Monday, 28 October 2019

Things we see every day are invisible


Romans called it Pons Aelius.

Newcastle has been its name since the Norman conquest of England. I suppose it is my city, since I was born there, though I lived in Durham city from leaving Princes Mary’s until I was seven years old.

In or about AD 120, the Romans built the first bridge to cross the River Tyne. Aelius was the family name of Emperor Hadrian who built a wall across northern England along the Tyne–Solway gap. His wall runs through present-day Newcastle; stretches of wall and turrets exist along the West Road, and various other bits can still be found: a temple in Benwell, a milecastle on Westgate Road, midway between Clayton Street and Grainger Street. The course of the wall corresponded to present day Westgate Road. It runs eastwards to the Segedunum Roman fort at Wallsend, with the fort Arbeia further down river, on the south bank in what is now South Shields.

The Tyne was then a wider, shallower river and the bridge was probably about 700 feet (210m) long, made of wood and supported on stone piers. Probably sited near the current Swing Bridge since Roman artefacts were found there during its building.
A shrine was set up on the completed bridge in AD123 by the VIth Legion, with two altars to Neptune and Oceanus respectively. The two altars were subsequently found in the river and are on display in a local museum.

A stone-walled fort stood on a rocky outcrop overlooking the new bridge, (where the present Castle Keep stands) to protect the river crossing at the foot of the Tyne Gorge.
It is believed that there was a Roman cemetery Near Clavering Place, behind the Central station, for a number of Roman coffins have been unearthed there. A small vicus, or village, would likely have grown around the fort but nothing beyond a few pieces of flagging have been found.
The Angles arrived in the North-East of England in about AD 500 perhaps landing on the Tyne though there is no evidence of an Anglo-Saxon settlement on or near the site of Pons Aelius.
At that time the region was dominated by  Bernicia, north of the Tees and ruled from Bamburgh, and Deira, south of the Tees and ruled from York. Bernicia and Deira combined to form the kingdom of Northanhymbra (Northumbria) early in the 7th century.


Three local kings held the title of BretwaldaEdwin of Deira(627–632), 
Oswald of Bernicia (633–641) 
and Oswy of Northumbria (641–658). 

The 7th century became known as the 'Golden Age of Northumbria', when the area was a beacon of culture and learning in Europe. The greatness of this period was based on its generally Christian culture and gave birth to the Lindisfarne Gospels. The Tyne valley was dotted with monasteries, with those at Monkwearmouth, Hexham and Jarrow being the most famous. Bede, based at Jarrow, wrote of a royal estate, known as Ad Murum, 'at the Wall', 12 miles (19km) from the sea. This estate may have been in what is now Newcastle.

At some unknown time, Newcastle came to be known as Monkchester though nothing is known of  specific monasteries at the site, and Bede made no reference to it. In 875 Halfdan Ragnarsson, the Danish Viking conqueror of York, led an army that attacked and pillaged various monasteries in the area, and it is thought that Monkchester was pillaged at this time. Little more was heard of it until the coming of the Normans.

Friday, 18 October 2019

What is a Structural Edit?


I gather what I've been doing in the last few weeks is called Structural Editing 

Untidy but colourful
Some call it Developmental Editing or even Substantive Editing) It has, and is, in my case, taking a long time. 

I console myself with the thought that it is expensive and that many publishers will no longer accept books that need such work. Which automatically means that it is often beyond the budget of a self-publisher.

I have different personalities when it comes to this argument of hiring editors and having  them "improve" your book. Part of me thinks the whole thing should be my work. Other parts of me think how wonderful  it would be to have someone make these suggestions. I have not yet decided which is my true feeling!

A structural edit isn't beyond the means of a self-published author. It means getting the first two or three drafts done to completion and then leaving it alone for a while. Then go back get out your critical spectacles and look at the whole thing as a reader would. Is the story good, first and foremost? Then does it make sense? Is it believable and satisfying?

At this stage I rearranged one or two scenes to make the sequence flow better. One I brought forward, another I took back; I think I even deleted one totally.

Does your book have themes? Since in this book I'm writing historical romance set in the eleventh century, my themes are the themes of the time. They're very differnet to my Regency and Victorian romances.
Then I look at the characters. Are they differentiated from one another? Do they grow and change, or remain static? Have I described them adequately for the reader?

POV sometimes wanders, so I keep an eye on that. Sometimes I change a secene's POV.

Pace is important. Any section that drags for me will drag for the reader. I change it or delete it so that there is (hopefully!) a slow-build up of tension. Pace and flow often run together, so I'm on the look-out for repetition, contradictory plot points, dead-end conversations and unnecessary backstory. Occasionally I've had to include a missing plot-point or a fact that was needed to allowor avoid  something further down the line.

Dialogue is important and needs to be succinct, minus clutter (ie adverbs, adjectives) and still take the plot forward. I like humour in my dialogue when I can get it, too. 

Finally I'd add Voice. Different books, different plots, different characters all require a voice that is  unique to them. I spend some time considering my POV character's tone of voice, how s/he sees life and try and get this into their thoughts and dialogue.

If you are happy with your story after all that, then perhaps you've just completed a Structural Edit










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Friday, 11 October 2019

Wonderful Northern Castles


We're not short of castles in the north of England.


This is Carlisle, about 60 miles west of Newcastle and virtually the capital of the Borderlands during the three centuries of the Border Reivers.

It is first and foremost a defensive castle to hold back raids and armies from Scotland. It sits almost on the border line and many a Scots prisoner was brought to Carlisle's dungeons.


There are fascinating wall carvings where Tudor prisoners prisoners whiled away their time leaving their names and insignia for all to see. The castle featured as the headquarters of Sir Thomas Wharton in my book Abduction of the Scots Queen and as I wrote I had so many pictures of the castle in my mind from the huge portcullis to the tiny little snickert door cut into the larger one.

I am now wondering if I have misremembered the term snickert as I cannot find it in the etymological dictionary. I don't mean a postern gate; that is something quite different. If anyone can confirm or deny, please do! This is now going to worry me until I find the right answer!

Tuesday, 8 October 2019

If you are interested in Gibside, then try this link:
https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/gibside/features/gibside-a-grand-estate

It tells of the estate and the disastrous marriage that ruined it.



Sunday, 6 October 2019

Wet Weather Walk

Yesterday we took Tim for a walk at Gibside, a National Trust estate once owned by the Bowes-Lyon family.


Their money was made on coal, mined from the surrounding landscape. The long flat stretch from the chapel to where the road curves round in front of the house and the dip down the hillside is where the racehorses were exercised.

The weather was dismal but meant we had the place to ourselves. Away in the distance we saw the clutch of pre-school children doggedly scrambling after their leader through the sudden downpour which didn't seem to dampen their spirits at all.




The low cloud base meant that the column of Liberty can barely be seen at the far end of the long drive, but perhaps if you click on the pic, you'll spot it on the larger version!