Saturday, November 22, 2014

I'm up to my ears with revision/editing my WIP...

...but I'm still reading because I can't not read in the same way I can't not breathe.

So, if, like me,  you're interested in anything to do with writing and reading, I would like to recommend Where I'm Reading From by Tim Park. If nothing else, it gets writers and readers discussing, agreeing and disagreeing. I'm all for that.

It's a compilation of articles first published in the New York Review of Books.

Here's the blurb:

"Should you finish every book you start?

How has your family influenced the way you read?

What is literary style?

How is the Nobel Prize like the World Cup?

Why do you hate the book your friend likes?

Is writing really just like any other job?

What happens to your brain when you read a good book?

As a novelist, translator and critic, Tim Parks is well-placed to investigate any questions we have about books and reading. In this collection of lively and provocative pieces he talks about what readers want from books and how to look at the literature we encounter in a new light."


If my house had enough bookshelves and I had unlimited time to read every single book published by ONE publisher, that publisher would be Persephone Books.  If you haven't heard of this publisher (if not, why not?) please take a mo and visit the lovely website. You will soon tell if it's your sort of publisher. If you're not, that's fine. But I absolutely adore everything about them. And have lots of its books (all with such wonderful wend-papers, bookmark etc.) My only complaint is that I have never been in the shop and probably will never get there - unless I'm asked by anyone willing to may my travel and accommodation expenses. Well, an old girl can dream. After all, that's one of the reasons  why I love to write fiction. 

Anyway, Persephone Books has ambitions to make one of its most popular titles The Home-Maker by Dorothy Canley Fisher into a best-seller. So, they are inviting readers to ask for a free copy - yes a free copy - and blog about it or tweet about it using the hash-tag (#homemakerbook). They are about to republish it as a Persephone Classic and as an e-book. Why not join in? Your can also join in on the conversation on their forum here

So, although I already own a copy and have read and enjoyed it, I am going to re-read it and blog about it. I would love you to ask for a free copy so you can join in the discussion with me. This will probably be in January  2015 at which point I hope to have finally submitted the finished version of my WIP to my agent. If you hear nothing more from me about it, you will gather it will have reached the end of the line. My fingers are crossed as I am an optimist with plenty of plans. But I shall never stop writing and reading.  I may pop into Twitter and Facebook from time to time and am happy to reply to emails from my friends and fellow writers but otherwise I shall be busy writing or, as it's winter, ...

Wednesday, November 5, 2014


You've asked me splendid questions and I so wanted  to reply...but yet again I can't add any comments on my own blog for the moment either using Chrome or Explorer! So I'm adding a postscript which I hope will help.

The Harrogate History Festival only began in 2013 and is. as yet. far less crowded, frenetic or boozy than the Crime Festival nor does it overwhelm the town and fill every hotel. However,  it is rapidly becoming THE place to go if you write, read or are interested in any kind of historical fiction. In the same way the Crime Festival also features 'real' crime and the detection of crime (I seem to recall interviews with a criminal pathologist and also a detective on police procedure in previous years), the History Festival also features talks by and interviews with historians and museum curators. In 2013, THE  sell-out events was a talk by the determined lady who discovered Richard III's bones interred in a municipal car-park in Leicester.

The main difference is the time of year. Although the weather was unseasonably warm this year, it is held in October so no sunbathing on the grass or quaffing iced Pimms in the shade! (instead, this year, we got a horde of Vikings storming us in the dark brandishing flaming torches!)

And in the same way as the Crime Festival features all kinds of crime writing from, say,  Scottish 'Noir' to a reappraisal of Agatha Christie, (who famously was discovered incognito in the very hotel where both Festivals take place) the History Festival  is for every kind of historical fiction writer or reader. There's something for everyone. After all, what you did yesterday is now history. So the range is wide-open.  And it'n not only the kind of history you learned at school. You can enjoy alternate history. (The Germans invaded Britain. The Confederate Army won the American Civil War etc etc. Steam-punk is a historical fiction genre. So, if you're a historical crime writer, or whether you write about Romans. Vikings, Incas, Greeks, Nazis, Victorians or the Swinging Sixties, you're welcome. As for time-slip, the keynote speaker in 2013 was Kate Mosse who wrote the Labyrinth series. The sky's the limit when it comes to historical fiction as well as crime. 

Do come. I hope to see all of you there in 2015. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Harrogate History Festival Miscellany

It's hard to believe it all happened over a week ago. It's only now I've come down to earth and can put it all into perspective. These events are always do that to me (poor old soul).

So where do I start?  Well, you'll get a clearer picture than anything I'm going to write if you read Alison Morton's accounts Read parts one and two here. It was great to meet her again this year and we both had a whale of a time even though she skipped off in the middle to speak at the RNA chapter meeting. (I've almost forgiven her.) Alison is an inspiration to all historical fiction writers;  and full of humour, knowledge and clear thinking, all of which I lack these days.

First of all, praise and a wreath of laurels should be garlanded around Manda Scott's brow. She is the doyenne and the brain that launched the whole event and she continues to be a brilliant organiser and grande dame. She is so busy and yet totally unflustered. In a word, she is brilliant.

I am going to pick out some of my highlights, in no particular order. (That is, as they occur to me.) Manda interviewed the inimitable Sandi Toksvig in a conversation called Desert Island Books. In it Sandi chose 8 books in the manner of the enduring radio programme. Some of them relate to her childhood reading and others books she has found inspiring or thought-provoking - or both. I jotted down some books I was was prompted to read for myself as well as those enjoy again: such as my all-time favourite: Dickens' Bleak House. It was a wonderful evening. That was on the Friday night.

I shall now jump back to the very first evening when the whole proceedings were given a rousing opening by the arrival of a torch-bearing horde of Vikings that had marched through Harrogate before arriving at the Old Swan. These were actually some very well-informed and entertaining Viking re-enactors, some of whom I chatted to and quizzed after the opening event which was the awarding of the prize for the best début historical novel in 2014. (More of which later. Well, I did say I would be doing everything out of order.)

I waqsw also pleased to meet again the wonderful historical novelist, Elizabeth Chadwick whose novels I love as much as those by Philippa Gregory. She is part way through a fascinating trilogy featuring the amazing Eleanor of Aquitaine. I was able to buy the second novel in the trilogy, having enjoyed the first and can't wait for the third after which she will return - hooray - to William Marshall.

And, before I forget, how about reading Alison Morton's series of alternate Roman novels? She knows I am not particularly enamoured of things Roman, having had the Roman Empire rammed down my throat between the ages of 11 and 13 but still talks to me! 

However, I had one of those 'road to Damascus' moments when I attended a conversation between Charlotte Higgins and Richard Hobbs. The latter is the curator of Romano-British collections in the British Museum and the former is the chief arts writer for the Guardian who has written of her account of a trip around Britain in search for the impact of the Romans on the landscape. The ensuing book is Under Another Sky which I have found a fascination and inspirational read.

  On the Saturday evening, there was yet another inspirational event which I hope will become the first of many. This was the Author Dinner and the theme was food in history. In the small library three large tables had been set out to which all those who had bought a ticket had a seat. Each table was hosted by an author and I was delighted to be on Andre Taylor's table. What's more, in addition to a share in the wine to oil the wheels of conversation (not that any was needed) we each were given a hardback copy of Andrew's novel The Silent Boy which he later signed. I was seated with some fascinating fellow guests whose conversation sparkled about many topics that had nothing to do with history or books such as Yorkshire's Tour de France. Andrew Taylor was great company and spoke to every one of us individually at the table with quiet charm and  politesse. I am now an even greater fan.

Before I bore you all to tears, I can't end without mentioning that Kate Worsley won the Crown for 
Début Historical Fiction with one of my favourite recent novels: She Rises. Congratulations, Kate. A worthy winner.

I know I've missed too much out. There was so much that inspired and invigorated me and also, alas, tired me out. Thank goodness for a lovely room and comfortable bed, not to mention great hospitality (not to mention food)  courtesy of The Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate. It was such a fulfilling three days, I am definitely attending next year, Deus Veult. Maybe I'll see more of you!


As you've probably realised, my blog has been dormant for far too long - well, it's been a long winter.  Although this blog has b...