Sunday, 19 June 2011

Retro Centre and Samuel pepys

Retro Centre and Samuel Pepys

I always enjoy visiting St Albans. Yesterday I visited a treasure house of items from times past at a Retro Centre, which I will visit again, and I shall attend the Retro Fair next weekend.

The Retro Centre is divided into sections where different sellers arrange their wares. China, glass, curios, soft furnishings, clothes and a treasure house of books.

As I went round I yearned to own a country cottage with oak beams which I could decorate with colourful china, lace edged throws, embroidered tablecloths, traycloths, framed tapestries and embroidered or tapestry cushions. Having admired, picked up and put down various items I found the book section after I rummaged through clothes and admired costume jewellery.

This is the year when I’m supposed to be saving money but I couldn’t resist three books by one of my favourite historians, Arthur Bryant, Samuel Pepys The Man in The Making, Samuel Pepys The Years of Peril and Samuel Pepys The Saviour of The Navy.

I have collected a number of Arthur Bryant’s books and always enjoy his style. Samuel Pepys, The Man in the Making begins: - “North of Cambridge lie the Fens. The sea from which they arose laps at their northern boundaries, and north and east great rivers lazily wind across them, drawing black cattle to drink among the sedges at their brink. This land would be one of silence were it not for the innumerable company of larks, of bittern, coot and moorhen, of sedge warblers and reed sparrow, which ever provides it with a faint and not discordant music. In summer it is still, as the monk William of Huntingdon remembered it, a land of clouds and orchards and golden corn. Yet it is so only by right of battle waged ceaselessly by its invading armies of water. Whenever civilization has receded – when Roman legion fell back or monastery bell was silenced-the waters have taken back their own. Salt tides have swept in with winter gales through forsaken walls, and the rivers have flowed out, cold and remorseless, over the fields and houses of man.

“.…On this land came the Pepys’s. For centuries they had grazed and ploughed, haggled at markets over country wares and peered at the Fen skies…”

Although Samuel Pepys was first published in 1933 it has not dated and is full of fascinating information, and I the preface very interesting.

“…Samuel Pepys was the creator of three remarkable, and still surviving things. The first, in the order of their making, was his Diary. The second was the civil administration of the Admiralty-the rule –and order that still give permanence to the material form, fighting traditions and transmitted knowledge of the Royal Navy. …Lord Barham testified that there was not a department of the Admiralty that was not governed by he rules Samuel Pepys had laid down in the 17th century. It was Pepys who made the scabbard for the sword that Nelson, and the heirs of Nelson used.

“Pepys third creative achievement sprang from the second. He has bee described as the father of the Civil Service. Here, too, his orders hold. The rules he laid down and the administrative principles he elucidated have become part of the continuing life of his country…”

I am writing a light-hearted novel set in the Restoration period when Charles Second came to England after his exile which followed his father’s execution. I always try to ensure that my novels are as well-researched as possible and Arthur Bryant’s trilogy about Pepys will be invaluable.

Forthcoming release. Tangled Love 27.01.2012 Muse It Up Publisher.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Recommended Reads

Trencarrow Secret by Anita Davison

For readers who like a twist in the tale which takes them by surprise, I recommend Trencarrow Secret by Anita Davison.

I had the privilege of reading this novel by an accomplished author prior to publication and thoroughly enjoyed it

You can find out more about Anita and her novels at Anita’s beautifully designed blog:

Isabel Hart is afraid of two things, the maze at Trencarrow where she got lost as a young child, and the lake where her brother David saved her from drowning in a boating accident.

With her twenty-first birthday and the announcement of her engagement imminent, Isabel decides it is time for her to face her demons and ventures into the maze. There she sees something which will alter her perceptions of herself and her family forever.

Isabel’s widowed aunt joins the house party, where her cousin confides she is in love with an enigmatic young man who surely cannot be what he pretends, for he is too dashing for homely Laura.

When Henry, Viscount Strachan and his mother arrive, ostensibly to use her ball as an arena for finding a wife, Isabel is determined not to like him.

As more secrets are revealed, Isabel begins to doubt she has chosen the right man, although her future fiancé has more vested in this marriage than Isabel realizes and has no intention of letting her go easily.

Will Isabel be able to put her preconceptions of marriage behind her and take charge of her own life, or is she destined to be controlled by others forever?

Sunday, 5 June 2011

A Novelist aka Organic Gardener's Saturday Morning

As usual, when I woke at, I went downstairs to make a mug of green tea sweetened with organic honey, and flavoured with a wedge of unwaxed, organic lemon. While the kettle boiled I turned on the tap to water part of the vegetable plot. I then wasted a lot of time trying to adjust the spray.

By 6.20 I was checking my e-mails and replying to some of them. Recently, junk mail has been appearing. How do I get rid of it? I changed my password for one e-mail address but it hasn’t helped. What satisfaction do people derive from wasting other people’s time?

An hour later, I applied on line critiques to my mediaeval novel set in the reign of Edward II. The novel is part of a planned trilogy. I finished the first draft several years ago and sent it to the Romantic Novelist’s Association New Members’ New Writers’ Scheme for a reader’s report. The report was incredibly useful. I applied all the suggestions and put my novel, Dear Heart, aside while I wrote my new release Tangled Love (formerly published as Tangled Hearts) set in Queen Anne’s reign.

My critique partners thought the chapter I submitted for their opinion lacked emotion. In retrospect, I agree and now know how to add depth to the chapter. The good news is that they can identify with the characters’ dilemmas and enjoy my descriptions of places. In the chapter the hero has returned from the Battle of Bannockburn.

“After all that Nicholas had endured on the battlefield, he could scarcely believe in the reality of this oasis with its luxurious furnishings, a cradle for the babe yet to be born, a loom, a spinning wheel and a prie-dieu. Glad to see everyday things, he gazed at the items on top of a coffer – the box Harold gave Yvonne for a wedding gift, her ivory-framed looking glass, a pair of gold embroidered gloves, a baby’s gold and coral rattle next to a tiny, half-stitched coif.”

I applied some suggestions, corrected grammatical errors and inserted notes about revision in the text.

In between applying critiques I turned off the hose and make breakfast – freshly squeezed organic orange juice and porridge. While I ate breakfast I watched the news and decided what I would do in my organic garden.

After breakfast I critiqued a chapter of an intriguing historical novel set in the Bronze Age. It will be the first novel I’ve ever read set in this period. By then it was 10 a.m. time to set aside my writing activities until the late afternoon and early evening.

I had a quick shower and went into the garden. The redcurrants hang on the bush like glistening jewels. I picked half of them with the intention of making a raspberry and redcurrant pie. Today I will pick more to make redcurrant jelly and – if there are enough – redcurrant cordial. The jelly is delicious in cream cheese sandwiches, added to a serving of my homemade yoghurt or in creamy rice pudding. The cordial is refreshing and the pie will be delicious.

Next, I planted out beetroot which I grew from seed in the greenhouse and sowed turnip seeds and white radish seeds. The leaves and long white radishes make a delicious curry. I then did some weeding. By then it was very hot so I had a drink made with homemade yoghurt and cold water and a pinch of salt. It is a very refreshing drink on a hot day. I sipped it while leafing through a vegetarian cookbook and deciding what needs to be done in the garden on the next day, a Sunday.

On Sundays I feed my tomato plants which I grow in pots and hanging baskets. Last year Idli tomato plants provided masses of succulent sweet, yellow cherry tomatoes, which my grandchildren ate like sweets. I decided that other urgent tasks would be picking the last of my broad beans, potting up bush basil and leeks that are growing in the greenhouse and sowing some more French beans. And, of course, there is the never ending task of weeding and pruning.