Wednesday, 31 July 2019

Tell Clancy's Challenge

My stories aren't about problems. I prefer the term challenges. Even then, my books are not about challenges. They're about characters who have challenges. There's a subtle difference. 

Tell Clancy, from Trinity Street, has an enormous challenge, but her first one in the book is understated. Tell, who feels herself to be an ordinary girl, is best friends with Camena de Courcy, an orphan who lives with her elder sister. Camena is a certified genius, but her social development lags well behind her intelligence. Tell is challenged by her need to protect Camena while interpreting the world for her friend, and also interpreting Camena for the world. It's a challenge that leaves Tell precious little time to think of her own problems.

Tuesday, 30 July 2019

Foreign Languages? Me?

Using other languages when I don't speak them myself can be complicated, especially when there are different forms for male and female... Is that la or le in French? Ami or Amie? Fortunately, in fantasy, I can avoid that problem because although my alpenfee might speak a kind of German and my courtfolk might call their parents Maman and Papa, the languages are not exactly German and French or Welsh, or Gaelic or Swedish... I can base a few lines on one of those languages and if I get it wrong... well, my characters are NOT Swedes; they're fjiordfee and as such they don't properly speak Swedish!

Here's an alpenfee madchen using a kind of pidjin German to an English speaker...

“Liebchen, I think I must have made that for the man-to-be. It has gathers and cuffs, so it can get bigger as you do. Do you like it? If not, I can make you one for the lad-you-are.”
“I like it this way. It’s dashing.
“I’m glad. I like folk to feel right in my clothes, even if they’re a kleines bisschen Zukunft.
He must have looked puzzled, because she laughed and said, “a small bit future.” Then she offered her hand as if he’d been a man already, and went to fit someone els

Monday, 29 July 2019


Betony has just stepped through the stag stone to an island called Arrival. After a largely-drab life up until now, she finds herself somewhere strange.
I suppose most of us have thought about being dropped somewhere utterly strange and wondered what we'd do. Betony, having little interesting reality to hark back to for context, thinks about things she's read, but she also notices the ambiance of the place, thinking back, and forth and then focusing on the present.

She stared around, but it was every bit as dark as it had been at the Stag Stone.
She never thought, for a moment, she was still there. The shift in temperature was too marked. Then there were the sounds, the smells, and the feel of something shifting under her feet.
“Is that sand?” she said in wonder. She rested her hand on a dark rock and found that, too, was warm.
There was no answer, so she looked at the driver to see what he had to say for himself.  He wasn’t there.
“Hello?” Betony turned on her heels, which sank into the presumed sand with a faint crunch. Had he darted behind the rocks?
She spent some time searching and then gave up.
She was alone. She knew it. She was alone on a stretch of sand in a warm place, lit only by a few faint stars. The rhythmic sounds and the perfume in the air told her this was a tropical beach. The glinting movement out to one side must be the ocean and behind her were obvious trees.
So, my time of my life experience is a desert island holiday.
She frowned, wondering, as she often had as a child, why they were called desert islands. The ones she’d read about were never deserts. On the contrary, they teemed with life.
Especially the one in the Lost Island series.
She hadn’t read that series as a child, and just as well!
She put her hands to her face and explored her temples. If this was Virtual Reality it was extraordinarily realistic.
No headset. Not VR. 
She had two options—Meltdown or Immersion.
Betony turned again, hearing the slithering crunch of sand under her boots. A playful breeze ruffled her hair, and she tasted salt on her lips. More stars glittered into view.
Immersion was the obvious choice.

Betony Buys Adventure

Sunday, 28 July 2019

The Cèilidh

Betony was visiting Bodhran Island in the star pin when she got mixed up with a bunch of leprechauns holding a cèilidh... She gets passed along from one partner to the other, and meets Maura Dervla, the granddaughter of Dervla Flower O'Shea, an earlier character... 

Her new partner was older and shorter but he, too, had green skin, the dark green of olives. He smelled of fresh-cut grass, which was delightful. He smiled with a merry crease to his cheeks and introduced himself to her as Fergal son o’ Padraig son o’ Lorcan Hillman. That was all she heard before someone else snatched her into his arms and dropped a sweet kiss on her collarbone.
No, her arms, as Betony saw, as the young woman twirled her around. She was a redhead dressed in a green skirt and white blouse cut so low her bountiful breasts rose from it like proving dough. She at least wasn’t green. She was small, coming up to Betony’s chin, but she grinned up at her and flashed a dimple.
“Road rise to ye, lovely! Tis good to be alive!”
“It is,” Betony said and meant it.
The girl spun her again, her bosom bouncing along with her red hair. “Maura Dervla,” she said. “And you?”
“Betony Field.”
“Not of the green way, lovely?”
Betony shook her head.
“Braeside, I expect. Sure, ye’ve the bountiful hips for it.”
“I don’t understand.”
“What order are ye?”
Still puzzled, Betony turned the question about. “What order are you, Maura?”
“A colleen, darlin’, an’ I thought from your dress, perhaps you were the same.”
“Oh, no. My—the highlander gave me these clothes to wear for the dance.”

Saturday, 27 July 2019

Heather Island

Betony is having the week of her life. She's been taken to Heather Island to see the sun come up...

...she saw the disc come up like a gold-foiled chocolate coin. She gasped as the light washed over the long valley below her. For as far as she could see, the ground was shawled in a counterpane of flowers, in every shade of pink and purple and through to lavender and white.
“Heather!” she exclaimed aloud, laughing with delight. “Oh, so beautiful!” 

Friday, 26 July 2019

The Brow of Dawn

Betony is on a galleon called Mermaid. She's been told to watch for the sunrise to see what you can see.

It was almost time.
“When the sun comes over the brow of Dawn, you follow the finger of light with your eyes and see what you can see.”
She gazed at the island. The brow of Dawn. That must be the rounded place that suggested a hill or maybe a smooth dome of rock.
The sun edged closer, and suddenly it was there, blazing into her eyes. Betony blinked back tears and hurriedly followed the line of light down into the water away to one side of Mermaid.

Thursday, 25 July 2019

Betula Began It

Indeed, Betula began it! For years, I've belonged to an on-line discussion group whose special interest in 20th Century girls' fiction, centred on school stories, but embracing pony stories, ballet and theatre stories, sport stories, adventure/camping and mystery. One of the other long-term members is named Betula. Early on I, probably along with just about everyone else she's ever encountered, asked about her name. (I'm a sucker for a good name.) Betula explained kindly and patiently that it means birch tree. I stored it up in my mind and I've since used it twice in fiction; once for a walk-on character, and again, more recently, for a character born Betula Grene but known in the books in which she's mentioned by her married name, Betula Bakewell. In The Pixie Grip series, Betula features in some chapters. On the strength of Betula's name, I decided to give some of her family members plant names as well. Her brother is Birch. Her cousin Berryman Grene has a son named Quercus, which means oak, and his son is named Salix, which means willow.

This isn't the only name I appropriated from the book discussion group; a former member had the first name Richenda, although she didn't use it. I didn't borrow it directly, but when I was looking up Cornish names I found that one on the list and remembered the person I'd once known.

Wednesday, 24 July 2019

Tess Brynn's Wedding Dress

Esther "Tess" Brynn married her husband Gard Tillien in 1930. Tess was a lively young woman, who enjoyed going to jazz clubs with her friend Jestima Grene. When she chose to marry Gard, she did so in her mother's wedding dress, which had belonged to her grandmother and great-grandmother before them. The dress was made of fine braeside wool in a soft green, in a long tunic style with a finely embroidered overdress looped back to show the  tunic from hem to thigh. It was charmed for joy, and so when Tess's daughter Pia announced her intention of marrying, Tess immediately offered the gown. As Pia was taller, it had to be lengthened, which meant unpicking the tucks put in for shorter brides. Tess had this done, and Pia duly wore the dress. Her shawl was a gift from her parents, giving her a keepsake that never needed to be returned. The dress was used next when Pia's sister Alba married Farren Willow. After that, it went back into storage until 1969, when Pia's elder daughter, Melody, wore it for her wedding to Roderick Skipton. Pia's younger daughter, Leilana, wore it in 1985, and Melody's daughter, Ryl Skipton, in 1999. Alba's daughter Cambria wore it. Cambria has a daughter, Cèilidh, and Leilana has a daughter, Promise, who are currently (2019) the only unmarried direct female descendants of Tess Brynn.   

Tuesday, 23 July 2019


I was struck, recently, by the plethora of pet names with diminutive endings - ie, e or y. It seems common among cats and dogs. Back in the day, children were often named with a formal first name which was registered, and they were then referred to by or addressed by a diminutive.
David would be Davie, Penelope would be Penny, James would be Jimmy, Timothy would be Timmy and Florence would be Florrie. In some cases these were just shorter names, but Jimmy sounds longer than James (it has an extra syllable) and Davie is the same length as David.

Later, the fashion was to bestow the diminutive itself as a name, so Betsy, Sally, Jamie, Johnny, Jill, Tommy, Vicky, Debbie and Susie might be registered under these names rather than as Elizabeth, Sarah, James, John, Jillian, Thomas, Victoria, Deborah and Susan. Then there were names that had no formal longer form; Wendy, for example. 

There are arguments on both sides of the fence for these naming practices, so I wondered whether I'd done it with many of my more recent book characters. I came up with a few, but in most cases the names just naturally have the ie/y ending...

Out of sixty-four characters, I found Chloe, Honey, Flori, Betony, Xanthe, Melody, Tansy, Rory, Derry, Duffy and Jory. Of these eleven names Chloe has an oe ending because it's Greek, Honey is shortened from Honeycomb, (and who could blame her), Flori is short for Floribunda, Betony is the full name - a plant name. Xanthe is Greek, Melody is the full name, Tansy is another plant name,  Rory is the full name,  Derry is short for Diarmaid, (and who could blame him), Duffy is the full name, and Jory is the Cornish form of George.

That's a long way from pet names though, where it seems y rules the bunch. 

Monday, 22 July 2019

Granny Belinda

Granny Belinda is one of those characters who is mentioned only briefly in one of my books, but who has a back story that interests me.

Her current bio at Lark's People is this:

Belinda Dane (fay, hob): Belinda, aka Granny Belinda, is Chess Dane’s paternal grandmother, a widow. According to Chess she keeps casual company with at least two leprechaun gossoons on visits over there. Counterpoint

Chess also tells his wife Jordana that Granny Belinda is the two-word answer to the problems of impending parenthood aligned with an indi-music career!

Sunday, 21 July 2019

Betony Field

Betony Field, the heroine of Betony Buys Adventure, (which you can buy right here ) is named after the (fictional) place where she was found as a baby in England, at the scene of a road accident. Since the bus had been a self-drive vehicle, hired by several unrelated strangers, some of whom died at the scene, it was impossible to identify Betony and no one ever claimed her. She was fostered and adopted by two women named Alice and Meg, but given the name of the field naturalists' paradise of Betony Fields where the bus went off the road.

Saturday, 20 July 2019

Betony Buys Adventure

Betony Field has stuck by the rules and paid her dues while life with a capital L passed her by. A few days before her thirty-fifth birthday, her boyfriend calls it quits, she loses her job, and also her flat. She recovers her life, sans boyfriend, but then Betony decides to blow some of her rainy-day fund on the adventure of her life. There must be a catch, but in the meantime, should she tick the yes box offering sexy fun?

Betony Buys Adventure is a part of the Fairy in the Bed series, and also a part of the Scorched Souls summer series. It fits in with the FitB series in that at least one of the characters is fay, but that's not all. Although it's the first book to be set in the UK and also in the star pin, it ties back to the Counterpoint miniseries in that Stag St  Martins and the Stag Stone, mentioned briefly in connection with Daniel Fanshaw's family, plays a pivotal role here. Also, Mab and Derry, main characters in Horizontal Bunny Hop and supporting characters in Man Overboard also play a role. I had a lot of fun inventing the star pin setting, and Betony Buys Adventure turned out to be one of my favourites.

Friday, 19 July 2019

Quinn's Enchanted House

Quinn Peckerdale has been planning for his marriage for two years. Part of the planning included building his own house, in a fold of a valley near one of his cousins' vineyard. The house is finished, and lacks only the bride.  Once Quinn has found and married her, he takes her to her new home.

They walked on, over the hill and down into the fold. Yvanne exclaimed with delight as she saw the walled garden of fruit trees and flowers. The house inside it was tiny after the manor, but it was no cottage. It had two storeys and a round tower with a flat top, protected by low walls.
The sides of the house were covered in giant murals, reflecting the garden, so the real trees were twinned on the walls, as were beds of marigolds, nasturtiums and pansies, scarlet runner beans, and herbs...

Yvanne followed him up three steps to a door too narrow to enter side by side. Quinn opened the door and walked in, glancing about as if to be sure everything was well.

A waist-high Christmas tree in a pot glittered with tinsel and stars. Pots of Christmas lilies laid their scent in the air. A carved wooden cabinet held a quaintly-formed set of nativity figures.
“This is where you got the ox and the ass for Llew and Dove.”
He assented. “I made more sets than I needed, having time on me hands. I’ll have less time for carving now.” He sounded pleased about that.
The kitchen was small but functional, and Quinn led Yvanne in there before she’d finished inspecting the entryway. ...

'There’s plenty of fruit and bread and butter in the larder. If there’s anything else ye’ll be wanting before tonight, say now.”
Yvanne looked around while he woke up the stove and set a kettle to boil.
She remembered hearing leprechauns drank a great deal of tea.
“Eat a fruit pie now,” he said, handing her one.
He took one for himself and bit into it. “Not quite to the standard of your court bakers, but good enough.”
It was certainly good enough.
“Tay?” He poured water into a pretty teapot wreathed with holly leaves.
She nodded, and drank thirstily when it was poured.
“The privy is up the stairs,” he said, taking his own tea.
Yvanne went up the stairs and into the privy, which was as colourful as the kitchen. She splashed water on her face and dried it on a linen towel, and then walked back down to the kitchen.
Quinn wasn’t there.
She looked about, nonplussed. “Quinn?”
“Up here, Yvanne.”
His voice came from above so she mounted the stairs again. He wasn’t in the music room or the book room, or even the bedchamber, so she climbed again, going up a narrow spiral that led into the miniature tower.
The round room was flooded with light from full-length windows, but the stairs led on up through a narrow hatch to the roof.
Yvanne stepped out into the full strength of the summer heat.
“Oh!” She had expected a timber or clay-tiled roof, but she found another walled garden, with short mossy turf and more flowers. Quinn was kneeling on a patchwork quilt spread over the grass. He held out his hands to her.

Thursday, 18 July 2019

Quoting Gard

Gard Tillien is a pixie man with two daughters, Pia and Alba, that he shares with his wife, Tess. When Pia turns up with a strange young man named Peter, Gard dismisses Pia to talk to her mother and settles down to a little Peter-baiting. 

Just when Peter thinks it might be safe to breathe again, Gard mentions his wife...

Tess agrees with me in every particular. [regarding the proper treatment of young women.] And I have some advice for you. Don’t cross my my lady wife. Not ever. If she likes you, she will love you as her son. If she doesn’t, she will be exceedingly polite to you, forever.

Wednesday, 17 July 2019

Quoting Pia

Pia, freshly emancipated from parental control (though still motivated by love and good sense to let her parents know she won't be home to supper) is enjoying a night on her blanket under the stars when she wakes to find someone has joined her.

Peter, who has been dumped by his human girlfriend over a cultural difference of opinion, is in need of some kindness and company. Pia's happy to provide that, but she has conditions...

Mind, this offer stands only if your human maid really doesn’t want to see you again," Pia said. "There’s no point in me making you happy if it makes someone else unhappy. If she’s of a resurgent nature the offer is off the table and you’re to get off my blanket.”

Pia and Peter appear in The Pixie Grip

Tuesday, 16 July 2019

Zach's Challenge

My stories aren't about problems. I prefer the term challenges. Even then, my books are not about challenges. They're about characters who have challenges. There's a subtle difference. Zachary Rowan has a lot of challenges in Man Overboard. Being an ordinary-looking young man who has a romantic temperament is one of them... being stranded in the middle of the ocean is another...but there's also the challenge of his job.

Being an early childhood teacher wasn’t in the same league as being a monk, but there were good odds that any woman he went out with would be related to at least one of his current, former or future pupils so he’d always been circumspect. It didn’t come easily.

As he says to a woman he's just met who asks him why he's not taken...

I’m afraid I’d meet the woman later on at a school function. I teach five-year-old children. It’s what I do. I’m good at it, and I want to go on doing it. Any woman I played games with would inevitably turn out to be someone’s aunt. That would be a bad situation whichever way I buttered it.”
“Getting friendly with a woman’s toes and then discussing her nephew’s finger painting just isn’t the way it goes.”
Jin shook her head at him. “Strange, strange man.”

  He looked down at his bare feet. “I suppose so. Are you someone’s aunt?”
“Not as far as I know.” Jin was reasonably sure Corin would have told her if she was.
“That makes you perfect, unless you’re someone’s mother? Or someone’s wife or partner?”
 “I’m no one’s anything beyond the obvious.”
“And as we’ll never meet again I’ll be safe from compromising consequences.”
“How do you know we won’t meet again?” she asked.
“I’m sure you’ll make damned sure we never do.”

Monday, 15 July 2019

Emer's Sometimes Cat

Emer Drumwiddy liked cats, and besides, the sight told her a red cat would herald a great change in her life. She'd have to wait eight years for the change, but at least the cat showed up. He was a red kitten, and he moved into Emer's cottage. However, he also lived somewhere else, and it was a good while before she found out where.

Emer put on her shawl and went about her business for the day.
At midday, she returned to the cottage with some beeswax to pound with herbs to make more slave, and found the kitten purring on her bed.
Emer put down her basket, surprised and amused at how pleased she was to see him. She lifted him into her lap and they spent an hour in friendly contact before she began to compound her ingredients.
The kitten stayed until evening closed in, settled by the stove and, as before, was gone in the morning.
       Emer shrugged and accepted him as her sometimes cat.

 The red kitten, whom Emer called Red, isn't the only unusual cat to prowl through my fantasy romance series. There's Mistress Calico, a self-possessed little cat that follows Kris Peckerdale home by stowing away in a van in Calico Calypso, Mistress Tapestry, a tortoiseshell who lives with a friend of Foss Chancery in Betony Buys Adventure, and Ink, the roman nosed black tom who lays claim to Pen Swan in Pen and Ink. Then there's Rasputin, who rules Raph's Sydney cottage in Christmas Eve, and another tom, deceptively named Millie after Brendan Miller, from whom LeeLee Grene obtained him in The Kissing Ring. Millie had an uncomfortable habit of settling on the stairs in the guesthouse and staring at the guests. His descendant, Magpie, is hanging about the guesthouse in later stories.

Sunday, 14 July 2019

Provenance for Penny

One of the must interesting things about writing a series that spans several decades and includes so many characters is that there are always incidents or characters that are mentioned in passing, and which can be picked up with a stronger focus later.

Sometimes, this can be a bit like making a jigsaw puzzle. For example, I have two characters from the one family who have been in quite a few stories. These are Rory, who was born in the 1930s, and his grandson Duffy, who is in his forties in his main story, but who appeared as a youngster in someone else's story. His two sisters are mentioned, but his parents weren't named.

In writing Rory's story, I had to think about names for Duffy's parents. His father is now named Davey, and he appears as a small child in the early part of a book called The Red Cat. However, his mother was just a name... Then I needed to work out the provenance of another character whose name was (provisionally) Penny. I checked my timeline and realised "Penny" would be about two years older than Davey, and that they could very well have met through a third character named Magda. So... maybe "Penny" could become Davey's wife and the mother of Duffy and his sisters?
There was a problem though. The grown-up Duffy has a wife named Pen, and it seems unbelievable that he wouldn't have remarked on the coincidence when he and Pen were courting... "How odd! My mum is called Penelope too..." So, I decided that, if I go ahead with this plot-line, "Penny" needs a name change. Since she was born in 1951, I needed a name that would work for the period, and which would fit the surname she has to have, and also fit her personality, which I had established. I wanted to keep the initial P for other reasons already lodged in the story.

The names I considered, which would have the same "feel" as Penny were...
Peggy - I like that, but it doesn't quite match the personality.
Pepper - Probably too modern.
Petal - Doesn't work with the surname, which begins with L.
Petra - Too much like an existing character's name.
Pansy - Too soft.
Polly - I like that, and it was a strong contender.
Poppy - as with Polly.
Patty - I like that too, but maybe a bit soft.
Pom - Another strong contender, being derived from Pomegranate (which may be a bit too odd for 1951.)
Pixie - I really liked that, but it doesn't work for plot reasons.
Pippa - Too close to an existing character.
Patra - I liked that, but a bit the same as Petra.
Patina - Another one I liked.
Pegasus - Too odd for 1951.
Perry - Already in use for another character
Persephone - with Percy as a short form. I already have a character who goes by Percy.
Pandora, with the short form Panda. This is the one I picked, because it works for the character. It is unusual, but not as odd as Pomegranate or Pegasus.
So there you are...

Saturday, 13 July 2019

Reading for Pleasure; advantages for children

Reading for pleasure is of value for kids (in my opinion) for at least the following reasons:
·       It’s a quiet activity. With all the noise going on, a bit of silence is good for the soul.
·       It’s a quiet activity. Parents and other carers run ragged with noise and fuss welcome it when kids can sit quietly and read.
·       It’s portable. If you have a book and sufficient light, you don’t need to be “connected”.
·       Kids can choose their own kind of story. A reader might be absorbing something that is of no interest to the rest of the family.
·       Reading can be taken as, when, as fast, as slow… as required.
·       Reading probably gives children a wider range of examples of personality and themes than most other media.
·       Books read and enjoyed in childhood can be revisited later. They often also live on in  readers’ memories as childhood friends.

Friday, 12 July 2019

Authors who Practise Minimalism

This is part of the answer I wrote to someone doing a survey on reading... I'd be interested to know your take on the issue.

I think more and more people are writing books because there are so many different ways to publication now. I also see a lot of people practising minimalist lifestyles, where they pride themselves on having very few possessions. I think that mindset, although I sympathise with it, is quite unsettling for authors. We rely on people BUYING our books and – yes – keeping them. If someone buys a $10.00 book of mine, I get around $.50 to keep – before taxes. If that person gives that book away, or sends it to the second-hand market… well, lots of people might read that copy but I’ll never get any more than the initial $0.50. What I find really weird is that some of the minimalist-lifestyle-espousing people I know are authors themselves. In my view, authors should buy new books on a regular basis. It’s one way to support our own industry. I truly believe reading and writing books will be with us for a long time to come, but that the industry will continue to evolve. There have been some blind alleys, but I do think that evolving is good for reading/writing in some ways. I hate to use the term relevant, but in this case it’s…um…relevant!
  And yes; I practise my own form of industry support. I buy books. I buy audio books every month. I buy e-books (especially from the two companies that publish some of mine), and I go into the local bookshop every so often, buy a picture book or junior novel (usually by an Aus author), and give it to the assistant to put under the counter with instructions to give it to a young customer who has already bought something, or who is accompanying a book-buyer. That way the author gets a sale, the bookseller gets a sale, and some deserving child gets an unexpected gift. Win/win/win!.

Thursday, 11 July 2019

Der Kaffeetanz

Der Kaffeetanz is one of my increasing pieces of fantasy real estate. The name translates, roughly, as The Coffee Dance, and it's a cafe in Sydney in 1961. The owner is Liesl Bless, who pretends to be Swiss, but isn't. Two of her specialised cakes are Küchentorte
  and Liebertorte.


Wednesday, 10 July 2019

The Mystery of the Missing N

I'm pondering the mystery of the missing N.
Well, it's not utterly missing, but certainly obvious in its lack of prevalence.
Of 169 surnames in a book series, some letters never appear at the start of any of the surnames.
Those MIA are, as one might expect, UXYZ and... N. Even I and Q score 2 names each!

The plot thickens.

In case you're interested (you're probably not) here are the surname-initial scores.

N U X Y Z  - zero entries each
I J Q V - two entries each
K W - three entries each
E R - four entries each
O - five entries
G - six entries
P - nine entries
M - ten entries
L T - eleven entries each
F H S - thirteen entries each
A - fourteen entries
B - fifteen entries
D - eighteen entries
C - nineteen entries

That did surprise me. The C-folk are called...
Caffrey, Canterbury, Carpenter, Cassidy, Chalk, Chance, Chancery, Charming, 
Cliff, Clover, Cobbler, Comice, Connemara, Corneau, Cornfellow, Cottman,   Cowrie, Creed, Curry

Note to self - investigate surnames beginning with N...

Tuesday, 9 July 2019

Quoting Lucy

Nelis Winter has just covered herself with humiliation at her school Leavers' Dinner. When she finally emerges from wringing her hands in the bathroom, she finds the bus has left. Lucy Tan, one of the "sensible girls" has got her licence, and she offers Nelis a lift home. On the way, Nelis explains something of what happened. Lucy has some sage advice.

“Not to worry. We all make idiots of ourselves sometimes. It’s part of being human.”

Monday, 8 July 2019

Quoting Rory

Peter G is a young man with a dilemma. Something he observed between the gatekeeper Dara Treadwell and her intended, Arthur, has made him look at his relationship with his love, Gentian, in a different way. Mistress Dandelion, a chilly apothecary, gets into the situation and Peter flees to ask advice from his old friend Rory. He explains the whole tangle to Rory who, as a vicar, is bound to silence. Rory finds it difficult too, but finally he comes to a conclusion which he says might not only help Peter and Gentian, but also a potential challenge of his own.

I try to do what’s right, but sometimes what’s right for one is wrong for another. You’ve just helped me to see the best thing to do in most cases is the kindest thing. 

Rory and Peter G appear in several of my books, but usually as peripheral characters.

Sunday, 7 July 2019

Quoting Hamish

Floribunda Rose Alexandris, who is (well, why not?) a florist, is on her way back from doing the flowers at someone else's wedding with a couple of stranded fairies in her van. When the snow gets too heavy and they run off the road, they settle in the back of the van to wait until morning. Flori passes the time by asking Hamish, a braesider, whether she, as a human, can go into over there. He says she can...

“Not on your own, but any fairy can take you and bring you back. And before you ask, time passes the same and eating or drinking won’t commit you to anything. No one will cast a spell on you, make you wade through bluid to the knee, or turn you into a donkey.”
“That’s not what the ballads say.”
“Fairies are not what the ballads say. Ballads are woven out of a leaf of fact into a tree of fancy..."

Saturday, 6 July 2019

Joey's Challenge

My stories aren't about problems. I prefer the term challenges. Even then, my books are not about challenges. They're about characters who have challenges. There's a subtle difference.
In I'm Big Enough, Joey Hopalong's challenge is to prove to well-meaning friends along the way that he is big enough to be out alone. His mother thinks so. Why don't they agree?

Friday, 5 July 2019

The Story Within

I expect some of you remember L.M. Montgomery's books The Story Girl and The Golden Road. These were episodic novels about brothers Bev and Felix, their cousins Felicity and Cecily King and Sara Stanley and companions Sara Ray and Peter.  The story girl of the title was Sarah Stanley, who was, as her name implies, a storyteller, and many of the chapters include the stories she told in the old orchard. Similar stories-within-a-framework-novel occur in books by Elizabeth Enright and Eleanor Farjeon, but a lot of other authors have also used the story within motif, although with less intensity.

I realised today when I was writing a chapter of my latest w.i.p. that fully half of it is a story told by a character named Justin Bakewell. The chapter is set in late 1962, but the story Justin tells is from the early 1940s when he was in the army and unhappily separated from his wife. He's telling the story to an audience of three; his wife Betula, their son Joe and Joe's fiancee Liz. Joe and Betula have heard it before, and in fact Betula lived it. It's new to Liz, but in the telling Justin adds a detail Betula hadn't known.

This book is a retrospective with its 1960s setting.  Joe and Liz have appeared in other books, set in the 1980s and 2000s, and in one of them, Joe tells his son Si a story that proves he's every inch Justin's son. 

A lot of this has just happened as I was writing so, like Betula, I learn new details about my characters every day.

Thursday, 4 July 2019

Magda Quest

Magda Quest is another of those throw-away characters who was only ever supposed to make a walk-on appearance in one of my books. 

In The Pixie Grip, which traces the lives of two cousins and their descendants, the throw-away moment came when Peter, who had modeled for Thaddeus' Appledore's final painting Swansong in 1950, returns six years later to the area to purchase a car. On the way, he unexpectedly meets Judit, who also posed for Appledore. Peter is accompanied by his wife and Judit by her husband, so the two couples decide to attend the retrospective of  the artists' work. 

The retrospective brings renewed interest in Appledore's oeuvre, so Peter and Judit find themselves fielding offers of work. On his way out of the venue, Peter is waylaid by an agent who introduces herself as Magda Quest. She was a correspondent of Appledore's and she advises Peter to check with her before accepting any work. I expected Magda to be no more than a one-off appearance, but she keeps popping back into my mind, and since this series has quite a few more books to go, she will probably reappear at least a couple of times.  

Wednesday, 3 July 2019

Pen's Challenge

My stories aren't about problems. I prefer the term challenges. Even then, my books are not about challenges. They're about characters who have challenges. There's a subtle difference.
In Pen and Ink, Pen Swan has multiple challenges, most of which have to do with facing reality as it is rather than as she believed it was. As a happily married wife, Pen assumed she'd have children. Her husband wasn't really against the idea, but he wasn't too enthusiastic either. Finally, tipping into the second half of her thirties, Pen bit the bullet and suggested it was time now. Five years later, she was not only still childless, but widowed too. A well-meaning friend suggested she should "put herself out there", as it were, and Pen had a new challenge; to make up her mind whether to accept middle age or flip the metaphorical die and have another go at wife-and-motherhood. A divorced friend of her late husband fancied himself in the role of Pen's husband number two. Challenge? Accept a pleasant old friend just for that one last chance, or hold out for a future in which her window of opportunity was closing by the day. Pen decided to sidestep the whole thing and get herself a cat.

She ended up with a cat and a husband and twins and a whole new set of challenges.

Tuesday, 2 July 2019

2019 in Focus June

June's theme was Winter's Palette and much of the focus is on the ever-changing blues. I had trouble choosing a cover photo to represent June, and in the end I used five of them put together. There were far more I wanted to include, but I thought if there were too many the detail would be lost.

Monday, 1 July 2019

Barbara Allen

Sometimes writers (like anyone else) just assume something is what they think it is. We do check anything doubtful, but why would we check something we know is right? Because it might not be right after all? And what if it isn't? Do we rewrite?

Sometimes, a wrong assumption can work in our favour because we can shuffle off the responsibility onto our characters. That's right... it's THEIR fault.

Barbara Allen is a case in point. It's the 1950s, and a young man calls his girlfriend Barbie Barbara Allen as an affectionate nickname. Why not? Everyone else calls her Barbie, and he'd like to be different. I'd put in the reference and decided I might check to find out the provenance of the song. I was pretty sure it was old, but what if it turned out to be a modern construct dating from 1964? I checked the date, and found it is of respectable antiquity. Then I idly looked for the lyrics.

Eek! It isn't a sentimental love-song as I'd thought. Not in the least. No. No other song would do, so I left the reference in place but later on had Barbie ask her admirer to PLEASE stop calling her that. She then explains to him as I just explained to you.

What? I didn't?

Well, Barbara Allen is the object of William's affection. He's sick with love. He's dying of love. Oops... he really is dying. Barbara Allen, appraised of this, won't go and give the lad a kind word. He dies, begging his friends to be kind to her. She hears he's dead and then wastes away and dies of remorse. So there.