Monday, 22 February 2010

Fishguard, Fish and New Friends

I've just got back from a few days at a writer's holiday in Fishguard. The hotel was lovely (if a little too hot for me) and the food marvellous. As a very fussy demi-vegetarian who doesn't like spicy food, I ate a lot of fish, all of which was brilliantly prepared and deliciously tasty.
The workshops were interesting, six in all, but the best thing about the weekend was meeting some lovely new people.
It is so nice to talk to other writers, people whose eyes don't glaze over when you mention your novel, who understand the demands of a tricky protagonist and know a horribly constructed sentence when they see one. (Rather like the one I have just written). Often, I have trouble bonding with women, not being one for hairdo's and handbags, but the women I met at the weekend were a different breed; they were interesting! Of course, we all had tidy hair and carried handbags but nothing elaborate and our bags were just tools to keep our writer's articles from going astray. Katy Price and the Beckhams were only mentioned with derision and, as a consquence, the conversation was witty, funny and clever. I am looking forward to meeting them all again.
The writer's and artist's weekend is perfect for writers, whether they are just starting out or have been writing for years.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Looking forward to the next half century

I turned fifty last week. It seems I should be worried. People keep assuring me, 'It will be fine, it isnt as bad as you think' even though I havent expressed any concerns. The truth is I am really not bothered at all! It is just another year, I am not noticeably older than I was last week and life (dare i say it?) is great just now. After all I lost the best of my looks a few years back and I have become accustomed to the extra warmth around my hips so no worries on that score. And as for wrinkles, well, they are trophies of a life well spent and if more women believed that, the happier they would be.
I am looking forward to being taken seriously as a person and an author, to writing more books and having the freedom from family responsibility to enjoy myself. It is nice that men look at my face when they speak to me these days instead of staring at my breasts; I look forward to more of that. I am looking forward to more grandchildren, to being a cantankerous old woman and making those outrageously rude comments that only old women seem to get away with. I am looking forward to my old fella in his rocking chair on the other side of the fireplace, seeing our teeth smile at eachother from the glass on the bathroom shelf each night. Most of all I am looking forward to falling asleep in his arms for another forty years or so.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010


All that complaining I did last time must have shifted something in my mind because, since then, I have made a great deal of progress on The Forest Dwellers. I am at last done with Alys, who has been a real trial to me, it was so difficult to understand her and make her do the things I needed her to do. Obviously a girl with her own mind. I have moved on to the next narrator, Thurrold, the squire of Sir Walter Tyrell. I was going to let Leo have his say next but Thurrold wouldnt have it and interrupted, so I went along with him.

Thurrold is a bit of a ladies man, has put most of the hearth wenches on their backs at some point during his time at the castle. Then, he meets Alys and Aelf. At first he is captivated with Alys' etheral beauty but, when she tells him she is the concubine of Henry Morante and he learns the secret of AElf's real gender, he switches allegiance to AElf. It is not long before his interest becomes more than sexual. Lots of intrigue, plotting and misunderstandings follow as the story builds up to a visit to the castle by King William Rufus.
A short excerpt, remember that Aelf is a girl living as a boy.

I groaned inwardly, The Song of Roland, a favoured poem of the Normans, was interminably long. Beside me, Ælf rested her chin on her hands and prepared to listen, it was new to her. The torchlight gleamed in her eyes and her cheeks were rosy from the surfeit of food. Opposite I saw a hearth wench smile at her invitingly and Ælf sent her one in return, thinking she had found a friend. The girl leaned over, her bosom spilling from her bodice and placed a foaming cup of ale before her. Ælf took it, nodded her thanks and dipped her face to it. I watched with narrowed eyes as the wench worked her way slowly along the row of seats, every so often casting her eye back to smile.
I nudged Ælf sharply in the ribs.
‘What are you doing?’ I hissed. She slammed down her ale.
‘What?’ Her mouth was half open in surprise; I saw the moistness of her inner lip and longed to suck it. I put my mouth close to her ear.
‘That wench will have you wedged tight between her knees if you smile at her again. Are you really such an innocent?’
The colour drained and I saw her flash a glance up the table to where the girl dimpled at her still. Ælf looked sharply down at her ale cup.
‘For the love of God,’ she growled, ‘is the whole world corrupt. It seems I cannot move for suitors.’
A sigh escaped me. Sometimes she annoyed more than charmed me. I’d like to spank her. I dwelled for a while on that happy thought before pulling myself back to offer an answer.
‘The fault is with you, Ælf. You would make a fine looking woman if only you’d allow it but, as a fellow, you are far prettier than a man has the right to be.’
I saw her flush, her chin on her chest. I shifted in my seat as she took up her cup again.
‘Ælf, you know tis more than lust with me, don’t you? You know you have my heart?’
She choked on her ale, her eyes watering. I thumped her on the back until she held up a hand begging me stop. After a moment, she looked up at me, tears on her cheek from the coughing, I thought.
‘Tis said, among the stable boys, that half the women in the castle have had their share of your love. Now it is my turn don’t expect me to fall at your feet.’
Oh, that stung. I had not looked at another woman in months. I put back my shoulders, offended in the extreme.
‘That is unjust, Ælf, and you know it. You have had my heart since the moment …’
‘…since the moment Alys refused you,’ she finished for me, ‘then your allegiance changed like the wind.’
She got up and stepped over the bench.
‘I’m to the privy,’ she tossed over her shoulder as she stalked across the hall in the direction of the outer door.

I waited for her, just inside the keep, where I knew she must pass by. I heard her gentle footstep and, as she moved into the light of the cresset, grabbed her wrist and pulled her into a niche. She gasped, wrestling until she realised it was me.
‘What are you doing?’
She was annoyed, exasperated at my irritating ways but I was beyond caring, barely knew what I was doing or considering what the result would be.
Gripping her shoulders I dragged her to me and clamped my mouth over hers. She struggled for a bit and then relaxed and let me continue but her lips did not move.
At last I stopped and hugged her to me, my mouth next to her ear.
‘I love you, Ælf. I want us to be wed. Please listen and believe what I say.’
Then I looked at her, hoping to see love-light shining from her eyes, longing for my kiss to have been a revelation, a release from blindness.
A squire returning from the privy looked at us oddly; we must have made a pretty sight, squire and stableboy in a clinch within the shadows. I blinked at the bleak horror in her face and let her go. She ran from me.
‘Ælf’ I called but she ignored me and pattered away into the dark.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Helen Spring -novelist

Just a quick one to alert you to the books of Helen Spring if you havent already found them. Her writing draws you into her world until you are totally engaged with her characters. For more information and details of how to purchase, visit her shiny new website

Tuesday, 2 February 2010


Why do I do this? I have just wasted all morning dickering around, finding things to do that keep me from writing my novel. Now I have decided to do this, why? It isnt that I don't want to write, don't enjoy writing, doubt that I can write it, so why have I washed up, visited numerous time wasting websites, answered emails that can wait, phoned my mother, rearranged the china cupboard? I have everything I need to get on with part three. The research all neatly catalogued, coffee steaming at my elbow, even the word doc is open, the curser flashing. Yet i am here instead, talking to you who probably aren't listening anyway.
I think I need an overseer, someone to apply the whip everytime my mind strays ...ooh no, perhaps not, that might sting. I wake up in the middle of the night (husband sneezing again) and the plot comes alive in my head. I know exactly what the characters will do, how they will do it and why. I am eager to get it down, so eager I can barely sleep, yet morning comes and all that enthusiasm has dwindled away.
I am almost at the end of writing the section narrated by Alys, it took sometime to get her voice right in my head but I have her nailed now. Another few pages and I can move on to Leo's narrative; a more dramatic section than Alys'. I should be raring to go but instead, I feel quite fed up with the whole thing.
what I shall do now, is read through what I did last time, delete/change some probably, make notes on which bits need improving and then, hopefully, fingers crossed, write at least a few more pages. If I can just put Alys to bed I can have my fun with Leo.