Monday, 22 October 2018

Allyso Tormblood's Stash Sash

Allyso Tormblood's Stash Sash (Object Post 126)

Source? It was part of the McAnerin costume
Significance? It was a handy way to carry things

She felt in her sash for her knife with the idea of assisting the hound, but her fingers closed on an empty fold of cloth.

Allyso Tormblood was having a very bad time. Her uncle and her friends were all dead and she was on the run with a hound that wasn’t hers, a knife one of her friends had given her and very little else. She’d put the knife in her sash, but obviously her exertions had dislodged it.
Later when she seriously needed somewhere to stash something she didn’t even have her sash because Master Wootton, the Seer, had decreed she had to leave everything behind when she went to talk to him. It must have been like those exams where everything is provided and you can’t take anything with you, or a concert where you’re not allowed to take your own water bottle and the queues are a hundred people deep.
'I must talk to the seer,' she said again. 
'Right.' Leonard pointed at a cleft in the rock. 'Go down the steps. There's a lamp at the foot; light it with the tinderthing. Take a tunic out of the coffer. Take off all your own things, and I mean everything. Every stitch, boots and all, hair ribbon, anklet, chains or beads or whatever you've got on. Put on a tunic, take the lamp and then start walking.'
‘But where do I find the seer?'
'He'll find you.'

She chose the most likely tunic and peeled off her own, laying it carefully in the coffer. Shivering, she put on the new one and tugged it into place, lifting her hair free of the collar. The skimpy garment left her arms bare to the shoulder and barely reached her knees. She removed her boots and leggings, then felt for a sash or belt, but there was nothing.

…she must write a record of the meeting. She must write what Wootton had told her. It would not take long, for just a few lines would do. She could tuck it in her pack or under her sash and take it out when she reached the open air.
There was just one problem with this plan. Her pack and her sash were put away in a coffer.
She got it back, but not before she had a nasty experience… and once more she used it as a repository to stash her knife.
Some lived, more died, said Scholar's voice in her mind, but she stuffed the knife in her sash and trudged on.

Allyso’s sash might have been viewed as a curious container, but it was also legitimately an accessory. She used it normally to belt in her tunic for a better fit, as well as a kind of pouch to carry things. Writing this reminds me of the sashes we had when I was young. They were crisply-ironed wide strips of nylon or sometimes cotton or even satin and we used them to tie around the waist of a party dress. They were always tied in big butterfly bows. They weren’t attached to the dress in any way, so I suppose they might have been used for several different dresses, though most growing girls in the 1960s had one party frock. These had tight bodices and full skirts and to this day when I say the word frock  that’s what I tend to visualise. I still think it’s one of the more becoming styles.

Sunday, 21 October 2018

Khloe, Daughter of Kristos’ alabaster armlet

Khloe, Daughter of Kristos’ Alabaster Armlet (Object Post 125)

Source? It was a gift from the goddess Demeter
Significance? It signified that Khloe was in Demeter’s service and under her protection
Fate? It was removed after the oopsie
Author’s inspiration? Arm rings look elegant but I have no idea how you keep them in place. Demeter solved that problem!

She took a delicate arm ring from the folds of her peplos. “I give you this as a symbol of our bargain. Wear it always.”
Khloe would never have fetched water from that spring if she’d known who it belonged to. She’d just  dipped her jar full when the goddess Demeter accosted her. Instead of smiting her, Demeter offered her a job.
I want you to serve as my daughter’s guard and companion. It will not be onerous. You will spend your days with my daughter and her maidens, playing with her, laughing with her, weaving garlands and keeping her from harm.
The arm band came as part of the bargain.

Khloe held out her arm to receive the gift. Accepting a gift from a goddess was unwise, but the consequences of rejecting it might be suicidal. Besides, she comforted herself, Demeter had no reason to harm her. Wasn’t she going to be a companion to her daughter? It wasn’t as if she did not know the ways of wilful maidens.
The armlet was a curious thing; not made from gold or gems but from translucent polished alabaster. Khloe put it on, sliding it up one slim arm almost to her shoulder, where it settled confidingly, almost as if it were part of her.     

Khloe came to regret that armlet almost immediately when Demeter told her one of the conditions of her service.

She reached for the armlet to remove it, but it resisted her fingers. She looked at it, and saw the pale band had become as part of her flesh.

She showed it to her mother and to her sister.

She fingered the translucent armlet, so delicate, so immoveable a part of her flesh.

She found out she wasn’t the only person to wear one of these symbols. Pelos, servant and messenger to the goddess, did also. He warned her against associating with Demeter but it was too late.
When Demeter’s daughter decreed her maidens should learn sparring from the Amazon women, the armlet caused a commotion.
She removed her clothing and ornaments as instructed. Lydis indicated her alabaster armband, but Khloe shook her head. “It won’t come off.”
Lydis tried to take hold of it and pull it off but when Khloe yelped with pain she looked more closely. “This is under your skin,” she said, producing a knife from a hip-sheath. “I will cut it out for you.”
Khloe shied away. “Lady Demeter put it on me,” she said. “She would be angry if I tried to remove it.”
“Iphito will be angry if you don’t,” said Lydis.
Kore, overhearing, raised her hand, and Khloe flinched. “Lydis, don’t alarm Khloe,” she said. “If Mother used an armlet to mark Khloe it can’t catch in a staff tip.”
“I am in charge here,” said Kore. “We have wasted enough time on this.”

The armlet had a nasty habit of reminding Khloe of the danger she was in and by the time she was rid of it, she was quite glad to see it go. She kept the pieces though, as a reminder…as if she needed one.

Saturday, 20 October 2018

Heather & Heath

Heather & Heath

I was sure I'd included all my major books in this blog, but I couldn't find a posting for Heather & Heath. Therefore, here it is.
Heather & Heath (second edition is Heather and Heath) is one of my longer books, and one I've always loved, which is why I'm so puzzled that I seem not to have written about it. I've done some object posts and character posts concerning it, but not the book itself. (Or maybe I have and I just can't find the listing...) Anyhow, this is a four-generation historical saga beginning with Ness MacLeod, a young Scotswoman, coming to NSW as companion to her friend Jean Leslie who is hoping to marry. Things go wrong and Ness arrives alone. She meets hard-as-horseshoes Hector Campbell on the docks and marries him. Together, they establish a property in Van Diemens Land which Ness christens Glen Heather. The story moves from Ness and Hector to their son John and his wife, Isabel, then to their son Robert and finally to Robert's daughters Alice and Rosalind. The saga ends in the early 1920s, just after WW1. 
When I first wrote this, it was called Crimson Heath. It was one of my late mother's favourites of my books and she could never understand why it wasn't published immediately. It didn't fit the requirements of the market for which I wrote it initially. An agent who loved the idea changed his/her mind. I entered the first 2/3 in a contest (the whole book was too long) and it was the runner up. Alice's story was published in an abridged version by the AWW. Finally, it was published under the name Heather & Heath in 2015. Alas, Mum died in 2010.  The company that published it closed down and I have the rights back, so here it is again, with a new cover and a slightly modified title. 

As I said; it has always been a favourite of mine, but it has never quite found its place. I still love it, anyway and the (very) few people who have actually reviewed it loved it too!

Friday, 19 October 2018

Diya Singh's Sandalwood Chest

Diya Singh’s Sandalwood Chest: Object Post 124
From Elysian Dawn

Source? Probably Diya’s family gave it as part of her dowry
Significance? It housed her treasured saree
Fate? It would have travelled to Shiva and then back to Terra
Author’s inspiration? It seemed the right thing to house a silk saree

More and more often she went to her sandalwood chest and unfolded the saree, a gorgeous confection of purple and gold silk.

Diya had kept her silk wedding saree and wanted it to be safe from damage. A sandalwood chest, probably part of her dowry, was just the thing. It would deter insects and keep the silk from becoming damp or musty in the heat of New Delhi.
It would also be something Diya could legitimately expect no one else to open, so her saree, and the knife she kept with it, would be exactly where she expected. She probably kept other things in the chest as well, though none of these are mentioned.

Elysian Dawn is the first book in the Elydian Dawn series. You can read more about it here.

Thursday, 18 October 2018

Frances Eckman's Brown Paper Bag

Frances Eckman's Brown Paper Bag: Object Post 123

Source? Egbert used it to bag Frances’ pig-in-a-poke purchase
Significance? It served to conceal said purchase
Author’s inspiration? I’ve found it curiously difficult to get into a brown paper bag that’s been taped down with parcel tape

Fancy buying an item in a sealed brown paper bag without even inspecting the merchandise.

Frances, having just dumped her boyfriend, tried to distract herself by putting up her Christmas tree, only to find it had lost its drunken angel topper and was well past its best-before date. She went into town on a quest for a new one only to find Christmas trees as common as hens’ teeth. Surely she could at least replace the angel? No such luck…but a friendly young man at a discount shop said he’d see what he could find.     

I remembered there is one fairy doll, but it’s a bit—well, it’s old stock.”
“I’d better go,” said Frances.
He looked disappointed.
“You know what?” she said brightly. “I’ll take it.”
“It’s not in the best of taste.”
“Neither is that reindeer nose. Or that elf hat, for that matter. That’s fine.” The doll was probably arrayed in a pink tutu with big tits and a lot of yellow hair, she thought, but she didn’t want to disappoint this nice boy. “I’ll take it.”

The young man, who claimed to be called Egbert,

ducked back to what was presumably the store room. Again, he was gone a while, but eventually emerged with a brown paper bag. He stationed himself behind his till. “Are you sure you want it, Frances?”
Frances eyed the bag which was sealed with heavy duty tape. “Why is it in brown paper? It’s not a—” She broke off. There were some things you didn’t say to nice boys.
 “It’s—um—a novelty item. It’s not a toy—um—definitely not for kids, you know? Maybe—”

Frances reassured him and took the bag. On the bus, she…

…turned the bag over, looking for a label or even a barcode or stock number to suggest legitimacy. She pried at the tape with her thumb, but it was the broad ultra-sticky brown tape that never gave in.

Back at home,

Frances put her groceries on the table, picked up a carving knife and took her brown paper bag to meet the Christmas tree.

The item inside her brown paper bag is the subject of another object lesson, but suffice it to say, Frances’ life took a wondrous turn for the better.

The story of Frances and her paper bag is told in Fairy on the Christmas Tree. You can check it out HERE (though it, like Frances' mystery purchase, is not intended for children.)

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Hendry and Alfey’s Biscuit Tin

Hendry and Alfey’s Biscuit Tin
From Replay
Object Post 122

Source? It was a commemorative tin, probably bought the same year as they had their photo taken
Significance? It held the cake Aelfthryth and Harry ate during their holiday in 1910
Fate? The mystery probably meant Alfey and Hendry kept the tin… and the sixpence
Author’s inspiration? Biscuit tins used to be very beautiful and reused for years
We found fruitcake in a biscuit tin and shared it, and we made a tiny fire in the range and boiled the kettle.

Aelfthryth and Hereward, the young couple adrift in time, valued every minute they were able to spend together. In 1910 they were lucky enough to surface in a replay close enough in time for their previous identities, Alfey and Hendry, to be still alive. They went to their cottage in Sydney, half frightened and half delighted, to visit their former selves, but the older couple had gone away.
An elderly neighbour explained their absence…

They be off to Melbourne to see their grandson's childer.

They would be gone only a week, but Aelfthryth knew she was very close to going into Replay and would almost certainly not be there when Alfey and Hendry returned…
The neighbour entered the cottage to water the plants, and then went off. What Aelfthryth and Harry didn’t know at the time, and not until a long, long time later, was that the old woman was a heriad, a distant relation of Harry’s who was part of a long line of descendants pledged to help Harry and Aelfthryth in any reasonable way… She knew exactly what she was doing when she entered the cottage in front of them.

We found the key to the cottage under the step where the old woman had returned it, and Harry let us in. We closed the door behind us and locked it again from the inside, and then we looked about us in the gloom.
I sat down in one of the well-upholstered settles and took a deep breath, clinging to 1910 as hard as I could. I don't want to go without you           
Harry sat down beside me. Aelfthryth
Yes! I said. Let's have our holiday here.         
I suppose you can guess what happened then, Saranna? We spent the rest of the afternoon and the night in that cottage.

We found fruitcake in a biscuit tin and shared it, and we made a tiny fire in the range and boiled the kettle. We even wrote a note of thanks, and Harry put a sixpence in the tin where the cake had been. But we did not forget Elvie and Harry-the-Postman who would be left behind us. We did nothing that could cause them any harm.
Or so we thought at the time.

Leaving the note and the sixpence was an honest action, but it would have confused Alfey and Hendry when they returned. Maybe they thought it was just a pair of young lovers seeking shelter… or maybe something tweaked their memories and gave them a mystery that would never be solved.  

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Wat the Mummer's Wicker Chest

Wat the Mummer's Wicker Chest: Object Post 121

From Replay

Source? Wherever 13th Century mummers got these things
Significance? It was not easy to escape from and not obviously containing anything but costumes
Fate? Probably used for costumes…unless superstition about dead men’s chests prevented it
Author’s inspiration? It was a tradition for people to get shut up in cases… right?

Within a few moments I had satisfied myself that I was closed up inside a large wicker chest, or coffer.

In 1267, Aelfthryth and Hereward, the time disconnected couple from Replay, lived in England as Alisoun Manchet, the daughter of a master baker, and Hal Harrison, his apprentice. They had gone off to a fair outside London.
Master Manchet, Alisoun’s father, warned “Alisoun” to pay no heed to the mummers’ sauce.
Trouble came when the guildsmen from the Goldsmiths and Tailors  started fighting. A mummer intervened, and things got rapidly worse. Master Manchet snatched a lute to use as a weapon and then a stone hit Alisoun.
She woke up inside a wicker chest.

I tried to put myself to rights, but there was not enough room to sit up. Awkwardly, I reached above me again, and pressed my palms against the lid. It creaked a little, but refused to yield.

After a bit, she realised the chest (or coffer) was on a cart, and later still someone opened the lid.

The mummer had blood on his arm, a long scratch down his cheek, and a wild look in his eyes. Beyond the obvious anger I could see he was wrestling with several other emotions. Indecision, perhaps. And fear.

With fear on both sides, especially once Wat the mummer knew Alisoun was a gentleman’s daughter and not a servant, things got worse.

"The thing now," he said, "is what's to do with you?"
"Let me go," I said, as reasonably as I could. "You cannot keep me inside this chest forever, and indeed, why should you? I am no costume."
Once more I thought I saw him take a notion - one I wished had never come to his mind. For most of us take our final rest in a coffin, though it is not commonly made of wicker.
"You need this coffer for your costumes," I urged. (There was not much point in pretending ignorance now.) "Do let me out - you know that murder is a mortal sin."
"Do not be speaking murder, now," said the mummer slowly. "We move on to the hiring fair, but 'twill not be for a ten-day more, and perhaps a chest of things might be left in store beneath the haystack. And if a wench should clamber in and the lid should fall and strike her…"
Now I was really frightened, so I said nothing. I judged better to keep quiet, since everything I had said so far had made things worse. I squinted up, and I could feel my vision blurring from sheer terror. And there was worse; the mummer set aside the lantern, and tilted the wicker lid back onto the coffer.
I heard the creak of hinges and the snap of a fastening. It seemed that the man had decided to put the lid on his troubles and leave me there.

Alisoun got out of the chest eventually, but it cost Hal Harrison his life…

You can read more about Replay HERE

Monday, 15 October 2018

Man Power in the Pet Vet series

Man Power in the Pet Vet series

The Pet Vet series comprises six stories about Trump the Jack Russell and her world. Trump is Jack Russell's daughter (from the Jack Russell series). To ring the changes from the Jack series, we used a female main team; Dr Jeannie Cowfork is a vet and Trump is her ALO. 

Just as the Jack series has some strong female characters 
to balance Jack, Foxie and Sarge, so Pet Vet has some males. Dr Max is Dr Jeanie's grandfather; a retired vet. He leaves Jeanie alone to get on with her work but sometimes drops by for a chat. His ALO (animal liaison officer) is the cockatoo Whisky, who is old, grumpy but interested in young Trump's progress in his own old job. He teaches Trump a fair bit, including the skills necessary to deal with clients who aren't dogs. The third man (or boy) is Davey, the young Saturday assistant, who loves animals and who often plays his part in helping deal with the non-medical side of the job. Apart from Davey, the Man Power characters are powerful only in their decades of experience, some of which is out of date. They share what's needed and then let the girls, vet and dog, get on with the job. After all, this is the girl (dog's) series!

Sunday, 14 October 2018

Girl (Dog) Power in Jack Russell Dog Detective

The Jack Russell series comprises twelve stories about Jack and his world. This includes for strong female characters. 

Jack tells the story from his point of view but although his landlord/master Sarge is his person (it's a dog thing) he holds Sarge's aunt Miss Tidge Russell, is equal affection. Since Auntie Tidge has been an affectionate and hands-on presence in Jack's life since puppyhood (no doubt she minded him when Sarge had to work away) he misses her horribly when Sarge is transferred to Doggeroo. Luckily, Auntie Tidge, who is just about retirement age, decides a country change is just what she needs. With Auntie Tidge back in play Jack is a happy dog. His love for her makes him extend his affection to include other girl-characters. 

He soon warms to Caterina Smith, who lives at Uptown House and who owns the rather hair-brained Lord Red Setter. Caterina and Auntie Tidge become good friends which is just as well, since Sarge marries her. 

Then there's Jill Russell, the gorgeous girl dog who lives at the station. Jack adores Jill, who treats him with brisk common sense throughout the stories. Jill is a part of the Jack Pack, which is Jack's name for his dog-friends. She's the sensible one whose wide knowledge of cause and effect comes in handy for them all. When Jill has a litter of pups, she has to sit out an adventure, but she still gives advice from the basket. They're Jack's pups too, so he makes it his business to visit. Jill is pleased when little Preacher, the smallest pup, goes to live with Jack and Sarge.

The fourth member of the Doggeroo girl power group is Polly Smote. Polly is a miniature dachshund who belongs to Gloria Smote, another friend of Auntie Tidge and Caterina. Polly has a sharp nose and sharper opinions and she uses both to demand answers and information from Jack. She always knows who's been eating what, and she, like Jill, sees consequences before they happen. She's a Jack Pack member but Jack treats her often with wary respect. She helps keep the erratic Foxie in line, but she has a soft spot for him.

Seeing the girl (dog) power group through Jack's narration means we don't see them the way they see themselves, but Jack is a pretty good observer and his affection for Auntie Tidge (not to say his respect for her decrees) gives him a good role model for his future dealings with the females of both species. And yet... before Auntie Tidge even, there was Ace, Jack's mother, whom he still sees on occasion as Sarge knows her owners. Ace comes along to Sarge's wedding and Jack's cup (and his ham supply) runneth over.  One of Jack's daughters, Trump (named after famous historical dog and carrying on the Ace/Jack/Trump card theme) has her own series which was interesting because we got to find out how someone of Jack and Jill's line dealt with the males of the species... (and that's species in plural...)

Saturday, 13 October 2018

Diya Singh’s purple and gold silk wedding saree

Diya Singh’s purple and gold silk wedding saree Object Post 120

Source? Diya had it made for her wedding to Dev
Significance? It was her most beautiful possession
Fate? Diya wore it when she boarded Ganges for Shiva, and would have packed it up for Meera to wear if she married
Author’s inspiration? I wanted Diya to have a symbol of beauty and hope

…she went to her sandalwood chest and unfolded the saree, a gorgeous confection of purple and gold silk.

Diya Singh had married her husband Dev in a wedding saree of purple and gold silk, bordered with glittering leaves. It was bright and gorgeous and Diya was delighted with the picture she made. A few years later, things were less rosy. Diya loved Dev and their son Jameel but she longed for a daughter, and a recent ruling of one child per couple had put that out of her reach. The desire played on Diya’s mind and she became remote and depressed. She started to toy with the idea of suicide. She hid a sharpened knife in the folds of her saree for use when the pain grew too much. She planned to put on the saree for the last time then.
Salvation came just in time when Dev put everything he could raise into a lottery for residence on Shiva, a place that encouraged childbearing.
Against enormous odds they won a place, and Diya…

…wearing the wedding saree, took the hands of her husband and son and boarded the shuttle that would carry them to the great river’s namesake where it waited in orbit.

Life on Shiva wasn’t quite what Diya had imagined, but she bore her daughter Meera Nihira and felt, for a brief space, the most fortunate woman alive.
Years later, when Diya, Dev and Meera returned to Terra with Meera’s friend Ram Chatterjee, Diya would have brought the saree along, in case Meera decided to wear it.

Diya and her family appear in the Elydian Dawn series.

About the Blog

Sally is Sally Odgers; author, anthologist and reader. You can find you way into her maze of websites and blogs via the portal here.(Sally is me, by the way.)

The goal for 2017 was to write a post a day profiling the background behind one of my books; how it came to be written, what it's about, and any things of note that happened along the way. 2017 is well behind us, but I ran out of year before running out of books. As of June 2018 I STILL hadn't run out of books, but many of those still to come are MIA by which I mean I don't have copies and remember little about them. There are more new books in the pipeline, and I'm certainly showcasing those, but in between times, I'm profiling some of my characters, places and objects. Thank you so much to everyone who's come along on this journey so far!