Wednesday, 24 September 2014

August and September

I think the best way to post about August into September is to deliver a small picture gallery. These two months have been really busy. Between 2nd of August and 13th September more writers have been staying in my house here in Greece. As a consequence, we have been sight-seeing and writing, eating fresh food, swimming and more writing. Despite the sun it has been a productive period and The Betrothed Sister is more than two thirds through a first draft.

 And it has been hot, very hot. At last, half way through September, the weather is cooling and we are walking again..

  This walk was to monasteries set back in the Tagetis mountains. They are ruins now, deserted except for the odd goat but they are very peaceful and perfect for picnics.

There are so many churches to visit here. The wall paintings are old. Many belong to the 12thC. The one above is an example of an ancient Byzantine fresco.

What better than a game of scrabble in the evening up in a mountain village! It is cooler up in the Taygetis. We have a regular Wednesday night scrabble contest followed by Spriros' barbecue and the best home-made chips in the Mani. The tall glasses of wine, we call papa or grand-dads!

 Liz Harris, author is one of the many writers who have stayed with me this summer. She is the author of The Road Back and A Bargain Struck and a collection of novellas. No, not writing in this picture taken on Friday night at Greg's Cafe where his mother, Freda, provides a fabulous buffet of home cooked Greek food, but we did, of course, work in the cool of the early morning.

Sarah Bower was another visitor. Sarah is a superb writer and teacher of writing. She is the author of The Needle in the Blood and The Book of Love. Both are beautifully written, best selling historical novels. She was great company too.

Finally, I leave you this month with a picture of a picturesque fishing village close to my house, Agios Dimitrious. Notice the colourful paintings on the harbour wall.

And enjoy the rest of September. If you are reading anything interesting do tell me in the comment box. I am reading Lionheart by Sharon Penman.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

July Into August

It feels as if it has been such a long time since I climbed on an Easy Jet flight in Kalamata on 1st July to return to my Oxfordshire village. Yet, tomorrow, I climb back onto a plane to return to Greece for August and September. It has been absolutely wonderful to be home. I have had a fabulous July with family and friends. The English weather has been glorious with echoes of my long ago summers of childhood. Of course, as we well know, memory has a knack of playing tricks and I remember only the best days, the sun-filled days. These were in Donegal where we passed our childhood holidays recreating adventures inspired by The Famous Five, The Adventure Stories or Swallows and Amazons.
A Favourite Story

We actually did have an island to walk out to. This happened when the tide parted and exposed a sea-weedy pathway over damp yellow sands. There was just enough time to have a picnic on our island of adventure with our squashy chocolate bars, soggy tomato sandwiches and lemonade before the tide closed the temporary sea parting in again. Often we had to hurry back, racing against the tide. There was a haunted house and mountains behind us to return to where we imagined that smugglers flashed lights with morse code signals to guide suspicious boats into our bay under cover of darkness on moonless nights. There were sand dunes and rocks and for wet days transfers from a tiny shop, an Aladdin's cave,  card games and, best of all, imported American comics you could never get in England. These had superman and batman and other amazing superheroes whose adventures we children read long before the movies made them universally famous.
Our magical island in Donegal

July of 2014 began with a conference and a wedding. I spent a whole week teaching myself how to do a power point presentation. My very power point literate son who works in IT checked and passed my talk on Medieval Women. It was I must say a success. The slides came up at the right time. The talk enhanced the slides. The delegates enjoyed it and some asked me to sign bookmarks of The Handfasted Wife and The Swan-Daughter. Some said that they had written reams of notes and found ideas within the talk for their WIPs (their work in progress). The RNA conference was held at The Harper Adams University in Shropshire which was a fabulous venue. The weather was superb and Shropshire has quintessentially English villages. Some of us authors of historical fiction, dressed in period costume for a book event in the Victorian Iron Bridge Museum.

Medieval Wedding, power point presentation

Unfortunately I was not able to stay for the whole conference because I had to dash home for a wedding in our village. This was the first of the summer salmon and ham events, of which has become in the history of my village 'the ham and salmon summer'. The wedding took place in our medieval church and was followed by a reception in the groom's family's garden.

The final 'Ham and Salmon' wedding event was last weekend

The second ham and salmon event was a wedding anniversary party with a live band. This was held in our village Sports and Social Hall. The second wedding which we celebrated this weekend was very special. After the church ceremony but before the reception we had cup cakes and iced tea in the churchyard. The reception was idyllic. It was as if we had walked back in time as all the food was catered in a marquee in a garden, field and orchard. The catering was home-grown and a lot of work but it was a great success.

The biggest event for me this July was the publication of The Swan-Daughter as an e book on 24th July. If you have not yet read it , do. Here is the amazon link for The Swan-Daughter :

I hope your summer so far has been as enjoyable as my own.
July, Medieval Calendar

Tuesday, 24 June 2014


June in the Greek Mani began with storms and thankfully June is ending with unrelenting sunshine. Simply, June is a great month to visit Greece. My husband Patrick arrived as June opened. He was closely followed here by two friends who live both in Australia and in Ireland. They have four properties between them. Yet they have been backpacking in Greece and Turkey. Alex ( Lady Alexandra) was one of my closest University friends and yet because of distances involved I rarely get to see her. Her trip here was special. She studied Biology and I read English and Slavonic Studies plus History at Queens University Belfast.

Queens University Belfast (Wikipedia)

We had a really enjoyable few days here before they travelled to Corfu, finally ending up in Italy with Alex's beautiful daughter, Ella. They are travelling by bus and by boats. Occasionally they take a taxi. I am very much in admiration of this adventure. You expect the grown up children to travel with their lives in a back pack for a few months but not the parents...we were the baby boomer generation, the adventurers who are still excited about new experiences.

This month I have been working hard on The Betrothed Sister. I can report that I am a quarter of the way through my first draft. There is a great deal of research involved in writing this book so when I return to England next week I shall be investigating Rus Chronicles in The Slavonic Studies Department, Oxford University. Half of this story is set in 11th C Kiev.

The Swan-Daughter is now available for pre order. It will be published on 24th July. You can view the pre order via Amazon, here

Just Click!

And if you return to Books there is an extract available for your perusal.

Thursday, 29 May 2014

May in the Greek Mani

May began as a chilly month with occasional beautiful spring weather. The wild flowers here are stunning throughout this season. Rain has made them endure and today as the month closes they remain vivid. I spend my summers in the southern Peloponnese, in a rented house situated between Neohori and Agios Nicholas. Stoupa lies below me and Kardamyli is just fifteen minutes along the coast.

wild flowers near me

My husband journeys back and forward from England as we own a solid surface company We employ fifty craftsmen, fitters and office staff. Our more interesting projects have included kitchen work in Kensington Palace, Windsor Castle and Heathrow airports. It is a twenty plus year old successful and progressing bespoke company.
On my way here in April I visited The Milan Design Fair

However, I am a writer and that for me is more important than anything, well, apart from family. Whilst Patrick is back in England I have my author friends out to our Mani rented property and then we treat it as a writing retreat. The first week of this May saw visits from Jenny Barden, writer, Charlotte Betts ,writer and Barbara Alderton, writer, otherwise known as our own Busy Bee. This summer we took trips to the caves at Diros and to Monemvasia, a medieval citadel situated on the third finger of the Peleponese and which dramatically overlooks the sea.
with Charlotte, Busy Bee and Jenny above Limoni
 We did write too, honest we did. Jenny is organizing the RNA Conference in July at which I shall be presenting a course session on fictionalizing selected stories of medieval women. Jenny is also involved in planning The Historical Novels Conference in September, which sadly I am going to miss this year. She is writing her third novel set in Elizabethan England, a story about the Spanish Armada. Charlotte is editing her fourth novel The Chateau by the Lake, a brilliant story set during The French Revolution. She won the RNA historical novel award in the RNA's Romantic Novel of the Year Awards in 2013 for The Apothecary's Daughter. Barbara has been spending her time sending out her slip novel (set in 21st C and in the 17thC) out to agents. To our delight several selected agents want to read her complete manuscript. I , of course, am currently writing The Betrothed Sister, third in The Daughters of Hastings Trilogy.


There have been other visitors this month. I entertained an old school friend mid-month and, although the weather was poor, we went on a trip to Olympia. It was a superb day and I recommend this trip. None the less, a visit to Messini with last week's visitors, Gail and Sally, was best of all the trips this May. The site is an archaeological project in progress. It is fabulous. If you ever come to this part of Greece do not miss it.


The weather is better now, hot too, so visits to mountain villages near me are enhanced by lemon drinks in antique cafes. We ploughed through the long grass outside Hora to visit Bruce Chatwin's grave. For us it was a small pilgrimage to a secret tucked away peaceful place that discreetly lies by a tiny, now unused, Orthodox Church overlooking the coast.

Fun on Friday night at Greg's Plateria

This week, the final week of May is very special and deserving of celebration. I now have dates for the Swan-Daughter's publication. It will be published first an e book on 18th September and placed in bookshops as a paperback in December, just in time for Christmas! It remains for me to say that I hope that your summer is beginning too. Love to all my readers. Carol.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

April 2014

The first week of April involved traveling. I rent a house in Greece for the summer months near Kardamyli and Stoupa in the Greek Mani. The area is inspirational. It is also my personal writing retreat situated close to where the famous travel writer Paddy Leigh Fermor had his beautiful home. This house features in the movie Before Midnight. My rented house may not be as beautiful as Paddy Leigh's home, but, of course, I love escaping to this over-grown stone cottage with its three bedrooms and huge open plan downstairs. Writing friends visit during the summer so I am not lonely; nor am I isolated. People here are friendly.

local beach in May 2013

 Last week I settled in. It was unseasonably cold, akin to Donegal in Ireland. We have had lots of rain this April and at night we ( my husband, Patrick and I) have the perfect excuse to light log fires. I think that, since April is drawing to a close, there may be hope on the horizon for an improvement in the weather. May is a month of sunshine, showers and during May wild flowers are at their most beautiful. This is the preferred month for walkers and, as a consequence, many foreign visitors come to walk the coastal paths, and, indeed, through the mountain villages and the deep-valleys of the close-by Taygetis mountains.

A Church medieval decoration from one of The Mystras Churches

I am currently writing a blog for a blog tour about my work in progress. My article will be up on www.scribbling-in the  on Monday 28th April. This particular post concerns my new novel,The Swan-Daughter, which has just entered the final stage of editing. The overall thrust of the post is 'how' I have written this novel.

We have SONOS music system which wirelessly connects to radio worldwide and gives access to unlimited music streaming. I really enjoy listening to the radio. As I type today, I am listening to Radio 4. We may be two hours forward but it is always interesting to keep in touch with English stations. We also love watching films. My current DVD series of choice is The Game of Thrones. Nothing like a fire if cold, a glass of wine and escapism into that peculiar but well defined other world. I leave you all this evening for the final episodes of DVD series 2 of this story, wishing you all a Happy Easter Monday. Tomorrow, with a chill and stormy Easter holiday behind me, I shall be back to work on chapter 4 of the third novel in The Daughters of Hastings, The Betrothed Sister.

Friday, 14 March 2014

March 2014

We are half way through March, almost. So far, I have had a busy month researching medieval Kiev in The Slavonic Studies Department in Oxford. I was fortunate enough to be able to read The Russian Primary Chronicle which is the best primary source relevant to this period. I have tweeted about it, enthused about this subject on facebook and dutifully and enthusiastically compiled a veritable feast of notes. I keep all of these in notebooks which I label carefully.

Medieval Kiev

It has been very wet here in the South Midlands but none the less I have taken Oscar the brown lab for many walks. He actually is my daughter's dog. The best time is early morning when the hedgerows are filled with bird song and the trackways are peaceful, if muddy. It is great thinking and planning time for me. This walk clears my mind and renews me. Oxfordshire is a beautiful county with many echoes of the past.
Design for wallpaper - Swan, Rush and Iris
The Picture used for The cover of The Swan-Daughter purchased by Accent Press

My publishers have sent me covers for my next two publications. The Swan-Daughter will be as shown on My Books page. The Betrothed Sister is beautiful but as yet must remain a secret.

Finally mid-month I have been to The Viking Exhibition at The British Museum. It is wonderful and without doubt the best exhibition I have seen there to date. You can see pictures on my Daughters of Hastings Facebook page and an article on my blog

The link is on My Blogs Page. Do take a peep.

Monday 17th March was the RoNA date of decision. We discovered which of the shortlisted six best historical stories listed won the historical category. All the novels there are well-written and all are worthy. But the winner was Christina Courtney with The Gilded Fan. The overall winner was A Night on the Orient Express by Veronica Henry. Congratulations to both.

From left to right myself, Charlotte Betts, Joanna Hickson, Annie Murray, Liz Harris, Christina Courtnay

 On 18th March Choc-Lit author Liz Harris and myself had a date with Radio Oxford to talk about romance and our own novels. This programme is available for a week on BBC i player. It was at 9.10 am on Tuesday 18th March.

And now after that wonderful night on the 17th March at The RoNA Awards Ceremony back to normal and the penultimate Swan-Daughter edits.

Friday, 21 February 2014


On this page I try to update my news monthly.

So...this month began for me with a visit to Kennington Library where I gave a talk on how the Bayeux Tapestry influenced my writing of The Handfasted Wife. The talk developed into a discussion of how to read the scenes in The Bayeux Tapestry and its hidden messages. If you are interested in this topic there is much information on my blog:


Kennington Library

 You can find links on My Blogs here. Another interesting question concerned how I used herbal medicine in The Handfasted Wife. I used Bald's Leechbook amongst other research books for this research and well as many books available on the subject of medieval medicine such as The Tortula. The Tortula concerns women's medicine for this period and is one of my most useful research books. Kennington Library orders in novels recommended by visiting authors. I suggested two of my favourite books:

Katherine by Anya Seton
The Queen of Silks by Vanora Bennett

Both novels are set in the later Middle Ages. Both are inspiring. They inspired me

This month The Handfasted Wife was shortlisted for the Historical Category of The Best Romantic novel of the year. It is a terrific award and just to get to the shortlist is an accolade. It has invited press interest and so I was asked to give an interview to the local papers.

This month, too, The Swan-Daughter is at publisher edit stage. Now, I am writing The Betrothed Sister, the third novel in The Daughters of Hastings Trilogy. This story concerns King Harold's eldest daughter Gytha whom I name Thea because Gytha, Harold's mother, returns to the Trilogy in this novel. The narrative takes place in Denmark and Russia. Whilst in Iceland in the middle of the month I was fortunate enough to research Viking ships and farm life, which probably was not terrifically changed by 1070. Both are important in The Betrothed Sister. I have written a blog in scribbling-inthemargins on the topic of Viking Ships. I had also hoped to visit Kiev. It was to be a fabulous research trip. Sadly, now I think it may be some time before this journey is possible.

The Viking Ship I saw in Iceland and which is similar to those on The Bayeux Tapestry

Finally, as the month enters its final week, we still face very marshy territory here in England's South Midlands. I have been walking Oscar, my daughter's Labrador. He has generally been a very muddy dog and has ploughed through swamp infested fields but then he is a Labrador and water is their friend. Fortunately to date we have not been flooded.

Spring may be just approaching but where ever you are, do look at the skies when the night is clear and just imagine that nothing up there is much changed in hundreds of years. The sky world remains mostly the same as it was in the period my novels embrace, even if how people perceive the heavens above is different. Yet, the sky is always beautiful to behold for us as for them.