Thursday, September 24, 2009
When dashing Mr Willoughby appears on the scene Marianne retreats from the colonel's company altogether and takes as much opportunity to ridicule him alongside her lover. Her sister Elinor values Brandon's friendship and sensible conversation, she can see how much he is attracted to Marianne and knows that with the livelier Willoughby for a rival he does not stand a chance. She warms to him even further when she discovers a little about his past.
Elinor's compassion for him (Colonel Brandon) increased, as she had reason to suspect that the misery of disappointed love had already been known by him. This suspicion was given by some words which accidentally dropt from him one evening at the Park, when they were sitting down together by mutual consent, while the others were dancing. His eyes were fixed on Marianne, and, after a silence of some minutes, he said with a faint smile, "Your sister, I understand, does not approve of second attachments."
"No," replied Elinor, "her opinions are all romantic."
"Or rather, as I believe, she considers them impossible to exist."
"I believe she does. But how she contrives it without reflecting on the character of her own father, who had himself two wives, I know not. A few years, however, will settle her opinions on the reasonable basis of common sense and observation; and then they may be more easy to define and to justify than they now are, by anybody but herself."
"This will probably be the case," he replied; "and yet there is something so amiable in the prejudices of a young mind, that one is sorry to see them give way to the reception of more general opinions."
"I cannot agree with you there," said Elinor. "There are inconveniences attending such feelings as Marianne's, which all the charms of enthusiasm and ignorance of the world cannot atone for. Her systems have all the unfortunate tendency of setting propriety at nought; and a better acquaintance with the world is what I look forward to as her greatest possible advantage."
After a short pause he resumed the conversation by saying -
"Does your sister make no distinction in her objections against a second attachment? or is it equally criminal in everybody? Are those who have been disappointed in their first choice, whether from the inconstancy of its object, or the perverseness of circumstances, to be equally indifferent during the rest of their lives?"
"Upon my word, I am not acquainted with the minutiæ of her principles. I only know that I never yet heard her admit any instance of a second attachment's being pardonable."
"This," said he, "cannot hold; but a change, a total change of sentiments - No, no, do not desire it, - for when the romantic refinements of a young mind are obliged to give way, how frequently are they succeeded by such opinions as are but too common, and too dangerous! I speak from experience. I once knew a lady who in temper and mind greatly resembled your sister, who thought and judged like her, but who from an enforced change - from a series of unfortunate circumstances" - Here he stopt suddenly; appeared to think that he had said too much, and by his countenance gave rise to conjectures which might not otherwise have entered Elinor's head. The lady would probably have passed without suspicion, had he not convinced Miss Dashwood that what concerned her ought not to escape his lips. As it was, it required but a slight effort of fancy to connect his emotion with the tender recollection of past regard. Elinor attempted no more. But Marianne, in her place, would not have done so little. The whole story would have been speedily formed under her active imagination; and established in the most melancholy order of disastrous love.
We later learn that the young lady in question is Colonel Brandon's first love who was forced to marry his brother against her will. Divorced and abandoned whilst the colonel is in India, on his return he is to discover that she has fallen into low company and living a life of sin. As she lies dying Colonel Brandon promises he will look after her three year old daughter, another Eliza, and he becomes her guardian.
When Willoughby later abandons Marianne for the wealthier Miss Grey we learn of another reason for his swift transfer of affection. Willoughby has met and seduced the Colonel's ward who has given birth to a daughter. He, in turn, has been disinherited by his benefactor as a result, and must now marry for money if he is to continue to enjoy the lifestyle he prefers.
Colonel Brandon is first attracted to Marianne because of the likeness she has to his first love. "Your sister, I hope, cannot be offended," said he, "by the resemblance I have fancied between her and my poor disgraced relation. Their fates, their fortunes cannot be the same; and had the natural sweet disposition of the one been guarded by a firmer mind, or an happier marriage, she might have been all that you will live to see the other be.
I cannot help thinking that this coupled with the fact that he maintains a close relationship with his ward and Willoughby's child would create certain tensions within their marriage. How would Marianne feel about the fact that she looks so similar to Eliza? Wouldn't a part of her always be questioning whether she is loved for herself alone, and be wondering if she is being compared to the grand passion of his youth? We know 'Marianne could never love by halves' and in my new book, Willoughby's Return, I explore this aspect of their relationship. Mrs Brandon is a passionate woman - she might even be jealous of her husband's first love, especially as she lives on in her daughter and granddaughter. The fact that both the colonel and Marianne have both been in love before provided me with lots of inspiration!
Willoughby's Return is published by Sourcebooks on November 1st 2009
Monday, September 21, 2009
After Susannah left them to settle in, Amelia walked to the window and looked out. Her view was of the lake and park, and, as she watched for a moment, she saw three horsemen canter to a halt and dismount. They had obviously been out riding together for pleasure and were in high good humour. Her breath caught in her throat as she heard laughter and caught sight of one familiar face. So Gerard was to be one of the guests this Christmas!
Amelia realised that she had been hoping for it, her heart beginning to thump with excitement. Oh, how foolish she was! Just because Gerard was here did not mean that he would speak of marriage. Why should he indeed? Had he wished to he had had ample opportunity to do so before this…
She turned away to glance in the mirror. She was still attractive but she was no longer a young girl. It was quite ridiculous to fancy herself in love; the time for such things had passed her by. The most she could hope for now would be a marriage of convenience, as Emily had suggested on the way to Pendleton. If perhaps Gerard were looking for a mother for his daughter he might consider Amelia a suitable choice…
Amelia shook her head, dismissing her thoughts as a flight of fancy. There were a dozen young and beautiful girls Gerard might think of taking as his wife. Why should he look at a woman of her age? She had just turned eight and twenty. Besides, he was probably still grieving for the wife he had lost. Why had he married only a few months after their parting? Her brother Michael had behaved disgracefully to Gerard, of course, but why had he not told Amelia? She would have run away with him had he asked her then.
If he had ever loved her, his love had faded and died. He had seemed interested in Amelia the summer before last but the moment had passed. He had gone to France and when he returned he had still not spoken. There was no reason to suppose he would now.
She must not spend her time dreaming of something that would never happen!
Her thoughts turned to her companion. She knew that this time of year was often sad for Emily, because of her secret sorrow. None of their friends knew of Emily’s secret, but she had told Amelia the truth when they first met. In doing so she had risked losing the chance of a good position for many would have turned her away. Amelia had admired her honesty. She had done everything she could to make Emily forget the past, but nothing could take away the ache Emily carried inside.
Amelia was thoughtful as she prepared to go downstairs. She was almost sure that Mr Toby Sinclair would be a guest at Pendleton that Christmas. He had paid Emily some attention earlier in the year but nothing had come of it. If he were to offer for her…but nothing was certain. Amelia would not put the idea into her companion’s mind but if it happened she would be delighted.
If it did not perhaps there was something she might be able to do to help the girl she had come to love almost as a sister.
Amelia was glad that she had seen Gerard from her window; the knowledge that he was here at Pendleton made it possible for her to meet him without that element of surprise she might otherwise have felt. She was able to greet him in the drawing room later that evening with perfect serenity.
‘How nice to see you here, sir,’ she said, offering her hand and giving no sign that her heart was beating rather too fast. ‘People are arriving all the time. I think Susannah will have a great many guests this Christmas.’
‘Yes, I imagine she will,’ Gerard agreed. He held her hand briefly. ‘How are you, Miss Royston? I trust you have no further trouble since I last saw you?’
‘None at all, sir – except for a raid by some foxes on our hen houses. But I know you did not mean that,’ Amelia laughed softly. ‘You are referring to the abduction attempt made the summer before last when we were all here together I imagine?’
‘Yes, I was. I am glad nothing more has happened to disturb your peace.’ He looked at her thoughtfully. ‘I am glad that you are here this Christmas. I was hoping that I might have a private conversation with you concerning my daughter? I would rather like your advice.’
‘I should be delighted to help you if I am able.’ As he smiled, Amelia’s heart stopped for one moment, and then raced on madly. ‘Of course, my experience with children is limited to my orphans and the children of friends – but I am fond of them.’
‘It is your feeling as a woman of compassion that I need,’ Gerard assured her. One of the other guests was headed towards them; from her manner and gestures she was clearly intent on speaking with Amelia. ‘This is not the time, however – perhaps tomorrow we might take a walk in the gardens?’
‘Yes, certainly,’ Amelia agreed. Her smile and quiet manner continued undisturbed. Gerard had asked for help with his daughter and she was quite willing to give it if she could, even if she could not help wishing that his request to walk with her had stemmed from a very different desire. Seeing him, being close to him, had aroused feelings that were not appropriate for a woman who was unlikely to marry. She closed her mind to the tantalising visions of herself in his arms…his bed. That way lay disaster and heartbreak! She must remember her dignity at all times. As a young woman she had not hesitated to confess her love, but things were different now. ‘I am available to you at any time, my lord.’
‘Do you not think we could be Gerard and Amelia?’ he asked. ‘We are friends of some long standing I think?’
‘Yes, indeed we are,’ Amelia agreed. For a moment the look in his eyes was so intent that she could not breathe. He should not look at her so if he wanted nothing more than friendship.
Their conversation was ended as they were drawn into the company. Susannah’s guests were of all ages and included some young people, who had been allowed to come down to dinner because it was nearly Christmas. The eclectic mix of young and old, Harry’s relatives and friends of the couple, made for a lively evening. The younger members were sent to bed after their meal, but the older guests continued in their merry way until long past midnight.
It was not until the moment that she had decided to retire that Gerard approached Amelia once more.
‘Shall we say ten o’clock for our walk?’ he asked. ‘If that is not too early for you?’
‘I am always an early riser.’
‘You must wrap up well for I think it may be a cold morning.’
‘I enjoy walking in any kind of weather, except a downpour,’ Amelia assured him.
Their arrangements made, Amelia went upstairs to the apartment she shared with Emily. She saw that Emily was looking thoughtful and asked her if she had enjoyed the evening.
‘You did not find the young company too much, dearest?’
‘It was a delightful evening,’ Emily assured her. ‘Mr Sinclair and I joined in a guessing game with some of the young people at the dinner table. I do not know when I have had such fun…’ A wistful expression came to her eyes. ‘I was an only child and I doubt I shall have…’ She blinked hard, as if to stop herself crying. ‘I am certain Mr Sinclair means to make me an offer, Amelia. What shall I do?’
‘I believe you should tell him the truth. He will keep your confidence for Toby Sinclair is a true gentleman. If he still wishes for the marriage he will make it clear to you.’
‘And if he does not?’ Emily lifted her head as if to seek guidance and then nodded as she answered her own question. ‘I must bear it. You are quite right, Amelia. I cannot be less than truthful, though it may make things awkward for the rest of our stay here.’
‘Perhaps if you could prevent him speaking for a few days, and then tell him just before we leave. If he needs time to consider his feelings, he would have his chance before following us to Coleridge.’
‘You are so wise and sensible,’ Emily said and looked relieved. ‘I shall do my best to avoid being alone with him until the day before we leave.’
‘Try not to brood on the outcome.’ Amelia kissed her cheek. ‘I believe it may all turn out better than you imagine, dearest.’
Having done her best to reassure her friend, Amelia went to her own room. She dismissed her maid as soon as the girl had undone the little hooks at the back of her gown, preferring to be alone with her thoughts. It was easier to settle Emily’s doubts than her own, for she had no doubt that Toby Sinclair was deeply in love. It was more difficult to understand Gerard Ravenshead’s feelings.
Sometimes his look seemed to indicate that he felt a strong emotion for her, but at others his expression was brooding and remote. They were friends but was that all? Amelia was afraid that her chance of a happy marriage had long since passed. Gerard had once felt love for her, but these days it seemed that he thought of her as a mature lady in whom he might confide his worries concerning his daughter. He could have no idea of the passionate and improper thoughts his nearness aroused in her. She must be careful to conceal her feelings for otherwise there might be some embarrassment.
‘No! No Lisette…I beg you…do not do it…forgive me…’ Gerard Ravenshead’s arm twitched, his head moving from side to side as he sat in the deep wing chair in the library at Pendleton. He was dreaming… a dream he had had too many times before. ‘No, I say! Stop…the blood…the blood…’ He screamed out and woke to find himself in a room where the fire had gone cold and the candles burned out.
Unable to sleep, he had dressed and come down to read for a while and fallen into a fitful sleep. He hoped that his nightmare had woken no one. Having gone for some months without one, he had hoped they were finished but something had brought it all back to him.
Gerard rose from the chair and walked over to the window, gazing out as the light strengthened. It was dawn and another night had gone.
The library was an impressive, long room with glass-fronted bookcases on three walls, a magnificent desk, occasional tables and comfortable chairs - and three sets of French windows to let in maximum light. Gerard was an avid reader and, when at home in his house in Hanover Square, often sat late into the night reading rather than retiring to his bedchamber, where he found it impossible to sleep. Indeed, he could hardly remember a night when he had slept through until morning.
Gerard was a handsome man, tall, broad in the shoulder with strong legs that looked particularly well in the riding breeches he most often wore. His coats had never needed excessive padding at the shoulder. His hair was very dark but not black, his eyes grey and sometimes flinty. His expression was often brooding, stern; perhaps because his thoughts caused him regret. At this moment he wore a pair of buff coloured breeches and topboots and his fine linen shirt was opened to the waist. A glass of wine was to hand but he had scarcely touched it. Gerard had long ago discovered that there was no forgetfulness in a wine bottle.
Before falling into a restless sleep, he had spent the night wrestling with his problem. His daughter was in need of feminine company, and not just that of nursemaids or a governess. He too was in need of a female companion: a woman with whom he could share his hopes and dreams, a woman he could admire and respect. In short he needed a wife. Having made one mistake with the young French girl he had married out of pity, he did not wish to make another. Easy enough to find a mistress or even a young woman willing to become Countess Ravenshead, but there was only one woman Gerard wanted as his wife – the woman he had been denied when he was a young man and head over heels in love.
He touched the scar at his right temple, the only blemish on a strong and handsome face, his eyes darkening at the memory it aroused. Amelia’s brother had instructed his servants to beat him when he dared to ask for her hand as a young man; he had not been wealthy enough to please the proud Sir Michael Royston! However, it was not fear of Sir Michael’s displeasure that made Gerard hesitate to ask Amelia Royston if she would be his wife now. Guilt weighed heavily on his conscience, because he had not told anyone the whole truth concerning his wife’s death. It was the reason for his nightmares.
‘Damn you, Lisette. Let me be…’ His eyes were dark with memories as he relieved the dream. ‘So much blood…so much blood…’
She had been ill for a long time after the birth of her child, but it was not that illness that had caused her death. Lisette had died by her own hand.
He found her with her wrists cut in a bath of warm water. She was still alive when he dragged her from the bath but barely breathing. He had tried frantically to save her, sending his servant for the doctor, but his efforts were in vain and she was dead when the doctor arrived. Lisette had been buried and Gerard mourned the loss of a young life.
He had not loved her but she haunted his dreams, because he blamed himself for her death. He had married her out of pity, because she was young, alone and with child, abandoned by her lover in a country that was not her own. He knew that the father of her child was an English officer but Lisette had never named him. His own dreams turned to dust, Gerard had done what he believed was the right thing – a good thing, but he had been unable to love her and when Lisette finally understood that she had taken her own life.
‘I am so sorry…so very sorry…’
Gerard had never been able to confess the truth to another living soul. He carried it inside, where it continued to fester. If he allowed his guilt to haunt him it would ruin his life. Gerard had no idea whether or not Amelia would marry him if he asked her. What would she think if she knew the truth concerning his wife’s death?
He had been on the point of asking her to be his wife once, but an urgent message had sent him hurrying to his daughter’s side in France. Little Lisa was a demanding child and she did not like her Papa to leave her for long periods. Realising she needed more than her nurses, Gerard had brought her to England and placed her in the charge of an English nanny, but neither Lisa nor her papa was truly content.
Gerard had reached the conclusion that he would never know true happiness unless he asked Amelia Royston to be his wife. He could not marry her without confessing his secret, which was one of the reasons why he had hesitated so long, for he feared that she would turn from him in disgust. He had wanted to die on the battlefield the first time he lost her; to let himself hope and then lose her a second time would destroy him
This was ridiculous! He was a man of six and thirty and should be able to face up to the truth without fear of rejection. It might be better if he forgot about marriage altogether. He had broken Lisette’s heart, causing her to commit suicide. Perhaps he would do better to remain unwed.
Saturday, September 19, 2009
For some reason I called her father Clement. Then I thought that as my skinny heroine would run away and find herself as a cabin boy on a pirate ship the feminine form of his name, Clemence, which would shorten to Clem, seemed a good choice for her.
When I started to get to know her it seemed to suit her well. And when my hero, Nathan Stanier, meets her he likes the name too -
Clemence. He said the name in his mind, savouring the sound of it, a sort of fruity sweet tang of a name. Tart and challenging, yet mellow too.
I was half way through writing the book when I found myself in my favourite places, a country auction room on Viewing Saturday. There was a pot of odds and ends in a cabinet and poking out of them, the unmistakeable handle of an 18th or early 19thc fan. I collect fans so I took a quick look, saw it was covered in verses in French and put it back amongst the rubbish before anyone else saw me looking at it.
I was in luck - no-one seemed to have spotted it for what it was and the only other bidder when I came back for the auction appeared to be after the Victorian pot the fan was in and certainly wasn’t prepared to battle it out with me!
So I bore off my spoils in triumph and had a good look at what I had bought. I couldn’t read the French verses but the picture seemed to be a scene of six young women and four cupids drawing lots from a revolving drum and handing them out. Then I saw the name - Clémence. The frustration of only being able to make out half the complex old French was acute! What did the verses say?
Luckily I remembered that fellow M&B Historical author Joanna Maitland is an accomplished linguist and she gallantly tackled the archaic French for me.
It was a lottery as I had guessed - a lottery for love. Each young woman was given a verse that described her lover and the virtues he would have -
Here is Love, putting the charms
Of all these beauties to the test.
The prizes, he has promised, will be
The true qualities of men…
A constant friend, a faithful husband,
Are both a lottery.
Poor Isis has no luck at all - and no lover. She is the girl in pink with her head in her hands. Aglaé will have a man with only one virtue, Aglaure, one with two. And so it goes on until -
And finally, there remains but one.
It is for the lovely Clémence.
Her destiny is wonderful, but rare.
It surpasses all her hopes.
A stout heart, a quick mind,
Virtue, courage and a handsome form.
Her lover is blessed with them all.
She has won the fivefold prize.
I could not believe it - the Clémence of the fan (the figure on the right in purple) is promised a hero with all the virtues of my Clemence’s love.
Of course I had to use the fan in the book - but you will have to read it to find out how! The Piratical Miss Ravenhurst is out this month with Mills & Boon Historical and Harlequin Historical.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
First — character names. There are some names which, with the best will in the world, I could never give to my hero or heroine. Some just sound wrong to me, though I shan’t offend my readers by saying what they are! My characters’ names have to feel right and that’s something deep in my bones, I’m afraid. Sometimes the characters object, even if the name seemed right to me. I remember that my hero in A Regency Invitation started out as Will but ended up as Marcus because he flatly refused to answer to Will! Since William was the name we finally chose for the villain, it’s probably just as well. At that stage in my career, William definitely sounded villainous. Maybe that will change one day and I’ll have a hero of that name? Still too early to say.
I have a long list of names (culled from baby-naming books) that I might like to use one day. When I start a new book, I look down that list, and see whether anything jumps out at me. For the Christmas book, the name I chose for the hero was Jon/Jonathan. I didn’t intend to pick that one. It just felt right. The heroine’s name was much easier. She insisted on being Beth from the very first page. I had no choice in the matter!
And then there are place names. Georgette Heyer used to pore over maps for place names, both for towns and villages, and give them to her characters. Anyone remember the beautiful Augustus Fownhope from The Grand Sophy? Well, Fownhope is a Herefordshire village, not far from where I live.
I have sometimes used real place names or variants on them. For example, my hero in Marrying the Major was Hugo Stratton with a country seat at Stratton Magna. There’s no such place, though there are various places with Stratton in the name, like Stratton St Margaret’s. My secret — which I’m happy to share — is to take an existing place name and modify it, either by adding something like Magna, or by changing the odd letter. So one of the key villages in the story I’m now writing is called Little Fratcombe. As far as I know, there’s no place called Fratcombe. I arrived at that by taking the name Batcombe and changing B to Fr. Fratcombe may not really exist, but I reckon it sounds as if it should.
Having given the village a name, I then found that I had not the slightest idea what it looked like. That really did cause me problems. In the end, I had to draw a detailed map of it, complete with houses, shops, trees, a stream, a church with a graveyard, and rather a lot of sheep. You’ll be relieved to know I’m not planning to include it with the manuscript, so you will be spared the sight of my very unrealistic drawing.
Anyone else have a better way of deciding on names? I'd love to know.
Sunday, September 13, 2009
Who can explain the allure of love? The romance writer least of all, but recently I’ve fallen in love all over again. With Georgian England.
After a year or so of reprints at Samhain, we’re ready for the new Richard and Rose books to come out, and I’m plunging back into the historical romance. Sometimes the muse comes and goes, and it did with me and the historical, but now it’s back, and in part it’s due to some cracking new non fiction books.
I have a lot of history books on my bookshelves. A lot. And I consult them regularly. I have what I consider the essentials, most of the Oxford History of England series, including Watson’s “The Reign of George III” and Basil Williams’s brilliant “The Whig Supremacy.” I know, hardly titles to bring amazed delight to the average reader, but believe me, pure gold to anyone who writes Georgian set historical romance.
The Georgian era lasted from 1727 to 1820, and the period known by historians as “the long Eighteenth Century” from the Act of Succession in 1689 to the advent of Queen Victoria in 1837. I tend to stick to the Georgians, but I spread out a bit sometimes. I have books by JH Plumb and JB Priestley, gems by Amanda Vickery and Donald Low. I have original texts, newspapers, journals, sadly not in the original, but they’re valuable to me for all that.
But for the new series I’m envisioning, I wanted to go in a slightly different direction and I needed to do some extra research. I went looking and I discovered some new-to-me books that I’m finding enthralling. So I wanted to share the love.
Lucy Moore’s “Con Men and Cutpurses” describes some of the most notorious criminals of the Georgian era. It’s subtitled “Scenes from the Hogarthian Underworld” and it’s a cracking good read. Combined with verbatim accounts of some of the most colourful criminals I’ve ever read, from Jenny Diver the cutpurse to Earl Ferrers, the last nobleman to be executed for murder, it is packed with stories that make my fingers itch. All set in an era when the law was something different, when guilty of the same crime meant you could be sent to the colonies as an indentured slave, executed in public, or let off with a warning, depending on the jury, the judge, the time of day or your personal story. It’s a slice of life, a view that shows the modern reader how different the Georgians were – and how achingly similar.
“Dr. Johnson’s London” by Liza Picard starts with a tour from one part of London to another. The first, the East End, where the riff-raff rubbed shoulders with respectable citizens, at the same time the wealthiest place in the world and the poorest and most miserable. And the second was the West End, a new development in the Georgian era, where the wealthy lived and spent their money, but also where charitable establishments still going today were established and the new developments in science and art had a home.
Riveting stuff, and although the book is rigorously researched, it is written in an accessible, lively style that brings the era to life right before our eyes.
Why try to impose modern dilemmas on the past when we have stories like these to write, times like these to try to bring to life? Different yet the same. I can hardly wait to get going.
The new series? Not telling, not yet. I know, I’m a tease, but I don’t want to discuss it when it’s only in its planning stage. Like Corin’s book in the Triple Countess series, it might not work (but I’m still committed to doing his story – it will just be something different). Or like Antonia from the Secrets series, it might want to bide its time and I’ll come up with something completely different. That’s the magic of writing, and a major reason why I do it.
I am so glad I decided to take the plunge again. Now all I have to do is write the book!
Note: "Dr. Johnson's London" is available from many outlets, and here's the Amazon reference: http://tinyurl.com/pzjm8r
"Con Men and Cutpurses" is here http://tinyurl.com/r8bnsm
And just in case you've forgotten, my author page at Samhain is here: http://samhainpublishing.com/authors/lynne-connolly
Friday, September 11, 2009
My efforts have attracted the interest of an agent, who is confident that he can sell the series to a leading publisher. That being the case I need to put aside my historical novels, temporarily at least, in order to concentrate upon writing the next book in the series.
Securing the services of an agent isn't easy, especially in these difficult times, and I feel elated to have got even this far. Knowing that a professional has enough faith to back my efforts has energised me. I am bursting with ideas and full of fresh determination. Look out for the first book in the series, Rip Tide. If, (no, let's be positive here), when, it sees the light of publication I shall be back to tell you all about it.
I've had great fun contributing to this blog since its inception. Thanks for all your support and I hope to be talking to you all again very soon.
Wednesday, September 09, 2009
In January I planned my working year, as one does, full of enthusiasm. I had an agent who was confident my 'breakthrough book' would sell, and I dreamed about seeing my work in mass market paperback. Now it's autumn, the tag end of the year approaching, my book has not been taken up and I was beginning to feel somewhat downhearted.
Then a friend told me to look at what I had achieved not what I hadn't. Excellent advice, especially for writers. This year four large print books have already appeared plus two My Weekly Pocket Novels and Miss Bennet & Mr Bingley, a Jane Austen-esque retelling. There is another Robert Hale book coming out next month and two further novellas. All my recently published work is available on www.regencyreads.com and every month I receive a satisfying amount of dollars in my PayPal account. Lord Atherton's Ward is the latest of these, although A Mistaken Identity will be up there soon.
The orchard is full of apples and pears, there was a bumper crop of plums and greengages and our vines are dripping with grapes. I've made more than 60 pots of jam, jelly and chutney so far this year. As you can see, I might not have achieved my original goal, but the year has been fruitful.
I came across this 19th century recipe for preserving grapes, it sounds delicious. I'm wondering if I should attempt it.
"Take close bunches, whether white or red, not too ripe, and lay them in a jar. Put to them a quarter of a pound of sugar candy, and fill the jar with common brandy. Tie them up close with a bladder, and set them in a dry place."
I checked my cupboard but am right out of bladders. Also to make candy sugar is incredibly complicated, involving skimmers, bladders, and giving the boiling syrup "a sudden flirt behind, and the sugar will fly off like feathers."
Maybe someone will make wine with the grapes, otherwise they will be left to the hornets.
All my books are in UK libraries.
Monday, September 07, 2009
Sheildaig, on the west coast in the Highlands, was constructed in Napoleonic times specifically to provide and train sailors for the Royal Navy. This was the idea of the Duke of Argyle who was a member of the Board of the Admiralty. The site was considered to be a good position for a village and there were already some crofters living in the area and raising sheep and cattle. However, no one could initially be found to build the village and it was not until 1810 that construction began. A budget of £2,700 was allocated to build the three main streets. At the same time, the little island out in the bay, now known as Sheildaig Island, was planted with pine trees to provide timber for rigging for the warships.
In order to tempt people to populate the village, the government offered generous grants for boat-building, guaranteed prices for fish supplies, promised quantities of duty-free salt, allocated plenty of land for all new tenants, and built a new road to connect Shieldaig with Kishorn and Lochcarron. The people who came to live in Shieldaig prospered as a result. They were able to build large boats in order to fish in the outer waters, and the salt allowed them to cure their fish catches at low cost before sending them southwards to markets. The plan was that such experienced and talented sailors would be ideal to draft into the Navy during wartime and a training school for Naval mariners was also established. However, the construction of Sheildaig was not complete until 1815, by which time the threat that Napoleon had posed was gone, the sailors and boat-building specialists were not required, the short-lived Naval Academy was closed and the little port became a fishing village instead.
These days Sheildaig is one of the prettiest villages on the West Coast of Scotland and the island in the bay has become a nature reserve. It’s clear to see that the village was designed and built to a particular plan and the long main street that runs along the harbour is particularly picturesque. It’s one of the places that we return to time and again when we are in Wester Ross although the tranquil village of today is no doubt a far cry from the brief spell of construction and activity during the Napoleonic Wars!
Saturday, September 05, 2009
The story centres on Caroline Bingley and her interaction with the other Mr Darcy, Robert, who is Fitzwilliam Darcy’s cousin from Boston. Caroline is sincerely broken-hearted when Mr. Darcy marries Lizzy Bennet, so much so, that she breaks down entirely. And to make matters worse, her degradation is witnessed by the irrepressible American, who somehow expects her to confide in him! Caroline, caught in a moment of extreme vulnerability, intends to put as much distance between them as possible, preferably a whole ocean.
Faced with a wall of British reserve, Robert Darcy has a number of obstacles to face before he can discover the real Caroline Bingley, including Caroline herself. And meanwhile Caroline slowly finds herself stripped of her defences...
I’ll be going on a blog tour the last week of September until the middle of October in which I’ll be revealing my inspiration for the novel, talking about the similarities and differences between Mr Darcy and this other Mr Darcy, and describing my daily writing rituals. I'll also be giving away copies of the novel. So come follow me on the tour and maybe you’ll get a chance to win a free copy!
September 28: Fallen Angel Reviews Guest Blog
September 29: The Review from Here/ScribVibe
September 30: Everything Victorian
October 1: The Good, the Bad, the Unread Guest Blog
October 2: A Bibliophile’s Bookshelf
October 5: Grace’s Book Blog
October 6: The Burton Review
October 7: Bloody Bad Books
October 8: The Long & Short of It
October 9: Love Romance Passion
Date undetermined, but some time this week:
Curious Statistical Anomaly
October 12: Good and Bad Books
October 13: Lib’s Library
October 16: Fresh Fiction
Thursday, September 03, 2009
With the current screening of Wuthering Heights it seemed quite apt that we should have arranged to go to Top Withens yesterday. We had some young visitors who were eager to go to Haworth and as the weather wasn't too bad, after spending a few hours at the excellent Bronte Parsonage Museum we parked at Penistone Hill Country Park and set off on the three mile walk to the isolated farm that has become associated with Wuthering Heights. The Bronte Society claim that the building itself does not resemble Emily's description of the famous Heights, but the location of the farmhouse is perfect. Two hundred years ago the walk from Haworth to Top Withens would have passed many more dwellings that have now disappeared but as one climbs further up onto the moors the farms become much more spread out, and Top Withens stands alone and forlorn with a single tree beside it.
We were very lucky to have an (almost) dry walk up to the farm, accompanied by the popping of guns from the grouse shooters across the valley and the purple heather providing dramatic splashes of colour between the vivid green ferns that cover the hills. We were glad to shelter in the shippon at the side of the main building that has been repaired and fitted with a rough bench for visitors. We didn't mind the rain on the walk back, and were spared the winds that seem to blow for most of the time over the moors.
W returned home wet, muddy but extremely pleased with ourselves and settled down to watch the second part of Wuthering Heights.
A Final word about the Bronte Parsonage Museum – they are currently displaying some of the costumes from the new adaptation of Wuthering Heights, as well as an extremely interesting exhibition on the life of Branwell Bronte. Well worth a visit if you are in the area.
Melinda Hammond / Sarah Mallory.
Tuesday, September 01, 2009
After ten books in the series published, the family is rather extended now and I know from readers' letters and emails how many of the characters are their favourites and I dare not leave them out. But there is only so much I can fit into 120,000-130,000 words. If I put a charismatic character on the back burner in the WIP I could disappoint readers (not recommended to keep the books popular). If there is no other option but to kill off a family member I shall be putting myself through torment and anguish as well as my fictional family.
Exciting conflict throws characters into fraught situations that I would not want to put my own nearest and dearest through, and I am a mother hen to this wonderful family I created.
How can you put that character through such emotional turmoil? Is another cry from readers. Do they think I need the extra angst? I do it simply because all writers know that a page turning novel has to be full of conflict and emotional drama.
Then there's a new romance which in books never runs smoothly. Misunderstandings and heartbreak rule my day until the magic wand can be waved for love to conquer all. So there is no way my Loveday family can have a cosy co-existence where everything is happy in their world.
I live by the south coast and whilst trying to remain calm amongst each novel crisis; August brings the invasion of visitors, grandchildren needing supervision while parents are at work, heatwaves when the brain becomes glue (fortunately not too many of them this year), and the inevitable gas, electric or roadworkers digging up the road outside your window. Not forgetting research trips cluttered with tourists spoiling the view or babbling away and destroying that desperately sought quiet moment needed to find inspiration.
Would I change the trials and tribulations of August, or indeed any month of writing. Definitely not. The moments of panic pass. Somehow my deep subconscious sorts out a plot problem. (why is that always at 3am?). Somehow the words find their way on to the page so that my next deadline will be met on time.
I would not miss a moment of it for the world.
Happy writing. Happy reading and God bless September.