of them, or even better, all of them. Tonight is is goi


I've been out walking most afternoons this week and found it rewarding. Not only did I sleep better, but found these two cuties peering over (or through, if you're not as tall as your friend) the gate. The weather was bright and blustery - so much so that on Thursday I was all but blown back up the hill home! The land rises about 90 metres from the river bank to the town in a distance of about in 1000 metres. Or put another way, 292 feet in two thirds of a mile. Either way, it is along haul going up, and a breeze going down. Each day the river was different. We explored where the Whittle Dene joins the Tyne, and traced it north. One day we saw five living salmon and three dead. The other days the numbers had changed, and the last day we saw only dead fish. I think it is so sad that once they've struggled all the way back to their home river to spawn, most of them die. Since the Tyne is the best salmon fishing river in England, I should take more notice of what goes on. Perh

Romance fiction

If you click here, you'll see a diatribe about HM&B fiction in no less a newspaper than the Guardian. It is written by a professional journalist who is content to base her views on research done 15 years ago. What kind of research does the Guardian put up with from its people? 15 years is a long, long time. If this is the best she can do, I think the Guardian should quietly pension her off. From the written list of her professional interests, she seems to have made a career out of writing about sex, but I don't feel this qualifies her to write about romantic fiction. I wasn't reading the HM&B 15 years ago, and I'm still not reading the single line she chooses to discuss. (Presents) My tastes run to Historical, and the titles I choose to read to day have nothing in common with the titles she talks about. Someone should take her aside and tell her what research really, really means. She obviously doesn't know, poor thing.

Submissions and writing

I finished my latest story just before I went off to Cyprus and now it is going through a critique group. Comments on the first chapter were favourable, which is a good sign. I find this group most helpful and I learn a good deal by reading their work. Let's hope they stay with me to the end. I've already begun a new tale. This time I've deliberately made my heroine older and already a widow. Not that it makes her old, or even what we would call mature these days. But by the standards of the early 1800s, she was no longer considered a girl at 26. It will be an interesting exercise, as most all of my other heroines have been exceedingly young. I checked up on my submissions this morning. Samhain took 7 weeks to reject with this: "liked the premise of your plot and felt your writing was strong, unfortunately I did not feel sufficiently compelled by the storyline and the characters to offer a contract." I'm still musing that one over. Perhaps I make my young


I don't have any pics to offer of the Kykkos monastery , so click on this link and enjoy: Though I have been told and read that that Makarios was born there, or studied there, I cannot confirm those facts, but he is certainly buried there! I can't think of the word for monks - do they study, serve their time, enter the monastery? There's proably a simple word to cover their training and I can't think of it today. After reading Michelle's blog, I decided to watch Robin Hood on tv and I must agree that the actor who plays Guy of Guisborne is so much better than the actor who plays Robin. He does not have the stature of a hero at all, and his hair! Is it a wig? Is he bald already? That sounds cruel, but as a hairstyle - they should fire the hairdresser. I can't deny the actor is portraying a determined and well meaning young man, probably clever, certainly brave - but for sheer presence and acting

Golf balls

The trees have grown taller since I was in Cyprus a good few years ago, so this set of golf balls on the top of the Troodos mountains are not so obvious now as they once were. At 6,500 feet up they should have a good range at whatever it is they do. The temperature change when driving from the coast to this spot is very noticeable. It was summer when I was last there, and the coolness was a welcome change from the hot, burning heat of the coast. This time, at the beginning of winter, I was glad I had remembered to take a pure wool sweater - and I wore it long before we got to the top. I would not like to be there when the sun goes down. In fact, it was the lack of sunshine that spoiled our visit to the Greek Orthodox Kykkos monastery. It is filled with mosaic wall pictures, many done in the late eighties, using gold leaf that glitters and glistens in the sunshine. I thought it was the most amazing place and persuaded dh to make the trip, but when we got there, the sun disappeared, it w

An award!

Two bits of news before I go back to thinking about Cyprus. First of all I'm up for an award for Dark Pool on one of the review sites. Here's the url so you can have a peek and vote for me! Secondly, I hope to join in a fun-filled online discussion on Saturday 1st December. Treat yourself to tantalising excerpts from Anne Sole and M C Halliday, Savannah Chase, Sloane Taylor and Jen Black, Jess Dee and Tess MacKall. Prizes galore, and it runs all day. See you there!

Brrr it's cold!

We missed the three days of storms and had a glorious week of temperatures around 24 degrees. To be honest, the night we arrived was full of thunder, lightning and torrential rain and we wondered if we'd done the right thing in arriving so late in the season. Next day however, the sun chased the clouds away out over the Med and from then on it got steadily warmer and brighter. We hired a car on Wednesday and toured down the west coast to Limassol, stopping off at Aphrodite's Birthplace on the way. The white cliffs and the turquoise sea are stunning on a sunny day. From Limassol we toured up into the Troodos mountains hoping we could find Kykko Monastery, reputed the be the richest in Cyprus, and where Archbishop Makarios is buried. We did, and found the place strangely oppressive. More on that tomorrow, when I dig the pics out. We crossed over the hump on the way, driving into and out of the snow line and goggling at the weird golf balls perched all over hilltops in Cyprus. Hug


We're off on holiday again - Cyprus this time. The temperatures should be a little warmer than the 7 or 8 degrees we have here, and I hope we'll see a little sunshine instead of the horrible grey murk and rain that hangs over the north east today. However, it won't be all fun and games. I've printed out the first two pages of the wip, and I'm packing those, a notebook and a pen. I should make some progress with the rest of chapter one before I get back, and I'm taking Georgiana D of D and Pride and Prejudice with me as reading material. How's that for dedication? Only a week this time. I've been to Paphos once before, but it was a long time ago and it will be interesting to see how much the place has changed. The downside is I shall have to get up very early, and I shall miss Cranford part 2, and Strictly Come Dancing ! I'm not daft enough to phone in and vote on SCD, but I do like watching the amazing, intricate things they do. The energy levels

A new beginning

Started reading about the Duchess of Devonshire today. I guess I've also started the ball rolling on the next epic. I roughed out a plan yesterday and filled in some detail today - checking for names appropriate to the time period, adding motivation where it needs to go, thinking out the relative back stories of the two protagonists and what the main bone of contention between them is going to be. I think my critique partner would say that was the most important thing of all! She's most concerned that my stories have a Spine. The Regency is not a period I've studied, so on Lynne Connolly's recommendation I've ordered The Reign of George III by Steven Watson from an online book supplier. I remember those pale blue covers with the dull red border from my days in libraries - a whole sequence of thick books covering every time period from 400AD right up to the present day. Now I want one, of course, they're out of fashion and rarer than hen's teeth in my loca


Today is the day the UK goes mad and gives money away left, right and centre. Last year they raised 33million for children. This year they want to better that figure. On the Terry Wogan Show Radio 2 (yes, I still listen!) listeners were phoning in and almost throwing money into the pot. One tempting offer was to attend the British Grand Prix, meet the driver of your choice, meet the team, see the workshops, sit in the car, all the sort of stuff petrolheads adore, champagne lunch - the bidding went to £100,000. Gulp. Two 6-course meals at the Sharrow Bay Hotel on Windermere plus a trip on the lake and a big Audi to drive - I think that went for £30,000. Have lunch with Terry Wogan and Roger Moore - you've got to be olver fifty to know who they are! The last I hear that was £70,000. Now I feel cosily secluded from the madness. The closest it encroaches is the Pudsey van parked right across the street from my home. No doubt Paul will be out in the cold with the BBC tonight while I st


Celebrate! At the auction this morning , Siren Publishing bought the Triskelion Contracts on the list to be auctioned, along with the publishing software for a total of $1,500.00. Loose Id was there, too, but they bid only on the contracts (not the software) and offered $750.00. According to the press release issued by Siren Publishing , they intend to immediately release all these contracts back to the authors, no strings attached, as a publicity stunt to give them exposure. They deserve all the publicity they can get for this generous act. I have to admit I don't know Siren, so I'm on my way over there to have a look right now. This is the url -

A good day for an auction

My book arrived from today. Perfect new paperback all the way from Jersey. I ordered it Sunday, and it arrived second class post today. I am well pleased, and I can now return the library copy and let someone else enjoy it. Today is auction day for the Triskelion author contracts. A strange business, but one I hope will soon be over. Evidently more e-publishers have closed in the last couple of weeks and I have to admit I'm wary of going the e-route again. Two closures out of two e-publishers does not exactly inspire me with confidence to go for a third. I'm mulling over my next direction, writing-wise, and fell across Streatlam Castle . Not literally, of course. Built in 1718 on the site of a fifteenth century castle, it was demolished in 1927, and then, incredibly, blown up by the Territorial Army as an exercise in 1959. Hard to believe that it was allowed to happen, even if it was a ruin by then. When I found it was only 3 miles from Barnard Castle, I must have d


Left the computer to its own devices and nicked out for the whole day yesterday! Prowled round the outlet centre at Royal Quays, then down to the Fish Quay at North Shields for fish and chips at Kristian's - scrumptious, eaten in the open air, watching the boats on the river. Then on to Tynemouth and a walk along the sands. It was a gorgeous sunny day, but cold. The air was crisp and clear and the waves rolling in were high and spumy. Half a dozen brave souls were surfing. We watched the waves topping the breakwater at Tynemouth and crashing over it until we got too cold, and then walked on. Finally, to the Metrocentre, where I bought a new coat. All in all, a good day. We didn't take the camera, though, so no pics.
I’ve been reading the Victorian House by Judith Flanders . I first got hold of it because I wanted to check when candles gave way to gas light and gas light gave way to electricity. I found the answers I wanted, but got totally sidetracked along the way with everything else. Fascinating details. I’ve ordered a copy from – the site advertises “no delivery charges” and await its arrival with interest. Amazon charge £6.99 against at £7.49 – but then Amazon has a standard delivery charge which last time I checked was more than 50 pence! Also, the last time I used Amazon I had to wait ages and ages for delivery. I hate waiting - for anything! I avoid queues, would rather go without than wait in a queue.

Back to normal routine

My Victorian tale is coming to a close with the critique group so on Monday I began at Chapter One checking for errors and inconsistencies. Believe me, I found them. I also did a bit of re-writing. Some sentences just look so clutzy that I couldn't stop myself tearing them apart and rebuilding them in a simpler format. Sometimes I got muddled between gas and electric lighting, or days and dates. I'm up to Chapter Nine, so only another nine to go. Sigh. I still have the last few scenes of the latest tale to write for the first time, but it is almost a done deal, and I don't have any worries about it. I'm keen to get on with something new, something in a different period. I do wonder if I should try a regency, but it is hard to think up an angle that hasn't been done already. Still no word on the Viking story, still no word on the Victorian and still no word from People's Friend. The whole publishing world is silent.
French food has quite a reputation. I’m not known among my circle of friends as a food critic, but I find eating in France interesting. I hate their habit of not eating until 7pm at the earliest, by which time I’m usually ready to take a chunk out of the table, and of allowing cats to sit on white table cloths whilst you eat. (My dh chased it, upon which it looked outraged, gave him a filthy look and prowled off to find a more amiable patron.) I like their habit of eating outside in the sunshine, of taking time over a meal and rarely, if ever, pressuring a customer to move on and free a table for the next customer. I also love (most of) their crème brûlees. I think of possibly 80, only two have been less than good. It isn’t that I think their chefs are better than English chefs though they do seem to have more of the good ones than we do. But we’re getting there. French customers seem to have higher expectations than we do, and they are not slow to make their views known. Their produce


Bordeaux... was a surprise. We expected a seedy, industrial port like Marseille, but instead found a gracious city on the banks of the Garonne with Roman remains, medieval churches and broad streets lined with tall 18th century buildings. We hadn’t looked it up in any guide books, so we knew little about it. We got some idea of its size on the motorway approach and began to quake about driving into the capital of Aquitaine. Then we remembered that the French are very good at directions for Centre Ville and providing huge underground car parks for when you get there, and relaxed a little. The river is huge. It makes the Tyne look like a brook, and at the end of the bridge, the road led up the hill through towering old buildings. Um, we said, looking around. This is nice. We went with the traffic flow through a huge archway that made me think of Aosta’s Roman remains, avoided the road works, missed the first car park sign and caught the second but missed the entrance. Round the square w

Autumn in France

We set off for France in high spirits on 4th October. We did it the leisurely way by driving down with one night in Folkstone, one night in Tours and arrived midday Saturday at the Mill in bright sunshine. It was warm, too, with the trees still green and only the merest hint of orange here and there. Sunday was a surprise. Gunfire woke us early in the morning when it was barely light. Bill looked out of the window while I stayed snug and warm in bed - "there's a deer running over the field." A moment later, "there's dog chasing it." "It must be la Chasse ," I groaned. We remembered that the rural French are still hunters at heart. The crack and bang of gunshot sounded all morning, sometimes so close that we thought it wiser not to venture outide. We've been told that the hunters shoot more huntsmen than they do game, but even so....discretion, and all that. We passed a small group of three or four as we drove off to LeClerc's for food, and

The real me!

I arrived back home 1am Wednesday after travelling without stopping since 4.45am on Tuesday - that's driving the Honda and crossing Calais-Dover by ferry. Twenty one hours at full tilt. Needless to say I'm absolutely cream-crackered today. I'm not going to attempt to do anything here tonight except to say the piece I did for Romance Junkies way back in July is up today, which is excellent timing. You should find it on this link: Lots to come tomorrow!


I have spent some time rejigging the chapters in my wip. This comes about because of poor planning and starting work too soon, I suppose. I knew when I wrote it that the Black Moment should come later in the story, but I was just so keen to write now I pay the price. Chapter Four has become Chapter Ten and everything else has moved up and into place. That wasn't too much trouble - Thank the Good Lord for Computers - but then I had to go through and check and change the odd phrase that no longer made any sense. It's taken time, but I think I'm back on track. I have a goal, I've completed 49k and I also have a stronger, more sensible storyline. So now it is time to pack it all up in a haversack and take off for France. Odd time of year, but interesting. I'm packing warm clothes instead of skimpy tops, for the weather there varies, as it does here, between hot sunshine and miserable dank grey days. The nights, though, are uniformly cold. I have packed warm fl

Romance publishing

I journeyed to Alnwick today to visit with the Border Reivers group of the RNA. Great fun. I whizzed through the glorious autumn countryside in the Mini Cooper and enjoyed every moment of the hour and a quarter it took me to get there, possibly because I travel on back roads, not A -roads. Not for me the long straight boring stretches of tarmacadam - I opt for the bends, swoops and curves of road through Stamfordham, beside Bolam Lake, a swift jink through Scots Gap and over the top to Rothbury - slow down for the High Street and then rev up the hill by the Cragside entrance, over the next top, cross the main road carefully and then on - wave at the ruined castle - I must stop and investigate one day -and then down into Alnwick. Wonderful. The trees are beginning to turn golden and the hedgerows are alive with red berries. We talked about the Radio Four programme on Mills and Boon. If you want to read an entertaining rant about it, do go and enjoy Trish Wylie's rant: http://trishw

Do you ever...?

Have you ever spent an hour recording music from a CD to a tape and then found you've got nothing on the tape? That's just happened to me. I wanted to add Josh Groban tracks to a half-empty Josuha Kaddison tape and I've wasted my time. Fortunately I wasn't sitting watching the wheels go round but getting on with my wip. I'm up to 45k now and going well. The picture shows the sixteenth century staircase to the main entrance of Aydon Hall . My heroine is currently tripping up and down these stairs as she goes about her business. I had a good old mooch around there the other week and took loads of pictures to remind myself of the detail but really, if the place is clear in my mind, I find I don't need the detail. My reader needs a flavour, not detail. And anyway, how many readers will know enough about Aydon Hall to tell me I've got it wrong? It's not exactly on the high spot of anyone's tourist plans, so tucked away north of Corbridge. I'll just

Success at last!

Finally I've found how to make the cover for my first book show up on the blog at the normal size. Phew! what a relief. It seems it's all to do with the white space on the cover - must be why publishers rarely choose to do white covers! A blue border, which doesn't actually appear on the cover, and the software seems to recognise where the edges are and prints accordingly. We had the central heating on this morning for the first time, which means the temperature dropped overnight and the thermostat clicked in to warm the house around 7am. I have to say I approve. It must mean that autumn is here. I received another communication from a law firm in America yesterday telling me that the Bankruptcy Court in Phoenix has "set a hearing on the Trustee's application to extend time to assume/reject author licence agreements ... and the various objections filed thereto." The hearing is on 16th October. This all about authors and software companies getting their righ


This is me feeling pleased with myself. Perhaps I shouldn't be, but critique partners can be so tough that when one says you're doing OK, I treasure the words like gold! Here are a couple of sentences I received today: The strongest point I noted of this chapter was the dialogue – just wonderful, and so enjoyable. You have excellent chemistry between your two protagonists. Fantastic work, loved it! Now, I have to say that this particular critiquer writes a mean story herself, and sends my chapters back peppered with comments, not all as glowing as the ones I've quoted here. But it is encouraging to have something like this, from someone who knows what a struggle it can be some days to get just exactly the right words down on the page. I'm almost up to the 40k mark with my latest story, and I'm approaching a love scene. I haven't yet decided whether to take them all the way or not. Save something for later, perhaps? ah, decisions! I could always take them to bed

New romantic hero

If you can imagine this man with dark hair curling over the collar of a velvet doublet or a leather jack, then you can imagine Harry, the hero of my wip. I'm up to 35k now and its going well. I'm tempted to try giving him a dye job courtesy of Photoshop, just to see what he looks like. I checked my old blog on Yahoo 360 tonight out of curiosity and find it records 4,460 visits. I have no idea how it records these, and it does seem curious when I have not blogged there since April. My old website is similar - 879 visits. Perhaps I ought to take them down and ensure that people come to the newer sites, but I'm not sure. Perhaps people have these bookmarked and just make an extra click to get to the new sites. Then again, perhaps they don't. Perhaps they give up and go away without bothering.
Here's the Tyne Bridge with the thing I think fondly of as the big silver slug creeping up behind it. It is actually the Sage music centre. Sometimes modern architecture leaves me cold and I agree with Prince Charles about carbuncles on the face of well loved friends. This is one of those occasions. Sorry Mr Designer. Apologies Mr Architect. Yes, I know it reflects all the changing light at every time of day, yes I know it is fascinatingly new and modern and at, no doubt, the forefront of technology in the building trade. (Not to mention it probably cost umpteen millions....) It is so new that most repairs to the structure have to be done by a new kind of tradesman - he has to have a certificate in abseiling. There was one clinging to ropes and floating about under the ceiling when dh and I walked in for coffee last week. Quite a conversation stopper. "Oh, he's slipped. No, he's alright. Just his rigging thingy jumped a bit..." Anyway, enough of Newcastle. I am of
There's a review out for Dark Pool ~ check it out at Thursday, September 6, 2007 Dark Pool by Jen Black The reviewer concludes~ "What impressed me most about Dark Pool is the incredible historical details she skillfully weaves into her work. It completely enthralls the reader and transports them to a far off time and place. A talented storyteller, Jen Black truly brings the turbulence of the Middle Ages to the forefront. Her tales are never disappointing, always filled with unique plot twists and unusual circumstance. Her novels keep me reading with avid interest until the very last page." Mirella Patzer I'm very happy that so far reviewers have always commented on the research in a favourable way. I know I'd hate myself if they picked holes in what I'd written because I'd never bothered to check the facts. Anyway, I couldn't write if I wasn't sure about what I was saying, and it is always, always intere
This is the view from the top of Newcastle Keep, looking south down to the river Tyne. In the foreground you can see some of the medieval walls that surrounded Newcastle, and Armstrong's famous Swing Bridge is in the middle of the picture. In its day, (1876) it was the largest hydraulically operated bridge in the world. The whole deck rotated 180 degrees to free up both channels and allow shipping up and down to the Elswick works. Armstrong went on to supply the machinery to raise London's Tower Bridge. (1894) To the left is the Tyne Bridge. The earliest bridge across the Tyne, Pons Aelius , was built by the Romans in about the same spot. A stone bridge replaced it in 1270 and was destroyed by the great flood of 1771 . In 1781 , a new stone bridge across the Tyne was completed. Increased shipping activity led to the stone bridge being removed in 1866 to make way for construction of the present Swing Bridge . Discussion about the bridge began in 1864 but it wasn't until th

Chapter Four

This, folks, is Newcastle Keep. Believe it or not, the arch before it is the Victorian railway and today's trains screech by within touching distance of the stones of the castle. I kid you not. It must be the only building I know where a train rumbles by and you can barely hear it. I've been very good and written 2000 words today. Already I'm up to Chapter Five of the work in progress, and the strange thing is that although I find it hard to plot in advance with this one, when I apply myself to the keyboard, characters just up and take over. Words start spewing out over pages. I struggled to curb this this for a while, but now I've decided to just go with the flow. I can always trim what isn't relevant at a later date. So now I read in bed instead of plotting my next chapter! A fine excuse, perhaps, but true. I've just finished Nicola Cornick's Deceived , which was excellent. Such a subtle plot device to use the notices in the newspaper. Now I've starte
This might seem a bit like blowing one's own trumpet, but then if I don't do it, who will? I first contacted Ms Marr way back in January. In fact it might have been even earlier than that, but let's not quibble over a month or two. Reviews do take their time to come through. I feel this one was worth waiting for: read and see what you think. The Banners of Alba Review on "In the Dark Ages of Scotland, men fight for the crown, sweeping aside contenders by any means available—including murder. Alliances are made or broken by marriages of convenience, and human character is ever the same, no matter what period in history. Malcolm of Alba sends Daveth mac Finlay to forge an alliance with his nephew, Thorfinn Sigurdarson, Lord of Orkney, by marrying his half-sister, Ratagan. But Prince Duncan prefers Finlay dead—because he’s a real possibility to take the throne. So he plots behind the King’s back, to have Finlay assassinated before he r
I put the following post in http:/ early today. If you want to read the whole thing and enjoy some of the other posts about historical fiction, check it out. "Scalds or skalds were Scandinavian/Icelandic, scops were from the Germanic traditions that came to Britain and bard was the term used in Ireland. Minstrels came to England with the Conqueror from France. Legend has it that The Conqueror’s minstrel Tallifer begged and was allowed to strike the first blow against the English at Hastings." (More...) I went to Newcastle Keep last Wednesday and took lots of pics. What struck me today was that Robert Curthose was probably entertained by scops and travelling bards every night in the Grand Hall of the Keep just as we are entertained by television (or whatever your particular form of light relief might be.) I think I know which was the more improving for the mind, and it isn't today's tv.


I promised to show you some of my favourite faces for the heroes in my stories, so here goes. This one (left) doubles up as Finlay in Banners and Dark Pool except that Finlay's hair is black rather than brown. The face matched the character I had dreamed up so very well. I don't know the actor, and I don't think I've ever seen him in a film, but I don't need to. I already have the vague outline of the character in my imagination so when I'm trawling the net, reading posts, or just scanning a magazine, sometimes I'm lucky and see a photo that clicks with the image in my head - bingo! There's recognition. I capture the pic and then I can look at it, study it, decide how best to describe it in words that will carry a picture to the reader. The sad thing was that by the time I found Finlay's "picture" he was already in print. With Herondale , I've been lucky.This face is standing in very nicely for the late Victorian hero in my latest st

I've been interviewed!

I'm being interviewed on Sloane Taylor's blog and it is a really good presentation by Sloane so I hope you'll rush over and read. It begins on 20th ~ "Jen Black tells all" Gosh ~ I feel famous already!


Do you recognise this man? (Read on!) This morning I updated my anti virus software, took care of some bank business, and organised my clutterbook. Clutterbook ? I'm sure you've got one too. It's the little notebook in which I jot down every url that I think I might want to use again. I started it so long ago, way before I discovered how to use Favourites and I was reluctant to ditch it because I knew some little gems were tucked away among the stuff that was a) obsolete and b) of no interest now or c) has now become a firm Favourite So today I went through, checked them all to see if they were still live - most were, and then if I thought I might need them, I transposed them into a A-Z indexed notebook. Before you laugh, I threw a hell of a lot out. But at least now I have a fair to even chance of finding something in my new notebook. It seems I still haven't outgrown that childish love of lists, listmaking, and maybe best of all - writing in new notebooks. Blogs

Hung over

That's Halton Tower flying the flag. Had some good friends over to dinner last night and consequently off to a very slow start this morning. I don't want to go downstairs, because I know we didn't finish clearing up. Usually I do, but for some reason this time I didn't, so even though I didn't peek round the dining room door when I stumbled down stairs for a mug of black coffee, I know there's a collection of glasses waiting to be hand-washed and napkins to clear and wash, fingerprints to take off the table, empty bottles ot dispose of....but it was a Good Night. Hate to think how many calories we tucked away, and goodness knows what I did with the feta cheese, which mysteriously vanished when I wanted to crumble it with the fresh parsely and basil. I still haven't found it. Because I planned this dinner and did most of it in advance (one of the joys of not working for a living!) I had time to read through my late Victorian story yesterday, catching the las

Bah Humbug!

I cannot get the cover pic of Banners to show up on the blog - right hand side - over there ---- the right size. As it is, it's a bit like looking in a distorting mirror. Sorry about that. I've added about 20 "hits" to the site trying to get it right, all to no avail. There's a new review of Banners over at : and I see they have used the old cover layout. I wonder if they had the same problems trying to load the newer cover? Perhaps I'll try the older one, too! All that's different is the colour and font of the actual words. That's the correct size! Phew! I wonder if I mentioned that I blogged on Unusual Historicals on the 26th last month? and that I'll be blogging htere again on the 26th of every month unless they throw me off. I talked about writing my first book and the pros and cons of writing in a time and place where written records are almost unknown. There are some well known authors blogging the

Good news and Bywell

Today I received a request for a full ms for a partial submission I sent off some time ago. So while I realise it could still be a turn down, at least its a step forward on the road to getting something new out there. I've spent the day reading through, checking for typos, trying to concentrate 100% so that nothing slips through. It's a while since I worked on this story, and on the whole I'm pleased with the way it hangs together. Now I can only hope that they like it. This is St Andrews church at Bywell, Northumberland. The tower dates back to Anglo Saxon days, though as with most churches in the UK, there have been alterations to various parts of it through the centuries. I remember being brought here on a visit by my tutor Dr Bailey and he pointed out the features that made it datable to the 800s - megalithic quoin stones at the corners of the tower, the simple arched windows...the circular openings...I'd have to go back to my notes to tell you more, but it is a lov

Autumn Walking

Went for a walk today out by Prudhoe Castle. A bit breezy, but out of the wind, very hot sunshine. We went by old Eltringham Village and the old track along by the river - lovely views across -though you can't see it because it's down in the dip, then up the hill by Bewick's Cottage to Mickley, then back along the main road. We found brambles and luckily I had plastic bags in my pocket, so we picked enough fine black fruit to make a crumble. They're early this year, and rowan and elder berries are in hanging in huge swags just begging to be picked or for the birds to eat them. We found wild plums, too, though Bill refused to eat one. I did, so if I don't survive the night - don't eat the plums! Another few days and the hazelnuts will be ready, too. I love the idea of free food, and its a lovely way to spend an afternoon. Brings back memories of childhood when we all went out armed with bags, bowls and buckets. Toothache is fading away, but still present.


This is my great-uncle, who was born November 1872. He would be about 20 in the time I have chosen to write about, and I think he looks somewhere between 20 and 30 here, bearing in mind that fashion can make people look older than they actually were. He died before I was born. I still have toothache but it is getting less painful. At least I don't need painkillers today. If I sit still, it is easier, too, so it is a grand reason to stay chained to my desk and go through the second draft of my late Victorian epic. Sorry, my late Victorian romance, is more accurate. I've cut a good chunk of description, and I've brought the h/h together in every chapter but one so far. Even if he isn't there in person, she's thinking about him, so I hope I'm closer to the money this time. What I need now is a good title. I called it The Silver Age originally, because I've read that's what the Russians called this period of history. I rather liked it, but I have to admit i