Thursday, 16 March 2017

Winter 2017

Enter 2017.

This has been an exceptionally busy year so far. We had a very enjoyable Christmas season with family and friends here in our Oxfordshire village. After New Year we decided to snatch a week in our rented Greek Mani house. It was relaxing, a great escape after a hectic Christmas, but it was also bitterly cold despite having an open fire and a large calor gas heater glowing hotly at us all day long.

The Greek Mani in Winter


We have air con upstairs in our bedrooms which we can turn into central heating but instead I placed a storage heater in our bedroom which was effective. We enjoyed a few days in Athens before returning to England. There, the weather was a little warmer but then, of course, we were ensconced in a centrally heated hotel with our own little balcony and views of the Acropolis.

Athens


Before Christmas , I finished writing my fourth novel, a stand-alone early Tudor novel titled The Woman in the Shadows. The book tells Elizabeth Cromwell's story, looking at her husband, Thomas Cromwell's early career from her viewpoint. It is a portrait of a Tudor marriage, early Tudor London, the merchant class and daily life. Much research underpins this novel which reflects backwards into their lives from the position of a Midsummer's Day 1526. The book revisits this one day at various pertinent points as the novel progresses. Elizabeth died in 1528, and Thomas had not become, as yet involved in the King's Great Matter. I could just about permit myself to understand and like him! One has to think oneself into the neurosis of the period to get a chance of grasping these personalities fairly. I used facts where they exist, researched Tudor life extensively and invented where appropriate because so little is known about Elizabeth. She truly is the Woman in the Shadows. The novel will be published on 4th August. It has now reached the 'copy edit' stage.

The Women in the Shadows and Guilds


In February we visited Seville for my husband's birthday. Oranges littered the streets, the skies were blue and we were fortunate to enjoy lovely sun-shinny weather. We delighted in exploring, wandering through ancient streets, stopping in cafes, stumbling upon the biggest flea market that must exist in any city, visiting museums, enjoying beautiful food and exquisite flamenco.
An enormous flea-market in Seville


Alcazar, Seville

Flamenco

I began writing a new novel this winter. It is the first in a Trilogy, The Rose Trilogy, of which each book will stand alone. Its protagonists are medieval queens. The first, The Silken Rose, tells the story of Henry III's wife, Ailenor of Provence. We also meet Eleanor de Montfort, the king's sister and an embroiderer who works on beautiful Opus Anglicanum embroidery in gold and silver threads and sprinkled with pearls.



I wrote an article about this Opus work for the HNS Review magazine published in November 2016.

Opus Work, a book binding


This weekend, we are off on travels again, this time to Japan. Although I shall be in England during July and August, I shall be speaking on Medieval Women at the HNS American Conference in Portland in June, and also visiting some very old friends in Nashville. In case anyone is interested, I am speaking on integrating textiles and embroidery into Medieval and Tudor stories at the July RNA Conference.

I hope all my readers have a wonderful spring season and an enjoyable Easter break. Thank you to all who have reviewed my books. Your reviews, even a few lines on amazon and Goodreads, mean so much to authors.

All my books have gorgeous new covers

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Autumn 2016

We returned to Greece in September after two major events that kept me in Oxford almost all of this past summer. First of all, The Historical Novel Society Conference which was held in The Maths Institute Oxford over the first weekend of September. Second a visit to The Gladstone Library in mid September.
Sunset in Stoupa
The Conference was a huge success. I organised and chaired it. We had 360 delegates and speakers including publishers and agents as well as keynotes, Melvyn Bragg, Tracy Chevalier, Jo Baker, Kate Williams and Fay Weldon. The other speakers were, for the most part, big names in Historical Fiction also, writers such as Elizabeth Chadwick, Karen Maitland and Simon Scarrow, to name a few. My committee was simply fabulous and also deserve much credit for all they did to make it run smoothly. Since I was so involved, I actually have very few photographs but there are some on my face book pages.
Fay Weldon and Jo Baker in Conversation
Exhausted by the time Sunday arrived, I was glad to get to the peace and quiet of the Gladstone Library for a few days with close writing friends.
The Gladstone Library, Wales
At the Gladstone Library, I began to research my new book, The Silken Rose. I am still researching this novel but must stop now as publisher edits for The Woman in the Shadows have landed on my desk. The Woman in the Shadows is about Elizabeth Cromwell, wife of the infamous Thomas. In it, I suggest that Thomas was genuinely interested in evangelical thought from circa 1517 on and I speculate on his disillusionment with the decadence of the Curia in Rome. This is daring but it is plausible. There is more to Thomas Cromwell than we generally suppose. I really do believe this and have researched Humanist thought extensively to reach this line of enquiry about him. It will be on book shelves late next summer. My book in progress is about Eleanor of Provence, the first in a new trilogy about medieval queens entitled The Rose Trilogy.
My desk at The Gladstone Library



We had a wonderful four weeks in Greece and, as ever, the road trip back was wonderful. We took several weeks again, ferry from Patras to Venice spending time in Venice, Austria, Germany and Holland where we revisit Eindhoven's History Park. I blogged about this in www.scribbling-inthemargins.blogspot back in 2012.



On my return to England as well as day to day events there was much to prepare in the way of speaking engagements. I spoke at Waltham Town Hall with eminent 1066 historians about Edith Swan-Neck on a very chill mid- November Saturday.



Lectures on Edith Swan-Neck (above) and The Anglo-Saxon World


It was superb event. The day had been organised by The Epping Museum. Everyone enjoyed it. My favourite talk was Gail Owen Crocker's on The Bayeux Tapestry. All five speakers were excellent and I think my talk giving a novelist's perspective on 1066 was also well-received. Next up Rochester!


Rochester Castle




Setting up inside Rochester Guildhall
I repeated this talk last week, although this time I spoke generally about the noble women of 1066, at The Rochester Guildhall. The Guildhall and museum at Rochester is very special. It is housed in a late seventeenth century building that is, indeed, very elegant.
Rochester Guildhall

I loved my audience. I also enjoyed Rochester and was fortunate enough to have a few hours in Rochester Cathedral where I viewed The Mystery Book, the Textus Roffensis before I set off back to Oxfordshire. This book is precious, dating from the 11thC and containing Anglo Saxon law-codes. Rochester Cathedral also has the earliest Romanesque architecture surviving in English Cathedrals and an amazing crypt. It is special.
Textus Roffensis ( from a copy) inside the Crypt


Romanesque Pillars inside Rochester Cathedral

This has been a fabulous autumn. I can't believe we are entering December and that there are so many beautiful colours decorating the countryside with golden splendour. I hope that you are enjoying the season as much as I this year.


And now, back to editing my manuscript!

Monday, 11 July 2016

May-August 2016

Hello, everyone.

Over the past few weeks, we returned from a two month sojourn in the Greek Peloponnese. We drive down in the spring, winding our way through Europe and drive back in the late Autumn. Sadly, the car we use is very old, and, although, volvos are strong, this one has needed many repairs. It is unlikely that it will make another cross-European journey!

A final lunch at Panorama


We have returned to England for part of the summer. This year, I am frantically busy organising the HNS Conference 2nd-4th September. It is already selling out. We have a superb programme and there are Sunday and Friday tickets left with lots to chose from but, understandably, not as much as back in January. Even so, there really is still much to enjoy and select. Be aware that the to one interviews with agents have essentially gone. We do get the odd one to one interview cancellation. I simply put those back into the system.

hnsoxford2016.org

There are few tickets left for the main day, Saturday but more for Friday and Sunday programmes. We have over 360 delegates on that day. Friday night should be fabulous with Fay Weldon and Jo Baker in a conversation on writing The Big House Story. The ticket includes wine and canapés. On Sunday we have an excellent half-day programme to include Tracy Chevalier. The ticket includes lunch.

Crowhurst Church


This summer, I have many speaking engagements. I spoke at Crowhurst in East Sussex two weekends ago about Edith Swan-Neck and The Battle of Hastings. The event was particularly interesting for me because Crowhurst is possibly the location for The Burning House depicted on The Bayeux Tapestry. There are, in fact, three women depicted on this tapestry. Two of them are clearly associated with The Godwin Family. Logically the third might be also. Why is there one child? Why is the house she flees clearly two storey? Why is this woman richly clad? These, of course, remain unanswered questions.

Was the ruin beyond the trees the site of The Burning House?


I enjoyed a fabulous reception at Crowhurst  and an audience of around 70 in the most picturesque setting one could possibly imagine. The church at Crowhurst where I spoke was filled with beautiful flower arrangements. During the day there was a flower festival. The welcome I received at Crowhurst was so warm, the people so generous hearted, I felt that, like Edith Swan-Neck, I wanted to move in next door!


 I also signed books for English Heritage at Battle Abbey.

 

Battle Abbey


This past weekend, I spoke at the RNA Conference in Lancaster on Romance and Realism in Historical Fiction. My co-speaker was my friend Charlotte Betts who is also an historical novelist. The conference was wonderfully informative about changes in the industry and our event extremely well-received. It is never easy to share a talk and it does require skill and empathy, but I am so glad Charlotte and I shared this one. It was an enjoyable experience indeed for us and evidently for our audience. There are photos on my The Daughters of Hastings Series face book page.


Finally, I have a story placed in a publication called 1066 Turned Upside-down. The collection is available for pre-order on amazon and already doing really well. It is a digital publication and lots of fun! Do look:

1066 Turned Upside Down



This week, very exhausted but full-filled, I am standing back. It will be a week for the garden, the home and well later this week more blogs to write and a third draft of The Woman in the Shadows, my novel to be published by Accent Press next May, to begin. It is, as ever, delightful to be home in Oxfordshire. The climate is deliciously cool, the skies ever changing, the garden lovely. And, as well as writing, I am enjoying a return to Georgette Heyer novels- a relaxing treat.

My poor over-grown English Garden


Where-ever you may be, dear website friends, I hope your summer is filled with good dining, cream teas, stories, and good company. If you are holidaying abroad have fun and read many books.

 

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Spring 2016

I have been somewhat quiet recently. This is simply down to a very busy period in my life. Organisation for hnsoxford2016.org has claimed much time. All proceeds well. We have over 300 bookings for the conference already and are almost full. Do go to the conference website for information if you are interested in coming.

https://hnsoxford2016.org/

 Now for an long delayed update on other aspects of my life. In February, I travelled to India. India is one of my favourite countries. This was my fifth visit. We visited Aurangabad so we could view the caves which cover the mountainside with scores of ancient temples Hindu, Buddhist and Jain. The Ajanta caves high on the hillside are magnificent. The structure of the temples and the carvings are superlative.

Temple Carvings


On this trip we spent a week in Mumbai, a city that truly is hectic and exciting, full of sights, exotic cooking smells, colours and museums. Finally, we passed several enjoyable weeks in South Goa. We always use Taj hotels which are excellent and provide a peaceful retreat from the bustling chaotic outside world of Indian city streets, and quieter South Goa is one area where you find fabulous beaches and beach shacks with good food.

Dhobi Ghat ( where all the washing is done)

A tea pot in the Victoria and Albert Museum Mumbai

Relaxing in Goa



April arrived too soon but this winter my daughter and her husband had their first child, a gorgeous little boy, and we are besotted. In mid April we set off for the Greek Mani- travelling through Holland, Germany, Austria and Italy. At last I saw Herculaneum which is well worth a visit lasting several days. After a few days in Tuscany, finally, we arrived in Puglia to visit friends.

Greek Easter fell on May Day weekend this year. It is a more popular event than Christmas in this part of Greece. There are Church services, pageantry and since it brings lent to an end, the cuisine at Easter is focused on spit roasted lambs. If you are vegetarian ignore!

I find my retreat here in the Greek Mani perfect for writing. So far, I have completed a commissioned short story for a collection 1066 Upside Down and finished the first draft of my new novel The Woman in the Shadows, a story set circa 1515-1525. It should be published May 2017 so I have time to edit it and begin The Silken Rose, the first novel in a trilogy about three medieval queens.

The sun is shining and summer is just around the corner. I hope my readers are enjoying a wonderful May. Remember, I do love to hear from you. Without readers there would never be books.


Sunday, 10 January 2016

January Resolutions

We all make resolutions. Mine is to pop in here more often. Sadly, I do not. When I get back to this, I thoroughly enjoy writing it up.
Happy New Year

So how was 2015  for me? And you too? I shall just go through my year briefly, like one of those Christmas letters we receive from afar. I enjoy reading them but I delay writing them. To be honest, I delay writing these pieces so long, I never do.

The following represent a few highlights since I last wrote here. First of all, I had a fabulous trip to Cambodia and Vietnam via Hong Kong last March. I recommend Siem Reap in Cambodia. If you like the Gothic this is for you. I cannot access the photographs I took and shall explain why later.
Siem Reap

In May, we travelled through Europe to Greece stopping in Germany, Switzerland and Lake Como, Italy, on the way down. There, we caught the Ancona to Patras ferry. That was when my summer changed. It was one of those moments that shock and make you thankful to be alive. Unfortunately, I slipped on the ferry steps shortly before docking in Patras, and had to have a hip joint replacement in Patras Hospital. The hospital was fabulous and the surgery successful. However, the recovery took a long time. First, I used a walker, then a splayed leg stick, a walking stick and ,although, seven or more months later I walk perfectly, I do still get aches in my right leg.
Lake Como
I lived, wrote and edited in Greece all summer which was a great place to recover. Many writer friends visited me here and I wrote every day. I swam every day too and had an excellent Greek physio therapist. It was time to return to Oxford. I spent a brief spell at home in England in September. My latest novel The Betrothed Sister which is partially set in Medieval Rus lands was published end of September. It is my personal favourite of the three.



Woe ! As if a broken femur was not enough, in July we were burgled and that is how the photos on my ipad and phone have disappeared. We used track my I phone and tracked the stolen goods, apple I pads and lap tops to Tirana. Then the trail stopped! Well,  I guess in an internet café in Tirana , Albania. I left a stinker of a message! It is all now history but we have improved security. And I met the local Greek Inspector Montalbano!

In October, we were back in Greece  with visiting friends and I have been writing my new novel The Woman in the Shadows ever since. It is set between 1515 and 1525. Watch this space because I have signed a new four book contract with Accent and the three books following this novel are about medieval queens. The Woman in the Shadows will be published by next December. I am busy writing.

A new novel soon!

We spent November and December in England. Our family Christmas was fabulous and we have been fortunate to spend New Year in Greece.

Finally I am the coordinator for the Historical Novels Conference in Oxford in September 2nd -4th. If you are interested, book soon because this conference will be an absolute sell out. Look at the conference website below for details.

www.//hnsoxford2016.org

Our author list is star-studded! I have been working hard on the programme details and I do hope to meet many of my readers there.
Come and visit our dreaming spires
It remains for me to say Happy New Year. Resolutions! Well, we can try.
 

Sunday, 10 May 2015

March and April 2015

This March I was thrilled to be invited to speak at The Alderney Literary Festival. You can read all about that on my blog www.scribbling-inthemargins.blogspot. I think Alderney really do know how to put on a superb event and also how to make a festival such fun for all of us.
Beautiful Alderney


 I joined writers Simon Scarrow, Tom Holland, Danuta Reah, Mandy Scott and others to speak on the theme of historical fact and fiction. Simon Scarrow and I spoke on fact and fiction in our writing. I was on panels, spoke solo on Medieval Women, introduced Marc Morris's King John and spoke with him on The Bayeux Tapestry. I also gave radio interviews. The hospitality on Alderney was fabulous. I leaned a lot too. In fact, I learned how to organise a successful literary event. This will be useful because I am co ordinating The Historical Novel Conference 2016, September 2nd-4th. It will be held in Oxford which is a superb venue. More about this in time.

Panel on The Bayeux Tapestry ( I am second from the left)

I was fortunate to visit Vietnam and Cambodia in April. It was an incredible experience. I grew up in the shadow of The Vietnam War which in Vietnam is called The American War. I spent ten days in Hanoi visiting museums and taking photographs. I realised that although forty years have passed since the end of that war, Vietnam remembers. Equally, Vietnam is a very modern country, proud and progressive and yet there is a social conscience in Hanoi which is admirable. Vietnam may be a capitalist society now but it is different and very exciting. It is also beautiful.

Central Hanoi


Cambodia is suffering. There people struggle with daily life in many ways and yet it is an old world that is slowly moving forward. Siem Reap and Ankor Watt are two interesting locations. The first is a modern city and the second an ancient city filled with temples so old that the jungle reclaims them. Some are held together by trees. It is as if the trees are glue. If you took them away the temples would fall into the ground. It is a truly Gothic place and incredibly beautiful.
Anghor Watt


At the moment I am preparing to return to Greece for the summer. I am planning  a new book but currently it is in its beginnings. I am at the research stage. When I know more I shall share it with my readers.



The Betrothed Sister is up for pre order on amazon. The final novel of The Daughters of Hastings Trilogy will be published in the US in September and in the UK in October as paperback and as an e book simultaneously. I would like to thank all my readers. Without you these books would never have been so successful.

Monday, 23 February 2015

January and February 2015

After a book launch in Bicester, Oxfordshire, on 11th December for The Swan-Daughter, we flew Greece again. We spent a wonderful if very chilly Christmas period in The Stone House we rent in the Greek Mani. Those who follow me on Twitter will have seen the photographs.



 I worked on The Betrothed Sister relentlessly, almost every day during December including Christmas Day. The manuscript is complete at last but, of course, as every novelist knows this is only the beginning of a thorough editing process. Editing has had to wait until my return to England in late January.
Stoupa in Winter


We drove our aging Volvo Estate car, home via Venice, Padua, Verona and into France, spending a week in Amsterdam and Antwerp where we heard wonderful jazz. We went out into the bitter winter chill sightseeing. We visited art museums and spent romantic hours walking by chilly canals. Look at my blog www.scribbling-inthemargins.blogspot for the Italian week of the road trip adventure shown there in photographs.

Amsterdam in Winter

Whilst England in winter is cold, at least we have central heating. I have my large roomy study and my reference books to hand. There is time to catch up with friends and to research the next novel. Winter is a time for theater visits too. So far we have seen Treasure Island at the National Theater, London which made me want to write a sequel except that Andrew Motion has already done this superbly. I also loved The Shoemaker's Holiday, a hilarious Jabobean drama currently showing at The Swan, Stratford on Avon. For the very first time ever I laughed my way through Anything Goes, the musical. Wonderful songs and performances. Finally, I must mention that last week I was on Front of House duty for our local pantomime, Old King Cole which was a hoot! May I boast that my raffle ticket sales are legendary! A small claim to local fame.

Well there are the books of course. I am sending The Betrothed Sister to my editor by the end of March. The Handfasted Wife is going into audio this month. The audio is being narrated by a professional actress in LA. I look forward to listening to it. I gave an interview to Radio Marlow and to my local newspaper. The Swan-Daughter is Radio Marlow's book of the month for February. Good choice, say I. Otherwise, I am reading and reviewing for the HNS which is The Historical Novel Society. Look for their website and find superb reviews of historical novels. They also produce a superb glossy quarterly magazine which is international. There is a fine review of The Swan-Daughter in it this quarter. I am already working hard as coordinator for the Historical Novel Society Conference September 2016 to be held in Oxford.



Currently I am preparing a talk on Medieval Women, another on Fact into Fiction, and am part of a panel discussion concerning The Bayeux Tapestry for The Alderney Literary Festival. This is the weekend of 20th March. I am appearing with Marc Morris and Simon Scarrow amongst other broadcasters and writers. There are ten of us in total. If you are interested in the weekend do google the Alderney Literary Festival and please come to this famous Channel Island Event. The weekend promises to be fabulous. One of my all time favourite historians Tom Holland will be speaking and I simply cannot wait for the Roman dinner party though I am unsure about what might be served up! As for the ghost walk, well, dare I go on this and if I do, will I return sane.

May I wish you all a belated Happy 2015. Keep happy, healthy and reading.