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!