Monday, 31 March 2008

Day out with fish'n'chips

A lucky day today! Fine weather - blue skies, sunshine and quite mild for the time of year, so off we went to the North Shields fish quay, a favourite place of ours, ordered haddock and chips at Kristian's and ate them on the sea wall.
M'mmm. Delicious.

Afterwards we walked down to the ferry terminal (where I took this, looking east towards the river mouth, just out of the picture) and poked out noses into all the nooks and crannies on the way. The ferry in question plies back and forth across the river from North Shields to South Shields, and I think we must do it one day, just for the fun of crossing the river.
On the way back I dropped in at the library, couldn't find Titles & Forms of Address and asked at the desk. They had had a clear out - but it might still be on the premises. The upshot was I bought the book for 50p, so I now have my very own copy!
I quickly checked the address for an earl's son. The eldest gets the courtesy title, of course, but the younger sons are styled Honourable with their forenames and family names and there is nothing to distinguish them from the sons of viscounts and barons - The Honourable Thomas Collins. This title is never used in speech or letter writing, but only on the envelope. A servant would announce him as Mr Tomas Collins.
Daughters of earls bear the title Lady with their Christian and family names, ie Lady Diana Spencer. In speech, the same rules apply as for the daughters of dukes and marquesses - when the full title is not used, then she will be called Lady Violet. Only extreme intimacy would allow use of the forename only.

Saturday, 29 March 2008

A new blog in town

Authors and Books is the new blog in town. Check it out here

Anne Whitfield is the lady who set it up and I made my first post today. Benita Brown is there, along with Anna Jacobs and Emily Bryan.

I'm well aware I haven't completed my task on titles and forms of address, but I will as soon as I get to the library again. Things have been against me this week - notably the weather - rain and wind does not encourage me to walk to the library, I'm afraid, and I've been working hard on a second draft of my Regency. But I will do it on Monday even if I have to get the mini out and drive to the library!

A second draft is so much easier because the hard graft has been done already, and the end is a known quantity. Now the important little bits can be added in where they need to be added, and extraneous bits, no longer deemed important, can be cut. I'm cutting severely because I know I need a couple of thousand words at the end to add a little more oomph to my final pages. They'll be fun to do, once I get there.

I do wish I was better at titles. Heiress's Dilemma doesn't sound all that enticing, does it? Perhaps I'll think of something soon.

Tuesday, 25 March 2008


I just discovered by chance that my books Dark Pool and Banners of Alba are available on Amazon in this new Kindle version. Check it out here
Exciting, or what?

Monday, 24 March 2008

Still Easter

I chanced across the news that Dark Eden Press closed within an hour or so of it being listed on Smart Bitches and Dear Author. Evidently Debra Durham, who sent me a contract on 3rd March, has taken ill and decided to close the whole thing down, so I suspect her illness must be of the serious kind.
All in all, it was lucky for me that I decided not to go with them, otherwise Shadows would have been tied up for the second time in its very short life. Now I wait to hear what Red Rose Publishing say about my poor little book.


It is Easter Weekend, and I've done very little work, so no answer yet about the titles I puzzled over a couple of days ago, but I shall get back to it soon. The weather is very cold and windy, which always drops the temperature still further. A scattering of snow arrived on Good Friday, enough to turn the lawn white, but that is all. We braved the elements for a walk that afternoon, and took ourselves out for a meal at the Keeper's Lodge at Matfen on Saturday, but otherwise, it has been very quiet.

TV has figured prominently in our lives over the last couple of days, especially since the F1 year has begun again. The first race in Melbourne was amazing as only nine cars finished out of 22! Yesterday's race at Sepang had more finishers and was rather pedestrian by comparison. Hamilton is now finding out that luck doesn't hold good for ever, and Kimi is coming on strong. Go Kimi! It was fascinating to know that the family in Oz was watching the race via a sling box connected to our television! The wonders of modern technology...

I've read Simply Magic and Simply Unforgettable by Mary Balogh. The first was excellent, but the second I thought dragged a little towards the end - but still good! One good thing about not needing much sleep is that I get a lot of reading done in the wee small hours while everyone else is asleep. Like now...

I participated in a chat day on the 21st over at eBooklove and thoroughly enjoyed it. I put up some excerpts from Dark Pool even though the book is not newly published, and they were well received. Perhaps I ought to go and do a little more about getting myself known!

Wednesday, 19 March 2008


This is Highland Stoneware car! Have a closer look and you'll see that the car is covered with pieces of broken pottery.
I checked Titles & Forms of Address yesterday about peerages, addressing Peers in general and Marquesses in particular. (Not that I shall be addressing any of them, but if I want to write about them, I'd like to get it somewhere close to correct.) Here's what I found. Marquis is the French spelling of the English word, and the Scots usually prefer that spelling though it is up to the incumbent to state which he prefers. The Irish form is usually Marquess.
The titles are usually territorial, as in The Marquess of Londonderry, whose family name is Vane-Tempest-Stewart. (The ancestors were noted in the north-east of England for coal mining, developing Seaham Harbour and once owned Wynyard Park in County Durham. In 1987 they sold it to Sir John Hall of Metrocentre fame, and as of 2002 it was up for sale again for £8 million.) The eldest son is known by his courtesy title of Viscount Castlereagh.
Sometimes the titles are family names, as in The Marquess Conyngham, The Marquess Camden or The Marquess Douro - though the present incumbent of the last title prefers to to use the prefix of, as in The Marquess of Douro.
Younger sons of dukes are addressed as Lord John (Christian name) Smith (family name). A Marquess is addressed as Lord Camden, or Lord Conyngham, or Lord Douro. The Earl of Monkseaton would be addressed as Lord Monkseaton, and Baron Westly, family name Whitworth, as Lord Westly. characters should be able to tell when they address the younger son of a Duke and when they speak to a lower ranking peer.
But I think I need to check and see how younger sons of Marquesses, Earls, Viscounts and Barons are addressed. I suspect the youngers sons and daughters use the family name - Lady Diana Spencer is an example, but if a Duke's daughter is called Lady Jane Watson, how will the difference in rank known?

Monday, 17 March 2008

St Patrick's Day and the Peerage

Here's to St Patrick, a Cumberland man supposedly kidnapped and taken to Ireland as a slave. He deserves his day.

I developed a niggle of doubt over the terminology I used in my latest wip, so I got busy on the Internet only to emerge even more confused than before. Today I went back to an old standby - the 20th edition of Black's Titles and Forms of Address. I may even buy a copy so that I always have it by me though today the exercise in walking up the hill to consult the library copy did me good. (I also found 2 Mary Ballogh stories I hadn't read, so that was my reward!)

I needed to check on Dowagers and found the following rules appy to all five grades of the peerage: the earliest surviving widow of a preceding holder of the title, regardless of her relationship to the current holder, is: The Dowager Duchess of Somewhere. Or, The Dowager Lady Someone.

If there is a second widow, she is referred to as Mary, Dowager Duchess of Somewhere so that everyone knows who they are discussing.

If the rules of address are followed correctly, so the Editor says, a great deal of information can be revealed on first introduction, and on reading I believe it is so. Here are some basic facts to begin with.

Hereditary titles descend only from father to son, or grandfather to grandson unless descent includes the female line or a remainder has been granted.

A Duke usually owns lesser titles, and the second highest is usually used by the Duke's eldest son. To take a well known family as an example - the Duke of Bedford's eldest son takes the title Marquess of Tavistock, and his son (the Duke's grandson) is known as Lord Howland. When the Duke dies, they all move up. The lesser titles are known as Courtesy titles when they are used in this way, and it is understood that they will be used for a limited period only. They always belong to the peer to whom they were granted. He extends them to his heir as a courtesy.
Authors need to know how to address a peer, and name them correctly for the purposes of accuracy in fiction. According to Black, sparing use is made of titles in conversation. The Duke and Duchess are formally addressed as Your Grace at the start of a conversation and referred to as His Grace and Her Grace.
The younger sons of a Duke bear the title Lord along with their Christian names ie Lord John Russell, or Lady Barbara Russell and never as Lord Russell or Lady Russell.

More tomorrow.

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Awaiting the storm

Here's a closer view of Ullapool from Ardmore, looking south across Loch Broom. The river tumbles down from Loch Achall and into the loch where it has carved quite channel for itself. The whole town is built on a flat, raised bed of pebbles washed down over the centuries - there's an geological term but I've forgotten it. It's a pity the clouds and mist make the view so hazy - on a clear, sunny day it is amazing.

Yesterday I typed those magical words The End and sat back well pleased. That's my first Regency story completed. Now I need to hone my synopsis and cover letter skills and get the partial sent off while I tinker and fine tune the rest of it. Today we're waiting for the storm the weather forecasters warn us is coming, but so far it seems no worse that the weather we've had for the past three weeks.

When we came back from Ullapool, for example, we found my plastic greenhouse (yes, I know, pathetic, isn't it) flapping about at knee level, with 50% of the metal struts come apart. We had to take it down before the wind shot it through a neighbour's window and I've ordered a new, lean to type which should arrive this week. The garden space I'm prepared to give up for a greenhouse type structure isn't big enough for a classic greenhouse shape, but at least this one has polycarbonate panels rather than plastic and will fit neatly between the wall and the fence. Maybe I'll try growing tomatoes again this year. Dh is already bragging about his rhubarb.

Monday, 10 March 2008

Ardmore and Shadows

This is Ardmore, about three miles north of Ullapool. It shows very nicely how rough much of Scotland is, and how hard it is to find a bit of land that can be converted to grazing. The ruins of the original crofts can be seen to one side of the smart new homes, roofless, but not forgotten. I've been trying to remember if I've ever seen wheat or barley in this area but the answer is no. Over on the east coast, yes; but not on the west coast.

I've been working at my BM scene, and the bare bones have gone down nicely. I stole words from the first chapter to give me more leeway and happily it benefitted chapter one by tightening it up. I keep on seeing where I can make improvements, but I guess at some point I have to call whoa! Enough!

I have received an offer from an e-publisher who want to take on my story about ghosts in the old mill in the Dordogne. It was called SHADOWS, but of course that may change now. There's lots to read in the contract, and I have to read it so slowly! The eye keeps on rushing across the page and the mind has gone off to think about something else...I'd never make a lawyer.

Friday, 7 March 2008

Mor thoughts on Black Moments

I'm still thinking about Black Moments. (And I'm still thinking about Ullapool, too. That's Canisp sending out a cloud plume)

Kate Walker says we need to make the reader worry, doubt that there will be a HEA, and the problem cannot be resolved too easily. The worst moment should be something painful for both characters. It needs to loom on the horizon, inevitable as the sun rising tomorrow. She says, tongue in cheek, that it needs to come in the right place and for her, as close to the end as possible.

I think I’m pretty close; I have only 3,750 words to go to reach my total. Is it enough? I think I’m OK with this one. I’ve been building towards the BM for quite a while and I just have to write the "coming to a head," then allow time for a nice moment afterwards.

Sounds so easy, doesn’t it? Sometimes I'd rather be walking in the hills!

Thursday, 6 March 2008

Black Moments

What is a Black Moment? Many things to many people, or the same to all? For this seagull it was when his siblings got to the bread I threw out before he did. However, to be serious for a moment: McKee says a story is a design in five parts: inciting incident, progressive complications, crisis, climax and resolution.

Is the Black Moment crisis, or climax? Or the bit in between?

For McKee, the hero is at the end of the line when he reaches Crisis. His next move will be his last, and it must be a choice between irreconcilable goods, or the lesser of two evils. Or both at once.

This is where the deepest layers of character are revealed.

McKee defines Climax as a value swing at maximum charge, both absolute and irreversible.

Leslie Wainger goes straight from climax to resolution, and warns that it is often difficult to tell where climax ends and resolution begins.

I'm just approaching mine. It is going to have quite a delicate lead-in, but will be quite soul destroying. Let's hope I can pull it off.

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Deer and Black Moments

I wrote here on 19th February that I was almost up to the Black Moment in my wip HD. Here I am, 15 days later, and still at the same point! What are my excuses? I have gone through the story again from page one because I wanted to check and change a small point to make the end of the story better. Also, having 3-day breaks kind of disrupts the flow and I wanted to make sure I was clear before I moved on. So, I am at that point NOW, so no more excuses. Once I have finished this, it's off to the wip.
The picture above captures a magical moment on the road from Loch Lugainn to the A835. Dh was driving, which freed me up to gaze out at the scenery and I saw a stag 100 yards away up the hillside. We stopped immediately, I got out the camera and wound down the window. The stags were lying about in the heather, and one by one got to their feet - six of them! They are so wary. In spite of the fact that we were so far away, by the time I had taken two or three shots they were all on their feet, shaking rain out of their coats and watching us suspiciously. Then one shot off up the hillside and the rest followed. My last picture is of an empty hillside with one rump disappearing behind a convenient rock!

I felt guilty for disturbing them. Driving down the A835 to Ullapool, I noticed more antlers sticking up above the skyline - another group. Now I wonder if they drifted down to the lower levels because they sensed the snow coming, for next day we drove south through horrendous rain and wind with visibility down to about ten feet on the busy A9. We saw flooded land around Aviemore and the Tay was very high. We got home to a weather report that promised snow over much of the Highlands, including Ullapool and by Saturday, the snow had arrived.
Perhaps those deer have a built in early warning system. I'm so glad we saw them.

Monday, 3 March 2008

Ullapool 3

The weather wasn't as good on Thursday but we set out anyway heading for the Bone Caves just short of Inchnadamph. (The view to the left is of Ullapool from the rise towards Ardmair.) We passed the turnoff for Loch Lugainn and kept on north. It rained steadily most of the way and water poured off the hillsides as in the example here:

We found the turn off for the caves and sat and stared at the noticeboard through torrential rain. We waited and finally decided we could wait all day and it would never stop, so we took photos of the information board and pressed on to Lochinver.

They say there are bones of ancient animals in the caves. Skulls of polar bear and wolf, creatures that have not lived in the UK for thousands of years. At least I know where to find them next time I'm in the north west - when it is not raining.

At Lochinver we visited Highland Stoneware and watched potters and artists at work. We love their designs, and bought a coffee mug each. Check out the website at

We moved on south down the mad little road of Sutherland towards Inverkirkaig and a most unexpected bookshop called Achins, and their website is here . Should you ever wish to find a minority text pertaining to anything Scotland you should be able to find it among the sweaters and maps. Failing that, there's always the Ceilidh Place Bookshop in Ullapool.

Since we had blue sky again we set off to walk along the Kirkaig river to the falls, but you know all about that from my report on day one!

We had the road all to ourselves and didn't see much of wildlife until I stopped to take a pic of Canisp and Stac Pollaidh. A cute sheep obviously thought we were going to offer handouts, because he/she (who can tell?) trotted over to us, looking so very hopeful.

Sunday, 2 March 2008

More Ullapool

Look across Coigach towards Stac Pollaidh in the far distance and Cul Beag on the right. The hill on the left I'm not too sure of - it might be Sgorr Deas or Sgorr Tuath. Mountains are funny things. They change their shape seemingly at will and even as you walk up their flanks they change again.

This view of Stac Pollaidh was taken half-way along Loch Lugainn. Already her shape is changing and the gorse is coming into bloom though it is only the end of February.

Click on the pictures for a larger view.
This is what we saw from beneath the mountain, before we set off through the wicket gate. They say it is a small moutain at 612 metres (just under 2,000 feet) but it looks impressive with the sharp sandstone peaks and scree slopes. Winter weather is continually cracking and eroding the soft stone and the intrusive notice in the picture begs you to follow the recently constructed path to save wear and tear on the mountain. Dh strode away, but yours truly had to stop every fifty yards, puffing like a steam engine.
After an hour and a half, we sat in the sunshine just below the last steep section, ate a snack and enjoyed the view.

This looks south east towards Ullapool - not that you can see any sign of it. The silver splodges in the foreground are the pools that hold water among the coarse grass and heather.
Then we looked the other way and noticed that the weather was coming in from the sea and had already taken a chunk out of we headed down. Soon we had sleet and hail whipping our faces, and the rocky path turned wet and slippy. By the time we reached the car the worst of the storm had blown over and the sky was blue over the sea once more.
Then, of course, we wished we'd stuck it out and carried on. But we're not that experienced and we're
certainly not bad weather walkers. Discretion is all on the mountains, especially in winter.

As for the changing shape of mountains ~ this is Stac Pollaidh from the west, and you see how she changes her appearance again. Would you recognise her?

Lost dog!

Sunday 8 th May Slow start to a sunny day with a promise of high temperatures. Bill took Perla out at 7.30 as he has done all this month ...