Thursday, 22 February 2018

Winter 2018

Winter is upon us before we can say 'icicle' and 'blow frost rings'. Here in England it has been very cold. I live in the south midlands near Oxford and, generally, we don't get much snow as the village here is quite low lying. However, next week will be very chilly I hear. That is, if the weather pundits speak true. I am not going to label all the following pictures but they generally go with the text above them all.


The Presidential Palace in Buenos Aires


We had a very traditional English Christmas this past year with visits from Carol Singers, a neighbour's mince pie party which is a great excuse to get together and involves more than mince pies,  and a visit from our children who were both destined to be elsewhere on Christmas Day. We spent the actual day with very old friends in their gorgeous crazy, untidy, fun eighteenth century house. It has the most lovely high ceilings and long windows. I had hoped to post pictures but they vanished. The pictures here are from our trip to South America.


In Remembrance of the Missing Children in Argentina
Cathedral in Central Buenos Aires

After Christmas, we spent a month in South America. First of all, we had a week's adventure exploring Buenos Aires where we perused the city sights including the gorgeous Cathedral. The current Pope was once the Bishop of this central Cathedral. We watched Tango and visited street markets. We also spent a fabulous morning in the somewhat Gothic Recoleta Cemetery. I adore cemeteries. This one is even more interesting than Per Lachaise outside Paris. There is a library full of stories flitting through its avenues. Recoleta, itself, is a very strollable part of the City with Parisian style cafes and lavish former palaces. Next time, I intend staying there.




From Buenos Aires we flew to Iguazu Falls on the borders of Brazil. It is seeped with tropical mists and green vistas. The vast tumbling falls are magnificent. The opening shots of The Mission were filmed there. Yes, I was drenched and cold but it was worth it. Venturing into the falls by boat was a highlight.




Patagonia has long been on my 'to visit' list. Bruce Chatwin's In Patagonia is a must read for anyone visiting. We flew to El Calefate from where we drove out to the amazing glaciers rolling out from the Andes. We visited a bird sanctuary. I love birds. One day I shall be a Twitcher! We walked lots in Patagonia and ate fabulous lamb barbecued on the cross. I loved the open spaces, the skyscapes and, in fact, everything about Southern Patagonia and I intend returning. It reminds me of Iceland- so dramatically beautiful.

From Glacier Country we flew to the lakes of Northern Patagonia. Here we rented a car for a week. It was the summer holidays and busy. There was music on every town street. I enjoyed staying in an amazing old lake house where a member of the falcon family shared my breakfast crumbs.



Mendoza is wonderful too and I highly recommend Club Tapiz if you ever decide to visit. From this fabulous base you can visit numerous gorgeous wineries, including specialist small vineyards. I have never drunk so much lovely wine in my life and as one can imagine, I am on a long, long diet now.


Through the mountains into Chili on a bus is to be experienced. I actually found breathing hard high up in the Andes where the scenery is spectacular. The bus was comfortable and I loved every moment of that eight hour adventure. As for Santiago The Museum of Human Rights is very moving, a reminder of the dangers of oppressive right wing military governments. I remember a film called Missing and seeing what occurred in this museum was an eye opener. What occurred was unforgiveable. From Santiago we drove out to the coast. I enjoyed visiting two of the poet Pablo Nerudo's beautiful quirky homes. His poetry is stunning. If you haven't read him, do, especially his love poetry.

We are home, as of January end, awaiting the huge freeze, fighting off winter colds. Yet more travel ahead because in March, at last, I shall be visiting Kyiv, the location for my medieval novel The Betrothed Sister. The other day, I actually saw the Shakespeare Houses in Stratford and can say they are exceptionally interesting. Speaking of writing, perhaps, when I finish writing The Rose Trilogy, I shall revisit Tudor England.


It is always fun to travel but even better to return and get back writing stories again.

Sunday, 26 November 2017

Autumn 2017

It has been some time since I updated my news. I am shocked by this, but time has flown by too quickly and it has been an eventful year which included three weeks in Japan.



Earlier in June I was in the US where I visited friends in Nashville. I then flew to Portland, Oregon where I spoke about medieval women at the American HNS Conference. Visiting Nashville was emotional as I had not been there in decades. I loved my tours of Plantation Houses and partying with friends. Nashville is utterly fabulous. It is an old world with lots of amazing music. The conference in Portland was a huge success and I enjoyed every minute of this excellent event, saw old friends in the writing community and made new ones.


Belle-meade Mansion, Nashville.


Pictures from Nashville- the last shows my friend, Brenda and myself.

In July I spoke at the RNA Conference at The Iron Bridge about Tapestry in Historical Fiction. I also had a delicious week in Umbria with my friend Liz Harris.

I have been in Greece this autumn too, where as well as hosting two Writers' Retreats I have been busy working on the next novel, three novels in fact. The first, The Silken Rose, is a novel about Ailenor of Provence, wife to Henry III. It begins with Ailenor as a young queen who is very much aware of her destiny as Queen of England.


The Launch. My friend Margaret in red and myself greeting guests.


Queen Ailenor was regarded by many English contemporaries as a 'she wolf' queen because she was foreign, considered extravagant and proud, and, worse, many of the war-lord English barons felt that she was influencing Henry too much. They did not like the arrival of her relatives from Savoy who were given significant positions at the English Court. They remembered how King John Henry's father lost Normandy and Poitou to France. Her sister was married to, Louis IX, the French King. Ailenor liked power and saw her Queen-ship as sacred. She determined that her children would inherit a great kingdom. The Queen from Provence outlived her husband by several decades and she outlived her daughter in law, Eleanor of Castile by some years too. They are both fascinating subjects as protagonists as is the thirteenth century itself, a period of great change, colour, great castles, battles here and in France, conflicts at Court, pageantry, an extravagant beautiful court that loved troubadour culture and stories of romance, a sophisticated court that prided itself as a centre of learning, and an England that saw many good harvests as well as the rise of fabulous Gothic architecture.


Ailenor of Provence 


The thirteenth century is known by historians as The Magnificent Century, a century when England became English, and nobles began to speak English rather than French. Ailenor observed much of it. The second novel in the series,  The Stone Rose covers the period of the second Barons War and the conflict between King and Barons. Simon de Montfort, married to the King's sister, led the rebellion against Henry. The Stone Rose will show this conflict. Ailenor recruited in France for Henry but in the end Simon de Montfort brought about changes in Parliament although he met his death at The Battle of Evesham and Henry regained control of his crown. Finally, The Damask Rose, the third book, in the trilogy tells the story of Eleanor of Castile and Edward 1. So, I am busy researching and writing. This Trilogy is not as yet promised to a publisher. I am agent hunting. I have been very happy with Accent Press and my novels are all still in the top fifty of amazon's biographical fiction charts. In fact they often are in the foremost twenty. The Woman in the Shadows held the coveted best seller sticker and number one spot for a month. It is high in the top ten as I write. Even so, it is possibly time for change and this may mean a change of publisher.




I have been promoting The Woman in the Shadows, my novel about Elizabeth Cromwell, published on 4th August. The book launch, held in Oxford's Waterstones was a wonderful event. You can find out more about the launch in my blog www.scribbling-inthemargins.blogspot.



My personal news is that we had a wonderful trip home from Greece. We sailed from Patras to Venice where we spent an enjoyable couple of days visiting art exhibitions and churches. Our journey continued into the Tyrol, Munich, Heidelberg and Amsterdam. Finally two weeks later we crossed from The Hook of Holland to Harwich. It is lovely to be home. In the new year we have a trip planned to Argentina. Otherwise, I am writing.




Christmas is almost upon us already and I am pleased to say that our family has a new member this year. My son's first daughter was born in July. She is called Elysium.




I wish you all a very Merry Christmas. May my writing life continue for many more years.


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 canap├ęs. 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.