Facebook Author Page


Subscribe to My Mailing List

* indicates required



Monday, 8 January 2018

In the Bleak Midwinter...

A young oak tree came down across our track
I hope you had a good Christmas and New Year! It was quiet here at Tottering Towers. The only excitement was a heavy fall of snow. It brought down lots of branches in the wood. One fell onto the electricity cable supplying us, and some other houses on our hillside. It snapped with a huge bang at 4am, waking everyone. While we were all in darkness, the night outside was filled with sparks from the arcing electricity cable. It was quite scary for a while. 
We cook with electricity and it powers our gas central heating, so we had to find alternatives. Housework keeps you warm, but it's not very exciting. We could boil a kettle on our gas hob to make tea, and it was a good excuse to live on soup and cake!
Flares, from Pixabay
So many people were affected by the bad weather across Gloucestershire and the surrounding counties, it was 9pm that evening before we had light and heat. A brave engineer had to repair the damage while standing on top of a cherry-picker in a stiff, freezing wind. 
It's only when there's a break in the supply that we realise how lucky we are to be living at a time when life is relatively easy. Imagine you're a Victorian woman living in a city tenement. In the days before electricity, every morning is pitch black and freezing. The only sounds come from rats scrabbling beneath the bed your wheezing children share. Snow blows in under the door of your single room. Fetching all the water you need from the communal well will be a slippery job today. If your husband gives you some money, your family can eat. If not, hard luck. He’ll go to the pub. You and the children will have to go hungry. 
Women in those days had no voice, and no power. They lurked in the footnotes of history until they gained an element of control, first over their own money, later their vote and finally, their lives. Much of that progress was driven by women themselves. It took a hundred years of hard work, lobbying and violence before their lives improved to anything like today’s standards. The only way was up—and women from my old home town, Bristol, led the way. 

2018 is the centenary of the first British women getting the vote. The publisher Pen and Sword Books is producing a series of books to mark this defining moment. Each volume concentrates on one British city. My contribution covers Bristol.  Struggle and Suffrage—Women’s Lives in Bristol, 1850-1950 will be published later this year, and there will be all sorts of events to mark the centenary. To make sure you don’t miss anything, sign up for my newsletter in the boxes at the tip of this page, and follow my author page on Facebook.

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Review: Women and The City: Bristol 1373-2000, Edited by Dr Madge Dresser


https://www.amazon.co.uk/Women-City-1373-2000-Madge-Dresser/dp/190832631X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1514970849&sr=8-1&keywords=madge+dresser
Find out more at http://amzn.to/2Cgv5r0
Women and the City: Bristol 1373-2000 is a collection of essays by respected academics. It’s a lively, absorbing read. A good balance has been struck between well-written prose and contemporary illustrations. The book and its content is presented in a way that invites even a casual reader to keep turning the pages. There’s a handy list of abbreviations right at the front, which is much easier than having to flick through to the index, or notes, each time a set of initials pops up in the text. Other academic works would do well to follow this example.

I bought Women and the City: Bristol 1373-2000 to help with research for my own book, Struggle and Suffrage: Women’s Lives in Bristol 1850-1950, but after studying the sections relevant to my own work I went straight back to the beginning of the book and read it all. It’s a mine of information for anyone with an enquiring mind. I’d particularly recommend it to aspiring historical novelists in search of inspiration. The fact that a woman (Ann Barry) held the lease of that stronghold of “Enlightened” masculinity, the Exchange Coffee House in Corn Street offers all sorts of dramatic possibilities, for example. It’s often forgotten that Bristol women struck a significant blow in the fight against slavery. The formation of the Bristol and Clifton Ladies’ Anti-Slavery Society is never as widely reported as Bristol’s part in that terrible trade. This book helps to put that right. 

Women and the City: Bristol 1373-2000 is curated by Associate Professor of History at the University of the West of England and Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, Dr Madge Dresser. The breadth of its content and unique style of each contributor makes for a fascinating read. It offers great insight into the history of Bristol and its people. Anyone who knows the city will look at local landmarks with new eyes after reading it.  


To sum up, this is an invaluable collection for historians, and anyone interested in women’s studies. It’s also an inspiring read for the rest of us.

Monday, 1 January 2018

Season's Greetings!



I hope you've had a lovely rest over the Christmas season. Wishing you a Happy New Year, and a peaceful, productive 2018.

Monday, 27 November 2017

Mud, Mud Inglorious Mud...

Blueberry Leaves In Autumn
It's been a funny year.  It's the end of November, but I've only started heating the greenhouse in the past few days. Our cherry trees, whose leaves usually turn glorious sunset colours before dropping, are hanging on like leaden green rags. Out in the wood there's been more in the way of seasonal colour. Birch leaves are small and heart-shaped, hazel leaves deckle-edged discs. With the shortening days they've all turned bright yellow. One or two seedlings have escaped from the beech wood to light up the understorey of the conifer plantation. They make it look cheerful on the dullest day. When the sun shines, they really glow.

In the garden at Tottering Towers, the blueberry bushes always put on a great autumn show. They're the plant with everything—beautiful flowers which bees love, delicious fruit, and each November they turn fiery red, without fail. They grow best in lime-free soil and must never dry out, but as they'll grow happily in containers this isn't a problem. Mine are planted in big plastic tubs filled with ericaceous compost. They stand in trays which I keep topped up with rainwater. Unlike most plants, blueberries don't mind standing in water.

The whole countryside around here is used to wet feet. It's been drizzly for weeks, but a few days ago the weather turned stormy. Torrential rain went on for hours, only relieved by heavy showers. The River Wye is higher than it's been for months. Sliding down banks between forest tracks is like the worst episodes of cross-country running at school. With most of the leaves now off the sweet chestnuts of the bluebell wood and the ground covered with nuts, squirrels are everywhere. Alex, our retriever/labrador cross is far too slow to catch them before they spring up to safety in the trees. That doesn't stop him trying. When we reach a road on our walks I put him on the lead for safety. I have to be careful to spot the squirrels before he does, as he's prone to mad dashes. Yesterday, he saw a squirrel I didn't, leapt forward and almost yanked the lead out of my hand. Next thing I knew, I was flat on my back looking up at the sky through those last few autumn leaves. I'd lost my footing on the muddy ground, and went down splat.  Luckily this happened only a hundred yards from our house. It was a cold, wet walk home!

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Christmas Won't Start Here Until Advent Sunday, But...

Pic #1
Phew, where has this year gone? I promised myself I'd self-publish a Christmas novella last year. It was all ready to go, then my mother fell ill. Everything else was on hold after that.

...the same can't be said for working on Christmas stories. Magazines need copy in midsummer. The biggest publishers schedule their book releases over a year ahead. Independents and self-publishers have more leeway, but Christmas books released in October can build up plenty of momentum before the Christmas-book-buying-market hits the floor on December 26th.

Since January I've been working so hard on my non-fiction project for Pen and Sword Books, Struggle and Suffrage: Women's Lives In Bristol 1850-1950, today is the first chance I've had to look up from my keyboard.

I might be able to manage a release in time for Christmas, but doing anything in a rush is never a good idea, is it? My Christmas novella Highland Hideaway is practically finished, but it still needs editing, and a cover. Both those things take time.

Pic #2
I'm still adding bits to, and amending, the final manuscript for Struggle...  so I'm concentrating on every word, dot and comma of that book at the moment.

I love the autumn It would be a relief to send Highland Hideaway away for editing, instead. Then I can take my time to find a cover design.

The top picture accompanying this blog isn't romantic, but I came across it while I was combing through Pixabay. Isn't it stunning? It reminds me of when I lived in Somerset.

Barn owls love the farmland there. We only get Tawny owls among our Gloucestershire trees.

Pic #3
The second and third photos are more suitable for a romantic novella, but they'll need some work before they're can become book covers. Highland Hideaway is about a city girl who is marooned in a blizzard with a notoriously tough and uncompromising wildlife photographer. You'll never guess what happens...although there are a few dramas, twists and turns along the way.

Which of the pictures do you think would make the better cover, and why? There's a book from my backlist on offer for a comment picked at random on 1st November!

Monday, 28 August 2017

I'll Sparkle, If It's The Last Thing I Do...

...and it nearly was!

I wrote here about the conflict of interest I suffered ahead of this year's Romantic Novelists' Association Conference in Shropshire. Two members of my local Marcher Chapter were leading sessions, but as they were both scheduled for the same time, I had to choose between them. I did think about spending half the hour in one lecture theatre then nipping across to catch the last half of the other talk, but that wouldn't have worked. I wanted to immerse myself in whole talks, not spend my time looking at my watch.

 It was impossible which session to choose, so I flipped a coin.  Joanna Maitland and Sophie Weston's  Add Sparkle to your Manuscript won. Joanna and Sophie run the popular Libertà blog, covering all things bookish.

I took my seat in the comfortable seats of the university's largest lecture room and settled down for a light-hearted canter through the English Language and how it should be used. Instead, I heard those dreaded words; "This workshop..."

Aargh! I love our Marcher Group workshops, as we work on our pieces at home, and only submit them when they're (to the eye of their creator anyway) perfect. I always avoid spontaneous workshops, where you have to whip something up on the spot for the benefit of a group of strangers. classing them with other forms of torture such as diets and editing. I didn't book this weekend away from my desk to work! This was supposed to be a holiday! Didn't Joanna and Sophie know that?

Actually, "Sparkle" wasn't like that at all. It was a fun session, encouraging us to turn a deliberately terrible made-up extract of writing into something exciting and readable.  I can't go into too many details as Joanna and Sophie use some of it on their highly successful Sparkle Days, but you can read their account of the session I attended here.  

Like all the best workshop sessions, "Sparkle" taught me as much about myself as it did about my writing. The reason I hate workshops, I discovered, is because I can't bear anyone to see my work until it's completely finished. I couldn't bear to read something out that I'd whipped up in five minutes, on command.  Completely finished, as every writer knows, is a state that no piece of writing ever achieves. However much you fiddle and fuss with it, you'll always find some new reason not to send your literary baby out into the cruel world of beta readers and reviewers.  I know I do.

Maybe if I spent less time agonising over every line, I'd get more writing done. I must force myself to attend more workshops. 

I can't believe I just wrote that last line. What's the single biggest thing that would improve your writing?



Monday, 21 August 2017

Getting Social at the RNA Conference

Getting up early on a Saturday morning has never felt better than it did during the weekend I spent at the Harper-Adams University, for the 2017 Romantic Novelists' Association Conference. . First there was the prospect of a lavish, leisurely breakfast, instead of my usual hurried snack. Better still, I didn't have to worry about preparing  it, or washing up afterwards.

If that wasn't enough of a treat, Nicola Cornick, current Chair of the RNA and Sarah Morgan, winner of the 2017 Romance Writers' of America's RITA for her long romance, Miracle on 5th Avenue, were giving a session on using social media.

Facebook has more users than any other social media platform. The finer point of it are a mystery to me. I started with a personal page, then added an author page, but I'm not sure how to get the best out of either page, if I'm honest. What are your own Facebook tips? The more you use it the better, was the message I got from this conference session.

 Twitter is the next most popular social media platform, but it only has a fraction of the followers that Facebook has. Having conversations when you're limited to 140 characters is a bit restrictive, but it can be done. Instagram is more popular with young people than Twitter, so you need to know your readership. Nicola, Sarah, and most of the audience agreed that Pinterest is nothing but a time suck. It's lovely to look at and absorbing to dip in and out of the various boards, but before you know it an hour has gone past and your word count is nil!

If you'd rather be writing than surfing the net, Nicola and Sarah's advice was to concentrate on Facebook, and maybe one other platform. Make sure you have an author Page, and use it for your writing business, in preference to your personal page.

 I came straight home after the conference, and created this Canva image to redirect people to my author page rather than my personal page. I used a picture of Alex when he was a baby, and added an invitation. It was really easy to do, and only took a few minutes. Thinking of things to add to my Facebook page every day is going to be a lot harder.

Visit my Facebook Page at http://bit.ly/FacebookAuthorPageCH, and  let me know what you'd like to see there!