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.