Saturday, 15 July 2017

Lunch out

Friday 14th July
An even bigger trip today. We drove to Lalinde via St Foy where there are roadworks. I mention them because the traffic lights display the time you have to wait before it is your turn to drive off (which I think is a very good idea and worth adopting in England) We arrived with a couple of minutes to wait, and the car before us in the queue had roared by us several miles back! He must have waited maybe four or five minutes..

It was a perfect day for walking Tim along the canal with its huge trees – I’m never sure if it is a river or a canal. There are lock gates, but it also seems to be an off shoot of the Dordogne which is not 500 yards away. The sun was shining, but the heat was not as excessive as it has been lately. We chatted with a lady who turned out to be one of a group called Les Temoins de Jehovah. Of course, Tim was the attraction.

Then we turned back into town and headed for the market square. Lunch service was beginning, so we chose a quiet corner by a pillar under the old market hall (called the Halle) roof and sat back to enjoy the surroundings.

We knew it was Bastille Day, and were not surprised that the shops were closed and a band struck up the Marseilais (must check the spelling!) by the town’s flag draped war memorial. The pompiers de Lalinde made some kind of impromptu parade – or maybe they were just passing through and decided to open their windows and yell something en Francais!

When we order our food and drinks, the waiter, unasked, brought a bowl of water for Tim and he very nearly drained it. Bill ordered a wild mushroom omelette and I chose Fish and Chips. Yes, I know,, but I wanted to see how it would be presented. We waited a long time for it. Pizzas came out faster for people who arrived after us, but there was no hurry. My fish was very white, tasted lovely, and had a very light batter. Frites in a cone came with it, plus a single carrot served with its stalk stub, a little green salad and thinly sliced courgette and lemon, plus a herby sauce. Delicious. I ate every scrap except for feeding Tim a few frites. It kept him quiet instead of threatening to pounce on the pigeon that wandered too close to our table.

We walked down to the river, which is running faster than we’ve ever seen it in many years of visits. Usually there are sandbanks and lots of weed clumps, but right now the water is flowing very fast bank to bank. Lots and lots of swans on the opposite bank where the trees swoop down to the water – a whole flock of swans - maybe fifty or seventy, just cruising the shallows. 

Thursday, 13 July 2017


Thursday 13th July
Tuesday we finally made that trip into Vergt, primarily to make an appointment with the vet for Tim’s exit examination. It has to be within 72 hours of getting back to England, so we prefer to book ahead rather than risk the vert being out on a house call or something other animal emergency. Though I suppose if it were an emergency, he’d still go and we’d have to wait!)

We walked around, discovered there’s a circus in town and spent a good half hour over a drink in the cafĂ© in the square.  It is decorated and there is a large banner proclaiming Fete du gras et truffe (if I have correctly remembered the French!)

When we set off for home, we took a new route through Fouleix, and discovered a huge hole in the ground being dug. As big as an Olympic swimming pool, if not bigger. It is the same shape as the “irrigation ponds” we see in the fields, but a whole lot bigger. It deserved to be called a reservoir and it seemed as if the men of the commune were doing it themselves. The odd thing is the position of it – not in a valley as you might expect, but on the top of a hill. The region is famous for the strawberry, and over the years we have been coming, the strawberry fields have expanded enormously. Perhaps their demand for water has necessitated the construction of the new water reservoir. It’s a theory, but I can’t substantiate it!

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Bones in the field

Wednesday 12th July
No editing for a couple of days. Not a deliberate decision, but it just did not happen. Other things have got in the way, that’s all. On Sunday we noticed that Tim kept disappearing into the hedge that borders the field side of the mill stream at every opportunity, and when I say disappeared, I really mean it. The “hedge” is taller than me and who knows how wide? To follow the small tunnels made by foxes and the like, I’d need a machete to slash through the bramble spikes and thorn bushes, and a plastic suit to prevent the poison ivy stings. Then there’s the stream in the middle – how deep? Deeper than wellies? Or just mud and sludge where the reeds have taken over?

A day or two before this I walked Tim around the wilderness corner of the garden near the bonfire. It is the other side of the hedge I have just described, and because two streams meet there it is often too wet and muddy to risk bogging the tractor down when the rest of the grass gets cut. So he stood there in the long grass like a pointer, staring into the far corner where the streams meet. Then he barked. Long and hard. He wouldn’t go near, so being me, discretion took over and we retreated.

So to Monday afternoon and our walk around the lake. Coming back to the house, Tim suddenly races off and does a right turn into the farmer’s field which is greening up nicely after the hay has been cut. Races alongside the hedge and then turns sharp left and out into the middle of the field,  flops down and all I can see is his head and the line of his back. I whistled. I called, he ignored me. Was he hurt, injured? Had a snake bitten him? (There are snakes. Tim disturbed one in a ditch once and it lashed out and bit Bill in the calf, but with no dire results.) Thinking an adder might have bitten him, or he’d broken his leg in a mouse hole, I set off across the field in my wellies.

Two hundred yards later, when I was within ten yards of him, he looked up, a bone dangling from his jaws. Then he leapt up and danced away from me, flopped down again. I followed him. Same thing repeated. Again and again, he ran ten yards and went back to eating. 

Furious calls of "Tim!" brought Bill, who approached from the other side but with the same result. What looked like the leg of a bird – duck, chicken, heron? – had evidently been killed, possibly inside the hedge and now foxes were carrying the bones onto the field to eat them. Tim was scooping up the still bloody left overs. We couldn’t catch him, and there's nothing more annoying than a normally obedient dog who comes when you call than a dog who wilfully disobeys you; we got so annoyed and frustrated we abandoned him and went back to the house. Within two minutes of our disappearing from view, I heard the tinkle tinkle of his name tags as he raced back across the field towards home.

We kept him on the lead for the rest of the day, because he has figured out that he can escape from the enclosed garden by going up the steps, along the garden strip above the pool and down and out through the gap at the other end. Then he’s free to explore all of France if he fancies it.

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Strange creatures

Saturday 8th July
Quite busy editing – a good chunk done, and an emotional one, not easy to do in case the whole thing is ruined. But I think it is tighter now and better for it. I’ve deleted upwards of 40k words, so if I feel the story needs a little more exposition or internal dialogue, I add that. We’re hovering at 103k words now for the whole thing, which is about where I want to be.

It’s been a cloudy morning, and I walked Tim on the road, on a lead, up the hill towards Monsieur Lambert’s farm. The farmers have suddenly sprung into life around us and they’re nipping about with small tractors spiking a couple of hay bales from the field and chugging off down the road with  the bales held before them. When the sun is out and its over 34 degrees, the whole valley is silent and still.

I’ve been curious about something that wanders about the area. Animal, since it moves. Strong enough to dig a hole about the size of a tin of Heinz baked beans in the hay field and then crap in it. Perfect aim. Dark coloured, with lots of cherry stones. I recognise deer poo when I see it, but deer don’t dig holes and anyway it’s a different shape and consistency. I found another hole, near the little stone bridge, as I walked up to the farm this morning, Fresher, with no cherry stones. 

So I came home and googled for info, not really expecting anything to come up in answer to “animal that digs holes to defecate” but right away the answer came back: a badger. I’m relieved. I had been worried it might be wild boar and I didn’t want Tim (or me) to suddenly come face to face with one of them. Surrounded as we are by miles of woodland, they are bound to be nearby, but I’ve never seen one. The hunters go out after them in the autumn/winter season. There are tales galore about more hunters being wounded by gunshot than boar being killed, but I don’t know how true they are.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Ants and prize money

Wednesday 5th July
You should never complain about the weather. Today was uncomfortably hot and tomorrow promises to be the same. 35 degrees is forecast. I don’t know why, but we don’t stand the heat as well as we used to. Perhaps being down here in the valley, where we rarely get a breeze, has something to do with it. On the coast or the hills there’s usually a wind, but not here. Tim lolls about like the proverbial loppy dog. (Not that he is loppy, naturally.)

Last evening we came indoors because there was a plague of flying ants dive bombing the pool and surrounding area. Today watching Wimbledon, what do I see but flying ants? Sam Smith commented that when the queen leaves the nest they all go walkabout, but I don’t know how true that is. Is it possible they’re all in tune with one another? They’re here on Monday evening but by Wednesday those that didn't drown in our pool are causing havoc at Wimbledon.

So happy to see Rafa through to the third round, but not pleased with these people – 8 of them – who went into their matches knowing they carried an injury and would not complete the match. Klizan has had the same injury for 2 months, and one woman played while four and a half months pregnant. She didn’t tell anyone until the match was over. They must be doing it to get the £35,000 prize money, which they may very well need, but the people who have queued for hours and paid for their ticket are being cheated. Centre Court hosted two of the biggest names, Djokovic and Federer, and both of them faced players who quit early. How can they deserve the prize money?


Monday 3rd July
At last, a day with no rain. Just as well, since Bill ran out of socks this morning and I had no more clean tee shirts. So I hung out a wash load and kept my fingers crossed. All was well. The skies may have been grey, but it was warm and there was a breeze which sweeps through just where the washing line is strung between the house and the tree. Things dried easily enough so we can dress decently once more.  As an aside, the insecticide I bought and did not know what to do with worked wonders when I sprayed the washing line with it. Ants, nimble as acrobats, marched along from the tree to the house and then up the vertical wall and into the roof. What they do in there is anybody's guess, but then they march down again and cross the washing line - all thirty feet of it - back to the tree. I didn't like the idea of my washing having ants all over it. Within hours the march of the ants stopped. One or two still go up the wall, but they go by a different route now.

The drive is now cleared back by a couple of yards. It looks better, and the only downside is the size of the bonfire by the stream where all the cleared out shrubbery is rotting down.

The Tour de France is going by not too far away on the 11th, but I don’t think we’ll be there in support. We did wait for ages one year and in less than a minute the riders had gone by and disappeared. Like many sports, a better view is obtained by watching on television. Wimbledon begins tomorrow. I may go into Vergt tomorrow with Bill. While he does a grocery shop, I shall walk Tim around the town. It is bigger than I first thought, and full of interesting buildings and odd little sidestreets. There is some history of the town on this website, and it will test your knowledge of French!

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Dark clouds

Those dark clouds have been sailing up and down the valley constantly for the past few days but luckily we've had no more crashes of thunder. We are all going stir crazy because every time we nip outside in a sunny intervals, down comes the rain again! The fields are soggy in places, the stream is roaring through and the calves that are being born in the next field are getting a damp start in life. There is at least one fledgling bird scuttling about the hedgerow – out of its nest somehow, maybe in the strong gusts of wind that thrash the trees about just before the rain comes.

I’ve been thinking about Lee Child’s advice with the book I’m editing in mind. Happily there are questions – of course the biggest question of all is will Finlay win the crown of Alba? But there are smaller questions littered throughout on more personal questions of love and loyalty. 

As I'm writing a faint ray of sunshine has found me through the window. Immediately my spirits lift. The birds are singing outside and it strikes me that they've been silent for a while. Bill is off to do some work. Tim is determined to go with him. 

Thursday, 29 June 2017


More cloudy days. Today (28th June) the rain and sunshine alternate. The dark clouds that went west down the valley yesterday are now travelling east again and we’ve just had some crashes of thunder. Luckily Bill did a hedge-hacking stint early this morning and I did one after lunch. So the work progresses in spite of the weather.

No sign of the farmers today. But Bill did find the tomato plant – with one single tomato - that our friend planted in the garden way back in March! I took a photo of it. Unfortunately we have no idea what a courgette plant looks like, so we haven’t found it yet.

I got three chapters edited this morning. Sometimes I wonder if they are too short, but hey – what is the optimum length for a chapter? I think it all depends on the content and when the moment comes to pose the question so the reader wonders what happens next. 

Lee Child has an interesting note at the end of Night School on How to Create Suspense. My copy doesn’t have it, but the copy here does. He thinks it’s a misleading question, as if one were to bake a cake and success depends on the best ingredients. Authors then set about creating interesting characters with dangers and peril etc whereas he thinks the author should try and make the reader hungry and then make them wait hours for dinner. ie Novelists should ask a question at the beginning of the story and then not answer it. Page to page, line to line, imply a question and then answer it later. That way, people get to the end of the book because they want to know the answer.

Wednesday, 28 June 2017


More cloudy days. Yesterday (27th June) we did what I call the monastery circuit. We walked up the hill to the Gite Rural, along the top road towards the monastery and then down the hill to meet the road to Laurent de Batons. We met two other dog walkers, one Dutch, one English and Tom whizzed by in his van. By the time we walked along the bottom road it was ten past nine and starting to get really warm. Tim has been quiet all day after that walk but it totalled on 7,200 steps on my pedometer.

Early evening the thunder storm began just as we were sitting down on the bolly to eat our lapin casserĂ´le. Tim was frightened, but then became so interested in the rabbit stew that he ignored the thunder crashes. Later still the rain started, but it wasn’t the full on rainstorm we’ve seen here in other years.

 I’ve intended to try cooking rabbit for a ong, and finally did so. I followed a recipe in the Slow Cooker recipe book and marinated the meat in fruity red wine. It turned purple in colour and looked truly revolting, but frying it improved the colour to a dark brown – nothing like the photo in the recipe book! How they got it to be golden brown after a red wine marinade, I have no idea. After four hours in the slow cooker on the bolly it smelled delicious. We found it very tasty. Not unlike a meaty chicken, but not as dry.

Farmers were rushing about collecting hay bales while the thunder crashed. It has rained through the night and today the pool is rather full and the fields are greening up almost as we watch. I doubt we’ll go far today, but I should get lots of editing done.

Monday, 26 June 2017


We had a cloudy day yesterday (25th June). The temperature dropped to a mere 28. Inside the mill, it dropped to 24.5 which was really comfortable. So we did some work – sweeping, dusting, tidying up for me and working on the hedge for Bill.

The water in the pool was still silky warm, but today it felt a good deal cooler. Refreshing and still a lovely treat. I took Tim across the stream this morning and had a plod around the field where the farmer was bashing the hedge to bits. He has been back and baled his hay, so I felt he wouldn’t mind. We don’t trample around hay fields, but wait until they’re cut and baled. I Googled  laws of trespass in France last year and couldn't find any. As long as we don’t do damage, it seems we can wander. On the practical side, I would never wander where there is livestock, because the local cattle are big beasts and don’t look friendly.

Sad to say, the newly cut field beyond the stream was uninteresting. Tim loved it, lots of new smells to explore. It proved to be almost two fields in the shape of a letter B. Imagine the I is the stream, and the bottom curve is the partly open segment from which the sparse road traffic can be seen whizzing along. The hidden segment must have been wonderful for the local deer and foxes – a perfect hideaway surrounded by trees. It will be again when the grasses grow. Although it has not rained for days, the stream is higher than it was, a good inch or two higher. I suppose the water must come up via springs. The springs in the field beside the house have never stopped running no matter how hot it was.

Sunday, 25 June 2017


After my sad attempt at shopping in French supermarkets we decided to return home via Lalinde, which is a lovely little town on the Dordogne. It was 39 degrees at 11am and the heat hit us when we got out of the car. It was market day and the main car park was full of market stalls selling everything from strawberries to vintage dresses, but we found a spot by the lake.

We soon discovered the streets were too full of people and dogs to walk comfortably through with Tim, so we dived down a side-street. We stayed in the shade where we could as we made our way down to the pharmacie on the corner of the main square. DH and Tim stayed in the shade while I bought my Insect Ecran Familles. I asked for what I wanted in a mixture of French and charades, but the girl understood me! The Marie Rose cream they did not stock.

Across the road from pharmacie was the boulanger so I rushed in and bought some bread for lunch. Once I found Tim and DH again, lurking in the shade, we decided that the peace and quiet of home was very appealing. We drove to St Foy with the road to ourselves, and then on to St Felix and only met one other vehicle – naturally, in the most narrow part of the road.

Swimming this afternoon was amazing. The water was almost warm so I slid in without my usual hovering on the steps while I nerve myself for the cold shock of hitting the water. Delightful experience. How wonderful to have a pool of one’s own, even if it is for only a few weeks of the year.

As we cooked our beef burgers on the barbie (before you scoff, let me say that French burgers are so much better than the usual English fare. Here, they are made of beef and nothing else), we heard a tractor and a dreadful crashing noise. Sounded as if the tractor was in the field at the back the house, and when we looked across the lower patio, it almost was. The tractor was cruising the far side of the stream and bashing down the undergrowth, so now there is a view across into the fields beyond the stream. Since the stream itself is barely an inch deep though still running fast and clear, I could be tempted to get my wellies and explore next time Tim and I walk around the lake.

Our early morning walk was concluding about half six or so when we stepped onto the road between the fields and stopped in amazement. A deer bounded into view only ten or twelve yards away. Fortunately I had Tim on the lead just in case some white van drove along (they all drive like maniacs here). So we stood absolutely still, even Tim, and the deer stared back at us for a few seconds and then trotted off and bounded back into the woodland. I think it was a small Munckjack (?) certainly not a roe or red deer, but a lovely thing to see.

Friday, 23 June 2017

Shopping en France

According to the thermometer in Lalinde, it was 39 degrees today (22nd June) at 11am. Still no rain, no wind, no clouds. It was joy to drive to Bergerac and then on to Lalinde because we could enjoy the air conditioning in the car! So cool, so wonderful. 

I wanted to buy fly repellent, skin lotion and anti-moustiques cream, plus a bottle of wine to replace the one we drank the first night we were here. The wine was the easiest thing to find in the Bergerac wine section because the bottle was on display, but I failed absolutely to find a Marie Rose mosquito repellent, though I did find what I think were lotions against head lice. Not quite what I wanted.

Then the fly spray; there was one here last year, so I know they exist but in the whole of Monsieur LeClerc’s fine supermarket I could not find a similar household spray. I came out with something called Stop Insects that promised to kill mosquitos, flying ants, cockroaches and the like. Then I went to look for the apres sun lotion. Again zilch. Sun tanning lotion everywhere, but no apres soleil in sight. I gave up and bought a tube of good old Nivea to stop my skin wrinkling up in all this heat.

At home with the dictionary I discovered the Stop Insect was not quite what I thought. It kills the creepy crawlers, but by spraying the curtains, window uprights, doors, tables, pool surrounds etc etc. Not sure what to do with it now.
On the wildlife front I found the desiccated corpse of a five inch lizard languishing in the bottom of an empty blue glazed planter. I wonder if I could fill these somehow, so that they are not death traps? Poor thing must have starved to death. At least I could turn them upside down.

Another problem is that the men who come and remove the dustbin bags have not appeared so far. We remember they came on Wednesday around 10.30, but something must have happened to the schedule, or else they’re not doing it in this heat. It really is extraordinary.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Night activity

the bolly
Another day with 36 degrees forecast. We are longing for rain! Or at least cooler days, some cloud, some wind. We’re not eating much in the way of dinners, but Magnums from the freezer are most welcome mid-afternoon. That’s when I swim. 

Yesterday the tiles around the pool were too hot to walk on, so it was a mad dash out of the shade of the bolly to the edge of the pool! If this weather continues, and it is forecast at over 30 until next Monday, I shall be an accomplished swimmer before we go home.

The late evenings are very pleasant. We switch between the bolly and the balcony in the hope of catching a breeze. The farmer turned up at 10pm last night, headlights on his tractor and we thought he must be about to move his hay bales. He did the turning and baling after eight o'clock at night earlier this week and finished with two tractors whirling around in the dark with headlights glaring. Rather like watching huge fireflies flitting about. If he did, he took only one (we couldn’t actually see what he was doing because of the rather large and healthy pine tree) before he roared off back up the hill to the north. Next morning the bales were still in the field.

Two mornings ago I saw a young fox racing away from us as Tim and I returned to the house, and yesterday evening it was a small deer that legged it at the first sight of us as we left the house. Tim saw neither – some dog he! I’m pleased, actually, because if he had seen it, he’d have chased it. He nearly broke his lead this morning to attack something (unseen) in the hedge at the end of the drive. Naturally, I saw nothing, and he never caught anything. Maybe it was the scent of the deer. Or the fox.

I’ve finished reading a Jack Reacher I brought with me – Without Fail. Interesting story but a tad long-winded on the explanations, but isn't that typical Lee Child? It struck me yesterday that he's becoming more like Sherlock Holmes in the way he makes his deductions about what villains will do or why they do it. Intriguing to read, but must be annoying to have someone like that in real life! I found one of his titles  I hadn't read - Night School - on the shelves here, so I'm reading that now.

Monday, 19 June 2017

Hotter still!

33 degrees forecast yesterday, and 38 actually recorded. Today 35 is forecast, so we’ll see how high it goes. We get up early, around half six and I walk Tim well before seven. Then we do everything to keep the house as cool as we can. After that it is read, relax, swim and sunbathe – and go indoors when the heat is too much!

The second edit on Alba is Mine is going well. DH did a second day working on the overgrown hedge and has given himself a day off today. Actually he is on his way to the supermarket to do a grocery shop as we’ve eaten everything in the house. Tim is squealing as the car goes down the drive – worried that his dad is going and might not come back Or – why am I not going with you, dad?

I’ve been reading After You by Jojo Moyes and enjoyed it. It’s the same kind of writing style as Barbara Erskine – easy, effortless, uncontrived yet the reader keeps wanting to turn pages. 

The pic? That's my shadow taken yesterday!

Saturday, 17 June 2017

It's Hot!

Had my first swim yesterday. We’ve arrived after a thunderstorm, so according to the forecast, the next few days are going to get hotter and hotter. The curtains are closed to keep out the sun, and we sleep with the windows open and the shutters closed. That keeps us at a comfortable temperature as the heat of the day disappears. It seems amazing but at half six in the morning, when we wake, it is shivery cold. Soon warms up though.

Already, at nine fifteen in the morning, I have come indoors into the cool because it is too hot to pull the weeds out of the steps down to the lower patio. By weeds, I mean three foot lengths of Virginia creeper and ivy, and those horrid weeds that look like maroon spiders and grow to enormous size with tiny pink flowers. Not to mention the ants that scuttle away every time I uproot something. Somehow I don’t feel guilty about them, but I was sad to see two pathetically small lizards dead in a garden jug that had half filled with water. When I emptied it, a live fully grown lizard swept out with the water. Green and gold, he sparkled and glittered in the sunshine before he raced away into the undergrowth. Perhaps I saved his life. Anyway the earthen ware jug now sits upside down so nothing else can fall in and find itself unable to get out.

I am about to begin a second edit on Alba is Mine, after re-writing the first scene yet again. DH is out hacking merry hell out of the overgrown hedge that runs beside the drive. He did this yesterday, cleared a strip about twenty yards long and fell asleep after dinner and slept all through the night too! Must be the fresh air.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

En France

After a long journey by car I am now resident en France for the next few weeks. Good to be back.  The sun is not at full strength to day but even so I gave up sitting in it after an hour. My pale white English skin will turn lobster pink if I don’t expose myself bit by bit. (If that sounds vaguely rude, I apologise.) But given time and patience I shall turn brown; I have the sort of skin chemicals or proteins or whatever it is that turns sin brown. A lady from Israel, sitting beside me by the lake during my time as a summer camp councillor in Maine, once remarked that I had a “nice colour in my skin.” Not everyone has, she explained.

This time when we arrived the first thing that struck me about this green lush valley in the Dordogne is the complete absence of sound. Granted the birds sing with extraordinary energy and the wind rustles through the millions of green, shiny leaves, but the sound of humans is absent. Gone. Disappeared. The distant chug of a tractor mowing an adjacent field later this morning was something worthy of my getting up and taking a look.

I think it may have inspired DH, because he is now outside, wearing my sunhat, driving the mini tractor round and round the meadows to bring the knee-high grass to a manageable level. A shame in a way, because among the grasses are the yellow iris, and all the other wildflowers that bloom unseen and keep the bees and presumably themselves happy. Near the lake, the young frogs will leap out of harm’s way ahead of him. 

Monday, 12 June 2017

Predictie text and Amazon changes.

Amazon have changed their stats system yet again. I don't know if their method of "counting" has changed, but certainy their way of reporting to authors has, and in a way I find most unhelpful. Bar charts are all very well in their place, but I much prefer the old method of numbers of books sold against each title, and number of KENP pages read against each title.

Now it seems I have to check through each titles infividually to find out what is happening to it. I looknat the bar chart and see for example that two books have sold, but I don't know which one or in which country. I have to go and do some extra work to find out.  Might be easier for Amazon, but it certainly isn't easier for me.

Must be in a growse mode today, because I'm getting annoyed with predictive text too.  DH has found a way of switching it off, so I must do that when I have a moment. I have enough mistakes of my own to correct without predictive text incorrectly guessing what I want to say.  I'm in the washing, ironing, tidying, hoovering stage of getting ready to go on holiday so I live in turmoil. Perhaps that's my problem!

The pic? The laburnum has faded now, but it was glorious while it lasted. 

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Stage One complete

At last the re-edit/write is now done. I've printed out 238 pages, and parcelled it up in a blue folder I bought a decade ago and never used to take with me on my holidays.
At the time I was sending submissions out to agents and wanted to impress, but soon discovered that fancy folders were a no-no among busy agents. So at last it has a use!

 The word count is now 104,740 reduced from 147k so that is a substantial reduction. After a few days break comes the read through on paper with pen and post-its to hand. Heaven knows what I'll find to correct. Anything is possible. I may need more than post it notes, though they are a fair size. I never travel without my laptop, paper etc etc etc so that won't be a problem. 

I took out the first chapter, and one or two paragraphs that I thought repetitious or that I didn't need, but the bulk of the reduction has come from removing what I call stage directions - moving to or from one position to another -  and taking out many speech tags where the action made it clear who was speaking;  generally tightening up my writing by remoing all those unnecessary words such as just, nearly, almost

A word like quickly can become a habit or a crutch word and mop up 50 or 60 uses and you never notice until you work your way through a list looking for them. I found over 200 uses of one word, but I've forgotten what that word was now. Turned, probably. My characters kept turning before they spoke or acted or sometimes even breathed. I also discovered I was one of those authors who gave advance warning and then described the action! Quelle horreur! I think I dropped that bad habit some time ago.

The pic is from our trip into Yorkshire last week. Very dramatic skies and a narrow single track road, but we got there safely and without the rain storm we suffered on our trip last year.

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Cookery, glasses and retail therapy

Contemplating some cookery beyond the normal run of feeding self and husband. Friends are arriving home tomorrow from South Korea and I'm planning on giving them dinner on Saturday. To be more precise I'm contemplating what to give them, as they will surely be here on Saturday night! After the highly spiced dishes of SK, I thought they might welcome some fairly plain English food, so I'm working on roast beef,  and lemon meringue pie. I don't know anyone who dislikes either!

The washer stopped working yesterday, which was inconvenient of it as we had a load in at the time. I suppose it always happens like that. We have ordered another which will arrive next Tuesday by which time the washing will have piled up.  This is proving to be an expensive time -  not only the washer to pay for, but Tim's vet's fees are not inconsiderable, and our holiday looms. I visited the optician yesterday since I'm struggling to read small print these days and that can become embarrassing with menus and price tags and such like. So that will be another £500 when I pick up my new specs. 

Yesterday's visit to the optician is one of the few times I have been out without a dog in tow, so I made the most of it by visiting M&S and a shoe shop and bought something in both! Thought it wise to stop there. I was obviously lacking retail therapy and to go on visiting shops would have been dangerous to my bank balance! 

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Half-Viking Scots hero.

Sometimes you have to give credit where credit is due. Yesterday around 3pm I ordered three books from Amazon to arrive in time to take on my holidays next month. Imagine my surprise when half an hour ago, they were delivered to my door! That's less than 24 hours! and with free delivery. Amazing. Congratulations to Somebody in there has a good management strategy going!

What did I order? My holiday reading will include two books from Lee Child, and the latest in the Jimmy Perez series by Ann Cleeves - Cold Earth. Besides these, I shall have several titles on my ipad and will happily peruse the book shelves at our destination. I tried a copy of The Red Tent and never finished it, but now I see it has become a tv serial. Perhaps a second look is in order.

I mustn't take too much reading matter as I have a novel to read and edit. Alba is Mine is now down to 106k word count and I am over the halfway mark, almost two thirds done on a first edit, and I have to say that it is looking good. I suppose re-reading Jack Reacher novels would be good right now in fine tuning how men think - though perhaps not all men think like him! Still, his thought processes might be a tad more in tune with a half-Viking Scots hero than me. 

The local woods were full of garlic flowers a few days ago, billows and cushions of them. Such lovely flowers when viewed close up. The perfume is strong and antiseptic but not unpleasant - I should think it would be used in many medieval potions and lotions.

Thursday, 25 May 2017

The Buster collar days

I'm not getting any work done. The last two days have been a wash out, workwise, and all because my dog has been to the vet.  Like the last time he went in for an op, they blithely said to pick him up at 4.10pm. We said that would be fine but they could ring at any time and we'd pick him up. He went in at 9am and by 10.40 they were telephoning to say he's awake - come when you like.

We parked behind the surgery and we could hear him when we got out of the car, doing his Huckleberry Hound thing. Long drawn out whoooooooooooooooo, deep breath and then again - whooo-ooo-o-o-o. He was very pleased to see us and quietened at once. He's wearing a Buster collar to prevent him licking and chewing his stitches, of which he has seven, in two differentand no doubt sore places - one to remove a small growth and the other take a skin patch to inestigate an irritating itch he's had for some time which ointments don't seem to help.

We're all far too hot to be comfortable and he has perfected the art of side-swiping me with his Buster collar. I shall be covered in bruises before he stops wearing the wretched thing. Our garden thermometer claimed 31 degrees C this afternoon. We sat in the shade. What on earth are July and August going to be like?

Right now I'm hearing the pathetic little snuffles and moans that indicate he wants a cuddle. When I looked round, he's lying there, staring at me. Got to go and offer comfort...

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Re-tweet groups

Intrigued by a group new to me, I joined and found they re-tweet everyone's posts, which means every post goes to everyone's followers. Great, I thought, more exposure and it probably is. But there is a downside, as I soon found out after only two days. 

Some of the authors I don't know, and consequently I don't know their books, so how do I know what I'm sending out? I don't want to spend time checking everyone's titles but then I don't want to discover down the line that I've retweeted and liked something that will not be appreciated.

Plus which I've noticed already that many of the people are authors I know. A lot of our followers are the same, too. The poor followers must be inundated by tweets about books! So all in all it is probably a good idea, but to be used *sensitively.* Otherwise no one will want to know me. (It certainly did not boost either my sales or my KENP stats over the last two days.)

Starting to dream of holidays in the sun, though to be fair it is warm enough here. Still, a change of surroundings will be welcome. Looks like I'll be taking my re-editing with me. It is turning into more of a re-write and Alba Is Mine (was Banners of Alba) stands at 107k word count now. That's 40k words gone! and mostly every one of them through smartening up the writing rather than cutting out chunks of story.

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Fascinating characters

17 May 2017


Amazon UK £1.20
Amazon US $1.50
Amazon CA n/a


“For an ex-duchess, obeying orders proves difficult. But Melanie has little choice. Scarred and cheated out of her widow's entitlement, she accepts a post as housekeeper in remote Gavington House where widowed Lord Jarrow rears his young daughter. He has secrets, and Mel's curiosity will not let her rest until she has discovered what it is that occupies both him and his friend Mangerton. Soon she is embroiled in lying to the Excise men, and wondering if she dare risk falling in love again.”

Maybe Dark Whisky Road is a little melodramatic, and reminiscent of Jane Eyre in places, but what the heck? This is a thoroughly enjoyable true-to-the-genre romance.

I confess I initially selected the book because of the lovely piebald horse on the cover, which shows that cover content is as important as the narrative, but soon found myself engrossed in the struggles and doubts of our wonderful heroine, Melanie Grey. Forced to leave her wealthy life as a duchess, Melanie finds a position as a governess and housekeeper for a widower and his daughter. And so the plot continues from there, leading to the Excise Men and other such nasty baddies.

There are fascinating and well-created characters in this story, most of them with secrets or struggles to overcome, and of course there is an anxious budding of love. We meet the typical-genre necessity of brooding heroes, unsure heroines, dastardly anti-heroes, remote settings and misunderstandings

Jen Black writes with a crisp, refreshing style and elegant descriptions which take her reader right into the scenes she is creating. Her characters are equally well written, Melanie in particular is not the typical feisty beauty who has it all – she is vulnerable has her fears and none of the modern feminist views we often come to expect in novels. In this story she is ordinary – and I very much liked her, and Ms Black, for it!

© Helen Hollick

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Wonderful Viking Romp

Discovering Diamonds

Posted: 15 May 2017 03:49 AM PDT

Amazon.UK £0.99
Amazon US $1.24
Amazon CA n/a

Romance / Fantasy / Adventure


“Gisla might have won her freedom, but can she stay out of the evil magician’s clutches? There seems nothing that can save her from Karli Olafsson except a handsome stranger who doesn’t believe in magic…. His name is Olli.

This wonderful Viking romp will suit any reader who likes a bit of magic and adventure mixed in with the romance.

Gisla is a woman with determination and courage, and beyond all else is set on avoiding a marriage she does not want, particularly as it is to a less than pleasant magician, Karli Olafsson. Olli Ketilsson, on the other hand, is a young, slightly immature man who has flawed edges. Then there is Flane, Olli’s foster father, who relies on his ship’s crew to aid Gisla when she needs help. The escapes and escapades come at page-turning speed, overdone for real life, but this isn’t meant to be taken seriously as fact, it is a fun, romantic pleasure read and as such, it excels.

Set in the Norse settlement area of the west coast of Scotland, Cumbria in northern England and Dublin, the story gives a believable picture of these rough and unruly times when Pagan ritual ran alongside early Christian.

The Magician’s Bride is a light, easy read absolutely ideal for satisfying e-book entertainment while travelling or lazing in the sun somewhere. For less than $2/£1 or free on Kindle Unlimited how can you go wrong?

© Anne Holt

Friday, 12 May 2017

Alba is Mine

Finished Sleeper's Castle the very next night. Satisfying end, too. Still haven't dissected a page of her writing, though it is still in my mind to do so. Plenty of time to do that today, as I won't be out gardening or too long with the dog walks - the weather has turned grey and damp again. After the brilliant few days we've enjoyed, it is something of a shock.

Editing Banners is a slow process. I wonder if authors who hate editing are the ones who recommend buying editing services so they can enjoy writing while someone else does the hard slog of editing? Coud be true! It is tempting....

I've been thinking of a new title for Banners and am going to work with Alba is Mine for the time being to see how it feels. I'm still debating about cutting the word count down. I'm at 112,000 words now with half the book still to go, so I could end up with a very short story if I go on being as ruthless as I have been. I will need to add in some exposition and can see where character development could be better. Addin in can be as dangerus as cutting out - I could end up with enough words for two 90,000 volumes!

Monday, 8 May 2017


Reading Sleepers Castle at the moment. I've put it off long enough, refusing to pay the high new publication charges. It has come down in price now, so I succumbed. (Shame on me for refusing to pay for what was probably three years work, or more.) I didn't begin reading right away - I'm one of those idiots who will prolong the delight of gratification if I can! But finally I dived into it yesterday.

It is like so many of her other stories, yet I am still reading at every moment. There is something so utterly easy about Erskine's writing  that makes the pages turn in a regular rhythm. No incongruous word, no jarring sentence, everything in keeping with the time period. The rhythm, the flow of words is so easy that the reader skims across the page taking everything in. Never mind that I have no knowledge of Welsh history and have to look up the locations on Google earth as I'm reading. (So easy on Kindle!) No worries about the story leaping between medieval Wales and Modern Wales, nor about the ability to dream oneself into a different physical setting and be seen there but leave no trace.( Perhaps Ms Erskine has read the Far Memory books by Joan Grant, so popular in the thirties.) Perhaps it would pay me to really examine a page and see how she does it. That will be my homework for the night.

As for my own work, I've whittled Banners down to 113,000 words and still going down. It really is a work in progress!

Friday, 5 May 2017

Language, please!

There is a lot of fun to be had reading websites and when I followed the link to this one I must admit I chuckled. So much so that I thought I might show some of it here. It isn't a new post and there are lots of comments which are informative too. In six years a lot may have changed with regards to some of the words , but it never hurts to keep checking.... 

Oh, hell, since I’m being nitpicky and bitchy already…

(Prefatory note: Again, apologies to Dear Author for stealing their style. I guess I’m in a epistolary mood these days.)
Dear various American authors of historical romances who are trying very, very hard to sound authentically British,
It’s not like I’m the foremost Britpicker of all time. Not even close. But I’ve noticed a distressing trend among your ranks in recent days. I understand that you are probably sick of readers bitching and moaning about how American authors sound too contemporary and too American, so you’ve decided to inject some authentic Britishisms to spruce up the joint. I applaud your efforts. However, allow me to offer the following vocabulary tips:
1. Your Regency- or Victorian-era English aristocrat isn’t going to use the word “git” as a term that means “jackass” or “fuckwit.” Why? Well, partly because it’s a term more closely associated with the working classes, and the class cultures weren’t quite as permeable as they tend to be today. Partly because the etymological roots for “git” are probably Scottish. And lastly, and probably most importantly, because it didn’t become common usage until the 20th century.

There's much more and all the comments to read. Just follow the link: here

Monday, 1 May 2017

Hot weather and editing

We drove out to a country park on the Derwent Reservoir the other day to give ourselves and Tim a change of land and smellscape, and will go back again. It's not too far, but gives the feeling of being out in the country - which it is! Pine trees and heather are so different to the green fields and deciduous trees where we are. I  noticed the low  water level in the reservoir  - and it is so early in the year. Come July there will be water shortages if this weather continues.

In a way I hope it does go on being warm, for it is so nice to be out and not blown away or come home soaked and freezing. (Actually, dog walkers will know that we come home warm and toasty whatever the weather - it is only the first few minutes that are pretty dire. After that, the exercise warms the muscles and its fun to be out.) The other thing I'm thinking is that France will be even warmer by the time we get there. We've experienced occasional weeks there when it is too hot to contemplate moving about too much, and there may be more of them in the future.

As for editing, I'm whipping out words out of Banners at a tremendous rate. The word count now stands at 118,158 which is a vast difference. I hunted out early critiques and reviews and gleaned the following tips:

  • dialogue is repetitious
  • needs paring down
  • used passed instead of past
I had noticed how wordy I was as I was going through! Still, fifteen years ago books tended to be wordier. I'm contemplating a different title and a new cover, but have not settled on anything yet.  

Wednesday, 26 April 2017


On my first run through of Banners I've cut 21,000 words. Yikes! Taht's a lot of words, but I'm not done yet. I'm half way down the list of  "unnecessary words" and taking out almost every one except where the sense is altered. So often removal of the word means nothing is altered, which is the true mark of an amateur writer. I console myself with the thought that I wrote this at least fifteen years ago, maybe even longer than that. At the writers' meeting on Monday I recevied various suggestions - make it two books being the one I've given the most thought. These days the average word count seems to be 80,000-100,000 and at 147,000 Banners was way too long. Still haven't decided, but the way the word count is whittling down, I don't think I will need to divide the book. Other suggestions were to revamp the whole thing - title, cover and interior, so now I'm scratching my head about new titles. Incorporating the words "duke" or "you, me and us" won't quite work for something set in 1034AD. 

My worst fault was adjectives, over describing, and trying to report every little action. If I remember correctly I used "laugh" 141 times, and removed most of them, so  when I read through again I'll find my characters a serious lot who never smile. "Turned" is not on my list of unnecessary words, but I think it should be and I shall certainly add it. Many sentences were pedestrian, often beginning with a pronoun or name and some were so close to repetition that I removed them. Editing teaches an author a lot about writing. Those authors who rely on an editor to smarten their work - do they learn more easily when someone tells them what to add or remove? I suspect that doing it yourself is the more effective process.  

Once I've completed the unneccessary word list, it will be time to read it through and see if I've left any glaring holes which will need a newpiece of writing. I also need to conside if the story hangs together as it should.  I thought I had omitted to mention the king's death, but yesterday found the scene where his death is reported, so that worry has gone. It is such a long time since I worked on this story that it feels quite new and a little unfamiliar. An odd feeling to have when I wrote it!