‘She would disappear and no mistake.’ – Chapter 1 of The Wall revealed.

Hello all,

I’ve been working on the sequel to my fantasy The Edict (2017) which is currently entitled The Wall. The second instalment in The She Trilogy; you’ll get to catch-up with your favourite characters from book 1 and meet some newbies too…

The Wall working-blurb:

In the aftermath of war the Kingdom of Emrilion is rallying, but dangers both within and beyond its borders threaten the new-found peace.

Ikara reels from a deep loss as she helps to rebuild a broken city. Kiara’s new affliction threatens those she loves and drives her to take action. And across the Western Sea, a tracker named Kye is working for the El-Nahar to find an exile. Rumoured to have been touched by the shadows, the former princess is the priesthood’s only connection to the creatures threatening invasion, it’s just too bad the priests ordered her tortured and exiled years before…

The Wall

Chapter 1

She blinked. Black lashed eyelids sliding slowly over sharp blue irises. She drew her arm up in order to plunge the short sword into the dirt beside her; using the force to push herself up to standing. One heavy leather boot dragged up and positioned itself beneath her. It pushed upwards allowing her other leg to drag itself into alignment. As she straightened her back, her knuckles whitened and a muscle flexed involuntarily in her jaw. Once she was upright and stationary, the pain subsided.

She allowed her small mouth to curve up into a cool, lop-sided sneer. Her left eye twitched as she absorbed the site of carnage. The nerves down her back transmitted the feeling of warm fresh blood flowing over the skin but failed to transmit the pain from her wound. She knew it would be a brief respite before the burning feeling of cut flesh began. For now the pain was hidden from her mind, just as the bloody wound was hidden beneath the ripped folds of the grubby linen shirt she wore. The permeable material would soon be soaked with blood.

Her hair was being irritated by the wind which blew dark tangled strands over her eyes, frequently obscuring the battle site from view. She stepped forward, a small step, the shadow of a falter as she felt the wound. The searing hot feeling of flesh opened and aggravated would not abate. Neither would she.

She would disappear and no mistake, Ithrial waited for no man. They would soon be here, the Shadows, angered by the massacre they’d be after her. And where would she be? Realization flitted across her face; nowhere if she didn’t stop this damn bleeding. She lumbered towards where a campfire glowed sullenly, a single emission of light on an otherwise dark night, and by the light began, slowly and agonizingly, to pull clothes off her dead foes. They had no use for them. She used a small dagger slung in the cracked and muddied brown belt around her waist, to cut the cleaner bits of material, not bloodied or travel-torn.

In the half-light of the old fire the woman’s shape could be seen. She was small, almost half the size of some of the dead male adversaries. Her features were small but failed in delicacy, rather claiming a slight sharpness to them. Her hair was as black as the starless night above and lay in knots and dreads down her back. Her clothing was mismatched, old and dirty. She smelled no better than her appearance implied and beneath the clothes that were clearly made for someone far larger than she, her frame was skinny, sinewy and lacking in food.

She was silent and methodical in her work. Her bright blue eyes focused in and her movements  were handy and efficient with the knife. Once a pile of cotton strips lay on the earth beside her, she sat on the rotted stump of an old tree near the fire and removed the clothes she was wearing.

The woollen coat was folded first. It was the most essential item of clothing she owned, protecting her from the elements in these harsh northern territories. As she folded it she eyed the ripped panel in the back,

“Damned cursed Shadows!”

A good coat ruined. She would have to see if there were any decent coats among the dead she could harvest for material. The father had been wearing something similar. She looked over to where his bloodied face lay against the earth, his eyes open and his face distorted by a look of fury and pain. Ithrial looked away then. She was glad the humans were dead and thus the shadows with them, but that didn’t mean she had to look at their bodies or their faces.

She turned back to the work at hand. There was a leather jerkin next, as equally damaged as the coat. It was otter pelt and one of the few things she had paid for rather than stolen. She kicked a frustrated boot against the loose embers scattered about the fire causing them to emit a satisfying spark of light. It wasn’t worth it. A few seconds later the jerk of the movement sent a crippling pain through her back. She swore several times unable to move as spasms rocked her body.

She moved gingerly after that. The linen shirt she was keeping on. Reaching behind herself slowly, she took the bottom of the shirt where the material was still connected, and severed it with her dagger shearing the material in two. She swivelled on the trunk to drop the blood covered dagger with the coat and jerkin. As she did so, the fire danced its merry light over the fresh gash on her back, the blood glistening with gruesome beauty. Around this open wound the light also picked up the mottled pattern of old burn scars. They covered over half of her back and if modesty had been cast aside, they could have been seen to wrap themselves around to her front.

She had already pulled the short sword she had killed the campers with out of the soil and now she picked it up from where it rested its leather pommel against the trunk and placed it carefully in the fire. It scraped against the grit and settled at the fire’s center. She stoked the flames around it, careful to keep her back straight, placing wood that had yet to be added by the dead, to encourage flames, but more importantly, heat.

She sat back on the stump when she had finished, awaiting the result of her handiwork, glowing metal, hot enough to brand. The wet of the blood on her back sent a shiver through her as the night wind picked up. She was staring into the fire, the flames licking around the blade, dancing and darting and lacing their way around each other. It was mesmerizing, and as the heat gathered and blew out towards her she felt calmed, ready to shut her eyes against the night.

There was the quiet crackle of what Ithrial presumed was a log in the fire. It happened again and this time, the eyes she had so recently shut, opened. Once could be ignored, twice could be deadly. She listened carefully, her eyes focused back on the fire. She wouldn’t look up yet. It could alert whatever intruder it was that she knew they were there. She made out the sound of soft footsteps. The intruder moved almost silently but they were there.

With the pretense of looking at her coat, she moved her body in a wide arc as she turned to the side, taking in most of the campsite with her peripheral vision, before looking down at her pile of clothing. As she bowed her head she caught movement from the corner of her now widened eyes. She paused, catching her breath in order to listen. If it was the Shadows she was in a slight predicament. She could get out of it, but not without a little hassle.

There were no more sounds, whatever beast it was stood still for the moment. She tried to guess at the location of it, knowing that would at least give her a slight head start when it came to fighting. In the end it was pointless, they weren’t moving anymore and without those sounds to give them away, there was no way she could work out where they stood.

Giving up, she raised her head, her eyes immediately widening when she saw a man standing directly in front of her, just the other side of the fire. She straightened up again, the movement forcing more blood to flow out of the wound and down her back, eventually trickling onto the stump and then dripping onto the ground. Still the man stood staring at her, not moving or making any attempt at talking.

If he was going to be foolish enough to stand before her unguarded, she would take the time to appraise her opponent. Her pale eyes ran over him carefully, her gaze unfaltering and picking out every detail she could. He did not look like the standard choice for a Shadow. He didn’t look common enough to pass by unnoticed. His height would be considered tall even in these northern parts. His hair was jet black like her own and his eyes would have rivalled the best emeralds from Giridon. His features were sharp, angular, though the true line of his jaw was obscured by stubble grown from what Ithrial gauged to be at least a week’s travel. He didn’t look like a Shadow’s choice for a host at all.

Across his shoulders a bow was slung and there was a knife thrust in the leather belt he wore. The belt held together the panels of a traditional leather jerkin like the one she had just removed. Over all that he wore a long, recently oiled, coat. It was the garb of a hunter. The mud and dust on his clothing matched his beard growth, telling Ithrial that he had been travelling for several days, yet he was still a far sight cleaner than her.

Ithrial wondered what he’d been hunting, the intent look in his eyes caused a fleeting thought to run through her mind. Had he been hunting her? She was now doubting that he was a Shadow at all, but that didn’t mean she would listen to that doubt. She could not make a mistake. She rose slowly, partly due to the pain flaming across her back, partly so she didn’t spook the man into aggression. Once she stood she felt more confident, he didn’t look as tall now, though he still stared.

In spite of Ithrial’s oddly dressed state and wound the man’s eyes didn’t drop below her face. She wasn’t used to being so brazenly appraised. Few dared to look at her for more than a few moments because of her scars. With that thought, Ithrial grew impatient,

“Can I help you?” Her brow raised in expectation. After a few moments of silence she moved her hands slowly, fingering the linen edges of her shirt, tucking the loose panels into the top of her buckskin trousers with grubby fingers. In all of this her eyes never left the man.

He didn’t break the silence. He responded to her movements however, his head dropping to one side, his eyes narrowing, their pupils running over her, examining her just as she had him. His gaze was unwavering. After scrutinizing her for a while, his coat responding to the night breeze just as Ithrial’s hair did, he slanted his left shoulder and a pack, which had been hidden in the folds of his coat, slipped to the ground. The canvas shape crumpled, voicing an empty rather than full interior.

Ithrial had tensed at the movement. Each of her muscles felt alive, tingling in anticipation of a fight, but her back was hurting, she knew she wouldn’t be effective. The man suddenly dropped down beside his pack, his hands unfastening it and digging around in the interior. Ithrial was about to snatch up her sword, afraid his hands were going to emerge with a weapon of their own, when suddenly he pulled them free of the covering, holding only a few stale crusts of bread.

“Hungry?” his first word was spoken in the common tongue, though Ithrial could hear an accent she could not place it. Eastern perhaps? His voice sounded deep, masculine, but that was the only word he offered so Ithrial could not guess at much else.

His request did make one of her dark brows arch. She shook her head a little, she had eaten the last meal of the dead. She was well fed, though the meal had been her first in a few days.

The man shrugged, tearing off a chunk of the old bread with his teeth. As he chewed it he eyed her again.

Okay, now this was wasting time, thought Ithrial, she could still feel a little of the blood running down her back. This couldn’t go on, the blade was glowing and even if he did try to attack her, if she was dealing with her wound she would already armed. It did not scare her to think he might attack her. If it had been several years ago, when she had been fragile and inexperienced, she might have been trembling now, but those years had seen her living in the wild and fighting the Shadows. She wasn’t naïve anymore. The only reason she didn’t want him to attack her while she was dealing with her wound was because it would be damned painful.

First she wrapped some strips of material round her left hand. Then she leant forward and fingered the leather hilt of the blade gingerly with her other hand. The man hadn’t moved, but she could see his hunched figure had stilled, suddenly wary of her movements. The sword scraped along the gravelly soil, the clicking of metal not quite overpowering the nighttime sounds. She stood up slowly and with effort. Gradually straightening her back she took a deep breath. This was going to hurt. Her blade was rapidly losing its glow, if she wasted anymore time it would be too cold. She stretched her left hand round her back to finger the open edges of the gash, the stinging forcing her to bite the inside of her cheek. Once she had located the wound she brought the blade up over her head, turning it until it hung vertically down her back and with her covered hand, grasped the tipped and rammed the blade down full and hot on the congealing area.

It hissed, blood spitting around the hot implement. The foul stench of burning flesh rose around the fire and she staggered forward under the pain, barely able to keep vertical. Her legs bent against her will and the hissing sound suddenly became far away, somewhere else, a high pitched ringing taking over. This was not the time, nor the place, for her to be fainting. She mustered all the energy she could and stamped one of her feet against the ground, as if kicking away the fainting and rousing herself once again.

“Damn all the spirits!” she uttered in harsh accents.

As the pain lessened enough for her to think clearly again and take in her surroundings, the man became the focus of her pain formed anger. She would find out what he was doing here, if he was here to harm her, she would have his head. First, however, she needed to finish dealing with her wound.

The skin, now cauterized, she removed the blade, throwing it to the ground with little care. She practically fell upon the stump but before she could register more pain, she snatched up the strips of material and began binding them tight around her torso. She tied them at her front, keeping them flat against the wound. Tears dropped down her cheeks.

She cursed continuously under her breath, refusing to look the man in the eyes while her body reacted this way to the pain. It looked weak and she couldn’t afford weakness. Her breathing was ragged and fitful by the time she finished and her mood was murderous.

“Did you do all this?” the man finally spoke again, his gaze rose and fell over the dead that lay scattered around them.

Finished, pulling her torn jerkin back over her frame against the night cold, she let a sneer, distorted by pain, fall across her face. “Yes.”

“Ithrial.”

She had just tied the jerkin in place when the name rolled coolly off his tongue. Her body turned instantly rigid.

“I know who you are.”

The voice, despite its even tone, seemed threatening to her. Her pale eyes widened, they darted to where her sword lay on the ground. How had he found her? Who was he? In this moment silence seemed her only option.

“The Priesthood have summoned you to Giridon.”

Memories shot through her mind like flashes of lightning. Her mother’s face, the waterfall city, a happy childhood, a prison cell and then just flames. The scars marking her body, suddenly came alive. They tingled, a wave of sensation passing over her making the burning of her wound disappear for an instant.

“Don’t go for your sword,” the man said it, not as a warning, almost as a plea.

“You have the wrong person,” she finally spoke, her voice cold and hard, her lips barely moving and her frame still frozen.

“No I don’t,” his eyes seemed to taunt her, seeing through her lies. Now he did seem bigger, broader, taller, stronger than her.

She ignored his request and bent to pick up her blade.

“I do not trot to heel. The Priesthood can burn for all I care.” She made as if to turn.

“Ithrial.”

“Who are you? One of the El Nahars?” She had swung back round. She needed him to answer this. Was he one of Giridon’s Holy Guard? If he was she would kill him.

“I am your collector,” he said, giving a half shrug.

“Not good enough.” She turned again, this time making it a few steps before he spoke. She wouldn’t stay talking to someone under the authority of the Priesthood unless they gave her more information.

“I’m under the El Nahars, but I’m not a true part of them – I was conscripted because of my tracking skills.”

Ithrial thought she heard him sigh a little before going on.

“And, if I am who you say I am, I am just to obey you and come?”

“Your choice.” He shrugged. “I’m willing to allow you to come quietly, or, if you choose, not so quietly.”

Her fists clenched into balls at the arrogant command. “I am not coming at all. Like I said, you mistake me for someone else.” She sheathed her sword and slung her coat across her arm.

“There’s no mistaking you.”

At his words she remembered what it was like to be recognized. She remembered all the prying eyes, whispers and accusations. So why was she summoned now, after being left alone for so many years?

“And why is that?” she hissed.

She looked at him, her eyes defiant. For the first time in two years she actually felt fear. Damn it! How had he found her? How had the priests known where she was?

“Your accent is high Loa though you try to hide it in the common tongue.”

“Perhaps I’m just a spoilt brat running away from my important daddy,” she countered.

“The markings.”

“A lot of people carry burns.”

She wasn’t looking at him anymore, and before she realized it, he was beside her. The proximity made her jump but she wasn’t quick enough to stop him. His fingers were under her long hair, drawing it back and exposing the burns on the left of her face. His eyes locked with hers.

“Not like yours Ithrial.”

She scowled at him, slapping his hand away and stepping back. There were no lies or excuses that would work. The use of her name seemed to make it all worse; no one had called her that in a long time. She considered running, her eyes darted left then right, scanning for the clearest getaway.

“Don’t. The hassle of catching you is something I don’t want to deal with.” His eyes broke off their stare and he walked back to pick up his pack. “Besides you know as well as anyone that the Priesthood will get to you sooner or later. It’s taken you years to evade them and me one week to find you. Better to come with me than with the next person who comes after you.” He faced her again. “It’s not your decision.”

His words came out crisp and calm, and, though peeved he had preempted her, he was persuading her. If it really had only taken him one week to find her she was impressed.

“Why do they want me?”

“They need your help.”

She scoffed at that, her laughter forced and bitter.

“I was granted a pardon, I presume that will protect my freedom if I choose to come with you?”

“Yes.”

“I don’t trust you,” she said without much forethought.

“Nor I you.”

“You know my name, at least tell me yours?”

“Kye Rafer.”

“Good. I’ll call you Collector.” She gathered up her knife and what little else she had. “And you will manhandle me if I don’t come?”

“My orders – but it’s not what I want.”

“Sure,” she said disbelievingly. “Well, the Priesthood calls and every being must jump up and answer. A bunch of old fools, the lot of them.”

He didn’t reply.

“Well,” she said after pulling on her ripped coat, “which way?”

To be continued…

The sea

Largely, I am a practical person. Or I like to think I am. I like logic, common sense, and using nouse when making decisions. Sometimes I pride myself in it, though I am also inclined to make silly decisions and all my logic then falls down.

But generally, I’m not into touchy feely stuff. That’s not a good thing. I was only saying to my other half, the other day, that I think allowing yourself to feel what you feel is important. Not sweeping it under the neutral rug of ‘I’m fine’, or the masking positivity of ‘but even though that’s rubbish, this is great.’

But that’s a long discussion, as my poor husband found out, and not the point of this post. As I say, I’m not generally into the whole ‘I really feel drawn to this…’ That is apart from this morning. I was sat on a bench, watching the early morning sun beams fracture across the bare bay of a low-tide estuary, seeing lone figures of other dog-walkers silhouetted against the skyline. I was praying about my car – it’s going to cost me a fortune to fix soon – and I was feeling the seeming caress of the sea breeze.

And right there and then I thought, ‘I feel drawn to the sea’. I never thought I would. I have always liked the sea, the holidays spent at Grandad’s on the Kentish coast, building sandcastles in front of his deck-chair hire hut. I’ve loved the West Country since visiting with my parents repeatedly through my teens. But although I have always thought the sea majestic and admired it, I’ve never felt a particular need to be near it.

Then we moved nearer to it, quite unintentionally, and it’s like some previously unknown spirit within me has awoken. I suddenly ‘get’ it. I get why writers consistently draw upon metaphors of the sea in their literary works, why it is a consistent setting, emotive and restless in novels, and why artists will simply never stop painting it. There’s something other-worldly about it. Yet it’s totally part of our world.

It’s boundless, restless, mysterious, deep, secret, hidden, violent, riotous, unsafe, untameable, uncontrollable, beautiful, reflective. It’s other.

I’m supposed to be studying this morning before going to the office. But I felt compelled to write this. It’s not like it means anything, like my life will now take another direction, or you’ll find me near the sea at any opportunity. It’s just, I ‘get’ it.

Jodi Taylor’s Just One Damned Thing After Another

Historians + time travel = happpppppyyyyyyy Pip

This book really is a silly, raucous and a tremendously entertaining adventure. I love history and so the idea of time travelling historians going on adventures and saving the day really is always going to win with me!

Facebook advertising…really?

It turns out, Facebook advertising works. You see, I first saw this book advertised to me on there. Usually, I’m very skeptical about any ads, but boy did the sellers get this targeting right because I clicked straight through to read the blurb and quickly added it to my wish list on Amazon.

When I finally got around to purchasing it I decided it would be one of my ‘book a month’ reads for my challenge this year. A bit of light relief in reading is always a good thing. Sometimes I find, when you’ve either been reading some heavy going stuff, or you’ve been unfortunate enough to end up with a dud book, it’s nice to pick up an easy-to-read page turner that you can laugh out loud at while you’re whipping through it.

Screen Shot 2018-08-03 at 12.41.51The comedy element

This was one of those. It was just funny. It had a good story-line that kept you bounding along. I mean sure, you had to suspend your reality-checker to enjoy it, but isn’t that why we read sometimes?

I mean, just the title, it made me giggle when I read it. Along with the tidbit about time travelling historians, it’s what drew me in naughty as it is.

Lots of different history

I loved the idea of these teams of historians popping along to different pivotal moments in history. Even better, I’m usually tucked away in my 18th century pigeon-hole loving life with wide-hipped dresses and enormous wigs, but this book pulled me into some completely different ‘time zones’. Like to the library in ancient Alexandria, the Cretaceous period and Medieval England.

A word of warning

I always think it’s worth pointing out aspects that not all readers might like. This book I would say probably isn’t for younger readers. There are some love scenes in it which may not be to everyone’s taste.

A series

One of the things I am quite pleased about is that this is a series. Although I’m not ‘I need to buy the next one right now’ invested in the overarching storyline, I was definitely entertained enough to come back to this at some point and get the next in the series. The 1,500+ Amazon reviews show Taylor has entertained quite a few with these books.

 

A Very Short Introduction to World War I by Michael Howard

I have purchased several of the books in this series recently. They were recommended (at least the historical ones), when I was doing my degree as short and sweet introductory texts to historical periods written by specialist academics.

Screen Shot 2018-08-03 at 12.20.30Readable and small

The thing is, they’re jolly readable. If you want a pocket-sized quick read to carry around with you in the dark recesses of your bag for any happenstance where you’re left stranded somewhere (like I do, because I’ve had one too many cars breakdown and like to be prepared), then these books are baby gems.

Questions about WWI

I’ve always wanted to learn about World War I. I did learn about the Great War when I was in primary school, I think, but that was a long time ago and you don’t necessarily learn the key things you want to know when you’re older.

Like why did it start?

Who was on which side?

Why did it become a World War?

How many people really died?

What and where were the eastern and western fronts?

Screen Shot 2018-08-03 at 12.20.21
A pocket-sized read

All these questions bubbling around in the stream of my thoughts and finally an easily readable book to give me the base level facts, figures and theories. The best part about it being that it’s not just another ‘popular’ history, it’s published by the trusted Oxford University Press.

So what better time to choose to crack on and read this bad boy than as part of my ‘book a month’ challenge?

Everyone should read this

I just can’t recommend this book enough if you want an overview of World War I. And I just can’t recommend it enough if you don’t, because what I’ve learned from reading it, is that we should always remember. People are right when they sell poppies and say ‘Lest we forget’ around the 11th November every year.

The sheer loss of life is incomprehensible. I’d heard that before, but I couldn’t help repeatedly exclaiming it to anyone who was near me at the times I was reading this book. It is shocking and honestly makes you question the human race. It makes you thankful for those who gave their lives, for those who still do, and it makes you think we should always remember.

Next read

You can probably guess that I’ve bought the World War II equivalent to this. I read the above one first for obvious reasons, and because I know WWI had such a profound impact on the starting of WWII (which I know a tad more about but not a lot, I’m not much of a modern historian), I wanted to really get my head around it.

I won’t lie, I don’t remember a great deal of what I read in the World War I book because there is just SO much. I’ll need to read it again soon. But I can say I’m very glad I read it.

Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew’d by Alan Bradley

Alan Bradley’s Flavia de Luce murder mysteries really are a pleasure to read. I’ve gone on about him before and I’m thankful to my mother-in-law for introducing me to these books and keeping me in good supply!

Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew’d was one of my latest reads for my ‘book a month’ challenge and I find Alan Bradley rarely disappoints. This is a series of murder mysteries, set in about 1950 in the English countryside with a young girl genius as the detective. It is suitable balanced between macabre and comedic.

IMG_5159I have ALL the books, bar one

I have his books in a hard back collection (apart from the first pesky one which alludes me because I can’t find the right edition to match the rest), and they are not only beautiful to look at, they’re beautiful to read.

Sentence structures…no really

He has a way of structuring sentences that just seem to roll of the mind’s tongue. Okay, that was weird, but it’s the best description I can do. And he’s witty. I’m always a fan of wit and as his heroine is an 11 year-old girl sleuth, he’s really quite good at sometimes having her misunderstand something because she’s a child, but the reader know exactly what’s going on. Clever.

Did I know who did it?

I must say, I did not know who was responsible for this death. And I also must say, it was not for lack of trying. Generally I’m not necessarily one to try and figure out a murder mystery but rather just let it take me along on a wonderful ride of clues and final reveal. However, as I’ve read quite a few of his, I really did have it in my mind that I wanted to guess who had done it.

Perhaps I was silly, because I really didn’t get it, but I did feel a little like I didn’t get enough clues to guess for myself. It was as though I was a little blind-sided by the big reveal rather than getting the satisfying, ‘ahhhhhh, of course.’ in my mind.

That being said, I will always recommend Bradley’s books and this could well have been my brain at fault not his writing. To be fair, I was in France at the time of reading and my brain was very much addled by the sheer amount of bread and cheese I was consuming.

 

Daphne Du Maurier’s Frenchman’s Creek

I love Cornwall. Have you gotten that yet?

It just feels like I have that place in the blood (and I can claim some Cornish ancestors), so any book that’s based there holds quite the draw for me. And with the re-doing of Poldark there’s quite a few who are enthralled by stories from that part of the world. Du Maurier is well known as a lover of Cornwall and lived much of her life there.

She’s author of the famed and haunting Rebecca, and also of Jamaica Inn which was dramatised again a few years ago (and her short-story The Birds inspired Alfred Hitchcock’s famous film). I’d recommend watching Jamaica Inn by the way. It was slated at the time due to poor sound quality when it aired and ‘mumbling’ by the actors, so I ignored it for quite some time, but I finally came round to purchasing it when my period drama well had run dry and it did not disappoint. Sure, some of the accents are hard to decipher, but I thoroughly enjoyed the brooding nature of the cinematography and the well-acted characters.

Jamaica Inn
Literally, this is how I look when I’m on a Cornish beach. All brooding and contemplative…and apparently muddy

 

Jamaica Inn
A rather nice-faced actor here…

Anyway, Frenchman’s Creek was on my list, and so I start my book a month for a year challenge with that. I was down in Cornwall when I began reading it, so that was rather handy, and let me just say, the opening passage is quite literally (or literary – pun oh so intended), b-e-a-utiful.

Screen Shot 2018-08-03 at 11.19.56
Not the most inspire of covers. I bought this modern version to read, but because of how much I enjoyed it, I’ll be on the lookout for a vintage edition for my bookshelves

‘When the east wind blows up Helford river the shining waters become troubled and disturbed, and the little waves beat angrily upon the sandy shores. The short seas break above the bar at ebb-tide, and the waders fly inland to mud-flats, their wings skimming the surface, and calling to one another as they go.’

And on and on it goes, as though the words are the sea itself, tumbling in waves over the reader until they’re totally immersed.

Tempo and melody

Two things I love about du Maurier’s writing: it’s hypnotic tempo, and her ability to portray people’s thought patterns.

In the first passage you get the hypnotic tempo, as if you’re being pulled along, helplessly on the tide of the book and trip, trip, trip along like the words are in a silent melody of their own. Divine.

Thought patterns captured

The other thing she is so brilliant at is capturing thought patterns. She has this insightful ability to follow the trip, trip, trip of her characters thoughts in such ways as if we’re really in their heads thinking, ‘yes, I follow that, I would think like that.’ Rebecca is actually a better example of it, but Frenchman’s Creek has this aspect too.

I’m always impressed by authors who make me think in such a way that in ordinary life I never would. Du Maurier can do this to me. Frenchman’s Creek follows Dona St Columb, an aristocratic lady from the 17th century who runs away from her husband with her children to their old rambling Cornish manor, Navron. There, while escaping the meaninglessness of her life and the person it has made her become, the story is about her finding herself again and falling in love.

Perhaps not a story I condone

Normally, I’m not a fan of any story that condones extra-marital anything. And I still am not. But what I think du Maurier does so well is to capture the changing emotions and thoughts that are going on here. I don’t advocate the actions, but her writing really is electric, and that’s not to mention the pirate, smuggling, adventuring that the novel has too! And don’t be fooled, it doesn’t end like you think, just like with most of her novels.

Encapsulating words

And du Maurier always seems to capture my heart for Cornwall and the countryside, the way I see it and love it, as encapsulate in these words:

…the river would be the same as it was in a century now forgotten, in a time that has left few memories.

In those days the hills and valleys were alone in splendour, there were no buildings to desecrate the rough fields and cliffs…

Oh, it gives me shivers! So, thank you to all those people who encouraged me to read du Maurier, I will slowly be devouring her books for many years to come and I recommend Frenchman’s Creek to Cornwall and literature lovers alike.

Trivia

On a trivial note, one of du Maurier’s daughters was called Flavia, which will lead nicely on to my next post about Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew’d by Alan Bradley who’s heroine is also called Flavia…

A book a month for a year

As I’ve mentioned (probably too much, I always talk too much), I have been endeavouring the follow a book a month challenge this year. You may have seen me chattering about it on social channels, and I’m now following an Instagram book club that’s doing the same thing. Does that mean it’s now two books a month? Crumbs.

The way it works

The thing I love about this challenge (which a friend introduced me to, I can take no credit much as I’ve adore to), is that you don’t start off with a list of 12 books to read through in a year. Oh no, gone are the guilt-trips and the lonely books staring at you from the bedside table in their coats of dust accusing you of a lack of affection. You see, the trick is, you only write a book on your list once you’ve read it.

Positive Lists

It’s all positive and affirming y’know. And I think it’s rather clever. So you get this immense sense of joy and accomplishment every time you write a book on your list (or type as the case may be, my book list is on my phone).

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I wouldn’t mind spending the rest of my life in a good second-hand bookshop

Trying new genres

One of the great advantages of this activity, which my friend highlighted to be before I took up the challenge, is that it pushes you to read things you would not ordinarily. It’s a grand old opportunity to dip your wordy toes in previously untouched literary waters. And I’ve found it jolly revealing. You see, books aren’t just books. They are so very different to one another because authors write so individually. So what you think you may like, you don’t,  what you think you’ll loath, you like!

Engaging with friends

As I am a chatterbox, I spoke about taking up the challenge at work and soon a few more people caught the fever and it’s been a great talking point. Although you’re not reading the same books necessarily so it can’t work like an ordinary book club, there is a sense of clubby-ness. There’s a lot of joy in saying where you’re at, if you’re leaping ahead like a reading gazelle, or woefully behind (I have been several books behind upon a certain month and caught up on holiday), and there’s a joy in chatting over what you think of the book, if you like it, if you’d recommend it.

You get a sense of other people’s tastes, and ideas about what you might read next. They spur you on and it becomes quite sociable.

What I’ve read

Rather than reeling of a great list as if I were a champ (I’m not, it takes me a jolly long time to read, however much I enjoy it), I thought I’d list my highlights so far and perhaps jot another post down on each…

Frenchman’s Creek by Daphne du Maurier

Just One Damn Thing After Another by Jodi Taylor

A Very Short Introduction to World War I by Michael Howard

Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew’d by Alan Bradley

Rather varied and so far my top reads. More rambling thoughts to follow…

 

Reading and sequels

This morning I started my writing day with reading. It turns out it was quite a good idea, but if I said I did it for any other reason than to stop myself putting the tele on I’d be lying.

My name is Philippa, and I am a TV addict.

A book a month challenge

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Oh this? This is just an unnecessary picture of my outlandishly cute puppy.

It’s not really a laughing matter. I waste too much time on it, but doing my book a month for a year thing (I really should do a blog post or two about what I’ve read), has made me disciplined about reading. It’s meant I’ve read books that have been on my TBR list (To-Be-Read for those who are not geeks), and I’ve tried some real outta-left-field doozies I never would have tried.

It’s also helping me in my uphill battle to watch less TV and actually improve my mind. I wonder if some of those Regency ladies felt that way about reading? Perhaps those types were always written off as bluestockings.

Introducing, His Banyan Bride

Anyway, I have shared some cool news on my social channels, and that is to say that I have written a sequel to Fool Me Twice. Let’s not forget that my definition of ‘cool’ varies wildly from most, but I do think it’s cool. It’s my first connected novel as I’ve only written standalone previously (nothing wrong with that mind), and it’s been a real challenge and delight to include characters from Fool Me Twice in my new novel working title, His Banyan Bride. I mean, it’s quite interesting isn’t it, following up with heroes and heroines and others some time on from their original story?

What are they up to?

Are they happy?

Are they the same or have they grown?

So many delightful questions I’ve been able to answer as the author. Anyway, enough blathering, I’ve popped the blurb below, but even better, here’s a link to Chapter 1, and it’s free to read!

The widow Lady Rachel Denby will not be beholden to anyone.

 

She has had enough of being chattel and has made a deal with Viscount Arleigh, one of Society’s long-serving bachelors. A quick marriage by special licence and an even quicker annulment will see them both set up on Arleigh’s long awaited inheritance. If they can pull it off they’ll each be enjoying the independence they desire. But no one ever said anything about difficult solicitors, severe in-laws, proper manners and making a good impression.

 

In the end, the real question is not when will their deal be done, but rather will they be able to keep to it at all?

 

The second instalment of The Ladies of Worth Series, His Banyan Bride tells the story of Lady Rachel Denby, sister to Lady Rebecca Fairing of Fool Me Twice and featuring many of your favourite characters from the first novel.

The Edict FREE on Kindle – This Weekend Only!

The Edict Kindle
Get it Free on Kindle

In celebration of my birthday weekend I am offering my fantasy novel The Edict for free on Kindle!

The usual price of £3.99 will be dropped to zero over Saturday and Sunday (28th &29th July) so get downloading and happy reading! If you enjoy it then by all means pop back to the Amazon page and leave a review so you can help other readers decide if they’d like it too.

 

Just to get you excited about reading The Edict, here are some review snippets from happy Amazon peeps:

‘The Edict…is in a class of its own. The characters in the novel are extremely well crafted, especially the heroine, Kiara, who certainly knows her own mind, and heart. I can’t wait for Book 2!’

Maureen Wright

‘I absolutely loved this book! I thought I could tell what was going to happen but the plot took plenty of twists and turns which kept me guessing. I annoyed my family as I disappeared for several days as I couldn’t put it down!’

E Groves

‘Brilliant! Complex and deep while also gripping and easy to read!

Joe Leach

‘This book had me gripped from the first page, what a gift the author has for creating characters you can’t get out of your head.’

Yogime

Get The Edict on Kindle now

Selfish writing

I’m not a fan of the modern day mantra,

‘just do what’s right for you’.

Controversial, I know, but it doesn’t seem logical to me. I may be being a bit Vulcan about it (yes, that’s a Trek reference and I’m going with it), but it seems to me, only thinking about oneself isn’t doing the world any favours. When we think like that we are choosing to purposely ignore other’s feelings, desires and wellbeing in favour of our own.

Getting kicked in the teeth

That being said, my Dad always says if you get kicked in the teeth, you don’t go back to get kicked in the teeth again, i.e. if someone treats you badly, you don’t give them no consequences and carry on as normal. So there’s this fine line, isn’t there? Where we’re balancing between self-obsession and self-protection.

We understand we must love and care for others if we want to build a decent society, but what about when we feel drained and need to care for ourselves? I don’t have the answer. I guess every situation is individual, though there may be underlying principles that always remain; like loving others more than yourself, and protecting your heart because it’s the well spring of life.

Exploring writing styles

Notebook

Anyway, in the midst of working on my next novel for publication, I am being selfish. I’ve realised that if all my creative energy is directed towards publication I lose some of that pizazz I love. I get that from having my own secret world that no one else gets to go into. Exploring writing styles and characters that might not work or people might not like. I’m not ignoring my other work, but I am snatching at whisps of time to write a story just for my eyes, my heart, my soul.

Woods

I like to think this will keep developing me as an author, and give my readers better books to read. I wonder if other authors do the same? And I’m not talking about a story you never finished that will never see the light of day, but rather one you loved and finished but will remain yours and just yours.

There’s something a bit mysterious about creativity, and creating something all your own.

And here I am, trying to maintain that balance between self-obsession and self-protection.