Monday, June 30, 2008

Random stuff

I found out from a friend today that Amazon has already started to deliver preordered copies of Blue Remembered Heels - eek! I wasn't expecting that.
The weekend was busy with the belles doing more ballet and tap exams. I am not good with doing hair in buns. I even used a device called a bun net. I am only slightly less sucky at doing buns than I am at doing French plaits. Perhaps it's as well that I'm not a 'showbiz' type Mom.
Next weekend is the RNA conference - I'm really looking forward to going even though some of my favourite people will be missing this year. I always come back feeling full of inspiration. Now if I can just find time to pack in between work and running up to the various schools on an evening then I'll be doing well. Hate this end of term mania when there is so much to squeeze in, especially when a lot of it is at short notice. One of my pet grievances - 'Hello, working parents here - it would be good to know a few weeks in advance if you're planning something in the day like, oh, a leavers service, or a report evening. Oh, and evening is not 3pm til 6pm in my book. Grumbl, mumble
On the good side, C4 of Crystal Clear is almost done!

Sunday, June 29, 2008


The boards are up in the front of Waterstones. Yep, me and Abi Titmuss, not together - obviously.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Crystal Clear

I gave you a pic of my heroine, so here's a pic of my hero. Sigh, Bryan is just great for Drew - the man who broke Zee's heart nine years earlier and now he's back. Ooh boy is he back.
I finished shining the synopsis - thanks Jess! and sent it off to my agent. I'm almost finished writing chapter three and I still really love where this story is going.

Friday, June 27, 2008

2008 Friday Fun - Bean Motor Company

The story of the Black Country is littered with famous names. One of the famous names of it's day was that of The Bean Motor Company. I pass the old factory every day, the frontage of which still bears it's legend in the bricks.
A. Harpers Sons & Bean Ltd.
Tipton Dudley

John Harper (Jack) Bean was managing director of A Harper, Sons and Bean, which had been established in 1826 as an iron foundry in Dudley. It became A Harper and Sons in 1901 and A Harper, Sons and Bean in 1907.

During the Great War the company became a major munitions manufacturer and specialised in shell cases. In 1918 the company decided to enter motor manufacture to make use of their capacity. And in 1919 they purchased the rights and patterns for the Perry, introduced in 1914, and began building it as a Perry Bean.

John Harper Bean, awarded the CBE for services to the war effort, had visited the USA after the war to buy machine tools for his envisaged modern car factory at the Tipton site where he aimed to produce 10,000 cars a year with his new combine. It was launched in November 1919 at the Savoy Hotel in London.

Harper Bean included the Vulcan, Swift and ABC car companies and many component suppliers. The intention was to assemble the cars at Tipton and make the bodies at the Dudley works but that factory could not cope with the quantities required so an order for 2,000 bodies were placed with the Grahame-White Aviation Company of Hendon, Middlesex. When Claude Grahame-White asked for part payment he was refused and Harper Bean took the business to Handley Page at Cricklewood.

In 1921 John Harper Bean resigned and A Harper, Sons and Bean were placed in receivership. That year was a time of recession in Britain and Austin were also in receivership, while Morris had a factory full of unsold cars. By April 1923 the receiver was discharged and money had been raised through the banks and the steel supplier, Hadfields.

Hadfields took over in 1926 and renamed the company Bean Cars. John Harper Bean left in 1927 to join Guy, while car production continued until 1929. Commercial vehicles carried on until 1931.

In 1933 Hadfields set up Beans Industries as a general engineering and foundry business. Beans Industries was sold to Standard Triumph in 1956 from where they became part of British Leyland. By 1975 they were known as Beans Engineering and a management buyout followed in 1988. In 1991 they purchased Reliant, which went into receivership in 1991 and took Beans with them.

John Harper Bean died in March 1963.

Thursday, June 26, 2008


Mr Nell is on nights. This morning he came back at three am as he had a hospital appointment and needed to catch some ZZZ's before he went. When I got up to get ready for work I saw a great big brown spider staring up at me from the floor. I have this thing about not being able to kill things, even things I don't like such as spiders. I managed to trap him under a toothglass and left him on the floor - normally I would have opened the window and put him outside but it was dark and Mr Nell was asleep so I didn't want to make a noise.
By the time I got home from work I'd forgotten about my eightlegged friend under his frosted glass prison. Right until Boo went in my room and I heard...
'What's this gla? ARGH, GIANT SPIDER...'
Yep, she let Spidey out. She ran one way and Spidey ran the other. Now we can't find him and Mr Nell is working again tonight so it's me and the eight legged monster in my room. I swear if you hear a scream in the middle of the night come save me!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Pain in the neck

I really do have a pain in my neck. I don't know what I did but the day before yesterday I moved my head and something went crack. My head didn't fall off but ever since I've had an odd tingling down my left arm and through my elbow, plus my little finger has been numb. My shoulder aches like crazy and I can't turn my head properly to the left. I'm swallowing my trusty ibuprofen and it seems to be resolving. Maybe I should get some of those Frankenstein type bolts fitted in case of future disaster.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Shiny synopsis

I have a rough synopsis now for Crystal Clear. The emphasis is on the word rough lol. I need to do a bit of polishing before I send it to my agent. I've started the third chapter of Crystal Clear - see, I know in my head how it's all going to work but I know that the outline I do for it now will be different from the finished book as it's the kind of story that will meander off the track a bit I think.
I've been really busy too writing up publicity and promo things for Blue Remembered Heels.
Today I got an advance copy in the post - huge, giant squee as it looks so lovely. It was a real OMG this is happening moment!

Monday, June 23, 2008


At last the sun is out. I am so tired of getting wet lately, I swear I'm getting rusty. Animal Instincts has just gone off to my editor so now I'll wait to see what she thinks. Today has been spent mainly on errands - all of them necessary but time sinks nonetheless.
I made the most of the dry day to strip the beds and do a mega wash of bedclothes. I noticed the washer was making a funny noise on the last load so when it had finished I checked the trap inside the rubber seal. Today I collected a sea shell, a chocolate wrapper, a hair clip, four beads, two penny pieces, a badge and a brick.
Sigh - the joys of children.

Saturday, June 21, 2008


My agent really likes Animal Instincts - one tiny thing to check up on and tweak then I'll send it to my lovely editor at little Black dress and wait for her verdict. I need to finish my outline for Crystal Clear - I've started the book and I know what i want to put in it but for some reason I look at my half done synopsis and my brain goes bleagh.
I have a picture that has the essence of my new heroine - Azure Dawn aka Zee. She really doesn't like her name. In real life this lady is a singer called Eden Attwood. Zee has spent a lot of time reinventing her life to escape her past but everything is about to go a bit pearshaped in her world when she hass to go back to the one place she avoids - home.

Friday, June 20, 2008

2008 - Friday Fun - Crime and punishment

Crime and punishment are not new issues. As this piece from The Black Country Bugle shows.
Unfortunately, crime has always played a part in the society we live in. Ever since our ancestors began to settled down in villages and townships and establish laws, there have been individuals intent on breaking them, either through enforced circumstances, or plain ill-will. But what may have been adjudged as a crime fit for severe punishment by one generation, was perhaps dealt with more leniently by another.

The death penalty for murder and treason was still available for courts to administer just a couple of generations ago, but now such a severe punishment has been abolished in this country, and frowned upon by the majority of other nations in the world. The measure of punishment for each crime is always a hotly contested debate, with so called soft options often endgendering exasperation in many. These days, more than at any time in history, there is a widespread feeling that in too many cases criminals 'get away with murder'.
How then would the criminals of the 21st century have been dealt with during the reign of Victoria, when life was a darned sight harder than it is today? The misty, rather romanticised view of life in the Black Country 150 years ago, is brought into stark reality when you read about misdemeanours that probably wouldn't raise an eyebrow today, but back then were dealt with severely in the local courts; for instance, a month's imprisonment for throwing stones. On the 28th November, 1857, the Brierley Hill Advertiser had its usual gamut of court appearances to report. Weigh up the evidence put forward for each case in the following article, and see if you agree with the punishment dished out on these petty criminals of the 19th century:
"James Beddard and Joseph Shore, two rather rough-looking men, were indicted for damaging a quantity of clover on land owned by Mr John Slater at Kingswinford.
John Handbury, the parish constable, was in court to prove the case. In evidence he stated that he had been appointed to watch a field belonging to Mr Slater which contained some clover. On Tuesday 17th November, whilst there, he observed Beddard and Shore walking through the field with a partridge net which was opened. He did not observe them catch anything with it, but they had nevertheless damaged some of the clover. They had no business in the field, as there was no public road through it. On being further questioned, the constable stated that the damage done to the clover wasn't much more than about 2d.
Both defendants, in an impudent manner, asked the constable several questions, and, to a certain extent, denied his statement. Members at the Bench said they could not tell what the defendants wanted with the net, but it looked rather suspicious. There was, however, no doubt that they had damaged the clover, and had also been in a place where they had no business. They were summarily ordered to pay for the damage to the clover, with costs, or spend 21 days in prison with hard labour if the fine wasn't forthcoming."
Drunkenness was probably an everyday occurrence in the Black Country of the 19th century, when hard graft was forgotten for a few brief hours, anaesthetised by a few jugs of ale. But woe betide the inebriated fellow who was unable to just drink and be merry:
"A slovenly looking young man named Thomas Yardley, and Benjamin Bournes, who appeared under warrant, were fined 5s each for being drunk and disorderly in Rowley Regis, or in default of payment, spend six hours in the stocks. The same applied to Thomas Welch, a wretched looking man without either coat or waistcoat, who was arrested for being drunk and disorderly in Brierley Hill."
Canals during the mid 19th century were still a vital component of the country's transportation system, although the introduction of the railways a few years previously would soon have the inland waterways system on the wane. Roads were virtually useless in transporting the vast quantities of raw materials and finished products from A to B, so any violations of the Canal Act were acted upon immediately with stiff punishments for those miscreants responsible:
"William Bycott, a youth, was charged by Mr James Caddick, with throwing stones into the canal contrary to the Canal Act, which subjects parties committing that offence to a penalty of £10. The boy said in his defence that some people on the opposite side of the canal had been throwing horse manure at him, and, for the purpose of protecting himself, he threw a stone at them which accidentally fell into the canal, having failed to reach the other side. The bench had some sympathy for the youth but still fined him 5s with costs, or on default, a month in prison.
"James Bradley, a boatman, was indicted for an offence of this nature. From the evidence for the prosecution, it appeared that on the morning of Friday 9th November, at Kinver, he brought his boat into one of the canal locks. After the usual arrangements he took his boat out but neglected to close the top gate, thereby causing a considerable waste of water and thus violating the Canal Act. One of the canal company's agents stated that it was a very serious case, and a positive breach of the Act relating to these matters. The defendant, James Bradley, was fined 20s., the lowest fine possible, with costs. Another boatman, James Lock, was indicted for allowing a boat of his to travel on the canal from Kidderminster to Kinver without a rudder, circumstances of which rendered several parts of the canal liable to be damaged. He too was fined 20s. with costs."
Damaging other people's property has always been a criminal act, but not quite so heinous a crime as was apparent 150 years ago:
"A female named Ann Farrell, was indicted for damaging a fence belonging to a Mr Harper, in Kinver on Tuesday 10th November. From the evidence for the plaintiff, it appeared she had broken the fence whilst going to a place for water-cress. She had frequently been found on the land and had been cautioned several times before. The damage she had caused amounted to about 1d, for which she was fined with costs, or told to serve 14 days' imprisonment with hard labour."
"A kind neighbour, Ann Goodwin, wife of William Goodwin of Brierley Hill, was present on a charge of wilfully damaging a quantity of children's clothes belonging to Jonathan Williams of the same place on Wednesday November 10th.
"Harriet Williams, the wife of the plaintiff, stated that on the day in question she had a quantity of clothes out on a line close to her house. Whilst the clothes were in this position, Mrs Goodwin, who was a neighbour, went down with some "wash" for her pigs. She had to pass the clothes to get to the sties. On coming back, and when near the clothes, she put her hand into her pocket, immediately drew it out again, then appeared to throw something at the clothes. She could not then perceive what had either been thrown, or done at the clothes, but upon going to the place a short while afterwards, she found out, to her astonishment, that several of the articles were in holes - that the defendant must have sent vitriol at them. The damage amounted to about 10s.
"Mary Ann Wood, for the plaintiff, said that after the clothes had been damaged, she went to look at them. On her way back from the place, Ann Goodwin called after her and commenced talking about the clothes. She had in her hands at the time an apron, which was all eaten in holes similar to the clothes. The witness told her of this, at which she turned white, denied having committed the offence and went away. In her defence, Mrs Goodwin, in a lingo which proved her connection with "the green isle," said she knew nothing of the matter and was as innocent as anyone in court. The reason why her apron was in holes was because it had caught fire on the day in question whilst she was boiling some parsnips for the pigs, before a great fire.
"If they (the Bench) knew as much about the matter as she did, they would give her (plaintiff's wife) three months instead of taking her part. After a few further remarks by the Bench, Mrs Goodwin was ordered to pay damages of 10s. plus costs, or face imprisonment for 21 days with hard labour."
The worst crimes have always been those involving violence to a fellow human being, and thus was the case in the Black Country during these times. Wife beating was as abhorrent then as it is now, and while many got away with it and some do to this day, the court showed no mercy when sentencing labourer George Haywood:
"The defendant, Haywood, from Spring's Mire, was charged with unlawfully and maliciously wounded his wife Elizabeth Haywood, who it seemed he was living apart from. On the day of the offence, a quarrel took place between the parties, and the husband, taking up a broom stale, struck her a blow on her right arm and broke it. She was attended by Mr A. G. Mainwaring, surgeon, who described her injuries as being of a serious nature. Haywood said his wife took up the broom stale in the first instance and was about to strike him when he took it from her. The Magistrates commented on the defendant's unmanly conduct, and had no hesitation in committing him to three months hard labour. Haywood remonstrated with the Bench for leniency and to pay a fine instead of going to prison, but the Magistrates determined a fine would not meet the case and sent him down."

Story First Published: 02/12/2004

Thursday, June 19, 2008


My car smells like a jam factory and my skin feels permeated with the scent of strawberries. I did fruit tasting platters on my event stalls and I reek of cherries and plums. I think I've converted the local populace into devotees of lychees and chinese gooseberries as well as extolling the virtues of blueberries.
I am so tired though I think I'll sleep for England tonight.
Tomorrow my health walkers will be mostly eating fruit too!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Irons and fires

I've been feeling unsettled all day today. Maybe it's the weather, I don't know. More likely is that I've a few irons in a few different fires now and it makes me feel restless. I've a project I can't tell you about that I'm waiting on. I have two short stories out there and my agent has Animal Instincts that I'm waiting to hear on too. I have some chapters done on both of my new books and a few old projects that I'm thinking I might take another look at.
Lots of stuff going on at home too with the belles all having tons of stuff coming up. Dance exams - again, daytrips and residential stays and holiday plans.
Work is busy this week too. I'm womanning a stall at an event tomorrow and again at a different event on Thursday plus my regular healthy walk group on Friday amongst other things. My kitchen is full of exotic fruit ready for people to taste on the stalls and I'm trying to round up all the bits I need to take with me for the day tomorrow. Should be lots of fun.

Monday, June 16, 2008


Check out the Little Black Dress website to enter the competition - if you visit here often I've a hunch that you'll know the answer to the question lolHERE

Sunday, June 15, 2008

This and that

Happy Father's Day.
My Dad and Mr Nell's dad seemed happy with their gifts this morning. Mr Nell is busy enjoying watching the wildlife on his new feeders so thats all good.
I'm a bit worried about my angel fish, Brad and Angelina. They may look pretty but they are the dumbest fish I've ever owned. They've both grown since I had them and look very lovely, languishing about the tank but they keep getting themselves trapped in a small space between one of the clumps of weed and the wall of the tank. Twice now we've spotted them looking wild eyed and panicky when the other fish have gone to collect food and they have been stuck. I think some pruning of the weed is called for since Brad and Angie can't seem to grasp that they can't fit in their old gaps anymore.
In other news Moonlit Romance and By Grace publishing have a great new forum for you all to hang out on. Best of all you can win books! GO HERE and register, chat and hang out. Lots of cool excerpts and stuff to read.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Fatballs and nuts

Tomorrow is father's day and Mr Nell has been wanting one of these for the garden for ages. So, Boo and I took him shopping. Now we have the bird equivalent of Gordon Ramsey's in the back garden. My larder has more bird seed, nuts and fatballs than human food and the squirrel is thinking Christmas came early.

Happy Father's Day.

Friday, June 13, 2008

2008 - Friday Fun - Friday Thirteenth - superstitions

I thought this piece on superstitions from The Black Country Bugle might be interesting today

Recently browsing through some old copies of ‘The Gentleman’s Magazine’ we came across the following references to Worcestershire Superstitions - some of which still ring distant bells for most of us - even in this ultra-modern age. For instance, if you spill salt do you still throw a little of it over your shoulder to neutralise the bad luck supposedly incurred?

Cutting your nails, or having them cut, on Sunday is still taboo in many Midland households and probably much further afield. In fact the Gentleman’s Magazine contributor who provided the following list of ‘occurrences considered unlucky’ stated that though he had gathered them in Worcestershire, from Dudley to the City of Worcester, itself, many were also just as widely believed in Shropshire. The list reads as follows...
(1)...To meet a cross-eyed woman who is a stranger - unless you speak to her, which breaks the spell.
(2)...To embark on a journey on Friday.
(3)...To spill salt or help another person to it, at the table.
(4)...To have crickets in the house.
(5)...To be one of a party of thirteen at Christmas.
(6)...To have a female come into your house, the first thing on New Year’s morning. So generally does this absurdity prevail that in many towns and villages young lads make a ‘good thing of it’ by selling their services to go round and enter the houses first that morning.
(7)...To have a cut onion lying about in the house - which breeds distempers.
(8)...To cross knives accidentally at mealtimes.
(9)...To walk or stand under a ladder.
(10)...For the first young lamb or colt you see in season to have its tail pointing toward you.
(11)...To kill a lady-cow (sometimes called ‘God Almighty’s cow).
(12)...To see the first of the New Moon through a window, or glass of any sort is unlucky. But if you see it in the open air, turn the money in your pocket, and express a wish for luck during the ensuing month - which is supposed to ensure same...
(13)...To have apples and blossoms on a tree at the same time is a sign of an imminent death in the family.
(14)...To have a long succession of black cards (spades or clubs) dealt to a person whilst in play, is prophetic of death to himself or some member of the family.
(15)...When a corpse is limp it is a sign of another close death in the family.
(16)...As to cutting your nails on Sunday, the following couplet is very expressive...
Better a child was
never born,
than have his nails
on Sunday shorn...
(17)...The itching of the nose is a sign of bad news. If the ear itches, you may expect news from the living. If the face burns, someone is talking about you - and when you shudder, someone is walking over the spot where your grave will be.
(18)...To accidentally leave a teapot lid open is a sign that a stranger is coming and when a cock crows in your doorway or a bit of black stuff hangs on the bars of the grate, it is a sign of a similar event...
(19)...If a bit of coal pops from the fire and in shape resembles a purse or a coffin, it pertains good luck or death.
(20)...Tea-drinking is said to foreshadow a large number of coming events, like the receipt of presents, the coming of strangers, or obtaining sweethearts and the like, merely from the shape of the grounds (tea-leaves)...
(21)...A bright speck in the candle, is a sure indication that a letter is coming to the individual to whom it points.
(22)... ‘A great year for nuts - a great year for children’ is a common saying.
(23)...To present a friend with a knife is supposed to be the instrument of cutting off a friendship...
(24)...A donkey braying is an infallible sign of rain.
(25)...To cut your hair during the increase of the moon is said to promote favourable growth.
(26)...The horse-shoe is still seen over the door in many places and fastened to bedsteads it is supposed to keep witches away.
(27)...A pillow filled with hops and laid under a patient’s bed, is an undoubted cure for rheumatism.


Having given his list, the writer continued in more expansive style - as follows...
In rural districts, great faith is put in rings made from shillings and sixpences given at the Sacrement and many clergymen have told us of repeated applications having been made to them for Sacrement shillings, for the purpose of keeping away evil spirits, or as a remedy for fits. Mr Watson in his ‘History of Hartlebury’ says that he believes nearly every person in that district, who was subject to fits, wore such a ring - and there is another parish in the county, where, I am told, even the Protestant poor go to the Romanist priest to have the relics of saints applied to their limbs for the cure of diseases...
A superstition exists in some parts of the county that if pieces of the Alder tree are carried in the pockets, they are a safeguard against rheumatism. In the Wyre Forest, near Bewdley, is a botanical curiosity, namely, the celebrated Pyrus Domestics, said to be the only tree of its kind growing wild in England. It is of the same kind as Rowan or Mountain Ash, which was, and even now, is vulgarly worn as a remedy against witchcraft. It is much thought of by common people and there are various traditions concerning it. The name given to the tree is ‘The Withy Pear’ - the Mountain Ash also being called ‘The Withy Tree’ - and the leaves of this tree are very similar. One of our Naturalist Field Clubs visited it in August 1853. Vegetation was then entirely confined to its top boughs which, however, still held a few pears on them...
Charms are still believed in to a great extent among the poor. Again, in the neighbourhood of Hartlebury, they break the legs of a toad, sew it up in a bag, alive, and tie it round the neck of a patient.
The peasantry around Tenbury and Shrawley, have also great faith in charms and ‘The Toad Remedy’ is there applied as in the former place - the life or death of the patient supposed to be shadowed forth by the survival or death of the toad. At Mathon, old women are entrusted with the curing of burns by charming which they do by repeating the lines of a doggerel rhyme, beginning...

There were two Angels
came from the North
with burning wings
they sallied forth
One was named Jess’ca
the other was Wray.
As their wing-es shrivel
shall thy burns go away.

In the neighbourhood of Stoke Prior, a charm was, some time ago, used by a labouring man for the removal of the thrush (or ‘throcks’ - as it is locally termed). He put his finger into his mouth and then into the mouth of a child, rubbing the gums while he mumbled out something, terminating with... ‘Father, Son and Holy Ghost ‘tiz clear who needs the throcks the most’... Then, putting down the child he would, without speaking another word, leave the house without eating or drinking, confident that he would be cured on the morrow. At least, one third of the population believe entirely in these things and allow their lives to be ruled by them, terrified are they if they hear a howling dog or the flame of a candle in its movements form the shape of a winding sheet - for they surely, as they believe, signal the approach of The Grim Reaper.
The colliers at Dudley, in the event of a fatal accident to one of their number, all of those in the same pit immediately cease work until the corpse is buried. A certain sum must also be spent on drink and this is called ‘Dead Money’. Nor will folk there allow any washing to be done on Good Friday and also firmly believe that hot-cross buns or any other bread made on that same blessed day, will never go mouldy and if kept for twelve months and then grated into some liquor, it will prove a great soother of the belly-ache...
Many superstitions also attach to the keeping of bees. It is firmly believed that when who keeps them dies, and his corpse is being carried from the house, the bee-hives must be turned at that precise moment or they will follow their dead keeper to the grave and never return to the hives. In one instance, I was told, that on one such sad occasion, one of the bearers, as he helped carry the coffin from the house, shouted to a farm servant... ‘Turn the Bees’. The fellow, being much lacking in intelligence, through close breeding, not knowing the custom and being greatly feared when the command ‘Turn the Damn Bees’ was angrily repeated, lifted the hives up and laid them down on their sides. The bees, thus disturbed, swiftly swarmed and fastened onto the attendants and mourners and for a time the corpse was left to his own devices. Hats, wigs and shawls were lost in the confusion and the dolt who had caused the scene of chaos, made haste to clamber over a five-barred gate and make his escape...

Thursday, June 12, 2008

I have a new laptop

Well, it's not new exactly, I bought it on evilbay as the prices of new ones were out of my range and I couldn't justify it. I'll only be using it when we go away in the tourer, mainly just for writing. It's a cute little Dell and my youngest has immediately staked a claim to use it at home when the other computer is being occupied by her sisters or Mr Nell.
Jury is still out on Animal Instincts so to distract myself I subbed two short stories to different women's magazines. It's been ages since I did any shorts so I'm a little rusty. It was fun to have a go though and it would be nice if they got somewhere. Competition is so stiff in the short story market I'm not going to hold my breath.
Next up is the chapter I'm working on of my big book. Halfway through C2 now and hoping to finish it by the end of the weekend so I can get back to Crystal Clear and work on that one for a while.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Another step nearer!

Blue Remembered Heels is up now on the Little Black dress website and also on Facebook. It's extra special to me that my good friend, Julie Cohen's new book is being released at the same time so we're shelf mates. Then it will be Phillipa Ashley's new book. I can't wait to read both of them.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Sunny day

The sun has finally made a more permanent appearance here. So nice to start wearing summer clothes even if some of them appear to have shrunk on the hangers since last year. My new job is keeping me busy but in a nice way. I'm so happy that I made the move and am working with a really great team. We've lots of exciting things in the pipeline and it's good to be in a positive environment.
The first chapter of Crystal Clear is done and I'm feeling hopeful about this story. It's different again from my other stories and probably won't have a suspense element in it - but then again that may change as I do like a little touch of drama with my romance.
I'm counting down the days till Blue Remembered Heels is launched. I'll be putting up some times for a cyber launch as well as the one I have planned at Waterstones so all my overseas and far away friends can join in too. I suppose I'll be angsting next over people liking my story as much as I do. Authors are never happy lol.

Friday, June 06, 2008

2008 - Friday Fun - The Plough Inn Trysull

Here's another spooky tale courtesy of The Black country Bugle
Tucked away down School Road in the lovely village of Trysull, nestling in the verdant marges of the Black Country, stands the historic inn The Plough. The Plough has been a licensed house since 1833, although its origins go back much further than this would suggest. It was built in the late sixteenth or early seventeenth century as a farmhouse, and now this ancient box-framed building is Grade II listed. Some idea of the age of the building can be gauged by a section of original wattle and daub walling, complete with cow-dung and horsehair daub and lime plaster, which has been thoughtfully left exposed and framed behind glass so that visitors can marvel at the age-old building methods used in its construction.

Stourbridge lad Alan Foxall, ably aided by his girlfriend Lou, only took over tenancy of the pub in November 2004. Both immediately liked the atmosphere and period features of the place, although Lou admits that as soon as she went upstairs a strange feeling overwhelmed her. This was not helped when the previous landlord began showing them around the upstairs living quarters. Upon taking them into a lounge, the landlord motioned towards a tiny latched door in the corner. "The landlord said that it was The Devil's Room," said Alan, "but we thought that he was only joking!"
The tenant, however, was not joking, and showed them into the tiny room beyond the latched door. Upon the opposite wall, and covered by a protective glass case, Alan and Lou were astounded to see an ancient wall painting.
Such wall paintings were once a common sight through the country: before the Reformation, most churches would have been richly painted with scenes from the Bible, to instruct a largely illiterate flock. However, many people also employed the painters to work on their own homes. Working in natural earth pigments, these travelling artisan painters decorated the plaster walls of their clients in imitation of the luxurious tapestry hangings of the very rich. However, as the years progressed most of such paintings became covered by layers of paint and plaster, and surviving examples are now very rare. One of the finest examples of medieval wall paintings can be found in the church in Claverley, and Tudor wall paintings can also be seen at Harvington Hall, in Worcestershire, and in the Whittington Inn in Kinver.
What makes the painted frieze in The Plough so unusual is its subject matter. The composition includes two finely executed birds, resembling partridges, clustered near a yew tree, while another below, more indistinct, appears to be a pheasant or a peacock with its tail sweeping downwards. There is also a finely drawn horse, led by a figure, and a figure below which resembles nothing so much as a modern day huntsman.
However, this is no Tudor representation of the chase, but something more sinister. On the left is the prominent figure of a devil, complete with wings, a swishing tail, horns and a trident. Behind him he leads a figure on a rope, either that of an animal or a child on all fours, while another tiny figure dances impishly behind. The origin of the name of the Devil's Room was obvious.
The room's sinister occupant notwithstanding, Alan and Lou decided to take over the pub, and were soon hard at work on a complete refurbishment. However, it seemed that opening the door to the Devil's Room had unleashed some dark force, revealing secrets of lost children, ghoulish monks, concealed tunnels and even, it is rumoured, black magic...
Lou continued to feel that there was something not right about the atmosphere of the pub, but Alan laughed off her concerns. Lou was determined to ask a psychic friend to visit, "to see if it was just me," so in early December the clairvoyant arrived. However, even Lou was shocked by what her friend revealed.
The clairvoyant said that The Plough had once been used to practise black magic, the rituals involving young children, and that there was indeed a connection to the Devil dragging the child portrayed on the old wall painting. She felt drawn to the cellar, and told Lou that the lost souls of several children, who died in some diabolical ritual, were trapped there. Lou and Alan were particularly intrigued at this, as the previous landlord had told them that there were tunnels from the pub leading to the hill opposite, known locally as Witches Hill. A vaulted doorway down the cellar also appears to have been bricked up at some point. In fact, local legend has it that there are several tunnels beneath the village, and Alan has noticed that when horses trot down the lane outside the pub that their hooves ring hollow in certain places.
The painters and decorators, who were still busily working to get the pub into shape, had been sceptical throughout, but now received the shock of their lives. Lou had been previously struggling with an old vacuum cleaner, but had been unable to get it to work. Long-serving staff member Lucy Simpson told her that it would never work, as several parts were missing. As the psychic passed the redundant vacuum cleaner, it suddenly sprang into life, bouncing several times along the floor. Even the painters were gobsmacked!
Ceremonies, involving the lighting of candles and the saying of prayers, were performed in each room, then the clairvoyant said that she felt the need to visit the church, just a stone's throw away. Both Lou and her friend felt drawn to a particular gravestone in the churchyard, which bears no inscription but instead a curious carving. The carving appears to be that of the Green Man, a pagan deity of woods and trees; a strange image for a Christian burial ground. The clairvoyant told Lou that this was the other entrance to the tunnel leading into the cellar of The Plough, and that this is where the poor children would be marched down prior to the evil ceremonies.
Back in the pub, the paranormal events seemed to intensify rather than abate. A month ago, Lou saw the apparition of a cowled monk, wearing a brown habit with a cord tied about his middle. Rather than a transparent spectre, Lou swears that the monk appeared as if flesh and blood.
It is unusual that the spirit of a monk should appear in a building that was erected after the dissolution of the monasteries, but a visitor has informed Alan and Lou that the site may have had some previous connection with a religious order. Moreover, there may be a link with the so-called Monk's Path in the vicinity, which is also rumoured to be riddled with tunnels.
Even the normally-sceptical Alan - a man who can handle himself - has experienced strange phenomena. One night, he was so convinced that a rapidly moving figure that he had glanced, running past the inglenook fireplace, was an intruder that he chased it with an old hatchet! More disturbingly, he was recently frightened when he was pulled back into the kitchen by what he can only describe as the ghost of a tall lady; so violently, in fact, that a livid red mark was left on his arm. Eerie fleeting shadows have also been seen in the kitchen.
Another sceptic was staff member Lucy Simpson, but even she began to be troubled by the strange events beginning to occur in the kitchen. The oven, fryer and glass washer would turn themselves off and on, much to her annoyance, and she also saw plumes of smoke coming from an invisible smoker near the bar. The pragmatic Lucy now admits, "I always used to sit on the fence when it came to ghosts, but since Alan and Lou have been here I have been sliding off the fence very quickly!"
For now, the Devil's Room is consigned to storage space only, and Alan and Lou hope that whatever sinister connections there may be to their peculiar wall painting, that they stay firmly behind the closed door...

Story First Published: 03/02/2005

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Writers groups

Last night was the monthly meeting for my local writers group. It's always a fun night and last night was no exception. We were looking at Gothic Novels and it turned out to be really fascinating. No one quite gets writing like other writers and it's always a joy to spend time with other people who totally 'get' what you do.
I'm looking forward to the RNA conference in a few weeks time - another precious opportunity to hang out with people who understand what it's like to have other people in your head creating stories that won't go away. The anguish of not getting that story down quite as perfectly as you want it to be and the highs and lows of the publication journey. Can't wait!

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Oh so quiet

This morning is so nice. Mr Nell is at work and the belles are at school and I'm alone. Much as I love my family I love my alone time. No, rephrase that, I need my alone time. Time when there is just me, by myself, in my house with no one wanting me to do anything. I have to go to work later for an important meeting but for a few hours I have perfect peace.
I did a ton of research yesterday in between running errands and loading and unloading the washing machine. I also managed half a synopsis and the first 500 words of Crystal Clear. Hopefully by the end of the week I'll have a rough outline and a first chapter. Then I can do some more on my bigger book too.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Animal Instincts

I've done my final read through and sent it off to my agents for their opinion before I email it to my lovely editors at Little Black Dress. I hate this bit now, where I finally share my manuscript with someone else. The only other person to have read it is Jess and she gets to see the raw, unedited version in bite size chunks - by the time it gets sent off it's grown, been polished, added to and smoothed out. So now I get to settle in for a nailbiting time till I hear back - probably in a couple of weeks time.
In the meantime, I think I'll write the synopsis for my next story - Crystal Clear and do some more on my mainstream book to get a partial into some sort of shape.

Sunday, June 01, 2008


Back to a mountain of dirty laundry and an empty fridge. Nothing new there then! Everyone I've met since we got back yesterday evening seems amazed that I look as if I've caught some sun. That would be because despite a couple of damp days we actually had some really nice ones and the belles got to spend quite a bit of time at the beach, in the sea. We visited some new places as well as some old favourites. This year we didn't have the added excitement of hunting for Colin Firth but you can't have everything.
I didn't do any writing at all while I was away - the first time in years - and I didn't read as much as I'd planned either. I read some short stories but even though I had Olivia Gates new book for Desire, which, incidentally has the most gorgeous cover, I didn't read it. I'm keeping that for when I get some nice quiet time so I can savour it all in one go.
Hopefully, I'll now be fully refreshed and ready to start my other projects.