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.

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 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.

 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.


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.