Friday, 28 March 2014

Rain and writing.

Today I am trapped indoors by the pouring rain. I got drenched yesterday, and wet this morning in ten minutes out with Tim, so now I'm waiting for 2pm. Thats when the forecast says it will stop raining. It can't come soon enough. I have for company one large dog who doesn't want to go out in the rain, but has loads of energy to use up somehow. Currently he is devoted to trying to steal my bacon sandwich.
Actually, I'm not telling the strict truth. Tim would go out, rain or no rain. I don't want to, because the field is wet, squelchy and full of puddles. The paths by the riverside - and anywhere else, for that matter - will be slippery mud. Dangerous, and we'll both come back home covered in mud. I've had too much of that lately.
He may not mind the rain, and he loves the mud, but he hates getting his paws and belly washed when we get home. My floors and carpets demand that he put up with it, but its not without a struggle.
So I'm concentrating on my writing.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Castle against the Scots

Outer Gatehouse
For anyone who isn’t familiar with the area, Carlisle is at the western end of Hadrian’s wall in modern day Cumbria, only fourteen miles from the present day border with Scotland. Strategically placed at the northern end of a steep bluff, the castle overlooks the confluence of the Rivers Caldew and Eden at the northernmost tip of Carlisle city centre.  With 800 years of continuous military use under its belt, it has functioned as the first line of defence against marauding Scottish armies and as a focal point for English military campaigns against the Scots.
As early as AD 70, there was a turf and timber Roman fort, known as Luguvalium, on the site of the present castle. Excavations discovered a waterlogged and remarkably well preserved timber gateway, and located parts of the west and south defences of this fort which extended as far south as Abbey Street and Castle Street in the 2nd and 3rd centuries. After AD 330, there is little information to be had, though crudely built stone structures dating to the late 4th century have been found where the present- day barracks stand.

In 1092 William II built a timber and earth construction (motte and bailey) and thirty years later Henry I gave money to fortify the town with 'a castle and towers.' During the next decade the city walls were built and construction began on the stone keep which is built upon the central and northern half of the Roman fort. The siege of 1217 damaged the castle, but luckily the Scottish wars meant Edward I ordered repairs which were completed by 1290.
The main keep was completed by the Scottish King, David I. He occupied the castle for almost twenty years from 1135 until his death in 1153. In 1157 Carlisle came under English control once more, and has stayed there ever since. In 1163 Henry II built a stone outer curtain pierced by a new southern gate.* A waterlogged moat in front of the south curtain wall added extra defence. Access across the ditch was by a stone bridge. The parapets of the bridge are modern, but the lower part of the bridge is medieval. An earlier timber drawbridge rested on stone walls. 
Henry visited the castle again in 1186 when he commissioned a new chamber for his personal use. In 1216 King John's barons rose against him, Carlisle sided with the northerners and the city welcomed the Scottish army led by Alexander II. Maunsell's Tower, William de Ireby's Tower, and the tower over the inner gate were destroyed and not rebuilt.

*The outer gatehouse was also known as de Ireby's Tower. The Gatehouse was substantially altered between 1378-83. Residential quarters for the Constable of the castle were here, as a key administrative, financial and judicial centre for the county. In the west tower of the outer gatehouse there is an anteroom - now used as the ticket office and sales area - the steward's room with a garderobe, a gaoler's room with a garderobe, and a windowless dungeon. A mural stair (built within the thickness of the wall and open on one side) leads to a kitchen on the first floor, with a door leading to the barbican walk and a service area. The reconstructed solar lies above the service area. Above the passageway is the hall where there are remains of a large hooded fireplace.
The portcullis housing can be seen in the wall recess. Below the solar are two rooms, probably used as a prison, and a garderobe. The castle became the headquarters of the Warden of the March and also continued to accommodate Cumberland's sheriff. In 1378 work began on the rebuilding of the outer gatehouse to provide suitable lodgings for these magnates.  In 1430 funds were again made available for Carlisle's defences and a good deal of this money was spent on cannons.
The old building work (as opposed to Victorian interventions) consists of two lengths of Carlisle city wall adjacent to the curtain walls of the castle, the towers and outer gatehouse, with the bridge over the moat, and an inner ward with its gatehouse, keep, ditch, and curtain walls. The Main gate was rebuilt circa 1380.  Carlisle became the centre of the English West March from 1422, and sums were allocated to ensure that Carlisle remained defensible. The inner gatehouse (aka the Captain's Tower) went up mid-C14. In 1483, when Richard III was Lieutenant of the North and in charge of Carlisle, he ordered the building of the Tile Tower. 
Main Keep

In 1538  Henry VIII's reign was under threat from Catholic Europe, and defences were required against Scotland, which always insisted on offering a backdoor into England to any European monarch. In 1541, Stefan von Haschenperg replaced the keep's medieval battlements with gun embrasures. He backed the inner bailey walls to the north and west with ramparts wide enough to carry guns, and built the half-moon battery.
To the west of the inner bailey lies the large outer bailey. A ditch, originally waterlogged, separates the two baileys and provided additional defence for the inner bailey. Protruding into this ditch immediately in front of the inner gatehouse is the half-moon battery built in 1542. It comprised a double row of guns; at ground level cannon fire would have raked the outer bailey, whilst below a number of square openings allowed defenders to fire on assailants attempting to cross the ditch.
I’m recording this information because the castle features in my story set in 1546 - Capture A Queen! When Matho and Harry walked into the Gatehouse to meet with Sir Thomas Wharton, the rooms were already 166 years old!
I've toured the castle, bought the booklets, taken photographs, climbed nooky stone stairways and looked at carvings made by prisoners. It all helps to set my characters in believable places.



Sunday, 23 March 2014

Linky Links

Blame Ginger Simpson for this blatant piece of promotion! Ginger runs a blog called Dishin' It Out, which you will find here:  Her Linky Links spot gives authors a chance to shine by showing six paragraphs from one of their stories. I said I'd give it a go, so hopefully I can welcome several visitors to my blog who would otherwise never have found me.

My six paras are from a story called  Capture A Queen, which is as yet unpublished but currently going up, chapter by chapter, on Wattpad. Never been to Wattpad? Well, here's the link:

Perhaps I should say that Englishman Matho Spirston sets out to kidnap an infant Scottish Queen and falls foul of Meg Douglas, the half Scots, half English niece of Henry VIII.

He regarded her warily.

She chuckled, a gentle sound in the back of her throat. ‘There’s no need to be suspicious, or afraid. I am not about to seduce you.’

Yet already she stared at his mouth as if savouring its taste. Her shoulder touched his. Not roughly, but the move brought her closer enough for him to smell her warmth and perfume. He knew what would happen if he allowed himself to reciprocate. Already his body anticipated pleasure.

Drawn by the invitation in her eyes, he leaned closer and savoured her moist breath, tentatively matched his lips to hers. Warmth curled through him. Her fingertips rose to his shoulder, his throat, his jaw, trailed to the back of his neck, and threaded through his hair. As with any country girl of his acquaintance, he waited, letting his mouth do the work; then with the lightest of touches, his fingers drifted to her bosom, found the ridge of her corset and massaged the flesh of her breast above it.

A swift intake of breath rewarded his play, and her kiss deepened. Matho sought the edges of her bodice, pushed down and ran his fingers over the swelling stub of her nipple, round and over, and over and round again.

He wanted more, much more. He found her laces, slackened them and her bodice gaped an invitation. Lured by the mounds of her breasts, he ducked his head and grazed his teeth over her flesh. Her palm cupped the back of his head and pressed down, and somewhere among the wildness of his heartbeat, the small cries coming from her throat, and the plaintive whines of the puzzled dog, he heard the sound of hoof beats.

Friday, 21 March 2014

Castles for courses

Of course, there are castles, and castles. Small castles at the business end of things, like Harbottle in Northumberland, only 5 kilometres from the border with Scotland, had few amenities. The name Hirbottle was first recorded in the thirteenth century, and probably derives from the Anglo-Saxon here-botl which means ‘army building.’ The castle towers over the major medieval highway into Scotland - Clennell Street - making it a point of strategic as well as tactical importance. The stone keep on the motte and the East and West bailey are surrounded by a curtain wall, and it was very much a working front-line castle. When Queen Margaret of Scotland gave birth to her daughter Meg Douglas here in 1515, there were hardly any women present to tend her.

Warkworth is a castle of a different kind. It began life as most castles did, with a walled enclosure and a shell keep on top of the motte. This was replaced about 1380 by a great tower of cut stone in which the service, public and withdrawing chambers are lit by different forms of window, and the earl’s bedroom is marked externally by a sculpture of a rampant lion, the heraldic emblem of the family. It was almost certainly designed by John Lewyn, who worked on Durham Cathedral in 1353 and was responsible for the great kitchen with its fine star vault. In 1368 Lewyn worked on Bamburgh Castle, and probably oversaw the erection of the Neville screen in the Cathedral in 1380. The screen was designed and built in London from Caen stone and shipped to Durham via Newcastle, and probably gave Lewyn the idea for the decorative crown of the great tower and watch tower at Warkworth.

The tower forms a Greek cross with four polygonal wings radiating from the central block. (In simple terms, imagine a small square surrounded by a larger square. Then visualise four small squares projecting outwards, one from each of the four sides of the larger square.) It was planned using a unit of measurement sometimes called a rod, a pole or a perch – 16 feet six inches.

In 1471 Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland, ordered another re-organisation. Splendid porch towers were built over the hall and great chamber, the one over the hall bearing the modern and ancient arms of the family. The masons involved had also worked on York Minster. Work was interrupted by the murder of the earl in 1489. It seems the earl’s decision not to commit to the Battle of Bosworth until a winner had emerged so disgusted his household that they abandoned him to a mob during a tax riot.

For more information and plans that show the complexity of the building, try the website: Warkworth

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Necessities of castle life

Latrines are usually called garderobes in historical fiction, but they had other names – Gang, orgong, cloacum, neccessarium, reredorter and jake, which is the French form of john or jonny. The Welsh used tŷ bach  (it means a small or private place). Another popular name was the privy.

Privies varied from a hole in the ground to grand, purpose built structures – a wooden bench with a hole cut into it, or sometimes stone seats, inside a small, private space. Lids with handles were used to drop across the hole, and earth or sand was kept to throw in; often both were required in an effort to dampen the smells. Henry VIII had sand in his jake at Dover Castle. Gongscouring was a recognised trade by the 16th century. I don't know about you, but can't help but shudder at the thought of a stone toilet seat on a frosty January morning...

Usually the latrine cubicle projected out over the castle walls, and excrement piled up below. Someone (the poor gongscourer) had to go around at frequent intervals and shift it. Sometimes a chute or shaft inside the walls drained into a cesspit. In this case, latrines were necessarily grouped together at one spot in the castle. Rainwater was often directed from rooftops to the chutes to clean them out. Hampton Court had a communal House of Easement which was two stories high. “Pissing places” were common and at Greenwich Palace an effort was made to stop this habit by whitening the walls and painting red crosses on them in the belief that no Christian would piss against the Holy Cross. 

From the 15th century on, toilet arrangements within private chambers featured a chair or stool with a pot included below the seat – a close stool – and the pot would be regularly cleaned out by servants. (I imagine they emptied the contents over the castle walls! Certainly that happened at Stirling Castle in the sixteenth century.)

Water was a necessity for life within the castle. Several wells were included at most residences. The deepest well in England goes down 330 feet, (100 metres) and such depth requires a mechanism to lift the heavy bucket full of water to the surface. Systems of pulleys and counter balances were used. Rainwater was also stored in cisterns at roof level and lead pipes were in use from 1300 onwards.

Fireplaces have been found in English castles as early as 1081, but they were unlike modern fireplaces in that they projected out into the room they heated, and they did not have a chimney. The smoke escaped through small holes in the external wall at the back of the fireplace. By the early twelfth century, builders had devised a flue that carried smoke to an external chimney on the roof. By the fourteenth century, fireplaces lost their projecting hoods and were recessed into the wall, usually on a long wall, and often off-centre, so they were closer to the “higher” end of the hall. In France, the practice was to place the fireplace behind the dais, thus keeping the noble family warm. 

Decoration included abstract patterns cut into the stone in the twelfth century and heraldry made its appearance in the later middle ages. The decoration of fireplaces never transferred to internal doorways in English architecture, possibly because wall hangings and tapestries often obscured doorways. In direct contrast, the French habit, commonplace by the fifteenth century, was to extensively decorate door mouldings.

Lighting was difficult in castles. Most light sources were portable, either suspended as chandeliers of wood, brass or iron. Small wall niches are found in stone walls of corridors and latrines. Lamps could be mounted on projecting brackets in smaller chambers, usually to either side of the fireplace.

Monday, 17 March 2014

A typical nobleman's house

The typical nobleman’s house contained kitchens, communal space, withdrawing rooms and a chapel. In the early days, each function may have been housed in separate buildings, but by the 12th century the separate parts began to come together in one building.

The Great Hall had services (ie kitchen, pantry, buttery) at one end and the withdrawing space (ie  one withdrew from the hall into a private space reserved for the family members ) at the other. The Great Hall goes back into legend – Beowulf awaited Grendel in the Great Hall. Built of timber, with a huge open timber roof – ie no upper storey, the halls were built on the same plan for a thousand years, in differing scales and in every form of dwelling. Wood gave way to stone. Gradually castles expanded and life went out of great halls and into withdrawing spaces, but we still have a hall, which is the space a visitor first sees on entering our homes today.

In the middle ages, the entrance to the hall was through a porch in one of the long sides of the hall. A “screens passage” led the visitor to the hall itself. Timber screens or partitions on one side of the corridor closed off the view of the hall. Two doors led from the passage to the “low status” end of the hall; on the other side of the passage, there would be three doors – one to the kitchen, another to the pantry and the third into the buttery. The old French word for buttery was bouteillerie which was where they stored their casks and bottles. The pantry  was the bread room where a pile of stale loaves would be stored to use as trenchers - used instead of plates. The kitchen would be a long way from the hall because of the need for huge fires and the consequent fire risk. Often a passageway between the buttery and the pantry led to the kitchen. If not, then the scullions would have to go outside in the open air to reach the kitchen - or the whole carcase roasting in the open air.

A step ran across the width of the hall and separated the nobility from the hoi polloi. At the end furthest from the screens passage, beyond the step, was a raised dais at the “high” end of the hall where the lord and lady and their family sat. After the fourteenth century it was often lit by a projecting bay or an oriel window. Behind the dais a door led to the withdrawing chambers beyond. The open fireplace was in the centre of the hall, and smoke escaped via an opening in the roof. Fireplaces were common in other dwellings by the fourteenth century, but halls persisted with the central hearth.

Trestle tables, set lengthwise along the walls, were set up for meals while the head of the household sat at a single high table that ran across the width of the dais. There would be several “sittings” for meals in large households, and by the fourteenth century the head of the house most likely ate in his withdrawing chamber.

Friday, 14 March 2014

Castle life

After the conquest, castles developed into administration and judicial hubs, and came into the hands of the
greatest families of the realm. For a long time, these were noblemen from Normandy who came with William the Conqueror. A castle became the grandest residence you could own: an “inheritances” in its own right. The monarch generally licensed applications for castle construction, though at certain times over the centuries, the Bishop of Durham, the earl of Chester and the earl of Lancaster also issued licenses.

What went on in castles? Essentially a castle was a great household divided into two parts. The steward oversaw the practical management of the household, ie preparation and distribution of food. The chamberlain attended to the public, ceremonial side of the castle. These people were predominantly male. The third, lesser strand was clerical, with responsibility for divine service and maintaining household accounts. In the royal household, this post would be held by the Chancellor of England.

Outdoors, the horse was important for so many reasons – travel, hunting, farming, and war, so stables were important and some animals lived in stony splendour while others made do with planked accommodation.

Livery held a different meaning in medieval days. All followers received “liveries” – and in 1130 this included money, food and goods. The King’s Chancellor received a livery each day which consisted of five shillings, one fine and two salted simnels (wheat bread), a sextary (probably four gallons) of sweet wine and another of ordinary wine, a large wax candle and forty candle ends. This was seen as a pretty good deal. (Eight gallons of wine a day may seem a lot but neither tea nor coffee had been discovered, and the water was often undrinkable. Herbal teas would have been available, but try as I might I cannot picture a man in armour demanding a rosehip tea.) From 1200 it became common for the livery to include clothing. By the fourteen hundreds this had become so complex that it was virtually a uniform that identified the employer and the capacity in which the servant was employed.

The household moved at regular intervals, partly to visit remote estates and use the resources there, and partly for sanitary reasons. The lord's possessions went with him, including bedding, furniture and utensils. Royal households had in effect two separate households, one for the king, and one for the queen. The Earl of Northumberland had a household of 166 people, but when he took off to his estates, his household was reduced to 36 – the “riding” household. With all this in mind, a castle had to house vastly different numbers of people at different times. Spaces were flexible, and often changed use.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Fake castles

Today it is a given that castles were military buildings. We accept  the fact almost without question. But the strange fact is that medieval people did not use the term, and nor was there a single term to describe the complex buildings they built and used. 

Twelfth century words included: chastel,(Fr) castellum, arx, mota, turris, oppidum, munitions, firmitas and municipium (all Latin). Sometimes, we use one of the rare medieval terms today without realising we are doing so. London’s castle is called The Tower of London; and the name comes from its medieval name Turris Londiniensis.

Nowadays, some people talk of Real Castles. They are talking about the private and fortified residence of a lord. The trouble is that then we have to give another name to all those other buildings we generally think of as "castles," or else they automatically become "fake castles." The Anglo-Saxon chronicler who wrote of Dover’s castelle in 1051, before the introduction of feudalism and the concept of “castle,” was actually talking about what should technically be called a fortified settlement or burh.

Modern historians also talk of castles of display, or chivalric castles when they mean buildings that have crenellations but no proper fortifications. These, Goodall says, are the castrati among castles – appealing but singing in the wrong register.

There’s also the confusion about manors, which are also seats of lordly authority. Some manors have crenellations, especially in the border country. When is a manor distinct from a castle? Again there is confusion. In 1521 the Duke of Buckingham’s new residence was described as the manoror castell. Sir John Paston’s will dated 31/10/1477 refers to Caister in Norfolk, usually called a castle, as “my seid maner and fortresse.”

But whatever the correct technical term, the medieval and early modern nobility of England occupied buildings we loosely, and probably incorrectly, call castles. From 1066 to 1640 castle were so important that a nobleman without a castle was like a knight without a horse. 

Monday, 10 March 2014


There is a wonderful book by John Goodall, Architectural Editor of Country Life. It’s called The English Castle, and it’s horrendously huge and heavy with loads of pictures and 547 pages. A great weight to carry home from the library, as I did once, but a book I look at every time I visit to admire the wonderful photographs and check facts.

In his introduction, Goodall says we have the French to thank for our ancient castles. Evidently the overthrow of the French nobility after the revolution in 1789, and the subsequent necessity for the government to care for the medieval buildings that were left, meant that the ancient buildings in this country were studied, analysed and valued. At the same time, Walter Scott had something to do with it too; the success of his novels Ivanhoe and Kenilworth, which celebrated castles and all things chivalric, fed popular interest and as early as 1882 we had the Ancient Monuments Protection Act.

It’s often hard to distinguish a castle from a hall. I’ve noticed that in my own locality when I was wandering around Aydon Castle/Hall and wondering which term to use. The definition is this: a castle is a private and fortified residence of a lord. The Normans introduced castles at the Conquest to enforce the Norman, feudal political settlement over an unwilling Anglo-Saxon population. When government failed, people retreated to their castles and waged war on each other. Governments made attempts to obstruct the building of private castles, but it was only when new siege technology made earth and wood defences obsolete in the late 12th century, that the sheer cost of building in stone limited their construction.

You would think that something built of massive stones would last forever, but it is not so. Rain and wind do their damage by trickling inside the stones or between them. In winter the water freezes and expands, cracking the stone or rupturing the wall.

 Wind scours sandstone, as in the picture, which is essentially a soft stone, but easy and attractive to use.Too much rain and landslides occur, taking castle walls with them. Even a small subsidence will do damage. Trees and shrubs sprout in the oddest places and look attractive, for a while. We've seen buddleia growing in someone's forty foot high gutter!  But trees and shrubs grow, and push stones apart and eventually bring down walls. Fire damage cracks stone and destroys roof beams. Once the roof is gone, the place is doomed. Nothing, not even castles, live for ever. Treasure the ones we have.

Friday, 7 March 2014

The Devil Rides Out

Back ache blues disappearing at last. The only trouble is Tim got hold of the sheet detailing the movements required to keep joints supple. He ate half of it and shredded the rest. He's much better than a shredder, I can tell you, and no running costs to speak of.

Further to the cheering up we have booked a two night stay at Crinan Hotel in April, so we have that to look forward to. We know we're going to France in early summer, and we've promised ourselves more quickie breaks. It means I'm going to need to be very disciplined with my writing if I want to continue. A few days ago I seriously contemplated abandoning it as I got little pleasure from it, but yesterday and today I've written chapter 20 of Blood Feud, and feel back on the ball again. Health is everything, isn't it? I can't write when I'm not feeling fit.

I've just finished reading Dennis Wheatley's The Devil Rides Out, probably first published in the 1930s. His books were very popular until the 1990s and then he seemed to fade from view. I discovered his stuff on Amazon Kindle, and was tempted to read one and see if I enjoyed it as much as I did all those years ago. I'd forgotten how rich all his characters were. Le duc, Rex, Richard - all millionaires. The action and plot read just as well now as back then, but there were one or two spots in the second half of the book where description got the better of him.

Car trips were described in detail, and Richard's private four-seater turned out to be a plane rather than a car. He took off from home, talked of Croydon airport, and whizzed through customs in France with a loaded revolver in his hip pocket. Laughable, given today's security strictures. Then the flight to Greece was described at length - too great a length to my mind. I suppose in all fairness that not many families owned a car in the 1930s and forties, even the fifties. Plane flights were a luxury and foreign places largely unknown, so the readership back then probably lapped it up. We're all too well travelled and blase now. But on the whole, the story passed the test!

I thought I'd loaded Part 1 of Chapter 5 of Capture a Queen to Wattpad on Monday, and only today discovered that it was still in draft form. I remedied that, and if anyone is reading - apologies - and the link is:

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Back ache blues

I've put off blogging today because I'm disenchanted with everything. You name it, I don 't like it. Now, this state of affairs may not last - in fact, I hope it doesn't. It's a good thing I'm not critiquing today!

Several months ago I had a fall when out with Tim. I turned my ankle on the curb hidden by grass at the precise moment he took off like a streak of lightning for some unknown delight several yards away. Result? I crashed down shoulder and hip on the tarmac path. It must have looked spectacular, for a gentleman walking some distance away ran  up to ask if I was OK. Tim, of course, licked my face like a concerned dog would
Anyway, it jarred something in my spine and I finally got tired of the aches and the morning stiffness - in fact, getting out of a chair of an evening ment I walked at a crazy angle for a while. I booked an appointment to see Dr Melrose.
He's an osteopath rather than a chiropractor, according to my local GP. He's good, very good. One, or perhaps two visits, should be enough, he says. I'm always afraid he'll have retired when I really need him. He doesn't agree with these modern practitioners who require patients to visit every other week. No need for it, he says. I've been precisely three times in the last sixteen years, including the visit I made this week, and each time he has cured the problem. He can deal with the mechanical problems, but insists I must undertake to keep my spine supple so that  future falls will not be so punishing. Five movements, thats all it takes. I know them off by heart, and they are very simple. I am doing them religiously at the moment. I'm also sitting here with a heated bean bag wrapped around my spine to ease the soreness following the manipulation.

It probably wasn't a good idea to help out in the garden today while dh took a chain saw to several overgrown cottoneasters and a thorn tree that was threatening to break the fence.  By the end of the day, in spite all our hard work, we still had a lawn full of spiky thorn branches. They'll have to be chopped up and taken to the tip tomorrow. Tim is wondering why he's only had one walk today.

Pic - waterlogged fields and the shifting light on the local countryside where I walk with Tim

Monday, 3 March 2014


I know now why I haven't finished anything in a while. It's because I keep starting over with something. Bad habit, must break it. Not only am I editing Matho's story, but I've started over with Blood Feud. Some people would call "starting over" editing, and I think I shall have to in order to preserve my sanity. It's a good thing I did take a new look at BF, because I discovered that I have two versions of a scene. So I spent yesterday with the two versions isolated and on my screen so that I could view them together and amalgamate into the best version. It wasn't hard to do, but what if I hadn't been reading through in a continuous sequence, I probably wouldn't have found the fault. It's something critique partners might not notice, because they read chapters weeks apart sometimes.

To add to the procrastination, I've started sending chapters of Matho's Story to Wattpad. I wondered what kind of reaction - if any - it would receive. There are about 6,000 people registered for the Historical fiction group, so there should be plenty of readers. We shall see!

As for real life, we had a sharp frost the other morning, but today I had to take my jacket off as I walked Tim on the riverside or I would have been far too warm. Spring is here. The grass is growing, much to dh's disgust, and some of the trees and shrubs are showing tiny new leaves. Daffodils are poking through, heads still pointing down, and snowdrops - those delightful hardy little flowers - are everywhere this year. The pic is a track Tim and I walked yesterday. Still muddy, but delightful in the sunshine.

Added to this I just got a good review for Dark Whisky Road on Amazon, so things are looking good today.
 Here's the link:

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 ...