Friday, 31 December 2010

The Launch of Trifolium Books

The first day of 2011 sees the launch of a new indie publisher, Trifolium Books UK
TB UK is being set up, like many another independent publisher before it, to publish a specific book- in this case Moon in Leo- but there are already one or two more as a twinkle in the publisher's eye.
The editor is working on the final parts of the novel to be set and laid out- the all-important list of characters, and Kathleen's hand-drawn map of Furness.

Moon in Leo will be available for sale on Amazon UK and Amazon US, as well as through normal bookshops, and directly from this site. The price will be under ten GB pounds.

I already have a growing list of advance sales. Please leave a comment on the blog if you wish to be added: it will help me to calculate the initial print run. I hope to get the book into most of the independent booksellers in Furness and other Cumbrian towns.

There will be a small reduction in price for people who pay ahead of publication date. Putting your name on my advance sales list now does not mean you have to pay now- it just means I will reserve you a copy, and I will email you with details nearer the time. Keep checking the blog for news!

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Words Worth Hearing

Listened to my mini play on t' wireless this morning- felt good! Does this mean I am no longer "an unpublished writer"?
Will try to post a recording of it later. I am impressed by the work that Belinda Artingstoll of Radio Cumbria has done, as well as actors and directors and my fellow writers from North Cumbria Scriptwriters. We all done good, man! I am looking forward to listening to the final play tomorrow!

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

The World Premier of my Radio Play

My short Radio Play Words Worth Hearing will be broadcast on local radio on Thursday 23rd December between 9.30 and 10.00 am, 6.00 and 7.00 pm, and on the late evening show between 10.00 pm and 1.00 am. It is one of five plays accepted for broadcast by Radio Cumbria, and written by North Cumbria Script Writers. We had great fun recording them with some talented local actors and directors. The five plays were  produced, recorded and edited by Belinda Artingstoll. You can hear Radio Cumbria streamed live or listen again.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

The Importance of Jewellery

Rosamund's Rose Cross necklet plays a vital role in Moon in Leo, as did Arianrod's necklace, in Queen of the Lightning. It portrayed the three phases of the moon- waxing, full and waning. I made Kathleen a pendant which was my take on this idea. She is wearing it in her author photo on the jacket of Ghost in the Sunlight.
Pendant in silver with moonstone cabachon

Following the success of the Cumbrian Trilogy, Kathleen commissioned me to make a very special belt:

Each of the thirteen panels is embellished with a leaf representing the tree for that particular lunar month. This was one of the most challenging and fascinating commissions I ever undertook: it made me feel like one of the magical smiths of old, forging magical properties into the metal with each stroke of the hammer!

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Little bits of news and lots of snow!

For many years we have noticed the effects of climate change here in our remote corner of North West England. Winters have been warmer and wetter, and summers- wetter and colder! (Notice I don't call it global warming) However, we are now wondering if we are at the beginning of a new mini ice age. Last winter was like the winters I remember as a child, and the freeze has started even earlier this year; we don't normally get bad weather until January.

Derbyshire- cold and lovely

We spent the weekend in Derbyshire, where we saw our first snow of the winter, but as we drove north, the sun came out and set the snow to sparkling. A diversion to Ulverston seemed like a good idea.

Sun on snow- the road to Ulverston

The little town of Ulverston was free of snow and there was a warm welcome and a tasty lunch at Gillam's. Just a few doors along on the old cobbled street, we bought a guide to Lost Ulverston in the wonderful bookshop, previously the Tinner's Rabbit: we hope they will be selling copies of Moon in Leo in the spring.

Ulverston is a lovely, friendly town- I can picture Rosamund and "Dr Rosenroth" hurrying up and down its streets. And the news? Well, you should be able to read all about Dr Rosenroth in early spring. Publishing will be underway as soon as Christmas is over, and my little radio play about Wordsworth's cottage will be broadcast, along with four other plays by North Cumbria Scriptwriters in the week leading up to Christmas.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

A preview (almost) of the new cover!

All being well, we hope to publish Moon in Leo early in 2011. Hopefully we can launch it in spring time. We now have a designer who will probably base the cover on this photo. On a recent visit to Furness to see and photograph the settings in the book, something amazing happened. Having got good shots of the Leven Estuary and Chapel Island (posted earlier) we visited Birkrigg Common and the Stone Circle, then went in search of Urswick Tarn. As the sun was setting, we decided to take one last look at the estuary: I had wanted to see it with the tide out, as several important scenes take place on the treacherous but beguiling sands. We found a lane that went down to the sea, but stopped near the top. I climbed the high bank with my camera and I was transported straight back in time to Rosamund's world: no modern buildings were visible in the twilight, and onto the sands emerged a single rider, joyfully cantering her horse into the shallow waters that remained near the shore, but dwarfed by the immensity of the sands.

It seemed as if Rosamund herself were present- perhaps she had used her alchemical arts to come to the future and give us a sign!

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

How it started

When this attractive little book came through the letter box in 1982, it was the first indication I had that my friend Kathleen, whom I had then known for over twenty years, was a "proper writer"  It was published by Brans Head and the cover illustration was by Nicole Ryan, who was, I believe a former student of Kathleen's

This was the first indication I had that she was a serious writer

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

OK, so it's not a bodice ripper!

I have just read an indignant review of Kathleen's first book, Bride of the Spear. The writer berates the book for being too explicit for teenagers! I want to put the record straight with regard to Moon in Leo, so be warned:
It is not a book for teenagers. It is not a bodice ripper. It is not chick-lit. It is not escapist historical froth. It is not crammed with sensational violence or titillating sex. It is not an academic study of the socio-political and religious background to the Restoration of Charles II. If you read historical fiction to escape from what you see is a nasty modern world, you will be disappointed. Kathleen's past is not soft focus and rosy.
It's a book for grown up, intelligent people. You will understand the political, social and religious issues of the time better, when you have read it. You may even return to your history books- it is a fascinating period! You will have a good mental picture of that area of England's North-West. You may even plan a visit, if you are not lucky enough to live there: it is a place of great beauty. Above all, you will have read a cracking good story, with suspense, romance, tragedy, laughter, horror, beauty, violence, tenderness, loss, compassion, hatred, a heroine and hero who will stay with you long after you put down the book, and a sense of having shared a richness and maturity of vision with Kathleen. I can't wait to share it with you!

We are getting nearer by the day, and will probably e publish as well as produce hard copies through (probably) Lightning Source. That way, Moon in Leo will be available wherever in the world you are!

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

In search of Rosamund's World

The Leven Estuary, looking north towards the Lakeland Fells

From the same spot looking south

Chapel Island, a refuge for those who get caught by the tide racing in from the south

Chapel Island from high up on Birkrigg Common. The tide is starting to go out

The stone circle on Birkrigg Common. Rosamund dances here on Lammas Eve

And this could be Rosamund herself riding her pony in the surf at dusk!

Monday, 8 November 2010

Even some of the good bits have to go!

In order to reduce Moon in Leo to a less "epic" length, we have had to cut quite a lot. This extract gives us an insight into why Simon is as he is, but doesn't contribute much to the main story. I thought readers might still be interested in his back-story- a mini saga of witchcraft and poor parenting

It was hard to guess why Goditha Rainbird had married a sickly creature like Edmund Challis. The offer and most of the arrangements for the marriage had come from her family and she seemed perfectly satisfied. She was a big handsome woman, strong enough to have steered a Viking ship across the North Sea as her ancestors had probably done. Also she was well-born and had a good dowry. She could have done better for a husband, even in those troubled times. She used to say, smiling, that she loved her own Essex country too much to marry away from it.
One answer to the question why a strong-willed, warm-blooded woman preferred a weak, dim-witted husband was never even hinted.
Simon had the delicate Challis features and fair colouring as well as his mother's robust health. No one doubted he was Edmund Challis' son. Also, though Goditha was on terms of friendly respect with most men, who admired her head for business and her skill with crops and stock, there was never the slightest sign of flightiness or lust in her. Indeed, her only weakness seemed to be her devotion to her son. She called him her 'little prince' and let him have everything he wanted.
The child, clever and sharp-eyed, was soon aware that in spite of all the local land-owners, justices and constables, Canewdon was ruled by a sisterhood, with his mother at their head. Before long he had picked out the others. At first he could not understand why those particular women should be in the group. It was not for their rank or money. His mother was gentry, so was the vicar's sister; there was a baronet's daughter, the wives of a couple of wealthy yeomen. But there were also women from cottages and fishermen's huts, a poor herb-grower, a pedlar. It was not their age and authority. The herb-woman was a crone but the baronet's daughter and one of the fisher-girls were hardly out of their childhood. Whatever it was, these nine held the power in Canewdon and for some miles around.
Simon had an instinct for power, even when he was very young. Knowing that power belonged to his mother and that she belonged to him, he believed that he was lord of Canewdon. Yet his mother had secrets with her sisterhood that she did not share with him. Usually, when she went visiting she took him with her, or brought him back some sweetmeats and a kiss from her hostess. Sometimes, though, she stayed out all night with never a word of where she went and enjoyed herself without him. He saw this as rebellion and treachery. He could have demanded that she confess. It was more satisfying to outwit her and catch her out.
One bright summer night, the last night of his childhood, he stayed awake after she had kissed him goodnight, listening for the house to fall quiet. Then he got out of bed, put his breeches and doublet over his nightshirt, climbed out of his window, scrambled along the branch of an ash-tree and perched there like a roosting bird until his mother, cloaked and hooded in black, came quietly out. He let her get well ahead before he came down the tree-trunk, then followed her into the darkness of the yew-walk, through the garden gate, along the hedge bordering the meadow, and so to the wood that grew down the slopes of Beacon Hill.
The shadows were closer and darker here, though the trees were dappled with moonlight, so he dared to come nearer his quarry. They too were not alone in the woods; other shadows were moving among the trees, all making towards the same place. None of the shadows said a word of greeting or gave any sign that it had seen the others, until they reached a clearing where a bonfire had been built. The shadows clustered round it. In a while a flame sprang up, the fire kindled and the shadows took off their cloaks.
Simon lay among the roots of an oak tree in the darkness outside the ring of firelight. He had slipped his arms out of his doublet and pulled it over his silver-bright hair. He was fighting with his giggles. This was more amusing than mummers' play; the masks were stranger. Also, it was funny to think of the maskers treading on brambles or stones with their bare feet when they danced, or getting nettle-stung or goose-pimpled in the cool night air in spite of the bonfire, with nothing on but those strips of rag and ribbon hanging down from the garlands on their heads.
When the feasting began, he was tempted to pounce out on them and claim his share of the good things. But he wasn't hungry, he'd eaten a hearty supper; also, he was enjoying a sense of mastery. He knew about them but they didn't know about him.
At first, he wasn't very surprised at the other happenings. He'd seen the cows going to bull and the stallion covering mares, though he'd not known till then that men and women did it in the same way.
The fear grew so slowly he couldn't be sure how or why it came. He saw nobody except the masked dancers; he knew they were only Canewdon folk and one of them his mother. If anyone - or anything - else appeared among the dancers, it must have been after he shut his eyes. Yet he knew there was more life in the circle round the bonfire than the villagers had brought with them. It came flooding into the glade like a tide; and it was in the woods behind him too, so that he dared not run away. The moon seemed to have come nearer the earth; the woodland creatures, the night birds, even the moths, had gathered for the meeting. The trees were astir and peering through the shadows to find him; their roots were quivering, their branches groping. If he made the least noise or movement, they would clutch him.
By the end he had his face pressed against the ground, his fingers digging into the earth. At last the fiddle stopped, then the pipe and tabor, the pad and slap of dancing feet, the cries and the laughter. The crackling and flare of the flames had died down. He opened his eyes.
The moon had set. In the dusk before dawn, the shadows, cloaked again, were leaving the glade as quietly as they had come. He was almost too stiff to move but made himself get up and go after them rather than be left alone in the wood. He followed the one tall shadow that glided along the hedge towards his garden gate, then down the yew walk. After waiting till he was sure she was inside the house, he climbed back through his window and into bed.
Then, every time he shut his eyes, he was back in the wood staring at the firelit glade. He was terrified that he was going to see the Power that he had felt coming and had shut his eyes to escape. Now, he had to keep his eyes open to escape it, so he lay and watched the sky grow bright.
When his mother saw him, he was heavy-eyed and yawning. She remarked on it.
"I couldn't get to sleep. The moon got in my room. You forgot to draw my curtains."
"My poor little prince. I'll take better care tonight. But the best way of getting a good sleep all through the night is to stay in bed."
He looked at her warily and saw that she knew. She was smiling, she wasn't cross. His courage came back. Though she ruled everybody else, she was still his subject.
"Why were the men and women doing that?"
"Helping the crops grow. Making sure the cattle have healthy stock, that the rivers are full of fish and the fishing-boats come safely to land. And paying our respects to the Lady."
"To Lady Essex?"
"To the Queen of Earth and Heaven."
His eyes widened. "Are you a Papist?"
Goditha laughed. "They wouldn't say so. I worship the Lady, the giver of life. She brings everything out of her womb and takes it all back into herself. She's the mistress of all tides and seasons. All women are her priests and all men serve her. She is everything, she gives everything, she does everything."
Simon giggled. He was clever and completely sure of himself, because nobody had ever checked him. He had not long been breeched; he stuck his fingers in his waistband and straddled his legs, a real man.
"Oh no, she doesn't! She can't."
Goditha's smile vanished. She spoke very softly. "What's that?"
He tilted his chin to outstare her. His eyes were insolent. "I saw what they did last night. It's the same as the stone-horse does with the mares and the bull with the cows. And they have to wait till he's ready. Females are undermales - that's in the Bible. You have to wait for us. You can't do anything till we choose."
"Can't we? Oh can't we?"
She dragged him up across her knees and pulled his breeches down. He expected a beating and fought against the outrage, but she held him down with one powerful arm and he was helpless. She kept him pinned down on his back and set about tickling and teasing his little prick until, in spite of his will, it stood up obediently for her, as powerless under her hand as he was.
"Can't we?" She said again, grimly: "If I ever hear you talk about the Lady like that again, I'll bring the others to you."
Suddenly she hugged him. "Even princes have to obey the Queen, my darling."
She set him on his feet and fastened his breeches.
"Cook's baking cherry tarts. Go and ask her to give you one. Tell her I said so. Run along - and don't come to another sabbat till you're invited."
He moved to go.
"Give me a kiss first."
He obeyed, but he never forgave her. He was a sensitive, proud little boy. She had damaged his pride and destroyed his belief that she was devoted to him. His selfhood was wounded. He couldn't turn to his father; he had no brothers to share with; his dignity would not let him confide in any of the menservants. So the wound festered, skinned over with a show of duty and affection.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Report on Progress

I continue to receive support and interest from places as far apart as Norfolk, the American midwest, and Kirkby in Furness, Cumbria. This makes me feel very optimistic about selling Moon in Leo when it is eventually published. The first two chapters are now with an agent who has agreed to take a second look. She says that the writing is "exact and moving".We are also looking into various ways of self-publishing and researching some of the smaller publishers who specialise in books set in or about the North of England. This blog is receiving quite a lot of hits, from all over the world, but the more publicity I can get, the more seriously agents and publishers will take the book. Please keep looking, and let all your friends and assoiates know about it.

Kathleen's earlier books are all available on Amazon

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Rosamund's World

Overview of the whole area. Rosamund escapes from Frith Hall, and travels north up Dunnerdale and crosses the high fells to Coniston
Detail. Rosamund lives in Park, and travels north to see Colonel Kirkby. Stephen crosses the Sands south of Chapel Island
Following on my quotation from Rosamund's encounter with Colonel Kirkby of Kirkby Hall, I thought readers would find it interesting to see Kathleen's map of Furness, showing all the places in the book. I will try to post photos of some of the locations in the coming weeks, as I take a trip south, looking for illustrations for the book cover.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Colonel Kirkby and the Peacock Room

 Simon has been imprisoned. Rosamund goes to see Colonel Kirkby of Kirkby Hall, her local magistrate.  Rumour has it that Kirkby is a secret Catholic, which in those times was extremely dangerous. In the following passage, Kathleen evokes that sense of extreme danger, as well as giving us a vivid picture of the hall. The pictures in the link show the accuracy of her historical research: she has been there, so she takes us!  Kathleen talks about her research in an interview with Raymond Thompson, already mentioned in my earlier post Deja Vue

She had never seen a room quite like it before. Apart from one carved and cushioned armchair, it certainly did not suggest a private study. It was very large, nearly the whole length of the west wing. There was no ceiling; the heavy black timbers of the roof, supported by a huge king-post, made it look like a barn or a church. The likeness to a church was increased by the writing painted on the wall plaster in red and black letters: the Ten Commandments, the Lord's Prayer, the Creed and quotations from the English Bible, all good Protestant texts. The room might have been a Puritan chapel for a family too strict to approve of the parish church.
But the paintings that blazed out under the texts were not Puritan at all. Pairs of peacocks in all the glory of their spread tails faced each other on either side of trees with their summer foliage. Most visitors would have seen the peacocks as fitting images of Kirkby pride and ambition. Rosamund however, had learned to read pictures for their messages as well as enjoying their colours and shapes. Peacock flesh, according to legend, never decayed. Peacock plumage, renewed every year, was a symbol of resurrection. Pairs of peacocks with a tree between them: Christ and the Virgin, the new Adam and Eve under the Tree of Life in a restored Eden. If you wanted to hide a Catholic chapel, one way of doing so was to pretend that it was a Protestant chapel.
She thought over what she had heard about Colonel Kirkby; his appalling temper, his ruthless harrying of local Baptists and Quakers, the gout that always tortured him. If Colonel Kirkby really were a Catholic, as devoted to his church as his cousin Lucia, yet driven by his energy and ambition to betray it with his lips and outward actions, the results could be expected. They were self-hatred battening on his body; persecuting heretics to soothe his conscience or taste a hidden revenge; practising his true religion furtively, yet flaunting it on his walls, daring ruin and a hideous death if the wrong person read his riddle. Perhaps he even had a dark hope that one day someone would denounce him, so he might die for his faith at last. No wonder he lived in torment.

Sunday, 31 October 2010

The Kindest Cut...

Now working on cutting the length of Moon in Leo. Hopefully we are a tiny bit nearer to publication!

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Rosamund deals with Simon

In fact, Rosamund had only one letter to write, to Simon. It needed very careful phrasing. Every word had to be chosen for its likely effect on him. Also, in spite of his treachery in luring her to Jane Sands' house, in spite of his use of sorcery to draw her back to Frith Hall, even in spite of his recent attempt to murder her, she would not decoy him to his death with lies. She wrote and burned a good many pages in the next two days before she composed a version that satisfied her.
Sunday. October 27th
My Dear Simon,
Perhaps you will be surprised, or even think me a hypocrite, that I can still address you as 'dear' after leaving you. But I wasn't pretending to be in love with you. When I told you that I'd pledged myself to you, I meant it then with all my heart. When I gave myself to you that night in Lancaster, I believed my feelings would never change. I won't deny the past or take back anything I said. That is why I think I owe it to you to tell you what I have decided to do.
On Thursday, I leave England for ever. I'm going beyond the sea; I don't plan to come back. My family has connections abroad. When you first told me about your work and aims, I let you know how much I disapproved of them. I can't share them and I'll never use my own knowledge and my father's training to help you put them in action. I'd be dishonest if I let you hope I ever might. I believe, I know, they are evil, so I'm leaving you for your good as well as mine.
Only last week, in Dalton, I saw an example of the mob hysteria that Ferguson and your other friends take so lightly. A poor vagrant gypsy girl was set upon and harried to death. Apart from the devilish cruelty, it was degrading, stupid and pointless, as violence always is.
Oh my poor Simon, I'm bitterly grieved that you should be in danger of sinking to such a depth of vileness! If only I had the power to draw you away from it.
Your true well-wisher

Rosamund Halistan

It was painful to write, even more painful to read over, trying to take it in through Simon's eyes. At times, it seemed that she had made her meaning too clear; he would surely see it. At times, she almost wished he would read her mind, hating herself for what she was planning, seeing him as her unsuspecting victim. But Simon was a magician, proud of his power. The message behind the letter was there for him to read and take warning if he would.

Friday, 29 October 2010

Words Worth Hearing

I thought I had written a really simple little play. Honestly. I thought there were only two locations. Inside and outside. That just shows my ignorance of the intricacies and technicalities of recording radio drama. The play is set in Dove Cottage, where William Wordsworth lived with sister Dorothy and wife Mary during some of his most productive years in the very early nineteenth century.

It's a tiny house, with a tangibly intimate atmosphere, and it's very easy to imagine the Wordsworths living out their daily lives in its various small and dark rooms. Director Jenn and sound engineer/editor/producer  Belinda decided we needed to replicate the sense of moving from one room to another with a number of visitors and a guide, by shuffling in and out of most of the rooms in Rick's house. Hence it took two and a half hours to record a five minute play. So we got well behind schedule for recording all five Radio Cumbria shorts. Sorry guys! And thanks for your patience!

I will post links to the programme on Radio Cumbria, and broadcast times, when the five pieces are due to go out in November.

We chose small rooms to give a feeling of intimacy to the recording

Then we trooped into another room....

.....and another

Recording footsteps for the outside scene

The hero of the day- Radio Cumbria's Belinda Artingstoll

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Rosamund escapes from Simon's clutches

 Rosamund, trapped in the remote and desolate  Frith Hall,  has come to realise that Simon is a heartless megalomaniac, who now has her in his power. If she is to escape, she has to find her way across the wild fell country alone at night. However, the greatest danger is from Simon himself who sends out his spirit to fetch her back. He does this three times, posing first as her brother, then as her father, and finally he appears as himself. Each time he makes a mistake and she sees through the illusion.  

After the first steep climb the road had led her across a wide stretch of featureless moorland that seemed to last for ever. It was now going across the side of a long hill, rising all the time. This was the ridge that had bounded her horizon when she had first turned on to the road; it led to a saddle between two peaks. She knew too much about hill-walking to believe that when she reached the top, she would have nothing to do but stroll down the other side to Coniston. What lay beyond the ridge was probably steeper and worse.
She let herself look up and was startled to see how much thicker the mist had grown. It stretched like a curtain across the road a little way ahead. She glanced back; the land behind was still clear. She looked at the mist-curtain again. She could not even be sure that it was really there, not one of Simon's illusions to send her back towards Dunnerdale a second time.
That memory was enough to drive her forward into the mist. It closed round her but was not dense enough to blot out the few yards in front of her feet; she could still see the road. Even so, the cold blankness all around put an extra burden on her spirits. She felt as if she were being wrapped in a wet shroud. She dreaded she was walking into a trap.
Nothing in her education had prepared her to face such an ordeal. She was an alchemist, not a magician. Her father had indeed challenged and defeated an occult attack; but he had great power and knowledge. Yet he had died at the moment of victory.
She wished she could speak to him just once more, to ask his advice, though she would never have deliberately tried to call him. Her family had never practised necromancy. They had always believed, her father had impressed upon her, that when a spirit leaves its mortal body, it has a long journey to go, new worlds to discover. It was selfishness or heartless cruelty to force it to stay earthbound. Still, she trusted that John Windham had been allowed to come back and help his wretched lover. Something had broken the obsession that had beset Anne so long. If only her father could come back, now she needed him so desperately!
The mist swayed, thinned, brightened for a moment as a glimmer of moonlight shone through. In the swirl of light and darkness, she caught a glimpse of her father's face, his silver hair and beard, the long sleeves and folds of his scholar's gown stirring in a breeze. She never saw him clearly; knowing he was dead, she did not expect to. He was only making a shadow form in the mist to help her mortal senses accept that he was there. She knew that the voice she heard was talking to her mind.
"My dear child."
"Oh father, please help me!"
"My poor girl. I was taken from you too soon, before I had finished teaching you. That is why I have been permitted to come back, but only for a little while."
"Tell me what to do. I feel lost. I seem to be wandering with no purpose, no use to myself or anyone else."
"No wonder. I told you the alchemist's work was hard and very dangerous without a partner. You should not attempt it alone."
"But you've gone, and I've lost Stephen. I am alone."
"And do you believe there is no one else with a mind and spirit to match yours? Nobody with the power and the will to partner you in your work?"
"I met someone - I thought he was the King. But his will's evil"
"Nothing is evil, daughter. There are only things that are incomplete and flawed. If everything were perfect, there would be no need for alchemy. But if you must use the word 'evil', then there is evil in everything and everyone - even you, child,"
She remembered her jealousy of Lucia, her resentment at Stephen's delight in the glories of the Roman church. She had gone out on May Eve meaning to draw her brother's mind and feelings back under her influence by enchantment. Was she so different from Simon?
"But he uses his power to destroy -"
"You have to destroy in order to create. What is the first step in the Work?"
"Calcination of the material."
"Yes. It has to be purged by fire. And how many times after that must it be distilled, dissolved in acid, broken into its elements before it reaches perfection? If we gave up the first time we made a miscalculation, or broke a crucible, how could we ever hope to achieve the Stone? Do you remember the first time you got the Peacock's Tail? You were so excited you overheated the flask and destroyed the colours -"
"Yes, I was just thinking about that myself -"
"If you can see flaws in this partner of yours, perhaps he can see flaws in you,"
"Yes, father."
"It's for you to help him transform himself, just as he will help you if you let him. You have to make him your King, so that he can make you his Queen."
"Yes, father."
"In alchemy, the workers are part of the Work. You need enough courage and faith to put yourself in the furnace with your partner, not cling to your petty separate self."
"Yes father."
"Go back to him. Submit your mind to him in faith, just as you did to me -"
This was the one thing her father had never let her do. She had never heard him speak so harshly as when he had refused her offer to make herself his tool. He had even been unwilling to work with her as a partner  because his greater experience and knowledge would have made equality impossible between them.
When she remembered him as he really had been in life, with his own words coming back to her, the voice inside her mind rang false. It was the voice of her own weakness telling her what she wanted to hear - or what Simon wanted her to think. The rising wind broke up the shadowy form in front of herand blew the mist to tatters. For a moment she imagined she saw Simon's face staring at her in fury, then the air around her cleared.
Simon slumped forward, resting his forehead on the cool marble altar. His body was limp; he was dizzy almost to fainting. After a few moments he sat up, deliberately straightening his back, forcing his head erect. Waldeve and Gerard would have recognized the expression on his face: the look of a rider who has just taken a bad toss in the hunting-field, staggering to his feet bruised and half-stunned, finding his horse standing near-by uninjured and dragging himself back into the saddle, blind to everything but the flagging quarry ahead.
He knew that he should have given up his pursuit of Rosamund at that moment. He had poured his own vitality into the presence that had waylaid her in the form of her father. When she shattered the vision, part of himself had been blown away into the waste land. He needed time to gather his lost strength and regain full command of himself. A Magus should have risen above emotion. But the love-hate of a huntsman now possessed him. He had felt her weakening; his only desire was to go after her and bring her down.
The sudden gust of air had thinned the mist. She found herself at the edge of a tarn. It was so dark and still that it might have been the Lake of Memory in the land of the dead. With the image of her father so vivid in her mind, still shaken by Simon's attack, she wondered for a moment if she had crossed the frontier between the worlds without noticing that her body had died.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Stephen is imprisoned

I will post a different extract here from time to time, to give you a flavour of the book.

When Stephen is imprisoned for treason in Lancaster Gaol, Rosamund is prepared to do almost anything to free him

When she appeared at the Castle gatehouse next morning, she was radiant. She was wearing her best green velvet skirt; her cravat and cuffs were foaming with lace; her curls were brushed out into a burnished cloud under her feathered beaver. She told the guards she had come to keep her appointment with Mr Brabin. She was bubbling with excited, almost childish happiness and ready to share it with anyone who would listen. She had been introduced to Mr Brabin by a friend, had supper with him last night and been invited to see him this morning to discuss her brother's case.

She was so transformed from the pale, anxious creature of the last days that they believed her. She was escorted politely across the courtyard to the keep and asked to wait in an anteroom. Mr Brabin was busy with his clerks in the Crown office at the moment; her name would be sent in.

At once, she transformed herself again. Standing close to the door of the office, she began to wail and sob hysterically, calling on Stephen's name.

"Oh my poor brother, what are they doing to you? Where are you? Oh, my heart will break! They're going to kill you, I know it!" Between the words, her voice broke out into shrieks, the blood-curdling moans of a victim on the rack, eerie keening like a lost soul - more shrieks.

'Forget anything you've been taught about modesty and good manners...' - Colonel Kirkby's words came back to her.

The door was flung open from inside. Ned Charnock's burly form filled the opening. Behind him, an angry voice was saying, "and stop that infernal - "
She moved to pass Charnock; he stepped sideways to block her entry; she whirled to his other side, putting her elbow in hard under his heart while he was off balance, dived through the doorway - and changed at once into that icily-elegant lady - Mistress Halistan of Park.

The small group of men seated at a table had all turned to stare at her. Charnock was saying something abusive at the door; a voice was raised in self-defence: "She said Mr Brabin told her to come -"

She supposed that the man at the head of the table, middle-aged and competent-looking, with a pile of papers in front of him, was Mr Brabin. He was furious, ready to send the intruder to the whipping-post of the House of Correction. He was taken aback to see her looking like the ladies who visited the Countess of Derby when she came to Lancaster. She got her word in first.

"I am the sister of Mr Stephen Halistan of Park. I want to see him."

"You'll need an order." Mr Brabin fell back thankfully on the rules.

"I shall have one any day now. My neighbour, Sir John Westby, is asking the Lord Lieutenant about it. His father died fighting for the King under the present earl's grandfather."

"If you're expecting an order, you can wait for it to come."

"Meanwhile I want to hear the charge."


"I know that already. I mean, what is he supposed to have done?"

"A copy of the indictment will be handed to him when he comes before the judges."

Mr Brabin appeared to be reciting. She stared at him.

"But the assizes are weeks away! Nearly two months! And how can we brief a lawyer or trace witnesses if we don't know what he's accused of in time to prepare his case?"

"Persons accused of treason are not allowed counsel," recited Mr Brabin. "Any information they need on points of law will be given by the judges during the hearing. And they are not permitted to subpoena witnesses in their defence."

"Are you telling me that my brother is expected to prove himself innocent, of he doesn't know what, when or where? And if he can't, you'll cut him up alive?" Her voice rose.

"That is the law, madam." Mr Brabin appeared to find it quite satisfactory. He looked as if he was waiting for another outburst, so that he could have her thrown out. She calmed herself.

"Don't make a mistake about me, Mr Brabin. I'm not some poor sheep-stealer's wife unable to read or write, or a half-crazed crone accused of witchcraft because a neighbour's cow dies. My family's not helpless or friendless. My father is a respected scholar, known to the Royal Society. He corresponds with Mr Evelyn and Mr Boyle, both of them the King's friends. And our neighbour in Furness, the Countess of Kesteven, has great influence at Court."

And so has Mr Henry Ravensworth, the King's boon companion - 'forget all you've been taught about modesty' - I'll write to him today.

"Any of them could get me a royal audience. Within five days I can be talking to the King. He'll listen to me, never doubt it."
Looking at her vivid face and brilliant eyes, framed in the mass of dark curls, Mr Brabin did not doubt it.

Like everyone, however obscure, who held office under the Crown, Mr Brabin needed to know about the sources of power. He was aware that King Charles had an intense dislike of saying No. He left refusals, and the resentment they created, to other people. He had a bewitching charm and sympathetic manner that made folk who begged his help believe they had been granted what they asked. When they didn't get it, still they couldn't find fault with the kindly King; they blamed his selfish ministers and corrupt servants. The King would listen to the wives of imprisoned Quakers and condemned rebels with the same perfect courtesy he showed to the Maids of Honour.

Mistress Halistan, though, was no homely Quaker or bitter Puritan. She was elegant as well as beautiful - also determined and cunning. She had played three separate parts in as many minutes to trick her way to an interview. If she put her cunning to the service of her beauty, she could get nearly anything she wanted from King Charles.

Keep checking this page, for the next exciting extract!

Monday, 27 September 2010

Some photos of Kathleen

When I saw Kathleen recently she said:  "I want you all to remember me as I was". So here she is in about 1986  when she had published her three Cumbrian novels, and was just going into paperback. You can just see the three books in the picture above

Monday, 20 September 2010

Deja Vue

I have several times had the slightly eerie experience of going to a place and thinking that I'd been there before, and of course I had- in my mind; transported there by writers as diverse as Thomas Hardy, Virgina Woolfe, Malcolm Lowry- and Kathleen Herbert! Kathleen's research was meticulous, which is why she can bring her settings to life. The link below will take you to an interview with her in which she explains her working methods:

Some further sites where you can see some of the locations from Moon in Leo:

Frith Hall in Dunnerdale, the isolated hunting lodge where heroine Rosamund is kept as a prisoner:

She escapes over the fells to Coniston Hall

The quicksands of the River Leven in Morecambe Bay are a pervasive and sinister presence in the book, and they continue to be a present day danger. Who can forget the fate of those poor Chinese cockle pickers in 2004?

Towards the end of this video there is a chilling evocation of Kathleen's words as we watch a man being swallowed by the "toothless mouth" of the quicksands:

I plan to make a trip to the Furness Peninsula in the near future, to track Rosamund's travels and take photos, which I will post on this blog.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Brief Bio of Kathleen Herbert

Kathleen Herbert gained a first class degree in English from Oxford, where she was a student of JRR Tolkien. Hearing him lecture on Anglo Saxon and other languages during the time of great upheaval when Rome was subject to waves of attack from Vandals and Goths, awoke her own love of language and history.

During a teaching career which inspired many with a love of books and writing, she continued her studies, learning Welsh in order to read the Gododdin and the Mabinogion in the original.

When she took early retirement she was able to spend more time studying and writing, and eventually produced three novels and four books of non-fiction all based on what she likes to call the Heroic Age of Britain: between the sixth and seventh centuries BC.

The Cumbrian Trilogy

In 1983, her novel Queen of the Lightning  won the Historical Novel Prize awarded annually in memory of Georgette Heyer. Bodley Head also published  the sequel, Ghost in the Sunlight in 1986. At around the same time, the first novel in this trilogy, The Lady of the Fountain was republished as  Bride of the Spear. All three novels are set in Cumbria, Northumbria and the Borders of Scotland, during the period of upheaval and immigration following the withdrawal of Roman troops in the fifth century.

The three novels sold well and were translated into German and French. They were published in paperback by Corgi in 1989.

Non Fiction

Following the success of the Cumbrian Trilogy, she concentrated on her scholarly research and produced several volumes on Anglo Saxon history and legend, which are still read and respected by a small but enthusiastic audience. Melvyn Bragg acknowledged one of them, Spellcraft, p Anglo Saxon Books 1993, as a most helpful source in his Afterword to Credo, p Hodder and Stoughton 1996.

The author has taken the skeletons of ancient Germanic legends about great kings, queens and heroes, and put flesh on them. Kathleen Herbert's encyclopedic knowledge of the period is reflected in the wealth of detail she brings to these tales of adventure, passion, bloodshed and magic. The book is in two parts. First are the stories that originate deep in the past, yet because they have not been hackneyed, they are still strange and enchanting. After that there is a selection of the source material, with information about where it can be found and some discussion about how it can be used. The purpose of the work is to bring pleasure to those studying Old English literature and, more importantly, to bring to the attention of a wider public the wealth of material that has yet to be tapped by modern writers, composers and artists. Kathleen Herbert is the author of a trilogy, set in sixth century Britain, that includes a winner of the Georgette Heyer prize for an outstanding historical novel.

Moon in Leo
In the 1990s, Kathleen turned her attention to a more recent period of history: the Restoration of King Charles II. She was fascinated by the turmoil under the seemingly peaceful surface of post civil war Britain. Old enmities were not forgotten, and scabbed over wounds were broken open in local and national skirmishes, culminating in the madness of the Popish Plot.

People did well to watch their backs, but feisty heroine, Rosamund, is a brave and determined young woman who ignores all warnings, and risks her life to save her beloved twin brother Stephen when he is mysteriously imprisoned in Lancaster gaol.

Rosamund is an alchemist, who knows how to conjure spirits; when she meets Simon, an enigmatic parliamentary secretary, she knows that she will give herself to him in mystic union. She recognises in him a man of  power and learning like her self and her own father.

Moon in Leo is set in Northern England, Furness, on the southern edge of the Lake District, but encompasses the whole of Britain and Europe.

Lady of the Fountain (1982)
     aka Bride of the Spear
Queen of the Lightning (1983)
Ghost In The Sunlight (1987)

Non fiction
Spellcraft: Old English Heroic Legends (1993)
Looking for the Lost Gods of England (1994)
Peace-Weavers and Shield-Maidens: Women in Early English Society (1997)
English Heroic Legends (2000)

Monday, 13 September 2010

News from across the sea

I posted a couple of comments on an American blog I found about historical fiction, called "Reading the Past"-  and was delighted to get a very quick response, telling me that Kathleen has still got fans in America.
I have emailed a query re Moon in Leo to an agent in New York. I was impressed by the open and straightforward way each person in the agency detailed the sort of projects which interest them, and the way they like to receive submissions. The agency also gives friendly and detailed advice on formatting manuscripts and writing query letters- a refreshing lack of bullshit! Several submissions will be going out to other agents this week.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Mike's Synopsis

A time and place much like our own. Hardship up and down the country. People turned out of their homes; others living rich beyond the dreams of the dispossessed. Above all, religious hatred sending groups into hiding; feeding constant fear of plots and threats and rumour. Terrorist packmen roam the remote parts of the country. Celebrity and Royalty parade in a public sexual carnival.
This is England in the last years of the Stuarts; England in the days just before Monmouth’s rebellion; England at the time of the “Popish plot”; England of Restoration Comedy romps.
In these dangerous times how can a na├»ve girl live? It’s harder to find a safe path through the thickets of treason and bigotry than through the rip-tides and quicksands, solid routes and sanctuary in the sand of Morecambe Bay.
 Her occultist father’s body burned; her brother pronounced dead from the deepest dungeon of Lancaster Castle; she fears herself threatened by with marriage-by-rape to a predatory Placeman.
The man she trusts is a fellow scholar of the occult, who speaks of her father with respect, who rescued her from the backstreets of Lancaster. On separate occasions, she has given him her necklet, her pledge and her maidenhead.
Too late she realises that he is a sexless megalomaniac, who will use any vulnerable woman in his experiments in hypnosis and generating mass hysteria.
That’s how she finds herself a desperate prisoner in a grim old farmhouse high in the Cumbrian Fells, the centre of a network plotting the overthrow of the government, and dares the only escape she can think of.
More to follow...

Balls in the air

Sometimes it's hard trying to keep them all up at the same time, so what's the logical conclusion? Of course- give myself another writing task! (perhaps twirling plates would have been a better metaphor) As Queen of Prevarication, I know only too well that rattling the keys on a new writing blog is a great way to put off doing the things I really need to do.
Anyway, my primary motivation for creating this blog was to create a vehicle for reporting on the progress of Moon in Leo, the book by Kathleen Herbert that Mike and I are trying to get published. My own writings will come in later.
My aim is to inform anyone out there in the ether that Kathleen Herbert, winner of the Georgette Heyer Memorial Prize for Historical Fiction in 1983, has completed a fourth novel- Moon in Leo. Kathleen has had a stroke and has entrusted me with the task of getting it published. Please get in touch with me if you are a fan already/ like historical fiction/ are interested in Restoration England/ are an agent or publisher who might be interested, or know one!
More details about Kathleen and her books, as well as a synposis of and (possibly) some passages from Moon in Leo in further posts.
I will leave you with some words about Queen of the Lightning (the one which won the G H P) from a German fan:
The novel is written with such feeling that I sometimes still have no words.Concepts such as: joy, love, hate, fear, despair, hope, or sadness can find their place here.