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Why Mysteries? Why Winchester? And why, for that matter, a blog at all?

I love mystery stories.  I also love history and historical novels, so it’s no surprise I now write Victorian mysteries.  Why Winchester? It’s a lovely place, the ancient capital of King Alfred’s Wessex – it’s a perfect setting for my books.

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Christmas already?

My tenth book (Wow! that’s TENTH!) Christmas at Ladywell is published on Monday, 4th November as a digital-only e-book. As I wrote it partly in response to lots of ‘what happened next’ comments from readers, I really hope people enjoy it. I’ve never tried a novella before and wasn’t sure initially whether I’d have enough to say. Silly me – very few things stop me talking – so it started as a short story; developed into a long short story; turned into a novelette (which is a longer long short story). I finally totted up the word-count and found it was thirty thousand so it’s just under a third of the length of the original book, The House at Ladywell.

What’s interesting is that after my lovely publishers at Crooked Cat Books accepted it, I started to think of more secrets that the house could have and I’m considering adding three more sections to follow the Christmas one – Spring, Summer and Autumn making it a year at Ladywell. This would bring it up to book-length and it could perhaps come out as a paperback as well as digitally. Nothing definite yet and I have other projects on the go, but I realise I’m not ready to leave Ladywell behind!

On Monday there’ll be a Publication Day Push organised by the talented Rachel Gilbey of https://www.rachelsrandomresources.com She’s arranged for about thirty well-known book bloggers to post and tweet about Christmas at Ladywell, some of them with reviews, and I’m looking forward to reading their thoughts. Fingers crossed!

Here’s the Amazon link to buy it – a pre-Christmas treat for only £1.99  mybook.to/ChristmasatLadywell

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It’s a busy weekend because another book I’m involved in was published yesterday, 1st November. This is the second anthology edited by Alex Marchant, featuring short stories inspired by the story of Richard III. Full of fascinating tales it’s sold in aid of the Scoliosis Association UK and sufferers of this debilitating condition include Princess Eugenie of York and, of course, Richard III himself. (NOT a hunchback after all!) Here’s the cover and the link to buy in e-book or paperback on Amazon  mybook.to/RichardIIIAnthology

At the moment my website http://www.nicolaslade.com needs updating and is about to undergo some changes necessitated by the sad news I posted recently, ie the death of Keri Thomas, the dear friend who designed and ran it so successfully for years. It won’t be the same – no kind, calm response to my anguished pleas for help – but we’ll do our best!

‘Chasing Angels’ by Sally Zigmond

I like mountains and always feel healthier when I’m in the Alps but I have to admit that one mountain seems much like another to me.
We took the train to the summit of the Jungfrau in 2006 and felt giddy up at the top and I’ve been to the museum in Zermatt where I learned about the tragic fate that overtook some of the party during the first successful attempt to climb the Matterhorn by Edward Whymper. That was in 1865 but did you know that almost thirty years earlier, in 1836, a woman (Henriette d’Angeville) successfully climbed Mont Blanc? She was the first to do so and very intrepid she must have been to go mountaineering in a bonnet and full skirt plus petticoats. I’ve no way of comparing mountain ascents but it sounds pretty impressive to me!

(I don’t have a photo of Mont Blanc but on the grounds that a picture of any mountain is better than none, this is the Gornergrat glacier looking towards the Matterhorn: we were there in June 2009 and it was snowing!

I certainly hadn’t heard of Henriette d’Angeville until I came across Chasing Angels by Sally Zigmond and it’s a fascinating, fictionalised story of determination and sheer bloody-mindedness!

Sally Zigmond’s sweeping historical novel, Hope against Hope, and her short stories are clever, thoughtful and literary, all qualities to be found in her novella, Chasing Angels, but what I hadn’t really expected – I don’t know why! – was the delightful, earthy humour! With a sure, delicate touch the author brings us Henriette, quirky, difficult – and determined to reach her goal, and her companion, Jeannette, even more stubborn, jealous of the angel Henriette is chasing, jealous of everyone.

This may be a short book but what Sally Zigmond has written is a big story and Henriette d’Angeville is fortunate to be introduced to modern readers by such an accomplished writer.

Ebook only published by Endeavour Media – and thoroughly recommended

News, some glad and some sad

My only excuse for the shameful neglect of this blog is that I’ve been very busy!  For several reasons, starting with this: xmasatladywell

When we came home from the USA in early May, after I’d won the Grand Prize for romantic fiction at the CIBA conference based in Bellingham in the beautiful Pacific North West, I thought I had no more to say about the characters in The House at Ladywell and prepared to carry on with the sequel to The Convalescent Corpse. However, I might have thought I was done with Ladywell but Ladywell wasn’t done with me and gradually the idea of writing a story about the house at Christmas wormed its way into my mind.

A short story, I thought; I’ve enjoyed seasonal stories from favourite authors so I felt I could come up with something suitable. The short story grew and grew into a novella, about a third of the length of the original book; my trusted readers both loved it (thanks, Liv and Sugar!)and eventually I sent it to my publisher, Crooked Cat Books. They also enjoyed it and it’s coming out on 4th November: in eBook only  (Details soon)

Christmas – a time for spilling secrets…

 Having refurbished her inherited house and upcycled her whole life in the process, Freya – now happily married to Patrick, and with a small child –  has to transform her tiny stone barn into a romantic hideaway for a mystery guest who is also looking for change. With Christmas only a week away, things don’t go according to plan…

In the past, old uncertainties are resolved when an elderly woman seeks the truth of a legend on Christmas Eve and confesses to a deception; a Tudor wife listens to a story that must never be repeated and is given a precious relic that must never be displayed; and in the early nineteenth century an old woman tells a younger one the story of the hares at Ladywell.

 Past and present are only a whisper apart when Freya learns of an astonishing discovery that will make Ladywell famous, but meanwhile her house is full of unexpected visitors, she has a turkey to cook – and a very special secret of her own that must be told.

Readers have told me they loved Ladywell and have asked for more, so I hope they’ll be pleased with this update, and who knows? The house might have more stories to tell…

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Another piece of exciting writing news is running pretty much in parallel with my Christmas story. I’ve always been fascinated by Richard III, ever since I read Josephine Tey’s famous novel, The Daughter of Time. I was about thirteen and I’ve remained true to my historical crush ever since. His portrait hangs at the top of our stairs as it has for more than thirty years and last year I was intrigued to learn that an anthology of stories about the enigmatic king was to be published in aid of the Scoliosis Society – the condition Richard himself suffered from. Grant me the Carving of my Name was such a success that a second anthology is to be published in November this year – and I have a story in it, which is a huge thrill! Mine is called The Silent Boy and is adapted from a chapter in The House at Ladywell. If you’ve read my book, you’ll easily guess which  chapter – and you might learn a bit more about the very secret link between Ladywell and the King in the Carpark if you read the novella! The new anthology will be called Right Trusty and Well-Beloved, details when I get them.King_Richard_III__1666500a

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As if two forthcoming publications aren’t enough, The House at Ladywell has recently gained Amazon Bestseller status and has a shiny gold sticker to prove it – another exciting milestone!

bestsellerLadywell

Later this month I’ll be gallivanting off on my own for a weekend in deepest Surrey, leaving the Resident Engineer in charge of the house! I’m booked to be the after dinner speaker on the Saturday and I’ll be talking about my own books with reference to authors who have influenced my writing.  A particular interest of mine, which I know is shared by the audience, is the way the First World War influenced books for girls and young women during and after the war. I’ve read so many of these books, written at a time when young women found a different future staring at them: too many future husbands dead but also hitherto unimaginable careers open to them. I know how they spoke and how their lives changed, which is probably why so many readers of The Convalescent Corpse have commented that reading it felt like time-travelling to 1918, it feels so authentically of the period.

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And now for the sad news. When Scuba Dancing was published in 2005 I suddenly needed a website and a dear friend, Keri Thomas, came to my rescue. He designed and has maintained it all these years and when I later wailed that I thought I’d better have a blog, he designed that too. It was all done in kindness and friendship, though he was amused when I paid him in fudge! the photos of Winchester on the blog heading are all by Keri, who was a terrific photographer. Sadly, he died very suddenly two weeks ago, far too soon, and the Resident Engineer and I will miss him very much.

Here’s something gorgeous to finish with – a bespoke banner for Facebook, Twitter and other places to showcase my writing. Designed by Hugo Brookbanks.

Hugo2FBbanner

 

Goodness, gracious me!

Chanticleer International Book Awards (CIBAs)

 

CIBA CHATELAINE Award 

GRAND PRIZE WINNER for Romantic Fiction

THE HOUSE AT LADYWELL  by Nicola Slade

 

Did you see what I did there? In my last blog post I mentioned that The House at Ladywell was a semi-finalist in the prestigious CIBA Book Awards and that the finalists and prize winners were to be announced at a Grand Banquet in Bellingham in Washington State on 27th April. Well, after some discussion the Resident Engineer and I decided we’d take a trip to the Pacific North West coast of the USA, so accordingly we flew into Seattle, rented a car and drove about ninety miles north to Bellingham, a pretty port that’s just on the US side of the border with Canada.

It’s such a beautiful part of the world, with the Pacific on one side and mountains on the other, as well as delightfully friendly people. We’d had a stopover a couple of years ago, in Vancouver, but that was autumn and the weather was wet and chilly; this time, the weather was wonderful and the air was sparkling and pure. We explored the countryside and visited the extensive tulip fields – surprisingly, that part of the world is second only to the Netherlands when it comes to tulip growing.

There was a cocktail party followed by the Grand Banquet on the Saturday so we scrubbed up accordingly and tucked in to our dinner – and I, unfortunately, forgot all about taking photos. I knew that there had been thousands of entries and that the awards were divided into several different categories. My publisher, Stephanie Patterson of Crooked Cat Books, and I, had decided that The House at Ladywell looked a good fit for Romantic Fiction and as I’ve reported previously – during the last year I was chuffed to find I’d escaped the Slush Pile, jumped out of the Long List in to first the Short List and then the Semi-Finals, all of which was very exciting and I really didn’t expect to get any further.

So there I was, happily diving in to my rather nice dinner when the Finalists of the Chatelaine Romantic Fiction Award were announced, with me among them. Wow! Off I went to collect my posh blue rosette and some techie-looking vouchers (still don’t understand them) and back to my table, covered in confusion and feeling stunned but slightly smug.

Apart from clapping other people enthusiastically I didn’t pay a lot of attention to the rest of the speeches because I was admiring my blue ribbon and thinking how clever I was, when I realised there was an expectant silence – whereupon the Engineer nudged me from one side, and the author on my other side did the same, and they both said: ‘It’s you!’ And what I was, it appeared, was the Grand Prize Winner in my category!  As the Resident Engineer said later, ‘It’s not often Nicky is lost for words!’

 

You know at the Oscars, the presenter opens an envelope – with a drum roll? This slightly crumpled notice on gold paper is what was in the envelope for my award announcement!

 

 

 

 

There’ll be photos, etc, soon from Chanticleer, the fabulous people who run the awards, and I’ll post some of my ‘what I did on my holiday‘ photos too, but in the meantime, here’s a handsome beastie. We visited an amazing reserve (North West Trek) when we left Bellingham and returned to Seattle for four nights. Hundreds of acres dedicated to native wild animals, including grey wolves, elk, bears and a herd of bison. This extremely large and elderly gent was lounging around as we went past in an electric tram and he wasn’t at all bothered by the intrusion. Elsewhere that morning a bison calf had been born but although we drove past the mother, she certainly wasn’t going to show off her baby to any passing strangers.

Soon there’ll be a shiny gold sticker on The House at Ladydwell and, I believe, some reviews it gathered along the way to the awards, but meantime, here’s a link to buy it (tell your friends!) mybook.to/TheHouseatLadywell

Spring Has Sprung!

What a shockingly idle blogger I am! Still, the sun’s shining now and spring has sprung, after a fashion, so let’s have some Springy things, starting with this year’s tenant in the nest box that hangs on one of our oak trees. It’s been there for about 15 years and the occupants have been mostly blue tits apart from the year we had nuthatches and last year’s coal tits. Hours of procrastination while you watch the monitor!  Only one egg so far and not easy to make it out in this photo, but there could be up to fifteen in total!oneeggmar2019

We usually have a visiting pheasant every year, dating from the time when the farm down the road used to hold shoots and we’d see dozens of pheasants sitting just outside our fence till it was safe to go home! A few years ago one visiting pheasant was so tame he’d let me feed him peanuts by hand, though I always wore thick leather gloves – that beak looks vicious! Here’s last year’s gentleman visitor with one of his wives, alongside a couple of our other regular visitors, a pair of roe deer:

 

Do you remember the Inspector Wexford series? It was filmed in Romsey, not far away, and this whole area was once described as ‘rural suburbia’ which is pretty accurate, really.

Not far away from us there’s a nature reserve – quite low-key and not very big, but interesting as it’s ancient wetland and in the past the scrub was kept down by grazing cattle (not in the wet bits!) For the last few years a local farmer has been allowed to graze his cattle there so life goes on as it has for centuries and the cows pay little attention to anyone ambling along the stream. At the moment it’s a mass of wild garlic, primroses, celandines and violets, not to mention blackthorn, catkins and evidence of rabbits!    20190326_135621 20190326_135112         So there we are – Spring in Hampshire, and very nice too.

Also very nice are these two beauties, one with its Blue Semi-finalist’s badge for the upcoming Chatelaine Awards at a banquet in Bellingham, in the Pacific North West – I’m hoping to be there! And the other with its shiny new gold Amazon Best Seller sticker. My two most recent book babies are doing well!

Best Seller Sticker!

2018 A Year of Books

2018 was certainly all about books! The House at Ladywell had been published about six weeks before the New Year began so I was busily promoting the book and getting excited by the lovely reviews it was getting, (and still is, I’m glad to say!)

At the start of the new year I joined a writers’ collective, Ocelot Press, composed of fellow Crooked Cat authors, most of us writing historical novels. I haven’t yet published via Ocelot Press but certainly plan to do so in the future. Meanwhile I’m learning a lot about publishing! https://ocelotpress.wordpress.com Still in its infancy – and sorry, but we’re not accepting outside submissions

Early in January I retrieved my rights in all five of my books for Robert Hale as they had ceased trading and the publisher that took them over mostly produces non-fiction. I then signed with Williams & Whiting, a Sussex-based company with a penchant for crime (though not exclusively) so my three Charlotte Richmond Victorian mysteries were soon reissued with handsome new covers. They were followed shortly by the first two Harriet Quigley contemporary mysteries – all five books now being available in ebook form and – at last! – paperback.3charbooks

While this was going on I heard from Endeavour Media, publishers in 2016, of my third Harriet Quigley mystery, The Art of Murder, asking if I had anything else in my back list. Only Scuba Dancing, I said, and sent it to them after a bit of a tweak and tidy-up. I was delighted when they responded favourably and it’s due to be republished in February 2019. When first published by Transita Ltd in 2005, ebooks hadn’t taken off and although I self-published it as an ebook in 2013, I’m hoping this new edition will find new readers out there.

As if all this bookish activity wasn’t enough to be going on with, Crooked Cat Books accepted my gently cosy mystery, The Convalescent Corpse, a story of family, rationing and inconvenient corpses, set in 1918. This book came out in November and is beginning to garner some great reviews from readers who say they’ve laughed and cried and been charmed by the characters. I’m so glad people are loving this book..corpsecover3plusshout

The House at Ladywell has proved very popular with readers and has won some prizes, which is great. Discovered Diamond of the Month, book cover of the month for Vintage Treasures,

shortlisted for the Chatelaine award for historical and romantic fiction and now – a few days ago – the news that it’s a semi-finalist in this US-based award! The winner will be announced at the end of April at a convention in Bellingham, near Seattle, a place we haven’t visited, so the Resident Engineer and I are thinking it would be fun to go to that part of Washington state, taking in a day or two at Bellingham for the posh gala dinner! It’s a long way but we’re seasoned travellers so it would be fun.

The plan for 2019 is to take it more slowly, stop getting stressed about it all, and write the sequel to The Convalescent Corpse. I’ve written 15,000 words so far, though they don’t necessarily make sense and I doubt if they’re in the right order. I’m also hoping to write a short story or possibly a novella about Christmas at Ladywell, also in the very early stages so far. But who knows…

Also planned for this year are a couple of speaking engagements, one in June and the other in September, when I’ll be talking about one of my lifelong passions, books for girls and young women, ranging from Victorian to post WW2, and how they have influenced my own reading and writing. Being invited to speak on this topic is a bit like getting an Oscar, for me! The Deadly Dames will ride again at Portsmouth, in the spring, though sadly without one of our members, Eileen Robertson, who died suddenly before Christmas, and I’ll be on a panel at another bookish day in Portsmouth, this time talking about writing romantic novels.

And finally, here’s another of my passions – blue and white china, in this case it’s invalid feeders, mostly from Bohemia, now the Czech Republic, and dating from around 1900.

 

Blue & white invalid feeders, aka pap boats. I collect far too many things, most of them blue & white…

Here’s the link to my Amazon UK page – tell your friends! https://amzn.to/2ovRSKQ Find me (occasionally) on Twitter @nicolasladeuk and take a look at Pinterest https://www.pinterest.co.uk/nicola8703/ I’ve got boards for each of my books, with photos of people and places that inspired me

Reviews & Recipes, Life in 1918 Part 2

Here we are, it’s out and it’s getting some lovely reviews already: I couldn’t put it down. Not sure what I liked best, but I really liked the way you tell your story, even when the themes were most serious, with a touch of humour which somehow lightens the atmosphere all round, although we never underestimate the hardships either – I found myself laughing out loud at times. I saw a resemblance to the Cazalet series, but even more, I saw many shades of Angela Thirkell there. A lovely read.’
And while I’m about it, here’s another one: Another excellent cosy mystery by Nicola Slade. Not only is this a jolly good story with a cliffhanger ending it portrays life on the Home Front in 1918 without being mawkish or sensationalist. I love the details of the food; the struggle was real!

My 1918 heroine writing!

Even though the War opened up the prospect of many hitherto male-only jobs for women, middle-class girls with no particular training were still hampered by expectations of what was ‘suitable’. Christabel, the narrator of The Convalescent Corpse, contributes to the family income by writing Boys’ Own-style books aimed at young men in the army,with exciting titles such as ‘Prefects on Picket Duty’ – but she manages this by using a male pseudonym.

I’m glad that the reviewer above loved the details of the food and the shortages and rationing that made shopping for groceries a test of endurance and hope.Hampshire Pie is an example of shameless misrepresentation! on the part of the Home Chat editor who produced their March 1918 supplement: Plain Puddings & Cakes. It has no visible link with Hampshire and it’s not a pie! I had to include it, of course, considering the book is set in Hampshire – in Ramalley, a small market town halfway between Winchester and Southampton, that bears a surprising resemblance to Romsey!

Hampshire Pie – 1918

Hampshire Pie (Hot, Baked)

Apple is the nicest fruit to use for this but it is very good with rhubarb or any other fresh fruit

1 lb apples or soaked dried apple rings

1 pint water

2 ounces custard powder

1 tbs golden/amber/or ginger syrup, or other sweetener

Saltspoonful powdered cinnamon or nutmeg

Peel, core and slice apples. Boil the cores and peel in the water till quite soft, then drain off water, and save it.
Cover apples in a pan with water to half cover them. Simmer till soft, beat free from lumps with a fork. Add cinnamon and syrup and spread the pulp in a piedish.
Meanwhile, boil up the apple water. Mix the custard powder smoothly and thinly with a little cold water, pour it into the boiling apple liquid and stir for about five minutes, or according to directions on the packet.
Sweeten this mixture if necessary; a drop of vanilla is generally an improvement. Pour it over the apple pulp and bake in a moderate oven for about half and hour or until browned.
NB Ground rice or cornflour and just a little custard powder can be used if you like, instead of all custard powder. A scrap of margarine improves the flavour and increases the food value of the pudding.

Verdict – I love stewed apple so I was happy with this, though I made custard with skimmed milk instead of the apple water suggested – I felt that was a step too far towards authenticity! It’s a cheek to call it a pie, though I suppose it is cooked in a pie dish!

You can find The Convalescent Corpse in ebook and paperback all across Amazon. This is the UK link:https://amzn.to/2OskEpV
Please tell your friends – and if you enjoy this story of family struggles in wartime, a review on Amazon would be fabulous.

Life in 1918 – Recipes Part 1

Publication day is almost here. The Convalescent Corpse sets out on its journey on Tuesday, 20th November.  Actually, that’s the ebook, the paperback is already out there. I’m so pleased the powers-that-be at Crooked Cat Books, aka Steph and Laurence Patterson, liked my book and decided to publish it. It’s a story that’s been entertaining me for almost four years now, since the idea dropped into my head and wouldn’t leave me alone.

Publication Day – 20th November

Like other middle-class girls, the two elder Fyttleton sisters ‘put their hair up’ at eighteen, or in other words they stopped letting it hang loose or in pigtails, and pinned it up into a bun or a pompadour hairstyle. This signalled that they were now grown up. Working-class girls, of course, had to grow up a lot earlier and upper-class young ladies were presented as debutantes and thrust on to the marriage market. Not being wealthy, Alix, aged nineteen and Christabel who is eighteen, both have jobs and Adelaide, the youngest, is fifteen and still at school. The story begins a few months after the death of Alix’s twin brother Bertie who, as a young officer in the army, was killed on his and Alix’s nineteenth birthday.

I’d been thinking of doing some kind of photo shoot with the aid of my granddaughter Fliss, a keen photographer, when the arrival of a cousin, accompanied by her nineteen-year old daughter, inspired us to go back in time to Spring 1918. The girls in the book have a hairy brown dog called Bobs and, (not by coincidence) so does my daughter, so here he is – fresh from being immortalised in print – with Rosalie (who is in period, wearing a smart straw boater).

Straight out of 1918, ‘Christabel’ the narrator of The Convalescent Corpse, with Bobs the Labradoodle.

At the same time I decided to cook some of the dishes I’d found in an ancient pull-out supplement from Home Chat magazine dated March 1918 – in essence they’re hints on how to make cakes and puddings with mud, sawdust and tears – or in other words whatever you could find now that shortages and rationing were really biting.

This recipe for Syrup & Potato Pudding is one I didn’t use in the book, but it sounded too unappetizing to miss it out. Here it is, exactly as offered to hard-pressed cooks a hundred years ago – I made it so you don’t have to!

Syrup & Potato Pudding (If you are very short of fat you can, in any of the recipes for boiled or steamed puddings, use less fat and add just a little baking powder.)

Required:

Half a pound of mashed potatoes,

Four ounces of flour or substitute

Two ounces of chopped fat (any sort)

Two ounces of stale breadcrumbs

Half teaspoonful carbonate of soda

Three tablespoonfuls of treacle, or syrup, or jam

A little water or fruit juice

Mix the flour, fat, crumbs and soda. Lightly crumble in the potato.

Mix the syrup with three tablespoonfuls of water or fruit juice, and stir it in, adding as much more fluid as needed to make it drop heavily from the spoon.

Press into a greased basin, and cover with a greased paper. Steam for three hours.

Or make the mixture rather slacker, turn into a greased deep baking tin and back for about an hour to an hour-and-a-half.

I opted for the latter method, not having a pudding basin these days and anyway, I’m far too impatient to hang around for three hours. Here’s a photo of the finished masterpiece, served with a watery custard that’s also in the recipe pull-out.

As always, The Resident Engineer came to my rescue when nobody wanted to taste it – though Fliss kindly photographed it.

Syrup & Potato Pudding (I made it so you don’t have to)

Verdict? ‘Edible and filling, but heavy-going.’ Which is probably what the magazine readers thought at the time, but also what was needed then too.

 More authentic recipes to come in my next post. Fried porridge, anyone?

It’s available at only £1.99 (ebook) and £6.99 (paperback) An ideal Christmas present, if I do say so, for the relative or friend who loves gently funny histories and mysteries! Here’s the Amazon UK link https://amzn.to/2OskEpV

 

Lunch with one’s publisher – in the South of France!

There’s something rather elegant and 1930ish about being able to say, ‘I’m away next week, I’ll be lunching in Carcassonne with my publisher.’ Something you might read in an Evelyn Waugh novel, perhaps, but no – this really did happen to me last week! Picture: Carcassonne by night.

Laurence and Stephanie Patterson, of Crooked Cat Books, decided to set up a one-day brainstorming and discussion session ranging from marketing, to editing to submission. And they chose the elegant 5* Hotel de la Cite in Carcassonne (their home city) for the event. (Pic shows the hotel, not our conference room which was a tad smaller) Ten writers, five Other Halves, two publishers all started with a wine tasting session on the Monday evening, and on Tuesday the other halves did their own thing while we talked, listened, watched presentations, played games, ate cake and biscuits, drank coffee and then had lunch in the hotel: 

It was a brilliant couple of days and great to meet so many fellow writers and to put faces to names. The Resident Engineer and I also had time to explore the old city and one of the many things that fascinated me was the number of drainpipes that ended like this:Naturally we had looked up historic railways so we enjoyed a couple of trips meandering through the French countryside. On the way south we stayed in Sarlat, in the Dordogne for a couple of nights and on the return journey we stopped off at the Chateau de Monbazillac for a look round the castle and to check out their dessert wines. Took me three tasters before deciding on their 2015 vintage!

On our return I discovered that The House at Ladywell has been shortlisted for the Chanticleer Chatelaine award book award for Romance Novels The Chatelaine Awards– this is a US competition for historical and romantic novels. No idea when there’ll be any announcement but I’m delighted to have got so far.

 

Diamonds and churches

I’ve been busy lately and keep forgetting to post on this blog. However, I’m rather chuffed to post this banner – and boast a bit! – because The House at Ladywell has been chosen as Book of the Month (August) in the Discovering Diamonds award, which is for historical novels. And, even more exciting, that means it’s on the shortlist for Book of the Year! I’m delighted that so many people have fallen in love with my book and there are now lots of 5* reviews on Amazon and Goodreadsd too. (Reviews are always welcome, potential readers usually check them out before buying!)

In other news, the Resident Engineer and I have been exploring old churches. The Church of St. Mary Magdalene at West Tisted, near Ropley in Hampshire, is tiny, peaceful and fascinating. There are ancient yew trees in the churchyard and

 

in the porch hangs the memorial for the 1914-18 war. There is also a letter, unlike anything I’ve ever come across: it’s a signed plea from the Vicar and the Parish Council at the end of WW1, addressed to their counterparts in 2014. For some reason they were not allowed to hang the war memorial plaque inside the church and they hit on this idea of asking the future generation to put this right. (Unfortunately the plaque and the walls are too fragile to comply with their request.)

A week or two later we had a couple of days in Hereford and between visiting relatives and having coffee, lunch and tea in various National Trust and English Heritage castles, etc, we drove the Black & White Villages Trail in pursuit of the setting for Phil Rickman’s series of mysteries featuring the Reverend Merrily Watkins. (Heartily recommended, by the way!) We also visited the tiny, ancient church at Kilpeck, south of Hereford. It’s featured in one of Phil’s books and it was magical – and not in the least sinister as it is in the book! Once a thriving mediaeval village beside a Norman castle, Kilpeck was incredibly peaceful when we saw it on a sunny September day. There wasn’t a sound, even from the neighbouring farm, only the birds twittering and small rustlings in the grass.
The church is renowned for its carved corbels all round the outside, particularly a rather cheerful, but explicit, Sheela Na Gig. I’m not posting her picture on here but just say that she looks a very happy and generous lady!

This is a Wikipaedia photo of the church as mine was a bit pathetic:

KilpeckChurch(PhilipHalling)Feb2006.jpg

Tuesday, 20th November is now the official launch date of my cosy and domestic mystery, The Convalescent Corpse. Set in 1918 it’s A story of life, rationing, and inconvenient corpses.’

Last weekend the local rec played host to a display of vehicles from both WW1 and WW2 with re-enactors on hand to explain what was happening. My particular interest at the moment is WW1 and with a convalescent hospital featured in the new book, I was delighted to snap this nurse: I asked her to look stern, and she tried, bless her, but was far too jolly to keep it up for long.https://amzn.to/2v0gQnX This is the Amazon UK link to buy The House at Ladywell (tell your friends!) and in the meantime, this is the blurb for The Convalescent Corpse:
It’s 1918 and the War has brought loss, grief and hardship to the three Fyttleton sisters. Helped by their grandmother (a failed society belle and expert poacher) and hindered by a difficult mother (an author and armchair suffragette) – plus an unruly chicken-stealing dog and a house full of paying-guests – they now have to deal with the worrying news that their late and unlamented father may not be dead after all. There’s also a death that might be suspicious, and on top of that there’s the body in the ha-ha…