Quick update...

We're back in Blighty!

We had an amazing trip, saw lots of sights, walked many miles across NYC, went for a drive in Idaho hills and snow-shoeing near Vancouver, CA. During the holidays, I'll be posting up a diary blog of our trip, together with some of the 1,000 photos I took along the way.

The best bit: Vancouver! :-)

Oh, while I was away I received the second round of edits of Highland Arms. Busy days ahead!

Now, looking outside is wonderful. A fresh blanket of snow has turned the garden into a winter wonderland again. Beautiful!

More soon...

Preparations for the big break

Today was a busy day for us, getting bits 'n' bobs organised.

We'll be flying out later this week. Exciting and scary. Exciting for the obvious reasons - holiday abroad. Scary for another reason - paperwork!

Today we went and got a new oil filled radiator for the bedroom - our storage heater in there isn't 't enough to keep the room warm in the evenings. We had a lovely electric fire but earlier this week it gave up the ghost. Bad timing. Mum likes it warm! ;-)

So off we went and got a small radiator, and a new case as one of our two big cases is wonky. No point if we have to drag it around with us for three weeks. Shiny new 'expanding' (!) case for moi!

Also got some fab boots for the evening meals out, and the opera. Can't march into the Met in worn, red hiking boots, can I? And a pair of slingback mules. Both with wooden soles. And nicely reduced! Oh, and a pair of skinny jeans (ignoring my not-exactly-skinny middle), and leggins for under my short blue dress for the opera.

Hubby got himself a few new shirts - they suit him really well. One of them is checked, and I guess it would be the envy of any lumberjack.

So tomorrow it's time to deplete the rainforest. Sadly. :( Papers of our visa registration, our flights, our hotels, our booked tours, simply anything we organised for the trip. Wonder how heavy that bundle will be.

One final day of editing and writing looms, then we'll be running around like mad, trying to gather all our stuff together. I always want to pack too much but hubby told me off - I'm not allowed to use any space in his case (the same size as mine!). No, it's space for stuff we get over in the US.

Ahh, that's ok then. I can go shopping there...

The Big Trip across the Pond

Well, I'll get to our trip of a lifetime shortly but first an update on Highland Arms - soon I'll be jumping into round 2 of edits. Can't wait to get stuck in again although I'm just at a crucial point in my current WIP - where the MMC is called home to Normandy, leaving England at a crucial point in time. Have started to dig out my 'research photos' (aka holiday snaps) from Normandy and Perche to get back into the setting.

But both jobs are going to be slow for three weeks - as hubby and I are heading to the US of A! :-)

Next week we're going to fly to New York where we'll stay five days. Plenty to see so we'll be busy. Then it's 'go west' as we head for Oregon, to stay in the town of Medford, visiting my aunt. We have never met so there's lots to catch up on. Three days later we travel onwards, to Boise, Idaho. There - for the first time since we got in contact in October 2010 - I'll meet my half-sister. Both visits will be quite emotional, and utterly amazing.

From Boise we'll head north-west, staying in Seattle for two nights before we'll end our journey in Vancouver, Canada. This is a personal highlight for me as I first craved (yes indeed, craved!) a visit in 1984. I wanted to see where Bryan Adams lived!!! :p

We're excited about our trip, as you can imagine. We have already organised 'hop on, hop off' buses for NYC, a visit to the Metropolitan Opera and a NBA match in Madison Square Gardens. We'll visit foodie places and wineries in Oregon and Idaho, plus some gorgeous countryside; explore Seattle's culinary highlight, Pike Place Market; and finish it all off in style when we're going to watch the Canucks play in Vancouver. And flurry of snow wouldn't come amiss at all.

Culture, sports, food & drink - we'll try it all, and more. I'm sure we'll find plenty of other things to explore when we're there.

The countdown is on!!!


Last weekend we paid a long-overdue visit to our best friends in South Wales. They had just bought a new house and spent two months redecorating, so we just had to go have a nosy.

The house is lovely, spacious, in a quiet dead-end lane with friendly neighbours. It was fab to see our friends so well settled so quickly.

Of course we had to squeeze in a few things to do. We arrived on Thursday and enjoyed a recce of the house, some bubbly to celebrate and a yummy fish dinner (ginger, anyone?). Altogether a leisurely, relaxed time catching up.

Friday we took to our feet and walked across the valley up the hill on the other side, passing a private plot with chickens and ducks, all filthy from mud-drenched ground after the recent rains. The chickens were so curious, within a couple of minutes they'd gathered inside the fence staring at us intruders.

Then the hike up the hill began, with regular stops for snaps. We were looking for a pub our friends remembered from years ago but, traipsing around the countryside, we just couldn't find it (found out later we took a wrong turn). Instead, after a three mile hike, we ended up in another lovely country pub where we stayed for a couple of pints and lunch. Rarely have I seen such huge portions. While I managed to wolf down my delicious omelette ('with a bit of everything'), I couldn't eat all the chips, peas or salad that came with it. Eventually we wandered back (just as well, given the size of the portions!), only to get caught in heavy rain - with very little shelter - barely a mile from home. Three of us wore waterproofs with hoods but poor Ryan got a proper soaking in his fleece top. Ouch!

We arrived home drenched but happy. Changing into warm, dry clothes and a cuppa tea set the world to right again. Later that evening we ventured into Pontypridd for a lovely Italian dinner - but not without having waited at an obscure bus stop for half an hour, without any sign of a bus, but with another downpour. It was time to get the car!

On Saturday we had planned to hike up Pen-y-fan, in the Brecon Beacons. But given the rains the previous day, and the unpredictable forecast, we decided to go for a wander around Brecon instead.

Now, Brecon is one of my favourite Welsh towns. Lots of narrow lanes with individual shops - gem stones, 2nd hand books, hiking gear - you name it. Ryan bought a new waterproof jacket (with a hood attached!) and I ended up with three 2nd hand books. I could've bought more but the 10kg restrictions on our hand luggage was threat enough not to. Argh! Hate it when I can't buy the books I spot. Blame the airline! ;-)

We finished off our busy day waching ice hockey in Cardiff. There was a clear party atmosphere - much more so than in Edinburgh - and the whole experience was exhilarating. It helped that Cardiff Devils won 7-4 over Hull Stingrays. Go Wales!

Then it was Sunday - time flies! We took our time getting ready in the morning (and squeezing our purchases into the cases, hoping for the best). On our way to the airport we took a short trip into Penarth and strolled along the seafront to the pier. Blustery winds and choppy seas greeted us. Of course that doesn't deter seasoned wanderers like us!

And whoosh, the long weekend in Wales was over. Loved it!

My Hideaway

Following on from Lady Tess's lovely post with pics of her home office, and her query for a shot of our cats on my office window sill, I simply had to oblige and reveal my hidey hole.

Well, you could almost literally call it a hole - it's our small spare (single) bedroom. After years of use for visitors or drying the washing only, DH recently re-painted the walls a warm yellow (ideal to brighten up the room on a gloomy Scottish day such as today). We also bought a new desk, a bookshelf to fit above it (still awaiting its turn), and number of nice photo frames and picked some decent pics for the walls. Oh, and a sheepskin to keep my feet cosy.

So let the tour begin:
The usual view. A Scottish autumn day - the stable yard drenched, and the Pentland Hills hidden by low cloud, with the odd ray of sunshine just about to squeeze through. For five seconds.

My desk, with an array of medieval history books, currently about my favourite family - the Angevins, a Thesaurus and The Oxford Library of Words and Phrases (3 nicely bound books). I have boxes filled with pens, notes, and photographs. A magnetic pin board with printed editing tips, and pics of my boys past and present (Gizmo and Mouse are sadly long gone).

I have to have a notepad for scribbling down ideas and points of further research. And of course my beloved Macbook. Wonder when I can allow myself a Pro...

Looking up, there are photos of Tantallon Castle and Dunottar Castle. Behind me, above the printer, are shots of Etive Mor and a squidy soft Hielan' Coo's nose.

PS Please ignore my dying plants. I'm

My bookcases - need more space to add another soon. Wonder if the guest sofabed should go!

Oh, and Bob relaxing while I write. The cats love the peace and quiet. They can watch what's going on in the stables.

I hope to keep our electric fire in here, too, as the storage heater is not enough to keep me warm most of the time. Still a few things to add, but it's getting there.

Add a cuppa tea, and an Ylang Ylang joss stick, and I'm happy. :-)

Sooo... what does your writing corner look like?

Scottish Dialects in Novels

"Och aye." "Nae bother." "Ye dinna ken."

Readers of Scottish historical novels can't avoid coming across Scottish accents - whether they like them or not.

A well-balanced accent gives readers the experience of 'hearing' the characters, their speech a sign of heritage, upbringing and culture. Sometimes, different accents are used to denote regional differences. This is more in line with the reality of the day, I believe, but quite difficult to achieve. Modern Scots still have different dialects, east from west and north from south. What's 'ye' for some, is 'yoo' for others, and even the odd 'ya' appears in places.

So how does a writer get a right balance? It's a tricky one.

As a (non-Scottish) resident in Scotland I have an issue with the over-use of dialects in fiction. Hints of a lilt are fine, but the continuous use of dialects - especially in characters from different corners of the country using the same speech - keep throwing me out of a story. However riveting the plot, I keep stopping to take a deep breath. Shame!

Language has changed over the centuries. Medieval languages used here no longer exist. Gaelic has become the language of a minority; Doric even more so. Scots has changed. Cities have their own, distinctive dialects. Shifts in population from the countryside to cities have merged dialects. You visit various corners of Scotland and get different lilts. It's fascinating. And quite complicated.

How does a writer of historical fiction get the right balance? If your readers like it, you must be on the right track. Correct? Maybe. Guess it depends where your readers live.

Perhaps it's just me. Maybe I've become a snob, living here, used to the different regional accents. I prefer a fine line.

So how much Scottish dialect should a novel contain? All characters? Some characters? Or none at all?

What do you think? :-)

A Day out in the Scottish Borders

We have been very lucky recently - after a dismal, grey August we are experiencing a lovely, sunny late summer. ~bounce~

So, to enjoy this rare phenomenon, hubby and I took the car for a countryside ride down into the Borders. We came through Roslin, home to Rosslyn Chapel, where we thought briefly of stopping to have lunch but decided against it. Couldn't see many coaches so I guess the main season is over. We haven't been to the chapel in four years - prices are too steep nowadays.

After driving through rolling hills and green fields, passing sheep, cows and a herd of Highland coos we finally stopped off in Peebles, a market town in the Borders.

We had been before and liked it as it's a picturesque town, surrounded by green hills, with the river Tweed separating the main hub from a residential area. We enjoyed a pint with a pub meal of generous portions at the Country Inn on the High Street - a cosy, dark pub with wooden panels. Given the size of the portions - hubby had two fishes with his fish and chips and my lasagne, with garlic bread and salad - we passed on the tempting desserts.

Following such culinary exertions we took a stroll through the town. A Walking Festival took place on that day and we spotted a large group of hikers getting onto a bus. Hmm, unless their route took them to the places to walk I found that most peculiar...

Whilst we were wandering around, the sun went and a downpour started so suddenly, we had barely time to scramble for cover. Two minutes later it stopped. April weather in September. The sun was beating down again and we continued on our walkie. An hour later we paused again at another pub with a large terrace facing west - so we sat in the low sun, enjoying the last warm rays while having a drink. The terrace overlooked the river and beyond you could see the hills in the distance. Absolute bliss!

Much later we took the scenic route back, via Midlothian and South Lanarkshire, just to make the most of our drive. It was so relaxing.

Wish we had more days like these...

My cover!

Ooohh, just my design for the cover for Highland Arms - and it's gorgeous! :-)

I love the dark atmosphere, the stunning scenery (water and hills with threatening cloud), and of course the well-formed hunk in a kilt. The way the images blend into each other is just so clever. And the font is perfect. My thanks to Nicola Martinez, the incredibly talented cover artist at TWRP.

So... what do you think?

C xx

And then it's all over ...

... for another year!

I'm talking about the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, of course.

Four weeks of late nights, several missed afternoon sessions (thanks, Work!), a little - but sadly not enough - time spent with a visiting friend, hot dogs of different kinds at every venue for lack of choice, and joining hundreds of people queuing patiently.

Most shows I managed to get to were fantastic, some were ok, and only a couple were a little underwhelming. I won't mention those as the official reviewers have already left their no doubt harsh mark.

Sooo, you want names, I hear? Right. Here come the most memorable ones.

In early August we went back to an 'old' favourite of ours - a sketch show of a different kind. Intelligent. All-female. And very funny. Hat off to Ladygarden. Quirky, hilarious, quick, sarcastic, not afraid to take the mickey. A fantastic show second year running. 4.5*

Another memorable act was Russell Kane - who now won the Edinburgh Comedy Award for best act 2010. His show Smokescreens and Castles was very personal, moving yet funny, never losing its warmth. Definitely different from the jokey haha brigade. And definitely more memorable. 4.5*

The event where I cried my first tears - laughing - was Abandoman's hip hop sketch show. With clues from audience members (memorably a wine maker, a woman working in a brewery and our friend, the former Metallica roadie), the due made up songs on the spot about the lives of those unfortunates. Hilariously funny, quick, witty. 4.5*

Of course, you couldn't miss out Al Murray's Pub Landlord show. Two hours of belly laughs (yes, aimed mainly at other members in the audience!), crude hints at punters, jokes about Germans (inevitable) and pub quiz questions about weird and wonderful things - with a frozen chicken for the winner and frozen Lorne sausages for the runners-up. Which was us! Together with hubby, another couple and two guys, we racked our brains to end up second. Great fun, oh, and a wee bit proud, too! ;-) 4*

I couldn't possibly forget the Queens of the Fringe - Drags Aloud. Their show At the Movies included hits like Over the Rainbow, and the Sound of Music. The costumes, on-stage antics and mimicry are hilarious. Not once in August did a show pass this quickly. Blink, and you missed the Unmissable. A clear highlight, and one we hope to enjoy again one day. 4.5*

Top of my 5* list this year - and the only event getting that rare accolade - is NoFit State circus with their show 'Tabu - I will be bad'. When I heard we were going to the circus, I thought, ok, let's see. But then we got there and it's like nothing I've ever seen before. Forget childhood circuses - this is a huge step up. Air acrobats (I'd call them artists), a live jazzy band with an incredible choice of songs (got the CD! lol), the audience moving around the tent to wherever the action was, and an atmosphere of excitement and awe. The artists were incredible, so sure and confident of what they were doing. Not one glitch that I spotted. And best of all - they enjoyed themselves. A must see if they ever tour in your area! A very well-deserved 5*

There were many other fantastic acts that deserve to be here but dinner's gotta be cooked. August is nearly over and with it the variety, the fun, the celeb-spotting.

PS - please check out Gary Delaney. Forgot to add him to the acts above but he was hilarious with quick-fire jokes. Even got a handshake out of it. Nice one! 4*

Oh, I'll miss the excitement. Roll on next August! ;-)

Edinburgh in August

Edinburgh’s heaving. Yes, it’s festival time again. The time when clever locals run for the hills. Or Spain. So when better to face the crowds than a sunny if breezy Saturday afternoon in August?

Well, our day started well – with a Radio 4 show being recorded at the Pleasance. Nice and light entertainment. Once the show was done, we had to cross the city to get to the place we’d decided to have lunch. Walking along bustling streets, people walked in the middle of the pavement, bumping into us. Some made way, just as we did, walking in line. Others – or rather, most – didn’t. Walking 3 or 4 abreast, chatting and completely ignorant of other pedestrians coming towards them, they obviously expected us to happily jump off the pavement onto the street. No, hon. The pavement doesn’t have a one-way system.

So out came the elbow! In extreme cases, I just stopped, making one of them swerve around me. Pokey poke went the elbow. Hellooo!!! Funnily enough I didn’t get any abuse. Just strange looks.

Eventually we got to the east end for a bite at a nice Italian restaurant. Well, not as nice as last time as they got my order wrong and the ‘fresh tortelloni’ ended up a bit gloopy. The sauce & salad were nice, though. ;-)

Afterwards we soaked up the dignified atmosphere at the Bookfest but couldn’t see anything we wanted to desperately see. Then we decided to pop into various shops on Princes Street, zig-zagging through the crowds. Well, at least that pavement was no different than at Christmas time but still – groups of people expect others to duck and dive. Well, my elbow was getting very busy.

Needless to say, I couldn’t find anything I wanted in any of the shops though I bought a couple of CDs I hadn’t gone out to buy. Oh well, nice treat!

The afternoon continued nicely in our favourite pub on the Royal Mile – which I hadn’t seen this busy in ages. Probably at least since last August. The crowds were pushing and shoving each other out of the way. Was fun to watch from the seats we found near the door, with plenty of space around us, giving us the perfect view of the mob. Ahh, not my elbows anymore…

New location photos uploaded

All the paperwork's now with my editor at TWRP so we're all set to go. Can't wait to start editing HA now. There are a few bits where I made Rory a bit of a nasty piece of work and didn't know at the time how to change him to someone more sympathetic as it would have spoilt the scenes. So I'm looking forward to my editor's suggestions & comments. Exciting!

Just uploaded new pics on my website at www.cathiedunn.com/locations. Go check them out! The latest three pics are shots from Normandy, two of Falaise Castle (or what little is left of it - though the internal exhibition tour is amazing!) and the third is the Tour Marguerite - the only remaining city tower of Argentan from the 12th century. Just standing outside it was an amazing moment.

Digging out those pics makes me want to go back to Normandy. Fingers crossed I'll make it next year... ;-)

Blog and website? Of course!

I'm sure you're chuffed to hear I've decided to keep this blog going. It's dark, just like the mysteries I write about. And I have lovely followers. :-) This means I have to transfer posts manually but hey, the more exposure the better. Oh, I'm talking blogs here, of course!

Some news coming up soon. Fab news. Exciting news. Very soon. Just got to finalise the details and then all shall be revealed. ~bounce~

So please stay with me here for rants, ravings and news on my writing but for excerpts and additional details please check out my new website - www.cathiedunn.com.

I'll be back soon!


Exciting news - website coming soon!

Now that I've completed Highland Arms, am 2/3 through A Doubtful Allegiance (working title), not to mention the contemporary suspense I started a few months ago, I thought it was time to set up my own website.

So I have just bought the domain and I'm busy looking at designs that suit my style best. Unfortunately that means that I'll have to move this blog. Shame, as I love the current template.

It's all very much in progress but soon you'll be able to find news and excerpts on www.cathiedunn.com - if you head there now you can already sign up for future updates. :-)

Hope to see you all 'over there' soon.

Hugs, C xx

Full MS submitted to The Wild Rose Press

I'm chuffed to bits - The Wild Rose Press asked for a full submission of my romantic 1720s Scottish mystery, Highland Arms! ~bounce~ ;-)

Although the day job has the upper hand at the moment - the usual setting up the Halls to cater for summer business - I managed to polish Highland Arms to a fine glow before I sent it off to the Historicals editor last weekend. Now the waiting game begins in full.

Fortunately I don't have time during the day for nail-biting, and with getting back home late and early sleeps it's perhaps a little easier than during a quiet period in work when there would be no distraction whatsoever. So maybe it's just as well I'm running my socks off...

Still, the butterflies in my tummy never go away completely and I'm extremely nervous. I really really hope she likes the story and the romantic element is strong enough. My issue usually is that my stories are more plot-driven - historicals offer such a perfect settings that you could easily run away with an engaging plot.

Fingers & toes crossed!

The waiting game

Last week I submitted my query and submission to The Wild Rose Press, a growing publisher I've known of for a while. I've read ebooks by several of their authors - Monique deVere, Beth Trissel and Cheryl Pierson to name a few. So I thought this would be a great place for Highland Arms as I think it fits their bill perfectly, combining compelling plots with intriguing characters. Their books are not just about a simple, easy romance but rather about personal development of characters, often overcoming tough obstacles to get to the happy end.

So I ended up submitting my synopsis. And two days later I received a request for a partial, the first three chapters of HA. I was ecstatic. ~bounce~

So a manic rush to polish those three chapters to perfection (well, as close as I could get, I suppose) ensued. Finally, on Friday night I was content with the result and sent the chapters through.

Now it's the case of trying not to chew my nails. In the meantime, I'm going through the rest of the document with a fine toothcomb again. Seeing your ms improve bit by bit, inch by inch, is all worth it. I love HA and hope TWRP love it too.

Keep fingers & toes crossed! :-)

A Day in the Ancient Kingdom of Fife

We took our car for a leisurely ride along the coastal route to St Andrews. Starting mid-morning, we had plenty of time. The sun was shining, temperatures warn, our obligatory bottles of water, and off we went.

Shortly after the Forth Road Bridge, we turned off after the North Queensferry exit (we've been there several times) and the rolling Fife countryside surrounded us. We took our time, ambling along windy roads - and no, I did not hold faster people up! (Bugbear of mine, so I don't do it to others. LOL)

The one place that struck us as lovely was Aberdour so we decided to stop on a country walks car park. Bottles in hand, we wandered off aimlessly, along the cliffside, towards the small town. And what a picturesque place it is. Immediately our thoughts went to finding a place to rent or even buy here. The small beach was clean, as were all the streets. Coming from dirty Edinburgh roads, we were in heaven. We explored the narrow lanes, and fell in love with the town. We'll be back.

After an hour's wandering about, we returned to the car and moved onwards, passing some less salubrious places along the way (nope, no names - that would be unkind!). A little further east, we came back to small hamlets with stunning views over the sea, backed by rolling fields of green and yellow. That, coupled with the clear blue sky, was wonderful to the eye.

Finally, we arrived at St Andrews, found a parking spot and went to a pub for the best fish n chips we had in years. Can't remember the name of the place but the staff were mega-friendly and the food & drink excellent. We shall return! In fact, we did already, after our visit to St Andrews Cathedral, or rather the ruins thereof. Stunning, peaceful, tranquil. Oh, and somehow we managed to squeeze in a walkie to a beach where we sat on a large boulder, watching people, waves and seabirds. Bliss!

A nice enough place for a day trip, very studenty. And a lovely, rustic pub!

A perfect day out!

Writing on the Move

Last Sunday I took the train down to Manchester for a one day course in Copywriting on Monday. I had deemed it a waste of my time to drive all the way, alone, when I could instead sit, chill - and work!

And although I had someone sitting next to me (at the seats with a table!), I still managed to edit an older version of my wip, and cut it into a new chapter. It's amazing how much new stuff you learn over the years, even after having finished the Creative/Novel Writing course 2 years ago. So out with the old - and in with the revised! ;-)

Having spent all afternoon on my Macbook, I decided that the evening was perfect for reading. I had just uploaded an as yet unpubbed ms from a fellow writer, so I was happy to delve into the story. I do love a fine sense of humour in Regency romance.

Just over 24 hours later, I continued my editing bonanza, adding another revised chapter, plus a completely new one. Very happy with the result! With music from my itunes in my ears, I occasionally paused to watch the stunning beauty of Cumbria and southern Scotland whizz by outside the window. Purely inspiring, even though it's a good few miles away from not-so-tranquil (in the 1140s!) Gloucestershire...

I wish I could do such a trip each week - just to get me out of the routine (i.e. away from the day job! lol) and to somewhere quiet and relaxing. OK, perhaps not exactly during rush hour but rather a mid-morning journey across stunning countryside.

What bliss!

Nerves are frayed

I guess the feeling never changes.

Nerves are frayed, all kinds of thoughts run through your mind, and your nails never grow long enough to shine with a bright coat of varnish as they're kept bitten to the core.

Yes, it's the feverish anticipation for a response from a publisher. I must admit that I've only submitted one query with a partial in all my years of writing. Yet here I am, checking my personal email several times a day for news. Any news. Hopefully good news!

This sub left my mailbox 15 weeks ago. Now I'm kindly informed by a helpful, successful writer that the cut off time for tentative enquiries as to your ms's whereabouts is 20 weeks! Ouch! My, how much does that test anyone's patience?! LOL

I hope to submit a query for Doubtful Allegiance once I'm closer to the end. This is likely to be by June. No point submitting it earlier, as my daily working life might interfere too much to allow me to devote enough time to guide it to a fantastic ending. But I'm keen to get it out there. And then get on with the contemporary story. Or even delve back into the Scottish Middle Ages.

It's both exhilarating and worrying, knowing a professional is about to assess your baby. Exhilarating because it's something you have created, nurtured and set free. Worrying for exactly the same reasons. None of us like having their work ripped to shreds after spending months, or even years, trying to get it just right, just the way we love it.

I'm keeping my fingers and toes crossed. Hopefully, it's good news. :-)

Historical vs Contemporary Mystery

After several years of playing around with historical WIPs (at home and in writing courses), I finally completed and submitted a ms in the winter. Of course, the subbed version varied much from the first drafts; even the storyline took a different turn than originally intended. But it all worked in its favour. As it's been 14 weeks since I submitted, I'm going to wait another two before I send a query email. I just want to know what's going to happen with it. Yes, patience is not one of my strong points, I'm afraid...

Since January, I've been working on re-editing an older WIP which is 2/3 completed. Thankfully, my eagle-eyed crit girls seem to like it so I hope to move forward quickly with it and get it finished by the summer when my daily workload's going to explode for three months.

But during a recent trip to the continent, I travelled with a group of three old friends by car to Austria. On the journey back after a couple of fun, but a bit hectic days, we all were more quiet and tired. While one friend read the printed-off version of my completed ms (she said she really loved it, though she'd never read a historical before. She was so hooked so she read it in 3 days! ~bounce~), I took out my notepad and started a story I'd thought about on the flight out. A modern mystery/thriller.

I know there's a lot I've yet to research - secret service stuff, guns, etc - but I'm excited about this new project. I regularly read contemporary thrillers, so hopefully my structure will work out fine.

As it's a nice day out there, and the laptop screen likely to glare and be unreadable, I'm going to take my notepad and continue with this one today. Makes a nice change to the unruly Middle Ages.

Happy Sunday, folks! :-)

Hurrah! Spring has arrived!

Dare we hope?

Barely 10 days ago we had a sudden freeze with several inches of snow, and Easter was a complete washout. Not that I had a chance to notice, having to work Good Friday and Easter Monday. But it was a shame for friends who wanted to go camping. Soggy fields and mudbaths are not the signs of a good weekend away.

But finally the tide appears to have turned. The last few days turned milder. And it stayed dry! I know! I could scarcely believe it either. :-)

Today has begun sunny, with a few fluffy clouds scattered across the sky. So far so good. Time to get the washing on, to hang outside. And this lovely spell is said to continue. So DH and I will spend some time in our garden. Last year, we did this a few weeks earlier but our long, cold winter made my poor plants shiver. And a couple even died.

I think today will be the day to visit the garden centre, and to fill our small square outside with colour. There's nothing more uplifting than a garden in bloom, full of sunshine.

I hope everyone else also has a chance to enjoy spring. :-)

Historical Research

Writing believable historical fiction requires at least some idea of the customs, politics and way of life of the period you choose to write about. The importance of such knowledge varies, depending on genre and storyline, but getting the basics right is vital for your credibility as a writer.

In general historical fiction, where the politics of the day might interfere with the MC's life, it is crucial to get your facts right. And there are no excuses! Nowadays, it's fairly easy to read up about kings and queens, political parties and the differences in roles between nobility, gentry and the working classes. There are huge resources available online, that even just a decade ago seemed unobtainable. And, of course, there's always the fat volume of a history book to browse in and take notes. Most libraries can get you copies of the most relevant tomes.

Without turning your story into such a history book, you would want your characters to be as close to the real thing as you can make them, so ensure to read up on their types of behaviour, clothing, setting and day-to-day customs. Explore how they would address each other, and their superiors or villeins. Ensure that, if you use real life characters such as kings, they were indeed known to be in the area you set them, or at least that there is no record of them being elsewhere. It only takes one reader to know the facts. Join interest groups of the same genre to swap information. Many of those groups are fountains of knowledge and the members are always happy to share details and tips.

In historical romance, research is still of importance, even though the plot would focus on the two MCs rather, with the external influences of the day filling out the background. Yet it can jar a reader's enjoyment when details such as address, clothing, assumed behaviour or a monarch's name are out of synch.

Never underestimate your readers! They come from all walks of life, with many readers of historicals having gained huge insight into what was acceptable during a certain age - and what seems totally out of place. Some don't mind if you get things wrong, but others might throw your book against the wall. And we don't ever want anyone to do just that...

Shortly, I'm going to start posting links to helpful websites and groups for historical fiction, romance and mystery research. You may also find other, more specific groups of enthusiasts in yahoo or google groups. Go and ask to join them! You won't regret it.

Happy exploring!


Excerpt uploaded

So, to start this blog off in style, I've posted a small excerpt of my current WIP, A Doubtful Allegiance. Set in 1140s England, in the middle of a civil war, allegiances change like the wind. So who can my heroine trust?

This ms is 2/3 completed but after a break of around two years, I've just returned to edit it from chapter one, and of course to complete it. I've just posted my chapter four to my crit group, a wonderful bunch of girls who always spot the slightest misstep. Their eagle eyes help me alot.

But in order to move on with the story, I have to re-visit Normandy. Alas, only in the world of the internet. Not on my list of places to travel to this year. Best get on with it. The county of Perche awaits!

Writing historical romantic mystery

Oh, it's such fun - creating lives of people in days long gone. The adventure. The dangers. The possibilities.

I love bringing the past to life and intend to showcase some of my writing on this new blog. The Highlands of Scotland. England under the yoke of a civil war. Normandy under the rule of a family descended from the Devil. Oooh!

Please be patient while I set it all up. More to follow soon!