Wednesday, 10 July 2019

Relaxing days in the Dordogne

Monday 8th July Another cool morning but with 33 forecast. We cut some more hazels from beside the millstream behind the house and by the time we gave up I had sweat running down my face like Rafael Nadal on centre Court! Had a shower, then lunch and then enjoyed a lazy afternoon with a sparkly white watching Rafa beat Jao Souza. The sky is grey and it is so warm I’m expecting a thunderstorm this evening.

Tuesday 9th July The expected storm did not materialise though there was a lot of activity on the bolly between 1 and 2.30am because the security light kept flicking on and off. I imagined a fox could smell the herb sausages and salad we’d had for dinner and was trying to find the source of the smell. Poor fox! We left nothing. It might have been mice or lizards running around. Deer wouldn’t be interested in sausages, but we do see what we think is deer shit around the field and the drive. Plus the creature that digs a hole and then shits in it is around too; I did not get up to investigate. (Bill thinks it is the greenery blowing in the breeze in front of the security light.)
We had a visit around 9pm – a couple promoting the St Felix féte on 27th July. This happens every year – someone visits and they can’t speak English and we can’t speak more than pidgin French so with great good humour on both sides we do a sort of charades conversation that incudes calendars on phones to explain that by the 27th we will be back in Angleterre, but we’ll support their venture with a donation. Hopefully, Jenn and David will go and partake of said event instead of us and enjoy themselves.

Wednesday 10th July Sunshine and clear, but a lower temperature – hurray! The skin doesn’t shrivel when we walk in the sun! Bill is busy taking all the unwanted shrubbery we cleared yesterday to the bonfire. I, believe it or not, have been making scones. Now this is not an easy procedure (for me) in France because they do not have the same flour as we are used to back home. They have bread flour and a flour for tout purposes. It doesn’t rise like self-raising flour so I guess French housewives must add a raising agent. The first lot I made, guessing the quantities, were edible. A bit like a cross between a cake and bread. This batch I remembered to add sugar and used lait entire instead of semi-skimmed. They smell nice as they are cooking, so we’ll see how they go with coffee at around 10.30am

Sunday, 7 July 2019

Discovery in the woods

Sunday, 7th July Overcast and blessedly cool morning, so we decided to go on a favourite walk while we could. Walks in France are called randonées and are marked by yellow poles with a yellow circular band at the top. If the walk turns right, then the pole will carry a yellow strip that looks like a | with a – at the top right, rather like an upside-down L.
We followed the path easily, because the commune ensures that the grass is kept at a reasonable level and fallen trees etc are cut back. On the other side of the valley was an old mill, now a renovated farmhouse, with a thriving orchard neatly laid out in rows. We guessed the crop the farmer and his tractor were collecting was apples, but we might be wrong.

The path followed the route of an old pound, now dry and covered in ivy. Once upon a time the pound would have taken water to the mill and on the return trip we discovered, buried among the trees, we found the old water wheel; a gigantic structure which must have need a good flow of water to turn it.
Spent the afternoon finishing off In a House of Lies, the latest Ian Rankin, thoroughly good, swimming and relaxing in the delightful co-o-o-l.

Saturday, 6 July 2019

Sleeping naked

A dovecote?

Thursday 5th July Threatening another 35 degree day today. We were going to go to Lalinde but not in this sort of heat. We’ll wait til Monday, when according to the forecast, it will be cooler!
Thursday 6th July The trouble with the heat is that it builds on what has gone before. Before we knew it and despite all our precautions, the heat inside the mill shot up to 28.5 by midday. We were hot, but poor Tim was distressed again. We hosed him down twice and he had a splodge inn the stream, but he absolutely refused to have a wet cloth draped over him.

I don’t know if air conditioning is as common in France as it is in the UK – that is to say, practically none-existent, but I suspect it is so except in the homes of the very rich and the big modern public buildings. The heat wave seems to have dropped out of the news once the highest ever temperature in France was recorded, but believe me, the heat goes on in the mid-high 30s day after day. We worked in the mill room, which was the coolest place; cleaning the window and renewing a coat of white paint around it.

Sleeping with all the windows open, naked under a single sheet, is a rare experience for me, but the night air didn’t cool the house down even though the outside temperature dropped to 17 degrees and thunder and lightning woke us at 5.30 am. Spectacular sheet lightning moving west to east along the valley, a moderate wind and rain that lasted precisely fifteen minutes and then stopped.
We’ll see what today brings.

Wednesday, 3 July 2019

No let up in the heat!

Nearby Gite Rural

Sunday 30th June Happily Tim seems fine this morning. He’s been out for two walks already, one around the neighbouring fields and it is only 10.30. No hesitation on eating his breakfast biscuits, either. The forecast is for 30 degrees today, so I may decamp downstairs into the mill room where it is so much cooler. We feel trapped by such oppressive heat; no trips out, no pcs; thank goodness for the pool! (13 lengths now plus lots of fooling/floating around.
Monday, 1st July. We took a late walk over the fields yesterday evening. Given several glasses of red wine, wellingtons -in case the grass is wet or the ground soggy or we might disturb a snake – rare but has happened - and the sloping ground, I staggered and stumbled as Tim tugged me up the hill. When I unclipped his lead, he shot off like a bullet, running in circles and that made me laugh more. Bill was ashamed of me, but I couldn’t stop laughing, though I admit I felt rather blah this morning when I woke up. Even Tim was not disposed to go for an early morning ramble around the lake until 10.30am when Bill returned with the weekly grocery shop. A quiet day was had by all.
Tuesday 2nd July A cooler day and initially we just sat back and made the most of it. Temperature a more comfortable 29 degrees and a cloudy morning which was a boon. Lunch outside on the balcony, dinner outside on the bolly and only 1 bottle of wine with our meal. We’ve trimmed the greenery outside the gate and thinned out the laurel hedge beside the pound in order to allow more light into the mill room – and improve the view from David’s desk!
Wednesday 3rd July Now Bill has the unenviable task of getting all the dead branches to the big bonfire. I’m staying indoors with Tim – who shows very good sense by coming indoors when the sun gets too strong – and will be working on my novel. We’ve had our bounce around the lake, discovered the deer ((or something) have re-opened their pathway across the pound and into the field, sunbathed for twenty minutes and when we started to perspire while simply breathing, came indoors. It is 9.30am. Writing about howling storms in the Hebrides while sitting here takes a fair bit of imagination!

Sunday, 30 June 2019

Still overheated!

Crossroad advertising!
Friday 28th June A cloudy 22 degrees this morning so we took Tim for a walk up the road while we had the chance. At the crossroad a new notice has appeared. There is going to be a soiree dansant with a repas and artifice de feu tomorrow night about five miles away, so no doubt we will hear the fireworks going off if nothing else. By midday the clouds disappeared, and the temperature started going up; had a swim after 7pm and then sat in the sun for a while but soon retreated to the shade of the lower patio.

Saturday 29th June. Slept badly so took Tim for an early morning walk – 6.20am. It was so foggy we couldn’t see the other side of the fields but no doubt it will soon lift. Every field has hay bales – those huge rolls of hay like toilet rolls – dotted around. Moisture was dripping from every leaf as we walked beneath the trees. Montpellier recorded 45.9 yesterday, a European record.
But by midday the sun broke through and the temperature shot up. We did our best and added the fan to move air around, but Tim panted all evening. We hosed him down and draped wet towels over him, but he was not a happy dog.

Sunday 30th June Happily he seems fine this morning. He’s been out for two walks already, one around the neighbouring fields and it is only 10.30. No hesitation on eating his breakfast biscuits, either. The forecast is for 30 degrees today, so I may decamp downstairs into the mill room where it is so much cooler. We feel trapped by such oppressive heat; no trips out, not many pcs; thank goodness for the pool! (13 lengths now plus lots of fooling/floating around.

Friday, 28 June 2019

We're melting!

the farmer from our balcony

Tuesday 25th June The local farmer is working very hard in this excessive heat cutting his hay. Bill says he’ll be using air conditioning and keeping cool and dust free. Certainly, this tractor (the blue one) has a cab and the orange and green ones have none. The kites are circling the field following him to swoop down on escaping mice.

We walked along the cut portion last night with Tim and we both agreed that the hay crop is not as prolific as in past years. Rather thin, in fact. Must have been a poor spring for some reason, but since we weren’t here, we don’t know.

We stayed indoors most of the day (that's the classic advice for this weather) and if we did venture out with Tim we stayed in the shade, only emerging around 4pm to have dip in the pool and lounge around. 

Today, Wednesday, the heat is even greater. Yesterday was recorded as 38 degrees, today promises 39. Indoors, the temperature has shot up from 16 degree when we arrived on 12th, to 25.5 this afternoon, and that is with all doors and windows closed against the sun. Open the door and it is like opening an oven door- the heat blasts into your face. Tomorrow we might try closing the shutters.

The farmer worked all day, and came back last night, baling his hay in the dark with all the lights on the tractor as he chugged around the fields. I fell asleep around eleven, and he was still going.

Have done 11 laps of the pool (though I have to admit it is not an Olympic size pool!) and lazed around in it for a while. Very cooling. Thursday is predicted to be 40 degrees all over France. We’ve been up since 6, walked Tim several times, and cleaned up and now at 8.45, the heat is starting to rise, so the door is shut, the windows/curtains closed and we’ll see how we go.
NB Thursday the heat got to the internet connection as well - no contact!!

Thursday, 27 June 2019

Combatting the heat

Tuesday 25th June The local farmer is working very hard in this excessive heat cutting his hay. Bill says he’ll be using air conditioning and keeping cool and dust free. Certainly, this tractor (the blue one) has a cab and the orange and green ones have none. The kites are circling the field following him to swoop down on escaping mice.

We walked along the cut portion last night with Tim and we both agreed that the hay crop is not as prolific as in past years. Rather thin, in fact. Must have been a poor spring for some reason, but since we weren’t here, we don’t know.

We stayed indoors most of the day and if we did venture out with Tim we stayed in the shade, only emerging around 4pm to dip in the pool and lounge around. Today, Wednesday, the heat is even greater. Yesterday was recorded as 38 degrees, today promises 39. Indoors, the temperature has shot up from 16 degree when we arrived on 12th, to 28.5 this afternoon, and that is with all doors and windows closed against the sun. Open the door and it is like opening an oven door- the heat blasts into your face. Tomorrow we might try closing the shutters.

The farmer worked all day, and came back last night, baling his hay in the dark with all the lights on the tractor as he chugged around the fields. I fell asleep around eleven, and he was still going.

Have done 11 laps of the pool in one go (though I have to admit it is not an Olympic size pool!) and lazed around in it for a while. Very cooling. Thursday is predicted to be 40 degrees all over France. We’ve been up since 6, walked Tim several times, cleaned up and now at 8.45, the heat is starting to rise, so the door is shut, the windows/curtains closed and we’ll see how we go.

Monday, 24 June 2019

Misty morning en France

Saturday 22nd June A misty morning with steam coming off the fields and the lake in the sunshine. We spent the morning dragging out the fallen Virginia creeper so it wouldn’t block up the mil stream that runs under the house. Then a lazy lunch and a walk with Tim. It is no more than 25 degrees today, and sometimes less than that, so it was a good day for an extended walk. We did the circuit – along the bottom road, past the herd of cows lying down with their calves – what a tonnage in beef! - up the hill to La Peyrouse with its bright new sparkly dome that reminds me of the domes in Perigeaux, and along the straight to the Gite Rural, where expensive looking changes have been taking place since we saw it last and then down the long curving hill back to the mill. Nearly 5 km, a told. Too tired to do anything else after that.
Sunday 23rd June Couldn’t decide what the weather was going to be today. It didn’t look like a 31 degree day, but then we’ve been wrong before. I had a lazy morning, reading and breakfast in bed while Bill got up and went out to shift all the fallen Virginia creeper over to the big heap beside the stream. I joined him (eventually) and shifted the debris from where the honeysuckle at the side of the house had been cut down. I had made a little pile and it made a barrow load, but to be honest, by the time, I had wheeled it over to the ever-growing pile by the stream, I decided it was too hot to work today. The 32 degree forecast had come true. Bill was working in the shade on the lawn mower, which we didn’t think had been used in quite a while. After various tweaks and problems rectified, it burst into life! – much to Bill’s surprise.
After that a swim in the pool and 7 lengths accomplished. . The duck we had for dinner was delicious.

Friday, 21 June 2019

Rain and French groceries

Friday, 21st June. A day of rain, constant and dispiriting. I did a lot of writing, and then abandoned it for the delights of cleaning up the mill room lobby where Bill has been fixing architraves around four doors and painting them. There was a fair bit of water leaking out from beneath the freezer and the fridge, so we pulled them out and mopped up. When we put them back, the tiles were dry, but it will be interesting to see how long before the water seeps out again.

After three or four walks around the lake in the rain we decided to go into town because there was nothing else to do and we had run out of milk. The little shop in St Georges has closed and is up for sale, if anyone fancies running a mini market in a French village. 
We had a lazy, late lunch during which we suddenly discovered that the previous night the wind and rain had pulled the ivy off the wall at the back of the mill. It was just climbing onto the roof tiles, so that’s about twenty or more feet of ivy to clear up when it stops raining. We’re hoping that the blackbird’s nest is still in the bit that remains.
We headed off to Vergt and made an appointment with the vet to see him on 22nd July about Tim’s return to England. Then I left my two fellas in the car, sitting together beneath the tailgate, and dashed off through the rain into the Intermarche.
 I didn’t have a euro to put into the slot to release a trolley, so once inside I trailed one of those cute little red baskets on wheels around behind me. I love shopping in French supermarkets as they are so different to Tesco and the like. Bill and I had a difference of opinion about whisky; Bill said all the names would be changed to something in French and I said that wouldn’t happen, that Laphroaig would be exactly that anywhere in the world. Well, I won the argument, but they had no Laphroaig and as I went around I forgot that I was entitled to buy either chocolate or whisky for being correct!

I found the “English” section that Bill swore didn’t exist and found some ginger biscuits and some Tuc crackers to go with the goats cheese and Roquefort. I spent 46 euros, and the euro at the moment is worth 99p. Amazing when I only went in for milk and Colgate toothpaste. Oh, and French shampoo, and that wonderful lavender soap. And bread. Strawberries were on my list,too, but I couldn't find any. 

Thursday, 20 June 2019

Nature report from France

Tuesday, 18th June. The morning began grey and overcast, so we took Tim up the hill towards Fouleix before breakfast. Afterwards Bill chose to cut more grass. We now have fields that look, from a distance, as smooth as a playing field. It’s only when you get up close that the hillocks and dips are apparent, but by then it doesn’t matter because the air around you is full of the scent of mint, which grows wild here. Several varieties, and possibly other herbs that I’m not sure I can identify, though I do recognise oregano when I see it. The heat went up to 33 degrees, according to the forecast, and it was too hot for Tim, who lolled around all day. Taken out for a stroll, he lay down in the middle of the field and watched the world go by. That’s what we did, once the sky had cleared. I swam three lengths and didn’t find the water as cold as yesterday.
Wednesday 19th June. Not sure what was going to happen today – grey clouds again, but it did get out by midday. I swam 5 lengths. Improving every day. Writing another 1,000 words all of them in a storm (ie trap) situation. Bit of a contrast to what we have here, but there is a storm forecast in a day or two. There was lightning last night, but far away, and nothing woke me. I hope when it comes, if it comes, it is nothing like the last one which brought down several trees and at times it sounded as though the mill itself was coming down.
Finished reading Highland Fling by Katie Fforde and enjoyed it so much that I wished I could dip into another volume and read more about the characters.
Thursday, 20th June Today we have run out of milk because Bill forgot to get any in his grocery run on Monday. Will we do without it, or does it mean a quick trip to the St George mini market? Entirely his decision as I hate milk. Can’t stand the smell or the taste.
No storm so far, and I hardly dare say this as it is tempting fate, but not many biting insects either. Maybe it is all the garlic we are eating! I read somewhere that garlic keeps them away, but how true it is I have no idea. I was worried the woods would be silent this year after I read that France had banned all pesticides because birds were dying out. Not here, they’re not. They are singing beautifully all around us. I also feared poachers/hunters had taken the fish but have seen five fine specimens gliding lazily about like mini submarines, surrounded by what must be their offspring in various sizes from an inch to ten inches. They adults are not as curious as they were last year, when they used to swim toward us; now they disappear into the depths at our approach.
Bill put out poison on the ants’ trail and this morning the bolly was littered with dead ones. The little green lizards are about; I hope they don’t eat the dead ants….

Monday, 17 June 2019

France 2019

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

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

Wednesday, 5 June 2019

Come and meet Byrhtnoth

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

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

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

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

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

Me: Are you related to anyone famous?

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

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

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

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

Me: Are you pagan at heart or wholly Christian?

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

(Not an ardent Christian, then. Interesting.)

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

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

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

Me: Were you taught to read and write?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now for the books:

Christine Hancock - author.
Bright Sword, The Byrhtnoth Chronicles, Book 1
Bright Axe, The Byrhtnoth Chronicles, Book 2

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

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

Saturday, 1 June 2019

Interview my Character Blog Hop

Something exciting is happening this summer!

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

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

Tuesday, 28 May 2019

Social Media: is it any good?

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

Sunday, 19 May 2019

How to handle the transition

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, 17 May 2019

Which is the real me?

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Good for him, good for me

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

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

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

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

These are the opening lines of the new book:

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

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